Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

That all societies which hold a correspon- | sures. I believe, that at no period were dence with the French, should be put the people more quiet than they are at down, no man living can deny; but is this moment. But do not suppose that, not the law sufficient as it stands? Most because they are silent, they are happy. certainly it is. The remedy proposed This silence is with some taken as a proof goes to the putting an end to all these so- of happiness; but the best security for cieties together. I object to the system, a government is in the free complaints of of which this is only a branch ; for the a people. What is the common artifice right hon. gentleman has told us he of those who wish to accomplish the overintends to propose laws from time to time throw of our government? What is the upon this subject, as cases may arise to ground of discontent which they perpetu. require them. I say these attempts lead ally work upon ? The present state of to consequences of the most horrible the representation of the people. Look kind. I see that government are acting at the works of the most busy among thus. Those whom they cannot prove to them, and you will find that this is your be guilty, they will punish for their suspi- only hope. This art of fomenting disconcion. To support this system, we must tent was brought to a sort of trial at the have a swarm of spies and informers. Old Bailey. That was the substance of They are the very pillars of such a system the charge made against the prisoners. of government. You will have the infor: Undoubtedly there are many reformers, mer's word on the one hand, and the ac. or men who call themselves so, who really cused on the other; and suppose the in- aim at the overthrow of our constitution. former told you there were pikes in any There are others who want nothing more man's house, and he denied it; and that than a fair reform of abuses. Such are upon search they could not be found-to the men who ought to be attended to. what does this system lead? Directly to Such I take the right hon. gentleman bimthe torture. These things lead to a mili- self to be, and what I wish is, what he tary tribunal; for without military force formerly expressed his wish to be--asystem they can never be carried into effect. An- of representation which would freely let other operation of this bill is to pull down the sense of the people of England into every club in the country, for it applies the House of Commons. I do not say to places where money is taken for admis- that he should pledge himself to any spesion, and I know of no clubs where money cific plan, or to give countenance to the is not taken. This will put an end to all principle of universal suffrage, or any wild public meetings upon political subjects. or impracticable scheme; but that he The right hon. gentleman disavows the should declare his attachment to a modeidea of au imprimatur, but talks of ano- rate and temperate reform in parliament. ther sort of liability. I have no partiality There is a difference of opinion amongst for an imprimatur, but according to the worthy men upon this subject. Some view I have of his plan, I had rather have think that at this time the subject should it than this, for in that case I shall have not be mentioned. So far from thinking security after publication, although I am so, I am convinced it would be of the subject to the will of another before it; greatest advantage, that the right hon. but this seems to subject the press to the gentleman should now give notice, that operation of a general licence. I have whenever peace arrives, he will take up another objection to this measure, and the subject. This would take away from that is, the inefficacy of it. For one man į those who wish to create discontent, in former times, there are now forty who ali pretext for wbat they are doing. pay attention to political subjects. Go- Colonel Hope said, that in his mind the vernment, therefore, are right in taking pre- measures now proposed did not go to the cautions; and the only question between extent that was requisite. He recomus is, what is the right precaution? If you mended the enacting of a penalty against can prove that the laws against treason are those who furnished money and advice to not strong enough already make them so, those societies, without, however, being and you

shall have cordial assent. If members of them, for all such persons there are traitors in this country, the only ought to be held up to the scorn and exehope they have, is in the discontent of the cration of the country. people. Unless you remove the cause of The Attorney General said, that if he that discontent, you are doing nothing. understood the hon. gentleman, he did not I would try mild, rather than

