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might be a good argument as against ansent, however, to the justice of the observaindividual, if just, but would not go for tion of the hon. gent. who alluded to the any thing upon the general principle.- circumstance of that distinguished StatesBut to return to the authorityof Mr. Fox; man having, wbilst a very young man, it was the opinion of that great man, that sat upon the Treasury Bench, and voted every court, which appeared to claim a in a particular way on a motion of Mr. power beyond what was necessary for its serjeant Glyn. If he knew any thing of proceeding, usurped that power.
Was Mr. Fox-if he was alive to his principles there any case in wbich the House had -if he had imbibed any of his spirit or gone farther than in the case of Gale feelings, he was convinced that Mr. Fox, Jones! It was the opinion of Mr. Fox, upon consideration, would have admitted that the House of Lords could not exer- that his conduct in such cases had been cise that power, because there was no ap- erroneous. peal but to the legislature, of which that But in order to shew that the language House was a part. But was not the of sir Francis Burdett's paper was not liHouse of Commons equally a part of the bellous, he must again refer to a pamphlet same legislature? Nothing could induce published by Mr Burke, in the time of him therefore to vote that the paper under Wilkes, called “ Thoughts on the Public consideration was a libel. But upon this Discontents.” In that work it was broadly subject he was bound to admit, that he asserted, that the people should exercise did not think that the hon. gent., who a vigilant superintendance over the adhad brought forward the question, had ministration of public affairs; and that, lent himself as a tool to any administra- in certain cases, there was no remedy tion in the proeeedings which had taken for grievances to be expected but from place. He begged of the House however, the interference of the great body of to consider the steps by which the busi- the people. Had any thing so strong as ..ness had hitherto proceeded. It had been that been stated by the hon. baronet ? said, that he had not on a former occasion No: he only called upon the people to declared by his vote that Gale Jones was express by their voices what they felt not guilty of a breach of privilege, and he upon the present situation of affairs. Was took shame to himself that he had not as there any thing in the production of the serted on that occasion what he now felt hon. baronet to be compared with what to be right. In the paper under discus- had been published by that great man sion, sir Francis Burdett only exercised a Mr. Burke? If they were but to look at right which belonged to him and others, both, they would be sensible how feeble to state bis opinion upon a public subject that language which had been brought That he might have done so in intempe- under the consideration of the House was, rate language, he was not prepared to compared with that which had never deny; but he must insist, that, Mr. Gale been questioned any where. And bere he Jones had conducted himself at their bar must be allowed to observe, that be held respectfully and with decorum. The hon. in contempt all fears that would prevent baronet (sir J. Anstruther) had then an bim from doing his duty, and voting conopportunity of staring his sentiments upon scientiously. His only apprehension was, the subjeci; he had another opportunity the degradation that might be brougbt when the motion of his hon. friend was upon the House of Commons. The paper, brought forward for the discharge of Mr. he was of opinion, ought not to have been Jones.
noticed at all, and though noticed was not As to the argument of the noble lord such as to call for reprehension. opposite, founded upon the appeal made agreed with the Master of the Rolls, that in the paper to the voice of the people, he it was a question of magnitude, but did was of opinion that it did not rest upon any not think that any harsh or hasty profirin fuundation. On the contrary, he ceeding was to be taken upon it. was' persuaded that the language of the But neither the hon baronet who had hon. baronet in that particular was per- spoken early in the debate, nor bis bon. fectiy justifiable. But ihough he idolized, and learned friend (Mr. Adam) had conat least respected in a degree little short vinced him by their arguments that any of idolatry, the memory of the late Mr. serious or severe notice ought to be taken Fox, still there were sonie things which he of this case. He would not deny, howshould not be disposed to admit, even upon ever, that in certain cases, it would be such bigh authoriiy. He could not as- proper for the House of Commons to pos
sess the power of commitment, though London. Every body asked, what it that should always be regulated by the meant; and at length the waggish writer necessity. But it was not expedient that confessed, that he had it distributed in it should always exercise that right, in order to shew how he could puzzle the case of libel, as was evident from the people by publishing four nonsensical letmanner in which the prosecution against ters. As to the hon. baronet's allusion to Mr. Reeves had been managed. His the possibility of the Bill of Rights belearned friend (sir S. Romilly) had never coming a Bill of Wrongs; that allusion, asserted that that House had not the power he thought, warranted by the manner in of removing nuisances ; but that such wbich that bill had been abused upon the power should never be used but upon a motion for the committal of Jones. But necessity. It would certainly be a most there were many statutes made for the strange mode of arguing, to contend that benefit of the subject, which were afterthe placards displayed on the streets by wards perverted to a different purpose. Mr. Jones could have the effect of inter- For instances, the Place Bill was, he unrupting the proceedings of that House. derstood, made use of in Ireland, to get But it might be said, that as they had rid of members adverse to the Union, 10 .committed Mr. Jones to custody, they procure substitutes by whom that meaought also to commit sir F. Burdett. This sure was carried. This, then, furnished an he denied. It was his opinion, that un- illustration of the doctrine of sir Francis less they should agree to the proposition Burdett. The scriptural language applied of his noble friend, they ought to vote the io that House, by the hon. baronet, could adjournment of the discussion for some not be found very inapplicable, after the months, so as to get rid of it altogether. conduct of the noble lord (Castlereagh), For his own part, upon the best consi- and the right hon: the Chancellor of the deration he could give the subject, he did Exchequer, had been palliated and passed not perceive the smallest matter that was over after their violation of the most eslibellous in the publication. As to the sential privileges of the House had been allusion to the means by which that House overlooked. Upon such a proceeding, was assembled, he could see literally no- any terms of animadversion could hardly thing improper in that: sure he was, that be too strong.
