Imatges de pÓgina

trary. Here then parties come to judgment; One the master of the greatest empire on the earth; and the other, a weak defenceless fugitive, who waves his privi. lege of having half his jury composed of foreigners, and puts himself, with confidence, upon a jury entirely English.


Mr. Mackintosh, in defence of M. Peltier,


GENTLEMEN, there is another view in which this case is highly interesting, important, and momentous; and, I confess, I am animated to every exertion that I can make, not more by a sense of my duty to my client, than by a persuasion that this cause is the first of a series of contests with the freedom of the press.

My learned friend, I am sure, will never disgrace his magistracy, by being instrumental to a measure so calamitous; but, viewing this as I do, as the first of a series of contests between the greatest power on earth, and the only press that is now free, I cannot help calling on him and you to pause before the great earthquake swallow ap all our freedom that remains among men, for though no indication has yet been made of a disposition to attack the freedom of the press in this country, yet the many other countries that have been deprived of this benefit, must forcibly impress us with the propriety of looking vigilantly to ourselves. Holland, Switzerland, and the imperial towns participated with us the benefit of a free press.

Holland and Switzerland are now no more, and near fifty of the free imperial towns of Germany have vanished, since the commencement of this prosecution.

They had leisure for observation, and reflection on what was passing around them. They formed a respectable portion of that mass of public opinion, which was the law of powers, who acknowledge no other control. I cannot contemplate a more interesting spectacle than the little republic of Geneva, cultivating literature and science at the gates of the immense empire of Louis XIV:undisturbed and unthreatened. All this is gone;

to remind you


may be the new order of things, it is not for me to say, but, I declare it to be my firm persuasion, that the total absence of all schemes of oppression, ever since the days of Louis XIV. has been owing to the freedom of discussion, which has, till lately, prevailed in most countries of Europe. If silence was observed at home upon such projects, 100 presses in foreign countries cir. culated them, and rendered them detestable throughout Europe. Tyranny dreaded to make any arbitrary stretches as long as there existed a free press, because no power was above its censure. Now that all this is gone, there is no longer any controul but what this coun. try affords. Every press on the continent, from Palermo to Hamburgh, is enslaved; one place only remains where discussion is free, protected by our government and our constitution. It is an awfully proud consideration that this noble fabric, raised by our ancestors, still stands undecayed amidst the ruins that surround us. -You are the advanced guard of liberty, permit me, therefore,

of some of the principles on which our ancestors acted with respect to foreign powers in cases like the present.--I admit the law not to be defined exactly, so as to ascertain the limits that distinguished history and fair observation from libel. It was left to juries to determine, in every single instance, by the malicious intention that may appear in the publication, and this confidence so reposed by the legislature, had never once been abused since the revolution. Political libel was different from all others; in cases of common libel, the severity of the punishment only struck terror into those who meditated guilt. But in cases of political libel, even a just punish. ment had the effect of deterring well-disposed men from discussion; as it was difficult for them to know how far discussion and history would permit them to go, and when they overstepped the limit. Thus, the best ser. vices that could be rendered to mankind were discou. raged. It was on this principle that our ancestors were always tender in repressing discussions relative to foreigu powers.

Ever since our ancestors had the wisdom to abandon all notion of continental conquest, we had no views on the continent but such as arose out of a regard to our safety and the promotion of our commerce. The first and most important consideration of safety depended on the maintenance of justice and the preservation of nations in the enjoyment of their rights. When justice was thus violated, the safety that arose out of it and de. pended on it, was rendered insecure, and it was material to observe and discuss every violation in order to check and prevent all excessive and dangerous aggrandisement. The interest of our commerce was a secondary conside. ration, but a material one, as the object was highly be. neficial, not only to us but to the nations with which we traded, and to the whole world, in as much as it brought additional hands to labour, brought new lands into cultivation, and supplied fresh pleasures to man. It was, therefore, most material, that a spirit of free dis. cussion should exist, and be encouraged, for the purpose of checking all violations of rights; and whaterer the enemies of this country may say, the advantage of this attention to continental affairs had been attended with the most beneficial effects to the powers of the continent. This island had been foremost to resist every inordinate and unjust project, and, on all such occasions, had stood in the front of battles not her own. -It was the happiness of this country, that the lowest individual had a right to discuss the public measures of his time, and though it may in some instances be conceived that this was injurious in times of domestic dissension, it could not be denied that it was always beneficial when applied to foreign affairs.

