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rights. It was kindly ordained by a beneficent providence to inform, expand and dignify the public mind. It was ordained the watchful guardian, the undaunted champion of liberty:
Not that syren word liberty, which is sometimes used as an ignis futuus to allure mankind through the mire and swamps and mountains and precipices of revolution ;-but that liberty which spreads the banners of its protection over man in the walks of private life, and gives him the proud consciousness of security in the enjoyment of property, person and character. It is for these high purposes our press was ordained; but the defendant has rendered it the degraded vehicle of foul defamation. Of this I complain, not merely as counsel for the plaintiff, but as the humble advocate of my country. This is a crime against liberty herself. It is corrupting her centinel; it is debauching her vestal. There was a time when the press of our country had an exalted character ;-when at the call of the press the American pulse beat high, when the press was capable of stirring the best blood in American veins,
of rousing a nation to glorious enthusiasm, of calling from the plough the ploughman, from the closet the scholar, to fight with a Washington and a Hamilton the immortal battles of American independence. Why had the press this resistless influence ? Because it was then the vehicle of truth. But now our press has lost its character for veracity. The demon of
has forced it to become a prostitute in the service of licentiousness. It requires the aven. ging arm of a jury to redeem it from its degradation and restore it to its pristine utility and grandeur.
In his attack on the character of the plaintiff; we are constrained to admit that the defendant has been but too successful. When so much is said, something will be believed. Constant attrition wears away the solid rock. But character, gentlemen, is not made of rock. It is at once the most valuable and delicate of all human possessions : it is tarnished
even by too much handling. The plaintiff has been written down. Any man in society may be written down. No man is proof against the artillery of the press. But has it come to this? Shall the our country be indeed converted into a tremendous engine for writing down characters ? Why, gentlemen, if it is to be thus prostituted, instead of being a blessing, it would be a scourge. Instead of rendering national thanksgiving for its institution, our country ought to be on bended knees in fervent supplication to heaven for its abolition. For it would be a scourge, compared with which, the inquisitorial wheel and revolutionary guillotine would be instruments of mercy.
During this assassination of his character, it is not to be supposed that the mind of the plaintiff has been at rest. Put yourselves in his situation. What would be your feelings while slanders the most vile, while calumnies the most base, were circulating against you through the medium of a widely extended public newspaper : to be read by your cotemporaries—your friends and sneering enemies; to descend to posterity, and be read by your children and grand children; to be re-published perhaps by some future libeller when you would be slumbering in your grave, to the mortification and disgrace of your descendants, who might then be destitute of the means of detecting the calumny? Oh, gentlemen, your hearts would be tortured on the wheel of agonizing sensibility. You would find no baln. in innocency-no physician there. What you would suffer, the plaintiff has suffered. I should think meanly of him did I suppose him capable of retiring from the feelings of nature, and wrapping himself up in the mantle of insensibility. He this day appeals to a jury of his country. He has a right to demand of you, and in his name, gentlemen, do I solemnly demand of you, full remuneration for every honest man's confidence which has been estranged from him, for every wretched hour, for every sleepless night that he or
his may be presumed to have endured from the circulation of this calumny.
What damages will you give ? Look, gentlemen, at the libel. It accuses the plaintiff of cheating at cards--of being detected in cheating at cards. It superadds to the imputation of dishonesty, the charge of foul dishonor. Were the plaintiff accused of treason or murder, he might arm himself with a stern de. nial, and appear intrepidly before the tribunal of the public. But this loathsome charge, this rotting accu. sation, this." pestilence which walketh in darkness" deprives the unfortunate accused even of the miserable comfort of a public denial. Where is this offence charged to have been committed. At an assembly.
