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extended, in its operation or construction, sation, that persons in this country had to any of his Majesty's subjects resident actually corresponded with America, and in these kingdoms."
that such correspondence should be deemOn the order of the day for receiving ed piracy within the statute, it would fol. the report of the Bill,
low, that many of his Majesty's loyal subMr. Luttrell rose, and spoke with great jects might, by construction of law, cou. asperity against the Bill, and the framers pling both statutes, in such a manner as of'it; said it was not only arbitrary and to give them the desired effect, be deemed ambiguous, but replete with danger to pirates, and be liable to suffer the pains every individual in this country; and in its and penalties of death, as convicted pirate present form and extent directly contrary felons. He presumed that was not the to the intentions avowed by the noble lord intention of administration ; nay, it could (North) and his coadjutors, when they not be the intention, because they had so brought it in. He said the more he heard repeatedly disclaimed it; yet as nothing it discussed, the more he was convinced of now remained to be proved, but that the its importance to the public, and of the present statute, having reference to that many unconstitutional designs and mis- of George the 1st, was capable of such an chiefs couched under it.
explanation, it would be proper to guard Mr. Serj. Glynn spoke warmly against against such a dangerous possibility. He the Bill; and insisted, that if it passed in therefore desired that the statute of the its present form, no man, however inno- 8th of George the 1st, c. 24, might be cent, loyal, or virtuous, could say how long read; by which it appeared, that the he should be out of a loathsome dungeon.ground of jealousy was fairly stated, and
Mr. For was against receiving the re- the inference clearly made out. port. He said no man was safe an instant, Lord North, after affirming that no such should the Bill pass into a law. It would construction of the law was ever meant to arin the most profligate of the human spe. be made, acquiesced in the amendment, cies; and give them a power over the best he said, to remove every object of jealousy med in the nation. No man would be safe that could be entertained on that head. under it, unless one could suppose that a The clause was accordingly agreed to. country magistrate understood more law, Mr. Powys next observed, that by the and was more sagacious; or a trading jus Bill, in its present form, any man was tice had more honour and equity in him, liable to be apprehended, on suspicion of than the chief justice of Chester, (Mr. having committed high treason in AmeMorton.) That gentleman was of opinion, rica, though he had never been in America, that the Bill gave the powers now attri. nor perhaps out of his own parish. He buted to it; and if so, it was clear, the said, this power of general commitment Bill meant something very different from had a most dark and dangerous aspect. what it was said to import.
To clear up this point, he had a clause to Mr. Powys moved a clause, “ That no- offer, which would put matters on a prothing therein contained shall be construed per footing; if ministers really meant what to be piracy, but what is committed on the the title of the Bill imported, and what high seas.” This clause, if agreed to, he had been so often declared by the hon. apprehended, would be the means of quiet- gentleman who moved the amendment the ing the minds of a great number of in preceding day, they could not decently nocent people, and of removing those ter refuse it. A person never out of Engrors which must be suspended over their land, could not be guilty of high treason heads, should the Bill pass into a law. By committed in America. If not guilty of an Act of George the 1st, it was enacted, high treason in America, but perhaps in that trading or corresponding with pirates, Great Britain, why not hold that language shall be adjudged felony, without benefit in the Bill; and add, or in Great Briof clergy, according to the statutes of the tain?' Besides, it would be preposterous 98th Hen. 8, c. 15, and the 11th and 12th to continue the Bill under the name of a Wul. c. 7, so would bartering, dealing, Bill, to secure or detain, on suspicion, furnishing them with stores, &c. Now, if persons guilty of committing high treason before it was declared by this Bill, that in America, when, by construction of law, the depredations committed by the Ame- it was meant to include Great Britain. ricans, on our trading vessels and our pro- He therefore moved the following clause : perty at sea, was piracy; it should appear " That no person shall be secured or deor be made a ground of suspicion or accu- tained, under, or by virtue of this Act, for
high treason, or suspicion of high treason, Act, would constitute one complete ofunless such person shall be charged to fence. The fact might not be criminal, in have been locally resident in his Majesty's the first instance, and become criminal af said colonies or plantations in North Ame- terwards, from its consequences, and yet, rica, at the time he shall be charged with, by a fair and justifiable construction of or suspected of committing high treason." law, be deemed one complete act. He
