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Mr. Creevey said, that he had seen counsel waiting in the lobby not an hour ago : and upon this information general Gascoyne expressed his hope, though the counsel could not be so well prepared as the, importance of the case required, that the house would allow him to expunge the word Thursday,' for the purpose of in
the error of the hon. alderman, but move that it be taken into consideration, with a view to propose Monday as the day. General Tarleton observed, that though he was as desirous of popularity as any man, yet he would not compromise his duty on that account. He thought himself bound to declare, that the majority of his constituents were averse to mea-serting now.' sures that served only to embarrass go
Mr. Sheridan said, that the hon. general had fallen into a greater error than his hon. friend. The third reading of the bill stood for this day; and according to the proposed plan of proceeding, the measure might be out of the power of the house before the petition was presented. He asked, in what situation would the house be placed, in case the evidence should convince the house that the measure was a wrong one?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke to order, and the Speaker concurred with him, that the question then was merely, whether counsel should be heard in support of the petition?
General Gascoyne observed, that his constituents who were in town had only got the petition that morning, and had had no time to instruct their counsel so fully as they wished to do. It was their desire that their petition should go hand in hand with that of the American merchants; and as the consideration of that petition had been postponed, he thought himself acting in conformity with the wishes of his constituents, when he proposed a future day. In allusion to what his colleague had said about popularity, he remarked, that when a number of respectable merchants of Liverpool put a petition into his hands, he thought it his duty to present it, and not only that, but to procure them a hearing as soon as possible. He then proposed Monday, but being told that both this and the two following days were pre-occupied, he chose Thursday as the day for hearing counsel.
General Tarleton again said that he was desirous of popularity. If it was a sin to covet honour, he was the most offending man alive.
Mr. Sheridan, though sorry to interrupt the colloquy of the two colleagues, insisted upon the awkward situation in which the house was placed by the proceeding, and observed, that counsel must have been in structed when the first petition came, and ought now to be ready,
Mr. Whitbread adverted to the course which had been taken with respect to these petitioners, and contended that they had a right to be heard in a manner that might be efficacious. They ought therefore to be heard now, unless ministers would agree to postpone the third reading of the bill. These merchants were the most competent in England to give information on this subject. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer might say that this delay was vexatious: to him it might be so; but it was the duty of those who thought the measure a bad one, to support every thing which tended to procure additional information on the subject; and, besides, it was of no importance that the bill should pass immediately. He concluded by moving, that counsel should be heard now, instead of Thursday.
Lord Castlereagh said, that the principle and the spirit of the rule of the house forbad any petition being received against a tax bill; and the bill for carrying into effect the Orders in Council was a tax bill, and ought not to be delayed for this petition. The petitioners might have two remedies. There was a clause in the bill permitting it to be altered or repealed in this session, and petitioners might have that remedy if they made out a case sufficiently strong to induce the house to think that eligible. The house might also apply to his majesty by address to forbear acting upon the bill. The bill might therefore proceed, and the petitioners be heard on the day most convenient for them.
Mr. Ponsonby could not but admire the advice given by the noble lord to the house, which was to proceed to pass a measure which might be proved to be a very foolish one, before hearing what was to be said against it, and then address the king to make it a mere nullity. This would not add much to the respectability of the character of the house.
Sir A. Piggot argued, that the petitioners ought to be heard before the passing of the bill, because they ought bonâ fide to to have such a hearing as would be efficacious. No inçonvenience would result
from the delay of the bill, as the trade was in the mean time carried on by licences.
Dr. Laurence adverted to the awkward situation in which the house would be placed by the mode of proceeding proposed by ministers, Though their object professedly was to starve the continent, yet they were in a hurry to give freedom to the trade to it. They had long slept over this measure without assembling parliament to carry it into effect, and yet now they grudged the delay of a few days.
Mr. Morris was anxious to promote any proceeding, which would afford an opportunity of being more fully informed on this measure, which seemed to be founded on French principles, and would be attended with the greatest mischief to all civilized nations.
Mr. Windham condemned the proposed mode of proceeding, on account of its palpable absurdity. It was exactly this: that the house should decide first, and hear the objections afterwards. It resembled a police bill, which provided that a party might be whipped, and then allowed him the right to appeal to the session. The noble lord said that the spirit of the bill precluded petitioning against it. But it had no spirit, it was all letter; two grains of wheat in two bushels of chaff; two grains of finance, in two bushels of trade. The trade was the spirit, the finance was only incidental; and yet the noble lord talked of petitioning being contrary to its spirit, and objected to the delay of a few days!
