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cannot do without them. Wherever an by some valued friends of mine, that if apology has been wanted for the bills, it the bill. should be carried into a law, and has been said, “ look to the example of executed to its extent, resistance would France.” The case of the French anıl of then be declined from motives of pruthe English is materially different. The dence, and not of duty. I oppose this French have for centuries been doomed bill from principle; I oppose it from the to bend beneath the yoke of oppression; precedent which it affords for future innothey have been accustomed to witness the vation ; from the example which it estaprofligacy and extravagancy of their court, blishes, that parliament have a right to and to consider depravity of morals as a violate those laws which were settled at necessary qualification for honours and the Revolution, and on which the parliapreferment. Englishmen, on the con- ment then declared that they did demand trary, have, at different periods, struggled and insist. In support of those principles, boldly and gallantly for liberty; and if my ancestors shed their blood; and raoccasionally they have been forced to sub-ther than desert or betray them, I will mit, they have again burst their chains, submit to perish. and loaded them upon their oppressors. The Duke of Leeds said, that ministers Such has been, such, I trust, ever will complained of the pains taken to misreprebe the independence of the English spi- sent the bills ; but he was certain that the rit, and the energy of the English charac- industry used to raise opposition to the ter. What has the example of France bills, had deterred many, who disapproved held out, but a solemn warning of the fatal of them, from testifying their dislike, consequences that a revolution, brought from a fear of inflaming the public mind on by tyranny and oppression, was cer- to a dangerous degree. The present bill tain to produce. The French, under would tend to increase and organize their revolution, have committed every meetings of fifty, which, from their obscuspecies of horror and excess; what does rity, would be more dangerous to governthis prove? only that in proportion as the ment than meetings of a larger number. people are the enslaved and oppressed, It would give also too great a discretion the less will they be qualified to enjoy, to the magistrates who would be called and the more strongly will they be tempted on to execute it. At the same time, to abuse, the advantages of newly reco- meetings of the largest numbers might vered freedom. What, on the other hand, assemble for the purpose of considering has been the treatment of the people of any bill pending in parliament. It therethis country? They have submitted to a fore appeared that the measure would calamitous war with patience and resigna- fail in its direct object, which was with tion. How were they induced to submit him a reason quite sufficient to oppose in patience, and bear its evils without re- it. In its present state the bill ought pining? They were told that it was a war not to pass, though he thought some steps carried on for the sake of liberty-for the should be taken to check the effects of preservation of their free constitution. sedition. That one thing most dear to them, for Lord Hawkesbury said, that the bill cerwhich they had made so many sacrifices, tainly contained restrictions upon the liyou are now about to assassinate. The berty of the people, upon certain points : present measure I most decidedly regard, but those restrictions were necessary in as a violation of the rights of the consti- order to preserve the rest of the constitutution, established at the Revolution.- tion entire. It was, and ever had been,
There is one other topic, on which I wish the custom to frame laws to meet the to say a few words, namely, the right to evil of the times. For the facts on which resistance. No one now stands up to de- the bill was founded, he referred to the fend the doctrine of passive obedience report of their secret committee last year, and non-resistance. It is universally ad- to the public notoriety of the conduct and mitted that there is a certain degree of objects of the societies in question, and oppression which men may justifiably re- also to legal convictions that had taken sist, and when to submit is no longer a place in one or two instances.
When the question of moral duty. If it had fallen regulations of the bill were examined, to my share to have debated this bill at they would be found the mildest that the commencement, and as it was origi- could be adopted to meet the evil. nally brought forward, I should not have If such a law had existed in the year hesitated to have declared, as was done 1780, it would have prevented much of
the mischief then committed, and pre- injustice towards the king; for a king cluded the necessity of having recourse should be beloved, and not be rendered to a military force.
an object of jealousy to those against The Earl of Abingdon opposed the bill, whom the bill was levelled. With regard as being subversive of the constitution, to the bill, it was necessary to examine and denied the facts on which it was how far it was competent to meet the founded; but supposing them to exist, he present occasion. When ministers enthought the existing laws sufficiently larged on the necessity of the measure, strong to counteract them.
