Slike strani

might be said of another building that was A great deal ! (said Mr. Fox) aye, all undermined: “ Here is a beautiful sa- that is worth preserving. For you will loon, there is a fine drawing-room; here have lost the spirit, the fire, the freedom, are elegant paintings, there elegant and the boldness, the energy of the British superb furniture; here an extensive and character, and with them its best virtue. I well chosen library." But if the foun- say, it is not the written law of the constidation was undermined, there could be tution of England, it is not the law that is nothing to rest upon, and the whole edifice to be found in books, that has constituted must soon fall to the ground. Such would the true principle of freedom in any be the case with our constitution, if the country, at any time. No! it is the bill should pass into a law. Our govern- energy, the boldness of a man's mind, ment was valuable, because it was free. which prompts him to speak, not in pri. What, he begged gentlemen to ask them- vate, but in large and popular assemblies, selves, were the fundamental parts of a that constitutes, that creates in a state, the free government? He knew there was spirit of freedom. This is the principle a difference of opinion upon that subject. which gives life to liberty; without it the His own opinion was, that freedom did not human character is a stranger to freedom. depend upon the executive government, If you suffer the liberty of speech to be nor upon

the administration of justice, nor wrested from you, you will then have lost upon any one particular or distinct part, the freedom, the energy, the boldness of nor even upon forms so much as it did on the British character. It has been said, the general freedom of speech and of that the right hon. gentleman rose to his writing. With regard to freedom of present eminence by the influence of pospeech, the bill before the House was a pular favour, and that he is now kicking direct attack upon that freedom. No man away the ladder by which he mounted to dreaded the use of a universal proposition power. Whether such was the mode by more than he did himself; he must ne- which the right hon, gentleman attained vertheless say, that speech ought to be his present situation, I am a little inclined completely free, without any restraint to question ; but I can have no doubt that whatever in any government pretending if this bill shall pass, England herself will to be free. By being completely free, have thrown away that ladder, by which he did not mean that a person should she has risen to wealth (but that is the not be liable to punishment for abusing last consideration), to honour, to happithat freedom, but he meant freedom in ness, and to fame. Along with energy of the first instance. The press was so at thinking and liberty of speech, she will present, and he rejoiced it was so ; what forfeit the comforts of her situation, and he meant was, that any man might write the dignity of her character, those blessand print what he pleased, although he ings which they have secured to her at was liable to be punished, if he abused home, and the rank by which she has been that freedom; this he called perfect free- distinguished among the nations. These dom in the first instance. If this was ne- were the sources of her splendour, and cessary with regard to the press, it was the foundation of her greatness. still more so with regard to speech. An

Sic fortis Etruria crevit, imprimatur had been talked of, and it Scilicit et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma. would be dreadful enough; but a dicatur We need only appeal to the example of would be still more horrible. No man that great city, whose prosperity the poet had been daring enough to say, that the has thus recorded. In Rome, when the press should not be free: but the bill be- liberty of speech was gone, along with it fore them did not, indeed, punish a man vanished all that had constituted her the for speaking, it prevented him from speak- mistress of the world. I doubt not but ing. For his own part, he had never heard, in the days of Augustus, there were perof any danger arising to a free state from sons who perceived no symptoms of dethe freedom of the press, or freedom of cay, who exulted even in their fancied speech: so far from it, he was perfectly prosperity, when they contemplated the clear that a free state could not exist with increasing opulence and splendid edifices out both. The hon. and learned gentle of that grand metropolis, and who even man had said, would they not preserve deemed that they possessed their ancient the remainder by giving up this liberty? liberty, because they still retained those He admitted that, by passing of the bill, titles of offices which had existed under the people would have lost a great deal. the republic. What fine panegyrics were

Noes { Mr. Wallace

:} :}

then pronounced on the prosperity of the

Tellers. empire !_" Tum tutus bos prata peram

Mr. Christ. Curwen bulat.” This was flattery to Augustus :

Mr. Whitbread

70 to that great destroyer of the liberties of mankind, as much an enemy to freedom,

Mr. Steele

267 as any of the detestable tyrants who succeeded him. So with us, we are to be The House again divided on the quesHattered with an account of the form of tion, “ That the Speaker do now leave our government, by King, Lords, and the chair:" Yeas, 272; Noes, 70. The Commons —" Eadem magistratuum voca

