§ Lord Althorp
said, he could most unaffectedly assure the House, that he felt more oppressed on the present occasion, than he had ever before done when the House had honoured him by listening to what he had to offer to their notice. The importance of the question struck him as very great, even when he gave notice of his intended motion; but what had occurred since—he meant the introduction of those bills, the object of which the noble lord last night stated—had increased the importance of the question so extremely, that he felt unfeignedly sorry he was the person destined to bring forward this momentous subject. He wished very much that some person more able to impress its importance on the House than he was, had given notice of the motion; but feeling it to be his most imperious duty to draw the attention of the House to the subject, and having given notice that he would do so, he begged of the House to extend to him that indulgence, while he delivered his sentiments, which they had frequently done on former occasions. On all sides of the House it was admitted, that the state of the country was most alarming. Every gentleman on the other side of the House had allowed that great cause of alarm existed, though that alarm was traced to different sources. If, then, it was agreed by all, that the country was thus situated, surely it was necessary that the House, in passing the measures which they were called on to adopt, should proceed with the utmost deliberation, and take the greatest possible pains to satisfy themselves that what they did was not only not more than was necessary, but that the measures they pursued were exactly applicable to the danger which appeared to threaten the state. It was, therefore, necessary for the House to be clearly convinced, that the existing laws were not sufficient to meet the exigencies of the time; that measures of a coercive and vigorous nature were necessary to be resorted to; and, lastly, that the bills proposed by the noble lord were those which were exactly applicable to the dangers that were to be encountered and which they had reason to hope would check it. To enable them to come to this conclusion, it appeared to him, that every possible information should be laid before the House. He did not pretend to recollect precedents, but he believed such a question was never before brought under the consideration of the House, without 518 full information being laid on their table to enable them to understand correctly all the circumstances connected with the situation of the country.
There were only two grounds on which the House could agree to the measures now proposed—either a perfect confidence in his majesty's ministers, a decided conviction that they would propose nothing that was not proper; or that the papers laid before parliament gave the most full and complete information respecting the state of the country. Now, with respect to the first point, he thought no gentleman would argue that measures of this kind ought to be carried merely on the principle that confidence was due to his majesty's ministers. Therefore, he inferred, that the House, in agreeing to the adoption of severe measures, ought to be satisfied that the information contained in those papers afforded a full justification of their conduct. Alluding to the papers that had been laid on the table, he should state generally, the impression which they had made on his mind. They might be divided into two distinct classes—those that referred to the period preceding the 16th of August, and those that related to circumstances which occurred subsequently to that time. The statements contained in those papers showed, that in Lancashire the magistrates apprehended considerable danger before the 16th of August. But after the meeting, Mr. Spooner wrote word, that "he was perfectly satisfied the rising was not likely to take place in that part of the country." Danger, therefore, was not then apprehended there. Lord Fitzwilliam, who was attending the assizes at York, wrote, "that there was no disposition to create a disturbance amongst the inhabitants of the West Riding of the county of York." With respect to Lancashire, an alteration seemed to have taken place since the meeting of the 16th of August. Prior to that period it was said, that a system of training had been adopted, but no mention was made of arms. But after the meeting of the 16th of August, arms were alleged to have been prepared. Since the events of the 16th of August, symptoms of irritation were observable, it was stated, in different parts of the country. Meetings had taken place in Yorkshire and in Scotland, and a simultaneous meeting, for purposes which had not before been contemplated, was spoken of as fixed for the 1st of November. He would wish to call the attention 519 of the House to this point, because he conceived that this also would form part of the examination which his motion would call for. It appeared, that the meeting of the 16th of August was assembled for the discussion of a particular question. There was no mention before that, that it was to be for an illegal purpose; but since then quite another character and account had been given of it. Now, he wished to impress this upon the consideration of the House, because it showed that there were chasms and defects in the information before them, which ought to be filled up, before they could well consider of, or agree to, the measures proposed by the noble lord. It would, indeed, in his opinion, be quite inconsistent with the duties of the House to pass any such measures, without the most deep and serious consideration; first, into the causes which were said to require them, and then into the necessity of the measures themselves. Disturbances were said to have taken place in Scotland: into these he would wish that inquiry should be made; for he again begged to remind the House that it would be impossible to provide any effectual remedy, unless the origin and nature of the disorders were precisely ascertained. The state of the county of Lancaster was alluded to, but it would not be sufficient that we should know what had occurred on the 16th of August, but also what had occurred previously to that time. Full and complete information was necessary in order that the proposed measures should not act merely as a palliative or a temporary, but should operate as an effectual and permanent remedy. The statements of the noble lord (Castlereagh) and of his colleagues would not be sufficient. The assertions of any honourable members could not be taken for facts in debate where the proof of those assertions was not given. The chief ground on which ministers went, was the letter of Mr. Hay, but this itself required much explanation; His majesty's ministers had since seen, and held conversations with that gentleman, and they were bound to explain what they had further heard upon the subject of the letter. Unless they did so, it was impossible for the House to form any correct judgment on it. Indeed, the statements of the noble lord (Castlereagh) were quite at variance, or at least very different from those which had been given by Mr. Hay. Mr. Kay stated in his letter, that the Riot act had been read, and 520 the meeting dispersed. The noble lord opposite said, that the Riot act was read three times, and that one of the magistrates, in his attempt to read it, was knocked down and trampled on. Now, it was somewhat strange, that if this circumstance had occurred, it should not have been mentioned by Mr. Hay. Nothing could be more natural, than that he should have noticed this serious accident occurring to one of his brother magistrates. If then, such a difference arose between the statements of the noble lord and those of Mr. Hay, did it not show clearly the necessity of further information? The House, he contended, had a right to be informed of every thing which took place, not merely at the meeting of the 16th, but also what had occurred previously and subsequently to that period; for it was upon the whole of these matters that the measures of the noble lord were said to be founded. The House had at least a right to expect, that in forming their judgment upon those measures they should be put on the same footing with respect to information as the ministers themselves.
Another point respecting the meeting, which, in his opinion, the House should have explained, was the absence of the general of the district, sir John Byng, on the occasion. It was very generally said, and he believed it, that if sir John Byng had been present, the result of the meeting would not have been as fatal as it was. Why, then, was he not present? It would naturally be supposed that, as the commanding officer of that district, he should be at the post of danger. It was not, however, the case; but what was the cause? Why, the magistrates themselves acknowledge that sir John Byng was at Manchester on the 14th, and offered his personal assistance in case it should be found necessary; but the magistrates informed him that there was no danger, and that his attendance would not be required. Sir John Byng then said, that he would be within the reach of an express, and would attend if it should be deemed necessary. He was not, however, sent for. Now, if there was any blame to be attributed in this respect, it should be to the magistrates, who had declared the attendance of the gallant general unnecessary. At all events, the fact was one which showed a strong ground for farther inquiry, and it was, even if nothing else was concerned, due to the characters of all the parties, that such inquiry should be instituted.— 521 Another point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House was, that a great portion of the matter which had been laid before them was upon anonymous evidence. It might be necessary, he would not deny, that in some cases, where evidence was given of the state of disturbed districts, the names of the persons giving it should be concealed; but then, did it not look in this, and indeed in almost all cases, like the evidence of spies? Did it not seem as if some of the persons had made the evidence for the purpose of giving it? What was more natural under such circumstances than to believe that the persons who swore to the existence of pikes in several places, might have purchased them for the sake of giving information afterwards? At all events, was not anonymous testimony obtained under such circumstances to be viewed with suspicion? Indeed, it could not be otherwise, if the House recollected what had occurred on this subject two years ago. He would then put it to the House, whether they ought to pass the proposed measures on such evidence—whether they would let the matter rest on the prudence, the discretion, and integrity of such informants, as they were told gave this information, but of whom they knew nothing more than that it was said they gave it? He contended that such a proceeding would be calculated more to excite and increase, than to diminish the public alarm.
These were the reasons which occurred to him to show that a committee ought to be appointed to take the whole of the matters into consideration. One objection which he supposed would be urged against his proposition was, that it would occasion a very inconvenient delay; and another, that it would embrace an inquiry into the conduct of the magistrates at Manchester, which it was said would more properly come before another tribunal. To the first he might use the argumentum ad hominem, and say, that if the noble lord and his colleagues had known of those proceedings at Manchester and elsewhere before the 16th of August, why had they not called parliament together sooner? But this argument he did not mean to press, because if the House believed just grounds for interference to exist, they might fairly say, that the country should not suffer because the noble lord was to blame. He denied, however, that any inconvenience could arise on the principal measures pro- 522 posed by a delay for inquiry. As to the measure which went to prevent military drillings, he would not argue. He saw-in those drillings nothing of good and much of evil. With respect to the measure proposed for repressing them, therefore, he offered no opposition. But the other measures he could not consider in the same point of view. That which restricted the right of traverse to indictments under particular circumstances, could not operate until the next assizes. The delay, therefore, would not affect that. Then it was next proposed, that a power should be given to search for arms. Now, it did not appear, from any thing contained in the papers before the House, or from any thing which the noble lord opposite had said, that they had been accumulated in such numbers as to render a. short delay of the measures respecting them dangerous. There might have been twenty or thirty pikes in the possession of individuals in particular places; but that, in his mind, was not sufficient to warrant the immediate passing of the proposed measure, without a strict inquiry. With respect to the suppression of meetings, he contended, that when magistrates were prepared to, oppose their violence, if any, when it was seen that they had sufficient force to disperse the largest of them, it could not be supposed that any danger could result from a delay of the measures respecting them. It might or might not be necessary at other periods, to pass some of the proposed bills; but what be contended for was, that there could no danger arise at present from that kind of delay which would be necessary for the purposes of inquiry. In every state there might be some political evils, but when it was proposed to correct those evils, the measures by which that was to be effected should be seriously and maturely considered. As to the objection respecting the Manchester magistrates, he contended that it was not a fair one. He did not think that it had been properly brought against the amendment of his right hon. friend on a former evening; nor did he think it was of greater weight against the motion with which he should conclude. His motion, like the amendment to which he alluded, was made with a view to information upon those subjects in which the House were called to legislate. Those gentlemen who said that the country was in danger; that all law and authority were attempted to be trampled under foot; that 523 every thing which we held dear in this life and sacred in the next, were brought into ridicule and contempt;—such gentlemen surely would not contend that inquiry as to our real situation should be retarded, because something might possibly come out against Mr. Norris or Mr. Hay. Why, if those gentlemen were innocent, nothing could come out which would affect them; and if guilty, it would not be contended that they ought to be screened from the consequences of their acts. He did not mean to prejudice the magistrates in any way, but he maintained that their conduct, whatever it might have been, ought not to be placed as a bar to inquiry upon such important questions as were before the House.
He had now briefly stated his reasons why an inquiry should take place into the state of the country. He had pressed the necessity of having full information on the subjects before the House, and had endeavoured to point out the defects in that which had already been given, and to answer the objections against having farther information. Perhaps what he had urged would not be sufficient, if the House had not heard the measures proposed by the noble lord—measures which he had listened to with astonishment and deep regret. He regretted that it was not in his power to express the feelings which the mention of such measures excited, but he conceived it dishonourable and disgraceful to sacrifice the rights and privileges of the people in a case of only temporary alarm. The noble lord concluded, amidst loud cheers, by moving, "That the Papers relative to the Internal State of the Country, presented to this House by command of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, be referred to a Select Committee, to examine the matters thereof, and to report their observations thereupon to the House."
