§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I rise, Sir, in pursuance of the notice I have given, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to conspiracy to murder. From time to time circumstances arise which point to the necessity, or the expediency at all events, of revising particular laws; and I think the House will concur with me in the opinion that an event has recently happened which does render it expedient that Parliament should revise the particular branch of our criminal law to which my notice relates. Sir, a conspiracy has been formed, partly in this country, for the purpose of committing a most atrocious crime. That conspiracy has led to most disastrous consequences. Providentially, the particular consequence to which it was aimed did not take place; but, nevertheless, great disasters have happened, and a sensation of indignation and disgust has been spread over the whole face of the earth. The natural consequence of the fact, that the parties who were immediately concerned in this diabolical attempt issued from this country, has been that foreign nations, ignorant of our peculiar laws, and unacquainted with the spirit of our constitution, have thought that there was an indifference in this country to the commission of crimes of an atrocious nature, and that, so far from entertaining those feelings which human nature must ever entertain with regard to such projects and such acts, on the con- 934 trary, the people of England were disposed rather to look upon them with a feeling amounting almost to favour. A disposition prevails on the Continent in general that the Government and Parliament of this country should take some steps which should place it in the power of the Government, on mere suspicion, to remove aliens from the United Kingdom. Sir, it is needless for me to say that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose any measure of that kind to Parliament. We are sensible, as everybody must be, that there may be cases in which men, entertaining the most criminal projects, might with advantage be removed from the country; but, at the same time, any law which gave to the Government that power would be so liable to abuse, and would infringe so much on that general principle according to which the shores of the United Kingdom are open to people of all nations who may be compelled, from political or other causes, to seek a refuge here, and who ought, so long as they conduct themselves peaceably, to enjoy the protection they seek, that any Government would hesitate long before they proposed such a measure to Parliament, and I am quite sure Parliament would be quite as much disinclined to adopt it. Such a measure, therefore, is out of the question. But Her Majesty's Government, finding that an offence of a peculiar nature has been committed—namely, that there is strong reason to think that a conspiracy for the commission of murder has been, at all events, partially concocted in this country, we are anxious to consider what is the present state of our law with regard to that particular offence.
I will, Sir, in the first place, meet an objection which I am aware many people entertain, at the consideration of this question having been taken up at all at the present time. It has been said by many that, because great irritation has been expressed on the part of foreign nations, and supposed to exist on the part of foreign Governments, against England, upon the mistaken assumption that we are indifferent to these matters, and that because, in France especially, certain addresses have been made by military bodies and published in the official paper, the Moniteur, on this account we should be prevented taking a step which, on its own merits, we might think it becoming the character and the interests of the country to take. Sir, for myself I must confess I cannot under- 935 stand the argument on which such an objection is taken. If it be right in itself to make such an alteration in our law; if our law is defective, and if it is capable of material improvement, there can be no reason why we should abstain from doing in regard to our own legislation what we think to be right merely because other nations have given way to impulses in moments of passion and perhaps of fear which we think to be wrong. But I am glad to say, in regard to those particular addresses from military bodies to which objection was taken on a recent occasion, that in the first place it appears that if the people of France are ignorant of what is the spirit of our constitution, and the habit, course, and current of our legislation, we, on the other hand, are very ill-informed as to the constant course and practice in France in regard to matters to which we take objection; because—and I confess it is only within the last few days that I have been acquainted with the fact—that the practice of addresses being presented by military bodies of all descriptions to the head of the Government of France upon all occasions of public interest, whether political or not, is a practice which has prevailed for, at all events, the last sixty years. It appears that in every reign, when events of public importance have occurred, whether for good or for evil, whether they were events upon which congratulation could be offered, or events upon which strong opinions could be expressed, it has not been considered inconsistent with the military discipline of the French army, but, on the contrary, it has been an approved practice, to allow regiments, and even detachments, to make addresses to the head of the existing Government. There was, therefore, nothing in the fact of these addresses being permitted and published which was a departure from the ordinary and uniform practice which prevails in France., But there were in those addresses, undoubtedly, expressions and passages at which in this country offence was taken, and at which, were it not a pity that we should examine too narrowly what passes in France, persons in this country might justly take offence. Well, Sir, Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable to inform the French Government of the unfortunate effect which those passages had produced upon the public mind of this country. I am glad to say my noble Friend Lord Clarendon has had placed in his hands by 936 the French Ambassador, by the directions of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, a despatch, in which it is stated that, Lord Cowley having communicated to the French Government the bad impression which that particular circumstance had produced, Count Walewski had ordered the Ambassador here to state that, although the practice was a universal practice, if in two or three addresses out of many hundreds some passages were allowed to be printed to which objections had been taken in England, that circumstance must have arisen from the inadvertence of those who had the charge of publishing those addresses, and that he was ordered, upon the part of the Emperor, to state that he regretted their publication. As far, then, as any objection to the revision of our laws is founded upon these recent addresses, I think such objection ought to cease after the handsome manner in which that explanation has been made.
