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holdings of the citizen, and taught him to look for his protection to the laws of his country, and for his comfort to the good-will of his countrymen; if I have thus taken
my part with the best of men in the best of their actions, 5 I can shut the book I might wish to read a page or two
more, but this is enough for my measure -I have not lived in vain.
And now, gentlemen, on this serious day, when I come, as it were, to make up my account with
let me take 10 to myself some degree of honest pride on the nature of
the charges that are against me. I do not here stand before you accused of venality, or of neglect of duty. It is not said that, in the long period of my service, I have
in a single instance sacrificed the slightest of your inter15 ests to my ambition, or to my fortune. It is not alleged
that, to gratify any anger or revenge of my own or of my party, I have had a share in wronging or oppressing any description of men, or any one man in any descrip
tion. No! the charges against me are all of one kind : 20 that I have pushed the principles of general justice and
benevolence too far, further than a cautious policy would warrant, and further than the opinions of many would go along with me. In every accident which may happen
through life — in pain, in sorrow, in depression, and 25 distress — I will call to mind this accusation, and be comforted.
Gentlemen, I submit the whole to your judgment. Mr. Mayor, I thank you for the trouble you have taken on
this occasion; in your state of health, it is particularly 30 obliging. If this company should think it advisable for
me to withdraw, I shall respectfully retire; if you think otherwise, I shall go directly to the Council-house and to the 'Change, and, without a moment's delay, begin my
OF JOHN STOCKDALE WHEN
TRIED FOR A
LIBEL ON THE HOUSE OF COMMONS; COURT OF
THE KING'S BENCH, DECEMBER 9, 1789.
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 per- 5 sonally 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, van- 10 ity is but too apt to whisper an application to some fancied merit 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 con- 15 fidence 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 characterize other places of which I may have oc- 20 casion 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 5 our professional duties. If this be the characteristic
even 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 10 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 other indictment, prosecuted
also by the House of Commons; and therefore, without 15 a restatement of the same principles, and a similar quo
tation of authorities to support them, I need only remind you of the law applicable to this subject, as it was then admitted by the Attorney-General, in concession to my
propositions, and confirmed by the higher authority of 20 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
25 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 the record, as to be able to
apply the punishment which judicial discretion may dic30 tate, or which positive law may inflict.
It was admitted also to follow as a mere corollary 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 35 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 and 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 5 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 10 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 15 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 pub- 20 lic" — the defendant published — what? Not those latter ends of sentences which the Attorney-General 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 25 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 30 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, among other things, the matter particularly selected is to be found. Your inquiry, therefore, is not 35
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 con
struction the sense and meaning which the innuendoes 5 put upon them ; but whether the author of the entire work — I say 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, bonâ fide disquisition of criminal charges 10 against his fellow-citizen; or whether the 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 the selected passages, the mind of
the writer all along being intent on traducing the House 15 of Commons, and not on fairly answering their charges against Mr. Hastings.
This, gentlemen, is the principal matter for your corsideration ; and therefore, if, after you shall have taken
the book itself into the chamber which will be provided 20 for you, and shall have read the whole of it with impar
tial attention — if, after the performance of this duty, you can return here, and with clear consciences pronounce upon your oaths that the impression made upon you by
these pages is, that the author wrote them with the 25 wicked, seditious, and corrupt intentions charged by the
information - you have then my full permission to find the defendant guilty; but if, on the other hand, the general tenor of the composition shall impress you with
respect for the author, and point him out to you as a man 30 mistaken, perhaps, himself, but not seeking to deceive
others — if every line of the work shall present to you an intelligent, animated mind, glowing with a Christian compassion towards a fellowman whom he believed to be
innocent, and with a patriot zeal for the liberty of his 35 country, which he considered as wounded through the