Offence: Royal Offences > seditious libel
Verdict: Guilty > no_subcategory
Punishment: Imprisonment > no_subcategory
ALDRED, Guy Alfred (22, publisher) ; unlawfully and seditiously printing and publishing and causing to be printed and published in a certain periodical called the "Indian Sociologist" a seditious libel of and concerning the Government of our Lord the King of and in the Indian Empire and the administration of the laws in force in the said Indian Empire.
The Attorney-General (Sir William Robson, K. C., M. P.), Mr. Bodkin, Mr. Rowlatt, and Mr. Graham-Campbell prosecuted.
Reference may be made to the trial of A. F. Horsley at the July Sessions (page 458) and the trial of Madar Lal Dhingra at the same Sessions (page 461).
Prisoner's connection with the "Indian Sociologist" commenced with the publication of the August number. On the conviction of Horsley prisoner communicated with Krishnavarma, the editor and proprietor of the paper, residing in Paris, and volunteered to continue the printing of the paper. He actually printed the August number. That issue contained articles by Krishnavarma advocating the view that "political assassination is no murder," and proclaiming Dhingra "a martyr in the cause of Indian independence"; it also contained a violent article by the prisoner, justifying the methods of Indian "Nationalists."
Chief-Inspector JOHN MCCARTHY, New Scotland Yard, attached to the Special Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department. It is my duty to keep observation upon and to attend meetings of Anarchists in London. I first knew prisoner about two years and a half ago. On August 25 I arrested him on a warrant for this offence. He banded me a number of letters from Krishnavarma to himself; I asked him whether he had any manuscript (articles); he said, "No; my own I tore up, and that I received from Paris was sent back." He produced 369 copies of the August number of the "Indian Sociologist"; he said he had printed 1,500 copies, sent 1,000 to Paris, kept 500, and had sold or given away 41 copies. There were no appliances for printing at prisoner's house, 35, Stanlake Road, Shepherd's Bush. I asked him, "Do you do any printing here?" He replied, "No, I cannot tell you anything about that; I must not give other people away." At the door of the house there was pasted on, "The Bakunin Press." (Bakunin, it was explained by the AttorneyGeneral, was the name of a well-known Russian Anarchist.)
To Prisoner. I have heard you speak at Anarchist and Socialist led Freethought meetings.
Prisoner put in the following letter, which he said he had received from Mr. Krishnavarma from Paris, dated September 5, 1909: "Dear Sir,—I was glad to receive your letter of the 3rd inst. and learn from it that it would keep by all that was promised. In view of your difficulties I am prepared to release you from all liability with reference to the sum of £12 advanced by me for your undertaking to print off wren issues of my paper (only one of which has appeared up to date) is the terms of your agreement of July 22 last. I shall be happy to remit to you £2 for the September issue on hearing from you that you or your representative can receive the manuscript thereof for printing off the same.—Sympathising with you heartily, I am, yours truly, SHYAMAJI KRISHNAVARMA.—A. Aldred, Esq."
Inspector FRANCIS POWELL, Criminal Investigation Department, said that he was engaged in the proceedings against Horsley, and produced the number of the "Indian Sociologist" upon which Horsey was indicted.
To Prisoner. Horsley pleaded guilty and urged that he hail acted in ignorance, because, owing to pressure of business, the proofs of the incriminated articles had been passed by his assistants. I have seen other publications of the Bakunin Press, but nothing has come under my notice worthy of serious attention.
Detective WILLIAM SAUGE, Criminal Investigation Department, spoke to writing, in an assumed name, to prisoner for four copies of to incriminated number, enclosing stamps for same, and receiving to copies.
Detective HAROLD BRUST, Criminal Investigation Department, gave similar evidence as to a parcel of 12 copies.
Detective-sergeant MATTHEW MACLOUGHLIN, Criminal Investigation Department, said that on August 5 he had prisoner under observation and saw him post a certain letter (referred to in one of KrishnaAnna's letters.)
To Prisoner. You made no attempt to evade my observation. I have heard you address various meetings; I agree that you have not directly advocated violence, but have "sought to inculcate an educational idea which should find expression at some future time—perhaps in rebellion."
