§ Mr. Tennyson
moved the order of the day for a Committee of the whole House upon the bill for prohibiting the use of Spring Guns. Having, he said, on former occasions, stated the grounds upon which he had recommended this measure to parliament, he should not now enter into an elaborate exposition of the principle, or dwell upon the mischiefs ensuing from the practice, against which the bill was directed. Those mischiefs were perfectly notorious. Since the last discussion on this subject, a multitude of dreadful accidents had occurred. He concluded that the object of those who set Spring-guns was to destroy and maim mischievous trespassers—but he could not accommodate the patrons of these machines by stating, that even in one of those instances this end had been answered; for the death or mutilation inflicted in all the cases which had come to his knowledge, had fallen to the lot of in- 20 nocent individuals. But it was not necessary to insist on that which was the known result of the practice: the House had merely to consider, whether these horrors ought longer to be endured, or should straightway be put down. It was matter of new astonishment to him, every time he reflected upon the subject, that in a country blessed with an organised system of law and jurisprudence, there should exist such a practice, or any necessity for argument respecting it. It would be a strange anomaly, if, in such a country, a man should be allowed, upon his own authority, to seize upon an offender within his own domains, and sitting in judgment in his own case, subject him to the punishment which the public law of the country had annexed to the offence; but yet, supposing that to be warranted, there would, in the case supposed, be a specific individual accused, a hearing, an examination of testimony, a deliberation, a conviction, a judgment, and an execution, all in orderly sequence, and the punishment would be that which the law had proportioned to the crime. But, in the case of a Spring-gun, the castigare preceded, and frequently superseded, the audire. The punishment was not addressed to a crime, but to a civil injury, a mere trespass, for which, in most cases, the injury being nominal, more than a farthing would scarcely be given as damages. Neither was the punishment applied to a specific trespasser, but to any person, trespasser or not, who might happen to be walking in that direction, to meet the possibility, that such person might be an individual actuated by some lawless intent. Again, as there was neither crime nor culprit, so neither was there hearing, inquiry, or deliberation; they were identified with the judgment and the execution by the summary discharge of the indiscriminating machine employed, which, to complete the anomaly, administered as a punishment the arbitrary and unmeasured infliction of the party upon whom the trespass was committed. Of course, a gentleman who should deal justice in this way to his neighbours by the simple old fashioned process of a pistol discharged by his own hand, or that of an intelligent deputy, would himself be dealt with, at the next assizes for his county, by the common hangman. But, if this measure were rejected, he hoped some member with more influence than himself would move for a 21 bill to remit the punishment of death, and, on the contrary, declare lawful, all regular, well-considered and deliberate murders, committed by esquires and gentlemen of note upon poachers and others, being wilful and mischievous trespassers on their property. Thus we should at least escape from the evil of which he chiefly complained—the slaughter and mutilation of individuals perfectly innocent. At least, the punishment would then be inflicted on the real trespasser; and, although it might be a visitation somewhat harder than the laws had yet sanctioned for trespassers, even in pursuit of game, still we should at length know what we were about. Seriously, he would ask, whether it would not, in fact, be better to invest a being endowed with powers of discrimination with an authority of this description, than to leave the matter to these irresponsible and undistinguishing engines? or, would it not be more expedient at once to denounce the pursuit of game upon another man's land as a crime, and attach to it even the punishment of death or mutilation, to be inflicted in the ordinary course of justice, than to attain the end of so punishing it in this underhand, uncertain, and, in every way, objectionable manner. The truth was, that the use of these machines enabled lords of manors to deal with poaching as a capital offence; and while we declaimed against the old laws of France and other countries on the subject of their Game-laws, we must perceive that the feudal nobility there had nothing in comparison with this privilege. He was ashamed to say that it was a practice peculiar to this country. The rankest weeds were sometimes found on the richest soil, but, if suffered to remain, they became ruinous to its wholesome produce. Did our boasted code require such an auxiliary as Spring-guns—an