HL Deb 19 April 1848 vol 98 cc485-507

The LORD CHANCELLOR, in moving the Second Reading of the Crown and Government Security Bill, said, it frequently happened, when Parliament was called upon to make provision for the preservation of the public peace, that the Government was in possession of materials and information which were not before the public, which it was necessary to communicate to the Legislature, in order to lay the grounds for any application being made for an alteration in the law. It unfortunately, however, happened at the present moment that this was not the case, and that the information before the public was amply sufficient to induce their Lordships to come to the conclusion that what was now going on ought not to be permitted to continue, and that there ought to be means placed in the hands of the Government for the purpose of preventing those continual attempts at disturbing the peace which had recently taken place, not only in the metropolis, but in every other part of the United Kingdom. When meetings were daily held, not only in London and Dublin, but in most of the manufacturing towns, where inflammatory speeches were made, the professed object of which was to array the people against the constituted authorities of these realms, it was high time, if the law was not adequate to repress these evils, that Parliament should interfere to provide means by which their recurrence might be prevented. Beyond all doubt that which was now taking place, being illegal, might be the subject of criminal prosecution. It happened, however, that the state of the law was not adequate to meet the evil as it was now found to exist; but by one alteration in the law he apprehended there would be no difficulty in putting an end to scenes which were so disgraceful to the country, which tended to disturb the public peace, and lead to criminal proceedings against those who unfortunately attended those meetings, for whose welfare the orators who addressed them seemed to have very little regard. It generally happened —and certainly it did in this particular case—that where a necessity arose in any degree for enlarging the efficiency of the criminal law, the necessity arose from the acts of those who professed themselves the friends of liberty, and of that license which was permitted by our constitution within proper bounds—who professed to be the friends of the people, and of that liberty which their acts made it imperative upon Parliament in some degree to restrain. Their Lordships had seen enough in the present state of the country to feel an anxious desire that that state should not continue; and if they concurred in opinion with him that means should be taken to prevent those scenes and repress those harangues which were calculated to promote so much mischief, he might shortly explain the present state of the law, and the remedies proposed to be provided for its defects by the present Bill. Their Lordships were aware that according to the old statute of treason, that of Edward III., there were two great branches of treason, which were the foundation of all the subsequent statutes. Those great branches were, first, the imagining or contriving the death of the Sovereign; and the other, levying war against the Sovereign. The first of these offences, consisting in the act of the mind, in the intention or the design entertained, could, of course, only be established by some overt act to show that such an intent existed, or such a design entertained. In the case of levying war, however, the provisions of the statute were different. It was not the intention of levying war—not having a design for the purpose—but the act of levying war, which constituted the treason. On various occasions, according to the exigencies of the times, and the dangers to be guarded against, particular Acts had been passed. Some, now gone by, provided different means of guarding against the dangers of any particular treason. Among other provisions of that sort, there was the Statute of 36 George III., passed in the year 1796. It was found that the law which previously existed was not adequate to meet the then state of the country. Accordingly, that Act was passed, which took up a variety of Acts that might well under the previous law be considered overt acts of treason, but which did not of themselves constitute treason. For instance, inciting foreigners to come over to this country; inciting parties to go armed for the purpose of intimidation; attempts to intimidate either Government or the Parliament—various acts of that sort, which did not constitute treason, but which might, under the former Acts, be considered an act of treason against the person of the Sovereign, were made substantive acts of treason; and a party found guilty of intent to commit those acts, evidenced by an overt act, was subjected to the penalties of high treason. This Act was passed to continue during the reign of George III. During the Regency another Act was passed—the 57th George III.—the object of which was to continue certain provisions of the former Act during the life of the Prince Regent, and to make others permanent. The first Act—the 36th George III.—being passed before the Union, and the second subsequently to it, a question might arise whether the 57th George III. did or did not extend the provisions of the Act 36 George III. to Ireland. The provisions of the Act 36 George III. made these offences actual treason. Many of them were of the gravest character; others, according to the circumstances, either constituted treason or an offence of a much lighter nature. Their Lordships were well aware that great delay occasionally occurred in prosecutions for high treason, and that those guilty of that offence had at least the certainty of considerable time elapsing before they could be brought to trial. It was proposed by this Bill first to alter the law in so far as those offences were made treason, and to make them felony, by which a party would be tried in the ordinary way in which other parties charged with felony were tried. In that respect it was a mitigation of the law, because it would make them guilty only of the minor offence. Another object of the Bill, which he thought would be considered free from objection, was that it included Ireland—that it would remove any doubt as to whether Ireland was or was not included in the Act 57 George III. It was therefore proposed, first, to make the offences felony which were treason under the former Act, and next to extend the law so altered, to Ireland. Extended as the law was proposed to be to Ireland, he did not apprehend their Lordships would feel this was the time when such a provision was objectionable. The alterations from the Act 36 George III. consisted mainly in the introduction, in the 3rd Clause, of the words "open and advised speaking," which would guard against the real evil which Parliament was now asked to prevent. It had been supposed elsewhere—and he himself had heard it objected—that the insertion of these words was introducing a new principle into the law. He was very much astonished at any such opinion, particularly when, as he had been informed, it had been expressed by Gentlemen who, if they had taken the trouble to refresh their recollections, must have known that it was not correct. The error must have arisen from the fact that under the Act of Edward III. it was held that you could not indict a party for treason for mere words, for words simpliciter. If a man said, "I will make my son heir to the Crown," in a certain sense, and coming from a certain quarter, that might be treason; but if it turned out that the expression was used by the master of the Crown inn, then no such intention could be inferred. It must be left to the jury to decide whether the words used were "open and advised speaking;" and it could not be supposed that hasty loose expressions, used without any deliberate purpose of treason, constituted treason. It was no part of our law, however, that the crime of high treason might not be indicted upon words in connexion with overt acts. He was sorry to say again that very strong language had been used in different parts of the empire; and he was quite satisfied that if the law was not strong enough to prevent it, some law must be made for that purpose. With this view the present Bill was submitted to their Lordships' consideration; and he believed it would be effectual, because a party guilty of the offences he had referred to would be subjected to transportation for seven years, during which time he would have an opportunity of reflecting upon the folly of the course he had adopted; at all events, it would take away from the means of injuring the public, which he had hitherto been guilty of, and in that way an effectual stop would be put to the present proceedings.

