Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

the people, first introduced the system of every Session, and might be regarded as attempting to enslave them by corrupting the law of Parliament, or at least a decla. their Representatives. But even bis pen ration to the country, that such was the sioned Parliament, which bad sat' sixteen law, appeared monstrous and unaccount. years, was 'not found sufficiently tractable, able. If the Convention Parliament had and consequently was dissolved. As to been allowed to sil' a little longer, it James II. he committed many outrages, would bave effectually secured the freebut none more flagrant or offensive than dom of elections. But what it had done attempting to corrupt elections; and he was now overturned. It had declared er was in consequence obliged to abdicate officio informations by the Attorney-Genethe throne. The main reason assigned in ral to be contrary to the laws of England; King William's Declaration for his coming that proceeding so denounced by Parlia. to England was, the corruption of the ment was now declared to be Law. The House of Commons; that the Parliament Constitution which we were taught to were not allowed to be freely elected, or to praise so highly, and on which we were consult independently what was for the desired to rely so firmly, was found too benefit of the Nation; that tampering was fragile and insecure; and a set of borough. used in electing and influencing them; mongers elected a representation, which, that undue means were applied to procure instead of protecting our freedom, were compliance with he will of the Sovereign. disposed only to suspend our rights and Two Sovereigns, Richard II. and James II. liberties. Machiavel and Montesquieu were dethroned for packing Parliaments, had observed that the perversion of a free Having thus historically shewn the right Constitution led to a greater tyranny tban of the people to Parliaments freely elected, could be practised under an avowed des. he would next come to the actual state of potic power; and the latter said, that the representation. The petition of 1793 when the Parliament of Euglaud became for reform, set forth and offered to prove corrupt, her liberties would perish. He that 84 individuals do, by their own imme then alluded to 150 statutes against cordiate authority, send 157 Members to the ruption in elections, to the opinions of House of Commons. That in addition to Plato and Locke, and to the oath of purga. the 15'1 Members so returned, 150 more, tion of the Parliament of Charles 11. to making in all 307, are returned by the re- disprove an assertion of Mr. Canning's, commendation of 70 powerful individuals that Government could not go on without added to the 84 before mentioned, and the existence of corruption. He defined making the number of patrons altogether political corruption to be that state in 154, who return a decided majority of the which individual interest was arrayed House. One hundred and fifty-four indi. against public good, and private views in. viduals thus claimed and exercised the fluenced public conduct; and combated right of disposing, by their agents, of the Mr. Windham's opinion, that the electors lives; liberties, and property, of the mil were more corrupt than the elected. Con. lions of inhabitants wbo composed the sub- fidence in Parliament could not exist, jects of this kingdom. Did not this seem while the representation was in its present in itself a usurpation ? Did it not seem a state, while the people had not the seats grievance wbich called loudly for a remedy? at their disposal, and the Treasury had a Mr. Justice Blackstone, a courtly writer, market to sell such commodities. The had declared, that if the King and Lords Noble Lord opposite (Castlereagh), who iofluenced the House of Commons, which bad been concerned in selling seats, was emanated from the people, and constituted only more unfortunate than others, in their natural protectors, there was an end having been detected. The practice kas of the Constitution. Would it be con too potorious to be denied ; and he called tended that a few borouglı-mongers were upon the gentlemen of England to put an to enjoy all the powers of the Constitution end to a system, the effects of which had in their own hands; that they were to be driven many of them from the seats of the real Sovereigns of England, and dis- their ancestors, and compelled them to pose of our lives, liberty, and property, hide their heads in a foreign land from the at their pleasure ? Monarchy, aristocracy, pursuit of tax-gatherers and creditors. and democracy, had each their panegy. He then referred to the opinions of Lord rists; but an oligarchy had been univer Chatham, Mr. Pitt, and Mr. For, in fa. sally condemned; and a borough-monger. Four of reform ; and quoted Mr. Burke's ing oligarchy was the most odious, the opinion as to the character of a genuine most degrading, and the most galling of House of Commons. “The virtue (Burke all oligarchies. That 150 patrons of the said), spirit, and essence of a House of representation should exist, that they Commons consists in its being the express should exist against all law, that they image of the feelings of the Nation. It should exist against the resolutions of the was not instituted to be a controul upor House of Commons itself, which resolu- the people, as of late it bas been taught, "Lions were passed at the commencement of by a doctrine of the most pernicious ten.

