Imágenes de página

and other such language was held, to intimidate the peaceable subjects of the State.

The Marquis of Lansdown said, if no other person would, he should, in a short time, move for an enquiry into the state of those distresses in the country which had given rise to so many dreadful oc


The Earl of Liverpool, in an able speech, defended the conduct of the Magistrates at Manchester.

The Marquis of Buckingham said, that he had heard nothing which could induce him to think the Courts of Law were not open to the investigation of the conduct of the Manchester Magistrates; and therefore he saw no reason for Parliamentary Inquiry. They had seen treason abroad; and the religion of the land called a farce to delude the unwary. Were they to pause before they sought remedies of these evils, while they were inquiring into the events at Manchester? They had heard the Constitution threatened with destruction, and had seen persons threatened, and even murdered for doing their duty. Were they to pause before they found remedies for these evils, whilst they were inquiring into the events at Manchester? For these reasons he should oppose the Amendment, and support the original Address.

The House then divided-For the original Address, NonContents, 159 Contents, 34- Maj. 125:

[ocr errors]

In the Commons, the same day, the Clandestine Outlawry Bill having been read the first time, the Hon. J. S. Cocks, agreeing in the sentiments contained in the speech, and approving the measures adopted by Ministers, moved an Address to the Prince Regent, which was, as usual, an echo of the speech. The Hon. Gent. contended, that a systematic attempt had been made by certain individuals to undermine and overthrow the Constitution; all the acts and measures of Ministers had been adopted with a view to the defence and support of our Constitution and old customs. He was no enemy (he observed) to moderate and rational reform, but the word in the mouths of those persons who talked of Universal Suffrage, and Annual Parliaments, was nothing less than a cant term for Revolution. In the meetings which had been held by these individuals, was it not notorious that they had been regularly organised, that the multitude had proceeded from town to town in systematic order, in marching order, with flags and banners bearing inscriptions wholly inconsistent with the peace and safety of the loyal and well-disposed part of the community? On the subject of the transactions which took place at Manches

ter, he wished to refrain from giving an opinion at present (hear, hear, hear!) but he must be permitted to say, that he saw nothing in the transactions which induced him to think that the enquiry should be taken out of the usual channel. He was also of opinion, that no individual, especially a magistrate, should be put upon his trial, unless upon bills returned by a grand jury; and he must strongly deprecate public opinions expressed by public meetings upon subjects like this, whilst investigation was pending before the regular tribunal. (Hear, hear, hear!) The Hon. Gent. then adverted to the increase of our military force; and expressed his hopes that the measures already adopted by Government would have had the desired effect.

The Address was seconded by the Hon. Mr. Cust.

Mr. Tierney rose to move an Amendment he was fully aware of the difficulty which attended the course he was about to adopt he felt that he should subject himself to misrepresentation; but he also felt it his duty to take this course. The Right Hon. Gent, then proceeded to answer the arguments of the Mover and Seconder of the Address, and to allude to what had been said by them on the subject of the recent blasphemous publications. He contended that the law, and the religious principles of the people, were sufficient to put these down without any new enactments. So also with respect to sedition, there wanted no new laws on that subject, if the people could be rendered content, as they formerly were, with the power under which they lived. These, however, were not times for concealment; he might be termed an alarmist; he was indeed alarmed at the present state of the country. The fact was, the people were taxed beyond bearing; and what was worse, they had not confidence in the House of Commons. To satisfy them, the House must do something to reform itself, and regain the confidence of the people. With respect to those who were called Radical Reformers, he was a decided enemy to them and their objects; he believed some of their leaders had designs of their own, and made the deluded people their dupes; others of them were leaders from a foolish ambition; and others were so because they wanted sense to know what they were about. But unless the people were suffering the most trying distress, these men would not be able to mislead them. Speech did not allude to the Manchester meeting at all: the Hon. Mover had, however, adverted to it, and very properly. He also must say a few words on that most important subject.-The complaints of the people since the 16th of Aug. had



