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had been well, after such a search, to have chastised or approved the Man accused, according to his Deserts. But my Fate is so Extraordinary, that I am punished by the House of Commons, (where Freedom of Speech is an essential Privilege) for saying what was Criminal no where else. Had what I have written been spoken in the House of Commons, no Man will pretend to say it had been Criminal: How then when it was Innocent In another Place, came it to be criminal by being produced there? 1 was safe, when in Circumstances that rendered me more accountable, and ran into Danger by being privileg'd.
But I flatter my self that I shall convince all my Fellow-Subjects of my Innocence from the following Circumstances, allowed to be of Weight in all Tryalsof this Nature. From the general Character of the Offender, the Motive to his Offence, and the Character of the Persons ivbo appear for him, oppofed to those who are against him. There are some Points to be allowed, which bear hard against the Prisoner at the Bar; and we must grant this by way of Confessing and Avoiding, and give it up, that the Defendant has been as great a Libertine as a Confessor. We will suppose then a Witness giving an Aceount of him, who, if he spoke true, would say as follows."
I have been long acquainted with Mr. Steele, Who is accused as a malicious Writer; and can give an Account of him (from what he used to confess to us his private Friends) what was the chief Motive of his first appearing in Print. Befldes this, I have read every thing he O 4 has has writ or published. He first became an Author when an Ensign of the Guards, a way of Life exposed to much Irregularity; and being thoroughly convinced of many things, of which he often repented, and which he more often repeated, he writ, for his own private Use, a little Book called the Christian Hero, with a Design principally to fix upon his own Mind a strong Imprefllon of Virtue and Religion, in Opposition to a stronger Propensity towards unwarrantable Pleasures. This secret Admonition was too weak; he therefore Printed the Book with his Name, in hopes that a standing Testimony against himself, and the Eyes of the World, (that is to fay of his Acquaintance) upon him in a new Light, might curb his Desires, and make him ashamed of understanding and seeming to fee! what was Virtuous, and living so quite contrary a Life. This had no other good Effect, but that from being thought no undelightful Companion, he was soon reckoned a disagreeable Fellow. One or two of his Acquaintance thought fit to misuse him, and try their Valour upon him; and every Body he knew measured the least Levity in his Words and Actions, with the Character of a Christian Heroe. Thus he found himself slighted, instead of being encouraged, for hi's Declarations as to Religion; and it was now incumbent upon him to enliven his Character, for which Reason he writ the Comedy called Tie Funeral, in which (tho' full of Incidents that move Laughter) Virtue and Vice appear just as they ought to do. Nothing can make the Town so fond of a Man as a successful
Play, and this, with some Particulars enlarged upon to his Advant ige, (for Princes never hear. Good or Evil in the manner others do) obtained him the notice of the King: And his Name, to be provided for, was in the last Table Book ever worn by the Glorious and Immortal William the ThirJ.'
His next Appearance as a Writer was in the Quality of the lowest Minister of State, to wit, in the Office of Gazetteer. Where he worked saithfully according to Order, without ever erring against the Rule observed by all Ministries, to keep that Paper very innocent and very insipid.
It is believed, it was to the Reproaches he heard every Gazette Day against the Writer of it, that the Defendant owes the Fortitude of being remarkably negligent of what People say, which he does not deserve; Except in so great Cases as this now before Us. His next Productions were still Plays, then the Tattler, then the Spe£iator, then theGuardian, then the Etfgli/h wan. And now, tho' he has published, and scribled so very much, He may defie any Man to find one Leaf in all these Writings which is not, in point, a Defence against this Imputation, to find one Leaf which does not mediately or immediately tend to the Honour of the Queen, or the Service of the Nobility and Gentry, or which is not particularly respectful to the Universities. Farther this Witness sayeth not.
When a Man is accused, it is allowable not only to say as much as will refute his Adversary, but if be can, he may alsert Things of ... Of himself himself Praise-worthy, which ought not to be called Vanity in him, but Justice against his Opponent, by proving it is not only False what is said as to the Fault laid to his Charge, but also that he has exerted the contrary Virtue.
You may observe that the Votes of the i8tb of March imply, that the Writings were under Consideration, as containing several Paragraphs tending to Sedition, highly reflecting upon Her Majesty, and arraigning Her Majesty's Administration and Government. There was not one Argument used to support this heavy Accusation against the Member; but I suppose, npon Consideration that his reflecting upon the Queen so directly, and arraigning Her Administration and Government, was just the quite contrary to what he had done, the III Behaviour towards Her Majesty is in the Resolution scattered among Her Subjects, and it was thought, since it was all equally true, it would be expedient to wiredraw the Offence, and for the Amusement of the Vulgar, to say more diffusively, that the Pamphlets were Scandalous aud Seditious Libels, containing many Expressions highly reflecting upon Her Majesty, and upon the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy, and Universities of this Kingdom, maliciousty insinuating, that the Protestant Succession it in Danger under Her Majesty's Administration, and tinding to alienate the Affections of Her Majesty's good Subjects, and to Create Jealousies and divisions among them.
_ This is a very pleasant Proceeding. The Indictment before them was, that the accused
Member had reflected upon the Queen; ay marry has he, say they, and upon the Nobility and Gentry, Clergy and Universities, and he did this also with a malicious Intimation, that the Succession was in Danger under Her Majesty's Administration, and so forth. What need was there the Man should be Guilty of more than he was indicted for? Let this Resolve be taken out of its Formality, and it is just as if they had said he has been Guilty of Treason, and also of ill Manners. But the huddle of Offences was only to make a Huy and Cry, and the Business was, that he should be marked; and as they well knew from the general Corruption and Meinnessof the World, that if the Crimes did not distinctly-hurt every fort of People, they would not be Zealous enough for the sake of the Queen only* to vilifie and distress the accused Man: But the Succession, say they, he says is in Danger under Her Majesty's Administration. This Phrase is Ambiguous and Evasive, it retains the Offence against the Queen, only to hide Ministers. This is a very thin Mask, for it is no help to them; if any Man should, in a proper Place, have any thing to object to their Conduct; it would be no Answer to urge against such an Impeachment, that this was asserting ill things are done under Her Majesty's Administration. All manner of Crimes are committed under every Prince's Administration, but for that Reason are those Princes to be loaded with the Guilt? or would a Man that should complain of those Crimes, b* supposed to intend Treasonably, or to assert that they are owing to his Prince's ,