I come now, therefore, to the question disembarrassed of any feeling connected with that subject. Upon examining the state of our law it appeared that the law in this country—in England—treats a conspiracy to commit murder simply as a misdemeanour, subject to a fine and a short period of imprisonment; that, in point of fact, the offence of conspiracy to murder is punishable on the same level and in the same manner as a conspiracy for any other purpose, such as hissing at a theatre, or doing anything which it is an offence for men to conspire to do. In another part of the United Kingdom—that is to say, in Ireland—it will be found that the law upon this subject is very severe. There a conspiracy to commit murder is a capital offence. Well, Sir, it appeared to us that while, on the one hand, the law of England is too slight and the punishment not adequate to deter persons from the commission of the crime, on the other hand, the law of Ireland, which was passed in former times, was more severe than was necessary, and that it would be an improvement to make the law of the United Kingdom uniform by reducing the penalty in Ireland and by increasing the penalty in England. That which we now propose is that conspiracy to commit murder should be a felony, punishable with penal servitude, according to the nature of the offence, at the discretion of the Court, varying from any period not less than five years to the extent of life. Penal servitude for life was the maximum punishment, or the 937 offence might be punished by imprisonment and hard labour for a period not exceeding three years. That would apply to conspiracies by persons in this country, be they British subjects or foreigners—conspiracies to commit murder upon any person, whether a British subject or a foreigner, and whether resident within this country or abroad. This law will be universal, and will apply to all persons with respect to conspiracies to murder wherever intended. In this country, if a conspiracy to murder were to succeed, and a person were to fall a victim, then a conspirator would be an accessory before the fact, and could be tried for murder. With respect to a conspiracy to procure the murder of a person out of this kingdom, we propose that the conspiracy should be a conspiracy to commit murder if the murder which the conspiracy is intended to produce would be murder according to the laws of England if the crime were committed within the United Kingdom. The Bill, then, Sir, will be exceedingly short, and will run thus:—1. Any person who shall, within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and Man, conspire with any other person or persons, being either within or without the said United Kingdom and the said Islands, to commit murder, either within or without the dominions of Her Majesty, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted shall be liable to be sentenced to penal servitude for life, or for any term not less than five years, or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding three years.2. That any person who shall, within the said United Kingdom, or said Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and Man, incite, instigate, or solicit any other person, being either within or without the said United Kingdom and Islands to commit murder, either within or without Her Majesty's dominions, shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable, upon conviction thereof, to be sentenced to penal servitude for life, or for any term not less than five years, or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding three years.3. Any person charged within the United Kingdom with a felony, under the provision of this Act, may be apprehended, tried, and punished, or otherwise dealt with, in all respects, in any county or place within the United Kingdom in which he may be found, in the same manner as if the felony with which he is charged had been committed in such county or place.4. In any proceeding under this Act in which the murder shall be alleged to have been intended to be committed in any foreign country the word "murder" shall be construed to mean the killing of any person, whether a subject of Her Majesty or not, under such circumstances as would, if the person were so killed in the said United Kingdom, make such killing murder by the laws of the said United Kingdom.938 Then the 5th clause repeals the Irish Act of 10th Geo. IV., entitled "An Act for Consolidating and Amending the Statutes relating to Offences against the Person." The effect of the Bill which I now ask the House to allow me to introduce is to increase the penalty for conspiracy to murder as far as relates to Great Britain and to diminish the penalty in Ireland, and to make one uniform law for the whole country. Now, I think that is an improvement of the law of this country, independent of all temporary circumstances. I think at the same time it is due to the character of the country that, a great crime having been attempted, the arrangements for which were partly concerted in this country, as far as we can go without violence to the constitution, and without any legislation which would not in itself be right and proper, we should so far show our feeling upon this occasion as to enter upon a review of the particular law-relating to that crime which has been attempted. It may be said possibly that as yet the present law has not been found ineffectual, because no proceedings have taken place under it. But will any man say, the object of the law being by punishment to deter persons from the commission of the offence, that by increasing the penalty attaching to the offence you do not add to the deterring effect, and still more prevent men from committing such offence? Can it be said, because it has so happened that this crime is scarcely known in this country, and that no case has occurred in which the law has been applied, that we are not adding a security that in future the crime will not be repeated by increasing the punishment which is to deter from its commission? It may perhaps be said, that if any one thought he should be successful no amount of punishment would deter him from the attempt, and that many an enthusiast would not care to lake imprisonment for three years as the result of an unsuccessful attempt; but I cannot but persuade myself that increasing the penalty to that length of penal servitude which is mentioned in the Bill will have a wholesome effect in teaching those who might wish to make this country a place in which to hatch and concoct disgraceful crimes that they cannot do so without incurring a liability of a very serious character. I therefore propose to the House that I should have leave to bring in a Bill for the purpose of amending the Law relating to Conspiracy to Murder.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to Conspiracy to Murder."
rose to move an Amendment:—That this House, while sympathizing with the French Nation in its indignant abhorrence of the late atrocious attempt against the life of the Emperor, and anxious upon a proper occasion to consider any defects which may be shown to exist in our Criminal Law, the amendment of which might tend to defeat a repetition of such attempts, deems it inexpedient to legislate in compliance with the demand made in Count Walewski's despatch of the 20th of January, until further information is before it of the communications between the two Governments subsequent to the date of that despatch.He need hardly say that he warmly concurred in the noble Lord's expression of the abhorrence of this country at the dreadful crime which had been attempted against the life of the Emperor. As a moral and religious people we absolutely abhorred the crime of assassination. As a people used to bracing exercise and manly strife of many descriptions we regarded assassination as a cowardly and dastardly evasion of those rules of fair conflict to which we were accustomed; and perhaps we might add that to our abhorrence of the crime we joined a great deal of hearty contempt, because, as a thoroughly practical people, we were naturally apt to despise those who were continually making attempts and never succeeding. If he imagined it possible that by any legislation we could prevent the repetition of attempts such as that recently made against the life of the Emperor, and if the law officers of the Crown had come to that House, and, speaking with faithful regard to the science of the law, and not as politicians bending under pressure from abroad, had told them that the law required amending, then he should have been quite ready to give his best attention to any measure which might have been proposed upon the subject. But how stood the case? The indignation occasioned by the late atrocious attempt was very natural, and it was also natural that France should, in the moment of indignation, turn towards this country, because it was from this country that the assassins went thither. [Cries of "No, no."] At least, some of the conspirators went from this country, and it was therefore natural that the French people in the first moment of their indignation should turn their eyes towards England. The result was the despatch which had that 940 morning been placed in the hands of Members, and to which for some reason or other the noble Lord had made no allusion. In that despatch the Government of this country was in the most urgent terms called upon to alter its internal law. Now, his objection to legislate upon this occasion was of the simplest description. He confessed that he was so old-fashioned—so illogical, if they chose—as to decline to concur in altering the municipal law of England at the instigation of any foreign potentate. Either the measure proposed by the noble Lord was merely a piece of law reform, or it was a political measure suggested from abroad. If it were a piece of law reform he should have expected it to have been proposed to the House by the very able law officers of the Crown, and he could not believe in that case the noble Lord would have made himself the organ of the Government. But, if it were, as he conceived it to be, a concession to the pressure put upon the noble Lord by the despatch to which he had referred, he must decline to concur in the proposed legislation. It so happened that at that very moment hon. Members had in their hands notices of Motion for revising that very branch of the law which the noble Lord was now submitting to their consideration. The Solicitor General, than whom no man was more capable to deal with legislation of this description, only so lately as Thursday last gave notice of his intention to introduce several Bills for the consideration, improvement, and amendment of our criminal law. Of these notices one was—Mr. Solicitor General: Offences against the Person.—Bill to Consolidate and Amend the Statute Law of England relating to Offences against the Person.