Skip to Content

Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts

R. v. Bent (No. 2) [1825]

libel, criminal - Arthur, Governor, libel of

Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land

Pedder C.J., 1 August 1825

Source: Hobart Town Gazette, [1] 5 August 1825 [2]

The King (on the Ex Officio Information of the Attorney-General) v. Bent.

The following Jury were sworn:--

Major Kirkwood,40th Regt.

Captain Morrow,ditto

Captain Hibbert,ditto

Lieutenant Curtis,ditto

Ensign Moore, ditto

Major De Gillern, Half-pay

Cornet Gage, J. P.ditto.

The Solicitor-General (A. Stephen, Esq.) opened the pleadings.  He stated the Information to be filed by the Attorney-General, for certain Libels, composed, printed, and published by Mr. Andrew Bent, (the Defendant,) the printer, and publisher of the Hobart Town Gazette.  The Information consists of eleven counts:  the first count is for a Libel composed, printed, and published in the Hobart Town Gazette of the 18th February, which is as follows:--

[Our intelligent Readers will undoubtedly honour us with their firm and satisfied belief that we never oppose either men or measures without well understanding why; that we never institute charges which we cannot establish; that we uniformly respect the occupants of power until we are persuaded they abuse it; and that although we boldly reprobate even the most remote advance to tyranny, yet our pages are on no occasion sullied with editorial attacks on legitimate Authority.  But surely when just complaints are unjustly neglected or contemned, -- when a Public groan for a general calamity is greeted with derision, and when the good sense, the fine feeling, and the useful experience of a community, become the insulted topics of preposterous laughter in offices supported by the common purse, -- surely when to exhibit, as we once before observed, an existing grievance is to create a greater, it is high time we should buckle on our harness, and go forth to the battle of reason and justice, against measures which as we conceive are neither rational or right.  That we have recently suggested many improvements, and also the abatement of as many much-deplored evils, but few individuals unless the prejudiced will dare to question.  That the majority of those improvements could be easily and promptly effected, is no less evident, than that the convenience and comfort of society, are too often glanced from, as matters entirely beneath attention.  We do not intend to assert more than we know ourselves perfectly entitled to declare; but no casuist in Philosophy will advance that we sin whilst telling our Official Guardians to be indeed what they are denominated! to remember that public money and public confidence require a public display of grateful conduct; and that although power, mere power, unallied to virtue, may strut and fret its hour on the stage, yet it must be followed by abasement and remorse for every action it has mal-performed; whilst the retreat of a superseded Ruler, whose legislation has been beautified with goodness, and rendered respectable by wisdom, shall be traced by the feet of pilgrim remembrance, and breathed on by the purest benedictions of gratitude.]

The second count is nearly the same, with some difference in the inuendoes.  The 3d and 4th counts having been abandoned for clerical defects, it is unnecessary to repeat their tenor.  The 5th count is for a Libel published on the 25th February, which is as follows:--

[We have a Naval Officer, and a Treasurer, at £700 a year each (besides cheese parings, and candle ends), a Deputy Naval Officer (a non-descript job appointment), a Wharfinger at £300 a year; and a Deputy Wharfinger, besides Distillery Inspectors, and Superintendents of Schools, and their Deputies and Assistants (and no Scholars), and a host of other Officers, including Architects and Deputy Architects, with no buildings to erect; and if a monument of genius is enquired for, let the new bridge at the intended market-place be referred to, the arch of which may defy the most subtle mathematician or geometrician, even Palladio himself, to describe.  Why, Sir, more places have been created since the departure of our true friend, the late Lieutenant Governor Sorell, with larger Salaries tacked to them, than are considered necessary in New South Wales, where the population of Sydney alone, is nearly equal to that of our whole Island!  And the best joke is, that these places are all comfortable sinecures! nothing for the worthy Gentlemen to do.]

The 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th counts having been also abandoned, are not reported. 

