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tions, and was published with the autho- , the case; for the great mass of the rearity of a member of parliament, as a report ders of newspapers were not the most of what was said, which could not any discerning class of society, nor was it to where else be published as an original be expected they should be so, for the work. Such things appeared to him to advertisements and other articles of which be monstrous. If any body were to ask a newspaper was composed were often inhim what he thought was the cause of the teresting chiefly to the lower orders of the dreadful mutiny last year, which so rea- community. They were for this very sonably alarmed every good man, and reason carried every where, read every which, but for the vigorous exertions of where, by persons of very government, would soon have reduced cities, and in

common alehouses and this country to nothing, he would say, it places frequented chiefly by those who was the daily publication of the debates of were least of all accustomed to reflection, that House more than any thing else. to any great mental efforts. Gentlemen He was not complaining of gentlemen for might say, “ Let all persons be allowed saying the war was unjust and unneces. to judge for themselves.” This sounded sary: if they thought so, they were right pretty well; but it was a mere sound in so saying. But was it a desirable thing Mankind had never yet been in circumthat the public at large, that the lower stances that enabled the mass of them to classes of the community from one end of judge correctly of any thing that required the kingdom to the other, should, from much mental exertion. Condemned as day to day be told so ? That the sailors they were to labour of body, it had not and the soldiers should be told that they yet been practicable for them to judge were fighting against justice and against correctly of abstruse questions; and he the liberty of mankind ; that they were knew of none that were more so, than such the tools of despotic power, that their as arose out of the complication of poliblood was shed, their lives sacrificed, to tical affairs. The people at large were the folly or the wickedness of those by entitled to justice-they were entitled whom they were governed ?-and all this to every favour that could be shown coming from men of great weight from to them consistently with their own their talents, and in many respects of safety, on which depended their own great credit in the country. Supposing happiness - they were entitled to every all this language to be proper, he was advantage they could possibly be capable saying that the effect of it must necessarily of enjoying, as much as the proudest perbe dreadful to the community in which son in the state; but they had not educawe live. It was then a question, whether tion to enable them to judge of political the House was justified in allowing to affairs. Those were not their best friends exist a cause which produced that effect, who told them otherwise. If any gentleand that cause, too, arising out of a breach men who heard him doubted this, he of the privilege of the House? It might would ask them, whether they were in the be said, that this was answered by the habit of calling in their gardeners and publication of the doctrine maintained on their grooms to give their opinions upon the other side. But this did not satisfy political affairs ? He knew they would do his mind. It led to a question that was so when they met in large bodies, and too long for discussion in that House | made up the bulk of a gentleman's conupon the present occasion, and opened a stituents, especially when their opinions view into the general theme of political were to be followed up by their votes ; institution, and the means of diffusing for then the cajoling arts of the true dethroughout the world all species of po- magogue were put in practice, and then litical instruction. And here there was to was the multitude tempted, as the devil be dreaded a double misrepresentation tempted Eve, by telling them they had the misrepresentation of the abuse, and all sorts of perfection. After reflecting the misrepresentation of the defence of upon this, he hoped gentlemen would not government; and therefore he who ob- be so ready to talk of the competency of jected to the publication of either could the multitude to form correct opinions hardly be said to be contented with upon political affairs.-But it might be the publication of both. Yet, if all said, that if the reports of the newspapers this was only addressed to persons of were stopped, some means would be great judgment, perhaps he should not found to circulate sentiments against goobject to it. But that was by no means vernment, and that they would be more [VOL. XXXIV.]


