§ The order of the day being moved for the second reading of this bill,
§ Mr. Hume
said, that it had been the determination of a number of members of that House, who were decidedly hostile to the spirit and principle of the Alien bill, to allow no one stage to pass, but to resist its progress from its introduction. In consequence, however, of rumours that had transpired respecting certain views, supposed to be entertained by the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, they were most solicitous to obtain the benefit of his information on the subject, and to hear, from such an authority, the arguments upon which he considered it expedient that such an unconstitutional measure should pass. On a former night it had been contended by the right hon. secretary for the home department, that the powers sought by this bill were powers which the kings of this country had, for centuries, in right of their prerogative, possessed. And yet there was a right hon. colleague of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Wynn) who had denied that such a power was vested in the throne. It was natural, therefore, between these two discordant authorities, sitting in the same cabinet, for members of that House to feel most solicitous to know the opinion of the right hon. the secretary for foreign affairs, and to be made acquainted with the views on which he recommended its adoption. What, he would ask him, did he discover in the internal state of our relations, or in the character of our foreign policy, to justify the passing of a bill, which was at variance with the ancient policy and acknowledged hospitality of the country? Could its adoption be accounted for under any other impression, than that there existed a secret understanding between our government and the absolute sovereigns of the continent, to act in concert against those whom these sovereigns were disposed to persecute; that whenever the emperor of Austria, or the king of France, were pleased to declare a foreigner obnoxious to them, he was to be expelled from our shores? If there was no such concert, no such secret understanding—surely the House had a right to be informed what the actual motives were, and to obtain the fullest explanation, before it agreed to continue an act so hostile to our national character. Was there no law on our Statute-book in favour of foreigners seeking the hospitality 114 of our soil? Had the great charter not acknowledged the principle? The very fact of an uniform and uninterrupted practice for centuries was a lull acknowledgment of our policy. Nothing could be more decisive of the principle than the very law which, on the trial of foreigners, entitled them to such a disposition of the jury, as allowed them to claim an array of half foreigners. From the period of the Revolution until the year 1793, the country never heard of such an act; and it was to be recollected that, during that interval, the country from one extremity to the other, was frequently in arms; that rebellion followed rebellion, and that there was a succession of pretenders to the throne. Who, that turned his attention to those countries over which the despots of Europe exercised an unjust influence —Switzerland, for instance, where unfortunate refugees were forced from the asylum they sought, at the mandate of these despots—who, he repeated, that considered the progress and probable result of such a state of things, was not persuaded that this country ought to take a decided course, and not be considered as in any way aiding and abetting such a system? We should get rid altogether of such trammels. We should take our stand in support of the freedom of mankind; and, with the rapid growth of education and knowledge, under our countenance, the system of despotism would speedily disappear. An Alien law was abhorrent to our policy. It was admitted by its advocates to be useless, as it was rarely exercised; but, on the principle of investing any set of men with arbitrary power, no matter how acted upon, it was most dangerous in the principle. Under these circumstances, he should resist the order of the day for its second reading, and move, as an amendment, that after the word "that," the following words be substituted:" It appears to this House, that from the Revolution in 1688, up to the year 1793, a period in which the tranquillity of this country was endangered and disturbed by pretenders to the throne, it was not considered necessary by parliament to invest ministers with such arbitrary power as the Alien bill confers: that it is contrary to the spirit of the British constitution, and hostile to the best interests of the civilized world; and in accordance only with the unprincipled declarations, and tyrannical acts, of the constitutional despots: that this House, 115 therefore, deem it inexpedient to continue a power, mischievous, even if not used, and cruel and unconstitutional, whenever exercised."
§ Mr. N. Calvert
said, he was one of those who never would join in any language of abuse applied to the sovereigns of foreign states; because he could not stoop to do any thing so unfair as to attack those who, from distance, were disabled from defending themselves. He thought the practice, to say the least of it, might lead to great national mischief. He could not support the amendment, though he objected to the bill.
§ The Speaker
having again read the amendment, loud laughter followed, on account of the word "constitutional," which was then found in it.
§ The Speaker
ordered the paper to be handed to Mr. Hume, who, upon reading it, presented another copy, in which the words stood as he proposed. The amendment was put, and negatived without a division. Upon the motion, that the order of the day for the second reading of the bill be now read, the House divided: Ayes 120; Noes 67.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Althorp, visc.||Leader, W.|
|Allen, J. A.||Leycester, R.|
|Baillie col. J.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Barrett, S. M.||Macdonald, J.|
|Benyon, B.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Bernal, R.||Martin, J.|
|Birch, J.||Milton, visc.|
|Byng, G.||Monck, J. B.|
|Calvert, C.||Moore, P.|
|Calvert, N.||Newport, sir J.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Nugent, lord|
|Clifton, visc.||Ord, W.|
|Colborne, N. W. R.||Osborne, lord F. G.|
|Creevy, T.||Palmer, C.|
|Crompton, S.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Davies, col.||Pares, T.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Pryse, P.|
|Farrand, R.||Rice, T. S.|
|Pergusson, sir R.||Robarts, A. W.|
|Gaskill, B.||Robarts, col.|
|Haldimand, W.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Russell, lord W.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Scott, J.|
|Huskisson, hon. H.||Sefton, lord|
|James, W.||Smith, W.|
|Jervoise, G. B.||Smith, R.|
|Johnstone, W. A.||Stanley, E. C.|
|Jones, J.||Sykes, D.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Tierney, right hon. G.|
|Townshend, lord C.||Wood, Mr. ald.|
|Warre, J. A.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|Whitbread, W. H.||TELLERS.|
|Wilkins, W.||Hume, J.|
|Wilson, sir R.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
§ On the question being put, "That the Bill be now read a second time,"
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, he rose to defend the right of the members of that House to express themselves freely upon the conduct of foreign potentates, and to repel the contrary principle implied in the observations of his hon. friend. They were bound to call things by their right names. If those sovereigns were tyrants, no gentleman could be wrong in designating them accordingly. It was not simply their right to do so; it was their duty to use that language towards them, which would best express the opinion the parliament of England entertained of their conduct, and to admonish the people of England of the steps which had been taken to give due expression to that opinion. When his hon. friend talked of those sovereigns having no means of defending themselves in that House, he seemed to forget that they were defended by their guards and armies—that irritated tyrants had reaching arms, and could strike those whom they never had seen. The House had no other means of exercising its power, but those strong expressions of the public feeling through its agency, which frequently had the effect of rescuing the victims of extreme and abused authority. He hoped his hon. friend would not attempt to deter the House from this important exercise of its duty. It was not using the language of abuse to those princes, but the language of solemn declaration in favour of liberty, and to prove to them incontrovertibly the general detestation in which the people of England held the crimes of tyranny. Upon the progress of the bill he would make only these observations. It had undergone very ample discussion—much more discussion than he had hoped for— and he should have concluded, that it was not likely that any thing more of weight could be added to it, but for that promise which fell from the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs the other day. He hoped that if the bill did pass, it would be presented to the public under more favourable circumstances of justification than those in which it stood at present. The argument was now con- 117 siderably simplified: the bill was no longer defended upon the ground of power inherent in the prerogative. While on the other hand, he was equally ready to admit, that although the right of foreigners to land on these shores had been always allowed, the right of regulating that reception, and the residence of those who were received, must remain with the parliament. The right of passing a law to regulate the reception and residence of aliens, could not be seriously questioned: the only question was, as to the policy of passing such a law under the present circumstances of the country. He concluded that no gentleman in the House would deny parliament that power. Every country must have a right to pass bills of exception and exclusion, and more especially as they went to control the rights of foreigners to land and reside; seeing that that power was to be considered almost in the light of an European law. But, the subject for their consideration was, the policy of the measure at the present time. Their ancestors well knew that they had the right, but they seldom used it; thinking, as it would appear, that the