harsh mea- mean to deny the existence of those secret

my

societies, but had said, that the remedy | cumstances just as they arose. So he said was to give some sort of a reform of par- with respect to prosecutions, being perliament. But would a reform of parlia- fectly persuaded that one object of those ment content those discontented minds ? men was, to destroy the liberty of the Let the House examine coolly the evi. press by means of licentiousness. With dence they were possessed of, and they that conviction on his mind, he should could not deny, that reform would do not do his duty, if he neglected to exernothing to tranquillize the ferment excit- cise the authority which the law. had ed by the machinations of such malignant vested in him. In his situation as attorney spirits. He could assure the hon. gentle-general, he had such a bundle of papers man, however obnoxious the character of in his possession, that he should be an attorney general was to those men, ashamed it were publicly known such had they felt as little respect for the doctrines been the produce of the presses of this of the hon. gentleman, unless he would go kingdom. But he could not go to the the full length of universal representation, shops of obscure booksellers, in little and the other points of their political | alleys, and exercise a different law against creed. Unless he would agree to the them than what was put in force against annihilation of monarchy, the subversion the more extensive trader. But the hon. of aristocracy, and the confusion of pro- gentleman had argued, that the laws were perty; unless he would agree to a system strong enough; that would best appear which would make every rich man poor, by a review of the four preceding years and no poor man rich, he was doing when the Constitutional Society assumed nothing.--The hon. gentleman said, that a new character, when it enlisted and in- ., there was no necessity for new laws, as corporated with itself the Corresponding the old ones were strong enough, and in- Society, whose affiliated branches had stanced the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, debauched half the great towns in the when the suspension of the Habeas Cor- kingdom. Though the objects which they pus was deemed sufficient. But what was pursued could not perhaps be made treathe principle of those rebellions? It was son by the letter of the law, yet he felt no a contention of rival royalties. The hesitation in now declaring, that from the remedies then applied were commensu- facts then known, they warranted an inrate with the case ; but it did not apply dictment of high treason to be preferred to the parties of the present day, who against them, to call upon them for an wished that two branches of the legisla. explanation in order to qualify their acts, ture should not exist at all, and the third which, upon the face of them, appeared be founded on a different basis. The so very questionable. Supposing that the hon. gentleman then alluded to certain whole of the evidence which the House prosecutions, and used as an argument was now in possession of, had then been against the necessity of new laws, that known, whole bodies of men could not be the old ones were not carried into execu. indicted for high treason; and therefore tion. He would tell the hon. gentleman would it not be better policy, instead of what he conceived to be the principle of pursuing with the severity of the law, to the constitution; the constitution did not absolve the individuals and dissolve the aim at perfection, farther than could with societies, and thus prevent the necessity probability be attained; it endeavoured to of extreme rigor?.. After the trials of guard against the danger that might 1794, several meetings took place in the occur from the generality of the terms neighbourhood of London, calculated not used in framing any law; and, to prevent only to disturb the public peace, but to the chance of doing mischief, in removing rob the poor labourer of a portion of his an existing mischief. This he took to be earnings, to support the traitorous purthe foundation of that principle of the poses of the chiefs and leaders. By the English constitution, that justice should law, as it then stood, they might unbe administered in mercy. And it was as questionably have been punished; but much a breach of the law to apply the was it not better done, by the bill passed letter of the law against its spirit, as to in parliament, to prevent those meetings ? inflict punishment without the authority thus precluding the recurrence of the of any law at all; and hence flowed mischief, at the same time that it secured another principle of the constitution, that the freedom of every meeting for good or of applying, from time to time, to the constitutional purposes.—But how could legislature to suit the exigency of cir- the law be applied to secret meetings, [VOL. XXXIV.]

(3 S]

when the members were bound by oath from that measure, he only requested not to give evidence against each other ? gentlemen to compare newspapers now, Was it not, therefore, rather more desir- with what they were twelve months ago. able to apply new laws, than to bring for- Public and individual character was much wards useless prosecutions ?- The hon. more respected, and the necessity of a gentleman had alluded to the suspension farther extension rested simply on this of the Habeas-Corpus act at former pe ground. An author publishes a libel, to riods ; but what would he say if the same which he affixes his name: the Correscourse had been followed as in the periods ponding Society immediately publish a to which he alluded ; if he had informed new edition on cheap, paper, which they himself of the extent of the numbers put circulate with unremitting industry. To in confinement, and never brought to any this edition there is no publisher's name, trial? If he had considered that point, nor any means of tracing the publication. he must have confessed that the present It came, then, simply to this proposition, administration had conducted themselves whether under some penalty they should with tenfold lenity compared with those be bound to tell who were the authors or periods. Was it not far better to effect publishers? this measure by the lenient measures Mr. Abbot said, he differed so widely adopted than by the forfeiture of lives, from the hon. member in thinking that the and the imposition of rigorous penalties ? laws, as they stood at present, were sufAll agreed that the object of these socie- ficiently strong for the exigencies of the ties were, to aid the influence of French times, that he conceived the measures principles, and therefore their dissolution would have been still more complete, if was the great point to be effected.

