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with the principles of justice, more effective in the promotion of free discussion, in the punishment of falsehood, and in the protection of private character, he proposes to allow the “ truth of the malters contained in any alleged libel to be given in evidence, and to leave this to the jury, among other things, without calling upon them to acquit the defendant because he shall have proved his statements to be true.” Several plausible objections to this change are examined, and shown to be of insufficient consequence to counterbalance the many strong reasons for its adoption. Other defects in the law of libel of a technical character, are pointed out, and a conclusive reply is given to the arguments in desence of prosecutions by ex officio information. The nature of this prerogative, and the dangerous consequences flowing from its exercise, are exhibited by a reference to those periods in the history of the British government, when it was employed io subject the press to odious restrictions, and to shelter official delinquency from deteclion and punishment. The bill to amend the libel law, introduced into the House of Commons some years since by Mr. Brougham, is described as being in its fundamental principles the same as those so clearly developed in this article. It concludes with obviating an objection which the enemies of innovation might make to any extensive change in the law, on the ground that it would be hazardous to abolish what had been consecrated by long usage, and sanctioned by the most eminent members of the profession. This learned and argumentative essay may be safely recommended to those who wish to obtain an accurate knowledge of the libel law of England, or who require to be convinced of the necessity that exists for its revision and amendment.
The readers of the Edinburgh Review are aware, that no periodical journal has better understood, or pleaded more effectually for the interests of Ireland. At a lime when it was almost impossible to rouse the British public to a sympathy in her wrongs, and a candid discussion of her political and religious grievances, she found honest and efficient advocates in a body of writers whose enlightened opinions, incessantly urged and powerfully defended, had at length the effect of awakening a feeling in her behall, both on the part of the English government and nation. There was not room in the present work for more than one article on Irish allairs. It has been selected from among many others of undoubled excellence, because it embraces an investigation of the leading subjects connected with the causes of Ireland's misery and discontent, and the remedial measures by which alone a suffering and discontented population can be raised from wretchedness to prosperity, from disloyalty to obedience, and from slavery to freedom. On some of the means suggested by the Reviewers for allaying discontents and putting down disturbances, a considerable difference of opinion will prevail. But it is impossible to conceive that any well-informed and liberalminded individual should peruse their convincing arguments on Catholic emancipation,-the Irish church establishment and tithes,-the government and the magistracy,-on the state of parties and education, the grand jury system,-commercial and revenue laws,-emigration, poor laws, and population,—and a number of other subordinate topics, without being impressed with the conviction, that they have been sincere and warm friends of Ireland ; that their unshrinking advocacy of her cause, in the worst of times, has done much to enlighten the public mind; and that the principle which they have maintained consistently, is founded upon truth, viz. that the “miseries and atrocities which afflict that unhappy country are nol
the result of uncontrollable causes, but they all have their origin in, and are, in bct, the natural and necessary consequences of vicious political and civil institutions and misgovernment."
li is the object of the article to which reference has been made, lo esta kish the assertion contained in the above quotation. The enquiry into which the writer enters is divided into two parts; first, it embraces an investigation of the causes to which the political and religious feuds of Ireland may be traced ; and, secondly, of the causes from which the poverty and misery of the people have arisen. Under the former head is included Catholic disabilities, a topic which is discussed at considerable length, and with great force of argument. The conclusion to be deduced from the whole is, that “ without emancipation in the broadest sense of the term,without einancipation in law and in fact, -without the abolition of every existing legal disability and the adoption of a system of the most rigid impartiality on the part of government,-it would be worse than absurd to suppose that the spirit of discord should depart from the land, and that them foundations of national wealth and prosperity should be laid."
The next point touched upon is the defective state of the Irish government and the magistracy. A plan of reform is suggested, the necessity for which, and its signal advantages, are impartially argued. The proposition to appoint Lord Lieutenants of the counties of Ireland, which has been recally acted upon by Earl Grey's ministry, is defended on strong and plausible grounds. The disbanding of the yeomanry corps is recommended as a measure absolutely necessary to preserve the tranquillity of the country; and the abolition of the office of lord lieutenant is proposed, as an arrangement (ragght with manifold benefits, calculated to improve the character of the administration, and to reconcile the people to the British government. The fertile subject of the church establishment and tithes is next referred to. The combined evils of the two he conceives to be the main sources of contention aad party animosity. The substance of the Reviewer's reasoning, in reply to the allegation that lithes are the property of the church, and that their abolition would be tantamount to an act of public robbery, is embodied in the following extract :-“ It might as well be said that the taxes le vied for the support of the army are the property of the soldiers, and that any attempt to redeem them would be a violation of the rights of property! Tithes are not the property of the clergy. They are the properly of the public, who give them to the clergy as a reward for their services, and
, who may, consequently, apply them to any other purposes the moment they choose to dispense with their services, or to reduce their wages. An established church is a mere human institution; and can boast of no higher or more respectable origin than a custom-house or a slanding army. The clergy stand in exactly the same predicament as any other class of public functionaries. They are the servants of the public, paid for instructing the people in their moral and religious duties; and it is mere drivelling to suppose that government has not a right to regulate their salaries, or to dismiss them altogether. We admit that it would be most unjust to deprive the present incumbents of their revenues; and a full compensation or equivalent ought, therefore, to be given them for whatever they might lose by the adoption of the plan we have recommended.
