§ Mr. Secretary Peel moved the order of the day for going into a committee on this bill.
said, that when he beard that it was intended to introduce this measure to the House, he stated that he 1434 would oppose it by every means in his power. In saying that, he did not allude to any vexatious opposition. He did not mean that he would divide the House every minute, but that he would give to it the strongest opposition in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Yet if he pursued a different course, he believed he could find a precedent for it. In the debates of 1816 a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Wynn) now a member of the government, had declared that those who opposed, this measure ought to use "bodily force and physical resistance against it." The right hon. gentleman to whom he had alluded was in his place a few minutes before, and, as a minister of the Crown, he should have remained there. But he had always taken especial care to be absent upon every one of the discussions relative to this measure. Until the 7th or 8th of May, in the present session, no notice was given of the intention to move for a renewal of this bill; and when it was brought forward, no pretext was stated for having recourse to the measure. He had hoped that the would never have been introduced by the present secretary of state. He had cherished the idea, that that right hon. gentleman would have declared to his colleague that he would not call for a bill, the existence of which, whatever might have been the case when his predecessors were in office, was now perfectly unnecessary He was, therefore, astonished when the measure was introduced; and in a moment of irritation very natural he was sure and creditable, he might hope, when all the circumstances were considered, he said what he had done on a former occasion. It was not, however, a weak or foolish feeling by which he was actuated at that time; for he must declare, that during the short time he had been in parliament, he never was so shocked, so mortified, as when he heard the right hon. gentleman give notice of his intention to move for a renewal of this obnoxious measure. But if the announcement of the measure had surprised and shocked him—much more was he surprised—much more was he shocked, at the manner and terms under which the demand for this extraordinary proceeding was made by the new secretary of state for the home department.—Never was he so astonished as when he heard the right hon. gentleman say—"Give me this power, for I want it" Give me this power, for I will not abuse it". When the right hon. gentleman came down to ask for this 1435 bill, his whole demand was a demand for confidence. It seemed that there was some reason of state for re-enacting this measure; but what that reason of state was, right hon. gentleman would not inform the House. He wondered that the right hon. gentleman could not assign better reasons than he had deigned to adduce; and his wonder was not diminished, when, on examining the debates on former Alien bills, he saw that other ministers had always deigned to employ some pretexts in order to recommend so unpalatable a proceeding.—It might be useful to look a little at these several pretexts, and to see by what steps this tyranny had stolen upon us. The more this subject was considered, the more deeply would gentlemen feel the necessity of adhering to the maxim, principiis obsta. The more would they perceive how important it was that they should oppose, in the very first instance, the introduction of any principle that was likely to touch upon public liberty.
When the Alien bill was introduced in 1792, the bill from which all the successive Alien bills had sprung, and which, there fore, must be taken into consideration, Mr. Burke said, "It was to keep out those murderous French atheists, who would pull down church and state." All the individuals in both Houses who supported it, declared it was "a great addition to the power of the Crown, justified only by the emergency and by the right of self-defence." Mr. Burke particularly said, "If the Crown possessed such power in time of peace, it would be too great for liberty." This high authority, for he supposed the opinion of Mr. Burke was still looked upon as high authority, was entirely at variance with the attorney-general for Ireland. That learned gentleman said—"This power was not too much for the Crown;" and he argued, that "the Crown always possessed it." But so great an alteration did this Alien bill make, not only with respect to the ancient constitution of the country, but with reference to the observance of treaties, that, when the country went to war with France, the government of France complained of the power exercised under the bill "as a direct infringement of the treaty of commerce ratified in 1786." What was the case in 1802? Some of the severities of the old Alien law were then removed. And why was the measure introduced? On account, it 1436 was alleged, of