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received any information, and did not
HOUSE OF COMMONS. communicate it, he was guilty of a great breach of his dury. In lord Chatham's
Tuesday, March 27. instructions, the proposed and prime ob- [COMPLAINT AGAINST Sir Francis Bur. ject was the attack on the fleet at Antwerp, DETT.) Mr. Lethbridge, in consequence together with the destruction of the arse. of the notice which he had yesterday nal, &c. at that place; but on the con- given, rose with a degree of pain and entrary, the noble lord had alleged, that it barrassment, which he declared he had was for the purpose of giving Austria a never felt before, to make a complaint chance of success in her struggle with against one of the members of the United France. The noble lord says that the Commons of Great Britain, who, in his scheme was merely tried, and the Expedi- opinion, bad violated the privileges of tion was not prosecuted. Whatever might the House. He did not mean to enter be the consequence of lord Chatham's not upon the subject itself, but it was his inlanding at Bathz, whatever the combined tention to lay upon the table the docuhostility of land and sea might effect, was ment which ihe hon. baronet, who was the House now to determine on that which the object of the motion, bad admitted had never been attempted. His feelings was published by his authority. For the were excited for the inhabitants of the purpose of saving the time of the House, north of Germany, and not for the troops he had marked certain passages in that of his country, who were sent out to perish document, which, in his opinion, more there, in all the miseries of neglect and particularly justified him in the charge sickness. The noble lord said, that no which he had preferred against the hon. failure was to be attributed but that which baronet. (The hon. member then gave must always result from risk. Here he in at the table “ Cobbeti's Weekly Polidiffered from what appeared on examina- tical Register” of Saturday March 24, tion, which expressly proved, that it was 1810.) necessary fortune should declare in every The Speaker desired the clerk to prorespect on our side. Did he think that to ceed to read the paper complained of. be the common chance of war, when on He wished to know whether the hon. the failure of one point the ruin of the member, or any other hon. member was whole succeeded? Can he defend the desirous that parts only, or that the whole prodigality and folly of this Expedition of the paper should be read ? by calling on the feelings and spirit of Mr. Lethbridge lamented that he should the House? But on this subject it was intrude upon the attention of the House competent for every one in that House to at a time when so important a discussion judge. He first said that the capture of as that of the Walcheren Inquiry was in Cadsand was necessary for the completion its progress. He repeated that he had of the Expedition ; this on a second asser. marked those passages in the paper which tion was contradicted. Our army cannot appeared to him to be most obnoxious; at be trusted on the continent, for a melancho- the same time, he had not the slightest ly reason, because our pecuniary circum- objection to the whole being read. stances are such that we cannot pay them The Speaker. Clerk, read the Paper.there. The taunts of the French are now, The Clerk accordingly began to read one might say, realized, when they call us a sir Francis Burdett's Letter to his Consti. nation of shopkeepers and money-lenders; tuents, but had not finished half a dozen not of warriors and lovers of our country. sentences, when The noble lord had alleged that the gar- Mr. Home Sumner spoke to order. He rison of Antwerp was composed of custom conceived that it would be extremely house officers and workmen, but in this he convenient to postpone the discusson of was mistaken, for an account of the 26th this subject, in consideration of the importof Aug. states, that there were in it 26,000 ant business which stood for that night. of disciplined men.—Here the hon. mem- The Speaker, however, declared, that ber was interrupted with cries of " Ad- having proceeded so far, it was beyond journ !” when, after a few moments, he re- the power of any hon. member to terminmarked that most of the members had left ate the proceeding. A complaint havthe House, and as he had so much to say, ing been made against an bon. member he shouid defer it till to-morrow. It was of the House, for a breach of privilege, it then moved that the House do adjourn; was indispensable that the House should and an adjournment accordingly took place know the grounds upon which it was preat half past two.
ferred; after which, they would deter-, forefathers, after so many struggles and so mine what course to pursue. Until that many sacrifices. time they could not do otherwise than Either the House of Commons is authohear the whole of the Complaint, and also rised to dispense with the Laws of the the whole of what the hon, member had 10 Land ; or it is not. If the Constitution be say in his defence. The bon. member of so delicate a texture, so weak a frame, against whom the charge was preferred so fragile a sußstance, that it is to be only would then withdraw, and the House would spoken of in terms of admiration, and to enter into the consideration of the steps be viewed merely as a piece of curious which it would become them to adopt. but unprofitable workmanship; If Magna
The Clerk proceeded to read the Letter Charta and all the wholesome Laws of and the Argument ; of which the follow England be a dead-letter : in that case, ing are copies :
the affirmative of the proposition may be
admitted ; but, if the Constitution lives, SIR FRANCIS BURDETT TO HIS CON- and is applicable to its ends ; namely,
STITUENTS ; DENYING THE the happiness of the community, the perPOWER OF THE HOUSE OF fect security of the life, liberty and proCOMMONS TO IMPRISON THE perty of each member and all the mem. PEOPLE OF ENGLAND.
