mand the affiftance of all his majesty's subje&ts, fufficient cause for the introduction of the bills of age and ability, to seize and apprehend the in question.' The motion was negatived by offenders; and the magistrate and his afliftants 167 to 22. are indemnified from any legal consequences, in A decided majority was in favour of admini. case of the persons so refufing to disperse, should stration, in every future stage of the bill, no:be killed, wounded, or maimed, in attempting withstanding the most vigorous oppofition. But to' apprehend them : that persons preventing in the most animated discussions of the fubject, the attendance of a magistrate at such meetings, perpetual repetitions of the same arguments dij or obstructing him in the execution of his duty, not fail to occur. The advocates of the minif. Shall be liable to certain penalties; that the le ter endeavoured to prove the connexion between riffs, and other magistrates of Scotland, be em the outrage on his majesty and the proceedings powered to carry this act into execution within of the London Corresponding society as a cirihat kingdom : that any place, where any lec- cumstance of unquestionable notoriety evinced ture or discourse be given, on any subject whate- by daily publications of the most treasonable ver, and money be taken for admission therein, and seditious nature. In the field near Copen. tall be deemed a disorderly house, unless it hagen house, two pamphlets, for instance, had has been previously licensed for such purpose by been sold; the one in vindication of king-kil. a magistrate : that the president, or person deli- ling, the other entitled • The History of George . vering such lecture, and all persons paying or the Last.' Extracts from other pamphlets, receiving money, or issuing or distributing tickets equally treasonable and feditious, were read; and for such admission, thall be liable, upon infor- it was contended that these were all printed by mation, to a certain fine; and persons acting as citizen Lee, who was officially printer to the the master or mitreis of such house (though not London Corresponding society.--On the other actually ro) thall be liable to be prosecuted as hand, it was contended, that the publications such : that, if a magiftrate, who has received and extracts in question (of which no evidence information upon oath of such a house, fhall whatever, it was observed, appeared before the repair thereto, and be refused admittance, it houfe) could in no respect implicate the society shall be considered as disorderly; and, that no at Jarge: that, as a proof how little dependence thing in this act thall affect the ecclefiaftical ju- could be placed on the boasted notoriety, citizen risdiction, the act of the first of William and Lee was not the printer to the society; he was Mary, in favour of the Protestant Diffenters, not officially employed by this society in any and that of the zift of George III, in favour of manner; and, therefore, he could be considered perlons profeffing the Popish Keligion.

as an individual only, who, in his own person, Previous to any observations on the bill, all was fully amenable to the existing laws, without the members in opposition prefaced their objec- the intervention of the bill in question. It was tions, by declarir g their decided abhorrence of further urged, that this bill was a very unnecessary the late atrocious outrage on his majesty. One and unjustifiable atrack on the liberties of the peoof the main points, however, infitted upon by ple; that it deprived the subject of bis undoubted the oppofition was, that before the adoption of right to petition against grievances; and was, fuch a strong measure, fufficient evidence ought therefore, a virtual repcal of the bill of rights, and to have been brought of the actual connexion tended to the total subversion of the constitution.between the proceedings of the London Cor- To this it was replied, chac the bill in question did responding society and the outrage on his ma- not annihilate the right to petition, but only jesty ; that the existing laws were adequate to ail regulated the abusc of it. County and corporate the purpofts of the bill; and that it was an meetings, and indeed all legal meetings, ftood infult to a free people, to suppose the existence of exactly as they did before. Regulations were ap- * free discusion under the eye of a magiftrate, plied, only to render that regular, which was bewho might stop them, because, in bis opinion, fore irregular. The right of the lowest ranks to (formed perhaps, on unfounded conjecture, ca- petition was fill the same; nor is any qualificaprice, or inveterate prejudice,) they bad spoken tion of property.equired to enable such persons words having the appearance of sedition to go- to pecition. I admit broadly,' said Mr. Picc, vernment, or ((peaking more truly) to the pre- that supposed or real grievances may, as a matsent administration. Le ve was given to bring ter of right, be presented to parliament, by all in a bill by a majority of 214 to 43 ; and, at ranks of people. In a word, it was infiited, the suggestion of Mr. Fox, a call of the house that the numerous petitions presented to the was fixed for the Tuesday fe'nnight.

