HC Deb 28 February 1817 vol 35 cc795-825

On the order of the day for the third reading of this Bill,

Mr. M. A. Taylor

rose and said, he did not mean to trouble the House at any great length, but he wished to have those sentiments recorded which, for a series of years, he had always expressed upon the subject of suspending the Habeas Corpus, and which would die with him. As to the doctrines professed by a set of men calling themselves Spenceans, he felt no alarm at them; they had slept for twenty years, and if now revived, he did not think it likely they would have many converts. If any person imagined that there was an insurrection now upon the eve of bursting forth, nothing which he could offer would be calculated to remove that suspicion from their minds; but with regard to that which took place on the 2nd December, it had been crushed by the existing laws. Those laws also had since been found sufficient to put down a conspiracy in another part of the island, according to the declaration of a learned lord upon a for- mer evening. He did not, therefore, see any adequate necessity for the present measure, and without a case of extreme and positive danger no power on earth should induce him to sanction a law by which any man might be imprisoned for an offence that in other circumstances would not send him to trial. He would trust no individual with such an authority he would not even trust himself. The worst feature of it was, that it placed every man's personal safety within the reach of insidious, malignant whispers against his character. He would put a case that happened to himself, and he hoped he was not suspected of treasonable intentions. He loved his country too well, and the comforts he enjoyed in it. When Mr. O'Connor was forced to leave Ireland in consequence of being a United Irishman, he brought letters of introduction to several persons in this country, and among others, to himself (Mr. T.) He was ready to declare, that while he visited at his house, there was nothing in his conduct that would have led him to suspect he was a United Irishman. It happened, however, that before he was apprehended, he was traced from his house to several places where United Irishmen assembled. Now, suppose his (Mr. T.'s) character had not been what it was, what might have been his situation? Upon mere suspicion he might have been torn from his family and thrown into prison, without the means of exculpation, without being permitted to tell how he became acquainted with Mr. O'Connor, without the power of demanding his trial that he might prove his innocence. A similar occurrence might happen to a man in a lower situation of life, and how was he to protect himself against its consequences. And yet it was the boast and glory of Englishmen, that every person, whatever his station in society, found equal protection in the eye of the law. It was because such evils might happen, that he would never consent to suspend the bulwark of British freedom. If the law, as it now stood, was insufficient to punish those libellers who strove to undermine the very basis upon which the well-being of society rested, he would arm the executive with greater power, but he would not give it arbitrary power. He had opposed the suspension of the Habeas Corpus in 1794, and was one of a very small minority; because many went over to the other side of the House at that time, whose names, he believed, might now be found upon the pension list. In 1797, he remembered the same question was discussed in that House, in the presence of not more than seventy members: such was the fatal consequence of men's minds becoming habituated to such a proceeding. With respect to the question of parliamentary reform, though he was not prepared to go the length of some persons, yet he had no hesitation in declaring that he was s small reformer [a laugh]. Yes, a small reformer, for there were several things which he wished to see reformed. Who would say, for instance, that Scotland ought not to be differently represented. Or that some boroughs should not be disfranchised? Boroughs which he believed the ministers themselves would be glad to get rid of, if they could. He did not desire to pry into the secrets of the cabinet, he never had been, nor he supposed he never should be, a minister; but he would rather live under any tyranny than the tyranny of certain borough-mongers. He did not allude merely to those who were now in power; if his hon. friends on that side of the House were in place to-morrow, they must submit to the same tyranny, unless the constitution of that House were altered. He was of opinion, however, that sooner or later some species of reform must be carried. He might not live to see it; but when any one considered reform and revolution as synonimous, they confounded two things that were totally distinct.

Mr. Windham Quin

did not think the active participation of men of note in a general conspiracy was essential to the existence of great danger. The lower classes were the instruments necessarily employed in all insurrectionary movements; and if they were divided into clubs and societies, the work of insurrection might easily be commenced. It was not conclusive to say, that because the lord advocate of Scotland had arrested some individuals, he had therefore sufficient legal powers to put down the mischief, and take into custody all who might be proper objects of suspicion. He had understood the learned lord to state, that there were persons against whom it was desirable to proceed, if the law would enable him to do so. It was useless to talk of precautionary measures after the danger had actually arrived; the object of the present bill was to guard against contingencies, and the recurrence of the evils which had already taken place. In committing these additional powers to ministers, it was not to be forgotten, that they were at all times responsible to parliament for their exercise of them.

Mr. Protheroe

said, that though he was as unwilling as any man to give up what was justly called the great bulwark of the constitution, yet, from the intimate conviction he had, that in certain manufacturing districts the most extensive combinations existed, for the worst purposes, which were carried on with a degree of system, of method, and of caution, which the existing laws could not reach, he should support the present measure.

Mr. Lyttelton

said, that if the question now at issue were not of the greatest importance, and that the voice of the humblest individual ought to be raised against it, he should not have ventured to present himself to the notice of the House. He was the more anxious, however, to clear himself from the imputation that had been cast upon those who sat on his side, that if they did not encourage the violent proceedings which had taken place, they at least supported them by the arguments they had held, and the vote which they had given on this occasion. [Cries of No, no! from the Ministerial benches.] He was glad to hear that such imputation was to be removed. This was a measure which could be justified only by the most imperious necessity. The noble secretary of state, in one of those insidious panegyrics on the constitution, which always preceded or accompanied some attack on it, had endeavoured to convince the House that the country was in the utmost danger; but the evidence which had been that day produced must have considerably shaken the report of the committee. It had been said, that great disturbances existed in the manufacturing districts; and certainly we wanted no report to satisfy ourselves of that fact; but the peace of the metropolis had riot been disturbed to the extent that was stated. It was necessary, perhaps, to go through the form of a secret committee; but the government must have had violent proceedings. He must now inquire what the officers of the Crown had done to punish or prevent such persons as had been suspected. They ought immediately to have had recourse to constitutional measures. Ministers, however, should have assembled parliament at an earlier period; whereas they had put it off till a period unusually long, and had suf- fered the laws to lie dormant. Thus had they brought parliament into contempt, and the laws into disrepute. They wished the nation to look to government rather than to parliament; to despotic law rather than to the common law. How had ministers met the wishes of the nation by adopting a system of economy and retrenchment? They had done nothing I that had not been extorted from them; they had done nothing to alleviate the distresses of the people; and what they were now about to do was as despotic as it was cowardly. Not a single word had been advanced in that House to overcome the force of precedent: unless they could make good the precedent of 1794 as applicable to the present times, their argument must fall to the ground. At that time there was this essential difference, that we were at war with France, who might threaten us with invasion, which, if successful, might have induced many persons here to join her. The only precedent, therefore, which they had adduced was a mere phantom. He asserted, that the greatest abuses had been committed respecting the alien act, and that the noble secretary of state for the home department, had been induced, by false evidence, to injure several miserable foreigners in this country. If, then, we had now a person at the head of the home department who had abused that power to his own disgrace, to the disgrace of the office which he held, and of the nation, was not this an additional argument against the passing of this act, under which men's passions were more likely to operate than their judgment? In examining precedents, he would merely look to the conduct of our ancestors; and would then ask, whether there was any difference between the law relative to suspected persons in France passed last year, and that which we were about to adopt. Circumstances might justify it in that miserable country which would not justify it here. He should have been ashamed of himself, if he had not expressed his sentiments on this most important occasion. He should not have discharged his duty to the House, or to the county, without saying a few words against an act which he considered to be as unconstitutional and unnecessary as was ever proposed by any set of ministers.

