Defamation - 1800- 1849

Law relating to Defamation, slander, libel. See also Media Law.

These cases are extracted from a very large database. The entries on that database are now being published individually to the main swarb.co.uk website in a much improved form. As cases are published here, the entry here will be replaced by a link to the same case in that improved form on swarb.co.uk. In addition the swarb.co.uk site includes very substantial numbers of cases after 2000. Please take the time to look.  

This page lists 34 cases, and was prepared on 19 May 2014. These case are being transferred one by one to the main swarb.co.uk site which presents them better, with links to full text where we have it, and much improved cross referencing.
Gurney -v- Longman [1807] EngR 211; (1806, 1807) 13 Ves Jun 493; (1807) 33 ER 379
1 Apr 1807

Defamation
[ Commonlii ]
Carr -v- Hood; QBD 1808
Tabart -v- Tipper (1808) 1 Camp 350
2 Jan 1808

Defamation


The plaintiff said that the defendant had libelled him by saying that he was in the habit of publishing immoral and foolish books. Held: It was open to a defendant denying the libel to establish through evidence that the criticism was fair.
Home -v- Lord F C Bentinck [1820] EngR 447; (1820) 2 Br & B 130; (1820) 129 ER 907
17 Jun 1820

Defamation, Armed Forces Casemap
1 Cites

The commander-in-chief of the army, having directed an assemblage of commissioned military officers to hold an enquiry into the conduct of H., a commissioned officer in the army ; and H. having sued the president of the enquiry for a libel stated to be contained in the report thereupon made : Held, that this report was a privileged publication; that it was properly rejected as evidence at the trial ; and that an office copy of the same was also properly rejected.
[ Commonlii ]
Edwards -v- Bell (1824) 1 Bing 403
1824

Burrough J
Defamation Casemap

The justification of the sting of a libel is sufficient even if it does not extend to every epithet or detail in the words complained of. Held: “As much must be justified as meets the sting of the charge, and if anything be contained in the charge, which does not add to the sting of it, that need not be justified.”
McPherson -v- Daniels (1829) 10 B & C 263
1829

Bayley, Littledale, Parke JJ
Defamation

Bayley J said: Upon the great point, viz. whether it is a good defence to an action for slander for a defendant to show he heard it from another, and at that time named the author, I am of the opinion that it is not" and "the law will not permit a man to recover damages in respect of an injury to a character which he does not or ought not to possess." Truth is a complete defence.
De Crespigny -v- Wellesley [1829] 5 Bing 392
1829

Best CJ
Defamation Casemap
1 Citers
In an action for a libel, it is no plea, that the defendant had the libellous statement from another, and upon publication disclosed the author's name.
M'Pherson -v- Daniels; 1829
Child -v- Affleck Et Ux; 13-May-1829
Ward -v- Weeks (1830) 7 Bing 211
1830

Tindal CJ
Defamation

Complaint was made as to the publication of defamatory words addressed to one Bryce who “without any authority from the defendant” repeated the same to Bryer. It was the repetition and not the original statement which “occasioned the Plaintiffs damage”. Held: The plaintiff was non-suited. Tindal CJ: “Every man must be taken to be answerable for the necessary consequences of his own wrongful acts: but such a spontaneous and unauthorised communication cannot be considered as the necessary consequence of the original uttering of the words. For no effect whatever followed from the first speaking of the words to Bryce; if he had kept them to himself Bryer would still have trusted the plaintiff. It was the repetition of them by Bryce to Bryer, which was the voluntary act of a free agent, over whom the defendant had no control, and for whose acts he is not answerable, that was the immediate cause of the plaintiff’s damage.”
Harvey -v- French [1832] EngR 140; (1832) 1 Cr & M 11; (1832) 149 ER 293
1832

Defamation
[ Commonlii ]
Cook -v- Stokes And Wife [1832] EngR 922; (1832) 1 M & Rob 237; (1832) 174 ER 81 (A)
18 Dec 1832

