§ On the order of the day for the third reading of this bill,
said, that though he had but little hope of making an impression on the House by his opposition to the measure, he felt it his duty to protest against it. The noble lord who had opened this subject to the House, had properly divided it into the causes and the remedies of the discontent. The causes he (Mr. B.) conceived might be all traced to want of food and want of work in the districts which had been disturbed; the remedies were work and food. During the war the ingenuity of mechanics had been exerted to find all possible substitutes for human labour, and as the demand for the produce of labour, had now diminished, an enmity towards machinery had grown up and had broken out into acts of violence. It was fit that this spirit should be repressed, that if the vigilant execution of the laws were not sufficient, local laws might be enacted to suppress it,—but it formed no pretext for putting all Britain to the ban, on account of frequent breaches of the peace in five counties. There was no case more in point than the disturbances in the year 1812. If any one would look into the report drawn up at that time (and no one 1209 should proceed to a vote without reading it), he would find in it as many high sounding words as in those on which they were now called to suspend the Habeas Corpus act. It spoke not only of incitements to tumult, but of military array, of seizing of arms, of all the signs of levying war against the state. To meet that evil they passed the arms act, and the act against delegates. The first, act was never executed; the other had been of some service. The discontent in that instance had originated in want of work and food, and it had greatly subsided as he trusted it would now, by the great demand for goods for a full shipment. He denied that there were strong marks of a political character in the discontents. Whenever Englishmen were distressed, as they were happily in the habit of looking to political subjects, the consideration of which was not confined, as in some other countries, to the upper classes, they would naturally put forward the faults and mismanagement of their rulers as in fact the causes of their sufferings, but there was nothing of a systematic hostility to the constitution, though some individuals had been urged on to hostile measures by spies and informers. He should say a few words as to the first report. That report had carried through the House the first bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus. But he was authorized in saying, by some of the members of the committee, that if that witness had been produced to them who had since been brought forward to the disgrace of criminal justice, his evidence would have been scouted by them. There was a disgraceful not indeed, of which the promoters had escaped punishment on account of the ridiculous attempt to prosecute them for high treason. Was it to be supposed that a British jury could be persuaded that six men could levy war against the state? If there was any part of the first report, which would fix the crime of high treason on the persons concerned in the disturbances, it was the correspondence between the disaffected in London, and those in the country; but it was to be recollected that nothing in support of this, was tendered in evidence—it was not asserted or even alluded to by the attorney-general. The second report was drawn up in a spirit very different from the first. The hands which had framed it had some practice in report making; the theatrical manner in which the facts had been stated, had been sobered down to 1210 flatness. One of the principal facts mentioned in this report was, the march to London, under the pretence of petitioning. From the best information, that of the magistrates themselves, he could state that the impression on the minds of the magistrates engaged in the late examinations at Wakefield was, that the whole plan and project referred to, had been the work of spies. It was not Oliver alone, who had been at work, but a thousand others; the business of a spy was a trade, which had been pursued with great success; so much as 10, 12, and 13 shillings a night had been paid to these workers of mischief. The report also contained allegations as to the conduct of particular persons; for instance, that one man avowed himself a republican and a leveller. He had no doubt that evidence might be collected that hundreds were republicans and levellers. Mr. Colquhoun had stated, in his book on the police, that 25,000 persons rose every morning in London without any other prospect of subsistence than by plunder. Who would doubt that these men were republicans and levellers; that is, that they would desire to get as much as possible of the property which they did not possess? It was also said, that the insurrection in the time of Richard 2nd and the Irish rebellion, were held up as models for imitation—very unfortunate models, as, in both those instances, the leaders had been punished. Was there any thing like a shadow of truth in these stories? or, if they were true, could they have had any effect? As, in the first report, there was a plot to destroy London, so, in the second, there was a plot to destroy Manchester. This suggestion, he had no doubt, was the work of the spies. In 1812 it was proved that the men who were employed to detect the rioters had suggested that they should burn the poor houses. "What!" said one of the rioters, "shall we burn the poor?"—"Yes," rejoined the spy, "any thing to do mischief." It was more likely that such a proposition should be made by spies. If all the carpenters in London were to conspire to throw their working-tools into the Thames, it would not be more absurd than for the manufacturers to destroy the sources of their employment. The barracks it was said were to be set fire to; the soldiers were to be burnt out, as in London they were to be smoked. Birmingham had also, in this report been mentioned as a place which 1211 had sent delegates. Several gentlemen at Birmingham seeing this account in the report, had set on foot a minute inquiry. He had received the account of the result from a gentleman of respectability and property, of the name of Clark, who was well known to those acquainted with the town of Birmingham. The hon. member here read a paper, which stated, that Oliver had been in Birmingham. He was first introduced there by Mitchel. He was there in April, in May, and again in June. He stated that he was intimate with sir F. Burdett, major Cartwright, and other friends to parliamentary reform: he never saw more than the five men whom he met at Mitche's friend's; he spoke of a plan for a meeting of delegates, and when he could not induce them to join in this design, he, on his return to Yorkshire, sent two messengers to inform them that a rising was intended, and begged them to send some one to meet him at Dewsbury on the 9th of June, which was the day on which he was arrested at that place by sir J. Byng, and afterwards liberated. He stated, that he had the management at Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, the rest of Yorkshire and Derby; and if he had persuaded any of the five persons he saw to have joined in his designs, he would no doubt have added Birmingham to the list. All these five persons were ready to give evidence, and the writer was authorised to implore that the House would examine them at its bar. Oliver seemed to have plenty of money, and never spared expense. Where this man got his money, perhaps those who employed him could say. It was said that he was not to be rewarded; he hoped that not only he would not be rewarded, but that he would be put upon his trial, to answer the offences which he had committed. Were such men as this to be sent forth on a mission against the lives and liberties of the subject—to raise plots, which, while they might destroy the lives of individuals, were to induce the House to pass, and the country to submit to, the suspension of the liberties of the whole community. To send persons to drive and drill the people into crimes, was an insult to a free country. It was not, however, wonderful that the persons who protected Reynolds, and bestowed honours on him—that the men who produced Castles as a witness—should, as part of their system, employ such men. As to the secretary for the home de- 1212 partment, he believed him to be a man of great humanity, but in point of judgment extremely weak. How otherwise could he have been made the dupe and tool of a wretch like Oliver—the most infamous miscreant that had ever been let loose to scourge a country?—He should now mention some other facts respecting the mission of Oliver. He should state the heads of the examination which took place at Wakefield on Monday the 16th of June last, for the accuracy of which he could pledge himself. The hon. member then read the heads of the examination of Mr. Dickinson. The next evidence he mentioned was that of a person who had been an accomplice—he should not mention his name—he was a native of Sheffield. He stated, that Oliver had been represented to him as a man who did great things in London. Mitchell had preceded Oliver, and had told them they might rely on him. Deponent was appointed a delegate by Oliver; all the other delegates were named in the same manner as deponent. One delegate was rejected by Oliver, and deponent knew that Oliver must have approved of all of them! This has been sworn to before the magistracy.—It thus appeared that this Oliver had been the instigator and contriver of all this transaction. He had led on the miserable, starving, and indigent people; and it was imperative on the government to deliver him up to the law he had violated. He should be sorry to say any thing which should draw down upon individuals the punishment of death, a punishment which he thought should never be inflicted except in case of murder; but it was rather singular that there remained at this moment, in Newgate, men under sentence of death for endeavouring to create, not treasons, but felonies, for the purpose, like the miscreant Oliver, of selling fellow beings to destruction.—He contended, that the operation of the measure on the country neither had been nor could be beneficial. In former times, when rebellions were about to break out, supported by men of rank, weight, and influence, the Habeas Corpus act had been suspended, to enable the government to arrest the heads of the rebellion—as in the case of the arrest of sir W. Windham, in 1715. But where were the sir W. Windhams of the present day? Unless something better could be advanced for this measure than the information derived from such men as Castles and Oliver, he 1213 would protest against intrusting the liberties of the people at the disposal of ministers on their testimony. The persons taken upon the information of the latter had been discharged, and those accused on the testimony of the former had been acquitted; and was the constitution to be suspended on the evidence of miscreants whose testimony was not sufficient to convict the individuals against whom they appeared as witnesses or informers?
