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impunity, by which they see their inferiors brought to punishment. But if this effect should not be produced, yet, gentlemen, there is no reason why you should not exert your duty as far as you are able, because you cannot extend it as far as you desire. And to say the truth, to prevent gaming among the lower sort of people, is principally the business of society; and for this plain reason, because they are the most useful members of the society ; which, by such means, will lose the benefit of their labour. As for the rich and great, the consequence is generally no other than the exchange of property from the hands of a fool into those of a sharper, who is, perhaps, the more worthy of the two to enjoy it.
I will mention only one article more, and that of a very high nature indeed. It is, gentlemen, the offence of libelling, which is punished by the common law, as it tends immediately to quarrels and breaches of the peace, and very often to bloodshed and murder itself.
The punishment of this offence, saith my lord Coke, is fine or imprisonment; and if the case be exorbitant, by pillory and loss of ears.
And, gentlemen, even the last of these judgments will
appear extremely mild, if we consider, in the first place, the atrocious temper of mind from which this proceeds.
Mr. Pulton, in the beginning of his treatise de Pace, says of a libeller, that he is a secret can• ker, which concealeth his name, hideth himself ' in a corner, and privily. stingeth his neighbour in • his fame, reputation, and credit ; who neither
knows from whom, nor from what cause he re
ceiveth his blows, nor hath any ineans to defend • himself :' And my lord Coke, in his 5th Report (125), compares himn to a poisoner, who is the meanest, the vilest, and most dangerous of all murderers. Nor can I help repearing to you a most
beautiful passage in the great orator Demosthenes, who compares this wretch to a viper, which men ought to crush wherever they find him, without staying till he bite them.
In the second place, if we consider the injury done by these libellers, it must raise the indignation of every honest and good man; for what is this but, as Mr. Pulton says, a note of infamy, ' intended to defame the person at whom it is le' velled, to tread his honour and estimation in the
dust, to extirpate and root out his reputation from • the face of the earth, to make him a scorn to his • enemies, and to be derided and despised by his neighbours ?'
If praise, and honour, and reputation, be so highly esteemed by the greatest and best of men, that they are often the only rewards which they propose to themselves from the noblest actions; if there be nothing too difficult, too dangerous, or too disagreeable for men to encounter, in order to acquire and preserve these rewards ; what a degree of wickedness and barbarity must it be, unjustly and wantonly to strip men of that on which they place so high a value?
Nor is reputation to be considered as a chimerical good, or as merely the food of vanity and ambition. Our worldly interests are closely connected with our fame; by losing this, we are deprived of the chief comforts of society, particularly of that which is most dear to us, the friendship and love of all good and virtuous men. Nay, the common law indulged so great a privilege to men of good reputation in their neighbourhood, that in many actions the defendant's word was taken in his own cause, if he could bring a certain number of his neighbours to vouch that they believed him.
On the contrary, whoever robs us of our good name, doth not only expose us to public contempt and avoidance, but even to punishment; for by the statute 34 Edw. II. c. 1. the justices of the peace are empowered and directed to bind all such as be not of good fame to their good behaviour, and, if they cannot find sufficient sureties, they may be committed to prison.
Seeing, therefore, the execrable mischiefs perpetrated by this secret canker, this viper, this poisoner, in society, we shall not wonder to hear him so severely condemned in Scripture; nor that Aristotle in his politics should mention slander as one of those great evils which it is difficult for a legislator to guard against ; that the Athenians punished it with a very severe and heavy fine, and the Romans with death.
But though the libeller of private persons be so detestable a vermin, yet is the offence still capable of aggravation, when the poison is scattered upon public persons and magistrates. All such reflections are, as my lord Coke observes, a scandal on the government itself; and such scandal tends not only to the breach of the peace, but to raise seditions and insurrections among the whole body of the people.
And, gentlemen, the higher and greater the magistrates be against whom such slanders are propagated, the greater is the danger to the society; and such we find to have been the sense of the legislature in the second year of Richard II. For in the statute of that year, chap. 5. it is said, that by
such means discords may arise between the lords * and commons, whereof great peril and mischief
might come to all the realm, and quick subversion and destruction of the said realm.' And of such consequence was this apprehended to be, that we find no less than four statutes to prohibit and punish it; viz. Westm. 1. c. 33. 2 R. II. c. 5. 12 R II. 11. and 2 and 3 P. & M. C. 12. By this last statute a jurisdiction was given to the justices of peace to inquire of all such offences; and if it
was by book, ballad, letter, or writing, the offend. er's right hand was to be stricken off for the first offence, and for the second he was to incur a præmunire.
This last statute was afterwards prolonged in the last year of queen Mary, and in the first of Elizabeth, during the life of that princess, and of the heirs of her body.
I have mentioned these laws to you, gentlemen, to shew you the sense of our ancestors of a crime, which, I believe, they never saw carried to so flagitious a height as it is at present; when, to the shame of the age be it spoken, there are men who make a livelihood of scandal. Most of these are persons of the lowest rank and education, men, who lazily declining the labour to which they were born and bred, save the sweat of their brows at the expence of their consciences; and in order to get a little better livelihood, are content to get haps, in a less painful, but in a baser way than the meanest mechanic.
Of these, gentlemen, it is your business to inquire; of the devisers, of the writers, of the printers, and of the publishers of all such libels; and I do heartily reconimend this inquiry to your care.
To conclude, gentleinen, you will consider yourselves as now suinmoned to the execution of an office of the utmost importance to the well-being of this community ; nor will youl,
I am confident, suffer that establishment, so wisely and carefully regulated, and so stoutly and zealously maintained by your wise and brave ancestors, to degenerate into Diere form and shadow. Grand juries, gentlemen, are, in reality, the only censors of this nation. As ruch, the manners of the people are in your hands, and in yours only. You, therefore, are the only correctors of them. If you neglect your duty, the certain consequences to the publick are too apparent; for, as in a garden, however well cultivated at
first, if the weeder's care be omitted, the whole must in time be over-run with 'weeds, and will resemble the wildness and rudeness of a desart, so if those immoralities of the people, which will sprout
in the best constitution, be not from time to time corrected by the hand of justice, they will at length grow up to the most enormous vices, will overspread the whole nation, and, in the end, must produce a downright state of wild and savage barbarism.
To this censorial office, gentlemen, you are called by our excellent constitution. To execute this duty with vigilance, you are obliged by the duty you owe both to God and to your country. You are invested with full power for the
you have promised to do, under the sacred sanction of an oath; and you are all met, I doubt not, with disposition and resolution to perform it, with that zeal which I have endeavoured to recommend, and which the peculiar licentiousness of the age so strongly requires.