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of bread, it would then appear, with suf- period now fixed by the act, might have ficient certainty, that it originated with some effect in lowering the price of prothe cause which had so much been insisted visions ; but seemed to have some hesitaon, namely, the defective produce of tion, whether it would be expedient or the two last harvests. But, is bread the necessary, to adopt such a measure. Unonly article eminently dear? Has not doubtedly, if the measure is not intended the same advance of price taken place with to be adopted, no declaration ought to respect to meat ; and likewise with re- be made. “But the objection of the right spect to the produce of dairy farms, on hon. gentleman seemed to be, that the which the season cannot be supposed to continuance of the prohibition would have have had any unfavourable influence the effect of lessening the revenue. I The price of butter is very nearly, on the certainly should consider whatever was so average, as high as that of wheat : instead lost to the revenue, as well gained to of nine-pence or ten-pence, as formerly, the country, in point of the industry and it is now sold at thirteen-pence per pound. morals of its inhabitants. Besides if this But what affords the most striking proof, prohibition should occasion an increased that the high price does not arise merely importation of foreign spirits, the revenue from the deficiency of the harvest, is, that would gain from the additional duty on with respect to barley, the produce of these, with less danger to that class of the which is admitted, this season, to have community, whose labours and whose virbeen plentiful beyond example, a si-tues form the strength and security of milar advance of price has taken place. the state. To protect their industry, and It is not, therefore, to one cause that to guard their morals, is the first duty of we are to look as the sole source of the a statesman, and the best interest of a na. present evil. It proceeds from a variety tion. Narrow-sighted, indeed, and perniof causes, complicated in their nature, and cious would be the policy of the minister, extensive in their operations. I do not who sought to draw the sources of his ascribe this scarcity solely to the war, revenue from their dissipation and intempernicious as it has been in its effects. I perance, from the relaxation of their ha.. admit, even, that part of the causes to bits and the debasement of their character. which it may be traced, may
be connected I therefore can see no reason why the with a certain state of prosperity of the prohibition on the distilleries ought not country. The war certainly has had a to be continued, and, thinking as I do on most decided effect, so far as it has tended the subject, the policy is obvious, of anto increase the consumption, to diminish nouncing that intention as speedily as the production anil to preclude the possi- possible. --- An hon. gentleman has thrown bility of obtaining supplies, which might out some ideas with respect to the state have been drawn from other quarters. of agriculture. Much of what he said I But if there are other circumstances highly approve. But though I admit the which have operated along with those facts which he has stated, as well as the arising from the war—if the evil has pro- exigency of the crisis, I cannot agree ceeded from many and complicated causes with him as to the propriety of resorting nothing can be more mischievous than to any system of coercion by way of reto ascribe it solely to one cause, and to medy: I doubt whether such a remedy proceed as if that were the fact. It is would be effectual; I fear it might inagainst this error that I most particularly creasc the evil. Scope must always be wish to warn the committee in the course left to the exertions of industry: attempt of their inquiries. If, from a mistaken to fetter and you always destroy them. vie of the subject, they should be led The proprietor must be allowed to let his to apply a remedy merely to a single land, the farmer to conduct his business cause, instead of producing that good and bring his grain to market, in the way which is the object of the discussion, they which they find most convenient for their may give additional weight and force to own interest. In the course of investigatthe other causes, which have been instru. ing the subject, I have found some of my mental in bringing about the evil.-There friends to whose authority I pay great are some other particulars, on which the deference, who thought that the state of right hon. gentleman touched, to which I the country requireil coercive measures. shall shortly advert. He admitted, that the I, however, have not been able to coincide declaration of an intention to continue the , with them in this opinion. The state of prohibition on tlas distilleries beyond the a country which calls for such measures,
241] Proclamations respecting Seditious Practices, &c. A. D. 1795.
