+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


In Three Books.




MR. ATTORNEY-GENERAL had to inform the
jury, that the prisoner before them, though
young in years, was old in the treasonable
practices which claimed the forfeit of his life. That
this correspondence with the public enemy was
not a correspondence of to-day, or of yesterday,
or even of last year, or of the year before. That,
it was certain the prisoner had, for longer than
that, been in the habit of passing and repassing
between France and England, on secret
business of which he could give no honest
account. That, if it were in the nature of
traitorous ways to thrive (which, happily, it
never was), the real wickedness and guilt of
his business might have remained undiscovered.
That, Providence, however, had put it into the
heart of a person who was beyond fear and
beyond reproach, to ferret out the nature of the
prisoner's schemes, and, struck with horror, to
disclose them to his Majesty's Chief Secretary
of State and most honourable Privy Council.
That, this patriot would be produced before
them. That, his position and attitude were, on
the whole, sublime. That, he had been the
prisoner's friend, but, at once in an auspicious
and an evil hour detecting his infamy, had
resolved to immolate the traitor he could no
longer cherish in his bosom, on the sacred altar
of his country. That, if statues were decreed in
Britain, as in ancient Greece and Rome, to
public benefactors, this shining citizen would
assuredly have had one. That, as they were
not so decreed, he probably would not have one.
That, Virtue, as had been observed by the
poets (in many passages which he well knew the
jury would have, word for word, at the tips of
their tongues; whereat the jury's countenances
displayed a guilty consciousness that they knew
nothing about the passages), was in a manner
contagious; more especially the bright virtue
known as patriotism, or love of country. That
the lofty example of this immaculate and
unimpeachable witness for the Crown, to refer to
whom however unworthily was an honour, had
communicated itself to the prisoner's servant,
and had engendered in him a holy determination
to examine his master's table-drawers and
pockets, and secrete his papers. That, he (Mr.
Attorney-General) was prepared to hear some
disparagement attempted of this admirable
servant; but that, in a general way, he preferred
him to his (Mr. Attorney-General's) brothers
and sisters, and honoured him more than his
(Mr. Attorney-General's) father and mother.
That, he called with confidence on the jury to
come and do likewise. That, the evidence of
these two witnesses, coupled with the
documents of their discovering that would be
produced, would show the prisoner to have been
furnished with lists of his Majesty's forces, and
of their disposition and preparation, both by sea
and land, and would leave no doubt that he had
habitually conveyed such information to a
hostile power. That, these lists could not be
proved to be in the prisoner's handwriting; but
that it was all the same; that, indeed, it was
rather the better for the prosecution, as showing
the prisoner to be artful in his precautions.
That, the proof would go back five years, and
would show the prisoner already engaged in
these pernicious missions, within a few weeks
before the date of the very first action fought
between the British troops and the Americans.
That, for these reasons, the jury, being a loyal
jury (as he knew they were), and being a
responsible jury (as they knew they were), must
positively find the prisoner Guilty, and make an
end of him, whether they liked it or not. That,
they never could lay their heads upon their
pillows; that, they never could tolerate the idea
of their wives laying their heads upon their
pillows; that, they never could endure the notion
of their children laying their heads upon their
pillows; in short, that there never more could
be, for them or theirs, any laying of heads upon
pillows at all, unless the prisoner's head was
taken off. That head Mr. Attorney-General
concluded by demanding of them, in the name
of everything he could think of with a round
turn in it, and on the faith of his solemn
asseveration that he already considered the prisoner
as good as dead and gone.

When the Attorney-General ceased, a buzz
arose in the court as if a cloud of great blue-
flies were swarming about the prisoner, in
anticipation of what he was soon to become. When
it toned down again, the unimpeachable patriot
appeared in the witness-box.