the unstabic situation in which the power of Buonaparte was supposed to be placed. The instability of the first consul's authority was the reason then assigned for having recourse to the bill. Again in 1814, the instability of the house of Bourbon was the reason stated by Mr. Hiley Addington for renewing this measure. He (Mr. H.) stated this to show that special causes were regularly assigned for bringing the Alien bill forward. No minister before the right hon. gentleman has ever come down, and called for this confidence all his power. Without advancing some argument to prove the existing necessity. They regularly stated something which served at least as a pretext for introducing the bill. Mr. H. Addington hoped that no objection would be offered to the passing of the bill, "because the period of its operation was limited to one year." Here was the authority of the under secretary of state of show that the measure was not considered a mere matter of course. Lord Castlereagh said at the time "that he could not at once dispense with those precautionary measures which had so long been thought necessary." His lordship, it appeared, could not give up those measures "at once." At what period that now arrived? They were in the year 1822—seven or eight years after the time of that declaration; and a minister of the Crown came down to the House and said, "You must accede to this bill on principles (if principles they could be called), and you must make its provisions a part and parcel of the law of the land." In 1816, the noble marquis (Londonderry) confessed that "in that reference to particular circumstances it was foreign to the genius and character of the institutions of this country, to confer on the executive government a power so liable to abuse."—The noble marquis mentioned what these particular circumstances were. He said, "That every vicious principle had not been eradicated in France." He also said, that, "The bill would be a mild shield against dangers that had not altogether ceased." This declaration showed that the noble marquis thought it necessary to come forward with a pretext of some description or other, although the present secretary of state did not seem to feel that any such necessity existed. In 1816, when the measure was introduced, it was made contingent on a particular circumstance which was 1437 then in operation in Europe—he meant the occupation of the French territory by foreign troops. The language of the noble marquis, on the 31st of May, 1816, was, "that the bill would expire in July 1818, and the convention might cease with respect to the French fortresses in the November following; so that if it should appear necessary to extend the duration of the bill to the same period, under the circumstances which might then exist, parliament might have the opportunity of renewing their precautionary policy." So that the House would see that in 1816 the noble lord absolutely held out to the House, that the bill might expire before time removal of the Allies from France, and that at any rate it was only meant to last as that occupation. In 1818, the excuse offered by the noble marquis (and certainly it was a most notable one) was, that there were 38 French exiles and three French newspapers in the Netherlands, which proved that the revolutionary spirit was still abroad; and that therefore this country must have an Alien bill. The noble marquis still made the occupation of France the excuse for his bill. He said, "that at all events we must wait until we saw the result of withdrawing the army from France." Up to this period the bill had, since the French war at least, been defended solely with a reference to foreign policy; but in 1820 the pretext was a good deal changed. The noble marquis then said, "we were to contend not with foreign but with domestic enemies, which made all precautionary measures peculiarly advisable." He did, to be sure add, "that we were not to compromise our character with our allies;" and thus gave a sort of mixed reason for the renewed measure.—Reasons such as they were had at all times been attempted to be given, and never until now had a minister ventured to demand the passing of this bill merely as a matter of course and on the ground of confidence. Previously to this, time the bill had been recommended on the pretext of temporary causes. There was but one individual who had spoken out on the question—he alluded to Mr. Serjeant, now Mr. Justice Best. That learned person said, "This bill will do for any circumstances and for any occasion; and I see no necessity for defending it on the grounds that have been taken." This was perfectly honest. The learned gentleman seemed to have been gifted with a spirit of prophecy, or 1438 rather of imprudence, which was denied to the noble marquis. He believed this bill would be found, so long as the noble marquis presided at the head of his majesty's government, "a measure that would do for any circumstances and for any occasion."
