DIRECTOR   Ron Hades


It now remains for us to observe, that almost the only class of cases in which the government and the judges have an interest in a partial administration of justice, are alleged offences of the press. The publicity of their proceedings and the character of the times, render it next to impossible that judges should receive a bribe, or have any interest in misdecision upon ordinary cases between man and man : but neither the judge, nor any other man in power, can patiently endure a check upon his authority; and the censure of the press is the only existing check, while parliament is composed of persons irresponsible to the people. This check the judges have done, and are doing every thing in their power to destroy; and have declared, that all censure of the man in authority is a punishable offence. Lord Ellenborough has expressly laid it down, that any thing which may tend to bring such a man into disesteem, or even to hurt his feelings, is a libel; and as censure, in proportion as it is merited, cannot fail to hurt his feelings, however measuredly or calmly that censure may be pronounced, it is obvious that, in point of law, no such censure can safely be exercised. Nevertheless, in spite of legal prohibition, such censure continues to be pronounced: — as it is the last, so it is the most efficient corrective of those tendencies of power which are mischievous to the community at large, and is at present almost the only assignable cause of the comparative absence of misgovernment enjoyed by the people of England. Cases affecting the exercise of this censure, in other words, state prosecutions for libel, are, therefore, of all others the most important; and these cases are uniformly tried by special juries. With respect then to the most important class of cases debated in our courts of justice, how does the matter stand as to the chance for impartiality in the tribunal ? Certain men in power, composing the whole or part of the governing body, exasperated by censure, which is offensive in proportion as it is deserved, institute a prosecution with a view to punish the author of an alleged libel. The judge to whom they refer the question, is a person created a judge by themselves; and though not removable by them, frequently receives promotion at their hands, and at their hands has the prospect, if he pleases them, of obtaining a provision for his family or dependants. Whether the defendant consents or no, the prosecutors may insist, and do always insist, on trying their cause before a special jury. The judge created by the prosecutors, or one of his brother judges, appoints an officer of the court called a master: — the master selects the persons from among whom the special jury are to be taken; the special jury have a strong pecuniary interest in retaining the situation of special juryman — some of them derive from it their whole subsistence; and the master, without the smallest responsibility, without the possibility of so much as a question being asked, has the power of appointing, or ceasing to appoint, to this situation whomsoever he pleases.