HL Deb 16 June 1817 vol 36 cc975-1016

The order of the day being read,

Lord Sidmouth

observed, that when he presented to their lordships, the other day, the bill for the continuation of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, he had stated, that he Would not have done so except with the firmest conviction that the adoption of it was necessary. He admitted, however, that their lordships would not and ought not to adopt it without a similar conviction: but the necessity of the measure was apparent from facts and circumstances which were notorious. Many persons, he knew, when the measure was proposed at the beginning of the session, thought that there was no reasonable ground of hope that the necessity for it would cease before the end of the session. Such, however, at that time was not the opinion of his majesty's ministers; for, notwithstanding the painful necessity under which they found themselves, of calling upon parliament to adopt a measure of this nature, they did indulge the hope that they would have the satisfaction of seeing its operation close with the session. In that hope, however, they had unfortunately been disappointed: but instead of following the precedents of former times, and proposing to parliament to continue the suspension without a preliminary inquiry, the ministers of the Crown, considering that this was a period of peace, had thought it proper to recommend a new inquiry by a committee of that House; and to lay before that committee new facts and additional information which had reached government in the interval between that and the former inquiry. They had desired their lordships not to adopt any farther proceeding till their own committee should have made its report, and now that report was before them. The report, after mentioning that the committee had examined the papers, proceeded in the second sentence to state, "that it was their painful duty to report, that these papers afforded but too many proofs of the continued existence of a traitorous conspiracy for the overthrow of our established government and constitution, and for the subversion of the existing order of society." The committee then proceeded to state the several grounds and circumstances on which this painful conviction rested. They stated that the first disturbances, since the period of their former report, took place at Manchester; and then they set forth the designs and purposes of the disaffected, that "in public speeches, the necessity of doing away with, or disposing of the persons most obnoxious to them, had been often openly and unreservedly announced; and that on one occasion it was stated to have been proposed, that Manchester should be made a Moscow, for the purpose of strengthening their cause, by throwing numbers of people out of employment; that a general insurrection was intended to have commenced at Manchester on the night of the 30th of March; that the magistrates were to be seized; the prisoners to be liberated; that the soldiers were either to be surprised in their barracks or a certain number of factories were to be set on fire, for the purpose of drawing the soldiers out of the barracks, of which the object was to take possession, with the view of seizing the magazine." The most sanguinary and barbarous outrages appeared to have been intended, but this design was defeated by the vigilance of the magistrates. The leaders being seized, they thought themselves justified in issuing proclamations, which proved that the objects of the conspirators were known to them, and this desperate and atrocious attempt was thus prevented. But even on that day movements actually took place, notwithstanding the disclosure of their designs, which afforded a decisive indication that desperate purposes had been harboured. Since the committee had made this report, farther information had reached government of an attempt of a more formidable and comprehensive nature in the northern and midland manufacturing districts. The Monday after an expected motion for a reform in parliament was to have been made, and which, it was anticipated, would be rejected, was fixed upon for a simultaneous and general rising in these districts. Of this, government had proof from various quarters, and from the confession of some of the parties concerned. This was to have taken place on the Monday subsequent to the motion for parliamentary reform. The execution of that plan was, for reasons not necessary to be detailed, postponed till the 9th of this month. The plan was so arranged that the different districts should have early information of what was passing in each of them, and what did take place on the 9th of this month left no doubt as to the atrocious purposes of the conspirators. That scheme, however, was also frustrated by the vigilance of the magistrates. But besides these overt acts of outrage, the secret meetings of the delegates of the disaffected showed the atrocity and extent of their designs. Combining these open acts of violence and outrage with the secret meetings, the designs of the conspirators must appear evident to all those who were not determined to shut their eyes, ears, and understandings. The committee stated, that "although in many of the districts particular causes of distress had, no doubt, operated to expose the minds of the community to irritation and perversion, yet they were persuaded that this distress must for the most part be considered rather as the instrument than as the cause of disaffection." And then the committee stated, that "they could not refrain from expressing their opinion, that it was chiefly by the means pointed out in the report of the former committee, by the widely extended circulation of blasphemous and seditious publications, and by the effect of inflammatory discourses, continually renewed, that this spirit had been principally exerted and diffused; that by these the attachment to our established government and constitution, and respect for law, morality, and religion had been gradually weakened among those whose situations most exposed them to this destructive influence; and that it was thus that their minds had been prepared for the adoption of designs and measures no less injurious to their own interests and happiness than to those of every other class of his majesty's subjects." It was incontestibly true, that these causes led to the most dangerous consequences, and that certain persons made use of the distresses to which the labouring classes were exposed, as an instrument to carry into execution their own nefarious purposes. Those who had been thus seduced and rendered the instruments of the machinations of others, ought no doubt to meet with comparative indulgence not because they were excusable for suffering themselves to be involved in these practices, but because allowance ought to be made for the frailty of humanity. But what was to be said of those who thus made use of the distress of the labouring class, as an instrument to carry into effect their own atrocious purposes? When one reflected not only on the incalculable mischief which their schemes had a tendency to produce in other respects, but also on the discredit and dishonour which they had brought on the British name, at a time when that name stood higher than it perhaps ever did on any former occasion, it was impossible to think of their proceedings without the deepest feelings of grief and shame. And what was the time chosen by them for the execution of these atrocious purposes?—the time when they were petitioning the Prince Regent to reduce the military establishment, to retrench the expenses of the state, and to adopt the most extensive and rigid economy. He would not willingly go back to the dreadful circumstance that, on the first day of the meeting of parliament, the sacred life of the royal person who administered the government in the name and on the behalf of his majesty had been endangered. They petitioned for the meeting of parliament, and this circumstance occurred on the first day of its assembling! What had been the conduct of parliament since that period? They had petitioned for economy, and, economy had been carried to the very utmost extent to which it could be carried consistently with the safety of the state. They had complained of sinecures, whether right or wrong, and an arrangement was in progress respecting sinecures. He did not mean to say that these measures were adopted with any view to please them: but they were the objects of their petitions. But at the very moment when they came with those hypocritical complaints and petitions, they were planning schemes to produce revolution, misery, and horrors in the country, such as it had hardly ever before experienced. Was that, then, a moment to abridge the powers given to the executive government by parliament, for the purpose of preventing the effects of these mischievous machinations? It was for those who held the opinion that these powers ought to be abridged to show what other efficient measures they would substitute for those which government proposed; for the danger, and the occasion for some extraordinary powers, were unquestionable. The committee stated, "as the result of all the information which they had received, that the time was not yet arrived when the maintenance of the public tranquillity and the protection of the lives and properties of his majesty's subjects could be allowed to rest on the ordinary powers of the law." And it must be presumed that their meaning was, that there was a necessity for the continuation of those extraordinary powers given by the act which passed at the beginning of the present session. Without making any ostentatious professions of his attachment to the liberties of his country, he must say, in the face of the noble lords opposite, that he yielded to none of them in attachment to the freedom of the people and veneration for the constitution. All he asked was, the adoption of the measure now proposed, if their lordships agreed with him in thinking it essential for the preservation of the constitution. With respect to those parts of the country to which the attention of the executive government had been directed with the most particular anxiety, as well as with respect to other parts of the country, government had received information from various sources, of secret meetings and other practices, which left no possibility of doubt as to the atrocious nature of the designs of the disaffected. Many other circumstances, besides those mentioned in the report, had come to the knowledge of the executive government; and they knew of many individuals who were engaged in the work of promoting these atrocious designs, although the proof was not sufficient, according to the policy of the law, to convict them. What was to be done with respect to these persons? Were they to be permitted to go on from day to day, and from place to place, perverting and poisoning the minds of the people, and leading them from disaffection to sedition, and from sedition to treason, without any power in the government, for their own sake as well as that of others, to remove them from that society which they made it their business to taint and corrupt? In those places where the schemes of the conspirators had been most advanced, the act had been put in execution; the leaders were in custody, and the consequence was, that in those places the atrocious designs of the conspirators were frustrated and defeated. Such had been the effect of the execution of the act: but it was not in this way only that the act had been useful: the committee stated, "that the reports received from many of the most active magistrates and from persons whose stations, both civil and military, had enabled them to collect the most extensive information, and to form the most accurate judgment as to the state of the country, concurred in attributing, in a very considerable degree, the disappointment of the attempts already made, and the hopes of continued tranquillity, to the actual exercise of the powers which parliament had intrusted to the executive government, and to the effect of the known existence of such powers, ready to be called into action when necessity required it; and in representing the danger which would threaten the country if those powers were to be withdrawn at the present moment." Similar information had reached government from a variety of quarters since the present inquiry had commenced, that the known existence of the power even where not called into action, had contributed to the preservation of the public tranquillity. Information of this kind had come from Manchester and several other places; and those who sent it, and were best enabled to judge of the state of the country, concurred in stating, that they would greatly deplore the withdrawing of these powers at this moment—that they had no personal interest in the continuation of these powers—and that the existence of the powers was the cause which prevented the necessity of putting them in force.—He admitted, that this measure could only be justified by necessity; but the necessity existed, and the effect of the measure proved that it was one which was well adapted to the circumstances of the country. It was with this impression that he proposed the continuance of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act; and he called upon those who objected to it to say that there existed no danger, or to state what measures they would provide to meet the danger, if they admitted its existence. But it would be proper for their lordships to look back, and take the benefit of experience. Some of them recollected, and had a share in the measures that were adopted in 1794, 1795, and 1796. At that time the same course was pursued, and in the same manner it was opposed. Efforts were then made to invalidate the reports of the committees of both Houses of parliament, and it was then, too, asserted, that they were founded on deception and mere absolute fictions or gross exaggerations. The same attempts were then made to cast a slur upon the proceedings of parliament: but it was for their lordships to take a lesson from the course which parliament then adopted; a course which was supported by the same description of persons as those which supported this measure, and was opposed by the same description of persons who now opposed this measure. The two Houses of parliament had, however, persevered in that course, and, supported by the magis- trates and the great mass of the community, they had preserved the monarchy, the constitution, and the country. It was for their lordships now in the same manner to do their duty. The executive government was then also falsely and slanderously charged with a desire to subvert the constitution and liberties of the country; but their lordships would do their duty now as they had done it before, and by the co-operation of the magistrates, and the great mass of the people, the same happy consequences would follow. His lordship concluded by moving, that the bill, for continuing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, be now read a second time.