M. Peltier was at liberty to detail the views of the factions into which the French republic was divided, and for this purpose to republish the writings of these factions. It was even justifiable in him to expose the principles of these factions, by writing in their spirit, and imputing to them expressions deducible from their principles. It was very likely thet Chenier did, in fact, write the ode given under his name; and in that case, even though it should be severe and libellous on Buonaparte, could it be called a libel in M. Peltier, to republish it here? If it was, why were the English newspapers suffered every day for ten years back to republish volumes of abuse and calumny vented agiinst this nation and its government in the French journals, and lately, in a style particularly malignant and atrocious, in the official journal, the Moniteur? No crimj.

wality was by any person supposed to attach to the newspapers, because there was no criminal intention in the republication, which was made only with a view to excite the detestation and horror necessarily consequent on such Hagitious abuse of our national character and our governinent. Why pass over the republication of an article in which a most gallant officer was charged with exciting to assassination, and why sufier English newspapers to republish, without any imputation of a crime, the most infamous libels on a prince who had passed through a reign of forty-three years, beloved and respected by his people, and without a single stain on his character ? Wny suffer the repetition of the most atrocious calumnies on a nation, whose history afforded the extraordinary phenomena of mutinies without mur. der, mobs without massacre, and civil wars and revolu. tions without assassination? Why suffer the republication of articles, in which the garter, the badge of the conquerors of Cressy and Poitiers, and of so many successive generations of heroes, was stated to be designed to reward an assassin for executing his horrible design? On the same principle, that the English newspapers were, in all these cases, innocent and unaccused, Peltier was equally innocent in this publication. If it was in fact only the republication of the work of another writer, the republication was certainly blameless; and if it was even written by Mr. Peltier, with a view to give a dramatic character of the faction, by putting its principles in their aatural language in the mouths of its leaders, he was equally innocent; or if there was any crime, it was a libel against Chenier or Ginguenet, to whom the article was imputed, and not against the first consul.

XXX. Mr. Mackintosh, in defence of M. Peltier.


It was natural to think that a remnant of the Jacobin faction still existed in France; it was known that it did exist, and it was the nature of that faction to seek a refuge from the maledictions of those whom it had formerly

oppressed and tortured, in the resumption of its former power. The faction was active, and such a piece as this ode might well be among the means it employed. It could not be that M. Peltier wrote this seriously for the purpose of promoting the royal cause. ' It would be madness in him to call upon the French citizens of the present day to avenge the cause of Rewbell and Barras, the worst enemies of royalty. If he could seriously ad. dress such language to French citizens for such a pur. pose, he was a much fitter object for a commission of lunacy than of a prosecution for libel; and this madness was rendered still more outrageous by adding to the council, the name of the most declared and decided enemy of the party to which it was addressed. It may in. dced come within the policy of a royalist to excite republicans to insurrection, with a view to profit by their broils; but if such a royalist meant not to defeat his own purpose, he would conceal his name. It was, how. ever, evident, from the context, that the ode in question was not the work of M. Peltier. It appeared from the passage already cited, and of which a poetical translation had been read, that it was written by a fanatical re. publican, once hostile to England, now a little corrected in his judgment, but not yet perfectly reconciled: it speaks of the people resting on the law, resisting and setting at defiance the exertion of regal power; this cer. tainly could not be mentioned with praise by the royalist, Pelticr. My learned friend cannot forget that Swift did not mean, by his arguments in defence of atheism, really to support that doctrine; but, on the contrary, by that unrivalled specimen of irony, to ridicule and shame all such unprincipled tenets. Such were the motives of Butler for putting such odious sentiments in the mouths of Hudibras and his squire, and such were Peltier's for putting such sentiments as in some places he did put into the mouths of the jacobins. Not that even they, bad as they are, can be suspected by me, of any design so shocking to human nature as assassination : and, I own, I am surprised to hear my learned friend say so seriqusly, that any allusion to the apotheosis of Romulus, or to the ailair of Brutus and Cæsar, must necessarily have such a shocking and abominable object; as if these events, so much the themes of school-boy deelamation, were not

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