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wisdom devise and establish relative to the freedom of the press? In America, for instance, should the press be absolutely free, and in what does this freedom consist?
To the first branch of this enquiry, the answer should be unequivocally in the affirmative. First, because the nature of the case strongly evinces the utility of the measure; secondly, because the American constitutions, without revepue, have declared and established the principle. If the first assertion requires the developement of evidence, it is to be drawn from the consideration of intentional rectitude in the public servants, under a well organized constitution. is the character of integrity to be open and candid; but villainy conceals itself in a fog of mysteries, and anathematizes the profanity of him who dares to approach it. The legislature wbich has done its duty, invites inquiry and delights in a full and complete examination of all its measures; but legislative corruption stands barricadoed bebind the breastwork of its own iniquity, and trembles at the approach of the bold and virtuous citizen, who is solicitous to upravel its scbemes, and to hold up to public execration the injustice of its designs and arrangements. This injustice generates in the public mind a desire to investigate and to develope the mischievous views of the public agents, and a rancorous war is tbus erected between the common and official citizen. To destroy a contest so ruinous to the state, and to the best interests of the community, the public agents, legislative, executive and judiciary, should be willing to submit to the severest scrutiny, and to call up the public opinion as a censor upon all their actions, as a final judge, relative to the faithful performance of all their political duties. The establishment of such an arrangement, instead of being productive of mischief to the state, would be the surest presage of its welfare, and the indubitable guarantee of equal rights and social harmony. Besides, it is to be observed, that the uprestrained liberty of the press, in this respect, would in its ultimate tendency, be certain death to every species of polical error. To perpetuate these errors would be the sure means of exciting discord, and lead to consequences fatal to the community at large. Man is not of so restless a nature as to be disposed to complain where there is no substantial ground of complaint, nor would his unqualified remarks, through the channel of the press, produce the least effect in diminishing a well founded attachment to equitable and constitutional laws.
But the constituted authorities will demand, in what does the freedom of the press consist? To give a clear and explicit solution to this supposed difficulty, it will be necessary to řecur to the fundamental principles of justice, and to the rights of every free citizen. No man, whose political theory is founded in justice, can contend for the establishment of any principle, which, in its operation, is at war with this primary arrangement. If justice be the immortal priuciple of all social regulation, it must extend its influence to every publication of the press, as powerfully as to any other great conccro of the state. Justice, reciprocal and eternal justice, is the principle which should mark the operation of every legitimate government, and it would be an absurdity to suppose, that any man in his senses, who is attached to republican institutions, would controvert this idea, or contend for any abandonment whatever. It is absurd to contend for the establishment of universal justice, and at the same time, to maintain, that the press had a right to do injustice. No such liberty as this can come within the theoretic plans of the political philosopher; for it would be a solecism in language, and an absurdity in principle, to assert, that any man had a right to do wrong. If this absurdity be contemplated in its nature, and applied in its influence, it will give a solution to the difficulties that are connected with an examinatiou of the liberty of the press.
The right of publication, in the conductor of a press, is a right, perfectly analogous to the rights of every other citizen of the state; it is a right, which must be exercised in perfect conformity to the principle of truth; it is a right, which must regard, in its operation, the character and happiness of every citizen; it is a right, which has for its object, the welfare of the society at large, and whose methods of procedure, must be founded in a clear view of those moral relations which constitute the highest excellence of the human character. If recurrence be made to the rights of every free citizen, a further developement of the difficulties of this subject will be clearly presented to view.
Is there any individual, who has a right to abandon truth, or to recede from the principal of veracity, in any case whatsoever? No. Is there any individual, who has a'right to indulge in calumny and detraction, in slander and falsehood, against the character of his fellow citizen? No. Is every individual citizen constantly bound by truth and the general principles of justice? Such most indubitably are
bis obligations, and these in no case whatever is he permitted to abandon. The moment he has done it, he has violated his own duty, and plunged a moral dagger into the bosom of society. This is the condition of each citizen of the state, and is equally applicable to the conductors of every printing press.
