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because the principle of the bill was so detestable, so radically vicious, and so dangerous to the constitution of this country, that he believed it to be impossible to amend it to any good purpose. He did not wish to gild a pill which contained in its essence such a noxious medicine. He wished to speak plainly upon such a subject, and he scorned to defend himself by any species of garbled explanation. He believed that he was not singular, nor were those with whom he acted singular, in abstaining from the committee upon this bill. He would ask gentlemen who were so forward to put questions to him
upon this occasion; nay, he would ask those who were the most forward to countenance the practice, but who did not choose to come forward themselves with such catechisms, whether they did or did not attend the committee on the India bill, which he had formerly brought forward in that House? Whether they had attempted in a committee to gain something in that bill for the East-India company? It was well known they declined altogether to attend that committee. Why? They stated, that they conceived the principle of the bill (whether right or wrong, was another question,) to be so bad, that they would not endeavour to amend it in the committee. Let him ask the right honourable gentleman and the majority of that House, who seemed to have forgotten the conduct of the minister and his adherents upon that occasion, whether they would not then have blamed him if he had asked them whether they did not think that their country would regard them as acting with partiality? But he never thought of censuring the right honourable gentleman for his conduct on that occasion, or of inquiring into the grounds of his secession. He put it to the candour
of the House, if it was worthy of the the character of gentlemen, or if they imagined that the country would really consider those as honest men, who attacked the same measure in one man, which they applauded in another, merely because he had the influence of the crown at his back, and because he had places and pensions and peerages to bestow? In his own opinion, such conduct reflected as little credit on their honesty as patriots, as on their understandings as men. He knew the honourable gentleman to whom he alluded to be versed in the proceedings of parliament, and with the knowledge which he possessed he certainly could not be ignorant that at one time there was a regulation that no one who disapproved of the principle should attend on the commitment of a bill. The rule, however, had not, of late, been rigidly observed; nor did he himself wish to observe it in every instance; there might, indeed, be cases in which he disapproved of the principle of a bill, and yet might be induced to attend the detail of it in a committee. But
then it must be such a bill as would be capable of being modified by amendment, so as possibly to produce some good. With regard to the present measure, he was clearly of opinion, that no amendment whatever could make the bill safe, wise, just, or in any sense constitutional.
With respect to the other points, which the honourable gentleman had stated against him, and on which he had been so much catechised, although he disapproved of such a mode of debate altogether, as a personality, it did him no injury, because he never had expressed an opinion, in that House or out of it, which, if he had reason to alter, he was not ready to retract; or to which, if he still continued in the same opinion, he was not willing to adhere. The honourable gentleman had said, that he had explained away at one time, what he had said at another. He would ask that gentleman, whether this was a fair charge, whether it was correct in point of fact, whether it was candid in point of inference ? That honourable gentleman had stated certain words of his, but had omitted to accompany those words with the reason which followed them. The honourable gentleman had charged him with stating a certain doctrine, to which he was still ready to adhere; the honourable gentleman, however, had omitted to accompany that doctrine with the application of it. He would ask that honourable gentleman, was it in reality to the doctrine, or the application of it, that he objected ? He thought a just, or a candid, or a wise man, would have endeavoured to understand the distinction between a doctrine in itself dryly laid down, and the application of that doctrine. This applied to what he had formerly said, when he had stated what it was that would justify resistance on the part of the people of this country. He never said any thing upon that topic, which he was not prepared to defend; and what he had asserted from principle, he would scorn to explain away from caution. He was ready, therefore, to repeat the doctrine he had stated to its full extent, and he would repeat, that neither lords nor commons nor king, no nor the whole legislature together, were to be considered as possessing the power to enslave the people of this country; they might separately or unitedly do such acts as might justify resistance from the people. Was this doctrine false ? Was it necessary to urge any argument to support its truth? It was a doctrine which he had learnt from his early youth. He had been taught it not only by Sydney and by Locke, but by Sir George Savile and the late Earl of Chatham. Had he any fear upon uttering this doctrine? Yes; one fear he confessed he had, and that was, lest some persons might imagine that he was too pusillanimous to maintain this doctrine without referring to autho
rity to support it, and that he might be considered as a slave to authority. To avoid this, he would state, at once, that, if there was no authority to support it, he would maintain it by himself. He was not singular, however, in that opinion; for he believed that every man who really valued the principles of our constitution, entertained the same sentiment; and this had been eloquently expressed in a celebrated sermon recently preached by Dr. Watson, the present Bishop of Landaff.
Mr. Fox said, that he himself had no such idea of the omnipotence of the whole legislature of the country, as to suppose that it could not so conduct itself as to justify the resistance of the people. It was more necessary than ever to maintain this doctrine; since it had of late become the fashion in that House to refer to precedents in the slavish reign of the Stuarts. It seemed that some gentlemen were extremely fond of reviving doctrines that were popular in those abject times. Many men, of slender talents, had been encouraged by the countenance which that eloquent man, and great genius, Mr. Burke, had lately been supposed to give them. He lamented that talents so brilliant should have been so employed; they had contributed, in a great degree, to render odious principles palatable. He trusted, however, that the spirit, the energy, the vigour of the English character, was not to be depressed; and that there would be always found in the country men bold enough to assert, aye and to maintain also, that king, lords, and commons, uniting to compose a legislature, might so conduct themselves as to justify resistance on the part of the people. Did
any man say, or would any man maintain, that they were so omnipotent that nothing which they did could justify the resistance of the people? He believed there was not one, amongst the most base, contemptible, and servile of mankind, who was yet prepared to state, that the people could, in no case, be justified in resistance, even to the whole legislature.
