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criminal justice. Why should any advantage be given to the prosecutor 3
over the defendant in any case? The interest of the public is not, that the .
defendant should be convicted, but that he should be convicted if guilty ;
not that he should be hampered in his desence, but rather that he should 3
be aided in making the truth appear ;-not that the balance should be inclined in favour of the accusation, but that it should be held perfectly even between the two sides. The privilege in question tends, nay it is expressly
intended, to facilitate the conviction, without regard to the guilt of the e defendant ; to obstruct him in his defence, in order that the truth may not
appear ; to make the scales preponderate in the prosecutor's favour, that equal justice may not be done. It presupposes the defendant's guilt, and seeks to ensure his conviction. It is a remnant of the old and exploded laws,
which prevented the defendant's witnesses from being examined upon oath, e and, in Scotland at least, refused him the benefit of any defence wholly in
consistent with or beside the charge, as that he was a hundred miles off at the time of committing the offence.
The bill brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Brougham proceeds upon the principles now developed. It first takes away entirely the power # of Gling ex officio informations in cases of libel and seditious words; it next
abolishes the power of reply, unless where the defendant has adduced evidenee—thus placing Crown prosecutions upon the same footing with all others; it further prevents any such trial from being by Special Jury, unless both parties consent-thus placing the offence in question upon the same fooling with all crimes of the highest nature, viz. treason and felony, and with all misdemeanors, the proceedings for which do not come from the Crown office. The bill proceeds to take away the distinction between written and spoken slander; and to provide that the latter may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. In the next place, it allows the defendant, in all prosecutions for libel, or seditious or defamatory words, to give the truth of the statement in evidence, after due notice to the prosecutor; but it provides that the Jury may, notwithstanding of such proof, find the defendant guilty; and that the court, in passing sentence, may consider such proof either in aggravation or in mitigation, and may also consider the giving notice, without offering evidence, in aggravation. The next provision is for enabling the defendant to prove that the publication was withont his privity, and the Jury to convict notwithstanding such evidence. It further takes away the distinction between words impuling an indictable offence, and words generally defamatory, declaring both to be actionable, and thus removing also the distinction in this respect between written and spoken slander. Lastly, it prohibits the truth of the statement from being pleaded in justification to an action, whether for libel or for words; but enables the defendant, upon due notice to the plaintiff, to give it in evidence under the general issue, and the Jury to take such evidence into their consideration, but to find a verdict for the plaintiff notwithstanding, if they shall think fit. Such are the provisions of this bill, omitting some malters of technical arrangement; and if there be any truth in the opinions maintained above, it comes within the descriplion given by the preamble, and may be deemed a measure “ for the more effeclually securing the Liberty of the Press, which hath been the the chief safeguard of the Constitution of these Realms, and for the belter preventing of abuses in exercising the said liberty, and in using the privilege of public discussion, which, of undoubted right, belongeth to the subject.
We have now brought this inquiry to a close; and we cannot dismiss it, without remarking, that after all the arguments which have been offered, there is one short method of reason much more likely to prove successful against any change in the law, how deeply soever il may have its foundations in sound reason. It is a change-an innovation—and that is enough. And yet changes, innovations in the law, are matters of daily occurrence, nor ever objected to when they operate against the liberty of the press, against the ancient rights of the people. In 1799 a new law was passed, lo oblige all printers to furnish evidence against themselves. In 1808 a power was, for the first time, given to the Crown lawyers, of sending to prison, or holding to bail, any person against whom an information was filed. In 1807, by a more comprehensive and far wiser innovation, the whole system of civil proceedings in Scotland was altered by one bill; and in 1815, Trial by Jury in civil cases was for the first time introduced, with a new tribunal erected for the purpose.
In 1813, the ancient constitution of the Court of Chancery was subverted, and a new court and a new great officer of justice called into existence. The history of the Revenue is the story of inroads upon the Trial by Jury, of new powers conferred upon creatures of the Crown, of innovations upon the old common-law rights of the subject, and the established practice of criminal jurisprudence. The political annals of the last twenty years have been filled with novel acts of legislation, tampering with the rights of the people, and changing the order of proceedings in courts of justice. Even where no temporary or party motive has prevailed, the judges and law-officers of the Crown have not been idle in the invention of crimes; and one statule, passed in 1803, created somewhere about a dozen new felonies, while it converted a felony into a misdemeanor. In such a state of things, to set up a cry about innovation, and meet solid arguments in favour of a measure, with the observation that it is a change of the former law, seems a method of proceeding hardly consistent with good faith, It would be far better to state it at once as an objection, that the proposed amendment of the law is in favour of the rights of the subject; tends to promote free discussion, and to check public abuses; and all this without vesting any patronage in the government, by the creation of new places, or conferring additional powers upon the Judges, by extending their discretion. This objection would be as intelligible, and much more consistent; and it would certainly be an honest one. In the meantime, we are content to leave the reasonings contained in these pages to the decision of the enlightened cultivators of juridical science, whe will never be scared by a mere clamour; and we take leave of the subject for the present, in confident expectation, that, sooner or later, these reasonings will produce a practical effect.*
* There is no topic on which the Edinburgh Review has advocated sounder and more enlightened opinions than the Liberty of the Press. Ai different periods, when it was assailed by the enemies of free discussion, and subjected to the harassing persecution of an oppressive government,
its rights were fearlessly
and powerfully upheld by the writers in that Journal. See Vol xviii. p. 98. Vol. xxii. p. 72. Vol. xxxvii. p. 110.
