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F. Burdett then produced a petition At length, after a candid and conciliafrom Halifax, premising that, though tory, speech from Lord Lascelles, Sir he knew its general tenor, he had not Francis agreed to withhold this petition read it, so as to be able to say whether for the present, and presented several or not its expressions would be thought others which he had read, and which sufficiently respectful. Indeed he did were received. not conceive that there was any occa- The next discussion on the subject sion for this previous reading, or that was on the 4th February, when Mr he had any title to intercept petitions W. Smith, the member for Norwich, from his fellow subjects, whatever their stated that he had a petition from that tenor might be. It was for the House city, most respectably signed, and to determine whether they would re- which he did not know contained any ceive it or not, and he thought the re- thing improper or offensive. He dejection of petitions, even by them, a clined, however, saying positively that very questionable privilege. The Chan- he considered it unexceptionable, or cellor of the Exchequer then called up- even that he had read it, on the prinon the Speaker to state, whether a ciple, that the House ought not, unless member, before presenting a petition, on very strong grounds indeed, to rewas not bound to read it, and ascertain ject any petition, and ought not to rewliether it contained any thing disre- quire that a member, before presenting spectful to the House. The Speaker one, should read and be responsible for gave his opinion decidedly against Sir its containing nothing offensive. Mr Francis, who declared that the peti- Wynn and Lord Castlereagh insisted, tious transmitted to him were so nume- that the House must maintain the prin. rous, that he would not undertake to ciple objected to by Mr Smith, otherread them on any account; and that wise they would be liable to be contithey would occupy the whole period of nually libelled and insulted. They rethe session. A warm debate now ensued, gretted that Mr Smith had forced the the reception of the petition being sup- question unnecessarily on the attention ported by Mr Brougham, Sir S. Kö- of the House, since if he had said nomilly, and Lord Cochrane, while it was thing, no objection could have been opposed by Mr Wynn, Mr Aber- made ; but they must maintain the crombie, and Mr Canning. Sir Francis principle by rejecting the petition. Mr urged ; Was it to be endured in such Brougham' and Sir F. Burdett supa moment, when the nation was com- ported the reading of it, but Mr Smith plaining of its wrongs from one end to adhering to the ground which he had the other, that lawyers should get up taken up, the motion was negatived and cross-examine any member who, in without a division. the exercise of his duty, laid before On the 6th of February, Lord them the petitions of the people ? Cochrane presented a petition signed Were they to be told one day that the by 30,050 of the inhabitants of Mannames of petitioners must appear upon chester. He stated, however, that he the parchment, and another day, that could not be responsible for the lanmembers must read every petition that guage being such as the House was they present, or it would be rejected ? likely to think unobjectionable. It Were such formalities to stand between was allowed, however, to be read ; the people and their representatives ; when it soon proved, with a slight exand if not complied with, were the for. ception, to be the identical petition mer to be dismissed without a hearing ? which the noble lord had presented on Was that a time to erect such a barrier? a former day from so many different
MEASURES RELATIVE TO PUBLIC DISTURBANCES.
Prince Regent's Message to the two Houses of Parliament - Committees of
Secrecy appointed—Their Report — Debate in the Lords on the Bill for the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act-In the Commons on the Bill against Seditious Meetings, and two others-On the Habeas Corpus-These Bills pass the iwo Houses.
The first important business to which This message gave rise in the Lords parliament had its attention called, was to considerable warmth of debate.that of which warnings had been given Lord Sidmouth lamented the necessity by the disturbed state of the nation, under which ministers felt themselves as well as by the tenor of the regent's placed of advising his royal highness to speech, and to which the attack on the send this message. He stated, as the royal person had formed an appropriate measure to be proposed by ministers, preface. On the 3d February, Lord the appointment of a secret committee, Castlereagh in the Commons, and Lord to which the information in possession Sidmouth in the Lords, presented the of ministers would be submitted, and following message from the Prince Re. begged that their lordships would sus
pend their judgment, till its report was « GEORGE, P. R.