When he (Mr. Hobhouse) said, that the right hon. secretary had not condescended to argue the question, he did not forget that the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) had endeavoured to handle the law on this subject, and had quoted Magna Charta. He was always afraid when a secretary of state referred to Magna Charta that he would use it in the same way that a which would the Lord's Prayer, namely, that he would read it backwards for the purpose of mischief. In referring to the great charter, the right hon. gentleman said, that he would quote "from the original document." What was meant by that assertion he (Mr. H.) could not conceive. Neither did he understand how the right hon. gentleman could twist the great charter to his purpose. He, however, would quote what lord Coke said n that part of Magna Charta, which the right hon gentleman had quoted. The right hon. gentleman had argued that the passage ending with the words "nisi antea publice prohibiti," related only to merchant strangers, that was true as to words, but merchant strangers then included all strangers. There were no gentlemen, at that time, traveling about to make the grand tour, and, as a matter of course, merchant strangers were mentioned generally. Lord Coke, in speaking on this passage said, "And, therefore, the prohibition intended by this act must be by consent of the public council of the realm; that s, by act of parliament; for it concerneth the whole realm, as is implied by the word "publice." The right hon. gentleman said, that "publice prohibiti" meant an order in council: but lord Coke took a very different view of the phrase. He did not wish to be captious; but, when a secretary of state, in the very outset of his career, mistook an act of parliament for an order in council—when he confounded the usage and laws of the realm with the prerogative of the king—when a secretary of state happened to fall into such an error, it was a mistake worthy of recording. It ought to be detected, noted, and, not to use too harsh a term, a little condemned. This was a thrice-committed blunder, and had been detected every time 1439 it was brought forward. He thought the right hon. gentleman would have come down with Puffendorff, sir Edward Northy and the thrice-refuted blunder of sir W. Blackstone. He imagined the right hon. gentleman would have quoted the statute of Henry 4th, that he would have referred to one or two occurrences in the time of Henry 7th, and that he would have alluded to a few of the cases which had been cited by the attorney general for Ireland, as the law (or rather as his law) on the subject. He was, however, contented with one blunder only. That blunder had been repeatedly exposed and held up to ridicule, and he did not think it would have been left to a person of the right hon. gentleman's learning again to bring it before the country. The right hon. gentleman, when asking for a measure that gave him complete power over 25,000 individuals, said be should be astonished, if it were refused. He (Mr. H.) was astonished, how the right hon. gentleman could so far forget the soil that gave him birth, the atmosphere which he breathed, the lessons of freedom which he must have heard, as to demand such a power, without assigning any necessity for it. Had he been addressing one of the old parliaments of France, or a Venetian council, he might have been surprised at opposition, but here in England, how could he expect acquiescence? He had declared, indeed, that this power should be used with reason and moderation. But there was no reason—there was no moderation, in intrusting to the discretion of a minister of the Crown, such an authority as this. If the act gave that power, nothing in its execution could make it moderate or reasonable. He would say, with his learned friend (sir T. Mackintosh) "that it was the law itself that was the abuse. It was not the method in which the power was used that constituted the abuse; the abuse was actually in the law itself." But the right hon. gentleman said "here is my responsibility." He (Mr. H.) never heard that word responsibility," but it excited a smile. The meaning of it was, that, hereafter, the House might call him to account for the manner in which he exercised the power entrusted to him. But he would appeal to the common candour of the right hon. gentleman whether there was any such thing existing as ministerial responsibility? It was, in fact, a perfect nonentity. There was nothing like it since the Revolution. It was true that by a happy coalition of parties 1440 some danger might for a time seem to threaten a discarded minister. A minister might stand a chance of being sent to the Tower, like lord Oxford; or of being threatened with impeachment, like sir R. Walpole; or of being placed in considerable danger, like lord North. With respect to the latter nobleman, if it had not been for the coalition, he would have run the chance, not of losing his head, but of losing his honours and emoluments. But, generally speaking, to say that a minister was responsible to parliament, was only saying, that he was responsible to his friends, to his accomplices and in fact to himself.
