Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/828

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defamatory, the law protects the one making it. Servants bear such a peculiar relation to society that it is deemed necessary, for the common protection and well-being of its members, that honest and proper communications in regard to servants should be freely made, and that those called upon to make such communications should not be hampered by the apprehension of vexatious litigation. The good of the many is not to be sacrificed to save the few from injury. We see the same principle of protection in regard to communications made respecting the solvency of traders, the skill of professional practitioners, the trustworthiness of persons in confidential positions. The welfare of society demands that they be made freely, faithfully, and truly, and to give a servant a good character that is undeserved is a grievous offense.

On the other hand, one who designedly gives a bad character not deserved, under the pretense of discharging some duty to herself or to society, offends against justice and humanity, and the law throws no protecting cloak around her words. On one occasion a gentleman unasked wrote a letter in regard to a servant's character to another party, with the result of injury to the servant. The man was sued, and the jury found that he had acted maliciously, and rendered a verdict against him. The judge remarked: "I do not mean to say that, in order to make libelous matter (written by a master) privileged, it is essential that the party who makes the communication should be put into action in consequence of a third party's putting questions to him. I am of opinion he may (when he thinks that another is about to take into his service one whom he knows ought not to be taken) set himself in motion and do some act to induce that other to seek information from and put questions to him. The answers to such questions, given bona fide with the intention of communicating such facts as the other party ought to know, will, although they contain slanderous matter, come within the scope of a privileged communication. But in such a case it will be a question for the jury whether the defendant has acted bona fide, intending honestly to discharge a duty, or whether he has acted maliciously, intending to do an injury to the servant."[1]

In another case, a person told a servant girl's mistress that the girl was irregular in her conduct. The result was, she lost her place, and sued her defamer. The judge remarked: "If a neighbor make inquiry of another respecting his own servants, that other may state what he believes to be true; but the. case is different where the statement is a voluntary act; yet, even in this case, the jury is to consider whether the words were dictated by a sense of the duty which one neighbor owes to another."[2]

Voluntary communications are looked upon askance. Stronger evidence is necessary to show that they were made in good faith than when the statements are made in response to inquiry.[3] And if a lady

  1. 8 B. and C, 578.
  2. 1 Car. and Mar., 104.
  3. 8 B. and C, 578.