Mr. Cornwall quoted several cases, in was of opinion, therefore, that the clause which persons had been charged with acts would destroy one of the main purposes of of treason, committed in one place, though the Bill, and could never answer any purit afterwards came out in proof that said pose of protecting the innocent, though it treason had been committed in another. might effectually serve tbe purpose of Such was the case of the publication of skreening the guilty. the imputed libel of the seven bishops, in The House divided on Mr. Powys's sethe reign of James the 2nd. It was cond clause ; For it 14; Against it 49. proved at the trial, that the petition was drawn up at Lambeth, in the county of February 17. On the order for the third Surry, at the archbishop's Palace, and the reading of the Bill for suspending the publication was in the council-chamber or Habeas Corpus Act, drawing-room, at St. James's, where the
Mr. Dunning said, he had a clause to petition was presented. The offence was propose, which lie trusted would appear charged to have been committed in Surry, of singular importance to the House ; though, in fact, the publication, which and which, he hoped, would meet with could only constitute the offence, was the approbation of a considerable majority. committed in Middlesex. The exception It was of infinite importance itself, but was, therefore, taken by the bishop's became still of greater, in the reception counsel, as a ground of justification, that it was likely to meet with from a certain no such offence was committed; for that set of men, who on the present occasion the writing the petition in itself
, was an thought fit to differ from their friends. innocent act, that it was the publication The clause would, to borrow a phrase from that constituted the crime; and that, con- a celebrated political writer, prove a test sequently, the defendants ought to be dis- or trial of spirits, whereby the public at charged. Yet, he said, the court were large, would be enabled to decide on the unanimous, that the writing the libel at political principles of the learned gentle. Lambeth, and publishing it at St. James's, man who framed the Bill, and his other constituted effectively but one act, on learned friend near him (the Attorney and which the plea was over-ruled. Mr. Solicitor General.)
Mr. Solicitor General.) It would besides Cornwall dwelt, likewise, a considerable shew, whether those gentlemen were setime, on the case of lord Preston, early in rious, or whether the different conversathe reign of William the 3rd. There it tions they held within these walls, for some appeared that treasonable papers and cor- days past, ought to be held in the light of respondence found on his lordship, were the ingenious exercises of ingenious men, composed in London ; that he was endea- willing to shew their talents in the science vouring to escape to France, but was taken of parliamentary controversy, the chief aboard a smack, or fishing vessel, hired excellence of which consisted in a knack for the purpose, down near the Nore, on of giving words and phrases, any interthe coast of Kent; when the vessel being pretation but their natural and obvious searched, the treasonable papers were The clause he had to offer, would found concealed, as his lordship had not appear as matter of record, that would time to testroy them. His lordship was admit of no qualification whatever. It indicted for an offence committed in Mid would bring the friends of the Bill to dlesex, though the publication, or dis- the bar; they must either leap over it, covery, was manifestly in Kent. A si- or flatly and directly refuse it. The promilar plea was offered, but it was over. fessed father of the Bill (the Attorney ruled on the same ground; that the writ- General) had, as he conceived very proper. ing and publishing was all one act. In ly, given it the title of a Bill for appre. the present case, therefore, he contended, hending and committing persons charge though the offence might have been com- ed with or suspected of committing high mitted here, by a person who had never treason in America, or on the high seas, been out of this kingdom, yet its opera. or of the crime of piracy. The preamble tion in America, within the words of the of the Bill spoke the same language, and such every body, both within and without mained the same. On the report, the doors, supposed the Bill to be intended, language of administration seemed to be till it came to be examined, unless such as somewhat softened; but was so only in were in the secret. He had himself fallen words. They said, generally, that both into the same error; but when it came to sides of the House meant the same thing ; be debated on the second reading, he was that they only differed about the means; astonished to find the title of the Bill, and and that, if the effectual operation of the the preamble likewise, totally at variance Bill was secured, they were totally indiffewith the first enacting clause; for it was rent as to the mode. To bring them then manifest, that any man, though never in to a test