Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question, [8th February],—
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to Conspiracy to Murder." And which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House, while sympathising 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.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE (who rose at the same time with Mr. WARREN), said, he would only interpose a short time between the hon. and learned Gentlemen and the House; for his only object in rising was to prevent those hon. Gentlemen who might take part in this debate from falling into the same mistake as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin) had made with reference to Louis Napoleon's expedition to Boulogne. Although that hon. Gentleman was a member of the Society of Friends, and, also, he supposed a member of the Peace Society, he made last night an inflammatory speech on this subject. The hon. Gentleman stated that Louis Napoleon, on landing with his followers at Boulogne, shot a man with his own hand. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) preferred to say that Louis Napoleon assassinated a man on that occasion, but he (Mr. Duncombe) put it in the mildest form, Now, there was not a word of truth in that statement. Knowing what really occurred, he felt it his duty to state the facts, and to disabuse the press and the public mind upon the subject. What really occurred was this:—a party proceeded with Louis Napoleon to Boulogne armed with pocket pistols. On their land- 980 ing, one of the pistols of one of the followers of Louis Napoleon went off. Louis Napoleon had only one pistol himself, and that never was fired. But the ball of the pistol that went off went through the cheek of a man who was crying "Vive L' Empereur."That man, however, soon recovered from his wound. The only two persons who were killed were two of the followers of Louis Napoleon—one a M. Paul, and the other Count Dunin. M. Paul was shot by one of the National Guards, who with his musket blew off the back of his head. The other, Count Dunin, was severely wounded by one of the Gendarmes of the National Guards, put into a wooden shell, and afterwards thrown into the sea, and was afterwards found with three balls in his body. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, therefore, proved too much when he said, "Here is a man who has been himself guilty of assassination, who is calling upon England to pass a law to save him from assassination." He would not interfere further with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Warren), more than to say that with regard to the Bill which the Government had introduced it was said that it was brought in as an act of subserviency to the dictation of the Emperor of the French and Count Walewski. Some excuse had been made for the Emperor of the French for the publication in the Moniteur of the addresses of certain fire-eating colonels. All he could say was, that his constituents in Finsbury were not very much afraid. It had been said by way of excuse that these addresses appeared in the non-official part of that paper; but it could not be denied that the Moniteur was supervised by persons appointed by the French Government for that purpose. The excuse that had been made was very lame. He thought it was most probable—he, indeed, believed it to be the fact—that those addresses were put intentionally into that paper The Emperor ought to have said to those fire-eating colonels, "You ask me to hold up my hand, and to send you into that den of assassins—England; but I regret such language. If you knew the English people as well as I do, who have availed myself of their hospitality, and have lived with them, you would know that they hate assassins as much as you do." That would have appeared, and whether in the official or non-official part of the Moniteur would have satisfied the mind of 981 England, and caused the people to give their sanction to the introduction of this Bill.
§ MR. WARREN
Mr. Speaker, If the honourable Member for Finsbury imagines that I, for one, stand in need of the caution he has just interposed to give the House, I can assure both him and the House that he is entirely mistaken, and that the caution is needless. It is very far, indeed, from my intention to introduce any such inflammatory topics as the one to which he has referred, and which, in my opinion, has no legitimate connection with the question before us. No, Sir, I feel too deeply the responsibility of taking part in a debate involving matter of such great delicacy and moment, and as a Member of the Legislature—this free Legislature—I shall not allow myself to be influenced by any such disturbing forces. I do not intend, therefore, to follow the example set by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in his fervid and brilliant speech—one of the best that I ever listened to—delivered last night, or rather at an early hour this morning. I am happy to bear public testimony to the oratorical merits of his speech, but shall not follow his example in speaking of the Emperor of France as he has thought proper to do. I propose to discuss the question before us calmly, in the character of a constitutional lawyer, and in a perfectly independent spirit. We are dealing with a measure introduced with all the responsibility of the Queen's Government. I wish I could support them as such, for my political principles incline me always to do so whenever I am able, especially when they are acting on an emergency of, if I may so speak, a transcendently difficult and embarrassing character. I find myself, however, after anxious consideration, unable to do so; but the observations I am about to make are entirely and exclusively the expression of my individual opinions. I have taken my line in this House. I am acting in concert with no one, with none even of my own political friends on this side, and, therefore, venture to ask credit for sincerity and independence. Sir, let me then say at once, that I believe the measure before us is not called for, will be a dead letter, is derogatory to the national spirit, and a libel on our laws, because founded on an entire misapprehension of their scope and capability. And even were this otherwise, I take leave to doubt whether this, of all other moments imagin- 982 able, is precisely that in which an independent Legislature should be called upon to alter its laws. We are exceedingly, we are proverbially and justifiably proud and jealous in this particular. Every schoolboy knows how our ancestors, centuries ago, declared that they would not have foreign laws forced on them, nobly declaring Nolumus leges Angliœ mutari, when such an attempt was made. Well, Sir, that spirit actuates their posterity, and so strongly, that it overbears almost all other considerations, and the nation is at this moment with one voice declaring that it will not have our laws altered at the bidding of a great neighbouring potentate. Surely the House will pause before it legislates under the pressure of menace,—before it hurries into the alteration of laws which the nation baa hitherto deemed sufficient. I object altogether to changing the character and aggravating the penalties of acts already punishable by our laws; and yet no one living regards with greater horror the atrocity perpetrated on the 14th of January at Paris, and more deeply sympathises with and pities the intended and actual victims of it, than I do. Before briefly calling the attention of Her Majesty's Government to one or two passages in our history, let me premise, that to legislate, is to exercise the highest functions that belong to man, and to legislate for such a country as this, is an effort taxing all our energies, and involving our honour and responsibility. We must act in pure accordance with the dictates of our conscience, and the genius and spirit of our constitution—one which is absolutely free—but not by any means neglecting what is really due to other nations, especially friends and allies, while insisting on what is due to ourselves.
Sir, in the year 1708, a certain Russian Ambassador—the Ambassador of Peter the Great—was one day boldly taken out of his carriage, in the streets of London, by sheriff's officers, for a debt of £50 to a tradesman, and carried off to a sponging-house, where, if I recollect rightly, he was locked up all night. In the morning he was released, on making an indignant application to the Queen; and the affair led to an interference of the Legislature, thus characterised by Sir William Blackstone—one whom nobody could charge with any disrespect to sovereign authority, or rights and acts of the Legislature:— 983In the meantime the Czar resented this affront very highly, and demanded that the Sheriff of Middlesex, and all others concerned in the arrest, should be punished with instant death. But the Queen (to the amazement of that despotic Court) directed her secretary to inform him 'that she could inflict no punishment upon any, the meanest of her subjects, unless warranted by the law of the land; and, therefore, was persuaded that he would not insist upon impossibilities.' To satisfy, however, the clamours of the Foreign Ministers (who made it a common cause), as well as to appease the wrath of Peter, a Bill was brought into Parliament, and afterwards passed into a law, to prevent and punish such outrageous insolence for the future; and, with a copy of this Act, elegantly engrossed and illuminated, accompanied by a letter from the Queen, an Ambassador Extraordinary was commissioned to appear at Moscow, who declared 'that, though Her Majesty could not inflict such a punishment as was required, because of the defect in that particular of the former established constitution of her kingdom, yet, with the unanimous consent of the Parliament, she had caused a new Act to be passed, to serve as a law for the future,' This humiliating step was accepted as a full satisfaction by the Czar, and the offenders, at his request, were discharged from all further prosecution.Fifty years afterwards, Lord Mansfield, speaking from the judicial seat, said, mournfully, that this Act "passed as an apology and humiliation from the whole nation; the Ambassador making excuses in a solemn oration, in presenting the copy to the Czar." Now, Sir, is this a precedent that the noble Viscount opposite, or the nation, is disposed to follow? And yet there are points in which the case touches the matter before us. Observe what were the main features of that shameful Act. It dispensed with trial by jury, and inflicted personal pains and chastisement at the discretion of two judges! It did not, however, proceed so far as to declare, with the Bill before us, the offence which it enacted to be a felony. I do not say that this case is altogether in point with the present; but I cite it on the principle of principiis obsta—take care of the thin end of the wedge getting in between us and our liberties. But I come now to a case of a different character; one resembling, in circumstances, that before us, and forming a precedent which we may be proud to follow. I refer to the year 1802, during the short peace between this country and France. At that time, the press of this country—nay, of both countries—teemed with publications of the most violent and exasperating character against each other. Napoleon caused a very strong remonstrance to be addressed, through Mr. Merry, our Ambassador at Paris, to the English Government. What said Lord Hawkesbury, then 984 our Foreign Secretary? He answered the complaints in language of an equally dignified and determined character. These were some of his memorable words:—It cannot be denied, that some very improper paragraphs have lately appeared in some of the English newspapers against the Government of France; it cannot be denied, likewise, that publications of a still more improper and indecent nature have made their appearance in this country, with the names of foreigners affixed to them. Under these circumstances, the French Government would have been warranted in expecting every redress that the laws of this country could afford them; but as, instead of seeking it in the ordinary course, they have thought fit to resort to recrimination themselves, or at least, to authorize it in others, they could have no right to complain if their subsequent appeal to his Majesty had failed to produce the effect that otherwise would have attended it.Whatever may have been the nature of the prior injury, they have, in fact, taken the law into their own hands; and what is this recrimination and retort? The paragraphs in the English newspapers, the publications to which I have above referred, have not appeared under any authority of the British Government, and are disavowed and disapproved of by them; but the paragraph in the Moniteur has appeared in a paper avowedly official, for which the Government are, therefore, considered as responsible as His Majesty's Government is responsible for the contents of the London Gazette. And this retort is not confined to the unauthorized English newspapers, or to the other publications of which complaint is now made, but is converted into, and made a pretence for, a direct attack upon the Government of His Majesty.His Majesty feels it beneath his dignity to make any formal complaint on this occasion. It is not His Majesty's intention to interfere in the manner in which the people or territories of France should be governed; but he expects, on the other hand, that the French Government will not interfere in the manner in which the Government of his dominions is conducted, or call for a change in those laws with which his people are perfectly satisfied.That, Sir, is a precedent to be followed! And we had a right to expect that it would have been borne in mind and followed, by the noble Viscount, on the present critical occasion, which absolutely challenged it.
Now, Sir, the noble Viscount said the other evening, on introducing his Bill, that he did so because the existing law of the land was wholly unequal to dealing with emergencies of this nature; and for that purpose he took a rather rosy-hued view of our common law misdemeanour, its pains and penalties. He told us that conspiracy to commit murder was simply a misdemeanour, subject to a slight fine and a short period of imprisonment—on the same level and in the same manner as hissing at a theatre! These were his words, as 985 I took them down. That, it seems, is the noble Lord's notion of a misdemeanour, however serious its present character and punishment; but, Sir, I look at the matter from a somewhat different point of view, and will justify myself by reference to two recent instances, the one of legislative, and the other executive action. They will give rather a different aspect to our common law offence of misdemeanour. In the year 1842 was passed, in consequence of a dastardly and execrable attack on the person of Her Majesty, Statute 5 & 6 Vict. c. 51. It was entitled, "An Act for providing for the further security and protection of Her Majesty's Person;" and by the second section it was enacted that whoever should wilfully discharge firearms, whether with, or without, explosive or destructive materials, at the person of the Queen; or discharge explosive materials at her; or wilfully strike her with any offensive weapon; or throw any substance at, or on, the Queen with intent to injure the person of the Queen, shall be guilty of—what? a felony? No—"a high misdemeanour"—and the punishment was—not transportation for life, but for seven years only, or imprisonment not exceeding three years, with or without hard labour, and whipping publicly or privately, not exceeding thrice, in such manner and form as the court should order and direct. So that positively, here were offences of a most atrocious character perpetrated, or attempted to be, upon the sacred person of our own Sovereign, and yet the Legislature were satisfied with referring them deliberately to the category of misdemeanour—the now, it seems, despised misdemeanour of our common law. Sir, I think that an instance of wise and dignified moderation on the part of the Legislature, indignant and anxious as it was in consequence of the recent outrage on Her Majesty. And again, let the House observe, Sir, that Parliament proceeded on actual occurrences which had been proved publicly in a court of justice, and therefore constituted solid ground for legislative action. Now, Sir, when the noble Viscount speaks so gaily—I had almost said—of a misdemeanour, may I venture to ask him whether he is aware of its true character? And when he could convert a misdemeanour into a felony, is he aware of the cardinal distinction between the two kinds of offence? It is forfeiture—forfeiture of lands and goods which attaches to felony, but not misdemeanour; and 986 there are other grave incidents and consequences attaching to felony which I need not now specify. But I will give the House one of the most striking illustrations imaginable of the potency of this same misdemeanour as a weapon aimed at even the most formidable offences. In the year 1843–4 occurred, as the House well knows, one of the most tremendous treasonable conspiracies known in our annals—that organized by the late Mr. O'Connell, for the dismemberment of the empire. We all recollect the anxiety and agitation of that memorable period. The isle was nearly frighted from her propriety. Sir Robert Peel was then at the head of affairs, and was importuned incessantly by Parliament and the press to arm the Executive with new powers. But what said that eminent statesman? He resisted all those importunities, and calmly said, in words worthy of being engraved in golden letters on the pedestal of some of the many statues erected to his memory, "I am resolved to walk in the light of the constitution. If I find the law of the land incapable of dealing effectually with the case, I will not hesitate to ask for greater powers from the Legislature." Sir, there was something majestic in this calm reliance on the strength of our institutions—on that ancient common law now treated so cavalierly by the noble Viscount—indeed, despised and discarded. What, then, did he do? He called into action the machinery ready to his hands—an indictment for conspiracy; and let the House consider what a colossal conspiracy that indictment had to cope with. It charged the defendants with conspiring to excite general discontent and dissatisfaction; hatred and contempt against Her Majesty's Government, and the constitution as by law established; dissatisfaction and discontent in the army—observe that, Sir—to intimidate the Government, thereby to procure a dissolution of the legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland; to excite hatred and distrust of the established tribunals of justice; and usurp the prerogative of the Crown. Against this huge treasonable conspiracy was calmly levelled a common law indictment for conspiracy; and in spite of every imaginable effort and obstacle, the conspirators were committed publicly in due course of law, and punished by imprisonment for twelve months, and a fine of £2,000. What was the result? The conspiracy was blown into the air at the touch of the now slighted common law. 987 Thus had it vindicated its capability to deal with one of the most serious emergencies that can arise. Why, then, has the noble Viscount so hastily rushed to the conclusion that this common law is so powerless as he represents? Why must we devise a now law in the nature of a quia timet, to meet a state of things of which we have as yet no proper cognizance in point of fact? And that, too, only after—immediately after—our attention has been so sternly challenged to it by the great potentate over the water?
But, Sir, I have one more passage in our still late annals to which I beg the attention of the House, and most particularly that of the right hon. Baronet opposite, the Home Secretary; for I am about to quote some weighty words of his, uttered in this House on an occasion very like the present—words which, in my opinion, completely cut from under him the ground on which the noble Viscount and his Government have so suddenly taken their stand. Sir, in 1851 the revolutionary excitement which had burst over Europe in 1848 had by no means entirely subsided, and the most dangerous elements of foreign conspiracy and insurrection were collected in this country. The attention of Government was most earnestly called to the menacing aspect of affairs, by that veteran statesman and lawyer, Lord Lyndhurst, in the other House of Parliament, and afterwards in this House by my right hon. Friend then the Recorder for London, the Member for Berkshire, whose absence from this House, and the cause of it, I much regret. It was then brought under the notice of the Government, that there was sitting at that moment, in London, a body calling itself "The Committee of Central European Democracy"—issuing manifestoes for the subversion of the Governments of Central Europe, and openly recommending insurrection against, and—let the House mark this—the extermination of existing Sovereigns. There was a "Central National Italian Committee," whose professed objects were, to keep up a spirit of insurrection in Italy. They had, with that view, actually opened loans here, publicly advertised them, and issued shares and circulars, some of which Lord Lynhurst said were at that moment in his possession, stating the object of the loan to be to purchase arms and munitions of war to promote their insurrectionary designs. Then there was the "Central Democratic European Committee"—and of this body Mazzini and Ledru 988 Rollin were the moving spirits; and the "Central Committee of Hungarian Refugees," of which General Klapka was the mainstay. Both were issuing proclamations of the most inflammatory and dangerous description. Thus wisely spoke Lord Lyndhurst,—It has always been the principle and the practice among us to afford a ready asylum to persons driven from their own country in consequence of their religious or political opinions or conduct. I do not wish in the slightest degree to trench upon this principle: it appears to me to be in perfect accordance with the character of an enlightened, a generous, and a powerful people. But it must always be remembered that this protection imposes on those who take advantage of it a corresponding duty of a grave character—to live amongst us peaceably, and not make this country the focus of intrigues against foreign states; above all, not to carry on any proceedings of a hostile character, directed against countries with which we are connected by treaties of friendship and alliance. These are principles so clear, so just, so universally recognized, that it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon them.And what said, in this House, the right hon. Baronet then, as now, so honourably filling the important office of Home Secretary? Sir, I do beg his most serious attention to the well-considered language on that occasion, with which he sought to allay the anxiety of the country:—I shall not be contradicted by any legal authority in this House, when I say that foreigners,—entering into conspiracies in this country,—living under the laws of this country, and enjoying their security,—and adopting any measure with the view of levying war against any foreign country with which this country is at amity,—are guilty of an offence at common law, and punishable, on conviction, by fine and imprisonment. We shall not hesitate legally and constitutionally to meet any violation of the law. I believe that the powers we possess are amply sufficient to punish, by penalties, the violation of the law, by foreigners, after we have been satisfied that they have really committed themselves in any case in which legal proceedings can be instituted.Now, Sir, if that were the deliberate opinion of the right hon. Baronet in 1857, uttered responsibly in his place here, with all the weight due to his personal and official character, I must really ask him how he can now consistently tell us and the country, that the law on which he then relied as on an oaken staff, had since and suddenly become a bruised reed, on which he could no longer lean for support? Sir, I would insist upon it that no case whatever has been made out for the introduction of the Bill before us. I am speaking now simply as a constitutional lawyer, and say that the Government are undervaluing, and indeed overlooking the ex- 989 isting powers of the law and constitution of this land; nor are they really justified or excused by the pressure of circumstances; and this brings me at once to the despatch of Count Walewski. Sir, I have read that document carefully, and the more I consider, the less I like it, its whole tone and tendency—and especially the menacing expressions towards its close. I was rejoiced to hear the noble Viscount say last night, that another despatch, and of a more satisfactory character, had been just received by the Government, expressing the Emperor's regret at what had been done in France, and especially that which had been alluded to in the Moniteur. The noble Lord said that the French Minister was authorized to express the regret of the Emperor that this should have been the case; but I own I have been disappointed at the noble Lord's not having laid that second despatch on the table, in answer to the challenge of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield last night. I do hope that at all events before the debate closes this evening we shall have this important document before us. I own I should like to see the date it bears—and to know whether certain hasty communications have not travelled to and fro along the mystic wires which might either enhance or diminish the value of that despatch. Let us understand the real reason why these most offensive and insufferable libels have been allowed to appear in the Moniteur at all, and not only that, but in the official part of it, thereby identifying it as the deliberate act of the Emperor and his Government. Was it, after all, an inadvertence? And are we alone told that it was so, while all France has the opposite impression? Is the Emperor's expression of regret sincere and spontaneous? Then why not let the reparation be co-extensive with the offence, and insert the apology in the official columns of the Moniteur? Has that been done? Is it to be done? Let me ask—was the insertion originally for the purpose of gaining a particular object, and when that had been attained, we were to be amused and pacified with an expression of regret at the occasion of offence? All these are matters of great interest to the country at large and we ought not to be left in the dark. Sir, I assert again, in the presence of many abler lawyers than I am, that no case has been made out for altering the law of the land. Not one scintilla of legal evidence glistens before 990 us—evidence legitimately and openly adduced before and recognized by our tribunals—that there has been any conspiracy in this country to injure or murder the Emperor of the French. For all we are supposed to know to the contrary—for all we are entitled to assert—it may be untrue that such is the case, however undeniable that one of the accused parties has been here, and quitted our shores with an infernal instrument of destruction fabricated here. Why, Sir, how at this moment stands the matter even in France? Look at the very first paragraph of Count Walewski's despatch. I should have thought it would catch the eye of the noble Viscount's Chancellor, and Attorney and Solicitor General, and make them pause at the very threshold. Count Walewski says, "the legal proceeding which has been commenced, in regard to the criminal attempt recently made on the person of the Emperor, is taking its course, and we shall shortly ascertain its definitive result; but there is a point upon which even now we cannot entertain any doubt. This fresh attempt, like those which preceded it, has been devised in England." That may be their present impression in France; but does it not plainly appear that even there, the matter is adhuc sub judice? In England we are not accustomed thus precipitately to legislate on insufficient data; we do not choose to alter our ancient laws simply because some one from abroad thinks proper to tell us we ought—that a state of things may be shown to exist, justifying and requiring such an alteration. Why, then, does the noble Lord rush breathless and pell-mell into the arena to alter the legal character of an established offence, and aggravate its punishment? While all is doubt and indeterminateness in France, the noble Viscount hastens down to the House, saying, "Oh, for Heaven's sake, give me your aid—let me inscribe on our statute book a little law turning a misdemeanour into felony, and imprisonment into transportation or penal servitude for life, since the law is insufficient," which is begging the whole question at issue. And now, Sir, a word or two about the Bill before us. As explained by the noble Lord, it seems to me based on two Acts of the Irish Parliament, passed respectively in 1796 and 1798, statutes 36 Geo. III. c. 27 & 57. Why these Acts were passed I need not stay to explain. The first recites that it had become "necessary, in order to deter men from entering 991 into conspiracies to murder, to increase the punishment of such horrid crimes;" and proceeds to enact, that "All persons convicted of conspiring, confederating, and agreeing to murder any person, shall be adjudged felony, and suffer death." This Act was found ineffectual, and the second was passed, extending capital penalties to any person "proposing to, soliciting, encouraging, persuading, or endeavouring to persuade, persons to commit murder." Now, what are the provisions of the present Bill? It contains five sections, the last repealing the two Acts I have mentioned. The first enacts that any person who shall, either in the United Kingdom or its adjacent islands, conspire with any other person, being either within or without the United Kingdom, to commit murder, either within or without the United Kingdom, shall be guilty of felony, and liable to penal servitude for life, or for not less than five years, or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding three years. The second section applies the same penalties to any one who shall "persuade, instigate, or solicit" any other person to commit murder, as mentioned in the first section. The third subjects offenders to be apprehended and punished wherever they may be found within the United Kingdom, in the same manner as if they had there committed the felony; and the fourth section defines the sense in which murder is to be understood, when alleged to have been committed in any foreign countries. Now, let the House recollect, that in the course of last Session we abolished transportation, and substituted for it penal servitude, resting, however, in the Home Secretary the great and responsible power of declaring where that penal servitude shall be, either in or near the United Kingdom, or abroad. Observe, then, that the first fruits of the Emperor's dictation would be to subject this class of offenders to penal servitude for life; and, by-and-by, he may kindly intimate to us, that if we are embarrassed for localities in our own dominions to which we may transport such criminals, he has certain possessions in South America—Cayenne to wit—where he can accommodate them. Sir, whether things ever may or may not come to this pass, I object altogether to vesting such vast powers, under such circumstances, even in our own executive, and prefer taking my stand on our good old-fashioned common law. By that law, a misdemeanour is 992 punishable by fine and imprisonment, and requiring sureties for good behaviour after it is over, more or less heavy—in the discretion of the Judge who tries the case—who is cognisant of all its merits and attendant circumstances—and exercises that discretion temperately and firmly, in accordance with the genius and spirit of our own laws and constitution. In this Bill proposed to us its framers have clearly shown that they era aware of these powers now vested in the common law, for they make the infliction of fine and imprisonment an alternative of penal servitude—thus, as it were, having two strings to their bow—and evincing their opinion that even conspiracy to murder may be adequately punished by the former alternative. I cannot help saying, before I sit down, that freedom of action is an essential condition of legislation, if intended to be useful, to be respected, and to form a precedent for future laws. I repudiate all dictation of every sort, come in what shape it may, from any foreign power. A threat may be disguised under terms of the gentlest invitation. We do not require even suggestions from abroad as to what we ought to legislate for. While other nations manage their own affairs, we must be given credit for the power and inclination to look after our own. But if we are to listen to voices from abroad, let us do so in all cases alike—whether the whisper, hint—or call it what you like-come from a great or a petty power. Suppose the King of Naples had come to us vapouring for what is now demanded—had come to the noble Viscount in the palmy days of his ancient martial ardour, when animated with the spirit of Civis Romanus sum, I can imagine how that King would have been received. The noble Viscount would have said, in a towering passion, "Begone—we will not be dictated to—we will not be coerced by any one!" Why should it be otherwise when we are appealed to by "a gigantic suppliant thundering at the gates of the constitution?"—to use the language of the late Mr. O'Connell in speaking of Ireland. Why not reply, with dignity and calmness, "No people on earth more profoundly abhor and detest the crime of assassination than we do—would do more to prevent or to punish it—and none more sincerely thank God for shielding the Emperor and his Empress from the execrable attempt of the assassin; and if our institutions are found by us at fault in dealing with such atroci- 993 ties committed here, we will be the first to inquire and find a remedy. But if required by a foreign potentate, while the affair is even unascertained, duly, in his own country, to begin altering our laws, we deprecate such interference; we decline taking a single step in the wrong direction, and establishing a precedent of which mischievous and dangerous use may be made hereafter. Sir, I have already said that certain expressions towards the close of Count Walewski's despatch are of a very grave character, aiming as they do directly at that which we regard as the very apple of the eye of our liberty and honour, the right of affording an asylum to misery and oppression, from whatever quarter of the globe they may seek our shores With all my heart I honour those who are even morbidly susceptible on this great national right—the very flower of our freedom. We constitute a harbour of refuge which has long been an eyesore to despotism. Far be it from us to dash the hopes of the foot-sore and heart-stricken exile, who, when his anguished eyes first catch sight of the white cliffs of England, can now exclaim, "Oh, let me once reach that blessed soil, for there the weary are at rest, and I breathe freely once again!" Shall we henceforth say, "Alas, it is so no longer! England is not what it was! Despotism abroad has at length succeeded in overshadowing and circumscribing that little oasis of freedom in the wilderness!"