Mr. Lamb

, as a member of the secret committee, thought that whatever information they might have, it was impossible not to feel that the general situation of the country ought to have led ministers to take the constitutional course of calling parliament together at an earlier period. He thought they would have done better to have followed the precedent of Mr. Pitt in 1800, when there was great distress and rumours of the same nature as at present. He caused parliament to be assembled on the 11th of November, and put these words into his majesty's mouth: "My tender concern for the welfare of my subjects, and the sense of the difficulties with which the poorer classes particularly have to struggle, from the present high price of provisions, have induced me to call you together at an earlier period than I had otherwise intended. No object can be nearer my heart, than that by your care and wisdom, all such measures may be adopted, as may, upon full consideration, appear best calculated to alleviate this severe pressure, and to prevent the danger of its recurrence." He was not a very old person; but it had been his lot to see war upon war, revolution upon revolution, and change upon change, and he had observed that the liberties of Europe came impaired out of every struggle. It was with pain that he found himself called on to support the bill, which, notwithstanding all that had been urged against it, appeared to him to be necessary, in the present situation of the kingdom. For did not the situation of that country require something of a remedial nature where public meetings were every day held, and a military force was kept up for the purpose of preserving the public peace? An hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) had adverted to the plan of sit William Jones for keeping the peace. Why, that was a plan to be executed by force as well as this; for it was nothing else than to make the physical force of the governors equal to that of the governed. When the grievances were pressing, and the minds of the people disturbed, he must say that it was the duty of ministers to look at the question in the most serious light, and to resort to every measure that might have the effect of tranquillizing the public mind. What benefit, then, could be bestowed that would have this effect. The hon. baronet would say, "call the people together, and grant them reform." Would any man stand up and say that parliamentary reform would now satisfy the people? It was impossible. If he could be shown any measure that would tranquillize their minds, he would subscribe to it. It was a delusion to expect that any system of economy could relieve the distress that now existed. We could only look forward to a return of the resources and energies of the country, which would work its own restoration. With respect to the report, which had been so much criticised, he thought those who framed it were not bound to enter into a minute defence of it; but when they were charged with putting absurdities into it, it ought to be known on what ground such a charge rested. Those who undertook to state evidence, were surely bound not to garble it. Thus, if the facts about the intention of seizing the Bank, burning the barracks, and destroying the bridges had been withheld, and it had afterwards been found necessary to allude to it, it might have been said, "This is not the plot of the conspirators; you must have made it, or you would have introduced it into the report." But it was not on this part of the report, nor on any plot, or conspiracy, or design, that he should found the vote he meant to give, but on the general situation of the country. One gentleman defended the Hampden, another the Spencean Clubs, and he had no doubt there were many well-meaning men among them—he could not, however, blink the fact, that a disposition generally prevailed among these clubs to carry their designs into effect by physical force. It was impossible to overlook the activity of the delegates who went from part to part, dispersing seditious tracts an exciting disturbances. He believed that the measure before the House was of the highest possible consequence, to prevent and intimidate those persons from coming forward, to put themselves at the head of the disaffected. The ordinary course of the law might be sufficient, if the law were suffered to take its course; but he believed it to be stopped and arrested, by the system of threats and menaces which intimidated jurors and witnesses, which those persons knew, by former occurrences, were not idle and vain, but would be carried into certain and bloody execution. After the bill had passed, he trusted we should hear very little more of treasonable practices; but it was his opinion that it would tend to the peace and prosperity of the country, and he should be very happy to bear his share of any odium that might result from it.

Lord Folkestone

could not but express his astonishment at the observation of the hon. member who had just sat down, that the existing laws were not at this moment in full operation. He had been in the habit of conversing with gentlemen from every part of the country: he had seen many of them even that day; and he had never yet heard of that dreadful and portentous state of the country which the hon. member had described. If the hon. member meant to rely on this as a reason for supporting the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, why had he not told them that in the report of the committee? But how was the suspension of that great bulwark of English liberty to remove this dreadful difficulty? He protested against what the hon. member had stated to be so necessary—the intimidation of the people. If ministers intended nothing more than this, they dealt most unfairly with the country. Why were the whole people of England to be deprived of the benefits of the constitution. He believed, however, that this was the secret reason for bringing in the present bill. From all that he had been able to learn on this subject, the prisoners themselves could not force on their trial for two months to come, and therefore it was only for the purpose of intimidation that ministers had ventured to propose this measure. He hoped that the House would interfere, and prevent the passing of this bill for this very reason. He begged them to pause, and not to hurry on the bill in this indecent way, in order that the lord advocate might come forward with some explanation, which he had not yet done. It was no reason, because we had consented to the precedent of 1794, that we were to do so in 1817. As to the effect of renewals of the bill, it was pretty well explained by his hon. friend near him, that people got so callous, and the House became so indifferent, that the subject was discussed in empty benches. He did hope that the House would stop the progress of the bill on that ground; and on the ground, that it could not be useful for two months to come. He had not heard of any meeting for discussing the subject of parliamentary reform at which any disturbance had taken place. The riot, at Spa-fields was not occasioned by the meeting itself, though it arose out of it. The people had not set themselves in defiance of that House, could it be said that any popular tumult had arisen respecting parliamentary reform? He had seen the people going up with petitions to the Prince Re- gent to call the parliament together; but ministers had put off the parliament; and why? All they wanted was money. They gave the people no relief for their distresses; they scouted them; and then they brought forward their bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. What was the report of the committee? It was a history of what passed under the eyes of his majesty's ministers two or three months ago. Where was their vigilance to prevent the blowing up of the bridges, the taking of the bank and of the Tower? Why did they not call parliament together at that time, when they knew of the danger? If he mistook not, the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Canning) was taking his pleasure in Prance; and the noble lord (Castlereagh) now his noble friend, was making speeches at convivial meetings in Ireland. Another noble lord (Sidmouth), it was true, was very vigilant; but how had the right hon. gentleman been induced to rely on him? He remembered the time when he did not treat his worthy colleagues, now his friends, with so much confidence; and thought that the whole of the cabinet were not adequate to the management of the public business. The right hon. gentleman, however, had since taken his place amongst them, and was now perfectly satisfied with those whom he formerly despised. The hon. and learned solicitor-general had misstated the periods of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus and the continuation of that act. The hon. and learned gentleman had made a great mistake; for he said, there was no law now in force which was not in force before. If he (lord F.) had not read the statute-book incorrectly, five years ago a strong act was passed for the punishment of unlawful societies, and unlawful oaths. That statute made an oath for murder, treason, &c. punishable by death; and compulsion was no excuse, unless declared within fourteen days. Why, then, had not this law been put in execution before they called upon the House to deprive the people of one of their most valuable liberties? He was not one who thought parliamentary reform a panacea for all the grievances of the people; but was that a reason why nothing should be done for the country? It appeared to him that this measure was most unwarrantable and most uncalled for, more especially as a matter of intimidation. As such, it was impossible that it could have a good effect: on the contrary, for the last twenty-five years, we had in vain tried by compulsion to get rid of those feelings which were now said to agitate the minds of the people. He besought the House to tread in that path no longer, but to retrace their steps; to endeavour to conciliate the minds of the people; to listen to their petitions; to alleviate their distresses; to adopt every possible economy and retrenchment; and not to put the whole population of the country out of the pale of the law. This, and this only, could secure the affections of the people, and induce them to bear their burthens with fortitude and patience.

