§ MR. O'CONNOR,
in rising to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice, felt himself under peculiar difficulty, as he generally did, whenever he rose in the House to bring forward any Motion connected with popular movements. For the last fifteen years, both in the House and out of the House, he had boon connected with popular movements in this country, and, as a matter of course, a good deal of odium attached to his own character, and under no circumstances more extensively than in the present case. He was aware that the House had on a former occasion given this matter the best consideration; 1370 and he was also aware that whenever it had been mooted in or out of the House, his name had been very prominently mentioned; and it was in order to purge himself of any suspicion which might attach to him, so as to enable him to become the advocate of those persons whose liberty he now sought to restore, that he should occupy the House for a single moment in contradiction of allegations which were wholly unfounded. Hon. Members were perfectly aware that the outbreak, of which these parties were the victims, was the consequence of distress. The country was much disturbed—there was a great deal of poverty and discontent—and it had been industriously circulated by the press that he was cognisant of the facts connected with the outbreak at Newport, and that he had absconded and gone to Ireland. He was happy to seize this first opportunity of declaring, in the face of the country, that he had never heard of it, and was not aware of such a thing being in agitation till after it had occurred; and if he had been aware of it he should have thrown himself into any danger that presented itself to save those whose lives were in danger. He must remind the House that this question had before been favourably considered by the House—that when the Speaker's predecessor filled the chair, the question had been brought before Parliament, and had only been decided against the restoration of these parties and all other political offenders by the vote of the Speaker. Surely, then, he had sufficient grounds, if he had no other, for making this appeal to the clemency of the House and the mercy of the Crown. It was very well known how slight was the distinction in troublesome times between what was called sedition, riots and tumults, and high treason. He was proud of having attempted to gain a fair trial for these men, who were in the same movement with himself—he had sat under the dock listening to their trial—he had given them every countenance and assistance—and, after all, had heard the Judge emphatically charge for an acquittal, the Judges being divided as to whether they were legally put upon trial at all, one being in favour of the prosecution, and two in favour of the prisoners. A mere patient hearing—a more impartial trial—never took place. However, they were convicted of high treason; but he could tell the Government that one of the jurors, who had been served by a 1371 wrong name, came to him afterwards, and was willing to make an affidavit that he was not the man called on the jury, and that it was only by the influence of the foreman of the jury that he found the parties guilty of high treason—that all that he then found them guilty of was being at Newport when the troops were under arms. The object of the meeting in the first instance, as proved by the very evidence examined on the trial, was not to levy war against Her Majesty—not to oppose the troops then at Newport—but simply to call upon the magistrates as a deputation, and to insist on better treatment for Vincent, then a prisoner in Monmouth gaol, who was treated in a barbarous manner. The question as to whether the trial should go on afterwards came before the Judges in error, when six divided in favour of the legality of the objection which was taken, and nine against it. Every man knew it was a maxim in law, that when a doubt existed, the accused should receive the benefit of that doubt. Could the matter be said not to be doubtful when the three Judges differed, and fifteen Judges differed more materially? He should not attempt to say what was the character of the six Judges who were in favour of the legality of the trial, for all Judges were equal. If, then, on these grounds alone he was to make his appeal to the clemency of the Government and the mercy of the Queen, should he not make that appeal on strong grounds? We all knew that in other countries, whenever anything produced public exultation or rejoicings, advantage was taken of this exultation in regard to political events; and where political offences were committed, even such as were dangerous to the existence of the monarchy and the institutions of the country, the monarchs had sought the opportunity of the first jubilee to grant a free pardon. Since this trial we had had a Royal marriage; we had had many Royal births; but instead of taking the opportunity of pardoning political offenders, the hulks and the gaols were searched, and pickpockets and thieves were let loose; and to them the Royal clemency was extended. If he were to base his Motion on no higher pretensions than these, he might justly ask the exercise of the Royal prerogative; but he went further, and contended that these parties had fully expiated their crimes. It was admitted by all that ample time should be given to men to repent; and the object of 1372 punishment by banishment was, that men should become good subjects. At the present moment Mr. Frost, who had been considered so bad as to be convicted of high treason, was a tutor in a clergyman's family. Did not that prove that there was something essentially good in this man? that he must have been operated on by circumstances over which he had no control, and been forced by other persons into acts against his own wish? He (Mr. O'Connor) was bound to say, that no movement had taken place in the country for the last fifteen years to which he had not been a party (and he trusted he did not injure the cause of his clients by thus manfully avowing it); and if there had been such a thing as a premeditated outrage, or a conspiracy to destroy the power of the Queen, or to attack the soldiery, or to subvert the constitution of the country, he thought he might say, he was sufficiently in the confidence of the people to have heard it, to have learnt it, and to know it. But there was a still more important fact connected with the movement, and he was borne out in that statement by the question of which notice had been given by the hon. Member for Limerick, who had said that he would to-morrow ask the Secretary of State for Ireland whether it was not proved that a subordinate of the Government was a manufacturer of pikes in Ireland? If he were allowed, he could show that the Government was aware of the person who got up this outrage. All the circumstances