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sonby, the privileges of this House sanc- | leges, and authority of any court, was cotioned by the ablest and most upright eval with the existence of the court itself.” judges of the land—by the most profound Another stated," that the power of commite. and incorrupt statesmen—by the purest ment was a necessary incident to parliapatriots-by the most constitutional and ment, because it was incident to all courts popular ministers-by men who did not of justice, whether of record or not;' and ialk about liberty, but hazarded their lives another passage laid it down, that privito secure it.-When I find the progress lege of parliameni was as much lez' terre. of time strengthening the work of their and as much within the exception of united virtue with the claims of antiquity Magna Charta as any one part of the -a work that it was not necessary for ana known law of the land that did come tiquity to make venerable-when I find within its exceptions. As for Magna all this, I own that were it possible for me Charta, if they give it the general conto be so disposed, that my hand would struction now attempted to be put upon it, tremble in the attempt to tear down that no man who knew any thing either of the noble fabric their patriotism had reared, law or the constitution, could look around and their wisdom hadpronounced the fairest them, without seeing that it was in the and the firmest in the world ! With respect same way universally violated; and that to the doctrine of contempts that had re- there were many other cases in which the cently gone abroad, he must say that he did subject was committed to prison without not concur in that doctrine. It was known trial. They might as well say that the that formerly the two Houses of Parlia- canon law, and the ecclesiastical law, ment sat under the same roof, and trans- were of no authority, as they were not acted business together. The time of their contained in Magna Charta, and were separation is not exactly known. The totally distinct from it. They might as right of the two Houses, sitting thus in the well contend that these laws overthrew all high court of parliament, to commit for the rights and liberties of the people. contempt, would not be disputed. Did Lord chief justice Wilmot stated, that he then the separation which afterwards, for had inquired most minutely into the subobvious reasons of mutual convenience, ject, to discover the origin of this law of took place between the two Houses, as to parliament. From these inquiries he had the form of their sitting together—did that found, that it was as ancient as the comseparation divest them of their respective mon law, with which it therefore acted right to assert the authority of their court, conjunctly and in close alliance. It was and protect the proceedings therein from the universal usage, from time immemo,, all obstruction, whether constructive or rial, that judges in their several courts otherwise? He had no doubt that when might attach for offences against their they separated each retained the same jurisdiction; and in the same manner, the power, and his opinion on this subject was House of Commons must have the acknowfortified by the authority of Mr. Justice ledged right to carry their privileges Atkins, which was express upon this into execution, in the way they deemed point.
most proper. The judges punished libels. The right hon. gent. next proceeded to on themselves in the execution of their quote the authority of lord chief justice office, by attachment; though, in that Wilmot, in support of the right of the case, the functions of judge, juror, and House to commit generally. He stated executioner, were united. Yet this was that chief justice Wilmot, of the King's never objected to, or called in question, bench, was a man of admirable capacity, by parliament. It was said, that there deep and extensive learning, and unim- was an absurdity in a man's combining, or peachable integrity. The passage to in a body's combining in itself, the funcwhich he was about to refer was from a tions of judge, juror, and executioner of judgment prepared by chief justice Wil- the law in its own case; but be the opimot; but the case to which it related not nion of its absurdity what it might, the having come on, the judgment itself had fact was, that such a combination did never been delivered. Here the right exist in the judges, and he would contend: hon. gent. proceeded to read from a book in parliament also. He quoted, at much which he held in his hand, observations length, the authority of lord chief justice to the following effect;-one was, " that Wilmot, in support of his opinion; acin all courts whatever, in this country, cording to whom," it was part of the systhe power of vindicating the rights, privia tem of law in this country, that those who
were guilty of contempt, &c. should be their ancestors, in their contests for the tried in a summary manner.” They preservation of their privileges. He was should take all the system together. Trial aware that in what he was about to reby jury was indisputably one part of it; commend, he run the risque of exposing but"attachment was another; and they himself to a considerable degree of pomight depend upon it, that trial by jury pular odium. But that man would ill dewould be buried in the same grave with serve consideration, who, deterred by the the authority of the courts in which it was apprehension of popular reproof, would exercised. In another place the same in any great and pressing emergency, sur-' great authority asked how could the render to his fears the conviction of his judges go on in the discharge of their judgment. (Hear, hear.) By such an functions if they were to be libelled as impression he trusted never to be inbase, dishonourable, and unjust-should fluenced to swerre from his publie daty. they stand at the door of a grand jury, in Never, he trusted, when the events of order to know whether their characters that day became the subject of future rewere to be vindicated or for the grand cital and remark, should it be said of him, jury to determine whether their proceed if so humble an individual had claim to ings had or had not been obstructed ? observation, that he was a man, who in should they submit to the delay and for contradiction to his fullest conviction, but mality of a verdict, subject to the in- in compliance with popular delusion, surfluence of popular delusion, for the pur- rendered