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for the idea that a public debating society sion that had been granted to Mr. Burke, could engender treason. What sort of whom he extolled as the most enlightened treason was that which a man might go to man in Europe, and to whom a statue of hear on paying sixpence?
gold ought to be erected. He thought Sir Francis Basset had no objection to ministers gave proof of their public spirit the holding of public meetings for consti- by granting him a pension, as much of the tutional purposes ; but when they were labour of that great man had been exerted confessedly held for purposes that were against themselves. If such a man as Mr. inimical to our constitution, it became the Burke had been left in that indigence in duty of government to take care to which the independence of his own great bring the military for the purpose of mind had so long kept him, it would have suppressing tumults, if any should arise. been a disgrace to the country and the age He could not agree with those who in which he lived. The manner in which thought there was no connexion be- that gentleman had been talked of in his tween the meeting at Copenhagen-house retirement, and under the pressure of doand the outrage offered to his niajesty. mestic affliction, was degrading to those He had heard of words delivered ai that who indulged in it. The character of so place, which were dangerous in themselves great a man ought to be venerated by the and still more so from the manner in public. which they were delivered. The words Mr. Sheridan said, that with regard to were these, “ His gracious majesty is to the pension to Mr. Burke, he would not meet his parliament on Thursday next, say.one word of his merits, farther than that and I hope you will give him a warm re- no man deserved better to enjoy a part of ception." Would any man of common the public money, if pensions were at all sense say, that this was to be understood to be given, since he had contributed so as applying to the applause which arose much to the economy of the national cash. from attachment to his person? Was it The manner, however, of granting the not obviously for the purpose of contume pension was disgraceful, not only to the ly? Sir Francis adverted to the riot act. gentleman himself, but to ministers. His That act had been passed without inquiry, own bill had been evaded in order to grant, upon the notoriety of the case, that mis- him his pension, instead of coming for it chief might otherwise arise. What was fairly to parliament. An hon. baronet had the situation of the country at the time? related a speech, said :o be uttered There were some persons who were known at Copenhagen-house. It was, he owned, to be inimical to the king. And it was gross and highly improper, but has it also known that they wished to remove him, spoken? A learned gentleman liad proand put another on the throne in his place. duced a number of papers, said to be The danger apprehended at that time, bought at the shop of citizen Lee, whom great as it was, was nothing to that which he called bookseller to the London Corre. was to be dreaded at present. Had the sponding society. He believed that citifamily of Stuart been placed upon the zen Lee was not the booksellu: of the Corthrone, the whole of the constitution would responäng Society. Let him be proved not have been destroyed, the property of to be so. The chancellor of the excheevery individual would not have been quer ought to be the last to demolish de wrested from him; personal distinction bating societies, as he had himself profited would not have been sacrificed ; and some so much from them; the right hon. gentlesecurity would have remained for the form man had attended them assiduously, and of our government continuing. But if the had not only spoken in a mask at these persons engaged in those societies should debating societies, but had lent a helping succeed, there would be an end at once to hand to the institution of one of them, at the very form of our constitution. The the Lyceum in the Strand. His speech mischiefs of these clubs which it was the in a mask was spoken at Carlisle-house, object of the bill to suppress had long on the question, “ Whether the disstruck him so forcibly, and so it had many tinction was just, which divided all country gentlemen, like himself, that they mankind into two classes, knaves and thought the minister had been extremely fools.” What side the right lion. gentleremiss in not bringing some such measure man had taken he could not say. Peras the present forward long before that haps no man could better illustrate the time.
position, that a little political knavery
under the mask of patriotism, might, for a were presented to the House against the long time, impose successfully on the Treason and Sedition bills. After which. folly of Englishmen.
Mr. Pitt moved, that the order of the day The House divided on Mr. Sheridan's for going into a committee on the Treason motion :
bill be discharged, and that the House Tellere.
do resolve itself into the said committee Mr. Whitbread
on the 25th. YEAS
22 Mr. Jekyll
Mr. Fox said, he wished for farther de.
lay, because it appeared that these bills Sir Francis Basset Noes
167 were most reprobated where they were Mr. Pole Carew .
best known, and met with approval only So it passed in the negative.
where their merits had not been discussed.
