« PrejšnjaNaprej »
who waited for another, and therefore was not at this time to be spoken of as a revolution. Was this language to be tolerated by a House of Commons, that pretended to have any esteem for the principles of that Revolution? The House ought to be very cautious how they suffered slanders on that Revolution to pass unnoticed. The people of England were so much, and thank God! so firmly attached to the principles then established, that he was convinced they were determined to live or die under those principles. He was one of that description: and he hoped he should be found among the number of those who would show, if necessary, not by words, but by acts, that they would die before they would submit to any attempt to make a king absolute in England. It had been said that the doctrine, that a monarchy might exist without a parliament, might apply to some other monarchy, and not of necessity to our monarchy. Would any man say upon his honour, that he believed that to be the intention of the author of the pamphlet? Would any man stand up and say, that he wished the debate to be adjourned, in order to make up his mind upon that point? Would the House delay its decision upon such a question as that, and show a partiality for those who libelled the constitution, while they themselves were abetting and supporting his majesty's ministers in hurrying through the House two bills that had a tendency to destroy the principles of the constitution; and that at a time too, when they themselves knew the sentiments of the people were against the bills, about to be passed? When they knew that, with all the ardour which belonged to the affection with which they loved the Revolution of 1688, and the principles which were then established, would they take advantage of the temporary circumstance of an insult offered to his majesty, and the expressions of indignation which the people uttered upon that occasion, and pretend to say, that what they then expressed amounted to an acquiescence in the principles which ministers at this time maintained? If they did, he must tell them, that they would thereby render his majesty's life precarious, and the government insecure. He would maintain, that if ministers expected to be supported in such principles by the people, they would be deceived in the sequel. They would find that the people of England detested such principles. That the
voice of the people was against them was evident [a cry of "No such thing" from the opposite side]. Sure he was, that if such measures were persisted in, the people would rise against them: and then ministers would, he had no doubt, lay hold of some subterfuge, and endeavour to sneak out of their difficulty, as they had done on other occasions. He knew the press would be set to work to defend them in the usual way, and they would no doubt be treated with another pamphlet from the ingenious author of that under consideration. What a glorious representation of the people of England would that House appear to be, if they passed by a pamphlet which had been read to them that night, in which they were represented only as a mere counsel for the crown, and that in this consisted their greatest utility; that all the vigour and energy which they were said to possess, as an emanation from the people, was a mere chimera; for such was the object of the author in the publication of his book; a book brought forward to support the principles of kingly government, which thank God, Englishmen got rid of! and they must get rid of it again, if men of high rank and station should, with arms in their hands, attempt to establish it against the public voice, as had more than once been hinted.-Mr. Erskine said, the debate of that night, and what had lately happened, would have convinced him, if he had stood in need of conviction, how inscrutable the ways of Providence were ; they seemed always intended to counteract the prognostics of men, in order to teach us prudence and patience. The higher orders of the people in this country, he had once thought had resolved to carry on the detestable doctrines contained in the book before the House and the principles of the bills depending, so that the people would have no hope but in the desperate alternative of either submitting to slavery, or attempting a remedy by force; that all the elements of society would be decompounded. He thanked God, his apprehension on that point was nearly at an end, from the manner in which many of the higher ranks had stood forth in the cause of liberty, and, by their conduct, had given the lie direct to the many insinuations that had gone forth against them. This proved that there were in the country men of high character who espoused the cause of liberty and of the people, and who were determined to sup
port it at the hazard of their lives. What would be the consequence? The people would return to the standard of affection to the legislature. If, unfortunately their efforts should fail, and the people's rights should be disregarded, he would then say, in the language of a gentleman (Mr. Burke) who was no longer a member of that House, "When you put the sovereign against the people, they will cast your sovereignty in your face; nobody will be argued into slavery."