LORD STANLEY did not intend to offer any opposition to the second reading of the Bill, or to throw any impediment in its way. With regard to its object, he had taken the liberty, a short time ago, of directing attention to the precise defect in the law, which left a wide gap between the treason punishable with death, and the inferior classes of sedition which could only be proceeded against as misdemeanours, and punished by fine or imprisonment. He therefore entirely concurred in the principle of the Bill, which remedied that defect in the law; and he thought the course taken of establishing an intermediate offence between treason, between an offence punishable by death, and an offence punishable only as a misdemeanour, was a substantial improvement. Both in this country and in Ireland language had been held, and other measures taken, to excite the people by a class of persons who aspired to the dignity of being treated as State criminals. They were not the parties, however, to be dealt with as State criminals, guilty of high treason upon the one hand, nor on the other hand ought they to be dealt with as simple misdemeanants. They were, therefore, very properly placed by this Bill in the degraded class of common felons; they were placed among the burglars and highway robbers of the country; and they would be subjected to the same mode of prosecution and conviction, and to the same disgraceful punishments. At the same time, looking to the gravity of the case, and at the importance of the circumstances under which this alteration was proposed in the law, he should have been better pleased if their Lordships had not been called upon to decide, after hardly twenty-four hours' notice, upon the introduction of a permanent alteration in the law founded upon temporary considerations. The amendment of the law might be right and just; but he thought it was a matter of too great importance and too great weight to be so summarily disposed of as their Lordships were called upon to do with regard to this present Bill. If there were any question that the same law of treason was applicable to England and to Ireland, there could be no doubt but that the same law should be made applicable to all parts of the United Kingdom. Neither could it be doubted, if it were the case, that the law was more stringent in England than in Ireland; but that Ireland was not that portion of the United Kingdom which stood least in need of stringent and effective measures under this head. It might be very wise, and in accordance with the spirit of our legislation, though he thought that the present was hardly the precise moment to introduce such clauses, to mitigate the punishment for certain classes of high treason; yet he should confess that, looking to the circumstances of these times, he should have been better pleased if Her Majesty's Government had taken the course which indeed was provided for by the 7th Clause of this Bill, of retaining the power, while the offence of treason was still retained, of proceeding at their discretion for the minor offence, which was merged in the treason, and of indicting the party for felony. He confessed that he should rather see a general alteration of the law of treason made the subject of a more careful discussion than they could hope for in the passage of this Bill at the present moment, and that a power should be taken under this Bill by the Government of proceeding as for felony, though the higher offence of treason might still exist. He did not understand the distinction which was drawn by the Bill between compassing or imagining the restriction or restraint of the Sovereign, and compassing or imagi ning the deposition of the Sovereign. He could understand why compassing the death, or serious injury, or wounding of the Sovereign, should be still left subject to the punishment of death, and be indicted as high treason; but he could not understand on what ground compassing the deposition of the Sovereign should be made a minor offence, compared with the other varieties of treason still retained. He might be speaking in great ignorance of the law; but he should be glad to hear some explanation on this point from some of the noble and learned Lords present. Another point to which he wished to direct attention was this. He had doubts whether the Crown might not be subjected to difficulty in being obliged in all cases to prosecute for felony instead of for misdemeanour. He apprehended that as felony merged in the higher offence of treason, so misdemeanour merged in felony; and he apprehended that the Crown would often have some difficulty, especially in Ireland, if they were obliged to proceed as for felony in all cases in which, under the present law, they would proceed for misdemeanour. In cases of felony the prisoner had a right of peremptory challenge to a considerable extent; and he apprehended that in the class of offences for which the Crown would be obliged to proceed under this Bill in Ireland, cases might arise where there would be a great difficulty of procuring convictions from this cause. By making the offence felony, they took away the right on the part of the Crown of applying to have the case tried by a special jury; and they also gave the prisoner the advantage—and a great advantage it was in the present state of Ireland—of peremptory challenge, and of bringing the panel down to a lower class of jurors. It was not his intention to urge the adoption of any particular course with regard to these points on Her Majesty's Government, because on the Government must rest the responsibility of the details, as well as the responsibility of the principle of such a measure. On them, also, rested the farther responsibility—one which he deeply regretted—of having brought forward this measure at a time when an opinion was universally entertained, both in that House and in the other House of Parliament, that not a day nor an instant should be lost in applying an effective cure for the disorders both of this country and of Ireland, and thereby prac tically depriving their Lordships of the power of more practically and more deliberately considering any permanent alteration in so important a subject.

