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sion, when the hour of trial arrives, receives with magnanimity the vengeance of violated law ;-or the insiduous libeller, who shrouds himself in the mantle of equivocation, prowls in twilight, and plunges half unseen the poniard of calumny, and when the day of retribution comes, seeks ignoble safety in the arts of subterfuge and effrontery of denial ?
Continuation of Mr. Griffin's Speech on the trial of
Living-ston against Cheetham. I AM one of those who believe that the heart of the wilful and the deliberate libeller is blacker than that of the highway robber, or he who commits the crime of midnight arson. The man who plunders on the highway, may have the semblance of an apology for what he does. An affectionate wife inay demand subsistence; a circle of helpless children raise to him the supplicating hand for food. He may be driven to the desperate act by the high mandate of imputative necessity. The mild features of the husband and the father may intermingle with those of the robber and soften the roughness of the shade. But the robber of character plundereth that which “not enricheth him,” though it makes his neighbour “ poor indeed.”—The man who at the midnight hour consumes his neighbour's dwelling, does him an injury which perhaps is notirreparable. Industry may rear another habitation. The storm may indeed descend upon him until charity opens a neighbouring door : the rude wind of heaven may whistle around his uncovered family. But he looks forward to better days :-he has yet a hook left to hang a hope upon. No such consolation cheers the heart of him whose character has been torn from him. If innocent he may look, like Anaxagoras, to the heavens ; but he must be constrained to feel that this world is to him a wilderness. For whither shall he go? Shall he dedicate himself to the service of his country? But will this country receive him ? Will she employ in her councils or in her armies, the man at whom “the slow unmoving finger of scorn” is pointed ? Shall he betake himself to the fire
side? “ There, there's the rub.” The story of his disgrace will enter his own doors before him. 'And can he bear, think you, can he bear the sympathizing agonies of a distressed wife? Can he endure the formidable presence of scrutinizing, sneering domestics? Will his chil. dren receive instruction from the lips of a disgraced father? Gentlemen, I am not ranging on fairy ground. I am telling the plain story of my cliant's wrongs. By the ruthless hand of malice his character has been wantonly massacred ;-and he now appears before a jury of his country for redress. Will you deny him this redress? Is character valuable ? On this point I will not insult you with argument. There are certain things, to argue which, is treason against nature. The author of our being did not intend to leave this point afloat at the mercy of opinion; but with his own hand has he kindly planted in the soul of man an instinctive love of character. This high sentiment has no affinity to pride. It is the ennobling quality of the soul: and if we have hitherto been elevated above the ranks of surrounding creation, human nature owes its elevation to the love of character. It is the love of character for which the poet has sung, the phi. losopher toiled, the hero bled. It was the love of char. acter which wrought miracles at ancient Greece :-the love of character was the eagle on which Rome rose to empire. And it is the love of character, animating the bosom of her sons, on which America must depend in those approaching crises that may “try men's souls.” Will a jury weaken this our nation's hope? Will they by their verdict, pronounce to the youth of our country, that character is scarcely worth possessing?
If these considerations are disregarded, let the jury at least respect the public peace. Let them not drive the defamed to madness; let them not compel him to become the avenger of his own wrongs-to seize with his own rude hand the sword of justice. I wish to be understood; I allude not to this particular case, but speak in general terms. We read of that philosophy which can smile over the destruction of property of that religion which enables its possessor to extend the benign look of forgiveness and complacency to his murderers. But it is not in the soul of man to bear the laceration of slander.
The philosophy which could bear it, we should despise. The religion which could bear it, we should not despise,
but we should be constrained to say, its kingdom “is nut of this world.” Man when calumniated will have redress. And if when he enters the temple of justice, and spreads before a jury his bleeding character, they insult him with mere nominal damages ; if they stamp on the record the tormenting declaration, that his character is worth little or nothing, he will not again enter the sanctuary of justice for redress. When injured, he will not go there to be insulted. He will resort to surer means of satisfaction. He will resort to what are called honoura. ble means; or to assault and battery; or to the destruction of property; or to the midnight dagger.
