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we felt on the occasion, we have stated they suffered to advance to that pitch of in our address to his majesty, and re- criminality, which they now contend, rene quested him to take all possible means to ders an alteration of the constitution nediscover and punish the authors. How, cessary? I have therefore a right to infer, then, can this bill operate, with respect to either that ministers were guilty of a most that outrage? It is stated, that its object scandalous breach of duty, or that they is, to render the person of his majesty do not believe their own assertion, when more secure. No doubt we would all they impute to the meetings the seditious cheerfully concur in any measure, which proceedings and the dangerous tendency, might tend to the greater security of his which they have made the pretext for the majesty's person. But how can the per present measure. Such, then, being the son of his majesty be rendered more se- only reason which has been urged in supcure? Does it not already possess all the port of this bill, it remains with your loraguard which it can derive from the reve. ships to decide whether it is of that weight rence of office, and the enactments of law ? and authority, which ought to influence An attempt has been made to connect you to sanction the passing of a new law, the outrage against his majesty, with the so serious in its nature, and so alarming proceedings of certain meetings, where in its probable consequences.- It was a seditious doctrines are said to have been mistaken idea, that the severity of the delivered. To this I have only to answer, 1 law was the best protection of a governthat to the proceedings of those meetings ment. It was common for noble lords to we cannot legislatively refer; they are go to France for their examples, nor not before us in any shape upon which would he there decline to meet them. He we can act. I may be told that the noto- would confess that the French revolution riety of these proceedings, are sufficient was the most sanguinary and calamitous grounds upon which we may go on the which the history of mankind ever exhipresent occasion. But it has not been bited; but he would tell their lordships proved, that their proceedings were of how this disastrous revolution was prothe nature which has been described; duced. It was not effected by the ha. much less has it been made out, that there rangues of field preachers, or the discusexisted any connexion between those sions of political clubs; it was by the proceedings and the outrage against his profligate manners of a licentious court, majesty. But not only is there this ab- which sanctioned by its example, and exsence of proof, which should preclude us tended by its influence, a contempt of from taking any steps on the subject; in morals and of decency; a corrupt and unthe conduct of ministers there are posi- principled succession of ministers, who tive circumstances which give room for involved the nation in an unjust and unnesuspicion that they do not believe their cessary war-who squandered the reown assertion. If the proceedings of sources, and irretrievably ruined the fithose meetings were of that notoriety nances of a fourishing nation-who which has been described ; if their ten- stretched the severity of the law beyond dency went to those objects which has the sufferance of human nature. It was been imputed to them; if the tenor of by these causes that the old government their discourses was calculated to alienate of France forfeited the attachment and the the affections of those present from his support of the people. In this country, majesty, and incite their minds to dislike the personal virtues of the monarch con. and hatred of the constitution, are there stitute a marked difference, the amiable not laws already existing to repress those character of the king may banish the limeetings, and to punish the authors of centiqus immorality of a French court. In those discourses? I must, therefore, con- the constitution of the cabinet, and the tend, that ministers were guilty of a most measures of corrupt and wicked ministers, shameful breach of their duty, if they will be found the conduct that contributed neglected to enforce those laws, and al- to the fall of the French monarchy: a war lowed the meetings to go on, while they undertaken and obstinately prosecuted, were aware of their dangerous tendency: without regard to the interest or to the Ought they not rather to have repressed wishes of the people of this country; new their progress by those means which the places created, and rewards bestowed constitution has put into their hands, than upon the partizans of their corrupt sysnow, by a new law, to seek to take away tem; and pensions of almost unparalleled the lives of those, whom by their neglect, profusion lavislied upon the avowed advocates of economy; nay upon the very | bill. The noble had duke asked, what man who distinguished himself at one proof was there of the connexion between time as the advocate of rigid economy, the proceedings at the meetings alluded but whose conduct, and whose writings to and the outrage which was offered to had, in an eminent degree, contributed to his majesty ? The answer was, the dancreate and continue the war, and to cause gerous doctrines held forth at such meet. all its consequent enormous expenses, ings tended to inflame the minds of the Though happily the finances of this pa- infatuated multitude. The bill created tion have not yet reached that pitch of no new crimes, nor did it constitute any confusion which hastened the destruction new treasons ; it only altered the puof the French government, how long can nishment applied to both under the existing that system of prodigality be maintained ; laws. The noble duke had alluded to the or how will a similar catastrophe be avoid- French revolution. He had stated, that ed? And will severe measures or daring that revolution arose not out of clubs and encroachments upon the liberties of the public meetings, but from a form of gopeople prevent their dissatisfaction? Gra- vernment in itself bad, and from the heed. cious God! that any set of men could less waste of the finances of the country think such measures could enliven the by a profligate administration. That the hopes, or cheer the despair of a starving French revolution was owing to a governpeople. Such attempts may silence the ment in itself bad he was ready to admit. voice of complaint, but they cannot reach He would admit also, that the dissolute the mind that will brood over the injus. manners of the court, and the wasteful tice; they may restrain and fetter the ac- expenditure of the public money were tions of men, but cannot make them love undoubtedly the chief causes of that rethe constitution, or reconeile them to the volution; a revolution so far from being government.
