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pass the threshold of a decent house, or move in the sphere of respectable society, in any corner of the British dominions? Hitherto, when a reputation was to be murdered, a public character to be vilified, or a private individual to be calumniated, the worthy task has been usually intrusted to some mercenary bravo, who did the business, and was paid for the job. None but a bribed and hungry scribbler could be found willing to stab in secret the fame of an honourable man, as bands of professed ruffians have been hired by Italian noblemen to plunge the midnight dagger into the heart of a rival. But gentlemen! we write the word and almost shudder at what we have written-gentlemen should fight, and not assassinate; they should enter the lists openly with a political antagonist, not wound him in the back, when he suspects no danger, and cannot see from what quarter the blow is meditated or struck. When an unfortunate garretteer is impelled by absolute want to the perpetration of such cowardly offences, we must despise and reprobate, but are almost disposed to pity and forgive him ; when the starving wretch, who knows that no human eloquence is so powerful as the breath of scandal, to attract readers and purchasers ; that no luminous arrangement of periods, or connected chain of arguments, is so much relished, as a mere farrago of calumny and defamation ;-when such a miserable being has recourse to this contemptible, but efficient, method of procuring bread, we think within ourselves, “He is a pitiful scoundrel, but he must live ; and who can say what he might himself be compelled to write, or do, by the pressure of hunger ?” Or, at worst, the author is discovered: he is beneath the notice of a man of honour; he cannot pay with his

purse the penalty inflicted upon him by the law; he goes to prison, and is forgotten. Or when some foolish blunderer pours forth his dirty stream of stupid scurrility, in the hope of being mistaken for a man of wit and spirit, our indignation subsides into derision; we cannot be very angry while we are tempted to laugh. We might change the names, and almost exclaim with Pope,

Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill-
I wish'd the man a dinner and sat still.

Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret-
I never answer'd ;-I was not in debt.
If want provok’d, or madness made them pript,

I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the mint. But what is to become of the peace of society, and the interests of virtue, if men of talent, men of education, men of a respectable station in life, men who are marks and examples to the middling and lower classes, are to perform the part of political bravoes, and literary assassins? Shall it be even urged in extenuation of the guilt, that the libeller was a man of rank, a man of fortune, a man in authority; that the writer of the anonymous calumny was admitted to the best society, and connected with the highest families in the kingdom? We affirm, on the contrary, without any fear of contradiction, that whenever such is the case the crime is centupled, the mischief is aggravated a thousand fold. Whenever, too, such vile and debasing offices shall come to be generally considered as compatible with the feelings of an amiable man, or the honour of a gentleman, we may say farewell at once to all the decencies and all the sanctities of life, to the quiet security of our homes and our fire-sides, to the safe, unspotted reputation of our wives or our mothers, our sisters or our daughters; to the proudest among all our national distinctions, the moral glory of our country.

Thank Heaven, our state is not yet so desperate and so deplorable. The flood of slander and defamation has indeed been let loose; the grossest inroads have been made upon the tranquillity of private life; the common rules of longestablished weight, and undisputed utility, the very laws, which bind man to man, and hold societies together in harmony and order, have been infringed and outraged ; the sacred name of woman is no longer a talisman against indecent attacks and calumnious falsehoods; and they, whose acknowledged rank might entitle them to the appellation of gentlemen, have been found ministering in these accursed temples, dedicated to the service of the worst and meanest iniquities ; to the violation of domestic happiness; to the extinction of all generous emotions ; to the murder of private character and female reputation. But the moral sense of the nation is not as yet deadened or benumbed; the electric thrill of horror still runs through the hearts of Englishmen; the blood boils, and the cheek burns with indignation ; the involuntary glow of detestation and disgust still rises in every honourable breast, at the very mention of these unmanly and abominable practices.

But who shall say how long this sensitive abhorrence, this virtuous indignation, will continue; if the public eye and ear must be more and more familiarized with the present degrading and demoralizing system? If the vulgar appetite for scandal and calumny is to be perpetually indulged, who shall say, how voracious, how insatiable, and how undiscriminating it will become ? If the most shameless productions of the press are to be countenanced and encouraged ; if the most atrocious libels are to be written by men easy in their circumstances, and ennobled by their rank; and received not only with mercy, but with favour, who shall say how soon the whole frame of society may be turned into one festering and bloated mass of treachery and suspicion, distrust and discord ?

