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observation to the right of petitioning, that He would of course be happy to encou. in order to preserve that right it was ne- rage all those who professed to support cessary to guard against any licentiousness that desirable measure, in any application in its exercise. The petition under con. they thought proper to make to that House sideration he conceived to be a most licen- in its favour, provided such application tious exercise of that right, and therefore was couched in decorous and proper terms. he must oppose its admission. He must But this petition was not of that character, oppose it, because he could not sanction and therefore he could not defend it. . any proceeding calculated to encourage | This petition, however, and all the other that sort of commotion in which the mid- proceedings which he, in common with dle men like himself-in which those who all reflecting men, lamented, was to be wished to keep aloof from all extremes- traced to that unfortunate vote (for the were sure to be trodden under foot. It committal of sir Francis Burdett), which could not be supposed that in the vote he he had endeavoured to prevent, and which meant to pronounce upon this subject, he he never could cease to deplore. Whatwas influenced by the consideration that ever indeed might be the iermination of the chancellor of the exchequer took the this controversy, he must always regret
His vole was the result of a that vote for the consequence which it had thorough conviction, which he rather be already produced. But this was not the lieved would very seldom incline him to only subject of his regret. He could not vote with that right honourable gentle help thinking, that if any of the several man. Passing from this topic, the ho-propositions for reform submitted to that nourable member adverted to the obser- House had been adopted, the character of vation of an hon. gent. (Mr. Wardle), the House would have been more respectwith regard to the conduct of his side of ed through the country. The body of the House upon the committal of sir F. | the people would have reverenced its pro. Burdett. How that side of the House ceedings, would have regarded it as their could have exulted in the committal of real representation, as the guardian of the hon. baronet, while no less than 152 their rights, and, therefore, would have of that side voted against it, was a spe- come forward to support it in the assertion cies of paradox which he confessed he of its privileges. But how different were was unable to comprehend.-That the the circumstances at present, owing to the House hrad lost much of its weight and re- state and conduct of iha: House. He was spectability in the public estimation, and aware, that in what he had said, he might through its own conduct, he conceived it perhaps give offence to both parties; but absurd to deny. But still he must be he was conscious that he had no such in. excused, if he thought that it should not tention, and should trust to their candour give up any part of the weight and re. to acquit bim of it. After what he had spectability it retained, and that it should said, he should vote for rejecting the petitenaciously maintain its privileges. Alotion. though he was satisfied that that House re- Mr. Maurice Fitzgereld (of Kerry) said, quired reform-although he felt that that that however much he respected, in genereform must, and he hoped would ere long, ral, the opinions of the hon. gent. Mr. Bar. take place, yet it should be recollected, ham, he must on the present occasion, that if any of its privileges were now lost, wholly differ from him, and should vote it might be found extremely difficult 10 against the rejection of the petition. The regain them, even after the reform was ground must be strong, indeed, and the accomplished. Therefore the House objections clear and unquestionable on should not, because it had committed which he could assent to the rejection of some breaches of duty, be guilty of a a petition, from so large and respectable a still farther breach by surrendering its body of their constituents, presented in privileges-by neglecting to transınit the legal and regular manner to that those privileges to their successors, for House. If petitions were to be rejected. the benefit of the people, to whom, and merely on the imputation of containing for whom, they were necessary, as they warm expressions objectionable to the would be found to be, particularly in the administration of the day, a most dangerevent of reform. For this reform he anxi- ous impression might be made on the ously looked. He had been a petitioner, public mind; might it not inspire an apin fact, to that House, and he would peti- prehension that the right of petition was tion for it again and again, if necessary. become nugatory, depending, altogether, on the will of the minister. He concur- | ing on the right itself, which it was their red with the last speaker in lamenting duty to guard inviolate. To what extent the cause of all those discussions—the might not such a principle be carried? committal of Mr. Gale Jones, and the Did gentlemen propose to submit the pemore so, as be was originally of opinion, titions of the people to a previous scrutiny and still remained so, (notwiihstanding his analogous to an imprimatur ; did they respect for the talents of those who thought propose to refer them to the minister of otherwise) that the house had not any his agent ? that if one contained an exright, acknowledged by the laws or the pression or complained of a grievance in practice of the constitution, to try