HC Deb 11 April 1848 vol 98 cc152-75

On the question that the Speaker leave the chair, for the House to go into Committee on the Crown and Government Security Bill,

MR. F. O'CONNOR said, he had already stated his intention, upon the introduction of this Bill, to give it all the opposition which the forms of the House would permit, and, in pursuance of that notice, he now rose to meet it in its presant stage. He had already presented a petition, signed by thousands of the people of this metropolis, against the Bill, and he knew very well that if time were afforded to the country at large to express an opinion upon it, the table of the House would be covered with similar petitions. And although it bad been stated by some hon. Members that it was their intention to look for some modifications, and to propose some alterations of this Bill, he looked upon it as so unconstitutional in its principle, that he should give the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon it in every stage. It was notorious that for many years the principles of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel) had been acted upon by the present Government, namely, that of centralising all power within the House of Commons; and the effect of the centralisation of that power within the House of Commons was to destroy the influence of public meetings, public writings, and public speaking outside of the House of Commons. They were perfectly aware that in Spain, for instance, where the elective franchise was limited to about 96,000 of the population —which was very large—the country was continually in a state of convulsion; and the émeutes which had taken place in France were the result of a similar cause. Those émeutes were concocted in secret clubs and societies, and revolution burst upon the kingdom before there was any public intimation of it. And such must be the state of things in this country, if the free expression of public opinion were put down. Since the days of the Reform Bill, the system of centralisation of power within that House, and the virtual suppression of the public voice there, had progressed at a rapid rate. And if he needed any illustration of the deplorable effects of such attempts to drown the popular voice, he would ask them to look to America, which they had forfeited by their oppression. The people of America presented petitions to that House; their remonstrances were not listened to; and they had recourse at last to the principle contained in the apothegm of the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, namely, that moral power was but a shadow, and that physical force was a substance. America, then, was lost; and from the news which he had recently received from Canada, that country also would be lost unless they consented to yield to the Canadians their just political rights. Canada rebelled, and Canada obtained its Parliament. Well, then, when they saw these things—when they saw that, contrary to the promise made at the time of the Reform Bill, that this country should be governed by local institutions, all power was being centralised in that House—he called upon the really patriotic men on both sides of the House to resist this measure, which would consign to the care of the Attorney General the judges and juries of the land, and to heavy penalties every man of capacity and mind who should hereafter, by writing or speaking, agitate for popular rights. Was it not notorious that we were progressing in manufacturing and mechanical improvements beyond any other country in the world? By means of the electric telegraph, railroad travelling, penny postage, and other improvements, we were enabled to take a stand pre-eminently above all other nations; and was it right that the new and active genius which those improvements had created in this country should be opposed by retrogressive legislation such as this? Was it right that the progress out of that House should be met by an unconstitutional "base, brutal, and bloody" Bill within? He could call it by no other name. What was this but a Coercion Bill against the free interchange of mind amongst the people of England? If it passed, then would that freedom of expression of opinion which was the boast of England be changed into slavery, and the free voice of England be changed into muteness. We should then be placed under the ban and control of the Attorney General—who ought to be Prime Minister. He meant no insult to the hon. and learned Gentleman who now filled the office of Attorney General, whose talent, sagacity, and clemency, he might say, entitled him to the highest admiration. His remarks applied to the office itself; for, under the new law, the Attorney General would have the power of a Prime Minister. But he was not willing to surrender his rights, nor the rights of any class in this country, to the system to be created under such a Bill as this. Again, he repeated that if such a Bill as this had been introduced into the House when the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was on the Opposition side of the House, the blood of a Russell would have been roused into madness to think that the law under which his ancestors suffered was about to be re- enacted in the present age. They had had ample proof from the history of yesterday's proceedings, as stated by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) himself, that there was no necessity for this Bill. They had ample proof that the loyal Orangemen of Ireland did not ask for such a Bill as this. Above all, he protested against the unconstitutional attempt of the Government to tack itself to the Crown by bringing in a Bill for the better security of the Crown and Government. If this Bill were passed, then the Government would be able to perpetuate itself in office. He would tell them candidly that he did not attach that importance to Ministers speaking from that side of the House, which he did to independent Members speaking from the Opposition and Ministerial benches. He did not place much confidence in the fervid eloquence of Ministers, the effect of which they sought to increase by boldly slapping the red box on the table of the House. He cared very little for the big swelling words in which they solemly proclaimed their "intention and determination to uphold, by all means, the dignity and the power of the Crown and their own Government." The echo to that was "Quarter-day." That was the only construction which he could put upon it. Provided there was free discussion in this country, he had no objection to a monarchy elective or hereditary. If they passed this Bill a man would come under its operation not only for advisedly speaking, but for advisedly thinking or dreaming, as had been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Oxford. He warned those who now supported this Bill, that they would be the first to smart under its operations. Hon. Gentlemen who supported the Bill had carried on the reform and free-trade agitation; which system of advocacy it would crush. They had not even refused their sanction to demonstrations whose motto was "Bread or blood." Cordially as he now approved of the monarchical system, yet if this Bill passed he should declare himself a republican, at all events. He confessed he was astonished by what he had read respecting a nobleman who spoke in another place on the previous evening. The noble Lord to whom he referred had stated that one policeman had dispersed the whole of the meeting at Kennington Common. There could be no greater fallacy, ignorance, or folly, than for a Minister, in the performance of his duties, to make such a statement. The fact was, that a policeman came to him at the meeting, and told him that Messrs. Rowan and Mayne wished to see him, as they had a message from the Home Office. Fearing that the people would molest the policeman, he said that he would knock down the first man that touched him, and he made them give the policeman plenty of room. The people obeyed him; and were they, on that account, to be met by a jeer? He cautioned that House not to laugh at the people when their conduct was so perfectly peaceable: it would afford them a bad precedent. He (Mr. O'Connor) was not exactly in a state of health to justify his occupying the House any longer in this stage of the Bill, and particularly as he had already expressed his views upon it. He protested against a Government which mocked Ireland by making it equal with England in its participation of punishment, but refused to put her upon the same footing with regard to political rights. He called on all the liberal Members to oppose every stage of the Bill.

