Thomas Muir's Trial Speech

This is the speech Thomas Muir of Huntershill gave at his trial for sedition. The Tory jury sentenced him to fourteen years transportation.


This is now perhaps the last time that I shall address my country. I have explored the tenor of my past life. Nothing shall tear me from the record of my departed days. The enemies of reform have scrutinised, in a manner hitherto unexampled in Scotland, every action I may have performed, every word I may have uttered. Of crimes, most foul and horrible, have I been accused: of attempting to rear the standards of civil war; to plunge this land in blood, and to cover it with desolation. At every step, as the evidence of the crown advanced, my innocence has brightened. So far from inflaming the minds of men to sedition and outrage, all the witnesses have concurred, that my only anxiety was, to impress upon them the necessity of peace, of good order, and of good morals.

What then has been my crime? Not the lending to a relation a copy of Mr. Paine's works; not the giving away to another a few numbers of an innocent and constitutional publication; but for having dared to be, according to the measure of my feeble abilities, a strenuous and active advocate for an equal representation of the people, in the house of the people; for having dared to attempt to accomplish a measure, by legal means, which was to diminish the weight of their taxes, and to put an end to the effusion of their blood.

From my infancy to this moment, I have devoted myself to the cause of the people. It is a good cause. It will ultimately prevail. It will finally triumph. Say then openly, in your verdict, if you do condemn me, which I presume you will not, that it is for my attachment to this cause alone, and not for those vain and wretched pretexts stated in the indictment, intended only to colour and disguise the real motives of my accusation. The time will come, when men must stand or fall by their actions; when all human pageantry shall cease; when the hearts of all shall be laid open to view.

If you regard your most important interests; if you wish that your consciences should whisper to you words of consolation, rather than speak to you in the terrible language of remorse, weigh well the verdict you are about to pronounce.

As for me, I am careless and indifferent to my fate. I can look danger, and I can look death in the face; for I am shielded by the consciousness of my own rectitude. I may be condemned to languish in the recesses of a dungeon. I may be doomed to ascend the scaffold. Nothing can deprive me of the recollection of the past; nothing can destroy my inward peace of mind, arising from the remembrance of having discharged my duty.