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with such tenor the motion under consi- one of the gentlemen opposite thougit deration had nothing whatever to do; it proper to suggest, that the further prosemerely went to propose the release of Mr. cution should be handed over to his MaJones, in consequence of his having been jesty's attorney general. The suggestion confined long enough for the offence he was unfortunately adopted, and the author had committed. With regard to the ge- of what had been unanimously condemned deral doctrines of the hon. baronet upon in the House as a gross and scandalous this occasion, he confessed, that he could libel, was acquitted in the court below. not subscribe to them. Indeed, there were This was the consequence of transmitting some of them which he heard with surprize the defence of their insulted privileges -When the hon. baronet in talking of into the hands of an attorney general. that House described it as the inferior The recollection of this case, which could branch of the legislature, he really must never escape his memory, held out no insuppose from the hon. baronet's principles, ducement to that House, in his mind, to that he must have made a slip. What, transfer to any court the preservation ot its that that House which contained the re- privileges and dignity. No, he would presentation of the people, even such as it rather prefer the increase of their own inwas, should be set down by the hon. bart. disputable right to guard against and puas the inferior branch of the legislature? | nish the violation of their own undoubted If the House were reformed, no doubt it privileges. But, as to the nature of the would be so much the better, but whether offence committed by Jones, and the imor not, made no difference as to the de prisonment he had suffered in consescription which the hon. baronet gave of quence, he must again express his hopes it, he must believe, by mistake.
that gentlemen, who seemed disposed to The hon. baronet recommended a re- release bim, would not allow that disposiference to the attorney general to prose- tion to be affected, by coupling his case cute for any libel upon that House, in pre- with any argument advanced by the boference to the course which had been pur- nourable baronet. The offence of Mr. sued in the case under consideration. But Jones ought to be candidly considered, on this point he differed decidedly from and the extent of the punishment reguthe honourable baronet. This was a prac-lated by the merits of the case. What tice he never could give his sanction to ; | then in reality was the nature of this of and by the adoption of which, he had no fence, of which it seemed he was unanihesitation in saying he thought the House mously considered guilty, though now, would be dishonoured. It never could | indeed, the entire feeling of the House apdelegate into any other hands than its peared in his favour, provided he could be own, the maintenance of its privileges, abstracted from the arguments by which without a degradation of its dignity and a the motion had been preceded? Why, he dereliction of its duty. He well knew the had merely proposed as a subject to be consequence of confiding such a trust into mopted at a debating society, whether the hands of an attorney-general. He certain conduct of two members of that knew it from experience. He had once House had been or had not been offensive the honour of being appointed chairman to the liberty of the press ; and in case of a committee appointed expressly in of condemnation, which had been most order to ascertain who was the author of criminal. Now this was a question proa certain gross and scandalous libel against posed merely to be discussed at the dethe dignity of that House. The libel bate of an evening society. He begged proved to be the production of Mr. Reeves, gentlemen to consider how far this case a friend of his own, for whom he felt a then was worthy of serious attention, very high degree of personal respect, and much less deserving of severe punishwent the length of stating, that the mo- ment. For himself, he was free to say, narch was the chief prop and strength of the that he hated all extremes. While he constitution, the root and trunk on which differed from the honourable baronet's its vigour depended, and which might re- doctrine, that that House had no right to main fresh and vigorous, though even the commit any person but one of its own other members of the legislature, the members, for any attack upon its privibranches, were demolished. This he in leges, he could not, on the other hand, the House had moved to be a gross and agree with the principle laid down by the scandalous libel, and was proceeding to new Teller of the Exchequer, when he take further steps in consequence, when originally brought forward the case of
Jones. To have heard the opening of the I their best prop and champion-their chief accuser, one would have thought it a case resource under all the miseries of misrule - aggravated in the extreme :~ Read me, and misgovernment, a free press. An says the hon. member for Cambridgeshire, attempt of that description had been made turning to the clerk, (he is not now, in- some time since. He had not then the deed, member for Cambridgeshire, said honour of a seat in that House, but it was Mr. Sheridan, and I hope, for the honour at the close of the American war that the of the people of England he will never experiment was tried. Lord North atagain be returned to this House by any tempted to exclude the public from the portion of that people) “ Read me a cer. House of Commons; he had the power, tain page of a certain chapter in the bill, and exercised it for above a session and a of rights." Now the passage which he half. What was the consequence? every had desired so pompously to be read, county had its parliament, and every vil. merely directed that no proceeding of lage in the empire its delegates: clubs asthat House should be questioned in any sembled, and societies sprung up for the court or place out of doors. Was