HC Deb 18 March 1834 vol 22 cc410-25
The Solicitor General

, in rising to move for "a Select Committee to consider the present state of the Law of Libel, and to report their opinion to the House," said, that in bringing under the consideration of the House a subject of no common importance, he begged to have it understood at the outset, that he was not about to indulge in any fanciful theory of his own, with respect to the Law of Libel or propose any extensive alterations of the law. He was only anxious to have the question fairly brought before the House, and to have such changes as might be deemed necessary or expedient made with the advice and by the assistance of a Select Committee. The start- ling incongruities of the present Law of Libel had been long felt and acknowledged. The subject had frequently been made a matter of complaint, but never yet of inquiry, in any way which could lead to the effect of a sound practical Reform of existing errors and abuses. In the existing Law of Libel there were many matters of grievance affecting all persons connected with the public Press. All classes of his Majesty's subjects indeed were liable to be affected by the operation of this law; but such was the state of society now-a-days, that in considering this question, the House might almost exclusively direct its attention to those individuals engaged in our periodical publications. Those persons very frequently had occasion to feel the inconvenience and injustice of this law. In the first place, there was the penal nature of the law as affecting publications. A man, after a decision in the case had been made, was declared to be guilty, although he might have committed no moral offence which would justify the application of the term. Undoubtedly an author might fairly and properly be declared to be guilty if he violated the principles of fair discussion. That no man could dispute. In like manner so might the publisher who, either in his own person, or by his agents, or from want of due care, gave circulation to libellous matter. The interest of the public required that the man should be held responsible for what he published. But the law as it stood involved all parties in the guilt who might be concerned in the publication, albeit they might be perfectly unacquainted with the libellous, matter. Now this, decidedly, was a grievance, and occasionally worked great injustice. The question, however, was, how was this to be remedied? The Committee would have to inquire whether, consistently with safety to the public, and with security to private character, an alteration in the operation of the law, with respect to such parties as were not cognizant of the libellous matter, might not be made. The subject was full of difficulty, and would merit the most patient consideration, for it was evident, that if one man might sell a publication, and not be held in any way responsible for its contents, means would be afforded by which libels might easily be circulated, and all parties concerned, the author and the conscious publisher included, would escape punishment. This was a course obviously unsafe. But was there not some middle course? Might not there be some such expedient as this made use of—might they not do away with the extreme severity and unfairness of the law by declaring that the simple act of publishing, or assisting in the publication, should not constitute a crime, but that it should be further necessary that the prosecutor should bring some proof of knowledge of the publication upon the part of the accused, or of malice in some shape or form? Perhaps if some distinction of this kind were drawn, the ignorant and the innocent might be suffered to escape untouched by the law, while the original author and the conscious publisher would be still exposed to punishment. This would be one subject to which the serious consideration of the Committee might be advantageously given. Another subject of complaint was, that authors and publishers were subjected to much hardship from the want of a good definition of the Law of Libel. To restrict libel within narrow limits would be to foster and encourage the circulation of libellous matter. If, however, they made the definition very large, it would subject those connected with the periodical press to infinite inconvenience, and manifold hardships and injuries. Learned Judges had described a libel as anything that might prove injurious to the feelings of any man. This was manifestly absurd. If it were held to be correct, no author could be for a moment safe in writing or publishing. There was, accordingly, extreme difficulty in furnishing a definition of libel in the abstract, and this was a part of the subject which he thought well worthy the consideration of the Committee. The subject had indeed been often discussed out of doors, but it was only a Committee such as he proposed which could come to any safe and judicious decision on the subject. He could not be expected in the present instance to go into all the details to which, no doubt, the Committee might beneficially address themselves. There was one point, however, to which he felt it necessary to refer particularly; it was one of the most important which could possibly come under their consideration. He meant in what manner, how, and to what extent, the truth of the libel should be brought under the consideration of the Jury, whether in criminal or civil proceedings. As the law stood in criminal proceedings, the truth of the libel could not be taken into consideration at all, while, in civil cases, the allegation of truth could be brought forward, and if it were proved, was conclusive. Now, he thought there was error on both sides. In the first case, malice was implied from the libel, and certainly therefore, the consideration of truth or falsehood, as a matter of palliation, should not altogether be excluded. He was not prepared to say to what extent it would be well to admit the consideration of the truth of the libel; he did not know how far it would be advisable in criminal proceedings for attempts to destroy private character to admit the truth as a palliation, much less a justification of the libel. It was difficult to go to the extent, that every man had a right to publish anything of any body, provided only it were true. It had been suggested, that some such rule as this should be established—that if the publication charged as libellous should be proved to be true, that should be an answer to the implied malice. As the law at present stood, a libel carried with it the imputation of malice. It was vain for a defendant