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in the very vortex of ministerial influence, | The House will please to consider how suddenly dispersed the tremendous cloud, very near we are supposed to be to a disand left nothing for ministers but the mi solution of parliament, and upon that serable shift of the possibility of an exist. ground, pause a moment, to reflect in what ing conspiracy without conspirators. By situation every man will stand who shall this time the projected war was in full not start as a ministerial candidate at the effect, and any one who will be at the general election. Sir, upon this head, trouble to trace with accuracy the circum- but to have dropped a hint is fully suffistances of which I have just sketched a cient. I affirm that the present ministry, rapid outline, will clearly discern from the by a bill founded on this proclamation, very nature of the case, as well as the op- will have the effectual control over all portunity taken for this transaction, that the electors of Great Britain, and no man it was planned for the very purpose of in- can possibly expect to be returned but on suring to administration an undisturbed ministerial interest.-As to the proclamacareer in the prosecution of hostilities. I tion itself, every sentence is a mere asassume it as a matter of fact, which every sumption of fact without any proof whatman may verify if he pleases.
ever. Will the house admit upon this The failure of the project, therefore, as single authority, that inflammatory and it was most exceedingly mortifying to its seditious speeches have been delivered at projectors, must be expected in the same the meeting alluded to, without any fordegree to have given courage and exul- mal testimony adduced for it? Shall we tation to its opponents; for which reason without any evidence whatever conclude, we ought then to have perceived the im- that because it is notorious that one man mediate operation and effect in the con- in a tumultuous assembly has thrown a duct of the parties and their associates, stone at the king's coach, many thousands of all those dangerous and destructive of men who met quietly and decently the designs, of which they had been so loudly day before are complicated in the transaccused. What was the fact ? Tranquil- action ? Are we not in full possession of lity in the extreme, a general submission an acknowledgment froin the crown itto the laws, and a temporary suspension self, that under an extreme pressure of even of the most legal exertions of the distress, obedience to the laws has been societies for a parliamentary reform, in so general as to deserve its particular nofavour of the vigour and unanimity re- tice, and violated only in a few instances? quired for the conducting the war; ac- Shall we not be permitted to ask, why iscordingly this war went on and went on, sue such a proclamation if it be insufficient, like that former war, the opposition to and if sufficient, why back it with an act which had been so advantageous to the of parliament? Shall we not call for a conductors of the present. Calamities list of all those justices of the peace and poured in upon calamities, expenses were others, to whom the proclamation is admultiplied upon expenses; all the flood dressed, that we may judge for ourselves, gates of profusion in subsidies, loans, and whether or not they are now competent all the endless etceteras of ministerial to the duty without farther aid ? Shall dilapidation were thrown open, and it we not, at all events, demand a call of the became again too apparent, that no remedy House, that on a case of such magnitude, short of a parliamentary reform could in which the whole fabric of our constitu. possibly reach the enormous evil; and tion, as settled in 1668, is in danger, every this brings us, Sir, to the moment of the member may be apprised of the circumproclamation now on the table. We have stances under which his own liberty and seen that an attempt to produce a com- that of the whole nation, and of all their plete annihilation of the societies by an at- posterity, is to be done away for ever? tack upon the lives of some of their pro- Surely, Sir, if ever there was a time when minent members had failed. It is neces- procrastination was a virtue, it is now. I sary, therefore, now to change the mode shall sit down under the satisfactory conof proceeding, and by one blow to quash viction, that I have not in so critical a the very existence not only of all these period shrunk from that duty which, on existing societies, but even the possibi- less important occasions, I should have lity of any such society ever existing been much better pleased to elude. at all and the time chosen for this Mr. Maurice Robinson said, he had operation is of itself sufficient, in my that night heard from an hon. baronet, a mind, to warrant the inference I now draw. sophisticated explanation of the nature of (VOL. XXXII.]
