Lorenzo Dow.

The dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete online

. (page 98 of 126)
Online LibraryLorenzo DowThe dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete → online text (page 98 of 126)
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If it be said M'Pherson was comparatively ob-
scure, what will be said of the exposure of
Lord Chesterfield in the same work ? He ei-
ther promised or was expected to patronise the
Dictionary, but he left the author to pine in
want for that patronage which would have
cost him nothing : but when the great book
was about to appear in the world, my lord, to
enjoy the reputation he deserved not, puifed it
off in a periodical publication. Instead, how-
ever, of a dedication, he met with his just re-
ward in a letter from the indignant lexicogra-
pher, which has always met with admiration,
as well for its independent tone as its caustic
severity. Heavens ! what pages of malicious
innuendos would that letter have furnished to
the drawer of an indictment ! But severe as
it was, it escaped prosecution, nor was Bos-
well ever called to an account for handing it
to the world. Gentlemen, I should never
cease, were I to detail to you half the
libels for which the moral and literary
worlds are so grateful, and which are found
incorporated in every biographical work of
the least interest. You must perceive the im-
mense benefit resulting to society from their
promulgation. They not only introduce us to
each other and ourselves, but they operate as
a wholesome restraint upon the vain and
wicked, and a reward to virtue and innocence.
Public opinion, Gentlemen, is a censor that
few can oppose — it furnishes the most power-
ful incentive to virtue, and the most efficacious
preventive of vice. Its approbation warms
the heart with delight — its censure sears it
to the quick. It keeps the different orders of
men in society within their proper orbits — it
regulates in this country the lowest as well as
the highest. The accused and the Judge who
tries him, are equally under its influence. He
who disregards it, at length falls a victim to

its power, and is made to submit to its de-
crees. Gentlemen, the most remarkable in-
stance of its vengeance on the person of a
Judge is taken from the quaint, but entertain-
ing life of Lord Guilford, by his brother, Roger
North. Lord Guilford was contemporary of
the detestable Jeffries, who, from the dregs of
society had been elevated by his vices, in a
vicious age, first to the Chief Justiceship of
the King's Bench, and then to the Woolsack,
as Lord Chancellor of England ! North says
he was guilty of every species of meanness
and vice. A fair reputation had no charms
for him. What men thought of him he dis-
regarded, provided he retained his post and
rendered it lucrative. To do this he took
bribes in the causes he decided — and he com-
mitted frequent murders under the sanction of
the law. In a word, he was a monster ; and
his death was worthy of him. His indiffer-
ence to public opinion led him to the indul-
gence of his brutal temper on the bench to-
wards those whose misfortunes brought them
before him for trial. One poor man in this
situation was so terrified by his power, that
upon being carried from Court, he exclaimed,
that the law had no punishment equal to the
terror inspired by that Judge's image; which
he should never forget while life lasted ! It
happened man}' years after, that Jeffries was
obliged, from certain political commotions, to
conceal himself. He entered into a porter
cellar in London, in the garb of a sailor, and
hid himself among some butts. The man
whom his ferocious scowl had so terrified
many years before, accidentally entered. As
soon as he cast his eyes on the skulking
wretch, he started as if he had seen a basilisk.
He rushed from the cellar — called in the mob,
who seized upon the Lord Chancellor, and
tore him to pieces! Awful catastrophe ! yet
worthy to be known as a lesson to others !
Happy, however, was it for poor Roger North
that he lived and wrote before this doctrine of
the Common Law, as it is now termed, was
known or practised. He was a good lawyer,
and would not have run the risk of his per-
sonal safety had he known the consequences
which might result from the vengeance of Jef-
fries' posterity.