auxiliary which must tend to exasperate and brutalize the people? If certain gentlemen thought proper to congregate large quantities of game, this was a self-indulgence, a mere luxury. Was a self-indulgence, a private luxury, in which the public did not at all participate, to be protected at this rate? Was an idle fancy to be defended at such an expense of blood and principle—at the cost of the lives and limbs of a considerable number of his majesty's subjects annually, and those not the individuals actually guilty of interfering with these 22 amusements? Oh—but gentlemen would quit the country if they were not permitted to preserve game after their own fashion! Yet, gentlemen of fortune and devoted sportsmen appeared to live happily in those districts where Spring-guns were not used. Neither did lord Suffield, or Mr. Coke, who refused to employ them, quit the country; indeed, their estates had the reputation of being better stocked with game than any other in the kingdom. But, if there were gentlemen who would run away unless they were allowed this indulgence, such gentlemen could not too soon take their departure, for they must be nuisances to any country in which they resided. In his judgment, the man who would deliberately expose his fellow-creature to death or mutilation for the object of increasing his breed of pheasants, disgraced the high character of an English country gentleman. When he pictured to himself a game-preserving, 'squire—one of these anthropophagi, sitting in his hall, surrounded, like an Ogre, by death-dealing machines, so arranged upon his territories as to spring upon and kill, or maim any one, whatever his purpose, who might unwarily approach, and thus setting the laws of God and the feelings of mankind equally at defiance—he could not avoid thinking that such a being entered into the class of a demon, and deserved the execration of his species. It appeared that Spring-guns furnished a cheaper mode of preserving game than that number of gamekeepers and assistants required by lords of manors with extensive districts. But, whatever the cost might be, it was one which should be borne by the individual preservers of game themselves, and not by society at large. Was the cost which this practice imposed upon the public, the cost of so much human blood annually spilt, in order to secure a private indulgence to the game-preserver and none to the public who could not participate in it, even by purchasing game—was this cost, he would ask, that which it was either just or expedient to pay in order to prop up a vicious, distorted, and notoriously defective, system of Game-laws? If that system were such as to prohibit all legal means of supply for a natural and increasing demand, which the reiterated efforts of the legislature had failed to stifle;—if thus the supply were forced through illegitimate channels, and the poacher rendered necessary to the 23 wants of the public—were the consequences resulting from the necessity thus absurdly created, to be counteracted and repressed by the outrageous violence of Spring-guns? Some gentlemen pleaded motives of humanity for the use of them, contending, that they rendered nocturnal conflicts with game-keepers less frequent. But, in those conflicts, the game-keeper was paid for the risk he incurred, and the poacher was, actually, the party engaged on the other side; whereas, the Spring-gun almost uniformly mistook its victim. Besides, the sum of mischief arising from Spring-guns was infinitely greater than that arising from such conflicts, without referring to the general principles upon which those machines were objectionable. If the Game-laws were altered, so as to furnish a legal supply of game to the market, these conflicts would cease with the existence of that flagrant description of poacher which now infested the country. There were some gentlemen adverse to the present system of Game-laws, who thought they must not put an end to Spring-guns until the whole of that system was reformed; on the ground that they were necessary to resist the arms of poachers, to which, they admitted, it gave birth. But he reasoned in an opposite direction, and he would invite those gentlemen to consider, that Spring-guns were equally the fruit of that degenerate tree—the offspring of that vicious parent which they were anxious to destroy. If this parent were deprived of the support which it derived from its monstrous progeny, it would be a material step towards its own destruction; for, when gentlemen, who were found to cling to the old system, were deprived of the aid they now derived from Spring-guns, they would be driven to a rational reform of that system, which, in reality, generated the depredations of which they complained.—On these grounds, and those which, on former occasions, he had urged, the hon. gentleman implored the House to concur with him in putting an end to a practice which degraded and disgraced the character of this country, and was utterly incompatible with every principle on which the institutions of a civilized people ought to be founded.
