HC Deb 02 December 1819 vol 41 cc594-678
Lord Castlereagh

having moved the order of the day for the second reading of the Seditious Meetings Prevention bill, Mr. M. A. Taylor begged leave to ask a question of the noble lord, whether it was the intention of his majesty's ministers to propose any alteration or amendment in the bill, or to allow it to stand in the state it then was: he was proceeding to discuss the matter, when the Speaker called him to order. Mr. M. A. Taylor resumed, and observed, that it was not his intention to debate on the subject before the House, but merely to ask a simple question. Lord Castlereagh was sure the hon. member had too much experience not to know that the committee was the place for discussing the details, Mr. Grenfell rose, and was about to state his opinion on the bill, when Lord Castlereagh put it to the hon. gentleman whether it would not be more convenient to give his sentiments on the question for the second reading. Mr. Grenfell acquiescing, the order of the day was read. The, Solicitor General then got up to move the second reading of the bill, when Mr. Tierney observed, that if the noble lord did not intend to commence the debate, it was open to his hon. friend to speak. After some further discussion, in which lord Castlereagh, Mr. Tierney, Mr. Grenfell, the Speaker, and Mr. Perceval participated,

Mr. Grenfell

said, it was not his intention to detain the House at length, but he wished to avail himself of the opportunity of expressing the opinion he entertained of the general proposition, of which the bill before the House formed a part, and which engaged the almost exclusive attention of the country at large. He confessed that he stated that opinion under feelings of greater pain than any he had experienced, from the first hour of his sitting in that House to the moment at which he spoke; for his sense of public duty compelled him to adopt a course decidedly opposite to that pursued by his hon. friends near him, with whom he had hitherto had the gratification of being politically connected, and with whom, notwithstanding this exception, he hoped to remain politically connected for life. He was one of those who had abstained from giving any vote, either on the amendment proposed by his right hon. friend to the address, or on the motion made by his noble friend on Tuesday. He had so abstained from feelings of a personal nature, and in doing so was not aware that he had been guilty of any dereliction of his public duty. He could assure his right hon. and his noble friend, that the only motives which induced him to abstain from voting on the occasions which he had mentioned were, his personal regard and affection for his right hon., and his respect for his noble friend. He could no longer, however, allow any private feeling to interfere with that line of conduct which his public duty seemed to him to demand. His only object in rising at that moment was to state, in the face of the House and of the country, that from the best consideration which he had been able to give to a subject which he was quite aware involved the dearest interests of the empire—from all the information which he had obtained on that subject, sanctioned and strengthened as that information was by the observations made on a recent evening by the noble lord who represented the county of Lancaster, he felt it incumbent on him to declare that, reserving to himself the right to object to any of the details of the measure, and to support any amendment to them, from what quarter soever it might proceed, and also reserving to himself the right of further consideration with respect to the expediency of making any or all the measures temporary in their application—he was prepared to give his steady and hearty concurrence and support to the principle of all the measures recommended by the noble lord on Monday last. Such were his opinions, and on those opinions he was prepared to act, and he should therefore assent to the second reading of the bill under consideration.

The question being put for reading the bill a second time,

The Solicitor General

congratulated the House on the candid speech which had just fallen from the hon. gentleman, and said he flattered himself, that after the question should be fully investigated, and, after the true character of the measures which his majesty's government had thought it necessary to recommend should be fully developed, in addition to the vote of the hon. gentleman, those measures would claim and obtain the support of many other hon. gentlemen, who were not in the habit of acting politically with his majesty's ministers. In undertaking the duty which he was about to perform, he must request the indulgence of the House. It was a duty which, in consequence of the absence of his hon. and learned friend had been suddenly cast upon him since he came down to the House; and he must in treat the indulgence of the House with respect to the manner of his performing the task. Of course he was familiar with all the details of the measures in question; but it was a very different thing to be acquainted with those details, and to be pre-pared suddenly to unfold them with the distinctness and precision so desirable on such an occasion. He would endeavour, however, to discharge the task that had fallen upon him with as much simplicity and clearness as he could command; and to explain the nature and character of the measures which it had been advisable to recommend to parliament, for the purpose of meeting the extraordinary dangers with which the country was menaced; dangers, which, in his opinion, there was a great disposition, on the part of many of the hon. gentlemen opposite, to underrate. A right hon. gentleman had attempted to show, that those dangers were principally confined to two counties in the north of the island—Lancashire, and a part of Cheshire. It was only necessary to look at the documents on the table, and to advert to facts notoriously before the public, to be satisfied that such a representation was wholly unfounded. It had been stated, that in Yorkshire no coercive measures were necessary. The papers on the table, however afforded decided evidence of the necessity of legislative interposition with respect to Yorkshire, as well as the other counties in the north of the island; for in those papers it was stated on authority, that although no immediate danger was to be apprehended, there was reason to suppose that a conspiracy of a most alarming and extensive character would burst forth, unless great precautions were taken to suppress it; and it was stated to be matter of absolute certainty, that revolution was the aim of those who were engaged in it. Was the House, therefore, to be told, that it was only to a part of Cheshire, and to Lancashire, that the proposed measures ought to be direct-ed? But he would go a step further. He would refer, not merely to the documents on the table, but to the general notoriety of the state of the county of Northumberland, of the state of the county of Cumberland, of the state of the county of Durham, and above all, of the state of the western parts of Scotland, especially in the neighbourhood of Glasgow and Paisley. He would omit all mention of the metropolis and its vicinity. He would not mention the meetings which had taken place in Coventry and other parts of Warwickshire, and those which had been attempted in the county of Stafford. He would merely observe, that the state of the northern district which he had adverted to, comprehending an extent of 290 miles, and including a large and active population, afforded abundant ground for the measures proposed. There was one very alarming feature in the character of the designs evidently entertained by the disaffected, namely the activity with which objects contemplated by them were pursued, and the rapidity with which the principles of sedition were diffused from the head quarters in Lancashire to the most extreme outposts. This was a most formidable part of the evil, and proved the necessity, not only of legislative precautions, but of adopting those precautions with the utmost expedition. It had been said by some hon. gentlemen that the disease was merely local. Good God! was it possible that those by whom such an assertion was made had entirely forgotten what had already occurred in the world? Was all the experience derived from the course and progress of the French revolution to be lost to the world? Who did not know that at the commencement of that revolution, a large part of France was not alienated from the existing government? Who did not know that it was only in the great manufacturing and populous districts in France that disaffection originally manifested itself, and that to the inertness of the friends of monarchy in the other parts of that kingdom the deplorable consequences that followed were attributable? He would ask the House whether, if the principles avowed, and the schemes going on in the northern districts, had extended to the whole island the revolution would not only (according to the expression in one of the newspapers) have begun, but have been perfect and consummate? Having stated so much with respect to the extent, he would now consider the character of the proceedings in question; for it was indispensable to take a view (however slight) of the combined danger, in order to enable the House duly to appreciate the merits of the combined measures recommended to meet it. The particular points against which the proposed measures were directed were—first, the training to the use of arms for revolutionary purposes; secondly, the collecting of arms to be placed in the hands of those previously trained to their use, in order to carry into effect the designs of the disaffected against the constitution; thirdly (and it was a consideration of the utmost importance), the means of intimidation resorted to, and actively spreading through the country, for the purpose of checking all opposition to the plans of the evil disposed, and encouraging and supporting the disaffected. —In addition, he would recall to the attention of the House the open and unblushing attempts at intimidation by assassination. The principle of assassination had been avowed in the metropolis, in public debating houses, and in newspapers. In the Reformers Gazette, at Manchester, in July last, a particular individual was openly pointed out for destruction, and it was asked—"Is there no noble Brutus who will plunge a dagger into the heart of the tyrant?" The next important point to which he would advert was that which formed the foundation of the bill, the second reading of which was proposed to-night, namely, the assemblies collected under the pretence of petitioning for parliamentary reform, but with the purpose of exhibiting the strength of the disaffected, encouraging their friends, and intimidating their opponents. The intimidation thus occasioned was a most formidable engine in advancing the plans of the individuals in question. Another, and a great evil against which the measures recommended by his majesty's government were directed, was the state of the press of this country, not of the regular and established, but of the cheap and low press. The evil was admitted on all hands; whatever difference of opinion might exist with respect to the nature of the means that ought to be adopted to counteract the poison which had of late years been so actively diffused throughout the community. He had now briefly pointed out the various parts of the system against which the measures proposed by his majesty's ministers were directed. The question was, whether, as some measures must of necessity be adopted for correcting the evils, the measures proposed by government were not as effective, and at the same time as moderate and constitutional, as any that could be devised for the purpose? He could assure the House, that in the preparation of those measures it had been the most anxious wish of government to trench as little as possible on the laws and constitution of the country; and when the various measures which they proposed should come to be thoroughly investigated, he was persuaded it would be found that they were calculated to carry into effect the object in view, with as little injury to those laws and to that constitution as the circumstance of the case would permit. An hon. and learned friend of his on the other side of the House, had very properly stated, that it was impossible to consider the operation of any one of these measures without looking to the whole of the bills to be introduced. Before he directed the attention of the House to—

Mr. Brougham

rose, and observed, that the hon. and learned member had mistaken him. What he had said was, that it would be difficult to consider any one of the measures proposed without looking to them as a whole. The hon. and learned member seemed to be about to go into a discussion of the other measures, which he conceived was rather premature.

The Solicitor General

said, that in order to meet the wishes of his hon. and learned friend, he would treat the subject as he had advised, and touch as lightly as possible upon the other measures to be introduced, but the evils which the House were called upon to counteract, formed a combined system, and could only be counteracted by another system equally combined in its nature; and therefore the bearing of one measure upon another, as if one evil upon another, could not be lost sight of. The first point to which he wished to direct the attention of the House was, the bill to be introduced for restraining the liberty of the press. The object of this measure was, as he before stated, to restrain the publication of those cheap pamphlets, which had occasioned such mischief in the country. There was not any man who more zealously advocated the liberty of the press than he did. The liberty of the press and the trial by jury were the main pillars which supported the constitution; and he could assure the House that he was the last man in the country who would advocate the invasion of either of those inestimable privileges of the people. But what was the character of the publications to which he alluded? What were the evils to be apprehended from them? They were sold at such a price as afforded the lowest orders an opportunity of perusing them. The persons who sold them were men of no property or character; and besides, they were very difficult to be come at. Those persons declared, and with truth, that those publications were a powerful engine in their hands; and that the people were, and must continue to be strongly influenced by them—Was it then too much to expect, that the publishers of such pamphlets should give security for the payment of such penalties as might be imposed on them for an abuse of the powers of their mighty engine? Was it too much to say, that in the event of their being convicted not by any minister or magistrate, but by an impartial jury of their countrymen, there should be a fund from which the fines to which they had subjected themselves should be certainly forthcoming? In what respect could this be considered as an invasion of the liberty of the press? The bill demanded security—nothing more; it did not ask for any previous censorship: it did not ask for any limitation of the trial by jury. If ministers had proposed any such measure, they would have deserved and incurred not only the reprobation of that House, but the reprobation of the whole country. The press was a powerful machine, and might be turned to good or to bad purposes, according to the disposition of those who used it; was it not, therefore, right, to call upon publishers to give security that they would so use as not to abuse it? This was the first measure which ministers had to recommend; it was perfectly in unison with the constitution, and he augured that it would be found effectual to counteract the mischief. Another point in these publications was, their nature and their character. In the act of the 38th of the king, when it was first proposed to impose a tax upon any paper which contained any public news, intelligence, or occurrences, it was considered that those words were so general that they might embrace all periodical publications whatsoever; and this was proved by the circumstance that many actions were commenced upon them in the courts of law. In order to meet the present danger of the times, it was now proposed to extend the regulations of that act, so that those publications which assumed the existence of facts, and then argued upon and drew deductions from them, should be made liable to the tax upon newspapers, just as if they contained the first account of the facts themselves. This was the second point in the system: the next was to inflict an increased degree of punishment, that of transportation, at the discretion of the court, upon any individual against whom a second conviction was obtained. The principle on which this enactment was founded was well: known to the English law; and he would ask the gentleman opposite, when a party, after being once convicted of a blasphemous and seditious libel, came forward a second time to brave and insult the court, whether it was not proper that such discretion should be vested in the judge? When they said that such enactments were hostile to the liberty of the press, they ought to consider that they were confined to publications of a certain size and character. He now came to the bill against military training. It was said by members on the opposite side that the existing laws were strong enough to prevent it. A single word on that argument would be quite sufficient. If any persons met for the purpose of training themselves to the use of arms, and for the express object of opposing the government, such training would constitute an overt act of high treason; and therefore if the intention of the party training could be proved to the satisfaction, of a jury, no new law would be found necessary. But though it might be an easy matter to convict an individual of this training, it might be very difficult to bring home to him the intention with which he was thus training himself, in a court of justice. It was therefore proposed that no persons should meet to be drilled to the use of arms without a licence from the Crown. From what had fallen from hon. gentlemen on the other side, he did not expect that; this measure would incur any opposition. The next measure to which he must call the attention of the House, was of a technical nature. It was that for accelerating trials in cases of misdemeanor. It might, as the law at present stood, be 2 years or 3 circuits after an offence had been committed, before it could be brought on for trial. This was the old law of the land in cases of misdemeanor, and formerly had also been the Jaw in civil actions; but as serious inconvenience to suitors had resulted from such delay, a remedy had been introduced for it many years ago. It was now proposed to apply the same remedy to misdemeanors, but in so guarded a manner, as not to trench upon any method of defence which the accused might be inclined or advised to adopt. He was not to be compelled to take his trial at the first assize, without sufficient cause; he was not to be deprived of the benefit arising from a writ of certiorari. Circumstances might so happen that he could not obtain a fair hearing in the inferior courts; he was, therefore left at liberty to remove his cause into the superior courts, and all his rights and privileges there remained as before. He therefore did not expect any objection would be made to this bill, un- less it were to be contended that it was a benefit to the subject to have a delay of justice. He now came to the bill for the seizing of arms, which was founded upon facts, that were unfortunately but too notorious. By that bill it was provided that magistrates in certain districts should have the power to seize all such arms as appeared to be inconsistent with the public safety. In every one of its clauses care was taken not to trench upon the liberty of the subject. It had been provided that in all cases. pikes and pike-heads should be seized, because it was evident that they must be intended for improper purposes; but where the weapons were of a more doubtful nature they were not to be seized, unless some individual, should give information upon oath that they were intended to carry illegal, and unconstitutional objects into effect. The magistrate might then seize them, but his decision was not final: the person conceiving himself injured by the seizure might go before him, and demand to be allowed to prove that they were kept for innoxious purposes: and if that circumstance were satisfactorily made out, the arms must be restored. If not so restored, he might appeal to the quarter sessions, for their restitution, so that every possible care was taken to protect the innocent any thing like unjust persecution. He had nothing more to say upon this bill, except that if it were passed into an act, it was to-be merely temporary and local. He had now shortly gone through the chief points in the system which it was proposed to adopt; but before he proceeded to the remainder of them, he should beg leave to make a few remarks on an argument which had been used against putting the press under any limitations. It had been said that the existing laws would have been found sufficient to punish all the breaches of them which had taken place, if they had been properly administered; and that the abuse of the liberty of the press, which all parties in the state now acknowledged to be enormous, had arisen from the negligence and supineness of the law-officers of the Crown. Personally, he had nothing to do with this complaint: and, therefore, he might be allowed to say, that the abuse, when thoroughly investigated, would not be traced to that source. It was possible that there might be libels published two or three years ago which had not been made the subject of prosecution. But what was the reason that they had not been prosecuted? Why, the evil had suddenly burst upon the country with all the impetuosity of a flood or a torrent, and it had been found impossible to check an irruption of so sudden and unexpected a nature, by the presentation of any bills of indictment to a grand jury, or the filing of any criminal information. If he were asked what was the cause of so great and so unexampled an evil, he would say that he could not develope the whole cause. He. would, however, say, that the acquittal of Hone had partly occasioned it. When that individual was tried and acquitted eighteen months ago, for the publication of libels on which no reasonable man could entertain a shadow of doubt, libels which were denominated most seditious and blasphemous by the judge of the King's bench, who passed sentence on a poor deluded wretch found guilty of vending them, his acquittal was hailed as a victory and a triumph by the gentlemen opposite; and the individual himself, though previously in a humble situation of life, and not over well provided with the gifts of fortune, found subscribers, and among them, he regretted to observe, several persons of rank and respectability, to give him a reward for the offences which he had committed. To that circumstance, he partly attributed the swarm of libellers which at present existed: it was not indeed the whole cause of the present evil, but it formed a great part of it; and it, therefore, ill became those who were now so clamorous, to complain that the evil was owing to the supineness and neglect of the law officers of the Crown. Having discussed, and, he hoped, refuted this objection, he should now proceed to the Seditious Meetings bill. It was contended on the other side, that the people had a right to meet in any numbers to deliberate upon any matter of public importance, to consider of any grievance, and to devise the best means of obtaining redress for such grievance. Whatever construction might have been put on the act of Charles 2nd by the judges of the court of King's-bench, on the trial of lord G. Gordon, which act, as it was unrepealed, was still the law of the land, he should not now dispute the existence of that right. He should assume as a settled point, that the people had a right to meet, for the sake of deliberation, petition, remonstrance, or redress of grievances. But, admitting that to be the case, was it likewise necessary to admit that they could meet with propriety in a tumultuous meeting, professing, indeed, legal and constitutional objects, but evidently pursuing ulterior illegal ones? Could any man have the boldness to assert, that it was not the duty of the legislature to interfere in such a case, not, indeed, to prevent discussion, but to place public meetings under such regulations that they might be held without injury to the constitution? What then was the remedy pro- posed? It was allowed the people to attend any public meeting that might be called by the lord lieutenant, or the sheriff, or the majority of the grand jury of the county, or by any five justices resident within it. If any one of those distinct bodies should concur in thinking a public meeting requisite to be holden "for the purpose of deliberating upon any public grievance, or any matter in church and state, or for the purpose of considering, proposing, or agreeing to any petition, complaint, remonstrance, declaration, resolution, or address, upon the subject thereof," the people might legally assemble under his or their authority. What was the objection to this provision? Why, that you might find a lord lieutenant, a sheriff, a grand jury, and a whole magistracy, who would concur in not calling any one public meeting. If the question were a proper question to be discussed, surely among all the individuals designated in the bills as capable of convening a public meeting, some would be found inclined to do so; and if some were to be found, the objection as on a general principle was not a valid objection. But as if to obviate that objection, and to guard against such a contingency (for contingency it must be called) it was provided, that if the authorities above named would not call a meeting, the people might meet in their respective districts or parishes, though not in the tumultuous manner to which they had been of late accustomed; He hoped that he should not be understood as saying that the people were to be allowed to meet only in their districts or parishes—by no means: it was only a discretionary power assigned to them, in order to protect them from an abuse of power on the part of those who were authorized, and who yet refused, to call county meetings. What, however, must be the nature of that measure, on which neither a lord lieutenant, nor a sheriff, nor a majority of the grand jury, nor five justices could be found willing to call a meeting? But as it was possible that those authorities might act unjustly, it was to guard against the people being deprived of all opportunity of meeting that this clause was provided. He would ask the House, whether any measure could be proposed less exceptionable than the present? Ministers must either have drawn up new divisions of the country, or have adopted the old ones; and could any person doubt of the propriety of preserving the latter? Honourable gentlemen on the other side had said that they would oppose the details of these measures. After the explanation which he had given of the principle on which they were founded, and which he trusted that he had proved to be correct, he did not expect that they would make any opposition to the principle of them, but that if any thing in the details appeared to them to be objectionable, that they would suggest an amendment. It was not, however, requisite for him at present to state what those details were; that would be better done when the House went into a committee. It would now be for them to direct their attention to the principle of the bill which was to prevent seditious and tumultuous meetings. The people, according to this bill, could meet by their own act in their parishes and townships, and this was a satisfactory answer to the objection that it went to destroy all public meetings. One objection made to the bill was an objection in principle; the evil, it wais said, was local. He admitted it; but was it local in the sense which those gentlemen supposed? That which existed in the metropolis—that against which it was requisite to guard in all the counties adjacent to the metropolis—that evil which extended from York up to Glasgow, and showed itself also in Warwickshire and Leicestershire—that evil, which, if repressed in one place, burst out immediately in another, was not so local, that it was possible to say where it existed at any precise moment. In all former bills which the legislature had made under similar circumstances, the evil had been more local than it was at present,1 but in all of them the acts passed to re-press it had been general in their application, and he should not discharge his; duty, if he now applied for an act which was to extend only to particular counties. There was also another objection to the bill: "it was to be permanent." To this objection he should make an answer simi- lar in principle to the answer which he had just given to the objection founded on what was called the locality of the evil. Temporary bills had been passed every three or four years, to check the mischief which had arisen from these tumultuous meetings; and yet, during the whole of the last 25 years, it had continued to exist with little interruption. Once it had been repressed by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, but the moment the Suspension act was repealed, it burst forth again with the same malignant spirit which it had before displayed. Unless, therefore, the House were of opinion that it was expedient to pass, from time to to time, severe restrictive measures, they ought to adopt such a moderate permanent measure as he was now recommending. The gentlemen on the other side were always advising the ministry to try the effects of conciliation. There was every disposition on the part of ministers to conciliate the honest, the well-disposed, and the loyal: there was no disposition to exercise coercion on them, and instead of being a coercion on loyalty, the system was calculated to protect all who deserved protection from the designs of men who had sworn to overturn the constitution, and who, if they succeeded, would soon be involved themselves in the general destruction. But how were ministers to conciliate these reformers who were drawing the sword against them? It would be weakness to attempt it. They were not men to be conciliated. To offer conciliation would be to succumb—would be to give a triumph to the disaffected, and an encouragement to them to rally round the banners of sedition.

