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cessity would, with me, I confess, have been conclusive against renewing these extraordinary powers now.
But, we are told that we are not to judge of the necessity of the first bill of suspension, of which we have already made trial, by the consideration of whether or no the cases which have arisen might have been adequately met by the application of the ancient laws of the realm. My hon. and learned friend says that much has been done in the way of prevention, much in the way of intimidation, by the former suspension, and we are told that, without it, we might, before now, have had a rebellion in the country. Now, Sir, I think that, in every case, it is not too much to leave the onus probandi distinctly on those who assert a strong affirmative proposition. It remains with them to show how the safety of the state has been preserved by suspending its constitution.
But on what evidence is it that we are called upon to give credence to the existence of such a state of things in this country as can justify such an assertion? ai can justify such means having originally been had recourse to? but above all, as can justify, after the miserable success of the original suspension, the repeating such a proposition in the face of the representatives of a free country? Are we to judge of the evidence by the terms of the report now before us? Are we to judge of it by the published report of that trial which has lately reflected such deep disgrace upon his majesty's ministers, 1 mean the trial of the elder Watson? A trial which was so managed on the part of government as (by the enormous folly and wickedness of hazarding an unsupported indictment for treason where you might doubtless have convicted and punished for riot and sedition), so managed, I say, as to raise a few paltry incendiaries almost to the dignity of political martyrdom. On whatever information we take it, we are to rest our solemn belief of this state of tilings mainly upon the almost unsupported evidence of the basest, the falsest, the most treacherous of human kind, I mean the hired informers of the state!—wretches whose trade it is to create disaffection in order to betray it; who, before they can be your witnesses, must have gone through all the odious, unnatural, process of associating with traitors, of encouraging and abetting and fortifying their treasons, in order to sell their blood at a better price!—
Can such men as these be believed, when they stand forward (matchless impudence!) as the accusers of the people of England ?—By what motive can you tempt such men to tell the truth ?—By what form of adjuration cftn you bind the consciences of such men in the presence of Almighty God? [Hear, hear!].
My hon. and learned friend has quoted, on this point, the opinion and practice of my lord Falkland, as set forth in lord Clarendon's immortal eulogy on the unspotted character of his departed friend—I rejoice that he has so done. The record in which those sentiments are found is memorable, almost as memorable as the sentiments themselves—I willingly leave the subject of hired informers and spies to be judged by the opinion and practice of that truly gallant, amiable, and exemplary man; and I mean it not offensively, if 1 say that I am not afraid to set :d issue, on the one hand, the authority of lord Falkland and the eulogy of Clarendon, with, on the other hand, the authority of his majesty's present ministers and tV"2 eulogy of my hon. and learned friend.
An hon. gentleman on the other side has said that the opinions and judgment of the people of England are on the side of ministers. He has talked of appealing on the subject of this suspension to the opinion of the people of England. To the opinion of the people of England? Good God, Sir, do we not know that the people of England dare not express any free op?nion at all? We know that we have gagged their speech by our sedition bills, we know that we have fettered their press by ■ our ex-qfficio informations; we know that we have made every magistrate in the country the supreme judge and summary punisher of blasphemy and sedition. We have made it sedition to tnlk contemptuously of his majesty's present government, and, lastly, to fill the measure of intolerance and oppression, we add insult to it by appealing to the free opinion of a disfranchised people.
There is, and there must be expected to be, a wide difference between the allegiance a man bears to a free government (an allegiance implanted by nature and sanctioned by education) and the allegiance demanded by a government which, if - it-suspends the constitution without good cause, can, in return for allegiance, give neither protection nor freedom. There is in the English people a love and admiration of the course of public justice in this country, which supports and strengthens the law. These feelings, however, may not be continued under a state and dispensation of things in which the course of criminal justice is stopped to the very spring, under a government, which, instead of ruling by the laws, rules by a system against all law, and against ail morals,—a system which can only be enforced through the agency of all that is most perjured, most treacherous, and most base in human society.
Sir, for my own part, I confess, I cannot respect the qualities of an administration (nor can 1 even pity its distress), which cannot enforce obedience to public justice, which cannot suppress immorality and sedition, nor keep the people within the pale of the law, except by claiming extraordinary and unconstitutional powers, powers of themselves capable of great abuse, and in their essence highly dangerous to public liberty. My hon. and learned friend says, that he believes that public liberty was never more generally felt or understood in this country, than within the last hundred and thirty years. Sir, I will myself go further, and say that I believe that, in spite of all the enactments of this reign, public liberty has never been more generally understood, nor more fully enjoyed in this country than during that period. But, on the other hand, I believe as conscientiously that public liberty was never in greater danger than at this very hour.