not been a cry for Parliamentary Re form, but a cry for redress of the outrages of that day. He wished not to prejudge the question he was ready to grant that the meeting was illegal; but why, he would ask, after the leaders were taken into custody, were the military retained to attack and cut down an unarmed and unresisting multitude? Mr. Tierney next observed, that a Noble Lord had lately been dismissed from his office only be cause he had called for inquiry, and had attended a meeting for that purpose; though he had held the office for twenty years, and was universally beloved and esteemed; and had preserved the peace of the county from the respect due to his personal character. The whole of the proceedings evinced that no confidence was to be placed in Ministers. An additional military force might be necessary, though he knew of no instance in which the military had been overpowered. The Right Hon. Gentleman concluded by moving an Amendment, in substance as follows:-That Parliament having been call. ed together in a season of distress, the House had taken the matter of the Speech into its most serious consideration; that the House deeply reprobated the attempts that had been made to agitate the lower classes, and would strenuously support the principles of the Constitution; but the people, at the same time, ought to be satisfied that their complaints would meet with attention. That the House, without prejudging the case, had felt deep regret at the events of the 16th of August, and that enquiry was necessary, to shew whether an illegal meeting had been as sembled, or whether the Constitutional rights of the people had been violated.

The Marquis of Tavistock implored the House not to oppose inquiry into the events of the 16th of August. There was a great contrast between the former and the present state of the country; when in order to preserve the balance, the sword was obliged to be thrown into the scale. Parliament had done itself no credit by the repeal of the Income Tax; and he would be ready to support such a tax, provided other taxes should be taken off the poor, and useless offices abolished. From the experience of the last twenty years, there could be no doubt of the loyalty of the great mass of the population. He entreated the House to grant a full and a fair inquiry.

The Address and Amendment having been read;

Lord Castlereagh said, he had no doubt that Government still possessed that confidence of the country that had followed the whole of their ministerial career, and without which no Administration could possibly exist. Should the House meet

the difficulties at home in the same spirit as they had met those abroad, the same result would ensue. He should tomorrow lay the necessary papers before the House, without the medium of a Committee, and on Friday state the measures that it was in the contemplation of Government to adopt. It had been stated that lives had been lost at Manchester'; but many great calamities had occurred in the history of the country without recourse being had to Parliamentary inquiry, than which no proceeding could be more fatal to the due administration of justice. Parliament was not the proper tribunal, and should he be compelled to answer questions relative to individuals, that necessity was forced upon him. There was no intention to arrest Hunt on the day before the meeting; and it was only his conduct on that day that made the Magistrates regard the meeting as of a treasonable nature. He had been asked, why was the multitude assaulted after the arrest? But it had not been the intention to disperse the meeting in the manner that had taken place; as, had their purpose been so sanguinary, they might have dispersed an avowedly illegal meeting on the 9th of the same month. Harrison had fled to London to avoid an arrest; and he must protest against the doctrine that the presence of a multitude should prevent the execution of the law. A military support had not been granted till the Constables had stated they could not act without it. The Magistrates had nothing to do with the selection of the Yeomanry for the service, as that depended on Col. L'Estrange, who conceived that description of force to be the most constitutional; and that had formerly been the opinion of the Right Hon. Gent. himself. His Lordship declared that the Riot Act had been read twice, and a third reading was prevented by the mob.-On the subject of Lord Fitzwilliam, Government and he had differed on their sense of public duty; and by repairing to such an assembly, Lord Fitzwilliam had virtually tendered his resignation.(Hear, hear! and no, no!) The King's Commission had never been more disgraced than by the conduct of Lord Fitzwilliam on the day of the Yorkshire Meeting. In the Black Dwarf, all the speeches had been described as in favour of Radical Reform.-[The Noble Lord here read several passages from the Black Dwarf, descriptive of the opinions of the Duke of Norfolk, and others present at the meeting.]-Though the principles of the great bulk of the people were sound, yet a deliberate conspiracy had been formed against the Constitution, that if not checked would lead to rapine and ruin. But he trusted to the wisdom of Parliament, to preserve the Bri

tish Constitution, a monument of glory to the latest posterity.-(Loud cheering.)

