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understood than the nature of that liberty. I have often, my Lords, desired an opportunity of delivering to your Lordships my sentiments upon this subject, and I may be excused if I embrace the present. It is said that the liberty of the press is about to be invaded. I know, my Lords, that the liberty of the press is generally taken for a liberty to publish every indecency against the most respectable persons either in public or in private life; and so strongly does this notion prevail, that I have never known an instance of a libeller being prosecuted without a loud cry of oppression, he being considered an impersonation of the liberty of the press. But has there been introduced into the law of England since the invention of printing, a right of publishing to the world any defamatory matter to the prejudice of superior, inferior, or equal? Before the art of printing was known in Europe, learning was confined to a very few. At that time the copiers of books were a separate body of men, and were under particular regulations in different countries. When printing was introduced these regulations necessarily fell to the ground, and every one for a while could communicate his thoughts to the world on any subject, till printing under new regulations became an affair of state. Thence, my Lords, arose the expression of THE LIBERTY OF THE PREss. But, my Lords, in England the mode of publication made no change in the law of defamatory libel. The press acquired no liberty which was not known in the most remote times. If any body, my Lords, is of opinion that authors acquired any new privileges when printing was discovered, he ought to prove either that the old laws on that subject were repealed, or that new ones were made in favour of typographical slander. Character must be protected as much as property, and an invasion of either demands an award of compensation, and punishment for the sake of public example. It is true, my Lords, that in bad reigns very great severities have been inflicted on authors and printers for publishing what was harmless or useful; but this only proves that the law was abused by power. The law of treason, allowed in this country to be wise and merciful, was abused much more; but for that reason a man may not imagine the King's death, or levy war against him with impunity. I am very sensible, my Lords, of how much use the press was at the time of the Revolution, but the authors who then espoused the side of liberty advanced nothing that was not agreeable to the constitution; they were warranted by law for what they wrote, and they had the sense of the nation on their side. I must add that the authors who are so justly praised for supporting the Revolution communicated their sentiments with the greatest deference to the persons and characters of their adversaries, without any mixture of malice or calumny. Let not modern libellers, when called to account in a legal manner, compare the present government to that of Charles II. or of James II., till they prove that they write with as much caution and as much decency as those who then lawfully availed themselves of the liberty of the press to defend the constitution of their country. The libel we are now considering is of the more virulent quality, as the noble Lords libelled could not have given any just cause of offence to
A.D. 1739. HIS ATTACK ON THE OPPOSITION. 221
the author, probably not knowing him by sight, and never having heard of his name till it was impudently affixed to this infamous publication. I therefore think it deserves all the severity of your Lordships' censure.”
Lord Talbot (son of the Chancellor) pithily answered:— “My Lords, if this be so, in Heaven's name let those aggrieved by this libel have recourse to the inferior courts of justice, and do not let such a charge lie against us as that we are judges, jury, prosecutors, and parties in the same suit.”
On a division the motion was carried by 72 to 32, and I am only surprised that the minority was so large, or that any noble Lord had the courage to divide the House on such a question. Paul Whitehead's dull poems had nothing to do with the proceedings of their Lordships as a branch of the legislature, while he made free with the manners of individual Peers. But at this period no one ever thought of questioning any decision of the Lords upon privilege, and the standing order passed unanimously, of which I was obliged to move the repeal before I could venture to offer to the world my “Lives of the Chancellors,”—“that no one presume to publish the Lives of any Lords spiritual or temporal, deceased, without the permission of their heirs and executors.”" The reckless perversion of privilege to the punishment of private injuries, which marked the eighteenth century, is very much to be condemned; but perhaps the other extreme into which we are inclined to run may be more injurious—a refusal to enforce privilege in cases where it is essentially necessary to enable the two Houses of Parliament to exercise the legislative and inquisitorial functions vested in them for the public good.
Parliament being called together in November to vote supplies for the Spanish war, the Chancellor had a very troublesome session. Walpole's enemies now complained of the manner in which the war had been commenced, and the manner in which it had been conducted; and they were particularly fierce against a passage in the King's speech respecting “the heats and animosities prevailing throughout the kingdom,” which was construed into a reflection on “his Majesty's opposition,” who declared themselves to be the only true friends of loyalty and order. Newcastle, Hervey, Cholmondeley, and Devonshire were no match in debate for Carteret, Chesterfield, Bedford, Sandwich, and Argyle; and the Chancellor was frequently obliged to leave the woolsack. and to talk on subjects with which he was by no means familiar. In the debate on the address, the defence of the government rested chiefly upon his shoulders, and he contended with some success that his Majesty, as the father of his people, had a right to exhort all classes to cultivate mutual love and harmony — insinuating at the same time pretty broadly, that the noble Lords, whom no measures would content which they did not themselves originate and guide as ministers, were ready, for their own selfish ends, to endanger the internal tranquillity of the country and the national honour." But they had their revenge of him soon after, when the Feb. 23, government having by inadvertence sent a message * to the House of Commons, respecting supplies for carrying on the war, without any similar message being sent to the House of Lords, and the omission being there taken up as a breach of privilege, the Chancellor, in a very elaborate speech, contended that “the message was in the nature of an estimate which was exclusively to be submitted to the Lower House:” but he was unmercifully dealt with by Chesterfield and Carteret, who ridiculed with much pleasantry this piece of special-pleading sophistry. The ministers did not venture on an attempt directly to negative the vote of censure moved upon them—but carried the previous question." The Chancellor was again “turned out for a day's sport” when he had to defend the manner in which Admiral Vernon's expedition had been equipped for the attack on Porto Bello, and the whole conduct of the war. The Duke of Argyle characterised his speech as “a toying with words,” and the learned Lord does seem to have treated the subject as if he had been in the Court of Chancery overruling objections to the Master's report. The minority rose to 40 against 62. At last came the delightful task of declaring in the King's name that parliament was prorogued. Still the Chancellor had not the calm which he expected: for the King being gone to Germany, there were violent altercations among the Lords of the regency, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could prevent Walpole and Newcastle from coming to an open rupture. In the ensuing session of Parliament, he was called upon A.D. 1740 repeatedly to speak respecting the conduct of the 1741. war, the amount of the forces to be kept on foot, the reinforcements supplied to Admiral Vernon, and the instruc
i Standing Orders, No. 113.
