« AnteriorContinuar »
only see what parts taey choose to show us. But contrary was never imputed to hnn If his book Nothing rea. from what we have seen, does any man had been written in pursuance of the design of sonable ia the
hele seriously believe that this meeting at force and rebellion, with which it is now soogbi Convertion Edinburgh meant to assume and to to be connected, he would, like the prisoners. maintain by force all the functions and authorities have been charged with an overt act of high trea. of the state ? Is the thing within the compass of son ; but such a proceeding was never though human belief? If a man were offered a dukedom of. Mr. Paine was indicted (in 1792 fra mis And twenty thousand pounds a year for trying to demeanor, and the misdemeanor was argued to believe it, he might say he believed it—as what consist not in the falsehood that a nation has no will not man say for gold and honors ?-but he right to choose or alter its government, but in never, in fact, could believe that this Edinburgh seditiously exciting the nation, without cause, to meeting was a Parliainent for Great Britain. exercise that right. A learned Lord (Lord How, indeed, could he, from the proceedings of Chief Baron Macdonald) now on this bench, ad. a few peaceable, unarmed men, discussing, in a dressed the jury as Attorney General upon this constitutional manner, the means of obtaining a principle. His language was this : “ The ques. reform in Parliament; and who, to maintain the tion is not what the people have a right to do, for club, or whatever you choose to call it, col- the people are, undoubtedly, the foundation and lected a little money from people who were well origin of all government. But the charge is, for disposed to the cause; a few shillings one day, seditiously calling upon the people, without cause and perhaps as many pence another? I think, or reason, to exercise a right which would be seas far as I could reckon it up, when the report dition, supposing the right to be in them; for from this great committee of supply was read to though the people might have a right to do the you, I counted that there had been raised, in the thing suggested, and though they are not excit first session of this Parliament, fifteen pounds, ed to the doing it by force and rebellion, yet, as from which, indeed, you must deduct two bad the suggestion goes to unsettle the state, the propshillings, which are literally noticed in the ac- agation of such doctrines is seditious." There count. Is it to be endured, gentlemen, that men is no other way, undoubtedly, of describing that should gravely say, that this body assumed to it- charge. I am not here entering into the appliself the offices of Parliament ? that a few harm- cation of it to Mr. Paine, whose counsel I was, less people, who sat, as they profess, to obtain a and who has been tried already. To say that full representation of the people, were themselves, the people have a right to change their gorerseven in their own imaginations, the complete rep- ment, is, indeed, a truism. Every body know resentation which they sought for? Why should it, and they exercised the right in 1688), otherthey sit from day to day to consider how they wise the King could not have had his establishmight obtain what they had already got ? Ilment among us. If therefore, I stir np individtheir object was a universal representation of the uals to oppose by force the general will, seated whole people, how is it credible they could sup- | in the government, it may be trea. It is not tres pose that universal representation to exist in son; but to induce changes in a gov- moto per themselves in the representatives of a few so- ernment, by exposing to a whole na. governs em cieties, instituted to obtain it for the country at tion its errors and imperfections, can have no large? If they were themselves the nation, why bearing upon such an offense. The utmost should the language of every resolution be, that which can be made of it is a misdemeanor, and reason ought to be their grand engine for the ac- that, too, depending wholly upon the judgment complishment of their object, and should be di- which the jury may form of the intention of the rected to convince the nation to speak to Parlia- writer. The courts for a long time, indeed, as. ment in a voice that must be heard ? The prop- sumed to themselves the province of deciding osition, therefore, is too gross to cram down the upon this intention, as a matter of law, conelathroats of the English people, and this is the pris- sively inferring it from the act of publication. I oner's security. Here, again, he feels the advant- say the courts assumed it, though it was not be age of our free administration of justice. This doctrine of Lord Mansfield, but handed down to proposition, on which so much depends, is not to him from the precedents of judges before his be reasoned out on parchment, to be delivered time. But even in that case, though the publiprivately to magistrates for private judgment. cation was the crime, not, as in this case, the No. He has the privilege of appealing loud (as | intention, and though the quality of the thing he now appeals by me) to an enlightened assem-charged, when not rebutted by evidence for the bly, full of eyes, and ears, and intelligence, where defendant, had so long been considered to be a speaking to a jury is, in a manner, speaking to a legal inference, yet the Legislature, to support nation at large, and flying for sanctuary to its the province of the jury, and in tenderness for universal justice.