, in seconding the motion, expressed his regret at perceiving that his majesty's ministers anxiously seized upon the state of alarm into which the country had been temporarily thrown, in order to invade the rights and liberties of the people. He should deem himself unworthy of the confidence of his constituents, or of a seat in that House, if he did not stand forward and express his disapprobation. He fully agreed with an hon. friend of his, in expressing his surprise at the awful denunciation of the noble lord opposite. He was astonished to find the House called 524 upon to adopt the severe measures proposed by that noble lord upon no other information than the garbled and imperfect statements contained in the papers which had been laid on the table.—Those statements were not sufficient to warrant the House in supporting the proposed measures. The papers in question afforded ample evidence in support of an observation made by an hon. baronet on a former evening, that if the law had been stretched beyond its proper limits, it was the fault of those whose duty it was to put it in execution. Were the House to shut their eyes on what was passing around them? were they to view with unconcern the demand made for a greater extension of power than was ever before vested in any ministers? It appeared from the papers before the House, that there was a design on the part of ministers to introduce despotism, and to trample on the liberties of the people. If there were any doubt on that point, the approval by the noble lord opposite of the principles laid down by the right hon. member for the university of Dublin was sufficient to remove it. That right hon. gentleman had urged, that if magistrates entertained a fear that the public peace was to be disturbed by the assemblage of large bodies of people, they had a right to disperse them, and if blood were shed in consequence of such a proceeding, the magistrates would be justified. This opinion was hailed with enthusiasm by the legal gentlemen on the other side of the House, and re-echoed with enthusiasm by the noble lord himself. The papers on the table were, in his opinion, an argument against, rather than in favour of, the measures of ministers. It appeared that government had been aware of the fact, that training had been carried on to a considerable extent—that they knew of large bodies having been assembled for this purpose in different places—that it was difficult for persons to pass about their ordinary business without being interrupted by these men—and yet no measures were taken to prevent such proceedings [Hear, hear!]. The papers were also evidence that arms were openly manufactured and disposed of in different districts, and yet no steps were taken by the magistrates, who were vested with the power, to prevent it. He was aware that such proceedings ought to be stopped; he felt, too, that the wild spirit which had gone abroad ought to be repressed; seeing that it 525 tended to demoralize the people. If the law was not strong enough to do this, he was willing to arm it with additional power—with power sufficient to crush disaffection wherever it appeared. But let the House examine the measures proposed as a remedy. He, for one, dissented from them, as he considered them calculated to subvert the constitution. But, as if these measures were insufficient to suppress disaffection, ministers called for an additional armed force! Let him, however, ask the House what it was which caused this discontent aed disaffection? They could not conceal from themselves that an excessive load of taxation was the cause. This it was which caused the distress and misery which were to be found in all parts of the country. And, with this fact before their eyes, were the measures of the noble lord the best mode of redress? If the people complained of their sufferings, were they to be answered by military execution—if they remonstrated, were they to be told that their only answer should be the bayonet? It appeared that government having once drawn the sword, were determined to throw away the scabbard. If the manufacturing districts were in a state of rebellion, and were to be ruled with a rod of iron, how, he would ask, was such a system to be supported by military force? It was impossible to go on in such a manner without subverting the constitution. It was taxation—taxation unequalled in the annals of history—which reduced the country to this miserable situation. They had at present a re-venue which was decreasing at the rate of five millions a year: though new taxes were added, still there was a decrease. Was this a system which could support measures of coercion? If ministers were desirous of relieving the wants of the country—if they showed themselves not inattentive to the feelings and distresses of the people, they would, instead of adding new taxes, practise economy and retrenchment in every branch of the public expenditure: but there never was a set of men less inclined to do this than the present ministry. He had a short time since occasion to look into the department of the military establishment, and he was sickened at heart to find the degree of extravagance which was carried on in all its branches. The expenses in that department were, now that we were in the fifth year of peace, double what they were in 1806. The salaries in the different offices 526 were double what they had been at that period. This showed that there was something radically wrong in the present system. He did not wish to resort to the cant term of reform, but it was evident some revision was imperatively necessary. He had heard the state of this country compared to that of France prior to the revolution. At that period France laboured under the most arbitrary despotism, and the revolution was hailed as the dawn of freedom. If the French government had not been deaf to the warning voice of public opinion—if they had attended to the interests of the people, that dreadful scene of bloodshed which en-sued would not have taken place, and the unfortunate monarch of that country would not have terminated his existence as he had done. Was this country to go on without being made wiser by experience, until the dreadful lesson was brought home to them. If ministers persevered in the measures which they had acted upon, then it required no great spirit of prophecy to foretel that it must end in a despotism. The hon. member concluded by giving his most cordial support to the motion of his noble friend.
opposed the motion, and expressed his great regret at seeing the noble lord lending himself to such measures as those which he now advocated. It was with regret he saw those most respectable gentlemen who formed what was called the Opposition, pursuing their present course at a moment when the state of the country was such as to require the united efforts of the House to restore it to tranquillity. If the noble lord and his hon. friends conceived that by their present course they would conciliate the radicals, whom certainly they did not defend, but whose conduct they endeavoured to prevent the House from inquiring into—if they imagined that they would conciliate those men, they would, he thought, find themselves much mistaken. The House, he contended, stood pledged by the address, which was voted, to the opinion that those persons called radicals were wrong, and that their proceedings ought to be put down.—The right hon. gentleman here adverted to, and repeated several passages in the address and amendment, and contended, that by them, all parties in the House were pledged to give their aid, collectively and individually, to repress those practices which were complained of as disturbing the state of the country. It 527 was admitted on the other side of the House, that a great degree of disaffection existed, for it was asked why had not ministers put down illegal meetings, drillings, &c.? Now, if this state of the country was admitted (and it was proved by the testimony or magistrates end grand juries in more counties than one), upon what ground, he would ask, could those measures be opposed which only went to put down such proceedings? The right hon. gentleman then took a review of the practices of the seditious, of the prevalence in many places of blasphemous and seditious doctrines, and described the danger which was likely to accrue to society by suffering them to remain unchecked. Was it, he asked, a time, when such things were admitted to exist, to stop measures calculated to suppress them, by calling for information which ministers could not properly give? His majesty's ministers could not lay all the information they possessed before the House; but the question was, whether they had not laid sufficient for the measures which were called for? With respect to the Manchester proceedings, he maintained that they ought not to come before the House, because, as far as inquiry was necessary respecting the magistrates, it would be better carried on in a court of law. It was not pretended that all the information which ministers possessed on this subject was laid before the House, but a sufficient portion was given. The right hon. gentleman then observed, that the Riot act was first read by Mr. Ethelston, a second time by Mr. Sylvester, and would have been read at the hustings by Mr. Trafford, if the confusion had not prevented it. The reading of the Riot act was not, however, of that importance which hon. gentlemen opposite seemed to consider it: for though the provisions of the act were destined to apply to certain emergencies, they by no means did away with the provisions of the common law, which, when a riot actually had commenced, allowed the magistrates to disperse it before the expiration of the hour. It had been argued, but the argument had been well answered on a former occasion, that the House ought by all means to institute an inquiry into the conduct of those who called, of those who attended, and of those who put down the meeting. He allowed that an inquiry might be necessary, but then it ought to be conducted before the usual tribunals of the country, and in 528 the usual manner in which other offences were investigated.—The noble lord had divided his subject into two parts, and had discussed separately the events which had occurred before, and those which had occurred after, the 16th of August. Now, he did not see what reason there was for marking that day so expressly, as the same system was in existence both before and after it, and was productive of the same alarm to the loyal inhabitants of Cheshire and Lancashire. The noble lord had also shut his eyes to the danger which arose from another quarter, and had almost argued that the people had no pikes, because the blacksmiths who made them had not been discovered and prosecuted. He had also said, that there had not been arming among the people till after the 16th of August: if that circumstance had been correct, it might have looked something like an argument, but unfortunately, it was sufficiently notorious that there had been arming before. The people had been taught to march in military array; they had been instructed to wheel, to form in column, and to go through other military evolutions in large bodies: and, would any person say that, with arms in their hands, these men, though not capable of contending with regular forces, would not be excessively formidable? For his own part, he believed that the object which they had in view was to plunder and destroy; and in this belief he was confirmed by the declaration of more than one bench of magistrates, and one grand jury. True, it might me, that this was not the object of them all; that their leaders might have one view, and their followers another; but still, was it not clear, from their simultaneous meetings, that, if plunder was not their object, they intended to carry some grand political purpose? What could that purpose be, except the total subversion of the government, and all the existing institutions of the country? Their intention evidently was to intimidate the sovereign and the two Houses of Parliament into an acquiescence with their designs, by the display of their numerical power; and, if that failed, to carry them into execution by the exertion of their physical force, or, in other words by force of arms. Could, then, the House ask to have a fuller exposure of the views of these infatuated men, than that which had been afforded to it by the papers now upon the table? The noble lord had also wished to inquire why sir 529 John Byng had not been at Manchester on the 16th, personally to superintend the employment of the military. A sufficient answer to this point was, that sir John Byng had previously made all the necessary arrangements for such an occurrence, and had left the troops under the command of an officer in whom he could place implicit confidence. The noble lord had likewise confessed the dangers to which the country was at present exposed, and the House had pledged itself to find a remedy for them. Now, considering the state in which the nation was at present situated, the time which an inquiry into all these points would consume, would be so long as to make him vote against instituting it, especially if the remedy which the danger required was not, according to the noble lord, to be administered until the inquiry was concluded; though at the same time it was only fair that he should repeat his conviction, that such an inquiry ought not to be allowed, even though it would not continue for more than a single day. Indeed, he thought that the government, so notorious was the system now existing in the disturbed districts, might have said—"We will put a stop to it," without making any inquiry at all.—The noble lord had declared, that he was not satisfied with the statements which were now before the House; because the names of the persons (who, he ought to recollect, had made them on oath) were not given to the public. The reason why the names were concealed was, that if they were known, the lives of those who bore them would be placed in the most imminent hazard, even though they were brought up to London for the purpose of being examined: the names, however, of one or two of them were stated, and in all cases the names of the magistrates who had taken their depositions.