House then resolved itself into the combula." There were some then, as there mittee; after which, the chairman reare now, who said that the energy, of ported progress, and obtained leave to Rome was not gone; while they felt their sit again on the 27th. vanity gratified in viewing their city, which had been converted from brick into Nov. 27. After several petitions against marble, they did not reflect that they had the two bills had been presented, Mr. Pitt lost that spirit of manly independence moved the order of the day for going into which animated the Romans of better a committee on the Seditious Meetings times, and that the beauty and splendor bill. Mr. Fox rose merely to ask when it of their city served only to conceal the was probable that the report, and the third symptoms of rottenness and decay. So if reading of the bill, would come on. Mr. this bill passes you may for a time retain Pitt said, that immediately after the bill your institution of juries and the forms of had gone through the committee, he should your free constitution, but the substance move for it to be printed, and that the is gone, the foundation is undermined ;- farther consideration would probably your fall is certain and your destruction come on about Tuesday, December 1st, inevitable. As a tree that is injured at and the third reading on the Thursday folthe root and the bark taken off, the lowing. Mr. Fox, Mr. Grey, Mr. Lambbranches


live for a while, some sort ton, Mr. Whitbread, and the other oppo. of blossom may still remain ; but it will sers of the bill (Mr. Sheridan excepted) soon wither, decay, and perish; so take immediately rose and left the House. away the freedom of speech or of writing, Mr. Sheridan said, he did not attend for and the foundation of all your freedom is the purpose of proposing any amendments gone. You will then fall, and be degraded to the bill, being persuaded that no alteand despised by all the world for your ration, except that of negativing every weakness and your folly, in not taking clause in it, would be of service, or rencare of that which conducted you to all der it palatable to the great majority of your fame, your greatness, your opu- the public. He attended chiefly to watch lence, and prosperity. But before this some things which were going forward, happens, let the people once more be and to hear what amendments wonld be tried. I am a friend to taking the sense proposed. The House then went into the of the people, and therefore a friend to committee; the several clauses of the this motion. I wish for every delay that bill were gone through; and the bill was is possible in this important and alarming reported to the House. business. I wish for this adjournment

Spatium requiemque furori.” Let us Dec. 3. After several petitions against put a stop to the madness of this bill; for the bills had been presented, Mr. Pitt if you pass it, you will take away the moved the order of the day for the third foundation of the liberty of the people of reading of the Seditious Meetings bill. England, and then farewell to any happi. General Smith said, he would oppose ness in this country!*

the third reading of this bill, which was The House divided on Mr. Curwen's by far the most fatal, in his opinion, that motion :

had ever been introduced into that House.

Two years ago the minister, in moving for * The late Mr. Whitbread, in a letter to the first suspension of the Habeas Corpus the Editor of this work, written a short time before his death, informed him, “ that Mr. act, admonished the House to consider Fox always spoke of this reply to Mr. Grant whether the danger would not be greater, with greater satisfaction than of any speech under all the circumstances, in submitting be ever made, arising totally out of matter

to the evils with which they were threatbrought forward in debate."

ened, than in suspending for a while this

otherwise salutary protection of the liberty against them, did not exist at this moment, of the subject. At that time, evidence was in equal, if not accumulated force. They laid before the House of the existence of have themselves asserted in print, and rethe danger; and upon actual proofs of cently too, “ that still their ends are the treason, recorded against the societies same.' Yet we are told by the hon. gethen in question, he had voted in favour neral, that although it was just and wise of the suspension. At present, however, to suspend the Habeas Corpus act, it is when the House was called upon to adopt iniquitous and foolish to pass this other a measure much more violent and serious, bill, for want of similar proofs ; yet he no proof was given of the existence of must admit, that in comparison to that the danger. To adopt the ministers ad- restraint upon the liberty of the subject, monition, he wished to consider whether we are new doing, what is “ light as air :" we had any thing to gain in security, as and that our proofs are the same is evi. an equivalent for the surrender we were dent; because the societies exist, and inaking. Such was his view of the mea- have not only never disclaimed, but have sure, that he vowed to God, he should in explicit, though general terms affirmed think an actual invasion not half so great their adherence to the original system an evil as the passing of this bill; the which parliament has branded with a just enemy must shortly be repelled, but the character of treason. operations of the bill would be perma- He then opened his argument in sup. nently destructive. He foresaw all the port of the bill ; and began it, by assuring mischief that was likely to result from the House, upon his honour, that he of them ; disturbance to the happiness, peace fered himself to their attention, rather to and tranquillity of the nation. If the bill mark openly what he thought and felt had been compared to the riot act, and upon the subject without reserve and withmerit had been assumed because it was out fear, than with a hope to impress it said that the bill was not worse than that upon the conviction of others, After the act, he denied the assumption. In the effect produced on the public mind, by a riot act it was provided, that the magis- learned friend of his (Mr. Grant) upon a trate should come as near as possible to former stage of the debates (in the most any meeting. Why had not the same commanding powers of intellect that ever provision been introduced into this bill ? enlightened a political subject), he should Instead of such a provision, the magistrate have been silent if he had not felt an im. might go into a neighbouring field or pulse to the vindication of his own sentis highway, and read the riot act, and nine- ments, in language, at least, as unequivoteen out of twenty persons, if the meeting cal as words could frame, at the most awwere numerous, might not know that the ful crisis that ever the country knew. It riot act had been read. The bill ought to was the exigency of the times, and a deshave been divided into two bills.

