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animating his descendant; I see a man of high rank, splendid talents, and patriotic spirit, emulating the virtues of his ancestor: I admire his principles, they adorn his character, and will I hope be rewarded with glory. I say he emulates the virtuous principles of his ancestor. Perhaps, some people in this country wish he may share his fate. I, assuredly, have no such wish; but I have hopes, when I see the descendant of the illustrious Russell possessing the spirit, the patriotism, the fortitude, and the perseverance of his ancestor, that he will be rewarded in like manner by the affections of an admiring people. Why do we admire the great characters of Russell and Sydney? Is it because they were unjustly condemned ? Certainly they were unjustly condemned, for they were condemned illegally, on defective evidence, and against law. But although they were thus condemned, is there a man this day who has read their history, and does not believe they had in contemplation a resistance to the prince then upon the throne? Why do we admire them then? The simple injustice of their execution could have reflected disgrace only upon their accusers, and their judges. No; it is because we know they had that resistance in contemplation; that they were determined to resist principles which then prevailed; principles which were odious to the people of this country, much too neatly resembling some modern doctrines among ourselves: they found the law insufficient, and they endeavoured to bring about a revolution favourable to the liberties and rights of Englishmen; and if this be the cause at present, the question is still nothing but a question of the application of the same principle. These are the reasons why we admire the characters of these great men, and admired they will be while a spark of liberty animates the bosom of an Englishman.” These, Mr. Fox said, were his sentiments; and he would maintain them to the hour of his death. If others, who heard him, did not approve of them, let them use what arts they pleased to blacken him in the opinion of his countrymen; he would still persevere; for he knew he had pronounced principles, independent of which his present majesty never could have been placed upon the throne of these kingdoms.
He wished it again to be understood, that he did not mean to shelter himself under the authority of names; he spoke for himself; but he could not here help referring to the venerable Earl of Chatham's speech on the American war.
That great statesman had said, “ that he rejoiced the Americans had resisted.” A noble sentiment ! and although he differed on other points from that illustrious man, he would say, that in that event he rejoiced also; for considering the point which was then at issue between America and this country, he had rather
that America should be independent of Great Britain, than that, by the meanness of her servitude, she should have infected this country by the baseness of her own slavery. Upon that occasion Lord Chatham had said, in his own peculiarly emphatic strain," rather than slavery should be established, let discord reign for ever;” and “old as he was, he wished to see the question tried between government and the people.” The phrase was, perhaps, a little harsh, but the principle was excellent. He was sure he had heard similar sentiments from the late Sir George Savile. But after all, he would beg leave to say, that, of all the attacks to which he knew he was exposed, there was but one he feared; that of incurring the charge of pusillanimity. He must therefore again say, that, from the course of his education, from the disposition of his mind, and from the principles he had uniformly maintained, in that House and out of it, he should be a fool if he did not believe these principles to be true, and a coward if he did not profess them.
Mr Fox then adverted to another article of charge, which had been brought against him; namely, withdrawing from the committee on the bill. The motive which had been ascribed to this proceeding was very extraordinary indeed. For how the honourable gentleman could make out, that he had obtained a triumph over his rival by withdrawing from the committee, he could not conceive. Had he attended, and persuaded the House to alter some of the most obnoxious clauses, then with some justice, perhaps, he might have got the credit of a triumph; but it was the first time he had ever. heard that to absent one's self from a debate was the way to obtain a victory. But, when he attributed his conduct on that occasion partly to another motive, which was, that the bill might go into the country with all its faults upon its head, the supposition was not so incorrect, and, as far as it imputed a crime, he would plead guilty to the charge. He confessed that he wished the bill to go abroad in its native deformity, as it was impossible for any amendment to render it worthy of retaining a place in the statute books of the kingdom.
On the different clauses of the bill he would not enter much at large, after the eloquent and irresistable speech which had been delivered by his honourable friend, no argument of which had ever been touched. There was only one or two points on which he wished to make a few remarks. It had been contended by a learned gentleman (Mr. Hardinge), that not only meetings which were really dangerous ought to be stopt, but that all meetings whatever, whether the debates were inflammatory or argumentative, ought to come within the operation of the bill. The learned gentleman saw that it was impossible
accurately to draw the limits between one speech that was merely argumentative, and another which might contain some appeals to the passions, and therefore he wisely confounded all those trifling distinctions, and brought both within the reach of the law. For instance, were he, in a public meeting, to state coolly and dispassionately, the inadequacy of our representation, and the disproportionate influence of Old Sarum to somne large and populous towns, in choosing their representatives, he might be taken up for sedition, a justice or magistrate miglit dissolve the meeting, and, on their refusing to disperse, he inight call in the military to murder them. With respect to the conduct of magistrates, he had little to add to what had been said by his honourable friend. He had received a letter, however, that day, from a most respectable magistrate, who held that office much to his honour, and the benefit of the place in which he resided, in which he expressed his terror at these bills. Heretofore, men of different political principles had held the office of magistrates together, and, forgetting all private opinions on politics, had united in consulting the interests of the poor, and in forming plans for their relief; whereas, henceforward they would be forced to depart from their civil capacities to decide controversies between Mr. Burke and Mr. Paine. In short, it would be almost impossible for two men, differing in their political sentiments, however honest, however expert, however useful in their office they might be, to be in the same magistracy. They were directed by this bill to check the progress of sedition in popular meetings. How was it likely they should, for any length of time, agree upon the propriety of interfering their authority, unless they were all of one opinion?
