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to the utmost indulgence of the court. I camel be, in any shape, before you; and that upon the down this morning with no other notice of the trial of this indictment, supported only by the eviduty cast upon me in this cause, nor any other dence you have heard, the words must be judged direction for the premeditation necessary to its of as if spoken by any man or woman in the kingperformance, than that which I have ever con- dom, at any time from the Norman Conquest to sidered to be the safest and the best-namely, the moment I am addressing you. the records of the court, as they are entered here I admit, indeed, that the particular time in for trial, where, for the ends of justice, the charge which words are spoken, or acts com- if these were must always appear with the most accurate pre- mitted, may most essentially alter connected with cision, that the accused may know what crime their quality and construction, and should have he is called upon to answer, and his counsel how give to expressions or conduct, which in the indict
he may defend him. Finding, there in another season might have been ment. Crown from the fore, upon the record which arraigns innocent, or at least indifferent, the highest and traveled out of the defendant, a simple, unqualified most enormous guilt. But, for that very reason,
charge of seditious words, unconnect the supposed particularity of the present times, ed, and uncomplicated with any extrinsic events, as applicable to the matter before you, is absoI little imagined that the conduct of my client lutely shut out from your consideration-shut was to receive its color and construction from out upon the plainest and most obvious principle the present state of France, or rather of all Eu- of justice and law; because, wherever time or rope, as affecting the condition of England. I occasion mix with an act, affect its quality, and little dreamed that the 6th of November (which, constitute or enhance its criminality, they then reading the indictment, I had a right to consider become an essential part of the misdemeanor itlike any other day in the calendar) was to turn self, and must consequently be charged as such out an epoch in this country (for so it is styled in upon the record. I plainly discover I have his the argument); and that, instead of having to Lordship's assent to this proposition. If, there. deal with idle, thoughtless words, uttered over fore, the Crown had considered this cause originwine, through the passage of a coffee-house, with ally in the serious light in which it considers it whatever at any time might belong to them, I to-day, it has wholly mistaken its course. If it was to meet a charge of which I had no notice had considered the government of France as actor conception, and to find the loose dialogue, ively engaged in the encouragement of disaffecwhich, even upon the face of the record itself, tio to the monarchy of England, and that her exhibits nothing more than a casual sudden con- newly-erected republic was set up by her as the versation, exalted to an accusation of the most great type for imitation and example here; if it premeditated, serious, and alarming nature, had considered that numbers, and even classes verging upon high treason itself, by its connec- of our countrymen, were ripe for disaffection, if tion with the most hostile purposes to the state, not for rebellion; and that the defendant, as an and assuming a shape still more interesting from emissary of France, had spoken the words with its dangerous connection with certain mysterious the premeditated design of undermining our govconspiracies, which, in confederacy with French ernment—this situation of things might and ought republicans, threaten, it seems, the Constitution of to have been put as facts upon the record, and as our once happy country.
facts established by evidence, instead of resting, Gentlemen, I confess myself much unprepared as they do to-day, upon assertion. By such a Unjust to involve for a discussion of this nature, and course the crime, indeed, would have become of
a little disconcerted at being so. the magnitude represented; but, on the other
For although, as I have said, I had hand, as the conviction could only have followed no notice from the record that the politics of from the proof, the defendant, upon the evidence Europe were to be the subject of discourse, yet of to-day, must have an hour ago been acquitted. experience ought to have taught me to expect Not a syllable has been proved of any emissaries it; for what act of government has, for a long from France to debauch our monarchical princitime past, been carried on by any other means? ples; not even an insinuation in evidence that, if When or where has been the debate, or what has there were any such, the defendant was one of been the object of authority, in which the affairs them; not a syllable of proof, either directly or of France have not taken the lead? The affairs indirectly, that the condition of the country, when of France have, indeed, become the common stalk- the words were uttered, differed from its ordinary ing-horse for all state purposes. I know the condition in times of prosperity and peace. It honor of my learned friend,' too well to impute to is, therefore, a new and most compendious mode him the introduction of them for any improper of justice, that the facts which wholly constitute, or dishonorable purpose. I am sure he connects or, at all events, lift up the dignity and danger them in his own mind with the subject, and thinks of the offense, should not be charged upon record, them legally before you : I am bound to think so, because they could not be proved, but are to be takbecause the general tenor of his address to you en for granted in the argument, so as to produce has been manly and candid. But I assert that the same effect upon the trial and in the punishneither the actual condition of France, nor the ment, as if they had been actually charged and supposed condition of this country, are, or can completely established. If the affairs of France,
as they are supposed to affect this country, had The Attorney General, Sir A. Macdonald. been introduced without a warrant from the people in Parliament.
