which Commodore Downes
, upon a hearing of more than forty days, acquitted him; and their judgment was confirmed by President Tyler
Such, however, was the position of Mr. Spencer
,—the father, —his active interference with the proceedings, and the influence of others who were in his interest, that Mackenzie
's conduct, notwithstanding this judicial vindication, was subjected to severe censure in some quarters.
Both Charles H. Davis
then a lieutenant, but since a Rear Admiral
in the navy—and Theodore Sedgwick
sought the aid of Sumner
's pen in giving a direction to public opinion favorable to Mackenzie
, which Spencer
's friends were seeking to enlist against him. The former wrote, Dec. 28, 1842: ‘I make bold to ask you to lend your influence, through the press, to keep the public sentiment in Boston sound and right upon this subject.
I, as well as your other friends, have had occasion to admire the manner in which you have treated public questions of legal interest,—a manner characterized by a liberal, comprehensive, and philosophical spirit, and by freedom from technical and professional narrow-mindedness.’
The article begins with a spirited description of remarkable mutinies; notably those of the ‘Bounty,’ and of several in the English
navy, near the close of the last century; and of the American ship Essex,
when under Commodore Porter
's command,--a narration which showed a talent for historical composition.
Then, reviewing the facts of the ‘Somers
’ mutiny, he vindicates the summary execution of the mutineers by the principle of self-defence, and by the duty of the commander to the ship and to the lives on board.
The true issue, he contends, was not their actual guilt, but their guilt as apparent at the time; not the actual necessity, with the light of subsequent knowledge, but the necessity as it then seemed to the commander, acting conscientiously, and upon reasonable apprehensions.
The following paragraphs give the spirit and points of his argument:—