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of justice, where justice was indispensably due. The still stronger case, to which he alluded, had not been stated by the right honourable gentleman on Friday last, and indeed it was not possible for it to have offered itself as any part of the right honourable gentleman's argument. It was that of a libel on a committee appointed by the House to conduct a prosecution by impeachment, and consequently a prosecution of the most grave and solemn nature, because it put the person accused upon his trial before the supreme and most august tribunal recognized by the constitution, namely, the high · court of parliament.
The minds of gentlemen having been so lately roused to an attention to libels, it was reasonable to suppose that they had considered the subject much more fully than, for a long time past, they had accustomed themselves to do. He trusted, therefore, that the complaint he had to state would not be deemed trivial in its nature; and as the House could never wish it to be understood, that they were eager to punish libellers of one party, but unwilling to punish libellers of another, and as he was sure the House felt no such sentiment or desire, he was persuaded the House coincided in opinion with him, that it was incumbent on them to teach the libellers of their proceedings, in a matter of the most serious and important nature, that when a complaint was made of their publication, and that publication was found to deserve punishment, they would not suffer it to escape.
Mr. Fox now observed, that a pamphlet had been put into his hands, which, although it had escaped his notice, he understood had been published nearly a fortnight. It contained a gross and scandalous libel on the committee appointed by that House to manage the prosecution of Mr. Hastings, as well as a libel upon the House itself, upon his majesty, and upon the whole legislature. With regard to the reflections on himself, personally, and on his friends, who were members of the committee, he certainly did not, on that account, stand forward to complain of the pamphlet. It likewise, in terms of great licentiousness, made free with the right honourable gentleman opposite him, but the right honourable gentleman, he was persuaded, would not expect it from him, that he should state that it was on that account that he complained of it to the House; undoubtedly it was not. The true cause of his urging a complaint against the pamphlet was, that it tended to degrade that House, his majesty, and the House of Lords, in the eyes of the public, and to hold forth the whole legislature as acting upon base and improper motives on a subject, in which, of all others, it behoved them to act on the purest principles, and with the strictest regard to impartial justice.
That the House of Commons had done so was well known, and that the other branches of the legislature would govern themselves by the saine purity of motive, there could not exist a doubt in any man's mind. The House ought not, therefore, to suffer it to be insinuated from the press, pending the proceeding, that the contrary was either likely or probable..
Having thus generally stated the ground of his complaint, Mr. Fox observed, that he held the pamphlet of which he complained in his hand, and although he would not aim at entertaining the House with reading such parts of the publication as were more remarkable for their absurdity of argument than for their libellous tendency, he would just read those passages that contained libellous reflections, of the nature he had already stated. He now read the following passage: 6 Such an exertion of public virtue (the impeachment of Mr. Hastings) if to public virtue it shall be referred, is indeed above all Greek, above all Roman fame,' and will furnish a memorable example to future times, that no station, however exalted; no abilities, however splendid; no services, however beneficial or meritorious; that not even the smile of the sovereign, nor the voice of the people, can protect a British subject from impeachment, and a public delinquent from punishment, if found guilty.” Mr. Fox commented on this extract, and said, it was beyond all doubt highly indecent to impute it to that House to have been governed in their impeachment of Mr. Hastings by so improper a motive, as a design to thwart the wishes of the sovereign. The House had not entertained any such design, nor was it known, in modern history at least, that the House had ever acted on so unbecoming a principle.
Mr. Fox next called the attention of the House to the following quotation: 6 Will accusations built on such a baseless fabric, prepossess the public in favour of the impeachment ? What credit can we give to multiplied and accumulated charges, when we find that they originate from misrepresentation and falsehood? The decision of the House of Commons on the Benares charge against Mr. Hastings is one of the most singular to be met with in the annals of parliament. The minister, who was followed by the majority, vindicated him in every thing he had done, and found him blameable only for what he intended to do; justified every step of his conduct, and criminated his proposed intention of converting the crimes of the zemindar to the benefit of the state, by a fine of fifty lacks of rupees. An impeachment of error in judgment with regard to the quantum of a fine, and for an intention that never was executed, or ever known to the offending party, characterises a tribunal inquisition rather
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than a court of parliament. The other charges are so insignificant in themselves, or founded on such gross misrepresentation, that they would not affect an obscure individual, much less a public character. They are merely added to swell the catalogue of accusations, as if the boldness of calamity could ensure its success, and a multiplicity of charges an accumulation of crimes. Thirteen of them passed the House of Commons not only without investigation, but without being read; and the votes were given without inquiry, argument, or conviction. A majority had determined to impeach; opposite parties met each other, and jostled in the dark, to perplex the political drama, and bring the hero to a tragic catastrophe. If to all the metaphysical misdemeanors which have been imputed to Mr. Hastings, he had added one real crime; had he thrown his weight into the scale of opposition, and violated the principles of duty and allegiance which he has ever maintained to his sovereign, the same broad shield of patriotism which protected American delinquents, would have covered the governor of India from every hostile attack. Has attachment to principle, has loyalty to the sovereign, become such a crime as to cancel the merit, and obliterate the service of thirty years ?” On this occasion Mr. Fox remarked, that Mr. Hastings was represented as being prosecuted on account of his loyalty to his sovereign; but in what did that loyalty consist? Could the man who had abused his authority, and disobeyed the orders of those under whom he acted, be said to be loyal? He would just read one more passage, which shewed, that the author was not only an advocate of Mr. Hastings, but of tyranny in general: “ It is on this principle that the royal family of Stuart have been fully vindicated by the retrospect of history, and justified to the conscience of mankind.” Mr. Fox added, that he was far from meaning to say, that the pamphlet-writer's account of the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer's speech was at all correct. He read the passage merely to shew the sort of construction that the author had thought proper to put upon the proceedings of that House. Mr. Fox contended that the libeller, in this pamphlet, not only imputed to a particular party a degree of power and influence over that House, which the event of almost every day's proceedings sufficiently manifested that they did not possess, but held it out to the world, that loyalty to the sovereign was a leading cause for that House to proceed to impeachment. The imputation in the latter point was not only false, as ar imputation, but false in every other respect, because, if a man sent out to India, clothed with authority and extraordinary powers, chose to debase that authority, to misdirect those powers, and by his conduct to sully the character and degrade the dignity of the British nation, he not only could not be said to have acted with loyalty to his sovereign, but was in fact the most disloyal subject that could possibly be described.
