Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> Speech on the Justice of Receiving Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia >> Page 47

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Page 47

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 47
Have you not laws to punish libel and slander ? If a
citizen of the State of New York were to say of another
citizen that he was a " land pirate,"" a murderer," and
a " man-stealer," would he not be liable to an action of
slander ? If he were to write these things of him, or
caricature him by infamous and disgusting pictorial
representations, would he not be indictable for libel ?
What violation, then, of social or constitutional right,
would it be to extend the benefit of these same laws
to us?
We ask nothing more than the recognition of a
well-known principle of international law, a striking
illustration of which has happened within the memory
of many who now hear me. It will be recollected
that just before the war between France and England,
which broke out in 1803, the English presses teemed
with abuse of the First Consul, Bonaparte complained
to the English Ministers. They indicted Peltier, tried
and convicted him. The declaration of war only pre-
vented him from receiving his punishment. If Englandl
where there have been more battles fought for the
liberty of speech, and of the press, than in any portion
of the world, felt herself bound to indict a journalist
for libelling her greatest enemy, the enemy, as she
deemed, of the whole human race, on the very eve of
war with him, is it unreasonable to require you to ex-
tend the same justice to the grossly slandered and
deeply injured people of the South ; brethren as you
call us of one great confederacy, devoted to the same
great principles of constitutional liberty, and who have
so often mingled our blood with yours, on the same
glorious battle field ?
Sir, I cannot believe gentlemen are sincere when