Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that he rose for the purpose of discharging a duty which he considered to be imposed upon him as a minister of the Crown. His object was, to request that parliament would continue to the executive government, the possession of those powers which they already enjoyed, with respect to Aliens arriving into and residing in this country. In doing this, he felt that he laboured under some embarrassment, the nature of which must suggest itself to every gentleman who heard him. Of late years, the subject had undergone repeated and detailed discussion, and it was probable that every argument in favour of and against the measure was familiar to the minds of the majority of the members present. He was, on the one hand, reluctant to weary the attention of the House by the repetition of arguments with which they were well acquainted; whilst, on the other hand, he was still more reluctant to have it supposed, that he passed over the question in silence, because he considered it a matter of indifference, and not deserving of particular notice. He would therefore prefer to subject himself to the embarrassment occasioned by pursuing the former course, and proceed, certainly as briefly as he could, to state the grounds upon which he proposed to continue the Alien Act, hoping that those gentlemen who considered that he was unnecessarily occupying their time, would excuse him, on account of the motives which induced him to do so.
1333 He begged, in the first instance, to remind the House of the precise nature of the provisions of the Alien act, passed in 1816, which contained material modifications of the act which was in force during the war. The act of 1816, which it was proposed to continue, provided, that every alien should give, at the port where he disembarked, a description of his name and profession, and of the country from whence he came, to an officer appointed there to receive it; and a penalty was attached to a wilful disregard of that provision. With respect to that part of the measure, he apprehended there would be little difference of opinion. It could not be considered at all unreasonable that aliens, who owed no allegiance to the sovereign of this country, should be required to give such a description of themselves as was required by the act. The more material provisions of the act, however, were certainly of another description. They empowered the Crown, by proclamation or by order, to direct an alien to leave this country; and, incases of non-compliance with such order, they authorized the infliction of penalties which he considered by no means exorbitant. For the first offence, the penalty was imprisonment, not exceeding one month. If the offence were repeated, the alien was subject to imprisonment for any period not exceeding twelve months. That was the maximum of punishment. In cases where the secretary of state had reason to suppose that an alien would not pay obedience to the proclamation of the Crown, he was empowered to give him in charge to a messenger, and send him out of the country. It was, however, provided, as a check upon this power, that if the alien should signify to the secretary of state, that he had reasons to assign why the proclamation of the Crown should not be obeyed, the secretary of state should be compelled to suspend the execution of his order, until the alien should state his case before the privy council, and that tribunal came to a decision with respect to it.
He believed he had given a tolerably correct, though a very summary, detail of the provisions of the act. He would now briefly advert to the objections which had, at former periods been urged against devolving such powers on the ministers of the Crown. He would not do this for the purpose of detracting from the just force of those objections, but only to con- 1334 sider what real weight they possessed. The first objection to the act, and that which had been put forward in the most prominent manner, was, that it was a complete departure from the ancient policy of the country with regard to aliens, which it was said had always afforded them a hospitable reception into this country, and liberal treatment whilst they remained in it. He did not wish to detract from the character which this country had justly obtained for the hospitable conduct which it had manifested towards strangers. No doubt it was a proud trait in the character of the country, that an alien, on arriving in it, had always found an asylum from persecution, and had been treated with every degree of kindness and liberality, consistent with the interests of the country itself: but he would say confidently, and he was prepared to prove, that there was nothing in the policy now pursued with regard to aliens, which would not bear comparison with the policy which had been pursued at any other period of our history; and that this country was as much entitled, at the present moment, to the noble praise of affording an asylum to the oppressed, and a refuge to those who were unable to find refuge any where else, as it was at any former time. It would be a great fallacy to contend, that at any former period it had been the policy of this country to admit aliens indiscriminately, and yet some argument very like this had been advanced in that House. From what had been said on former occasions, one would really be inclined to suppose, that the interest of aliens was the paramount object of the policy of this country. A reference to history, however, would prove, that a proposition of that nature could not be maintained for a moment. At no period of our history had there existed an indiscriminate admission of aliens. He would show, by a reference to historical documents, that there had always been restrictions imposed upon foreigners, as binding as those which existed at the present moment. On a former discussion the opponents of the Alien act had placed much reliance upon that enactment of Magna Charta, which provided, that aliens should not be excluded from the kingdom "nisi, publice prohibiti sint," which lord Coke had interpreted to mean, "unless prohibited by act of parliament." But that passage, he must think, applied to merchant-strangers exclusively, and not to aliens generally.
1335 He would now direct the attention of the House to the situation in which aliens stood in this country, at the early part of the reign of Henry 4th, and he begged to observe, that he would only allude to those periods of our history, when this country was in a state of peace, because, if he referred to a period of war, he should be liable to the objection, that the policy of the government, with regard to aliens, was materially different in time of war, from what it was in time of peace. Henry 4th, then, not by an act of parliament, but by his own authority, issued an order to the keeper of the port of Dover, in which he recited the inconveniences which had resulted from the indiscriminate admission of aliens in England through that port—"Considerantes damna et incommoda quæ nobis et regno nostro, per subitos et crebros adventus alienigenarum, nobis inconsultis evenerunt et poterint evenire, vobis præcepimus." The order then went on to direct, that the keeper of the port of Dover should not allow the aliens who were there, to pass the limits of the town; but detain them there, until his majesty should know the reason of their coming, and signify his pleasure thereupon. At the same time king Henry sent another order to the keeper of the opposite port, Calais, directing him expressly, not to allow any foreigners to depart. The phrase employed in the order was certainly not very classical or Ciceronian, namely, "escapare" from that place to England. In the Calais order, however, an exception was made in favour of "mercatores," and this tended to support the opinion which he had ventured to state above. The reign of Elizabeth had always been referred to as the period of our history which contained the strongest proofs of the liberality which had uniformly been exercised towards aliens in this country. He should, however, be able to show, that even in that reign the liberal treatment of aliens had always been a consideration subordinate to the interests of the community. In her treatment of the Spanish exiles, Elizabeth was certainly liberal in the extreme; but she was far from extending the same degree of liberality to all foreigners indiscriminately. She had, however, motives for granting indulgence to Protestants; but she granted no such indulgence to the Roman Catholics; and in his opinion, she was very right. The first document to which he would refer in the reign of Elizabeth was a letter to the 1336 Lord Mayor of the city of London, and the officers of the liberties about it, from the Privy Council, dated the 27th of September, 1573, to the following effect: "And whereas their lordships were informed that moche infection grewe, by reason that many families of the said straungers dwelt pestred up in one place, that they shold cause such inmates to be seperate, and no more to remaine together then they shold see convenient to be suffred in the place of the abode; And further, where it was informed that divers straungers were there, that professing no religion nor frequenting any divine service used in this realme, her Majestie's pleasure was they shold be dispatched out of their jurisdictions by such a tyme as shold be by them prescribed." On the 21st of February, 1573, another letter was written from the Privy Council to the Lord Mayor of London, and others of her Majesty's officers within the liberties adjoining the city of London, which was as follows:—"That whereas upon a viewe of straungers remayninge thereabout, their lordships were informed, that there were 1,500, which being repaired under colour of religion, were of no church, nor registred in any boke. Her Majestie's pleasure is they shold be commaunded to departe the realme within a tyme to be by them prescribed: and in case any upon notice hereof wold not associate himself to any churche, for that it could not be thought but that this proceeded rather of collusion than otherwise, he shold not be admitted, but commaunded to departe; and for the execucion of the premysses they shold conferre togather, and with the Lord Byssbopp."
After having read those documents, he thought it would be impossible for any one to argue, that foreigners were never placed under restraints in England until the introduction of the Alien act. Here was proof, that in the reign of Elizabeth, the boasted period of liberality to strangers, aliens were subjected to restrictions much more grievous than any which they now endured; and it was necessary to remark, that even Elizabeth's favourite Flemish exiles were not exempted from those restrictions. Again, on the 20th of October, 1574, the Privy Council wrote to lord Cobham, who was then lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, stating that the council were given to understand that there was a far greater number of strangers in Sandwich than, by her majesty's grant, were 1337 allowed, and directing inquiry therein; and that if such were found to be the case, the overplus should be removed to other places more remote from the sea. On the 8th of November, 1574, the Privy Council sent an answer to a letter which had been received from Sir Christopher Heydon, the mayor of Lynn, stating that the foreigners in Norwich wished to depart and dwell in Lynn. In the answer it was declared that "the Queen will in no wise permit it; but if they will remain where they are, and conform themselves to order, the Queen is pleased to suffer them; if not, they may depart the realme, and have passports accordingly." A letter of a similar purport was at the same time written to the Mayor of Norwich.
In the reign of James 1st, precisely the same policy was pursued. Nay, at that period, aliens were not permitted to exercise any handicraft profession, or to sell by retail. It was unnecessary for him to state, how greatly improved the situation of foreigners was, in these respects, at the present day. In consequence of various applications which had been made to the Crown respecting the treatment of foreigners, James appointed a special commission to take the subject into consideration. The directions which the king gave to the commission were as follows:—"We therefore, entering into due and serious consideration hereof, being bound in our kingly office in the first place to be vigilant and careful of the welfare and prosperous estate of our own people, having been informed that strangers use much more liberty than is allowed unto them by the statute, especially in the using and exercising of handicraft and manual trades, and in selling by retail: Our purpose is, that the marchant of foreign nations resorting hither for trade of marchandise be freely entertained and used, and that the stranger who selleth by retail, or useth any handicraft or manual trade, be moderated as in your wisdom ye find to be most convenient. Ye shall once in every year cause a true survey to be taken in writing of the names, qualities, and professions, and places of habitation, of all strangers born. Our will and pleasure is, that such strangers born put themselves under our royal protection, whereas by the laws of this realm they ought not to work at all or use such trades but as servants to the English. But they are not to draw hither an increasing number of masterless men 1338 of handicraft trades, to the extreme hurt both of English and strangers, but that such either speedily return into their own countries, or put themselves to work as hired servants, according to the true meaning of the laws." He thought he had now done enough to show, that the policy which the country at present pursued with regard to aliens, was not, to say the least, more severe than that which had been pursued at former periods of our history.
Another objection which had been made to the act was, that the powers which it gave to the executive were liable to abuse. It was impossible to deny, that that objection applied with some degree of force. But he would ask, whether there were not securities against the abuse of the powers conferred by the bill? In the first place, the alien possessed the power of appealing from the order of the secretary of state to the privy council. But there was a still more effectual check against abuse in the account which the secretary of state must render of his proceedings to parliament. If, from any personal motives, or to gratify the passions of another, he had abused the powers which had been intrusted to him, would he dare to come down to that House that night and ask for a continuance of those powers? When it was urged, that the powers which he now called for might be abused, he would appeal to facts, and say, "Look at the past, and judge from that of what is likely to be the case with respect to the future." He wished the House to understand that he did not mean to say, because there had been no abuse of the powers conferred by the act, that was a reason why the act should be continued. He merely wished to show, that there had been no abuse of those powers; because he felt that if an instance of that nature could be produced, it would be an insurmountable impediment in his way on the present occasion.