WEST INDIA SLAVERY.
VINDICATION OF THE NEGRO CHARACTER.*
That the various bad qualities which have been ascribed to the negro character, often with great justice, belong rather to their habits than their nature, and are derived either from the low state of civilisation in which the whole race al present is placed, or from the manifold hardships of their unnatural situation in the colonies, appears a proposition not only consistent with the analogy of all the other races of mankind, but immediately deducible from well-established facts. The travellers who have visited the interior of Africa, where the influence of the slave-trade is much less felt than upon the West Coast, assure us, that the natural dispositions of the negro race are mild, gentle, and amiable in an extraordinary degree : that, far from wanting ingenuity, they have made no contemptible progress in the more refined arts; and have even united into political societies of great extent and complicated structure, notwithstanding the grievous obstacles which are thrown in the way of their civilisation, by their remote situation, and their want of water-carriage; that their disposition to voluntary and continued exertions of body and mind, their capacity of industry, the great promoter of all human improvement, is not inferior to the same principle in other tribes in similar situations : in a word, that they have the same propensity to improve both their condition, their faculties, and their virtues, which forms so prominent a feature of the human character over all the rest of the world. To detail the facts upon which these opinions are founded, would lead us beyond the bounds prescribed to this discussion; but we refer our readers for a brief statement of them, collected from the accounts of travellers who support the slave-trade and slave system, and given in their own words, to the first Appendix of the tract formerly reviewed, entitled, ** A Concise Stalement of the Question regarding the Abolition of the SlaveTrade."'t Abundant proofs of the propositions just now advanced will be found in that Appendix, which is indeed only a transcript of various unquestionable authority. But to those who are aware of the value of analogical arguments in a question of this nature, the demonstration may be made still more simple and satisfactory. Let them compare the general circumstances of any European pation whatever,-and, if they please, the individual character, both for talents and virtues, of its inhabitants, at two distant epochs of its bistory; and let them acknowledge at once how remarkable is the contrast in each particular point. Our readers need not be told that, little inore than a century ago, Russia was covered with hordes of barbarians; that cheating, drinking, brutal lust, and the most ferocious excesses of rage, were as well known, and as little blamed, among the better classes of the nobles who frequented the Czar's court, as the more polished and mitigated forms of the same vices are at this day in St. Petersburg; that literature had dever once appeared among its inhabitants in a form to be recognised; and
• Examen de l'Esclavage en général, ct particulièrement de l'Esclavage des Nègres dans les Colonies Françaises de l'Amérique. Par V. D. C. Ancien Avocat et Colon de St. Domingue. Vol. vi. p. 326. July, 1805.
+ Vol. ir.
that you might travel over tracts of several days' journey, without meeting a man, even among the higher classes, whose mind contained the materials of one moment's rational conversation. Although the various circumstances of external improvement will certainly not disguise, even at this day, and among the individuals of the first classes, the “ vestigia ruris;" yet no one can presume to dispute that the stuff of which Russians are made has been greatly and fundamentally ameliorated; that their capacities are rapidly unfolding, and their virtues improving, as their habils have been changed, and their communication with the rest of mankind extended. A century ago, it would have been just as miraculous to read a tolerable Russian composition, or find a society of Boyars where a rational person could spend his time with satisfaction, as it would be, at this day, to find the same phenomena at Houssa or Tombuctoo; and speculators who argue about races
, and despise the effect of circumstances, would have had the same right to decide upon the fate of all the Russias, from an inspection of the Calmuc skull, as they now have to condemn all Africa to everlasting barbarism, from the heads, the colour, and the wool of its inhabitants. If it be still maintained, that even in the end there will always be a sensible difference between the negro and the European, we demand what reason there is to suppose that this disparity will be greater than the difference between the Sclavonian and Gothic nations. Admitting every thing that can be urged in favour of the distinction of races, no one has yet denied, that all the families of mankind are capable of great improvement. And though, after all, some tribes should remain inferior to others, it would be ridiculous lo deduce from thence either an argument against the possibility of greatly civilising even the most untoward generation, or an inference against the importance even of the least considerable advances which it may be capable of making towards perfection. That the progress of any race of men, or of the whole species, in the various branches of virtue and power, must be infinite, was never, we believe, maintained by reasoners who deserved the name of philosophers. That this progress is in its nature indefinite; in other words, that no limit can be assigned to its extent or acceleration, is a proposition suggested by a thousand direct considerations, as well as obvious analogies, and deserves the name of a general fact, rather than a plausible speculation.