[212 must be one nearly approaching to famine. the wages, to proceed, rather from the Even then, their effect could only be tem- justice and humanity of the gentlemen in porary, and extorted by the exigency of the different counties, than from the oblie the moment: they might last perhaps for gation of a legislative act. I recommend a week or a fortnight, or a month, but all those who have influence in the coun. then they must necessarily cease. I ob try, to countenance it by their example. ject to them, not merely because they are at the same time I greatly fear that no inefficient, but because they are, in them alteration can take place in the present selves inconsistent with that just and li- circumstances so material as completely beral protection which ought to be af- to do away the evil. The disproportion forded to industry, and with that wise and is so immense, that I fear it will be found sound policy which best secures the inte impossible either to raise the price of la. tests of the public, by keeping up a spirit bour to the rate of provisions, or to lower of competition in the market.--I have the rate of provisions, so as to meet the said thus much, not for the purpose of price of labour. In this point of view, I marking any disagreement of opinion with deeply regret the continuance of those, the right hon. gentleman, but in order to hardships, which are already but too sen. show the spirit with which I wish to enter sibly felt by the lower classes of the comupon the inquiry, and the necessity I feel munity. At the same time, I anticipate of putting our shoulders to the task im- the most beneficial consequences from posed upon us, and devising the best the investigation about to be instituted. I means of relief for this national calamity. trust that the information collected from Above all, I wish again to call the atten- different quarters will be found applicable tion of the House to what I before urged to much practical utility, and productive -that it is not to any single cause that of the most seasonable relief. we are to look for the source of an evil so After a short conversation, the motion gradual in its progress, so extensive in its was agreed to. operation, and which has at last arrived at such a height, as no longer to brook Copies of the King's Proclamations reany delay in the discussion. There are specting Seditious Meetings, &c.] Nov. 4. some who think that the price of labour The following Proclamations were laid be. has not kept pace with the increased price fore both Houses : of provisions. I am afraid that this dis
“ BY THE KING-A PROCLAMATION. proportion too much takes place in almost all the counties of England, and that « GEORGE R. while provisions have been rapidly rising “Whereas, on the 29th day of this into an unexampled height, labour has by stant month of October, divers persons no means advanced in proportion. It is, riotously assembled and stationed in differindeed, a melancholy and alarming fact, ent places in our city of Westminster, that the great majority of the people of proceeded to commit certain daring and England -an enormous and dreadful ma- highly criminal outrages, in gross violation jority-are no longer in a situation in of the public peace, to the actual danger which they can boast that they live by of our royal person, and to the interrupthe produce of their labour ; and that it tion of our passage to and from our parliadoes regularly happen, during the pressure ment; we, therefore, with the advice of of every inclement season, that the industri- our privy council, in pursuance of an adous poor are obliged to depend for subsist- dress from our two Houses of parliament, ence on the supplies afforded by the charity do hereby enjoin all magistrates, and all of the rich. lagree in opinion with those other our loving subjects, to use their utwho think that the price of labour ought most endeavours to discover and cause to to be advanced, and the great majority of be apprehended the authors, actors, and the people of England, freed from a pre- abettors concerned in such outrages, in carious and degrading dependence. But order that they may be dealt with accordI much question whether any compulsory ing to law; and we do hereby promise, measures ought to be adopted for this pur- that any person or persons, other than pose. Disapproving, as I do, in every in those actually concerned in doing any act stance of coercion, excepting where it is by which our royal person was immedicalled for by the last necessity, and justi- ately endangered, who shall give informafied by the occasion which gives it birth, tion, so as that any of the authors, actors, I wish this salutary measure, of advancing or abettors concerned in such outrages as (VOL. XXXII.)
aforesaid, may be apprehended and peace, sheriffs, mayors, bailiffs, constables, brought to justice, shall receive a reward of and all other our loving subjects through1,000l., to be paid on conviction of every out our kingdom, to use the utmost dilisuch offender; which said sum of 1,0001, gence to discourage, prevent, and supthe lords commissioners of our treasury press all seditious and unlawful assemare hereby required and directed to pay blies: and we do specially enjoin and accordingly. And we do farther promise, command all our loving subjects, who that any person or persons concerned shall have cause to suspect that any such in such outrages as aforesaid, other than assemblies are intended to be held in any such as were actually concerned in afly part of our kingdom, to give the earliest açt by which our royal person was imme- information thereof to the magistrates of diately endangered, who shall give inform the several districts, within which it shall ation, so as that any of such authors, be suspected that the same are intended actors, or abettors, as aforesaid, shall be to be held; and if such assemblies shall apprehended and brought to justice, shall, nevertheless in any case be actually held, upon conviction of such offender or offen, to be aiding and assisting, on being reders, receive our most gracious pardon. quired thereto by the civil magistrate, in Given at our court at St. James's, causing persons delivering inflammatory
the 31st day of October, 1795, in discourses in such assemblies, and other the 36th year of our reign. principal actors therein, to be forth with GOD SAVE THE KING.
apprehended, in order that they may be "By the King—A PROCLAMATION. have also thought fit, by and with the ad.
dealt with according to law. 'And we 5. GEORGE R.