—An early day.The other was—Mr. Solicitor General: Indictable Offences.—Bill to Consolidate the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to Accessories to, or Abettors of, Indictable Offences.Therefore, if it were not intended that this proposed legislation should be absolutely exceptional, it might be most aptly, conveniently, and properly comprised in the measures the notices of which the Solicitor General had placed in their hands. But, perhaps, that would hardly satisfy the exigency under which the noble Lord was acting. The despatch was very strongly worded—But M. le Comte, how different is the attitude of the skilful demagogues established in England. It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of 941 the press and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of the factious seeking to rouse opinion and provoke disorder; it is assassination, elevated to doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement.To do justice to the noble Lord he must confess that he had, in terms which he admitted to be perfectly decisive and conclusive, declined to act upon this portion of the requisition which was addressed to him. The despatch went on—In submitting these questions to Her Britannic Majesty's Government, the Government of the Emperor does not merely discharge a duty towards itself, it re-echoes the sentiment of the country, which, under the influence of the most legitimate anxiety, calls upon it to do so; and which, in a matter where the common interest among all nations and all Governments is so clear, considers itself entitled to reckon upon the concurrence of England. The repetition and the wickedness of these guilty enterprises expose France to a danger against which we are bound to provide. Her Britannic Majesty's Government can assist us in averting it by affording us a guarantee of security which no State can refuse to a neighbouring State, and which we are authorized to expect from an Ally. Fully relying, moreover, on the high sense of the English Cabinet, we refrain from indicating in any way the measures which it may see fit to take in order to comply with this wish.So that, although no alternative was given to the noble Lord as to the general character of the measures which he was to adopt, the details were kindly left to the discretion of the Cabinet. He did not think that it would become the House of Commons instantly to legislate upon an appeal such as this. They had been told that this despatch, although dated January 20th, had not been answered. He did not wonder at that; but he proposed to the House that they should answer it here, and answer it now. He had great confidence in the noble Earl who conducted the affairs of the Foreign Office. He knew no one who could write a better despatch than Lord Clarendon; but he believed that no human ingenuity could give so good an answer to the communication of Count Walewski as would be involved in a simple vote of that House. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
§ MR. HADFIELD
seconded the Amendment, and expressed his decided objection to the measure, the effect of which would be to render two suspected persons talking together guilty of conspiracy, and subject them to severe penalty. This was an invasion of the constitution of the country which he had little expected from the present Government. It had been the pride 942 of Englishmen that this country had afforded an asylum to the political outcasts of all other oppressive Governments, and a refuge for the lovers of liberty all over the world. But it seemed to him that this Bill would involve all political refugees in the drag-net of the law of conspiracy, and would subject all who could be brought within the enactment to transportation for life. The Lord Chief Justice had stated that, in his opinion, the present law was quite sufficient for every purpose, and that an alteration was not necessary. There was danger in the Bill of the noble Lord. He was suspicious and jealous of it in the highest degree. If it should pass, farewell to the liberty of every one seeking a refuge in this country. The people of this country had established its character centuries ago. They had hitherto maintained it unsullied, and he deeply regretted that it should be impugned by a Bill of this kind at the dictation of a foreign State. He cordially supported the Amendment, and trusted that the Bill would be withdrawn, for if any Amendment should be considered necessary, it could be much more conveniently made in the Bills of the Solicitor General.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BOWYER
said, it was not easy to understand the objections which the hon. Mover of the Amendment urged against the Bill. Indeed no attempt had been made to show that the Bill was bad in itself. The first objection of the hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake), that the measure was proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government instead of by the Attorney General, was not a very weighty one. Another was that the Bill was introduced at the suggestion of the Government of our ally the Emperor of the French. It was a very odd and certainly a new doctrine in civilized Europe that one ally was not at liberty from time to time to suggest to another things which, though immediately concerning the internal affairs of the latter, also deeply affected the peace of the former and the stability of its Government. He was surprised especially to hear that, after the soldiers of France had fought side by side with ours in the great struggle which had lately terminated, the French Government was not at liberty, in an amicable manner, upon a great emergency, to bring before the Government of England matters which af- 943 fected the security of our Allies and the safety of the life of him whom the votes of the French people had placed upon the throne of that kingdom. And that was all that the French Government had done on this occasion. He had read with care the despatch of Count Walewski, and he admitted there were some phrases in it which might he misunderstood by persons not acquainted with the niceties of the French language; but for his own part he could not conceive a more unobjectionable, a more inoffensive, or a more proper communication to be made by one ally and neighbour to another. The question was whether, because certain French colonels had spoken in an injudicious and objectionable manner, that House was to refuse its consent to a Bill which was in accordance with international law, and even with the criminal jurisprudence of England itself. They were not called upon to interfere with what had been termed the right of asylum, which was supported by the very highest authorities, both ancient and modern; they were not asked to alter any one principle in our law or constitution: but simply to enact a penalty adequate to the offence which it was intended to punish, and to provide more effectual means for the suppression of crimes against the peace and safety of other nations. Supposing they refused to pass this Bill, in what possible manner, he asked, could they more effectually give colour to the unjust and absurd imputations of the French colonels. Our Ally had brought before us a defect in our legislation, and several cases had occurred in which our law had proved practically inadequate to the prevention of crime. ["No. no!"] Crimes had been perpetrated; our law had not prevented them; therefore, it was not practically sufficient for the purposes which it was intended to serve. That was sound logic. It appeared to him, moreover, that it was most undesirable to give colour to the idea that we were indisposed to the suppression of conspiracy, and that it would be most undignified to refuse to do what was right merely because they felt offended at something that somebody else had said. He was actually told that if they passed this Bill it would be said abroad that they had acted under the menace of a foreign Power. He would be ashamed to sit in that House if such a motive were to be thought capable of influencing it. Foreign nations knew the English Parliament well enough to be aware that it was not to be moved by 944 menace, and that if it were to pass this Bill it would do so only because it thought it just, wise, and expedient. The laws of this country in their present shape had been found to be practically ineffectual for the prevention of crimes such as that which had lately been perpetrated in Paris, and it was, in his opinion, extremely desirable that they should be so far amended as to afford somewhat greater security against the recurrence of offences of a similar character than at present existed. If then, this Bill were a right Bill—if it remedied a defect in our law—the House should assent to it, irrespective of all these foreign considerations. It had, indeed, been urged in opposition to any such measure that the Emperor of the French had himself, while an exile in England, conspired against Louis Philippe, who was then at the head of the French nation. The argumentum ad hominem was, however, in his opinion, a bad species of reasoning to which to have recourse. It reminded him of that line of argument which schoolboys were wont to reprobate under the name of a tu quoque. But passing over the inconclusive nature of such reasoning he was prepared altogether to deny that there was any just parallel between the expedition of Louis Napoleon to Boulogne and the attempt which had recently been made to assassinate him in his own capital. Louis Napoleon was at the time of the expedition in question a pretender to the Crown of France; he believed himself to be entitled under an organic law of the Empire, which had not been abrogated without the assistance of foreign bayonets; he went to France for the assertion of his rights, and landed openly and at the risk of his life at Boulogne as his uncle did at Cannes—the only difference was that he did not succeed, and that, according to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, was decisive against him. Louis Napoleon landed openly with a handful of men, and risked his life bravely—and if he had succeeded he would have had the reputation of having done one of the most heroic things recorded in history. Between his conduct, therefore, and that of assassins who conspired to commit murder for months, and who did not hesitate in the prosecution of their designs to scatter destruction amid a crowd of harmless people,—to throw grenades under a carriage in which a lady was seated beside the object of their atrocious designs—there 945 was the widest possible difference. But, passing from that view of the subject, he was prepared to support the measure under the notice of the House upon the ground that the object which it sought to effect was perfectly in accordance with international law as well as in conformity with the municipal law of this country. That it was