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that this plan is any thing but a total annihilation of their liberty?" Mr. Fox then adverted to what had fallen from Mr. Pitt refpećting “Mansfield's Act," and observed, that from this the hon. gentleman thought himself authorized to bring in a bill to prevent the difcuffion of questions on any day; and this was to be applicable to all places where money was to be taken, merely on an allegation that fuch queftion might produce mifchief. But this was not to be all-it was applicable, it feems, to, places where no money was to be taken, because in truth perfons might be admitted by means of tickets; and they must not amount to a number beyond a certain one which the minifter fhould be pleased to infert in his bill, unlefs duly licensed by a magistrate. He would ask again-Was this, or was it not, to prevent all political difcuffion whatever?

"Behold," faid he, "the ftate of a free Englishman! Before he can difcufs any topic which involves his liberty or his rights, he is to fend to a magiftrate, who is to attend the difcuffion-that magiftrate cannot prevent the meeting; but he can prevent the fpeaking, becaufe he can allege that what is faid has a tendency to difturb the peace and tranquillity of this realm. He hoped the people would be alarmed at the danger their liberties were then in, and affemble, while they might, to difcufs the best means of preferving them from the encroachments of the propofed bill, and ftate their abhorrence of the principle of this proceeding. Those who did not take this step, he fhould pronounce traitors to their country. Suppose, for a moment, that the only object which the authors of this measure have in view, be to prevent a revolution in this coun

try: if this were their real motive, how could they think to avoid fuch an evil by proceeding upon a plan which has no refpect for the liberties of the people, no esteem for the experience to be derived from a perufal of our hiftory? Good God, Sir!" exclaimed Mr. Fox, “ I have feen and have heard of revolutions in different ftates: but they were not owing to the freedom of popular opinions, nor to the facility of popular meetings; they were owing to the very reverse of thefe; therefore we ought to put ourselves in a state as different from them as poffible. But, unfortunately, the present minifters are leading us into a fituation as nearly fimilar as they can to thofe in which these revolutions happened; particularly to that which at this hour is moft interefting to us, the reign of Charles the First."

Mr. Fox next adverted to the French revolution, and defired Englifhmen to obferve, what brought about the revolution there; and they would find that it was not to be attributed to the facility of public meetings, but on the contrary to their lettres de cachet, and other means which were employed to prevent the public from manifefting their opinions on the affairs of govern

We fhould, therefore, to avoid diftrefs fimilar to theirs, avoid the cause that occafioned it. If the complaints of the people be unfounded, there can be nothing to fear; for the more vehemently and loudly they exprefs them, if they be groundless, the lefs effect will they ultimately produce; but if a ftop be put to this vent for the ill-humour of the body politic, there can be no alternative between abject fubmiffion and violent refiftance. He concluded by observing, that, if this bill was brought in,

he should think it his duty to move for a call of the house.

Mr. Stanley obferved, that if this bill paffed into a law, we were upon the eve of a revolution. He expreffed his aftonishment at the blindness of minifters in adopting fuch a measure; men were not fo blind, he faid, if laws were properly administered, and their happiness even partially fecured, as to fly in the face of evil, and risk all the danger and infecurity confequent upon public diforder. The celebrated Montefquieu had afferted that the fureft proof of a country's verging on deftruction was an enormous increase of penal laws; on that ground alone, if there were not numerous others more powerful, he fhould oppofe the bill. The exifting laws were, he thought, every way fufficient to arm the magiftrate with proper power for the fuppreffion of illegal meetings. Mr. Stanley confidered the prefent bill as a libel on the loyalty of Englifhmen, and concluded with declaring his affection for that conftitution which he had been taught from his earliest infancy to admire, and which he now feared was about to be fubverted; a measure which would make him abhor the authors of it for the remainder of his life.

Sir William Pulteney faid, gen tlemen would do well to enquire whether the prefent measure was likely to produce fuch an infringe. ment upon the privileges of the people as had been alleged, before they gave it a bad colour with the public.

measure would militate against liberty, if it prevented free difcuffion: but he thought that the bill did not go to fupprefs the liberty of the prefs, which was a mode of dif cuffing all popular and political topics, fully adequate to all the purposes of the community, and which he fhould be forry to fee furrendered. That alone was fufficient to maintain the bleifings of the conftitution; and that could not exift in a republican form of government, in an abfolute government, or in any form of government which he knew, except a limited monarchy, fuch as we happily enjoyed. In fuch inflammatory affemblies as thofe in queftion, where fedition was copiously dealt out to the multitude, there ought to be fomething to fave the public mind from imbibing the infidious poifon. The great danger of fuch meetings was, that they only heard one fide of a queftion; and their ignorance and want of information led them on to action, without confidering what ought to be faid on the other fide.