It appeared from a return which had been laid on the table, at the instance of a noble lord opposite, that the whole number of aliens sent out of the country under the provisions of the act, since the year 1816, amounted to only seventeen; of these, eleven or twelve were individuals connected with Buonaparte, and of course their banishment from the country rested on peculiar grounds, exclusively applicable to their case. The number of persons, therefore, who had been sent out of the 1339 country under the operation of the act, who were unconnected with Buonaparte, amounted only to five or six, during a period of nearly ten years. He could speak with greater certainty of the proceedings during the last two years, in which k had become his duty to enforce the provisions of the act. In 1822, persons had been sent out of the country; and in 1823, only one person had been subjected to this proceeding, and that was under very peculiar circumstances. He alluded to Count Bettera.
Another argument which had been advanced against the Alien act was, that it was not required for any domestic purposes, but merely that it might be made subservient to the wishes of foreign powers. The best answer which could he given to that objection was, to show what had already taken place. Within the last ten years, no individual had been sent out of this country at the suggestion of any foreign power. But it was said, that if a foreign power should make an application to have an individual sent out of the country, and that application were disregarded, the said foreign power would be offended. Again, he would only say, that no instance of such application had occurred. It was also alleged, that the act had the effect of discouraging aliens from coming to this country, because they knew that they would derive no protection from the laws, but would exist here only by the sufferance of a secretary of state. He thought that when foreigners found that during the last two years, only one individual had been sent out of the country who had resorted to the threats of assassination and suicide, their dread of the powers confided to the secretary of state would be materially diminished. He would, however, refer to facts, to prove that there had been a progressive increase in the number of foreigners arriving into, and resident in, this country since 1818. [Mr. Hobhouse said, across the table—"That is owing to the circumstances of the times."] What the hon. member said was perfectly true; and he was very glad of the hon. member's admission. The circumstances of the times had led to a great resort of strangers to England: and he rejoiced that this country had afforded them an asylum. For in no single instance had any alien been refused permission to enter England, on account of the domestic troubles in which he had been engaged in his own country. No inquiry 1340 was made respecting the causes which induced aliens to come to England; but the portals of the country had been thrown open wide for the admission of all. In 1821, the number of aliens residing in this country was 24,000; in 1822, 22,500; in 1823, 25,000; and in 1824, notwithstanding all the declamation which had gone forth on the subject of the Alien act, the number had increased to 26,500.
It was said, that whatever might be the intended exercise of this power by the government, still it was liable to abuse, by being used as an engine of menace by the subordinate officers to whom the execution was intrusted. He denied that it had been with his knowledge so intrusted, nor would he ever consign the exercise of such a measure to subordinate agents; and he would declare, that in no case had the representation of any individual respecting aliens been attended to in the manner supposed for the last ten years. The powers of the act were reserved, if necessary, to be applied, upon the responsibility of the minister, on public grounds, and not upon any individual authority. He pledged himself, as secretary of state, for that mode of applying the provisions of this act, and no other.
In former discussions, it had been said, that the bill was unfair, inasmuch as it placed all aliens, of whatever character, or of whatever duration of residence in the country, upon the same footing. He felt the force of such an argument, and had endeavoured to remove it; for which purpose he meant to propose, that all aliens who had resided for the last seven years in this country should be exempted from the operation of the bill. This provision would, he believed, exempt at least ten thousand persons from the Alien act. He hoped that this would be deemed an important alteration, by those who were opposed to the details of the bill as it originally stood; and that the introduction of the clause of exemption to which he alluded would be regarded as a proof, that however erroneous might be his view in proposing the renewal of this act, at least it was not with a wish to possess himself of arbitrary power.
He had hitherto occupied himself in removing certain objections which had been made to the measure; but, in removing them, he by no means considered that he had furnished exclusive reasons in support of such a bill: on the contrary, he admitted that the power, the continuance of 1341 which he called for, was extraordinary—that it was novel—that it was in principle a new measure, and one which did not belong to the established law and policy of this country. He was bound, therefore, to give some proof, not only that this was a power not fairly liable to abuse, but also that the necessity for its enactment preponderated, beyond the value of the principle from which it must be considered, in some degree, a departure. It was, he knew, very difficult, on such an occasion, to give what might be called mathematical proof of the necessity for the measure, and of the precise amount of danger arising from the uncontrolled residence of aliens in this country. He could however declare to the House, that he was perfectly satisfied, from all the inquiries which his official situation enabled him to make, from all the information which the present circumstances of Europe afforded, from every view which his most matured observation could suggest, that, if this power were now withdrawn, three months would not elapse before parliament and the country would have reason to regret that abandonment, and feel themselves under the necessity of resorting, under the emergency of the occasion, to some equally summary, perhaps more severe measure, for the attainment of the same object. There were in this country at present, 26,500 aliens: of these nearly 20,000 resided in London. The ordinary number of aliens resident in the metropolis had been of late much increased, by the troubled times upon the continent, which had, under various circumstances, and in consequence of these troubles, augmented, within the present year, the number by at least 1,300. In alluding to this latter augmentation, it was unnecessary for him to say one word which was calculated to give offence to the most ardent and enthusiastic lover of liberty in this or any other country. It was, however, probable, that among the aliens who had recently sought an asylum in this country, were men of ardent spirits, warm feeling, and excited passions. Did he complain of such men? No; he rejoiced that this country was able to afford them that asylum which their condition required; and as long as they used their domicile here for their own peace, and safety, and subsistence, so long, he hoped, would they receive a hospitable protection. But, was it unreasonable for the government to say to such men, "We give you an asylum here, 1342 and while we give it to you, and secure to you the peace and repose which it is calculated to afford, so long we are entitled to expect in return from you, the observance of peaceable conduct, not calculated to disturb the policy of this country, or commit it clandestinely with foreign powers?" The insular situation of this country afforded peculiar facilities to perturbed spirits, to foster and prepare their machinations against the states from which they may have emigrated. Was it right that they should be permitted to concoct or mature such plans here? Was it right that they should be permitted to take such hostile steps towards powers in amity with England—the country affording them an asylum—as would, of necessity, disturb the neutral policy which this country had judged it expedient to maintain? Was it right that such aliens should be quietly permitted to arm themselves for future experiments upon their own governments while reposing under the protection of British law? He would suppose the case of an individual who had fled from his native country, and obtained an asylum in this, availing himself of the facilities which were here within his reach, to plot against the colonial government of a nation with which Great Britain was in amity; was it fit that such a person should make London the place in which he was to erect a machine to disturb the country from which he had escaped, and to do so by violating the peaceful demeanour which he was bound to observe in the country which had received him? Was the case he supposed an imaginary one? No, it was not fancy, but fact; and circumstances of which he had had occasion to take cognizance warranted him in stating to the House, that this country was selected as the spot best calculated to be made the scene of such a plot, for disturbing another government. What did the ministers of this country do upon the discovery? They saw the parties, they reminded them of the existence of the Alien act—and of its powers, and warned them against putting government to the unpleasant necessity of enforcing them; they took the mildest course; they did not send the parties out of the country, but they corrected their conduct by remonstrances, such as he had described, and informed them, that however willing the government always was, to afford an asylum to foreigners, it could not permit that shelter to be violated, by being converted into an 1343 opportunity for the indulgence of their own political machinations, and for effecting, through this country, their own political objects in the countries from which they came. Was that an unreasonable return to ask for the asylum afforded?
He was not aware that any other topics remained for him to touch upon in the present discussion. It was his intention to propose the renewal of the bill for the same period as was proposed last year; namely, for two years, with the exemption upon which he had already touched of those aliens who had resided for seven years in this country. He trusted that, considering the great resort of foreigners for which this country was remarkable, and the necessity of cultivating all just and proper means of preserving the march of peace, and not disturbing that system of neutrality which was the best calculated to maintain so desirable an object—he trusted that upon all these considerations the House would not be unwilling to grant the government the renewal of the bill in the manner which he proposed. He concluded by moving "That leave be given to bring in a bill to continue the said act."
lamented the necessity he was under of following the right hon. gentleman over the beaten track which he had considered himself under the necessity of pursuing. Before he did so, however, he could not help reminding the right hon. gentleman now, as he had done two years ago, that there were many individuals in the House of Commons, who did suppose that when he (the right hon. gentleman) had entered upon his career as one of the first ministers of the Crown, he would have abandoned the renewal of a measure which both in this country and on the continent was looked upon by the best friends of rational liberty, by those who were reckoned the guardians of freedom, as an utter violation of the principles which ought to regulate the government of a free nation. The right hon. gentleman had said, that he was afraid of wearing out the House by trespassing upon their patience, while he recapitulated the arguments so often used in support of this bill. Now, for his own part, he entertained very different apprehensions from those expressed by the right hon. gentleman; for he rather feared that his friends who surrounded him, wearied out by a long and hopeless defence of the constitution of the country—a constitution the validity of which, until of late times, was never doubted—would be- 1344 come dispirited in their perseverance to oppose the dangerous engine of the erection of an absolute minister in this country-—a minister invested by parliament with the power of telling any man who touched what was often called the sacred soil of Britain, "You shall depart at my will and pleasure, for here you shall no longer find an asylum." This was the engine, and this the principle^ which he and his friends were almost wearied out by fruitlessly opposing. He for one must say, though he might be deceived, that it was understood, not from the right hon. gentleman opposite, but certainly from one of his colleagues, in the course of the debate of last session, that after that year they were to hear no more of this odious and unconstitutional measure. The observation was used for the purpose of diminishing the opposition to the bill; and it had its effect. Indeed on coming down to the House that night, he had been informed, that the right hon. gentleman did not intend to push the bill to the extent to which it had formerly been carried, and that he meant only to ask for its continuance for a single year. In short, he was given to understand that this measure was to die a merited death, and was to receive no panegyrics from the hon. gentlemen opposite. That this measure had never been of the slightest: use, the returns which he held in his hand, and to which he should presently allude, proved most conclusively. It had had no other effect than that of casting a stain on the character of the people of England. It had had no other effect than that of destroying the character which England once possessed for a generous attachment to liberty, without regard to any particular sect or party; or if she inclined to any party, espousing the cause of conquered virtue in preference to that of victorious tyranny. So decided was he in his opposition to a bill fraught with so much evil, that he would make use of all the forms of the House to prevent its again passing into a law. He would, for such a practice, quote the authority of a right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Wynn); and when he alluded to that right hon. gentleman's conduct on the present occasion, and contrasted it with the past, he meant not to oppose present virtue, to former failings; for such they must be in the right hon. gentleman's estimate, or else he would not have changed his sentiments. But the right hon. gentleman was report- 1345 ed to have said, in the debate of 1816, that "to this bill he would oppose his physical force, and bodily resistance." Those were the right hon. gentleman's reported words. They had been quoted last year, and remained uncontradicted. The right hon. gentleman was probably absent at the time, but a gentleman filling his situation in the government could never be away from his seat, without having some friend remaining, who could have corrected any misstatement which might have been made respecting him during his absence. He therefore felt authorized, on the present occasion, in assuming that the words were correctly reported, and to point out to the recollection of the right hon. gentleman, the argument which he had then used, in contradiction to the vote which he was afraid the right hon. gentleman had come down to give on the present occasion.