the privileges of the Commons of pose of asserting their claim to thereputation England, and by such surrender, gare a which was undeservedly attacked? Having fatal and irrecoverable blow to the lie stated his opinion of the law of parliament berties of England. (Hear, hear, hear) thus far, and quoted such instances in Reverting then to the ancient rule of praesupport of that opinion, he thought it un tice, it was invariably the custom of that necessary to add any more upon that House to commit any person who made head, but the authority of judge Black himself the instrument of calling into stone, who, though quoted in favour of the question its privileges. Upon that role of modern opinions upon this subject, had practice, he did feel it his duty, to state acted upon other principles in the case of his opinion, that the solicitor who had Oliver.' In thus communicating his senti- caused the nutice of action to be served ment upon the question before the House, he upon the Speaker should be committed. wished to be considered as not presuming Such a course was not alone the practice to give any advice, as to the course which of that House ; it was acted upon in all then ought to be pursued. In place of courts invested' with the power of commitany attempt to direct the conduct of this ment for a contempt of its jurisdiction. In House, he wished to be considered as de. the court of Chancery, for instance, where livering his own bumble opinion in his an injunction had been granted to stay capacity of a member of parliament. And proceedings in an action at law, the aiindeed from all that had already passed | torney who would after such injunction upon that subject, the right hon. gentlemen venture to proceed, would subject himself opposite possessed no right to call upon to an attachment, and be most certainly him for his views or his opinion. On pre- punished for a contempt of the jurisd.ction vious occasions he stated both; but every of that court. Was not then the House of thing he had said, every proposition he Commons fully empowered to take steps had offered, were by them disregarded against a solicitor who had proceeded to No one was more prompt than the right call its Speaker to answer for conduct hon. gent: (Mr. Perceval) to oppose any taken in obedience to its wiil, and which propositions from him, and the House in that House had adjudged to be ecessary its wisdom was pleased to over-rule them for the protection of its privileges? Mist Nevertheless he then felt it his duty to undoub.edly it was, and as in such a case stand by the privileges of the Commons of the most correct line was to follow the England : and in the exercise of that conduct of their ancestors, the enforcement duty, in adverting to the particular line of of such a riglit in the present instance was conduct which in bis view should then be most advisable. The next question to be pursned, he begged to impress upon the considered was the peculiar situation in House the paramount and absolute neces- which the Speaker of that House was at sity of adhering in every step that it tvok, présent placed. To many membets' it to the ancient rule of practice observed by appeared a most monstrous novelty, that
the Speaker of the House of Commons with the smallest respect. If, then, there should be obliged to appear in one of the was no proper mode of proceeding, either courts below for an act which he had done by prohibition from that House, or by noin pursuance of the orders of that House. tification froin the Speaker, bow else was A novel proceeding it certainly was, for the House to proceed for the information which there was no precedent; as to an
of the courts of law, except by authorising action brought against the Speaker, the his appearance? For, surely, to leave the instances were rare. Yet monstrous as it court of law in ignorance of the nature of appeared to some,
and novel as it must the case, and afterwards to find fault and seem to all, it was his firm persuasion that quarrel with proceedings which that court the Speaker ought to appear and put in might allow, from the want of the informhis plea to the action. Such course was ation which the Speaker could give, would open to him without the slightest appre- be an extreme exercise of the power of hension of his surrendering in the remotest that House-a stretch of its privileges, degree the privileges of that House, and which, with some justice, might subject such course the llouse could adopt, al- them to the severest reprobation of the though it had determined to commit the people. Upon every view of the case, it solicitor. As an illustration of that opi- was his opinion that the Speaker should nion, he would suppose the case of an in- plead, and that the plea should state, that dividual committed by the court of chan- | the act of which the plaintiff complained cery for contempt, whose solicitor had in- was done in obedience to the orders of the stiluted an action in a court of law for House of Commons and that there existed false in prisonment against the chancellor. in no other court a power to relieve him. What were the steps which it must be if after that appearance was made, and presumed the lord chancellor would un- such information was communicated, a der such circumstances take? For him-court of law should still think proper to proself he would say, that if such a proceed- ceed, by such act it would, to his view, ing had occurred when he had the honour most certainly exceed iis jurisdiction-it of holding the great seal in Ireland, he would go far beyond the limits of its auwould have certainly felt it his bounden thority and power : but, indeerd, he could duly, under the jurisdiction of his own not bring himself to conceive that any court, to conimit the solicitor, and to ap- constitutional tribunal of the land, that any pear in the court of law to put in his plea judge would venture-venture, he would For unless such a course was adopted, how not say, because he could not imagine was it possible for the courts below to be that those placed in such wise and eleapprised of the nature of the case ? - low vated situations could, under any circumwas it possible for them to inform them- stances, be guilty of that which would selves of those facts, without the know- most certainly amount to a gross derelicleilge of which they could not know whe- tion of their duty—a gross transgression of ther the injury complained of was com- the law of the land. But such a consea