deny,

dency; but as a controul for the people.” prorements. The burden of taxation was He wished the Gentlemen of England necessary to defray the interest of the navould keep one fact in mind that 150 tional debt, which had been increased by borough proprietors had the property, the wars undertaken in conforınity with the liberty, and the lives of this great Nation wishes of the people ; for every war from at their disposal; that by their agents the Revolution had been popular; and Re. they constituted the executive, or domi- publicks were even more clamorous for neered over it; that they had become war than Monarchies. The addition of King, Lords, and Commons, and excluded 100 Irish Members had accomplished what every other power from the Constitution. Lord Chatham wished for, that of infusing And he asked them if they would allow a new portion of blood into the Constiluthis state of things to continue ? Since the lion, as he called it, by adding 100 County Revolution, every thing which had been Members. He reprobated the attempts interposed as a security against the eu made to delude the people, to excite their croachments of Power had been either passions, to lead them on to the destructaken away, or had been suffered to be- tion of themselves, and of the Goverocome a dead letter. As to the Septennial meot, which they ought to revere, and Act, he concurred with Dr. Johnson in were bound to maintain. Mucb had been considering it as one of the greatest con- said, both now and on former occasions, tempts of human right ever committed. as to suspending the Constitution of the The pretence then was tbe danger of a country; but he was fully persuaded that jacobitical party; the pretence for con- that measure was necessary for protecting tinuing it was the danger of a jacobinical the liberties of the people. With regard party. Believing, however, as he did, that to the influence of the Crown, he denied there was no danger to be apprehended that it had been increased : on the cooexcept by the Government continuing to trary, it had been considerably abridged; do wrong, and still more to alienate in- and particolarly by rendering the Judges stead of regaining the affections of the independent, by passing the Grenville Act, people by restoring to them their un. by excluding contractors from the House, doubted rights, he should conclude by and by preventing revenue-officers from moving " That a Select Committee be ap- interfering at elections, pointed to inquire into the present state of Lord Cochrane supported the motion. the representation of the country; and 10 If the call for reform was not obeyed, the report their observations to the House.” mass of corruptiou would destroy itself,

Mr. Brand seconded the motion; and for the maggots it eogendered would eat it complimented Sir F. Burdett on his able, up. (A laugh.) The manner in which luminous, and temperate speech. He had that House was composed, was the grand long since predicted, that, if a timely re cause of all the distress of the country. fort did not take place, the relation be Ministers, with all their declamation Iween the públick and that House would against Spenceans, had effectually acted on be such, that the House would be driven ibeir systein, baving reduced the landed to measures of military coercion in the de- gentlemen to be nothing more than stew. fence apd maintenance of its authority. ards for paying over the little reat they It was now the persuasion of a great ma got, in the shape of taxes to Government. jority of the country, that the House of Mr. Curuen said, the reason of the late Commons, as at present constituted, did unconstitutional measures was obvious not, in any fair sense, represent the peo- enough. They had been compelled to ple. The result of this was, in a time of abridge the liberties of the people, because profound peace, suspensions of their an. they did not possess their confidence. The lient rigbis, and an enormous establishe wish for reforin was general; and he thought ment to defend those suspensions. The it would be wise, as a measure of policy, French Revolution had been occasioned by to give the people some farther degree of opposition to all reform; and the Revolu- political power, not only to induce them tion in 1688 had been precipitated by ge to bear the present burdens, but those fuperal indignation at the Earl of Bath hav ture difficulties which awaited them. The ing, to secure to himself the place of majority of the people, he was convinced, Groom of the stole, procured ihe return of were aliached to the Constitution ; but an 44 Members from Cornwall; and com. uniform resistance to reform was not the plaints were heard from every corner of way to preserve that attachment. the Kingdom. " Early reforms,” Mr. Mr. Ward could never hear Reform Burke had somewhere observed, “ mentioned, but it always struck bis mind amicable arrangements with a friend in in the same way as if he heard a motion power : late reformations were terins im- før democracy, revolution, and the total posed upon a conquered Enemy." subversion of that Constitution and order