disadvantages greatly outweighed any benefits to be attained by the use of it, because of the facilities which it would have afforded to an oppressive government to cover its rigours under the pretence of watching strictly over foreigners. Every one who had travelled in foreign countries knew, that with respect to nations, character is power, and that England was particularly strong in that kind of power. This bill had received modifications, it was said, for which he was not at all thankful. He thought they were against the general principle for which he would contend. It was said that, in its present form, no less than 9,000 foreigners out of 26,000 had been withdrawn from its operation: he disliked it so much the more. If those 9,000 were rich foreigners, they would tend greatly to lessen the opposition to the bill. He would rather that all should be included in it. With a bill so obnoxious in its principle, the wider the extent of operation the better; because, the general sense of indignation and injustice to which it would give rise would be so much more powerful in its manifestation. As to the statement which had been hazarded, that this power had never been abused, he could not allow the assertion to pass uncontradicted. He had sup- 118 ported the case of general Gourgaud, who, after so many years of faithful service to his unfortunate master, had been cruelly treated. He thought that the conduct of government in refusing him permission to land, was nothing less than illiberal and ungentlemanly: he would not attribute it, however, exactly to the government, because they were not apprised at the moment of what their agents were doing, although they afterwards justified it. There was another case in which he could not but think that the power had been still more abused. He alluded to that of baron Eben, who had been banished by the king of Portugal after sixteen or seventeen years of zealous and faithful service; and yet government, though they could not charge him with any crime, would not permit him to land, because he was said to have been opposed to the kingly government in Portugal. These two cases showed that the powers given were liable to abuse, and that they had been abused. As to madame Mon-tholon and others, excluded on the general principle of not admitting any of the partisans of Buonaparte, it was clearly most ungenerous treatment for a free government. The House should seize this opportunity of proving to the Holy Alliance, and to the people of Europe, that all those bonds which had unhappily united them for a time, were now dissolved—that the interests of this country were no longer interwoven with their system. No opportunity could be more favourable for that purpose than the progress of the bill now in discussion. An opinion prevailed abroad, that this bill was passed at the instigation of the Holy Alliance, and that it could not be repealed without their consent directly expressed. He hoped that the House would prove most fully and satisfactorily, that the opinion was groundless; and to give them an opportunity for so doing, he would now move, "That the bill be read a second time this day six months."
§ Mr. N. Calvert
explained. He said, he had not wished to dictate any rule to guide the conduct of the House: he had only prescribed a rule for his own behaviour with respect to foreign governments, and the princes at the head of them.
§ Mr. Serjeant Onslow
justified the conduct of government in the treatment of general Gourgaud, and the other members of the suite of Buonaparte, and argued 119 for the inherent right which existed in the prerogative to exercise the power asked for by ministers.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he rose rather in fulfilment of a pledge into which he had been seduced a few nights ago by the soft persuasion of the hon. member for Aberdeen, than from any admission that the question required more ample argument; and still less did he feel it necessary to rise for the purpose of making any acknowledgment that, on any former occasion of discussing the principles of this bill, his own sentiments required any, even the slightest qualification. The hon. member for Aberdeen, in a style half complimentary to him, and half composed of serious censure on the measure itself, had done him the honour to oppose the principle of the bill to that which he deemed to be the general character and genius of his (Mr. Canning's) policy. If, however, the hon. gentleman should find any thing contradictory to the opinions which he had formed of him, in the arguments he was about to use in support of the measure; if he should find any thing which he might conceive to be opposed to the opinions which he (Mr. Canning) had professed, he would enable the hon. gentleman to thread those differences, to reconcile those seeming contradictions in his expressions, by producing, in one word, the clue of the labyrinth—the shiboleth of his (Mr. C.'s) policy upon this and every other public question; and that word was "England." His wish was only that of being found siding, on all divisions of opinions, with the interests of his country.
He was desirous of disclaiming at the outset, the slightest reference to the wishes of any other sovereign, to the feelings of any other government, or to the interests of any other people, except in so far as those wishes, those feelings, and those interests, may, or might, concur with the just interests of England. Perhaps, of all the questions that had been recently discussed in that House, the present bill had been the most subjected to the influence of the reigning vice of all discussion at the present day—the vice of exaggeration. If, without reference to time and place, we were to hear it asserted, that it was a monstrous and unheard-of proposition, that a sovereign state should arrogate to itself the power of determining what foreigners should be 120 admitted into its territories, and on what conditions they should reside there, the assertion would appear so monstrous and so extravagant, that no one would venture seriously to repeat it. And yet all the strength with which it had been clothed by the opponents of the bill, had been by dressing up a proposition so simple and so absurd, with facts with which it had no connexion, and with suppositions which had no foundation. He must forfeit, he feared, some of the good opinion of the hon. member when he said, that in discriminating, in the arguments on this bill, between those which maintained its principle and those which were conversant in its details, he was inclined to give most consideration to those which confirmed the principle; and, the principle once established, though it might afterwards be shown that errors accompanied the exercise of it on particular occasions, it was still good for all times and circumstances. Being a principle of that force and generality it could not be done away, and the details must consequently form but a secondary consideration. He said, that the right must have existed, and must continue to exist, at all times and under all circumstances. He did not therefore say, that at all times and under all circumstances the power was equally applicable. But he would say, not meaning to take the power of the Crown apart from the authority of parliament, that if it were found that no such power as that of constraining aliens more than natural-born subjects existed, and upon any new and unexpected emergency the want of that power should be felt, that would be such a state of things as ought not to be allowed to exist, even if this temporary bill should expire; and he trusted that expire it would, without another renewal. [Loud cheers.] He repeated ins earnest hope and expectation, that it would expire without another renewal. But even in that case, with respect to the principle of power, government, of whomsoever it might be composed at the time, would not do its duty, if it suffered the principle to lapse into annihilation, or if by neglect they should afterwards allow the power itself altogether to escape from their hands. He hoped he should not be taunted by the hon. gentleman with throwing any thing out as a lure for popularity, when he thus candidly avowed, that his only consideration was, how to preserve the principle of the mea- 121 sure; and, that being once effected, that he was little anxious about the details, and was not at all disposed to undertake to show how, by whom, and on what particular occasions, that power should be now exercised. When he said "now," he wished not to be misunderstood. Much argument had been wasted on the question of situation. Honourable gentlemen had gone back to former times to show that the power was or was not in the Crown, without the parliament; and, in his opinion, the precedents produced were equally strong in proof for either side of that argument. The power had undoubtedly been exercised by the Crown, sometimes with, sometimes without, the consent of parliament: but, it was absurd to be drawing comparisons between the exercises of power, with regard to the different parts of the constitution now, and in former times. Suppose a precedent were shown of Henry 8th having exercised this power with the consent of parliament, would that imply the least resemblance between the constitutional functions of parliament then, and at the present day? The consent of that parliament of Henry the Eighth, which voted the proclamation of the king to have the force of law, was surely something different from the concurrence of a parliament of the present day; and if to add any sanction to a strong measure against aliens, the monarch clothed it in the name of such a parliament, it was no proof that it was subject to any real control. The monarch, in fact, discussed his measures in parliament as in a large council, where his influence was as complete as in his own privy council. But, he did not want to prove that the power was originally with the Crown; that it was inherent in the prerogative. It was matter of perfect indifference to him, whether it was innate in the Crown to be exercised by the Crown, or in the Crown to be exercised with the consent of the parliament; or if it were lodged first with the parliament to be shaped by the parliament in its exercise, with the assent of the Crown as a branch of the parliament: there must be a power lodged somewhere in the constitution to deal with aliens, if it should be found necessary, more summarily than with their own subjects.