Sir, I do assure the noble Viscount that I am no enemy to him or to his Government, and implore him to consider the disadvantageous position in which he is placing himself by the introduction of this offensive and needless measure. I trust, at all events, that this House, by the decision to which it may come, will afford an assurance to the whole Kingdom, now watching us with stern solicitude, that we have not lost that ardent patriotism, that jealous love of the honour and true interests of England, which induced our constituents to send us as their representatives into this great and famous Assembly. I trust that the noble Lord will yet follow wiser counsels, and not obstinately adhere to a precipitate determination. Pass this Bill, and it will be a dead letter in our statute book, reflecting only dishonour on the memory of those who wrote it there. Posterity will remember the occasion; they will couple menace with sudden acquiescence, as cause and effect. Sir, when I read such painful and 994 disgusting passages in the Moniteur as these—but no, Sir, I will not irritate myself or the House with repeating them, for we have seen and heard enough of them—they brought to my recollection the words which King Edward III. once addressed to his Parliament, "I have received a blow in the face, and all Europe is looking on to see how I bear it," and then he declared war against France. God forbid, Sir, that such a case should be considered to have arisen here; but it is enough to rouse the pride, and alarm the patriotism of every person in the country to see such, documents as those paraded in the Moniteur, followed so quickly by such submission on the part of our Government. I do most earnestly supplicate the noble Viscount not to let any false pride prevent him from yielding to that manly sense of duty which ought to animate him on such an occasion as the present. Let him not peril the popularity which he has hitrtohe enjoyed; but, by showing an enlightened deference to the public opinion of the country, so unequivocally conveyed through its free press and free representatives, retain, that position which he is at this moment in danger of losing, by his present most unwise and abortive effort at legislation.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I hope, Sir, that in the few observations which I shall deem it my duty to address to the Honse upon the question now submitted for its consideration I shall not depart from that calm and temperate tone which I am happy to say has characterized the discussion of this Bill hitherto, and which cannot fail to give weight and authority to whatever decision the House may come to. Before I advert to some of the objections which have been made to the Motion of my noble Friend at the head of the Government, I may be allowed to express the satisfaction which I feel that, while there has been in Parliament and throughout the country the utmost abhorrence of the crime which has lately been attempted against the life of the Emperor of the French, there has been at the same time a sentiment expressed in entire unison with that which is sincerely professed by her Majesty's Government—not to infringe in the slightest degree that sacred right of asylum which it is the boast of this country to offer to every political refugee, of whatever shade of political opinion, flying from persecution in the land of his birth. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Warren) has alluded to some expres- 995 sions in the despatch of Count Walewski which he understands as implying a desire that the Government should interfere with that right of asylum, and should endeavour to induce Parliament to pass a law for sending refugees out of this country without public trial, without conviction of any offence, on mere suspicion, or on what may be termed moral conviction. If those expressions bear the meaning attributed to them by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I can only say that Her Majesty's Government has not for one moment entertained any such proposition, or given the slightest hope in any quarter that such a demand would be complied with. I may also be allowed to express, if I may do so without irregularity, the sincere satisfaction with which I have perceived that the distinguished leader in another place of the party whom I see opposite, has expressed in his own eloquent language sentiments on this subject in entire accordance with the opinions professed by Her Majesty's Government, and from which they are determined not to depart.
I now come to the Bill. The objections which have been urged to the proposition before the House, as has been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), resolve themselves into two classes, the one directed against the enactments of the Bill itself, and the other and main class against the time when this proposition is made. With respect to the Bill itself, let me recall the attention of the House to the circumstances under which Her Majesty's Government have felt it their duty to introduce it. A crime has been attempted in France which, although the judicial process is not yet complete, is a matter of general notoriety. No one can doubt that that crime has been attempted, whatever doubts may be entertained—and doubt must be entertained till after trial and conviction—with respect to the individuals implicated in it. I regret to say it is equally certain that that crime, though perpetrated on the soil of France, where its intended victim was to be found, has been the result of designs formed in this country, of measures taken in this country, of plans concocted here by those who are enjoying that right of asylum which we are happy and proud to afford them so long as they conform to our laws and conduct themselves in obedience to the rules which govern all persons residing in Her Majesty's dominions. Under these circumstances our attention was naturally 996 and necessarily called, irrespective of any communication from the French Government, to the state of the law which was applicable to conspiracies of this nature. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Warren) has referred to a question which was addressed to me in 1851 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Stuart Wortley) with respect to certain allegations then made regarding the designs and conspiracies of foreign refugees residing in this country, and to the answer which I gave to that question. That case was wholly different from the present. It related to revolutionary designs concocted here with a view to subvert the existing Governments in foreign countries, and to establish forms of government more in accordance with the opinions of those who proposed to carry the plots into execution; and the answer which I gave had no reference whatever to attempts at assassination of individuals. I then stated what I now repeat, that I believe our laws are amply sufficient to prevent foreigners residing in this country from taking means here for levying war on other nations; inasmuch as, in addition to the common law, there are statutes existing by which specific penalties are enacted against those who shall adopt measures here for levying war against any Power in amity with our Sovereign. But what is the case now? There is an attempt, not to subvert a Government, but to destroy the life of an individual—an attempt which, although providentially not successful against the person aimed at, yet unhappily was successful against many innocent people standing by, whose lives were sacrificed by those who seem to be utterly regardless of human suffering provided they gratify their vindictive feelings against any one whom they may choose to regard as their enemy. Will any hon. Gentleman deny that this is a crime of the greatest atrocity? The House ought to recollect, moreover, that we are not seeking to deal with the men who actually perpetrate such crimes, but the men who, in comparative safety, plot them in this country—with men who do not risk their own lives in attempting to carry their designs into execution, but who instigate and hire assassins to do that which, they are too cowardly to undertake themselves—that is the class of persons against whom we think additional precaution ought to be taken in order to deter them, by the fear of punish- 997 ment, from committing crimes which I believe every Englishman abhors and condemns from the bottom of his heart. On looking into the law upon this subject what did we find?
Here let me make one observation with reference to remarks that have been made in the course of this debate as if this question had been settled by a declaration—entitled, I admit, to the utmost respect—uttered elsewhere by the Lord Chief Justice, to the effect, as has been assumed, that the law in its present state is amply sufficient to meet all cases of this kind. Let me first protest against the doctrine—entirely new in this House—that any lawyer, however eminent—any Judge, however high his position or great his learning, is to be taken as an unimpeachable authority as to the sufficiency of any law to meet the objects which it is intended to serve. The Judges are the proper persons to determine judicially, after argument, what is the law of the land, how it can be enforced, and what the penalty is which is attached to any crime; but I demur altogether to the unconstitutional doctrine that they are to dictate to Parliament an opinion with regard to the sufficiency of any law for the accomplishment of a certain purpose. Such, I am sure, was not the sense in which the Lord Chief Justice made his observations elsewhere; but such is the meaning which has been attached to them in this House, and therefore I feel bound to protest against it. It is competent to the Judges to determine whether a conspiracy to murder in this country is or is not a misdemeanour—and no one, I imagine, will deny that conspiracy to murder a person in this country is a misdemeanour punishable according to common law. The Judges are also competent to decide the question whether a conspiracy by subjects of Her Majesty in this country to commit in a foreign country what according to the law of England would be murder, is a misdemeanour, and upon that point likewise no doubt can be entertained by any one acquainted wish our criminal code. Advancing a step further, the Judges are competent to determine whether a conspiracy by aliens in this country to murder another alien in a foreign country is a misdemeanour cognizable by our Courts, an indictable offence at common law, subjecting the parties concerned to the same penalties as if it had been a conspiracy by subjects of Her Majesty to murder another of Her Majesty's subjects 998 either in this or in a foreign country. Upon that question I understand, from the ordinary sources of information, a decided opinion has been expressed elsewhere by the distinguished Judge to whom I have already referred, and to that opinion of course I bow with the most respectful deference, although I believe I am right in saying that no decision of the Courts has ever gone that length, and that there are many learned and eminent lawyers who, before the opinion in question was pronounced, entertained great doubts whether a conspiracy by aliens in this country to murder another alien in a foreign country—which is the case that has actually occurred—was an offence punishable by our laws. If, therefore, the Judges have pronounced what the law is, they have performed their functions; and then the functions of Parliament have to be discharged; and, whatever opinions may have been pronounced by lawyers, however eminent, Parliament is the authority to determine whether the penalties attaching to any offence be, in its opinion, adequate to the punishment of the offence on conviction, and sufficient to deter persons from its commission. I do not, of course, mean that any punishment can absolutely deter persons from the commission of crime; but still our laws always aim at fixing for an offence a certain amount of punishment, which may afford a reasonable probability—that it will deter persons from its commission.
The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Mr. Kinglake) admitted that our law might be susceptible of improvement, and that it might be right to inquire into this point with the view of making it sufficient to deter from the commission of the crime from which persons are not now deterred owing to the lightness and inadequacy of punishment on conviction. We then find—assuming for a moment that there is no uncertainty as to the nature of the crime—that it is a misdemeanour for a foreigner in this country to conspire, or to incite persons to perpetrate, the murder of a person in another country. The law only treats that as a misdemeanour, and the utmost punishment to which a person on conviction is liable for so atrocious a crime (he himself remaining in this country while the crime was being executed, and not subjecting himself to any of the risk attending the attempt) is that attaching to a conviction for misdemeanour. The hon. and learned Gentle- 999 man who last spoke (Mr. Warren) assumed that the punishment attaching to a misdemeanour is of an indefinite amount. Now, for such an offence the Court may impose imprisonment, the ordinary maximum of which is the period of two years. But the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst observed that the Court might impose a fine of £2,000. [Mr. WARREN: In that particular case it did.] No doubt the Court might also impose a fine, which would amount to perpetual imprisonment; but my hon. and learned Friend must know that whatever might be the discretion left to the Court, it would never be exercised to that extent. It is not a course which our Courts usually adopt to impose, in addition to imprisonment, a fine utterly beyond the ability of the prisoner to pay, and thereby to convert the sentence of detention into perpetual imprisonment; but I am sure the hon. and learned Member did not mean to suggest that they would act in so extraordinary a manner in order to render in certain cases the punishment attached to misdemeanour sufficient. By the state of the law in England the crime to which the proposed Bill refers is only a misdemeanour; and I believe that the reason for such a state of the law is this—and it is one of which the country may be proud—that conspiracy to commit a murder—some persons inciting others to the commission of the crime, but taking no part themselves in the actual perpetration of the crime—is so abhorrent to the feelings of Englishmen, that I do not think any special law has been required with respect to it in this country. But in Ireland, from the peculiarly unhappy state of society there, and from the frequency of agrarian outrages, this crime, formerly at least, was unhappily of no rare occurrence. And what did Parliament do? The hon. Gentleman has alluded to two Irish Acts on the subject; but the law, as now existing, is not an Irish Act, but a modern Act, passed by the United Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. The Act proceeding on the fact that such crimes were not unfrequent, and that it was necessary not to leave them to be punished by the comparatively light penalty attaching to misdemeanour, with a view to the security of society in that part of the United Kingdom (Ireland) renders the crime a capital felony. As in England the offence was only a misdemeanour, we have thought it right to propose, while mitigating the severity of the Irish 1000 law, to increase the severity of the law in England, and to make the offence punishable, throughout the United Kingdom, not by death, but by penal servitude, the duration of which should be left to the discretion of the Court according to the facts and circumstances of the case.
Such being the case, I now come to a more important part of the question—namely, the time when this proposal is made. And on this I must say, that when the attention of the Government has been called to a defect in the law of this country, and they are satisfied that an improvement can be made in the law, the proper time to propose the changes to Parliament is certainly when that conviction has been forced upon their minds. The hon. and learned. Gentleman quoted, in opposing the Bill, the celebrated saying, "nolumus leges Angliœ mutari," and implied we were going to change our law without any reference to the expediency of the change, but because Count Walewski had called attention to the notorious fact that this crime was plotted and contrived by persons in this country; and he referred to the publication of addresses in the Moniteur, which certainly are highly offensive to this country. With respect to the despatch of Count Walewski, I would ask hon. Members to place themselves in his position. If attempts at assassination had been concocted in France, and if an endeavour had been made to put them into execution in this country, and if we had reason to believe that the law of France was not sufficient to deter persons by its penalties from the commission of such crimes, I think the Government of this country would have been justly blameable if they had not called the attention of the Government of France to what they believed to be a defect in the French law—not in the language of menace (and there is no menace in Count Walewski's despatch), but in terms fairly pointing out the defect, and submitting it to the consideration of the French Government. In like manner the French Government had a right to ask us whether, in strict accordance with our laws, legal and constitutional checks might not be imposed on the commission of such crimes; and in Count Walewski's despatch, as we read it, there is nothing which ought to deter us from doing what we were convinced ourselves ought to be done—namely, to propose this Bill to Parliament, in order to effect a useful amendment in the law. We have been told that Lord Hawkesbury held different 1001 language in 1802. Now, I ask hon. Gentlemen to contrast the despatch of the French Minister of that day with the despatch of Count Walewski. The former despatch was, as Lord Hawkesbury observed, not couched in very conciliatory language, but in terms of the most offensive nature, and contained demands, coupled with menace to this country, calling on the Government to expel from the country certain persons described by name and classes, and to restrict the freedom of the press, in order that the Government might prevent the insertion of articles offensive to France. What was Lord Hawkesbury's dignified and proper reply? He said:—The French Government must have formed an erroneous judgment of the disposition of the British nation and of the character of its Government, if they have been taught to expect that any representation of a foreign Power will ever induce them to consent to a violation of those rights on which the liberties of the people of this country are founded.One of those rights was the freedom of the press, and it was to the laws affecting the press that this passage referred. The Government of that day refused—as they were bound to refuse—to propose to Parliament, at the dictation of a foreign Government, measures which would fetter and restrict the liberty of the press. But what did Lord Hawkesbury do? Did he refuse demands of another kind, which were made upon the English Government? Far from it. At that time an Alien Act was in existence; and the Government could not say that the law did not authorize them to deal with foreign refugees in a different manner from that in which they were enabled to deal with subjects of the realm. So long as an alien obeys the law, he is now free to remain in this country; but, at that time, an Alien Act was in existence; and though the powers which it conferred upon the Government were intended to enable them to maintain the internal tranquillity of this country, yet, feeling the pressure of the demands made upon them by France, they did undertake to send out of the kingdom certain refugees whose expulsion had been demanded by the French Minister; and they further intimated that if other refugees committed acts which, although complained of; by the French Government, were not punishable by law, they also would be sent out of the country. We have no power, thank God! to make such concessions to any foreign Government, and we do not ask 1002 for any such power. Indeed, we should be ashamed of submitting such a proposition to Parliament, and we know that it would be at once repudiated by them. But Lord Hawkesbury, in refusing to propose to Parliament, at the dictation of the French Government, any Bill for altering the law with respect to the press, declared the willingness of the British Government to afford to every foreign Government all the protection against such offences as were complained of—those offences being libels, and not assassinations—which the principle of the laws and constitution of this country would admit. Now, I ask whether there is anything in the course we are now pursuing, which contrasts unfavourably with the course adopted by Lord Hawkesbury in 1802? Is our proposition contrary to the principles of the law and constitution of this country? Will any man say that it is contrary to the principles of our law and constitution to propose that a conspiracy to murder—that the crime of inciting and instigating persons to commit murder—shall be a felony punishable, not capitally, but by penal servitude or imprisonment of three years' duration at the discretion of the Court? I confidently assert that there is nothing in that proposition which is in the slightest degree abhorrent to the principles of our law and constitution. I have shown that the principle embodied in the Irish Act is entirely consonant with the principle of our laws, and we do not hesitate—as we believe a necessity exists for such a proceeding—to ask Parliament to render a similar law applicable to the United Kingdom. We do not ask you to make the offence capital, but to impose a punishment which we hope will exercise a deterring effect on men disposed to engage in such conspiracies as I have referred to. Allusion has been made to the insertion in the Moniteur of certain addresses presented to the Emperor of the French. Now, I am not here to defend the publication of those addresses. They were, I admit, insulting to this nation; they have been deeply felt by the people of this country. But even if no apology had been made—if no regret had been expressed—for their publication, I should hesitate to agree with those who argue that, although we are convinced an amendment of the law is required, yet on account of the insertion of these addresses in the Moniteur we should abstain from taking that wise, judicious, and temperate course which, independently of the publication of 1003 such addresses, we should hare been disposed to adopt. I think the undignified course for a great nation should be—instead of showing itself too sensitive to such expressions as I have alluded to, even where they are supposed to have received the sanction of the ruler of the country, to follow its own conviction in the way of legislation, and if we are convinced that an amendment of the law is necessary, that amendment should be made. What we purpose will enable us to give a complete and satisfactory answer—or what ought to be a complete and satisfactory answer—to the complaints of foreign States, and will show them that we do not afford undue protection to assassins, but that while we receive refugees of all political opinions, we render them liable, equally with our own subjects, to penalties calculated to deter them from the commission of crime. That is, I think, the course we ought to pursue, irrespective of anything that may happen in foreign countries. But the case is somewhat altered since this subject first attracted attention; for the French Government, on being informed—not by Her Majesty's Ministers, but by the representative of France in this country—a gentleman well able to appreciate the force of public feeling here, quick to observe, and faithful to inform his Government of the state of public opinion here—the French Government, on being informed of the feeling entertained, and justly, by the English public with regard to these addresses, expressed their regret and the regret of the Emperor himself at their publication. The argument as to time founded upon these addresses appears to me to fail, unless it can be shown that the amendment or alteration of the law which we propose is in itself objectionable, or unless it can be maintained that the law, as it at present stands, is calculated to deter from the commission of these crimes. But now that argument seems to me wholly untenable. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Warren) hopes that the despatch of Count Walewski, expressing the regret of the Emperor, which was referred to last night by my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), will be laid before Parliament. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that despatch will be laid before Parliament this evening; but as it is a short document perhaps the House will permit me now to read a translation of it. It is a despatch from Count Walewski to Count 1004 Persigny, dated "Paris, Feb. 6, 1858," and is in these terms:—M. le Comte,—The account you give me of the effect produced in England by the insertion in the Moniteur of certain addresses from the army has not escaped my attention, and I have made a re-port of it to the Emperor. You are aware of the sentiments by which we have been influenced in the steps we have adopted with Her Britannic Majesty's Government, on the occasion of the attack of the 14th of January, and of the care we have taken, in applying for its concurrence, to avoid every thing that could hear the appearance of pressure on our part. All our communications manifest our confidence in its sincerity (loyauté), and our deference for the initiative being taken by it; and if, in the enthusiastic manifestations of the devotion of the army, words have possibly been inserted which have seemed in England to be characterized by a different sentiment, they are too much opposed to the language which the Emperor's Government has not ceased to hold to that of Her Britannic Majesty, for it to be possible to attribute them to anything else than inadvertence, caused by the number of those addresses. The Emperor enjoins you to say to Lord Clarendon how much he regrets it. [Loud cheers from both sides of the House.] I authorize you to give a copy of this despatch to the Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.I think that despatch, which I trust, from the cheers with which it has been received, is satisfactory to the House—shows that no valid objection can be made to the introduction of this Bill at the present time on account of the insertion of certain addresses in the Moniteur by what appears to have been inadvertence on the part of the Government of France, and for the existence of which regret has been so frankly expressed. I hope, for the reasons I have stated, that the House will agree to the introduction of this Bill, and that the debate will be continued in the calm and temperate tone which it is most desirable should be maintained upon this question.