-The author of the pamphlet under consideration was a member of the law; but he did not he said, choose to treat him as a law-lated. The existence of the Treason and Sedition bills formed another ground why this publication should not be passed by; for if it was found that arbitrary doctrines were recommended in the pamphlet, and that arbitrary measures were in the course of being adopted by ministers, it of consequence followed, that the House should not subscribe to the opinion of the secre tary of war, that the passage in the pamphlet referred to was apparently innocent. The learned gentleman admitted the publication to be a libel on the constitution, and yet he avowed himself an advocate for delay. Why did he not narrow his condemnation to the doctrines contained in that particular passage. Notwithstanding all the partiality of ministers for arbitrary power, he did not believe that many of their advocates would come forward to support those doctrines. A delay, then, was on their part desirable, in order that they might concert what defence could be set up for the passage, in all probability the production of one of their own agents. Was this exceptionable passage so long, was it so doubtful, that, after having heard it once read, the House could have any hesitation with respect to its tendency? Did ministers wish for the delay of a few days, in order to give notice to the author of the libel to get out of the way? Did they wish for time, in their distressed situation, in order to reconcile, by some strain of construction, some contortion and twisting of the sense of other parts of the pamphlet, this defence of the passage with the declaration set up by the secretary at war, that it was perfectly innocent? It was, Mr. Fox declared, a libel of a more dangerous nature and a worse tendency, than any that had been issued by the Constitutional and Corresponding Societies. It was not difficult, however, to perceive the tenderness of [S]
yer, and therefore he should not state the book as the work of Mr. Reeves, but take it as if it had been the work of any other person of whom he had previously known nothing. He should only say, that the House should be aware how they gave the book their imprimatur. If they voted that the book was no libel, it would appear clear to the public they did so, because it was supposed to be in favour of the crown against the rights of the people. And here he must tell the attorney-general, of whose ability, integrity, and candour, no man could entertain a higher opinion, that if he went into the court of King's bench with this book, and called for the verdict of a jury on it, they would not desire that time to deliberate upon it which the House seemed to wish.
Mr. Serjeant Adair said, that the time proposed by the amendment was too short to enable any gentleman to form an opinion upon the subject. He was among those who entertained doubts as to the real intention of the author. With regard to that part of the pamphlet which had been originally complained of, he had no doubt of its being a libel on that House. He said he differed from the secretary at war totally. He could not admit that it was historically correct, that the monarchy of this country was at any time antecedent to its constitution. He also defied any one to prove that the monarch could carry on the government without the great council of the nation and he rejected with disdain the idea that the monarch of this country could carry on the government without the aid of parliament. It was a doctrine not to be tolerated for a single moment; and he believed it would be difficult for any context to explain, in the author's favour, the paragraph complained of.
Mr. Fox said, it had been asked, why [VOL. XXXII.]
the consideration of the pamphlet had not been brought on before? În answer to which, he begged leave to say, that he did not know whether he should have brought it on at all, He conceived that dangerous opinions might be stated in a publication, and that yet it might not be of consequence to prosecute the author. But when such a publication as the present was brought forward in that House, it was incumbent on them to show that they were not parties to libels upon the constitution, nor the patrons of those by whom such libels were circu
ministers for this libeller on the House of Commons, nor to penetrate into the motives of their conduct; and it was surely a bad omen for the country, that while such dispositions were manifested, it should be urged, that not a moment was to be lost in coming to a decision on bills, which, under the pretence of giving greater security to his majesty's person, were in reality, calculated to strengthen the hands of government, and overturn the priviliges of the constitution.
The Attorney-General said, it did not become him to give any opinion as to the nature of the pamphlet, but to receive the instructions of the House. On a principle of justice to the unknown individual, and from regard to their own dignity, he must, however, vote for the adjournment. That House was the grand inquest of the nation. It had been found, in former instances of complaints sent from the House, that a jury, after a long investigation of the facts charged, differed in opinion and acquitted the party prosecuted. After all the attention which he had given to the pamphlet, he could not, if he was called upon on the sudden, give an opinion whether he should think it adviseable to prosecute
The motion, that the debate be adjourned till Thursday, was then agreed to.
Nov. 26. The adjourned debate having been resumed,
Mr. Sheridan said, he had not, on a former night, troubled the House with any long comment upon the pamphlet in question, because he thought it his duty to read it first. In the intermediate time, he had read it over with due deliberation; and if he had found it to have only contained a solitary passage, if he had found the passage itself contradicted by the context, or if it had not plainly appeared to him that it was the general wish of the author to libel the constitution of the country, he would not have risen to press the motion, which he submitted to the House on a former night. He had now considered the whole of the pamphlet, and the whole of it manifested the same deliberate malignity, against the constitution. The publication had been ascribed to a man, whose intimate connexion with the government was well known; to a man to whom it had been said by the secretary at war, the national gratitude could not be too much directed; to a man who had
been the chairman of that association, which had incited and encouraged associations throughout the country. To that person the pamphlet had been ascribed; but it had been reported to him, since he came into the House, that the assertion of Mr. Reeves being the author of the pamphlet was to be solemnly disavowed. He was glad of it. Mr. Reeves he had formerly known, when he was a member of that Whig Club which was so much reprobated in this pamphlet.
The prominent doctrines maintained in the pamphlet were, 1. That liberty flowed from the king alone. 2. That all security for law and government was derived from the kingly power. 3. That the revolution in 1688 was a fraud and a farce; and that all the people got by it was a Protestant king. 4. That the dissenters were enemies to the country, and ought to be exterminated. 5. That the Whigs were im. postors, and had always been either in the pay of the court, or in league with democrats. 6. That a constitutional lawyer was either a knave or a fool. 7. That the verdict of a jury was not a final decision, and was entitled to little or no weight. 8. That the Lords and Commons might be lopped off without injury to the constitution. These doctrines were elaborately argued through the whole of the pamphlet. Of the king it was asserted, that "he makes and executes the laws." In the next page of the pamphlet it was said, that " accordingly the king can enact no laws without the advice and consent, not only of the Lords spiritual and temporal, who are in some sort counsellors of his own choosing, but also of the Commons in parliament assembled." The Lords would, he believed, feel but little obligation to the man who considered them merely as counsellors of the king's own choosing. The author through several passages entered into a history of the Reformation, and seemed to consider it as the source of French principles; and asserted that the Presbyterians, Quakers, &c. were the propagators and promoters of these principles. The author stated, that "Presbyterians, Independents, Commonwealth Men, Fifth Monarchy Men, Anabaptists, Quakers, and other sects and divisions too irksome to be named, all of them, more or less, disciples of the same school, where the sovereignty of the people, and the killing of kings was first brought into system and sanctioned by the dictates of the gospel." Through three whole pages
he represented the Dissenters to be a race had lived in those wicked reigns of Charles not fit to exist, and as worthy of being 2nd and James 2nd they would have enexterminated as the Caribs of St. Vin-joyed in theory, though not, in practice cent's, and the Maroons of Jamaica. (and theory of the two, is more consiThe authors of the Reformation were con- dered by modern reformers), as good a sidered, by him, as Jacobins, and major constitution as they have had since, with Cartwright was compared to Calvin and the single exception of a Protestant king." Beza. Of the Revolution, the author ex- So that, according to this author's docpressed himself in these words: "The trine the Revolution had done nothing abdication of king James 2nd, and the more for the people of this country than transactions that ensued upon the vacancy to secure them a Protestant king. With thereby made in the throne, compose a respect to any constitution that had been very important and curious passage in the established by the Revolution, that was a history of our government and laws. It thing utterly unknown. "The governhas been vulgarly called "the Revolu- ment we know, and the laws we know, tion;" upon what authority I know not; but the constitution we know not." Havit was not so named by parliament, nor is ing concluded his dissertation upon the it a term known to our laws. This term Whigs, the author adverted to the perhad certainly no better origin than the sons that had been tried at the Old Baiconversation and pamphlets of the time, ley: "The designs of these democrats where words are used, in a popular and have been fully exposed to the public historical sense, without any regard to or view, on the trials of some of them last thought of technical propriety." To con-year for high treason; they were then, trovert the assertion of so bold and igno- indeed, acquitted by a jury, but they rant a writer, would be to insult the un- have since been found guilty by their derstanding of the House. country." The pamphlet contained a vast variety of other matter, equally offensive with the passages which he had quoted. In the opening of his speech, he had said, that he considered this as part of a system of a set of men who, to screen themselves from punishment, clung to the throne, which they wished to strengthen by any and all means in their power. This assertion he should proceed to prove. Another pamphlet had been published anterior to the present: its title was, "The Example of France a Warning to Great Britain." Its author was Arthur esq. To prove the connexion between pamphlets of this description and persons in pay of government, he should only read the first testimony of approbation annexed to Mr. Young's work. The testimony came from Mr. Reeves, as chairman of the Crown and Anchor Association. It was wonderful to observe the conformity of sentiment between this work of Mr. Young and the pamphlet imputed to Mr. Reeves. The same arguments were urged through both. The first attempted to prove the Commons to be corrupt, and that such a system of corruption was necessary. The second talked of lopping off the Commons. Certainly, if the allegation of corruption could be proved, there would be few who would say that the lopping them off ought not to be tried. Mr. Sheridan read the offensive passage that was complained of in the House be
The pamphlet next proceeded to inveigh against the Whig Club for making the Revolution "a subject for tavern meeting, for congratulation, and for frivolous festivity. To repeat nothing here of the folly in such effervescence of zeal, I wonder, considering the rank and station of some of these persons, that a sense of good breeding and decorum has never suggested to them that so much commemoration of that revolution, repeatedly urged out of all season and measure, cannot sound agreeably in the ears of the sovereign." Gentlemen would therefore observe that the ears of the sovereign were supposed to be offended at the mention of the Revolution that seated his family on the throne, and that "to him such commemoration must convey some insinuation of reproach."-" To these men," (viz. the Dissenters and Whigs)" and to this sinister design," said the author, "we are indebted for the jargon of which I have just complained. They invented the term Revolution to blind and mislead; and they have never ceased repeating it, that they might put the people in mind of making another. But what disappointment and discomfiture must it be to these idolizers of the constitution, supposed to be established at the Revolution, to discover at length, that they have bestowed their applause and affection upon the shreds and patches of old date; and that, if they
fore, viz. "The government of England is a monarchy: the monarch is the ancient stock from which have sprung those goodly branches of the legislature, the Lords and Commons, that at the same time give ornament to the tree, and afford shelter to those who seek protection under it. But these are still only branches, and derive their origin and their nutriment from their common parent; they may be lopped off, and the tree is a tree still; shorn indeed of its honours, but not, like them, cast into the fire. The kingly government may go on in all its functions without Lords or Commons." How was this to be understood? If the king made all the peers, and the minister pensioned all the commons, then indeed the king would be the common nutriment of both, Mr. Young, who is so partial to the crown, does not neglect also to give a boon to another branch of the legislature. He exempts the members of the House of Commons from all responsibility with respect to the people, and thus frees their shoulders from a most uneasy burden. Other passages in Mr. Young's book were however still greater libels on the British constitution. He says, "to call the House of Commons the representatives of the people is a very inaccurate mode of expression; they ought never to be called by any other name than the House of Commons, to distinguish them from the House of Lords. If they were really the represen-sentially necessary to the welfare of the tatives of the people, they might in theory be good, or better; but they would be something else than what they are. But reformers say, they are corrupted and bribed. If they are bribed in order to act wisely, it is an argument against you. If the nature of such an assembly demands to be corrupted, in order to pursue the public good, who but a visionary can wish to remove corruption? Government certainly would have been carried on cheaper, if honesty alone had prompted the House of Commons to act as corruption has induced them. An unequal representation, rotten boroughs, long parliaments, extravagant courts, selfish ministers, and corrupt majorities, are so intimately interwoven with our practical freedom, that it would require better political anatomists than our modern reformers, to show, in fact, that we did not
how abominable the conclusion he has drawn! If such, indeed, be a just account of the state of things, I would rather agree with Mr. Reeves, that the corrupt branches ought to be lopped off, than subscribe to that infamous proposition, that to this very source of corruption we are to trace all our blessings. Speaking of a parliamentary reform, he says, "I know well the result; corruption would be banished from the constitution. In comparing the constitution to a machine that has gone well for a hundred years, perhaps, it is indifferent whether influence (which these reformers call corruption) be termed the dust or the oil of the machine; if it has gone well for a century, and seems, while certain wheels are half covered with dust, to go better than formerly, I would no more allow the dust to be brushed away, than I would allow the oil to be removed. Influence, how ever, is not the dust, but the oil of the machine; the constitution never went for a moment without influence, and to remove it would be taking away the oil which has given a century of smoothness." Mr. Young, who a few years ago was a violent reformer, and even an advocate for what is called French principles, gentlemen should understand had obtained a salary or pension of 400l. per annum from government, and having greased his pen with the oil of corruption, which he calls influence, he has discovered that it is es
our liberty to the identical evils which they want to expunge." What a shocking recital, said Mr. Sheridan, and
Doctrines such as these, absurd and detestable as they were, would have merited little attention from that House, if it could not be proved that the authors were in the pay of government, and that the doctrines had been recommended by the associations formed under the auspices of government; and this could be proved. It could be proved that pamphlets containing such principles had been printed at the king's press, and circulated through the kingdom by societies patronized by government. The fact was, that endeavours were made to establish corruption as a principle. Calamitous, indeed, was the effect that had been produced by such doctrines; public spirit and public principle were annihilated, and Great Britain presented the strange spectacle of a nation full of private worth, and yet totally destitute of public principle or spirit. This effect was wholly attributed to that execrable principle of corruption upon