But, Gentlemen, I can trespass on your pa-
tience no longer. You must have come by
this time to the conclusion that as every biog-
raphy contains censures on the dead, and
sometimes on the living; and as this must be
so till men cease to be censurable, the only
questions left for your determination are
these : Is the publication in question bona
fide ? Is it sufficiently well authenticated to
excuse the writer in recording the fact com-
plained of; or has the censure arisen from his
own heated and censorious imagination, and



been maliciously embodied in his work ?
These, Gentlemen, are fortunately easily an-
swered in the present case by a reference to
the object of the book itself and its execution.
What then is it ] The history of the defen-
dant's life, in the form of a journal, published
many years ago, and but lately brought here.
This idea of keeping a journal is not novel.
It seems to be in some sort a practice among
the travelling preachers of the Methodists. It
was introduced by their founder Wesley —
adopted by his brother Charles Wesley — fol-
lowed by Whitfield, (who travelled through
part of this State as well as defendant, and
part of whose journal I have seen) and by
many others whose labors in that ministry
have been great. These journals, Gentlemen,
are as well calculated to do good as their ser-
mons — perhaps they sometimes do more good.
They penetrate where the voice of the preach-
er never sounded — they excite the curiosity as
well of the idle and frivolous as of the pious ;
and who can tell what benefit may not often
result from precept illustrated by example, un-
obtrusively offered ? One word or sentiment
at a seasonable moment may kindle reflection
in a mind previously vacant, and lead to the
happiest consequences — one ray of consola-
tion from above, gilding the gloomy prospect
of the journalist, and recorded with pious
gratitude, may render lustrous the path of a
desponding reader ! One argument or even re-
mark may strike a holy conviction on the
heart of innocent faith staggering under a load
of doubt. I cannot, Gentlemen, but regard
these journals as most useful to those for
whom they are designed. They are indeed
but one mean, but I must think a most power-
ful one, adopted for the propagation of Chris-
tianity, which has undoubtedly been greatly
extended by the labors of the Methodists.
That sect is not satisfied with disseminating
its faith in its immediate neighborhood, but it
has a restless activity which leads it to the ex-
tremities of the world at every hazard and
privation. The people of the most populous
cities and the inhabitants of the borders are
equally objects of its care. Even the savage
Hottentot is not neglected. There are tens of
thousands who never heard the word of God
except from itinerant Methodist preachers.
There are tens of thousands destitute of church-
es and of pastors, like sheep without a fold and
without a shepherd, ready to be devoured. The
profoundness of this religious ignorance will
perhaps be better perceived when I mention to
you an anecdote related by Southey in his
life of Wesley. He says that a preacher in
travelling through the State of Delaware met
a man on the road with whom he entered into
conversation. In the course of it he inquired
in a manner sometimes adopted by religious

persons " if he knew Jesus Christ ?" The
man hesitated and then replied " he did not
know where he lived !*' The preacher sup-
posing that he had been misunderstood, re-
peated the question, when the man readily re-
plied, "He knew no such person in those
parts !" It can with difficulty be credited that
an adult in a country where the rudiments of
education are so universally taught ; where
there is scarcely a man, woman or child of
12 years, who cannot and does not read, should
be so ignorant as never to have heard the
name of the Saviour of mankind ! But, Gen-
tlemen, 'tis to these the Methodists go — to
these they preach : and thus they convert the
moral wilderness into a garden. The bless-
ings they confer on mankind in America are
known to us all: and their beneficial labors in
England have lately been so candidly ac-
knowledged by a writer in the Quarterly Re-
view, which is a high church publication, that
I think it my duty to read it to you. "But it
is not as we have already observed by the
numbers of the professed Methodists alone
that we must estimate the moral effect which
they have produced, and are producing among
Christians — The religious ferment first excited
by their preaching has extended far beyond
the visible bounds of their society. It has
stimulated the clergy to greater seriousness
and activity in the discharge of their func-
tions ; it has set the laity on thinking for
themselves ; it has as an incidental consequence
of the rivalry of hostile sects (roused by the
new phenomenon to the practice of new
means of popularity) forwarded to a degree
never previously contemplated, the education
and religious instruction of the lower classes ;
it has opposed among those classes a mighty
and countervailing principle to the poisonous
flood of modern philosophy. It is obvious,
even to a careless observer that religion is
more in the minds and mouths of men than
formerly ; that a greater curiosity is excited
by its discussion — and amid all the vices
which a long war and a luxurious capital, and
a renewed intercourse with foreign nations
have produced in the two extremes of society,
the majority are, on the whole, less ashamed
of, and more attentive to the outward appear-
ances of piety than they seem to have been dur-
ing the preceding century," &c. (47 number,
page 3.)