Prisoner, having stated that he had no witnesses to call, and that he thought it unnecessary to give evidence himself, made a long address to the Jury. He denied emphatically that he had ever advocated political assassination; on the contrary, he had always deplored it. He had always sought to inculcate the importance of moral suasion, which was the only thing he looked to for remedying the evils which existed in this country and in India. He desired to see the spread of education, as by that means the need of political assassinnation would be removed. He pointed out that the circulation of the "Indian Sociologist" was only 1,000, whereas the population of India was 300 millions. He had never said that Dhingra was a hero. A Socialist newspaper, with a circulation of 25,000, had said that the Indian people would be right in regarding him as a hero. That paper had not been prosecuted and was allowed free circulation in India. He had printed the "Indian Sociologist" because he claimed the right of an enlightened race to have a free Press. Krishnavarma had publicly stated that if the English Courts decided that the publication of the "Indian Sociologist" was illegal he would not publish it in England. He (prisoner) had desired to assist Krishnavarma in obtaining a definite decision on that point.
Mr. Justice Coleridge, in the course of his summing-up to the jury, said: It is not necessary for me in this case to give you a full, accurate, and comprehensive definition of all that could come under the head of seditious libel, because the prosecution have practically limited their case to one form of seditious libel, and that is, that by a publication for which the defendant was responsible he used language implying that it was lawful and commendable to employ physical force in any manner or form whatsoever against the Government of our Lord the King or towards and against the British liege subjects of our Lord the King; and the case has all turned upon that form or that species of seditious libel. Nothing is clearer than the law on this head namely, that whoever by language either written or spoken incites or encourages others to use physical force or violence in some public matter connected with the State is guilty of publishing a seditious libel. The word "sedition" in its ordinary natural signification denotes a tumult, an insurrection, a popular commotion, or an uproar; it implies violence and lawlessness in some form; but the man who is accused may not plead the truth of the statements that he makes as a defence to the charge, nor may
he plead the innocence of his motive; that is not a defence to the charge. The test is not either the truth of the language or the innocence of the motive with which he published it, but the teat is this: Was the language used calculated, or was it not, to promote public disorder or physical force or violence in a matter of State? and I need hardly say that anything in the way of assassination would be comprehended in that definition. That is the test; and that test is not for me or for the prosecution; it is for you, the jury, to decide, having heard all the circumstances connected with the case. In arriving at a decision of this test you are entitled to look it all the circumstances surrounding the publication with the view of seeing whether the language used is calculated to produce the results imputed; that is to say, you are entitled to look at the audience addressed, because language which would he innocuous, practically speaking, if used to an assembly of professors or divines sight produce a different result if used before an excited audience of young and uneducated men. You are entitled also to take into account the state of public feeling. Of course, there are times when a spark will explode a powder magazine; the effect of language may be very different at one time from what it would be at another. You are entitled also to take into account the place and the mode of publication. All these matters are surrounding circumstances which a jury may take into account in solving the test which is for them, whether the language used is calculated to produce the disorders or crimes or violence imputed. It is quite true, as the defendant has put before you, that a prosecution for seditious libel is somewhat of a rarity. It is a weapon that is not often taken down from the armoury is which it hangs, but it is a necessary accompaniment to every civilised Government; it is liable to be abused, and if it is abused there is one wholesome corrective, and that is a jury of English men such as you. Having said this much, I should like to say by way of comment upon a good deal that has fallen from the defendant in the speech that he has addressed to you—that the expression of abstract academic opinion in this country is free. A man may lawfully express his opinion on any public matter, however distasteful, however repugnant, to others if, of course, he avoids. Defamatory matter, or if he avoids anything that can be characterized either as a blasphemous or as an obscene libel. Matters of State, Betters of policy, matters even of morals—all these axe open to him. He may state his opinion freely, he may buttress it by argument, he may try to persuade others to share his views. Courts and juries are not the judges in such matters. For instance, if he thinks that either a despotism, or an oligarchy, or a republic, or even no Government at all is the best way of conducting human affairs he is at perfect liberty to say so. He may assail politicians, he may attack Governments, he may warn the executive of the day against taking a particular course, or he may remonstrate with the executive of the day for not taking a particular course; he may seek to show that rebellions, insurrections, outrages, assassinations, and suchlike, are the natural, the deplorable, the inevitable outcome of the policy which he is combating. All that is allowed, because
all that is innocuous; but, on the other hand, if he makes use of language calculated to advocate or to incite others to public disorders, to wit, rebellions, insurrections, assassinations, outrages, or any physical force or violence of any kind, then whatever his motives, whatever his intentions, there would be evidence on which a jury might, on which I should think a jury ought, and on which a jury would, decide that he was guilty of a seditious publication.
Sentence, 12 months' imprisonment as a first-class misdemeanant.