Mr. Lyttelton

rose to offer his opinion On the measures proposed by ministers, as well as on the recent proceedings in the country. He expressed his regret at being on this occasion obliged to differ from those honourable friends with whom he was in the habit of acting—indeed, nothing but an imperious sense of duty could induce him to do so—a conviction that the proposed measures were necessary to the safety of the state. If he were influenced merely by party principles, which, in general, he believed to be public principles, he certainly should co-operate with his right hon. friend, especially after the extraordinary speech of a noble lord, who, in contradiction to the usual mild and manly manner in which he performed his parliamentary duties, had taunted the Whigs with acting from factious and corrupt motives. But, he was sorry to say, that he was convinced there was a great conspiracy in the country against the constitution. In spite of all the cheering which this declaration had occasioned, he would pledge himself to make good his assertion. If ministers had granted an inquiry, they would have had the support of nine-tenths of unbiassed men to the measures now proposed, For what took place when laws were before passed for the temporary suppression of seditious meetings? He asked, whether they were repressed longer than the suspension of the Habeas Corpus lasted? He asked whether meetings were not held at the end of that period, for effecting the purpose of those who called them by force? Some 9 or 10 months ago, a meeting was held at Smith field, most inflammatory and alarming in its character. Since the last prorogation of parliament, meetings had been held all over the country. At Hunslet-moor a meeting was held, to which he supposed the member for Bishopscastle had alluded; and if any meeting was treasonable, that was so. At that meeting it was recommended, that district and deputy meetings should be held, and it was declared that the object in view ought to be obtained by an "overwhelming" majority. What was this but to propose to carry things by a general and systematic rising or rebellion? Was this a system which the people's House of Parliament, as the member for Bishopscastle called it (he supposed he had taken the expression from the resolutions of some of the meetings), was not to put down? Afterwards a meeting was held at Birmingham, where the strange, unprecedented, and unconstitutional villainy of conduct was adopted, of returning a member and legislatorial attorney to that House, without any right or authority. Such proceedings in his opinion would justify the measures now proposed, if no papers at all had been laid upon the table. Then came the meeting at Leeds, which was spoken of as indicating increased violence, but it at length fell off to a small number. At last came the Manchester meeting, with respect to the proceedings at which he, for one, thought it would be much better if ministers manfully instituted an inquiry. The magistrates, acting under circumstances of great provocation, might have overstepped the law, and that ought to be inquired into, and he still hoped an inquiry would be conceded. A full and impartial inquiry would prove infinitely more honourable to the magistrates, and to the yeomanry who were denounced—aye, individually denounced—than to leave the existing calumny unrefuted. But setting that aside, would any man contend, that, if the peace of the country, and especially of the manufacturing districts, was to be preserved, such meetings ought to be tolerated? Would any man say of the Manchester meeting, that if it was not contrary to law, it was not high time that the law should be altered, to prevent the recurrence of such a meeting? It was perfectly ludicrous and absurd to maintain any such doctrine. Then came meetings of large bodies of men—meetings, exasperated by the excessive severity exercised at Manchester; more exasperated, perhaps, by the misrepresentations which had been propagated, and exasperated most of all by the injudicious thanks which had been given by ministers to the authorities at Manchester. A meeting was again held at Birmingham, which had every characteristic of rebellion, and seemed prepared to resort to actual force upon the property and persons of his majesty's subjects, until put down by military interference. Upon these facts, without any papers at all, the noble lord might have brought forward his measures. Such conduct would have been better than the inconsistent course of presenting papers, and yet refusing inquiry. But the papers, he would contend, did form a very complete and conclusive case. They had been represented as scanty and meagre; they were scanty and meagre only respecting the Manchester question—a question in which his majesty's ministers were themselves compromised. The declaration of the Cheshire quarter-sessions (he spoke of a private letter from one of that body stated, that schools were established there for disaffection, and that the fact was verified upon oath. The earl of Derby transmitted an account of the alarming state of the district with which his lordship was connected, and afterwards represented the difficulty of arming the respectable and loyal inhabitants. His hon. friend—he meant the member for Bishopscastle, whom he had no right certainly to call his political friend—hadinferred that this circumstance proved that there was no alarm. On the contrary, he would say, that it proceeded from intimidation. Besides, there were several depositions before Mr. Fletcher in the beginning of August, not anonymous depositions, that training was practised by great numbers in that part of the country. Prior to this the spirit of disaffection had been manifested in the assassination of Birch the constable. Above all, there was the declaration of the Lancaster grand jury, which represented that there was no symptom of, he did n of say rebellion, but of a conspiracy against government—not against government alone, but against property—there was no symptom of such a conspiracy which the grand jury did not set forth as existing in that county. This was marked by the extensive circulation of seditious writings—by a system of intimidation being resorted to—by military trainings.—and by a systematic determination to refuse payment of rent and taxes. That men should refuse to pay taxes, being discontented with the government, and in doubt as to the continuance of its authority, might be one of the ordinary features of disaffection; but nothing but the desire of subverting all the rights of property could suggest the refusal to pay rents. Such was the testimony of the grand jury of Lancashire. But, leaving the disturbed and disaffected counties of England, they had testimony highly respectable, and not anonymous, from the west of Scotland. He would ask, was it true or was it not true, that the duke of Hamilton (than whom no man stood higher in rank and character) wishing to gain signatures to a loyal address, and to form a corps for the preservation of the peace, and the protection of property, had found both impossible? In the west of Scotland, there had been meetings at which, whatever some persons might say of the peaceable disposition of such meetings, the peace was violated, and riots were committed for two or three days—riots, too, of peculiar malignity, for clergymen were attacked without any pretence or provocation. The case, then, for the measures now brought forward, was made out—first, by the notoriety of facts and proceedings throughout the country; and, in the second place, it was confirmed very much by the papers on the table. He came now to consider the second point of view in which he had proposed to discuss the question: that was, whether the present laws, impartially and vigorously administered, were sufficient to meet the danger. He was of opinion that they were not sufficient. He did not know whether the laws might not have been equal to the task at a former period; but now, after the course which had been pursued, after the supineness of ministers and the oscitancy of the attorney-general, that strong measures were necessary to overwhelm the torrent of blasphemy and sedition which had assailed us, he could no more doubt than he could doubt that he was at that moment addressing the speaker. The law was very strict against high treason, and any thing that might be construed into high treason; but such was the proper regard for the lives of the subjects which our laws possessed, and such was their salutary jealousy of arbitrary power, that the execution of the law against treason was very difficult. God forbid that they should attempt to restore to this law the harsh features of which their ancestors had deprived it. But the rankest treason existed in the country. After the evidence of the resolutions passed at the meetings, to say nothing of the conduct which was exhibited, would any man say that there was not something proved which was tantamount to treason? It might be said, it had indeed been said, that the laws had not been enforced. But after the acquittal of Mr. Hone, there was very little chance of the conviction of any man in Middlesex, at least in London. The defence set up on that occasion was ridiculous, as it went on the assumption, that because the libel prosecuted was seditious as well as blasphemous, its publisher must be innocent. The acquitted person (for he wished to use no harsh names) had also founded his defence on the motives of the prosecutor; but motives had nothing at all to do with the question. The consequence of this acquittal was, to license blasphemy and sedition. In the last year things had taken a turn, and it became doubtful whether prosecutions would not have been more successful, as it had been found that juries were ready to do their duty in the case of that miserable wretch and execrable offender, Carlile. Still he was of opinion that the existing law was insufficient; but he would not now detain the House longer upon the subject of the public press, as that part of the question would come again before the House. With respect to the Seditious Meetings bill, the old law was very severe—at least, as it had been explained, it admitted of a very severe interpretation. But the old law was indefinite. Meetings such as were now held had never come into the contemplation of the framers of the old law; such meetings could not have then come within the purview of any man's imagination. This was evident by the letter from the magistrates of Manchester. The existing law was difficult to be understood, as appeared by the communications from those, and from other magistrates, for they could not ascertain whether a meeting was illegal where no overt act of plunder and no breach of the peace had been committed. Then came the question, whether the present bill was calculated to remove the difficulty. But into this he would not now enter, because that would be forestalling a future discussion. He did, however, believe the bill to be necessary, and he hoped that it would be rendered immediately efficacious. The evil, it had been contended by his hon. and learned friend, was local. In what sense could it be said to be local, when the diffusion of seditious writings was universal, comprehending the capital and the most populous districts, and districts where the people were most easily brought to bear upon one subject. However, he admitted that if it could be established that the evil was local, it was a question deserving consideration, whether the bill ought not to be confined to the counties that were disaffected; and lieutenants and grand juries be authorized to extend it to their counties if required. His hon. and learned friend had said, that this was a permanent remedy, applied to evils which were transient. If they were transient, they must be so, because the cause was transient. He thought distress the cause, and believed that, if distress were banished, disaffection would be, if not extinguished, diminished to so contemptible a size, that the law could cope with it, or that it would be unworthy of attention. He did not believe that any part of the people, living as they did, under the freest and noblest constitution in the world, would rise against it, if not under the deepest distress. This applied to all those who were now in a state little short of open rebellion. He begged here to ask those members who were connected with the manufacturing districts, who themselves, or whose friends had capitals employed in manufacture—he begged to ask them whether there was any prospect of the distress being speedily cured, and whether they did not believe it would continue for many years? If so, the bills ought to be coequal in duration to the distress which occasioned them. But, to fix upon a period of five or seven years, would be more harsh than to take an indefinite period. He did not know what plan the noble lord had in view as to this point, but he hoped that the measure would be adapted to the exigency, both in extent and in duration. But that was matter of opinion. But if the measure were made local, as he greatly preferred, it would be implied on the face of it, that it was also temporary. There would be an implied pledge on the face of the bill, that it would be continued only while the counties to which it was confined required its operation. His hon. friends had talked of a system of coercion. When they spoke abstractedly of a system of coercion, he was at a loss to understand their meaning. Every penal law was part of a system of coercion. He supposed they meant the application of force beyond what was necessary to put down an intolerable evil. He agreed to that construction of the term, but that construction did not apply to the measures now proposed. He agreed, at least he certainly would agree, to most of those measures, because he viewed them as no other coercion than the preservation and putting down of evils which could not be prevented or put down by any other means, and which threatened the safety of the state. He agreed with those who favoured conciliation, so far as to wish to see that sort of conciliation, which was never to be discovered in the measures of his majesty's ministers. The first step of conciliation which ought to be adopted was, an inquiry into the proceedings at Manchester. It was a most important duty, as well as a part of wise conciliation, to inquire promptly and impartially into proceedings which involved the rights and liberties of the people. The second step was economy. No real economy had ever been attempted by ministers. Conciliation in every shape appeared to be banished from the ministerial vocabulary. The very word they never used. According to them, the people were always wrong, and were never to be conciliated. From the course they were in the habit of pursuing, the measures now about to be placed in their hands would lose much of their effect. Popular meetings were so spoken of, that a paltry desire to insult the people seemed to influence government. The lives of the subjects would, he really believed, be endangered, and the execution of the laws impeded, if ministers would not adopt conciliation, and abandon their system of exasperation and insult. Another part of conciliation was parliamentary reform. He would not now enter upon that question, although he was willing to enter upon it on a proper occasion, and to support it. He did not go so fur as his hon. and learned friends in the belief that this measure would have a very great effect in conciliating. He did not, however, agree with the hon. and learned gentleman who had last spoken, that to concede reform, would be to succumb to the radical reformers. If the House were unanimously to unite, as he wished to God they would, in putting down rebellion, then they might, without losing sight of their dignity, safely proceed to an inquiry, the result of which would perhaps do away some of those abuses which at present weakened and defaced the legislation and administration of the country. While he supported the measures now proposed as really necessary, he must say that those measures would be less efficacious and more inoperative in the hands of ministers, than they could be in any other hands. The noble lord might smile, and suppose that he wished him removed only because he wished his right hon. friend in his place. He could assure the noble lord, that he should be very sorry to see his right hon. friend in his place, because he was sure that his right hon. friend, by becoming the minister of the crown, would become less popular. He believed that his friends, considering the frailty of human nature, would be less useful in administration than they were when united in opposition. But he more particularly objected to the execution of the measures now proposed being confided to the present noble secretary of state for the home department. He knew not what induced his royal highness the Prince Regent to intrust the home administration to that noble lord in such a crisis. He knew no title which that noble lord possessed, for our domestic government, except an unblemished private character. In his hands authority was regarded with contempt, and the unsparing exercise of his authority only increased insubordination and disaffection. He said so with regret, because a better or a more affectionate man in private life he did not know. But in the present crisis he de- precated the noble lord's return to measures which would greatly increase the danger of the state; and wished to see his place filled by some one else of the noble lord's own party.

