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dress of his wrongs; if he is guilty of persecution when he calls his assassin to open, fair and dignified ground, to the courts of justice of his country, making the great issue between them TRUTH, and consenting to stand or fall, to be justified or disgraced, by this infallible arbiter ; when he puts this issue on trial, before a jury of his fellow-citizens, just and impartial. I say, if this is perse. cution, what term, what language is vile, is base, is indignant enough to express a just sentiment of the conduct of a printer, who attacks his neighbour with deadly weapons, condemns and destroys him, unheard, undefended; who, without remorse, will plant thorns in the hearts of unoffending children, and a tender wife; and tear down with ruthless hands, the peace and prospects of an extensive, respectable and amiable family,
It is equally astonishing and absurd in this man, so loudly, and so frequently, to assert, that the American press is the most tame, humble, and abject in the world, while his own daily publications and those of his competitor, the Aurora, give so flat a contradiction to the assertion; while, from those presses, there incessantly issues a pestilential, deadly vapour, of the most low and vile defamation; and these things are not only winked at by the law, but too much applauded by the people. But the press of Great Britain, he says, is more free and unshackled. If it be so, so much the greater curse. But the fact is not so. Their restraints on this most abominable species of licentiousness, are wholesome and severe. I say it is false, that the just and desirable liberty of the press, is more cherished or protected in England, or any where else, than here. I say this to defend the constitution, and laws of my country, from the groundless assertion. We know what the constitutional liberty of the press is here, and do not our books inform us what it is in England ? Is not page after page, and volume after volume, loaded with private actions, and public prosecu. tions for libels and slanders? Do not we see the most exemplary punishments inflicted for them, and very properly too: and are not the rights of reputation a special object of protection, with English law ? Is not defamation resisted and repressed, as a most dangerous foe to the order and existence of society, tending to the introduction
of the most enormous crimes, the fatal excesses of revenge? Indeed, does not Mr. Cubbett himself applaud the severity and vigilance of the English courts of jurisprudence, in punishing the publisher of Paine's infamous libel on religion and morality ; and in the same book boast of the licentious latitude which printers enjoy in England ; Do we not know that men have then expiated on the pillory, exposed to the ferocity and insult of a mob, the offence of libelling; and most justly and deservedly too? Have we not seen a member of the house of commons, driven from his seat, and not only so, but declared ever after ineligible, for the offence of libelling? And I rejoice that he was so. To discountenance and punish even to excess, indecent, obscene, and defamatory publications, is the best proof of the virtue and purity of a people, and of the energy and stability of their government.
Suffer me to turn your attention for a moment, to the situation of the plaintiff, in this cause. He has a tender and affectionate wife, who fully participates in all his misfortunes, injuries, and mortifications. The blow that pierces his character and happiness, opens a deep wound in her heart, tearing with remorseless rage, all the fine fibres, and delicate sympathies of conjugal love. Have these no value, that they shall be the wanton sport of base - malignity? He has an amiable and valuable young family, just rising into the age of nice feeling and generous sensibility, when the reputation of a parent, which they have ever deemed immaculate, (if this be weakness, where is the virtuous child that is not weak) is peculiarly dear and interesting! And when every attempt to blacken, or degrade it, corrodes their feelings with poisonous rancour, shocks with new horror, and excites a boundless indignation. Are these things of no importance, that they shall be done with impunity? What a scene for a husband, and a father! By what crime has he merited these things ? But manlier passions swell, agitate, and enflame the breasts of his sons. They burn, they burst with indignation ; rage, revenge, drive them headlong to desperate deeds, accumulating woe on woe. With difficulty the prudential advice, the parental command of the father, restrain their fury-with difficulty they are prevented from taking immediate vengeance on their cruel oppressor-be patient, my children, said he, I am deeply injured ; but the laws of my country offer me justice, and point out the road to redress. It is 'tardy, but it is certain, and ample. Delay may be painful to you; but the duties of a good citizen require it. This suit then, gentlemen, and the hope of the justice that you will administer, may have been the guardian angels of the defendant.
