Page images
PDF
EPUB

and to consider on a future day, whether, blished in King, Lords, and Commons ; there was ground for prosecution or not. and to subvert the true principles of our

Mr. Fox contended, that the whole of free constitution; and that the said pamthe pamphlet should be read; he was phlet is a high breach of the privileges of convinced, from the parts of it he had this House.” read, that the House would be more con- The Master of the Rolls said, he was not firmed of its unconstitutional and libellous ready to give an opinion on the pamphlet : tendency, when they heard the whole he was, however, convinced of what he had of it.

before said, that the reading the pamphlet The motion for reading the orders of would not have the effect of completely sathe day was withdrawn. Then the said tisfying the minds of the House : and it pamphlet was delivered in at the table and would ill become them, on such grounds read. After which,

as the bare reading of it by the officer of Mr. Sheridan said, that he supposed, the House afforded, to found so very grave as the House had just heard the pamphlet a resolution. He would not then say a read, it would be wholly unnecessary for syllable as to the merit or demerit of the him to use any arguments to prove that pamphlet ; but own, that the paragraph it was the foulest, the falsest, the dullest, did not in the reading of it, sound enand the most malicious libel that had ever tirely constitutional. The only part, howa come under the cognizance of the House. ever, for consideration was, the passage The author was not content with rashly or extract complained of; the rest was only defaming the constitution, and outraging to be considered as a qualification of it; its principles; but he obviously wished to and the House was not at liberty, in disattribute every departure from both to cussing the subject, to talk of any partithe conduct of the Whigs. It would be cular gentleman as the author of it; as it idle in him to enter into a detail of the did not appear, upon the face of it, who various objectionable passages in the book, was the author. If the words he had which, so far from extenuating, height- heard read were not qualified by context, ened and aggravated the criminality of with the parts antecedent or subsequent, the leading paragraph. Should it be he would be the first to vote a censure. urged, that it required time to deliberate, To determine that any censure at all was he would not press a motion that night to or was not due, it was absolutely neces. a decision, but content himself with an- sary for him to read the pamphlet. He nouncing the pamphlet to be a libel, and would therefore move, “That the decalling on the House at a future day to bate be adjourned till Thursday.” apply a punishment for it. If the author Mr. Pitt concurred in opinion with his was a man of importance enough he learned friend. If it was clearly the tenought to be impeached; though when it dency of the pamphlet to inculcate such was considered that he was the mouth- doctrines as those imputed to it, he would piece of government, and chairman of not hesitate to say that the House ought the association, which originated and cir- to treat it with censure and reprobation. culated those alarms about French princi- If it asserted that the king could govern ples, that had contributed so much to the without the other two branches of the unhappy state in which the country stood constitution, there could be in that House at that moment, he could not be consi- but one voice upon the matter. But when dered in a light point of view. The libel it appeared that there were many passages was unquestionably much more deserving in the pamphlet which stated the imposof impeachment than that which Sache. sibility of the king's exercising the funcverell wrote, and for which he was im- tions of government without the co-operapeached. The motion he intended to tion of the two other parts, it would make, he would therefore put into the surely be worth the while of the House words used on the case of Sacheverell, * to pause and consider whether, on taking viz. “ That the said pamphlet is a mali- the whole of the book together, there cious, scandalous, and seditious libel, would be ground enough to warrant a procontaining matter tending to create jea. secution. lousies and divisions among his majesty's Mr. Erskine said, he should have been subjects ; to alienate their affections from surprised at hearing a proposal come from our present form of government, as esta any member, who had heard the pamphlet

read, and had valued the privileges of * See Vol. 6, P, 806,

the House, to postpone the deliberation :

