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he represented the Dissenters to be a race had lived in those wicked reigns of Charles not fit to exist, and as worthy of being 2nd and James 2nd they would have enexterminated as the Caribs of St. Vin- joyed in theory, though not, in practice cent's, and the Maroons of Jamaica. (and theory of the two, is more consiThe authors of the Reformation were con- dered by modern reformers), as good a sidered, by him, as Jacobins, and major constitution as they have had since, with Cartwright was compared to Calvin and the single exception of a Protestant king." Beza. Of the Revolution, the author ex- So that, according to this author's docpressed himself in these words : “ The trine the Revolution had done nothing abdication of king James 2nd, and the more for the people of this country than transactions that ensued upon
to secure them a Protestant king. With thereby made in the throne, compose a respect to any constitution that had been very important and curious passage in the established by the Revolution, that was a history of our government and laws. It thing utterly unknown. has been vulgarly called “ the Revolu- ment we know, and the laws we know, tion;" upon what authority. I know not; but the constitution we know not.” Havit was not so named by parliament, nor is ing concluded his dissertation upon the it a term known to our laws. This term Whigs, the author adverted to the perhad certainly no better origin than the sons that had been tried at the Old Baiconversation and pamphlets of the time, ley: “ The designs of these democrats where words are used, in a popular and have been fully exposed to the public historical sense, without any regard to or view, on the trials of some of them last thought of technical propriety;" To con- year for high treason ; they were then, trovert the assertion of so bold and igno- indeed, acquitted by a jury, but they rant a writer, would be to insult the un- have since been found guilty by their derstanding of the House.
country.” The pamphlet contained a The pamphlet next proceeded to in- vast variety of other matter, equally of veigh against the Whig Club for making fensive with the passages which he had the Revolution “a subject for tavern quoted. In the opening of his speech, he meeting, for congratulation, and for fri- had said, that he considered this as part volous festivity. To repeat nothing here of a system of a set of men who, to screen of the folly in such effervescence of zeal, I themselves from punishment, clung to the wonder, considering the rank and station of throne, which they wished to strengthen some of these persons, that a sense of good by any and all means in their power. breeding and decorum has never sug- This assertion he should proceed to prove. gested to them that so much commemo- Another pamphlet had been published anration of that revolution, repeatedly urged terior to the present: its title was, «. The out of all season and measure, cannot Example of France a Warning to Great sound agreeably in the ears of the sove- Britain.” Its author was Arthur Young, reign." Gentlemen would therefore ob- esq. To prove the connexion between serve that the ears of the sovereign were pamphlets of this description and persons supposed to be offended at the mention in pay of government, he should only read of the Revolution that seated his family the first testimony of approbation annexon the throne, and that “to him such ed to Mr. Young's work. The testimony commemoration must convey some insinua- came from Mr. Reeves, as chairman of tion of reproach."-" To these men," the Crown and Anchor Association. It (viz. the Dissenters and Whigs) “and was wonderful to observe the conformity to this sinister design,” said the author, of sentiment between this work of Mr. “ we are indebted for the jargon of which Young and the pamphlet imputed to Mr. I have just complained. They invented Reeves. The same arguments were urged the terin Revolution to blind and mislead ; through both. The first attempted to and they have never ceased repeating it, prove the Commons to be corrupt, and that they might put the people in mind of that such a system of corruption was nemaking another. But what disappointment cessary. The second talked of lopping and discomfiture must it be to these ido. off the Commons. Certainly, if the allelizers of the constitution, supposed to be gation of corruption could be proved, established at the Revolution, to discover there would be few who would say that at length, that they have bestowed their the lopping them off ought not to be tried. applause and affection upon the shreds Mr. Sheridan read the offensive passage and patches of old date; and that, if they that was complained of in the House be
fore, viz. “ The government of England | how abominable the conclusion he has is a monarchy: the monarch is the an-drawn! If such, indeed, be a just ac. cient stock from which have sprung those count of the state of things, I would ragoodly branches of the legislature, the ther agree with Mr. Reeves, that the corLords and Commons, that at the same rupt branches ought to be lopped off, time give ornament to the tree, and af- than subscribe to that infamous proposiford shelter to those who seek protection tion, that to this very source of corrupunder it. But these are still only tion we are to trace all our blessings. branches, and derive their origin and Speaking of a parliamentary reform, he their nutriment from their common pa- says, “ I know well the resalt; corruprent; they may be lopped off, and the tion would be banished from the constitutree is a tree still; shorn indeed of its ho- tion. In comparing the constitution to a nours, but not, like them, cast into the machine that has gone well for a hundred fire. The kingly government may go on years, perhaps, it is indifferent whether in all its functions without Lords or Com- influence (which these reformers call cormons." How was this to be understood ? ruption) be termed the dust or the oil of If the king made all the peers, and the the