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spirators, but would content himself with mind, with increased activity, and addiintreating the House to recollect, what tional vigour ; again held general meetthe principles of those societies had been, ings, and again developed their designs simply as matters of fact, and what their in publications, which stated that they own opinions respecting them were, at had suffered a storm; that their vessel the beginning of 1795, when they re- was endangered, but now had put to sea newed the suspension of the Habeas with greater prospect of success than Corpus act. Having desired gentlemen ever; that they had the satisfaction to to keep these points continually in me- see their principles actively propagating mory, he would farther beg their atten- among their countrymen; and that their tion while he took a view of the transac- numbers multiplied at the rate of 150 tions of the societies since that time; as new members in a week, and sometimes they came under the observation, not only 70 or 80 in a day.” It seemed as if the of himself
, but of every one, and were whole of the British nation were convened taken from authority not to be doubted ;, on this extraordinary occasion ; for, upon their own writings and publications. At their own declaration, they had renewed the conclusion of last session, he had their system, and increased the means of hopes that the mischiefs which had arisen propagating their doctrines. They had to the people of France from the wild told the people what they were to expect principle that every individual had a right from inertness, and what from supplicaio share in the sovereignty, and that it tion, and exclaimed, “ How long, o foolish was a violation of that right to admit of countrymen, will you call upon Hercules!" any qualification of property in election; The meaning of which was easy to be that the dreadful examples of the bad understood. He must again request genconsequences arising to all, even the tlemen to keep constantly in their view, lowest orders of the people of that un- the principle disclosed by those societies happy country, from that principle, and previous to the suspension of the Habeas (to use the words of the detestable Ro- Corpus act. That principle was adhered bespierre) from the “ despotism of li- to with additional real, and the spirit of berty,” would have had some influence enforcing it was so far increased, that the on the minds of the people, and prevented House would find these societies criticisthe farther progress of the same ruinous ing and condemning the constitution of principles among them: that it would France as an imperfect system; inasmuch have occurred to them, how very few of as the principle of equality had been all those who rose from the dregs of so. abandoned; because, in the formation of ciety, and rioted in the blood and trea- that constitution, property had been made sure of the nobility and gentry of France, a necessary qualification in electors, and had come to such an end as to leave the right of unlimited universal suffrage them just objects of envy; how many of had been abandoned.
The better to carry them followed each other to the scaffold, their plans into execution, they affected immediately on the heels of those they to adopt a pacific system, declaring, as murdered; how many that stood at the their resolutions stated, " That they did highest pinnacle of elevation on one day, not mean to demand rights with arms, were hurried on the next to the guillotine. but by certain measures, in such a nature He had hopes that these glaring effects that the House of Commons must accede of the French revolution would have to them; and that if any despaired of brought to the minds of those who were obtaining a reform, and looked for that engaged in deep adventures here, that, to riot, they would tell them, that it was though such men might have a temporary not riot that could bring about that revoprosperity, that prosperity must neces. lution which every one must wish for.” sarily be short, and that their fall would This pacific system, however, was only be more rapid than their rise. Full to be continued, provided the parliament fraught with these hopes, he had given would voluntarily submit to the absurd his assent to suffering the expiration of and extravagant doctrines of universal the act for suspending the Habeas Corpus suffrage and annual parliaments, which act; but most grievously was he disap- was neither more nor less than a complete pointed in his hopes; for he found that surrender of the constitution. The ignothe parliament was scarcely prorogued, rance of the lower classes of the people, before those societies again recommenced who, through prejudice and bad habits, still their former practices upon the public nursed and cherished a regard for artificial distinctions, which they proposed in time, mass of ruin.-He proceeded to read the to remove, these new legislators stated to publications alluded to in elucidation of be the prop of the constitution ; and this the propositions before stated; and first, ignorance they proposed to remove, in he read from a pamphlet,“ that thejlanded order that the constitution might fall; property of the country was originally and this happy accomplishment, this ge- got by conquest, or by encroachment on neral illumination, they declare, is only the property of the people; and as those to be affected by cheap publications, cir- public robbers, who had so obtained its culated in different channels to the peo- possession, had shown no moderation in ple, the expenses of which were to be de- the use of it, it would not be fit to neglect frayed from the revenue of the society, the precious opportunity of recovering and
