• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


The Examiner on Libel

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years ago


    The Examiner diligently reports cases on libel in the year of its trial, sometimes commenting on the absurdity of the government's control/anxiety over this issue. It even goes so far as to fully publish the proceedings of its own. Towards the end of the year, the paper is saturated with news of its being in the heat of the case, to the extent that there really is very little room for other news. The following is a cataloguing of all its references to libel in 1812.



No. 214 Sunday, Feb. 2, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Wednesday, Jan 29


The Bishop of Derry v. Mansell Phillips, Esq. M. P.


--Phillips published false news of the Bishop of Derry's bankruptcy in the Cambrian. Phillips apologized and said that the pamphlet had been published without his consent. Phillips was discharged.




No. 218 Sunday, March 1, 1812



Court of King's Bench, Dublin. Feb 21.


The King v. John Magee. Proprietor of the Dublin Evening Post.


--Magee was indicted for printing and publishing an article in the Dublin Evening Post on January 25th, 1811 called, "Inefficiency of the Police." Magee acknowledged he was the editor but denied knowledge of the article's contents. Jury returned a guilty verdict but with no malicious intent (the Examiner states this with exclamation points.) The Chief Justice refused the verdict and after a second deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict.


**Later in this issue, The Examiner ironically reports the following: "Mr. Finnerty has been sent to prison for eighteen months for the horrid crime of declaring, in a newspaper, that torture was practiced in Ireland; and Mr. Drakard has been sentenced to a confinement of equal duration, for comparing Military Flogging to the cruelties put in force by the Inquisition. These persons have been punished as libellers because they publish the truth in a newspaper; --but in the House of Lords it would seem that truth may be spoken to these points without incurring the guilt or the punishment of libeling."




No. 219 Sunday, March 8, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Friday, March 6


The King v. Daniel Isaak Eaton (click to see later letters to the editor on this case)



--The defendent allegedly published "a blasphemous and profane libel" called the third part of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason. Eaton made a defense of the validity of the work but was found guilty.




No. 226 Sunday, April 26, 1812





--The Examiner opens this issue with an article exploring its own involvement in libel accusations: "The readers of this Paper may recollect, that one of the three informations which have been filed against it for Libel, was founded on a passage in which it was observed that 'of all Monarchs since the Revolution the Successor of George the Third would have the finest opportunity of becoming nobly popular;'--so obnoxious a thing was it considered a short time since to suppose that the Prince of Wales might even have a chance of making a fine Sovereign.    HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS has since come to the Throne; and the very men who assaulted us for suggesting that he might become nobly popular, have now resolved upon attacking us for shewing that his conduct is niether noble nor popular....It was as late as Monday last that this notice took place; and in the course of the week we have ascertained that the charge is founded on a passage in the Paper of March the 22d, containing a plain, and, it must be confessed, no very tender refutation of a number of fine epithets bestowed on his ROYAL HIGHNESS by the Morning Post."  




No. 226   Sunday, April 26, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Monday, April 20


"The Attorney General moved for a rule to shew cause why a criminal information should not be filed against the Editor of the Brighton newspaper, for a gross libel of Miss Somerset, daughter of Lord George Somerset, Lieut.-General and Commander of the Sussex district." The paper had suggested Miss Somerset was pregnant. The Rule was granted.


No. 227 Sunday, May 3, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Thursday, April 30


The King v. Daniel Isaak Eaton


--Found guilty of libel for publishing the third part of the Age of Reason, Eaton put in an affidavit declaring he published the work with no evil intention. The motion was suspended, Eaton returned to custody, and the judgement put off until the following Friday.




No. 228 Sunday, May 11, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Thursday, May 8


The King v. Daniel Isaak Eaton


--Eaton was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment in Newgate; the first month he was "to stand in the pillory for hour, in the Old Bailey."



No. 231 Sunday, May 31, 1812




"On Thursday, at twelve o'clock, Mr. Eaton was placed in the pillory, opposite Newgate, in being part of the sentenced imposed on him for having published the Third Part of Paine's Age of Reason.--Government possess a common portion of common sense,--to say nothing of humanity or justice,--this will be the last time they will have recourse to such an indiction for such an act.--No sooner was Mr. Eaton brought out from prison, than he was greeted by a distinct cheer of approbation...--SUch will ever be the case, when guilt and punishment were so apportioned,--when error (allowing it to be error) is treated as crime,--and when the putting forth speculative opinions merely is visited by penalties, rather than exposed and corrected by arguments.--This is the last remnant of the faggot and the fire system.--Another generation or two, and it will only be known as having disgraced the 19th century."




