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More men of generally virtuous princi- quiet deliberation, and without 'eclat be ples, or of brilliant talents, would not, speedily accorded. I apprehend, be added. The absence Let us be persuaded that so long as we of imposing talents, however, we should approve the general plan of our political have no cause to regret, if their place constitution, it is both our duty and our was supplied by plain sound sense; but interest to treat every branch of the go. virtue, public and private, is an essen, vernment with external reverence, nota tial requisite to a useful public character, withstanding our objections to some parIt appears still that the alteration would, ticulars in their construction, or to some to a certain extent, be beneficial; and features in their character. The deportthe purchase of seats in parliament, or ment observed towards establishments, the appointment by governmeni, by will not readily vary with the variations peers, or by commoners, of persons to in their purity. Mankind are, and profill then, is an opprobriuin which no lan. bably ever will be, passively led by hagunge can exaggerate.
bit, and instinctively impressed by names Tam reluctant to repress ardour in a and forms. And it would be a lamente good cause. I desire indeed, that such able error to suppose that the ill conduct a temperate plan of reform ss has been of memhers of an excellent establishmentioned, may be pursued until it is ment would warrant us in destroying or effected; not pursued however with a endangering the establishment itself. ' passionate warmth which, at the expence I would conclude with the reinark, that of the public tranquillity, would extort as a virtuous end will not sanctify vicious by violence what cannot be instantly oh- means; so neither can a good object be. tained by reason; but with a firin and safely and certainly promoted by men of patient perseverance, which strives to general bad principles. 'I. N. H. overcome obsiacles by peaceful and cone · Muy 26, 1911. . . ciliatory means, and never deviates por . desists until crowneci with success. But while the friends of reform do not relax To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine." in their efforts, let them not be too san SIR, guine in their expectations of the bene THE great problem about the liberty Ecial effect of their plans, lest disap. 1 of the press may be solved in a pointment in this respect, when their oh.. very narrow compass. Its perplexity ject is attained, should excite new and has been occasioned by the want of due dangerous projects, or a restless desire discrimination between discussions on of change. Men must indeed be indivia abstract and public topics and strictures dually reformed before society can ap- on private character. The enemies of proach perfection, or government be free inquiry purposely confound these conducted upon right principles.
distinct objects, in order to destroy all In the piode of elections, much of liberty; and the friends of discussion fall good might, however, be easily effected. into the snare, and often defend the right A choice by private ballot in towns, pa. of exposing private vices as apparently rishes, or districts, and in every place connected with the general liberty of the at the same time. 'would at once check public press. Hence, the right to de.. corruption, and abolish disorders, odious fame private persons being mixed with in themselves, and injurious to the public the right to discuss general public tomorals and happiness. Let this object pics, both parties are right, and both at then be above all things pursued, and its the same time wrong! attainment will indeed furnisb cause for W hen a man, therefore, is tried in a triumph.
court of law for writing a public-spirited No person of candour can doubt that attack on some corrupt measure of an many oppose reform from a sincere ap- administration, the Judge ofien exclains prehension, that, when the door of inno- to the Jury in language like the foliowe vation is opened, we are not certain of ing: Gentlemen, if such abominable our ability to shut it, but that revolution libeis as these are to be suffered, you will with all its horrors may rush in. Such not be able to sleep in your beds; your opponents deserve, respect, and even fire-sides will cease to be a sanctuary; their opinion is above contempt. But and all that is desirable in life, and all with prudent management, an evil so that religion teaches us to hold sacred, justly to be dreaded may doubtless be will lose their protection and security!"averted. "The measure ought not to be thereby confounding things as opposite intemperately prosecuteil, nor ungra- as the Antipodes! Such libels as those ciously opposed; but considered with deseribed, would indeed deserve difMONTHLY Mac. No. 214,
ferent treatment from that which they fer on every miscreant who can write usually meel with in courts of law; but in the language of Billingsgate, and to confound with them legitimate stric. who, from lack of principle, cares out tures on any public topic, is like con- what he says, the powers of a grand founding a pick-pocket with a public jury of the country. It is to put a inan benefactor. Separate therefore these on his defence without the qualifications distinct objects of literary jurisdiction, of number, property, oath, or honour, in and all mankind will agree that science, his grand jury, and to expose him to morais, law, religion, politics, economics, the worst and most ferocious of tribunals and the public measures and conduct of the conscience of an anonymous acpublic men cannot be too fully or too cuser, who, unseen, unknown, devoid perfreely discussed; but on the other hand, haps of every honourable sentiment, and that too heavy a responsibility, and too stimulated by a thirst of revenge, would severe a punishment, cannot well be in- seek to satiate his diabolical passions in flicted on the deliberate, wanton, and blood, but for the legal responsibility at. malicious, violator of the sanctuary of a tending murder. man's fire-side and family circle.