§ Sir J. Shelley
contended, that the hon. and learned gentleman's measure was, in fact, an attack on gentlemen who wished to preserve their plantations and woods. The words of the bill went to prevent the 24 setting of Spring-guns in Woods and Plantations; but no mention was made of gardens, orchards, and other inclosures, so that a school-boy might be shot for going into an orchard and stealing an apple, while the thief and the poacher might enter a gentleman's pleasure grounds without apprehension, and commit what depredations he pleased. The hon. gentleman's bill was founded upon a false principle. It would be admitted, he presumed, that it was better to prevent a crime than to punish it. Now, his firm conviction was, that the terror of these machines prevented a great deal of crime. For his part, he never set them up himself, but he put up a board to say he had done so [a laugh]. The fear of these machines, he was persuaded, was extremely salutary. The hon. member had called the gentlemen who set Spring-guns on their estates demons and Anthropophagi. These were hard words certainly, but he could assure the hon. member, that such was the salutary influence of fear on rogues and depredators, that he knew an instance in which a board with the words "[...] are set here," had had all the effect of the usual notice about steel-traps and Spring-guns, and had struck such terror into the minds of the poachers, that his grounds were never visited by them. He could not help thinking that this was an instance in which a hard word was turned to better account than that which the hon. member had applied to country gentlemen. The hon. baronet proceeded to read a letter from the proprietor of extensive plantations in Ireland, in which it was stated, that the setting of Spring-guns on his estates had put an end to the depredations and outrages which had previously been committed on them, and that no loss of life or other inconvenience had resulted from the practice. In fact, the bloody battles between poachers and preservers of game scarcely ever took place where guns and traps were set. He never knew an instance in which they had occurred. He had certainly heard of some accidents having happened; some persons had, undoubtedly, been caught in these traps [hear, hear! from Mr. Tennyson]. The hon. and learned gentleman cheered, and with reason; for he was going to state that he had heard, the other day, of two lawyers having been caught in a trap [a laugh]. He agreed this was a melancholy occurrence; but then it was so rare an 25 event for a lawyer to be caught in a trap, that he hoped the House would not support the hon. and learned gentleman's bill on that ground. He should not follow the hon. gentleman in the vast variety of topics he had introduced; but he trusted the House would see the expediency of preserving plantations against depredation, and that they would therefore oppose the measure.
thought the House would not act wisely, if they removed the protection afforded by the salutary terror which the setting of Spring-guns occasioned. If this measure were agreed to, armed bands must be marshalled against the midnight invaders of property, and the conflicts of the two parties would produce much more human suffering than ever had resulted, or ever could result, from the setting of Spring-guns. He had himself, for several years, made use of these instruments for the protection of his property; and, as he considered the objections urged against them to arise from a kind of morbid sensibility, he was determined to give the present bill his decided opposition. Looking at the question, indeed, upon the point of humanity, he felt convinced that the aggregate amount of human suffering would be, under the provisions of that bill, if it received the assent of the House, infinitely greater than any that could be produced from an occasional casualty under the existing system.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that, although he approved of the principle of the measure, as he would show by the vote he intended to give that night, he nevertheless felt himself bound to express his very strong doubts with regard to the practical consequences likely to be produced from carrying the principle into effect. He was by no means satisfied that the taking away the protection afforded by Spring-guns would not have the effect of increasing the tendency to commit crimes, by increasing the temptations to incroach upon property. Resistance would then ensue, and conflicts would be the consequence, to an extent as great, perhaps, or greater than before. In a society, constituted like the present, he thought they ought never in that House to discuss a question on mere theoretical principles, without looking at the effects that were likely to flow from their adoption. Agreeing, therefore, as he would, with the prin- 26 ciple of the measure, he doubted its, effects; and the longer he lived, he was the less disposed to predict what would be, the consequence of any measure founded even on the best principles, without waiting to ascertain its practical effect; and he could not divest himself of a fear, that there might be ultimately an increase of crime by the adoption of the present bill, from an addition to the temptation