§ MR. BOVILL
said, the right hon. Baronet had pressed upon the House the various grounds on which he proposed that this Bill should become law, but he had been obliged to admit that the opposition with which the Bill had been received, was mainly founded on the time, the occasion, and the circumstances under which it was submitted to Parliament. If it had been intended that the matter should be introduced into the House as a part of the general criminal legislation of the country, it would have been included among those measures for the consolidation of the law, of which notice had been given by the Solicitor General, and which were to be introduced, not simply for the consolidation, but for the amendment of the law. But 1005 this Bill was one of an extraordinary character. Instead of being placed in the hands of the law officers of the Crown—or of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, under whose charge it would more properly have been—it was brought forward by the First Minister of the Crown, and was the first Bill submitted to the consideration of the House since the reassembling of Parliament; and that, too, at a time when other pressing and important matters were engaging their attention. Under what circumstances was this Bill brought forward? Was it in consequence of convictions forced upon the Home Secretary and the Government that the existing law was insufficient to repress conspiracies, or was it proposed in consequence of the demands of the French Government at the instance of the Emperor? Instead of being founded on its own intrinsic merits, the foundation on which it rested, and the ground on which it was brought forward were, he believed, to be found in the despatch of Count Walewski. That despatch, which he regarded as the immediate cause of the Bill, was accompanied by statements on the part of Count Persigny and other French Ministers, and also by publications in the Moniteur, which naturally offended the people of England. He rejoiced exceedingly at the despatch which had just been read, expressive of the Emperor's regret at the tone of the addresses published in the Moniteur; but it should be remembered that other statements and insinuations had been made in Count Walewski's despatch, as to which no explanation had been given and no regret had been expressed. There were expressions in that document which, though couched in courteous language, were an insult to England, her institutions, and her laws. There was a direct and distinct charge that we were protecting assassins, and that we were favouring their designs and continuing to shelter them. The words were—It is assassination, elevated to doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement. Ought, then, the right of asylum to protect such a state of things? Is hospitality due to assassins? Ought the English legislation to contribute to favour their designs and their plans, and can it continue to shelter persons who, by their flagrant acts, place themselves beyond the pale of common right, and under the ban of humanity?What were these questions that were so significantly put? it went on to say that, in submitting these questions, the Emperor "re-echoed the sentiments of the country." Was it the sentiment of France that we 1006 had been protecting assassins and favouring their designs, and that we continued to shelter them? Was that the feeling that had re-echoed throughout France? The despatch of Count Walewski stated that it was. Then he asked the House, before they legislated on such a ground as this, to ask themselves whether they were satisfied that a despatch like that, should be received by the Government of this country, and that no answer should be given to it, and no denial made by Her Majesty's Government of the truth of those statements. Was there an Englishman who would not deny the truth of them? and yet when the First Minister of the Crown was asked what answer had been given, he said no answer had been returned. In Lord Hawkesbury's despatch there were remarkable passages, with reference to the demand made on this country as to the law of libel, which were applicable to the present day. Lord Hawkesbury said—Whether their conduct is to be referred to temper or to policy the effect of it may still be the same.The effect throughout France of the publications in the Moniteur must necessarily be the same where there is an attempt to force on this country a change in our laws. And now let him take another passage, and see whether the language of it ought not to be the language of the Government of the present day—substituting 'conspiracy' and 'liberty of the subject' for 'libel' and 'liberty of the press,' it would read as follows:—His Majesty cannot, and never will, in consequence of any representation Or any menace from a foreign Power, make any concession which can be in the smallest degree dangerous to the liberty of the 'subject' as secured by the constitution of this country. This liberty is justly dear to every British subject. The constitution admits of no previous restraints upon' it,' but there exist judicatures wholly independent of the Executive Government capable of taking cognizance of such 'offences' as the law deems to be criminal, and which are bound to inflict the punishment the delinquents may deserve; these judicatures may take cognizance not only of 'conspiracies' against the Government and the Magistracy of this kingdom, but as has been repeatedly experienced, of 'conspiracies' against those in whose hands the administration of foreign Governments is placed. That our Government neither has nor wants any other protection, than what the laws of the country afford; and though they are willing and ready to give every foreign Government all the protection against offences of this nature which the principle of their laws and constitution will admit, they never can consent to re-model their laws or to change their constitution to gratify the wishes of any foreign Power.He thought that this language of Lord Hawkesbury's despatch, refusing to new- 1007 model the laws or to change the constitution of England at the bidding of any foreign Power, might have been advantageously studied, and adopted in an answer to Count Walewski's despatch, before Parliament was called upon to legislate on the basis of that document. As it was, the Count's letter would go down to posterity, and it would be said that the Prime Minister of England acquiesced in the charges thus made, and immediately submitted to Parliament a Bill founded thereupon. His objection to the measure, then, went to the time and the occasion of its introduction, though had it been brought forward under other circumstances Parliament might, perhaps, have properly been called upon to consider and possibly to acquiesce in it. The Bill then having been introduced into Parliament at the instance of the Emperor of the French, he would ask the House to reflect whether the Bill would effect the objects desired by the French Government. He had listened with attention to the speech of the Home Secretary, because he thought he might collect from it the views of the Ministry, and of the Law Officers of the Crown as to the present state of the law. He heard his observation with reference to the Lord Chief Justice of England, and the views expressed by another noble Lord, but he had certainly heard no reasons why their statement of the law was incorrect. It was not stated by the noble Lord when he introduced the Bill that there was any doubt about the law. It was clear that this measure was brought forward, not because the law at present failed to meet the case of a conspiracy, but because it was considered necessary to increase the punishment now awarded to the offence, and thus deter others from committing it. If, then, the law as it at present stood would reach persons who might have been guilty of conspiring against the life of the Emperor, why was it that no steps had been taken to put that law in force? Why had there been no attempt to trace out the conspiracy here, if any there had been? And why should Parliament be asked to increase the punishment for conspiracy without trying the power of the present law, as interpreted by such high authorities as Lord Campbell and Lord Brougham, to punish the offenders? The reason was because you could not obtain adequate proof of these conspiracies. They were matters debated in secret, and every lawyer must know that although nominally an indictment might be for conspiracy, yet in reality 1008 it was for the commission of the overt act which proved the conspiracy. It was a mere mockery, then, to say that the passing of this Act of Parliament, or of a tenfold more stringent measure, would prevent the commission of the crime. Those persons who were inclined to attempt the life of a foreign Prince would do so, whether the law relating to conspiracy remained as it was or was made far more penal, and we should be deluding the Emperor of the French if he were allowed to suppose for an instant that this Bill would give him the slightest additional protection. He (Mr. Bovill) felt satisfied that if the measure passed it would remain sleeping in the statute book, and that no additional steps would be taken to bring the guilty to justice; for the Government did not know and could not discover them. What would have been the result had the measure formed part of the law of the land before this attempted assassination? What steps, he would ask, could, under those circumstances, have been taken by the Government of England to prevent or detect the conspiracy? How would it have been possible for them, even under the operation of a measure such as that which they now proposed, to deter those infamous wretches who had lately sought to assassinate the French Emperor from proceeding to the perpetration of their heinous offence? Why, if the Bill were to become law the very next day, and a similar attempt were to be made, the Government would find themselves as powerless as they were at this moment to prevent that attempt from being carried into execution. And what would be the result? They would have, addressed to them over again, representations precisely similar to those which were contained in Count Walewski's despatch. With the spirit of those representations they would in all probability find themselves unable to comply; and would it not, under those circumstances, he would ask, be better to pursue the course and adopt the tone of Lord Hawkesbury, and further to say to the French Government, "It is absolutely impossible that we can introduce such a measure as you desire." The Bill under discussion would, he felt confident, be found to be ineffectual for the attainment of the object which its authors seemed to have in view, and as a consequence the language which would be addressed to us by the Government of France—if ever an incident such as that which had recently occurred should again take place—would naturally be, "You have 1009 passed a law which has practically been I found to be of no avail. We now require that for the protection of our Sovereign you expel those foreigners who may be suspected of plotting against him from your shores." A proposition such as that would, of course—as ought to be the case—meet with no favour from the Government of this country. Upon the further ground, therefore, that in passing the Bill before them into a law the House would not in reality be complying with the wishes of the French Government, as expressed in the despatch to which he had adverted, and would but be opening the door to fresh demands of a similar character and perhaps for the substitution of suspicion for proof and the adoption of different evidence and French means of detection, he, for one, should record his vote against its introduction. Now, he would ask the House to consider for a moment how the question with which the Bill proposed to deal had been treated. The Solicitor General, on the part of the Government, had announced it to be his intention to lay upon the table very shortly a series of measures, whose object was the consolidation and amendment of our criminal law. The Bill under discussion had, according to the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, been submitted to the notice of Parliament with an object precisely similar. Why, then, had not its introduction been deferred until it could be dealt with in conjunction with the other measures to which he had alluded? The only reason could be, a desire upon the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, to comply with the demands which had been addressed to them by the Emperor of the French. The cause of the haste which they had exhibited could not, at all events, be found in the circumstance that no foreign conspirators had until lately taken up their abode in this country, inasmuch as, if the statements made by Count Walewski were correct, they ought to be aware that assassins had one after another issued from those shores during the last half century. Again, let him ask why had not the introduction of the Bill been delayed until the general criminal law of the land had been brought under the consideration of Parliament? Was it to stand as a measure by itself, or to be afterwards consolidated with the other measures of which notice had been given? These were questions to which he should like to receive an answer. He should also wish to ascertain—dealing as it was proposed to do with 1010 foreigners charged with conspiracy against their own Sovereign—why it was that they sought refuge in this country? Were they driven from their homes and compelled to land upon our shores against their will by the Government of France? He had seen statements published which, if true, would at once account for the existence of those conspiracies, in reference to which so much had been Said; It had been publicly mentioned by one who had represented himself as an eye-witness of the fact, that he had seen foreigners, starving and penniless, marched under the charge of gendarmes to the coast of France, and compelled to seek an asylum in England. If that were so, should the House of Commons not pause before it proceeded to legislate against those men? Nor were the statements to which he referred confined to the case of French refugees. He found that a petition had upon the 14th of March, 1845, been presented to that House from certain Spanish refugees Carlist officers and soldiers—who stated that they had been sent from prison to prison in France, and that, notwithstanding their repeated requests to be sent to some other country where they might be enabled to gain a subsistence, they had been forcibly landed on our shores and there left without the smallest provision for their support, and were thus forced to seek an asylum in England. These were facts which in his opinion called for inquiry, though he, for one, should be extremely sorry to shield from the punishment which they deserved men who partook of our hospitality only to abuse it. The time, however, which had been selected for introducing the measure under the notice of the House he deemed to be inopportune. If the Bill were passed into a law at the present moment the impression would be conveyed to Europe and the world that that course had been taken at the dictation of a foreign Sovereign. What, then, he would ask, would be the position of States weaker than our own? If England were to succumb to the demands of France, what reasonable hope of being able to resist similar demands could they entertain? He should no longer trespass upon the time of the House, but should content himself with recording, for the reasons which he had advanced, his opposition to the introduction of the Bill.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
was altogether opposed to the proposed law. The 1011 Bill came before them with one of three claims. It was either a measure desirable as a practical improvement of our criminal law, or it was practically desirable for the purpose of redressing outrageous crimes, or else it was necessary as a matter of political expediency. Now, that its introduction did not involve the question of practical reform in our criminal law was evident from the circumstance that upon the Orders of the House for that very day appeared notice of certain measures which were about to be submitted to the notice of Parliament by Her Majesty's Solicitor General for the consolidation and amendment of our system of criminal procedure. In that large category of reforms it might have been introduced if the question was merely one of the amendments of the law. As a necessary measure of law reform it was out of the question. Then, was it necessary as a measure of practical expediency? Would any one say that if the law proposed to be enacted by this Bill had been in operation some years ago, Pierri or Orsini would have been deterred from conspiring by its penalties, or that its provisions would have enabled France or England to lay hands upon them? Would any one say that the provisions of this Bill would henceforward enable the authorities in England and France to lay their hands upon the really guilty parties? Why it would be trifling with common sense and with the facts of the case to suppose that it could have any such effect. Those men had all but succeeded in their abominable designs, and, but for the interposition of Providence, would have accomplished the plans which the inconceivable blundering and ignorance, if not connivance, of the French police allowed them to mature; and then the Government of the Emperor turned round upon England and taxed her with fostering conspirators and assassins by the criminal leniency of our laws. But how would such a Bill as this mend matters? How were they to get hold of parties charged with attempting to conspire? He believed of all indictments against criminals in none would it be more difficult to bring home the proof than in one under the present Bill, except through the agency of spies and traitors and secret informers, whom it never had been the policy either of our Courts or of our Parliament to encourage. People had argued as if conspiracies against a foreign sovereign could be matured here, and as if they did not become full blown abroad. The main duty of one 1012 Government towards another was to afford that other Government every facility in its power for discovering and arresting the criminals when they landed in order to commit the offence: and then it was its duty to deal with them according to its own law. An indictment for a conspiracy was heretofore, by a wise leniency, treated with a light punishment in this country, because it was the spirit of our laws to give the accused, under such circumstances, a locus pœnitentiœ up to the last moment, and until the blow was actually struck. How often did it happen that a number of hotheaded persons in their silly moments laid their heads together to form a forcibly feeble conspiracy, while the next day in their sober senses the fumes of that enthusiasm evaporated, and the conspiracy died in its conception; but not until one of them had played the informer. If the Bill passed, their folly would be visited by the severest punishment known to the law next to the sentence of death. The wisdom of our policy was proved by the rarity of the convictions which took place in this country for conspiracies of this kind. Of course if the blow was actually struck, the offence of conspiracy to murder became one of a very serious character, and one with which the existing law was quite competent to deal. He hoped, therefore, that the House would uphold the wise principle of our jurisprudence, namely, that it was better to let the guilty escape than cause the innocent to suffer. Thus the second reason for this Bill was got rid of, and it only remained to consider it as a measure of political expediency. Was it wise or expedient at the commencement of a Session in. which measures of vast social importance were to be discussed—the internal constitution of that House and the government of the most magnificent dependency that any empire could ever boast of being among them—that the First Minister of the Crown should ask them to alter a portion of the law of asylum, which was the glory of the country, at the dictation of a foreign Sovereign, backed by the insolent menaces of the colonels of the French army? This, too, was to be done because the French Government had felt its own weakness—how little it could rely upon its boasted police, its boasted organization, its boasted espionage; and with all those repressive and protective appliances at its command that Government now came to us with a bootless cry to assist 1013 them from their dilemma. It was said that to preserve the entente cordiale the Bill should be passed. But how did the present measure bear upon the entente cordiale? He (Mr. Hope) should be the last person in the world to wish in the least degree to impair the friendship which bound the two empires together; but he believed that nothing would tend more to weaken the tic than for the legislature to accept the Bill now offered to the House at the dictation of Count Walewski. The alliance between Franco and England was a geographical alliance—a social and commercial alliance—and the more it was maintained upon those grounds, and the less each country sought to meddle with the political organization of each other, the more the stability of that alliance would be insured. England had gone on quietly with her own old system, modifying it in accordance, not with the demands of foreigners, but with her own sense of her own wants. France, on the other hand, had rushed from one extreme to another—from an excess of liberty to an excess of absolutism. Yet when she was under the rule of Cavaignac it was as incumbent upon us to preserve the friendship of France as it was to keep it now that she was under the sway of Napoleon III. But how could we hope to do so if we committed ourselves to anything that might wear the aspect of complicity with any of the widely different parties which at any particular time might happen to be supreme? In the addresses of the army England was characterised as the "den of assassins;" and although the language of Count Walewski was perfectly civil, it really came pretty much to the same thing. But the House should bear in mind the diversity of the ideas which foreigners, even the best educated and most sensible of them, entertained with regard to England. By one part England was regarded as the foe of order and the accomplice of outrages like that which had just taken place. On the other hand, there was a party, and that, too, a party which in 1848 obtained the supreme authority, who talked of the "cold shade of an aristocracy" in England, and who spoke of our feudal institutions as hostile to personal liberty. What then was the inference to be drawn from those two views, so widely differing, and both so ludicrously opposed to the fact? Why, that we were walking in the just medium between the two extremes most conducive 1014 to real liberty and good order? and that our course must be a wise one, if, when viewed from different sides, it could present such a different aspect. Having discovered the just and salutary medium it would be the extreme of folly, the extreme of pusillanimity, to deviate from it in order to gain the temporary approbation of, and give an illusory satisfaction to the party which happened to be in power in France, which would respect us the more we refused compliance with demands which it knew to be inopportune and ungrounded. The addresses in the Moniteur had been characterised by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as justly offensive to this country; and if he so interpreted them, what in less prejudiced eyes could be said of them? Now, however, the House was told that the Emperor of the French had expressed his regret for the offensive expressions contained in those addresses. But what said the despatch in which he was alleged to have done so? Did it contradict one single inference that might be drawn from any of those military addresses, or from the previous despatch of Count Walewski? No such thing. The first despatch of Count Walewski threw out imputations against England as a country as a popular body, and as represented in that House. What did the second despatch do? Did it express one word of confidence in England or of apology to England? No. It expressed confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers; and that the people of this country were to accept as a full, sufficient, and complete apology for all the offensive expressions that had been published in the Moniteur, and for all that had been insinuated in the first despatch of Count Walewski. Would this second despatch be allowed insertion in the French papers? It would no doubt appear in the English papers of to-morrow, but there was such a thing as a system of seizing papers on their arrival in France by the post-office authorities there, and the despatch in question would be thus excluded from the knowledge of the French population. Would the despatch appear in the official or non-official portions of the Moniteur, in that part of the Moniteur in which the military addresses had appeared? Most probably not. To deny that that paper was not, body and soul, from the "M" of its title till the last letter of its eighth page, the property of the French Government, was an absurdity which no one in his senses could believe. That 1015 organ of the French Govern meat was circulated in every direction, right and left, where the influence of the Government could force its sale. In Prance there were 20,000 placemen who were hound, as the price of their places, to buy and read the Moniteur. Who can doubt that those 20,000 placemen had bought and read the copies of the Moniteur which contained the truculent brutalities of the Tribunes of the Prætorian Guard, as embodying the word of order from the supreme central authority of France. But would they have equal opportunity of reading the despatch of the 6th of February, which had been elicited by the public feeling of England? And how would that apology of the 6th of February do away with that strange "inadvertence" on the part of the editors and writers in the Moniteur which had had such an effect in this country, and in another sense in France? Editors in France in these days were dealt with by the ruling power in a manner more summary than agreeable. Such things as journals being warned and suppressed, and as editors being called into the sanctum of the Prime Minister, and soundly rated, were matters of common occurrence there. Had the editor of the Moniteur received the smallest reprimand for his "inadvertence" in this affair? There was another spectacle in France. At a time when we were called on by the French Government to alter our existing system of mild jurisprudence and of protection to the liberties of Europe, we saw that favoured empire subjected to a new military organization. We saw it divided into five provinces, each under a Marshal of France, and the Duke of Malakhoff, the future Marshal General of France, placed in the Council of Regency which had recently been created. We saw also the announcement that the department of Police was to be withdrawn from the French Home Office and placed under an independent Minister of State. We saw, too, the Home Minister cashiered, and a General officer appointed Minister of the Interior, All this had followed the promulgation of the new law for the protection of the existing Government in France, the stringency of which had formed the theme of comment everywhere in this country, and was hardly accepted even within the walls of the Council of State. Now, whether or not all these measures were for the order and safety of France, he (Mr. Hope) would not take upon himself to say. Per- 1016 haps they were. Perhaps France was sick of liberty. A gagged press and a police spy in every saloon were perhaps desirable things: but that was their look out, and not ours. Only let it continue to be their look out, and let the entente cordiale be maintained. Let us, if possible, live in amity with France, and France with us. Let us leave her her centralization and despotism, if such were her choice; but let there still be liberty for England, freedom from martial law, liberty of locomotion and liberty of speech, which were the birthright of Englishmen. We must, however, to preserve these, maintain our existing system as it was, and not leave it to be believed on the Continent that England, "the refuge of assassins," had postponed the consideration of its great Indian question and its affairs of State in order to introduce a change in its system of criminal jurisprudence at the dictation of a foreign Minister. Some years ago the noble Lord at the head of the Government subjected himself to the strong animadversion of the Austrian and some of the French journals for giving an interview to Kossuth; and now, on less provocation—for the supposed organization of a conspiracy in England, which had not yet been proved to have been hatched here—the House of Commons was called on to commit the monstrous anachronism of amending our criminal law by an enactment utterly feeble and futile, and one which no lawyer on either side of the House had yet been found to endorse, and all this to give satisfaction to the authors of these menacing documents. The example of Lord Hawkesbury had been very different, and yet he was afterwards, as Lord Liverpool, the very personification of monarchical principles in this country. Under those circumstances, looking at the measure before the House as one of legal reform which would be utterly inoperative, and as a measure of State policy wholly repugnant to that friendly and conciliatory, yet liberty-loving spirit which actuated the people of England, he would undoubtedly record his vote against it.
