Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ Kilmarnock, held on the 7th of December 1816, for the

purpose of deliberating on the most proper method of re

medying the present distresses of the country, with a full " report of the speeches on that occasion.” Then follow par: ticular passages contained in that publication, which are termed generally to be seditious, tending to inflame the minds of the public against the constitution of the kingdom, and which, it is affirmed, was published by him with the wicked and felonious purpose of exciting sedition against the Government, and of withdrawing the affections of the people from the established order of things in the country. The publication has been duly authenticated, and although I shall afterwards more particularly refer you to some of its most striking passages, the whole, I trust, will receive your full and deliberate consideration.

In the conclusion of the indictment both prisoners are charged with being accessaries to the crimes committed by each. From this you will understand, that if from a full consideration and investigation of the proof which I have laid before you, you should be of opinion that the prisoner Baird was accessary to making the seditious speech delivered by M.Laren, or that the other pannel M•Laren was accessary to publishing or circulating the seditious libel, stated more particularly to have been sent into the world by Baird, then you will have to find, supposing you are of opinion that the speech and publication are seditious, that both are guilty art and part of the crime laid in the indictment.

In considering this part of the case as a question of evi. dence, I do not think that it is necessary for me to go very deeply into the import of the depositions of the witnesses ; for I conceive, that while you are called upon to discharge a most important duty, in declaring the guilt or innocence of the pannels as to the crimes libelled, and which may depend on considerations altogether independent of the mere fact of the delivery of the speech by the one, or the publication of the libel by the other, you can have no difficulty in forming an opinion, that both, and each of them, at least, did commit the acts which are charged against them in this indictment. You can have no difficulty in being of opinion, that it is proved that M.Laren did deliver a speech at the meeting, and that the speech did contain the expressions which are cited in this indictment: Neither, in my apprehension, can you doubt, that the publication in question was the work of Baird ; that he not only superintended the printing, but assisted in preparing the manuscript for the press ; and that he sold and distributed this libel, prepared under his own eye, with the utmost diligence, indefatigable zeal, and persevering activity. In like manner, I, at least, cannot see where à doubt can exist, that it has been legally proved that M.Laren was art and part in the publication, and that he is now bound to answer for that publication which was thus sent forth into the world, be its qualities what they may.

But though that is the impression on my mind, and although I have no doubt that the same has been made upon the minds of all of you, it is, notwithstanding, Gentlemen, my duty to go over that evidence, and to endeavour to point your attention to its different parts, as applicable to the charge against the pannels separately,—distinguishing, as I have said, the bare facts of the case from the view which I am afterwards to take of the nature and import of the expressions.

In the first place, then, you will attend to the evidence, by which it is proved that the speech in question was actually delivered by the prisoner M.Laren.

And, first of all, upon this branch of the case, I shall call your attention to the statement given by the prisoner himself in his declaration emitted before the Sheriff. But, before doing so, it may be proper for me to state to you distinctly, that in considering this part of the evidence, you must remember, that nothing contained in this piece of evidence can inculpate the other prisoner, but can only affect the party by whom it was emitted. Neither, I will fairly tell you, is it to be taken as conclusive evidence even against him. It is, however, a very strong circumstance of presumption against him, made, as it has been admitted to have been in this case, voluntarily, while the prisoner was sober and in his sound senses, deliberately and seriously. I shall submit to you, therefore, that when the admissions made in this declaration are taken with the parole proof, no doubt can be left upon your mind of the truth of the allegations made in the indictment, in point of fact, regarding the prisoner M*Laren..

In the first place, then, the declaration of M.Laren states, “ That there was a public meeting held at the Dean Park, “ near Kilmarnock, on the 7th of December last : That that s meeting was for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for

reform of grievances. Declares, That previous to that meeting there was a committee of certain individuals in “ Kilmarnock for the purpose of bringing about the said “ meeting: That the declarant attended that committee, and “ David Ramsay Andrews, writer in Kilmarnock, Thomas " Baird and Andrew Finnie, merchants there, also attended " that meeting; and the declarant has reason to suppose that

а

" they were members of it as well as himself. Declares, That “ the declarant first appeared on the hustings, and opened “ the meeting ; and being shown an “ Account of the Pro“ ceedings of the Public Meeting of the Burgesses and Inhabi. “ tants of the town of Kilmarnock," and wherein is engrosssed on part of the fifth page, sixth, and part of the seventh

page, what the declarant said at opening the above meet« ing, declares, That the declarant has perused said speech, " and it is near what the declarant said on the above occasion.He next, no doubt, makes an exception as to the inaccuracy of that speech, “ except what is said above the middle of the “seventh page about allegiance, which the declarant thinks “ he did not deliver in the words as expressed in the publi6 cation.”

This, you will observe, is not denying the purport of the passage in the libel, but only the words in which the import was conveyed to the multitude, and we shall see afterwards whether the prisoner be correct in this part of his statement.