pair of meeting it with effect as the law Mr. Hardinge said, that he would make now stood, or without such a bill, that one preliminary comment upon what he made our safety and our freedom as a peohad just heard from the hon. general, ple demand imperiously this measure. That partly out of respect for him, and partly it was a new check upon the right of popu. because what he had said was material to lar discussions, and even upon the right a point, in the discussion of the bill, which of petitioning (by its effect upon the conpoint, fairly considered, would remove at tinuauce of the assembly, held for that osonce every disagreement between them, tensible purpose), he would readily ad. so as to make the general his convert upon mit, not being a sycophant in praise of the his own principles. The hon. general told measure, but an honest, impartial, and us that he co-operated with government reasoning friend. Having gone thus far and with a majority in the House of Com- in concessions, which it would be neither mons, upon the bill to suspend the Ha. manly nor ingenious to withhold, he would beas Corpus act, on actual proofs of trea- proudly devote himself to popular odium, son recorded against the societies who had if that must be the fate of his ardent wish produced that measure." But he would for the passage of this bill into a law. He now ask the general himself, or any other considered it as a bill of allegiance, framman of honour, if he would put his hand ed in the generous and loyal spirit of that upon his heart and say, that in his judg. oath, which he and those around him took ment and conscience, any one of their te. upon their admission to the representative nets and of the conspiracies then recorded character and functions ; an oath, wbich binds them “ to defend his majesty against | lawyers, legislators, or even historians, at all traitorous conspiracies or attempts," this time of day would give it a death's and promises our “ disclosure of them to blow" Suo sibi gladio hunc jugulo" To him.

every judicial voice in the kingdom, he Before he touched upon the outrage would make a direct and confident appeal which had endangered the king's life, he against a tenet so ignorantly and so miswould remind the House, and would in. chievously false. form the people, who the king of this To resume the outrage, it was an act of country is, or (as perhaps in parliament he treason—but committed by whom? and should express it) what he is. He is no when? By a ruffian, who was part of a “ despot;" as libellers have basely called multitudein open day, and who acted in him ; but the king of men who are free- concert with at least many others, each of entrusted with duties inseparable from the party reviling and menacing the sovethe public interest-amenable to control, reign. At the time of all others, most direct or collateral, in all branches of his ungratefully selected, when the king as executive or legislative power-subject the father of his people, was in the act of even to censure through his ministers and preparing to animate the energies of the (which he would never dissemble as long popular mind and will in their proudest as he had political existence himself form-that of a share in the legislative stripped of all claim to allegiance, if he power. At a period very little prior to should cancel the bond by converting his this, printed hand-bills had been circulatwill into law. Upon such a king's person ed over the metropolis, prompting the very violence had been committed, which, en- act of regicide. It had been truly said, dangering his life, the law (jealous of a that “no personal connexion was traced deposit and palladium essential to liberty, between the authors or publishers of as well as government) has made high these hand-bills, and those who committreason, and has punished as if his death ted the outrage of attempting the meahad been directly the object, and had even sure which they recommended.” But was been accomplished. This outrage had it better for the public, that instead of a been treated in so manly a way by an hon. conspiracy in two parts of the same con. gentleman opposite (Mr. Grey), that he certed plan, we should have two detached was in hopes no man living, who had ever conspiracies, and with no personal interdreamt of our law, and loved our king, course uniting them ? the first rcommendwould have disputed it. The hon.gentle. ing, and the second attempting, the soveman had said, that even if that miscreant reign's death? Let it be two parts of the had acted without concert, and without same conspiracy! or two distinct conspiraintention, pointed in his thoughts at the cies! united, however, as they must ever king's life, he was yet guilty of “com be, in coincidence of time, and connexion passing and imagining the death," because of principles. he has committed an act of criminal out- He would now go farther back and rerage, which evidently endangers the life. cur to mischief that preceded the handBut if the right hon. gentleman who sits bills. Call it here too, the same or a third near him is correct (Mr. Fox), it is no conspiracy; and make your choice be. high treason ; though he admits, almost tween those alternatives! What he meant in the same breath, by the tenor of his ar- so to describe had been stampt upon the gument, that it is. He admits that if a records of parliament,-called high treajury should find this fact alone, their find son there, and called by its true name. It ing would be a verdict of guilt