-where the fascination of music and enchant. ment of beauty, the “pride, pomp, and circumstance" of elegant conviviality would elevate any man not lost in debasement.--the plaintiff comes. He comes, not to participate the bounties of the temple of festivity, but to profane its rites. With an eye darkly bent on gain he comes-leagued with his brother, not in the prosecution of some honorable enterprise, but for the polluted and polluting purpose of treacherously robbing an unsuspecting friend. Is the plaintiff guilty of this charge? With his standing in society, without the excuse of poverty, or the extenuation of sordid education, has he indeed sunk to this? Then he ought. to be branded with a mark as indelible as that stamped by the hand of omnipotence on the forehead of Cain. The hiss of contempt, and murmur of indignation are the music to which he should be forced to march all the days of his life. But if the plaintiff is innocent and who doubts his innocency what shall we say of the defendant? In the solitude of the closet he composed the libel. Deliberately did he publish it through the extended medium of the press. He commissioned the four winds of heaven to tell the tale of infamy to a hissing world. Nor was his malice yet appeased. Knowing that news-papers might be destroyed, impressions on memory impaired by
the lapse of time, he stamped his libel on the records of the court. He wrote it with a pen of iron on tablets of marble. There it has insultingly remained for months : there it will remain forever.
With what apology does the defendant come into court ?-He acknowledges the innocency of the plaintiff. After permitting his loathsome publication to range unconiradicted for more than two years, he now comes forward, not with a news paper recantation co-extensive with the circulation of the libel, but he insults the plaintiff with a mere oral acknowledgement of his innocency. Is this extorted acknowi. edgement to be forced on us as a peace offering for past sufferings? Does it eradicate impressions on the public mind? Can it tear the libel from the records of the court-This death bed repentance will not save him. A jury can look forgivingly on the humble defendant who approaches in the sack-cloth of sincere contrition, but they frown with indignation at the penitence of the tongue when the heart is known to be yet filled with the bitterness of gall.
I am one of those who believe that the heart of the wilful and the deliberate libeller is blacker than that of the high-way robber, or who commits the crime of midnight arson. The man who plunders on the high-way, may have the semblance of an apology for what he does. An affectionate wife may demand subsistence : a circle of helpless children raise to him the supplicating hand for food. He may be driven to the desperate act by the high mandate of imperative necessity. The mild features of the husband and the father may intermingle with those of the robber and soften the roughness of the shade. But the robber of character plunders that which “not enricheth him,” though it makes his neighbour “poor indeed.”
- The man who at the midnight hour consumes his neighbours dwelling, does him an injury which perhaps is not irreparable. Industry may rear another habitation. The storm may indeed descend upon him until charity opens a neighbouring door: the
rude winds of heaven may whistle around his uncoy. ered family. But he looks forward to better days: he has yet a hook left to hang a hope on. No such consolation cheers the heart of him whose character has been torn from him. If innocent he may look, like Anaxagoras, to the Heavens ; but he must be constrained to feel that this world is to him a wilderness. For whither shall he go? Shall he dedicate himself to the service of his country? But will his country receive him ? Will she employ in her councils, or in her armies, the man at whom the “slow unmoving finger of scorn” is pointed ? Shall he betake himself to the fire-side? “ There, there's the rub." The story of his disgrace will enter his own doors before him. And can he bear, think you, can he bear the sympathising agonies of a distressed wife? Can he endure the formidable presence of scrutinizing sneering domestics? Will his children receive instruction from the lips of a disgraced father? Gentlemen I am not ranging on fairy ground. I am telling the plain story of my client's wrongs. By the ruthless hand of malice his character has been wantonly massacred ;~ and he now appears before a jury of his country for redress. Will you deny him this redress is character valuable ? On this point I will not insult you with argument.
There are cer. tain things to argue which is treason against nature. The author of our being did not intend to leave this point afloat at the mercy of opinion, but with his own hand has he kindly planted in the soul of man an instinctive love of character. This high sentiment has no affinity to pride. It is the ennobling quality of the soul : and if we have hitherto been elevated above the ranks of surrounding creation, human nature owes its elevation to the love of character. It is the love of character for which the poet has sung, the philosopher toiled, the hero bled. It is the love of character which wrought miracles at ancient Greece : the love of character is the eagle on which Rome rose to empire. And it is the love of character animating