Mr. Secretary Peel
rose for the purpose of moving, that the powers of the Alien act should be intrusted to the executive government for a period of two years longer. Even those who differed from him in opinion, would admit that he opened the question fairly, if he touched, first, upon the nature of the danger to which he proposed to apply a remedy; next, the character and extent of the remedy itself; and lastly, the various objections which, upon general principles of policy or apprehensions from abuse of power, might be started against the remedy. To begin, then, with the nature of the evil against which they had to provide. He recollected that he was proposing the continuance of an Alien bill at a time when the country had been seven years at peace, and after a declaration from the sovereign, that he continued to receive assurances of the favourable disposition of foreign powers. But every man who looked back to the events of the late war, the circumstances of the contest, and to the principles which had produced it—every one who dwelt upon the consequences by which that war had been attended—must admit, that it was not the mere signature of a treaty of peace, nor even the duration of a peace for seven years, that could extinguish the principles which had led to the tumult, or con, ciliate the various interests which had taken part in it. He denied that to provide a corrective for such an evil, was any imputation on the character of those relations of amity in which this country was bound with the other states of Eu- 806 rope. It was also to the recollected that, within the last two years, revolutions had taken place in some countries, and attempts at revolution had been made in others, through the agency of secret societies, and the instrumentality of the military force. Conspiracies had been formed even where no act of resistance had taken place, which had been put down by the strength of government. He did not advert to these events with a view of pronouncing any opinion as to their character, his object was, to impress upon the House that such a state of things could not exist without reviving those very principles which characterised the late war, and without producing that very re-action that, if successful, would unsettle the pacific relations of Europe. The effect of these events, however, was the expatriation of many of the most active agents in these revolutions and conspiracies. They fled from their respective countries, and though the government of this country was armed with an Alien act, and though many of these persons sought a refuge here, in no single case was the asylum of our shores denied to them. No matter what was the part they had taken—no matter the tone or tendency of their principles—no matter what their crimes against their own governments—on the part of this country there existed the disposition to grant an oblivion of the past. Even in cases where informalities arose which might have produced some embarrassments, he could appeal to hon. members in his eye, whether the uniform inclination of the government was not to avail itself of any advantage? That character for hospitality of which this country was so justly proud had never been forfeited. When the law was executed against one individual (general Gourgaud), it was, because it was well known that he was endeavouring to make country the theatre of his cabals. There had not been a conspiracy nor a revolutionary attempt for the last two years, but had thrown some persons into this country. Instead of the Alien bill operating as a terror to foreigners, the number of aliens had increased since its enactment. In 1818, there had been 22,000 aliens in the country: in the present year the number exceeded 25,000. In 1819,the increase of arrivals above departures had been 266; in the five expired months of the present year alone the increase had been no less than 655. It was im- 807 possible to avoid inferring from these facts that the Alien bill had not prevented the resort of foreigners to this country. He hoped he should not now be met with the argument, that the increased number of aliens formed an increased reason for withholding the powers of the bill. If power over an increased number of persons was to be called an increased power, then, had the number of aliens diminished instead of increased, he might have made an argument upon that diminution of power in favour of his measure; but it would be most unfair to convert a proof of the lenity with which the act had been used into a plea for continuing to intrust government with its powers. Under this bill, then, we secured to the foreigner who sought an asylum in this country an oblivion of the past. We had a right to say to aliens, "Yon shall not abuse the hospitality of these realms, you shall not desecrate the sanctuary you have chosen, by making it the scene of conspiracies and cabals." For it would be in the highest degree unjust, to suffer this country to become the resort of all those who should be disposed to enter into plots against the peace of states with which we were in amity. If the present Alien act was permitted to expire, such, he averred on the responsibility of a minister, would be the case. It was with a view to a particular evil that he recommended the measure in question. He could assure the House that in bringing it forward he was biassed by no partiality or prejudice, and that he founded it not on any vague surmise. Still less was he influenced by any suggestions from foreign courts. No; it was as secretary for the home department, and by virtue of that office alone, that he should now submit to parliament the expediency of renewing those powers under which the admission of foreigners to this country had