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right hon. gentleman's speeches. The de- / would occasionally excite discontent, and cline of democratic principles had, on a why should not a government disgraced by former occasion, been much dwelt on, as ministers whose baseness and foliy had dethe happy effect of the war; yet, at that graded the country and whose foolish and moment the prevalence of those very ruinous system had universally propagated principles was made the ground of the bill discontent produce the same effect in a proposed by ministers. It was argued in
It was argued in more eminent degree. The right hon. favour of the motion, that the spirit of tur- gentleman had observed, that a regular bulence and discontent was increasing, and plan was forined for subverting the conthe bill intended to be brought in was
stitution. What was the system of dethought a necessary measure to secure the fence, with which this attack was to be constitution from invasion. He was ready repelled. Ministers proposed to crush the to allow that discontent of a very alarm- people, and must necessarily destroy the ing nature prevailed in the nation, but constitution under the flimsy pretence of could it be attributed to French princi- defending it; a dangerous plan, a plan unples ? Certainly not. If properly traced likely to succeed, it being infinitely more it would be found to originate in the cor- probable that they would crush themselves. ruption and folly of ministers, who, by He would on every occasion oppose so deplunging the country into an unjust war, testable a measure. produced calamities which they were un- The question being put, “ That leave able to alleviate or redress. It was urged be given to bring in the bill," the House that there were not only discontented men divided : but traitors in the country, who sought to
Tellers. destroy the constitution. That there were
The lord Belgrave such wretches he would readily admit, YEAS
Mr. Robert Stewart wretches of the most base and abominable kind, traitors, who strove, by the most Noes
} 42 atrocious means to subvert the constitution. He would not name who those trai. So it was resolved in the affirmative, tors were, nor in what situations they were Mr. Fox then moved, That the House be placed, but he was convinced, that if suf- called over on the 24th, which, after a fered to proceed in their iniquitous plans, short conversation, was agreed to. they would inevitably produce the dread
List of the Minority. ful effects which were so much affected to Aubrey, sir John Milner, sir William be apprehended from popular meetings Barclay, George North, Dudley and private clubs. He could not conceive Bouverie, hon. Ed. Peirse, Henry any connexion between the meeting at Byng, George, Philips, J. C. Copenhagen-house and the outrage on his Courtenay, John Plumer, William majesty so far from it, he said, he would Crespigny, C. C, Robinson, Maurice rather incur the imputation of acting with Curwen, J. C, Russell, lord William those men to whom ministers alluded,
Erskine, hon. Thos. St. John, hon. St. A.
Scudamore, John than suffer the motion to pass without his
Fitzpatrick, gen. most marked disapprobation; considering Francis, Phillip
Fox, Charles James Smith, general
Smith, William it as he did, as an attempt to rob the peo- Halhed, N. B. Spencer, lord Robert ple of their dearest rights and enslave the Hare, James Stanley, John Thos. nation. Were not the laws sufficient to Harrison, John
Sturt, C. suppress seditious meetings ? Was not Hussey, William Tarleton, general government fully enabled by the assist- Jekyll, I.
Thompson, Thomas ance of the civil and military power to
Jervoise, J. C.
Weston, C. C. quell any riot that might happen. An bon.
Lambton, W. II. baronet had observed by way of palliating Lemon, sir Wm.
Lechmere, Ed. Winnington, sir Edw, the evil proposed, that the liberty of the M'Leod, gen. Sheridan, R. B. press was preserved in its fullest extent. Martin, James Grey, Charles. Ought we, therefore, to be deprived of Milbank, Ralph the liberty of speech ? It had been pressed as an argument, that government could Nov. 12. Mr. Pitt brought in the said not be supported by other means. If it bill. On the motion, That it be now read could not be supported by other means, a first time, the question naturally arose, should it be Mr. Lambton opposed it. A worthy masupported at all. The best governments gistrate, on a former night, had asked who
could doubt that the meaning of those come to that conclusion. For his own who met at Copenhagen-house was, to part, he declared his utter disbelief of it. excite that spirit which afterwards broke There might, indeed, be hand-bills written out in an outrage against his majesty ? and distributed, and most probably were, But could the worthy alderman prove as others had been before them, by spies any connexion between those who at- and informers. He was warranted in tended that meeting, and the persons saying this, for practices of this sort had who had so daringly insulted his majesty? been proved. Ministers had propagated The House might recollect how the mi- such libels frequently through the medium nister had acted, when he caused the of their scandalous and disgraceful tools. Habeas Corpus act to be suspended. Could that be doubted? Had it not Then there was a little decent delay, for been stated at the Old Bailey by Lynam, the case was referred to a committee. one of the informers, who admitted that In the present instance, there was nothing he was paid by government for what he of evidence before the House, nothing of did, and that he was obliged to make exthe existence of any plot, but the mere travagant speeches and propositions in assumptions of the proclamation. This some meetings to prevent his being suswas the work of ministers, who came to pected as a spy? If, therefore, there that House with it, and said, “ it is our were any of these hand-bills distributed will that you believe every word of it." at Copenhagen-house, the probability “ Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione vo- was, that the persons who handed them luntas.”