were made known and communicated to the Government; the individual who attended these meetings was never examined, but afterwards went to Lancaster and York to establish the same ruin there. He was in Lancaster and York when the man, who was described as having a glazed hat, came with large placards inviting the people of Lancaster and York to revolt, and assist the men of Wales; and although he had been reviled for having known of this, and absconded when danger was apprehended—if it had not been known to him, this man would have created in those parts the same misfortunes and heartburnings, After the decision which had been come to—after the division which had been amongst the Judges, he would ask the House whether it was expedient and just to retain those men, not as prisoners, but as hostages? If the Government wished to win the affections of the people, they should win them 1373 by clemency and mercy, but not by coercion. Perhaps if some hon. Member had taken up the question, it might have been more successful than it would be in his hands; but he had adopted it from a desire to induce the Government to take a wise as well as a merciful course towards those individuals. Such a line of conduct as he would recommend would be a valuable concession to the popular opinion of this country; and if ever there were a necessity for such a concession it existed at this moment, when the minds of men had been so strongly directed towards changes. He was sorry that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not present, because a general belief prevailed that the course adopted against Frost had been caused by a supposition that the noble Lord was to be opposed at Stroud by Mr. Frost with every chance of success. He hoped that the House would agree with him in exhibiting their opinion that the laws were so strong and the constitution so powerful, that they would prevent the possibility of danger on the liberation of those individuals. He was aware that be made this Motion at an unseasonable time, after the notice which had been given that evening by the right hon. Baronet; but he could not but remark that since 1842, up to the present moment, notwithstanding all the distress which had afflicted the people, there had been a perfect absence of political offence; and under those circumstances he would implore the House not to keep those men any longer in their present degraded condition, but to agree to their immediate restoration to liberty, by which neither the law nor the constitution could be injured. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That an Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to extend Her Royal pardon to John Frost, Zephaniah Williams, and William Jones, and all other political Offenders.
§ SIR G. GREY
The hon. Member began his speech by disclaiming, with the natural indignation of a man to whom an unjust imputation has been attached, the charge of having been cognisant of those proceedings which led to the conviction of Frost and others—of having been a party to those designs which were developed in a treasonable attempt made to subvert the institutions of the country—and of having afterwards absconded and stayed away from the place of danger. [Mr. F. O'CONNOR: It was so stated in the press.] I never 1374 heard of the charge, and I have never seen in the conduct of the hon. Gentleman within the walls of this House, or heard from him language, however warmly he may occasionally speak, of which any complaint could be made, that it was calculated to excite others to crime. The hon. Gentleman has said that this is not the first occasion on which this subject has been brought before the House; but he is mistaken in stating that on any occasion on which the question was discussed an equal division took place, and that the Motion was negatived only by the casting vote of the Speaker. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the Motion on which the division to which he refers took place, in a small House, was one which did not in the least affect the case of Frost, Williams, and Jones. That Motion was made on the 25th of May, 1841, when Frost, Williams, and Jones were in Van Diemen's Land, and was to the effect that an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She would be graciously pleased to take into Her merciful consideration the case of all persons confined in England and Wales for political offences; and, therefore, if that Motion had been carried, it would not have affected the cases of the three individuals to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred. In 1846 a Motion was brought before the House for the release of Frost, Williams, and Jones; and every circumstance that could be alleged in favour of those persons was urged with great ability; and the result was that thirty-one Members voted in favour of the Motion, which was similar to that now brought forward by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. F. O'Connor), while it was negatived by a majority of 196. That, I believe, was the only occasion on which the House has come to a distinct vote on this subject. The hon. Member for Nottingham has been good enough to pay me compliments which I must disclaim, and which I cannot receive, either at the expense of any of my Colleagues, or of my right hon. predecessor in the office of Home Secretary. The speech made by my predecessor upon the Motion brought forward on this subject by the hon. Member for Finsbury, shows the spirit in which he was prepared to deal with the question; and it was acknowledged at the time that no complaint could be made against the manner in which he treated the Motion. A sense of duty then influenced the right hon. Baronet to resist 1375 the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury; and a sense of duty now compels me to resist the Motion of the hon. Member for Nottingham. I must take this opportunity of observing that I think it is unfortunate and inconvenient that questions of this nature should be brought before the House; because, when such statements as we have heard from the hon. Member for Nottingham are made, it becomes the duty of the Minister of the Crown to vindicate the course pursued by the Government—to remind the House of the real circumstances of the case—and to show that the crime of which the persons in question were convicted, was not of that mild, light, and comparatively innocent character which was ascribed to it by the hon. Gentleman opposite. In this case the crime was marked by circumstances, I must say, of great atrocity; and it might have been attended with consequences fatal to the peace of society and to the happiness and welfare of many families among the industrious classes. One of the grounds upon which the hon. Gentleman based his appeal to the House was, that the crime of which Frost, Williams, and Jones were