Sir J. Nichol opposed the motion. The of things which had raised this Country to Constitution worked well as it stood, and a pitcb of glory and prosperity unknown he would not endanger it by visionary im. in ebe annals of the world. The numerous Gent. Mag. June, 1817.

petitions

were

[ocr errors]

petitions on the table proved the existence and he said he would as soon part with the of two things which certainly could not be representation of Yorkshire as with that of cured by reform, namely, ignorance and oid Sariun. The Constitution had sora distress. The reformers pretended to re- vived the most arduous struggle that bad spect the prerogative of the King and the existed in the history of the world, and privileges of the Lords; but, if they got a proved itself fully adequate to the preser. House of Commons to their mind, the first vation of our vational independence and poprlar bill which might be rejected would our internal liberties, be the signal for the downfall of the Mo. Sir S. Rumilly was impressed with a con. narchy. Demagogues would then take viction that reform was indispensible; credit to themselves for the sort of pious and he owed that statement of his opinion fraud by which they had prepared this to the whole people of England. There change. To skew the notions of radical would be a great gain to the country, if reformer«, he might merely quote the titles only one or iwo of the ro ten or ministe. which Mr. Jeremy Bentham gave to the rial toroughs were struck off. How often chapters of one of his publications, such as, were questions in the House carried by " Honourable House incorrigible," " Mo. two or three votes? The people petition derate Reforın inadequate.” In describ- ed, and called on them to consider; and ing the classes of persons who, Mr. Ben though they might have gone too far as to tham thinks, must be against reform, be what they called radical reform, yet there says, " it must be the work of the Torier were many petitions, such as that from to make that portion of the public money London, &c. which called their attention spent in was:e and corruption as large as not to annual, but to triennial Parliaments, possible, and of the Whigs likewise." He He had no fanciful notions about reform; says public welfare “ under moderate re por any eager desire for popularity: he form would be minimized, uoder radical wished to see sometbing done for the pub. reform would be maximized.” So that, af- fic advantage. ter moderate reform should be granted, Mr. Lambe thought the elective frasthe next motion would be for radical reform. chise should be communicated to Copy. Moderate reform would thus only be the holders, and that some change should take sharp edge of the wedge which, once insi- place with regard to out-voters; but be puated, would serve to split the oak. Mr. could not approve of any furtber altera W. then proceeded to argue for ibe con- tion, and therefore should vole against tinuance of the Borough system, from the the motion. circumstance of the return of Mr. Fox, Mr. Mr. Tierney supported the motion; and Windham, and Lord Grey for sucb places, Lord Milton opposed it. On a division after losing their seats in other quarters; it was rejected by 265 tu 77.

REPORT OF THE SECRET COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.

ON THE SUBJECT OF TRAITOROUS PRACTICES. The Report begins by stating, that the intelligence rests, in many of its parts, Committee, after an examination of the upon the testimony of persons who are papers referred to them, feel it their pain- either themselves implicared in these cri. ful duty to declare, that they see but too minal transactions, or who have appa'many proofs of a traitorous conspiracy to rently engaged in them for the purpose overthrow the Government and the Con- of obtaining information, and imparting it stitution, and to subvert the existing or to the Magistrates or the Secretary of State der of society.

The Committee allow that soch testiThe Report then praises the active ex- mony must be very questionable'; and ertions of the Government, and particu. state, that they have reason to apprehead, larly of the Magistrates in the execution That the language and conduct of some of the general laws, and of the special of the latter description of witnesses bare powers entrusted to thein by the new Acts had the effect of encouraging those designs of Parliament: but the Committee assert, which it was inleaded they should only that though the plans of the Conspirators be the means of detecting. But, allowing have been thus frustrated, yei, in spite of for these circumstances, the Committee all this, the same wicked and desperate are still of opinion, that the statement designs are still pursued. The informa- which they proceed to give is by 60 tion on which this conclusion is founded means exaggerated, but perfertly var. ' is said to be collected from sources fre- ranted by the papers submitted to their

quently unconnected and unknown to each inspection. other; but the result is said to be upi. It proceeds to state, that the papers form, and is also corroborated by a strik rela:e, alınost without exception, to the ing coincidence in many minute particu. manufacturing districts in the Midland and lars.