in accordance with international law was a proposition which was established by the writings of a great authority—Vattel. The House would bear in mind that a foreigner residing here and owing temporary allegiance to the Crown was legally, for the present purpose, on the same footing as a subject of the Crown. Vattel said:—Since the Sovereign ought not to suffer his subjects to molest the subjects of other States, or to do them an injury, much less to give open audacious offence to foreign Powers, he ought to compel the transgressor to make reparation for the damage or injury, if possible, or to inflict on him an exemplary punishment; or, finally, according to the nature and circumstances of the case, to deliver him up to the offended State, to be there brought to justice. This is pretty generally observed with regard to great crimes, which are equally contrary to the laws and safety of all nations. The Sovereign who refuses to cause reparation to be made for the damage done by his subject, or to punish the offender, or, finally, to deliver him up, renders himself in some measure an accomplice in the injury, and becomes responsible for it.The extract which he had just read served to show that there was nothing in the proposal of the noble Lord at the head of the Government which was opposed to international law, while it was equally clear that it was not at variance with the criminal law of England, inasmuch as under the operation of that law, as it at present stood, two or more persons conspiring here to commit murder in a foreign State were liable to be indicted for a misdemeanour. To amend the law, therefore, so as to make the punishment more adequate to the heinousness of the offence was to take a step which would, in his opinion, be in no way a departure from the principles of our legislation. The present Bill would not make that a crime which was not at present one; and how absurd it was that a man who broke into a house and stole a trifling amount of property was liable to the punishment of penal servitude, while those who conspired against the life of a foreign Sovereign escaped with a sentence of fine and imprisonment. He wished, also, to observe that the laws relating to conspiracy seemed to him to be ineffectively enforced by the police. It was well 946 known that secret societies, which were nothing but standing conspiracies against the live of foreign Sovereigns, existed in this metropolis, and that the efforts of the police to discover and suppress them were of no avail, because they were composed of persons who were adepts in the arts of the conspirator. Orsini, for instance, had published a book in which he stated that he had at the age of twenty-five become a member of a secret society, and that he had from that time never ceased to conspire against the Government of Austria. That fact showed how well trained such men were to the work of concealment; while, as an instance of the facility with which they escaped detection, he might mention the case of Foschini, who had stabbed three or four different persons within a few yards of a crowded thoroughfare, and at so early an hour as eight o'clock in the evening, and had never been apprehended. Foschini had been deputed by a secret society to commit the crime, the only cause being—as two of those whose lives had been endangered had informed him (Mr. Bowyer)—that they had refused their concurrence in certain views which had been advanced by a particular section of the society to which Foschini belonged. Having made his murderous attempt upon the lives of these men he had rushed into the street, and so secure did he appear to have felt that he should not be captured that he proceeded home that night to his lodgings, and, having slept there, took his departure in disguise after breakfast the next morning, everything having been prepared for his escape. He (Mr. Bowyer) recollected that some time subsequently to the commission of the crime he had put a question to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department upon the subject, to which he had received in reply the expression of an assurance that Foschini would be taken by the police; and he had since ascertained that at the very time when that answer was given Foschini was in Walworth, within a very short distance of where they were at that moment sitting. The murderer was never taken, for the Government reward of £100 gave the persons concerned reason to believe that some political motives were suspected, and money was accordingly forthcoming to get the man out of the country. Within the last few days he had been told that the victim of what had been called "the Waterloo Bridge tragedy" was a French 947 detective who had come over here to look after some of the refugees, and who was in consequence murdered by them. All this showed some defects in our police force, which required amendment. Now, he did not recommend anything like espionage. But as a conspiracy to stir up rebellion in a foreign country or to murder a foreign prince was a misdemeanour by the law of England, why were not the same vigilance and care taken to prevent that offence as was taken to prevent other misdemeanours? That was the real point to be looked at, and he must say he thought our police should take more care to cope with the craft and contrivance of these conspirators, and that further measures should be adopted in order to prevent these offences. He supported this Bill most strongly, because it changed nothing in the spirit of our law, but only amended it—because it did not affect the right of asylum in the slightest possible degree, and because it was a measure which he believed to be requisite for the peace of Europe, and also for the better protection of the honour of this country.
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said the hon. and learned Gentleman had told a long story as to the defects in our own police system; now he (Mr. Fox) would match that story by an inquiry into the efficiency of the French police. That portion of the late infamous attempt on the Emperor of the French which took place in this country was perfectly open. Machines were manufactured in Birmingham; Colonel Dixon, of the Small Arms Establishment at Enfield, was acquainted with the new sort of grenade which was to be produced; and the whole affair was perfectly above-board until the parties possessing these instruments of destruction found their way to Paris, and there attempted to perpetrate their crime. Now, the atrocious attempt at assassination which had occurred might be called the occasion for the mandate which had reached us from across the Channel; but he thought it could not be called the cause. We had all heard for some time past murmurings upon the continent of Europe—from Austria, France, and Naples—as to the asylum afforded to political refugees in this country. A violent desire had long been expressed to put an end to our free and hearty reception and protection of these fugitives, and we must therefore look further for the cause. Now, there were those who did not object to wade through slaughter to a throne, and it was in the common course 948 of things that they should fear to be hurled by slaughter from that throne. He confessed he did not think that such persons had any particular right to call upon their neighbours to keep watch and ward over their safety. Assassination was not an English crime; it did not grow on English soil; it was not breathed in our atmosphere. It was said that the assassins went out of England; but how did that happen? They first came into England. They came from countries administered by Governments which made assassins, and which, for that reason, dreaded the return of assassins. But if you treated a man with injustice, with continued harshness and cruelty, you embittered all the springs of life in him, and might, perhaps, in time transform a good citizen and member of society into an assassin. This was a very practicable operation. His objection to this Bill was, that it made an alteration in our law in compliance with an external pressure. He also objected to it in consideration of the feelings and the comfort of hundreds and thousands of refugees who had found an asylum here. There might be among these persons who were capable of plotting, and even perhaps of executing assassination. He believed them to be a very small number indeed. There wore other refugees who were looking patiently for the time when other days should come, and when men should rule in their own country who would do them justice. Many of them were waiting here for that time with the strictest patience which could possibly be exercised. There were others who had given up all hope whatever of returning to their own country, who made themselves at home here, and who strove by honourable employment to earn for themselves and their families an honest subsistence. Now, he asked, what would become of all such persons if we shook their feeling of security by the enactment of anything like a new law? They would not, indeed, be within the range of your new Bill; they would not conspire to commit murder here or elsewhere; but their feeling of security in the unchangeableness of British law would be shaken to its foundations. You would spread a cloud over their dwellings—you would carry anxiety and apprehension into their bosoms—you would give rise among them to a feeling of bitterness and of insecurity which would go far to destroy their enjoyment of the hospitality now afforded here. He said of insecurity, for they might say, if this was done to oblige 949 France to-day, what might not be done to oblige Austria to-morrow? After that, something might perhaps be done to oblige the King of Naples. Such a thing once begun, there was no telling where it would stop. The first step was now proposed after such threats as he should have thought would have made English blood boil to hear them; and the first step was a pattern for the second. Those who submitted to be dragooned into one law might be cajoled or threatened into another, and thus it might go on until there would be no longer any difference between this country and others which had enjoyed no such freedom and afforded no such asylum. Look at the example we were setting to other nations If England gave way, what could we expect Belgium to do? What Switzerland? What Sardinia? Why, one after another they might all imitate this subserviency; there would not be a place on the soil of Europe where a political exile could set his foot. And we should have commenced the disgrace of setting an example to those weaker States; we should have levelled ourselves to the position of a secondary and fearful State, one ready to comply with any demand made by others; we should have set the example to Belgium, Sardinia, and Switzerland; we should be the first to lead on the dance of feeble States in this progression of infamy!