house againtt the bill were occasioned by the The bill being brought in by Mr. Pitt, on the groffeft calumnies and misrepresentation ; fuch: 12th of November, the motions for the first and as, that the bill went to prohibit private families second reading of it were carried succesiively by from meeting, without giving previous notice to a great majority ; and this was the case with the a magistrate :--the bill was not intended to affect motions for the first and second reading of the private families; and allowed all the extent of bilt brought down from the lords, for the better peditioning by which our ancestors made known preservation of bis majesty's person.—Mr. Sheri- their complaints to parliament.--This fatement dan, then, after along introduction, moved, that


T E. a committee be appointed to enquire into the * Soon after, citizen Lee was apprehended by extent of the danger of the country, and the a judge's warrant, for the publication of shree reason for the proclamation of the 4th of No- feditious libels, for which he is to be tried at the Yemder, in order to ascertain whether there was acst Westminster sessions.


was again contradicted by the opposition. It was he would admit, an infringement, and of course acknowledged, that meetings against a pending an evil, but an unavoidable one. There never law were not prohibited by the bill ; but then was a country in which the general sense of the they would be nugatory, if, from any special people had a greater effect in influencing the circumstances, they should, in the judgment of government than England; he therefore never the magistrate, be declared illegal. No meet would infringe the right of petitioning, nor did ing, indeed, could be held with effect, that the present bill do lo-It had been asked by genrespected public grievances, the misconduct of clemen, why was not sedicion punished by the minifters, or a reform in parliament, while it present law, if any did exist? He would an, was held at the discretion of a magistrate. swer, that what had been called (edition hereto

On Wednesday, November 25, the order of fore was no more than the spleen which a solitary the day being moved, that the house do resolve individual might occasionally have vented; in the itself into a committee on the bill, Mr. Cur- present instance there were thousands, nay tens of wen moved, that it might be postponed to that thousands, who were propagating sedicion every day se'nnight. This produced a debate, in the day ; and what would be laid, if they were all proa course of which it was observed, that the out. secuted? Why, that minifters were multiplying rage against his majesty originated in a dark, prosecutions and leditions, and thereby cauling premeditated, and diabolical conspiracy, which greater evils than those they intended to remedy. It took its rise from those feditious focieties which had been recom nended to ministers to adoit cons it was the object of the bill to destroy ; that it ciliatory measures. No one could value more was by the syitem of clubs in France that the the effects of lenity than he, because he knew conftitution of that country had been overthrown, it to be always productive of much good. If, that the nobility and religion were abolished, and in the quarrel with America, lenity and forbear that they dethroned, imprisoned, and brought to a ance had been used, we might still have been ia mock trial, and afterward murdered, one of the possession of that country; and the affection of mildest of sovereigns; that the convention was Irelant had been found worth preserving at the at length obliged, by one decree, to destroy all time when this country granced her a free trade. thole clubs, by which its own existence had But what conceflion could be made in che present been threatenet; and it was that circumstance instance, when there were men who demanded no which gave such an appearance of Atability to the less than the very destruction of the conftitution? French government at present, as to induce his Men who had it out with thinking that the majesty, in his last speech, to say that he should rights of man formed the only principle of go. have no objection to treat with them.

