moved, that the Petitions of Francis Ward, William Benbow, John 461 Knight, Samuel Haynes, Joseph Thomas Evans, William Ogden, John Stewart, and John Bagguley,* who had been imprisoned under the act for the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus, praying the House to investigate the treatment which they had received, should be entered as read, which was done accordingly.—His lordship then proceeded to observe, that when he presented the petition of Francis Ward to the House, he had stated that he should afterwards move to have that and the other petitions, presented on the same subject, referred to a committee of the House, when they might take into their consideration all the circumstances detailed in those petitions. He was anxious, as early as possible, to bring this case before the House, because it had been intimated, by a noble lord, that a bill of indemnity to the servants of the Crown would be asked for as a matter of course; that the question was to be brought forward, not for the grave and serious discussion of the House, not as a measure that was to depend on its own merits, and to be rejected or approved as the conduct of his majesty's ministers should warrant; but as a measure which the ministers were entitled to demand of the House, and which the House, in its legislative capacity, could not refuse. It appeared to him, that a strange confusion prevailed in the minds of several persons with respect to that bill. They seemed to think, that it' was really due to the ministers of the Crown, as the noble lord had stated, without any previous investigation; but if he knew any thing of the principles of our constitution, he would be bold to say, that it was the duty of the House, on this occasion, to take care, not so much of the ministers of the Crown, as of the liberties of the people. Before they suffered themselves to give any countenance to a bill of indemnity, they should see that the people had not been damnified: they should first appoint a committee to examine the grievances which the petitioners had stated, and to ascertain whether the ministers had not exceeded their powers. Nothing could be more hostile to the spirit of liberty, nothing more destructive of that generous system which our forefathers had delivered down to us, than the doctrine that a bill of this nature should be passed as a matter of course.—* For copies of the said Petitions, see p. 104, 192, and 412.462 The Habeas Corpus act had, within the last hundred and twenty-four years, been frequently suspended—no fewer than nine, ten, or twelve times; but these suspensions had been followed by a bill of indemnity only on one occasion, and it was curious that that bill of indemnity was asked by the same gentleman who now asked for one; for though they did not occupy the same situations which they now occupied, it was the same individuals who applied then that applied now. So that the only instance of a bill of indemnity was a precedent of their own: they acted wrong in the first instance, and now they thought to benefit by their own wrong: they were calling upon the House to screen them from the consequences of their late violations of the law, merely, as they stated, because they had been protected from such consequences before! But he wished to observe to the House, that bills of indemnity, in cases of suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, were altogether of modern date—he had taken some pains to look into the proceedings of parliament, and he could find no precedent earlier than the 40th of the present king. It was always to be borne in mind, that the House had yet had no satisfactory proof of the necessity for vesting ministers with the extraordinary powers which the suspension of the Habeas Corpus had conferred on them. When they applied to the legislature for the bill by which this was effected, they asserted, that sedition and treason prevailed in several counties, and that the ordinary powers of the law were not sufficient to repress them. This was the ground upon which they desired to be intrusted with extraordinary powers. But what had been the result? The only instance which could at all be adduced of any outrage having arisen from the evil spirit which was said to prevail was, the frame-breaking at Derby and Nottingham, followed by the trials for high treason at Derby, where three individuals suffered the punishment of the law. No gentleman had shown that any other case of treason had been found to exist. It was evident, therefore, that the dangers of the country had been exaggerated beyond their proper dimensions; and that they might have been removed, had government taken a different course from that which they had pursued. But as to the manner in which ministers had exercised their powers, the very fact of their asking a bill of indemnity was an 463 admission of their having abused them. From the beginning to the end of the business, it seemed to him that they had violated the law in every respect; and he was at a loss to know how gentlemen would justify themselves in the eyes of their constituents—in what manner they could reconcile it to their, own consciences—to grant an indemnity under such circumstances.
It was admitted on all hands, that ministers had received, by the Suspension act, no new powers of apprehension and release—they had only received the additional power of retaining persons arrested, without bringing them to trial, beyond the term fixed by law for that purpose. They had no new power of taking up persons without warrant issued in the usual manner. There was a regular form and process in which only men could be arrested; they ought to know the accusation against them, and to be themselves examined. This was the case with respect to every inferior crime—the subject was regulated by law-books and by acts of parliament. Not one of the regular forms had been complied with in the present case. He would not at present dispute the power of the secretary of state to issue warrants to apprehend persons on a charge of high treason; but he must observe, that this power, said to be vested in the secretary of state, was undoubtedly an anomaly. It was a usurpation, and not above a hundred and fifty years old. It had been disputed at the time of the Revolution, and it was only by a decision in the time of king William that it was confirmed. One of the judges declared on that occasion (as appeared by sir Benjamin Shower's Reports), that he conceived the secretary of state had power to administer an oath, because he had power to commit. It would have been a much more legitimate conclusion, to have inferred that he could not commit, because he could not administer an oath. Lord Camden said, he founded his opinion entirely on that decision. But, as he had already said, he did not now mean to dispute the power of the secretary of state to commit. It was a right, however, of modern practice, which some of the greatest lawyers had pronounced to be a usurpation, and a perfect anomaly—and if that power was continued, they ought to put an end to the anomaly by giving a power to the secretary of state to administer an oath. But if the secretary of state had‡464 the power to issue warrants to apprehend persons on a charge of high treason, he ought not to do this without attending to certain forms. He did not find any statute or any other guide to determine the form to be gone through, before the secretary of state could issue such warrant; but he could not doubt that the same forms ought to be observed in cases of high treason, which were used in the case of all inferior crimes; and he knew that the forms of proceeding, in the case of inferior crimes, were pointed out and directed by law. A justice of peace, before committing, in the case of inferior crimes, must take the examination of the party, and the oath of the accuser, and transmit them to the proper court where the person so committed would have to be tried. Was the law to take all these precautions in the case of inferior crimes, and to be blind in the case of higher offences? and was the secretary of state to be absolved from the necessity of taking the precautions which every magistrate was bound to take? But in cases of treason itself, justices of peace, in ordering commitments, were bound by act of parliament to proceed in the same way as in the case of inferior crimes. A justice of peace could only commit for treason as felony and breach of the peace, and proceed in the same manner as in cases of felony, or breach of the peace.
Now none of these forms had been observed with respect to any of the persons whose petitions lay on the table. With respect to the individual whose petition he had first presented, Francis Ward, the proceedings against him had originated not with the secretary of state, but with the magistrates of Nottingham.—The officers began searching his house without showing any warrant or authority whatever. The proceedings in that case appeared indeed to have been irregular from the very beginning. Next, with respect to the treatment of those persons in prison, he knew he should be told that on this subject there was great exaggeration— and it might be so. He himself had happened to see the directions sent down by the secretary of state to one of the prisons where several of these persons were confined. It was a particular order that irons should not be used unless necessary. But though the secretary of state gave such directions, he took care that the magistrates should not be allowed to see whether these orders were attended to or 465 not—whether or not the persons were subject to ill treatment—and therefore, notwithstanding the order, he would say, that the secretary of state was responsible for every instance of ill treatment contrary to It is own directions. But supposing even that their ill treatment was exaggerated— supposing even that the evils which they endured might be described too emphatically—it was by no means wonderful, that men taken as the petitioners were from their families, and detained so long in confinement, should be very impatient under their imprisonment; and express that impatience in terms of strong resentment. But there was one part of their treatment which was not exaggerated—their solitary confinement —a thing unknown to our old law—and in the opinion of many persons so grievous a punishment, that it was not inferior to death itself. He begged leave to read an entry from the Journals, to show the idea which was formerly entertained of solitary confinement. It was in 1689, and it referred to the case of lord Castlemaine, who was confined in the Tower under a warrant of the secretary of state, on a charge of high treason. In a petition to the House, of which he was a member, he desired that he might have the liberty of the Tower, and that he might not be kept in close confinement; and the House being informed that he was not allowed to see his friends or servants, an order was made that they should be admitted to him, that a bill should be brought in to regulate the imprisonment of the subject,* and that Mr. Attorney General should prosecute the keeper of Newgate; such were the resolutions of the Commons at that time; and he hoped that the House would follow the example, and appoint a committee to examine into the truth of the matters alleged in these petitions, and take measures for giving redress.
