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by this bill. It only went to prevent se- upon the right of the people. At that ditious meetings similar to those which period, the privilege of petitioning was had taken place round the metropolis. demanded and received as a right essenTheir lordships very well knew what tial to the people ; and any attempt to were the principles of the societies which take it away, Englishmen ought to withformed those meetings, and what were stand. As to the necessity for the bill, to be dreaded from them. They had now where was the proof of it? The notoriety arrived at such a daring pitch that some of facts in common life might, perhaps, new law was necessary, which might in- be safely trusted; but was it prudent to trench, in some small degree, upon the act upon it in affairs of such infinite imBill of Rights. All that was required portance? It was said, that the societies under this bill was the presence of a ma in the metropolis adhered to their original gistrate, who, if he heard any one endea principles. He was not acquainted with vour to excite the people to sedition, was any person belonging to these meetings, to be invested with power to arrest the and he disapproved highly of many pubperson using such seditious language. lications in circulation ; but he judged This was the whole in fact, for he was not them from their own declarations. They empowered to put an end to the meeting, complained bitterly that their intentions unless his authority was disputed, and were misrepresented. It was maintained, rescue attempted. If resistance was of- that they did not mean what they said; fered, he was then to order the assembly that when they mentioned reform they to disperse. Should this endeavour fail, meant revolution : when they spoke of he was then to have recourse to such equal laws they were accused of wishing means as the act empowered him to make to effect equality of rank and of property. use of. The act made such resistance, They desired to be judged by a compariafter proclamation, death without benefit son of their actions with their words, and of clergy.-Another part of the bill went challenged their enemies to point out an to the regulation of political debates and inconsistency. It was not his business to relectures. He had not the smallest objec- concile these contradictions. But were tion to a man of ability making advantage all the charges imputed to these societies, of his talents, in explaining to his country. proved, his opinion of the bill would not men the principles of our constitution ; be changed. He could not think of punay, he thought it praiseworthy so to do ; nishing the innocent many for the guilty but he could not see why that man should few, nor give up the rights of the people not be subject to licence from a magis- because the general principle was abused. trate, any more than almost every other He disapproved of sedition. But were person who appeared before an audience. the laws for the suppression of it insuffiThe stage, it had been thought requisite cient? Was sedition unknown to this to put under severe restrictions ; and he country? Was there not sedition and discould not see what hardship there could content in the days of king William and be in putting places of this description queen Anne? Was not the principle of under the cognizance of a magistrate their government arraigned and their perSuch was the whole effect this bill was to sons endangered? Were there not after.. have, which had been misrepresented as wards powerful factions and open rebelcalculated to sap the foundation of British lions. But did they ever, in the moment liberty. In all periods of our history, in- of real danger, think of such a measure stances were to be found of the evils aris- as this? Did they ever attempt to impose ing from tumultuous assemblies; and ex- a restraint upon public discussion ? No. perience must show, from the frequency They placed the government on a firmer with which they were now held, the abso- basis-upon the love, not upon the fear, lute necessity for their suppression. of the subjects. They sought not to in
The Earl of Derby said, he felt him- troduce any new law, but were contented self bound to oppose the bill. He had by the prudent exercise of the power been educated in whig principles, and the placed in their hands, to check the evil experience of maturer years had confirmed and remove the danger. If the laws, the impressions of youth. He had been then, were sufficient, were not ministers accustomed to look back to the Revolu- chargeable with supioeness in not employtion, as an event which established the ing them ? Was he not entitled to conprinciples of liberty in our constitution, clude that they allowed sedition to inand placed the foundation of the throne crease, that they might find a pretence (VOL. XXXII.)