this discussion of their rights, and the examinmeant to bar all public discussion, all ation of their grievances. The result consideration of politics out of parlia. however was, that the minister seeing his ment? Unless it meant this, it could mean mistake, restored the usual opportunity of nothing; it must prevent the publication communication between the people and of any report of any of their proceedings; their representatives. If he had not done it must carry the order to its utmost ex- so, what might have been the consetremity: Now to prove how conveniently quence ? He remembered well that much this principle might be occasionally re- mischief was apprehended, but the danger laxed, he would merely state the contents was dissipated by the restoration of that of a requisition which an hon. baronet freedom which was the most effectual foe had just shewn him, as having been served to danger. Therefore be saw with pain on him, requiring his attendance at a court every act of hostility against the freedom of common council-he did not think it of the press, particularly at the present would be disorderly to mention the name crisis. The House ought not at such a of the bon. gentleman, not certainly as a period to betray any thing like that hosmember of that House, but as an alder. tility. It was inconsistent with the safety man-he was a very constitutional man; it of the country, and peculiarly so with was sir William Curtis: The requisition their own interest. But in the case under desired bis attendance at a court of com- consideration their interest, their princimon council to “consider of the prodigal ples, and their pride should restrain the and profligate expenditure of the public House from engaging in such conduct. money by the House of Commons, in the There was something so silly, so small, so late grant of an annuity of 2,000l. a-year ignominous in the contest in wbich the to lord Wellington.” Now if the bill of House was involved, that he could not rights was to be so closely adhered to in think of it without pain, and therefore every case, why was such a notice as this must feel anxious to rescue it from its made public with impunity: What! shall warfare with the British Forum. Upon that House thunder its vengeance to batter these grounds he would take leave to down a poor debating club, when it would move an Amendment, that John Gale not dare to raise its arm against a wealthy Jones should be discharged in consequence corporation? If this distinction was to be of the contrition he had expressed for his practised and endured, let there be an end offence against the privileges of the House, ihen of all that gives our constitution and the period he had been imprisoned in value-repress all discussion - prohibit Newgate. The right hon. gentleman ex. any county meetings--silence every con- pressed a wish to know from the chair, troul over public men on the part of the whether this mode of applying for the people,—and by that act deprive parlia- discharge of Jones, or his own application ment of the great stimulus by which it is by petition, was the more regular or ordi. forced to do its duty. If this principle of vary course in such cases ? the bill of rights was to be acted on at all, The Amendment having been delivered common justice required that its extension to the Speaker, he observed in reply to should be general; and if that were once the inquiry of Mr. Sheridan, that an apthe case, they would rob the people of plication to the House by petition from their only consulation under suffering the prisoner, would be more consonant to VOL. XVI,
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the ordinary mode of proceeding in such of any new doctrine, without tracing that cases.The Amendment being read, doctrine to its source. The corporation
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, of the city of London had been confoundthat he could not agree either with the ed with a spouting club--the one was a original motion, or the amendment. In legal constitutional corporate body, and the first justavce, the argument of the the other was utterly unknown-it was hon. baronet had altogether failed ; it had nothing. He had no hesitation in saying been shewn in the course of the debate that that House ought to pause before it to have been wholly unfounded : a noble would interfere with the legal exercise of lord (Folkestone) had taken great pains a constitutional body. They were conand mainifested no inconsiderable portion vened by legal authority-they met to of ingenuity in reconciling the statements exercise a constitutional right—to petition of the honourable baronet, with princi- parliament, and in that petition to comples which those statements went to upset. ment upon the proceedings of their con. It had, however, been admitted, even by stituents, so that the analogy did not at all that noble lord, that that llouse had a riglit hold. He called upon the House to weign of committal in cases of contempt, and well the consequences of making the case that one concession, immoveably founded of Mr. Gale Jones a precedent--and a as it certainly was, at once went to the precedent it must be if hitherto the uniroot of the whole argument of the hon. form practice was that every offender baronet. It had been said by a right hon. should, previous to his enlargement, send gent. (Mr. Sheridan), that Mr. Gale Jones in an humble petition to that House, acwas not to be made a martyr to,the mode knowledging his offence and avowing his of reasoning adopted by the hon. baronet. contrition; and if, in the present instance, But he would ask if the House was to sa- Mr. Gale Jones should be absolved from crifice their sense of their own dignity to that hitherto indispensable preliminary. principles which they utterly denounced? Some stress had been laid' upon the exHe could not see why the House slould pressions of contrition made use of by be called upon on the very day on which Mr. Gale Jones at the bar; but such exthey had heard a doctrine avowed that pressions had been made previous to his went to the existence of their privileges, comınitment. The House agreed, after to discharge a person whom they had una- that confession unanimously, to commit nimously declared as guilty of a breach of him; therefore, some subsequent acknowtheir privileges. The right hon. gent. ledgment was necessary; at the same had reasoned as if every attempt on the time, he had no hesitation in saying, as part of the House to assert their privileges far as lie himself was individually conmust necessarily involve them in discredit, cerned,that if the person in question should, and put them in a situation out of which according to the ordinary and regular they were unable to deliver themselves course,submit his acknowledgments to the with either address or dignity.