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Practice of this Court. It is not governed by any of the rules of the common conrts of law. The accused is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accusation before it is publicly made; nor is the name of the accuser made known to him.; nor has he an opportunity of confronting the witnesses against him, for they are kept in the dark, as in the Spanish court of inquisition. Nor is there any petty jury of his peers sworn to try the truth of the charges. The proceedings are also sometimes so rapid, that an honest good citizen may find himself suddenly and unex. pectedly accused, and in the same morning judged and condemned, and sentence pronounced against him, that he is a rogue and a villain. Yet if an officer of this court receives the slightest check for misconduct in this his office, he claims immediately the rights of a free citizen by the constitution, and demands to know his accuser, to confront the witnesses, and to have a fair trial by a jury of his peers.
Foundation of its Authority. It is said to be founded on an article in the state constitution, which establishes the liberty of the press - a liberty which every Pennsylvanian would fight and die for, though few of us, I believe, have distinct ideas of its nature and extent. It seems, indeed somewhat, like the liberty of the press, that felons have, by the common law of England, before conviction: that is, to be either pressed to death or hanged. If, by the liberty of the press, were understood merely the liberty of discussing the property of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please; but if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law; and shall cheerfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others, for the privilege of not being abused myself.
By whom this Court is commissioned or constituted.
It is not by any commission from the supreme executive council, who might previously judge of the abilities, in tegrity, knowledge, etc. of the persons to be appointed to this great trust, of deciding upon the characters and good fanie of the citizens; for this court is above that council, and may accuse, judge and condemn it at pleasure. Nor is it hereditary, as is the court of dernier resort in the peerage of England. But any man who can procure pen, ink, and paper, with a press, a few types, and a huge pair of blacking balls, may commissionate himself, and his court is immediately established in the plenary possession and exercise of its rights. For if you make the least complaint of the judge's conduct, he daubs his blacking balls
in our face wherever he meets you: and besides tearing your private character to splinters, inarks you out for the odium of the public, as an enemy to the liberty of the press.
Of the natural Support of this Court. Its support is founded in the depravity of such minds as have not been niended by religion, nor improved by good education.
There is a lust in man no charm can tame,
of loudly publishing his neighbours shamo Hence,
On cagles' wings, immortal scandals ily,
While virtuous actions are but born and die. - Dryd. Whoever feels pain in hearing a good character of his neighbour, will feel a pleasure in the reverse. And of those who, despairing to rise to distinction by their virtues, are happy if others can be depressed to a level with themselves, there are a number sufficient in every great town to maintain one of these courts by their subscription. A shrewd observer once said, that in walking the streets of a slippery morning, one might see where the goodnatured people lived, by the ashes thrown on the ice before the doors : probably he would have formed a different conjecture of the temper of those whom he might find engaged in such subscriptions. Of the Checks proper to be established against the Abuses
of Power in those Courts. Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal constitution; and the necessity ot checks, in all other parts of good government, has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened as to suspect some check may be proper in this part also: bnt I have been at a loss to imagine any, that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one, that, instead of diminishing general liberty, shall augment it; which is, by restoring to the people a species of liberty of which they have been deprived by our laws, I mean the liberty of the cudgel! In the rude state of society, prior to the existence of laws, if one man gave another ill-language, the affronted person might return it by a box on the ear; and if repeated, by a good drubbing; and this without offending against any law: but now the right of making such return, is denied, and they are punished as breaches of the peace, while the right of abusing seems to remain in full force; the laws made against it being rendered ineffectual by the liberty of the press.
My proposal then is, to leave the liberty of the press mtouched, to be exercised in its full extent force, and vigour, but to permit the liberty of the cudgel to go with
it, pari passu. Thus, my fellow citizens, if an impudent writer attacks your reputation - dearer perhaps to you than your life, and puts his name to the charge, you may go to him as openly, and break his head. If he conceals himself behind the printer, and you can nevertheless discover who he is, you may, in like manner, way-lay him in the night, attack him behind, and give him a good drubbing. If your adversary hires better writers than himself to abuse you more effectually, you may hire brawny, porters, stronger than yourself, to assist you in giving him a more effectual drubbing. Thus far goes my project, as to private resentment and retribution. But if the public should ever happen to be affronted, as it ought to be, with the conduct of such writers, I would not advise proceeding immediately to these extremities, but that we should in moderation content ourselves with tarring and feathering, and tossing them in a blanket.
If, however, it should be thought, that this proposal of mine may disturb the public peace, I would then humbly recommend to our legislators to take up the consideration of both liberties, that of the press and that of the cudgel; and by an explicit law mark their extent and limits: and at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the secu. rity of his reputation.