Mr. Bootle Wilbraham defended the conduct of the Grand Jury, of which he had been a member.

Lord Milton adverted to a proposal that had been made to him and his friends, to incorporate certain Resolutious with those originally proposed to the Meeting at York, but which had been rejected, as not in unison with them.

Mr. S. Wortley observed, that the Noble Lord had rejected the support of him and his friends. For himself he was not an enemy to public Meetings, and was only hostile to the plans of the Radical Reformers.

Sir J. Mackintosh and Mr. Scarlett spoke in behalf of the Amendment; Mr. Plunkett in a masterly speech opposed it.

The Attorney General defended the conduct of the Magistrates, on the ground that the Manchester Meeting was an illegal one.

Sir W. De Crespigny, on account of the lateness of the hour, moved to adjourn the debate.

The House divided. For the adjournment 65-Against it 453.

Mr. Wilberforce insisted that the great body of the Nation, at least the great body of the thinking part of it, was satisfied with the steps the Magistrates of Manchester had taken, and would be dissatisfied if inquiry at the bar was instituted. He knew that the House of Commons acted, in many instances, as the grand inquest of the nation; yet when gentlemen considered that they would be

called on to investigate the conduct of the Magistrates in their official capacity, and that in so doing they would be obliged to examine men-not on oath at the barmen too, it should be observed, who professed the new system of morality, who defied the laws of God and man; perhaps they would pause before they determined to exercise those functions, by agreeing to the Amendment. (Hear.) He admitted that there was considerable distress in the country, and if, in our present situation, it could be done without detriment to the State, he would be willing to take off some of those taxes that bore on the lower classes. But gentlemen should recollect that the exigencies of the Government must be provided for, and that it was much easier to remove a tax than to propose a substitute.

It was ultimately agreed that the debate should be postponed.-Adjourned at half past 3 o'clock.

[blocks in formation]

These Papers are very voluminous, containing various communications from Lords Lieutenant and Magistrates in what are called the "disturbed districts," and furnishing evidence respecting the nocturnal training of numerous parties of men, and the endeavours made to obtain clandestinely supplies of arms. The writers of these communications declare their firm conviction that the objects of those who are now so generally employed in misleading the lower classes are "no other than to reverse the orders of society which have so long been established, and to wrest by force from the present possessors, and to divide among themselves, the landed property of the country." It is further stated, that the Radicals do not affect to disguise their diabolical intentions: the fact of their being regularly drilled in military exercises, and of the maDufacture and use of pikes by them, is duly substantiated by numerous affidavits; and the result of the information of the several journeys lately made by General Byng is a full conviction, that, notwithstanding the schism among the leaders, any relaxation of the means of suppressing sedition would be attended with fatal consequences. The last Letter of this Officer (who is brother to Mr. Byng, the Member for Middlesex) is dated so late as November 18th, and concludes with the following important statement: "A plan has been adopted to circulate more generally seditious and blasphemous tracts, which is, to send gratis such publications weekly, directed to the servants in large families; which I think worthy of mention, not merely to show how indefatigable the authors and leaders of sedition are in effecting their purpose, but that it may be thought expedient to put the heads of families upon their guard. Six different attempts have come to my knowledge to seduce the soldiers, but without the least effect: some of them are under legal investigation. I have only further to add, that whatever disunion may prevail among the leaders of sedition and radical reform, they still unite in the endeavour (though I hope with less success) to excite irritation and discontent among their followers, and to intimidate the loyal and well-affected. With a firm belief in the accuracy of the foregoing statement, I consider it my duty to make this report." served,

served, he had never said this was an illegal meeting originally; he had said, its illegality arose out of the subsequent conduct of the meeting. Certainly the force of 40 Yeomanry were sent in to aid the Civil Power in executing the warrant of the Magistrates; and after having done so, this small force was surrounded by the mob, assailed by them, and he might say, overpowered. This was observed by the Magistrates, and Col. L'Estrange, who was with them; by their advice the 15th Dragoons and Cheshire Yeomanry were called in to their aid.

