TRIAL OF THE REV. JAMES LONG, OF THE CHURCH MISSONARY SOCIETY FOR LIBEL-1861
Queen V. Long
Calcutta Supreme Court
Date: 19th, 20th and 24th July, 1861
Friday, the 19th instant, having been fixed for the trial of the case of the Queen V. Long, for publication of certain libels in the celebrated pamphlet called Nil Durpan, the Court was crowded with Europeans of every class. Civilians of every grade from Secretaries of Government and Special Commissioners, down to the “unfledged eagles” of the Service, were there; a number of the missionaries too, to countenance their confrere in his “hour of trial”; and such numbers of the merchants, bankers, and traders of all classes, with here and there a stray Indigo Planter, that the remark was made that there could be nobody left to carry on the business of Calcutta. It was universally felt that not only the Reverend James Long, but the Government of Bengal, was on its trial; and the leaders on both sides were watching a struggle of fierce political action under the rigid forms of the Law. The late Secretary for Bengal was on the bench, almost beside a leading member of the Landholders’ Association, at the Bar table the son of the Lieutenant Governor was opposite to the protesting member of the Indigo Commission; whilst Mr. Montresor, the late Special Commissioner to Nuddea, was surrounded by men of the Indigo Deputation, whose statements he had so broadly discredited; and the crowd was diversified by the stout figures of numbers of influential Natives. The presiding Judge was Sir M. L. Wells who entered the Court at 11 o’clock and commenced what we have already called the first of the Slate Trials of India under the Empire.
The Rev. James Long was indicted for the publication of various libels in a pamphlet known as the Nil Durpan.
Mr. Peterson and Mr. Cowie prosecuted. Mr. Eglinton and Mr. Newmarch appeared for the defendant.
On the special jury being sworn, an objection was raised by Mr. Eglinton, on the ground that only seventeen out of twenty-four special jurymen had been summoned. Under his Lordship’s direction the summoning officer was examined, and deposed that the absent jurymen were away from Calcutta, in England and elsewhere.
On the Jury being sworn, Mr. R. L. Eglinton, one of the Jury, was challenged by the Counsel for the prosecution, but ultimately objection was withdrawn, and the jury stood as follows:—
|S. Apcar, Esq., Foreman.|
|R. L. Eglinton, Esq.||J. Mott, Esq.|
|A. G. Avdall,||E. Palmer, Esq.|
|W. S. Atkinson, Esq.||Manickjee Rustomjee, Esq.|
|W. B. Bailey, Esq.||J. W. Robert, Esq.|
|A. Boyle,||J. Stevenson, Esq.|
|R. Blechynden, Esq.||C Weskins, Esq.|
|E. Creighton, Esq.||L. A. D’Souza, Esq.|
Mr. Peterson said it was unnecessary for him to tell them that the case was one of great importance, not alone to the particular individual whom he represented, but as affecting the whole Christian community at large. It would be as idle as unnecessary for him to attempt to blind them (the Jury) as to the real prosecutor in this case. His client was Mr. Walter Brett, the Editor and Managing Proprietor of the Englishman Press, and the prosecution had been instituted at the desire and with the entire concurrence of the Landholders’ Association of British India and the general body of Indigo Planters. He made these preliminary remaks in order to clear up all doubt which might otherwise exist as to who was responsible for the present prosecution. This admission would save his learned friends on the other side some trouble in enquiring into the motive for instituting these proceedings. With these remarks, he would proceed to comment upon the case generally. Sorry was he to stand in his present position of prosecutor aginst the defendant, who, whatever his views or position might be, was nevertheless in holy orders; and no matter to what denomination of religion a man belonged, he (the learned Counsel) naturally felt some compunction and regret at having to prosecute in a case where the defendant was in holy orders.
But when that reverend defendant was the propagator of slander of a most dangerous kind, when he used his position and means for the purpose of vilifying and slandering his fellowmen without cause, then any feelings of compunction or regret vanished, and the performance of a public duty due to society at large, gave way to all minor or private feelings in the matter. Slander was a most dangerous thing to use at any time, or under any circumstances, but more especially when no reason or cause existed. A man, or any set of men, were not to be held up to public odium without some good and sufficient cause for so doing. Any man is at liberty to think as he likes, or exercise his own judgement, provided that he does not enter into personalities, or attack individuals or particular bodies of men. It was perfectly idle to attempt to deny that a great struggle has for years existed, and was still going on between the official and non-official community in India. The different phases of society in India have been, and are daily canvassed by the press of this country, and what sensible man objected to a free and open discussion by means of the press? But, the defendant had adopted no such course of expressing his views; he had gone secretly to work. At the last sessions, the printer Manuel was indicted and pleaded guilty, disclosing the name of his principal, namely, the Rev. James Long. He must first put to them what constituted libel. The man, who publishes slanderous matter calculated to defame and vilify another, must be presumed to have intended to do that which the publication is calculated to bring about, and the onus of proof lay with the defendant that he did not do so. It might be said, why was not a civil action brought instead of a criminal:—his answer was, that a civil action would not lie, because no particular individual was libelled, and hence the present criminal indictment. He regretted for many reasons that the reverend defendant was debarred from an opportunity of justifying his conduct in a civil action.
The Act 32 of George III has not been extended to this country, but powers were held by the Judge the same as in England. He thought the malice spoke for itself. Possibly the defendant would say that he was only the translator, and was not responsible for the opinion expressed in the pamphlet, but he would be prepared to shew that no Native translated that pamphlet; the errors and mis-interpretations were too gross and serious to admit of any doubt on that point. One word he would particularly call their attention to; Soorki was interpreted to mean brickdust-makers, whereas it must have been known to any native to mean spear-men. This was only one of many similar errors. It shewed that no Native could have been the translator. His Lordship would direct them in respect to the case, and the real question for their consideration would be libel or no libel. The connection of the defendant with the publication would be proved beyond doubt; the printer would prove having received the MSS. from the defendant and the corrections in the press-proof were in his hand-writing.
It was difficult to believe that these pamphlets were circulated through the highest office of the Government with a view of mending the morals of the Natives and he mentioned this circumstance only to show the way in which the whole thing had been carried out. It proved that the defendant was no mere fanatic, or one holding strong opinions upon any particular subject, and who might have erred by expressing too pointedly those opinions; nothing of the kind. This pamphlet was not written with a view of setting wrong right, or of mending the existing state of morals; it was written with a view of setting race against race, the European against the Native. The contents of this pamphlet disclosed a state of things which are a shame and disgrace to any Government in the world, and he maintained that the Government of the country were on their trial, and that the Advocate General ought more properly to have been in his position as public prosecutor.
Now for the pamphlet itself. It was in the form of a drama, that style of literary production being most congenial to the Native mind, and consequently most likely to draw the attention which was required. Some dramas, particularly the French, dealt with caricature and other harmless productions at which no sensible man would think of questioning. But when arson, forgery, fornications, and other cardinal vices, form the subject of the drama, then he maintained the caricature dropped to the ground. He maintained that the press or the drama were at liberty to hold up or demonstrate any particular state of society by way of caricature. Where would our great satirists be unless this liberty were recognized; and what sensible man would object? None. Now for the author’s preface. He would wish the Court to follow him and correct, if it considered necessary, any comments he might make. He called on the Jury who had no interest whatever on the production of indigo, to consider well the evidence which would be disclosed and in accordance with the oaths which they had taken to render strict and impartial justice. He would direct their attention specially with reference to the first count in the indictment to the following portion of the preface to this pamphlet:—
“The editors of two daily newspapers are filling their columns with your praises; and whatever other people may think, you never enjoy pleasure from it, since you know fully the reason of their so doing. What a surprising power of attraction silver has! The detestable Judas gave the great Preacher of the Christian religion, Jesus, into the hands of odious Pilate for the sake of thirty rupees; what wonder then, if the proprietors of two newspapers, becoming enslaved by the hope of gaining one thousand rupees, throw the poor helpless people of this land into the terrible grasp of your mouths.”
Having in view the publisher and his calling, could there be anything more offensive from a teacher of Christianity to a Christian mind than the comparison with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Saviour? And leaving the Christian element out of view, could anything be more offensive to all honourable feeling than the comparison of the sale of political freedom with the sale by the traitor for those thirty pieces of silver? Could anything be, to men of high feeling and sensitive honor, more likely to lead to parties taking the law into their own hands, when they were thus maligned as selling for so paltry a bribe, the cause of the weak, and singing the praises of those Indigo Planters, who, if this preface were anything but a libel, had cast an everlasting stain on the English name. But he must pass to the recital from the pamphlet, of the more prominent passages in which his clients were libelled by wholesale under the second count. Although he would occupy their time no longer than was necessary with the repulsive details of the charges brought directly, or insinuated, against the whole body of Indigo Planters, he must necessarily refer to numerous passages upon the various points included in the indictment.
The learned Counsel then read from the Nil Durpan itself a large number of passages in which, as he showed, most serious and disgraceful, libels were perpetrated against a particular class, who, as he would prove by the evidence he should lay before them, could be none other in intention of their reverend traducer than the Indigo planters. He read numerous passages, appealed not to their feeling, but to their reason on the libellous matters which he thus read to them, charging upon the Indigo planters every variety of crime held most abhorred amongst all civilised men, and which he had already detailed to them. The avowed object of the Nil Durpan was to describe certain states of society. Was it nothing with such an avowed object to represent, under the fictitious names of Wood and Rose, the whole body of planters? The story of the book commenced with the picture of a once happy valley,—happy in the production of rice, grain, pulse, seeds, oil, and fish. The women, simple-minded and happy in their allegiance to their husbands; the ryots happy; no evil to complain of; the ryots’ daughters virtuous and therefore happy. But alas, a change came over the spirit of their dream; the Indigo monster arrives. In the short period of three years, indebtedness, starvation, neglected fields, imprisonment, forgery, attempted violation, murder, sudden death, and suicide came on the scene. The virtue of the Bengalee, his women, and his ryots, remain unchanged until the closing scene, when death, in some shape or another, puts an end to all their sufferings. But how is this brought about; by swarms of Mahratta horsemen? By hordes of Tartars? By locusts? By fire or flood, or some like calamity? No, but by means of the introduction of the Indigo monsters, represented by the dramatis personae, Wood and Rose.
Bengalee dewans, once pure, are converted into demons; ameens, once harmless, become tigers; magistrates, supposed to be just, are converted into oppressors. The planter’s wife!—and here he felt that he was no longer the mere Counsel—he was the Englihman pursuing with a righteous indignation the libeller who had dared to cast the deepest stain upon the fair fame of his country women, whom before the world he had assiduously represented as the means of satisfying the lust of the Justice, for the purpose of making him the tool of the planter. The ever-virtuous sweetmeat seller, Podi Moyrani, who had fallen a victim to the older Sahib, who has no longer the power to continue his vile practices, is made the tool for satisfying the lust of the chota (younger) sahib; but even she has some reluctance, bad as she is, but neither of the sahibs have any. The virtuous ryots all die or are killed off under the oppression of triumphant vice, and the sole cause of all these misfortunes is the Indigo Planter! If such be indeed the state of society, where was the Government that was powerless alike to restrain such vice, or to see the effects of such pictures of it? If such be not the state of society, what right had any mischief-maker, under any guise—religious, fanatic, political, partizan, or what they would—to make it appear to be so?
The learned Counsel thought he had cited sufficient passages from the drama, to show its general purport; he would not detain the Jury much longer, but must make a few remarks on the leading points of the case, though the libel spoke for itself. He would ask the Jury if they believed that the state of society among the European Indigo planters was such as represented in that drama. If such was not the state of society, then what right, he would ask, had a libellous mischief-maker to give utterance to calumnious slanders, and thereby set caste against caste, and race against race. But if the jury did believe that such was actually the state of society, their belief must be grounded on good and unimpeachable evidence, they must further be satisfied that the intention of the publisher was an honest one, and if they did believe so, they would also have to believe the unfounded suggestions of a person of authority, and cast to the winds that which had been written 40 years ago by Lord William Bentinck, Lord Metcalfe, and many other eminent men to an entirely different effect. It was of no use to blink the question, they would believe the Indigo planters as a body, guilty of arson, rape, torturing and forcibly expelling and driving ryots and their families from their home. They would believe that the small body of Indigo planters were striving to effect, nay, were actually effecting the extinction of a race, which numbered thousands, wherever they (the planters) could shew one individual alone. If the Jury should be satisfied that the defendant was the publisher, they would also find by the evidence which he, the learned Counsel, would call, that the publication was carried on in secret, and that when printed, the copies were sent in secret to the Bengal Secretariat. The mode of publication alone was sufficient to destroy the strongest conviction of the existence of an honest or rightful intention on the part of the writer.
The very engine by which the libel was propagated, itself prevented the possibility of entertaining for a moment the thought that an honest intention could have existed in the mind of its promulgator. No, there was some hidden and invisible agent at work to libel the Christian population of this country, (and it was not to enlist the sympathies of the jury that he said so, for he saw among them a gentleman of another creed) and it was to vindicate their character that his clients had brought this matter into Court. He would prove the secret manner of the publication, and that the intention was worse than malicious. That invisible agent had caused a respectable community to be attacked in a manner that gave them no other opportunity of protecting their character from the imputations cast upon it by a gross and calumnious slander. He did not care if that invisible agent was in Court, nor if he was listening. He must know if that drama was propagated in England in the quarters where it was wished to be distributed, before it was known here, and if so, he must know if the Indigo planters were informed of the existence of such a production before notice was received from Lahore in the shape of an envelope enclosing a copy of this production. Whether such copy was sent by a Government servant or not, he would not now enquire; that formed the subject for another trial which he hoped would be instituted. If such secrecy had been maintained, he must assert that the intention of the writer of that drama could not have been to bring to light the truth, but must have been to calumniate a community without giving them an opportunity of vindication, or in other words, “to stab in the dark.” He did not address the jury on behalf of his clients only, but on behalf of the whole Christian community. It was for the whole Christian population of British India that he stood there to accuse the defendant of being the writer and publisher of a gross and calumnious slander. Perhaps, too, he felt that he was one of that population and so might seem to sink the counsel in the client. From what could they find that the intention of the writer was a praiseworthy one? Did anything that could be gathered from the preface lead to such a conviction? No! But there was one great fact which, he insisted, argued against the honesty of the writer’s intention;—that great fact was the secrecy of its publication. None but a favoured few had been able to get a copy of it in this country, and he doubted if persons, even in England, but those intended to be the receptacles of the writer’s calumnies, had been able to obtain an example of that precious production. How its existence became known in Calcutta, he had already stated, but he would ask why it had not propagated in the districts inhabited by the parties attacked, that they at least might have had an opportunity of clearing their character from imputations which, if true, lowered them below the brute creation, disgraced the country they belonged to, and the Government which had not ere this checked with a strong hand such a fearful state of iniquity and evil.
He warned the Jury against being led away by assertions which would doubtless be made, for there were able men on the other side of the question, that the production was published with the view of promoting the public good, but they must consider the evidence, and see if there was anything in the defendant’s conduct in regard to the publication of that production that would corroborate such an assertion. He knew that there were members of that jury who were men of strong religious feelings, he felt sorry to attack a body of men of such high calling, but he could not refrain from saying that the word missionary had become synonymous with mischief-maker, for wherever mischief was in any colonial community, some missionary was sure to be found connected with it. The Jury would probably remember the case of the missionary Smith who suffered the extreme penalty of the law at Demarara for inciting the negroes to insurrection, mutiny and rapine. The troubles at the Cape must still be fresh in their recollections, and he need go no further than the sister colony New Zealand, where insurrections and bloodshed are now raging, attributable to missionaries alone. He entertained a sincere and profound respect for true religion. But its messengers had a holy calling, namely, to promote peace on earth and good will to all men, and not to act as the harbourers of calumny and the originators of evil. These were strong words, but he would consider him justified in using them, if he could bring home to the reverend gentleman, the defendant, the fact of the publication of the Nil Durpan. He felt certain that the jury would agree with him that such a publication was not the method best calculated to promote the spread of the Gospel, nor to ensure the safety of the lives of those Europeans who resided alone among thousands of natives without any hope of assistance in the hour of need. The fault was not the less grave, let it arise from what it may, even if from a misplaced over-zeal to promote Christianity.