To conclude-Volumes need not be unfolded, gentle. men, to inform you what slander is. It is unnecessary to disgorge our libraries upon you, to shew what form of words have or have not been deemed actionable by our courts. Ask the honesty of your hearts, consult the light of your own understandings, and let it be answered whether in a state of civilized society, where the actions of men are amenable to government and law; where protection is pledged to the unoffending, and redress to the injured, an outrageous member of that society, in the mere sport of wanton wickedness, may attack with malignant and unprovoked virulence, the peace of another; may destroy that good reputation which the unceasing merit of many years, and the labours of countless hours of toil, which, indeed, a whole life spent in public service and unblemished private virtue, had accumulated; may diffuse mortification and pain, through an amiable family; may snatch from the father, the bread with which he would feed his children; may be guilty of these enormities, may pursue and glory in them, and owe no redress to the bleeding victim of his malice ; no expiation to the insulted justice of his country. The honesty of your hearts will swell with virtuous indignation, against a wretch so lost and vile ; the light of your understandings will readily inform you, that the government and law, where such things are tolerated, must very soon fall into merited contempt; that the society where they prevail hangs but loosely together, and must speedily dissolve into anarchy and misery. If the injured seek in vain for redress ; if the promised protection to our lives, property and reputation, is but a dead letter, a cruel jest ; if the triumphant despoiler is to go laughing from your courts, and the prayer of the injured be rejected, what is the inevitable consequence ? An immediate, nay, a justifiable resort to private vengeance for private wrongs ; an immediate and a necessary introduction of murder and assassination. I feel, and you feel, that no man has a right from God, from nature, or from law, to injure us, without just retribution. I discover that that retribution is not to be expected from the justice of my country; that he that injures, is borne off' in triumph, and he that complains, is laughed to scorn. • The alternative is obvious and inevitable. To myself and my own exertions, I must apply for that justice which my country idly promises, and shamefully denies. If such damages then, are not given in this case, as will check such offences, as will convince your fellow citizens that this is the place where justice is fully administered, and the injured satisfied, you take upon yourselves all the dreadful consequences that may follow. Will I give credit to my government; will I call myself protected by it, because I can recover a debt of 20 shillings by its authority, or obtain possession of an acre of land, while I am denied the peaceable pursuit of an honourable and useful profession, and the enjoyment of an honest and well earned reputation ; while the feelings of myself, and my family, are given up as a sacrifice to wanton and malignant defamation ? Let me call upon you then, gentlemen, by the just Heavens to consider this as no common case. Let me call upon you to feel yourselves entrusted with one of the most important decisions that has ever yet been submitted to any court in any country. By your decision is every man to know on what tenure he holds his character and happiness. By your decision, the base and lawless are to be taught subordination, and the good citizen to hold his just rank and safety in society. By your decision, the honour and dignity of this your highest tribunal of justice, the respectability of your government, and the character of your country, are to be vindirated or lost. The injured father of an amiable family, the worthy citizen, the useful philosopher now sues before you-Professional science implores that countenance and protection, without which she must wither and die, Virtue, bleeding at every pore, calls for justice on her despoiler, and the anxious heart of every honest man, pants with impatience to meet in you, THE DEFENDERS OF VIRTUE AND THE SCOURGERS OF VICE.
Extract from a Speech by MR. WIRT, on the trial of
Aaron Burr, for high treason. A PLAIN man, who knew nothing of the curious transmutations which the wit of man can work, would be very apt to wonder by what kind of legerdemain Aaron Burr had contrived to shuffle himself down to the bottom of the pack as an accessory and turn up poor Blannerhassett as principal in this treason. It is an honour, I dare say, for which Mr. Blannerlassett is by no means anxo ious; one which he has never disputed with colonel Burr, and which I am persuaded, he would be as little inclined to dispute on this occasion, as on any other. Since, however, the modesty of colonel Burr declines the first rank, and seems disposed to force Mr. Blannerhassett into it in spite of his blushes, let us compare the cases of the two men, and settle this question of precedence between them. It may save a good deal of troublesome ceremony hereafter.
In making this comparison, sir, I shall speak of the two men, and of the part they bore, as I believe it to exist, and to be substantially capable of proof: although the court has already told us, that as this is a motion to exclude all evidence, generally, we have a right, in resisting it, to suppose the evidence which is behind, strong enough to prove any thing and every thing compatible with the fact of Burr's absence from the island. If it will be more agreeable to the feelings of the prisoner to consider the parallel which I am about to run, or rather the contrast which I am about to exhibit, as a fiction, he is at liberty to do so; I believe it to be a fact.
Who then, is Aaron Burr, and what the part which he has borne in this transaction ? He is its author ; its projector; its active executor. Bold, ardent, restless and aspiring, his brain concieved it; his hand brought it into action. Beginning his operation in New-York, he associates with him, men whose wealth is to supply the necessary funds. Possessed of the main spring, his personal labour contrives all the machinery. Pervading the continent from New York to New-Orleans, he draws into his plan by every allurement which he can contrive,