Mr. Stephens said, that there were two parties in this question. There were not only the petitioners but the public who were deeply interested in the bill. The petition appeared to him to be brought forward for no other purpose than to create delay. The hon. member very successfully replied to the last speaker.
Lord H. Petty, Mr. Adam, and Mr. Pole Carew, supported the amendment. The latter, however, professed himself a decided friend to the bill, but thought it due to the petitioners, now that they had put themselves in the proper form, to hear what they had to say.
The question being loudly called for, a division took place: Ayes 66: Noes 99: Majority against the Amendment 33.The petition was then ordered to be taken into consideration on Thursday.
[ORDERS IN COUNCIL BILL.] The question that the bill be read a third time,
Majority The question being then put, that the bill be now read a third time,
Sir William Scott entered into a learned discussion upon the law of nations, which being in its nature conventional, was no longer binding than when the rules of this convention were adverted to by all parties concerned. When they were departed from by one party, the other was left to the guidance of natural justice; and by the laws of natural justice, retaliation was authorised as an essential part of self-defence. The right of retaliation the learned judge shewed to be limited only by the extent of the annoyance which called forth the exercise of it. If an enemy restricted himself to the ordinary mode of warfare, then it was incumbent upon the other belligerent to carry on hostility under the same restrictions; but if he resorted to unusual modes of warfare, then it was competent for his adversary to pursue him even to neutral ground. The right was unquestionable; the only question was, the prudence of exercising it. The learned judge then proceeded to apply the general doctrine that he had laid down, to the present situation of this country, in relation to France and the other powers of Europe. He shewed that the French decree was intended to cut us off from all communication with the other European states; that it had been acted upon; that the interpretation of M. Decrès was wholly unauthorized; that this exposition stood formally contradicted by a decree of the supreme court of prizes at Paris; and that if there were any exceptions made to its general operation, those exceptions would only prove, that the government of France now was, what it had been always, even in its best times, fluctuating and capricious. He further contended, that even if it was not acted upon, which rested with the other party to prove, it was nevertheless an injury, because it was an insult to the country; which, in the opinion of an eminent person now no more (Mr. Fox), me
rited more to be chastised than any other species of injury whatever. As to the measure of the Orders in Council, he asserted that it was merely following up the principle which had been adopted in the Order in Council of Jan. 1807, and founded upon the doctrine which had been so ably maintained in the note of lord Howick to Mr. Rist; and even though the authors of these official papers chose to disclaim them, still he would maintain the tenets which they set forth. Upon the morality of the measure, therefore, there was no doubt. The question of its policy was more complex, and of its effects it was impossible to speak with certainty. He should lament exceedingly, if it should have the effect of producing any irritation in the American government. But he hoped, that they would not only look to the act, but to the causes of the act, and that it would be viewed not as a measure of hostility against America, but against France. The present bill had his most decided support.
Dr. Laurence entered into an extensive view of what was the law of nations, as expressed by the best writers on that subject, and as it was to be deduced from the uniform practice, not only of this country, but also of France, Spain, Holland, Sweden, and other countries, from the earliest period. From these authorities he shewed, that the Orders of the 7th of Jan. were justified by the established usage and avowed concurrence of all civilised nations, on the principle that one belligerent had an undoubted right to prevent a neutral from lending herself to another belligerent for the purpose of carrying on her coasting trade. But, with respect to the Orders of the 11th of Nov. he maintained, that though they were professedly founded on a principle of retaliation, they were not actually so founded; as it was not what was expressed by ministers, an acquiescence in the orders of the enemy (if such had been the fact), but an adherence to the cause of the enemy, which was the legitimate ground of measures of retaliation.
Mr. Stephens asserted the necessity which called for the Orders in Council, a necessity, in his opinion, so imperious, that it would have justified measures even of a more extensive nature.
Mr. Ponsonby argued, that the Orders were absurd, and incapable of being carried into execution.
Sir C. Price stated, that he had brought
a Petition down to the house, which an informality alone had prevented him from presenting. It was from a number of persons interested in the trade to America, and avowed their firm conviction, that the | Orders in Council were a wise and salutary measure.