been regulated since the peace. With regard to the nature and extent of its remedial influence, he was utterly at a loss to discover what there was about it to challenge so determined an opposition as there was reason to apprehend. One of the provisions of the bill required from every foreigner landing in this country a statement of his rank and situation in life, and in default of such communication imposed a penalty on the master in whose vessel he arrived. The more material, however, indisputably, was that conferring on the Crown a power to direct by 808 proclamation, or order in council, any foreigner to quit the kingdom. In case of disobedience, he was at first subjected to a small penalty, still retaining a right of appealing to the council, after which he might, if he gave no satisfactory explanation, be at once removed. An hon. and learned gentleman (sir J. Mackintosh) had the night before attempted to create an unfavourable impression against this proceeding, by a reference to Magna Charta. Just so it had been usual to allude to the policy of queen Elizabeth, and of states placed in circumstances altogether different. Now, any individual who listened to the learned gentleman, and did not happen to be familiar with Magna Charta, must conceive that the admission of foreigners, to our shores was established in it as a ruling principle, according to which the right could neither be limited nor withheld. On examining it, however, there appeared no such variance between its authority and measures of a more recent date. He found in it, indeed, but one enactment that at all respected strangers; and this, by the exception accompanying it, proved to be far from a general or permanent regulation: "Omnes mercatores habeant salvum et securum conductum, exire, et venire, ad emendum vel vendendum," &c. But it was also provided, that in the event of war, the merchants of the country with which we had commenced hostilities, should in the first instance be attached, and kept in custody till it was seen in what manner our own merchants were treated by their government. It was also worthy of remark that the enactment to which he had alluded, contained the phrase "nisi antea publice prohibiti," or unless the king in council prohibited them. As to the conduct of queen Elizabeth, and the policy subsequently adopted by this country on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, the periods of those events bore no resemblance to the present. When Elizabeth, in another part of her reign, was surrounded by different circumstances, she, probably recollecting the expression "nisi antea prohibiti," pursued a course wholly, unlike what had been so loudly commended. In the council-register of her reign be seen copies of directions issued to bishops, to the master of the rolls, and to two aldermen of London, that all foreigners not belonging, to, any church or congregation should be ordered presently to avoid 809 the kingdom. But in order to fortify his argument, he might here allude to a bill lately presented by a learned member (Mr. Scarlett), a gentleman of high reputation in the courts, and who might be considered as the model of a Whig lawyer. He meant the allusion merely by way of precedent, not as a reflection in any point of view, though he hoped it might serve as an instance that, gentlemen on the other side, whatever were their political opinions, did not when they sat down seriously to remedy a grievance think of referring to all the ordinances or principles of Magna Charta. The learned gentleman had recently introduced a bill for the more effectual removal of the poor, and this bill enacted that a single justice before whom a pauper should be convicted of leading a disorderly life, might have the power of committing him to the House of Correction, there to be kept to hard labour for a time not yet specified. Now, he was far from censuring this provision; but how did it accord with the well-known declaration of Magna Charta—"Nullus liber homo capiatur vel imprisonetur nisi per judicium parium suorum?" It could not be denied that all power was liable to some abuse; but the experience of seven years went to show, that the proposed measure was as little likely as any to produce it. Returns had been laid before the House, showing that the powers with which it invested government had been exercised but in four instances, since the year 1815. Doubtless this was not a complete justification; but it at least afforded a presumption, that the continuance of those powers would not lead to any practical inconvenience. If it were said, that there was no guarding against the abuses of subordinate agents, he would undertake to assure the House, that subordinate agents should never exercise these powers. He did not consider that foreigners were in any real danger of suffering injustice by the effect of malignant insinuations on the mind of a secretary of state, nor had the conduct of the British government hitherto been such as to afford an example to the detriment of our countrymen resident in foreign states. He pledged himself, on his responsibility, to a just exercise of the powers in question. He believed it to be a measure of lenity and moderation. He certainly did not undervalue the opposition it might encounter, but he had rather submit to 810 any inconvenience or unpopularity thaw tarry about with him during the recess, he heart-sickening consciousness that from the dread of these, he had been deterred from bringing forward a measure which he believed essential to our security. He concluded by moving, "That cave be given to bring in a Bill to continue the Act for establishing Regulations respecting Aliens arriving in, or resident in this kingdom in certain cases."