AN ADDRESS TO THE PUBLIC, from the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of free
Negroes, unlawfully held in Bondage.
It is with peculiar satisfaction, we assure the friends of humanity, that, in prosecuting the design of our association, our endeavours have proved successful, far beyond our most sanguine expectations.
Encouraged by this success, and by the daily progress of that luminous and benign spirit of liberty, which is diffusing itself throughout the world, and humbly hoping for the continuance of the divine blessing on our labours, we have ventured to make an important addition to our original plan, and do, therefore, earnestly solicit the support and assistance of all, who can feel the tender emotions of sympathy and compassion, or relish the exalted pleasure of beneficence.
Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils. The unhappy man, who has long been treated as a brute animal too frequently sinks beneath the common standard of the human species. The galling chains, that bind his body, do also fetter his intellectual faculties, and impair the social affections of his heart. Accustomed to move like a mere machine, by the will of a master, reflection is suspended; he has not the power of choice; and reason and conscience have but little influence over his conduct, because he is chiefly governed by the passion of fear. He is poor and friendless -- perhaps worn out by extreme labonr, age, and disease.
Under such circumstances, freedom nay often prove a misfortune to himself, and prejudicial to society.
Attention to emancipated black people, it is therefore to be hoped, will become a branch of our national police; but as far as we contribute to promote this emancipation, so far that attention is evidently a serious duty incumbent on us, and which we mean to discharge to the best of our judgment and abilities.
To instruct, to advise, to qualify those, who have been restored to freedom, for the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty, to promote in them habits of industry, to furnish them with employments suited to their age, sex, talents, and other circumstances, and to procure their children an education calculated for their future situation in life; these are the great outlines of the annexed plan, which we have adopted, and which we conceive will essentially promote the public good, and the happiness of these our hitherto too much neglected fellow-creatures.
A plan so extensive, cannot be carried into execution without considerable pecuniary resourees, beyond the present ordinary funds of the society. We hope much from the generosity of enlightened and benevolent freemen; and will gratefully receive any donations or subscriptions for this purpose, which may be made to our treasurer, James Starr, or to James Pemberton, chairnian of ont committee of correspondence. -Signed by order of the society,
B. FRANKLIN, President, Philadelphia, 19th of November, 1789.
PLAN FOR IMPROVING THE CONDI
TION OF THE FREE BLACKS.
The business relative to free blacks shall be transacted by a committee of twenty-four persons, annually elected by ballot, at the meeting this society, in the month called April; and in order to perform the different servi. ces with expedition, regularity, and energy, this committee shall resolve itself into the following sub.committees, viz.
1. A committee of inspection, who shall superintend the morals, general conduct, and ordinary situation of the free negroes, and afford them advice and instruction, protection from wrongs, and other friendly offices.
11. A committee of guardians who shall place out children and young people with suitable persons, that they may (during a moderate time of apprenticeship, or servitude) learn some trade or other business of subsistence. The committee may effect this partly by a persuasive influence on parents and the persons concerned; and partly by co-operating with the laws, which are, or may be enacted for this, and similar purposes: in forming contracts on these occasions, the committee shall secure to the society, as far as may be practicable, the right of guardian. ship over the persons so boud.
ii). A committee of education, who shall superintend the school - instruction of the children and youth of the free blacks; they nay either influence them to attend regularly the schools, already established in this etty, or form others with this view; they shall, in either case, provide that the popils may receive such learning, as is necessary for their future situation in life; and especially a deep impression of the most important, and generally acknowledged moral and religious principles. They shall also procure and preserve a regular record of the marriages, births, and manumissions of all free blacks.
IV. A committee of employ, who shall endeavour to procure constant employment for those free negroes who are able to work : as the want of this would occasion poverty, idleness, and many vicious habits. This committee will, by sedulous enquiry, be enabled to find conmon labour for a great number; they will also provide, that such, as indicate proper talents, may learn various trades, which may be done by prevailing upon them to bind themselves for such a term of years, as shall compensate their masters for the expense and trouble of in. struction of maintenance. The committee may attempt the institution of some useful and simple mamufactures, which require but little skill, and also may assist, in com. mencing business, such as appear to be qualified for it.
Whenever the committee of inspection shall find persons of any particular description requiring attention, they shall immediately direct them to the coinmittee, of whose care they are the proper objects.
in matters of a mixed nature, the committees shall confer, and, if necessary, act in concert. Affairs of great importance shall be referred to the whole committee.
The expense, incurred by the prosecution of this plan, shall be defrayed by a fund, to be formed by donations, or subscriptions, for these particular purposes, and to be kept separate from the other funds of this society.