the case of the defendant with French politics.
Views expressed by the counsel for the Crown.
charge or the evidence, I should have been whol- country, were, for no other crime than their perly silent concerning them; but as they have been severance in those sentiments which certain peralready mixed with the subject, in a manner so sons had originated and abandoned, to be given eloquent and affecting as, too probably, to have up to the licentious pens and tongues of hired made a strong impression, it becomes my duty to defamation ; to be stabbed in the dark by anony. endeavor at least to remove it.
mous accusations; and to be held out to England The late revolutions in France have been rep- and to the whole world, as conspiring, under the
resented to you as not only ruinous auspices of cut-throats, to overturn every thing to their authors, and to the inhabit- sacred in religion, and venerable in the ancieot
ants of that country, but as likely to government of our country. Certain it is, that shake and disturb the principles of this and all the whole system of government, of which the other governments.
You have been told, that business we are now engaged in is no mean specthough the English people are generally well af. imen, came upon the public with the suddenness fected to their government-ninety-nine out of of a clap of thunder, without one act to give it one hundred, upon Mr. Attorney General's own foundation, from the very moment that notice was statement-yet that wicked and designing men given of a motion in Parliament to reform the have long been laboring to overturn it; that noth- representation of the people. Long, long, being short of the wise and spirited exertions of fore that time the “Rights of Man," and other the present government (of which this prosecu- books, though not complained of, had been writ. tion is, it seems, one of the instances) have hith- ten ; equally long before it, the addresses to the erto averted, or can continue to avert, the dan- French government, which have created such a gerous contagion which misrule and anarchy are panic, had existed; but as there is a "give and spreading over the world; that bodies of English- take” in this world, they passed unregarded. men, forgetting their duty to their own country Leave but the practical corruptions, and they are and its Constitution, have congratulated the Con- contented to wink at the speculations of theorists, vention of France upon the formation of their and the compliments of public-spirited civility. monstrous government; and that the conduct of But the moment the national attention was awak. the defendant must be considered as a part of a ened to look at things in practice, and to seek to deep-laid system of disaffection, which threatens reform corruptions at home, from that moment, the establishments of this kingdom.
as at the ringing of a bell, the whole hive began Gentlemen, this state of things having no sup- to swarm, and every man in his turn has been These things not port whatever from any evidence be- stung.
fore you, and resting only upon opin- This, gentlemen, is the real state of the case ;
ion, I have an equal right to mine; and I am so far from pushing the ob- The defendant having the same means of observation with other servation beyond its bearing for the content people of what passes in the world; and as I have defense of a client, that I am ready to breathableemid a very clear one upon this subject, I will give it admit Mr. Frost, in his conduct, has ary returns. you in a few words.