The question had been argued, as if this bill would form an exception to the practice of all other countries. It had been repeatedly urged how odious it would be in them to retain, a power which 122 from its objectionable nature, was not claimed by the government of other states. But the argument was quite the other way. England was the exception. This country alone stood without the continual existence and frequent exercise of that power. He defied those who objected to produce facts. Let them show him any state in Europe from the most arbitrary to those supposed to be the most free—from the highest degree of despotism, through all the range of political inventions by which states were governed, down to the most widely-spread democracy—which had ever consented to be without the power of controlling the abode of aliens more rigidly than that of native subjects. Why, then, was this country to be deprived of a defence which no other state, of any kind—or at any period—would be without? Why was this country to divest itself of a power essential to its own security, when occasions might arise for bringing it into action?
Another argument used by honourable gentlemen opposed to this measure was, that the acquisition of power over aliens resulting from it would be inconsistent with freedom. Why, the experience of all history went the other way. He had before said, that all governments had had this power; but more particularly was it exercised by those governments which were considered the best of ancient times. Look at the ancient republics of Greece and Rome. Were gentlemen altogether to forget their classics on the present occasion, and overlook the instances which they afforded bearing on the present case? Let them look at Sparta, where the condition of the stranger was little better than that of the unfortunate Helot. Let them look at the polished rival of Sparta —Athens; and what was the condition of the alien who went to reside there for a time? He was, in the first place, obliged to put himself, during his stay, under the protection of some patron; or in default thereof, he was subject to every kind of inconvenience. But even under the patron, he was liable to have his goods sold, and his person sent to prison, for non-payment of the alien-tax. Let them look at Rome— at ancient Rome—in the days of her greatest freedom. Was the alien the object of any peculiar care? On the contrary, he was rather the object of peculiar jealousy. It was necessary that there, too, he should place himself under the protection of some patron; but that did not exempt him 123 from the liability to be sent from the city without notice. Aliens were sometimes sent out, not by one or two at a time, but frequently in whole droves together, at the caprice of the tribunes, or consuls. Why did he mention these facts? Not for the purpose of urging them as reasons why we should now act in a similar manner, but to show that, at all times, such a power was exercised by those states most jealous of their freedom, and that the power was never held to be at all inconsistent with that freedom. Look at the practice of this country in ancient times. It was true, that aliens were invited, and that peculiar protection was given to alien merchants. Why? Why, because the only men who travelled in those days were merchants. Did it follow because encouragement was given then, that the same should be held out at the present day? And this brought him to notice what was the radical error of the arguments of gentlemen on this question; namely, that they made no distinction between the policy of an ancient state and that of a modern one. At that period of the Roman state, when the fight between the Horatii and Curiatii was to decide whether Alba was to be Rome, or Rome Alba —at that time the description of a set of aliens among the numbers of Roman citizens might be a matter of deep expediency, which could not afterwards exist. The jealousy of such an adscription in a future period of the Roman history was not inconsistent with the former measure. In the one case a new state approved of what was then expedient; in the other, an old state was jealous of what it looked upon as encroachment. Why, the rape of the Sabine women was considered a measure of expediency to supply the wants of the young state; but no man would go so far as to assert, that because such a measure had once been expedient it would be equally expedient that it should be resorted to at the end of every lustrum. Yet, it was by confounding two very dissimilar epochs in the history of states, and arguing the necessity or policy of certain measures in one because they had been found to exist in the other, that gentlemen who opposed this bill had so egregiously deceived themselves. It might be rational, when it was an object for England to collect capital and industry, to open her ports indiscriminately to those strangers who alone would resort to them, the merchants; but when the paths of industry were fully occupied, when the people were fully em- 124 ployed, and the country overflowing with capital, it might be natural to look to the introduction of strangers with other eyes, and to see less of the advantages than of the perils of the influx. Let the House look at- the two kindred British states, happily joined in amity, though divided by institutions, which now occupy, perhaps, a greater space than any others in the eyes of the world. And here let him observe, that when he spoke of, and admitted, the freedom of America, he must add, that we in this country enjoyed as much freedom as was enjoyed there or in any other part of the world, and that our freedom was watched over and protected by a monarchy, which so far from being a check, was in reality its best and safest guardian. But, let the House look at the policy of the two governments. The policy of America was facility of admission; the policy with us was jealousy of admission. They wished to increase their subjects; we, to secure those we already possessed—to prevent them from going off, and others from coming to us. The difference of this policy was not the difference between despotism and freedom—No: one was the policy of a new, the other that of an old state. He would ask in what part of Europe could Englishmen travel with such complete freedom as foreigners could in this? On the continent, a man could not move beyond a certain limit without his passport, as had been truly observed by the hon. and learned Serjeant (Onslow): beyond that limit he felt the chain round his leg, which he possessed no means of lengthening. This fact at once put an end to the argument of invidious-ness, and that we were committing an outrage on foreigners, to which we ourselves were not abroad exposed; that this was the only despotic country of the world —that Turkey was not despotic—Russia not despotic—Austria not despotic-France not despotic, in comparison with the despotism of Great Britain. Let him ask, in addition, whether the police was not a source of inconvenience to Englishmen abroad? Why, a young Englishman had been kept in custody, some time back, for a whole night, for gallopping at night over the birdge of Geneva. What consolation would it be to this young Englishman who rode over the bridge of Geneva, and thereby almost shook the little republic to its foundation, that the despotism to which he was there exposed was not inflicted by "a malignant and a turban'd Turk," 125 but by the hon. and learned gentleman's (sir J. Mackintosh's) literary friend, M. Sismondi, or by his own arithmetical friend, sir Francis d'Ivernois? And yet, after experiencing all the inconvenience of travelling in foreign countries, some young English travellers returned, and declared that an Alien bill here would be a disgrace to the country!—He had said thus much of the measure as a general principle recognized by the states most attached to freedom. He had considered a certain power over aliens, as a thing which ought to be possessed permanently. He would not go into the details of the present bill, or the alterations which it might or might not be necessary to make, if it were to remain permanently on our Statute-book. He would not say whether the measure which might be eventually decided upon to supply the place of the bill should be a registry; but, without entering into any details of that kind, he would repeat, that when this bill should expire, it would be, necessary to introduce some measure, with respect to the power which the executive ought to possess over foreigners in this country. He was afraid, then, that he should not satisfy the hon. member for Aberdeen when, he not only declared himself in favour of the measure before the House, but of the general principle out of which it arose.