LORD BROUGHAM did not mean to offer any opposition to the passing of this Bill, which he thought was rendered quite necessary by the circumstances of the times; but he could not avoid mentioning some doubts which occurred to him upon some points of the Bill, with a view of directing the attention of Government to them. For instance, he doubted the distinction which seemed to be drawn between deposing the Sovereign from her title, and deposing her in substance from her dominions. In the next place, in this Bill the Government took a leaf out of the law of Scotland; but if, as he supposed would be the case, the Act were to be extended to Scotland, he wished to warn them of a serious alteration which it would involve. By the Scottish law a person indicted for felony had a right to a most important document—a list of the witnesses intended to be called against him; and if this Bill were to be extended to Scotland, it would take away for the first time that important principle of the law of Scotland. This Bill would deprive the prisoner of the list of the jury panel, and also the list of the witnesses; and he, for one, should be inclined to pause before extending such a principle to Scotland for the first time. Again, he thought that the statute, the 25th of Edward III., would clash with the third clause of this Bill. The impression on his mind was, that there were old cases in which compassing to depose had been held to be a compassing of the death of the Sovereign. He also objected to the words, "compassing to levy war on the Sovereign," not generally, but for a particular purpose. He thought that compassing to levy war on the Queen for any purpose was a substantive offence, and ought to be held to be a very grave offence; whereas by this Bill it was no offence unless the war were levied "in order, by force or constraint, to compel her to change her measures or counsels." As an instance of the kind of war that might be levied in Ireland, he would beg to direct their Lordships' attention to a letter which had lately appeared from a reverend clergyman addressed to Mr. Meagher "of the sword." As the gentleman might not be pleased unless his name were given, he would mention it—the letter was signed "James Bermingham, P.P.," and contained this passage:— When the day of your struggle shall come, when your liberties as well as your lives shall be invaded, then let it not be a turning out of two or three counties, but let Ireland rise to the contest as one man; and let every man, as he is about taking his position to perform this most glorious act of his life, make a vow to the following effect.

This reverend clergyman and minister of the Gospel of Peace not having, he supposed, read the Ten Commandments recently, goes on to give the words of the vow as follows:— I vow before God and my country to lessen if I can, by one man at least, the enemies of my native land, and to die.

The passage then continued:— When being thus prepared, and having made the foregoing vow, you are fairly committed to the combat, don't show yourselves to the enemy on the hill-side or on the plain; but take him from the dyke, the fence, the hedge-row, from the broken bridge, or the obstructed railway. Be sure you do all the mischief in your power—or all the good, I should say, for mischief is the good in this case—by all the means within your reach, and think not for one moment of living—'to do or die,' or 'to do and die,' be this your motto. He brought this passage forward as an instance of the necessity which existed for such a measure as the present; but he thought that, to be efficient, it should, as he had repeatedly urged, give a power to the Government of imprisonment—temporarily, or for six months, if they wished—and also a power of searching for papers of the person arrested. By means of such a power alone could they hope to intimidate the wrong-doer, and drive conspiracy from the land. They might drive them from the field of conspiracy, of sedition, of levying war, of open and advised speaking; but what signified all that, if they could still go into a certain House of Parliament and there utter such language as he had alluded to a few evenings ago. And here he would close his observations by giving a salutary but not a superfluous warning to the press of this kingdom, and of the sister kingdom, that, though the rules of Parliament protected those who used seditious or treasonable words within the walls of the House of Commons, it did not protect them out of doors; and he who presumed to publish such seditious words became liable to be indicted under the Statute of Edward III., as well as under this Act. There was no doubt but that Parliament had certain privileges by which Members could protect them selves to any extent within doors; but let no newspaper reporter, let no newspaper editor, entertain the fond notion that whatever was said in Parliament he had a right to print—that it was not libellous, that it was not seditious, that it was not treasonable. There was no lawyer who could doubt the truth of what he was now saying. Though a Member was protected when he spoke treason or sedition, or libel in Parliament, there was no question but that he who, out of Parliament, printed what had been so spoken, even the Speaker himself, was just as liable to punishment as if he had no privilege, and that a man was as liable as if he himself invented the treason which he had published. He hoped and trusted that those who now printed the grossest slanders on the constitution, and the most treasonable and seditious speeches—some of them encouraging foreigners to invade this country, while others incited those who were treasonably disposed in these kingdoms to look for assistance from abroad—would recollect, that even though those who uttered such sentiments might not be punishable by law, they who promulgated those opinions were liable for them.