The regulations of policy and law, he faid, ought to be fuited to circumftances and times; at one time a people might be rash, as in the prefent inftance; at another, fluggish; it was then the business of legiflators to apply their remedy to the occafion. He attempted to fet Mr. Fox right in his affertion that fuch a measure was never reforted to in any free country. Even in America no meeting of the people could be held without the prefence of the magistrate. It was

Sir William agreed that the

*We fufpected this affertion to be erroneous, when it first reached our ears. We have fince made enquiry, and are informed, from good authority, that, in America, whoever pleafes may call a meeting-as many as pleafe may meet, when, where, and as often as they choofe-to difcufs whatever fubjects they think proper-and that no magiftrate has the smallest authority to interfere-unless the tacit implied authority which is vefted in every magiftrate in every country-to interpofe in cafe of acts of violence, and outrageous breaches of the public peace.


proper that fuch a power fhould be given to the magiftrate, to fet fuch affemblies to rights; if treasonable proceedings were the avowed intention of any bodies of men, treafon ought not to be tamely fuffered in this or any country. If the magiftrate exceeded his powers, he might be punished; there was no fear that liberty would be furrendered in a country where the juries were judges whether a publication was a libel or not. He gave his fupport to the bill, because he thought it would remedy an evil, without infringing the rights and liberties of the people.

Mr. N. B. Halhed expreffed his unwillingness to prefs forward to claim the notice of the house. But when a town was befieged, he faid, the most peaceful inhabitant muft come forward to handle the mufquet or line the battery; he had long contented himself in the filent enjoyment of the ineftimable privileges of a free-born Englishman. He difagreed with the majority of the houfe with refpect to the war: but there he stopt. He approved of the first proclamation, offering a great reward for the apprehenfion of those who so notoriously infulted the king in his way to parliament. If any flagitious mifcreant had been feen to throw a stone at the king's carriage, the investigation ought to have been followed up with the utmoft degree of exactnefs; but he appealed to the breaft of every gentleman in that houfe, whether, with this clue to a perfect knowledge of the cafe, it would not have been more proper to have purfued that investigation upon the grounds of information upon oath, than to have turned fhortly round into a totally new path of research, and fhifted the fufpicion to a quite different quarter. He owned, that when he faw the third proclamation,

the object of their prefent difcuffion, he was furprised and alarmed. Becaufe a riotous and starving mob infulted his majefty, and appeared to aim at his life on a certain day,a mob evidently exafperated by perfonal fufferings, calling to the common father of his people for peace and bread,-are their outrages to be attributed to a peaceable affembly of perfons, whose behaviour was in every respect tranquil and exemplary,-who, the day before, had been convened to deliberate on the means of legally reftoring their political rights? There was not the flighteft fymptom, or the most diftant hint infinuated, that those mean and despicable perfons who infulted his majefty on the first day of the feffions, had been feen at the peaceable meeting held near Copenhagen houfe. He had no hefi tation in declaring that the alarm, fo induftriously fpread in the latter end of 1792, against the different focieties united for the purpose of procuring a parliamentary reform, was very consistent and natural to an administration who were about to adopt the very measures they had reprobated in their predeceffors. The calling out of the militia at a moft unufual feafon, of apprehending fundry perfons, and feizing a voluminous mafs of papers, under the pretence that the conftitution was in danger, was admirably well calculated to annihilate the moft diftant hopes of these focieties in future, and commence a reign of terror which no fucceeding oppofition would have been able to shake. After a long lapse of time, the perfons imprifoned were brought to trial: but, thank God, the integrity of a jury empanelled in the metropolis, in the very vortex of minifterial influence, fuddenly difperfed the tremendous cloud, and left nothing for minifters but the B 4 miferable

miferable fhift of the poffibility of an exifting confpiracy without conSpirators! Finding themfelves foiled in this attempt to annihilate the focieties for procuring a parliamentary reform, minifters thought proper to change the mode of proceeding, and by one blow to quafh not only thefe exifting focieties, but even the poffibility of their ever exifting in future. Mr. Halhed concluded a fpeech of confiderable length with obferving, that every fentence of the proclamation was a mere affumption of fact, without any proof whatever.

ble compound of oppreffion and folly.

Mr. Alderman Lufhington came forward to obviate an affertion which had been made refpecting his attempting to leffen the benefits arifing from the trial by jury, and faid, that when the matter was more fully difcuffed, it would appear whether or not fuch an imputation was fairly charged upon him. He then adverted to the bill proposed by the chancellor of the exchequer, and faid, that, when he confidered the daring infult which had been offered to his majesty, and the various feditious and tumultuous meetings which had been held near the metropolis, he thought the ftrong measures of the honourable gentleman neceffary for the prefervation of the conftitution. If a negative was put to this bill, he would venture to fay, that not only every man in that houfe, but millions without the houfe, would lament the day when it was rejected.

