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every thing transacted within that House | the cause of every commitment to be deshould be fairly represented; but if it was clared, and the person of the accused to found impossible to havethis account fairly be produced, that he may claim his engiven, it would then become matter for se- largement or his trial within a limited rious consideration whether the House time. No wiser form was ever opposed should not say, either that what passed to the abuses of power.” It is upon an there should be fairly stated or not at all. institution like this that those stalesmen He was undetermined whether he should who wish to subvert liberty will naturally make any motion on the subject, but he commence their attacks. It has often should consider of it, and whether an in been assailed, and, as the same philosocreasing evil did not call for a special re- phical writer well observes, that, « it remedy. He was induced to state this quires a fabric no less than the whole pomatter in consequence of a remark lately litical constitution of Great Britain, a spimade by an hon. member, that on Tues- rit no less than the turbulent and refracday last there were not above 36 members tory zeal of this fortunate people to’semet at four o'clock to carry through the cure its effects.” I am much afraid that new tax upon income, and from thence it this turbulent spirit no longer exists: if it was inferred that those who were for the had, the chancellor of the exchequer bill were not very anxious in its support. would not have been so successful in this He knew what effects such statements measure. But let us look at the effects were likely to produce. He thought it which the suspension of this act has protherefore important to the character of duced. Not less than 70 or 80 persons parliament that it should be known, that were arrested last year. Has there not the reverse of this statement was the fact, been time to bring them to a trial ? To and that it was because gentlemen were have arraigned and convicted these perzealous in favour of this measure of fi. sons would, in my opinion, have been the nance, that they were not present before best reason that could be urged for contifour o'clock; gentlemen generally coming nuing the suspension of the Habeas Corearly when they meant to go away early ; pus act. Two terms have, however, but, when they expected a late night, it elapsed without any attempt being made was usual for them to dine first, and finish to try one of the persons who have been the business of the day before they came confined in consequence of the extraordidown to the House. It was for the nary powers given to the executive goHouse to consider what steps should be vernment. What reason can be assigned taken to remedy the evil of which he for continuing this power any longer in complained.
the hands of ministers. Have any insur
rections taken place in any quarter of the Debate in the Commons on the Habeas country? On the contrary, I believe the Corpus Suspension Act.] Dec. 21. On the right hon. gentleman cannot point out order of the day for the second reading any period since the revolution, when of the bill for continuing the Habeas Cor- more loyalty was displayed than at prepus Suspension act,
sent. It will not be pretended that we Mr. Courtenay said :-Every member have now any thing to fear from invasion, must venerate a law which has contributed The fleets of the enemy have been deso much to the prosperity and happiness stroyed, and we have not less than between of Great Britain. This great bulwark of % and 300,000 men in arms. Under all British liberty ought to be touched with a these circumstances, why continue to sus delicate hand, and nothing but the most pend an act upon which the liberty of the obvious necessity should be pleaded in subject depends ? There is another reason excuse for its suspension. I cannot, why I think the suspension of the Habeas therefore, give my assent to a measure, Corpus act ouglit to cease.
The persons the object of which is to deprive the peo- imprisoned under the act, which it is now ple, for a still longer period, of one of the proposed you should continue, are most greatest blessings handed down to them cruelly used. Having heard a great by their ancestors, which, while it is al. many reports respecting their situation, lowed to operate, affords personal protec. I resolved to go and see them, and inquire tion to every individual. á We must ad into the fact. An hon. friend of mine inire," says Ferguson, “ as the key stone (sir F. Burdett) was rather cavalierly of civil liberty, the statute which forces treated when he hinted at the situation in the secrets of every prison to be revealed, which these unfortunate men were placed, and I was resolved to ascertain the true I could not have imagined that any men state of the question. I procured an were used in such a manner in this counorder from a magistrate, and went to see try. It is scarcely necessary to inform the prison, in company with my hon. friend the House, that the prison of which I and another gentleman, not a member of have been speaking is that which is this House, but who is distinguished by commonly called the Bastile. [Hear, his humanity. I must confess that I hear !] Do gentlemen doubt it? I can found the reports that had reached me, of assure them it is known by that name. the situation of the persons under con. When I took a coach in Oxford-road, in finement, had been exaggerated. Still, order to visit the prison, I desired the however, their situation was extremely coachmen to drive me to the Bastile. wretched, and the manner in which they “ Very well, sir,”was the answer. Being were treated unexampled in severity and curious to know whether he really underrigour. I found them without fire and stood the place I wanted to go to by this without candle-denied every kind of so- name, I said " You know it then?"