He now came to the measure before the House as applicable to the present times; for, having cleared the general principle, it remained for him to consider not whether this bill was good from beginning to end, but whether it was a modification of an admitted principle, suited to particular and existing dangers. Now what were the existing dangers? With regard to internal perils, he was perfectly ready to admit, that he saw none to the institutions of this country from the exertions of any foreigner, however disposed such foreigner might be to assail them. He firmly believed that, in the very worst of times, there was inherent in the English constitution, or he should rather say, in the constitution of the English mind, that which would repel the aid of foreign treason, and would not inoculate itself with any infection that was not at least of native origin. And therefore was it that his right hon. friend had introduced into this bill a modification of the former law, striking out from its operation all those foreigners who had been, for a certain length of time, domiciled amongst 126 us, and with whose characters and connexions we had had the means of becoming acquainted. But the particular danger of the time was that which had been stated by the hon. gentleman who last spoke, and which had been frequently referred to in the course of the present session; namely, that there was a struggle now pending in the world, between extreme principles, and that this country was naturally and necessarily (and long might she continue to be so) the asylum for the beaten in that warfare. As that asylum we had a right to inscribe over our gate, not, indeed, with Dante—"Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate, "—"All ye that enter must leave hope behind;" but rather,—"All ye that enter must leave plots behind."—"You must leave behind your party feuds and your political squabbles, for you come here to seek an asylum for repose, not a workshop, where, without danger, you may forge new treasons." Those who courted a shelter had no right to question the terms on which it was granted. If then we did not make these terms, what must be the necessary consequence? That which we called an asylum would be felt and called by Europe and the world a refuge, a hiding place, for all who retired but to meditate fresh disturbances. He was anxious that the nations of the continent should not be disturbed; because, the contact of independent governments was often so close and nice, that the disturbance of a part might lead to the disturbance of the whole, and we ourselves might not be free from the contagion. He was anxious, therefore, for English purposes and English principles, that this bill should pass, as well as on account of the countries whose safety might be more immediately placed in hazard.
His gallant friend (sir R. Wilson), as well indeed as the hon. member for Aberdeen, had both spoken out plainly and fairly, and from both of them he certainty differed toto cælo: there was no point of resemblance or accordance upon this subject between them. They were of opinion, that, in this struggle of extreme principles England ought to side with those who espoused the extreme principles of liberty; that she ought to unfurl her banners at the head of that discomfited party; that she ought to array, under her standard, all those who were disposed to league together to overthrow the establishments of the world,—[No, no; hear, hear!] 127 The hon. gentleman did not, perhaps, use those precise words; but in argument they went that length; and the shades of distinction between them must be nice indeed. What they contended for was this—that, while our unvarying principle was neutrality—neutrality recommended from the throne, advocated by the government, supported by parliament, and echoed throughout the country; while we would adopt measures the best calculated to preserve that neutrality, they would at once overthrow it. No doubt their object was laudable: no doubt they wished to accomplish magnificent purposes; but it was in direct opposition to the wishes of the sovereign, the parliament, and the people. But, it was somewhat unreasonable, somewhat too much to expect that we should conform to their views, and at once abandon our settled and approved course, for their scheme of national exaltation. At least before they called upon us to do so, they ought to try parliament upon the question—whether it was willing to adopt and pursue this new line of policy—a line of policy, the object of which was, not to keep down and soften animosities, not to reconcile differences— and promote general harmony and good will, but to exasperate into action these modern principles of extravagant liberty; to march at the head of the exiles of every country, against their legitimate governments, and ancient institutions. If parliament could be brought to adopt this new and exploded course, then he freely admitted, not only that this paltry Alien bill, but with the hon. member for Aberdeen, "wise in his generation," that the foreign Enlistment bill must be at -once repealed, and we must begin a new era in legislation. But, the House would give him leave to say, that when the hon. gentleman and his friends had attained this most desirable object—when they had converted parliament, convinced the sovereign, and induced his ministers to retrace their steps, they might still find themselves considerably disappointed. He should not be surprised if, after all their vehement denunciations, they were at last to come to parliament for something like the enactment of an Alien bill; for they assumed, that this country, unarmed with power to prevent the levying of war against a foreign state—the Foreign Enlistment bill; and unarmed with power to control the residence of foreigners, the Alien bill, the consequence would be, that nothing would 128 be heard of in great Britain, but the fitting out of armaments against what were termed the despots of Europe. But, let him call the attention of those hon. gentlemen to one circumstance. There were two parties engaged in this struggle of extravagant principles. The one party might, indeed, carry with it the sympathies of mankind. They had all the common places of liberty on their side; but, unfortunately, their achievements had been few indeed. They had talked largely and done little; and the strength, at present, at least, was all the other way. Let him, then, put a case. His hon. and learned friend opposite (sir J. Mackintosh) had given notice a short time since, of a motion for the recognition of the independence of South America: but he had withdrawn it, because he understood that the king's ministers were prepared to consider any armament, fitting out in Spain, while the French retained a preponderating influence there, a French armament.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh.
—I said, if any "considerable armament" were fitted out in Spain against South America, whilst that country was in the occupation of the French army, it ought to be considered as a French armament.
Mr. Secretary Canning.
—Well, any "considerable armament;" and, let them see, if the hon. and learned gentleman tried other powers fairly, by this rule. What we had a right to say of France, France and other countries had a fair right to say of us. They might declare, that they would consider any armament sailing from j the ports of England for South America as a British armament; and his hon. and learned friend would admit, that this kingdom was at least as responsible for what was done upon her own soil, as France was responsible for what was done in Spain. Now, he said, that the Foreign Enlistment bill alone prevented the fitting out of armaments in British ports, and that the Alien bill alone kept foreigners under control, and prevented their treasonable machinations. If you stripped the Crown of the powers thereby given, there was no physical impediment to any number of foreigners, whether beaten or triumphant, coming to Plymouth or Portsmouth, fitting out an armament there, and sailing with it for the conquest of South America, whether for Ferdinand or his enemies. If France were to place herself in such a situation, we. should instantly assert, that it afforded a ground for going 129 to war. It was ridiculous, then, to deny, that, if we pursued the same line of conduct, we might he justly called upon to answer for it in the penalty of hostilities. Then he maintained that it was for the interest of England, for the peace of England, and not merely for the interest and peace of foreign nations, that we should retain and, when needful, enforce, these measures. God knew when we should see the end of the prevailing agitations—when the struggle of opinion and principle would terminate! No man could wish for it more than he did; but he claimed these bills, in order that we might not be fooled, gulled, bullied, cheated, deceived into hostilities in which it was never our intention to engage. He claimed them for the preservation of peace—for the preservation of the character, reputation, and good sense of this country—to prevent it from being the laughing-stock and the dupe, instead of being the dread and the support of Europe—and that she might not be made by foreigners the starting-place of their animosities. So long as these extreme parties were in presence of each other, no measure but this Alien bill could save us from danger; and the moment we parted with it, we voluntarily incurred the hazard. We should then justly subject ourselves to the suspicion, that we had thrown this security away, with the express intent of affording the facilities of our shore, and the convenience of our harbours, for the promotion and encouragement of warfare; and he cared not whether that warfare was in favour of the one side or the other. Let us not deceive ourselves by supposing that the champions of freedom would make no use of our means and our ports. We well knew that, at this moment, there was scarcely a power in Europe that was not collecting from the capitalists of Great Britain, the sinews of war— that there was scarcely a single power that did not look for resources to the exchequer of our Exchange. He did not mean to justify the moral character of such loans; but we were all aware, that our monied men lent indiscriminately to all parties; without reference to any other consideration than the security which the borrower had to offer. In the best days of our constitution, it was known that hostile armies were led by English captains; but here were the captains of English Captains, whose resources were the springs on which the power of each side rested. The mo- 130 ney-lender lent to each, and would lend wherever he got a security. He should therefore be sorry to trust the neutrality of the country to the morality of moneylenders; for get rid of the foreign enlistment, and let Ferdinand once show a little strength, and we should soon see him aided by the capitalists of this country, and an expedition sent from our ports, making another effort to crush the rising liberties of South America. [Cheers.] It was to prevent such a result that he was unwilling to part with the power which the Crown at present possessed by the acts now in force. He would maintain a strict neutrality, not only in act and deed; but he would reject any of those little flirtations that might tend to the violation of it. He hoped never to see England leading those armies which contended for extreme freedom against those who were called the despots of the continent. And here he was aware that he must, as he had often done before, guard himself against the contrary supposition. To those who thought, or said that they thought, that the measure upon the table had been produced at the dictation of any foreign government, or any set of governments,' he replied that he denied it, and he claimed that his denial should be as good as their imputation. He said it in the hearing of the Commons of England; he said it, thank God, in the hearing of the whole country; and, what was more to his purpose, he said it in the hearing of all those against whom the imputation was made—he rejected it as unfounded—he denied it (not in any offensive sense), as utterly false [Hear, hear]. Dearly as he valued all the ties by which European nations were held together, there was not a connexion that he would not sever at once, rather than allow any measure brought forward in that House to originate in a foreign source. He denied that this bill proceeded from foreign influence, or that it was at all founded upon considerations of the interests of other states.