Mr. C. Grant
, junr. said, that the hon. gentleman opposed the measure because he denied the danger, and thus gave them to understand, that he would support the former, provided the latter could be satisfactorily established. It was because he (Mr. G.) thought the danger imminent, and that the exigency of the crisis could be met in no other way, that he would vote for the bill. It had been erroneously stated, that this measure was a suspension of the constitution; whereas, it was merely a remedy for a case contemplated by the constitution. The hon. gentleman had denied that a conspiracy against the state existed, because the only alleged disturbances proceeded, in his opinion, from the instigation of government agents. It had never been proved, however, that government had sanctioned the conduct which Oliver was accused of pursuing, or that any person was implicated but that individual himself, who had acted without any countenance from his employers. He heard many gentlemen deny, on these grounds, the existence of all danger; and, from a regard to their judgment and integrity, he should have been staggered in his own convictions of an opposite kind, did he not recollect that men of good principles and sagacious understandings had been found in all ages and countries who, in seasons of great public alarm, distrusted the reality of approaching calamities, and, by their incredulity, increased the danger in which they disbelieved. Ancient and modern states furnished examples of fatal error, which allowed the designs of conspirators to advance unchecked to a point when resistance became unavailing. Of Cataline's conspiracy, it had been said, by a great orator and statesman, when speaking of the character of such men to whom he had alluded, "Nonnulli sunt in hoc ordine, qui aut ea quæ imminent, non videant; ant ea quæ vident, dissimulent: qui spem Catalinæ mollibus sententiis aluerunt, conjunationemque nascentem non credendo cor- 1214 roboraverunt." Was there nothing disclosed in the reports that manifested designs against the state? We had plots; we had secret oaths; we had organized societies, committees, subcommittees, and delegates, blasphemous, and seditious songs; and, above all, the prostitution of the press to the most infamous purpose of destroying all loyalty to the throne and all reverence towards religion; thus making the people immoral, impious, and turbulent upon system. The most dangerous doctrines were propagated to aid this settled design: the rich were declared the natural enemies of the poor; plans of robbery and spoliation were recommended to the people as the means of recovering their rights, and a division of the land was held out as the attraction for rebellion. By these dangerous doctrines the poor were taught that they could only find their just level in the disorders of the state, and seduced from their duties of loyalty and honesty. These were the dangers against which this measure was intended to protect the public peace, the public morals, and the national faith; and much as he valued that sacred bulwark of our liberties, the Habeas Corpus, he would say, that he valued the sacred principle of public order and religion still more. It was well known that this country had of late years taken a great start in population, wealth, manufactures, and political consequence; but it could not be denied, that in this change there were causes of danger generated which did not exist before. Great masses of people were assembled in single districts, whose occupations were precarious, and who, as they had not improved in morals or advanced in education in proportion as they had increased in numbers and physical force, might, in a season of distress, be excited by turbulent and unprincipled demagogues to disturb the national tranquillity, and endanger the constitution and religious institutions of the state. It was said by an hon. gentleman that all that the people wanted was, not insurrection, but food and employment. He allowed that their discontents might be allayed by prosperity; but who was to ensure that prosperity? or how was public order to be preserved till it returned? It was strange to hear that poverty and distress, which constituted the source of the danger, converted into an argument to disprove its existence. But it had been said, admit distress to be a reason for sus- 1215 pending the constitution, and there was no limits to such tyrannical interference. He could not allow this argument to be well founded. The distress, he hoped, would be only temporary; the other causes of danger, such as the want of regular education, and the demoralizing influence of the poor laws, might be more permanent; but still they were not indefinite; and, when the distress was removed, might no longer excite such alarm.—When it was asked, were not the ordinary laws sufficient for repressing these causes of danger, by punishing popular excesses or seditious attempts? he would answer, that ordinary laws were sufficient for ordinary times; and that the suspension act was merely intended to arrest the progress of evils which would deprive them of all their efficiency, and to prevent that state of things which, if once realized, would render confusion irreparable. In the case of individuals, prevention was better than punishment; in the case of nations, prevention was the only safe policy, and the other alternative was impossible. It could not for a moment be admitted as a question with regard to the state, whether we were to avert an approaching evil, or to enter into a struggle to defeat it. In such a struggle the constitution might survive, but it could not be expected to come out of it unimpaired. This observation seemed to apply with peculiar force to those who argued against the suspension, on the ground that it should never be resorted to except in a season of general disaffection. The effect of this bill would be to prevent general disaffection, by giving a power to restrain the efforts of those who were endeavouring to spread it; as, when it arrived, nothing but a civil war could be expected to ensue.—It had been said, if the disaffection is not general, why not make the operation of the bill local; but it was sufficient to reply to this question, that if its operation was confined to particular districts, the evil would diffuse itself over others, and would make the danger general in all the country, except in those very places where the remedy was intended to apply. It was argued, that the evil was not alarming, as only the dregs of the people were imbued with corrupt principles. This was equivalent to an assertion, that property, wealth, and talents, were necessary to constitute; danger; but did the history of revolutions warrant such a belief? Was it true, that what was dangerous in the result never followed what was ridiculous or con- 1216 temptible at the commencement; and that what was formidable was never joined to what was absurd? An opposite experience was written in the annals of Europe; and the disastrous history of revolutionary France loudly warned the world against deciding on the practical success of apolitical doctrine from its theoretical absurdity. Those who argued against the present bill had denied the efficiency of the former suspension act. Whence did they derive this fact? The reports of both Houses stated the contrary. They declared, that though it had not removed danger, it had cheeked it, and had acted as a salutary control over demagogues, who endeavoured to disturb the public peace. It likewise gave courage to the friends of order, the loyal and virtuous portion of the community. He believed the majority of the people were well disposed, but they ought not to be left to the attack; and machinations of the turbulent and the seditious.
§ Mr. Warre
said, that although he had voted for this measure three months ago, he felt himself bound in conscience to oppose the present bill, especially from a review of the reports of the committees who recommended the enactment of the measure. In the first report, he observed that the head and front was the Spencean system; but in the last report, the existence of this system was not at all alluded to. The hon. member animadverted in a strain of ridicule upon the report of the last committee, particularly with respect to the alleged conspiracy at Manchester, and the riots in London.
§ Mr. Protheroe
also opposed the bill, although he had voted for the measure some months ago. He was alarmed with the report of the committee at the beginning of the session, but the inquiries that had since taken place, enabled hint to sec the danger in a different light, and to satisfy himself that it was very much exaggerated. He could not, therefore, consent to place the constitution in abeyance any longer, and should certainly vote against the bill.
§ Mr. Hart Davis
differed from his hon. colleague, and thought it due to the loyal inhabitants of Bristol, as well as to the country at large, to take every possible precaution to defend them from the evils of anarchy and rebellion. He was satisfied, however, that if on the occasion of the late trials the prosecution had been confined to a lower description of offence, there would 1217 have been little difficulty in proving their guilt.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
supported the motion. He could not conceive any basis more proper upon which the measure could rest, than the result of those investigations which had been made by two committees of that House. He was not aware of any circumstance that had transpired since the first report, or since the bringing up of the second report, that could justify him in lessening his confidence in them. The only difference was, that disaffection had now withdrawn itself from the seat of government, but he saw nothing in that circumstance which made the general danger of the country less.
§ Mr. Barham
could not help regarding the danger to the state, upon the alleged existence of which the bill was principally founded, as a ridiculous phantom. He could discover in it no reason for depriving the country of the best security for the possession of its liberties, and without which every other security was an idle and useless provision. So long as the power of tearing him from his family, without a cause assigned, was vested in any man, it was an insult and a mockery to talk to him of the blessings of our free constitution. He should prefer to live under martial Jaw rather than under a suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. The duration of martial law would probably be short, but the continuance of the present measure was necessarily uncertain. He should feel himself a freer man living under martial law than under a deprivation of the right to a trial by jury. This was the great right that distinguished, in his opinion, a British subject from a subject of the dey of Algiers. The chief cause of the existing evil was a state of general distress; and severe distress never could be felt without producing some degree of discontent. An argument had been drawn in favour of this measure from the personal character of the minister to whom such extraordinary authority was to be intrusted. Without entering into that inquiry, he must declare, that this was not an English consideration. It was by a jealousy of, and not a confidence in, the executive government, that the balance of our free constitution must be maintained. The boast of Englishmen had always been, not that ministers would not, but that they could not disturb the personal liberty of any individual. The abominable sentiment, as versified by one of our favourite poets, seemed to be the 1218 principle by which parliament was now advised to direct its policy:—For forms of government let fools contest,Whate'er is best administered is best.He had his suspicions that the actual extent of the evil, was in a great measure, to be imputed to his majesty's ministers, who appeared to have suffered it to have grown up in order to furnish a pretext for demanding these new and extraordinary powers. Instead of palliatives, they had applied caustics to the distemper, which aggravated instead of abating its symptoms. He trusted that he was a loyal subject, and ready to spill the last drop of his blood in defence of the constitution; but he felt himself bound to state, at the same time, that the suspension of the law of Habeas Corpus would leave little or no choice between the advantages of the British laws and those of any foreign government.
§ Dr. Phillimore
said, it was with painful anxiety, and after a laborious inquiry into the facts and circumstances upon which this measure was founded, that he rose to give it his support. It was not before he had gone through a long examination of the subject, that his mind had arrived at the conviction that the bill was the dictate of a necessary and even of a humane policy. The whole subject resolved itself into two questions; first, as to the existence of the danger, and secondly, as to the propriety of the remedy. He had the admission of an hon. member, who had been vehement in his opposition to the bill, that the existing danger was great, that the leaders of the disaffected, if not formidable from their property—or rank, were important from the possession of popular talents and great energy of character. A right hon. gentleman had expressed his doubts with regard to the extent of the evil; but he would ask him whether he did not believe that this measure must operate as an engine of powerful and salutary intimidation against those to whom alone it was likely to be applied? He supported it because he deemed it a debt of justice which parliament was bound to pay, as a necessary security for the lives and properties of their fellow-citizens. He did not believe the conspirators had it in their power to overturn the constitution, but it did not follow that they might not have produced serious and irreparable mischief. The destruction of a populous town, or the desolation of a cultivated district were evils of no trifling magnitude.— 1219 The reign of Richard the second was fertile of instances in which the violence of an insurgent force, and the excesses of a populace, inflamed by fancied grievances, were fully represented. The alterations in the state of the country, and the various exigencies of affairs, had rendered it frequently necessary to suspend the operation of the act in question. Since its first enactment the reign of James the second was the only reign during which no suspension of it had taken place: yet the principles of liberty had never been so well understood as during the last century in this country. Very few were disposed to deny that the suspension of the year 1793 was an expedient measure. In answer to the objection, that this proceeding had never been adopted except during a period of civil or foreign war, he should say, that a danger similar to that which at present threatened the constitution had never before existed in this country. With regard to the employment of spies, circumstances occurred in the history of all countries, in which governments found it necessary to resort to such means for detecting mischievous designs. On this subject he would refer to what lord Clarendon had said on lord Falkland's objection to the employment of persons of that description. It was with reluctance he gave his consent to the bill, but his vote was founded on his conviction of the urgent necessity of the measure.
said, that he had not intended offering himself to the House, but that some things had fallen from different gentlemen in the course of debate, particularly from his hon. and learned friend who spoke last, on which he could not but feel anxious to offer a few observations.—That, on a question of this importance to the happiness, safety, and freedom of our country, a question which demanded from every member of that House who wished to act conscientiously or reasonably the discharge of a very awful and difficult duty, he was sure he need not, so impressed, doubt that the House would indulge him with its patience, if, in reply to his hon. and learned friend, he expressed, (with whatever reluctance he might feel in so doing), the grounds on which he had determined to give, as far as one vote could go, his assistance to this proposition in every stage.—He had listened with deep and respectful attention, he hoped impartial too, to all that had fallen from those who had preceded him in debate, and he 1220 must say that he felt himself decided and confirmed in the impression he had long ago conceived of his duty, under the present circumstances, to sacrifice all other considerations in order to assist, by one vote at least, the constitution of his country against the gigantic dangers which he saw surrounding and growing in upon it on every side. When he found some of those whom he had always considered men of the first authority in his country, men whose judgment was most venerable, and whose virtues were most dear to him, having sanctioned with their concurrence propositions like that of to-night, the grounds were certainly not in his estimation weak or unimportant which could induce him to resist that proposition—[Hear!].
