HC Deb 22 May 1830 vol 24 cc979-86

At this stage of the proceedings a person in the Strangers' Gallery started up, and flung down a number of copies of a printed document on the heads of the Members in the body of the House. He was in the act of dispersing similar papers amongst the spectators in the gallery, when the Speaker ordered that he should be brought to the bar by the Serjeant at Arms. The offender, on being arrested, observed, with great composure, that he "cared little for that, as he had only done his duty." He was then placed at the bar, and interrogated as follows:—

The Speaker

.—What is your name?


.—William Clifford.

The Speaker

.—Do you know this paper?


.—I do.

The Speaker

.—What induced you to be guilty of the offence of throwing a number of such papers into the body of the House?


.—I have watched the effect of the laws passed by your hon. House for twenty-six years, and have perceived a great inconsistency between your laws and your professions. It has become impossible for an honest man to live in the country.

[The concluding words of his answer were quite unintelligible in the gallery.]

The Speaker

then ordered him to withdraw.

Sir R. Peel

, observing that there seemed to be no alternative but to order that he be committed to the custody of the Serjeant at Arms—made a Motion to that effect.

Sir R. Wilson

suggested, that it was possible he might not have designed to offend the House, and recommended that he should be recalled and questioned further, with a view to elicit whether his motive was improper.

Mr. Sadler

intimated his opinion that the individual was most probably not accountable for his actions.

Sir R. Peel

reminded the hon. Member that it would be difficult to ascertain that point at the moment, and as they could not act on mere presumption, he thought the best course would be to let him remain in custody, at least until Monday, when the question as to his further disposal might be more easily decided.

Mr. J. Wood

was understood to express his assent to this arrangement.

Motion agreed to.