The question, therefore, was, whether for the purpose he had mentioned, the provisions of the bill were adequate or too powerful—whether they trenched more upon individual liberty, than was necessary for our domestic policy? He took the liberty of assuming, that the purpose of the bill was the purpose of the House; because the measure was consonant with its recorded votes. What, then, did the bill do? Did it enable government to punish or im- 131 prison, to seize and to confiscate? No; it only empowered them to remove from the kingdom the foreigner who, there was reason to suspect, was violating the asylum that had been afforded him. Lest, too, there should be any temptation to turn the power to any other account, there was an appeal to the privy council. He did not mention it as an effective process of law; but, it ensured notoriety. And who did not know that, in this free country, where a minister was compelled to act in the open face of day, nine times out of ten, he dared not act otherwise than in the honest discharge of his duty? This bill then enabled government to remove the-foreigner; and a still more valuable and a more available consequence of that power is, that it enabled them to permit him to remain. One example in point was as good, or better, than a thousand arguments; though they might be in point also. It had been his fortune, a short time since, to receive intelligence of the authenticity of which he could not doubt, of a plot being in agitation among certain emigrants against the peace of their native country. The plot was well got up, plausible in its object, and not deficient in means. This information, as it was his duty, he had communicated to his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel). His inquiries had led precisely to the same conclusion. What was done? Did they enforce the provisions of the Alien act? Did they send the parties accused, and to whom the plot was brought home with moral certainty, out of Great Britain, to be exposed to the vengeance of irritated royalty No. They had desired to see the individual principally implicated. They told him they were aware of the design, and informed him of the names of his associates. He did not deny its existence, though, as might be expected, he did not confess his own participation. They bade him go and be cautious; adding, that they should let his government know of the discovery of the plot, but conceal the names of the parties. In his conscience, he believed that they had thus prevented the completion of the scheme. Was this, he asked, an instance of abuse of the powers of the Alien bill. The case to which he referred happened with in the last fortnight; and, while his right hon. friend and himself were hesitating about this measure, this incident occurred, and completely satisfied them both, that they would act do their duty if they did not propose it to parliament. Now, then, the 132 House had the history of the origin of this bill; and it knew the intentions of government in endeavouring to make it an enactment. He asked, then, hon, gentlemen on the other side, whether in the enactment or in the mode in which it had been applied, they saw any thing that roused their constitutional jealousy? But, he mistook when he talked of their constitutional jealousy—he ought rather to say, their continental jealousy. When this instance had been mentioned by his right hon. friend on a former night, a noble lord (Al-thorp)—who did not often deliver his opinions upon foreign policy, but when he did, what he said always bore the stamp of good sense—suggested,that all the advantage to be derived from a temperate use of the powers of the Alien bill might be attained by an act of parliament brought in for each specific case. The noble lord had had some experience in acts of parliament: he had one now before the House for correcting the practice of certain small courts, and when he got rid of that, he would really beg of the noble lord to try his hand a little further at legislation; and bring in a bill to arraign a foreigner in this country of treason against his own. At least he would have to encounter the difficulty of being without a precedent, in the history of any state, ancient or modern. He only requested the noble lord when he went home that night, to try his hand at framing such a bill; and, depend upon it, even the mighty undertaking of regulating the County courts would sink into insignificance before it. He must not only try a sew mode of legislation, but must erect new courts for his purpose, such as hitherto the imagination of man had never conceived.
That some measure should be devised by which a certain power over aliens should be granted to the Crown at the expiration of the present law, he would repeat; but, in the mean time, the present would act upon the principle, that prevention was better than cure, and he thought it better to act in that way, which would secure the interests of this country without inculpating individuals. He would repeat, then, that, in the present state of the world, such a measure as that before the House was, necessary. What satisfaction would it be to any foreign power against whom secret, combinations were plotting, and by whom we might be accused of suffering such, practices to be carried on—what satisfaction, he would ask, would it be, to say, 133 that we had caught the party, and were about to try him by a law made for the purpose? Such a proceeding would not be so much our proper policy, as to take steps by which the practice might be prevented altogether. He admitted that, according to the present law, the innocent was often subject to inconvenience as well as the guilty. That must be the effect of all general Jaws: by the very nature of them, the innocent must be subjected to inconvenience. To detect the guilty, it would be necessary to cast the net very wide.
He must, before he sat down, protest against another species of exaggeration which he found to exist on this question. He meant that disposition to take it for granted, that all foreigners who fled from their own country to seek an asylum in this, must be models of their kind—more angels than men, though somewhat fallen, I and with, at least, "the excess of glory obscured"—heroes of the noblest order, and patriots of the purest water; forgetting the ancient jealousy which existed, with respect to the coming of foreigners into this country? Did they forget the line—London! the needy villain's general home;The common sink of Paris and of Rome!He did not say, that the Alien bill had completely effected a beneficial change; but it was not to be taken for granted, that because a foreigner came to this country, he was persecuted and driven away from his own. Besides these illustrious heroes —these immortal patriots—these champions of freedom and martyrs—there were to be found pimps and quack-doctors, "et id genus omne,"—a striking instance of which was to be seen in a recent case at Manchester. He by no means intended to convey an impression, that all aliens were of this description; but he thought, when gentlemen on the other side assumed, that none but heroes and patriots arrive here, he had at least as good a right to assume, that persons of a very contrary description also found their way to our shores. All he contended for was, that there was a necessity for some such supervision—that the Alien bill was addressed to the specific danger of the times—and that it had hitherto been found effectual in suppressing, or he should rather say, in preventing it. He had not heard even an insinuation of an abuse of its powers. He would conclude as he began, with expressing his hope that the 134 measure might not outlive the term for which its renewal was now proposed. Whenever the danger was at an end, he would return, with all his heart, to some more mitigated and moderate system of legislation; but for legislation upon this subject, he should still be an advocate, for the House would ill perform its duty to the public if it left the government without the means of protecting the country from the dangers to which he had adverted. [Loud cheers].