MR. HORSMAN, as it appeared they were likely to get into a somewhat angry discussion on the Bill, thought it was desirable that the temperate Members of that Assembly should disembarrass their proceedings of any misconstruction to which they might be liable. There were certain Members in the House who objected to the measure in toto; whilst there was another party extremely anxious to facilitate its passing into a law, and to strengthen the hands of Government in furtherance of the object they had in view. The latter was a very numerous party; they objected only to particular words in one of the clauses, and felt that as those words were part of a permanent measure arising out of temporary circumstances, one of two courses ought to be taken; either those words should be left out altogether, or that the Act itself should be merely temporary in its duration. That was his opinion; and when they came to the clause in Committee, he should move as an amendment that the words be omitted. But, after taking the opinion of the House upon that point, he should offer no factious opposition to the measure.

MR. HUME wished to know if the words referred to were intended to apply to Members of this House speaking in their places, and whether for words spoken in that House they would be liable to be transported to Botany Bay? He also wished to be informed by the Home Secre- tary if it were true, as had been stated in another place by a Member of the Cabinet, that the meeting on Kennington Common yesterday was dispersed by the police without the aid of the military? In order to show how trifling the whole matter had been, he might state to the House that a military man attended the meeting at his request, and was there from eleven o'clock until one, when the chairman announced that as the Government had prohibited the passing of the procession across the bridges, he advised the meeting to dissolve itself; it did separate accordingly, and the military man alluded to told him (Mr. Hume) that there was no interference whatever on the part of the police. It was right that the truth should be published; for the House might not be aware of the effects which yesterday's proceedings were calculated to produce on the Continent. Ay, what would foreign Governments think if the Government of this country was obliged to put Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington at the head of the military, to call out the police, and to convert Somerset House into a garrison, filled with horse, foot, and artillery, provisioned for two days and nights? He judged from what had taken place that it was in the power of the Government to have prevented the meeting by the existing law; and he thought that the extraordinary preparations which were made had only had the effect of creating an alarm which was altogether unnecessary. It appeared to him that we were getting into a system that was most erroneous, and likely to be productive of serious consequences both in this House and elsewhere.

COLONEL SIBTHORP tendered his best thanks to Her Majesty's Government for the course which they had adopted; especially he thanked the Home Secretary for the firmness he had displayed during the whole of yesterday's proceedings; and not less sincerely did he thank that right hon. Gentleman for the firmness with which he had introduced the present Bill. Complaints had been made of the stringent nature of this measure; but for his part he regretted that it was not ten times stronger. The hon. Member for Montrose had asked whether the Bill was intended to apply to Members of this House speaking in their places. All he could say was, that if the hon. Member for Montrose himself were to be guilty of any offence against the provisions of the Bill, he should be ready to rise in his place and recommend that the hon. Member be immediately committed to the Tower for the remainder of his life. With regard to the proceedings on Kennington Common, he should have been glad if he had seen some of the leaders who then attempted to disturb the public peace, and to alarm the loyal and peaceable inhabitants of the metropolis, dragged into and ducked—he would not say drowned—in the river Thames, and then sent home in their wet clothes as a punishment for their daring.

MR. AGLIONBY deprecated the use of intemperate language in the discussion upon this Bill by all parties. He had already supported the first and second reading, because he considered the Bill necessary for the safety of Her Majesty's Government, and he should vote in favour of the present Motion; but when the Bill was in Committee he should propose various modifications in the clauses.

MR. GRATTAN considered that the measures adopted by the Government yesterday, for the preservation of the peace, had had a most salutary effect. Indeed, he never felt more delighted than when he saw this great city protected from violence and outrage by its own citizens. This Bill, however, had no claim to the same merit. If the people of Ireland were in such a state of commotion as, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, to render the Bill necessary, was that any reason for inflicting it upon the people of England, who had proved themselves peaceable and loyal? How long was it intended to punish a man for what was called "open and advised speaking?" Why should not the Government be satisfied with simple imprisonment, according to the circumstances, rather than the penalty of transportation? The fact was, the existing law had not been sufficiently tried. He charged the Government with carrying on war in disguise on Irish ground. They were daily pouring troops into that country, under the idea that there was an insurrection, yet there was none; but in the face of this fact they asked the House to pass a law placing Ireland under the same law as England. But the Bill, if it became law, would be worth nothing; for it was laid down by most eminent Judges, Hale, Foster, Blackstone, and others, that nothing was so dangerous to proceed against as spoken words, The Government were really adopting a wrong course towards Ireland. They ought to relieve the people from the causes which led to disturbance before they attempted to punish them.