on their table. In the meantime he “ His royal highness the Prince Re. merely moved an address to the Prince gent, acting in the same and on the Regent, assuring him that the House behalf of his majesty, has given orders would take his message into considerathat there be laid before the House of tion. Lords, papers containing information Earl Grosvenor observed, the noble respecting certain practices, meetings, viscount had undoubtedly made a most andcombinations in the metropolis, and tremendous charge against a large por. in different parts of the kingdom, evi- tion of the people of this country. “I dently calculated to endangerthe public trust that charge will not be sustained; tranquillity, to alienate the affections but at all events, your lordships cannot of his majesty's subjects from his ma- but acquiesce in the proposition of the jesty's person and government, and to noble viscount, for going into this combring into hatred and contempt the mittee, after such a serious, such a mowhole system of our laws and consti- mentous charge.” He was convinced, tution. His royal highness recom
that if there was any disaffecmends to the House of Commons to tion, it arose chiefly from the oppositake these papers into their immediate tion of ministers to every species of and serious consideration."
reform and retrenchment.
Lord Holland conceived, after such with a strong disposition not to inserious communications, there could be fringe on the established laws of the no objection made to the course pro- country-with every tenderness to the posed by the noble viscount. “ 'But feelings of the people on the one hand; still, I should not leave this house at but on the other, with a firm determiall satisfied with myself, if I did not nation to uphold the constitution and express the deep regret I feel on this government of the country." He de occasion, that such a communication nied that any charge was advanced should be made, whether it has pro- against the great body of the people, ceeded from improper practices on the but merely that disaffected and seditious part of individuals, or from the inten. persons were attempting to withdraw tion of any one, in power or out of them from their allegiance. He adpower, to create a false alarm, at this mitted the distresses of the times, but period, throughout the country. In a conceived that these were usually, as time of peace, when no apprehension now, employed by the designing to can be entertained from a foreign ene- excite mischief and create confusion. my; in a time of dreadful distress Earl Grey concurred in the proprieamongst the people of this country, ty of the course of proceeding propowhich naturally renders them anxious sed, and agreed to suspend his judgto see the legislature and the represen- ment, as desired by the noble Lords on tatives of the nation conduct themselves the other side. At the same time he in such a manner as to prove the sub- could not help joining with his friends stantial benefits of the constitution, by in lamenting deeply, that such a necesdevising means for their relief; at such sity should have been supposed to exa period, measures of a harsh nature ist. He certainly concurred in their ought to be deeply considered before views of the general conduct of the they are adopted." He would say no people. “ Perhaps there never was a thing at present as to the measures to time when, suffering under such an be proposed in consequence, but should amount of distress, when, labouring deeply regret if they were such as had under the pressure of such severe caany tendency to abridge the liberties of lamity-affecting the highest and the the subject. This was always to be lowest—the lowest weighed down by deprecated, but still more now when privations, which human nature can the people were groaning under unpa. hardly any longer support—the highralleled distress, which had generated est impoverished by the calls of benediscontent, and when the people were volence and charity, so universally dislooking, reasonably or not, to parlia- played in relieving their less fortunate ment for a relief from their evils. fellow.creatures ;-—perhaps, my lords,
The Earl of Liverpool would not under so great an accumulation of misay much, since no difference of opi- sery, such exemplary patience, forbear. nion appeared to exist as to the mode ance, resignation, and confidence in the of procedure. He trusted that a more existing constitution and government constitutional, or even a more liberal of the country, were never before exproposition, could not have been made hibited. When we see this, when we than that of his noble friend. He hoped see that these effects are produced by the noble lords would suspend their an unfeigned veneration for the consti. judgment till means were afforded to tution which we all love, but which I them of forming a decision. “That have rarely heard eulogized by the decision will be formed, with every re- noble lords opposite, except as a pregard to the liberties of the subject- liminary to some invasion of it ; when we consider that this forbearance, this however, to give them his confidence. patience, this resignation, afford the He would enter on the question as in best proof of the benefit of our consti. the functions of a juror in a case of tution, which inspires such confidence, life and death; but if the facts should and produces such temperate conduct, be