—The noble lord had seemed to think that the county of Lancaster was the chief focus of all this disaffection and sedition, and had argued, that because the magistrates had dispersed the numerous meeting at Manchester with a small military force, more troops were not wanted; but, was it not probable, that as the reformers had been once dispersed by a few soldiers, indeed by not more than thirty or forty of the yeomanry, they would take care not to be so easily dispersed on a future occasion? This was rendered more than probable by what had occurred at a recent meeting at Burnley. There a large 530 multitude had met, many of them armed with pistols, and most of them with staffs, in which a socket was made for the reception of a pike-head, which they likewise carried in their pockets. Now he would ask any hon. member, whether it was possible for any magistrate, without the assistance of a military force, to have put down this meeting, confessedly illegal, armed as those who attended it were, with pistols and with pikes? But were these all the facts which were at present before the House? Was there not the declaration of the constables at Manchester, stating their opinion regarding the inefficiency of their police? Was it possible that society, to say nothing of commerce and the ordinary transactions of life, could continue to exist, whilst such a horrible system remained in action? What would the hon. gentleman opposite say to the various attempts which had lately been made at assassination? Were they not aware that two public officers in the prosecution of their duty, had had pistols fired at them, and that at Manchester a constable had been absolutely stoned to death? Were they not aware that this method of intimidation had been extended from the manufacturing to other districts? Did they not know that attempts had been also made to assassinate the mayor of Newcastle? Could they believe that such endeavours to intimidate would not be extended, unless they were now checked? Was it a thing of little importance, that if any tradesman or publican exerted himself to preserve the public peace, not indeed as a yeomanry-man, but as a special constable, he was deprived of all custom, and found his business entirely ruined? There was, indeed, a case before the House which showed, in a strong light, the state of the kingdom—he was not now alluding to the meeting at Manchester, or to any of the meetings in Cheshire or Lancashire, but to the three distinct meetings which had been held at the same place near Leeds. There the magistrates had waited till some outrage had been committed. [Cheering from the Opposition.] He would give the hon. gentlemen the full weight which they wished to derive from this admission, and he would then ask them, whether it was either right or expedient that whenever a public meeting was called, the magistrates should be compelled to be upon the alert with their special constables, and to have no military force at hand to back them? And 531 yet, what would now be the result, if this was not the case? The House might easily judge by referring to the papers which were placed before it; for it was in evidence, that at Glasgow it was nothing but the military that prevented an attack from being made upon the lives and property of the loyal inhabitants. Was it not well known (and he really thought that the public press had disgraced itself by inserting the speeches of those radical gentry), that public discussion had been held regarding the time when the people ought to rise, and that denunciations had been made of certain individuals for not following up the successes which they had achieved? When this was nothing more than a bare statement of facts, how could hon. gentlemen come forward and say, that the House was in want of farther information? The right hon. member then said, that he could wish the noble lord, or any of the friends who surrounded him, to explain what they meant by the term conciliation, which they were so much in the habit of using. A right hon. gentleman had, on a former night, spoken in most decided terms of reprobation of the agitators who were now disturbing the state, and had condemned with great eloquence the principles on which they acted. Now, he should be glad to know, whether the right hon. gentleman wished to conciliate by granting concession to their principles, or alleviation to their distress? If concession to their principles was the meaning which was to be put on conciliation, how much of his own principles would he give up to them? Would he advise the House to grant them, not indeed what they asked, but what they did not ask—moderate reform about which they professed themselves indifferent? If it were granted, did he think that it would satisfy them? Was he not, on the contrary, quite positive that they would say, "We have a right to more, and we will not rest till that right is fully granted to us; it is not sufficient that you have granted to Birmingham, to Leeds, to Sheffield, and the other large towns, the power of returning members to parliament, and that you have diffused the right of suffrage more generally through the counties—you must grant us all we demand, or never will we rest content and satisfied?" If this was true—and he maintained that it was—nobody could doubt that concession to their principles would be of no avail, Then, as to the alleviation, of their 532 distress: and here he could not help expressing his conviction that the disaffection which existed in the manufacturing districts was much greater than the distress; and that though distress might lave originally enlisted many under the banners of disaffection, they would still remain disaffected when the distress was taken from them. If, however, the people were distressed, and the house in-tended, and was able, to conciliate them ay relieving their distress, for God's sake let them set about it, as soon as ever the way was clearly and distinctly pointed out to them. He had to apologize to them for the length at which he had ad-dressed them [Hear!] but he had been led to say as much as he had done, because the motion of the noble lord was calculated to paralyse the spirit which the House had so lately evinced. He had consequently felt it to be his duty to implore them to go into the consideration of the measures which had been proposed to to them without instituting a previous inquiry. If they were too strong, they could be altered; or if they were incorrect in any of their minute details, they could hereafter be corrected. The House was bound to redeem the pledge which it had on a former evening given to the crown, it was bound to give instant vigour to the law, because that vigour was calculated to prevent the employment of a military force; but till that law received that vigour, nothing else but a military force could preserve the tranquillity of the country. He had not said any thing upon the seditious and blasphemous publications which had lately emanated from the press, because the noble lord had not disputed the existence of them, and because the House appeared sensible of the general danger arising from them. He concluded by again conjuring the House to adopt the measures of vigour which had been proposed to them, and by reminding it, that nobody could justly complain against them, except those who expected to suffer by their operation.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
said, that the motion of the noble lord was for the reference of certain papers to a select committee, and that if any thing had been wanting to convince him of the necessity of such a measure, it had been just supplied by the speech of the right hon. gentleman opposite. He had expressed his surprise at the conduct of those gentlemen whom he denominated the Opposition, and had as- 533 serted that the country would participate in it; but he would take the liberty to inform the right hon. gentleman, that the country now looked up to the opposition, with the utmost confidence, on account of the resistance which they had given to the late and the present most mischievous acts of government. That resistance was not made with any view of giving any support or countenance to the radicals as the Whigs had as little cause to like the radicals as they had to admire the ministers The reform which the radicals sought to obtain was, what would lead to the subversion of the constitution, for it was annual parliaments, universal suffrage and election by ballot; but would any body say that a single individual could be found to advocate such sentiments on the bench where he was sitting? The hon. baronet then proceeded to argue, that the call for inquiry which had been heard in every quarter of the kingdom, made it an imperative duty upon the House to institute it, and ridiculed the assertion that it was already making in the courts of law, when the only single point which was before them was Hunt's trial. He also inferred the peaceable disposition of the people in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and their willingness to submit to the constituted authorities of the country, from their not attending the meeting convened for the 9th of August, because the magistrates had declared it to be illegal; and asked, if the meeting of the 16th was so manifestly illegal as it was now contended, why the magistrates had not issued, as they had done regarding the intended meeting of the 9th, a proclamation declaring its illegality. The peaceful demeanour and willing obedience to the laws which they had then exhibited, was such as would lead him to oppose the vigorous measures recommended to the House, until he was convinced of their necessity by the granting of an inquiry. That inquiry was rendered more particularly necessary by the precipitate vote of thanks which had been given to the magistracy, and which was not to be justified by any of the precedents which ministers had adduced to defend it. The documents on which they had been called to enact severe and coercive measures, proved that the disaffection was only local and temporary. It was therefore too much to ask of the House, because dissatisfaction, and, for the sake of argument he would say, disaffection pre- 534 vailed in certain districts, to place the whole country out of the pale of the law, and to subject all the inhabitants of England to a system of persecution. [Loud cries of "hear."] He repeated, to a system of persecution—for to what else could these new enactments possibly lead? The hon. baronet then alluded to Mr. Bathurst's declaration that he did not know what meaning his noble friend attached to the word "conciliation.'' He would tell him, though he could not do so without expressing a wish that conciliation was a little more in the mouths and hearts of his majesty's ministers, as they would find it better calculated to preserve the peace of the country, than all the coercive measures which they bad latterly ad6pted. Conciliation, then, was to show the nation, that, while they made laws to coerce the disaffected, they would exhibit every readiness to receive the petition and redress the just grievances of the people—that they would use every endeavour to relieve their distress, and alleviate their burthens—that they sympathised in all their woes, wants, and calamities—and last, though not least, that they were willing to take the subject of parliamentary reform into immediate consideration. [A laugh from a member on the ministerial benches], Some persons might think the latter subject of little importance; but he could assure them, that during the last twelve months reform had made such an impression upon the middling classes of society, that not all the arguments of the gentlemen opposite, nor all the eloquence of a right hon. member of the cabinet, who was generally very eloquent upon that topic, would be able to remove it, unless indeed ministers would show by their future, what they had not shown by their past conduct, that reform was not so necessary as had hitherto been supposed.
Mr. Long Wellesley
said, he had heard with the sincerest regret a violence of language on the other side which before that time he had but seldom been under the painful necessity of attending to. He did think, that the noble mover had pledged himself to sentiments not quite in unison with those he had heard from him on former occasions. He adverted to the former arguments of the Opposition against committees of inquiry, and wondered how they could now adopt the entirely opposite course, of recommending what they had hitherto so strenuously objected to. 535 One right hon. gentleman carried his opinion so far, that on the proposal for a committee of finance last session, be had declared it was no better than a packed jury, and could produce no desirable result. The hon. gentleman went on to show, that no advantage could arise from agreeing to the motion, nor would it allay the ferment in the country. The documents laid before them proved this plain fact, and it was supported by every legal and other authority which had been called on to deliver an opinion, that an alarming state of disaffection existed. This was the spontaneous and unanimous opinion of all the honourable men, in whatever capacity, called upon to inquire into the situation of the country. They therefore stood in need of no committee to ascertain this fact. It seemed to him that gentlemen opposite had abandoned the main point at issue; at least he was sure it was so considered by all the magistrates with whom he was in the habit of acting, who thought that the great question for the House to decide was, whether the Manchester meeting was legal or illegal, and especially which character the conduct of the magistrates bore. But as they had blinked these subjects, he was inclined very much to doubt the pretensions set up by the gentlemen on the other side to a superior knowledge of the public opinion. If they had possessed this, they would have come fairly forward, and not have yielded, as they had done the principal matters at issue. The hon. gentleman then went into the assertions which had first appeared in the public newspapers, and were re-echoed by the Opposition, and contended, that if these had been true, there would have been much greater inflammation than there really was. An hon. baronet the member for Southampton, had detailed to the House the hair-breadth escape with his life of a reverend divine, who had been prompted, by a very pardonable curiosity to see Hunt, to, attend that meeting; whilst another hon. baronet had descanted on the atrocity of the attempt made by the yeomanry to surround with a cordon of troops the hustings, on which that agitator with others stood. A third member had endeavoured to raise an argument upon the throwing out a bill of indictment against one of the military, as having been thrown out through a technical informality. The House had not betrayed any serious commiseration for the case of the curious 536 friend of the hon. Baronet, nor suffered itself to be shocked at the atrocity of surrounding these inflamers of the public mind, and the assertion had been very satisfactorily contradicted and disproved by a noble lord, the son of a Whig lord lieutenant that this indictment had not been thrown out for informality, but for want of sufficient matter alleged. Hon. gentlemen could not but see that no proposition was less likely to terminate in any beneficial result than that of rendering that House, composed of so many members, and incapable of examining witnesses on oath, a court for the exercise of any thing resembling judicial inquiry. No place could be so well adapted for that species of inquiry, in his mind as courts of law, where the witnesses gave their testimony and the jury its verdict upon oath. He most sincerely felt that there was no circumstance which could tend so directly to keep up the agitation and alarm which now existed throughout the country, as a display of any hesitation on the part of the House to adopt some well defined and salutary restrictive measures; as its natural result would be to convince the public that parliament was not as yet aware of the spirit which was abroad, or the dangerous designs of the disaffected.
