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came to the house; he was not one of those who were arrested, he came to the house, and hearing what had passed, he immediately offered himself to the Gentleman who attended upon the execution of this warrant as a person ready to come forward and give important information upon this subject: he was not taken into custody, he was desired to attend the magistrates the next morning; he did attend, and he gave information, upon which the persons were committed.
Gentlemen, this is the nature of the circumstances, which we shall have to give in evidence against the Prisoner at the Bar; and,-1 apprehend, that the Overtacts, which upon this evidence will be proved against the Prisoners individually, will be first in order, though certainly not first in importance. The Overt-act of attempting to administer one of those oaths to William Francis, a witness, whom I shall call; the other Overt-acts will be those of the other class, namely, meeting for the purpose of consulting as to the mode of way-laying and arresting the person of his Majesty, at those different meetings as detailed in the four last counts of the indictment; and these will, by strict and pointed evidence, be brought home to Colonel Despard himself: but if I satisfy you that the Colonel .was a conspirator with John Francis, was a conspirator with Wood, was a conspirator with Broughton, then the Overt-acts of Brpughton, of Wood, and of the others, whom I shall prove to have been co-conspirators with him, are the Overt-acts of this Prisoner himself, for which he will be responsible as well as they.
If, Gentlemen, you see no reason to disbelieve the story, as it will be related to you, there can be no difficulty as to the effect of it, when the facts are, by several witnesses, brought home .to the Prisoner at the Bar. I am not aware of the possibility of the case being answered: that it will be observed upon, and that it will furnish matter for acute observation, I have no doubt; and where is the subject to which ingenuity can address itself, upon which important observations cannot be made? But it occurs to me, that there are perhaps two or three observations which will be more particularly pressed upon your attention, and upon which it may not be improper to endeavour to anticipate some remarks. You will hear perhaps of the improbability of this story, from the desperate nature of it, and the little likelihood of its succeeding. You may perhaps likewise hear of some improbabilities attending the detail of the story itself; but I should think that the main stress of the observations will be applied to the credibility of the witnesses for the Crown. Witnesses, unquestionably, whom we must offer to you as accomplices, embarked in different de* grees in the same conspiracy.
And first, Gentlemen, with respect to the improbability of this story, from its desperate nature, from the -little hopes any rational man could entertain of its success, and its fatal consequences if discovered; I cannot, certainly, object to this, as a fair ground of observation, and as a proper test by which to examine the probability of any story; but I am persuaded you will go along with me in thinking, when you come to enter into this examination, that it must be entered upon with great caution, and with great allowance for the different measures of probability, which your cool and disengaged understandings will present to you, from those which would present themselves to persons eagerly embarked in the design, anxious in the pursuit, and who, from having long contemplated, as an important and valuable object, that which it was at last to lead to, overlooked the intervening obstacles that Jay in their way.
Gentlemen, there are enthusiasts of various descriptions; there are enthusiasts for good, as well as for had .purposes; there are political enthusiasts and religious enthusiasts; but it is in the nature of enthusiasm not only to magnify the value of its object, but also to underrate the difficulties which are opposed to it. In endeavouring, therefore, to examine this case, with a view to considering how unlikely it is for those persons to have embarked in it, you must endeavour to coasider, not how improbable its success appears to you, not how strange that a person should engage in so rash, so dangerous, and so wicked a design, but how probable its success was likely to appear to them, and how important and great the value of this object was in the estimation of their heated imaginations; and what great sacrifices they would be disposed to make, what great risks they would be prepared to run upon any, the faintest prospect of succeeding. If it be possible, you should put yourselves into their situation; you should, in imagination, suppose yourselves political enthusiasts of the same kind, misled by all the nonsense, and all the villainy which the French Revolution has set afloat in men's minds. You should consider yourselves as having long looked upon Treason as no crime; that rebellions and revolutions were the fields for the best exertions of virtue and patriotism; that your habits and conversations had been almost solely with persons who had been enthusiasts likewise in the same pursuits; that you had been habitually feeding each others hopes, inflaming each others passions, stimulating each others eagernesses; that you had been systematically endeavouring, by all possible means of exaggerated and false statement of your numbers and strength, to seduce others to co-operate with you in your designs; and then you will have to consider, whether under the influence of all these feelings and passions, so inflamed and so exasperated, the same estimate of the probability of success would be formed, as by the cool reflections of your minds, in their ordinary frames, uninfluenced by any such' delusions. I am certain, a very little reflection will be sufficient to shew you how inaccurate a standard your'view of these probabilities will afford to measure the extent to which their minds may have misled them, in calculating the likelihood of success. Add to this, the possibility, at least, of a plan of this description presenting itself to persons dissatisfied, angry, disgusted with the world ; disappointed, vexed, and irritated, by the pressure possibly of those very inconveniences which their own indiscretions may have brought upon them, and again 49
Ssk yourselves, whether to such minds, so influenced} so misled, and so put off their bias, such an object would present itself in the same view, as it would present itself to you.