vice aforesaid, to enjoin and require all 6 Whereas it has been represented to justices of the peace, sheriffs, mayors bai. us, that immediately before the opening liffs, constables, and all other our loving of the present session of parliament, a subjects, throughout our kingdom, to be great number of persons were collected in in like manner aiding and assisting in fields in the neighbourhood of the metro. bringing to justice all persons distributing polis, by advertisements and hand-bills, and such seditious and treasonable papers as that divers inflammatory discourses were aforesaid. delivered to the persons so collected; and Given at our court at St. James's the divers proceedings were had, tending to 4th day of November, in the 36th create groundless jealousy and discontent, year of our reign. and to endanger the public peace, and the
GOD SAVE THE KING. quiet and safety of our faithful subjects : and whereas it hath been also represented Debates in the Lords on the Treasonable to us, that divers seditious and treasonable Practices Bill.] Nov. 6. The order of the papers have been lately distributed, tend. day being read for taking the King's Proing to excite evil disposed persons to acts, clamations into consideration, endangering our royal person. And Lord Grenville said, that those proclawhereas such proceedings have been fol- mations, and the facts they stated, were lowed on the day on which the present to be considered as the ground-work of session of parliament commenced by acts the bill which he proposed to submit to of tumult and violence, and by daring and the consideration of their lordships. It highly criminal outrages, in direct viola- was notorious that the evil the bill aimed tion of the public peace, to the immediate to correct, had got to such a height, that danger of our royal person, and to the in- not only seditious papers were diffused, terruption of our passage to and from our but meetings were publicly held, at which parliament. And whereas great uneasi- discourses were delivered of a nature calness and anxiety hath been produced in culated to inflame the passions of the the minds of our faithful subjects, by ru- multitude industriously collected to hear mours and apprehensions, that seditious them. To that was to be ascribed the and unlawful assemblies are intended to outrage that had lately taken place. It be held by evil disposed persons; and was no longer the flimsy pretence of some that such other criminal practices, as imaginary grievance, or the slight pretext aforesaid, are intended to be repeated: of a wish for a parliamentary reform, that We therefore have thought fit, by and could be set up as the motive for such with the advice of our privy council
, to meetings. That thin veil had been lately enjoin and require, all justices of the torn away, and in the face of broad day an attempt had been made directly on the new crimes and new treasons were introperson of the sovereign. The treasonable duced into the criminal code of the counspeeches and writings which had of late try; and by new framing the words and been so assiduously disseminated at public phrases to describe those crimes, the bill meetings, most particularly called for the held out a total alteration of the existing interference of parliament. As one of the laws respecting treason, and a most danking's servants, indeed, he might say as gerous innovation upon the constitution. a member of that House, he felt it an in- No connexion had been proved between dispensable duty to endeavour to check the persons assembled in the fields near their flagitious tendency. Upon reference Islington, and those who had been guilty to former periods, he had found precedents of the flagitious acts committed upon the which showed what measures our ances person of their sovereign, in his way to tors had thought proper to pursue in si- his parliament. Was a proclamation a fit milar situations with the present. The ground for an act of parliament, which was bill he should submit to their lordships so direct an attack on the privileges of was in a great measure copied from the Englishmen? After such a bill passed, act in the reign of queen Elizabeth, and where would be the boasted constitution the act of Charles 2nd, passed soon after of the country? He could not suppress the commencement of his reign; acts pas- his astonishment that ministers should sed in approved times and applied to cir- prefer precedents drawn from times infi. cumstances by no means dissimilar from nitely more questionable than any that the present. In the present bill there had passed since the Revolution. The bill would be found no other variations from spoke in language too plain to be misunthose acts, but such as existing circum- derstood. From the moment it passed into stances rendered indispensably necessary. a law every liberty and privilege of the While he sincerely lamented the necessity subject would be done away. No publie of proposing any measure that might ap- meeting could be held, however legal, nepear in the smallest degree harsh and se- cessary or useful. No meeting could be held vere; he appealed to their lordships whe- with a view to petition parliament for the ther that necessity was not obvious; at the repeal of any law which they considered as same time he trusted, when the measure a grievance. There was a clause in it reservcame to be discussed, he should be able ing their rights and liberties to members to prove to the satisfaction of their lord- of parliament; but that very reservation ships, that the bill did not exceed the oc- convinced him of the extent to which micasion, or press unnecessarily on the con- nisters meant to carry the law. In the stitutional liberty of the subject. His old government of France there was nolordship concluded with offering to the thing more despotic than what this bill House a bill intituled, “ An act for the went to create. It was the introduction Safety and Preservation of his Majesty's of the system of terror into this country. person and government against treason- Ministers having involved the country in able and seditious practices and at- a destructive war, now found that they tempts."
