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ponding Society against the treason and plaint, and then move that the
passage sedition bills, justified that society from complained of be read by the clerk. the aspersions thrown out against them Mr. Pitt said, he would not say a word and their writings; and to prove that upon the merits or demerits of the pamthings at least as exceptionable had ap- phlet, but he called upon the House to peared from the partisans of the ministry, decide whether they ought to sacrifice he read to the House several passages the important subject of discussion, which from a pamphlet, intituled, “ Thoughts was expected to occupy the attention of on the English Government," said to be the House a great part of the evening, written by Mr. Reeves, the framer and to a subject of inferior moment, which president of the Association against Re- had accidentally occurred. He there, publicans and Levellers, and among fore moved, " That the Orders of the day others the following:
be now read.” “ With the exception of the advice and Mr. Jekyll hoped there was still enough consent of the two Houses of Parliament, of honour and independence in a British and the interposition of juries, the go- jury, and virtue sufficient in English vernment, and the administration of it in judges, to bring the author to condign all its parts, may be said to rest wholly and punishment. The question was not, whesolely on the king, and those appointed ther the House of Commons ought to be by him. Those two adjuncts of parlia- calumniated, but whether it ought to be ment and juries are subsidiary and occa- lopped off as an excrescence.
He spoke şional: but the king's power is a sub- on the ground of privilege, and therefore stantive one, always visible and active. the question which he spoke to was enBy his officers, and in his name, every titled to the priority of every other disthing is transacted that relates to the cussion. He appealed to the highest aupeace of the realm and the protection of thority of the House if he was not per the subject. The subject feels this, and fectly in order. acknowledges with thankfulness a super- The Speaker said, that questions of priintending sovereignty, which alone is vilege certainly claimed a precedence in congenial to the sentiments and temper discussion, and all that was necessary to of Englishmen. In fine, the government be done at present, was for the House to of England is a monarchy; the monarchy consider whether it was a question of priis the ancient stock from which have vilege. sprung those goodly branches of the le
Mr. Erskine, taking for granted that gislature, the Lords and Commons, that the passage quoted from Mr. Reeves's at the same time give ornament to the pamphlet was a libel, argued either that it tree, and afford shelter to those who seek
was a question of privilege, or that it was protection under it. But these are still not. If it was not, he contended that it only branches, and derive their origin and was prejudging the case to direct the their nutriment from their common pa- king's attorney-general to file any inforrent; they may be lopped off, and the mation he had received against the litree is a tree still; shorn, indeed, of its beller. But if it was a libel (and if it honours, but not like them, cast into the was not, he knew not what was, for not fire. The kingly government may go on only the constitution, but the very existin all its functions, without Lords or ence of the House of Commons was re. Commons, it has heretofore done so for presented as a matter of little or no conyears together, and in our times it does | cern), the only point to be settled was, so during every recess of parliament; whether a libel upon the House of Combut without the king, his parliament is no mons was or was not a question of privi. more. The king, therefore, alone it is lege. Here Mr. Erskine referred to the who necessarily subsists without change instance of the king against Stockdale, in or diminution; and from him alone we which the attorney-general was directed unceasingly derive the protection of law to prosecute Stockdale* for a breach of and government."
privilege of the House, not very dissimilar Mr. Sturt then moved, that the House from the present. The Speaker had do order the attorney-general to prosecute the author of the said pamphlet.
* See Vol. 27. p. 11. And for the Trial of The Speaker said, that the motion Stockdale, for the said Libel on the House of could not be made in that form. The Commons, see Howell's State Trials, vol. 22, hon. member must first make his com- p. 237. (VOL. XXXII.]
given a decided opinion on the point, that the House of Commons could be lopthat a question of privilege claimed a ped off, and that government might go on priority of discussion. The chancellor of with its wonted vigour. $o different was ihe exchequer, on the other hand, had his opinion, that he was convinced the pressed the importance of the bill about monarchy of the country could not go on to be discussed, as if the people of Eng- an hour without the House of Commons, land were more anxious to have their li- without the existence and practical exerberties taken away than to preserve the cise of those doctrines which placed the very existence of the right of representa monarch of the country on the throne. tion; a position which that right hon. The publication in question was clearly a gentlemen might endeavour to palm upon breach of privilege; and the best way of the House, but which would require much coming to the order of the day, would be more ingenuity of argument than he could to have the pamphlet first read, that the command to render it palatable.