Lord Erskine

said, that with every wish to support the just authority of government, he felt it quite impossible to consent to any farther suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and thus to invest the ministers of the Crown with an absolute dominion.—To justify this second demand of so extraordinary and unnecessary a trust, his noble friend had appealed, and he had, no doubt, with a clear conscience to the purity of his motives; and (he lord E.) in his turn could appeal to God himself for the purity of his own. He could not, it was true, but have a strong predilection for the opinions he had always entertained, for the principles he had always adopted, and the friends with whom he had acted; but with that bias only excepted, which applied alike to every body, no man could be more disinterested or independent, since under no possible changes would he be a candidate for any office or employment whatsoever.—He looked only to the support of the constitution, and to the prosperity of the country, which forages had flourished by its preservation. There was, in his opinion, a strong analogy between diseases of the natural body and disorders of the state, when the proper remedies for either came to be considered. It was the very characteristic of a wise and skilful physician, well to ascertain the causes of any morbid symptoms, before he attempted to remove them, because the least mistake in that respect was sure to aggravate and confirm them. What then were the causes of that disturbed state of the country, which was the subject of the first report, and of the renewed one now before them. The causes were manifest in the universal and unexampled distresses of all classes of the people, suddenly arising from a ruinous check to the long overstrained, unnatural demands of government, inseparable from a state of war—from the consequent stagnation of trade and manufactures, depriving millions of employment indispensable for their support—evils which could not but extend their ruinous effects to agriculture as the very support of the poor alone, rendered the possession of the soil rather a burthen than a support. All these evils, sufficient in themselves to produce irritation and discontent, were increased and embittered by a devouring revenue, destroying all the sources of renovation. The next point to be considered was, the direction of the public mind under the pressure of such calamities, because the people in their turns, when they looked to their removal, examined the cause of them also, and they attributed them to their not having that practical share in the public councils, which they were entitled to in the theory of the constitution. They might be mistaken in this reasoning, but it was unjust to brand it as hostile to the government, and pointing to its overthrow, when it had over and over again been maintained in parliament by the most illustrious statesmen, that a reform in the representation was the only possible security for our invaluable constitution. This alone had been the object of every one of the numerous meetings which had so much alarmed his majesty's ministers, and which they had taken such violent and dangerous measures to suppress. Their object had notoriously been neither more nor less, than that very reform of parliament, which had raised others to the highest offices in the state.

Now what was the remedy for a discontent of this description. The remedy was most obvious, and pointed to the very nature and character of man. The well disposed, however mistaken and irregular, ought to have been soothed and convinced of their errors, by the liberal and indulgent attention of parliament to their complaints, and the evil disposed should have been corrected by the ordinary course of law;—but instead of this, the very consideration of their petitions, though supported by the most numerous and respectable bodies of the people ever before assembled for the purpose, had been repeatedly thrust aside by increasing and almost insulting majorities, whilst every departure from the most submissive obedience, though occasioned by such palpable misgovernment, had been opposed and punished, not by process against offending individuals, but against the whole nation admitted to be dutiful, and even boasted of for its loyalty and affection. Could any system be more absurd or unreasonable than this, or any expectation of a remedy for such evils more preposterous. This truth had been fully exemplified.—The turbulence of the Various meetings entirely arose from the means taken to discourage them; the seditious whom you sought to put down, stood as it were upon pedestals erected for them by yourselves;—you yourselves gave them the whole matter for their harangues, and all their popularity with their hearers; but if you had indulgently listened to the well intentioned, though you might not have yielded to their wishes, the turbulent would have been disgraced and silenced. You would then have given the real friends of the constitution a complete answer to all the invectives against it, by an appeal to the blessings enjoyed under it; but when you yourselves had suspended and destroyed those blessings, that only argument became lost to your friends, and the sedition of your enemies triumphed;—whilst all the advantages of the constitution were felt, it was harmless and odious; but under your own auspices it became popular and alarming. How, then, could it be reasonably supposed that such evils would cease, by persisting in the very course which had given them birth, and to which they owed their continuance and aggravation? So far from bringing back the disaffected to their duty, they were (to use the expression of a farmer) "sowing the seeds of revolution broad cast." The irritation which prevailed throughout the country demanded the vigilance of government, but it might be efficaciously exerted, by means that were consistent with the preservation of public freedom, and by the ordinary execution of the laws. The salutary provisions of the act of Habeas Corpus, seemed to have been forgotten by ministers, or wilfully put aside. The statute was not a rash indulgence to crime, and an embarrasment to a justly jealous government when a disposition to disorder existed, but on the contrary was penned with the utmost caution to protect the authority of the state, whilst it secured the liberty of the subject. If the Crown was not prepared for trial from the absence of witnesses, prisoners were not bailable under it, and the ordinary forms of law remained in full force, whilst that impediment to trial continued. This, is almost all cases was amply sufficient; but it appeared to him to have been a notion lately entertained that persons might justly be arrested when the statute was suspended; when there was no positive testimony of offence, but only vague suspicion of disaffection, and when there was no expectation, nor any intention of trial,—the justice of this course of proceeding he utterly denied,—it was a wanton violation of public liberty, to which no subsequent indemnity ought to be extended.—The use which ought to be made of a suspension, was not when witnesses were absent, which the ordinary laws provided for, but where a premature trial, though witnesses might be ready in a particular case, might be generally dangerous; but these were instances that could rarely occur, except when there was a widely extended conspiracy or open rebellion, which alone therefore could justify a measure of this description, when it was sure to receive the support of all honest and reasonable men. Every departure from this just and prudent reserve in the abridgment of popular privileges, was sure to defeat the purpose proposed. The House might depend upon it, and he spoke from an experience which scarcely ever belonged to any other man, that the administration of justice, instead of being strengthened by it, was sure to suffer in the extreme from the odium attaching even upon just prosecutions; and government might lay its account with being completely foiled in every attempt to produce order and obedience by judicial trials, as long as the Habeas Corpus act continued suspended, and other measures of distrust and coercion, were in force against the whole mass of the people.

