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the attorney-general, who had instituted | fore, that seditious designs did exist, the no prosecution. Such were the shallow accused were cleared by verdicts of their pretences on which they were required to country: On that occasion he thought pass two bills, one of which assassinated the juries had done their duty, and that the best privileges of the constitution, the House had acted properly in laying and the other gagged the mouth of every the charges as they did. He could not, British subject. The chancellor of the however, consider it fair to make such an exchequer had formerly been no small ad attack on him, when the grand jury, after mirer of debating clubs; he had been much deliberation, had found the charges accustomed to frequent them, although laid in the indictment; and as he could he seemed now to favour their sup- collect nothing to the contrary from the pression. Such, indeed, had formerly learned bench that presided, it was his been his ardour for debate, that he had duty to follow up the prosecution. He even harangued in a mask on some occa- entered into a detail of the proceedings sions. He had however now pulled off on the trials: two persons who were the mask and disclosed himself in his true called spies were examined, who, from character.
minutes taken by them, proved the conMr. Curwen said, that the conduct of duct of the societies for two years; and the House in refusing inquiry where it though the counsel for the defendants ought to have taken place, and in their called two or three persons to invalidate careless superintendence of the public their evidence, it remained uncontroverted. money, as well as their implicit acquies. This was ample proof of the existence of cence in every ministerial measure, was sedition. It was true, the people of this little deserving of respect. What must country, agreeably to the constitution, the people think of the corruption and might assemble to discuss political subprodigality of ministers, of the sums of jects; but how far they might, in the public money, which they had lavished on present complexion of things, abuse that their creatures and dependents ? Espe- privilege, was a question highly important cially what must they think of the unex. for the House to consider. It had been ampled persion bestowed upon Mr. Burke, the wise usage of our ancestors to give up to whose private virtues he believed much a part for the safety of the whole. Such regard was due? In the mode, however, were the various suspensions of the Hain which the pension had been bestowed, beas Corpus act, which, though they his character had been degraded. Had trespassed on the Bill of Rights, were he really deserved it on national grounds, the causes of preserving it for ages. The it should bave come before parliament. societies had totally changed their sysHad it been so brought forward, he would tem : last year they declared they would have opposed it; because even public not petition : now, they would petition. virtue was not always to receive public He called the attention of gentlemen to remuneration. Liberality of rewards the atrocious libels circulated at the rendered the purity of the motive sus- meetings of these societies : he had in his pected, and injured the general course of hands, libels printed by citizen Lee, that real patriotism. The consciousness of went to the same extent. There were having discharged their duty was the best people now who lived by libels: it was and most unequivocal reward of public become a trade. It was not unusual to services. Without farther evidence, the see the wares of useful trades exposed to House was not warranted in proceeding sale on one side of a shop, and libels on with the bill. The present measure was the other. Such were their numbers, that too weak for actual insurrection, too it was his conscientious opinion, they strong for the existing state of the coun- could not be effectually checked, if some try. With regard to the facts stated by law were not made, expressly to stop their ministers, he utterly disbelieved them. progress. The bills would not have been He thought the pretence of the outrage brought in, if he did not conceive them was assumed to divert the attention of the to be justified by the notoriety of such public from the destructive war in which infamous proceedings. Let the language ministers had involved us.
and conduct of the
meetings at Sheffield, The Attorney General said, that one Wakefield, and Chalk Farm be duly hon. gentleman had observed, that he weighed. They did not say they would ought to have prosecuted. To this he petition parliament; but called their lewould reply, that when it was proved be- gislators their plunderers, enemies, and (VOL. XXXII.)
oppressors. If these societies and meet. would say not less respectable, from their ings were suffered to proceed, the business situation in life ; and in his opinion, not of the country could not go on. Surely, less respectable, because they were rethen, there was sufficient ground for the moved from those objects of ambition bill ; and however irksome it was to a which might be supposed to have had lover of the constitution to feel his liberty some influence with the members of that abridged, every wise man would admit, committee, and which some of them since that when every thing dear to him was in might have been deemed pretty well te danger from the daring herd of rash have attained. In the course of the busiinnovators, and the licentious doctrines of ness, he had been early convinced of the the dealers in sedition, that, valuable as want of evidence sufficient to convict those British freedom was, a part should be men, and had broadly stated his sentisacrificed for a time for the safety of the ments on that subject; but the learned whole. The provisions of the bill were gentleman had said, that Mr. Erskine and such, that the peace of no family would Mr. Gibbs, the prisoners' counsel, thought be disturbed, nor would a constitutional differently. For one of those gentlemen, club or assembly be interrupted.
