« PreviousContinue »
ther that day was convenient to the noble | lord, or whether the noble lord, by some communication on the part of the Prince Regent, would prevent the necessity of that motion? At the time when he had given notice of his motion, he had thought it extraordinary that no such communication was to be made on the part of the noble lord; but now, after the events which had recently happened, it was still more extraordinary that it had not been thought expedient to make the fullest disclosure which could be made consistently with the public service, of the proceedings which had taken place at the Congress, without its being coupled with the fact that it was drawn forth by the motion of an individual member of the House of Commons. He could not, as he saw the noble lord in his place, refrain from protesting as he had before done at a time when the noble lord was not present-for himself, as an individual, against concurring in any measures which might implicate Great Britain in the civil war which might now have begun in France, on account of the landing of Buonaparté in that country, for any object in which the interests of Great Britain were not immediately concerned.
Lord Castlereagh observed, that not being in possession of the nature of the hon. member's motion, he could not offer any opinion as to the propriety or impropriety of postponing a discussion upon it. For his own part, he had no wish that it should be postponed; indeed, he saw no reason for postponing it at all. He had only requested its being deferred to Wednesday, on account of his health; and he should be glad of an opportunity to give any information which he could afford consistently with his public duty. He should therefore be happy to meet the hon. gentleman on this ground, as soon as possible. He was not aware of any thing which this country had done to preclude him from bringing down such papers as he had alluded to, and accompanying them with any explanations that ought to be communicated. This he thought would be more agreeable to the House than bringing down such papers as from the present state of things could not possibly be complete, and laying them on the table without any explanation at all. As to the conduct of this Government, he was conscious that it would not deviate from that spirit of good faith which had ever guided it in all its transactions with foreign
Powers; and he was not aware that any thing had occurred to induce it to change that line of policy which had been so universally approved of. With respect to the general advice of the hon. member, he trusted the House would leave that question to the responsible discretion of his Majesty's ministers; and as to the opinion or remonstrance of the hon. gentleman, he trusted the House would feel that it could not, and without meaning any disrespect to the hon. gentleman, he would say it ought not to have any influence upon their conduct whatever. He trusted the hon. gentleman would not object to the universal feeling which pervaded the House on the subject of the present situation of France. The policy of this Government never had been to interfere in the internal concerns of that country; at the same time they could not but feel, in common with the other nations of Europe, deeply interested in supporting a government which had contributed to give peace to the world, in opposition to that power which now aimed at its subversion. presumed the hon. gentleman himself was not an exception to this general feeling. As to what measures the government of this country might think proper to take under circumstances which now threatened again to disturb the state of universal peace, he was sure the House would not pardon him, if he were so far to forget his duty, as to hazard any opinion on them.
Mr. Whitbread said, he had no objection to state the nature of his intended motion; it was for an Address to the Prince Regent for a communication of such part of the proceedings at Vienna, as could be made known without injury to the public service. He still thought it extraordinary that the noble lord, on his return from an important mission, would not make any communication to the House until he was, as it were, arraigned before them. In bringing forward his motion he should not neglect to bring before the House those facts by which imputation had been cast on the honour and good faith of the country, which the noble lord would refute if he could. If the noble lord succeeded in justifying himself, he (Mr. W.) should be the first to acknowledge the error into which he had been led by publications which bore the semblance of authority. As to the affairs of France, he had not alluded to them with any idea that he should have been attended to, but to protest, and he again protested, against any
interference in the affairs of that country, on behalf of one or other of the contending parties.
Lord Castlereagh said, that nothing could be more unobjectionable than the motion of the hon. member, and the course which he meant to pursue. He appealed to the House, whether the communication being withheld was not less extraordinary, than would have been a communication on the part of the Crown, made before the Congress had ended? Was it not most extraordinary that such a communication could have been expected? It was proper also to remark, though he meant not to complain of the conduct of the hon. member, that more questions had been put during the progress of the negociations at Vienna, than it had ever been the habit of parliament on any former occasion.
