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forward bona fide, and from no other motive, than the wish to procure a peaceable and legal redress of grievances ? If you can admit this, you will of course find the defendants not guilty. But if it shall appear otherwise, let me remind you of that duty which you owe to the public, with whose safety and protection you are entrusted, and whose interests you are to consult in the verdict which you shall give. Let me remind you of the necessity of checking, in proper time, the spirit of sedition, and frustrating the designs of the factious, before it be too late. Let me conclude with obserying, that I have brought forward this prosecution as a servant of the public, influenced by my own judgment, and acting from what I conceived to be my duty. I had no other view than the public advantage ; and should you be of opinion that the defendants ought to be declared not guilty, I trust you will acquit me of
intention of acting either impertinently with respect to you, or oppressively to the defendants. I shall then retire, conscious of having done my duty in having stated my opinion, though inclined, in deference to your verdict, to suppose myself mistaken.
LORD KENYON'S CHARGE TO THE
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY: There are no cases which call forth greater exertions of great abilities, than those that relate to political libels. And as this cause, both on the part of the prosecution, and also on behalf of the defendants, has been so amply discussed that the subject is exhausted, I should have satisfied myself with what has been already said, if there was not a duty lying on me which, by the law of the land, it is incumbent on me to discharge.
The liberty of the press has always been, and has justly been a favorite topic with Englishmen. They have looked at it with jealousy whenever it has been invaded; and though a licenser was put over the press, and was suffered to exist some years after the coming of William, and after the revolution, yet the reluctant spirit of English liberty called for a repeal of that law; and from that time to this, it has not been shackled and limited more than it ought to be.
Gentlemen, it is placed as the sentinel to alarm us when any attempt is made on our liberties; and we ought to be watchful, and to take care that the sentinel is not abused and converted into a traitor. It can only be protected by being kept within due limits, and by our doing those things which we ought, and watching over the liberties of the people; but the instant it degenerates into licentiousness, we ought not to suffer it to exist without punishment. It is, therefore, for the protection of liberty that its licentiousness is brought to punishment.
A great deal has been said respecting a reform of Parliament, that is, an alteration of Parliament. If I were called upon to decide on that point, before I would pull down the fabric, or presume to disturb one stone in the structure, I would consider what those benefits are which it seeks, and whether they, to the extent to which they are asked, ought to be hazarded; whether any imaginary reform ought to be adopted, however virtuous the breast, or however able the head, that might attempt such a reform. I should be a little afraid that when the water was let out nobody could tell how to stop it; if the lion was once let into the house, who would be found to shut the door? I should first feel the greater benefits of a reform, and should not hazard our present blessings out of a capricious humor to bring about such a measure.
The merits or demerits of the late law respecting libels, I shall not enter into. It is enough for me that it is the law of the land, which, by my oath I am bound to give effect to, and it commands me to state to juries what my opinion is respecting this or any other paper brought into judgment before them. In forming my opinion on this paper, or on any other, before I arrive at a positive decision on that point, I would look about, and see what the times were when the publication took place. I would look at all the attendant circumstances, and, with that assistance, I would set about to expound the paper. The observation which this cause calls for, form a part of the notorious history of the country. How long this paper was penned before it appeared in this newspaper, I know not; the 25th of December is the day when it was published, and it is dated the 16th of July, 1792.
Gentlemen, you will recollect the appearance of public affairs, and the feelings of every mind in the country, at the time that Parliament met, and for sometime after, in December last. I do not know whether I color the picture right, when I say very gloomy sensations had pervaded the whole country. It is for you to say whether at that time there were not emissaries from a neighboring country making their way, as well as they could, in this country. It is for you to say, looking at the great anarchy
and confusion of France, whether they did not wish to agitate the minds of all orders of men, in all countries, and to plant their tree of liberty in every kingdom in Europe. It is for you to say whether their intention was not to eradicate every kind of government that was not sympathetic with their
I am bound, gentlemen, to declare my opinion on this paper, and to do so I must take within my consideration all the circumstances of the time when it appeared. I have no hesitation in saying, then, that they were most gloomy. The country was torn to its centre by emissaries from France. It was a notorious fact—every man knows it-I could neither open my eyes normy ears without seeing and hearing them. Weighing thus all the circumstances, that, though dated in July, it was not published till December, when those emissaries were spreading their horrid doctrines; and believing there was a great gloominess in the country, and I must shut my eyes and ears if I did not believe that there was; believing also, that there were emissaries from France, wishing to spread the maxims prevalent in that country, in this; believing that the minds of the people of this country were much agitated by these political topics, of which the mass of the population never can form a true judgment; and reading this paper, which appears to be calculated to put the people in a state of discontent with everything done in