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gence, which they might deem it essential for the interests or safety of the state to communicate, and these he should set down as useful or meritorious spies. There were others who went certain lengths in order to acquire information, and made certain sacrifices, in order the more completely to get into the secrets of others; these he should reckon at least doubtful. But there were a third sort, who, in order to serve their own vile purposes, insinuated themselves into the confidence of those whom they wished to betray, not only affected a similarity of sentiment, but even spurred and goaded them on, and prompted them to adopt more violent language and more reprehensible propositions, than they would otherwise have employed --of such characters there were no words in the English language which could sufficiently mark his contempt and detestation. This was the description of spy, which most frequently appeared in the cases that solicited their notice the trials at the Old Bailey. In all instances, the spy had been found the most furious in his sentiments, and the most intemperate in his language. He had often been the exaggerated and falsifying reporter of those proceedings, of which he himself had been prime mover and contriver. [The attorney-general here interrupted Mr. Fox, to tell him that an information had been preferred against one of the witnesses for perjury, but had not been proceeded upon by the grand jury.] Mr. Fox resumed. It was no proof to him of the innocence of the man, that a bill had not been found against him. But he would here refer to the trial of Mr. Walker, of Manchester, the proceedings on which were of such a nature, that they made his blood run cold, whenever he read or thought of them. Mr. Walker was not, indeed, put in peril of his life, for it required the oaths of two witnesses to have brought him to condign punishment; and fortunately for human nature, a second Dunn was not to be found. But he was put in hazard of his character, his liberty, and his fortune; and in the course of the trial it was found, that the person by whom he was accused was notoriously perjured. Yet on the oath of this very man, one of the name of Paul, had, for some time, been kept in prison. To be sure he was liberated upon the conviction of the perjury of his accuser.
But what reparation did ministers grant to this man, thus exposed to suffer, from the falsehood and corruption of another? It was, surely, the duty of government to make amends to the innocent individual, subjected to the disgrace and hardships of confinement, from the negligence of ministers, or the depravity of
The honourable and learned gentleman said, that these were times which he could not contemplate without the most
serious apprehensions with respect to the fate of all who were dear to him. He confessed that he did not think less seriously of the times than the honourable and learned gentleman. It had been asked, whether it was fair to set down the whole of the friends and supporters of ministers as in a conspiracy against the liberties of the country? To this he would answer by another question, Did not the honourable and learned gentleman believe that there were in the Corresponding Society some men who were morally good, and who were by no means actuated by those detestable views and malignant passions, which were, upon every occasion, indiscriminately ascribed to the whole of the body? So in the same way he might believe, that there were some supporters of ministers, who really meant well, though they were blind dupes of the folly, or unconscious instruments of the wicked policy of ministers. But though he by no means confounded every supporter of ministers under the same censure, yet if he saw a rooted design on the part of ministers to invade the liberties of the subject, followed up by successive efforts, all directed to that object, he should think himself wanting in his duty, if he did not take all peaceable means of stirring up opposition on the part of the country to the progress of their measures. The honourable and learned gentleman had prefaced his speech with different views of the nature of the British constitution, in some of which he agreed with him, in others he thought his own opinions more applicable. He agreed with the honourable and learned gentleman, that the constitution was better adapted for the enjoyment of practical liberty than that of any other country, but he rather thought that had been the case formerly more than it was at present; it would be invidious to state any precise epoch when the alteration began to be most manifest, yet without meaning any thing, either personal or disrespectful to the king, he must state, that from the time of the Revolution till the accession of his present majesty to the throne, practical liberty had been greater than it had been since, and that the system which had been acted
upon in this reign was more hostile to liberty than that acted upon during the period to which he had alluded. He declared he could discover nothing in the present state of the country that could justify this new infringement on the liberties of the subject intended by the bill. So far from it, the power and influence of the crown were obviously so enormous, that all the liberty that subsisted in the country was preserved only by the freedom of speech and the liberty of the press; if either of these were given up, or in any degree taken away, the only barrier that we had against the annihi-, lation of liberty would be completely destroyed.
The operation of the present bill would interrupt the meeting of clubs, occasional attendance on which formed the chief, if not the sole, luxury of persons in certain stations. [A cry of No! no!] If it did not do so, he could only say, that as it was at present expressed, he did not understand it. The honourable and learned gentleman told us, that the whole of government was attacked. He was not an advocate for attacks on government, but he was an advocate for human nature, when it was oppressed. It had been well said in a former war with respect to the Americans, “You drive them to madness, and will you quarrel with them about their ravings ?” When he looked to the many calamities which the war had brought upon the country; when he saw, during them all, an acquiescent and confiding House of Commons, he thought he could account for some part of that spirit of murmuring and disco lent which pervaded a great body of the people. He stated this to have been the only war since the peace of Utrecht, which had in no one instance given rise to any inquiry in the House of Commons. Even during the famous wars of Chatham, and the victorious campaigns of Malborough, inquiries were instituted respecting some of the operations. Had this been the only war so eminently brilliant, so uniformly successful, so clear in its details, so economical in its arrangements, as to claim exemption from that accuracy of investigation, which had been displayed at former periods in the military history of this country? With this negligence of the House of Commons before their eyes, with the experience of their own accumulated sufferings, was it to be wondered at that men should complain, more especially, when the betrayers of their interests, and the authors of their misfortunes, were at the same time making an attempt to deprive them of their dearest and best rights ?