The they had extended to another object which hon. gentleman mentioned the law which was strikingly apparent upon the face of prohibited persons from going to France; the present report, he agreed entirely with but it was notorious that many persons the chancellor of the exchequer, that the had gone to France; that they carried on new forms and shapes which the dangers their correspondence with this country; of the present times had assumed would and, in fact, it was not to be supposed unquestionably require that we should that an act of parliament could have the encounter them with new arms, and defend power of preventing men from getting ourselves by new laws ; but he thought into a boat and sailing for France, if they that parliament would also do wisely in were determined so to do. It was now a looking back to the policy of former times, pretty notorious fact, that Mr. O'Connor and giving fresh force to those laws which ħad been guilty of high treason; but our ancestors had considered to be indiswould it be severe to pass a law requiring pensable to the public safety. Amongst him to quit his former connexion rather the dangers of the present times we find it than to subject him to the penalties of distinctly reported, not only that treasonthe existing law ?-He next came to that able practices have been plotting by perpart which related to public debating sons of mean note and desperate fortunes, societies. When the last bills upon the but that, “ in some degree they have subject were brought forward, some of received the countenance and pecuniary his tradesmen asked him, if he really aid of persons of a higher situation in life" meant to support a bill which would pre- and it was most manifest, that all treasons vent them from drinking a social bowl must derive much of their mischievous together? Such an idea was never en- force and effect from the countenance and tertained; but the law has guarded that, aid of such leaders. That so it was reunder the pretence of instruction, those cently found in Ireland, so it had been whose habits of life could not qualify notoriously in the beginnings of the revothem for such investigations, should not lution in France, that so it has been in be seduced from the path of morality and all times, the history of all countries religion. He would only request that abundantly proves; and it may be taken gentlemen would to-morrow observe what as incontestably true, that wherever there subjects were announced in their bills for is such a relaxation of the laws as encoudiscussion, in order to determine whether rages such leaders to show themselves they ought not to be put under some openly, it is the final warning of destrucregulation. He would not know enter tion to the government-it is the handinto the regulations of the newspaper bill; writing upon the wall, and all who look but to see the benefits which had resulted upon it must tremble_To check traitors of this size, and repress mischiefs of this the cardinal of York, at this time an aged magnitude, it had been the invariable and miserable fugitive, of whom, where he policy of the laws of England, from before now is, or whether he be living or dead, the conquest down to the Revolution, to no man in this House can with any conprotect the throne and the constitution fidence assert.-This, Sir, is the object by ordaining that “ lords of inheritance which I wish to bring distinctly within the should be forfeited for treason.” This view of the House; and looking to the system had been gradually extended in state of the law upon this matter as it now successive ages to different descriptions is, confronted with the treasonable prac. of landed property; and at length upon tices exhibited in the report before us, I the union with Scotland, where the same wish to ask of this House, whether it be policy had obtained, though within nar. wise or expedient to suffer that this fun, rower limits, the English law of forfeiture damental law of the state, which has for treason was established in that country prevailed for upwards of 700 years, with all its consequences. He conceived which has a grown with our growth, and it not to be necessary at this time to enter strengthened with our strength,” should upon any vindication of the general ground now come to an end? And whether it is of this policy ; the wisdom and justice of at this season proper to invert the scale it must have been long since understood and proportion of crimes and punishments by all gentlemen who had reflected upon in an article so nearly connected with the this point of constitutional jurisprudence, safety of the throne? For unless parliaand especially by those who had ever inent interposes now, however strange it Jooked into the able vindication of it, may appear, it is most incontrovertibly which was published towards the middle true that it will be less penal to commit of the present century by a person once high treason than to commit common eininently distinguished in the courts of felony.-Having submitted these consiWestminster hall and in that House, by derations to the House, he should not his learning, his talents, and virtues, of presume to propose any

resolutions

upon whose name it would be praise enough to this subject at this time, although he was say, that it had not been eclipsed even by by no means at a loss to state it in the splendid abilities of those who had such terms as would embrace the proposucceeded him in the same high offices.- sition for which he was contending, but if, But, Sir, although the law of forfeiture upon mature reflection, the House should has been thus established and extended, be disposed to agree with him in the imsingular as it may appear, the same par- portance and prudence of the measure liament which extended it throughout | itself, he hoped it would be engrafted Great Britaio, did also in the same law, upon the rest in their progress through by some strange fatality, some infirmity the House. of counsel, some prevalence of popular The resolutions were agreed to, and opinion, after recognizing its general ex- the said bills were afterwards brought in pediency, seem to have supposed that no and passed. treason could spring up in this land, except such as must have its root in a Proceedings against Mr. Flower for a predilection for the abdicated and exiled Paragraph in the Cambridge Intelligencer.] house of Stuart ; and it enacted, that May 1. "Lord Grenville said, that he had after the death of the then Pretender and a Breach of Privilege to complain of, and the accession of the house of Hanover, no moved that the bar be cleared. Strangers estate of inheritance should be forfeited being withdrawn, his lordship made a comfor high treason. It is true, that in 1744, plaint to the House of a paragraph in with the returning danger of the state, The Cambridge Intelligencer of the 20th the energy of parliament seems also to of April

, highly reflecting upon the bishop have returned in some degree; but still of Landaff, * and containing a breach of the law fell short of its own professed end ; and the forfeiture was enacted to *"In a few days after I had made this continue only during the lives of the Pre. speech [on the union), I set forward for Westtender's sons. And the consequence is this, moreland. Whilst I was on the road, lord that at the present hour, whether landed Lords, one Flower, of Cambridge, for having