not been wholly invulnerable, and that, in some I am of opinion, then, that there is not the measure, he has brought this prosecution upon
smallest foundation for the alarm which himself. Gentlemen, Mr. Frost must forgive me, views direct has been so industriously propagated; if I take the liberty to say that, with the best in
in this I am so far from being singu- tentions in the world, he formerly pushed his oblar, that I verily believe the authors of it are servations and conduct respecting government themselves privately of the same way of think- further than many would be disposed to follow ing. But it was convenient for certain persons, ay him. I can not disguise or conceal from you, that who had changed their principles, to find some I find his name in this green-book, as associated plausible pretext for changing them. It was with Mr. Pitt and the Duke of Richmond, at the convenient for those who, when out of power, Thatched House Tavern, in St. James's Street." had endeavored to lead the public mind to the ne- I find him, also, the correspondent of the former ; cessity of reforming the corruptions of our own and that I discover in their publications on the government, to find any reasons for their contin- structure and conduct of the House of Commons, uance and confirmation, when they operate as expressions which, however merited, and in my engines to support themselves in the exercise of
' In allusion to Mr. Pitt's altered opinious as to powers which were only odious when in other parliamentary reform. hands. For this honorable purpose, the sober, re- * Mr. Charles Grey, at the request of the Society flecting, and temperate character of the English of “The Friends of the People," on the 30th April, nation was to be represented as fermenting into 1792, gave notice of his intention to bring forward, sedition, and into an insane contempt for the re- in the ensuing session, a motion to this effect. vered institutions of their ancestors. For this
5 Mr. Erskine read the minute (in Mr. Pitt's own honorable purpose, the wisest men—the most em
handwriting) of a meeting of members of Parliament,
and of members of several committees of connties inent for virtue—the most splendid in talents and cities, held at the Thatched House Taver, at the most independent for rank and property in the which Mr. Frost was present, on the 18th of May,
1782, and at which resolutions were passed in apAmong the principal were Mr. Burke, the Prince probation of Mr. Pitt's motion, on the 7th of May pre of Wales, the Duke of Portland, and Lords Spencer, vious, on the subject of the representation of the Mansfield, Fitzwilliam, and Loughborough.
before the jury in evidence.
ciated with Mr.
ly the reverse.
Remarks on the
opinion commendable, would now be considered, ject of prosecution—not the prosecution of my not merely as intemperate and unguarded, but learned friend—not the prosecution of the Ais as highly criminal..
torney General—not the prosecution of his MajGentlemen, the fashion of this world speedily esty ; but the prosecution of Mr. Yatman, who Reasons for his passeth away. We find these glori- | wishes to show you his great loyalty to the state now being pros ous restorers of equal representation and Constitution, which were in danger of falling,
determined, as ministers, that, so far had it not been for the drugs of this worthy from every man being an elector, the metropolis apothecary. of the kingdom should have no election at all; With regard to the new government of France, but should submit to the power, or to the soster since the subject has been introduced, allurements, of the Crown. Certain it is, that, all I can say of it is this, that the good French Resulufor a short season, Mr. Frost being engaged pro- or evil of it belongs to themselves. fessionally as agent for the government candidate, They had a right, like every other people upon did not (indeed, he could not) oppose this incon- earth, to change their government; the system sistency between the doctrine and practice of his destroyed was a system disgraceful to free and friends;
and in this interregnum of public spirit, rational beings; and if they have neither substihe was, in the opinion of government, a perfect tuted, nor shall hereafter substitute, a better in patriot, a faithful friend to the British Constitu- its stead, they must eat the bitter fruits of their tion. As a member of the law, he was, there- own errors and crimes. As to the horrors which fore, trusted with government business in matters now disfigure and desolate that fine country, all of revenue, and was, in short, what all the friends good men must undoubtedly agree in condemnof government, of course, are, the best and most ing and deploring them, but they may differ, nevapproved—to save words, he was like the rest of ertheless, in deciphering their causes. Men to them, just what he should be. But the election the full as wise as those who pretend to be wiser being over, and, with it, professional agency, and than Providence, and stronger than the order of Mr. Frost, as he lawfully might, continuing to hold things, may, perhaps, reflect that a great fabric his former opinions (which were still avowed and of unwarrantable power and corruption could not gloried in, though not acted on, by his ancient fall to the ground without a mighty convulsionfriends), he, unfortunately, did not change them that the agitation must ever be in proportion to the other day, when they were thrown off by the surface agitated--that the passions and errors others. On the contrary, he rather seems to inseparable from humanity must heighten and have taken fire with the prospect of reducing swell the confusion; and that, perhaps, the crimes them to practice; and being, as I have shown and ambition of other nations, under the mask of you, bred in a school which took the lead in bold self-defense and humanity, may have contributed ness of remonstrance of all other reformers be- not a little to aggravate them—may have tended fore or since, he fell, in the heat and levity of to imbitter the spirits and to multiply the evils wine, into expressions which have no correspond- which they condemn—to increase the misrule and ence with his sober judgment; which would have anarchy which they seek to disembroil, and in the been passed over or laughed at in you or me, but end to endanger their own governments, which which, coming from him, were never to be for- by carnage and bloodshed, instead of by peace, given by government. This is the genuine his improvement, and wise administration, they protory of his offense. For this he is to be the sub- fess to protect from the contagion of revolution.
