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SIR J. COLERIDGE'S CHARGE.…

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SIR J. COLERIDGE'S CHARGE. a The admirable charge delivered to the Grand Jury of Glamorgan, by the HOII. Mr Justice Coleridge, at; the last Lent Assizes, has been printed by desire of the Magistrates, and a copy is now before us. A better address we never read -it isequallv distinguished for the chaste and perspicuous character of its style, and for its luminous exposition of the law, as it re- lates to the offences to be submitted to the Grand Jury. Too great pubjicity cannot be given to his Lordship's opinions on the subject of wrecking-and it would be well if this portion of the charge were printed in a cheap form for distribution: The first charge, (says his Lordship) is against three persons, for what is commonly denominated wrecking. Since I have had the honour of a seat on the bench, I have not been called on to try any Such offence; nor have I had acquaintance enough with this county to enable me to say whether it is a crime of frequent oc- currence on your shores. If, however, it be a new or unusual offence here, or if, unfortunately, I am to con- sider it as one which disgraces your population by its frequent recurrence, in either case it is necessary to repress a crime of such magnitude and mischievous consequences, by the strongest interposition of the law. It is fitting that your population on the sea-coast should be taught how seriously the law regards the offence, and upon what grounds—that it is not because the ship, its stores, or its cargo, are a species of property which, in themselves, it is more wicked to plunder, than any other-but because it has been found that the plunder of these leads more frequently, by more obvious and certain steps, to the commission of brutal violence, and even to the destruction of human life. It is indeed melancholy to think, where this crime has become ha- bitual on a line of coast, to what a state of savage and deliberate barbarism it has reduced the people-to any one of us the spectacle of an impending and in- evitable wreck would be, perhaps, the most heart-rend- ing which could be imagined; the dullest and least courageous among us would be roused to very active exertions to ward off the ruin or administer help to the sufferers it is, however, the tendency of this practice to make that spectacle not merely a matter of indif- ference, but of savage and selfish p 'lea-ure-nay, to inure the mind to contrivances for bringing it about- and not only to steel the heart against active pity towards our fellow creatures in that most fearful agony of human life-but to urge us on to deeds of violence and blood, so much the more atrocious, as the objects are wholly unoffending, and in circumstances which in themselves might soften the most obdurate natures. I do not mean to use the language of exaggeration in this place-what I say, you know that history attests to be the simple truth-it cannot be too widely or too generally circulated; for many commence the practice of plun- dering wrecks in blind imitation of what their fellow villagers have immemorially done before them; not aware of, nor intending to advance to the fearful con- sequences I speak of—often, indeed, half-persuading themselves, that if not entirely innocent, it is, at least, a very venial offence to appropriate to themselves that property, which the storm has deprived of its owner- and which, they think, might perish uselessly, if they neglected to take it as cast before them. With such notions they naturally are led to set themselves in array against the law as too severe, and partial—regard- 'I ing it only as framed for the protection of property, or the manorial rights of the lord. In the present case, it appears that a vessel with a general cargo, having been driven on shore near-Una- raven Castle, a great number, of persons, I may indeed say the whole neighbourhood, turned out, apparently with no shame, and little concealment, and proceeded to the plunder of the wreck as a common property. The facts of the case are not stated with much distinctness in the depositions, nor shall I attempt to give them to you in detail. But I am anxious to take this opportunity of stating to you the several enactments of the law on this subject. Here his Lordship states the several enactments of the Law. The result of the whole is this; where the offender boards the vessel, wherever therefore there is temptation to commit violence, the punishment is death. The crime is barbarous and barbarizing—it tends directly to provide against its own detection by the making away with those who might be interested to prevent or prove it- it is a crime that spreads upon a line of coast, and becomes imprest upon the habits and feelings of the people-tlke law, therefore, calls forth all its terrors to repress it. Where property only is concerned, the punishment is lighter—but considering how difficult it may be to prove the actual taking, how urgent the necessities, and how feeble the means of a ship-wrecked stranger far from his own home, and among a population united, perhaps, to suppress inquiry :lP(' prevent detec- tion, the law calls on the subordinate officers of the public, the exciseman, the sen-ants of the customs and the peace officer it encourages all by the hope of reward to assist him-it casts on the possessor of the plundered property the burthen of proving his possession to be rightful—and it arms the magistrate vvith summary and plenary power to do right and award summary punish- ment.'

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