HL Deb 05 March 1818 vol 37 cc813-5

The following Protest was entered on the Journals:


"Because it is manifest that there has been no widely-spread traitorous conspiracy, nor even any extensive disaffection to the government, since the Secret Committee, whose report is the sole foundation of this proceeding, do themselves express their satisfaction in delivering their decided opinion, 'that not only the country in general, but in those districts where the designs of the disaffected were the most actively and unremittingly employed, the great body of the people had remained untainted even during periods of the greatest internal difficulty and distress;' stating further as facts, 'that the insurgents were not formidable by their numbers, though actuated by an atrocious spirit, and that though the language used by many persons engaged in this enterprise, and particular by their leaders, left no room to doubt that their objects were the overthrow of the established government, yet that such objects were extravagant when compared with the inadequate means which they possessed; and that not finding their confederates bad arrived, as expected, to their support, and that in the villages through which they passed, a strong in disposition being manifested against their cause and project, some of them bad thrown away their pikes before the military appeared, and that on the first show of force had dispersed—Their leaders attempting in vain to rally them.'

2nd. "Because in such a state of things so consolingly described by the committee, and so almost ludicrously destructive of every idea of an armed rebellion, or dangerous insurrection, more especially against a government supported by such an untainted people, and such an immense military force, we cannot but think that a different and less alarming course ought in wise policy to have been pursued, and that tranquillity might have been equally restored by a vigorous execution of the ordinary laws and the exertions of a vigilant magistracy, without any suspension of the public freedom, since it is the prompt selection and speedy execution of a few palpable offenders, rather than de- layed proceedings against numbers upon doubtful testimony, that invest the courts of justice with a salutary terror and force.

3rd. "Because the departure from this just and judicious mode of proceeding, gave an indiscriminate importance to the accused, whilst it exposed the administration of the government to a dangerous disrespect.

4th. "Because even when the act of Habeas Corpus is suspended, none on that account ought to be apprehended upon questionable suspicion, or, to use the language of the report, upon 'such expectations of evidence as ministers have un- 'avoidably relinquished,' but upon such grounds only as would be just warrants for arrests and trials in ordinary times, the only legal effect of the Suspension being that it suspends the deliverance of the accused; we think, therefore, that a general indemnity for such numerous and long imprisonments, ought not even to have been proposed to parliament, until an open and impartial investigation had taken place.

5th."Because, from the mistaken principle of this bill, malicious and meritorious illegality are equally protected, on the false and unfounded assumption that informations ought to be indiscriminately and perpetually secret, but even if we could agree that whilst traitorous conspiracies are actually in force, and extraordinary powers in action for their suppression, secrecy could in all cases be justified, yet we never could consent to its continuance after order was restored; the laws being then sufficient to protect good subjects for having honestly discharged their duties, and because holding out such general prospects of indemnity is a dangerous encouragement to mercenary informers, who make an infamous traffic in the lives and liberties of mankind, deceiving and disgracing the government, whilst they betray the innocent whom they accuse.

6th. "Because it is not the occasional resort to such secret and impure sources of evidence in cases of obvious necessity, but the systematic encouragement of it, which we conceive is sanctioned by this bill that we protest against and condemn, since the successful prosecutions of the worst traitors and libellers can bring no security to the government of this country, unless the conduct of its ministers and of its parliament, by a faithful adherence to the free principles of the constitution, shall constantly expose the malignity of their treasons and the falsehood of their libellous complaints.