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the case involves a public question, it is the public of all parties that have a right to know if the objections against him are true or not. This case is not a question of law, but a question of honour and of public rights.
The man who resorts to artifice and cunning, instead of standing on the firm and open ground of principle, can easily be found out. When those resolves first appeared, Morgan Lewis must have felt the necessity of taking some notice of them; but as it did not suit him at that time either to acknowledge them or contradict them, he had recourse to a prosecution, as it would afford a pretence for doing neither. A prosecution viewed in this light would accommodate itself to the situation he was in, by holding the matter in obscurity and indecision till the election should be over. But the artifice is too gauzy not to be seen through, and too apparently trickish not to be despised.
As to damages, Morgan Lewis has sustained none. If those resolves have had any effect, it has been to his benefit. He was a lost man among the Republicans before the resolves appeared, and their public appearance has given him some standing among such of the Federalists who are destitute of honour and insensible of disgrace. These men will vote for him, and also for Rufus King, the persecutor of the unfortunate Irish.
I now come to speak on the subject of damages generally; for it appears to me that certain juries have run into great mistakes on this subject. They have not distinguished between penalty and damages. Penalty is punishment for crime. Damages is indemnification for losses sustained. When a man is prosecuted criminally, all that is necessary to be proved is, the fact with which he is charged, and all that the jury has to do in this case is to bring in a verdict according to the evidence given. The court then passes sentence conformable to the law under which the crime is punishable. If it is by fine, or imprisonment, or both, the law generally limits the extent of the fine or penalty, and also the period of imprisonment. It does not leave it to any mad-headed, or avaricious individual, or to any jury, to say it shall be an hundred thousand dollars.
But in prosecutions for what are called damages, two things are necessary to be proved. First, the words spoken or published, or actions done. Secondly, damages actually
words or actions can often be proved, and Morgan Lewis may prove that certain resolves were passed at a meeting of
sustained in consequence
The the citizens, at which Thomas Farmer was chairman. But unless Morgan Lewis can prove that the meeting exercised illegal authority in passing those resolves, and that he has sustained damage in consequence thereof, a jury can award him no damages: and certain it is, that juries in cases of prosecution for what is called damages, cannot inflict penalties. Penalties go to the State, and not to the individual. If in any of the late prosecutions, juries have awarded damages where damages were not proved, the execution of the verdict ought to be suspended, and the case referred to a new trial.
Letter the Third.
In this letter, I shall continue my observations on damages generally, and take Morgan Lewis in my way. There are two descriptions of men who cannot suffer damages. The one is the man whose character is already so infamous that nothing said of him can make him appear worse than he is. The other is the man whose character is so invulnerable that no reproach against him can reach him. It falls pointless to the ground, or reacts upon the party from whence it came.
The first time Mr. Jefferson was elected President, the majority in his favour was ninety-two to eighty-four. As this majority was small, the faction of the Feds redoubled their abuse, and multiplied falsehood upon falsehood to throw him out at the next election. Their malignity and their lies were permitted to pass uncontradicted, and the event was, that at the next election Mr. Jefferson had a majority of one hundred and sixty-two to fourteen.
As this is an instance that invulnerable character cannot suffer damage, I leave it to Coleman, Cullen, and Rufus King, to identify the persons of the contrary description; and they may, if they please, draw lots among themselves to decide which of them shall stand foremost on the list of infamous security from damage.
When Morgan Lewis, in conversation with William Livingston, said that " De Witt Clinton, Judge Comstock, and Judge Johnson were three of the damnedest rascals that ever disgraced the counsels of a state," the venom and vulgarity of the expression were too visible to do injury, and the character of the man who said it too equivocal to obtain credit. It was not worth the trouble of contradicting. Calumny is a vice of a curious constitution. Trying to kill it keeps it alive; leave it to itself and it will die a natural death.
Chancellor Lansing's ill judged and ill written address to the public, comes precisely under the head of calumny. He insinuated in that address a charge against Governor Clinton when he (Governor Clinton) was almost three hundred miles distant from New York, and when called upon by George Clinton, jun. to explain himself, that the public might know what he meant, refused to do it. Mr. Lansing holds the office of Chancellor during good behaviour, and this is the reverse of good behaviour. The words good behaviour, which are the words of the Constitution, must have some meaning, or why are they put there? They certainly apply to the whole of a man's moral and civil character, and not merely to official character. A man may be punctual in his official character because it is his interest to be so, and yet be dishonourable and unjust in every thing else.
