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occasion does not justify publication, which would then be actionable, and the verdict must be for the plaintiff.'
The jury found for the defendant.
In this charge it will be perceived that the Lord Chief Justice enunciated the principles which we contend to be the law of the land, and he left the case as a question of fact to the jury. It would, however, perhaps, have been better if he had drawn their attention more particularly to the misquotation of the letter from the Master of the Rolls. Had their minds been specifically directed to this fact, it is possible that the jury might have found a different verdict; for it will hardly be contended that the defendant 'exercised ordinary care' to state the effect of that document aright. The plaintiff intimated his intention to move for a new trial, but ultimately the parties compromised the matter, each paying his own costs.
We have now considered the principal libel causes of recent years having a permanent interest from the legal doctrines which their mooting has caused to be laid down, and, we trust, have enabled our readers to form a judgment upon the English law of defamation by speaking, writing, or printing,--how far it attains its great object of preserving the sanctity of the statesman's honour and the citizen's character, while permitting 'freeborn men, having to advise the public, to speak free;' and we venture to hope that they will agree with us in feeling that, though not entirely free from blemish, it is a noble monument of the honesty and wisdom of our Legislature and Courts of Justice.
Since this article was put in type, a Bill has been brought into the House of Commons by Sir Colman O'Loghlen .To Amend the Law of Libel, and for more effectually securing the Liberty of the Press; it contains—with several harmless and even beneficial provisions—others which would effect serious changes in the law, chiefly, we fear, for the worse.
The most important clause is the third, which relieves the publisher of a newspaper reporting a speech made at a public meeting from responsibility for libellous matter contained therein, unless it is proved that the defendant has refused to publish an answer.
With every respect for the motives of the amiable author of this measure, we must protest against its principle, which, we fear, would open a door to mischievous defamation, and, indeed, seriously impair the safeguards of character. The Bill proposes to transfer the responsibility, criminal as well as civil, to the speakers themselves; but this would be in many cases illusory,
as such persons are often mere men of straw; besides, the real sting is in the newspaper report. The actual auditors of a speech are but few, and those who hear of it at second hand not many; but when reported in the leading journals, the whole nation may be counted among its audience. Besides, to cast upon a speaker, who
may be carried away by the zeal of debate and the excitement of oratory, the liability which fairly attaches to a deliberate writer, would be to introduce into the law a principle entirely new and highly unjust; and such a responsibility could not fail to limit seriously the freedom of debate. Surely an editor ought to exercise some discretion as to what he inserts in his paper ! There is no reason why the privilege should go further than that already accorded, viz., the right to discuss freely subjects of public interest.
The Bill proposes also to remove the obligation, now placed on a defendant who pleads the truth of an alleged libel, to set out in his plea the particular facts on which he relies as a justification of his charges, by providing that it shall be sufficient for him to plead simply that the alleged libel is true in substance and matter of fact; an innovation that, in cases where the charge are vague or general, would work much injustice upon plaintiffs and prosecutors, by depriving them of notice of the accusations which the defendant will bring against them at the trial.
Another clause provides that belief by the defendant in the truth of a libel published without defamatory intent and with a lawful object, or bonâ fide as a fair comment on a matter in which the public are interested, shall be a defence, unless the plaintiff sustains actual loss, or unless the libel is calculated to cause loss or damage. The effect of this provision must be rather to restrict than to enlarge the liberty of the press, since it confers no immunity not already enjoyed (save, perhaps, under what may be held to be the pursuit of a lawful object '), while it
• seems to limit that immunity to cases where loss is not caused, or likely to be caused—a limitation now unknown to the law.
The dangerous clauses of this measure are so much in favour of what may seem to be the immediate interests of the newspaper press, that it may be feared that the Bill will not be subjected to
, that searching and impartial criticism in the journals which is so valuable in eliciting the real bearings of a measure. It is therefore the more necessary that Parliament and the public should direct their careful attention to it.
thes were in anr degree suggested bs the chiefs who are formally adopted them, cannot now be known. To Lord R: 5 at all events belongs the craiit of having been the first be of the Gorernment of 1:30) to place them upon paper.