convicted, was one which, in his opinion, fell very far short of treason; and he said, what is perfectly true, and what I hope will have its effect out of this House, that the lines of demarcation between sedition, riot, and treason, cannot be very easily or distinctly defined; and that when persons enter the ranks of sedition they may find themselves, perhaps inadvertently, committing acts of treason, and subjecting themselves to the highest penalties the law can inflict. The hon. Gentleman had admitted that persons may be led inadvertently far beyond their original intention, and that they may eventually find themselves the victims of the law—that law being justly and necessarily administered in such cases with a view to the protection of society. But let me remind the House what were the circumstances of this case. The hon. Gentleman says, that at the time the outbreak took place, great poverty existed in the country; but were the persons to whom the hon. Gentleman referred—Frost, Williams, and Jones—suffering from that poverty? Had they the excuse of being goaded by poverty to acts of insurrection? Had they any possible excuse for sharing in the general discontent which arose from that poverty? On the contrary, did they not, for the purpose of their own personal aggrandisement, avail themselves of the existing poverty and discontent? 1376 Did they not devise plans and schemes which would have made the dupes and instruments of those schemes the victims of their own personal objects of ambition and aggrandisement? The hon. Member for Nottingham said he would not go into the facts of the trial. I do not wish to go into the facts or into the evidence; but I may refer to one extract, which was read on a former occasion, from the address delivered to the prisoners after their conviction by Chief Justice Tindal—than whom a more humane and intelligent Judge never sat upon the bench. That learned Judge said—It has been proved in your case that you combined together to lead from the hills, at the dead hour of the night, into the town of Newport, many thousands of men, armed in many instances with weapons of a dangerous description, in order that they might take possession of the town, and supersede the lawful authority of the Queen, as a preliminary step to a more general insurrection throughout the kingdom. It is owing to the interposition of Providence alone that your wicked designs were frustrated. Your followers arrived by daylight, and, after firing upon the civil power and upon the Queen's troops, are, by the firmness of the magistrates, and the cool and determined bravery of a small body of soldiers, defeated and dispersed. What would have been the fate of the peaceful and unoffending inhabitants of that town, if success had attended your rebellious designs it is impossible to say. The invasion of a foreign foe would, in all probability have been less destructive to property and life. It is for the crime of high treason, committed under these circumstances, that you are now called upon yourselves to answer; and by the penalty which you are about to suffer you hold out a warning to all your fellow-subjects that the law of your country is strong enough to repress and to punish all attempts to alter the established order of things by insurrection and armed force.But I now understand that the hon. Gentleman does not rest his case upon the comparative lightness of the crime committed by these persons. He admits the crime, and he rests his case upon the alleged informalities of the trial. I rejoice at this; because I am glad that it should go forth on his authority to those who look up to him as their leader, that what are called political offences, such as those of which Frost, Williams, and Jones were convicted, are acts involving guilt of the greatest magnitude, and are deserving, if a legal conviction is obtained, of being punished with the utmost severity of the law. Without wasting the time of the House by going into the circumstances under which those parties were convicted, I will come to the point upon which the hon. Gentleman now 1377 relies, namely, the alleged illegality of the convictions. Persons who are tried for treason are entitled to peculiar privileges: they are entitled, by Act of Parliament, to a copy of the indictment, and to a list of the witnesses, a certain time before the trial takes place. In this case an application was made by the prisoner's solicitors to the Solicitor for the Crown for a copy of the indictment some days before the period fixed by the Act of Parliament; and the solicitor for the prosecution, acting under the directions of the Attorney and Solicitor General of the day, who were anxious to afford every possible means of defence to the prisoners, furnished a copy of the indictment to the solicitors for the prisoners some days previously to the time when they were legally entitled to claim it. The solicitors for the prosecution did not, however, furnish the list of witnesses at that time; but they delivered the list of witnesses to the prisoners' solicitors, at the period prescribed by the Act of Parliament, up to which time they might have withheld the copy of the indictment. At the commencement of the trial a point was raised on the part of the prisoners, that a list of the witnesses had not been furnished to them, pursuant to the 7th of Anne, c. 21, s. 11., the objection being that the list of witnesses ought to have been delivered at the same time with a copy of the indictment. [Mr. O'CONNOR: A supplementary list of witnesses was not delivered until some time after the original list had been furnished.] The hon. Member for Nottingham stated that the Judges before whom the trial took place were divided in opinion on this point, but that the trial proceeded, and the question was reserved for the consideration of the Judges. The point was argued in the Exchequer Chamber on the 25th, the 27th, and the 28th of January subsequently to the trial; and on the last of those days Chief Justice Tindal reported to the Secretary of State that the Judges, in the proportion of nine to six, were of opinion that the conviction was not illegal, for that the delivery of the list of witnesses was not a good delivery in point of law. But that was not the only question the Judges entertained. The same proportion of nine to six were of opinion that the objection to the delivery of the list of witnesses was not taken by the counsel for the prisoners in due time; and all the Judges agreed that if the objection had been made in due time, the effect would not have been to entitle the prisoners 1378 to an acquittal, but merely to the postponement of their trial, in order that a copy of the indictment and a list of the witnesses might have been delivered in accordance with the statute, and they would then have again been put upon their trial. But the Judges went