MR. REYNOLDS said, that on referring to the division lists of the preceding night, he had little hope of success on the part of the minority in opposing the Bill. When he reflected that 453 Members had voted for the second reading, and only thirty-six against it, and that the majority was composed of the leaders of the two great parties in this country, a public amalgamation of Whigs and Tories, he had also very little hope of obtaining any modification of the severe provisions of the measure. This belief had been strengthened by the speech of the hon. and learned Solicitor General; a speech which, without meaning any disrespect, he regarded as having begged the question. The hon. and learned Gentleman had reminded the House that the accused under this Bill would have the bulwark of trial by jury. The theory of trial by jury was excellent in the abstract; but its practice in Ireland was anything but pure or satisfactory. Need he remind the House of the celebrated trial of O'Connell and his associates? The jury which tried those conspirators, as they were called, was packed. Their decision was appealed against in the House of Lords, and the decision of the court which tried was reversed upon the special ground that the jury had been packed; and Lord Denman, in pronouncing judgment, said, "If such practices are to be continued in Ireland, the trial by jury may be called a mockery, a delusion, and a snare." The same machinery which existed at that time in Dublin for the selection of juries existed still in all its integrity; and, practically, parties convicted under this Bill would be shut out of their appeal to the House of Lords, because, before it could be made, they would be on their voyage to a penal settlement. He regarded the measure also as an attack upon that principle which conferred the right of expressing opinion either by speaking or writing. If he were told this would be matter for the consideration of the jury, he replied that under the present constitution of juries in Ireland, he should be extremely sorry to trust his liberty to such a tribunal. The measure, instead of being a modification of the existing law, was an aggravation of it, in proof of which he referred to the third clause, by which offences in Ireland, now punishable by fine or imprisonment, were rendered punishable by transportation for life or for seven years, in the discretion of the court. So stringent was the Bill that it absolutely included the ladies. He trusted its framers would have sufficient gallantry to exclude the ladies of Ireland at all events, and leave the gentlemen to suffer for them. It was professed to be called for on the ground—first, that Ireland was disturbed, and next, that England was disturbed; but he denied both allegations. Indeed he challenged any hon. Member to prove, with the exception of the two newspapers, the Nation and the United Irishman, in Dublin, any real appearance of disturbance or disaffection in Ireland. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the inhabitants of Dublin condemned as much as the right hon. Baronet the wild and extravagant doctrines put forth by those journals; and they condemned them in the most unmeasured terms. Was there any further proof than could be found in those papers that Dublin was in a state of rebellion against England? None? He might be told that troops were required in Dublin. He rejoiced at that circumstance, and he had no objection to the whole British Army being quartered in the city, knowing, as he did, that it must increase the circulating medium. Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Kilkenny, Clonmel, all the great cities, were perfectly quiet; yet hon. Gentlemen, who knew no more of Ireland than they did of New Zealand, got up in that House and said, "I will vote for this Bill because the country is disturbed." That allegation he distinctly denied. But he must not be misunderstood. Though Ireland was not disturbed, there was dissatisfaction and discontent throughout the whole country. One million human beings had, within the last eighteen months, sunk into their graves for want of food; and at the assizes at Galway a man was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for stealing food. In this case the stipendiary magistrate, addressing the court, said, there were extenuating circumstances, and that he had heard a report of one child having died of starvation, and its mother eating its flesh. The stipendiary magistrate felt it his duty to disinter the child, and he found that its bones had been picked. At this very time there were bullocks at the man's door, yet he allowed his own wife to feed on her own child before he would kill one of the animals. The court ordered the man to be discharged. This case was only an illustration of the general distress under which many of his fellow-country- men were sinking to their graves. Under such circumstances, he felt it perfectly consistent with the maintenance of his allegiance to urge the dissolution of a Union which had been destructive to Ireland, and attended with no benefit to England. When the 3rd Clause was brought up, he should feel it to be his duty to move an Amendment to the effect that, for all the greater offences enumerated in it, the punishment of transportation should be inflicted; but for all minor offences, such as open and advised speaking, the penalty should be three years' imprisonment. He would remind the House that there were three persons already under arrest, namely, the hon. Member for Limerick, Mr. Meagher, and Mr. Mitchell, and that if these persons were found guilty, they might, under the provisions of the existing law, be imprisoned for three years, and fined without limit. He thought that was a tolerable punishment for talking, and, after all, it was only talk. There was a good deal of talking on the other side of the Channel, and a considerable quantity on this. In Dublin, however, all language of that kind received a particular name; people there usually said of it, "That's all Tallagh-hill talk;" and when any one indulged in it, he was spoken of as "drawing the long bow." Now, he asked the Government to postpone proceeding with the Bill until after Easter. The exhibition of the previous day had ended as peaceably as a Quaker's meeting. He had no wish to offend the special constables around him, who thought that, but for themselves, there would have been a second edition of Paris; but he certainly was not of that opinion. He was a general supporter of the Government, and he had endeavoured to vindicate them in cases in which no one else would. He was, however, in this difficulty. He had repeatedly said in Ireland, that they had proved themselves the consistent friends of civil and religious liberty. What was he to do when he went back? The best thing which he could do was, perhaps, to absent himself altogether from public meetings. The hon. Member concluded by again appealing to the Government to postpone the Bill until after Easter.