As to the part which bodies of men in England 6 The following are copies of Mr. Pitt's letters :
have taken, though it might, in some " Lincoln's Inn, Friday, May 10th.
the feelings “Dear Sir,—I am extremely sorry that I was not instances, be imprudent and irregular, it has chemos
ed in England. at home when you and the other gentlemen from yet I see nothing to condemn, or to the Westminster Committee did me the honor to support, the declamation which we daily hear call.
upon the subject. The congratulations of En“May I beg the favor of you to express that I am glishmen were directed to the fall of corrupt and traly happy to find that the motion of Tuesday last despotic power in France, and were animated by has the approbation of such zealous friends to the a wish of a milder and freer government—happublic, and to assure the committee that my exer- pier for that country, and safer for this. They tions shall never be wanting in support of a meas. ure, which I agree with them in thinking essentially were, besides, addressed to France when she was necessary to the independence of Parliament and the at peace with England, and when no law was, liberty of the people.
therefore, broken by the expression of opinion or “I have the honor to be, with great respect and satisfaction. They were not congratulations on esteem, sir, your most obedient and most humble the murders which have since been committed,
W. Pitt. nor on the desolations which have since over** John Frost, Esq., Percy Street."
spread so large a portion of the earth, neither "Lincoln's Inn, May 12th, 1782. were they traitorous to the government of this “SIR, I have received the favor of note, and shall be proud to receive the honor intended me by 7 Mr. Erskine alluded to the addresses sent from the gentlemen of the Middlesex Committee, at the several political societies in England to the French time you mention.
National Assembly, which, in the expressions of “I am, with great regard, sir, your most humble their warm approbation of the new government esservant,
W. Pitt. tablished in France, bordered closely on sedition ** John Frost, Esq., Percy Street."
against the English government.
country. This we may safely take in trust, since the government; he the said defendant, his asorenot one of them, even in the rage of prosecution, said wicked contrivances and intentions to comhas been brought before a criminal court. For plete, perfect, and render eflectual, on the 6th myself, I never joined in any of these addresses, day of November," spoke the words imputed to but what I have delivered concerning them is all him by the Crown. This is the indictment, and I have been able to discover ; and government it- it is drawn with a precision which marks the true self, as far as evidence extends, has not been principle of English criminal law. It does not more successful. I would, therefore, recommend merely charge the speaking of the words, leaving it to his Majesty's servants, to attend to the re- the wicked intention to be supplied and collected flections of an eloquent writer (Mr. Burke) at by necessary and unavoidable inference, because present high in their confidence and esteem, who such inference may or may not follow from the has admirably exposed the danger and injustice words themselves, according to circumstances, of general accusations.