regretted, on some accounts, the character of the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. Member for Bridgewater, for he had rather the question had been met broadly upon its merits with an emphatic denial of leave to introduce the Bill within those walls. He hoped it would not be necessary for him or any Member of the House, in expressing his intention to oppose the introduction of this measure, heartily to disavow any approval, direct or indirect, of the infamous and diabolical deed perpetrated in the streets of Paris. From the bottom of his heart he abhorred assassination. He believed that liberty was not served by the success of such deeds, and he was sure that in their failure they only made more strong the arm of despots and more heavy the chains of the oppressed. He objected to the introduction of this Bill, because he believed it utterly unnecessary. He would quote the language of a distinguished legal authority—the Lord Chief Justice—that the law as it at present stood gave the Government all the power they ought to have. It appeared to him that that was a suffi- 950 cient answer to the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he proposed to alter the existing law, on the ground that it was insufficient. The law of England on this subject had been unchanged for many generations and throughout varying circumstances, affecting both England itself and the continent of Europe, and it had always been deemed sufficient. It was deemed sufficient many years ago, when the present Emperor of the French was a refugee in this country, and he found no fault then with the law of England in reference to refugees; and when he planned a descent upon the shores of France at a time when France was as much our ally as she was at the present moment, and when he executed that attempt, and with his own hand shot a soldier on landing at Boulogne. After the commission of that crime the present Emperor was received with open arms by England; here he received protection, and he then found no fault with the refugee law of this country. He (Mr. Gilpin) was not about to revile the Emperor of the French. [Laughter.] He was merely stating facts which none of the laughers opposite could deny, and he repeated that he had no wish to revile the Emperor of the French. It was enough for him to know that the Emperor had been placed in his present position by the people of France, and he (Mr. Gilpin) was too strongly impressed with the conviction that the interests of this country were best consulted by an abstinence on the part of its rulers from interference in the affairs of foreign States to find fault with the Emperor of the French, as Emperor, so long as he was tolerated by the French nation. He (Mr. Gilpin) further objected to the proposed alteration of the law on the ground that it was not real. There was a very expressive word which had been pronounced by high authorities to be not exactly Saxon; but it was better than Saxon—it was expressive. He alluded to the word "sham," and he believed the suggested alteration in the law was a "sham," for, though he did not mean to impugn the motives of the noble Lord in introducing the Bill, if it went no further than was at present proposed, it would not effect the purpose it purported to accomplish. Those who had watched the criminal jurisprudence of this country knew well that the detection and conviction of crime were not rendered more certain by severity, and he was sure that unless a further step in legislation were 951 taken to please the Emperor of the French, by admitting something like the French law of evidence, and adopting the system of French espionage, the law would be a dead letter. It might deceive the Emperor of the French; the noble Premier might himself be deceived by it: but for all practical purposes it would be a dead letter unless the Commons of England were prepared to do what he hoped they never would consent to do—to sacrifice upon the altar of mistaken political expediency the great principles of freedom which had distinguished the British nation. He hoped those who thought with him would oppose the Bill in every stage. Did the noble Lord suppose that, if he succeeded in carrying the Bill he had submitted to the House, this would be the last suggestion we should receive from across the Channel? There were monarchs in Europe—-he would not instance the King of Naples, who might not perhaps be strong enough—but there were monarchs as powerful as the Emperor of the French who might ask for modifications in our laws. He (Mr. Gil-pin) maintained that the will of a foreign monarch ought not to be the standard of English law, and he conceived that they would abandon the high position which as the Commons of England they held, and ought to hold, if in accordance with any such suggestions they altered the fundamental laws of this realm. He believed that those who opposed the Bill of the noble Lord would be supported by the voice of the country. He remembered, and probably many Members on both sides of the House would also remember, certain acts on the part of Secretaries of State for the Home Department which compromised the right of asylum of illustrious exiles, and which even caused the heads of noblemen to roll upon the bloody scaffolds of down-trodden Italy, and the people of England were not slow to express their opinion as to these acts. A noble Lord had in another place expressed a strong opinion, which he hoped would be endorsed by hon. Gentlemen on both sides. That noble Lord, who was the leader of a great party, had uttered these true English words, which had found, and he was persuaded would find, an echo in every British heartNot for the security of the Sovereign of France, or of all the Sovereigns of Europe twenty times over, would I consent to violate in the slightest degree that sacred right of asylum to foreigners by which our history has always been characterized.952 These were the words of Lord Derby; but he (Mr. Gilpin) might also remind the House of the language used by Lord Hawkesbury in 1802, when a demand, somewhat similar to that now put forward, was made upon this country.Our Government," said Lord Hawkesbury, "neither has nor wants any other protection than what the laws of the country afford; and though they are ready and willing to give to every foreign Government all the protection against offences of this nature which the principles of their laws and constitution will admit, they can never consent to new-model their laws or to change their constitution, to gratify the wishes of any foreign Power.He (Mr. Gilpin) thought the only answer to Count Walewski's letter which would be honourable and becoming on the part of that House would be, that they heartily regretted the crime that had been attempted; that they rejoiced it had not been attended with success; but that it was wholly foreign to the interests and the custom of England to modify its laws upon the application of any foreign Power. He was satisfied that those who opposed this Bill and defeated it, would best serve the reputation of the noble Premier himself, and the defeat of the Bill would conduce to the honour of the country, to maintain the character of that House and the dignity of the Crown.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
thought there was a very obvious distinction between the right of asylum and the abuse of that privilege for the purpose of concocting the mo3t frightful crimes that could he imagined—a distinction of which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last appeared to have lost sight. The right of asylum involved the honour and character of England, and it was one which no foreign Power having any knowledge of the spirit of English institutions could ask us to forego. But there was a great distinction between the right of asylum extended to refugees who might have been forced by political causes to quit their own countries, and the protection of atrocious criminals who matured within the British dominions the most execrable projects. He contended that, while they maintained intact the right of asylum, they ought to listen with considerable indulgence and attention to the representations of a friendly Power—a tried and proved ally—which pointed out the great danger to which its Government had been exposed by conspiracies and plots concocted in this country. It had been argued that the existing law applied to such offences, and to persons who benefited by the asylum extended over them 953 and at the same time violated our laws. Was there, then, anything very extraordinary in the adoption of measures to enforce stricter penalties against such persons? Could it be considered that we were yielding to the dictation of a foreign Power when by additional penalties we merely enforced our own laws against those