House might determine upon it. Mr. Pitt said, he did not mean to ar- Mr. Pitt said, that no complaint of a gue upon any of the sentiments contained breach of privilege had been made. in the pamphlet; the leading considera- There could be no doubt of the order tion was, whether it was a breach of pri. which the rules of the House authorized vilege or not? And, if it was, he thought, where such a complaint was formally instead of recommending the attorney. stated; but as the customary mode of ingeneral to prosecute, the House should troducing the subject had been neglected, vindicate its privileges by acts of its own. it ought not to be taken up in preference However, he was at present for passing to the order of the day. to the order of the day.
Mr. Sheridan said, it was easy to get Mr. Fox considered the objection which rid of the dilemma which the right hon. had been started by the chancellor of the gentleman had made out. In order, thereexchequer as the strangest he had ever fore, to remove the punctilio devised by heard. A member of parliament had the political special pleader, he would complained of a breach of privilege; and move that the particular passage be taken because an informal remedy had been down; which being done, he urged the proposed by a single individual, was this propriety of an immediate discussion. to alter the fact in limine? But the great The Attorney General said, that beobject was to get forward to the order of fore he could decide
upon the passage in the day. How differently did ministers question, he should think it became him, feel on the code of liberty, and on the as a jury would do, to read the whole code of despotism! The Corresponding book, in order to see whether the conSocieties came forward with spirit in the text qualified the argument complained of cause of parliamentary reform, and a few as
as a breach of privilege. paltry libels were published; the Habeas Mr. Windham (secretary at war) said, Corpus act was immediately suspended, that after hearing the passage read, he indictments for high treason were drawn was not prepared to deliver his mind upon up, new treasons enacted, and the bill of it; but it was not conformable to the inrights repealed. A more atrocious libel terpretation given it by gentlemen. As than any that had been published had far as he was then prepared to decide on appeared from the pen of a ministerial it, it miglit be perfectly innocent. It bireling against the House of Commons, was, he thought, merely the opinion or and the motion which was made was the declaration of an antiquarian or historian, orders of the day! Though he was no speaking his sentiments of the British confriend to prosecutions for opinion, yet, stitution. It merely meant, that monarin the present instance, he called upon chy was antecedent to the other parts of the House to come forward in vindication the constitution, and might possibly surof their privilege, their dignity, and their vive or subsist without them. It was existence.
merely such an opinion as an historian Mr. Serjeant Adair said, that, although might give of any form of polity : possibly the present discussion was rather un. it was wrong; but, however, he imagined, timely, he could not vote for the order of that there was not in the context any the day, when a subject came before the thing to justify gentlemen in so severely House which no one could doubt was a attacking it. He was persuaded, that if breach of privilege of the grossest nature. it were tried before that tribunal which He could not tamely hear it asserted, gentlemen sentenced it to, there was not
sufficient to condemn it. With respect quence; when he heard him now maintain to the person who was said to be the au- the utter subversion of it, he could not thor, very indecent language had been help exclaiming, used, but the gentlemen who so traduced “Who would not laugh if such a man there be; his character had good reason: he had “Who would not weep if Atticus were he !' incurred their displeasure, in propor. Mr. Hardinge said, that he was equally tion as he had gained the good will of astonished and shocked, at the doubt the country;
He hoped neither the which had been entertained by his right House nor the country would forget his hon. friend upon the sense of these words exertions in 1792. If they did, they were detached from their context and standing ungrateful. Mr. Reves was a man hold. by themselves. That he would protest ing a respectable place under govern- against the doubt, though he loved and ment, and receiving the rewards of ho- revered the man. That in his view, a nourable services: his conduct was ap- libel more gross upon the House of Comproved by the greater, and, he was sure, mons, could not be imagined. That he the better part of the nation. The gen. thought no context would, or could, tlemen opposite charged ministers with explain it away 60 as to make the being slow in calling libellers to justice; words less criminal; but that upon genethey argued as if the constitution was ral principles, it was a debt of justice to overturned by a single libel; but they read and examine the whole book. This felt no apprehension from all the libels of would be the duty of those who were to the societies, though their professed ob. sit upon it in judgment, if it should be ject was the ruin of the constitution. accused in a legal form; and he hoped These were the errors of liberty to be the juries of England would ever exercise sure. But though their avowed intention the right of judging for themselves, upon was the subversion of all order and go- the seditious tendency of all published vernment, there were none of these alarms words, instead of assuming the sedition felt by gentlemen opposite. Except the because the accuser imputed it. That he single libel of Paine, there was not one should protest equally