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Cambrian and A beri/slwith…

Bestnct KETOS, &"c.

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POWELL v. LEWIS. The following is Mr. Coleridge's defence of Col. Powell, M.P., in the above celebrated case. The Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, before whom it was tried, pronounced the learned advo- cate's speech as one of the most eloquent ever delivered at Westminster Hall. Such an opinion, from such an authority, is alone, a powerful induce- ment to print the speech, for the perusal of our readers Mr. Coleridge, addressing the jury on behalf of the defendant, said The advocate of Colonel Powell, in which character I attend here to-day, has, no doubt, cast upon him a hard task, because he has to defend a gentleman, for a resolute and deliberate breach of a contract into which he delibe- rately entered. And yet I cannot help thinking that, if you bring into consideration of this case a calm and impartial understanding, you will see that damages very trivial, if not nominal in amount are all that Colonel Powell ought to pay for having unquestionably broken a promise which he unques- tionably made. The facts are singulary few and undisputed and simple. It is idle in this case to put before you considerations in the soundness of which I do not myself believe, and therefore I am not going to say for one moment that there has not been a most deliberate promise of marriage made by Col. Powell. Nor am I going to say that that promise has not been resolutely broken. The question therefore is, what damages Colonel Powell is to pay for having brought himself within the perils of the law. The questions really to be considered in this case are: What was the contract which was made? Who were the parties to it? How came it to be made ? And what were the circumstances under which it was parted from ? To begin with what was the contract. Why, the contract, as you will hear by and bye, was a contract to assume the most touching and most intimate relations which one human being can possible have with another, so that they are no more twain but one flesh." Es- teem, respect, and affection on both sides are the chief foundation. And they profane the sacred ordinance of marriage who enter into it from bad motives and give me leave to say that they who seek to do so are not to be heard when they come into a conrt to seek damages which by their own conduct they have disentitled themselves from ask- ing. Ex turpi causa non oritur actio, or in other words Justice must be drawn from pure fountains'. Colonel Powell is a man not old, if you count by the calender, but aged by a wasting disease and crip- pled from the middle downwards, one leg entirely and the other partially paralised, so that he is half flesh half marble, like the king in the Arabian Nights." He is crippled also in pecuniary circum- stances, and if not intemperate, at all events he has habits which qpe of the witnesses said he had not been weaned from. Weakened in brain and intel- lect by the cruel and repeated attacks of his disor- der, here was a man who had and who could have had in the eyes of a person like the plaintiff one recomendation only, namely, the fact that he could charge his estates in her favour. Now, who is the other party? A woman of mature life, she was only recently brought into close and intimate relation in which she stood with respect to the defendant-fully aware of his infirmities, and trading on them— taking advantage of his weakness, and his tempo- rary removal from all his friends who had surrounded him, except the friends of her own immediate connection, to drive him the hard and disgusting bargain of which she carried away the spolia opima in the shape of a fifty-guinea diamond ring. Not for her were those keen longings and passionate emotions which lift us up above ourselves, and for a while at least hallow the worst of us," and elevate the most degraded. Not for her were the visions of a happy home brightened by the presence of happy children. She entered into this contract and was about to march to God's altar, with totally different feelings. To her for bearing his name,and entering his family, and setting herself up in market overt—money, and money only, was the miserable compensation. In some countries it has been said men are despots because women are slaves, and women are openly bought aud sold in the markets like any other chattel; and perhaps in such coun- tries there is little degredation in the transaction. But in free and happy England, where, it they so will it, women can marry with affection and with Christian dignity, such a marriage contract as this is an indecncy, an outrage, and a crime. And I trust you will not for a moment fo~get, when you come to look at the circumstances of the case, what was the contract into which Miss Lewis strove to enter. And now, how was the contract brought about? Col. Powell is a kind and benevolent gentle- man, living in Wales, having a large place called Nanteos,>.and having also in different parts of the country two shooting boxes, which he rents—I should think for the benefit of his friends. Early in last year Col Powell has a number of friends stay- ing with him, and among others the family of the Lewises. Some joke is passed about 1864 being leap-year, and that therefore the women have the privilege of asking the men to marry them. Among the ladies present was Miss Margaretta Lewis, and it appears, according to my learned friend, that what passed at the the time for a joke settled deeply into the mind of Colonel Powell. Certain it is, however that in the month of March, on the last day of it, up to London, to St. George's- terrace, came Colonel Powell, attended by Miss Margaretta Lewis, Mr. Wm. Beauclerk Powell, and Mrs. William Beauclerk Powell, nee Hannah Lewis, and a gentleman of the name of Hodgkin. Now who was Mr. Wm. Beauclerk Powell ? Why, he was a person living chiefly on a charge upon the Nanteos property, and had just married Miss Hannah Lewis, to whom Colonel Powell had been very kind. Well, Margaretta Lewis comes up to London, but we are not informed of what took place during the two or three weeks which elapsed before the engagement was made. When, however, it is said that a tender- ness sprung up on the part of Miss Lewis towards Colonel Powell, I ask where is the eveidence of it? Where is there one word about it in any of the letters which have been put it? There is nothing whatever to show that before the 27th of April, when the marriage contract was announced, there had been any tenderness or affection between them. On the contrary, there is much to show the reverse. Could Colonel Powell have been the object of the conjugal affection and compassion ofa