Had we not seen by what a tender thread we hang? Have not the late mutinies taught us how unsafe is our position? Can we permit persons, impelled by over-zeal, to endanger our safety and induce the belief among people in England, already too prone to believe evil of their countrymen at a distance, that Englishmen in India are guilty of the wrong and disgraceful conduct imputed to them? Was this publication carried out as it was, calculated to promote Christianity? Was it calculated to “turn the wicked from his wickedness” and do that which is lawful and right? The late Right Reverend Bishop of Calcutta frequently denounced individuals, and spoke to them from the pulpit. Such a proceeding might not be in accordance with the usages of society, but it was the proof of an honest intention, there was no concealment about it, and the bold man was the good man. How different was his proceeding to that of the publisher of that Bengali document! Was that the act of a kind and Christian adviser? No, to say the least of it, it was rather the act of a fanatic. It was the duty of a missionary to regard the white and black population with the same kindly feelings; it was the duty of a missionary to be the propagator of the Light and Truth, and not the propagator of slander. Christian love itself would incline the Gospel preacher to speak kindly to his Christian brethren. If his intention was to do good, why did he not send information to the heads of mercantile houses here, who have large capital at stake, of the atrocious proceedings of which he accused the Indigo planters? This he did not do, but contented himself with publishing the calumnies contained in a Bengalee play. For even if the translator be a Native, he, by the fact of publishing the play, adopted it. Why did he not send a copy to the parties concerned, to the Landholders’ and commercial Association, and to the Indigo planters? The learned Counsel would not deny that there were bad men among the Indigo planters, no such large community could exist without containing a portion of the bad element as well as the good. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that Indigo planters had been attacked by more persons than one belonging to the defendant’s cloth, but such attacks had been made openly in the public press, and had been answered in the same public way by planters, who had not hesitated to append their names. But how differently was this attack made, not publicly and openly, but with strict injunction as to secrecy! The book was printed by Manuel, the copies sent to Mr. Sandys, and from him to the Bengal Secretariat. The motive that induced this publication was a secret there, and whether it was a political conspiracy or not, of which the Revd. Mr. Long was the working agent, was question which would doubtless be answered some day.
Granting even that the publication was a drama having no particular object, political or otherwise, still if it was likely to create among the Natives a false impression regarding the character and conduct of their European brethren it was the duty of the Revd. Mr. Long, whose occupation was to convert the Heathen to Christianity, to destroy the copies that gave rise to the false impression. That was a much more charitable office than to disseminate slander, and one more conductive by far to the avowed end he had in view, the propagation of the Gospel. How could he expect to make a single convert while the calumnies in that drama were allowed to exist, and painted in the blackest dye the characters of men brought up in that faith of which he was professedly the promoter among the Heathen? Had the conduct of any planters been half as oppressive as made against them? He would not say that there were not some among their body, whose conduct required reprobation, but he utterly denied that any body of civilised men, men moreover whose interest it was to treat the Natives well, could be guilty of the attrocities, could revel in such a glut of vice as depicted in that libellous drama, the Nil Durpan. When the publication had gone forth no definite information could be obtained concerning it, and the Indigo planters’ only resource was to select the person who by an Act of Parliament was compelled to put his name to everything issuing from his press. They did so, acting on the principle that if you get the cub, the dam will soon be caught. They indicted the printer, and thereby obtained the admission that Mr. Long was the publisher. Had his clients been vindictive they could have pressed for the punishment of the printer, it was sufficient to say they did not do so. The learned Counsel would be the last person in the world to press for conviction in ordinary abuses of the press; such were not dangerous, for the press had its uses in which the abuses found their antidote. But there was no antidote to charges made without giving any opportunity of promulgating the truth. The only means of vindicating their character left open to his clients was to come into that Court to obtain the verdict of the Jury who would not, he hoped, become parties to the propagation of a libel.
The question of justification could not arise. It was impossible for the defendant to justify himself according to law, though he acted under the belief that the libel was true, though he acted on information he had received, even though he produced parties who had seen acts of oppression committed. But the libel contained within itself the proof of malice, and if the jury did not believe the existence of the state of society therein depicted, they must admit it to be a libel; if they did not consider it a libel they must believe in the truth of the charges made, not as against any planter, but as against the general body of European Indigo Planters; they would believe them to be men placed beyond the pale of civilisation, and deserving of all they had got because guilty of the most horrid atrocities. They would believe that virtue existed among the Natives alone and some few officials. They would believe that on leaving England their countrymen forget all principles of Christianity, and that offences abhorred at home could be perpetrated with impunity here. They would believe magistrates, non-officials, the whole Christian community of British India, except a favoured few, regardless of all principles of honor and feeling. They would believe that not a European in India was more fit for the changing in Norfolk island than to govern here. They would believe that officials, acting under the fascinations of imaginary planters’ wives, permitted injustice to be committed which resulted in wholesale destruction, ruin and death to the ryot!
The Jury had been carefully selected, there was no taint of the Indigo dye among them, there was not one of them, interested in its cultivation, their sympathies would not there-fore be enlisted on the side of his clients, yet he felt confident that they could come to no other conclusion than that the defendant was the publisher and promulgator of a gross and calumnious libel, and the learned Counsel would be content to leave him to the mercy which was a well-known attribute of that Court.
He was sorry that he could go no further into the subject; he was but faintly doing his duty, he felt that no words of his could sufficiently portray the consequences of that libel if allowed to remain unheeded and uncontradicted. If that reckless slander had been promulgated among the warlike tribes of the North-West, it must have inevitably led to the extermination of the Europeans. It was just and right to attribute the disturbed state of the country to a set of slanderers, who would effect, (if allowed to remain unpunished) by a forced combination of the Natives, what the Bengalees have never been able to effect, the ejectment of the Europeans. Would natives come and offer their labour if they believed they would be compelled to take advances, ill-treated, ruined and their daughters violated? He shuddered in contemplating the consequences of that libel. If distributed in the bazars, if spread through villages, future generations would point to the rule of the English as more pregnant of evils than the sway of Mahratta horde or Moslem host. These were among the serious and dangerous consequences of that libel which had been but feebly portrayed. He would sit down in the entire confidence that the Jury would come to no other conclusion than that demanded by Truth and Justice, and necessary for the vindication of the character of his clients.
Clement Henry Manuel, examined by Mr. Cowie, stated that he was proprietor of the Calcutta Printing and Publishing Press, and printed the Nil Durpan in April or May last, under order received from Mr. Long in person. He sent portions of manuscript from time to time. Received direction from defendant to print five hundred copies which are struck off, and sent Mr. Long’s house. That was the way he generally did business. He was not a publisher, but only a printer. The manuscripts were returned to the defendant with the proof sheets. He did not know what became the printed copies after he sent them to the defendant. He had charged nearly Rs. 300 for printing, which was paid by Mr. Long. He had been indicated as the printer of the Nil Durpan. The defendant had authorized witness’s Counsel to give up his name. Did not know if that authority was given on the day of the trial or before. Had not given any information as to the author or publisher of the pamphlet.
By the Court—Would have felt himself at liberty to give the author’s name, if he had been called upon to do so. Could not swear to defendant’s handwriting, but believed the proofs to have been passed in his writing. He meant by “passed” that proof sheets, after being corrected, were sent to the author for final approval. The proof sheets were sent to Mr. Long. (Some proof sheets were produced in Court, and the witness pointed out the order for the printing, and some corrections as made in Mr. Long’s writing).
By Mr. Eglinton,—Mr. Long came himself to witness’s office without any mystery. Had never been pressed to give up his name; gave it at this trial on Mr. Long’s own authority. Had not seen much of Mr. Long’s writing. Did not speak with certainty regarding it.
By the Court—From the opportunities he has had iic believed those corrections to have been made in Mr. Long’s writing.
Walter Brett, examined by Mr. Cowie; stated that he was Managing Proprietor and, at present Editor of of the Englishman. Had been Managing Proprietor about two years’ and sole Editor since his coadjutor, Mr. Saunders, went home. Previously Mr. Saunuders was the Editor, and witness, Managing Proprietor and Joint Editor. He was aware that there had been much discussion on matters connected with the cultivation of Indigo, and had taken a large part in that discussion. A commission had been appointed by Government to enquire into the rights of ryots and planters. The Englishman naturally took a view favourable to the Indigo planters upon the evidence given before the Commission. The Bengal Hurkaru naturally took the same view. He believed the Englishman and the Hurkaru to be the two papers stated in the Nil Durpan, ‘to have their columns filled with the praises’ of the Indigo planters. He first received a copy of this publication (holding the Nil Durpan) on May 27th of the present year; that was to the best of his belief, but he could not swear to a day either way. One of his own peons brought it to him. He had asked officially for a copy, and while waiting for an answer, had received another copy which was sent enclosed simply in a cover and addressed to the Editor of the Englishman. He did not know who addressed it. Received the copy he had applied for, immediately afterwards. That was from a source which he was not at liberty to refer to, in this trial. Had since received several copies. He was not acquainted with Mr. Long’s handwriting. He concluded that the Englishman and the Hurkaru were the papers alluded to in the Nil Durpan, from his knowledge of the line they had taken with reference to the disputes between the Indigo planters and ryots. He had no doubt his conclusion was correct. There was one other daily paper in Calcutta the Phoenix. It took the other line;—unnaturally of course. He had read the publication called the Nil Durpan, and believed the the European Indigo Planters to be the persons pointed at throughout that production.
By Mr. Eglinton,—He was a member of the Land-holders’ and Commercial Association. The Association prosecuted, not a section of them. Had not heard on authority that any members dissented from the prosecution, but believed it to be the case. Had nothing to do with Indigo. Was certainly not an Indigo planter of Lower Bengal. He saw the first copy of the pamphlet on May 27th, but had seen parts of the libel before then. Could not doubt the Englishman and Hurkaru were the papers alluded to in the Nil Durpan, because those papers had been constantly written of as the Indigo journals by anti-Indigo papers. They were here not mentioned by name. There were several daily papers in India, some were in favour of the Indigo planters’ interest, and some were opposed to it. He knew nothing of native papers properly so called; he meant papers published in the vernacular. The Hindoo Patriot and Indian Field were papers under native influence. They took a contrary view to that taken by the Englishman. In those papers the planters had been represented as guilty of great cruelties. He was aware that those two papers represented that there existed considerable feeling among the native population regarding the alleged oppression of Indigo planters. He did not know as a fact that there was a strong feeling among ryots against planters, as represented by those papers. To the best of his belief there was a strong prejudice among the ryots against Indigo planters whether justly or not, he could not say, but on the evidence before him the balance was quite against them. The Englishman had a large circulation; it had not decreased since the publication of the libel. The question of the respect and deference shown to the Englishman was a question for outside opinion and not for him to determine. He had a number of Indigo planters on his subscription list, but not a large number proportionately to the whole number of subscribers. He did not feel called upon to state the actual number, as he declined to go into the details of his subscription list. Before answering on question regarding any numbers, he would ask the protection of the Court that he might not be asked any further question regarding the numbers in his subscription list.
The Court did not think such a question should be put unless it bore directly upon the facts of the case.
Mr. Eglinton explained that he considered editors as men who write for gain; hired writers to uphold a certain interest. He thought it requisite to ascertain the number of that interest in order to prove that the view taken by the Englishman with reference to the Indigo question was calculated to bring additional subscribers.
Cross examination by Mr. Eglinton continued:—He was not prepared to say how many subscribers he had among the Indigo planters, but did not believe his subscription list as regards them had increased by one since the publication of the Nil Durpan. He explained that there were constant changes in the constituency of a paper, but that he did not believe that there was any virtual difference. The subscription list of the Englishman had been increasing steadily on a stated average for the last two years. He most certainly declined to answer whether or not he received more than Rs. 1000 yearly from his subscribers among the planters.
Mr. Eglinton would press the question. The Court in that case would direct Mr. Brett to answer, but must say, it considered the question quite irrelevant.
Cross-examined by Mr. Eglinton,—He did receive more than Rs. 1000 per annum from subscribers among the Indigo planters. He knew newspapers advocated particular interests and opinion all over the world.
Re-examined by Mr. Cwie,—He did not advocate the Indigo interest or any other interest, with the view of gaining Rs. 1000 or any other sum. He believed that he was charged in the passage read out of the introduction to the Nil Durpan by Mr. Peterson with being bribed to advocate the interests of Indigo planters.
Alexander Forbes, examined by Mr. Peterson,— Was present editor of the Bengal Hurkaru. Had been so for the last eighteen months. Had read part of the Nil Durpan. Believed the Englishman and Hurkaru were the papers alluded to in the passage regarding the praising of Indigo planters because those papers had advocated the Indigo interests. Had no doubt that Mr. Brett and himself were referred to. He had rightly or wrongly advocated the cause of Indigo planters. He had not like Judas Iscariot taken thirty rupees and sold the ryots’ cause. Had been directly concerned in the cultivation of Indigo fifteen years and indirectly, three or four years. A planter could not manage his business if he struck a single ryot. The duties of a factory Ameen were to make advances to ryots, and to superintendent generally the cultivation of the Indigo. It was his province to mark out land for Indigo within his division. There were Ameens in all factories, generally one to every 200 bigghas. A passage read from the Nil Durpan about a ryot being made to drink the water of seven factories meant a threat of confinement in the factory godown; another passage meant compulsory cultivation; another meant compelling ryots to give false evidence by confining them. Another passage meant that the Ameen was taking his youngest daughter to the Sahib’s room for bad purposes. The drama was a favorite mode of representing the state of society among Bengalees. That mode was adopted in village and other places as truly representing states and phases of society.
To the Court:—These dramas are looked upon as fictions with a great deal of truth in them.
To Mr. Peterson:—Thought this drama would be believed by natives not acquainted with Indigo planters as a true representation of their conduct. Believed it was so accepted in Calcutta. He knew Mr. Long’s handwriting. The order for the printing and some of the corrections in the proof sheets he held were in Mr. Long’s hand, but written rather plainer than he usually writes.
To Mr. Newmarch:—He could not say if the Hurkaru was the most strenuous advocate of the Indigo interest, but hoped so. He did not know it upheld that interest before he joined, as he had not read it for many years. Had never looked at the subscription list, but knew that many planters became subscribers when he became editor. Had not the least idea whether or not the circulation of the Hurkaru among the Indigo planters afforded a yearly sum of Rs. 1000. There were several daily papers in India. He believed there were six.
To Mr, Newmarch:—There is much difference in opinion as to whether ryottee cultivation is beneficial or not.
Mr. Newmarch:—Have not some of those papers taken an opposite view of the question from that taken by you?
Mr. Forbes:—In Bengal, with the exception of one daily paper, the others advocated the cause of the planters.
Mr. Newmarch:—Don’t you believe that those who entertained different opinions from you, did so conscientiously?
Mr. Forbes:—When it arose from ignorance of the subject. I believe there are no conscientious men who know anything about the subject who hold a different opinion from myself as to Indigo planting. There are many conscientious men who believe so, but I don’t think they are a large body. I know a great deal of Native society. There is a large body of Natives who have a strong feeling against the Europeans.
Mr. Peterson:—That being your feeling, do you think the publication of the Nil Durpan would bring about a good feeling?
Mr. Forbes:—Certainly not; I think the feeling against the Europeans will be greatly increased by it?
Mr. Peterson:—Do you know where the original of the Nil Durpan had been published?
Mr. Forbes:—I have been told, in Dacca.
Mr. Peterson:—Do you know that the drama has been represented there?
Mr. Forbes:—Yes, I have heard so. I received the information by a letter from Dacca, that the drama was represented there.
By Mr. Peterson:—No conscientious person would write that pamphlet. I have never seen any publication written in opposition to the Nil Durpan.
By the Court:—I don’t think my paper has been injured by the pamphlet. I cannot say what effect it may have in England.