He had read with great attention the report he held in his hand.—As the report of a committee of that House, he was bound to respect that instrument;—for many of the members who composed that committee he entertained great personal respect. For some, certainly feelings of the highest veneration and the most implicit confidence. But on a point like this, he could not, as some gentlemen declared themselves prepared to do, take as imperative on his conduct the report of any committee, however composed, so long as he found that committee left to judge, in both instances in which it has sate, on evidence entirely ex parte, on evidence not taken on oath, and, above all, on evidence prepared and selected by ministers, who have, in this case, put their country on its trial, and have themselves stood forward as its public accusers, to support the indictment. In this accusation, considering the sentence which the country is to undergo in the event of conviction, I think a very strong case indeed ought to be made out to support it. It is not too much that some witnesses should be examined and some case gone into for the defence. For, let it be remarked, that this committee has not been acting here (as some gentlemen have represented it,) as a grand jury to find evidence merely to put the case on trial, but we are required to inflict a certain and a heavy punishment on the whole people of England, upon the final recommendation and verdict of this committee. If I had felt no objection, Sir, to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act on which we were called to vote three months ago, the mere fact of that suspension having been followed up by no one act to justify its ne- 1221 cessity would, with me, I confess, have been conclusive against renewing these extraordinary powers now.
But, we are told that we are not to judge of the necessity of the first bill of suspension, of which we have already made trial, by the consideration of whether or no the cases which have arisen might have been adequately met by the application of the ancient laws of the realm. My hon. and learned friend says that much has been done in the way of prevention, much in the way of intimidation, by the former suspension, and we are told that, without it, we might, before now, have had a rebellion in the country. Now, Sir, I think that, in every case, it is not too much to leave the onus probandi distinctly on those who assert a strong affirmative proposition. It remains with them to show how the safety of the state has been preserved by suspending its constitution.
But on what evidence is it that we are called upon to give credence to the existence of such a state of things in this country as can justify such an assertion? as can justify such means having originally been had recourse to? but above all, as can justify, after the miserable success of the original suspension, the repeating such a proposition in the face of the representatives of a free country? Are we to judge of the evidence by the terms of the report now before us? Are we to judge of it by the published report of that trial which has lately reflected such deep disgrace upon his majesty's ministers, I mean the trial of the elder Watson? A trial which was so managed on the part of government as (by the enormous folly and wickedness of hazarding an unsupported indictment for treason where you might doubtless have convicted and punished for not and sedition), so managed, I say, as to raise a few paltry incendiaries almost to the dignity of political martyrdom. On whatever information we take it, we are to rest our solemn belief of this state of things mainly upon the almost unsupported evidence of the basest, the falsest, the most treacherous of human kind, I mean the hired informers of the state!—wretches whose trade it is to create disaffection in order to betray it; who, before they can be your witnesses, must have gone through all the odious, unnatural, process of associating with traitors, of encouraging and abetting and fortifying their treasons, in order to sell their blood at a better price!.— 1222 Can such men as these be believed, when they stand forward (matchless impudence!) as the accusers of the people of England?—By what motive can you tempt such men to tell the truth?—By what form of adjuration can you bind the consciences of such men in the presence of Almighty God? [Hear, hear!].
My hon. and learned friend has quoted, on this point, the opinion and practice of my lord Falkland, as set forth in lord Clarendon's immortal eulogy on the unspotted character of his departed friend—I rejoice that he has so done. The record in which those sentiments are found is memorable, almost as memorable as the sentiments themselves—I willingly leave the subject of hired informers and spies to be judged by the opinion and practice of that truly gallant, amiable, and exemplary man; and I mean it not offensively, if I say that I am not afraid to set at issue, on the one hand, the authority of lord Falkland and the eulogy of Clarendon, with, on the other hand, the authority of his majesty's present ministers and the eulogy of my hon. and learned friend.
An hon. gentleman on the other side has said that the opinions and judgment of the people of England are on the side of ministers. He has talked of appealing on the subject of this suspension to the opinion of the people of England. To the opinion of the people of England? Good God, Sir, do we not know that the people of England dare not express any free opinion at all? We know that we have gagged their speech by our sedition bills, we know that we have fettered their press by our ex-officio informations; we know that we have made every magistrate in the country the supreme judge and summary punisher of blasphemy and sedition. We have made it sedition to talk contemptuously of his majesty's present government, and, lastly, to fill the measure of intolerance and oppression, we add insult to it by appealing to the free opinion of a disfranchised people.
There is, and there must be expected to be, a wide difference between the allegiance a man bears to a free government (an allegiance implanted by nature and sanctioned by education) and the allegiance demanded by a government which, if it suspends the constitution without good cause, can, in return for allegiance, give neither protection nor freedom. There is in the English people a love and admiration of the course of public jus- 1223 tice in this country, which supports and strengthens the law. These feelings, however, may not be continued under a state and dispensation of things in which the course of criminal justice is stopped to the very spring, under a government, which, instead of ruling by the laws, rules by a system against all law, and against all morals,—a system which can only be enforced through the agency of all that is most perjured, most treacherous, and most base in human society.
Sir, for my own part, I confess, I cannot respect the qualities of an administration (nor can I even pity its distress), which cannot enforce obedience to public justice, which cannot suppress immorality and sedition, nor keep the people within the pale of the law, except by claiming extraordinary and unconstitutional powers, powers of themselves capable of great abuse, and in their essence highly dangerous to public liberty. My hon. and learned friend says, that he believes that public liberty was never more generally felt or understood in this country, than within the last hundred and thirty years. Sir, I will myself go further, and say that I believe that, in spite of all the enactments of this reign, public liberty has never been more generally understood, nor more fully enjoyed in this country than during that period. But, on the other hand, I believe as conscientiously that public liberty was never in greater danger than at this very hour.
We have heard much of sedition, and much of the inflamed and disaffected state of the country. Much as these topics have, I think, been exaggerated, by the manifest fears of some, and by the equally manifest interests of others, thus much, at least, for my own part, I believe. I believe that there are some very dangerous spirits abroad (besides those disgraceful agents of government) busy, perhaps, but too successfully in poisoning the public mind, and weakening the first general principles of social order. But, if I believe this, if I see immorality and sedition gaining ground among the people, I look to the government of the country, not only as responsible for the issue, but as guilty of the fact. I look to ministers, whose evil administration, whose unfeeling profusion on the one hand, whose boundless corruption on the other, have brought the people to such a condition of distress by the former, of immorality by the latter, that they are but too well 1224 prepared to receive any system that madness can invent, or any doctrines that wickedness can recommend. With respect to the wicked and visionary deluders of the people, be they wicked, or be they only visionary, or be they both, I will say, that no one who hears me more deeply than I do abhors their practices, nor more fervently deprecates their success. But were the case a thousand times worse than it is, were it capable of being shown (which God Almighty forbid), that we are now placed in the dilemma between popular commotion on the one hand, and on the other a continued suspension of our rights, I think that even at that dreadful issue, even in that awful alternative, I should be speaking in the spirit at least of the British constitution in saying that I should prefer, as the lesser evil, public disquiet to the risk of freedom so long suspended that it may never be restored, —that I had rather see my country revolutionized than see it enslaved—.[Hear, hear! from government]. I repeat it.—I had rather see my country revolutionized, than see it enslaved [loud cheers from opposition].
It was said, some time ago in this session, that we had already parted with enough of our liberty. It was said by a noble lord, whose name is synonymous in this country with public virtue and old English love of liberty, if the carrying his proposition a little further can be said to be differing from him, in thus much only, Sir, do I differ from that noble lord,—I think that we have already parted with a great deal too much of our liberty. We have parted with too much of our liberty in our statutes and institutions, but,—what is, in my opinion, much more calamitous, what is fraught with infinitely greater peril in its probable results,—we have parted with our liberty in many of our useful and virtuous prejudices; we have parted with our liberty in much of our anxious care of it, in much of our pure and jealous love. I fear the tide of public opinion has rather set the other way. The sensibility of the country is morbidly awake to the dangers of popular commotion, but lamentably cold to those of arbitrary power; and I fear, from the example of the past, and from the tendency of what is now doing, that there is in store for us a long series of years in which it will be the care of government to keep down and extinguish that first of virtues in a people a free spirit; and that, in those times there 1225 will be but little of public virtue or firmness in the people to fence round and secure their privileges against the encroachments of their governments.
Sir, I will trouble the House no longer; I may be visionary, I may be enthusiastic. But, God is my witness, I speak as I feel, and I should be a traitor indeed if, feeling as I do, I did not utter my sincere protest against what I think must be the inevitable consequences of such a system. I entirely agree in all that was so ably, so eloquently, and so impressively said the other night by my right hon. and learned friend, if he will allow mc the ambition to call him so (sir Samuel Romilly,) on the bench below me. He spoke in terms not to be forgotten or disregarded; I wish I could believe, that in the awful and prophetic close of that memorable speech, he was deceived in the present state and future prospects of our country. These are times which call on every gentleman, who feels rightly and warmly for the character, happiness, and freedom of his country which call on every father of a family who wishes to transmit his country's laws to his sons, as from his fathers he received them, entire, unsullied, and free, to step forward and resist, by every legal means within his power, this torrent which has broken in upon the constitution. It is in the discharge of a solemn and imperative duty, that, with these sentiments, I must vote against this bill [loud cries of" Hear!" from opposition].
