Letter – Charles Ledru – 18 Dec 1838

Document Type: Letter
Date: 18 Dec 1838
Correspondent: Charles Ledru
Archive Source: Misc Newspaper cutting
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       Advertisement. MR. T. W. BBAUMONT AND MR. J. P SOMERS. 

       TO THE EDITOR OF GALIGNANI'S MESSENGER. Sir Mr. Beaumont being on the point of leaving Paris, has requested me to transmit to you the accompanying letter from him, in answer to that which Mr. Somers has sent to several of the London newspapers, and which you published this morning. Permit me, sir, to take advantage on this occasion to repel the unjust attack which Mr. Somers has thought fit to make in his letter against the magistrates who have condemned him, as well as against the advocate who called for this condemnation. We allow in France every unsuccessful litigant (plandeur) ‘twenty-four hours to curse his judges:’ Mr. Somers has conceived himself authorised, by the distance at which he has placed himself from them, to extend the term of this privilege to a fortnight. Be It so. But when, instead of uttering his curses in an undertone, he accuses aloud both the tribunal and the advocate, he should at least have some plausible pretext, or be subject to the blame of every honourable and impartial man. Of what does Mr. Somers complain? That tie advocate of his accuser has spoken against a man who was not present to defend himself? – that the judges have tolerated such a violation of all consideration towards a member of Parliament? Mr. Somers says, ‘No English gentleman practising at the bar would have stated a case to which there was no defence, as the Frenchman did. No English judge would have permitted an advocate, who had to deal with a mere assault, to indulge in a tirade of abuse, &c.’ I know not whether it be admissible in England fora man labouring under a prosecution to take post and withdraw himself from the penalties he may have Incurred, or whether justice will consent to remain dormant until it shall be his pleasure to present himself before her. If It be so this jurisprudence must be highly lauded by malefactors, both great and small; but in truth I can scarcely believe that such a state of things can exist In any part of the civilized world. At all events, neither the tribunal nor myself can be reproached with having created an axiom (which, In our humble France, Is considered by all to be founded on good sense) that an accused man, by refusing to appear in the presence of justice, cannot thereby suspend that arm which she always raises to strike those who violate their laws, wherever they may conceal themselves. If this be barbarism all French lawyers, including the honourable advocate whom Mr. Somers must have consulted, are Incorrigible barbarians; for most assuredly they will never become civilised to the Ideas of Mr. Somers. 

       ‘Barbarus his ego sum quia non intelligor illis.’ 

       So much for principles. As to the facts of the case, let me inquire whether Mr. Somers is warranted in hurling his thunderbolts against us in particular, as he has against the French magistracy In general? It was on the 13th. November that Mr. Somers committed the offence of which Mr. Beaumont complained. The accused was summoned to appear on the 20th of the same month before the Tribunal Correctionel. We should have been fully warranted in exposing, on that very day, the wrongs of which Mr. Beaumont had to complain. We did not avail ourselves of his absence; but, from a feeling which in men of education is stronger than the law, we used a privilege the law grants, but does not enjoin, and applied to the tribunal for a postponement of the hearing. We gave, as the grounds of our request, that Mr. Somers, being a foreigner, and probably ignorant of the rules of the French courts, we felt It our duty to give him notice that we had an accusation of the most serious nature to urge against him and that we had a repugnance to enter upon it without his being present, and consequently we prayed the tribunal to grant to our absent adversary a suitable delay. The tribunal having mentioned a week, we observed that this, perhaps, was not sufficient; and, on our demand, the magistrates granted a fortnight for the defaulter to appear. We observed on this occasion, and the French and English journals repeated, that the public reports of this hearing would be an actual, if not a formal notice to Mr. Somers, and that, whether he were present or absent, we should be obliged to bring forward our accusation. This is what Mr. Somers calls very skilfully though not very honourably, done. When December the 4th arrived, Mr. Somers made default, as he had done on the 20th of November. One of two things must have been the reason: either he wanted further time to prepare for the combat, and this he might have done either in person or by his attorney, and even now be had the faculty of pleading in arrest of judgment, or of appealing against the sentence; or Mr. Somers, who has taken care to announce through the English journals that he could not expose his constituents to be deprived of his services In the House of Commons, must have determined not to run the risk of a prosecution, which might have ended in fixing his abode fora few years in St. Pelagie, for had he come forward, the magistrates charged with the repression of offences against the public, or private individuals could not out of consideration for the electors of Sligo, grant an impunity to their representative which they could not without forfeiture accord to any French citizen, however elevated might be his rank. This is what Mr. Somers ought to know, and undoubtedly does know, because, although the honourable legislator does not appear disposed to make us more than very short visits, I cannot but suppose him to be sufficiently versed in French law, and in the forms of our courts. Without that, he being a foreigner would not have reproved with so much dignified assumption the magistrates of a nation like France, and an advocate pleading with the advice and approbation of two such men as M. Odillon Barrot and M. Dupin. I can venture to affirm that among all the deputies of France, there is not one who would have thus treated either the judges or the counsel of any court of England. However this may be, as the advocates of Mr. Beaumont, that is, the interpreters of his thoughts, we at the hearing exposed all the motives on which his conduct was grounded, and which indeed he had previously explained satisfactorily to what we may call a court of honour. This we had not only an undoubted right, but were in every respect bound by our duty to do. It is certain if Mr. Somers had no other object In view than to obtain a considerable sum of money - and if, as stated by one of the witnesses, ‘the whole affair was a dirty affair of money,' - Mr. Beaumont and his counsel had no other course to follow than that which they adopted. Has Mr. Somers been calumniated? If so it has most assuredly not been either by the tribunal which condemned him, or by the plaintiff's counsel. The calumny must consist in the evidence of M. Conte who possesses the entire confidence of Mr. Somers, not only as his wine merchant, but as the friend to whom he thought proper, on the 14th of November, to relate in confidence the result of his expedition of the 13th. Again, the calumny must lie in Mr. White's declaration, made in presence of Colonels Belli and Gallois; in that of Mr. O'Brien, who, since the proceedings at which from accident he was not present, has written to attest the accuracy of the serious facts reported by him to Colonel Gallois, communicated by the latter to the tribunal. In short, the complaint has been merely the conscientious though, perhaps, not able summary of the evidence stated by the witnesses and by Mr. Beaumont. The judges listened with attention, and then decided. In fine, I am, in the eyes of Mr. Somers, guilty of having gained my cause - a crime not provided for by any article of the penal code of France, nor, I imagine, by the criminal law of England. After all, I confess I feel one single regret - that of not having had to meet before the tribunal the adversary I expected, and whom I called forth with all my power; because I am sure that If Mr. Somers, whose language is said to be so full of suavity and good taste, when he keeps the attention of Parliament rivetted on his eloquence, would not have forgotten, as he has in his letter, certain observances, which, among gentlemen of all nations are of common right, and therefore never dispensed with by them. 

       I am, &c, CHARLES LEDRU. 

December 18. 

[Mr. Beaumont's letter to the editor of the Morning Chronicle of the 18th of December which followed, has already appeared.] 
This letter, sent on TWB’s behalf by his Parisian lawyer, was published in the Morning Chronicle edition of 9th Jan 1839

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