The Hon. Grey Bennet had been at Manchester, and had made particular inquiry into the most minute circumstances. He had ascertained, that there were at least 8 persons killed, and 58 were taken to the Infirmary, and that between 300 and 400 persons had been cut down, rode over, and trampled on by the horses. It now appeared that the Riot Act had not beeu read till after the attack on the people commenced; for he, when the time of inquiry arrived, should be able to prove that three persons were killed in the approach of the Yeomanry.

Sir W. De Crespigny stated some facts of aggravation on the part of the Yeomanry.

Lord Nugent could prove at the bar of the House, that wine and brandy had been served out to the troops before they advanced to the charge, and many of the Constables were so indignant at the duty in which they had been employed, that they broke and burnt their staves, and declared they would never act again.

Mr. Warren said, a few days before the Meeting at Manchester, a letter had been sent from Coventry by Hunt, stating the necessity of making a demonstration by physical force. Many thousands had marched to Manchester in military movement, with Hunt at their head.

Mr. Phillips said, that much difficulty existed as to the facts, and that in his opinion called for inquiry.

The Solicitor General said, there existed nothing to warrant the charge that the Legal Advisers of the Crown had recommended to stifle inquiry. The principles of the Reformers were, Annual Parliaments, Election by Ballot, and Universal Suffrage, or, in other words, the overthrow of the Constitution (hear, hear!); and their language was, that the fate of Charles and James awaited the present Ruler of the kingdom. Hunt had presided at a Meeting at Smithfield, at which he had asserted, that the Acts of Parliament since 1800 were not binding on the country, and that the national debt ought not to be paid. Orders had been given to prosecute him criminally till the proceedings at Smith

field had been sunk in the superior importance of those at Manchester.

Sir F. Burdett, in a long and warm speech, said, that all the arguments of the learned Gent. had shewn the necessity for inquiry, instead of stifling it. If any man could identify a soldier who had wounded him, it was very well for him to apply to a Court of Law for redress; but what was that to them? What was that to the People of England, who believed that the Constitution had been violated? The people were perfectly loyal, but the Noble Lord had threatened new infringements on the Constitution. They would no doubt be invited to a new Property Tax; but the People were deceived if they thought it would be easing them to lay heavy taxes on the rich, who were their bankers, and on whom they might draw for the reward of their industry and talent.-He asked where was the proof of mischief among the Reformers? The training, he admitted(hear!! but how long had they borne their grievances! A rational Reform would satisfy all; and calling hard names instead of granting it, only proved ignorance and error. There was no ground for the accusation in bulk that the Reformers were hostile to Religion, though no doubt some might be found who were so.

Mr. Wynn observed, that it had been said, that meetings of people marching with banners, inscribed "Liberty or Death," &c. were perfectly legal, and conducted with the greatest order and regularity. But whatever the Hon. Baronet might assert, he (Mr. Wynn) would assert that such practices were treasonable. If such meetings were allowed, others' might be held to consider the propriety of changing the succession to the Throne.

Sir J. Sebright said he should vote against the Amendment, because he thought inquiry would be carried on with more effect in a Court of Law. He would gladly vote for Parliamentary Reform, because he believed it would satisfy nineteen out of twenty persons in the nation.

Mr. Littleton said he would vote against the Amendment, because the question proposed for Parliamentary inquiry ought to be discussed in another place.

Mr. Canning rose amidst cheers of hear, hear! and delivered a brilliant speech. There were two grounds, he said, on which the Manchester question was pressed as a fit subject of investigation: first, as being an attack upon the Constitution; secondly, because inquiry was demanded by the resolutions of various Meetings. As to the first ground, he considered that already disposed of; and for the resolutions it was curious to observe, that all the Meetings in which they were passed, set out with the admission


that the Meeting was a legal one. There was every reason to believe, that if the Meetings at which such resolutions were passed were to be held again, they would, after what had passed in the present debate, be disposed to alter their determination. The House should not bend to any popular will, or be led away by temporary popularity. There were quiet and loyal millions who looked up to Government for protection, and they should be protected. There were seditious persons who should be put down ; and if they and their abettors could only be put down by vigorous measures those measures should and would be resorted to without delay. (Loud cheers.)