His opinion of the bills was precisely Nov. 19. On the motion, That the what he had declared it to be that they Treasonable Practices Bill be now read a repealed the Bill of Rights, and subverted second time,
the constitution of the country. He did Mr. Fox said, that he should enter into not wish to see them altered or amended; the subject when the question should be he rather hoped they might pass in their put, that the speaker do leave the chair, present form, because, as the attack which he understood was likely to take was to be made upon the rights and liberplace on the 23rd.
ties of the nation, he wished that attack Mr. W. Smith said, he felt himself com
to be open, broad, and intelligible to the pelled by every sentiment of duty to op- people at large. He did not wish the pose the bill. He opposed it on this poison of these bills to be sweetened to ground, that it would be ineffectual with their palates, but that the people should regard to the objects professed to be at- be prepared and cautioned against the tained. He thought that the law as it dreadful draught. If, indeed, the opinion stood at present, was adequate to all the of the majority were in favour of these purposes for which the bills were avow. bills; if he could believe it possible that edly introduced. He therefore could not the people were so degraded and abject as suffer the bill to pass in any stage of it to prefer slavery to liberty, or to countewithout taking the sense of the House.
nance these bills with any thing like their The House divided when there appear- approbation; if they did not so generally ed to be: Yeas, 64 ; Noes, 22.
express their abhorrence of them, as to
show that they yet retained an unabating Nov. 23. This day numerous Petitions * | attachment to the constitution of their an
cestors; he could only say, that he could * The public was no less occupied than parliament itself, in the discussion of the two motions, and disproved the charge brought Bills. Clubs and associations were formed against them, by ministry, of being concerned every where for the purpose of opposing them in the outrages committed against the king. by every method not liable to the cognizance | They framed three petitions, one to the King, of the law. Never had there appeared, in the and the two others to the Lords and Commemory of the oldest man, so firm and de- mons; stating them to be the unanimous pecided a plurality of adversaries to the minis-titions of nearly 400,000 British subjects, inet terial measures as on this occasion: the in- together to communicate their sentiments, terest of the public seemed so deeply at stake, and express them freely, as authorized to do that individuals, not only of the decent, but of by the Bill of Rights, on the measures of mithe most vulgar professions, gave up a con- niatry, which tended to invade the liberties siderable portion of their time and occupa- invested in them by the constitution. They tions in attending the numerous meetings supplicated, therefore, the king to exert his that were called in every part of the kingdom, royal authority, in the preservation of his to the professed intent of counteracting this people's rights, directly threatened by the attempt of the ministry. The Whig club, | iwo bills brought forward by his ministers; comprising not a few individuals of the first and they requested the two Blouses to interrank and property in the kingdom, led the fere in behalf of the public, against the miway in this celebrated opposition.
nisterial attempt to procure their passing. The Corresponding Society's numerous The livery of London, the electors of Westmembers, together with an immense multi-minster, and the freeholders of Middlesex, tude of their adherents and well-wishers, as- agreed to remonstrances and petitions of the sembled on the 12th of November, in the like nature, and were followed by a number fields near Copenhagen-house. Here they of counties, and almost every town of note in solemnly denied all intentions of raising com- the kingdom."--Annual Register for 1796.
no longer be a profitable servant of the edness of these bills. Mr. Fox concluded people. He might sit down in silence, with moving to adjourn the debate till toand enjoy in the tranquillity of private life, morrow se'nnight. the society of his friends ; but he could Mr. Pitt said :- I do not rise to follow not, with the feelings he possessed, be a the right hon. gentleman through the profitable servant of the people. If, on whole of his speech; but there are some the contrary, the people were, as he truly passages in it which I cannot bear, withbelieved them to be decidedly against these out instantly expressing my horror and bills; not a mere concerted majority, but indignation at them. The right hon. genthe great mass of the people against them; tleman has made a broad, and unqualified then, undoubtedly, they had a right to de declaration, that if his arguments and his mand his services, and he should hold measures do not prevent the passing of himself bound to obey the call. He had the bills, he will then have recourse to a right to hope and expect that these bills, different means of opposition. He has which positively repealed the Bill of avowed his intention of setting up his own Rights, and cut up the whole of the con- arguments in opposition to the authority stitution by the roots, by changing our of the legislature. He has said, that if he limited monarchy into an absolute despo- is asked his advice, he will put the protism, would not be enacted by parliament priety of resistance only on the question against the declared sense of a great ma- of prudence ;-without adverting whether jority of the people. If, however, minis- the consequences of this advice may be ters were determined, by means of the followed by the penalties of treason, and corrupt influence they possessed in the the danger of