Page images

The Indictment having been opened by Mr. WOOD, the ATTORNEY GENERAL spoke as follows:


THOUGH I have the honour to attend you in my official character, it will not have escaped your attention, that this charge is brought against the present Defendant by an Indictment.

Gentlemen, the transaction, with the guilt of which the Defendant is charged, happened upon the 6th of November last. I hope I shall not be thought guilty of stating any thing that can be considered as improper, when I call your attention to a fact that is notorious to the whole country; that about that period public representations had been made, that the minds of men were alienated from that constitution, which had long been the subject of the warmest encomiums of the best informed men in this country; which we have been in the habit of considering as the best birthright which our ancestors could have handed down to us, and which we have been long in the habit of considering as the most valuable inheritance that we had to transmit to our posterity. This constitution had been represented as that from which the affections of the country had become altogether alienated; we were told that this disaffection was moving along the

country with the silence of thought; and something like a public challenge was written to meet men who are fond of other systems, by fair appeals to the public, who are finally to decide upon every question between every individual of this country, and the government.


Gentlemen-The Attorney General of that day, who found himself by the duty of his office called upon, to watch over, what he considered, a property and inheritance of inestimable value, thought it necessary to meet this sort of observation, by stripping himself of what belonged to him in his official character; and appealing, as far as he could appeal, to the tribunals of the country, which the wisdom of the constitution had established, for the purpose protecting men from improper accusations; and he did not therefore call upon those whom he thought proper to prosecute, by the exercise of any official authority of his own, putting them and himself at issue upon these points, as it were, before a Jury of the country, but he directed indictments to be carried to the Grand Juries of the country, to take their sense upon the subject, and to have their opinion, whether it was fit that persons propagating such doctrines as this Defendant stands charged with, should, or should not, be suffered in this country to state them with impunity?

Gentlemen, in consequence of this determination the present Defendant stands indicted; and before I state the words to you, I think it my duty to men

tion to you, that he is now to be tried upon the second Indictment which a Grand Jury of this country has found. When the first Indictment was carried before the Grand Jury, this Defendant was abroad; a warrant was issued for his apprehension, and he returned to this country in the month of February last he appeared to the Indictment, and gave bail to it; by some accident he had been indicted by a name which does not belong to him, and pleaded the misnomer in abatement. Another Indictment was carried before the second Grand Jury, who found that second Indictment without any hesitation, and it is in consequence of that proceeding that he is called upon to-day to deny the truth of the charges which this Information contains, or to state to you upon what grounds he is to contend, that his conduct as stated in this Indictment is to be considered as legal.

Gentlemen, the transaction which the Indictment charges him with, happened on the 6th of November last; you will find from the conversation, as it will be given in evidence to you, that Mr. Frost had, I think, returned from France shortly before; that he had dined with a set of gentlemen, whom I believe to be very respectable, at the Percy Coffee-house that day; he came into the public coffee-house between nine and ten in the evening, as nearly as I am able to ascertain the time, and a gentleman who had long been acquainted with him, to whom I believe I may venture to say, Mr. Frost was certainly


[ocr errors]

under no disobligations in life, seeing him, addressed him as an acquaintance, asked whether he was lately come from France, and how matters went on in that country? Mr. Frost told him he was lately come from France, and expected soon to go there again; he then added the words that have been read to you from the Indictment: "I am for equality; I can see no reason why any man should not be upon a "footing with another; it is every man's birthright."



Gentlemen, some persons present in this coffeeroom, the general conduct of all of whom, I think, will have some influence upon your judgment, with respect to the mind with which Mr. Frost conducted himself upon that day, immediately asked him, what he meant by equality? to which he answered, Why, I mean no King."-" What! dare you to own, in any public or private company in this 66 country, such sentiments ?"-" Yes, I mean no King; the constitution of this country is a bad "one."


[ocr errors]

Gentlemen, what were the other particulars of the conversation that passed I am unable to state to you, but you will find the zeal and anxiety which a number of respectable persons acted with upon this occasion, made it very difficult for Mr. Frost to pursue this sort of conversation any further; and in what manner Mr. Frost left the coffee-house, and under what feelings and apprehensions in the minds of those who were there, I shall leave to you to

collect from the witnesses, rather than attempt to state it myself.

Now, Gentlemen, it is for you to decide, whether, in cases of this nature, prosecutions shall be carried on against defendants who think proper to use language so contemptuous to the Sovereign of the country; and surely I need not in this place contend, that any thing that is contemptuous to the Sovereign of the country, any thing grossly reflecting upon the administration of the magistracy of this country, or persons holding the offices of magistrates, according to the law of this country, such as it is, and such as I hope it will continue to be, has never been suffered with impunity.

Gentlemen, when you consider, not merely whether the prosecution is to produce a verdict of Guilty, but whether the prosecution is expedient and proper, it is not unnecessary to advert to the circumstances of the times, and the temper with which the particular Defendant may have proceeded, who is charged with guilt by an Indictment brought before a Jury of his country.

Gentlemen, this doctrine of Equality and no King has been held in this country, which never did, and which I hope, never will, interfere with the right of free, of temperate, of sober, and of ample discussion, conducted under those restraints, upon every political subject, in which the interests and the happiness of Englishmen can be concerned: but, Gentlemen, when a doctrine of this sort, Equality

« PreviousContinue »