against another toacknowledged by the opposition to be un pic in his right hon. friend's argument, constitutional. Gentlemen affected to which he thought injurious to the public feel sore, that Lords and Commons were spirit of the House, namely, a panegyric arraigned in the publication alluded to, upon the man, when the act was to be though they never before evinced the considered. This he had reprobated in smallest sensibility about all the calumny the case of Mr. Hastings, and would which the societies had heaped upon par never see it again attempted without reliament. Even in the speeches of many sisting it. of the gentlemen opposite, he and his Mr. Grey said, that he had heard shockfriends had been distinctly arraigned; but ing things from the secretary at war, he wished the country to judge, whether though when compared with his conthere was more despotism in the ministry, duct they ceased to be surprising. That or anarchy in the opposition. He knew furious reprobation of his old friends well their motive for traducing Mr. Reeves, corresponded with the new principles and other active magistrates, and especi- he had adopted. The conduet of the right ally those of Westminster. Their designs hon. secretary clearly showed that with were clearly developed, and their zeal him the monarchy' was everything. after their former supineness well under- From such sentiments avowed in the castood. If the charge amounted to a binet, the country might judge where the breach of privilege, it might be tried; treason existed. The right hon. gentlebut, as far as he could judge, the senti- man complains of the indecency of atment was innocent, and by no means jus- tacking absent characters. Yet this tentified the commentaries bestowed upon it. derness for absent characters was with the
General Smith said, he believed the right right hon. gentleman a novelty: The hon. gentleman was the only man in the author of this libel was entitled to canHouse who would venture to declare sen- dour and to indulgence. It was only an timents so derogatory to the constitution historical fact for the discussion of antiand the privileges of that House. Having quaries. Had citizen Lee, however, heard the right hon. gentleman on other stated that democracy was the root, and occasions, when the liberties of his coun- monarchy only an excrescence, what try hung on his tongue with honied elo- would the right hon. gentleman have said?
Would he not have pronounced it trea- , and sentiments which he had maintained son? Should we not have heard it was that night? Mr. Grey concluded by decopying the French? And had the claring Mr. Reeves's pamphlet to be a words lop off been employed, it would in- most dangerous libel, and a libel sedistantly have associated all those ideas, tiously and malignantly aimed at the safety and produced those descriptions which of the monarch. the right hon. gentleman's warmth of Mr. Windham believed his declaration fancy conjured up in such glowing co- had been, that he was not prepared defi. lours. An antiquarian or historian, the nitively to give an opinion upon the exright hon. gentleman had said, might be tract; but as far as his judgment went, exceedingly doubtful whether the Lords he thought one of the passages selected and Commons had not been mere branches only stated an historical fact, “ that the from the root of monarchy. After lan- | Lords and Commons were branches from guage so extraordinary, all his doubts at the monarchy," and the other, what might length vanish, and he thought proper to possibly be a fact, “ that the monarchy assert, without qualification or explana- could subsist without these branches." tion, that the passage, as it stood without The Solicitor General said, that when any qualification from the context, was it was stated that the extract amounted perfectly innocent. He hoped the right to a breach of privilege, it struck him hon. gentleman would have the courage that it was incumbent on the House to to support his opinion, and to defend the have the pamphlet read.
He hoped, pamphlet in question. The right hon. therefore, that the motion would be withgentleman had thought proper to ascribe drawn until that was donc. their hatred to Mr. Reeves to his conduct Mr. Brandling thought the passage a in 1792, and to date their desire to run gross attack on the privileges of parliahim down from that period. For his ment, but he could not agree that the own part, he was ready to confess that the consideration of the subject ought to conduct of that gentleman, in 1792, did supersede the other business before the not much recommend him to his good House. opinion; and those persons who had been Mr. Lambton said, he could not conmisled by Mr. Reeves, and induced to ceal his surprise, after what he had forfollow similar conduct and adopt similar merly heard from the secretary at war, opinions with him, lamented their ac- that he should that day avow himself the quiescence, as they saw, at this time, the assassin of liberty. The right hon. genmeasures that were produced in conse- tleman affected a surprise that the House quence. The right hon. gentleman had should be roused at this solitary instance triumphantly asked, why they did not of an attack upon the constitution. Was prosecute the Corresponding Society, it a solitary instance? If it came there and other seditious writers, as well as this a solitary instance, it had found an libeller of the House of Commons. The auxiliary in one high in trust and office. right hon. gentleman might be answered, Was the instance solitary, when two bills that to look to pamphlets was not their had been introduced, the one making an general system ; their object was to look intention an overt act of treason, and the to government, to watch their measures other directly subversive of the Bill of with jealousy ; but, on the other hand, Rights ? when ministers were dealing out prosecu
