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of the House, by command of his stituted authorities : 2. That if vioRoyal Highness the Prince Regent, lence was to be employed, notice of should be referred to a Committee. such intention ought to have been
In bringing forward his motion, given beforehand, that the people the Marquis of Lansdown took a might have been aware of their dan. sort of general survey of the state ger : and, 3. That if violence was of the manufacturing districts, and to be employed, and punishment inof the distress which had been felt Alicted, that punishment should have both in England and Scotland ; and fallen on the leaders of the meeting, endeavoured to show, that the dis. and not on those who were aware of turbances which had prevailed were no offence, and who perhaps attendnot so much to be ascribed to ed out of curiosity, and from no par. any determined spirit of disaffec. ticipation in the views or objects of tion and hostility to the constitu. those leaders. Having laid down tion, as to the pressure of the severe these criteria, and contrasted them distress which had been felt, and with the events that had actually tawhich naturally produced ebullitions ken place, his Lordship submitted, of popular feeling. He also advert- that there was not only room for ined to the impunity with which ma. quiry, but that the House owed it to ny most libellous productions had the country, and to themselves, to for a considerable time previous. support his motion for that purpose. ly been circulated, and contended This motion was strenuously oppos. that, instead of the necessity of new ed by Marquis Wellesley and by Lord laws being made out, there was Grenville, both in very masterly primâ facie evidence that the laws orations, and by the Earl of Liver. already in existence had not been pool; and defended by Lords Er. enforced. The law officers, he skine and Earl Grey; but finally nesaid, might perhaps be able to ac- gatived by a majority of 131. 'If it count for their late inactivity ; but, might not seem invidious, we would at all events, their efficiency ought particularly mention the splendid to be inquired into ; and it ought to display of great statesman-like and be proved, before any changes were commanding talents made by Lord attempted, that the evil had grown Grenville upon this occasion; esto such a height as to demand mea- pecially as the subsequent publisures of repression similar to those cation of his speech has enabled which had so lately been announced. us to judge more correctly of the
The Noble Marquis then proceeded views which he entertained as to the to detail the proceedings at Man- existing state of the country, and chester, in the course of which, and the measures, both remedial and when animadverting both on the con- penal, which the emergency seemed duct of the Magistrates, and the sub- to call for. The Noble Lord traced sequent approbation of their conduct the causes of the late revolutionary conveyed by the Home Secretary movements much farther back than (Lord Sidmouth,) he said there were any of the Noble Lords who took part three important circumstances to in this discussion; and quoted, with which the attention of the Noble Vis. approbation, the opinion entertained count and the Magistrates ought to by Mr Burke, that the evils of this have been directed: 1. That if any kingdom did not originate with the violence was to take place, it should French Revolution, though that e. commence on the part of the popu- vent had contributed to increase lace, and not on the part of the con- them, and to force them into notice,
He denied that the principal cause been tolerated, every thing ought to of these evils was to be sought for be permitted.” And he added, that in the distresses of the times. The he was satisfied the conduct of the germ of discontent and revolution Manchester Magistrates was not onwas always in being, though parti. ly free from all blame, but was most cular occasions were more favour- highly meritorious. He made this able than others to its growth and assertion, because, at certain public expansion. He opposed going into meetings, called in consequence of a committee, for a variety of reasons, the transactions which have been so and particularly because doing so frequently alluded to, though no
, would be construed as tantamount proof was given, no authentic inforto a pledge, that measures would be mation detailed, and no jurisdiction adopted for relieving the distresses to pronounce conferred, the parties of the country; while, if nothing was had taken upon themselves to decide done, the dissatisfaction of the suffer. definitively on the question, to prejuers would be incredibly increased. dicate the whole case, and to influBut these distresses were of a kind ence, mislead, and distract the puwhich no legislative measures could blic mind. alleviate, far less remove, and there- The discussion on Lord Althorp's fore their Lordships ought not to en- motion, in the House of Commons, courage hopes, which must inevitably was both long and animated; but produce disappointment, and disap- the topics brought forward on both pointment exasperation. His Lord. sides were so similar to those of ship then went into the great ques- which we have just given a brief outtion, to which every speaker, on al- line, that we forbear from attemptmost every question, during this short ing to abridge or condense them. and busy session, almost invariably The motion was supported by Colorecurred, the conduct of the Magis- nel Davies, Sir M. W. Ridley, Mr trates of Manchester, and into the Kinnaird, Mr Bennet, Lord Milton, argument which had been brought Mr Denman, and Mr Tierney; opforward, and dwelt upon, that, on posed by Mr Bathurst, Mr Long similar occasions, the magistrates of Wellesley, and Lord Castlereagh; other places, where numerous radi. and finally negatived by a majority cal meetings had been held, had act.