but it struck him as singular indeed, that | to act as their ancestors did ; and if that a gentleman so leirned in the law as the House, in its intemperance and folly, master of the rolls, could not make up should carlessly pass these insults on the his mind upon the tendency of what the Revolution, the con equences would be House had heard; a gentleman who, from dreadful; more especially as they were his practice, was in the daily habit of proceeding with bills founded on princimaking up his mind upon subjects infi- ples utterly subversive of everything nitely more intricate than the present for which the Revolution was dear to the The question was, whether the paragraph people. Such libels which the authors which had been originally complained of, conceived to be sanctioned by government, was or was not a libel upon the House of occasioned answers in reply: this action Commons ? and he admitted that, in exa- and reaction naturally and necessarily mining the pamphlet, the intention of the produced consequences that kept the pubauthor should be taken altogether. When lic in a ferment; they excited that bitterhe heard the paragraph alluded to read, ness and asperity of feeling in the counhe formed an opinion, exactly as a learned try that occasioned that detestable and gentleman had stated his to be, viz. that damnable system of pretended plots withit would be difficult indeed for any con- out doors, and of projects against the litext to explain the meaning, so as to ma- berties of Englishmen within, that tended nifest the intention of the author to be to undermine the foundation of social orinnocent: so much, however, did he wish der, and alienated the affections of the that an opportunity of explaining it might people from the government. He called present itself, that he had attended pa to the recollection of ministers the cir. tiently to the reading of the whole book, | cumstances and conduct that brought and having done so, he must declare it Charles 1st to the block, and cautioned to be, in his opinion, a daring and atro- them to beware how they refused to pay cious libel. Any man who would maintain due deference to the petitions of the peo a contrary proposition, he had no scruple ple. The author of the pamphlet had to pronounce ignorant of the laws of the spoken contemptuously of the Revolution: land. If other members had not attended he had stated it as a measure brought to it; if, from indolence or from a negli- about by plots and conspiracies: he had gent disposition, they had slept upon their said, that it was brought about by dividposts, it was their own fault ; they had ing men into different classes : he had deserted their duty, and betrayed their represented the people of England then constituents, by making their own vegli. to be, what such miserable shallow gence an excuse for not protecting the liticians as the author wished to make honour of the House. How was it pos- them at present, by the aid of pensions, sible that a man so familiar with profes- douceurs,and bribes; men capable of resional matters as the Master of the rolls lishing the sentiments of despotism to should be ignorant of the nature of such serve the purpose of certain leaders to a pamphlet as that which the House had make those of high rank league together heard read? How could he for a moment to reprobate the principles of liberty. doubt whether it was a libel on that House, This wretched pamphleteer had traduced and on the Revolution of 1688? So fully the proceedings of those who put the crown was his own mind made up on the subject, on the head of the House of Brunswick that he would not hesitate, even on the in- that crown worn by his majesty. What stant, to declare, that were he a juror, this ignorant man meant, it was for the sworn to try the author, he would, with. House, by their determination upon his out going out of court pronounce him publication, to declare. This had been deguilty. He was surprised that gentlemen clared by a former House of Commons in felt any difficulty upon a point so plain and the case of Dr. Sacheverell. The docpalpable. Gentlemen should beware how trine of that person was voted to be they indulged their inclinations to screen scandalous and libellous against the somen who traduced the principles of the vereign then upon the throne, and against Revolution, in which the people of this the Protestant succession, as by law escountry gloried, and so justly gloried. tablished. That important event-an They should recollect, that action pro- event so interesting and so advantageous to duced reaction. The people of this coun- every Englishman-the author of this try felt the insults that had been so often book said was vulgarly called a revooffered to them. They were proceeding lution, and was only called so by Whigs

