HC Deb 12 May 1843 vol 69 c245
Mr. French:

I beg to ask the right hon. Baronet, whether the Government is aware of the dangerous excitement which now exists in various parts of the country on the subject of the repeal of the Corn-laws; of the large assemblages who are collected together and addressed by demagogues in dangerous and inflammatory language on that subject; and whether it is the intention of Government to take any measures to suppress such dangerous meetings.

Sir R. Peel

said that the hon. Member was as competent to form an opinion, as to the extent of the danger and excitement arising from the Cause to which he had referred, as he was, for he had access to the same channels of communication. With respect to dangerous associations which were likely to lead to an interruption of the public peace, the course taken by his right hon. Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, last autumn, a course marked by extreme moderation, combined with great vigour and firmness, when necessary, is a proof that when he believes dangerous associations exist, he will not hesitate to call in the aid of the law for their suppression. Even when Government was certain that meetings were illegal, it must always exercise its discretion as to the propriety of interfering with them. He should be sorry to undertake that at all times the extreme power of the law, as respected illegal meetings, should be carried into effect, without reference to circumstances. With respect to the future course which hon. Gentlemen might pursue, to which the hon. Member's interrogatory applied, until he knew the precise character of those meetings, the circumstances under which they took place, and other matters, a full knowledge of which was essential to the formation of a sound judgment on this point, he must decline giving an answer to the question.