even beyond this, for they came to the determination that the conviction was perfectly legal. I hope, then, that I have satisfied the hon. Gentleman that the Judges did not report to the Secretary of State that the conviction was illegal. If that had been the case, according to the ordinary and universal practice, a recommendation would have been made by the Secretary of State to the Crown, which would have entitled the convicts to a pardon; but, the opinion of the Judges being that the conviction was legal, the Secretary of State could not make such a recommendation. But here, again, the conduct of the Government was marked by anything but undue severity. Under all the circumstances, they recommended that the capital sentence should be commuted to transportation for life, and such a commutation accordingly took place. Along with Frost, Williams, and Jones, fourteen other persons were arraigned on the charge of high treason; and what course was taken with regard to them? Ten of the fourteen were allowed to withdraw their plea of "Not guilty," and to put in a plea of "Guilty;" and not one of these persons—although their lives were forfeited to the laws of the country—was even transported, but they were sentenced to various periods of imprisonment, all of which have now expired. The remaining four cases were those of persons who had not taken any very active part in the outbreak; and as it was considered that the law had been sufficiently vindicated, no evidence was offered against them, and they were consequently discharged. I must say that I think the lenity of the Government was most conspicuous; and the reason which has induced Her Majesty's Ministers to consider that it would not be right to give any other indulgence to these parties is this—that the Government conceived, from the ground upon which the cases of these persons have been put from time to time in this House and elsewhere, that by so doing they would be sanctioning one of the most dangerous doctrines that can be promulgated—a doctrine most dangerous to the interest of the great body of the people of this country, who do not possess an acquaintance with the 1379 law—the doctrine that persons having political objects in view may adopt any course they please to effect those objects—that they may have recourse to bloodshed, rapine, and murder—that they may disturb all the relations of society—and that if the law proves to be too strong for them, if they are taken in the prosecution of their unlawful proceedings, and are convicted by a jury, it is then to be said, notwithstanding the blood through which they have waded, the risk they have occasioned to the peaceable subjects of the Queen, and the peril in which they have placed the safety of the country, that they are only political offenders—that the sympathies of the House and of the country ought to be enlisted on their behalf—and that they ought to be allowed to escape unpunished. It is the leaders in these cases upon whom the law ought to lay hold. It is to the leaders in these cases that the attention of the Government is most closely directed, and upon whose acts their observation is most closely fixed; and I am sure the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. O'Connor), with that magnanimity which characterises him in the sentiments he expresses on the part of the working classes, will agree with me that undue lenity to the leaders would be cruelty to the great body of the people. With regard to the advice that the sentence upon Frost, Williams, and Jones should be remitted, and that they should be relieved from the legal penalties they have incurred, I must say that I think such a proceeding would tend to encourage crime, and crime of the worst character; and that any person filling the situation I have the honour to occupy, would be shrinking from the duty imperatively forced upon him if he were to sanction the doctrines embodied in the Motion now before the House. The hon. Member for Nottingham admits that no undue severity has been inflicted upon Frost, Williams, and Jones—he allows that in the colonies they have been treated with great lenity—he states that Mr. Frost is a tutor in a clergyman's family—and he adds that these persons have not been subjected to any special punishment. [Mr. O'CONNOR: I said they had not subjected themselves to any special punishment.] I am not aware that any complaint has been made that undue severity has been exercised to these individuals. I regret that the hon. Member has forced me to say what I have been compelled to say with regard to these per- 1380 sons, and to speak of them in the language of censure, which was rendered necessary by this Motion. The hon. Gentleman expressed his hope that the subject would not be treated with levity; and I must say that the House has given the most patient and considerate attention to his statement. The only expression which fell from the hon. Gentleman that induced a disposition to laughter on the part of the House, was his allusion to a report which was most unfounded—I may almost say absurd—that the proceedings instituted against Frost, notwithstanding the acts he had committed, were instigated by the jealousy of my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, who was apprehensive that Frost might meet him on the hustings and prove the more popular candidate. I am sure that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman will feel that nothing could be more unfounded and impossible than the existence of such a feeling. Under these circumstances, I shall certainly feel bound to oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. C. MORGAN
said, it had been stated by the hon. Member for Nottingham that the object of Frost, Williams, and Jones, in going to Newport was to induce the magistrates to relax the severity of the treatment to which Vincent, who was then a prisoner in Monmouth gaol, was subjected. But if that was their object, it certainly appeared extraordinary that they should have chosen such an hour as two o'clock in the morning for their visit to Newport; that they should have been accompanied by armed bands of men; and that they should have prosecuted their journey on one of the darkest and most tempestuous nights that had ever been experienced in that part of the country. He could state, from his own knowledge, that during the period of Vincent's imprisonment, at Monmouth, he was allowed every indulgence compatible with his position. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Nottingham that a person wearing a glazed hat, who had frequently been seen in the neighbourhood of the hills previously to the outbreak, was a Government spy, who had incited the people to violence; but if there was any foundation for this statement, it was strange that the circumstance had not been urged in favour of the prisoners at their trial.