injurious to the public than these: that, what was the common case, to sit down
something like Paine's Rights of Man tamely under it. Really, unless the House
would go forth. Such publications were thought it worth while to support its own
circulated certainly, and they did very dignity better, it hardly deserved better
considerable mischief; but they could not usage! But they would do well to take
possibly have the effect of the newspapers, notice, what the effect might in time be
because as the circulation of them was at- of this ill-judged good nature. They
tended with considerable expense, it might fall in the public estimation, as did
could not be so extensive as the news another assembly in another country, who
papers were, and therefore not such an soon felt the effect of letting strangers
evil; nor were they so constant. It might into their galleries, under the pretence,
be said, that by the publication of the de- that the proceedings of the representative
bates of parliament, the bane and anti body should be open, and that no part of
dote go both together. He did not think the people should be excluded from hear-
that such had hitherto been the effect of ing it. The rabble of Paris, by bribery
the publication of the debates; and he and other despicable practices, got into the
knew of nothing so likely to guide the galleries, and their presence soon put an
judgment rightly as experience. In fact, end to the representation of the country;
the practice of reporting debates for the it was soon turned into the mere semblance
last fifteen or sixteen years, had contri- of a representation. If that House was
buted more to the evils of which many to give up its privilege, merely because it
had complained, than any other practice had for a while connived at the abuse of it;
he had heard of in that time. It was an if the House was to be said to have the
evil in its nature; it was an inflammatory power of stopping up the footpath, and
information at the best; it kindled over yet would not exclude a single passenger,
again and spread all over the country, he would have nothing farther to say.
that heat among the lower classes, which Gentlemen might talk of the matter as
was sometimes deprecated even in that lightly as they pleased; but, unless they
House, as being likely to mislead those vindicated their privileges now, they
who possessed the best means of forming might feel the effect of an ill.judged lenitý.
correct judgments. Such were the evils - But he should leave this point now,
of teaching the lower classes of the com- and go back again to another evil of which
munity that they were politicians. Now he had before complained, namely, that
if these were his ideas on the general ef. suffering newspapers to publish reports of
fects of this practice, how did the case their proceedings, would be allowing the
stand upon particular points that were to evil itself to increase every day, for that
be considered incidentally? It was a prac. very sufferance had of itself given occa-
tice that struck directly at the dignity of sion for the multiplication of public prints.
the House. What was to be the charac. The practice of publishing debates was an
ter of that House in the eye of the public, appeal from the representative body, to
if what passed in it was not only to be re. the people at large out of doors, of all
ported in the newspapers, but a descrip- orders, from the highest to the lowest.
tion was to be given also of the tone, That newspaper writers were not the best
manner, and action of each member, like judges of political affairs he considered as
that of a criticism upon another descrip- an undisputed point-to say nothing of
tion of persons, of whom he had no dis- their integrity; and this he conceived also
position to speak contumeliously, but of to be an important point. That a great
whom it was no disparagement to say, many of these newspapers were brought
they were more adapted than the senate into existence and nourished by debates
for public entertaininent-he meant per- in parliament, was also a clear point; for
sons who were called actors. What was he knew, that when there was a complaint
to become of the dignity of that House, made against a printer in the year 1771,
he would ask, if the manners and gestures his plea was, that if the House took away
and tone and action of each member, from him the power of publishing the de-
were to be subject to the licence, the bates of that House, they would take away
abuse, the ribaldry of newspapers? There from him his bread. The House, if it
were but two remedies for this, as the allowed these debates to be continued,
practice now was, either for a member to would put in action a poison which was
condescend to an altercation in the news.
papers with those who ridiculed him, or,

See Vol. 17, p. 87 and 89.

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circulated every twenty-four hours, and any thing, but that species of information spread its venom down to the extremity which was destructive to every good prinof the kingdom. What, in the course of ciple, and was hostile to the character of a very few years, was likely to be the ef- every public man, or individual in whom fect of such a practice; into what hands public trust was reposed. It produced newspapers would fall, whether they were also the inconvenience of which the hon. likely to be friendly to good morals in fu- gentleman who made this motion, but for ture, from the specimen we had seen of reasons he could not well understand, them of late years, were points into which wished to withdraw it, complained; but he would not now inquire. The question that was its least evil. But as the House was not only whom these papers would had now the opportunity (which by the find out, but also who would find out way had been well to have occurred these papers, what sort of talents the sooner), it ought not to be lost; the chaowners of them were likely to possess, or, racter of the House ought to be vindi. what was a larger question, what sort of cated, and the advantage of the public talents those who were owners of papers ought to be regarded. What course the might employ to write for them, were all House would take was not for him, but of them points well worthy of the specu- for others, to determine. He had no molation of the House. Before they allowed tion himself to make; he left every thing newspapers to detail their proceedings, open to the House. He was desirous of they would do well to consider how those delivering his sentiments on this subject, who wrote for newspapers in general had because the occasion which offered was contributed to the overthrow of the dif- not frequent, although the occasion which ferent governments of the world which called for the animadversion and decision had been lately overturned, and had been of the House was much too frequent; and employed in causing so many insurrec- this not because gentlemen did not know, tions as had lately rendered so much of but because they chose to abandon their the habitable globe uneasy.-How much privileges. He had declared his opinion of the talents of those who wrote for news on this practice of newspaper reporting. papers had been employed in scattering The House would judge of what was right to poison wherever they could; in bringing done. He did not wish to say any thing virtue into discredit, by telling the peo- more, whether the House ought now to ple every where that those who professed come to a decision of either confirming it, and who ought to possess it, and who the old practice of prohibition, or of fain general did possess virtue, had no vouring the relaxation of very modern virtue whatever, by teaching the ignorant times. He had now no other duty to disand the credulous to despise every man charge to that House, except returning and every measure that was respectable. thanks for the indulgence with which he Such were the efforts, generally speaking, had been heard. of those who wrote for newspapers. He Mr. Wilberforce observed, that though felt this so forcibly, that he confessed he the disposition of the hon. gentleman to never saw any man of a low condition with withdraw the motion he had grounded on a newspaper in his hand, and who read his complaint, rendered it unnecessary for any of it, without comparing him to a man bim to trouble the House with much of who was swallowing poison under the hope what he should otherwise have judged it of improving his health. He was not to necessary to lay before them, yet various be led away with any notions that might circumstances combined in prompting him be entertained by some persons concern- to trespass upon their attention for a few ing the liberty of the press. Before any moments, particularly after what had just good could be done by the discussion of fallen from his right hon. friend. He was political subjects in newspapers, the capa. very solicitous to prevent any possible city of the people must be enlarged.misconstruction of the principles on which These were only a few of the objections he had himself acted, in very lately presswhich he felt to the publication of parlia- ing upon the serious consideration of the mentary proceedings in newspapers. It House, the scandalous misstatements of lessened the dignity of the House of Com- their proceedings which had become so mons: it put the members of it in a situa- general

