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Such is the “matchless cause" for which he is moved to write a “ Series of Letters.” But this will be of no use unless circulated. And in order that they may be circulated, he asks a large amount of subscriptions to his paper containing them. That is, entirely on the score of the zeal which is consuming him; and which, of course, is to inspire these “ Letters."
“The good to be anticipated from these Letters must depend on the extent of their circulation."
“ It is necessary that they should receive the widest possible diffusion.” “Surely we need not despair of this ; the promotion of the eternal welfare of one-third of the human race may well awaken the deepest compassion, and call forth the utmost energy of the remainder.” “There is but one way of securing a really efficient circulation, and that is, for our generous friends to take the matter into their own hands. If they order direct from the office a number of copies for distribution, who can tell the benefit that may arise to the great cause! This is the first step,” (i. e. the subscription)
, “but to complete it, demands another (the distribution), which requires the good offices of our excellent publisher, which will be cheerfully rendered. Our friends have, therefore, only to transmit to him contributions for the purpose.”
That is, they were to send the publisher the money, and rely on him to distribute the copies. Thus unlimited confidence was to be placed both in editor and publisher.
Speaking of his former Letters, the Doctor says:
“My friends, the friends of the truth as it is in Jesus, generously enabled me, through their subscriptions, to circulate in proper quarters 100,000 copies, which, it is calculated, have been more or less perused by one million of people. In the present case, however, if the movement shall be in any way proportioned to the theme, five times that number would be required !”
That is, 500,000 copies circulated, and perused by 5,000,000 of people! Such a circulation would, if secured, have made the British Standard wave indeed over a wide expanse of moral dominion; and made the Doctor owner of one of the finest newspaper properties in this country. How far he ultimately succeeded, is not possible to say. After he had gone on some time, he informed his admirers that, “ The free circulation had amounted to 22,000 copies ;" that is, that number were subscribed for weekly (as we understand), to be circulated at his discretion. A double advantage; first, they are paid for by the subscribers ; then he is at liberty to distribute them as he pleases; and every one of them is an advertiser of his paper, and enhances the value of his property.
Thus the Doctor represents it as the reason why the “ friends of the heathen” should assist him, that he is burning with anxiety to enlist their aid on behalf of the perishing heathen. That, he solemnly assures them, is his object. That is his sole motive. He challenges attention to it. He
. invites scrutiny of it. He puts it in the van. He urges it as his great argument. He enlarges on the idea. He declares it overwhelms him.
“ The idea of one-third of the human race seems to confound and overwhelm the mind."
Yet so intense is his zeal, that he addresses himself to the mighty task.
“ As much as in me lies, therefore, I feel called upon to use the literary facilities so largely placed under my control to further the sublime enterprise.” And then he points out that this is only one mean to the end, and explains how he requires money.
“ The Letters must be circulated and read, and for this I am wholly dependent on the good offices of the friends of the heathen.”
The effect of these appeals by the Doctor, in person, was aided from time to time by the publication of letters, or extracts from letters, of pious persons who had been stimulated by these appeals to subscribe; all in the same style, and using the same phraseology,“ The Editor's admirable Letters," “ The all-important subject,” May the Editor be abundantly strengthened and encouraged in this new effort for the glory of God, and the best interests of the perishing heathen.” And again, “I would encourage Dr. Campbell in all his abounding labours of love. He is an honour to his country and a benefactor of man.” And so on. Thus, after himself professing his overwhelming anxiety for the souls of the perishing heathen, as a reason for other people subscribing their money for the circulation of his paper-he introduces other, for the most part anonymous, writers, expressing their high admiration of his matchless zeal and “ labours of love," and by their example seeks to invite others to a like liberality.
