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As <his is a trial, which, on account of its bearing and consequences, no less than the singularity of the case, and the respectability of the parties, cannot fail t$ interest the members of the profession in general, and even the public at large, we think it right to offer some comments on the merits of the case, abstracted from the matter of libel, upon which alone the jury have pronounced their verdict. By what fatality or influence it has happened, we will not take upon us to say: but it is a certain fact, ascertained by comparing the accounts of the trial afterwards, perused, with what wv heard in court, that the details published in almost all the newspapers have been garbled and disfigured, invariably with a bias to the side of the prosecutors, and to the disadvantage of the defendant. The preceding narrative, unavoidably extracted from those impure sources, possesses of course, in a considerable degree, the same want of fidelity: and it is partly to remedy this detect that we think it necessary to add the following comments. From both the public may be able to form nearly a correct idea of the case.
The court was numerously and genteelly attended. The counsel on both sides took a laudable course, by avoiding every thing that could tend to irritation, personality, or recrimination; and the learned judge, who presided, seemed to be particularly careful not to admit into discussion matters that were in the smallest degree irrelevant. The case naturally divided itself into two parts—the libellous matter, and the rights of interdiction, &c. claimed by the College. The former was properly the only question before the court, since the prosecutors had thought proper to abandon the pretensions with which, on the latter grounds, they had commenced their proceedings. In the course of the trial, however, both questions were artfully blended as it seemed to suit their purposes. The principles of their conduct to the defendant, in our opinion, amounted to this: "It is true we dare not, by virtue of our assumed power of enforcing interdiction alone, push you any farther; but if you refuse to yield to our illegal pretensions in that way, we shall continue to harass you on the subject of the libel.—Take down Doctor from your door, cease to practise medicine, and do in every thing else as we bid you, and the proceedings for the libel may be allowed to drop." Such are the conditions which they seemed to offer, but which it was not to be expected any man of spirit should comply with. Having gone so far, they were under a kind of necessity, and a very awkward ouc it was, of proceeding. In bringing a matter of this nature for solemn discussion before the Court of King's Bench, the learned prosecutors appear to us to resemble school-boys, complaining to their master that a boy from another school had
pelted them with instead of snow-balls. This was
certainly the impression which the affair seemed to produce on the public. We arc not defending, or even palliating, the libellous part of the defendant's conduct. The circumstances which led to that irritation of mind in his client, that produced the expressions and letters .Which were deemed libellous, have been so justly and eloquently depicted by Mr. Nolan, in his defence, that scarcely any thing farther can be said on the subject. In accounting for them, it does certainly appear that the original matter of aggravation proceeded from the College. The first act of the defendant was an act of respectful explanation. Dr. Campbell, in answer to the admonition or first summons of the College, wrote the letter which is published in the proceedings, stating respectfully his reasons for declining to become a member of the College; observing, among other things, that he practised medical surgery, what he deemed his authority for so doing, (his army rights,) and concluding thus: " I beg only rules to direct my steps from making inroads on the rights of the London College." Surely nothing could have been more candid or more resp'.ctful. One should have thought, that in common politeness, the next step of the College would have beeu to direct their Registrar to answer this letter, pointing out to Dr. Campbell, for his government, the strict line which, in their apprehension, separates the practice of physic from medical surgery. This, perhaps, they felt to be a hard task. Surely they would not have us understand by surgery the mere performing of operations! Such an acceptation they must be sensible must, in these days, be considered ridiculous. Yet, to judge from their conduct to Dr. Campbell, they could scarcely mean any thing else. Thus they Mould impose on him the dilemma of confining himself to pharmacy and mere operative surgery, or, by becoming a licentiate of the College, rejecting both; i. e. abandoning the greatest part of his practice. So situated, he could not but choose to disobey them by refusing both. They, on the other hand, without deigning to give him an explanation of what they meant by surgery, determined to enforce their demand. Here was the great scumblingblock,—the cause of all the subsequent wrangling^ and of the disgrace which the College may have brought, or may yet bring upon themsel ves, in the course of the proceedings. Up to this period, it appeared that Dr. Campbell shewed nothing but the utmost deference and respect in his demeanour towards the College.
