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the people of Naples, he had only to say that the necessity of it had been long admitted. How then could the government of Naples have been taken by surprise. He had himself been told by the present king of Naples, when that monarch was excluded from his dominions, that the moment he became repossessed of them, he should give his people the constitution they desired. The late king of Naples (Murat) had also told him that he saw a constitution could no longer be withheld from the people, and added his anxiety to give them a constitutional government; but foresceing that by so doing he must fall into the disfavour of either Austria or France, just as their respective interests preponderated in Italy, he (Murat) earnestly inquired whether he could reckon upon having the support of England in maintaining a constitutional government. That unhappy king foresaw the danger of his attempt, if he could not rely upon England for support; he foresaw, and to him (Sir R. Wilson) had often expressed it, that the time might come when he should have to defend by the sword what that sword had won. And he also, with prophetic truth, declared his belief of the near connexion which must occur between his deposition from the throne of Naples and his grave. When he alluded to that sad catastrophe, he had to ask a question of the noble lord opposite relative to the circumstances attending the last act of the tragedy in which king Murat was the victim, and the answer to which, he earnestly hoped, would remove one imputation from the character of this
country. He had heard with
shame and sorrow, that a British accredited agent not only took a part in the military commission which condemned that fallen sovereign to death, but also saw the execution carried into effect. He concluded by declaring that, as a friend of freedom, he rejoiced at the struggle of the Neapolitans, and could not but anticipate from it eventual success, provided the people were determined to persevere. He looked at the event as one of those mysterious transactions by which providence occasidnally worked out the freedom of mankind. Mr. Wilberforce observed, that whether the constitution now established at Naples, in the way stated by his noble friend, was or was not likely to prove a good one, was not the question for consideration. His noble friend in his state paper had very properly divided the subject into two parts. The first, containing certain general principles; and the second, referring to the application of those principles. His noble friend had confined his argument to the latter subject; but the first part bore on his mind as infinitely more important. That the three greatest military powers of Europe should assume to themselves the right of saying to other states —“You shall form no constitution, except that which we please to sanction,” was a principle hostile to every idea of liberty. He could scarcely conceive any principle in itself so unjust or so abominable. His noble friend had distinctly set forth in the state paper which had been laid on the table, that this principle was not only contrary to the constitution of of the country, but to the general laws of nations; but still he (Mr. Wilberforce) felt indebted to his honourable and learned friend (as well for giving him an opportunity of expressing his sentiments on the subject as for the pleasure he experienced in the admiration of the great powers which he had this night displayed,) for bringing this question under consideration, in order that the principle to which he had adverted might receive the utter reprobation of the house. His noble friend would allow him to state, that it might be supposed, when those foreign powers made such a proposition to this court, as was contained in their declaration, that they looked upon it as a principle which we were willing to adopt. That naturally excited the jealousy of the house. But the powers in question, after what had passed, could no longer entertain any such
delusion. Still, however, it was
sufficient to create jealousy in the mind of every man, when it was stated that the courts of London and Paris were likely to agree in the principle, and to tolerate the acts that would probably flow from it. What the honourable general had said, as well as what they knew of the state of Europe, might lead them to suppose that Europe would be a scene of trouble for some time to come. They knew that some monarchs, who, in their time of distress and danger, had held out to their subjects the expectation of a free constitution, had not effected that object. Now, when such a principle as this was publicly stated to their people—when it was said that no constitution should exist but that which they sanctioned,
was it not likely that those people would begin to take the alarm, and feel their high spirits excited to action, by the exertions of individuals in other countries to obtain their liberties 2 This undoubtedly might be the case, and war being once commenced, they all knew how easy it was to continue it. In such a state of things, it became the more necessary to object to such a principle, because the public acts of monarchs so powerful were in the highest degree important, and the promulgation by them of such a doctrine was calculated to fill with terror the mind of every man who cherished the love of national liberty. Let the house look to the fact of Poland. When the revolution took place in that country, it was eulogised as an event which heaven itself might stoop down to admire. But Poland was afterwards conquered and partitioned; and he drew the attention of the house to the circumstance, in order to guard against
a position which his noble friend,
throughout his speech, had insisted on. His noble friend argued, that it was not likely that the other powers would allow any one of their number to aggrandize itself. But gentlemen well knew that each monarch had a way of taking a slice. Each might receive a share, and thus the ruin of any country, as was the case with Poland, might be effected. He would say that the liberties of England itself were not safe if such a doctrine were admitted. Neither could true morality nor true religion flourish, where the people were not allowed, in the strongest manner, to express their dissent from it. His noble friend
had spoken of the manner in which the Neapolitan revolution had been effected, in terms of strong reprobation; but he admitted that there was nothing in the case that called for our interference. He (Mr. Wilberforce) knew how slowly countries learned wisdom, compared with individuals. But this country had been so long in the school of suffering, her efforts had been so tremendous, that nothing ought to induce her again to plunge in war, except the most essential and indispensable necessity. His noble friend, in speaking of the conduct of those foreign powers, had expressed himself, in a more guarded manner than accorded with his (Mr. Wilberforce's) feelings on the subject. Now, though he (Mr. Wilberforce) was extremely jealous of continental connexions and alliances, yet he must observe that he would act most ungratefully and unfairly, if he forgot the benefits which England had derived from the union with those powers; and he thought, that in this country they did not sufficiently remember the signal deliverance which they had experienced by their connexion with the allies in the late war, crowned by the victory of Waterloo, to which they owed the destruction of the great enemy of this country, who had brought into action the most powerful engines for its subjugation. Recollecting these circumstances, it was of course becoming in his noble friend to speak with more delicacy and with greater diplomatic civility of the conduct of those monarchs than could be expected of a member of parliament standing up in his place. He would only say fur