Mr. Macdonald

declared, that he felt much difficulty in rising to reply to his hon. and learned friend, the solicitor-general, both because his hon. and learned friend had spoken so ably, and because he had carried the House along with him by the enthusiasm of his eloquence. But, difficult and painful as he felt this task, he should feel it more difficult and painful to refrain from expressing his sentiments on the present important occasion. His hon. and learned friend, travelling in his speech with the greatest rapidity from London to Glasgow, could see nothing in every face that he met but treason and sedition. To the apprehensions of his hon. and learned friend on this subject he could not subscribe. If the bill immediately under consideration were of the character of the Training bill and the Seizing for Arms bill, he should have no hesitation in reposing confidence to ministers to that extent, but he could not consent to entrust them with powers which appeared to him to be inconsistent with the general interests of the people, and with the integrity of the constitution. In his hon. and learned friend's speech, in the speech from the throne—in the very circumstance of parliament's being brought together at that moment, there was involved this most important avowal, namely, that all the experiments hitherto resorted to—that all the restrictions already passed with regard to the rights of the people, and more especially, as his hon. and learned friend had expressed it, the suspension for a twelvemonth, of those rights, without which, no British subject could be considered a free man—that these had all failed in staying the progress of the evil, or in restoring that which ought to be a common object to all of them—the peace, happiness, and prosperity of the country. It was confessed, that since the adoption of those measures, the evil had, instead of diminishing, gone on continually augmenting. Surely there was here enough to make them pause. But instead of that, ministers now came down determined to persevere still further, and such was the fatal progress of their violence, that having arrived at our present state (and there could be no worse symptom than the complacency with which the proposition was received), we must proceed still further. The House were asked to impose a tax on the press, in order to give the means of paying 12,000 additional troops in this country; and hand in hand with that proposition was another for the suppression of public meetings. Was it meant by this latter measure to prevent meetings of the description of that which had turned out so fatally at Manchester, and which, in the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, was an illegal meeting? That might be effected by a declaratory law. But the measure now before them, went to deprive the people of this country of a privilege, without which there would have been no House of Commons sitting there at that moment,—the privilege of meeting to petition, or at least, to reduce the exercise of that privilege to the limits of a parish vestry room. If they had arrived at such an extremity, they ought at least to look to the magnitude of the sacrifice. Let it be ingenuously acknowledged. The dreary road they were travelling year after year, seemed but to lead to this proposition—and the speech of the noble lord came very near it—that the character the feelings, and circumstances of the people of England had under-dergone so essential a change, that the ancient system of government hitherto followed in this country, was now become insufficient. This was the question, disguise it as they pleased—this was the question they were all called to put to themselves. If, however, the progress of time, and the alterations of society, justified and demanded those violent changes, or encroachments rather, on the constitution, how was it that the same men who introduced and urged those encroachments opposed any change in the state of the representation which the same progress of time and alterations of society had rendered altogether unequal to its original intention? The speech of the noble lord in introducing the proposed measures was strongly impressed upon his mind. It would not be readily forgotten by any who heard it. Perhaps that speech, in words, tone, and manner, had not received so good a comment as from a noble lord, the member for Northallerton, whose speech reflected, in the opinion of all who heard it, the highest honour on that noble Lord, and impressed them with the highest opinion of his talents. The noble lord who introduced the measures before them, had supported those melancholy measures—for melancholy they were in all their aspects—by stating his view of what was passing, not only in this, but in other countries. If they followed the example of the noble lord, and looked into other states, what would they see but a tremendous system adopted for the purpose of overawing the inhabitants of every country by standing armies—one great conspiracy for overturning by standing armies, and the court of inquisition, of which the head-quarters were at Metz, the last remains of European liberty, and establishing a universal military despotism? The noble lord the secretary for foreign affairs, could not possibly have been guilty of more flagrant indiscretion; for he could hardly fail to know how much an expression of that sort contributed to propagate a calumny which had been so industriously propagated in this country, that all these measures were part of a system adopted in connexion with foreign cabinets; although, as an honest man, he was bound to say, that he believed a grosser calumny could not be uttered. It was of importance that the disorders should be put down; but it was of still more consequence that they should put down the disposition to disorders. Inquiry into the late proceedings was actually necessary, and he was rejoiced that one had been called for by his noble friend, the member for Northampton; and he could hardly yet believe that the House, in rejecting it, meant to content itself with the brief collated and compiled by the secretary of state himself, against whom the very situation of the country furnished a prima facie ground of accusation. The theory of himself and his friends was this, that the cause of the existing disaffection was distress. The theory on the opposite side of the House was, that the distress was incidental, and that the disturbances generally proceeded from an abstract love of political discussion. His theory, and that of his friends, was borne out by the evidence of the magistrates in the disturbed districts, and by numerous other circumstances. The opposite theory was borne out by nothing. Coercion might still be persevered in, but it would fail. What did ministers say, but that they would go on persevering in their system of coercion, extensively, generally, and for ever.? He, and those who thought with him, on the other hand, said, "Stay your hand, except in spots where a strong pressure may be necessary, and conciliate the people generally." But it had been said, what was meant by conciliation? He wished to institute an effective examination into the whole system of taxation—to inquire into the foundation of our commercial and manufacturing system—to pare down the expenditure of the country to the last shilling; and farther, he would concede to the desires of the sensible people of this country among the middling and lower classes (for they were the best allies of the state) all in the way of reform, that was not absolutely inconsistent with the safety of the constitution. If they failed in their attempts at conciliation, and fail they could not, except the people of this country were rotten at the core, which he could not believe; but if they failed they lost nothing, and if they did not fail they gained every thing in putting themselves absolutely in the right, and acquiring the support of every honest man in the country. But he not only differed from ministers as to the remedy, but he differed from them also in their estimate of the danger. Without the aid derived from the distresses of the country, that small band who had been so long on the stage, would really be nothing. That band, if let alone, would soon be seen cut-ting each other's throats, and endeavouring to debase, if it were possible to debase, each other. Without leaders, without means—for their military chest was found lately to contain only 4l. 13s. 6d.—and without the hope of foreign aid, which was always looked to In the insurrections of former times, they had very little chance of enlisting any from the other classes of society; and their only hope of doing so must be founded on the enactment by the legislature of such measures as those now proposed. Admitting, as he did, that these men were only a contemptible body, he did not still deny, that they ought to be put down, and their efforts counteracted; but he denied that parliament would be justified in passing any new laws upon this subject, unless it were first fully proved, that the laws now in force were found insufficient. He had yet to learn that they were so. He challenged any man to say, on his honour, he believed the existing laws had been effectually executed. Let the House look back to the nature of the prosecutions during the last three years. Sometimes the grounds for prosecution were frivolous, frequently they were equivocal, and sometimes, which was worst of all, they exposed the government to the charge of hypocrisy. He would also invite his hon. and learned friend the solicitor-general to look to the dark and malignant libels which he had so properly described as provoking to assassination, forgery, and other crimes, and which had been suffered to go forth with impunity, and then say, if he could, that the laws of the country had been duly enforced. When it did happen that a prosecution had been instituted by some strange fatality it was made to assume the appearance of persecution. Where government ought to have punished a knave, they created a hero; until at length they brought the existing laws into such contempt, that they were now compelled to come forward to ask new ones. With respect to blasphemy, was it not admitted on all hands, that there were laws in existence against it, and what obstruction had been experienced in carrying them into execution. The only instance in which it had been prosecuted proved what ought never to have been doubted, that juries would do their duty. The one work which was prosecuted, and justly prosecuted, was sold at such a price that it was not reasonable to suppose it could get into the hands of the lower classes; but was not the fate of the publisher of that book sufficient proof that if such publications were brought before a jury, ample justice would have been obtained? He hoped that any thing which fell from him on this occasion, would not be understood as disrespectful to the Christian religion: he meant nothing of the kind; for he believed that the Christian religion was the true basis of all moral and social order—that upon nothing better or safer could all our institutions be founded—and he believed further, that the people had no relish for the impious trash which had been published, and that the known alliance of Hunt, the leader of the democrats, with Carlile, the chief of the infidels, had done more to open the eyes of the people to the objects of both, than all the acts of ministers put together. He was not disposed to make rash or angry charges; but he did charge ministers (and as God was his judge, he did so without envy, hatred, or malice) with having highly exasperated the public mind, and aggravated the evils of the country. He did impute to them, that they had given false state- ments of the commerce and manufactures of the country—he did say too, that from the commencement of peace up to this moment, there had been no retrenchment of the public expenditure, but what was wrung from them; and not content with refusing to yield any thing to the distresses of the people, some of them had even insulted that distress. He appealed to the hon. member for Bramber, who had inveighed with so much eloquence against parties, if, with this conviction on his mind, he should be justified, were he, on such a statement as that which they had received, at once to throw into the hands of his majesty's government additional powers which he was conscious must be abused. For these reasons, he did call on the House of Commons to pause, for they might depend upon it that the proposed measures would not be of a stationary nature. They might be assured that the 12,000 additional troops voted this year, would be twice 12,000 ere long, that the additional tax on certain productions of the press, would soon be followed by a prohibition of them—and that the few remains of the right of the people to meet, still left, would be soon annihilated. But he would ask, when all was done, what must necessarily be the effects of such proceedings? Why, continued fear and distrust on one side, and a feverish discontent on the other. He considered the silence with which these measures were already looked upon in the country, as an awful foreboding. It might well be said, —"ipsa silentia terrent. Inde domum. It would indeed be melancholy to see a once free Englishman retiring into a corner, and glancing all around him before he ventured to deliver his opinion on a common passing subject. Would such a state of things make the sovereign happy, and the people content? No; suspicions and ill-will would be constantly rising between them, and the generous feelings which once united them would be no more. Then might the prince say to his ministers, "Why have you robbed me of the affections of my subjects? Why have you made them indifferent about my welfare or their own? Restore me the lost energy of my people. It is true they were sometimes clamorous, sometimes turbulent, but always Englishmen. Restore them to me such as they were, and I care not for their temporary excesses. Tell me not of their disaffection. When the shores of my kingdom were menaced, did they not advance by tens of thousands, and by hundreds of thousands to defend it? when the heiress of the throne died, was there a dry eye among them? and were not these proofs of patriotism and loyalty?" When the day should arrive that language like this should be called for (and arrive it would, if the present course were persisted in), it would be found too late that the glory of the greatest and happiest nation of the earth had passed its meridian.

Lord Lascelles

, as he had been referred to as ascribing the existing disaffection to distress, wished to explain what he had said on a former meeting. After the last prorogation of parliament, he stated mischievous men to have gone forth in the country, to inflame the minds of the ignorant. The existing distress had produced such effect on their minds, that the machinations of the disaffected were more successful than they would otherwise have been. This he believed, but he had never said that the whole of the disaffection arose from distress. The distress had first collected audiences to listen to the doctrines of sedition preached to them, and by constantly hearing these doctrines, the people had at last become partisans of them.

Mr. Davenport

said, he would support the measures before the House, because he thought there never was a period when that House was more imperatively called upon to adopt strong measures to put down the disaffection which existed, and which, if not checked in time, would destroy the deluded people themselves, and subsequently the trade of the country. Advantage had been taken of the distress which prevailed to inflame the minds of the poor; but it was not in the districts where distress most prevailed that the people had been most clamorous. He reprobated the seditious and blasphemous publications which had lately issued from the press, and called upon the House, by putting them down, to defend the peace, good order, and religion, of the country, He valued the rights of the people as much as any man, and he would not give a vote which could in any degree infringe on those rights, if he did not think circumstances required it.

Mr. Fazakerley

admitted the danger that existed, and could not see any reason for refusing to grant more extensive powers to administration to meet the evil. Property was no longer safe, the ordinary operations of business were interrupted, and he much feared that even the public institutions of the country could not withstand the attack with which they were menaced. He apprehended, however, that if parliament proceeded, without limitation, to the enactment of still more restrictive laws, it would be defeated in its object, and that the confidence which should subsist between it and the public, and which was already impaired, would no longer have any existence. It should be remembered the evil happily was local. With this recollection at hand, he had no doubt many would join him in saying to ministers, "take even this bill with all its extensive powers and imperfections, but let its enactments be confined in their operation to the peculiar districts tainted with sedition and irreligion." These enactments it might be necessary to enforce for the present, in five or perhaps six different counties at the utmost, with a provision, however, introduced in the bill, that should it be considered necessary, in consequence of a representation made by the lord-lieutenant or the county magistrates of the disaffected state of any other county, the secretary for the home department, as was formerly the case in the troublesome times preceding and subsequent to the Irish rebellion, might proceed to proclaim the said county under the operation of this act. Thus far he would go, but he could not consent to have a measure permanently applied to the whole country which was only required by the conduct of a small portion of it.

Mr. Crompton

observed, that he felt it his duty to exculpate that part of the county of York, denominated the North Riding, from the charge of disaffection, which had been levelled indiscriminately at Yorkshire in general terms. He had been long connected with it, and he never had heard of the existence of political disaffection or irreligion in that district. Under these circumstances he should have preferred local measures of restriction.