Mr. Whitbread said, that one of the extraordinary features in the case was the noble lord's appearance in his place. If the affairs of the Congress had not terminated, why had the noble lord returned? Or if his presence there was not necessary, why had he gone thither? If nothing had transpired on the subject of the Congress, no questions would have been heard from him. His questions had been founded on public documents, naturally the subjects of animadversion; and those documents he should bring forward on Monday, as matters of charge against the noble lord, who, if it was possible, might refute them. Mr. Ponsonby said, that unless the noble lord thought proper to disclose the whole of the case, he should not be prepared to give his opinion upon it. He must protest against the House being called upon for an opinion, unless they were put in possession of the whole of the case. He must consider himself bound not to give his approbation on a mere partial statement.
Lord Castlereagh applauded the reserve with which the right hon. gentleman expressed himself on the present occasion; and he could have wished that the same reserve had been more extensively em. ployed upon former occasions.
PETITION OF MR. LOVELL THE PROPRIETOR OF "THE STATESMAN."] Mr. Whitbread presented a Petition from Mr. Lovell, the proprietor of "The Statesman," taking, notice of his former Petition presented to the House on the 23d of Novem. ber last; and setting forth :
"That, since the same was presented, the petitioner has been officially informed,
that his Majesty's Government have consented to a remission of the fine of 5001. and a reduction of the sureties to half the amount ordered by the court, and to take the petitioner's recognizance for 1,000l.; and that he is impressed with a due sense of this lenity shown to him; but has still the misfortune to declare, that, owing to the heavy losses sustained during his long imprisonment, he is still unable to give the sureties required, except so far as relates to his own recognizance of 1,000l.; and that the petitioner still continues to labour under severe attacks of disease, and his general health is much impaired; and he therefore again appeals to the justice and humanity of the House to afford him such further relief as to them shall seem fit, for, without such interference, the petitioner expects to terminate his existence within the walls of his prison."
Mr. Addington stated, that the fine had been already remitted, and the sum required from the two sureties reduced from 500l. to 2501. each, at the solicitation of worthy member (Mr. Alderman Atkins.)
Mr. Whitbread said, that the petition acknowledged the lenity of the Crown, but the petitioner was unable to find even the sureties now required. He hoped his Majesty's Government would extend full mercy to this unhappy man, who had suffered a severe sentence, and a great aggravation of it.
Mr. Alderman Atkins joined in the humane intreaties of Mr. Whitbread, and stated the distressed circumstances of Mr. Lovell. He had communicated to Mr. Lovell the intentions of the Government. He had, however, tried all his friends, and could not get any two persons to step forward in the security of 250l. each. There were many gentlemen who would rather pay down the money, than give their names as sureties under such circumstances.
Mr. A. Browne expressed himself satisfied with the conciliatory disposition of his Majesty's Government, and hoped the mercy of the Crown would be still further extended to Mr. Lovell.
Mr. Bathurst thought that the public was entitled to some security, and that it was extraordinary that any man of sufficient character to conduct a newspaper should not be able to find two sureties in the sum of 250l. each.
Mr. Whitbread stated, that he had taken occasion to visit Mr. Lovell in Newgate, and that he should not have presented this petition, if he was not fully satisfied of
Sir J. Newport thought the continuance of the petitioner in confinement furnished demonstrative proof of his incapacity to procure bail, and he was therefore astonished at the doubt expressed upon that point.
Mr. J. P. Grant concurred in the opinion of the right hon. baronet; for, four months having elapsed since the fine im. posed upon the petitioner was remitted, and his security was mitigated, it was obvious that he would not have so long remained in prison, if he were not unable to procure bail.
Mr. Whitbread repeated his hope that ministers would accede to the petitioner's prayer: it was evident, from the extreme length of the petitioner's imprisonment, that the ends of justice could in no degree suffer by the grant of mercy on this occasion; for this was indeed an extreme case, which could not be drawn into precedent, while the punishment suffered by the petitioner, was surely sufficient to make a due impression upon his own mind and upon the mind of others also.