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
observed, that he had felt the deepest anxiety and alarm on hearing that it was in contemplation to propose a renewal of the present measure. It could not but produce the deepest feeling of melancholy to find principles such as those proclaimed by the right hon. gentleman avowed to a House of Commons, or to any assembly of men accustomed to a free government. It was lamentable to find them made the ground of a legislative proceeding, by a minister of great talents, and of high character. The right hon. gentleman was thus furnishing them, not with an auspicious sample of the future benefits to be expected from his career, but marking the outset of an administration which would probably last longer than he (sir J. M.) should live, by an assertion of principles that, if pushed to their legitimate consequences, would subvert every law and every security which we now enjoyed. What was the tenour of this proceeding? It vested in the government a direct and absolute power of banishing from the home of their choice, from the conduct of their affairs, and perhaps from the seat of their fortunes, 25,000 individuals. This bill, too, was to be passed on the assurance of a secretary of state, that he would only exercise this absolute power in cases where it should be necessary and expedient. Gracious God! had it not been said that ship-money was so moderate, that although levied by the mere authority of the king, no real grievance or oppression was likely to arise from it? The very same arguments had been urged in defence of that iniquitous imposition, which were now advanced by the right hon. gentleman, and which would go to destroy every right that had been acquired for us in a lapse of ages. The right hon. gentleman tendered his responsibility; and, relying on this, they were invited to surrender principles which their forefathers had maintained and established with their blood. When 811 lord Strafford, who, though a guilty man, was illegally condemned, was, among the other grounds of his impeachment, charged with having advised in council the bringing an army over from Ireland, to enforce the king's proclamations in this country, it was represented on the other side, that the only object was, to preserve tranquillity, to enforce the laws, to defend juries, and to maintain public peace against the Pyms and the Hampdens of their country's liberties at that period. The number of foreigners now in this country, and necessarily claiming our protection, was supposed to be about 25,000. If, prior to 1793, a single alien had been apprehended, and taken by a king's messenger to Dover, in order to be sent out of the country, he would have had his action against the authority under which he had been so treated. And, if that was the case with respect to one individual, at the period he alluded to, what would have been thought at that period of a minister of the Crown, if he had asked parliament, merely on the ground that the residence of such an alien might by possibility be converted into the means of conspiring against a foreign power, to pass a bill of pains and penalties against any single alien, subjecting him, at the arbitrary discretion of government, to exile from this country, and to a deprivation of the legal protection which, until that time, he had enjoyed? And yet, the only difference between such a supposed case and the present was, that the right hon. gentleman at present proposed a bill of pains and penalties against no less than 25,000 British subjects (for so they were while they remained in this country), depriving them of their legal rights, and subjecting them to exile, simply on the assertion of a minister of the of the Crown, that there was a certain degree of danger in permitting them to continue, to enjoy those rights, that no abuse had heretofore taken place in the exercise of the required power, and that he would take care there should be no abuse in future, either on his own part, or on that of the subordinate agents employed. To what did that assertion amount? He never did believe there was any danger that a minister of the Crown in this country would intentionally exercise the power vested in government by the Alien act, in a maner unjust towards any alien. But there was infinite danger that a minister might be imposed upon 812 by false and malicious tales, introduced in so plausible a shape by the enemies of a poor alien, that it would be impossible for him to guard against the deception. The right hon. gentleman had said, that a great many aliens resided in this country; that very few had been sent away; and therefore that the bill could not be injurious. To what did that argument amount? That it was of no moment to those persons if their residence in this country was a matter of sufferance, or a matter of right. That it was of no moment to them whether they owed their freedom from disturbance to the will and the generosity of a minister of the Crown, or to the shield which the law threw over them. That was the pure doctrine of despotism. He by no means attributed and intention of inculcating despotic doctrines to the right hon. gentleman, but such was in fact the character of his argument. The doctrine of liberty was, that to live by law was necessary to happiness; the doctrine of despotism was, that to depend on the will of government was