Slike strani

Which with unsparing hand he throws every one must be convinced, who trusted Through courts and senates as he goes; to the testimony of his ears or eyes; and And then at Belzebub's black-hall,

between the propagators of these docComplains his budget was too small.”

trines and the nefarious outrage on his That a man who had so expressed his ab, majesty, it was hard to say that no conhorrence of corruption should be detested nexion existed; since all the circumby the abettors of that corruption, was, stances which accompanied that foul athe repeated, not at all astonishing.. He tempt went evidently to prove that it was suspected that there had been a similar pre-concerted. That the measures under strewing of favours here, and that the discussion threatened to be rigorous in hon. gentleman opposite had come in for their operations, he would not deny; but his share, though he certainly would not when crimes peculiar to the times arose, presume to say

wisdom and policy suggested the necessity “ From hudgets with corruptions crammid, of enacting some severer laws than were The contributions of the damn'd.”

in ordinary times resorted to. Sedition The attempt upon his majesty, was simply was unquestionably the reigning crime of the pretext and stalking horse for the in- these days; and to check it, some additional troduction of this bill, as there were cer- punishment should be held out in terrorem. tainly provisions enow for the protection He saw no reason why the provisions of of his person before ; and except the the bill should be extended to Scotland. clause which constitutes the overawing of The penal code that existed in that counparliament treason, there was no new try was not at present the subject before treason. If this law had been enacted the House; it must occur to every gensome time ago, the leading part of the tleman, however, that the bill could not be administration might have been trans- introduced into Scotland without alterported; and indeed he was sorry for the ing the whole principle of the Scotch law. country's sake that it had not. Would Mr. Jekyll said, he would ask whether any one deny, that when Mr. Pitt, in there was a crown lawyer in the House conjunction with the duke of Richmond who would rise and say, that for the vaand Mr. Horne Tooke, signed the reso- rious crimes of treason, sedition, and lutions at the Thatched-house for a par- conspiracy, there were not statutes enliamentary reform, wherein he represented acting an appropriate punishment? Why, the House of Commons to be corrupt, then, this bill? Was there any necesand not the real representation of the peo- sity to have recourse to the evidence taken ple, that such a proceeding might have a by the Lords, to prove a conspiracy, in tendency to stir up the people to hatred order that a jury might find the traitor and contempt of the government? The guilty? Such a conspiracy was not necesbills, if acted upon, would, he was appre- sary, by the law of England, to prove hensive, tend rather to convulse than to the overt act of treason; and this overt pacify the country. It was, therefore, act being proved, it was impossible not to his opinion, that the king would do right find the author guilty of high treason. to give them his negative. The excess But as to the existence of a conspiracy, of gratitude that must arise in the breast oraconnexion between the outrage offered of a grateful people for such a magnani- to his majesty, and the societies so much mous act, would render his majesty's reprobated, no proof whatever appeared. crown doubly secure: then he might say, Still, however, new laws were required, " Dismiss my guards, the affections of though no new crimes could be proved. my subjects are my best defence.He – To show the severity of the laws alwished to propose an amendment in the ready in force, he would only advert to second clause, to take away the discre- the trial of Mr. Winterbotham, at which tionary power of the judge in Scotland, he had been present. There the defendant in respect to the punishment for sedition, was charged with sedition, and it was even and to confine it to seven years, in like a question of doubt with the jury whemanner as the bill provided for this king- ther they should find him guilty. He dom.

asked, if the cumulative sentence of Mr. Mr. Jenkinson said, he could not but Winterbotham for the two offences, was regard the bills as salutary measures, and not adequate, without superadding the such as were urgently called for by the horror of transportation ? Yet now necessity of the times. That seditious general law was thought necessary on the doetrines were idustriously disseminated, subject. His sentence was for the two


He re


separate offences, four years imprisonment them, especially those on which their in Clerkenwell.* He appealed to the lives depended. He took a view of the Roman history, in proof of the conse- different political societies, and of the quence and effect of severe laws.