LORD CAMPBELL said, he admitted that this Bill did not reach the case of Mr. Smith O'Brien making a treasonable speech in the Commons' House of Parliament; but he also admitted that it would not punish the editors, proprietors, or reporters of the Times, or any other newspaper, for publishing a speech so made. He should be ashamed to bring forward a measure that would have such an object in view. If any Member of the House of Commons spoke treason within the walls of the House of Commons, he should answer for his sentiments within the House, but not elsewhere. One of the most outrageous attempts made by King Charles I., and which was probably one of the main causes of bringing him to the block, was that of questioning Members of the House of Commons in courts of law for speeches made in the House of Commons; and he hoped that such a law would never be enacted in this country again. He should be the last man to bring forward any measure for punishing those who gave good and faithful reports of what took place in Parliament, for he had himself proposed to their Lordships a clause in a Bill which met with the approbation of their Lordships' House, as well as of the other House of Parliament and of the Sovereign —and which he believed to be a perfectly fair and just clause—that no person being the printer and publisher of the newspaper that bonâ fide gave an honest report of what occurred in either House of Parliament should be liable to be indicted; and he had the honour of being seconded on that occasion by Lord Brougham and Vaux himself, and it met with the approval of the Lord Chief Justice. As to the persons who spoke these speeches, perhaps their best punishment was in the contempt and indignation which their treasonable conduct excited. He did not believe that the cause of treason or sedition had gained any advantage by the publication of those addresses; but, on the contrary, he thought that their publication had a strong tendency to urge forward that spirit of loyalty and order which had been recently manifested by the great body of the people. He trusted that this Bill would be effectual for the purposes which it had in view, namely, to restrain seditious and treasonable speeches made in the National Convention in London, and made at the meetings of the Confederates in Dublin, and it might be at meetings in Conciliation Hall also. These were properly within the scope of prosecution, and these were the speeches that ought to be prosecuted. It had been said elsewhere that there was one Member of Her Majesty's Government who must condemn this Bill—that Member being the humble individual who had now the honour to address their Lordships; and the foundation of that opinion was, that he (Lord Campbell) had expressed a disapprobation of Lord Eldon's Bill of 1796. It was true that he had so expressed himself, and he always would continue to think that that Bill had been an improper encroachment on the liberty of the subject. But the law of treason in England was happily established in the 25th year of the reign of Edward III. High treason was the greatest crime known to the law; the penalties were the most severe; the terms of the sentence he would not shock their Lordships by pronouncing; and, in addition, the forfeiture of lands and goods and the corruption of blood were involved. But there was one great defect in the law with respect to offences against the State, and that was, that there was no intermediate crime between high treason and a misdemeanour. Now, what was a misdemeanour by the law? It was a crime of a very lenient nature; it was, in the first place, bailable de jure—it could only be punished by fine and imprisonment; and whilst a man was under prosecution for it, he might set the law at defiance: he might repeat the offence, and commit acts tending to the injury of the State. The consequence of that defect in the law was, that on various occasions there had been temporary laws brought in, making high treason Acts of a penal nature, which were not touched by the Act of Edward III.; but those were only temporary, and were repealed at the commencement of almost every reign—particularly at the commencement of Queen Mary's reign, when all the treasons which had been created since the 25th of Edward III. were repealed. Another bad consequence of there being no intermediate offence was that the law of Edward III. was often strained. It was held to be high treason if any disturbance occurred for what was termed any general or public object. That being the case, very great inconveniences arose; and Lord Eldon, in 1796, introduced a law making it high treason, and punishable in the manner he had described, to compass or imagine the death of the Sovereign, the leyying of war, or the inviting of foreign invasion. That appeared to him, however, to be assimilating crimes of a very different amount of gravity, It defeated its own object, and was opposed, and, as he thought, justly opposed, by one party in Parliament. Amongst other things, it required all the forms of the Act of Edward to be followed. A copy of the indictment must be delivered to the accused, with a list of witnesses, and of the jury, and all these must be delivered simultaneously. Their Lordships would, no doubt, remember that in the case of Frost an objection was taken, because the copy of the indictment had been delivered three days before the list of witnesses, and that that objection was held by a minority of the Judges to be fatal. The noble Lord opposite had expressed some apprehension that the treason laws might be rendered less efficacious by the adoption of this measure; but the fact was, that there was an express clause in the Bill, whereby the Statute of the 25th of Edward III. remained intact. Whatever, therefore, was treason from the time of Edward III. down to 1796, was treason now, and would remain treason. At the same time there was no new offence created by this Bill. What was now treason was in some cases reduced to felony; and he was sure it was infinitely better that the offence should be treated as a felony than as misdemeanour. He had heard it stated by a very high authority that it would have been infinitely preferable to have treated the whole of these offences as misdemeanours instead of as felonies. If they made those offences misdemeanours, however, they would gain nothing by this measure—they would still be bailable, and the object which the Government had in view would be frustrated. He contended that for such grave offences there should be a grave punishment. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had criticised the language of the 3rd section. But that section contained the ipsissima verba to be found in the 36th George III., which in their turn were taken word for word from the Statute of Charles II. The words "open and advised speaking" had a certain definite and well-defined meaning with which the Judges were acquainted; and really he should think his noble and learned Friend could hardly be serious when he stated that they merely applied to deposing the Queen from the "style" of Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The words meant, deposing Her Majesty from Her Royal authority as Sovereign of this realm. That was the meaning they ever had conveyed, and that was the interpretation to be placed upon them now. His noble and learned Friend had spoken about taking a leaf out of the law of Scotland. He could only say that if this Bill were to introduce into England the law which was supposed to exist in Scotland at the trial of Muir and Palmer, he should be the last man to support it. But he believed that the trial of Muir and Palmer was not according to the law of Scotland. They were not tried for any specific offence, but generally for sedition, and that sedition consisted in making very temperate speeches in favour of Parliamentary reform. They did no more than make speeches such as his noble and learned Friend had often made. He did not say that his noble and learned Friend had made himself amenable to the law, but certainly he had made more animated speeches in favour of reform than those for which these men were transported to Botany Bay. The only offences punishable by this Bill were compassing the deposition of the Queen, levying war against the Queen, and inviting the invasion of the Queen's dominions by a foreign force; and the Judge would ask the jury distinctly whether the prisoner had been proved to be guilty of one of those specific offences. Now those offences might be created either by printing and publishing, or "by open and advised speaking;" but the open and advised speaking was not the crime—the crime must be, as he had already said, either compassing the death of the Queen, levying war against the Queen, or inviting the invasion of the Queen's dominions by a foreign force. The "open and advised speaking" of the Bill was open and advised speaking which proved that there was a design to depose the Queen, to levy war against the Queen, or to invite invasion. Mr. Justice Foster had laid it down that to make use of language which amounted to counselling the deposition of the Sovereign, was an overt act of high treason; and again it was held that if the words were merely an expression of opinion they might be seditious, but not treasonable; but if they counselled an act to be done, then they became treason. Now those were words—nothing but words; there was no act done, and yet that was treason. It did seem to him, therefore, a fallacy to say that the expression in the Act—"open and advised speaking"—was any invasion of the rights or liberties of the subject. The 1st of Edward VI., c. 12, and various Acts from Elizabeth down to Charles II., distinctly laid it down that if any person averred by open teaching or by expressed words that the king, his heirs or successors, ought not to reign in England and Ireland, or if any person imagined, by open teaching or expressed words, to deprive the king, his heirs or successors, of their royal sign and title, that should be deemed high treason. He had only further to add, with reference to this measure, that the mode of trial was not at all altered by it, and that whatever advantage the prisoner previously possessed, he would possess still. He hoped the Bill would meet with the unanimous approbation of their Lordships, and that the country would long continue to enjoy that peace which had now for so long a time remained undisturbed.