Before he did so, however, he would advert to the course pursued by the mover of the present bill. The right hon. secretar3'had explained to them—what had unfortunately become proverbially notorious; namely, the powers which ministers could wield under the authority of this bill. He would not now enter into the discussion of those powers. His objection was to the principle of the bill itself, which went to subvert the foundation upon which the British constitution rested. And to do so for what purpose? For a paltry and base compliance with that odious system which bound Europe to perpetual chains. He detested this subserviency; and he knew not, if it were continued, to whom the people of Europe could look up for the final punishment of those who had shewn themselves to be unworthy of that dominion, with which the Almighty had intrusted them for wise purposes, but which they had converted to gross uses. Although, if England pursued her policy, the sufferers under this tyranny might have to wait a long time for their retribution, still he would predict, that, if the right hon. secretary did not live to see the day, his successor certainly would, when his government would have reason to repent the incessant renewal of this odious act, which bound Great Britain in a common cause with the tyrannic sovereigns of Europe against their oppressed people, sovereigns, who were unworthy of the success which had unfortunately attended their schemes, and who had devoured, one by one, every 1346 free state which had opposed their base dominion; and who would, no doubt, conclude their acts by endeavouring to subvert the liberties of that country, which they had made the dupe of their practices. The right hon. gentleman had alluded to what he called "the ancient policy" of this country; and, in doing so, had fallen into the often-refuted blunders of those who had previously embarked in the same line of argument, and had quoted from Magna Charta, the words "nisi ante prohibiti fuerunt," referring them to some previous law, and forgetting sir Edward Coke's explanation, that the words did not refer to a law, but a mere declaration of council. So that really the right hon. gentleman had by his blunder, fallen into the same pit which had been already nearly filled by so many of his predecessors. The right honourable gentleman, too, forgot, when he talked of the "merchant stranger" being only alluded to in Magna Charta, that at that period there were no gentlemen going the grand tour in those days and that the words "merchant stranger" comprehended every class of persons who could be found in the country. The right hon. gentleman had referred to two cases of interference with foreigners in the reign of Henry the Fourth. He (Mr. H.) was perfectly aware of the existence of those cases; but let the House reflect for a moment on the period of our history which the right hon. gentleman had selected—a period in which not only the privileges of foreigners were not secured, but in which there was no law even for the natives of this country. He need scarcely remind the right hon. gentleman, by what means Henry the Fourth ascended the throne. He need scarcely remind him that there was a disputed succession at that time, and that there were a number of persons on the other side of the Channel ready to espouse the cause of Richard the Second. This was sufficient to account for the issuing of the orders in council against these foreigners; for they were only orders in council. The constitution had not been invaded, by an act of parliament even in that unsettled reign. Surely the right hon. gentleman must know, that that was no time in which to seek for a constitutional precedent, and that when he was quoting it, he was pressing an unpalatable proposition, by arguments altogether untenable. The right hon. gentleman had referred also to the reign of queen Elizabeth. One of her proclamations, it 1347 seemed, was directed against Scotchmen. It was well known that that princess entertained a great jealousy with regard to James, who was looking forward to the throne, and that it was the constant policy of the queen and the parliament to discourage his pretensions. Besides, there was at that time, a party in the country ready to league with the Spanish crown in any project which might expel from the throne a Protestant sovereign so obnoxious to them as Elizabeth. No inference, therefore, as to the constitutional question, could be fairly drawn from this period. What had been the conduct of James the Second at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when there was probably a greater influx of foreigners into this country, than at any other period? It might have been supposed that James 2nd, whose disposition was sufficiently t3'ran-nical, and who was at that time leagued with Louis 14th for the purpose of altering the established religion and overturning the liberties of this country, would have been willing to conciliate the French monarch by persecuting the protestant refugees; yet no such powers as those for which the right hon. gentleman now contended were exerted against them.
The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Wynn), in his admirable speech in the debate of 1816, had made a powerful use of this fact, and had pointed out, that during a period of one hundred and sixty years, there had been no proof of the Crown assuming the exercise of this power; and he had referred to the mortification of Charles 2nd, who, on finding a foreigner take particular liberties with his favourite mistress the duchess of Portsmouth, and seeing himself compelled to the nightly penance of witnessing these familiarities in public at the theatre, inquired of his minister, if he could not proceed in a summary way to get rid of the offender, was informed, that neither the law, nor the practice, afforded him the power of gratifying his majesty's inclination. Those who referred to the arguments used in the years 1792 and 1793, would find, that no attempt was at that time made to put this bill on the basis of precedent. On the contrary, it was admitted to be quite novel, and, to be only justified by the extraordinary circumstances of the day. Mr. Burke had declared, that "if the Crown possessed such a power in time of peace, it would be too great for liberty:" and lord Grenville, at the same time, had said, that the measure 1348 was "only justified by the emergency, and by self-defence."
The right hon. secretary had spoken of the difficulty of bringing forward a mathematical proof of the necessity for this measure. What the right hon. gentleman meant by a mathematical proof, he did not know. The expression seemed to be as much out of place, as that which he used in the year 1822, when he had observed that it was a measure suggested by "a temporary or a permanent emergency." It had been observed, on that occasion, by an hon. and learned friend near him, that the expression smacked of the right hon. secretary's residence in the sister kingdom. If, by a mathematical proof, the right hon. gentleman meant the number of persons who had been sent out of the country, there was not the slightest necessity for the renewal of the measure. If only sixteen persons had been sent out of the country in the last ten years, what danger could possibly arise from depriving his majesty's ministers of this unconstitutional power? In the year 1816, it appeared that no aliens had been sent out of the country; in 1820 there had been none; in 1822 there had been none. In 1817, there had been the count de las Casas and his son Emanuel. In 1818, there had been two ladies and four Frenchmen. In 1819, there had been madame Montholon and two or three others. In 1821, there had been four; and in 1823, one, namely, the count Vito Bettera de Wodopich. Such was the class of persons, to provide against whose machinations, it was declared necessary to arm his majesty's ministers with this extraordinary and dangerous power. The next argument advanced by the right hon. secretary in support of this measure was, an assurance to the House that the powers thus vested in the secretary of state would not be abused. "You may depend" said he, "that I will not abuse this power, nor has it hitherto been converted to any improper purpose;" but, in answer to that, he must repeat what had been stated by his hon. and learned friend (sir J. Mackintosh), when this question was before under discussion. The law itself was the abuse. The abuse, the flagrant, the monstrous abuse, was the infringement on the constitution. The right hon. gentleman said, "I never will intrust the execution of this to subordinate agents." But, he would ask the House, what security was there in that precaution? Were not general warrants 1349 protected in the same manner? Was it not said, that they were only issued by the secretaries of state? And yet, they were ultimately upset and abandoned, not because they were palpably abused, but, because the power winch they assumed was so liable to abuse, that it could no longer be tolerated. The right hon. gentleman had talked a great deal of the responsibility of the secretary of state; but really, without meaning to say any thing uncivil, he was quite astonished, that the right hon. gentleman, knowing, as he did full well, how that House was constituted, could have the face to talk of his responsibility. Do they not all know right well how that House had given its sanction to measures of all descriptions? What was the course that had been generally resorted to? The invariable practice in all cases of difficulty was, to move for an indemnity to save his majesty's ministers. To indemnify them for what? Not for their own act, indeed, but for the act of the parliament itself. Parliament granted the power, and if any complaint should be made of abuse, the right hon. gentleman would only have to come down to that House, and say, "You have conferred this power upon me, and you must now ratify it: it is rather hard for you to complain of the exercise of a power which you yourselves have conceded."
He was ashamed to occupy the time of the House, in replying to these threadbare arguments, and he feared as he was much indisposed, that he should be very imperfect. The right hon. gentleman said we afforded a shelter to foreigners, and they had no cause to complain. Why, the other day the emperor of Morocco afforded protection to some unfortunate Spaniards—and that too, let him remind the House, at a moment when it was most desirable, for it was when they had been refused an asylum in a British colony. At a time when a party of constitutionalists, flying before the triumphant French armies, had sought a shelter at Gibraltar, they had been refused admission and were obliged to seek an asylum from the emperor of Morocco, and they had obtained it. Now, the emperor of Morocco had just as much hospitality as the right hon. gentleman opposite. He gave them permission to remain in his dominions, and he allowed them all those rights and privileges which the right hon. gentleman conceived to be sufficient for one country to grant to the subjects of another; 1350 namely, just to put their foot upon our soil, to breathe the same atmosphere, and, if they conducted themselves properly, to linger out an existence amongst us [hear].