machine; if it has gone well for a cenminister pensioned all the commons, then tury, and seems, while certain wheels are indeed the king would be the common half covered with dust, to go better than nutriment of both, Mr. Young, who is formerly, I would no more allow the dust so partial to the crown, does not neglect to be brushed away, than I would allow also to give a boon to another branch of the oil to be removed. Influence, how. the legislature. He exempts the mem- ever, is not the dust, but the oil of the bers of the House of Commons from all machine ; the constitution never went for responsibility with respect to the people, a moment without influence, and to reand thus frees their shoulders from a most move it would be taking away the oil uneasy burden. Other passages in Mr. which has given a century of smoothness." Young's book were however still greater Mr. Young, who a few years ago was a libels on the British constitution. He violent reformer, and even an advocate says,
“ to call the House of Commons for what is called French principles, genthe representatives of the people is a very tlemen should understand had obtained a inaccurate mode of expression; they salary or pension of 4001. per annum from ought never to be called by any other government, and having greased his pen name than the House of Commons, to with the oil of corruption, which he calls distinguish them from the House of influence, he has discovered that it is esLords. If they were really the represen- sentially necessary to the welfare of the tatives of the people, they might in the constitution. ory be good, or better ; but they would Doctrines such as these, absurd and be something else than what they are. detestable as they were, would have me. But reformers say, they are corrupted rited little attention from that House, if it and bribed. If they are bribed in order could not be proved that the authors were to act wisely, it is an argument against in the pay of government, and that the you. If the nature of such an assembly doctrines had been recommended by the demands to be corrupted, in order to pur- associations formed under the auspices of sue the public good, who but a visionary government; and this could be proved. can wish to remove corruption? Govern- It could be proved that pamphlets contain: ment certainly would have been carried ing such principles had been printed at the on cheaper, if honesty alone had prompt king's press, and circulated through the ed the House of Commons to act as cor- kingdom by societies patronized by goruption has induced them. An unequal vernment. The fact was, that endeavours representation, rotten boroughs, long par- were made to establish corruption as a liaments, extravagant-courts, selfish mi- principle. Calamitous, indeed, was the nisters, and corrupt majorities, are so in effect that had been produced by such timately interwoven with our practical doctrines; public spirit and public prinfreedom, that it would require better po- ciple were annihilated, and Great Britain lirical anatomists than our modern re- presented the strange spectacle of a formers, to show, in fact, that we did not nation full of private worth, and yet toowe our liberty to the identical evils tally destitute of public principle or spirit. which they want to expunge.” What a This effect was wholly attributed to that shocking recital, said Mr. Sheridan, and execrable principle of corruption upon which the government was carried on, and situation ;, and he and his learned friend which would at last involve it in destruc- would be brought into circumstances of tion. The decay would be rapid; but the considerable difficulty. For if the House fall would have no resemblance to the were to direct the attorney-general to fall of any other nation. The poison commence a prosecution against the would have penetrated to the vitals, author of the pamphlet, and his learned would have cankered and corroded the friend should not see that there was eviheart; and the body would fall, internally dence sufficient to bring home the charge, corrupted and destroyed, though the his address to the jury, instead of sanctrunk was, in its outward appearance, tioning, would destroy the effect of the restill vigorous and blooming. With re
With re- solution of the House of Commons. gard to his motion, it might be a doubt The Attorney General said, that in what how far the question might be considered he had to offer, he should consider him. as a question of privilege ; it was self solely in the capacity of a member of nevertheless his intention, in imitation of parliament. In every case in which he the mode adopted in the case of Dr. Sa- had been called upon to prosecute persons cheverell, to move an amendment to the for libels, he had invariably requested the motion which he had made on a former jury to take the whole of the work under day. That motion had consisted of the their consideration, in order to see if they following words:
could, from the whole, impute that inten“ That the said pamphlet is a malicious, tion to the author which would be charged scandalous, and seditious libel, containing in the indictment; because it was not the matter tending to create jealousies and di- thing itself, or the effect produced by it, visions among bis majesty's loyal subjects; but the mind of the party which constito alienate their affections from our pre- tuted the crime. If the jury should be sent happy form of government, as estab- of that opinion, he should think him a lished in King, Lords, and Commons, and proper object of punishment. Indeed, if to subvert the true principles of our free the construction which gentlemen had constitution; and that the said pamphlet put upon this passage, was that which the is a high breach of the privileges of this author meant to convey, then most unHouse." He would move the insertion, questionably it was a gross libel; but upon after the word “libel," of the following that point he would not give his opinion. words, “highly reflecting on the glorious He wished, at the same time, to call the Revolution.