for new lawa, by which they might shackle | Those who would submit now to give up the liberties of the people. He would not part of their right, might be cajoled at jumble the two bills together, but he would some future period to a surrender of the say that their principle was the same. remainder. The riot act, according to But still were there no laws? Was there Blackstone, had first been introduced in not imprisonment? Were there not fines ? the reign of Edward 6th, had been revived Had not lord George Gordon perished in with limitations under the bloody reign of gaol, to the disgrace of the laws of this Mary, from which time it had slept to the country. Was not the case of Mr. Walker reign of George Ist, when it was adopted of Manchester a sufficient proof of its se for the security of the family on the
Would it, then, be said that no throne, after receiving many additions adequate punishment existed for sedition ? and creating new crimes.* Upon
the If the punishment once exceeded the re riot act he would state the opinion of Mr. ceived opinion of the crime, magistrates Pulteney. He says, “ That he repented would be averse to present for trial, and of having given his voice for the passing juries would be slow to convict. Of this of that law, but his zeal for that family, to the Statute book afforded a variety of in- which no one could doubt his attachment, stances. Did not the severity of the bad transported him beyond the bounds game laws defeat their own operations ? of propriety. Was passive obedience, he Were not many of the acts against Ca- would ask, to be established by law in that tholics a disgrace to our code ? Did not government, which had been founded by a great part of the riot act come under resistance ? Englishmen could no longer the same description ? With regard to be called a free people, if a serjeant at the the principle and clauses of the bill, he head of a number of hirelings, was entitled was supported by great authorities when to disturb their assemblies, and expose he gave them his pointed disapprobation. them to military execution.”+ Such was
That the kingdom at large was averse to this the opinion of Mr. Pulteney, which he had bill, appeared from the numerous petitions stated to show the danger of a precipitate against it. As to magistrates, he had him- zeal. What severe reflexions would it self been curious to learn their sentiments, not produce, should a period arrive when and with this view had applied to some of many of their lordships, who acted with the most respectable men, who sat upon the best intentions, repented that they the bench. Their uniform opinion was had given their voice for the present bill? against the bill in general ; but more par- God only knew what would be the event ticularly that part of it which assigned to of the present measures! He ardently them such a share in the execution of it. hoped that the present ferment in men's When this bill was first introduced by minds would subside without violence or the chancellor of the exchequer in another disorder ; but he should hardly think place, the cloven foot had too soon ap- these greater evils than the sort of apathy, peared, and he had been forced to admit and disregard of all future attacks, which various qualifications. The change in he feared would be the consequence of the duration of the bill was no great sub- seeing their present remonstrances treated ject of consolation. The people who in the manner they had been. If this would submit to be deprived of their happened, we might indeed retain the rights for three years might be easily re- forms of the constitution, but the esconciled to the utter deprivation. He sence of it would be lost for ever, and that would be a slave even for an hour, every spark of freedom would be exhad lost the ardent principle of freedom. tinguished. In opposing this bill he Was such a man capable of feeling the thought he did an act which was acz glorious energies of liberty, or of strug- ceptable both to God and man. gling for the preservation of it?
The Earl of Westmoreland said, he was Erit ille fortis,
willing to share in all the opprobrium Qui lora restrictis lacertis
which had been cast on the framers of Sensit iners, timuitque mortem.
these bills. The relation between the goWhen chains were once imposed, might vernors and governed was such, that what not the minister come with some affected pretences and artful colouring, to prolong
• See 1. Blackstone's Commentaries, 142. the period of servitude till the principle
+ See Mr. Pulteney's speech on Mr. Brombecame familiar to the mind? Were not ley's motion for the repeal of the Septennial all attacks upon liberty progressive ? Act, Vol. 9, p. 470.
the latter gåve in allegiance, the former be entirely a fiction, and to arise wholly repaid in protection, and that protection from the corrupt state of the parliamenwas best insured by the preventive mea- tary representation. He asked, whether sures included in the present bills. the highest criminality would not attach There were ambitious men holding upon any government which should negnightly meetings to inculcate invidious lect to put an effectual stop to proceedings distinctions between the rich and the poor, of so dangerous a nature? Was there for no other purpose than to gratify their such a thing heard of in the world as a own rapacity,
government tolerating the idea of any asUt jugulent homines surgunt de nocte sociation whatever assembling one or two latrones."
hundred thousand persons whenever they Against such men restrictive measures pleased, and telling them that all governwere necessary. Many were taught to inent was tyranny and usurpation? Did clamour for peace, as the only mode of noble lords think the societies entitled to lowering the price of provisions. But the care and tender regard of government the high price of corn was certainly not and the public ? Such could not be their owing to the war. The best way of opinion." The opinion of all thinking men having plenty would be for merchants and must be, that these clubs had uniformly farmers to mind their business, instead of displayed industry as indefatigable, art as attending schools of sedition. It would be refined, and ends as abhorrent from every better to compel the people to attend to principle of real liberty, as ever combined the loom and the anvil, than to suffer them to rear their heads against state or counto waste their time and money at seditious try, since the establishment of civil so-, meetings. His lordship entered into a ciety in Europe. That the danger was i history of precedents, all tending to jus- less, because the societies had existed tify the present measures, and concluded two or three years, was a proposition with observing, that the opposition which which no noble lord could seriously mainhad been made to the bills, was the tain. He fervently prayed that the mea- 1 greatest proof of their necessity.