Mr. Brett recalled:—The first intimation he had of the publication was a letter from Lahore containing an envelope, which he produced. That was the first intimation. He received it from the editor of the Lahore Chronicle. This was two days before he got a copy of the pamphlet.
By the Court:—Beyond any personal annoyance I may have felt, I believe, from communications which I have received, that the pamphlet has been the means of creating a certain prejudice against the Englishman among the more educated Natives.
Thomas Jones, examined by Mr. Cowie: I am Registrar of the Bengal Secretariat, and have been so four and a half years. A large number of these pamphlets were circulated under my frank.
Mr. Cowie:—Who were they sent by?
Mr. Eglinton:—I object to that question being put. You have a right to ask the witness any question as to what became of the numbers, but you have no right to trace them to the party from whom the witness had received them.
The Judge:—Indeed, I think it is a very legitimate and proper question.
Mr. Cowie:—Perhaps my learned friend is apprehensive that we might entrap the witness into making certain admissions. But that is not our intention; we want to find out the mode of its publication.
The Judge:—I have the evidence before me that Mr. Long had paid 300 rupees for the printing of 500 copies. Therefore, I don’t think that question matters much.
Mr. Eglinton:—I say it is an improper question, because you have no right to trace the publication to the person from whom the witness got it. You have the fact of the copies having come into the possession of the witness.
The Judge:—If Mr. Long parted possession of the books he must stand the consequence of its distribution in the same way as a person who entrusted a publication to a printer. I shall take care that not an atom of evidence which would affect Mr. Long would be taken down by me unless it was legal evidence.
Mr. Thomas Jones resumed:—These copies were circulated under my frank as Registrar of the Bengal Office. No communication was made to me on the subject by the Government. I believe they were sent by the Revd. Mr. Long. I believe the copies were sent for distribution. He had not asked me to distribute them. The distribution list was sent afterwards. About 500 copies were sent to the Bengal Office. I believe the list was partly in the handwriting of Mr. Long. I think the copies were sent in the early part of May. I believe the envelope produced originally contained a copy of the pamphlet. The distribution occupied two or three days. The larger portion was distributed by me. Some copies were sent home to England previous to my receiving the list. I don’t think any copies were sent to England after my receiving the list. I can’t at present recollect the name of any person to whom they were to be sent.
The Judge:—I want you to explain to the Jury why copies were sent to a Government Department?
Mr. Jones:—I can’t, my Lord.
The Judge:—Do you know that any communication had been made to the Bengal Office before these papers were sent?
Mr. Jones:—I am not aware of any in the present case.
The Judge:—Why do you draw the distinction? Were you in the habit of receiving such papers before?
Mr. Jones:—I have been in the habit of distributing such papers, but always under the authority of the Secretary.
The Judge:—Are papers received in the office without the knowledge of the Secretary, and circulated without his knowledge?
Mr. Jones:—Certainly not, My Lord.
The Judge:—Were these papers sent in such a manner as the people would understand that they were circulated and directed from the Bengal Office?
Mr. Jones:—They were, my Lord.
The Judge:—Was there anything in the envelope to show or to make any person suppose that the papers were not sent by the Government.
Mr. Jones:—None, my Lord.
The Judge:—I wish to know whether the course adopted in the Bengal Office in this case as to the circulation of the papers, had ever been followed before?
Mr. Jones:—I have frequently circulated Native publiactions indicating Native feeling, and education, and improvement.
The Judge:—Have you read this publication?
Mr. Jones:—I have not read half a page of it, my Lord.
The Judge:—Have you been in Court the whole day? And have you heard the passages read by the learned Counsel for the prosecution?
Mr. Jones:—I have, my Lord; for first time this I knew its contents.
The Judge:—Have you seen similar productions to this before?
Mr. Jones:—Within the range of my recollection I don’t believe I have seen a similar one.
William Frederick Fergusson, examined:—This prosecution is instituted by the Landholders’ Association of British India. The prosecution was instituted by the unanimous resolution of the members. I have perused the pamphlet, and have no doubt that it applies to the planters in Bengal. I think it would create much ill feeling.
By Mr. Eglinton:—No objection has been made by any member of the Association to proceed with this prosecution. I only heard one adverse opinion in respect to prosecuting Mr. Long; and that was an objection to prosecuting a poor tool when there was a chance of flying at much higher game.
Simon de Cruz, examined:—I saw the distribution list a fortnight or a month ago; it was in my department of the Bengal Office. Mr. Jones sent for it. An assistant took it away.
Mr. Jones, recalled:—I don’t recollect receiving any list. I have been away a month. It could only be removed by the Secretary.
Mr. Cowie applied that the case for the prosecution might stand over until the document was searched for, and the Court having concurred, the case was adjourned until 11 o’clock of the following day.
SATURDAY, JULY 20th.
At the opening of the Court, a minor official of the Bengal Office was called for with a view to produce the missing distribution list; but on an intimation from the Counsel for the defence, Mr. Cowie called, and proceeded with the examination of
E. Lushington, Esq, C.S., Secretary to the Government of Bengal. He produced the list of names of persons to whom the Nil Durpan was to be distributed. The list written in two different hands; one was that of a clerk in his office, the other was unknown to him. He did not know Mr. Long’s handwriting. There was nothing written on the list to show that it was connected with the Nil Durpan. He found the list in his drawer where it had been kept ever since, except for a short period when it was borrowed by Mr. SETON-KARR. He could not say if Mr. Long had seen it since he had come in possession of it. The distribution of Nil Durpan took place before he took office.
Mr. Eglinton here admitted part of the list to be in the defendant’s handwriting.
Cross-examined by Mr. Eglinton:—Had a great number of copies of the Nil Durpan in his possession, probably 200. When he took office, he took those copies into his own particular custody.
By the Court:—The copies were not distributed, but kept back on account of the proceedings taken in this Court. Did not believe that the persons, named in the small list in his hand, were those to whom the Government were in the habit of sending books in the Native languages and of Native composition, to show the style of literature and state of feeling among the Natives.
Cross-examinations by Mr. Eglinton, continued:—There have been several distributions of books since he had held office.
Mr. Peterson:—Would put into Court a proof copy of the Nil Durpan, marked A, and a corrected copy marked A1 and two exhibits marked C and C1, being the distribution lists.
This closed the case for the prosecution.
Mr. Eglinton rose and said that, on whatever points he might disagree with Mr. Peterson, he must agree with him as to the importance of the decision of the Jury, not only as it regarded Mr. Long, but also as it concerned freedom of discussion and the public welfare. He could not forget what great interests would be affected by the decision of the Jury, nor could he forget that this case was a topic of conversation throughout the country, and created the most intense interest; he therefore addressed the Jury with great diffidence, but not with the slightest misgiving as to their verdict, for he felt that he could so disprove the charges made against his client that no Jury would be justified in finding him guilty. In cases of this sort, semi-political in their nature, it was not uncommon for the Counsel to call upon a Jury to dismiss from their minds any political bias that might make them lean towards either side. In this case it was peculiarly necessary that the Jury should not entertain an idea favourable to either the defendant or his accusers. The subject of this action had been discussed usque ad nauseam in the papers, and it was impossible that any Juryman would be perfectly void of some private feeling on this subject. But he felt convinced that they would judge the case on its merits; that is, on the evidence as it supported or failed to support the terms of the indictment. Perhaps it was unnecessary for him to refer to the status, high position, and calling of the defendant. He had been known for many years past as a man of high honour, a gentleman whose character was blameless and without reproach. For this reason the learned Counsel addressed the Jury under peculiarly advantageous circumstances. The antecedents of Mr. Long and a view of his past career would prove, notwithstanding the observations of his learned friend, that he did not merit the obloquy of any one, and that he was not a likely person to commit the act, of which he siood charged, wilh any malicious intention. Mr. Long’s position and status denied such an accusation, and the learned Counsel, in corroboration, would call attention to the names of the gentlemen who went bail for him. They were Mr. Hutton, a chaplain and Bishop’s commissary, and Mr. Stuart, also a clergyman and Secretary to the Church Mission Society. When the defendant was supported by men of such rank and standing the Jury might be sure that his antecedents would bear the minutest test. Having made these prefatory remarks, the learned Counsel would proceed to consider the case itself. But before eniering into the charge itself, he would bring to the notice of the Jury the mode of procedure adopted against him. His learned friend, Mr. Peterson, appeared to have been labouring under a difficulty on that point. There were three courses open to the prosecutors; the first was a civil action, which ihe learned Counsel on the other side considered himself shut out from, by technical reasons. But there was another fair, open and manly mode of procedure, much more so than the one adopted, which was the harshest known in the English law. Though the prosecutor’s were not able to institute a civil action for technical reasons, they could at all events have applied for a criminal information. The Jury might not be acquainted with the nature of that proceeding; he would therefore give some explanation regarding it. It was a mode of proceeding which did not close the defendant’s mouth. The cases were fully investigated by a Full Bench before they came to a jury. A rule nisi was applied for, and either made absolute, or discharged. In the case of a rule being made absolute the case was considered fit for the investigation of a Jury. The prosecutors had thrown this matter before a Jury without giving Mr. Long a chance of opening his mouth on his own behalf. The mode of procedure would win for the defendant the sympathy of the Jury, as in this country he was debarred from certifying or disavowing his connection with the pamphlet. This was not the state of the law in Westminster Hall; for, sixteen or seventeen years ago an Act was passed to enable a defendant to enter into the question of the truth of the charge. The learned Counsel was sorry to say, the Act had not been extended to this country, but that state of things now existed here, which existed in England at the close of the last century when political animus ran high, and held great sway. The learned Counsel would call attention to 6th and 7th of Victoria and Lord Campbell’s remarks thereon, which approved of those Acts as salutary measures, and considered it necessary for a defendant to be able to enter into the truth of allegations cast on him. The learned Counsel would argue that there was no publication of the alleged libel. He would then enter into the question of the truth of the innuendoes, and subsequently as to whether the publication was a libel generally. His learned frierd Mr. Peterson had indulged in a very long address, and had made remarks which he considered quite foreign to the case between the Crown and the defendant. He had entered into a long disquisition on the subject of advance made for cultivation of Indigo. Had the learned Counsel thought it was necessary for the just performance of his duties to be acquainted with the relations between planter and ryot, he would not have accepted the case, as his Lordship knew he had only accepted the conduct of the defence when assured it had nothing to do with the cultivation of Indigo. A great fallacy, in his opinion, pervaded his learned friend’s speech. He had assumed that the Native mind was greatly exasperated by this publication; this was the crying evil complained of throughout Mr. Peterson’s address. It would have been a very proper complaint if the pamphlet had been published in the Native language, but not without. Then Mr. Peterson spoke of its wonderful circulation. He expected that he would produce evidence of the ryots being seen sitting each under his own banyan-tree reading the publication to their wives and children. His learned friend had also stated that this drama was a libel on the Government, and the Civil Service as well as the Indigo planters. If this were the case, why had not the parties presented their own indictment? This question seemed to have puzzled his learned friend. He could not answer it. It was perhaps because those persons had taken competent legal advice, and found that the matter was not libellous. He did not assert that this had been the case, it might or it might not have been so. There was another point which greatly affected Mr. Long’s position. It was said that he skulked behind others, and he had been termed an anonymous libeller. At Manuel’s trial, Mr. Long was most anxious to have his name given up as having ordered the printing of that pamphlet. There had not been the slightest attempt on the part of Mr. Long to shield himself; on the contrary, he had put himself forward as much as any man could do, and most certainly did not deserve the reflections cast upon him. The Jury might remember that Manuel on his trial said he had not been pressed to give up Mr. Long’s name. Did Mr. Peterson expect Manuel to come forward and make gratuitous statement? There was no concealment, the case was all the other way, add if there was a libel, Mr. Long had certainly not hesitated to acknowledge the share he had taken in it. His learned friend had said a great deal about the author and translator. Mr. Long was neither the one nor the other, but that was quite immaterial. If he was the publisher, that would be sufficient for the Law if the publication was a libel. If there was any necessity, Mr. Long would at the proper time divulge the names of both author and translator provided his Counsel should consider it to have a bearing on the verdict. Before entering into the gist of the question, he would do what might be considered presumption on his part, namely, to tell them what in his opinion were their duties in this case. First, they had to decide whether or not Mr. Long is the publisher. On that point he thought the evidence clear and conclusive. That fact is sufficiently established by the order given to Manuel for the printing, and the portion of the list admitted to be in his hand. Mr. Peterson had indulged in some remarks on this point with a mysterious commencement, a mysterious end, and a mysterious middle, which he had not been able to understand. A simple fact, the giving of the manuscripts to the printer was not denied, and if that was not sufficient to establish the question of the publication, the list clinched the matter. The next question was the truth of the innuendoes set out in the indictment which involved a question, the solution of which he considered, the most important duty of the Jury; that question was as to the truth of the matter in the indictment. He did not think so, and held Mr. Peterson’s views to be incorrect. The third question was as to whether it was a libel or not. This was more within the province of a Jury to decide. In the last century, when political animus ran high, the Jury decided the first and second questions only, and the third was left to the Judge. This course was found to give the Judge too much power, and it was altered so as to enable the Jury to decide the question of libel and to allow the Judge to express his opinion on their decision.
The learned Counsel would not trespass much longer on their time, and would now consider the counts in the indictment without entering into the preliminary points. In the first count, the preface to the drama is set out, and a small portion of it treated as a libel on Mr. Brett, the editor of the Englishman. He would read the passage, and answer that it was no libel, and he hoped to be able to convince the Jury so. He did not intend to cast the slightest reflection on Mr. Brett, or the Englishman newspaper. Mr. Brett was a most respectable man, a man of high honor, so far as the learned Counsel knew, and far be it from the learned Counsel to question his honesty and integrity. Still the learned Counsel thought that editors and managers of newspapers should be the last persons to come into a Court and prefer complaints about public books, pamphlets or prints. Nowhere are criticisms so freely made on public acts, and perhaps on private character, as by the press of India. That press had deservedly a high character, yet he must say that there had been and still were, writings in that press, which were much stronger than they should be. For this reason an editor should be the last person to come into the Court so thin-skinned and prefer a complaint of a libel; yet if himself aggrieved, he certainly had a right to ask for justice at he hands of that Court. The learned Counsel would dissect this alleged libellous matter. He read the passage, and observed that he really thought it amounted at most to an insinuation, that editors wrote up the interest of the Indigo planters for fee and reward, and certainly if it implied nothing further, it was no libel. Mr. Peterson had given the jury his interpretation of the passage, but they must not on those grounds take it as a libel. They must judge for themselves. If they thought it implied no more than he had said, it was not a libel, because everyday there were newspapers, books and pamphlets written to advance a particular interest, as Mr. Brett had himself allowed in his evidence. Was it not a fact that every section of the community had its particular organ in London, from the highest conservative to the lowest radical? Some among them favored the interests not only of the Established Church but of a hundred other sects. Some advocated the interests of the Law, some those of the Government, some those of the merchants, in short, every phase of life was represented by men who advocated its interests for money, and not for money alone, but for a livelihood, and the learned Counsel considered it a fair, legitimate, and honorable profession. It was this that was implied by the passage he had read and nothing more. The learned Counsel did not know if Mr. Peterson meant to compare editors with Judas Iscariot, and if the Jury believed his argument. They would see that this reference to Judas Iscariot was an illustration and not a comparison, which were very different. He would thus leave that portion of the case to them, first stating that if Mr. Brett thought that passage reflected on him, he was quite justified in bringing the matter into Court, but they must be quite satisfied on the question of libel or no libel before they gave a verdict.