Defamation
An allegation of slanderous words, accompanied with an assertion of a fact as the foundation of the words, is not supported by evidence of the words, accompanied with an assertion of the speaker's belief only of the fact.
Link[s] omitted
Toogood -v- Spyring; 1834
Chalmers -v- Payne [1835] 2 Cr M&R 156; [1835] EngR 38; (1835) 2 CrM & R 156; (1835) 150 ER 67
1835

B Alderson
Defamation Casemap

The court considered the bane and antidote doctrine in defamation. B Alderson said: "But the question here is, whether the matter be slanderous or not, which is a question of the Jury; who are to take the whole together and say whether the result of the whole is calculated to injure Plaintiffs character. In one part of this publication something disreputable to the Plaintiff is stated but that is removed by the conclusion: the bane and the antidote must be taken together."
Link[s] omitted
Tarpley, Clerk, -v- Blaby [1836] EngR 236; (1836) 7 Car & P 395; (1836) 173 ER 176
1836

Defamation Casemap
1 Citers
In an action for libel the defendant may give evidence of provocation in mitigation of damages, and may for that purpose show that the plaintiff had used expressions calculated to provoke him, both in writing and verbally.
Link[s] omitted
Tarpley, Clerk, -v- Blabey [1836] EngR 299; (1835) 2 Bing NC 437; (1836) 132 ER 171 (B)
13 Jan 1836

Tyndall CJ
Defamation
1 Cites
1 Citers
A libellous paper, in the handwriting of the Defendant, found in the house of the editor of a newspaper in which the libel complained of appeared, is admissible in evidence against the Defendant, notwithstanding several parts of it have been erased, and are omitted in the newspaper, provided the passages erased do not qualify the libel. In order to the admission in evidence of libels by the Plaintiff in mitigation of damages, it must be shewn with precision that such libels relate to the libels by the Defendant.
Tyndall CJ said: "If the Defendant authorised the printing of the libel in its larger and more offensive form, he gave the minor authority to print the less offensive parts of it. The case would be different if any qualifying expressions had been left out."
Link[s] omitted
Duncombe -v- Daniell (1837) 8 C & P 222
1837

Coleridge J, Lord Denman CJ
Defamation Casemap

The defendant was a voter in a parliamentary election. He wrote two letters which were published in a newspaper, the "Morning Post," which reflected upon the character of one of the candidates in his constituency. The plaintiff was awarded damages. The defendant applied for a new trial on the grounds inter alia was that it was justifiable for an elector bona fide to communicate to the constituency any matter respecting a candidate which he believed to be true and believed to be material to the election. The application was refused. The defendant had to go further and show that the elector was entitled to publish it to all the world, as the publication was in a newspaper. Counsel for the defendant submitted that if no more was done than was necessary to make the matters known to the electors the publication was privileged, and that whether or not anything more was done was a question for the jury. (Lord Denman CJ) "However large the privilege of electors may be, it is extravagant to suppose that it can justify the publication to all the world of facts injurious to a person who happens to stand in the situation of a candidate."
Day -v- Bream (1837) 2 Moody and Robinson 54
1837

Patteson J
Defamation
1 Citers
A printed handbill, contained imputations on the plaintiff clearly libellous. The plaintiff lived at Marlborough; the defendant was the porter of the coach-office at that place, and it was his business to carry out and deliver the parcels that came by the different coaches to the office. For the plaintiff it was shewn that the defendant had delivered on the same day papers parcels, tied up, and containing a large quantity of the handbills in question, to two or three inhabitants of the place, to whom the parcels were directed. The court "in summing up, left it to the jury to say whether the defendant delivered the parcels in the course of his business without any knowledge of their contents; if so, find for him, observing, that prima facie he was answerable, inasmuch as he had in fact delivered and put into publication the libel complained of, and was therefore called upon to shew his ignorance of the contents."
Stockdale -v- Hansard And Others [1837] EngR 487; (1837) 2 M & Rob 9; (1837) 174 ER 196 (B)
7 Feb 1837

