Sheil’s speech was one of those numerous anomalies with which this singular trial was crowded; and which, together, showed the great difficulty of coming to a legal decision on a political question, in a criminal court. Of this, the present day gave two specimens, which will not be forgotten; when a Privy Councillor, a member of a former government, whilst defending his client as a barrister, proposed in Court a new form of legislation for Ireland, equally distant from that adopted by Government, and that sought to be established by him whom he was defending; and when the traverser on his trial rejected the defence of his counsel, and declared aloud in Court, that he would not, by his silence, appear to agree in the suggestions then made.
This spirit of turning the Court into a political debating arena extended to all present. In spite of the vast efforts made by them all, only one of the barristers employed has added much to his legal reputation by the occasion. Imputations were made, such as I presume were never before uttered by one lawyer against another in a court of law. An Attorney-General sent a challenge from his very seat of office; and though that challenge was read in Court, it was passed over by four judges with hardly a reprimand. If any seditious speech was ever made by O’Connell, that which he made in his defence was especially so, and he was, without check, allowed to use his position as a traverser at the bar, as a rostrum from which to fulminate more thoroughly and publicly than ever, those doctrines for uttering which he was then being tried; and, to crown it all, even the silent dignity of the bench was forgotten, and the lawyers pleading against the Crown were unhappily alluded to by the Chief Justice as the “gentlemen on the other side.”
Martin and John patiently and enduringly remained standing the whole day, till four o’clock; and then the latter had to effect his escape, in order to keep an appointment which he had made to meet Lord Ballindine.
As they walked along the quays they both discussed the proceedings of the day, and both expressed themselves positively certain of the result of the trial, and of the complete triumph of O’Connell and his party. To these pleasant certainties Martin added his conviction, that Repeal must soon follow so decided a victory, and that the hopes of Ireland would be realised before the close of 1844. John was neither so sanguine nor so enthusiastic; it was the battle, rather than the thing battled for, that was dear to him; the strife, rather than the result. He felt that it would be dull times in Dublin, when they should have no usurping Government to abuse, no Saxon Parliament to upbraid, no English laws to ridicule, and no Established Church to curse.
The only thing which could reconcile him to immediate Repeal, would be the probability of having then to contend for the election of an Irish Sovereign, and the possible dear delight which might follow, of Ireland going to war with England, in a national and becoming manner.