Before proceeding to the consideration of the second Count, which referred to the general body of Indigo planters, the learned Counsel must observe that it was a most unusual thing of a case to connect a private individual with one of a large body of men like the Indigo planters, and this method was calculated to embarrass Mr. Long in his defence. He would now consider the second count in the indictment. It alleged a libel upon the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal, and he must say that his learned friend Mr. Peterson had delivered himself of a good deal of indignation on the subject of those grievances. And more so than the planters themselves. Several friends of his connected with the Indigo interest were in Court, and he thought they looked very cheerful, and not at all like men suffering from the sting of injurious calumnies. He did not think that there was a single planter who cared one farthing about the publication of the Nil Durpan. They were too well aware of their position. He believed that there was another motive for the prosecution, and not the one alleged of unmerited aspersions. Another observation suggested itself to him, viz. that if the planters had really felt themselves hurt, they would long ago have taken proceedings against the publishers of the Native copies promulgated, through the Indigo interest. If any copies did harm, surely they were the Native ones. As no proceedings had been taken, as they had waited so long, and judging from their placid demeanour, he felt satisfied that they did not feel themselves aggrieved. Yet that was no reason they should not complain if there had been a libel. He would argue there had not been, on four separate points. The first reason was that the parties maligned were not a definite body, and it was utterly oppossed to the rule in cases of libel that such a body could prefer an indictment. His learned friend seemed to have anticipated such an objection being raised, and he did raise it, and insisted strongly on it. Mr. Peterson referred the jury to three cases; he would not trouble them with a long legal disquisition, but would briefly show how different those cases were from the present one. He did not deny that great public bodies had a right to prefer an indictment, but what a difference there was between a corporate body like the Directors of the East India Company, or the clergymen of the diocese of Durham, and a body like that of the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal. They were met with here and there at intervals of 20 or 40 miles! They had no connection with each other, no identity, no corporate existence, no association properly so called, not a single interest in common as was the case in the examples referred to by his learned friend. Mr. Peterson had been compelled to go so far back as of George II 1732. There was a case of some Portuguese Jews lately come from Portugal. A criminal information was prayed for regarding the murder of a Jewish woman. These Jews were represented to have lately come from Portugal and to be living in Broad Street. This at once established a connection between them, which did not exist among the Indigo planters. The case against the clergymen of the diocese of Durham was likewise dissimilar, for they all belonged to the Established Church, and that formed a bond of union between them. The case against the Directors of the East India Company was also different, for they were a corporate body, and any individual member might take to himself the libel on them all. A corporate body was entirely different from a body like the Indigo planters who had no collective existence, and if the Jury decided that a libel would lie in this case they would carry the Law further than it ever had been done before. Suppose now the policy-holders of Lower Bengal should prefer a complaint, the question would naturally arise who are they? As another illustration he would say, suppose the lawyers of Bengal were to prefer an indictment, would that term include Judges? He would be too sorry to say the Judges were no lawyers, which they were, and admirable ones. Would it include Barristers, Vakeels and Pleaders of the Small Cause Court? It would be most unsafe to sanction the preferring of a complaint by such a body. Further, he would ask why the Indigo planters of Upper Bengal had not been included as well as those of Lower Bengal. By the preferment of this indictment the Jury had been asked to do what no Jury had ever been asked to do before. Supposing the doors to be thus thrown open to litigation, why should not the ryots subscribe together and indict any editor or writer whom they might consider to have libelled them? A corporate body having a common interest had a right to come into the Court and prefer a complaint if they felt themselves aggrieved; but the learned Counsel entirely denied that right where parties were concerned who had no corporate existence.
His second ground for opposing the charge of libel was that the publication was a drama, and not a pamphlet, and by every principle of propriety, usage, and custom no other character but that of a fiction could be assigned to a drama. He could not deny that there were atrocious characters such as Wood and Rose, represented in the play, but the jury’s dramatical experience would teach them that every play had its evil genius. Because a certain barrister, clergyman or merchant is a scoundrel of the deepest dye, is that a reason that all barristers, clergymen, and merchants are of the same stamp? It could not be denied that personages embodying half-a-dozen vices were introduced; but because one possesses vices is he to be considered a representative of his class? No, certainly not, and therefore the monstrosities, Wood and Rose, are not to be taken as types of their class. If this was a libel the finest literature of ancient and modern times must be shut out. Look at Moliere’s works; they are but a series of venomous caricatures of the clergy and medical profession. But he need not go to foreign literature; he would refer to works of the present day. It was a very common and growing practice to illustrate in books the state of society. ‘Oliver Twist,’ for example, which was written with the sole intent and purpose of doing away with the work-house system as formerly carried out; it had been successful. Another work by the same author ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ was intended to expose and crush the abuses in Yorkshire schools. Were any legal proceedings instituted against Mr. Dickens? No though many Yorkshire schoolmasters would have liked to do so had they dared, but they knew no jury would support them. The same difficulty occurred in defining Yorkshire schoolmasters, as in the case of the Indigo planters. There was another work to which he would call the attention of the Jury, namely, the Confession of Maria Monk. That book was devoted solely to expose malpracties alleged to have been carried on in convents and nunneries. There were no steps taken m the matter because the good sense of the parties avoided it. Mr. Harriet Becher Stowe’s work ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ was another instance. If the prosecutors in this case had cause to complain, surely the slave-holders had greater cause of complaint. The American law allowed actions for libel, yet none had been instituted, because Legree was not accepted as a type of the slave-holding populations; so also Wood and Rose could not have been meant by the author as an embodiment and type of the Indigo planters. Another work in the Hindustani language had excited considerable attention here; he referred to Panchkowrie Khan a work on the system of the Moffussil Courts. Many gentlemen might have been annoyed at it, yet no legal exception was taken to it, and why? Because it was not a case for indictment. He thus left that portion of the case to the Jury. As to whether the matter was libellous or not, he would say that no general accusation could be charged on account of the atrocities committed by Wood and Rose, who must be looked upon as the Legree of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. The learned Counsel proceeded to read extracts from the Nil Durpan, and to comment thereon. He pointed out passages in which Indigo planters were well spoken of, in order to show that if this pamphlet fell into the hands of the ryots they would know that there was a bright side to the picture as well as a dark one. His learned friend had observed that there were other parties maligned in the Nil Durpan besides the Indigo planters. It was self-evident that strong remarks were made in that publication with reference to missionaries and the civil service, but those remarks were quite different from such as would constitute a libel or justify the jury in returning a verdict of guilty against the defendant. The learned Counsel’s fourth reason for denying the libel was the question of malice. In Law, if a person was found guilty of a libel, that was prima facie evidence of a malicious intention. If, notwithstanding Mr. Peterson’s observations, the Jury were of opinion that Mr. Long had no cause of complaint against the Indigo planters, or any motive to traduce or injure them, there had been no malice proved. He submitted with perfect confidence the fact that Mr. Long approached his subject with a perfectly unbiassed mind, and had done merely what he had been doing for many years in this country. He had had much to do with the Native community commenting on their publications as a proof of their style of literature and thoughts. He preferred to leave this part of the case to the work itself, and probably Mr. Long’s feelings were best conveyed in the preface, which is expressive of a desire for conciliation between planter and ryot. His learned friend had made some very severe remarks which were not justified by the evidence. Mr. Long repudiated several notions contained in that pamphlet, and he had only become the publisher of that work with a view of illustrating the Native opinion. The learned Counsel felt strongly on this case, and must say that if the Jury gave a verdict of guilty, they would be carrying the law further than it had ever been done. This was a case of the last importance to Mr. Long; it was likely to interfere with his prospects as a clergyman, nor was it a less important case for the country generally. Therefore he hoped the Jury would not be led away by any remarks, but give the subject their calm and temperate consideration with regard to the evidence and the work itself. Thus he left the case in the hands of the Jury in the full confidence that they would give a verdict compatible with truth and justice.
Mr. Eglinton asked permission for Mr. Long to read a statement, to which Mr. Peterson objected.
The Court considered it irregular to allow it be read, but recommended Mr. Eglinton to read it as part of his speech. Mr. Peterson was quite willing that it should be read, but if it contained any new facts he should consider himself entitled to a reply.
Mr. Eglinton then declined to read it.
No witnesses were produced for the defence.
His Lordship then addressed the Jury, telling them that now the case for the defendant had closed, it remained for them to determine the question of guilty or not guilty. He had never felt deeper anxiety in the discharge of his judicial duties because a question was involved in the consideration of this case, which had been but faintly glanced at by the learned Counsel on either side. The question he alluded to was a great constitutional one, being of the liberty of the press and the freedom of discussion in public writing; and the remarks he would make on that subject would not have been left unsaid by a Single Judge in England, and he felt convinced, would meet the views of the learned Chief Justice of that Court. It was the first lime such a question had been submitted to a Jury in India, for this was the first prosecution of the kind, as he believed, that had taken place in India, and it therefore behoved the Jury to consider not the history of India but that of England, to see how Juries had dealt with this all-important question; important to the body of men who alleged that they had been most cruelly slandered, important to the reverend defendant, important to every human being throughout the length and breadth of this country, because it concerned every man; a question that, it should never be said, had been lightly passed over by the presiding Judge of this Court. He would not rely on his own personal opinions, but those which had been well established and accepted as authorities at Westminster Hall. The Indictment contained two counts. He would first deal with the first count, and then come to the all-important question involved in the second. The first count deserved the most serious attention, and His Lordship could not agree with Mr. Eglinton in dismissing it so abruptly from their notice. How far it was wise for those respectable gentlemen who conducted public journals to enter into a question of libel was not for the Jury to determine. That was beyond their province and beyond his. They had to consider the proprietor of a newspaper as an ordinary individual, for though an editor was necessarily possessed of great power and influence, yet every individual had the same right to freedom of discussion; and, on the other hand, if an editor was maligned he had as perfect a right to seek redress from the Courts of Justice as any other person, His Lordship would give no opinion, nor would he invite the Jury to do so, as to how far it was wise in those who should place themselves in the foremost ranks to contend for the liberty of the press to come into that Court as prosecutors in a case of libel. The only question for their consideration was whether the publication was a libel or not. There was no disguise in the fact that the first count stood on quite a different footing to the second; and His Lordship must say that this mode of indictment, so far as it related to the second count, did not entirely meet with his approbation, because a personal wrong and injury was, to a certain extent, mixed up with a public one. If the gentleman who conducted the Englishman felt himself aggrieved, his redress might have been a civil action ; but if he preferred, instead of putting damages in his pocket, to vindicate his character by a criminal prosecution, he had a perfect legal right to do so. The first count referred to a libel or supposed libel on the two leading journals of the city of Calcutta. He did not wish unduly to influence the Jury in giving their verdict, but it remained for them to say if those two papers were meant by the allusions in the preface to the pamphlet. There was at present, that is to say, as regards the first count, only one part of the book relied on by Mr. Peterson, viz. the author’s preface. There had been no observation made on the first part, and he would read the passage complained of. (His Lordship here read the preface). The Jury had to deliberate if that was a libel. They must first consider if the Englishman and Hurkaru were the papers alluded to. How did the evidence bear on this point? Mr. Brett had stated in his evidence that he had been for two years managing proprietor, and was formerly joint editor, and was now sole editor of the Englishman newspaper, and that he believed, from the views he had naturally adopted and expressed upon the evidence given before the Government Commission to enquire into the unhappy disputes between the planters and ryots, that it was to his paper that the libel pointed. The Jury must not look at this question in a quibbling manner, but as they would view the ordinary affairs of life. They must exercise their common sense, and he would ask if there could be any doubt on the evidence that the Englishman and Hurkaru were the papers pointed at. That was one question which had been raised for the defence for other considerations. The Counsel for the defence had examined Mr. Brett as to whether there were other daily papers in India, and he had answered that certainly there were others at Bombay and Madras, but the contents of the pamphlet shewed that they could not have been referred to. Had newspapers in Madras and Bombay nothing of more immediate interest to their local interests and constituency to write about than the cultivation of Indigo in Lower Bengal? In His Lordship’s opinion it was trifling with their understanding to say that the Englishman and Hurkaru were not the papers pointed at. Then, if that question were answered in the affirmative, it remained to be seen whether or not the language adopted amounted to a libel. They must judge if it cast a doubt on the honor and integrity of those who had the important duty of conducting these journals, whether they were men likely to be attracted by filthy lucre to advocate any side of any opinion, whether or not they were men capable, for the sake of gain, of being corrupted to advocate any set of views, to the injury of others, and to abstain from giving vent to the honest opinions which their conscience might dictate. It was important to the interests of public liberty that rights of the Press should be amply shielded.
The second part of the passage ran as follows:—(It was here read by His Lordship.)
Did that mean, or did it not mean that those respectable gentlemen who conduct newspapers in Calcutta would sell the best interests of society for Rs. 1000, that they would sacrifice the welfare of society to the promotion for a corrupt purpose of private interests? If it meant that, would it not be a libel! That the jury had to determine. His Lordship had a right, according to the law, to express his opinion, as a matter of advice to them in deciding that question; but he would rather leave it entirely to them. If those gentlemen had not belonged to the press but had been private individuals, how would the case have stood if such persons had been charged with taking bribes to vilify the character of a neighbour for £100? Would they not lay themselves open to such disgrace that they could never again hope to hold up their heads among their fellow men?
It seems to be perfectly settled that any reflection on a man’s character calculated to bring him into ridicule and contempt, or to expose him to public hatred, amounts to a libel in the indictable sense of the word. Therefore, it remained for the jury to decide whether that passage did or did not reflect on Mr. Brett as managing proprietor and editor of the Englishman newspaper.
The first count might be important to Mr. Brett, but the second count concerned the interests of society at large, and his Lordship hoped the jury would anxiously realize the importance of the question involved in the second count. He hoped every one of the jury would apply his utmost intelligence to the solution of that question, and maintain an earnest and strong guard over his sympathies, for unless they kept their sympathies under control they might commit an injury on society at large. The second count was the alleged libel on that portion of the community designated as the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal. Mr. Eglinton contended that a libel would not lie against a class, and that this count was too general, and not sufficiently pointed; but His Lordship was sure the jury would defer to his opinion, and he entertained no sort of doubt that an indictment would lie, though no particular individual was referred to. This question had long been decided in Westminster Hall, that general imputations upon a body of men are indictable. Though no individual can be pointed out, it is not necessary they should reflect upon the character of any particular individual. In the case of Rex V. Osborne, 2, Barnhardiston, 138, an information was prayed against the defendant for publishing a paper containing an account of a murder committed upon a Jewish woman and her child by certain Jews lately arrived from Protugal, and it was objected that no information could be granted because it did not appear in particular who the persons reflected upon were; but the Court granted the information, because many Jews in many parts of the city had been threatened with death. In the case of Rex V. Williams, 5 B. and A. 597, when a publication stated that upon the death of Her late Majesty none of the bells of the several churches in Durham were tolled, and ascribed this omission to the clergy, and then proceeded to make some very severe observations on that body, a criminal information was granted; and in Rex V. Burdett, 4 B. and A. it was held that it was a libel to impute crime to any of the King’s troops, though it did not define what troops in particular were referred to, and that the innuendo of “the said troops” meant the undefined part of those troops. In Rex V. Jenour 7 Mod. 400, Lec. C. J. observed:- “When a paper is published equally reflecting upon a number of people it reflects upon all readers according to their different opinions may apply it so, and other decisions in which classes of the public had sought redress for calumnious charges. The jury would, therefore, accept from him the principle that a libel might be levelled against a class as against an individual. He would now ask them to decide whether or not the libel pointed to the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal. This, and all circumstances connected with the pamphlet, the Jury would have to decide.