He next declares, “ That on the morning of the above “ meeting, the declarant put into writing what he must say at " the opening of the meeting: That he afterwards gave his part of the manuscript to those who were appointed by the commit« tee to superintend the printing of the proceedings, that the same might be published along with the rest. Declares, That • James Johnstone, muslin-agent in the Waterside of Kil“marnock, was called to the chair, and on that occasion he “ made a speech, which was much approved of by those

present. Declares, That the resolutions, as engrossed in said

publication, are the same that were read at the public meeting, and the manuscript was read to the committee previous to the meeting, by Thomas Baird, merchant in Kilmarnock, one of the members. Declares, That Hugh Crawford, print

er in Kilmarnock, was employed to print the proceedings “ of the meeting, which were afterwards sold at fourpence “ a-piece, to enable the committee to defray the expences. “ Declares, That the declarant attended a meeting of the " committee, when those who spoke gave in their manuscripts s for printing; and the declarant thinks the foresaid Tho

mas Baird was present : That a committee was appointed “ to superintend the printing, and the said Thomas Baird « and Andrew Finnie were of that committee.

And being « shewn the printed report before mentioned, declares, That 6 he heard none of the authors find fault with any thing that is therein contained; and the said publication is docqueted and “ signed by the declarant and sheriff as relative hereto.” And, before concluding, he « declares, That the words on the sixth: page, « The fact is, we are ruled by men only solicitous 6 for their own aggrandizement, and they care no farther “ for the great body of the people than they are subservient to their accursed purposes,were in the manuscript wrote by " the declarant, but were not repeated by him at the public

meeting when on the hustings, as above."

Now, Gentlemen, this is the declaration of the pannel, and it must, as it will, be supported by other evidence, before, as I have told you, it can have full authority with you as establish, ing the fact against the prisoner. You will therefore observe, that in this declaration he admits generally, that all the parts of his speech, as given in this printed paper, are accurate, with two exceptions.

The first exception is, that there is something inaccurate in the words at the passage regarding allegiance; but he does not state, or allege, in what particular these expressions are inaccurate; neither does he deny that they convey the import of what he had delivered. And, no doubt, there is an inaccuracy in the printed account of this passage; because, you will observe, that one monosyllable, of very great import, is cautiously omitted, which, it is proved by the rest of the evidence, beyond all doubt, the prisoner actually employed. The word hellis omitted altogether; and while the prisoner refrained from stating what words were incorrectly given, I would be entitled to infer that it consisted in this omission; and, if so, it is of no importance to the general result. Indeed, it is enough for my purpose that he admits generally the accuracy and authenticity of the publication ; because I have the means of supporting the strong circumstance of evidence afforded by this general admission, by other testimony which supplies whatever is awanting in his own declaration,

The second exception which he makes is, that some words, which are mentioned at the end of the declaration, are printed, which he did not deliver at the hustings; but you will observe, that he admits that those words were in the copy of his speech which he gave to be printed, and that he does not allege that he at any time ever objected to the publisher, or to the committee, that his speech as delivered was not accurately given, but, on the contrary, that he acquiesced, down to the hour of his emitting this declaration, in its being the true and fair account of the speech he had made on that occasion.

Let us now attend to the parole proof, by which this declaration has been amply confirmed. Of the two witnesses who were first examined, you

have Finnie, who swears that the speech which he heard M.Laren deliver on that occasion contained these words : “ We will

a

“ lay,” or “ let us lay, our petitions at the foot of the « Throne, where sits our August Prince, whose generous na6 ture will incline his ear to hear the cries of his peo“ ple, which he is bound to do by the constitutional laws “ of the country; and we are therehy bound to give him “ our allegiance: But if he should be so infatuated as to turn

deaf ear to the general cries” or “ voice of his peo“ple, to hell with allegiance.” That is the express statement given by a person who himself attended the meeting as a party, who cannot be supposed to be very unfavourable to the prisoners, and whose testimony indeed was given in a way that must satisfy your minds he did not intend to press the case more than it would bear against either of them.

Next we have the witness Merrie, who expressly swears, (though his memory is not distinct as to the whole passage), that M.Laren made the first speech. He remembers the words “ to hell with” or “ for such allegiance.” He says M•Laren “ wished the people to address their August Sove

reign, and he meant their allegiance to him.Then he remembers the words, “ if he turned a deaf ear to the voice of “ his people ;” and after that came the words “ to hell with “ allegiance."

Besides the testimonies I have now referred you to, I might, if it were necessary, go over the evidence of a great many more of the witnesses; but this must be superfluous. You will, however keep in remembrance the evidence of Samson, who, when called back and examined for the prisoners, deposed, that he attended the meeting of the committee when the speeches were given in for publication by the different persons by whom they had been delivered at the public meeting; that M'Laren was present at that meeting of the committee, and that when he produced his manuscript, there was a correction made on it by Baird, which was read to the meeting ; and that the pencilmarking made by Baird were those very words I have referred to which are given in this speech, and copied into the indictment which is lying before you. He states, that the words which were added by Baird with the pencil are, “ which he is « bound to do by the laws of the country: But should he “ be so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear to their just petition, “ he has forfeited their allegiance. Yes, my fellow coun

trymen, in such a case to hell with our allegiance.” These are the words which with a pencil Baird added to M‘Laren's speech in his own presence. Now why, I will ask, according to the prisoner's own friend Mr Samson, were they added ? Why, because the committee wished to give a true account of what took place at the meeting, or, to use his own words, “ because

« PreviousContinue »