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> ,: ! Law of IAbeL it y Can that faith propriety be called a law which will not admit of ^ definition , and which leaves so much to uncertainty in the minds of our jurfes , that one shall give a verdict of £ 400 damages , and another , in the same case , only a single farthing ? Or suppose we admit the wretched attempt at definition by our judicial ipse dixits " the greater the truth the greater the
libel , " then comes the unavoidable corollary , " the greater the lie the less the offence ; ' * and the premises and the inference are well worthy of each other ' s support . They are solecisms in language , an insult to common sense , and an outrage upon every moral sentiment and feeling . In short , they are " morally wrong , and therefore cannot be politically right /' If villany is to be screened from responsibility and merited reproach — if we are never to open our mouths to expose the most wanton and
barefaced violation of public justice , then farewell to all distinctions between virtue and vice , for we shall never be able to profit by the one or guard against the other . A church is a church , a cabbage a cabbage , and a scoundrel a scoundrel , and it is not by changing or mincing their names that we can alter their qualities . Suppose my best friend is about to be inveigled into a partnership with one whom I know to be a consummate
villain , am I to stand by a silent spectator because an exposure might tend to injure the rascal ? Insinuations will not do , and I am obliged to mention facts ; and then , according to modern explanation , the more correct I am in my information the greater the crime I commit against the peace and welfare of society ; and if the offender is allowed to riot with impunity , my friend is ruined ; while honour , fidelity , virtue , and religion , upbraid me with my neglect . Or suppose die case of master and servant : every principle of rectitude , and even the law itself , requires , that a faithful and just
character should be given on inquiry , " nothing extenuated nor aught set down in malice ; " but how will this rule apply in the case of libel ? The varlet may have debauched my damsels , bored and drained my barrels , and pilfered my plate pantry ; but he says , " You have no right to injure me , or to make a football of my reputation ; if I have done wrong let the law punish me ; but if you dare to expose me I will sue you for damages on the law of libel . " Or there may be numberless detects in
the character of a female domestic , which the laws would not punish , and which , nevertheless , ought not to be disguised on application for character . She may be dirty , idle , insolent , wasteful , and a liar ; she may have corrupted her fellpw-servants and my children , but it is ^ t my peril that I declare these failings . She defies me to substantiate the chaiges ; I
shall not be allowed tb prove them in a court of justice , and if f attempt it elsewhere so as to injure her character , I shall be made t 6 suffer for my presumption . Such atei a rjart of the vile inconsistencies of this absurd law . What then remains tt > be d 6 nfc in order that it may be consisted to that oblivion or infamy to whfch it is so justly entitled , but that a fqw honest
juries should pr ^ Ve by their verdicts , that as long fcs the public are true to themselves it will ndfc Win tn ! £ tioh ! ver of iritfefestetj , designing ^ o * ignorant judges to enslave them , oV to suffer ^ Ae ^ lam ^ i tales of equity tir justice to be violated to the public injury !
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MQBAI j QUEBI 15 & f , „ ,
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Aug. 2, 1827, page 577, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1799/page/25/