The DUKE of WELLINGTON said: My Lords, I am one of those who highly approve of the object of the Bill now before your Lordships. At the same time I agree with the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) in regretting that Parliament has not been allowed more time for its consideration. But, my Lords, I conceive it is absolutely necessary that some measure of this nature should be adopted, and that due consideration should be given to it for the purpose of making it quite efficient, in order to oppose some check to those great, those gigantic meetings by which this country and the sister kingdom have been disturbed during the last year. My Lords, we have at last come to that stage at which the law is defied, and the contempt of every one of those persons who break it. When the Government instituted proceedings against three persons for a misdemeanour, it happened, owing to the state of the law as it stands up to the present moment, that after they were brought before the magistrates, and bail was taken for their appearance upon their trial, one of them continued to commit the same offence with which they were charged, by means of speeches and writings, in addition to what they had previously done; the two others carried out their attempts in an offensive—I won't say treasonable—mission to another country, aggravating the charge so far as it could be aggravated by any act of theirs—but, when out on bail, those persons go to a foreign country to excite foreigners to invade Her Majesty's dominions. What is this but an aggravation of the offences already committed, and a further proceeding in contempt of the law? My Lords, this contempt of the law is growing in this country every day. From the want of respect for the law—of that respect for the law which has been characteristic of this country for ages, matters are come to such a pass that there will be no authority in the country and no means of supporting the law except by the use of physical force. I am anxious to guard against the country coming to that state. My Lords, that is the state of things, and I have observed in a most marked manner the progress which has been made in recent years in that very contempt of the laws of this country. Some years ago it happened—I believe in the year 1831—that there were extraordinary riots at the same moment at Bristol in this country, and at Lyons in France. It is certainly true that great outrages were committed at Bristol—that the bishop's palace was burnt, that the jail was burnt, and that great injury was done. The riots continued some days, though a military force was employed to give assistance to the civil power. But the officer who commanded that force was considered not to have done his duty; and certainly, in the presence of the troops and the magistrates, the bishop's palace was destroyed by fire. The disturbances continued; but the ma gistrates got the better of it altogether, and saved the city of Bristol from entire conflagration by the assistance of one single squadron of light dragoons, under the command of Colonel Brereton, who performed his duty: and that was the whole force which put an end to that disturbance in Bristol in 1831, and saved that city from entire detruction. But what was the case at the same period at Lyons? The population of the two towns is, I believe, about the same. One is a port—the other is inland. However, it took an army of 60,000 men, under the command of a Marshal of France, in order to get the better of that insurrection at Lyons, and to save Lyons from destruction. One squadron of dragoons did that at Bristol, which it required 60,000 men to perform at Lyons. My Lords, I attribute the different success of those two efforts to the respect which prevailed at that time in England for the law—to the feeling which every man had that he was disobeying the law by joining in that insurrection; and respect for the law it was which then saved Bristol. We are certainly not now in that happy position. It is true, that without the exercise of force we saw large bodies of persons who had collected in the vicinity of this city quietly disperse. But that was not out of submission to the law. Was not the whole population of the town, civil as well as military, under arms? Were there not several hundred thousand persons embodied as constables? Were they not organised and directed by persons capable of directing them? Were there not thousands of troops under arms? and were there not thousands of police in readiness to act if need be? Can it be said, then, that it was respect for the law which prevented any outrage being committed by these persons? But what passed on that very night, on the following night, and on nearly every night since? Why, a repetition of the very same expressions which it is the object of this Act of Parliament to prevent. Is that respect for the law? No, there is no such thing as respect for the law under such circumstances. My Lords, I say that this want of respect for the law, which if it continues must be fatal to the greatness of this country, if not to its very existence, is to be attributed to the transactions which have taken place in Ireland within the last few years. We have seen hundreds of those monster meetings year after year, week after week, month after month, ranging through that country with impu nity. We have heard of seditious and treasonable speeches made at those meetings—we have heard of men being put upon their trial for sedition in connexion with those meetings—and we have heard of men who were acquitted of the charge of sedition on some point arising on the trial. Why, my Lords, all this tends, I say, to the same point—to create a contempt for the law. I, therefore, entreat your Lordships to pass this Bill. I am particularly grateful to my noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Campbell) for the manner in which he has explained it. I particularly approve of the Bill, and I hope it may have a tendency to induce some respect for the law. But I beg your Lordships to observe that you place the Lord Lieutenant and the Government of Ireland in an exceedingly awkward situation in relation to the monster meetings, if you only allow them to act after having before them evidence on oath of something dangerous to the public peace having been done, and do not allow the Lord Lieutenant to proceed upon his own sense of the state of the public peace, and of his power to preserve that peace by means of the civil force placed at his disposal. I do not want to prevent discussion on any subject. I desire that the people should have the means of public discussion on every subject on which they desire to have discussion; but, my Lords, let that discussion be when they meet in such numbers that the question can be discussed, and all who attend the meeting can hear what is addressed to them; but do not let the meeting, under the pretence of discussion, be of such a nature as, in the opinion of the magistrate, it is impossible for him to endeavour to put them down by means of the civil force at his disposal, and render it obvious that such a meeting can have no other object except to create terror and overawe the Government. My Lords, I rejoice that this Bill is likely to pass as a check on such meetings in future—meetings of a character to create terror; and I hope that your Lordships will pass this Bill unanimously in as short a space of time as possible in order that Government may be able to take advantage of it in the approaching time.