vernment, and that the majority of every coun, But the speech in favour of the bill, which try was to decide upon its constitution and go. seemed to make the greate! impretlion on the verninent. Then suppose all the wise and enhouse, was that delivered by Mr. Grant, who lightened men of a na ion to be set on one lide, entered into a more argumentative and philofo- and on the other mere numbers were to come to phical defence of the bill than we have heard turn the balance againit them, lo superior to fince its introduction. He began by observing, them in every respect, then there was no use of that, when great evils exifted, the restraining of arguments, or of expediency on the lide of right or those was always to be referred to a leffer one, wrong; the will of the people was to decide the although by this restraint a free constitution whole. These ha i been the doctrines with might be a little endangered by the acts adopted which the societies had set out in 1792 ; but is to guard it. When a great body of men, per was soon found that the will of the people did fectly distinct from the government, were pre- decide againit them. One would have thought paring to make an attack on that government, that it was then time for them to defift. They what was to be done? Was the government to did not, however, do to, but went on as if they take no precautions against them? Let it be thought they had a right to act against the will considered what the conduct of the society was: of the majority, and as if a hundred persons they ridiculed the conítitution, under which they considered it a tyranny, not to have obtained that coniidered themlelves as in a face of lavery. which a whole natioa refuses to grant them They said the government was an ufurpation froin How, then, was it poliole to conciliate those the beginning to the end ; and they seemed to men. They wanted universal suffrage and annual have a fanatical averhon to every thing that was parliaments, As to their having a king, it was Englith. They could not bear to hear the cou not a matter of choice with them; for their rage of our army or navy extulled. They re- great oracle, Paine, had told them, that it was probated the contitution of America, because not in cheir power to have an hereditary monarit was too like that of England ;'and even ihy chy, for the present generation had no right to new conftitution of France had already begun to do an act which wouls be binding on pofterity, be held in difrepute among them. Thus, if nor even on themselves. The only mode which these men were to be prosecuted for their sedi- could conciliate them, and reconcile them to the tion they would Ay into the arms of that confti- constitution, would be to let them go on until cution they has been abuling, and had treated as they destroyed it, and then gentlemen would only chimerical. Many free states had been obliged have to indulge the melancholy refe&lion that to take away for a time the best part of their con- such a thing had once existed. Noining then but ftitutions, in order to guard the whole against force could conciliate men who made fuch dethe attacks of conspirators. He did not mean to mands. Both houses of parliament bad declared hold out such a plan as an improvement: it was, these men winted to overturn the conficution.



They had not changed their object fince that that situation was the British parliament liable time, but persevered, and boasted of the success to be reduced. There was no security against of their efforts. If our conftitution then was the principles of the societies in this country. wortb preserving, it was no great evil to make a Their leaders never spoke of their duties, but temporary furrender of a part of it; after which of their rights, and then taught them to believe many other valuable parts would remain, that that to the people all power belongs; that they were not at all comprised in that which should mould exercise that right; ard that after having be given up. Let this temporary guard of the done so, they should be happy. Every thing conftitution be compared with the danger it is in, beautiful in the Englih conitituzion they kept of being fubverted. If any one doubted this out of their fight, and the very nature of Engdanger, he would ask whether large bodies of lhmen was in danger of undergoing a great then, who were daily drawing others into their change. He saw, that although the great body opinion, were to be looked upon with indiffc. of the people in England were attached to the sence? If the acts they were pursuing were constitution, yet a few might overturn it, if laudable, why were they not encouraged? Why suffered to go on with their preparations, which did not the members of opposition approve of confifted in the diffufion of poison through the them? No; they could not say that no danger minds of men. The conftitution of France had was to be apprehended from them. He did not been overturned in one night, but the prepardconceive that the verdicts of the juries, however tions had been long making.' To guard against just they might have been in doing away the idea fimilar calamities here, he thought the prelent of the person's acquitted having been in a traiteó bill necesary, and, therefore, would support sous conspiracy, could remove any apprehensions it. of danger that had exifted before the trials. The Mr. Fox, after paying some compliments to question of treason was the only point the juries the last speaker, for his able and eloquent speech, bad to try; and was the opinion of twelve men proceeded to answer the several arguments conon that fimple question, to go against that of the tained in it, from which, he said, a false ima two houses of parliament, on the general queso presion migh: be made on the houte, on account tion of fedition and danger? Thus,' said he, of their appearance of realon. He obterved, . if we do not take those measures now, we that the enemies of the contp:cution must be ins must submit to our ruin in the best manner we creased, when no discrimination was made be.

tween the diraffected and the friends of the conIt had been said, continued Mr. Grant, that ftitution. Conciliation then was the only means the war was the occafion of the spreading of sedié of remedying every evil; let all grounds of jeation. Did not there societies exist before the lousy be taken away: let defects be amended, war? Did not all their most violent proceedings and abuses lefsened. The freedom of a govern break out when they had nothing to complain of ment did not depend on the forms of its coniti. but the constitution and a refusal to depart from tution. Oppreffive acts could not be defended, that, was their only grievance. Notwithstande because sanctioned by lords and commons. Ic ing that such complaints had been made before depended on the liberty men enjoyed, of speakthe war, it was fince faid, that minifters had ing and writing, and it was that which had given plunged the nation into it from a state of unex - this country its character of manly boldness. ampled prosperity. With respect to the fmall. In this bill the fpeaker was not to be punished wels of the numbers of those person's, compared for the words he might utter, but he was to be to the people at large, he would say, that history prevented from speaking at all.

Thus were furnished examples of great empires having been we going to lose all the reedom, boldness, and overthrown by people who originally had been energy of the British character. It was' that few. Paine's republican club at Paris had, accor character alone that made a nation free the ding to his own account, at firit confifted of only liberty people enjoyed of speaking their fentifeven members, and for that reason, it was over ments openly, whenever they pleased. And looked by the government of France.

The 'if-men now would abindon their rights, the focieties of this country had been proceeding on fall of the nation from that character, though the exact model of the jacobins of France; their flow and imperceptible, was not tels cema.n. machinations had been directed against all autho. The Romans had lost all their liberty in the rity of every kind, even againft chat authority reign of Augustus; yet tiere were people then which is always attached to men of great talents who praised his government, and who considered and great attainments, although they may be un. the country more happy than ever it had berno connected with the government: Would there But the liberty of the nation was gone, and with great characters (alluding to some opposition is that spirit, that energy, and that mind, by members) proceed on the mistaken principle of which it had arrived at its greatness; and after uniting with men who aimed at their deftru&tion that, it funk progreftively, till ils ruin was ines equally with that of the members of the govern- vitable. The time then might be when nothing pient? When all the great and enlightened men in this country would be left but the

appearance of France had united in the fame way, the infa- of a constitution; there might be lords and commous Marat stood up to oppose what he called mons at the disposal of a king, as Augustus held the aristocracy of wealth and talents, and made the offices of conful and tribune; but, from that his want of either a ground for claiming merit period, its fall could not be far distant. Take and popularity. The success of Marat, and the from a tree its roots, or ftrip it of its bark, and, fate of the others, was too well known ; and to though it may for a little time retain its 'verdure,

[ocr errors]

or even its blossoms, it muft foon decay and die. Sheridan, Mr. Grey, and nearly all the memWhen all the fundamental rights of Englishmen bers of opposition, withdrew. were taken away, they would then contente

All the clauses of the bill, except the last, themselves as a degraded nation, that gave up the having been gone through, Mt. Pitt moved, whole of their hberties.

that, as the chief object of the bill was to supMr. Curwen's motion was negatived by 269 press those debates at which fedition was renderto 70; and that for going into a committee was ed a means of livelihood, the words - for the carried by 273 to 72. But, on account of the purpose of collecting money, or any other valate hour, progress was almost immediately re luable thing from the persons to assembled, poried, and leave obtained to fit again on Friday should be part of the clause:'. At other meet. the 27th.

ings, though money might be paid for defraying That day, the house again went into a com expences, it would be obvious enough that the mittee on the bill. Upon the clause for enact. obtaining that money could not be the object of ing the punishment upon those who should not calling them. This amendment being adopted, disperse after a proclumation by the magistrate, the bill was ordered to be read a third time on a long conversation arose, in which it was con Thursday, tended, that the punishment of death was too According to the bill as it then stood, after severe, and the milder punishment of fimple having gone through the committee, • The numfelony, or misdemeanour, was figgested. The ber of persons who may meet in future for any clause, however, for felony, with benefit of of the purposes mentioned in the bill, is not to clergy,' was carried by 80 to 13.

exceed fifty. Meetings of any number of perThe Solicitor-general rose, to propose an fons exceeding fifty, must give five days previe' amendment, which he hoped would take away ous notice, which nocice is to be signed by leven the objections which had been made to one of the persons. principal clauses in the bill. The bill, as it then • If fifty or more persons meet, and if, after tood, empowered the inagistrate, upon his hear an order by proclamation to disperse, twelve ing any question propounded which he conceived shall remain one hour, they are to be liable to as tending to endanger the constitution, &c.'1Q the punishment of death, read the proclamation, and compel them to dis • The magiftrate is not to have the power of perle; instead of which, he meant to propose, diffolving any meeting, except in the following that the magiftrate should in the first instance be cale :-He may arrest any persons holding disempowered to seize che person making such a course which he may think to be seditious, and propotition, and that it should only be upon re if any attempe shall be made to regit the magisfittance being made, that he should make the trate in such arrest, he may then declare che proclamation : and in order to protect the magise meeting to be unlawful, and may diffolve it. trate in the discharge of his duty, that any per. • The clauses againit lectures and debating fon resisting him by force, should be guilty of societies remain as they were, except that the felony.

restriction is confined to the discuition of political Mr. Serjeant Adair raid, he congratulated the subjects. Every person attending such probihouse upon the amendment which had been made, bited meetings to be liable to the penalty of 100l. as it rendered the bill, in his opinion, totally for each offence. u nobjectionable. It never was in the contem • The duration of the bill is limited to three plation of those who introduced the bill to pre- years. vent the people meeting to consider of any real or On Thursday, December 3, after a debate, supposed grievances; it was only to prevent which, in general, was, on both sides, a repe. meetings of a very different nature ; and after tition of former arguments, the bill was read a the amendment now proposed, the effect of the third time: the majority in favour of the third bill would go no farther.

reading being 266 to 51-Mr. Fox then moved, The Solicitor-general moved, that the blank as a rider to the bill, that the house be enabled in the last clause, relative to the duration of the to repeal it before the end of the present session. a&, be filled up with the words three years. The motion being negatived without a civilion, Mr. Stanley moved, to fubftitute (wo years.' the bill passed. The committee divided, for the Solicitor-gene In the different debates on this bill, soms ral's motion, 48, against it 2, and the house very strong expressions were ufed, which becamé, being resumed, the report of the committee themselves, the occasion of very animated diswas brought up, and ordered to be re-confidered cufiion. «Should these bills,' said Mr. Fox, on Tuesday

pass by the mere influence of the minister, That day, the order of the day being read, to contrary to the great majority of the nacion, take into consideration the amendments made by and he was asked without doors, what was to be the committee on the bill, Mr. Fox, after ftare done, he would say, this is not now a question ing various difficulties' to which some clauses in of morality, or duty, but of prudence. Acthe bill were liable, moved to insert in the mo- quiesce in the bills only as long as you are comtion for taking the amendments into consideration, pelled to do fo. They are bills to destroy the instead of the word now, the words • 106 conftitution, and parts of the fystem of an ad. morrow se'nright.' This motion being negative ministration aiming at that end.' (Hear ! hear! ed, and the original motion for taking the amend- bear!) Mr. Fox faid, he knew the misconmeung into consderation carried, Ms. Fox, Mr. fruction to whiçb fuch Sentimenta were liable;


[ocr errors]