, and the propriety, and indeed tion in which they ought not to stand; it necessity, of applying, if possible, some fomented discontents throughout the na- remedy to that great and growing evil.* tion; it multiplied nothing, or very rarely

* See p. 154 of the present Volume.

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Those gentlemen who were present on specific character, he believed there never
that occasion would recollect that he had was a time when the representative body
not intimated the slightest intention of possessed a higher place in the respect
complaining to the House of any particular and affections of the people.-He trusted
publication, whatever ground he personally the discussion of that day would not be
might have for such a complaint: his ob- wholly without its use: that though he, and
ject was, a general redress of a general he trusted a large majority of the House,
grievance. Nor had he expressed the was friendly to the publication of their pro-
smallest wish, that the House should en ceedings, and though even if this were
force its standing order, and prevent alto- otherwise, it would be highly unjust in
gether the publication of its proceedings. the House without notice to punish per-
He had even then suggested, that almost sons for the breach of a standing order,
any thing should be borne, and any expe- which, for so many years, they had nege
dient be tried, rather than resort to such lected to enforce; yet it would be under-
a remedy: and he felt himself now called stood that the House was not wholly re-
upon, by what had been stated by his right gardless of the manner in which their
hon.friend to declare it as his fixed opinion, speeches and proceedings should be re-
that (the House reserving to itself of ported. What had now passed must be
course a right to shut its gallery, at its considered as a sort of notice and warning
discretion, when the delicacy of any par- to reporters, not to presume too far upon
ticular discussion might render it expe- the indulgence of the House and the pa-
dient), the publication of their debates tience of individuals. He trusted there
and proceedings was not injurious, but would be consequently somewhat less of
highly beneficial to the country. He al- wilful misrepresentation than had hitherto
together differed from his right hon. friend, been suffered to prevail, and he would
who had urged that it had almost changed, again declare, that the more publicity
or at least strongly tended to change, the was given to whatever was really said or
nature of our constitution from represen. done in parliament, the more would that
tative to democratical, conceiving it to House become the object of esteem and
be, in fact, perfectly and strictly consti- attachment to their constituents, and the
tutional. The people of Great Britain in- nation at large.
leed devolved on the representative body, Mr. Secretary Dundas said, he had long
for a term of years, the duty of watching been convinced that the practice of pub-
over their rights and interests ; but did it lishing a mutilated and incorrect account
follow that they were not to pay attention of what passed in parliament, was calcu-
to the conduct and language of those related to affect the honour and the useful-
presentatives in the execution of the trust ness of the House. He conceived before
reposed? How, then, should they be the complaint could be withdrawn, the
qualified, at the end of the terin, for hon. gentleman must move for the leave
judging whether to continue the trust in of the House. It could not be allowed
the same hands, or transfer it to others ? to stand on the Journals that the House had
He did not hesitate to declare, that in suffered such a complaint to drop without
general those persons who were for ever showing in what manner it was done.
improperly busying themselves in politics The subject ought to be considered not
were among the least useful, and least on personal grounds, but as something
worthy, members of the community: but deeply connected with the usefulness and
the constituent, no less than the represen- the dignity of the House. He must observe,
tative, had a duty to discharge, and how that there were other attacks calculated
should he discharge it well, without the to degrade and vilify the House, which
necessary means of information? But in ought not to pass unnoticed. There
truth he must say, that experience com-