Let us for a moment look to the effects There can, nor ought to be, no restric. of personal slander: a man writes a libel tions in speculative inguiries on abstract on another, and obtains its circulation subjeces, or on topics of a public na. through a public newspaper : the Irbel is ture involving public interests, in which read by ten thousand persons in all parts overy man has a stake in his fortune or of the empire, and an extensive and lastposterity, and therefore, as part of the ing prejudice is created against the lio grand jury of the public, he ought to be belled, highly prejudicial to his comfort, at liberty to indict and present them family, fortune, and laudable ambition; through the press. But it would be a whether true or false, deserved or una mi-chievous anomaly in jurisprudence, deserved, the effect is the same on nine and would tend to disorganize all the thousand nine hundred of those who social relations, if erery man, through dirert themseloes in reading it. They da the instrumentality of the press, were to not take the trouble to ascertain its truth be allowed to usurp all the powers of or falsehood; it is not worth their while a grand jury, in regard to his neigh to do so; and, if they chose to do it, they bours; if every malicious unprincipled have not the opportunity. Besides, who character were to be arıncd with the is to gauge the precise degree of its founpowers of an authorised grand jury, and dation; the preinises may be innocently be suffered publicly to indict and put on true, and the inferences false and mabis defence every other man whose su licious; and after it has in some supposed perior virtues were the objects of his way been sifted and proved to be partly envy or hatred!
false, partly true, how few of the tea Private vices, when they exist, are thousand take the trouble to discharge properly cognizable only before the tri- their minds of the first prejudice; and bunal of a man's friends and family; how many never read the contradiction they are alone within the jurisdiction of who read the libel, and, while under er his own conscience, of his religion, and ror, spread it among ten thousand inore. of his Maker; but, if they ever become No contradiction, no apology, no dathe instruments of public wrongs, they wages, no punishment of a personal lie are then cognizable before a legal tri- belier, can, therefore, competently atone bunal, and punishable according to the to the party, and entirely wipe away the enormity of their effects.
stigma imposed upon him. Ought, there. It is a monstrons doctrine therefore to fore, such a license to be tolerated under confer on an anonymous or malignant any limitatiou? Ought it not rather to writer, the province of a grand jury, be deemed a crime in its very concoction and to expect one who has been slan. and genera, without considering either dered, and who seeks redress at law, to its quality or species? prove that the slander is in every sense I assume it as a general and well. false. Ic ought to be enough to shew founded position, that whatever it is this that the libeller of private character bas duty of one man to propagate about an. published wantonly and malignantly, that other for any alleged benefit to the pebe which, whether true or false, is spe. lic, may be made the foundation of a cially or palpably injurious, To ask legal accusation before a grand jury; for more of him who prosecutes for and the criterion of its fitness for diffu. R personal libel, is at once, to con- sion, will be ascertained by their deci
sion. For every thing that a man is not some persons to compromise that right amenable to a grand jury, he is answer of free discussion, which is of such vital able to no other tribunal than his own inportance to the civilization, happiness, conscience, his domestic circle, and his and improvement, of huinan nature; it God; and he, who designeilly, and with may be necessary for me to remark, out some imperious and paramount obe that I conceive the occasions to be very ligation, propagates any information few, in which private character has any calculated to bring any private character inherent connection with the investiga. into contempt, to injure his fortunes, ortion of valuable truths. Is he a minister wound his feelings, ought to be punished who supports an unnecessary war by misas an infamous slanderer.
leading the public reason, and giving What I have stated above, may suffice false direction to the passions of the to sliew that the crime of libelling one's people; write against that war, and also neighbour bas no proper connection with against wars in general; expose their the truth or falsehood of the assertion. mischiefs, and prove their inefficiency He who is libelled might be allowed to from reason and experience to effect the prove the falsehood in aggravation; but objects which they propose!'s lie a: to attempt to justily a libel on a privale judge who over-roles juries, and passes person, is an evident aggravation of the cruel and unusual sentences; write original offence, and ought never to be against such practices, and shew that encouraged or countenanced in any court: such sentences are contrary to the Bill of law, in which the attainment of justice of Rights !-Is he a general who unmer: is the primary object.
