Joseph Le Fanu, and Edward Bull, - Plaintiffs in Error; Joseph Malcomson and Others, - Defendants in Error

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date27 June 1848
Date27 June 1848
CourtHouse of Lords

English Reports Citation: 9 E.R. 910

House of Lords

Joseph Le Fanu, and Edward Bull,-Plaintiffs in Error
Joseph Malcomson and Others,-Defendants in Error

Mews' Dig. v. 611, 619. S.C. 8 Ir. L.R. 418; 13 L.T. O.S. 61. As to actions by partners, see Haythorn v. Lawson, 1827, 3 C. and P. 196; Robinson v. Marchant, 1845, 7 Q.B. 918; R.S.C. 1883, Ord. 16, r. 1; Ord. 18, r. 6. As to application of general words to individual, see White v. Mellin (1895), A.C. 154.

Libel - Pleading.

[637] JOSEPH LE FANU, and EDWARD BULL,- Plaintiffs in Error; JOSEPH MALCOMSON and Others, - Defendants in Error [June 27, 1848]. [Mews' Dig. v. 611, 619. S.C. 8 Ir. L.R. 418 ; 13 L.T. O.S. 61. As to actions by partners, see Haythorn v. Lawson, 1827, 3 C. and P. 196; Robinson v. Marchant, 1845, 7 Q.B. 918; R.S.C. 1883, Ord. 16, r. 1; Ord. 18, r. 6. As to application of general words to individual, see White v. Mellin (1895), A.C. 154.] Libel - Pleading. Though defamatory matter may appear only to apply to a class of individuals, yet if the descriptions in such matter are capable of being, by inuendo, shown to be directly applicable to any one individual of that class, an action may be maintained by such individual in respect of the publication of such matter. In such a case the inuendo does not extend the sense of the defamatory matter, but 910 LE FANU V. MALCOMSON [1848] I H.L.C., 638 merely points out the particular individual to whom matter, in itself defamatory, does in fact apply. Therefore, after verdict, a declaration which recited that the plaintiff was owner of a factory in Ireland, and charged that the defendant published of him and of the said factory a libel, imputing that " ' in some of the Irish factories' (meaning thereby the plaintiffs' factory) " cruelties were practised, though there was no allegation otherwise connecting the libel with the plaintiff, was held good. A. and B. may join in an action for a libel containing imputations injurious to a trade carried on by them jointly as partners. This was an action of libel. The plaintiffs in the action were Messrs. Malcomson, the owners of a factory in the county of Waterford ; the defendants, Messrs. Le Fanu, were the proprietors of " The Warder " and " The Statesman " newspapers ; and the alleged libel was published in the former journal on the 1st of June, and in the latter, on the 4th of June, 1844. The declaration contained thirteen counts. The first count set out the libel as published in the Warder news-[638]-paper, and alleged the plaintiffs to be persons of good name, fame, and credit, to wit, at Portlaw, in the county of Waterf ord. It then went on in the usual form to allege that " they had never been guilty of tyranny, oppression, extortion, breach of the sabbath day, etc.," and proceeded thus: " And whereas, the plaintiffs, before and at the time of the committing of the grievances by the said defendants as hereinafter mentioned, were, and still are owners of an extensive factory for the manufacturing of cottons, linens, and other fabrics, called the Mayfield factory, in which numbers of men, women, and children, are constantly employed, to the great gain and profit of the said plaintiffs, to wit, at Portlaw, aforesaid, yet the said defendants, well knowing, etc., but greatly envying, etc., and wickedly and maliciously contriving and intending to injure the said plaintiffs in their said good name, etc.; and to cause it to be suspected and believed by those neighbours and subjects, that they, the said plaintiffs, had been and were guilty of tyranny, oppression, sabbath breaking, and extortion, and wickedly and maliciously contriving and intending to injure, harass, and oppress the said plaintiffs in their said calling, as owners of the said factory for the manufacturing of cotton, linens, and other fabrics, and wholly to ruin the said plaintiffs in their said trade, and calling heretofore, to wit, or, etc., at Portlaw, aforesaid, in a certain paper called The Warder, falsely, etc., did compose and publish, etc., of and concerning the said plaintiffs, and of and concerning the said factory, and of and concerning the manufacturing of cottons, linens, and other fabrics, carried on in the said factory by the said plaintiffs, and of and concerning the said trade and calling of the said plaintiffs, a certain false, etc., libel, containing, among other things, the false, etc., matter following, of and concerning the said plaintiffs, and of and concerning the said factory, and of and concerning the manufactory of linens, cottons, and other fabrics, carried on therein by the said plaintiffs; and of [639] and concerning the said trade and calling of the said plaintiffs, and of and concerning their conduct towards, and their treatment of, the persons employed by them in their said factory." That count then proceeded to set out the libel as follows : - " The Factory Question in Ireland.