about, were the spies of government. Mr. Canning was of opinion, that there with regard to the late meeting, what was an intimate connexion between the was the probability of this doctrine of proceedings at Copenhagen-house, and king-killing having been held forth? It the disgraceful outrage which followed. was a meeting where lectures were deAn attempt had been made against the livered from particular places erected for king, and a hand-bill was circulated on that purpose, and if there had been held the practice of a king-killing.” The doc- forth the doctrine of king-killing, it was trine was preached, and the attempt was utterly impossible for the thing to pass by made. The designs of the speakers were without being noticed. The notoriety of not disguised; they publicly declaimed the whole proceeding proved the falsity of against majesty and government. He the assertion. As so much stress had been did not see how gentlemen could be so laid on the connexion between the problind to plain and evident facts; unless ceedings at these meetings, and the insult they wanted to disguise what the de- offered to the king, he would move for a claimers and orators bad no idea in con- committee to inquire into the facts, as cealing. If the attack on the sovereign was done on the suspension of the Habeas immediately followed the circulation of such Corpus act. abominable doctrine, he did not see how Mr. M. Robinson called on the House the connexion could be discredited. There to pause, nnd seriously to think of the was a plea used, it was true, that they were step they were now about to take. The assembled for the puspose of petitioning liberties of this country had never been parliament; but this, it was easy to per- better cherished than under the house of ceive, was only a pretext to deceive. Brunswick, but ministers were endeaAnd yet some gentlemen would still say, vouring to make this reign similar to the that the doctrine and the fact had no reign of Tiberius. connexion.
Mr. Curwen asked, if pamphlets, such Mr. Sheridan began with observing, as he had heard stated that night, had that the hon. gentleman had stated, that really been distributed, what had governthere was a connexion between the pro- ment been about? Why did they not proceedings at Copenhagen-house, and the secute the authors ? With regard to the . issult offered to his majesty. He had present bill, it was one which required also alleged that the doctrine of king. mature deliberation. If there were plots, killing had been inculcated by distributing let the House have evidence of them. a hand-bill
. Now, the connexion that He had a family, and he wished to behe wanted was a connexion between what queath his fortune and liberty to his that gentleman said and the fact ; for children. He was a lover of the constituuntil he gave some proof of it, it was a tion, and he wished to transmit it to poslitile too much to call on the House to terity ; but he despaired so to do,, if the
bill passed into a law. He wished, at was considerably recommended to his maleast, to have some precedents. Did the jesty's favour, by the opinion the people country, in times of the greatest danger, had expressed of him; and he was confiresort to such a measure? If the bill dent he would not kick down the constipassed, the clause of the Bill of Rights, tutional ladder, by which he had mounted which enabled the people to petition, was to eminence and distinction. He could
not approve of the bill in its present form, Alderman Lushington said, he would as he liked not to leap over those outsubmit to a temporary sacrifice for the works of our constitution, those barriers general good, but he did not wish the of freedom, which our ancestors had ever measure proposed by this bill, to be made respected. a permanent law of this country. He Mr. Wilberforce felt the utmost regret should wish to see it made nothing more upon
present occasion to find himself than an annual regulation at most. under the necessity of differing with his
Mr. Grey rose chiefly for the purpose hon. friend, with whom, upon every conof entering his protest against the time stitutional question, he had formerly had that had been chosen for bringing the bill the happiness to agree. He was sure, forward. There ought to have been no- however, that the sentiments his hon. tice given of its being to be brought for friend had expressed were dictated by his ward ; that not having been the case, the total misconception of the bill. There consequence was, that the bill would pass was nothing contained in the bill that, in one stage in the absence of some of the his apprehension, touched on the essential most eloquent members. He did not be rights of the constitution. It abolished lieve that the insult to his majesty origin- none of the privileges which Englishmen ated at Copenhagen-house. It was said, could legally exercise. The right of that the doctrine of king-killing was holding popular assemblies and of dispreached there. He knew nothing of that. cussing public affairs was preserved by He had indeed been informed that a hand- this bill to every extent which ought to bill was circulated, which stated something be permitted, or which the existing laws about king.killing. He thought the bill authorized. unnecessary, because the laws already in Sir W. Milner said, he would oppose existence were fully sufficient to repress the the bill, because he considered it would evil. He should oppose it in that House, not only be useless for the object to which and out of that House; and if he should be it was directed, but would prove highly so fortunate as to contribute to the repro- detrimental to the country. He was conbation of it on the part of the people, he vinced that the guilty might be punished should think he had done some service to by the existing laws. He thought minishis country.