He now came to that part of the bill which the right hon. gentleman called a great concession. He said, that there were ten thousand foreigners resident in this country, whom he meant to exempt from its operation. Why, to be sure, he was glad to get any thing; but he well remembered that when his hon. and learned friend (sir J. Mackintosh) proposed the very clause which the right hon. gentleman now brought forward, the right hon. secretary opposed it with all his might. His hon. and learned friend had proposed, that all persons who had resided for a certain period in this country, should not be liable to the effects of the measure, and now the right hon. gentleman himself came down and proposed the very alteration which he then so strenuously opposed. If he could be prevailed upon to give his assent to this bill in any shape whatever, he should applaud even this tardy consent to an improvement, which never should have been denied. But this had nothing to do with the grand objection which he felt to the principle of the bill. There would still be in this country a number of persons subject to the control and absolute will of a single minister. If the right hon. gentleman had come down and said, "Grant this measure for the present, and for a limited time only, at? the expiration of which it shall expire; but there is now a strong necessity for its enactment," then, perhaps, one might be induced to give it a reluctant assent; but, if the measure was to be passed now, he really could see no reason why it should not continue for ever. It is true the right hon. gentleman had not, on this occasion, treated the House with that fanfaronnade, which it had heard on a former one. He had not talked of that "revolutionary demon" and he knew not what, spoken of by the Irish attorney general, that was not yet plunged deep enough in the Red Sea. In 1802, the measure had been defended on account of the establishment of Bonaparte in his power; in 1814 the "revolutionary demon" was still abroad; in 1818 the evacuation of the French fortresses was the necessity, on account of the restoration of the Bourbons; and, in 1820, lord Londonderry had argued for its enactment, on account of certain elements of mischief which he had stated were at work 1351 on the continent. All these causes had now ceased, and the right hon. gentleman was obliged to confess that he was not able to adduce any "mathematical proof of its present necessity." But he had not even given the House a moral proof. Was he afraid that foreigners residing in this country would plot against our government? Lord Londonderry had said that this was the case. Did the right hon. gentleman dread that they would plot against the government abroad? Yes, this was the ground upon which the right hon. gentleman supported this execrable measure; and this was the very ground upon which, he (Mr. H.) felt himself called upon most especially to oppose it. This country had been too long the accomplice of the detestable Holy Alliance. No man could have travelled abroad, and paid the least attention to foreign politics, and not have perceived, that the governments of the continent looked upon this odious measure as part and parcel of that bad system of policy, by which they endeavoured to subjugate all the nations of Europe. Englishmen travelling on the continent had frequent opportunities of observing the light in which the measure was viewed. He was now speaking upon a subject, on which he had himself had the benefit of a little practical experience. During his residence at Milan, he had endeavoured to rescue an Englishman from the oppressive power of the Austrian government. The Englishman, whilst at the theatre, had been greatly incommoded by the rude conduct of an Austrian officer, who refused to take off his hat, though politely informed that by wearing it he completely intercepted the Englishman's view of the stage. The Englishman, finding that politeness produced no effect, proceeded to remonstrate, in very insulting language, with this valiant Austrian. The Austrian did not resent it at the moment—for individually his countrymen did not seem fond of fighting—but adopted such measures as showed that the insult had not passed without his notice. Accordingly, the next morning he obtained an order from count Zurlo, commanding the Englishman to quit the Milanese territory in eight-and-forty hours. The Englishman came to him (Mr. H.), and requested him to remonstrate with the count against this order. He accordingly did so. But, on mentioning the subject to that nobleman, he immediately got this answer, "Why you would do exactly 1352 the same thing under your Alien act." He (Mr. H.) replied, "No; bad as we may be, we should never think of sending a foreigner out of our territory, because he had desired an Englishman to take off his hat at the opera." The count appeared incredulous, and in return to the arguments which he had used for his countryman, merely said, "The air of the Milanese will prove unpleasant to your friend: he will enjoy his health much better in the south of Italy." He could prove at their bar—if indeed proof were necessary—that similar treatment had been experienced by several of our countrymen, in various parts of the continent, and had always been defended by the same sort of argument. The Alien bill was always quoted, in defence of any oppressive measures taken against Englishmen. It was only in the autumn of last year, that an English gentleman was stopped by the police at Rome, who was travelling towards Greece, with a passport of Mr. Secretary Canning, He immediately asked, why he was stopped? And was told, that there were some individuals whom it was determined not to allow to travel in the Neapolitan states, or, indeed in any other states that had been recently disturbed: and that of those individuals he was one. He remonstrated against this decree, stating that he was merely in transitu, to another country. But his remonstrances were in vain; as his name was placed on the list of those who were supposed to espouse liberal principles. He cited this case as a proof, that there was a determination among the members of the Holy Alliance to establish a general system of European police, to make our Home Secretary, if he would condescend to the task, one of their runners, and to employ him, not so much in persecuting the subjects of their particular states (though he would show that even that had been done), as in furnishing them with a pretext for harassing such of our own subjects as avowed principles opposite to their own, and happened to be residing in their dominions.
It was said, that a measure like the Alien act was rendered necessary by the activity of the revolutionary faction with which Europe was at present infested— that that faction like Archimedes, only wanted a place on which to put its lever, to enable it to overturn the world, and that it was most unfitting to allow it to find that place in a country like our own. 1353 Now, he put this question to the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs—whether he was most afraid at this moment of the people of Europe, or the power of their legitimate despots? He gave the right hon. secretary credit for fearing the despotic and monarchical spirit of the tyrants of Europe much more than he did the liberal spirit of their oppressed subjects; and, if he was correct in that opinion, he thought that it was no less the interest than it was the duty of the right hon. secretary to change the policy which the country for some years past had been pursuing, and to show the allied sovereigns, peaceably though distinctly, that lie saw through their designs, and was no longer disposed to give them the support and countenance of England. For his own part, he had hoped, that when the right hon. gentleman felt himself in full possession of the powers of government, he would have adopted a new system upon this particular point, and that he would not have continued to compromise the national honour by a base servility to the wishes of the allied monarchs. The right hon. secretary might depend upon it, that if we continued much longer in our present track, it would not be our allies, but ourselves that would suffer; for no state that compromised its honour was ever long able to maintain its interests-He was glad to find, in the papers which had been recently laid on the table, that the right hon. gentleman had declared his determination not to suffer this unholy combination of kings to extend their principles to the provinces of South America. He had now another opportunity of abstracting his country from the yoke under which it had been for some time placed; he had now an opportunity to change its policy with regard to them; first of all by discontinuing the Alien bill, and next by repealing the foreign enlistment bill. By taking those measures, he would show the powers of the continent, that anew era had arisen in the policy of Great Britain. We had not stipulated— at least we was not aware that we had stipulated—to continue those bills so long as their continuance should be demanded of us. He knew, indeed, that they had been introduced into parliament under certain arrangements, and with a view of furthering, to a certain extent, the plans of the Holy Alliance; but, he would ask, had riot a great and singular change taken place since that time, not only in their 1354 principles, but also in their proceedings? Even the marquis of Londonderry had found himself compelled to disclaim the principles which they avowed at Troppau, before they proceeded to march against Naples; and the right hon. secretary and his minister had remonstrated at Verona against the doctrines which they promulgated before they commenced their infamous aggression upon Spain. Supposing, however, that they had not spoken a word—supposing that they had never ventured a syllable in justification of deeds which called the blush of shame into every; manly and ingenuous countenance—still, the deeds themselves would be sufficient to induce us to make some change in our line of policy. Sufficient, did he say? Did Englishmen, in that parliament—in which liberty was yet able to elevate her voice, and in which she sometimes spoke in tones that astounded and alarmed the tyrants of the world—did Englishmen want any excuse for either proposing or advocating such measures as were calculated to promote their own freedom, and along with it the general freedom of mankind? Was there any man in the House so pusillanimous as to suppose, that the allied sovereigns would dare to remonstrate with the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, if he should propose to give up the Alien bill now and for ever? No: though they might feel acutely upon the subject, they would never dare to utter a word in the shape of remonstrance; they would only see that their conduct had taught England to detest their designs and to follow a better and a wiser policy He therefore trusted that the right hon. gentleman would show the Holy Alliance, that he would no longer be even considered as their accomplice. The British government ought to be like Cassar's wife, beyond suspicion, both as to its internal and its foreign policy. The present bill affected its character in both relations; it affected it in its internal policy, because it did away with that ancient constitutional regulation that no man's liberty should be placed at the arbitrary will of any minister, responsible or not: it affected it in its foreign policy, because, it furthered the attempts of the Holy Alliance to leave no resting-place for the sole of a freeman—no asylum in which he could exalt his voice against the abettors of tyranny.
The right hon. secretary for the home department had asked, whether we would 1355 allow the subjects of other states to plot in this country against the government of their own. To this question he would reply—"Yes, he would." He might be told, that in using such language, he was using the language of the French convention of 1793. But, he denied the fact. He was not using its language; or, if he was, he was only using it in common with our brave and high-minded ancestors, who would not allow the liberty of strangers to be invaded, because they might, by chance, conspire against the tyrants of their own country. To be afraid of the plots which the people were now forming against their tyrants, and not to be afraid of those which their tyrants were forming against the people, did not, in his opinion, differ much from fearing the sheep, when we ought to be afraid of the wolf. He had frequently heard it said upon the continent, that the plan of the Holy Alliance was, to terrify England, if they could, into acting as their friend, and then, if they could not, to cajole her until she acted as their dupe. The government had now the opportunity of showing that band of conspirators against the dignity of mankind, that it would neither be bullied by them on the one hand, nor cajoled by them on the other—that it would disconnect itself, peaceably and for ever, from all future participations in their projects, and that it would seek its own interest, tranquillity, and glory, in a free, liberal, and independent policy. In recommending the government to pursue that course, he was not seeking to create any new system, but merely to bring back the old— that system under which our ancestors had lived free, and under which they had distinguished themselves, not only as the patrons of liberty, but as the generous dispensers of it to others. He was no Utopian, but he wished the House to choose between those who desired to make their country an accomplice with the tyrants of Europe, and those who had at all times stood forward the friends and benefactors of mankind. With that view, he should conclude by moving a resolution, which, at the same time that it would enable him to place his own sentiments on record, would enable the House to make the choice he had mentioned. The hon. gentleman concluded, amidst loud cheers, with moving by way of amendment,
"That this House is of opinion, that the Alien bill is a disgrace to the Statute-book, and that to renew it, either perman- 1356 ently, or for any period however limited, would be highly injurious to the character and interests of Englishmen abroad, and destructive of the principles of their constitution at home.
"That this House, moreover, looks upon the Alien bill as a badge of servility, connecting the British government with the league impiously miscalled the Holy Alliance; and this House, having witnessed, with horror and alarm, the monstrous aggressions of that alliance on the rights of individuals, and on the independence of nations, will never sanction a measure by which the English nation may appear to make a common cause with the abettors of tyranny against the victims of persecution."