In the year 1794 he had felt the benefit of this state of things, as counsel for the accused of that period, from the popularity it gave to their defence,—he did not mean by saying so that their case required it. The acquittals on the contrary, had saved the liberties of England, and he thanked God for it. They kept sacred the order of crimes, and inspired the multitude with reverence for the laws. To give a decided character to the disturbances which had prevailed in London, his noble friend had alluded to the disgraceful occurrence on the first day of the session. None of their lordships stood in a closer relation to that illustrious person than himself, after having been so much and so long distinguished by him; no man could more deprecate the insecurity of his per- son, nor any indignity indeed to the first magistrate of any free state. Some solitary miscreant might have intended violence, but what could that have to do with any general spirit of discontent, since none of its causes, which were of long standing, could be connected with his Royal Highness, who had uniformly opposed them, and whose unpopularity therefore if he were at all unpopular, could only be from the acts of his ministers now under discussion, none of whose persons however had been attacked, nor any insult offered to them in their passage to parliament, irregularities which had often disfigured the most peaceable times, when the measures of government had, whether right or wrong created general discontent. Now, if all these reasons opposed the first suspension in the beginning of the session, how much more strongly must they apply to the proposed renewal. The evils, according to the report continued, and he could not therefore help recurring to the analogy with which he had set out, between disorders of nature and of the state. He found it difficult at the same time to resort to such a comparison as no physician that would be suffered to come within a mile of the college could furnish a parallel; yet he had a right to suppose one, the better to expose the absurdity of this proceeding, and he would therefore assume that a physician had said to his patient, after four or five months attendance, Sir, you are not at all better—have you taken my medicines? Oh, yes, I have taken them regularly, but find myself infinitely worse;—if that be the case, said the physician, by all means go on with them without intermission. Now what would any patient say to this, or what would any of your lordships say to it?—why, you would one and all of you say, No, no, my good Sir, I must cither change my medicine or my physician. But did any physician, my lords ever extort such an answer from suffering nature? certainly not, nor would a judicious statesman, in the instance before them. On the contrary, he would reduce to a new and untried remedy of the most obvious character, because directly suited to the complaint; and although he might not and he admitted ought not, to be prepared to yield to the reforms expected, he would instantly confound the disaffected, and attack the great and sound body of the people, not by a dangerous change, bat by salutary restoration—giving back what had been formerly enjoyed in triennial parliaments, and by lessening the expenses and corruptions of elections, which would open a safe door to gradual improvements, if they were still wanting to preserve our ancient constitution. But to this it might be answered, perhaps, "What was to be done in the mean time with the existing disturbances?" To which he would only reply by referring to the report itself now before them, which admitted, in distinct terms, that the designs of the disaffected, "had been hitherto frustrated by the vigilance of government.—The great activity and intelligence of the magistrates; the ready assistance afforded under their orders, by the regular troops and yeomanry; and the prompt, efficient arrangements of the officers intrusted with that service." Were not all these means, still completely in their power, sufficient to avert the dangers described in it? Not dangers from armed rebellions, but disorders which might follow from a journey to London of vast multitudes of half-starved, wretched, unarmed people, with petitions to parliament in their hands, instead of banners displayed against it, seeking only to affect its compassion by looking at their real condition and hearing their sufferings from themselves.—It was undoubtedly not only right, but absolutely necessary, to put a stop to this insane proceeding, but the true way to hear no more of it, except in remote and seemingly fabulous history was, to maintain the constitution inviolate, and to execute the laws with vigour, but with prudence, moderation, and justice.

The Duke of Montrose

said, that he entirely concurred in many of the sentiments expressed by the noble and learned lord who had just sat down, though he could not agree in the practical conclusions he had drawn from them. He approved of the proposed measure as one which the exigency of the times required. He was old enough to remember the dreadful proceedings in the year 1780. He recollected then to have seen this metropolis on fire in two or three places at once: he saw the mob, and witnessed their devastations. What was the result? Government was at last compelled to put the rioters down; but that which might have been done with comparative ease at first, could not afterwards be accomplished without great loss of blood. Warned by that example, he therefore thought they should not allow the present combinations and disaffection, to come to a head. Who would venture to affirm, that if they were able to prevent it, they were not bound to prevent it? The proceedings of the 2nd of December might have been effectually avoided, if ministers had then possessed such powers as were now asked. He confessed he considered the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, as a measure of humane policy towards the people. It was calculated to save not merely the throne, the parliament, or the constitution from subversion, but the people themselves from destruction, the misguided, the deluded people, who had been irritated to madness by wicked designing and enthusiastic persons [Hear, hear!]. He asked whether it would be a wiser course to take up, at once, those demagogues who harangued the mob, and inflamed their passions by seditious speeches, or wait till acts of outrage and violence would justify the application of the laws as they now existed? He had no hesitation in preferring the former course.

Earl Grosvenor

began by observing, that he was not more disposed to countenance atrocities, than the last noble speaker, but weak and miserable must be the execution of the existing laws, if those statutes which had been lately passed by parliament were not sufficient for the repression of any civil disorders that were likely to happen. The noble viscount who commenced the debate, had brought forward the business with great solemnity, and no doubt he was deeply impressed with the importance and necessity of the measure. He (lord Grosvenor) was also deeply impressed with its importance, because he thought it precisely that sort of proceeding which was calculated to increase disaffection, and create resentments throughout the country. The necessity of it he utterly denied. Could it be believed, that a government possesisng such a military force as was now maintained, commanding also such large majorities in both Houses, was reduced to the necessity of having recourse to this measure, in order to preserve the public peace and tranquillity? But admitting they were compelled to employ such a power, could it be imagined that the exercise of the power would accomplish the desired object? He would observe also, that if they allowed the validity of the arguments they had that night heard in support of the suspension, it would be difficult, nay impos- sible ever on any future occasion to resist its repetition. With regard to the report of the committee, he must say it was a much more candid one than the last. But they had a right to expect something more, before they consented to pass this bill. Why, he would ask, had they not the same description of evidence laid before them now, as on the former occasion? There was one part of the report, to which he particularly wished to call their lordships attention. It appeared, that the opinions expressed by the committee were founded, partly, upon evidence of a most dangerous description. They had heard too much of spies and informers to render it necessary for him to trouble their lordships with any observations respecting them. They knew that there was no class of persons so degraded and so despicable. They did not require to be told the miseries which wretches of that description inflicted. Certainly, if any kind of men could be said to resemble Satan himself, it was they, who deliberately seduced others into crime for the malignant purpose of afterwards betraying them to punishment. Yet they were told that government could not defeat the machinations of the conspirators without referring to such persons. He would not dispute the point that occasions might arise when their employment would be necessary, but this he would say, in all times past, in the history of all tyrannies, in all despotic governments, it would be found that spies and informers of that description abounded [Hear!]. They abounded, because such governments could not bear inspection; and to support miserable governments of that kind, such miserable means were employed. But he would hope they were not yet necessary in this country. In the next place, some stress was laid upon the circumstance, that considerable disturbances had taken place since the last report. It was evident however, that whatever might be the nature or extent of those disturbances, they had been entirely put down. Another great discovery was, that the disaffected no longer talked of a reform of parliament as the remedy for their grievances, but openly declared that nothing short of a revolution would be sufficient. An individual also had said, that it would be extremely desirable, to convert Manchester into a second Moscow. These, to be sure, were very dreadful things; but he would beg their lordships to consider whether it was not possible that all the expressions attributed to disaffected persons, might not have been uttered by the spies and informers of government, in furtherance of their own views? [[Hear, hear!] Might they not all have come from the allies of government? No doubt a great deal of terror was felt by the peaceable inhabitants in the counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire, from the reports that had been spread. But to what did the actual danger amount? A few starving manufacturers assembled together; and whatever desperate enterprise they might meditate, it appeared they dispersed of themselves the moment the military approached; and he believed they never amounted to more than 200. One of the arguments adduced was, that the renewal of the suspension was strongly recommended by certain magistrates, and a letter had been read from one of them, stating that great good had already resulted from the measure. He did not think, however, that parliament would be justified in acceding to the proposition of ministers, upon such a recommendation. The magistrates, in the disturbed districts, were probably much alarmed, and he could understand how the apprehension of danger would lead them to consider the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act as the best security from it; therefore they recommended it. But that was surely a very partial view of the subject; and it would be absurd, upon such grounds, to pass a law so destructive of the liberties of the country, and so dangerous, because calculated to increase the disaffection that already existed. The real remedy, ministers either did not understand, or would not adopt. The noble viscount said it was impossible to reduce our military establishments beyond their present amount, and therefore that could not be done, which he however contended might be done, namely, to reduce the expenditure of the country, and thus diminish the pressure of taxation upon its distresses. If ministers would avow that our large standing army was kept up for mere purposes of parade, he should understand them; but it was impossible to maintain, that so many soldiers were necessary to keep down the disaffected in any particular district. He appealed to the common sense of their lordships whether a much smaller force would not be sufficient, knowing how easily they had already been dispersed. Besides there were 18,000 of the yeomanry cavalry alone which he might justly call that "cheap defence of nations," and it would be very easy to increase that valuable force, if it were thought necessary. In addition to those, there were the guards and lancers, constituting altogether, a force abundantly adequate for the preservation of internal tranquillity. A reduction therefore might safely take place in the army, as well as in the garrisons. He was quite confident there was no occasion whatever for incurring such a large military expenditure. The noble viscount, in his speech, dwelt upon the abolition of sinecure places as a proof of the anxiety of government to meet the wishes of the country. He should be disposed to allow ministers some credit upon that head, if he could forget how he himself, for the last eight or ten years (a period as long as the siege of Troy) had vainly urged them to the adoption of that very course. But now they came forward and said, "Oh, only see how extremely anxious we are to oblige the country."—The measure, however, was not yet accomplished; and recollecting as he did what strenuous and repeated opposition he always met with, he owned he was not extremely sanguine upon the subject. He, however, would propose to meet the wishes of the people in a different way. He would meet them by withdrawing the present bill altogether, and by suffering the other acts which had been passed this session to expire, or repeal them at once. He would not diminish the pleasure that was felt at the abolition of sinecure and useless offices, by substituting a compensation bill in lieu of them. At the same time, he certainly thought the system of compensation better than the other, because, in the majority of cases, the sinecures had not been bestowed upon persons who had merited well of their country, but because they had court favour, or ministerial influence to plead. But to talk of any serious saving from the measure was absurd, for the whole amount of saving that would arise from that scheme of economy, did not exceed 20,000l. a year. There were other measures of conciliation too, which a wise and prudent administration would try at a crisis like the present. Among them was a reform in parliament, and he had no hesitation in saying, that should a bill for reforming the other House, and especially for shortening the duration of parliaments, come before their lordships, it would have his support. He was perfectly satisfied from the preface to the septennial act, it was never intended, by those who framed it, that it should remain in force after certain dangers were passed which it was calculated to counteract. And why were not all those things done? He was sure if ministers were to act according to the wishes of their royal master, every thing would be done which the country required. But on the contrary, the country was now persuaded, from the whole course of their proceedings, that their object was neither more nor less than to establish a despotism. Were not the existing laws strong enough for every constitutional purpose? The sedition act was a strong law; the military seduction act was a strong law; the power of the magistrates under the seditious meetings bill, was great; yet all these were held to be insufficient, because ministers wished to have the absolute disposal of every man's liberty by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. In the most difficult times of our history, laws less vigorous had been found adequate to the protection of the country. If the bill was persevered in, he should at least feel it his duty in the committee to move as an amendment, that its operation should not extend beyond the duration of the present parliament. It was his opinion, that government wished to avail itself of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, as an opportunity for dissolving the parliament, when they might terrify and dragoon the people into whatever acquiescence was wanted. Such was his opinion, and whether right or wrong, he would put it to the test by moving the amendment he had mentioned. The noble earl concluded by observing, that he felt it his sacred duty, to vote against the measure, conceiving it to be big with the fate of England, conceiving that it must end in a re-action of the most portentous character, and wishing to save their lordships and the country from such horrors as seemed to await them.