He would offer some it would puzzle the hon. baronet to point scriptural language also to the consideraout how the member for Tralee (Mr. tion of the House-" The beginning of Canning) came to have a seat in that strife was as the letting in of water;" and House. The true course for that House he cautioned the House to consider, well to pursue, be must contend, was not to ar- the course it was pursuing. He strongly - rogate more privileges than it was en- recommended it to get out of this business. titled to, or by constant usage enjoyed. His proposiiion was, that the moon then
With regard to the real character of the under consideration should be postponed paper under discussion, he deciared, that till such a time beyond the expected he saw no libel whatever in the first letter sitting of the House, that there would be of the hon. baronet. In the report of his no chance of any farther discussion of itspeech there were some points pushed to that Jones should be liberated—and then an extreme. But a disposition to exag- let a question be raised upon this subjeçt -gerate was the constant error of the hon. in such a shape that it might be discussed baronet. He was too much in the babit without any mixture of heat or prejudice of dealing in the superlative degree. --without any proceeding calculated unThis, however, was generally the error of doly to influence their own minds or to sanguine men, and certainly no man could inflame the minds of others. This course be more sanguine than the worthy baronet he earnestly pressed upon the considerain the pursuit of his object, which was, no tion of the House, but above all be exdoubt, that of true constitutional liberty, horted it to attend to the moderate and jufor he saw no reason to impute to him any dijous advice of the learned gent, on the other motive. There were some passages lower bench (the Master of the Rolls) and in this paper which, he confessed, he not punishing where there was reason to could not understand, and of course he doubt, by not pushing matters to excould not set them down as libels. In- | tremity. deed, those passages reminded him in Mr. Çanning said, he could assure the some degree of the placard of Q. U. Q. 2. hon, member who spoke last, that if ever which was some years ago posted about he came to the consideration of a question
without the least feeling of political ani- | employed a flower of speech, and it was mosity, it was to the discussion of the asked, what! would you come upon the question now before the House. For hon. baronet for a metaphor ? But what himself, he could say, that he met it with was the offence of Mr. Reeves, for which he a mind as unprejudiced as could be ex- was ordered to be prosecuted? Was it not pected from the inevitable infirmity of also a metaphor: His right hon. friend, in human nature. He had not sought the the richness of his exuberant imagination, question; he could not decline it when it could discover a libel in this metaphor, in pressed upon him. In the state in which this child of fancy; but the less imaginative the question was presented to the House, minds of an English jury could not recog. it was not possible to avoid coming to a nize any feature of this repulsive descripdecision upon it. If the House were in- tion. It was impossible, in his judgment, clined to adopt the course recommended to separate the cases of Mr. Jones and sir by the hon. gent., they should endeavour Francis Burdett. If the House should adto make their conduct consistent. If they mit by the vote of that night, that sir F. arrogated privileges that did not belong to Burdett was entirely guildless, it followed them (an opinion in which he was by no that their whole proceeding against Mr. means disposed to coincide), the most Jones was founded in flagrant injustice. manly course would be to confess their for his own part, he must express his sininjustice, and to repair any wrong they cere regret, ihat the House was called to might have committed by inforcing them. decide upon a question of this nature. Upon this principle, the hon. gent. would With the hon. baronet, whose conduet was himself come in for his share of whatever the subject of consideration, he had not blame might be attached to the late pro- the honour of the slightest acquaintance. ceedings of the House. He could not He had however opportunities of judging learn that the bon. gent. had ever even of his abilities and of his motives, as far as entered his protest against the commit- one man could judge of the intentions of ment of Mr. Gale Jones ; and he therefore another, from his conduct. Of the bon. contended, that the hon. member was baronet he would say, that he considered consequently himself a party to the injus- him as a man gifted with extraordinary tice of that act, if unjust it were. But after talents ; of powers of the very first grasp, what he had heard that night he would not which, if directed in a proper channel, allow that the House on that occasion had might produce incalculable advantages to overstrained any privilege claimed by it. his country. He never knew the bon. He would confess that he came to the con- baronet to rise in that House, that he did sideration of the question with considerable not acquit himself as a person of first-rate doubts on his mind, as to the power of the ability; always entering with unconsHouse to commit generally-doubts that mon zeal into the consideration of any were greatly increased and almost con- subject he undertook, and conducting it firmed by the ingenious speech of the hon. throughout with equal ability. Of the and learned gent. (sir Samuel Romilly) talents, and he would fain hope the sinon the other side ;-but the arguments of cerity and purity of the bon. baronet's the learned gent, on the bench below motives, there could hardly be a difference him (Mr. Adam) completely removed of opinion. But the question was not rethem.