Grenville brought to the bar of the House of inheritances are or are pot forfeited by been guilty of a breach of privilege, in pubhigh treason, depends upon the life of the lishing something against my speech; what last descendant of that unfortunate race, that something was I never deigned to in

[ocr errors]

the privileges of the House. The said acknowledged himself to be the printer paper being read,-Resolved, “ That the and publisher of the said paper, * Resaid paper is a gross and scandalous libel solved, 1. That the said B. Flower is upon the right reverend Richard, lord guilty of a high breach of the privileges bishop of Landaff

, a member of this of this House. 2. That he do, for his House ; and a high breach of the privi- said offence pay a fine to the king of 1001. leges of this House.” Ordered, “ That and that he be committed prisoner to the serjeant at arms do forthwith attach the Newgate for the space of six months, and body of Benjamin Flower, of Cambridge, until he pay the said fine." printer, and bring him to the bar of this House on Friday next, to answer for the

Report from the Lords Committee of said offence."

Secrecy relative to a Treasonable Conspi

racy, &c.] May 27. Lord Grenville re. May 3. Mr. Flower being brought to ported from the Lords Committee apthe bar, he was informed of the complaint pointed to inspect the Papers delivered made against him; and Mr. Flower having by his majesty's command (sealed up in been heard as to what he had to say in

a bag), containing secret information reanswer to the said complaint, and having ceived by his majesty's government,

relative to the proceedings of different quire. The punishment inflicted by the persons and societies in Great Britain and House was, as I remember, imprisonment for Ireland engaged in a Treasonable Consix months, and a fine of 1001. I sent the spiracy, and to the design carried on by following letter to lord Grenville on the occasion; for I thoughtmyself the more obliged and societies, for effecting the separation

our enemies, in concert with such persons to him, as I had no acquaintance with his lordship, and was wholly ignorant that I had of Ireland from this kingdom : been the object of Mr. Flower's abuse.--- That the said papers, and the other infor

“ ! Calgarth Park, Kendal, May 10, 1799. mations which have been laid before them, «My Lord ;--I yesterday learned from contain the most decisive evidence of an exthe newspapers what has passed in the lIouse tensive conspiracy carried on with unremitted of Lords relative to Mr. Flower. I am sen- industry, both in Great Britain and in Ireland, • sible that your lordship has taken up this for the destruction of the laws and govern'matter from your great attention to the pub. ment; for the overthrow of every existing es

lic service; yet I must beg you to allow me tablishment, both in church and state; and 'the liberly of returning you my thanks for for imposing, by force, on the people of these "the protection which you have thereby af- realms, under the influence and by the aid of "forded to myself. As I am an utter stranger France, a system subversive of public order, 'to the person and character of Mr. Flower, morality, and religion. ' and wholly ignorant of the magnitude of his In the formation and progress of this conoffence; I cannot

, therefore, with propriety, spiracy, your Committee have seen a constant interfere in soliciting a mitigation of punish- and systematic adherence to that course which, ment; but if any application should be made having opened the way to all the calamities " to the House for that purpose, I will trouble and crimes of France, has since been uniyour lordship to say, that the bishop of Lan- formly pursued by all those who, in various daff

, as an individual, will feel much more parts of Europe, have engaged in similar desatisfaction in forgiving the man's malignity, signs: and your Committee are therefore dethan in avenging it. I have, &c.

cidedly of opinion, that the criminal proceed

"R. LANDAFF.' ings which have been established in evidence Lord Grenville's Answer, dated Dropmore,

before them, are not to be considered merely

as the acts of unconnected and obscure indiMay 14, 1799.

viduals, but as branches and members of an "My lord ;--I was this morning honoured extensive and complicated system, which aims with your lordship’s obliging letter. In the at nothing less than to subvert the whole instance to which it relates, I have only disorder of society as now established in Europe, charged a public duty; but it was with plea- The means which are every where ultimately sure that I'availed myself of the occasion, to looked to for the accomplishment of this deexpress my respect for the character of a per- sign have been exhibited in France in their son, whose exertions in the defence of religion fullest operation and extent; they have unare, I am persuaded, the real cause of the happily been (though in a less degree) exemscandalous and unprovoked calumnies against plified in Ireland ; and it is the painful duty him. If any application is made to the House of your Committee to lay before this House a in behalf of Mr. Flower, I will not fail to general view of the plan which has been purobey your lordship’s commands. I am, &c. sued by a part of their fellow-subjects in this GRENVILLE'---Anecdotes of the Life of

Bishop kingdom, in order to prepare the way here for Watson, by Himself, vol. 2. p. 89,

similar scenes of insurrection, rebellion, and

« ZurückWeiter »