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visions, as the weighty exigencies of the With regard to popular meetings, a right times might demand. Perhaps there was hon. gentleman (Mr. Fox) had stood forsomething in the riot act that was not ward more frequently than any other postrictly reconcileable with the bill: the litical character in appeals to the people. Habeas Corpus too, in its suspension, He had displayed the most extraordinary stood upon a similar footing with the pre- willingness to resort to them; so that it sent measure. By the Bill of Rights they frequently happened that he was without were allowed to wear defensive arms: the door of the House attacking ministers there was no doubt of it; a man might do with invective and asperity one half of the 80; and yet the government had since, day, where they had no means of defendby the authority of salutary and well- ing themselves, and during the other half timed statutes, disarmed whole districts combating them within those walls with in the northern part of the kingdom ; and the most determined inveteracy. At one he never could allow himself to forget time, in order to excite the indignation of that the restriction of this privilege had the public against ministers, for their
pro. been extended throughout whole coun- secution of the American war, the right ties. Venerating, as he did, almost to hon, gentleman had displayed his orato. idolatry, those ancestors to whom we were rical talents on a stage erected for that indebted for the Bill of Rights, supremely purpose in Westminster-hall, with as little valuable as that recognition of the rights effect, however, as to the avowed purport of the people was, it was obtained by the of his design at that time, as there was demand of the Houses of Parliament, and ground to apprehend would be the case it had been obtained by the parliament with respect to his exertions on a late oconly. He saw now, however principles of casion. Yet it had happened, that he was action far different from those which go- induced, no doubt from conscientious moverned the illustrious leaders of that glo- tives to acknowledge the virtues, and conrious Revolution, actuating and impelling nect himself with the political conduct of those gentlemen who continually profess those whom he had reprobated for so their admiration of that event. The great many years with every possible bitterness patriots of that day were accustomed to and severity. Immediately after he had look for the safeguard of their liberties, withdrawn himself from the administration their property, and their religion, only of the earl of Shelburne, the right hon. from the energy and wisdom of parlia- gentleman had again appealed to his fament; whereas, the modern doctrine was vourite popular meeting, at which no that every good was to be expected from doubt, many individuals were vehemently popular assemblies.—It was objected to assailed, who had no means of defending the bill, that it prevented the right of pe- themselves; a line of combat neither can. titioning; so far from preventing the did nor fair. Let the House recollect right of petitioning, it in fact secured it by the associations in the year 1780; associadirecting it to its proper channel. What- tions, which, though, commenced without ever good had been done by petitioning, any settled design, proved fatal in their he would venture to assert, had been en consequences. Had the bill before the tirely done by petitions under the protec- House existed at that time, would the tion of established laws, and not by tu- lives, liberty, and property of Englishmen multuous meetings; such meetings might have been so dreadfully violated, as they produce anarchy, but they could never be were in consequence of the meeting held advantageous to the constitution. If gen. in St. George's-fields ? An unfortunate, tlemen would reflect on the cases in which but deluded, nobleman had then the aupetitions had tended to secure the liberty dacity to say, that, unless the House of of the people, they would find that they Commons acceded to the object of their had not originated from popular conven- petition, he would require their assent at tions irregularly held, but from legal as- the head of 100,000 men. Since, then, semblies called together by constituted they had experienced such a lamentable authorities. The petitions presented on instance of the dangers resulting from the Excise bill and the India bill, were popular meetings; since they had seen sufficient proofs of this. He deprecated the evils which threatened the constituthe idea of insinuating suspicions of im- tion, from such combination, would they proper conduct in magistrates, and said it hesitate to pass a bill which could, in no tended materially to weaken the necessary view, be said to take away the right of authority of men in public situations. the subject, and which only directed it to a proper object? They ought to take had not their share of it. If any good care how they played with the prejudices could come of these self-constituted meetof a mob: they were not safe weapons to ings it would be by placing them under sport with. Nothing could be more dan- the eye of the legislature. Indeed, he gerous in a legislature, than to hold up had Hattered himself, that after the trials the doctrine of resistance to the people. of Hardy and others, the good sense of That it was a rule to be laid down was by the nation would have checked their farno means true; as resistance never could ther progress : but the meetings in St. form a part of government. It must