The Lord Advocate

of Scotland said, that in all the preceding acts for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, from the time of the Union of England with Scotland, a clause was introduced in the very same terms as was to be found in the present bill. In 1715, 1722, and 1745, the law officers who then sat in that House meant to put the people of Scotland out of the pale of the law as much as the people of England. The lord advocate then referred to the letter of Mr. M'Arthur, reflecting upon an eminent lawyer in Scotland which was quoted by a noble lord opposite. Of the learned lawyer who was so maligned, he would say nothing, but refer to the character given of him by a dear friend, now no more (Mr. Horner). With that estimable friend he had often politically differed in his life-time; but now that he was unhappily no more, and the country for ever deprived of his invaluable services, he over looked all shades of political difference that had subsisted between them, and only retained the most affectionate recollection of him whom he ! so highly esteemed while living, and whose loss he now deplored when dead [Hear hear!]. That hon. friend had said of the personage, whom Mr. M'Arthur had attacked, that he had for eighteen years administered an important branch of the law in Scotland, with credit to himself and advantage to the public.

Sir S. Romilly

rose merely to make one or two observations on what had fallen from the learned lord, from whom he had the misfortune to differ with respect to the acts which included Scotland. He had said, on a former night, that the clause in question was not to be found in the act of 1794: he had never said that it was not to be found in any of the preceding acts. It was certainly not to be found in the act of 1745. This, however, was a matter of very slight importance: the question was not what was done in former times, but what was to be done now. He entreated the House to pause, and not to suffer any judge or magistrate to take any man into custody without the order of his majesty's privy council, signed by six privy counsellors. This clause only referred to such as had been committed under a warrant from the secretary of state.

Mr. Ponsonby

observed, that the learned lord could have no objection to clearing up the difficulty, which did not prevail with regard to the Scotch acts of 1701 and 1744, against wrongous imprisonment. As the clause was at present worded, it would bear many constructions directly opposed to each other, which could not be decided upon after the passing of the bill but by a court of justice.

Sir A. Piggott

also reprobated the obscurity and ambiguity with which the clause was framed. If this law was to be inflicted upon the people, they had at least a right to expect that it should be clear and precise. In order that the difficulty might be removed, he recommended that the bill should be recommitted.

The Speaker

remarked, that in the present stage the bill could not be recommitted. Any amendment might be introduced after the third reading.

Sir Arthur Piggott

said, that the report of the secret committee had his hearty and entire concurrence. He had listened attentively to the taunts and sneers which it had called forth; but the opinion he had originally formed was the more confirmed, the more he reflected on the nature of the evidence on which it was grounded. From this declaration he would not shrink as it was drawn from him by a sense of public duty; and he would further say, that in his opinion the government would have merited severe censure, if they had failed to make that communication to parliament which had led to the formation of the committee. The report was so far from exaggerating the dangers of the country that he was inclined to think it did not go so far as the evidence would have warranted the committee in going, and he therefore considered the strictures which had been made upon it to be wholly uncalled for by the occasion.

Some honourable members had objected to the report, because the evidence on which it had been founded, had been kept back by the committee. That evidence he was of opinion had been properly withheld, and satisfactory grounds had, he thought, been shown to exist for the course which had been pursued; and, after all that had been said, it was to be remembered, that the House would be at all times competent to call for it, if its production should be thought necessary. When it was said the inquiry which had taken place was an ex parte proceeding, he considered the objection to be improperly urged. It was true, in conducting the investigation, they had not all the advantages, nor all the guards which were secured to proceedings in judicial matters; but if these could not be obtained, what remained for the committee but to go on with such powers as they had? It was known what these were, and with them it was their duty to work as well as they could. If the objections thus brought forward were good for any thing, they ought to have been urged against the appointment of the committee. They might furnish arguments against the formation of such a committee, but ought not to be opposed to the report which had been made. Whether a committee ought to be appointed on such an occasion, might be made a question; but he apprehended the House would always be inclined to decide in its favour. They could not give up this without giving up some of their most important rights. Were they prepared to do this?—Would they, for instance, be content to give up the right of impeachment, which could only be exercised in this way? It was true, such evidence might be given before a committee as could not be received in a court of justice, but he owed it to the secret committee to say, that all the members of it had most sedulously attended to their duty, and he had never seen any one of its members disposed to press evidence unfairly. Having this report, he thought the House ought to be satisfied to stand or fall by it. It had been the object of those who framed it to state to parliament, as well as they were able, what was the real situation of the country. Doing this they had performed their duty, and it would be for parliament to give to the public the evidence on which their report had been founded whenever this should be held to be wise or expedient.—With respect to the bills which had been brought in, substantially he approved of most of them, as being well applied to the evils they were intended to cure. That which was against the administration of unlawful oaths, was in his opinion necessary, as it might be doubtful whether the law passed in 1795 applied to those proceedings which it had now become necessary to check. On others of the bills he thought there could be no serious difference of opinion. It was certainly necessary to renew the act making it felony to seduce soldiers and sailors from their duty, which had expired on the first of August 1816, as it might reasonably be supposed there were not wanting persons among those who entertained the most criminal designs, sufficiently intelligent to know that the law which had existed to punish such an offence was no more. Carrying into execution the provisions of this bill when it should be passed into a law, he doubted not, with the other measures which were not much opposed, ministers would be able to reach and to correct the evil which it was intended to meet. But besides proposing laws which were to cure the present evils, it was now proposed to deprive the people of the Habeas Corpus act. It was proposed to place no particular district in which disorders had occurred out of the protection of the law but it was intended to take from the population of Great Britain the protection of the Habeas Corpus act till the 1st of July. This he must object to; for this he could not but consider to be quite unnecessary, in the present situation of the country. Though such a measure had been resorted to in other times, he thought enough of the circumstances of the nation were known, to prove it was not at all wanted now. War we had none. Rebellion we had none; and what persons of property, he would ask, were engaged in the conspiracy which had been discovered? The answer to this question must be—"none at all." These things, then, constituted serious objection to the bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. At present we had no reason to believe that there were, any foreign agents in the country, hostile at once both to the constitution and the government. There was no foreign war—no rebellion—no insurrection;—and why, under these circumstances, should any one doubt that such a measure was quite unnecessary. If it had been necessary before the other bills were brought in, now at least it might be done without, till the effect of the new laws had been tried. Among whom was it that this plot had originated? who were the parties to it? Were they not persons in the lowest walks of life—a set of miserable brings without property or influence to assist them in carrying their criminal designs into effect. The report distinctly stated, that "few, if any of the higher orders, or even of the middle classes of society, and scarcely any of the agricultural population had lent themselves to the more violent of the projects which had been formed." These words had been inserted that no mistaken idea should be taken up as to the quality of the persons who had been induced to countenance the plans of the disaffected.