§ Mr. Lamb
perfectly agreed with the noble lord in one sentiment which he had uttered, namely; that he would rather see the country revolutionized than enslaved; but the way to prevent the country from being enslaved was, in his opinion, to adopt such protecting measures as that under consideration. If those who thought with him were accused of exaggerating facts, and placing every thing in too strong colours, on the other hand, it surely could not be said that the noble lord had understated his case. He had never undervalued the benefit of the Habeas Corpus act, and would not consent to its suspension without the strongest reason; but he could not concur with the member for Bristol, and others, in supposing that any difference between the two reports afforded a reason for not adopting the present bill. If their opinion were founded on the idea that the conspiracy described in the first 1226 report was ripe for explosion, that had not been the foundation of his. It would be recollected, that he had laid very little stress on the report. He had given his opinion on a consideration of the spirit of the times, and the language held at public meetings, some of which were adjourned from time to time. What had been stated at those meetings respecting parliamentary reform, and the declarations that they were to resort to physical force, if their petitions were rejected, indicated a most dangerous spirit. In fact, the petitions which had been presented to that House were not petitions for reform but for revolution, since they prayed for annual parliaments and universal suffrage. He did not mean to say that all who signed these petitions desired a revolution; some of them might be well-meaning but mistaken enthusiasts; but he would assert that, in the general acceptation of the word, revolution must be the result of that change which annual parliaments and universal suffrage would create, and which would inevitably be followed by a military despotism. This unfortunate situation of things, arising from the spirit and temper of the times, was greatly aggravated by the manner in which the press was too generally conducted. He did not mean, in saying this, to pronounce an indiscriminate censure. He was aware that there were many instances of moderation, candour, and great ability, in the management of periodical publications; and he made much excuse for the haste in which daily papers were printed; for he believed that, in consequence of the want of time, articles frequently appeared, the insertion of which was afterwards regretted. Still however, it was reasonable to consider the press, and, in particular, that part which was printed on Sunday, as tending greatly to foster discontent in the country. With respect to the latter publications, he had long observed, that they studiously threw into the back ground all that was excellent in the law and constitution of the country, and brought forward in the most aggravated colours, every thing which could be rendered a topic of complaint. This practice, too, was always carried on with particular activity during the prorogation of parliament, when the statements which were hazarded could not experience so ready or complete a refutation. It was common to speak of the power of the press, and he admitted that its power was great. He should, however, beg 1227 press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government—"that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." They stood in a high situation, and ought to consider justice and truth the great objects of their labours, and not yield themselves up to their interests or their passions. His friends would, perhaps reproach him with instigating ministers to curb the press; but nothing, he assured them, was farther from his mind. He was aware of the great benefit the country derived from the liberty of the press, and nothing could induce him to concur in any measure that might tend to injure it; at the same time he was free to confess, that its state had an influence on the vote he gave on the present question. With regard to the statements in the reports, though his vote was not founded on them, he believed them to be generally correct. The Manchester plot had been ridiculed, but ridicule was no argument. It was certain the insurrection in Derbyshire had taken place as described, and that, too, before Oliver had appeared in the country.—With respect to the employment of spies and the encouragement of informers, he said, that it appeared to him to have been left upon its true ground in the last debate. It would certainly be much better, if amongst men there could be a perfect reliance and confidence of the one upon the other. It would be well if there were no fraud, no violence, no combinations against life, property, and character; such were a consummation devoutly to be wished; but we all knew very well, that it was not to be expected under the present circumstances of human nature; therefore it would be giving fraud and crime too great an advantage, if they were to have the free use of all their own arms, and if no means of the nature alluded to were to be resorted to for their prevention and detection. Such measures ought to be taken with due circumspection; such evidence should be received with due caution, but the taking such measures and the receiving such evidence was a necessity forced upon us by the imperfection of our nature. With respect to the persons themselves who undertook such tasks there could be but one opinion. Such businesses necessarily involved in themselves falsehood, breach of trust, and a simulation of the best and most sacred 1228 feelings of our nature for the purpose of ruining and destroying those towards whom they were put on. It must, however, be remembered, that in human society there were many functions necessary to be discharged, many duties indispensable to be fulfilled, with regard to which the only feeling was astonishment how any persons could by any means be found, or by any motive induced to fulfil and discharge them. With respect to the affair at Huddersfield, the fact had not been denied. It was admitted that there were on the night mentioned in the report on the bridge at Huddersfield a body of armed men, the number might be disputed upon, with hostile intentions against the town. Now, if Oliver instigated the rising could it be contended that he spread throughout the country the animus the rebellious feelings which induced them thus to act according to his instigation? It was impossible—it was absurd in itself—the fact was, that those counties had been long in a disturbed and fermenting state—Luddism was a most dangerous system—he had always thought it most unwise to consider it a mere local and temporary ebullition, It was an organized plan to carry into effect measures by main force; if it were suffered to prevail for one purpose, it would very soon be transferred to others; if it were allowed to be practised in one part of the kingdom, it would very shortly spread wherever the discontented had an object to carry. It acted by intimidation and the intimidation upon the minds of the middling orders of people was great in the counties in which it had prevailed. He should be for the extension of the power proposed to be granted to ministers. If when this power expired, the alarming symptoms still continued it would then be time to adopt measures calculated to meet the particular evil. But he had always thought it more favourable to liberty to resort to a measure of this nature, extraordinary, and in its nature temporary, which must cease, and from which they would return to the constitution safe and unimpaired there to enact new laws upon new principles which they might afterwards find it very difficult and inconvenient to repeal, and which might therefore become perpetual. He could wish, however, that the term assigned for this measure were such as would ensure an early meeting of parliament. Nothing tended in such a degree to fix the eyes, and tranquillize the 1229 minds of the people. Much of the disturbances of the last year might be attributed to the deferring so late the meeting of parliament. Gentlemen were of far more service to their country in their places in that House, than in their respective counties, beneficial as their presence there might be—the suffering the measure to expire now would be sending forth amongst the people persons of considerable influence and of the worst intentions, who would infallibly labour to revive all that was now quiet. It would also give a general stimulus and encouragement to the spirit of disaffection, and upon the whole he gave his vote for the question with regret and anxiety, but without doubt—if he was the only leader in these disturbances, did he give the people the previous animus also? Some gentleman expected that a plentiful harvest would restore tranquillity to the country, and he hoped it would; but if that should not be the case, it would then be necessary to consider what other remedies could be resorted to; whether some measures limited to the districts in which the disorder chiefly prevailed ought not to be adopted?
rose and said:—
Mr. Speaker;—I am glad that my noble and honorable friends intervened between the learned civilian who spoke before them (Dr. Phillimore) and myself; for, whatever pleasure I am sure I shall derive from hearing him in future, I must own that on seeing him for the first time rise in his place, I could not without the deepest pain be thus reminded of the loss we have sustained in his lamented predecessor; a loss which we shall indeed long feel upon every occasion, but on none so much as on an occasion like the present, so vitally interesting to the cause of public liberty—a loss too, the recollection of which, is not a little aggravated by hearing to-night from his successor, opinions and doc-trines(I mean it not offensively) so widely different from those that would have found place in my late friend's breast. Sir, the learned doctor, as also my hon. friend who spoke last, occupied altogether with the alarms that possess them, have, I think, endeavoured to keep a little out of sight the full extent of the sacrifice it is proposed to us to make. What is it we are about to take away from the subject, and what to confer on the servants of the Crown? for down to the last hour of the discussion, it cannot be—‡1230 too repeatedly brought to our consideration—We are about to take from the subject the great essential, fundamental law which gives to every Englishman of every degree, the right of knowing his accusation, and of claiming his trial by his peers! We are going to confer on the Crown, on the other hand, the absolute and uncontrolled disposal of the personal liberty of every inhabitant of the British empire, subject too to no question,—for it would be a mockery not to assume, indeed it has been sufficiently admitted, that a bill of indemnity must be the necessary appendage of this measure,—why then, at least we Know what we are about; we are legislating with our eyes open. But revolting as this may sound, it has been done before, we are told. It has been done before under other circumstances, then why not under present circumstances? It has been done for a few months, then why not now for a year, or a few years? It has been done in time of war, then why not in time of peace? It has been done during the setting of parliament, then why not during a prorogation of parliament? Such is the course and the use of precedent in the case of a great popular right. Let the House look well to that. Neither my hon. friend opposite, nor either of my hon. friends on this side of the House, with all their talents and all their knowledge of history have been able to establish any one point of analogy between the present and any former occasion. Let it be remembered, then, that we are called upon not to follow a precedent, but to create one.
Blackstone says, "This experiment ought only to be tried in cases of extreme emergency." I have not the honour of being a member of the learned profession, but I should be glad that any lawyer would be pleased to interpret what this constitutional writer intended by an extreme emergency? Did he contemplate the case of some bands of labouring artizans, discontented because they had not work, dissatisfied only because their families had not food, or did he advert to a case of a very different description, the only sort of case in which this measure of dernier resort had ever been called in aid, the case of a disputed dynasty, a divided people, a kingdom beset by foreign and betrayed by domestic enemies? No such circumstances exist now, and will any man stand up in his place here and say, that the state is in that jeopardy which can alone 1231 be called an extreme emergency? The famous London conspiracy, that impudent outrage of half a dozen ruffians, unconnected and unsupported, will that—not as set forth in all the extravagant colouring of the first report, but as it appeared in evidence,—will that lead us to any such conclusion? Or the projected expedition of the miserable men from Manchester, with their children in the blankets at their backs, and who were dispersed with a whish of straw, will that justify such a conclusion? Or the last disordely movement, commonly called Mr. Oliver's insurrection, when this handful of wretched dupes (the picture was a moving one) misled only to be betrayed, threw themselves, pale and emaciated into the hedgerows to perish. Where, in any or in all of these which form the sum total of the imputed overt acts of treason and rebellion, do we find a shadow of a pretext for inflicting upon the nation the last of penalties, a suspension of the Habeas Corpus act? My hon. friend who spoke last, has discovered it where nobody but himself would have thought of looking for it, in a Sunday newspaper. In God's name let the editor be made amenable to the law if he has transgressed, but let us not hear so ludicrous an argument for so serious a measure. He has discovered farther the justification of this odious bill in the petitions (presented long ago, by the way, and of which we now hear nothing) in favour of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, which my hon. friend says are revolution. I concur with him in his opinion of the extravagant absurdity and impracticability of such theories; on that very account, however, I am satisfied they are destined to but an ephemeral existence; and I think they ought to be borne with as the ebullition of a moment of suffering. But it is dangerous indeed to make the petitions of the people the ground for punishing them; and when my hon. friend talks of their asking for revolution, let him quiet his apprehensions by assuring himself, that when they intend revolution, they will not ask it of the legislature.