LORD DENMAN need hardly say that he had listened with the greatest attention and respect to what had fallen from the noble Duke; but there certainly were some things in his speech to which he hoped the noble Duke would permit him shortly to allude. He quite agreed with him that in certain quarters there was a growing contempt for the law; and it appeared to him that the danger which must result from that state of things could hardly be overrated. It was impossible but that the minds of the lowest and most ignorant, pressed down often by want, must be acted upon by the violent language said to have been employed, and be led to regard as a lawful proceeding that which might be attended with the greatest danger not only at present to the peace of the community, but ultimately to the safety of the State. He had no fear that the present proceedings of which they had heard, threatened such danger; but certainly the spirit of such meetings as had taken place—the promulgation of such language as had been put forth—the incitements made use of to induce a small section of the people to take the government by violence into their own hands—and the declarations made not only against the Government, and the Parliament, and the laws, but also betraying a most malignant feeling against the middling classes—all this did appear to him so enormous and intolerable an evil, and so fraught with danger, if permitted to continue, that if any new security of law was necessary to put it down, that new law should receive at once the assent of that House. But the law was not quite so impotent as had by some been supposed; and he had no doubt that these monster meetings—meetings incompatible with discussion and deliberation, and which tended to the breach of the peace, and kept up a certain combined force capable of mischief in any particular direction—such monster meetings were in themselves misdemeanours, and might always be put down by the laws applicable to that offence. That this growing contempt of the law, in particular classes, had been encouraged by what had taken place, in former years, in Ireland, was likely to be contradicted by no one; but on that subject he begged to say that the laws were never appealed to for the repression of these monster meetings. For some good reason, no doubt, it was thought prudent to allow them to go on, and afterwards to proceed against individuals connected with them by indictment—almost as great a monster in the shape of an indictment as the offence which it purported to describe; and, as the noble Duke had said, there followed upon it an acquittal of the parties accused. Some expressions in what had fallen from the noble Duke on this subject, might be thought to imply dissatisfaction with that result; but he was sure he had no intention to impute to any of those who thought themselves bound, in conformity with what they considered to be the law, to control the decision of an inferior court, having done anything inconsistent with their duty. On the contrary, that noble Duke must be of opinion, that if any Peer, sitting as a Judge in that House, was induced, with a view to any consequences whatever, to say that he believed that to be the law which he did not believe to be the law, or would strain, in any way, the law contrary to the dictates of his conscience, he would lose all title to respect as a Judge; and, to a certain extent, the law itself would lose that character which had induced the country to regard it with confidence. The noble Duke had spoken of a growing contempt of the law, and had contrasted recent events with those which occurred at Bristol in 1831, when riots were put down by the appearance of a single squadron. This might be correct, as applicable to the conduct of those parties who had rendered the present Bill necessary; but he would suggest it was hardly just to the people of England, who had so recently taken into their own hands the vindication of their rights and the protection of their safety, that there was in the great body of that England a contempt for the law. He thought, on the contrary, that when certain individuals had proceeded so far towards a disturbance of the peace, and in a course that was dangerous to the safety of all persons not of their own particular party, and when they saw that exhibition of peaceable men turning off from the ordinary and needful occupations of life to expose themselves to possible dangers, and certainly to great inconvenience, he thought there was brought before them the most gratifying proof of attachment to the law, because they knew from long experience the benefits of the protection to be derived from it. "I am sure I can never speak without feelings of the utmost admiration and gratitude, in which all mankind concur, of the conduct of the noble Duke; his recent conduct in these troubles, and the whole tenor of his life; but I feel that I should be wanting in some degree in what was due to the real character of the English people if I allowed that which looked like an imputation of 'the growing contempt of the law' to pass without comment."