§ Mr. Douglas Kinnaird
rose at the same moment with several members, but the courtesy of the House gave the precedence to the hon. gentleman as a new member. He said he was anxious to raise his voice that night in behalf of the suffering people of this country, while yet they had a constitution; for after that night, he feared, they would be without the shelter of such a blessing. He was little acquainted with the forms of the House, but he thought, that when a communication like that lately made from the throne came under their consideration, it ought to be discussed in the most formal manner, and with that temper and deliberation which would at once show the best regard for the Crown, and become the character of the representatives of the people. He felt that the ministers of the Crown were in a most responsible situation—his alarm at the existing state of affairs was great, and increased it must be, if, by the event of this night, he was driven to the melancholy conclusion, that prejudice and passion got the better of the judgment of the House of Commons, and that they were prepared to take for granted the assertion of ministers as to 537 the state of the country, though that assertion was flatly contradicted by a variety of evidence. He felt the utmost pain at hearing a sweeping charge of sedition and impiety levelled against the great mass of the people of England. From the best authorities the House knew that the people were suffering under the weight of the severest distress; it was singular, then, to think that instead of seeking the means to remove this distress, they should at once plunge into the abyss of impiety, and endeavour to subvert the whole moral order of social life. He could never believe the people capable of such fatal and useless misconduct, and he was the less inclined to believe it, now that he saw the proposition utterly untenable from the evidence in the papers laid before the House. On the part of the people of England, therefore, he protested against those fearful accusations. It was singular that if the people, as had been stated, were ready for plunder, and only wanted the opportunity of carrying their intentions into effect, the gentlemen of the country should leave their homes, around which, if the danger were real, they would assemble their friends and tenants, to save their families and property from ruin and devastation. The hon. member then proceeded to enforce his opinion, that no such danger was apprehended, by alluding to the earl of Derby's inability, according to his letter to lord Sidmouth, to arm a battalion of yeomanry from the gentry of the county, even though the letter was dated one month after the occurrence at Manchester. He had every reason for thinking that much exaggeration prevailed respecting the designs of the people, even where the highest irritation prevailed. Pikes had been spoken of, but on authority that he thought questionable, because it was anonymous. He would presume to suggest to ministers the adoption of conciliatory rather than coercive measures, and to appease rather than exasperate the people by sowing mutual distrust among the different classes of society. The people, he believed, held together, and relied much on each other's support at the present crisis—[Hear, hear! from the ministerial benches].—Gentlemen might cheer, but were the people less likely to confide in each other when they were placed out of the pale of the law? He much feared that ministers relied too much on spies, and had created a system which was calculated to delude 538 them. On a former occasion they had been told that a dreadful toast had been given in a company of the disaffected. Dreadful indeed it was—"May the last of kings be strangled with the entrails of the last of priests"—and yet it ultimately appeared that this toast was given by Castles the spy, and received with disgust by the company upon whom it was obtruded. This was the spy who was decked out in good clothes, and produced in a court of justice in the hope of his imposing upon a jury. The hon. member then commented upon lord Castlereagh's speech in support of the intended measures—a speech which was well described as touching less upon the privileges that the new bills meant to take away, than upon those which they left. The noble lord had rather unfairly attacked the female reformers when he described their political interference as unprecedented in the history of this country. Did not the noble lord know that during the elections for Westminster the ladies were always prominent—and that even in the last election a ladies committee had actually been formed in favour of a particular candidate? Petitions had frequently been presented to that House from ladies, and duty answered by parliament. Lord Clarendon described the circumstance of a petition being presented to the House of Commons by five thousand of the wives of the citizens of London, Southwark, and the adjoining suburbs, and couched in very remarkable words. The petitioners addressed the House in behalf of their husbands, who were taken from them and imprisoned, and their estates seized in the most arbitrary manner. They prayed to be eased of their grievances, and protested in their frail condition. These females, in emphatic words, exclaimed, "See our husbands imprisoned from us, our children dashed against the stones, and our infants blood flowing in the streets." This petition was answered by Mr. Pym—the females pressed up the stairs of the House, and as they were importunate, the trained bands were at length called out and ordered to fire upon them, which they did, and the women, in the words of the historian, nothing daunted, cried out, "Peace, peace!" He hoped, by showing this precedent, and alluding to others, he had divested the noble lord's speech of any importance which attached to it from his observations respecting the novelty of the acts 539 of the female reformers. He was ready to admit, that the state of the country was in many parts alarming, but the evil he feared would be aggravated by coercive measures: a relaxation from taxation would alone allay the irritation which unfortunately prevailed among the labouring classes. On the subject of parliamentary reform many opinions might prevail, without the holders of them being liable to any imputation of criminality. The duke of Richmond's plan of reform had received the sanction of Mr. Sheridan, and though Mr. FOX did not go the same length of supporting it, he yet admitted it to be the ground-work of a better system than the then existing one. There was certainly a prevailing error, that only one mode of reform ought to be adopted; though he might dissent from such an opinion, he yet saw nothing criminal in those who held it, nor any reason why they should be held out as seditious and disaffected to the country; and he also thought that although the people put their claims forth in a certain shape, it was by no means a corollary that they would be satisfied with less than they asked. If they saw a disposition to concede, there was no doubt they would not be inflexible in their demands. The hon. member quoted, in support of this opinion, a resolution passed at one of the late popular meetings, which expressly called called upon the higher orders to join the lower, and avowed that an alienation of the rich from the poor would be the ruin of both. The hon. member concluded by earnestly conjuring the House to adopt a system of conciliation as the mode best calculated to allay the existing ferment among the people, and most consonant to the feelings of humanity and justice.
§ Lord Lascelles
rose to state a circumstance which had been communicated to him by general Byng, to show the first intention of the magistrates at Manchester respecting the intended meeting of the 9th of August. The general had called upon the Magistrates when that meeting was announced, to inquire if they wanted his assistance or that of the military for the occasion: The magistrates answered, that they did not apprehend any danger, and would not require the proffered aid. The general apprised them, that he would remain in his own house, and not quit the immediate neighbourhood, until after the meeting of the 16th; in order that the magistrates 540 should, if necessary, have an opportunity of sending for him. Now no message came to the general, and the fair conclusion was, that the magistrates had no intention of dispersing the meeting until the morning of the day when they saw the entrance of the concourse of people into Manchester, and their numbers and nature. So much for the general intentions of the magistrates prior to the meeting. The present question was, however, whether the House could enter into the consideration of ulterior measures without a select committee. Of the Manchester transactions, and the acts that occurred on the 16th of August; he knew nothing. [Hear, hear! from the Opposition benches.] When he said this, he begged not to be understood as condemning them, he meant to pronounce no opinion whatever. He was ready to believe, that the origin of the disorganization in the country was in the distresses of the people.—When parliament last broke up, the manufacturing part of the community were in a state of unexampled distress. Advantage was taken of their situation by designing men, and the idle people attracted by the force of novelty from one meeting to another, were unfortunately led, step by step, to the habit of listening to the doctrines of itinerant orators, who gave them neither rest nor repose.—What he most lamented was, that among those deluded characters there were many honest well-meaning men, who were artfully drawn into the schemes of others, and seduced into the sacrifice of their characters and their safety. Such men were, he knew, not ripe for rebellion; though he knew there were others of a different description, and who formed an immense class in the scale, who were ripe for insurrection. A sort of infatuation appeared to prevail, and there was no chance of ever getting rid of the difficulty so long as itinerant orators were suffered to perambulate distant parts of the country, and excite that idle curiosity which every one acquainted with the manufacturing districts must know prevailed to an extraordinary degree. If this system was suffered to continue, the manufactures of the country would be rooted out—and the wretched population who now complained would consequently become the first victims. He was willing to admit that even if the proposed laws were enacted, still a number of heavy privations must remain to be endured by the people. Though their trade must re-*541 vive, and though they must always have an ample portion in the mercantile traffic of Europe, still he feared that a number would remain unemployed, or at best but inadequately paid for their labour. It therefore required all the calmness and energy of the country to enable the people to work up against their difficulties, and to meet them in the manner which was best calculated to retrieve their situation. He denied that ministers had grounded their proposed measures on the general disaffection of the people; on the contrary, they had declared them necessary for the protection of the sound and loyal part of the community. A distemper had certainly grown in the state, which must be eradicated or else it would infect the whole of the community. It was agreed on all sides that something must be done to prevent the growth of disaffection and impiety. When this admission was generally made, he lamented that the gentlemen opposite should confine their views to one side alone of the question. With regard to what had been said by the hon. gentleman who last addressed them, he could not agree with him, that they were called upon to legislate merely against impiety and sedition. They were called upon to protect the sound, the honest, and the laborious,—and not to allow a distemper to spread which would destroy them all.—Were they to sit still while mischief did its work?—No. Something ought to be done. He did not pretend to define what that should be, and it was a fair proceeding to discuss the measures proposed and examine if they were calculated to effect what was desired. But he could not help lamenting the tone adopted by the gentlemen on the other side—a tone entirely coinciding with one view of the subject, presuming on the Manchester business, according to strong prejudices which they seemed early to have imbibed, and inflaming their minds by looking only at the bearings of the question as it favoured their inclination. It was thus that the measures offered to the House came to be characterized as harsh and oppressive; as if none but those whom these measures affected deserved their care—as if the peaceable and industrious were nothing, and the licentious and discontented every thing.—Alluding to the comment that had been made on lord Derby's letter, and the non-filling up of the regiment within a month after, his 542 lordship observed, that this had also happened in other places, but it was not because great alarm was not felt, but from other causes. What he most lamented in the present dangerous times (dangerous they were if tampered with) was any disposition to see one side of the case only, as, if such a course was persevered in, he greatly feared the consequences would be such as were not intended by those pursuing that course. One of the principal means employed for the introduction of dangerous principles into the minds of the rising generation was, the establishment of schools, in which children were instructed in impiety, and brought up with a total disregard of religion. Another feature in the progress of corruption and disaffection in the country, was seen in the Union Societies, which were in plentiful existence in every populous town in the kingdom. He himself had heard it lamented by some of the leading members of these societies, that the gentlemen of the neighbourhood would not join their body and enter into their views. And what was the object of these societies? They laid claim, as a right, to nothing less than universal suffrage, annual parliaments, and election by ballot! To reprove such ignorance would be no simple matter. It was to the poisonous sources from whence they derived these notions, that the remedy must be directed. It would be almost incredible to those who had not been witnesses of the fact, the pains that were taken, and the means that were put in practice, to circulate irreligious tracts and other publications, which were of a nature equally deserving of being proscribed; There was a regular system of carrying them into the houses of persons who otherwise could never have read them. It thus happened, that the labourer, after returning from his daily work, would set about, and read from beginning to end, these tracts; and this he would do day after day, till he actually had them by hearty and to this was to be attributed that clear explanation on these subjects, which excited the surprise of many who had been in situations to be brought in contact with them. He thought a line might be drawn, and he hoped prudent men would draw a line, between the disaffected demagogues and the persons who listened to them through curiosity.—But he did not think it prudent, in the present state of the public mind, to use any concession. He thought, 543 if the unanimous opinion of the House was, that the people should be allayed by endeavouring to show them the delusion under which they laboured, it would have a great effect on their conduct.—Every one knew, that these men were deluded, to the ruin of themselves and families. The proper course for the House to adopt was, to express an honest indignation at the conduct of those persons who sat the people in commotion. He would conclude by saying, that any attempt to support the errors of the people would be productive of ruin to themselves, and of injury to their families.
, of Wiltshire, rose with considerable diffidence to offer his opinion to the House. He had never had the honour of addressing it before; but, although he had always considered that it contained a great majority of the wisdom and talent of the country, yet he conceived it to be his paramount duty not to be silent, if, by the exertion of his small voice, he thought he could advance any thing for the interests of his country. He had listened, with great attention, to the arguments which had been used in the course of the several nights debate on this occasion, and his conviction was, that a committee should be formed on the papers at present before the House, before it passed such strong restrictive measures as had been proposed to them. He begged of the House to consider that the measures of restriction contemplated, applied to the whole country, whereas the seditious turbulence which originally called for them was confined to only a few districts. He would give full credit to all that appeared from the papers on the table; but he conceived the House was asked to go a great length, when they were called upon to agree to coercive measures without any other information. If disorders existed in some parts of the kingdom, should the House be called upon to agree to measures which would extend to the entire kingdom? He would compare the House, if it so acted, to a physician, who applied a remedy without knowing the cause of the disorder. He believed the causes of the present discontents might be attributed to the opinion which the people entertained, that their wishes were despised, that their petitions for reform were not listened to. To these causes one part of the disaffection might be attributed. But the distress of the productive classes was a more powerful cause. Every 544 person knew that the people were all but starving, and that starving people were the readiest to receive the poison of these mountebank orators. He would say there was not a county in England more attached to the constitution, and more opposed to the mountebank orators, than the county which he represented. Instead of passing coercive measures, the government ought to devise means of procuring food for the people. He felt convinced that some further inquiry was absolutely necessary, before such restrictions on the liberty of the country as had been proposed, could be honestly sanctioned.
