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CHAP, little dream of at present. Then think, my Lords, of the
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\ numerous party in this country, who, I am sorry to say, are
so little solicitous about the national glory, that they are ready to join an invading army, and to receive a despotic master from our natural enemies. Some of them are actuated by the hopes of making or mending their fortunes, some by malice, and an unjust hatred of those employed in the administration. There are many at present disaffected to the government from principle, but their number is decreasing every day. The rising generation see the absurdity and ridiculousness of the prejudices in which their parents were bred, and in a few years we may expect to witness a general concurrence in the principles on which the change of dynasty was found necessary, and a general attachment to good order, and to the cause of civil and religious liberty. Prudence will, by-and-by, dictate submission even to the unprincipled, when they no longer see well-meaning men whom they can hope to make the tools of their wicked designs." *
Oct. 1739. I must, therefore, absolve Lord Hardwicke from the infatuation- charge of contributing to that madness which, a few months after, took possession of the nation, when Walpole, rather than quit office, agreed to a declaration of war against Spain —when the heir apparent to the throne headed the mob in the streets of London, drinking " Success to the War !" — when the treasures of Potosi being grasped in anticipation, and the golden dreams of the South Sea again deluding the public mind, there were greater rejoicings than followed the victories of Blenheim or of Waterloo; and when the conscience-stricken minister exclaimed, "They are now ringing their bells; before long they will be wringing their hands." Misconduct With that minister rests, I think, the greatest share of the denceTf" disgrace of commencing this war—the most unprovoked and Walpole in unjustifiable in our annals. Walpole's opponents were the'wafcry. deeply to blame, and still more were his colleagues, who wished, by making him unpopular, to supplant him; but with him the responsibility rested, and rather than part with
* 10 Pari. Hist. 1048. 1147.
power, even for a time, he consented to involve the country CHAP. . ... . . i»i CXXXII
in hostilities which he knew to be unjust, and which he
expected to be disastrous. Had he honestly resisted, the nation would speedily have been restored to reason, and he would have been restored to power. By tardily yielding to the public delusion, he did not recover the popularity he had lost by resistance, and he was, ere long, forced into permanent retreat. Fit punishment, likewise, fell upon the nation; for, during the contest, although the heavy calamities which several times seemed impending were averted, the military enterprises which were undertaken produced disappointment and disgrace; we were indebted to chance, and the blunders of our enemies, that our shores were not trod by invading armies; a Stuart prince being recognised by all Scotland, was within a few days' march of the English metropolis, where there were many friends to receive him; and we were finally obliged to agree to a treaty of peace, by which Spain did not make a single concession on the points which had been the pretence for hostilities." *
When Lord Hardwicke had exerted himself to the utmost Lord Hardto avoid a rupture with Spain, and had delivered a speech ro'r6pr0es^er which ought to have called forth the exclamation—"Well cutingthe done, Grotius!" I do not think that he can be much censured Spain.' for remaining in office, as his resignation would only have made way for some more pliant lawyer; but I must confess that I think he would have done better by remaining quiet in parliament and watching a favourable opportunity for the restoration of peace. But Sir Robert having for the present out-manoeuvred his opponents by going over to the war party, the now blustering Chancellor strenuously defended a subsidy to Denmark, that she might assist us in the quarrel, and he exclaimed,—" Whatever others may say who advocate for
* This is a case in which, as the lawyers say, we have "confitcntes rcos" — all the accused parties pleading guilty. Walpole at the time, with his usual openness, admitted that he was doing wrong. "Some years after," says '. Burke, "it was my fortune to converse with many of the principal actors against that minister, and with those who principally excited that clamour. None of them, no, not one, did in the least defend the measure, or attempt to justify their conduct. They condemned it as freely as they would have done in commenting upon any proceeding in history in which they were totally unconcerned."— Regicide Peace.
Chap, bearance, I am for instantly entering upon action."* He
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had for some time been regarded as the organ of the government in the House of Lords, no weight being attached to what fell from the Duke of Newcastle, who was ostensibly at the head of it. His Grace himself seems to have been aware of his own insignificance there, and thus writes to the Chancellor:— "It is no disagreeable circumstance in the high station in which your Lordship is, that every man in the House of Lords now knows that yours is the sense of the King's administration, and that their interest goes with their inclinations when they follow your Lordship."f His speech During the Spanish war a discussion arose on a subject of bertyofthe more permanent interest — the liberty of the Press, — when press. Lord Hardwicke delivered a speech with which he had taken great pains, and which is peculiarly interesting as coming from one who had been ten years Attorney General, and was so long afterwards at the head of the law. With a view as it was thought of intimidating Pope, who had cruelly lampooned Lord HerveyJ and other Peers, and kept the whole House in a state of apprehension, a complaint was made against § a very inferior poet, Paul Whitehead, who had recently published a satire called " Manner," reflecting upon several Peers, and whose commitment to Newgate would not have excited much public sympathy. The author absconded; but Dodsley, his publisher, appearing at the bar, a motion was made that he should be taken into the custody of the Usher of the Black Rod, which was opposed by Lord Carteret and Lord Abingdon, on the ground that such a proceeding was contrary to the liberty of the Press. The Lord Chancellor. —" My Lords, the liberty of the press ought to be sacred with every Englishman, and I dare answer for it will ever be so with your Lordships. But I am afraid that there is nothing less understood than the nature of that
* 10 Pari. Hist, 1373. 1383. 1412. 1420.
Sporus, that mere white curd of ass's milk," &c.
§ It is said that Pope really was frightened by the "brave orts at the pridge," and he certainly was more cautious afterwards in meddling with high names, although his malignity to Grub Street continued to increase.
liberty. I have often, my Lords, desired an opportunity of jf^^j
delivering to your Lordships my sentiments upon this sub
ject, 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, CHAP, or levy war against him with impunity. I am very sensible, ^xxxn. my Lonls, of l,ow 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 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 tern