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and yet he had every reason to believe he was prosecuting a person who had not been in the country for a long time before the publication took place; the person to whom he alluded was not a non-entity, but he was equally so for the ends of justice; he was out of his reach, or if in the country, in some part of it where he was not amenable to the laws of the land. Some time ago a Gentleman had given security for the stamps, but more than a year and a half had elapsed since he had parted with his interest in the paper ; and he would ask, would it not be hard to prosecute him criminally, and to convert the subsequent publication into an engine for his punishment.
There was another fact which was also material. They boasted in the French Councils, that they had their printers in this country, labouring in their cause : this he could not believe: but what was certainly of importance, he saw accounts published in this country, favourable to their cause, translated into the French papers, where they must certainly prove injurious to this nation. Shortly after this circumstance, his attention was called to another. He had then in his hand a paper, found with a number of others in a neutral veilel, bound for France, all unstamped, and containing such intelligence as no person could carry to the enemy, without being regarded in the most criminal light. He would therefore alk how would the law, as it then stood, enable him so prosecute the printer, or recover the money of which the revenue was defrauded? This event was attended with another circumStance: two papers were found in the same vessel, one of them stamped, the other unstamped; the stamp-office in consequence addressed a circular letter to the printers, cautioning them against publishing on unitamped paper. To which one of the offices replied, that it was an improper practice, and that there was no fair and honourable dealer who would not willingly abandon it. Here then was a very handsome answer ; but, to his great surprise, however, the very paper which spoke of the measure in that way, and which he held in is hand was without a stamp (a loud laugh).
It had always appeared to him a great blessing to the country, that the principles of the Constitution secured the liberty of the press ; there was also another principle, which, as appli. cable to the people, induced them to submit to a temporary fulpension of their rights, without violating its freedom, in cales where its exercise might prove injurious to the safety of the nation. It was his opinion, however, that no danger, be it ever fo great, should induce them to forego one jot of their liberties. He had no such proposition to offer, but he hoped he would not be told that persons deriving considerable profits from the publie cation of newspapers, shall not be held to an efficacious refponfibility. To obtain that desirable end, should he succeed in obtaining leave to bring in a Bill for the purpose, he promised to make it the bounden duty of the commissioners not to deliver any stamps to any persons, except the printers, proprietors, and publishers themselves : that an affidavit should be made, stating who these persons were: that notice should be served on them, and that they should be all held responsible. This was the substance of the regulation he meant to propose, for the necessity of which there were many other reasons belides those he had mentioned. He remembered being concerned in a cause in the Court of Chancery for a man who conceived himseif entitled to fome property arising out of the profits of a newspaper. According to the practice of the court, a bill had been filed; it was of that kind that is called a fishing bill, containing every interrogatory that the ingenuity of the counsel who drew it could fuggest, as tending to extort from the defendant a full confession of all the profits of the paper. But how was he surprised, when he was told by his client, that his interrogatories were not sufficient, and that he should have asked him what were the profits on the paragraphs which he had not published.
In a modern pubřícation, which he held in his hand, under colour of advice to Earl Spencer and the Admiralty, a most in. genious mode was contrived of sending intelligence to our enemies. This publication stated, that the present outward bound fleet was very valuable; that such a fleet should have more than two frigates for its protection : that if tv'o men of war were to llip out of Brest water, the whole convoy would be taken. That the French must be aware of this, and would probably Scize the advantage. Such was the good-natured and loyal advice given to Earl Spencer, and the Lords of the Admiralty : and here he would be glad to know why such a mode of intelligence should be favoured, and what would be the fate of a man who should take a private letter, containing the same information, for the purpose of having it delivered into the hands of the French?
Another case precisely of the same nature appeared in a news paper which he had occasion to read last night. It stated, " that Ireland, not England, was the intended object of attack; that the French must be aware of the parts where Great Britain was vulnerable, and asked what means of defence exlited in Ireland, if a rising en masse was the best mode of defending England ?” What was this, he would ask, but telling the French to go to Ireland, and assuring them that there their arms would be crowned with success. Under all these circuma Itances, therefore, he should hope that Gentlemen would see the absolute necessity for some regulations,
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There was also another point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House ; there were printed in this city, and in all great towns, anonymous papers and pamphlets, but by whom published or written, it was impossible to ascertain ; from the style of the productions, it was obvious, the authors must be able men ; but the doctrines they contained were, as to religion, abominable and as to political principles, wicked and treasonable. With respect to these, he did not mean now to propose any specific regulation ; it was a subject, however, which had given him considerable anxiety, which he would watch with attention, and on which he would probably submit some measure on a future day. For the present he Thould feel a peculiar satisfaction if the regulation which he deemed it his duty to propose, should prove the means of bringing to justice those persons who were guilty of public and private slanders, and who, from the difficulty of procuring the necessary proofs, had been hitherto able to set the laws at defiance, and evade the punishment due to their offence. And here he begged leave to be understood, that he did not look to any newspaper in particular, but that every one of them, whatever party it espoused, and whatever its character, was alike within the object and view of his regulations. He concluded with moving, “ That leave be given ““ to bring in a Bill for preventing the mischiefs arising from " the publication of newspapers and papers of the like nature, “ by persons not known, and for regulating such papers in “ other respects."