Mr. Lansing should have recollected that Governor Clinton's long experience in the office of Governor enabled him to give useful advice to a young beginner, and his well known integrity precludes every idea of his giving any other. If Governor Clinton gave any advice to Mr. Lansing on the subject he speaks of, Mr. Lansing ought to have felt himself obliged to him, instead of which he has turned treacherous and ungrateful.
But though men of conscious integrity, calm and philosophical, will not descend to the low expedient of prosecuting for the sake of what are called damages, there nevertheless ought to be a law for punishing calumny; and this becomes the more necessary because it often happens that the prosecutor for damages is himself the calumniator. Morgan Lewis's prosecution of Thomas Farmer for one hundred thousand dollars damages, is holding Mr. Farmer up to the public as an unjust man. Maturin Livingston is playing the same game towards Mr. Jackson, one of the editors of the Independent Republican; and the Anglo-Irish impostor, Cullen, who is secured from damage by the infamy of his character, is trying to make three thousand dollars out of Mr. Frank, one of the editors of the Public Advertiser. As the matter stands at present, a rogue has a better chance than an honest man.
There is not a man in the United States, Thomas Jefferson excepted, that has been more abused by this mean and unprincipled faction than myself; yet I have never prosecuted any of them. I have left them to welter in their own lies. But had there been a law to punish calumny and lying by penalty, and the money to be given to the poor, I would have done if. But as to damages, as I do not believe they have character enough of their own to endamage mine, I could claim none.
April 23, 1807.
ANECDOTE OF JAMES MONROE AND RUFUS KING.
The names of Monroe and King ought not to be mentioned in the same breath, but for the purpose of shewing the different characters of the two ministers.
When Hamilton Rowan effected his escape from an Irish prison and came to Paris, he met Thomas Paine in the street, and they agreed to spend the day together in the country. Mr. Paine called on Mr. Monroe to inform him of it, and that he should not dine with him on that day. On Mr. Paine mentioning the name of Hamilton Rowan, Mr. Monroe desired Mr. Paine to introduce him, which he did. Mr. Monroe received him with great cordiality and respect. Mr. Rowan then took his leave, and when they were descending the stairs to go their country walk, Mr. Monroe called Mr. Paine back, and said to him, " As Mr. Rowan has met with a great many difficulties it is most probable he may be in difficulty with respect to money; please to tell him from me that I will supply him.'y
Compare this nobleness of heart with the base conduct of Rufus King towards the comrades of Hamilton Rowan, and every man of honour and of feeling must despise and detest him.
ON THE QUESTION, WILL THERE BE WAR?
Every one asks, Will there be war? The answer to this id easy, which is, That so long as the English Government be permitted, at her own discretion, to search, capture, and condemn our vessels, controul our commerce, impress our seamen, and fire upon and plunder our national ships, as she has done, she will Not Declare War, because she will not give us the acknowledged right of making reprisals. Her plan is a monopoly of war, and she thinks to succeed by the manoeuvre of not declaring war.
The case then is altogether a question among ourselves. Shall we make war on the English Government, as the English Government has made upon us; or shall we submit, as we have done, and that with long forbearance, to the evil of having war made upon us without reprisals? This is a right statement of the case between the United States and England.
For several years past it has been the scheme of that Government to terrify us, by acts of violence, into submission to her measures, and in the insane stupidity of attempting this, she has incensed us into war. We neither fear nor care about England, otherwise than pitying the people who live under such a wretched system of government. As to navies, they have lost their terrifying powers. They can do nothing against us at land, and if they come within our waters, they will be taken the first calm that comes. They can rob us on the ocean, as robbers can do, and we can find a way to indemnify ourselves by reprisals, in more ways than one.
The British Government is not intitled, even as an enemy, to be treated as civilized enemies are treated. She is a pirate, and should be treated as a pirate. Nations do not declare war against pirates, but attack them as a natural right. All civilities shewn to the British Government, is like pearl thrown before swine. She is insensible of principle and destitute of honour. Her monarch is mad, and her ministers have caught the contagion.
The British Government, and also the nation, deceive themselves with respect to the power of navies. They suppose that ships of war can make conquests at land; that they can