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you go beyond a man's public conduct, and impute corrupt motives to him; if you attack him in his private relations of life, you then abuse the liberty of the press, and become liable to an action or to an indictment for a libel. If the writer of this article had contented himself with a mere criticism of Mr. Seymour's conduct in Parliament or at the Bar, however severely he might have dealt with him, it could not have been made the subject of an action if what he wrote had been written bonâ fide. Again, if the writer of this article had criticised anything that Mr. Seymour had published to the world, he would have been at perfect liberty to do so, but you cannot and you ought not to make a man's public or professional conduct a peg on which to hang charges, which otherwise you would not be at liberty to make. The moment you go beyond what a man does in public and attack his motives, you go beyond that liberty which the law accords to you.
Now, gentlemen, let me ask you, on reading to you the article of which Mr. Seymour complains, whether the writer of it can be said to be merely commenting on anything that Mr. Seymour had done in public, or whether it is not manifest that he intended from first to last to take occasion from what had been done, and what had been rumoured, to carry out the purpose which he had in his mindà purpose to ruin and crush Mr. Seymour. Whatever rumours may be in circulation against an individual, rumours which take no specific shape, no man has a right to embody or condense and put them into print. No man is justified in charging another with any specific fraud or wrong because rumours of fraud and wrong may be in circulation. This writer, however, has so done. He is a man who, I suppose like all the rest of us, had heard that something had been said against Mr. Seymour, and he chose to assume all he had heard to be true, and put it into an indictment in the form of a letter attacking Mr. Seymour socially, politically, and profes. sionally.
Let me now call your attention to the passages of which Mr. Seymour justly complains, and in fairness to the writer I will read you every word of the article from beginning to end. You will find that it is prefaced by general statements, of which, if they had stood alone, nobody could complain ; but he has obviously done so for the purpose of preparing the mind of the reader to receive as truth the specific charges which he intends to bring against Mr. Seymour. The libel is contained in the Law MAGAZINE AND LAW REVIEW for May, 1862. The LAW MAGAZINE AND Law Review is a periodical which comes out quarterly: it has been in existence for
very many years, and may be found in the library of almost every lawyer. The article is headed
“ WILLIAM DIGBY SEYMOUR, Q.C., M.P.-It cannot be denied, that the scandals which have lately been afloat concerning more than one well-known member of the Bar, have shaken the public opinion, hitherto prevalent, in the honour and high tone of the profession. Scarcely had Mr. Edwin James vanished from the scene, when two other learned gentlemen, one of whom is a scholar and a genius, and the other, though neither of these, still a barrister in some practice, and lately elevated to the rank of Queen's Counsel, became the subjects of a notoriety, painful to themselves and discreditable to the whole profession.”
The allusion which is here made cannot be misunderstood. After mentioning one name, (that of Mr. Edwin James,) another person is referred to, who is said to be a scholar and a genius, and there can be no doubt whatever that the words “And the other, though neither of these, still a barrister in some practice, and lately elevated to the rank of Queen's Counsel,” are intended to apply to Mr. Seymour, who is here described as being “neither a scholar nor a genius."
"Such frequent evidence of something rotten in our state, has naturally caused inquiry as to the constitution of the learned bodies who are supposed to watch over the morality of the profession, and into the laws and customs which regulate the conduct of the Bar towards the public and each other. We will frankly say that, in our opinion, the assertion commonly made to the deterioration of the Bar, though often exaggerated, is not without foundation, and we believe that several causes, for some time in operation, have combined to produce this result. The increased laxity of admission to the Bar, which has made the degree ridiculous as any test of learning or respectability, is unquestionably one of them; and the rapid creation of a number of second-rate public offices, tenable only by barristers of a few years' standing, is another. The patronage now dispensed among the Bar, and chiefly, we are sorry to say, by favouritism and family influence, is enormous, and so far from being any real advantage to the profession, is becoming its curse. The Bar is flooded by a race of place-hunters, ignorant of law and careless of practice, whose merit rests on a certain seniority in the Law List, and their prospects on the hope of patronage. It would be idle to expect from such men any high appreciation of the true dignity and duty of the Bar, or any veneration for its traditionary usages. They are mere birds of passage, using the degree which they have obtained as the stepping-stone to their real vocation in life-an obscure but comfortable office. We do not say that these members of the Bar, now so numerous, are necessarily wanting in honour or morality; such a sweeping censure
would be foolish and unjust, for doubtless there are many honour. able men to be found amongst them ; but, as a rule, we cannot entertain a doubt that the standard of all those feelings which go to the composition of a high-minded gentleman, is lower among the men who seek for place than among those who, free of obligation to others, earn their bread by an independent profession. But there is still another evil influence at work, to which we allude with hesitation, seeing the delicacy of a subject which is in some degree foreign to our province ; we mean the relations that have grown up between the Bar and the House of Commons. In former times, when the difficulties of finding a seat in Parliament (except for the fortunate nominees to pocket boroughs) were much greater than at present, a barrister, as such, seldom entered the House, unless he were a candidate for a high legal office, or was capable of taking the post of a leading lawyer in the Opposition. In those days, the representatives of the Bar were few in the Commons, but they were nearly always able and eminent men, whose legitimate ambition was fixed on the higher prizes of the profession. The House still contains such men, and the Bar has still reason to be proud of such representatives ; but they now form only a small proportion of the total number of barristers in Parliament. Since the passing of the Reform Act threw open a number of popular constituencies, the array of 'gentlemen of the long robe' in the House has largely increased, and we believe that at the present moment upwards of seventy of the Bar have added the cares of legislation to their labours in practice. Whether these legal gentlemen make the best representatives is a question on which we do not enter ; the fact that they are returned by free and intelligent electors constitutes a presumption that they do so; it is their influence on the morale of the Bar with which we have to deal. Now, as it is certain that the great majority of the Sanhedrim we have alluded to can never become Solicitors-General or Puisne Judges, it follows that the current price of a barrister's parliamentary support has fallen terribly of late years. The glut in the market has seriously diminished the value of the article. In bygone days, we may presume that a counsel who had obtained a seat in the House, yielded his political virtue to nothing less than a descent by the Jupiter of the Treasury in a golden shower of judicial dignity, or a law officer's emoluments; but now-a-days, votes are won and a too demonstrative independence is wooed away by the humbler agency of silk gowns, second-class recorderships, and even the obscure counselships to Government offices."