Now, Sir, it has been argued, with much apparent triumph, that this law has now been in force for four months; yet who, it has been asked, has ever yet heard of any of those grievances and oppressions which it was anticipated might result from it? In the first place I answer, that such a law is in itself an oppres- 1232 sion. That to withhold from the people of England their birthright because some part of the population of a few stated manufacturing districts, have shown symptoms of insubordination, is an oppression. That so to degrade and disgrace the nation in the eyes of foreign powers is an injustice, and an oppression. But if it be true that in the infancy of this power, while exercised under the immediate check and control of parliament, no flagrant instance of abuse can be stated (which, after what has passed in the earlier part of this evening, we have no very solid grounds to suppose), I say we are not on that account to abate one jot of our just constitutional jealousy; for that check and control removed, what security have we that its future administration will be equally temperate? The personal character of the minister—state it as high as you please, and I am sure it cannot be stated too highly—gives us none; for he is removable at the pleasure of the Crown, when this power would devolve on his perhaps less scrupulous successor.
But whence, I should be glad to know, have gentlemen derived this comfortable assurance (into which I was surprised that the hon. member for Bramber should have given with so much facility), that in point of fact there has been, up to this time neither individual hardship nor injustice,—at least they do not derive it from the personal knowledge of the undersecretary of state, who has been content to disclaim all knowledge of such concerns. Some 30 or 40 persons are actually suffering under the operation of this law. Let us look at their condition. Upon what information have they been suspected? Upon such as satisfied the secretary of state. Sir, the best men may err, and informers are not always honest, though they are always jealous. Olivers and Castles will find their way to the ear of a secretary of state, and they will multiply in proportion to his credulity. Then for the condition of these men, what is it? Torn from their families, they are not told why,—they ask for trial, but it is denied them. Secluded by the arbitrary will of the minister even from the superintending eye of the visiting magistrate, whom the express law of the land had sent there to be their protector; immured, for aught they see or we know interminably, these forlorn creatures, unknown and unheard of, are stretched in their dungeons of des- 1233 pair; and it is because they are unheard of that we are invited to presume that they are not wronged. The humane, the constitutional presumption! The authority to whom I have already referred (no remarkable enthusiast or visionary on the side of the people) was not so easily satisfied—he has this passage: "Attacks upon life and property at the arbitrary will of the magistrate are less dangerous to the commonwealth than such as are made on the personal liberty of the subject. To bereave a man of life, or by violence confiscate his estate without accusation or trial would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism as must at once convey an alarm of tyranny throughout the kingdom; but confinement of the person by secretly hurrying him to gaol, where his sufferings are either unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government."
What becomes, then, of this argument, or where is the triumph? but it was a dangerous one for the friends of this bill to have introduced; for if indeed this very measure has been tried for four months, and after so long an experience, we hear from ministers that matters are no better; have we not on our side a right to contend, that we have taken a wrong course, and ought to persevere in it no longer. Now as to its applicability what have we heard? There is not, I think, one gentleman who has yet advocated this bill, who has not set out with undertaking to establish this point, without which indeed no argument could avail them any thing. I have listened to each of them with the utmost attention, and I protest that I have heard nothing like an argument, to prove it except there be any involved in their favourite sweeping maxim, that whenever a partial and defined discontent exists any where, it must be most meet, right, and proper that an universal and unlimited power of solitary imprisonment should be vested in the minister of the day. Any man who will take the trouble to turn over a child's edition of the history of England, must know that in the few instances in which this extreme measure has been resorted to, it has been directly aimed at some secret cabal comprehending property, and rank, and station, with a view to defeat some growing conspiracy against the Crown by the seizure of some distinguished chiefs and leaders; in the single instance in 1234 which it has occurred in peace, we know that no less a personage than the premier duke of the realm, together with the bishop of Rochester and others, were the immediate objects of its operation; but arrest and carry off a score of journeymen stocking weavers, supposed to be implicated in this rebellion, not of the head but of the belly, and what have you gained? "a score as good as they" succeed them on the morrow, and so on till your already saturated gaols will no longer hold them. Indeed the under secretary of state has informed us, that some of these dangerous men have been turned loose as fast as others came in, and that the return he has presented to us only means that he keeps an average of from 30 to 40 ad libitum incarcerated. An hon. I gentleman on the floor was extremely indignant at this argument, but he will allow me to say he did not refute it; had he been in a condition to do so, we should not have been discussing here to-day such a proposition as this. If our laws are to be voted insufficient to meet such an exigency as the present, and it is determined to resort to some measure of violence, I agree with those who think that far more applicable would be some of the provisions of the Irish Insurrection act, by which a power is given to proclaim certain disturbed districts as coming under its operation, though God forbid that I should be supposed to recommend it. The law we passed this session for putting down all secret political associations, and restricting public I meetings (whether wise or justifiable or: not in all its enactments, I discuss not now), was at least apposite and efficacious. But for the measure now under our consideration, we have the mortification of knowing beforehand, not merely that it is violent and odious, but farther, that it is inapplicable and absurd.
It has been asked, however, whether any man supposes a minister would encumber himself with so troublesome a thing as arbitrary power, if it were not strictly necessary. Sir, I would refer those who ask the question to the history and practice of human nature. Is it or is it not the character and habit of power to extend its own authority and encroach upon the limits that restrain it? But in the present case I have a more specific; answer; and I say that a minister, weak in everything, save in the enormous and over-grown patronage and influence of the Crown, which he wields at his command, 1235 never yet felt, nor ever will feel, that he has power enough. Heap up your statute book with restrictive laws upon restrictive laws till the ancient constitution of the country is borne down, defaced, destroyed!—Still will you not have succeeded in making such an administration strong, because it carries within itself the principle of its own weakness. But here I wish to speak out plainly and boldly, and I say that if a minister of England in the third year of peace, of profound peace, with no external apprehension of any kind, with 19–20ths of the population sound at the core, as the noble member for Yorkshire well termed it, and not only disposed to co-operate with, but deeply interested in co-operating with the constituted authorities—with a large, well organized, civil police, capable upon occasion of almost indefinite extension—with a force of not less than 20,000 yeomanry cavalry, capable also of improvement by proper encouragement (which by-the-by like every thing else, save this detestable measure, was somewhat tardily thought of), and in addition to all this, with that which no peace minister ever had, and I trust never will have again—with an immense standing army at his back; if, I say, with all these advantages, a minister so circumstanced has not nerve enough to guarantee with his head the preservative of the public tranquillity, without sweeping away the last prop and stay of public liberty, there is indeed reason enough why he should be removed, but none at all why he should be appointed dictator.
The president of the board of control concluded a speech not so remarkable for its point or force as his speeches usually are (which I mention only as evidence of the badness of his cause), with declaring in an animated strain, that the object of this bill was to protect, not to oppress. It may be so; I have no doubt it is so; but has not this been the uniform apology for every usurpation of power by all governments in all time? When was the stride from limited to unlimited power ever made but it was done professedly for the good of the governed? and plausibly too; for the larger the power of the Crown, the greater undoubtedly are its means of protection to the subject. Of all governments, despotism would be the strongest and the best, if we could secure a succession of something more than men to administer it; but as that cannot be, and princes and 1236 ministers are but men, subjects must have their securities; ours we obtained with difficulty, and we must cling to them with a desperate tenacity. Sir, I should I be disposed, for one, to consider this bill as going in effect to repeal rather than to I suspend that without which the constitution of England is an empty sound, the I act of Habeas Corpus. For, in my conscience, I believe that there is no more I chance of this power if given now, being surrendered in the next session, than that the income tax would have been surrendered the next session had it been obtained—a chimera which no reasonable man at this time of day entertains. But upon their own reasoning it cannot be expected; for unless we are sanguine enough to imagine that we are destined soon again to hail the revival of all that factitious, and, in some respects I fear, pernicious prosperity which the war brought along with it, is there not too much ground to fear that the reasons of to-day will not be wanting to the gentlemen opposite in the next session? Our utmost hope then must be limited to an occasional taste, some slight reminiscence of our former liberties when trade happens to be brisk, and wages to run high—by the standard must in future be struck a sort of assize of the constitution; the returns from Nottingham and Manchester must henceforth be taken as the gauge and the criterion of British freedom.
Sir, I should be sorry to touch upon matter that might be offensive in any quarter, but I feel that I should not do my duty if I sat down without expressing an earnest and anxious hope that in this project we do not sec the offspring of too long and intimate a connexion with the despotic powers of Europe.—The recent circumstances of the world have unfortunately familiarised us too much with power in all its shapes. For a variety of reasons, I do not desire to press this subject farther, but I must say; that of all moments, the very last in which I should be disposed to entertain this question, would be that in which a league of military monarchs governs the universe—a league in which England has the honour, if such it be, of being numbered third or fourth—a league, some of the members of which, have not yet bethought them of redeeming their promises to the subjects of free constitutions and Habeas Corpus acts—a league the very best object of which appears to be to disarm!
1237 Much stress has been laid by more than one hon. member, and more especially I think by the hon. member for Corfe Castle (who appears to have long since abandoned all his old pretensions to any thing like neutrality, unless they are inherent in the seat which he appropriates to himself), upon the hands into which this terrible authority is to be committed. I cannot consent to single out one departmentally where all are equally responsible to parliament, and I must say, that if I have found myself unable to concede what is asked to the case produced, and the reasoning upon it, least of all shall I be disposed to concede it on the score of confidence. For I cannot forget, I ought not to forget, that they who now raise the cry of "Property in danger," are the same who heretofore, for their own purposes, were not ashamed to raise the cry of "Church in danger."—Still less can I forget that they into whose hands the confiding member for Corfe Castle is so ready to pour forth either this or any other power, are themselves deeply, criminally responsible for no small share of the imitation that has grown out of the public distress. Are they not the same ministers who, at the opening of the last session, sent down the Prince Regent to his parliament with an ironical congratulation on our internal prosperity,—thereby proving to the whole world that they knew nothing of the real state of the country, whose affairs they presumed to administer? The same who when on the return of peace, they should have applied themselves promptly and unremittingly to the wants and wishes of the people, were occupied only in interesting themselves in power by perpetuating a peace income tax with a war army? The same, in short, who were found jobbing when they should have been retrenching—who, goaded and beat and driven into every measure of economy, which real or fictitious they have since adopted, refused to the prayers and solicitations of the entire nation in the last session a parliamentary inquiry into the public expenditure?— and what followed I Have we not seen at the commencement of the present session in a fatal precedence, a committee of disaffection sit first, and a committee of retrenchment follow after?—is this fair play to the people I Is this justice to the prince whom they serve? Why then, I say, if things are indeed come to that pass that they call for the bill in my hand—be it so, —but let us hear no more of confidence.