for libel, a way offensive to such minister, they and to pass sentence of punishment there. were not to entertain it. In what case of on. He was also of opinion that the dignity a public nature could a petitiin be imaof the House was not consulted by com- gined, which under such circumstances mitting their power in conflict with a would be admissible? The bon. gent. had, person of that description. He was, fur- however, stated that it was no petition but ther, decidedly of opinion, with due de- a protest. He did not know what the ference, that the House had acted unjus bon. gent.'s definition of a petition was; tifiably, in punishing one of its own mem- it stated a grievance and it prayed for rebers for some indiscreet language in an dress, that appeared to him to be the very Address to his Constituents, on an occa- character of a petition. It did that cer. sion when he conceived their liberties to tainly, in very plain and simple language. be involved—which address he was consti- It stated the grievances strongly, and in tutionally justified in, and perhaps bound what other language could they expect to make-nor should he think that the that grievances strongly felt, would be House would then consult its dignity, its stated? They accused the House of asinterest, or its duty, by throwing any im- suming an illegal power, that was the pediment in the way of petitioning from grievance, and the remedy asked for was, ihe people.—To reject the petition would the reversal of their proceedings, their complete that tissue of error and impolicy erasing from their Journals the objectionin which ministers had involved the House. able decisions. What, was it to the subWhat would the people think? by“ peo. stance of such an application that gentleple” he did not mean the mob, such as men objected ? Was there any thing criwere described by gentlemen; but the minal or unprecedented in such an applisober, reflecting class of men, those who cation? Had not their predecessors repaid the taxes, the army and navy, and ceived repeated petitions to the same efsupported the expences of the state, who fect, and had they not ultimately comwere perfectly competent to form a just plied, as in the case of Wilkes, by reversjudgment of the conduct of iheir constituing and erasing from their Journals, their ents? what would such men think? Why, most solemn judicial proceedings? He that having already infringed the per would therefore recommend to the House, sonal liberty of the subject, having pu- to be extremely cautious how they threw nished bis representative for complaining any obstacle in the way of petitions. A of such infringement, nothing more re- caution the more necessary, when be remained thanto extinguish the right of peti- flected that those were the same ministers tion in the body of the people. What! who had insolently rebuked the ciiy of was the assertion of that right to be con- London for complaining of the Cintra sidered a jacobinical claim? No, it was Convention, a transaction, which, though the law and constitution of the land. It is sanctioned by that House, would attach that subsidiary but invaluable right which indelible disgrace to the British name. in the opinion of all the best writers on The same ministers, who not daring to rethose laws, and that constitution, it becomes peat that rebuke when the first city of the the duty of the people to exercise, when- empire remonstrated against the still more ever their liberties are thought, by them, atrocious transactions of Walcheren, insidito be invaded; considered in that point of ously shut the ears of their Sovereign to view, the wording of a petition was in the complaints of his people, and locked up his mind of little importance. He did their petition in the office of one of their not advocate the language of the petition colleagues. The same ministers would in question, he might not admire the taste now, with systematic hostility, avail themin which it was written ; but were those selves of some objectionable phrase io pe. reasons for rejecting a petition and trench- titions, to undermine the right itself. He could not avoid reprobating the idle and person more disposed than himself to treat impolitic language held by some gentle with extreme tenderness the right of peti. men, of rallying round ministers. What tioning. He should be very unwilling to merit these gentlemen, who thought mi- reject any petition merely from an inadnisters deserving of capital punishment vertent expression which might appear for the infamous Expedition to Walcheren, disrespectful; but when he considered the could discover in their subsequent con- entire language of this petition, he felt duct in originating or managing the pro- himself, under all the circumstances of ceedings against sir F. Burdett, to call on the case, compelled to reject it. If they men to rally round them, he was unable did not reject the present petition, he did to comprehend. He, on the contrary, not see how they could ever in future rethought that their conduct in those trans-ject any petition on the grounds of its beactions rendered them infinitely more ing couched in disrespectful and offensive criminal. That the nation entertained its language. The shades of what was offen. unanimous opinion notwithstanding, and sive in expression were infinitely varied; in difference from the decisions of that but it did appear to him that, in the preHouse, he firmly believed. But he could sent petition, the object of the petitioners not concur in the alarm at the interposi- was purposely stated in most offensive tion of the great public bodies of the language.