deprecated by the government of this Lord Grenvilbe said, the noble duke had country, was regarded by them in a faset out with despairing of advancing much vourable point of view, as it afforded a new argument against the bill, and he prospect of increasing the felicity of a certainly had urged little or none. He great nation, and of contributing to the had relied chiefly on denying that he had continuance of the tranquillity which then any parliamentary knowledge of the pro- subsisted throughout Europe. So far it ceedings of certain societies, and had asked was a revolution that every good man if their lordships knew any thing of them in must approve; he had long wished it a their character of legislators ? To this he happy termination; and happy would it must answer again, that the matter was too have been had it proceeded on the prinnotorious to be doubted, and, instead of ciple with which it set out. But what making a question of that, he would ask brought on all the plunders, assassina. another. Could any man exist in this tions, blood, and horror, which afterwards
, the subject brought before their lordships tained by clubs and various public meet. now for the first time? It had been be. ings which took place.
Political assemfore them long, and debated over and blies it was well known, had been held in over again; they had on their table a vo- England which openly professed to imi. luminous body of evidence not attempted tate the clubs in France. Their publito be denied or refuted. Had noble cations, their doctrines, and the princilords really forgotten the reports of a ples they avowed were similar, and sicommittee of their lordships, and the re- milar consequences were to be appresolution the House had come to in con- hended and guarded against.
If they sequence. Parties were afterwards pro- were suffered to continue scattering firesecuted ; and yet the proceedings of the brands where there was much combusLondon Corresponding Society were car- tible matter, their lordships and his maried on with increased boldness. No jesty's ministers would have to answer to longer ago than the preceding day there themselves and to their country for the had been a proof of this. These pro- effects that might follow. ceedings were inconsistent with the pub. The Earl of Lauderdale said, that the lic tranquillity, and ought to be sup- noble secretary of state had complained pressed. The present law was noto- that the doctrines held and the publicariously insufficient. Upon that convictions circulated by these meetings necestion their lordships had, entertained this" sarily led to endanger the king's life, and therefore the bill had been brought in | clare, that the mass of the people had noto check the progress of such proceed- thing to do with the laws but to obey ings, and the better to secure his ma- them.' [Here the bishop of Rochester jesty's person. It was thus ministers had cried Hear, hear!]-He heard the vocifealways acted.
They always alleged ration of the learned prelate. He believed danger to the state, as a pretext for ex- he was the only man in the House who tending their own power, instead of using could have used it; he believed that no the power which they already had with temporal lord could have soared so high. vigour and energy. He was willing to Be that as it might, there could be no admit that discontent among the people doubt but that ministers must have relish. did exist in a considerable degree, but he ed it extremely, because it exactly fell in must contend that it was not from dis- with their own principles. Indeed it was not loyalty that these complaints came. It wonderful that the reverend prelate should was from the conduct of his majesty's ad- have expressed himself so boldly, as it was visers; and under that view of the sub- always remarked by those who were best ject, he would say, it would be strange acquainted with the human character, that indeed if the people did not complain. converts were the most violent, and the He would go farther; he would say they most prone to run into extremes. The ought to meet, and energetically oppose learned prelate was willing to atone in par, this bill. In order to strengthen their own liament for his conduct before his voice hands and set control at defiance, minis. could be heard in it. He had formerly ters had made use of the infamous attack entertained different sentiments; he had on his majesty, to introduce bills which attended, as he understood, a meetwent to destroy the liberties of the subject. ing that was held in the Borough some If the bill passed, the most valuable part years ago for the purpose of obtaining a of the constitution would be gone. Enough parliamentary reform, but the opinions of might, indeed, be left of it to enable mi- bishops as well as of other men changed nisters to swell their speeches with pomp- with circumstances, and therefore the ous epithets upon its excellence, but no- right reverend prelate could do no less thing to swell the heart of an honest Eng- than read his recantation. The right reJishman with pride and joy. Instead of verent prelate had, however, not very inendeavouring to correct their errors, mi- properly, at the same time confessed his nisters