But what became of Dr. Campbell's respectful letter? In summonsing practitioners before them, the College are obliged to admit of satisfactory reasons for not answering their summonses. Why did they not inform the defendant whether the reasons he had assigned were deemed satisfactory or not? and if not, wherein they were deficient? Public bodies, we know, do not like explanations. It was determined not to notice this letter; but was it therefore necessary to lose all remembrance of it? The suppression of this letter, which formed a principal part of the cause of that irritation that afterwards occasioned the libellous expressions of the defendant, would have also appeared to aggravate the offence. But we cannot believe it could have been with the view of suppressing a knowledge of that communication that the date of the information first filed went no farther back than the date of this letter. The information was afterwards indeed, within two days of the trial, amended j but though the dates were corrected, it was not, we believe, thought necessary to make
any mention of this letter. Dr. Hervey, (not, we believe, a lineal descendant of the immortal Hervey,) through whose hands all communications to and from the College pass, and by whom they are registered, had made no entry of this letter in the book of annals, knew nothing, could recollect nothing of it, although it could not in any other way get to the board. Dr. Pitcairn, one of the censors, after brushing up his memory, did make shift to recollect that there was some letter of the kind read at the board, but of which he could not remember the contents. (If we are not misinformed, there were persons in court ready to prove the delivery of the letter.) It is somewhat remarkable, that this respectful letter should have proved so nauseating to the College, while the libellous and filthy one was displayed with so much alacrity and satisfaction in the court.
The letter being read to Dr. Pitcairn by Mr. Nolan, he acknowledged it was the same, which, as censor, he had read at the board, and that it was written in respectful terms; but said, the reasons it contained were hot deemed satisfactory by the College. The true question, however, seems to be, were the reasons such as ought to have been deemed satisfactory by the College. Were they good and valid reasons? For in no case are the College supposed to possess an arbitrary power of judging. They are bound to observe certain rules of reason and justice in all their decisions; but here they artfully evaded the particular merits of the letter, by resorting to general terms. Is this the conduct of a great and learned body, or of contemptible sophists?
Their case, it must be confessed, was difficult, as being
Erobably new. From the dozen, whom, according to r. Hervey, they had interdicted in the course of the last year, they had probably experienced noopposition. Those were, perhaps, raw hands, who, frightened by the very sound of interdiction, had fled their practice, or consented to pay 70/. for a licence, after having been at the trouble and expense of proving residence at some unversity: if they happened previously to belong to the College of Surgeons, they must pay that body 50/. or 60/. to be disfranchised, before they could become licentiates of the College of Physicians, making in all 120 /. This must have been a source of tolerable emo. lument to the College; and indeed, as a body, proba* bly oneof the best sources they have remaining.—What then, must have been their indignation, on finding an instance of refractoriness, which might operate as a mischievous example to future generations f
In this emergency, much dependence was probably placed by the College on the experience of the registrar and the beadle. In this particular line of public duty they had latterly, it would appear, a good deal of practice. The lasUment ioned gentleman was particularly felicitous, and, according to his own account from the witness box, rather facetious in the performance of his functions. His memory also, in respect to dates, as well as to the nature of his dispatches (whether sealed or otherwise) appears to be of the most convenient kind. His imagination—but hold, we had almost forgot, or rather, we can never forget the doleful expression of this hero's countenance, on hearing the letter read in evidence, which threatened, in case of another visit, the cropping of his ears. He instinctively raised his hands to his neck, casting a supplicating look on the president, who, in return, seemed to eye him with commiseration and a promissory look of protection. We are persuaded, however, that Mr. Millar, the janitor of the College of Physicians, and the legitimate descendant, if this earth contains any, of the immortal Sancho Pan-r za, will not, in future, feel quite so bold in performing his part of the important function of interdiction.
It was under the irritation produced by the repeated misconduct of the janitor, and other emissaries of the College, at Dr. Campbell's house, by the silence of the Cqllege respecting his letter, and their continued summonses, by his belief that a certain faction in the Borough had been plotting his ruin, and by several undue means which we could detail, that, tortured by the most agonising emotions, he went to the College of Physicians, and acted the indiscreet part which has been stated on the trial; and, in a similar frame of mind, afterwards sent the offensive letters to the individual members of the College. We shall not say that any undue contrivances were used in or out of the College