Continuation of Mr. Griffin's Speech on the trial of Liv
ingston against Cheetham. IN a case like the present, when the jury have a right, and where it is their duty to award exemplary damages, it becomes you, gentlemen, to look around and inquire what amount of verdict the interests of the nation demand. We ought to be a happy people. Omnipotence has exhausted itself in scattering blessings around us. But is there no blot on the map of our prosperity ? Yes, gentlemen, there is a foul-a deadly blot. A fiend has entered our political Eden, and this fiend is the spirit of licentiousness. I speak of the licentiousness of the tongue, and the licentiousness of the press. This is the monster who stalks through our land, “seeking whom he may devour,” and scattering around him, “firebrands, arrows and death.” He obtrudes his “miscreated front" into the hallowed retirements of private life-beckons the man of honour to the field of death-tears the laurel from the brow of the "war-worn” soldier and wrests from the venerable patriot his hard earned honours. Innocency is no shield against him : he delights to sport on the ruins of spotless integrity. He spares not even the sanctuary of the grave. All men, of all parties, groan under. his oppression. It is a melancholy remark, but made, I
fear, with too much correctness, that there is no portion of the globe where the licentiousness of the tongue and the press has become so outrageous as in these United States. It is an increasing evil amongst us. And it feeds on the vitals of our country. It has driven into retirement, and will continue to drive into retirement, . our most estimable characters, whatever may be their political denomination : for who will expose himself to the laceration of calumny? Individuals have been found, and individuals will again be found, who, for the salvation of their country, will expose themselves to death will even court it in the “imminent, deadly breach.” But where are the individuals who will expose themselves to the daggers of defamation? This spirit of licentiousness vitiates the public sentiment, and contami. nates the very mind of the nation. It turns into wormwood and gall the benevolent feelings of the human heart ---makės man the foe of man, and may unsheath the sword of civil war. If permitted to continue, it will ren. der our country tired of freedom; and if freedom must be attended with this torrent of licentiousness, perhaps the sooner our country becomes tired of it, the better. For “dear as freedom is, and in my soul's just estimation, prized above all price," my reputation is still dearer; and if reputation cannot be preserved under the protection of freedom, our countrymen will seek shelter, they ought to seek shelter under the strong arm of despotism ----of that despotism which palsies the tongue and fetters the pen. What has destroyed other republics? The enemy was not from without: the world in arms could never extinguish a nation of freemen. Let those who doubt this, look to the streights of Thermopylæ ; let them look to Bunker-Hill. The enemy of republics is within. The destroying angel of freedom has ever been the spirit of licentiousness. Our nation must be saved from this spirit, or we are lost; shortly shall we follow to the tomb, the republics of other times. The friend of his country looks around him, and anxiously inquires what power is there to save us. But one power on earth can save us, and that power isma jury. If America is to be saved from the fate of other republics, jurors must be our saviours. Jurors can do more for us than generals. The
heroes of the revolution created our nation; it is the high prerogative of jurors to preserve it. How are they to preserve it? By keeping pure and dignified the mind of the nation—by preserving uncontaminated its moralityIf it is asked, how does the existence of a nation of free. men depend on their morality? I answer; were men angels, they would scarcely need the form of government; were they devils, they must be bound in fetters of iron; and as they approximate the one state or the other, their government may be free, or must be severe. It is thine, virtue, to preserve empires! Thou hast ever been the guardian angel of freedom. Preserve pure and dignified the mind of the nation, and its body is invincible. It may defy an armed world. It is a very Samson in might. It is the depravation of its mind that severs the locks of its strength.
How are jurors to preserve the morality of our nation ? How arrest the devastations of licentiousness ? By their verdicts; by writing upon the records of our courts, in legible characters, the unchangeable decree, that the violator of character shall be as surely and as severely punished by a verdict in damages, as the violator of property or of person. Were jurors in earnest to pursue this course, we should find that the fiend defamation, would not dare to stalk thus boldly through our land--the tongue of slander would be constrained to remain silent--and fear would hermetically seal the lips of calumny. But this great work is not to be accomplished by trifling verdicts. A nation is not to be saved by an oblation of pence. Trivial damages may exasperate, but cannot intimidate malice. The times require exemplary verdicts and mercy to individuals is treason against the nation.
This is not the cause of individual against individual only. The nominal parties to this suit dwindle into comparative unimportance; and the American nation rears her august form ; entreating to be saved from her worst enemy-to be saved from licentiousness. This is the cause of man against the worst passion of man; it is the cause of virtue against vice. I address myself to you, gentlemen, as the grand inquest of the nation. I appeal to you as the Areopagus of America. I invoke you as that only power which can bind in fetters, and cast out