§ Mr. Tierney
next addressed the House, but for some moments he spoke in a tone quite too low to be audible in the gallery. He observed, that he felt it necessary to offer a few remarks to the House after the extraordinary speech of the right hon. secretary, in which he had throughout defended the bill, and had nevertheless expressed his readiness to abandon it for a more mild measure. If ever he had heard a speech an hour and a half long in that House, in which the speaker more decidedly looked one way and rowed another, it was that which the right hon. gentleman had just delivered; and, if he were one of the right hon. gentleman's followers in that House, he should think that, on the present occasion, he might vote against his patron, without much risk of giving offence. The right hon. secretary had charged gentlemen on the Opposition side with the figure of speech called exaggeration; as if he himself had not condescended to borrow a little from fancy in the course of his address. Why, the right hon. gentleman's speech was full of fanciful images—of aliens coming over in thousands and thousands, fitting out armaments, and then taking (as the sailors say) a fresh departure, to conquer their own country. The House had heard these fanciful statements, and they had also heard the right hon. gentleman charge others with making too free a use of the figure called exaggeration! But the right hon. gentleman stated that his object in supporting this bill was to support the interests of England. The House, however, had all this at second-hand—the right hon. gentleman having already announced it at one of those travelling parties which he had got round him in his late tour. It was stated in the hearing of the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of Plymouth; and no doubt they must have been astounded at the declaration then, as the House was now. Now, he would take the right hon. gentleman's own text; and say, 135 that he would also support the bill for the interests of England, provided it could be shown that it really tended to support those interests. If any member should prove this to his satisfaction, he should have his vote: but no man should have his vote in support of the measure, until that tendency of the bill was clearly demonstrated. Looking at the right hon. gentleman's observations, it struck him, that the right hon. gentleman was not half so friendly to the measure as he had pretended to be; for after having raked all foreign and ancient history on the subject—after having ransacked the annals of the ancient republics.—The home secretary having already gone through the whole History of England on the questions—after all this trouble, it turned out, that it was only within the last fortnight that the right hon. gentleman had made up his mind to bring it forward at all; and then, even that was owing to one of the luckiest accidents in the world. He would not follow the right hon. gentleman into his disquisition of ancient history: he would come to that period of English history— (which was, after all, the only one that had any thing to do with the matter) —he would come to that part of it which he looked upon as its best—he meant the period since the Revolution. This Alien bill, said to be so essential to our very safety as a nation, had no existence in all this long period. Putting out of our view the Alien bill of 1793, which was different from the present, it had been a law about ten years; and now we were so jealous of it, that if we were to believe the right hon. gentleman, the country could not go on without it. But, before this bill was in existence, England had been ex-tolled for her generous foreign policy, and had raised herself to greatness, without possessing an alien bill. This measure, which, in these perilous times, was to save the country, was to last, however, only for the next two years. Then the right hon. gentleman gave the House to understand we should hear no more of it, but something else would be introduced in its stead; but what that something else was he did not himself yet know. This conduct of the right hon. gentleman looked very much like a compromise somewhere; as if one part of the government had said to the other part, "Here we have been acting on the ancient principles of the constitution, for the last 25 years: and now you come with your new-fangled doctrines, 136 your reforms in trade, and your inquiries into Chancery courts, and a thousand other novelties, as if you wanted to turn every thing upside down; you must give us something in lieu of all this—let us see, what have you got to give?" "Well, "said the colleague," what will you have?" "Oh! give us the Alien bill." "Well, take it for a couple of years or so; but at the end of that time it must be modified." And they had got it, and he did not see that it was likely to be of any advantage to them, except to show that they were not entirely beaten, and to give them an opportunity of worrying some poor devil of an alien, if they should feel so inclined. —The right hon. gentleman then proceeded to contend, that the bill was not called for by any existing necessity. If foreigners flocked hither in thousands, the power might be considered not unreasonable; but when they came in in dribblets, one now and one then, they, could not possibly call for the exercise of the power which was now demanded. Foreigners might come here either as emissaries for foreign purposes, or as fomenters of discontents here. That any danger was likely to arise from the latter, had been fully disclaimed in the king's speech, and in that of the right hon. gentleman; and any object which they might hope to gain in the former character would be defeated by the foreign enlistment bill, to which, by the way, the right hon. gentleman had adverted as fully as if it were a measure then before the House. Now, as to the possibility of foreigners fitting out armaments from this country against their own governments. In the first place, how were they to get men? He should like to know to what description of persons these foreigners could go, who would not give them this answer—"this is a bad time for you to apply to us for such a purpose; we have got plenty of work, and we shan't get half as much by going with you as we shall by staying at home. "They might, too, add—"this is a bad time for applying to us to serve any party purposes; party in this country is nearly extinct, and many persons think that the Opposition are playing booty, because the}' do not make a greater stir."[Hear, and a laugh]. The danger which the right hon. gentleman apprehended was altogether imaginary. The foreigners who came to this country arrived here as fugitives; and it was a new and painful thing for him to hear it stated, as aground for watching those persons with jealousy, 137 that they were likely to enter into machinations against the governments which had oppressed them. But, it was said, that such machinations would be dangerous, inasmuch as they would involve this government in difficulties and disputes with foreign powers, whilst it was professing to observe the strictest neutrality. Now, he wished the British government to act impartially, on the principles which it professed. He thought that the Holy Alliance, and all the proceedings of the different congresses which had been held, were machinations against the liberties of the people of Europe. The crowned heads who composed those congresses had evidently bound themselves together to crush liberty on the continent, wherever it might arise. Had the British government remonstrated with foreign ministers against the machinations of their masters? Had it said, that their proceedings were likely to endanger the peace of Europe? Not at all! The machinations which government was willing to put down were those of the oppressed against the oppressors; not those of the oppressors against the oppressed. He really should like to know what the right hon. gentleman thought any number of foreigners who sought refuge in this country could, by any possibility, achieve. The right hon. gentleman had said, that loans were easily obtained. To be sure they were—when good security could be given. But, the experiment had been tried, not whether the poor foreigners who had recently arrived in this country could get loans, but whether they could procure a small pittance from the generosity of individuals to supply their pressing necessities; and he was sorry to say, that the result of the experiment had not been very flattering. On the other hand, it was notorious that loans for the assistance of crowned heads could be procured very easily in this country. Was it possible to apprehend any danger from the circumstance of four or five unfortunate foreigners meeting in a garret, to talk over the miseries which they had endured from their oppressors. Was the House of Commons to be called upon to pass a law like that proposed, in order to prevent four or five such unhappy persons as he had described from discussing, whether they might not, by some romantic attempt, rescue their wives and families whom they had left behind them, from the evils which they were enduring. 138 It was most repugnant to English feelings to pass the bill upon such grounds. The right hon. secretary had, however, spoken with great gravity of a discovery which had been made within the last fortnight, of a plot which had been formed by certain foreigners against some foreign power. He would do the right hon. gentleman and the right hon. secretary for the home department this justice, that he believed them to be utterly incapable of degrading their country so far as to establish in it a system of espionage against poor foreigners here. The information, then, which had led to the discovery of the plot must have come from some foreign minister. He was sure of this, because he was convinced, that the right hon. gentleman would be above adopting the miserable course of tracking the footsteps of individuals, of whose names he kept a register. But, what had happened with respect to the plot in question? The right hon. gentleman said, that he acted a kind part with respect to the conspirator who had been brought before him. He remonstrated with him; told him he knew his accomplices, and gave him warning that, if he did not abandon the course in which he had embarked, he would be sent out of the country. Why, could not all this have been done without the Alien bill? If the plot had been discovered when no alien bill was in existence, the right hon. gentleman might have informed the government against which the conspiracy was directed, of the circumstance; and that was all that had been done in the present instance. On this occasion, therefore, the Alien act had been of no efficacy. The principle on which the bill was founded was, that machinations carried