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Under this thorough and fair understanding, I enter my formal protest against your appeal to the notes of your short-hand writer*, or against any postliminious composition of your own speeches
; I insist on the substantial accuracy of several concurrent London newspapers, in reporting your speeches on the next morning after they have been delivered. When I retail, notice or animadvert upon such reports, without adding, suppressing, or altering them, I appeal to the candid, whether I lie open to the imputation you have brought against me in your first letter to Lord Fingal ? « I will « not trouble your Lordship with any notice of the « verbal inaccuracies of expression, which Mr. « Plowden has chosen to put in my mouth, on the « loose authority of some newspaper ?» Heedless then of any such senseless imputation, I confidently assume, upon the substantially concurrent testimony of the leading London newspapers, that standing in your place in the House of Commons, on the 19th and 24th days of May, 1814, you spoke falsely, unfairly, and injuriously of my writings and opinions; as you also did in a more marked manner on the 21st of November in the same year. The circumstances, under which you have availed yourself of your senatorial character, in order to misrepresent and decry my historical writings, and of course to prevent their circulation, bespeak something very like a consciousness of wrong, vindictive soreness, and dread of reply. Highly do I
ist Letter to Lord Fingal, p. 18, « I will beg your Lordship's indulgence in recapitulating from the short-hand wri« ter's report, published within a few days of the debate, by
Ridgeway, what I avow in substance to have stated on the « motion of Mr. Canning.”
appreciate the privilege of Parliament, which entitles a member in his
place to utter all manner of truth relevant to the subject of debate. But the Constitution
gave not that freedom of speech as a shield or engine for delusion, revenge, calumny, or the indulgence of any bad passion. If the common Law of England allow the possession and use of arms in defence of life, limb, or property, will it refuse the free use of the press to repel slander, refute falsehood, and defeat malice, when brought to bear upon private property, character, reputation, veracity and honor? This transcendent right is universal; it admits of no exception: more especially, when an absentee is assailed behind his back, without notice or privity, and without the power or means of instantly meeting the charge by friend, counsel, or other representative.
I am sensibly alive to the thorny task of writing cotemporary history. In my postliminious preface to the Historical Review of the State of Ireland, I contrasted the avowal of Mr. Hume, that no man had arose, who has been able to pay an entire regard to truth, and has dared to expose her without covering or disguise to the eyes of the prejudiced public, against the declaration of an honest Englishman, who carried his history from the Conquest down to the very year of his death, Matthew Paris, who died in 1259, the 43d of Henry III. Dura est enim conditio historiographorum: quia si vera dicant, homines provocant ; si falsa scriptis commendant, Dominus, qui veridicos ab adulatoribus sequestrat, non acceptat, For hard is the lot of the historian : if he speak truth, he offends man ;. if by his writings he countenance falsehoods, the Lord, who segregates truthtellers from flatterers, will not receive him. With your permission, Sir John, I will continue to side with the untemporizing monk of St. Alban's, against the accommodating Philosopher of North Britain.
It would be as distressing to the writer, as irksome to the reader, to work through an argument, to disprove the general charge of infidelity and inaccuracy in an historian. General inculpation is fairly met by the general negative. I affect not to complain, that any man notices, combats, censures, or contradicts any thing I have published. I am responsible for every word. And I again tell you*, « I object not to any mode of warfare ad«mitted amongst civilized nations : not even to « the ruses de guerre, as usually understood : but « I admit not of an axiom, too commonly taken « up and acted upon, dolus an virtus quis in « hoste requirat. I bar from the contest, fraud,
treachery, and untruth.» Upon these terms am I prepared to take issue with you, Sir John, or any other person, upon any part of any of my publicatïons. Until some such contest be set on foot, upon some one or more particular points, redundant will be every word I can say in support
of my historical veracity, beyond the solemn avowal of an unvariable and active wish and intention to attain and disclose the truth, strengthened with a thoroughly considered repetition of the declaration, which I made to the Prime Minister (now Lord Sidmouth,) in 1804, with which I closed my postliminious preface published in that year. I am ready to swear, that when I wrote my several historical works concerning Ireland, I neither knew nor believed any statement therein to be false or substantially inaccurate. As
you, Sir John, have prominently busied your
self in the Catholic .question*, ever since it came into public discussion, you will allow, that, as the historian of Ireland, I was under an indispensable obligation of frequently bringing you forward, in rehearsing or referring to the occurrences in the progress of that cause, and confident I am, that you wish not to be shut out of that class of
persons (1), concerning whom Tully prescribes the rule referred to in the preface (p. ix.) to my Historical Letter to Columbanus : « that not only the « exploits of the actors themselves be set forth, « but the general conduct and character of such of
them, as have any pretensions to a name and re
putation in life.» You appear, however, dissatisfied with the manner, in which I have endeavoured to perform that primary duty of the historian. Your reasons and grounds for that dissatisfaction, you have brought before the public in the form of two letters to the Earl of Fingal ; which you inform us in your advertisement to them, « were origi
nally transmitted to the Editor of the British « Press and Globe, as it was desirable to procure
for them a more extensive circulation than is ķ usually obtained in the form of a pamphlet. » You boast of (2) a natural solicitude to obviate misconstruction, and to repel insinuation, which it is by no means unbecoming to feel in a cause, of which I have always been the zealous, but temperate advocate.
You courted publication through the Press and Globe newspapers, because (to continue your own words) they present to me
A cause, of which I have always been the zealous, but ce temperate advocate.»Sir J. C. Hippisley's first letter to Lord Fingal, p. 5.
(1) Hist. Let. to Sir J. C. Hippisley, p. 3.. 2) Let. to Lord Fingal, p. 5.
one of the readiest and best avenues, by which my statements can find their way to the public, and particularly that part of the public, who are in communion with your Lordship
In order to justify and defend your conduct in this cause, you had fair resort to a free press. You made out your own case in two printed letters to the Earl of Fingal, one of which you date from Stone-Easton House, January 8, the other January 15, 1815; and at the end of them
inform your readers, that a third letter to the same nobleman, with supplementary documents, will speedily be published. This promised letter, if ever published, has not yet come under my eyes. I will not quarrel with you, Sir John, about the form, in which you have chosen to let out your thoughts through the press. There was however an attempt at finesse, in addressing them to a respectable Roman Catholic nobleman, whom you hold forth to the public, from your long habits of confidential intimacy, as being in full unison and sympathy with you on the subject of them : and in highly colouring (1) « the deserved influence his Lordship « must naturally be supposed to have acquired « over the body, which has on so many occasions « made him the principal organ of their resolves, « must in the public estimation, at least, have
justly rendered him the arbiter of their feelings.» Whoever publishes a letter inscribed to a particular person, wishes, of course, that it should be read
* In my former letter, p. 27, I remarked hereupon. « This a anticipated solicitude to obviate misconception and repel « insinuation, would in either, a double or a doubtful charac« ter, argue something like a consciousness, that the slate« ments wanted perspicuity or credit.»
(1) 1st Let to Lord Fingal, p. 1, 2.