not destructive of happiness. The argument of the right hon. gentleman was an outrage and a libel on the constitutional principles of this country. It was in direct contradiction to that of an illustrious writer, Hooker, the ornament of the reign of Elizabeth, no friend to anarchy, but the determined supporter of rational freedom. That illustrious writer declared, that "to live by one man's will was found to be the cause of many men's misery;" and why had Hooker given this opinion? Not because the will of the one man was always exercised against those who lived under it, bur because it was always precarious. This was his objection to the Alien bill. It was his because he thought it would be put in force against those foreigners who might live in this country, but because he was unwilling to see 25,000 individuals coming here like beggars, and existing here only by the will of a minister. But, according to the doctrine of the right hon. gentleman, it was a matter of indifference whether that large body of men resided here by law, or merely by the generosity of a secretary of state. It just made to the alien the difference between Middlesex and Morocco, between liberty and slavery. Could the right hon. gentleman deny, that his bill would have this effect to the foreigner? Would it 813 not, render his residence here, as precarious as in the most despotic country in Europe?—But it was asked in a tone of confidence, can we allow that foreigners shall come and make this capital the seat of conspiracies against foreign governments? In order to see the force of this argument, it would be necessary to inquire what were the advantages which this capital possessed, for carrying on a conspiracy against a foreign government; and what were the governments against which such conspiracies might be excited? He would suppose that a body of Neapolitans had taken refuge in this country from the barbarians who had taken possession of their beautiful country. Was London the place where they could be most likely to act with effect to rescue Naples or Milan, or Turin, from the dominion of foreign bayonets? Could they raise regiments here, or send ships to the aid of their suffering country? If any conspiracy were in contemplation, he could hardly suppose a worse place for carrying it on with effect than London.—But the right hon. gentleman said, that as long as these things lasted, it would be necessary to continue the present measure. Did he mean to assert, that such conspiracies, or a danger of them, existed, or was it to be understood that the Alien bill was to be perpetual? He feared the latter was intended, when he heard the right hon. gentleman say, that it would be justified by a "temporary or permanent emergency." For his own part, he could not well understand the meaning of the term "permanent emergency." He could only suppose that a residence of six years in another part of the kingdom had created a slight confusion of ideas which caused him to mix up terms so different. Or, perhaps, intending the measure to be perpetual, and the whole of his arguments going that way, the word "permanent" naturally shot across his imagination, and he applied it to what he called the "emergency" on which he rested the bill at present. His argument was, that as long as refugees came from foreign countries to seek an asylum here—no matter from what cause, whether good or bad—so long should a bill of this kind continue; but when the causes for such refuge ceased, then the bill might be repealed. That was, as long as the persecuted and afflicted of other nations had need of an asylum on our shores, long should our ports 814 be closed against them; but, the moment that general content and satisfaction existed in every country—the moment that the harmony of Paradise was established on earth, and that the men of other nations no longer sought, or required our protection, then our gates should be thrown open, free as the ox of heaven, and admission be given to those who on their knees should come and ask it. What was this but a hypocritical cant, of affecting to proffer assistance where none could be required, and denying it where it was most wanted.—The right hon. gentleman had gone back to other ages for precedents. Now he would request him to transport himself for, a moment to the first year of the reign of James 2nd, when by the revocation of the edict of Nantes, 50,000 unhappy Protestants, subjects of France, sought an asylum in this country: let him suppose, that the minister of that day, lord Preston, had come down to the House and demanded an Alien bill. What would have been his language? It would be something of this sort. "The king, my master, has afforded abundant proofs of his hospitality towards these unfortunate persons. Although differing from him in religion, he has ordered collections to be made for them. It is evident, therefore, that he wishes for the power which I now require, not for the purpose of abusing it, but because he is desirous to possess the means of preventing the discontented subjects of is great and powerful neighbour from conspiring against their sovereign, and thereby involving his majesty in a war with France. His majesty pledges himself never to abuse this power; I, lord Preston, his majesty's secretary of state, promise never to abuse this power. I also pledge myself never to allow it to be abused by any