ther, that the interest of this country depended not merely on looking with a watchful eye on the proceedings of foreign powers, as they affected each other, but on cultivating the blessings which providence had placed within our reach; and by economy, by retrenchment of expense, by an application of relief to the people, in every way that could be conceived—by employing the surplus of the consolidated fund, or even of the sinking fund, to remove taxes to that amount—by thus cultivating the affections of the people, this country would become great and happy, and its inhabitants might hope to rise from the situation of difficulty and distress in which they were now placed, to that point of greatness and dignity which they had asserted so nobly throughout the war. In conclusion, the honourable gentleman stated that he would not vote for the motion, which he considered unnecessary, after the statement of the noble lord, and the discussion which had that night taken place. Lord Castlereagh explained. From what had fallen from his honourable friend, he supposed that he was not present at the commencement of his (Lord Castlereagh's) speech: for he had distinctly stated, that if he could express his dissent from those general principles in terms more strong than he had used, he would have adopted them. He also stated that those powers could not expect the concurrence of England, because, whenever questions of this nature had been agitated, he had pointed out clearly and distinctly the course this country would adopt. He had on all Occasions occasions disclaimed those principles; but he did not say that Naples might not form an exception, as connected with Austria. He had no right to suppose that Austria might not adduce good ounds for her conduct. Mr. S. Wortley said, his great reason for rising was to lay before the house his protest against the doctrines contained in the paper to which the honourable and learned gentleman had alluded. If such a tribunal of monarchs was suffered to exist in Europe, then he would say not only that Europe was not safe, but that the British constitution was not safe. He saw, in such a tribunal danger without end—not only danger to others, but to the throne of this country. With respect to Austria marching against Naples, a case might, perhaps, be made out to justify her aggression; but with respect to the conduct of those monarchs in forming a court to summon before them the monarch of a free country, because he gave to his people a constitution of which that people were at the time in possession, it was an act of tyranny against which, as a member of the British parliament, he must raise his voice. Col. Davies, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Ward, and Mr. Brougham then spoke: after which Sir J. Macintosh replied. The house then divided, when the numbers were— For the motion . . 125 Against it . . . . 194
Majority . . . . . . 69
House of Lords, Feb. 26.Lord Holland, on the order of the day, moved that the act for regulating trials for high treason and
misprision of treason be read. [The act was accordingly read, pro forma, by the clerk.] This act, his lordship observed, contained many wise provisions and enactments, the grounds for which were expressed in the preamble. But this act of parliament did not extend to Ireland, as it was passed long before the countries were united. It appeared, however, that many of the provisions of this act had been adopted by the parliament of Ireland, and thus extended to that country. Two provisions, however, did not form a part of the law of Ireland. There might perhaps be more; but he found that certainly two important provisions had not been adopted by the Irish legislature. One was, that clause which requires the testimony of two lawful witnesses in order to convict of treason; the other, that which limits to three years the period within which a prosecution for treason must be commenced. With regard to the latter clause, he believed it never was the law of England until the act to which he had adverted passed. With respect to the former, its history was more remarkable. By the statute of Edward the sixth, the evidence of two witnesses was made necessary to convict of treason : but, though this law was constantly acted on in England, it was not imitated in Ireland. The act of Philip and Mary, which provided for the trial of all kinds of treason, made some alterations, and continued to be the law of treason until the revolution. The rites of evidence, according to the common law, were in the mean time followed. It might be questioned whether the act of Philip and Mary was repealed or
not by the act which restored the law to the state in which it stood by the act of Edward the fourth. All that he could say on the subject was, that the acts passed after the revolution took no notice of that of Philip and Mary, but merely enacted that the treason should be proved by two witnesses. He was no lawyer; but, as far as he could judge, there appeared to be no doubt whatever on the question as to witnesses required by the common law. It had been the opinion of most great lawyers, with the exception of lord Coke, that the common law, in most cases, required only one witness; and this opinion seemed to be confirmed by the practice which had prevailed in Ireland. He had, however, proceeded on the statute of William the third, which he thought ought to befollowed, inorder to render the law alike in both countries. After the bill which he was about to introduce should be read a first time, he would
move that it be printed; and as he understood that the prints would be on the table to-morrow, he should move that it be read a second time on Friday or Monday next, unless it should appear that any difference of opinion was likely to arise. He would not give the house the trouble of being summoned, if it was probable that no discussion would take place. The earl of Limerick returned his warmest thanks to the noble lord for bringing forward his measure. It was most desirable that Ireland should be placed on the same footing with England in every respect. Nothing would tend so much to conciliate the people of Ireland as the conviction that the same law and the same rule applied to both countries. Nothing could so much tend to civilize the people and harmonize the feelings of the two countries as measures such as the present. The bill was then read a first time.
Discussion of the Catholic Petitions.—Irish Mastership in Chancery.— Taration.—Agricultural Distresses.—Army Estimates.— Petitions respecting the Catholics.-Bill to repeal the Malt Tar.
OUSE of Commons, Feb.
28th—Petitions from various counties were presented on the subject of the agricultural distress of the country. They were followed by many on the catholic question, chiefly against their claims.
Lord Nugent presented a petition from the Roman catholics
of England. Mr. Plunkett said he held in his hand a petition signed by some thousands of Roman catholics in Ireland. From the means he possessed of knowing the Pop!, - that