liberty, has lately altered the law upon this imGent.emen, the very work of Mr. Paine, under portant subject. If, therefore, we were not as
the banners of which this supposed re- sembled, as we are, to consider of the existence Paine, whose principles they bellion was set on foot, refutes the of high treason against the King's life, but only opposed to vio charge it is brought forward to sup- of a misdemeanor for seditiously disturbing his
port. Mr. Paine, in his preface, and throughout his whole book, reprobates the use of 52 See the concluding remarks on Mr. Erskine's force against the most evil governments, and the speech upon the rights of juries, page 683.
title and establishment, by the proceedings for a | lenges to their jurors, and other irregularities reform in Parliament, I should think the Crown, were introduced, so as to be the subject of com. upon the very principle which, under the libel plaint in the House of Comnions. law, must now govern such a trial, quite as dis- Gentlemen, in what I am saying I am not tant from its mark. Because, in my opinion, standing up to vindicate all that was
Apology for tt a there is no way by which his Majesty's title can published during these proceedings, warmth of the more firmly be secured, or by which (above all, more especially those things which the Edinburgh in our times its permanency can be better estab- were written in consequence of the tried and person lished, ihan by promoting a more full and equal trials I have just alluded to. But tenced. representation of the people, by peaceable means; allowance must be made for a state of heat and und by what other means has it been sought, in irritation. They saw men whom they believed ibis instance, to be promoted ?
to be persecuted for what they believed to be irGentlemen, when the members of this conven nocent. They saw them the victims of sentenThe conduct of tion were seized, did they attempt re- ces which many would consider as equivalent to,
poklon, sistance ? Did they insist upon their if not worse than, judgment of treason 5 _sen. up: slows that privileges as subjects under the laws, tences which, at all events, had never existed tot intended. or as a Parliament enacting laws for before, and such as I believe never will again others? If they had said or done any thing to with impunity. But since I am on the subject give color to such an idea, there needed no spies of intention, I shall conduct myself with the same to convict them. The Crown could have given moderation which I have been prescribing. ] ample indemnity for evidence from among them- will cast no aspersions, but shall content myself selves. The societies consisted of thousands and with lamenting that these judgments were pro thousands of persons, some of whom, upon any ductive of consequences which rarely follow from calculation of human nature, might have been authority discreetly exercised. How easy is it. produced. The delegates who attended the | then, to dispose of as much of the evidence as meetings could not be supposed to have met consumed half a day in the anathemas against with a different intention from those who sent the Scotch judges! It appears that they came to them; and if the answer to that be, that the con- various resolutions concerning them; some good, stituents are involved in the guilt of their repre- some bad, and all of them irregular. Among sentatives, we get back to the monstrous position others, they compare them to Jefferies, and wish which I observed you before to shrink back from, that they who imitate his example may meet with visible horror, when I stated it; namely, the his fate. What then? Irreverent expressions involving in the fate and consequence of this sin against judges are not acts of high treason! If gle trial every man who corresponded with these they had assembled round the Court of Justicia. societies, or who, as a member of societies in any ry, and hanged them in the execution of their cart of the kingdom, consented to the meeting offices, it would not have been treason within which was assembled, or which was in prospect. the statute. I am no advocate for disrespect But I thank God I have nothing to fear from such to judges, and think that it is dangerous to the hydras, when I see before me such just and hon-public order ; but, putting aside the insult upon orable men to hold the balance of justice. the judges now in authority, the reprobation of
Gentlemen, the dissolution of this Parliament Jefferies is no libel, but an awful and useful mespeaks as strong a language as its conduct when mento to wicked men. Lord Chief Justice Jefaitting. How was it dissolved? When the mag-series denied the privilege of English Defense of istrates entered, Mr. Skirving was in the chair, law to an innocent man. He refused in respecto which he refused to leave. He considered and it to Sir Thomas Armstrong, 56 who in Jefferies. asserted his conduct to be legal, and therefore vain pleaded in bar of his outlawry that he was informed the magistrate he must exercise bis out of the realm when he was exacted (an obauthority, that the dispersion might appear to be involuntary, and that the subject, disturbed in his 54 The London Societies took a deep interest in rights, might be entitled to his remedy. The Skirving and the other Scottish reformers, who had magistrate on this took Mr. Skirving by the
