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in fcribbling, has acquired a tolerable ftyle as to grammar and conftruction, fo as to bear printing; or who is poffeffed of a prefs and a few types. This five hundredth part of the citizens have the privilege of accufing and abusing the other four hundred and ninety-nine parts, at their pleasure; or they may hire out their pens and prefs to others, for that purpose.
Practice of this court.
It is not governed by any of the rules of the common courts of law. The accufed is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accufation before it is publicly made; nor is the name of the accufer made known to him nor has he an opportunity of confronting the witneffes against him, for they are kept in the dark, as in the Spanish court of inquifition. Nor is there any petty jury of his peers fworn
to try the truth of the charges. The proceedings are alfo fometimes fo rapid, that an honeft good citizen may find himself fuddenly and unexpectedly accufed, and in the fame morning judged and condemned, and fentence pronounced against him that he is a rogue and a villain. Yet if an officer of this court receives the flightest check for misconduct in this his office, he claims immediately the rights of a free citizen by the conftitution, and demands to know his accufer, to confront the witneffes, and to have a fair trial by a jury of his peers.
The foundation of its authority.
It is faid to be founded on an article in the ftate conftitution, which establishes the liberty of the prefs-a liberty which every Pennfylvanian would fight and die for, though few of us, I believe, have diftinct ideas of its nature and extent.
It feems, indeed, fomewhat like the liberty of the prefs, that felons have, by the common law of England before conviction; that is, to be either preffed to death or hanged. If, by the liberty of the prefs, were understood merely the liberty of difcuffing the propriety of public meafures 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 fhare of it, whenever our legiflators fhall please fo to alter the law; and fhall cheerfully confent to exchange my liberty of abufing others, for the privilege of not being abufed myself.
By whom this court is commiffioned or conftituted.
It is not by any commiffion from the fupreme executive council, who might
previously judge of the abilities, integrity, knowledge, &c. of the perfons to be appointed to this great truft, of deciding upon the characters and good fame of the citizens: for this court is above that council, and may accufe, judge, and condemn it at pleasure. Nor is it hereditary, as is the court of dernier refort in the peerage of England. But any man who can procure pen, ink, and paper, with a prefs, a few types, and a huge pair of blacking balls, may commiffionate himself, and his court is im mediately established in the plenary poffeffion and exercife of its rights.. For if you make the leaft complaint of the judge's conduct, he daubs his blacking balls in your face wherever he meets. you and befides tearing your private. character to fplinters, marks you out for the odium of the public, as an enemy to the liberty of the prefs.
Of the natural fupport of this court. Its fupport is founded in the deprávity of fuch minds as have not been mended by religion, nor improved by good education.
There is a luft in man no charm can tame,
On eagles' wings, immortal, fcandals fly,
Whoever feels pain in hearing a good character of his neighbour, will feel a pleasure in the reverfe. And of those who, despairing to rife to diftinction by their virtues, are happy if others can be depreffed to a level with themfelves, there are a number fufficient in every great town to maintain one of these courts by their fubfcription. A fhrewd obferver once faid, that in walking the ftreets