-We beg leave to invite the express attention of our readers to the following letter. We had no notion that the abuses of the factory system were so triumphant in this country; we scarcely thought that there were any factories in Ireland; but it seems that the abuses in the county of Water-ford exceed even' those committed in England. The Factory Bill must have been an United Kingdom bill, that is, a bill extending to the United Kingdom, and therefore of force in Ireland. If this be so, working on Sundays, or beyond the twelve hours limited, must be illegal, to say nothing of the breach of the common law in the desecration of the Sabbath, as the Christian religion is part and parcel of the common law of Great Britain and Ireland. The public must feel greatly indebted to our correspondent for his valuable communication. It is a discovery of an outrageous and tyrannical violation of the laws for the protection of the poor labourer; and we hope that the subject will be followed up. Our columns shall be ever open to 911 I H.L.C., 640 LB FANU V. MALCOMSON [1848] vindicate the cause of the oppressed. It is scandalous that such slave-driving despotism should be practised with impunity. " To the Editor of The Warder. " Power, whac lodged in their [meaning the plaintiffs'] possession. " Grows tyranny and rank oppression."-gat. " Sir,-I beg you will say, in the next Warder, whether there is a law at present in force which prevents the pro-[640]-prietors of factories from employing their operatives by night and on Sundays; and if there is, who is supposed to enforce it. If the same tyranny is carried on in the English factories as in some of the Irish ones [meaning the factories of the plaintiffs], the English members who opposed Lord Ashley's motion can, I think, lay very little claim to humanity. Factories being much more numerous in England than in Ireland, the English members had a much better opportunity of knowing the great hardships to which the factory labourers are exposed than the Irish members. No person, unless one who is perfectly acquainted with the working of the Irish factories, can form any the slightest idea of the cruelties and miseries to which the Irish factory hands are subject. " I know some factories [meaning the factory of the plaintiffs] in this country; and the cruelty with which the operatives in them [meaning the factory of the plaintiffs] are used, is really incredible. The cruelties of the slave-trade or the Bastile are not equal to those practised in some of the Irish factories [meaning the factory of the plaintiffs, and meaning thereby that the plaintiffs had treated the persons in their employment in said factory with cruelty.] " In this country, and I suppose in England also, the factory proprietors [meaning the plaintiffs] keep their own bread shop, their own grocer's shop, their own shoe shop, their own butcher's shop, etc., and they [meaning the plaintiffs] compel their operatives to buy bread from their baker, groceries from their grocer, shoes from their shoemaker, and meat from their butcher, though they [meaning the operatives in the employment of the plaintiffs] could purchase much superior articles in any other shop at a lower rate, but they [meaning the said operatives] dare not; if they did, they would be turned out of work [thereby meaning that, unless the persons in the employment of the said plaintiffs purchased the before-mentioned [641] commodities of life from the plaintiffs, at an exorbitant or unfair rate, the said operatives would be deprived by the said plaintiffs of their employment]. " If in one of the factory rooms [meaning in one of the rooms of the factory of the plaintiffs], where there are perhaps two or three hundred persons at work, a pane of glass is broken by accident, every person in the room is fined sixpence, and perhaps some of those wretched beings [meaning the said persons in the employment of the plaintiffs] who are thus fined, do not earn more than one shilling and sixpence or two shillings a-week. Now, admitting the number in one room [meaning a room of the factory of the plaintiffs] not to exceed two hundred, the fine would amount to the enormous sum of five pounds for one pane of glass ; and that is a thing frequently done. " Whenever the proprietors [meaning the said plaintiffs] are in a hurry to get any work done, the hands [meaning the operatives in the employment of the plaintiffs] must work both by night and on Sundays until it is completed; and if one member of a family [meaning of a family in the employment of the plaintiffs] refuse to work on the Sunday, the whole family are turned off on the following day. Incredible as this may appear, it is a positive fact. " I have frequently seen them [meaning the operatives of the plaintiffs] on Sundays going in to work at a certain factory in the south of Ireland [meaning the factory of the plaintiffs]; and I beg, through the columns of your widely circulated paper, to call the attention of the authorities to it, in order that some measure may be taken to put a stop to such...

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