been condemned to transportation for fourteen years shoulder, who immediately obeyed; the chair
to Botany Bay. They spoke of this in strong terms
of indignation, as it deserved, and this was now was quitted in a moment, and this great Parlia
made their crime. ment broken up! What was the effect of all
65 The legality of the sentence in the case of these this proceeding at the time, when whatever be- men, as well as of Mair and Paliner, has been called longed to it must bave been best understood ? in question; it being maintained by many that outWere any of the parties indicted for high trea- lawry withoul transportation was all that the law son? Were they indicted even for a breach of allowed. the peace in holding the convention ? None of $6 Sir Thomas Armstrong was seized in Hollard tbese things. The law of Scotland, arbitrary as
vas for having been engaged in Monmouth's conspiracy
against James II in 1685; and as it was apprehend. it is, was to be disturbed to find a name for their
ed that sufficient evidence could not be procured to offense, 53 and the rules of trial to be violated, to
obtain a verdict against him even from the subserv. convict them. They were denied their chal
ieut juries of that time, he was condemned and ex.
ecuted without a trial, under the pretense that he sa They were indicted for leasing making, by was not entitled to claim one, as he bad at surred which was meant stirring up sedition.
dered himself after outle wry.
jection so clear that it was lately taken for grant-, utmost confidence that I ask you a lew plan ed in the case of Mr. Purefoy). The daughter questions, arising out of the whole of ihre of this unfortunate person, a lady of honor and Scotch proceedings. In the first place, then, de quality, came publicly into court to supplicate you believe it to be possible that, if these mer for her father, and what were the effects of her had really projected the convention as a traitor supplications, and of the law in the mouth of the ous usurpation of the authorities of Parliament, prisoner? “Sir Thomas Armstrong," said Jef. they would have invited the Friends of the Peo eries, "you may amuse yourself as much as you ple, in Frith Street, to asint hem, when they please with the idea of your innocence, but you knew that this society was determined not to are to be hanged next Friday;" and upon the seek the reform of the Constitution but by means natural exclamation of a daughter at this horri- that were constitutional, and from whom they ble outrage against her parent, he said, " Take could neither hope for support nor concealment that woman out of court;" which she answered of evil purposes? I & k you, next, if their ob by a prayer that God Almighty's judgments jects had been traitorous, would they have given might light upon him. Gentlemen, they did them, without disguise or color, 10 the public and light upon him; and when, after his death, which to the government in every common newspaper? speedily followed this transaction, the matter was And yet it is so far from being a charge against brought before the House of Commons, under that them that they concealed their objects by hs. glorious Revolution which is asserted through- pocrisy or guarded conduct, that I have been out the proceedings before you, the judgment driven to admit the justice of the complaint against Sir Thomas Armstrong was declared to against them, for unnecessary inflammation and be a murder under color of justice! Sir Robert exaggeration. I ask you, further, whether, if Sawyer, the Attorney General, was expelled the the proceedings thus published and exaggerated House of Commons for his misdemeanor in re- had appeared to government, who knew every fusing the writ of error; and the executors of thing belonging to them, in the light they rep. Jefferies were commanded to make compensa resent them to you 10-day, they could possibly tion to the widow and the daughter of the de- have slept over them with such complete inditceased. These are great monuments of justice; ference and silence ? For it is notorious that and although I by no means approve of harsh ex. after this convention had been held at Edinpressions against authority which tend to weaken burgh; after, in short, every thing had been said. the holdings of society, yet let us not go beyond written, and transacted, on wbich I am now comthe mark in our restraints, nor suppose that men menting, and after Mr. Paine's book had beer are dangerously disaffected to the government, for above a year in universal circulation-ay because they feel a sort of pride and exultation up to the very day when Mr. Grey gave notice. in events which constitute the dignity and glory in the House of Commons, of the intention of the of their country.
