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form in parliament, he may be punished | severe and unwarrantable punishments. with transportation to Botany Bay. I have If the state of Scotland was, as they stated this case in the extreme, to show pretended, they ought not at least to the enormous disproportion which this think of extending the penalties of the bill creates in the punishment of offences. bill to that country. The best way to It was in the nature of the thing, that mis- attach the people to the constitution, demeanor should be punished by a dis would be to preserve the mildness of cretionary sentence, and that it should its laws. Could the learned gentleman, stand distinct from felony: a thousand or any of his friends, learned in the hismisdemeanors could not, by the spirit tory of this country, point out an inand genius of the law of England, amount stance of such a punishment as that to, or be punished as, a felony: that was which was proposed by the bill? He to confound all the principles of our law. warned them against the policy of multiThe sort of punishment which the bill en- plying new codes of penal laws, and of acted for misdemeanors was for the first accumulating oppressive restrictions be. time introduced into the country from the yond what the temper of the people could pretended law of Scotland ; though 'such bear? But in answer to all this, they had was the horror with which Englishmen re- been told that the corresponding and garded it, that when, some time since, it other societies did such and such things ; had been presented to their minds, it ex- and he was applied to on a former night, cited an universal sentiment of indigna- by an hon. gentleman, who said, that he tion. He called it, “pretended law;" avoided stating his opinion upon those sofor he would never so far degrade Scot- cieties. He did not avoid stating his opiland, as to suppose it could really be the nion. That hon. gentleman had asked him, law of that country. Had any want of what those societies meant? To that queseffect, he asked, been experienced from tion he had answered, that he could not punishments formerly indicted, because decisively say, because he believed there they were not sufficiently severe ? He ad- were some in that society who meant one verted to the case of Messrs. Muir and thing and some another. He had disPalmer, men of enlightened minds, of tinctly said, that there might be a few respectable rank in society, of irreproach- persons in those societies hostile to the able morals, who, because they expressed constitution, but the greater number he themselves warmly with respect to what believed to be sincere in the object which they considered to be grievances, were they professed--a parliamentary reform. sent to Botany Bay, to associate, not That there might be others who had difmerely with the lowest of men in point of ferent views he did not deny; but he rank, but with a description of persons so could not separate the whole from a part, degraded and abandoned, that the neces- and therefore in the mass he gave them, sity of associating with them under any as he thought he ought, credit for the sincircumstances, was a deep disgrace, and cerity of their professions. Such he must itself constitute a considerable pu should always give to large bodies of nishment. What effect did ministers pre- people. There had been long established tend to say that had produced ? Had it in this town a society against what were produced a greater reverence for the laws, called republicans and levellers. What was or occasioned a cessation of those libels his opinion of that society? The same as which were the subject of complaint ? his opinion was of the Corresponding SoNo; for they were told that libels had in- ciety ; that they were in a mass sincere in creased since that period a thousand fold. what they professed; that they were in If, on the other hand, it had produced favour of the constitution. Did he bethose effects, what necessity was there to lieve that one of them wanted to overturn resort to new measures ? If it had failed, the monarchy of this country, and the did not experience demonstrate the futi- other to make it absolute ? No such thing; lity of again having recourse to a similar he gave them each credit for being sincere policy? But it was said, that in Scot- in preserving the constitution; the one land, where those measures had been dreading one event, the other dreading adopted, no discontent existed. He be- the opposite event. He knew none of the lieved the case was quite the reverse, and leaders of the Corresponding Society; he that the discontent really felt in that quar- however knew the leading member of the ter was not the less because the expression society against republicans and levellers ; of it had been subdued by the terror of he knew Mr. Reeves. He knew he had
published libels after libels, attacking the books were sold, and who at any rate had constitution ; that he had, year after year, only been in the exercise of their business, circulated such publications ; that he had without being aware that they were comcirculated a pamphlet, a direct libel on mitting a breach of the law, had been conthat House, in which it was said that rot- fined for two or three years. Some had ten boroughs, extravagant courts, selfish been convicted on the oaths of witnesses, ministers and corrupt majorities were es- notoriously perjured. One man had been sential to the well-being of the constitu- convicted and punished at Manchester, on tion of the country. The conclusion to the oath of a person named Dunn, who be drawn from such abominable doctrine, was afterwards proved to be guilty of he did not ascribe to every man in that perjury, and another upon the same evisociety; the greater number he believed dence at Lancaster. It had been said by to have united, in order to guard the con- the learned gentleman that libels were so stitution, against a danger which they sup- numerous that they could no longer be posed to be pressing and imminent." Thc prosecuted. Was he satisfied that the sefew who took advantage of their fears for verity of the bill would infallibly dimithe constitution in order to forward their nish their numbers, or that he should be own designs for its destruction; of those he able more safely to apply the new law judged from their actions. He knew, that than the old ? If there was a spirit of diswith respect to those societies, there were content so widely diffused in the