§ MR. HUME
had before expressed his opinion that this case had been dealt with in a manner contrary to the usual practice 1381 in criminal cases. He considered that Frost, Williams, and Jones, had been illegally convicted and sentenced, and that they were now illegally detained in transportation; and he would therefore vote for the Motion. England and Russia stood alone in withholding an amnesty from political offenders; we ought to have had the liberality to grant it before this.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
considered the Motion vague in its phraseology. It differed from every Motion which had been made upon the same subject. Without entering upon the question of the guilt of those men, he would say that he thought it very meet and competent to the petitioners to pray for a remission of their punishment; he held the same opinion in 1846; and if the hon. Member for Nottingham would alter the terms of his Motion, and if he would specify the names of those parties for whom be would wish to interest the Royal prerogative, he was prepared to vote in its support.
§ MR. WAKLEY
would not enter into the particulars of the case, nor was he going to say that these unfortunate men committed no offence; but he begged the House to remember, that had they been successful in their attempt, they would have been designated as heroes, and not as criminals; and that that House would be lauding their heroic conduct, as successful men had been lauded in other countries. All he desired to do was to draw the attention of the House to the state of feeling which was manifested upon this subject by the working classes in the country; the display of which occasioned some little uneasiness to Gentlemen upon the Treasury benches. [Sir GEORGE GREY: Not in the least.] The working classes had a right to feel deeply upon the matter; they were not properly represented in that House; and as the law at present stood, it was impossible for them to rectify that evil. These classes, comprising millions, to a man believed that Frost and his companions were illegally convicted—that opinion could not be shaken; even the hon. Member for Montrose, after all he had heard, strongly maintained the same opinion. Sir Fitzroy Kelly and the present Chief Baron stated that to be their belief; and they were all aware that there was a difference upon the subject among the Judges. Under these circumstances the working people of England besought the humane bestowal of the attention of the House on the case of these unfortunate men. Were they prepared to 1382 concede anything to the working people? He believed that they were prepared to concede very little. He considered that after the manner in which they had persevered in the manifestation of their wishes, that it was the bounden duty of the House to interpose and claim the indulgence of the Royal prerogative. The noble Lord at the head of the Government interfered in the case of the Dorchester labourers; and had those men, who were convicted of a very slight offence (designated by the Judge as very serious), recalled to their country; and he would ask, what did the House lose by that concession? Nothing; it had gained the gratitude and the confidence of many: and when he reflected how much was done for the country by the working classes—how much they contributed to its wealth and happiness—it did appear to him, that year after year their petitions were not treated with the respect to which they were entitled, and that it was not the Government, but the House, which had misconducted itself upon this question. Look at their conduct towards traitors in the shape of kings, who laid plots and entered into conspiracies against the liberties of their subjects—who endeavoured to abridge their privileges, and trample upon their rights. When these royal miscreants came from foreign countries into this, they received the attention of the highest persons in the land. ["Oh!"] "Ay, I say royal miscreants and royal ruffians—they can experience the kind sympathies of your nobility: even Royalty itself does not refuse to receive such royal miscreants into the Palace, and to bestow sympathy and favour upon them. I regret to see this, Sir, when I see the inattention which is bestowed upon the anxious petitions of the working people of this country."
had been asked by his constituents more than once what course he would take with regard to the case of Frost, Williams, and Jones; and his reply was, that if they would allow him to take his own course, he would do the best he could for them. In pursuance of that pledge, he now took the liberty to impress upon the Government how much the heartburning and ill-feeling might be removed by a display of clemency. The time chosen for the Motion was not a very happy one: a week sooner or a week later might have been better; but the sentence must eventually have the revision of the Government—and he should hope that, at 1383 some time or other, their decision would he favourable. If in the meantime they would take the preliminary step of allowing the parties to quit the penal colony under an engagement not to return to the country of their birth, that would have a most favourable effect, and the Government would find themselves strengthened not weakened by it.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
had formerly voted in support of a similar resolution, on the principle that it was not useful to prolong punishment, when there was sufficient proof of the power of the law to vindicate itself and to put down crime. It was the deep desire of the working classes that their pardon should he wholly granted; and he trusted that the Government would take their case into its favourable consideration.