But he contended also, that the manner in which the petitioners was discharged was as contrary to the practice of the law, as the manner in which they had been committed to prison. He would ask the attorney-general how persons could get out of gaol who were committed to be delivered in due course of law, without pardon or acquittal? They could only come out by due course of law, except* See New Parliamentary History, Vol. 5, p. 406.466 by pardon. Letting them out on their own recognizances, was only letting them out on an inferior sort of bail. Now, he would contend, that the manner in which the petitioners were allowed to come out was as illegal on the part of the officers of the Crown, as it was unjust towards the petitioners themselves. It was illegal because it was contrary to all the statutes from Edward the first; and unjust, because it left the parties with a stigma on their characters, which, if they had been tried, would most probably not have attached to them. The first statute on this subject was that of the 3rd of Edward 1st, commonly called the statute of Westminster. This act went to replevins, the only sort of bail known at that time; and from this it was argued in favour of the power of a secretary of state to commit, that the power which the king formerly possessed had been transferred to the secretary of state. A magistrate could not bail in a case where he could not commit. By a subsequent statute of Philip and Mary, it was enacted, that all the offences were not bailable which had been enumerated in the statute of Westminster; and that a magistrate could not discharge a prisoner upon his recognizance, if committed on a charge of high treason. So that if it was true that these persons were committed for high treason, they could not be let out on bail, much less on their recognizances.— and their discharge was contrary to law. If it was said, that had this been illegal, the court of King's-bench would have objected to the proceeding— he could only answer, that the court had only then to consider of the recognizances, so that the question of the legality of their discharge was non coram judice; and as to any argument deduced from the voluntary appearance of the prisoners in the court to have their recognizances discharged, and the acknowledgment of the legality of the preceding thereby implied, the answer was, that no subsequent act of the prisoners could have any retrospective effect, so as to render legal what was net previously decided to be according to law. But even admitting that magistrates had the power of bailing for high treason, they did not possess that power as lately exercised; for in the case of the prisoners, one magistrate had taken their recognizances in some instances, whereas by the act of Philip and Mary, in all bailable offences it was necessary that the bail should be 467 given before two justices, and one of those the justice who had taken the examination. The mode, therefore, in which these persons were discharged was contrary to law, as well as their discharge itself. It was obvious, that if this system was pot stopped, the secretary of state would possess a dreadful power of punishing without trial.
An hon. and learned friend of his had lately expatiated, with great truth, on the evils arising from the delay of justice in the Northern counties. Suppose that in one of those Northern counties which had been alluded to—Westmoreland for instance— a man were committed by the secretary of state a week after the assizes; there he might lie for eleven months, and upon the near approach of the next assizes might be bailed by a magistrate, who had no right to do so, and discharged, without having any remedy for his long imprisonment. Such a case might arise at any future period in the four Northern counties, if the principle lately acted upon were admitted to be law. It was true he might bring his action for false imprisonment; but if no more information were given him of the charge against him than had been given the men who had been confined under the late suspension act; that is, if he was not allowed to know the facts with which, or the persons by whom, he was charged—two or three witnesses might be brought forward who would swear to particular facts, and he would have the costs to pay.
It might appear strange, that he who was so decidedly against the state imprisonments—who thought the arrest and treatment of the persons who had suffered by them were uncalled for and oppressive —should yet complain of their discharge; but on a little consideration it would be allowed that he was perfectly consistent. He complained of the manner in which these men were discharged, because it took from them all remedy—because it deprived them of all means of clearing their character, and obtaining compensation for the losses they had suffered, and the hardships to which they had been subjected. But this was not his only motive, nor was it the only duty of the House to see these men righted. It was the duty of the House to take notice of the violation of the laws, and to punish those who were their violators, though the petitioners had had no connexion with the transactions in question, and had no com- 468 plaints to make against the government. In alluding to what was said in a former debate, that no person of consequence was imprisoned under the suspension act, that no gentleman was arrested who could make his complaints be heard through the medium of his speeches, that no victim was made whose fate and sufferings could excite the attention or call forth the indignation of the country, he declared his belief that such a position was true; and that his majesty's ministers were well aware of the security they derived from the low rank of their prisoners. They seized upon them because they wanted victims of some kind to justify their measures, and it was not safe to lay hold of others who would not have submitted so quietly to their fate, or have accepted of their discharge on such conditions, who could neither have been imprisoned nor turned out of prison without creating some noise. Not only was the rank of these victims such as to preclude them from making their complaints be heard with effect, but the House was told that their complaints ought not to be listened to, because their allegations were false.— It had been argued, that they could not be believed, and that therefore their petitions for inquiry laid no sufficient ground for the present motion. Even admitting the premises of the gentlemen opposite, he could not see the justness of their conclusion. If the allegations of the petitioners were as false as they were contended to be, he still thought his motion ought to be entertained, in order to have them disproved, and to show to the country that ministers, in the exercise of the extraordinary powers entrusted to them, had not proceeded with unnecessary rigour or acted contrary to the authority of law. He had been told that Francis Ward, whose petition he had made the ground of his motion, was a bad character, and therefore unworthy of the attention of the House. But he would ask, on what ground the charge was advanced? Had he done any thing which had been proved against him?—Had he been convicted of any offence? On the old maxim of law, which he was sorry to see discountenanced by some members of the House, every man ought to be presumed innocent till he was found to be guilty; and this person ought therefore to be considered as honest and credible till he was convicted of being the contrary. He would not only rely on this general doc- 469 trine, but he would say that he had the authority of government itself for declaring that this Ward was not a dangerous character, if the secretary of state might be judged by his acts. The Habeas Corpus act was suspended in March, and the object of it (an improper object, in his opinion), was declared to be to confine dangerous persons. Yet Ward was not apprehended till late in June, after the disturbance in Nottingham, and the outrages in the neighbourhood, which was represented as in rebellion. He had a right therefore to conclude, that Ward was not a person of a dangerous character, or he would have been previously apprehended (if the secretary of state had not suffered him to continue at large, that he might become one of his victims); and that having been apprehended he would have been brought to trial, instead of being discharged. But he did not think the question of the character of the man, as it applied to the present motion, a matter of any consequence. It might be more advantageous, if an impression on the feelings of the House were regarded, that the first petition which should be brought forward, should be from a man whose character stood clear; as, for instance, the man whose petition had that night been presented by his hon. and learned friend. As a matter of justice, it would be better perhaps, that if the cases themselves were equal, that if this man, whose character was not clear, should be first attended to by the House, because such a person was less likely to receive assistance and protection from others in obtaining justice. A testimonial had been sent to him with the petition of Ward, by persons who stated themselves to be his neighbours, but who were not known to him (lord F.) to the good character of Ward. He should not, however, take up the time of the House with any arguments on this subject, for he did not ground his motion on the character of the petitioners but on the breach of the law which had taken place in their persons, and he thought the House would see the absolute necessity of inquiring a little into the treatment of those who had been apprehended, imprisoned, and subsequently got rid of in the manner he had described, He hoped the House would agree with him, and he should move, "That a Committee be appointed to examine into the truth of the allegations of the said Petitions, and report their opinions thereupon to the House."
said, on rising to make some observations on the motion of the noble lord, he must first ask whether that motion was consistent with the notice which the noble lord had given to the House? He had understood the noble lord formerly to allude to the case of Francis Ward, and to give notice that he would move for a specific inquiry into the allegations of his petition. He had, however, widely departed from that declared intention, and had introduced into his speech the discussion of, more comprehensive topics, connected with the general measure of the Suspension act, and the cases of all those who had been imprisoned under the powers which it conferred. But though the noble lord had altered his course by taking all the petitions for the basis of his motion, it did not follow that he (lord Castlereagh) should alter his; nor would he do so. He would particularly advert to the case of Ward, which the noble lord threw in the back ground, and for inquiring into which, had the noble lord confined himself to it, he would not have objected to a committee. He was willing to allow that, if such a committee had been appointed, the noble lord might consistently have moved to refer other petitions to it; but by his speech he had departed from the grounds of his motion, and had dwelt only on the necessity of a general investigation. The noble lord had alluded to the probability that his majesty's ministers would introduce a bill of indemnity to protect them from any of the legal consequences of the late exercise of the powers intrusted to them by parliament, and he had declared that he had bestowed some attention to the nature and history of such measures; but he could not compliment the noble lord on the accuracy of his reasoning, or the success of his research. The noble lord had said, that though there were numerous instances of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, from the commencement of the last century down to the present time, yet that there was only one precedent for a bill of indemnity, and that had been passed as a protection to a cabinet composed nearly of the same persons who were now about to apply for it. Relying on the accuracy of this statement, the noble lord had called upon ministers to produce another instance of the passing of a bill of indemnity after the exercise of the powers conferred by the suspension act; but the noble lord must allow him to 471 set him right, by stating the converse of that proposition; and he apprehended that he should be more correct in challenging the noble lord to produce an instance where it was necessary to exercise the extraordinary powers of the suspension, which was not followed by an act of indemnity. The last precedent, the bill of indemnity in 1801 was pretty extensive, for it extended to acts done under all the suspensions of the constitution from 1793 to 1801. But in the reign of king William there were not less than three bills of indemnity passed. There was one after the rebellion in 1715 and another after the rebellion in 1745. In fact, the noble lord would find, that an act of indemnity had been granted in every case where a suspension act had passed, and where the mischiefs to be provided against had led to the necessity of putting extraordinary powers into the hands of the ministers of the Crown for the stability of government, and the safety of the country.