Mr. Peel

wished to give his opinion on one or two subjects, which had been so often discussed in that House, that he should fear to offend by the mere repetition, if he did not feel it of some importance that he should speak on them, having been prevented from doing so by indispe- sition, which had kept him from the House since the night on which it first met. The circumstances on which he would offer a few observations, were those connected with the meeting at Manchester on the 16th of August. He was particularly anxious to offer a few observations on this subject, as he was connected with that part of the country by ties of birth and early acquaintance; but at the same time he should observe, that there were no ties which could prevent him from taking an impartial and disinterested view of the transactions in question.—He had no connexion with any of the gentlemen who had acted as magistrates, and his acquaintance with any of them was slight. But from the means of information which had been afforded him—from his conviction of the motives on which the magistrates acted, and of the dangers which threatened Manchester, and his knowledge of the unjust calumnies by which the magistrates had been assailed—he felt he should be abandoning his duty if he did not endeavour to make them all the compensation which an humble individual was capable of making to them for their wrongs, and bearing his testimony in favour of their services. Any man who formed his judgment of the conduct of the magistrates merely with reference to what passed on the 16th, had taken a very narrow view of the case, both as to the danger which then threatened the public, and as to the services which those magistrates then rendered to the public. To arrive at any thing like a just opinion on the case, reference must be had, not to that day alone, but to what had occurred in and about Manchester for months, and, he might add, years before, and to the nature and constitution of society in that part of the country. By such a view alone could any one fairly judge of the conduct of the magistrates, of the precautions which they had taken, and he would say, of the success with which those precautions had been attended. It was true, that the parties who called the meeting of the 16th, professed an intention of petitioning parliament. It was true, that the people collected together under this pretence marched into the town with bands playing God save the King. It was true, some of their banners were inscribed with the words "tranquillity,'' and "order"—and it was true, that the chief of the demagogues inculcated order and sobriety. But was any man infatuated enough to think that such pretences as these ought to have lulled the magistrates into security, or induced them to relax their preparations? Let any man consider the situation in which the magistrates were placed; let him consider the information which they had received, the knowledge which they possessed of the stale of feeling in Manchester and its neighbourhood amongst certain classes, and from that let him judge of the conduct which they had pursued. He would appeal to the report of the secret committee of the House of Lords, presented in 1817, for the state of Manchester at that time, and which state the magistrates must have fully borne in mind. Here was the opinion of as respectable a body as it was possible to select in the country, and he should presently read it to the House. There had been, in 1817, two meetings in Manchester professing the same object as that which was held on the 16th of August. At the first of these, which was on the 1st of March, and which was attended by about 10,000 persons, the monstrous proposition was put and carried—that the assembled multitude should divide themselves into bodies of ten persons each, with a separate leader, and that, in that state, they should march to London, to present their petitions. But the character of the second meeting was infinitely more dangerous; no man could contemplate it without horror—not so much from the fear of internal commotion, as of the destruction of all moral and social order. Now, what did the Lords' report say of that meeting? "It was on the night of the 30th of March that a general insurrection was intended to commence at Manchester. The magistrates were to be seized, the prisoners were to be liberated, the soldiers were either to be surprised in their barracks, or a certain number of factories were to be set on fire, for the purpose of drawing the soldiers out of their barracks, of which a party stationed near them for that object were to take possession, with the view of seizing the magazine. The signal for the commencement of these proceedings was to be the firing of a rocket or rockets, and hopes were held out that 2,000 or 3,000 men would be sufficient to accomplish the first object, and that the insurgents would be 50,000 strong in the morning." Why, with such a document before them, would any man assert that the magistrates were not justified in taking the precautions which they had done? Suppose they had acted otherwise, should we not have heard of a strong case against them for their supineness? Suppose they had not interfered, and that violence had ensued, with what eloquence would it not have been urged on the other side, that they were the cause of all the disturbance. In his conscience, he believed, that it was impossible for men under such circumstances to have taken better measures or more wise precautions for ensuring the public peace than those magistrates had done. He declared on his conscience, that in his opinion, not only were they justified in doing what they did, but that benefited by subsequent experience, were the same case to occur again, it would be impossible for them to proceed in any other manner. When he said this, he begged it to be understood, that no man more deeply deplored the loss of lives which took place on the 16th; but were he to enter into a comparative estimate of the two evils, the suffering the meeting to proceed tranquilly or the loss of lives, he would say he believed on his honour that the loss of lives was the less evil. Was it nothing that such meetings should continue and produce their accustomed consequences? Were the intimidation and terror nothing? He had heard it asked, why had not the magistrates prevented the meeting? He in turn would ask, how could they prevent it? How would hon. gentlemen, who asked such a question, have advised the magistrates to act? Thousands of men were advancing in bodies, with banners, marching in regular order, under leaders, as yet peaceable he admitted, from the various towns about Manchester, from Middleton, from Rochdale, from Oldham. Were they to send two or three constables to 5 or 6,000 men to tell them that they had been invited to a public meeting, but it would be inconvenient for the public peace that they should attend, and that they had better stay at home. If they had done so, would it have been effectual? or would it not rather have tended to bring the civil power into contempt? Those bodies of people had committed no act of violence in their approach; would it then be said that a body of military should have been sent to disperse them? Or, if that had been done, and they (the military) had been overpowered, what might have been the consequence? If one of the detachments sent against those large bodies should have been overpowered in the col- lision, the consequences of the impression on the public mind in Lancashire would have been most fatal. With respect to the part which ministers had acted on this occasion, he conceived that they would have been guilty of a gross dereliction of their duty, if they had acted Otherwise. Not only were the ministers praiseworthy in delivering to the magistrates the thanks of the Prince Regent, but it would have been the most signal proof of their unfitness to hold their situations, if the only recompence for men who had devoted their whole time and labour to the preservation of the peace, had been to depart from the ordinary course of proceeding to their prejudice. Was it not as reasonable as it was accordant to practice, that persons who were qualified to perform such important functions should be believed on their statements till there was reason to suspect them? On what ground was the commander in an action thanked by his sovereign? was it not on his own statement? The duke of Wellington when, for instance, he stated in his account of the battle of Talavera, that he defeated the enemy—that he had rescued his army from imminent peril, was he not to receive the thanks of his sovereign? Was he to be told by the ministers—"We hear that marshal Victor, who is opposed to you, has sent a very different account of the matter to Buonaparte—the gentlemen of the opposition are prepared to find fault with you, and military critics will tell us that you committed blunders, and therefore we must suspend our thanks until an inquiry into the fact has been instituted." If such conduct was pursued, we should not have such generals as the duke of Wellington, nor men of independent fortunes, who, in spite of the allurements of foreign travel, or the pleasures of the capital, of their own ease, devoted their time to the preservation of the peace in towns in which they had no personal interest. If in the honest discharge of their duty the magistrates were to be thus treated—if the first act of ministers should be to find a true bill against them, why, the result would turn out, that instead of an unpaid and active body of magistrates, the local administration of justice would be confined to men who were now so much talked of—he meant stipendiary magistrates. He would appeal to the civil commotions in this country, he would appeal to the history of the civil commo- tions of France, and he would ask, what on those occasion had been the effect of ill-timed rigour, and what had been the effect of ill-timed concession? The fatal effects of the latter had been written in blood; and fatal indeed must the consequences be to this country, if government were to be deterred by popular clamour from the performance of its duty, and be induced to withhold an expression of its approbation from a course of measures which the circumstances of the times so fully warranted. He had said thus much from the strong feeling of obligation which he thought was due to the magistrates of Manchester, to whom was to be ascribed the rescue of that part of the country from the most imminent danger. He would now proceed to the discussion of the subject which was more immediately before the House. He had listened to the speech of his hon. friend opposite with all the attention which the prepossessions of early friendship would naturally excite; and he professed that he was exceedingly surprised, knowing the ability which he had upon all occasions exhibited, to find that throughout the whole of that speech there was not an argument, or an attempt at an argument, to show that the measures which were under discussion were not necessary. Judging from the speech of his hon. friend, he was bound to say that he anticipated his vote in favour of the motion; for he had not only not diminished the danger in which the country was placed, but had unfortunately magnified it. He had stated that the consequence of raising 11,000 men would be to render it necessary to raise double that number in the ensuing year; and had added, that the state of the country afforded a ground of impeachment against one of his majesty's ministers. How this proposition was to be supported he confessed himself at a loss to imagine. But there was one part of his hon. friend's speech for which he could not account, and that was how, after his sarcastic remarks upon the meetings at Glasgow and York, he had found so speedy a conveyance to the inquisition at Mentz. Upon an examination of the papers which had been presented to the House, he thought the necessity for the proposed measures must be evident to any one who had taken the trouble to read them. In adverting to these papers, there were two classes of men presented to their notice. The first of these were the lovers of peace, good order, and tranquillity: but there was another class of his majesty's subjects, whom, he apprehended, there was no individual in that House, who was the sincere advocate of the rights of the people, would support. He would ask any man whether he could read those papers, and forming his judgment upon them, and upon facts which were perfectly notorious, he could draw any other conclusion, than that there had been a great abuse of popular rights, and such an abuse as was calculated to bring down destruction upon the constitution? He did not found this observation upon anonymous information—he drew his conclusions of the dangers of the public peace, and of the dangers of the rights and privileges of the people, from documents which were to be found in these papers, and which were sanctioned by such men as lord Derby, lord Fitzwilliam, and the duke of Hamilton. Any individual who read those documents could come to no other conclusion, than that the danger of the country was extreme, and that it was absolutely necessary to adopt some immediate and powerful measures to check that danger. Now, with respect to the attempts which were made to make the danger appear ridiculous, he would only beg leave to refer to the case of the meeting described by lord Fitzwilliam, on Hunslet-moor. At this meeting some thousands of persons, men, women, and children, were collected together, and there, as was stated in the letter of lord Fitzwilliam, were again assembled the same itinerant orators who had been attending in other places. At that meeting, so collected, seventeen or eighteen resolutions were unanimously voted, and he would beg the attention of the House to the sort of statements which were thus disseminated among the multitude of men, women, and children who were present. In the first place it was resolved, that the debt of the country amounted—to what sum? No one felt, or lamented more, the pressure of this debt than he did,—but surely the evil was sufficient of itself without being enhanced by the inflammatory exaggerations of itinerant orators, and yet those persons stated to those who stood around them, that the debt of the country amounted to no less a sum than 100,000,000,000l.! and it was added, that this enormous burthen was attributable to the depreciated state of the paper currency. But the re- solution which followed was more ridiculous, and, if possible, more wicked; for it was intended to create dissatisfaction and distrust towards those persons who represented their interests in parliament, upon a subject altogether disconnected from party feelings, and to bring into contempt or suspicion even the most disinterested exertions of the House for the amelioration of the people. It was this—"That the saving-bank scheme, which was instituted under a pretence of benefitting the working classes, when nearly three-fourths of them were out of employ, is an insult to common sense and real understanding, and ought to be considered as what it really is—an engine to work the last shilling out of the pockets of a few old servants and retired tradesmen, to enable the Bank and borough-mongers to pay the fractional parts of the dividends, and to create a sort of lesser fund-holders of those who know no better than to make a deposit of their hard earnings, to fill the pockets of those who are draining them of their last shilling." He would ask the House what could the persons who un-blushingly made this statement have in contemplation? He would ask whether such proceedings was not one of the most miserable abuses of popular right which it was possible for the imagination to conceive? Another resolution was, "that as soon as an eligible person would accept the appointment, another meeting should be called to elect him as representative of the unrepresented part of the inhabitants of Leeds." Could this meeting, or meetings like it, be said to enlighten and enlarge the mind of the community? and were not evils of the greatest magnitude to be apprehended, if they were permitted to be repeated? But he called upon the House not to suppose that the evil stopped here; he only called upon them to listen to what lord Fitzwilliam said in another part of his report. His lordship said, "The resolutions passed were numerous and long, but I have not their particulars as yet, the managers not having yet dressed them up to their own liking for print, which I suppose they will do in the usual way on such occasions, without any very scrupulous attention to what was proposed and passed by the meeting." That was to say, that they would not scruple not only to mislead the people in the first instance, but to misstate in print, and to misrepresent the actual resolutions to which the meeting had come. Could any man alive see this without at once acknowleding the dangerous results to which it must lead? And would it be said that to place restraints upon such nefarious and abominable transactions, would be to infringe despotically upon the people's rights? [Hear, hear]. But when he considered the probable consequences which would result to the public peace from similar practices in the neighbourhood of Manchester, he could scarcely find words adequate to express his apprehensions. When he heard gentlemen talk of invading the rights and privileges of the people, he would ask whether there were not other rights to preserve than those which were connected with those popular meetings? When they talked of public rights, they should not forget that there were such rights, as the rights of property and of freedom, the right of exercising opinions freely, and of acting in conformity with shose sentiments of loyalty which the true principles of the British constitution were meant to inculcate and to uphold. He should like to take any impartial stranger: and to describe to him the British constitution, the rights which it created and preserved and its practical operation on the happiness of the community. That stranger, of course, would not regard any fanciful theory, or the boasted balance of the three powers—monarchy, aristocracy, democracy; he would demand in what way was secured the lives, the persons, the property, the freedom of opinion of the subject, in short all those rights which it was absolutely necessary to the public good to maintain. He would place that stranger in some spots he would fix on near Manchester, and ask him what he thought of the practical operation of the British constitution? Let the House look to the details which were in the papers before them, and they would find a melancholy abundance of proofs of the sort of conduct which practised by those misguided men: they would see that, according to their construction of the British constitution, no man was entitled to exercise the right of allegiance, or entitled to protection, if he presumed to think differently from themselves. He again begged to state, that he did not make these observations upon anonymous information. Let the House look for instance to the examination of Francis Murray; they would find that he with three others had left Manchester on the day preceding the 16th of August, and that he proceeded to an open spot at some distance, where he found 1,500 men exercising in military array, and formed as he had described it, in solid squares. This man was invited to join those persons, and upon his declining an immediate alarm was given that he was a spy. He endeavoured to escape, but was pursued by a body of these desperadoes, by whom he was captured: and how in this man's person was the liberty of the subject respected? He was actually obliged to go down upon his knees, and forswear his allegiance to his sovereign, as the price of his life; for he was not even protected from violence, having been shamefully wounded and maimed. But what was the melancholy appeal which this man who was not employed by the civil power (though where would have been the criminality if he had been?) was obliged to make to these advocates of constitutional power,—to those whose meetings were considered as no abuse, and those whose conduct it was said was not calculated to produce danger to the state? This British subject, in the possession of his liberty, guilty of no offence, entitled by the constitution to the free enjoyment of his own opinions, what sort of appeal was he obliged to make to this singular assembly? Did he say he was a British subject, and appeal to equal rights? He knew too well the temper of those into whose hands he had fallen. He said, and his appeal was, though a simple, a melancholy and forcible one, "For God's sake treat me as I would be treated by enemy. If I were flying from the French, and they, as an enemy, were to take me prisoner, they would grant me quarter; let me implore you but to extend to me a similar grace!" This was the language which a free born Englishman was constrained to address to his brother Englishmen, at a time when he was guilty of no illegal act, in order to obtain a cessation of torture. He would ask any man in that House if this was what was called the liberty of the subject? Rather, was it not one of the evils against which the British constitution did not guard, but against which it ought to be made to guard? Lord Derby too, to whose report an hon. gentleman had referred, and who, from his known political sentiments, might be considered a most impartial witness, what did he state? And here he could not avoid paying a tri- bute of gratitude to that noble lord for the manner in which he had acted—for the firm and effectual steps which he had taken to preserve those institutions upon which the prosperity of the nation could alone depend. What did this noble lord state? Knowing the spirit of loyalty which pervaded the respectable inhabitants of this district, he endeavoured to raise an association for the protection of the public peace, but in what language was he constrained to report the result of that effort? He says, alluding to the formation of an armed association, "I find a difficulty in obtaining a sufficient number of officers, even but for one battalion; but every entreaty has failed to induce the men to come forward." He would ask, was this a state of things consistent with the safety of the constitution? Were the loyal and the disloyal to be put upon the same footing? He would ask whether it was possible, in this state of things, when men were assured that great numbers of the disaffected were meeting to drill as soldiers, and to acquire a knowledge of military manœuvres, that the loyal inhabitants of the country would come forward? Was not the knowledge of such a fact calculated to produce the strongest intimidation? Look to the duke of Hamilton and Brandon's letter, what did he say? His grace said, that he had no doubt of the spirit of loyalty existing to a great extent; but he added, that "to the natural difficulty attached to the situation of the farmer, &c, in this country, there appears now a novel one, proceeding from the alarm excited by those who compose the various and numerous meetings in this district of the country." In other words, that the people literally stood in a state of intimidation, and were apprehensive of avowing their sentiments, lest they should be subject to the attacks of a stronger party. Was this the possession of the freedom of opinion? Gentlemen should consider what would be the consequences of this system of intimidation. It was not the upper classes upon whom this feeling would operate; they were in a situation to look to themselves; but let them consider the temptation to which those to whom the same protection was not extended, he meant men of moderate property were exposed. Would not they from the principle of self-preservation join that party from whom they had most reason to feel alarm? It was not in human virtue, it was not in human firmness, to stem the torrent. Let the House reflect how great a danger was to be apprehended from the fear and despondency of the loyal. Let them think how many would rather dissemble their conviction than avow their fears, and amidst increasing enemies, and more dangerous threats, would join the ranks of those among whom alone they would find security. For the conduct of all these persons, for every man become disloyal for want of protection, they, the House would be responsible. But let them once assure the loyal part of the population of support, and thousands would at once come forward and avow themselves, who would otherwise be compelled silently to yield to a superior force. He came now to a part of the subject upon which he must dwell with more serious apprehensions. His hon. friend had asked to what the change and distress of the people were to be attributed? He had no difficulty in avowing his conviction, that in those districts which were called manufacturing districts, a change had taken place in their manners, and habits, and feelings, and he confessed that he found it much more easy to point out the causes of those disorders than to devise the means of preventing them. His hon. friend had made some allusion to the state of the representation, as being in some measure the cause of the changes which he had described; but he would recall to the recollection of his hon. friend, whether, when the nation was threatened by foreign invaders, the people did not flock in millions to the standard of their country, ready to sacrifice their lives in its protection. Was the state of the representation altered since that period? The hon. gentleman had talked of the distress which prevailed, being attributable to his majesty's government, or rather misgovernment. If this were the cause, distress must be the same every where, for the government was general; and yet it was an established fact, that distress existed only in particular quarters, while all the rest of the country was in a state of general happiness and tranquillity. They found disorders prevail in a distant county to a great extent; but they found Ireland, they found the south of England, they found the north of Scotland generally tranquil; and they found certain districts only, which had been subject to disorder for many years, in a situation of alarm. Then ought they not to look for a cause for this alarm to something different from what had been stated? They saw in those districts a manufacturing population, different in their habits, and different in their relations, as far as regarded landlord and tenant, from the population of any other part of the country. Being more populous, they naturally called for a more effective civil power; yet their civil power was more ineffective. They saw people collected in large towns, and a jealousy existing in conferring the appointment of magistrates upon individuals who employed those people,—if those individuals themselves, did not from their occupations, feel a reluctance in taking upon themselves so troublesome an office. When they saw also the great alternations which took place among the lower orders of prosperity and distress; when they saw the constant vicissitudes to which they were exposed; when they saw their imprudence in not laying up in times of prosperity against times of distress; when they saw, too, that when they had employment they only worked for two or three days in the week, and devoted the rest to dissipation; and when they recollected all the influence which a change in the situation of affairs, of fashion, or of speculation might produce on the state of these individuals, it could not be denied that they were peculiarly open to the mischievous designs of those demagogues, who of late had been so actively engaged in taking advantage of their temporary difficulty, and impressing upon them a belief that their difficulties were irremediable, except by a change in the representation. For these evils, as he before said, he thought it was much more easy to find out the cause than to suggest a remedy. Another reason at this time afforded an additional facility for promoting the views of the seditious—and this was, the state of information to which the public mind had arrived from the more general dissemination of education. He did not mean by this to say one word in opposition to education, or to the more speedy extension of knowledge—there were no greater evils than the evils of ignorance—but let them take care that the greatest blessing was not converted into the greatest curse of the people. Upon the whole, he was of opinion, that the measures which were proposed should be applied to the country generally, and not to particular districts; for he was satisfied if an opening were left any where, it would be only affording an additional inducement to circulate in places yet uncontaminated, that poison which had operated so effectively and so mischievously in the manufacturing districts. He made his choice between what he considered two evils a farther restriction on valuable rights, and general anarchy and confusion; and he felt it his duty to attempt, by supporting the measures before the House, to prevent the disorders which now afflicted the manufacturing districts from spreading over the whole kingdom.

Mr. Smyth

perfectly agreed with the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, as to the magnitude of the danger by which the country was threatened, nevertheless he was not willing to infringe on any of those liberties which we had hitherto enjoyed. He also thought, that the popular assemblies so well described by the hon. gentleman, and so mischievously conducted by itinerant orators, ought to be suppressed. For this purpose he was willing to assent to any proper measures: but he would take the liberty of saying, that it was the incumbent duty of that House, in whatever measures they might think it advisable to adopt, to confine themselves strictly to the degree of danger which existed, and not to legislate beyond the danger. He had read the bill now before the House, and he thought the remedy which it proposed, (if remedy that could be called which was itself a mortal disease) ten thousand times worse than the evils it was intended to suppress. This bill appeared to him to be characterized by any tiling but wisdom, and in many respects to be decidedly objectionable. He alluded particularly to the clause which tended to enact, that if in a quarter of an hour a stranger did not withdraw himself from any meeting, in half an hour that meeting, however salutary and necessary it might be, should be dispersed as illegal, and its chairman and orators would become liable to the penalty of transportation, that clause which referred to the course which was to be adopted, if persons attending meetings did not withdraw, upon proclamation being made to depart. This was a clause which was calculated to produce extremely injurious consequences; inasmuch as it might affect ignorant persons, and in all events left the decision of the character of the meeting to the caprice of a single individual. Another reason why he thought this bill was not strictly applicable to the state of the country was, that the evil which it was meant to correct was professedly local, while the remedy was universal. He complained however, principally, that the whole of the code of coercion proposed, neither struck at the root of the evil, nor reached its cause. It was necessary that they should first clearly see what were the causes, before they ventured to legislate upon their existing effects. The first cause he conceived to be the distress arising from the stagnation of trade. The second, the seditious and blasphemous publications, and the speeches of itinerant demagogues. The third, the conviction which prevailed among the people that were not duly represented in that House; and the fourth, the vexatious system pursued by the present government in maintaining an enormous peace establishment, and imposing, last session, three or four millions of new taxes on an exhausted people. Unquestionably, there did exist a great distress and much wretchedness in the manufacturing districts of this country, occasioned, as he apprehended, by a declining trade, and by the inactivity in which commerce had long languished. That distress, it was the peculiar misfortune of the case, was aggravated by the sensations excited by those seditious and blasphemous publications which were there circulated, and by those speeches which were there made by itinerant orators. Yet the spirit of disaffection, ho must contend, was not owing to the disposition of the manufacturing districts themselves, but to that system of measures whence it took its actual rise. Undoubtedly, nothing could be more abominable than the practices of those men to whom he alluded—men who heightened the distresses which they affected to deplore, and embittered the sufferings they would pretend to relieve, by superadding the poison of sedition and impiety.—There were also other and efficient causes of the present distress. It had been invidiously attempted to prove that the middling and lower classes were alienated from the higher classes of society. Pregnant as this insinuation was with mischief and discontent, it was one main cause of the existing distress. But there were, moreover, inherent defects in the constitution of that House itself. The measures adopted by the House, as at present constituted, were as good as the House could be expected to frame: they were as wise, as benevolent, as just, as salutary, as that House, as it now existed, could perhaps adopt. The main argument by which those who approved the present state of the representation, defended it, was that it "worked well." This was a good argument with those who approved of all the measures of the House of Commons; but it was no argument to those who disapproved both of its constitution and its proceedings. When he looked to the state of the country, and asked what was the effect of the various legislative measures that had been adopted, he felt justified by facts as well as theory, in strenuously recommending a reform in parliament. There was also a fourth cause of popular discontent; a cause of which, although he did not expect to find many honourable gentlemen who would agree with him upon the subject, he did not less doubt the existence; and that was, the irritating and most vexatious system of measures pursued by his majesty's ministers. Let them look at the enormous, the unreasonable peace establishment, to be maintained by the country in its depressed and exhausted state; and then, without recapitulating those immoderate expenses of different departments, which must be fresh in the memory of every person who heard him, he could not help alluding to the large grants of money which had been made to the royal family; and to the unwarrantable suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. Had he not himself, during the last session of parliament, vainly protested against the imposition of between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. of new taxes, during the present aggravated season of public difficulty? Unfortunately the existing discontent was rather increasing than diminished. From the means of information which he possessed, and from all that he had heard in the House, he was not yet satisfied in one point, upon which he should be most happy to be convinced—that the magistrates of Manchester, during the fatal transactions of the 16th August, had not exceeded in their conduct that propriety and forbearance which they were bound to observe. Yet the thanks of the Prince Regent had been conveyed to them with what was well and truly termed, "breath-less haste:" and he had remarked with inexpressible astonishment, that, up to this day, not one word had fallen from his majesty's ministers, in compassion for the sufferings of those who were injured upon the occasion in question: not one word of that sympathy and condolence, which one should think it was natural for every man to entertain upon the subject. In the allusion which has been made to the Yorkshire meeting, lord Fitzwilliam had been described as having stood trembling in suspense for a hearing. This was utterly untrue. His lordship was received with the most respectful, but unbounded and enthusiastic applause, and it was impossible that any one who had witnessed the meeting could have given such an account of it. It was not true, then, that the lower orders were alienated from the higher. The contrary indeed was proved by the consequence of this act of ministers, as it showed the ardent feelings with which the people were ready to rally round lord Fitzwilliam, on finding that government regarded him as an enemy, because he acted as the friend of popular rights. What an impressive lesson did this occurrence furnish as well to the members of the government as to the higher orders of society! No one attempted to deny the existence of the evils which afflicted the country, but as to what was the proper remedy for those evils there was a general and strong difference of opinion.—Therefore to ascertain that remedy was, in his judgment, a very proper subject for inquiry. Such inquiry should indeed take place, and he was convinced that it must one day or other be instituted. The longer it was delayed, and that reform was refused which was obviously necessary, the more discontent and mischief he feared was likely to arise. He deprecated the language of the noble lord opposite, in ascribing mere party motives to those by whom his measures were opposed, for such language was but too well calculated to encourage the notions that were so sedulously propagated, that all the members of that House were actuated by mere party motives. Such an imputation was, he was persuaded, quite unfounded, and he was sorry to see it countenanced in any degree by the language of a minister of the crown; for it was highly material to maintain the character of that House in the estimation of the country. With regard to those seditious publications which he begged to ob-serve by the way, had not now arisen, for the first time, he was fully willing to con-cur in any measures to repress them provided such measures did not trench upon the liberty of the press. But the great remedy would be, that the House should inquire into the expediency of effecting a parliamentary reform; a remedy which could not be administered without a proper and concomitant change of system, a change not existing in any one particular act, but in the general tone and character of the measures pursued by ministers. Unless there was such a change in public measures, unless conciliation went at least hand in hand with coercion, the public discontent would not be diminished, and the distresses which they were so sensible of, and which they so deeply deplored, instead of ceasing, must go on increasing from day to day.