MR. SADLIER wished to state the reasons which had induced him to vote for the introduction of the Bill. He felt, indeed, that from the time of Cromwell all legislation had tended to keep up practical disunion. It was a great error to imagine that the laws of the two countries were identical. It was most extraordinary that this measure should have been peculiarly intended for the Irish people; it should rather be carried into practical operation in this country than in that (Ireland). He valued this measure, first, because under its operation men would no longer be convicted on the single and uncorroborated testimony of an approver, but only on the evidence of two witnesses. It was the object of the Bill to reduce to felony that which had hitherto been dealt with as treason, and thus to meet the case of those juvenile persons in Ireland who were constantly uttering open and scandalous sedition. Such legislation, however, he freely admitted, was not calculated to remove that deeply-rooted feeling of dissatisfaction which was at this moment universal in Ireland. He would tell the First Minister of the Crown that every communication which he received from his own country, led to the belief that amongst the few gentry who still clung to their homes amongst the merchants and traders, and amongst the insolvent tenantry, that the feeling prevailed, not only that the Government had signally failed to perform its duty, but had been actually indifferent to the rapid and extensive progress of that mortality of which so many of his countrymen had, during the last twelve months, been the unprotected and unpitied victims; the bodies, in many instances, remaining uncovered, unshrouded, and uncoffined, to gratify the repulsive voraciousness of some animal or bird of prey. This was no highly-coloured representation, but a plain statement of what had been witnessed all over Ireland. He hoped that one of the first practical results of this measure would be to save from perdition and dishonourable exile some of those unhappily deluded men who were at present the erring victims of a great political disease. He would tell the Government that the great evil of Ireland was physical misery, for which the existence of the poor-law, with its imperfect machinery, provided no adequate remedy. That law was nothing less than a delusion to the destitute, and confiscation to the industrious; and though he did not ask the noble Lord to interfere in the dealings between man and man, he thought the statement that the Government had nothing to do with the matter was not justifiable. There was another grievance to which he would refer. Was the noble Lord really aware of the present state of the elective franchise in Ireland? ["Question!"] He was perfectly in order in considering whether this measure was calculated to remove discontent. He would put the case of the populous and extensive county of Tipperary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Sheil) was formerly returned for that county by a majority of 1,800; a few days ago the number of persons qualified to vote was only 431. Such was the constituency in the case of an area little short of 1,000,000 acres, and a population of about 1,000,000 also. He would remind the House of the remarkable words with which the right hon. and gifted Member for Dungarvan, to whom he had just referred, had concluded one of his memorable appeals to a former House of Commons:— Let a few years go by, and the national mind of Ireland will be one mass of hot commotion. If a great outbreak of popular commotion should occur here—if the predictions of Conservatives should be fulfilled—if your alliance with France, which is as unstable as its dynasty, should cease, you may have cause to lament, when lamentation will be unavailing, that to 7,000,000 of Irishmen justice was refused.

LORD JOHN RUSSELL: Sir, I really think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down must have mistaken the Motion now before the House for the Motion which is to be brought forward at a later period of this day; and as he expects the Government to bring forward a number of measures affecting Ireland, I beg leave to submit to him whether he can complain of our not bringing forward any measures of a remedial nature, if the time of the House is so taken up as to make it impossible that any day can be devoted to them. The hon. Gentleman has referred to a statement of mine last night, and he appears so much to have misapprehended it, that I must say a few words to correct his misapprehension. The hon. Gentleman says that the present Government is considered in Ireland to be totally indifferent to the sufferings of the people, and the loss of life occasioned by the want of food; and he appears to suppose that I said it was no part of the business of the Government to interfere in matters of that nature. What I stated was, that, generally speaking, it was not the business of the Government to interfere in the various relations which affected the supply of food; and I said, that any measures which might be introduced having such a tendency were to be regarded as measures of exception. I certainly never stated that the present Government had not considered some measures necessary on account of the want of food in Ireland. I could not, indeed, have said so, because last year the Government recommended to the House measures by which they afforded food to upwards of 3,000,000 of persons daily; so far was the Government from being indifferent, as the hon. Gentleman says they are considered to have been, to the sufferings endured in Ireland. With regard to the present year, there is, indeed, the poor-law, to which the hon. Gentleman has referred; but I have always considered that the introduction of that law at first, with a division of districts which, in certain cases, might make it extremely difficult to supply food, required the constant attention of the Government. Some time ago I sent out directions from the Treasury, that in cases in which relief could not be obtained, strict inquiry should first be made, whether that was owing to any neglect in the collection of rates; and, that in cases where parties were fully able to pay, payment should be enforced. I went on to say, that I wished further inquiries to be made as to cases in which the want of relief was not owing to the negligence of collectors, or to the refusal of persons to pay, but to a total inability to supply the distressed poor of the district; and I wished a report to be made in all such eases, in order that either by means of the British Association, or of some measures to be proposed by the Government to the House, the poor so situated might be saved from starvation, and relief be given. I think what I have stated shows, that neither with regard to the last year, nor to the present year, are we liable to the charge of treating the sufferings of the Irish poor as a matter of indifference. I must say, that if such statements be made in Ireland, they are libellous and calumnious, and I am sorry that they should have been repeated in this House.