The following is a copy of the papers distributed. THE INIQUITOUS CAUSE OF POOR-RATES, PAUPERISM, AND CRIME EXPOSED. To the Judges, Magistrates, Clergy, and Gentlemen of the Vestry of the United Parishes of St. Giles in the Fields and St. George, Bloomsbury. My Lords and Gentlemen,—Both yourselves and the industrious inhabitants of these united parishes have lately experienced great and vexatious litigation, and other most evil consequences, all arising out of the cruel circumstances attending our present dreadful state of pauperism; but it will appear fully clear, upon a little reflection, by the statement which your petitioner is about humbly to lay before you, that the real and iniquitous cause of pauperism and poor-laws is but too successfully concealed from your view. You have just caused laws to be passed by the Legislature, the nature of which is, to compel the industrious housekeeper, whether father of a helpless family, a widow, or orphan, to give up a part of his or her dear-gained profits of industry to provide a miserable pittance for a degraded host of paupers, without having at all taken into consideration that the cause of pauperism may be ascribed to a monstrous conspiracy against the remaining free institutions of your once free, prosperous, and happy country! If this conspiracy had been known to have existed for sixteen years—at least—you would certainly have paused before you added another unjust weight of oppression to the already too monstrous pile of iniquity which is crushing the industrious community to the earth—first, in the name of taxes, excise, rates, rent, &c., and then by the most wicked and oppressive system of laws that ever degraded and demoralized a nation:—you could not have been sensible that it may be owing to this diabolical conspiracy that our laws place persons in power to watch till the industrious trades-person gains a few pounds by honest labour, which is no sooner discovered than those in power seize upon the industrious victims, and compel them to give up either the profits of industry or housekeeping, till at last they retire to a room—and from thence they continually become paupers, and are, after gross abuse, received into the workhouse, where they soon end their lives in a state of misery; and, finally, their bodies are either given to, bargained for, or stolen by the resurrection-man for the purpose of dissection: and that all this, my Lords and Gentlemen, may lead to the accomplishment of a powerful tyranny over the rising knowledge of the human mind. And yet, the late occurrences relative to these two parishes clearly prove that all this monstrous iniquity is in actual passing, without your being at all acquainted with so horrible a state of things. Could a bill have been so lately passed through both Houses of Parliament, and have received the King's sanction, to station a police soldiery at every man's door, to compel the parishioners to submit to such a state of things, if the high law-officers, the clergy, and peers, who are in so great a number in these parishes, had known that such a state of things does exist? Would such a bill have passed through both Houses of Parliament, and received the King's sanction as that which has so lately deprived the majority of the industrious inhabitants of the full power of removing a part, at least, of these horrible abuses, if the high law-officers, the clergy, and the peers of these parishes had known that all this monstrosity was intended to be perpetuated through the passing of such laws? No! it is impossible that men of liberal education, men of piety, and men of honour, could be knowingly guilty of so horrible a design upon mankind, the noblest work of God's creation. No! it is to the effects of misdirected laws and power we must attribute the beginning of this monstrous conduct—and it is to an habitual practice of that power we must attribute its continuance—but it is with a hope of now-making a beginning effectually to put a stop to its destructive career, that your petitioner has had the courage to address you so promptly, so unexpectedly, and under so great a risk of his own personal advantage. My Lords and Gentlemen, the important information which your petitioner wishes to communicate is to the following effect:—He served as an active volunteer in the late war; and, through the nature of his rank and activity he ventured into the enemy's camp, and from thence he joined the camp of the allied powers just as they had crossed into France in the year 1814. By this means he gained the confidence of many noble chiefs of the allies; and one of these noble chiefs declared the following important fact to your petitioner—namely, that "it was the firm resolution of the allies not to lay down their arms until they had established such a system of laws and religion as should for ever prevent the people of any country from opposing their governments!" &c. Now, my Lords and Gentlemen, your petitioner will lay before you so much information relative to the above "firm resolution," as will not fail to open your eyes, and move your hearts and souls in behalf of the suffering poor of these realms. Your petitioner need not say much about the beginning of our late war with France—that event is too well known to all—he will only state so much of its consequences as came within his own knowledge and personal experience. It is universally known that it was owing to the misgovernment of the Bourbon kings that the people of France were compelled, in behalf of their rights, their liberties, and their very existence, to oppose their governments; and the consequence was, that the Bourbons were compelled to yield to the power of the people! But now, my Lords and Gentlemen, it will be imperious on you to weigh well in your minds the measures which the Government of George the 3rd, and of Mr. Pitt, adopted at that eventful epoch. It is well known that the people of England and Ireland were, at that time, suffering under some causes of complaint; and that our Government did not adopt wise measures to allay those causes of partial discontent, if any causes did exist, or if no causes of dissatisfaction did exist, that measures of humanity and kindness had not been tried, in order to set the whole nation right upon the matter. But the very contrary of this was resorted to. Ireland was suffered to be thrown into confusion by incendiaries!