But you contend, that the press ought to be free, unfettered and unrestrained ? Yes, clearly, the press ought to be free; but freedom consists in the exercise of rights, and these rights must be exercised in perfect conformity to the immortal principle of Justice. When this principle is abandoned, it is the exercise of a wrong, and not a right: and as no man can have a right to do wrong, he is, therefore, precluded from the performance of every action injurious to the best interests of the state. To contend, that a free citizen has a right to say or to print what he pleases, is to contend that he has a right to do wrong; that is, that calumpy, falsehood, and lies, come within the idea of an absolute and unrestrained liberty : this however is notoriously false. Liberty is a thing founded in principle; it has for its basis the rule of - equal and reciprocal rights; a desideratum, therefore, from right, is not the enjoyment of an equitable freedom; it is an act of violence against the moral felicity of the state. Upon this view of the subject then, in what does the liberty of the press consist? It consists in publishing every thing consistent with truth and justice; provided, it does not exceed these boundaries; its liberty in all other respects should be absolutely unqualified and unrestrained; and this is exactly the liberty, which, in the spirit of justice, ought to be enjoyed by every moral agent in nature. If the press speak the language of truth, although that language may be unpleasant to some, it should nevertheless remain undisturbed. If it lets out lies and calumnies, it becomes like the individual who commits such moral violence, a proper object of attack and prosecution. The press should never be prevented from declaring and publishing the boldest truths; whether these truths relate to the humble citizen, or to the man that is high in office. The government, that guards its official agents by any other law than that which guards the rights of every other citizen, is a government, in this respect destitute of the features of Republicanism, and unjust in its character and operations. In America, there is no officer of goveroment, no legislative body, wbich ought to be exempted from the severest scrutiny, and the plainest and boldest publications relative to all their measures, and all their con
duct. In matters of speculation and opinion, the press should be perfectly unrestrained ; in matters of fact, its expressions should remain faithful to the reality and truth of the case.
The people are the only legitimate political sovereign upon the face of the earth ; but it is somewhat remarkable, that governments, which seem to exhibit such an affectionate anxiety, relative to the establishment of laws, which go to restrain the liberty of the press, and guard individual agents against attack, should have abandoned, in so many instances, the character and happiness of this legitimate sovereigu. Whole vollies of lies, calumny and abuse, may be let outupon the people with the greatest safety; no complaints are made in these cases; no prosecutions are instituted; no outcries are made against the freedom of the press; but the moment an attack is made in another quarter, the moment a tyrant, or an official agent of any government that is corrupt, or bas abandoned his duty, becomes an object of inquiry and recrimination, the whole world is in arms against the dangerous tendency of establishing a principle, which protects the press against outrage and violence. This is a strange perversion of every thing just and correct, and shews, that there is somewhere, some lurking poison; something rotten in the state of Denmark! Citizens of America *! you are solicited to examine with great Republican attention, any law which has been, or hereafter may be, passed relative to the liberty of the press.
If the press be shackled, your liberties are in danger; if the press be silenced, your freedom is gone, it is annihilated for ever, and you will bury in one common grave, THE HOPE AND HAPPINESS OF THE HUMAN RACE.
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN A DOCTOR OF, MEDICINE AND A UNITARIAN PREACHER, BOTH OF DUNDEE.
(Continued from page 554.)
DOCTOR IN LONDON, TO THE PRIEST IN DUNDEE,
Till the time of Copernicus, to use the words of the celebated author, “ all men believed, that the earth was immoveable, and * And of the Isle of Albion.
that the sun turned round it,” but every school boy, now knows, the contrary *
In all that experience and observation can bring forward, we cannot perceive, nor have any knowledge of spiritual or supernatural power. In the more early ages of the world, nature seems to have been worshipped, and as allegorical signs were introduced, the ignorant soon began to confound her operations, with the things which were thus allegorised. The source from which Jupiter and Apollo, were formed, was soon forgotten-religious systems were multiplied, and out of the vestiges of Pagan mythology, a being has been created, which no man has ever been able to describe, an incomprehensible something, that remains, even at this day, in as great obscurity, as when the tale of its existence was first invented. Your language, when you allude to the Deity, whom you suppose endowed with passions, is so familiar, that one would imagine, you were so well versed in the subject, that to offer a doubt, regarding his personal existence, would be to call in question the reality of our senses :---deep and serious consideration, however, has long ago removed from my mind, all conjectures upon this head, and the only Deity, which I can recognize in the works of the universe, is motion, that perpetual power, that has always existed, which is inseparable from the varied and neverceasing modifications of matter. To personify this principle has ever been a favourite trick with the founders of every religion, and none have been more contemptible in their formation of a Deity, than the vain and foolish Christians. Ask them to describe what he is, and they at once give you accounts full of absurdity and contradietion; in fact, they know no more of a Deity than what their heated imaginations create, and if pressed upon the subject, their temper becomes ruffled--in a peevish tone they tell you that he is altogether incomprehensible, a quantity, which entirely renders his existence incapable of being understood. Conviction is always the effect of evidence and demonstration, and if you candidly consider the subject, aloof from the prejudices of early tuition, you will perhaps admit, that we have no satisfacfactory data to go upon, to lead us to those conclusions which you have drawn. If you however think otherwise, and possess the knowledge of unfolding to mankind the real qualities of a Deity, so as to demonstrate that such a Being exists, I will readily concede to you, some of those points, for which you have been contending; but this being, must be one, such as the followers of Mahomet and Christ adore (for they both worship the same deity) possessing all the passions peculiar to organization, yet strange as it is immaterial and incomprehensible! Common sense and
* The ancient and enlightened Pythagora; is bere bowever excepted; for amidst his speculations on the heavenly bodies there exists proof in his writings that he considered the sun the centre of a great system.