The DUKE of WELLINGTON: No one can admire more than I do the general conduct of the people upon the occasion to which I have referred; and I am sorry if I have said anything which could have induced the noble and learned Lord, or any person, to believe that I had said they had not shown respect for the law. What I stated was that the results of that day were to be attributed to the formidable array that was made to get the better of those who had arrayed themselves against the law. I said there was no respect of the law on their part, because I said that on that very night, and certainly on the following night, they had over and over again made speeches showing their contempt of the law. I also beg to say, that nothing was further from my thoughts than to express one word against the decision of the House as to what passed upon the trial to which I have referred. I confess that I have the greatest respect for the decision of this House upon that subject. I said that it was owing to circumstances attending these trials—to points which occurred on the trials—that the conviction of the persons who had been concerned in the transaction to which I have referred were set aside. I did not presume to pronounce any opinion upon the subject. I merely mentioned the fact, as one of the many circumstances which have tended to occasion a contempt of the law on the subject of these meetings.

LORD DENMAN was happy the noble Duke had so satisfactorily explained his meaning; he would say, that, in point of fact the growing contempt of the law in the few, was put down by a growing confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the law by the great mass of the people. He really believed that vast numbers of those who were taking a most improper part in the proceedings that had been referred to, were entirely ignorant that they were offending against the law. One of the benefits which would flow from this Bill was, that those persons would be told that the law would not allow such proceedings to go on; but he never wished to lose sight of the fact that, even without this Bill, those persons were incurring extreme danger, by lending themselves to meetings of a character that led to violence. As to the words contained in the Bill relating to "open and advised speaking," he thought that point was so completely exhausted, that there was no necessity for any remarks on his part. He was glad that the Bill had been so fully and ably discussed, and with so much jealousy, in the other House of Parliament; and he did not see, in the shape in which it had come before their Lordships, that there would be any difficulty in carrying it into effect. As to one point, the privilege of challenge accorded to prisoners, he must own that, as a matter of justice to the accused, he should be sorry to see them deprived of that privilege. He thought there was no reason to complain of juries in Ireland. He was proud of the recent triumph of the law in that country. On the occasion of the late special commission, Roman Catholics and Protestants summoned on the juries had all done their duty so effectively that the most favourable results had followed, and he firmly trusted that there was an end of Coercion Bills for ever.