by whom they were basely violated? The distinction was so obvious that no sophistry could place it in any other light. He had heard with great regret to-night, as well as on a former occasion, the most virulent sarcasms directed against the Emperor of the French. He (Sir John Walsh) was not about to put himself forward as the champion of the Emperor, whose acts had earned for him the love and confidence of one of the greatest nations of Europe, and whose character he would leave to be defended by his own countrymen; but he must say the Emperor Napoleon was the most true, sincere, and faithful friend to England and the English alliance who had sat upon the throne of France since 1815. Let the House compare with the Emperor, in this respect, the elder branch of the Bourbons who were restored to their throne by the English, and contrast their sincerity and ardour of friendship to England with those of Napoleon the III. Then, with regard to Louis Philippe, did he exhibit so much sincerity and good faith to this country? That monarch rather tricked and overreached England in the affair of the Spanish marriage; but the Emperor Napoleon, ever since he had presided over the Government of France, had adhered most faithfully to his treaties, and been most cordial in all his relations in reference to this country. Speaking, first, of his private demeanour—though that was a subordinate topic (and yet some inference might be drawn therefrom as to the real nature of his public feeling towards this country),—everybody knew that Louis Napoleon dwelt here in a private capacity during many years of exile; he was acquainted with a great many individuals, some in the very highest ranks of society, others in very subordinate and comparatively obscure position; but no one who had the opportunity of conferring a kindness on him in a period of his adversity and obscurity in this country was ever forgotten by him: let that face be presented at any distance of time—let that person but come across the Emperor Napoleon—and he would find that the memory of that monarch had this 954 admirable quality, that it had an indelible recollection of any act of courtesy that he had received. He mentioned this amiable trait as some reply to those sarcasms which, with very little taste and delicacy, had been lavished against the Emperor. But, to advert to what was more important—namely, the Emperor's public policy,—he reminded the House that the Emperor had adhered to his alliance with this country with the utmost honour and fidelity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) the other night talked a great deal about his affection for the people of France, and had drawn a distinction between the people and the Emperor. He (Sir John Walsh) was afraid that some day the hon. Gentleman would find himself the victim of an unrequited affection. The people of France were neither fond of the hon. Member nor of the English people to the extent he supposed; but if at any time there appeared the chance of any animosity springing up between the French people and this country, the Emperor had exerted all his influence to allay such a feeling. During the whole of that great struggle in which France and England were engaged as allies, nothing could equal the fidelity and honour with which the Emperor carried out his engagements. At one time the Russian war was unpopular with the French people, and nothing but the great ascendancy of the Emperor's name and his energetic character could have induced them to continue the war. The noble Lord the Member for London would recollect that when he and M. Drouyn de Lhuys agreed to a certain basis of peace to be submitted to their Cabinets the Emperor of the French refused to ratify the terms, not because he disapproved them himself, but because the opinion of the British Cabinet was strongly pronounced against them, he stood by his engagement, and the English by the assistance of the French were enabled to bring the war to a triumphant and happy issue. He thought, then, that the Emperor, who acted with such cordial friendship towards this country, had some right, when his capital was convulsed with alarm and horror at a crime which was attempted to be accomplished at the risk of the lives of a multitude of unoffending women and children, to expect that this country, his ally, would—not give up the right of asylum, or change its laws—but afford him some protection from assassination. He was not lawyer enough to follow all the details of the Bill, 955 but he thought it desirable to effect the desired object with as little change of the existing law as possible; and he conceived that the Bill would not alter the spirit of the laws, but only render more severe the penalty attached to the offence to which it had reference. The House could at least give the noble Lord leave to introduce his Bill, and might afterwards consider carefully the details.
§ LORD ELCHO
said this was a question on which he had a strong feeling, and on which he did not like to give a silent vote, the more unwilling because he could neither agree with the Amendment, nor with the measure which the noble Lord had thought the circumstances of the time justified him in introducing. He could assure the noble Lord that it was in no spirit of hostility he objected to the introduction of a measure which he proposed on his responsibility as Minister of the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Mr. Kinglake) objected to the proposition of the noble Lord on two grounds: first, because they were asked to legislate at the instance of the French Government, and the second because they had not sufficient information before them on the subject. Now he confessed that if any sufficient cause had been shown for the necessity of this measure, he would not reject it simply because it was asked for by the French Government. Nor did he see much use in having any more papers laid before the House—he did not see how they could throw any more light on the subject. There were two things which he thought the House had now to consider—the one was the state of the law, and the other was the point of time at which the Government proposed to make the change. Now, being no lawyer it would be presumptuous in him to attempt to define the state of the law to the House; but it was plain that there was the greatest possible doubt among our legal authorities as to the state of the law on this question. They had the Government bringing in this Bill on the avowed ground that the law was insufficient; while in another place they had Lord Campbell and Lord Brougham declaring that the law as it stood was quite sufficient for all purposes. Now, this being the state of that question it appeared to him that they would act very hastily if they proceeded to alter the law without being satisfied that it was insufficient. The noble Lord himself in bringing in the Bill did not say that the existing law was insufficient 956 but that it was never brought into operation. That of course did not prove it to be insufficient, and they ought not to alter it without inquiry. He came next to the question of time; and to this he attached very great importance. On the very first day of the Session, immediately after the speech of Count de Morny in the French Chamber, the noble Lord came down to the House and gave notice that he would to-night move for leave to bring in a Bill upon the subject. This notice of Motion appeared concurrently with the appearance in the Moniteur of the addresses from the French Colonels. Now, taken in themselves these addresses were, perhaps, nothing very extraordinary; but the fact of their appearing in the Moniteur did give the matter a very great importance, for, as had been stated by his hon. and learned Friend, and as bad before been stated by Lord Hawkesbury in 1802, on a somewhat similar occasion, the Moniteur was as much the official organ of the Government as the London Gazette. It did not matter whether the offensive matter was contained in the partie officielle or the partie non officielle; there could be no doubt that all these addresses had been sent to the Generals commanding the districts, by them to the Minister of War, and had been by him transmitted to the office of the Moniteur. No doubt these officers were ambitious of promotion; and, in fact, he had observed in the French papers the other day, that the colonel, from whom one of the most violent of these addresses had emanated, had been decorated with the Legion of Honour. But then, publications in the Moniteur had a material bearing on the question of time. It appeared to him that there was the more reason for objecting to hasty legislation at a time when the public opinion of Europe was called to those addresses, and would convey the impression that this legislation was somewhat