rose, to say a few words upon this bill, in consequence of the allusions which the hon. member for Westminster had made to a speech which he had formerly delivered in opposition to it. He contended, that as the circumstances of England at that time and at the present were widely different from each other, there was no inconsistency in his voting against it at that time, and in his voting for it at the present, especially as a clause was now introduced into it, which obviated a great many of his former objections. Of the Alien bill, with all its severe enactments, he had always been a supporter during the war; because he conceived it to be a measure which was required by paramount necessity. He had never, however, supported it on the plea, that the powers which it granted belonged, as matter of prerogative, to the Crown. He did not formerly believe, nor did he now believe, in the existence of any such prerogative; on the contrary, he was convinced, that this bill would never have been submitted to parliament, if the existence of such a prerogative, or the exercise of it, could have been satisfactorily made out by legal evidence. During the period of the French Revolution, such a measure was unquestionably requisite; but he had considered, that the necessity of its continuance had expired with the revolution. An alarm was naturally enough excited, in 1793, when France began to assume those appearances which the hon. gentleman seemed desirous to have introduced into this country [No, no!]. He contended, that the arguments of the hon. member would go that length. The hon. member had quoted a passage from a speech, which he (Mr. W.) had 1357 delivered in the year 1816, upon which he had sought to fasten a charge of inconsistency. Now, he could not answer for the accuracy of any representation that might be sent forth of his sentiments. Where the hon. gentleman had found the statement he had referred to, he could not tell; but he had himself never seen any representation that could at all justify the statement of the hon. member; namely, that he had expressed his determination to oppose the measure "by physical force and bodily resistance." He perfectly well remembered when the question was under discussion, that at three in the morning, on the motion for bringing up the report, an hon. and learned friend (sir J. Mackintosh) proposed a clause similar to one which was introduced in the present bill; and he had felt it his duty, in urging the propriety of having a satisfactory discussion on the clause, to state, that he certainly should avail himself of the forms of the House, in order to procure the subject the full consideration to which it was entitled. His hon. and learned friend would probably recollect, what had passed on that occasion; and it would be found to be materially different from that which had been stated by the hon. member for Westminster. With regard to the present bill; he confessed he did not vote for it from any apprehension of danger from the machinations of foreigners against our domestic tranquillity, but from a wish to prevent this country from becoming a focus for foreign agitators to devise machinations against the domestic tranquillity of their own countries. He considered that our government would be guilty of a breach of neutrality, were it to permit such machinations to be carried on with impunity within its territories; and he therefore contended, that it was necessary that some power should be vested in it, whereby it could check such plots, as soon as they should come within the scope of its knowledge. With regard to the observations which the hon. member had made upon the conduct of the governor of Gibraltar towards the Spanish refugees, he would merely observe, that their dismissal was absolutely rendered necessary, by the actual circumstances of the garrison, which had of late years been very small, in consequence of the general wish for reduction that existed at home. The Alien bill, qualified as it was by the clause which exempted from its operation those foreigners who had taken up their domicile 1358 in this country, appeared to him to be a measure sanctioned by a wise and cautious policy; and he must say, that the manner in which it had been executed during the last eight years, had quieted many of the apprehensions which he had formerly entertained, with respect to its practical operation. He should therefore give it his cordial support.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
said, he rose thus early on the present occasion, because the state of his physical strength was at present such as would not permit him to wait for a later hour in which to address the House. He would commence the few observations he had to make, by bearing his testimony to the correctness of the statement which his right hon. friend had just made, respecting the words which he had used in opposing this measure in the year 1816. He recollected his right hon. friend's speech well; and without entering into the merit of it more particularly, would simply observe, that he should avail himself, with great satisfaction, of the assurance which his right hon. friend then made, and had since repeated, that he did not believe that the Crown ever possessed the prerogative, for which another right hon. gentleman was now contending—he meant the prerogative of sending foreigners out of the kingdom at its sole will and pleasure. His right hon. friend said, that there was a wide difference between the situation of the country in 1816, and its present situation in 1824. He acknowledged that there was; but he left it to the House to decide, which of the two years formed the more specious defence for passing an Alien bill; the year 1816 being the first year after the conclusion of the war which had convulsed Europe to its centre, the year 182i being the eighth year of an uninterrupted peace. As he had not seen his right hon. friend in his place, when this measure was under discussion in 1822, he supposed it had then met with his disapprobation. And if it had then met with his disapprobation, he should like to know, why his right hon. friend anticipated more danger from revolutionary principles in 1824, than he had anticipated from them in 1822? The right hon. secretary who had introduced this bill, had put forth a defence of it, which he had Conducted with much dexterity and no little conciliation. He had made great use of a figure of speech called "euphemismus" by grammarians, a figure which consisted in giving agreeable 1359 names to substances that in themselves were quite the reverse. He had never beard a man describe absolute power by more pleasant circumlocutions than those which the right hon. secretary had that evening used; but, unfortunately he could not for his life forget, that though this absolute power might be fairly exercised—though it might only be exercised over a small number of individuals—though it might never be applied to unworthy purposes—it still was absolute power, and therefore ought not to be intrusted to any individual. It was painfully irksome to him, both in point of physical force and of mental lassitude, to have been engaged for the last ten years, in giving his opposition to an Alien bill. In such a situation, the mind gladly laid hold of any circumstance, which showed that the opposition which it had directed had not been altogether without some effect upon the discussion. It was satisfactory to him to see that the clause, for which he and others had contended in vain in 1816, was now introduced by ministers themselves; and he should be consoled to the end of his life, with the grateful reflection, that he had thus had some share in withdrawing 10,000 out of 26,000 individuals, from the absolute and arbitrary power given to the government, by this odious and impolitic bill. As to the mildness with which the bill had been executed, he would merely ask, did the House suppose that it would have been executed in the same mild manner, if its operation had not been submitted to the rigid scrutiny of public men? Had not that rigid scrutiny rendered the members of government careful, not only of the manner in which they themselves exercised it, but of the manner in which their inferiors exercised it? Had not the discussions, which always attended such scrutiny, also produced their effect, not only in mitigating the exercise of the power which the bill gave, but also in mitigating the power of the bill itself? He therefore thought that ministers had no right to urge the mild manner in which the bill had been carried into execution, as an argument for again expecting the bill to be passed. Referring again to the arguments of the right hon. secretary, he observed, that that right hon. gentleman had employed another figure of speech a little too often in the observations which he had that night addressed to the House. The figure of speech to which he alluded was 1360 the hysteron proteron. He had answered the objections which he had supposed might be made to the measure, before he had said one word in explanation or defence of the reasonableness of it. It was incumbent upon him, as mover of the bill, to have said something in favour of the advantages which it would confer on the country; or, if it conferred no positive advantages, of the evils which it would enable the country to avoid; but, upon neither of these topics had he offered a single observation; not a word on its advantages; nor even on the necessity which might be supposed to dictate it. The right hon. gentleman had said, however, that the bill was not a deviation from the ancient policy of this country. That point he, perhaps, ought to leave the right hon. gentleman to settle with his right hon. colleague who sat near him (Mr. Wynn). But, he would not do so. Allowing all the cases which the right hon. gentleman had quoted in favour of his argument to be correct, what did they amount to? That, in the course of four hundred years, there had been only five acts of arbitrary power committed upon the aliens who had entered the country, and that, too, be it recollected, before the formation of the constitution— before the period of any thing like a constitutional administration—before the commencement of that period, from which alone it was safe to take any judicial precedents. Did the right hon. gentleman know how many precedents there were for the issuing of general warrants? There were above a hundred; and those too, not in the barbarous days of Henry 4th., but beginning with those of Charles 2nd., and continuing down to the time of George 3rd., when lord Camden, to his honour as a judge, declared their illegality; sanctioned, too, by the great lord Chatham, who, equally to his honour as a peer of parliament, condemned the use of them which he had adopted as a secretary of state; practised, likewise, by all his predecessors, from the Revolution downwards, without their legality having ever been disputed. It did not appear that any of the five cases on which the right hon. gentleman rested his argument, had ever been decided to be law. The first of them took place four hundred years ago. Then there was a leap of two or three hundred years, which brought them to two cases in the time of queen Elizabeth; then two or more in the time of 1361 James 1st, and from that time downwards "ipsissimum silentium." The same arguments which the right hon. gentleman had urged to prove the existence of this prerogative in the Crown, had been previously urged in defence of the right of the Crown to levy ship money, and to dispense with the laws—questions, of which one had brought the monarch to the scaffold, and the other had driven his son from the throne. The judges of both periods, resting upon some stray instances, in bad times, in which those prerogatives had been exercised, decided in favour of the monarch against all the sacred principles of government; and by so doing betrayed the governments which they served, and plunged them both into the abyss of ruin. He held, at that moment, in his hand an opinion of an eminent lawyer, taken in 1792, as to the right of the Crown to refuse admission to aliens into England. He should not read it to the House, but should confine himself to stating its substance, merely asking the Mouse to consider what sort of lawyer he ought to be, whose opinion would be of the greatest weight when given against the Crown. First of all, ought he not to be a person whose feelings were not in favour of the people? Then, ought not he to be a person whose bias was strong in favour of the Crown? Then, ought he not to be a person whose learning was undisputed, and whose knowledge was unrivalled in those early periods of our history, in which the prerogatives of the Crown were shaped into form by the interposition of parliament? Having described a lawyer of this description, he knew that he had no occasion to summon before them the image of Mr. Sergeant Hill. That distinguished lawyer had said, "I am of opinion, that there is no prerogative of the Crown which entitles it either to expel foreigners from the country, or to refuse them admission into it. All prerogatives rest on the common law, and the common law rests upon usage; and, so far from the usage being in favour of such a prerogative, there is even usage against it; as may be seen in a statute passed in the third year of Henry 5th. enabling him to exclude certain subjects of the duke of Britanny from the country." Now, he would ask the House to consider when that statute was passed. Was it passed when the king's power was weak? No; it was passed in the same year in which here returned victorious from Agincourt, and in which 1362 the emperor of Germany came to visit him, on the plea that he was the greatest and the bravest hero of his age. Let it be recollected, that this was not his opinion, "non meus hic sermo;" but the opinion of Mr. Sergeant Hill, who was not a declaimer, who was not a revolutionist, who was not an incendiary, who was not even a Whig. [A laugh]. The right hon. secretary had said, "It mattered little what the prerogative of the Crown was, since it had at present no power but that which it received from parliament." If that were the case, why did the right hon. gentleman contend so strenuously that it was not an innovation in 1793 that had placed the king's subjects in a different situation from that in which they were placed two centuries ago? After such an admission, he thought himself entitled to lay aside all further legal consideration of the subject. Another objection which he had to this bill was, its extreme liability to abuse. He left out of consideration the promises which the right hon. gentleman had made of the future, and looked only to the