§ Lord Milton
said, that although there was nothing in the early part of his noble friend (lord Lascelles') speech, in which he did not agree, yet he thought his noble friend had fallen into the error of which he had accused others, of viewing only one side of the subject, as he was prepared, not only to vote against the motion, but to vote for all the bills which had been brought in. The vote which was now proposed to the House comprehended the events at Manchester, events which, of all that he remembered, were the most unfortunate, and called the most loudly for parliamentary interference. Much obloquy had been cast on himself and his friends for their conduct with relation to these transactions. If they had not felt that the constitution was at stake, no earthly consideration would have induced them to interfere. It was not affection for the leaders of the Manchester meeting, or its objects—it was not even sympathy for the blood that was shed, but a conviction that by the conduct of the yeomanry, sanctioned as it was by his majesty's ministers, rights the most important had been called in question. It certainly did make a difference whether the meeting was legal or illegal. If it was illegal it was to be dispersed according to law. He did not say, that if force had been used by the meeting, it might not have been met by force, but it remained to be proved that any violence originated from the people. He called to the recollection of the House the letter of Mr. Hay, written on the eve of the transaction, which confirmed all the suspicions he had entertained. The ministers indeed had said, that this letter was not a fair and full account, but that they were enabled to give it out with other information which explained the matter to their satisfaction, though they had taken care not to 545 communicate it to the House and the country. Mr. Hay says, that "while the cavalry was forming, the most marked defiance of them was acted by the reforming part of the mob." From this two things appeared, first, that all the mob was not of one description, and in the next place, that the marked defiance was all that the mob could be charged with—which was something very separate from what followed. It was in fact as manifest from Mr. Hay's letter as negative proof could be, that there was no attack on the side of the people. They had been told indeed in that House, that the Riot act was read by Mr. Silvester, who was trampled under foot, and by Mr. Ethelston, from a window; but why was not the proof laid before them? Why were they to accept as evidence of this the word of a minister? That the yeomanry originated the violence seemed to him evident, but there was no proof that they did so by order of the magistrates. In following Nadin, the yeomanry pursued the orders of the magistrates; but in their subsequent conduct there was no evidence that they acted under command. "In the mean time," says Mr. Hay, "the Riot act was read, and the mob was completely dispersed, but not without very serious and lamentable effects." Let them only look how important it was to Mr. Hay's case for him to say (if he had been able to say it), that the yeomanry ban been previously attacked; but not a word was there of this. He had conceived that he should have found more friends to an inquiry into these transactions in the House. At York he imagined that gentlemen of both parties pledged themselves to demand an inquiry; and he could not help thinking that they must still feel awkward under their implied pledges. They were now told of an inquiry in courts of law. But, when all the trials now pending in the courts, Mr. Hunt's, Mr. Owen's, and even the information against an hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) were decided, the conduct of the yeomanry and magistrates would not have been subjected to any investigation, and we should still be told, that the magistrates were most anxious for inquiry. An hon. gentleman, the member for Dover, had said, that the magistrates were anxious for inquiry, but nothing satisfactory, it was said, could proceed from an inquiry before a committee up stairs. He differed with those who said so. Would not an 546 inquiry by such a committee lay grounds for a subsequent and solemn inquiry, if such should be deemed necessary? If, on the other hand, the committee found that the conduct of the magistrates did not demand an inquiry, they would state that fact to the House; and such declaration from such a committee would have great weight with the country. That inquiry, he thought, was due to public feeling as well as to public justice; the more so when he considered the nature of those measures which were last night introduced by the noble lord—measures which, in his mind, were sufficient to abolish the constitution. He agreed with an hon. gentlemen who had that night addressed the House for the first time, that if those measures were made the permanent law of the land, it was impossible that public liberty should survive. Those measures, it appeared, were intended not merely to put down what were called dangerous opinions in this country, but others—they were not intended for England alone, but for other countries—for Germany, for Italy, and for France. He confessed he felt alarmed for the liberties of England, when he saw an endeavour made to shape her constitution and her laws to the views of foreign governments—of crowned heads, who ruled their subjects by other maxims than those of liberty—of Prussia, who promised a constitution to her people, and then broke that promise in the hour of security, with the same facility with which it was made in the hour of need—of Russia, who governed with an absolute and unresisting sway—of Spain, for whose purposes an act was brought in last session, prohibiting the people of this country from interfering in the contest between her and the people of her transatlantic dominions—dominions which she had forfeited by misrule and oppression. He trusted that there was a spirit remaining in England, and that she could not be governed by the maxims of foreign states. This consideration, however, seemed to escape the attention of ministers, and they brought forward measures which filled him with the most serious apprehensions for the liberties of his country. He differed from his noble friend (lord Lascelles) with regard to the sources of our danger, and was of opinion that it rather menaced the people, than emanated from them. Referring to the affair at Manchester, and considering the conduct of the magistrates on that occasion, with 547 regard to its previous and subsequent effect upon the transactions of that period, he need only allude to Leeds, a place where there had been already several meetings held, each less numerous than the preceding. Then came the Manchester meeting of the 16th of August, which was followed by a variety of others in different parts of England, all of them then increasing in number tenfold. It was not by riding through a body of men, or mowing them down by soldiery, while they were assembled at a meeting of this character, that the people of England were to be subdued, but by means and measures of a more lenient and conciliatory character. His lordship proceeded to urge the necessity of a mild and temperate consideration of the condition and objects of the people, remarking, that the character of the House had been misrepresented to them, and that it should be their endeavour, therefore, to ensure the people's affections. He trusted that the House would listen to their petitions with attention; that it would patiently listen to their grievances; and even when they should prove unreasonable, that it would not notice the moody manner in which they might be presented; but that it would consider the privations and distresses under which they had been conceived. He would venture to hope even, that when they entertained the most wild and visionary theories, the House would not insult them by telling them that they were so, but would rather bear with all the faults of those who had had so much less education than hon. gentlemen themselves, and who by consequence had so little knowledge to guide and direct their conduct by. If hon. members viewed the important subject of an inquiry (and none more important could occur) as it regarded the magistrates alone, they neglected the more important question of the rights of the subject. Would they, when they saw the blood which had been spilt upon this disastrous occasion, the lives which had been sacrificed, the misfortunes which had occurred, overlook the more important fact, in their regard for a matter of less moment? Yet, when a parliamentary inquiry was asked for into the causes of these melancholy events, they said, "No; for we must support the character of the magistrates of Manchester." It was surely a most curious course to pursue, for the attainment of such an object, to refuse the inquiry demanded.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, he had no-doubt but that the part taken by his noble friend and his noble father, was dictated by the purest motives of public duty, and the warmest and most honourable anxiety for the good of their country, but he was prepared to show that they were mistaken. He would state to the House exactly what had taken place between him and his noble friend respecting the meeting at York, and he would show distinctly that no pledge was given by him or by his noble friend (lord Lascelles) which could bind them to vote for a parliamentary inquiry. Here the hon. gentleman went into a detailed account of what had taken place between himself and lord Milton before the meeting at York, and of the proceedings at that meeting. He said that the object of himself and his friends was, to exclude persons from that meeting who went about deluding the people, and to assemble the rank and wealth of the county; for that purpose he was willing to agree to join in an address for the calling of parliament, provided his noble friend opposite would concede to him another point, reserving to himself the right of expressing the opinion which he entertained that if an inquiry should be instituted, it ought to be instituted in a court of law, before a jury of twelve men. He had said to his noble friend, that he was willing to give up his opinion on one point, if his noble friend would give up his on another. That having been refused, by what right was he called on to stand to any concession ho might, for the sake of the country have been willing to have made. The hon. member proceeded to describe the state of the meeting, the conduct of individuals who attended it, the approach of mobs with drums and flags, upon one of which the words "Hunt for ever" stared him and his noble friend in the face. If he had given any specific pledge, he was willing to stand by it—nothing would induce him to violate it; but no pledge of the kind was given by him. With regard to the bills introduced by the noble lord (Castlereagh), the state of the country at present required some laws of their description. He did not say that conciliatory modes should be abandoned, but he felt at the same time that it was necessary to oppose the spirit which was abroad, and which spirit was opposed to the peace and the prosperity of the community.
§ Mr. Denman
felt himself called on to explain the opinion he had lately expressed on a particular occasion. As an humble individual, he had no pretensions to high influence as a political authority in that House; but he felt that he was a member of the House of Commons, and thought he claimed some pretensions to legal authority, from the profession to which he had the honour to belong. A noble lord, he understood, on a very recent occasion, and, in his absence, had done him the honour to say, that he, as a lawyer, would not state in his place in that House the opinion which, as a lawyer, he had expressed in another place. But he could assure that noble lord, that he would not state an opinion here or elsewhere that he did not entertain. A right hon. and learned gentleman, who spoke last night, powerfully as to his eloquence, but whom he did not consider as a good law authority, had asserted, that by the law of the land, the magistrates were warranted in putting down, as they did, the meeting at Manchester, as being a riotous one even from its numbers. A good law authority, in this case, must be founded upon an intimate knowledge of the statutes and of the common law of the land; and from all the knowledge he could derive through a laborious intimacy with those laws, in the course of his professional experience, he must say that the principle laid down by that right hon. and learned gentleman was most dangerous. He had been charged with holding opinions in his professional capacity to which he did not agree; and he expected to be asked if such were his opinions. But it was not fair to consider persons who did not express their opinions as assenting to those of an opposite nature. Many opinions had been expressed last night in favour of the proceedings which took place at Manchester, which opinions he sincerely deplored, and he must say, that upon that subject he entertained an opinion perfectly different. It had been supposed, that he had stated the meeting at Manchester on the 16th of August to be an illegal meeting; but he now begged leave to say, he had expressed no such opinion. The point in question was, whether the meeting was or was not lawfully dispersed? From all that he had learned on the subject his opinion was, that the persons met there were not lawfully dispersed. He thought the meeting was legally assembled, that it did not 550 appear they had done any thing to warrant the imputation of riot, previously to the attack made on them by the yeomanry, and he thought the manner in which they were dispersed was a fatal blow to the constitution of this country, from which he feared it would never recover; more especially when followed by the repeated blows which the bills now in their progress would inflict. The meeting, he would say, was legally assembled, but the manner of its dispersion was wholly unlawful. The people of the town were legally convened to discuss the grievances under which they considered themselves suffering, and to petition for redress, and therefore they did no more in this instance than they were entitled to do as Englishmen by the laws and constitution of their country. But the people came from a distance there in great numbers, marshalled in columns and military array, and such was the statement in the dispatches of Mr. Hay. How far those persons who came from a distance used any riotous conduct he knew not; if, however, they had done so, this was only in degree, and was not to be charged upon the inhabitants of the town quietly met. But if such persons made use of any threatening language to persons as they came along the road, this was but the act of a few, and could not justly be charged upon a whole multitude. But if such persons made use of any threats of injury to the residents in the town, he thought their conduct was riotous, and that they would incur all the liabilities to which by law they were exposed. But if the magistrates had on the morning of that day used their authority, and the means in their power to prevent those persons from passing through the town, they would have done a most acceptable service to their town. But if the magistrates suffered those persons to advance into the town, he could not see why the people of Manchester were to be prevented from meeting, or how the march of those offenders through the town should prevent the townsmen from assembling peaceably to discuss their own grievances and petition for redress. Why, then, if those strangers only were guilty of riotous conduct, and the townsmen were conducting themselves peaceably, he would contend that they were guilty of no offence, and that there must be a considerable difference between the cases of both. When Hunt came on the hustings with his flags and banners, the magistrates, from what they had heard, 551 issued their warrant to take him up, and prevent him from inflaming the popular mind by his speeches. He had no hesitation in saying, that the conduct of itinerant orators of this description, who went about from place to place to stir up, by their inflammatory harangues, the bad passions of the common people, deserved the contempt and detestation of every good man; but when he was told that nothing but coercive measures, such as those now proposed, could reclaim the people to a sense of their duty, he trembled for the result. He was convinced, that however erroneous the temporary irritation of the popular mind might be at this present crisis, arising from a variety of causes, there was still in the great mass of the people of this country, an ardent feeling of loyalty to the throne, and attachment to the laws and constitution, which left no just fears for danger to either; and that the best and readiest mode of putting down the turbulent spirit which had for some time prevailed, was to put down those itinerant seditious demagogues who went about to disturb the country. This he said merely en passant. But with respect to the multitude assembled at Manchester on the 16th of August, he would say their motives and dispositions were as numerous and different as their persons: and while some might come to this meeting with dispositions to high treason, there must be many others whose views were perfectly innocent. But when it was said that their object was revolution and plunder, he thought it was a most harsh imputation against so numerous an assemblage of the people of England, whose conduct showed not the least disposition to riot or disorder. It was a cruel case thus to traduce the character of the common people of this country, who deserved the highest praise for the respect they had shown to the property of their neighbours under all the cutting privations they had endured for years past from the pressure of the times. He did not mean to deny that revolutionary intentions were entertained by many mal-content persons in the country. Nor did he mean to deny that many of the numerous meetings which had been assembled in various parts of the country of late, might be intended by such men as a display of their strength in numbers. But vast numbers of persons wholly free from such views, must have mixed in those meetings, and it would be hard indeed to involve the innocent with the guilty. He 552 did not suppose that magistrates could be expected to enter into minute investigations upon such occasions, or that they could analyse the many-headed monster, called a mob. He would say, that if the peace was violated at such a meeting, the magistrates had no alternative but to put it down by the best means in their power, without any responsibility for the consequence of the necessity in which they were placed. But he would entreat of the magistrates to pause before the sword was drawn, and not mow down without distinction the innocent with the guilty. The House had heard of banners exhibited, and of expressions used by private individuals, which were, no doubt, of a questionable character; but then there was no evidence to implicate the whole meeting in any censure which might attach to those banners or expressions. This, then, formed a legitimate ground for the proposition of inquiry. At present it appeared to him, that the conduct of the magistrates of Manchester was uncalled for by necessity, and contrary to law; and let those who in thinking otherwise opposed, he had no hesitation in saying, the general impression of the country, accede to inquiry, in order to ascertain the real merits of the case. According to his judgment, Hunt, if there were ground for his arrest, should have been arrested either before he entered into the meeting, or after the meeting had dispersed. The period fixed upon for the arrest of Hunt was in every respect exceptionable, especially considering the manner in which the meeting was proceeding—that in fact, it was quite peaceable, and that Hunt was exhorting it so to continue. But his hon. and learned friend (the solicitor general), had maintained that it was a riotous meeting; that, indeed, the assemblage of numbers without any riotous act was unlawful.