660 ciety-exposed to the cold and rain-only yes, I know it-every body knows the allowed to breathe the air out of their cells Bastile in Cold-Bath Fields.” Indeed, it for about an hour-denied every comfort, is not surprising that such a name should every ionocent amusement excluded be given to this prison, for when another from all intercourse with each other, and Bastile formerly'existed under a certain every night locked up from all the rest of " regular government,” which some genthe world. Now I appeal to the gentle. tlemen pretend very much to admire, state men who hear me, whether they could prisoners were treated better there than have imagined that such a practice ex- they have been treated in this. Perhaps isted in this country, and whether they it may be inquired under whose direction think that there was any necessity for this prison is placed ? I understand that treating state prisoners in this manner ? some reverend gentlemen are among the I do not believe that ministers were privy magistrates who manage it. Perhaps to these proceedings. Among the pric they kindly subject these prisoners to soners, I saw a gentleman, with whom I so much pain in this world, that the less was acquainted above thirty years ago ; punishment may be inflicted on them in an officer distinguished in the service; the next. [ Hear, hear!] Well, if and amiable in his character and manners this motive does not please gentlemen, let --I mean colonel Despard. . I am happy, them assign a better if they can, and I however, to state, that I understand his will give up this ; but it is the best I can situation has since been ameliorated. I think of. But it is not to persons susam told he has lately been put into a pected of state crimes alone that the ri, room with a fire: and this change I am gour I have described is extended. Many informed, he owes to the humane interfer- persons, charged with offences of various ence of Mr. John Reeves. Till the 25th descriptions, undergo the same treatment of last month, he was confined in a soli- A man sentenced to imprisonment for sels tary cell, where even his wife was not al- ling a pamphlet called the “ Duties of Cia lowed to visit him. These cells are so tizenship,” has been confined in one of cold, that at this season of the year, it is these cells. His name is Smith. Now I scarcely possible to exist in them. The should be glad to know whether this is cold may, in some degree, be tempered the mode in which a man convicted of a by closing the wooden shutters; but if libel ought to be punished ? To be sepathe unhappy prisoner wishes to be cheered rated from his family, and shut up in an by the air and the light of heaven, he ordinary gaol, during the time of his senmust admit the rain and chilling blasts of tence, one would think a sufficient execuwinter at the same time. This usage ap- tion of the sentence; but under this regipeared to me so extraordinary, that I was men the culprit is not only prevented at some trouble in inquiring of several from exercising his industry to support a gentlemen, eminent in the profession of wife and children, but his health is dethe law, if ever they had known of such stroyed, and perhaps his mind deranged; practices in this country. They uni- for it would not be at all surprising if performly answered, that they never had sons in such a situation were afflicted with heard of such severity; that they consi-insanity. I must not, however, omit to dered the treatment I had described to be state, that this poor man was some time altogether unprecedented ; and that they ago, in consequence of indisposition, re( XXXIV.]
moved from his cell, and placed in the If the hon. gentleman was led from genesick ward, and, as the time of his impri- ral humanity to pity the condition of all sonment is nearly expired, and the send- prisoners, or from sympathy to deplore the ing him back to his cell might occasion a condition of those who were accused of relapse, he is, I understand, to be allowed sedition, his course was to have
gone to to remain in the sick-ward until he is dis. some magistrate with his complaint. If charged. The next person whose case I he thought that the bad conduct of gaols shall mention is that of a disorderly wo- was general, there was nothing to prevent man, one of those unfortunate creatures him from bringing forward any motion he who walk the streets. She was not con- might think necessary upon the subject. victed of any felony, but was nevertheless In order to show that this measure ought confined in a cold damp cell. She was at not to be now continued, the hon. gentlethe same time ill of that disease with man should show that there did not exist which women of the town are pretty fre- any treasonable or seditious spirit in this quently afflicted. I leave it to the huma- country. Did he mean to say there vity of the House, whether it was proper was nothing of that kind discovered at to place this unfortunate woman in a situ- Maidstone? Upon one fact the hon. genation, which, added to the virulence of tleman would agree with him—that at her disorder, was likely to endanger ber Maidstone there was only one man conlife. In another dismal cell I found a victed of high treason, and that there boy, confined there for disobedience to were four acquitted : but it would not be his master, a punishment which I believe, seriously contended, that because a man was never before heard of for an offence had been acquitted of high treason, it was of the kind. Such were some of the a proof that he had never been guilty of spectacles I witnessed on this visit. I high treason. It was not on the guilt of have, however, no doubt that any abuses one or two individuals that this measure which may exist will be corrected when was founded; it was founded on a combithey come to the knowledge of ministers. nation of persons acting in concert at Indeed I am informed, that the state pri- home for the destruction of the state, and soners are now removed into a warm whose views extended also to a concert room, where they have free intercourse with the enemies of this country abroad, with each other, but what I have stated is whenever any act for that purpose could sufficient to show that my hon. friend was be attempted with the hope of security to not misinformed when he hinted that the its projectors. · state prisoners were improperly treated. Mr. Tierney said, that he had given his I can not conclude without lamenting vote for the bill of last session, and he that an hon. gentleman, celebrated for his should wish to show that he was not acting humanity, has not visited this prison. I inconsistently in opposing the present. am convinced that that hon. gentleman's His reasons for this difference of opinion principles of " Vital Christianity' would were shortly these. Last session a meshave induced him to exert himself to sage was brought down from his majesty, ameliorate the condition of these unhappy stating, that there was imminent danger people. I am certain, however, that the of an invasion, aided by disaffected and hon. gentleman will no longer suffer it to treasonable persons in this country, and a be said by the unfortunate, “ I was in bill of indictment had been found by a prison, and you visited me pot."