** But there is no reason, and there can be none, why the tithe system should be made perpetual, -why the public should be made to support the same number of established clergymen in all time to come, and to pay them VOL. I.
live or six times the sum that would suffice to procure them the services of an equally learned and pious body of men. No man of ordinary understanding will be induced to believe, that those who support the flagrant and almost inconceivable abuses of the Irish tithe system, do so, lest, in subverling it, they should be invading the right of property! Every one must see that tithes are nothing more than an arbitrary, oppressive, and ruinous tax on the gross produce of the land, exclusively laid out in paying the wages of a particular class of public servants : and although it were neither expedient nor politic to reduce the number of these servants, nor to lower their wages, government would be just as little liable to the charge of injustice, or of invading the rights of property, were they lo do so, as they are when they pay off a line-of-battle ship, or reduce the wages of the seamen.
The design of the second branch of the Reviewer's enquiry, is to ascertain the causes of the extreme poverty and destitution of the Irish peasantry.
It comprehends the following important topics, upon all of which he evinces a thorough knowledge of the condition of Ireland, and of those practical
and active remedies, which would conduce to her physical and moral advantage :-On what the rate of wages depends; the effect which the extraordinary increase in the population has had in augmenting the wretchedness and degradation of the lower classes; the influence of the Bounty Acts in giving a stimulus to population; the pernicious consequences resulting from the minute division of land; the necessity of changing the whole law of Ireland with regard to landlord and tenant; the propriety of introducing an act to prevent the sublelling of land, and adopting a system similar to that which exists in Scotland; the necessity of altering the freehold system, and confining the elective franchise to persons in possession of freehold or copyhold property, of the real value of twenty or thirty pounds a year, and to The occupiers of farms paying fifty pounds or upwards of rent; the reasons why the introduction of Poor Laws would complete the ruin of the country; the necessity of an efficient and liberal plan of National Education ; the benefits of an effectual reduction in the duties laid on all articles in general demand; and, lastly, the absurdity of every scheme for providing employment for the poor by grants of money, or by the aid of bounties on particular articles. A vast deal of useful information is given on each of ihese subjects. The remedial measures proposed are discussed in a candid and impartial spirit, and the anticipated effects from their adoption, though they may not correspond with the views of all parties, are brought forward with so much perspicuity of detail, and urged by so many forcible arguments, that it must be quite manisest, even to those who dissent from the author's principles and conclusions, that he is perfectly master of the subject, and sincerely devoted to the interests of Ireland. The concluding passage is written in a prophetic spirit, and expresses sentiments which the Edinburgh Review has never omitted an opportunity of impressing upon the minds of its readers, from its first Number to the present time. “As Englishmen,-as lovers of equal and impartial justice, -we owe reparation to Ireland for the wrongs she has suffered at our hands; and we owe it for our own sakes. It depends entirely on our future conduct, whether Ireland is to be rendered our best friend and ally, or our most dangerous and morial foe. If we treat her with kindness and affection;-il we redress 1 her wrongs, and open her a path to wealth and prosperity,—the Union will cease to be nominal, and the two countries will be firmly and inseparably united : but if we obstinately persevere in our present system, and
cherish all the gross and scandalous abuses which have cast the majority of her people into the depths of poverty and vice, they will certainly endeavour (and who shall blame them? ) to wreak their vengeance on the heads of their oppressors ; dissension, terror, and civil war will rage with increased fury and violence; and our ascendency will be at an end, the instant it cannot be maintained by force of arms.