Mr. Fox said, he was rather at a loss what motion to make, as to the mode most proper for the House to adopt for the punishment of the libeller. His doubts remained in full force with respect to the mode chosen by the House for the punishment of the libellers complained of on the preceding Friday. He thought then, as he had on that day declared it to be his opinion, that the way proposed by the right honourable gentleman who had made the motion to prosecute by the attorney-general, was an improper way of proceeding. It might not be so improper in the case of the complaint he had stated. The former libel was of a peculiar kind. Excepting its being an improper interference with the proceedings of that House, and therefore a breach of privilege, it contained scarcely any thing at all libellous. In regard to the pamphlet from which he had read extracts, it was of the most pernicious tendency, being a gross attack on that House, on the House of Lords, on his majesty, and consequently on the whole legislature. It was, therefore, in the truest sense of the words, a public libel, and for that reason à prosecution by the attorney-general might be the most proper mode of proceeding to punish; but, entertaining still the opinion that he did of the mode adopted by the House last Friday, and which, in point of fact, he was warranted to consider as the mode most approved of by the House, he would leave it to those, who were likely to be in possession of the opinion of the House, as to the mode of punishment most proper to be pursued. He then delivered in the pamphlet, which was intitled, “ A Review of the prins ciple Charges against Warren Hastings, Esq. Printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly,” and moved, “ That the said pamphlet contains passages highly disrespectful to his majesty and to this House, and indecent observations reflecting upon the motives which induced this House to prefer the impeachment against Warren Hastings, Esq., late governor general of Bengal.”
Mr. Pitt agreed that the pamphlet contained libellous matter, but suggested the propriety of suffering it to remain on the table for a day. Mr. Fox concurred in the propriety of the suggestion, and therefore moved, " That the said complaint be taken into con sideration on the following day.” When Mr.Pitt proposed an amend. ment to the motion, by leaving out the words “ his majesty, and."
The motion, as amended, being agreed to, Mr. Fox immediately rose, and declared that he still entertained his opinion, that unless in cases of public libel, or of a libel on the government at large, or legislature collectively, he did not think it becoming in that House to resort to the crown lawyers, as the instruments of prosecuting libels affecting themselves, interfering with their proceedings, or implicating a breach of their privileges. He then moved, “ That an humble address be presented to his majesty, humbly desiring his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions to his attorney-general, to prosecute the author or authors, the printer or printers, and the publisher or publishers, of the said pamphlet, in order that they may be brought to condign punishment for the same.” The motion was agreed to nem con. *
East India DECLARATORY BILL.
February 25. .
of the last year, of a rupture with the court of France, góvernment had taken a resolution of sending out four additional regiments to India, on board the company's ships, for the protection of our possessions in that quarter; and the proposition had been received with general approbation by the court of directors. But in the mean time the storm having blown over, and government still adhering to their resolution of sending out the four regiments, with a view to form a permanent establishment of his majesty's troops in India, a question had arisen respecting the expence of sending them out, and of their future payment. By an act, which passed in the year 1781, it was stipulated, that the company should be bound to pay for such troops only as were sent to India upon their requisition, and upon this act the directors had refused to charge the company with the expence of the troops in question. But it was contended by the board of controul, established in the act of 1784, that the commissioners of
* On the oth of December 1789, the trial of Mr. Stockdale for the said libel came on in the court of king's bench, before Lord Kenyon. After a trial of three hours, the jury withdrew for about two hours, when they returned into court with a verdict, finding the defendant not guilty. Mr. Stockdale's defence was entrusted to Mr. Erskine, who upon this occasion is acknowledged to have delivered one of the most able and eloquent speeches that was ever heard in a court of justice. See the speeches of the Honourable Thomas Erskine (now Lord Erskine) when at the bar, on subjects connected with the liberty of the press, and against constructive treasons, Vol.2. p.205.