subordinate agents, but to take are that it shall always be employed with the utmost moderation, and with a strict attention to justice?" Suppose lord Preston had used such an argument in favour of an Alien bill, would it not have been as specious and as reasonable as that which the House had that night heard from a minister of a prince of the House of Brunswick? The right hon. gentleman had alluded to the reign of Elizabeth, and had quoted the order in council of that reign directed to two aldermen in London, commanding them to order all foreigners belonging to no congregation presently to avoid the kingdom. He should not be disposed to place much 815 reliance on the authority of precedents from the reign of Elizabeth. He remembered that in the other House of Parliament, in 1816, an order of Elizabeth, authorising the banishment of Scotchmen from England, was quoted in support of an Alien bill then in progress; and it was on two subsequent occasions quoted in the House of Commons for a similar purpose; but it appeared on examination, that this was founded on an act of Henry 7th, enabling the Crown to banish Scotchmen from England, but which was afterwards repealed by the act of Union with Scotland. After having heard this quoted in support of three Alien bills, and finally destroyed, he was not disposed to place much reliance on authorities from the reign of Elizabeth. The argument which the right hon. gentleman had founded upon the meaning of the words "nisi publice prohibiti," he would leave him to settle with sir E. Coke, who had distinctly stated that the meaning of those words was, "unless prohibited by act of parliament." The right hon. gentleman had contended, that the clause of Magna Charta extended to merchants only; but let the House look to the state of society at the period when Magna Charta was signed. There were at that time no travellers but merchants. They were almost the only persons who visited foreign countries; and the clause which alluded to them went to the greater part of the foreigners who visited this country. But the right hon. gentleman had talked of the treatment of merchants. It was true, that by the law of nations one country might retaliate the treatment which its subjects had met from another state; but it was said we did not retaliate after the peace of Amiens, the treatment which the subjects of England had experienced in France. He should be ashamed of his country if it had so disgraced itself; and should consider himself a traitor to the honour of his country, if he took praise to her for an act of common humanity.
§ Mr. H. Twiss
contended, that the right of excluding strangers was one inherent in every state, and that its exercise ought not to be considered an act of injustice. A country which tolerated the residence of foreigners within its territories had a right to say, "You shall be treated as our subjects, as far as the protection of our laws goes; but we will consider you only as tenants at will, and you must depart whenever we think proper to give 816 you notice to quit." His learned friend had talked of the practice of ancient times; but he was prepared to maintain, that the practice of every period of our history was in perfect accordance with the principles of this bill. At the time of Magna Charta, foreign merchants trading to England were subject to the most grievous exactions. The barons, who had got a taste for foreign luxuries, were naturally anxious that the merchants who introduced them should not be exposed to too great extortion, and therefore they introduced that clause which authorized them to come and tarry in this country, unless publicly prohibited. A residence at will in this country was never the right of any but British subjects. It would be found, that a variety of strong enactments had passed against aliens at different times. It was well known that an alien could not buy an estate in this country; or if he did, it became immediately forfeited to the Crown. For a long time after the Conquest an alien could not rent a house in England; and even now he could not, except he was a merchant, and rented it for the purpose of his business: nor could an alien merchant hold a lease even of the house or shop in which his business was carried on: so jealous were our ancestors of giving to foreigners any permanent, establishment in the country. If a British subject chose to leave the country, the king had a right to prevent him. If he had left it, and was resident abroad, he might be recalled; but an, alien might go when he pleased, and when gone, he could not be recalled. The only power which the state exercised, and which by this bill could be exercised over him, was, to send him away whenever his residence here might be considered dangerous to the country. This, he contended, was a power which every state did, and ought to possess, over the subjects of another, resident within its territories. His learned friend had stated, that the object of this bill was, to gratify the rulers of foreign states, by excluding their obnoxious subjects from the protection of this country. Now, he must beg leave to differ altogether from his learned friend upon that point; though he should wish to know where was the immense evil, even supposing the case to be as he had stated it. Were not the parties to whom his learned friend alluded, known to be man of a sullen, factious, and