Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER II.

PROCEEDINGS RELATIVE TO LAST YEAR'S DISTURBANCES.

Repeal of Act suspending the Habeas Corpus-in the Lords-in the Commons.

-Secret Papers relative to the internal State of the Country, presented to both Houses.Committees appointed to examine and inquire into them.-Petitions from Sufferers under the late Suspension Act-Motions on the subject in both Houses.Reports of the Secret Committees.Bill of Indemnity-in the Lords -inthe Commons. - Motions relative to the employment of Spies and Informers -by Mr FazakerleyMr Philips.

The first Parliamentary prelimina- that the whole of their Lordships' prories being adjusted, Ministers lost no ceedings in passing the act for sustime in redeeming their pledge, by pro- pending the Habeas Corpus had rest. posing the immediate repeal of the ed upon garbled and unfair evidence, act for suspending the Habeas Cor- he must state that he could not be sapus. This measure originated in the tisfied with the mere repeal of that act, House of Lords, where, on the 28th and that he thought an inquiry into January, Lord Sidmouth presented the grounds on which it had been passthe Bill, at the same time moving, that ed ought to be instituted. No prothe standing order relative to the pro- ceeding could have been more dangegress of public bills should be sus- rous to the true interests of the coun. pended, that there might be no delay try, than that to which their Lord. to its passing. Before the second read- ships had given their sanction on eviing, however, Lord Holland rose and dence so totally imperfect. The right stated, that though he certainly did which had been suspended, he wished not mean to oppose or obstruct the to remind them, was not one which motion, he yet conceived that it ought had been granted by any act of Parto be attended with an inquiry into the liament whatever. The personal ligrounds on which the measure had berty of the people was no concession. been adopted, and the erroneous and It was a right antecedent to any staimperfect evidence which, as he con- tute, and equal to the right of their ceived, had been offered by his Majes- Lordships to vote in that house, or ty's ministers. They had been either to the right of the King to sit on the actually the tools of wicked and de- throne. The mere repeal of such an signing men, or had been led away by act was not sufficient, without some the desire of obtaining undue power proof, which would demonstrate to to themselves. Believing, as he did, posterity that they considered them. selves pledged to guard against such country did not rest on assertion : they unjust encroachments. During the were already proved. The magistrates time of the Popish plot, of the Rye- and persons best informed in the coun. house plot, or of any other plot, it ty of Leicester, stated, on their own had not been thought necessary to de- knowledge, that the passing of the prive the subject of personal liberty. Suspension Act had produced tranquilNothing which had passed in Derby lity in manufacturing districts where or in Scotland appeared to him to af- the greatest alarm for the peace of the ford the least justification of the mea- country had previously existed. In sure ; nor, if the country was in bet- another place, where there had been a ter circumstances now than last year, more formidable manifestation of trea. could this be considered as at all aris son, the good effects of the measure ing out of the suspension. It was no had been still more apparent—he meant longer asserted that blasphemous pro- that insurrection, in consequence of ductions were in circulation ; but if which a bill of indictment had been they had been put down, was it by the found against the offenders who were threefold prosecution of Mr Hone? tried at Derby. On that occasion, ten He wished not to justify that species of the persons accused fled; four were of publication, but he did not believe sentenced to suffer death ; and in all, there was a man in the country so thirty-one confessed themselves guilty weak as to believe, that these parodies of treason, some of whom were transa would ever have been questioned had ported, and the remainder pardoned. they been directed against the oppo. These men, besides making a confesnents of government. This had been sion of their guilt, gave certain infor. the case with regard to parodies of a mation, that an insurrection of a much much more indecent nature, made up- more formidable nature than that in on the words of Scripture itself. He which they had been engaged was in trusted, if a committee were appoint. contemplation, and would infallibly ed, it would be one that would make have taken place had not the Habeas an effective inquiry, and not take up- Corpus Act been suspended. Although on trust the garbled and imperfect many of the disturbers of the public statement of ministers.