of their sincerity, he had framed America, or on sea, might be imprisoned a clause that would prove totally unobjecby the Bill, for suspicion of crimes, stated tionable, if they meant what they prespecifically to have been committed in tended; if they did not, then a refusal on America, and on sea; nay, more, that it their part, would prove what he had all might be in the power of the most igno- along suspected, but which he hoped to be rant or servile trading magistrate, to order mistaken in, that is, that the present Bill, a warrant to apprehend, and follow it im- under the popular pretext of punishing mediately with another, to commit the treason in America, was really designed person so apprehended to any place of to lodge a dictatorial power in the crown; confinement known or specially appointed which power, both in point of precedent within the wide circuit of his Majesty's and exercise, would enable ministers to doininions, in any one of the four quarters effect schemes of the most pernicious and of the globe. He should not take up the unconstitutional complexion; while in the time of the House, in giving a history of first instance, it would annihilate, at least all the disputes and altercation on the suspend; all the fundamental functions and amendments proposed or rejected in the legal powers of the constitution. He course of the preceding week. The con- therefore moved the clause in the follow. duct of bis learned friends was however ing words: “ Provided also, and be it curious. They did not directly deny the hereby declared, that nothing herein coninferences now drawn, particularly towards tained is intended, or shall be construed the latter end; they dealt chiefly in gene- to extend, to the case of any other prisoner,
ral assertions; they explained what the or prisoners, than such as have been in ' law was before the present Bill was some one of the colonies beforementioned,
brought in, and insisted that the Act was or on the high seas, at the time or times, intended to apply only to the punishment of the offence or offences, wherewith he or of certain specific offences; but the whole they shall be charged.” code of criminal jurisprudence was not to Mr. Cornwall said, it was at no time be broken through, merely to satisfy the the desire of administration to seek for doubts of speculative, men, who argued | unconstitutional powers; or if they should upon possibilities, that never were in the obtain them, to employ them to oppressive contemplation of those who were con purposes.
He contended strenuously, vinced of the necessity of the present that the title and preamble of the Bill were measure. Sweeteners were likewise added, not at variance with the first, or any other to render the whole more palatable; the enacting clause. The whole Bill was virtues of the sovereign, and the integrity meant to punish offences committed in of his servants, were balanced against America, or on the high seas. If by any such idle delusory fears, in order to still criminal correspondence, or assistance the apprehensions of those who might from hence, it should reach people not think the American war a very just and locally resident in America, he presumed, necessary war, and yet look upon the Bill the most zealous opposer of the Bill in to be a very bad Bill. Such, as well as he that House, would not wish to defeat its could recollect, was the obvious import of operation. It was directed only against the Bill, and the general conduct of those the guilty; and if an innocent person who brought it in, and were intrusted with should suffer a temporary inconvenience, carrying it through the House. A great it must be on the ground of general good, parade was made in the committee, of which, since he ever heard any thing of an amendment moved by an hon. gen- government, he always understood to be a tleman, (sir Grey Cooper); but the Bill, sufficient plea for desiring new and extraas to the material point, that of contra ordinary powers. However, as the learned dicting the title and preamble, still re- gentleman had expressed such a jealousy
of the Bill in its present amended state, rather to have been, “out of Europe,” and such anxiety for the liberty of his fel- than “out of the realm,” if the former low-subjects, which he seemed to think so words, moved by my honourable friend, much depended on the fate of the present “ in some or one of his Majesty's colonies clause, he should in turn put a test to the before-mentioned, or on the high seas," learned gentleman, in order to be con. were rejected. But why, Sir, are words vinced whether his intentions correspond so clear and explicit to be changed, unless ed precisely with his declarations. He for some dark purpose, which dares not be then moved, that the words “ in some or avowed? one of the colonies, or on the high seas," This new clause, Sir, has happily narbe left out, and that there be inserted in- rowed the objects of the Bill, but in no stead thereof, “ out of the realm ;" and degree narrowed the proofs, or the nature that at the conclusion of the clause, as of the evidence necessary. I shall thereoriginally moved, there be added, “ or of fore give the Bill my hearty negative, for which they shall be suspected.”