No. 235 Sunday, June 28, 1812






"By the time this article comes under the reader's eye, the question between the PRINCE REGENT and the Examiner will have been decided,--as far, at least, as the immediate opinion of a Court of Law can decide it; for as truth is by its nature immutable, so it is by right and by native force uncontrollable; and as long as there is a sound feeling in the nation, public or private,--as long as the bad habits of rulers are accounted dangerous to their country's welfare, and it is reckoned honourable, as in former times, to put forth a right English voice in behalf of example in the Prince and of spirit in the People, so long, with or without the sanction of a legal verdict, shall we be deemed to ahve performed a good task, and to deserve a share of that gratitude which our Prosecutor has neglected to obtain.   These are our feelings, a few hours before the matter is concluded..." 




No. 235    Sunday, June 28, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Saturday, June 30


The King v. Leigh and John Hunt, Proprietors of the The Examiner


--The trial was postponed due to lack of jurors. Mr. Garrow represented the Crown. Mssrs. Brougham and Lawes were the defense attorneys. Mr. J Smith of the King's Road, Bedford Row, was their Solicitor.




No. 239 Sunday, July 26, 1812


Thursday, July 23



--Eaton, in jail for having published the third part of Age of Reason, petitioned for better living quarters (better in the sense of those that had been promised him) at Newgate.




No. 256 Sunday, November 22, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Thursday, Nov. 19




--The Proprietor of the Statesman is brought from Newgate to be tried for a libel against the Commissioners for the Transport Service.  Lovell had criticized the treatment of prisoners of war in England (particularly those from France). The libel occurred in a letter to the editor called "Honestus." Lovell claimed he did not know the letter would be published. He offered to submit an apology to the Commissioner to be published. The defendent was charged a 500 pound fine, an imprisonment of a year and a half, and a longer imprisonment until an additional fine is met. Mr. Brougham represented the defendent, the same who represents the Hunts.

--The Examiner devotes a lengthy section to the proceedings of this trial.





No. 257 Sunday, November 29, 1812



Court of King's Bench

Monday, Nov. 23


THE KING VS. ???text missing


--The defendent, having been accused of libeling Miss Elizabeth Somerset, is attacked in court by her husband, Captain Wyndham. He was sentenced to three months in Horsham gaol and suffered to pay a fine of ???? text missing





No. 258 Sunday, Dec. 6, 1812





"The Trial of this Cause is fixed for Wednesday morning next, in the court of the King's Bench, Westminster.--The SOLICITOR GENERAL leads for the Prince, and Mr. Brougham for the Examiner." Then the Examiner lists the potential jurors.



No. 259 Sunday, Dec. 13, 1812






--The opening article is devoted to the infamous trial.

--Following the article are the printed trial notes in shorthand by a Mr. Jenkins. The text is so long that for want of space, it is cut off, but promised to be continued the following week. At the cut-off, the Examiner sums up the rest of the trial and reveals that both John and Leigh Hunt are deemed "guilty." 



No. 260 Sunday, Dec. 20, 1812






--The article proceeds to list what is the mark of a good judge (one central feature being nonpartisanship), and then goes on to place Lord Ellenborough in direct conflict with those qualities.

--Following the article, the Examiner makes good on its promise to print the rest of the trial notes. Lord Ellenborough is the last to speak before the verdict is heard: "...if there be one man among you, who, laying his hand upon his heart, and pledging only the veracity of a Gentleman, will say he does not think this is a foul libel, let him say so;--but if there be any there, who, governed by the more sacred obligations of an oath, as judicial and binding that declaration, thinks it is a libel--then pronounce this publication, as I feel it is my duty to pronounce it, a foul, atrocious, and malignant libel.--Whether it so appears to you, Gentleman, you will say by your verdict." 



No. 261 Sunday, Dec. 27, 1812




"REMARKS ON LORD ELLENBOROUGH'S CHARGE. (concluded from last week.)"


--The Examiner applies a good deal of pressure to Lord Ellenborough for supporting the "intemperate" life of the Prince. There is some mention of the Prince's taking as counsel someone with a history of adultery. The article essentially attempts to paint L.E. as a hypocrite--one who is implicated in the ill-judgment of a King by prosecuting those that point to his vices. The article quotes Shakespeare's Falstaff as he checks the King.





Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.