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in this position, that he will come into the witness-box without your being able to try whether the charges in respect of which this action is brought are true or false ; and all I am permitted to do in this stage of the proceedings is to give you such a history of the circumstances which are referred to in this libel as will enable you to understand the allusions that are there made, and to appreciate the spirit and the animus of the writer,
Now, gentlemen, as I have said, Mr. Seymour is assailed from the beginning to the end of his career; and therefore I must tell you shortly what Mr. Seymour's history has been. He is the son of a clergyman of eminence in Ireland, (a clergyman of the Established Church,) and a member of one of the oldest families in that country. He is here sneered at as having had little or no education, as being no scholar : I may, therefore, tell you, that Mr. Seymour graduated with honours at the Dublin University, where he obtained several prizes for literary and collegiate productions. He came to England, and was called to the bar of this country in the year 1846. He chose the Northern Circuit; and in the year 1852 he was elected a Member of Parliament for Sunderland, one of the towns on his own circuit. He was getting at that time into considerable practice. He attended the sessions at Durham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Hull. He became the leading counsel at those sessions, and was in the habit of receiving briefs in prosecutions on the part of the Crown, by the Post Office, and so on; and, holding that position, he was, in the year 1854, appointed Recorder of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I mention this because every single step you will find is made use of in this libel to cast the vilest imputations against him. He was appointed, as I have said, Recorder of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the year 1854; and from that time to the present he has held that judicial office. Upon receiving his appointment as Recorder, it became necessary that he should vacate his seat for Sunderland. Upon his doing so, he went down to Sunderland again ;-he failed to be re-elected, but in the year 1859 he put up for the borough of Southampton, for which he was elected, and he sits as one of the Members for that borough to the present day.
Now, gentlemen, as to Mr. Seymour's advancement at the Bar. I have told you that he became the leader of the sessions which he attended on the Northern Circuit. He had become Recorder of the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was appointed, as the voluntary act of the learned Judges who went the Northern Circuit in the year 1860, Queen's Counsel in the County Palatine of Lancaster. I do not know whether you, gentlemen, are aware that that is a Pala
tinate jurisdiction in which dignities are granted to members of the Bar which are confined to that county, but which are generally considered as stepping-stones to further dignities extending over the whole country. In August, 1860, he was appointed by the senior Judge who went the Northern Circuit, (with the perfect assent of the other Judge,) Queen's Counsel of the County Palatine of Lancaster, and he held that rank until he received his patent as Queen's Counsel for England from the late Lord Chancellor Lord Campbell. He was in Parliament in 1859, when he sat for the borough of Southampton, and having been appointed Queen's Counsel within the County Palatine of Lancaster in August, 1860, he received, in the month of February, 1861, in conjunction with a number of other learned friends of mine belonging to the Northern Circuit, & patent as Queen's Counsel for England. That being made the subject of comment here, I mention it to you as a matter of fact, in order that you may see the meaning and the animus of the writer in referring to it. I believe I may say, without disparagement to any one of my learned friends who received the rank of Queen's Counsel at the same time as Mr. Seymour, that his practice at the bar at that period as completely justified that appointment being conferred upon him as did that of any
my learned friends who took rank with him.
Now, gentlemen, shortly after that appointment, Mr. Seymour received an intimation from the Benchers of the Middle Temple, (to which Inn he belonged,) that certain charges had been made against him which they desired he should appear before them to answer. I make no complaint of that honourable body for the course they took in summoning Mr. Seymour to appear before them ; but it was certainly most unfortunate that the charges which were then for the first time presented against Mr. Seymour, should not have been brought forward until after he had received from the late Lord Chancellor, Lord Campbell, the appointment of Queen's Counsel; and probably you will be surprised to hear that he was then, for the first time, called upon to answer, not for any professional misconduct (with the exception of one matter which I will speak of presently), but for conduct in other relations of life, eight years, seven years, and, the most recent, six years ago.