Lord Redesdale

spoke in favour of the bill, which he firmly believed would excite great general confidence, and not great general discontent. He supported it, not only because he thought it necessary, but because he was as thoroughly persuaded of its necessity as he was of any one power with which the executive government was entrusted. He agreed with what had fallen from some noble lords, that there was nothing in the report which proved the dis- affection to be general. There was nothing that attributed any disloyalty to the agricultural population; nay, there were many large districts which were not agricultural, where the people were peaceable and well-affected. He thanked God that such was the case. But did it therefore follow that the real danger to the country was less, or that the expediency of the present measure was diminished? Just the reverse; for the report went on to state, that in many populous and expensive districts, a spirit of disaffection was excited by those who avowedly aimed at the total subversion of the government. Was it desirable to allow such persons an unrestricted, an unwatched, and an unfettered power, to continue their machinations, till the poison diffused itself, and till the ramifications of the conspiracy embraced a larger portion of the kingdom? [Hear, hear!] Where would be the policy, where would be the wisdom of such criminal supineness on the part of ministers? A great deal had been said about spies and informers, and the infamy of employing such characters. He would ask those noble lords, who were so indignant upon this subject, whether, in the history of the whole world an instance could be found of the detection of a conspiracy of this kind but by such means? [Hear, hear!] It was really ridiculous to decry the employment of such instruments under such circumstances. If the general of an army were to dispense with scouts and spies who might give him information of the enemy's movements, and if the advanced party were more alert, while he stood upon his honour in that manner, what would become of the army of such a conscientious general? It was an insult to common sense to talk in the way which some had talked, upon the practice of deriving information of a conspiracy from spies and informers. That practice was even more necessary now than on any former occasion, especially in 1793, for the secrecy and caution of the conspirators were so much greater. And he should like to know why that secrecy and that caution were employed, if the parties were so innocent as it was affected to consider them? [Hear, hear!] To him, that fact alone was a demonstration of their guilt. But it was contended no alarm ought to be felt, because there were no persons of property connected with them. No; it was the object of the conspirators to take property from those who had it, and give it to those who had none. It was perfectly intelligible, therefore, why no opulent individuals were found among them. Unless they were determined to shut their eyes against the truth, he did not see how they could refuse their assent to a farther suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. It was indubitable, from the report of the committee, that there existed in the country a number of persons who had formed the deliberate design of driving the lower classes into a state of insurrection: a state, subversive of the government, subversive of property, subversive of every thing which constituted the great bonds that held society together. The proposed measure, therefore, would operate as one of prevention, and he confessed he could not imagine any one better calculated for that end. What was it, the disaffected required? Something which they called liberty, in other words the power to do as they liked, and to prevent every other person from doing what they did not approve of. That was the sort of freedom coveted by persons of that description. It reminded him of a story told of an old gentleman who happened to come from the country, at the time when the Wilkes and Liberty boys were very popular. Walking along the Strand he happened to meet some of Wilkes' mob, who immediately ordered him to cry "Wilkes and Liberty for ever." The old gentleman said he loved liberty as much as they did, but he did not like Wilkes, and therefore he should exercise his liberty in not crying as they wished. They forthwith knocked him down, and thus illustrated the kind of freedom which is always understood by a mob when they clamor for liberty. He could not agree in the remedies which were suggested by two noble lords who had spoken that night. They were for treating the discontented and disaffected kindly and tenderly; somewhat in the manner he presumed that was inculcated in the following lines, which were quoted on a former and rather different occasion: Be to their faults a little blind, Be to their virtues very kind; Let all their ways he unconfin'd, And clap the padlock on their mind. In his opinion, if "all the ways" of the persons in question were left "unconfined," nothing short of utter ruin and confusion could ensue. Two of the remedies were universal suffrage and triennial parliaments: grant them, and the constitution is destroyed [Hear, hear!]. He remembered being told, about the year 1793, or 1794, of a meeting that was held to consider the best means of establishing a republic in this country. A great deal was said by different persons about the king and the aristocracy. One I of them, more shrewd than the rest, quietly observed "only let us get universal suffrage, and all the rest will certainly follow." Then as to the abolition of sinecures, upon which so much stress was laid by a noble earl (Grosvenor), he could not view it in the light in which that noble earl did. It appeared to him, more of an aristocratical than a democratical measure, because it took the power which was before vested in the Crown, and placed it in a few hands only.—The noble lord concluded, by saying, that in conscientiously giving his vote in favour of the motion, he felt that he was supporting the best interests of the Crown, the parliament, and the country.

Lord King

said, that the evils of the year 1780 were owing to want of vigilance, and the security against their recurrence was vigilance, and not the suspension of our laws and liberties. If tenfold the danger existed, there would be neither necessity nor reason for suspending the great safeguard of the constitution. The report stated, that the magistrates had displayed great intelligence and activity; that the yeomanry had been called out, and exhibited great energy and intrepidity: that on the part of the former, there was the greatest vigilance, and on that of the latter the most prompt obedience and that by their united efforts they had overcome any resistance that had been offered. Why, then, should farther powers be granted, when the ordinary administration of the laws by the existing authorities had been so effective? The report farther stated in very vague terms, that arms had been prepared; but it did not authorize a belief that these preparations were to any considerable extent. One part of this report was more vague and indefinite than the rest: it spoke of the existence of traces of an intention to issue proclamations to free the subjects of the kingdom from their allegiance; but it added, that no preparations were made for the purpose, and that no draught of such documents was found. Thus, proclamations which were not drawn up, but existed in conjecture, were made a characteristic prelude to a plot that was never formed! By examining the report and at the state of the country, it that the disturbances which were magnified into systematic rebellion, were confined to those manufacturing districts where the want of employment, and the consequent pressure of distress, had produced the greatest degree of irritation, and exposed the minds of the ignorant to machinations of the designing. But who were these wicked and designing persons who took advantage of the public calamities to graft upon them disaffection? The report itself answered this question. It allowed that spies and informers increased the irritation, and encouraged the desperate projects which they were employed to detect and to counteract. Let it be considered, however, to what conclusion this would lead, if distress that was liable to be excited to disaffection were always to be an excuse or a reason for suspending our liberties. On this principle the suspending of the constitution might be indefinite. On former occasions this great bulwark of our freedom was not suspended except in cases of threatened invasion, or existing internal dissention, where men of rank and power were arrayed against the government. Now, however, there was no disputed succession, no threatened rebellion; and the greatest evil to be dreaded was, that violence on the part of the government might lead to disaffection among the people, and that disaffection produced by tyrannical measures might create that state of things which they were intended to repress. It was foolish to say that such a measure as that before the House was rendered necessary by the existence of plots to overthrow the state. There was no systematic conspiracy or plot, there were no leaders, no means, no arrangements. The plot, if it existed, comprehended all the distressed, all the destitute, all without employment or the means of subsistence; and for the discontents of such persons a suspension of the Habeas Corpus was not a proper remedy. If people of great rank, wealth, or consequence, were employed in directing to the overthrow of the government the irritation arising from distress, he would not say but that measure like the present might be necessary: but this plot, as it was called, was a plot of people without property, against those who had property; and to plots of this nature relief and kind treatment was the most efficacious remedy. To create alarms on purpose to ground on them an abridgment of the people's rights was always the resource of a weak and unsteady government. This experiment, on the present occasion, he feared, had been but too successful.