from habits of long intimacy, he enterMr. Fox said, that he would principally tained sentiments of the highest regard advert to what had fallen from the and friendship ; of the other, from all, he learned gentleman. He was not one of had heard of him, he had been taught to those who thought that the attorney-ge- think with the greatest respect. But he neral ought not, in the recent instances, should not have felt, for one, that ardent to have prosecuted for high treason. The friendship, nor should he have deemed the declaration of the two Houses on that other entitled to that sincere respect, if, subject was decisive. Whenever it was in a question of life and death, where the opinion of the attorney-general that they were called upon to act as counsel, persons had been guilty of high treason, from any speculation of their own, with it was his bounden duty to prosecute. respect to the guilt or innocence of the But it did not follow, because those per- prisoners, or with respect to the nature of sons had been acquitted of the crime of evidence, they had neglected to set up high treason, that if they had been tried that defence which was infallibly calcuupon a different charge, they would have lated to save the lives of their clients. been found guilty of a misdemeanor. He Was it in consequence of the result of the had no doubt, that under this alteration trials that the bills were brought in ? He of the charge, the jury would have con- was told that not from these trials only, scientiously exercised their judgment, and but from their subsequent proceedings, brought in an honest verdict according to the dangerous temper of these meetings the circumstances of the : case. The had been proved, and that their mislearned gentleman said, that acquittal did chievous tendency could not be corrected not disprove guilt. He was not one of except by some new legislative regulation. those who would contend that acquittal He would appeal to ministers what had was an unequivocal proof of innocence. been the effect of the former regulations In common cases there were many cir- they had adopted. Had they not suscumstances that might engender doubt as pended the Habeas Corpus act, upon to the question of guilt or innocence. grounds which he must ever contend to First, when the existence of the offence be slight, and such as by no means warwas ascertained the difficulty was to prove ranted so violent a measure? Had they by whom it had been committed, to what not afterwards renewed that suspension particular quarter the guilt should attach. The suspension, however, they had after. Secondly, even when there was a moral wards allowed to drop during the interval certainty, with respect to the authors of of the sitting of parliament. He had conthe offence, there was often extreme diffi- gratulated himself at the beginning of the culty in bringing home the charge to the session, when he heard his majesty talk of individual, by legal proof. Neither of the spirit of order and submission to the these circumstances, however, existed in laws, which, with a very few exceptions, the case of the individuals tried for high had discovered itself among his faithful treason. They were acquitted by a jury subjects. Coupling this declaration with not less respectable than the committee the conduct of ministers, in allowing the of that House who had drawn up the re- suspension of the Habeas Corpus to drop, port respecting their proceedings. He he had flattered himself that ministers had now renounced the opinion, that the communication from that quarter of the evil to be dreaded from certain principles House. If such facts existed, why were would be diminished by vigorous judicial they not brought before the House in such proceedings, and the prosecution of the a way as might constitute a proper ground war with France. He did not think, for for their proceedings ? Why ought not his own part, that the evil was in any de- the House to have the spies of the right gree diminished; but he conceived that hon. gentleman at their bar, in order to ministers had begun to form more just examine them as to their report of the opinions on the subject ; that they had facts which might have come under their begun to perceive the folly and inefficacy inspection ? The learned gentleman said of their former measures, and to adopt in that spies were instruments whom governthe course of their future proceedings the ment had at all times found necessary to suggestions of a milder spirit and more employ. Mr. Fox admitted that there enlightened policy. Unhappily, however, were different sorts of spies. First, there for the country, it appeared from the pre- were persons who might by chance be sent measure, that he had been mistaken privy to some intelligence, which they in these expectations. Was it in conse- might deem it essential to the safety of quence of the meeting at Copenhagen- the state to communicate, and these he house, or the meeting at St. George's should set down as useful or meritorious fields, that they had been induced to spies. There were others who went.cerbring forward the present bills ? Both tain lengths in order to acquire informathese meetings had taken place previous tion, and made certain sacrifices, in order to the commencement of the present ses- the more completely to get into the se. sion, when the ministers put into the crets of others; these he should reckon mouth of his majesty a declaration of the as at least doubtful. But there were a spirit of order and submission to the law, third sort, who in order to serve their own which had manifested itself in the country. vile purposes, insinuated themselves into Would they then say, that any thing the confidence of those whom they wished which had occurred at those meetings, was to betray, not only affected a similarity of the ground of their present measures? sentiment, but even spurred and goaded If they did say so, he defied even credu. them on, and prompted