SIR DE L. EVANS felt called upon to offer his sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Government for the admirable arrangements which they had made on the previous day for the preservation of the public peace. Most happy did he feel that that day was not a day of mourning; but that it was not so was owing, he believed, mainly to the fact that the Government had not been wanting in their duty. Ho knew no more grand, more honourable, or more sublime spectacle than that which had been presented on the previous day by the Government and the inhabitants o the metropolis. It had been said, that the meeting was a contemptible one. It was contemptible meeting, thanks to the Government which had rendered it so. Every friend of order, every person in favour of the maintenance of property, and of all that contributed to the well-being of civilised society, had reason to thank the Government for the result.

MR. MASTERMAN felt great pleasure in tendering to the Government his humble acknowledgments; and he felt sure that in so doing he was expressing the feeling of the whole city of London, for the arrangements which they had made on the previous day for the life and property of the subject.

SIR G. GREY: The hon. Member for Montrose asked me a distinct question, namely, whether the meeting at Kennington Common yesterday was forcibly dispersed by the police, or separated of its own accord. In answer to that question, I beg to say that the meeting was not forcibly dispersed by the police. The police commissioners, acting under the directions of the Government, made an intimation to the leaders of the meeting, that if they persevered in their intention of going in procession through the streets of London, they would be forcibly prevented from carrying that intention into effect. Upon that intimation being made to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Connor), I understand a resolution was adopted by the meeting to disperse. But I cannot admit the inference which the hon. Member has drawn from the fact, that the preparations were useless. It is a fact that preparations were made: the knowledge of those preparations gave confidence to all loyal and well-disposed persons in this metropolis, and struck with terror those who might have been disposed to create confusion. I must also say, that, judging from all the accounts which I have received, nothing could have been more praiseworthy or meritorious than the conduct of the great body of the population of the metropolis. The spirit which animated them, and their cordial co-operation in the maintenance of order and peace, will, I have no doubt, have a good effect throughout the country. Indeed, this has been the result already. From accounts which I have received this morning, it appears that the information received in the country by telegraph yesterday, by persons anxiously awaiting in- telligence from London, produced the best possible effects in the large towns of the kingdom; and what has occurred will, I have no doubt, have an effect also throughout Europe. The Government had a responsible duty to perform; and they have been enabled, under Providence, to discharge that duty, through the cordial cooperation of the great body of the people.

MR. HUME denied that he had said that the Government were wrong in making preparations. What he had said was, that they were perfectly right in making the necessary preparations, but wrong in creating such disproportionate alarm.

MR. O'CONNOR wished to put the right hon. Baronet in possession of a fact. It was, that before the authorities had communicated their intention of interrupting the procession, it was upon his recommendation resolved that the procession should not pass over the bridges.

House divided:—Ayes 321; Noes 19: Majority 302.