past; and he saw that, under this peace Alien bill, nine persons had been sent out of the country. The war Alien bill, it should be observed, was essentially different from this; and those who had voted for the former, might, with perfect consistency, vote against that which was now under consideration; because it was a peace Alien bill, it gave to ministers the most absolute power over all the foreigners of the kingdom, who might be deprived with impunity of the privilege of the Habeas Corpus act, and of the blessings of trial by jury. This act placed all those who visited our shores at the mercy of government, who might at a moment's notice, and without assigning any reason, send out of the kingdom every foreigner they pleased. But, it was said "This power has long existed, and has newer been abused." The argument then came to this—that arbitrary power might be tolerated by a British House of Commons, provided it was not called into action for unworthy purposes. Such an argument was more dangerous, and, if it were persevered in, would, at length produce the effect stated by Mr. Burke—he believed in his speech at Bristol—when he said "I believe we shall all come to think, at last, with Mr. Hume, that an absolute monarchy is not so bad a thing as we supposed." The right hon. secretary had said, in defence of this measure, that no 1363 person had complained of the Alien bill: but the answer to this was, that the operation and constitution of this bill, placed a foreigner in such a situation, that it was impossible for him effectually to make his complaint. Suppose an Italian, or a Frenchman, suddenly sent out of this country and landed on a distant shore. How was a person so situated to cause his voice to be heard in the British parliament, or the cabinet council of England? He admitted, that the free debates, and the fearless discussions on all great public questions, in a popular assembly like this, tended greatly to prevent the evils which might be apprehended from arbitrary measures, such as this confessedly was. But, what was the inference to be drawn from this argument? It was, that they ought to preserve inviolate those free principles from which their free institutions had emanated: it was, that they ought, on no account whatever, to tolerate a principle of an arbitrary nature: it was, that they ought to reject every precedent of this kind. He knew it might be said, that arbitrary power gave to the government an opportunity of acting with a degree of promptitude which, under the forms of a limited monarchy, the government did not possess. But, what was the effect of such an argument? Let the House mark the mischievous consequences of softening down and explaining away, the apprehensions which were naturally felt at the existence, in any shape, of arbitrary power. Was not the effect to lessen our horror at a system which should always be reprobated? That was the end of all such arguments; although, in using them, he did not mean to impute to the right hon. secretary that he brought them forward with such a sinister intention. When they were told, that the exercise of arbitrary power was very convenient, in one instance, and, in another, that it was extremely moderate—when they heard these specious statements made from hour to hour—they at last incurred the danger of forgetting, or of giving up, the great principle, that the forms of a free government were absolutely necessary to check the growth, and counteract the force, of that formidable power, which, when once admitted, seldom failed to go on in an increasing ratio. Would the right hon. secretary, or those who supported the bill, contend, that the midnight police of Paris, that the dark system of espionage which prevailed in that city, was better than the 1364 plain, open, and manly course, which the British constitution recognized r Doubtless they would not: and yet the present bill proceeded on that secret principle. Some allusion had been made by his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, to the conduct of the emperor of Morocco; and he had heard it said, that the reasoning with which this bill was supported would place Middlesex on a level with Morocco. Now, he would contend, that if, during a period of seven years, a foreigner conducted himself with propriety in the kingdom of Morocco, and it so happened, that a virtuous man sat at that time on the throne of that kingdom (a most extravagant supposition, and one which he only used by way of argument)—he would contend, that that foreigner would be placed in precisely the same situation in Morocco, as that in which, under the provisions of this bill, he would find himself were he to come to England. In either case he must trust to the forbearance, the humanity, and the justice, of the person or persons having in their hands the absolute power of banishment. They might use it if they pleased, and as they pleased. The wanderer had no protection or security from the law, which did not spread its shield over him. He might be subjected to the visitation of caprice—he might be assailed by the hand of injustice. And where was he to demand redress? Such a power he would not intrust to any hands. If Marcus Aurelius sat on the throne of Morocco, he would oppose the existence of such an arbitrary authority, as much as when he saw it placed in the hands of the barbarian, whatever his name might be, who now governed that country. It was to the power which he objected, and not to the person by whom it was wielded. Those who used the stale and common arguments in favour of this measure, to which he had so frequently alluded, were, in fact weakening the grounds and removing the basis, on which all free governments must be erected. It was not because those unfortunate people who came within the scope of this bill were not expelled, that he objected to the measure; but because they might be expelled, by a summary process, if the government thought fit He must confess, that he had heard with sorrow the argument, that this power had not been abused, advanced so strenuously and so frequently. The House might rest assured, that no government, ever 1365 tolerated the exercise of arbitrary power, without laying the foundation for future tyranny. It was a weak argument to point to the virtues of those who at any time were intrusted with unbounded authority. Very often the worst men succeeded the best, as if to show that their holding this power could not conduce to any beneficial end; and, possibly, that their very virtues had wrought evil, by reconciling the people, in the first instance, to an authority, which, had it fallen into other hands, they would have resisted. It had been once said to the emperor of Russia by an hon. friend of his distinguished for his taste, and a disposition to compliment, that the beneficence of his character stood in the stead of a fixed constitution for his people: to which the emperor was reported to have answered in a manner which doubtless befitted him, "Even if what you say be true, I am only a happy accident," Now, he (sir J. M.) would rather say "an unhappy accident," if his beneficence of character hindered the Muscovites from doing that which would effectually prevent such happy accidents in future; if it prevented them from establishing a limited sovereignty, and withdrew their attention from the formation of free and liberal institutions.
§ Mr. William Lamb,
after adverting to the policy of this country, from the time of the Reformation to the seven years war, during which entire period so little favourable was she to the indiscriminate visit of foreigners, that her great object was, to set all the Protestants of Europe in a league against the Catholics—a measure which, he contended, was reasonable in itself, and founded on a policy which, though necessarily liable to fluctuate with circumstances, had in view the best interests of the country—proceeded to advert to the arguments against the present bill, which the hon. and learned member for Knaresborough had derived from historical analogy, nothing, he observed, was so unsafe, nothing so uncertain—in reasoning, as analogy; but, if any one thing could be more unsafe and more uncertain than another, it was historical analogy. It was impossible to know the circumstances precisely as they existed; and therefore it became very easy to depreciate what was done at this time, or what was done at that time, and to scatter sarcasm and invective on affairs, that probably were entitled to be very differently treated. The hon. member for Westminster had taken a very 1366 extensive view of the occurrences of late years, and had made a number of observations on the present situation of Europe. In the course of his speech, he had been exceedingly liberal in censuring and reprobating the continental governments, as not coming up to his ideas of liberality. Now, he begged leave to ask, looking at the present situation of Europe—lamenting as much as the hon. gentleman could do, that civil and religious liberty did not flourish as he could wish it (and lie undoubtedly wished that every nation should obtain liberty, suited to his own habits, manners, and character)—he begged leave to ask, whether the present situation of Europe, degraded as it was described to be, ought to be attributed to the ambition of the continental sovereigns, to the wickedness of their ministers, or to the impracticable designs of that very liberal party, who now lamented over the evils by which the continent was afflicted? Surely, those who wished the people of the continent to resist the measures of their governors, ought to know, that to attempt to relieve a country from arbitrary power, without the least chance of success, was in fact a folly. France, ha presumed, was one of the nations to which the hon. member had adverted, as groaning under arbitrary authority. Now, he would ask the hon. gentleman whether, when on his restoration, the king of France, prejudiced as he must have been in favour of those who had followed him into exile, and had faithfully attached themselves to his family, nevertheless threw himself magnanimously on the country at large, and attempted to form a middle and moderate system of government, the liberal party so eulogised by the hon. member, had not acted on the principle of combining against his majesty, and resisting all the efforts which he was anxiously making for the benefit of their general country? The king of France experienced that which Mr. Fox once complained of, as the greatest political difficulty that had ever occurred to him; namely, that "the violence of party spirit threw every thing into the hands of an enemy, rather than make the least concession to a friend." He lamented to say that these injurious efforts of the liberal party on the continent, were seconded by the violent and indefensible language that had been used towards the various sovereigns of Europe in that, and in the other House of parliament. Such lan- 1367 guage could do no good. It might be productive of much mischief. There was, besides, no courage in it. What was meant by the persons by whom such language was held? Did they mean to charge the various sovereigns of the continent with the possession of the absolute authority which, in fact, they had received from their people; or did they mean to charge those sovereigns with an abuse in the manner in which they had exercised their authority? If the latter, he begged to observe, that tyranny and oppression and injustice, were not confined to monarchies. The hon. member for Westminster, must be quite aware, that republics, whether democratical or aristocratical, had ever exhibited a spirit, if not of as great domestic tyranny, of much greater foreign aggression than monarchies. Nor, in his opinion, was the abuse which had been so freely bestowed, in the British parliament, on the continental sovereigns more wise than it was brave. Such a course was calculated to urge and to excite then* to acts of which otherwise they would not have been guilty. He begged to call to the mind of the hon. and learned member for Knaresborough what had been said by lord Clarendon of the first earl of Portsmouth, viz. that "finding himself treated less handsomely than he deserved to be, he became less careful to avoid such conduct as deserved slight treatment." And the same remark might perhaps be made, with reference to the allied sovereigns. At all events, before any attempt was made to stir up ill feeling, and excite insurrection, those who wished to make such an attempt ought to consider, whether they could do more for those persons on whose passions they wished to work, than to give them a dinner, a few toasts, a certain portion of violent speeches, some five or six thousand pounds, and an inefficient vote in that House. This, he believed, was all that had been done for a people, many of whom were now driven into a miserable exile. He was friendly to the present bill, because he thought that, in matters at all connected with foreign policy, it was more necessary to give extended powers to the government, whatever it might be, than in cases of an ordinary nature. From its superior information, and its more complete acquaintance with the foreign relations of a country, it was fitting that greater powers should be given to a government, with reference to any measure that bore upon 1368 its foreign policy, than in any other case whatever. Seeing the state of Europe at the present moment, recollecting that some individuals had thought proper to interfere with the internal concerns of foreign states—recollecting what had fallen from the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, as to the policy which the cabinet of England wished to pursue—and recollecting that there was an evident disposision on the part of some persons in this country to mix themselves up with the affairs of foreign powers—a disposition he doubted not, which arose from the noblest motive, from the warm love which Englishmen bore to liberty, from that superabundance of talent and activity which so eminently distinguished this country—a disposition which he admitted to be praiseworthy, but which was not therefore the less dangerous, the less embarrassing to this country, or the less offensive to foreign powers—feeling very strongly on these points, he should vote for the bill as a proper and necessary measure. He did so the more readily, because he believed that the right hon. secretary of state for the foreign department would never countenance any act that was calculated to tarnish the honour of the country; and that he would be as far from giving up any principle which appeared to be beneficial to mankind, as any minister that had ever gone before him.
