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I ■! J ARLIAMERTAHY JOTTINGS.…

THE FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT AT…

1. ! A CURIOUS LIBEL CASE.

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1. A CURIOUS LIBEL CASE. In the Exchequer Court last week, the case of Webber v. Colbran was brought forward. Mr. Addison stated the case. The plaintiff was a consulting physician at Tunbridge Wells, and the defendant was a printer at the same place. The plaintiff had ^0en Pr^*C9 fo* fifty years, the last five at Tunbridge Wells, where he had many patients. In June, 1864, he found that one of the sewers in that town was in such a state as was likely to produce fever, and he thereupon pressed the matter on the attention of the local commiasioaers, one of whom was a builder, who had caused the sewer to be opened. His remonstrance not having any effect he then wrote to the Home Secretary, and his letter was handed over to the Board of Health. That letter he con- sidered a confidential communication, and not in- tended for publication, but it was delivered to Dr* Hunter, who was sent down to Tunbridge Wells to in- quire into the sanitary condition of the place, and who, instead of going to the plaintiff, went to the local authorities, who had neglected to pay any atten- tion to the plaintiff's representations, and the plain- tiff's letter was shortly afterwards published in the local newspapers, and the plaintiff was held up as a person who had libelled the town as being infested with fever. The pluintiff soon found that he was an object of general comment amongst the inhabitants, and also that it was their intention to drive him from Ttinbridge The first libel was entitled" A New Song," by the Old Cobbler, tuna "Down Derry Down," and it comprised, amongst others, the follow- ing lines:- Let us hunt the wild boar (meaning the plaintiff), and give him a pill; He lives in the Wells at the foot of the hill. We must duck him and dive him in a pond'here below, Then start him full chase, Tally ho! Tally ho! We will drive him and hunt him from every place, For such an old boar (meaning the plaintiff) is quite a disgrace: This biped old beast let him go where he may, He is sure to disturb every town on his way. Unite one and all to drive him away, To Van Dieman's Land or Botany Bay." The next libel complained of was entitled "A Cor- rect Account of Dr. Weelbar's Confession," by the Old Cobbler, and it ran thus First I confess upon my knees I tried the poor to win and please; And next I tried to get a name, I must confess this was a shame. 'Tws that hotel (alluding to a scheme for a new hotel at Tunbridge Wells, of which the plaintiff was local director) that brought me out; I sent designs all round about; This proved all bosh and full of sin, And so I could not get the tin. Go where I will they point and stare, There goes old Web I do declare." The third document complained of was the fol- lowing :— Whatever can that old man mean, To say our streets they are not clean; And burning fevers all around, To frighten ladies from oar town ? Why not go away and leave us, ■» And not stop here to grieve us ? Leave Mount Sion's situation, Go to Etna's burning station. To cause such mobs and warlike strife, And then to threaten taking life; If this is Dr. Weebbar's plan Then he must be a dangerous man." These documents were printed by thousands, and sold at a penny each, and posted up and down the town, and placed in all the windows. The next decu- ment was of a more serious character. It was a pla- card put forth in the name of the magistrates, and was as follows:—"To the working classes of Tun- bridge Wells and neighbourhood: Important Notice -As the magistrates, town commissioners, and trades- men have agreed not to notice the abortive and vindictive drivellings of one Wm. Webber, and have determined for the future to treat him and his acts with contempt, it is earnestly requested that the workpeople of the town and neighbourhood will join in this determination, and especially show on the approaching 5th November that Webber is altogether beneath their notice." The defendant pleaded Not Guilty. There was no name attached to any of the printed doc- uments. There was a breach of the law, as every printer was bound to print his name to placards. In consequence of what took place the magistrates had to issue notices against a breach of the peace, and the effect of the defendant's conduct was alleged to be most prejudicial to the plaintiff, and his windows were broken. The great object the plaintiff had was to stop these proceedings, and he had no desire to put money into his pocket beyond what would be sufficient to check them. Beaben Cibbs deposed that he wrote fche verses com- plained of, but he gave his evidence so hesitatingly that tke learned judge asked him if he wished to return to Tunbridge Wells that night, for if he did not answer the questions properly he might be detained in London. He paid the defendant for printing the verses, and he had about 1,200 copies. He was in the habitof writing temperance hymns, songs, and melodies. The verses were intended to apply to the plaintiff. Never said anything to tha defendant about driving the plaintiff out of the place. Cross-examined by Mr. Hawkins: Had been in the habit of writing little scraps of poetry all his days. Simply employed the defendant to print these verses. Took the manuscript to him, and paid him for printing the paper. There was another poetical cordwainer in the town. Had forgotten his name. He was known as the Old Cobbler. Webber was the common talk of Tunbridge Wells. After further evidence on the part of the plaintiff, he himself was examined by Mr. Addison Was a Fellow of the College of Surgeons. Had practised in London; afterwards at Norwich, and subsequently at Yarmouth, and then he went to Tllnbridge Wells in 1860. Resided at Sion-terrace, at the foot of the hill of that name. In June last year he complained to the Home Secretary of the sewer being open, as he feared fever might be propagated, as it once was in West- minster from that cause. He had no doubt that he was the person referred to in these publications. He had not been able to attend to his patients without being hooted by the people. Mr. Coleridge then summed tip the evidence, and said the question was whether a man ought to be driven away from a town in which he resided. No witnesses were called for the defendant. Mr. Hawkins said the defendant had done nothing more than print these documents for old Gibbs, and that the plaintiff had long before their publication brought the opprobrium of which he complained upon himself by his extraordinary conduct. He submitted that the plaintiff was not entitled to more than a farthing damages. The learned judge summed up the evidence, com- menting severely upon the fact of the defendant having printed these documents without his name. That was a breach of the law, and it did not palliate the wrong committed against the plaintiff, but aggra- vated it. The jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff, with .£50 damages.

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