convulsion; thus openly two Houses of parliament, to pass the advising an appeal to the sword, which bills, in direct opposition to the declared must either consign its authors to the sense of a great majority of the nation, vengeance of the violated law, or involve and they should be put in force with all the country in anarchy and bloodshed. their rigorous provisions, if his opinion The right hon. gentleman has taken care were asked by the people, as to their obe not to be mis-stated. Happily for the dience, he should tell them, that it was no country, this declaration of his principles longer a question of moral obligation and is too clear to admit of a doubt. With duty, but of prudence. It would, indeed, all the horror that I feel at such lanbe a case of extremity alone which could guage, I am glad the right hon. gentlejustify resistance, and the only question man has been so unreserved and explicit. would be, whether that resistance was The House and the country will judge of prudent. He was aware that these words that gentleman's conduct from his own were liable to misconstruction, and he language; they will see the extent of his knew that ministers were adepts in the veneration for the constitution, and of his art of misrepresentation; but a public man respect for parliament, when, in violation must not shrink in times of danger from of his duty, in defiance of legal punishstrong expressions, because they may be ment, he can bring himself to utter such misconstrued or misrepresented. What sentiments. I am glad the right hon. genhe said, he said deliberately ; and it was tleman has made that avowal, because I for the authors and abettors of the bills hope that it will warn all the true friends to consider whether they would hurry the of the constitution to rally round it for its parliament to the passing of them, before defence. I will not enter into a discusit could be ascertained whether they had sion of the abstract right of resistance, or the sense of the people with them or not. what degree of oppression on the part of With regard to the amendments that the government, would set the people might be made in the coinmittee, he re- free from their allegiance. I will only peated, that no mending could qualify this call to the recollection of those who hear attack on the constitution. The poison me, that the principle of these bills, upon might be concealed, it might be made which the right hon. gentleman has venmore palatable, and it would be so much tured such language, has met with the apthe worse. If, however, the constitution probation of a large majority of the was to be violated, he wished the people to House, and I trust that majority will show see the attack in all its glaring, open trea- the right hon. gentleman, that they have son, that they might be roused to its de- not lost the spirit of their ancestors, which fence. He certainly, therefore, should not has been so frequently referred to, and lend himself to qualify the atrocious wick. that if they are driven by treason to the hard necessity of defending the constitu- dishonourable safety; not one gained by tion by force, that they will act with that flight and pusillaniinity, but by manly forenergy which such a crime must neces. titude in meeting the danger. In that sarily excite in a loyal assembly. The case, the right hon. gentleman would find power of the law of England, I trust, will that ministers were determined to exert a be sufficient to defeat the machinations of vigour beyond the law-[A loud
of all who risk such dangerous doctrines, Hear, Hear! and“ take down his words”] and to punish treason wherever it may be Mr. Windham repeated the words, that found.
they were ready to exert a vigour beMr. Fox, in explanation, said :-I rise to yond the law, as exercised in ordinary re-state my expression, but not to retract times and under ordinary circumstances. one word of what I have said. Let the The times and the circumstances would words be taken down at the table. They then require stronger laws, and the exerexpress the sentiments of an honest Eng- tion of more efficacious means to put those lishman; they are those sentiments for laws in execution. which our forefathers shed their blood, Mr. Sheridan repeated what Mr. Fox and upon which the Revolution was had stated, with respect to resistance. If, founded. But let me not be mistaken. he said, a degraded and oppressed maThe case I put was, that these bills might jority of the people applied to him, he be passed by a corrupt majority of par- would advise them to acquiesce in those liament, contrary to the opinion and sen bills, only as long as resistance was imtiments of the great body of the nation. prudent. They had affirmed, that these If the majority of the people approve of bills went directly to overturn the conthese bills, I will not be the person to in- stitution ; if they were sincere in that lanflame their minds, and stir them up to guage, what other answer could they give rebellion ; but if, in the general opinion to the people than that which they now of the country, it is conceived that these avowed? What contemptible wretches bills attack the fundamental principles of must they be, if, while under the shelter our constitution, I then maintain, that the of their privilege, they professed the meapropriety of resistance, instead of remain-sures to be calculated to overturn the ing any longer a question of morality, will constitution, and infringe the bill of become merely a question of prudence. rights, they shrank back on such an ocI may be told that these are strong words; casion, from stating that which they conbut strong measures require strong words. ceived to be the undoubted right of the I will not submit to arbitrary power, subject-to resist oppression, when all while there remains any alternative to legal means of redress were refused. To yindicate my freedom.