1238 But I am sensible that I must be fatiguing the patience and attention of the House,—I will conclude by exhorting the House to pause before they resolve to aid and abet this system of error and of mischief.—If the instructions of a secretary of state to magistrates are to be held to have the force and effect of declaratory laws—if again, and always as against the people, the arbitrary dicta of a minister are to be paramount to a positive, express written statute, and prerogative is again to be conjured up to bear down law—if such are the means by which it is determined to meet the transient excesses of these unhappy men, who have heretofore by their industry contributed their share to the national prosperity, you will raise a flame in England, that who shall undertake to extinguish!
Sir, these local disorders must call principally for local and particular remedies,— they may further demand some additions to the general municipal law, and they have already received very large additions, —they must most especially require the well-directed vigilance and energy of a wise and prudent government—but never, let legislative violence be confounded with executive vigour !—For our more general domestic policy I should say,—let us, before it is too late, retract our errors, and retrace our steps—let us substitute a great and generous system of conciliation, of confidence, and of concession—of all errors it will be the noblest, of all dangers it will be the least. Instead of making experiments upon the public liberties, and playing tricks with the constitution; instead of reducing it by our vote of tonight to the level of that of the less favoured governments of the world, let us rather hold it up to the people in all its purity and integrity. Do not, after the example of the president of the board of control, talk to them only in admiration of what he terms its pliability, which means that you may twist and turn it to whatever you please, but tell them rather of its solidity, its stubbornness, or its immutability. Above all things teach them that the aristocracy, that men of property are not to be lightly induced to abandon in a panic the palladium of the people's rights. Teach them that, happen what will, that at least shall be held sacred and inviolate; for annihilate it, and you may build your Waterloo bridges and Waterloo monuments in record, and it will be a mournful omen of what a free people could 1239 achieve, but the spirit that conquered there will be no more! [Hear, hear!].
§ Colonel Stanhope
believed that this measure was calculated to secure the peace and happiness of the country. For his part, he placed the utmost reliance on the committee of secrecy, and on the report which they had made. The main cause of the disaffection which had appeared, arose from the distresses of the country: but though he admitted that the people had borne their sufferings with great fortitude, it was necessary to save them from the effects of their own phrenzy. He should, therefore, vote for the bill.
Sir F. Burdett
observed, that much had been said of the danger which threatened the constitution, but it was difficult for him to learn from the different speakers what the precise nature of that danger was. Some spoke of one danger and some of another, each raising a phantom of his own from which they professed to have the most dreadful apprehensions: nothing had, however, been said, to enable any man of common understanding to know what they meant, except indeed what had been said by the hon. member near him (Mr. Lamb), who had manfully and plainly told his opinion of it, that it was solely directed against the petitions which had been sent up by the people for reform and economy. The hon. gentleman had indulged himself pretty much in, assertions respecting the wild and visionary schemes, as be called them, which had lately been proposed by some individuals. He did not find fault with the hon. member for making such assertions, but he must say it was just as easy for him to say that the hon. member and his friends endeavoured to impose upon the people by delusive statements, and by measures tending to deprive them of their best and most sacred rights, which he (sir Francis) would defend to his latest breath. He was not in the least astonished to hear the hon. gentleman defend the borough system; on the contrary, it was natural that he should do so, as he was himself a borough nominee. The hon. gentleman could not blame him, if he attacked the system and its adherents, for to them he owed no allegiance, hut on the contrary eternal hostility, be lioving them, as he did, to be the cause of all those evils with which, unfortunately, this once happy country had been cursed. He knew the motive on which ministers acted in the present occasion, and he could frankly tell them, that it would be 1240 much better for them at once to make a law, declaring it to be high treason for the people to demand that they should be fairly represented in that House, and their complaints attended to. Much had been said about iusurrections and plots, but he asked, where did they exist, and even if they did exist, how was the present measure likely to remove or prevent them? The preamble to the original act spoke of a treasonable insurrection in the country, but he challenged any man to produce a single proof of this being a fact. The truth was, that the people saw what the state of the House was; they saw a total want of economy in every department of the state:—they saw burthens unnecessarily imposed on them; and they therefore complained. To get rid of these complaints was the sole object of this extraordinary measure, and to give it some appearance of being called for, plots were said to be formed to subvert the constitution. To accomplish this object spies were employed to disseminate disaffection and excite public irritation. That spies had been employed, was not denied by ministers, but defended on the ground of such employment being necessary in every free government. There could not exist a better criterion than this to judge of a government, for it certainly was degrading in the extreme to any government to think that it had not the affections of its subjects, and could not be carried on except by the employing of such infamous and detestable persons. What, then, must be the opinion formed of the British government, when its ministers could un-blushingly admit that they had employed and rewarded such miscreants? He at that moment held in his hand a vast number of letters, many of them from persons of high respectability, and well known to him, in which it was decidedly stated, that Oliver, one of this odious gang, had actually entrapped some individuals into the commission of those deeds, to prevent which was the professed object of the present bill. He had always considered these spies to be the instruments of tyranny, and when he contemplated what ministers now did, he could not help being forcibly struck with the line of policy pursued in America (the only free country he believed on earth), at the time our army had possession of its capital. Then indeed one would have thought was the time when a suspension should have taken place, if ever it was to take place, but the execu- 1241 tive government there felt too much respect for the people, and had too strong an attachment to the rights of man, to adopt such a measure. The learned civilian (Dr. Phillimore) had talked of the bill as a measure of intimidation, but if such a system as that of intimidation was once introduced, God only knew where it would end, or what it would lead to! Severity must lead to discontent, and this would afford a plea for additional severity. It was well known that this had been always the case, and indeed, what else had produced all the discontent in Ireland, and what had led to all the miseries in which she had been involved? It was just the same policy we in this county were called to adopt, and all, too, under the auspices and government of the noble lord on the other side. He held now in his hand several affidavits respecting the system then followed by that noble lord, to which he should for a moment or two call the attention of the House. One of them was by a John Hevey, tobacco and snuff-manufacturer in Dublin, who stated,
"That on the 4th of June, 1798, (when lord Castlereagh was first secretary of state to the lord lieutenant) deponent was arrested by a military party and taken to the Royal Exchange, which was then converted into a prison and place for the infliction of torture upon persons suspected, or said to be suspected, of treasonable practices. Saith, that at said period deponent was of the age of 24 years or thereabouts, and the partner of his father in the brewing business, which deponent superintended, and the nett profits of which amounted to about 3,000l. per annum. That whilst deponent was at the said Royal Exchange he was required by dean Beresford to give information to government as to treasonable persons and practices, who thereupon told deponent he would serve himself by complying, or words to that effect; and at the same time Henry Charles Sirr, esq. then town major of Dublin and a resident in the Castle (and having daily communications as deponent understood and believes with said lord Castlereagh, and the other efficient members of the Irish government), threatened to hang deponent. Saith, that after deponent, had been confined at the said Royal Exchange for about two days, he was removed to the prevot, where he remained about seven weeks, and was from thence transmitted to Kilkenny gaol. Saith, that the night before deponent's departure 1242 from the Prevot for Kilkenny, William Sandys (then brigade-major and prevot-martial) sent his servant in deponent's name, to deponent's house, for his (deponent's) horse, which was of the value of fifty guineas, or thereabouts, and which he accordingly got; and said Sandys, about the moment of deponent's departure, told deponent that he would never return from Kilkenny, as he would most certainly be hanged, or words to that import and effect. Saith, that deponent was, soon after his arrival at Kilkenny, tried by a court martial, and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, as it was notified to him, and was convicted by said court martial of being an united Irishman, upon the evidence of two witnesses, one of whom was under sentence of death, but promised pardon, as deponent understood and believes, for so swearing against deponent, although deponent positively saith, he never had in his life any communication or conversation about politics with the said witness; and the said other witness was confessedly perjured. Saith, that upon deponent's having heard of said extraordinary sentence, he immediately communicated it to his friends and relatives in Dublin, by whom, as deponent understood and believes, every effort was made to obtain an explanation of the grounds upon which it was passed without effect; and at length deponent's sister having presented a memorial to lord Cornwallis (then at the head of the Irish government), that nobleman was pleased to issue an order for deponent's liberation, grounded upon a revision by his lordship of the minutes of the said court-martial and a certificate to deponent's loyalty and general good conduct and character from the officers of the Roebuck corps of yeoman cavalry, which was, as deponent verily believes, one of the most respectable corps in the county of Dublin, and of which deponent was at the time a member. Saith, that sometime after deponent's said sentence, he was waited upon by general sir Charles Asgill, who then commanded the Kilkenny district, who stated his supposition that deponent was perfectly satisfied with the justice of his sentence, at which deponent having expressed surprise, the general then observed, 'We are told, Mr. Hevey, 'that you are about to memorial lord 'Cornwallis for your liberation, but you 'are not likely to succeed; you are that 'sort of a man whom government would 'wish to send out of the country, and, to 1243 'prevent any farther trouble, we will rescind that part of the sentence which 'relates to your transportation to Botany 'Bay, provided you will quit Ireland for 'seven years,' or words to that effect; to which proposition deponent declined to accede; and upon the following day, the said order of lord Cornwallis for deponent's release was communicated to him. Saith, that upon deponent's return from Kilkenny, having met said major Sandys, on Arran Quay, Dublin, in company with lord Enniskillen, deponent demanded from him his said horse, which however said Sandys, in an indignant tone of voice, refused to return, alleging that neither he (deponent) nor any other traitor should ever ride said horse, or words to that effect. Saith, that deponent thereupon commenced an action at law against said Sandys, for recovery of said horse, or the value thereof, upon which deponent received a note from Mr. Edward Cooke, the then undersecretary, and confidential friend of lord Castlereagh, and the brother in law of said Sandys, desiring to see deponent, and deponent having accordingly waited upon said Cooke was by him indignantly asked, whether deponent was not going to law with an officer of the government, and upon deponent's observing in answer, that he was only endeavouring by legal means to recover his property, said Cooke then exclaimed 'By God, Mr. Hevey, we will 'hang you yet—I can lay my finger, Sir, 'upon a certain paper, to show you that 'you are still in our power,' or words to that import. But upon deponent's saying he defied him to do so, he and his agents having already done all in their power to hang him, said Cooke, then said he would send for major Sandys, and inquire into the transaction. Deponent saith, he heard nothing further from either said Cooke or said Sandys until the trial of the action so commenced by deponent against the latter was about to take place, when deponent's law agent, received a notification from Mr. Kemmis, the Crown solicitor, and agent for said Sandys in the transaction; that deponent's said horse should be restored, and all the law expenses paid: which restoration and repayment took place accordingly. Deponent saith, that whilst he was id confinement, both at the Prevot and in Kilkenny, he experienced much rigour; and during his captivity in the former place, he saw several persons tied up and whipped, without any trial, as deponent believes, in or- 1244 der (as was avowed) to extort confession of guilt in themselves, or others from them and amongst the persons so treated, deponent recollects a Mr. Leach. Deponent saith, that from the frequent occurrence of said usuage of whipping and torture at the baracks, and various parts of Dublin, he is convinced in his conscience, and verily believes, that such practice was resorted to under the sanction of lord Castlereagh, Mr. Cooke, and other efficient I members of the Irish government; and further saith, that whilst in confinement at Kilkenny as aforesaid, said sir Charles Asgill refused deponent the allowance usually granted to persons in his situation, although deponent applied for same, conceiving himself to be entitled thereto, same having heretofore been usually granted to various persons similarly circumstanced as deponent. John Hevey."