any person who chose to take up the their rights, a few hearty fellows, with trade of a bookseller, and assist in the arms, &c. might take possession of the publication of them, was to be encouraged. whole; a particular committee be apHe would show the House what sort of pointed to receive it; all the possessors light this illumination threw around them ; be called upon to deliver up to that comand in doing so, he would speak of three mittee their writings and documents, in societies concerned in this negociation; order to be burned ; and the owners be the London Corresponding Society, the made to disgorge the last payment of their Society of the Friends of Liberty, and tenants, in order to form a fund for 'good the London Reforming Society. He as citizens; and if the aristocracy arose in resured them, he would not quote a single sistance, let the people be firm, and dispatch word but from books sold by the printers them, cutting them off root and branch.” and booksellers of those societies; printers This was published by a bookseller and and booksellers not only employed, but printer, at whose house the Copenhagenrecommended by them, and called patriot house petition of the 12th of November booksellers ; in whose hands, moreover, lay to be signed. One passage he thought the petition of the meeting at Copen- it necessary to read, as it contained a direct hagen-house was left for the purpose of incitement to regicide. It was a definition receiving signatures. The tenor of the of a guillotine, "* An instrument (as they books from which he quoted, was neither called it) of rare invention. As it is the more nor less than to excite the poor to
to decapitate and not hang seize the landed property of the kingdom; kings, it is proper to have this instrument to stir up the soldiery to mutiny; to de- ready to make death easy to them, supgrade and debase the naval and military posing a necessity of cutting them of. character, and stigmatize every naval and This instrument is used only for great ma. military success as a misfortune ; to re- lefactors, such as kings, bishops, and prime present the administration of justice as ministers. England and France have had corrupt from its very source, and the their regular turns in executing their judges as venal and influenced by the kings! France did it last, &c. &c.” and, king and his ministers; to mark the no- in conclusion, Ankerstroem and Damiens, bility as a degraded race, and to invite the two regicides were held up to the rethe people to strike them from their verence of mankind. This too, was from seats; to represent monarchy as a burthen, a printer, given to the public by the so. and an hereditary monarchy as useless, cieties, in the list of patriotic printers. absurd, and founded on false principles, [Name him, name him, came from all and to take every opportunity of ridiculing parts of the House.) Citizen Lee, said his the person of our sovereign with the most lordship.-What can the House now supimmoderate licentiousness; to recom- pose is the tendency of this pacific system, mend regicide, as he would presently un
this bloodless conquest ? Sir, would it dertake to show, to blaspheme the scrip- not be supposed, that, instead of being the tures, and revile religion, as accessaries production of Englishmen, this foul, most to the system which they condemn as foul treason--[Hear, hear!) I do not say, ruinous, oppressive, and corrupt; and that if brought in the judgment of a court lastly, to decry the established church it would be decided to be treason; but I and constitution, till they had wrought will maintain, that the heart that uttered the people to that pitch of frantic rage, it was the heart of as foul a traitor as ever that would inevitably end in their pulling raised the dagger of a parricide. It is down the pillar of the state, and burying not even English treason. No, Sir; it is the whole fabric in one undistinguishable all French treason. Would not one rą.
ther suppose that I was reading the bloody are strong, feed them with poison? His page of Marat, or the sanguinary code of lordship declined entering on the discus, Robespierre, than the production of an sion of the remaining points; he had Englishman ? On his own knowledge, his however felt himself bound by his duty to lordship said, he could venture to state, the House and to the public, to state thus unequivocally, that a production intituled much; and he left it to others, who were “King-killing," and another," the Reign of blessed with better health and more viGeorge the Last,” were sold at Copen- gour, to deal with the other parts of the hagen-house. Under such impressions as subject. these, did the persons assembled go there to Mr. Sheridan said, that some things had discuss political subjects ? There the pre- fallen from the noble lord upon which it sent scarcity was attributed, not to failure was impossible for him to remain silent. of crops, but to parliamentary corrup- Exactly two years ago, at the opening of tion. He wished the House to consider the session, he remembered to have seen what the effect of such topics on minds the noble lord with the same sonorous so prepared must have been. This was not voice, the same placid countenance, in all that had passed. The people were the same attitude, leaning gracefully upon taught that they had no hope left from the table, and giving an account from legislative or executive powers, but that shreds and patches of Brissot, that the they were to look to themselves alone, French republic would last but a few since they could hope for no redress from months longer. Unfortunately for the the constituted authorities. One circum- credit of the noble lord, not one word of stance more remained to be mentioned, all his predictions had come to pass. He which was, that when all the nation was believed the noble lord was as much in in consternation and horror at the insult the right in predicting that a revolution offered to his majesty, a printer had the would follow, from the proceedings of audacity to publish a libel, in which the certain societies, as he had been in his forwhole of the circumstances were misre. mer predictions of the rapidly approaching presented, to excite the ridicule and con- ruin and destruction of the French Repubtempt of the people. He left the