Mr. Abercromby

said, that upon so important a subject as the one before them, he must explain his reasons for the vote which he meant to give. From all that he had heard, after most attentively watching the progress of the discussion in one of the most diffuse debates at which he was ever present, he collected that there were three parties, entertaining distinct opinions upon the bill under consideration; one consisting of those who agreed with the noble lord, and thought that it ought to be immediately adopted; the second, of those who entirely opposed it; and the third, of those who thinking something was necessary to be done; yet thought that the bill should be neither general nor permanent. To the third party he himself inclined, and therefore his vote for the second reading of this bill should be conditional—namely, that its existence and operation should be temporary and local. It was perfectly impossible to hear those, who said that the disorders (out of which arose this measure) were not local, without feeling how completely they were contradicted by the facts of the case. It was quite impossible to look at those facts, or at the papers upon the table, and say that those disorders really extended beyond the counties which were strictly and properly called the manufacturing districts. Every one knew their relative proportion and extent; and it was equally impossible therefore, at the same time, not to be aware how large a portion both of England and Scotland was excluded from that description. From the statement of the right honourable member for Oxford it distinctly appeared that there were causes for discontent in the manufacturing districts, which it was desirable to remedy, and which could not possibly exist elsewhere. The right honourable gentleman had, no doubt, endeavoured to impress the House with an apprehension that the discontents of the manufacturing districts might extend to other quarters; but how could the alterations or vicissitudes of trade, by which manufacturing districts were so liable to be affected, operate in other places that were not in any degree concerned in manufactories? Was it not monstrous then, to extend universally throughout the country, those measures of restriction which were fairly applicable to the manufacturing districts alone, or to render laws permanent which were calculated only to meet temporary causes, for such the distress which they alleged to be the great source of the present discontents was deemed to be by the advocates for those laws? It was indisputably the duty of wise legislators to endeavour to guard even against the remotest evil consequences which might result from their measures. His hon. and learned friend, if he would allow him to call him so, the solicitor general, had observed, that this bill did not propose truly to interfere with the rights of lord lieutenants or sheriffs, or grand jurors, to call public meetings, or with the power of a certain number of magistrates to do so. What was to be expected from lord lieutenants and sheriffs the country very well knew; and that magistrates should call parochial or public meetings for popular purposes there were, in his view, very serious reasons to doubt. In fact it appeared to him that there was ground to apprehend from the operation of this measure, something like the corruption of the very fountains of public justice. If the measure were temporary, he should not entertain such an apprehension; but if it were rendered permanent, what a temptation would thus be held out to lord lieutenants to pack the magistracy, in order to serve the purposes of party. He could appeal to the noble secretary for foreign affairs, as to the condition of the magistracy of Ireland, in consequence of similar measures in that country. Such a bill as the present would, he feared, offer a strong motive for subjugating the magistracy to the absolute will of the minister. He spoke this at a time when an act had been recently done by his majesty's ministers, selfish, most purely selfish, unjust, cruel, vindictive, illiberal, and destructive of all independence of character and station—he meant the dismissal of lord Fitzwilliam. The dismissal of lord Fitzwilliam afforded a signal example to ail lord lieutenants who ventured to oppose the will of ministers. What, then, was likely to be done with the magistracy, under the nomination of such officers, if ministers deemed it material to reduce that body to subserviency? and that might be the case, if the measure under consideration were rendered permanent, could hardly be doubted. Therefore, on this ground, if there were no other, he would object to the proposition for rendering this measure permanent. He could not, indeed, as a cautious legislator, allow himself to move one step beyond the necessity of the case, and therefore he would not assent to have this measure either permanent or general. It had been uniformly the rule of all considerate legislatures, not to found a permanent law upon any temporary alarm —yet it was attempted to press this measure forward with such a degree of precipitancy as was scarcely ever known in the history of parliament. This he could not help observing, while he was ready to admit the existence of the danger alleged on the other side, and the necessity of providing an appropriate remedy. But the remedy proposed exceeded the nature and necessity of the case; besides, it was due to the merits of this case, and to the voice of the country, that some inquiry should be gone into before the measures brought forward by the noble lord were passed into law. He concurred with those who had observed upon the danger belonging to the immense meetings which had lately taken place in this country and in Scotland. The alarm created by such meetings was no doubt an evil of a serious nature against such alarm to the feelings and the property of the peaceable and well-disposed, he thought it the duty of parliament to provide—but that provision need not be carried beyond the districts where the evil existed, or the alarm prevailed. The meetings to which he alluded ought, he decidedly thought, to be put down; but this object might be accomplished without interfering with the permanent rights and privileges of all the people of England. A very different course of conduct was, he felt, due to the people of this country; for the distress which they suffered was such as to call loudly for relief—and the more so, as that distress was incurred by their efforts to supply the demands of the government. The fact was, that the great misfortunes of the people arose out of the conduct of the government, in calling upon the country to extend its efforts beyond its strength. Hence the public taxes and the public debt had been so enormously increased—hence the poor-rate had become so grievously oppressive, while the administration of that rate was too generally and perhaps too justly complained of by the poor, for whose relief it was raised. The country was pressed upon by a crowd of calamity which admitted of no palliation, and with regard to which a complete inquiry should be instituted in order to satisfy the people of the disposition of parliament to consider their wants and to redress their wrongs. He was most anxious to maintain the authority of parliament and the laws, and that was best to be done by consulting the wishes and interests of the people, and not by attempting to put down opinions by force. Such an attempt was indeed most monstrous, for all history showed, that neither the provisions of the law, nor the power of the sword could suppress the freedom of opinion. Whatever parliament could do for the amelioration of the condition of the people, he hoped it would endeavour to do; and that while it provided for the suppression of the tumultuous, and the correction of the disaffected, it would contrive to afford some relief to the industrious poor. At all events he trusted that parliament would take measures to secure the due administration of justice; and that the law, which was meant for the protection of all should be administered alike to the rich and to the poor. Upon the conditions, and with the reservations which he had stated, he should vote for the House going into a committee on the bill.

Lord A. Hamilton

said, he was about to tender his vote for the motion, not in any confidence in his majesty's ministers, but from ocular demonstration of the actual necessity of some legislative measures, and upon the grounds and conditions which had been so ably described by his hon. and learned friend who had just sat down. If he were asked the causes of the existing state of things, and of the dissatisfaction unhappily prevailing among the people, he would state, distress. The first cause, the second cause, the third cause, was distress, and the utter inability of the people to obtain adequate subsistence from any application of their labour. No man could condemn more than he did the large and tumultuous meetings which had of late so much alarmed and disturbed the country. But as the evil of those meetings was comparatively partial, and the cause he hoped but temporary, he could not accede to the adoption as a remedy of an universal and permanent measure. There were some districts which no doubt were in a very disturbed condition, but then there were others, to the loyalty, peace, and order of which he could bear unqualified testimony; and he could not, therefore, agree to any abridgment of the rights of the one, because it was necessary to impose some restriction upon the other.

Mr. Coke

felt it proper to submit a few observations to the House, in consequence of what bad fallen from his hon. and learned friend on the floor with respect to the probable condition of the magistracy, should the present measure become a part of the permanent law of the land. He meant as to the question whether, in the event of any lord lieutenant, or sheriff, refusing to call a county meeting, five of those magistrates, who were generally nominated by the lord lieutenant, were likely to do so. Some circumstances had come to his knowledge which he thought it necessary to state, in order to put the House on its guard upon this subject. It happened, he was sorry to say, that there had been of late years several contested elections in Norfolk, the consequence was the excitement of an angry party spirit throughout all classes, and the lord lieutenant of that county not being on the popular side of the question, was of course decidedly hostile to his (Mr. Coke's) principles and connexions. That nobleman, some time ago, was pleased to exclude from the commission of the peace, some gentlemen of most unexceptionable character, and whose landed property in the county entitled them to the distinction, but who happened to belong to the whig party. This extraordinary proceeding was represented to him (Mr. C.) and he was solicited to apply to the nobleman alluded to upon the subject. His answer, however, was, that he would not condescend to make any such application, but that he would refer the case to lord Eldon. To lord Eldon he did accordingly refer, and from that noble lord he met the reception which he expected from a just man and a gentleman. Lord Eldon, indeed, after observing, that it was not at the discretion of the lord lieutenant to exclude gentlemen from the commission of the peace, as that power belonged only to the lord chancellor, promised that the names of the gentlemen alluded to as they were those of proper and fitting persons for that office, should be inserted in the commission for Norfolk, which was done accordingly. In consequence of this example, a gentleman connected with the whig party being afterwards asked, whether he wished the lord lieutenant to put his name in the commission replied, "I will not make any application to the lord lieutenant upon the subject, Mr. Coke will take care of that." But should it become a material object with ministers to appoint only persons of particular opinions to the magistracy, under a lord chancellor, of different principles and character from lord Eldon, could it be for a moment doubted, that the apprehensions of his hon. and learned friend on the floor, as to the probable subserviency of that body, would turn out but too well founded. With respect to the language of the hon. and learned the sollicitor general (which no doubt was meant as consolatory) that notwithstanding the adoption of this bill, lord lieutenants and sheriffs truly would still have the power of calling public meetings, who, he would be glad to know, had ever heard of a lord lieutenant calling a public meeting, and who had not heard that the most respectable requisitions for public meetings had been frequently refused by sheriffs? Upon the conduct of any sheriff who refused such a requisition, he thought it unnecessary to make any comment, but for himself he would say, that were a requisition signed by respectable gentlemen, presented to him as a sheriff, he should feel it his duty to comply with such requisition, however he might differ in political opinions from the gentlemen by whom it was subscribed, because it would be contrary to his principles in any case to interfere with the right of private judgment, or to impede the exercise of free discussion. The practice, however, of ministers had been, to his knowledge, for forty years, of quite an opposite description, and therefore he could not consent to increase the powers of men who acted upon such principles, particularly where he conceived the existence of such powers, not at all necessary. Looking, indeed, at the papers on the table, and to matters of universal notoriety, he thought the demand of ministers for those extraordinary powers quite unwarrantable, especially, satisfied as he was, that the meeting at Manchester would have gone off as quietly as that at Hunslet moor, and as many others of the same description, if it had not been interfered with by the officious agents of authority.

Lord Folkestone

expressed his surprise and regret to hear his hon. and learned friend and his noble friend declare their intention to vote for the motion before the House, upon the condition that the bill should be temporary and local, while they heard the hon. and learned solicitor-general and the right hon. member for Oxford state the resolution of ministers to render it permanent and universal. But it would teem from what his hon. and learned and his noble friend had said, that they had not read the bill before the House. From that bill it appeared that while its advocates professed so much respect and regard for the right of petitioning, the exercise of that right must become impracticable, for any efficient purpose, from the number of restrictions meant to be imposed upon it. The hon. and learned gentleman who opened the debate, had described the measure as still leaving untouched the right of meeting to as great an extent as was necessary for an expression of public opinion, and for conveying to the throne or the legislature the wishes or the grievances of the people. The bill provided, said the hon. and learned gentleman, for a county-meeting, if called by the lord lieutenant of the county, by the high sheriff, by the grand jury, or by five magistrates. As to the lord-lieutenant, it was the first time he had ever heard of his calling county-meetings; as to the sheriff, why, there were instances lately of that officer refusing to call meetings upon the requisition of numerous and respectable bodies of freeholders. The grand jury, as formed by the high sheriff, might partake of his party spirit, and it might not be possible to procure the consent of five magistrates, degenerate as the magistracy might become, and appointed by the Crown as they always were. Was it not probable, then, that all those parties might become disinclined to public meetings, and thus deprive the county of all means of expressing its opinions on public measures? Upon the fair, or popular, or impartial exercise of such a right, it would, indeed, be absurd to calculate, especially from the course which ministers appeared determined to pursue, For they had proclaimed to the country in the dis- missal of lord Fitzwilliam from the lord-lieutenancy of the West Riding of Yorkshire, that the only road to office—that the only tenure of authority was in unconditional subserviency to ministerial opinions. "But," said the hon. and learned gentleman, "if all this fail, the people can still exercise the right of petition by district meetings," for the hon. and learned gentleman was cautious not to go the length of saying parish meetings during the whole of his speech, though such meetings were contemplated in the bill. Even those limited assemblies were, however, to be subject to the most vexatious regulations. The inhabitants were not to be allowed to meet where they chose, when they chose, and how they chose. The justice was to have it in his power to alter the time and place of assembling, fixed upon by the requisitionists, to appoint another time and place of meeting, when and where half the parish could not attend—in a room for instance which would not admit a tenth part of those who had a right to be present. Nay, more; the justice had it in his power to send one of his emissaries into the meeting who did not belong to the parish or district, one of the noble lord's spies for instance, whose presence or language might make the assembly illegal. The meeting on this might be ordered to disperse, and after a quarter of an hour all their proceedings would become illegal, their resolutions would be annulled, and they themselves would become liable to transportation. Under such regulations, restrictions, and penalties as these, were the boasted privileges of Englishmen to be exercised! He (lord Folkstone) would not support the bill as it now stood, in order that it might be afterwards modified. So objectionable did he feel the principle of the bill to be, that he could not agree with his noble or his hon. and learned friend in believing that any alteration of the provisions could change its character, and for his part he should oppose it altogether. He had the strongest objections to it, both in itself, and as making part of an obnoxious system. The noble lord, who had on Monday night opened his plan, would not allow him to consider this measure insulated; and the hon. and learned gentleman, who had this night played second fiddle to the noble lord, took a similar course. He would not, however, follow their example. He would not go into the other measures with which the present bill was connected: "sufficient for the day was the evil thereof," and there was enough in this single proposition to sicken the House for one night. He felt it necessary, however, to allude to what had fallen from the right hon. member for Oxford, whom he did not then see in his place; and as the subject to which he was about to advert was important, he regretted his absence. But he must previously observe, that the more these proceedings were discussed, the more strongly was exemplified the propriety of the vote given by 150 members of that House on a former night, in favour of an inquiry into the events at Manchester. The very account of those events given by that right hon. gentleman differed materially from the account given by the noble lord, and both were at variance with the statements as disclosed in the correspondence from the magistrates at Manchester. The version of the noble lord was contradicted in several important particulars even by the hon. and learned the solicitor-general, and his noble friend, the member for Lancashire, in his statement differed from both. He had since read the account of a Mr. Philips, in a pamphlet which he had sent him (though he was unacquainted with the individual), and he found, that that account differed entirely from all the rest. Now, he would ask the House, ought any bill founded on statements so vague and contradictory, to pass till inquiry took place, and the present uncertainty was removed? Was it fit, in the present state of the question, ignorant as he was, and as the great majority of that House must be, of the actual facts, to proceed to the adoption of permanent measures of legislation, alleged to be founded on the notoriety of circumstances with the particular nature of which the House was uninformed? He, for one, professed to know nothing of the state of that part of the country to which the proposed legislative measures were intended to apply. He believed it to be very much disturbed, and would readily agree that something ought to be done; but, in his present state of ignorance on the subject, he could not judge what measures were best calculated to restore tranquillity, and he was sure that many other members were as little informed as himself. How could they, then, proceed to legislate, while they were thus in the dark? "But," said the ministers of his Royal Highness, "the case is urgent, and some remedy must be immediately applied." This did not appear. The meetings had been mostly discontinued. But allowing the case to be urgent, why did they not propose an act which should continue in force for three months, during which time a full inquiry might take place? Though the noble lord boasted of his majority on the address, and on the motion of Tuesday, as decisive against inquiry, still he (lord Folkestone) was persuaded that inquiry must take place. The country would never be satisfied till the statements which were abroad were ascertained to be true or false, or till further information was obtained. The right hon. member for Oxford had described the state of the disturbed districts as most lamentable, and in one part of his speech had made an observation which he was afraid too plainly indicated the sentiments by which the Manchester magistrates were actuated. He had said, he conceived that it was better that the blood shed at Manchester had been shed, than that the meeting of the 16th of August should have taken place, and should have been allowed quietly to disperse. Strange, indeed, must be the state of things, when such a sentiment was uttered in such a quarter. He did believe, however, that it was a sentiment on which the magistrates of Manchester acted. He did think he saw, from the papers before the House, an internal evidence, which went to prove that it was the object to produce the very result which attended the meeting of the 16th of August. The right hon. gentleman had asked, whether a few constables could have met the different columns as they marched into the field and have stopped their progress. He (lord Folkstone) saw nothing impossible in this. A proclamation, warning the people not to attend a meeting, had prevented one on the 9th, and he saw no reason why what had succeeded on the 9th should have been ineffectual on the 16th. That the meeting on the 16th was illegal, was a point maintained by the magistrates in their own defence; and if it was illegal, why did they not tell the people so, especially as they saw that they had attended to their previous warning? But he believed that it was not the object of the magistrates to prevent the meeting, but to produce the result which had ensued. They had seen a demagogue arrested at a public meeting in London, and they wished to imitate the vigorous example. In the letter of Mr. Hay it was stated, that when they saw the different parties pouring in, the magistrates felt alarm, and received the depositions of several persons who swore that they conceived the town in danger. Did they take any steps on the first information? No, the time was not yet arrived: they did not conceive the insurrection begun till Mr. Hunt arrived. Their design, therefore, seemed evidently to take him at the risk of all the blood that might be shed on the occasion. In confirmation of this their intention, he might state what he had heard from a gentleman of undoubted credit—that it had been said at Buxton on the 14th of August, that Hunt and the other orators would be seized on the 16th, in the face of the meeting. Did not all this demand inquiry? And were we, without inquiry, to pull down the pillars of the constitution as would be done by this bill, and take away the right of guarding by public meetings our most precious privileges all over the kingdom, merely on the allegation of an unexamined local evil? He had already said that something ought to be done, but let the measure be of the same character as the evil—let it be limited to the disturbed districts, and, if made temporary, he would even agree to a measure of a stronger nature, if the House would pledge itself, after the retoration to a better state of things, to proceed into an examination of the causes of the existing evil. The House must perceive from the accounts of the various gentlemen who had spoken, that parts of the country were actually in a state of disorganization. Property, it was said, was at stake—loyal men were alarmed from coming forward—persons refused to be enrolled as special constables—and, strange to say! the existence of this state of things, nothing short of complete auarchy, was admitted by the very persons who, in the same breath, decided against the necessity of any inquiry by parliament. He doubted the truth of the representation, but at any rate it was a fit subject for inquiry. The bill, as it stood at present, was totally inapplicable to the required purpose. It comprehended equally in its penal regulations the innocent and the guilty; applied as much to the districts where the greatest tranquillity prevailed, as to those which were represented to be in the greatest disturbance; and was irreconcileable with the spirit and usages of the constitution. No alteration in a committee could remove his objections; he conceived it better at once to throw it out; and if the noble lord pleased, he could introduce one less objectionable in its principle, and more calculated to meet the particular evil.