The 10th count is for a Libel published by the Defendant on the 20th May, as follows:--

[There are some measures which like some men, are of a character so ambiguous, that neither praiser nor censure, unless much qualified, and even in a certain degree equi-vocal, would seem appropriate to them.  But there are likewise actions and actors so definitively marked, that a mere novice can stamp their precise similitude.  And although, as before observed, we would fain be coadjutors of administration so far as it may seem to deserve support, yet we cannot blink the contumelious spectacle (alas in these days not unfrequently exhibited) of men in office, without either talent to discern, or virtue to desire, or perseverance to achieve one public benefit! - men who by mere decorum might flourish in general regard, -- and who are obnoxious alone because their follies are totally unblended with redeeming excellence!  By the term follies, however, we certainly do not intend to suppose, much less to impeach, any blemishes in private life.  On the reverse, it is a fact well recognized, that some of the place-holders under Government are, when not in office, most respectable, exemplary, and endearing!  But we hold ourselves responsible for every official impropriety which eludes our research, and escapes our reprobation.  Of course then the strictures we may pass must be unstained by personalities.  It is irksome, without doubt, to describe political enormities, unless by employing offensive epithets; and the parties to whom these epithets apply will indisputably wince.  But let the world know, as we are solemnly convinced, that ``partial evil is universal good;" and therefore it is much better that a few supine, ignorant, and extravagantly-hired Public Officers should be galled for their misconduct, than that a whole community should be crushed, enslaved, and subjugated.  Had the former administrations of this Colony been anti-commercial, anti-agricultural, and anti-local in every sense, perhaps by this time our necks would have been seasoned to the yoke; or perhaps we should have been all mercifully blinded to those enjoyments of which we are in destitution; for, as an Athenian Philosopher inculcated, ``conveniencies are never missed, where they were never enjoyed."   But the truth is, that Colonel Sorell governed this Island with a fixed and amiable view to its elevation - that he reasoned before he presumed to act - that he acted in compliance with reason - and consequently that wealth, in combination with improvement, respectability, and happiness, sprung beneath the fructifying smiles of his administration!  But note well; has a transition, at once most mischievous and melancholy, occurred since his departure?  Have the Merchants been insulted? and, are the sons of husbandry abandoned?  Has the public money, which ought to be always used in public improvements, been lavished on the worse than superfluous dependants of at most but a fleeting authority?  Have public judgment been set at naught, and public feeling violated?  Has proper intercourse between the governed and the Government been rudely curtailed, or unwisely interfered with?  These, and numerous other truly caustic questions, might be now advanced.  Nevertheless, as our Monarch's delegate may yet become popular, if he will condescend to learn wisdom from experience, and henceforth legitimately exercise his power for the welfare of all who are committed to his care, -- we shall at present abstain from saying much, which, though deserved, might convey offence, and content ourselves with offering such suggestions on the prevailing topics of public consideration as may, if duly respected, tend to restore the once splendid hopes of our now alas famishing Agriculturists, and to re-unite in sympathy with Government the mercantile community, which, it must be confessed, recent events have not been at all disposed to either conciliate or preserve allegiant.]

the 11th count was also abandoned.

To this the Defendant has pleaded - Not Guilty; and thereupon issue was joined.

The Attorney-General (J. T. Gellibrand, Esq.) rose and addressed the Jury in a most powerful speech, of nearly two hours' continuance; but as the Learned Gentleman went over the grounds which were contained in his address to the Jury, reported in our last, we shall now only endeavour to give our Readers short extracts of his impressive speech. - The Attorney General having gone through the usual preliminary explanations, continued nearly as follows:--