the bill, a circuitous effort to confound its majority of that House, but the voice of object and effect, infinitely more insidious the people. What was it that put a stop and alarming, than the pretext of necessity to the Spanish armament? Not the majowhich the chancellor of the exchequer rity of that House, but the voice of the had undisguisedly alleged. From the so- people. To preserve this voice inviolate phistry of the hon. baronet, he collected, he would risk his life and property; and that the people would have a right to read, it was indifferent to him, if the bill should but not to speak complaints against the pass, whether the constitution were des burdens they endured. Thus the interests stroyed by despotism, or an insurrection of the sovereign were opposed to those of of the people. He could only attribute the people, whereas he had always heard this bill to the convenience of ministers, that the sovereign was a third branch of who wished to put a stop to the progress the legislature, and was bound to under- of complaints against them to the throne; stand the democratical interests as much and, as an argument in support of this asas his own. The bill went to impeach the sertion he requested that part of his maloyalty of the people, who, except a few jesty's speech to be read which spoke of indeed, had constantly shown their vene- the general moderation and good beharation for the sovereign; for never had viour of the people. Yet, after this had king afforded more trying situations for been pronounced by his majesty to both the loyalty of the subject to be manifested Houses, they were called upon to vote for in, nor experienced stronger instances of a bill, which, even in a limited and mode. their love and attachment. The effect of rate extent, no minister had before prethe bill would be much to diminish the sumed to bring forward. He trusted the benefit of trial by jury in the city of Lon- House would not, dared not, let it pass. don. The House ought to resist a bill If they had the feelings of Englisbmen, he which was an execrable compound of op- was persuaded they would not: sure he pression and folly.
was, that the country had only to be apAlderman Lushington said, that when prized of its danger, and it never would he looked at the daring attack, not solely pass. against the person of the king, but against Mr. Wilberforce said, that the present the whole constitution, be thought the period and occasion were such as rendered measure necessary for the preservation of it the duty of every public man to declare the constitution. "If a negative was put on his sentiments, and it was more especially the bill, he would venture to say, that incumbent on those, who, like himself disnot only every man in that House, but claimed the idea of party connexion. He millions out of it would lament the day had listened with attention to his right when they rejected it.
hon. friend's opening; and although he Mr. Curwen declared, that no man more did not mean to pledge himself with redeprecated the attack upon the sovereign gard to the particular provisions of the than he did : he never contemplated any bill, he approved of the general principle thing with more abhorrence than he did of the measure, and, so approving, he was that attack, except the glaring attempt not to be deterred from the frank avowal which was that evening made, under the of his opinion, by the lofty tones, and viosanction of the royal name, to deprive the lent epithets of the hon. gentleman opposubject of his best and dearest privilege. site. He begged the House to take a If any thing could endanger the person of considerate review of all that had passed his majesty it would be that bill. With relative to the subject before them for the the privilege of a free discussion on the last three years; so long it was since atdefects of their government, the proceed.tempts had been making, by every species ings of ministers, and the conduct of their of art and industry, to poison the minds representatives, the people of this realm of the people of this country, to instil were never obliged to recur to acts of into them jealousies and suspicions, and violence to obtain a redress of their griev. to excite a contempt for the British con. ances; and hence arose the security of stitution and an attachment to those false their sovereigns. It was true, the right principles of liberty, which had produced hon. Gentleman had sufficient cause to such extensive mischiefs in a neighbouring suppress the voice of the people; for no country; nor was it only French politics man had ever sutiered more mortifications which they were importing into this counfrom it than himself. What was it that try, but French philosophy also: in the put a stop to the Russian war? Not the numerous publications by which their opinions were disseminated, there was a tions, and the expressing to parliament of marked contempt for every thing sacred, the national will were to remain unan avowed opposition to the religion, as touched; he might rather say, that they well as to the constitution of Great Bri- would acquire new life and vigour when tain. Various means had been taken to those assemblies should be brought under put a stop to these proceedings, but in regulation, which had incroached on their vain; these bad men seemed to redouble province and usurped their powers. He their efforts, and to press forward with was ready, however, to confess that it was increased audaciousness. Lectures were not willingly that he resorted to this given, and harangues delivered, of the bill; all that was left to him was a choice most inflammatory nature; hand bills and of difficulties; it was the condition of huprints of the most atrocious description man nature, and no where so true as in were circulated. That all this had not politics, that it was almost impossible to been without effect, was but too manifest obtain any great good without the sacrifrom those daring insults on the person fice of some opposite advantages, or the of his majesty. What, then, was to be risk of possible evil, yet on the whole done. Were these men to be suffered to he must declare, that fairly estimating go on without disturbance? It was a ques- the advantages and disadvantages likely tion which deserved the rather to be to result from the measure in question, he asked, because there were manifestly a could not hesitate to which side of the al. systematic principle, a consistency and ternative to give the preference. The seuniformityintheir measures, which plainly