manilested a disposition to silence ignorance of law. Indeed, without any the people who complained of them. Was thing more than a general knowledge of it wonderful that the people should com- law, and some acquaintance with politi. plain? They were insulted by seeing the cal treatises, he might have learnt that the most shameful negligence of their inter- people had something else to do with the ests, by seeing ministers attempting to laws than merely to obey them; that they make it criminal to complain, by seeing bad a right to discuss their propriety, io the most profligate waste of the public consider their justice, and when they felt money, by seeing the most provoking in them oppressive to petition against them, sults offered to them, in the vast sums that to complain of them as grievances, and to were lavished upon courtiers, and court pray the parliament to repeal them. These dependents ; by seeing pensions granted were acknowledged constitutional docdaily to apostates; a pension, for instance, trines, doctrines laid down by every writer and a large one too, to a man who was of authority on the constitution, in almost once the champion of economy, but whose every reign of our history. The reverend chief merits with ministers were that of prelate appeared, however, to have inade a having attacked the principles of freedom convert of the noble secretary, whos ideas and contributed very considerably to in of the rights of the people, pretty much volve us in the present war. Mr. Burke, 'corresponded with those of the reverend the man he meant (for why should be not prelate. What did the noble secretary name him), was to have an enormous pen- ! inean by stigmatizing with every term of sion for endeavouring to inculcate doc- reproach a peaceable assembly, convened trines, that tended to extinguish the prin for the purpose of considering a bill, ciples of freedom. It was upon this idea which they regarded as an infringement of of the success such doctrinies had met their just and lawful privileges ? Was with in a certain quarter, no doubt, that a there ever a common turnpike bill brought right reverend prelate had founded his into parliament without being discussed in political creed, and thought proper to de- some meeting, more or less numerous, according to its importance? If the privilege my country. I made no such profession. of political discussion was allowed on mat- I never meant to impute that ignorance to ters of trivial concern, how much more mysell, whatever other noble lords may ought it to be permitted on subjects of ge- impute to me. I avowed only an ignoneral interest? The ministers might go on rance of those technical parts of the law for a time in the ruinous measures which in which none but lawyers by profession they have adopted, but he warned them can be learned, and in which it is no disof the danger of driving a once free and grace to any man that is not a lawyer high spirited people, to those rash and vio- by profession to be unlearned. This lent steps which despair alone can dictate. avowal of my ignorance was made in He hoped that the spirit of the people stating to your lordships, the wide difwould show itself throughout every part of ference of my opinion, concerning the sethe kingdom ; because he was persuaded cond clause of this bill, from the opinions that nothing else would save the state from that were advanced by a noble and a ruin.
learned lord (Thurlow). It was painful Lord Grenville said, he should not have to me at the time to express my dissent risen to offer a single word in answer to from his opinions, because he was absent; the noble earl, had he not mentioned the and I thank the noble earl who has given case of Mr. Burke. To that he must an- me the opportunity, now that
noble swer, that he was proud to boast of the friend is in his place, to repeat my obpart he had taken in recommending the jections to his argument. I said, that the pension of that gentleman, and was ready only point of argument I could perceive to take his share of responsibility for it. in my learned friend's objections to the He was glad to have the opportunity of provisions of the bill was this, that the avowing it, and of asserting in that public bill applies the punishment of felony to manner, that a public reward was never crimnes not felonious. I said, that this more merited for the most eminent ser seemed to me a technical objection, of vices No man could boast of services which, perhaps, I was not lawyer enough to this country and to mankind at large to perceive the force. I observed, that more meritorious ; and he was persuaded those punishments were not applied by that the public would feel for that great the bill to crimes of simple misdemeanor, character a lasting gratitude, for having except upon the accumulation of the opposed the shield of reason and sound crime by a repetition of it: that it satisargument to defend the wise establish- fied my mind concerning the justice of ments of our ancestors against the daring the bill, that the punishments were no inroads of the most pernicious principles more than were proportioned to the na.. ever broached by folly, enthusiasm and tural turpitude and malignity of the madness.