§ MR. COLLIER
said, he cordially concurred in the eulogium which had been passed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) on the right of asylum afforded in this country to political refugees of all nations, and he would go hand in hand with him in resisting any attempt to curtail that asylum or to interfere with the liberty of these per- 1017 sons. He would also go along with his hon. and learned Friend in his opposition to the measure under consideration if it was one of surveillance to be exercised over political refugees, or calculated in any unfair way to curtail their rights or privileges. But as this was a measure to which no objection of that kind was fairly applicable he should give it his support. He was surprised to hear it said that this measure would have the effect of curtailing the liberty of such persons; it was new to him (Mr. Collier) that preventing a man from fabricating hand-grenades or from conspiring to commit the crime of assassination was an interference with his liberty. He thought it a calumny on the great Kossuth, for whose talents and patriotism he entertained unfeigned admiration, to say that such a measure was calculated to abridge the liberty he enjoyed in this country, since he was the very last man in the world likely to abuse that liberty. He (Mr. Collier) would not attempt to follow his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield in the contrast he drew between Napoleon the Great and Napoleon the Little, to use his hon. and learned Friend's designation;—it was quite irrelevant to the question. He would merely observe that the French Emperor might well be surprised to hear pronounced by the lips of any Englishman a eulogium of our bitterest enemy, at the expense of our Ally. All humane and philanthropic men might well be surprised to hear an eulogium of one of the great destroyers of the human race, at the expense of a friendly monarch who cultivates the art of peace. He regretted to hear from a member of the Peace Society inflammatory language addressed to the Emperor of the French, and he could not help thinking that a few more peaceful members of the same kind on both sides of the Channel would be enough to set the two countries in a blaze of war. He would address himself calmly and deliberately to the question, apart from the irritating topics introduced into the discussion, and would consider how it would have stood supposing the addresses of the French colonels had never been published in the Moniteur. The English nation were shocked by the intelligence of an attempted assassination of a great Monarch, our Ally, under circumstances of peculiar atrocity. They were further shocked to find that unconsciously they had harboured the assassins, and that in all probability the assassination was contrived in this coun- 1018 try. Surely, that was sufficient to direct attention to the state of our law. What was the state of our law as it at present existed? He ventured to assert that until the statement was heard from the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, there was no lawyer in Westminster Hall who could affirm, with positive certainty, that a conspiracy of two foreigners to murder a foreigner out of this country was an offence against our laws. No lawyer doubted that a conspiracy on the part of two Englishmen in this country to murder the Emperor of the French would be au offence against our laws, because if murder were committed by an Englishman abroad the statute of 9th Geo. IV. made that an offence punishable in this country. But that statute did not apply to foreigners, and he had heard contrary opinions maintained with great pertinacity upon the question whether foreigners, being guilty of a conspiracy to do that which when done was not an offence against our laws, would be amenable to our laws in the same manner as Englishmen. For himself, he thought it would be an offence by our law, because murder was malum in se,and therefore a conspiracy to commit it might be reached and punished. When, however, serious doubts were entertained upon a question of so much importance, not only by laymen but by lawyers, surely legislation ought to be applied to declare what the law was. But, assuming that it was an offence, it was only a misdemeanour, punishable by fine and imprisonment. It was a less offence than picking a pocket, and about the same as bribing at an election. He would state to the House some cases in which it was declared what conspiracy was. It was conspiracy "to impose pretended wine upon a man, as for true and good Portugal wine, in exchange for goods," or "to charge a man as the father of a bastard," or "for persons to cause themselves to be reputed men of property in order to defraud tradesmen." The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield asked why they were to increase the punishment of this kind of conspiracy? His answer was because the crime was greater. It was a greater moral offence—it was a greater offence against public policy. It was absurd to rank in the same category as the offences he had quoted a conspiracy to commit wholesale murder, the effect of which might be to disturb the peace of Europe. When it was doubtful whether an offence was punishable at all, and where 1019 there was no doubt that, if it were punishable, the punishment was inadequate, it became our duty to revise the law. If that were so, then the only question was whether this was the proper time. It seemed to him that the time to revise the law was when public attention was called to its defects. That was our system of legislation. We were not a codifying people, and did not pretend to act upon system; but were in the habit of legislating upon exigencies, of which the Fraudulent Trustees Act was a very recent example. That was only passed after our attention had been called to the defect in our laws by the insolvency of a well-known banking establishment, and it was consistent with the spirit of the constitution at once to remedy it. And here our attention was called to the state of our law by a grave conspiracy to assassinate an ally; and it was a question among lawyers whether it could be reached and punished by the law of England. There was an additional reason for putting the law upon the right footing when they found that the Jaw of Ireland was totally different from the law of England, and that, while in England this offence was one of the lowest, in Ireland it was one of the highest. They found the law required amendment, and it seemed to him carrying John Bullism to an unreasonable extent to say, "We won't put it right because the French tell us of it." He thought the French Government had a right to make representations with calmness and moderation. The French Government might very well say, "When Peltier libelled Napoleon, your enemy, you prosecuted and convicted him. We now ask that those who conspire to murder Napoleon, your friend, shall meet with exemplary punishment." If he had succeeded in showing that it was a proper thing to do, and the right time to do it, the question was reduced to this—were they to abstain from doing it on account of the addresses of the French colonels? He did not suppose that any Englishman would be inclined to legislate or not to legislate in consequence of anything which a French colonel might say. Unquestionably, it became a graver matter when the addresses appeared in the Moniteur; and, had he not heard that the Emperor had publicly apologized, he should have had the greatest difficulty in supporting this measure. But when he considered that the man against whose life the attempt had been made might very naturally 1020 feel some irritation and perturbation—that the greatest indignation must be felt in the country where the attempt occurred—that if it had happened in London, instead of in Paris, we should not have viewed it with the same comparative tranquillity, and that shortly after the appearance of the addresses in the Moniteur an apology was publicly and openly made in a despatch to Her Majesty's Government, it seemed to him scarcely consistent with the dignity of this country to say, "We have discovered a defect in our law, and we wish to remedy it; but because of these addresses we will not." He thought there were no adequate grounds for resisting this improvement in the law; he should, therefore, give his vote in favour of the Motion.
§ MR. W. HUNT
said, he had no objection to make the offence of conspiring to commit murder a greater offence than those trifling offences which were mentioned by the noble Lord last night, and had been again adverted to by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Collier.) That was not the question. The question was, whether they were prepared to make a substantive alteration in our law? He did object to supporting this Bill for the purpose of making it an offence punishable by our law for persons resident in this country, to conspire with persons who were abroad. A great deal had been said about the difference between the law of England and Ireland on this subject. The reason was obvious. Conspiracy to commit murder in Ireland was for many years a thing of no unfrequent occurrence—in England it was almost unknown—and consequently the Parliament legislating for England was content to let the question of conspiracy to murder rest on the common law, which made the crime punishable, like conspiring to commit any offence punishable by statute or common law, while in Ireland it had been found necessary to enact a much severer punishment. He would have no objection to assent to a Bill which merely sought to make the law of the two countries on this point uniform; but this Bill went beyond that: it made a felony the act of a person in England conspiring with another person abroad to commit a murder abroad. He asked the House to consider how such a conspiracy was to be brought home to the person resident in England? How could the common agreement of the two persons be proved? It could only be by the production of letters passing between the two conspirators, and giving evidence of the 1021 acts done by the one living abroad. Supposing a political refugee in England obnoxious to a foreign Government in alliance with our own, who were desirous to prosecute him, how was the prosecution to be conducted against him for conspiring with another person residing within the jurisdiction of that foreign state? In order to fix him with the offence, the letters passing between them must be opened both here and abroad. Was that not a formidable engine to place in the hands of a foreign Power? Would it be right or wise to allow letters opened abroad to be produced in an English court of justice against persons living under the protection of our Sovereign? No such thing was ever known in the English law. These were the reasons why he opposed the Bill; and he hoped before the debate concluded some of the law officers of the Crown would give the House the benefit of their opinion upon the subject. The Bill, instead of merely making that a felony which was now a misdemeanour, and rendering the law more uniform, introduced something entirely novel in the English law and English notions. With regard to the time at which the Bill was brought forward, he certainly thought it would have been better if it had not followed so immediately the French despatch; but that was not a sufficient reason why the alteration, if a good one, should be rejected. He much regretted that the despatch of Count Walewski had been laid on the table unaccompanied by a dignified and proper answer to it on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he could not allow this discussion to pass without saying a few words to set himself right with his constituents whilst giving his hearty support to the Bill of the Government. He was not one to be dragooned into assenting to a measure; and it was, with great pleasure he heard the able speech of the Home Secretary, in. every word of which he entirely concurred. He was glad the debate had taken a different turn from what it did on the preceding evening. Last night, when he looked for opinions and reasons, he heard nothing but expressions of feeling. It seemed then as though hon. Members, having come down in expectation of an Alien Bill, had been disappointed to find nothing of the sort presented to them, but had still refused to withdraw their opposition. He could not regard the time for the introduction of this 1022 Bill as inopportune. An odious plot had been concocted in this country, and though by a miracle it failed of complete execution, it had resulted in death and injury to many innocent persons. What wonder, then, at the irritation which existed in France? Let the House place itself in the position of the French nation; or suppose a plot had been formed in France against the life of the amiable and illustrious lady who reigns over this country, and had been so nearly successful, would not the feelings of the people in this country have been greatly excited, and would not their language have been strong? Would the House of Commons have been contented with a despatch asking for no. more than that of Count Walewski? Considering the circumstances, that despatch was moderation itself. A plot was concocted in this country against the Emperor which the French system of espionage would have discovered long ago, and the French Government wrote thereupon to the English Government, not dictating to them what should be done, but merely desiring them, if there were any alteration which could be made in our law to prevent the recurrence of such plots, to take the earliest opportunity of proposing that alteration. Surely, our answer to that demand ought not to be, that we acknowledged our law to be defective, but that since we had been called on by a friend to make a change now, we would not do it. He regretted the language made use of in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) as not calculated to strengthen the good feeling, that it was so desirable to maintain, between the countries of England and France. That language was nothing but a Parliamentary answer to the addresses in the Moniteur, of which so much complaint had been made, and it had been said that it was to be looked at in that light rather than as an argument against the Bill. Still it must be remembered, that these addresses had been apologized for; it remained for the hon. and learned Member to apologize for his speech. The hon. and learned Member had stated that when the punishment for forgery was death there was a great difficulty in obtaining a conviction, and he had traced the great facilities for obtaining conviction for that offence to the diminution of the punishment to imprisonment or transportation. This was exactly the principle on which this Bill proceeded—it substituted for the punishment of death the 1023 punishment of transportation. [Cries of "No, no!"] In Ireland the punishment for conspiracy to murder was death, hut this Bill commuted it to transportation. The Bill did not create a new crime; nor did it in any way alter our policy with regard to refugees. He could not see in it any attack upon the bulwarks of our freedom, which was as dear to him as to any man. With the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst (Mr. Warren) he trusted that for a long time to come political exiles when they saw our white cliffs would bless them, and say, "There is the land where the weary are at rest," aye, and "where the wicked cease from troubling." Our liberty was great because it was founded on principles of justice; our freedom was sure because it sprang from the very nature of the people; but he would warn the House not to confound the liberty of the subject with the licence of the assassin. He warned them, if they regarded that liberty, not to tamper with its purity; for once let our boasted freedom degenerate into an unholy licence, and we might prepare to bid farewell to it for ever.
§ MR. DENT
said, that two arguments had been adduced in favour of the Bill. First it had been said that refugees who were resident in England used assassins to commit murder in foreign countries. But as yet he had heard no proof adduced that the law of England had not been sufficient hitherto to check conspiracies of that nature. What was popularly termed "notoriety" was not sufficient to constitute legal evidence, and we had never had any of these offenders brought into our courts to see what the law of England could do with them. If we could once bring the offender into a court of justice, and could adduce evidence against him, he believed that the law would be ample to convict and punish. The main argument, however, in favour of the Bill had been that it would give satisfaction to the Emperor and to the people of France; but he thought that His Majesty the Emperor knew us too well to place much value on this measure—that he knew that if evidence could be obtained to bring home the crime of conspiracy to murder to a person resident here he would be punished under the present law. Still, however that might be, he (Mr. Dent) must say that he looked upon the present as a very inopportune time for bringing it forward—not because he paid much regard to the addresses of 1024 the French colonels, but because we had been promised a general revision of the criminal law, and he thought that that would be the time for amending the law of conspiracy if it should be found to be inefficient. The House must consider the effect of assenting to this law upon foreign nations, as well as the people of England. The people of England would say that, instead of calmly considering what necessary alterations were required, we have prepared this Act at the instance and under the influence of the French Emperor, while abroad it would be regarded as a great triumph by the despotic States of Europe, who would feel that a blow had been struck at the constitutional liberties of England.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had listened with pleasure to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier), because its tendency appeared to have been to bring back the House to the subject properly before it, while the object of many speakers had been to introduce a large amount of irrelevant and exciting matter into the debate, in order to prevent the House from approaching a subject which, of all others, ought to be considered calmly and dispassionately. A great deal had been said about what had appeared in the French newspapers; but in order to test the importance of such articles, hon. Gentlemen should consider how they would be influenced by what appeared in the English newspapers. There were few men, probably, who were not impressed with the great advantages of a free and enlightened press; but the greatest danger to the liberty of the press was the licence of the press; and it was one of those social laws that few disputed, that when a man sheltered himself under the anonymous screen of a newspaper, and indulged in abuse and vituperation against individuals, which he would shrink from doing in his own proper per-son and under his own name, he sand into the most degraded and despicable of beings, and the man who could be influenced or irritated by personal abuse of that description in a newspaper must indeed have a soft head and a sorry heart. If, then, personal abuse of an unmerited description, brought forward in a cowardly manner, would be treated with contempt by all right-minded men, would it be dignified for the people of this country to admit that they could be for one moment influenced in proceedings which they thought right, in the full exercise of their 1025 judgment and conscience, by some anonymous articles of an offensive character which had appeared in a foreign newspaper? Many attempts had been made to induce the House to believe that a variety of insults had been put upon this country; but the most insulting supposition of all was to imagine that the country could be influenced by what had appeared in a foreign journal. He would, therefore, dismiss that part of the subject. An endeavour had also been made to induce the House to believe that they could not alter the laws with respect to refugees without violating the constitution of this country. He did not see how that could be proved unless it were admitted that the liberty of refugees and the right of assassination were convertible terms. How could it be said, because they attempted to improve their legislation in order to prevent the commission of the worst description of crimes, that they were thereby interfering with the shelter afforded to political refugees? Such an argument told very little in favour of foreign refugees. A great deal had been said about the despatch from Count Walewski to Count do Persigny, and an effort had been made to show that there was something in the wording of that despatch at which we ought to feel exceedingly indignant and irate. He had road that despatch both in the original and in the translated form, and, he was bound to say, that a more courteous, a better worded, or a less objectionable document he had never read. It appeared to him, therefore, that the case which they had to deal with, leaving out these irrelevancies, lay in a nutshell. One of the grossest attempts at crime that was to be found recorded in the annals of history had lately been made in France by persons who had been for some time resident in this country, and who had left this country in order to perpetrate the offence they contemplated with weapons which had been manufactured in this country. These facts had been laid before the Government of England, and he contended that they were bound, by every feeling of humanity and common sense to take the earliest steps for effecting such an alteration in our laws as should, as far as prevention was attainable by legislation, forestall the commission of such crimes for the future. That was the paramount duty of the Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had objected to this Bill on the ground of its insufficiency. That might 1026 be an argument against its details, but not against its principle. If that argument proved anything, it proved that it was the obvious duty of those hon. Gentlemen to endeavour to make the Bill more stringent. No refugee living in this country, except such as were conspiring to assassinate, would be prejudiced by the Bill in the slightest degree. So long as he did not attempt to do that which was a direct violation of our laws he would be as free from its operation as if he had never set his foot on English soil. They had heard in the course of this debate very strong personal—he might say abusive—remarks against the Emperor of the French, and he wished to take that opportunity of disclaiming any sympathy with their tone. The Emperor of the French was at least a man of approved ability and of undaunted courage. He was the elected Sovereign of a nation which was in strict alliance with this country. He bad proved himself a faithful and honourable ally both in peace and war. It was the opinion of himself (Mr. Bentinck), and he believed also of a great majority of the House, that to take the opportunity of a discussion of this kind to utter coarse and brutal personalities against the Emperor of the French was a departure from the usual courtesy and the chivalrous feeling which generally characterized the debates of the House, and he was convinced that the great majority of the House would regret if a similar attack were made during any of their future debates. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government would not be deterred from bringing in the Bill, on the details of which he could not offer an opinion, but the principle of which was in accordance with every feeling of humanity, and with the dictates of common sense.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he must claim the indulgence of the House whilst he expressed the grounds upon which he should give his vote—grounds which he thought had not yet been stated by any other hon. Member. In the first place, however, he wished to add his congratulations to those of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and the hon. Gentleman who had followed him, upon the improved tone of the debate that evening as compared with that of Monday night. He fully agreed with the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. Whitbread), in a speech of great promise, as to the way in which they ought to regard the official communication from the French Minister, and also 1027 the non-official communications in the Moniteur. It was perfectly true that every allowance ought to be made for the feelings which the late attempt to assassinate the Emperor of the French had created in the minds of the French nation. Had an attack been made upon our own beloved Sovereign, which we could in any way connect with or affiliate upon any moral indifference or legislative deficiency in another country, we should not have been measured either in our expressions or our demands. He would therefore put aside altogether the addresses which had appeared in the Moniteur. The reasons which would induce him, with great regret, to vote against this measure, were of a totally different character. A great crime had been committed by persons who, having fled from their own country charged with political offences, had taken refuge in England; and it was no ordinary feelings which had induced every man in that House to utter the same expressions with regard to it. Assassination was utterly repugnant to the history and customs of the British people; and if men were in any degree affected by the opinions of those around them—if there was such a thing as a moral atmosphere—the last place in which conspiracies to assassinate would be formed was in this country. Everything which refugees could hear in England was utterly condemnatory of such schemes. Let them even be reduced to the very lowest level of poverty and live with what were called the most dangerous classes of the community—amongst all classes they would find schemes of assassination regarded with as great detestation as in that assembly. Of late years political events had thrown upon our shores refugees of all descriptions and of various nations. He would not speak of the exile of the Emperor of France himself in this country with any other feeling than that of deducing from it the fact that, while in exile, he ought to have learnt and understood the spirit of the British people. The right of asylum—which to him was so freely accorded, and without which, in all human probability, he would not have been in his present elevated position—that right of asylum he certainly ought to be the last man to seek to deny to others. This we surely had a right to say. As yet we hardly knew anything about the great crime that had been committed in France. All we knew was that some Italians had been taken up for an attempt 1028 on the lives of the Emperor and Empress. It was well known that there was a deep excitement in the minds of the Italian people on the subject of the occupation of Rome by the French. We knew that one person, who was accused of participating in this crime, had been for a long time imprisoned in an Austrian dungeon, whence he escaped with great difficulty, and that the memoir of his imprisonment and escape had become a popular book in this country. Did that simple fact, unconnected with any other fact, except the short residence of some of the accused persons in this country, and the accidental manufacture of the hand-grenades at Birmingham—authorise the French Government to depart so largely from the general custom of nations as—before anything positive was known, before the prisoners had been interrogated, or evidence taken—with nothing, in short, more substantial to rest upon than what was called "notoriety"—to make the demand upon us which was included in Count Walewski's despatch? Unfortunately this crime was not new in France. In the last thirty or forty years there had been a great many attempts on the lives of Sovereigns; and he saw nothing in this attempt—horrible as it was—to distinguish it from previous ones. When Louis Philippe sat upon the throne of France—a monarch as closely bound to us as the present Emperor—an attempt was made upon the lives of himself and his family, quite as atrocious as the late attempt. On that occasion the loss of life of distinguished men was much larger. In that case there was no shadow of a political pretext; and it never occurred to the Government of Louis Philippe, or to a single Frenchman, to come and find fault with the English Government because Fieschi might some time have dwelt in England. In the present case, had they waited till the trial was over, and had it been proved that these persons had received assistance or the colour of favour from anybody in England, or had it been proved that any Englishman was implicated in the plot, the matter would have stood on very different grounds. But why this indecorous haste? Why, before these persons had even been subjected to any interrogatory, before anything was known but the mere fact of the crime being committed, was such a letter as that of Count Walewski addressed to our Government? He himself answered that question to a certain extent. He told us that this was 1029 not the first time that this had occurred—that there were large numbers of persons resident in this country known to be inspired with hostile or cruel feelings towards the dynasty of the Emperor of France. If that were true, and if it meant anything—what did he ask to be done as a remedy? He asked, certainly in very courteous terms, "Is hospitality due to assassins? Ought British legislation to contribute to favour their designs and their plans, and can it continue to shelter persons who, by their flagrant acts, place themselves beyond the pale of common right, and under the ban of humanity?" That was a request for an abrogation of the right of asylum. If it meant anything, it meant that refugees should not receive the shelter and hospitality of this country because they were beyond the pale of humanity. The effect of that demand was to provoke such an expression of opinion in that House in favour of the right of asylum that no Government would venture to propose its abrogation. Her Majesty's Government had not thought fit to reply to that despatch formally, and in the terms they ought to have used, but gave their answer to the request of the French Government by the present proposal to alter the law of conspiracy in this country. He would not enter into the abstract question of the advisability of that alteration of the law, because he did not see that it met the present case in any degree. Did any Member of the House believe that if this alteration of the law existed the great crime which had taken place would have been delayed for a single moment? Did any one suppose that those men, in the madness of their patriotism, armed by a blind fatalism, and in their furious and unthinking rage against power, would have been diverted from this enterprise because you changed the crime from misdemeanour into felony? It showed an ignorance of human nature to form any such supposition. If he could suppose that the alteration of the law would have the effect of saving a single life, he would vote for it; but, believing that it would have no such effect, he could not vote for it on that ground. The measure was advocated on another ground—namely, that the country ought to make some demonstration, in order to show the French people and the French Emperor that they were not insensible to the excitement which existed in France on the subject, He could not admit the validity of that argument. He 1030 thought it was a grave matter to alter the law of England on any such ground. He did not wish in the least degree to 'demonstrate' away the laws and liberties of the people of England. If such a change ought to be made, let it be done when the law on this subject came, as it would shortly come, under the revision of the House. He saw very great difficulty in the application of this Bill to aliens, because the rights and jurisdiction of foreign Sovereigns over their subjects in this country made it very difficult to deal with the acts of aliens in any charge of conspiracy in which they might be engaged with any persons in this country. When Parliament revised the law of conspiracy this question might be fairly discussed, but they were now debating whether by the change proposed they should make a demonstration which should satisfy the French Government. He would tell the House that this measure would in no degree satisfy the French people. He believed, on the contrary, that the House of Commons, by assenting to this measure, would do nothing but show its own weakness and encourage further demands. That quick and intelligent people, the French, would not fail to perceive how little, after all, Parliament had done in passing this measure. The French people would have a right to say, "How little you have done to accomplish our object; this law is a mere pretence which does not touch the question. Ledru Rollin and Mazzini are still walking the streets of London, and Italian and other refugees are professing their destructive doctrines as openly as ever." It might perhaps enable the Emperor of the French to say that he extorted this Bill from the British House of Commons, but he ought not to wish for any advantage of that kind, as he (Mr. M. Milnes) did not think that it was his wish or interest to see this country lowered. For these reasons he should vote against the introduction of the Bill, and he believed they would only strengthen the real principles of Her Majesty's Government, and of his noble Friend at the head of it, if they rejected it. He did not believe that his noble Friend, whose name was identified with the assertion of the rights of all suffering men who came to England as an asylum, would in his heart regret the rejection of the Bill. It had been said by a very clever man, "that assassins did not kill kings, but that they sometimes made them do very unwise things;" and if the Emperor of the French 1031 allowed this unhappy event to have the effect of weakening the French and English alliance, he believed he would be doing an unwise thing for his own interests and the interests of the world. The great crime which had been recently attempted had no doubt, in a certain degree, endeared the Emperor to the sympathies of the French people. His courage and that of the Empress, and the acts of generosity, mercy, and benevolence which they now had the opportunity of displaying, would increase those feelings of attachment. There was only one great sorrow which was deeply felt by all persons who were interested in the political future of Italy. The inhabitants of that country continued to entertain the same moral obliquity which had made assassination stand out so prominently in the brightest pages of their history—which had supplied a vindication of tyranny in that country which nothing else would have given, and which had alienated from them many of their best and dearest friends. And of this unhappy passion there was no more appalling instance than that alluded to in the course of this debate—how the Italian nature of the great exile had so burst forth in the weakness of his latter days that he had himself bequeathed a reward to the would-be assassin of the Duke of Wellington.