to commit offences against property. When, however, he saw the consequences arising from the placing of Spring-guns in unenclosed grounds, and when he heard of the daily accidents and misfortunes arising from the use of them in general, he felt that he could not any longer defend the continuance of such a system, and that it was better to run the risk of an experiment, even upon a theory, than suffer it any longer to exist; and he felt that the consequences of the change, whatever they might prove, must be less pernicious than if the laws, under which such things happened, were permitted to exist. When he looked to the practical consequences of the present state of the law, he felt convinced that the punishment intended to be inflicted upon trespassers by Spring-guns seldom or ever fell upon tile guilty. The poachers, he believed, seldom or ever suffered. In most cases, the punishment fell upon the totally innocent, or upon the keeper, and the persons who had placed them for the protection of the game. He would vote, as he had said, for the bill; but he gave that vote and that assent qualified by his expression of an apprehension for the consequences, and with an opinion that some relaxation of even a very good principle would be ultimately found necessary. He repeated, however, that when he looked to the mutilations and the calamitous results which arose from the use of Spring-guns, he could not refuse his assent to the bill. The right hon. gentleman then alluded to the arguments which had been used by the hon. baronet and others with respect to the influence produced upon the minds of the poachers by the dread of Spring-guns, and observed that the hon. baronet might still continue to use his [...] in the same manner as before [hear! and a laugh]. There were several portions of the bill to which he objected; such as allowing Spring-guns to be placed in an open field, and some others of that kind. He did not see how or why Spring-guns 27 were not to be placed in an enclosed field, and yet allowed in an open common; but as these defects, if they were defects, might be remedied in the committee, he, would conclude by expressing his cordial assent to the hon. gentleman's motion.
Mr. P. Mildmay
was sorry that he could not arrive at the same conclusion as the right hon. gentleman. He was convinced that, so far from diminishing the amount of crime, the repeal of the Game-laws would have the effect of increasing the crime, and those conflicts which produced such unfortunate results, in a most alarming degree. Some hon. gentleman had stated, that the offence of poaching, and the committals for stealing game were much fewer in those counties were Spring-guns were not placed, than where they were in general use. Now, he had moved for some returns on the subject, which showed, that in those counties where Spring-guns were not used, the committals were much greater than in others. He was convinced, indeed, that great mischief rather than benefit would accrue to society, from any change of the laws respecting the protection of game, and he therefore felt himself bound to oppose the committal of the bill.
§ Mr. Charles Barclay
said, that in a great part of Suffolk, the county with which he was acquainted, there were no Spring-guns used. In Norfolk, the owners of the largest estates, Mr. Coke and lord Suffield, adopted no such means of security, and yet their property was protected. The question seemed to him to resolve itself into this: whether they were entitled to set Spring-guns to destroy a man for the purpose of preserving a pheasant or a hare? He himself had set Spring-guns, and did now; and he would tell the House the result. The very first person who came in contact with one of the wires, was his under-keeper, who, in chase after a woodcock, quite forgot what had been set. The gun went off; the man stumbled over the wire and fell. As he thought himself shot, he did not attempt to stir, but laid still, expecting to die every minute; finding, however, that he was still alive, after a little deliberation, he turned round, and finally called out to his companion not to be frightened, for that he was not dead. It was not, however, so improbable a thought; for the man had seen the guns loaded with an immense quantity of powder and shot, 28 not knowing that he (Mr. Barclay) constantly ordered his head-keeper to draw out the shot. The next person who was near falling a victim to them was his wood-keeper; who complained that he, by accident, went into the park, and trod upon one of the wires, and that it would have been a very hard thing for him to have been shot. A number of similar instances had occurred, whilst he had never remembered a poacher having been wounded by a Spring-gun, although they frequented woods where guns were set.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, that the hon. baronet who had argued the most strongly for setting Spring-guns, had acknowledged that he himself had never set them—a fact which was better than a thousand arguments. If a street was said to be continually infested with thieves and housebreakers, was that a reason why a cannon should be discharged down the middle of it by way of clearance? This was, however, the principle on which Spring-guns were defended.