they should have stated whence proceeded The Marquis of Lansdown said, he had the cause of the events that had induced thought it his duty to attend in every them to bring it forward. The full cause stage of the bill, to give it his decided of the disaffection had not been properly opposition. The noble secretary of state considered, and the remedy was not achad said that the two bills were part of a commodated to the source from which system. The first bill related to the pro- the evil arose. The meetings so reprotection of his majesty's person ; the other bated owed their weight to the discontent was supported by arguments deduced | which the calamitous state of the country from the situation of affairs at home and produced. It was a circular chain of abroad. Their lordships had heard strong, dependent causes which begun and ended and in his mind invincible arguments with ministers. It would only increase against the unconstitutionality of the the evil, and by increasing the effect system; and for his part, such was the ap- afford the pretences for going on to inprehension he himself entertained on that crease the application. The people still subject, that he considered the existence possessed the feelings of Englishmen, and of the constitution as implicated in their would not tamely be deluded into a base fate. He would not say any thing of re- surrender of their rights. sistance, but this he would not hesitate to Lord Grenville said, it was rather severe say, that if the bills were carried into to attack the bill on the principle, that it execution in their utmost extent, it was was a departure from the existing laws. high time for those who prized civil liberty If no challenge was allowed in the case to consider of transferring themselves and of misdemeanor, it did not originate in their
property to some country of free- the present bill, but was consonant to the from, from one that had once been free. laws as they existed at present. He The bill not only struck at the foundation denied that the bill went to alienate the of civil liberty, but involved in its ope- affections of the people from the sovereign. peration, the right of trial by jury. Ac- The limiting it to the life of the sovereign cording to the practice of the law in cases was justified by the example of our anof misdemeanor the crown had the power cestors. He contended, that there were no of challenging the jury, while that power restraints in the bill inconsistent with the was denied to the prisoner. This was a rights of Englishmen, or any new felony privilege that partook so much of injus- created, unless when forcible obstruction tice and abuse, that it was too gross and was given to magistrates in the exercise inhuman to require farther observation. of their legal functions. In situations But he trusted, that a right granted to a such as magistrates might be placed, much felon, would not be denied to persons must be left to their discretion : at the tried for a misdemeanor under the ope- same time, it ought to be remembered, ration of this bill. In cases of a political that they were responsible for what they nature, every indulgence should be did, and liable to punishment when they granted to the prisoner. If ministers acted wrong. were wrong in this particular, they should Lord Thurlow said, that when the acknowlege their error; if such an abuse House considered the importance of the had crept into the bill, they should ex- bill they were about to pass, it became punge the poison. What could induce them to be well grounded in the opinion, ministers to restrict the bill to the natural that there did exist a necessity that justi. life of the sovereign ? During the reign fied so strong a remedy. No man who of Anne, a similar bill for the protection had read the Bill of Rights could dispute of her majesty had been passed during the the undoubted right of the people to petilife of the pretender. But what affinity was tion the king or either house of parliathere between the present case and that of ment, upon any real or supposed grievance; a pretender to the crown. It was an act of and it was a liberty which he trusted
would remain entire and unshaken by any | which had befallen that devoted nation. restraint whatever. On the other hand, As to the idea, that meetings for the disif any excesses, under the sanction of cussion of any particular defect in the liberty, was attempted, the government representation, Old Sarum, for instance, might meet such excesses by strong and would be impeded by the bill, he asserted suitable laws, but they ought to take espe- that they would be left perfectly free and cial care not to go a single step farther undisturbed. He defended the bill upon than was absolutely necessary. With every principle of policy, safety, and ne. regard to the bill, it was to be considered cessity. whether it restrained any rights or liber- The House then divided on the questies of the subject? to what extent those tion, " That this bill do pass :" Contents, rights and liberties were restrained ? and 57, Proxies, 50–107. Not-contents, 14, why that restraint was necessary? why Proxies, 4-18. Majority 89. every Englishman should be deprived of
List of the Minority. his right to discuss public questions relative to church and state? The bill was Duke of Norfolk Lord Chedworth founded on what was called the growth of
St. John French principles in this kingdom. He
Say and Sele knew that certain causes had led to certain Marquis of Lansdown Ponsonby
Earl of Derby events in that country. He knew of no
Lauderdale Duke of Grafton such causes to produce siinilar events in
Albemarle Earl of Guilford this. To produce a similarity, nothing
Thanet could more directly tend than such violent Abingdon Lord Teynham measures as the present. He could not Lord Thurlow give his assent to a bill, the operation of of which went to curb and circumscribe Protests against the Seditious Meetings that liberty which England had so long Bill.] The following Protests were entered enjoyed, and under the auspicious in- on the Journals : Auence of which she had so long flourished Dissentient, without hearing more distinctly defined “ Because, to present petitions to the the extent of the evil, to counteract and throne and the two Houses of Parliament remedy which so large a portion of that has at all times been the undoubted right invaluable blessing was to be sacrificed. of the subjects of this realm; the free and Much had been said of the poisoned part unlimited enjoyment of which was one of of the people, but the numbers, strength, the many blessings restored by the Revoluor importance of that poisoned part had tion, and invariably continued in its fulnever been ascertained. In his mind, lest extent, as well during times of interthey were insignificant and few, and might nal commotion, as of external danger: we be easily checked without adopting mea- therefore cannot consent to a bill which sures, which stigmatized the loyalty of thus fetters the rights of the people, and the great mass of the English people. If imposes restraints on that freedom of danger was apprehended from the adop- speech, to the existence of which the pretion of French principles, he would ever servation of all our liberties may be ascontend, that the English character was cribed, and from the full, free and contiessentially different from that of French- nued exercise of which is derived the men; and that whatever abuses might manly character that distinguishes a free have hurried that nation into excesses of people.(Signed )- Norfolk, Suffolk, the most extravagant kind, it would be Lansdowne, Derby, Chedworth, absurd to suppose that their example Albemarle, Lauderdale, Ponsonby, could produce the same effects on the Bedford.” minds of Englishmen.