Abdy, T. N Brockman, E. D.
Acland, Sir T. D. Brown, H.
Adair, H. E. Buck, L. W.
Aglionby, H. A. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Alcock, T. Bunbury, W. M.
Alexander, N. Bunbury, E. H.
Anderson, A. Campbell, hon. W. F.
Anson, Visct. Cardwell, E.
Anstey, T. C. Carew, W. H. P.
Arkwright, G. Carter, J. B.
Armstrong, R. B. Castlereagh, Visct.
Arundel and Surrey, Cavendish, hon. C. C.
Earl of Cavendish, hon. G. H.
Bailey, J., jun. Cavendish, W. G.
Baines, M. T. Cayley, E. S.
Baldock, E. H. Chichester, Lord J. L.
Baring, hon. W. B. Childers, J. W.
Barrington, Visct. Cholmeley, Sir M.
Bateson, T. Christopher, R. A.
Beckett, W. Christy, S.
Bell, M. Clay, J.
Bellew, R. M. Clay, Sir W.
Benbow, J. Clifford, H. M.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Cobbold, J. C.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.
Bernal, R. Codrington, Sir W.
Bernard, Visct. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Birch, Sir T. B. Coles, H. B.
Blackall, S. W. Compton, H. C.
Blackstone, W. S. Copeland, Ald.
Blake, M. J. Corry, rt. hon. H. L.
Blakemore, R. Cowan, C.
Blandford, Marq. of Cowper, hon. W. F.
Boldero, H. G. Damer, hon. Col.
Bourke, R. S. Davies, D. A. S.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Dawson, hon. T. V.
Bowles, Adm. Denison, J. E.
Bowring, Dr. Divett, E.
Brackley, Visct. Dod, J. W.
Bremridge, R. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Broadley, H. Douro, Marq. of
Drummond, H. Hobhouse, rt. hon.Sir J.
Drummond, H. H. Hobhouse, T. B.
Duncan, Visct. Hodges, T. T.
Duncan, G. Hogg, Sir J. W.
Duncombe, hon. A. Hood, Sir A.
Duncombe, hon. O. Hope, H. T.
Duncuft, J. Hope, A.
Dundas, Adm. Hornby, J.
Dundas, Sir D. Horsman, E.
Dundas, G. Hotham, Lord
Dunne, F. P. Houldsworth, T.
Du Pre, C. G. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Ebrington, Visct. Howard, hon. E. G. G.
Egerton, Sir P. Howard, P. H.
Ellice, E. Hudson, G.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Hume, J.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Hutt, W.
Euston, Earl of Ingestre, Visct.
Evans, Sir De L. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Evans, J. Jackson, W.
Evans, W. Jervis, Sir J.
Fellowes, E. Jocelyn, Visct.
Fergus, J. Jones, Sir W.
Ferguson, Col. Jones, Capt.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Keppel, hon. G. T.
Filmer, Sir E. Kershaw, J.
Fitzpatrick,rt.hn. J.W. King, hon. P. J. L.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Knox, Col.
Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Floyer, J. Langston, J. H.
Foley, J. H. H. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Forbes, W. Lemon, Sir C.
Forster, M. Lewis, G. C.
Fortescue, hon. J. W. Lincoln, Earl of
Fox, W. J. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Fuller, A. E. Littleton, hon. E. R.
Gaskell, J. M. Loch, J.
Glyn, G. C. Lockhart, A. E.
Gore, W. R. O. Lockhart, W.
Grace, O. D. J. Lowther, hon. Col.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Lushington, C.
Granby, Marq. of Lygon, hon. Gen.
Greenall, G. Mackenzie, W. F.
Greene, T. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Grenfell, C. P. Macnamara, Maj.
Grenfell, C. W. M'Neill, D.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. M'Taggart, Sir J.
Grey, R. W. Magan, W. H.
Grogan, E. Mahon, Visct.
Gwyn, H. Manners, Lord G.
Halford, Sir H. Martin, C. W.
Hall, Sir B. Martin, S.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Masterman, J.
Halsey, T. P. Matheson, A.
Hamilton, G. A. Matheson, J.
Hardcastle, J. A. Matheson, Col.
Harris, hon. Capt. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Hastie, A. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Hastie, A. Melgund, Visct.
Hawes, B. Miles, P. W. S.
Hay, Lord J. Miles, W.
Hayter, W. G. Milnes, R. M.
Headlam, T. E. Monsell, W.
Heald, J. Moore, G. H.
Heathcoat, J. Morgan, O.
Heathcote, G. J. Morison, Gen.
Heathcote, Sir W. Morris, D.
Heneage, G. H. W. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Henley, J. W. Mowatt, F.
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Mulgrave, Earl of
Hervey, Lord A. Muntz, G. F.
Heywood, J. Napier, J.
Hindley, C. Neeld, J.
Neeld, J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Noel, hon. G. J. Stanton, W. H.
Norreys, Lord Strickland, Sir G.
Nugent, Lord Stuart, Lord D.
Nugent, Sir P. Stuart, Lord J.
O'Connell, M. J. Talfourd, Serj.
Ogle, S. C. H. Tancred, H. W.
Ord, W. Tenison, E. K.
Oswald, A. Thicknesse, R. A.
Owen, Sir J. Thornely, T.
Packe, C. W. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Palmer, R. Tollemache, J.
Patten, J. W. Townley, R. G.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Townshend, Capt.
Pennant, hon. Col. Trelawny, J. S.
Pigott, F. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Pilkington, J. Trollope, Sir J.
Plowden, W. H. C. Turner, E.
Pusey, P. Turner, G. J.
Rendlesham, Lord Tynte, Col. C. J. K.
Repton, G. W. J. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Ricardo, O. Vane, Lord H.
Rice, E. R. Verney, Sir H.
Rich, H. Villiers, Visct.
Romilly, J. Villiers, hon. C.
Rufford, F. Villiers, hon. F. W. C.
Russell, Lord J. Vivian, J. H.
Russell, hon. E. S. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Rutherfurd, A. Waddington, D.
Sandars, G. Waddington, H. S.
Scott, hon. F. Wall, C. B.
Scrope, G. P. Walpole, S. H.
Seymer, H. K. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Seymour, Lord Watkins, Col.
Sheil, rt. hon. R. L. Wawn, J. T.
Shelburne, Earl of West, F. R.
Sheridan, R. B. Whitmore, T. C.
Sibthorp, Col. Williams, J.
Simeon, J. Williamson, Sir H
Slaney, R. A. Wilson, J.
Smith, J. A. Wilson, M.
Smith, J. B. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Smyth, J. G. Wood, W. P.
Somerset, Capt. Wyvill, M.
Somerville,rt.hn.Sir W. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Sotheron, T. H. S.
Spooner, R. TELLERS.
Stafford, A. Craig, W. G.
Stanley, hon. E. J. Tufnell, H.
Blewitt, R. J. Osborne, R.
Callaghan, D. Reynolds, J.
Devereux, J. T. Scholefield, W.
Fagan, W. Scully, F.
Fox, R. M. Sullivan, M.
Gardner, R. Thompson, Col.
Grattan, H. Thompson, G.
Greene, J. Walmsley, Sir J.
Meagher, T. TELLERS.
O'Brien, W. S. Crawford, W. S.
O'Connell, J. O'Connor F.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 2, making the measure applicable to Ireland.