attention of the House to one point, which The Solicitor General said, he should was, that he always conceived it an risk no opinion on the case before him, unfortunate circumstance, when a jury because motives of delicacy restrained felt themselves obliged to pronounce a him. If any resolution was entered into different opinion from that of the House respecting it by that House, the conse- of Commons. However, they were to dequence would be a prosecution : there- cide upon the question; and if he was orfore it would be improper for the attor- dered to prosecute, he would discharge ney-general or himself to declare any his duty faithfully. opinion on the subject. If the imputation Mr. Erskine said, that if the writer had was such as was stated by the hon. gen- expressed himself with the same obscurity tleman, he hoped there would be only one that the solicitor-general had spoken, voice about it in the country, and that a there would no longer exist a necessity jury would find a verdict conformably to for prosecuting any pamphlet whatever. the case. Should the House come to any He agreed in opinion with the attorneyresolution on it, it would be impossible general, that the House ought to be well for him or his learned friend to oppose convinced of the criminality of the libel their own discretion to the wisdom of the before they directed a prosecution; and House. It was obviously his duty and that prosecutions by order of the House that of his learned friend to examine should never be taken up, except upon many pamphlets of this nature, and a important occasions ; as the authority of more unpleasant task could not fall upon the Commons of Great Britain might persons in his situation. He only wished form too great a weight to be easily reto caution the House against adopting sisted by an individual. For the same any hasty steps. If a prosecution was reason, and to preserve that importance ordered without proper grounds, the and weight in the eye of the world, they House would be reduced to an awkward ought to be extremely cautious how they instituted a prosecution, without the what defence the accused might set up: strongest assurance that it would prove what plea of ignorance, what proof of successful. Neither should they come to mistake. The present motion did not a vote of that nature, without being comprehend the whole of the pamphlet; fully convinced, that they were really pro- it embraced only a single passage of it, in secuting the person guilty of the libel. which it was asserted that “the kingly For many years there had
ot been a government may go on, in all its funcprosecution for a libel, in which he had tions, without Lords or Commons;" that not been employed as counsel for the de- a kingly government might go on in fendant; he was therefore able to confirm this country was true,
but it was the assertion of the attorney-general re- not the monarchy of Great Britain which specting the perfect fairness of his pro- could so go on: and were he the advoceedings. There had not occurred a single cate for the defendant, that was not instance in which, in laying down the law the ground which he should take in his to the jury, his learned friend did not defence, as that also implied the total detruly and honourably state wherein it fa- struction of our constitution. It would voured the accused, as well as the cause be a better defence to allege, that the of the prosecution; and in bearing this passage was written on a supposition that testimony, he wished to be understood the authority of the monarch might be that he meant to include the conduct of exercised in regard to all the laws that the solicitor-general. He considered it, had previously been enacted during the however, as little material to the present dissolution, or during the suspension of question, whether the attorney-general the sittings of the other branches of the proceeded by information, or by preferring legislature. Would any man, however, a bill to a grand jury; since the late alter- who meant to convey this sentiment, ation which had taken place in the law of have used the term “ lopped of,” which libel, the jury was allowed such a latitude could not, on any construction, be consiof discretion, that they would only be dered as a supposition ? As well might decided by the evidence which was before it be supposed, that, after two large them, in the sentence either of innocence branches were lopped off from a tree and or guilt. From the tenor of the motion thrown into the fire, they should again before the House non constat, that they arise, and unite themselves to the parent should proceed by ordering the attorney- stock. If this had been a case similar to general to prosecute; they might order that of the King against Stockdale, he the book to be burnt; they might pass a confessed, he would have been more scruvote of censure on the libeller ; or they pulous in giving his consent that the might order him into the custody of their House should award a prosecution. If a serjeant. It should, however, be remem- libel was written, not against the House bered, that the House was not sitting, nor as a part of the constitution, but as comcould it intend to sit, on the trial of the posed of individual members, the House person who was author of this libel. He would stand in a delicate situation. had no hesitation in anticipating what Smarting under the lash of calumny, and the verdict of a jury would be upon this feeling with acuteness the personal indige case, when before them; but after all, nity offered to their character, he was that verdict must depend on the evidence afraid they might point their vengeance produced on the trial. Were he not with too much heat, and that such a mass fully convinced of the criminality of that of influence might overpower a solitary libel, he would