[Every reader of taste, we are confident, will be highly gratified by the following abstract of the Speech of Mr. CURAN, to evidence, in the late Crim. Con. Trial in Ireland, MASSEY v. the Marquis of HEADPORT.]
Never so clearly as in the present instance have I observed that safeguard of justice, which Providence has placed in the nature of man. Such is the imperious dominion with which truth and reason wave their sceptre over the human intellect. that no solicitation, however artful, no talent, however commanding, can reduce it from its allegiance. In proportion to the humility of our submission to its rule, do we rise into some saint emulation of that ineffable and presiding Divinity, whose characteristic attribute it is to be coerced and bound by the inexorable laws of its own nature, so as to be all-wise and all-just from necessity rather than election. You have seen it in the Learned Advocate who has preceded me, most peculiarly and strikingly illustrated. You have seen even his great talents, perhaps the first in any country, languishing under a cause too weak to carry him, and too heavy to be carried by him. He was forced to dismiss his natural candour and sincerity, and having no merits in his case, to take refuge in the dignity of his own manner, the resources of his own ingenuity, from the overwhelming difficulties with which he was surrounded. The Learned Counsel has told you that this unfortunate woman is not to be estimated at forty thousand pounds --fatal and unquestionable is the truth of this assertion. Alas! Gentlemen, she is no longer worth any thing; faded, fallen, degraded, and disgraced, she is worth less than nothing! But it is for the honour, the hope, the expectation, the tenderness, and the comforts that have been blasted by the Defendant, and have fled for ever, that you are to remunerate the plaintiff by the punishment of the defendant. It is not her present value which you are to weigh--but it is her value at that time when she sat basking in a husband's love, with the blessing of Heaven on her head, and its purity in her heart; when she sat amongst her family, and administered the morality of the parental board; estimate that past value--compare it with its present deplorable diminution-- and it may lead you to form some judgment of the severity of the injury, and the extent of the compensation. --The Learned Counsel has referred you to other cases, and other countries, for instances of moderate verdicts. I can refer you to some authentic instances of just ones. In the next county, 15,000|. against a subaltern officer. In Travers and McCarthy, 5000|. against a servant. In Tighe against Jones, 10,000|. against a man not worth a shilling. What then ought to be the rule, where rank, and power, and wealth, and station, have combined to render the example of his crime more dangerous--to make his guilt more odious--to make the injury to the plaintiff more grievous, because more conspicuous? I affect no levelling familiarity, when I speak to persons in the higher ranks of society--distinctions of orders are necessary, and I always feel disposed to treat them with respect--but when it is my duty to speak of the crimes by which they are degraded, I am not so fastidious as to shrink from their contact, when to touch them is essential to their dissection. However, therefore, I should feel on any other occasion, a disposition to speak of the noble defendant with the respect due to his station, and perhaps to his qualities, of which he may have many, to redeem him from the odium of this transaction, I cannot so indulge myself here. I cannot betray my client, to avoid the pain of doing my duty. I cannot forget that in this actin the condition, the conduct, and circumstances of the party, are justly and peculiarly the objects of your consideration. Who then are the parties? The plaintiff, young, amiable, of family and education. Of the generous disinterestedness of his heart, you can form an opinion even from the evidence of the defendant, that he declined an alliance which would have added to his fortune and consideration, and which he rejected for an unportioned union with his present wife. She too at that time young, beautiful, and accomplished; and feeling her affection for her husband increase, in proportion as she remembered the ardour of his love, and the sincerity of his sacrifice. Look now to the defendant! --Can you behold him without shame and indignation? With what feelings can you regard a rank that he has so tarnished, and a patent that he has so worse than cancelled? --High in the army--high in the state--the hereditary counsellor of the King --of wealth incalculable:--and to this last I advert with an indignant and contemptuous satisfaction, because, as the only instrument of his guilt and shame, it will be the means of his punishment, and the source of compensation for his guilt.