country, violent opinions on both sides ; but he saw and still likely to increase, arising, as he Mr. Reeves's society with as much indus- verily believed, from the bad administra. try, and with more means, because with tion of public affairs; and as the learned more money, circulating such doctrines gentleman thought from the obstinacy as were contained in the sentence he had and perverseness of the people; it would just quoted; he saw circulated by the be proper, in order to stop the progress of same authority a book called “ John Bull the evil to send whole fleets of libellers to to Thomas Bull," and he saw such doc- Botany Bay. The learned gentleman had trines accompanied with incendiary hand spoken of libels against the king and other bills against the Protestant Dissenters, persons. His opinion was, that libelling and fraught with every species of gross the king and individuals had not been suffiand inflammatory misrepresentation. He ciently punished. He would prosecute saw, on the other hand, libels ascribed to with the utmost severity, all libels on the the Corresponding Society, so monstrous, characters of persons, with whatever party that he could only compare them with the they were connected. The most exemothers to which he had referred ; with this plary rigour of that sort he would connect difference, that when it was proposed to with equal temperance in respect to libels inquire into their authenticity, the proof of another description. He would punish was denied. He would say, therefore, that whatever reflected on the dignity of the those who professed that they had no other chief magistrate, or the fair fame of indi. aim but a reform of parliament were inear- viduals; but all political libels he would nest in the mass, as he said of the society leave to themselves; discussions on goagainst republicans and levellers, and he vernment, so far as they did not interfere saw no ground for a parliamentary provi- with private character, he would permit to sion against the mass of either society, al- pass entirely unrestrained ; that was the though individuals among the members way to make the press respected and useof each of them might deserve censure. ful; and he was convinced, that if this po
His two principal objections to the bill licy had been adopted sooner, things were, that it narrowed the power of the would not have been in the situation in jury in cases of treason, and that it pro which they were at present; but such was vided for misdemeanors a new punishment not the object of the bill; the chief which would apply with undistinguished point which its promoter had in view was severity to the greatest and least degrees to terrify the people from making free of delinquency. The learned gentleman with him under the name of government. had stated the increased and increasing He should therefore vote against the number of libels as a justification of the Speaker leaving the chair. If another bill present bill; some of these libels he un should be brought in less exceptionable in derstood, had been punished pretty se- its clauses, and better calculated to anverely; and the publishers who might swer the purpose in view, he should have have been in their beds at the time the no objection to give it his support.
The Master of the Rolls said, that the be necessary in the committee, to make two gentlemen had construed the law of some specific declaration of what acts of treason, as relating to the levying war, levying war shall be deemed treasonable and to attacks upon the king's person, in by this bill, for no man would hesitate to a manner that perfectly astonished him. allow that there were some species which According to the positions that had been should be so defined. He was not fond of advanced, if a number of men conspired adding to the catalogue of treasons, and together for the purpose of deposing the instanced the case of lord George Gordon, king, and of compelling him to quit this which, if it was not treason, ought to be so. country, they could not (provided there He denied Mr. Erskine's assertion, that was no intention expressed of taking away there had been no explanation of the law his life), be indicted for high treason, un- of treasous, except in bad times. The less they had actually levied war. He learned gentleman had alluded to the stawas sure no lawyer, at least no man who tute of the 1st of Mary, in a way not conwas guided in his own judgment by the sistent with his known accuracy. He had adjudications of the courts, could seriously alluded to that act, and to its preamble, maintain that doctrine. If that, however, and then hurried away by the warmth of was the law, it was high time that some his imagination, had asserted that there alteration should be made in it; for what were no acts in that reign for increasing security could there exist for a govern- the treason laws. His learned friend must ment, if it was necessary that the rebellion have forgotten the act of the 2d and 3rd of should be actually commenced, and per. Phillip and Mary. But to quit those times haps St. James's attacked, before any of of persecution, were there no additions to the conspirators could be indicted for the law of treason in the reign of king high treason? The other argument was William ? Was it not increased by the no less extraordinary. It was said, that acts of the 3d and 9th of that monarch's if any persons should make an attack reign? And was it not again increased upon his majesty's person, and even maim by the act of the 6th of Anne, which der and wound him, such persons could not clared it to be high treason to dispute the be convicted of high treason, unless the power of parliament to limit the succesjury were convinced that there actually sion to the crown, or to question the Han. existed an intention of depriving the over succession? These instances, he sovereign of his life. This was placing trusted, were sufficient to show, that even an attack upon the king exactly upon thc in those times which gentlemen had aplevel of an assault with intent to murder plauded so highly, the laws of treason an individual, where it was necessary to were always increased, in order to meet prove, to a certain degree, the intention; the exigency of the case. But gentlemen but in the case of an attack upon the had adverted to the clause in the present king, it never was expected that the in- bill, which inflicted the punishment of tention should be proved, because the im- transportation upon advisedly speaking, posing a restraint upon the king's person, &c. and had considered it as a total innoor attacking him in any way, if proved, vation on the penal code to punish a misleft no inference to the jury--the law in- demeanor in that manner. He wished ferred the guilt.