Earl Grey

said, that so portentous was this night's discussion to the liberties of the country, that under every disadvantage under which he laboured, and with whatever degree of suffering the delivery of his opinions might be attended, he would raise his voice against the invasion intended to be made on the constitution. On this occasion, as well as when the subject was last before the House, he had to state, that he was as ready as any man to condemn the attempts and the designs of those who took advantage of the existing distress to irritate the minds of the sufferers, and to lead them to acts of violence; a distress, however, borne in general with a degree of patience and tranquillity which nothing but a free constitution could inspire, and which the people of this country could exhibit only while they were allowed to retain it unimpaired, and to enjoy its benefits without encroachment. The great question to be now decided was, whether the persons who were intended to be affected by this bill were capable of producing mischief to the constitution if it did not pass?—Whether they had the means of being dangerous under a due administration of the laws; whether, in order to control their designs, it was proper to resort to a measure never formerly adopted, except in cases of paramount necessity?—and whether it was requisite, in fine, to surrender the liberties of the people to the servants of the Crown on such a report as had now been laid before the House? Believing that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus was not now the proper remedy for the discontents that prevailed, he would call upon their lordships not to entertain such a measure, for which no sufficient grounds were laid when it formerly passed, and the justification of which been lessened by every thing which he had since heard. What was the danger which it was intended to obviate? It was a danger arising from severe and intolerable distress, which had been excited to irritation, and-led on to disturb the tranquillity of the country by wicked and designing men. Was this a species of danger similar to that which existed on former occasions, when the Habeas Corpus act was suspended?

A noble and learned lord on the cross bench (lord Redesdale) had argued that the danger existing now was similar to that which existed in 1794. He had on a former occasion contended, that it was different, and he thought so still, though he did not believe that even at that period the present measure was necessary. The noble and learned lord had referred to more early periods, namely, the years, 1715 and 1745; yet how dissimilar were the circumstances of those periods. The epoch of 1715 was a period of great danger to the constitution and to the reigning family. There was then a pretender to the Crown, supported by the power of France, countenanced and aided by a powerful faction within the kingdom. This pretender landed in Scotland, headed a formidable rebellion against the government, drew numerous partisans to support his pretensions, and collected under his banners persons of high rank, extensive influence, and powerful connexions. Even in the two Houses of parliament he had his friends; and the spirit of disaffection was widely spread among all ranks of the community. Yet, even at that period, when a dangerous conspiracy, favoured and supported by foreign influence and foreign forces prevailed; when a family recently seated on the throne found their pretensions disputed by a rival, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus was opposed, and the act was only passed for six months. In 1745, a dangerous rebellion again raged—not headed by men without means, without influence, without money, without resources, without plan or force, like those who have lately disturbed the public tranquillity, but assisted by an expedition prepared in France under count Saxe, encouraged by increasing numbers, flushed with partial success, and particularly by the victory of Preston-pans, and favoured and joined not only by noble families and distinguished individuals, but countenanced by those great and learned corporations, the universities, to such a degree that the streets of Oxford had been said to be paved with Jacobinism: but even then this act was passed with reluctance. He allowed that he could easily conceive a case of danger so great as to justify this measure, and that was when a foreign enemy conpsired with domestic treason to overthrow the government. He should then submit to a temporary suspension of the constitution, to effect its final preservation. Yet even on such occasions, so dear was the act, and so necessary as a safeguard to every valuable right, that the suspension of it was opposed by many members of both Houses, and among the rest by a man, Mr. George Grenville, for whose character most of the noble lords who heard him must entertain the highest respect.

The noble secretary who introduced this measure had said, that he (lord Grey) had, on a former occasion, acknowledged the existence of the dangers that threatened the country. He had indeed acknowledged that dangers existed, but he had denied that they were of a kind to be suppressed or extinguished by the present measure. Instead of acting as a remedy, he was convinced that it would aggravate their violence. They arose, as had been truly stated by his noble friend (lord Erskine), who had done great services for his country, and had produced great public, good, from a long and expensive war, which had stimulated every branch of industry to a strained and unnatural vigour, in which we had succeeded beyond expectation; but which, by the load of taxation with which it had burthened us, and which we were only able to support by the energy and extraordinary resources which the contest called into exercise, now left us oppressed and exhausted. This war, in its transition to peace, had produced still greater evils; it had disturbed all the elements of society, it had left our manufacturers without employment, and our agriculturalists without means or a market; and what was now the remedy proposed for the natural discontents that arose out of this state of things?—to suspend the constitution. Because there were a few designing persons ready to take advantage of the distressed to urge them to acts of violence, the whole people of England were to be deprived of their liberties, and those discontents aggravated which a wise government should endeavour to remove. While man was man, distress would always furnish the means of irritation. A noble I duke had said, that prevention was better than punishment; and this was a maxim which, in its proper application, he was not disposed to controvert or deny, but which, when pushed to its full extent, would go the length of justifying a total deprivation of liberty. Because liberty might be abused and lead to licentiousness, therefore, according to this kind of reasoning, it ought not to be enjoyed; and every excess of despotism might be justified, as a means of preventing the evils of insubordination, and as an exercise of humanity. The noble duke was, however, in a mistake, when he supposed that the suspension act was the only means of prevention. The ordinary laws were sufficient; and this act, if properly enforced, gave, in this respect, no powers beyond what the ordinary laws conferred. Under it no man could justly be arrested for treason who could not be arrested without it —it gave the power of detention without trial, but not of apprehending without evidence of guilt. The learned lord on the woolsack, he was sure, would assent to this doctrine, and would not claim for government the authority by this bill of confining innocent persons, or persons against whom no proof existed. He (lord Grey) knew, however, that the powers given were not a practice so limited. He knew that innocent persons might be imprisoned; he knew that respectability was no defence; he knew that though they might afterwards bring an action for false imprisonment, they could obtain no redress for their sufferings, because he was assured that a bill of indemnity would be brought in to screen their oppressors; and that, after being confined for years, after being carried from one prison to another, after being debarred the sight of their friends, and even excluded from the visit of the magistrates, they would come out of their cells without any prospect of reparation for their calamities, or any means of establishing the innocence of their conduct, deprived of the means of punishing their enemies, or of obtaining that justice which they had a right to invoke.

He asked, were there no other means of prevention? Had not the magistrates the power of arresting and confining? and had any case occurred for which this was an insufficient remedy? He had thought that this measure was not necessary before, when a more threatening report was drawn up, the allegations of which had been materially contradicted. It had been impeached in what it said about Glasgow and the manufacturing districts; it had been impeached in what it said about the London Union Society, the secretary of which offered to prove its unfounded nature at the bar of the House; and it had been impeached by the grand jury of Norwich. The very person who gave information from Norwich, and calumniated that city, had published an atro- cious hand-bill, that menaced the public peace, and had passed unpunished. The same report was impeached by the proceedings of the circuit in Scotland. Glasgow was one of the places where treasonable practices were said to prevail to the greatest extent; and yet there only fifty were taken up upon a charge of swearing unlawful oaths; and these oaths there was no doubt had been administered by hired spies and informers. Ten of these persons had been confined and liberated; only one was brought to trial, and against that one (Edgar) there were three indictments, a circumstance sufficiently indicative of the weakness of the government. Another case in that city (Niel Douglas) was that of a man accused of uttering seditious expressions from the pulpit; this charge was supported on the testimony of six hired informers, who were contradicted in their evidence by such numerous and respectable witnesses, that the public prosecutors gave up the cause with shame. Here was another impeachment of the former report on which our liberties were suspended; and such contradictions proved how cautious the House ought to be in legislating on the information of such agents. He had attended to the evidence on another trial (that of Watson); and supposing every word of it to be true, he could not say that the characters implicated were of a kind to excite alarm or to call for any measure for their control, except the common administration of the laws. When he reflected that the whole people of England were to be impeached and condemned unheard, for the crimes or the absurdities of such men, he did not know whether contempt or indignation should most take possession of his mind. These men were without means, without influence, support, or plan; yet it was said they meant to barricade Oxford road, to block up the streets leading to the Bank, to seize the shipping in the river, and to attack the Tower without cannon. The plan, such as it had been described, was carried into execution; and the very manner of its execution showed the weakness and contemptibility of the plan. He had heard the proceedings described by two respectable witnesses in the court of King's-bench; one of them a Mr. Hall, stated that the whole transaction was so ridiculous that 20 men might, at any time, have dispersed the mob assembled. He himself went to the officer on duty in the Tower, and requested a file of no more than 20 men; he considered that number quite sufficient to protect the shops from injury. The officer on duty, having no orders to send out soldiers, very properly refused to do so; but he (lord Grey) must say he wondered that ministers, having intelligence that the Tower was to be thus attacked, had permitted such excesses to take place. Another respectable tradesman had affirmed, that he thought six men would have been sufficient to quell the tumult; and that the mob seemed to have so little of a settled design, that they discharged their pieces in the air.