The noble lord had assumed, that an application for a measure of this kind, after the exercise of the extraordinary powers put into the hands of government by the legislature, amounted always to a confession of the oppressive rigour with which they had acted, and of the commission of deeds which they could not justify to the country on their responsibility. This was an unfair view of the case. The suspension act, which was never passed by the legislature except with the view of meeting a danger which it believed could not be encountered by the ordinary powers of the law, only allowed government to commit suspected persons, and bound them over to prosecute. In the exercise of this authority, he denied that his majesty's ministers had committed any unnecessary acts of severity, or had transgressed the bounds of the trust reposed in them. He denied that his noble friend, the secretary of state for the home department, had been guilty cither of cruelty or injustice. He denied that he had given his warrant for commitment without the evidence of credible witnesses, taken on oath. He denied that he had committed one individual on the testimony of the person (Oliver) so much alluded to by the other side of the House. He denied that a single arrest had taken place without not only having the depositions of credible witnesses, but the authority of the law officers of the Crown. The noble lord, however, went on such grounds as 472 would render any justification of this kind quite inadmissible, and would prove the criminality of ministers in whatever manner they exercised the powers entrusted to them by parliament. He had argued that there was no necessity for the Suspension act. The House had, however, thought otherwise; and after, by a great majority, placing in the hands of ministers extraordinary powers, which they were called to exercise on their own responsibility, ministers would have betrayed their trusts, if, seeing the necessity of exercising them for the maintenance of the public tranquillity, and the preservation of the government and constitution, they had refrained from acting as they had done. Parliament had proceeded to legislate on two reports of committees of the House. Both these reports stated (and the noble lord would allow him to say, that there was not among the members of those committees one dissenting voice on the subject) that a bold and dangerous conspiracy was organized against the frame of government, and the peace of the country; and that this conspiracy was endeavouring to take advantage of the unavoidable distresses of the times, to turn the physical force of the people against the existence of the state, and the order of society. Government had been armed with powers to meet the danger, and had exercised those powers consistently with the tenor of existing laws and the conditions of their trust.
On this ground he would meet the noble lord, and say that there had been no violation of the law. He agreed with him that all the forms of law should be observed, that witnesses should be examined, and that no arrest should take place without proper evidence; but he denied that this principle made it necessary to place a witness, who gave his oath under the Suspension act, in the situation of other witnesses, or that a magistrate was bound to send his informations into a court, as he would be bound in ordinary cases. The ordinary course was for a magistrate to lay the evidence on which he committed, with the names of the witnesses, before the bench; but it was plain that this principle could not be acted upon on the present occasion without defeating the object which the legislature had in view. He would put a case:—supposing a magistrate had offered to the secretary of state evidence on oath, on the truth of which he completely relied, affecting the exist- 473 ence of the government, or necessary to the preservation of the public tranquillity, and supposing that that magistrate could only obtain and transmit such evidence on condition that the names of the witnesses were to be concealed, or that neither he nor they were to be exposed to the consequences of giving such important information—could his noble friend, acting on his responsibility, have refused to listen to such testimony, or could he have re- fused his warrant to commit the person whom it affected? He was convinced that such a principle could not be maintained, and should be glad to be informed in what situation his noble friend would stand, if after having acted on such evidence, he was required to justify, in a court of law the commitment he had made? It was altogether a false view of the bill in contemplation, to consider it as a bill for the protection of the ministers of the Crown: it was for the protection of individuals who had come forward to give information of the utmost importance to the security of the country; but which could not be elicited otherwise than by the prospect of such protection as the measure alluded to held out. Either, then, these individuals must be protected, which protection was of such importance in their eyes, that without it they would not have given their information, or the ministers of the Crown must be exposed to punishment, not for their own misdeeds, but for refusing to give up those who had enabled them to detect the conspirators. If the ordinary course of law had been sufficient, why should recourse have been had to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus? The suspension was for the express purpose of protecting individuals from the hazard which might attend the disclosure, in an open trial, of the information which they had given; and without such protection no information could be had, as none would venture to offer it at the risk of his own safety. On such grounds indemnity was always judged necessary, not to cover ministers, but to protect those who saved their country. If the question were at all inquired into, it would appear that upon every principle of justice such a protection was necessary, and to deny it would be attended with insurmountable difficulties.
With respect to the hardships of imprisonment, of which so much had been said, this was no question to be entertained by the House without great irre- 474 gularity: for those individuals who thought themselves aggrieved, had always their remedy at hand; the ordinary courts of law were open to them, and he apprehended there would be nothing in the bill of Indemnity to preclude them from bringing their action. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus only prevented trial during the operation of that measure. When that was no longer necessary, there was nothing to prevent individuals who conceived themselves aggrieved farther than by the mere confinement, from seeking redress; but this was a question to be tried only by the judges of the land, and to this they were fully competent. He trusted, therefore, that the House would agree with him in thinking, that there was no necessity for a committee of inquiry. With regard to the hardships of which, those petitions complain, much delusion had been practised, which had been the cause of much inflammation without, and misrepresentation within that House. Some of those petitions were found even not to have been signed by those whose names were subscribed to them. In one of those petitions, heavy complaints were made of the great danger arising to the petitioner's health from the damp state of the dungeon in which he was confined. Upon inquiry, however, by several members of the House, it was found that the accommodations were comfortable, and that the rooms were such as the hon. gentlemen themselves could wish to have if they should be confined in such a place. These petitions were brought, he had no doubt, for the purpose of putting the House into an invidious predicament—for the purpose of creating clamour, inflammation, and discontent, because parliament would not step out of its way to interfere with what evidently belonged to other parts of our system. Let the plaintiffs bring forward their action in the proper place, and there could be no doubt of inquiry. With respect to the number of petitions now brought forward, he had to observe that there was nothing startling in the case. In no one instance had he heard of a bill of indemnity having been contemplated, but similar petitions were' brought forward, and gentlemen opposite were equally ready to vouch for the truth of the statements which they exhibited; but this had never induced the House to step aside to inquire into such ex-parte statements by a committee who should examine witnesses not upon oath.
475 The statements of Ward, in every part of his case, afforded the most flagrant instances of misrepresentation. The manner in which the noble lord had described Ward's original imprisonment was quite incorrect; but to this he would speak afterwards. The first arrest of Mr. Ward was by the magistrates of Nottingham, upon suspicion not of high treason, but of being implicated in those horrible acts which disgraced that part of the country. When he was within a few days of being dismissed from confinement upon this charge, he was committed afresh upon a warrant from the secretary of state upon charges of a treasonable nature. The complaint of being confined with common felons was applicable only to the first period of imprisonment when he was confined as a felon. With respect to the place of his confinement, it appeared from the affidavit of the gaoler (which his lordship read) that the walls of his room were perfectly dry and free from damp, that there was no offensive smell but what arose from fumigation that he had a bed, bolster, blankets, and a bedstead, that he never made any complaint to the gaoler, nor was he ever loaded with irons or fetters. When afterwards removed to the gaol of Oxford, it could be proved that his complaints were equally ill-founded, and that when he wished for any change it was attended to as soon as solicited, for which he himself expressed his gratitude. This man affected the character of an extremely moral and religious person, and complained much that he had not the privilege of attending public worship. He had been confined there from the 21st of June, and from that day to the 1st of August, he had never once expressed a wish to that purpose; and the first notice they had of such a wish was by a letter to his wife. This letter, which the gaoler never saw, was noticed by the secretary of state. Inquiry was immediately made why the prisoner was not allowed to attend public worship. The gaoler wrote in reply, that there were no objections whatever made, had he expressed any wish to that purpose, and that he could sit in his own scat on Wednesday and Friday mornings and Sunday afternoon. With regard to any other complaints, he never made any remonstrances to the officers of the gaol; and it appeared that another prisoner (Haynes) who bad been treated in the same way, expressed his gratitude for the 476 kindness he had experienced. When he complained of solitary confinement, he was allowed to join another prisoner, and they were permitted the use of a yard. It likewise appeared, that his confinement was not attended with any prejudice to his health, but that he had left the gaol as well as when he came to it. When, afterwards, the gaol became crowded by the number of other prisoners, lord Sidmouth ordered that he should be removed.