He had another affidavit to the fact of torture having been inflicted, but as the House appeared not disposed to listen to these documents, he would not trouble them with it. He thought, however, that they ought to know what had been done in another country, under the same authority to which was to be entrusted the execution of the present measure, that at least they might do what they determined to do with their eyes open. The affidavit which he held in his hand, but which the House had not patience to hear, was that of a person who had undergone the most cruel, wicked, and atrocious torture that could be imagined. He wished the House to be fully aware of these facts. He wished them to trace the bloody steps of the ministry of Ireland, and to recollect that they were going to put this country in the power of a noble lord, whose hands were as deep in the transactions of the days to which those affidavits alluded as those of any minister of that period.—At the head of the spies which the present administration called in to their aid was Mr. Reynolds, whose name he had never heard any one from Ireland pronounce without shuddering. That person had found his way into a grand jury in this country, that found an indictment which was proceeded on with the assistance of other spies. Now, he believed that the presence of such a person in a grand jury vitiated all its proceedings. An act of Henry 4th excluded from grand juries persons who had been pardoned for offences, and persons who had taken sanctuary for treason. He knew not if Mr. 1245 Reynolds was a pardoned person. If so, undoubtedly he was not fit to sit on a grand jury. Certainty he might be considered, in the eye of reason, to have taken sanctuary for treason; for he had confessed his crimes and thrown himself on the mercy of government. Lord Coke stated, that an improper person of the name of Scarlet having got into a grand jury, and that fact having been discovered, it was determined by all the judges that the proceedings of that jury were vitiated and rendered void. Looking at the whole of the recent law proceedings, the House would see nothing but spies. There was one notorious spy on the grand jury by which the indictment was found. Then there were other spies brought forward on the trial. He had heard of voters being dressed up at an election to support a particular candidate; but he had never before heard of a witness being dressed up by government to give his evidence in a state trial, in order by imparting to him a respectable appearance to impose on the court. Spies were traversing the country in all directions. Such men as Castles (who, it was proved, had himself placed in the waggon the ammunition which had created so much alarm in the right hon. gentlemen opposite) were every where employed by government. Could any thing be more odious and detestable than such a system? An informer, who, guilty-struck, confessed his crime, might with propriety give such evidence as should prevent the mischief which he had engaged to assist in perpetrating; but what could equal the infamy of a hired spy, who, if he could not find offence, would make it—who, if he knew of a green bag, would take care to discover enough to fill it? It was impossible that the mind of man could contemplate any thing more atrocious. The noble lord, however, had said, the other evening, that he would employ them, or take any other steps that he chose, although he might thereby disturb the social comfort of traitors. What the noble lord meant by that expression, he did not know, except he alluded to the social comfort of cabinet dinners. Such was not the mode of carrying on the government of England. It was not what the people or even the gentlemen of England would long bear. If the noble lord did not know how to govern by law, he had better make room for those who did. The bill before the House was 1246 not properly designated as a bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus. It was a great deal more. It gave powers which government would not possess, had no Habeas Corpus act existed. Were there no Habeas Corpus, persons apprehended would be left to their remedy by the old law; and, although, perhaps, slowly, would certainly some time or other, be brought before a jury. But the present measure would enable ministers to imprison men as long as they pleased, and not bring them to trial at all. To imprison, them, too, in solitary confinement! Although he would certainly not be disposed to give it, yet the power of hanging without trial would be a better power to confer than the power given by this bill; because the one, being done in the open day, would not be so likely to be abused as the other. Ministers did not seem even to know whom they had already imprisoned under the act. Persons of former times had been left in the dungeons of the Bastile until they were forgotten, and the secretary of state now thought it hard to be called on suddenly to know what he had done with the Englishmen taken into custody under his warrant. He confessed he was astonished at the concurrence in this measure of an hon. and religious gentleman who laid claim to superior piety, as it unquestionably was of all others, the most hostile to vital Christianity. Nothing could be more opposite to all the laws of Christianity, as well as morality—nothing could be more antichristian than to shut up persons in solitary confinement, and cut them off from all communication with their nearest and dearest friends. The hon. and religious gentleman no doubt recollected the denunciation of Jesus against the wicked: "I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was naked, and ye clothed me not; I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me not." How affecting was the last clause of this passage! "I was sick and in prison;" two of the greatest calamities that could befal human nature. But when to that was added, that the sick prisoner was deprived of every other consolation, what could be said of those men who not only did not visit him themselves, but would not allow others to do so? Could any thing be more atrocious? Could any thing be more contrary to the spirit of humanity which pervaded the law of England?—Another material part of the 1247 bill was, that it allowed government to send the persons whom they apprehended to distant gaols; thus augmenting their hardships and their danger. The hon. and religious member was shocked the other day at the description of the Africans chained and carried into slavery. How happened it that the hon. and religious member [Order, order!] was not shocked at Englishmen being taken up under this act (not having committed any crime) and treated like the African slaves —chained, and sent to a distance? Some were so sent hundreds of miles. Several had been brought from Manchester to the secretary of state's office, under this torture and ignominy; and the only satisfaction they had was, to be introduced to a complaisant and well-behaved gentleman by whom, however, they were not informed of the cause of their apprehension. One of these unfortunate individuals had been sent to Reading, where he was cutoff from all intercourse with society; and, according to the statement of his noble friend near him, driven almost, if not quite, into a state of madness. The constitution of England was so careful to protect every man before he was proved guilty, that it placed those who were accused in the custody of the sheriff, who was answerable for their safety. Modern acts of parliament had introduced a new jurisdiction on this subject—that of the magistrates. But now not even the magistrates were allowed any authority. They were not permitted to see the prisoners. What sort of government must that be which could entertain such a jealousy of the magistrates as not to permit them to see the prisoners but to shut up those prisoners in close confinement, au secret, as the French call it? Some hon. gentleman had said, that the people must be better educated before they could be trusted. Was that the mode of educating them—to shut them up without books, without papers? What could be the object of such prohibitions? The whole system was one of as detestable and wicked torture as the mind of man could conceive. And yet the House were told that no complaint was made of any abuse of the powers entrusted to government. The hon. member for Hertfordshire had presented a petition from a person imprisoned a good many years ago, under a similar suspension, which afforded a tolerable instance of abuse. Still, however, the House were told that there never had been any abuse. He conceived it 1248 to be impossible that the House could consent to give up the personal security of every man in England on the flimsy grounds contained in the reports on the subject: more especially when some of the members of the committee who were of the greatest weight, had declared that although the facts stated were true, the deduction was not so; and that every circumstance had been carefully omitted which was calculated (in the expressive language of a noble lord) to "disalarm" the public. Nor was it surprising that such should be the opinion of the most important members of the committee, when the foul source of the information laid before them was considered—those spies who lived on blood-money, and who, as the disturbers in the manufacturing districts were called Luddites, might with great propriety receive the appellation of Bloodites.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
would not have troubled the House, but for a sort of call made upon him by the hon. baronet, who was greatly mistaken if he thought that the sarcasms he had used did not rather injure himself than others. It was not always those who talked the loudest and the longest about their love and admiration of the constitution that were the most sincere in their professions, and he could assure the hon. baronet and those for whose good opinion he was more solicitous, that he had painfully and reluctantly brought his mind to consent to the measure before the House. In the present circumstances of the country, it appeared to him, that it would be most dangerous when parliament was dismissed, to set at large those who had long been employed in spreading poison that had already attacked the vitals of the constitution, he could scarcely believe it possible, that even the hon. baronet should speak with levity of the first report, which showed undeniably that the feelings of Englishmen had been so perverted, that they could now look without blenching at the most horrid crimes; that private assassination was become familiar to them; and that they did not even shrink from assassination for hire. Were these principles which could be circulated without danger? If any fear could be entertained of the establishment of absolute power in this country, it would arise from that very source; other times and other countries proved it; and if any man, or any body of men, wished to make a tyrant firm upon 1249 his throne, no better mode could be adopted than to employ a man of popular talents, and possessing public confidence, who would go all lengths, and who, when the flame of discord was beginning its ravages, would choose that opportunity of scattering his firebrands. It was because he was sensible of the name of constitutional privileges, that he, for one saw the necessity of consenting to the proposed measure, which he solemnly thought indispensable to prevent, when parliament should be separated, proceedings tending so materially to corrupt the moral and political feelings of the people. It was true, that there was no regular party in the country with great leaders, as in 1715 and 1745; and in one view he allowed that the present case was therefore less dangerous. But still in the former case the extent of the danger could be estimated. In the latter, it went to the destruction of the political and moral mind of the people of England, and threatened the extremity of mischief, and misery. He voted most unwillingly for the measure, from a strict sense of duty. He could assure the hon. baronet that religion had taught him a lesson on the subject—it had taught him to value the blessings which the country enjoyed, and to hand them down unimpaired to posterity.