LORD BROUGHAM, in reference to what had been said by the noble Duke, observed that Lyons was a much larger place, and contained a much more dangerous population, than Bristol. There were 240,000 persons, of whom 30,000 or 40,000 were workmen in a most wretched state, and the quarrels with their masters on account of wages led to almost perpetual combinations against the law. He was lately in the place, and spoke from most positive information. In 1834, 30,000 persons were banded in opposition to the law, and it was deemed advisable, from motives of humanity, to draw in an overwhelming military force, to make resistance utterly impossible; and the consequence was, there was hardly any shedding of blood. There was, indeed, nothing which was such false humanity as that of not putting down insurrections with a strong hand, so as to make resistance utterly impossible.

The DUKE of WELLINGTON: I contrasted what had passed in Lyons with what had passed in Bristol, as a remarkable instance of the effect of the respect of the law.

The EARL of ST. GERMANS said, that the noble Lord lately the Chancellor of Ireland, and the learned Chief Justice of England, with more experience of this country than of that, had greatly underrated the objections stated by the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). Anybody acquainted with the administration of justice in Ireland must acknowledge that it was extremely difficult to get jurors not afraid of doing their duty. This had been the case in the Whiteboy offences. If a peremptory right of challenge were given to the parties arraigned, it would be impossible to restore order. He agreed that upon a late occasion the jurors did their duty, and there was a conviction. It was owing to peculiar circumstances that the gentry and magistrates all attended, and served on the petty jury. That was hardly to be looked at as a continuing state of things; and he apprehended that by taking the case of a number of persons, and putting them on their trial, they would exhaust the panel, and find it impossible to get jurors to do their duty. At the same time he would oppose no delay in the existing circumstances of the country in the passing of this Bill. Whilst he admitted that those who "devised, composed, or imagined" the death of the king, justly deserved punishment, yet the mischievous consequences produced by their speaking were small in comparison with the mischief done by the publication of those speeches. He did not wish there should be any restraint on the publication of speeches in Parliament; he thought it of paramount importance that every thing which was said in either House of Parliament should be known to the country, for the probability of a treasonable or seditious speech was not great; but the case was different where small bodies of persons met together with others of the same opinion, and made speeches which, when reported, were read by the meanest peasant. The newspapers exercised a sound discretion in the report of criminal proceedings. He could conceive no reason why the editors of newspapers should not be called upon to exercise the same discretion as to the speeches delivered at these meetings; and he thought it consistent with the duty of Government to require editors to omit the publication of treasonable and seditious speeches. He confessed it did appear to him to be monstrous, and he believed it was owing to the morbid appetite for variety, that the members of these societies met together and uttered these seditious speeches. He appealed to the good feeling of editors of newspapers to exercise the same discretion as to the publication of these proceedings that they exercised as to the proceedings in the criminal courts, which they often said were unfit for publication. If this appeal should not be successful, then he thought the Government might and ought to interpose, and institute legal proceedings againt those who gave publicity to these mischievous proceedings.

LORD CAMPBELL: I do not presume to speak from my own experience of the administration of justice in Ireland; but I assure the noble Earl that the Bill, as it now stands, is perfectly approved of by the law authorities in Ireland—by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—and that they, knowing Ireland thoroughly, believe that it will be effectual. With regard to the publication of seditious speeches, I am very far from saying that it is advisable to take proceedings upon them. It will depend entirely upon the quo animo; if they are published to be held up to the execration of the public, the intention would render the act innocent; but if they are published for the purpose of giving effect to those seditious and treasonable sentiments, the act is highly culpable. It is at all events an aggravated misdemeanour, and might be punished at common law; but it may be punished under certain circumstances by virtue of this Bill, which your Lordships are now about to read the second time, or the printing of such a speech may be the overt act to make out the felony, and to show that the person who printed it compassed the deposition of the Queen, or compassed levying war against the Queen, or compassed the invasion of the Crown by a foreign force; and that being the case, I suppose that a person, whether editor or proprietor of a newspaper, who makes a speech and who publishes that speech, and who will maintain that that speech has the tendency to which I have referred—no doubt, upon the evidence that he made and printed the speech—might be rendered amenable under this Bill; that he may be tried for felony, and may be transported beyond the seas for the term of his natural life.

The EARL of ST. GERMANS: What I am speaking of is the practice of reporting these proceedings without any animus, good or bad—reporting the proceedings of the National Convention as regularly as the speeches we deliver in this House of Parliament. Most of the editors of newspapers are thus doing infinite mischief.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Our only business is to put a stop to the speaking, and then there will be no opportunity for the publishing.

Bill read 2a.

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