sure might prove efficacious. The Duke of Norfolk was of opinion The Marquis of Lansdown admitted that the bill would destroy the power of the existence of a system which struck at petitioning. It went to forbid all popular all civil society, and was upon principle meetings, unless convened by certain ma- the enemy to every legitimate governgistrates. How little reliance was to be ment. He alluded to the Jacobin Society placed on the assent of those magistrates in France; and when such a society had appeared in the conduct of the sheriffs of received the applause and the affiliation York and Northumberland. The remedy, of certain assemblies in this country, it in his opinion, was worse than the disease: was a debt of candour against prejudice, the real object of the bill was to establish so far to do justice to any minister, as to a state inquisition in the country. admit a strong and rational ground of
Lord Boringdon observed, that the evil alarm for the safety of the state. He had which was likely to result from the socie- put himself in the place of the ministers, ties had been much called in question. and thus situated" he should say, that He did not wish to criminate any set of these popular societies were undoubtedly men by unjust inferences, or by vague an invention very formidable in its nature. and unwarranted assertions. He would, Their mode of proceeding, by association with their lordships permission, read to and affiliation, was a discovery of as much them, not extracts from anonymous moment in politics, as any that the present pamphlets, or scraps from the speeches of century had produced in any other science. individuals, but distinct resolutions pro- It was not a mere puff of wind to be passed posed and passed within the last six by in silence. It was a serious matter to weeks by the London Corresponding So- see, that an obscure individual by these ciety in the open air, and with the accla- means could obtain a wide scope of power, mation (as they industriously asserted) of and even possibly avail himself of the one or two hundred thousand persons. physical force of a great mass of the He then read several of the resolutions people. He was of opinion that some lately passed by the London Correspond- precaution was necessary, and these ar'ing Society: the last on which he com- missions, he trusted, would at least be mented stated the late harvest to have sufficient to exempt him from the charge of been very abundant, and the scarcity to Jacobinism.-But the present bills ap.
peared to him greatly to overshoot the butable only to the state of affairs. In mark. The circumstances did not war- the present criterion, therefore, what was rant such an inroad on the constitution. to be done? When the assertion had been These meetings were of two kinds. Either made that this was no fit moment to bring they were idle in themselves, and might forward any such question of grievance as safely be suffered to evaporate; or they he had described, he agreed to it; but were excited by serious grievances. In because, by the violence of persons chethe latter case, no force could subdue rishing French principles, the security of them, and they were to be dispelled only the constitution had been menaced-in by an adequate redress. An able physi- their care for a particular part, it was not cian once remarked to him, that it was the less incumbent upon their lordships easy to dispel a local swelling; the only to be watchful that no one branch invaded dificulty was to say where it would next the rights and privileges of the othermake its appearance. No man could and he could not but see of late many deny but that grievances existed, and alarming strides of prerogative manifested that the principal one was in the defect of in the measures submitted to that House. our representation. Our constitution had Admitting, as he did, therefore, the expewonderfully maintained its ground, even diency of some measure, the query natuafter the theory on which it was founded rally presented itself, whether there might had been given up. He had never been not be found one less violent than that a party man, and therefore was to be which was now proposed ? He had not understood in all he should say, as express- heard one defender of the present act, ing merely the sentiments of an individual. who did not confess that it was an inHe had two objections to party; one vasion of Magna Charta and the Bill of was, that, if he attached himself to any Rights. By those were recognized and set of men, it would necessarily follow established the right of petition and the that at times he must submit his opinions right of discussion. He confessed the to theirs, and this he disliked; the other contemptible nature of many of the petiwas, that he thought there was a some- tions and
of the societies alluded thing in the idea of voting with party, to; and noticed the assertion that the naturally and necessarily corrupt. But present measure was grounded upon prethough no friend to party, as it tended cedents. Some of these were taken from to hamper opinions, he must in justice the reign of Elizabeth, and great and say, that party had in a great measure glorious as her reign confessedly was, supplied the defects of the theory of the yet the consideration that she inherited constitution, and for two reigns had the arbitrary sentiments of the Tudor line, checked the growing power of the pre- was a sufficient reason why precedents rogative. A change was now arising, should not be drawn from her reign. If not owing so much to men, as to the per- niinisters were fond of her reign, why not petual tide in human affairs. In regarding copy the general policy of that wise this change, it was necessary for them to princess, and not partially and obnoxiously? take care that one branch of the constitu- Mr. Hume said of that sovereign, that by tion did not trench on the rights of an- adapting all her measures to the spirit of other. When he looked at the composi- the times, she succeeded in raising the tion