cifully fogs his soldiers? question the I consider this distinction between policy and efficacy of flogging soldiers.public discussion on public topics, and is lie a prince addicted to the vice of the malignant slander of private persons, drunkenness? expose that vice and its and private character, to be the best consequence to the interests, honour, security of all that is really useful in a free and health of those who indulge in it. press, I cannot, therefore, proceed, with. But in neither of these cases, or in any out exhorting courts of law to protect similar case, is it necessary to vilify the those who seek legal remedies against personal and private character of the private libels, from greater libels, and parties! Every legitimate purpose of the froin misrepresentations far more gross, press being to be effected under this li. wliich appear in the pretended reports mitation; it involves the probability of of such trials, in our newspapers. He rendering the press odious io society, to who thinks it worth his while to libel an- insist on the right of wantonly exbibiting other 'man, and to oblige bim to seek his supposed or alleged defects of private remedy at law, will not scruple after the character, thereby arming every cowtrial to obtain the circulation of his own ardly anonymous assassin with the au. report of the proceedings: hence it is thority pertaining only to a Grand Jury, tbat the most fagrant libels constantly, and enabling him by turns to denounce escape with impunity, their punishment and put on their defence, every honoure becoming a question of expediency, rather able man and virtuous woman in the than of justice. That libel which was country. originally circulated in a corner, and The press, as a ineans of attaining which, if neglected, might possibly have truth and information, by the collision of produced no palpable injury, will, if pro various opinions, is preferable to all secuted, as these things are now con. others. A people cannot possess a more ducted, be circulated with emphasis in effectual power of exposing mal-admin every newspaper in the kingdom, nistration than a free press. That king attended by the witticisms, insinuations, or minister evinces little wisdom, and á strained inferences, and scandalous as. small degree of respect for the people. sertions, of counsel; so that a man who who does not consult the press as 'the seeks his redress at law, for that injury mcdiun of their complaints, and who to which no man of honour could sub. does not maintain its freedom, that their mit, frequently involves himself in great complaints may be free, and that he may expence and anxiety, gets perhaps a avail himselt of its suggestions. A wise shilling damages, finds himself at first prince will recollect an admirable arthe laughing-stock of his neighbours, and rangement of some Fathers ofthe Chinese is finally ruined in his fame and his for people, who caused a letter-box to be (une!
affixed at the Palace gate, into which · As these considerations may appear to their subjects were invited to put their
complaints, and their suggestions for the Parliament should be passed, which improvement of the government; and should subject a public functionary to at the Chinese emperors considered it a least two years imprisonment, and to be sacred duty to open those boxes ibem- cashiered, wbo should be proved to have selves, and peruse and attend to their bribed the conductors of any public contents. A free press effects the same print, to give a false colour to any act ohject, with the advantages to be de. of bis administra jon. rived from coliisjon of sentiment. No Till some measure of this kind is British Prince ought, therefore, to encou. adopted, the governed and the governors, Tage restrictions on the press in regard in regard to the press, are not upon an to public objects, unless be at the same equal footing. The people may be ille instant announce the plan of a Chinese sulted every day by mistatements to their letter-box at the gate of bis Palace. - prejudice; the patriotic friends of the
The press is so vital and important a country may be grossly libelled, while machine for the eilaryenient of know. the writers are basking in the sud-shine ledge and the removal of abuses, that I of power, and reaping a golden barrest consider the misuse of it, for purposes of as the reward of their prostitution; but private slander and personal libel, as should one of the people for his colittle less than SACRILEGE! The an. patriots stand forward to expose in on. cients would have personified, and under guarded language the mal-administration that personification have worshipped of a public functionary, he is liable to be THE PRESS for its social power and use. made to answer without the intervenfulness; they would therefore have treated tion of a Grand Jury, and to be subas blasphemers, those who made use of it jected to vengeful proceedings from for the gratification of private malice, united and condensed power, which and would bave punished in very dif. eventually crush and destroy him. ferent degrees a manuscript or oral libel, How imperiously then is the Parliaand a calumny diffused by the instru- ment called upon to prohibit proceedings mentality of the hallowed press.