mitted in a private or public capacity ? quence he could not anticipate, feeling With respect to that House, agreeing to the confidence he did in the learning, the resolutions in the shape of prohibitions to wisdom, and the purity of the legal tributhe courts of law not to entertain causes nals of the country. Nor would he re. in which its privileges were involved, strict that confidence to the courts of law; such a course was a complete novelty, on but would extend it most anxiously to the which he could not be expected decidedly ) good sense and observation of the country to pronounce; inasmuch as in the whole at large. Should events unfortunately course of reading and of practice, he had prove that he had been mistaken in the denever met with such a precedent. It was ne- pendence that he had placed upon the cessary that the courts should be informed nation's sense--should it, or any consideof the nature of the proceeding. The dit- rable portion of it continue to be impressed ficulty was as to the manner of making with the fallacious thought that the posthe communication. Should the Speaker session of the privileges of the House of write; If he did so, and were he (Mr. Commons were fatal to the liberties of the Ponsonby) a judge, presiding in the court people-should it exert itself for the perwhere the process was instituted, without nicious purpose of undermining those primeaning any personal disrespect to the vileges, then most certainly the people of, Speaker, he would most certainly take no England would be greatly and fatally notice of the letter, nor treat it in that court misled. It was not because the vote of
that House, upon this or that public mea- | upon himself to say, that even in future sure, was opposed to the wish and opinion successions of that family a prince might of the people ; it was not because their not appear jealous of the influence of ihe representatives had evinced a conduct people, and anxious to destroy their which the constituent body at large dis. weight in the constitutional balance. Caapproved; it was not because some of der such a state of events, to whom could their decisions could not be defended, that the people look for protection and supthe power of the Commons of England port? What branch of the constitution should be then curtailed. No; they were could they depend upon for a successful to be defended even under such circum- resistance to the encroachment, that stances, because a blow aimed at them, threatened their liberties with extinction? even in that House of Commons, would To the House of Commons in the full pos. affect and overthrow its privileges, and session of those privileges, the efficacy of with them the people's liberties through which the rash and the deluded would now every succeeding parliament. But it wish to diminish? Was it not the House might be contended that the possession of Commons, supported by the voice of and exercise of such privileges as that the nation, that resisted successfully the recently questioned was too great and tyrannic encroachments of the Stuarts
, loo dangerous to be continued in any and ultimately dethroned that family, House of Commons. They were, how- when it was found impossible to induce ever, borne in periods of our history in them to desist from their arbitrary prowhich the people of England were most ceedings ? Never was there propagated high mettled, and jealous of the slightest doctrine more pernicious and delusive Invasion of their liberties. They were ad- than that which went to alienate from that mitted in some of the best periods of our House the popular confidence, in order to history, when many of our ablest prede- give it to the crown. True it might be, cessors were engaged in arduous contests that from acts of that House the confidence for the rights of the people. It was sin- of the nation was shaken-true it might cerely to be hoped that the people would be, that it was considered rather the incontinue to respect them, inasmuch as strument of the minister than the orgas they were the best barriers of protection of the public voice, (an opinion which he to their own most valuable interests. For considered pressed too far in this country) in that House ought the people to expect yet even under all these admissions, it was and to it they should look for security and not upon the crown that he could be inprotection. There was a new doctrine duced to depend for the preservation of afloat, and a strange direction given to the the people's rights. If the grievances of popular hope. Whilst their feelings were which the country complained were to be estranged from the Commons, the people of attributed to the construction of that England were directed to look to the crown House, let that construction be allered, if for the guardianship of their rights. the nation wished and demanded it. But What! the crown protect the liberties of whilst it was necessary that a discretionary the English people? Attached as he was power should exist, where, he asked, could to a limited monarchy, he would contend, it be entrusted with more safety, than to there never was, during the whole period the representatives of the people of Engof our history, a monarch, except the vir- land? But then it had been contended, tuous monarch, now upon the throne of that though there was no objection to conthese realms, who ever loved a House of cede a discretionary power to that House, Commons- there never was a king, with yet its exercise should be limited. Was the same exception, who was not an enemy then the court of King's Bench, or was to public liberty. He founded this opinion public opinion, to be the standard of reguupon no invidious comparisons of one reign lating to what extent the power should be with another. It was human nature; and exercised ? If the King's Bench was to there never yet lived the man who loved possess the power of trying the legality of that power, which acted as a controul its privileges of commitments for libel, it upon his wishes and his passions. That would be invested with the power of being the family of Brunswick would long con- the judge of every privilege of that House. tinue to support these principles, for the There could be no limitation. The very defence of which the people of this king- right of holding a plea in the case of libel dom placed them on the throne, all were would constitute the right of trying the ready to believe. But who would take extent of privilege in any other case.