We have heard much of sedition, and much of the inflamed and disaffected state of the country. Much as these topics have, I think, been exaggerated, by the manifest fears of some, and by the equally manifest interests of others, thus much, at least, for my own part, I believe. I believe that there are some very dangerous spirits abroad (besides those disgraceful agents of government) busy, perhaps, but too successfully in poisoning the public mind, and weakening the first general principles of social order. But, if I believe this, if I see immorality and sedition gaining ground among the people, I look to the government of the country, not only as responsible for the issue, but as guilty of the fact. I look to ministers, whose evil administration, whose unfeeling profusion on the one hand, whose boundless corruption on the other, have brought the people to such a condition of distress by the former, of immorality Jt>y the latter, that they are hut too well
prepared to receive any system that madness can invent, or any doctrines that wickedness can recommend; With respect to the wicked and visionary deluders of the people, be they wicked, or be they only visionary, or be they both, I will say, that no one who hears me more deeply than 1 do abhors their practices, nor more fervently deprecates their success. But were the case a thousand times worse than it is, were it capable of being shown (which God Almighty forbid), that we are now placed in the dilemma between popular commotion on the one hand, and on the other a continued suspension of our rights, I think that even at that dreadful issue, even in that awful alternative, I should be speaking in the spirit at least of the British constitution in saying that I should prefer, as the lesser evil, public disquiet to the risk of freedom so long suspended that it may never be restored, —that I had rather see my country revolutionized than see it enslaved—.[Hear, hear! from government]. I repeat it.—» I had rather see my country revolutionized, than see it enslaved [loud cheers from opposition].
It was said, some time ago in this session, that we had already parted with enough of our liberty. It was said by a noble lord, whose name is synonymous in this country with public virtue and old English love of liberty, if the carrying his proposition a little further can be said to be differing from him, in thus much only, Sir, do I differ from that noble lord, —I think that we have already parted with a great deal too much of our liberty. We have parted with too much of our liberty in our statutes and institutions, but,—what is, in my opinion, much more calamitous, what is fraught with infinitely greater peril in its probable results,—we have parted with our liberty in many of our useful and virtuous prejudices > we have parted with our liberty in much of our anxious care of it, in much of our pure and jealous love. I fear the tide of public opinion has rather set the other way. The sensibility of the country is morbidly awake to tha dangers of popular commotion, but lamentably cold to those of arbitrary power; and I fear, from the example of the past, and from the tendency of what is now doing, that there is in store for us a long series of years in which it will be the care of government to keep down and cxtinguish that first of virtues in a people a free spirit; and that, iq those times there will be but little of public virtue or firmness in the people to fence round and secure their privileges against the encroachments of tbeir governments.
Sir, I will trouble the House no longer; I may be visionary, I may be enthusiastic. But, God is my witness, I speak as I feel, and 1 should be a traitor indeed if, feeling as I do, I did not utter my sincere protest against what I think must be the inevitable consequences of such a system. I entirely agree in all that was so ably, so eloquently, and so impressively said the other night by my right hon. and learned friend, if he will allow me the ambition to call him so (sir Samuel Romilly,) on the bench below me. He spoke in terms not to be forgotten or disregarded; I wish I could believe, that in the awful and prophetic close of that memorable speech, he was deceived in the present state and future prospects of our country. These are tiroes which call on every gentleman, who feels rightly and warmly for the character, happiness, and freedom of his country which call on every father of a family who wishes to transmit his country's laws to his sons, as from his fathers he received them, entire, unsullied, and free, to step forward and resist, by every legal means within his power, this torrent which has broken in upon the constitution. It is in the discbarge of a solemn and imperative duty, that, with these sentiments, I must vote against this bill [loud cries of" Hear!" from opposition].