Defamation, Constitutional

The order of the House of Commons for the publication and sale by certain booksellers of Reports laid before the House, does not exempt the booksellers from answering in an action of libel any individual injured by defamatory matters in such Reports so sold by them.
Link[s] omitted
Stockdale -v- Hansard And Others [1837] EngR 486; (1837) 7 Car & P 731; (1837) 173 ER 319
7 Feb 1837

Defamation, Constitutional Casemap
1 Cites
1 Citers
The House of Commons, in the years 1836 and 1836, made resolutions that parliamentary papers and reports, printed for the use of the house, should be publicly sold by their printer ; and afterwards a report from the Inspectors of Prisons was ordered by the house to be printed. Held: that If this report contained a libel on an individual, the printer of the House of Commons who sold it was liable to an action, and that the resolution of the House did not render this a privileged publication.
Link[s] omitted
Thornton -v- Stephen [1837] EngR 852; (1837) 2 M & Rob 45; (1837) 174 ER 209 (A)
13 Jun 1837

Defamation Casemap
1 Citers
[ Commonlii ]
Cooper -v- Lawson [1838] EngR 888; (1838) 8 Ad & E 746; (1838) 112 ER 1020 (B)
5 Nov 1838

Defamation
1 Citers
Case for libel. The alleged libel stated that plaintiff, a tradesman in London became surety for the petitioner on the Berwick Election Petition, and stated himself, on oath, to be sufficiently qualified in point of property, when he was not in fact qualified, nor able to pay his debts. It then asked, why the plaintiff, being unconnected with the borough, should take so much trouble, and incur such an exposure of his embarrassments; and proceeded : "There can be but one answer to these very natural and recondite queries; he is hired for the occasion. " The defendant justified, stating that the above mentioned allegations in the libel (except the hiring, which was not specifically noticed), were true, and that the publication was a correct report of proceedings in a legal Court, together with a fair and bona fide commentary thereon." Replication de injuria. Issue thereon. Held, that the concluding observation in the libel, not being a mere inference rom the previous statement, but introducing a substantive fact, required a distinct justification, and therefor that that, on trial of the above issue, it was properly left to the jury to say, not only whether the evidence made out the facts first alleged, but also whether the imputation that the plaintiff had been hired, was a fair comment.
[ Commonlii ]
Stockdale -v- Hansard (1839) 9 Ad & El 1; [1839] EWHC QB J21; 112 ER 1112; (1839) 9 Ad & Ell 96
1839

Lord Denman CJ
Constitutional, Defamation

1 Citers
Bailii It is no defence in law to an action for publishing a libel, that defamatory matter is part of a order of the House of Commons, laid before the House, and thereupon became part of the proceedings of the House and which was afterwards, by orders of the House, printed and published by defendant; and that the House of Commons heretofore resolved, declared, and adjudged "that the power of publishing such of its reports, votes, and proceedings as it shall deem necessary or conducive to the public interests is an essential incident to the constitutional functions of parliament, more especially to the Commons' House of Parliament as the representative portion of it."
On demurrer to a plea suggesting such a defence, a court of law is competent to determine whether or not the House of Commons has such privilege as will support the plea.
Lord Denman CJ said: "Our respect and gratitude to the Convention Parliament ought not to blind us to the fact that this sentence of imprisonment was as unjust and tyrannical as any of those of arbitrary power for which they deprived King James of his Crown." and "Where the subject matter falls within their jurisdiction, no doubt we cannot question their judgment; but we are now enquiring whether the subject matter does fall within the jurisdiction of the House of Commons. It is contended that they can bring it within their jurisdiction by declaring it so. To this claim, as arising from their privileges, I have already stated my answer: it is perfectly clear that none of these Courts could give themselves jurisdiction by adjudging that they enjoy it."
[ Bailii ]
John Joseph Stockdale -v- James Hansard, Luke Graves Hansard, Luke James Hansard, And Luke Henry Hansard [1839] EngR 139; (1839) 9 Ad & E 1; (1839) 112 ER 1112
1839