must have recourse to extraordinary meaThe bill was read a first time. On the sures as the only means of continuing a war motion that it be printed,
entered into against the sense of the peo. The Earl of Lauderdale said, that when ple, and carried on at an expense so enorhe had left the House the other night, he
Another alarming circumstance had left it in some degree comforted from was, that the bill was not brought in to having as he thought heard from the check any specific or immediate danger, highest authority that there was an end to and was to continue during the life of the all apprehension of disloyalty, sedition, or king, and even a session afterwards. The treason. Let their lordships then guess bili went to a total destruction of British what his surprise must have been on read liberty, and when it came to be compared ing the proclamation, and how much that in its future stages with those old laws of surprise must have been increased at times that had been held up as precedents hearing the bill that had just been read. he was sure it would gain nothing by the After all they had done, ministers found comparison. His lordship concluded by themselves obliged to come forward with pronouncing the bill one of the severest a measure ten times. stronger than they and most dangerous to the rights and li. had dared to do, at the moment of their berties of the people that had ever been greatest alarm. By the bill, a variety of introduced.
The Duke of Bedford did not now mean man in or out of that House who did not to enter into a discussion of the subject, see the necessity of this measure. Could but thought it by far too strong a measure any of their lordships doubt that the outHe was convinced that while it was yet in rages lately committed against his majes. their power to assemble, the people would ty's person had a connexion with measures meet and display a sense of this attack pursued by a class of men, who were upon their liberties.
systematically undermining and endeaThe Earl of Radnor said, he was not vouring to destroy the constitution of the sure, that in the remarks he had to offer, he country? In the fraining of the bill, the might not tread on delicate ground; but he spirit of former times, and the best of would seriously recommend to the atten- tímes, had been consulted. That same tion of government the statute of Edward spirit which dictated the treason laws of 3d, which was the foundation of the law Edward 3d, was followed in framing the of treason in this country. It was an act present law. The provisions it contained expressly made to prevent constructive differed in no way from the acts which had treasons, and provided, that only two spe- been adopted as prudent and wise by their cies of crimes, which it defined, should be ancestors : there might be a few variations, punished as such It then proceeded to but these were regulated by the difference say, that if any other crime appeared, of circumstances. The bill might be diwhich the judges thought ought to be de- vided into two parts: the first for the clared high treason, they should bring it safety and protection of his majesty's before the parliament. He was of opinion person; the other for the punishment of that the attempt to convict the prisoners, reasonable crimes against the state. On in the late state prosecutions, was in di- the first, he did not expect there would rect violation of that act; and that, acto be any difference of opinion; and on the ing as a juryman upon that occasion, he second, he asserted that there were po would have acquitted every one of them, punishments created for crimes that were although he had believed every thing not already acknowledged to be so by the brought in evidence against them, and al- existing laws, excepting that it was in. though every thing which chief justice Eyre tended by the present bill to include treastated to be treason, beyond the words of sonable publications and discourse, as the statute, had been proved against equally criminal and dangerous with the them; and this upon the authority of the acts stated to be treason by the laws now very statute on which the indictment was in force. To devise or compass the king's founded. He knew, indeed, that the greater death was already treason, and the whole part of the chief justice's direction, and of that part of the bill was grounded upon the prosecutor's assertions, had long been the solemn opinions of the best lawyers in held to be law; but he, in a capital case, this country. There could not be a doubt would have acted upon no holding or con- but such compassing or conspiring against struction of law, contrary to the plain the king's person and government as way words of the statute. He might be an odd specified in the bill, amounted to that deman, but he believed there were many gree of guilt which called for the most sewho entertained similar sentiments. He vere punishment, whether it amounted to mentioned this in hopes the law might levying civil war against the king, or enbe amended. It was ridiculous in the couraging foreign enemies, or by writing, extreme to have it high treason to kill the printing, publishing, or even speaking, the king, and not high treason to destroy the effect of the crime was the same, and the monarchy itself. The plea of not aug. punishment ought to be so likewise. The menting the list of treasons was a mere provisions of the bill had been made upon bugbear. A positive law ought, in his the same principles as the acts of queen opinion to be made on the subject. As to. Elizabeth and Charles 2nd, and were as the pending bill, from once hearing it, he similar as the circumstances of the prehad taken no alarm; but he did not sent times would admit; and it having pledge himself to support it.
been found that difficulties sometimes Lord Grenville moved the second read arose in the construction of the acts now ing of the bill. He had already stated in force, it was intended by the variations the grounds upon which this bill was from them in this bill, to ascertain prebrought in, and the circunstances were cisely the meaning which was to be given so notorious, that when all the facts were to the whole of the treason laws. One al collected, he believed there would be no teration he meant to move when the bill