the truth of the allegations it contained. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last, appeared not to have recollected the statement of the worthy alderman who had behaved so meritoriously in this transaction, and according to whose observation, many individuals would be ready to subscribe the sum required for Mr. Lovell's surety, who would yet be indisposed to put their names forward as bail for that gentleman. The motives of that indisposition were indeed obvious. As to the right hon. gentleman's observation upon the petitioner's character, which, according to that right hon. gentleman's opinion, could not be respectable, because he found himself unable to procure bail, it ought to have occurred to him that the petitioner was placed in very peculiar circumstances, in no degree affecting his general character, although naturally creating an obstacle to the attainment of bail,-that being in prison he was under the necessity of committing his publication to other hands, by whom he had already been betrayed into farther misfortune. The suffering of the petitioner then was, in a great measure, attributable to the misconduct of others; but this very circumstance must operate to augment the difficulty of procuring bail; for persons would naturally reflect, that they would have to become security, not only for the petitioner himself, but for those to whom he was liable to commit the conduct of his paper. Hence the petitioner might feel a great difficulty in procuring bail, without any imputation upon his general character. He was unwilling to make any statements whatever that could serve to inflame the mind of any one upon this subject; but in fact, the most effectual way of inflaming the public mind, as to the fate of the petitioner, would be to reject the prayer of his petition, and let him die in prison. This, however, he hoped and trusted would not be the conduct of ministers, but that feeling for the unfortunate situation of the petitioner, and seeing his inability to procure bail, they would allow him to be liberated upon his own recognizance.
Mr. Bathurst disclaimed the intention of saying any thing injurious to the private character of the petitioner, of which he really knew nothing; but added, that he could not conceive how any individual or individuals could deem themselves liable to an imputation in paying the sum required for the petitioner's security, if such a disposition existed.
The petition was ordered to lie on the table.
HOUSE OF LORDS.
Friday, March 17.
LONDON PETITION AGAINST THE CORN BILL.] Lord Grenville said, that before the order of the day was moved for the committal of the Bill now depending in their lordships House for imposing a duty on the importation of foreign corn, he was anxious to call the particular attention of the House to the petition from the Corporation of London, which he had presented the other day, praying to be heard by counsel at their lordships bar; and he requested that the petition might be read. [The petition being read, his lordship resumed.] Under all the circumstances of the case, the motion which he was about to submit to their lordships on the subject of this petition, appeared to be one so little liable to objection, that he could hardly conceive how any doubt could exist as to whether or not it ought to be agreed to. He was totally at a loss to understand what parliamentary regulations or forms could stand in the way of the petitioners, when they prayed that on this question, where their interests were so deeply concerned, they might be permitted to state their case by counsel at their lordships bar; but as, on a former
day, some doubt had been suggested, whether the petitioners could be regularly heard, he should shortly lay before the House, the grounds on which it appeared to him that their lordships were bound to comply with the prayer of the petitioners. In doing this, it was by no means his intention to enter into a fresh statement of those arguments respecting the general principle on which he had on a former occasion, perhaps at too great length, dilated-arguments, however, which as he thought had met with no satisfactory answer at the time, and still remained unrefuted. But the particular point here, related not so much to the mischief, generally speaking, which, in their opinion and in his, would result from this mode of legislation, as to the mischievous effects which it must have on their particular interests. Their lordships had already, by the second reading of the Bill, decided that the subject ought to be entertained. They had decided, generally, that it was fitting to legislate respecting the importation and price of corn; but surely on all parliamentary grounds, the petitioners might come to their lordships bar to show that there was no necessity for legislating on the subject at this particular time. It never, surely, could be presumed that the corporate body of the city of London could not enlighten their judgment and inform their minds on points with which many of their lordships might be unacquainted, though upon these points even the principle adopted by the supporters of this measure must in a great measure rest. If, then, most valuable information on this important question could be obtained from the petitioners, was the opportunity of furnishing that information to be denied them? In the rapid, not to call it precipitate, mode in which this business had been conducted, he had felt that personal inconvenience which resulted from the want of sufficient time adequately to discharge his duty. It would ill become any individual indeed to complain of labour or personal inconvenience, when he could by that means materially promote the interests of any number of his fellow-subjects, and particularly of large classes of the community. But such was the effect of the precipitate manner, if he might so call it, in which they had proceeded with this measure, that he felt it impossible to devote the time and labour to the subject which its vast importance so peculiarly required, During the short
