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now going forward, or likely to take place between us and that Government, from which it might be hoped that hostilities may be avoided?
House being in a Committee on the Bill, Lord Ellenborough proposed the insertion of an amendment of some length, the principal object of which appeared to be to prevent any thing in the Act from operating to the prejudice of the sheriff, who otherwise, though an innocent person, may be affected injuriously.
The amendment was adopted.
The Earl of Liverpool, in answer to what fell from the noble earl, stated, that their lordships might be aware an armistice had been concluded between marshal Murat and the commander-in-chief of his Majesty's forces in that quarter. With reference to this, a notice had been given by the latter to marshal Murat, that if he should commit any hostile acts against his Majesty's ally, he should consider it as a breach of the armistice between the two countries. Whether any hostile steps had occurred between the British and the Neapolitan forces he could not say; but from what had taken place on the part of the latter, the armistice was considered to be at an end. With respect to the second point, whether there were any discussions going on between the two countries for the establishment of peace, he could not say there were any negociations going on at present that could render the notice of the noble lord nugatory.
Earl Grey replied, that he understood from the noble lord that hostilities were now actually revived between the two countries. But their lordships would recollect, that we had been, in effect, at peace with the Government of Naples for the last twelve months; and that, from the statement of the noble lord, the necessity followed of a regular declaration that a state of hostility was renewed. He thought, therefore, that a communication should be made to Parliament on the subject; and on which occasion, a discussion on the merits of the case would preferably ensue. He again asked if any such communication was intended?
The Earl of Liverpool said, he had not received any command to make such a communication.
The Marquis of Buckingham understood that the exception of the Fleet, King'sbench, and Marshalsea, and Palace-court prisons, from the operation of the Bill, arose from there being yet no other allowance for keeping up the establishment of these prisons than what arose from Gaol Fees. There was a report from a committee of the House of Commons on the subject, and he should move to-morrow for a copy of that Report.
The Lord Chancellor stated, that he had received a great many clauses to be inserted with respect to the London gaols, which appeared very proper in themselves, but if they were introduced into that House, would endanger the loss of the Bill altogether, and prevent, for the time, the good which it was calculated to do. His lordship stated what had been proved at the bar on a former occasion, that the city of London expended no less a sum than 15,000l. in providing comforts for their prisoners; and if the fees of their gaols were put an end to, they must increase their gaolers salaries, and could not afford so great a sum for their prisoners. The fees in all gaols being abolished, prisoners having a power of removing themselves would crowd to the London gaols for the sake of the allowance, and this would be more particularly the case when the new gaol should be built. It would be desirable not to check the hand of charity, and yet it would be improper to risk the loss of the Bill: the best course appeared to be to make the clauses in question the subject of a separate Bill, which might be passed this session, and for these reasons he refrained from proposing them at present.
The Marquis of Lansdowne concurred with the noble and learned lord as to the best course of proceeding, but did not think that the abolition of the fees would tend much to crowd the London gaols. A removal could not be accomplished at a less expense than 6l., and to those who could afford this, the fees could not be a great object.
The Bill passed through the Committee.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
INSOLVENT DEBTORS BILL.] Mr. Serjeant Best moved the order of the day for the second reading of the Insolvent Debtors Bill. The learned serjeant noticed some alterations in the clauses of the Bill that he wished to propose in the Committee.
Mr. Horner said, that the Bill now be fore the House was any thing but the bill which the hon. and learned serjeant had described, when he obtained leave of the House to bring it in. He understood from the hon. and learned gentleman since, however, that two of the most material clauses had been omitted. As it was material that the measure should come before the House in a perfect form, antecedent to their being called upon to deliver their opinion upon it, he thought in the present instance an unfair advantage would be gained by obtaining the consent to the second reading of a Bill, the essence of which was subsequently to be changed. With these feelings, as well as from an insuperable objection to the preamble, he should object to the motion. The measure proposed was very different from what the House expected, and instead of being of a softer, was of a severer nature than the last. He thought the best thing would be to withdraw the Bill, and ask leave to bring in another.
