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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37



Though some make slight of libels, yet you may see by them how the wind sits: as take a straw and throw it up into the air, you shall see by that which way the wind is, which you shall not do by casting up a stone; more solid things do net show the complection of the times so well as ballads and libels.

(Selden, 1650.)

To speak truth of the living may be a libel if censorious, because we prevent a man from regaining what he has lost—a part of his reputation; and we thereby perpetually punish him for a crime committed, which is contrary to justice. But to speak truth of the dead cannot bear that interpreta- page 10 tion, because they cannot recover what they have lost, and it may be of use to the living to hold them forth as examples.

(Lord Dillon.)

When we speak of libel we must not be misunderstood; nor when we speak of liability to the penalty of the laws. The word "libel" designates a punishable offence, and in the sense we use the speaking of that which is false; the so speaking with an evil purpose—the purpose of bringing honorable men into disrepute, and just and legitimate authority into contempt. But (hut which we speak is truth—not falsehood; it is not asserted with an evil purpose, but to avert such purposes—not to bring into contempt lawful authority, but to restore the careful exercise of authority, Constructively however our words may be charged as libel, and that for this reason—That our laws having provided for bringing every public grievance, and consequently every official malversation, to judicial issue, the case has not been contemplated or provided for of the desperate remedies which individuals may be put to in the failure of those Constitutional Remedies regarded by our forefathers as their own birthright, and as the essential condition of freedom in every state. In every declining state the law has ceased to operate against Public delinquents, but retains its terrors against those who dare to charge Them with deliquency.