House lic. The arguments the noble lord had to determine, from these indisputable facts, made use of, to prove the connexion bewhether there was not an obvious connexion tween the proceedings of the London Cora between the societies and that outrage. It responding Society, and the accidental had been said, that this was a libel upon outrage that had been offered to the person Englishmen, who have been educated in of the sovereign, neither dazzled his sight rational freedom, and could never be so lost nor satisfied his understanding. The more to the sense of their interest as to violate closely to follow the noble lord through the blessings they enjoy. Would the hon. his elaborate composition, he would begin gentleman who asserted this, deny that with his first argument, that such an inother free nations have suffered by the sult as that offered to his majesty had dissemination of these doctrines, that never been before attempted. He most America, and more particularly, Geneva, sincerely wished the fact were otherwise ; were not injured by them? Be it remem- but, unfortunately, there had been many bered, that revolutions are frequent with instances of similar misconduct, among republican governments; in Geneva such which, one that took place at the Middle. evils were less likely in consequence of their sex election. Assuming that as an hishabits of order and religion. The only torical fact, which was not true, the noble revolution which had been marked with lord had endeavoured to establish the blood there, and where the priests were proofs of his connexion ; and after examurdered was the late one. The smallness mining a variety of causes, none of which of the numbers who entertained these opi- could at all apply, he looked about for nions was also an objection ; but let the another cause, and found one novel and hon. gentleman recollect, that the number extraordinary, namely, the societies. of those were small who accomplished the Surely the noble lord had forgotten, that French revolution, who brought about the long before his majesty's procession to massacres of the 10th of August and 2d parliament, and long before the meeting of September ; and they were small too in at Copenhagen-house, there were tumults their numbers who caused the commotions and disorders in various parts of the kingin Geneva. Would you, he asked, because dom, which he believed the noble lord, the constitutions of the people of England with all his ingenuity, could not be able to fasten on the societies. In those trans- \ people, as ignorant of human nature and actions clearly there could be no con- the hearts of Englishmen, as the minister, nexion. He should therefore attribute the had stupidly imagined, that they could do outrage to no other cause than the pres- this, and that, and the other, and electrify sure of extreme distress. Might not men, the whole nation by a few violent pamphreturning home to their starving families, lets, they were taught to believe, that a which they were not able to support, from great body of people is in a state of the extreme irritation of the moment, and actual rebellion. It was impossible to the delusion of confounding the acts of presume to doubt the ignorance of those the minister, with the authority of the men, when they acted in the same parallel monarch, be guilty of outrages which they with men in high situations. The noble would repent of in their cooler moments? lord had affirmed that it was foul treason This was no extravagant argument. It which had been published by citizen Lee. had been the cause which produced one if it was foul treason, why did not the distress, and was capable of producing attorney-general prosecute citizen Lee? another. The noble lord had represented The noble lord was indignant also, because the lower classes of the people of all coun- his learned friend had expressed his distries to be alike. This was a gross misre- approbation at the unfair attempt to divide presentation. Nothing could be more the rich, and set them in array against the false and absurd, than to suppose, that a poor; and yet this division must be the people, bred up in a free country, and in necessary consequence of the measures the habits of enjoying and considering which the ministers are pursuing. They their rights, would ever conduct them- who hold out the mass of the poor to selves like slaves just rescued from a vile, be capable of such enormities as the grinding, and infamous despotism. The French have perpetrated, do, in fact, set noble lord had mentioned the republic of, the rich against them; and the conseGeneva. Would he compare the people quence must be, that the poor will be of that miserable state, always subject to stung and goaded on to acts of resentthe domination of Savoy or France, with ment. If the House did not consent to the inhabitants of the great, the proud, go into the proofs of this treason beand the powerful British nation? The fore a committee of inquiry, they had no noble lord had also made a comparison right whatever to assent to the bill. If with America. What was there in Ame they were content with bare assertion, he rica, except a safe, wise, and prosperous would assert also, and deny that citizen people, and an admirable president? What Lee was printer to the societies. As to had been the effect? Had not the Ame- the doctrine of king-killing, he knew the rican states avoided a quarrel with this majority of the people held it in detestacountry, and made an advantageous treaty tion; but if a fool, a madman, or a traitor, with us? Had they not preserved their as ignorant as the ministers, believed such constitution and their liberties? Did not sentiments were popular, was it to be their commerce flourish? By what mode deemed a sufficient proof of their exisof argument, then, would the noble lord tence !