Mr. Peel

, in explanation, said, that however mistaken by the noble lord, he thought he had qualified his expressions respecting the meeting at Manchester sufficiently to guard himself from the suspicion of not feeling as deeply as any hon. gentleman could for the calamity of that day. The noble lord had certainly quoted his words correctly, but he appealed to the House, to believe, that though he had in words accompanied they observation with no qualification, yet it was far from his feeling to give utterances to any expression that bordered on inhumanity. He never under-rated the evil attendant on the dispersion of the Manchester meeting and the only reason why he thought it better than if it had taken another course, was that if that meeting had not been dispersed another would have taken place, and a collision might have ensued between the military and the people, in which much more blood would have been shed. He was anxious to state that such was his sense of the transaction, lest his expressions might be misrepresented.

Lord Folkestone

said, that when he quoted the words of the right hon. gentleman, he by no means imputed to him any improper feeling. But he must be allowed to state, in answer to the right hon. gentleman's explanation, that as to the probability of a more mischievous result at Manchester from future meetings, in other places second and third meetings of a similar character had taken place, and no blood had been shed.

Mr. Wilmot

said, that being fully sensible of the dangers which had given rise to the measures proposed, he considered those measures as calculated to preserve the liberties of the people, instead of infringing on them. There was, he said, a material distinction between liberty—a rational liberty—and licentiousness; for every physical good in the world, if carried to an extreme, would become an evil. The very air we breathe, the heat that fructifies the earth, the light from Heaven became noxious if unmodified; even our virtues might, by their excess, approximate to vice, nor is it otherwise with liberty. And when we now see her frantic and infuriated, shall we, instead of restraining her, rather place a poignard in her hand to perpetrate her own destruction. The speech of the noble lord who had just sat down, he could not say was judicious. The noble lord had talked of the unwillingness of lord lieutenants, of sheriffs, of grand juries, and of magistrates, that meetings should be held. But, were the objects of such meetings as had recently been assembled legal. Did any man in the House venture to say that they were? With respect to the observations that the noble lord had made upon the meeting at Manchester, and upon which the right hon. gentleman had given so satisfactory an explanation, he would venture to say, that those observations were in some points not quite correct. The noble lord had said, that the magistrates might have prevented the meeting; and he contrasted their conduct on that occasion, with their conduct on the occasion of the projected meeting of the 9th of August, which meeting was illegally convened. The meeting of the 16th was legally convened, but became illegal; for it could not be pretended these were not illegal adjuncts, the banners, the order, the threatenings, to say nothing of the possibility of concealed arms. It certainly would not have been irrational if such a suspicion had been entertained. His conviction was, that the meeting was founded in treasonable designs, and that the magistrates must not only be acquitted of tyranny in the exercise of their discretion, but that there was not even a prima facie case of presumption that they had acted wrong. To put them upon their trial would be utterly unjust and unwise. The measures now proposed were not, he contended, an abolition, but only a limitation of right. The circumstances of the country called for a permanent system of legislation upon the subject. Did any body advocate the principle of those meetings? If such a man existed, it could only be in the person of the individual just returned from America who had dug up the unhallowed bones of the blasphemer, and had brought them to this country for the purpose of creating a phrenzied feeling in favour of his projects, and, like old John Zisca, who desired that his skin should be made into a drum to rouse his countrymen, he wished to stir up impiety and disaffection, by the exhibition of this mummery to the irritated population of this country. It might not be useless at the present crisis, to point out what were the tyrannical and oppressive opinions which this man Cobbett, once entertained; which were such as no one who sat in that House would venture to express. He would refer to an expression used by one of the greatest ornaments of that House and of the country—the late Mr. Burke—but which every man who looked with due feelings upon the poor must deprecate. That gentleman had applied to the lower orders the appellation of "the swinish multitude." But the person to whom he had just alluded had gone still further. The hon. member here read an extract from the writings of Cobbett, which not only applied the term "swinish multitude" to the lower orders of the poor, but expressed a hope, that the Gadarean devil would enter them, and drive them into the sea. To such a man it was that the common people lent a willing ear; one, who had no other object in view but his own aggrandizement. The hon. member said, he was satisfied that the existing evils resulted, in great measure, from causes beyond the power of the legislature to remove; and that the remission of any taxation which the gentlemen on the other side could suggest, or any change in the representation, would not remove any of the present distresses. The hon. baronet who represented the city of Westminster was the only person in the House who ever advocated the principle of universal suffrage as the panacea for all the evils of the state; but that honourable baronet had subsequently revoked, at least, he had not persevered in, his opinion. The ability which the hon. baronet had manifested in his various speeches on parliamentary reform, reminded him of the answer of Cicero to Marcus Crassus, when the latter asked Cicero, why, having formerly praised him he was now disposed to abuse him? "I did praise you," said Cicero, "to show my ingenuity in making a good speech upon so base and execrable a subject." The point now to be considered was not so much whether the bill was abstractedly favourable or not to the liberty of the subject, but whether the House, striking the balance between two evils, would adopt it as the less. He thought the present circumstances of the country were somewhat similar to those of the year 1737; for he found in the records of that day a passage peculiarly applicable to the present situation of affairs. The hon. mem- ber then quoted the following passage from a speech made by Mr. Henry Fox in the year 1737: "When the tides of popular fury, Sir, begin to beat against the servants of the Crown, it has been so in all ages, that if they were not timely checked, they soon grew too strong for any barrier, either of law or duty, to oppose them, till in the end they bore down sovereign authority itself. The pillars of this House, Sir, were never shaken, nor was this constitution ever ruined but by the cowardice and treachery of those who ought to have been the protectors and guardians of both. While we were united among ourselves we had nothing to fear from what was acting or plotting abroad; but if we shall now betray irresolution and weakness, if we should neglect to inflict a wholesome severity while power is in our hands and justice on our side, have we not every thing to fear from those who will undoubtedly assume courage from our timidity, and grow insolent upon our lenity?"* He considered that he should be consulting the best interests of the country by voting for the bill. He was anxious to preserve that constitution which had long been the admiration of the world, and which had furnished all the liberties that America had to boast. That constitution ought to be preserved at the hazard of a temporary sacrifice; and, feeling that, he should most cordially give his vote for the second reading of the bill

Lord Milton

could not agree with the arguments which had been advanced in favour of the bill by his hon. friend, who appeared to him not to be sufficiently acquainted with the object which the bill had in view, when he said that its effect would not be the total uprooting of the most valuable privilege of Englishmen, the right of assembling to discuss their grievances, and of petitioning for redress. His hon. friend did not seem to be aware where the proceedings which were now in the train of receiving the sanction of the legislature would end.—The bill purported to have for its object the suppression of illegal meetings; but all meetings would be by it prevented, except such as it might please certain persons to assemble. His hon. friend, whose attachment to the constitution could not be doubted, was mistaken in * See Parliamentary History, vol. 10, p. 304. his view of the effects of the measure, for even he himself could not, consistently with the provisions of the bill, attend a meeting at Derby; no, not even in the next parish to his residence. He would not have been tempted to address the House if he had not felt it requisite to make some observations upon what had been advanced by the right hon. gentleman on the second bench opposite, who had declared in a portentous speech, that in consequence of the increased manufactures in Lancashire, and in the adjoining counties, a new state of population and of society existed there, for which it was necessary that a new system of laws should be enacted relative to public meetings. But was it consistent on the part of the right hon. gentleman to declare, that it would be improper that the measure should have merely a local effect, and that it ought to be general in its operation throughout England? What! because a few counties in the North West parts of the country had acted incorrectly, were the inhabitants of the whole island to be deprived of their privileges? And in, order to prevent the accumulations, or rather, the conglomerations of the populace in those districts, no populous meeting was to be tolerated elsewhere! Reference had been made by his hon. friend who had spoken last, to the proceedings of parliament, in 1737; but though parliament then enacted strong measures, they had been solely directed against the city of Edinburgh. Why was not that example followed on the present occasion? Again, when in the reign of Charles 2nd, a number of persons assembled at Westminster, and several of the guards were killed, a bill was passed to limit the rights of assemblies there, but there had been no Such universal measure as the present adopted. The people ought to be supported in their struggle through the difficulties which at present oppressed them rather than be overloaded with pains and penalties, when they came forward to point out the mode and the means which should be adopted in order to afford them the relief which they sought for. Parliament ought to imitate their ancestors, and try to overcome the existing evils by moderate measures, rather than lead to alienation by the enactment of pains and penalties.

Mr. Philips

was unwilling to obtrude himself upon the House at that late hour, but he could not allow the question to come to a vote without stating some reasons for the decision at which he arrived. It appeared to him that the conduct of the noble lord was wholly inconsistent with his professions The noble lord had urged all parties to unite with the government in its endeavours to put an end to the disturbances in the interior; but the moment an inclination was shown to coincide with ministers, if they would consent to make the measure in question local and temporary, he had seemed more than ever resolved that it should be general and permanent. He (Mr. Philips) begged the House to consider to what this country was indebted for the constitution of which it was so justly proud. Had it not grown out of the freedom of the press, which was now to be restricted; and out of public meetings and free discussion of public grievances, of which the people were now to be deprived? He knew that liberty, in order to be enjoyed properly, ought to be restrained; but liberty was not the private possession of a few persons, it was the possession of the inhabitants of a whole country. Some hon. gentlemen had talked of plots to burn the town of Manchester; if he had found that he was mistaken in any thing he had advanced on a former night, he would willingly have acknowledged his error; but after all his opportunities of correct investigation, he was most decidedly of opinion that no such attack was ever meditated, and that the whole project originated in the invention of spies and informers. He frankly allowed that the manufacturing districts were in a state requiring vigilance and attention, and that the most active instigators were not always the most severely distressed. But there was one material consideration of which the House ought not to lose sight, and that was, that the people in the manufacturing districts had been suddenly reduced from high to low wages; so that, in addition to their real sufferings, they had to endure the evil of the contrast between an increase of taxation, and a diminution of emolument. Upon the subject of manufacturers not being in the commission of the peace, he wished to make a remark or two, addressed principally to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. That right hon. gentleman had said that an inconvenience had once arisen from making a manufacturer a magistrate, and that the practice was accordingly discontinued; the magistrate re- ferred to, it was stated, had misapplied his power, for the advancement of his own interests. This was true, but it was not for the advancement of his own interests as a manufacturer, but as an owner of land, which he had sold to greater profit. The case alluded to therefore formed no solid objection to the appointment of manufacturers to be magistrates; and the House would recollect that that class of individuals possessed the greatest share of property. If they were not included among the persons eligible, the choice must be limited to a few individuals; and among them the clergy, who, it was obvious, ought not to be brought forward on occasions like that which had chiefly caused the debates on which parliament was now engaged.