of proscrib which the evidence alone can disclose. It charges ing the citizens by denominations and general therefore the wicked intention as a fact, descriptions, dignified by the name of reason of and as constituting the very essence of esseals to state, and security for Constitutions and common the crime, stating, as it must state, to wealths, is nothing better at bottom than the mis- apprise the defendant of the crime alleged against erable invention of an ungenerous ambition, which him, the overt act, by which such malicious purwould fain hold the sacred trus of power, with pose was displayed, and by which he sought to out any of the virtues or energies that give a ti- render it effectual. No man can be criminal tle to it; a receipt of policy, made up of a detest- without a criminal intention actus non facit able compound of malice, cowardice, and sloth. reum nisi mens sit rea. God alone can look into They would govern men against their will; but the heart, and man, could he look into it, has no in that government would be discharged from the jurisdiction over it, until society is disturbed by exercise of vigilance, providence, and fortitude ; its actions ; but the criminal mind being the source and, therefore, that they may sleep on their watch, of all criminality, the law seeks only to punish acconsent to take some one division of the society tions which it can trace to evil disposition — it into partnership of the tyranny over the rest. pities our errors and mistakes - makes allowBut let government, in whatever form it may be, ances for our passions, and scourges only our comprehend the whole of its justice, and restrain crimes. the suspicious by its vigilance; let it keep watch Gentlemen, my learned friend the Attorney and ward; let it discover by its sagacity, and General, in the conclusion of his adpunish by its firmness, all delinquency against its dress to you, did more than ratisy le counsel for power, whenever it exists in the overt acts, and these propositions. With a liberality then it will be as safe as God and nature intend- and candor very honorable to himself, and highly ed it should be. Crimes are the acts of individ- advantageous to the public which he represents, uals, and not of denominations; and, therefore, he said to you, that if the expressions charged arbitrarily to class men under general descrip- upon the defendant should turn out, in your opintions, in order to proscribe and punish them in ion, to be unadvised and unguarded, arising on the lump for a presumed delinquency, of which, the sudden, and unconnected with previous bad perhaps, but a part—perhaps none at all-are intention, he should not even insist upon the guilty, is, indeed, a compendious method, and strictness of the law, whatever it might be, nor saves a world of trouble about proof; but such a ask a verdict, but such as between man and man, method, instead of being law, is an act of unnat- acting upon moral and candid seelings, ought to ural rebellion against the legal dominion of rea- be asked and expected. These were the sug. son and justice; and a vice, in any Constitution gestions of his own just and manly disposition, that entertains it, which at one time or other will and he confirmed them by the authority of Mr. certainly bring on its ruin.18
Justice Foster, whose works are so deservedly Gentlemen, let us now address ourselves to celebrated. But judging of my unfortunate cli
the cause, disembarrassed by foreignent, not from his own charity, but from the false considerations ; let us examine what | information of others, he puts a construction upon
the charge upon the record is, and see an expression of this great author which destroys how it is supported by the proofs. For, unless much of the intended effect of his doctrine -a the whole indictment, or some one count of it, be doctrine which I will myself read again to you, in form and substance supported by the evidence, and by the right interpretation of which I desire the defendant must be acquitted, however in the defendant may stand or fall. In the passage other respects you may be dissatisfied with his read to you, Foster says, "As to mere words, imprudence and indiscretion. The indictment they differ widely from writings in point of real charges, " That the defendant being a person of malignity and proper evidence; they are often an impious, depraved, seditious disposition, and the eflect of mere heat of blood, which in soine maliciously intending to disturb the peace of the natures, otherwise well disposed, carrieth the kingdom; to bring our most serene Sovereign man beyond the bounds of prudence ; they are into hatred and contempt with all the subjects of always liable to great misconstruction, from the the realm, and to excite them to discontent against
Crime charged upon the de fendant.
. This act does not make a man guilty without the & Mr. Burke's speech at Bristol.
ignorance or inattention of the hearers, and too conviction upon any other footing. Surely, then, olten from a motive truly criminal." Foster it was open to the Crown, upon every principle afterward goes on to contrast such loose words, of common sense, to have proved the previous “not relative to any act or design,” for so he ex- malice by all previous discourses and previous presses himself, with“ words of advice and per- conduct connected with the accusation. And yet, suasion in contemplation of some traitorous pur- after having wholly and absolutely failed in this pose actually on foot or intended, and in prosecu- most important part of the proof, we are gravely tion of it.” Comparing this rule of judgment told that the Crown having failed in the affirma. with the evidence given, one would have expect- tive, we must set about establishing the negative ! ed a consent to the most favorable judgment, for that otherwise we are not within the pale or one would have almost considered the quotation protection of the very first and paramount prinas a tacit consent to an acquittal. But Mr. At-ciples of the law and government of the country! torney General, still looking through the false Having disposed of this stumbling-block in the medium of other men's prejudices, lays hold of way of sound and indulgent judgment, we may the words “otherwise well disposed," and in- now venture to examine this mighty offense as grafts upon them this most extraordinary requi- it is proved by the witnesses for the Crown, supMode of evad sition. Show me, he says, that Mr. posing the facts neither to have been misstated quences of this Frost is otherwise well disposed. Let from misapprehension, nor willfully exaggerated.