A criminal intention is the essence of the offence of libel, and this question the jury would have to decide. Lord Mansfield in delivering the judgement of the Court in Rex V. Woodfall, 5 Burr, 2661, observed: “When an act, in itself indifferent, becomes criminal when done with a particular intent, then the intent must be proved and found. But when the act in itself is unlawful, as in the case of a libel, the proof of justification or excuse lies on the defendant, and in failure thereof the law implies a criminal intent.” Lord Mansfield, in the same case, expresses himself further: “There may be cases where the publication may be justified or excused as lawful or innocent, for no act which is not criminal, though the paper be a libel, can amount to such a publication of which a defendant ought to be found guilty.” The doctrine, thus clearly expressed, has always been considered as a settled principle of Law. In Rex V. Crecevy, I. M. and T., 272, Lord Ellenborough stated: “The only question is whether the occasion of the publication rebuts the inference of malice arising from it.” Mr. Justice Le Blanc says: “where the publication is defamatory, the law infers malice, unless anything can be drawn from the circumstances of the publication to rebut that inference”. In Rex V. Harvey Mr. Justice Bayley says, “assuming malice to be necessary in all cases to constitute a libel, malice ought to be inferred from the publication of defamatory matter, unless some excuse for the publication be shewn.” In the same case Mr. Justice Best says, “malice is the gist of this prosecution. Malice in law relative to libel means legal malice.” Whatever your opinion may be as regards the contents of the books; however much you may condemn the filthy and immoral allusions in different parts of this pamphlet, still you would not be justified in finding a verdict of guilty, unless you are clearly of opinion that the manner of the publication and circulation does not rebut the inference of malice. That decision was given in a State prosecution, and meant that if there was an absence of circumstances showing that the defendant was actuated by an honest and conscientious belief that he was promoting the interests of society, it remained for the jury to consider how far the conduct of the defendant was liable to the charge of a criminal intention. That was entirely a matter for their determination, until the passing of Fox’s Act, (which had been occasioned by repeated differences between Judges and Juries, and was immediately caused by a dispute between Mr. Erskine and Mr. Justice Buller in the well-known case of Rex V. Dean of St. Asaph) the Jury and Judge pulled in different directions, the Court endeavouring to annihilate altogether the province of the Jury, and Juries often times receiving with disgust and alienation the directions of the Judge, until the Act was passed, which was stated to be declaratory of the law. This Act, the 32 Geo, III, C 50, gave the jury full power to determine the question of libel, and there was afterwards no attempt on the part of the Judges to dictate that question. The Judge was still at liberty to state his opinion as to the question of libel or no libel. He would read extracts from cases to show the extent of freedom of discussion and the liberty of the press. (These extracts were read.) It is the undoubted right of every member of the community to publish his own opinion, on all subjects of public and common interest; and so long as he exercises this inestimable privilege candidly, honestly, and conscientiously, he is not amenable as a criminal. The people have a right to discuss any grievance that they have to complain of. In Rex V. Thomas Packe, Mr. Erskine in his celebrated speech, on behalf of the defendant, contended “that every man not intending to mislead but seeking to enlighten others with what his own reason and conscience, however erroneously, have dictated to him as truth, may exert his whole faculties in pointing out the most advantageous changes in establishments which he considers to be radically defective or sliding from their object of this country, has a right to do, if he contemplates only what he thinks would be for its advantage, and but seeks to change the public mind by the conviction which flows from reasonings dictated by conscience.” In the same case Mr. Erskine uttered these remarkable words—”As infallibility and prefection belong neither to human individuals nor to human establishments, except to be the policy of all free nations, as is most peculiarly the principle of our own, to permit the most unbounded freedom of discussion.” I believe in the present day the opinions so expressed by this truly great and good man, are recognised as sound and constitutional principles, and which I unhesitatingly put forth for your consideretion and guidance in determining the all—important question of libel or no libel.
In a recent case, Rex V. Collins, Mr. Justice Little-dale ( in summing up ) says, “every man has a right to give every public matter a candid, full, and free discussion. The people have a right to discuss any grievances that they have to complain of.” Many other cases establish the same doctrine. Supposing the pamphlet in qeustion was a libel in their opinion, it remained to be seen whether Mr. Long had been actuated by an honest and conscientious conviction that he was acting for the best interests of society, not merely reflecting the opinion of the Native community, as had been suggested on his behalf; for, this, he was bound to say, would not afford a shadow of an excuse. The question was whether or not the act of Mr. Long in publishing and circulating the book would negative the legal inference of malice. If Mr. Long had acted as the tool of a Native community, that would be no justification whatever, unless he had a conscientious belief at the time that he was forwarding the interests of society by publishing that pamphlet. How were corruptions to be attacked if the liberty of the press were not to exist? Did not the press fairly claim the privilege of attacking men in authority, men of high station in the Church, and in the profession to which His Lordship has the honor to belong? When there existed abuses, there the press had a right to comment upon them, and rightly too; and it is perfectly lawful to discuss the merits of the decisions of a Judge, provided it be done with candour and decency. If the press were right, the Judge was wrong, and if the press attacked unjustly, the Judge, aided by that public opinion to which even the press must bow, could live it down. The Jury should not approach that great constitutional question, the liberty of the press, without being fully warned. It should never be said that he, as presiding Judge in that Court, failed to put these doctrines fully before the Jury, in a case which concerned the freedom of the press and of public discussion. He therefore did not hesitate to say that if the defendant, in publishing the pamphlet in question, were actuated solely by an honest and conscientious desire to inform the public of abuses, which he thereby hoped to ameliorate, and by no other motive, he would be within the pale of that privilege which the law afforded to every man who acted with good faith in the discharge of a public duty. And especially as a minister of religion would he be entitled to every protection in his efforts to suppress vice and ameliorate the public morals, even although he might in the warmth of feeling and language, express sentiments which should not be otherwise than painful to individuals addressed. The question for the Jury, therefore, would be whether or not upon a consideration of the whole contents of the pamphlet, which formed the subject of this prosecution, there was on the part of the defendant solely a desire, honestly and conscientiously, to benefit society, free from any admixture of other and less pure motives. That could only be determined by a perusal of the document in question, and the passages which had been complained of in the opening speech of the learned Counsel for the prosecution.
It is perfectly true, as stated by Mr. Eglinton in his very able speech, that in an indictment for a libel the defendant cannot plead that the contents are true. In England under 6 and 7 Vict. c. 96 known as Lord Campbell’s Act, the defendant may, by way of defence, allege the truth of the matters charged; and further, that it was for the public benefit. If the learned Counsel meant to suggest that Mr. Long is injuriously deprived of the privilege of proving the contents of the publication to be true, the question must be asked, could he under any state of circumstances, have adduced such proof. And as regards the question, how far it was for the public benefit, I shall emphatically, and I hope distinctly, state that you may take the whole matter into your consideration as to the real motive of Mr. Long, in publishing and circulating this Native drama. I think it right to make this observation, that, in my opinion, Mr. Long has difficulties to contend with in a criminal prosecution, which would not have been the case in a civil action.
His Lordship then proceeded to read seriatim the various passages referred to, commenting on them as bearing on the question of the absence of any other motive than the bona fide desire to enlighten and influence the public on a controversy in which he honestly believed the statements put forward. Adverting to that part of the pamphlet in which in the course of a dialogue in the drama, one of the parties is represented as saying of the wife of an Indigo planter, “She has no shame,” &c, and to a passage in which the Magistrate of the district is suggested to be under the influence of the planter’s wife in the decisions given by him in his Court. His Lordship said he approached the subject, as every man must, with sorrow and disgust. For although the defendant may not be criminally responsible for the publication of the book, the insinuation contained in this passage was one that ought not to be have been published by a clergyman. After reading and commenting on the passage, he said it was for the Jury to say whether it could bear any other interpretation than that suggested by Mr. Peterson, that the wives of the Indigo planters, of which the type was propounded in the drama, were persons who were in the habit of debasing themselves in the manner suggested for the purpose of forwarding the worldly interests of their husbands. It was urged that it only related to some exceptional instance, but the Jury would consider from the whole tenor of the pamphlet whether such were the case. Reading some of the passages in this book and the following passage in the author’s preface: “I present the Indigo Planting Mirror to the Indigo planters’ hands; now let every one of them having observed his face, erase the freckle of the stain of selfishness from his forehead.” It was impossible to speak of them otherwise than as filthy insinuation against a society of helpless ladies who, under the mask of a general type, were cruelly stabbed in the dark. If it meant anything it was not merely a slander against the wives of planters, but also against the Magistrates and the planters. The Jury, the civilians, the soldiers, and merchants in this country alike had their common origin from that middle class whose daughters were here so shamefully maligned. Those ladies came to this country to share a life of toil and hardship with their husbands, far from the friendship and protection of their friends and were entitled to be respected and protected. He had been told that, that publication was an expression of the Native feeling. If so, every intelligent and respectable Native in that Court must have been ashamed to hear such a statement. He had many personal friends among both Civilians and Indigo planters, and he must say that he could not help feeling that it was most cowardly to attack the planters through their wives, and their wives through the Magistrates. Would they believe that those women were in the habit of debasing themselves in order to gain the decision of Magistrates who were bound by oath to administer the law with strict impartiality? Would they believe that those Magistrates were in the habit of violating the solemn obligations of their duty and conscience in the manner suggested? He wished the Jury distinctly to understand that, however much they may condemn these allusions to the wives of the planters, unless they believed Mr. Long translated, published, and circulated such expresstions he is not crimi¬nally responsible unless actuated by a malicious motive. Then, as bearing on the question of bona fides in making this publication for the benefit of society, it has been contended by the learned Counsel representing the Crown that such slanders could not have been published by a clergyman of the Established Church of England with a bona fide and conscientious belief that it would forward the interests of society? It might have been fitting in him to raise the charge of oppression, extortion and cruelty against planters. But what public good would it subserve to publish these filthy allusions to the prostitution of the Native women to the planters? When he (the learned Judge) read these passages he blushed to think a clergyman of the Established Church of England could have lent himself to the propagation of such obscene language and thoughts. It might have been urged that he disavowed those sentiments, and he (the learned judge) had fully expected to hear some disavowal of them at the outset of the trial, some explanation, possibly that they had been overlooked in the hurry of publication; but the case had gone on and had come to close without an apology, or retraction of the insinuations against English women on the part of the defendant or his Counsel. He would read another passage, and ask the Jury what was meant but an improper influence on the part of the wives of the Indigo planters over the Magistrate, who allowed himself to be influenced in his decisions by what might be the conduct of the Indigo planter’s wife towards him. If any other construction could be put upon that passage, no one would rejoice more than His Lordship and it was for the jury, and the jury alone, to decide any question of fact involved in the case. That statement was sent to England without a word of explanation or caution; and every civilian, merchant, and he hoped every clergyman, would agree that such a statement should never have been sent to England for circulation.
Then, again, as bearing on the question of bona fides in the publication and circulation, the jury would take into consideration the evidence as to the lists which had been produced that morning. His Lordship had asked Mr. Lushington whether the persons mentioned in the smaller list were those to whom the Government of Bengal were in the habit of sending copies of works to shew the style of Native literature and the state of Native society. (His Lordship here read out the small list printed below.) It commenced with the Secretary of the Aborigines Society, and the Peace Societies, and included the names of the Earl of Albemarle, Messrs. Bright and Cobden, the members of Council of India, Mr. Marshman, and Mr. Layard. Those names included members of Parliament, clergymen, and religious societies, and these were the parties that were to receive copies of the Nil Durpan according to the reverend defendant’s own desire. A man had a perfect right to send privately any document to Government which tended to ameliorate the state of society, but not to publish to the world charges which he cannot substantiate or does not honestly and conscientiously believe. Whatever might be the decision of the Jury regarding a criminal intention on the part of the Rev. Mr. Long, he had the satisfaction of feeling that, that all-important question, the liberty of the press and freedom of discussion had been fully ventilated by him. It should never be said that, that great constitutional question had been frittered away on that bench. Not a single withdrawal had been made by Mr. Long. It was fitting for him to have disavowed his belief in the statements regarding the wives of Indigo planters before his defence had closed. The Jury had a great question to decide, and he begged them, for the sake of the great interests that were at stake, to consider well and anxiously their verdict. They had read the history of England, and could not be ignorant of the priceless value of the liberty of the press. Should they come to the conclusion that there was no criminal intention on the part of Mr. Long to degrade or bring into contempt and hatred the Indigo planters; if they thought, moreover, that he asked honestly and and conscientiously and that he published the book solely for the benefit of society and religion, and for no other purpose, or that in the warmth of feeling he had incautiously adopted expressions without a criminal intention, they would give a verdict of ‘not guilty.’ If, on the other hand, they should find that with a disregard of the feelings of others, Mr. Long had become the willing instrument to express the feelings of the Native community, or was actuated by other than pure motives they would give a verdict of ‘guilty.’ His Lordship would now leave the case in the hands of the Jury, confident they would give such a verdict as truth and justice demanded.
His Lordship concluded, summing up the evidence at a little before 2 O’clock, and the Jury retired to consider their verdict. After an absence of about an hour and a half they returned to Court to enquire of the presiding Judge whether assuming that the defendant did not believe all the statements in the pamphlet to be true, it would be necessary to be shewn that he was actuated by malice in the publication before he could be found guilty.
His Lordship said that even supposing Mr. Long did not credit all the statements in the book, still if they believed that the defendant had published and circulated the book in question for the interest of society and that he conscientiously believed that the publication of such a book would tend to bring about a reform of the indigo system and was acting in a bona fide manner, he would be entitled to a verdict of acquittal. If, on the other hand, they were satisfied from the contents of the book and the manner of publication and circulation, that the defendant had been actuated by a feeling of animosity towards the planters of Lower Bengal, with the view of degrading, injuring, and bringing this class into contempt and ridicule—for, in that case, the law would infer malice on the part of the defendant—the verdict must be ‘guilty.’
The Jury thereupon retired again, and in about ten minutes brought in a verdict of ‘guilty’ on both counts. Mr. Eglinton requested that Judgement might not be given until the expiration of the four days, within which a new trial might be moved for, as the defendant might be desirous of moving an arrest of Judgement.
His Lordship said it was usual to assign some ground at the time in respect of which Judgement was to be arrested. What was the suggestion on which the motion was made?
Mr. Eglinton said he was not prepared with any ground, and did not know that such motion would be made, but he merely asked for the time to consider the matter.
His Lordship said he had not intended to pass sentence at once. He saw no reason for allowing a delay of four days, but would reserve the sentence until Monday morning, when any application might be brought forward.
|No. 1. Revd. J. Long’s Distribution List.||No. 2. Bengal Office List.|
|Secretaries of Aborigines Protection Society.||Secy of State. 20 copies.|
|Secretary Peace Society, New Broad St.||Earl of Elenborough.|
|Earl of Albemarle.||Earl de Grey and Ripon.|
|Revd. W. Arthur, Wesleyen Mission House.||Viscount Raynham.|
|E. B. Underhill, Secy. Baptist Missionary Society.||Hon. J. Waldgrave.|
|J. Bright, Esq., M. P.||Roundell Palmer.|
|R. Cobden, Esq., M. P.||Col. Sykes.|
|Marquis of Clanricarde.||Sir Culling Eardly.|
|R. H. B. D’Israeli||C. Newdegate.|
|D. Forbes, Professor K. C.||Sir James Colville.|
|E. Gladstone.||J. W. Dalrymple.|
|Hon. A. Kinnaird, 35, Hyde Park.||H. Ricketts.|
|Respective Members, Council of India.||Hodgson Pratt.|
|J. C. Marshman, Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel. D. Masson, 16, Regent Villas, Avenue Road.||J. W. Kaye.|
|Digby Seymour, M. P.||J. F. Hawkins.|
|Secy. Social Science, Pall Mall||J. Dickenson, Jt. Secy. to the Indian Reform Society.|
|Earl of Shaftesbury.||M. Townsend.|
|A. Dunlop, M. P.||Sir Erskine Perry.|
|Lord Blandford.||D. Vansittart, Esq.|
|C. Buxton.||J. G. Craig, Esq.|
|J. Muir, Esq. 16, Regent Terrace, Edinburgh.||Lord Auckland.|
|Rev. H. Penn, 11, Highbury, Crescent.||Sir. C. Trevelyan.|
|Secy. Branch Education Society.||J. G. Phillimore, M. P.|
|J. Dickenson, Secy. of India, Reform Association.||H. D. Seymour, Esq, M. P.|
|Lord Stanley, M. P.||R. W. Crawford, M. P.|
|J. Horsman, M. P.||Lord Cranworth|
|J. Layard, M. P.||Dr. Lushington.|
|Sir S. M. Peto, M. P.||Sir J. Herschel.|
|Church Mission Society.||S. Walpen, Esq.|
|Revd. John Sale.||Sir. J. Packington.|
|Revd. A. Schurr.||Sir A. Buller.|
|H. M. Parker.|
|Sir S. Fergusson.|
|Sir Lawrence Peel|
24th July 1861
BEFORE THE FULL BENCH
The Court sat shortly after eleven o’clock, when the rule moved for on Monday last, for arrest of Judgement in the case of The Queen V. James Long, was proceeded with.
