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I cannot help thinking, that prosecution by indictment, if a defendant is never to be allowed to justify, must often be very oppressive, unless juries, whom I am more and more confirmed in holding to be judges of law as well as of fact, resolutely interpose. Of late an act of parliament has passed declaratory of their full right to one as well as the other, in matter of libel and the bill having been brought in by a popular gentleman, many of his party have in most extravagant terms declaimed on the wonderful acquisition to the liberty of the press. For my own part I ever was clearly of opinion that this right was inherent in the very constitution of a jury, and indeed in sense and reason inseparable from their important function. To establish it, therefore, by statute, is, I think, narrowing its foundation, which is the broad and deep basis of common law. Would it not rather weaken the right of primogeniture, or any other old and universally acknowledged right, should the legislature pass an act in favour of it? In my Letter to the People of Scotland, against diminishing the number of the Lords of Session," published in 1785, there is the following passage, which, as a concise, and I hope a fair and rational state of the matter, I presume to quote: "The juries of England are judges of law as well as of fact in many civil and in all criminal trials. That my principles of resistance may not be misapprehended, any more than my principles of submission, I protest that I should be the last man in the world to encourage juries to contradict rashly, wantonly, or perversely, the opinion of the judges. On the contrary, I would have them listen respectfully to the advice they receive from the bench, by which they may often be well directed in forming their own opinion; which, and not another's,' is the opinion they are to return upon their oaths, But where, after due attention to all that the judge has said, they are decidedly of a different opinion from him, they have not only a power and a right, but they are bound in conscience to bring ir a verdict accordingly."
Popish Corruptions. — Licensed Stews. Seduction.
"Othello." - John Dennis.
· Wine-drinking.— Cumberland's "Odes."— Savage
ON Thursday, 4th April, having called on Dr. Johnson, I said, it was a pity that truth was not so firm as to bid defiance to all attacks, so that it might be shot at as much as people chose to attempt, and yet remain unhurt. JOHNSON. "Then, Sir, it would not be shot at. Nobody attempts to dispute that two and two make four: but with contests concerning moral truth, human passions are generally mixed, and therefore it must be ever liable to assault and misrepresentation."
On Friday, 5th April, being Good Friday, after having attended the morning service at St. Clement's church, I walked home with Johnson. We
talked of the Roman Catholic religion. JOHNSON. "In the barbarous ages, Sir, priests and people were equally deceived; but afterwards there were gross corruptions introduced by the clergy, such as indulgences to priests to have concubines, and the worship of images, not, indeed, inculcated, but knowingly permitted." He strongly censured the licensed stews at Rome. BOSWELL. "So then, Sir, you would allow of no irregular intercourse whatever between the sexes ?" JOHNSON. "To be sure I would not, Sir. I would punish it much more than it is done, and so restrain it. In all countries there has been fornication, as in all countries there has been theft; but there may be more or less of the one, as well as of the other, in proportion to the force of law. All men will naturally commit fornication, as all men will naturally steal. And, Sir, it is very absurd to argue, as has been often done, that prostitutes are necessary to prevent the violent effects of appetite from violating the decent order of life; nay, should be permitted, in order to preserve the chastity of our wives and daughters. Depend upon it, Sir, severe laws, steadily enforced, would be sufficient against those evils, and would promote marriage."
I stated to him this case :- "Suppose a man has a daughter, who he knows has been seduced, but her misfortune is concealed from the world, should he keep her in his house? Would he not, by doing so, be accessary to imposition? And, perhaps, a worthy, unsuspecting man, might come and marry this woman, unless the father inform him of the truth." JOHNSON. "Sir, he is accessary to no im
position. His daughter is in his house; and if a man courts her, he takes his chance. If a friend, or indeed, if any man, asks his opinion whether he should marry her, he ought to advise him against it, without telling why, because his real opinion is then required. Or, if he has other daughters who know of her frailty, he ought not to keep her in his house. You are to consider the state of life is this; we are to judge of one another's characters as well as we can; and a man is not bound in honesty or honour to tell us the faults of his daughter or of himself. A man who has debauched his friend's daughter is not obliged to say to every body'Take care of me; don't let me into your house without suspicion. I once debauched a friend's daughter. I may debauch yours.""
Mr. Thrale called upon him, and appeared to bear the loss of his son with a manly composure. There was no affectation about him; and he talked, as usual, upon indifferent subjects. He seemed to me to hesitate as to the intended Italian tour, on which, I flattered myself, he and Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson were soon to set out; and, therefore, I pressed it as much as I could. I mentioned that Mr. Beauclerk had said, that Baretti, whom they were to carry with them, would keep them so long in the little towns of his own district, that they would not have time to see Rome. I mentioned this to put them on their guard. JOHNSON. "Sir, we do not thank Mr. Beauclerk for supposing that we are to be directed by Baretti. No, Sir; Mr. Thrale is to go, by
my advice, to Mr. Jackson (1) (the all-knowing), and get from him a plan for seeing the most that can be seen in the time that we have to travel. We must, to be sure, see Rome, Naples, Florence, and Venice, and as much more as we can." (Speaking with a tone of animation.)
When I expressed an earnest wish for his remarks on Italy, he said, "I do not see that I could make a book upon Italy; yet I should be glad to get two hundred pounds, or five hundred pounds, by such a work." This showed both that a journal of his tour upon the continent was not wholly out of his contemplation, and that he uniformly adhered to that strange opinion which his indolent disposition made him utter; "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of literature.
He gave us one of the many sketches of character which were treasured in his mind, and which he was wont to produce quite unexpectedly in a very entertaining manner. "I lately," said he, "received a letter from the East Indies, from a gentleman (2)
(1) A gentleman who, from his extraordinary stores of knowledge, has been styled omniscient. Johnson, I think very properly, altered it to all-knowing, as it is a verbum solenne, appropriated to the Supreme Being. - B. - Mr. Richard Jackson, a barrister, M.P. for New Romney, and F.R.S., had obtained, from the universality of his information on all topics, the appellation of "omniscient Jackson." He was an intimate friend of Lord Shelburn's, and became a lord of the treasury in his lordship's administration in 1782. He died May 6. 1787. — C.
(2) This gentleman was no doubt Mr. Joseph Fowke. See post, p. 140, and April 19. 1783.- C.