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the court, in so plain a case, with much observation; but hackneyed as it may be, it is my duty upon every one of these occasions, to remind you that the liberty of the press consists in its good regulation; if it be meant that it should be preserved with benefit to the public, it must be from time to time lopped of its unjust exces, 2s, by reasonable and proper verdicts of juries, in fit and
SPEECH OF MR. ERSKINE.
The publication having been proven, Mr. Erskine addressed the jury as follows; first saying:
I admit that the witness has proved that he bought this book at the shop of Mr. StockdaleMr. Stockdale himself being in the shop—froin a young man who acted as his servant.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY: Mr. Stockdale, who is brought as a criminal before you for the publication of this book, has, by employing me as his advocate, reposed what must appear to many an extraordinary degree of confidence, since, although he well knows that I am personally connected in friendship with most of those whose conduct and opinions are principally arraigned by its author, he nevertheless commits to my hands his defence and justification.
From a trust apparently so delicate and singular, vanity is but too apt to whisper an application to some fancied merits of one's own; but it is proper, for the honor of the English bar, that the world should know that such things happen to all of us daily, and of course; and that the defendant, without any knowledge of me, or any confidence that was personal, was only not afraid to follow up an accidental retainer, from the knowledge he has of the general character of the profession. Happy indeed is it for this country, that whatever interested divisions may charaterize other places, of which I may have occasion to speak to-day; however the counsels of the highest departments of the state may be occasionally distracted by personal considerations, they never enter these walls to disturb the administration of justice; whatever may be our public principles, or the private habits of our lives, they never cast even a shade across the path of our professional duties. If this be the -haracteristic ever of the bar of an English court of justice, what sacred impartiality may not every man expect from its jurors and its bench !
As, from the indulgence which the court was yesterday pleased to give to my indisposition, this information was not proceeded on when you were attending to try it, it is probable you were not altogether inattentive to what passed at the trial of the cther indictment, prosecuted also by the House of Commons; and, therefore, without a restatement of the same principles, and a similar quotation of authorities to support them, I need only remind you of the law applicable to this subject, as it was then admitted by the AttorneyGeneral, in concession to my proposition, and confirmed by the higher authority of the court, viz:
First, that every information or indictment must contain such a description of the crime that the defendant may know what crime it is which he is
. called upon
to answer. Secondly, that the jury may appear to be warranted in their conclusion of guilty or not guilty.
And, lastly, that the court may see such a precise and definite transgression upon th record, as to be able to apply the punishment which judicial discretion may dictate, or which positive law may inflict.
It was admitted also to follow as a rere corol lary from these propositions, that where an information charges a writing to be composed or published of and concerning the Commons of Great Britain, with an intent to bring that body into scandal and disgrace with the public, the author cannot be brought within the scope of such a charge, unless the jury, on examination ard comparison of the whole matter written or published, shall be satisfied that the particular passages charged as criminal, when explained by the context, and considered as part of one entire work, were meant and intended by the author to vilify the House of Commons as a body, and were written of and concerning them in Parliament assembled.
These principles being settled, we are now to see what the present information is.
It charges that the defendant, “unlawfully, wickedly, and maliciously devising, contriving, and intending to asperse, scandalize, and vilify the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled; and most wickedly and audaciously to represent their proceedings as corrupt and unjust, and to make it believed and thought, as if the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled were a most wicked, tyrannical, base, and corrupt set of persons, and to bring them into disgrace with the public”—the defendant published—What? Not those latter ends of sentences which the AttorneyGeneral has read from his brief, as if they had followed one another in order in this book; not those scraps and tails of passages which are patched together upon this record, and pronounced in one breath, as if they existed without intermediate matter in the same page, and without context anywhere. No. This is not the accusation, even mutilated as it is; for the information charges, that, with intention to vilify the House of Commons, the defendant published the whole book, describing it on the record by its title: "A Review of the principal charges against Warren Hastings, Esq., late Governor-General of Bengal ;” in which, amongst other things, the matter particularly selected is to be found. Your inquiry, therefore, is not confined to, whether the defendant published those selected parts of it; and whether, looking at them as they are distorted by the information, they carry in fair construction the sense and meaning which the innuendoes put upon them ; but whether the author of the entire work—I
the author, since, if he could defend himself, the publisher unquestionably can, whether the author wrote the volume which I hold in my hand, as a free, manly, bona fide disquisition of criminal charges against his fellow citizen, or whether th= long, eloquent discussion of them, which fills so many pages, was a mere cloak and cover for the introduction of the supposed scandal imputed to he selected passages;
the mind of the writer all along being intent on traducing the House of Commeus, and not fairly answering their charges against Mr. Hastings?
This, gentlemen, is the principal matiei für your consideration; and therefore, if after you shall have taken the book itself into the chamber which will be provided for you, and shall have read the whole of it with impartial attention; if, after the performance of this duty, you can return here, and