under compulsion. It was all very well to talk of public opinion in France; but there was a strong public opinion in England, too, and wherever they went they heard people saying, "Surely this is hasty, and it may compromise the right of asylum." Now, as regarded that right, he thought it would be impossible to persuade the people of England that they would ever violate it. But still he thought the honour and dignity of the House were engaged in not taking any step that would look like even an approach towards that violation. It appeared to him that a not unreasonable 957 course would have been for the House, instead of introducing suddenly a measure of this kind, to pass a Resolution, stating its horror and detestation of the crime that had been attempted against the person of the Emperor, and that, while it was determined to maintain inviolate the right of asylum, it would also punish those who, at any future time, might be found guilty of such crimes, and even to amend the law if it should be found insufficient. But as the state of the law, in the opinion of lawyers, was doubtful, it was desirable that a commission should be issued to inquire into the subject, and to report with all convenient speed. If that were done, they would be in a position to show that they had not acted hastily, while they had done all that was necessary to be done to render the law efficient.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, although I am very much inclined to move the adjournment of the debate, yet, as it is desirable that the matter should be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible, I will throw myself on the indulgence of the House, and, even at this late hour, state my opinions on this very important question. It appears to me that we have before us two questions—first, does the law require any alterations? Scondly, is this the right time and mode for making it? Now, I will confine myself to these two questions. And, first, I would ask, does the law require any alteration? But before I address myself to that question, I would ask the House to consider with me the real position of our country at the present time. The whole of Europe, with the insignificant exceptions of Belgium and Sardinia, is, at the present time, subject to despotism. The two islands of Great Britain and Ireland are the only spots in Europe in which freedom of language and freedom of action still exist. We are an oasis in the desert. That desert has grown from day to day and from hour to hour, within my recollection. Despotism has been daily narrowing the sphere of liberty in Europe, and we are now in the proud position—though I will say that it is for the human race a lamentable one—we are in the proud position of being the sole depositaries of liberty in Europe. If England were stricken down to-morrow, do you think Belgium and Sardinia would exist for a day? Well then, Sir, I say that, for the sake of mankind, it becomes us duly to consider what we are asked to do, lest we should do anything to circumscribe the 958 liberty of England. This country is at present the asylum of all oppressed people—not, as has been said, that people of every description may come to England, for England has entered into treaties to give up criminals; but we do not give up political criminals; that is the great distinction. Such then, Sir, is our position; such is the position of Europe; and it is at this time that we are called upon to alter the law of England. It has been our boast for ages that we have given an asylum, a safe asylum, to every political offender; and mark the words "political offender." What then, Sir, is the present state of the law? It is this, that conspiracy is a crime. Conspiring to do an illegal act, or conspiring to do a legal act in an illegal manner, is a crime according to the Jaw of England. There is only one case in which the crime of conspiracy is erected by the law of England into a capital offence, and that is, the case of high treason. Conspiring to kill the Sovereign is the crime of high treason. The crime does not consist in killing the Sovereign, but in conspiring to kill the Sovereign. I As has been stated already in another place, it is well known to every lawyer that in the case of those who, in the days of Charles the Second, were called the "regicides," and who were indicted for bringing King Charles the First to the block, the indictment was for conspiring to kill the King, and the cutting off his head was laid as an overt act. That is the sole case in which conspiracy has been erected into a capital offence by the law of England. Our law of conspiracy is this—that whatever crime men conspire to commit the mere conspiring is a misdemeanour punishable with fine and imprisonment. Now, Sir, let me be understood. Two men come together, and they conspire together to kill A B. If one of them only killed A B, then the one who conspired, and did not kill him may be indicted as an accessary before the fact; but if they have only conspired, the conspiracy is a misdemeanour punishable by fine and imprisonment. Such is the law. Now, such being the law what has occurred to induce us to alter it? For a long period we have gone on from time to time ameliorating—that is rendering less cruel—the law of England. We have learnt by experience that in order to make a law efficient, you must make discovery certain, and the infliction of punishment certain; and we have found that when punishments are severe there is great 959 difficulty first in discovering the criminal, and next in bringing him to justice. I will take the case of forgery. The punishment of that offence has in my time undergone a complete change. I recollect hearing when I was a youth of many persons who were at that time executed for the crime of forgery. At length it became almost impossible, not merely to find out forgery, but to convict a forger. We then went back to the very origin of the disease, and we ameliorated the law; we rendered the punishment less severe, and thereby increased the efficiency of the law, making the crime more certain of detection, and the punishment more certain of being inflicted. Now, Sir, the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) asks us to pursue a contrary course. He says, "there is a crime which, with a mild punishment, we have been unable to find out," for that is the real state of things—and, therefore, I ask you to increase the punishment. I ask is that rational? A great crime has been perpetrated. What was done in England? I will suppose that certain people conspired together in England to kill the Emperor of the French. We have no evidence of that yet—none whatever. No man has been tried; there is nothing before the world except the vague statements which have appeared in the newspapers. We know that a crime has been committed, but we know nothing certain as to the persons who committed it; we know not where they concocted the crime; we know not whence they obtained the means of perpetrating it. But I will take the statements in the newspapers for granted. I will suppose that the crime was concocted in England. Then what was the overt act? I will suppose that it was going down to Birmingham, and getting made there certain grenades or projectiles. The man who made them received the order openly, and when he went to Enfield he spoke of the peculiar projectiles which he had been employed to make, and he asked the officials if they knew anything about them?—showing that he knew nothing about the purpose to which they were to be applied. The officials at Enfield told him that they knew nothing about them; but as soon as the attempt made at Paris became known here, their attention was called to the circumstances, and it was suggested to him that he had made the projectiles which were thrown under the Emperor's carriage. Now, Sir, was there anything 960 there which an increased severity of punishment could have brought to light? Supposing that you had in force the law now proposed—suppose that any man who conspired to kill the Sovereign of France would have been guilty of felony—would that have rendered the discovery of the crime one whit more easy? If you tell me that the severity of the punishment would have induced these persona not to commit the crime, I ask you to go with me across the water. There the crime was carried to its consummation; there the crime was punishable with death; and though the punishment of death stared them in the face, these men committed the crime. What then, according to the reasoning of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), ought they to do in France? Why, the crime not having been prevented by the fear of death the punishment of torture ought to be added to the existing punishment. If an addition to the punishment here be necessary, an addition