Mr. Lamb perfectly agreed with the noble lord in one sentiment which he had uttered, namely; that he would rather see the country revolutionized than enslaved; but the way to prevent the country from being enslaved was, in his opinion, to adopt such protecting measures as that under consideration. If those who thought with him were accused of exaggerating facts, and placing every thing in too strong colours, on the other band, it surely could not be said that the noble lord had understated his case. He had never undervalued the benefit of the Habeas Corpus act, and would not consent to its suspension without the strongest reason; but he could not concur with the member for Bristol, and others, in supposing that any difference between the two reports afforded a reason for not adopting the present bill. If their opinion were founded on the idea that the conspiracy described in the first
report was ripe for explosion, that had not been the foundation of his. It would be recollected, that he had laid very little stress on the report. He had given his opinion on a consideration of the spirit .of the times, and the language held at publie meetings, some of which were adjourned from time to time. What had been stated at those meetings respecting parliamentary reform, and the declarations that they were to resort to physical force, if their petitions were rejected, indicated a most dangerous spirit. In fact, the petitions which had been presented to that House were not petitions for reform but for revolution, since they prayed for annual parliaments and universal suffrage. He did not mean to say that all who signed these petitions desired a revolution; some of them might be well-meaning but mistaken enthusiasts; but he would assert that, in the general acceptation of the word, revolution must be the result of that change which annual parliaments and universal suffrage would create, and which would inevitably be followed by a military despotism. This unfortunate situation of things, arising from the spirit and temper of the times, was greatly aggravated by the manner in which the press was too generally conducted. He did not mean, in saying this, to pronounce an indiscriminate censure. He was aware that there were many instances of moderation, candour, and great ability, in the management of periodical publications; and be made much excuse for the haste in which daily papers were printed; for he believed that, in consequence of the want of time, articles frequently appeared, the insertion of which was afterwards regretted. Still however, it was reasonable to consider the press, and, in particular, that part which was printed on Sunday, as tending greatly to foster discontent in the country. With respect to the latter publications, he had long observed, that they studiously threw into the back ground all that was excellent in the law and constitution of the country, and brought forward in the most aggravated colours, every thing which could be rendered a topic of complaint. This practice, too, was always carried on with particular activity during the prorogation of parliament, when the statements which were hazarded could not experience so ready or complete a refutation. It was common to speak of the power of the press, and he admitted that its power wag great. He should, however, beg leave to remind the conductors of the press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government —" that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility." They stood in a high situation, and ought to consider justice and truth the great objects of their labours, and not yield themselves up to their interests or their passions. His friends would, perhaps reproach him with instigating ministers to curb the press; but nothing, he assured them, was farther from his mind. He was aware of the great benefit the country derived from the liberty of the press, and nothing could induce him to concur in any measure that might tend to injure it; at the same time he was free to confess, that its state had an influence on the vote he gave on the present question. With •regard to the statements in the reports, though his vote was not founded on them, he believed them to be generally correct. The Manchester plot had been ridiculed, but ridicule was no argument. It was certain the insurrection in Derbyshire had taken place as described, and that, too, before Oliver had appeared in the country. —With respect to the employment of spies and the encouragement of informers, he said, that it appeared to him to have been left upon its true ground in the last debate. It would certainly be much better, if amongst men there could be a perfect reliance and confidence of the one upon the other. It would be well if there were no fraud, no violence, no combinations against life, property, and character ; such were a consummation devoutly to be wished; but we all knew very well, that it was not to be expected under the present circumstances of human nature; therefore it would be giving fraud and crime too great an advantage, if they were to have the free use of all their own arms, and if no means of the nature alluded to were to be resorted to for their prevention and detection. Such measures ought to be taken with due circumspection; such evidence should be received with due caution, but the taking such measures and the receiving such evidence was a necessity forced upon us by the imperfection of our nature. With respect to the persons themselves who undertook such tasks there could be but one opinion. Such businesses necessarily involved in themselves falsehood, breach of trust, and a simulation of the best and most sacred