on in this country by foreigners against their own governments, were dangerous in the eye of the British law; and, by passing the bill, government took upon itself the task of watching the acts of foreigners, not because they were injurious to our society, but because they were hostile to those who had oppressed them. He had before observed, that foreigners in this country were not very likely to be able to effect much against their governments, by means of money or arms; but, they were able to injure those governments a great deal in one way—he meant by publications. Most of the continental governments were of that description, that the greatest injury which could be done to them was 139 tell the truth of them [cheers]. Was it not very probable that foreign powers would make an application to prevent such publications from issuing from the press, by sending those who were inclined to compose them, out of the country. The right hon. gentleman shook his head? but, such applications might be made, and he had no doubt that they would be made: and then would arise the danger of war, which the right hon. gentleman was so anxious to avoid, if those applications were not attended to. No persons could differ more than the right hon. gentleman and those with whom he came in contact on the other side of the water. The right hon. gentleman said, that it was the policy of this country to acknowledge the South American states, when they should become clearly independent of the mother country: but the French ministers said, that to act in that manner would be to sanction the principle of revolution. He gave the right hon. gentleman credit for having treated such an argument with the contempt which it merited, and, instead of condescending to discuss the point, passed, as it were, to the order of the day. The difference of opinion to which he had just alluded was very strikingly exemplified on the subject of the late attack upon Spain. He believed that the right hon. gentleman was sincere in the disapprobation which in the warmth of his heart, he had last session expressed against the invasion of Spain. But, how was that invasion regarded by the French government? It had recently been proclaimed to the world in the speech of the king of France, with a degree of effrontery, and he would add of impiety, never before witnessed, that Providence had been pleased to bless his endeavours in the "most generous as well as the most just of all enterprises"—meaning the invasion of Spain. Suppose, now, one of the Spanish emigrants in this country were to be incited to write a pamphlet on the subject of "the king of France's speech, and to shew what was the real nature of the Spanish war, and suppose him to express himself, with regard to his most christian majesty, not in such decorous terms as he (Mr. T.) was inclined to observe towards him in that place. If the king of France were to complain to this government on the subject, and there were no Alien bill in force, ministers might say, "If you are aggrieved, you must seek your remedy by English law; the executive 140 power can do nothing for you." But ministers could not give that answer as long as the Alien act was in existence, because the French government would immediately say, "You are bound to comply with our wishes, because you have established the principle, that you are to interfere to put down all machinations against our government." He did not know whether he had made himself understood upon this point [cheers]. It struck him as being a question of deep importance; and he implored the House to act as the supporters of ministers, and not to pass a bill, the effect of which would be to render those ministers liable to the very danger from which they thought it was calculated to protect them; namely, the danger of being embroiled with foreign powers on the subject of aliens residing in this country. He had really been surprised to hear the right hon. gentleman talk of the probability of great captains and heroes coming over to this country, and fitting out mighty armaments against foreign governments. If there was one hon. gentleman in that House who could believe that to be the case, he would do very right in voting for the bill. Certainly, nothing could be more inconvenient than to find, all of a sudden, a vast fleet assembled at Plymouth, having come God knew whence, and going God knew whither! But he had no doubt that some individual, who knew the manner in which a fleet was got together—who was aware that, in order to effect that object, it was necessary to publish advertisements inviting contracts for provisions, stores, &c—would comfort the right hon. gentleman, and tell him that he needed not to be under any apprehension on that score [hear, and a laugh]. The right hon. gentleman had a part to perform, and he had certainly performed it most ably for his colleagues. He had given them a speech with which, under all the circumstances, he thought they ought to be very well satisfied. But, throughout the whole of that speech, the right hon. gentleman had taken care to show that the Alien act was not a thing of which he greatly approved. He had treated it as a drug which was poured down their throats and had hoped that the dose would not be repeated two years hence. For himself, he must contend against the principle of arming government with powers to meet a case that might possibly arise. He thought it the wiser course for govern- 141 ment to wait until a case should arise, which might require extraordinary powers, and then to apply to parliament for assistance. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would inform the House what powers the foreigners in this country would possess of disturbing the peace of Europe, if the Alien act were allowed to expire. If that right hon. gentleman made out a case of real danger, he would give him his hearty vote in favour of government. He was, however, satisfied that there was no danger to be apprehended, and that the Alien bill had its origin in the restless ambition, to use the mildest phrase, of the sovereigns of the continent. The right hon. secretary for foreign affairs had disclaimed this. He had said, that he would submit to no dictation from foreign powers. He believed the right hon. gentleman when he said so. But the right hon. gentleman had not originated the Alien act: he had found it existing when he came into office; and how it had been introduced as a part of the policy of government, he, of course, could not know. At what was called the settlement of Europe, after the fall of Napoleon, the great European powers had, he sincerely believed, entered into an agreement—he did not, of course mean an agreement on a stamp—that liberty should be crushed wherever it was possible to crush it. For this it was, that this country had spent hundreds of millions; for this it was, that they had restored the Bourbons. That family now found they could not maintain their newly-acquired power, unless they were assisted by extraordinary means. They, therefore, addressed the British government in these term?:—"We have spies and large armies to serve our purposes, and if an individual renders himself obnoxious, we can take him up, clap him in a fortress, and he will never more be heard of; but, in your free government, what can you do?" This being the case, it was determined that no persons who were obnoxious to the continental governments should be allowed to find a refuge in England. He was as satisfied that that was the origin of the Alien act, as that he was at that moment speaking [cheers]. It was extraordinary that, at the present moment, when this country was at peace with all the world—when our situation was prosperous—when every man was contented—when all domestic differences had subsided—and when there were no grounds for alarm, parliament, should be called 142 upon to pass a bill, which had no other object than to prevent England from being the asylum of the oppressed. He was anxious that the character which England had acquired of being an asylum for the oppressed of all nations should be maintained. It would, he admitted, be a breach of neutrality, if the British government invited persons who were plotting against their own governments to come to this country, and sent ships to convey them hither. But, under present circumstances, only a limited number of aliens found their way here, to enjoy that freedom which they could not obtain in their own countries; and God forbid that in his lifetime the case should ever be otherwise! The moment a poor foreigner set his foot upon the shores of England, his chains fell from him, and he became as free as Englishmen, and entitled to all the privileges which they enjoyed, except with regard to certain distributions of property, which they were aware before they came here, that they would not be allowed to possess. The right hon. secretary for the home department, however, would not allow foreigners to enjoy those blessings. He set about watching them, in order to discover whether they were engaged in any machinations against their respective governments. He would advise that right hon. gentleman, who must have work enough of his own on his hands, not to undertake to be police-agent for other states [hear]. He did not use the term in an offensive sense; but it really appeared to him, that the information respecting the plot to which the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs had alluded, must have been furnished by some foreign power. He implored the House, at the present moment, when this country was triumphant, prosperous, happy and contented, and all Europe was moved by discontent—provoked by the treachery of their governments, by broken promises, and by assurances of the bestowing of constitutions never performed—to preserve, not a nominal, but a real neutrality, and to deal as fairly by the oppressed, as by the oppressors. This was the only course which England could steer with honour and advantage. He thought, with many other persons, that if England had taken a more decided part a short time since, much of what had happened might have been prevented. But he would not dwell upon that topic: it was wiser to consider the present than to regret the past. Neutra- 143 lity was the policy which England must adhere to, and he opposed the Alien bill on the ground that it tended to provoke a breach of that neutrality. For the same reasons on which the right hon. gentleman had rested his defence of the measure, he (Mr. T.) opposed it—namely, for the interests of England.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he felt it necessary, in consequence of what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, to declare, that government had not received their information on the subject of the plot of which he had spoken from any foreign power.