An hon. gentleman who had spoken in the present debate (Mr. Lamb) had taken up a ground for defending the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, which had surprised him. His hon. friend had defended the bill on the ground, that the country was at present in such a state that the operation of the existing laws was arrested, and it was found impracticable to carry them into execution. If such were, indeed, the state of the country, a fact so important ought to be established on evidence very different from that which had been afforded to the committee of secrecy; and on which their report was founded. Where, he wished to know, was the state of the country such that the laws could not be carried into execution? Before the House proceeded to decide that such was our present situation, other means ought to be taken for ascertaining the fact, than had yet been made use of. This ought not to be assumed till stronger proof was before them than any that had yet been furnished in support of the allegation of his hon. friend. How, he could wish to know, had the hon. gentleman been satisfied that the situation of the country was such as he had described it to be; had he discovered this from the evidence given to the committee. If so, he would ask, how had it happened that it escaped the observation of all the other members of it? If the country were really in such a state, that the laws could not be executed, our situation was indeed alarming. God forbid that this country should be found to be in such a state! Ere a statement like that which had been advanced should prove to be well founded; he hoped his eyes would be closed for ever; that he might not be reproached with having done any thing that could have a tendency to place the country in such a situation, he would not vote for a measure that was attempted to be justified on the presumption that the laws already in force could not be carried into effect. Had it appeared to the committee that such was the awful fact, they could not have closed their report without mentioning it consistently with their duty to their sovereign, and their county. On reflection he could discover nothing in the conduct of the committee, that appeared to him to be a matter of regret. He, however, could not have felt thus, had the statement of his hon. friend been well formed. Had the situation of the country been any thing like what he had supposed it to be, to him (sir A. Piggott) it would unquestionably have seemed necessary to say something more than they had said; for what had they concluded with? Why, the termination of the report ran thus:

"On a review of the whole it is a great satisfaction to your committee to observe, that notwithstanding, the alarming progress which has been made in the system of extending dissatisfaction and secret societies; its success has been confined to the principal manufacturing districts, where the distress is more prevalent, and numbers more easily collected, and that even in many of these districts privations have been borne with exemplary patience and resignation, and the attempts of the disaffected have been disappointed; that few, if any of the higher orders, or even of the middle class of society, and scarcely any of the agricultural population have lent themselves to the more violent of these projects. Great allowance must be made for those who, under the pressure of urgent distress, have been led to listen to plausible and confident demagogues in the expectation of immediate relief. It is to be hoped that many of those who have engaged to a certain extent in the projects of the disaffected, but in whom the principles of moral and religious duty have not been extinguished or perverted by the most profane and miserable sophistry would withdraw themselves before those projects were pushed to actual insurrection."

He appealed to the House if the state of the country here described, was one in which the law could not be carried into execution. Who, he wished to know, were at present charged with the administration of justice? Was it not confided to the judges, magistrates, and juries of the country? Did not persons taken from the agricultural classes, and middling ranks in society, form those juries? The great body of the disaffected consisted of poor people, who had been worked upon by artful emissaries sent among them for that purpose. But for these ought the whole nation to be punished? What was to become of Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, and other counties? Were all these to be put out of the law, because some disturbances had occurred in various parts of the country? He should have been better satisfied had such a course been taken with the disturbed districts. An act that was to take from the whole people of England the benefit of the Habeas Corpus act, he held to be quite uncalled for by the occasion. He did not say such a measure was likely to be abused by those now in power. He had no wish to suppose this was at all likely; but it was sufficient for his argument, that powers like those called for, might be abused. He by no means wished to treat this as a mere party question. He did not object to the arming of any particular government with such an act; to no set of ministers would he willingly give such a law. The question now before the House was this, did any case exist at present in which the present or any administration ought to call upon parliament to grant powers like those which had been demanded? He was decidedly of opinion no such case had been made out. what would ministers do with the act when they had got it? Would they take up under it those miserable persons of whom he had had occasion to speak? Was that the use to which they would put the Habeas Corpus suspension act? If it were not thus to be used, where he would ask was there one man of property, influence, or importance, that they intended to commit to the Tower. None such could be pointed out: and for other offenders, they might be punished without this law, and speedily too; for did not the assizes begin in march? Would any man pronounce the bold libel, that the attorney-general would not proceed against such persons under the present law; that the judges did not intend to go the circuit, and that justice could not be administered, as all the juries of the country were tainted with disaffection r Surely his hon. friend would not say such were his sentiments. Why then was the power of taking up a suspected person and detaining him till the 1st of July to be given. The hon. gentleman would not wish to take up persons without having evidence against them; and having evidence, what was the use of this act?