them to adopt lity to believe them. But he was told more reprehensible propositions, than they that the outrage on the king was con- would otherwise have employed-of such Dected with the proceedings of certain characters there were no words in the societies. He was referred for proof to English language which could sufficiently the coincidence in point of time, and the mark his contempt and detestation. This Rotoriety of their transactions. Here he was the description of spy, which most remarked, that while ministers declined frequently appeared in the trials at the Old giving that proof to which the House was Bailey. In all instances, the spy had been entitled, they brought a sort of evidence found the most furious in his sentiments, which was worse than all; evidence was and the most intemperate in his language. brought from a proclamation of the exe- He had often been the exaggerated and cutive government. An attempt was falsifying reporter of those proceedings, of made so far to degrade the House, as to which he himself had been prime mover bring in a bill upon the evidence of a pro- and contriver. He would here refer to clamation of his majesty's ministers. If the trial of Mr. Walker, of Manchester, parliament were so careless of their duty, the proceedings on which were of such a so lost to all sense of character as to take uature, that they made his blood run cold, a proclamation of the executive govern- whenever he read or thought of them. ment as evidence of the facts, upon which Mr. Walker was not, indeed, put in peril they were to ground their proceedings, of his life, for it required the oaths of two they would, indeed, deserve that contempt witnesses to have brought him to condign which they were said to have incurred. punishment; and fortunately for human The learned gentleman had read a number nature, a second Lunn was not to be found. of papers, to show the atrocious views of But he was put in hazard of his character, the persons who composed these meet- his liberty, and his fortune ; and in the ings. It was a sort of evidence which he course of the trial it was found, that the confessed he received with much suspicion person by whom he was accused was no. in consequence of the distrust with which toriously perjured. Yet on the oath of he was accustomed to receive every such this very man, one of the name of Paul, had, for some time, been kept in prison. taken away, the only barrier that we had To be sure he was liberated upon the con- against the annihilation of liberty would viction of the perjury of his accuser. But be completely destroyed. The bill would what reparation did ministers grant to this interrupt the meeting of clubs, occasional man, thus exposed to suffer, from the attendance on which formed the chief, if falsehood and corruption of another? It not the sole, luxury of persons in certain had been asked, whether it was fair to stations. The learned gentleman told us, set down the whole of the friends and that the whole of the government was atsupporters of ministers as being in a con. tacked. He was not an advocate for atspiracy against the liberties of the coun- tacks on government, but he was an adtry? To this he would answer by ano- vocate for human nature, when it was opther question, did not the learned gentle-pressed. It had been well said in a former man believe that there were in the Corres. war with respect to the Americans, “ You ponding Society some men who were by drive them to madness, and will you no means actuated by those detestable quarrel with them about their ravings ?" views which were indiscriminately as- When he looked to the many calamities cribed to the whole of the body ? So in which the war had brought upon the the same way he might believe, that there country; when he saw, during them all, were some supporters of ministers, who an acquiescent and confiding House of really meant well, though they were blind Commons, he thought he could account dupes of the folly, or unconscious instru- for some part of that spirit of discontent ments of the wicked policy of ministers. which pervaded a great body of the people. But though he by no means confounded This was the only war since the peace of every supporter of ministers under the Utrecht, which had in no one instance same censure, yet if he saw a rooted de- given rise to an inquiry in the House of sign on the part of ministers to invade the Commons. Even during the famous wars liberties of the subject, followed up by of Chatham, and the victorious campaigns successive efforts, all directed to that ob- of Marlborough, inquiries were instituted ject, he should think himself wanting in respecting some of the operations, Had his duty, if he did not take all peaceable this been the only war so eminently brilmeans of stirring up opposition on the liant, so uniformly successful, so clear in part of the country to the progress of their its details, so economical in its arrange: measures. He agreed with the learned ments, as to claim exemption from that gentleman, that the constitution was bet- strict investigation, which had been dister adapted for the enjoyment of practical played at former periods in the military liberty than that of any other country, but history of this country? With this neghe rather thought that had been the case ligence of the House of Commons before formerly more than it was at present: it their eyes,-with the experience of their would be invidious to state any precise own accumulated sufferings-was it to be epoch when the alteration began to be wondered at that men should complain, most manifest, yet without meaning any more especially, when the authors of their thing, either personal or disrespectful to misfortunes, were at the same time mathe king, he must state, that from the king an attempt to deprive theme of their time of the revolution till the accession of dearest and best rights ? his present majesty to the throne, practi- vent men from