Nobody would have a right to complain of this, but you will see that the writer is now feathering the arrow which he means to point at Mr. Seymour.
“What effect this new development of patronage may have on a House which professes to be jealous of any official encroachment on
its independence, we do not care to inquire, though, considering the number of junior barristers in Parliament, and the startling amount of places that may now be brought to bear upon their votes, the subject may be not unworthy of consideration by those interested in the purity of our constitution. But viewing the question as relates to the Bar, we have no hesitation in saying, that the practice at present pursued of using the House of Commons as a steppingstone to inferior places in the profession, is fraught with evil. Hardworking and worthy practitioners, who may not have either the means or the inclination to enter Parliament, see themselves continually passed over by far inferior men, whose claims to promotion have originated in the division lobby ; speculative adventurous juniors, who are not rising so fast as they fancy that their merits deserve, or whose characters require some fresh varnish, are tempted to make a bold dash at a constituency, and to prop up their professional fortunes by parliamentary interest. The moral tone of the Bar is lowered by spectacles of successful impudence, no doubt occasionally ending in some terrible and damning crash, but not the less demoralizing in their temporary glitter as they are degrading in their final infamy."
Gentlemen, the writer having now prepared us for what he is going to say about Mr. Seymour, proceeds to apply the general observations he has made, in the propriety of some of which many of us probably would go along with him, to a certain extent. He says:
“We have prefaced the special subject of our article with these observations, because we believe that they are needed at the present moment, unpalatable and little flattering as they may be. The Bar will be lost in public estimation if scandals are to increase without any effort being made on the part of the profession to rid themselves of the generating causes, and when we are entering on a history which must be a subject of humiliation to every man of honour amongst us,” (that is the history of Mr. Seymour,) “it is well to state plainly that some, at least, of the moral evils afflicting the Bar are capable of removal by the exercise of professional opinion on the distribution of place and precedence. Nothing short of the abolition of human nature could save the Bar from occasional disgrace by unworthy members; nothing can prevent, or indeed ought to prevent, an unscrupulous man obtaining notoriety; for notoriety, while it gratifies his miserable ambition, is sure to bring his appropriate punishment---but a more wholesome discipline, and a more upright system of promotion and patronage, would at least leave dishonour to its own devices, without compromising the lustre of the profession, or staining the sanctity of the Crown.” Then he says, “we will now turn to the gentlemen whose career has lately attracted so much attention,” (that is the history which they say “must be a subject of humiliation
to every man of honour among us”). “Mr. William Digby Seymour was called to the bar in 1846, and has since practised on the Northern Circuit. He has lately informed his constituents that he was born an Irishman ; but we should have thought this information, to any one even slightly acquainted with the honourable member, was altogether superfluous. He likewise attributes to his nationality the bitter hostility with which, as he alleges, he was at first received, and has since been maligned and persecuted, by his brethren on the Northern Circuit. He came among us, as he says, with the curse of Swift'upon him, and gives us to understand that nothing but his unrivalled genius and purity of character could have enabled him to survive and triumph over this natal calamity;" (you observe the irony that runs through the whole of this ;) “whatever credence we may wish to attach to every statement conveyed in the mild and measured language of Mr. Seymour, 'we must take exception to the idea that Irish birth constitutes disqualification for professional popularity or success. An eminent Englishman, himself an ornament to his Alma Mater, when recently comparing in a public address the achievements of the various Universities in the United Kingdom, paid a high compliment to Trinity College, Dublin : and as a proof of the rare training given at that seat of learning, he adduced, among other instances, the fact that no less than five out of the fifteen Judges occupying the Bench had received their education in that famous University of Ireland. We believe that only four of the five are Hibernian by birth ; but so large a proportion of Irishmen in the highest judicial position, and the well-earned success of many others from our sister island in the ranks of the Bar, are proof enough that the career of the profession is fair and open to all the Queen's subjects. But it is only just to Mr. Digby Seymour to admit that there are two kinds of Irishmen, and that the cordiality extended to the one is by no means secure to the other.”
Observe under which class he places Mr. Seymour. Having already hinted, “ It is not because you are an Irishman that you have not met with the reception which you say you ought to have had : it must have been something else;" you will see, when he comes to classify the Irishmen, under which class he places Mr. Seymour.
“ There is the Irish gentleman, generous, accomplished, and urbane-perhaps the highest type of the genus gentleman to be found in the United Kingdom. There is also the Irish blackguard, swaggering, foul-mouthed, and shameless: the most insolent of upstarts, the most unblushing of swindlers: never destitute of a quarrel, never at a loss for a lie. For as the Irish gentleman is of rare quality, so the Irish blackguard is consummate in his growth. Ireland is always great in extremes, more especially in her psychological productions. She has reared generals who have led their