In the course of the debates upon this subject, it had been taken for granted, that the preamble of the bill was a proof of the object of it. That was a curious way of taking a point for granted; it never could be taken as a thing that was true of course, and he did not believe it to be true in this instance. The preamble of the bill talked of seditious meetings. A learned gentleman had said, that as to the intention of these meetings, he had evaded the question. That learned gentleman had asked what these societies were ? A pretty comprehensive phrase, “ corresponding and other societies !” He had said, on a former occasion, that some of them meant one thing, and some another. The learned gentleman had said that was Scrub's answer. He really did not care whether it was Scrub's answer, or the answer of any other person; it appeared to him to be the only good answer which a man of common sense could make. Where there were a great number of men, there must of course be a variety of sentiments, and upon that he must refer to the observations
already made by his honourable friend. The general principle of every society he took to be that which it professed. He knew it might be said, that the language which was held forth on behalf of these societies was moderated in consequence of the course which parliament was then taking. The general principle of every society he took to be that which it professed. It had been said that Thelwall had lately become more moderate, and that his moderation proceeded from terror of the strong measures now threatening to be adopted. He could not speak to the fact; but if it was as had been represented, he rather supposed that any improvement in moderation had been owing to the prosecutions being suspended by the attorney-general. For he was convinced, that lenient measures would be more effectual than violent steps, in subduing those who were disaffected to government. Mr. Fox denied that there was any ground for the calumnious allegations advanced against the meeting at Copenhagenhouse. The meeting had assembled in a legal and constitutional manner, for the legal and constitutional object of petitioning; but if there were a few individuals intent upon desperate designs, that was no reason for throwing out a general aspersion against the whole body. In great meetings he always conceived, too, that their ostensible object was their real object, because it was impossible to bring twenty or thirty thousand persons to practice dissimulation in unison. He would ask any gentleman to shew him the probability of a person holding forth, in a very large popular assembly, any doctrine that was not agreeable to the real feelings of the mass of that society? He would ask any gentleman to give him proof that the proceedings even at Copenhagen-house were in any degree seditious, and to shew him that the meeting there had any idea of recommending an attack upon his majesty? The petition presented to that House contained sentiments of a different nature. He would ask the attorneygeneral himself, if he knew of any proceedings at that place which called upon him to institute a prosecution ? What they had done upon that subject could not have been blamed in the bad reign of Charles II. whose shameful example they were at this time so fond of servilely imitating. They had not gone beyond the limits which were then prescribed to those who wished to petition the king. He did not know that these proceedings opposed in the slightest degree, the sentiments of those who censured Jeffreys and impeached North. He did not know that they had done any thing illegal; and he could not presume the proceedings were seditious, merely because it was so insinuated in the preamble of the present bill. He knew that to take any thing for granted, without evidence,
was contrary even to the principles laid down in the slavish reign of Charles II. and directly contrary to all the principles of our constitution. But gentlemen, when they talked of seditious meetings, adopted general terms — “ these societies”
- by which they converted them as it were, into a species of body corporate of sedition. Now, instead of considering them as a body corporate, he considered them just as he did every other large body of men, as consisting of some good and some bad persons; and the mass of that body he considered to be good. Such he had considered, and had more than once stated to be, the body of the society of which Mr. Reeves was president. He knew, indeed, that some of the publications of that gentleman, as also those of Mr. Arthur Young, were directly hostile to the best principles of our constitution, and that they had been circulated with a mischievous avidity; he was, nevertheless, willing to allow that the mass of that society were what they professed to be, namely, friends to the constitution of this country, as consisting of king, lords, and commons. Precisely the same did he think of the London Corresponding Society. By the way, there fell into his hands very lately a pamphlet which contained much admirable reasoning; it was stated in the form of a dialogue, supposed to have been supported by two opposite characters, the one a friend, the other an enemy, to the London Corresponding Society. The enemy says, “ I hate the society because it has for its object the destruction of all monarchy.” The friend says, “ Have you found any thing of that kind in their proceedings?” “ No,” says the other; “ they are too cunning to profess that.”
6 What,” says the friend of the society, were the 30,000 men all cunning ?” Now, Mr. Fox said, he fell very much in with this sort of reasoning, on behalf of the society, because he believed it was very difficult to collect together at any time, or at any place, 30,000 men, all of them so cunning as to conceal their real object.
In proposing the question the other night to the promoters of the bill, as to their opinions upon the effect it was likely to have upon all societies, Mr. Fox declared he had not done so for the purpose of endeavouring to amend the bill, but merely to get, if he could, at the opinion of its authors as to the probable extent of it. It had been contended, that the sense of the people of this country was not averse to the passing of the bills. If they had eyes and ears, he could not conceive how they could ever maintain such a proposition, which the experience of every day demonstrated to be false. And if they had lost the use of their senses, it was not to be expected that he could make up the loss by any arguments which he could adduce. Peace was said to have been the