§ Mr. Denman
resumed, and said that he of course misunderstood his hon. and learned friend, but such as he had stated was certainly his conception of his hon. and learned friend's doctrine. In order, however, to demonstrate the fallacy of such doctrine, and to show the real character of a riotous meeting, he referred to the authority of lord Coke, to the case of Howard and Gell in Hobart's report, and to the opinion of Justice Holt. But if his hon. and learned friend thought the Manchester meeting illegal upon the 553 grounds which he had stated, why did he not advise lord Sidmouth to act upon his opinion. The resolutions adopted at the Smithfield meeting were notoriously of the most inflammatory and illegal character, and why were not proceedings at once taken against Hunt, who presided at that meeting? Here the hon. and learned gentleman quoted the case of Demaree and Purchase from Foster's report, to shew the grounds upon which constructive delinquency legally rested. The people composing the meeting at Manchester ought, he maintained, to have been apprised that the warrant against Hunt was about to be executed; for neither the yeoman, nor any other agents of power, could be warranted in the exercise of violence, for the execution of a process among people, who were wholly ignorant of the nature of that process. The people assembled at Manchester were ignorant of the nature of the warrant against Hunt, and yet many of them were cut down or maimed, for impeding, or being supposed to impede, its execution. Such conduct could not, he contended, be regarded as consistent with the law of England, or with the law of any civilised nation upon earth, and therefore the circumstances connected with it imperiously call for inquiry. This inquiry was, indeed, the more necessary, in consequence of the measures proposed by the noble lord, to none of which, as an Englishman, anxious for the maintenance of his country's rights, could he possibly persuade himself to give his assent.—The hon. and learned gentleman sat down amidst loud and general cheering.
§ Mr. Mansfield
commented with much force on the demand now made for a committee of inquiry by those who uniformly described the reports of committees of that House as merely containing the sentiments of the minister, every syllable of which he was, when such an argument suited their purpose, supposed to supply. He described the fatal consequences resulting from the formation of seditious clubs throughout the country, and said that in order to arrest these evils in their course, he was disposed to support the present measures.
§ Mr. W. Courtenay
thought the House would best discharge its duty by resisting the motion for inquiry. He was not ignorant of the responsibility that attached to the House, yet he could not overlook the thousands and tens of thousands who were looking up to that House for protec- 554 tion. It had been argued, that lawyers were not proper judges of the present question. He differed from that opinion entirely. He would appeal to reason and common sense, and if these were exercised, he did not believe any one could contend that the meeting at Manchester, constituted as it was, was not inconsistent with every form of government in the civilised world. In his opinion the meeting was altogether illegal; and if so, it was the bounden duty of the magistrates to disperse it as an unlawful assembly. If the civil power could have effected it, it should alone have been employed; if not, it was their duty to call in the military. By what was the character of the meeting to be ascertained, but by the conduct of the persons who attended it? What had been their course? Why, not contented with proceeding in a straight course to the place where the meeting was held, Hunt, with the flags and emblems of military array, paraded through the principal streets of the town. Before the House was called upon to institute an inquiry, a prima facie case should be made out that some infraction had been made on the constitution. Was it possible for any man who had witnessed the proceedings of the last six months, to doubt that parliamentary enactments were necessary? In his opinion, it was the duty of that House to afford that protection to the community which they so anxiously sought. They asked not for a protracted inquiry, but for some legislative measures to repress the torrent of sedition and blasphemy that had so long been spreading throughout the country.
Mr. W. Lamb
, on reviewing all the circumstances of the case, found it absolutely impossible to doubt that inquiry into what had taken place at Manchester ought to be immediately instituted. This was necessary for the character of the magistrates themselves. To the argument which seemed to be principally relied on, that a parliamentary inquiry would prejudice proceedings about to take place in a court of justice, he would reply, that in a case of national importance, this was an inconvenience that must be submitted to. In the next place, he would remark, that he knew of no pending prosecution that would bring the whole case before any of the ordinary tribunals; and for himself he would say, that in his opinion, nowhere could so impartial an investigation of the circumstance take place, as in a committee of 555 that House. If it were admitted that the magistrates had acted legally, still an important political question must arise on the discretion which they had exercised, and this made a parliamentary inquiry desirable. He was apprehensive that coercive measures, in the present state of the country, would prove injurious, and was afraid that more meetings like that at Manchester might be expected, if something was not done to conciliate and tranquillize the public mind. A measure he understood, was to be brought forward by an hon. friend of his, the object of which was, to effect a reform in parliament. He should be ready to support it if he thought its provisions were good. He had hitherto objected to the plans of the advocates for a parliamentary reform, because he thought them not calculated to effectuate their object, and tending to degrade rather than to improve the representation of the people. He should certainly vote for the motion.
§ Mr. Lawson
rose amidst loud calls for the "Question!" The distinction attempted to be drawn by the last speaker between a judicial and a parliamentary inquiry, appeared to him to supply no good reason why the latter course should be adopted. The annals of inconsistency, teeming as they did with the exploits of the gentlemen opposite, offered nothing equal to their unaccountable conduct in calling for a committee on this occasion, after lifting their voices so frequently against the reports of the committees of that House, which they had heretofore affected to regard as the reports of ministers. Suppose the circumstance of the case reversed—suppose that instead of wishing the proceedings to be brought before a court of justice, they were to demand that they should be referred to a committee of that House! What in that case would be the language of their opponents? The cry would be, that they wished to withdraw them from an impartial tribunal, that they might be inquired into, where the acts of ministers were sure to be judged right—that they therefore took the case from a court of justice, to bring it before a partial committee of a corrupt House of Commons. It was now proposed that such a course should be taken, and that too, to satisfy those very persons who had no confidence in the House of Commons as at present constituted. He censured the language held respecting the yeomanry. The members 556 of those corps he could only view as special constables in red coats; and was it for those to complain that such a force had been employed, who had been declaiming all their lives against paid mercenaries and a standing army? It had been asked, if it were possible that justice could be obtained from the funds raised by the penny subscriptions of the radicals. He did not wish to wait till a sufficient sum could be advanced to meet the expense of the proceedings, from their verdigrise exchequer. He, for one, would be content to vote any sum out of the public purse that might be necessary to bring the question before a legal tribunal. He proceeded to show the difficulties that would arise if it were resolved to institute a parliamentary inquiry on this subject. Adverting to what had been said of the sharpening of the swords of the yeomanry, he observed this was no proof of "malice prepense." As well might it be contended that the fact of one of the yeomanry having made a hearty breakfast was a proof of "malice prepense;" for he believed it was not more the practice of yeomanry to make a hearty breakfast once a day than it was for the yeomanry corps to have their swords sharpened once a year. On this subject the most palpable misstatements had appeared in some of the newspapers. They had seen a story of a boy who was said to have travelled two hundred miles to show Mr. Orator Hunt his wounds—that was, to tell a lie. Then there was an account of a person who had had his ear cut off, but who was so very peaceably disposed that he never attempted to retaliate, but coolly pocketed the affront and the ear together. One man was described to have been taken to the Infirmary covered with wounds, and, on his way, like another Regulus, or rather like one of the ancient reformers, he had declared his sufferings served but to increase his attachment to the cause of reform. He defended the magistrates, and the thanks which had been given to them in the name of the Prince Regent. The meeting at Manchester he regarded as illegal. The inscriptions on the flags which they had carried threatened death and vengeance to some of their countrymen, and though he did not know exactly who were the victims intended to be sacrificed to the offended deity of radical reform, it was pretty clear that the fury of the malcontents would be directed (where they had the means of following their inclinations) against the anti-reformers.