arise George's-fields and Copenhagen-house from the dissolution of government; nor had dissipated these hopes. Meetings of could he avoid noticing the criminal inde- this kind would now therefore be placed cency of imputing arbitrary motives to under the direction of a magistrate actone part of the government, and of call- ( ing at his peril. To the assertion that ing upon the legislature, which was ministers had denied proof, he replied, one branch of government, to listen to that public notoriety was the best ground imputations upon another. Whatever of proof; and the whole country had de.. might be the conduct of the right hon. clared that some strong and efficacious regentleman in the years 1782 and 1783, he medy was necessary. He put it to the well recollected, that from 1770 to 1774, wisdom of the House, whether, under all he had not resorted to any means that the existing circumstances it was right the wisdonı of parliament did not suggest, that any individual should have the power though when he said this, he was aware of assembling people for any business he that there might be circumstances suited thought proper. Between trusting to the to particular periods of a man's life, and discretion of individuals on the one hand, · maturer age might not choose to adopt and the discretion of the magistrate on
the conduct of youth. The right hon. the other, he could not see the smallest gentleman, from his earliest knowledge room to hesitate. of him, had been a friend to the system Mr. Fox said, that ifhe possessed much of popular meetings; but he doubted of that vanity, which the right hon.gentlemuch whether he had imbibed any good man had been pleased to impute to him, principle from that system, or established it would have been no small gratification any good principle by it. A large as to him to have formed the subject of not sembly had been convened the other day merely one or two or three, but at least of at which the right hon. gentleman pre- four different speeches, which he recolsided, and he had no doubt he had lected the right hon.gentleman, considerexerted himself with great activity and able in abilities himself, high in situation, uncommon powers of voice; but could and great in power, to have made upon the 30,000 people, who were reported to his character and public conduct. On be present, have been all benefitted by several occasions, he remembered to have his greatest exertion of his facuities? He been publicly addressed from the same had certainly been much applauded. Had quarter, in a similar style of catechism, not those, however, who were with him upon his opinion respecting the extent on the scaffold, shared, in that applause ? and mode of reform in parliament, and He had always admired the right hon. respecting his sentiments upon the influgentleman's talents, but he seriously ence of the crown and the proper liinits thought they might be displayed more of the royal prerogative. The right hon. usefully than on such occasions. That secretary had at that time received seveHouse he considered as a more proper ral hints from his right hon. friend near stage on which that right hon. gentleman him (the chancellor of the exchequer), might display his abilities. “I know not to push his inquiries too far. On the (said Mr. Dundas) he is able to battle us present occasion, however, he was not all.” If the majority of the 30,000, who fortunate enough to reap the benefit of attended the meeting, had remained at so kind a hint, and therefore he would home in the exercise of honest industry, answer the different questions in the catea for the maintenance of their wives and chism, with all the plainness and sincerity children, it would have been better for in his power. The first inquiry of the society. The food dealt out to them from right hon. secretary related to his conduct the rostrum, was not the most wholesome; in the famous Middlesex election: in reply and, it was to be remembered, that such to which he was at liberty, to affirm, that as it was, the wives of the men present while he gave his decided opinion in favour of the sovereignty of parliamentary | sions were against him? Never in any law, he never had uttered any sentiment one instance had he uttered a syllable which was in the least unfavourable to the that went to question the right, or to right which the people indisputably pos- blame the practice, of holding public sessed of expressing their sense of every meetings of the people. He had endea. public measure. From the Middlesex voured to answer much of the reasoning election the right bon. secretary had pro- that had been urged against him at these ceeded to catechise him upon his conduct meetings; but he had not said a word during the American war, and by talking against the propriety of holding them. of his erecting a stage without doors, he What was the principle of the present bill? seemed to speak with some contempt of To restrain the exercise of free discussion the manner in which he (Mr. Fox) had at all those meetings. acted at certain meetings, that were held The right hon. secretary had asked, at Westminster hall and other places, what advantages had resulted to the counupon these occasions: he found himself try from those political meetings during accused with having pronounced invec- the American war? He did not mean to tives against persons who were then in arrogate to himself any extraordinary share high authority. The right hon. gentleman in the opposition which he made to that had forgotten the conduct which his right war. It did not become him to say much hon. friend (Mr. Pitt) had adopted, and upon that subject ; he trusted he might, those eloquent speeches he had at that however, be pardoned, if he said that the time delivered, in which public harangues popular meetings in question, tended to to the people were described as the most hasten the conclusion of that war. Was agreeable and most useful duty which re- the right hon. gentleman of that opinion, presentatives in parliament could dis. or was he not? What did he think of the charge to their constituents. In answer meetings that were held at Norwich and to the charge, that he had, in a personal at other places ? Upon this head the manner, attacked those who had no op- right hon. secretary might have some inportunity of appearing in their own de- formation from one of his present friends, fence, he had to say, that it was the if he wanted any information. Those duty of every man, and particularly of measures went farther than to put an end every member of parliament, when the to the war ; they contributed to the cor. conduct of the executive government was rection of some of the abuses of adıninis. called in question, to represent the chatration, since the celebrated bill of Mr. racters and conduct of members in their Burke, which did that gentleman so much true colours. What was the use or the honour, was founded on those measures, value of a popular meeting, upon a politi. Perhaps he should be told, that all the cal subject, without that freedom? At meetings that had any effect (indeed, he meetings held in Yorkshire and other had been told so already), were called by places at that time, such had been the the sheriff, and that all that was said at practice of others. Although he had the meeting at Westminster had no effect, then spoken freely of government, when because it was not a meeting which had he opposed its measures, he was willing to that authority. He wished to know what allow others to oppose him. In the year magic there was in a meeting that was 1784, for instance, the House would re- called by the sheriff
, in preference to any collect what had happened. Mr. Burke, other public meeting? So much of the in his emphatical language, had called the subject, therefore, as related to public parliamentary conduct of some gentlemen meetings, he recollected with pleasure the revolution of 1784. In that year, the and satisfaction. Public meetings had House could not have forgotten how he contributed to put an end to the Amerihad been opposed; what invectives had can war : and it he had said some things been employed against him, and those in against any of those individuals who ad. places, where, as the right hon. gentleman vised it, he was consoled with the reflechad said, he could not be present to an- tion, that if he had helped to shorten that swer. Did he ever make one unmanly destructive war only one year, he had murmur upon that occasion ? Did he contributed to prevent the increase of the ever complain of that invective? Did he number of helpless orphans and mourning ever say one word against the sacred right widows-he had contributed to lessen the of the people to assemble and freely dis- distress of the poor and friendless. Let cuss political subjects when those discuss him not be told, then, that he had acted
an unmanly part, by frequenting those impression on such a multitude as thirty public meetings. He must again say, that thousand? He had no such idea; he had if there was any glory in putting an end nevertheless used all his endeavours to exe to the American war, he should be proud plain to them the nature of the subject to hear that he had, in common with which they had to consider. The right others, a share in that glory. When the hon. gentleman had also asked, whether right hon. secretary talked of invectives he thought they applauded him? His thrown out at those public meetings, answer was, that he was not so vain as to against persons who were not present, he expect it; he attended not for the pure would recommend to him to reflect on pose of receiving applause, or commandwhat had happened the day before at the ing assent; he went for the purpose meeting at Palace-yard. He knew, and learning the sense of his constituents on it necessary, he could prove, that there the most important political topic which had been manifested a good deal of zeal : could be presented for their deliberation. in fact, an active canvass had taken place It was, he confessed, somewhat unpleaon the part of ministers, in order that sant, particularly at his time of life, to attheir friends might attend that meeting. tend popular meetings; the labour and Messages were sent about, stating that it fatigue, however, he considered as the would be agreeable to government if their merest trifes, when compared with the friends took care to be present. The con- fate of the question which had yesterday sequence was, an attendance was procur- been submitted to the inhabitants of ed, and many friends to government, per. Westminster, whose applause at the meetsons of authority, were there, among whom ing arose from the feeling which those was his noble colleague, lord Hood, and present had of the propriety of the meatwo hon. gentlemen in his eye (Messrs. sure they were met to adopt. This arose Canning and Jenkinson); "he hoped, out of the detestation they felt for the bill therefore, the right hon. gentleman would before the House. In that view he saw not complain that any attacks had been the utility of such meetings, and it was on made on ministers in the absence of their that ground that he attended them. At friends that day.