Mr. Eglinton, in support of the rule, argued that the indictment disclosed no legal offence on the face of it, and contended that both counts of the indictment were bad in law. He contended that the first count in the indictment, which charged the defandant with libelling Mr. Walter Brett, was not established, and read that portion of the preface to the Nil Durpan, which describes the part taken by the editors of the two daily papers. He took it that no suggestion of libel was implied against Mr. Brett in that passage, and upon that passage alone, he believed, the prosecution in the present case relied. That constituted his objection to the first count. He held that nothing was implied which, in point of law, would constitute libel. He apprehended that it would be quite unnecessary to cite any of the numerous authorities to prove what does or does not constitute libel, because he relied upon the Court being guided in their opinion by the decisions which the authorities had laid down with respect to libel, and he thought that the present case would not come within the meaning of any of those decided cases. The learned Counsel cited, in support, the case of Digby V. Thompson, P. 821, “Pleas of the Crown.” In that case no particular innuendo was implied and it was a case in some respects similar to the present. His friends on the other side relied upon the construction or meaning to be implied from that one sentence; but the broad question was, would the sentence bear the meaning or construction which the prosecution contended, if read by a disinterested individual in the ordinary sense? Would it, if read in the ordinary way of everyday life, amount in Law to a libel? He contended that it would not. It would be necessary for him to dissect the passage, in order to shew to the Court that the sentence could not be construed in the sense implied by the prosecution. At most it only implied that Mr. Brett had written up the cause of the Indigo planters for money; and he contended that could not be construed into bribery and corruption, and would not tend to turn him into contempt or ridicule among his fellowmen. And he thought that if he could shew to their Lordships that the passage in question was not susceptible of the construction put upon it by the prosecution, he would be entitled to have the first count on the indictment set aside as not borne out by the evidence. He would further contend that if the Court should be of opinion that the passage in the question was susceptible of double meaning or construction then the defendant was clearly entitled to any doubt. He would divide the passage into two portions; the first commencing:—
“The editors of two daily newspapers are filling their columns with your praises; and whatever other people may think, you never enjoy pleasure from it, since you know fully the reason of their so doing. What surprising power of attraction silver has!”
Now, if this passage were taken in its ordinary meaning, what does it prove? What does it amount to? Why, to this—that the editors of those two daily papers, of which Mr. Brett is allowed to be one, wrote up the cause of the Indigo planters for the purpose of reward. It says that the planters enjoy no pleasure from the praises sung by these papers; this being meant to imply that a sort of reciprocal feeling existed, and that they were playing for the support afforded to them. He submitted that the meaning could not be stretched further. It must be read in the ordinary way—in the way that a stranger, having no previous knowledge of the circumstance, would read it; and he believed that any one so reading it, would put that construction upon it. He contended that it was entitled to one higher interpretation than that. With regard to the second portion of the passage, commencing:—
“The detestable Judas gave the great Preacher of Christian religion, Jesus, into the hands of odious Pilate for the sake of thirty rupees; what wonder, then, if the proprietors of two newspapers, becoming enslaved by hope of gaining one thousand rupees, threw the poor helpless people of this land into the terrible grasp of your mouths.”
Now, the imputation in this portion of the passage, upon which the prosecution relies, is the comparison made between Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of our Saviour, and Mr. Brett, but he contended that it was not open to the construction put upon it by his learned friend. It was unfair to construe it into that meaning. Although this did not appear in the indictment, still he thought that was the interpretation made by the prosecution. He apprehended this was the libellous matter, and after the suggestion which he had offered, he thought the Court would be extremely chary in upholding the correctness of the first count if they had any doubt as to its meaning. They would rather lean in favour of the defendant than against him. He thought it was only by way of illustration, and not by comparison, that the words were made use of. Upon the question as to whether a libel in law had been proved he would refer their Lordships to the cases of Robinson V. Jermyn, “Price’s Reports,” P. 11 to a case reported in “Dowlings’ Practice cases” and to “Holt on the Law of Libel” P 118. The case reported in Holt was similar to the present. No evidence was shewn which attached blame or impropriety to Mr. Brett in his private or public capacity; he was merely charged with doing what in England and elsewhere was an everyday occurrence, namely, that he for fee or reward undertook to support, by means of his newspaper, the cause of the Indigo planters. Every man must obtain his livelihood in some way or another; and it was an honourable and recognised way of gaining his living. Every large party or sect throughout the world had some organ to convey and espouse their particular cause. If the fact of upholding the cause of any particular party by means of newspaper writing were to constitute a libel, there would be no end to litigation. These were all the remarks he had to make upon the first count. He might add that the sum of one thousand rupees mentioned as the bribe was in itself so utterly absurd, that no one could attach the meaning to it which the prosecution did; but the entire wording was very obscure and doubtful. With respect to the count in the indictment he would submit this broad objection:—The count was preferred by the planters of Lower Bengal, and he contended that they could not, as a body, collectively prefer an indictment; and he was prepared to cite several authorities in support of that view. He objected to the generality of the presentment, and held that they (Indigo planters) were not enabled, as a body, to institute an action for libel. He was nevertheless prepared to admit that some particular classes might, but that Indigo planters did not, constitute such a class.
The Chief Justice:—Do you mean to imply from your argument that the Queen has not the power of prosecuting any libel committed against any particular section or class of her subjects?
Mr. Eglinton admitted that such a right undoubtedly existed, but he was prepared to show that the Indigo planters did not come within the meaning of a corporate body. He cited in support the case of The King V. Osborn 2 vol, Barnardiston, P. 166. In that case a particular section of the community was mentioned. But in the present case the Indigo planters had no corporate connection which would enable them to come in as a body. A material difference existed between the two cases. That was an old case, and it was questionable whether their Lordships would be inclined to receive it as an absolute authority. There had been only four or five authorities which bore directly on this point for many years, that is to say, bodies of individuals coming in and preferring indictments for libel. Some difference of opinion existed as to the way in which the case of The King V. Osborn was reported in “Swanston’s Cases” but the general principle was the same. Again, in the King V. Williams reported in “Baker’s Abridgement,” the principle was clearly laid down. In that case the parties were described to the Jury as unknown, and he apprehended that, in this case, the Indigo planters, as a body, were equally unknown; for what really constituted an Indigo planter? It might be any man who cultivated a square inch of ground and sowed it with indigo, No number was mentioned, and he alleged there was nothing to show what or who Indigo planters were. Another case in point was The King v. Evans Vol. III “Stark’s Nisi Prius Reports.”
Mr. Justice Wells asked if he (the learned Counsel) considered that if the Indigo planters were a corporate body with a seal, etc., they would be in a better position to come into Court.
Mr. Eglinton apprehended that would materially alter the case, proceeded to cite other cases, including King v. Jenner, King v. Burdett, reported in “Crown Cases.” He submitted that the passage in the pamphlet which made mention of the wife of the planter could not be construed to men what the prosecution suggested. It was intended by the author to convey an idea of the Native feeling, and although not congenial to European tastes, still it showed the Native character. The Native idea of female etiquette was very different to ours; and he contended that the innuendo raised by the prosecution would not suggest itself to the ordinary reader, or to one who was a stranger to the enmity and dislike which existed between the Indigo planters and the ryots. He submitted, generally, that the innuendoes throughout the indictment were not liable to the construction put upon them.
The Chief Justice—But, would English society adopt the same view as the learned Counsel in estimating the bearing of the contents of that pamphlet?
Mr. Eglinton had nothing further to urge, and would ask their Lordships to consider the point which he had already raised.
Mr. Newmarch, on the same side, addressed their Lordships. Some doubt having been expressed by the Chief Justice as to whether it was usual for the Court to hear two counsels on the same side, on a motion for a rule nisi. Eventually, Mr. Newmarch was allowed to address the Court on the understanding that it should not form a precedent. The learned Counsel had only a few words to add to the remarks of his learned friend. He contended that if the principle were once conceded, a libel would not be too general if described as committed upon mankind at large. He also contended that the innuendoes were vague and undefined. The Indigo planters were only mentioned as a body without any reference to number. He thought that they did not exist in such a defined way as to allow of the present libel, if libel at all, being applied to them.
The Chief Justice was inclined to consider that the status of Indigo planters, as laid down in the indictment, was sufficiently distinct.
Mr. Newmarch differed from their Lordships, and thought that a libel on mankind in general would lie equally as well. Suppose it were said that the inhabitants of Lower Bengal had been libelled, he apprehended that no prosecution for a libel of so general a character could take place, because no one individual could fix the imputation upon himself. On these grounds he maintained that the class must be clearly defined to whom the libel is intended to apply. There was no allegation in the indictment which described the class that could feel themselves aggrieved by the libel.
After a short consultation,
The Chief Justice proceeded to deliver the judgement of the Court, observing that the motion before the Court was in arrest of judgment, and the Court were called on to say that no indictable offence had been committed; but the Jury before whom the case was tried had found the defendant guilty upon both counts in the indictment, and they also found that the libel was published maliciously, which he understood to mean the law considered as inexcusable. The correctness of that verdict was not now the question before the Court. If it had been set up by the defence that the defendant had endeavoured to reform abuses, which in his belief existed, that would be ground for shewing that no criminal intention existed, but that question was not raised. The Jury found upon the two counts, and it was not for the Court to interfere with their province. The Chief Justice then went through each case cited by the Counsel from the authorities in detail, and showed that they bore no such interpretation in this case as was endeavoured to be put on them in support of the rule. He then proceeded to remark upon the indictment and Counsel’s objection to it. Now, as regards the first count, it is contended that no libel was proved as against Mr. Brett. He thought it might be laid down that it was libellous to publish any matter intended to bring any individual or individuals into disrepute, and the question was whether that publication would convey such a meaning. Was it libellous to say that an editor received money for the purpose of espousing the cause or writing up any particular party, for that was the imputation contained in the preface, which he would read:—
“I present ‘The Indigo Planting Mirror’ to the indigo planters’ hands; now, let every one of them, having observed his face, erase the freckle of the stain of selfishness from his forehead, and, in its stead, place on it the sandal powder of beneficence; then shall I think my labour successful, good England’s honor. Oh, ye Indigo planters! Your malevolent conduct has brought a stain upon the English nation which was so graced by the ever memorable names of Sydney, Howard, Hall, and other great men. Is your desire for money so very powerful, that through the instigation of that vain wealth, you are engaged in making holes like rust in the long-acquired and pure fame of the British people? Abstain now from that unjust conduct through which you are raising immense sums as your profits; and then the poor people, with their families, will be able to spend their days in ease. You are now-a-days purchasing things worth a hundred rupees by expending only ten; and you well know what great trouble the ryots are suffering from that. Still you are not willing to make that known, being entirely given up to the acquisition of money. You say that some amongst you give donations to schools, and also medicine in time of need—but the planters’ donations to schools are more odious than the application of the shoe for the destruction of a milch cow, and their grants of medicine are like unto mixing the inspissated milk in the cup of poison. If the application of a little turpentine, after being beat by shamchand, be forming a dispensary, then it may be said that in every factory there is a dispensary. The editors of two daily newspapers are filling their columns with your praises; and whatever other people may think, you never enjoy pleasure from it, since you know fully the reason of their so doing. What a surprising power of attraction silver has? The detestable Judas gave the great preacher of the Christian religion, Jesus, into the hands of odious Pilate for the sake of thirty rupees; what wonder, then, if the proprietors of two newspapers, becoming enslaved by the hope of gaining one thousand rupees, throw the poor helpless people of this land into the terrible grasp of your mouths.”
Now, it certainly appeared to him that each Indigo planter would, by looking at this mirror, find his own reflection; and although it was said to apply to a class, still each one of that class would find himself represented. He held that if it was not an imputation it would not be carrying out the sense intended to be conveyed to ordinary minds. It appeared to him to be a very grave charge, and he was unable to come to any other conclusion than that they were libellous. As regards the second count, it was contended that no libel had been committed, because it was published against a class, and that class was not sufficiently described with respect to numbers; but it appeared to him wholly unnecessary to describe them more fully than the indictment had done. Suppose, for instance, in the case of libel against the army, it would be only necessary to define the army which existed at a particular time, without reference to numbers. But the indictment in this case did specify the class, and could any unprejudiced person say that this class did not really mean the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal? It appeared to him perfectly clear, and he believed it to be generally known that the two classes were in existence viz. the Indigo planters and the ryots. His Lordship proceeded to consider the various cases cited by the Counsel for the defence, but held that none of them applied to the case then before the Court. After commenting at considerable length upon the various passages in the pamphlet, he proceeded to quote the following:-
“Darogah:- Did not the Magistrate say he will come here this day?
Jamadar:- No, Sir, he has four days more to come. At Sachigunge on Saturday, they have a champagne-party and ladies’ dance. Mrs. Wood can never dance with any other but our Saheb; and I saw that when I was a bearer. Mrs. Wood is very kind: through the influence of one letter, she got me the Jamadary of the Jail.”
“The cobra-de-capello, like the Indigo Planters, with mouths full of poison, threw all happiness into the flame of fire. The father, through injustice, died in the prison ; the elder brother died in the indigo-field, and the mother, being insane through grief for her husband and son, murdered with her own hands a most honest woman. Getting her understanding again and observing my sorrow, the ocean of grief again swelled in her.”
Now, we are asked to say that this passage does not bear the construction which the Jury have found that it does bear. This passage of itself had been quoted, and had been found by the Jury to have been published in the sense imputed that would have been sufficient to have supported the conviction.
The Court disallowed the rule.
Mr. Justice Wells, addressing the defendant, asked him if he had any thing to urge in mitigation of punishment.
The defendant proceeded to read a written statement, and had proceeded to some length, when he was stopped by the Chief Justice, who expressed himself of opinion that the defendant was alluding to matters altogether irrelevant to the case. The defendant shortly after concluded.
JAMES LONG,—After a careful and patient investigation of the charge preferred against you, the Jury returned a verdict of ‘guilty’ on both counts, and the Court having refused to arrest the Judgement on the motion of your learned Counsel, it is now my painful duty to award the punishment called for by the verdict of the Jury. And after an anxious consideration of all the circumstances of the case, you have been convicted of the offence of wilfully and maliciously libelling the proprietors of the Englishman and Hurkaru newspapers, and under the second count, of libelling, with the same intent, a class of persons designated as the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal.
I most earnestly, I may say most strongly and pointedly, called upon the Jury to uphold and vindicate, if necessary, by their verdict the right of free discussion, and to be careful, lest by their verdict the right of liberty of the press might be endangered. In summing up the case, over and over again I recognised and maintained the right of every man to instruct his fellow-subjects by every sincere and conscientious communication which may promote the public happiness; and I stated distinctly and emphatically the privilege possessed by every man, of pointing out those defects and corruptions which exist in all human institutions. The Jury pronounced a verdict which, I have the satisfaction of feeling, rests upon a constitutional basis and cannot be used hereafter against the liberty of the press. There is not a person who would have rejoiced more than myself if the Jury had returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’ on the ground that they believed you had acted conscientiously and for the interest of society in publishing this book.
I grieve to say that verdict could not have been given without those twelve gentlemen believing that you have been actuated by a feeling of animosity towards the Indigo planters in publishing and circulating such a gross and scandalous libel. Partly through your instrumentality nearly three hundred libels have been circulated, and according to the evidence of Mr. Jones who gave his evidence most properly, with the apparent sanction of the Bengal Secretariat, at the public expense. I am bound to say that such a proceeding is without parallel in the history of Government department in England; and as one of the Judges of the Supreme Court it is my duty to state, and I do so most sincerely, that I trust such a transaction may never occur again in this country, as such a proceeding must necessarily undermine that feeling of respect and confidence which ought to exist on the part of the Government towards those who are placed in authority over them.