Without pretending to credit all that has been related of the improvements made by the Negroes in the different countries which they have been fated to inhabit, we need only cast our eyes upon a few unquestionable facts
, and compare their achievements in several situations, to be convinced that the general proposition applies to them as well as to the rest of mankind. The superiority of a negro in the interior of Africa, to one on the Slave Coast, is a matter of fact. The enemies of the slave-trade reasonably impute the degeneracy of the maritime tribes to that baneful commerce. Its friends have, on the other hand, deduced from thence an argument against the negro character, which, say they, is not improved by intercourse with civilised nations. But the fact is admitted. To see it exemplified, we have only to consult the travels of Mr. Park, edited by Bryan
Edwards; and the same observation has been found, by Mr. Barrow, applicable to the tribes south of the line, who increase in civilisation as you leave the Slave Coast
. Compare the accounts given by these travellers, of the skill, the industry, the excellent moral qualities of the Africans in lloussa, Tombuctoo, ele., With the pictures that have been drawn of the same race
, living in all the *
barbarity which the supply of our slave ships requires; you will be convinced that the negro is as much improved by a change of circumstances as the white. The state of slavery is in none of its modifications favourable
lo improvement; yet, compare the Creole negro with the imported slave, ! and you will find that even the most debasing, the most brutifying form of
servitude, the pitiless drudgery of the field and whip, though it must neces
sarily eradicate most of the moral qualities of the African, has not prevented I him from profiting in his intellectual culties by the intercourse of more
civilised men. The events of the war in St. Domingo read us a lesson on this point, which it would be happy if we could be permitted to forget ;-
negroes organising immense armies; laying plans of campaigns and sieges, · which, if not scientific, have at least been to a certain degree successful
against the finest European troops; arranging forms of government, and even proceeding some length in executing the most difficult of human enterprises; entering into commercial relations with foreigners, and conceiving The idea of contracting alliances ; acquiring something like a maritime force; and, at any rale, navigating vessels in the tropical seas, with as much skill
and foresight as that complicated operation requires. See our Review of · M.Kinnon's Tour, No. VIII.)
This is certainly a spectacle which ought to teach us the effects of circumstances in developing the human faculties, and to prescribe bounds to that presumptuous arrogance, which would confine to one race the characteristic privilege of the species. We have, indeed, the proof in our losses. We have torn those men from their country, on the vain and wicked pretence that their nature is radically inferior to our own. We have treated them so as to stunt the natural growth of their virtues and their reason. Our crimes have been partly successful; for the West Indian, like all other slaves, has copied some of the tyrant's vices. But their ingenuity has flourished apace, even under all disadvantages; and the negro species is already so much improved, that while we madly continue to despise them, and, from our conlempt, to justify a repetition of the crimes which have transplanted them, the real question in many a thinking man's mind is, how long they will suffer us to exist in the New World. All the arguments in the brains of a thousand metaphysicians will never explain away these facts. They may tell us, that brule force and adaptation to the climate are the only faculties which the negroes of the West Indies possess. Something more than this must concur to form and subsist armies, and to distribute civil powers in a slate. And the negroes, who in Africa cannot count ten, and bequeath the same portion of arithmetic to their children, must have improved, both individually and as a species, before they can use the mariner's compass, and riz square-sailed vessels, and cultivate whole districts of cotton for their own profit in the Caribbee islands. The very ordinary circumstance of the improvement visible in the negroes brought over to Europe as domestics, and their striking superiority to such of their countrymen as still remain, either in Africa or the West Indies, may perhaps illustrate the doctrine now maintained, even to those whom the more general views of the fact have failed of convincing. It is certainly not assuming loo much, to suppose that there is a wider difference between one of those black servants and a native of the Slave Coast, than between a London chairman and a subject of the Irish kings who flourished a few centuries ago. Nor is there any doubt that the fidelity, courage, and other good qualities generally remarkable in froed negroes, distinguish them as much from the slaves, of