§ Sir Godfrey Webster
rose for the purpose of entering his solemn protest against the passing of this bill. A noble lord (Nugent) had asserted that he would rather witness popular commotion than the enslavement of his country, and the observation had been cheered as inconsistent with a due regard for the constitution; but in confirmation of the sentiment he begged to refer to a speech of a man whose name was coupled not only with the liberty but the glory of his country—the great lord Chatham, who, in a speech delivered in 1770, had used these remarkable words: "It was the duty of that House to inquire into the causes of the notorious dissatisfaction expressed by the whole English nation, to state those causes to their sovereign, and then to give him their best advice in what manner he ought to act. The privileges of the greatest and the meanest subjects stood upon the same foundation: it was therefore their highest interest as well as their bounden duty, to watch over and protect the rights of the people. The liberty of the subject," said he, "is invaded, not only in our distant provinces, but at 1250 home. The people are loud in their complaints—they demand redress, and until the injuries they have received are redressed, they will never return to a state of tranquillity, nor ought they; for, in my judgment, my lords, and I speak it boldly, better were it for them to perish in a glorious contention for their rights, than to purchase a slavish tranquillity at the expense of a single iota of the constitution." He believed in his conscience and soul that the bill was unnecessary; that ministers were committing the treason of which they accused others; and that they were feeling, step by step, how far they could establish arbitrary power in the country.
The Lord Mayor
said, he had seen in a paper that day what was called a corrected report of the speech of a right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Addington), in which it was said, that every fact contained in his (the lord Mayor's) speech of a former evening, was refuted. His lordship proceeded to controvert some of the assertions then made, particularly with regard to the time and manner the rioters were defeated at the Royal Exchange, and to the employment of the military in the city. The right hon. gentleman had said, that his noble relative, the secretary of state, had at one o'clock heard of the rioters being in Skinner's-street, which was soon after he went to the Horse-guards, and sent off a troop of life-guards. The mob had left Skinner's-street, and was dispersed at the Exchange, at half past twelve o'clock, and the few persons that attacked the gun-smiths in the Minories had left and were scattered and throwing the arms in the street when the life-guards arrived at Aldgate. His lordship observed, that his statement of facts might be unpleasant to the gentlemen opposite, but though a new member, he was determined he would not be put down by any interruptions or clamour. What might have been the motives for republishing the right hon. gentleman's speech three days after it was delivered, he could not imagine, unless it was to mislead the people, and to impress the House with the necessity of this measure, and then to get an additional vote or two in support of it.
The Lord Advocate
said, that he had come all the way from Edinburgh on purpose to meet those who had arraigned his conduct in his absence, and had through him attacked the administration of the law of Scotland. He deemed it encumbent 1251 on him to explain to the House the proceedings to which he alluded, in order to show that there was no ground for with-holding from government the powers now asked, from any abuse that had taken place in Scotland. The learned lord then went into a number of details with respect to the proceedings which had taken place in Scotland, and in which he was concerned. By the act for wrongous imprisonment, on a prisoners giving sixty days notice, if after the expiration of forty days an indictment was not preferred against him, he was entitled to his discharge. But what if another capital offence had been committed? The same sixty days notice would be required, and then forty days for preferring the indictment. But if both offences were put into one charge, he tied up his own hands and those of his successors, and prevented any more than one delay from taking place. By including, therefore, a charge of treason and capital felony in one indictment, he did that which was favourable to the subject, instead of being an act of oppression. Was it fair, therefore, to insinuate that he had been guilty of oppression in this case? It had been stated by a learned gentleman, that prisoners had been removed from one gaol to another for the purpose of secluding them from their friends and acquaintance. But seclusion could not take place by the law of Scotland. So far from refusing admission to the friends of the prisoners, not only all those whom the prisoners asked to see were admitted to them, but many whom they did not ask to see. To gain admission to prisoners an application to the court of justiciary is necessary if the consent of the lord advocate is not obtained, but he undertook to look into every application himself, and always signed his consent on the spot. He could state on the authority of one of the counsel for the prisoners, and one of the most bustling and active of the counsel, who was not now in his place (Mr. J. P. Grant), that the prisoners were never better treated in their lives than they were when under confinement. With respect to another statement, that an individual had been twice on his trial for the same offence, and was about to be tried a third time; that the indictment had been twice quashed for informality; and that by the law of Scotland a man might be a thousand times brought to trial for the same offence without control; he rather thought the learned gentleman's (Mr. 1252 Brougham) memory must have failed him since he studied the law of Scotland, or he never could have stated that a prosecutor could abandon an indictment without the consent of the court. On his stating to the court at the same time, that he intended to proceed to a new trial, it was in the breast of the court to say whether or not the motion of the prosecutor should be agreed to. So far, therefore, from bringing a man up a thousand times, he could not bring him up a second time, unless the court themselves were party to the measure. It had been said, that two indictments were quashed on account of informality. Now he had to state that not one was quashed on account of informality, and there was not a vestige of authority for saying so. He then went into a particular statement respecting the indictments, to show that they had not been quashed. He had been unfairly attacked when he had no power to answer. He was rather surprised, therefore, that those who made the attack did not think, proper to follow it up. He had sat there during the whole of the night in expectation that they would come forward; and if they waited till he had made his statement, and then came forward to attack him—if he was unfairly dealt with before, this would be still more unfair. [Loud cheers.]
§ Sir S. Romilly
said he was not much acquainted with Scotch law, and he was not extremely desirous, from what he had heard of it, of being better acquainted with it. He was sorry to say, however, that the statement of the learned lord had not given that satisfaction to him which it seemed to have done to those around him. The learned lord thought he had been unfairly dealt with in being allowed to wait so long without following up the charge against him. Really he did not know the learned lord was so soon to return to Scotland; and when the House were discussing the important question, whether the people of England were to be deprived of their liberties, he did not think that that important business ought to stand still, for the sake of bringing forward a charge against the learned lord.
§ Mr. Brougham
believed the speeches which had given the greatest offence to the learned lord, were not those of himself or his learned friend, but the speeches of the members for Lanarkshire and for Glasgow. The learned lord complained of the hardship of not having the charge followed up against him that night. But 1253 he (Mr. Brougham) was quite sure, if he had done so, while such a question was before the House, the House would not have allowed him to go on five minutes. The learned lord accused him of ignorance of the Scotch law, in stating that a man might be brought to trial a thousand times for the same offence. Now, he held in his hands a printed report of the trial in Scotland. By that report, it appeared, that the lord advocate himself was during this trial acting upon what he (Mr. B.) had supposed to be the Scotch law; but the prisoner's counsel got a light which the learned lord had also now got, and objected, that the lord advocate had no power to desert an indictment without an interlocutor of the court. When this objection was stated, one learned judge was inclined to be of the same opinion, but the majority of the lords of justiciary were inclined to think that the objection was not well founded; that was, that a man might be brought to trial a thousand times over if the lord advocate thought fit. The records, however, were ordered to be searched, and the result was, that all the judges came over to the opinion of the small minority.
wished to know whether the bill in its present state should extend to Scotland. It was said, that according to the laws of Scotland no warrant would run there which was not signed by a person resident in Scotland.
The Lord Advocate
said, he had no doubt that the bill in its present state would extend to Scotland. For a century and a half the warrants of a Scottish secretary, resident in London had operated in Scotland.
§ The House divided:—For the third reading, 195; against it, 65.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, hon. J.||Cochrane, lord|
|Atherley, A.||Duncannon, vise.|
|Aubrey, sir John||Douglas, hon. F. S.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Deerhurst, vise.|
|Barham, J. F.||Fazakerley, N.|
|Barnett, J.||Fergusson, sir R. C.|
|Birch, J.||Folkestone, visc.|
|Brougham, Henry||Gordon, R.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Gurney, Hudson|
|Byng, Geo.||Gaskell, Benj.|
|Burroughs, sir W.||Heron, sir R.|
|Barclay, C.||Howorth, H.|
|Browne, D.||Hughes, W. L.|
|Calcraft, John||Hurst, Robt.|
|Calvert, C.||Hill, lord A.|
|Campbell, hon. J.||Lefevre, C. S.|
|Carter, J.||Leader, Wm.|
|Lloyd, J. M.||Rancliffe, lord|
|Methuen, Paul||Romilly, sir S.|
|Madocks, W. A.||Spencer, lord R.|
|Martin, H.||Scudamore, R. P.|
|Monck, sir C.||Shaw, sir James|
|Moore, Peter||Sefton, earl of|
|North, D.||Smith, J.|
|Nugent, lord||Smith, W.|
|Orde, W.||Smyth, J. H.|
|Ossulston, lord||Tavistock, marquis of|
|Parnell, sir H.||Wood, Matthew|
|Peirse, Henry||Warre, J. A.|
|Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.||Wharton, John|
|Protheroe, Edw.||Webster, sir G.|
|Powlett, hon. W.||TELLERS.|
|Pym, Francis||Bennet, hon. H. G.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||Macdonald, James|
§ Mr. S. Wortley
proposed an amendment, with the approbation of lord Castlereagh, to leave out the words "six weeks after the meeting of parliament," to insert as the term of the bill the 1st of March, 1818. On this a further amendment was proposed by Mr. Wynn, to substitute the 25th of December, 1817. The House divided on the question "that the 1st of March do stand part of the bill," Ayes, 152. Noes, 50. The Bill was then passed.