An honourable gentleman, (Mr. Powys,) the sting of whose eloquence chiefly consisted in its personality, had alluded to an immense number of people, who had that day been assembled without tumult or disorder. He appealed to the gentlemen who were present, whether the immense concourse had not shewn themselves to be seriously impressed with the importance of the question, and deeply interested in the issue. He must confess, that of the many meetings, which, in the course of his public duty, he had been called upon to attend, he never had witnessed one, which, from its numbers or deportment, discovered so strong an impression of the object for which they were met, and so fixed a determination to pursue it by all proper means. You may prevent men froin complaining, said Mr. Fox, but you cannot prevent them from feeling. Either your bills must remain waste paper, or they must be carried
into execution with circunstances of the greatest oppression. And depend upon it, if men speak less, they will feel more, and arms will be left them as the only resource to procure redress to themselves, or exercise vengeance upon their oppressors. .
Mr. For then proceeded to refute the pretexts for not going into an inquiry, from the supposed urgency of danger, He stated the little advantage which ministers had derived from their system of alarm and terror, from an instance personal to himself. If, at the commencement of the war, it should have been proposed, that he should make a speech, as he had that day done to thirty thousand people, the question would not have been, whether he should have been suffered to speak, but whether he should have been suffered to exist. By that large concourse he had that day been heard with unanimity and approbation ; so great was the change that had taken place in their sentiments! He concluded with recommending ministers to abandon a system, which had hitherto only been marked by reverses and disappointments. The pressure of the war was the original source of the discontents of the people, and the measures taken to repress these discontents, had only increased the evil. The bad success of their policy ought to induce them to trace back their former steps,
-Relictos; and to try what effects they could produce upon the people, by treating them with respect and gentleness. He reminded them of the saying of a great man, whom he had often occasion to quote, (Mr. Burke,) “ Try all means of gentleness; terror can always be applied to, but never without danger; for if it fails in one instance, it produces contempt ever after.”
The motion was also supported by Mr. Jekyll, Mr. Curwen, and Sir William Milner. The House divided : for Mr. Sheridan's motion 22 : against it, 167.
The motion for the second reading of the sedition bill was strongly supported by the solicitor-general. He was replied to, most ably and eloquently by Mr. Erskine, who denied that the bill was consistent with the principles of the British constitution. The statute enacted in the 13th of Charles II. was, he observed, the acknowledged precedent of the present bill: by the tenour of that statute one hundred thousand individuals might assemble in order to concert together a petition: the only prohibitions contained in that act, were, to hawk the petition about for those to sign, who
might not know of the grievances complained of, and that more than ten persons should present the petition to the king. It also empowered magistrates to interpose their authority when overt acts of tumult took place, and to require security against any breach of the peace; but no meeting nor communication of thoughts were forbidden ; tumultuously petitioning was the only thing forbidden. How different, exclaimed Mr. Erskine, was this act from the bill now depending, which even prevented men from petitioning! He concluded by animadverting on the language once used by Mr. Pitt himself, on the subject of parliamentary reform. “We had lost America,” were the minister's words, “ through the corruption of an unreformed parliament, and we should never have a wise and honourable administration, nor be freed from the evils of unnecessary war, nor the fatal effects of the funding system, till a radical reform was obtained.” But the man who had spoken these true and memorable words was the same who now charged with sedition all those who thought and spoke as he had done, and who reprobated the measures, which, after he had so bitterly complained of them in that speech, he had now thought proper to adopt! — The bill was defended by Mr. Dundas, who took occasion to observe, that no member of that House had so frequently distinguished himself by appeals to the people as Mr. Fox, combating ministers in popular meetings one half of the day, and attacking them with equal fervour in parliament during the remainder. He had acted the same part during the American war to as little purpose, however, as it would appear he had done at present. Mr. Dundas inveighed, with great asperity, against some particulars in his political conduct and connections.
Mr. Fox said, that if he possessed much of that vanity, which the right honourable gentleman had been pleased to impute to him, it would have been no small gratification to him to have formed the subject of not merely one or two or three, but at least of four different speeches, which he recollected the right honourable gentleman, considerable in abilities himself, high in situation, and great in power, to have made upon his character and public conduct. On several occasions, he remembered to have been publicly addressed from the same quarter, in a similar style of catechism, upon his opinion respecting the extent and mode of reform in parliament, and respecting his sentiments upon the influence of the crown and the proper limits of the royal prerogative. The right honourable secretary had at that time received several hints from his right honourable friend near him, (the chancellor of the exchequer,) not to push his enquiries too far. On the present occasion, however, he was not fortunate enough to reap the benefit of so kind a hint, and therefore he would answer the different questions in the catechism, with all the plainness and sincerity in his power. The first inquiry of the right honourable secretary related to his conduct in the famous Middlesex