“ Dissentient, The Lord Chancellor said, that all reve- 1. Because, though we cordially agree rence for law and for religion, had been for in the above ground of protest, yet we the last five years extinguished in France. think it farther necessary to state, that The spirit of imitation was abroad, and although the bill industriously displays it was the duty of the British legislature the acknowledged right of Englishmen, a to resist it. The same principles which right essential to a free constitution of had laid waste France, were now operating deliberating on grievances in church or by the same means in England, and the state, and of preferring to the king and bill was necessary to avert the calamities each House of Parliament, petitions, complaints, remonstrances and declarations / who should so understand the phrase, may thereupon, yet it proceeds to lay the regard this as affording ample counte. whole exercise of that important and sa- nance to his efforts. Happily in the class cred privilege under a restraint and dis- of magistrates, in this country, are men countenance, which directly and absolutely whose worth and honour render them resannihilates the right. The very pro- pectable; but we cannot forget that many position of any matter which shall tend to are not only appointed by the minister incite or stir up the people to hatred or during his pleasure, but are in a state of contempt of the government and constitu- apparent subjection to his caprice, and tion of this realm, as by law established, some even paid by him for the exermakes the assembly liable to be dispersed cise of their office, have their dependance by any one justice of the peace, under the on that caprice for their daily bread. It is pain of felony, without benefit of clergy, therefore but too easy to foresee how such if any twelve remain together an hour an occasion will be applied. after proclamation, even though they should 3. “ Because the provisions in the con. not proceed on the prohibited business. clusion of this bill, form a worthy sequel Nay, if any one justice shall think fit to to the foregoing measures, differing not in arrest any person holding any discourse principle, but only in extent and applica. to the above effect, to be dealt with ac- tion. The prohibition of unlicensed discording to law, and shall meet with ob- coursing upon law, constitution, governstruction, whether the orator and ob- ment, and policy, at meetings not sancstructor be suborned or not, the whole tioned by the sacred occasion of a free assembly is liable to be treated in this people applying to their legislature, interharsh and unprecedented manner. Now rupts private instruction, and the freerlom the case to which these terrible conse- of private discourse. The perusal of books quences are attached, is unavoidable, be- recommended by universal esteem, and ing a necessary incident to the exercise of the authority of 'names the most venerathe right; for no grievance can be made ble, is an indulgence, however, that still the subject of deliberation, much less of remains. We are only forbidden to talk of complaint and remonstrance, without what they contain. drawing down upon it that odium, which “ We therefore think it our bounden its injurious tendency, or that contempt duty, thus solemnly to mark the ignomiwhich its absurd incongruity may seem to nious difference between this impaired state merit : that is, without representing it as a of English liberty, and that which was so grievance. So that an occasion even nobly demanded, and so honourably conwithout straining, can never be wanting ceded, at the auspicious æra of our happy to suppress the exercise of this franchise. and glorious Revolution. It is in vain
2. “Because the severe provisions of that by the rapidity with which this bill this bill, not only apply to all assemblies has proceeded, the petitions, complaints, couvened by the exertions of private remonstrances and other addresses of an subjects in the manner expressly claimed irritated people, have been evaded. It is for Englishmen by the Bill of Rights, but in vain to hope that the length of time for to all the other assemblies mentioned in which it is to endure, will lay the public the act, as appears from a consideration of anxiety to sleep. The people cannot cease the following words-- Such meeting or to regard this invasion of their rights with assembly, as is hereinbefore mentioned, grief and dismay. They feel with us, that to which every justice of peace is authoriza even indifference would extinguish this • ed and empowered to resort with any fundamental franchise, this safeguard of s number of constables, or other officers of all our liberties, for ever. the peace, and to do,or order to be done,
BEDFORD all such acts, matters, and things as the
LAUDERDALE 6 case may require. Now although it be