Gentlemenj there is one circumstance also of improbability in the detail of the story which will perhaps be pressed upon you, to which likewise I will shortly advert. I have told you already, that of the thirty who were taken up at the Oakley Arms, full half were discharged. It will probably be assumed that Government would not have discharged them if they had not been convinced of their innocence; and it will be urged to you very strongly how improbable it is that traitors, so nearly upon the eve of accomplishing their treasons, should meditate the plan, and arrange any thing respecting it, in a place which was open to the intrusion of innocent strangers. Now if it be assumed that they were discharged because Government did not think there was a case sufficient to put them upon their trial, it is true; but if it be assumed that they were discharged because they were thought to be innocent, there will be no foundation, for that assumption. An anxious inquiry, as I stated, was made into the distinctions of the several cases. I believe you will find in the course of the evidence itself, that that inquiry was in part mistaken, and that several of those who were enlarged, were by evidence obtained afterwards, clearly implicated in the conspiracy. It is true, they have not been since retaken. It has been thought expedient to see what the effect and result of these trials, might be, previous to any fresh attempt to re-take them ; and on this mode of proceeding, at least if any charge can be grounded, it will not be the charge of too great severity, or too much eagerness, to prosecute.
Gentlemen, I will venture to say, that if every one of these men had been detained under the charge of Treason, till after the event of this trial had been known, no man living could have blamed the Government who so detained them; but the object of inquiry on the part of Government was not how
much severity might be justifiably exercised against the persons who were seized, but how little was absolutely necessary : having said this, I must leave the learned Gentlemen to make what observations they can upon this part of the case. They will find, however, from the nature of the evidence that we shall lay before you, that there were persons at that meeting unquestionably there for the first time ; that the treasonable conversations which passed (treasonable conversations, most- important for your consideration, which will be spoken to by two of our witnesses, Emblin and Connell) will appear by the same evidence to have passed in small circles and parties, not extensively and generally addressed to the whole room ; and I think therefore that it will appear to have been no unwise distinction to be taken in such a case, that where there was not at the time collateral evidence to fix individuals with some knowledge of the guilt, their merely being at the meeting should not form sufficient ground for their detention.
Having made this observation respecting the probability of the story, I will say a few words upon the other topic, which I suppose will furnish my learned friends wjth observation, namely, the credibility of the witnesses for the Crown; standing, as some of them unquestionably do stand, in the light of accomplices to that Treason which their evidence is to prove. The observation I apprehend will not be attempted to go farther than- to their credibility; it will not be contended on the part of my learned friends, that an accomplice is not a competent witness; and it shall not be contended by me that an accomplice does not require to be confirmed by collateral testimony, before a Jury should implicitly give him credit. When I say accomplices ought to be confirmed by collateral testimony, do not mistake me to state that every word which an accomplice utters must be spoken to by some other witness, because if that were so, there would be no need of an accomplice in any case but that of Treason; but the confirmation that is to be required for an accomplice, is to shew that the story.