and he braved it. No attempt of the Stuarts destruction of the constitution; and Mr. Fox,
salied more for opposition than the present bills; he contended, had said nothing but what was ara
and extraordinary times called for extraordinary serted at the time of the revolution.
declarations. This instantly roused Mr. Pici, On another day, Mr. Pitt, alluding to to Mr.
who observed with great warmth, that the right Fox's declaration, thus expressed himself: "I
hon. gentleman's declaration could not be mis. hali cease to complain, that those gentlemen,
understood, and he thanked him for making it, who express such peculiar anxiety for the inte
that the public might see him setting up his own rests of the people, and such a 'regard for the
judgment against that of the majority of the privileges of parliament, who profess to adopt
houle, attempting the diffolution of society, and whig principles, and to imitate the practice of
persuading the people of England to have recourse our ancestors at the time of the revolution--be-
to the sword, if they thought they could succeed cause our ancestors had recourse to forcible reliit.
by it. Let him not imagine, however, said Mr. ance against a king, who was against all law, and
Pitt, that Englishmen will want spirit to support violated the constitution of the country--that
the laws. The right hon. gentleman would gentlemen profefling to act upon such principles,
probably find the law too ftrong for him; but, should attempt to stir up relittance to a king act -
it chat should not be so, he hoped that he would ing with the advice and concurrence of his owo
find the valour that should aid the law.--Mr. houses of parliament. I defy these gentlemen
Fox would not retract a syllable of his acerrions, to thew the conGktency of such a conduct with
which, he said, the right hon. gentleman had so the principles and practice of those whom they
much misrepresented. He had ftaled merely, profess to make the objects of their imitation.
that if boils to destroy the constitution were pall- To this Mr. Grey answered, chat (as he had al-
ed against the sense of the majority of the nation, ready faid) he was ready to subscribe his hand to
he would give the advice which he had mentithe declaration of his right hon. friend, which
oned. He would itand and abide by his wards, was not, as had been mis-stated, an incite-
which he was then willing to have taken down, ment to the people to rise against the authority
if required. The words might be strong, but of king, lords, and commons; but was this :-
ftrong measures called for strong words. Mr. that when parliament should pass an act against
Windham declared, that the right hon. gentle. the sense and interest of a great majority of them
man had not mended his affertion, which was people, without attending to their petitions or
to plain a discovery of his intentions, that he complain.s, in that case reluctance was justifiable.
had not, for some time, heard any thing with fo That was the principle on which the constitution
much pleasure. People would now see the ne was founded ; it was the principle which the
cellity for a vigour stronger than the laws. (Here right hon. gentleman's noble father (lord Chat-
a cry of take down his words.) Mr. Windham ham) had always maintained.
explained, that he meant stronger law's than the le must here be observed alfo, that during the
present, and that the laws should be supported by discussion of the bill, a memorable circumitance
meaits not wanting upon other occasions. ( A cry occurred. On Monday November 23,, Mr.
of note the words !) Mr. Windham replied, that Scurt presented a petition from the London Cor-
he would repeat the words if he could, and con- responding Society, signed by upwards of 10,00p
cluded by exprefling his hope that the country persons, many of which, he said, were citizens
would not be so abject as to submit to the right of great respectability. Proceeding to vindicate
hon. gentleman.--Mr. Sheridan offered to fub- this fociety from the aspersions that were caft
Icribe his hand to the declarations of Mr. Fox, upon them, he would read, he said, what was
wbom, he said, the right hon. secretary at war truly a bit of treason: it was an extract from a
ougbe to have known better, than to expe-7 he pamphlet written by Mr. Reeves, a justice of
would retract his words, When plot.torging the peace, and chairman of the aisuciation againit
minsters mecitated attacks upon the consticution; Republicans and Levellers ; in which that gen-
when the fecretary at war had made London (the tleman said that the government of England
seat of parliameni) a garrison, and talked of a is a monarchy; the monarchy is the ancient
vigcur more than the law, he would advise every stock from which have {prung those goodly
man to resist the eilabl.ihment of the system of branches of the legislature, the lords and com-
gerror in this country. No British kobespierie, mons, that at the same time give ornament to
he hoped, would evir domineer oves the people the tree, and afford fheicer to those who seek
of England ; Robespierre, who had haratled the prote&tiun under it. But there ftill are only
people of France with his pretendej pluts, till branches, and derive their origin and their nu-
he could not visit the mayor of Pasis without a triment from their common parent; they may
guaid. Were they not to give this advice, be lopped out, and the cree is a trec itill: fhorn,
whit contemptible wretches would they be? No jodeed of its honours, but not like them cast
other answer could be given to the people. Mi- into the fire. The kingly government may go
piiters would not always feel the lame courage on, in all its functions, without lords and com.
as at present for perfevering in their plans. -Mr. mons; ic has hitherto done to for years together;
Wilberforce fait, that such declarations were li. and in our times ic does lo during every recess of
able to very different opinions, and exressed his parliament; but without the king his parliament
disapprobation of them.-Mr. Grey repeated Mr.

The king, therefore, alone it is, Fox's words, and said, that he was ready to lub- who necessarily rubats, without change or {cribe to them, and give them to the clerk. He diminution ; and from him alone we uncealfondidered the bills as the last bic aimed at the ingly derive the protection of the lords and com

is no more.


« ElőzőTovább »