bers of the society ; then the affirmative
of the proposition can never be admitted; GentlEMEN ; The House of Commons then must we be free-men; for we need having passed a Voie, which amounts to a no better security, no more powersul prodeclaration, that an Order of theirs is to tection for our Rights and Liberties, than be of more weight than Magna Charta | the Laws and Constitution. We seek for, and the Laws of ihe Land, I think it my and we need seek for, nothing new; we duty to lay my sentiments thereon before ask for no more than what our fore-fathers my Constituents, whose character as free- iusisted upon as their own; we ask for no men, and even whose personal safety, de- more that what they bequeathed unto us ; pend, in so great a degree, upon the de- we ask for no more than what they, in cision of this question-a question of no
the Testament which some of them had less importance than this : Whether our sealed, and which the rest of them were liberty be still to be secured by the laws ready to seal, with their blood, expressly of our fore-fathers, or be to lay at the declared to be " the Birth right of the Peo. absolute mercy of a part of our fellow-ple of England';' namely, THE LAWS OF subjects, collected together by means ENGLAND. To these laws we have a wbich it is not necessary for me to de- right to look, with confidence, for security scribe.
to these laws the individual now imIn order to give to this subject all the prisoned has, through me, applied for reattention to which it is entitled, and to dress, in vain. Those, who have imavoid the danger to be apprehended from prisoned him, have refused to listen to my partial views and personal feeling, it will voice, weakly expressing the strong be advisable to argue the question on its principles of the Law, the undeniable own murits, putting the individual (how. claims of this Englishman's “ Birth-right.” everwe may deplore his present sufferings) Your voice may come with more force ; out of view; though at the same time, may conimand greater respect ; and, Í every man ought to consider the case his am not without hope, that it may prove own; because, should the principle, upon irresistible, if it proclaim to this House of which the Gentlemen of the House of Commons, in the same tone as the tongues Commons have thought proper to act in of our ancestors proclaimed to the Kings this instance, be once admitted, it is im- of old " NOLUMUS LEGES ANGLIÆ MUTARE”; possible for any one to conjecture how or, in our own more clear and not less soon he himself may be summoned from forcible language ; his dwelling, and be hurried, without trial, LAND SHALL NOT BE CHANGED." and without oath made against him, from The Principle, fellow.citizens, for which the bosoin of his family into the clutches we are now contending, is the same Prinof a jailor. • It is, therefore, now the time ciple, for which the people of England to resist the doctrine upon which Mr. have contended from the earliest ages, Jones has been sent to Newgate ; or, it is and their glorious success in which conbigh time to cease all pretensions to those tests are now upon record in the Great Liberties which were acquired by our Charter of our Rights and Liberties, and
THE LAWS OF ENG
in divers other subsequent Statutes of I shall be told, perhaps, that there is scarcely less importance. It was this not much danger of this power being same great Principle, which was again very frequently exercised. The same apo attacked by Charles the First, in the mea-logy may be made for the exercise of sure of Ship Money; when again the any power, whatever. I do not suppose people of England and an uncorrupted that the Gentlemen of the House of House of Commons renewed the contest; Commons will send any of you to jail a contest which ended in the Imprison. when you do not displease them. Mr. ment, the Trial, the Condemnation, and Yorke did not move for the sending of the Execution of that ill-advised King. Mr. Jones to jail, until Mr. Jones dise The self same Principle it was, that was pleased him; but, it is not a very great so daringly violated by his Son James compliment to pay to any Constitution, the Second ; and for which violation he lo say, that it does not permit a man to was compelled to flee from the just indig- be imprisoned, unless he has done somenation of the people, who not only stript thing to displease persons in power. It him of his Crown, but who prevented would be difficult, I should suppose, to that Crown from descending to his family find any man upon earth, however despotic In all these contests, the courage, perse- bis disposition, who would not be converance, and fortitude of our ancestors, tented with the power of sending to pri. conspicuous as they were, were not more son, during his pleasure, every one who so than their wisdom ; for, talk as long as should dare to do any thing to displease we will about Rights, Liberties, Fran- him. Besides, when I am told, that there chises, Privileges and Immunities, of what is little danger that the Gentlemen in the avail are any, or all of these together, if House of Commons will often exercise this our Persons can, at the sole will and com- power, I cannot help observing, that, mand of any man, or set of men, be though the examples may be few, their seized on, thrown into prison, and there effect will, naturally, be great and gekept during the pleasure of that man, or neral. At this moment, it is true, we see set of men If every one of you be liable, but one man actually in jail for having at any time, to be sent to jail without displeased those Gentlemen ; but the fate trial, and without oath made against you, of this one man (as is the effect of all and there to be detained as long as it punishments) will deter others from ex. pleases the parties sending you there pressing their opinions of the conduct of (perhaps to the end of your life,) without those who have bad the power to punish any Court to appeal to, without any means him. And, moreover, it is in the nature of redress: if this be the case, shall we of all power, and especially of assumed still boast of the Laws and of the Liber- and undefined power, to increase as it ties of England? Volumes have been advances in age; and, as Magna Charta written by Foreigners as well as by our and the Law of the Land have not been own countrymen in praise of that part sufficient to protect Mr. Jones; as we of our Law, which in so admirable a man- have seen him sent to jail for having des ner, provides for our personal safety cribed the conduct of one of the memagainst any attacks of men in power. bers as an outrage upon public feeling, what This has, indeed, been, in all ages, the security have we, unless this power of pride of our country; and it is the main-Imprisonment be given up, that we shall tenance of this principle which enabled not see other men sent to jail for stating us to escape that bondage, in which all their opinion respecting Rotten Boroughs, the States and Kingdoms in Europe were respecting Placemen and Pensioners sitenthralled by abandoning and yielding ting in the House; or, in short, for makit up; and, we may be assured that if ing any declaration, giving any opinion, we now abandon it, the bright days of stating any fact, betraying any feeling, England's glory will set in the night of whether by writing, by word of mouth, her disgrace.