Suppose a person was committed for strik- and what is more galling and more aga ing and violently assaulting the Serjeant gravated, she is doomed so to suffer une at Arms, or any messenger of the House in pitied, unregretted and unrelieved. the execution of their duty, and that for Mr. Adam expressed his intention not such breach of privilege it committed him to trespass at any length upon the attention He brings his action in a court of law; of the House, after the sound, constitunothing can prevent hiin, and the court tional, and eloquent speech which he had must hold plea, upon the principle, that it just heard from his right hon. fiend? had interfered before in the case of libel, There was not, either. in his principles, and that it must now sce whether the doctrines, or illustrations, a single point House of Commons had the power to do that did not come home to his mind, with the act or not. In such case what be- feeling and conviction. Before the motion came of the privileges of the Conimons of was put, he was anxious (although it England? Again-was public opinion to might be impossible to prevent the probe the criterion for limiting their exercise. ceeding in the present case) to impress Set up such a standard, and fancy, if you upon the House the necessity of coming can, the mischicfs which would most into a declaration, which would, in limine, fallibly be the consequence. Then would give protection to the privileges of the you place the privileges of this House at House, which must otherwise according to the mercy of contending factions; both the course now proposed, be deeply injured bidding against each other at this auction by not being asserted. He felt that the of popularity, until privilege and liberty. House could only make use of such powers fell a sacrifice to their selfish and unprin- as it possessed, but those powers it was cipled objects. One democracy of faction bound to use in the first instance, and try would be destroyed only to be succeeded their efficacy. They had proved eflicient by a worse; extinction of all order and hitherto, and surely we were not to conall virtue would follow in their train, ulti- jecture without trial, that they would mately to secure the absolute rule of a prove inefficient now. They had checked single individual. Let the country re- suitors in holding plea, where our privimember the miseries under which, from leges were concerned. The means which such causes, it once suffered. Let it re- the House used had produced the same member the recovery it has had: Let it control on those who attempted to carry remember that period of its history when, on proceedings in defiance of the priin the reign of the first Charles, that un- vileges of the House, which courts of law happy prince was reduced by the consti. produce to attain the enforcement of their tutional exertions of the House of Com- judgments; and, on the same principle, mons to desist, in a great degree, from his a moral acquiescence from an apprehenarbitrary acts of prerogative, and the sa-sion of suffering under a physical force.lutary prospect presented itself of a free Mr. Adam said, that, undeterred by any and legitimate government. From what unpopularity that might follow from it, he causes was it that such exertions proved still felt it his duty to cling to the ancient abortive? It was because a faction sprung practice of that House, and to avow that, up in that House and in this country, who in his opinion, it was incumbent on it to arrogating to themselves all the patriotism call the solicitor to the bar, and on finding and public spirit in the nation, misrepre- that he was the indorser of the notice, to sented, defamed, and crushed the wise commit him: then to come to resolutions and honest men of all parties--a faction respecting our privileges, and make it apwho possessed great talents but no virtues parent, that we continue to support and
- with purity in their mouths, but pro- maintain them. Such a course inight not, fligacy in their heartswho 'talked of li- in that stage of the business, prevent the berty but meant despotism, who sought action going on ; but it would secure the the Lord but found a crown. If England, privileges of the House. Were that mea. with the example of all former ages be sure adopted, things would be as correct fore her, and particularly with the awful as possible up to the present period, and example of such a calamitous visitation, the proceeding be regular and orderly... shall be so infatuated as 10 relapse into He therefore called on those who had taken such dangerous and delusive errors, then I the lead in this businesss on the Compronounce that she is doomed to suffer mittee, on its chairman, and on the right more grievous calamities than has ever hon. the chancellor of the exchequer; to yet befallen any nation upon the eartb, adopt this course, as that which had always VOL. XVI.