But it may be said, we acknowledge all
this, but it is little to the purpose. AVhy did
not the defendant omit this censure on his
journal ? AVhat good can it do to record this
fact ? The answer, Gentlemen, is obvious.
It was an occurrence that met him in his way
through life. It was a part of his history.
He sought it not — it ran against him — He
heard it — he believed it — he was hurt at it,



for it reflected on the ministry to which he be-
longed : and he therefore recorded il — He had
good reason to believe it true as I have shown
you, and as I could convince you, if doubt re-
mainded, had 1 the privilege of examining the
witnesses now in court. Take it then for
granted to be true, and let me in turn ask if it
was not indeed incumbent on him to notice
the conduct of one of his own persuasion as a
warning to the rest 1 If he had mentioned
Kammet and concealed the facts he himself
might have shared the public censure, and he
was obliged to mention him, or his journal
would not have contained the truth. It is a
sort of history of Methodism in those places
which he visited. He came to Charleston,
and let me now ask how could he with vera-
city have omitted to notice the divisions among
the Methodists — the breach of confidence in
the title deeds of the meeting-house — the un-
worthy life and awful reports of the death of
its ruler ?- I look on this act to be nothing
more than a matter of admonition to other
Methodists ; as a part of the discipline of their
sect. Now whatever is so cannot be regard-
ed as a libel, for in it there is no malice. This
has been ruled to be law in the case of Mary
Jerom, a Quaker, who was publicly read out
of meeting for non-conformity. — She prosecu-
ted the clerk of the meeting for a libel and he
was found guilty (for under the proof allowed
that of course must follow) but the Judges set
aside the verdict as it was no libel. Holt on
libel 230, note — King v. Hart, 2 Burn's Eccles.
Law 779) — It is indeed surprising that there
should be any doubt on a subject which the
light of the law (as its analogies are termed)
renders so manifest. If you think that the
publication of what the defendant regarded as
the truth, connected with his life, be a matter
of conscience, you cannot term it a libel. The
law respects the scruples of conscience, it
punishes not the truth ; nor can it ever regard
the exposure of vice and immorality as cen-
surable. Why, Gentlemen, a much less mo-
tive will justify the publisher of such a charge
or one much heavier. In the very law book
I have been permitted to read to yog as a part
of my client's defence, (2 Des. Rep. 483,) it is
stated that the Rev. Mr. Matthews, a defendant
in that case in his answer swore that the Rev.
Mr. Hammet in a tit of intoxication drove him
and Munds out of church. Here there was a
charge of drunkenness against Hammet (then
deceased) made on oath, reduced to writing,
published in a book which is daily used ; but
no prosecution was ever thought of I
Why was the Chancellor who published this
hook permitted to escape the fangs of the law ?
why are the lawyers who now own
quote and lend this book not prosecuted !
Because, Gentlemen, it is not malicious — be-

cause it is useful to mankind that trials should
be recorded. Now, let me demand, is biogra-
phy less useful 1 Is the religious observation
and censure of the vicious not as beneficial
as the musty report of a law suit ? Why
" there are cases."" says old Barrington, the le-
gal antiquary, " when good service may be
rendered even by libelling:"' and I may say
there are cases when good service may be
rendered to mankind by a true publication and
proper censure of the vices of public men ■
particularly those who should be eminent for
their virtues. They of all men deserve most
the execration of the public for their wicked-
ness ; and he who brings them to justice is a
benefactor. What was the situation of the
Rev. Mr. Hammet 1 a public teacher of reli-
gion. His congregation, indeed the whole
sect of Methodists had a deep interest in his
conduct and character. He was placed at
the head of his division as a burning light,
and should have illuminated the path of his
followers. — His example if bad might have
been deadly, and his people should have been
informed of it — If his life had been good, the
untrue slander would have soon fallen to the
ground, powerless and contemptible.