said, he was anxious to state very shortly the grounds on which he felt it his duty to give his support to the introduction of the Bill brought in by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He believed this to be a wise and judicious amendment of the existing law, and he believed the occasion to be a suitable one for carrying that amendment into effect. Let the House just consider how the matter stood as between England and Ireland. By the present law of Ireland the offence of conspiring to commit murder was punishable by death. The Legislature, by continuing that punishment, affirmed that it was only an adequate one; whilst it declared that for the same crime, when committed in England, an adequate punishment was two years' imprisonment. He would take the case of the Ribbon Societies. Now, he had been, on several occasions, concerned as counsel in cases connected with these societies, and he remembered one case in which it was proved that in eighteen towns in England there were affiliated branches of these societies. Now, suppose there was an indictment for conspiracy to murder, and that some of the conspirators con- 1032 spired in England and others in Ireland, was it rational that the former should only be found guilty of a misdemeanour, and punished with two years' imprisonment, while the latter were convicted of a capital offence, and punished with death. There had within his own experience occurred a remarkable case in Ireland in which two persons were indicted for a conspiracy to murder. The prisoners pleaded separately, and severed in their challenge. One was tried first, convicted, and sentence of death was passed upon him. The other prisoner remained still untried, and the question was raised whether the conviction of the single prisoner could be upheld, it being argued that the other prisoner might thereafter be acquitted by another jury. The Judges held that the conviction was legal. The great difficulty was whether the sentence could then in justice be carried into effect, or whether, by allowing execution to stand over, the power and value of the law would not be weakened. In this case the sentence was commuted, and, indeed, that was generally the case in convictions for conspiracy to murder in Ireland. He (Mr. Napier) was happy to say that from the improved moral feeling of society, a prosecutor could not carry the feeling of a jury with him in a capital prosecution against a prisoner in a case where life had not been taken. Conspiracy to murder was made capital in Ireland in the bloody times, and the punishment of death might have been a proper one; but in consequence of the feeling he had mentioned it was impossible to carry out the law in its letter at the present day, and, therefore, in his opinion, the punishment was not a proper one now, and it was a wise amendment of the law to reduce the penalty of the law in Ireland to transportation. If, however, transportation were a fitting punishment for conspiracies to murder in Ireland, surely it could not for a moment be maintained that two years' imprisonment was a fitting punishment for the same offence in England. The crime had been treated differently in Ireland, because peculiar circumstances had arisen to call for the special interference of the Legislature. The crime of conspiracy to murder had become frequent in Ireland, and therefore the offence was made capital in that country, while it remained a mere misdemeanour in England. If, however, special circumstances had arisen in England—if the presence of certain refugees made the crime more frequent in this country than it had been—why 1033 should not the law be altered to meet it? Why should not a similar law be enacted here to that which had been put in force in Ireland to meet a similar state of things? He had the greatest sympathy with refugees, the victims of despotism, who came to this country to escape from the grasp of the despot, but with conspirators and assassins he had no sympathy. He should like to hear from the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), who intends next week to propose that the Channel should be blotted out, and the two countries made in every respect one, some good reason why he should now oppose a Bill which had for its object the assimilation of the laws of the two countries. That House was called upon to legislate upon a great principle of moral guilt, and in his belief it was wise legislation to reduce the penalty for conspiring to murder in Ireland and to raise the penalty for the same offence in England to a proper level. The House was not called upon to define a new crime but to provide a fitting punishment for an offence already known to the law. He quite agreed with the opinion which had been stated to have been expressed by the Lord Chief Justice, that conspiring in England to take away the life of the Emperor of the French was in law a misdemeanour. Indeed he had previously entertained no doubt upon the subject, and was somewhat surprised to hear that some lawyers of eminence disputed that position; but that was not the point which the House had to decide. What the House had to decide was whether the offence of conspiracy to murder should be punishable by death in Ireland and only by two years' imprisonment in England. Should the House in the face of Europe so decide, could they expect to be praised for the wisdom of their legislation? It had been objected that this was not the occasion for an alteration in the law. In his opinion this, so far from being an occasion on which the people of England should hold back, was one on which they should show themselves capable—as he was sure they always would be—of reposing on their own dignity, and sense of right, undeterred by any fear of their motives being misconstrued. Was he to understand that, at a time when so much had been done to increase intercourse between neighbouring States, Englishmen were to be deterred from doing that which they believed to be right and just from a paltry feeling of self-sufficiency, and that, because France ask- 1034 ed them to make the law adequate in this, a case in which it was deeply interested, they were to say, in the face of the world, "We shall not do this, though it is just and equitable, because France asks us?" Who could blame the French people for their attachment to the Emperor under such trying circumstances? and yet, because of that attachment, were the English people to say, "Because this measure would give protection to the Emperor of the French, and because the people of France ask it, we will not give it. Justice requires it, and France asks it, but because she asks it, we will not give it?" It had been said, "How will England stand before the smaller states of Europe if this law be passed?" In reply, he would say that England would always stand in a right position when she had the moral courage to do what was right. Her motto must be, "Be just, and fear not." She ought to disregard the petty feeling, which could only affect weak minds, that she would degrade herself before Europe by assenting to the wishes of France in this matter, and doing that which she had too long neglected; for, after all, they had greatly neglected this question of the amendment of the law, and now that their attention was called to it, the duty should not be disregarded on the miserable plea that it would be a concession to a foreign Power. He had said that France was deeply interested in this matter; but was not England concerned in it as well as France? Who could tell what might have been the consequence to all Europe—what quantity of blood might not have been spilt—if the lives of the Emperor and his Consort had been taken on the occasion of the recent attempt? If a conviction were had in England for a conspiracy to assassinate a sovereign with whom we had for some years been endeavouring to cultivate an alliance, and with whom they had the most friendly alliance, could they tell the states of Europe that two years' imprisonment was an adequate punishment for such an offence? The hon. and learned Member for Midhurst (Mr. Warren) had, with an air of triumph, pointed to the 5 and 6 Vict., cap. 51, and asked, "When the Queen's life was threatened, what did the Legislature do?" Well, he (Mr. Napier) asked, what did it do? The hon. and learned Member said, "Do not libel the common law of England;" but, if his observations held good, any Act passed by Parliament was a libel on the common law of England; and, in 1035 the statute passed in reference to attempts on the life of the Queen, it also libelled the law of England; for it made what would, in ordinary cases, be punishable by a short imprisonment be, in cases where it was committed against the person of Her Majesty, punishable by seven years' transportation; and it provided for naughty boys, some of whom might come before the hon. and learned Member at Hull, another punishment in the shape of a whipping. Would Parliament, then, say that the offence of firing blank cartridges against the Queen's carriage ought to be punished by seven years' transportation, while conspiring to assassinate her ally, the Emperor of the French, ought to be visited by only two years' imprisonment? England would never refuse an asylum to refugees; but, if they came here, they must obey our laws; they must come on an equality with all Her Majesty's subjects; if they got the protection of the British constitution, they should conform to its rules. If they came here to hatch conspiracies against the Governments of the countries which they had left,' then it was only consistent with the dictates of humanity, the dignity of England, and with her Christian character, that they should be dealt with as offenders, and punished with duo severity. Moderation was the privilege of conscious strength. Let England rely on her constitution, and the soundness of its principles, and not hesitate to make amendments in her laws when those amendments were shown to be required. The amendment now proposed was one which he himself would have made in 1856; for in that year he made a note to that effect in a copy of a Bill sent for his consideration. Under these circumstances he should give his cordial, his unhesitating, and his hearty support to the proposal then before the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, one of the disadvantages of the present discussion is, that while, on the one hand, the arguments in favour of the Bill bring prominently forward the attempt that has been made on the life of the Emperor of the French, the proposal of the Bill, on the other, naturally leads to a discussion of the conduct of the ruler of France, and induces observations which at this time it would be better to avoid, but which it is impossible altogether to avoid, if we are fairly to discuss the measure. I consider it, therefore, as part of the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government that, at a time when we should all join in the sen- 1036 timents of horror and indignation, that have been caused by the atrocious attempt made on the life of the Emperor of the French and those who accompanied him, they should have brought in for discussion in this House a measure which calls forth adverse opinions and the expression of sentiments which cannot but be distasteful to a great part of the French nation. I consider it another of the disadvantages of this discussion that hon. Members who speak on behalf of the Bill—both those who have spoken on this side, and the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down on the other—confound together two subjects which might be distinct, and which ought to be distinct, but which, by the proposal before the House, are inevitably connected. One of these questions is that of the improvement of the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) says that the law with regard to conspiracy to murder requires improvement, and that he is in favour of what he considers to be an improvement of it, and then he turns round and says, "Will you refuse that which is wise and just, because it is asked for by the Government of France?" But the hon. and learned Gentleman, like other hon. Members who have spoken, in saying this begs the whole question. He assumes that this is an improvement in the law, and then he asks if we will be so obstinate, so unreasonable, so unjust as to refuse an obvious improvement in the criminal law because it will be agreeable to the Government of France. Now, I conceive that is not the question before the House, and that to argue in this way is to confound two separate questions. I shall endeavour, therefore, to discuss these two questions apart. But let me observe, in the first place, that I wish in this discussion to observe that respect which is due to the ruler of France. He has deserved well of England as an ally. He has deserved well of Europe as a Sovereign who has consulted the interests of Europe and the balance of power, both in war and in treaties. Of the Government of France this is not the place to speak, nor am I, a Member of this House, the person to speak of it. For my part, when I find that the French people are contented with their own Government, and that that Government gives a promise of stability, I am willing to respect their choice. It is for the French people to consider on what conditions they will be ruled, and what internal form their Government shall assume. 1037 These, Sir, are my views with respect, then, to the Emperor of the French, and therefore I trust that I shall not, by anything which I may say upon this Bill, depart from the respect that is due to him as a Sovereign. Nor would I be unwilling to support this or any measure that could be proved likely to give safety to his life from the hands of conspirators. On the contrary, I should be willing to give my assent to such a measure; but with regard to this improvement in the law, which the hon. and learned Gentleman tells us is so urgent on the ground of its own merits, I own I am very sceptical on that point. In the first place, if this be an improvement of the criminal law which is so urgently needed, how happens it that Her Majesty's Government have, neither at the end of the last Session nor at the commencement of the present, given notice of it among their other proposed amendments of that law? They have been very careful to introduce Bills consolidating the laws relating to crimes against the person; their watchful circumspection has even extended to the revision of our legislation for the protection of deer and rabbits; but with regard to the very important question, how to preserve human life against conspiracy, they were wholly silent, and, until they had received the despatch of Count Walewski, they made no sign of any intention to amend that part of the law. But, in the next place, Sir, I have very great doubts as to the nature of the Amendment now proposed. We have heard to-night that conspiracy to murder is a very grave offence, aiming at human life; that two years' imprisonment is not a sufficient punishment for such a crime; and that such offenders ought to be subjected to a more aggravated penalty. Now, there are two questions to be considered in framing a criminal law, and philosophers and legislators have looked to the latter rather than the former of those questions. The one is, of what punishment is the criminal deserving?—and the other, how is the crime to be prevented? These are two widely different questions. I am not sure that persons who conspire to commit murder might not, as under the law of Ireland, be subjected, according to the principle of abstract justice, even to the punishment of death; but it is a different matter when you come to consider in what manner you will be most likely to prevent these crimes. For several centuries past, the offence of conspiring to murder has 1038 been treated as only a misdemeanour in this country; and no one but the exalted person who occupies the throne has had any greater guarantee than the law which it is now proposed to alter. No subject of Her Majesty, that I am aware of, has complained that his or her life was insecure under it. It has been found sufficient to protect the subjects of the Queen. Lord Hawkesbury would have held that a law, which has been found sufficient for all the subjects of Great Britain, should not he altered at the wish of a foreign Power. I am not asserting that doctrine at present; I am only saying, with regard to a general change in the law, that as a law reformer I am to look to the efficacy of our legislation, and I find that for these purposes, at least, our existing law has proved efficacious. The lion, and learned Gentleman who spoke last tells us truly that in Ireland the law is different, and that there the punishment of death is affixed to the crime of conspiracy to murder. Will he go on to tell us that life has been equally safe against conspiracy in Ireland as it has been in England? Will he say that there has been greater security to life in the sister country in consequence of the greater severity of its laws, compared with the operation of our own common law? Well, if that is not the case, let us look a little to the principle of the proposed change, and view its connection with the nature of this particular crime; because conspiracy to murder, a very heinous crime if substantiated, and very detestable in the person of its perpetrator, is one exceedingly difficult to prove, and it is often only by very vague evidence that it can be brought home to any individual. When such a grave charge has to be tried by a jury, it is probable you will find that the witnesses are accomplices, or perhaps spies, who have been set to watch the alleged conspirators. Such evidence is much distrusted by a jury, and the advocate who is intrusted with the defence of the person accused lays great stress upon the nature of the testimony adduced. If letters are produced or conversation repeated, he attaches a different sense to the words said to have been used; he seeks to point out that they do not bear the constructions which may have been put upon them. In such a case a point of some importance for the consideration of the jury is—what is the punishment affixed to the offence? And it might very well happen that a jury, who would think the evidence sufficient to con- 1039 vict a person of misdemeanour, might hesitate to convict him if they knew that transportation for life would be the consequence of their verdict. It does not therefore follow, because you say this is a horrible crime, which ought to be prevented, that you will succeed in preventing it by attaching a higher punishment to it than you have heretofore done. Indeed, Sir, it seems to me that the spirit of the proposed enactment is contrary to the whole course of that enlightened legislation which Sir Samuel Romilly was the first to urge upon this House, and which Sir Robert Peel and others have carried on down to the present day. We all know that in the time of George I. and George II. if any crime became prevalent it was a common thing for some hon. Member of this House to get up and say, "This crime is increasing; we propose to meet it with a capital penalty," and nobody ever thought of objecting to such a proposal. Mr. Burke says he was once kept here to make a House in order that a Bill of this kind might be passed without anybody knowing so much as the name of the offence against which it was directed. In short, our legislation in those days was founded on the principle that if you have a severe punishment you will be sure to deter the criminal. We have since acted upon an opposite and, I believe, truer doctrine—namely, that a lighter punishment will often operate more powerfully than a severe one in preventing crime, because of the greater certainty of its infliction. Therefore, regarding this as a mere question of law reform, I confess that the proposed change appears to me, to say the least of it, a very doubtful one. But look to the nature of the crime you wish to punish, and to the persons by whom it is likely to be committed. These conspiracies are no doubt in certain cases the acts of persons base enough to receive hire for the murder of their fellow-creatures; but they are more apt to be the consequence of extreme fanaticism, religious or political. From the time of the murder of Henry III. of France—a murder which was extolled in the highest terms by the Jesuit Mariana—down to the time of the attempt upon the life of Louis XV. by Damiens, these conspiracies bore the character of religious fanaticism. Some of the best men in France—for example, Henry IV.—-fell a victim to that fanatical spirit. Of late years, and perhaps since the commencement of the French Revolution, political, and not religious fanaticism has been 1040 the main spring of these crimes. The men who meet together, perhaps three or four in number, and declaim against what they call a tyranny, inflaming one another till at length they conceive the perpetration of these horrible crimes, are men whose fanaticism is generally so rooted, and whose confidence in each other is apt to he so well founded, that you are not likely to defeat their conspiracies by the punishments by which you might hope to check the commission of other offences. Conceive one of these men animated, by a wild spirit of fanaticism, to do such a deed, which his heated imagination represents as actually a praiseworthy action—why, he will be ready to lay down his life in order to consummate his crime. The men who have lately committed these acts, as well as those who committed them in former days, were ready every one of them to expose their lives. I am not speaking of the instigators of such deeds, but of the men who attempt them by their own hands; and I say they feel certain that whether they succeed or whether they fail in their design, they are sure to perish by the hand of the executioner. Do you suppose, then, that a man of that kind will be deterred by your substituting for two years' imprisonment a sentence of penal servitude for life? I think it argues great ignorance of human nature to imagine that a law like this will prevent crimes such as I have described. If the House will permit me I will give two instances of crimes of this character, one of which was committed, the other intended, in Italy, in order to illustrate the spirit by which these misguided men are actuated As I have been told, the night before the assassination of Rossi, the Minister of Rome, some young men met in their club, and, inflamed with wine and with oratory, they declaimed with the greatest vehemence against Rossi for what they considered his tyranny and despotism. One member of the party, the instigator of all this violence, at last said, "You all speak in very bravo language, but not one of you would act or be prepared to take the life of the tyrant whom you denounce." One or two of the rest replied at once, "We are ready to do it." This artful instigator then took these men aside and said to them, that after having told their companions that they were ready to take the life of Rossi, it would be the basest cowardice if they were to shrink from the fulfilment of their promise. The arrangement was soon made, and the next day, as 1041 Count Rossi was going to open the Representative Assembly, several of these young men surrounded him, and he was stabbed to the heart. Now, that was the effect of the violent fanaticism of these young and inflamed men. Would any one have had the least influence with them if in the midst of their deliberations he had said, "Recollect, you are conspirators, you are conspiring to murder, and if you commit the crime you may he condemned to penal servitude for life?" Such an intimation would not have had any effect whatever. I will relate another instance, which became known last year:—Mazzini, who is one of the persons who, they say, preach assassination, stated that a person holding a high station in the Piedmontese army came to him when a young man and proposed to assassinate Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia. Mazzini told him that he was hardly worthy to commit such an action; but he gave him instructions, sent him to Turin, and lent him his own dagger with which to commit the crime. Now, this was a man who was decorated with one of the Orders of the King, and held a high position in the Chamber of Deputies of Piedmont. Was either he or Mazzini the sort of man likely to be deterred by pains and penalties of the kind proposed by this Bill? It is quite obvious that you do not reach such men by the punishment which you propose. What you really want is, not the punishment of the crime, but its detection. If the men who lately made this horrible attempt in Paris could have been detected—if they could have been brought before an English court of justice, and if it could have been proved that they were conspiring, it would not have mattered whether the punishment had been two years or twenty years' confinement—their purpose would have been defeated. When they were once detected the French Government and the French police would have known what was their purpose, and being detected, the plan would at once have been at an end. This, then, is what you want; not punishment, but detection. Your Bill serves no purpose of detection, and therefore it does not serve any purpose which you wish to accomplish. I believe, therefore, that so far as an amendment of the law is concerned, the Bill entirely fails. We then come to the next point—namely, that it is an amendment of the law which is asked for by the Government of France. In considering that question, I am afraid that we must take a more 1042 general survey of our situation than the Ministers who have brought in this Bill seem to have thought necessary. It appears to have been their opinion that if you could make some amendment of the law with regard to conspiracy to murder—if you could harmonize English and Irish legislation—if you could make the punishment more severe, that would satisfy the French Government, and at the same time amend the law, and thus all parties would be satisfied. Now, I am afraid that this calculation is entirely erroneous. What the French Government wants, is to put an end to these assemblages of fanatical politicians in London, and that can only be done by sending them out of the country before any crime can be proved. That, in fact, is the real question. An hon. Friend of mine has lately quoted the despatch of Count Walewski, but I will take the liberty of reading the passage again, in order that the House may see what it really is that the French Government desires. Count Walewski says—It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of the factious seeking to rouse opinion and to provoke disorder; it is assassination elevated to a doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement. Ought, then, the right of asylum to protect such a state of things? Is hospitality due to assassins? Ought the English legislation to contribute to favour their designs and their plans, and can it continue to shelter persons who place themselves, by their flagrant acts, beyond the pale of common right, and under the ban of humanity?The Ambassador of France, taking certainly a very unusual course—but a course with which I will not at present find fault, because he is a gentleman of great frankness and great honesty, very much attached to his master, and, I believe, very friendly to his country, and because I believe his object was to produce concord between the two nations—said, in answer to the address of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the city of London—Permit me, then, to tell you what is the true question; it does not he in the attempts at assassination in themselves, nor even in the crime of the 14th of January, which your Government would have hastened to warn us against if it could have known it beforehand; the whole question is in the moral situation of France, which has become anxiously doubtful of the real sentiments of England. Reasoning in effect by analogy, popular opinion declares that were there in France men sufficiently infamous to recommend in their clubs, in their papers, in their writings of every kind, 1043 the assassination of a foreign Sovereign, and actually to prepare its execution, a French Administration would not wait to receive the demands of a foreign Government, nor to see the enterprise set on foot. To act against such conspiracies, to anticipate such crimes, public notoriety would be sufficient to set our laws in motion, and measures of security would be taken immediately.Therefore, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will see that it is not this Bill for which the French Government wishes. What they want is security against the whole body of refugees who have sought an asylum in this country. In 1851 my right hon. Friend said that the law was sufficient, and he repeats the same thing now; and I shall find great consolation if I can think that he does not intend to depart from that declaration. But when both Count Walewsky and M. Persigny say that assassination is openly preached, I ask, if that is so, why have not the Government prosecuted that offence? "Openly published in their writings and preached in their clubs," says the Ambassador. Well, if the Government have any information of proceedings of this kind the ordinary laws are sufficient for their punishment. That is no matter of doubt like the question with respect to the law of conspiracy, which we are told by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) is now dividing and amusing the lawyers. It is a question which was settled more than half a century ago. Allusions have been made to the correspondence of Lord Hawkesbury, and I, like my right hon. and learned Friend, have lately had to go over the whole of that part of it which concerns our internal government and our treatment of refugees. I find there that the Government of that day and Lord Hawkesbury treated the question, as I think, with perfect fairness and perfect justice, and, at the same time, with that regard to foreign Governments to which they are entitled. Let me remind the House that Lord Hawkesbury held the seals of the Foreign Office for many years, and was stated by Mr. Pitt to have been next to Mr. Fox, whose brilliant talents made him an exception, as fit a man as any in the country to hold the seals of that department. He was a man who, afterwards as Prime Minister, was eminent for the calmness and temper of his mode of viewing public questions; and, although with regard to many of those questions we thought he retained ancient prejudices, he was a man deserving of the respect of the 1044 whole country. Now, what did Lord Hawkesbury do with respect to the refugees? He refused the demands of the First Consul of France. But with respect to aliens who insulted the Government of that country he ordered a prosecution. When