A.D. 1740–41. DOWNFALL OF SIR R. WALPOLE. 223
tions sent to Admiral Haddock;" but I do not think that his speeches, from the briefs delivered to him on these subjects, are of any interest, and I at once proceed to a great crisis in his history—the dismissal of Sir Robert. Horace Walpole imputes treachery to him on this occasion, and considers that the ruin of the minister was brought about by his two colleagues, the Chancellor and the Duke of Newcastle. After describing their supposed attempt to turn him out on the death of the Queen, he says: “Their next plot was deeper laid, and had more effect; by a conspiracy with the chiefs of the opposition they overturned Sir Robert Walpole, and in a little time the few of their associates that they had admitted to share the spoil.” “–Although it is quite certain that against such powerful opponents, and such a load of public obloquy, the Premier, having completed his twenty years of absolute sway, could not have stood much longer, I think there is some foundation for the charge against Newcastle, who, willing to submit to any indignity rather than not possess office at all, was ever ready to sacrifice every thing (good faith included) for the chance of increasing his power. “His name,” said Sir Robert, “is Perfidy.” “It would have been strange indeed,” writes Macaulay, “if his Grace had been idle when treason was hatching.” P
“Ch'i' ho de' traditor’ sempre sospetto,
However, as far as Hardwicke is concerned, the statement is not only unsupported by any proof, but is contrary to all probability. He had nothing to gain by a disruption of the ministry, and, although he had the good luck to survive it, he must have foreseen the danger that, if Pulteney and Carteret were to triumph, they would insist on naming a new Chancellor. On the only occasion when the subject was brought forward in the House of Lords, in February, 1741, when Lord Carteret made his celebrated motion for an address to the King, praying him “to dismiss Sir Robert Walpole from his presence and councils for ever,” Lord Hardwicke defended his chief with much ability, and, seemingly, with zeal and sincerity. We have his speech, as reported by Dr. Johnson for the “Gentleman's Magazine,” and though a few epithets may have been added, to give additional point to an antithesis
* 11 Parl. Hist. 615,629, 700, 756,760,773, o “Ten last Years of George II.,” p. 139. 8:3, 901, 918, 1000, 1016, 1027. P Essays, ii. 131.
or to round a period, I make no doubt that the report is substantially correct. Notwithstanding what has been said about “Johnson's Debates” being the invention of his own brain, it now appears, by comparing them with contemporary notes, particularly Archbishop Secker's, that they contain accurately the sentiments, and often the very words, of the different speakers, so that they must have been prepared from genuine information, or (what is more probable still) from the notes or recollection of the compiler, who may have been actually present when they were delivered. On this memorable occasion Lord Hardwicke spoke in answer to the Duke of Argyle, who had gone over the whole of the foreign and domestic policy of the government, pointing out how the autocrat had engrossed all the power of the state into his own hands, and, acting tyrannically at home and feebly abroad, had sacrificed the constitution and the national honour to his own personal aggrandisement. We care little now about the treaty of Hanover, the treaty of Vienna, or the conduct of the Spanish war; and I will not even quote the Chancellor's ingenious comparison between a campaign and “an equity suit, in which the client takes great delight till the solicitor brings in his bill.” He seems to have been most happy on the vague charge, much dwelt upon, of Sir Robert having made himself “sole minister.” This he likened to the old common-law high treason, called “accroachment,” or assumption of the royal authority, for which, till treasons were defined by the statute of Edward III., every great man obnoxious to the ruling faction was prosecuted and beheaded. The weakest part of his case was Sir Robert's practice (which would not now be endured) of cashiering military officers who were in parliament—from generals down to cornets—if they voted against the government:—"
“I shall grant, my Lords, that it is a right maxim for the King not to notice a gentleman's behaviour in parliament with respect to the distribution of those favours which the Crown has to bestow. But even this maxim may admit of some exceptions. We know there is in this kingdom a party of professed Jacobites; we know there is, likewise, a party of professed Republicans. I do not say there are any of either of these parties now in parliament; but if they should get into parliament, if they should there pursue Jacobite or republican schemes, Ibelieve it will not be said that the King ought to wink at such conduct, or that
* e. g. The Duke of Bolton and Lord Cobham deprived of their regiments, and Cornet Pitt dismissed from the Blues.