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ble fortress of prejudice and delusion? I answer-no-how should it, if the Press be as you assert it is, an extensive medium for the correction of error and the propagation of knowledge?: While the Press is free, it is an engine much more powerful for the diffusion of knowledge than of ignorance; nor can the baleful. operations of any one portion of the Press by possibility oppose an impregnable barrier against the beneficial influence of another. Cannot it, you ask too, be made the scourge of virtue and of honor, and the assassin of spotless reputation? I answer-no-virtue, honor, and spotless reputation, need fear nothing from a free Press; it is their best security. It is only vice, which seeks protection and impunity under the shelter of the strong arm of power, that can justly dread a free Press. To vice, and to vice alone, will it be an object of terror and alarm.
You assert that the misconduct of the Press is the cause of the evils which you deplore; and you refer for proof to facts which do not warrant the assertion. You refer to the late tumultuous proceedings in certain districts, and to the unwillingness which was manifested by the great body of the lower orders to take an active part against the actors in them. But does this prove the point in question? If the lower orders in general did not express a detestation of the conduct of the rebels, or evince a willingness to oppose them, do those circumstances prove more than this-either that the people did not believe that those men were in the state of rebellion which you assume they were, or else that the people saw that these miserable men were the victims of delusion, and felt them to be the objects rather of pity than of anger. You say that their proclamations were the exact transcript of the pages of the Cobbett's and the Wooller's. Suppose they were, what conclusion follows? Not that the Press produced the insurrection: the causes of insurrection existed independent of the Press, though the Press might be the medium through which the leaders of the insurgents sought to extend and aggravate the disorder. Do not, Sir, mistake me-the Press may be made an engine to heighten discontents to which other causes have given birth, but the Press alone, in the absence of all other causes, cannot excite a general or extensive disaffection. With respect to those men indeed, to whose names you have referred, as the political demigods of the people, you have attached to them a degree of consequence which in my opinion, they are far from possessing. It is impossible that men could be more the objects of derision and contempt among the lower orders, than these men were, until they were forced into an unnatural importance by ill-timed persecution, and illjudged severity. For the truth of this assertion I appeal to the shouts of ridicule with which they were received at public meetings,
and to the signal failure of their absurd attempts to obtain a seat in the representative assembly of the nation, by offering themselves as candidates for those places in which the lower orders were in exclusive possession of the elective franchise. You refer for the proof of your proposition to the evidence on the late trials for treason. And what inference does that evidence afford? Does it not afford the inference that the unhappy objects of those trials had, through excess of misery and despair, become the unresisting victims of those infernal agents of corruption, to whom I have above alluded? Where are Castles, Oliver, and Edwards? Let them come forward and inform us, what share the licentious Press had in accomplishing the ruin of those unhappy men. Think not, Sir, that I defend or palliate their crime ! I feel for their distresses, but I condemn their conduct: all I contend for is, that the misconduct of the Press was not the cause of the excesses into which they have been led.
If it be the fact, that the writers of sedition have brought the lower orders into one mass of disaffection, how comes it that instead of the writer giving opinion to the reader, the reader gives opinion to the writer? or how does your assertion, that so large a portion of the lower orders have embraced revolutionary doctrines, that they have succeeded in placing a considerable part of the Press in a state which must involve the nation in ruin, accord with your proposition that the writers of sedition are the persons who have infused the principles of rebellion and revolution into the minds of men previously devoted to their king, their country, and their constitution? or how is the Press to blame for the tumultuous disposition of the people, if their wishes and their preconceived opinions were all ranged in favor of the poison and against the antidote? These assertions are somewhat inconsistent with each other; nor much less so is the assertion, that the feelings and objects of the lower orders are the exact copy of the productions of the treasonable writers. Had you reversed the order of the sentence, had you said that the productions of those writers, whom you call treasonable, are the exact copy of the feelings and objects of the lower orders, you might, perhaps, have been nearer to the truth. For in truth, your observation, that the press watches the weathercock of public opinion, is more just than perhaps you are aware. While the Press continues free, this must necessarily be the case. When strong causes of discontent exist, strong feelings must agitate the people, and a free Press is but the medium through which they will seek to give expression to their feelings. Popular opinion, popular feelings, will find vent. You may delay, but cannot stifle their expression; compress them, they will ooze out at every pore; confine them, the more tremendous will be
the explosion. Nor is it by destroying even the licentious Press, by the strong arm of power, that you will avert the threatened evil. You must first remove the causes of discontent. In vain will the strong arm of power strike, in vain will the lightning blast, while the cause of the disease remains untouched. If, moreover, a licentious Press, read exclusively by the lower orders, and operating on their ignorance, their passions, and their prejudice, be the cause of the prevailing disaffection, whence comes it that disaffection is daily spreading upwards, that the king is deserted by his nobles? Are the higher classes indeed the victims of the same ignorance, prejudice, and passion? Are they the dupes of the same senseless jargon, the same designing writers? The truth is, that the spirit of discontent, of STRONG DISAPPROBATION OF THE CONDUCT OF THE MINISTRY, and of determined opposition to their further incroachments on the people, does daily spread upwards, and increase, to a formidable extent, and we want no better proof that this spirit owes its birth to an overwhelming sense of the misconduct of the Government, and not to the misconduct of the Press. The Press then is licentious, but licentiousness is the consequence, and not the cause of the prevailing discontent. But how does it happen, you enquire, and the inquiry is a proper one, that while the misconduct of the Press is thus notorious, it continues to be tolerated? I will answer your enquiry, and I will at the same time point out the remedies which may be applied, and which, if applied, must be successful, without the necessity of resorting to those measures which you propose, Create subsidiary laws! Examine, Sir, the laws which now exist; they are sufficiently precise and definite. Consider the various modes by which the offender may now be brought to answer for his crime; they are numerous, powerful, and effective. Consider too the punishments which await conviction; they surely are sufficiently severe. If the loss of the profits which the starving writer may hope to derive from the productions of his pen by the imposition of arbitrary fines, if imprisonment, unlimited in duration, if banishment from his native land; if these have not sufficient terror to awe the libeller into silence, in vain will you attempt to crush him by the increased severity of the laws. If a legislative enactment be necessary, it must be one which would extend rather than narrow the present limits of the freedom of the Press. But with all these means for its prevention why does the evil still prevail? Because the existing laws are not impartially put in execution. Let the laws be executed-let the libeller be brought to punishment because he is a libeller, because he is an offender against the laws of order, of society, of his coun try, and not because he is the devoted victim of party rancour, or ministerial vengeance. Then would he in vain attempt to VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXV.