to prove the truth of the publication, and that he never entertained a suspicion that it contained libellous matter. It a man maliciously published that which was not true of another person, it was fit that he should be punished for so doing. In many cases it might, not be right to publish matter which was true, but it never could be justifiable to publish what was not true. Some such rule as that which he had adverted to might possibly be adopted, and it was a point worthy of inquiry. At present he was inclined to think, that if a Jury should find that a defendant had published a libel innocently—that was to say for a good purpose, or without express malice—the evidence of the truth of the publication should protect him from the implied malice. In proceeding by simple action, the consequences resulting from the present law were really absurd. If the defendant could succeed in proving the libel to be true, no matter how injurious or cruel it might be, or how malicious soever the motives might be which prompted its publication, the person libelled could obtain no redress. Was it right that a person who had sustained the most serious injury to which he could be exposed—namely, the loss of his character—should be unable to obtain redress, because the fact which had been published, and which perhaps had occurred at an early period of life, and under circumstances which palliated its apparent enormity, could be proved to be true? He would mention two circumstances which would prove the inconveniences of the existing law, as regarded both criminal proceedings and those by simple action. Not long since a person was criminally indicted for publishing a libel which alleged that a certain individual had been convicted of forgery in France. The proceedings of the French court by which the prosecutor had been condemned to the galleys were produced, and the defendant's counsel was very anxious that they should be read in evidence, but the Judge of course refused to permit that to be done. Now, this was a case in which it might have been not only excusable, but laudable to have published the fact of the prosecutor having committed forgery. Suppose the individual had been about to obtain a situation as confidential agent to a company in which want of integrity on the part of the individual holding it would have been the greatest misfortune that could happen to the proprietors, the publication of the fact of his previous misconduct would have been a useful and laudable act. Was it then, he asked, a wholesome state of law which would compel a Jury to find a verdict of guilty in such a case? At all events, it must be admitted that this was a point which ought to be inquired into; and therefore he proposed that it should become the subject of investigation by the Committee, if the House should think proper to appoint one. He would next mention a case which would strikingly exemplify the inconvenience of the Libel-law as regarded proceedings by civil action. The transaction to which he was about to refer occurred ninny years ago, but it had made a deep impression on his mind at the time, and, therefore, he had no doubt that he should be able to state the circumstances connected with it correctly. A young woman had, in early life, been seduced by a man of title; but after living with him for a certain time she became ashamed of the course of life she was pursuing, and taking the opportunity of escaping from it, she retired into a distant part of the country, where her seducer was unable to discover her. She obtained a situation, in which she conducted herself with so much propriety that she not only gained the good-will of her employers, but was appointed to a responsible situation in a public establishment. Some years after, her seducer discovered the place of her retreat; and having in vain made proposals for the renewal of their intercourse, he hit upon the expedient of depriving her of the means of subsistence, thinking that he should then succeed in his attempt to possess himself again of her person. He, therefore, published in the town where she resided the history of her early life. The consequence was, that the unfortunate woman lost the esteem of the friends whom her subsequent good conduct had procured her, and she was deprived of the appointment by means of which she obtained her livelihood. Was not this woman entitled to compensation? Yet, if she had brought an action against her persecutor, he would have justified, and she would have been turned out of court, with the aggravation to her misfortune of having incurred a useless expense. Was it fit that the law should remain in such a state? There was another point to which it was important that the attention of the Committee should be directed. Much had been said on the subject of ex-officio informations; and it must be admitted, that the power which the Law Officers of the Crown exercised on this point might be perverted to bad as well as used for good purposes. It would be for the Committee to inquire whether this power could be altogether abolished; but his own opinion was, that it would not be safe to prevent the Law Officers from having recourse to it in certain cases. It was possible, however, that some arrangement might be devised by which the subjects might be protected against any hardship in this mode of proceeding. Perhaps the course which was pursued in Ireland might be adopted in this country with advantage. In Ireland it was the practice, he understood, for the Attorney-General to call the parties before him previously to filing an information, which afforded an opportunity for explanation of the circumstances under which the publication had taken place. This practice also operated as a protection against the adoption of proceedings by the Attorney-General without due consideration. There was another course of proceeding which had been the subject of much animadversion; and he was rather surprised at that circumstance, because, as it was administered in this country, it was less objectionable than any other mode of criminal proceeding—he alluded to criminal informations granted by the Court. In such a case the defendant had this peculiar protection, that the Court would not grant the information unless the prosecutor was able to negative the truth of the libel, and thus the prosecutor was deprived of the advantage which he would obtain by proceeding by indictment. Another advantage attending this mode of proceeding was, that the Court having all the circumstances of the case before it, could interpose its advice, and probably terminate the dispute without