Beyond any man of his time he has displayed an intense and unquenchable zeal on behalf of China.” And then in another place, by way of stimulating the liberality of friends of the heathen, he points to the munificent subscription of that gentleman. And then he proffers the aid of his publisher to distribute the papers, "deeming nothing too much to further a cause so glorious; a cause which involves obedience to the Divine commands, the salvation of men, and the glory of God.” And he winds up this powerful appeal by
commending this matter to the serious attention of the friends of the heathen, and earnestly soliciting their good offices.” That is, he asks their subscriptions on the score of his sincere zeal for the conversion of the heathen. We do not doubt it in the least. But then we say that by thus putting it before the public he made it a fit and fair subject for public comment, and could not complain if it was suggested, that it was not the sole motive.
Now, we repeat, and we declare sincerely, we do not doubt the Doctor's sincerity. But what we say is, that by taking this course, he made his motives and his aims, and the whole moral character of his proceeding, fit subject of public
stricture and public commentary. We say the whole of it
Not (as the Lord Chief Justice would have it) only a part of it. Not merely its feasibility, or its very probability of success, but its real aim, and motive, and end. Not merely its effect, but its object. Not merely the means proposed, but the moral character of the agencies and means employed, and the incitements and inducements held out. Because the whole depended upon the faith felt in the Doctor's anxiety for the souls of the heathen, as the sole motive he had in view. If there was any admixture of any other and more selfish motive, if the good of the paper was in the least in view, a public writer had a fair right to object to that admixture, and denounce it.
We say that there was a fair occasion for the discussion of every part of the materials thus presented for discussion; not merely the feasibility of the proposed plan, but the moral character of the means adopted for carrying it out, and especially the publication of letters, “ all bearing the marks of the same style," all breathing such a tone of eulogy on the projector of the plan, all pointing to the most implicit confidence in him on account of his professed and assumed anxiety for the heathen; we say that all this, and especially the latter, the reality and genuineness of the feeling thus put forth as the moving principle of the whole, was fair subject of public discussion, with a special view to the question whether on the whole it was not probable that, in the language of the Lord Chief Justice himself, the collateral advantage to the paper was not present to the plaintiff's mind, and had not some influence upon him, and whether this probability did not raise a powerful argument against the moral propriety of the means thus adopted, and of this suspicious union between the secular and the spiritual.
We say that the whole of this was fair subject of discussion, and that there was a privileged occasion to a public writer to discuss all that was then set before the public, and the discussion of any part of it. And that the question as to the limit of his right of discussion was not whether these materials might fairly, in the judgment of judge or jury, support any inference he drew therefrom, or any imputations he founded thereon, but whether they might not naturally arise in the mind of the writer, when honestly engaged in the discussion of these materials, or whether, on these materials, they might naturally enough suggest themselves to his mind in discussing them. If so, then we submit that as the right of discussion embraced them, so the privilege applied to the imputations relating to them, and that there would be no other question except whether there was in the manner of the discussion any evidence that there was not the honest exercise of the right, but an indulgence in reckless defamation which would be evidence of malice.
What were the imputations in the present case ? We extract the material passages in the alleged libel with the notes of the learned reporters, who, it will be seen, consider it came strictly within the limits of fair comment.
“ The Doctor refers frequently to Mr. Thompson as his authority, so frequently that we must own to having had a transitory suspicion that Mr. Thompson was nothing more than another Mrs. Harris, and to believe, with Mrs. Gamp's acquaintance, that 'there never was no such person.' But as Mr. Thompson's name is down for 5,000 copies of the Ensign, we must accept his identity as fully proved, * and we hope the publisher of the Ensign is equally satisfied on the point. Certain it is, that Mr. Thompson knows more about China than anybody else in England.
“ To spread the knowledge of the Gospel in China would be a good and an excellent thing, and worthy of all praise and encouragement; but to make such a work a mere pretext for puffing an obscure newspaper into circulation, is a most scandalous and flagitious act, and it is this act, we fear, we must charge against Dr. Campbell.
So that here was a distinct disclaimer, as regards this name, of any idea of its being fictitious.
† This gives the key to the real meaning of the whole article, that the making out that the advancement of Christian missions was an object to be attained or promoted by subscribing to the plaintiff's paper was a mere