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النشر الإلكتروني

THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIPRARY 283869

ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS. 1908

PREFACE.

Ir was formerly imagined that the study of the

English law from its nature rendered its profeffors incapable of eloquence.

HUME feems to have been a convert to the opinion, and though in one of his effays he almoft prophefies, that at a future day eloquent orators would arife in the British fenate; yet with refpect to the bar he does not even infinuate a fimilar prediction. At that time the notion appeared fanctioned by experience, and eloquent barristers not having previously exifted the thing was deemed impoffible. The period of an Erfkine and a Curran *, will be hereafter confidered a new era in the eloquence of the bar of thefe kingdoms. Before their time the publication of the ftate trials exhibit nothing of the orator in the pleadings of the lawyers; even the cause of the seven bishops, on the event of which depended the liberties of England, could not excite energy in their advocates. Their speeches

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DUNNING and Burgh preceded them and were for a short time their contemporaries, they were as inferior to these as Cotta and Hertenfius to Cicero.

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are excellent in legal reafoning: they have no pretenfion to eloquence. The alteration of the law at the revolution, by permitting an addrefs to a jury in cafes of high treafon enlarged the field of the barrister. Notwithstanding which, in the numerous profecutions of the adherents of the pretender, the counfel for the accused were infenfible to the valuable privilege and their languid defences would warrant the conclufion, that the magnitude of the crime with which the client was charged, extinguifhed the talents of his advocate, and deprived him of the benefit afforded by the legiflature. The genius of Erfkine, after nearly the lapfe of a century, called forth that inestimable statute into the full vigour of operation. On the trial of lord George Gordon, he feized the opportunity, and with honour to himself and advantage to his country laid the foundation of that high profeffional rank and character, which he has always fo ably and independently maintained.

Ir is much to be regretted that Mr. Erfkine's fpeeches as an advocate have not yet been published in a feparate volume. They are only to be found in the printed reports of the trials in which he was engaged. And from the difficulty which the editor of the prefent volume experienced in colle&ing thofe of Mr. Curran, it is probable in a few years, to procure Mr. Erfkine's may be impoffible. From a fimilar neglect, few memorials are now to be had of the profeffional eloquence of Dunning. And of

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the forenfic exertions of Burgh, nothing remains except an imperfect note of the fpeech he delivered at the bar of the Irish houfe of lords in the Valentia caufe. To prevent the fame fate attending thofe efforts of the talents of Mr. Curran, the memorials. of which time has not yet deftroyed, the editor gives this volume to the public. It appears under the difadvantage of being neither revifed nor corrected by himself. His profeffional avocations would have prevented him yielding to fuch an application, had it been made; and had he even enjoyed leifure for the task, it is more than probable the modesty genius, which always undervalues its own productions, would have dictated a refufal. The editor determined not to request, what he apprehended would not have been granted. This collection is therefore offered to the public, extracted from the printed ephemeral reports of the trials in which the fpeeches were delivered. Mr. Curran is neither refponfible for this publication nor for its demerits. And the editor has ftudioufly avoided the alteration of the moft apparent inaccuracies, from the indelicacy that would attend encroaching on the privilege which fhould be left to every public man, of correcting his own production, if at any time he fhould be disposed to exert it. His defences of Finny and Bond, were confidered by the bar, as his ableft performances at the ftate trials of the year 1798. But unfortunately the imperfect reports, which from accident

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cident or design, were given to the public, are rather memorandums of facts, than fpecimens of the talents of the advocate. If better could have been procured, the public fhould have had them.

THE anonymous editor of the volume of Edmond Burke's, parliamentary speeches which appeared long before the edition of his works, fanctioned by himself, did not labour under the fame difadvantage. Each of them had been previously sent into the world touched and retouched, by the ora tor himself into the higheft ftate of polish and improvement. Perhaps the anxiety of finish, is too apparent, and notwithstanding many fine ftrokes of the fublime, they are rather elegant political effays, than eloquent harangues. The orations of Cicero, are come down to us in a ftate much fuperior to what they were when delivered, and it is clearly afcertained the one against Verres, that for Milo, and the fecond Phillipic, are not thofe which were spoken at the time, but the compofitions of fubfequent retirement and ftudy. And if our Irish advocate in the period of his old age, in that interval between finishing the business of one world and entering upon the other, that period to which we all look forward as the feafon of the nobleft enjoyment, fhould have leifure and inclination to follow the example of the Roman orator, this volume by bringing to, his recollection what might otherwife have been errecoverably loft may afford him the opportunity of

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