The noble marquis had asserted that his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) would raise liberty to a pitch to which it had never before been fexalted—that he would do much more for freedom than ever had been done by gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House. And what was his first effort in favour of freedom? Why he came down to the House and called for this unheard-of power; for unheard-of it certainly was, as the circumstances under which it was now demanded were different from those which formerly existed, when it was asked for. The right hon. gentleman had talked so much about his personal responsibility, that he seemed to think there was something about him which would recommend this measure. It was unpleasant to speak of individuals, but, in his opinion, there was something about the right hon. gentleman's principles which was very far from recommending the measure to him. He could not avoid looking on him as a minister of the Crown from whose actions the constitution was likely to receive much harm. He saw nothing in the right hon. gentleman but a minister who would be most dangerous to the liberties of his country. He saw in the right hon. gentleman a politician who had imbibed and cherished principles which could flourish only during the decline, or at the extinction of public freedom. He said this conscientiously, but without any wish to hurt his feelings. The right hon. gentleman was Consistent, he was doubtless conscientious, but those very qualities gave an edge and polish to those talents, which if they continued to be employed as they were now directed, would prove extremely detrimental to the country. He thought the right hon. gentleman had taken a view of the liberties of this country, of 1441 its laws and usages, totally different from that taken by some of his great predecessors. Why should the right hon. gentleman think himself, young as he was in office, entitled to demand this authority? If the great lord Chatham came down after his glorious career and made such a demand, he (Mr. H.), if a member of parliament, would have raised his voice against intrusting him with such inordinate power. There had not been a word of the right hon. gentleman's speech on opening this measure that did not assume unadmitted facts or unadmitted reasonings. The right hon. gentleman said, "the measure was necessary for our domestic security." Now, looking to the papers laid before parliament, be found that the bill had been put in operation only against four persons during the last two years. Was it, then, for domestic security—was it to prevent the subversion of the constitution, that three men and one old woman were sent out of England in the last two years? If those four persons endangered the government, the House had a right to know how it was; they ought to be informed why those people were sent out of the country. The right hon. gentleman asked, "whether they would not provide against it great and admitted evil?" He must, in answer to that, make use of language similar to what was adopted by a French writer, in speaking of the Holy Roman empire. He said, "it is neither holy nor Roman, nor an empire." In like manner he would contend, "that it was not great, nor admitted, nor an evil." If it were an evil, which he denied, it was so only in the mind of the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues. If it were an admitted evil, it certainly was not a great one; and when the right hon. gentleman said it was, he must take the liberty, vulgarly speaking, to bring him to book. Were there a number of individuals running through England for the purpose of disseminating revolutionary doctrines? Certainly not. Where, then, was this dangerous evil? What did the ministers call an evil? It was right that they should come to particulars, and know exactly what was meant by this denunciation. His learned friend had alluded to the case of Poland, and asked, "If a Pole, residing in the country, was to bring forward a scheme to recover the liberties which belonged to his native country before it was partitioned and 1442 despoiled, would that be viewed as a great and admitted evil which ought to be met by deportation?" He (Mr. H.) would come nearer to the events of the present day, and would ask if, in London, several Neapolitans were found devising the means of expelling the Austrians from their country, would the right hon. gentleman call that a great and admitted evil? Would he send those persons out of the country? He either would or he would not. If he said he would, he declared himself an abettor of all the tyrannies in Europe—he declared himself a foe to the liberties of those states which he must himself admit to have been most infamously in treated. Suppose a Piedmontese, n England, endeavoured to restore his country to that liberty which he felt she ought to enjoy, would the right hon. gentleman think it right to send him away? If he would not, then he must say that the right hon. gentleman departed from the spirit in which the Alien bill was framed; if he would, then did the right hon. gentleman condemn all the deeds of our ancestors; and depart from those glorious principles on which the right of resistance to tyranny had been asserted by the great men who had given to England all her right to predominance amongst the nations of the earth. The fact was, that the great and admitted evil in the eyes of ministers was neither more nor less than the longing of the expatriated friends of liberty to overthrow their tyrants at home.