peace were in a mean situation, and Lord Sidmouth expressed surprise without any adequate resources to acat the course taken by the noble ford. complish their objects, yet they might In justification of the act of last Ses- have had the power of giving rise to sion, be referred to the report of the serious commotions. In fact, howcommittee, which, he assured the ever, many of them were far from beHouse, had been furnished with the ing men of contemptible talents, but most ample means of judging. He possessed powers which enabled them conceived the benefit to be great which to exercise an extensive influence over had been derived from the suspension the lower orders. In regard to Mr act. There never was a greater con- Hone, ministers had been repeatedly trast exhibited by the country than reproached, both in and out of doors, that which the comparison of its

pre- for taking no legal measures to repress sent state with that of last year afford- the tide of irreligious publications. ed; and he would now maintain, and This prosecution had not been prompt. if the occasion should arrive, would ed by any hypocritical motives, but prove, that the act of last Session had appeared peculiarly called for by the mainly contributed to this result. The circumstances of the times. Repeated effects it had had in many parts of the opportunities would occur of discussing this subject, and he would now gally demanded. He had drawn up announce the intention of the Prince a clause to meet the difficulty, which Regent to lay before their Lordship, he should propose in the proper papers touching the internal state of stage. the country, which would be disposed The Attorney General insisted that of in the manner their Lordships might this question was one which ought decide.

rather to come before a court of jusAfter this conversation, all the dif- tice. There were often cases in which, ferent processes through which the though there might not exist grounds bill was to pass were hurried over in sufficient to bring a man to trial, it the course of this single day, and it might be important to have him bound was sent down to the Commons.

to appear on a certain day. In this On the following day, the_29th, case, to take only his own recognithe bill was introduced into the Lower zance, without demanding bail, was House. It was received nearly in the an indulgence rather than an injury. same manner, the only distinctive fea- He conceived, that magistrates, in ture of the debate being a motion made such circumstances, had a right to by Lord Folkestone on the subject of exact recognizances ; and this right the recognizances, into which a num. had been exercised in all former simiber of persons apprehended under the lar periods. But the fact was, that no act, had been made to enter previous objection would have been made to to their liberation. Something was the release of these men, and the disdue to those persons, and the bill charge of their recognizances long ought, therefore, to be more than a since, but for their determination to repeal. As far as he was able to learn, prefer in court objections to the right and he had taken every opportunity of which had been thus exercised. - In a examining into the subject, it appeared conversation I myself had with some to him that all those persons taken of them, they stated, that they had up under the Suspension Act, who objections on points of law to urge had been discharged on their recogni, when brought up; and I, as well as zances, were unfairly dealt with. There others of his

Majesty's servants, thought was no law authorising magistrates to it best to let their recognizances stand demand such recognizances from them. over, that they might avail themselves These men had, he apprehended, been of the opportunity

to discuss the point. very ill used, and might be exposed to Whether I have acted rightly or not further ill usage without any remedy, in this respect, I will leave to the reif provision was not made in the bill sult; but I have the satisfaction to now before the House. There existed reflect, that it cannot be said I have no proper legal authority for binding precluded these persons from making these persons on their recognizance to use of the advantages they imagined appear on a certain day. A recogni. they possessed." zance could not be demanded from a A long and desultory conversation man, without an accusation against followed. Mr Brougham observed, the him, on the oath of some individual persons detained under the Suspension whom he might have an opportunity of Act were bound on their recognizance confronting. He did conceive, that by to appear in court on a certain day, that merely repealing the Suspension Act, is to say, the bill would still be in force they would not be going far enough, against them. Various things might and that a clause ought to be intro. be demanded from men confined un. duced for the purpose of vacating the der such circumstances, as the condi. recognizances which had been so ille. tion on which they could obtain their liberation-they might be compelled consideration. In fact, they were unto pay L.100—they might be asked derstood to be justificatory documents, to go down on their knees and beg the destined to prove at once the necessity minister's pardon-or they might be which had existed for the late suspenasked to give recognizances to appearsion of the Habeas Corpus Act, and on a certain day in court, and from the propriety with which government time to time afterwards ministers had had used the powers intrusted to them. chosen to demand a recognizance ; and, These papers were presented to the with few exceptions, it was deemed House of Lords, by Lord Sidmouth, advisable to accede to their demand. on the 20 February, and to the House Could any man, however, say, that of Commons, by Lord Castlereagh, they had the power to demand such re- on the 3d. cognizances, and to detain those indi- On the 5th, Lord Castlereagh mo. viduals who refused to grant them, ved that the papers should be referred without the Suspension Act?Whythen to a secret committee. It would be these recognizances necessarily flowed premature, he cbserved, at this stage, from the Suspension Act, and ought to to enter into any discussion upon the be vacated by the repeal. The Solic state of the country. He denied that citor-General, however, replied: “The the papers in question were intended power created by this act was the to lay the foundation of any specific power of preventing the accused being measure. He certainly admitted, that brought to trial in the usual course of there was an intention of proposing an proceeding. If this act had never act of indemnity, not as destined to passed, it would have been as compe- grow out of the report of the committent to the parties to dispute the le- tee, but as necessarily arising from the gality of the recognizances, as if it former law. Much of the information were to continue until the time of try- on which the government had acted ing the question. We are now dis- was necessarily such as could not be cussing what does not concern the disclosed, consistently with the safety merits of the Suspension Act, nor flow of individuals, and with good faith to out of its enactment.” At length, the them. Magistrates had often been Attorney-General stated, that his de- called on to act, for the sake of the clining to discharge the recognizan- public peace, on information which ces had arisen solely from his desire they could not justify on the letter of to afford to the parties the wished for the law. He should distinctly avow, opportunity of having their objections that a bill of indemnity was necessary, legally argued. Since this was made after such powers had been intrusted a matter of complaint, he had no sort to a government; and this claim