It was excessively painful to allude to the moral character of an individual, but it was necessary to prevent the House from being carried away by their feelings. He must protest against the attempt to mislead the House by ex-parte statements. The House, he trusted, would not suffer their feelings to be trifled with, nor call in question the conduct of ministers in the exercise of an arduous duty, on such grounds as the petition on the table contained. As to the morals of the petitioner, he could prove them to be very different from what the petition might lead gentlemen to expect. He must here, however, refrain from entering into all the evidence he could produce on the subject, for the same reasons for which he could not bring forward the evidence against those committed under the Suspension act. The danger of disclosure to those who gave evidence was the cause of concealment. But he could notwithstanding, satisfy the House as to the petitioner's moral character. From the terms of his petition, he might be supposed to be more than ordinarily religious; when complaining of the officers, his expressions were: "Seeing all remonstrance in vain, the petitioner reluctantly submitted to that which he thought diametrically opposed to both law and justice; the petitioner has no doubt but the sequel will prove to the House that he did not oppose the police from motives of fear; no; the man who is guided by this rule 'do unto others as 'you would they should do unto you,' has nothing to fear; and that rule which was laid down by no less a personage than Jesus Christ has long been adopted and acted upon by the petitioner, so that he had no reason to dread the thoughts of ten or twelve constables searching his premises for seditious and treasonable documents; it was not from fear, but from a consciousness of the rectitude of the petitioner's conduct as a man and a sub-¶477 ject, &c." Then, to give an idea of his distress and of its peculiar operation on his sensitive nature, the petitioner, after describing his imprisonment proceeded thus: "In the foregoing statement the petitioner has attempted to give the House a plain detailed account of the sufferings, without exaggeration, he has undergone while detained under the Suspension act; but alas this attempt comes far short of giving a full and clear description of the unheard-of cruelty he has been treated with, as no mention has been made of the excruciating torture of mind the petitioner has undergone;—here language fails, and to form any conception of his case it will be necessary to figure to the imagination a man who through life has taken a very active part in it, being accustomed to labour hard for his bread, by frequently having to work twelve, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, and sometimes more, the existence of a family depending on his exertions, which all at once ceases, and the intolerable state of inactivity succeeds; added to this, being possessed of all the finer feelings that adorn human nature, and those are for a long period stretched on the rack by his being dragged away from all that is near and dear to man in life; thus the glowing affection of a son, a husband, and a father, being simultaneously aroused, contributed not to sweeten the bitter cup of life, but to render it insupportable; for such a one, who has never been within the walls of a prison before, to be cut off from society and immured within the walls of a dungeon not fit for a murderer to be confined in; what inconceivable sufferings must such a one experience! nothing but the thoughts of his innocence could enable him to bear up under the intolerable load, &c."
Now, in complete contradiction to all this, he was prepared to show that this petitioner had been engaged in the most atrocious crimes. In 1816, two persons, Thomas Savage and Joshua Mitchell, who had been regularly convicted of being concerned in the dreadful proceedings which had taken place at Leicester and Nottingham, suffered death. These men, on the eve of their execution, had made a last atonement to their country for the crimes they had committed, by a full confession of what they knew of the transactions referred to. Their depositions had been taken by the magistrates of the place, and transmitted to government by 478 Mr. Munday. These depositions he would now read, suppressing all the names alluded to in them, except the name of Francis Ward. The first was the confession of Joshua Mitchell, who was executed at Leicester for a felony committed at Loughborough. In his confession he stated:—"B shot A—C B told me that Francis Ward had urged him to go to Loughborough to destroy the machinery; he had mentioned the thing to him on Saturday evening, and said there would be a deal of money in it; the workmen had offered to give 100l. for the destruction of the machinery. Several of us met at the Navigation-inn, and formed our plans. I received from 3 to 4l. from Ward for acts I performed. Ward gave me 10l. for the part I took in destroying the works at Woodpeck-lane, in Nottingham. Our committee met at the Duke of York in Nottingham, Francis Ward was the treasurer. Ward belonged also to the Loughborough committee. He plotted the outrage at Castle Downington. Ward employed me to shoot a man who had re-fused to turn out, and offered 4l. as my reward." The House, while listening to this paper, might be disposed to think that what it stated was fabulous. They could hardly be prepared to hear that men had been hired to commit murder. The fact, however, had been clearly proved, that assassinations had been regularly planned, and the price of murder as regularly fixed as that of stockings or any common article of traffic could have been. More than one jury had convicted on evidence which showed that 4l. was often the price for shooting a man. The confession went on. "Ward offered 10l. for shooting some of Kendal's men. He offered 10l. for shooting another master manufacturer; and 5l. for shooting one of his men for working. After the conviction of a man who was tried for felony at the last assizes at Loughborough, Ward offered a large sum for doing out (murdering). We met at the Jolly Bacchus, and when none agreed to do this, Francis Ward took out a golden guinea and said he was determined it must be done." The second confession was that of Thomas Savage, who was executed a few weeks after Mitchell. It corroborated the former confession. He trusted the House would now see the course of proceeding they were called upon to adopt; he trusted they must now be able to form a proper estimate of the real character of 479 this petitioner. Whether this man could be put on his trial for the foul crimes with which he was charged, it was not for him to determine. It was enough for him to say, that he had been committed on the evidence of two credible witnesses; and he would appeal to the House if there was any thing in his moral character that ought to have saved him from being committed to prison, after he had been charged on oath with treasonable practices. The depositions to which he had referred had not been obtained from Mitchell and Savage under circumstances which left them any hopes of obtaining mercy through the disclosures they might make. No such expectation had had any influence over them, when these statements were made by them in the most solemn moments which preceded their execution. He could assure the gentlemen opposite, that there were circumstances which would appal their convictions, as to the whole proceedings of ministers, as much as in this case, in which there was nothing wanting to a moral conviction but the judgment of a jury; but without that every moral mind must be satisfied as to the petitioner's character.
He hoped he had now said enough to prevent the feelings of the House from being run away with by these ex-parte statements of Mr. Ward and others, representing themselves to be the most virtuous and most injured of men; with the view of making a false impression on parliament and the country. The House would not, on such statements, think it necessary to institute a committee of inquiry into the allegations of those whose crimes threatened the country. When the conduct of ministers should be fully inquired into by the committee above stairs, it would, he was persuaded, be the conviction of the committee, and from their report it would be the conviction of that House, that ministers had shown no malignant spirit, no oppressive temper, no disposition to injure or distress any individual; but, on the contrary, that they had manifested every forbearance and lenity consistent with their sense of duty. The noble lord opposite wished, by his motion, to bring forward those who had given evidence on the faith of government, and to subject them to the examination of a committee of that House. He should satisfy the committee already appointed, that no individual had been committed but upon oath, and upon evi- 480 dence satisfactory not only to the secretary of state, but to the law officers of the Crown, and he would farther prove to the committee the probability of the crimes of which they were suspected. All possible information would be laid he-fore the committee, with the exception of the names of the persons furnishing secret information. That these should be withheld would not surprise or offend the House, unless they wished to deny ministers the aid of secret intelligence in dangerous times. If the House would not allow secret information to be received and acted upon, conspirators, who contracted for assassination with the same precision and formality as for any other engagement, could not be detected or punished. The outrages that broke out in the places from which the suspected were taken, proved the existence of strong grounds of suspicion, and the necessity of such measures as were adopted in order to put down insurrection; for an insurrection it was. It would be seen by the committee, from the limited number of persons committed to prison under the circumstances of the case, that no unworthy motive on the part of ministers had animated them to use unnecessarily the powers entrusted to them by parliament. They had, nevertheless, acted with vigour, and had they not done so, he was convinced the House would have had proofs of the danger which had existed that it was not the wish of the government to afford, as it was their object to prevent insurrectionary outrages. He therefore trusted that the House would not suffer such inquiry as was now required: this he trusted, not from distrust of the principles on which ministers acted, but in justice to those whose names they were bound to keep secret: for the consequence of such an inquiry would be, either that ministers must submit to all the charges brought against them, or abandon those who had given evidence on the faith of concealment, to the vindictive attacks of those whom they had detected.
§ Mr. John Smith
said, he had supposed that the present motion was to be confined to the case of Ward, and with this supposition he had resolved to vote against it. No man could believe one word of Ward's petition. If falsehood was detected in one part, that was good ground for discrediting the whole. The part, then, that reflected on the magistrates of Nottingham was most false. He had no 481 motives for saying of those magistrates what he did not believe, but he appealed to ministers whether those magistrates could be surpassed by any set of magistrates in honour, fairness, and fidelity; and at the same time it was well known that they were old and consistent friends of liberty. Information on oath had been given them that there were arms in Ward's house, and this information was given the clay after the Derby insurrection. Mr. Enfield, the town clerk, a most respectable gentleman, hesitated to give Ward a copy of the warrant at first, because the information was not in writing. This occasioned any irregularity that might attend that part of the case. He was afterwards arrested on strong evidence that he had been concerned in the horrible murders at Loughborough, the most horrible that were ever known in any part of the country. He was grieved to say, that there were still circumstances which made it dangerous for witnesses to come forward in that part of the country. There was one circumstance to prove this man's participation in those crimes which he had occasion to know, but which the noble lord had not mentioned. Previously to the trial, Mitchell confessed the main part of the facts respecting Ward, to a professional man; whether desired to do so in order to prepare for his defence, or whether he had done it to relieve his mind, the hon. member could not say. The professional man felt himself obliged to conceal this while Mitchell lived; but after his decease the obligation ceased, and he then confirmed the confessions read by the noble lord. For these reasons he had come down to the House, resolved to oppose the motion, but he found it to be a different motion from what he had expected. It was not confined to Ward, but included all the petitioners. He did not believe that among all the other petitioners such a case as this of Ward's existed; and though one of these persons had been found thus unworthy, he did not think all inquiry should be on that account precluded. Being connected with such a populous district it had often happened to him to have occasion to apply to the noble lord at the head of the home department; and he believed no man was More likely to do what was fair and humane than his lordship. But it was not equally clear that his intention was always carried into effect. Many who acted under his orders, but not immediately 482 under his eye, might have indulged party feelings, to which his lordship was a stranger. He could not at all see that the falsification of Ward's individual statement afforded any fairground for refusing to go into an inquiry. If any one case of improper severity was made out, the House was bound to inquire into it: he could not, therefore, because one case had been negatived, oppose amotion, the object of which was to go into an inquiry on all. He must also say that if not a single word of all the statements was true, it was surprising that the parties making them had not been brought to account for their misconduct.