Constitutional, Defamation

It is no defence in law to an action for publishing a libel that the defamatory matter is part of a document which was, by order of the House of Comnions, laid before the House, and thereupon became part of the proceedings of the House, and which was afterwards, by orders of the House, printed and published by defendant and that the House of Commons heretofore resolved, declared, and adjudged "that the power of publishing such of its reports, votes, and proceedings as it shall deem necessary or conducive to te public interests is an essential incident to the constitutional functions of parliament, more especially to the Commons' House of Parliament as the representative portion of it." On demurrer to a plea suggesting such a defence, a Court of Law is competent to determine whether or not the House of Commons has such privilege as will support the plea.
Link[s] omitted
Empson -v- Griffin [1839] EngR 1130; (1839) 11 Ad & E 186; (1839) 113 ER 385
27 Nov 1839

Defamation
Where one of several counts in a declaration for slander was bad, and some of the defamatory words in it were proved at the trial, and the jury found a general verdict, with damages, for the plaintiff the Court set aside an order of the Judge who tried the cause to confine the verdict and damages to one of the good counts, and awarded a venire de novo.
Link[s] omitted
Parmiter -v- Coupland And Another; 1840
Regina -v- Lovett [1841] EngR 101; (1841) 9 Car & P 462; (1841) 173 ER 912
1841

Defamation, Litigation Practice
If the manuscript of a libel be proved to be in the handwriting of the defendant, and it be also proved to have been printed and published, this is evidence to go to the jury that it was published by the defendant, although there there be no evidence given to shew that the printing aud publication were by the direction of the defendant. If a paper, published by the defendant, has a direct tendency to cause unlawful meetings and disturbances, and to lead to a violation of the laws, it is a seditious libel; and with respect to the intent every one must be taken to intend the natural consequences of what he has done. A and B were separately indicted for publishing the same libel. Both indictments containing the same prefatory allegations. A was tried first. and on the trial of B such of the witnesses as had been also examined on the trial of A. had (by consent) their evidence read over to them from the Judge's notes, B being allowed to further cross-examine them. A defendant, who surrenders to take his trial on a charge of miisdemeanor, need not stand at the bar to be tried, but may be allowed a place at the table of the Court.
Link[s] omitted
Edsall -v- Russell [1842] EngR 1054; (1842) 4 Man & G 1090; (1842) 134 ER 446
18 Nov 1842

Defamation
1 Citers
An apothecary claimed in slander. First was "He killed my child; it was the saline injection that did it." The innuendo was that the plaintiff had been guilty of feloniously killing the child by improperly and with gross ignorance and with gross and culpable want of caution administering the injection. No objection to the first slander was pursued by the defendant. Held. The defendant was entitled to judgment on another slander consisting of these words: "he made up his own medicines wrong through jealousy, because I would not allow him to use his judgment" because they did not impute a criminal offence, and whether the medicines were noxious or innocent, was left in doubt.
Link[s] omitted
Mary Griffiths -v- Lewis [1845] EngR 665; (1845) 7 QB 61; (1845) 115 ER 411
21 Apr 1845

Defamation Casemap
1 Citers
Link[s] omitted
Coxhead -v- Richards [1846] EngR 379; (1846) 2 CB 569; (1846) 135 ER 1069
31 Jan 1846

Cresswell J
Defamation Casemap
1 Citers
A complaint was made as to a warning of suspected misconduct of ship's captain communicated to a shipowner. It did not involve a risk to the life of those on board, but the court considered what the position might have been if it had. Cresswell J said: "It is so manifestly for the advantage of society that that those who are about to employ a servant should be enable to learn what his previous conduct has been, that it may be well deemed the moral duty of the former employer to answer inquiries to the best of his belief".
Link[s] omitted
Mary Griffiths -v- Lewis; 27-Apr-1846
Joseph Le Fanu, And Edward Bull -v- Joseph Malcomson And Others; HL 27-Jun-1848
Duke of Brunswick -v- Harmer; QBD 1849
The Duke Of Brunswick and Luneberg -v- Harmer; 02-Nov-1849