the case proceeding to trial. No person who reflected on the subject for a moment could doubt, that it was much more easy to get a Grand Jury to return a Bill than it was to prevail upon the Court to grant an information. The Grand Jury examined only the prosecutor's witnesses, but the Court of King's Bench compelled the prosecutor to negative the truth of the libel before it would grant an information. Another point to which it was desirable the attention of the Committee should be applied, was the construction which Judges had put upon Mr. Fox's Act. That Act constituted the Jury the Judges of the law as well as of the fact, and yet, until latterly, when the practice had somewhat altered, the Judges seemed to think that they had a right to perform the duty which the law imposed upon Jurymen. In early life he had frequently heard Judges tell Juries they were bound to state that in their opinion the publications which formed the subjects of prosecution were gross and scandalous libels. If any doubt existed in the minds of those learned persons as to the construction of Mr. Fox's Act, it was advisable that it should be set at rest by some enactment. of the Legislature. There was another Act, the 60th of Geo. 3rd.—one of the Six Acts—which also required consideration. By that Act a very severe penalty was indicted upon a second offence, and as the law now stood, it was probable that the consequences of the second conviction would fall on the innocent party. He hoped that an alteration might be made upon this point without being productive of any danger. The Committee might also take into consideration another provision of the same Act, which authorized the seizing of copies of the publication in the possession of the defendant after conviction of libel. It might not, perhaps, be considered unjust to prevent the circulation of what a Jury had declared to be libellous, but it would be the duty of the Committee to suggest some plan by which the exercise of the power in question should be attended with as little danger as possible to the rights of present slate of the law as regarded property. The points to which he had adverted, were those which bore upon persons engaged in printing awl publishing, but it must not be supposed that the inconveniences of the law were all on one side. Experience proved, that, in many instances, the law was insufficient to afford protection to the public, or to private individuals. Great difficulty was at present experienced in getting at the parties who ought to be responsible for libels. The writer of the libel was unknown, and some nominal and fictitious party was put forward to bear the responsibility. This was a grievance, not only to the party libelled and the public, but also to the respectable part of the Press—to those persons who intended honestly and honourably to discharge the duties of the profession to which they belonged. If, by inadvertence, one of the latter description of persons should admit libellous matter into his publication, he must abide the consequences; but, in the other case, the publishers of the libels enjoyed impunity. Some plan might, perhaps, be devised to provide greater security for the punishment of persons engaged in the habitual publication of libels. At present the person who was proceeded against was usually either abroad or in prison. It might not be an easy nuttier to place this part of time Libel-law on a more equitable footing, consistently with the rights of all parties concerned, and with that freedom of discussion for good purposes which no suggestion of his should ever tend to abridge; but he trusted, that the Committee would attempt to effect such a desirable object. He wished it to be understood that he was anxious to leave to those who were usefully carrying on the profession of writing, printing, and publishing, the utmost freedom of discussion, from which the country had derived such great benefit, whilst he would deprive another class of the power of covertly libelling their fellow-subjects without being responsible for their proceedings. He would briefly advert to another point connected with the present state of the Law of Libel—namely, the Stamp-duty on publications. The parties who evaded the law regarding Stamps, found a ready means of circulating libels, and he was bound to say, that libellous matter, at present, was principally found in unstamped publications. It would be for the Committee to consider whether the present state of the law as regarded stamps on publications did not tend to encourage licentiousness, and whether it would not be proper to put all parties on a level. Although the notice which he had given was limited to the Law of Libel, it was obvious, that it would be necessary for the Committee to take into consideration the state of the law respecting slander, than, which it was scarcely possible to conceive anything more absurd. In looking over the catalogue of words which were slanderous, no reason appeared for their insertion, except that they had been decided to be slanderous. Why should an affirmation be slanderous in the City of London, and not slanderous out of the city? Yet such was the state of the law. He had been anxious not to detain the House longer than was necessary, and, therefore, he had very briefly adverted to several points which he thought would properly become the subjects of investigation before the Committee, from whose labours he sincerely thought that much good would result, not only to those who were engaged in printing and publishing, but to the public at large, for whilst he was desirous of protecting the utmost freedom of discussion within the limits in which it could be safely permitted, he was at the same time desirous of repressing that most odious system of persons obtaining their subsistence by the injury and pain which they inflicted on others. Whatever might be said as to the necessity of allowing the utmost latitude for the discussion of political affairs, there was no Member of that House who did not look with abhorrence on the system of private libels. At present it was always imputed to a man who proceeded against a libeller by a simple action that he did so for the sake of obtaining compensation, and, therefore, persons were forced, as it were, to proceed criminally, and then they laboured under this disadvantage—that they might come out of Court with verdicts in their favour, but with all the world believing the libels which they had prosecuted. He concluded by moving that "a Committee be appointed to consider the present state of the Law as regards Libel and Slander."