cond part of the bill respected the sedievinced a deliberate plan of conduct. tious clubs and debating societies. ConWere they to be permitted to pursue in cerning these he thought there could all our great manufacturing towns, what hardly be two opinions; they might do they had begun in more than one of them much harm, they could do no good. The —that same system of popular assemblies, cause of truth and of fair discussion were and debating clubs, and seditious ha- not promoted by these assemblies; on rangues which they had introduced into the contrary, they were the sure parents the capital. Surely it was high time for of falsehood, prejudice, and passion. But parliament to stop the progress of this a right hon. gentleman had defended growing mischief: and he thought ad- them on the ground of their being necesministration deserved the thanks of the sary, as vents through which the humours country for making the attempt in spite of the body politic were to be suffered to of all the clamour they must expect to pass without restraint. Was it by sedi. raise amongst those who harboured these tious clubs and debating societies, said bad designs, and amongst others in that the right hon. gentleman, that the old goHouse, whom he had observed with sor- vernment of France had been deitroyed ? row to be but too ready to lend their Was it by seditious clubs and debating countenance to them. The measure di- societies that the monarchy was subverted vided itself into two parts; that which in our own country in the time of Charles respected the greater popular assemblies 1st ? Had not both Louis 16th and and that which respected the smaller so- Charles 1st, attempted to stifle and supcieties and clubs. With regard to the press these and other means by which the former, he conceived it was by no means public discontents were supposed to be meant to lay any restraint on the constitu- excited. Mr. Wilberforce said, he had tional modes of discussing public ques. always considered it as the grand presertions, and stating and obtaining redress vative of the British constitution that for national grievances; all that was de- there was a popular assembly, the House signed was, to prevent the mischiefs likely of Commons, in which all popular grievto result from tumultuous assemblies, by ances might be freely and safely discussed bringing them more under the cognizance to which the people might be encouraged of the laws, and putting the magistrate to bring their .complaints, wherein they into a capacity of discharging that duty, in, might be sure there would never be the execution of which, difficulties were wanting those who would stand forth to now. thrown in his way, which rendered assert the cause of the injured or op, the exercise of it almost impracticable. pressed; here in short, all the national The grand constitutional organs by which humour might be suffered to ferment the wisdom of their forefathers had pro- without danger. Was there any thing of vided for the discussion of political ques- this kind in the constitution of France ;
Was it not actually for want of some such jesty's mouth, as he had expressed his saprovision, that the national discontents, tisfaction at our improved situation, part long working secretly, burst forth at of which was attributed to the returning length like a torrent, with the greater vio- loyalty of his subjects. The hon. gen. lence from having been so long repressed ? tleman had asked, what were our liber. Again, might not all Charles Ist's subse- ties before the formation of clubs ? He quent misfortunes be traced to his discon- would remind him, that since the Revotinuance of parliaments for eleven years lution, clubs had always existed in a together, by which a similar effect had greater or less degree; and that the hon. been produced in England? The applica- gentleman himself had of late years betion was obvious. But the right hon. longed to almost every one of them. He gentlema: had declared, that if the bill desired the House to recollect what the should pass, there would be a total ab- magistrates in Westminster were who rogation of all the liberties of the country. would be entrusted with authority under This was in part answered by an hon. gen. this bill. They were not like the gentletleman who, opposing the bill with equal men of that House, of independant for. violence, had declared that he hoped or tunes, and administering justice gratui. believed, that if the bill should pass the tously, but paid creatures, pensioners, and people would resist it. He was sure the dependents on ministers. Then what hon. gentleman could not mean they was to be done to render them fit for their would resist it by force; all he could de- offices ? First you must give them indesign was, that the people, if it should pendence, then integrity, and lastly tapass, would exercise their just right of pe- lents, or they would never be able to distitioning against it, and that the public criminate. If any orator, in the heat of voice, when expressed loudly and una- his argument, should use a seditious nimously, would procure its repeal. But word, or one which the magistrate con. when it was so confidently asserted, that, strued to be so, and not immediately dewith these clubs and societies the national sist when desired so to do, the riot act liberties would expire, he must ask in his was to be read, and followed up by mi. turn, where were the national liberties be- litary execution. "Reformers in general fore those clubs and assemblies existed, were not very ready to attend to a gentle which were but of late origin? But it had hint, and here there was but one alternabeen urged, that we were accusing the tive; for if the magistrate did not find people of England in general of disaffec-him passive and obedient, when setting tion; nothing could be farther from the him to rights, he was to knock him down, truth. Had this been the fact, we should Besides, how many magistrates were to now have been too late with our preven- be employed to disperse a large assembly? tive remedy: but, in truth, this was the He supposed they were to be procured exact time to interfere, before the poison by advertisement, and we might shortly had generally diffused itself. He could expect to read in the public papers, most solemnly declare it, as his consci. "Wanted an immense number of magis. entious opinion, that in voting for this trates, to prevent the dissemination of semeasure, he should invigorate the British ditious doctrines, and set the people to constitution.