grand jury at Maidstone against five perMr. Secretary Dundas said, that the sons for high treason. Combining these two hon. gentleman had stated a number of circumstances together, it was impossible facts, which, whether they were correct for him to deny that a case was made out, or not, had certainly no earthly con- which warranted the temporary suspension nexion with the bill before the House of the Habeas Corpus act. The situation With all the humanity which the hon. of the country was now, however, com. gentleman had displayed, he believed pletely altered. No one who had read every particle of it would have remained the king's speech at the opening of the at rest if the present bill had not been present session, could suppose that minis. moved : it was this bill that had caused ters had now any apprehension of an inthe hon. gentleman to summon up the hu- vasion. Then, with regard to correspon. manity of the House. If there existed dence with the enemy, he had heard of any abuse in the management of the gaols none carried on from this country. There of this kingdom, there was an easy remedy. was, however, proof of correspondence
with Ireland; but he learned from the hon. gentleman, who appeared to consisame authority, that there was no connec- der it his duty to absent himself from partion between the societies existing in Ire. liament, had not long since said of the land and those in Great Britain, and that manner in which libels were punished by any improper correspondence that might the laws of this country. That hon. gen. have passed between the two countries tleman, at a time when the state of Europe must have been through individuals only. was very different from what it was at He had a right to maintain that this fact present, had thought fit in a public situawas proved ; for if the authority he alluded tion to say, that the punishment for this to was to be relied upon in one case, it offence was particularly severe; and as was equally good in the other. The num- this reflection seriously involved the court ber of persons whohad been arrested in con- of King's-bench, he had been led to trace sequence of the suspension of the Habeas the history of its proceedings in this reCorpus act, had been between 70 and 80, spect. The result of his inquiries authowho were now all discharged, expect a rized him in affirming, that never since the few, and these were not brought to trial, law took cognizance of libel were the serie though detained in confinement since tences of the courts less rigorous than last April. This seemed to indicate that they had been for the last six years. Bethere was not much reason for continuing fore this offence was so much aggravated the measure; and it certainly was proper by the indiscriminate abuse of every pera that some new motive should be shown be- son and every institution in the country, fore the House was called upon to agree to that deserved to be reverenced and praised, the bill. It had been said that the obser- the law of libel was administered with a vations of his hon. friend, relative to the severity unknown in our days. If gentleusage of the state prisoners, had no con- men would compare the sentences of the Bexion with the bill; he, however, thought court of King's-bench passed in the period that they were very much in point. They he spoke of with those of any other period tended to show the manner in which the since the Revolution, it would be seen powers given by that bill had been exer- that the judges of our time, without neg. cised. It appeared that those who were lecting their duty, had considerably softtaken up under the act were not confined ened the character of punishments in gein the usual manner of persons merely neral, and that the punishment for libel in suspected of an offence, but that they particular was not sufficiently severe. were treated as if they had been convicted Formerly, the practice had been for the of some great felony. He knew that attorney-general to direct the punishvery considerable differences of opinion ment when persons were brought up for prevailed among magistrates relative to judgment; but he had acted upon a senthe utility of solitary confinement; but timent of a distinguished lawyer, the athe never yet heard its warmest supporters torney-general of a former period, whom say, that an Englishman, who had been he revered and valued; he meant lord covvicted of no crime, should be confined Thurlow. That great man was the first in one of those cells. He trusted that who disused the immemorial practice of the House would feel the importance of directing punishment; and if the tempered preventing such an improper abuse of and mild judgments of the Court did not power. A man of rank, a colonel in the wholly arise out of this circumstance, army, was among the persons stated to be certainly much kindness and lenity suca treated with so much inhumanity. He ceeded it. Would gentlemen contend saw no ground for continuing the suspen- that the libels of the present day less outsion of the Habeas Corpus act. There raged decency, and less offended against might be a few lurking traitors in the the laws ? Let them look to the state country; but there was throughout Eng. trials of 1794. In those trials they would land a general spirit of loyalty that would find that public meetings were in many render it impossible for their arts to suc- places held for the purpose of propagating ceed.