§ Mr. Tierney
begged to ask, whether the information had proceeded from any persons who had been employed by government to look after aliens?
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he would not have risen at all that evening, had it not been for the very pointed manner in which he had been alluded to by the right hon. gentleman opposite. It was, however, not a little gratifying to him to find, that, after all the blame which had been cast upon government, and after the many propositions which had been made for altering the constitution of that House, the right hon. gentleman himself was candid enough to acknowledge, that not only had the country been triumphant in war, but that with respect to her internal affairs, she was contented, happy, and prosperous. The right hon. gentleman's arguments against the bill were founded upon two assumptions; namely, those which refer to the motives of its first introduction, and to the objects to which it was to be applied, now that it had been introduced. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the Alien act was first proposed, in consequence of an understanding amongst the sovereigns of the continent, that liberty was every where to be put down. Now, he must say, that he had never heard of any such understanding, and that, for his part, no consideration on earth could ever have' tempted him, as an Englishman, and a minister of England, to propose a measure professedly for the internal security of this country, which had been either dictated or proposed by a foreign power. The object of the bill, according to the interpretation of the right hon. gentleman, was, to prevent the distressed from finding an asylum in this country. He could Only meet that assertion, by stating, the 144 well-known fact, that in no instance had that asylum been denied. The right hon. gentleman had mentioned one instance which occurred before he (Mr. P.) was connected with the home department, upon which, therefore he was not prepared to give a decided answer; but he could state, that since he had held the office of secretary to the home department, not a single foreigner had been refused an asylum in this country, either on account of his political principles, or his previous conduct. The right hon. gentleman had said, that, from the period of the Revolution, up to the year 1793, there was no Alien act, and therefore he had contended, that there ought to be no Alien act now. But, did not the right hon. gentleman's own speech prove, that nothing could be more different than the state of Europe in the two periods? What was his own description of the present state of Europe? So agitated was the state of Europe, according to his own representation at the present moment, that every king was regarded by the constitutional party as a tyrant, and every friend to constitutional reform was regarded by the royalists as a rebel. The object of his majesty's government was to maintain a perfect neutrality; and they would neither permit the constitutional nor the monarchical party to make this country the theatre of their machinations. During the government of Spain in 1821, for instance, they would no more have permitted the monarchical party, than they would now permit the constitutional party, to make England, as his right hon. friend expressed it, the workshop of their intrigues. But, though there was no Alien act during the period to which the fight hon. gentleman alluded, the government frequently resorted to a much stronger measure—the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act—a measure which enabled them to imprison a suspected foreigner. It had been said by the late Mr. Windham, that sending a foreigner out of the country was no more than drowning a fish; but, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act enabled the government not merely to drown the fish, but to put the fish in prison. The right hon. gentleman had put the case of a pamphlet, written by an oppressed Frenchman, and had asked whether, if the French government called upon us to send such a man out of the country, the requisition would be obeyed? Now, he did not 145 know what the French government might ask in such a case, but, if it made such a demand, he well knew what would be the answer of his right hon. colleague. In the course of the last ten years many pamphlets of the description alluded to by the right hon. gentleman must have been written, and yet no instance of the oppressive exercise of the Alien act could be cited. If, therefore, they might judge of future dangers from the experience of the past, the right hon. gentleman's apprehensions were perfectly groundless. The right hon. gentleman had cautioned him not to become a police agent for foreign governments. He trusted he knew his duty as an English minister too well to submit to become the agent of any other country. He declared most distinctly and unequivocally, that he never had had the slightest communication with any foreign minister on the subject of the Alien bill. What could he do more than make this unequivocal declaration? He never had yielded, and he never would yield to such considerations as had been suggested by the right hon. gentleman, and he repeated, that he had never had any communication on the subject of this bill with any foreign power whatever. He asked for the bill solely because he thought that the interests of the country demanded it. Why, when it was the acknowledged policy of this country to be at peace, should we suffer foreigners to disturb that peace by making England the theatre of their machinations? The right hon. gentleman had said, that if it were found that machinations were carried on by foreigners in this country, so as to endanger the public tranquillity, parliament might be applied to, but surely it was better that his majesty's government should retain a power which had not been abused, than that such an expedient should be resorted to. The subject of the Alien act had been so fully and repeatedly discussed, that it was impossible to devise any new argument in support of it. He was satisfied that, if this act were repealed at the present moment, they would soon be under the necessity of resorting to much harsher measures. He considered the continuance of this act, under existing circumstances, an advantage to Aliens themselves. The hon. member for Southwark (sir R. Wilson) had assigned a singular reason for his opposition to the measure: he had declared his intention 146 to oppose it, because it was rendered more palatable, because the power was rendered less liable to abuse; or rather because all possibility of abusing it was taken away. He had argued, that Aliens who had resided seven years in the country, were as likely as any others to plot against their government, and yet no precautions were taken against them. This might or might not be consistent with sound policy, but he would ask whether it did not conclusively prove "that foreign governments had nothing to do with this measure, and that his majesty's ministers had not acted on foreign suggestions? They had acted only with a view to English interests; they were ready to permit foreigners to take refuge in this country as an asylum, but not to allow them to desecrate that asylum, by converting it into a scene of intrigue and machination. On these grounds he sincerely hoped that parliament would consent to continue to his majesty's government for two years, the powers which the Alien act conferred.
§ Lord Althorp
said, there were some parts of the speech of the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, which he had heard with satisfaction. He alluded particularly to that part of it in which he had stated; that this was the last time he should apply to parliament for these powers. The right hon. gentleman had stated, some what inaccurately, an observation which he (lord A.), had made on a former occasion. He had not stated, that he should prefer a specific act of the legislature for each particular case, but that he should prefer a general act of parliament, making such machinations as excited the apprehensions of the government illegal, to a continuance of the Alien act.
§ The House divided: For the second reading now, 172. For the amendment 92. Majority 80. The bill was then read a second time.