of 173. ed with less vigour and more tolera- On the 2d of December, Lord tion. “If,” said his Lordship, “ a- Sidmouth moved the second reading larm were generated in the minds of of the bill for prohibiting training, a large mass of the population, it which was agreed to, and the bill was not a matter of option with ma- read accordingly; and on the same gistrates ; they were compelled to day Lord Castlereagh moved, that afford that protection with which the the bill for the prevention of sediJaws invested them. Magistrates, in tious meetings be read a second some parts of the kingdom, might time in the House of Commons. have allowed their forbearance to in. This led to an unusually lengthened fluence them too much: by their discussion, in which the principal imprudent delay they might have speakers of both sides of the House put to hazard the public peace, per- took part ; but the most remarkable haps, for ever ; but it would be a feature of the debate was the declastrange perversion of all reasoning ration of Mr Grenfell, in general a to assert, that because too much had steady and firm opponent of Mini.
sters, that the bill before the House Commons, on the motion of Lord was one to the principle of which he Castlereagh, resolved itself into a fully acceded ; reserving to himself, Committee on the seditious meethowever, the right of supporting any ings' prevention bill. A bill, to amendment, from whichever side of make certain publications liable to the House it might proceed, if it ap- the stamp-duty, in order to prevent peared an improvement of the mea- the circulation of seditious and blassures rendered necessary by the state phemous libels, was also brought up of the country, and of further con- by the Noble Lord, and read a first sidering, whether it would be expe- time. dient that any, or all, of those bills In the House of Lords, on the 6th, should be pernɔanent. The second Lord Sidmouth moved the second reading of the bill was carried by reading of the bill for the more efthe enormous niajority of 223. fectual prevention and punishment
In the House of Lords, on the 3d, of blasphemous and seditious libels. the Lord Chancellor moved the se- Lord Erskine agreed that the blascond reading of the bill to prevent phemous libels with which the coun. delay in cases of misdemeanour. This try teemed, and the object of which bill was occasioned by the great de- was to deprive the poor man of the lays that had occurred in bringing to hopes and consolations which Christrial persons prosecuted by indict. tianity ministered to the distressed, ment or information in the Court of should be checked, and punished ; King's Bench at Westminster, or by but he denied that new laws were indictment at the Sessions ; by reason necessary for that purpose, as the of the defendants having, according Law.Officers of the Crown had alto the present practice, an opportuni. ready ample means in their power ty of postponing their trials to a dis- to put down blasphemy, tant period by means of imparlances were unsuccessful, it was either bein the Court of King's Bench, and by cause they had departed from the time given to plead at the sessions. regular course of law, or had selectTo obviate this unnecessary delay, it ed wrong objects for prosecution. was proposed to require the defender All that was necessary to put down to plead or demur within a certain blasphemy was a vigorous execution number of days. The motion met of the existing laws. Lord Harrowby with considerable opposition, espe- replied to the observations of the cially from Lord Erskine, who de- Ex-Chancellor, and observed, that fended the existing practice, but the existing penalties, fine and imwas ultimately agreed to, and the prisonment, were not sufficient at a bill read accordingly. The House time when extraordinary means were then resolved itself into a Commit. used to circulate blasphemy and se. tee on the arms and training bills, dition through every corner of the which went through the committee country, when the labourer could without receiving any modification not drink his cup of tea or coffee or amendment.
without at the same time partaking On the same day, the House of of the deleterious poison. The per
• If a suit is commenced by capias, or latitat, without any special original, the defendant is entitled to demand one imparlance or licentia loquendi; and may, before he pleads, have more time granted by consent of the Court, to see if he can end the matter amicably with. out farther suit, by talking with the plaintiff. - Blackstone's Commentaries, iii, 299, 8vo edit. London, 1803.