Yet we need not anticipate misfortunes. Alas, “ sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Already we have ample reason to deprecate the operations of the system, and to lament its consequences. We shall not recur farther than is necessary to circumstances, which are yet fresh in the public recollection ; nor open with wanton carelessness the wounds of the widow and the orphan; but we feel it incumbent upon us to rest our assertions upon notorious facts, which must hereafter form a melancholy page in the history of the country; and although we regret that such things should ever be, yet since they have been, it is the part of a wise man to draw even from them, that instruction which they are capable of affording.

The first fact, then, is that newspapers have been established in Scotland-for we leave a certain English journal out of the question for the present-in which the most flagitious attacks have been made upon private characterattacks not casual and insulated, but connected together in a regular, and to all appearance preconcerted, series-attacks of which the one systematic object seems to have been, to butcher the peace and the reputation of every opponent, until the office of the newspaper should become neither more nor less than a political slaughter-house.

The second fact is, that these papers have been indirectly patronised by men in high official situations; and assisted by contributors who moved in the first circles of polished society. But here we would guard against misapprehension. We accuse the Lord Advocate of Scotland merely of indiscretion. We do say, however, that it was a culpable imprudence on his part to subscribe a hundred pounds to the establishment of a public journal, and afterwards pay no regard to the manner in which that journal was conducted. If he resigned every thing in the shape of “ proprietorship, responsibility and control," he ought not to have been accessory at all to the offences of a paper over which he had no influence; he ought not to have united himself in the slightest degree with a gang of scribblers, who were at once working upon his money, and independent of his authority. Either he should not have supported the paper by his subscription, or he should have seen from time to time, whether, or not, the paper was worthy of his support. By following another course, we see how narrowly he has escaped-if indeed he has escaped at all-compromising his own character as a private gentleman, and the dignity of that high and honourable situation which he holds under the Crown.' Of his intentions we shall only say, that we believe them to have been good; and that we shall observe in this instance, as in all others, one invariable rule, of rather judging of the motive by what we see of the action, than of the action, by what we suppose of the motive.

The third fact is, that the prevalence of this system has been already attended by the natural concomitants, bitter and disastrous quarrels--trials at law--angry debates in parliament, and throughout the kingdom-triumphs for the enemies of the government-private war and honourable murder.

We shall pass over in silence the paltry squabbles between editors and proprietors, as we have taken up the question solely upon public grounds. Our object is to consider generally the state of the press, conscious that there is nothing whatever upon which the character and happiness of a free country more essentially depends.

The fourth fact is, that the system still prevails, that its abettors are still at work ; and that an attempt has been lately made to establish in London - The Beacon" newspaper, already reeking with the blood of one of its supporters.

But, if these facts are undeniable, if such has been already the operation of the system, what must be, and and what will be, the inevitable consequences if it is to be ramified and extended, to flow, in a larger stream, or diverge into new channels ?

In the first place, no man will be safe in his own house. He will have something worse to fear than the dagger of the midnight murderer. He will stand on his own hearth with the uncomfortable feeling that it is no longer secure and sacred from intrusion and violation. He will look on his wife or sister with the harrowing thought that their every word and motion is to be scrutinized, exposed, and misrepresented. He will be oppressed with the distressing certainty, that his most secret actions, his most intimate enjoyments, may be served up as a dish for the public table, and made ample matter for the amusement of vulgar curiosity. He will hardly like to place confidence in his connexions or his friends; and instead of pouring out his soul in free and unrestrained communications, may fancy that he sees in each of the old associates around him a spy and a reporter.

But this state of things, it is quite evident, could never last. Such a system must be destroyed either in one way or the other. They, who pursue it, must be put down either by the law or by the pistol. Hence, therefore, as a second consequence, the country must be filled either with prosecutions or with duels. And if gentlemen are to write longer for such publications, satisfaction must be again and again demanded; and more blood must be shed. When the same method of proceeding was practised in magazines upon a smaller scale, it caused the death of one amiable

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