Mr. For said, he was always sorry tions in the gross, and in some cases when he felt himself obliged to arraign stretching the laws beyond their tone, the general character of any man : but of they had suffered this daring breach of Mr. Reeves he must say, that he never privilege and libel on the constitution to could mention him with respect, since he go without punishment; a libel, too, had seen in the public prints a letter reswhich was as much directed against the pecting him from Mr. Law. He asked, was safety of the monarch, as against any this a solitary libel? He always doubted other branch of the constitution. Before the wisdom of prosecuting for opinions ; he sat down, he begged leave again to but when opinions were made the grounds ask the right hon. gentleman, whether he for the alarming bills then pending, it would manfully and daringly, without was for the House to consider, whether construction, reservation, amendment, they ought not to hold this libel in equal or qualification, by reasoning, and by his abhorrence with any that ever came bevote, at another time, support the opinions fore them. He proposed merely that the
House should publicly declare the senti- | made upon him was invidious. He had ments they entertained of that atrocious not asserted that the passage quoted was libel. Ought it to go out into the world, harmless, or that it was not a libel ; he that a gentleman of distinguished talents, had only said, that the passage did not and of great influence in the cabinet, held appear to him to warrant the interpretathe doctrine which this passage incul- tion put upon it. He had heard it that cated ? If he adhered to that opinion, it day for the first time, and what followed was a demonstration that a settled plan the extract was not at the moment in his of overthrowing the liberties of the people view. He was not considering what was entertained. He hoped the House would be the proper form of government would come to no opinion on the passage, in England; he had only said, that the till they had heard the context, and that sentiment was innocent, inasmuch as it they would agree to the reading of the stated, what had been, and what might whole pamphlet.
be, namely, that the other branches were Mr. Barhum gave it as his opinion, derived from the monarchy, and that the that the secretary at war had not ex. monarchy might subsist without them. pressly maintained any doctrine what- Did gentlemen think him such a fool as ever. If he had done so, he ought to to contend, that the British constitution repeat it ; if not, his accusers should be could exist without Lords or Commons ? refuted. If he seriously maintained the It was a most fallacious absurdity to sup. alleged doctrine, whatever respect, nay, posé that he would waste words in atwhatever admiration he generally felt for tempting to support nonsense. No; he him, he would move for his expulsion ; did not say the constitution could subsist, so convinced was he, that such doctrines but that monarchy could subsist singly; as were stated in the passages cited, and surely history bore him out in the would tend, if unchecked, to the annihi- opinion, though it by no means proved, lation of the constitution.
nor had he the smallest idea of insinuatMr. Stanley said, there was a statute ing, that the same free government could now in being, which declared, that if any prevail under monarchy as under a mixed one shall maintain that one part of constitution. the legislature shall be capable of Mr. Fot rose to express his indignation any act of legislation without the con- at the explanation, or rather evasion, for currence of the other component parts, so he thought it, he had just heard. the person maintaining a doctrine so Shame upon the man who could so veer unconstitutional, shall be adjudged guilty and twist about! This book applied to of treason, and suffer the pains of death. the British monarchy only, and those who
Mr. Windham declared he could not supported it could only mean the British help smiling at the attempt to impute monarchy; they must mean that, or they treason to him. His conscience told him must mean nothing. he was a faithful and loyal subject; with Mr. M. A. Taylor declared that such that he was satisfied, and there he would doctrines, coming from a member of adrest. He declared he had given no opi- ministration, gave him a bad opinion of nion at all ; and they must be subtile ar- the measures they were bringing forward. guers indeed, who could attach crimina- He trusted, however, that the spirit of lity to him for what he did not say. “ The the country would successfully oppose very head and front of his offending had them. The right hon. secretary had called this extent, no more.”--He had denied the opposition unprincipled. Had he forthat the passage would bear the interpre- got on which side of the House he sat three tation which gentlemen gave it. They years ago, when he vociferously declaimed were at liberty, certainly, to give it what against the chancellor of the exchequer ? interpretation they pleased, and to argue Mr. Taylor declared, that to rebut the upon the construction which they chose charge brought against his party, he to put upon it; that, and that only, was would take care to publish the apostacy the point which he contended.
of the secretary at war: he would show Mr. Fox declared, he anxiously wished him and the world his former speeches, to divest the matter of all obscurity. Did in one of which he made the memorable not the right hon. gentleman, he begged assertion of the chancellor of the excheto ask, distinctly state, that the passage quer, that “he had thrown off the mask.” quoted was innocent and harmless ? The Master of the Rolls said, the pro
Mr. Windham said, that the attack per way would be to adjourn the debate,