I will never consent to increase the enorMr. Wilkes. I cannot continue silent, mous power of the crown, at the expence while the fate of so important a Bill as of the freedom of the subject. I will not the present is depending before this House. arm ministers with an unconstitutional Administration at first brought in this power, dangerous to the people. In the Bill, in a form which gave a very general preamble to the Bill, it is said, “ Many and just alarm, to the city, to the nation. persons have been seized and taken, who If it had passed in that form, in my opi- are expressly charged or strongly susnion the whole kingdom would have been pected of such treasons and felonies, and put under an interdict of law. The per many more such persons may be hereafter sonal liberty of every man in this island so seized and taken :" in the first enacting had been precaricus and insecure, depend-clause of the Bill, and throughout, the ing solely on the will of the minister. The word “strongly” is omitted, and the spirit of the Bill, in its original state, was slightest suspicion may warrant the com. oppression and tyranny through every part mitment. The words are, “ All and every of the empire. In this state the Bill has person or persons, who have been or shall continued till this day. By the patriotic hercafter be seized or taken in the act of zeal of an hon. gentleman of the law (Mr. high treason, committed in any of his Ma. Dunning) a clause has just been offered, jesty's colonies or plantations in America, and adopted by way of rider, as it is called, or on the high seas, or in the act of piracy, in this stage of the Bill, which gives peace or who are or shall be charged with, or of mind and security, in some degree, to suspected of, the crime of high treason, every subject resident in this kingdom. committed in any of the said colonies, or Persons under this description are at on the high seas.”
It is therefore appalength declared pot to be the objects of rent, that a mere pretended suspicion, or this Bill. I speak of the clause, Sir, even foolish credulity, or determined villainy, as pretended to be amended by an hon. in a wretched, ignorant, mercenary tool of gentleman on the Treasury.bench (Mr. a ministerial magistraté, may still render Cornwall.) His words, however, Sir, ss out the objects of this Bill, who are the inhaof the realm,” are too loose and ambigu- bitants of above half the empire, liable to ous, by no means descriptive enough of imprisonment, and imprisonment without the persons, who are declared by adminis. bail or mainprize; for that cruelty was tration not designed to be the objects of still determined to be exercised by the the Bill. The Bill is professed to relate committee, notwithstanding the humane only to treasons committed in North motion of my worthy colleague, to leave America, by persons actually resident in out those obnoxious words. There is not that quarter of the globe. 'Gentlemen, a syllable in the Bill of the degree of prohowever, on a tour of business to Ireland, bability attending the suspicion. The or of pleasure to France or Flanders, or Bill, greatly amended as it has been, does even on a fishing party on our own coasts, not even now require an oath, nor that beyond low-water mark, are acknowledged the parties should be heard in their own to be “out of the realm," and may be justification, nor confronted with the wit. brought within the Act, even as it now nesses, nor does it mention that two wit. stands. An opening is still left for public nesses should be deemed necessary for the or private revenge and oppression to ope- colourable ground of a commitment for so rate. The expression, therefore, ought high a crime as treason in America, as is the law in other cases within the kingdom. the immediate eye and direction of miIs it possible, Sir, to give more despotic nisters, is guilty of such an illegal compowers to a bashaw of the Turkish empire ? mitment, what is not to be dreaded from What security is left for the devoted ob- the base engines of power, in the more rejects of this Bill against the malice of a mote counties ? Is it possible, Sir, for too prejudiced individual, who, if he is pro- great caution to be used, by enforcing in secuted afterwards for so flagrant an'abuse the body of