of the language. The petitioners might have country. He saw nothing in the consti- come forward and stated every thing tution of that House rendering it so ex- which they thought proper to state in tremely subservient to public feeling. He language which would not have been ofcould discover none of that sympathy in fensive or insulting to the House. There their vote applauding the policy of the was this difference between the Middlesex late Expedition. He saw no symptoms petition and the petition of Westminster, of democracy in the sentiments of that which had been received : The MiddleHouse. If there was any danger to sex petitioners stated broadly and directbe apprehended from foreign influence | ly, that the House of Commons acted conamongst them, it certainly was not from trary to the law; and in the manner of the influence of the people. Such influ- expressing it appeared to think that the ence had unfortunately but too little law was so clear and undeniable, that no weight there. It would, of course, but ill could have misunderstood it; but that in accord with the public feeling, to have it acting against the law, they bad acted not merely slighted, but ignominiously against their own conviction. Now the spurned at. It was surely sufficient pu- petition from Westminster did not go that nishment to petitioners, if their complaints | length. It stated, that " in our opinion," were not proceeded on. He was, how- and “we are convinced," and in qualiever, desirous to encourage their applica- fied expressions of that nature, that the tions. From such applications alone, law had been violated; but it did not strongly urged, did he expect those mea- state it positively, as the Middlesex peti sures which he thought indispensible to tion did. It was true that the Middlesex the salvation of the country. To reject petition ended in the technical manner the petition in question, would, in his with a prayer, which the Westminster pe. mind, have the most mischievous conse- tition did not; but he would consider quences, and would trench upon one of much more the general spirit of the petithe most valuable rights of the people- tion, and whether it was meant to be inperhaps the most important to the secu- sulting or not, than he would the mere rity of the remainder, of all those which, technical form. The hon. gent. opposite, as representatives, were vested in their (Mr. M. Fitzgerald) in his opinion, acted guardianship.
l'ather harshly and unfairly towards his Mr. Barhum, in esplanation, stated, that right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the it was his wish to accompany the rejec- Exchequer, whose feelings and actions tion of the petition, with a resolution des were strongly indicative of a high zeal claratory of the reasons which induced its and regard for the public interest, when rejeetion; and thus pointing out to the he accused him of wishing to narrow the petitioners the propriety of avoiding any right of the subject to petition.' How dictatorial strain, and the way in which could the hon. gent. do this, if he recole they ought to proceed in their applications lected, that when his own friends, and to that House.
even the friends of the right hon. Chans Mr. Wilberforce said, that there was no cellor of the Exchequer joined in expressing, most strongly, an opinion against the ple of England, whom he represented, to Westminster petition, bis right hon. friend reject it. had distinctly stated the dangers on the Mr. Ellison said, that if he really conone side, and the favourable circumstances ceived that the House was held in such on the other, and candidly declared, that, contempt by the country as it was often in his judgment, the balance was in fa- stated to be, he should feel ashamed to sit vour of receiving the petition. He re- there; but he was convinced that there minded his right hon. friend, that though was no foundation for the statement. To the cry now adopted by the petitioners whom were the country to look for any was in favour of the popular side, yet too important advantages ? Was it to the bon. much ought not to be conceded on that baronet who was in the Tower, or any of account; for the time might come, when his partizans ? It appeared to him that a their petitions would be as much against party had sprung up in the country, which the popular interests, as they now pre- it was the duty of that House to crush. tended to be for them; and in the same He objected to the petition, as being in degree attempting to run down, vilify, and many parts false. It was not in the exedegrade the House. They must all re- cution of the Speaker's warrant that innocollect, in the history of the country, that cent blood had been split; but the loss of this was the case in the instance of Dr.
some lives proceeded altogether from the Sacheverel. In the reign of Charles II. necessity of preserving the public peace, the people were deluded into petitions, and the impossibility of the military bearpraying that no more Parliaments mighting any longer the many indignities and be assembled. Such things might happen attacks they had been exposed to. The again; and if they now gave way, they mob on the late occasion were, in some ought to remember that they were de respects, more dangerous than that which stroying solid strength, and what he might assembled in the time of lord George call the triumph of reason and justice ; | Gordon. The mob of lord George Gordon that they were subverting all that was had not come, as the late mob had done, consistent with happiness, stability, and with pistols in their pockets, and did not, glory, to build up confusion and disgrace. like them, fire upon the military. Under În rejecting this petition, they were de. the recent circumstances, the conduct of barring the freeholders of Middlesex no the military was most exemplary. He right or privilege. They might call for should vote for rejecting the petition, as the re-consideration of any proceeding of being unfounded in truth. that House. The House would revise and Mr. Morris did not perceive any thing re-consider their acts, and they would do in the present petition which was so very it the more freely, if they did not allow offensive as that the House should refuse themselves to be dictated to by any other to receive it. The debate appeared to body. They would review their proceed- have taken a very different turn from what ings with that independence belonging to it had taken the preceding night. On them, as