Hitherto the Habeas Corpus act had only been suspended when the country was engaged in a foreign war, when there was a rebellion at home, or a pretender to the Crown. When such a measure was resorted to, we had always before been at war with some foreign power bent on the destruction of the government and constitution of this country. None of the circumstances to which he had just adverted, could now be urged in defence of the Habeas Corpus suspension bill, and was it at a time when unexampled distress pervaded every part of the country, that such a law ought to be passed, if it were not proved to be demanded by stern necessity? At such a period every one, from the highest to the lowest, ought, if possible, to be left in the full enjoyment of his constitutional rights. He would repeat it was his earnest wish, that the bill might not, as it was his conscientious opinion such a measure ought not, to pass into a law. For the honour of parliament, he hoped other means would be found for averting the danger. The more vigorous the measures were which were now actually required to check the evil, the more important was it that the great body of the people should feel their rights and liberties had not been invaded by parliament: that the constitution of which they were so justly proud, remained Unshaken.

The Attorney-General

having been many hours engaged in the discharge of his public duty, in which it might be satisfactory for the House to hear, as it was for him to say it, he had been the humble instrument of procuring the first conviction for an infraction of the law against the slave trade, having been already occupied sixteen hours in the service of the public, he was sure the House would readily believe when he had stated this, that nothing but a sense of the importance of the present question could induce him to rise, and that having risen, it would be his object to trespass on their time as shortly as possible. If on a former night he had abstained from offering his opinions, it was because at that time but a part of that subject was under discussion, the whole of which was now before the House. He begged to say that among the gentlemen opposed to the measure now under consideration, there could not be one who felt more veneration for the constitution of England than himself, nor one more sensible of the importance of the Habeas Corpus act to that constitution. But when gentlemen went so far as to say that at no time, and under no circumstances of danger would they confide to any ministers those powers now called for under the law which it was proposed they should pass, he could not but feel surprised at hearing such language. Our ancestors, jealous as they were of the constitutional rights of the people, did not feel thus. They did not refuse to suspend the Habeas Corpus act in times of extraordinary peril. Though not less anxious to preserve the liberties of the country than the hon. gentleman opposite, they had consented, if his memory failed him not, to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, not fewer than nine times. If a doubt were entertained whether the Habeas Corpus act ought under any circumstances to be suspended, he thought a reference to the cases he had alluded to would put an end to it; and the question which it remained for the House to decide upon was this, whether such a course would now be justifiable—whether the government ought to be entrusted at a time like the present with the power of imprisoning suspected persons for a certain limited time without bringing them to trial? This was the question; and in his opinion, such was the awful state of things at present, that the House was imperiously called upon to grant the powers required. A more awful case had never occurred to demand the application of such a measure. He was relieved from the necessity of going over those topics at length which were started in the early part of the debate by the sort of manner in which some gentlemen had been pleased to treat the dangers of the present day. He understood, that they professed to regard the whole of that plot which had been alleged to exist as a contrivance on the part of the government. They had maintained, that if there were any conspiracy—if there were any plot—if there were any combination, it was all the doing of ministers. He begged that it might be recollected, that if the conspiracy was a trick—a mere humbug— as it had been called on the part of government; in order to give effect to it, they had had the address to deprive honorable, intelligent, and acute gentlemen who were opposed to them in politics of their intellects, and to make them the dupes of the humbug plot and conspiracy, which they were supposed to have formed. This extravagant idea had been already so ably refuted, that nothing remained for him but to admire the ability with which it had been put down. He saw in his place a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Ponsonby), whom he always heard with great satisfaction, though he had frequently the misfortune to differ from him, who had been a member of the committee, and who had come out of it with his powers and understanding unimpaired. That right hon. gentleman had gone into the committee with a mind open to conviction, but not more likely to be imposed upon than that of any other member of that House; and certainly he had entered the committee with a mind not unfairly disposed to second the views of ministers. He (the attorney-general) had seen the right hon. gentleman regularly attending in the committee day after day, giving the matters before it all the attention that was due to their great importance, and the result was, he had come out of it a party to the report; on which, indeed, there had been no difference of opinion in the committee, but on the mere wording of some parts of it, and respecting which there had been but one feeling arising from a wish to keep it down as much as possible, that unnecessary alarm should not be excited. Had any thing been wanting to satisfy the House and the country that such was the course pursued, abundant proof had been afforded in the recent debates. Had the committee been among those who wished to create a sensation in the nation not warranted by the occasion, that infamous, dangerous and blasphemous oath, which a learned lord (the lord advocate of Scotland) had produced to the House, would certainly have formed a part of the report; for what could be better calculated to produce feelings of alarm than the publication of such a document? An hon. member had asked of the learned lord, why he had communicated that oath to the House, seeing the committee had not thought it right to include it in their report? He believed that hon. member had been satisfied with the explanation given in answer to his question. He (the attorney-general) however wished it to be known (for this would go a great way towards showing what were the feelings of the committee), that originally it had made a part of the report and had only been prevented from coming in that shape before the House, by the House not happening to sit on the day when the report was to have been brought up. It occurred to the committee in the interval which followed be- fore the House next met, that if the oath were thus made public, these consequences must in all probability have followed: some of the individuals whose testimony was nesessary to prove the delinquency of the parties now in custody, would have lost their lives; and those persons who had been secured at Glasgow, would not have been arrested: for when they had seen that government were in possession of information which could only be obtained from certain quarters, they would have withdrawn themselves from the danger of apprehension and most likely have sacrificed the informers [Cries of No, no! and coughing].

He was never more ready in his life to take a hint to sit down, as he was most painfully to himself discharging what he conceived to be a public duty. But there were some further remarks which he felt himself called upon to offer before he could resume his seat; if any thing could, in his opinion, add to the value which the report derived from the unanimity of the committee, it was, the admission of the hon. gentlemen opposed to it, that they held the country to be in great and imminent danger. If then it was agreed, that the country was in danger, was it to be contended that the ordinary laws were sufficient, and that the government could do without new ones? In common times, the ordinary laws against high treason were deemed to be sufficient. Now it was admitted that a new law was necessary for the protection of the person of the Prince Regent, not against acts that could only be comprehended by laws framed to punish constructive treason; not against secret plots to levy war against his government,—but against direct attempts at assassination [Cries of No, no!] He would ask if there was not such a bill on the table. [Here the learned gentleman read the title of the bill for the extension of the provisions of the law, for the protection of the king's person to the Prince Regent]. It was agreed that such a bill was necessary; and was it in ordinary times that such an admission would be made? Were such the characteristics of the people of this country, that acts like those which this law was intended to meet, were necessary thus to be guarded against when men's minds were not disturbed by agitators who sought to destroy every thing that was valuable in the morals, the government, and the constitution of the nation. It was thought necessary to revive a law which had expired in August 1816, to prevent soldiers and sailors from being seduced from their duty. And why was this thought to be necessary?—because those soldiers and sailors who might be induced to unite with the disaffected, had it in their power to carry to them a most important addition of physical strength. The House considering this had entertained a bill for making that felony, against which there had been no such law since August 1816? Were these he would ask, ordinary times, when it was universally acknowledged to be necessary, that laws should be enacted to suppress seditious meetings; to prevent the defenders of their country from being seduced from their duty, and to guard against attempts upon the life of the Prince Regent?