source from whence they sprung. France minded the House of the sanguinary laws and French principles he looked upon as of the Roman kings, and asked how long their fruitful parent. Hence the mother the regal form of government survived societies; hence the affiliated ones that them. During the republic, the Porcian had spread themselves over the whole law repealed the penalty of death and the country. The engines they employed to republic flourished. Under the emperors, diffuse their principles, were libels, sedithe bloody enactments revived, and the tious meetings, and industriously dissemiempire crumbled into dust. This bill nating an idea that their numbers were went to multiply the villainous horde of immense ; at one time they boasted that spies, informers, and perjured witnesses. they amounted to 300,000 ; at another Under a billlike the present, Rousseau dur- they had stated themselves as forming the ing a temporary residence in this country, majority of the nation. Their progress and after pub'ishing a second edition of had been somewhat checked by the late his Social Contract, might have been con- trials for high treason, and the suspension demned to all the miseries of exile; and of the Habeas Corpus act; but scarcely Mr. Hume for his Idea of a Perfect Com- were these restraints removed, when they monwealth might have been sent to lan- reared anew their heads with renovated guish with Muir and Palmer on the desert hardihood. If he did not know these shores of South America, amidst felons things, he could not defend the bills. It and outcasts of society. Feeling it his was necessary at this time to give up a duty to make this last stand against a bill part of the valuable privileges of the conso abominable, scandalous, and infernal, stitution, that we might not lose them for and intended by ministers as a bulwark to It had been urged that this bill was shelter them from the just indignation of a pretence to introduce a new law rethe people, he deprecated its passing into specting misdemeanor, for the purpose a law.

of preventing all meetings for the discus. The Attorney General said, he had heard sion of parliamentary reform. Did genof language resembling that of the last tlemen mean to say, that that which was speaker having been used out of doors, formerly legal with respect to that object, but he did not expect to have heard any would now be illegal ? He was confident thing so intemperate in that House. One no such assertion could be maintained. of the bills to which the learned gentleman He had heard over and over again of the had applied such extraordinary epithets cruelty of the prosecutions, and the sehad already received the sanction of verity of the punishments for sedition. parliament, and the other that Hecould with confidence declare that there day brought forward to be read a third had never been a case in which he had been time. These bills, thus sanctioned, the called upon to prosecute, that he did not learned gentleman had thought proper to state to the jury that lie would rather have call “ abominable, scandalous and infer- the gown stripped from his back than ask nal.” With respect to the bill then before them to give a verdict contrary totheir conthe House, if gentlemen would examine it sciences. In the case of misdemeanor, there fairly and impartially, they would find it to was no alteration of the law, until the second be nothing more than a legislative exposition offence, and even then the mercy of the of the statute of Edward 3rd. Nor could sovereign could be interposed, if it should any lawyer say that these acts went farther be found that the case required it. This than that statute ; for by them the statute was a proper and constitutional qualificaof Edward 3rd was only made more ex- tion to the laws, and no rational man plicit and defined; and this parliamentary would deny, that what ought to be an obdeclaration, to show what the law is, was ject of general prevention, ought cer. wise and necessary, as the subjects of the tainly to have a specific punishment le. kingdom ought to know and perfectly un- gally attached to it. derstand, that the law of treason, and all Mr. For said, he entirely agreed that the sound and wholesome laws of the there were no terms of reprobation and country were impartially dealt out to contempt too severe for the two important

bills which ministers had brought, on the See Howell's State Trials, Vol. 22, p. 907. sudden, into parliament. After giving to


several speeches of the learned attorney- | comparison, he desired that they would general all the attention of which he was judge of it upon the experience of more capable, and after examining minutely modern times. Was the overthrow of the the amendments which the present bill primitive monarchy of France owing to had undergone, he confessed that he was lenient laws, or a lenient execution of as much as ever disposed to object to those laws? And when the government every tittle of it. An outrage had been of France was overturned, was the fall of committed on the person of the sovereign, Robespierre owing to the gentleness of and a new enactment was made, not for his principles, or the mildness of those the better security of the life of the king, laws which he had framed for the purpose for that, was impossible, but to constitute of protecting his person? If they looked an attempt to overawe the Houses of to the assassination of the king of Sweden, Parliament into a substantive treason. would they attribute that event to the He was told that the bill was merely extension of liberty, or to an unusual declaratory; and, also, that it was merely licence of speaking and of writing? Or temporary: now, a temporary declaratory would they not rather ascribe it to the bill was an absurdity, and a contradiction enraged fanaticism of the people, at seeing in terms. That the bill went to create themselves deprived of those liberties in new treasons had been confidently denied. which they were born, and under which He must, however, affirm the direct con- they thought they had a right to live? trary, and assert that it did create new From what time were the regulations of treasons, if it was admitted that there the present bill borrowed? Were they was any difference between an act being not copied from the reign of Charles 2nd, high treason, and an act being only evi- a prince against whom, certainly, not the dence of high treason. At present, an fewest personal attacks had been directed, overt act was an evidence of high treason; 1 –As far, then, as the bill respected the but by the provisions of this bill, those law of treason, in his opinion, it created acts which were before only evidence of new substantive treasons by constituting treason, became in themselves substantive an attempt to overawe the parliament an treasons. And if new substantive trea-overt act of treason. What was to be sons were created, new constructions construed an attempt to overawe the parwould be made upon these treasons; so liament? Did the framers of the bill that not only all the constructions of the intend that an attempt to overawe the present statute would be constituted into parliament, by the violence of prayer and substantive treasons, but new construc-of petition, should be considered as an tions would arise upon these new created overt act of treason? But, if they meant treasons, which would perplex the statute to affix the penalty to hostilities directed to a degree that would render it impos-against parliament, the provision was sible to be fairly understood. He had no superfluous, as it would be impossible to objection to a declaratory bill, expla- wage hostilities against either House of natory of the statute of Edward 3rd, by Parliament, without, in the first place, which it might be reduced to its plain, making an attack upon the person of the simple, and original meaning. The pre- sovereign. It had been stated, that a sent bill, however, was by no means cal convention had met for the express pur. culated for that purpose. It was, indeed, pose of overawing the legislature ; but of the fashion to say, that it was necessary this he had never heard any proof. He to give some additional security to the had some material objections to the clause person of the sovereign. He would in which “ writing or any overt act or nevertheless contend, that it was not the deed” was mentioned. The word “other” natural effect of the extension of penal was left out, but he could not understand laws to confer security. He asked, if what was meant by the words which were ever there was an instance in any country suffered to remain, for if there was either in which the sovereign, whether he was sense or grammar in the expression, some. individual, or whether that power was thing else than an overt act was meant, deputed to an assembly, was indebted for And if writing was, contra-distinguished security to the severity of a penal code? from an overt act, to be considered as a He called upon the House to look into substantive treason, with what propriety the history of the bad times of the world, or upon what grounds was it declared, and to compare his observation with facts; that the present bill was merely explanaand, if they were not satisfied with that tory of the statute of Edward 3rd ? [VOL. XXXII.)