Peltier was prosecuted he was prosecuted on the grounds—first, that he had advised the assassination of the First Magistrate of the French Republic; and, secondly, that he had reviled the Government of a friendly nation. On both these grounds the Attorney General of that day (Mr. Perceval), and Lord Ellenborough (the then Chief Justice), declared that the English law was sufficient, and that if the jury thought that, in point of fact, Peltier had recommended the assassination, or had reviled the French Government as the Government of a friendly nation, he ought to be found guilty. Be it remembered that the First Consul, at that moment, was not, as the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) says, an enemy. He was at that time at the head of a friendly Power, and it was, as the chief of a friendly Power, that this attack upon him was discountenanced. The war broke out before Peltier, who had been convicted, was brought up for judgment, and the discussion ceased; the whole question of the refugees was at an end. If the peace had continued, Peltier would have been duly punished; but this correspondence having taken place in August, the question with regard to Switzerland, in consequence of which war broke out, arose in October, and it was not until February that Peltier was brought up for judgment. There was one circumstance in that trial upon which I cannot avoid remarking. Sir James Mackintosh, in the celebrated and beautiful speech which he delivered upon that occasion, very naturally, but certainly with great art, represented his client as a poor afflicted man, who had to contend with the chief of the most powerful military nation in Europe. Mr. Perceval protested against this, saying that it was the King of England who was the complainant, and that it was due to the law of England that the Attorney General should conduct the prosecution. As regards the question raised by Count Walewski and Count de Persigny, there can be no doubt with respect to the law of England. It was stated by Lord Hawkesbury, enforced by Lord Ellenborough, and consented to by all the great men of those days—Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, 1045 Lord Grenville, and others who were divided into different parties, but who agreed in thinking that the language and conduct of the British Government were such as became the country—and such as all could unite in admiring. With respect, then, to this complaint, so far from our wanting a new law, there is a law fully sufficient. The law of 1803 was the foundation of the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman who was Secretary of State in 1851, and is the Home Secretary at the present time. That declaration has been read during the course of this debate by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Warren), and it always has appeared to me, as I believed at the time, after it had been fully considered by the Cabinet of the day, a declaration worthy of an English Minister. That declaration, after the lapse of half a century since the trial of Peltier, sots forth that this country shall be a safe asylum for foreigners of all descriptions, but that if they commit any offence against our laws, if they incite the assassination of a foreign Sovereign or the chief magistrate of a foreign State, or if they impair by their conduct and hostility the friendly relations of the two countries, then they are liable to punishment according to the well known and established laws of England. It is a matter of astonishment to me that Count Walewski should have written this despatch, and that no answer should have been made to him. The answer seems to be quite obvious. I should have thought that anybody who valued the reputation of the British name, and who had any feeling for the honour of the country, would have said, "We are not a nation that protects assassins; the crime of assassination is abhorrent to all our feelings; we cannot condemn it sufficiently; show us the men who preach assassination, and we will bring the question before the courts of law without the loss of an hour; we will prove to you that the laws of this country are sufficient to punish such crimes; if you can make out that there are any clubs in which the assassination of any foreign Sovereign is openly announced, those clubs likewise shall be prosecuted, and as Peltier was convicted in the days of the uncle of the present Emperor of the French, so every known conspirator shall be convicted now." Such seems to me to be the plain language that ought to have been used. My noble Friend at the head of the Government says, much to my surprise, that an unfounded notion has been prevalent on the 1046 Continent that this country protects assassins, and is in favour of assassination; and therefore he brings in this Bill. That does appear to me the oddest consequence which could possibly be imagined. How much better would it have been to put the ordinary law in force. The Government ought to have asked for the names of the conspirators referred to by Count Walewski, and if, as was likely to be the case, no person could be found who could be convicted by the due course of law, then was the time to say, "We punish conspiracy, but that conspiracy must be proved by witnesses openly heard, their evidence must be weighed and sifted by a Judge sitting on the bench, and a verdict must be returned by a jury according to that evidence." If that answer had been given, I think strong ground would have been taken; whereas, look at the position now! It is a position for the future which I confess fills me with considerable alarm. You do not propose to do what the French Government wish you to do, and what unhappily is enforced by the threats of the military bodies whose addresses have been so inadvertently inserted in the Moniteur. But you say you will change your law and thus make a declaration of sympathy with the French Government. Look at the consequences. If you had attempted to alter the laws with regard to aliens, or to give a power to the Government of the day to send away refugees upon the representation of a foreign Minister, you would have roused the anger of the people of England, and you could not have carried your Bill. If, on the other hand, you had given a refusal, and said your laws were sufficient in their present state, you would, no doubt, have disappointed the wishes of the French Government, but you would have acted in conformity with the declaration of Lord Hawkesbury, and the ancient usages of England. As it is, your Bill seems to be an exceedingly skilful, an exceedingly cunning artifice, if I may use the expression, by which neither the people of England nor the Emperor of the French will be offended. But let us wait a little and see what the consequences will be. You will not find, as I believe and have endeavoured to prove, after this Bill has passed inflicting a heavier punishment on conspirators than now exists, the state of things much altered. If there are fanatical men still plotting assassination, they will plot secretly as much as ever; they will not be deterred by the vain ter- 1047 rors of this law. What will happen then? The French Government would say, "We have no doubt in the sincerity of the English Government; we have no doubt of their wish to act loyally in this matter; but their expectations have been deceived; that den of assassins which was to be cleared remains as it was; the same conspiracies exist; you that have agreed to the object must agree to the means. Your means have been found wholly insufficient; you must see yourselves that the object is not gained; you must look to other means." What could those other means be? They could only be means violating that sacred right of asylum which the Government say they will preserve. No doubt they desire to preserve it; the country will not consent to a change of its laws in that respect; but then you will give a far greater grievance to the French Government than they have at present. They will say, "We have been deluded; this Bill that you told us was to satisfy us has been a complete mockery; we have no more security than we had before, and we now insist upon some change that shall be efficient for its purpose." I think it but short-sighted wisdom to put off the day when such language can be held out to us. Surely it would be better to say at once, "This is no light matter, the changing a misdemeanour into a felony, a punishment of one kind into another still more severe; we must tell you the plain truth; that asylum which you call a den of assassins must remain sacred. We do not mean to change our laws, but if any case can be pointed out to us in which these laws have been violated, we shall act as we have done for the last fifty years; we shall act according to the practice which has existed in England ever since she has been a nation; we shall admit aliens to our shores, but shall take care that no offence shall be committed against the head of a foreign State without its being brought into our courts of justice." In that way your position would have been strong. The position of the Ministry at present, I am sorry to say, is not strong; I mean, of course, their position in argument and as regards France, whose demands are evaded rather than satisfied. Nor do I think they are strong as regards the people of this country, whose just expectations may be destined to be deceived. If Parliament should pass this Bill, and hereafter that demand should be made on the part of the French Government, the people of England would naturally say, 1048 "A demand was made upon you by the French Government; you told us that you had satisfied that demand; you told us that by an alteration of the law which you yourselves proposed all the relations of amity would be left undisturbed; and yet now we have the same complaint again, and even greater fears than there were before of the cessation of that confidence which the French Ambassador tells us very truly is the surest foundation of peace and friendship between two independent countries." But, Sir, there still remains a course for the House of Commons to take. It is free and open to this House—though I admit it is a course not without difficulty, but still it is a course which the House of Commons may take in order to free itself from all these embarrassments—to stand upon the established laws of England, to declare that we abhor the crime recently committed in France, and that, far from sympathizing with, we are indignant against the assassins; but that not for the friendship of the Emperor of France are we disposed either to give up the right of asylum or to change the ancient and established laws of England. I think the French Government would appreciate as it deserves the frankness, the sincerity, and, I may say, the friendship of that declaration. We should then spare ourselves the irritating results that will follow from the opposite course, and we should relieve the Government of France from any expectation that by threats in their official papers they could induce the Parliament of England to recede from its just position. I trust you will act in that manner. I have been, I confess, a good deal shocked by some of the declarations made in the course of this debate, by which it seemed that the favour of a foreign Power was of more value to England than the maintenance of her ancient prestige. I think those who act in that way and who give their votes for bringing in this Bill to-night will incur a vast responsibility both to the present age and to posterity. It is the first breaking in upon that system which was declared by the Government of 1803, and which has been kept intact until the month of February, 1858. Who can say what the next step may be? It is easy to ask for a mild measure at first to satisfy a foreign Power. At the same time even any demand of this kind naturally rouses the jealousy and susceptibility of the British people. The only case which I can remember of a Bill brought forward 1049 at the request of a foreign Power was the Foreign Enlistment Act, brought in by Mr. Canning; and Mr. Canning, in so doing, took the utmost pains to declare to the House of Commons that Spain was a monarchy so weak that she was quite unable to contend with this country in arms. He pointed to the weakness of her resources and the inability of her military means, and he then asked whether we could be so ungenerous as to take advantage of the weakness of that Power, and not give her that protection against the invasion of foreigners which she might fairly demand. That appeal was able and was successful. No appeal can now be made on that ground. The threat, I repeat, has been somewhat too barely exposed—somewhat too louldly uttered; so much so that, I confess that if I were to vote for the introduction of this Bill I should feel shame and humiliation in giving that vote. Lot those who will support the Bill of the Government; in that shame and humiliation I am determined not to share.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that notwithstanding the wide field over which the noble Lord had passed, he could not help thinking that, when the House came to pronounce its opinion on the question before it, it would confine its attention to a point which was perfectly intelligible, and from which the noble Lord had somewhat digressed. The noble Lord said, that the present state of the law in this country was not only satisfactory in itself, but fully equal to meet any of those emergencies which had been suggested in the present debate. If that were so, then undoubtedly the Government could not ask Parliament to revise the law, or to make the change sought to be effected by the present Bill; but he maintained, with great deference to the noble Lord, that it had already been shown with great distinctness that the present state of the law on the subject was wholly unsatisfactory and insufficient. He ventured to say that a law more anomalous in its operation, and more insufficient to attain the object which all good men wished to be attained, was not to be found in any other branch of the criminal law. The necessity for the change of the law was rendered obvious by the change of circumstances. The easy communication with the Continent introduced into this, country a number of persons seeking refuge more, and since as much protection was given 1050 them as to Englishmen themselves, it was not unreasonable they should have it on the same conditions as Englishmen received it. If Englishmen conspired in England to murder even a foreigner abroad, and some of them committed the murder, those who remained here might be indicted for the offence of murder; but, if foreigners conspired here for the same purpose against a foreigner abroad, they could only be indicted for a misdemeanour at common law, whether the murder were committed or not; and he put it to the House whether a conspiracy to commit a murder, although not followed by the commission of the act, was adequately punished when treated as a misdemeanour? The noble Lord said that the crime would not be prevented by the increase of punishment; but was not that House bound to make the attempt? If the House could not increase the means of detection, it might at least increase the risk, and that the Bill proposed to do. The cases put by the noble Lord did not touch the question before the House so far as the policy of altering the law was concerned. The noble Lord had said that, when persons were influenced by strong political or religious feelings they became enthusiasts, and such a measure as this would not deter them from the commission of crime, and he instanced the murder of Count Rossi at Rome, by persons of the class to which he referred. This Bill, however, was not intended to apply to men who risked their lives in the commission of murder; it would apply to those conspirators who remained in comparative security whilst others attempted or perpetrated the crime. In the cases to which the noble Lord referred, the penalty of capital punishment was incurred, and if the argument of the noble Lord were pushed to its full extent, he must be prepared to assert that the diminution of punishment would, in such cases, produce a beneficial result. That was a proposition which certainly could not be maintained. It was true, punishments might be so severe that their very severity would defeat the object with which they were enacted; but would any one contend that a law subjecting persons guilty of conspiracy to commit murder to a punishment awarded by the existing law to offences of less enormity, was so severe as to have that effect, or was not calculated to deter persons from the commission of the crime? The noble Lord and some other hon. Members had observed that, if this Bill was regarded as a measure of legal 1051 reform, it ought to have been brought forward in connection with other measures of a similar description, which Her Majesty's Government had intimated their intention of introducing on Thursday next; and they said, "The adoption of a different course shows evidently that you are legislating under compulsion." The question for the consideration of the House, however, was, in his opinion, simply this—how far the measure now proposed would or would not effect an improvement in the existing law which they were determined to carry into effect, even although attention had been called to the subject by the application of the French Government. This Bill, he might state, however, could not properly have been placed along with the measures of legal reform of which the Government had given notice. Those measures had been prepared under the authority of the Statute Law Commission, which was appointed for the purpose of consolidating the statute law of the country, and it would manifestly have been most inconvenient and unsuitable to introduce such totally novel legislation as was contemplated by the present Bill among the measures sanctioned by the Commissioners. It was true that some Amendments were proposed in the Consolidated Bills, but they were such as were believed to have become necessary as resulting from consolidation, and not changes of a novel or important character. Indeed, the fact that the Government had not introduced the legislation proposed by this Bill amongst the Consolidated Statutes, was a proof that they were desirous that their proposal should be fully, freely, and openly discussed. If this Bill had been included among the Consolidated Statutes, its opponents would have said, "You are yielding to the suggestions of France, and, instead of bringing this subject fairly before the House of Commons, you slip your Bill among eight or nine other measures, as if it were a piece of ordinary legislation." The hon. and learned Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake) admitted that this Bill would effect an improvement in the existing law, but he refused to give it his support, because, if it were adopted at the present moment, it might seem as if the House assented to it under compulsion. He would however support it, if introduced into the Consolidated Statutes; so that, if introduced on this evening, Tuesday, it would be by compulsion; if on Thursday, it would not. He 1052 (the Solicitor General) thought that to be a very trifling ground of distinction in a matter of so great importance. He had heard with great regret during this debate the disparaging remarks in which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), in his brilliant and able speech, had indulged with reference to the Emperor of the French. If those remarks had assisted in any way the arguments he used, he (the Solicitor General) would have considered the hon. and learned Gentleman excusable in some degree, but in no one way did they boar out or advance a single objection he had adduced against the measure. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had stated that this Bill would not effect the object it was intended to accomplish. If the object of the Government were regarded by the hon. and learned Gentleman as the entire prevention of all conspiracies among foreigners, he (the Solicitor General) must say he feared it would be very difficult to frame or conceive any measure which would have such an effect; but that was no reason why Parliament should not endeavour, by increasing the punishment due to the offence, to discourage such conspiracies, without violating any constitutional principle, or diminishing the protection which this country had hitherto afforded to refugees. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. W. J. Fox) seemed to think that the adoption of this Bill would interfere with the comforts of aliens resident in this country, would cast gloom over their social circles, and would excite among them feelings of alarm and insecurity. He (the Solicitor General) certainly could not conceive that refugees who accepted the protection of the English Government upon the same condition on which it was enjoyed by Englishmen themselves—namely, that of obedience to the laws—should experience any alarm or should suffer any diminution of their comfort in consequence of the passing of a Bill which merely increased the punishment for a particular offence. The real question was whether fine and imprisonment were a sufficient punishment for a conspiracy to commit murder, and whether any further legislation was therefore unnecessary. Could such a proposition be for a moment upheld? He believed the offence was a capital felony, and as pointed out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, the present law presented the monstrous ano- 1053 maly that parties concerned in the same conspiracies, some residing in England, some in Ireland, are liable to different punishment for the same offence. In his opinion, the only tangible objection made by the opponents of the Bill was that, even if it were an improvement in our law, we ought not to pass it, because our attention had been called to the subject by circumstances which had recently occurred in France. He trusted, however, that this question would he made subordinate to the more vital one—was the proposed legislation right or was it wrong? If it were right, he hoped that the House would not hesitate to pass this measure from a feeling which to his mind was more contemptible than the fear of France, and that was the fear of being thought afraid of France. He trusted that the merits of the Bill would alone be considered, and that the House would not be led away by those topics which out of doors might receive more attention than they ought to command here. Would this Bill effect an improvement in the law? If so, was there any valid reason why it should not be adopted? In his opinion, no such reason could be shown, and he trusted, therefore, that the House would consent to the introduction of the measure, and proceed to consider its provisions.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the principle of the projected Bill of the noble Lord I apprehend to be this—it is to change the crime of combining or conspiring to murder from a misdemeanour into a felony. There has been a considerable amount of controversy upon that point tonight. So far, indeed, as the debate has yet proceeded it may still be deemed a moot point. Nor does it appear to me to he at all necessary, according to the usual course of our business, that that point should be decided at this stage of the proposition before us. The second reading of this Bill—if it ever come to a second reading—will be the legitimate occasion upon which the House will enter fully into that important point, and no doubt it is one eminently entitled to the grave and dispassionate consideration of this House; but at this moment there are some other observations which, with the permission of the House, and without offering any opinion upon the principle of the Bill, I would venture to make. I would remind the House that it is not unusual in the history of this country, and in the practice of Parliament, when some 1054 desperate crime has been committed, or when there has been an unusual repetition of some crime known to the law, that Parliament should take those circumstances into consideration, and upon the circumstances of the moment proceed to legislate. Why, throughout the debate of this night there have been frequent allusions to the difference of the law on this very subject in Ireland and in England. How came that difference to be established? It was owing to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland. It was the prevalence of conspiracies to murder in Ireland that led the attention of Parliament to the subject; and, without offering at this moment any opinion upon the expediency of the course which was adopted, still it is a fact that special circumstances of that country induced Parliament to legislate upon that subject. Well, Sir, there have been other cases which I am sure will be fresh in the memory of all who are present, in which legislation has been induced by special circumstances of this character. There is a case of great notoriety, which is part of the history of this country, and which intimately interests hon. Members of this House, for hon. Members of this House were concerned in it. There is a case where a foreigner stabbed and attempted to assassinate a Minister of State at the Council table. I allude to the case of Guiscard and Mr. Harley. Guiscard, a French agent, stabbed Mr. Harley, who at the time, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was sitting at the Cockpit, at a meeting of the Privy Council. That was an attempt at assassination, which, though it failed, excited the greatest excitement in this country. Guiscard was a Frenchman. He was denounced as a Popish spy. The attempt was taken as evidence of a Popish plot, and great agitation prevailed in the public mind. What was the conduct of Parliament under these circumstances? Were they silent? Did they take no steps to express their opinion, or endeavour to prevent the repetition of such attempts by legislation? On the contrary, the House of Commons met and addressed the Throne. The Ministers introduced, and the House passed unanimously, a Bill which rendered the crime of attempting to assassinate a Privy Councillor a felony. As my hon. Friend (Sir L. Bulwer) reminds me, even the assaulting a Privy Councillor was made penal by that law; and the circumstance of the 1055 assault on Mr. Harley by Guiscard was mentioned in the preamble of the Act. I recall this instance to the recollection of the House, because, under the peculiar circumstances in which this subject is introduced to us, we must not be hurried away to suppose that this is an instance without any precedent or parallel. What has happened in the present case? It is unnecessary for me to denounce that crime which the eloquence of so many hon. Members has vied in attempting to express their detestation of, or to declare the feelings of peculiar horror with which it has ever been viewed by the people of this country. But we must remember that the perpetration of a great crime is admitted to have been attempted in a neighbouring capital, the capital of an empire which is ruled by a Sovereign who is at this moment our intimate ally. Now, without giving any opinion respecting the principle of the measure which is at stake, and which I think had better be deferred to another opportunity, is it to be said that it is absolutely unreasonable that we should consider, where the person of one of our most powerful and faithful allies is concerned, that that is a matter of loss interest to the country and to Parliament than when the person of a British Minister is in question? Sir, all the circumstances connected with this attack upon the Emperor of the French are circumstances which would, as a matter of course, arouse the sympathy and command the good feeling of the country and of Parliament. There is no question that during the last five years we have found in the ruler of France a tried ally; not a faithful ally merely of fine phrases and specious assurances, but one who has proved in the most trying fortunes that we could depend upon his constancy. On the first blush of the question, the fact that there has been an attempt to assassinate the Emperor of the French on a great scale, on a plan of considerable organization, that that plan has been formed and matured in our own country—[Cries of "No!"] Well, it is useless to split straws upon the subject, it is a matter of notoriety.