Gentlemen, This. is the first instance of a
prosecution for a libel on the dead that has
occurred in this country as far as I can dis-
cover; I hope it will be the last. Its very
novelty forms an argument against it — It is
unsuitable to our state of society in these
United States — We here regard the character
of the dead as a matter of history — It is a
legacy left by them to mankind as an example
or a warning — It has been and ought always,
and every where, to be so regarded. If you
deprive historians of their privilege and duty
of recording unpleasant facts and confine
them to flattering representations of human
character, you render their productions worth-
less. Vices as well as virtues must be por-
trayed. What historian ever scrupled to do
this, however exalted his own or the character
of the subject he delineates ? Even writers
of less dignity than historians — those who
furnish facts for history scruple not in this
matter. Look at the last work of the cele-
brated Doctor King, of Oxford, who in the
76th year of his age, when waiting for that
moment, so near at hand, that was to carry
him before the Judgment seat of his Creator,
passed his leisure moments in recording me-
morials of his friends and contemporaries,
who were then no more — See what he says
of Sir Robert Wnlpole. the premier of Eng-
land. "He wanted (says Dr. King in his
Anecdo' '! ) to carry a question in the

House of Commons, to which he knew there
would be great opposition, and which was
disliked by some of his own dependants. As

he was passing through the Court of Re-
quests, he met a member of the contrary party,
whose avarice he imagined would not reject a
large bribe. He took him aside and said,
" Such a question comes on this day ; give
me your vote, and here is a bank bill of
£2000, ,, which he put into his hands. The
member made this answer : " Sir Robert, you
have lately served some of my particular
friends; and when my wife was last at Court,
the king was very gracious to her, which
must have happened at your instance. I
should therefore think myself very ungrateful
(putting the bank bill into his pocket) if I were
to refuse the favor you are now pleased to
ask me." Now it may be replied to this, that
Sir Robert was a Minister of State and fair
game. This could easily be answered — but
see what the same writer says of his friend
Pope, whom he accuses of the same practice
which the defendant published, was reported
of the prosecutor's father as leading to his
death. "A man, says he, (page 20) who has
contracted the pernicious habit of drinking
drams, is conscious that he is taking in a
slow poison, and therefore he will never own
it either to his friend or his physician, though
it is visible to all his acquaintance. Pope
and I, with my Lord Orrery and Sir Harry
Bedingfield, dined with the late Earl of Bur-
lington. After the first course Pope grew
sick, and went out of the room. When din-
ner was ended and the cloth removed, my
Lord Burlington said he would go out and see
what was become of Pope. And soon after
they returned together. But Pope, who had
been casting up his dinner, looked very pale,
and complained much. My Lord asked him
if he would have some mulled wine, or a
glass of old sack, which Pope refused. I told
my Lord Burlington that he wanted a dram.
Upon which the little man expressed some re-
sentment against me, and said he would not
taste any spirits, and that he abhorred drams
as much as I did. However, T persisted, and
assured my Lord Burlington that he could not
oblige our friend more at that instant, than by
ordering a large glass of cherry brandy to be
set before him. This was done, and in less
than half an hour, while my Lord was ac-
quainting us with an affair which engaged
aur attention, Pope had sipped up all the
brandy. Pope's frame of body did not pro-
mise long life; but he certainly hastened his
death by feeding much on high seasoned dishes
and drinking spirits.' 1 ' 1 You thus see that this
charge was quite as heavy, and coming from
the quarter it did, from an intimate friend,
much heavier, than that made against the de-
ceased by the present defendant. One more
instance of the same kind from the same book
(page 23) and [ have done, though there are


| others there as strong. " The last time I
j dined with Dean Swift, which was almost
three years before he fell into this distemper,
j which totally deprived him of his understand-
| ing, I observed that he was affected by the
j wine he drank, about a pint of claret. The
J next morning, as we were walking together
in his garden, he complained much of his
head, when 1 took the liberty to tell him (for
I most sincerely loved him) that I was afraid
he drank too much wine. He was a little
startled, and answered, ' that as to his drink-
ing he had always looked on himself as a
very temperate man : for he never exceeded
the quantity which his physician had allowed
and prescribed him.' Now his physician
never drank less than two bottles of claret
after his dinner !" Pray, gentlemen, observe
that Dr. King avers he sincerely loved him ;
uut nis publication shows he loved truth
more. This, however, is favorable in com-
parison with the exhibition of SwifL's charac-
ter by one of the late reviews. He is there
accused, and as far as I can judge, most justly,
of being the murderer of two extraordinary
women, whose only offence was loving too
much so selfish a wretch ! Little did these
writers imagine that their details were crimi-
nal by the law ! and that they were subjecting
themselves and their printers to condign pun-
ishment, should information be lodged against
them for their works ! Little did they suppose,
though most enlightened men, that the law
was so far behind the human race in wisdom
as to harrow up their feelings by a public
prosecution, coupled with the epithets of false
and malicious, for acts of kindness ; — for at-
tempts to instruct and inform ! oh miserable
reward for well intentioned labor ! — wretched
recompense for benefits conferred : —