—He thought it neces- again to refer to the 6th of Anne, in sary to state, than in one case, and one which it was enacted, that if any man case only, the bill before the House might should, by advisedly speaking, maintain, be considered as an extension of the law that parliament had no right to limit the of treason. It had not hitherto been un succession, &c. he should be guilty of a derstood, that a conspiracy against the premunire, the punishment of which was king was a substantive treason against his imprisonment during the king's pleasure, person, but a levying of war against his forfeiture of all lands and tenements, authority. It was true that the clause in goods and chattels, and incapacity to this bill would include every act com- maintain any action. Transportation for mitted against the regal authority of the a misdemeanour was by no means new, king; but every other article which it Perjury, which was a misdemeanor, was contained was at this moment treason by punishable with transportation, but it the existing law of the land. Excepting, appeared to him rather absurd to attempt indeed, this clause, the whole of the bill, to class crimes in that manner. He was in effect and purport the same with thought the punishment should be dithe statute of Edward 3rd. It might rected rather to meet the exigency of the
Noes Mr. Whitbread
case, than to be regulated by the parti- ter dropped out of the pocket, the malice cular class to which the crime belonged. of a servant, the repetition of a conversaThe question now was, what is the enor- tion at table, with a thousand other cirmity of the offence of conspiring to produce cumstances, frivolous and innocent in a hatred and contempt of his majesty's their natures, might be magnified to danperson and government? what is the dan- gerous portents. No man would be safe ger threatened to the state by it, and for a moment. Let gentlemen consult what ought to be the punishment? If it the history of the world, and they would was possible for a gentleman of eloquence see the impolicy of such rigorous reand talents at the bar, to persuade a jury strictions on freedom. In governments that levying war against the king, or con- which had recourse to such oppressive spiring his deposition, was not compre- measures, the most violent convulsions hended in the law of treasons, it was high had happened, and by the addition of time to make an express declaration to such new constructions of treason, the that purpose. The law now proposed same violences might be repeated. went to that extent, and to that only: it Alderman Newnham said, that the best was absolutely necessary, from the cir- reason for supporting the bill was, the late cumstances of the times, nor, in his opi. outrage on his majesty. Was nol such a nion, was it too severe in its punishment. measure necessary when a king, the most
The question being put, “That the distinguished for amiable and mild virtues Speaker do now leave the chair,” the was attacked-a king, who House divided :
“ Hath borne his facullies so meek, hath been Tellers.
So clear in his high office, that his virtues Mr. John Smyth
Would plead, like angels trumpet-tongued, YEAS
The deep damnation of his taking off.”
All the publications of the societies went
to do away the monarchy and both houses The House then went into the commit- of parliament; for if annual parliaments tee, in which the clauses of the bill were and universal suffrage took place, the desgone through,
truction of the three branches of the con
stitution would soon follow. In his con. Dec. 10. On the order of the day for science, he believed some strong measure the third reading of the Treasonable Prac. necessary to stem the torrent of licentices bill,
tiousness and anarchy; and he thought Mr. Harrison said, that the most re- the present measure was not stronger spectable lawyers were clear that the than was necessary. present laws were sufficiently strong to Sir W. Pulteney thought the laws of meet all possible circumstances. Would the country would not be in the least al. zhen, the House agree to an act that went tered by the present bill, but that they to specify new crimes, and enforce new would be better defined, and hence better punishments ? Ought not gentlemen first enforced. The bill merely detined the to inquire what sort of a guard the act law of Edward 3rd and all that could be would constitute for the sovereign ? It called new, was making a conspiracy to would, he feared, tend to show his ma- levy war, treason. This regulation was jesty in an odious light; as it was to die necessary, to restrain the sedition afloat in with him, and was thought unnecessary the country. for the protection of future kings. It General Tarleton remarked, that when was a libel on his majesty's virtues: it the laws had hitherto been found sufficient was a libel on the loyalty of his people. for the happiness, prosperity, and freedom The true safety of a king was centered of the people, it was their duty to inquire in the affection of his people: and such what were the grounds for the introduce affection his majesty enjoyed. He trusted tion of these bills. The reasons, in his the country would distinguish between an mind, which induced ministers to bring in amiable monarch and a bad ministry, and the bills, were the acquittals at the Old that all the odium would be confined to Bailey and the present ruinous war. The ministers, who had reduced the nation to bill would prevent the people from canthe most alarming situation. He said he vassing the conduct of the minister with looked with horror to the consequences respect to the war, and other domestic of the passing of this bill. A private let-circumstances of a distressing nature. The security of the monarch lay in the heart of Mr. M. Robinson hoped the negative of his subjects; and no monarch was ever the sovereign might be gained, and blamed deeper rooted in the affections of his peo- the hon. gentleman for endeavouring to ple than the prince who filled the throne degrade the character of the author of the at present; a sufficient evidence of this | Drapier's Letters. Such was his opinion appeared when his majesty went to St. of the two bills, that if the guillotine had Paul's shortly after his recovery.