Mr. O'Connell

did not rise to object to the Motion, on the contrary, he was glad that this most important subject was to be brought under the consideration of a Committee for deliberate consideration. If the Motion he had made, and the Bill he had introduced upon the subject, and which had been for some time before the House, had acted in any degree (he did not mean to say it did) as a stimulus to the Government, he should certainly feel proud that he had made an effort so far successful as to induce Ministers to take up a subject of such deep and important interest. From the very clear and able statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, one thing, at least, was fully and satisfactorily proved—that nothing could be more frightful than the present Law of Libel. It was, indeed, a most atrocious law, whether they regarded its fiscal arrangements, the judicial interpretation put upon Statutes, or the want of definition of what constituted a libel. It was a late that was almost unendurable, and, indeed, that would not be endurable at all if it were not that its very atrocity prevented men froth having recourse to it for redress. No man thought of having recourse to the Libel-law in vindication of his character, and thus it was, that the very severity of the law enabled persons to violate it with the most perfect impunity, and the dissemination of libels became a source of uninterrupted emolument. That was the necessary result of such a law. The hon. Gentleman had fully and very accurately stated the defects of the law, but he had held out but little consolation in the hope of improvement. The mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to be more anxious for the repression of slander (an object sufficiently desirable in itself) than for the establishment of free discussion. That appeared to be the leading idea in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind; and he (Mr. O'Connell) regretted, that he had not given more attention to the important question of establishing the right of free discussion. It was of the last importance that the conduct of public servants should be open to fair and impartial examination, and this he thought should have occupied the principal portion of the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention. The publication of falsehood should be punished, as should also the publication of truth in some cases, though very rarely, The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the prosecution of persons engaged in publication; but he had forgotten that these persons—to news venders he (Mr. O'Connell) alluded, for it was obvious that to this class of persons the hon. Member referred—were seldom prosecuted. Recourse was generally had to an action for damages, and one farthing damages generally carried from 100l. to 200l. costs. For that evil the hon. and learned Gentleman had suggested no remedy. There was no remedy, in fact, unless they regulated the actions brought; and the only way of doing this effectually was to lay it down as a general principle, that for the prevention of frivolous prosecutions, they would inflict the costs on the party instituting them. This appeared to him to be the only means at their command for the solution of the difficulty of discouraging frivolous and improper actions, and, at the same time, of protecting the honest against the circulation of libels. The hon. and learned Gentleman had addressed himself to that definition of the subject—the Law of Libel—and he (Mr. O'Connell) must express his regret at the mode in which it had been treated by the hon. and learned Gentleman. They had an admission that nothing was more vague than the definition given at present, viz., that anything was a libel that one person might write which might hurt the feelings of anybody else. Nothing could be more vague; so absurd was it, indeed, that it was astonishing it was the law. True or false, if a publication hurt a man's feelings, it was a libel. Here we were, living in civilized society, yet crime amongst us was so uncertain in its nature, as to be comprised in these general terms. We had a definition of an offence, that definition having, in fact, very little meaning in it; or rather, he might say, that it meant everything, because there was nothing precise in it that would give ns time least knowledge of the law. Considered in the abstract, such a state of the law was surprising. But what remedy did the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest? None at all. He did not hear the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest a word to bring libels within the category of crime. Everything else in the way of offence was distinct and defined; then why not apply the principle to libel? He would tell them why. This law had been an instrument in the hands of the Courts of Law from the time of the Star Chamber to the present moment, which they never failed to use against any one who had the audacity to attack men at the head of affairs, and against whom no