might of objection to discharge them all be strengthened by, though not foundforthwith. Upon this understanding ed on, the report of a committee. Lord Folkstone withdrew his objec. That committee would also shew the tion to the clause, when the bill was public what the state of the counread a third time, and passed. try was; for, though the prosperity

The repeal of the Suspension Act of our commerce and the vigilance of was followed up by ministers with the magistracy had put an end to the the presentation, on the part of the great mass of danger, it would be a Prince Regent, of secret papers, re- false view of the state of the country lating to the internal state of the to suppose that the danger was at an country. Under this title Parlia- end. ment was invited to take them into Mr Tierney said, there could be no

VOL. XI. PART 1.

B

objection to refer to a committee any examined all of them with every attenpapers presented by the crown ; but tion in his power—yet, after the mos it appeared to him an unheard of pro- careful and impartial examination, he ceeding, to present these without any would solemnly declare, without any accompanying message or explanation. party bias, that not one case occurred

There came down simply a bag ; call. which in his mind shewed the suspened, indeed, in the votes, a bag relating sion to be necessary. If one man was to the internal state of the country; detained one hour beyond the time but there was nothing on the outside which the safety of the country reto shew this.

I view with a proper quired, the ministers were guilty of an jealousy every thing that comes from abuse of power. The right honour. the throne, and especially when it able gentleman had to justify the mi.comes in this mysterious manner, and nisters on another point-the employaccompanied by a more mysterious ment of spies. If there was one ihing speech from the noble Secretary of more disgusting than another to every State ; and I think I have reason to honest man in the country, it was the suspect there is something at the bot- publicity with which the ministers had tom of it which has not been owned. justified the acts of those infernalscounThe truth of the matter is this :—The drels, who liad been employed for the Ministers know, that by their proceed- purpose of procuring information. A ings in the last year, they have, for the right honourable gentleman had prolast months, been making out a prima mised to satisfy them that no agent of facie case against themselves in the government had done such acts. God mind of every man in the country; grant that the right honourable genand now they want to have a case made tleman might succeed, for the credit out for them, and that under the sanc- of the age ; but he could not whitetion of a committee of secrecy. The wash spies, or detach them from evernoble Lord, with the candour of which lasting infamy! This was a task behe gives such frequent examples, says yond the reach of his splendid oratory, he should have no objection to a bill if ministers were satisfied that they of indemnity. No one will doubt, could conclusively establish their inwithout this candour, that he wishes nocence, why resort to the hackneyed for a bill of indemnity if he can get it; mode of a committee of their own and to this end he proposes a commit- friends. No one could doubt what tee, chosen by ballot, to sit on the pa. would be the result. This committee pers in this bag. Why, this is one of would first praise the ministers for the coarsest juggles which had been their wisdom and humanity, and next ever played off upon mankind.” Mr propose an act to shelter them from T. insisted, that the Secretary of State any legal responsibility-thus asserthad not, as he ought, merely taken up ing at once that ministers were right, persons of influence and extensive con- and that they ought to be sheltered nexion, but had gone, as it were, from the consequences of being wrong. through the country with a drag.net, But if ministers themselves were contaking up whole classes of men. Alarm scious of having been right, nay, if had been the daily bread of admini- they were not conscious of being guilty, stration : but the country were now why proceed as they had done? They better informed. He solemnly decla. had, in fact, filed a bill of indictment red, upon his honour, that after all the against themselves, probably with a events and trials that took place during view to prevent others from preferring the recess and he had considered and an indictment against them; and then

« AnteriorContinuar »