We been erected in this country, he thought had, he contended, attacked France wan- it could not be more terrific. tonly and unprovokedly, because we did Mr. Sheridan animadverted very warmly not chose that twenty-five millions of on the reflections thrown out by Mr. people should settle their internal govern- Browne on Dean Swift. That hon. gen. ment without our interference.
tleman had confined his whole argument Mr. Western declared he felt indignant to reviling the character and memory of at the bill, and was fully satisfied, that the that great man. The House, he was sure, extension of the penal laws afforded not would pardon an hereditary respect for the least protection to the sovereign, go- that illustrious divine and philosopher. vernment, and subject. The nearer a king But it was not merely from that motive, approached to despotism, the more was but from respect to truth, he now took his personal danger increased. The bill, up the point; for surely, everyone he was convinced, was subversive of the would agree with bim, that there never fundamental principles of the constitution, was a man who, with a more firm and and he hoped the king would give his manly spirit of attachment to the rights negative to it. It had ever been his opi- / of mankind, maintained the cause of freenion, that the sovereign's best security dom, or merited the tribute of gratitude. was in the affections of his subjects. The He declared he never heard a passage bill would render the crime of high treason more applicable to the present times, vague and indefinite, and the person of his than that quoted by Mr. Western. That majesty unsafe.
He would read an ex- the Dean was no fatterer of great men, tract from Dean Swift, who in his political that he had sown the seeds of reform in creed, forcibly argues against the suspen- the state, and that the whole body of sion of any of the liberties of the people, court corruption had been the object of points out the consequences to which his attack, was much to his honour. He such suspension must lead, and the en- was not surprised that those who thought couragement which it gives to spies and improvident loans and corrupt courts were informers “ the most accursed, and pros- | useful to the constitution, should hold titute, and abandoned race, that God ever the memory of Swift in abhorrence. He permitted to plague mankind."*
recollected, though perhaps imperfectly, Mr. I. H. Browne thought the bill would some lines of a poem, called the “ Libel define clearly what was treason, and give on the rev. Dr. Delany, and his excela legislative sanction to the suppression of lency lord John Carteret," where Swift it. No king, he was persuaded, ever had supposes in Ireland (for no such thing the affections of his people in a greater could happen here), that a minister comes degree than his majesty; and he was with a budget full of rewards for those equally certain, that so far from gaining who support him, which (though of affection by giving his negative to the bills course not applicable now), might show it would contribute to his unpopularity. what the corruption of loans and budgets The hon. gentleman had quoted Swift as a were in Dean Swift's time. .
He says, person whose political principles sanc. after supposing that a gentleman who jioned the opinion he supported. Swift pays his court to a minister, must percertainly was a great man and a masterly form actions contrary to his disposition, writer, but he was a disappointed man, like the avenging angel in Mr. Addison's and a most factious, splenetic, and sedi- admired simile, which he repeats, Lious person. He thought the bill calculated to calm the agitation of the public Though Hatt'ring knaves may call it bitter;
“ I'll lend you an allusion fitter, mind, by giving the magistrate a power to which, if you durst but give it place, apprehend people for acting against the Would show you manya statesman's face.” *** laws of the country.
So to effect his monarch's ends,
From hell a viceroy devil ascends : * See Swift's celebrated letter to Mr. Pope His budget with corruptions crammid, dated January 10, 1720-1721. Swift's Works. The contributions of the damn'd; Vol. 16, p. 231. Ed. 1803.