him bring himself within the meaning Mr. Frost, the defendant, a gentleman who, of Foster, and then I consent that he shall have upon the evidence, stands wholly unimpeached the fullest benefit of his indulgent principle of of any design against the public peace, Evidence judgment. Good God, gentlemen, are we in an or any indisposition to the Constitution against the English court of justice ? Are we sitting in of the kingdom, appears to have dined examined. judgment before the Chief Justice of England, at the tavern over the Percy coffee-house. This with the assistance of a jury of Englishmen? he did not with a company met upon any politAnd am I in such a presence to be called upon ical occasion, good or evil, but, as has been adto prove the good disposition of my client, before mitted in the opening, with a society for the enI can be entitled to the protection of those rules couragement of agriculture, consisting of most of evidence which apply equally to the just and reputable and inoffensive persons, neither talking to the unjust, and by which an evil disposition nor thinking about government, or its concerns : must be proved before it shall even be suspect so much for the preface to this dangerous coned? I came here to resist and to deny the ex- spiracy. The company did not retire till the istence of legitimate and credible proof of disloy- bottle had made many merry circles; and it apalty and disaffection ; and am I to be called upon pears, upon the evidence for the Crown, that Mr. to prove that my client has not been, nor is, dis- Frost, to say the least, had drunk very freely. loyal or disaffected? Are we to be deafened with But was it with the evil intention imputed to panegyrics upon the English Constitution, and yet him that he went into this coffee-house to cirto be deprived of its first and distinguishing feat- culate his opinions, and to give effect to designs ure, that innocence is to be presumed until guilt he had premeditated ? He could not possibly be established? Of what avail is that sacred go home without passing through it; for it is maxim, if, upon the bare assertion and imputa- proved that there was no other passage into the tion of guilt, a man may be deprived of a rule of street from the room where he had dined. But evidence, the suggestion of wisdom and human- having got there by accident, did he even then ity, as if the rule applied only to those who need stop by design, and collect an audience to scatter no protection, and who were never accused ? If sedition ? So far from it, that Mr. Yatman, the Mr. Frost, by any previous overt acts, by which very witness against him, admits that he interalone any disposition, good or evil, can be proved, rupted him as he passed in silence toward the had shown a disposition leading to the offense in street, and fastened the subject of France upon question, it was evidence for the Crown. Mr. him. Every word which passed (for the whole Wood,10 whose learning is unquestionable, un- is charged upon the very record as a dialogue doubtedly thought so, when, with the view of with this witness) was in answer to his entrapcrimination, he asked where Mr. Frost had been ping questions, introduced with the familiarity before the time in question, for he is much too of a very old acquaintance, and in a sort of bancorrect to have put an irregular and illegal ques- ter, too, which gave a turn to the conversation tion in a criminal case: I must, therefore, sup- that renders it ridiculous, as well as wicked, pose his right to ask it appeared to him quite to convert it into a serious plan of mischief : clear and established, and I have no doubt that it "Well," says Mr. Yatman, “well, Mr. Equality, was so. Why, then, did he not go on and follow so you have been in France—when the defendants it up, by asking what he had done in France did you arrive? I suppose you are red to France,
language refer what declarations he had made there—or what for equality, and no Kings ?” “O not to England. part he proposed to act here, upon his return? yes," says Mr. Frost, “certainly I am for equalThe charge upon the record is, that the words ity; I am for no Kings." Now, beyond all queswere uttered with malice and premeditation; tion, when this answer was made, whether in and Mr. Attorney General properly disclaims a jest or in earnest, whether when drunk or sob
er, it neither had, nor could have, the remotest 10 One of the counsel for the prosecution. relation to England or its government. France