(2 L)

Having said this much upon the treason conduct: and he ventured to predict, part of the bill, which he thought the that if the present system was obstinately least objectionable, he proceeded to pursued, still more alarming consequences remark upon the clause respecting misde- would ensue. Such laws as the present meanor. And here also it was con- bills would constitute against sedition, tended, that the bill did not go to create were to him objects of abhorrence, because any misdemeanor, which he positively they were novelties unknown to the Engdenied; because, the judge would have lish constitution. He was more and more it in his power to say to the jury, “ Do convinced of the rectitude of his opinion, you find that these words and sentences when he reflected on the detestable were spoken with a design to excite the system of criminal law practised in Scothatred and contempt of the people against land; the iniquitous and cruel sentence the House of Commons as at present of the court of justiciary, in which part of constituted ?” and if the jury should find the kingdom, his majesty's ministers had such a design to be proved, the court not only sanctioned, but elaborately dewould have nothing to do but to claim fended. The trial of Mr. Muir, and the the right of explaining the law, and, under other unfortunate gentlemen who suffered the legal construction of the act, to enforce a similar fate, he could never think of its penalties. Upon this principle a meet- without abhorrence. The sentence was ing could not be held for petitioning for a an eternal disgrace to the court; and the reform in parliament, without incurring Scotch judge* who had affirmed, that no the penalties denounced in the provisions punishment was too severe for the man of the act. With regard to the penalty who was guilty of sedition, that the of transportation for the second offence, wretch ought to be exposed to wild beasts he did not think that the arguments which-that judge merited the universal exehe had adduced on a former night had cration of mankind, and it would entail been answered. He had then asserted, lasting disgrace on the present times, as what he was not now disposed to retract, nothing more harsh, brutal, and unfeeling that the same offence ought never to be was to be found in the arbitrary and oppunished with different penalties, parti- pressive reigns of Charles 2nd, and queen cularly when there were different shades Mary. In the bill before the House, the and degrees in the offence.-Gentlemen abominably intolerant spirit of the Scotch on the other side had pleaded the power court was attempted to be established. of his majesty to pardon, as an extenua- The proceedings were a national disgrace, tion of the severities of the act. This and were not excelled in the barbarous privilege he considered as absolutely code of the most barbarous ages. Had necessary in a government similar to that Mr. Muir's case been submitted to an of England; but there was a wide dif- English jury, he would uudoubtedly have, ference between this privilege when applied to general and to political crimes. the verdict of the Jury on the Trial of Mr.