specting the views or parliamentary taWith respect to the case of Reeves, lents of the bon. baronet. The offence which had been so much insisted on, he charged upon him, and the necessity of begged leave to observe, that the resolu- vindicating that offence, was the question tion ultimately adopted by the House was on which they were to decide. The quesnot that first proposed by a right hon. tion was, whether they would or would not friend of his (Mr. Sheridan), whom he did uphold the privileges of parliament. not now see in his place. The resolution These privileges were not to be sought for first proposed was for an address to his as laid down in books and charts, amidst majesty to deprive Mr. Reeves of any the violence of conflicting parties; bat office he might have filled, and to render they were to be discovered or deduced in him incapable of holding for the future or from the invariable practice of parliaany place of trust or emolument under the ment. When he considered the purposes crown. It had been said, in the course of for which these privileges were claimed, this discussion, that the desence of the that they were claimed to uphold and hon. baronet consisted merely in having protect that House against other powers,
he felt it to be his imperious duty to main- on Monday. But his hon. and learned tain them with firmness and jealousy. friend surely could not have forgotten that Though it was far from his wish to be courts of justice were in the practice of atcalled upon to decide on a question essen- taching for such contempts, and that it tially connected with the independence was, a fortiori, a privilege that could not and the existence of the House, he did not be refused to parliament. In insisting, look to the decision with the apprehension however, upon the necessity and legality that other gentlemen did. He came with of this privilege, he must admit that dishis mind reluctantly, but perfectly, made cretionary power was, in its nature, dan. up on the question. In deciding on it, gerous, and that it was adviseable it should therefore, he would take care, as far as it be as much circumscribed as it could be depended on him, not to compromise the consistently with its main end and design. privileges of the House, and, above all, to After the experience of centuries, howdistribute justice with an even and impar- ever, he did not expect to have heard it tial hand.
doubted at this day, that the law of par. Mr. Ponsonby disclaimed being a party ment was part of the law of the land. From to the commitment of Mr. Jones. In Fortescue down to Blackstone, with hardly presenting himself to the House after the a single exception, this principle had been rig hon. gent., it might be supposed that uniformly recognized. It was asserted in he rose to impugn the principles laid down the resolutions of the House, and by the by him and an hon. and learned friend conduct of the Commons at different times; (Mr. Adam) on the same bench with him and he knew not where to look for the self, respecting the privileges of that privileges of parliament, but in the law House. No such thing. That House and practice of parliament. The right of possessed the privilege and power of com- the Commons to commit having been almitting for contempt, or for libel. No- ready disposed of, there remained another thing was clearer to his conception than question for the consideration of the House. this; it was confirmed by the practice of That question was, whether the conduct two centuries, and in repeated instances of sir Francis Burdett was a breach of priIn discussing, however, any doubts that vilege, and whether the House was called might be now entertained respecting the upon to mark it as such? Upon these existence of such a power, it would be points there had been various revolutions desirable to keep an eye on the position in his mind. At one time he was disposed laid down by sir F. Burdett. That hon. to think the paper on the table libellous, baronet stated, that the House had no at another time not. Would it be said, power of commitment except of its own that it was not competent to any one to members; and in support of this asser- discuss the decisions of that House outside tion, he quoted the passage from Magna its walls? At this day, he could not suppose Charta, that no person was to be confined such doctrine would be maintained." On except by the law of the land, or the the contrary, there was no constitutional judgment of his peers. Why, according subject that might not be freely discussed; to this doctrine, there was not a member and in these discussions it was not always of that House who would not be excluded possible for men so to measure their words from the benefits of this clause of the as to be entirely free from offence. He Great Charter. He never heard a more believed it would be allowed, then, that fallacious opinion, and he was happy to the constitution of that House might fairly find there was not one man in the House become the subject of discussion; and who concurred in it.--As to what had that the question of parliamentary refallen from his hon. 