In this case, Gentlemen, the substance of the charge against the Defendant appears to be - first for libelling the Lieutenant Governor, by accusing him of corrupt motives, and otherwise by endeavouring to bring His Honor the Lieut. Governor of this Island into contempt.  It is hardly necessary that I should request of you, Gentlemen, who have sat in judgment upon the former Information, to divest your minds of all recollection thereof, and to consider only the Information before you.  I admit most distinctly, that it is competent to the Editor of a Newspaper, that it is a benefit to the community at large, and that he has a full right, to publicly discuss public measures of every sort.  But in so doing he must limit himself strictly to policy; for, if it goes further, and attributes corrupt motives, it is a Libel.  I admit, I repeat, that the expediency of every measure of Government is a fair object of discussion, so long as no improper or corrupt motives are charged.  If then, upon the fair and reasonable construction of the articles before you, you can find that he has limited himself within these bounds, it will be your duty to find him not guilty.  If, on the contrary, you feel satisfied that his object was to accuse the Lieutenant Governor of being actuated by corrupt motives, and thereby to bring the Government into hatred and contempt, I submit, of course under the direction of His Honor the Chief Justice, you must find him guilty.  [The Learned Attorney-General here continued at great length upon this subject.]  I shall now, Gentlemen, read to you the first libel charged in the Information.  [The Attorney-General here read the article of the 18th of Feb., which is before inserted.]  This you see, Gentlemen, is written in a tone of complaint, and what are the grievances alleged to exist?  That public judgment is set at nought, and public feeling violated: and that the general Administration of the Government is anti-commercial, anti-agricultural, and anti-local.  Now had they stopped here, it might have been contended, as I suppose it will be, that it applied only to certain public officers, who had rendered themselves obnoxiou[s]; but when you read, that a comparison is drawn between Colonel Sorell and Lieutenant Governor Arthur, you must be convinced that the latter is alluded to.  I now come to the statements which they have thought proper to make, in an article published on the 25th of February, bearing the signature, ``A Colonist."  As I wish to act most fairly by the Defendant, I shall read the whole article.  [Here the Attorney-General read the article.]  Now, Gentlemen, I must endeavour to explain to you what is meant by this Letter.  At the time Lieutenant Governor Arthur arrived here, Dr. Bromley was Colonial Treasurer and Naval Officer.  Unhappily an alarming defalcation took place in the Treasury Chest, as to whch, it is unnecessary to say any thing at this time. --  The result was, that Dr. Bromley was suspended, and His Honor was pleased to divide the offices; and Mr. Thomas was appointed Colonial Treasurer, and Mr. Hamilton, Naval Officer.  Gentlemen, we will now see how far the observations of the Defendant are borne out by facts.  Dr. Bromley received a salary of £100 per annum, an allowance for house rent, besides little odds and ends, being what I suppose the Defendant calls cheese parings and candle ends; added to which he had 5 per cent. commission upon his receipts.  Now, when the two Gentlemen were appointed to succeed him, I will shew you that, independent of the Public Money being safely and properly secured, the expences also decreased.  [Here the Attorney-General entered into a long financial statement, from a paper which he held in his hand, shewing that the Revenue progressively increased from the period of Colonel Sorell's departure to the present moment.]  Thus, Gentlemen, you will perceive, that the statements of the Defendant, as to the Public Income, are all wilful mis-representations.  At this time, the Merchants complained, that they could not obtain constant access to the King's Stores, and, at their earnest entreaty, Major Lord was appointed Deputy Naval Officer, at a salary of £150 per annum, with £40 a-year for house rent.  For this, the Defendant also inserts an article, in which this appointment is designated as a non-descript job, although Major Lord was appointed at the express solicitation of the Merchants themselves, to which the Governor kindly consented, in order solely to oblige them.  A new bridge had also been built, which it appears had given this Gentleman (the Colonist) mortal offence; and because, forsooth, it does not meet his nice geometrical taste, the Architect is to be abused, and it is to be called Palladio Bridge.  Gentlemen, what can be the meaning of all this - the plain and obvious meaning; but to abuse the Lieutenant Governor of acting corruptly in making these appointments, and thereby bringing his Government into hatred and contempt.

The Chief Justice. - How do you shew, Mr. Attorney-General, that matters, such as these, are libellous, as applied to the Lieutenant Governor.

The Attorney-General. - May it please your Honor, I humbly contend, that no other possible construction can be put upon these articles.  But it is not my intention, Gentlemen, to trouble you, who are men of education, men of the world, capable of discriminating as to the obvious meaning of words, as to what was the object of the Defendant in publishing these Libels.  You will perceive that amongst other charges made against the Lieutenant Governor, it is stated that the Public Accounts are not published in the usual manner; I will shortly explain this to you.  They had been transmitted to His Excellency the Governor in Chief at Sydney, where, from some accidental delay, they had been detained longer than usual; and on which account they could not be published here, as had been formerly the case.  There is no doubt, that the wisdom of the British Legislature has properly provided that the Public should be made acquainted with the appropriation of the Revenue.  But could His Honor condescend to explain the circumstance of the detention of the accounts at Sydney.  To do so, would not only have been beneath his dignity, but might also have had an invidious appearance as to the Governor in Chief. - I now come to the the Libel of the 11th of March.  I must here state to you, that there had been a warm controversy between several writers in this Newspaper.  Some letters had been inserted, bearing the signature ``Common Sense."  I must admit as this correspondence proceeded, it became more and more violent.  Who were the writers, signing ``Q" and ``A Colonist," it is unnecessary to say.  My Learned Friend, the Solicitor-General, has been accused of being the author of ``Common Sense," but I never will believe but that this is utterly impossible, until I see it positively proved.  You will observe, Gentlemen, that the article, which I am now about to read to you, is an answer to the writer signing ``Common Sense," who stated that his object was to silence the other writers.  [Here the Attorney-General read the article of the 11th March, on which he commented at great length.]  I now come to the last Libel in the Information; which I contend is also, by imputing corrupt motives to His Honor the Lieutenant Governor, a Libel.  The writer of this sets out with a few truisms, arguing upon which he soon wanders into a labyrinth of error.  [Here the Attorney-General read the article of the 20th May, commenting upon each passage, as he proceeded, at great length, and concluded his address nearly as follows.]  Gentlemen, I have now gone through the whole of this voluminous Information.  I have already stated to you, under the direction of His Honor, what is the Law applicable to this case.  I know that you will do your duty with fairness and impartiality; and, therefore, I shall not trouble you with any further observations, but leave the full consideration of this case in your hands.

