Page images
PDF
EPUB

" the manuscript delivered in was not complete according to “ the way in which the speech was delivered.” The committee did not wish to garble the proceedings, but to give a minute, true and accurate account of what happened ; and the passage therefore was inserted. All this, you will remember, took place in M‘Laren's presence; and did he object to this addition being made ? No, on the contrary, he agreed that the passage should remain there, because it was an accurate account of what he had said. Some feeling of propriety, no doubt, prevented the committee from putting in one word which had been used by M‘Laren, and there is a blank accordingly in the printed paper ; but the witnesses who were examined fill up the word, and tell you what is wanting. You have M•Laren's admission, therefore, in his declaration, of the general accuracy of the printed account of his speech; you have the parole proof; you have this statement of Samson's; and you have M Laren's virtual admission in the committee, that these were the expressions he used. It does therefore appear to me to be unnecessary to go farther in examining evidence on this part of the subject. I think it is clear these words were used by M'Laren, and that of this it is impossible you should doubt. I may now,

I may now, then, put the prisoner M.Laren aside altogether, in so far as the mere fact of the speech having been delivered by him is concerned; and it is exclusively to that I am speaking at present.

As to the prisoner Baird, we must also look to the terms of his declaration. He declares, “ That the 7th of December last “ was fixed for a General Meeting at the Dean Park : That " the declarant attended that meeting, and Alexander Mac6 laren, weaver in Kilmarnock, mounted the hustings, and “ opened the meeting with a speech: That James John

stone, muslin-agent in Kilmarnock, was called to the chair, 6 and read a speech to the meeting from a memorandum“ book. And being shewn a manuscript consisting of nine“ teen pages, declares, That he is pretty certain that it is " the same that he read to the meeting, and which the decla“ rant saw some days afterwards in Walter Andrews's office, 66 and which is docqueted and signed as relative hereto. Deos clares, That the proceedings were ordered to be printed, and the declarant was appointed by the committee, along with several others, to superintend the printing : That the declarant assisted in correcting the grammatical errors in the manuscript, along with the said Walter Andrews, and the “ declarant assisted a little at the printing office in correcting “ the proof-copy: And being shewn a half-sheet of paper, " titled on the back, “ No. 5, Mr Burt's letter,” declares,

[ocr errors]

That said words are of the declarant's handwriting, and “ the said half-sheet of paper was given in by the declarant “ to the printer, along with the rest of the manuscripts, and “ said half-sheet of paper is docqueted and signed by the decla" rant and sheriff substitute as relative hereto. Declares, “ That the proceedings of said meeting were printed by Hugh “ Crawford, and a great number of copies were sent to the declarant's shop, and he retailed them at 4 d. a piece."

The result of this declaration, Gentlemen, seems to be, that the prisoner admits that he was one of the committee appointed to superintend the publication complained of, -that he assisted in correcting the manuscript to fit it for going to the printing-house,--that he did superintend the printing of it, assisting even in correcting the press, and that a great number of copies were sent to his shop which he retailed and distributed.

Accordingly this admission, which, I have said, is, in point of law, a strong circumstance of evidence against the prisoner, is amply confirmed by the depositions of the witnesses, by several of whom it has been proved that he attended the meeting upon the 7th of December, and that he heard the speeches contained in this publication delivered or read by the persons to whom they are attributed. By others it has been proved, that he was one of the committee appointed to superintend the publication; and by one of that committee it is established, that in the matter of publication he took a most active concern, perusing at least the manuscript of some of the speeches as they were given in by the authors or reputed authors; and that such was his vigilance, in providing that none of the precious matter which had come before the public meeting should be lost, that the passage which is chiefly complained of in the first charge against MLaren, having been omitted in the manuscript, he himself took his pencil, and, for the edification of the public, to whom the publication was addressed, actually wrote it down on the press copy.

In like manner, you have it proved by Murray, Mr Crawford's journeyman, that Baird attended at the office during the time the publication was printing,--that he examined the first proof, and suggested at least one, if not more corrections.

Again, as to the fact of publication, it is proved by the prisoner's shop-boy, and by the witness who bought a copy at his shop, as also by one of the members of the committee appointed to superintend the publication, and who delivered great numbers of the pamphlet for the purpose of being sold and distributed, that Baird was the principal hand by whom this publication, be its merits or demerits what they may, were sent out upon the world.

When you consider this body of evidence, therefore, I cannot entertain a doubt that you must be clear that the fact of the publication by Baird is incontrovertibly established.

Upon this part of the question, therefore, I have only further to remark, that there can be as little ground for doubting, that the prisoner M*Laren, besides being bound to answer for delivering the speech, which in this indictment is charged with having been seditious, must also answer for being an accessary to printing and publishing the pamphlet upon the table. The facts of his having given in the manuscript copy of his own speech for the purpose of being published, and that he was a member of the committee of publication, facts which are proved beyond all contradiction by the witnesses to whom I have already referred, as well as by his own admission, can leave no manner of doubt upon this subject.

