On the Liberty of the Press, and Public Discussion
Jeremy Bentham


The lot of the present Tract has hitherto been rather unfortunate. It was begun, continued, and ended, for the purpose and under the full assurance of it being translated into Spanish and published at Madrid:, it was sent, in the hope of its reaching that capital time enough to be before the public antecedently to the day on which the proposed law, which was the subject of it, would come under final discussion. The person, by whom it was to have been translated and published, was Mr. Mora, at that time editor of El Constitucional, the most popular, the most ably conducted, and the most distinguished of the Madrid daily papers. Had they gone according to the course of the post, the letters in question (four in number) would, even the last of them, have arrived in time. But in the first instance, in a proportion which ha never been ascertained, some or all of them miscarried. As the miscarriage became ascertained or suspected, other copies were sent; and, at last, the complete series were received. In the meantime, the law, the prevention of which they had in view, passed. But, though the only individual object which they had in view was thus at an end, and the design of them thus far frustrated, the more extensive object which they had in view---more extensive in place as well as time---was neither at an end, nor in its nature capable of being put to an end. That object was---the rendering it manifest, how indispensable, at all times and everywhere, those two intimately-connected liberties---the liberty of the press, and the liberty of public discussion by word of mouth---are to everything that can with any propriety be termed good government. Thus it is, that in respect of this its major object the work, small as it is, belongs not with less propriety to the country in the language of which it was written, than to that for the language of which it was designed---to the present month of July 1821, in which it it now published, than to the months of September and October 1820, in which it was written: to the countries, not to speak of other countries---to the present month and year, not to speak of future ones.

The law against which these letters were directed, was passed: but the effect, at the production of which it aimed, have not been produced. The Spanish press has not been enslaved: Spaniards have not, like Englishmen, submitted to be gagged: Spanish, instead of being like English and French ministers, absolute, have been expelled. As to massacre, the authors of that of Cadiz, though they enjoy not the same triumph, nor have obtained the same reward, have as yet, it is believed, enjoyed nearly the same impunity with those of the Manchester massacre. but the punishment of those who showed what legitimacy and social order is at Cadiz, is yet to come, and may even yet not improbably come: in that country punishment may yet be for the authors of misrule and massacre; while, in this country, it is reserved for the victims of misrule---for those who have escaped from massacre.

Of the reception experienced at Madrid by subsequent addresses of he same author to the same people, something may come to be said, in another publication which is in readiness to pass through the same hands. As to the present Tract, its lot at Madrid remains still in abeyance. It had been about half translated, when, by an act of the sort here protested against, the translator was thrown into a prison. The illegality of that act has since been recognized, and his enlargement has been the consequence. But, under the extraordinary weight of the business which presses upon him in these eventful times, whether the translation has as yet been published, or so much as completed, is not at present known: if not by his, it will, however, ere long, be laid before the Spanish public by some other hand.

The situation of that distinguished publicist is, at this moment, an altogether curious one. A ministry has lately been expelled and in this expulsion he has borne a leading, not to say the principal, part. To have been, and to continue to be, in a pre-eminent, not to say a peculiar degree, the object of the monarch's confidence has been, at the same time, a matter of public and vehement accusation against him. Far from denying the fact, he openly avows it. ``You know'', says he, ``what my opinions, what my affections are; you know that they are all liberal ones: your wish is, that the opinions---that the affections---communicated to your monarch, should be liberal ones; by whom can they be communicated, but by those by whom they are entertained? What would you be gainers, if your monarch communicated with none that were not your enemies?''

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