not at any time, and par- individual. In the present instance, the ticularly in the midst of term, be attend- attack was made, not upon the House as ing in his place, to recommend a prose- individually composed, but upon the cution for a libellous publication : to Mr. House collectively, as a branch of the leReeves personally he had no enmity what- gislature. In that view of the subject, ever. It would not become him to do so every petty jury in the kingdom had an in his capacity of a member of parliament; equal interest in vindicating that instituand in his professional character, it would tion by which they hold their right to become him still less ; on the present oc- freedom with any member of the House casion, he acted solely from the impulse of Commons. These considerations had of his duty. The House could not but induced him to travel through one of the see the attack that was made upon its au- most dull, despicable, and miserable per. thority; they did not however yet know formances that ever he had been doomed
to read. Exclusive of the paragraphs | all this, he never would be deterred from that had been read by his hop. friend, it giving his opinion upon any constitutional said, that the Whigs have been uniformly or judicial question; only it would be nein a conspiracy to introduce republicanism. cessary that he should guard himself as If he could have believed it bonâ fide to much as possible from that species of misbe nothing more than a set of speculative representation : he knew that all his preopinions, he never would have regarded caution would be of no avail; but he it with any other feeling than that of con- would sell his reputation as dearly as postempt ; but, the object of the writer too sible. The first expression that he made olearly was to calumniate the Revolution | use of when this subject was brought for. of 1688, and to decry and degrade those ward on a former night, was one which glorious privileges which our ancestors did not, in his opinion, lay him deservedly obtained, as the hard-earned fruits of open to the sort of observation which folmany a lengthened struggle. He had no lowed. He only said, that he was not hesitation, for his own part, however, in prepared, from the slight consideration he calling it a foul and scandalous libel, and had then given the book, to decide with in his opinion were the House to decline precision upon a particular passage : but ordering a prosecution, they would be that he was not inclined to agree with the equally wanting in their duty to themselves interpretation which other gentlemen had and to their constituents. And even sup- put upon it. But in saying that, he by posing the author to be acquitted, the ac- no means precluded himself from giving quittal would not at all reflect discredit any other opinion upon the book, after a upon the House, as they were more mature consideration; he considered quainted with the modes of defence which his judgment as completely unfettered; che party prosecuted might adopt. When he conceived his mind still more at liberty, a jūry was impanelled to try this case, from a circumstance of which he had and saw the attack upon the constitution been informed, namely, that Mr. Reeves stated in the indictment, they must, he was not the author of this pamphlet; pot was convinced, feel themselves involved that the name of the author would really as parties in the libel, as well as the House have any effect upon his mind, but he of Commons which ordered the prosecu- knew that gentlemen on the other side tion.
would throw out insinuations to that efMr. Windham (secretary at war) said, fect.-Having premised thus much, he that in rising to offer his sentiments to the would now proceed to state to the House House, he was aware that he exposed him- his opinion upon this subject, which, after self to great danger of having his argu- a most full and mature investigation, was ments misrepresented, nay, of having only a repetition of what he had advanced words and sentiments attributed to him upon a former night, viz. that he did not which he never had an idea of uttering : think that there was any thing in the book and he knew also, that no explanation, which would justify the interpretation however clear and explicit, would save which had been put upon it. He by no him from such misrepresentation. It was means meant to say, that he approved of of no use for him to refute these misre- the doctrine imputed to this passage; but presentations, to deny them, to explain he meant to say, that there was no such them; there was a sort of vitality in them, doctrine in it; because no man could for for they always revived : if he trod them a moment hesitate to say, that if there to the earth it was useless, for they con- was any such intention in this passage as stantly grew up again (though at some that attributed to it, it was a most gross distance), and recovered their former and infamous libel. Gentlemen on the strength; he need only remind the House other side might think him wrong, but that of the words, “ perish commerce," and remained to be argued. He wished to “ acquitted felons," to prove the truth of make one or two observations upon the his assertions. He thought that the ex- nature of libels in general, as far as they planation which he gave at the moment, respected that House. He thought that with respect to the pamphlet in question, one of the first conditions that House was such as must have satisfied every would require in the case of a motion mind not determined to misunderstand; against any particular book or pamphlet yet this night the subject was revived, as was, that the allegations contained in the if he had not said one word in explana- book were false. He did not mean to say tion of the subject. But notwithstanding he was an advocate for that popular opi