Abbildungen der Seite

faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right, as fast as they can conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition—the manumission of Christian slaves ; the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoké insurrections, to the endangering of governinent, and producing general confusion. I have, therefore, no doubt that this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers to the whim of a few erika, and dismiss their petition."

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the divan came to this resolution—" That the doctrine, that the plundering and euslaving the Christians is unjust, is at best problematical : but that it is the interest of this state to continue the practice is clear; therefore, let the petition be rejected.” And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the parliament of England for abolishing the slave trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion :

HISTORICUS. March 23, 1790.

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Power of this Court. It may receive and promulgate accusations of all kinds, against all persons and characters among the citizens of the state, and even against all inferior courts; and may judge, sentence, and condemn to ipfamy, not only private individuals, but public bodies, &c. with or without inquiry or hearing, at the court's discretion.

[ocr errors]

In whose Favour, or for whose Emolument this Court

is established. In favour of about one citizen in five hundred, who, by education, or practice in scribbling, has acquired a tolerable style as to grammar and construction, so as to bear printing; or who is possessed of a press and a few types. This five hundredth part of the citizens have the privilege of accusing and abusing the other four hundred and ninety-nine parts at their pleasure; or they may hire out their pens and press to others, for that purpose.

Pructice of this Court. It is not governed by any of the rules of the com. mon courts of law. The accused is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accusation before it is publicly made; nor is the name of the accuser made known to him; nor has he an opportunity of confronting the witnesses against him; for they are kept in the dark, as in the Spanish court of inquisition. Nor is there any petty jury of his peers sworn to try the truth of the charges. The proceedings are also sometimes so rapid, that an honest good citizen may find himself suddenly and unexpectedly accused, and in the same morning judged and condemned, and sentence pronounced against him, that he is a rogue and a villain. Yet if an officer of this court receives the slightest check for misconduct in this his office, he claims immediately the rights of a free citizen by the constitution, and demands to know his accuser, to confront the witnesses, and to have a fair trial by a jury of

his peers.

Foundation of its Authority. - It is said to be founded on an article in the state constitution, which establishes the liberty of the press-a liberty which every Pennsylvanian would fight and die for ; though few of us, I believe, have distinct ideas of its nature and extent. It seems, indeed, somewhat like the liberty of the press, that felons have, by the common law of England, before conviction—that is, to be either pressed to death or hanged. If, by the liberty of the press, were understood merely the liberty of discussivg the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please; but if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law; and shall cheerfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others, for the privilege of not being abused myself.

By whom this Court is commissioned or constituted.

It is not by any commission from the supreme executive council, who might previously judge of the abilities, integrity, knowledge, &c, of the persons to be appointed to this great trust, of deciding upon the characters and good fame of the citizens ; for this court is above that council, and may accuse, judge, and condemn it at pleasure; nor is it hereditary, as is the court of dernier resort in the peerage of England. But any man who can procure pen, ink, and paper, with a press, a few types, and a huge pair of blacking balls, may commissionate himself, and his court is immediately established in the plenary possession and exercise of its rights. For if you make the least complaint of the judge's conduct, he daubs his blacking balls in your face wherever he meets you; and besides tearing your private character to splinters, marks you out for the odium of the public, as an enemy to the liberty of the press.

Of the natural Support of this Court. Its support is founded in the depravity of such ininds as have not been mended by religion, nor improved by good education.

There is a lust in man, no charm can tame,
Of loudly publishing his neighbour's shanie.


On eagles' wings immortal scandals fly,
While virtuous actions are but born, and die.

Dryden. Whoever feels pain in hearing a good character of his neighbour, will feel a pleasure in the reverse; and of those who, despairing to rise to distinction by their virtues, are happy if others can be depressed to a level with themselves, there are a number sufficient in every great town to maintain one of these courts by their subscription. A shrewd observer once said, that in walking the streets of a slippery morning, one might see where the good-natured people lived, by the ashes thrown on the ice before the doors : probably he would have formed a dif. ferent conjecture of the temper of those whom he might find engaged in such subscriptions.

of the Checks proper to be established against the

Abuses of Power in those Courts.

Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal constitution; and the necessity of checks, in all other parts of good government, has been so clearly and learn. edly explained ; I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also : but I have been at a loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one, that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it ; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty of which they have

« ZurückWeiter »