§ DR. BOWRING
said, in accordance with the wishes of large electoral bodies in the kingdom, of whose sentiments he was fully cognizant, he was prepared to vote for the Address.
§ SIR D. DUNDAS
regretted that he had not been able to attend the House sooner. He entered only when the hon. Member for Finsbury was addressing the House, and he was surprised to hear him say, as if that were an argument to be addressed to the House, that the people of England—who they were he did not know—were dissatisfied with the verdict; and because the people were dissatisfied, therefore they, lawyers and men who were conversant with law, and who wished to live in obedience to law, and to the institutions of the country, should give way in a matter that they believed to be right—who knew that this question was rightly decided according to the law of the land, by which alone every man in the House and the country held what he had, whether it was life, or liberty, or property, or whatever else was dear to him. He was astonished that the hon. Member for Finsbury should in such a case lend the aid of his authority to such an argument. The hon. Gentleman was conversant with the forms of law—ay, with the substance of law—he administered the law in the way in which, by law, he was called upon to administer it; and he should therefore have been the last man, in any assembly, to tell an English House of Commons that because people were dissatisfied with a verdict, while he himself is not so dissatisfied—at least he did not understand the hon. Gentleman to say that he was so dissatisfied—therefore 1384 the clemency of the Crown must be invoked, by Parliament, to interfere and save those persons fcom the penalties of law, which, if they had been men of spirit and courage, and willing to adventure their all upon the success of their cause, they ought to be content manfully to bear. He did not understand men who could lightly speak of changing the Government of the country, and who could perhaps think of it as lightly, and who were not prepared to suffer everything for their principles. If he thought it his duty to his God, to his conscience, and his country, to stand up in rebellion against the establishments of the country, and that failed, he should be content to bear the penalties. He thought this was not unwholesome language in an honest man's mouth. The question the House had now to consider, was—what did Mr. Frost, Zephaniah Williams, and Mr. Jones do, and what was the penalty which they had incurred? The hon. Member for Bolton, indeed, rises at the eleventh hour, and he says, have not these men suffered enough? He should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, who was well acquainted with the meaning and the object of punishment, would not have attributed the whole of its effects to the man who suffered it in his own person. Pœna ad paucos, metus ad omnes adveniat. It is not what the man himself may suffer, but that a wholesome and godly fear may be inspired into others through the operation of his suffering. Let it not be forgotten that though Frost had suffered—and whether his sufferings had wrought his own good in their endurance or not he could not tell—he might be deserving of the mercy of the Crown at some time or other, and he had not risen to interpose an eternal power between him and the mercy of the Crown—God forbid!—but he was satisfied that now was not the time to relax the penalties of law in favour of persons who had been guilty of that of which Frost had been guilty, and for which he was now enduring the penalty. Penalty! He ought to thank God daily on his bended knees that he had been allowed time to repent of that which he did, and for which the forfeit of his life ought to have paid. What was the crime which Frost committed? He feared, from having come late into the House, that he was going over ground which had already been traversed. But, if the House would permit him a few minutes, he would state what was his impression of the crime. What then was the crime 1385 which Frost committed? He was a man of education. He had held a certain authority in the country to which he belonged. Therefore the stronger was the duty in him to preserve the law, and to teach others to observe it by his example. He was a man who, whether for good or evil, had influence and authority among his countrymen, and therefore the rather was he hound by his duty to his God, to his Sovereign, and to his country, to observe the law in his own person, and to take care that no one over whom he had authority, no one over whom he had control, should disobey the law. What did this Gentleman do? He had not lately read with so much attention as the hon. Member for Nottingham the proceedings in the case; but if he was not mistaken in the view he entertained of the matter, this was the defence made at the trial. Mr. Frost said, "I belong to the Chartists—I have great influence over a number of the Chartists. There was a Chartist gentleman of the name of Vincent then in Monmouth gaol. I had authority to bring down large bodies of people. I did not desire to overturn the establishments of the realm and the sway of our Sovereign the Queen; but I did desire to make—(what he thought was an exceedingly dangerous word)—a demonstration in favour of the principles which I support; and I desired, by numbers of people coming together at that time, and by my authority, to show the magistrates of Monmouth that there was a strong feeling among the Chartists in favour of Vincent; and it was on his account that we made the demonstration—that by this demonstration he might obtain a better measure of prison liberty than he would otherwise have done, and therefore we did that for which you now tell us we are punishable." Now, was not that the defence used at the trial? He was defended—rightly said the hon. Member for Finsbury—by able men, by Sir Frederick Pollock and Sir Fitzroy Kelly, and that was the defence they made for him. What, however, were the facts of the case? That he collected together many thousands of the people at the dead of night—men who knew not what they did—armed men, armed with muskets, pistols, swords, and other offensive weapons—that he led them to the town of Newport—and what was his purpose? That purpose, as he had already said—that purpose was stated in his defence. It was not treason—it was short of treason. It was a demonstration in fa- 1386 vour of the gentleman who was then in gaol. But what said the law? The law said that, by the Statutes of Edward and