sons who gave their support to these constitution of this country. Earl laws were, his Lordship contended, Grey entered at great length into the the only true friends to the liberty question, dwelling on many of the toof the press ; for by restraining its pics which had been already pressed licentiousness, they laboured to diffuse on the attention of the House by its blessings, and to render them per- Lords Erskine and Holland. The petual. The Marquis of Lansdown Earl of Liverpool replied ; and, after commented on what bad fallen from a few words from several other both the Noble Lords who had preced- Noble Lords, the bill was read a ed him, and remarked on the inade- second time without a division, and quacy and excessive severity of the e. ordered to be committed on the fol. ventual punishment of transportation lowing day. The reports of the
. for such an offence; contending, that search for arms' bill, and of the bill the law might be materially weaken- for preventing clandestine training ed, but could not be strengthened by were also received. such an enactment. In proof of this In the House of Commons, the observation, he referred to the case of same day, Lord Castlereagh moved Sir Francis Burdett, who, he under the recommitment of the bill for prestood, was about to be tried for a li- venting seditious meetings, and stated bel*; and contended, that if the ho. certain alterations which he had made nourable Baronet were under trial, in the bill, and which he anticipated it would make all the difference in would remove many grounds of obthe world with the jury if they should jection taken to it by honourable feel that it might be the effect of their gentlemen on the other side. The verdict to send a person of his rank substance of these amendments was, and character to Botany Bay. His to exempt from the operation of the main objection, therefore, was, that bill all meetings held in private rooms the bill now in question applied to a and not in the open air; to qualify that misdemeanour, a punishment belong. part which made it a misdemeanour ing to felony; a punishment not dif- for any person to attend a meeting fering in degree, but totally differing who was not a freeholder, housein nature, from any punishment hi holder, or inhabitant of the district, therto affixed to the offence of libel. by restricting the clause to those onLord Ellenborough defended the ly who wilfully and knowingly attendbill
, and Lord Holland assailed its ed such meetings, and who refused principle and its provisions with great to depart after the proclamation for severity, and in considerable detail; strangers to disperse had been read and declared, that of all the measures by the magistrates; to allow persons which had come before Parliament, who had property in one parish, and or were still threatened, not one was who resided in another, to attend possessed of greater deformity than meetings in those parishes in which that which was then before them. The they had property, if their freehold Lord Chancellor differed so widely reached a certain stipulated amount; from this opinion, that he considered and had been in their possession a these measures as essentially neces. certain stipulated time ; and to limit sary to the preservation of the free the duration of the bill to the period
• Letter to his Constituents in Westminster on the proceedings at Manchester. Some account of the initiative measures taken by Government on the publication of this document in the newspapers will be found in the Appendix.
of five years. His Lordship declar- was also brought from the Lords and ed that he would take the sense of read a first time; and the report on the House, rather than submit that the seditious meetings bill brought the period should be farther limited up and ordered to be received next than he had proposed; and that he day. In passing through the comcould not consent that the measure mittee, this bill experienced some should be circumscribed, or local in modifications. A clause was introits operation. With these altera. duced indemnifying magistrates in tions, he moved the recommitment of case of killing or maiming when emthe bill, which, after a lengthened ployed in dispersing meetings renderdiscussion, was carried without a ed illegal by the act. The operation of division. In the committee of the the act was also, on the suggestion of whole House, Mr F. Buxton moved, the Attorney-General, extended not as an amendment, that the operation merely to places used for the pur. of the bill be limited to three in. pose of delivering lectures and holdstead of five years; which amend. ing debates, but to all places whatment was, on a division, negatived by ever where persons not licensed 325 to 53; and the suggestion of should publicly read or debate. Lord Castlereagh, that the bill Several new clauses were also proshould continue in force for five posed by Lord Castlereagh, and years, was carried without a division.
agreed to seriatim. The first was, On the 7th, the misdemeanor tra. that in those cases where strangers, verse prevention bill went through a or persons who had no right to atCommittee in the Lords, when the tend at a particular meeting, were Lord Chancellor proposed that the present, and after being ordered to blank as to the time within which withdraw refused to go, it should parties must plead be filled up with and might be lawful for any person the words “ twenty days,” and a or persons (having a right to attend clause added for granting copies of at such a meeting) to take the per. indictments to defendants; which con so refusing into custody, and were agreed to. The search for bring him before the next magisarms' bill, and the military train- trate, to be dealt with according to ing prevention bill, were then read the act; the next, that any thing in the third time and passed.
the present bill should not be conOn the 8th, the drilling and train- strued to extend to any meeting ing bill was brought down from the which should take place in any Lords, and read a first and second county, town, stewartry, or bailiwick, time in the Commons, and ordered after the issuing of a writ for the to be printed. This bill was carried election of a member of Parliament though all its subsequent stages with for any such county, town, &c., for great expedition, in consequence of the purpose of carrying such writ information having been received into effect; and the third, that the that the practice which it was meant present act should be binding in to restrain prevailed to an alarming London, and for twenty miles round extent in ihe northern counties of it, one day after its passing, and in England, and, according to the Lord all other parts of the United King. Advocate, in some parts of Scotland, dom in seven days. particularly the neiglıbourhood of On the 9th, the House of Lords Glasgow. The search for arms' bill were occupied with the considera