complaining, said Mr. Fox, cal liberty had been greater than it had but you cannot prevent them from feeling, been since, and that the system which had Either your bills must remain waste paper, been acted upon in this reign was more or they must be carried into execution hostile to liberty than that acted upon with circumstances of the greatest oppresduring the period to which he had alluded. sion. Depend upon it, if men speak less, He could discover nuthing in the present they will feel more, and arms will be left state of the country that could justify this them as the only resource to procure renew infringement on the liberties of the dress to themselves, or exercise vengeance subject intended by the bill. So far from upon their oppressors. Mr. Fox then it, the power and influence of the crown proceeded to refute the pretext for not were obviously so enormous, that all the going into an inquiry, from the supposed liberty that subsisted in the country was urgency of danger. He stated the little preserved only by the freedom of speech advantage which ministers had derived and the liberty of the press : if either of from their system of alarm and terror, these were given up, or in any degree from an instance personal to himself. If,
You may preat the commencement of the war it should anticipate the discussion upon these bills ; have been proposed that he should make a but when they did come forward, he speech, as he had that day done,to 30,000 would venture to assert, that he would people, the question would not have been, lay such grounds before the House as whether he should have been suffered should satisfy their minds upon the subto speak, but whether he should have been ject. The right hon. gentleman asks, suffered to exist. By that large concourse, " why, if this danger exists, and has existhe had that day been heard with unanimity ed for some time, why did you suffer the and approbation ; so great was the change Habeas Corpus act to revive ? why did you that had taken place in their sentiments ! not continue its suspension ?" Whether miHe concluded with recommending to mi- nisters had done right in not proposing to nisters to abandon a system, which had continue the suspension, he would not unhitherto only been marked by reverses dertake to say; he could, however, state and disappointments. The pressure of some ground" to justify their conduct. the war was the original source of the dis. Whatever the opinion of the right hon. contents of the people, and the measures gentleman might be of the trials for high taken to repress these discontents had only treason, and the evidence produced upon increased the evil. The bad success of that occasion, he was sure they had a their policy ought to induce them to trace strong effect upon the public. When that back their former footsteps,
immense mass of matter was laid open, Iterare cursus
and the real designs of these societies de. -Relictos;
veloped, it served to open the eyes of the and to try what effects they could produce unwary, to check the incautious, and to upon the people, by treating them with deter the timid. When this was consi. respect and gentleness. He reminded dered, and also the wretched situation to them of the saying of a great man, whom which France was reduced, there was fair they had often occasion to quote (Mr. ground for ministers to suppose that the Burke) “ Try all means of gentleness ; delusion would cease. It was therefore terror can always be applied to, but never prudent to try the effect of a lenient meawithout danger; for if it fails in one in- sure; and what was the effect? From the stance, it produces contempt ever after.” moment the suspension of the Habeas
Mr. Pitt said, that the right hon. gen. Corpus act was taken off, all the plans of tleman had expressed himself under some these societies revived and continued in a obligations to ministers for restoring him progressive state till the meeting of parlia to a portion of the popularity which he ment. The right hon. gentleman called had lost, and had founded his claim to for some proof, to show the connexion of that popularity upon having addressed a the meeting at Copenhagen-house, and the meeting that day of 30,000 persons with attack upon his majesty. But what was applause. With respect to the number of the moment chosen to commit this outpersons present at the meeting, he could rage? Could it be supposed that this darnot undertake to speak correctly, not hav- ing outrage was committed without hope ing any data upon which to form an opi- of support from some party or other i nion. But he should advise the right hon. Certainly not. Upon these grounds, he gentleman not to be too sanguine in his trusted the House would reject the mocalculation of their numbers, before he tion. knew for how many of his auditors he was Sir W. Milner thought the public should indebted to a reinforcement from Copen- never be impeded in their meetings to hagen-house, because it was notorious discuss public affairs. The manner in that the persons who assembled at that which the Westminster meeting was conplace expressed their determination of ducted that day, did them credit. He was joining the assembly of the electors of sorry to hear that there were soldiers sa Westminster; he would advise him to near the place of so peaceable an assembly. pause until he knew with certainty how To bring soldiers near a place where there many of that 30,000 were electors and was to be a meeting for political purposes, householders in Westminster. The right was a practice of a very despotic nature; hon. gentleman had stated, that ministers it tended to overawe the assembly, and to had called upon parliament to pass these prevent their speaking their minds with bills, without laying, before them any freedom. He did not see any connexion ground upon which they could be con between the proceedings of Copenhavinced of their necessity. He would not gen. house, and the attack on his ma