begged to trouble the House for a few minutes, as he was possessed of some local knowledge on the subject of* the petition from John Knight. He held in his hand a declaration from Mr. Eastaffe, the gaoler of Heading, which stated that three prisoners, James Sellers, Nathaniel Hulton, and John Knight, were brought to him on the 10th of April, at about nine o'clock in the evening; they complained that they had tasted no provision during the whole of their journey from London (the House would recollect that that journey was only 39 miles); he then conducted them into his own kitchen, fed them on cold roast beef and pickles, with strong beer; they had as much as they could eat. He then provided them with beds in the best apartments of the prison; the beds were featherbeds of the best quality, and Sellers was placed in the state apartment; Knight was placed over the chapel. On the day following he stationed them in a ward, where they had an apartment 16 feet by 14; annexed was a list of luxuries with which they had been supplied. Instead of being separated they continued together for 16 days; and it was not possible that this should have been otherwise arranged, except under the orders of a visiting magistrate. Those orders were afterwards given, and Knight was ordered to the room over the chapel: the deputy-gaoler was removed to accommodate the others, and their apartments were all well furnished: insomuch that the prisoners all expressed to their relations their satisfaction at the good treatment they had received. Knight, who had spent 10s. 6d. in tobacco, and had received many presents from the gaoler, returned thanks for his kindness and generosity. When he was first placed over the chapel, the sashes of his apartment 483 were nailed down, to prevent him from communicating with some workmen, who were employed opposite; but on his applying for a ventilator, it was immediately granted. The apartments allotted to him had since been occupied by gentlemen debtors. Knight's situation was more comfortable than even that of Sellers and Hulton. Sir Nathaniel Duckenfield, Mr. Stone, Mr. Farmer, and many other magistrates, had visited the prisoners continually, and could prove that they expressed themselves entirely satisfied. He held in his hand an acknowledgment of two of them, made to the magistrates of Berkshire, thanking Mr. Eastafte, the governor of the gaol, for his kindness and attention: he had furnished Sellers and Hulton, on their departure, with extra clothing and money for their journey. He had felt it his duty to put the House in possession of these facts, as an act of justice to the gaolers, and to all the persons concerned in the accusations which had been brought forward.
§ Sir W. Lemon
said, there was no man in England less disposed than himself to suspect the noble lord at the head of the home department, of any disposition to oppress. He did not think that his majesty's ministers were desirous of using that law, which he, with other members, had felt it their duty to oppose, for any bad purpose; but petitions- were now presented from different persons complaining of great oppressions. Though the government might not wish to sanction such conduct, the persons acting under them might possibly have been guilty. Some of the petitions appeared not to be borne out by fact, perhaps none of them were, but still the House was bound to inquire into the acts alleged to have taken place under the operation of the measure, as it was their paramount duty to investigate all cases of grievance that were submitted to them.
wished to say a few words on the petition from Bagguley. In consequence of that petition, he had written to the gaoler of Glocester, whom he knew to be a man of great humanity, and the reply to his inquiries was a complete contradiction of the petition. The prisoner declared, that on his arrival he had been plunged in a tub of cold water, and that a dangerous fever and cold had been the consequence of this immersion. The gaoler stated, that so far from the water being cold, the rules of the prison required†484 that a warm bath should be always used on such occasions: the prisoner, who had travelled all night, declared at the time, that he found this extremely comfortable, and so far was he from being ill in consequence, that he went into the bath on the 11th of April, and never complained till the 20th of May. The part of the prison in which he had been confined, had since been allotted to gentlemen debtors. He had a separate sitting-room and bedroom, was allowed to walk out whenever he pleased, and was allowed a guinea a week for provisions. The bills brought in to him for various articles were carefully examined by the gaoler and other persons under him, that he might not be imposed upon, and he expressed himself in every way satisfied with his treatment. Notwithstanding lord Sidmouth's circular, the governor had permitted all magistrates to visit him; not visiting magistrates only, but even some who did not belong to the county and among them sir G. Paul. He thought is was but justice to the governor of Gloucester-gaol to state these particulars, but he (the governor) was anxious that an investigation should take place. And even if all the petitioner had stated were false, he thought it no reason against commencing an investigation; for the House ought to know on its own authentic inquiry how far the petitions were true, and how far false; in order at least to punish parties who made false representations, to justify the conduct of those who were engaged in the transactions and to satisfy the feelings of the country.
§ Sir W. Guise
read a letter from a respectable clergyman, a magistrate who had taken pains to investigate the case, confirming the statement that had been made respecting Bagguley, by the hon. gentleman who had just sat down; more especially as to the fact of the warm bath, and the various comforts that were supplied him. His general behaviour, it was added was extremely regular, and the governor had not once occasion to find fault with him. He contended, nevertheless, that the House was bound to go into an inquiry wherever a grievance was alleged, and therefore thought it right to support the motion.
Sir F. Burdett
observed, that he could not pretend to come to the discussion of this question with a mind quite so unbiassed and unprejudiced as those gentlemen had professed who had delivered their sentiments before him. He could not but 485 call to mind, that when he first drew the attention of the House to the conduct of the governor of the Cold-bath-fields prison when he was charged will) crimes of the blackest die (of which he possessed the fullest evidence, but was never permitted to bring it forward)—he repeated, he could never forget, that at that time, just as on the present occasion, gentlemen rose up in various parts of the House, some declaring on their own knowledge, others on statements made by Aris himself, that he was a man of the most kind and benevolent disposition; that he had never been guilt}' of any cruelty or oppression whatever; that he was a person indeed in whom the milk of human kindness abounded to an extent almost approaching to weakncss; and that the prison was conducted on a system of uniform mildness. The hon. member for Yorkshire, in particular, had stated, that nothing could equal the attention paid by Aris to the prisoners; that he was a pattern of humanity, and indeed too good for his station; but the House would probably recollect that story, which at the time it was told seemed to excite very little sensation in the House—a story which was paralleled only by the history of the prisoner in the Bastile, and his companion the spider: that prisoner, in the course of a long and solitary confinement, by way of diverting his weary hours, had attached to him a large spider, which, by degrees, became so intimate as to visit him at regular intervals, and receive its food; it served as a companion, and gave an interesting occupation to the wretched prisoner. So forlorn and hopeless was this man's condition, that when the spider perished, he declared he had lost the only tie that rendered existence supportable. The story he had told of Aris was much of the same description. He had confined a prisoner for fifteen months in a solitary cell. In the course of a hard winter, a robin had flown into the window; it soon became a favourite with the prisoner, and? his only solace. After a long interval. Aris, who very seldom visited the cell, entered one morning, and seeing the bird, crushed it in his hand, notwithstanding the most earnest entreaties on the part of the prisoner that its life might be spared. The agony the poor man suffered was that of one who had lost his dearest and most valuable friend: so bitter had been the infliction of solitary confinement.—Aris nevertheless represented himself as the 486 most humane of mankind—a man whose foible, was benevolence, and whose fault always to relax the discipline of the prison instead of resorting to any unnecessary rigour. He had mentioned this only to show that the House ought not to be surprised if he was not quite so ready to believe what gentlemen or what gaolers themselves stated in proof of their own good qualities. He had no doubt that the gentleman who made these statements meant well, and themselves believed all they had advanced; but he could not avoid being himself a little more sceptical on the subject. With respect to the hon. member for Nottingham, he could not avoid saying that all his speech relating to the business of Ward was nothing to the purpose. The question whether he was a bad man or not was nothing to the House; he might be any thing he pleased to represent him, the murderer who committed the late atrocious act at Greenwich if he pleased, but the only question was, whether he had been justly charged with high treason, whether he had been legally committed, and whether he had been legally treated under that commitment; that was the question, and not whether he was a man of good or bad character. He should therefore contend with those gentlemen who said they believed these statements, and yet called for an inquiry, that such an inquiry ought to be instituted: for what could be such scandalous trifling with the public, as to hold out redress for grievances, and yet refuse to inquire whenever a case was brought forward?—The noble lord opposite had left very little for him to do, because he had not in any manner met or answered the arguments of the noble mover; and though he complained, that it would waste the time of the House to inquire into grievances which might turn out to be false, yet he thought it no waste of time to enter into long statements, of which not a syllabic could ever be capable of proof. He put it once more to the common sense and candour of the House, and he would ask, could any person be biassed by the statement of a gaoler in his own favour? It had been said, and it might be true, that a great number of gaolers had not even been accused of harshness; if so the expression of one of our poets, that "the steeled gaoler was seldom the friend of man," should be now applied to the steeled minister; and if any misconduct had been committed by any under the noble secretary of state's 487 authority, he should say that the noble lord was liable, even though he was not privy to such misconduct. It was a maxim of the common law, that "qui fecit per alium facit perse," and the noble lord was answerable for the acts of all who were placed under him. The noble secretary of state's characterestic mildness and benevolence had been urged as an argument for obtaining extraordinary power, and the same character was now thrust forward as a ground for stifling all inquiry. So that this individual character was to supersede the principles of the constitution and set at nought the ordinary course of justice, when the power granted to him had been so disgracefully, cruelly, and illegally applied. Some of the gaolers had themselves stated, that they were sorry they were ordered to proceed more harshly than was necessary, and that they thought there could be no need of irons to secure those who were immured in a solitary cell. An hon. gentleman had said, that many of the statements made were false; they might be so, but there were many of them which loudly called for inquiry. He should be glad to be informed why Ogden's case was not to be investigated—a man 74 years old, who was loaded so heavily with irons as to occasion a rupture, and was, like many others, transferred from one gaol to another, and exposed as a spectacle to their countrymen. It was asserted, and was not contradicted, that two men had been chained together, even in bed, and were besides loaded with heavy irons, where there could exist no pretence of safe custody.