ters ought to endeavour to suppress illegal Mr. Dúncombe considered the bill of meetings, if such took place, and to give more importance than any that had been in directions to magistrates to exert, for that troduced into that House since the Revo- purpose, the authority they possessed. Jution. But, bad a bill of that tendency He had heard of a meeting which had taken place before 1688, we had been still taken place that day, where, he undergrovelling under the despotism of the stood, the utmost decorum had prevailed, house of Stuart. He had witnessed with If this meeting was assembled for the purhorror the behaviour on the first day of pose of petitioning the legislature against the session. He wished to see the kingly this bill, he highly approved of their depart of the constitution protected, but sign. The loyal yeomanry and gentry in ühere was another part of it that deserved various parts had met, and he hoped no less attention, namely, the democra. would meet, to give it their decided oppotical. They were equally essential to its sition. perfection. If the existing laws were not Alderman Anderson said, he highly apsufficient, he would willingly consent to proved of the bill, though he was not yet other laws-to any laws that wounded not perfectly master of its contents.
He enthe vital principles of the constitution. tertained the greatest dread of the sediHe thought the free discussion of political tious meetings which had been held, and subjects was one of those principles. The thought some strong measure necessary minister whom he had long supported, to counteract them. In his journey to surely could not wish to discredit popular town that day, he had seen crowds of meetings, for in addition to his merit, he people, and inquiring the cause at a turn
pike-bar, had been informed that it was a time on the 17th, the House again dimeeting of the Corresponding Society, vided : Yeas, 129; Noes, 23. which had dispersed a good deal, disappointed at an unlucky accident, by which Nov. 17. On the order of the day forel Mr. Thelwall, one of their orators, had the second reading of the Bill, been deprived of a phaeton belonging to The Solicitor General said, that he would a certain noble doke, of which he was to not have presumed to have obtruded him. have had the loan, and from whence he self upon the attention of the House in meant to harangue the multitude. this stage of the bill, did not the general
Mr. Stanley said, the privileges of Eng- interest it had excited, and the misreprelishmen were extinguished, if they could sentations of its tendency which had taken not meet when and how they pleased for place, render an explanation of its printhe discussion of public affairs. To render ciple and object peculiarly necessary. The their conduct subject to the arbitrary con- first object to which it was directed was trol and summary interference of a magis- the putting a stop to those meetings, trate, the purity of whose views might be which had of late been so frequently held. questionable, was inconsistent with every The sacred freedom of speech had, he idea of freedom and of the constitution. said, been shamefully and dangerously
Lord W. Russell said, that an imputa- abused. The sincere friends of the contion had been thrown out by a worthy al- stitution would, he was persuaded, give derman against the character of a noble their cordial support to a measure which duke, whom he thought it incumbent on professed to furnish a remedy to that disthe worthy alderman to name, and to state order and abuse. Whether the provisions what reason he had to believe the story of the bill were calculated to meet the which, improbable and foolish as it was, evil was another consideration. Its obif not properly explained, might be pro-ject, however, was, to prevent the perverpagated upon the slight foundation of sion of an important right, and to superwhat had been stated in the House. He sede the necessity of stronger restrictions would therefore move that the debate be upon it than the bill was meant to imadjourned, in order that an inquiry might pose. The second part was intended to take place into the facts which had been remedy the abuse of debating in public stated as reasons for supporting the bill. meetings. The particular object of this
Alderman Anderson said, he had merely was, to prevent the egregious abuse of stated what he had heard on his way to that privilege, which had of late risen to town.
so extraordinary a height-to prevent priMr. Lambton said, that if the worthy vate interest from prompting discussions alderman had acted as candour and liber. ' of public grievances, and to put a stop to ality dictated, he would have told the that traffick by which a turbulent spirit of person who gave him the information, that discontent had been raised and encouraged, it was impossible the noble duke alluded to serve the pecuniary purposes of indivito could in any way encourage seditious duals. It was to be considered afterwards and disloyal meetings, instead of coming how far this clause was suited to this purto the House with so miserable an anec. pose.- When the bill was examined, it dote, which could never impose upon any would be found that if the provisions of it man who knew the noble duke only for were at all defective, the fault was, that the worst of purposes.