The right hon. gentleman assumed, "that no abuse had taken place under this bill." It was a mere assumption. Much abuse had been committed under it. The learned gentleman (sir S. Romilly), who formerly stood in the same relation to Westminster which he now had the honour to do, had instanced two cases in which very great abuse had been committed; and no longer back than a year and a half since, the interests of justice had nearly suffered in consequence of this measure. He alluded to the case of the younger Marietti, who was counselled not to come forward and give evidence, lest the act should be put in force against him. But the right hon. gentleman told them, that the security against abuse consisted in the publicity of the proceedings under this act. What publicity could there be in a case like this? How were the public to know what took place before the privy council? A man might 1443 take refuge, for aught they knew, at the toot of the Andes, or in the bosom of the Pyrennees, before his treatment was made known to that House. At length, perhaps, a petition was forwarded to this country, and a member was found bold or imprudent enough to present it. Then down came the secretary of state, and said, "What is stated in this petition is very true, but there are other reasons which induced us to send this man away." He would then be asked, "What are those reasons?" The answer was quite ready, "I cannot disclose them, they are secrets of state;" and then came the usual majority of 3 to 1, or 10 to 1, as the case might happen to be.—The noble marquis had told them that this measure would support the character which the country bore for hospitality. This was what called in another country "taking the bull by the horns." Supporting hospitality! It was rather a novel way of supporting hospitality to place 25,000 individuals at the mercy of a secretary of state. So then we were now to look upon this Alien bill not only as mat deterring but as absolutely alluring foreigners to our shores; and as inducing them, after they had got over the dampness of our atmosphere and the coldness of our manners, to choose a residence amongst us. Lest, however, the noble marquis should be misunderstood, he took care to tell us what he meant by this hospitality, for he said he would treat aliens as he would treat the petitions of the people—in other words, that our guests as well as our natives may think themselves very well off if they are not kicked out of doors. Such powers, when used, should be resorted to in cases of emergency, and without any reference to an act of parliament: That might be considered a strange doctrine, coming from his side of the House; but it was the doctrine of lord Chatham. He had, on one occasion, treated an alien contrary to the laws of the country. In the year 1764, on the debate relative to general warrants, lord Chatham said (alluding to his having sent the count St. Germain out of the country)—"Preferring the general safety in time of war and public danger to every personal consideration, he ran the risk, as he would of his head, had that been the forfeit, upon a like motive—and did an extraordinary act against a suspicious foreigner just come from France, and who was concealed at different times in different 1444 houses—the real exigency of the case and the apparent necessity of the thing, would in his opinion, always justify a secretary, of state in any extraordinary act of power." This was an old English constitutional language. That great man declared that the act was justified by the necessity of the case: "I would have done it," said he, "if it cost me my head; but I never would do it unless the most over-ruling necessity compelled me." Lord Chatham differed so far from the attorney-general for Ireland, who thought this power always belonged to the Crown in all times, that he thought an apology necessary for using it even in time of war. The learned gentleman had complained, that those who proposed such a measure were put on their defence. To be sure they were: and why should they not? When any minister of the Crown came and demanded a measure that was contrary to the laws and liberties of the country he ought to be put on his defence, and he ought to be compelled to make a defence, which, in this instance, had not been done. The learned gentleman had counted on the acquiescence of the people. He (Mr. H.) believed that the people did not acquiesce. At all events, such an argument came with a very ill grace from the right hon. gentleman. Suppose any one had used this argument against the learned gentleman for the sake of continuing the penalties against the Catholics. How would the learned gentleman have decried and ridiculed such an argument? Suppose that it had been proved the people were against his Catholic bill, would the right hon. gentleman admit that circumstance as any argument against him? Still, even if the people did acquiesce, he (Mr. Hobhouse) would feel it to be his duty to rise up in his place and oppose any proposition that endangered the liberties of the nation. The learned gentleman had said that the people would always interest themselves when the liberty of man was concerned. What! did the learned gentleman mean to say that this measure did not concern the liberty of man, when it gave the secretary of state the power of fining, imprisoning, or sending out of the country, any person he pleased to select from 25,000 individuals? The learned gentleman had said, "he thought if Mr. Fox had lived, that he would have changed his opinion on this subject." He (Mr. Hobhouse) could not say what would have been said or done by that great man if he 1445 had been spared; but when he was told that Mr. Fox would have approved of such a measure as this, he could not help thinking that it was libelling the dead for the sake of insulting !the living. He did not find, in the conduct of those who I knew as much of Mr. Fox as the learned gentleman, any thing which could lead him to suppose that Mr. Fox would ever have changed his opinion on this subject. The learned gentleman had said the power of expelling aliens had always lain, however dormant, in the Crown, but had been called into play in 1793 because; why?