Friends of the People for a reform in Parlia. Gentlemen, this resentment against the pro- ment, there was not even a single indictment on Tbe treatment
ont ceedings of the courts in Scotland was the file for a misdemeanor; but, from that moof the Scottisli not confined to those who were the ment, when it was seen that the cause was not reformers very generally con objects of them. It was not confined beat down or abandoned, the Proclamation made demned.
even to the friends of a reform in Par- its appearance, and all the proceedings that fol. liament. A benevolent public, in both parts of lowed had their birth. I ask you, lastly, gentle the island, joined them in the complaint; and a men, whether it be in human nature, that a les gentleman of great moderation, and a most unprotected men, conscious, in their uwa minds, inveterate enemy to parliamentary reform, as that they had been engaged and devected in a thinking it not an improvement of the govern detestable rebellion to cut off the King, to dement, but nevertheless a lover of his country and stroy the administration of justice, and to sabits insulted justice, made the convictions of the vert the whole fabric of the government, should delegates the subject of a public inquiry. I turn round upon their country, whose ruin they speak of my friend Mr. William Adam, who had projected, and whose most obvious justice brought these judgments of the Scotch judges attached on them, complaining, forsooth, that before the House o! Commons, arraigned them their delegates, taken by magistrates in the very as contrary to law, and proposed to reverse them act of high treason, had been harshly and ille by the authority of Parliament. Let it not, then, gally interrupted in a meritorious proceeding be matter of wonder that these poor men, who | The history of mankind never furnished an inwere the immediate victims of this injustice, and stance, nor ever will, of such extravagant, pre who saw their brethren expelled from their posterous, and unnatural conduct! No, no, getcountry by an unprecedented and questionable tlemen. All their hot blood was owing to their judgment, should feel like men on the subject, firm persuasion, dictated by conscious innocence, and express themselves as they felt.
that the conduct of their delegates had been le. Gentlemen, amid the various distresses and em- gal, and might be vindicated against the magis Proof from the barrassments which attend my pres-trates who obstructed them. In that they might accused that the ent situation, it is a great consolation be mistaken; I am not arguing that point a: reform by se that I have marked, from the begin- present. If they are hereafter indicted for a intended. ning, your vigilant attention a.d your misdemeanor, and I am counsel in that cause,' capacity to understand ; it is, therefore, with ahei will then tell you what I think of it Sufficient
to Irance by
icans though a
anto the day is the good or evil thereof. It is feel to the very sout for a nation beset oy mou sufficient for the present one, that the legality or sword of despois, and yet be a lover of his own illegality of the business has no relation to the country and its Constitution. crime that it is imputed to the prisoner.
Gentlemen, the same celebrated person, or The next matter that is alleged against the whom I have had occasion to speak Mr. Burke pub 4) The rend authors of the Scotch Convention, and so frequently, is the best and bright. isly expressed
his sympathy up of delegates the societies which supported it, is est illustration of this truth. Mr.
with the Amet ke two Loe their having sent addresses of friend-Burke, indeed, went a great deal fur. arms again! don societies BEISLI ship to the Convention of France.ther than requires to be pressed into
England. These addresses are considered to be a decisive the present argument. He maintained the cause proof of republican combination, verging closely of justice and of truth against all the perverted in themselves upon an overt act of treason. Gen-authority and rash violence of his country, and tlemen, if the dates of these addresses are attend expressed the feelings of a Christian and a pa. ed to, which come no lower down than Novem-triot in the very heat of the American warber, 1792, we have only to lament that they were boldly holding forth our victories as defeats, and but the acts of private subjects, and that they our successes as calamities and disgraces. “It were not sanctioned by the state itself. The is not instantly," said Mr. Burke, “that I can be
French nation, about that period, un- brought to rejoice when I hear of the slaughter triea at peace der their new Constitution, or under and captivity of long lists of those names which with England.