-Yet it House in the shape of a humble petition, appeared, that when the right hon. gent. he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had preferred an accusation himself it ne- should be the first to accede to any processarily became important; then to be position for his enlargement; but if that sure it originated in sound reason, and was individual should be so ill advised, as to deservedly matter of grave consideration. refuse such acknowledgment, the House It appeared, however, from the result, in his opinion could not enlarge that perthat a jury of dispassionate men, happily son without a compromise of its dignity. removed from the resistless influence of Mr. Sheridan in explanation said, that the right hon. gent.'s eloquence, had pro- he had distinctly stated that that House had nounced Mr. Reeves not guilty of that pronounced the Pamphlet of Mr. Reeves to atrocious libel which the right hon. gent. be a gross, scandalous, and malicious libel. in the vehemence of his eloquence had Earl l'emple, if he could not concur in attributed to him. If, then, the House the motion of the hon. baronet, should never came well out of such causes, the not consent to the attainment of the instance mentioned by the right hon. gent. same object by a side wind, in agreeing in which that gentleman was himself the to the amendment. He thought the conmover, was certainly one of the aptest finement already suffered by the indivi. Illustrations of the truth of that assertion. dual a sufficient punishment for his offence; He thought that the House should be ex- but would not consent to his discharge till tremely cautious in admitting the influence he should by a petition express contrition for his offence. The Bill of Rights was not, it could likewise imprison for constructive intended to prevent constitutional meet. contempt? The former was a power neings, legally convened for discussing the cessary for the performance of its consticonduct of public men. But he could tutional functions, and had not been denied not consider self-called meetings as en- / by him. But he did deny that they had titled to the same consideration as corpora- | legally the power to call a man to their tion meetings, or county meetings legally bar for the purpose of charging him with convened by the Sherifls. He should an oljence, and then to inflict upon him therefore vote against the original motion imprisonment, the highest punisbient, and against the amendment, at the same moi capital, recognised by the law of this time distinctly stating, that if a petition land. In doing this, the House appeared were to be presented, he should vote for to him to have greatly transcended its conthe discharge of the individual.
stitutional prerogatives. The hon. bart. Mr. Whitbread was sorry that the hon. then proceeded to review the cases that baronet had brought forward his motion had been adverted to in the course of the in a shape, which, whatever way it should discussion, and the comments made upon be decided, would not attain his object. them. He shewed that not one of them He could not but agree that the House applied to the case under consideration. had the right to commit persons for a breach 18 any hon. member could shew to bim of its privileges; but he must also add, that such a prerogative was necessary to that in his opinion that House very seldom the constitutional functions of parliament, got well out of such proceedings. It was he would submit. They had already clear that the honourable baronet had abandoned all the privileges which were gone the whole length of denying that the formerly thought necesary for them, be. House had the right to commit any per- cause they had been found obstructions sun, but one of its own members ; for he to justice, and they now retained only had put his argument in the form of a syl- freedom of speech and from arrest. He logism ; a court of record only had such had hoped that the learned gentlemen a power of commitment ; that House was opposite, those luminaries of the law, not a court of record, therefore that House would have thrown more light upon the had no such right of commitment. He subject; but the only case they had proshould therefore vote for the amendment. duced, that of Ferrars, in the reign of
Mr. C. W. Hynn declared his intention Henry VIII,went to shew that the House in to vote for amendment, because he thought such cases had no separate authority. the confinement already suffered sufficient the learned gentlemen had mistaken all as a punishment for the offence.
his cases, and misconceived the object for Sir F. Burdett replied to the various ar- which he had cited them, and the arguguments which had been urged against ments with which he urged them. But his motion. He had endeavoured to guard the hon. and learned gent. (the attorney against the confounding the simple propo- general) had not been able to shew that it sition, which he had stated, with the ex- was consistent with the law of England ercise of the inquisitorial functions of that that law, which, according to Plowden, House. He could never have had it in was founded upon pure reason-that an idea to assert, that the House had not the English subject ought lo be questioned power, in the exercise of its constitutional twice for the same offence.