cases in which the House was pletely refuted his right hon. friend's asser- grossly libelled by its own members. But tion; for, notwithstanding all the misre. such proceedings should not go on. If presentations which had prevailed, he had any member was guilty of a libel upon it, the satisfaction of being able to declare he was determined to propose some means that the happiest consequences had ac- that should put an end to the practice, tually followed from the notoriety of their and punish the offender. He could not debates, and from the eye of the public help referring to what had been reprehaving been fixed upon them. So far sented to have been said by a certain hon, from their having thereby at all lost their gentleman who had thought proper to de:



sert his duty in parliament, at a club in gentleman in the service abroad, when this town. That gentleman, who never his lordship had a command of bri. showed his face in the House, had gone gade. He had frequent occasions to conto that club, and, if fairly represented, verse with colonel Despard, and he was had uttered a gross libel on the House. convinced, from all he saw of him, that Such practices should not any longer go he was a man of an excellent disposition. on. There was another case, too, in He knew very little of the situation of which the hon. gentleman who brought that gentleman, and therefore, if he should forward the present complaint, was repre- happen to state any thing that was not sented to have used expressions, at a correct, he hoped he should be excused. meeting of some of his constituents, which His information was, that colonel Despard were a scandalous libel on the House. was very severely treated in the prison in He was reported to have said, that he which he was now confined ; that he was never heard of parliament meeting for the kept in a cell of seven feet square, without dispatch of business, but he considered it fire, without light, and without any thing to be for the dispatch of the property of to rest upon but a trackle bed. If true it himself and his constituents. When such was a very hard case. He wished to know, things as these were passed over unno- whether this was a species of confinement ticed, he should be hurt to death to ex- fit for a gentleman of such a character, tend the utmost rigour of the House to and against whom there was no crime al. offences so inferior in danger and malig- leged. He insisted that he had not been nity. The House might rest assured that guilty of any crime, that he was entitled if it did not protect itself against the libel. to be set at liberty ; after which he was lous attacks of its own members, it would told there was no charge against him, for in vain endeavour to repress the attacks that it was his brother government wanted. of others. Members were protected in Having said this, he would venture to in. the House from any consequences that troduce another matter, not immediately might arise from what they said, except connected with the subject before the what the House itself might inflict; but House, but of such a nature as to come nain return for that protection, they ought turally into view when any measure was not to be permitted in other places to de- considered that had reference to conspiracy grade, and vilify the House.

for treason. Perhaps he might again be The said complaint was then, with abused for what he was about to do, as he leave of the House, withdrawn.

had been for the evidence he gave on the

trial of O'Connor at Maidstone. He was in Debate in the Lords on the Habeas Corpus Scotland three or four months ago; and Suspension Bill.] January 4. 1799. On there he saw a character of the earl of the order of the day for the third reading Suffolk as one of the witnesses for O'Conof the bill for suspending the Habeas Cor- nor, in which he was most wantonly libelpus act.

led, and in which it was made to appear The Earl of Suffolk said, that ministers as if he had been the intimate acquain. should have assigned some reason for this tance of O'Connor. Now he did upon bill before they proposed it to the House. his honour most solemnly declare, that he To bring forward a measure, at all times never had any conversation with O'Congrievous, and an infringement of the con- nor, except one about eleven years ago, stitution, without any necessity for it, and from that conversation he was of opiwas highly unjust ; and of the necessity, nion that he never met with a more genthere was no proof. At the same time he tlemanlike man in his life, and he never acknowledged, that if the state was in heard from him a sentiment that would danger, the present measure ought to be not do honour to any man. adopted; but if ministers were to be en- Lord Grenville said, that with regard to trusted with the power which this bill con- the newspaper misrepresentation of which ferred upon them, they ought; at all the noble lord had complained, he could asevents, to use it with moderation, and sure him that no one abhorred more than here his lordship said, he was led to re- he did those libels with which private and dect on the case of a gentleman, whom he public characters of every description had not seen for seventeen years; a man were daily assailed. Nothing was more of as amiable manners and worthy dispo- injurious in this country that the licence sition as any he ever knew. He alluded now taken by the press. Indeed it was to colonel Despard. He knew that his opinion, that if the wisdom of parlia

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