or by gesture, which may displease any But, I would fain believe that such is of the Gentlemen assembled in St. Stenot to be our fate. Our Fore-fathers phen's Chapel? made stern grim-visaged PREROGATIVE Then, again, as to the kind of punishhide his head : they broke in pieces his ment; why should they stop at sending sharp and massy sword. And, shall we, persons to jail? If they can send whom their Sons, be afraid to enter the lists with they please to jail; if they can keep the undefined PRIVILEGE, assuming the powers persons, so sent, in jail as long as they of Prerogative?
please ; if they can set their prisoners free altogether, as making no part of the preat the end of the first hour, or keep them sent enquiry, every other Privilege or confined for seven years; if, in short, their power for which the House of Commons absolute Will is to have the force of Law, may contend. I am the more anxious what security can you have, that they will upon this point, on account of the diffistop at Imprisonment ? If they have the culty experienced during the discussion in absolute power of imprisoning and re- the House of Commons of keeping sepaleasing, why may they not send their pri- rate, things, in their nature totally dissisoners to York-Jail as well as to a jail in milar, and quite distinct, but always conLondon? Why not confine men in soli founded : vnamely, The other Privileges and tary cells, or load them with chains and Powers contended for by the House of bolts ? They have not gone these lengths Commons, and that which we are now yet; but, what is there to restrain them, about to discuss ; namely, “ The Power if they are to be the sole judges of the erercised by the House of Commons of passextent of their own powers, and if they ing a Sentence of Imprisonment on any perare to exercise those powers without any son not being a Member of that House." It controul, and without leaving the parties, will be necessary to keep our minds conwhom they choose to punish, any mode of stantly fixed upon this simple question appeal, any means of redress?
alone, and to apply to it, and to it only, That a Power such as this should exist all the arguments about to be adduced in in any country it is lamentable to be the course of this enquiry. obliged to believe ; but, that it should be suffered to exist, and that its existence tion from being present when the House should be openly and even boastfully of Commons passed by vote a Sentence of avowed, in a country, whose chief glory Imprisonment on Mr. Gale Jones, I should has been its free constitution of govern- have endeavoured to shew, That under ment, is something too monstrous to be the false notion of Privilege, they were believed, if the proof were not before our exercising a power, and committing an eyes. Had the least doubt hung upon my act of oppression, ill suited to the chamind of the illegality of the proceedings in racter of Guardians of Public Liberty, the present case, it would have been alto- and destructive of the first and most im gether removed by the answers given to the portant object of the Constitution, viz. references made by me to the Great Lu- « The Personal Security of the Subject." minaries of our Law and to the Laws them. Though I was well aware of the greater selves. The Argument, by which I endea- difficulty of persuading men to recall an voured to convince the Gentlemen of the act once committed, than to prevent its House of Commons, that their acts, in the commission-it being much more easy to case of Mr. Jones, were illegal, I shall now slide into than to recover from errorlay before you, in a more full and connected would not allow that consideration to way than it could possibly be done by the deter me from what my duty called upon Parliamentary Reporters; and, in doing me to attempt. To others I shall always this, I shall do all that now remains in my leave fanciful ideas, suggested by wild power towards the correction of this, as 1 metaphysical imaginations, on the supdeem it, most enormous Abuse of Power, posed nature of what they may be pleased and most dangerous of all encroachments to call Privilege, or any other chimerical, upon the Rights and Liberties of English- undefined non-descript; and, as a plain . men. I remain, Gentlemen, Your most man, be content, upon this as upon all obedient, humble Servant,
other occasions, to be guided by the old FRANCIS BURDETT. Laws of the Land : in which alone I am Piccadilly, March 23, 1810.
able to find The CONSTITUTION of this Country-the Liberty which I claim as
the inheritance of Englishmen--and that THE ARGUMENT, &c.
Standard by which and by which alone, In order to make clearly understood every act and proceeding of any man or the Argument which is here submitted to body of men ought to be measured. 'the consideration of the Public, it will be The Common Law of the Land is the necessary, first, simply to state the ques. inalienable inheritance of the people-it tion about to be discussed, as it was pro- is, says Lord Coke, “ The Inheritance of posed originally to the House of Com- Inheritances; it is the best birth-right mons, and to endeavour to put out of view the Subject hath, for thereby his goods,
“ lands, wife, children, his body, life, ho- | ends of its institution; and violated the “ nour and estimation are protected from fundamental principles of the Law and “injury and wrong. Major hæreditas Constitution of the Land. And this I “ venit unicuique nostrum a jure et legibus shall prove by the application of the “ quam a parentibus. It is highest above standard of the law to the Proceedings of “ the highest : None are above its reach, that House. “nor any beneath its protection; Its To bring this question fairly into dis“ foundations are laid broad and deep in cussion, it will be necessary to state the “ nature and reason, and therefore not to origin and extent, from which will appear “ be removed from those foundations by the nature and reason, of the Privileges of
any power upon earth *.” “ The Law members of Parliament, “ of England,” says the great Lawyer The first mention of Privilege of ParPlowden, “is no other than pure and tried liament is to be found in Spellman, who “ reason t.” And, according to Lord records a law of king Canute, “ Omnis homo Coke, “ the absolute perfection of Rea- “ eundo ad Gemotum, vel redundo a Gemoto
The ground whereof is beyond “ habeat pacem.” That every one going “ the memory or register of any begin- to, or coming from the Witenna gemotte, “nings."
should have protection. The question, then, for the People to The next notice of Privileges is to be consider, is, Whether a Vote of the House found in two Writs of supersedeas of Edof Commons can deprive them of these ward the second, to privilege members their imprescriptible Rights ?
from being sued in any court, (sitting the Many are the statutes, which, embody- parliament) and which are still extant. ing these principles of the Common Law, The extent of these Privileges cannot have declared, That no Order, Writ or be better set forth than in the following Commandment whatsoever, either from the Order of the House of Commons, of the King or any other, shall stop the Common 1st of June, 1621, supposed to have been Law : That it shall by no means be de. drawn up by Sir Edward Coke, then a layed, being the surest sanctuary for the leading member of the House : innocent, and the strongest fortress to pro- “ Ordered, upon question, That if any tect the weak. It has clipe the wings of “arrest, or any distress of goods, serving high-flying Prerogative ; and will, I trust, any process, summoning his land, citayet dissolve the potent spell of undefined “ tion or summoning his person, arresting Privilege of Parliament: for there are no “his person, suing him in any court, or Powers or Privileges, even the highest, “ breaking any other privilege of this that are not bounded by the known ascer- “ House, a letter shall issue, under Mr. tained Laws of the Land. If, therefore, “ Speaker's hand, for the party's relief any man, or set of men, lay claim to Pri- " therein, as if the parliament was sitting; vileges or Powers, not recognized by, but “ and the party refusing to obey it, to be repugnant to, those Laws; such claims “censured at the next Access."'* ought to be legally resisted by every one
On the 18th of December, 1621, the who values regulated Liberty, and ab- following Protestation concerning the hors Anarchy or Despotism, the never- Privileges of the House of Commons, was failing consequence of departing there agreed to, and ordered to be entered in from.
the Journal : Founded on such a basis ; fortified by “ The Commons, now assembled in such Authorities as I shall have occasion “parliament being justly occasioned thereto appeal to in the progress of this enquiry,“ unto,
“ unto, concerning sundry Liberties, I have little doubt of being able to con- “ Franchises, Privileges, and Jurisdictions vince every impartial mind, that the House “ of Parliament, amongst others not herein of Commöns, by proceeding to judgment " mentioned, do make this Protestation --passing a Sentence of Imprisonment, "following: That the Liberties, Franand issuing a Warrant of Commitment, “ chises, Privileges and Jurisdictions of has gone beyond its prescribed limits, “ Parliament, are the ancient and unacted in a manner inconsistent with the “doubted birthright and inheritance of
" the subjects of England ; and that the * See also Co, Lit. 141. a. 2 Inst. “ arduous and urgent attairs concerning 56, 63.
“ the King, State, and the Defence of the + Plowden, 316. See also Co. Lit. 976, 2 Inst. 179.
1 Commons' Journal, 634.