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be made the subject of judicial investigation , at the pleasure of any malignant accuser . We are noty insensible to the prestige attaching to the word truth , and we go farther than most persons would like , in maintaining that it is good to speak the truth , whatever be the conseqnences . But it is not the letter of the truth , it is the spirit that is wanted ; and , unhappily , the letter is
all that admits of being substantiated in a Court of Justice Every one knows how easy it is , without falsifying a single fact , to give the falsest possible impression of any occurrence ; and , in the concerns of private life , the whole morality of a transact ion commonl y depends upon circumstances which neither a tribunal nor the
public can possibly be enabled to judge of . Let any person call to his recollection the particulars of any family quarrel , for example , which has come within his personal knowledge , and think how absolutely impracticable it would be to place before the public any thing approaching to the most distant likeness of the real features of the case ! The moral character of the
transaction cannot possibly be understood , nor even the evidence on which the facts themselves rest , be properly appreciated , without a minute acquaintance with a thousand particulars of the character , habits , and previous history of the parties , such as must be derived from personal knowledge , and cannot possibly be
communicated . Any ' truth' which can be told to the public on such matters must almost necessaril y be , with respect to some party concerned , a cruel falsehood : and only the more cruel , if what tells against the party can be proved in a Court of Justice , while what would tell in his favour may be in its nature unsusceptible of such proof .
The proper tribunal for the cognizance of private immoralities , in so far as any censorship can be advantageously exercised over them by opinion at all , is the opinion of a person ' s friends and connexions ; who have some knowledge of the person himself , and of the previous circumstances , and therefore something to guide them in estimating both the probabilities of the case and the morality of it . And even their knowledge , how insufficient it
generally is ! and how doubtingly and hesitatingly a conscientious and modest man will usually draw from " such imperfect evidence , conclusions injurious to the moral character of a person of whose position he must necessarily be so insufficient a
judge ! Is not that the meaning of the Christian precept , Judge not ! ' And when the individual who is nearest , and best informod , can scarcely ever be sure that he is informed sufficiently , it is proposed to authorize a general inquisition into private life by the public at large ! the public , who cannot in the nature of the case be informed but in the loosest and most defective
wanner , nor can be qualified by previous knowledge to estimate the trustworthiness even of such partial information as is in its nature capable of beins : laid before them !
176 Notes on the Newspaper * .
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), March 2, 1834, page 176, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2631/page/16/