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THE COLONIAL PRESS.
EXPERIENCE often shews us that the extreme of opposite qualities may be united in the same person or thing. It is thus, that while England has been justly styled the country of reason, she has exhibited at the same time as much prejudice as any other. While she has kept the glorious flame of freedom alive in the world, and while foreign nations struggling for liberty have derived energy from her example, and conquered back what Nature designed as a universal heritage, England has been seen in time past giving her assistance to their enemies, allying herself with the foes of freedom and humanity, and covertly or openly labouring against the propagation of those principles, the adoption of which elevated her beyond the other nations of the earth, and she has generally discovered her error when too late. At present, when a more liberal system of policy than we have for a long time experienced characterizes the government; when party hate, except among the mercenary in motive, the vulgar in thought and language, and the inveterate devotees of old habit, has declined, and the consideration of the common welfare has begun to occupy the place of effervescence and irritation-when a wise conciliation seems to be adopted by government, and the spirit of party softens its asperities, it will be thought not a little anomalous should this conduct be confined to the mother-country alone; and that Englishmen, when within the limits of the United Empire, if beyond the judicial authority of the Lord Chief Justice, should be as despotically governed and have real redress of outrage as little in their power as they would have in nations in Europe the most uncongenial to their feelings in character. The system of government in some of our colonies seems so oppressive and so contrary to the spirit exhibited at home-the exercise of brief authority by the underlings, who are omnipotent there, is frequently so wanton and subversive of every thing like sense or reason, that it cannot pass much longer without animadversion in parliament. The press and the property it involves are, without law or the shadow of justice, sacrificed more particularly to the arbitrary despotism of petty tyrants, of men destitute of every thing but blind power, with just enough of intellect to see how useful an instrument it may be if devoted to their own purposes, but determined to suppress by force every thing that may be deemed offensive to themselves or their minions; utterly regardless of those principles of equity of which their country expects them to be conservators. Wherever the flag of England waves on the soil of the empire, Englishmen have a right to expect their property and privileges shall be protected by law, and by the same law as at home. It is sickening to hear the absurd cant uttered in palliation of the present course of proceeding, which generally centres in expediency, unsupported by fact and common sense. Expediency is in all such cases the refuge of wilful error or voluntary blindWhat a government like that of England wills it performs; and it is unjust towards its people that in those colonies, at least, in which the will of the Crown is absolute, and which Englishmen contribute to support from their pockets, or where they are abused and swindled by the existence of monopolies similar to that of the East India Company, or compelled to import and consume the produce of West India slavery and crime, in preference to that which may not be so tainted, they shall
not set their foot upon the soil which they are so burdened to support, but they forfeit their native rights, and resign into the hands of some obscure and arbitrary individual, in a remote part of the world, all which they hold most dear to them in this. The dangers which have been pretended as an excuse for such restrictions, are mere bugbears to serve the purpose of the interested: they inflict a positive evil, and are a disgrace to the character, intellect, and liberality of the nation. It is in vain that a minister may urge that the governor of this or that colony is of opinion such a step is inexpedient, or that the control of the press by law, instead of his ipse dixit, is not agreeable to his view of things. The minister is unworthy of his place who cannot judge for himself on such great and broad questions* (when, too, little or no local information is necessary,) as well or better than a soldier bred up in the arbitrary ideas of his calling, and whose ideas of right and wrong are grounded upon his own habits. On minute local questions residents are capable of judging, and their opinions and advice (not from all on one side, but from every side) are indispensably necessary. Even the opinion of General Demerara Murray might be highly useful respecting the fortifications of a colony, or upon questions in the common routine of business; but what would it be worth upon the broad question of slave emancipation, the great right of personal freedom, and the impartial administration of justice?
Lawyers, whose lips overflow with wise saws which signify nothing in practice, tell us that "there is no wrong without a remedy." Thus if a man be robbed of his money, his remedy is found in robbing himself in addition (as an Irishman would say), by feeing a lawyer to get the thief hung. This is what the law calls a remedy. Moses had a different idea upon the subject; with him justice meant compensation for a wrong to the party injured, and an additional penalty for the outrage-his was a law of quid pro quo. Modern law sages differ with Moses upon this subject, and when hard pushed, set up fiction in defence, suffering the injustice to remain as affecting the individual, and plundering him farther on the plea that it is society that has suffered the wrong. In truth, if the man who has sustained the injury be not a Hampden or a Sidney, having the pro patria uppermost, the death of the thief may have satisfied his revenge, but leaves the wrong enlarged rather than diminished. When shall we recur to simple matter
The high state of intellect and the present degree of perfection to which art and science have been brought, have put it in the power of a minister, if he possess sufficient discernment, to avail himself of it to become acquainted with every thing in a distant colony as minutely and clearly as on his own estate. The statistics, state of agriculture and commerce, the site and size of every dwelling and estate in a foreign settlement, might be rendered as familiar to him as those around his own residence. A free press would in addition give him information as to opinion, check the garbling of reports and proceedings of courts-martial, and the communications from officials in the usual course might be thus considered with a better power of judgment. The latter are often partial, and not grounded upon what the writer has actually seen. It would be important to be able to question the details. The receiving the reports of those in office in distant colonies, and the believing them always true as the Gospel, may be perfectly consistent with the routine of office, and may be all that a minister of every-day talents would do but he who possesses genius, has high notions of his duties, and is gloriously ambitious for his country's welfare, will not be so easily satisfied.-Herein is the difference between the great minister and the creature of office.