of the legislative powers, he saw country to a state of unequalled glory them divided, generally speaking, into and happiness. Why, therefore, did they two bodies ; one constantly voting on the not copy her economy, recollecting that side of the minister, and the other as she gave up her jewels, and was content uniformly voting with the party termed to alienate even a part of the crown lands, the opposition. From hence resulted a rather than lay any oppressive and addifalse inference, that the act of the minis- tional burthens upon the people. There ter was the wish of the sovereign, and was another, and a still stronger instance of that he who should oppose any measure wisdom in her conduct touching the Reof the former was in personal opposition formation. We should look at the temper to the latter. But if this was an error she displayed in the management of relion the side of the government, there was gious prejudices, and apply it as a rule an error perfectly correspondent on that for our conduct in the present emergency: of the people; they not unfrequently attri- for the American and French revolutions buted to the principles and designs of evinced that men would go equally far men, what, in fact, were measures attri- upon the impulse of a civil as a religious
enthusiasm. She held with a prudent respectable gentleman, Mr. Thomas Law. hand the balance between the catholics That gentleman had joined the Crown and the protestants: and such a prudent and Anchor Association, when it professed equipoise, with respect to politics, would impartiality. He left them when they be much preferable to the present violent began to act on anonymous letters, and measures. It was by taking this judicious when they had resolved that their chair. medium, that she preserved for us that man, after consulting with the Attorney moderate church, which it was our pride general and the solicitor to the treasury, to possess; which he trusted would last was competent to institute any prosecuas long as the constitution itself; and tion. It was not surprising, if, after this that both might descend honoured and specimen of club government, Mr. Law revered together to the end of time. But sought a refuge iu America. It was only if the particular precedent from the reign wonderful that Mr. Reeves had since of Elizabeth was exceptionable, still less flourished in the way he had done. He would any precedent apply drawn from could not, however, believe that any the miserable reign of Charles 2nd, noble lord could come forward as the every year of which was marked with defender of this man, Reeves, and retain violations of the true liberties of the a person of such principles in his office.country. He then considered the plea of In his opinion, nothing like proof had necessity, and whether the existing laws been adduced of a plot against the person were not sufficient without the introduc. of the sovereign. "It was impolitic to tion of any innovation. He believed no excite such a jealousy between the king lawyer would say that the existing laws and his people. The noble marquis dewas not adequate to the punishment of clared, that had he the honour to be one any offences with which the societies were of his majesty's cabinet, or had he the charged. If the laws were not adequate, still higher honour to style himself the they should be invigorated. He appealed friend of that royal personage, he should to lord Thurlow, who, though he did not think it his duty to advise him to come now wear a black coat, or hold a purse in down to that House, and by giving his his hand, would be pretty decisive evi- dissent to these bills, ensure greater podence as to the law. That fresh laws pularity than had attended any action of were unnecessary was proved from the his life. That would, indeed, be a glorious circumstance of the conviction of Mr. day. It would teod more to the safety Yorke, who was at that moment in con- of his royal person than a thousand such finement upon the existing provisions. If acts of parliament. If these bills passed, his seditious words were thus easily come and were not executed, it would infallibly at, why not those of Mr. Thelwall, if he subject them to contempt. If they were had really spoken them? He knew of executed by the stipendiary magistrates, nothing so peculiarly flagitious in the they must be bold men, to act upon the assertions of Mr. Thelwall, as to call for exercise of so broad a discretion, as that any peculiar punishment. He had said with which they were invested upon the that the opposition were as bad as the mere guidance of Burn's Justice. God ministers. This was an assertion that Almighty, in his donation of human faculnobody would quarrel with. He had ties, usually accompanied great warmth affirmed also, that the minister was the and intemperance with a deplorable want greatest apostate of the age. Now it was of judgment. When this was considered, a fact pretty notorious, that Mr. Pitt had was the discretionary power to be safely gone once as far as any man in the doc- reposed in hands so liable to be corruptly trine of parliamentary reform. He had influenced or wrongly directed? What talked of the immense salaries paid to Mr. he dreaded was the general gloom which Pitt's family. What these are, said the these bills would spread over the people. noble marquis, I cannot say; it is an They would tend more than any thing to affair of arithmetic: but if Mr. Thelwall's destroy that happy union of the lower mouth was to be stopt, it could certainly with the higher classes of society and arm have been done without the aid of the the different orders with animosity against present bills. But was Thelwall the only each other. Th:y would destroy that man who spoke those unwelcome matters? | free spirit of English men, which had been He remembered reading a paper some the real cause of the energy of our natime ago in the Morning Chronicle, to tional character, and of our prosperity which was affixed the name of a most and wealth. Peace and reform were the