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Hamilton quickly focused on the last part of his opponent’s argument as support for his attempt to introduce evidence of the truthfulness of his client’s publications. Hamilton offered the following brilliantly ironic response:

Well, suppose it were so, and let us agree for once that truth is a greater sin than falsehood: Yet as the offenses are not equal, and as the punishment is arbitrary, that is, according as the judges in their discretion shall direct to be inflicted; is it not absolutely necessary that they should know whether the libel is true or false, that they may by that means be able to proportion the punishment? For would it not be a sad case if the judges, for want of a due information, should chance to give as severe a judgment against a man for writing or publishing a lie as for writing or publishing a truth? And yet this (with submission), as monstrous and ridiculous as it may seem to be, is the natural consequence of Mr. Attorney’s doctrine that truth makes a worse libel than falsehood, and must follow from his not proving our papers to be false, or not suffering us to prove them to be true.

Woudl someone please explain and elucidate a due information? The indefinite article "a" confuses me. Without it, I'd hazard the meaning of due to be:

2. adjective: [attributive] Of the proper quality or extent.

Source: P38, America on Trial by Alan Dershowitz

  • I'd guess an information here means an act of being informed. So for want of a due information could be replaced by because they have not been duly informed. – Neil W Jun 18 '14 at 7:50
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    In modern English, information is almost always uncountable, but that was evidently not the case in the past. – Colin Fine Jun 18 '14 at 8:33
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Black's Law Dictionary (1968) provides the following three definitions of information:

INFORMATION. An accusation exhibited against a person for some criminal offense, without an indictment. [citation omitted] An accusation in the nature of an indictment, from which it differs only in being presented by a competent public officer on his oath of office, instead of a grand jury on their oath. [citations omitted] A written accusation sworm to before a magistrate upon which an indictment is afterwards founded. [citations omitted]

So "a due information" is an information—in one of the three senses listed here—that is required by law (that is, "due").

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Due also means "expected" - as "in due time" or "the result is due in two weeks" - so I would think for want of a due information means

information not yet received

or just

lack of relevant information

i.e. whether or not the target of the allegation was indeed guilty

  • I disagree that due in the example means not yet received (under, eg, senses 1 or 4 in wiktionary) and prefer sense 2, appropriate or needful. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 18 '14 at 11:08

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