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hollowness of the alliance will betray itself. There are many hings which the great Revolution families have been willing to surrender for the sake of retaining political power ; but there is one thing that they will not surrender,--and that is political power tself. The time comes at last when the Democratic allies begin co clamour in earnest for such a portion of political power as shall
nake them independent of their aristocratic leaders, and when bat time comes the alliance is in effect broken
up. families will humour the populace by giving it everything, except *** Che power of taking what it likes without waiting for the gist. - They will indulge their pet, but they will not make him master.
Indications are not wanting that this fatal point has been reached. The genuine Radicals are becoming dissatisfied with
he humble office of stepping-stone to Whig ambition. To have o live on pledges never fulfilled and perpetually renewed, and Zo be put off with a few insignificant places in the mean time, is
inot satisfactory either to the personal or the political aspirations of men who have contributed so large a contingent to the conquering army. Such of them, of course, as are Radicals only in word, are satisfied that the promises they extract should never go
farther than words; but the more energetic spirits are sincere in their subversive schemes. They really dream of social equality, and equal division of land, and government at the uncontrolled will of the labouring man. So long as they think they are approaching to their ideal, they are content to support that aristocratic party which is the least adverse to their views. They are quite willing to make tools of the Whigs for the purpose of hastening the advent of the democracy to power, and ostensibly to abate their extreme demands while the process is going on. But they are not at all willing that this judicious compliance of theirs should be used for the purpose of enabling
Whig Ministry to remain in power without passing Liberal measures. In recent years the Whig idea of a model political
a system has been this—that the Whigs should furnish the placemen, the Radicals should furnish the votes, and the Conservatives should furnish the policy. But this division of labour has been far from satisfactory to the Radicals, who would gladly have furnished a little of the policy and a few of the place-men too. Their love accordingly has cooled marvellously, and their support of the Government has not been enthusiastic. It is true, their obvious discontent bas not directly affected the Whigs in great confidence' divisions. Those who complain that the Whigs are too Conservative will naturally not be eager to replace them by politicians more Conservative still; but it chills their zeal and paralyses their fighting power. They do not desert the Whigs, Vol. 117.–No. 234.
Art. X.-1.' An Essay on the History of the English Govern
ment and Constitution, from the Reign of Henry VII. to the present Time. By John Earl Russell. New edition. London,
1865. 2. Parliamentary Government considered with reference to Reform.
By Earl Grey. A new edition. London, 1864. 3. The Liberal Dilemma. A Letter addressed to the Editor of
the “Times. By Charles Buxton, M.P. London, 1864. THE preface which Lord Russell has written to the new edition
of his youthful work upon the British Constitution might have been a work of permanent importance, if it had not been written on the eve of a dissolution. There is much that Lord Russell could write that would have an interest for more than the politicians of the day. He has played no inconsiderable part in his generation; and the times in which he has lived have been eventful. He knows a good deal, if he ever could be per
. suaded to reveal it, of one of the most remarkable, because one of the most bloodless, revolutions in history. He could throw, if Le pleased, many a gleam of light over the details of that singular combination of political audacity and skilful intrigue by which a dominant class were persuaded or terrified into signing the decree for their own deposition from power. He is now probably the only person living from whom such a'contribution to the history of our century could come. The time, however, for such confessions, if ever it is to arrive, appears to be distant still. The epoch of the Reform Bill has not yet receded far enough into the past to be treated with impartiality; for it has not yet lost its value for the purposes of the present. So long as it can be made to afford material for the electioneerer it will not yield much that can be relied upon by the historian. Lord Russell in this case is thinking more of the present than of the future judge. He will be sufficiently consoled for any chance of an adverse judgment upon his preface from posterity, if it produces a favourable verdict at the polling-booth next July. An autobiography from Lord Russell would be a very interesting composition, if it was written with no other purpose but to convey information; but this specimen belongs to the class of autobiographies which are usually prefixed to a begging-petition. It is an autobiography of the most laudatory kind, such as candidates for railway-directorships, or coronerships, or Government livings, sketch with a free hand. It is designed not only to place the past leaders of the Liberal party in the most favourable light; but also to give at least a due prominence in the picture of Liberal triumphs to the imposing figure of the author. Such autobiographies must