About three o'clock in the morning lord H. Petty proposed an adjournment of the debate, on the ground of the lateness of the hour, and the number of gentlemen who were anxious to deliver their sentiments. Mr. Windham supported the motion for adjournment.-On a division there appeared,
For the adjournment Against it
While the Opposition members were in the lobby, Mr. Ponsonby addressed them, and observing that they had ineffectuaily proposed the postponement of the Mutiny bill from this day, for the purpose of allowing an opportunity for resuming the debate on the Orders in Council bill, requested that they would not quit the house, as the only justifiable resource left to them, was to force ministers to consent to an adjournment by repeated and incessant motions to that effect. We were not re-admitted, but were informed, that Mr. Sheridan, after having reminded the house that on the Bill for the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, he had moved the question of adjournment 17 times in one night, moved that the house do now adjourn. The house immediately divided
For the adjournment Against it
On a motion that the Orders in Council be read, Mr. Henry Martin called for a division, which was as follows: For reading the Orders Against it
After some further discussion, it was at length agreed that the debate should be adjourned until to morrow.-Adjourned at half past five on Friday morning.
HOUSE OF LORDS.
Friday, March 11.
[DEBTOR AND CREDITOR BILL.] The Earl of Moira, on moving the second reading of this bill, urged the necessity of resorting to some measure for the amend ment of the law of debtor and creditor,
and for the prevention of that misery, and those numerous ill effects, which resulted from long continued imprisonment for debt. The noble earl explained the objects of his bill, as relating to arrest on mesne process, and imprisonment in execution, in both of which the intention was to shorten the duration of imprisonment; in the former, by compelling the plaintiff, where the writ was issued in one term and returnable in the next, to declare in the term of the return, and to proceed to trial in the succeeding term; and in the latter, by releasing the debtors at certain specified times, at the quarter sessions, on assigning over their property in possession and reversion, and also rendering their future property liable. The latter mode was the principle of the cessio bonorum introduced into the Roman law by Cæsar, and subsequently, after a long experience, adopted by Justinian. A similar law had long prevailed in Holland and in Denmark, where it had been found equally efficacious. His lordship stated a variety of instances, in which persons imprisoned for small debts had experienced a great aggravation of their imprisonment by the costs with which they were charged; and instanced many cases where prisoners were unable to raise the money necessary to obtain that relief to which they were entitled by law. Thus, out of 700 annually released by the Thatched-house society, there were, on the average, about 130 who were unable to pay the expences of suing for the allowance under the lords act; and about 50 who, though supersedable, were unable to raise the money necessary to sue for their supersedeas. He condemned generally the principle of placing a debtor at the mercy of a creditor, who might indefinitely imprison him; and trusted their lordships would agree to the proposed alteration in the law.
Lord Ellenborough condemned any attempt to innovate upon a long established law, without taking a clear and comprehensive view of the whole of the bearings of the question. This had not been done in the present bill, which had been drawn up (not, of course, by the noble earl) with a great ignorance of the law, and with provisions which could not be carried into effect without great injustice and injury. His lordship went through the different clauses of the bill, for the purpose of shewing that they were wholly inadequate to their proposed object. A plaintiff was at present obliged to declare within two
terms; and as to arrest, it was, generally speaking, the best means of producing a payment or a composition of the debt, and did produce that effect in five cases out of six. The creditor was more frequently an object of compassion than the debtor, from the frauds practised on him. He was decidedly hostile to the bill, and thought it ought not to go to a committee.