of-fact principles? These remarks may exemplify the law remedy for the injustice committed against an English subject by an authority in a foreign colony; at least the "remedy for the wrong" has a strong similitude. He may appeal to parliament; but has such an appeal any chance of success against the individual who may have held the power of oppression from the minister who governs the parliament, and what chance would an individual without interest in such a case possess? Suppose the law courts of his country will entertain his appeal for justice-the noblest fortune must be ruined to bring witnesses, who may not be compelled to come, from the other side of the globe to England, and to meet other expenses; and if he has no fortune, he has no remedy at all, even in name. But supposing by the sacrifice of his all, an individual may get his case heard in a law court; as the court, necessarily perhaps, has regard to the minutest forms and technicalities, some triviality may give him all his work to go over again. Why not then fix the reign of law in our colonies as at home, and prevent wrong being inflicted upon any without the power of defence or redress, or regard to the rights of property or personal liberty? At present, an individual, for giving the slightest offence to an official, may be abstracted from his property and sent thousands of miles without the possibility of avoiding utter ruin, though he had been guilty of no crime; or rather, perhaps, had deserved the thanks of the community. This state of things demands an alteration, or a remedy a little more substantial than law fictions allow at present. It is satisfactory to know that commissioners have been sent to one colony, the Cape of Good Hope, whose information will doubtless be of considerable effect in enabling Government to change many things for the better in that illmanaged and ill-governed, but fine settlement. We hope it will be the means of doing every thing that ought to be done; but if it should not, we shall be grateful for all which it may chance to effect. A revision of every thing relative to our colonies, and the abolition of every thing inconsistent with reason and justice, is required. The expenses of the colonies to the nation are far beyond what is necessary. They are all, more or less, very far behind the remotest districts of the mother country in manners and morals; the cause of which is to be found, in a great measure, in the bad system of their government, and the delay which has taken place, and the want of firmness in probing existing evils to the bottom. It is preferable, in questions like the present, to consider what ought to be done to prevent the recurrence of past evils, rather than to enumerate examples of them. That which is wrong should not be suffered to remain, whether instances of its bad effects can be enumerated or not. We live in days when but few will deny the existence or character of a thing because they have never happened to come in contact with it. It may suffice to mention that the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope has lately exemplified his notions of the freedom of the press, the sacredness of property, and the maxim that no Englishman shall suffer detriment, but by due process of law-British law.* He would, perhaps, object, that no colonial law for
The newspapers of the day state, that a person named Edwards has been sentenced to seven years' transportation for writing an unpublished letter to Lord Somerset, arraigning his conduct! Of this case, it is true, particulars are not yet before the public. It has a strange sound, however, to British ears.
bade his acting as he did in the case of Mr. Greig; or that the colonial law sanctioned it. This only proves, if true, what we are all along advocating, that on such broad questions as the liberty of the press, British law should reign paramount in a British colony, at least as far as Englishmen are concerned. Let us examine what sort of liberty of the press exists out of the pale of the law we are recommending; what idea of a free press a colonial viceroy, and those in authority under him, feel inclined to tolerate. From what has transpired at the Cape and in India, at which latter place no Turkish oppression is more grinding than that upon the press, a person named Adam appears to have been zealous in favouring us with data, on which to form a judgment on this subject, as Lord Somerset has done at the Cape. It appears that a newspaper, called the South African Commercial Advertiser, was placed under censorship by the Fiscal of the colony, which had been originally published by permission, whether agreeable to any local law so requiring or affecting British-born subjects we are ignorant. The crime alleged to have been committed was the publication of extracts from a work printed and published in the colony by Mr. Bird, the comptroller of the customs, and assessor of the Court of Appeals, that was displeasing to his mightiness the Fiscal, named Dennyssen, who demanded two securities amounting to ten thousand rix dollars, that nothing offensive, (we presume to the before-said Fiscal, not what a court of law might deem a libel) should appear in a future number. The proprietor of the journal, seeing that to accede to so monstrous a proposition was utter ruin, as the wisest course suppressed his journal. Orders were, notwithstanding, issued by the Governor to seal up his presses, and he was commanded to quit the colony in a month, or he should be sent out of it.* In India the beforenamed Mr. Adam, happening to become locum tenens in the government for a time on the departure of the Marquis of Hastings, directly overturned what the noble Marquis had done, so creditable to his talents, his extensive views, and his regard for the interest of humanity, by establishing the freedom of the press. This individual, in consequence of the editor of a journal mentioning a notorious piece of jobbing in the appointment of a Scottish parson to be a clerk of stationery, and enquiring if such an appointment was correct, (by which means the news of the job ultimately reached England,)-had him arraigned and tried for the libel, if it were one even there?-no! he was ordered out of the country, and a most valuable property which he possessed was ruined; even the agent left in charge of it having been equally persecuted, and subsequently ordered away in a similar manner. The very charge for which the editorf suffered this infliction of despotic authority, was a
At Algoa Bay Settlements printing is wholly prohibited, lest the Caffres and Hottentots, we presume, should become acquainted with any thing contrary to social order. It is reported that the South African Journal, a literary work most useful to the colony, and of unimpeachable character has also been suppressed!
The case of Mr. Buckingham has long since been before the public, and as a glaring instance of oppression for performing a public service. It appears that such is the worse than Austrian tyranny exercised in India against all connected with the press, on the authority of the English newspapers, that the Quarterly Review, on the covers of which Mr. Buckingham's Appeal on his case was advertised, is stated to have been carefully concealed, lest it should be seen, and the possessors, in consequence, be marked as offensive to the government, or, as it might not be incorrectly styled-Adamised.