the declaration of Mr. Fox, he implicitly Mr. Windham said, that the explanation subscribed. It must be the feeling of took nothing from the dangerous ten- every true Englishman; of every man
of the original declaration. The who acknowledged the principles which meaning obviously was, that the right seated the illustrious family of Brunswick hon. gentleman would advise the people, on the throne. His right hon. friend had whenever they were strong enough, to said, that if the people of England were resist the execution of the law. The right so dead to all their former feelings, that hon. gentleman rested on no majority, but they wished for these bills, then he was the majority of force. The right hon. no longer a fit servant for such a people, gentleman had brought the matter to a and he had no occasion to have made that crisis ; and it was now verging to that declaration; they did, and must know point to which, in his opinion, it had that the frame and texture of his soul long tended. It was alarming to the coun- could never suffer him to be the servant try, but they must see it: the danger of slaves, as they must be if these bills ought to be known to them; and if they passed into laws. did not see the dreadful precipice near Mr. Grey said, that from the principle which they stood, in his opinion, they which had been maintained by his right were lost for ever. At least they had a hon. friend, he would not shrink; and he fair warning: they now knew from the would repeat with him, that if, by the go. unequivocal declaration of the right hon. vernment of the country, measures were gentleman, what lengths would be justi- carried into effect, contrary to the wishes fied; they had time to prepare against of a great majority of the people, and the danger ; but he would not wish for a contrary to the liberties of the nation, (VOL. XXXII.]
should he be asked, whether the people attended, any other measure ; and well it ought to refrain from resistance, he would might, for none ever so strongly called for say, that they should only be induced to it. He deprecated as unworthy of a good refrain by motives of prudence. With cause, every attempt to misrepresent, respect to the bills themselves, no mo- come from what quarter it might; but he dification could make them otherwise would not believe they owed to such than hostile to the principles of the con- means the numerous petitions on the table. stitution.
The delay he proposed would fully ascerMr. Fox's amendment was negatived. tain that to the satisfaction of the House,
Nov. 24. This day the House was and leave no doubt what were the feelings called over.
After which, numerous Pe- of the people. The consequences which titions were presented from all parts of must infallibly result from these measures, the country against the two bills. The were infinitely more alarming than at first presenting of these petitions, and the con. met the eye. Rob the people of their versations to which they gave occasion, right of petitioning, take from them their continued till nearly two in the morning, interest and connexion with the demoin consequence of which, the order of the cratic part of the constitution, and you day for going into a committee on the destroy with their consequence their freeSeditious Meetings bill was postponed till dom, and with theirs your own. What to-morrow,
would be the situation of this House,
when they had drawn a line of separation, Debate in the Commons on the Seditious which renounced the support and conMeetings Bill.] Nov. 25. After several trolling influence of twelve parts out of petitions against the two bills had been thirteen of the whole people? If the full presented, Mr. Pitt moved the order of force of the united body of the nation had the day for going into a committee on the been barely sufficient to maintain to them Seditious Meetings bill.
the due influence in the scale, what would Mr. Curwen rose to propose to the be their situation when they rested upon House the delay of one week before they the represented part only. Three or four proceeded farther with these bills. Tlie hundred thousand was the most extended proceeding with due deliberation never calculation out of six millions. If they was so strongly called for on any former renounced the controlling influence of occasion. The present was a measure of the people ; if they wantonly destroyed which they had no precedent since the the ties which had united them; ought constitution had been established. If the they to look for their support? an act of Dation could suffer it, he should think that such injustice must degrade them in their it was useless to withhold chains from estimation, and make them view with those who had lost the relish and love of satisfaction their debasement. Having liberty. Such was not, such could not nothing to hope from them, they would be the case with the people of England; leave them to conduct a struggle, which it was a gross calumny upon them to sup- had in it nothing to engage their affecpose it. He should state to the House tion, or to affect their interest; they would the reasons which he thought ought to in- then be what he feared they were fast duce them to afford the short respite he verging to—a mere office for registering required for the country, that their feel the burthens of the people. The bili ings and sentiments might be fairly known. must, in its effects, alter the whole conNothing but the wild, misjudging policy stitution. Popular opinion had restrained of the right hon. gentleman, could ever and counteracted the power and influence have brought such measures under dis- of corruption. Take that away, and incussion. If mischief should ensue, it effectual would be the struggle. The would be chargeable alone on those who existence of the House of Commons deforced it upon them. He could not sup- pended upon the united interest of the pose the nation so lost to every manly feel whole body of the nation. The increased ing that they would tamely part with their corrupt influence of the crown, together liberties at the imperial mandate of a mi- with the torrent of honours, which had of nister. As far as the sense of the coun- late years inundated that House, and detry had yet been taken, it had been al- prived the democratic part of the constimost unanimous in the reprobation of tution of such a weight of property, called these measures : an honest indignation upon them to maintain their just and nehad been raised, which had seldom, if ever, cessary influence. A free country could