the third branch of the legisla- the last night the objection seemed to be ture, and the unfettered representatives of merely that the power of commitment the people. He could have wished, that was denied; but on the present occasion their rejection of this petition had been the objection was generally that the lanaccompanied by some such resolution as guage of the petition was offensive. He was read by the hon. mover, to shew, be- did not think, that asserting that the House yond the possibility of misrepresentation, had acted contrary to law in a late inthat they acter' .n this way, from no feel. stance, was denying that they had a right ing of affront, but in the performance of a of committing. They might have that duty incumbent on them, to preserve, not right on other occasions from the necessity their personal rights, but the rights of the of the case, and yet it might happen that people entrusted to their care. The pre- they had it not in the case of a libel, which servation of their privileges and dignity was an offence that might be punished in was indeed a trust, not a property. There the due course of law. The people might was nothing in the petition that might well doubt that they had such a right; not be again stated inoffensively, and in a and if it should turn out that they had it stile consistent with the dignity of the not, then it must be allowed that they had House to receive. As the petition now done an illegal act. It was said, by one stood, he felt it to be a duty he owed to of his Majesty's ministers, that the House those who sent him there, and to the peo- must now make a stand, or that their fable would be covered with similar petitions. the language of a petition to the House of This however was not his opinion; nor did Commons ought to be respectful and inofhe expect that many other counties would fensive. He protested against the petition petition on this subject, whatever might in the name of the great majority of the be the fate of the petition for Middlesex. freeholders of Middlesex, and he thought He thought the House would in no degree the House would disgrace themselves in relieve itself from hearing petitions similar entering it on their Journals. in substance, by rejecting the present pe
Lord A. Hamilton observed, that if the tition.-On the contrary, the rejection of bon, member who spoke last was rightly it would naturally produce another county informed, and that nine-tenihs of the free. meeting, and another petition. This, holders of Middlesex were hostile to the however, should be no consideration, if petition now before the House, he could the privileges of the House were seriously not help thinking, that those nine-tenths attacked; but if they were not seriously had not done adequate justice to the counattacked, it would be worth considering ty of Middlesex in allowing a remaining whether any real advantage would be ob- tenth to assume the voice of the county tained by rejecting the petition.
itself. He did not think the language of Sir Mark Wood considered the petition as the petition so disrespectful as to make it the most disrespectful ever presented to necessary for the House to reject it. He the House; but whether they rejected it had himself stood up for the right of comor not, he did not think their table would mitment, but he thought it perfectly fair be covered with any thing similar. The and allowable for any petitioner to deny petition was not what it was stated to be. the right. The word protest had been It was stated to be, “ The petition of the objected to, as offensive to the dignity of freeholders of Middlesex, in full county that House; but he did not perceive any assembled.” Of the persons assembled thing in that word more than a solemn dea at Hackney, not one-third were free- nial of the right, the exercise of which holders, and the petition was signed by no they complained of. It appeared to him - more than eight names. To this meeting that there were other parts in the petition he, a freeholder of the county, would not which were more offensive, yet of which go, because he knew that nothing he could no notice had been taken. He did not say would be attended to, and that it was like to hear asserted, that all public men in vain to attempt to be heard, in combat were corrupt, and that they were bought ing the opinion of the party there assem- and sold. The Middlesex petition seembled. There were many freeholders of ed to have introduced that doctrine rather the county deterred from going, for the unnecessarily, upon the present occasion. same reasons, and because they knew The petitioners dwelt pointedly on the there were hundreds of persons there not sale of seats in that House, and on the freeholders, determined, by cry and cla- corrupt state of the representation. This mour, to drown every voice not raised in topic, introduced, as he thought, unnecesfavour of their own way of thinking. He sarily, appeared to him more disrespectful protested against the petition being re- to the House, and conveying more offence ceived as the petition of the freeholders of than the use of the word protest, which Middlesex, and he was confident, that if had been so much dwelt on. Neverthethe county was polled throughout, 9 out less those parts of the petition which apof 10 of the freeholders would not only peared to convey the greatest offence were not sign it, but would think themselves dis- passed over without any observation, while graced by its being laid on the table.- others of much less moment were urged He might be asked why, then, did not the as a ground for rejecting the petition. 9 in 10 attend and reject the propositions? He did not approve of the language of His answer was, because they knew, that, the petition, but he could not bring himso near the metropolis, it was easy to col- self to reject it. lect a crowd of persons, who would drown Mr. Stephen said, that there were two every thing in noise and clamour. In the questions for the consideration of the course of this debate, many subjects bad | House. The first was, whether it was the been introduced, not necessarily connect bounden duty of that House to receive ed with it. What bad the conduct of the any paper, however disrespectful, libelministers towards sir F. Burdett to do with lous or defamatory, merely because that the language of the Middlesex petition paper was called by the name of a peria Whether ministers were right or wrong, I iion ; and the second was, whether the