rights.” At this rate not a respectable Mr. Sheridan said, that the hon. gentle man would be found in the magistracy, man who spoke last, agreed to the measure, but ashamed of having their names seen because he was desirous of handing down there, would resign the bench to a set of the liberties we enjoy unimpaired to poste- hired, venal dependents. He in his soul rity. But unfortunately the bill in ques- and conscience believed, that all the tution was one of the first to destroy those mults had been raised by that immense liberties, inasmuch as it made a direct at army of spies which had been disbanded. tack on the right of petitioning. He dif- He hoped the House would not suffer fered also with the hon. gentleman in his such a libel as this bill to pass ; for if idea of a conspiracy, when he insinuated it were to pass; he should think it unthat the spirit of disaffection had in. worthy of him to make use of the exclucreased. Did he mean to assert that it sive privilege which was allowed to the raged more dangerously now than it members of that House, to be the pratdid at the commencement of the war? If tling representative of a dumb and enhe did then it was evident, that ministers slaved people. had put a direct falsehood into his ma- Mr. Martin believed in his conscience,
that ministers had taken advantage of to make the world adopt a new principle. what had happened, to rouse a spirit in the Was there a country in Europe safe from country to support their intolerable mea- the poison of these principles, or which sures. Such a military force was estab- had not felt the effect of this great demolished all over the country, that he feared cracy? Were not the principles openly much blood would be shed before the avowed in every country, and acted on by nation could regain its liberties.
men of information and talents? It was membered the day when no minister evident there was a set of men in this would have dared to propose such a mea- country, who openly professed an attachsure.
ment to the French republic, who wished Mr. Windham (secretary at war) said, them success, and only waited for an ophe had heard much of assertion, that the portunity to co-operate with them. What liberties of this country were gone, and was the case in Holland ? Was it an enthat the people were enslaved ; but these tire conquest, and was there no French assertions had been supported by very party in Holland ? Was even America selittle reasoning. The hon. gentlemen op- cure against the propagation of French posite had long been too much in unison principles ? Did
man before the prewith the feelings and sentiments of the sent moment hear of an unjust waragainst people who compose such nieetings, and France ? He desired the House to Therefore it was not surprising that they ine the French Revolution, and then to should express the same feelings on this say whether that war was not just, which occasion. It was not, however, from such was undertaken against robbers and muropinions, that the House was to form its derers, and those who were guilty of every ideas. No man could doubt but that a crime that blackened human nature. To number of men in this country were en- say that such a war was not just, was an gaged in designs to subvert the constitu- outrage against common sense. There tion. Certain gentlemen exulted at that never had been a period in the history of circumstance. He wished them joy of that this country when such opinions were exultation, but he could not share it with entertained, and it was self-evident, that them. He saw it with regret, and it was the progress of laws and of crimes must with regret that he attempted a remedy. go hand in hand. When new offences ocIf the law at present did not reach those cur, new laws must be enacted to meet societies, it was fit they should make a them. The only question was, whether this law for them. The principles adopted by remedy was to be applied, or whetherthose those societies went directly to the des societies and meetings were to be permittruction of the constitution. Whether ted to go on preaching sedition and treason certain doctrines had made a progress in as much as they pleased? They had circuthe country, and whether they were at- lated hand-bills and papers of a nature too tended with danger or were likely to be so, scandalous to be stated. They mentioned was the issue between them, and on which directly the assassination of the sovereign, he called for judgment. When, in the feels and this was followed, in a few days, by ings of every body, the whole world had an actual attack on him. Yet certain hon. confessedly undergone great changes, the gentlemen did not think this measure of hon.gentlemen opposite seemed to have for- safety necessary to be adopted, and saw got there was such a thing as the French no connexion between the language held Tevolution," the greatest fabric," as had at these meetings and that attack. No gobeen represented, “ which human wisdom vernment that ever existed permitted such ever founded on human virtue." Look at meetings; and as an argumentum ad hothe authors and supporters of this system minem, the glorious system of new French and every man must see they had the am- liberty did not admit of them. The mo: bition to produce even a greater change in ment"a man said any thing the least obthe world, than was produced by its con- noxious to the government, they took a version from Paganism to Christianity: or short method with him, and cut off his by the Saracens under Mahomet. The head. present leaders of France had annulled Mr. Grey said, the right hon. gentleman treaties in a thousand instances. They either did not possess the confidence, or were not to be bound by the old musty was not acquainted with the crafty wiles maxims of Grotius and Puffendorf. They of ministers. For this he was not sorry had endeavoured to exterminate all traces as their inconsistency and absurdity of of ancient institutions, and had attempted conduct appeared more clearly from the