sedition; that not merely the ministers of The Attorney General said, that before the crown were libelled, but every instihe proceeded to state the reasons upon tution, religious, political, and moral, with which was founded his decided approba- every individual, in whatever conspicuous tion of the present measure, he thought it situation in the administration of the laws not unconnected with the present discus-or the government of his country he may sion, to remind the House of what an have been placed. There were at the period he alluded to, corresponding so- gentlemen who had visited the prisons in cieties and corresponding clubs, instituted, quired of the sheriffs, they would have not for the purpose of making the mem- found that it had been attempted to im: bers of that House responsible for their pose upon them, and the House would conduct, or to procure a constitutional re- never have heard the accusation of that form of any abuses supposed to have en. evening. After what had passed in Iretered into the practical part of govern- land, was it not now evident that the per. ment, but for the purpose of destroying sons tried at Maidstone were implicated that House, of erecting a convention on in a design to favour the invasion of Ireits ruins, of subverting the government, land? Gentlemen might say the evidence and in its stead of introducing the wild against these men was collected from system of a neighbouring country. What, spies; but it must be remembered, that truly, was the case of Mr. Smith, of whom, this description of persons were always in strains of lamentation, an hon. gentle the more calumniated in proportion as man had said so much? Why this, he they spoke truth. Ministers would not had been secretary of the corresponding be justified in not taking measures of society. He had published libel upou safety on the evidence of such men. Jibel. Had the hon. gentleman ever read United Irishmen could make United Brie the book for which this man was prose- tons; and if as a society. they did not cuted ? He would find that every thing correspond with societies here, as indivisacred, honourable, and good, was there duals they propagated their mischief. blasphemously and wickedly libelled and Mr. Burdon said, that he had visited traduced. It was a delicate subject at the prison complained of, and had seen any time to discuss the verdicts of juries nothing to justify what had been objected and the sentences of judges; but to com- on the subject. Every thing seemed to ment on legal sentences in a state of per- be conducted in the best manner of which fect ignorance of the circumstances under such an establishment was capable.' The which they were passed, showed not less state prisoners had a liberal allowance for of temerity than want of candour. With their support, and every where the greatrespect to the proceedings against Mr: est neatness, regularity, and propriety Smith, and his treatment since his con- prevailed. finement, nothing severe had been done Sir Francis Burdett was convinced, that on the part of government or its officers. great severity had, in some instances, Had he made any representation to the been used. The hon. gentleman who secretary of state of unnecessary rigour, spoke last might not, in walking round he was sure it would have been attended the gallery of the prison, have observed to.- It was reserved for our time, for the any symptoms of this, and in looking into beneficent and moderate age of philoso- the cells he might not perceive any ofphy and the rights of man, to call those fensive smell, and might see that the places Bastiles, which were instituted for place was clean washed. What, however, the imprisonment of the offenders against must be the situation of a cell seven feet the law. Would gentlemen look a little square, after a person had been in it some at the origin of this kind of scandal, and hours, or when persons were confined for at the kind of persons by whom it was many weeks without being permitted to used : it claimed close kindred with the go out but for a few minutes to. wash revolutionists of France, for our prisons themselves ? In these cells there was no. were first called Bastiles by the orators of wood nor paper to keep the persons conCopenhagen House and Pancras Fields, fined from the contact of the wall, and in who used it not only in their public ha- wet weather, or after a frost, it was evirangues, but in their confidential letters, dent that a brick wall must be so damp so that we traced it most distinctly to the as to be extremely unhealthy where no hot-bed of anarchy. When it was known fire was allowed. He agreed, however, to the court that Smith had made a repre- that these matters were not strictly in sentation of the severities of his confine- point. A future opportunity might occur ment, lord Kenyon directed an inquiry for that discussion, and perhaps he might into the truth of the case, and the result feel it necessary to move an inquiry on was, that the governor of the prison, and the subject. It was the duty of the the physician, both testified that every House to take care that the extraordinary degree of attention was paid to the health powers which it granted should not be and comforts of the prisoners. Had the abused. The learned gentleman had de.