Lord Holland combated the objection of innovation. To hold that every thing which fell from judge Hale must be correct, was rather paying too high a respect to the doctrines and opinion of that learned judge. If his lordship recollected well, judge Hale had been hostile to the repeal of the laws against witchcraft; and indeed, the doctrine of the noble and learned lord went to this, that no alteration whatever, in our law or practice, ought to take place; in fact, that their lordships and the other house ought not to meet for the purposes of legislation. He hoped as opinions of celebrated men were to be quoted, he might be allowed to notice the opinion of a justly celebrated man, and who in the latter years of his life, at least, could hardly be suspected of favouring innovations. That able and enlightened man was well known to have been peculiarly partial to the general principle of the measure now proposed by his noble friend. Another great man, Dr. Johnson, had also expressed himself decidedly on this subject, and declared that imprisonment for debt ought not to be suffered, unless for the purpose of compelling a surrender of the debtor's effects. As to the evils resulting from the present system, they were so numerous, and at the same time so apparent, that it was hardly necessary for him even to allude to them. One striking proof of the absurdity of the present law was to be found in the frequency of insolvent acts. If the legislature were not aware that there was something peculiarly offensive in continued imprisonment for debt, why should it pass these acts of insolvency? All suspensions of any established law were to be reprobated, and it was infinitely preferable that the law should be at once repealed, than that it should be repeatedly violated. Surely, it would not be said that these insolvent acts were passed merely as a matter of convenience, and that one set of persons were liberated solely for the purpose of making room for another. The number of persons at present confined for debt in the metropolis, was stated as being by no means compa
ratively great. He begged it to be remarked, however, that the Thatched House society was not a national institution; of course, any relief granted by them did not proceed from the benignity of our laws, which had thus provided a partial remedy for a great evil. It was calculated that this society liberated 700 persons annually, who, but for this institution, must have formed an addition to those at present confined for debt, and from the best computation his lordship could make, would increase that number to about 10,500. His lordship did not pretend to be, by any means, so well qualified as his noble and learned friend, to judge what would be the best mode of giving effect to the measure now proposed; he could not, however, abstain from expressing his surprise and concern that those noble and learned persons, whose peculiar province it was to endeavour to render the law of the land as unexceptionable as possible, should shew so great reluctance to bring forward a bill which might meet their own ideas on the subject.
Earl Moira replied generally to the arguments of lord Ellenborough, when the house divided on the question for the second reading: Contents 5: Non contents 9 Majority 4.-The bill was accordingly thrown out.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Friday, March 11.
[EAST INDIA COMPANY'S AFFAIRS.] Mr. R. Dundas rose, pursuant to notice, to move for the appointment of a Select Committee, to inquire into the present state of the Affairs of the East India Company. He stated, that the same causes which created the deficit which existed last year, still continued to operate, and that there was a deficit now to a very considerable amount. He wished, therefore, that a committee should be appointed to investigate the cause which had produced, and which tended to perpetuate this deficit, and to suggest the most proper remedy to apply to it. Advices had been expected from the noble lord who now presided over the affairs of India, which might be useful in guiding the inquiries of the committee, but none had been as yet received. He thought, however, that the documents to which the committee might have access would be sufficient to enable them to make a report on the subject. He concluded by moving, "That a committee be appointed |
to inquire into the present state of the Affairs of the East India Company."
Mr. Creevey rose, not for the purpose of opposing, but of supporting the motion; convinced as he was that it was only by a committee, that the situation of the East India Company could be properly investigated; and that the statements of the different budgets had been delusive from beginning to end. He asked, whether it was the intention of the right hon. gent. that the committee should confine their inquiries to the financial and commercial state of the company, or that they should extend their investigation to its territorial concerns?
Mr. R. Dundas replied, that it was his wish that the inquiries of the committee should be the most comprehensive, though he did not imagine that they would consider it necessary to investigate the whole system of Indian policy under the different governments for many years past. The motion was agreed to, and a committee of 21 members appointed.
[ORDERS IN COUNCIL BILL.] The order of the day was read, for resuming the adjourned debate on the Orders in Council bill.
Mr. A. Baring spoke against the bill. He thought it was unjust as to neutrals, and inexpedient as a measure. The chief ground taken by ministers was stated in the preamble to the Orders in Council, to be, that the government of France had issued certain decrees. The question was, how far we were justified in making neutrals suffer for this. No retaliation could, in his opinion, be justified on the principle assumed by ministers, that neutrals must take the consequences of the retaliation which had become necessary on the part of this country. Mr. Armstrong, the American minister at Paris, had applied to the minister of marine in France, on the subject, and was informed by him that the Decrees were not to be acted upon with respect to America. No better authority could be applied to, and it was not necessary for him to enquire farther. We had, therefore, rashly cast away the American trade. He answered the arguments that had been urged on the subject of premiums on insurance; he thought that we ought to have waited another month to see how the Americans would act, and was of opinion, that if the doctrine of ministers was admitted, it would be impossible that neutrals could carry on any trade whatever.