The various admission were made, as in the former trial.

Upon comparing the record with the original publications, the 3d, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th counts were found defective, and abandoned by the Attorney-General accordingly.

The 1st, 2d. 5th, and 10th counts alone remained for the consideration of the Jury.

This was the case for the Prosecution.

The Defendant put in the following written defence:

``May it please Your Honor, Gentlemen of the Jury,

``When I had the misfortune last week to be brought before this Court, I felt that my situation was one of peculiar hardship.  On the present occasion, I labour under additional difficulties.  I am again called upon to answer for the writing of others; and the great weight and influence of the name of His Honor the Lieutenant Governor, is besides brought forward against me, by the conversion of what appeared in the plainness of my comprehension to be only fair political discussion, into an attempt to vilify and defame the Lieutenant Governor, and the Government.

It is totally out of my power to attempt to defend the articles which form the subject matter of the present Information - because although I feel perfectly convinced that the authors could do so effectually, yet for me even to attempt it, would necessarily involve arguments, quotations, and references, which would extend to an amount too voluminous to be inserted in a written address - a mode which I am obliged, from reasons obvious to yourselves, to have recourse to.  I trust, however, that His Honor the Chief Justice will be pleased to give you his opinion, upon each of the different articles which are stated to be libels, not only upon the construction of them, as regards the passages themselves respectively, but whether they bear out the weighty charge, with which the Information sets forth, that I have accused His Honor the Lieutenant Governor of abusing the power entrusted to him by the King.  Gentlemen, these are large and imposing words, and calculated to convey a most serious impression against me to your minds.  To His Honor the Chief Justice, therefore, I look with confidence, that he will be pleased to give you his opinion upon the construction of each of the articles contained in this Information; and that opinion, I trust will be, that they [a]re written in the fair spirit of legitimate political discussion.

Gentlemen, this Information consists of eleven counts; the first charges me with composing, printing, and publishing, on the 18th of February, in the Hobart Town Gazette, of which Mr. Evan Henry Thomas was the Editor, a false, scandalous, and malicious libel, to the effect which I have before stated, and which having been read to you, I will not trouble you with repeating. - I cannot understand why it is inserted here, that Mr. Evan Henry Thomas was the Editor, while I am charged with composing, what Mr. Thomas is charged with editing; and the inuendoes all the way through confirm this: they say, that the words, ``we," mean the said Evan Henry Thomas.  Now, gentlemen, if these inuendoes are borne out, I am not the composer; and if they are not, the count must equally fall to the ground.  I am speaking only of its mechanical construction.  How far the words it charges to be libellous are such, and the proper application of them, I have already said, you will learn from His Honor.

The second count is a repetition of the first, with some curtailments and alterations. 

The third and fourth counts are abandoned.

The fifth count charges me with a libel upon the Lieutenant Governor, published on the 25th of February, for what I considered to be nothing but a fair discussion of the propriety of certain public appointments.  It is said, that because in the course of this discussion, these appointments are treated as unnecessary, that thereby it must follow that improper motives are imputed to the Lieutenant Governor.  I deny the inference.  So extraordinary a stretch of meaning as this implies, I should hope would require no argument to refute.  This libel is said to be contained in a letter to the Editor, subscribed ``A Colonist."  Here again I must call to you recollection, that I have offered, again and again, to give up the writer of every article which I have printed.  My offer has been refused.  It is utterly impossible for me to attempt to argue upon the qualities of this letter.  I submit to you, Gentlemen, and I trust His Honor will so direct you, that it does not contain one word out of those fair and free limits of political discussion spoken of by the Attorney-General.  If Lord Ellenborough's charge, in the case of the King v. Perry, has any meaning at all, certainly this article comes entirely within its scope and compass.  It is admitted that the conduct of the administration of Government, is a fair subject of legitimate discussion.  If it was otherwise, the monstrous position would be the result, that in the same ratio, wherein an administration was erroneous and unwise, so would the examination of it be proportionably libellous, because it would tend the more to bring it into disgrace.