Lord Castlereagh

declared that, after the full discussion which this important subject had undergone, and after the frequent occasions on which he had troubled the House, nothing but a strong sense of duty would have induced him again to come forward for the purpose of making a few remarks on what had fallen from the hon. member who had just taken his seat. He should confine his observations strictly to one or two points, and he would not have spoken at all could he with candour and fairness have suffered the House to separate without stating unreservedly the impression on his mind. As to the principle of the bill, he begged the House to consider the true and narrow issue on which the vote of to-night depended. Every hon. member must give his support to the second reading who did not think the measure totally incapable of being so altered and modified in the committee as to make it suit his particular views; so that every gentleman not disputing the principle, and who thought that something ought to be done in the present state of the country on the question now before the House, would give his vote in favour of the objects ministers had in view. Thus nobody would be pledged as to the details, which could be modified as the House in a future stage might deem expedient. The point to which he wished to advert, and which, indeed, had induced him to rise, related to the appeal made to ministers to assent to two propositions—the one for making the bill local, and the other for rendering it temporary. On these terms some hon. gentlemen had expressed a willingness to conciliate, and had in- vited ministers to join in that conciliation. He could assure the House, that though much had been said in the course of the debate, which was very little in the spirit of conciliation, and although ministers had been charged with being nothing less than the authors of the existing distresses (so that he had been induced to express a determination to meet the difficulties of the times without the concurrence of the other side), yet nothing that had passed could have prevented him from accepting the invitation, could he have been satisfied that such an acceptance would be consistent with the public interest and national security. First, as to rendering the measure local, he would remind the House, that as far as the wisdom of parliament had been collected, it had not been the practice to pursue the same line of policy with regard to Great Britain, as had been adopted towards Ireland: the judgment of the legislature was, therefore, in opposition to the proposal. Referring back to the year 1796, it would be found that the disturbances of that period had grown out of one meeting (that at Copenhagen-house), and the measures to meet the evil were framed accordingly. In 1801, though popular assemblies in the country had been more prevalent, yet they took their origin in the same way from one source; and in 1817, when a system of meetings was established, it had been founded upon a single portentous convention in Spa-fields. Still parliament did not confine itself to acts merely local; and there was therefore no precedent for such a mode of treating the question. Now as to the reason of the case, and the question what it was prudent to do in matters of such importance, he must say, that though on a former occasion he had been excessively anxious to congratulate the House on the tranquil state of Ireland, and of the agricultural counties, yet on the other hand, it would be acting on a principle of more confidence than wisdom, if in all cases it were to be said that this visible tranquillity was a proof of real quiet, and that the district would not be visited by calamities which raged in other situations. He entreated hon. gentlemen to recollect what was the apparent situation of much of the disturbed district. When parliament last separated, the general surface of the country was tranquil; at least there prevailed a visible tranquillity; but very shortly after another temper was manifest. Appearances, under such circumstances, were not to be trusted to, and the contagion spread too fast to suffer them to rest in security. As to the West Riding of Yorkshire, the letter of lord Fitzwilliam was evidence that the noble lord did not consider that the public peace was there in any degree menaced at the time that he wrote to government. But what was the fact? Lord Fitzwilliam had scarcely reached Lymington, to which he retired, when the meeting took place on Hunslet-moor; and that single occurrence had such an effect upon the whole of the West Riding, that there was not a single town within its limits that did not afterwards witness a scene of the same radical and tumultuary description. Was parliament then to circumscribe its remediable measures, and limit them to stop an evil which was so likely to outstrip any bounds? He put it to the noble lord opposite what had been the effect of one or two of those numerous meetings in the part of the kingdom with which he was particularly connected—of those meetings that carried such terror into the minds of the loyal and well-disposed in the west of Scotland. Had such a measure as now was offered to parliament been in existence, would his noble relation have been placed in the difficult situation he had experienced; or would any persons have refused to put their names to the declaration that had been drawn up? Could not the noble lord, with his influence and property, have raised armaments for the preservation of the peace of the country (which he after-wards found impossible) but for that one meeting in particular which had struck more terror into the minds of the good, and disseminated more discontent among those easily corrupted, than any subsequent steps could efface? The law must be efficient to cope with the extent of the mischief, and not nugatory as a subsequent application. What had happened in Yorkshire was repeated near Newcastle. Immediately previous to one of the most malignant meetings near Newcastle, at which not less than 700 armed men were present to resist the civil power, ministers received the most positive assurances from gentlemen of the county, that they could safely answer for the good disposition of the people. The result of that single meeting was, that terror was spread in every quarter, and all efforts to arm the loyal in defence of the laws and constitution were abandoned as unavailing: such was the dismay, that those who had previously given in their names for enrolment, could not afterwards be induced to come forward. Was the House, then, with such facts before it, prepared to try an experiment—to let its measures halt tamely behind the mischief, and not arrive until the greater part had been completed? Admitting that the agricultural districts were at present in complete security, was it to be denied that into many of them manufactories extensively intruded? Besides, agriculture was not altogether exempt from distress: if it did not now feel it, it might do so at some future period; and distresses in other parts of the kingdom might extend their baneful influence into those at present free from infection. Look, then, what would be the consequence of making the measure local? In the first place, it could not be carried into operation until after a tedious and dangerous process which the law would render necessary, were the measure to have a limited operation, and to be extended, as in the case of Ireland, on the requisition of the magistrates. The case must first establish itself—the magistrates would next have to communicate with the government—its answer must then be received, and farther time must be allowed before the remedy could get into operation. In the interval, how many radical meetings might be held, and how much alarm spread throughout the surrounding country? He farther submitted, that this was precisely the description of evil which the legislature ought to deal with on the general principle, without leaving it to the local magistrates. The practice of parliament at former periods confirmed this opinion: the nature of the evil had always guided its judgment, and of course the general tendency of the prevailing corruption was to extend itself into other districts, and that silently and darkly, until it was prepared to work its full effect. In his view, therefore, facts, reason, and policy, all united to induce the House to pass a general, and not a local measure. With regard to the second point, whether the bill ought or ought not to be permanent, he had stated his view on a former night, that, fairly considered, the measure ought not to be regarded as an invasion of the rights of the subject. No embarrassment was thrown in the way of the exercise of the undoubted right of the people to petition the Crown or either House of parliament, and a great portion of the policy of making the measure permanent arose out of the peculiar character of the meetings? It was quite clear that nothing could place the subject in a more disadvantageous position, with respect to the right of petitioning, than not knowing distinctly how he might exercise that right without being exposed to the visitation of the law; it was also obvious that nothing could be more important to the best interests of the country than to relieve magistrates from such a difficult situation as those of Manchester had been placed in on the 16th of August. Could any discretion be more delicate for magistrates, than for them to be called upon to decide what circumstances attending a meeting gave it that character of illegality which justified them as a matter of duty and prudence in dispersing the meeting? He was prepared to maintain, that the bill did not at all affect the right of petitioning, excepting that it afforded the subject the advantage of a clear and indubitable rule by which he might exercise it. Would the House wish that the state of things which existed in Yorkshire should be extended to other situations? If so, this bill might be rejected; but was it not most lamentable, when magistrates were obliged to submit to the terror of such meetings as had been there held, because they considered it a less evil than risking an endeavour to disperse them? Was it not most lamentable to see lord Fitzwilliam, a man of such undoubted character and loyalty, rejoicing at the close of the Hunslet-moor meeting, that it had been attended with no worse consequences? A collection of 30,000 persons were there assembled, and the most unqualified treason was the subject of discussion; yet lord Fitzwilliam wrote to government, stating his great satisfaction that the meeting had dispersed quietly. Such was the state of the country. Was there any object more likely to be of advantage to the subject who meant bona fide to exercise his just rights, than to show him how he could exercise them without the possibility of being interrupted? The principle of the measure was no more than this—that where a meeting was not thought proper by the constituted authorities, it must be held within certain limits, to afford security against the danger of. numbers; and it was rather singular, that in this country, down to a very late period, the only meetings known were those called by the constituted authorities. A noble lord had hinted his suspicions, that if the assembling of a meeting depended on the magistrates, they might be packed by the government: but he (lord Castlereagh) put it to the good sense of any man, whether, supposing the sheriff refused to call a meeting, five gentlemen out of the whole magistracy of a county could not be found to assemble the people? An hon. gentleman had objected to the conduct of the lord-lieutenant of the county of Norfolk, and the manner in which the complaint was made was certainly somewhat objectionable: if, however, such exclusion had taken place, and had been remedied in the manner specified, did not the fact furnish conclusive evidence that there was an appeal, and that that appeal would not be made in vain? Returning, however, to the disturbances, he begged to ask, whether any hon. gentleman really thought that the mischief had taken little root, or that persons at the head of it were likely to be diverted, or converted by such a measure as the noble lord had hinted at, for two, three, or six months? In his conscience, he believed, that if parliament were to do that, it would be far wiser that it should have attempted nothing. The remedy must be applicable to the evil; and as the evil was of a permanent nature, so must be the remedy. Would not the designing and disaffected watch the moment when the restriction should be removed, and renew all the miseries they had now created? By giving permanency to the measure, it was not put out of the power of parliament at any future period to repeal or modify it. He was the more earnest upon the subject, because he could not conscientiously persuade himself, that there was any thing in the bill that was inconsistent with the true liberty of the subject. On the contrary, he believed that it was the best safeguard of the constitution, and that it would secure Englishmen in the exercise of a valuable right, in the manner most compatible with their own and their country's interests. Sure he was that parliament would be disposed to give the measure that degree of permanency which would enable it to cope with the danger: if temporary, it would not only be futile in itself, but would hold out to the leaders of treason and rebellion a motive to manage their dependents and husband their force until when the bill expired it would be too strong to be resisted. He had thought himself bound in candour to offer these remarks, in order to show that ministers had not altered the view which they originally took of the question.

Lord Folkestone

explained, that when he spoke of a bill for two, three, or six months, he meant it only to last until the inquiry had been concluded; and then he should be disposed, if a case were made out, to intrust ministers even with a stronger measure.

Mr. Beaumont

expressed his unwillingness to intrude upon the House, but he was desirous of correcting an observation made by the noble lord. The noble lord had stated, on the authority of the mayor of Newcastle, that 700 armed men marched to the meeting from a neighbouring village. The fact however was, that having used every endeavour on the spot, to obtain evidence; he could not find a single person who could state that he had seen any arms upon that occasion. He did not state this as a matter of triumph to any party, and he meant to vote that the bill should be committed; but before he gave his final sanction to any measure, he must have full assurance that it was calculated to remove the evil. He trusted that as the whole of the country did not appear to be in a disturbed state, the bill would be made limited in its operation. He was perfectly willing to admit that the abominable doctrines which had of late been circulated with so much assiduity, were calculated to plunge the people into every mischievous excess, and were subversive of every thing valuable in the country; but he was persuaded that the evil did not proceed altogether from the restlessness of the people, but was principally attributable to the great distress which existed. Whether or not that distress proceeded from misrule he was not prepared to say.

Mr. John Smith

said, he could not agree to the bill as it at present stood, but if the noble lord, and the gentlemen who supported him, would consent that the measure should not be permanent, he would not oppose it. If it were passed for three, or even for four years, it should, with the exception of one or two clauses, receive his support. But, unless ministers could show that the causes which called for it were of a permanent nature, how could that House be justified in legislating permanently? During the last twenty years, he had observed a great deal of commercial distress; and he had uniformly remarked, that in proportion to the existing distress was the political dissatisfaction expressed by the people. The existing distress he knew to be most extensive and severe. On this subject he had received information from a gentleman whom he would not name, but who was well known to many of the individuals who heard him, and whose brother had been a distinguished ornament of that House. In a letter which that gentleman had written to him, he said, "The cause of the whole of our distresses in Scotland may be stated in two words,—empty stomachs!" The hon. member said, he believed that the want of employment, and the consequent want of bread, in various parts of the country, created that distress, which had ultimately produced acts of insubordination. If those causes could be removed by this measure, he would agree to it; but he would not consent to a permanent bill of this kind, unless its beneficial effects were demonstrated, and the strongest necessity shown for its adoption. He regretted most sincerely, that when laws were framing for the coercion of the people, no attempt was, on the other hand, made to improve their condition. Something of the latter kind must speedily be done; and a measure of the sort under consideration would appear with a better grace, if accompanied by some measure of relief. He should have been very glad to support government on the present occasion; but he could not agree to a bill, which was to deprive the people of their rights for ever.

Mr. Brougham

rose amidst cries of question from the ministerial side of the House, and calls equally loud from the opposition benches for him to proceed. He said he did not mean to trouble the House at any great length on account of the indisposition under which he laboured; but, at the same time, he could not pass over the speech of the noble lord opposite, without pressing on their attention the important points which it contained. It now appeared, in the appropriate language of the hon. member for Northumberland, and of an hon. gentleman who had recently sat down, what sort of conciliation they were to expect from the noble lord. They now knew what value to put upon his declaration, when he said, that if gentlemen on his (Mr. Brougham's) side of the House showed a disposition to meet him half way, he would endeavour to render that meeting joyful by approaching them. But now it appeared that he would not give them the slightest token of conciliation. His conciliatory nature would only concede to the country and the constitution those points which he stated when he originally submitted his measures to the House. He would not impose a censorship on the press; he would not make it punishable with death to attend at a meeting in a neighbourhood to which an individual did not belong, and where a spy might be ready to give information of the circumstance; nor would he destroy the liberty of the press! These were his concessions—these were all the favours which the country were to expect from him! The noble lord in the first instance took advantage of the precedent of former times, which he contended was with him; but when he found that it did not answer his purpose with reference to existing circumstances, he immediately flung his precedent overboard, and relied on his general argument. He considered this measure to be no abridgment of the constitution, to be founded on legal and constitutional views, to be consistent with the principles of liberty, and to afford the best security for the rights of the subject properly understood. On these points he was at issue with the noble lord, and the hon. member for the university of Oxford: he denied the correctness of the argument, and the whole of the grounds on which it rested; and if the House would permit him, he would point out the reasons on which he founded his opinions.

The abuse of the right of petition by persons assembled in public meeting was the foundation of this measure. That right, he had observed, was never so highly prized as when it was about to be destroyed; and he always listened with prophetic terror to the praises so sweetly sounded on its worth and value: for, from experience, he could say, that when it was to be suspended for a time, and not as now, to be destroyed for ever, those praises were always the forerunner of that event—as they were now, the prelude of the eternal abrogation of the people's rights. Those rights, it seemed, were brought into disrepute—a sort of stigma was cast on them by certain foolish and wicked practices, which had been adopted at public meetings. He did not wish to deprive the noble lord of the benefit of this one fact; he did not wish to misrepresent or to mistake it; for he himself did, to a certain degree, concur in the propriety of that sentiment. As a firm friend to the right of petitioning, which he would praise, not for the purpose of overthrowing, but for the purpose of protecting, defending, and continuing in its purity, he, too, deeply lamented the proceedings which had been alluded to. He was not less aware of the folly and wickedness of some of the speeches delivered at those meetings than the noble lord was; but he could not, on that account, acquiesce in a total subversion of a great popular right. He feared, indeed, that the too frequent use of that right had an evil tendency, by making the people extremely careless and indifferent about its exercise on great public occasions. It was known to all persons who were in the habit of attending public meetings, that where in one instance great numbers, appeared and active and animated discussion took place, it was found difficult for some time after to procure another meeting at which equal zeal would be manifested. He also disapproved of the system on which those recent meetings were conducted. He broadly disapproved of the array in which men were marched from place to place. It pointed to any thing rather than to the beginning of a deliberative assembly. He also objected to the large amount of numbers which were collected on these occasions. If 60 or 70,000 persons must meet, if the population of a place allowed such a mass to assemble together, it must always be attended with danger, and therefore he disapproved of it. With respect to the display of banners and the introduction of music, he did not see the danger which many persons apprehended. Some of the inscriptions, he admitted, were reprehensible, and therefore ought to be discouraged. But as to the use of common flags—even those inscribed with "liberty or death," of which so much had been said, and which differed essentially from "equal representation or death"—and the introduction of music, he never saw them otherwise than the concomitants, if not the promoters, of mirth and good humour among the multitude.

Having admitted thus much, he thought it would be much better for the people if those abuses were not practised—if those irregularities, without utterly destroying this right could be prevented or checked. He could not, however, agree with the noble lord and the right hon. member for the university of Ox-Oxford, that because at one meeting a violent speech was made, and at another a violent resolution was proposed; and still less could he admit, that because an individual made use of language and disseminated sentiments at one time which were repugnant with those published by him at another; that, therefore, all public assemblies, all meetings of the people, were to be put down for ever. The hon. and learned gentleman then read to the House the resolutions which were passed at Hunslet Moor: one of them declared that saving banks were a fraud, instituted to pay the fractions of dividends: and another described the national debt to amount to 100,000,000,000l.; but was it ' to be gravely told to them in that House, because resolutions most absurd and ridiculous, and on the part of those who proposed them, most mischievously designed, were submitted to certain assemblies, that, therefore, the people should in future hold no meetings at all? Did not the House know that good resolutions had often been passed at popular meetings—resolutions from which that House, in times of peril and exigence, had derived the greatest benefit, and would again, if the people were fairly treated, and the occasion called for it? He was afraid that there were places of high character (he would not mention one which he had at that moment in his eye), which if this strict rule of justice, by which the right of meeting was suppressed for ever, were to be adopted, would not be exempted from its operation. He knew a place where resolutions had been agreed to, and by a great majority, which were as inconsistent with arithmetic as those which the hon. member had quoted—resolutions as absurd as those agreed to at different public meetings, although not so steadily persevered in; he recollected a resolution which declared that a pound note was actually equal in estimation with 20 shillings; this was agreed to in one week, and three weeks after, the same assembly passed a law, making it highly penal to give less than 20 shillings for a pound note. A few years after, however, he found the parties who agreed to that measure, coming back to the standard of common sense, and negativing the principle contained in the original resolution [Hear and laughter]. Good God! then how far must they go if the passing resolutions containing absurdities in arithmetic, or errors with respect to constitutional rights, were to be deemed a sufficient cause to destroy all popular assemblies? In the place to which he was alluding, they were one day voting, that two and two made five; and the next day bringing back the amount of these two figures to its natural value. He was going to say that these contradictory resolutions were unblushingly, but he would assert unwittingly and unthinkingly passed by large majorities: he was however told, that these mischief-makers (for so some of them were) did not submit their resolutions to the people in the form in which they afterwards appeared. Lord Fitzwilliam, it seemed could not get those passed in Yorkshire immediately after the meeting had taken place, because they were not dressed up for appearance before the people. How did this fact tell for the purpose of the argument? The resolutions which were now in the hands of members, were those which had been dressed up, and non constat, that they were the resolutions of 20,000 persons who were asserted to have agreed to them. They were in fact the resolutions of those who dressed them up, and who doubtless, did so in order to give them a greater sting. This was an argument against the bill. The reason assigned for introducing the bill was, that a vast body of persons assembled at Hunslet Moor, and agreed to a series of resolutions which rendered it dangerous for them, to meet; and it now appeared that the resolutions exhibited were only the work of a few demagogues.

Training and military exercise, except for an innocent purpose (and that purpose he conceived it was incumbent in the person accused to prove) was, by the existing law, a high misdemeanor, and when coupled with a conspiracy against the state, assumed a highly penal character. But, without that circumstance of aggravation, the simple fact of 500 or 600 persons training, not innocently, was a misdemeanor, and if they trained at night, with any sort of offensive weapon, it undoubtedly became a misdemeanor of a very serious character. If the law were defective, with respect to that offence, let it, by all means, be rectified. To so fair a proposition he could not object. But, he asked how could that training be connected with another bill, not against that offence, but introduced to prevent the people from discussing any point that affected their interests either in church or state? He was very far, indeed, from thinking that there was no ground for alarm; for seven or eight months his opinion had been, that there was ground for apprehension. In the dis- tricts which were disturbed, great distress it was admitted did prevail; and that that distress had given rise to acts of an extremely reprehensible nature, all must allow. But he would entreat gentlemen to pause before they assumed, that those acts were as large and general in extent, even in what were denominated the disturbed counties, as the evidence garbled, and anonymous as it was, asserted. He was well persuaded that it was an arduous task to undeceive those who fancied they were threatened with a great danger! but it was much better that he should discharge his painful duty at present, rather than move an adjournment of the debate: although, after the uncompromising statement of the noble lord, some gentlemen might think that necessary. He knew that although in private life the man who allayed alarm, was hailed as a consoler, it was not so with the man who endeavoured to open the eyes of the public to their safety, and who was generally considered not a comforter but an enemy. He should walk charily, therefore, in that path. But he could not forget several instances, in which great public alarm had been proved to be wholly unfounded; and he especially referred to the alarm in the year 1812. The report of the other House of parliament in 1812, on which the legislative measures then adopted were principally founded, among other terrific statements to show the altered character of Englishmen, gave an account of the murder of Mr. Horsfall, accompanied by the circumstance that, after having been fired at by four men from behind the wall, he fell from his horse, when he was immediately surrounded by a ferocious multitude, who hailed the event with savage exultation. This statement was made on the authority of A. B., C. D., E. F., and other couples of the alphabet, backed by the declaration of the most respectable magistrates, men of unimpeachable credit, and who, he was persuaded, believed all, because they thought that they knew all. It had its effect on the House of Lords as it had previously had on his majesty's ministers. The committee of the House of Lords were not-allowed to examine persons. He did not say that that committee was packed, although the members of it were nominated by ministers; but the bag of evidence submitted to them was packed. Let the bag be packed, and let the examination of witnesses be prohibited, and whoever might be the members of a committee, the result of their investigation must necessarily be the same. For seven months the alarming fact thus stated in the report of the committee of the House of Lords was believed, and every man who doubted it was treated with the utmost contempt. Away went parliament to work on legislative measures. In the fulness of time, however, the truth came out. At the special commission in York, seven months after the report, it was made evident, that so far from the body of Mr. Horsfall having been surrounded by a ferocious multitude, hailing his murder with exultation, it was with great difficulty that a single man was found to assist in carrying it to a neighbouring apothecary's! He did not doubt that something like the case existed at present. Undoubtedly he did not mean to deny all the statements that had been made of the causes for alarm, but he was persuaded that they were grossly exaggerated; and he owned that he felt some solace in not thinking so badly of his countrymen as did some other persons whom he could name. The hon. member for Northumberland had contradicted the statement of the 700 men said so have marched with arms into Newcastle from a village three miles off. The fact was, that the mayor of Newcastle, for whom he (Mr. Brougham) had a great respect, merely said in his letter, "if my information be correct," &c. A circumstance that convinced him of the inaccuracy of the statement was, that to his knowledge there was not a village within six or seven miles of Newcastle that could turn out 700 men capable of bearing arms.