—Why was not this to be inquired into? Sufferings from cold and hunger made but little figure upon paper: but they were great miseries to endure, and whether they had been justly or unjustly endured, it became the House to ascertain. Was it any answer to the general charge, for a member to produce in his place, a letter from a gaoler, who stated that the water in which the prisoner had been plunged was warm, and that it was very delightful and comfortable when the prisoner himself declared that the water was cold, and that the consequence of it was a fever, from which he with difficulty recovered? This fact showed that inquiry was necessary; and though in one or two cases it had been admitted that the keepers of the prisoners had behaved with humanity and kindness, yet there were many others where com-plaints were made of a treatment directly 488 the reverse. No doubt, however, the House would decide against the motion, and many members would hold that the statements in the petitions were all false? And why?—because the noble lord had so asserted. The noble lord had great confidence (far too great and too well founded for the interests of the people) in the discernment of parliament—at least as far as respected his own arguments and assertions. The noble lord was sure that hon. members would think with him that all investigation was needless; and in the same confidence that all he said would be implicitly credited, he had gone on to state, that ministers wanted no bill of indemnity, and required no protection. The House could not fail to recollect in what manner the noble lord had talked at the time the Habeas Corpus Suspension bill was first brought forward. He had spoken of the heavy responsibility about to be thrown upon ministers; and he and they had appeared almost to lament that so grievous a burden was about to be cast upon them. Of course he (sir F. Burdett) never believed a word of it. He knew it was a mere pretence, and he had proposed several motions to lighten the weight: first that it should be followed by no bill of indemnity; and next to obtain a declaration by the House, that it was not its intention that under the suspension bill torture should be inflicted by loading the prisoners with heavy irons, or confining them in solitary dungeons. What was the answer given on the other side?—The character of the noble secretary of state for the home department. It was impossible to suppose that such a kind-hearted man as lord Sidmouth would consent to such practices, and the motion was declared an unnecessary imputation upon his character. Many gentlemen thought it was impossible that such things could be done. But had they not been done? Or, if the assertions of the sufferers were disputed, why was not inquiry to be made? The majority of the House undoubtedly entertained high notions of ministers: they could be guilty of no misconduct as long as they were ministers; and because they were ministers, they had not. been guilty of any misconduct in this instance. The bare mention of misconduct on their part was enough to acquit them, in the House; but not out of it; for such notions did not extend beyond the walls of the place where they were supreme. The question was, who broke 489 the law? The prisoners answered—the noble lord and his friends. But assertion would not satisfy the country, and the gaoler of Gloucester himself solicited investigation. The offenders, if such they were, were anxious for trial, even at the risk of their lives. Ministers alone resisted it, maintaining that the time of the House would be wasted, and its character degraded. He should be glad to know what a House of Commons was to do, if not to inquire into the grievances of the people? The noble lord had said, that it could not take evidence upon oath, and so forth; and was for completely de-Stroying its inquisitorial functions, formerly esteemed of such value and importance. The noble lord was a perfect Proteus in argument; he could "confute, change sides, and still confute." When he wished to shield his own acts and those of his colleagues, then, said he, appoint a committee; but a committee of his own selection, of which he was himself a member: where ministers sat to be their own judges, and were aided by those who would ask for nothing but what the noble lord was pleased to show them, and who would credit any thing which he requested them, without inquiring, and out of compliment to himself, to believe. Such a gross delusion would satisfy no man out of parliament: but if a committee was proposed, from which placemen and pensioners were to be excluded, and who would go to work thoroughly and fairly with the delinquencies of the noble lord and his friends, then they were not to be trusted, the time of the House would be wasted, and its dignity degraded. "But," said the noble lord, "it is a great mistake to suppose that ministers want an indemnity; what they wish is, to cover their friends, Oliver, his fellow spies, and informers." In short, the bill of indemnity was admitted on the other side to be for the protection of those secret and infamous sources of private accusation, whose purpose was to destroy the happiness and reputation of every honest man. Was it possible that at that time of day such an avowal should be made? that in England it should be professed that innocent men should be solitarily confined, cruelly tortured, and unjustly accused, and should never have an opportunity of discovering to whom they were indebted for all these deprivations and sufferings? The illegality of letting these unfortunate men out prison with the ridiculous mummery of 490 their own recognizance, was as great as the illegality of their first commitment. He did not rest the question upon the merits or demerits of Ward; that had been already answered, at least as far as was necessary for a fair decision upon a motion which did not respect his petition merely; and he could not help hoping when gentlemen considered the subject seriously (more especially those who had voted for the suspension), and saw what had been done under it, that they would feel themselves bound in honour to vote for an inquiry. They ought to recollect, that this very subject of arbitrary imprisonment on suspicion of treason, had occasioned some of the severest domestic struggles this country had ever known; they ought to recollect that the words of the Great Charter were, "nulli negabi-mus, nulli differemus justitiam;" yet now the answer was, "negatur, differtur," for justice was delayed and denied to those who, in the confidence of their own innocence, had clamoured in a court of justice for trial by the laws of their country. This fact of itself was a condemnation of ministers. The injured men were refused a trial, not from the tender mercies of government, but because they knew that the acquittal of the innocent would be the conviction of the guilty. Magna Charta had become obsolete of late: it was old-fashioned law, not suited to the refinements of modern times; and the declaration, that "nullus liber homo capiatur aut im-prisonetur, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum," had been totally neglected and forgotten. It might not be amiss if gentlemen would refresh their memories, and enlarge their minds a little, by recurring to the wholesome laws of Henry 2nd and Edward 3rd, by all of which it was provided, that no man should be imprisoned without being duly brought to trial. Though not quite so old, the Petition of Rights seemed equally to have escaped recollection: it consisted of four parts;— first, that no tax should be imposed without general consent; next, that no arbitrary imprisonments should be allowed without information upon oath, and subsequent trial; thirdly, that the realm should not be governed by martial law: the fourth provision he did not remember, but they had all been equally disregarded. If this course were pursued, it would be utter nonsense to talk of the happy constitution of England; and if it were to be infringed, far better would it be that it 491 should be done by the King than the Commons. Nothing could be more lamentable than that that House should take upon itself to make unwarrantable innovations in the constitution; if the king made attempts of the kind, the Commons might be resorted to for defence; but it would be a mockery to appeal to the Commons, pro forma, against its own acts. As this would, probably, not be the last time he should have an opportunity of addressing the House on the question, he would not trouble it farther at present.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
acknowledged having represented Mr. Aris, late governor of the Middlesex House of Correction, as a man of humanity, and stated that his authority for having done so, was the rev. Mr. Owen, chaplain-general, who for many months had been in the habit of visiting the prison, and was well acquainted with its condition and management. He requested, in return, that the hon. baronet would deal as candidly with him, and state his authority for the story he had told regarding the bird wantonly killed by Mr. Aris. There were, he confessed, some money transactions in which Mr. Aris was concerned which justified his removal, but he did not recollect that any act was proved against him which amounted to an impeachment of his humanity. With respect to the question before the House, he thought that all the presumptions were in favour of the correctness and legality of the proceedings of ministers, and it was a great mistake to suppose that the character of Mr. Ward had nothing to do with the merits of the motion. If he had stated what was untrue, as was evident, what right had he to ask for investigation, unless indeed that he might be punished as his crimes deserved? Honourable gentlemen from all quarters had borne testimony to the good conduct of gaolers, and in several instances it was established that the petitions contained nothing but a pack of falsehoods. True it was that the House possessed the privilege of inquiry; but nothing was more dangerous to a privilege than its abuse. All ancient constitutions, it was known, had possessed some extraordinary means of meeting extraordinary dangers; and it was the glory of our own, and that which had given it stability, that while sometimes it allowed the infringement of the strict bounds of law, to avoid sudden and imminent peril, it had the faculty of 492 returning unimpaired to its first beauty and dignity. Surely some alteration in the ordinary mode of proceeding was required, when the people of England had resorted to assassination as a trade, as was the case with the Luddites, and when the life even of a judge, venerable for his age, and admirable for his learning, had been threatened, if not attempted, while the perpetrators were to be rewarded by money raised in subscriptions of 5s. each! If from the petitions on the table any truth could be sifted, it would be easy for individuals to make themselves acquainted with the facts, and to bring the matter forward upon a future occasion; but at present he (Mr. Wilberforce) trusted that the House would reject an inquiry, the effect of which might be to mark men out for slaughter, and to send witnesses into the country as victims to private malignity.