§ Colonel French
said, he was determined to oppose the bill, not only because he felt that its principles were founded upon a feeling of morbid sensibility, but because he thought that the favourers and supporters of the new system of philosophy and of political economy seemed to forget, that the honest English country gentleman, though he might not have the same knowledge of philosophy and political economy as they had, yet formed in himself the very subject and essence of the English character. He would propose, whatever became of the bill with regard to England, that Ireland and Scotland should be left out of the sphere of its operation. In the first place, there was little or no game in Ireland; and in the next, the arms which must be put into the hands of the keepers, in the event of Spring-guns becoming illegal, would form a temptation to the commission of murder, in order to get possession of them. It was usual in that country to plant many thousand acres with young trees; and he knew many instances in which parties of one or two hundred persons had gone into one of these plantations, and destroyed the greater portion of the trees: Spring-guns had, however, been placed in these plantations, and no individual had ever since ventured to commit a trespass.
§ Mr. Saunderson
shortly opposed the bill, and moved as an amendment, that it be committed on that day month. He did not object to all its details, but he would prefer considering its provisions as an amendment to the bill on the Game-laws, which it was probable they would have to consider when it came from another place.
Sir R. Heron
had no objections to Spring-guns, when placed in houses and gardens, and other places where such a protection was necessary; but he contended that they ought not to be placed in fields or woods, where a man might happen to go for very justifiable purposes. He would, however, rather relinquish the protection afforded by Spring-guns, than be a witness to the consequences which resulted from their indiscriminate use.
§ Mr. W. Duncombe
opposed the bill, but had no objection to the use of Spring-guns being prohibited between the hours of sun-rise and sun-set. By the adoption of that amendment, he thought the objections to the use of Spring-guns would be rendered nugatory. It was very well for hon. gentlemen to say that other means might be resorted to for the protection of game; but it ought to be recollected, that every man could not, like lord Suffield or Mr. Coke, afford to keep an army of twenty or thirty game-keepers to keep his preserves. That House, in legislating, ought to look at the condition of the middling class of landowners as well as the higher; and consider what was necessary to the preservation of their property. Spring-guns were, however, to be defended upon a principle of humanity. They prevented the frequency of those deadly conflicts which must result from a withdrawal of the protection hitherto afforded the preserves of game; and upon that ground he would oppose the bill.
§ Lord Sandon
said, he had that night heard two arguments adduced against this bill, which, he trusted, he should never again hear mooted upon any occasion. The first literally went to support the use of Spring-guns, on account of their superior cheapness, in sacrificing human life, and shedding innocent blood. And the second, the absolute necessity which would be imposed upon gentlemen who had preserves, of maintaining additional game-keepers, if these instruments were dispensed with. To the first argument, 30 no reply could be necessary. To the other, he would only answer, that if gentlemen were so eager to maintain the possession of an expensive and fatal luxury, they could hardly complain of the hardship of being compelled to make more extensive and legitimate provision for its preservation [cheers].