turbulent spirit, discontented with the present order of things 817 upon the continent, and anxious to disturb the tranquillity which at present fortunately prevailed there? The great desideratum with men of such a temper was, to find a place in which they might mature their projects in secrecy and safety; and if this country, from its insular situation, its readiness to give credit, its free press, and the unbounded licentiousness in which that press indulged, afforded them such a place as they wished for, surely it was not altogether improper to arm the executive with such power as would prevent them from plunging it into war with states with whom it had no legitimate cause of quarrel. They had also been told, that this measure was now improper, inasmuch as it was originally passed as a war measure. He allowed such to have been the case; but if hon. gentlemen would compare the present bill with the original war measure, they would find all the severity and harshness of it omitted. But, were gentlemen ready to contend, that the Alien bill ought to be abandoned altogether? If they were, he would ask them on what grounds they were prepared to state that discontent had vanished from Europe? Did they think that, because the waters were now smooth, all the force of the tempest was spent; and that because the air was at present still, all the materials of confusion had been banished from the elements? If such were their opinions, they were indulging themselves in a flattering error. The learned gentleman concluded by giving his support to the bill.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, that though the right hon. secretary had taken upon himself the responsibility of the proposed measure, he must still consider it the work of the noble marquis who had taken so active a part in recent proceedings on the continent. It had been well said, that in the seventh year of peace we had a right to expect a discontinuance of this disgraceful measure. But what was the fact? The present bill, the baneful effects of which had been already so fully felt, and so ably described, was pressed forward for the purpose of meeting the views of those continental powers, who were confederated together to impede the progress of knowledge, and to retard the march of freedom. The bill bore upon its face the signet of the autocrats of Europe. This was not an English measure. Since England was England, we never had excluded foreigners from our shores, until our recent continental connections. The right 818 hon. secretary had stated, that it was a part of the prerogative of the Crown to send foreigners from our shores. If this was so, let it be proved; and then where would be the necessity of this bill? It could not be denied, that this measure arose out of our continental relations; and the noble marquis had disgraced this country by connecting us with the police establishments of the continent. It had been urged, that only two foreigners had been sent out of the country since 1820; but supposing a single person had not been removed, still the constitutional objections to the measure must remain the same. It was a bill held in terrorem over the heads of all foreigners, either in, or likely to come into, this country. It had been urged that no oppression had been exercised under this bill. Let it be remembered that arbitrary power was never exercised with severity, until its possessors felt themselves secure. Without casting any imputation on the right hon. secretary, he could not help observing, that he appeared to desire this power, in order to show with how much forbearance, he would exercise it, upon the principle of the school maxim—"qui nolunt occidere quemquam posse volunt." He implored the House not to sanction a mew, sure hatched and fostered in the sanguinary and bigoted despotisms of the continent.
§ Mr. Scarlett
said, that upon the occasion when this bill was last granted by the House, he trusted that it would be the last time that so odious and unnecessary a measure would be demanded of it. The idea that a body of foreigners could revolutionize a people so exclusively national as were the people of this kingdom, though it was sometimes urged as a pretext for the continuance of this tyrannical measure, was an idea too puerile and absurd to deserve any formal refutation. The bill was attempted to be defended by precedents; but supposing those precedents to be correctly stated, they were taken from barbarous periods of our history, and ought to be avoided rather than imitated. He was surprised that any member of the legal profession could come forward in defence of this bill. He had hoped that, whatever indifference might be felt upon constitutional points in other parts of the community it would not be shared by gentlemen who made the law a study and profession. As to offer any farther arguments upon this 819 question would be quite superfluous, he should content himself with giving a decided negative to this unjust, tyrannical, and unnecessary bill.
§ Mr. Serjeant Onslow
said, that not concurring in the opinion of the gentlemen opposite, that this bill was dangerous to the liberties of England, or unfriendly to the hospitable consideration due to foreigners, it should have his support. Notwithstanding the denunciations of the gentlemen opposite, the people of England had manifested no hostility to the measure.