§ Mr. R. Martin
said, the House had heard much from the noble lord opposite on the subject of conciliation. He wished for conciliation as much as any man, but he desired to know what was meant by the word as it was now used? He wished to know from the noble lord who had brought forward the present motion, and those who supported him, what they would be disposed to give to conciliate the radicals? Would they propose other taxes to the chancellor of the exchequer in lieu of those which now pressed heavy on the lower classes? Would they propose a new property tax? If they would do this, he, for one, would approve of their efforts of conciliation.
rose amidst loud cries for the "question." Nothing, he assured the House, could persuade him to address them on this occasion, but the wish to state the nature of, rather than to argue, the present question. The noble lord who brought forward the motion, intended by it that the papers relating to the state of the country should be referred to a committee, and this, if carried, he intended to follow up with another—that this committee should have the power of sending for and examining persons, papers and records. It had in this a double view; one was, to inquire into the whole of the proceedings at Manchester; and the other to take the general state of the country into consideration, and for this purpose calling before them persons from every county where they might imagine that any disturbance or discontent existed. The question resolved itself to this and he submitted to the House whether they would consent to it—that the whole of the remedial measures should be postponed until this tedious double inquiry were gone into, for that was really the object in view. Would they submit, in the state of the country which had been alluded to in the speech from the throne, and described in the papers before them, to postpone all the measures arising from that state to an indefinite period—till this committee should have terminated its lengthened labours? Was the House prepared to rescind the vote it had come to the other evening, which vote decided, in his opinion, that the Manchester proceedings could not properly be inquired into by parliament? Would they wait until this committee reported the testimony of the Pearsons, the Bamfords, and all the other radical evidence which would, no 558 doubt, be offered to them? The radicals, however, knew their business much better than to wait until the committee had decided upon them; and before that time, they would have taken care that this committee should never report at all. They (the radicals) had taken a very different view of things; they looked to some such circumstance as this delay, though certainly without any concert with gentlemen on the other side of the House; but was the House prepared to swallow down their view of things? Would they, after what had transpired respecting the opinions and conduct of the radical reformers, consent to a delay of measures, upon which, in his conscience he believed, the tranquillity and security of the country depended? Would the right hon. gentleman opposite think this a fair way of treating the country? What would the radicals themselves say to it? Why, they would despise those who could legislate in such a manner: for they did not disguise it from the public—they did not disguise it from each other, that they only waited for an opportunity of trying their strength. But what would the loyal portion of the community (and it was consoling to know that they formed out of all proportion the majority of the population of this country]—what would they say to such a measure? They had looked to the House, they had earnestly demanded security and protection for their lives and property. Were they now to be told, when danger pressed around them, that they must wait—for what? Must wait for an inquiry, first, into the proceedings at Manchester, and then for a general one into the state of the country at large. He would admit that there were in the country many men of untainted loyalty, who were slow in admitting the existence of danger to themselves and to the state, to the extent, which he thought he might say it was generally believed; but what was the House called upon to do in this case? Why, as good subjects, and faithful guardians of the public security, they were to act for such men; they were to take such steps as would prevent themselves, and those who were less apprehensive of the danger, from being involved in one common ruin. Yet in the face of those loyal subjects, who were so anxiously expecting protection and security at the hands of the legislature, what was parliament called upon to do by gentlemen on the other side? To 559 postpone those necessary measures of safety until a period when, in all human probability, they could be of no avail. Honourable members talked of conciliation, and of the necessity of ministers uniting with them in effecting such measures as would produce that conciliation. He would assure the right hon. gentleman opposite, and those honourable members by whom he was surrounded, that ministers would have no objection to co-operate with them in any measure which might attain the desired effect, if they thought they could hope for their support. [Cheers from both sides of the House.] If they could rely upon their willing assistance, there would be no objection on the part of the ministers to join with them for the better security of their common country. But, after what he had heard last night, after, having witnessed the whole course adopted by the gentlemen opposite since the opening of the session, he professed that he saw little ground for hoping for any assistance to his majesty's government from that quarter. He had seen them interpose to prevent by inquiry justice from reaching those who wished to destroy all social order, and all regular government. He had seen them joining in the cry of men against the government, who wished to destroy every thing valuable in our constitution. He would not impute this to the ambitious view of getting into power, for he believed that every gentleman on the other side would go along with him in thinking, that office at the present moment was a heavy and serious responsibility, he would not therefore impute any unworthy motives. The right hon. gentleman had, however given currency to the assertion, that at this moment the Whigs alone could save the country. [Mr. Tierney, across the table, I never; said any such thing (Hear, hear, from the opposition).] Lord Castlereagh continued.—The right hon. gentleman might not have said so in so many words, but he had said it in effect. "There," said he, "ministers have enjoyed power for such a time, and see what are the effects. These said the right hon. gentleman" mentioning a long list of grievances, "are the effects of their being in power.'' What was that but saying, that if their opponents had enjoyed the confidence of their sovereign and of parliament, no such thing could have occurred. In his opinion the gentlemen opposite would have 560 acted a better and more useful part for their country, had they lent their support to the government on the present occasion. Instead of this, they acted in concert with a set of men, who, he would readily admit, had nothing in common with them. They had contributed, unwillingly no doubt, to sanction opinions which they themselves condemned—they had kept in countenance the notion that government was a delusion—a notion in which he could not but think that they themselves were deluded. Notwithstanding, however, that they had chosen to adopt this line of proceeding, he felt confident that there was sufficient good sense, firmness, and spirit in the House and the country to save both—not, indeed, in spite of the Whigs, but without their assistance. This speech, which was delivered with more than the noble lord's usual animation, was at its conclusion followed by loud and repeated cheers from his side of the House.
§ Mr. Tierney
rose. Never, he observed, in the whole course of his parliamentary life, was he so unexpectedly called upon to address the House: for up to the extraordinary rant which the noble lord had just concluded, he had not conceived that it would have been necessary for him to offer one word upon the question before them. But the House would perceive that he had been goaded into it by the noble lord, in a speech the sole object of which seemed to be, to rouse a strong party spirit, as if the debate could not be as well concluded without it. Indeed, next to the surprise which this unexpected call had excited, nothing astonished him more than the tone and manner in which it was delivered. He had never before heard the noble lord express himself in a similar manner. The noble lord had on all former occasions so demeaned himself in debate as to entitle him to the respect of all who heard him; but, on this occasion, he had gone into a complete rant, with no other view, as it appeared to him, than that of exciting a strong and acrimonious party spirit. The noble lord had talked about conciliation. Did this look like it? Was not this any thing but an attempt at conciliation? Was it not rather calculated to excite strong party feelings on both sides? In some of those insinuating terms, of which the noble lord was so perfect a master, he had declared that the Opposition were allied with the radicals. They who, had ever 561 stood in the front rank against those deluded men, were now taunted by the noble lord with being associated with them; and this was the return which they got from the noble lord, as well as from the radicals—that they were abused by each for being hostile to both. The noble lord had said, that he (Mr. T.) had declared that the Whigs alone could save the country. He had made no such assertion; but a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning),whom he regretted not to see then in his place, having boasted that ministers had been in power for nearly fifty years, be had ventured to say, "Yes, and see the effects. I,'' continued Mr. Tierney, "did not want that the Whigs should be in power. I did not assert that they alone could save the country; but. I did ask, what had been the effects of the long continued power of their opponents. I now ask the same thing—What are those effects? We have the annual expenditure raised from fifteen to sixty millions. We have a nation overburthened with debts and taxes, and a chancellor of the exchequer obliged to break faith with the public creditor (for that was really the fact, whatever other term they might give it), in order to support a sinking revenue; and these were some of the effects of the administration of the Tories. We had acts of severity and coercion multiplied, acts to increase and prop up a falling revenue. We had paupers increasing with the increase of the poor-rates; trade and commerce declining; and the people naturally discontented; and these, too, were the effects of the excellent administration of the Tories." Yet the noble lord called upon them for confidence; he wished them to unite in support of such a government! Now, he (Mr. Tierney), said that such a government could not be supported: the House might mate laws for them, and raise money, and put troops at their disposal; but they could never give them authority; they might exercise all the powers of which they were possessed, but, as an administration, they could never command the respect or esteem of the country [Cheers]. He felt warm on this occasion: it was very natural—he could not feel otherwise; for he never expected to find such a turbulent gentleman opposed to him as the noble lord had proved himself to be. He had not expected that a polished nobleman, as the noble lord was admitted to be, would have indulged in such a strain as that which ho had now 562 uttered. Indeed, he had expected that the noble lord would have gone quietly to bed, contenting himself with the majority which it was likely he would gain on the present occasion. But no; that would not satisfy him; and when he conceived that the House was about to adjourn quietly, he all at once found the noble lord, to his great astonishment, indulging in this most extraordinary rant. The noble lord had said, that one object of the motion was, to make particular inquiry into the conduct of the Manchester magistrates. That was not the case; but if such an inquiry was brought on, it would be the result of the shifting, miserable temporizing conduct which had been pursued on the other side. The noble lord might complain of the conduct of members on this side of the House, in touching upon that subject; but he himself and his colleagues were to blame—the matter had been forced upon them (the Opposition) by the papers which had been laid before the House. Those papers, he maintained, were garbled, and insufficient for the object for which they were said to be produced. It was on thi3 account that a more full inquiry was demanded. The noble lord had said, that the House, in having agreed to the address, and rejected the amendment, stood pledged not to consider that case. This was entirely erroneous; there was no such pledge expressed or implied; and he hoped that no honourable members would be led away by this kind of sophism. The papers which had been laid before the House had forced their attention not only to the proceedings at Manchester, but to the state of the country generally. It should be recollected that those papers only referred to one part of the country, but that the measures to be founded on them were not local or temporary, but permanent and general, now, and for ever, all over the country. That was to say, it was intended to mulct the whole people of England for the misconduct of some persons in two counties. That misconduct was said to exist, and those seditious practices to be carried on, in Lancashire and Cheshire; but there was none in Yorkshire. A noble lord opposite (lord Lascelles), whose manner of expressing himself in that House entitled him to the respect of every member, had not stated that any disturbances had occurred in Yorkshire, but that the people were in that state which exposed them to 563 the pernicious influence of a few designing men, who endeavoured to mislead them. And had not the noble lord well accounted for those feelings of discontent, which would Lay them more open to the designs of the seditious, by alluding to the excessive distress which reigned among them? What had the magistrates themselves said upon this subject? "When the people are oppressed with hunger, we do not wonder at their giving ear to any doctrines which they are told will redress their grievances." Would the noble lord point out any violent criminal outrages which had been committed to justify his proposed measures? He denied that any could be shown, except the fatal one at Manchester; and upon the nature of this he need not say that opinion was divided. There had been no acts to disturb, the public peace. It was true that the people had assembled together in large numbers, preceded by flags and music, and in a kind of regular, or, as it was said, of military order; but he was certain, if they had been let alone, and not disturbed, they would have been found as peaceable as several similar meetings had been before and since. Indeed, the experience of every succeeding day showed that these meetings would die away if not opposed. The people would find, that after assembling and hearing some three or four speeches which they did not understand, and being some four or five shillings put of pocket, these were practices which they could not follow. But, upon all these local transactions, what did the noble lord do? He brought in a general law affecting the whole country, and that without giving the House any particular information. If he had confined himself to such a measure as the Watch and Ward act, it might not have been