Some gentlemen had spoken of the bill now before the House, as if it went to subject any person taken up to be imprisoned at pleasure for any period, not exceeding the first of July. If they looked at the provisions of the bill they would find this was not the fact:—they would find that all persons detained, unless such representations were made of their being engaged in treasonable practices, as should obtain credit with six privy counsellors, or with one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state, would not be exposed to the operation of the act, and might claim to be brought to trial or discharged. Such was the character of that law which some gentlemen went so far as to say, ought at no time and in no case to be granted to any government [Cries of "No," "No!"]. I He thought it would not be denied that such language bad been used [Cries of No, no! repeated]. Since it was thus denied, he must suppose that he was mistaken: but he was sure he had understood this to have been, stated in some of their debates.

He would drop this then, and appeal to the House if it were not proper now, when danger was confessed to be at the door, to suspend that law which in times of peril had been suspended by our ancestors, as he had already stated, not fewer than nine times? Ought he to be told when he re-commended the measure now before the House to their adoption, that if he were to be locked up for a fortnight, and taught to know from his own feelings what imprisonment was, it was probable he would take a different view of the subject? There needed not such practical lessons on the subject, to teach him or those with whom he acted, that imprisonment was at all times painful, and that he must be a bad man, who would wilfully and without just cause, confine any fellow-creature even for a single hour. But, for the purposes of justice imprisonment was sometimes absolutely necessary, and he wished it to be observed how far the measure now proposed went beyond the law as it was enforced in ordinary times. It went to detain a suspected person without bringing him immediately to trial. This was certainly an evil, but it was one that could not always be avoided in ordinary cases. When a person was charged with felony or murder, he was detained to take his deliverance at the next sessions; but it often happened that from a witness being out of the way, or from some other circumstance, the trial was put off, and the accused kept in custody, as long as those persons could be detained, who might be taken up under this bill. The law of treason as a safeguard for the subject, interposed various delays, which in other cases did not occur; it required two witnessess to an overt act; it also required the prosecutor to collect the names of all his witnesses, and to furnish the prisoner with a list of them a certain number of days before the trial. These were wise and proper regulations; he had nothing to say against them, but the observance of them usually interposed more delay in such cases than in. any other. He did not say that this depended upon this or that government; he did not say that one administration differed from another in its conduct on such occasions; but he had a right to assume, that the present ministers were as anxious to avoid committing an act of injustice as any other set of men could be. He did not claim for the present law officers of the Crown greater credit for a desire to act fairly by the king's subjects, than was due to those who had preceded them. It was enough for them if they could successfully tread in the steps of those who had gone before them: correctly to follow the bright examples which had been set them, was the utmost to which their ambition could aspire.

For the act now under the consideration of the House, all that it went to do was, to detain suspected persons in safe custody for a limited time, whom it might not be convenient to bring to trial. But it had been supposed that after the arrests that had taken place at Glasgow, nothing more could be necessary. "Why," it had been said in some of the speeches made, not in the debates, but on the petitions which had been presented,—(what passed on the subject of these petitions was some times forgotten when gentlemen were speaking of what had, or had not occurred in the discussions of that House) "why," it had been said, "what more can be wanting, since the lord advocate has already got all his traitors? How, he could wish to inquire, was it known that the lord advocate had got all his traitors? Were those who spoke thus, sure, that at this moment the lord advocate, though he had had the good fortune to secure those persons in their conclave who had been arrested;—were they quite certain that no arch traitor had escaped, who, if these persons were forthwith brought to trial, might learn from the evidence given against them, what information government had that would affect him, and take his measures accordingly? He knew from what had passed at Glasgow, that it might be necessary to delay for a season the proceedings against the persons there arrested. He was however satisfied, that if inquiry were made, it would be found that he had not been the least anxious of the twenty-one persons who had formed the committee of secrecy, to guard against one word being suffered to escape, that might operate to the prejudice of those persons before they were put on their trial. In the particular cases of those individuals who were confined in London, he did not think it would be found necessary to interpose any long or indeed any unusual delay, before bringing them to trial. He begged to add with respect to those arrested at Glasgow, his most solemn pledge that not a single half hour should unnecessarily intervene between them and their deliverance.

He had now to address the House on another subject, on which he had had no opportunity of speaking before. It had been said, at least he thought it had been said, by some hon. gentleman, that the law officers of the Crown were afraid to do their duty. This charge had been already treated with proper scorn and disdain; he should only answer it by saying there were circumstances frequently attending the discharge of his official duties, which made him afraid. He feared lest he might not take that course which in particular cases might turn out to be the best that could be taken;—he feared lest he should prove unable to do his duty as he ought but he knew no other fears while acting in his official capacity. In proceeding against seditious societies, there were certain forms to be observed, before the law officers of the Crown could act. They could not carry a case into court without evidence. He never acted but on such evidence as a grand jury would receive, given on oath. He would file no information on a whisper,—a conjecture,—a suspicion: till the facts charged seemed to be made out by evidence, he dared not to proceed against any of his majesty's subjects. That he had been unable to proceed against such societies, proved the necessity of making some alteration in the law, as the plans of the disaffected had been varied to evade the law as it stood at present. Their proceedings were no longer the same as formerly. They no longer openly appeared to stand in their relations with each other, as parents and affiliated societies. A more dangerous character now belonged to them, and their connexion was not easily to be proved, being sustained by means of delegates and missionaries. To meet the evil it was necessary that new laws should be resorted to. These tried for a time, should they prove ineffectual it might become necessary again to have recourse to new ones.