The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth counts are abandoned.

The tenth count if for an article printed by me on the 20th of May, to which all the remarks I have troubled you with, as to fair and free discussion, will, I trust, be found fully to apply.  I beg here, Gentlemen, to observe that all the way through in this count, the Editor, Mr. Evan Henry Thomas, is treated as the writer; and yet I am especially charged with composing, printing, and publishing.

The eleventh count is abandoned.

This, Gentlemen of the Jury, is an analysis of this most complicated and voluminous Information.  It bears false colours, because it assumes to be a measure, in vindication of His Honor the Lieut. Governor, when all the way through it affords a abundant internal evidence, that this most forced construction is taken up merely because the individuals, who are politically (and politically only) referred to in the different articles complained of, were unable to make out a case within the reach of the ordinary course of law.  And therefore it is, that the name of His Honor the Lieutenant Governor has been, I think I may fairly say, most invidiously brought forth as a cover, -- a mere pretext for having recourse to this proceeding, which I again call to your recollection, the Attorney-General admits to be one of jealousy and suspicion, and which a recent publication describes to apply properly only to enormous misdemeanours.

Gentlemen, I lament to have been obliged to occupy so much of your time.  You must be aware, and I am certain you will feel, that the present mode of defence is replete with disadvantages.  To these I have only to oppose the confidence I place in the liberal construction and interpretation which I trust the articles before you may receive from his Honor the Chief Justice, in his directions to you.

Gentlemen, I have now again to repeat my hope, that you will make great allowances for the many disadvantages I am subjected to, -- opposed, as I am, to the most powerful talent and ability; and, in soliciting your favourable interpretation to the articles now before you, I humbly place myself in your hands.

His Honor the Chief Justice Pedder charged the Jury at considerable length, in the most perspicuous and impartial manner, of which we lament that our limits will only enable us to give a very short abstract.  His Honor recapitulated his former statements of the Law of Libel, as applicable to this case, and continued as follows:  I repeat what I said before, that every man has a right to express his sentiments upon the administration of the public affairs, provided he does so fairly and properly.  But if he imputes corrupt or tyrannical motives to any Government, it is certainly a Libel, because it is impossible that any Government can exist, if the Governors are to be charged to be actuated by corrupt and tyrannical motives.  The defendant has again stated in his defence, his offer to give up the writers of these articles; but I do not conceive that this is of any consequence at present.  The dry matter of fact of publication, and the meaning and intention of the matter so published, is the real question.  The Defendant also calls upon me to give my opinion, as to whether these articles are libellous or not.  Although I have an undoubted right to do so in this, as in every other case, yet I do not think that I should be called upon to give such opinion.  The fairest way indeed is, that I should draw your attention to the articles as they are before you, and having stated the Law upon the subject, leave you to come to your own conclusion, as to whether these articles bear the construction put upon them in the Information.  It is impossible that the Government of any country can be charged with acting tyrannically and oppressively, without such charge being a Libel.  I do not mean to say, that a man may not express many things, which are disagreeable to hear; and although by so doing, unpleasant conclusions may be drawn by the Public, yet so long as motives and intentions are left untouched, and the observations are confined to the mere measures animadverted upon, whether such are beneficial or otherwise to the community, the doing so is the fair right of every public writer.  [His Honor the Chief Justice here enlarged upon this subject, in a very full and impartial manner, and then proceeded to go through the different Counts of the Information, commenting upon each of them as he went on, directing the Jury to determine what in their opinion was the real meaning of the different passages charged as libellous.]  Gentlemen, it is for you to consider whether the intention of t[he]se articles means to impute to the Governor, that he acts corruptly and tyrannically; that he treats the complaints of the people with derision, and that he does not bestow upon them that attention which it is their undoubted right to receive.  If so, it is libellous; but if on the contrary, it is merely meant as a fair supposition, as a mere hypothetical argument, as a mere possible case, then I cannot say there is a syllable to fix upon, which you can fairly say is a Libel.  It is undoubtedly the duty of the Governor to treat the complaints of the people with attention.  But if he is told that he does not do so, from corrupt motives, such a charge is a Libel.