Mr. Serjeant Best objected to this course, as likely to give additional trouble to the House.
Mr. Abercrombie thought that the vital forms of the House would be evaded, by the manner in which it was attempted to pass this Bill through the second and most material stage. Under these circumstances, he thought the hon. and learned gentleman ought to withdraw the Bill altogether, and bring it in again, in a complete shape, so that the House might be able to consider it in its perfect bearings.
The Speaker said, that in all cases where the objects of a bill had not been properly explained to, or understood by the House, the introducer had the option of withdrawing it, in whatever stage it might be, and bringing in another, consonant with his own views, and in an intelligible shape.
LONDON PETITION AGAINST a WAR WITH FRANCE THE PROPERTY-TAX, &c.] Sir William Curtis said, he had a petition to present from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Livery of London, in Common-hall assembled, which might appear, in some respects, of an extraordinary nature. He was bound in duty to his constituents to present it, and it was couched in terms that might probably ensure its reception by the House. It was also his duty to say, that there was scarcely a sentiment contained in it in which he concurred. The meeting was, however, called in the constitutional and proper way. The petition was a kind of omnium, embracing a great variety of matter; one part of it related to the Property-tax. He moved for leave to present the petition.
The Speaker observed, that the hon. baronet having stated that the Petition was in part against a tax now pending, it could not, consistently with the forms of the House, be received.
Sir W. Curtis said, that he did not know whether it could be said that the Petition was exactly directed against the Property-tax.
The Speaker thought it advisable that the hon. baronet should read the part which he conceived might prove objectionable.
Mr. Serjeant Best then agreed to draw the present Bill, and the order for the second reading was discharged. Leave was then given to bring in a Bill in a perfect form.
Mr. Horner observed, that the rule of the House ought only to be applied practically to the case for which it was intended. Coming from so great and respectable a body-[A laugh on the Miwith-nisterial side of the House]-coming, he repeated, from a most numerous and respectable body, the Petition ought not to be rejected on a mere point of form, unless it came strictly and indisputably
insult the House. He was sure the House
within the rule. The prayer of the Peti-
Mr. Whitbread said, that the learned member could not be sure what the House would do with the Petition, till they had come to a vote. The learned member had not yet read the Petition, and yet he had termed it a gross libel. He hoped to find him mistaken. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had become very humorous about the city when they turned against him: at other times they were found very useful both by him and the worthy alderman. The prayer was to stop the career of ministers, which occasioned grievances, and would bring on the Property-tax. Nice and fine distinctions should be avoided respecting the receiving of Petitions. The livery were most unhappy in their representative, who said he was bound to present the Petition, but yet evinced so much reluctance in doing his duty. If he was their representative in Guildhall, he certainly was counsel against them in that House. His pleading against the Petition was even more able and effectual than the learned serjeant's; and surely, had he seen a libel such as the learned serjeant mentioned, he would have pounced upon it at once. The House would not, either in compliment to him, or to ministers, do so violent an act as to reject a petition which the worthy alderman himself said came from a body constitutionally convened.
Mr. Bathurst was willing to give the petitioners all the respect they deserved. He did not think that the words employed at all warranted the construction put upon them by the hon. gentleman. The object was not so much to complain of ministers, as of the tax which was mentioned, co nomine, as an intolerable grievance. The prayer was, that the matters above stated should be considered, and one of those matters was the Property-tax.
Sir John Newport referred to the memorable dictum of the Speaker on a former occasion, that the doors of the House ought to be opened wide for the admission of petitions, and contended that this great object ought not to be defeated by technical objections. Complaint was against ministers for proposing the Property-tax, and not specifically against that measure, which was still pending; the petitioners required that the country should be protected against the consequences of the misconduct of a weak, rash, and infatuated Administration. It was not difficult to discover the motive for the opposition now given-it was to screen Government for a time against the indignation of a large and most respectable body of persons who were convinced of its incapacity.
