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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


308 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. be distributed and circulated in the town of Glasgow, Kirkintilloch, Milltown aforesaid, and at Lennoxtown, in the said parish of Campsie, and county of Stirling, or elsewhere, a number of seditious and inflammatory writings or pamphlets, particularly a book or pamphlet entitled ‘ The Works of Thomas Paine, Esq.’ etc.” He was likewise charged with having been present at a meeting of the “ Convention of Delegates‘ of the Associated Friends of the People,” held in Lawrie’s Room, in James’s Court, Edinburgh ; at which he read “ an Address from the Society of United Irishmen in Dublin to the Delegates for promoting a Reform in Parliament,” and proposed that the same should lie on the table, or a vote of thanks, or some acknowledgment be made to those from whom the address had been transmitted. The witnesses brought forward established the various charges against the prisoner, but they almost unanimously bore testimony to the constitutional mode by which he recommended the people to proceed in their demands for a redress of grievances. Indeed, at this distance of time, and considered apart from that dread of every thing approaching, even in name, to a republic, which the horrors of the French Revolution had inspired, it is not easy to discover from the evidence the precise degree of guilt which could possibly be attached to the prison er . His appearance at the bar has been variously represented. By those of opposite politics (and there are several gentlemen yet alive-1 83’7-who witnessed his trial), he has been described as “ a most silly creature, and a pitiful speaker.” The records of the proceedings by no means support this assertion. Without deigning to descend to mere legal quibbling, his conduct of the case does not seem to have been deficient in tact, nor his appeals to the bench and to the jury devoid of eloquence or power. ‘(This is no time for compromise,” said Muir, in his concluding address to the jury. “ Why did the Lord Advocate not at once allow that I stand at this bar because I have.been the strenuous supporter of parliamentary reform 1 Had this been done, and this alone been laid to my charge, I should at once have pled guilty-there would have been no occasion for a trial ; and their lordships and you would have been spared the lassitude of so long an attendance. But what sort of guilt would it have been? I have been doing that which has been done by the first characters in the nation. I appeal to the venerable name of Locke, and of the great oracle of the English law, Judge Blackstone. The Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Pitt himself-the Commander-in-Chief of the army, the Duke of Richmond-have once been the strenuous advocates of reform ; and yet they have been admitted into the King’s counsel. Are they then criminal as I am 1 But it is needless, gentlemen, to carry you beyond the walls of this house. The Lord Advocate (Robert Dundas, Esq.) himself has been a Reformer, and sat as a delegate from one of the counties for the purpose of extending the elective franchise.’’ The concluding words of Muir were-“ I may be confined within the walls of a prison-I may even have to mount the hluir had no counsel. He conducted the defence himself. But why need I refer to writers who are now no more!
Volume 8 Page 432
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