—her Parliament was corrupted!—her local Government was taken from her!—the manufactories of England and Ireland were partially put a stop to, and a war was declared. We cherished the fugitive oppressors of the people of France, and Mr. Pitt said, that "the raising the quartern loaf to 2s. 6d. was an excellent plan to pave the way for raising recruits and soldiers to go against France." So, therefore, the most powerful exertions were made for carrying on the incessant war; and by the time of renewed hostilities in 1803–4, all the monies previously possessed and borrowed by the Government were expended in paying supplies, large salaries, and pensions and sinecures, &c. &c. to the supporters of the war, &c.; and as these salaries, &c. were to be continually paid, more money was continually borrowed at a most destructive rate of interest. A soldiery or army was raised after the following ingenious manner:—First, it was everywhere declared in the most public manner that the French were guilty of every thing bad! and every man, from the age of about fifteen to the age of about forty-five years, was seduced by every possible means to go either as a soldier, volunteer, or a sailor, in defence of his King, his laws, and the then happy and free institutions of his country, all of which were declared, by proclamation, and from the pulpit, &c, to be threatened by a most determined, inveterate, and powerful enemy. Your humble petitioner was one of those loyal subjects—just then grown to years full of credulity and inexperience, but too young to understand any thing of the deep-laid schemes of governments, he enrolled his name to serve as a volunteer in any part of Great Britain and Ireland, but was not to go abroad, nor to be retained in the service any longer than five years, or during the war. This was the general understanding as respected all the volunteers; and under such an understanding fathers left their helpless families—husbands their unprotected wives—sons their helpless parents—relatives those dependent upon them—apprentices their masters; and the whole lower orders of society were thrown into a state of wretched confusion, the poor helpless children and females were driven to pilfering, and, as they grew up, they began to practise every species of vice, and as now a laxity of morals took place, generally, new prisons, asylums, &c. have ever since continued to increase, till the whole kingdom is at last made to groan with their dreadful consequences; and thus you had a clear foundation laid for your state of pauperism and crime in Great Britain and Ireland; which I hope is made out fully clear to be understood by the humane and the wise, as it is for their use alone it is intended. Your petitioner now calls your humane attention to the treatment and circumstances relative to the soldiers who served as the instruments under that God to whose mighty throne the supplications of this kingdom were offered up to avert the dreadful scourge of war! Those soldiers who went as volunteers under the above conditions were taken to the Isle of Wight, Jersey, Guernsey, or some other dépôt, where measures were resorted to, to induce them to enlist for life. Another bounty was offered them, and full time to spend it in drunkenness, or any other way they liked best; but if they refused to enlist for life under these encouragements, they were then tyrannized over, and flogged under the least possible pretences; and this tyranny produced most fatal consequences during the whole time of the war. It was thus our Government managed to obtain soldiers and waste money, and to admit persons into a participation in the reins of Government which have ever since caused the springs of justice to be directed into a corrupt channel, where wisdom, humanity, and patriotism lie obscured, and can only be discovered through a loathsome thick slime of base hypocrisy; and this is the reason why Castlereagh had wound up all the powerful advantages which might have resulted to England out of the late war, and made them completely over to the detestable and impious Holy Alliance, to enable it—as it is "resolved" on doing—to establish a system of laws and religion which shall for ever prevent the people from opposing their governments—that is, in fact, to prevent and oppose the wisdom of God communicated to man—to create his own happiness, and glorify his wise Creator in works of wisdom, knowledge, prosperity, content, and freedom! But the designs of God are not to be thus frustrated, though his wisdom be opposed. This nation and America, and yet powerful France, still retain sufficient of that godly wisdom to crush this monstrous league, called Holy Alliance. The Duke of Wellington, Mr. Peel, and the King, are all in the whole secret of this abominable conspiracy!—but lest any influence should prolong the present dangerous and alarming state of these realms, so well calculated to throw the whole kingdom into confusion, for the purpose, perhaps, of destroying our only remaining safeguard—the liberty of the press, which your petitioner fears is intended,—he has taken this very open and public manner of communicating all this vital matter to this vestry, composed as it is of the first law-officers, of magistrates, clergy, and respectable gentlemen and tradesmen, who must be also acquainted with other influential personages; so that there is now an impossibility of things being any longer left in the present horrible state; all this must, therefore, compel the Government to adopt immediate wise and effective measures to remove all cause for further oppression, while it will instantly begin at the very foundation of the evil; and if that foundation be quickly cleared of the corruption which annoys it, there is no fear but that the industry, intelligence, and powerful means which England has long been in possession of—but which, owing perhaps to the above "conspiracy," have been paralysed and rendered a curse—will soon raise the sons of Great Britain and Ireland from their present