Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-dxj8b Total loading time: 0.356 Render date: 2023-02-01T03:14:49.505Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

THE LAW OF LIBEL AND THE LIMITS OF REPRESSION, 1790–1832

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 June 2001

PHILIP HARLING
Affiliation:
University of Kentucky

Abstract

The article examines the use of seditious libel and blasphemy as instruments of control during the era of Tory hegemony. It argues that the law of libel was a formidable instrument of repression, but one which was all but abandoned by the legal authorities because it proved to be too unreliable. On the one hand, it placed the writers and vendors of radical literature under the constant threat of prosecution. They could be perpetually threatened by ex-officio informations; they paid all legal costs accruing from their cases; and, if put to trial, they often faced a hostile judge and a packed jury. On the other hand, a great deal of arguably seditious literature circulated freely because the Home Office lacked the institutional means to embark on a policy of wholesale prosecution; enforcement of the libel laws was scattershot at best; and defendants ultimately managed to undermine the government's prosecutorial strategy by exploiting the flexibility of language to win acquittal in some well-publicized cases. Thus the profound uncertainty of libel proceedings made them double-edged weapons which often damaged the government and the accused at the same time.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

Many people have heard or read versions of this article. I have especially profited from the advice and encouragement of Arthur Burns, Penelope Corfield, James Epstein, Dan Gargola, Michael Lobban, Peter Mandler, Joanne Melish, Karen Petrone, D. A. Smith, Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, Mark Summers, and Dror Wahrman.
12
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

THE LAW OF LIBEL AND THE LIMITS OF REPRESSION, 1790–1832
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

THE LAW OF LIBEL AND THE LIMITS OF REPRESSION, 1790–1832
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

THE LAW OF LIBEL AND THE LIMITS OF REPRESSION, 1790–1832
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *