pardon of his country for having, as he : wounded the †. #d violated the rights and privileges of this kingdom, by voting as he had done in this House in the business of the Middlesex elections. He did not stop there. He was anxious to make public reparation for a mistaken opinion, but of such moment; and he afterwards joined the opposition in an important question respecting the discontents of the people on this . subject. We may i. Sir, imitate the love of justice and candour, if we cannot reach the high courage, of that illustrious, immortal character, the late marquis of Granby. While the resolution which I have mentioned is suffered to continue on our Jourmals, I shall believe, Sir, that the elective rights of the nation lie at the mercy of the minister, that is in fact of the crown; that the dignity and independency of parliament are in danger of being entirely destroyed. It is evident, that no gentleman now holds his seat by the choice of his constituents, but only by the good-will, and at the pleasure, of the minister, or by the royal permission. The tenure is lly precarious and unjust, for the constitution has clearly lodged in the people the power of being represented in *. House by the man who is the object of their choice. A committee can never have but that single question to determine, rovided the party is by law eligible, and as pursued only those methods which are warranted by law. I will seize every op}." of importuning, of conjuring the ouse, if they have any reverence for the laws, utterly to rescind this unconstitutional and iniquitous resolution. We owe it to the present, and to every future age, and therefore I move, “That the Resolution of this House of the 17th of February, 1769, ‘that John Wilkes, esq. having * been, in this session of parliament, ex“pelled this House, was, and is, incapable * of being elected a member to serve in * this present parliament,” be expunged from the Journals of this House, as being subversive of the rights of the whole body of electors of this kingdom.” There was no ...”. The question was for,

immediately calle and the House divided. Tellers. - Mr. Ald. Hayley - - YEAs Mr. Baker - - - - - 84 Noes Sir Grey Cooper I I} 140

Mr. St. John - So it passed in the negative.

Debate in the Commons on the Bill för licensing a 1°lay-house in Birmingham.] On the motion for the second reading a Bill for enabling his Majesty to license a Play-house in the town of Birmingham, Sir William Bagot said he opposed the motion, because he disliked licensed theatres in manufacturing towns, and the fatal tendency of having theatres indiscriminately established throughout the kingdom. He drew a picture of a variety of mischiefs which might ensue in such a town as Birmingham, from Mr. Yates's having a power to act there, and defy the power of magistracy, urging, that forcing

of tickets upon the working manufacturers,

in lieu of wages, had already been practised to such a shameful degree, that a magistrate, since dead, (Mr. Worley Birch) who was himself systematically a man of pleasure, admired plays, and was fond of actors and actresses, had at one time found it necessary to interfere, and inform the actors, even though they were his favourites, that if he j any more of such pernicious practices, he would not suffer them to play there again. Sir Wm. further said, that once they were sent out of town, and that they were not permitted to act in Birmingham again for three successive years. He observed, that the answer to him would be, “that it was improper to trust the case in the hands of magistracy; when it was notorious that there had been two unlicensed theatres suffered to be open at once for the two last summers.” In reply to this he had to state the fact: there was no magistrate then near Birmingham; Mr. Worley Birch was too much indisposed to attend business for some time previous to his death, and, since that event, no new commission had been sent down till the spring of 1776, when the King-street company of players, who were preparing to act, were prevented from so doing by the new magistrate. Sir William dwelt on the bad consequences of forcing tickets on the poor mechanics, and declared it was not only owing to their immediate masters, but also to the employers of those masters, the factors for foreign countries, who obliged the masters to put off what number they thought proper: in order still more to enforce his arguments on this head, he drew a melancholy picture of the distresses of the poor people after they had received the tickets, shewing the difficulties they labour under, even to re-obtain half-price for them, and asserting, that they were frequently obMr. James Luttrell agreed, that the Bill ought to be thrown out. He said that the practice of forcing tickets upon the workmen, instead of money to support their families, was very iniquitous, and unless the players could be turned out of the town, it would be impossible to prevent those crimes; that many complaints required redress, which could not be obtained if the theatre was licensed, and it would be very dangerous for parliament to point out, and for his Majesty to countenance any description of talents and merit, which did not contribute to benefit the manufactories. He spoke warmly against Mr. Yates, the petitioner; said the petition was impudence, and the application ingratitude; therefore, if discretionary powers ought to be given to any man, Mr. Yates was the last person Birmingham could approve of, or that the House could with decency admit of. Mr. For objected to the asperity of the terms used by the hon. gentleman who spoke last, as improper for the place, the subject, and the person to whom they were applied. He had always retained a grateful sense of the entertainment he had re

ceived from actors of Mr. Yates’s acknow- .

ledged merit; and he could perceive nothing in his conduct, on the present occasion, to justify such epithets. If the party, to whom they were applied, had been in a higher rank, it would, to say no worse, have been extremely indecent to have so treated him; and it must be very unpleasant and mortifying to any man. He therefore thought it extremely wrong, and could not be a silent auditor of such severities against a person who had only exercised that right which every other man had of applying to parliament. He declared himself for the second reading of the Bill, and sending it to a committee, when the true sense of the inhabitants might probably be collected. If any thing could be decided, one way or the other, he thought the probability was, that the majority of the inhabitants were in favour of the Bill, from the open and continued

liged to send their children to the avenues of the theatre to sell them for what they could get, and that the gentlemen who could pass through such a range of unfortunate beings, in their way to the theatre, without feeling for their distress, must love tragedies better than he did. By way of proving the fatal tendency of establishing theatres indiscriminately in any kingdom, sir William adverted to the times of the Romans, when he declared the giving theatres was the cause of the decline of

the state; he declared, that to add to the

dissipation of the people was always the maxim adopted by those who meant to enslave them, and that the common means of fixing slavery on any people was by giving theatres. He bid the House recollect the ancient medals, on the reverse of which was a theatre, with the words Ludi instituti. These were melancholy instances of the truth of what he had asserted, as it appeared from the words round the edges of such medals, that the Romans were also obliged to establish granaries of corn, and to give the people bread, at the same time; this latter, he feared, wonld be the next step with Birmingham, if the House gave them a theatre. Here sir William introduced a kind of apostrophe on the subject of the Roman medals, appealing to the House how much more glorious it was to cast medals on any conquest, and how much better the inscriptions of De Germanis, or De Britannis, appeared, than that of Ludi instituti. From this digression he returned to his main subject, and remarked, that Birmingham was a village; that it had, from the industry and abilities of its inhabitants, grown into a large town; its glory, however, was in its village situation, and he wished it to retain it; he wanted not to see it ornamented with any royal trinkets, no royal charter, no royal incorporation, no royal theatres. And why, when the sense of the inhabitants was clearly against a limited theatre, should the House force one upon them : Why also give it to Mr. Yates, who had professedly broken the law for five and twenty years? There was, indeed, one reason: Mr. Yates had sent a card to every member, with his compliments, and begged their support of the Bill. Mr. Yates's compliments! The Speaker, he doubted not, had received one; he hoped he would attend to it properly. Sir William ended with intreating, that every gentleman would remember Mr. Yates's compliments!

| encouragement they had given to theatrical entertainments for such a number of

years back. In his opinion, dramatic exhibitions had their use every where, and often drew the attention of the common people, and prevented them from wasting their time and money in employments of a much more dangerous and pernicious nature. In general, they tended to civilize and polish the manners of nations;

[ocr errors]

and so far were the institutions of theatres tations; and thought it was improper to from being the fore-runners of slavery, or treat him severely for his application to the badges of despotism, that they were the House for a Bill to enable him to enmost encouraged, and flourished best, in tertain the people of Birmingham accordfree states. He was witty on what had ing to law; but yet he must, though with fallen from sir William relative to the Ro- reluctance, give his vote against the second man medals. He said, he had much ra- reading of the Bill; for it was clear to hiin, ther see such medals now struck, than po- that there should be no theatres allowed litical medals; for that there could be no by law in any manufacturing towns. He disgrace in shewing by the words ludi in- | had heard from good authority, that the stituti, that our manners were polished; theatre licensed at Manchester, in consebut there might be some in having medals quence of a similar application to parliawith the inscription De Britunnis Colonis, ment, had done a great deal of mischief which would tend to throw a ridicule on already : nor could it be wondered at, if our late glorious campaign in America. we consider what pieces are sometimes

Mr. Dempster enforced the hint thrown represented, which, not being new, are out by Mr. Fox, that the sense of the town not subject to the controul of the Lord of Birmingham had not yet been taken. Chamberlain : the Beggar's Opera, for inHe jocosely remarked, that he thought it stance, which had brouglit more unbappy no improper familiarity in Mr. Yates to people to the gallows, than any one thing send cards to any member, with his com- he could name. As to the country genpliments, desiring his support of the Bill. tlemen, surely this was not such an age of Perhaps, it would bave been more fami- domestic retirement, but what they might liar, and bave given less offence if the card find sufficient amusement in visiting their had been from Mr. and Mrs. Yates ! It neighbours in the summer, without wantwas evident there always had, and would ing to frequent a theatre. The affair of continue to be, theatrical representations the tickets, he observed, was become an at Birmingham; therefore, it was certainly intolerable oppression; for it was not albetter to legalize them, and put them un-y ways the master manufacturer who comder the inspection and jurisdiction of the pelled his workmen to take them ; it proper officer, than to leave it to the dis was the agents from foreign countries, cretion of a private magistrate to check who forced the masters to take them, or their irregularities. The Lord Chamber- threatened to carry their orders elsewhere lain would regulate a licensed theatre, and if they refused. Considering, then, the upon any just complaint of the inhabitants, circumstances of Birmingham as a great suspend the licence.

manufacturing and trading town, depend. Sir Henry Gough, living near the town ing on the industry and frugality of the of Birmingham, had frequent opportunities poorer class of people, he was of opinion of hearing the most melancholy complaints it would be highly improper to license any against the oppression of forcing the poor theatre there. workmen to take tickets for the players' Mr. Burke, after exculpating Mr. Yates benefits; and since there had been two from the charge of impudence in his aprival theatres, the evil had been greatly plication to the House, declared it to be increased, and that it was high time to put the right of every subject to petition para stop to it. The Bill, so far from apply- liament in any case, where the legislature ing a remedy, would establish, and in some could be of use to him. It rested with measure authorise, the hardship. There parliament to receive or reject his petition ; was no necessity Birmingham should have but certainly he ought not to be treated any theatre; a strolling company might with severity, so that he should go from now and then come there, but the magis- the House in a worse situation than he trates would judge if it was proper for came to it. As to the opprobrious epithem to perform or not; and having no thets used in old acts of parliament against fixed residence or protection, they could unlicensed players, he was sorry to say have no pretence for the shameful method they partook of the savage temper of the of distressing the poor by benefit tickets. times in which they were made. The pro-, He was therefore against the Bill. i fession was a liberal one, and, under pro

Mr. T. Townshend bestowed great enco per limitations, highly useful ; and, theremiums on the talents of Mr. Yates as an fore, he wished to see those whose abilities actor; acknowledged his having frequently gave rational entertainment to the public received great pleasure from his represen- treated with decent respect. If unlicensed

players were deemed vagabonds, surely | The application from Mr. Yates is a very Mr. Yates was justifiable in attempting to proper one, that he may be supported in obtain the sanction of the law for his per- his profession by the laws; and notwitnson and for his entertainments, which the standing all that has been said against hav. people of Birmingham seem to have been ing theatres at Birmingham, I still think fond of for so many years. He thought the people will be better employed at the the personal character of Mr. Yates had playhouse than in ale-houses and gin-shops. nothing to do with the question. He then As to the majority, too much stress is laid corrected sir William Bagot in point of upon them; if 50,000 of the inhabitants of chronology, remarking, that theatres were Birmingham are against having any theainstituted at the time when the Roman re. tre at all, is this a good foundation, in a public was in the most flourishing state ; land of freedom, for debarring the other that civil liberty encouraged this rational 10,000 from the enjoyment of a rational entertainment; and it was only on the amusement, for which they have a strong principle that no man should be compelled | inclination? Surely it cannot, it ought not. even to pleasure, that he should oppose | As to the abuse with respect to benefit the Bill, because it was evident to him tickets, it may be provided against in the that a very great majority of the inhabit ) progress of the Bill; I am therefore for ants were against it. He mentioned sir the second reading. William's wish, that Birmingham might Mr. James Luttrell to explain, said, that remain in its village state; and took notice | Mr. Yates's character was a very material of the politics of the times, which he feared and necessary object of consideration ; for would gratify the hon. gentleman's wishess that the Bill applied to take powers out of for instead of improving villages, and con- the respectable hands of the magistrates, verting them into large towns, the wretched who must have the peace and prosperity measures we had been pursuing for some of the town and manufactures at heart, and time past, it was to be feared would soon that to vest those powers in the hands of a reduce our great trading towns to obscure man who shewed contempt for the inhavillages. Birmingham might very soon bitants, and was odious to thrern, would be have no theatre, no manufacturers, no ma- a crime in the House ; therefore, as à gistrates.

member of it, he was free to give his opi. Mr. Wilkes went into the Roman his nion of Mr. Yates's conduct. He maintory, and maintained from thence that the tained, that Mr. Yates's attempt to carry time when theatres were most encouraged, such a Bill, in defiance of all the principal was the very period when Rome enjoyed gentlemen, and most of the inhabitants of her civil liberty in its greatest perfection. Birmingham, was impudence, and paid no Lelius and Scipio, the friends and pro. compliment to the integrity of parliament; tectors of the liberties of the Romans, and ihat having received favours for twenty were likewise the patrons of Terence. In years, upon sufferance, shewed the heiglit the free states of Greece, theatres Alou of ingratitude towards his benefactors. rished earlier than at Rómé. It was a ra Mr. Rous spoke against the Bill, and tional entertainment, and the hon. gentle. replied to what Mr. Wilkes had said reman who mentioned the Beggar's Opera, specting a magistrate's suspending an act should have added, that in the same thea of parliament. He contended, that the tre the Conscious Lovers and Cató are hon. gentleman was mistaken in imputing performed: and I appeal, said Mr. Wilkes, a neglect of duty to the neighbouring mato the gentlemen who have seen the re. gistrates, because they permitted unlipresentation of Macbeth, if they do not censed theatrical representations, contrary think it must have a greater effect to pre. to law. As a magistrate, the hon. gentle. vent the horrid crime of murder, than all man ought to have known that it is no the sermons that have been preached since part of the duty of a magistrate to act in the beginning of the world. With respect the first instance, but officially, on a comto the magistrates of Birmingham, I must plaint made, or information given. observe, Sir, that they have no power but Mr. Harris remarked, that almost every what they derive from the laws; and in gentleman who had taken á part in the pertnitting unlicensed players to perform debate, had complained of enormities havfor so many years, they were guilty of a ing been practised for upwards of twenty breach of their duty: they suspended the years in Birmingham, and yet that several laws; an offence for which one of the gentlemen wished to throw out a Bill calStuarts was obliged to leave this country. culated to correct and restrain similar

[blocks in formation]

Debate on Mr. Temple Luttrell's Motion for the Admission of Strangers into the Gallery of the House..] April 30. Mr. #. Luttrell said, he thought it for the credit of all parties, that strangers should be admitted under proper restrictions; candour, policy, gratitude, and duty to the people, whose representatives they were, called upon them to open their doors; so far as the confined limits of the House would admit of. There was, he insisted upon it, a constitutional right in their constituents to satisfy themselves how far their delegates did, or did not, discharge the trust reposed in them with firmness and fidelity, and to form some judgment whether their principles and legislative suffrages might merit a renewal of that trust on a future occasion. The persons solicitous to be present during the debates of parliament, are, generally speaking, such as are more immediately interested in the question under debate; and he appealed to some of the ablest, and most diligent members of the House, whether in former times they had not often been put in possession of matters of fact happily decisive of the business in issue, by stepping for a minute into the gallery. To fabricate and enact laws, especially of a penal nature, as most of those were which had lately passed the House of Commons, with a clandestine privacy, like lettres de cachet from the court of Paris, and thus take by surprize a subject whose liberty, and perhaps whose life, is affected thereby, must, it stands to reason, in a free country like ours, be utterly repugnant to the vital principles of its constitution; he therefore should move for a committee of the whole House, to consider the several orders relative to the exclusion of *trangers from the galleries. He said he

was not partial to any particular mode; but hoped, after due deliberation, the House would adopt that which should reconcile the reasonable, the commendable curiosity of decent persons who wished to be present, with the commodiousness of the members themselves. Some rule might probably be approved of similar to the o: “Any member of the House attending his duty in parliament,

to be permitted, during the remainder of

this session, to introduce, before four o'clock on each day of public business, one person into the gallery below the bars, on delivering at the Speaker’s table, the name in writing of the person so introduced, and thereunto subjoining his own name as responsible for such introduction.” The private business of the day was usually ended about four o’clock; supposing 300 members to be in the House by that hour, which was a greater number than he had ever seen during this session, and 200 of those meet with so many friends, whose names they should write down for admittance into the gallery, there would still remain seats enough within the bars for upwards of 100 mem. bers more, who might arrive in the course of the evening; that is, in case of an adulatory address to the crown, or an augmentation to the civil list revenue; for those were the only divisions he had seen in parliament when the company was so numerous; and indeed some scores of the majority members thought it sufficient if they repaired towards the close of the debate from the outposts, and upon a forced march to the standard of the minister. Hence it was that when the Ayes and Noes were finally cast up at eight or nine o'clock at night, there was sometimes a respectable attendance of near four-fifths of the whole body. Mr. Luttrell said he had been at the pains of measuring the seats, and if they would assign to strangers the entire gallery below the bar, there would yet be found near 800 feet of cushion for the easy accommodation of the members: he would not wish to limit every senator to the measure complained of the evening before, as prescribed by Mr. and Mrs. Yates for the Birmingham theatre, which was only nine inches each person; he would double that allowance, or even give twenty inches (which was about the size of the Speaker's seat) to each member: a pampered prebend in a metropolitan stall asked no more, and it was within half a foot of the state chair in

« ElőzőTovább »