powho waited for another, and therefore was voice of the people was against them was not at this time to be spoken of as a re- evident[a cry of « Nosuch thing” from the volution. Was this language to be tole- opposite side]. Sure he was, that if such rated by a House of Commons, that pre- measures were persisted in, the people tended to have any esteem for the princi- would rise against them: and then minisples of that Revolution ? The House ters would, he had no doubt, lay hold of ought to be very cautious how they suf- some subterfuge, and endeavour to sneak fered slanders on that Revolution to pass out of their difficulty, as they had done on unnoticed. The people of England were other occasions. He knew the press so much, and thank God! so firmly at would be set to work to defend them in tached to the principles then established, the usual way, and they would no doubt that he was convinced they were deter. be treated with another pamphlet from mined to live or die under those princi- the ingenious author of that under consiples. He was one of that description : deration. What a glorious representation and he hoped he should be found among of the people of England would that the number of those who would show, if House appear to be, if they passed by a necessary, not by words, but by acts, that pamphlet which had been read to them they would die before they would submit that night, in which they were representto any attempt to make a king absolute ed only as a mere counsel for the crown, in England.--It had been said that the and that in this consisted their greatest doctrine, that a monarchy might exist utility; that all the vigour and energy without a parliament, might apply to some which they were said to possess, as an other monarchy, and not of necessity to emanation from the people, was a mere our monarchy. Would any man say upon chimera; for such was the object of the his honour, that he believed that to be author in the publication of his book; a the intention of the author of the pam- book brought forward to support the phlet? Would any man stand up and say, principles of kingly government, which that he wished the debate to be adjourned, thank God, Englishmen got rid of! and in order to make up his mind upon that they must get rid of it again, if men of point? Would the House delay its deci- high rank and station should, with arms in sion upon such a question as that, and their hands, attempt to establish it against show a partiality for those who libelled the the public voice, as had more than once constitution, while they themselves were been hinted.-Mr. Erskine said, the deabetting and supporting his majesty's bate of that night, and what had lately ministers in hurrying through the happened, would have convinced him, if House two bills that had a tendency to he had stood in need of conviction, how destroy the principles of the constitution; inscrutable the ways of Providence were ; and that at a time too, when they them- they seemed always intended to counteract selves knew the sentiments of the people the prognostics of men, in order to teach were against the bills, about to be passed ? us prudence and patience. The higher When they knew that, with all the ardour orders of the people in this country, he which belonged to the affection with which had once thought had resolved to carry they loved the Revolution of 1688, and the on the detestable doctrines contained in principles which were then established, the book before the House and the prinwould they take advantage of the tempo- ciples of the bills depending, so that the rary circumstance of an insult offered to people would have no hope but in the his majesty, and the expressions of in- desperate alternative of either submitting dignation which the people uttered upon to slavery, or attempting a remedy by that occasion, and pretend to say, that force; that all the elements of society what they then expressed amounted to would be decompounded. He thanked an acquiescence in the principles which God, his apprehension on that point was ministers at this time maintained ? If they nearly at an end, from the manner in did, he must tell them, that they would which many of the higher ranks had stood thereby render his majesty's life precarious, forth in the cause of liberty, and, by their and the government insecure. He would conduct, had given the lie direct to the maintain, that if ministers expected to be many insinuations that had gone forth supported in such principles by the peo- against them. This proved that there were ple, they would be deceived in the sequel. in the country men of high character who They would find that the people of Eng- espoused the cause of liberty and of the land detested such principles. That the people, and who were determined to support it at the hazard of their lives. What the consideration of the pamphlet had not would be the consequence? The people been brought on before? În answer to would return to the standard of affection which, he begged leave to say, that he to the legislature. If, unfortunately their did not know whether he should have efforts should fail, and the people's rights brought it on at all, He conceived that should be disregarded, he would then say, dangerous opinions might be stated in a in the language of a gentleman (Mr. publication, and that yet it might not be Burke) who was no longer a member of consequence to prosecute the author. of that House, “ When you put the But when such a publication as the sovereign against the people, they will present was brought forward in that cast your sovereignty in your face; no- House, it was incumbent on them to body will be argued into slavery."-The show that they were not parties to libels author of the pamphlet under considera- upon the constitution, nor the patrons of tion was a member of the law; but he did those by whom such libels were circu. not he said, choose to treat him as a law. lated. The existence of the Treason and yer, and therefore he should not state the Sedition bills formed another ground why book as the work of Mr. Reeves, but take this publication should not be passed by; it as if it had been the work of any other for if it was found that arbitrary doctrines person of whom he had previously known were recommended in the pamphlet, and nothing. He should only say, that the that arbitrary measures were in the course House should be aware how they gave of being adopted by ministers, it of conthe book their imprimatur. If they voted sequence followed, that the House should that the book was no libel, it would appear not subscribe to the opinion of the secreclear to the public they did so, because it tary of war, that the passage in the was supposed to be in favour of the crown pamphlet referred to was apparently in. against the rights of the people. And nocent. The learned gentleman admitted here he must tell the attorney-general, of the publication to be a libel on the conwhose ability, integrity, and candour, no stitution, and yet he avowed himself an man could entertain a higher opinion, advocate for delay. Why did he not that if he went into the court of King's narrow his condemnation to the doctrines bench with this book, and called for the contained in that particular passage. verdict of a jury on it, they would not de Notwithstanding all the partiality of misire that time to deliberate upon it which nisters for arbitrary power, he did not the House seemed to wish.

believe that many of their advocates Mr. Serjeant Adair said, that the time would come forward to support those proposed by the amendment was too short doctrines. A delay, then, was on their to enable any gentleman to form an part desirable, in order that they might opinion upon the subject. He was among concert what defence could be set up for those who entertained doubts as to the the passage, in all probability the producreal intention of the author. With regard tion of one of their own agents. Was to that part of the pamphlet which had this exceptionable passage so long, was been originally complained of, he had it so doubtful, that, after having heard it no doubt of its being a libel on that once read, the House could have

any

he House. He said he differed from the sitation with respect to its tendency? at

that the moriarchy of this country was at any author of the libel to get out of the way? time antecedent to its constitution. He Did they wish for time, in their disalso defied any one to prove that the tressed situation, in order to reconcile, by monarch could carry on the government some strain of construction, some contorwithout the great council of ihe nation ; tion and twisting of the sense of other and he rejected with disdain the idea that parts of the pamphlet, this defence of the the monarch of this country could carry passage with the declaration set up by on the government without the aid of the secretary at war, that it was perfectly parliament. It was a doctrine not to be innocent ? 'It was, Mr. Fox declared, a tolerated for a single moment; and be libel of a more dangerous nature and a believed it would be difficult for any worse tendency, than any that had been context to explain, in the author's favour, issued by the Constitutional and Correthe paragraph complained of.