The cases functions, to remove nuisances, that is, he had cited, he referred to only as illusobstructions to judgment, a power which trative of his argument, and in order to every magistrate possessed. All courts shew, by the well digested and able paper had that right, because without it they of the Judges in the case of Bridgeman and could not proceed in the administration Holt, that the judges acknowledged no of justice. What was the legal meaning legal tribunal in this kingdom but the of contempt? That which throws ob- courts established by the law of the land. structions in the way of the proceedings The ler parliamentaria that had been so of any court, is a contempt of that court ; much talked of, was binding upon their therefore the privilege of the court in such own members, but not upon others. It instance was the right of removing such did not give that House a power, not posobstruction; but how were the proceedings sessed by the Sovereign--the power of of that House affected, or at least obstruct committing a person for an offence coged, by a libel ? Did it follow that, because nisable by the legal tribunals. What was it could commit for directobstruction, the answer of chief justice Morton to Edward the Fourth, when asked by that | Stockholm and London, as that any evilo monarch " whether he could arrest a resulting from the illicit trade at St. Bar. particular person”, “ No, Sire, that would tholomew might be remedied. Next, be an act for which you could not be with respect to Portugal and Spain, their questioned, and the party, if aggrieved could flags could not certainly be used to any have no redress ; you must make an arrest great extent in protecting the illicit trade. by an officer who will be responsible for When he was at Lisbon in his Majesty's the consequences." It was likewise a service, he was astonished and concerned most material objection against this right to find that from one district of Africa, claimed by the House, that they could there were annually exported to the Pornot proportion the punishment to the tuguese settlements in America, not less offence ; as an individual may,by possibi- than from 15 to 16,000 slaves, and this he lity, be confined seven years, or only five was then told amounted to but one half minutes, if a dissolution was to take place. of the whole trade for Portugal. He Much had been said of the dignity of that trusted that our representarions upon this House ; but if dignity was to be measured head would be found to have had weight and supported by punishment, Jack Ketch in the councils of Portugal; as we might must have more dignity than any other justly be supposed to have some influence individual in the kingdom.
in a country in the defence of which we powers were to be given any where, he had voted money for the support of 30,000 should prefer giving them to the King of its native troops. With respect to He had ever been an enemy to the ex- Spain-Spain he had no doubt traded in ercise of arbitrary power in any quarter, slaves to the amount of nearly two thirds and on the same grounds was led to op- of the Slave Trade of Portugal; the priopose. what he looked upon as an usurpa- cipal part of this trade as carried on by lion of an unconstitutional and arbitrary Spain, was carried on between Cuba and power on the part of that House.
the Havannah; and it was but too justly The Amendment was then negatived apprehended, that in the intercourse bewithout a division ? but upon the original tween both the illicit trade was supporied motion the House divided-For it, 14- by landing the slaves upon the British Against it, 153—Majority, 139.
isles. With respect to America--the (Slave Trade.] Mr. Brougham rose to Americans had abolished the Slave Trade, make his promised motion for copies of yet much of the illicit trade was carried the correspondence between the foreign on under the flag of Sweden; this was a secretary and the ministers of foreign topic peculiary interesting to the Ameripowers, resident in London, upon the sub- cans, and the House had seen in the Ameject of the abolition of Slave Trade. The rican correspondence respecting Mr. Ers. hon. gent. requested the indulgence of kine, that they shewed their willingness the House while describing the object of to open a negociation upon this subject; his motion, and the nature of the papers they had said that they could not make he intented to move for. He disclaimed any concession affecting their right of soall sentiments of hostility to the present vereignty, yet that, if their ships should ministers as influencing bim in the motion be detected by our cruizers in that illicit he was about to make. He then pro- trade, the owners of those ships would not ceeded to advert to the resolution of 1806, make any representation to their governand lamenied that, as a general measure ment, in the violation of whose laws they it should have proved so inefficacious; had so suffered. He apologised to the more especially with respect to foreign House for the few observalions he had powers. Sweden bad carried on the taken the liberty to throw out, and conSlave Trade in the island of St. Bartho- cluded with moving, “ That an humble adlomew; that island from its proximity dress be presented to his Majesty, pray. to ihose of the West India islands belong. ing that he would be graciously pleased ing to us, afforded ample means for sup- to order, that there be laid before the poriing an vlicit trade in slaves with many House, copies of all communications made of our colonies in that quarter. The Slave by bis Majesty's secretary of State for Trade, wiih respect to Sweden, was foreign affairs, to the ministers of foreiga merely a neminal- trade, not exceeding powers resident in London, with their an. six or seven slaves a-year for that island. swers thereunto." He trusted, however, that such facilities of Mr. Canning complimented the hon. intercourse existed between the courts of gent. on the ability with which he had