We now come to the fifth count.  Certain offices are here called jobs.  I know of no legal interpretation of the word job, but its common acceptation, in which sense it is certainly not intended here.  I cannot fix upon one single word in this article, which strikes me as being libellous, until we come to the words non-descript jobs.  Now, what meaning can this convey to your minds.  We have no evidence before us of the meaning of this word job, as applied here.  The inuendo only repeats the words.  Now, do you understand, by the word job, that a charge of corrupt conduct in the Lieutenant Governor is necessarily and plainly implied.  If you do not find that such is imputed, I cannot say that such is a Libel.  It is however for you, in this as in every other part of the case, to look at the wo[r]ds as they are before you, and without straining them one way or the other, put upon them that interpretation, which they may be fairly understood to bear.  We now come to the last count.  [Here His Honor read the article, charged as a Libel], which as in the other ones, he commented upon at great length, calling the attention of the Jury to every passage as he went on; and, after a charge, which continued two hours and a quarter, of which we are unable to give even a faint sketch, His Honor concluded nearly as follows:]  I have now, Gentlemen, gone through the whole of this Information; I have explained to you the Law upon these subjects; it will be for you, by your verdict, to declare, whether the meanings put upon certain passages in this Information, are fairly borne out.  If so, of course you will find the Defendant guilty; but, if on the other hand you should be of opinion that nothing was intended by the Defendant, but to exercise the fair right of discussion of public measures, without imputing corrupt motives, which I have already stated every man possesses, in that case it will be your duty to acquit him.  I shall trouble you with no further observations, but shall now leave the case with you.

The Jury found the Defendant Guilty upon the remaining counts.

Pedder C.J., 29 March 1826

Source: Colonial Times, 31 March 1826 [3]

Mr. Bent this day appeared, to receive the judgment of the Court, in compliance with the notice we mentioned in our last to have received from Mr. Stephen.

The acting Attorney-General Hone rose, and applied for the judgment of the Court upon the 1st, 2d, 5th, and 10th counts of the second information upon which he had been found guilty of printing and publishing, in September last.

Chief Justice. - Mr. Bent, have you any thing to move in arrest of judgment?

Mr. Ross. - No, your Honor.

Chief Justice. - Mr. Andrew Bent, you are brought up to receive the judgment of this Court, for printing and publishing three libels.  It is not my intention, at this time, to make any observations upon the Law of Libel, or as to the Freedom of the Press; this was done upon your trial by the Attorney-General, so clearly, so fully, and so ably, that it would be useless my adding any thing thereto.  It cannot but be highly libellous to impute to any Government a wilful system of mal-administration - that its act are wicked and corrupt; and such charges are evidently contained in the articles published by you, mentioned in the 1st, 2d, and 10th counts.  With respect to the 5th count, I must admit, that the libellous nature thereof is not so apparent - I admit that it is by no means plain; but it went to the Jury, whether the expressions were used with the intention charged in the Information, and they found that they were so.  The words were, speaking of a public appointment, ``as a non-descript job," and the Jury found that this was libellous.  If libels upon the Government are considered highly criminal in England, how much more so must all such be in a Colony constituted as is this, at such a distance from the Parent State.  I recollect that you urged in your defence that you did not compose any of these libels  I confess I can discover but a very slight difference between the person who composes the poison, and he who disseminates it. - There is another observation, that in these libels general charges alone are made against an individual how could he meet them?  And how much more difficult would it be for a Government to do so?  if you had stated particular facts and circumstances, those who were alluded to could either have replied, or the falsehood of the charge would have become apparent.  This is not the case of a single libel, but of three, and the argument that you were not the composer of them is, as if have said, entitled but to very little weight.  I am bound however to take all the circumstances of the case into consideration, in the exercise of that discretion as to punishment, which rests in cases such as the present with the Judge.  I have done so, and the sentence of the Court is, that you be imprisoned for three months, that you pay a fine to the King of two hundred pounds sterling, and that you enter into recognizances for your good behaviour, yourself in two hundred pounds, and two sureties in one hundred pounds each.

Notes

[1] There were two newspapers called the Hobart Town Gazette at this time (see EM Miller,Pressmen and Governors: Australian Editors and Writers in Early Tasmania, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1975, at 177).  This one became the Colonial Times later in 1825.

[2] See also Hobart Town Gazette, 6 August 1825.

[3] See also Hobart Town Gazette, 1 April 1826. For the next trial in this series, see R. v. Bent, 1826.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania