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effect : “ Last night the bill for repealing the hon. gentleman's bringing his charge the British constitution passed the House against Mr. Reeves was, that he had set of Commons.” Had the motion of the on foot those associations. Mr. Dundas hon. gentleman been confined to a case said he was free to confess, that, so far of mere literal breach of privilege, it from feeling severe to Mr. Reeves he was might not perhaps be inapplicable ; but of opinion, that, in the year 1792, the when he complained of a transcendant association sat on foot by, that gentle. breach of privilege, to which the House man had done infinite good to the counhad applied so very strong a resolution try. This was his opinion, however other as it had come to, he for one should set gentleman might entertain a different his face against a mode of proceeding sentiment. If
the hon. gentleman was of suited only to a mere ordinary breach of a contrary opinion, and really thought privilege. Such had been uniformly his that the association had been productive opinion ; and he should require nothing of mischief, he had certainly a right to more to confirm him in it, or to convince be offended. In the breasts of those who the House than the tenor of the hon. gen- thought with him, that to those associatleman's motion. As far as he under tions guarding the minds of the people stood him, the motion was in the first against the poison of their insidious enoinstance, that the book should be burned mies, and awaking them to their danger, by the hands of the common hangman ; the present peace and quiet of the coun and that was to be followed up by an ad- try, was, in a great measure, to be attridress to his majesty to remove Mr. buted, no rancour or severity against the Reeves from all offices of trust. Thus, promoter of those associations could find without affording the accused the legal place. It would be their duty, then, to opportunity of encountering the evidence lay that circumstance quite out of their by cross-examining, and invalidating the mind; and so far the hon gentleman's testimony of witnesses, or of making argument would be of no effect. The defence, but merely on er-parte evidence House, he again said, must ground their not even taken upon oath, he was to whole proceedings on the resolution alsuffer a punishment the worst almost ready come to. There was nothing more that could be inflicted, namely, a total therefore, that they could of themselves incapacitation from all offices of trust. The do, to add to the effect of that resolution. question really was, whether the Com. The plan proposed, namely, that of burnmons would, in a case in which they ing the pamphlet, would be doing nothing. themselves were parties, proceed to de- If the publication were really mischievous, cide by their own power, or refer the that was not the way to prevent its permatter to a trial by another judicature? nicious effects ; since experience must The resolution which passed on a former inform gentlemen, that they could not night, had declared the book to be a ma- take a more effectual method of promote licious and seditious libel; and the Com. ing its circulation; for thousands would mons having so given their opinion als be sold in consequence of its being burnod ready on the subject, no one could deny that would not otherwise have been enthat it was fit for legal inquiry, and that quired after. Were gentlemen ignorant another jurisdiction would more properly how many most pernicious pamphlets more soberly, and more temperately, were circulating at that very time? Was take up the matter than the House. parliament to select that one, and leave There was not a single topic of accus- the rest behind ? If gentlemen were dis. tomed attack which the hon. gentleman posed to comprehend all such libels in had not contrived to seize by the head their censure, let them do it; let a comand shoulders and force into his speech. mittee be appointed to take them all, and Mr. Reeves, the association, ministers, make a bonfire in Palace-yard. If all judges, justices; all these were the sports that were truly dangerous (for surely of his invective that night. The 'hon. they would not seriously say that danger gentleman needed not have taken the was solely to be apprehended from the pamtrouble to own, that not the pamphlet, phlet in question were committed to the nor the supposed author, merely as aus Hames, the bon-fire would be greai inthor, but that Mr. Reeves, the head of deed, as large a one as Palace-yard would the loyal association, was the object of hold. To condemn this alone would, in his aversion. There was no one who fact, be giving an imprimatur to the rest. had the least doubt that the reason of It was better, therefore, to let it go to a regular prosecution. If the present mo- , clared it did contain. The publication tion passed, it could not stop there: was an attack upon the very existence of something farther must necessarily be parliament, and he regarded it as part of done: and justice and consistency de. a system which had been long acted upon manded that they should send it to a jury, by Mr. Reeves and his colleagues all over who would give a fair and impartial ver the country. He was therefore of opinion, dict on the subject. For these reasons that such an attack was only cognizable he would move an Amendment, to leave by parliament. A warm panegyric had out all but the first word of the motion, been pronounced upon the associations. and in its place to substitute
Did the right hon. gentleman approve of “ That an humble Address be presented the mode in which the Crown and Anchor to his Majesty, humbly to desire his Ma- association had proceeded ? Did he apjesty that he will be graciously pleased to prove of the idea of a fictitious secretary, give directions to his attorney-general to or of anonymous information being enprosecute John Reeves, esq. as the author couraged ? Did he not think that such a or publisher of a printed pamphlet, inti- proceeding would be a disgrace even to a tuled, “ Thoughts on the English Go- Venetian government? By the Crown and vernment, &c." and also the Printer Anchor association, pamphlets had been thereof, in order that they, or he, may be circulated, in order to establish the Jaco. brought to condign punishment for the bin principle of affiliated societies, at the same.
very time when the society were so warmly Lord Sheffield said, he should think it contending against all principles of that a loss of time, to notice the extraordinary description. His hon. friend had not said, episodes, in the speech of the hon. gentle. that he would move for an address to his man who began the debate ; but he could majesty to remove Mr. Reeves from any not refrain from alluding to the shameful place of trust. Such a motion he trusted proposition, of condemning a man before would be unnecessary ; because he hoped he had been proved guilty. It had been there was virtue enough in the executive said, that this House was the most pro- government not to employ such a man. per place to pass sentence upon the au- Mr. Reeves was a magistrate, and might thor of the pamphlet : he thought it was act under the last of the two bills that had the worst, and he was apprehensive his
To the objection that had reasons for expressing that opinion would been adduced against the House taking not flatter either side of the House. He judicial cognizance of the libel, he should observed that one set of men, instead of reply by asking whether the House, preprosecuting a libel against the constitu- vious to the recent state trials, had not, tion, meant to persecute a man whom by their secret committee, anteceded and they considered as having counteracted almost superseded the functions of a grand their views; and, on the other side, he jury? He should therefore vote for the observed a disposition to shrink from and motion of his hon. friend. withhold the common protection due to a Mr. Sylvester Druglas expressed his man, whom it was evidently intended to surprise, that the learned gentleman who oppress, although they did not consider had just spoken, had imputed to his right him as guilty. His great anxiety that the hon. friend an intention of combating the House should preserve the character condemnation passed by the House on the which became them, obliged him to wish publication in question, under the prethe pamphlet to be sent to a fair trial, text that he had been absent on other and that the prosecution should be carried duty when that resolution was come to. on by the attorney-general, in a court He said, it was very unlike that gentlewhere the question would be decided by man's known character, to resort to preevidence on oath.
texts and subterfuges; but, in the present Mr. Jekyll said, he differed entirely instance, the very amendment he had from Mr. Dundas in his ideas of the pro. proposed, was necessarily founded on the priety of sending the case to a court of adoption and assumance of the former law, because, although he thought as resolution. He agreed with his learned highly of that tribunal as any man, yet he friend, that the bon. mover had opened must say that House ought to take care the debate in a very ample style. He had, of its own privileges. The right hon. se- indeed, gone into a very wide field, havcretary had argued as if the pamphlet diding introduced a great deal of matter tonot contain that which the House had de- tally foreign to the business before the
House. Although this motion arose out of said, he should certainly vote for the the second report of the committee of amendment, because he thought a trial which the hon. gentleman had been chair- before a jury would have the double adman, he had wisely abstained from any kind vantage of furnishing by far, the most of remark, to show how the new evidence satisfactory means of investigating the at all bore upon, or strengthened the case, truth of the charge, and of enabling the as to the conclusion the committee had person accused to avail himself of the redrawn from the former proof, that Mr. gular modes of defence practised in trials Reeves was, or had acted, as the author by jury. Among other favourable cirof the publication in question. He had cumstances, the defendant, if that course done so wisely, because there was not a should be taken, might resort to the legal possibility of maintaining that there was assistance of different learned members any new proof of that kind, or any thing of that House ; an advantage he must more, in the second report, than some forego if farther proceeded against in the repetition of the former matter, and a House itself. In that last case, for exgreat deal of irrelevant inquiry and exa- ample, he could not employ as his counsel, mination, concerning the fictitious exist- an hon. and learned member (Mr. Erskine) ence of a nominal secretary to the Crown who, besides his great experience and acand Anchor Association. The hon. gen. knowledged talents and eloquence, seemed tleman had read a variety of detached to take particular pleasure, as he had met sentences and passages from two octavo with particular success, in the defence of volumes, which he stated to be the clients charged with that sort of offence printed proceedings of that association, which was the subject of the present disof which Mr. Reeves was chairman ; and cussion. He thought it rather strange, he had wished the House, in the first that the gentlemen who had been loudest place, to treat Mr. Reeves as responsible in their denunciation of this libel, were for all those passages; and, in the next contending against a mode of prosecution, place, on the sudden, without any oppor- which would inflict a much greater and tunity of perusing the context, to con. more adequate punishment on the person demn those passages, as dangerous libeis charged, if the charge should be made on the constitution. He wondered much, out, than what they desired the House to that that hon. gentleman should have taken pronounce; and from which nothing could this line of argument. Some time ago, protect him but the establishment of his when a noble lord (Mornington), had, in innocence, by the verdict of a- jury. a debate on one of the two bills which Was it not extraordinary, that on this had lately passed, cited some extracts occasion, those should object to the apfrom the printed proceedings of the Cor. peal proposed from the opinion of this responding Society, the hon. gentleman House to the decisions of a jury, who, in had.censured what he called such an undue the case of the acquittals last year, had been use of mutilated scraps and quotations. so vehement in their applause of a similar But the noble lord bad made those quota- appeal ?-With regard to the libel itself, tions from publications easily accessible, he should not enter at any length into the of no great size, and while the House was consideration of the nature and enormity acting in its deliberative capacity. The of the guilt imputed to it. When it was hon, gentleman's conduct this evening was first brought before the House, he had very different. He pressed his citations thought the passage specially complained on the House, acting in its judicial cha- of highly unconstitutional, and deserving, racter, and about to come to an immedi- in a particular measure, the animadversion ate sentence, when there could be nu op- and censure of the House. He could not, portunity of comparing them with their. indeed, agree to the sentiment which had voluminous context. But supposing it fallen from two learned friends of his, that were admitted, that Mr. Reeves could be the passage was of such a nature as to made responsible for those passages, and make it quite impossible that its context that they were as reprehensible as the hon. should show it to be innocent, or even gentleman contended, still it was contrary to less reprehensible than it appeared when the wise and generous policy of this coun- taken by itself. He could never subscribe try, to suffer the production of evidence, to an opinion which seemed to him so that a person had been guilty of former monstrous, namely, that there could exand other crimes, when he was under ac ist any set of words whatever, forming cusation on some distinct charge.- He only part of an entire discourse, spoken or (VOL. XXXII.]
written, which should be so essentially and it, when, in pronouncing his own verdict, abstractedly criminal, as not to be capable soon after that of the other, he said — of an innocent interpretation, from a con- “ La mort, sans phrase.” sidcration of what might go before Mr. Martin said, that the mode of procome after them in the same discourse. cedure proposed was justified by preceHe had thought it his duty to do that dent; the object of it was not to burn which probably he might never otherwise Mr. Reeves, but his book, and therefore have done-to read the whole work with he should give his vote for it. all the attention in his power. He had Mr. W. Smith said, that a noble lord had also listened with great attention to what insinuated, that those who brought this had fallen on two former occasions, from measure forward, were ininenced rather a right hon. friend of his, in exculpation by animosity against an individual, than of the pamphlet. What that gentleman by a strict desire of public justice. He, had said, had, he was sure, been dictated however, desired to disclaim every insiby sentiments of justice and of generosity, nuation of that kind, both for himself and natural to his fair and manly disposition. those who agreed with him upon this subKnowing the integrity both of his charac- ject. As far as his individual opinion ter and judgment, his arguments had led went, he was averse to prosecution in him to pause and hesitate; but though general for publications, unless they those arguments had produced hesitation, tended to some overt act of a breach of they had not carried conviction to his the peace. However absurd, false, or mind. He continued of the opinion, unconstitutional a book might be, unless that the passage complained of, taken it had that tendency, he should only wish with all its context, professed a doctrine, to meet it with refutation and exposure. dangerous and unconstitutional ; and that He was also ready to admit that, in his though some other parts of the work had opinion, there was more danger to be apa tendency to mitigate the offence con- prehended from the works which had been tained in that passage, there were others published on the popular side of the queswhich operated the other way, particu- tion, than from those which had appeared larly one, in which the author states, that on the other; because he did not think the king makes and executes the laws. that, in the present enlightened state of One observation of his right hon, friend mankind, they could be reasoned into an on the passage in question had been, that attachment to despotic monarchy. There the most exceptionable part of it was ex- certainly were some publications not on pressed in metaphorical language; from the popular side of the question, which whence he seemed to infer, that it was more did, in his opinion, call for punishment; difficult to extract from it, with judicial cer- and, above all, those which attributed to tainty, a culpable meaning. He owned, he every person who exerted himself in supcould not think so. He thought the doc- port of liberty, the most atrocious printrine, that if the two branches of Lords ciples. With respect to the book in ques. and Commons were totally destroyed, the tion, it was not necessary to say any lawful government of England might still thing upon its pernicious tendency, beremain, was as distinctly and unequivo- cause the resolution of the House was decally expressed by the author's metaphor, cisive upon that point; but he wished to as if he had used the most direct and sim. observe, that this was not a single pample language. A guilty sentiment might phlet, but one of a number founded upon be conveyed in the clearest manner by the same principles; as a proof of which figure and metaphor. Of this a remark. he referred to particular passages in some able example occured to his memory. letters from Thomas Bull to John Bull, When the infamous Barrère came to give in which the same doctrine was held. his vote for the murder of his sovereign, The mode proposed by his hon. friend he had the deliberate barbarity to express appeared to him the most consonant with himself in a metaphor. “I vote," said propriety: because, if this question was he, “ that the tree of French liberty shall sent before a jury, they must give a gebe moistened with the blood of the tyrant neral verdict of guilty or not guilty. of France;" an expression, which, how. Now, if the jury were of opinion, that ever congenial the sentiment it conveyed there was not sufficient evidence to justify was to those of his own heart, so revolted them in finding Mr. Reeves guilty of being the taste of the Abbé Seyes, that he could the author or publisher of this book, they not abstain from a sarcastic allusion to must of course bring in a verdict of not guilty; and how would that verdict be liouse should not content themselves with construed by different parties? One side | a vote of censure, but should make the would contend that the jury had acquitted pamphlet undergo, as it were, the ignothe defendant, because there was not suf- ininious punishment of burning, With ficient evidence to convict him of being regard to precedents, he contended that the author or publisher; and the other they were, with a very few exceptions, side would argue, that he was acquitted in favour of the original motion. Early in because the jury were of opinion the pam- the present reign, a pamphlet, called phlet did not contain any libellous or se- “ Droit le Roi,”* had been complained ditious matter. He thought such a dis- of, censured, and burnt. At the compute would not be very much for the ho- mencement of the American war, another nour of the House, and therefore he pamphlet, called “ The Crisis,” had also should vote for the original motion. been burnt. Why, then, should it now
Mr. Jenkinson said, that the report of be for the honour of the House to show the committee contained some insinua- such tenderness for the doctrine contained tions against a noble lord nearly con- in this pamphlet, as to exempt it from nected wish him (lord Hawkesbury); the punishment which had been inflicted and some observations which had fallen on similar doctrines ? An insinuation had from different gentlemen of a similar ten- gone forth that there was a wish to opdency, induced him to rise for the purpose press Mr. Reeves, and a noble lord had of declaring, that the noble lord alluded stated that that gentleman was to be perto did not know of this book until it was secuted because he had counteracted the made a matter of public discussion, and views of gentlemen on his side of the that no copy whatever had been sent to House. Now he would fairly own, that his office. With respect to the situation Mr. Reeves had counteracted his views. which Mr. Reeves held under that noble His views had been to put an end to all lord, it was one which he had held for ten religious differences. Mr. Reeves's associyears; and he could assert, that that noble ation, however, had tried to light up the lord was fully satisfied with the punctua- fame of religious discord all over the lity and fidelity with which he had per- kingdom. His own object had always formed the duties of his office.
been to preserve the balance between all Sir W. Yung thought the ends of pub- the parts of the government. Mr. Reeves, lic justice would be fully answered, if the however, by the circulation of Mr. Soame author were called to the bar of the House, Jenyns's doctrines, and other pamphlets, and reprimanded by the Speaker. The had tried to destroy that balance. He sentiments of the House would then go was, therefore, not ashamed to say that forth into the kingdom, and it would be Mr. Reeves had counteracted his views. universally known that they equally ab- He had mentioned Mr. Soame Jenyns's horred attacks upon every part of the con- pamphlet, he had read it when it first stitution.
came out; he thought it ingenious and Mr. Fox said, that with respect to the innocent. But though Mr. Jenyns wrote danger to be apprehended from the pam- it innocently, did Mr. Reeves circulate it phlet, he could not allow that the danger innocently ? --and this was the material of an arbitrary government being esta difference. Arguments had been used blished was wholly chimerical, though he to show that the House, if they adopted was ready to allow that the recent feeling the motion, would at the same time be which had been excited by the two bills judge and jury: Was it not in the nahad, in a considerable degree, diminished ture of things that it must be so ? And his apprehensions of such an event. In a in a case which related to its own privi. mixed government like this, however, all leges, how could it be otherwise ? publications were dangerous which tended", Could any of the courts below vindi. to give to one of the parts of that govern- cate their privileges, in any other manment too great an ascendancy over the ner than by acting both as judge and jury? rést. It might be asked, why, if no pro- If he were asked, whether he would stop secution were wished, all the facts had here, bis reply would be, that he had no been stated ? For this reason to convince | objection. He had no objection also to the House of the impropriety of the pam- sending for Mr. Reeves to the bar. At phlet. What was it that he desired ? It the bar he might make his defence, and was this, that as a pamphlet such as this had been brought before the House, the
* See Vol. 15, p. 1418.