In adverting to the Slave Trade, it would be superfluous to pass a laboured eulogium on the honourable part taken by the Edinburgh Review in the discussion of that great question. Though the attention of the public had been directed to the oppressions and sufferings of the African negroes, previously to the commencement of that journal, still it deserves the praise of having kept alive popular enthusiasm. Those who are acquainted with the bistory of the Slave controversy must be aware of the long and arduous battle fought by the friends of humanity and justice against the combined influence of government corruption and individual interests. They cannot have forgotten the sneers and reproaches thrown upon the philanthropy and courage of Wilberforce, the sacrifices of Clarkson, the efforts of Sharpe, and the eloquence of Fox and Pitt. They cannot have forgotten the exertions made by the press to hold up to merited contempt the sophisms by which the supporters of slavery attempted to defend that abominable traffic. The Edinburgh Review was one of the most diligent and effective labourers in the good cause. It propagated truths which no evasions, no cunning, no venality could resist, -truths which ultimately sunk deep into the public mind, gave energy and confidence to the champions of freedom, and accelerated that extraordinary change in the general opinion of the nation, by the resistless force of which the setters of oppression were at length broken, and hundreds of thousands of unoffending human beings emancipated from the cruelty and degradation of bondage. After the measure of abolition had passed into a law, the vigilant attention and unwearied efforts of the Reviewers were directed to another useful object, that of exposing the selfishness and wickedness of those individuals who, being engaged in the support of slavery, strained every nerve to impede the execution of a statute which would never have been sanctioned, had not the omnipotent power of the people compelled the parliament to yield when it could no longer control.
It is unnecessary to enter into a detailed exposition of the principles of the Edinburgh Review on the subject of West India Slavery. Perhaps no other political journal has done so much to advance the cause of negro emancipation. By its bold and argumentative disquisitions upon every branch of the question, it has created and preserved among the great body of the community a deep and abiding conviction, that nothing effectual will ever be done for the benefit of the slaves, with a view to their speedy and certain liberation, until the united and irresistible voice of the nation, as in the case of the slave trade, shall drive the government into a firm and decided course of policy. It has produced evidence to prove that negro slavery can be extinguished with perfect safety to the colonists and advantage to the blacks. It has shown what means have been employed by the West India party to prevent the gradual process of civilisation. It has exposed their misrepresentations, and overturned all their positions with respect lo the comfort and happiness of the slave population. Upon the important topic of free labour and compensation, much useful information and sound reasoning will be found in many articles published during the last few years. In fact, there is not a branch of the question of negro slavery, as il affects every rank in society in the West India islands, that has not been fully and satisfactorily examined by the writers in the Edinburgh Review; and whenever the time comes, as it speedily will, that the slaves shall be freed from their servitude, gratitude will be especially due to that journal, which for thirty years has laboured, with a zeal that never relaxed, and an enthusiasm that no opposition could abate, to inform and direct the public mind on the subject, and to bring into vigorous operation those resources by which alone the glorious triumph, now happily not far distant, can be achieved without violence and commotion.
The articles on West India Slavery in the Edinburgh Review are in general of great length, and contain copious extracts from various publications and parliamentary documents in support of the writer's sentiment. Without exceeding the limits allotted to the political department of the present work, it would not have been practicable to give more than a few essays on that particular question. Six have been selected which appeared to the editor to embrace matter of general interest, and to involve topics of a disputable nature, upon which it is of paramount importance that the bulk of the community should have the means of forming a correct judgment. The first refers to a question which has engaged the attention of several eminent philosophers; namely, whether the moral and intellectual faculties of the negro be naturally inferior to those of the European, or only the result of peculiar habits attributable to the low state of civilisation in which they have been placed by the existing system of slavery. The latter proposition is defended in the essay under consideration. It is attempted to be demonstrated that the bad qualities of the blacks may be fairly ascribed to the unnatural situation into which they have been thrown. Authorities are cited to prove that in the interior of Africa, where the influence of the Slave Trade exists in a more modified form than on the West Coast, their natural dispositions and mental acquirements are superior to other portions of the race less favourably circumstanced. Reference are made to several places where the negro population has become free, and received the advantages of education, which are pretty conclusive as to their intellectual capabilities, and to their susceptibility of advancing in every species of religious, moral, and mental improvement, if subjected to a proper mode of training, and provided with the necessary facilities for their progress. This, however, presupposes a complete reform in the colonial system of treatment, which the Reviewer points out in ils several gradations, and sketches the happy effects that would result from its adoption.
The second article is intended to establish the right of the British parliament to legislate for the colonies. The arguments used by the planters against the interposition of the mother country are shown to be fallacious. It is at the same time admitted that the government should not interpose its authority, unless the local assemblies of the islands refuse to execute the laws which the welfare of the slaves requires, or attempt to evade them by frivolous apologies or disreputable maneuvres. As unfounded clamours regarding the rebellion of the slaves have been frequently put forth, to deter the legislature from interfering in a decided manner for their benefit, the Reviewer exposes these apprehensions, and proves, from the conduct of the West India body, both in the mother country and in the colonial assemblies, that they did not seriously entertain any fear of a general insurrection. He justly observes, in concluding his remarks, that those whom the rhetoric