they did not go far enough. His own opiThe motion, that the debate be ad. nion was that they were not so extensive journed, was negatived. On the question in their operation as they ought to be. “ That the Bill be now read a first time," The framers of the bill, however, had the House divided :
been guided by the best of motives. They Tellers.
wished it to meet the evils against which Yeas S Mr. Ald. Lushington
it was levelled, and hoped that the grand Mr. Buxton
135 purpose would be achieved by it, namely,
that of giving a timely check to the desNOES Mr. Lambton
22 perate views of these clubs and societies. Mr. Christian Curwen
With regard to the principle of the first The Bill was read a first time. On the part, the bill went to establish the right to motion, that it be read a second time, the meet for the purpose of petitioning the House divided : Yeas, 133; Noes, 21. legislature against any existing law, or On the motion, that it be read a second considering any actual grievance, but to (VOL. XXXII.]
subject it to regulations, not to withdraw sure which a regard for the public peace or impair it. It enacted that no meeting rendered fit to be adopted, where it was for such purposes could be held without a threatened by such extravagant attempts certain degree of previous notice. The as these meetings had encouraged. Eng. persons at whose request is was called, land was the only country in the world would incur some degree of responsibility where meetings for a similar purpose were for the conduct observed at such meeting. allowed without the attendance of a maIt was not meant to comprehend any gistrate. The most free states that had meeting called by the lord lieutenant, she existed; the Roman Republic itself, in riff, Custos Rotulorum, &c. It did not the zenith of its liberty and fame, had attempt to interfere with that kind of never permitted the people to assemble meeting which had generally been held but in a regular body, formally collected, formerly in this country, for the consti- and under the control of a magistrate. tutional purposes alluded to. Whether These provisions of the bill were all of this exception went far enough was, in them consistent with the spirit of our laws his mind, a matter of doubt. The bill and the practice of our government. To simply required that previous notice those who would exercise it with discretion should be given for the purpose of ex- and virtue, they were calculated to preplaining what was the nature of the busi- serve the enjoyment of a right by guarding ness for which the meeting was called, and against the abuse of it. The latter provito fasten upon such persons as announced sions were equally fitted to repress those this intention a degree of responsibility lectures, and other kind of political discuswhich would be a pledge for the peace- sions, which it was intended to prevent.ableness of their designs, and the decency Political subjects, he said, might be disof their demeanor. In what way did this cussed under the idea of an existing enactment trench upon the sacred right grievance, which the sufferers wished to which the constitution bestowed, or give have redressed, and the bill was not inthat fatal stab to their liberties which was troduced to prohibit such a mode of consiapprehended ? He was sure that it was dering them. That was a right too sacred calculated to obstruct no meeting which to be disturbed on any pretence whatever. either ought to be held, or which it was But where such discussions were meant to honest to hold. It could only mean, then, prove a source of pecuniary benefit to the to prevent those meetings in which the persons by whom they were promoted, true object skulked behind the pretext of a the bill interposed a salutary preventive. lawful design, and where the bad intention It was impossible not to perceive the imwas veiled by a plausible disguise. It was propriety of permitting discussions, in to be observed also, that the meetings which individuals, feeling themselves inthe bill was framed to discourage were terested would be disposed to advance those chiefly where vast crowds were as the most dangerous and seditious docsembled, and where necessarily most mis- trines. It had been asked, what is the chief and disturbance of the public peace necessity for adopting the measure? The were likely to be generated. Even this answer was simple and obvious; the notopractice was to be prohibited by existing riety of the daring proceedings of the selaws, by which tumultuous petitions were ditious. The discussion of pretended or prohibited, and the number of signatures even real grievances, and even the right of to be affixed to any one petition not only petitioning itself, had been employed as a greatly limited, but the object of it was medium to excite sedition and provoke disrequired to be approved by three justices, content. The report of the committee of or the grand jury. If meetings were held secrecy and the evidence adduced on the in defiance of the enactment of the pre- subsequent trials, contained variety of corsent bill, the assembly would be unlaw- respondence, from which it appeared that, ful, and might be dispersed by the magis- while the intention to petition was assumtrate in like manner as he was at presented as the ostensible object, no such deentitled to disperse a mob under the riot sign seriously existed. In what manner, act. In order to prevent destructive then, was this bill to apply to meetings views from being pursued under specious actuated by similar dispositions? It would pretexts, the magistrate was authorized not prevent the sober discussion of a real to put an end to the meeting, if his dis- petition, but it would prevent the introcretion suggested the necessity of such an duction of discourses, and guard against exercise of authority. This was a mea- the perversion of meetings which were