virgin bride? (Laugh- ter.) Dr. King is consulted as to the safety of the Colonel's marrying. He goes to tell Dr. King that he is about to enter into this contract, and he says, "Can I safely marry?" Dr. King tells him he thinks he may make a prudent marriage. He explains that habtiual excitement would be extremely bad for him, and it ought to be explained to the lady he is about to marry. "Well," said Colonel Powell, do you have the goodness to see Miss Lewis, and ex- plain this matter to her." And this is the lady who comes before a jury of English gentlemen, to ask for damages for the non-fulfilment of the contract of marriage! Dr. King sees her, and tells us he ex- plained to her. I told her, he says, that he was an invalid, and explained in sufficiently plain terms, that there must be seperate beds. She seemed delighted. (A laugh.) "Oh, she said, sh £ under- stood that. She was at a time of life when she did not think of that; she was to be more of a nurse than a wife, and she was willing to take him upon those terms." (Laughter.) The charming disinterested- ness of this affection This touchingly tender girl, in whose virgin breast had been gradually springing up the tender love which unfolded itself to the bosom of the air, and everything else which Shakspeare describes in a passage which I at this moment forget. (Roar.* of laughter,) Dr. King is an intimate personal and professional friend of Colonel Powell, and knows all about his physical condition, and he is to see the woman and to explain that condition to her. In a letter addressed to the colonel, he says that he has seen Miss Lewis, and has told Miss Lewis the con- ditions under which she was to marry; but that does not explain how what passed between Colonel Powell and him got into my learned friend s brief. The Lord Chief Justice: I understood distinctly from Dr. King that he went to Miss Lewis lor the purpose of telling what had passed between him and the colonel. He went to her in this way, saying, "Colonel Powell has been with me to consult me as to whether he could marry, and I told him yes, if it made a prudent marriage.' In that way he comes to her knowledge that theeotonet has consulted Dr. King, and also what pass?d between them. Mr. Coleridge Then to that extent Dr. King may be absolved but I maintain that nothing that passed between Colonell Powell and Dr. King was ever des- ired by the Colonel to be communicated by Dr. King to Miss Lewis, nor, in fact, was it ever so communi- cated. Here is a misunderstanding which has arisen between a gentlemen who had consulted him profess- ionally and the lady whom that gentleman was at one time under an engagement to marry. The brother of the lady comes to town and takes a bed in the doctor's house but surely a gentleman would have felt that his mouth was sealed in regard to what had passed between him and Colonel Powell, his old and intimate friend, and that what had passed ought not to be mentioned except under the complusion of the law. I think any one of you, gentlemen, would be uncommonly surprised, if any contract were enforced by law against you, were you to find that part of the evidence on the other side consisted of confidential conversations between yourself and your medical attendant. If that be the rule of the profession, the sooner it is generally known the better. I think that is a fair observation. Now there is no doubt that Colonel Powell both stated and put on the record a plea affecting the chastity of Miss Lewis and I aIL not going to vindicate Colonel Powell for doing it, nor to asperse in the slightest degree the character of Miss Lewis. But if a gentleman withdraws an im- putation, he withdraws it in the fullest sense and when I say, on the part of Colonel Powell, that there was no foundation for this plea, I hope it will be taken as an absolute withdrawal of everything that has been said by him, and an expression of regret on his part that any such a thing was ever said. It is true that a gentleman ought not to make a statement of this kind till he is perfectly satisfied he can prove it. At the same time recollect who Colonel Powell is,—A man who has had eight or nine paralytic attacks in London alone since 1859. Now suppose for a mom- ent that he, having determined to break off this en- gagement, has stated to him, by a person apparently trustworthy, facts which he afterwards embodies in the plea I submit that the very nature of the charge and the naming of the individual who communicated the alleged facts must show that it was made in per- fect good faith. I do not say that, so far as Miss Lewis is concerned, she has not received some injury from the charge hanging .over her head for some months but forgive me for observing that we are not trying this question now, and you ought not to make Colonel Powell pay for anything that occurred after the cause of action arose. Now what are the real damages which Miss Lewis has sustained in this case ? She has lost a marriage which certainly was scarcely a true or a real marriage, and a husband who could be a husband only in name. It is not pre- tended that there was anything like shock or distress to her feelings. But it may be said, "Ah but this is a money action, and money lost, at all events, she has sustained, as she might have had some settlements made upon her as it is a money loss which she has sustained, she is entitled to ask a jury for money compensation." Now the answer to this is short and simple. It is quite true that this is a money action but it is an action in which, most justly and most rightly, the character and conduct of the parties is always taken into account, and there is no general rule by which the damages in a matter of this kind can be properly estimated. Some- times, as the other day in a case before his lordship, where a gentle girl had given up her modest affections honestly and heartily, the jury meted out damages with no niggard hands. But Miss Lewis is not that sort of plaintiff, and you cannot give her substantial damages in this action without to some extent approv- ing of the conduct she pursued, and encouraging women in like situations to follow in her steps. Ac- cording to plain common sense, if you agree with my view of her conduct, it will follow that she has for- gotten the dignity of her sex, and done violence to all that we most esteem and reverence and admire in the character of woman and I earnestly trust that you will pause a long time before you do anything which may seem to give the least countenance to conduct such as she has pursued, and that you will say, if a promise has been made and broken, and must needs be followed by some damages, that those damages ought to be trivial indeed in amount, and she gets at least as much as she deserves.