—the learned gentleman's words were strange enough—because—"there was then a revolutionary devil abroad." Of that, devil he (Mr. H.) knew nothing, if he had ever assumed that character it was before his time; the devil that had allured men to danger with the hopes of liberty had long changed his mode of attack as even the learned gentleman would hardly deny.For Satan, now is wiser than of yore,And tempts by making rich—not making poor.This was the only devil, the demon that tempts with places, and pensions, and string, and titles, and with those charms induces men to forfeit all their former glory, and to forget all their former pledges to their countrymen and to Europe. The learned gentleman had talked of the law and the constitution as favourable to this measure. He stood put for the prerogative upon this point. But if there were such a prerogative why come to parliament. The truth was, there was neither ancient law, nor prerogative nor usage, in favour of this preposterous measure. He (Mr. Hobhouse) thought this point had been settled. The present president of the board of control (Mr. Wynn) had said on a former occasion when this question had been under discussion, "a great deal had been said respecting the sovereignty of the king. Where did the sovereignty of this country exist? The term was, indeed, as a mark of honour and respect, given to the king alone; but the sovereign authority existed, in the king and the parliament; there only could it be properly said to preside; and if any honourable member maintained that the prerogative of sending aliens out of the country was vested in the Crown, by him the sovereignty must be supposed as only existing in the king. The right 1446 hon. gentleman who last sat down (Yorke) had been at much pains to persuade the House, that by the common law, this prerogative existed in the king; but he would put it to the House, whether for the last 150 years, amidst the many troubles and dangers in which the country had been involved, one single instance of the exercise prerogative could be given? Did our forefathers consider that this power was vested in the Crown, although disused? There were, primâ facie, several cases which showed that the king in former times had not the power to send foreigners out of the kingdom. For instance, it was on record, that in the reign of Charles the 2nd, whew the prerogative was stretched to the utmost, the king dared not attempt to send out of the country a Frenchman who had deprived his majesty of one of his favourite mistresses. But having forbidden this Frenchman, the court, and yet seeing him seated with his conquest at the theatre, his majesty complained to the sovereign of France, who at length recalled his subject. Thus Charles 2nd was relieved from the mortification of seeing his triumphant rival, and the French writer who recorded the anecdote, lamented truly, that any sovereign should not be empowered to send the cause of such an annoyance out of the country. There might be persons even in our times who would join in the lamentations of the writer, and therefore approve of an Alien bill; but he certainly could not concur with them in supporting a measure so liable to abuse, and for which no necessity whatever existed. As to the assertion of the learned serjeant (Best), that the liberty of England was for the enjoyment of Englishmen only, he could not conceive upon what authority such an opinion rested; for he had always been taught to think, that the moment any man, however previously enslaved, touched British soil, he became entitled to freedom. Such had been the doctrine of all our constitutional writers; and such was his decided opinion" Such was the opinion of Mr. C. Wynn, in 1816, and such it might be presumed was his opinion now, for he had kept away from the discussions on this bill. It might be a question whether his duty to his country and to his conscience did not demand something more than this absence. Ought he not to have opposed the bill; and here a word as to responsibility—whose was this measure? It ought to be, it must be, the measure of the whole cabinet, yet here 1447 they had a cabinet minister and other persons in office, showing distinctly they were pot in favour of the bill. What a farce then to talk of responsibility, when they knew not whom to accuse as the parent of, this mis-shapen offspring. To be sure the ministers might be easy on that score, for they had only to say to parliament accuse not us, the measure is your [Hear, hear!] In concluding, he (Mr. Hobhouse) would only say, that the best proof that there could be no pretext for the bill was, that the learned gentleman had found no other excuse for it, but that them were certain "phantoms flitting about," which though not so wicked as his revolutionary devil, were still nearly allied to him. A phantom there was still abroad, but not the phantom alluded to by the learned gentleman, it was the phantom which Madame de Stael described as preventing every individual from seeing what had occurred before the revolution, obscured the intellect, and led men to look to the period of the revolution as one from which the whole history of mankind was to be derived! [Hear, hear]. He moved, "That the bill be committed this day three months."