14. their new anarchy-call it which you have been familiar to my ears from my infancy, will-were, nevertheless, most anxiously desir- and to rejoice that they have fallen under the ous of maintaining peace with this country. But sword of strangers, whose barbarous appellations the King was advised to withdraw his embassa- I scarcely know how to pronounce. The glory dor from France, upon the approaching catastro- acquired at the White Plains by Colonel Rhalle phe of its most unfortunate Prince — an event has no charms for me, and I fairly acknowledge which, however to be deplored, was no justifia- that I have not yet learned to delight in finding ble cause of offense to Great Britain France Fort Knyphausen in the heart of the British do desired nothing but the regeneration of her own minions.67 If this had been said or written by government; and if she mistook the road to her Mr. Yorke at Sheffield, or by any other member prosperity, what was that to us? But it was of these societies, heated with wine at the Globe alleged against her in Parliament, that she had Tavern, it would have been trumpeted forth as introduced spies among us, and held correspond- decisive evidence of a rebellious spirit, rejoicing ence with disaffected persons, for the destruction in the downfall of his country. Yet the great of our Constitution. This was the charge of our author, from whose writings I have borrowed, ininister, and it was, therefore, considered just and approved himself to be the friend of this nation necessary, for the safety of the country, to hold at that calamitous crisis, and had it pleased God France at arm's length and to avoid the very to open the understandings of our rulers, his wis. contagion of contact with her at the risk of war. dom might have averted the storms that are now But, gentlemen, this charge against France was thickening around us. We must not, therefore, :bought by many to be supported by no better be too severe in our strictures upon the opinions groofs than those against the prisoner. In the and feelings of men as they regard such mighty public correspondence of the embassador from public questions. The interests of a nation may the French King, and upon his death, as minis often be one thing, and the interests of its govter from the Convention, with his Majesty's Sec.erpmont another, but the interests of those who retary of State, documents which lie upon the hold government for the hour is at all times dif table of the House of Commons, and which may ferent from either. At the time many of tho be made evidence in the cause, tho executive papers before you were circulated on others may council repelled with indignation all the impaia- the subject of the war with France, have similar tions, which to this very hour are held out as the many of the best and wisest men in ing the French vindications of quarrel. "If there be such per- this kingdom began to be driven by treasonable de sons in England,” says Monsieur Chauvelin, "has our situation to these melancholy re- signs. not England laws to punish them? France dis flections. Thousands of persons, the most firmly avows them — such men are not Frenchmen."attached to the principles of our Constitution, and The same correspondence conveys the most sol- who never were members of any of these socie. emn assurances of friendship down to the very ties, considered, and still consider, Great Britain year 1792, a period subsequent to all the corre- as the aggressor against France. They considspondeace and addresses complained of. Whethered, and still consider, that she had a right to er these assurances were faithful, or otherwisewhether it would have been prudent to have de.
57 See Mr. Burke's letter to the Sheriff of Bristol. pended on them, or otherwise—whether the war
Colonel Rhalle was a Hessian officer, who distin
guished himself at the battle of White Plains, in was advisable or unadvisable, are questions over
November, 1776. A few days after, General Knyp which we have no jurisdiction. I only desire to
hausen, a German officer in the British service, led bring to your recollection, that a man may be a
the way in attacking Fort Washington, on the Hud. friend to the rights of humanity and to the im
son, a little above New York; and from this circum prescriptible rights of social man, which is now stance, probably, his name was given to the fort by i term of derision and contempt — that he may the British while it remained in their possession
choose a government for herself, and that it was which the present juncture of affairs seems ta contrary to the first principles of justice, and, if require. possible, still more repugnant to the genius of our “The London Corresponding Society conceive own free Constitution, to combine with despots that the moment is arrived when a full and ex for her destruction. And who knows but that plicit declaration is necessary from all the friend: the external pressure upon France may have of freedom-—whether the late illegal and unheard. been the cause of that unheard-of state of socie of prosecutions and sentences shall determine us ty which we complain of? Who knows wheth- to abandon our cause, or shall excite us to par. er, driven as she has been to exertions beyond the sue a radical reform, with an ardor proportioaed ordinary vigor of a nation, she has not thus gained to the magnitude of the object, and with a zen that unnatural and giant strength which threat as distinguished on our own parts as the treach. ens the authors of it with perdition? These are ery of others in the same glorious canse is poto melancholy considerations, but they may reason- rious. The Society for Constitutional Informa. ably and, at all events, lawfully be entertained. tion is, therefore, required to determine whether We owe okience to government in our actions, or no they will be ready, when called upon, to but surely our opinions are free.