time which had elapsed since he had presented this petition, he had endeavoured, as far as he could, to ascertain whether there existed any parliamentary rules to stand in the way of their lordships compliance with this application. From all the researches which he had been enabled to make, and all the information which in so short a space of time it had been in his power to procure, his belief was, that there was no order of their lordships House, no general practice or rule that could operate against complying with the prayer of this petition. There was certainly nothing against it in their orders; he believed nothing against it in their practice; and, indeed, it was not easy to conceive how any general rule could be adopted, to settle precisely in what cases petitioners should be admitted to be heard at their bar, and in what cases they should not be heard. He need not, surely, remind their lordships, that they did not confine this privilege of being heard, to individuals who prayed to be heard for their own private and particular interests. On the contrary, counsel had been heard at their bar on matters of the highest public interest, as affecting large classes of the community, but in which the interests of one class were not more particularly involved than those of other classes; and surely it could not now be contended, if parties were to be heard for their own peculiar interests, that because it so chanced that they had interests most important to them, but which happened at the same time to be of importance to other classes of the community, they must therefore be excluded from all opportunity of stating their objections. Was it the rule of the House, that parties must not appear at their lordships bar for their interests because they had a double claim to be there heard? The petitioners in the present instance requested to state to their lordships for consideration, the manner in which this measure would affect their own local and peculiar interests. But at any rate, the metropolis must feel whatever affected the general state of manufactures and trade all over the country; and even if they had not been directly or immediately concerned, they ought still to be heard. If the measure now in progress in their lordships' House was calculated to produce great and extensive mischief in every quarter of the country, as the petitioners thought, and he thought it was, how could the metropolis escape from its
the hopes of those future benefits which their lordships expected the country to derive from it. It had not been said in their lordships House, he trusted it would not be said there, that those who petitioned against the measure were incapable of forming an accurate opinion upon the question. It would be paying a false compliment to Parliament to say, that great additional light on the subject had not been gained from without. For his own part, he confessed that he had derived much information from the publications which had appeared; and he believed that if Parliament had been called upon to legislate on the subject at the time when the matter was first mentioned, they would have done so with infinitely less knowledge on both sides than they now had. The application now made to their lordships was, that the petitioners might be heard in this particular stage of the measure, when the information which they should be able to give their lordships would bear more immediately and directly on the question. If any one imagined that it was so peculiarly the province of Parliament to consider what were the general principles of commerce upon which they ought to legislate, that they would disdain to receive any information from without; yet, on certain particular points, the corporation of London might be able to furnish information, which it would be impossible for their lordships to obtain in any other mannerpoints of which the importance was admitted, and with respect to which the reports of their committees would supply them very inadequately with the means of knowledge. The first point was this:that perhaps the petitioners might be enabled to furnish their lordships with evidence both of fact and experience as to those particulars on which the supporters of the measure rested their cause; he said evidence of fact and experience; he spoke not of opinion, though the report of their committee shewed in every page that the opinions of the witnesses had been asked, and properly asked. But supposing no opinions were to be asked from these petitioners, their lordships might derive most important evidence from facts and experience as to what had been the past operation of those laws which had been considered as similar to that which it was now proposed to enact. They might inform their lordships whether it had been found that the
full share of the evil? And if the city of London must be affected with that which pressed heavily on the great mass of the community, why should not the corporate body of that city be permitted to lay their case before their lordships by counsel and witnesses at their bar? It would be but a waste of time, therefore, to argue, that even if the city of London could be exempted from the direct and immediate consequences of the measure, they had clearly an interest to support it, on the ground that whatever was deeply felt in other quarters of the kingdom, must be deeply felt in London. The measure now in contemplation, as the petitioners conceived, would be deeply felt all over the nation, and still more deeply felt in the metropolis. As far as his researches had gone, then, he repeated that he did not know of the existence of so perverse a rule as that petitioners should not be heard for their interests merely because their interests happened to be the same with those of the mass of the community. But if there had existed so strange a regulation as that a petitioner should not be heard, because another happened to have the same interest in the question, the petitioners here had a peculiar and local interest that no measure should pass without inquiry, the immediate effect of which would be to enhance the price of that which formed the basis of the subsistence of the great mass of the population. Suppose for a moment, that there were some foundation for the theory, that the effect of this measure would ultimately be to reduce the price of corn; yet it ought to be considered, that this future good must be brought about by the infliction of a present evil. Surely, then, these petitioners had a right to come before their lordships, and state the information which it might be peculiarly in their power to give as to the extent of the evil, and the manner in which it would operate on the manufacturing and commercial industry of the city of London, and the rest of the community. Supposing that the theory of the supporters of the Bill were as sound as he believed it to be fallacious, it was surely of some consequence, even in that view of the subject, that their lordships should be apprised of the full extent of the evil or inconvenience which for a time at least must be the result of the proposed regulation; and it was important, too, that they should be heard as to those facts which might justify or destroy