Mr. Serjeant Best contended, that the Petition expressly prayed the rejection of the Property-tax Bill-[A cry of No, no!']. Whether it did or did not, was a matter of very little consequence, since the instrument could not be received, as it was couched in the most disrespectful termsthe first two lines contained a most gross and infamous libel upon the House and upon the constitution. The individuals who have signed it must have known that it could not be received; and he could not conceive that it was the duty of any member to present a petition designed to
Mr. Peel observed, that the tax was distinctly stated, and then came a prayer for the consideration of divers matters, in order to stop the career of rash ministers, The objection to the Petition did not proceed from any desire to prevent the expression of the petitioners' sentiments, but for the purpose of supporting the rules of the House.
Mr. Tierney said, that there were two modes of presenting petitions; one to obtain its reception, and the other to secure its rejection by the House: which the worthy baronet had adopted, the House could easily determine. The Petition complained of a weak, rash, and infatuated Administration, that had resorted to an odious tax, from which they hoped to have been free; but the prayer was not directed against the tax, whatever ingenuity might be displayed to show the contrary. If there were any valid objection, it could not have happened that gentlemen on the other side should take such different grounds. It
[1006 was true that the name of the Property- | which was, that it was said to be extax was mentioned, but the aim was tremely improper for the House to reagainst the members of the Government.ceive. If that was the case, he should be The object was to remove the present very unwilling that it should be got rid Government; and he would undertake, of simply by a technical objection. without communication with them, that the petitioners would be fully satisfied if that object were accomplished. He took a distinction between a new tax and the revival of an old tax, and doubted whe-jected to. The House, therefore, should not refuse to hear the Petition read, hecause a member who unwillingly presented it quarrelled with some of its sentiments.
Mr. W. Smith said, that the usual course was to call on the member who presented the petition, to read the prayer of it. In that prayer there was nothing to be ob
ther on that account the rule in the present instance could be applied-[Laughter from ministers]. It was a matter well worth consideration, and he was sorry to see that the grievous complaints of the metropolis of the empire, were the ridicule of the ministers. This technical objection was very welcome to the other side of the House; it was a good expedient to screen unpopular ministers from public execration. He was willing to rest the whole upon this point; whether the citizens of London, in resolving upon the Petition, meant it as a Petition against the Property-tax?
Sir W. Curtis observed, that he had entertained doubts as to the admissibility of the Petition, which he had communicated to the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who entertained more than doubts respecting it. He had communicated, therefore, his doubts to the House, but he did not wish to prejudice them against the Petition.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if the Petition was against the ministers and their measures generally, it could not be objected to; but if it objected to certain specific measures, of which the Propertytax was one, it would be inconsistent with the rule of the House to receive it. It would be an assistance to the judgment of the House, if the worthy alderman would state more fully the substance of the whole Petition, or the circumstances which took place when it was agreed to ;as, for instance, whether any mention had been made of the Property-tax at the time.
Sir W. Curtis said, certainly. Mr. Wallace said, that there never was a stronger ground of rejection. The Petion desired the consideration of the proposed tax; and it grossly misrepresented the situation and character of the House with the public.
Mr. Baring said, the circumstance that the Petition was presented by the worthy alderman, was primâ facie evidence that no disrespect was intended to the House. As to its being a Petition against a new tax, it was to be considered, in the first place, that the Property-tax was not a new tax, but a continuation of an old tax, which alone would induce him to entertain considerable doubts till he heard the opinion of the chair: in the next place, in the prayer of the Petition there was not a word of the tax, which was merely mentioned incidentally; he should therefore vote for the bringing up the Petition. Let the House hear what it was; and reject it, if it should prove improper. As far as he had looked at it, there was in it that which he did not concur in, and nothing to induce him to regard it with much favour; but the objection respecting the tax seemed rather a stretch of the rule.