ALBEMARLE.” not expressly provided, that deliberating on any grievancein church or state, shal! be Debate in the Commons on the Budget.] deemed a crime except in assemblies, con- Dec. 7. The House having resolved yened by private subjects, yet the above- itself into a committee of Ways and mentioned authority, to arrest men holding Means, discourse to such effect, to be dealt with Mr. Chancellor Pitt rose. He said, he according to law, do so fagrantly imply was perfectly aware of the difficulty of enit, that the zeal of any justice of the peace, deavouring, at so early a period of the
session, to call the attention of the com- he would estimate it, however, at mittee to a general view of the expenses 350,000l. The next head of service was of the year, and of proposing to them the the ordnance, which was 1,744,0001. means of meeting those expenses. A con- Miscellaneous services 360,0001. This was siderable part of those expenses could more than the last year by 100,0001., and now only be judged of by estimate. At the arose from the increase in the article of same time, he trusted he should be able to secret service money. In time of peace give a general account sufficiently exact. the sum for this service was 28,0001. This The committee would recollect that, at yearithad advanced to 151,0001. The next the commencement of the present session, article was the necessary sum for replachis majesty, in the speech from the throne, ing exchequer bills. The amount of the had held out to parliament, and the na- exchequer bills was 6,000,000l. Though tion, the prospect of a negociation for it stood, however, at this sum on the suppeace; and it was the opinion of parlia- ply side of the account, yet as it was his ment that the probability of a speedy intention, as an article of ways and means termination of the war would be mate- to move for a vote of credit for 3,500,0001. rially assisted by our showing to the there would reality be no more than enemy that we were prepared for either 2,500,0001. to be provided for in the supalternative. Under that impression, he ply of the year. The next sum was the thought it better to come forward at provision for the reduction of the national once, and fairly state what would be the debt. It was a matter of consolation to amount of the service for another year of know that the measure for the reduction war, together with the means of meeting of our debt was persevered in with unceasthat expense, than to suffer it to pass on ing steadiness, and that the benefits of it to a later period of the year. He did this were daily felt in the efficacy of the fund .with the more confidence, in the persua- set apart for that purpose. The sum on sion that the account would be a triumph this head was 200,0001. of the finances of Great Britain, and would Gentlemen would recollect, that when demonstrate that she was equal to the he made the loan of 18 million last year, emergency in which she was engaged. he stated the reasonable expectation he Without any other prefatory introduction, had of receiving from the India company he should proceed to consider the sub- 500,000l. But lest that sum should not ject under those heads into which it re- be paid, he had provided taxes for 19 solved itself. It would be his duty to millions instead of 18. In looking, howstate under the various heads of service, ever, at the deficiencies of the grants, he the articles of Supply which had been al- should lay out of the consideration for ready voted. And first the Navy. The the present this circumstance, and should nunber of seamen for the present year take it on the same ground as last year. was 110,000 men, being 10,000 more than Under all the various heads, the defithe preceding year; and the sum already ciencies of grants he stated at 1,750,0002. voted for this head of service was The sum allowed for the prompt payment 5,720,0001. There were still two farther on the loan of last year was 344,0001., and sums to be voted, namely, 624,0001. and the interest upon exchequer bills he stated 708,0001., for building ships and repairs, at 240,0001., making together 2,357,0001. making the whole of the navy for the But from this was to be deducted 28,0001. year 7,720,0001.
The next head of ser- which the land and malt produced above vice was the Army for which there had the sum taken in the deficiencies of last already been voted 6,104,0001., which was year. The whole of the deficiencies he less than the expense of the army for the would state at 2,533,0001. The whole of last year by 844,000l. There were still, the Supply, therefore, for the
year, would however, several other sums to be voted | be 27,662,0001. under this head of service, viz. For the He had now to state the Ways and expense of several French corps, which it Means by which he was to meet this was thought might be beneficially em- Supply. "The first article was the land ployed in our West India islands, 300,0001. and malt, 2,750,0001. Exchequer bills, The Sardinian subsidy 200,0001. The ex- 3,500,0001. Of the permanent taxes, the traordinaries of the army were 2,646,0001. produce had been very good. IndepenBut this was not all that would come un dent of the new taxes, the produce for der this head. It was impossible precisely the last year had been 13,598,0001. On to state what farther might be required"; the average of three years the produce