—[Cries of "No!"] I admit to hon. Gentlemen that this does not at all affect any of the principles which are at stake in this discussion. Still, it is a matter of notoriety that the principal agents and some of the principal means were prepared in this country. Then, I say that these are circumstances which 1056 do not justify the violation of the right of asylum, but that they do justify this House in exhibiting considerable sympathy with the position of the Emperor of the French; and if nothing else had happened, if the only matter before us were this, that there had been this great and criminal attempt upon the life of the ruler of France, and that he had made an appeal to the people or the Government of England for their support in a difficult and dangerous position in which he found himself placed, I believe there would have been a universal expression of feeling that it would be most desirable, consistently with the maintenance of our rights and privileges, that we should meet such an expression of feeling on the part of the Emperor with the utmost respect and sympathy. But I frankly, fully, and freely, admit that much has happened since the attempted perpetration of that enormity, which has dashed the feelings and disturbed the generous and natural emotions of the people and Parliament of this country, and embroiled this question with considerations which could not have been anticipated, and which I should not be frank if' I did not confess to be the most distressing and embarrassing. Sir, I am not here to defend or to palliate any of those circumstances which have been so severely but so justly animadverted upon in the course of the debate. I do not think that the despatch of Count Walewski, though it has found a defender in an hon. Friend of mine, is written with that tact, good temper, and good sense which generally characterize his lucubrations. I am bound to admit that I think that despatch is an unfortunate despatch. I go further than that. I do not deny for a moment that the observations of the French colonels are extremely impertinent; and I think that the introduction of these observations into the pages of the authentic and authoritative journal of the French empire was an act of signal indiscretion. But, after the despatch which has been read by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department this evening, I am not inclined to dwell so much as I otherwise should have done on those errors. We all know in private life that, however excited our feelings may be, when a misunderstanding arises, and however warm may be our language, the moment a gentleman says that he regrets the offensive expressions he has used, all is imme- 1057 diately forgotten; amity is restored; and if the apology is tendered with a good grace, and not in a churlish manner, the feeling that succeeds is very often one of greater amiability than that which preceded the misunderstanding. Now I must say that I think that expression of regret on the part of the Emperor of the French is frank, and full, and satisfactory; and I do not think that it becomes us, after we have been aware of it, to remember with too much severity those incidents to which I have referred. If I allude to them again, and if I should dwell on their unfortunate occurrence, it is merely that I may induce hon. Gentlemen, before they come to any decision upon this very important question, to remember that that which has taken place within the last few days or weeks in France, and which has excited so much ill-feeling in this country, and given rise, as I believe, to so much misapprehension, has not been confined to that country only. There are other nations, as great as England, and other powers as distinguished as those who sway these favoured isles, which have sometimes been subjected to annoyances equally flagrant, but which have exhibited great forbearance and great good feeling, and have not allowed occurrences of this description to interrupt the amicable character of their foreign relations. I cannot help recollecting that it was exactly five years ago—that it was in this very month of February, I believe by a singular coincidence on this very day of the month in the year 1853, that it became my duty to submit a Motion to the House of Commons, the object of which was to call the attention of the House to the state of the relations subsisting at the time between France and England, in consequence of expressions which had been used, and of conduct which had been pursued by great personages in this country,—expressions and conduct which, in my opinion, and in the general opinion of Europe, were calculated to destroy that good feeling which we had always considered it a cardinal point of policy to cherish and to maintain between England and France. I recur to those recollections, because I see the beneficial influence memory may exercise over hon. Gentlemen; and if some of those who now make indignant speeches would only condescend to remember what happened in 1853, under a Government, of which the noble Lord the Member for London, who feels that this country would be so 1058 much humiliated by the adoption of the present Bill, was the leading Member in this House, I believe that that recollection would be productive of the most salutary effect. Why, we had then statesmen of the greatest eminence in this country denouncing the Emperor of the French as a tyrant, a usurper and perjurer; we had a Cabinet Minister fresh from a Cabinet Council, proceeding to the hustings and amusing his constituents, by depicting to them the danger of their country from the impending piratical invasion of the French people; we had a Cabinet Minister asking the people of England what protection they could have for their wives and daughters with such neighbours as the French, and such a ruler as the present French Emperor. I had to bring these facts, and others of a similar character, before this House, and I did so because I felt that if they were allowed to pass unnoticed by this House such a circumstance would be calculated to impair, if not to destroy, the amicable relations that subsisted between the two countries. And let me ask what was the result of the course I adopted on that occasion? Why, in consequence of that debate, we witnessed the gratifying exhibition of statesman after statesman, of Cabinet Minister after Cabinet Minister, rising in his place, and apologising for the offensive expressions he had used towards the Emperor of the French. That was a very salutary spectacle. It did a good deal of good. It conduced to the maintenance of the peace of Europe; but it conduced to that end only because the Emperor of the French was a forgiving and forbearing man. Now let me ask, were the statesmen of England less offensive to the people and the ruler of France upon that occasion than the French colonels have been to us during these recent events? If the French Emperor and the French nation could endure with impunity those insults from English Cabinet Ministers, I really think the people of England can now afford to pocket the inpertinence of the French colonels. I shall now, Sir, proceed briefly to state the course which I feel it my duty to take with regard to this projected measure and the question generally now under consideration. I think it necessary for us to take a large view of this subject. What we have specially to consider is the alliance between England and France. That alliance has, in different forms, and with different degrees of cordiality, subsisted for upwards of a quarter of a cen- 1059 tury. At no period has it been warmer or more effective than under the present French dynasty, and more especially during the last fire years of its rule. We have since the commencement of that period fought side by side with the French nation in a war of almost unexampled severity. We have combined for the management of important affairs in almost every part of the globe; and the united influence of our councils, notwithstanding the continued existence of national prejudices, and notwithstanding continual intrigues, has been felt in every court, not only of Europe, but also of Asia and of America. I believe I speak the simple truth when I say, that the feeling of the great mass of the English people towards the people of France is one of a genuine and cordial character. I think the great body of the English nation regard the people of France in a spirit of sincere friendship. But, on an occasion like the present, when it is necessary to speak without disguise, I am bound to say that, so far as I can observe, although there are many eminent persons and even many influential classes in France favourable, and highly favourable, to what is called the English alliance,—and although I think there is a gradual tendency of feeling throughout France generally in favour of this country,—yet, among the great body of the French people, there prevails no reciprocity of friendship in our favour, and no feeling similar to that which we heartily extend to them. Now, under these circumstances, what is the position of a ruler of that country who has the good sense to feel that an alliance between England and France is an act of policy eminently calculated to promote the welfare of his own subjects? We must remember the difficulties he has to encounter in carrying out that policy. We must recollect that although, from his own personal experience, the character of his mind, and the numerous other influences which operate on a person of his elevated intellect in his elevated station, he may have arrived at the conviction that the maintenance of the alliance between the two countries is eminently conducive to the welfare of the land he governs, still he is himself the principal representative of that belief and of that policy; and although in prosperous times, and in moments of prolonged tranquillity, he may, by virtue of his commanding ability and great resources, be able successfully to manage the rela- 1060 tions of the two countries, and to cherish and increase the nascent and gradually-spreading sympathy with England which is beginning to pervade France, still, in moments of public excitement, when the mind of that ingenious but irritable people is agitated, it is clear that the position of such a ruler of France must be one of immense delicacy. Under these circumstances, he comes to us as a faithful and a generous Ally; he conies to us, not with threats, although he may have spoken or even have acted with some appearance of passion; and he could well afford to speak or to act in such a manner, who could afford to make the noble apology which we have heard to-night. In a moment of difficulty this faithful and generous Ally conies to the Government of this country and says—"I do not disguise the difficulties I have to contend with; assist me to encounter them; assist me consistently with your laws and consistently with your privileges and rights. I have lived too long in your country not to be aware that no British Minister could dare for a moment even whisper a proposition by which those laws, those rights, and those privileges should be violated or diminished; but aid me at this moment. When hostile factions are raising their heads, and taunting me with the vanity of that English alliance on which I have wished to build my policy, show to France that my confidence has not been misplaced." I think that, under these circumstances, it was a duty of Her Majesty's Government to respond to that faithful Ally; I think it was their duty not to turn a deaf ear to an appeal of such a character. I feel that there is nothing humiliating in attempting to support any Government in any effort it may make to maintain that alliance between England and France which I believe to be the key and corner-stone of modern civilization. As to the mode in which Her Majesty's Government have attempted to carry out this policy into effect, that is altogether another question. It is difficult to conceive what was the object they proposed to themselves in this case, and what were the means by which they hoped to accomplish that object. The noble Lord the Member for London spoke of the disgrace of the country, and the dishonour of Parliament, if the demand of the French Emperor should be conceded. What would he not concede upon the demand of the French Emperor? All that has been demanded by the Emperor has 1061 been flatly refused, if, indeed, the Emperor is responsible for the unfortunate despatch of his Secretary of State. The very fact which has been dwelt upon, of the monstrous demand of Count Walewski—the very fact that the Government cannot listen—that the country will not listen to it—that at the first blush it is swept away even from the materials for consideration, is the best answer to the taunt and the sneer of the noble Lord. We are not going to concede anything under a threat, because all that has been demanded has been refused. What are we going to do, is another question. I make a full and fair admission that a proposition less satisfactory never appears to me to have been offered to the consideration of this House of Parliament. When the French nation, through their ministers and rulers, had placed before us a statement of their fancied grievances, an English Minister should, in some immortal state paper, breathing the fire and logical eloquence of a Canning, have answered that despatch. He should have placed upon this table a manifesto of our rights and privileges, and at the same time have combined with it a glowing expression of sympathy with a powerful and faithful Ally. That is what I expected; and the Minister who missed that opportunity, missed, as I think, a great occasion. Sir, if we had had the despatch of Count Walewski placed on the table, and at the same time the answer of the British Minister, worthy of the opportunity, in my opinion Her Majesty's Government would have been placed in a position of no difficulty, and the feelings between the two nations would have been maintained in that am i. cable condition which we all so much desire. Such a despatch would have been the key-note to the country. The Minister might have come down under those circumstances, and have given to the French Emperor what he wanted, what he naturally, reasonably and properly desired. In the face of Europe we should have given to the French people, that people who are misled by calumniators, a bright and living proof of the respect and sympathy of the Parliament of England. Such a course has not been proposed, and all that we are to do is to abrogate an old penal law of Ireland on the one hand, and to retrograde the law of England on the other. I cannot suppose that any such project can give the slightest satisfaction to the Emperor of France, the object in 1062 view being to give him an honourable satisfaction. Hon. Gentlemen, who have declaimed in this debate, have uttered reflections upon the Emperor of France, and upon the policy which he pursues. We cannot really enter into details of this kind. They are not part of the question. When a man has been elected by millions in a great country, he is above petty criticisms of that description. If he were indeed a tyrant who had established himself in a stronghold, supported merely by prætorians, those criticisms might injure him; but he has appealed over and over again to the people of France, and the people of France have ratified his election as their chief; and, therefore, it would be a waste of words to criticise their choice of him, or his choice of policy. What the Emperor really required, I apprehend, was a plain demonstration on the part of this country, which would have dissipated those apprehensions which have, unfortunately, proved so considerable in France; but I cannot believe that the Bill which the noble Lord has proposed will at all tend to that most desirable consummation. So far as I am concerned, I consider it the most unfortunate part of the position in which we are placed that this opportunity has been so mismanaged by Her Majesty's Ministers as to have alarmed England without pleasing France. Still I cannot but think that we ought not to take a course which might lead to prolonged and mischievous misconceptions, because we disapprove of the clumsy and feeble manner in which the Government has attempted to deal with this difficulty. We must not seize this opportunity because we wish to inflict a check upon the Government, or do that which might be misconstrued into an insult to that Prince, who I think deserves well of this country; and, therefore, it is my intention to vote for the bringing in of this Bill. But I am not prepared, as at present advised, to take any further part in its defence. I reserve to myself, when the measure is again brought before us, the power of considering the principle upon which it is founded, and shall be ready to listen to any arguments which may induce me to believe, what I do not yet believe, that it will accomplish the purpose for which it is projected. But because I am desirous to show the ruler of France and the French people, that at this moment, when a horrible enormity has been perpetrated in their metropolis, when the life of that ruler has 1063 been endangered, when every attempt has been made to arouse the passions of the people of France, and to misrepresent the feelings of the people of England—be-cuuse I am desirous of showing the people of France that at this moment there is in the Parliament of Great Britain a noble, a genuine, and a generous sympathy with them, I vote for leave to bring in this Bill, a Bill which I think is quite consistent with the entire maintenance of the laws of England and the privileges of Englishmen.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Sir, I have heard it impressed upon us in the course of debate in this House that the House of Commons should most scrupulously abstain from interfering in the management of foreign negotiations, lest, by the interposition of any haste or intemperance on their part, they should mar the more calm and sagacious counsels of the Government to whom the responsibility of such affairs is intrusted. If that be the case, when the Government, to whom the responsibility of affairs is intrusted, conduct those affairs with the greatest calmness, foresight, and deliberation, still more is it our duty to guard against anything which may bear the appearance of haste, intemperance, or anger when, as it appears to me, the Government have abnegated their duty in conducting our foreign affairs, and left to the House of Commons the duty of answering the despatch of Count Walewski. The right hon. gentleman who has just sat down says the despatch has met with a flat refusal. I know not where he has found that refusal. It is to be found in no despatch which has as yet been communicated to us, as having been sent by the Government or in any answer or explanation of which we have any record. But, looking at the great weight and importance of this subject—looking at the necessity there is that every man speaking upon it should recollect how great are the interests involved, and the relative position into which two high-spirited and susceptible nations have been brought by the commission of a crime which all in this country concur in reprobating, and by the mistakes made on both sides of the water in regard to the treatment of the considerations arising out of that crime—it behaves us to take care that by any expressions in this House we do not add to the irritation, which may exist, feelings of chronic and lasting hostility towards a gallant and high-spirited nation, to which we wish to remain 1064 bound by ties of the closest amity, whether they live under a democracy, a constitutional form of government, or a complete despotism. I shall not in this discussion say one word reflecting on the public career or vituperating the character of the Emperor of the French. He has met with great approval in past times and has even been made the subject of great adulation in this country. I have never shared in that feeling of adulation, and I have never uttered an expression calculated to lead to the impression that I shared in it. I have spoken of him as other men have spoken of him, not in relation to his own subjects, but in relation to ourselves, as a tried and faithful ally at a time of great emergency in the fortunes of this country. I rejoice to say that under his guidance two great European nations have been brought from a state of long standing enmity into a relationship of amity and friendship; but, as regards the career of the Emperor of France, I hope that my attachment to constitutional principles is not of such short standing, or built on such a shallow foundation, that I could say I can see a country so accomplished, so generous, and so worthy of leading the van of civilization in continental Europe, subjected to such a fate, as she has undergone, without grieving over the destruction of that constitution she had once conquered and for a time retained. Could any man nurtured in the lap of constitutional freedom see the fate of that country with any other feeling? The French nation, I know, take a different view of this subject. They worship prestige and glory for their country and they worship success. They worship these things as we in England worship individual liberty, maintaining as we do that no country, no nation, can have liberty which is not founded on the liberty of the individuals who constitute the nation. Now, having said this much on the view I take on the subject of the character of the Emperor of the French and his relations with his own country and with ours, let me point out the extraordinary change of opinion that has taken place in this country within the last few days in regard to the Emperor. A fearful and diabolical crime—and no man would allow any passing difference of opinion respecting the Emperor of the French to qualify his detestation of the cowardly assassins who perpetrated that crime—has been committed, and I don't believe that crime, strong as is the feeling in France with respect to it, caused more 1065 pain in the public mind of France than it did in this country. I say, too, that never—not even in the height of that alliance in which he assisted us in a struggle for the independence of Europe—was the popularity of the Emperor stronger than at the moment when we saw and heard of that execrable attempt upon his life and that of the Empress who sat by his side, and upon the lives of an innocent crowd. What has changed this feeling in the minds of the people of this country? I don't know whether I may quote a saying of an eminent wan which has been circulating in this House during the present debate, namely, that "Assassins don't kill monarchs, but they make them do very foolish things." I think the truth of that Baying is wonderfully illustrated by what has occurred. What was it that produced this change of feeling on our part? The first cause, as it was first, I suppose, in importance, was the address of the Count de Morny, the President of one of the Chambers. That, at any rate, was the expression of opinion of a man who was speaking for others, but not for the Emperor. Then came the addresses of the colonels, and I rather agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who last addressed the House, that the opinions uttered by three or four French colonels of the line on such subjects as the relations of France to foreign countries, the English constitution, and the spirit of our legislation, if they convey an insult, convey one which we may easily overlook. I confess that my equanimity was not much disturbed; but when those addresses were adopted as official documents their character was altered. Well, then, we have heard to-night of a despatch written by the orders of the Emperor, expressing frankly his regret that those addresses should have been inserted in the Moniteur; and I think we ought to consider in this case how much an expression of regret from a man in that position cost him, and how much it indicates the value he attaches to the English alliance when be thus seeks to conciliate the esteem of the English people. The right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House says that, in private life, when once a gentleman expresses his regret the offence is forgiven. I wish, Sir, that in discussing questions touching our relations with foreign States we could all come back a little more to the code which regulates the intercourse between gentlemen in private life. We do not always do that, 1066 and now we understand by experience how-much nations feel when they get a hint from a foreign country how to manage their own internal affairs. We have been a little too fond of interfering in that way. We have now reason to understand the feeling of irritation which is felt when even the wisest and soundest advice is given to other nations. These nations naturally said—"Whatever may be your opinion, we are the persons to judge of the matter." They felt that what they think our prejudice in favour of freedom was utterly incompatible with the existence of society in their country; and they were annoyed at our interference in what rightly concerned themselves, and did not at all concern us. I have often heard it stated, and stated as a matter of praise, that that policy of interference with the internal affairs of other nations is the policy for which England is feared and hated throughout Europe. To carry out the analogy between an individual and a nation, let us imagine what our feelings would be with regard to a man who was said among his neighbours to be feared and hated by every one about him. Yet I have heard that policy mentioned, not in reprobation, but in praise—spoken of as a distinguished policy, and dignified by the name of a spirited foreign policy. Now, I have treated of two of the causes which have led to this hostility of feeling between the people of two generous and susceptible nations, as we are; I have said that for one the Emperor of the French cannot be held responsible, and with respect to the other, that he has made a frank expression of regret which ought to be as frankly accepted on our part. But I come to a third cause, and that is the despatch written by Count Walewski, who, from his long residence in this country, ought to know well the feelings which animate Englishmen. I do confess I think that that despatch has been unanswered, why, I know not. I frankly own I never read a despatch which was more tempting to a Minister to answer than this one. I cannot speak of it with any praise as regards its accuracy. I find things assumed in it as facts for which there is not a tittle of evidence. There have been some five or six attempts against the life of the French Emperor. It is assumed that every one of these was hatched under cover of the hospitality of England, and of what may be called the connivance of England, and that the men who hatched them could have done so nowhere else than in this 1067 country. But what evidence have we in those cases of a conspiracy to murder? Take the ease of Pianori. How did he conspire to murder? He had no accomplices. He was a man impelled by a fanatical and unreasoning hatred towards the Emperor; his conduct was characterized by an utter disregard of right and wrong, and without the complicity of any one he attempted the Emperor's life. How would you bring that case within the category of conspiracy to murder? Again, it is assumed that this plot has been entirely concocted in England, but is it not notorious that the very men, who have taken the leading part in it, have been living for some time in France and in other parts of the Continent? They may, when resident in England, have harboured some idea of the crime. That is very possible. It is said that the grenades were made in England. But were they made with our connivance? It appears that they were made in open day, and that the man who made them never disguised making them. He conceived it was one of the many orders which, especially since the commencement of the last war, inventors of missiles have been in the habit of giving, being not un-frequently, I am told, clergymen of the Established Church, certainly persons not likely to be conspirators. It has been pointed out so well and so clearly by the noble Lord the Member for London what are the objections to this despatch—how they seek by implication what they can never get, and imply that those things, which can be given, would not meet their purpose—that I will not waste time by a discussion of that matter. But I say that before we come to an ultimate decision of this question, which in my opinion is too grave to be lightly shelved, there are several questions which ought to be answered. I want to have an exposition from several lawyers of high authority of the state of the law upon which, if rumour be true, they do not entirely agree. I want to know whether the law is sufficient to reach aliens conspiring to obtain the death of another alien in a foreign country, before we say aye or no upon the merits of this measure, as one of legal reform I want to know that which the Foreign Office alone can answer, is it true, or is it not true, that the Government have given notice—and if they have, they have done it most properly—whenever any information has come to their hands, which has led them to believe some plot or crime was 1068 being concocted, and that the French police, being so warned, have been entirely unable to detect the criminals? I want to know, again, whether it has ever been the practice when men have been thought dangerous and troublesome, not by the police, but the Legislative Chamber of France, pour soupcons graves, to ship them in steamers at Boulogne and put them upon the English shore. I want to know what is the effect of converting a misdemeanour into a felony, as regards the power of the police to enter a house, or to search a house, or to invade the free action of suspected persons. If we have French police in England, which, of course, we have, they may make charges against men which may put them to great inconvenience, although the accusation may turn out to be utterly groundless. That is a mode of dealing with matters of this sort, which is foreign to our habits and manners, and I am not sure that conspiracies on the part of the police are not worse than any other kind of conspiracy. For all these causes I plead for time before we come to an ultimate decision. But I have another reason for pleading for that time. As I said before, there is no doubt that despatch is to be answered by this House. It is not often that a popular Assembly is trusted to answer the despatch of a foreign Government upon a very grave question of international law, upon which public opinion on both sides of the Channel is very much heated. For the character of the House I say do not let us answer it by a precipitate decision. Some hon. Gentlemen have spoken in terms of great disparagement of the Emperor of the French. I have not. I am not entitled to do so, nor am I so inclined. But let us recollect that behind that Emperor is the French nation, which has selected him for their ruler, and to whom he is, as it were, the incarnation of their opinions. You cannot revile him without wounding them. It is eminently our duty to cultivate friendly relations with the French people. Putting aside the question of Government, those two nations, leaders as they are of the opinions of the world, must, if the happiness of the world is to be preserved, walk hand-in hand in thorough understanding. If, then, we are to give an answer to this despatch, and to give it by a Bill laid before the House, let us take cave that it shall not be said of us, "You have had a proposal offered in a solemn manner by the Crown, and in heat and anger you have 1069 forced it indignantly back, and refused to look at it." The Bill may be a good Bill. That remains to be seen and to be proved. Take time upon a subject so doubtful before you meddle with English law upon foreign application. It may be a bad Bill. If it be, I say for the same reason you have a solemn and unusual duty imposed on you. Take care that you do not appear to answer in the spirit and tone of the Colonel of the 80th of the line. Show that you have taken a more statesmanlike view of your duties and responsibilities, and that you will not refuse to consider a measure which, at any rate, the Government responsible to the Crown thinks is a measure which ought to be taken into consideration, first upon its own merits and next out of respect for the French nation. I say take care that, if your answer be a refusal, it shall have all the weight given it by the deliberation, calmness, and dignity of your attitude. Impelled by those feelings, I shall give my vote for the first reading. I shall not refuse to entertain the consideration of this measure; I shall be ready, after due deliberation and after hearing the opinions of those who are competent to guide us, without fear or prejudice to give my opinion upon the merits of the measure when it is proposed to be read a second time.