Mr. Sheridan said, that though it was not his intention now to enter at length into the measure proposed, he would say, even in this stage, that it should be with the utmost reluctance that he would give his consent to any measure by which the liberty of the press would be affected. The Learned Gentleman had opened his speech certainly with great ability and candour, but nevertheless he could discover in the proposition not merely the beginning but the continuance of a system to restrain the real liberty of the press. It was said that newspapers were sometimes printed on unstamped paper; he wished to know whether the Anti-Jacobin, a paper which fome Gentlemen on the other side might know, was to be included in the regu. lations, and whether this collection of wit and pleasantry was to be printed on stamped paper.
The Learned Gentlemen said, that papers of every party were to be comprehended in the measure he proposed. If the Learned Gentleman did not know that the papers which were in the interest of Ministers indulged in that species of lander and abuse which he reprobated, his reading must be confined to the oppofition papers. He never had heard, however, that
the calumnies from that quarter had ever called forth the exertion of the Learned Gentleman in his official capacity. With regard to the regulation, that all the proprietors should be obliged to give bond to be responsible, it was one to which he could not agree. Unless a number of persons were to join in the eftablishment of a paper, it would often be impossible from the capital required to establish one at all, and such a regulation would certainly discourage people from having any share in a newspaper. He should be glad to know whether by this it was meant that if Government paid a paper for abusing opposition, the Treasury, by so assisting to keep up the paper, was to be considered as a proprietor, and to be responsible for the consequences. If so, it would tend to reconcile him to the mea. fure. Already the price of newspapers had been raised to such a degree as to operate, not so much for the advantage of the revenue, as to suppress the information which thosc vehicles af. forded, to those whose situation deprived them of other sources. He wished it to be underitood, therefore, that he did not affent to the proposal, but should take another opportunity to consider it more fully.
The Attorney General said, he hoped the proposal would be watched; and, in particular, he wished the Honourable Genteman would keep his word, and attend the discussion. The Anti-Jacobin certainly was within the scope of the regulation, and was printed upon stamped paper. As to the pay given to papers, the Honourable Gentleman did not say what papers, nor by what Government and what Treasury they were paid. With regard to the prosecutions which he carried on in his offi. cial capacity, he found that the abuse of individuals of which he complained was always combined with attempts to degrade and vilify the Government and Constitution of the Country; and he never had obferved that the latter had ever been abused in those papers to which the Honourable Gentleman alluded. If the House would look to what had been his conduct since he had been Attorney General, they would find that his line of prosecution was, whether the intention was malignant or not.
Mr. Sheridan said, he did not complain that profecutions were not raised against the calumnies he had mentioned. He was an enemy to such prosecutions, though perhaps he was as much provoked to it as any man.
Mr. Tierney, alluding to the case mentioned by the Learned Gentleman of an account inserted in a paper of the cruelties exercised upon French prisoners, took notice of an aflertion, that that account had been inserted by the editor, knowing it to be false. He had himself, however, good reason to believe, for he had been requested by the person alluded to, to assure the
Learned Gerteman, that the editor had not the most distant cause to furpose he was fiating a tarferood. Had he done it, knowing it to be faile, his counc certainly would have merit. ed the highest indignació; indeed he thought the House had condekenied much too far by going into the subject. He ne. ver did, he rever meant to inpute to Government any such tring as iti treatment of the prsiuners. All that he felt it his duty to do was, that it would not go out to the world that the Learned Gentleman hid laid, that the account had been inserted waingi, by perfuns she knew it to be false. He now alluded to the case of the prosecution commenced against Mr. Johriton for the pubčication of an answer to the Bishop of Landaft's pamphlet; and he directed the attention of the House to one of the counts in the information against Mr. Johnston. It ran thus: That the said Edward Johnston, meaning to vility and bring into disrepute the Government and Constitution of the Country, did go the desperate length of doubting the fincerity of the Righe Honourable William Pitt. The words were, that the Right Honourable William Pitt did not enter with sincerity into the late negotiation for peace. This he conceived to be entirely a new point of law.
The Attorney General iaid, that he had aiready mentioned that no perfor's were found, against whom a profecution could be raised, so that the Honourable Gentleman was mistaken when he said that a profecution was depending. With respect o the editor, he knew nothing. It certainly was no apology o say he did not know it was false ; it was a very high offence o publish such an account without knowing it to be true. With espect to the information against the bookseller alluded to, the bill had been found by the Grand Jury; but the case was such, as that he would have considered it his duty to have prosecuted, even had the bill been thrown out. The whole of the pamphlet, which contained the patlage on which the charge alluded to was founded, was of the most feditious and traitosous tendency. To say that persons, in the situation of the Right Honourable Gentleman, were insincere in the negotiation for peace, might, when coupled with the other dangerous and traitorous matter of the pamphlet, be of the most fatal tendency, in continuing upon the country the miseries of war. But, as had ever been his cuftum, he would submit to the jury to decide, whether the doubt was honestly entertained, or whether it was expreffed with a malignant intention. This queltion he found it his bounden duty to bring before a jury in the case which had been mentioned.
Mr. Holboufe felt considerable fatisfaction that no previous restraints were to be imposed on the publication of newspapers.