He came next to the application of this doctrine, which, for some strange reason or other, those gentlemen who accused him, had totally omitted in the course of the late der bates. In referring to that, the House would do him the justice to recollect, that when he spoke of resistance, he did not speak of actual resistance, or the propriety of it at the present time ; he only stated it as an argument, to shew that it might be just; and he observed, that it ought to be considered attentively by that House, when they were passing a bill, which, if all its provisions were enforced, after the declared sense of the majority of the people was against it, might provoke that resistance. He was sure that the House would also do him the justice to recollect, that he urged it as an advice to the governors, not an incitement to the governed. Let gentlemen,
then, not mistate his words, or the meaning of them, nor misrepresent them again. He was not, he said, surprized at the misrepresentation that had taken place; since the same thing had happened with regard to the words of his honourable friends upon the same subject, and particularly those of his honourable friend (Mr. Sheridan,) who had been accused that night of having recommended passive resistance. In that case, he must declare, that his honourable friend had been very unfairly treated. He had not recommended resistance, either passive or active; he had more than once or twice, in discussing the subject of resistance, stated, that if there should be any persons determined to make resistance, the mode he should recommend them to adopt would be that of a passive nature. That, however, as well as other expressions, had been taken without the qualifications by which they were accompanied, which marked too plainly the sort of candour that was shewn to himself and his honourable friends. But, after inflicting the most cruel wounds upon the constitution, the only resource which was left them, was to cover their conduct by misrepresentation, and of this resource, he allowed, they availed themselves in its utmost latitude.
Mr. Fox said, he was not a correct measurer of words; but at the same time, when his meaning depended upon the precise expressions which he employed, he did not chuse that his words should be misrepresented, or, what was the same thing, partially given. The honourable gentleman had stated, that on a former evening he had shortly
said, that if the present bill should pass into a law, resistance would no longer be a question of duty but of prudence. This he certainly said, but he would have it recollected that he said a good deal more. His expressions were, that if the bill now before the House should pass into a law, contrary to the sense and opio nion of a great majority of the nation, and if the law, after it was passed, should be executed according to the rigorous provisions of the act, then, in that case, resistance would not be a question of duty but of prudence. These were the words which he had used, and from which he would not now depart. And if the general doctrine was admitted to be true, and if it was the opinion of the country, that the bill was a direct invasion of the rights of the subject, and a daring attempt to subyert the constitution, the application of the doctrine could not be false. The nature and tendency of the bill was the point at issue between him and the honourable gentleman; and upon this point the House was now called upon to decide. He had laboured to prove that it not only struck at the out-works and bulwark of the constitution, but that it struck at the very vitals, and went to undermine the pillars upon which the fabric rested.
This he had not only stated as an opinion, but he had argued it in different stages of the bill, and though he had not been so fortunate as to convince the House, it was neither arrogance nor presumption in him to affirm, that his arguments were completely satisfactory to himself, and that they never had been answered. And if the House consented to any bill, the real effect of which was to give a mortal stab to the constitution, he could not understand how any man could deny, that resistance on the part of the people involved only a question of prudence, and not of duty, if it was at all their province to guard it from danger, or to repel the assailant. The honourable gentleman, however, was not content with imputing to him the decision on the question of right, he also thought fit to make him decide upon the question of prudence, a question on which he had left the people entirely to determine for themselves. In talking of resistance, however, he must again observe, that he could not recommend it; for prudence, in his opinion, dictated quietness to mankind under many severe oppressions. There was a maxim from a celebrated character of antiquity, of which he was fonder at this time than when the ardour of youth had greater influence on his passions. The more he thought, the more he was convinced of the philosophy of the maxim, Iniquissimam pacem justissimo bello antefero. That appeared to him to be one of the wisest sayings of that wise man, and it expressed his opinion upon the point of prudence in these cases. He must also add, that if the people of this country, who felt that they were called by Providence into a free state, should revolt at such a measure as the present bill, he should not wonder at it. If they saw a conspiracy against that liberty which made them happy, a conspiracy proved, as it was, by the bill — for the bill repealed the bill of rights, and reduced Englishmen to the character of slaves--he should not wonder if they resented it. If, therefore, regardless of the maxim which he had just quoted, the people of England should be so unwise as to commit acts of resistance, ministers might condemn them, parliament might condemn them, the law might condemn them, prudence might condemn them, but he believed no good man could ever accuse them of moral guilt.
The honourable gentleman had been pleased to accuse bim roundly for sentiments which he had uttered on a former night, and which he now repeated. He would ask that honourable gentleman, if he approved of the names of Sydney and Russell ? Were they dear to that honourable gentleman? “Dear to me they are (said Mr. Fox); dear is their very name ; dear to this country are the descendants of the illustrious Russell. I see the spirit of that great-man at this day