raise an interest in his own behalf by connectinghis cause with the cause of the Press, in vain might he hope to protect himself by exciting the apprehension that his punishment would involve the danger of the Press. Good easy-minded men would not then gather round him, nor form a phalanx to protect him from the sword of justice; though to shield a fellow-countryman from oppression under the mask of law, they will spare no exertions. Let the laws be executed, and the Press will not then nullify law nor disarm justice. Does the Attorney-General complain that his exertions are paralized, that he cannot obtain conviction? Let the Attorney-General do his duty strictly and impartially, and he will not find juries backward in performing theirs. Let him prosecute the ministerial libeller, the man who styles himself the friend of order and good government, and yet seeks to infuriate the people, dares to taunt them with their ignorance, glories in their oppression and distress, and insults their generous feelings, by reviling, abusing, and calumniating those whom the people love, honor, and revere. The Attorney-General will then find no difficulty in bringing to justice and to punishment the authors of blasphemy, of sedition, and of treason; nor even the calumniators of the ministers themselves. If the Attorney-General will not perform his duty let the people perform theirs. Let the people exercise the powers which the law has given them. Why do not grand juries in every county prefer presentments against those pernicious writings which fall within their own cognizance? The law has given them power so to do why do not the people themselves fight their own cause, and prefer indictments against public libels as against public nuisances? The law has given them power so to do - why are not extensive associations formed on disinterested principles, for suppressing pernicious writings by legal means, without regard to party, or respect to persons? By such measures may the licentiousness of the Press be constitutionally restrained while its liberty remains entire; for the due restraint of its licentiousness does not involve an invasion of its liberty. But let not the strong arm of power be raised against the man, who espouses rashly, perhaps illegally, the people's cause while the serpents who bask in the sunshine of ministerial influence are permitted to sting the people with impunity.
To conclude that an extensive, formidable, and increasing spirit of discontent at this moment pervades the country we both agree. We differ only with regard to the causes by which it has been produced and the remedy which ought to be applied. You call upon the minister to do his duty. In that call do I unite with all my heart. I feel as strongly as you can do, the importance
of the present crisis. I see that the nation is on the brink of a yawning gulf, but I am convinced it may yet be saved. Let the minister return at once to the path of duty, let him revert to principles of government truly popular, truly patriotic, truly constitutional; and the danger will disappear. But should the minister still resolve to act upon the principles which you profess, should he still trust for safety to the strong arm of power, should he still dare to aggravate the frenzy of the people, by proclaiming in their ears that he despises their opinion and disregards their clamor as the passing breeze, then indeed shall we be forced upon that one step which is to hurl us from the summit of the precipice into the gulf of ruin. The question then must come to this short issue -who shall prevail? The minister or the people? Tremendous must be the conflict, dreadful the result. Nor let the minister vainly indulge a hope that a single patriotic sword will leap from its scabbard to aid him in the conflict. TO THE EARL OF LIVERPOOL therefore do I now address myself-to him I make my last appeal. The day is now at hand when you my Lord, must emerge from that retirement in which for some weeks passed you have been secluded; and must give to your fellowcountrymen some decisive token by which they may be enabled to judge what hopes may be indulged or what fears must be entertained with respect to your future conduct. To the 23d of January does the whole nation look forward with intense anxiety, with trembling apprehension. The people regard it as the commencement of an era which may decide their future destiny on that day some decisive step must be taken-wavering policy or temporizing measures will no longer avail. The people feel that on the resolutions of your Lordship and your colleagues for your conduct on that important day, may depend the future happiness or the future ruin of the country. They know that your Lordship has the power, they believe that you have the ability, and they require that you should have the will to rescue the kingdom from impending ruin. Already perhaps have you formed your resolution, and determined within your own bosom what measure you will pursue. The decisive step however is not yet taken, nor, if your resolution be hostile to the cause of which I am the feeble champion, is it yet too late to retract. I implore you then my Lord, as a man of honor, of judgment, and of feeling; as a statesman and a patriot, to reflect well on the situation in which you at this moment stand, Listen, I intreat you, to the well founded clamors of a suffering people, pouring thick upon you from every quarter of the island. Despise not their ignorance, defy not their passions, spurn not their complaint; hear and redress! Let no party feelings, no prejudices, even in the highest quarter, no selfish motives of individual inte