-It was not difficult to see the views make use of the insinuation of the Ame- with which these pretended plots were rican states, to prove the danger to which brought forward. Ministers wished to we were liable in this country, from the raise groundless alarms. He had twice in dissemination of these new principles ? that House mentioned the bow and arrow, They who accused the English people of or pop gun plot, as it was termed. Mitreason and rebellion, who charged them nisters, he maintained, had kept in prison with being prone to commit outrages and the persons accused of it, whom they knew excesses, were not judges of the sort of to be innocent. They had offered io libestuff of which the human heart was made; rate them upon giving bail. If these perand particularly an Englishman's, when sons were innocent, why were they sufthey hazarded such assertions. The rea fered to lie in prison ? If they were guilty, son of their ignorance was plain ; because, why had the officers of justice liberated from their own natural pride, they had them on bail? Was it possible that the always kept aloof from the people, and House could be satisfied with the miserawere now obliged to do so, in consequence ble proofs adduced by the noble lord ? of the calamitous war they had engaged The noble lord had been looking for plots in, and the disastrous consequences it had with the utmost diligence and industry, produced. Hence, because six or seven but he could find none. Would the House decide the most important subject ever , Sach an accusation, he hesitated not to offered to their consideration, upon vile declare, a gross calumny. If ever there scraps, and paltry passages from pamph- was a country in which these classes were lets, collected by rummaging old book united; in which, from the humblest cotshops, and turning up the dirt of every tager to the monarch on the throne, all stall in London? Good God! in what place ranks of society were cemented and conwas it that he spoke? To whom did he nected by one continued chain, each give address himself? How would the mem- ing assistance to the others, it was the bers face their constituents, after sacrific- country in which we lived. The union ing every thing held valuable by their an- of these orders appeared from the con. cestors, if they should agree to make that nexion between master and servant, landsacrifice without all the proofs, which lord and tenant, and, above all, from the the nature of the case would admit ? innumerable charities that were every What might convince them, might not where established, from the parochial have the same effect upon others. They rates, and from various other benevolent should consider that they were all of them institutions, which would prove to the the servunts of the people of England. people that they were under the peculiar They voted and acted in that House not care of those whom Providence had in their individual capacity, but as agents placed over them. This very, calumny and attornies for others; and they would against the higher orders of society formnot perform their duty, if they could not ed a part of that dangerous system, satisfy the reasonable inquiries of their against which they were called upon to constituents. This measure, he was satis- protect the country. The hon. gentlefied, would create that disaffection and man who spoke last had stated several encourage those plots, the supposed exis. facts to the House; he would not dispute tence of which was made the pretext for the powers of eloquence with which that its adoption. He deprecated nothing more hon. gentleman had dressed them; but than a revolution ; but he believed it was he would assert that they had no exist. not impossible that the people might be ence but in his imagination. He did not driven to some violent remedy, rendered by mean to say that the war had not occacircumstances plausible, if not necessary. sioned some calamities. But he begged He apprehended little froin the temper leave to say distinctly, that whatever and discontent of the people, except this were the calamities of the war, and the bill provoked their anger and their indig- evils resulting from the scarcity, it could nation. It might create discontents, and not be proved that they had given rise to render a remedy desperate as theirs would the opinions he so much reprobated as be whenever they were driven to it, mischievous and baneful. What was the both plausible and necessary. The Bri- state of the country in 1791 and 1792? tish nation was a grateful nation; and let Where then was either war or scarcity? gentlemen who heard him, recollect whe- The nation was in the most happy and ther they had ever seen a poor labouring flourishing condition. Yet was it not man unthankful in his return for their equally true, that then, as at present, bounty. It was not in the nature or the these principles had broken out, and man heart of Englishmen. If government were nifested their operation in a progressive bounteous, they would not find the people course of sedition ? It was evident, theredissatisfied.
fore, that these were but pretexts, tendMr. Secretary Dundas said, that so far ing to inflame and agitate the humbler from feeling that the rights, liberties, and classes of the community. The wants of happiness of the people would be invaded the lower orders had received the best by the bill, he was convinced, that they alleviations from the attention of the could not be effectually preserved to wealthy in their own districts. Among them, if some such measure as the pre- other arguments urged against the bill, it sent was not immediately adopted." In had been contended that the Bill of Rights his opinion, if some measure was not was invaded by it. He denied that there adopted, the House would criminally neg- was any thing in that memorable and salect the safety of the constitution. He cred declaration of our liberties, more reprobated the idea of a learned gentle. than in any act of parliament, which man, who had charged the higher orders barred them from taking the present meaof the people with intending to separate sures; nothing that prevented them from heir interests from those of the lower. revising, altering, or suspending its pro[VOL. XXXII.]