But, Gentlemen, this book of the defendant
cannot be regarded as a libel by you for an-
other and most decisive reason. It was not
published by the defendant to bring contempt
on the family of the deceased, or to excite them
to a breach of the peace. This point I have
touched on before, in order to show you that
it is what lawyers term the gist of this prose-
cution, or in other terms the soul of the action.
If this be not proved to exist the action dies.
You will recollect that I have proved to you
from the case of the deceased Earl Cowper (4
Tr. Rp. 126) that it is necessary to aver in the
Indictment that the publication was intended
to provoke the living, and it is a general rule
in pleading that whatever must be averred
must be proved. To this conclusion Chitty
comes in his Comments on Cowper's case, (see
3 Chitty Crim. law, 868) and indeed every le-
gal mind must arrive at the same result; for
if the averment be material it cannot be re-
garded as immaterial or surplusage, nor can it

be rejected. It must, therefore be proved, for
you cannot presume a material fact against a
defendant, or take that as admitted which
would be tantamount to presuming guilt at
once, and would save the necessity of any
proof on the part of the prosecution. Now
vou will observe that no proof of this fact is
even pretended to be in existence. But the
Attorney General leaves it to inference drawn
from the language of the alleged libel, whether
it was not thus intended by the defendant 1
Even however tested by that criterion the
proof is insufficient, for the family of the de-
ceased is never once mentioned, or in the re-
motest manner alluded to in the publication.
Indeed if any thing could render this plainer,
it would be what is proved to you by the
prosecutor himself, who is one of that family.
At the time of his father's death he was the
eldest of his two children, and was in his
tenth year. The first part of the charge ap-
pears by the journal to have been written 22d
March, 1803, when Hammet was alive, and
the latter just after his death, in Jan. 1804. —
Now could this defendant have felt any malice
against these children whom he never saw
and never heard of? Who can credit it 1
Could he wish to excite two helpless infants
to a breach of the peace, or to brinu; them into
contempt and hatred 1 Is he alone of all the
sons of men to be presumed to act without a
motive 1 And if not, point out, I pray, an ad-
equate motive for such a proceeding ? Gen-
tlemen, it is no where to be found, for it never
existed. These infants were unknown to him,
when he wrote his journal and when his book
was printed. He did not publish it here till
he sold a copy from necessity last January.
It was printed first in Europe, and then in
1815 in Philadelphia by others, not himself.
Have these children then any right to complain
of any injury to them ? And if they do, ought
they not to prove it to your satisfaction, before
you find the defendant guilty. He has a char-
acter to support as well as others. His is very
sacred, for he is a Minister of the Gospel of
Christ, and reputation is as dear, at least, to
him as to any man. Stain it not, I beseech
you, by an inconsiderate or unjust verdict.
Reflect well before you act, and judge of the
question submitted to you upon the only prin-
ciples which law and common sense unite in
furnishing. They exclaim — take out this
book with you — examine its contents — mark
the course of life it delineates — criticise its
principles and tendency. If you should then
discern that the writer with a malignant spirit
has converted a pretended journal of his life
into a vehicle of falsehood and calumny to
debase the innocent posterity of the deceased,
inflict on him without scruple the heaviest
penalties of the law. He should not be spared,

Gentlemen, who can without remorse expose
the ashes of the innocent dead, either to insult
the living, or to gratify his hateful instincts.
But if you should see recorded in that book
the pious labors of one who appears to have
devoted himself to the service of his God, ac-
cording to the dictates of his own conscience,
as regardless of the allurements as of the con-
tempt of the world ; if you shall observe him

Online LibraryLorenzo DowThe dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete → online text (page 98 of 126)