§ Mr. F. Robinson
said, the hon. member contended, that the present measure was inconsistent with the liberality and hospitality of the English character; that it was brought forward under false pretences, in subservience to the views of other states, and for the purpose of aiding them in preventing the general diffusion of liberty. The main ground on which he had rested his argument, that the bill was inconsistent with the spirit of the British constitution, was the language of Magna Charta. Now, the right conferred on aliens by Magna Charta was a right accompanied with an exception and a qualification, which proved that our ancestors, who established the right, foresaw Ate possibility of cases occurring, in which it might be necessary to impose restrictions. It could never be justly contended, that the law of England was tyrannical and oppressive, because it did not extend to foreigners those rights and privileges, which the natives of this country enjoyed. He denied that the conferring of this power was any, impeachment of those virtues of liberality, hospitality, and generosity, for which this country was distinguished. Could it be fairly imputed to any individual, who opened his doors to a party who sought 1448 refuge from oppression, that his conduct was ungenerous and illiberal, if he made it a condition of his hospitality, that that party should do nothing to embroil him with his neighbours? But it was said, that this measure was brought forward on false pretences, and that its real object was, to promote the despotic views of foreign governments. This assertion was easily made, and as easily contradicted. For his own part, he could state most conscientiously that he was influenced by no such motives: and before they could be justly charged, the hon. gentleman was bound to show that some advantage would be gained by acting on this principle. He did, not see what advantage this country could gain by any attempts to check the general diffusion of liberty. What imaginable motive could this country have for entering into a combination to deprive other countries of those blessings which it was our pride to enjoy? Another argument in support of, the present measure, was, the mode in which the, power had been uniformly exercised. There were many foreigners residing in this country, who were objects of jealousy to the states to which they belonged; yet it was not pretended that, they were molested, or that they did not; live in perfect security. No man could deny that it was the policy of this country to preserve the relations of peace, as far as they could be maintained consistently with the national honour. Now, there were circumstances in the present state of the world, arising out of the French revolution, which might affect those relations. It could not be denied that the events of the last thirty years had given rise to a contest between the unlimited principle of absolute power on the one hand, and the unlimited principle, of unqualified revolution on the other. He considered this a most unfortunate contest; because it contributed tend to the security of no state, and must tend to the injury of all. It was the danger, arising out of this state of things, which called upon us to be jealous and oven timid as to the residence of foreigners in this country. Upon these grounds, he supported the present measure, and not for the purpose of arresting the progress of liberty—an object which, if it were even entertained by his majesty's governments, it would be impossible, in the present state of knowledge and civilization, to effect.
§ Mr. John Williams
said, he objected to the bill in every point of view, but he felt that no objection to it was more striking than the very principle on which it was recommended for adoption. The right hon. secretary and the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, both called upon the House to invest the government with a dangerous; because discretionary, power, on the presumption that it would not be absused. Setting aside mere insinuation and surmise, not a single direct allegation had been made to prove the necessity of this bill. The right hon. gentleman had said, that particular emergencies might arise out of a particular crisis, but lie had not had the nerve to state that those emergencies had arisen, and surely it would be time enough to invest ministers with extraordinary powers when such a period had actually arrived. The learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Plunkett) had contended for the right of the sovereign to send foreigners out of the country by analogy, from his supposed right of restraining his subjects from quitting the country and he had referred to the writ of ne exeat regno. Now he (Mr. W.) maintained, that the Crown, did not possess the absolute right of restraining the subject from quitting the country; and he had the authority of lord chancellor Talbot for saying, that the writ of ne exeat regno had never been issued, unless a bill had previously been filed. The learned gentleman had said, that the prerogative of the Crown conferred a power, by which aliens could be sent out of the country, and that the temporary allegiance which foreigners residing in the country acquired, made them amenable to the laws, in the same manner, and nearly to the same extent, as natives. Now, if this were the case, what was the use of a legislative measure? Why invest ministers with a power which already belonged to the Crown? There might be cases in which such a power would require to be exercised, but for such cases the common prerogative of the Crown was fully adequate. If this was the case, then, the House ought to pause before it re-armed ministers with such a power. The learned gentleman had further contended, that the measure was not new. This he would grant; but it was new under circumstances like the present. In 1793, it was enacted during war, and when continued in the 46th of the late king, it was to last for only six 1450 months after the concluding of peace. Let the House compare those periods with the present. Let them say whether there now existed the alarms which had agitated the country in 1793. The war had ceased for seven years—a long period of tranquillity, as might be seen by consulting the annals of the country; and if this was not to be called a time of pence, in the name of God what would be called so?" It would lie recollected, that at the former period an eloquent gentleman, who ought to have so far felt the effects of age as to have had his imagination cool, and his judgment mature, had come down to the House with a dagger under his cloke, and had displayed that dagger as an emblem of the fate which awaited every man who would not vote for some such measure as the present. He trusted that there was nothing in the arguments which the learned gentleman had attempted to draw from the legal question, or from the aspect of the times. The domestic disadvantages of the bill were great; but the argument to be deduced from them was strengthened by those which immediately affected foreigners. He would put the case of the Greeks. If they should, trusting to that historical character which this country had before alien bills were in existence, come to this country to seek assistance, and even to plot against their tyrants, was there any man that could bear that they should be sent back to bare their throats to the knives of their barbarous oppressors. Let no one suppose that the bill would affect only the 25,000 friendless individuals to whom it more immediately applied. Another mischief was, the precedent which this measure furnished, of giving ministers too great to discretionary power—a power in consequence of which they might act improperly; and if they so acted in any if they so acted in any one case, what was fact to-day, might became doctrine to-morrow. The proper course was, not to give misters credit for what they would do, but to prevent them from doing what they by possibility might do.