Now I have said, I do not know who the writer of this article is, neither do I know how much, if anything, the writer of it had to do with the charges which were brought before the Benchers of the Middle Temple against Mr. Seymour ; but this I do know, that those charges must have been known to whoever brought them forward, years before ; and it is most unjust as well as most unfortunate that so long a period should have been permitted to elapse before making imputations such as these against the character of a professional man. These charges were not made until after Mr. Seymour had obtained promotion in his profession; and when he was called upon to answer them, several witnesses were dead, papers had been destroyed, and his means of exculpation were thereby diminished. Supposing a person were indicted now in a criminal court for an offence alleged to have been committed eight years ago, he having been living among us ever since without anything of the kind having been imputed to him ; would there not be a public outcry that it was a most unjust thing after so long a lapse of time to call upon him to vindicate himself from such a charge? However, so it was. Mr. Seymour was called on to answer certain matters which were alleged to have occurred years and years ago; and, as I have said, they were not matters relating to his professional character at all. Mr. Seymour unhappily, like many other persons in their foolish giddy days, became connected at one period of his life with joint-stock companies; and the charges which were brought against him were charges in connexion with one of them, and had nothing whatever to do with his professional character, with the single exception I will mention presently. He was summoned to appear before the Benchers; he attended, and the charges which had been made against him were investigated. That investigation occupied a very considerable time, and in the course of the inquiry it turned out (and this is the one exception to which I have just referred, for this did relate to him in his professional capacity) that at one period, several years before, Mr. Seymour, having got into difficulties and into debt, had become, as the result of his speculation in shares in joint-stock companies, the debtor of a solicitor; the solicitor had applied to him for payment, and Mr. Seymour, being unable to pay, had offered, as the only means by which he could discharge the pecuniary obligation he was under, to return whatever fees should come to him from that solicitor's office. I do not for one moment mean to say that that is not unprofessional conduct. No doubt the proper etiquette of our profession forbids it; but this I do say, that it was the only mode in which payment could be made by Mr. Seymour, and, say what you will about its being a violation of professional usage, (and I admit it is so,—do not suppose that I mean to justify it for a moment,) it is not a ground for any imputation against the moral character of a professional
Now the hearings went on for a considerable period. During this time, indeed before this time, probably as the result of his unhappy connexion with joint-stock companies, (though no shareholder ever complained,) vague and misty rumours, not taking any specific form, got abroad ; and while the investigation was going on before the Benchers, it was industriously circulated among Mr. Seymour's constituents at Southampton that their representative was the subject of very grave and serious charges before the Benchers of his own Inn. Now, the human mind is so constituted that if some vague wild rumour is circulated to the disparagement of any individual, and if that goes on for any length of time, people get to believe that something very bad must have occurred; and their minds become in such a condition as to make them scarcely able properly to adjudicate upon it. The investigation went on, as I have told you, for a considerable time ; and in the result the Benchers of the Middle Temple came to the conclusion, that the charges which had been made against Mr. Seymour had not been proved, with the exception of the one I have mentioned, (which he himself admitted so far as it was a charge,) namely, that he had written to a solicitor by whom he had been pressed for the payment of a debt, stating that he could not pay him, but that he was willing to return him any fees he might receive from him. As to the other charges, the Benchers came to the conclusion that they had not been proved against him ; but they thought fit at the same time to append to their judgment a rebuke or reproof for what Mr. Seymour had done six, seven, and eight years before, which the writer of this article has made the occasion of the malignant effusion I am going to read to you. Before I read it, however, let me come to an end of the history I have been giving you, in order that you may understand every word of what is written here. Mr. Seymour went down to his constituents at Southampton shortly after the decision of the Benchers, and on his arrival there he found that not only had information reached some of his opponents of what the decision of the Benchers had been, but, by some means or other, information had reached them not only as to the names of the Benchers who had voted, but how they had voted ; and it was industriously circulated through the town that Mr. Seymour had been convicted. They had taken the reproof which the Benchers had thought fit to administer, as a verdict of guilty; and when Mr. Seymour went down to Southampton to meet
his constituents, he found the town placarded with insinuations which were put forward by an anonymous and disappointed elector ; and he was challenged at a public meeting to state whether or not he had been convicted by the Benchers of the Middle Temple of the charges which had been made against him. Of course, considering the state of mind in which Mr. Seymour was at that time, it would be hardly fair to measure with nice precision the words that he then used. He had, at that time, undergone the most trying ordeal to which any man in our profession can be subjected ; he felt the injustice of these old charges being raked up against him at the very time when promotion had been accorded to him by the Lord Chancellor ; he felt hurt by the reproof which the Benchers had thought fit to administer to him in the same breath in which they said that the charges against him had not been proved, and he felt hurt and indignant that information should have reached his opponents at Southampton which he himself had never obtained, and that the town should be placarded with insinuations against him; and on that occasion he made an address to his constituents which the writer of this libel has taken occasion to criticise in a way you will presently hear.
Now, gentlemen, this is an outline of the circumstances relating to Mr. Seymour to which the libel points. It was necessary that you should know them because you would not otherwise have been able to understand the allusions that are here made ; and now let me read to you the article of which Mr. Seymour complains, and then ask you to judge for yourselves whether it is a fair and legitimate comment on matters of public notoriety, (which I suppose my friend will be instructed to contend it is,) or whether it is not a malignant and studied attack on the whole of Mr. Seymour's private and professional life for the purpose of crushing him. I am not here, gentlemen, to say one word against the liberty of the press. This action is brought with no such object. I think we have scarcely a greater social right than the right of free discussion in the press; but, at the same time, I believe it to be necessary to the maintenance of that right, that it should be carefully guarded and kept within its proper limits. I quite admit that you may discuss in a newspaper the public conduct of every public man, from the highest subject in the realm down to the lowest official. Every man's public acts are open to public criticism. A Member of Parliament may be criticised for his public conduct ; you and I, for what we do at this moment and in this cause, may very properly be criticised by the press ; but the press must take care not to go beyond that. It