MR. J. O'CONNELL moved the omission of all reference to Ireland. He objected to the clause, because he conceived that it would be exceeedingly ill-advised and unfair to apply the Bill at that moment to his country. It would be ill-advised for reasons which, as they would not posses any novelty, he would refrain from stating. There was an impression prevailing, how. ever, in Ireland that that House was eve] ready to extend the law of England to that country when it savoured of harshness and severity, but not when the extension would confer any advantage; and at a time when such extraordinary events were occurring in Europe, the Bill must tend to add to the existing discontent. Before the passing of the Coercion Bill, Irish Members had warned the House that they were breaking their pledges as to measures of relief; and in the fifth month of the Session not a step had been taken towards redeeming that pledge. The measure proposed by the Secretary for Ireland was but an aggravation of the ill treatment which Ireland had received. As to the second point which he had mentioned, the unfairness of this measure, he appealed to the House whether it could possibly be otherwise than unfair to punish men under this Bill for offences committed against the existing law? He thought that the cause of justice, as well as the interest of both countries, required that the clause should be omitted.

SIR G. GREY thought the real question was whether there was any reason why the law of treason in England and Ireland should not be the same. He saw no reason why parties who committed the offence in question in Ireland should not be subject to the same penalty as those who committed it in England.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 3, authorising the punishment of transportation,

SIR G. GREY wished to make a few remarks on this clause before the House proceeded to consider any amendment. From the discussion which had already taken place, the House was probably aware what it was intended to enact. There were three offences contemplated by the clause, and, with the exception of open and advised speaking, they were offences under the 36th and the 57th George III., and subjected those who were guilty of them to the penalties of treason. The offences were, compassing, within or without the United Kingdom, the deposition of the Sovereign; levying war in order by force or constraint to compel the Sovereign to change Her counsels, or in order to put any restraint on Parliament; and seeking aid from any foreign country. Coupled with such compassing and imagining, there must be the expression of it by publishing any printing or writing; and the clause added, "by open and advised speaking." Now, in order to carry into effect the purposes for which the Bill was proposed, the Government thought it necessary to insert the words "open and advised speaking;" they proposed to alter the law with respect to speeches which now only amounted to sedition. He had stated the other evening, that the law had been found practically inefficacious, or at all events inadequate to the effectual repression of the offence of instigating, by public speeches addressed to large assemblies, the levying of war on the Sovereign, and the commission of those offences which brought persons within the charge of high treason; that although there were persons then in Ireland who were indicted for sedition, yet sedition being a bailable offence, they were enabled to continue prosecuting their designs precisely in the mode which had already subjected them to prosecution, and that even after the verdict had been obtained against them, the punishment would be inadequate to repress the offence. The Government had thought that if the Bill were confined to printing or writing, persons against whom the powers of the law ought to be directed would altogether evade its provisions. Without mentioning any name, he would take the case of a person editing a newspaper of an inflammatory character. That person avowed himself to be the editor of the paper, and the articles contained in the publication, coming within the provisions of the Act, would doubtless subject him to the penalties which, if this Bill became law, would be incurred by publishing or writing treason. But if this party chose to insert any other name than his own, as the editor or proprietor of the paper, he might go on inserting in the paper speeches made by himself from day to day, and defy the law. Under these circumstances it had been thought necessary to ask for increased powers with regard to persons who, by open and advised speaking, instigated to the commission of crimes which would subject the parties committing them to a severer punishment than the more guilty instigators. He was aware, how- ever, that that was an important alteration to make in the law; and he fully admitted the force of the observations of his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General on the previous evening with regard to the comparative difficulty of proof as to words spoken and words written. It was justly said that words written were usually employed with more deliberation than words spoken; but although this was the case in some instances, he must say that when, day after day, they saw persons repeating the same advice, making use of the same exhortations, and holding out the same guilty objects, he could not but consider the speeches as made deliberately, and as designed to instigate to the commission of crime. At the same time he was quite willing to guard against any possible abuse, and to take precautions against parties being treated with greater severity than was requisite for the attainment of the object. The Government did think that this offence, committed under the circumstances and with the evident object which he had stated, should be treated as something more than a misdemeanor—in fact, it ought to be felony. If it were so treated, the party could not prosecute his designs as before, because he would be immediately subject to arrest, and the offence would not be bailable. Hon. Gentlemen said that this was the first time that public speaking, or rather speaking—for he would omit the word "public"—had been made the subject of an enactment with a view to the infliction of pains and penalties. He must take leave to correct that statement. The hon. Member for Cockermouth had stated on the previous night that Mr. Pitt, having proposed to insert these words, had subsequently been compelled to withdraw them, so that the Government, said that hon. Member, was attempting to do what Mr. Pitt, in the plenitude of his power, was unable to accomplish. Now, what Mr. Pitt really proposed was to make open and advised speaking treason. The Government now proposed only to make it felony; and if the hon. and learned Gentleman would look at the second clause of Mr. Pitt's Act, he would find a clause which was actually adopted, and was far more stringest than that now proposed. By the second clause of the 36th Geo. III., it was enacted that if any person should maliciously and advisedly, by writing, printing, preaching, or speaking, express, publish, utter, or declare, any words or sentences tending to excite and stir up the people to hatred or contempt of the person of His Majesty, he should be considered as guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor, and for the second offence should be subjected to transportation, The Government did not in- tend to propose such a clause. Again, by the 6th of Anne, chap. 7, clause 2, it was enacted, that if any person should maliciously, by preaching, teaching, or advised speaking, declare that the Sovereign Lady the Queen was not the rightful Sovereign of these realms, the party guilty of such offence should incur the penalties of præmunire. Those penalties, although they had become practically obsolete, were severe at the time, and the case was treated very differently from that of a mere misdemeanor. There was a proviso to which his attention had been called, which qualified the enactment of the 6th of Anne. It was that no person should be prosecuted by virtue of that Act for any words spoken, unless the information were given on oath before one or more justices of the peace, within three days after the commission of the offence. The prosecution also was to take place within three months after the offence; and no person could be convicted but upon the oath of three credible witnesses, it being most material that the evidence, whatever might be its nature, should be fresh in the mind. He would at once admit that the precautions provided in this clause of the Statute of Anne were reasonable and necessary, and he was quite willing to insert them in the clause then under consideration. By an Act passed not long ago, the Judges, in cases in which the penalty was transportation, were authorised to substitute imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; and he was willing to extend that provision to the present case. He had stated to the House the amendments which the Government were willing, on consideration, to adopt; but they would not depart from the proposition they had made to constitute the offence felony—an alteration which they believed would render the law efficacious for its object.