crimes ;- which seemed to me the true The Bishop of Rochester (Dr. Horsley) measure of punishment; whereas the said :- My lords; The sentiments which learned lord had argued as if punishment fell from me, in a former night's debate, were rather to be adjusted to the tech. which bas excited such a fever in the nical denominations of crime. The force mind of the nobie earl, and has drawn of that argument, I said, I was perhaps forth such a torrent of his eloquence, I not enough of a lawyer to perceive. uttered upon the gravest deliberation, This, my lords, was all the ignorance I and with the steadiest conviction of my took to myself. The noble earl
, who took mind; and I never shall retract it. My fire at my assertion that " individuals lords, I am sensible that it is perfectly have nothing to do with the laws but to disorderly to allude to any thing that obey them,” said, that " individuals ought passed in a former debate ; and I should not only to obey the laws, but to study not have done it, bad not the noble earl them." The noble earl said well: it is compelled me to this irregularity: but the duty of individuals to study the laws, when any of your lordships is thus at that they may shape their conduct by tacked, he generally meets with the in- them : it is the duty of every one who dulgence of the House, if, in his own de holds a place in this legislative assembly, fence, he transgresses the strict rule of to study them more particularly; that he order. A turn was given to my expres- | may have a full comprehension of the sions, at the time, as if I had delivered whole system of our laws, a knowledge that maxim professing at the same time of the relation of one part to another, to be little acquainted with the laws of and of the general spirit of the whole ; that he may be competent to judge of the humour of the moment, --in a country legality of public measures-of the con- thus blessed, the individual subject, with sistency or the inconsistency of new laws the restrictions that. I have stated, “ has proposed with the laws already subsist- nothing to do with the laws but to obey ing. My lords, this study of the laws of them.' My lords, it is a maxim which I my country I have not neglected. Not ever will maintain, I will maintain it to affecting any such ignorance, -not putting the death, -I will maintain it under the myself in this branch of knowledge below axe of the guillotine, if, through any insufthe level of any noble lord who has not ficiency of the measures which may now studied law as a lawyer by profession,-cer. be taken, the time should ever come when tainly not putting myself below the level the prelates and nobles of this land must of the noble duke who thought fit to im- stoop their necks to that engine of demopute this ignorance to me,-affecting no cratic tyranny. My lords, I have heard such ignorance, but assuming and arro- nothing this night to alter my opinion congating to myself all that knowledge of the cerning the expediency and justice of laws which becomes the station I have the bill before us. I have heard that it the honour to hold, I repeat, under the creates new crimes: but when this is said restrictions with which at the first I qua- the distinction seems not to be taken belified the assertion, with the exception tween creating new crimes and applying of such laws as may have a bearing upon new punishments to old ones. My lords, the particular interests of certain per- this is the effect of this bill, -it applies sons or bodies of men, who have un- new punishments to such things only as doubtedly a right to discuss such laws by the existing laws are highly criminal. to meet for the purpose of considering But it is said, and it has been said upon such laws, pending or existing--to use an authority which I ever must revere all decent freedom of speech in such dis- upon the authority of my noble and learncussions—to petition to stop the progress ed friend, from whom I never differ upor of any such law pending, or to obtain such subjects without fear and trembling the repeal of any such law existing, which for the frailty of my own judgment ( i may be to them a grievance, with this re- differ from him with the more reluctance striction, and with the exception of such upon this occasion, because I know his laws, I repeat the assertion, that “indivi- zeal for the general good order of society, duals have nothing to do with the laws I know that neither I nor any of your but to obey them.” — My lords, the lordships can go beyond him in the warmth noble earl said, that this was a maxim of his attachment to his king and to the better calculated for the meridian of constitution of his country),—it has been Constantinople than of London. Those said, my lords, upon bis great authority, were not the noble earl's expressions. He that the penalties of the laws, as they said it was a doctrine that would have already stand, are sufficient for the coercome with better grace from the lips of cion of such crimes. My lords, how stands the Mufti than from the mouth of an the fact? Has not the experiment been English prelate. My lords, the noble earl made? Have not the existing laws, in is mistaken ; the maxim is not calculated many recent instances, been put in execu. for the meridian of Constantinople. The tion? What has been the effect ?--A pubmiserable inhabitants under that dismal lisher of a seditious pamphlet is imprisoned sky have no law to study or to obey; they and he lives at ease in his prison, amass. have only to obey the changeable will, ca- ing wealth from the profits of the publi. price, or whim, of their tyrant. My cation for which he was imprisoned from lords, it is a maxim not calculated for the the sale of it increased by the very cir. meridian of Geneva, or of any other cumstance of his imprisonment.
as Set turbulent democracy: in such govern- him in the pillory." The pillory! The ments, the people have only to obey the pillory, my lords, applied as a punishment uncertain veering humour of popular as. for such crimes, is the stepping stone to semblies. But in this country, where glory : ever since Williams mounted it, the rule of conduct lies certain and de. the printer of the “ North Briton," it fined in the letter of the statute-book, has been the post of honour.-" My lords, and in recorded customs, and adjudged it is with astonishment I have heard it cases, an equal rule to all, liable to no said, that the various seditious and blas. sudden change or perversion—to no par- phemous publications of the present day tial application from the passion or the are not likely to produce mischief. What