sponding Societies. It was not difficult, Mr. Fox said, it had been asked, why however, to perceive the tenderness of [VOL. XXXII.]

[ % S]

ministers for this libeller on the House of been the chairman of that association, Commons, nor to penetrate into the mo which had incited and encouraged assotives of their conduct; and it was surely ciations throughout the country. To that a bad omen for the country, that while person the pamphlet had been ascribed ; such dispositions were manifested, it but it had been reported to him, since he should be urged, that not a moment came into the House, that the assertion was to be lost in coming to a decision on of Mr. Reeves being the author of the bills, which, under the pretence of giving pamphlet was to be solemnly disavowed. greater security to his majesty's person, He was glad of it. Mr. Reeves he had were in reality, calculated to strengthen formerly known, when he was a member the bands of government, and overturn of that Whig Club which was so much the priviliges of the constitution. reprobated in this pamphlet.

The Attorney-General said, it did The prominent doctrines maintained in not become him to give any opinion the pamphlet were, 1. That liberty flowed as to the nature of the pamphlet, but from the king alone. 2. That all security to receive the instructions of the House. for law and government was derived from On a principle of justice to the un- the kingly power. 3. That the revolution known individual, and from regard to in 1688 was a fraud and a farce; and that their own dignity, he must, however, vote all the people got by it was a Protestant for the adjournment. That House was king. 4. That the dissenters were enethe grand inquest of the nation. It had mies to the country, and ought to be exbeen found, in former instances of com- terminated. 5. That the Whigs were im. plaints sent from the House, that a jury, postors, and had always been either in the after a long investigation of the facts pay of the court, or in league with democharged, differed in opinion and acquitted crats. 6. That a constitutional lawyer the party prosecuted. After all the at. was either a knave or a fool. 7. That the tention which he had given to the pamph. verdict of a jury was not a final decision, let, he could not, if he was called upon and was entitled to little or no weight. on the sudden, give an opinion whether 8. That the Lords and Commons might be he should think it adviseable to prosecute lopped off without injury to the constituor not.

tion. These doctrines were elaborately The motion, that the debate be ad argued through the whole of the pamphlet. journed till Thursday, was then agreed to. of the king it was asserted, that he

makes and executes the laws.” In the Nov. 26. The adjourned debate having next page of the pamphlet it was said, been resumed,

that “ accordingly the king can enact po Mr. Sheridan said, he had not, on a laws without the advice and consent, not former night, troubled the House with only of the Lords spiritual and temporal, any long comment upon the pamphlet in who are in some sort counsellors of his question, because he thought it his duty own choosing, but also of the Commons in to read it first. In the intermediate time, parliament assemblcd.” The Lords would, he had read it over with due deliberation; he believed, feel but little obligation to and if he had found it to have only con the man who considered them merely as tained a solitary passage, if he had found counsellors of the king's own choosing. the passage itself contradicted by the The author through several passages encontext, or if it had not plainly appeared tered into a history of the Reformation, to him that it was the general wish of the and seemed to consider it as the source author to libel the constitution of the of French principles; and asserted that country, he would not have risen to press the Presbyterians, Quakers, &c. were the the motion, which he submitted to the propagators and promoters of these prinHouse on a former night. He had now ciples. The author stated, that “ Pres. considered the whole of the pamphlet, and byterians, Independents, Commonwealth the whole of it manifested the same deli. Men, Fifth Monarchy Men, Anabaptists, berate malignity, against the constitution. Quakers, and other sects and divisions too The publication had been ascribed to a irksome to be named, all of them, more man, whose intimate connexion with the or less, disciples of the same school, government was well known ; to a man to where the sovereignty of the people, and whom it had been said by the secretary the killing of kings was first brought into at war, the national gratitude could not system and sanctioned by the dictates of be too much directed; to a man who had the gospel.” Through three whole pages

« PreviousContinue »