MR. F. O'CONNOR had given ample proof, in his own person, of the abundant stringency and severity of the existing law, without any further increase in its harshness. In 1839 he had extracted into his newspaper, from another journal, a paragraph of only five lines, to the effect that a poor little fellow had broken out of a workhouse on a certain clay, but was afterwards recaptured and brought back; and that he had been so cruelly treated as to be driven to eat part of his own arm. For the publication of nothing more than this, and which, being in Scotland at the time, he never saw until an ex officio information was filed against him, he was tried before Mr. Justice Coleridge, and a special jury, and declared guilty. Afterwards he was condemned to sixteen months' solitary confinement in York Castle, for publishing two speeches in only 3,000 copies out of an impression of 34,000 of his paper (for as soon as his attention was drawn to the speeches during his absence at York he immediately ordered their further publication to be suppressed); but he was liberated two months before his term expired, because of the injustice he had suffered. He mentioned these things to show that there was no necessity for adding to the severity of the existing law; and he must repeat, that if they took away the liberty of speech from the people, they would give rise to a host of secret clubs and associations throughout the kingdom. He wished to know if a speech or written article were subsequently followed by an overt act of treason on the part of other individuals than the speaker or writer, the speaker or writer would be held a particeps criminis, as having induced the parties to commit treason?

SIR GEORGE GREY replied, that if an overt act of treason were committed in pursuance of certain advice contained in a speech or written article, the person giving that advice certainly might fairly be considered to be a guilty party.

MR. AGLIONBY wished to know the meaning of the clause now under consideration, for it seemed to him to be neither good English nor common sense. Indeed, it was not even "law sense," for he had asked the opinion of several legal gentlemen upon the construction of the sentence, and they could not understand it. It was construed by some to mean that any person who should discuss or advocate the separation, without force or levying of war, of any of the colonies (the Canadas, for instance), from the mother country, would be liable to be transported for life. He could not consent to a clause of this character, and could not believe the Government intended it to have any such effect. He would propose that the words "deprive of" be omitted from the clause.

The ATTORNEY GENERAL said, the terms of the clause were quoted verbatim from 36th George III., and there could be no difficulty in understanding them in connexion with the context. The case of a party at a public meeting advocating the separation of the Canadas by legal means would not come under the proposed Bill at all; but if the same individual counselled a recourse to arms to effect that object, that would be treason under the existing law, and felony under the measure now before the House.

MR. MOWATT said, they were now legislating under the influence of fear, otherwise an assembly like the present would not in the present day maintain that such a proposition as that before the House was at all reasonable. After all that the Attorney General and Solicitor General had said on the subject, he was bound to say that the obvious doubts upon and objections to the clause which must present themselves to any man on first reading it, had only been multiplied and confirmed by what had fallen from these high legal authorities. They had been told that this Bill, which proposed to constitute that felony which was never held to be so before, and to establish it by means of evidence which had never yet been admitted in either capital or felonious offences, would not operate so as to infringe the liberty of speech, and that the intelligence and integrity of judges and juries would secure us against such a result. This he held to be illogical, and only to be tolerated for a moment by a panic-stricken assembly. The Act, although full of grammatical blunders, and very ambiguous when it ought to be plain and unmistakeable, was, forsooth, to be defended, because some old law could be raked up as a precedent for it; and he had good legal authority for saying that a person standing up and saying that the time had at length arrived for separating some one or other of our colonies from the mother country, might under the clause be subjected to the penalties of felony for attempting to "alter the style, title, &c.," of the reigning Sovereign. He was ashamed to take part in a discussion of this sort; it was an insult to common sense, and a disgrace to the age and the assembly.

MR. G. THOMPSON said, that in the case of a penalty so severe, and an offence so novel, and when the evidence must, of necessity and inevitably, in ninety-nine case of a hundred, be furnished by hired spies and informers, quoting words spoken by the accused, and not producing language written by his hand; and, moreover, where the pages of Hansard could not be allowed to come into court to show what the various constructions of the law-makers upon the several clauses were, it was above all things absolutely necessary that the offence should be so clearly defined as to require no acumen or legal ingenuity to construe, so as to save the prisoner from being left to the mercy of any construction which a Crown prosecutor might choose to attach to the words.

MR. AGLIONBY withdrew his Amendment.

House resumed. Committee to sit again.

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