I did at the trial, as I now do, scrupulously abstain from expressing any opinion directly or indirectly, as regards the personal motives or feelings which actuated the officers of Government in sanctioning the circulation of this book. It is the safest plan in life always to assume that public men act from pure and just motives until the contrary is established; and it does not follow by any means that the officials, who allowed the paper to be circulated, acted in the slightest degree illegally. The pamphlet was sent forth unaccompanied by a single word of caution or explanation, and the Indigo planters of Lower Bengal have no means of tracing the extent of the injury inflicted upon them by the circulation of the libel; but is there not reason for apprehending certain persons in England may have been induced to bring forward serious but groundless charges against the Indigo planters? It is quite impossible to realize fully the irreparable mischief you have occasioned by causing this libel to be circulated in England. There is one feature in the case I cannot pass over without special notice. I mean the position you hold in society as a clergyman of the Church of England.
I am certain the Bishop of Calcutta, of whom it may be said that he is respected and beloved by the entire Christian community, will deeply lament the circumstance of one of his clergy being convicted of libelling a large and influential body of gentlemen scattered over a portion of his extensive diocese; and I am well assured that the great body of the clergy, with few exceptions, will sympathize with their Diocesan on the present occasion. The fact of your being a clergyman is an aggravation of your offence; and when you state publicly in Court that the advance of Christianity is impeded by the irreligious conduct of many Europeans, I think such an expression of opinion on your part, when called upon to receive the sentence of this Court for libelling many of your countrymen, is rather out of place. And perhaps the great majority of the Europeans may think that your conduct has not done much to promote real practical Christianity. You of all men ought to have inculcated and stood forth as the teacher of that inestimable precept: “Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you.” My duty is a distressing one, but I must not shrink from the performance of it. The sentence of the Court is that you pay a fine of Rs. 1000 to our Sovereign Lady the Queen, and that you be imprisoned in the Common Jail for the period of one calendar month, and that you be further imprisoned until the fine is paid.
ADDRESS OF THE REVEREND J. LONG TO THE COURT (BEFORE SENTENCE WAS PASSED).
My Lord,—As the result of this trial involves consequence extending far beyond the sphere of Calcutta, or even of India, I beg to submit, for your Lordship’s consideration, the following points referring mainly to the motives which actuated me in publishing the Nil Durpan:—
Tried by the mode of a criminal prosecution in Court, I had no opportunity to make a personal statement to the Jury. I can only, previous to your passing sentence, mention what is personal to myself as to the motives which actuated me to publish the Nil Durpan, on the grounds of my being a Missionary, an expounder of Native feeling as expressed in the Native press, a friend to securing peace for Europeans in the country—and a friend to the social elevation of the Natives.
My Lord, it is now more than twenty years since I came to India. During that period I have never appeared in a Court of Justice as plaintiff or defendant; my occupations have been of a very different character, and my time has been spent chiefly among Natives, engaged in Vernacular teaching, in the charge of a body of Native Christians, and in the promotion of Christian Vernacular literature. These pursuits, along with my interest in the rural population, called my attention to the Vernacular press of India, its uses and defects, as well as its being an exponent of the Native mind and feeling. It is in connection with the latter branch of my labors that I appear here today as publisher of the Nil Durpan, which I edited with the view of informing Europeans of influence of its contents as giving Native popular opinion on the Indigo question. This work (the English translation), was not got up at the suggestion of Natives, or even with their knowledge, and was not circulated among them. It was commenced at the request of others. Many of the remarks of Mr. Peterson, the Counsel for the prosecution, are strongly in my favour because if, as he stated, the work was so injurious in its Vernacular dress, was I not doing a public service by making such a work known in English? Not in Calcutta, where it might only lead to more bitter controversy, and where men’s interests are so concerned that all representations would have been useless, producing irritation, not conviction: I circulated it chiefly among men of influence and those connected with the British legislature which, to the oppressed of whatever color or country, has always afforded sympathy and redress. I have aimed for the last ten years in my leisure hours to be an exponent of Native opinion in its bearing on the spiritual, social, and intellectual welfare of Natives of this land; as for instance, when applied to, on the part of the Court of Directors, seven years ago, to procure for their Library copies of all original works in Bengali, or as when, lately, I sent to Oxford by request copies of all Bengali translation from Sanskrit; or when I have procured for missionaries, Government, Rajas &c, Vernacular books of all kinds I should have been a strange person indeed, had my opinion harmonised with all the chaos of opinion in those various publications. Why! at the request of missionaries I have procured anti-Christian works for them, as they wished to know what was written against Christianity.
I am charged with slandering English women in the Nil Durpan. Now, waiving the point that it is only planters’ wives the Native author refers to, I myself believe planters’ wives are as chaste as any other females of English Society in India, and it was my impression that the author only referred to some exceptional cases, not giving them as specimens of a class of females. The view that I and others, who know Oriental life, have taken of this part relating to females is, it gives the Eastern notion of the high indelicacy of any woman who exposes her face in public, or rides out in company with a gentleman. I have heard such remarks made of my own wife; but I treated them as a specimen of village ignorance. Sir F. Shore in his “Notes on Indian Affairs” states instances of a similar kind, and Lieutenant Burton, who went disguised as a pilgrim to Mecca, mentions the greatest reproach the pilgrims there made against the English was, that they shook hands with their neighbours’ wives; I regret, however, I did not append a note of explanation to this part.
I hold in my hand the first drama ever translated, and that by an illustrious Jugde of this Court—Sir W. Jones—in order to give a view of Hindu society. Similar service was rendered by Horace H. Wilson, by Dr. Taylor and various other persons.
I beg to say I was far from wishing to vilify planters generally, though from sincere conviction and enquiry opposed to the system. Thus, when summoned before the Indigo Commission, my evidence there was considered even by the planters’ friends as moderate and free from invective. I was elected a member of a sub-committee of the Calcutta Missionary Conference to watch the progress of the Indigo controversy, and it was never objected then that any of my actions in connection with this Conference on this subject were for the purpose of vilifying. I have never lived near planters, nor have I had any personal altercation with them that would lead me to a vindictive course.
I ask when hundreds—yea, thousands—of Bengali books were submitted by me during the last ten years to the notice of Europeans of influence, was the Nil Durpan to be the only exception? And wherefore? The ryot was a dumb animal who did not know his ruler’s language. And at the time of this Nil Durpan appearing, matters on the Indigo controversy were assuming a threatening aspect; so it was important that men of influence should know that the wound was not a surface one, but required deep probing. Could I as a clergyman have withheld a work of this sort which indicated some of the causes of the deep-seated aversion of ryots to Indigo cultivation? This work, the Nil Durpan, was sent to me as hundreds of Vernacular books have been, because it is known in many quarters that I take a deep interest in Vernacular literature. Here is an illustration: these two Vernacular books were sent to me a few days ago from Benares—one Robinson Crusoe in Hindi, the other a Choral Book in Urdu. Almost every week I receive new Vernacular books, and I make a point of bringing them to the notice of Europeans on various grounds. Sir F. Halliday honored my “Reports on the Vernacular Press” by publishing them; so did the present Government in the case of publishing my Sketch of Vernacular Literature; so did the Vernacular Literature, Religious Tract Society, Christian Tract and Book Society, shew their confidence in publishing various works of mine.
I will now state the grounds why as a clergyman opposed to war I published the Nil Durpan. My Lord, four years only have elapsed since Calcutta was waiting in trembling anxiety for the result of the mutiny. Few could look with calmness on the future, while watch and ward were kept all night by the citizens. Many felt then, as I had long felt before, how unsafe it was for the English to reside in India in ignorance of and indifference to the current of Native feeling. The mutiny, in common with the Afghan war, has showed that the English in India were generally unacquainted with it, so a short time previous to the mutiny the Sonthal war burst but unexpectedly to the public. For along period Thuggee and torture were prevailing in India, without the English knowing anything of them. Had I, as a missionary, previous to the mutiny, been able to submit to men of influence a Native drama which would have thrown light on the views of sepoys and Native chiefs, how valuable might the circulation of such a drama have proved, although it might have censured severely the treatment of Natives by Europeans; the indifference of sepoy officers generally towards their men; and the policy of Government to Native States. Such a drama might have helped to save millions of money and torrents of human blood. In Cabul, the authorities, through a false security founded on ignorance of Native opinion, entailed a loss of fifteen millions sterling on the State and the damage of England’s prestige. Has Calcutta forgot the lessons taught by the mutiny? I ask was it very malicious to reveal to the governing race the latent current of Native thought and feeling on the subject of Indigo, which was convulsing the whole country, and threatening it with anarchy, incendiarism, and assassination? Would I have been justified to withhold contributing my mite at such a crisis to the great object of rousing men of influence by shewing them, from a Native source, that the dissatisfaction was deep-seated, and that the wound must be thoroughly probed before healing measures could be efficacious.
My Lord, the mutiny has passed away; who knows what is in the future? As a clergyman and a friend to the peaceable residence of my countrymen in India, I beg to state the following as motive for my editing such works as the Nil Durpan. I for years have not been able to shut my eyes to what many able men see looming in the distance. It may be distant, or it may be near; but Russia and Russian influence are rapidly approaching the frontiers of India. Her influence so manifest in Cabul 20 years ago, as shewn in a recent Parliamentary Blue Book, was beginning to be felt in India during the last mutiny; now she goes on the principle of divide et impera; previous to invasion she gains over the Native population in various countries to her side. Could I, then, as a clergyman have watched with apathy measures like those in connection with the Indigo system which were furthering this Russian policy, and which might lead to war and dissensions that would retard for a long period the progress of religion, education and peaceful commerce. I now speak merely my own honest convictions on this point, and I ask if this conviction has any foundation in reality; as also if there be any ground for another as deeply rooted in my mind that mere armies can no more secure the English in India than they established the Austrans in Italy. Was it not my duty as a clergyman to help the good cause of peace, by showing that the great work of peace in India could be best secured by the contentment of the Native population, obtainable only by listening to their complaints as made known by the Native press and by other channels. I pass over French views in the East, but I say forearmed is forewarned, and even to the expense of wounding their feelings in order to secure their safety, I wish to see the attention of my countrymen directed to this important subject.
As a missionary, I have a deep interest in seeing the faults of my countrymen corrected; for after a residence of my 20 years in India, I must bear this testimony—that, of all the obstacles to the spread of Christianity in India, one of the greatest is the irreligious conduct of many of my own countrymen. Thousands of Natives have said to me, “We judge of the Christian religion by what your countrymen do, not by what they say; by the life, not by the Doctrine.”
For 20 years I have, as a missionary, been in close and confidential intercourse with Natives of all classes. Often and often has my spirit been harrowed and almost crushed by a close view of the condition of the ryot, his wants and his sufferings; shut out from that ability to read, without which the pages of inspiration are locked up to him. I can see in the improvement of his social condition a means of enabling him to enjoy the light of knowledge. I have circulated many pamphlets in England on “The ryot, his teachers, and torturers,” and on the evils resulting from the ryots not having a sound Vernacular education. When I have not shrunk from exposing many social evils to which the ryot is subject, I beg to submit, could I have avoided, in my position, exposing his suffering from the Indigo system.
(The Chief Justice here stopped Mr. Long, stating that the Court were willing to hear anything that he had to address to them in his defence. That it was not the length of the matter he was now reading but its substance they objected to as irrelevant. The remainder we give as from the MS. prepared by Mr. Long.)
Influential men in England have deeply sympathised with me on these points, and have said “You and others that expose those recesses of human suffering and degradation must let us know the results,” and I have been, my Lord, amongst those masses for years, and hope, as long as I live, have a brain to think and a pen to write, to advocate the social elevation of the masses as incidental with the progress of mental and moral light. Should I not have been a traitor to the religion I professed, whose great founder’s motto is, “The poor have the Gospel preached to them,” had I not availed myself of all legitimate opportunity to bring the wants and sufferings of the ryots, and the feelings and views of Natives generally to the notice of men who had the power of remedying them? It may be called too political a course, as some now unduly restrict that term; but Christianity itself is political in the extended sense; for in the early ages it assailed the slavery of the Roman Empire; in the middle ages it afforded an asylum to the serfs against the oppressions of the feudal chiefs; at the period of the Reformation it brought freedom to the peasants’ home; and in modern days it has abolished slavery in the West Indies. It has protested against American slavery, and is now throwing its mantle of protection round the aboriginal tribes throughout the world. In 1856 I delivered an address in Calcutta to the friends of Missions on “Peasant degradation, an obstacle to Gospel propagation.” No one then objected to that address on the ground of its being political.
My Lord, I am sustained in this course by the conviction of, I trust, an enlightened conscience, and confidently on the continued sympathy of many friends both among the European and Native community, and of all in India and Great Britain, who desire to see India governed not merely for the advantage of its fluctuating population from Europe, but for the benefit of, and with considerate regard for, the feelings and interests of the 180,000,000 Natives over whom stretches the aegis of the Queen and Parliament. I know I shall have the sympathy of good men, the friends of the Natives, in India and in England, and of all those throughout the world who believe in the indissoluble connection of spiritual and intellectual improvement.
My Lord, a Court of Law has decided that the work. is a libel and it is my duty to submit to that verdict and to act accordingly. My conscience convicts me however of no moral offence or of any offence deserving the language used in the charge to the Jury. But I dread the effects of this precedent. This work being a libel, then the exposure of any social evil of caste, of polygamy, of Kulin Brahminism, of the opium trade and of any other evils which are supported by the interests of men, may be treated as libels too, and thus the great work of moral, social, and religious reformation may be checked.
My remarks are ended, my Lord. I beg to hand in an affidavit.
[The affidavit put in was the printed “statement” which had appeared, pending the trial, in the columns of the Friend of India.]
STATEMENT OF W.S. SETON-KARR. ESQ., C.S., IN REGARD TO THE NIL DURPAN
As, in the late trial of the Revd. J. Long, mention has been made, in evidence, of the Bengal Office, as some allusion to my order as Secretary has also been made in connection with the Nil Durpan, I think it now right to give some explanation of the matters referred to.
I should have broken silence on this subject at a much earlier period, had it not been for the utter uncertainty I have been in as to the exact course which the gentlemen who are aggrieved by the publication in question intended to pursue, and what kind of proceedings they were resolved to institute, and against what person or persons.
I must observe further that I was summoned as a witness both for the prosecution and for the defence, at the late trial, and expected that I should have an opportunity of stating in the witness-box some of the facts, or giving some explanation of the matter, so far as it affected myself.
But the Counsel for the prosecution did not require my evidence, though I was in attendance under my subpoena, while for the defence no witnesses were summoned at all; I had, therefore, no opportunity of explaining anything.
This being the case, I take the earliest opportunity of putting on record the chief points of my connection with the Nil Durpan, because an explanation seems due to the Association of Landholders, (who represent the gentlemen aggrieved by the publication) and to myself.
First, as to the way in which the work in question was brought to light to the public.
About the month of October or November last the Reverend Mr. Long brought to my notice the existence of this drama in the original Bengali, and a Native hawker, who was commissioned by the Native author to sell the book, brought me a copy, which I purchased. Until that lime I had never heard of the work.
The drama bore the mark of a Dacca printing press, and the date of its publication was the 2nd. of Assin, corresponding to the middle of September. From conversation with Mr. Long and with the Native hawker, I felt quite satisfied that the drama was the genuine production of a Native resident in the Mofussil. On dipping into the original 1 was struck with the thorough knowledge of village life which it displayed, with the pointedness of the Bengali proverbs, some of which were new, while others were familiar to me, and with its colloquial style and Vernacular idiom.
After this the drama was translated by a Native with my sanction and knowledge, as some persons were desirous of seeing it in an English form, and 500 copies were printed and sent to the Bengal office. I may here state what I have always avowed to personal friends, that I set no value whatever on the Nil Durpan, except as an ebullition of popular feeling on a subject which had for some time agitated the Native and English Public. I well knew that the Hindoos from time immemorial were in the habit of adopting the drama as an exponent of their feelings; but I never for one instant contemplated the application of the matters therein represented to any two particular planters, or to any persons as representatives of the whole class. The names of men and of places were not traceable to any one district; they were entirely fictitious; and the whole thing in my eyes, was a popular drama—and no more. Neither did I for a moment intend to express or to imply that the view of the indigo system taken by the Native author was a correct view of the general system as carried on by Englishmen in any part of Bengal. It seemed to me, as it has done to others who have read the work, that it contained exaggerated statements of the conduct not only of two fictitious individuals (Rose and Wood) but of their servants, of the class of mookhtiars or attornies who practise in our Courts, and of the English Magistrates who administer justice.