objectionable; but a general sweeping law, affecting the whole country, now and for ever, founded upon such grounds, was, he believed, a thing which never entered into the mind of any person but the noble lord himself. He had asked, besides all these additional securities, for an additional force of 11,000 men: indeed, he had called them forth without asking. What did the papers on the table say of the necessity of such a force? Why, from all he had read of them, and he had read them through, it only appeared that two troops had been called for, one at Leeds, and the other at Wigan. The right hon. gentleman then alluded to the conduct of the mayor of Leeds, and contrasted it 564 with that pursued by the magistrates of Manchester. In the former instance, every necessary precaution had been taken to prevent a breach of the peace: there had been no unnecessary parade of the military. Troops, it was true, were near at hand, but they had not been ostentatiously paraded before the meeting. What was done at Manchester? When the vast multitude were assembled together, the military force was drawn up before them. The mob, on seeing this, gave three cheers; and what did the yeomanry do? They also gave three cheers, and drew their swords. Was that, he would ask, like a fair and impartial administration of justice? or did it evince men determined, to keep the peace? Now, as to the arrest of Hunt in the centre of the meeting, was not that a case into which a court of law could not inquire, and which might very properly call for the censure of parliament, if upon inquiry, they found that the arrest was unnecessary at that time? He firmly believed, that if Hunt had not been arrested that day, no riot or disturbance would have taken place. The meeting did not look like one which had come prepared for riot; they had brought their wives and children with them—a circumstance the least likely to have happened, if they had determined upon violence. What was there in the nature of this meeting, which should have led to the supposition that it had assembled for violent purposes? When they had seen others nearly as large assemble and disperse quietly, because they were not molested, why should it be inferred that this meeting had previously determined upon riot? What had been said of the meeting at Leeds? That a great portion of them consisted of the idle and the curious, and that scarcely a fourth or a fifth part could be said to be radical reformers. Indeed, he believed, that if the radical reformers had been separated at all those meetings, from those who had been brought together from idleness and curiosity, their number would be found but very small; and he did not see that a man, conscientiously believing the justice of universal suffrage and annual parliaments, might not be a loyal subject, and have no disposition whatever to subvert the constitution. With the example of the duke of Richmond before him, he was not prepared to say that what brought one man into the cabinet should take another to the gallows. Itinerant orators had been com- 565 plained of, as exciting the people to seditious practices. There were, perhaps, five or six persons of this description; there were Hunt, and Wooler, and Johnson, and Harrison, and one or two others whose names he did not recollect; but he believed of all these, Hunt was the only one who had been heard of or known before. How would the measures of the noble lord prevent the opinions of these men from gaining circulation? They might, it was true, be prohibited from going to spout at several places, but would not their opinions still get abroad among the people? It was well known that the speeches delivered in one place were not confined to that particular spot, but were disseminated very widely. How could this be prevented? Reports of them would be printed and read: like the rant of the noble lord, they would not be confined to the place where they were delivered; and if that should be reported, it would no doubt set all the noble lord's friends capering from one end of the kingdom to the other. One consequence of those small and restricted meetings would be, that the reporters, from the thinness of the attendance, would get front places, and, of course, be able to give all that occurred much more accurately to the public. He really did not conceive that the orations of these demagogues were listened to with such serious attention as was supposed. From the account of the meeting at Birmingham it appeared that when Wooler and major Cartwright were willing to deliver their orations, the people were not disposed to listen to them.—There was one thing asserted, to which he would particularly wish to call the attention of the House. It had been stated, that schools had been opened in particular districts, where sedition and irreligion were inculcated upon the minds of children. Now, was not that in itself a matter of sufficient importance to warrant inquiry? Could any thing be more serious, or more deserving the consideration of the House, than the alleged fact, that parents suffered their children to be instructed in such principles? Why, then, not inquire into it? The House had before them a statement, garbled and broken as it was, said to be of facts. How did they know that? One good effect of the committee would be, that it would guarantee those facts, if they were such: for all the House knew, the greater part of this information might 566 have only existed in the imagination of the noble lord opposite. One thing was certain, that a great part of it rested upon the information of spies. From the letter of Mr. Lloyd, it appeared that a meeting was broken up, because the persons assembled said, that one of those who had addressed them was a government spy. This perhaps was the sixth itinerant orator; but then he was the orator of the noble lord. The noble lord had said, that they (the Opposition) had forced this question forward. This he denied. It was forced upon them; for if it was not meant that parliament should inquire, why were the letters of Mr. Hay and others laid before them? With respect to this letter of Mr. Hay, there was one question which he wished to put to the noble lord. Was the letter describing the dispersion of the meeting on the 16th of August that on which the thanks of the Prince Regent had been founded? If it was, and if there was no other information, he would say, that never were men more branded with guilt than those ministers who had advised those thanks. What was it, but as if they had said to their prince, after learning that a large meeting was violently dispersed, many of them sabred, and some of them killed—"Now, Sir, is your time to show your contempt for human life, by thanking those who shed this blood?" But he did not think that any of his majesty's ministers were capable of such conduct. What, then, was the inference? That they had received other information on the subject of the meeting, besides that which was contained in the papers on the table. For that information he now called. He wished that the House should be put in possession of whatever information ministers had received in their subsequent personal communications with Mr. Hay.—The right hon. gentleman next adverted to the declaration in Yorkshire by those who did not agree to the requisition for the county meeting, and contended, that, according to the opinions there expressed, it was clearly admitted an inquiry should take place. He then read the whole of the declaration, after which he contended, that it was the direct compact offered by the declarers, that they would join in an address to the Prince Regent, praying that he would assemble parliament for the purpose of instituting an inquiry into the transactions at Manchester, provided the requisitionists agreed to a decla- 567 ration as to the state of the country. If that agreement had been assented to, he had no doubt whatever that the gentlemen who signed the declaration would have faithfully adhered to their contract, and voted for that inquiry which they now so strenuously opposed. But it was said by an hon. member (Mr. Stuart Wortley), that by an inquiry he meant an investigation by the courts of law. That, however, would not be prevented by a parliamentary examination; for if the House saw grounds for it, they might, as they had done in other instances, direct the attorney-general to prosecute. It would, perhaps, be said, that the attorney-general could prosecute still. He denied that he could; for it should be recollected, that his masters were some of the parties accused; and if they turned earl Fitzwilliam out of office for only expressing an opinion in favour of inquiry, what might the law officers of the crown expect?—The right hon. gentleman next defended the conduct of the Yorkshire requisitionists against the charge of having joined with the radicals. There was nothing done there, no question agitated, but the one for which they had assembled, namely—to demand an inquiry into a transaction in which it was admitted on all hands that British blood had been shed, and where no sufficient grounds had been made for the attack. Was it not, he asked, natural that such a demand should be made? When torrents of blood had flowed, when several had been maimed, and some killed, what could be more rational than that an inquiry should be instituted? But the fact was, that they who gave the thanks to the magistrates knew right well that they had not a case to make out. If they had any colourable one upon which they could rely, the House would never have heard of; such a thing as this outcry against all investigation. The right hon. gentleman then contended, that if meetings were allowed to go on, there would be an inquiry, a parliamentary inquiry, sooner or later into the Manchester business. He maintained that from the papers now upon the table, they were bound to be able to aver, that a case had been made out which affected not only the right of the three counties which were disturbed, but also the rights of the remainder of the fifty-two counties of England. Now, forty-seven of them, according to the noble lord himself, were untouched; and yet all of them were to be put out of the; pale the law, because 568 disturbances had arisen in others from the pressure of distress. He would not give the clerk the trouble of reading, he would merely allude to the words of the Prince Regent's speech at the commencement of the last session of parliament, in which the nation had been congratulated upon the commerce and revenue of the country being in the most flourishing condition. Now, the noble lord must have known that this assertion regarding the flourishing condition of the trade and revenue was any thing but true; and he (Mr. T.) had told him so at the time, and had advised him to try the effects of conciliation. The noble lord had, however, now turned round upon him, and had asked him, what he would do in the spirit of conciliation. One thing he would not do—he would not vote for the addition of three millions of new taxes. He was not bound to say what he would do; it would be sufficient for him to say what he would not do. He would not, among other things, have imposed a tax upon wool. That tax had done more to alienate the people of Yorkshire from the government, than all the other measures which they had proposed; for it was a tax that affected not only the lower orders, but also the master manufacturers, at a time, too, when there was a complete stagnation of their trade, and almost a total want of orders. What object, then, could be attained by such an impolitic measure, except the exasperation and irritation of the people? Was the noble lord still anxious to know what he would do in the way of conciliation? He would at least show a wish to relieve the distresses of the people; he would,—but he would not, even if he had any measures to propose for the present emergency, say what those measures were, because coming from him they would be certain not to meet with fair play among the gentlemen on the other side of the House. One thing, however, he would advise them to do: if severe laws were to be passed, and if a resolution was to be adopted to restrict still farther the liberty of the country, it was their bounden duty to take into consideration the distress, and the causes of the distress, which now prevailed. The noble lord, indeed, had asked them, whether they would wait and postpone the passing of his measures, until they had inquired into the necessity of enacting them. With as great reason might the poor man turn round and say to the noble lord, "Will you postpone to relieve me, when I am starving, until you 569 have inquired into the means of removing my distress?"
§ The House then divided; when the numbers were, Ayes, 150; Noes, 323: Majority against the motion, 173.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Allen, J. H.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Anson, hon. G.||Heathcote, sir G.|
|Aubrey, sir John||Hill, lord A.|
|Barham, J. F.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Baring, Alex.||Hornby, Ed.|
|Barnett, James||Howard, hon. W.|
|Becher, W.W.||Howorth, H.|
|Benett, John||Hughes, W. L.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Hume, J.|
|Benyon, Benjamin||Hurst, Robt.|
|Bernal, Ralph||Hutchinson, hon. C.|
|Birch, Joseph||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Brougham, Henry||Kinnaird, hon. D.|
|Browne, Dom.||Kingsborough, visct.|
|Burrel, hon. P. D.||Lamb, hon. W.|
|Byng, G.||Lamb, hon. G.|
|Beaumont, J. W.||Lambton, John G.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Langton, W. G.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Latouche, Robt.|
|Calcraft, John||Lemon, sir W.|
|Calvert, C.||Lloyd, sir E.|
|Campbell, hon. J.||Lloyd, J. M.|
|Carter, John||Longman, Geo.|
|Cavendish, lord G.||Lyttelton, W. H.|
|Cavendish, Henry||Macleod, Rod.|
|Clifford, capt.||Macdonald, James|
|Clifton, viscount||Mackintosh, sir J.|
|Colborne, N. R.||Martin, John|
|Coke, T. W.||Maule, hon. W.|
|Concannon, Lucius||Maxwell, John|
|Coussmaker, G.||Merest, W.|
|Crespigny, sir W. De||Mills, George|
|Calvert, N.||Milton, visct.|
|Crompton, S.||Moore, Peter|
|Davies, T. H.||Mostyn, sir Thos.|
|Denman, Thos.||Maberly, John|
|Denison, W. J.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Duncannon, visct.||Mahon, hon. Step.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Nugent, lord|
|Dundas, hon. G.||Newman, R. W.|
|Dundas, Thos.||O'Callaghan, J.|
|Ebrington, visct.||Ord, W.|
|Ellice, E.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Euston, earl of||Pares, Thos.|
|Fazakerly, N.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Fellowes, hon. N.||Parnell, Wm.|
|Fitzroy, lord C.||Peirse, Henry|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Pelham, hon. G. A.|
|Fitzgerald, lord F.||Pelham, hon. C. A.|
|Folkestone, visct.||Philips, Geo. jun.|
|Farrand, Robt.||Phillipps, C. M.|
|Grant, J. P.||Powlett, hon. W.|
|Graham, Sandford||Prittie, hon. F.|
|Graham, J. R. G.||Primrose, hon. F.|
|Griffiths, John W.||Price, Robt.|
|Guise, sir W.||Pringle, J.|
|Gurney, R. H.||Ricardo, David|
|Harcourt, John||Ramsden, J. C.|
|Rancliffe, lord||Tavistock, marquis of|
|Robarts, W. T.||Taylor, M. A|
|Robarts, A.||Thorp, alderman|
|Rowley, sir W.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Russell, lord. G. W.||Waithman, alderman|
|Russell, R. G.||Walpole, hon. G.|
|Rumbold, C.||Webbe, Ed.|
|Rickford, Wm.||Wharton, John|
|Scarlett, James||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Scudamore, R. P.||Wilkins, Walter|
|Sefton, earl of||Wilson, sir Robert|
|Smith, hon. R.||Wood, alderman|
|Smith, W.||Webster, sir G.|
|Symth, J. H.||TELLERS.|
|Spencer, lord R.||Althorp, lord|
|Stuart, lord J.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Stewart, W.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Stanley, lord||Curwen, J. C.|
|Talbot, R. W.|