When we saw such effects the result of such plans, could it be said that the danger now existing at all resembled that which existed in 1793? But we were now told, that although the same clubs and meetings did not exist as in the winter, the same designs were still cherished, and the same spirit prevailed; that a system of delegation was still persevered in, and that a general rising was in contemplation. And what foundation was there for these allegations? Here we had an answer from the report of the committee itself. The information was derived from parties engaged in the transactions themselves. The intelligence, then, must rest on the depositions of parties who were themselves engaged in the transactions, either on their own account, or with a view to the profit to be derived from information. Such testimony was always suspicious, and the report of the committee admitted that the language and designs of persons of the latter description had had some effect towards inflaming the general disorder. A noble friend of his had reprobated the employment of spies, but he had been answered, that they were a necessary evil, and that it was quite Utopian to expect to unravel a conspiracy by any other means. He (lord Grey) had thought that this practice had been condemned by orators and statesmen, by writers and great men of every age and nation; that it was a practice sanctioned only by the most despotic governments; that it poisoned the sources of confidence between man and man; that it was destructive of domestic happiness and individual security, and altogether inconsistent with the existence of public freedom. A great writer (Mr. Burke) had said, that spies were never employed by good governments, but were an expedient resorted to only by the most despotic princes; and he (lord Grey) had thought that the employments of such engines constituted the great distinction between a free and a despotic government; but if these men, sent to penetrate into the designs of others, were to investigate and impel them to the commission of crimes, he would ask, what must be the state of society to sanction such a proceeding; a proceeding hitherto considered at variance with every principle of social order and happiness? Would the government, having employed spies, and found that they thus conducted themselves, any longer connive at such proceedings, or hesitate to bring such offenders to justice? Would it be endured that these men, enriched with the blood-money of their fellow-subjects, these harpies should continue thus unmolested to infest and destroy? He maintained that they ought forthwith to be consigned to the punishment their offences demanded. Was what he alleged without foundation? Had not Castle, a man of the most infamous and detestable character, been relied on as a witness on the late trials? a man who had hanged one and transported another accomplice in forgery; who had been imprisoned two years for assisting in the escape of a French prisoner, and punished for having tempted another to break his parole; who (though it has not been exactly proved) lay strongly under the imputations of bigamy and perjury; and who had lived in and been bully to a house of infamous description. It had very soon been suggested, that the things which he charged others to be guilty of might have been pepetrated by himself: and so, in truth they were. It was he who put the ammunition, as it had been called, into the waggon. The ammunition, indeed, was of such a nature and quantity, that it could have been placed there with no other view but that of supplying some ground for an information; and there was the strongest presumption for believing that it had been placed there by him alone, and without the knowledge of any of his acquaintance; for when the parties proceeded to the town they left their ammunition behind them. Besides, on all occasions he was the most forward. It was he himself that uttered the most seditious language, and gave the most inflammatory toasts. From this example it was not an unreasonable inference to suspect, that the information on which the whole body of the people was to be put out of the pale of its liberties was not of a very different description. He himself (lord Grey) had seen the evidence of the correspondence between the delegates, and it appeared, that there was one man who carried on the communication from Sheffield to Glasgow, and thence to other places. Would the noble lord say, that the plans of the conspirators were not encouraged by the very person be was now describing, and that he was not in correspondence with government? And then, with these instigations to impel them, who could read of the blank despair of those wretched persons who were described as having laid down their arms, and having retired to rest their exhausted frames by the road side, deprived of the power of attack or resistance, without being deeply affected, without thinking that they were led on to their destruction by these participators of their guilt?

He should now communicate to the House a statement he had received from Sheffield. If the person principally named in it, one Oliver, was not in the pay of government, he would give up the whole. He wished that his name might be recorded as the foulest of traitors, and the most atrocious of criminals; a person setting at defiance the laws of God and man, and converting the death and destruction of his fellow-creatures into his own emolument. The noble lord here read from the Leeds Mercury the statement respecting Mr. Oliver, which will be found in this day's proceedings of the Commons, and commented on that person's conduct in terms of the greatest severity, comparing it with Castle's when he came from the Tower, and meeting Mr. Hunt, informed him that the rioters had been in possession of it an hour. He urged that this Oliver had held out the strongest instigations to sedition; and though he did not mean to impute to ministers the guilt of this man's conduct, he dwelt on it to show the nature of the evidence on which it was proposed to ground the sacrifice of all our liberties, and to insist that ministers were bound to bring this man to punishment. He dwelt on it, to show the danger of employing men of this description; to show that it was incompatible with the security of mankind, and, above all, with the happiness of a free country. He asked, whether it did not shake to the foundation the report of the committee, and convey strong suspicions that the secret conspiracies to which these unhappy men seemed prone, from the want of employment, and the distress consequent on the cessation of a long war, were not produced, fostered, and supported by the agents of government itself? On the statements now laid before them the House ought at least to pause, before they gave full credit to the report of the committee, and at least inquire into the proceedings of this Oliver. But, even if the fact were not as he contended—if these disturbances had not been instigated by the agents of government— still the character of the persons concerned, persons of the lowest orders only, without power, property, connexions, sufficiently negatived the possibility of any danger. If the laws of the country were not sufficient against persons of this description, when should we hope that they could possess any efficacy? As to the evidence and correspondence from magistrates, he begged not to be considered as throwing out any imputations against that body, but he thought their recommendations should be attended to with suspicion; they all resided in the disturbed districts, they were all alarmed, and all prone to look for remedies in extraordinary exertions of power. All the documents tended to show the necessity of discarding a practice that had never been tolerated in any period of society—the encouragement of and reliance on informers. In Ireland a proceeding of the same sort, in the case of a Mr. Hamilton, in 1806, had nearly terminated in the destruction of fourteen Catholics; they were on the point of being convicted when the falsehood of the whole testimony was accidentally discovered; the attorney-general relinquished the prosecution on the spot, and placed the informer immediately on his trial for perjury. He had been led to recollect this business in Ireland; for the encouragement of informations had there led to that system of despotism to which we were but too rapidly approaching here.

He was persuaded that all these disturbances might have been put down without the employment of any such means. But we all knew that cries of this nature were always convenient to government; and when the demand for retrenchment became too importunate, when it was almost necessary to abandon some of the fortresses of corruption, these measures were resorted to, in order to suppress the public voice. He wished to accuse no man; but it had been his misfortune to view many invasions of the constitution; and sitting there as a member of parliament, with that constitutional jealousy of the proceedings of ministers which used to be thought a part of the duty of parliament, he still saw encroachments which rendered him distrustful of the measure now proposed. He lamented to see in that House, as well as in the other, and in the whole community, a sort of apathy and disregard of the conduct of ministers, and a disposition to fly to force as a cure for those evils for which the law had appropriated milder and more efficacious remedies. By those laws, in all ordinary cases, where the disaffected were not supported by persons of wealth or power, or assisted by correspondence from abroad, the means of government were quite sufficient to subdue any ordinary tumult. For his own part, he had been utterly unable to discover the danger that was now insisted on. The report of the committee owned that there was not only a great body still sound and loyal, but that even in the disturbed districts, the majority of the people were well affected. In the very scene of disorder, the farmer, the yeoman, and all above the very lowest class, had joined in support of the magistrates, and twenty hussars had been sufficient to quell every appearance of disturbance. With these facts, was the case made out which was to justify the suspension of the liberties of the country, and to place every man at the disposal of ministers?—for what time the noble lord had not stated, but it was held out, to some time after the next meeting of parliament. He trusted the bill would not pass; but that if it did, it would not pass without an amendment, proposing a shorter period for its duration. At all events, he, as an individual, should feel it his duty to oppose the bill, and to support those principles on which he and his colleagues had ever acted. He had no object to gratify, no passion to indulge; he felt himself declining in years and strength, and that this might perhaps be the last duty he should perform for his country; but he conjured the House to consider maturely the evidence before them, and to advert carefully to the facts which had arisen out of a purpose for detecting disaffection, but which had been encouraged by the very means employed to farther that intention.