§ Mr. Denman
said, he would give the bill in every stage, his unqualified opposition. One great and important question had been repeatedly put to ministers, and, had invariably been left unanswered; namely, where was the proof of the necessity of the bill? The call remained unanswered, and the necessity of the bill still rested upon the mere statement of the right hon. secretary, That right hon. gentleman had spoken as if he were alone the responsible administrator of the measure, and had forgotten that the whole of the three secretaries were equally invested with the powers it conferred. It was urged that there were only four cases in which this power had been recently exercised. But how did the House know the facts of these four cases? How did the right hon. secretary himself attain the information respecting them? He must entirely depend upon others, which was the evil of a measure, executed by a secret power, called into action by secret spies, and, in the whole of its progress, worked by clandestine machinery. The right hon. gentleman had made a strong appeal to the House to intrust him upon his own responsibility, with this bill. To such an appeal, he was compelled to reply, that it was it strong objection to the fitness of any man for office that he commenced his career by wishing to be invested with such a power. He wished, indeed, to have known the right hon. gentlemen's official career in Ireland connected with some wiser and better act than the suspension of the trial by jury; and he should have been better pleased to have seen him open his official career in England, without calling upon parliament to intrust him with such a measure as this. It gave him the deepest concern to have heard the free provisions of Magna Charta decried and depreciated in a British House of Commons. Notwithstanding the neglect of 820 this now, it would seem, obsolete charter, he would not hesitate to avow that he preferred the old law of England to the new, and was prepared to contrast, with some degree of humiliation, the hospitable securities of Magna Charta with the fatal provisions of this bill. The old law protected the foreign merchant according to the old and rightful customs of England, at the same time making due and provident precaution in a season of war, to prevent that protection from being abused. The new law proscribed the foreign merchant, and refused him an asylum upon the shores of England. And was it in the eighth year of peace that in this country, "the eldest born of freedom," a minister of the Crown, should call, upon his own responsibility, for the enactment of this obnoxious and most dangerous law? It was with pain and mortification that he had heard the declarations which accompanied the support of this measure. With what other sensations could the subjects of a free country hear the struggles of freemen in other parts of the world compared to the machinations of conspirators against the lawful authorities whom they were bound to obey? Thus, the struggle for liberty in Spain, the efforts in Portugal, the success of what were called the revolted colonies, were alike denominated the intrigues of conspirators; and the House was told, that some of the parties engaged in them had been received, or rather suffered to reside in England, with an oblivion of their crimes? Of what crimes?—the unforgiven crime of having fought for the liberties of their country. Ministers took praise to themselves for having, as it were, passed an act of amnesty for such criminals—for having pardoned, forsooth, those glorious martyrs in the cause of universal liberty—a liberty founded, too, upon a kingly basis, and a constitutional government—acquired, not, as was too often the case when the oppressed had to rise against the oppressor, by secret conspiracies and fell means, but by an open, manly, and determined avowal, that the people would no longer endure the tyranny which had so long scourged them. These were the conspirators towards whom his majesty's ministers boasted they had held out a free pardon; and the very tone and temper in which their description was drawn was sufficient to show the uses that would be made of this bill. He hoped the voice and spirit of the country would be raised 821 against so odious a measure; for the people of England could never forget, that thought in the present case, it was only called for to oppress persecuted and unprotected foreigners, the example might hereafter be adduced for the application of a similar engine to the destruction of their own liberties.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, he rose not for the purpose of travelling over again the same arguments which had been so forcibly adduced by his right hon. friend, but to protest against its being understood that he supported the bill upon any of the obnoxious grounds which it was convenient for gentlemen opposite to assume were the motives influencing that support. An hon. and learned gentleman (sir J. Mackintosh) had said, that he listened with sorrow and humiliation to the speech of his right hon. friend, and that he felt some alarm at seeing the dawn of his public life clouded by such a bill as this. The learned gentleman might express, it he pleased, these feelings of alarm; but he (lord L.), so far from participating with him in his view of that speech, saw nothing but a subject of congratulation at the prospect it held out of long and able and efficient services in the cause of the country. His right hon. friend had in that powerful speech, disclosed a character and a capability to exalt the liberties of his country, and to establish them upon a firm basis. He did not, indeed, like the gentlemen opposite, pursue a phantom and call it liberty, in the absence of all the qualifications