other means existed of arraying public opinion. There was, he apprehended, no better elucidation of the fact to be given than that. The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to Fox's Bill. It was manifestly the intention of the Legislature, in passing that Bill, that the Judges should not interpose their opinion as to what constituted libel at all. Yet he had heard a Judge go this length—"You have a right to decide; you decide on oath; I am sworn as well as you; I have a right to give my opinion, and I tell you on my oath that this is a libel." Fox's Act had enabled the Judges to take this course. He mentioned this fact to show them how unsafe it was to leave the Libel-law in the hands or the Judges; and how necessary it was for the Legislature to confine the Libel-law within definite bounds. He would have punished as a libel anything that could be properly so considered; but as to public matters, why not leave them to be discussed as angrily as the party pleased, and as violently as they pleased? People ought to be allowed to attack anything in the abstract, and ought to be restricted only when the attack was personal. He had been thirty years in his profession, and he now declared, that he did not know what libel was. But what slander was, he thought he knew well enough—that had a definition. Slander was anything which charged any crime whatever. Why not make the Law of Libel depend on a similar principle? Why not define it to be anything which, being published, charged a man with crime? Adding, as in a case of slander, anything which charged a man in trade, or other employment, with incapacity, that was calculated to injure him therein, a similar principle being applied to persons in civil, naval, or military employment. The hon. and learned Gentleman considered it would be monstrous to allow the truth to be a justification in every case; was it not equally monstrous for the truth to be no justification in any case? He would not recommend that it should be a complete vindication in every case, but let its proof have its due weight with the Jury. In the case to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded, it would prove a serious aggravation of the crime, He (Mr. O'Connell) decidedly objected to criminal informations. By this process they tried the facts by the affidavits of the parties interested, which was a direct encouragement to perjury. The Judge, instead of making the rule absolute on the trial, might just as well at once proceed to pass sentence; because the only question that remained for the Jury to try was, simply whether the publication had ever taken place. It was next to impossible that Juries could acquit in cases of criminal information, the event being decided as to the publication being libellous. Such a system was replete with the greatest and contradictory to the first principles on which jurisprudence should be founded. As to ex-officio informations in the present day, with the multiplication of Sessions to sittings in Term, they were quite unnecessary. Proceedings, when indispensable, ought to be instituted before Grand Jurors, and the Crown-lawyers should be deprived of the power which ex-officios gave them, of torturing whom they pleased. A reference had been made to the practice in Ireland. That practice, however, could not be said to exist. An attempt had been made by one Attorney-General to introduce it, but without success. The citing of parties before such an authority, was considered to be a hint to them that they were to go to make terms with the Attorney-General; when, if they were sufficiently abject in their apologies and general deportment, they stood some chance of escaping any further prosecution. He repeated, that the only way of putting a stop to frivolous and vexatious actions, was by allowing the costs to be given against the plaintiffs in certain cases. He hoped, that the Committee which was to be appointed would not be composed of individuals who all thought in one way on the subject.

Sir Francis Vincent

would not then go at any length into the subject, but there were one or two points to which he felt it right to advert. One of the greatest evils of the present law was its uncertainty, and that was the defect first to be remedied. On the subject of ex-officio informations, he could not at all agree with the hon. and learned Solicitor-General. He certainly did not regard them as interwoven with the Constitution. Sir M. Hale distinctly said, that they were bad, and must fall; and the Committee, of which Lord Somers was a member, had used similar language. The present arrangement with respect to costs was extremely bad; and he decidedly thought the plan proposed in the Bill of the hon. and learned member for Dublin worthy of the best consideration. He was ready to give the hon. and learned Solicitor-General every praise for taking up the subject, and he trusted and believed the result of the Committee would be such a plan for the improvement of the law as would give general satisfaction.