§ Lord John Russell
said, it was with extreme surprise he had heard the speech of his hon. friend: because the whole tenor of that address had been totally hostile to the spirit of the British constitution, and utterly subversive of that freedom of speech which they ranked amongst their most valued privileges. They were told by his hon. friend, that those who spoke of the Holy Alliance, or of the allied sovereigns, ought to speak of them in measured terms. They were told, that it was not wise to offend them; and that personal remarks might produce unpleasant consequences. But his hon. friend, who thought it not right to insult those who were at the head of armies, had felt no compunction in blaming the unfortunate Spaniards, who were now reduced to a state of misery and distress, which ought to have excited commiseration, if not a nobler feeling. He would ask whether there was any man in that House who believed that the indignation of the Spaniards against their government had been roused by 1369 violent speeches uttered in or out of this House? And yet, his hon. friend had represented such to be the way in which the Spaniards had been excited to insurrection. Such a representation was a complete perversion of the fact. He had lately had an opportunity of conversing with one of the most eloquent and illustrious of the Spanish lovers of liberty, who had made some observations on the subject, that must have produced an impression on the heart of every generous man who had heard him. That noble individual had said, that he and his friends had not been incited to those efforts, unhappily frustrated, by any thing that had recently occurred in the world; that they had not been incited to them by the occurrences of the French Revolution, or by the publications of Mirabeau and the other French philosophers; but that it was the speeches made in the good old times of the English House of Commons which had produced so powerful an effect on their minds, that they could not help endeavouring to realize for their own country the benefits which they found were enjoyed by this. His hon. friend had tauntingly asked, "What good do your dinners and your gifts do to the Spaniards?" He would answer, "We would do more if we could. What, however, we have done has not been done with the intent to excite insurrection, or to produce a revolutionary war; but as a testimony that there are still some hearts among the people of England, who cherish the love of liberty, in common with all the free souls scattered over the face of the earth." Thus much he would say in defence of those who were accused for what they had done in respect to Spain, and for what they had said against the Holy Alliance. He wished now to address himself briefly to the question before the House. Allusion had been made by the right hon. president of the Board of Controul to the events of the year 1793, when our own constitution was threatened, and when, in support of that constitution, the Alien act was passed. In 1816, though the same case could not be made out for adopting strong measures, yet it might be 6aid, and it was said by lord Londonderry, in defence of the bill, that the revolutionary spirit was not extinguished, and that it would be improper to part with the anchor which had secured us from the storm. The bill, however, was only renewed for two years at that time; which proved that it was only intended for a 1370 temporary purpose. It was what was termed in law "an exception" to the general policy of the country. It was supported on the ground of emergency. Now, he would try the present bill on this principle of emergency. How was the country situated at the present moment? She was in a state of profound peace. The government of France, which was said to have wanted support in 1816, was now perfectly established; and Spain had fallen before the Holy Allies. Yet, the right hon. the president of the Board of Controul, who opposed the bill in 1816, actually finds reasons for supporting the measure in 1824! But, it was contended by the right hon. secretary of state, that although the bill might not be called for by our domestic situation, it was required by the sense of what was due to foreign states. The right hon. gentleman argued, that we ought not to allow this country to be the focus of continental revolution: that we ought not to allow plots and conspiracies against foreign governments to be concocted in this country by foreigners. But, how would this bill operate to prevent them? Did the right hon. gentleman, whose mildness in the exercise of the functions with which he was invested no one admired more than he did, order spies to be set upon all foreigners coming into this country? If so, it was a most intolerable tyranny. But he was sure the right hon. gentleman did no such thing: he was sure the right hon. gentleman abstained from all interference with private affairs; he was sure the right hon. gentleman would not order a police officer to watch whither the carriage of a foreigner was driven in the evening, or who called to ask him how he did in the morning. To all this, he was sure, the right hon. gentleman would never descend. But if he did not, how could any imputed plots be detected? And see the state into which things might thus be thrown. The right hon. gentleman maintained that the English government were bound to declare to foreign governments, that no conspiracy, menacing their safety, existed in this country. But should such a conspiracy be discovered by those foreign powers, they would, according to the right hon. gentleman have a right to reproach the English government for not having informed them of it, and to make the omission a subject not only of remonstrance, but of war. The French government, when it collected any information, might say, "We have been 1371 apprised, through our own channels, that certain revolutionary conversations have taken place in coffee-houses, but you never informed us of them: what is the use, then, of cajoling us with your Alien act?" By passing this bill, they did, in fact, give foreign powers an opportunity of interfering in the concerns of this country by calling them to act up, not merely to the specified, but to the implied powers which it contained. The provisions of this bill invested the government with an absolute power, and such a power he detested. He knew it might be said, that the free spirit of this country would prevent that power from being abused; but he feared, on the other hand, that such laws were calculated to corrupt and destroy the free institutions of our free constitution.
§ Mr. Pelham
spoke in favour of the measure, and maintained, that very injurious consequences would have resulted if the Alien bill had not been in existence during the late-war.
said, he could not allow the House to divide until he had answered some of the observations of the hon. member for Hertfordshire. Until that night he had not imagined that the House of Commons was so humbled that any hon. member, especially an hon. member who represented a county, and called himself independent, would have had the hardihood to rise in his place and read a lecture to the House, because, forsooth, many of its members had, for years past, felt it their duty to use the strongest language which they could command, in reprobation of the miscalled Holy Alliance, for the perfect iniquity of their hostility against the liberties of mankind. He, with others, had again and again raised his voice as high as he could in reprobation of their acts; and, if he could command the talents of the hon. member for Hertfordshire—talents which the hon. member had that night abused—he would devote those talents solely to their reprobation. No language could possibly be too strong, when speaking of the conduct of the continental sovereigns. He repeated, that if the hon. member would lend him his eloquence, he would instantly apply it in their reprobation. Although he, and those who thought with him on the subject, had not found the House of Commons to go the full length of their condemnation of the conduct of the Holy Alliance, he hoped they were not so mean and so subjugated as to receive the hon. gentleman's 1372 lecture with submission. He could not help thinking that the hon. gentleman would have to account to his constituents for his speech that night. Would the hon. gentleman say, that there was nothing in the war which France last year made on Spain to call down the execration of every lover of liberty? Did the hon. gentleman forget what had been said on that occasion by members on the ministerial benches, both in that and in the other House of parliament? Had any language which had been used on the opposition side of the House been stronger than that to which he now alluded. The hon. gentleman therefore, had lectured both sides of the House. Was not the conduct of France towards Spain such as to call for the curses of the friends of liberty? Would the hon. member lecture those who reprehended that conduct.
§ Mr. W. Lamb
spoke to order. He said, he had distinctly reprobated the conduct of France towards Spain.
resumed. He would only say, that his impression had been this—that he should have left the House a disgraced man, if he had left it without joining his noble friend in reprobating the comments which the hon. gentleman had applied to the sentiments expressed by those who condemned the late war, and who, he trusted in his heart, would continue to condemn it. But was the hon. gentleman so infatuated as to think that matters could remain as they stood at present? Though Spain was prostrate now, was it likely that she would lie prostrate long? And if she did, was there any safety, any hope, for the liberties of England? The hon. gentleman spoke of strong language. He (Mr. H.) had used as strong epithets in speaking of the conduct of the Holy Alliance as any member of the House. He desired to be considered, at the then moment, as repeating every one of them; and he only forbore to repeat them from a consideration for the valuable time which he was occupying. He had over and over again called them tyrants, and he now called them tyrants once more. The present bill should have his opposition in every stage; because he considered it unnecessary to the protection of this country. It was, in fact, a part of that system of tyranny which the Holy Alliance exerted all their influence and power to promote. Though there might be periods when the government of this country 1373 ought to be intrusted with such powers, the present was not the time in which any man who wished well to the cause of liberty could desire it. In the present state of the world, when people were driven from their homes by the persecution of despots, England was the place to which they should naturally look for shelter and security. To pass this bill would be to repel them, to refuse them the rights of hospitality, and thereby to further the projects of tyranny. Nor could it be fairly said, that the power created by the bill had never been abused by ministers. How could it be so said, when they remembered the cases of general Gourgaud, of madame Montholon, and of Buonaparte's Italian physician? Madame Montholon, it was well known, had been refused to land with her sick child, who, if he was rightly informed, died before they could reach the opposite shore. The Italian physician had been refused in the same way, though he was sick; and, instead of being sent, as he requested, to the south of Europe, in consequence of the state of his health, he was ordered to the north, under the provisions of the Alien bill. But, whether the power had been abused or not, it was enough for him to know that it was capable of abuse, in order to justify his determination to refuse it; and he trusted that the majority of the House would be of the same opinion.
§ Mr. Warre
said, he was not prepared to vote for the resolution of the hon. member for Westminster, though he concurred with his noble friend, in the regret he had expressed at that part of the speech of the hon. member for Hertfordshire, which alluded to what he had called the democratic party in Europe. He would ask the hon. gentleman, whether it was not that very democratic party which had given spirit and efficiency to the army of Europe in 1813, and to the series of exploits which led to the fall of Paris? He would further appeal to facts, whether the democratic spirit had taken the mischievous turn ascribed to it, until the allied sovereigns had manifested a disposition to break faith with the people to whose energies they had been indebted for victory? If the hon. gentleman wanted historical facts, he would refer him to the edicts of Prussia, in which the divine right of kings had been openly asserted, and to the manifestoes of the combined sovereigns, in which the same 1374 principle had been as openly avowed. The barbarous murder of the German writer he was as far from approving as any man, but it was a contest of extreme principle between the popular and the sovereign parties; and he was persuaded that, if the combined sovereigns had shewn a disposition to maintain their pledges, and preserve good faith with the people, Europe would not since have exhibited, either the violence of anarchy, or the "dread repose" of despotism.
§ Lord Althorp
maintained, that nothing but the most urgent necessity could justify the House in granting such a power to his majesty's ministers, as was given by the provisions of this bill. The speech of the right hon. secretary, was an answer to what had been stated on a former occasion, and what he seemed to think was likely to be repeated op the present. Bat what reason had the right hon. gentleman assigned for bringing forward the measure now? Merely that the secretary for foreign affairs might prevent plots from being formed in this country against foreign governments. The sole ground, therefore, upon which the House was required to legislate, was the danger to which foreign countries might otherwise be exposed. But if the law, as it stood, was not sufficient to prevent such plots, why did not ministers bring in a bill to remedy the defects of the existing law, instead of claiming to be invested with arbitrary power? That would have been the constitutional mode of proceeding. He should vote certainly against the bill, and for the amendment, if it was pressed to a division; although he confessed he would rather it had not been proposed. He agreed in the spirit of the amendment entirely; but he thought that some members might be inimical to it, who nevertheless were disposed to give their votes against the general measure. For this reason, he could rather have wished that the hon. member for Westminster had been contented to record his opinion of the conduct of the Holy Alliance in some later stage of the bill, and suffered the short question of "Ay, or no," to be put in the beginning.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he should not I avail himself to any extent of the privilege of reply. There were now two questions before the House: his own proposition for leave to bring in the bill as already described, and the amendment of 1375 the hon. member for Westminster. The hon. gentleman had described the Alien act as a disgrace to the Statute-book, and had called upon the House to concur with him in that opinion. The hon. gentleman himself might so consider it, but it was rather too much to expect that the House, by whose authority it was placed on the Statute-book, should so stigmatize a measure which they had sanctioned with their approbation. The hon. gentleman had also called upon them to express their abhorrence of the conduct of the Holy Alliance—another suggestion in which he was confident they would not concur, as it would amount to little less than a declaration of war. But, not content with making general remarks on the conduct and policy of the administration, he, the hon. member, had further proceeded to erect himself into a severe verbal critic, taking some words which had escaped from him (Mr. Peel) as the subject of his animadversion. Now it must be obvious to the House, that in the warmth of debate many expressions escape from members, and from none more frequently than from himself, which, in their cooler judgments they would not be willing to adopt. He was not prepared to defend the strict grammatical propriety of every word he made use of, and therefore he would not refuse the corrections with which the hon. gentleman might be disposed to favour him. The first complaint of the hon. gentleman was directed against the expression "mathematical demonstration." He was not aware that, in the ordinary acceptation of language, there was any gross impropriety in making use of such a phrase, but if, as the hon. gentleman seemed to think, there was any thing ungrammatical or inelegant in the combination, it was far from his wish to contest the point. The hon. member's next complaint was against the expression "permanent emergency" which he had made use of two years ago. The hon. gentleman had, however admitted, that he was privileged to make such mistakes, as he had been six years connected with the government of Ireland. Now it so happened, that the hon. member, in his speech of the present evening, had himself made a similar mistake, and, what was worse, without being entitled to take advantage of the same excuse; for the hon. member had accused him of having tumbled headlong into a pit, which was already filled with the carcasses of those 1376 who had preceded him [hear and a laugh]. The noble lord had said, that the only object of the bill was to prevent plots against other powers. This was a mistake. He proposed it with a view to English interests alone, nor did he think it too much to require from those who sought refuge in this country, that they should not make its metropolis the scene of plots against foreign powers with whom we were in amity.