Lord Compton observed, that when there was a doubt as to the meaning of a petition, the natural course was to bring it up and suffer it to be read. There was another reason why it should be received,
Mr. Ponsonby said, he had never witnessed such a debat as the present-the presenter of a petition diligently finding objections to it, and the minister ferreting out reasons in support of him. Instead of astuteness in finding out reasons for rejection, the astuteness would be better employed in discovering causes for reciving a petition. He did not understand a petition against a tax by implication. Probably no two would agree on the exact point of objection. The rule was, not to receive a petition against a tax proposed for the ways and means of the present year; but, then, the prayer must distinctly express that request. Inference and deduction were not fair grounds of rejection. He had seen many petitions more offensive than the present; but the House ought to know its contents. Were he on the opposite bench in such a case, he should be desirous of receiving it.
Sir W. Curtis moved, that the Petition | places him without the pale of civil and be read, social relations, renders him liable to public vengeance, and that, consequently, there can be neither peace nor truce with him; principles revolting to the feelings of civilized society, repugnant to the rights, liberties, and security of all states, and evincing a combination, or rather a conspiracy, which, if once sanctioned, would lead to consequences the most dreadful and alarming, and for which there is no parallel in the history of the world; and that, recollecting the noble struggles which our ancestors have made for reestablishing and preserving their liberties, recollecting the frequent reformations they have made in the Government, that they have always maintained and exercised this right, and that the august Family now on the Throne derived the right to the crown, not by hereditary claims, but upon the legitimate foundation of all authority, the choice of the people, and indignantly disclaiming, as our ancestors have done, all right in Foreign Powers to interfere in our internal concerns, the petitioners cannot but consider any attempt to dictate to France, or any other country, the form or mode of its government, the person who shall or shall not be at the head of such government, or in any way to interfere in its internal policy and regulations, as highly impolitic and manifestly unjust: The petitioners, therefore, deprecate any designs to involve this country in a war for such an object, a war against those principles which this nation has always maintained and acted upon; and that, torn by the miseries and calamities of the late devastating war, still tasting the bitter fruits of that protracted conflict, and no means having been adopted to lessen our burthens, by those necessary retrenchments in the national expenditure so earnestly and so repeatedly called for by the people, but, on the contrary, an Act has been passed restricting the importation of corn, by which a tax is virtually imposed of several millions per annum upon food, entailing upon us, in mes of peace, one of the greatest evils produced by the war: before, therefore, we are plunged into another war, and in support of such principles, the petitioners might ask the House, what has been gained by the immense sacrifices we have already made; and, contemplating the disastrous consequences of a failure in this new contest the people have a right to demand, what advantages are proposed even in the event
Mr. H. Sumner was in favour of reading it. The tax might be so introduced as to be incidental to the chief object of the prayer. Though he did not concur in the use of the word execration,' yet he did not think that sufficient to exclude it. A general courtesy should be observed towards petitions when they were not offensive, or when particular points might be liberally construed. He should vote against the rejection, unless the Speaker said it might be read as part of the worthy alderman's speech.
The Speaker observed, that the member who presented a petition to the House was bound to state the substance of it; but if the House wished to hear the words, the course was, that the clerk at the table should read it. As to the rule against receiving petitions against taxes, it clearly was, that no petition should be received against any tax voted in the committee of Ways and Means for the year.
The Petition was then presented and read; setting forth,
"That the petitioners, having so recently witnessed the marked disregard shown to the petitions from the City of London, and those of the nation at large, could not fail to have been confirmed in their conviction of the corrupt state of the representation, and of the want of sympathy in the House with the feelings and opinions of the people; and that these considerations would, under circumstances of less importance, have deterred the petitioners from the exercise of a right which appears to have been rendered nugatory; but, hopeless as they fear it is again to address the House, yet at a crisis so momentous, when a determination has been so strongly manifested by the minis ters of the Crown again to plunge this devoted country into the horrors of war, the petitioners feel it to be an imperious duty to their country, themselves, and posterity, to use every constitutional means towards averting from the nation the overwhelming calamities with which it is menaced; and that they have seen, with feelings of abhorrence, the declarations and treaties of the Allied Powers, and to which are affixed the names of British ministers, wherein are avowed and promulgated the monstrous and unheardof principles, that the breach of a conven. tion by a Sovereign destroys the only legal title on which his existence depended,