« PreviousContinue »
own life upon the safety of his; and I declare to you now that you have as much power to shed the blood of the advocate as to harm the client whom he defends.
If the naked fact of delivery constitute the crime of treason, why not hang the man who goes under a flag of truce to return or exchange prisoners? According to the doctrine of the chief justice, this man is equally guilty with him who stands at the bar, if you are forbidden to examine his mind, but are commanded by the law to look only to his acts. This doctrine, I pledge myself, goes through every nerve and artery of the law. ! If the doctrine of the chief justice be the law of the land, every man concerned in the deeds of blood that were acted during our recent war, was a murderer.
Our gallant soldiers who had repulsed the hostile step whenever it trod upon our shores; our gallant tars who unfurled our flag, acquired for us a name and rank upon the ocean which will not soon be obliterated — these are all liable to be arraigned at this bar. These men have carried dismay and death into the ranks of the foe; blood calls for blood. You dare not inquire into the causes which produced the circumstances; which attended the motives; which prompted the deeds of carnage. The act,
you are told by the chief justice, and such is the reasoning of the attorney general, involves the intent.
Gentlemen, this desolating doctrine would sweep us from the face of the earth. Even when we deserved to be crowned with laurels, we should be stretched on a gibbet. I tremble for my children, for my country, when I reflect upon the consequences of these detestable tenets which reduce indiscretions and wickedness to the same level. Which of you is there that in some unguarded moment may not, with honest motives, be imprudent? Which of you can hope to pass through life without the imputation of crime, if your motives be separated from your conduct, and guilt may be fastened upon your actions, although the heart be innocent?
Gentlemen, so solemnly, so deeply, so religiously, do I feel impressed with this principle, that I know not how to leave the case with you, although at the present moment, it strikes my mind in so clear a light that I know not how to make it more clear.
If this damnable prosecution should prevail, it would be the duty of the district attorney instantly to arraign General Bowie, one of the witnesses in this case, than whom a truer patriot never lived.
Nay, half Prince George's County would come within its baleful influence.
Yet such is the law the chief justice recommends to you. His associate does not concur with him. In this conflict of opinion, I should be entitled to your verdict, but I rest my case upon more exalted grounds. I call upon you as honorable men, as you are just, as you value your liberties, as you prize your Constitution, to say — and say it promptly — that my client is not guilty.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Thomas Jefferson, lawyer, statesman, diplomat, and third President of the United States, was born at Shadwell, Va., April 2, 1743, and died at Monticello, Va., July 4, 1826. He was the author of the Declaration of American Independence and of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and was called the Father of the University of Virginia.
HEN, in the course of human events, it be
comes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which
constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.