a Bill, which is to suspend the of power, will certainly be indemnified, Habeas Corpus Act, the necessity of an probably rewarded, by a most arbitrary oath of two witnesses to the charge, and administration Actions may indeed be of their being confronted with the pribrought against the offender, but we know soner? all damages recovered, however great, are The case of Plat, Sir, gives us an in. paid by the people, not by the party. stance of another violation of the law, an Even in the case of petit treason, by an evasion of the Habeas Corpus Act, that express Act of Edward 6, no person can holy statute, which ministers hold in abbe convicted, but on the oath of two suf- horrence, and are allowed in England to ficient and lawful witnesses, or confession, evade with impunity, in America to suswillingly without violence. So careful, pend for very near a twelvemonth. The Sir, were our wise ancestors of protecting history of it is this: Plat was first confined the liberty of the meanest subject. to the Antelope for three months, then re
This case, Sir, demands our strictest moved to the Boreas for four weeks, then attention and vigilance from what we daily carried on board the Pallas, and in her experience of the conduct of those under- brought in irons to England. On her ar. ling officers of every ininister, who traffic rival at Portsmouth he was removed on and deal out justice, under the colour of board the Centaur for three weeks, then legal magistracy. There is now, Sir, ac. to the Barfleur. On the 4th of January, tually in Newgate, an American merchant, an Habeas Corpus was obtained, directed named Ebenezer Smith Plat, who stands to the captain of the Barfleur; but before committed so lately as the 23d of last it could be served, an express was sent January, charged with high treason at from the Treasury, by their solicitor, and Savannah in the colony of Georgia in Plat was removed again to the Centaur, North America. He is committed by the before the Habeas Corpus could arrive well-known justice Addington, and, as I at Portsmouth. The return to the Habeas am informed, was not allowed to see any Corpus was thus eluded, but on his friends' of the witnesses against him, nor even to being determined to sue out another, Plat hear their affidavits read. He had before was at last sent to the capital, and in the been tried on the same charge, at Kingston illegal mode, which I have stated, was in Jamaica, and acquitted. I never saw committed to Newgate. I speak, Sir, in him, but I have read an attested copy of the hearing of many gentlemen, who ought the warrant of his commitment. He is to contradict me, if I have advanced a charged generally with high treason, which single circumstance not founded in truth. I take to be an illegal commitment. I do Can ministers, Sir, who are capable of thus not pretend, Sir, to a deep knowledge of trampling on our most sacred laws, be too the law. I have only the attentive read narrowly watched, too deeply suspected, ing of a private gentleman. I build my too strongly guarded against ? Do we not legal faith on some known and approved owe it to the people to demand every se-, authorities, a Blackstone, a Burn, and a curity from the sanction of an oath, the very few others. Those authors agree, number of witnesses, the confronting of that every warrant of commitment ought them with the prisoner, the hearing him to set forth the cause specially, that is to in his own justification, and other circumsay, not for treason or felony in general, stances, of which not the least trace is to but for treason in compassing the death be found in this criminal, arbitrary Bill? of the king, or levying war against his Is the personal liberty of the subject to majesty in the realm, or counterfeiting rest on the mere pretended suspicion of a the king's coin ; or felony, for stealing man, who acts under orders of a professed the goods of such a one to such a value, ministerial agent, ever ready to make his and the like. A court may then judge, court to power by the sacrifice of public whether the offence is such, for which a virtue and innocence, whose incapacity prisoner ought to be admitted to bail. If perhaps can only be eqnalled by his mean. ehen a justice, living in the capital, underness, and sordid lust of gain ?