§ The House divided: For Mr. Hob-house's amendment 70. Against it 131. Majority 61.
|List of the Minority.|
|Allen, J. H.||Monck, T. B.|
|Althorp, visc.||Moore, P.|
|Anson, hon. G.||Newport, sir J.|
|Barrett, S. M.||Nugent, lord|
|Benyon, B.||Ord, W.|
|Bernal, R.||Palmer, C.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Palmer, C. F.|
|Calvert, C.||Pelham, S. C.|
|Calvert, N.||Philips, G. jun.|
|Campbell, hon. G. P.||Powlett, hon. W.|
|Cavendish, H.||Pym, F.|
|Clifton, lord||Rice, T. S.|
|Cradock, S.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Crompton, S.||Robarts, G.|
|Denison, J.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Ellice, E.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Evans, W.||Scott, J.|
|Ellis, hon. G. A.||Sefton, earl of|
|Gaskell, B.||Smith, R.|
|Graham, S.||Sykes, D.|
|Haldimand, W.||Tierney, right hon. G.|
|Hume, J.||Warre, J. A.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Western, C. C.|
|James, W.||Whitbread, W.|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Jones, S.||Wilkins, W.|
|Kennedy, T. F.||Williams, W.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Williams, T. P.|
|Lambton, T. G.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|Lloyd, sir E.||TELLERS.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Leader, W.||Russell, lord, J.|
|Macdonald, S.||PAIRED OFF|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||Abercromby, hon. J.|
|Majoribanks, S.||Lemon, sir W.|
§ A second division took place on the original motion: Ayes 130. Noes 73. Majority 57. Leave was accordingly given to bring in the bill.
§ Mr. Hume
protested against the principle which seemed now about to be established, of driving from the country every unfortunate individual who might happen to have incurred danger by too eager a defence of the liberties of his own country; and against the government, by this 1377 means, making themselves parties to the odious and abominable views of the military tyrants of Europe, in their anxiety to extirpate every thing liberal and enlightened. He was quite surprised to hear Englishmen who had received the education of gentlemen, talk as the hon. member for Hertfordshire had done, of men whose only crime was that of being pursued by tyranny and oppression. There were acts of parliament in this country, which prevented, in some measure, free discussion out of doors; but as long as the privilege of speaking their sentiments was reserved to the members of that House, he should think no language strong enough to apply to the conduct of the Holy Alliance, of those military tyrants of the continent, who, not satisfied with exercising despotism in their own countries, extended their power to Switzerland, and other territories. In their career, they had violated the rights of nations, and held nothing sacred on earth. It was impossible for him to be a party to this bill, when he knew that it had been enacted according to their wishes? that it was passed in consequence of repeated applications which they had made to us; and that its intention was, to deprive their subjects of the last asylum they possessed in Europe. He had heard the remarks of the hon. member for Hertfordshire with deep regret, and almost wondered at what he could mean by blaming those who assisted the Spaniards for exciting discontent and rebellion against the sovereign of their own country. Did that hon. member not know, that the constitutional system was the system under which Spain had before been ruled—that the Spanish constitution, which recognized the common and inalienable rights of the people, had been allowed by the sovereign, recognized by the powers of Europe in alliance, and approved by a succession of ministers in this country. And, if the hon. member knew all this, would he persist in blaming the Opposition for supporting, what he called the designs of a faction, and say, that those designs ought to be put down as dangerous to the European communities? He blushed to think that any English gentleman could allow himself to apply this language to the noble-minded Spaniards who had ventured their lives and fortunes, with a view to establish permanently the liberties of their country. As to his deprecation of the terms applied to the Holy Alliance, such deprecation was a 1378 misapplication of all the notions of constitutional liberty, which an English gentleman, from the course of education, must be supposed to imbibe. He did not complain of those who were ready to vote for the bill, so much as he complained of the want of all assignable reasons to countenance the passing of the bill. Ministers had offered none whatever, though the hon. member for Hertfordshire had contrived to give them one. Did that hon. member ever know any ministers who did not wish for more power than they possessed; or who were ready to give up any portion of any power they had once acquired? The hon. member was afraid that without this odious bill, the ministers would have no power to provide for the security of the country; and that possessing it, they would not abuse it. He (Mr. H.) said, as a general principle, give no more power to ministers than is necessary, because all power may be abused. He could see no circumstance whatever, which should at present induce the House to entrust the ministers with any extraordinary power. He would maintain, that all strangers had a right to remain in this country, as long as they were obedient to its laws. We had no right, neither was it just in us, to prevent them from taking any measures not inconsistent with an obedience to those laws, to regain that liberty of which they had been deprived by the continental tyrants. Nothing in the conduct of his majesty's present government had disappointed him more than this measure. He had expected better things, from the accession of the right hon. the foreign secretary, whose influence was supposed to prevail in the cabinet. Perhaps he had mistaken the character of the right hon. gentleman; but, supposing him to possess those sentiments for which he gave him credit, he would put it to him to say whether this bill was congenial with the British constitution, which opened its gates to all men; and, the more unfortunate they were, the better they were received. He did think that, as a very material change had been brought about in our foreign policy, the right hon. secretary was bound to explain his views with regard to this bill. He was aware that it was to be passed but for a limited period, and that upon avowedly special reasons. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would outlive the next, as he had done the preceding terms for which it had passed; but, in the mean- 1379 time, let him state his own view of the case. What was there in the public circumstances, either at home or abroad, which could render the passing of the bill necessary at this juncture? Would the right hon. gentleman declare that it was congenial to that constitution which he had described as the pride and envy of the world? Was it consistent with the practice of the constitution, as it was known to have existed from the revolution downwards? If not, why should it now be admitted into practice? The House had a right to expect a decided explanation of the grounds upon which the right hon. gentleman, as a minister who had distinguished himself by an alteration in our foreign policy, called for the renewal of this measure, so disparaging to the character of the country. He would refuse his assent if the right hon. gentleman, would not clearly explain what there was in the state of Europe to make the passing of this bill necessary [Coughing, and cries of "question"]. He was sorry to detain gentlemen, who came down there for a specific purpose, and who were anxious to get away; but, if the hon. members did not permit him to finish, he should be compelled to begin with the first statement of the first speaker, and go through all the speeches. As to those gentlemen who were affected with coughing, he was afraid their healths would suffer, and that the disease might become epidemic; he would therefore recommend them to go home to their beds. The hon. member then repeated his wish that Mr. Secretary Canning would state to the House his reasons for now departing from that more liberal course of policy which he had adopted, and which had gained him the confidence of the House; that, if he were now about to change it, the House might know that their confidence would no longer be rightly placed. Another right hon. member had changed his opinions on this subject in a remarkable manner, since the year 1816. For this change he could see no sufficient reason. Certainly, the arguments he had stated that night were no defence of this measure, and he therefore conceived, that there was no other reason for this change, but the different place which the right hon. member occupied then and now, in that House. Then he was only an expectant of office; now, he, the right hon. gentleman, was in possession; and this seemed to be the only reason for the wonderful change in 1380 the right hon. gentleman's opinion. He cared little for what that right hon. gentleman might state, and nothing for what the secretary of state for the home department might say; but he wished to hear the opinion of the secretary for foreign affairs. He had some dependence on him, and he desired to learn, from his own lips, if he, and the rest of his majesty's ministers, were worthy of the confidence which the House had pledged itself by the motion of the hon member for Stafford—shire, to repose in them. He wished particularly that the right hon. secretary should state to the House, whether that was likely to be the last time that this bill would be asked for. There was no longer any grounds for this bill, if, as the right hon. gentleman had given the House to understand, we were no longer attached to the policy of foreign countries. He trusted the right hon. gentleman would oblige him, and the House. He had always heard the right hon. gentleman with pleasure, even when he spoke on subjects of reform, and defended the measures of government. Sitting, as he now was, with his right hon. friend the secretary of state for the home department on his right hand, and the right hon. the president of the Board of Controul on his left, it was impossible for the House to judge with which of the two he agreed. A cabinet divided against itself could not stand. How far were ministers agreed upon the expediency or necessity of this measure? To get at an answer he would conclude by moving, "That the bill be read a first time this day six months."
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that the hon. gentleman had such a winning way, that notwithstanding temporary indisposition which oppressed him, and the determination he had formed, he could not refrain from rising in answer to his solicitations. He did not intend to detain the House at present, but would save himself for the next stage of the bill, at which time he would express his opinions respecting it more at large. But, for the satisfaction of the hon. gentleman, he would say, that, under present circumstances, and especially with that modification which had been introduced into the bill by his right hon. friend respecting it, he did think this bill ought to pass. As for the principle which had been brought into debate; namely, the right of governments to settle the conditions of residence to be allowed or refused to foreigners, he would wave the discussion 1381 of it until the next stage. He would, however, just remark that, whether that power were ancient or modern in the practice of the constitution—whether inherent in the prerogative of the Crown, or conveyed by statute, it was monstrous to deny, that the power of regulating or refusing the residence of aliens must abide somewhere in the constitution—either in the executive by inherent prerogative, or in the legislature, to be placed, as occasion might require, at the discretion of the executive government. How it should be exercised, or in what hands it ought for a continuance to be placed, he admitted to be a question of very nice discussion. But, to say that there was any nation on the face of the earth without the power of preventing the settlement of aliens, was to say that there existed a nation stripped of all its natural rights. The question might arise, as to the liberal or strict exercise of that power. He had no difficulty in saying, that the use of such a power ought to be of as liberal extent as was consistent with safety at home, and the duties by which they were bound to states abroad. In the usual course of human events, it could not be denied that cases might arise in which such extraordinary powers as were conferred by this bill might be necessary. Such a state of circumstances could not be permanent, and must pass away. A crisis of this kind had existed in this country, and it had not yet wholly passed away. When that time should come, no person would more gladly than himself allow this bill to sink into oblivion. In what he had now said, he did not know whether he had complied with the wish of the hon. member; but when he had more strength he would, in some future stage of the bill, take an opportunity of stating to the House his reasons for thinking it necessary.
§ The House then divided: For the amendment 69; against it 129; Majority 60. The bill was then read a first time.