feelings of our nature for the purpose of ruining and destroying those towards whom they were put on. It must, however, be remembered, that in human society there were many functions necessary to be discharged, many duties indispensable to be fulfilled, with regard to which the only feeling was astonishment how any persons could by any means be found, or by any motive induced to fulfil and discharge them. With respect to the affair at Huddersfield, the fact had not been denied. It was admitted that there were on the night mentioned in the report on the bridge at Huddersfield a body of armed men, the number might be disputed upon, with hostile intentions against the town. Now, if Oliver instigated the rising could it be contended that he spread throughout the country the animus the rebellious feelings which induced them thus to act according to liis instigation? It was impossible—it was absurd in itself— the fact was, that those counties had been long in a disturbed and fermenting state— Luddism was a most dangerous systembe had always thought it most unwise to consider it a mere local and temporary ebullition, It was an organized plan to carry into effect measures by main force; if it were suffered to prevail for one purpose, it would very soon be transferred to others; if it were allowed to be practised in one part of the kingdom, it would very shortly spread wherever the discontented had an object to carry. It acted by intimidation and the intimidation upon the minds of the middling orders of people was great in the counties in which it had prevailed. He should be for the extension of the power proposed to be granted to ministers. If when this power expired, the alarming symptoms still continued it would then be time to adopt measures calculated to meet the particular evil. But he had always thought it more favourable to liberty to resort to a measure of this nature, extraordinary, and in its nature temporary, which must cease, and from which they would return to the constitution safe and unimpaired there to enact new laws upon new principles which they might afterwards find it very difficult and inconvenient to repeal, and which might therefore become perpetual. He could wish, however, that the term assigned for this measure were such ai would ensure an early meeting of par* liament. Nothing tended in such a degree to fix the eyes, and tranquillize the minds of the people. Much of the disturbances of the last year might be attributed to the deferring so late the meeting of parliament. Gentlemen were of far more service to their country in their places in that House, than in their respective counties, beneficial as their presence there might be—the suffering the measure to expire now would be sending forth amongst the people persons of considerable influence and of the worst intentions, who would infallibly labour to revive all that was now quiet. It would also give a general stimulus and encouragement to the spirit of disaffection, and upon the whole he gave his vote for the question with regret and anxiety, but without doubt—if he was the only leader in these disturbances, did he give the people the previous animus also? Borne gentleman expected that a plentiful harvest would restore tranquillity to the country, and he hoped it would; but if that should not be the case, it would then be necessary to consider what other remedies could be resorted to; whether some measures limited to the districts in which the disorder chiefly prevailed ought Dot to be adopted?
Mr. Macdonald rose and said :— Mr. Speaker ;—I am glad that my noble and honorable friends intervened between the learned civilian who spoke before them (Dr. Phiilimore) and myself; for, whatever pleasure I am sure I shall derive from hearing him in future, I must own that on seeing him for the first time rise in his place, 1 could not without the deepest pain be thus reminded of the loss we have sustained in his lamented predecessor; a loss which we shall indeed long feel upon every occasion, but on none so much as on an occasion like the present, so vitally interesting to the cause of public liberty —a loss too, the recollection of which, is not a little aggravated by hearing to-night from his successor, opinions and doctrines (I mean it not offensively) so widely different from those that would have found place in my late friend's breast. Sir, the learned doctor, as also my hon. friend who spoke last, occupied altogether with the alarms that possess them, have, I think, endeavoured to keep a little out of sight the full extent of the sacrifice it is proposed to us to make. What is it we are about to take away from the subject, and what to confer on the servants of the Crown? for down to the last hour of the discussion, it cannot be t
too repeatedly brought to our consideration—We are about to take from the subject the great essential, fundamental law which gives to every Englishman of every degree, the right of knowing his accusation, and of claiming his trial by his peers! We are going to confer on the Crown, on the other hand, the absolute and uncontrolled disposal of the personal liberty of every inhabitant of the British empire, subject too to no question,—for it would be a mockery not to assume, indeed it has been sufficiently admitted, that a bill of indemnity must be the necessary appendage of this measure,—why then, at least we know what we are about; we are legislating with our eyes open. But revolting as this may sound, it has been done before, we are told. It has been done before under other circumstances, then why not under present circumstances? It has been done for a few months, then why not now for a year, oi a few years? It has been done in time of war, then why not in time of peace? It has been done during the setting of parliament, then why not during a prorogation of parliament? Such is the course and the use of precedent in the case of a great popular right. Let the House look well to that. Neither my hon. friend opposite, nor either of my hon. friends on this side of the House, with all their talents and all their knowledge of historyhave been able to establish any one point of analogy between the present and any former occasion. Let it be remembered, then, that we are called upon not to follow a precedent, but to create one.
Blackstone says, " This experiment ought only to be tried in cases of extreme emergency." I have not the honour of being a member of the learned profession, but I should be glad that any lawyer would be pleased to interpret what this constitutional writer intended by an extreme emergency? Did he contemplate the case of some bands of labouring artizans, discontented because they had not work, dissatisfied only because their families had not food, or did he advert to a case of a very different description, the only sort of case in which this measure of dernier resort had ever been called in aid, the case of a disputed dynasty, a divided people, a kingdom beset by foreign and betrayed by domestic enemies? No such circumstances exist now, and will any man stand up in his place here and say, that the state is in that jeopardy whichcan alone