of George, he who levies war against the Queen is guilty of high treason; and we find you here leading a body of many thousands of persons, with multitudes of armed men. You went to Newport to accomplish your intentions—to beat down authority—to blow up the bridge—to stop the communication with Birmingham, for that was to be the signal of defiance, when the midland counties would rise—the north of England would rise—his (Sir David Dundas's) county would rise, and in every direction the populace was expected to rise in defiance of law. He asked the hon. Gentleman if that was the offence charged? if that was the offence of which they were proved guilty? if that was the crime of which they were convicted? Was it not the gravest, considering all the circumstances of the offence, of which they could be convicted by any State authority in the world? Was there any doubt of the facts in the minds of the jury? They, one and all, after the deliberation of a very few minutes, found all the prisoners guilty; but they gave their verdict accompanied with a recommendation to mercy. They were not asked, nor did they give any ground for the recommendation so offered; but it was taken into consideration afterwards, and the Judge who passed the sentence of the law upon those persons was a wise man, a good lawyer, of a tender conscience in all cases relating to matters of life, and most ready to seek every excuse why the extreme penalty of the law should not be carried into effect. Who were the Judges before whom this case was tried? He did not know whether it was said that this trial was ill conducted, as it had been said that the verdict was wrong given. Those Judges were the very best of the earth. The first was the late Chief Justice Tindal, who had gone to his account, who was one of the wisest of lawyers, of the best of men—a gentleman who had not left his superior behind him either as a man of feeling, of judgment, of discretion, or of firmness. Who was the second on that Commission? A friend of his, who, he thanked God, was yet spared for the use of his country, Mr. Baron Parke, a most consummate Judge. He would not "praise him in the gate," for he now lived. Let those speak who can say with authority—which he had not—of the reputation he 1387 bore among the Judges and lawyers of England. There was another Judge who had since fallen by fate, the late Mr. Justice Williams. He had lived for many years on terms of intimacy with that excellent man, and he knew him; and he knew not a more honourable gentleman in the land, and he knew that he would never have done, as a Judge, anything of which his conscience did not approve. What did those Judges say on delivering the sentence of law? They agreed with the jury—they found no difference among themselves, nor any excuse that could be offered for the prisoners; and the first of the Commission—the Judge who was the organ of the court in delivering the judgment of the court—he told these men, on being called up for judgment, what the unanimous judgment of the court was, that it was not a judgment of transportation; but that by the law on which they had been judged, their lives were forfeited. He told them what is most true—what ought never to be lost sight of—what ought to be kept in perpetual memory by all classes, high and low, and by every estate in the realm, that crimes against life and property, which are ordinarily tried at the assizes, end with the sufferings of individuals, their families, and their friends; but that in the particular case in which Frost was convicted) it was a crime against all society—it broke down the barriers of safety to life, safety to property, safety to every institution in the country. For if once the levying of war against the Queen, within her own dominions, was to pass free, no one could say what was left to us in any of the institutions now belonging to us. He therefore said that the crime was great—that the trial was as good, according to law, as any lawyer ever saw in England. Every defence that could be made for the prisoners was made; they had the benefit of the best counsel—the verdict of the jury was a competent one—the Judges answered to that verdict, and approved of that verdict. Then the question was, why should the hon. Gentleman—he spoke of the hon. Member for Finsbury, because he had a value for his understanding—why should the hon. Member tell the House, in the name of the people, that they were dissatisfied with the verdict? Had the hon. Member for Finsbury forgotten that on that mischievous night nine men were shot down and killed. They died; they were of the party of Frost—he compassionated them none the less for that—but they died 1388 in the guilt and sin of rebellion. Who led them on? They were ignorant persons—poor country people, without friends, without persons to vouch for their character. They followed their leader to the death. What, then, was the guilt of their leader? He must answer for those nine lives. He did not understand the excuse of the man who led on others to evil, and who wished to escape while they must die. His opinion was that the leader must answer for his followers. Their actions was his crime; and the punishment should be laid upon him. But was this all? What was the disturbance caused in private and social life by these disorders? What was the disturbance in the town of Newport alone? It was true that the occasion called forth the moderation, the firmness, and the conciliatory policy of the magistrates of the town; and the soldiers behaved themselves like good citizens in the service of their country—they stood their ground and maintained their position in the face of greatly superior numbers; and they had their reward. Then came the question—if these things were so, what was the ground of the dissatisfaction of the people with the verdict? Was it on the ground that substantial justice had not been done? He put that to the hon. Member for Finsbury. Were the people of England enamoured of the quirks and forms of law? it was the first time in the history of the hon. Member for Finsbury that they saw in him the champion of the statutory form of delivering the list of witnesses. He had expected better things of the hon. Member for Finsbury. The hon. Member did not seem to be aware of the decisions of the Judges on this point. He speculated upon majorities and minorities of the Judges. A majority of the Judges, he said, held the objection to be good; but they held that it had not been taken in good time. But now let the hon. Member for Finsbury lay this to his heart. A majority of the Judges found—a majority!