Northern counties; and although the The Committee then observe, that their disaffected still look to the Metropolis

rence.

with the hope of assistance and direction, sometimes checked by some of their asyet, w the districts thus referred to, the sociates, but were generally received with more recent projects of insurrection were strong marks of applau.e, and concur. to have been contiaed.

Arrangeinans for ine march were The Committee theo state, that als pointed out, and the people were told to though in many of these districts distress prov de themselves with blankets, shoes, has operaced to expose the minds of the and koapsacks, and with mney and food. labouring classes to irritation and perver. Those who remained behind were to assist sion, yet this distress, in their opinion, with subscriptivus. Every ten men were has been rather the instrument than the to choose a leader, and one was to be cause of the disaffection. In some of the placed over every huodred. Strong intia disaffected districts they believed the disa mations were also given of the propriety tress had been less felt than in many other and necessity of providing themselves parts of the kiogdoin; while in other with arıns, but those do not appear to places where that distress has been most have been acted upon, except in a few grie vous, it has been sustained with such instances. patience, loyalty, and good conduct, as On the 10th of March the Meeting took cannot be too highly commended ; and place, consisting of from 10 10 12,600 the Committee thuk that is chieny by the persons; and although some of the leaders means mentioned in the Report of the had been previously arrested, and some former Committet, namely, by the ex were seized on the sput, the purpose was tensive circulation of seditious and blas not abandoued, and large numbers of the. pbemous publications, and by the contin deluded people inarched off. nual repetition of inflammatory discourses, It goes on 10 state, that a considerable that this spirit of disaffection has been body was stopped on their way to Stock. excited and diffused. These hare gra- port, while great numbers passed through dually weakened among the lower order Leek, and one party went as far as Ash, the attachment to our Government and bourne ; but the activity of the Magis Constitutiou, and the respect for law, mo tra:es in dispersing the Meeting and stoprality, and religion; and their minds ing these parties, prevented the execution have thus been prepared for the adoption of a design which probably would have ef measures no less injurious to their in- disturbed the peace, not only of the coup. terests and happiness, than to those of ties through which they passed, but night every other class of his Majesty's subjects. have led to consequences bighly danger

Since the former Report, Manchester bus to the public tranquilling. and its neighbourhood are stated to be It observes, that the planners of the the ouly places where meetings have been plot, instead of being discouraged by this held in such numbers as tò excite alarm. discomfiture, pursued their measures unAt a meeting held there on the 3d of interruptediy. Presh meetings, though March, for the purpose of petitioning in smaller numbers, were soon afterwards against the Suspension of the Habeas Core beld, consisting chiefly of delegates from pus Act, on which occasion several thou- Manchester, Derbysbire, and the many. sand 'persons were assembled, it was re facturing districts of Yorkshire. At some solved, ihat another ineeting was to be of these meetings reports were made of held ou the 10th, with the intention that the quantity of pikes, firelocks, and bul. len out of every twenty persons should leis, wbich could be procured for the in. proceed to London with a petition to the tended rising. Communications were kept Prince Regent. The interval was employ- up with Nottingham, Sheffield, and Bired in repeated and numerous meetings, mingham, in order to excite the people when the designs of the leaders were de- of those districts to similar attempts, and veloped in speeches of ihe most undis to ascertain the progress of their prepaguised violence. One man avowed him. rations. do these meetings, it is stated self a republican and a leveller, and would that the pretence of Parliamentary Renever give up the cause till a republican form was almost entirely discarded, and form of Government was established: nothing less than Revolution was mediothers stated, that if their perition were tated: and to such a dreadful degree were rejected, they must force ii; that the the minds of many of the people at these large towns in Yorkshire were acting upon meetings corrupted aud iniamed, that in the same plan, and would meet them public speeches the necessity of doing upon the road, or at least march to Lon- away with, or disposing of (this was the don at the same time: that the Scotch term), the persons most obnoxious to them were on their march, and that they should were uareservedly announced; and it is be one hundred thousand strong when stated to have been once proposed to joined by the people of the manufacturing make Manchester a Moscow, ju order to districts on the road; and that it would strengthen the cause by throwing great be impossible for the army, or any thing numbers out of work. else, to resist them. The speakers were A general insurrection was to have