'and learned friend form, so vitally connected with it, was (sir S. Romilly), he heard it with deep re- also a fair object of consideration. gret, entertaining, as he did, the highest If some subjects were to be admitted and opinion of his talents and his virtues. others rejected, in consequence of the exHis hon. and learned friend seemed not to ercise of this privilege, he would be glad be aware of the consequences of the to know where the House was to place principles he had laid down. According the limit. This, he believed, was the first to his argument, 'the jurisdiction of no time that the House was called upon to court could extend beyond the actual agree to a set of resolutions without being commission of the offence that called for apprized of the ulterior resolution with reprehension. It would be incompetent which it was intended to follow them up. to punish on Tuesday that which was done Had he been in his place when the case of Jones was under consideration, he would ple of England, with their characteristic have opposed the commitment of that per- generosity, would range themselves on son, and he would now equally oppose the weaker side, and oppose the shield the commitment of sir F. Burdett. Such of their compassion against the arm of practice would close all discussion, and power. put an end to the liberty of the press. He Lord Jocelyn called upon the House to admitted that there were very intem- support its privileges. perate expressions in the letter, perhaps Lord W. Russell could not agree to prolibellous, but they were not of so marked ceed to the other orders of the day. He a nature, he must contend, as would justify thought the House was bound to assert its the House in resorting to so strong a mea- privileges. sure as this. He would most readily agree General Matthew complained that the that the House possessed the privilege, in hon. mover of the resolutions did not know the fullest sense of the word, of commit- what he was doing. The hon, member ting, and might exercise it when it thought had spoken of his hair standing on end, fit; but this was a case, in which he must but he had not spoken in any way to afford maintain it ought not to be exercised. In- information to the House. He was constead of making sir F. Burdett less power- vinced that the House had no right to ful, it would make him more so, and ren- commit the hon. baronet. On many oce der the question for parliamentary reform casions the worthy baronet bad been more popular than it had ever been. branded by gentlemen on the other side
Mr. Windham in a speech of some length of the House, with the terms of jacobin, spoke in favour of the former resolutions. democrat, and demagogue; but the coun
The Chancellor of the Erchequer justified try knew sir Francis Burdett, and knew the course adopted by his hon. friend, the how to appreciate his virtues and his member for Somersetshire. His hon.talents. Il ministers sent him to the friend had proposed his resolutions on the Tower, it would be against the good wishes offensive paper, leaving it to the discretion of every friend to his country. of the House to say what punishment Lord Milton thought it was impossible should follow. He could scarcely have for the House to pass over the paper. The expected that any man would be found in question was of that nature that it could that House to maintain that the paper was not be blinked. If the House adopted the not a libel, seeing the extravagancies and resolutions, they must of necessity proceed violence of the expressions, and when it farther; but it was advisable that the was apparent, that it was published with punishment that was to follow should be no other view than to bring the House as lenient as possible. He would yote into disesteem and disgrace. He trusted against the amendment. that the result of the vote that night would Mr. Brand would not undertake to jusbe to shew; that they were not prepared tify every thing that was said in the paper to give up the privileges of that House, or on the table. He professed his intention to surrender them to be trampled upon by in case the motion of his noble friend was any individual.
negatived, to move an amendment to the Mr. Grattan lamented that this subject resolutions, recognizing the right of memhad ever been brought before parliament. bers of that House to publish their opiIt was a contest in which victory would be nions on constitutional points, to commuwithout glory, and in which defeat must nicate with their Constituents, and that be followed by disgrace. When the such parts in the Letter and Argument of House went to hunt in holes and corners sir F. Burdett, as did not contain inferences for questions of privilege, they diminished derogatory to the Constitution, were not a their own dignity. They might depend breach of privilege. upon it, that the result of this contest Mr. W. Wynn contended that the paper would not tend to their satisfaction. Had was a gross breach of the privileges of they forgot Wilkes's case? Did they not that House, and charged the hon. baronet know that it ended in his being elected for with having altered and misquoted preceMiddlesex, and nominated Chamberlain of dents in the Argument to serve bis own the city of London, and that parliament purpose. From 15-47, when the Journals was at length obliged to shrink from the of Parliament first commenced, all the contest? In this battle between the giant precedents were in favour of the privilege and the dwarf, the giant diminished in of commitment by the House. Instead of aze, and the dwarf magnified. The peo any harsher proceeding, he would recom