Sir F. Burdett
, in explanation, said that Mr. Wilberforce Bird, chairman to the committee upon the House of Correction, had related the story of the robin and Mr. Aris to the House.
§ Sir S. Romilly
observed, that a bill of indemnity being about to be passed, the question now was whether it should be done without inquiry, when gross abuse of the power intrusted was imputed to ministers. He begged the House to recollect, that though bills of indemnity had before been agreed to after the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, yet never in any other instance than the present, after a committee had sat and made its report; the notoriety of the facts was therefore put out of the case, and a sort of grand jury (most extraordinarily constituted, having power to examine all the evidence for the accused, and none for the accuser) was appointed to make some sort of investigation. Why, then, should not these petitions go before them, or before some other tribunal better selected? It was asserted that people had been dragged about the country in fetters, as proofs to the inhabitants of an existing plot; and the question was, whether unnecessary severity had not been employed; than which there could not be a subject more requiring the 'interposition of parliament. His principal object in rising was, to refute a statement made by the noble lord, in the humble hope of influencing some few 493 votes, viz. that if the facts stated in the petitions were true, the sufferers would not be deprived of their remedy by the bill of indemnity. How unfounded this assertion was, was evident from his lordship's next sentence, in which he observed, that the bill of indemnity now required would be the same as that of 1801, which in the first clause expressly enacted "that all personal actions heretofore brought, or which might be hereafter commenced or brought against any person on account of any act, matter, or thing done, recommended, directed, ordered, or advised to be done, for apprehending, imprisoning, or detaining in custody any person suspected of high treason, should be discharged and made void." It was clear, therefore, that the parties who had so severely suffered would be deprived of all redress, if the bill of indemnity in question were adopted. He would now say a few words as to the petitions. There were, he believed, 11 of them, from different persons in different parts of the kingdom, and containing different allegations. Suppose three of these should be proved to contain false charges, was it consistent with justice, would his hon. friend who had just spoken assert, that the other eight should be rejected unexamined, on account of the hollowness of those three? He did not mean to say that some acts described by the petitioners were illegal, although they were grossly unjust and inhuman, for according to certain statutes solitary imprisonment was legalised. But who could justify, upon any principle, the transfer of a prisoner from one prison to another without any appearance of necessity. The noble lord had, it appeared, made some preparation to meet the debate of this evening, but his preparation was evidently imperfect, for the noble lord's statements applied only to two or three cases, while it was known that there were no less than eleven petitions before the House. But surely it would not be admitted that the falsifications of the statements of these petitioners should exclude the others from the right to claim the attention of the House. Such a doctrine would not, he presumed to think, be maintained by any just or rational man. For instance, why should the fallacy of other petitioners be allowed to prejudice the case of that poor man Ogden, upon whose hands, at the advanced age of 74 years, 30 lb. weight of iron were placed while he was suffering from a rupture. 494 There was at least some ground for sup-posing that his petition contained truth; for he had referred to the surgeon, Mr. Dixon, who had attended, and cured him of the complaint produced by the weight of his fetters? He would ask his honourable friend, whether he thought it just to dismiss that petition without inquiry. There were seven other petitions which stood on the same footing, against the truth of which not one syllable had been uttered; and, when he considered what extraordinary pains had been taken to refute the statements contained in some of the petitions, he could not but think that those which had been impeached, were, on that very account, unimpeachable. Silence was a proof that nothing could be said against them. As to the denial given by a gaoler to the statement of a petitioner, he conceived that nothing could be more absurd than the production of such testimony. The hon. baronet had founded a very just argument on the conduct of the House with respect to Aris, on a former occasion; and his hon. friend had, instead of giving an answer, completely mistaken the object of the hon. baronet's observation. The hon. baronet had intended no imputation on him, when he alluded to his testimony in favour of the humanity of Aris, but had justly inferred, that if a member of such integrity and sagacity had been imposed upon in that case, it was not impossible that the gentlemen who that night had spoken in such high terms of different gaolers might likewise have been deceived. What, then, was the deduction from this? Surely not, that no inquiry was necessary, but that the strictest examination should take place immediately. Aris, notwithstanding, the testimonies to his character, was afterwards convicted of the grossest delinquency: and it was not impossible that similar results might follow, if the proper inquiries were to be instituted on the present occasion. His hon. friend had lately said, when a case of enormity was brought forward, "why had not the hon. mover, the member for Shrewsbury, taken pains to make inquiries, and to examine witnesses as to the truth of the allegations?" The hon. member for Shrewsbury answered, that he had examined; that he had seen the witnesses and questioned them in person: yet his hon. friend, instead of being satisfied with this compliance with his own desire and sense 495 of justice, had voted against a motion so founded and supported. He trusted, however, that his hon. friend would retrace his steps. He hoped he had repented of that vote, and would yet make amends. As to Ward's character, it was certainly a bad one: indeed, the only wonder was, that he had not been brought to justice long ago, if indeed he was as criminal as had been represented. It was said, that previous to the Suspension act, he had been in gaol on a charge of felony; if this were the case, he should like to know why he had not been tried— why his life, if the case required it, had not been sacrificed to justice. But this had nothing to do with the allegations in the petitions some of which, notwithstanding the great preparations which had been made by the noble lord, for the purpose of contradiction, had been left completely unanswered. He alluded particularly to the statement of Ward's having been, every alternate four days, thrust into a loathsome cell, from which he was only taken because it was impossible for him to exist in it more than four days at a time; and yet for all this, and for similar abuses of power, an indemnity was to be obtained: and the report which was to warrant this indemnity, was to come from a committee, before which the accused brought only such evidence as they pleased, while the accusers were not allowed to bring any at all. As to the personal character of lord Sid-mouth, of which so much had been said, there was no man more ready than himself to do justice to the humanity and excellent disposition of the noble lord; but that was no answer to the charges of misconduct in his agents. He would not say if all the facts in the different petitions were proved, that they were in themselves illegal, but he would say that they were unnecessary and wanton abuses of power. For what could be imagined more cruel than that of which some of the petitioners complained—the privation of freedom and food—of sleep and health? What could be a greater mockery and insult than the parading these men from town to town in open daylight, and loaded with chains; and what possible objects could be answered by such a wretched triumph, except to convince some miserable minds that some extraordinary plot existed against the state? The petitioner, to whom the motion principally referred, was so taken through the country chained to Haynes; but according to the noble lord the latter 496 acknowledged some obligations to the officer by whom he was conducted in those journeys. That some humanity might have been shown by the officer alluded to, and felt by Haynes, was not improbable. It was also probable that the conduct of some of the gaolers was humane; and in his conscience, he believed, that one of the main reasons for the transfer of the unfortunate petitioners from one prison to another, was in order to find the gaoler most likely to conform to the wishes of the ministers by whom those petitioners was committed to prison. His hon. friend who had just spoken thought proper, in one part of his speech, to pass a glowing eulogium on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and had referred to the history of ancient republics in illustration of the advantages of suspended liberty: but did not his hon. friend know what was the consequence of those occasional dictatorships to which he had alluded? Did they not at last end in a perpetual dictatorship—in a tyranny never to be shaken off? and for his own part he believed most firmly, before God, that these continual and unjustifiable suspensions of the Habeas Corpus would—unless the House of Commons should do its duty, which it had not hitherto done—end in the complete ruin of our liberties.
read a long statement taken from a report made to the magistrates of Oxford, relative to the condition of the county-gaol. It described all the accommodations to be most excellent, and asserted, that the state prisoners confined there returned thanks for the treatment which they had experienced, nor was any complaint made, except by one man, who said that his room had a smoky chimney.