§ Sir Edmund Carrington
said:—I hold myself bound, by the law of England, to support this bill. On the legality of the act of setting Spring-guns or man-traps in woods or plantations, to preserve them from the apprehended invasion of poachers, or of other trespassers, there is no express statute; but all the analogies of law, as well as all the feelings of humanity, are in opposition to the practice. The poacher is a mere trespasser, and liable only to be dealt with and punished for a trespass; could the proprietor of the soil, if he met the poacher, even armed, and at night, presume at once to shoot him through the head, or to maim, or to disable him? Could he presume to delegate such an authority, or to issue such a mandate to his keeper, or his woodman? Would he venture, even on the notice which warns all invaders from his territory, to add the threat, that his keepers had orders to fire upon, or to despatch the trespasser? Would such a notice be endured for a moment? And shall he delegate to accident a power which he neither dares to execute in person, or to delegate to any moral agent? Shall he make chance his proxy, for the purpose of murder, or of man-slaughter, or of mayhew? But, Sir, by the law of England, as in all manly and consistent reasoning, where the direct performance of an act is forbidden, its execution by indirect means is forbidden also. If, therefore, the setting these engines of destruction be an unlawful act, what is the situation, and what the peril, in which a gentleman places himself by authorizing or commanding the resort to so desperate and so forbidden an expedient? Admitting that he is absent at the time, that he is ignorant of the explosion of the instrument, yet, by the very orders he has issued, he becomes a principal in the offence; for, by having laid the means of destruction, which have taken effect in his absence, and without his specific knowledge, he is constructively present, and personally responsible to his country for the offence of which he was the cause, and of which it was his duty to foresee 31 the natural consequences. We all know with what anxious caution the law surrounds the life of man, even where the person slain has been the original aggressor; how minutely it exacts, that the object of attack shall not have exceeded the limits of a just and necessary defence, and that the right to slay his adversary ceases with the emergency that alone could authorize it; no suspicion, no fear of future attack, will justify the killing an adversary to prevent his mere apprehended hostility, even to the life of another: the law provides its safeguards, and interposes its protection, and to the law alone must resort be taken for the securities it can and will exact. In the language of the Roman orator, "Quis hoc statuit unquam, aut cui concedi sine summo omnium periculo potest, ut eum jure potuerit occidere, à quo metuisse se dicat, ut ipse posterius occideretur?" These, Sir, are the principles of our law, and not of the law of England only, but of those systems of general law which have been so admirably expounded by Grotius, and the great jurists who, like him, have enlightened mankind on the principles of moral action, and the sanctions of legal and social responsibility. On these principles, and for the safeguard even of those who, from inadvertence, or from too eager a regard to the preservation of a favourite property, have been led into what I consider an unauthorized usurpation of the powers of prevention or of vengeance. I shall vote for going into the committee.
§ Mr. Ridley Colborne
observed, that if the bill had only gone to restrain the setting of Spring-guns to the night season, and to making the setting of them by day illegal, it would have had his full and entire concurrence. Another principle on which he was disposed to support, to a certain extent, the use of Spring-guns, was this—that it was much better to employ them than to resort to the only other alternative which their disuse would leave for the protection of property; namely, the increase of that numerous armed force which was at present scattered over the country for its security. If there was one part of our existing system of Game-laws which more disgusted him than another, it was this extensive force; and the direct operation of the hon. gentleman's bill would be to increase its extent, and to multiply those murderous conflicts which were already too frequent. He could 32 assure the House, that many friends of his, resident in his own neighbourhood, had started with a firm determination never to employ Spring-guns for the protection of their grounds and game; but, in consequence of the terribly mutilated and wounded state in which their game-keepers often returned from some accidental collision with the poachers, they had been reluctantly compelled to resort to the use of these machines.