—all the Judges agreed that if the objection had been taken in good time the only effect would have been to postpone the trial. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley) shook his head. Had he any doubt of it? Let there be no doubt about the matter. Either the hon. Gentleman was leading or he was misleading the people. He was a lawyer, and hearing this question discussed, and as he thought misrepresented, he could not sit by in silence; and, therefore, he had been induced to offer himself 1389 to the notice of the House, which he seldom did; but in the present case, if there was a misconstruction of law in the matter of Frost, Williams, and Jones, it was a sad misconstruction, which ought immediately to be rectified. But he said there was no misconstruction. He understood the thing as clear as he saw the light of day; and he could not understand how the hon. Members for Montrose, and Finsbury, and Bolton, who were one and all of them Gentlemen of experience, and conversant with the forms and practice of law—he could not understand how they should shut their eyes to the light of heaven, and not see what was so plainly spread before them. He had with him the decision of the Judges: he did not know whether or not it had been read in an earlier part of the debate. He would read the letter of the Chief Justice Tindal to the Secretary for the Home Department. That letter was to the following effect:—1. A majority of the Judges, of nine to six, were of opinion that the delivery of the list of witnesses was not a good delivery in point of law.2. A majority of the Judges, of nine to six, were of opinion that the objection to the delivery of the list of witnesses was not taken in due time.Now, if the hon. Member for Montrose would hear what was the next opinion he thought that he also would be satisfied upon this subject:—3. All the Judges were agreed that if the objection had been made in due time the effect would have been a postponement of the trial to give time for a proper delivery of the list of witnesses.Was not that satisfactory? He was not there to deny that there might have been a wrong done in point of form. There was enough to justify the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy; and God forbid that he should say it was not well exercised! Neither did he say that they should despise form in matters of law. Matters of form strengthened the administration of justice: it protected the innocent, and kept the power of the strong in its proper place. Now, if these things were so, what was the conclusion to which a man of his mind must come? He did not say that the Royal prerogative of mercy should never be extended to persons who had in some degree paid the penalty of their crimes. He thought there might occur a time—but he could not think that time was now arrived—when those persons might receive the mercy of the Crown. 1390 Considering that they had been cast for their lives in a trial for the crime of treason of such a kind—for he must say, that the levying war within the Queen's dominions was, of all species of treason, the worst—he was of opinion that it was inconsistent with his sense of law to vote with the hon. Gentleman, who had honestly taken another view of the subject. The view of the hon. Member was, no doubt, a zealous and conscientious one; but, in his opinion, they should not petition the Queen or intercede for these criminals merely because of their sufferings, unless they were sure that the example afforded in their suffering had worked in the country as it was intended it should work.
would support the Motion. He thought that the same measure of merciful clemency which had been exerted in favour of Papineau and the other rebels in Canada might be now extended to Frost, Williams, and Jones. This question came before them supported and recommended by the sympathies of a large portion of the people who were not represented within the walls of this House, and as such it would have his cordial support.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 91: Majority 68.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Pilkington, J.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Salway Col.|
|Clay, J.||Scholefield, W.|
|Collins, W.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Thompson, Col.|
|Ewart, W.||Thompson, G.|
|Fox, W. J.||Turner, E.|
|Gardner, R.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Williams, J.|
|Hume, J.||O'Connor, F.|
|Meagher, T.||Wakley, T.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Cubitt, W.|
|Anderson, A.||Davies, D. A. S.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Dick, Q.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Divett, E.|
|Bailey, J., jun.||Duncuft, J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Dundas, Sir D.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Ebrington Visct.|
|Buck, L. W.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Buller, C.||Fergus, J.|
|Busfeild, W.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||F'orster, M.|
|Christy, S.||Fox, R. M.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Compton, H. C.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Greene, T.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Grentell, C. P.|
|Craig, W. G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Grey, R. W.||Richards, R.|
|Haggitt, F. R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Hawes, B.||St. George, C.|
|Hay, Lord J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Hayter, W. G.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Henley, J. W.||Smith, M. T.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Heywood, J.||Spooner, R.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Hotham, Lord||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Keppell, hon. G. T.||Thornely, T.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Vivian, J. E.|
|M'Taggart, Sir J.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Ward, H. G.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Morgan, O.||Westhead, J. P.|
|Morison, Gen.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Wilson, M.|
|Napier, J.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Wood, W. P.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Yorke, H. G. R.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||TELLERS.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Tufnell, H.|
|Parker, J.||Hill, Lord M.|