* Lord Swinton, in giving his opinion upon It was notorious, that this privilege of the Muir, made use of these words :-“ If punishking was controlled in its exercise by his

ment adequate to the crime of sedition were ministers. In cases of felony he would to be sought for, it could not be found in our trust the compassion of any minister, but law, now that torture is bappily abolished. in state prosecutions he would be back- The sole object of punishment among us is ward in trusting any minister, because only to deter others from committing like these prosecutions were connected with crimes in time coming. In this view I concur circumstances in which ministers were

in the proposal that has been made of transparticularly interested. Far less would portation for fourteen years, which is a mild he trust the present ministers, who had considering the danger of the times. By the

punishment, considering the offence, and sanctioned the iniquitous and cruel sen- Roman law, which is held to be our common tences of the court of justiciary in Scot- law where there is no statute, the punishment land; sentences not less execrable than was various, and transportation was among any which had been passed in the reigns the mildest mentioned. Paulus, 1. 38. Dig. of queen Mary, or of Charles 2nd. - It de Pænis writes,' Actores seditionis et tumul was said that sedition was the reigning tủs, populo concitato, pro qualitate dignitatis, crime of the day: if it was, it looked ill

aut in furcam tolluntur, aut bestiis objifor administration ; because popular dis have chosen the mildest of these punish

ciuntur, aut in insulam deportantur.' We content was the usual, and indeed, the ments." See Howell's State Trials, Vol. 33, natural consequence of ministerial mis- p. 234,

been acquitted: but, whether totally knees to beseech his majesty not to enacquitted or not, he never would have force against Mr. Reeves a sentence of been consigned to the sufferings which he transportation.-A good deal had been kad experienced. The noble and gene- said respecting his majesty's refusing his rous spirit of Englishmen would have assent to these bills. His own wish was, revolted at such excessive and over that that prerogative of the crown might strained punishments. And it ought remain dormant and quiescent. It was a never to be forgotten, that, notwithstand- prerogative which, he believed, would ing the grand jury found the bills against only be a favourite, while it was not atthe persons tried at the Old Bailey, the tempted to be exercised. He trusted, petty jury acquitted them.-Mr. Fox that if the bills should pass, they would condemned the unlimited power which meet with a speedy repeal. He rather the bill was about to repose in the execu. trusted that the people would petition his tive government. By the infamy of spies majesty to dissolve parliament, which was and informers, both he and his country- their undoubted right, if ever parliament men were exposed to the indignation of had acted in such a way as to require an the court party for the time being. He interference of that kind. He rejoiced, deprecated such an unconstitutional that on the present occasion, the spirit of power, and bestowed unbounded praise the people had shown itself to be alive: on our ancestors for their wisdom in and he hoped, that the display which had resisting any appearance of such abemi-been made of the energy of the public nable encroachments upon the liberties mind, would be attended with the happiest of the people. If the detestable spirit effects. The bills formed a crisis in the ef the Scotch law respecting sedition history of the country; inasmucn as they were established in this country, then were á departure from the whole system farewell to all liberty of speech! fare of the principles of the constitution. The well to the familiarities of conversa present bill was modelled upon an act of tion! The servant who stood behind Charles 2nd. The people of England had, kis chair, if wicked enough, might betray in his opinion, committed a worse offence, him, and, seduced by those in power, by the unconstitutional restoration of that might give information which would en monarch, than even by the death of danger both his liberty and his life. The Charles Ist. It was a measure which abandoned maid-servant * of Mr. Muir originated in a period when the parliament kad acted in a similar manner: violating gave up to the king the disposal of the the confidence reposed in every servant military force, and surrendered the liber. by a master, she communicated to the ties of the people at the foot of the throne. friends of government the honest, undis. There was one clause in the act of Charles guised expressions of Mr. Muir's mind. 2nd, which showed the spirit of those All that he had frequently expressed was, times. By this clause it was made penal a wish for a reform of the abuses which to say the king was a papist. And why? he daily saw; and no good man could lay Because such was the precise fact. It kis hand upon his heart, and deny the was rather inauspicious in the present rectitude of his mind, when provoked by moment, that it should be thought necessuch a system as sullied the country which sary that a bill should be adopted to pregave it birth. Mr. Fox said, that even vent people from telling the truth. No if Mr. Reeves should be found guilty of man would say that George 3rd, was a the libel on that House, which had lately papist. But what was the object of the engaged their notice : 'if he should be present bill ? By this bill men were for. found to have recommended and circu- bidden to speak of the defects of governlated another infamous libel against the ment, and of those abuses which were constitution, written by Arthur Young; growing up from day to day, to destroy and if he should also be found to have pub- the spirit of the constitution. If ministers lished at different times libels against the had not been conscious of the existence protestant dissenters, marking them out of those defects, they would not have foras a description of people who ought to be bidden men to discuss them. He had exterminated, he would even go upon his somewhere read, that after the defeat of

Brutus and Cassius, a decree had been Mr. Fox alluded to the evidence of Anne passed, that Augustus, who was then Fisher on the trial of Mr. Muir. See Howell's raised to the highest dignities of the state, State Trials, vol. 23, p. 146.

should not be called a boy,“puer, ne

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