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I have heard in the course of this discussion some arguments against the proposal of Her Majesty's Government which I scarcely expected to have heard in the quarter from which they came. We have been told by one hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Warren) on the other side of the House that we should give the answer of the Barons—" Nolumus leges Angliœ mutari." We have been told by my noble Friend behind me (Lord John Russell), who I always imagined claimed to be a reformer of the law, that we ought to stand by the ancient law of the country, and because this offence of conspiracy for a long course of time has been simply a misdemeanour we ought to refuse to apply the grave punishment attaching to felony. I trust the House will dismiss from their minds arguments founded upon such principles as these. We are told, on the other hand, that there are statements made on the part of the Government and people of France, which are so offensive and so contrary to truth, that on that account we ought to decline to take this measure into consideration. Hon. Members have taken 1070 great offence at the assertion which they say has been made on the part of France that this country has been a harbour for assassins and conspirators. Sir, I am concerned to say that in point of fact that which has recently passed prevents our meeting that assertion with refutation. It is not true that the people or the Government of England intentionally encourage or harbour men capable of committing this crime, but unfortunately it is a fact that men have plotted crimes in England and from England have issued for their perpetration. When we are told by the right hon. Gentleman and others that we ought to have answered that despatch of Count Walewski with an indignant refutation, I say, unfortunately facts prevented our making that indignant refutation. It is impossible to deny that which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) stated. It is notorious to all the world that this last conspiracy, at all events, was mainly hatched in England, that the instruments by which it was to be accomplished were fabricated in this country,—not accidentally, as I heard one hon. Gentle man say,—but decidedly for a purpose previously conceived; and that the persona to execute the plan had not. as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last says, passed a considerable time beforehand in France, but had issued quite recently from this country, for the purpose of committing the crime of which they are guilty. I say, therefore, that such an unfortunate state of things naturally and necessarily led the Government of this country to consider the state of the law, and even before we had received any application from the Government of France we deemed it our duty to turn our minds to a serious consideration of the evil. If any measure can be an effectual remedy there were but two modes of treatment. One mode would have been to have recourse to legislation which existed at previous periods and for a limited time with regard to aliens, by which the Government had the power of expelling persons suspected to be dangerous to the Government and welfare of this country. In all former Alien Bills that power was so limited; but we must have gone beyond that and have asked Parliament to give the Government power to expel persons supposed to be dangerous to the Government of other countries. That would, indeed, have been a course to which Parliament and the country would not have 1071 listened for a moment. It would have been obviously ineffectual for the purpose, inasmuch as you could rarely have that degree of suspicion of the crime intended which would justify you in removing the persons accused. If we had had such a power upon the present occasion, it would not have enabled us to prevent the crime, because no suspicion attached to the persons who were the perpetrators or the instigators of the abominable crime which has given rise to these discussions. If it were not possible to have recourse to a measure which would enable you to prevent crimes of this kind by the previous removal of persons suspected to have the intention of committing them, the only other course open was to increase the punishment which was attached to the commission of the crime, and thus to endeavour to increase the motives which would deter men from entering into these conspiracies. The noble Lord behind me (Lord John Russell) tells us that this Bill would be ineffectual, because the severity of punishment does not deter from offences; on the contrary, according to his reasoning the relaxation of punishment is the motive by which you deter men from crime. My noble Friend's argument is a plagiarism of the old rhyme. He thinks that punishmentis great because it is so small,and his reasoning loads to the following conclusion,Then 't would be greater if't were none at all.That argument is not founded upon reason, nor upon the experience of mankind. We know that too severe punishments fail, not from the insufficiency of the motives which they afford to deter men from crime, but from the difficulty to persuade juries to convict persons of crime, and thereby subject them to a punishment which they think is beyond its deserts. That is the only reason of their failure. I hold my noble Friend to be entirely wrong in saying that by raising the crime of conspiracy from a misdemeanour to a felony we shall not add to the motives which may deter men from entering into such criminal projects as conspiracies to murder. It is idle to say that greater severity of punishment in Ireland has not altogether put an end to this crime in that country. If the argument were admitted that, because a punishment had not invariably put an end to the commission of the crime against which it is aimed, therefore the punishment is useless, there ought to be an end to all 1072 penal laws. What punishment—what penal law is there which has ever succeeded in entirely extinguishing the crime against which it was directed? All you can hope from penal legislation is to create greater deterring motives in the minds of men who may be predisposed to the commission of crimes; but to imagine that there will not be men who from reckless passion, vain hope of impunity, or some other excuse, will be led to commit any crime whatever, is to imagine that which is totally opposed to the whole course of human experience. The severest punishment does not prevent the commission of murder, and you might as well argue that because murders continue in spite of that severe punishment, we ought to dismiss punishment altogether, and leave mankind simply to the influence and the moral teaching of those who may endeavour to guide them in the paths of virtue. Therefore there is no force whatever in the argument that to inflict a severe penalty on the offence of conspiracy is not calculated to render the commission of the offence less likely. There are two views in which this measure may be regarded—first as an improvement in our own law without regard to any external considerations, and next as a measure calculated to prevent, as far as we can properly do so, the commission of a great crime—of a crime which would be highly injurious to the interests of the country, and would inflict a deep stain on its honour and character. No man can deny that there is great advantage in assimilating the law of the different portions of the United Kingdom with regard to any particular offence. As regards the Irish law, the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) has argued with great success on the advantage of reducing the penalty which is at present attached to this offence of conspiracy to commit murder, and the argument is equally strong, on the other hand, that it would be a great advantage in England, both as regards its internal and external interests, to raise the offence from a simple misdemeanour to a felony. In spite of the maxim of the Barons, in spite of the new-born attachment of my noble Friend behind me for our ancient laws, the Bill which we propose to you, regarded on its own merits, is a great improvement in the state of the statute law of the land as it now exists. It has been said, however, if this is merely a reform in the law why did you not make it part of the Consolidation 1073 Bills which are about to be laid before Parliament? But my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General has well explained that this is a change, and not a consolidation of the law, suddenly called for by external circumstances, and that therefore it would not properly have a place in those Bills. The real ground upon which this measure rests is not simply that it is an improvement in the law of the country, but that it is a measure calculated to prevent the recurrence of a great crime, the consequences of which would be injurious to the best interests of the country as well as derogatory to its honour. Is it to be wondered at that foreign nations should look with irritation and with feelings of mistrust on this country if they think that it designedly harbours within its bosom men who are here for the purpose of plotting most diabolical outrages to be committed in their own country? Sir, I should be sorry if anything were proposed or adopted in this country which would interfere in the slightest degree with that principle by which the shores of England are open to political refugees of every country. Whatever they may be, and whatever opinions they may hold with respect to the Government of their country, they ought to be allowed to come here and remain here, under the security of our laws, so long as they continue to behave peaceably and do not commit any offence against the laws of this country or against the laws of God and man. But it never can be the wish of the English people that, under the pretence of enjoying security against oppression, men should be allowed to be here plotting offences of the deepest dye, and instigating others to commit crimes involving other countries in scenes of anarchy and bloodshed by the assassination of those who may be at the head of the Government. And who are the persons against whom this Bill has been levelled? It has been said by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) that this Bill will not sway the minds of vindictive men, or those men who, with mistaken views of patriotism and careless of their lives, risk their existence for the accomplishment of such dreadful designs. These are the criminals who are the actors in those assassinations, who pay the forfeit of their lives whether they succeed or fail. But the objects of this Bill are the cowards who stand behind like the person alluded to by my noble Friend in the case of the assassination of Count Rossi, who 1074 urged on those who were to commit the crime, but himself remained behind. These are the men against whom this Bill is levelled, and with regard to them I have yet to learn that the increase of punishment which this Bill will inflict will not furnish motives to deter them from the commission of such offences. It is quite true that when you have awarded the punishment it remains in each case to obtain the evidence, by which the commission of the offence is to be proved. That, undoubtedly, is a difficulty in all these cases, but it is neither greater nor less in the case of a misdemeanour than in that of a felony. The advantage of the measure which we propose is, that if you get that evidence, if you are enabled at any future time to convict any individuals of the crime of conspiring to commit murder, or of instigating others to commit it, there will be a severe punishment inflicted on them, which no man can contemplate without dread and apprehension, and consequently without being deterred in some degree from committing the offence. Sir, many of those who have spoken in this debate have drawn the attention of the House to the great and important question of our relations with our neighbours in France. Sir, it is in vain to disguise that that no doubt is, and must be, a main element in the consideration of the measure which is now before the House. Sir, we have not yielded to threat or intimidation. The very arguments which have been used in the course of the debate negative that assertion. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell) objected to the Bill that it did not accomplish what the French Government asked. Then, if it does not do that, there is an end of the argument that the House is called on to yield to the threats of a foreign country. This Bill does not, undoubtedly, do that winch is pointed out in one portion of the despatch from Count Walewski—although the despatch strictly says that it leaves the whole question to the judgment and discretion of Her Majesty's Government—it does not do that which the French Government declares that it does not do itself in France,—it does not infringe the principle of hospitality to foreigners of all countries who seek a refuge from the tyranny of their own Governments. But the argument of those who say that we are not to do that which in itself is right, because, forsooth, it is asked for and expected by others, is the very argument by which every tyrannical Government refuses to 1075 make any concessions to its subjects. When discontent prevails, and it is pointed out that certain improvements in their system would remove that discontent, those Governments say, "No; it would be undignified—it would be unworthy of our position—to make concessions when demands are made; let us wait until nobody wants anything, and then we may, perhaps, in our generosity and discretion do it." Such is the argument that is used now. We are told that it may be right that we should take some precautions, so far as they are consistent with our constitution, to prevent the commission of diabolical crimes abroad which are hatched in this country; but we are asked to do it now by a foreign Government, and, therefore, we will not do that which in itself it would be perfectly right to do on another occasion. That, Sir, is not an argument which can be listened to seriously—we have interests of too much magnitude at stake to allow us to listen to reasoning of that kind. We have our own honour and character in the first place to maintain, and I say that it would be disgraceful to the English nation if, knowing that these crimes are the result of conspiracies hatched here, we were to refuse to stamp them with the mark of our condemnation by a new law which would be applicable to the case. As far, then, as regards our own honour and character, I think that the country is bound to take some step to show to the world—not by speeches or by flaming and magnificent despatches, such as the right hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) would have had us write, but by some more substantive and certain action—the detestation which Parliament and the country entertain of crimes of this kind, and their desire to do that which is consistent with the law and constitution of the realm for the purpose of preventing their repetition. I certainly do lament—as many others who have spoken lamented—that expressions have been used in the course of this debate, in regard to the Emperor of the French which I think even those who used them must, upon reflection, regret having escaped their lips. We have only to look upon the Emperor of the French in that character in which he has been so well and so eloquently described by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), as a steady and faithful Ally of this country,—as a Sovereign who, placed at the head of a great nation by the will of that nation, has, as far as the in- 1076 terests of his country are concerned, at least this to say, that it is in a state of as great internal material prosperity as was ever known in France at any period of her history—we have only to look at him, I say, in that character to make us regret that those expressions have been used. We have no right to inquire into the system of administration which the people of France are willing to submit to; we look upon the Emperor of the French as the organ of a great and friendly nation; we have been allied to France of late years in war and in peace, and we have found the Emperor steady and faithful, constant and true. We have found him consulting, in the first instance, the honour and interests and dignity of his own country, at the same time that he made a due regard to those ends coincident with fidelity to his alliance with England, and showed how deeply he was persuaded of the great truth, that it was important for the interests of both countries that that alliance and friendship should continue, since it not only confers immense benefits on the two nations, but affords the best security for the maintenance of the general peace of Europe and the world. If, then, we have an ally so true, so faithful, so powerful to aid us, and so capable of rendering the alliance between the two countries beneficial to both and to the world at large, let us not lightly do that which might be considered offensive to that Sovereign and to the nation which he rules; and if we are able by any legislation of ours, without do-parting from the spirit of our constitution, and without introducing any new principle into our laws, to add the slightest security to the valuable life of that great and illustrious Sovereign, we should, indeed, incur a heavy responsibility if, having those means in our power, we were lightly to reject them. We should indeed he open to censure if, having it in our power to diminish the dangers to which that great and illustrious man has lately been exposed, we were, upon any paltry feeling of offended dignity, or of irritation at the expressions of three or four colonels of French regiments, to act the childish part of refusing an important measure on grounds so insignificant and so trumpery. Sir, I should here explain, perhaps, what appears to have been very much lost sight of', that it is almost invariably the habit of the French army, and even of small detachments of the army, to send in addresses upon occasions of this kind; and, 1077 as a matter of course, those addresses go into the Moniteur. Hon. Members seem to imagine that those addresses are selected by the head of the Government, and that they are inserted in the Moniteur by special order; but anybody who is acquainted with the course of business knows that it would be quite inconsistent with the numerous avocations of the Emperor that he should read through two or three hundred of those addresses in order to select those which he might wish to publish, and to repress the others. There is, therefore, no reason for saying that because those addresses were inserted in the Moniteur they were adopted by the Government of France. I hope that the House will not, either by refusing us leave to bring in the Bill, or by a Motion for delay—which would be tantamount to the same thing—give any ground for the impression that there exists in this country or in this House any indifference to the abominable crime to which this Bill relates, or to that important alliance which exists between the Governments and nations of England and of France. I trust, on the contrary, that the House, by giving us leave to bring in the Bill, and by carrying it through its various stages, will afford a manifest proof that we do feel the utmost detestation for that base system of conspiracies to which the Bill points, and that we are willing to do all that it is possible to do, consistently with the principles of our constitution, to prevent the concoction of these crimes in England, and to afford at least some additional degree of security to the Emperor of the French, by rendering it more difficult for such atrocities in future to be planned in England, and executed by persons assembling on these shores, which ought only to be the shelter of the virtuous, the honourable, the patriotic, and the brave.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I should really hope that, after two nights' debate, the House is at least prepared to come to a decision upon the preliminary question as to the introduction of the Bill. If my hon. Friend wishes to discuss the principle of the Bill, he will have ample opportunity when it is introduced. At all events. I think it my duty to divide against a further adjournment.
§ MR. WYLD
said, he hoped that his hon. 1078 Friend would not press his Motion for an adjournment, and he would take that opportunity of stating that, although he intended to vote against the introduction of the Bill, he was not indifferent to the value of our alliance with France, or the atrocity of the attempt to destroy the life of the Emperor. He protested against the interpretation which the noble Lord attempted to put on the conduct of those who were opposed to the Bill.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he hoped that the division would take place that night, and suggested to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Kinglake) who had moved the Amendment, the desirableness of his withdrawal of it, in order that the question might be simplified, and the division taken on the question that leave be given to introduce the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
I understand it is the general desire of the House that the division should be taken on a direct negative rather than upon the Amendment which I had the honour to propose. In order that the House may determine whether it will be right to accede to my request that I shall be allowed to withdraw my Amendment, I have only to remind them that the object of the Amendment was, to induce the House to refrain from legislating upon this subject until documents relating to the point in discussion between the two Governments should be produced. Now, it has fallen out that the material document, to which my mind was directed, has been read in this House in the course of the present debate. I think, therefore, that consistently with the view which induced me to propose the Amendment, I may respectfully ask the House to permit me to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 299; Noes, 99: Majority 200.
|List of the Ayes.|
|Adams, W. H.||Bailey, C.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Baines, rt. hon. M. T.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Ball, E.|
|Akroyd, E.||Baring, A. H.|
|Annesley, hon. H.||Baring, H. B.|
|Antrobus, E.||Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.|
|Ashley, Lord||Baring, T.|
|Atherton, W.||Baring, T. G.|
|Bagshaw, R. J.||Barnard, T.|
|Bagwell, J.||Bernard, T. T.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Finlay, A. S.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||FitzGerald, rt. hn. J. D.|
|Beecroft, G. S.||FitzRoy, rt. hon. H,|
|Bennet, P.||Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Blakemore, T. W. B.||Foley, J. H.|
|Bland, L. H.||Foley, H. J. W.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Fortescue, hon. F. D.|
|Botfield, B.||Fortescue, C. S.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Fraser, Sir W. A.|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Gard, R. S.|
|Bowyer, G.||Gifford, Earl of|
|Brady, J.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Bramstone, T. W.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Goderich, Visct.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Gordon, L. D.|
|Browne, Lord J. T.||Greenwood, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Greer, S. M'C.|
|Bruce, Major C||Gregson, S.|
|Bruce, H. A.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Buckley, Gen.||Gray, Capt.|
|Buller, J. W.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bury, Visct.||Grey, R. W.|
|Buxton, C.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Buxton, Sir E. N.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Cairns, H. M'C.||Gurdon, B.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Gurney, J. H.|
|Calcutt, F. M.||Gurney, S.|
|Camphell, R. J. R.||Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.|
|Card well, rt. hon. E.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Carnac, Sir J. R.||Hanbury, R.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Handley J.|
|Cavendish, Lord||Hankey, T.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Cecil, Lord R.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Charlesworth, J. C. D.||Hardy, G.|
|Child, S.||Harris, J. D.|
|Clay, J.||Hassard, M.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Clive, G.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Close, M. C.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Herbert, Col.|
|Codrington, Gen.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Hill, rt. hon. R. C.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Holland, E.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hopwood, J. T.|
|Collier, R. P.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Hotham, Lord|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Cotterell, Sir H. G.||Hume, W. F.|
|Cross, R. A.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Curzon, Visct.||Ingham, R.|
|Dashwood, Sir G. H.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Davey, R.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Divert, E.||Keating, Sir H. S.|
|Dod, J. W.||Kendall, N.|
|Dodson, J. G.||King, J. K.|
|Drummond, H.||King, E. B.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Dundas, F.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Knight, F. W.|
|Dutton, hon. R. H.||Knightley, R.|
|Edwards, H.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Langston, J. H.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Langton, W. G.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Langton, H. G.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J.||Lennox, Lord A. F.|
|Estcourt, T. H. S.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.|
|Fergus, J.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Schneider, H. W.|
|Lisburne, Earl of||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. R.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Lyall, G.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Lytton, Sir G. E. L. B.||Sibthorp, Major|
|M'Cann, J.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Mackie, J.||Smith, M. T.|
|Mackinnon, W.A.(Lymington)||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Smith, Sir F.|
|Mackinnon, W. A. (Rye)||Smyth, Col.|
|Maguire, J. F.||Spooner, R.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Stafford, Marquess of|
|Malins, R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Mangles, R. D.||Steel, J.|
|Mangles, C. E.||Steuart, A.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Stewart, Sir M. R. S.|
|Marjoribanks, D. C.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Marsh, M. H.||Stuart, Col.|
|Marshall, W.||Sturt, N.|
|Martin, C. W.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Massey, W. N.||Taylor, S. W.|
|Matheson, A.||Thompson, Gen.|
|Maxwell, hon. Col.||Thornely, T.|
|Mellor, J.||Thornhill, W. P.|
|Miles, W.||Tite, W.|
|Miller, T. J.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Miller, S. B.||Tottenham, C.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Turner, J. A.|
|Morgan, O.||Vance, J.|
|Morris, D.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Mowbray, J. R.||Vansittart, G. H.|
|Napier, rt. hon. J.||Vansittart, W.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Nisbet, R. P.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Norris, J. T.||Vivian, hon. J. C. W.|
|North, Col.||Waddington, H. S.|
|North, F.||Walcott, Admiral|
|Ossulston, Lord||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.||Walter, J.|
|Palmer, R.||Warre, J. A.|
|Palmer, R. W.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Palmerston, Visct||Western, S.|
|Patten, Col. W.||Westhead, J. P.B.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Whitbread, S.|
|Percy, hon. J. W.||Whitmore, H.|
|Perry, Sir T. E.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Philipps, J. H.||Wigram, L. T.|
|Pigott, F.||Willcox, B. M'G.|
|Pilkington, J.||Williams, Sir W. F.|
|Pinney, Col.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Pritchard, J.||Wilson, J.|
|Pugh, D.||Wingfield, R. B.|
|Puller, C. W.||Wise, J. A.|
|Ramsden, Sir J. W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Ramsay, Sir A.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Rawlinson, Sir H. C.||Wood, W.|
|Rebow, J. G.||Woods, H.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Richardson, J.||Wyndham, Gen.|
|Ridley, G.||Wynne, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Robertson, P. F.||Wyvill, M.|
|Rushout, G.||Young, A. W.|
|Russell, F. W.||Hayter, W. G.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Archdall, Capt. M.|
|Alcock, T.||Ayrton, A. S.|
|Bass, M. T.||Hutt, W.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Johnstone, J. J. H.|
|Beale, S.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Ker, R.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Kershaw, J.|
|Biggs, J.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Bovill, W.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Byng, hon. G.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Caird, J,||Knox, Col.|
|Carden, Sir R. W.||Laslett, W.|
|Clinton, Lord R.||Lyndsay, W. S.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Lygon, hon. F.|
|Collins, T.||Macartney, G.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Macaulay, K.|
|Coningham, W.||Martin, J.|
|Cox, W.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Moffatt, G.|
|Crook, J.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Dalglish, R.||Nicoll, D.|
|Dent, J. D.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Dobbs, W. C.||Pevensey, Visct.|
|Du Cane, C.||Philips, R. N.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Price, W. P.|
|Elcho, Lord||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Elmley, Visct.||Rich, H.|
|Elton, Sir A. H.||Roupell, W.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Evans, T. W.||Salisbury, E. G.|
|Ewart, W.||Scholefield, W.|
|Ewart, J. C.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Fenwick, H.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|FitzGerald, W. R. S.||Smith, J. B.|
|Forster, C.||Smith, A.|
|Fox, W. J.||Stanley, H. W. O.|
|Franklyn, G. W.||Stapleton, J.|
|Garnett, W. J.||Stirling, W.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Townsend, J.|
|Greene, J.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Warren, S.|
|Hadfield, G.||White, J.|
|Hamilton, Capt.||Williams, W.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Wyld, J.|
|Hodgson, K. D.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Hodgson, W. N.|
|Hope, A. J. B.||TELLERS.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Roebuck. J. A.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Gilpin, C.|
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to Conspiracy to Murder; and that Viscount PALMERSTON, Sir GEORGE GREY, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL do prepare and bring it in.