-- His Learned Counsel contend that the plaintiff has been the author of his own suffering, and ought to receive no compensation for the ill consequences of his own conduct. In what part of the evidence do you find any foundation for that assertion? He indulged her, it seems, in dress--generous and attached, he probably indulged her in that point beyond his means; and the defendant now impudently calls on you to find an excuse for the adulterer in the fondness and liberality of the husband. But you have been told that the husband connived. Odious and impudent aggravation of injury--to add calumny to insult, and outrage to dishonour! From whom but a man hacknied in the paths of shame and vice--from whom but a man having no compunctions in his own breast to restrain him, could you expect such brutal disregard for the feelings of others? --from whom but the cold- blooded seducer--from what but from the exhausted mind, the habitual community with shame--from what but the habitual contempt of virtue and of man, could you have expected the arrogance, the barbarity, and folly of so soul, because so false an imputation? He should have reflected, and have blushed, before he suffered so vile a topic of defence to have passed his lips. But, ere you condemn, let him have the benefit of the excuse, if the excuse be true. You must have observed how his Counsel unclear and vibrated--between what they called connivance and injudicious confidence, and how, in affecting to distinguish, they have confounded them both together. If the plaintiff has conninved, I freely say to you, do not reward the wretch who has prostituted his wife, and surrendered his own honour--do not compensate the pander of his own shame, and the willing instrument of his own infamy. But as there is no sum so low, to which such a defence, if true, ought not to reduce your verdict, so neither is any so high, to which such a charge ought not to inflame it, if such a charge be false. When is the single fact in this case on which the remotest suspicion of connivance can be hung?-- Odiously has the defendant endeavoured to make the softests and most amiable feelings of the heart, the pretext of his slanderous imputations: --an ancient and respectable Prelate, the husband of his wife's sister, chained down to the bed of sickness, perhaps to the bed of death, in that distressing situation, my client suffered that wife to be the bearer of consolation to the bosom of her sister --he had not the heart to refuse her--and the softness of his nature is now charged on him as a crime. He is no insolently told that he connived at his dishonour, and that he ought to have foreseen that the mansion of sickness and of sorrow would have been made the scene of assignation and of guilt. On this charge of connivance I will not further weary you, or exhaust myself; I will add nothing more than that it is as false as it is impudent--that in the evidence it has not a colour of support-- and that by your verdict you should mark it with reprobation. The other subject, namely, he was indiscreet in his confidence, does, I think, call for discussion; for, I trust, you see that I affect not any address to your passions, by which you may be led away from the subject--I presume merely to separate the parts of this affecting case, and to lay them, item by item, before you, with the coldness of detail, and not with any colouring or display of fiction or of fancy. Honourable to himself was his unsuspecting confidence,
but fatal must we admit it to have been, when we look to the abuse committed upon; but where was the guilt of this indiscretion? He did admit this Noble Lord to pass his threshold as his guest. Now the charge which this Noble Lord builds on this indiscretion is--"Thou fool, thou hadst confidence in my honour, and that was a guilty indiscretion--thou simpleton, thou thoughtest that an admitted and a cherished guest would have respected the laws of honour and hospitality, and thy indiscretion was guilt. Thou thoughtest that he would have shrunk from the meanness and barbarity of requiting kindness with treachery, and thy indiscretion was guilt." --Gentlemen, what horrid alternative in the treatment of wives would such reasoning recommend? Are they to be immured by worse than Eastern barbarity? Are their principles to be depraved--their passions sublimated-- every finer motive of action extinguished by the inevitable consequences of thus treating them like slaves? Or is a liberal and generous confidence in them to be the passport of the adulterer, and the justification of his crimes? --Honourably, but fatally for his own repose, he was neither jealous, suspicious, or cruel. He treated the defendant with the confidence of a friend, and his wife with the tenderness of a husband. He did leave to the Noble Marquis the physical possibility of committing against him the greatest crime which can be perpetrated against a being of an amiable heart and refined education, and the noble defendant had the honour to avail himself of it. In the middle of the day, at the moment of divine worship, when the miserable husband was on his knees, directing the prayers and thanksgiving of his congregation to their God--that moment did the remorseless adulterer choose to carry off the deluded victim from her husband--from her child--from her character--from her happiness-- as if, not content to leave his crime confined to its inseparable and miserable aggravations, unless he also gave it a cast and colour of factitious sacrilege and impiety. In the most odious contempt of every personal feeling, of public opinion, of common humanity, did he parade this woman to the sea-port, whence he transported his precious cargo to a country where her example may be less mischievous than in her own; where I agree with my learned Colleague, in heartily wishing he may remain with her for ever. We are too poor, too simple, too unadvanced a country, for the example of such atchievements.