It was asked how could lord Fitzwilliam suppose that there was no danger, (and this, by the way, was thought one of the finest arguments "ad hominem,'') when it was known that at one of these meetings the partition of his property was pointed at? Now, to tell one half the truth, was just as useless as if an individual joined to it one half of another story. What would the inference be, if it appeared that it was Mitchell who made this proposition? [Hear, hear]. Yes; Mitchell, whose name was never mentioned when the circumstance was stated. If he, and he alone, made that proposition, and if it was the only suggestion of the kind that was ever offered at any of these Yorkshire meetings. What was the argument good for? What did it really prove?

He should now mention another misrepresentation—a misrepresentation that came from that part of the public press which, day by day, insulted the distresses of the people; which treated them with contumelious indignity, with unbearable insolence, which poured on them all the abuse that the malignity of man, could devise, and in doing so, displayed all the asperity of office, without its dignity. These censures came from individuals, who were much lower than those to whom they applied them; because low birth seeking to exalt itself by cringing to those in power, was infinitely more mean and despicable than low birth when coupled with honest industry. These low panders of the government of the day—these backbiters of the people—these offenders against all decency, when they spoke of the great body of the nation, disseminated the grossest misrepresentations. To them the dismissal of lord Fitzwilliam was confidentially made known, and the event appeared in one of those channels of spurious intelligence, (unfortunately not spurious on that occasion) before the act which was praised as a vigorous and wise proceeding was known to the noble lord himself. They had, without the shadow of foundation, brought earl Fitzwilliam and the people in perilous contact; by them the public were told, and confidently told, that acts approaching to treason took place at the meeting at Hunslet-moor; that arms were brought thither, that resolutions encouraging resistance were proposed and adopted, and then it was gravely stated, that some of those who attended the meeting waited on lord Fitzwilliam, and shot him dead on the spot! [Hear, hear!] He stated this to show that a system of misrepresentation was not confined to one part of the press, but was extensively adopted by another which was not only allowed to go unpunished, as blasphemous and seditious persons had been for some time, but actually enjoyed the special protection of his majesty's government. The evidence of lord Fitzwilliam was not believed with respect to the state of the country: it would be well for the House to consider on whom his majesty's ministers depended for information. Of the evidence given by A, B, C, D, and other nameless authorities, he would only say this—that a very different account was given in those affidavits in which initials were used, from that which was stated in those where the letters of the alphabet were regularly arranged in names. With respect to the training, when they had the evidence of Mr. Martin or Mr. Johnson, or other tangible persons, it was stated that it took place at half-past five or six o'clock in the morning; but proceed to the spies, look to the evidence of the informers whose names are kept in the back ground, and they would tell them that the training took place under the cloud of night. The former spoke of 200 or 300 men meeting for the purposes of training; but it was beneath the dignity of A, B, and C, to descend to a number less than 2,000 or 3,000, or 700 at the very lowest who were described as exercising in the most perfect military order. The individuals who signed their names to the affidavits declared, that there was shouting, and something like military array. But A, B, and C, gave them the most minute particulars. They stated that they used clapping of hands as a substitute for firing—a circumstance that was very inconsistent with the statement of the noble lord, who said that they were "only" to be armed with pikes. These were the persons whose statements were received in preference to the rational, sagacious, and manly testimony of a long tried and most respectable nobleman of the purest character and the most unsullied honour. He would state a fact which was not to be found in those papers—a fact which, if the gentleman to whom it related had been examined before the House or in a committee must have come out in the very first question put to him. A worthy magistrate who had given evidence, was, it appeared, discharged from prison by taking the benefit of an insolvent act; and after being so discharged, two actions were brought against him for assuming the functions of a magistrate without a proper qualification. The certificate of his release was produced, which he could not have obtained without making over his property to his creditors, and consequently he could not have been in possession of an income of 100l. a-year. God forbid that he should insult any man on account of his misfortunes, but when a magistrate went into prison to avoid his creditors, when he there acted as magistrate to discharge others who were in prison for debt, when he himself took the benefit of an insolvent act—when he afterwards resumed his seat on the bench, and being found out, was prosecuted, and had a penalty awarded against him for acting improperly, he could not help thinking, that such a man was not the sort of person whose evidence should be taken as conclusive testimony on so important an occasion.

Now, though he thought some ground for present alarm existed, yet he considered these, amongst other reasons with which he would not trouble the House, as sufficient to show, that the alarm was carried to too great an extent. The question was, did such a degree of danger exist as required any new measure; and if so, was the bill now before the House the proper measure? He denied both these propositions. The noble lord argued, that this was a constitutional measure—that liberty, rightly understood, was not touched by it; that public meetings would not be destroyed, but purified by its operation. Yes, purified in the same way that fire acted, by the destruction of that with which it came in contact. He would show the noble lord this by pointing out to him the only way in which, after the bill had passed, meetings could be called. A county meeting might be convened by the high-sheriff, but the noble lord must allow him to say, from what he had seen during the last few months, that the high-sheriff would not be likely to call a meeting that would displease the ministers of the Crown, by whom he was selected. He would give the noble lords facts. There had been five refusals in the course of two months. Essex, Hampshire, Cornwall, Wiltshire, and Berkshire, were anxious to have meetings, but were refused: and how were the applications overruled? Certainly more openly and less decorously than on any former occasion, and the same system would be adopted whenever the same case occurred. Let the House look to Hampshire, where the sheriff refused to convene a meeting [Cries of No, no! from the ministerial benches]. He was misinformed; but he now understood that the requisition was withdrawn. [Cries of Hear! from both sides]. But let the House mark how this made for his argument; let them consider the means used to prevent the success of the application. The means were likely to be so effectual in preventing an acquiescence to the requisition, that the persons who proposed it thought it would be most prudent to give it up. The protest against the meet- ing was signed by the lord-lieutenant of the county, and by many other individuals connected with government—amongst the rest the noble secretary at war (lord Palmerston) signed it; a cabinet minister added the sanction of his name to it, and to make the argument still stronger, that minister was the duke of Wellington. With all respect for the abilities of that great captain, with all the gratitude he owed him as one of the millions whom he had been the great instrument, in the hand of Providence, of saving from a cruel tyranny, a foreign tyranny, he could not help wishing that he had made the debt still greater by showing himself a friend to the liberties of his country at home, by refusing to sign that protest. He trusted if ever the day should come when, in a struggle for liberty, he might be called on to act, that he would be found to do his duty to the people as well as to the sovereign; and that he would recollect, that on the love of the people, and on the love of the people alone, the safety and security of the throne depended. Let him bear in mind—let him never lose sight of the fact—that a military minister never, in this country, from the time of the duke of Marlborough downwards, could retain his popularity, however great, however just, in opposition to the voice of his countrymen, who loved to be ruled by civil and patriotic characters [Loud cheers]. Such was the nature of Englishmen, and he trusted that such it would continue.

He begged the attention of the House to another part of the bill. It was to that which related to parochial meetings; and this was one among the many grounds which would make him object to going into the committee on the bill. In this part, the noble lord left untouched the evil he proposed to remedy; and by this part would effect what certainly he did not mean. The object was, to regulate meetings in parishes; but it did so happen that there were several small parishes in the agricultural districts, and in old commercial towns, where there could possibly be no danger from the inhabitants coming together—in places where the people were loyal, and not even suspected by the noble lord and his colleagues. To those parishes would this bill most strictly apply, and upon them would it press with the greatest severity; whilst in large and populous manufacturing parishes, where the greatest danger was said to exist, that danger would be absolutely without a remedy, as far as this bill went. In York, the inhabitants of which were not suspected of disloyalty, there were 30 or 31 parishes with a population of only about 9,000 persons for the whole. In Exeter a population of 10,000 persons was divided between 24 parishes.

The Solicitor General

here observed, that in such cases the whole body could meet.

Mr. Brougham

continued—Then the meeting could not take place without the consent of the mayor. He had thought his hon. and learned friend was better acquainted with his own bill. But his hon. and learned friend had better not have touched upon this part of the question in the course of his speech. But to return to the point to which he was calling the attention of the House. Those small parishes would feel the pressure of this bill, whilst in the larger ones, it could easily be evaded, or would in effect not operate at all so as to guard against danger. The bill supposed that the meetings were only assembled under pretence of discussing matters connected with church or state; but nothing was more easy for them than to say, "We'll have no such, discussion at all; we have been tired with long speeches," [Cheers from several parts of the House.] He said that gentlemen might be tired of long speeches: he felt so too; but he could assure them, that in this instance his was the speech of a person who conceived he was performing a serious and important duty. But, if gentlemen did not wish to hear more speaking, they had a remedy in their power. They might act upon their profession, and retire to their homes, and he was certain they (the opposition); would not be much the worse for it. [Hear, and a laugh.] But, to return—the persons assembled might say, that they were tired of long speeches, and of the nonsense contained in them: and give up discussing political questions altogether. They might, if their intentions were so bad as the noble lord supposed them to be—and it was only on the supposition of bad intentions that this bill was necessary—they might, as was done in another country, assemble for the purpose of attending a funeral, or for a literary purpose, and discuss the dead languages, or to discuss a question of grammar; and it might be recollected, that one amongst them had written a grammar, so good indeed as to be in high estimation on several parts of the continent. They might, for any of those purposes, assemble in large numbers; and yet, there was not one clause within the four corners of this bill that could apply to them, or prevent their so assembling. They might go from one parish to another, or assemble for the purpose of going to church, or for a number of other purposes to which the bill did not allude, to the great terror of his majesty's liege subjects; and yet, provided they had not caps of liberty, or banners, or flags, or music, this bill could not prevent them. Now, either there, were seditious orators going about the country disseminating their opinions, and large congregations ready to listen to them, or there were not. If there were not, the bill could not be at all necessary; but if it was believed that there were—if, after all the conflicting and contradictory statements that had been given, it was believed that such disturbance existed, as to call for severe measures—if, under any circumstances, the ministers must have a law, he would say to them, "Take one which shall apply a remedy to the evil, and not indiscriminately punish the innocent with the guilty." He gave it as his serious opinion, that if would be much better that all meetings should be put down for a time in certain districts, than that the constitution should be thus permanently violated. He implored the House to reflect before they passed a measure of which they might repent before the end of three months. He would appeal to those hon. gentlemen, if no higher feeling could influence them; he would appeal to those gentlemen who had either been abroad, or mixed with foreigners in this country, and who were on all occasions proud (too proud indeed in the opinion of those foreigners) of the boasted preeminence which this country held above all others in the freedom of its institutions—he would entreat them to pause before they allowed it to be said by foreigners, that the English at last had got tired of their liberty, that they had become too manufacturing a country to bear their former freedom. This, indeed, seemed to be the opinion of the member for the university of Oxford, and to him (Mr. B.), it was a new doctrine, that as a nation we had become too manufacturing to be free. Let it not be said in the nineteenth century, after all our boasted exertions, that we had become so manufacturing a country as to have lost our wonted love of freedom. Let not the sarcasm of our great enemy—that we were but a nation of shop-keepers, appear to be realized by allowing it to be said, that in consequence of the extent of our commercial dealings, we had been compelled to part with our liberty. He sincerely trusted that this honest appeal of one who spoke as he felt would not be made in vain, but would have at least the effect of inducing some members to pause and consider before they acted on this important occasion. The hon. and learned member, evidently labouring under a considerable degree of exhaustion, sat down amidst loud and continued cheers.

Lord Palmerston

trusted that the House would indulge him in a few observations, after the allusion which the hon. and learned gentleman had made to his conduct on a recent occasion. He had yet to learn, that because a man held an official situation, he was thereby disqualified from giving any opinion upon, or taking any part in, questions of public interest. He had pursued and would pursue, without consulting the hon. and learned gentleman, or caring whether it met his applause or disapprobation, that line of conduct which appeared to himself to be the most proper. He, and those who had acted with him on the occasion alluded to, (in signing the counter requisition in Hampshire) had acted from a well-understood sense of duty, and in doing so, had consulted the best interests of the country; and he was sorry that others had not followed a similar course. Whatever the learned gentleman might think or say of the conduct of an illustrious individual, that opinion would not lessen the debt of gratitude which his country owed him; and he would be bold to say, that the respect of that illustrious individual for the constitution of his country was not less than that of the learned gentleman himself. If one person had a right to call on the sheriff of a county for a meeting, he could see no reason why another had not a right to sign a requisition against it. By the conduct of those who had signed the counter-requisition in Hampshire, that country had been saved from the disgrace of those unwarrantable and unconstitutional attacks that had been made on the Manchester magistrates.

Mr. Wodehouse

begged leave to put a question to his hon. colleague respecting the conduct of a noble friend of his that had been alluded to by the learned gentle- man. He begged to ask, whether, soon after lord Suffield became lord-lieutenant of the county of Norfolk, it bad not been proposed by the noble lord to his hon. colleague, to give in a list of those gentlemen whom he might think fit to be nominated to the commission of the peace; and whether on his nomination, they had not been, appointed. [Cheers from the ministerial benches.]

Mr. Coke

replied, that certainty, soon after the noble lord's appointment to the lord-lieutenancy, such a proposal had been made; and that accordingly a list was drawn up and presented the noble lord; but that none of the gentlemen named in the list had been appointed. [Loud cheers from the opposition,] He (Mr. Coke), however applied to the lord chancellor, who, after observing that he did not think Mr. Coke would nominate any person who was not fit for the commission, did appoint then all, with the exception of one hon. friend of his, a member of that House.

Sir W. De Crespigny

then rose to address the House, but the noise was so incessant that it was impossible to collect what the hon. baronet said.

Mr. Long Wellesley

defended the conduct of the sheriff of Wiltshire.

Mr. Brougham

, in explanation, said, he had meant no personal offence to that or any other sheriff.

Mr. Maxwell

hoped the House would indulge him with a few minutes, when they considered that he represented that county which might be termed the head-quarters of the Scotch radicals. He had for the last twelve months held communication with the manufactures of that and the adjacent counties, and he found that there were three classes of people who contributed to the present alarming state of things. The first, and by far the most extensive class, was that of persons almost in a state of starvation; the second, that of persons who maintained conscientiously opinions, in his estimation, erroneous; and the last, was that of persons whom he believed to have no object but that of revolution. Under these circumstances, conciliation, he thought, should have been the first step. He concluded with expressing his determination to vote for the committee, but with an understanding that the bill should be there rendered local and temporary.

The House then divided: Ayes, 351; Noes, 128. Majority for the second reading 223. The bill was then read a second time.

List of the Minority.
Allen, J, H. Maberly, W. L.
Althorp, viscount Mahon, hon. Step.
Anson, hon. G. Macdonald, James
Aubrey, sir John Mackintosh, sir J.
Benett, John Madocks, W. A.
Buxton, T. F. Martin, John
Burdett, sir F Maule, hon. W.
Baring, sir T. Milton, viscount
Barnett, James Moore, Peter
Becher, W. Moore, P.
Benyon, Benjamin Mostyn, sir Thos.
Bernal, Ralph Newman, R. W.
Birch, Joseph Nugent, Lord
Brougham, Henry Ord, W.
Browne, Dom. Perceval, Spencer
Burrell, hon. P. D. Portman, Ed. B.
Calvert, N. Pringle, J.
Calvert, C. Palmer, C. F.
Calcraft, John Parnell, Wm.
Carter, John Pares, Thos
Cavendish, Henry Pelham, hon. C. A.
Clifton, viscount Peirse, Henry.
Colborne, N. R. Pelham, hon. G. A.
Coke, T. W. Prittie, hon. F.
Coke, T. W. jun. Primrose, hon. F.
Crespigny, sir W. de Price, Robt.
Crompton, Sam. Ricardo, David
Davies, T. H. Ramsden, J. C.
Denman, Thos. Rancliffe, lord
Duncannon, viscount Ridley, sir. M. W.
Dundas, hon. L. Robarts, W. T.
Dundas, hon. G. Roberts, A.
Ebrington, viscount Russell, lord G. W.
Ellice, E. Russell, lord John
Euston, earl of Russell, R. G.
Fazakerly, N. Rumbold, C.
Fellowes, hon. N. Scarlett, James
Fitzgerald, lord W. Sefton, earl of
Fitzroy, lord C. Smith, hon. R.
Frankland, Thomas Smith, Samuel
Grant, J. P. Smith, W.
Graham, Sandford Smyth, J. H.
Graham, J. R. G. Spencer, lord R.
Griffiths, John W. Stewart, W.
Gurney, R. H. Talbot, R. W.
Heron, sir R. Tavistock, marquis of
Harcourt, John Taylor, M. A.
Harvey, D. W. Thorp, Alderman
Hill, lord A. Tierney, rt. hon. G.
Honywood, W. P. Waithman, alderman
Hughes, W. L. Walpole, hon. G.
Hume, J. Webbe, Ed.
Hurst, Robert Wharton, John
Hutchinson, hon. C. Whitbread, J. H.
Kennedy, T. F. Wilkins, Walter.
Kinnaird, hon. D. Williams, W.
Longman, Geo. Wilson, sir Robert
Lamb, hon. G. Webster, sir G.
Lambton, John G. Wood, Alderman
Langton, W. G. TELLERS
Latouche, John Bennet, H. G.
Lemon, sir W. Folkestone, viscount
Lloyd, sir E. PAIRED OFF.
Lloyd, J. M. Merest, J. W. D.
Maberly, John