, and the was a conspiracy, that having acquired guilt would be that of high treason. In new strength every day, had rooted itself, other words he admits, that such a fact is not in the good sense of the popular in legal inference, that crime: but he dis- mind, “ God avert that calumny," (he criminates by an expedient, which an un. said) “ from them and me !" but in those derstanding so elevated would have dis. who hate the people as much as the king, dained in others. He puts the case--that who have acted and continue to act with a jury, having pronounced the fact should ability, zeal, and concert for the attainqualify it themselves in a kind of special ment of an object, which he could not verdict, and say, “ but we don't believe better develope than by two words fatally that he had the intention to kill.” This well understood-words imported from finding, it seems, would be an acquittal. the wretched city of Paris, with an Eng. Even to repeat such an argument amongst lish version, to the disgrace of our national character-the words “revolutionary go- | had received prevaricating answers, and vernment." In those two words, and in the right hon. gentleman had gravely obthe sanguinary comment upon them which served, like Scrub in the comedy, that had struck horror into the world, he gave some of them said one thing, and some to enlightened men a picture which no another." He called upon them to give eloquence of detail, if he could ever have their sentiments upon the mischief; to adcommanded it, would make either more mit or to deny it as a fact; and if it should just in the potrait or more awful in the be admitted by themselves, to co-operate mischief.

in the discussion of the best remedial poBut this, after all, is a “ fanciful theory licy, that could meet or prevent that misand a vision." An hon. gentleman over chief. He called upon them, in the name against him, whose dexterity as well as of the Commons and people of England, other talents (and most of all his wit), he but feared that he should call upon them had ever admired (Mr. Sheridan), blew it in vain. We are told, " the laws are able into the air by two pithy little words to correct and suppress the evil.” If they “ prove it !" His answer to those two are, I (said Mr. Hardinge) am an enemy words could not be so very short, but to this bill, and amended as it is in essenwould, at least, be short enough to refute tial parts, I would oppose it as innovating them in almost as few words as any thing at least in form, or in its possible abuse, like an argument was able to select. First, upon sacred and established rights. In he would say, as a member of parliament, other words, he undertook (and there he that upon the subject of remedial and pru- took upon himself the burthen of proof), dential measures, he should ever protest to demonstrate the necessity arising from against the formality of proofs in a legal the impotence of all existing checks, or or juridical sense of the term, as a mode of of any but those which the bill imposed. determining fact injurious to legislative What the inadequacy of law, thus impolicy in measures which like this, if ne- puted, was, he would mark, to the concessary at all, were founded upon circum- viction of those who heard him, in a very stances too well known to need proof, | few words. First, there is no legal power and whose exigency was of a kind that to compel notice of the meeting, and an required all practical haste. He would open allegation of the ostensible purpose. next affirm, that in every view of that so. This defect of the law enabled sedition to lemn phrase, which could affect a House | convene itself abruptly, in pursuance of of parliament with a general notice of the secret arrangement for that purpose facts they have been proved. High trea- amongst the confederates. Secondiy, as son has been recorded against a number of the law now stands, no magistrate has the corresponding and affiliated societies by an ! legal power of access to the interior act of legislature. It is not even denied, of the meeting; to the fountain-head of that such have been the hand-bills; and our the mischief in the oracles of sedition. own senses have told us what else we could He may now be excluded as an impertinot have believed, that such an outrage nent gossip, who obtruded himself as a has in fact been committed upon the per mere spy, upon the liberty of popular son of the king. But, in the same two discussions. Thirdly, the mask of the little words, infinite fallacy was covered. ostensible purpose could baffle, as the law It was true (and this was the fugitive cry now stood, any general suspicion or of the moment), that no proof has been grounds of alarm : such a mask would no or could be adduced as the law now stood longer be of any avail : it would be torn so as to punish the conspirators, or avert off by the detected perversion of the cothe continuance of their projects. Upon lourable object. Fourthly, there is no the despair of that proof stood the bill and legal power to disperse the meeting, if the stood upon a rock.-“ Prove it!” “Yes, language is inflammatory, but without I will prove it, (said Mr. Hardinge), if external outrage or tumult. It was to you give to me this bill. The executive mischiefs like these that a remedy was arm shall be my agent for the purpose of claimed, and if the remedy adopted in that proof; it shall punish or prevent, or this bill was not commensurate, or strayed shall take upon itself the mischief." an inch too far, it was tyranny; and pers

His learned friend (Mr. Grant) had haps a worse mischief in itself. well said, “What is your opinion of these He had listened attentively to argu. doctrines, and of their practices ? we ments arising from two sources, both of have told ye ours.” To this appeal we them invidious, and yet both of them as

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