act in conjunction with this and other societies Gentlemen, pursuing the order of time, we are to obtain a fair representation of the people(5.) Proporal arrived at length at the proposition to whether they concur with us in seeing the ne65. CONCE hold another convention, which, with cessity of a speedy convention, for the purpose gland. the supposed support of it by force, are of obtaining, in a constitutional and legal method, the only overt acts of high treason charged upon a redress of those grievances under which we at this record. For, strange as it may appear, there present labor, and which can only be effectually is no charge whatever before you of any one of removed by a full and fair representation of the those acts or writings, the evidence of which con- pecple of Great Britain. The London Corresumed so many days in reading, and which has sponding Society can not but remind their friends already nearly consumed my strength in only that the present crisis demands all the prudence, passing them in review before you. If every unanimity, and vigor, that may or can be exertline and letter of all the writings I have been ed by men and Britons; nor do they doubt bat commenting upon were admitted to be traitorous that manly firmness and consistency will finally, machinations, and if the convention in Scotland and they believe shortly, terminate in the full se. was an open rebellion, it is conceded to be for- complishment of all their wishes. eign to the present purpose, unless as such crim- “I am, fellow-citizen, inality in them might show the views and objects
“(In my humble measure), of the persons engaged in them. On that prin
"A friend to the rights of man, ciple only the court has over and over again de
T. Hardy, Secretary." cided the evidence of them to be admissible; and
They then resolve that there is no security for on the same principle I have illustrated them in
the continuance of any right but in equality of their order as they happened, that I might lead
laws—not in equality of property—the ridiculoes the prisoner in your view up to the very point
bugbear by which you are to be frightened into and moment when the treason is supposed to have burst forth into the overt act for which he
injustice ; on the contrary, throughout every part
of the proceedings, and most emphatically in Mr. is arraigned before you.
Yorke's speech (so much relied on), the benefi. The transaction respecting this second conven
cial subordinations of society, the security of tion, which constitutes the principal, All the treason
property, and the prosperity of the landed and u letound here, or, more properly, the only overt act fans wbere.
commercial interests, are held forth as the very in the indictment, lies in the narrow
objects to be attained by the reform in the repest compass, and is clouded with no ambiguity. I
resentation which they sought for. admit freely every act which is imputed to the
In examining this first moving toward a sec. prisoner, and listen not so much with fear as with
ond convention, the first thing to be the dyert nt tje curiosity and wonder to the treason sought to be
considered is, what reason there is, was connected with it.
from the letter I have just read to content, You will recollect, that the first motion toward
you, or from any thing that appears lessed'y set to the holding of a second convention
to have led to it, to suppose that a watube to the Constitu- originated in a letter to the prisontional Society.
different sort of convention was projected fron else er from a country correspondent, in
that (at Edinburgh) which had been before as which the legality of the former was vindicated,
sembled and dispersed. The letter says, another and its dispersion lamented. This letter was
British Convention, and it describes the same ob answered on the 27th of March, 1794, and was
jects as the first. Compare all the papers for read to you in the Crown's evidence in these
the calling this second convention with those for words:
assembling the first, and you will find no differ.
" March 27, 1794. "CITIZEN, - I am directed by the London
ence, except that they mixed with them extra.
neous and libelous matter arising obviously front Corresponding Society to transmit the follow
the irritation produced by the sailing of the trans ing resolutions to the Society for Constitutional
ports with their brethren condemned to exile Information, and to request the sentiments of that society respecting the important measures 8 Those of Mair and others, mentioned above
of the foret