commenced

[ocr errors]

commenced at Manchester, on the 30th; exaggeration probable in such a matter. Magistrates were to have been seized, About this time it was proposed tbat there prisoners liberated, soldiers either to be should be another general meeting, for as surprised at their barracks, or to be drawn early a day as possible after the discussion out of them by the buruing of factories to of the question of Reform in the House of be set on fire, and wbile they were thus di Commons. The insurgents were first to verted from their posts, the barracks were march to Nottingham, where they were 10 be occupied by a party stationed for expected to be joined by other bodies ; that purpose, and the magazine was to and on their way to London by still more, be seized. The firing of a rocket, or all armed either before, or to be armed by rockets, was to be the signal for this rising. the robbery of private houses or of difThe numbers sufficiene for the immediate ferent barracks and depots which were purpose were estimated at 2 or 3000 men, to be attacked. but it was expected that the insurgents At several subsequent meetings it us would amount lu 5000 in the morning. reported, that the increase of members

lu some parts of these proceedings was so great, that it was said at one of there are traces of an intention to issue them, that it was necessary to extend proclamations, absolving the King's sub- their divisions daily, and enlarge their jects from their allegiance, and denounce committee. ing death againsi their opponents. The Similar information from many quar. Committee, however allow, that they have ters whence the delegates were deputed, not found any evidence of the actual pre. confirms the expectation of a general paration of these proclamations.

rising about the time that has been men-> This atrocious conspiracy was detected tioned; and states, that a postponemeut and defeated by the Magistrates, who took place to the oth or 10th of June, for seized and confined some of the ringlead. various reasons. By the latest intelli, ers before the period fixed for its execu gence from these quarters it appears, that tion. This timely prevention appears to these designs were frustrated by the same have checked very considerably the pro causes that formerly existed, panely, the ceedings of the disaffected, and the sub. vigilance of Government, the activity add sequent intelligence from that quarter is intelligence of the Magistrates, and the of a more favourable kind.

assistance lent them in the exercise of During part of the month of April there their functions by the regular troops and appears to have been a general intermis. yeomanry acting under their direction, sion, at least of the more open proceed- the efficient arrangements of the officers ings. Owing to the regulations of the intrusted with the service, the knowledge new Act, public meetings have been less obtained of the plans of the disaffected, frequent, and societies have been less together with the arrest and imprisonment frequently convened, even in public of the leading' agitators; and that by houses. Clubs have been dissolved, meet- these causes a still fartber postponement ings suspended, or held so privately and of their atrocious plans would be occaso remotely, as to have escaped obser- sioned. Subsequent intelligence leares vation.

no doubt that the plan, in its full extent, They have fewer communications in has been frustrated; but the correctness writing: the names of leading persons of former information bas been confirmed have been recommended to be concealed; by the late appearance of bodies of armfew persons only are entrusted with the ed men at the period previously fixed, progress of their plans, and these men are and particularly in one of the districts to give notice to different delegates to which bad been described as determined have their partisans ready to act when to rise, without waiting for a general co. aud as required. These delegates have operation. inet in small numbers, and have kept up The Committee think it important to a general though verbal correspondence state, that many of tbe most active Ma among the disaffected.

gistrates, and persons whose civil and miTowards the end of April and during litary situations enabled them, upon the the mouth of May, this correspondence most extensive information, to form the has been more active. On the 5th of most accurate opinion, concur in attri. May a meeting was held in a town in the buting the disappointment of the attempts West Riding of Yorkshire, which was at already made, and the hopes of contended by delegates from other principal tinued tranquillity, to the exercise of the towns of that district, and from Leices new powers which Parliament entrusted to ler, Birmingham, and Nottingham. At the Executive Government, and to the this meeting reports were made by the influence produced by the knowledge tbat delegates of the numbers which could be these powers would be called into action collected from the different districts : they as soon as necessity should justify their were stated to be very large; but the employment. They concur likewise in a Commiliee states itself to be aware of the representation of the danger with wbich

« AnteriorContinuar »