degraded state of pauperism and crime to one of comparative independence, prosperity, freedom, and happiness. Thus your petitioner having, as he trusts and hopes, effectually drawn your serious attention towards the cause of our monstrous state of pauperism and crime, he will now solicit your attention to a subject relative to this election of assistant overseer. Thirty respectable candidates have offered themselves with strong testimonials, some of whom have held the important and high offices of church warden and overseer. Four only of those candidates have been fortunate, but as all were in want of employment, what means of support is devised for the unfortunate ones? The claims of your petitioner are as follow:—He was one of the first volunteers against Bonaparte when he threatened the overthrow of these realms. Your petitioner sailed in the first expedition against him; he served in the escort and protection of the King and Royal Family of Naples, to and in Sicily;—he fought at the battle of Maida, the first gained over the Emperor's army in the late war;—he fought in driving his armies out of Portugal and Spain, in which service he was made a prisoner of war; and this afforded him an opportunity to obtain intelligence which gained him the confidence of the Chiefs of the Royal Alliance, whence he derived the important information he has just had the honour of communicating to this vestry. Your petitioner was offered the protection and favour of the Emperor of all the Russias; but he thought proper to reserve his humble services for the use of his own Sovereign and country; and your petitioner was then appointed to accompany his Excellency Count Orloff to England, in bearing those important despatches which filled this great empire with all sorts of rejoicings, prayers, and offerings, in 1814, for the overthrow of that enemy who had so seriously threatened the destruction of the laws and institutions of this once happy country. But though your petitioner entered the service as a volunteer, and was strongly recommended to the Duke of York, yet, as he took proper measures for stopping the gross abuses that he witnessed whilst in the service, he was not found worthy of any reward, but was robbed of his arrears of pay, by those against whom he had complained, and, after receiving injustice, was finally left unprotected, unrewarded, and quite destitute on quitting the service. Your petitioner then acquired an excellent knowledge of the profession of schoolmaster, and had diligently and honourably raised himself to a respectable rank in society, and was in the year 1822 an inhabitant householder, with full means, according to all human probability, of always paying rent and taxes to the probable amount of 100l. sterling a-year; but he is forced to state that the laws are directly opposed to his following honestly and to advantage his profession, for a party entered his house, took off the fruits of his eight years toil, forced him to abandon all his laudable plans of procuring a respectable livelihood; and he has, through this monstrous injustice; sanctioned too in part by the chief magistrate of Bow-street, been forced to endure from 1822 to this date, a life of grief, privations, and trials in our stale of civil society, no less trying than that he experienced while daring the elements of nature and the destructive implements of war; and, at an age when his powers of faculty and manhood are in perfect capability of procuring him every means of rational happiness, he is doomed by the inconsistency of the laws to procure his existence in the most abject way possible. But it is by submitting prudently to his mortifying condition that your petitioner is perfectly enabled to substantiate the statements of this petition in a just and reasonable tribunal, where he will also perfectly prove the great inconsistency of our precepts of religion and justice, and the inhumanity of punishment for crime and misfortune; whilst our system of laws is so framed and acted upon as to render it almost impossible to obtain the common comforts of civilized life by honest actions and just dealing; whilst every facility is afforded for the commission of crime and injustice! This is a brief but incontrovertible account of your petitioner, one of those thirty candidates. To what cause the others can attribute the necessitous reason for answering to your advertisement he knows not, but there is not any doubt on his mind but hundreds of thousands of intelligent, active, and industriously-inclined men and women of this oppressed kingdom could convince the real friends to humanity that the injustice of the laws are alone the true caue of their misery, wickedness, and depravity, if an advertisement were inserted in the daily papers to that effect. Therefore, under all the statements of this petition, and the other matters too numerous to be here inserted* your petitioner is justifiable in inferring that there are the strongest grounds for fearing that the Holy Alliance has, and is causing and using such influence with our Government as had prevented it from observing and preventing the monstrous progress of evils which have at length reduced the nation to a state capable of being very easily thrown into one of domestic confusion or civil war; which (as your petitioner could show from experience) might cause the most horrible consequences, whilst it afforded a pretext, as in the other countries of Europe, for tyranny to raise its sanguinary standard on the ruins of all that is noble, wise, and good. Your petitioner, therefore, prays that the whole of this petition shall be taken into your consideration, and that you adopt immediate measures to urge a remedy upon his Majesty's Government, and, as in duty bound, your petitioner will ever pray. WILLIAM CLIFFORD, One of the approved Candidates for the situation of Assistant Overseer, May 7, 1830. To the Rev. J. E. Tyler, Chairman of the Vestry held May 12, 1830.

*See his other works corrected, viz. his printed Petition to the King, presented through the Lord Mayor and Mr. Secretary Peel, in the year 1823; and his Book of Facts, &c. addressed to the Administration, &c. in the year 1824, both on this vital subject.