Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
To the House of Lords
By Francis Atterbury (16621732)
From Sacheverells Defence, composed by Atterbury
MY Lords, as the matter of my charge was highly criminal, so the form and manner of it ran in such general and uncertain terms, that it was impossible to know the grounds of my accusation; or how to defend myself, when I knew not where I should be attacked. So that, after I had provided as particular an answer as such a general accusation would admit of, the Commons were pleased in their replication to say, that there were several things in it foreign to the charge. To the great misfortune of falling under the displeasure of that honourable house, I might add that of a long and close confinement, and of an expense no way proportioned to my circumstances. These, my lords, are afflictions which can be conceived by nobody so well as by him who has been so unhappy as to feel the weight of them. And among these I reckon it not the least of my sufferings, that I have been for so long a time debarred from taking heed to that flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made me an overseer. For even since I have had my liberty, by the favour of your lordships admitting me to bail, I have purposely avoided doing any part of the duty of my function, or even appearing in public, lest it should occasion any tumult or disturbance; as my necessary attendance on your lordships from time to time has since been thought unhappily to have done, without any fault of mine, or the least degree of encouragement given by me, which I profess, in the presence of God, to abhor.
All these circumstances, my lords, being considered, together with the public manner, the length and solemnity of my trial, before so august a court of judicature, by which means I am made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions, and a spectacle to the whole world; I have stood in this place day after day, to hear myself accused of the blackest crimes, and openly reviled; I have been represented as a Papist in disguise, as a rebel, as an enemy to her Majestys person and government, and a favourer of the Pretender, though I have abjured him (but not forgot him, as a learned person was pleased to say); that is, as the worst of perjured villains: I have been called an insignificant tool of a party on the one hand, and a most dangerous incendiary on the other hand, nay an angel, that is, a devil, detached from the infernal regions; all these things, I say, being considered (and your lordships, I am sure, in tender compassion to me, will consider them), it is most certain, that, whatever be your lordships determination concerning me, I cannot escape without being a very great sufferer; and I shall have been abundantly punished, though I should have the happiness to be by your lordships at last acquitted.
Yet I cannot reflect without comfort (the greatest of comforts next to that of a good cause and a good conscience) that I answer for myself this day before the most illustrious assembly in the world, the whole body of the nobility of Great Britain; whose princely extraction and high quality, whose magnificent titles and splendid fortunes, whose hereditary candour and generosity, inherent in noble blood, inseparable from the birth and education of peers; in a word, whose solid judgment, and exact skill in the laws of this realm, so eminently qualify them for the final determination of justice; who are neither to be swayed by hopes, overruled by fears, nor misled by any false prejudice or passion. If it must be a mans misfortune to labour under such hard circumstances as mine, it is no small mitigation of them, that he pleads his cause before such judges, who, he knows, will decide it with the strictest impartiality, equity, and honour.