that meeting the bill met what it ought to The right hon. gentleman had also ac- meet, and what, if the public had any recused him of having altered his course for gard for their liberties, it would meet all some years with regard to public meet- over the kingdom-general execration ings; that he had been fond of attending and abhorrence. Execration that would them in the earlier part of his parliamen- be increased in consequence of certain tary life, but that he had of late declined opinions that had been lately delivered in them. He admitted the observation to be that House. The more the public had that founded in truth ; the reason was, that feeling (which, thank God, they began to for some time past he did not see that his manifest), the more he thought it his duty attendance at public meetings could be to give such meetings his countenance ; of any use to the public: whenever he meetings on which, perhaps depended at thought it might become so, he was ready this moment, the very essence of our conto attend; and this he thought a part of stitution. That was his firm and sincere bis public duty, whatever opinions other opinion; and that he believed to be the persons might entertain upon that sub- opinion of the public; for very plain and ject. If ever such attendance had been very decided language must at this mo. necessary, it was so at this time; when ment be spoken to save the country from the constitution was attacked, it was the absolute ruin. duty of every man to exert himself in its The right hon. gentleman had been defence: he should therefore give all the pleased to pay him compliments on his authority he could pretend to, to such talents, and had intimated a wish that meetings, for the purpose of supporting they should never be exercised any where
the rights and liberties of the people. but in that House. To this he would an, • Avowing that for his motive, he was swer, that he attended that House not for
ready to meet any ministerial censure pleasure, but for duty; and he trusted that might be cast upon him. The right that his attendance there might be more hon. geotleman had asked him, if he or less useful to the public; of how much thought that any efforts of his could be use it was, it did not become him to deheard with attention? and whether he termine. The right hon. gentleman had imagined his eloquence could make any then asked, if he expected to convince that great multitude by his eloquence? | blessings of the constitution were out of Most certainly he did not; as little did the question, under the government of the he expect to convince that House. It had Stuarts,) whatever may be the theoretical been said, that the majority of that mul- distinction, there was very little practical titude came pre-determined ; perhaps they difference between the one or other alter. did. Did the majority of that House native. come wholly undetermined? Was there The right hon. gentleman had depreno resemblance between the House and cated the idea of the legislature adopting that meeting in that respect? He had the doctrine of resistance as a practical some experience of the House; and principle, though, at the same time, he whenever he wholly despaired of per. allowed, that resistance must inevitably suading the majority of the House on follow from a system of oppression long points where the constitution was at stake, pursued. A most worthy and enlightened he thought attending such meetings as man (general La Fayeite), in a neighthose alluded to useful, because it tended bouring kingdom, which it was the fashion to enable him to arrive at the opinion of to refer to for instances of atrocious crithe public. Let this be stated to the minality, had affirmed resistance to be the House; and if this had no effect upon it, most holy of duties, which the people of his attendance there would be useless, and England were called to exercise; and pereven burthensome.
haps the difference between him and the It was matter worthy of observation, right hon. secretary would, on a second that the debates on the bill had afforded thought, appear but trifling. No man the first occasion, since the accession of ever supposed that the legislature should the House of Brunswick to the throne, adopt the doctrine of resistance, as a diof an open and parliamentary espousal of rect and practical maxim, though every the cause of the House of Stuart. On man was convinced, and even the speech the preceding night it had been said by an of the right hon. secretary himself hon. baronet (sir F. Basset), and the strengthened the conviction, that resistidea had been borrowed that evening by ance, in certain circumstances, was imthe solicitor-general, that even if there possible to be avoided. With respect had been a revolution in the reigns of to the right which parliament possessed, George the 1st and 2nd, it would not have of altering the Bill of Rights, he agreed been accompanied with the same dangers with the right hon. secretary: He never which would Aow from a similar event could consent to the proposition that there taking place at the present crisis ; as in were some fundamental laws of the constithe former case, the descendants of the tution which parliament was incompetent House of Stuart might have been rein- to alter. They certainly were competent stated on the throne ; whereas, at the pre: lo make any alterations in the code either sent moment, anarchy, and a general dis- of civil or criminal law, so far as their solution of all the principles of civilized acts would necessarily be recognized in society, would follow any dispute about the decisions of all the various courts of the constitutional rights of the sovereign. judicature in the kingdom. But though This was Jacobitism in perfection, and he they might be competent in point of power, was not at all surprised at hearing Jaco- it would not be prudential or expedient bites come forward with such reasonings in many cases to use that power. There What would the House of Stuart have were many laws of the constitution which done, had they been established on the never ought to be repealed, and many throne? They would have introduced privileges of the people which never ought the Catholic instead of the Protestant re- to be invaded. Parliament had been religion. They would, perhaps, have put presented as the only source of redress, an end to parliaments, resumed the rights and infallible object of public confidence. of juries, and subverted the liberty of the But who did not know, that if our ancespress. They would not, it was said, have tors had trusted every thing to parliament, invaded the rights of property, nor in their posterity would not have inherited vented the detestable name of French that constitution which it has been their equality, the inroads of which aur British happiness to enjoy; and that the provision heroes swear by their lives and fortunes to for petitioning the legislature would never resist. But if in the choice of dangers, have found admittance into the Bill of a man must forfeit his life and property, Rights. Even in the reign of king Wil. in order to avoid a greater evil (for the liam, the marquis of Hartington moved, in