3 Colum. L. Rev. 546 (1903)
History and Theory of the Law of Defamation

handle is hein.journals/clr3 and id is 564 raw text is: THE HISTORY AND THEORY OF THE LAW
OF DEFAMATION.
I.
If the laws of each age were formulated systematically,
no part of the legal system would be more instructive than
the law relating to defamation. Since the law of defama-
tion professes to protect personal character and public
institutions from destructive attacks, without sacrificing
freedom of thought and the benefit of public discussion, the
estimate formed of the relative importance of these objects,
and the degree of success attained in reconciling them,
would be an admirable measure of the culture, liberality,
and practical ability of each age. Unfortunately the
English law of defamation is not the deliberate product of
any period. It is a mass which has grown by aggregation,
with yery little intervention from legislation, and special
and peculiar circumstances have from time to time shaped
its varying course. The result is that perhaps no other
branch of the law is as open to criticism for its doubts and
difficulties, its meaningless and grotesque anomalies. It is,
as a whole, absurd in theory, and very often mischievous in
its practical operation.
Nevertheless, the existence of any body of legal rules is
at least prima facte ground of justification. Some, it may
be, are wholly pernicious; but they must have had some
origin, and the longer they have existed the greater is the
presumption that they have some utility. They can be
accounted for only by discovering the special circumstances
out of which they arose, and the forces to which they have
been exposed. By studying the way in which they have
grown, and the functions which they have discharged, we
can best arrive at a sound conclusion concerning their real
nature and value.
Early in the middle ages reputation was amply protected

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