[ocr errors]

Mr. Brougham agreed with that Hon. Gent. (Mr. Canning) in all the eulogioms which he bestowed on a voluntary and respectable Magistracy. Their labours were useful, and hence were they particularly fenced round by the sanction of the Legislature. If, however, the conduct of any part of the Magistracy deserved reprobation, they should be the more severely punished; inasmuch as they were armed with an authority for the purpose of protecting, and not invading the rights and liberties of the people.

The House then proceeded to a division, when there appeared-For the Amendment, 150-Against it, 381-Majority, 231.-The Address was then carried without a division, and the House adjourned at a quarter to five o'clock.

Nov. 25.

Mr. S. Cocks brought up the Report on the Address. On the question that it be agreed to, the Address was supported by Mr. B. Wilbraham, Mr. Shepherd, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Martin (of Galway), Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Bathurst, and Lord Compton. On the other side, Sir R. Wilson, Mr. G. Lamb, Mr. Denman, Mr. J. P. Grant, and Mr. Baring, spoke in favour of an inquiry. Lord Stanley was also for an inquiry, but regretted that much misrepresentation had prevailed as to the conduct both of the Magistrates and Yeomanry. The Report was ultimately agreed to without a division, and ordered to be presented by the whole House to-morrow.

Nov. 26.

The Speaker took the Chair at two o'clock; and at half-past two, the House adjourned; when the Speaker (in his new state carriage), attended by several Members, proceeded to Carlton House, with the Address of Thanks to the Prince Regent.

HOUSE OF LORDS, Nov. 29. The Lord Chancellor introduced a Bill for taking away the right of traverse in

all cases of Misdemeanor. The Noble Lord declared, that this Bill had no reference whatever to the present state of the country. Its object is to prevent the defendants from postponing trial in indictments for misdemeanor; but a discretionary power is to be vested in Courts of Justice, of postponing trials, upon good and sufficient cause being shown.

Viscount Sidmouth then called the attention of their Lordships to the measures which Ministers deemed it necessary to propose in the present perturbed state of the country. The first was a Bill to curb the licentiousness of the Press. It proposed no increased punishment for the first offence, but it provided that on a second conviction for publishing a blasphemous or seditious libel, the offender should be liable, at the discretion of the Judges, to the punishment of fine, imprisonment, banishment, or transportation, It was also proposed that, in such cases of second conviction, a power should be given to seize the copies of the libel in the possession of the publisher; the copies so seized to be preserved until it should be seen whether an arrest of judgment was moved, and then to be returned to the publisher, if the judgment of the Court should be in his favour. In another place it was intended to propose that all publications, consisting of less than a given number of sheets, should be subject to a duty equal to that paid by newspapers, and that the publishers should enter into recognizance, or give security, to a certain amount, so as to ensure the payment of any fine inflicted on them in case of delinquency. In another place also, a Bill will be brought in for regulating meetings for the discussion of griev ances, and petitioning the King and Parliament, which, in its provisions, would be found not to trench on the right of petition. Another measure which he should have to submit to the consideration of their Lordships, was a Bill to prohibit military training, except under the authority of the Lord Lieutenants or Magistracy. A very large portion of the disaffected were possessed of arms; and therefore it was intended to give to the Magistrates a power of seizing and detaining arms in the disaffected districts, upon a well-grounded suspicion that they are to be used against the peace of the country. These were the measures intended to be proposed to Parliament, for the welfare of the people, and the safety of the State. Ministers wished to act with conciliation, but with firmness. They would be most happy if they had any means to propose, which might alleviate the distresses of the people. They called on those who had differed with them, both on external and internal policy, to join


« AnteriorContinuar »