belonging to real, rational liberty—a mock liberty, reared in the midst of bloodshed, and founded upon the ruins of empires. His right hon. friend understood liberty better. He understood it as he found it, as in England, raised upon a basis of internal tranquillity, and only secure and durable so long as it was allied with order and peace. For this country could not hope for tranquillity, nor deserve it, if it suffered its noble soil to become a public nuisance to Europe. The gentlemen opposite seemed to think that the larger the crop that could be collected from the malcontents of Europe, and deposited in England, the better. He thought differently. He would throw open their door widely for the reception of the petitions of the people. So would he the shores of England for 822 the hospitable reception of foreigners. But if there were those among the petitioners who came to insult the House, or those among the foreigners who came here to work their conspiracies, he would make the conspirator and the insulter both feel, that, notwithstanding the characters which they thought proper to assume, they were not equal to the power of parliament, or the arm of the executive government. His right hon. friend had made out the strongest case. We lived among the ruins of empires, and until those countries so strongly alluded to, assumed another appearance than that which they now presented, he could not feel that high respect for them which others were so ready to express. He protested against the notion that the present measure had grown out of any understanding with foreign powers. So far from that being the case, the foreign powers understood that no such law could be adopted for their Convenience. If they entertained any doubt of it before, the discussions in that House must have placed it beyond all doubt. At the same time, he had no hesitation in saying, that foreign powers would have a right to complain, if persons engaged in conspiracies against them found an asylum in this country. If the House were of opinion that the measure grew out of any arrangement with foreign countries, he would call upon them to vote against it; but he would entreat them not to be led away by general declamations upon liberty, and high sounding appeals, which had no reference to the question. For the present, he should content himself with protesting against the supposition, that the measure arose out of any understanding with foreign powers; and though it must be painful to the House, to travel over the same ground as often as appeared to be intended, he would engage, to give his opponents speech for speech, and argument for argument, in the progress of the discussions.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that the noble marquis had asserted, that no argument had been adduced against the bill. He would tell the noble lord, that when a measure was introduced to take away a part of the liberties of the people, on those who introduced it, lay the burthen of the proof.—He denied absolutely that the right hon. secretary had given any reason for the bill. He had introduced it on his mere assertion, that it was ne- 823 cessary, and that the power should be exercised with caution. He (sir J. N.) would not devolve such confidence on any man; he would have better security than the word of any minister.
§ Lord Stanley
could not be silent when he heard a minister of the Crown characterise the people of England as a nuisance to the rest of Europe. Where were refugees now to look for shelter? The creed which he had imbibed with his mother's milk, was this—that to the distressed and the persecuted of all the world, England was the land of protection.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, his argument was, that if England permitted the free ingress of foreign conspirators and agitators, she would absolutely become a nuisance to all Europe.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that if the bill was passed at all, it should be only for one year; but for himself, proposed as it was for no British purposes, he would not consent to its passing even for a month.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that a learned gentleman (Mr. Denman) had declared, that he (Mr. Peel) was indebted to the other side of the House fork the candour and forbearance he had experienced at their hands. Of any want of candour and forbearance on the part of those hon. gentlemen, he never complained. But, what did the terms amount to, as they were explained by the learned gentleman? Why, to this—that he was indebted to their candour and forbearance for not having attacked him for his junction with his majesty's government. He must tell that learned gentleman, that there was nothing he deprecated so much as his charity; that he defied his scrutiny; that he was not afraid of his accusation. If that learned gentleman thought that he was awaiting his accusation, "with baited breath and whispering humbleness," he was very much deceived. He challenged him to bring forward the accusation which he insinuated he had in his pocket, but would not promulge. His motives in accepting office were as pure as those which had actuated the learned gentleman in doing so. He had been connected with the present government ever since his first appearance in public life. He was secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland—a post which he quitted earlier than he could have wished. As to his subsequent connexion with government, it arose not out of his own solicitation. 824 Excepting on one great question, upon which he had the misfortune to differ with ministers he had acted against them.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 189; Noes, 92. The bill was then brought in, and read a first time.