§ Mr. Wynn
declared his firm belief to be, that if they should continue to make it legal to set Spring-guns by night, they would continue to be set also by day. He had never known an instance where accidents had happened in the day time from Spring-guns being unawarely trod upon by unoffending parties, in which it did not appear that the keepers had promised to take them up in the day time, and to keep them down only at night: and there could be no doubt that gamekeepers would always contrive to employ them as much as possible. Then, as to the principle of their employment at all, it should be remembered, that the offence against which they were meant to guard was but a trespass on a certain description of property. Now, however excessive the degree of punishment, as compared with the nature of the offence, might be, which these Spring-guns inflicted, there would be something in the argument, as to the necessity of their employment, if the guilty only suffered by them. The contrary was, however, notoriously the fact; for hardly an instance could be cited in which the offender was the victim. But then it was contended, that the knowledge of their being set in grounds operated to deter the guilty from trespassing; but if the innocent were to suffer, in order that the guilty might be alarmed, that House would never sanction the use of such weapons. This argument, therefore, fell to the ground. Some hon. gentlemen had supported the use of Spring-guns, by the example of flogging, of which they observed, that though it was not very pleasant to any party who was subjected to it, it might, and did, undoubtedly, deter others from committing offences, for which they would be amenable to the same penalty. Now, this attempted analogy appeared to him to rest on no better grounds of reason, than the ancient practice in this kingdom, according to which, the tutors of princes never punish- 33 ed their royal pupils for their delinquencies, but whipped some innocent boy, who was substituted for the royal pupil. No doubt, the notion was, that the royal pupil would be deterred from a repetition of his fault, by witnessing the punishment inflicted on account of it; but what could be said of the principle, upon which the innocent substitute was made to undergo the infliction? He confessed he had heard no argument sufficient to justify the continuance of the practice in question, after all the calamities which their experience had shown to result from the setting of these guns. For his own part, though much attached to sporting, he should be wretched indeed, if a poacher, however determined or inveterate in his pursuits, should be mutilated in the act of trespassing upon any property of his; and still more so, if that poacher should lose his life, from the explosion of a Spring-gun. In conclusion, he could attach no sort of weight to the suggestion, that the committee on this bill ought to be delayed until after the consideration of the Game bill; and, therefore, he should give the motion his most cordial support.
protested, that no person was more convinced than himself of the utility, and, indeed, essential necessity to this country, of country gentlemen living upon their estates, exercising a generous hospitality, and maintaining with their tenantry every sort of reciprocal good office. It was with this conviction that he rose to vindicate the country gentlemen from the imputation which had been very freely cast upon them, in the course of the debate, that they were obliged to have Spring-guns and armed bands, both of them frequently destructive to human life, for their amusement. For himself, he could only say, that he had never used the one or the other; and yet if any hon. gentleman would do him the favour to visit him in the season, he would show them as much sport as if he had been one of the strictest preservers. If, however, there really were country gentlemen, who could not reside upon their estates without Spring-guns and bands of armed men for their amusement, the sooner they left the country the better. They had much better come up to town at once, and put themselves under the protection of the watchmen, who were the armed keepers of Berkeley and Grosvenor squares.
Sir R. Fergusson
said, he would give 34 the bill his hearty support. He had had some experience as to the effects produced in his neighbourhood by Spring-guns; and he could state that the only instance of individuals being previously hurt by them had been in the case of gentlemen and gamekeepers by whom they had been set. He had never heard of a single accident happening to a poacher. He would add, that the whole tenor of this discussion inspired him with the conviction, that some alteration in the Game-laws was absolutely necessary. A bill upon this subject was at present in progress in another House, which he hoped would pass there by a triumphant majority, and come down to this House, where it would also receive every support.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that, singularly enough, the whole discussion upon this motion had turned, not so much upon the question of the expediency of employing Spring-guns, as on the necessity of preserving game. Now, fond as he was of field sports, and disposed as he might feel, under other circumstances, to preserve game, God forbid that, while the punishment of offences against this property was so excessive as that which the use of Spring-guns entailed, he should sanction the preservation of that species of property! He thought the setting of Spring-guns was at variance with the sound principles of English law. One of those principles was, to establish a due proportion between the punishment and the crime; but here a punishment of mutilation, and in some instances of death, was proposed to be substituted for what was nothing more than a trespass. He hoped, therefore, that instruments would be no longer permitted, which gave a sanction to inordinate punishment for a minor offence.
§ Sir H. Vivian
said, that, in his opinion, this was a question between the employment of Spring-guns, and the employment of a great additional force of gamekeepers; and as his mind was made up as to the alternative, he should oppose the bill.
The question being put, "That the Speaker do now leave the Chair,"
§ the House divided: Ayes 104; Noes 42.