§ Mr. H. Sumner
said, it so happened, that he could speak to the falsehood of the allegations in Ogden's petition. With respect to that petition, he could bring forward twenty witnesses to prove, that Ogden himself had contradicted many of the allegations in it. He could speak positively on this subject; for an hon. friend of his, one of the magistrates for the county of Surrey, had visited the gaol, and inquired into the fact of Ogden's case. It certainly was true that the prisoner had been put in irons, but not that he had been heavily ironed: and on a representation being made to the secretary of state, the irons were taken off. It was expressly proved by Mr. Dickson, the most respect- 497 able and humane gentleman who was employed to give medical assistance to the prisoners, that Ogden brought into gaol with him the complaint for which he afterwards underwent a skilful and successful operation. So humane had been the attention paid to Ogden, that the man himself had repeatedly expressed his thankfulness to God that being brought to gaol had been the means of curing him of that complaint, which under less skilful treatment than that of Mr. Dickson the prisoner himself said might have terminated fatally—[Hear, hear!]. The prisoner had also expressed much gratitude to the gaoler. So much for the truth of the allegations in this petition, which was the only one among those before the House of which he knew any thing. Some gentlemen, however, wished to persuade the House to believe all that the petitioners stated, and nothing that the gaolers stated in their justification. It must be in the recollection of the House, that an inquiry was instituted some years ago into the state of the gaols of Lincoln and Lancaster, the result of which was, that there was no serious cause of complaint. An hon. baronet must recollect the result of a committee appointed at his instance to inquire into the grievances of a foreigner of the name of Colville, who had been taken up and imprisoned. The result was, that the committee was unanimously of opinion that there was no truth in the allegations of the petitioner, as to cruel treatment.
Sir F. Burdett
declared, that his only reason for pressing no objection to the decision of the committee alluded to, was simply this, that he saw all the other members of that committee, were unanimous against him; but still his own opinion was, that Colville had been most cruelly and unjustly treated.
§ Mr. Sumner
, with great warmth, appealed to the House, whether they did not recollect the hon. baronet's concurrence with the report.
Sir F. Burdett
—I have just told the hon. member, that I did concur in that report, and I have also just told him my sole reason for so doing.
observed, that the complaint made by Ogden was, that the disease with which he had been afflicted, and of which he was so ably cured during his imprisonment, was produced by the chains and irons imposed upon him. The inquiry before the magistrates on this subject was 498 confined to the case of the Evanses. There was nothing in the representation of the hon. gentleman that contradicted the statement contained in the petition. He believed the case of Bagguley was fairly stated, nor did the letter read by the hon. gentleman disprove any of the circumstances which were described as having taken place in the gaol at Oxford. As to the statement that he had been plunged into a cold bath, he could only say that he had conversed with the petitioner since the statement had been contradicted, and that he said he was willing to prove it by his affidavit. As to its being said that the petitioner had refused to attend at church, he begged the House to observe the reason given by the petitioner, which was, that he would not consent to sit in the same pew with a prisoner in a felon's dress. The account of the treatment experienced by Mr. Knight at Reading, threw no imputations on the gaoler. It was of being carried to Salisbury gaol, a gaol of which no hon. member had spoken or would speak in commendation, and of being again removed to Worcester, that he complained. The only reason that he could conceive for thus parading him about the country was, to create alarm, and withdraw him from the observation of the Berkshire magistrates who were not sufficiently subservient to the minister of the day. He believed all the facts stated in the petitions to be true, and he would therefore vote for the motion.
§ Mr. Philips
rose for the purpose of confirming his hon. friend's representation of Ogden's case. The fact alleged was, that the distemper had been so much increased by the treatment he received, as to render a severe operation necessary, though it was undoubtedly fortunate that it had been successfully performed.
The Attorney General
said, he had attentively read Ogden's petition, and thought it clear, that the statement in it was intended to create a belief, that an old man had been seized with a violent malady in consequence of the weight of irons which had been imposed upon him. However the detention of persons charged with offences against the state might be justified under the late act, and admitting that a bill of indemnity, on the precedent of that of 1801, should be passed by parliament, he begged leave to say, that such an act would not indemnify a gaoler for any cruelty or excess beyond that restraint which was necessary to the safe 499 custody of the prisoners. He would still remain prosecutable criminally, and liable to answer to the party injured in a civil action. A question might arise whether, when a person so charged was apprehended in a disturbed district, it might not be proper to place fetters on his limbs to prevent the danger of an escape. If done for this purpose, and without any unnecessary rigour or violence, it was legal and justifiable. His hon. and learned friend had, he apprehended, no colour for saying that some of these unfortunate men had been removed to different prisons, and exhibited in different parts of the country, for the purpose of exciting alarm. The secretary of state had two duties to perform; first, that of keeping them in safe and close custody; and, secondly, of rendering their situation in every other respect as comfortable as possible. With respect to their being sent to distant prisons, the motive was, and he took upon himself confidently to assert it, with a view to the comparative comfort of the detained. What complaints would the House not have heard, if these persons had been huddled together in the crowded prisons of the metropolis! The noble lord who brought forward the motion seemed to think, that when a man was once lodged in gaol upon a charge of treasonable practices, the door ought to be hermetically sealed upon him till the day of trial arrived. But by the law of this country although a justice of the peace could not discharge after commitment, and before indictment, a secretary of state might, and, without the assistance of any suspension act, arrest on a charge of treason, and afterwards discharge his warrant if he thought the accusation could not be substantiated.—It had been also said, that were it not for the spies and informers employed by government there would not have been any real disturbance in the country;—that no explosion would have taken place. His opinion was, that the explosion would have been very different. From the information received from those informers, compared with more creditable evidence a great explosion was prevented. The actions of the conspirators were paralysed, the link which connected the chain of treasonable confederacy was broken, and the country was saved from the most unhappy events. At the same time he would inform the House, that not even one individual had been deprived of his liberty for a single hour, on 500 the evidence of any of those informers [Hear!]. The informers served government merely as an index to point out more creditable evidence, and unless where the evidence of such persons was corroborated by undoubted testimony, it was not in any instance acted upon. He contended, that all the allegations of these petitions, as far as they had been examined, were falsified: and that the noble secretary of state had, by his great exertions, broken the link of a confederacy which threatened society with all the evils of universal pillage and disorder. If that simultaneous movement which had been proved to be in contemplation, had been suffered to take place, and the expected multitude from the North had joined the disaffected in other quarters, what justification would then have been received, on the part of the noble secretary of state, for not having exercised the powers with which parliament had armed him, and for a dereliction of duty which had led to such destructive consequences.
§ Mr. Lamb
wished to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he should give. The chief allegations in the petitions were for unjust detention. The allegations of ill-treatment were comparatively few. If the motion had been for a committee to inquire into the truth of the allegations of ill-treatment, he would not have objected to it. But the present motion was in such general terms, that it involved questions which ought not to be sent to a committee, especially while there was a secret committee now sitting by appointment of the House, whose inquiries were directed to the general question. With this view he felt it his duty to vote against the motion.
, in reply, observed, that had it been wished by ministers that the committee for which he had moved should be a secret committee, he, for his part, should have had no objection, and would have willingly met the proposal made by the last speaker. Upon a review of the defence made by the members of administration, he felt satisfied there had been no case made out which would warrant a British House of Commons in refusing to refer the petitions to a committee.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 167.
|List of the Minority.|
|Althorp, visc.||Aubrey, sir J.|
|Atherley, Arthur||Barnett, Jas.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Birch, Jos.||Martin, John|
|Brand, hon. Thos.||Mildmay, sir H.|
|Brougham, Henry||Morpeth, visc.|
|Browne, Dom.||Milton, visct.|
|Byng, Geo.||Monck, sir C.|
|Burroughs, sir W.||Neville, hon. R.|
|Calcraft, J.||North, Dudley|
|Calvert, Chas.||Ord, Wm.|
|Campbell, hon. J. F.||Ossulston, lord|
|Carter, John||Philips, George|
|Coke, T. W.||Ponsonby, hon. F. C.|
|Cochrane, lord||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Douglas, hon. F. S.||Romilly, sir S.|
|Fazakerly, Nic.||Scudamore, R.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Sharp, Richard|
|Frankland, Robt.||Smith, John|
|Gordon, Robert||Smith, W.|
|Guise, sir W.||Symonds, T. P.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Heron, sir Robt.||Waldegrave, hon. W.|
|Howard, hon. W.||Webb, Edward|
|Hurst, Robert||Wilkins, Walter|
|Latouche, Robt. jun.||Wood, alderman|
|Lemon, sir W.||Burdett, sir F.|
|Lyttelton, hon. W.||Folkestone, lord|