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May 14. Mr. Fox's Motion for referring the Petition of
the Roman Catholics of Ireland to a Com-
CHARLES JAMES FOX,
TREASON AND SEDITION Bills.
November 10. 1795. IN consequence of the indignities poffered to his majesty in his
way to and from the House of Peers on the first day of the session, a proclamation was issued on the 31st of October, offering a thousand pounds for the discovery of any person guilty of those outrages. On the 4th of November it was followed by another, wherein it was said, that previously to the opening of parliament, multitudes had been called together by hand-bills and advertisements, who met in the vicinity of the metropolis, where inflammatory speeches were made, and divers means used to sow discontent and excite seditious proceedings. These meetings and discourses were followed three days after by the most daring insults to the king, by which his person had been imminently endangered. Rumours had also been spread, that assemblies were to be held by disaffected people for illegal purposes. In consequence of those proceedings, it was enjoined by the proclamation to all magistrates, and well affected subjects, to exert themselves in preventing and suppressing all unlawful meetings, and the dissemination of seditious writings. So great had been the alarm and indignation, created by the treatment of the king, that as soon as he had gone through the reading of his speech, and had left the House, it was immediately ordered to be cleared of all strangers, and a consultation was held by the lords, in what manner to proceed upon so extraordinary an occasion. An address to the king was resolved upon, and a conference with the House of Commons to request their concurrence therein. The majority agreed in this measure; but the Marquis of Lansdowne accused the ministers of intending to seize this opportunity to work upon the passions and fears of the people, and to lead their representatives into conces
sions derogatory to the public liberty, and debasing to their character, in order to confirm their own power at the expence of the constitution. A conference with the Commons was held accordingly in the course of the day, and witnesses were examined in relation to the outrages committed. Their evidence was communicated to the Commons, and both houses unanimously concurred in the addresses proposed.
On the 6th of November, Lord Grenville introduced a bill into the House of Lords, for better securing the king's person and government. The motive he alleged was, the necessity of preventing abuses similar to those that had taken place on the opening of the session. He explicitly attributed them to the licentious language and maxims held forth in the meetings, which had been so long suffered, without due notice on the part of the legislatare, but which were now arrived to such a degree of insolence, that they required immediate restriction. He would recur on this occasion, he said, to precedents framed in approved times, the reign of Elizabeth, and the commencement of the reign of Charles II. In order more effectually to obviate so great an evil, he would move the passing of a bill, which he produced, and which was entitled, “An act for the safety and preservation of his majesty's person and government against treasonable and seditious practices and attempts."
On the oth of November, Mr. Pitt moved in the House of Commons, that the royal proclamations in consequence of the Jate riot, should be taken into consideration. He grounded his motion on the necessity of preventing such insults being offered to the sovereign, as he had experienced on the opening of the session. He presumed every loyal subject would unite with him on this occasion, and that methods would be taken to obviate those causes from whence the outrages proceeded, which were the factious meetings of disaffected people, wherein seditious discourses were constantly held, and principles maintained utterly subversive of good order and obedience to government. The pretence of these meetings was to petition the legislature for rights withheld from the people; but the real motive was, to promulgate opinions inimical to government, and calculated to bring it into contempt. If the executive power were not invested with sufficient authority to controul these meetings, they would finally endanger the existence of the state. The rights of the people doubtless ought to be respected, but it was equally indispensable to obviate their abuse. The question before the House was, Mr. Pitt said, Whether the pressure of the moment did not require an instant remedy? A precise and acknowledged power was wanting in the magistrate to disperse such meetings as threatened disorders. This power indeed ought not to extend to meetings held for lawful purposes, but only to authorize him to watch over the proceedings of any large assembly, whatever might be the object of those who assembled. To this intent, notice should be given to the magistrate previously to the intended meeting; he should be ema powered to be present, and if it appeared of a seditious tendency, to scize the guilty on the spot; to obstruct him should be made