ex officio, and to insist that all libels shall So little however are che sacred powers be referred to a Grand Jury! This done, of this deity reverenced by the British bow delicate and how sacred are the people, that it is to be regretted, nearly functions of that Jury in deciding when as much of mischief is perpetrated by the latitude of free discussion and the Venal and sycophant writers, as of be bounds of decency are exceeded! And nefit from patriotic writers who detect again, after these bave decided in the abuses, and advocate the interests of the affirmative, how great is thie responsibipeople. In short, truth is so confounded lity of a Petit Jury, and bow nicely ouçlik and so perplexed by the systematic cor- thier to consider the consequences of a ruption of the press, that I have some.. conviction on the cause of truth, on their times been almost led to entertain the country's welfare, and on the improve heretical sentiment, that the press itself ment of man! was pernicious to the public welfare, In regard to the paradox of Lord and an obstruction to the cause of truth MANSFIELD, that the greater the truth and justice! It is well known that pen- the greater the libel, I agree; and at the sions are allowed to many editors and same time I differ with that great man. writers, by most administrations, for the In charges of private libels, he was most general support of their measures, and correct, and justifications ought never to that annual allowances bave been inarie be encouraged ; but in regard to a public by many of the public offices to news.: functionary, on the truth or falsehood of papers, for the purpose of supporting the matter lies the merit or demerit of the interests of the particular office, and of publication. Aa author or publisher puffing and praising its conduct. . who truly proclaims that mal-adınjnistrae,
If a too free use of the press subjects tion which, on investigation, he can a man to pains and penalties, how much prooe, deserves a CIVIC CROWN; but, un hcavier ought punishment to fall on pube the other hand, if he turn out to be a., Jic functionaries, who bribe the press base calumniator, he ought to be pa., with the public mouey to impose on the nished with salutary rigour. people, or who bribe it even out of their Lord Mansfield was not in error when, own furtunes to give a faise colouring to in regard to private libel or personal slen. their mal administration? I earnestly der, he asserted, that the greater the recommend, therefore, that an Act of truth the greater the libel. It was a boli
assertion : but, besides the reasons al- ever to be made good and wholesome,
raspings of dirty and burnt outsides of One can scarcely suppose any other loaves, run through an iron mill, are : ohject in treating so vdious e dilemma in mixed with the flour.
regard to the press, than a wilful design Dr. Buchan, whose memory ought to of bringing into disrepute the free exer- be ever respected, having the great cause cise of the press in general on laudable, of health much at heart, cautioned the and proper objects. It is a dilemma not world against bad bread, especially for necessary or essential to any legitimate children, and recommended maslin bread, object of useful discussion. I exhort the Maslin means a mixture of the flour of friends of free inquiry, therefore, not to wheat and rye; an excellent article become parties in ensnaring the press and I was lately glad to see that a baker itsell, by supporting doctrines in regard on the west side of Fleet Market has to private libel, which involve and ennot only adopted his advice, but has put tangle the sacred and unalienable rights a large printed paper to explain it in his of public discussion! .
shop window, I bought some of this The plain and rational distinction is bread, and so much do I adınire it, that this-indiciments, or actions for libels on I have advised every family in which I private persons, should simply charge, have since visited to get it;, many have chat such and such an injurious assertion and admire it. It appears to be, and was maliciously written and published. the baker assures me it is, made of the In the malice lies the crime, and no mat. best flour of wheat and rye; the bread is lice can be inferred if the assertion itself fine, has no coarse husks in it, and it keeps is not injurious, specially or palpably. moist many days. The virtues of the
On the other hand, in general discus- rye render it peculiarly fit for costive sions relative to general truths and to habits; but the very favour is delicious; public objects, whether of men or things, and then the price, nine pence per peck inasmuch as it is useful and meritorious, less than the standani, renders it an ob. and a common right to discuss such sub- ject, but were it sold at the same price jects, so the FALSEnood of the assertions I would have it. ought to constitute a leading and neces- I wish that this bint may have the desary feature of the charge.
sirod etleci, and that the man who has COMMON SENSE. thus brought it forward to the public, Buckingham Gate, June 16, 1811.
may be so well encouraged as to induce
never to hear of alum being found in a To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine. baker's house; but if it should, that for: sin,
such an offence, the old law should be
put in force, of having “bis ears pailed W IEN any individual, however ob
to the pillory.” V scure his situation in life, makes
March 20, 1811. an atteinpt toward the public good, it must be successful, more or less, for to the Editor of the Monthly Magazine, even if his abilities, or his means be
SIR, small, he will ever be seconded.
THE following rules or regulations, «« In the cause of the public no effort can be T which form a part of thie written lost."-Dr. Jobb.
or unwritten code for the government of In the general article of our common the quakers, will not, perhaps, be thought food-bread, much has frequently been undeserving of a place in your Magazine, said and written; it is the staff of life." as tending to confirm the doctrine of. Now a staff means support, and who your correspondent “ Common Sense,". would on a pedestrian journey go without in his excellent paper (Monthly Mag, for. a sound substantial staff; why then ever April) on the effects of close corporations omnit tliat inain staff-bread, which ought societies, committees, &c. I shalt in)