He had now to notice the complaints made that other prosecutions of a different nature had not taken place. He could not be surprised that gentlemen should view with abhorrence and disgust the publications which for some weeks past had been industriously circulated in every part of the country, and which were unquestionably of a tendency that must prove most destructive to the best interests of the country. Nothing had pressed more on the anxious attention of the government than these publications, and nothing could have been more zealously pursued than they had been by the humble instruments for punishing such offences, the law officers of the crown. It had been said, that he had not prosecuted these tracts, because they were so numerous. Ultimately it would be found it was not their numbers that could prevent him from proceeding against them. He had then in his pocket a most shocking and blasphemous parody on the Creed, which he had that day received in a letter from a gentleman at Norwich [Cries of Read, read!] He owed to the dignity of that House to resist the call made upon him to read so infamous a production from whatever quarter such call might come; and he would assure the House, that when it became his duty to expose it in a court of justice, it should be read but once (and then only for the purpose of comparing it with the record), that he might not be the means of publishing it more than was absolutely necessary in order to punish those who had sent it forth to the world. If, however, any hon. member wished to read it, he would leave it sealed on the table of that House, that he might indulge his curiosity. Though the publications which had lately issued from the press might be sufficiently numerous to fill Westminster-hall, he had to observe, that many of them were but the growth of a few weeks. Many, he begged to add, were already in a course of prosecution, and many more should be proceeded against with the least possible delay. No time had been negligently lost, for it would have been impossible for him to have brought one case to judgment up to that moment.

This stated, he would ask, could he have prevented, or ought he to be blamed for any of the events which had recently occurred? No efforts that it was in his power to make, could have prevented the meetings in Spa-fields, or the transactions connected with them. All that he could be required to do, had been done. Those cases in which he thought it right to prosecute were as forward as they could have been in the time for trial; and when he had performed his duty, he doubted not the juries of the country would do theirs, as well in cases of sedition as in those of blasphemy. Much ridicule had been thrown on the preparations which had been made for an insurrection in the city. While speaking on this subject, he was most anxious to abstain from saying any thing that could in the remotest degree prejudge the cases of those persons now in custody, who had not yet been brought to trial, but he thought lie might be allowed to contend (though he should say nothing of the report of the committee), that the state into which the country was thrown on the occasion of the Spa-fields meeting was that which, consistently with public security, could not be permitted frequently to occur. If meetings of a tumultuary nature continued to take place,—if on such occasions it was necessary to call out extra constables under the superintendance of the police,—and to have the military in readiness to put down any effort at rebellion; this was surely a state of things which ought not to be suffered to exist, and which demanded new laws to prevent its continuance. But it had been said, what was to be apprehended from a set of wretched conspirators with one waggon in their train, and but an old stocking-full of ammunition? How, it had been asked, were such persons to possess themselves of the Tower of London, and how blow up the Waterloo bridge, unprovided as they were with arms and combustibles and unaccompanied by sappers and miners? Who had pretended that these things could really be done by the persons who had attended the Spa-fields meeting? Nobody, that he was at all aware. He, however, wished it to be recollected, that some of the party had been found with ammunition sufficient to arm the leaders in the riot. Loaded pistols and other arms were prepared for the commencement of the enterprise, and orders had been given that on leaving Spa-fields, the conspirators should proceed by physical strength to possess themselves of greater means for the accomplishment of their designs, by breaking into gunsmiths shops, warehouses, and pawn-brokers shops, where they had reason to suppose arms had been deposited. From these places they had hoped to procure such a supply as would suffice to arm the multitude, and enable them to go on with the work of rebellion. It was true, he did not think they had ever had any chance of accomplishing their design. Nobody but themselves believed that by such means this mighty empire could be overturned. He should be unfit for the office he had the honour to hold, and indeed unfit for every thing, could he believe that such an attempt was likely to succeed. But was there nothing short of the complete success of such a conspiracy, against which it was the duty of parliament to guard? What mischief might not have occurred had not rashness precipitated that attempt at noon, which it was intended to make later in the day of the 2nd of December? What might not have been the consequences had the attack been deferred till it was dark, and then made when the good citizens of London were retiring to rest from the fatigues of the day? It could not be denied that in such a case much mischief, much bloodshed might have ensued, and it was not easy to define the extent of the calamity which the country might have had to mourn.

With these feelings, and for the reasons he had assigned, he should vote for the passing of this bill. When the law should be passed, he was satisfied that no honest man would be more afraid of being forced out of his bed in consequence of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, than he was of being so dealt with, under the present laws. The bill would only inspire fear in those who entertained traitorous designs: on these he trusted it would be beneficially operative, and tend effectually to put down the spirit of disaffection.

Lord George Cavendish

began by saying, that though he felt the utmost abhorrence at the attack made upon the Prince Regent, yet he did not believe that the outrage, audacious as it was, had murder for its object. The learned gentleman had adverted to what had fallen from some gentleman of the committee: he himself had not been on that committee: but he knew that much misinformation had been transmitted to it. The intentions of the persons who sent it were, doubtless, good: but their intelligence was not correct. From what he knew of one district, he thought he might say generally, that the committee had not had before it a true picture of the country For his own part, he must complain of that committee. He knew of no reason why the county of Derby had been singled out for reprobation; he knew that what was said of that county was not the fact. There had, indeed, been a Hampden Club in Derby; but its members were very few. It was true, also, that a great many persons in Derby and its vicinity had petitioned for reform in parliament; but they were most of them men of respectability. He must say, therefore, that he thought Derby wrongly accused; and he thought the same was probably the case with Staffordshire and Cheshire. He thought the magistrates of Derby, from the specimens he had seen of their activity and vigour, were quite competent to maintain the peace of the county. He had himself seen an instance, where a gang of Luddites, who had committed all sorts of depredations, had been speedily brought to justice, and the county had been tranquil ever since. What these magistrates had done before, they would do again; and certain he was, as far as related to that county, there was no reason for suspending the Habeas Corpus act.

Mr. Bankes

said, that the bill was opposed by some gentlemen on the ground that no danger existed: and others who objected to it contended, that though there was a disposition to excite disturbances in the country, yet this was not the remedy which ought to be applied. From these gentlemen he differed, and was decidedly of opinion, that without such a law as was now proposed, the country would not be safe. He should vote for it, considering it to be one that would be likely to prevent much confusion, and save the lives of many individuals.