I apprehend, therefore, that you, Gentlemen, must now concur with me in holding it to be established by the proof, 1st, That M.Laren delivered at the public meeting that speech, of which parts are quoted in the Indictment; 2dly, That the publication purporting to be “ Account of the Pro

ceedings of the Public Meeting of the Burgesses and Inha“ bitants of the Town of Kilmarnock, held on the 7th of De66 cember 1816,” &c. was printed and published by the prisoner Baird, who was active in its sale and distribution; and, 3dly, That the prisoner M‘Laren was also an accessary to the fact of the publication.

Upon this part of the case, therefore, which must in fact form the foundation of the opinion which you are to make up, and of the verdict you are to return, there neither can be any ground of difference between my friends on the opposite side of the Bar and myself, por, I am confident, can there be a vestige of doubt in your minds.

But, Gentlemen, that part of the case which requires your utmost deliberation still remains to be considered. In the commencement of the trial, you heard an admission upon my part that it would be competent for the prisoners, not only to dispute the truth of the facts charged in the Indictment, but to plead to you, that supposing those facts were brought home to both of them, the speech and publication in question did not amount to the crime of sedition. To that admission I still most heartily adhere. It has always been in this country, and I trust always will be, the province of the Jury, in every question of this description, to find in their verdiet, whether there was a criminal intention entertained by the prisoners --whether a crime has been committed or not,- and whether that crime amounts to the crime of sedition.

In order to enable you, therefore, Gentlemen, to make up your opinions upon this subject, had it not been for the deliberate judgments of the Court which you had an opportunity of hearing at the commencement of the trial, it might have been expected of me to enter into some details of the history and of the nature of this offence,---one of the most various and comprehensive, and at the same time one of the most dangerous and flagitious known to the law of Scotland. But as you heard the unanimous opinion of their Lordships, that the allegations contained in this Indictment, if established against the prisoners, would amount to the crime of sedition, I shall confine myself to that statement upon the subject which is barely required for enabling you to follow the conclusions which I find it my duty to draw from the particular passages in this publication which I have been called upon to bring under your consideration.

Sedition, Gentlemen, is a crime by the common law of Scotland; and it has been laid down by our writers, and by the decisions of this Court, that it reaches to practices of every description, whether by deed, word, or writing, which are calculated and intended to disturb the tranquillity of the State, by exciting disaffection in the minds of the people against the established Government of the country, to produce resistance to its authority, or to lead to its ultimate subversion.

Allow me, however, to guard myself against misconstruction as to the use of the terms, “ the established Government,” which I have now employed. By those terms, you will not by any means understand that I refer to that which, in ordinary parlance, is commonly so termed, I mean his Majesty's Ministers. You need not be told that it is competent and lawful for the subjects of this realm to canvass all the measures of his Majesty's Ministers,-to state that they are contrary to law, and contrary to the interest of the country ;that their proceedings should be interrupted, and the authors of them dismissed from office; and in talking, therefore, of raising disaffection to his Majesty's Government, you will understand that I do not mean exciting disaffection to his Majesty's Ministers. Far be it from me to contend that this is against law, or that courts of law ought to interfere to punish practices, words, or writings, calculated to produce that effect. But by the established Government, I mean the Constitution of King, Lords and Commons, as established at the

period of the glorious Revolution 1688; and, in this sense of the term, I state to you, that any thing which tends to produce public trouble or commotion,-any thing which moves his Majesty's subjects to the dislike, subversion, or disturbance of his Majesty's Government, amounts to the crime of sedition. Any speech or writing that is calculated, and intended to vilify and traduce the Sovereign in his capacity of Head of the State, or as a branch of the Legislature,--any speech or writing calculated and intended to vilify and traduce the House of Peers,--any speech or writing calculated and intended to vilify the House of Commons; stating, for instance, that it is not the House of Commons, that it is the mere nominal and pretended representative of the people, and does not represent them,- that it has become corrupt ;--writings or speeches inculcating all, or any of those things, fall under the crime of sedition. In like manner, either a speech or a writing exhorting the people to throw off their allegiance, under any particular contingency which may arise, from any one branch of the Legislature, either doing an act, or refusing to do an act, which may, or may not be within its particular competency, will amount to the crime of sedition.

Allow me also to observe to you, Gentlemen, that in all

cases of this description, the time when the particular act complained of is committed, the state of public opinion, and the political relations of the country, internal or external, will often be essential to the constitution of the of. fence. For instance, to use an illustration that I believe was given by an eminent person, who, in the year 1795, held the situation which my honourable friend near me now holds, Had, in the year 1745, any number of individuals, however few, with white cockades in their hats, and muskets in their hands, repaired to the Castlehill, shouting out the name of the Pretender, they would have been guilty of a crime probably not short of the highest that could be committed against the State ; but were the same act to be done now, they could be regarded in no other light than as madmen. Various other illustrations of a nature similar might be stated, but I deem it sufficient for me to submit to you generally, as being clear law, that if at any time publications or speeches are complained of as seditious, it will always be of importance to consider the state of the public mind at the period the act alleged to constitute the crime has been committed, in order duly to appreciate their nature and import. With this view, and, before concluding, it will be my province to submit to you, in a single sentence, that the state of the country at the time when this publication issued from the press, and when

« PreviousContinue »