Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

what a lawyer should be in order to be called great, in the sketch he drew of Jeremiah Mason, and notice what stress he lays upon the religious and moral elevation, and the glorious and high purposes which crown his life. Nothing of this now; nothing but incessant eulogy. But not a word of one effort to lift the yoke of cruel or unequal legislation from the neck of its victim; not one attempt to make the code of his country wiser, purer, better; not one effort to bless his times or breathe a higher moral purpose into the community. Not one blow struck for right or for liberty, while the battle of the giants was going on about him; not one pa

n; triotic act to stir the hearts of his idolaters; not one public act of any kind whatever about whose merit friend or foe could even quarrel, unless when he scouted our great charter as a glittering generality, or jeered at the philanthropy which tried to practise the Sermon on the Mount.

When Cordus, the Roman Senator, whom Tiberius murdered, was addressing his fellows he began,

Fathers, they accuse me of illegal words ; plain proof that there are no illegal deeds with which to charge me.” So with those eulogies. Words, nothing but words ; plain proof that there were no deeds to praise. Yet this is the model which

66

Massachusetts offers to the Pantheon of the great jurists of the world!

Suppose we stood in that lofty temple of jurisprudence,- on either side of us the statues of the great lawyers of every age and clime,- and let us see what part New England — Puritan, educated, free New England

would bear in the pageant. Rome points to a colossal figure and says, “ That is Papinian, who, when the Emperor Caracella murdered his own brother, and ordered the lawyer to defend the deed, went cheerfully to death, rather than sully his lips with the atrocious plea; and that Ulpian, who, aiding his prince to put the army below the law, was massacred at the foot of a weak but virtuous throne.”

And France stretches forth her grateful hands, crying “ That is D’Aguesseau, worthy, when he went to face an enraged King, of the farewell his wife addressed him: Go, forget that you have a wife and children, to ruin, and remember only that you have France to save. »

' England says, “That is Coke, who flung the laurels of eighty years in the face of the first Stuart, in defence of the people. This is Selden on every book of whose library you saw written the motto of which he lived worthy, ‘Before everything liberty!' That is Mansfield, silver-tongued,

[ocr errors]

6

66

who proclaimed, Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.'

" This is Romily, who spent life trying to make law synonymous with justice, and succeeded in making life and property safer in every city of the empire. And that is Erskine, whose eloquence, spite of Lord Eldon and George the Third, made it safe to speak and print.”

Then New England shouts, “This is Choate, who made it safe to murder, and of whose health thieves asked before they began to steal!” 1

1

ORATION ON THE CENTENNIAL OF THE

BIRTH OF O'CONNELL

WENDELL PHILLIPS

I

DO not think I exaggerate when I say that

never, since. God made Demosthenes, has He made a man better fitted for a great work than He did O'Connell.

1 Judge Benjamin R. Curtis said in his address at the meeting of the Boston bar held just after the death of Rufus Choate: desire, therefore, on this occasion and in this presence, to declare our appreciation of the injustice which would be done to this great and eloquent advocate by attributing to him any want of loyalty to truth, or any deference to wrong, because he employed all his great powers and attainments, and used to the utmost his consummate skill and eloquence, in exhibiting, and enforcing the comparative merits of one side of the cases in which he acted. In doing so he but did his duty. If other people did theirs, the administration of justice was secured."

[ocr errors]

66

You may say that I am partial to my hero; but John Randolph of Roanoke, who hated an Irishman almost as much as he did a Yankee, when he got to London and heard O'Connell, the old slaveholder threw up his hands and exclaimed, “ This is the man, those are the lips, the most eloquent that speak English in my day," and I think he was right.

Webster could address a bench of judges; Everett could charm a college; Choate could delude a jury; Clay could magnetize a senate, and Tom Corwin could hold the mob in his right hand, but no one of these men could do more than this one thing. The wonder about O'Connell was that he could out-talk Corwin, he could charm a college better than Everett, and leave Henry Clay himself far behind in magnetizing a senate.

It has been my privilege to have heard all the great orators of America who have become singularly famed about the world's circumference. I know what was the majesty of Webster; I know what it was to melt under the magnetism of Henry Clay; I have seen eloquence in the iron logic of Calhoun, but all three of these men never surpassed and no one of them ever equalled the great Irishman. I have hitherto been speaking of his ability and success, I will now consider his character.

To show you that he never took a leaf from our American gospel of compromise, that he never filed his tongue to silence on one truth fancying so to help another, let me compare him to Kossuth, whose only merits were his eloquence and his patriotism. When Kossuth was in Faneuil Hall he exclaimed, “ Here is a flag without a stain, a nation without a crime.” We Abolitionists appealed to him, “O eloquent son of the Magyar, come to break chains, have you no word, no pulse-beat for four millions of negroes bending under a yoke ten times heavier than that of Hungary?" He exclaimed, " I would forget anybody, I would praise anything, to help Hungary.” O'Connell never said anything like that.

When I was in Naples I asked Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, “Is Daniel O'Connell an honest man?” “ As honest a man as ever breathed,” said he, and then he told me the following story: “When, in 1830, O'Connell first entered Parliament, the antislavery cause was so weak that it had only Lushington and myself to speak for it, and we agreed that when he spoke I should cheer him up, and when I spoke he should cheer me, and these were

« PreviousContinue »