The Earl of Liverpool

admitted, that in considering the evil to be guarded against, a stronger remedy ought not to be applied than that evil required. But what was that evil? The real question was, whether there did not exist, in the judgment of that House, an organized conspiracy for the purpose of overturning the government? The noble lord had urged, that on former occasions of disturbance the government had not attempted to apply the same remedy. It was true, that where those disturbances consisted of nothing more than an unlawful conspiracy for the destruction of frames and machinery they did not apply the remedy now suggested, because they thought it inapplicable to such a purpose. The noble lord had seemed to consider, that the disturbances had entirely grown out of distresses, the existence of which we were all too well acquainted with: but it was clear, that these distresses, instead of being the real cause of the disturbances, had only afforded a handle to those who wanted to turn them to the furtherance of their own wicked purposes; for in districts where there was no distress, where manufactories and trade still flourished, there was more disaffection than in districts where the deepest distress was experienced; and in many other places where there was the greatest portion of suffering, there still prevailed the most loyal spirit. With respect to the nature of the conspiracy, it was not confined to one town, to one county, or to one district. It pervaded seven or eight counties; the disaffected were acting by associations, by correspondence, and by sending delegates from one meeting to another. The House knew the mischief which some of the disturbed districts had suffered. In March last, the town of Manchester contained bodies of armed men; muskets, pikes, and other weapons, were prepared in large quantities, and every thing was carried on under a regular system. But the noble lord's argument practically came to this—that if no persons of property or consequence were engaged in these transactions, there could be no ground for the measure proposed: and he had stated, that in all former periods the question for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act had rested on that ground. However, before discussing that point, it would be necessary to say a few words as to the employment of spies. The noble lord had asserted, that all orators, statesmen, and writers, had, in all ages, condemned this practice. Whatever might have been said or written, he (lord L.) knew that, in practice, this weapon had always been employed. The employment of it appeared in all the free states of antiquity, and in all the state trials of this country. In those trials the whole basis and foundation of the proceeding had always rested on the information of persons in the employment of the state, and had rested on those principally; otherwise it had been impossible ever to detect offences. That this was an evil he was ready to admit; but he considered it unavoidable, and he knew that it had existed in all times. We had on this subject the recognition of our own statute book. By the civil list act, a provision was made for secret service; and the secretary of state was obliged to depose on oath, that he had employed this money in foreign correspondence, or in the detection of conspiracies at home. He was ready to admit, that considerable difficulty existed in the application of this principle; but it was almost impossible, without such means, to secure the information necessary for public tranquillity. The noble lord had referred to a paragraph in one of the journals, and had detailed circumstances which, if they were true, he as much deplored as any body could; but with respect to the evidence brought forward on the late trial for high treason, he declared that the person alluded to was not known to government till long after the proceedings had commenced; and he would ask whether government could reasonably refuse the evidence of an accomplice, when it afforded a probability of detecting all the guilt that had existed? As to Oliver, this was the first time he had ever heard of his being implicated in the degree so justly reprobated: he could only say, that the person in question had rendered the most essential services to government during the last three or four months. To a certain extent he had certainly been employed by the administration; but instead of being incited, he had been particularly discouraged from acting in any way analogous to that described by the noble earl. The statement which had been read was exparte: it might be correct, it might be otherwise: but even if true, he was prepared to assert, that spies and informers had been at all times employed by all governments, and ever must be. And this being granted, it would, and must sometimes happen, that such persons, from zeal in their business, would sometimes go farther than they ought.—But the consideration of this point could not influence the present question, because the proposal for a general rising had been entertained before this person (at least he believed so) had meddled with the counsels of the disaffected—He would now revert to the general question, which was, whether it was necessary, in order to constitute a dangerous insurrection, that there should be engaged in it men of character, property, and rank. If the affirmative of this question were true formerly, it was not so now, because, as a noble baron had stated, there was now, by means of clubs and associated societies, that system of organization among the multitude, that gave to disorder the effect of order, to ignorance the effect of intelligence, and thus enabled a mere mob to do what it had never been capable of doing before. If true therefore, formerly, our own experience proved that circumstances had arisen that made it true no longer. But was it entirely true, even with respect to former times? Had there been no conspiracies, ancient or modern, which, though composed of the mere dregs of the people, had brought great states to the very brink of ruin? Had their lordships forgot the early period of our own history, when the power of the Crown was much greater than at present, and when it had been increased and sanctioned by the glorious victories of Edward 3rd? Was it not true that the country was then brought to the very brink of perdition by an insurgent mob, headed by a blacksmith; and were not many of the principal persons in church and state horribly murdered before the tumults could be suppressed? Surely this proved that it was not necessary that men of high rank and property should be joined in a plot in order to make it dangerous. Had we not seen in modern times (he would not speak of the French revolution generally), that in the dreadful disturbances of the memorable September and October, the mere mob did all the mischief, unled by men either of property or rank? True it was, that a populace once entirely roused soon find leaders—he could say on his honour that he had no particular individuals in his eye; but men of property would soon join the rebellious rabble, not from approbation of their plans, but from fear of their vengeance. Soon, however, it would be seen, that it would not be the chiefs that would govern the people, but the people that would govern their chiefs. Instead, therefore, of thinking that a rabble, unless headed by men of consideration, would be less dangerous, he believed that it would be the more dangerous on that very account. The noble earl had asked whether we were so circumstanced that a multitude, unaided by rank or property, could overturn the government? To this question he would merely say, that he should not like to try the experiment. But suppose this should not be done, was there nothing short of absolute subversion? Was it no evil to a commercial people that, in the language of the report, "Manchester should be made a Moscow?" Was it no evil to a generous people that assassination should be inculcated as a regular duty? The noble earl had asked, whether, assuming the danger to be great, the present measures were the proper ones; whether, in fact, the government had not by law already the power of apprehending all persons suspected of treason? True, it was so; but without the present measure there was no power of detaining those who were apprehended: and he would boldly assert, that one power would at this time be perfectly nugatory without the other. He firmly believed, that this power of detention without trial was the effectual and only cure for the existing evils. It operated not merely in the case of the persons detained, but also on all persons who were conscious that they ought to be suspected. And if the state of Manchester was different from what it was before March last, he believed that to this measure alone the happy result was to be ascribed. It was, therefore, what it had been aptly called, a measure of mercy, a measure which every good man should hail as the safeguard of his property and his freedom. If there was any one reason which weighed more than another with him, it was the love of the constitution which he believed this measure would mainly tend to save. In the name of internal peace, in the name of morals, in the name of good order, in the name of security and liberty, he called upon their lordships to adopt this measure.

