§ Mr. Hunt
presented a Petition, signed by 200 inhabitants of the city of London, expressive of the "disgust and indignation" which they felt at the sentence passed upon two individuals, Mr. Twort and Mr. Ward, for the declaration of their religious opinions, and praying that the House would interfere to obtain their liberation from prison. He (Mr. Hunt) had always understood that the Attorney General was opposed to prosecutions and punishments for opinion merely, and he was therefore the more surprised at the sentence.
expressed his thorough disgust at the daily prosecutions going on against men for their opinions. Every man in this country had civil rights, and the right to express his opinion was one of his rights. To give a man eighteen months' imprisonment for such an offence was an utter disgrace to any civilized country. He held religious liberty to be a civil right, and a man was therefore free to adopt whatever religious opinions he might choose. When the Whigs were out of office they were as much opposed as any one to such prosecutions. Why, then, did they tolerate and encourage them now? They complained of the conduct of the despots of Frankfort; but if such a line of conduct were permitted in this country, they would themselves de-I serve to be enrolled amongst the foreign despots. He could imagine nothing more atrocious than the punishment of these men.
The Attorney General
complained that the hon. member for Middlesex did not know the nature of the offence for which these men had been punished. He assumed that it was merely fur giving utterance to blasphemous opinions.
The Attorney General
It was not upon what the convicted individuals alleged, that the hon. Member was entitled to turn round and condemn those who had been instrumental in bringing about the conviction. The fact was, that the individuals in question had been guilty of a gross assault upon a respectable divine, upon the morning of the day appointed for a general fast; and, further, of disturbing a congregation. It 1411 was not, therefore, as assumed by the hon. member for Preston, for a mere difference of opinion, that these men had been punished.
said, he did not mean to palliate an assault; but even assaults ought to be kept on their proper footing as to punishment, and surely, to justify eighteen months' imprisonment, the assault should have been of a very serious nature.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he understood that the Clergyman to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman referred had disgraced himself, and commenced the disturbance by attempting to pull down the placards carried by the men, and in the course of the struggle, he got a blow or a scratch. The petition was signed by 200 individuals, and was entitled to the attention of the House.
could not sit in that House and hear any man defend such conduct as these convicted men had been guilty of, without raising his voice to denounce such defenders of iniquity and blasphemy. It was disgraceful to any man calling himself a Christian to rise in that assembly as the avowed protector of the foulest, the grossest, the most wicked and filthy attacks upon Christianity. He said it was disgraceful (turning to Mr. Hunt who sat immediately behind him) to that House, and to the character of the community, that men could be found there the willing instruments of blasphemers, the conduit-pipes of the vilest blasphemy.
§ The Speaker
said, he was sure the hon. Member (Mr. Perceval) could not have intended to apply such language to any Member of the House.
explained. What he had meant to say was, that when a man was brought before the laws of his country, and made amenable to punishment for the dreadful offence of blaspheming his God and his Saviour, any Member of that House who reverenced his God, and if he did not reverence him his conduct was the more disgraceful, was bound to inquire into the circumstances of the case before he attacked the Government and the law in favour of such a man—before he made himself the vehicle of such improper and unjust attacks. If a man did not do that, but came forward voluntarily, and 1412 without inquiry, the self-elected defender of foul, beastly, and horrible blasphemies, then he said his conduct as a man and a Christian was disgraceful. He was not alluding to any particular individual, but laying down a rule for the general guidance of the Members of that House. Before all it was their duty to reverence God; and they who did not do so would be overtaken in their course of sin. But let the Government of the country look to those irreverent and blasphemous publications which were abroad, sapping the morals and principles of society, depraving the minds of the multitude; and working mischief with a horrible tide, which was overbearing all the barriers of decency and religion. These things were working in an, under-current, not apparent to that House, not visible on the surface, not likely to come to the ears of those who did not diligently seek to know them, but as surely sapping and undermining the foundation of—
§ House counted out.