The House divided:

For the third reading. 265
Against it. 103
Majority. —162

List of the Minority.
Abercrombie, hon. J. Lyttelton, hon. W.
Anson, hon. sir G. Marryat, Jos.
Atherley, Arthur Methuen, Paul
Aubrey, sir John Macdonald, James
Baillie, James E. Mackintosh, sir J.
Baring, Alex. Madocks, W. A.
Brand, hon. T. Maitland, hon. A.
Brougham, H. Martin, John
Burdett, sir F. Molyneux, H. H.
Burrell, hon. P. D. Monck, sir C.
Browne, D. Moore, Peter
Calcraft, John Moseley, sir O.
Calley, Thomas Newman, R. W.
Calvert, C. Neville, hon. R.
Calvert, Nic. North, Dudley
Carew, R. S. Nugent, lord
Carter, John Ord, Wm.
Cavendish, Lord G. Ossulston, lord
Chaloner, Robert Osborne, lord F
Cochrane, lord Peirse, H.
Coke, Thos. W. Pelham, hon. C. A
Duncannon, visc. Pelham, hon. G. A.
Dundas, hon. L. Philips, George
Dundas, Charles Piggott, sir A.
Ebrington, visc. Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.
Fazakerley, J. N. Power, Richard
Fergusson, sir R. C. Prittie, hon. F. A.
Fitzgerald, lord W. Portman, E. B.
Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M. Preston, R.
Fitzroy, lord John Pym, Francis
Folkestone, visc Ramsden, J. C.
Fellowes, hon. N. Rancliffe, lord
Gaskell, Ben. Ridley, sir M. W
Grosvenor, gen. T. Romilly, sir S.
Gordon, Robt. Rowley, sir W.
Guise, sir Wm. Russell, lord Wm.
Hamilton, lord A. Russell, lord G. W.
Heathcote, sir G. Russell, lord John
Heron, sir Robt. Russell, R. G.
Hughes, W. L. Scudamore, R.
Hornby, Ed. Sefton, earl of
Hurst, Robt. Smith, John.
Jervoise, G. P. Smith, Robt.
Lambton, J. G. Smyth, J. H.
Langton, W. Gore Stanley, lord
Latouche, Robt. jun. Spiers, Arch.
Lemon, sir W. Shaw, sir James
Lloyd, James M. Tavistock, marquess
Taylor, C. W. Cavendish, hon. C.
Taylor, C. V. Curwen, J. C.
Tierney, rt. hon. G. Foley, Thos.
Vaughan, hon. J. Markham, adm.
Walpole, hon. G. Martin, A.
Waldegrave, hon. W. Newport, sir John
Wilkins, Walter Ponsonby, hon. F. C.
TELLERS. Powlett, hon. W. V.
Bennet, hon. H. G. Sharp, Richard
Smith, Wm. Townshend, lord J.
Althorp, visc. Weston, C. C.
Birch, Joseph Wharton, John
Cavendish, hon. H.

After the bill had been read a third time, sir Francis Burdett proposed the following clause:—"And be it further enacted, that no person detained under this act shall be shut up in any dungeon, or any damp unwholesome place, but shall have all the means of receiving air, warmth and exercise, that are necessary to the preservation of life and health; nor shall any person detained under this act be loaded with irons, or be deprived of the means of petitioning the King, or either House of Parliament, or shall be refused to see his wife or children, upon application made by him or them for that purpose, to the keeper of the prison, or to the secretary of state, for the home department."—Which was negatived without a division.

Mr. William Smith moved also a clause securing the right of action against the persons who should issue warrants of commitment under the act, if the persons committed should be dismissed without trial, provided the action were brought within a month after the expiration of the act; which was also negatived without a division.

Mr. Ponsonby proposed a clause fixing the 20th of May for the expiration of the bill, instead of the 1st of July, on which the House divided—for the clause, 97—against it, 239.

While strangers were excluded from the gallery an amendment was, upon the motion of sir Samuel Romilly, made in the bill, the effect of which is to limit the operation of the bill in Scotland as well as in England to persons committed to prison for treason, or suspicion of treason, upon a warrant signed by six privy counsellors, or one of the principle secretaries of state. As the bill stood originally, it extended to persons committed by any subordinate magistrate. The bill, as it now stands, is in these words:—"That the act made in Scotland, intituled, 'An act for preventing wrongous imprisonment, and against undue delays in trials, in so far as the same may be construed to relate to the cases of treason and suspicion of treason, with respect to persons so committed as aforesaid, be suspended until the 1st day of July, 1817; and that until the 1st day of July 1817, no judge, justice of peace, or other officer of the law, in Scotland, shall liberate, try, or admit to bail, any person or persons, that is, are or shall be in prison, within Scotland, under a warrant or warrants so signed as aforesaid, for such causes as aforesaid, without order from his majesty's privy council, signed by six of the said privy council." The words printed in italics were added by amendment.

A short conversation took place on the clause of the bill which authorizes the removal of prisoners from one gaol to another, and the expunging of which had been moved.

The Solicitor-General

contended, that it was necessary that the power of removal should be given, as cases might occur in which, from the number of the prisoners, or from their combining together, it would be very inconvenient to retain them together in one gaol. In such cases it might be proper to remove prisoners from Gloucester to Hereford, or vice versa; but care was taken that they should suffer no disadvantage by these removals; for, if brought to trial, it was provided that the proceedings should take place in the county in which they were originally committed.

Mr. Ponsonby

could not understand why a man taken up for treasonable practices in the county of Hereford should be imprisoned in Gloucester. Were not the gaols in the county sufficient, or were they destitute of keepers. If there were no gaols in a particular county, or no persons to guard them, he could comprehend why a prisoner should be sent to another county; but unless some such reason as that he had stated existed, the removal was a measure of unnecessary cruelty.

Mr. Bennet

stated, that cases of great hardship had occurred under the former suspensions of the Habeas Corpus act, in consequence of imprisoning persons in distant gaols.

The clause was ordered to stand part of the bill. On the motion, that the bill do pass,

Mr. Brougham

wished the House to understand, that a right hon. gentleman had pledged himself, that unless this subject was brought before the House in the month of May, no proposition would be made for a renewal of the bill [No! from Mr. Bathurst]. The right hon. gentleman had said "many weeks before the expiration;" now many weeks before the 1st of July, must mean in the month of May. If one week more had been allowed, from the petitions which would have flowed in from all parts of the country, and from the disposition of the House, he was convinced the bill could not have passed.

Mr. Canning

said, the present bill had been longer in passing than any former bill of the same description.

Mr. Bathurst

disclaimed having said any thing of the month of May. He had said, that as the bill would expire in the month or July, the subject would probably come before the House some time before, if the renewal were to be proposed.

Lord Stanley

said, he had heard the right hon. gentleman expressly use the words "many weeks."

Mr. Bathurst

denied, if he had used these words, that they were to be considered as any pledge; he had only stated it as a probable circumstance, that the subject might he many weeks, before the 1st of July, under the consideration of the House, if a renewal were to be contemplated.

Mr. Brougham

said the House must recollect that they went to a division on the statement of the right hon. gentleman.

Mr. Calvert

protested against the indiscreet haste in which the bill was hurried through, and which had deprived his constituents, who were to have a meeting on the subject of the bill on Monday next, of any opportunity of expressing their sentiments.

Sir C. Monck,

wished to observe, that if this bill had been a longer time passing through the House, it would have been opposed by three times as many members as ever divided against any former bill.

The bill was then passed, after which the House adjourned at half past two o'clock.