§ Mr. Hudson Gurney
said, he could not but think this bill had been opposed in speeches of outrageous exaggeration. He had never before given any vote on the measure, as feeling really incompetent to decide either on its necessity or its utility. But though he was by no means carried away by the extravagant declamation of the hon. and learned member for Knares- 1451 borough on a former night, yet on the showing of the right hon. secretary who introduced it, he should now vote against the bill. He agreed with the right hon. gentleman, that it was highly desirable, in the present state of the world, that this country should offer an asylum to the persecuted of all nations and of all parties. He farther agreed with the right hon. gentleman, that it was the duty of the government to do all that in them lay, to prevent this country from being made the centre from which the tranquillity of other countries might be disturbed, with which countries we were at peace. But the right hon. gentleman had stated there were 25,000 aliens in England—that the powers given to the secretary of state had been exercised only in four instances—and he allowed, if exercised in a sweeping manner, the probable abuse would be unbearable. Now, if there were any great conspiracy going forward, it really appeared that any use of these powers so limited would be ineffectual to their object. But, in fact, the number of political emigrants in England was extremely small; and for the sake of keeping some slight check over the proceedings of these persons, nearly 25,000 others—people for the most part having affairs, and being many of them as it were domiciliated in this country—were to be placed in a situation of insecurity—or imagined insecurity; which was pretty much the same thing as to the feelings of the individual. Be knew the measure was regarded by foreigners with great uneasiness; and such being the case, no countervailing advantage appearing to be secured by it, he should vote against the bill.
§ The question being put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair," the House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 66.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Denison, W. J.|
|Althorp, viscount||Evans, W.|
|Barnard, viscount||Fergusson, sir R. C.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Fitzgerald, lord W.|
|Benyon, B.||Fitzroy, lord C.|
|Bernal, R.||Foley, J. H. H.|
|Brougham, H.||Folkestone, viscount|
|Benett, J.||Forbes, C.|
|Baillie, J.||Graham, S.|
|Cavendish, lord G.||Gurney H.|
|Cavendish, C.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Colburne, N. R.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Davies, T. H.||Hume, J.|
|Denman, T.||Hutchinson, hon. C. H.|
|Duncannon, viscount||Hill, lord A.|
|James, W.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Robarts, A.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Robarts, G.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Rumbold, C.|
|Lockhart, J. J.||Scarlett, J.|
|Maberly, John||Scott, J.|
|Maberly, W. L.||Sefton, earl of|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||Smith, W.|
|Martin, J.||Stewart, W.|
|Maule, hon. W.||Warre, J. A.|
|Milbank, M.||Western, C. C.|
|Moore, P.||Whitbread, S.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Williams, W.|
|Newport, sir J.||Williams, J.|
|Nugent, lord||Wood, alderman|
|Powlett, hon. W.||Ward, hon. J. W.|
|Prittie, hon. F. A.||TELLERS.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Ramsden, J. C.||Wilson, sir R.|