-- When the relaxation of morals is the natural growth and consequence of the great progress of arts and wealth, it is accompanied by a refinement that makes it less gross and shocking: but for such palliations we are at least a century too young. In every point of view in which I can look at the subject, I see you are called upon to give a verdict, of bold, and just, and indignant, and exemplary compensation. The injury of the plaintiff demands it from your justice. The delinquency of the defendant provokes it by its enormity. The rank on which he has relied for impunity, calls upon you to tell him, that crime does not ascend to the rank of the perpetrator, but the perpetrator sinks from his rank, and descends to the level of his delinquency. The style and mode of his defence is a gross aggravation of his conduct, and a gross insult upon you. Your verdict will, I trust, put an end to that encouragement to guilt that is built upon impunity-- the devil, it seems, has saved the Noble Marquis harmless in the past; but your verdict will tell him the term of that indemnity is expired, that his old friend and banker has no more effects in his hands, and that if he draws any more upon him, he must pay his own bills himself. You will do much good by doing so, you may not enlighten his conscience, nor touch his heart, but his frugality will understand the hint. He will adopt the prudence of age, and be deterred from persuits, in which, though he may be insensible of shame, he will not be regardless of expence. You will do more, you will not only punish him in his tender point, but you will weaken him in his strong one, his money. There is another consideration, Gentlemen, which I think most imperiously demands even a vindictive award of exemplary damages, and that is the breach of hospitality. To us peculiarly does it belong to avenge the violation of its altar. The hospitality of other countries is a a matter of necessity or convention, in savage nations of the first, in polished of the latter; but the hospitality of an Irishman is not the running account of posted and ledgered courtesies, as in other countries; it springs, like all his qualities, his faults, his virtues, directly from his heart. The heart of an Irishman is by nature bold, and he confides; it is tender, and he loves; it is generous, and he gives; it is social, and he is hospitable. This sacrilegious intruder has prophaned the religion of that sacred altar, so elevated in our worship, so precious to our devotion; and it is our privilege to avenge the crime. You must either pull down the altar, and abolish the worship, or you must preserve its sanctity undebased. There is no alternative between the universal exclusion of all mankind from your threshold, and the most rigorous punishment of him who is admitted and betrays. This defendant has been so trusted, he has so betrayed, and you ought to make him a most signal example. --Gentlemen, I am the more disposed to feel the strongest indignation and abhorrence at this odious conduct of the defendant, when I consider the deplorable condition to which he has actually reduced the plaintiff, and perhaps the still more deplorable one that he has in prospect before him. What a progress has he to travel through before he can attain the peace and tranquillity which he has lost! How like the wounds of the body are those of the mind! How burning the fever! How painful the suppuration! How slow, how hesitating, how relapsing the process to convalescence! Through what a variety of suffering, through what new scenes and changes must my unhappy client pass, ere he can re-attain, should he ever reattain, that health of soul of which he has been despoiled by the cold and deliberate machinasions of this practised and gilded seducer? If, instead of drawing upon his incalculable wealth for a scanty retribution, you were to stop the progress of his despicable atchievements by reducing him to actual poverty, you could not, even so, punish him beyond the scope of his offence, nor reprise the plaintiff beyond the measure of his suffering. Let me remind you, that in this action the law not only impowers you, but that its policy commands you, to consider the public example, as well as the individual injury, when you adjust the amount of your verdict. I confess I am most anxious that you should acquit yourselves worthily upon this important occasion. I am addressing you as fathers, husbands, brothers. I am anxious that a feeling of those high relations should enter into and give dignity to your verdict. But I confess it, I feel a tenfold solicitude when I remember that I am addressing you as my countrymen, as Irishmen, whose characters as Jurors, as Gentlemen, must find either honour or degradation in the result of your decision. Small as must be the distributive share of that national estimation that can belong to so unimportant an individual as myself, yet do I own I am tremblingly solicitous for its fate. But why stoop to think at all of myself, when I know that you, Gentlemen of that Jury, when I know that our country itself are my clients on this day, and must abide the alternative of honour, or of infamy, as you shall decide. I will not dare to despond. I have every trust and hope, and confidence in you; and to that hope I will add my most fervent prayer to the God of all truth and justice, so to raise and enlighten, and fortify your minds, that you may so decide, as to preserve to yourselves, while you live, the most delightful of all recollections, that of acting justly, and to transmit to your children the most precious of all inheritances, the memory underline of your virtue. /underline
A young man of genteel appearance, a clerk in a respectable house, was yesterday charged at the Public Office, Marlborough-street, with forging the indorsement on a Bill of Exchange. He was remanded for farther examination.