Sir William Horne

approved of the spirit in which his hon. and learned friend (the Solicitor-General) had taken up the question, which he regarded as one of the utmost importance. The present state of the law was most unsatisfactory, but he would, on that occasion, content himself with expressing his readiness to render any assistance he could in the proposed inquiry.

Mr. Pryme

trusted the Solicitor-General would reconsider his opinions with respect to criminal informations. They were in his view a most unsatisfactory mode of proceeding. To prove that, he would mention a case. A magistrate had been charged with punishing with undue and, indeed, cruel severity, three little children for stealing vegetables. Well, the fact was, the Magistrate had punished but two little children, and therefore, he made an affidavit that the charge was untrue, and obtained a criminal information, although the charge was substantially true.

Mr. Sheil

thought, that the hon. and learned Solicitor-General having stated what were his views and opinions, might as well have brought in a Bill at once, instead of delaying a measure for the redress of the existing grievances, by referring the matter to a Committee. He would be glad to know what, in the opinion of the hon. and learned gentleman, constituted libel in a public case? It was well known that in State prosecutions the truth of an alleged libel could not be given in evidence. In cases of private libel, it was right and just that the Jury should have the privilege of determining whether the matter was maliciously intended, and to decide upon the motive; but in public cases, he (Mr. Sheil) was of opinion, that truth should, in every instance, be considered a complete justification. The conduct of Ministers, if canvassed only as to their public proceedings, and avoiding everything of a private nature, should be open to the fullest animadversion, and in all remarks concerning them the truth ought to be admitted in justification. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General had not given any sufficient or satisfactory reason why the form of ex-officio informations should still be adhered to. It made too great a distinction between cases of public and private libel to allow the Attorney-General to file his informations at once. In private cases there was some substitute for the power of a Grand Jury, but continuing the right of filing ex-officio informations, prevented such substitute in cases of public libel.

Lord Althorp

said, that his hon. and learned friend (the Solicitor-General) had not stated any fixed opinion as to any intended alteration of the law. He had called the attention of the House to the defects of the law generally without pointing out particular remedies. He had admitted that there was no definition of libel, and marked it as one defect in the law, but without pointing out what the definition should be. All he had insisted on was, that on this, as well as on many other points, they ought to go into an inquiry. As to ex-officio informations, he (Lord Althorp) owned, that he was not partial to them; but at the same time he thought the Government should not be without the power of filing them. The hon. and learned member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) seemed to think that these informations provided no substitute for the intervention of a Grand Jury. He thought they did. In the first place, it was not at all probable that any ex-officio information would be laid, except in cases in which a Grand Jury would have no difficulty in finding a Bill if it were laid before them; though for many reasons it might, in some cases, be advisable to lay the information rather than go before a Grand Jury with a Bill. Then it should be considered that no such information could be laid except on the responsibility of the advisers of the Crown, and that in itself was a substitute for the intervention of a Grand Jury. He would not admit, that this was so good a substitute, speaking generally, as that in the case of criminal informations for private libels; but still, though not partial to its use, he repeated, that, he thought it was a power which the Crown ought not to be deprived of. With respect to cases of libel against public men for their public conduct, he should say, that in almost every case the truth of the allegation ought to be allowed to be given in evidence, but still he could cite an instance in which such a course would not meet the justice of the case. In the last war a writer, at a time when an expedition was in preparation, stated with reference to the transports used for conveying troops in a former expedition, that they were not seaworthy. That was the fact; yet, when the circumstances were considered that another expedition was in preparation, and that the object of the writer was to excite a mutiny in the troops about to be sent out, no one could doubt that allowing the party to prove the former fact would be no good justification. This would show, that truth in every case even of public libel would not be a good justification, though he admitted that in general it ought to be allowed in public cases. The great difficulty was to say what was a public and what a private libel. He knew, that it was actionable to say, that a man was unfit for his station or business in private life; but he did not think it ought to be a libel, to say that a public man was not fit for the office he held, yet he knew, as the law now stood, the contrary opinion was held. In the case which had been mentioned by an hon. Member on a former evening, respecting Lord Hardwicke, of whom it had been said, that he was rather famous for breeding cattle and sheep, than for the law,—now he should not consider any such charge if brought against him a libel at all. This showed the difficulty, as the law stood, of saying what was libel and what was not, and showed the necessity of an inquiry on the subject, and in the propriety of that inquiry he fully concurred.

Motion agreed to, and the Committee appointed.