The alderman took notice of the expreffion of Mr. Fox relative to the rights of man, and obferved, that he had no doubt but the honourable gentleman was aware of the rights of focial compact; he was perfuaded, he could not mean to allude to the rights of nature in oppofition to civilization and subordination. He concluded with obferving, that, if magiftrates interpofed the authority given them by the bill in an undue and unconftitutional manner, there would be many found who were able and willing to bring them to justice, and affert the liberty of the people.

Mr. Curwen declared his abhorrence of the attempt which had been made that night to deprive the fubject of his best and dearest pri. vilege. No man deprecated more than he did the idea of an attack upon the fovereign, but if any thing,

Mr. Maurice Robinson faid that he had heard that night from an honourable baronet, a fophiftical explanation of the nature of the bill, more dangerous, because more infidious, than the open ayowal of the chancellor of the exchequer, By this bill the interefts of the fove reign were opposed to thofe of the people; whereas it had generally been held, that the fovereign was the third branch of the legislature, and was bound to defend the democratical interefts as well as his own. He was not aftonifhed at the want of evidence to fupport the bold affertions of minifters. The Romans, he obferved, felt no furprize when Caligula made his horse a conful, becaufe his antecedent conduct would have juftified any extreme of defpotifm, however abfurd: but he did not pretend that his horfe was a Roman fenator. Mr. Robinfon contended that the interference of a magiftrate, at a public meeting of peaceable fubjects, would be an arbitrary meaTure. He alfo alluded to a member of that house, who had propofed a bill to diminish the benefits arifing from a trial by jury in the city of London. He concluded with obferv. ing, that he could confider the bill in no other view than as an execra

in his judgment, could endanger the perfon of his majefty, it would be the propofed bill. It was true that the honourable gentleman who brought it into that house, had fufficient cause to fupprefs the voice of the people, because he had fuffered from it. What was it that put a stop to the Spanish arma, ments? Not the majority of that houfe, but the voice of the people. What was it that put a stop to the Ruffian war? The voice of the people. To preferve this voice inviolate, he would risk his life and property; and it was indifferent to him, if the bill fhould pafs, whether the conftitution was deftroyed ⚫ by defpotism, or an infurrection of the people. He faid this bill was fabricated only for the convenience of minifters, who wished to put a ftop to complaints against them to the throne: after his majesty in his Speech had spoken of the general moderation and good behaviour of the people, both houfes of parliament were called upon to pass a bill which no minifter before prefumed to bring forward. He was affured that the country had only to be apprifed of its danger, and the bill would never pass.

Mr. Wilberforce approved of the general principle of the bill. For the three laft years, he faid, attempts had been made to poifon the minds of the people with thofe falfe principles of liberty which had produced fuch extensive mischief in a neighbouring country; it was not only French politics which were attempted to be introduced here, but French philofophy alfo; in the numerous publications in which thofe doctrines were introduced, there was a marked contempt for every thing facred, an avowed oppofition to the religion as well as to the conftitution of Great Britain. Lectures were given, and harangues

delivered, of the moft feditious and inflammatory nature. That all this had not been without effect, was too manifeft from the daring infult offered to his majesty. He thought administration deferved the thanks of the nation for taking measures to prevent the like outrages in future. He did not regard the bill propofed by his right hon. friend as militating against the right of difcuffing political queftions, and expreffing to parliament the national will; he rather thought that right would acquire new life and vigour, when thofe affemblies, at which public difcuffions took place, should be brought under proper regulations. He confeffed, however, that it was not willingly that he resorted to this bill; all that was left to him was a choice of difficulties.

Refpecting that part of the propofed measure which related to feditious clubs and debating focieties, he thought there could hardly be two opinions. After fome obfervations upon what had fallen from Mr. Fox relative to clubs and focieties, Mr. Wilberforce faid he had always confidered it as the grand prefervative of the British conftitution, that there was a popular affembly, the noufe of commons, in which all popular grievances might be properly and freely difcuffed, to which the people might be encouraged without fear to bring their complaints, where they would be fure to find able advocates for removing their grievances.

It was with more concern than furprize, Mr. Sheridan faid, that he had heard the approbation of the laft fpeaker to the motion of that evening; but he thought that the right honourable gentleman who introduced the motion, had been ftruck dumb with fhame from the ftrong and irrefiftible arguments urged by Mr. Fox against the na



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