The Marquis of Lansdown

began by saying, that he had listened with attention to all that had been said in defence of a measure resting on grounds entirely new, and but too likely to be drawn into a new precedent for the evil imitation of future times. He agreed perfectly with the observation, that occasions might arise in which it would be necessary to suspend the constitution; but he knew also with what circumspection, with what self-examination, it behoved those to proceed who were about to put away from them the sa- cred ark of their country's freedom. In applying himself to the inquiry, he had endeavoured to satisfy himself as to the grounds on which this proposed measure rested; and with this view he had particularly turned his attention to the reports made by their lordships committee. He found, in the first place, that there was no trace of any correspondence with foreign governments; in the next, that no persons of rank or property at home were implicated in the traitorous proceedings; and, lastly, that no connexion was now found to exist between the mass of discontent in the metropolis and that in the remote districts. He did not mean to say, nor did his noble friend mean to say, that a conspiracy might not be formidable without the aid of rank and property, but he had always thought, and such had been the argument of his noble friend, that it was the peculiar character of such a conspiracy that it could not be put down by such a measure as that proposed. In a plot in which some persons of consideration were involved, much good might be done by cutting off particular leaders; but how did this rule apply where, as was alleged in the present case, whole multitudes throughout the kingdom were contaminated and involved, and yet acted notoriously without leaders and without concert with each other? In addition to what had been so justly said respecting the infamous character of informers, employed not merely to communicate but to create disturbance, he would illustrate the nature of such evidence by a particular circumstance which had come within his own knowledge. In the year 1812, he had himself the honour of being a member of a secret committee that sat to inquire into the origin and effects of certain disturbances very similar to the present, and indeed the very root and foundation of them. A report was made to the House which was in strict conformity to truth, as far as concerned the testimony given before the committee: yet that report was in some particulars essentially false, because the evidence on which it was founded was false. A Mr. Horsefall had been murdered in one of the disturbed districts, and one of the principal witnesses who undertook to furnish the committee with an exact account of the state of the popular spirit and feeling, positively asserted, that Mr. Horsefall was murdered in the day-time, and in the presence of vast numbers of people, none of whom assisted him, but surrounded him and exulted in his fate. Now, what was the truth? The murderers of Mr. Horsefall were taken, and soon afterwards were tried at York; and on their trial it was distinctly proved, that Mr. Horsefall when fatally wounded, was not surrounded by an exulting populace, and for this plain reason, that there was no populace near the spot: there was no witness to the actual murder, nor did any one pass for some time; at length two passengers did see Mr. Horsefall on the ground, and they immediately ran to him, and afforded all the assistance in their power. He mentioned this as a striking illustration of the necessary fallibility of an informer's testimony; and he had little doubt that the evidence on which the report rested would, if well sifted, be found to be of the same fallacious nature. He now thought it necessary to ask their lordships whether those countries had been the most free or tranquil where such powers as were now asked for had existed?— whether, on the contrary, such countries had not been the theatres of the most bloody, dangerous, and fatal revolutions. The noble earl opposite had referred to the French Revolution; but surely that did not take place for want of such a power. Was it not rather the existence of such powers that instigated that Revolution? The noble earl had been no less inappropriate in his reference to the disturbances of the fatal September and October. Those horrid scenes were not the mere work of a mob, but the first causes of them were to be traced to plots in which much of the property, and rank, and talent of that nation was implicated. Let their lordships look to the allies of England, and see whether the most despotic government was the most secure. If Utter indifference to the liberty of his subjects, if the perpetual exercise of a power like that now called for, could make a monarch secure, then Ferdinand of Spain sat on the most stable throne in Europe. Was not, however, the direct contrary the case? But suppose it otherwise, would this country ever stoop to accept security on such abject conditions as were a disgrace even to Spain? He would now turn from the example of a despotic to that of a free government. The noble lords on the other side would probably admit that the executive government of America was too weak. He would remind them, therefore, that not many years ago, when a conspiracy (he alluded to the case of colonel Burr) of a formidable and extensive nature was discovered, and it was proposed in consequence to suspend the Habeas Corpus law, the proposition was almost unanimously rejected: and yet what evil consequences had resulted to the government of the United States? Was it likely that the mere detention of individuals at the pleasure of ministers would guard against or suppress the described danger? Was it not calculated to foment rather than to allay irritation? He was disposed to concur in the opinion, that a system of clubs and societies, such as at present existed amongst the labouring classes, was a pernicious system; but he could not agree that the evil would be most effectually prevented by the power of arbitrarily imprisoning the presidents and secretaries of such clubs, for new presidents and secretaries would soon present themselves— Uno avulso, non deficit alter. They were all equally convinced of the necessity of punishing crimes; and the important question now was, whether the best mode of punishing and preventing them was not by the regular administration of law and justice, rather than by a system of arbitrary police? Whilst he recognized the existence of a certain extent of domestic danger, he felt himself bound to look also to its quality; and the result of this comparison and inquiry was, in his mind, that the due exercise of the powers of the law tempering justice with mercy, aided by the influence of property, character, virtue, and talents amongst the higher orders, would form the best security against the danger. He should be sorry to consider even those who might have been engaged in some criminal transactions as irreclaimable; but when it was confessed that the great body of the people was sound, and when it was remembered with what fortitude they had supported their difficulties and privations, he felt himself justified in requiring for them the full enjoyment of that freedom which was their birth-right, and of those constitutional advantages which could not be surrendered without some hazard of losing them altogether. The great body of the people were, he believed, inclined and able to put down any partial rebellion; and the surest means of preventing that calamity altogether was a general conviction of the excellence of a constitution when a combining more personal liberty than ever had before been made consistent with the preservation of public peace.

Lord Grenville

declared, that, in giving his best support to the measure now under consideration, he was induced to do so from a sincere belief that he was at the same time contributing his best support to the cause of freedom itself, as well as to the happiness and security of the country. When he assented to a similar proceeding three months ago, he had indeed, but little expectation that in so short a period there would be such a change in the circumstances and dispositions upon which it was founded, as would render it unnecessary, subsequently to prolong its duration. He concurred, however, in the necessity of passing it for a limited period, because he deemed it right that parliament should reserve to itself the power of acting upon new information, in the event of new and important information being obtained. He must also declare that he did not feel his character involved in the report of the committees of which he had been an humble member. It was not a pleasing duty to perform; but they had all, as he believed, as he was conscious he, for his own part, had done, proceeded with the best views upon the information before them. He could have no inducement on this occasion to act upon any other principle than a sense of public duty: and although it would only be with life itself that he would entirely abandon pursuits, and desert a cause in which he had been engaged for five and thirty years, yet it was not improbable that this might be almost the last occasion on which he should have to claim the attention of their lordships. Whilst he concurred in much of what was said as to the danger of the powers it was proposed to intrust to the executive government, and as to the misconduct of persons who instigated the crimes which they were employed to detect, he could not admit that intelligence derived from such quarters, and the credibility of which was supported by coincident circumstances, was not a fair and even necessary ground in some cases of legislative interference. Whether there had been misconduct or not on the part of ministers, he could not doubt of the result of the whole examination, taken into view all the circumstances. A conspiracy existed for objects detailed in the report, and the progress of which their lordships were imperiously called upon to stop. The prevention of dangerous offences was certainly better than the punishment of them. In fact, it might appear to the eye of the moralist, that prevention formed the whole ground on which punishment was defensible. Arguments on all subjects might be pushed to the greatest extent. The question was, as to the proper application of them. In order to prevent crimes, a power should not be given, and exercised, which was in itself, and generally, injurious to society: but in the present case, if asked what were the grounds of his conviction in favour of the measure, he should say, that he thought this important and awful measure necessary for the prevention of great evils. That was his answer to his own mind, notwithstanding what might be said of the description of persons accused or suspected; and of their character, influence, and means, if employed in the attempt to overturn the government. That these persons were at present important, he would by no means say; but yet there might be great danger in leaving them to work out their designs till the moment of complete exposure. He had too good an opinion of the good sense of the country to fear great dangers; but these dangerous practices would operate as an example and encouragement to all whose minds might be turned to dissatisfaction and disaffection. If a habit of provoking and insulting the government were allowed to go on, it might be employed by the artful for the purpose of detaching the people from their regard for the constitution. Perhaps the taking of the Tower was improbable; but yet enormous mischiefs might have occurred. The present times were different certainly from those of the Revolution, or of 1715 or 1745; but the peculiar nature of the dangers demanded a remedy. However, painful it might be, he felt it his duty to support the measure.

Earl Spencer

felt great pain in differing from the noble baron, for whose opinions and character he had entertained for many years such high respect; but on this occasion he could gather no solid grounds of argument in favour of the awful and dangerous experiment that was proposed. Nothing short of absolute necessity could justify the measure; and that necessity had not been shown. It was true, that remedies must be applied to evils, and that prevention was better than punishment, but his mind was so constituted, that he could not see that the proposed measure was so excellent for prevention instead of punishment. The experience of the last three months carried no such conviction with it. The measure proposed was a suspension of the people's liberties; and he felt himself bound to hand down those liberties unimpaired which we had derived from our ancestors. It was not his duty to give to any men power that did not appear to him absolutely necessary. Now, we were called upon to give to the government arbitrary power; for how long a time was not yet known; but he yet hoped their lordships would not grant it for a moment longer than it should appear to them entirely necessary. Differing as he did from friends whom he esteemed, he felt it an important duty not to give a silent vote. It was vain to talk of the responsibility of ministers on a measure which gave them arbitrary power; they would come afterwards with a bill of indemnity. The matter rested with their lordships consciences. He would venture to say, that the grounds now laid for the bill would be stated again at its expiration, whenever that might happen, in favour of its renewal. There had been no good argument adduced to show that the country would speedily be in a better state. He must therefore give his negative against granting ministers an arbitrary power.

The Duke of Sussex

said, that after the numerous able arguments their lordships had heard against the measure, he should beg leave only to submit one additional reflection, which had forcibly struck him in a moral point of view. It was this: he had witnessed the effects of arbitrary power upon the subjects of other countries, and he observed that poison and assassination were prevalent amongst them. In this country these dreadful practices were scarcely known. But if the expressions of popular sentiment were suppressed or circumscribed, as it might be by such measures as that under consideration, it was much to be feared, that it would endeavour to find vent some other way. Should this measure pass into a law, it would be his duty to submit to it; but until it did, he would oppose it in every stage.

The House then divided: Contents, 109; Proxies, 81; Total, 190. Non-contents, 27; Proxies, 23; Total, 50. Majority for the second reading of the bill, 140,

List of the Minority.
DUKES Rosslyn
Sussex Grey
Somerset Lauderdale.
Bedford. Torrington
Lansdown. LORDS
Wellesley. St. John
EARLS Saye and Sele
Essex King
Darlington Montfort
Albemarle Holland
Ilchester Foley
Spencer Grantley
Grosvenor Auckland
Donoughmore Erskine.
DUKES St. Vincent
Devonshire Carnarvon
Argyle Charlemont
Downshire Bolingbroke
Suffolk Byron
Thanet Dundas
Jersey Cawdor
Cowper Hutchinson
Waldegrave Crew
Darnley Ponsonby