entered the court, before which he had never spoken,
he saw on the bench more than twenty clergymen, the most learned men in the colony; and the house was filled and surrounded by an overwhelming multitude.
To the select jury which had been summoned, Maury
, ‘the parson’ whose cause was on trial, made objections; for he thought them of ‘the vulgar herd,’ and three or four of them dissenters of the sect called ‘New Lights.’
‘They are honest men,’ said Henry, ‘and therefore unexceptionable;’ and the court being satisfied, ‘they were immediately called to the book and sworn.’
The course of the trial was simple.
The contract was, that Maury
should be paid sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco: the act of 1758 fixed the value at two pence a pound; in 1759 it had been worth thrice that sum. The council for the clergy briefly explained the standard of their damages, and gave a high-wrought eulogium on their benevolence.
The forest-born orator, of whose powers none yet were conscious, rose awkwardly to reply, but faltered only as he began.
He built his argument on the natural right of Virginia
to self-direction in her affairs, pleading against the prerogative of the crown, and the civil establishment of the church, against monarchy and priestcraft.
The act of 1758, having every characteristic of a good law, and being of general utility, could not, consistently with the original compact between king and people, be annulled.
‘A king,’ he added, ‘who annuls or disallows laws of so salutary a nature, from being the father of his people, degenerates into a tyrant, and forfeits all right to obedience.’
At this assertion, the opposing counsel cried out aloud to the