« ZurückWeiter »
this country; I am bound on my oath to answer, that I think this paper was published with a wicked, malicious intent, to vilify the government, and to make the people discontented with the constitution under which they live. That is the matter charged in the information; that it was done with a view to vilify the constitution, the laws, and the government of this country, and to infuse into the minds of his Majesty's subjects a belief that they were oppressed, and on this ground I consider it as a gross and seditious libel. This is the question put to you to decide.
It is admitted the defendants are the proprietors of the paper in which this address was published.
There is one topic more. It is said they were not the authors of the address, and that it got inadvertently into their paper. It never was doubted, and I suppose it never will be doubted, that the publishers of a newspaper are answerable for the contents of it. Those who think most favorably for the defendants, will go no farther than to say, that the parties publishing ought to give an account how they published it, and if there is anything baneful in the contents, to show how it came to them, and whether it was inserted inadvertently or otherwise. If anything of that sort had been offered, I certainly should have received it as evidence. But nothing of the kind has been offered, and the defendants stand as the proprietors and publishers of the paper, without the slightest evidence in alleviation being offered in their favor.
It is not for human judgment to dive into the heart of man, to know whether his intentions are good or evil. We must draw our conclusions with regard to his intentions from overt acts; and if an evil tendency is apparent on the face of any particular paper, it can only be traced by human judgment prima facie to a bad intention, unless evidence is brought to prove its innocence. This cause is destitute of any proof of that kind.
It is said that this paper contains other advertisements and paragraphs; and therefore from the good moral tendency of the whole, for aught I know to the contrary, you are to extract an opinion that the meaning was not bad. I cannot say that the traveling into advertisements which have nothing to do with this business, is exactly the errand you are to go upon. From this paper itself, and all the contents of it, you will extract the meaning; and if upon the whole you should think the tendency of it is good, in my opinion the parties ought to be acquitted. But it is not sufficient that there should be in this paper detached good morals in part of it, unless they give an explanation of the rest. The charge will be done away, if those parts which the Attorney-General has stated are so explained as to leave nothing excepted.
There may be morality and virtue in this paper,
and yet, apparently, latet anguis in herba. There may be much that is good in it, and yet there may be much to censure. I have told you my opinion. Gentlemen, the constitution has intrusted it to you, and it is your duty to have only one point in view. Without fear, favor, or affection, without regard either to the prosecutor or the defendants, look at the question before you, and on that decide on the guilt or innocence of the defendants.
The jury then withdrew, at two o'clock in the afternoon. The learned judge, understanding that they were divided and likely to be some time in making up their minds, retired from the bench, and directed Mr. Lowten to take the verdict. At seven in the evening, they gave notice that they had agreed on a special verdict, which Mr. Lowten could not receive; they went up in coaches, each attended by an officer, to Lord Kenyon's house; the special verdict was, "guilty of publishing, but with no malicious intent.”
This verdict Lord Kenyon refused to receive, insisting that it was no verdict at all.
The jury then withdrew, and after sitting in discussion till within a few minutes of five in the morning, they found a general verdict of “ Not guilty."
Trial of Mr. THOMAS WALKER, of Manchester, Mer
chant, and six other persons, indicted for a conspiracy to overthrow the Constitution and Government of Great Britain, and to aid and assist the French, being the King's enemies, in case they should invade England. Tried at Lancaster, before Mr. Justice Heath, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, and a Special Jury, on the 2nd of April, 1794.
SUBJECT. It has not seemed necessary for the full understanding of this interesting and extraordinary case, to print the evidence given upon the trial; because, to the honor of Lord Ellenborough, then Mr. Law, who conducted the prosecution for the Crown, after hearing positive contradiction of the only witness in support of it, by several unexceptionable persons, he expressed himself as follows:
“I know the characters of several of the gentlemen who have been examined ; particularly of Mr. Jones. I cannot expect one witness alone, unconfirmed, to stand against the testimony of all these witnesses; I ought not to desire it." To which just declaration, which ended the trial, Mr. Justice Heath said, “You act very properly, Mr. Law.”
The jury found Mr. Walker “Not guilty ;” and the witness was immediately committed, indicted for perjury, and convicted at the same assizes.
Mr. Law's speech to the jury is first given, which contains the whole case, afterwards proved by the witness, who was disbelieved. The speech of Mr. Erskine in reply, states the evidence afterwards given to contradict him.
SPEECH OF MR. LAW.
The indictment having been opened by Mr. James, Mr. Law addressed the jury as follows:
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY: The indictment which has been read to you, imputes to the defendants a species of treasonable misdemeanor, second only in degree, and inferior only in malignity, to the crime of high treason itself. It imputes to them a conspiracy for the purpose of adhering with effect to the King's enemies, in case the calamity of foreign invasion or of internal and domestic tumult should afford them the desired opportunity of so doing—a conspiracy for the purpose of employing against our country those arms which should be devoted to its defence, and of overthrowing a constitution, the work of long-continued wisdom and virtue in the ages that have gone before us, and which, I trust, the sober-minded virtue and wisdom of the present age will transmit unimpaired to ages that are yet to succeed us. It imputes to them a conspiracy, not indeed levelled at the person and
, life of our sovereign, but at that constitution at the head of which he is placed, and at that system of