The strictures on the imaginary members of my own service were certainly, in some respects, as sharp as any directed against any other class of men. Consequently, remembering how little is known to the authorities and to Europeans generally of the under-currents of Nalive society; how constantly men of the greatest Indian experience, the widest benevolence, and the largest sympathies, had lamented their utter inability to penetrate the recesses of Native thought and feeling; how repeatedly Government itself had been blamed during and before the mutiny, for paying no heed to cheap publication from the Native press and indicative of popular feeling; I thought the work was one to which attention ought to be called, and to this opinion I must still adhere, however erroneous the mode of calling attention to the drama may have been. It was not that the Native auther uttered opinion which I accepted, or depicted scenes which I wished to be understood as of common occurrence; or that his view of Indigo planting was my view; but it was that he had his own thoughts and opinions on the system of Indigo planting, and that he had the boldness to avow these in his own fashion and language and by his own illustrations which however one-sided and exaggerated, or satirical, seemed to me to merit some attention.
The list given in at the trial contains the number of copies issued, or 202, being not one half of those printed, and the circulation took place with my knowledge, but owing to a misconception on my part not with that of the Lieutenant Governor.
The said list is one of a class of papers not usually brought on record, and it might with ease have been torn up, without blame being imputed to any one, and without is existence being known out of the office. I have taken care that it should be preserved, not from any spirit of defiance, but because, however erroneous my judgement may have been, I felt that it would ill become me to attempt to suppress or conceal anything which shewed the real extent of what had been done.
A great deal of censure has been passed upon the secrecy with which this book was circulated. I contend that the very fact of circulation under official frank shews that no secrecy was attempted or intended beyond the unavoidable secrecy of the Post Office. Had it been intended, as has been stated, to stab reputations in the dark, it would have been comparatively easy to have circulated a number of copies by the ordinary book postage, which mode could have afforded no clue whatever as to the sender.
After all, the whole Indian circulation amounts to 14 copies, and most of those have been recalled or destroyed. No copies were sent to any newspaper or public body in Calcutta because it was considered that to make selections would be invidious, and that, on the whole, those who had taken one side or the other in the Indigo crisis, were hardly in the position to form a fair estimate of any such popular representation of Native feeling. Any large local circulation would probably have done no good. As a bare fact, the impress of the Government frank must, I contend, disprove the charge of a wish to calumniate in secret, and of any underhand proceeding. Indeed, it will hardly be contended with seriousness that any one wishing to produce irritation, or to hurt the feelings of others without detection, and in safety from any possible consequences, would choose such a mode of circulation as the sending to four papers in four different parts of India, and the conductors of the English press remote from the scene of controversy, might take some little interest in a genuine expression, however exaggerated, of Native feeling by Native authors.
The copies sent home were addressed to gentlemen holding different political opinions, and these gentlemen had, several of them, been furnished with copies of published documents, relating to the Indigo question. But while I contend that my conduct has been straightforward and honest, I have no hesitation in expressing my most sincere regret that any such publication should at all have taken place. It has excited great irritation; it has given rise to much misconstruction both as to the Government of Bengal and to individuals; it has seriously offended a very respectable and influential body of men for whose difficulties I have every sympathy, and whom, officially and unofficially I have always desired to assist, even when I differed from their views and opinions; and it has resulted in the successful prosecution of a very excellent Missionary of the Church of England. At the same time, while fully acknowledging the error committed in this instance, my earnest conviction is that, putting aside the heat which the indigo question has excited, and looking to ordinary times, it is not the transmission of such publication to editors and to official and unofficial Englishmen that is likely to do mischief, but their circulation among the Native public unnoticed by the Government and unknown to the European community. Under this conviction I acted without (as I must on reflection admit) sufficiently considering at the time, the peculiar circumstances which rendered the publication of this work unwise.
I must now offer a few remarks on some parts of the publication itself. With some of the great questions to which the late trial has given rise, I shall not attempt to deal.
I leave the question of including purely dramatic fictions or satires amongst libellous publications, exposed to the penalties of criminal laws as well as the vital question of discussion and of the liberty of the press, to be dealt with by those within whose province such question should strictly come; I will only state, on this head, that a play representing fictitious characters, and treating the subject in the style of dramatic exaggeration put into the mouth of these characters, being looked upon as a serious attack upon any entire class of persons never crossed my mind. But there are two points in the work, as published, which involve somewhat consideration from those under which the work, as a drama, may be looked at and these latter I must not let pass without some explanation.
In the preface by the Native author a passage occurs which apparently reflects on the conduct of two English newspapers and which, whatever may be its technical definition in the eye of the Law, and however clear it may be that no English reader will attach importance to such importation, or treat them otherwise than as contemptible, is certainly open to very grave objection and calculated to give great and just offence. Had my attention been attracted to the passage, or had I read it carefully, I certainly would not have allowed the book to go forth with that passage in it. As it is, the matter is past help. In fact, my attention had been directed to the drama rather than to the prefatory notices, and the passage escaped me. I can only express my sincere regret that it should have appeared in its place, and that I should have been instrumental in circulating it. In this avowal I adopt the course rightly followed in social intercourse whenever offence is unwillingly given; and it would not require the influence of a powerful Association to lead me to express my regret to any one person who might deem himself offended by any act originating in any inadvertence or carelessness of mine; nor on the other hand shall either the fear of misconstruction of its being supposed that the avowal proceeds from unworthy motives, or a dread of consequences, prevent me from making it.
But, for reasons stated at the head of this explanation, I have not, except in a short interview with Mr. Brett, the editor of the Englishman, on the 25th May, in which I did express my sincere regret that the passage should have appeared, had any opportunity of making any explanation of the kind.
I can only repeat that I deeply regret that this passage was ever translated and published.
The second point is the alleged imputation on the virtue of English women in portions of the drama itself. I can conscientiously say that until the point was strongly insisted on, I did not think there were any passages capable of any such construction, and a close inspection of a work consisting of 120 pages has not discovered to me more than two or at most three passages in which English ladies are mentioned at all.
The first passage occurs in a conversation between two poor Bengali women in a village. One woman says, “The lady has no shame at all, and when the Magistrate of the Zillah rides about through the villages, the lady also rides on horseback with him.” The speaker then goes on to say “the bou (or married woman) riding about on a horse!” The other woman has just before said, “The wife of the planter, in order to make her husband’s case strong, has sent a letter to the Magistrate since it is said that the Magistrate hears her words most attentively.” To say that these words impute want of virtues to a lady because she writes a letter about a case in Court to a judicial officer, or that to go on to argue that it ascribes unchastity to a whole class of English women, does not seem to me to be fair or reasonable. No doubt, it may be injudicious for ladies to write private letters to Magistrates and other judicial officers in order to get situations for servants, or for applicants whom they wish to befriend, and the fact of such an officer receiving and answering in Court a letter from a lady, the wife of an actual or possible litigant, on whatever subject it may be, may convey impressions to the very suspicious mind of an ignorant Native; but it never entered into my thoughts to conceive that an allusion to this practice would warrant general charge of even indelicacy in thought or deed, against women. As regards the statement that a lady riding about the village “must have no shame,” I do most emphatically contend that this expression in the mouth of either a Hindoo or Mussulman woman expresses nothing but the regular innate idea generated by Oriental seclusion. The very words, which in Hindusthani would be iska kuch sharm neh hai, and in Bengali tahr kichchu lajja nahe, are familiar expressions in the mouth of every Native speaking of any act which he thinks offensive or in bad taste, done by any one who does not please him. A Native woman brought up in seclusion, with the ideas she has received from childhood, generally speaking, can no more understand or appreciate propriety in the unrestrained, liberal, enlightened, and virtuous intercourse of men and women in our society than we can understand or appreciate the social policy which marries girls in their childhood and consigns them through married life or through premature widowhood to the jealous seclusion of four dull walls. Any Hindoo woman, if she holds to the tenets of her fathers, is exposed to shame if she sees the face even of her husband’s brother, and must then veil her own face, and it would be asking too much that she should be expected to understand that Englishmen and women should sit, walk, ride and mingle together in social intercourse, without shame or embarrassment.
The other passage is put into the mouth of a jemadar, once a bearer, who says that he has obtained his situation by the influence of a planter’s wife, “who wrote one letter to the Magistrate,” and “who never danced with any other person but the Magistrate.” I have already explained this appears to me to be merely an allusion to the very common practice of sending letters of recommendation in favour of old servants to official personages who have places at their disposal. I believe honestly that the practice has long existed and will continue to exist. But where 1 have heard, as I have heard, of any lady sending letters of this kind, it has never occurred to me to see any evil design therein, and as to the asserted partiality of an Englishman for one particular partner in a dance, it surely would be a far-fetched and uncharitable construction which would attach thereto any hidden or disgraceful meaning.
These are the only two passages which I think it necessary to notice, as they have been much talked of, and misunderstood, and as they relate to points to which society, if not possessed of accurate information, or if not furnished with the actual words used in the drama, is likely to be sensitive. In a third passage a Magistrate is simply described as writing a letter to a lady in the presence of her husband. But I believe that most persons who know India and its people, will read all this as I have done. I still think my reading is the correct one. Should I be mistaken, or even though I be right, should others think differently, my sorrow for this unfortunate publication will be increased by the thought that an offensive meaning (which I should be among the first to reprehend, if applied by others to any of my country-women) had been attached to expressions which I believed and, still in my conscience believe, to be free from all such gross imputations. It has been stated in a paper published at Bombay that I have gone about boasting of having misused the influence of Government from my personal hatred of planters. A more unfounded statement was never written. I have never talked about this unfortunate business, except when pressed on the subject, or to intimate friends. I have never uttered a boasting or a defiant word on the subject. It has been, ever since I became aware of the very different estimate which others were likely to form of the meaning and tendency of the publication from that which I had myself formed, a source of deep and unmixed pain to me. That pain was increased by the feeling that till now my lips were sealed regarding the publication. The imputation of animosity on my part towards planters personally, or towards their interest, I feel, needs no declaimer from me. I believe that the planters among whom I have mixed have ever felt that I have been personally friendly towards them even whilst opposed in some instance to their views; and I believe and trust that I have still preserved friends among the planters of Jessore who will be surprised and even pained at the charge of personal hostility.
While I fully admit that my course in regard to the publication has been a mistaken one, and that I ought not to shrink from owning my mistake or my deep regret for it, I have nothing to reproach my conscience with, or to be ashamed of, as no act or word of mine has been in the remotest degree influenced by the feeling of personal hostility towards the planters which has been most erroneously imputed to me.
The above statement I have made public with a clear conscience, and at as early a dale as was possible, with regard to my peculiar situation and to that of others.
Calcutta, July 27, 1861.(Sd) W.S. SETON-KARR
REVIEW OF MR. SETON-KARR’S STATEMENT
Mr. Seton-Karr has sent us a statement of his connection with the much debated Nil Durpan case to which we very willingly give the same prominent assertion as we accord to our own comments on his conduct in the affair. Nothing can be more sincere than the tone of this statement, which is the manifest production of an originally able mind, lamentably crippled by the circumstances of its life-long position. There are sentences in it which do honour to the writer’s heart and nature but as a whole it adds one more to the many sad testimonies that no nature can wholly withstand the influences of such a false position as that of a dignitary trained and developed in the last generation of the old Civil Service. We accord full honour to and accept with the fullest appreciation the assurance with which Mr. Seton-Karr closes his statement. None but a well-bred gentleman and honourable man could have written at the close such a statement:— “While I fully admit that my course as regard to the publication has been a mistaken one, and that I ought not to shrink from owning my mistake or my deep regret for it, I feel that I have nothing to reproach my conscience with or to be ashamed of, as no act or word of mine has been in the remotest degree influenced by the feeling of personal hostility towards the planters, which has been most erroneously imputed to me.” But whilst giving the writer of it the fullest credit for sincerity and honourable intention, we condemn most entirely the principle on which he declares himself to have acted; we demur to every conclusion he deduces; and we declare that the public servant who avows his course on such grounds as he here takes, is, on his own showing, altogether unfit for the high and responsible position of a legislator or administrator in the critical hours of the formation, out of sheer chaos, of constitutional Government for the youngest and well—nigh the greatest of Empires. As this important document only reached us yesterday afternoon, we can but touch upon its more salient points. Nor indeed is much more needed, for, in most points it is more than answered; it is demolished by the address of the Landholders’ Association to those to whom Mr. Seton-Karr had circulated the Nil Durpan, which follows it. There are, however, a few points which we must notice in the briefest manner. Mr. Seton-Karr complains that he had been kept silent by his uncertainty as to the course intended to be taken by the Association. Had a direct answer been given by the Bengal Government to the questions of responsibility when put to them by the Association, there would have been left no room for doubt. A tithe of the statement now made, had it been substituted for the miserably evasive letter of the Lieutenant Governor on the 3rd June, would have settled all such doubts in a few hours. Mr. Seton-Karr and the Bengal Government are late in the day for the expression of this sort of surprise after having allowed Mr. Long to stand alone as the publisher of the Nil Durpan, at the time of the trial of Manuel, the printer. The Association did not then leave much doubt as to their course. Mr. Long then said, “I am the publisher”, but it is after Mr. Long’s conviction that Mr. Seton-Karr says that the drama was translated and the libels published “with his sanction and knowledge.” It was proved at the reverend victim’s trial that he paid the printer’s bill; but though it is now declared that “500 copies were printed and sent to the Bengal Office,”—it is left to us to declare that the bill was sent to that Office also, but was withdrawn after the first letter from the Association was written; and that the bill, which was intended to have been paid from the public purse, has only been paid from private resources, and those not Mr. Long’s, in consequence of the public explosion of the matter. Even now, after as ample an apology as a gentleman can offer to those whom he has aggrieved, the “heaven-born” element is stronger than the mere man in Mr. Seton-Karr; and to this moment he does not realize the gravity of his position as a high official having lent himself under party feelings to most unbecoming and unconstitutional degradation of his Official position; or as a legislator having had recourse, under like influences, to a breach of the law. For instance, he says, “I contend that the very fact of circulation under Official frank, shows that no secrecy was attempted or intended beyond the unavoidable secrecy of the Post Office”. Now that we have at last arrived at a distinct avowal of Mr. Seton-Karr’s responsibility for the circulation of the libellous book in a form in which we can fairly and honourably use the admission, we purpose to take care that he shall arrive at the truth one way or other about such a use of the Official frank. As to the laboured endeavour to prove that no one could put an evil construction on certain passages of the book, the answer is complete in the fact that the expose was brought about by the instant construction put on it by one of the few to whom the book was sent in India; and that the same construction has been put on it by the Jury, and the Court before whom Mr. Long stood to receive through them the all but universal condemnation in this respect—at least of the public at large whose representatives they were. But for mere quibblings we have now neither time nor space but it is strange that one who could write so able a statement of a hopelessly bad case should commit such a blunder as the following—respecting the infamous slander on English ladies in India:—”I did not think there were any passages capable of any such construction, and a close inspection of a work consisting of 102 pages has not discovered to me more than two or at most three passages in which English ladies are mentioned at all.” Not noticing the obvious deduction, that in all those passages in which they are mentioned, the hideous innuendo is the same without variation or qualification. Equally faulty is the plea urged for not sending the book to the general press, or the representatives of the planters for whose behoof the great moral lessons complained in it were intended. We are told:—”No copies were sent to any newspaper or public body in Calcutta, because it was considered that to make selections would be invidious; and that, on the whole, those who had taken one side or the other in the indigo crisis, were hardly in the position to form a fair estimate of any such popular representation of Native feeling.”
Englishman, July 29.