to the punishment in France is also necessary. The only punishment you can add to death is torture; therefore, according to the principles of the noble Lord torture ought to be introduced into the French land. I want this statement to be answered. Hon. Gentlemen may sneer; but there is a great difference between sneering and answering. I say the law as it at present stands in no way prevents discovery, and the law as it is proposed to be altered would in no way facilitate discovery. Discovery is the only thing that is wanted. The Emperor of the French points to that in the despatch that has been laid upon the table. He asks that you should alter your law of police—in other words, that you should introduce the French system of police. I ask what the French police did on this occasion? Why, in the very face of that organized body, who are banded together to keep down liberty and to keep it under the heel of the despot—in the very face of a body thus trained, thus armed, thus accoutred in every possible way for the purpose of trampling down a nation in the dust—these things were prepared, and thrown near the Emperor, to the great danger of his life. All this, I say, was done in spite of his terrific police. And then, when his police fails, he turns upon us and says, "Oh, but England is a den of assassins, for she has sheltered these men, from English shores these wretches have come, and you must alter your police law." And why do I say 961 that the Emperor of the French calls England "a den of assassins?" Because that expression has found its way into the Moniteur. It would not have found its way there but for the permission of Louis Napoleon. He is answerable for everything there said, and I fix upon him the responsibility of insulting my country. That he, too—he of all men upon earth—should dare to insult England!—he who has partaken of our hospitality, who has been sheltered by our fostering power! What, after all this, has he done? Oh, he sets a bright example to England. There was a man who conspired to kill England's great hero, the late duke of Wellington;—this was a man great too, but fallen in his greatness—and no one act of his life was, I think, so thoroughly inconsistent with that greatness as his leaving a legacy to the man who had attempted to assassinate the Duke of Wellington. The only explanation of, the only excuse for, that deed was, that the great Napoleon's mind was shaken to its foundations. I do not believe that Napoleon would in his right senses have perpetrated so infamous an act. But that man, who has received the protection of England, who has come here after attempting crime after crime against his native land—that man when he had climbed to the height of power at which he has now arrived—what did he do but pay to his foiled assassin the wages of his intended dirty deed? [Mr. Bow-YER: No!] Oh, I have heard the hon. and learned Gentleman defend the King of Naples. This man (Cantillon) is now living in Paris, and it was publicly and ostentatiously announced that the present Emperor of the French had paid him the legacy which was left him by the great Napoleon for attempting to assassinate the Duke of Wellington. When these panegyrics are thus profusely scattered in the English House of Commons by the hon. Baronet over the head of Louis Napoleon, I hope he did not recollect this fact. [Sir JOHN WALSH: I had not heard of it.] The hon. Baronet says he had not heard of it, yet he pretends to speak on this matter. But, Sir, if it were necessary that this alteration should be made in the law, I now come to ask if this is the right time? And now, Sir, I will address myself to the noble Lord; and I will ask him how it is that he is in his present position? He is there because the people of England believed him to be 962 the enemy of despotism in Europe. Yes, that is the reason the noble Lord is there. I recollect saying before the noble Lord came into office that he alone might constitute a Ministry—that with a row of ciphers by his side he might be the Prime Minister. So popular was he with the people of England, that I said he might go into the streets and select whom he liked for colleagues; and in order to prove the truth of what I stated the noble Lord has pretty well acted upon it. But such, Sir, was the character of the noble Lord. The people believed that he was a thorough English Minister, and that the despots of Europe trembled before him. They thought that the dignity, the honour, and the name were safe in his keeping. How does the noble Lord fulfil the expectation of his country? Why, an offence has been committed in France, for which the French police alone are responsible; and the Emperor of the French turns round and insults the people of England—nay more, he not only insults them, but by his satellites he threatens them. The noble Lord tells us to-night that he has got a despatch which says that the Emperor entirely disclaims the publication of those letters in the Moniteur. I should like to know the date of that despatch. I should like to know if it has not arrived since last Friday? I should like to know if it has not arrived in consequence of a certain statement made in the Count de Persigny's ear; and if, in fact, the noble Lord has not told the Emperor that there is rising a feeling in the people of England that he has insulted them, and that an indignity has been cast upon them with his cognizance? What is the time at which this proposal for an alteration of the law is made? The Emperor of the French, after the attack made upon his life, received addresses from certain bodies of his army. We are told that the Emperor is accustomed to receive letters like those to which I am referring; but he has gone through many occasions like the present. I never said anything against the French army addressing to him any letters they liked—that is no business of mine—but there is nothing said about their publishing them on those former occasions in the Moniteur. How came those letters there? They came there by the order of the French Emperor. Why, in a country in which no man dares to say that his soul is his own, do you mean to tell me that any Minister would dare to publish 963 anything but what the Emperor liked? Do you think that the Count de Morny or the Count de Persigny would do anything that the Emperor would dissent from? Not a bit of it. They receive their inspiration from the Tuileries. The great god on those occasions is Louis Napoleon; and it is he, speaking through his Minister, who has insulted the people of England. He asks that our laws may be altered so as to punish those who sent the assassins over. What does he mean by that? Does he mean to say that the people of England send anybody to assassinate people anywhere? Do we not know that Mr. Fox told the first Napoleon that there was a conspiracy against his life; and do you think that we are different from our ancestors? God knows that we are degenerating fast, but I do not think we have yet sunk so low that we would send anybody to assassinate any Sovereign, be he our enemy or our so-called ally. The people of England are a brave people. They put down one Napoleon, and they are not afraid of another. We are told that Louis Napoleon is our ally. Is it the business of an ally thus to use his friend? Is it showing friendship and kindness to us to accuse us of these atrocious acts? And when I say "to accuse us," I distinctly reiterate and reassert that Louis Napoleon is responsible for those insults upon the British people. I say then, Sir, that this is not the time when the House of Commons ought to con-gent to an alteration of the law, supposing for the moment that the alteration were a good one, which I deny. There have been times in our history when great resistance has been made to powerful enemies abroad, and if the shades of those who have passed away still retain a particle of human feeling, how must the shades of those who resisted Philip II., who resisted Louis XIV., who resisted the first Napoleon, look down now upon the House of Commons employed at the dictation of a French Emperor to alter the law of England! I say that we ate not yet so degenerate as to send anybody to assassinate either a friend or a foe; but if we submit to this indignity which is now sought to be put upon us, God knows we shall be degraded. I say that for us, the great people of England, to alter our law upon threat would be a humiliating sight for mankind at large; and it is became I deem it a degradation and a humiliation that I oppose this Bill on its very first introduction, and call upon you, as freemen and as the great protectors of the 964 oppressed in Europe, to throw out the noble Lord's Bill with all the ignominy which it deserves.
§ On motion of Mr. WARREN,
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.