proved, it would be the worst tenought we not to be most cautious in derness to the people to allow them to agreeing to any innovation? I think become the dupes of a few desperate it is a most unfortunate circumstance, and designing individuals. a most lamentable necessity, that at The address was then agreed to, as this period of distress and misery, well as that the papers on the table when no measure of relief has been should be referred to a committee of adopted, when no one efficient measure secrecy, consisting of eleven lords, to of reduction and retrenchment has been be chosen next day by ballot. Accord. carried into effect ; but when, on the ingly, on the 5th February, the followcontrary, as has been truly stated by ing noblemen were appointed :- The my noble friend, (EarlGrosvenor)every Lord Chancellor, Earl Harrowby, effort to obtain a reduction of the pub. Duke of Bedford, Duke of Montrose, lic expenditure, for which the people Earl Fitzwilliam, Earl of Liverpool, of England have unanimously called, Earl Powis, Earl of St Germains, has been met with rejection or evasion Lords Sidmouth, Grenville, and Reby his majesty's government—it is desdale. most unfortunate, that at such a time, In the Commons, the message did a measure should be proposed, which, not give rise to any debate, and on the there is too much reason to apprehend, motion of Lord Castlereagh, it was may lead to some invasion or infringe- agreed, on the 3d February, that the ment of the people's rights. When precedent of 1794 should be strictly year after year new powers are given followed, and the papers referred to a to the Crown-when we are daily arm- committee of secrecy, consisting of ing the executive government with no. twenty-one members. While these vel and unheard of authority-when, were ballotted for on the following on the other hand, we know not of day, Mr Brougham attempted to ridiany new powers being added to those cule the process, by undertaking topresanctioned by our ancestors for the se. dict the names that would actually be curity of the people, I hope we shall returned, without the trouble of any cautiously abstain from following up scrutiny. The honourable member this system, and that we shall not con. then read from a list the following tinue to give fresh strength to the ex- names which he anticipated would apecutive government, while we impair pear upon the list presented by the and weaken the liberties of the sub- committee of scrutiny : Lord Castleject." Nothing, he conceived, but the reagh, Lord Middleton, Mr Ponsonby, most imperious necessity could justify Mr Canning, Mr B. Bathurst, Sir Wilany interference with those constitu- liam Curtis, the Hon. Mr Lambe, Mr tional barriers which had hitherto pro. E. B. Wilbraham, Mr W. Elliot, the tected the people.
Attorney General, the Solicitor Ge. The Marquis of Buckingham agreed neral, Mr Wilberforce, Sir Arthur in lamenting the necessity of this
mea- Piggott, Sir Egerton Brydges, the sure, and in the heavy responsibility Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord which lay upon ministers to prove Lascelles, Mr Rose, Mr F. Robinson, their assertions. He was disposed, Mr W. Dundas, Sir J. Nicholls, and
Admiral Frank. When, shortly after, The most important measure, found. the names of those returned for the ed upon these reports, being the bill committee of secrecy were read, con. forthe suspension of the Habeas Corpus siderable laughter was produced by the Act, originated in the House of Lords. two lists being the very same, with the On the 20th of February, Lord Sid. exception of Mr Charles York, in place mouth moved the first reading of it. At of Lord Middleton.
the request, however, of a number of On the 18th and 19th of February, the members, he delayed the discussion the reports of the Committees were till the second reading, which he fixed presented at the bar of the two houses. for Monday the 24th. Lord Holland They began by stating, that it appear- consented to the delay, stipulating, ed in evidence, that a traitorous con- however, that he should not thus be , spiracy for the overthrow of the go- considered as in any degree commitvernment had been formed in the me. ting himself in favour of the proposed tropolis, and that meetings with the measure. The bill was read a first same object were held in different parts time. of the country. It described the pro- On Monday the 24th, the order of ceedings of the Spafields mob on the the day being read for the second read20 December, as entirely the result ing, Lord Sidmouth rose and observed, of a preconcerted plan, the failure of what deep regret must be felt, and how which was ascribed to accidental cir- much every feeling of loyalty must be cumstances, and the same designs were shocked at the facts disclosed in the still entertained. Efforts were at the committee's report. The evidence and same time made to bring into contempt documents could not with propriety be all law, religion, and morality. Socie. produced there, or referred io now; ties were formed under the appellation but there were three prominent feaof Hampden Clubs and others, which, tures in the report, which merited the under pretence of parliamentary re- particular attention of their lordships. form, carried on plans for the entire These were, that a treasonable conspioverthrow of theconstitution. Another racy had been formed in the metroposociety, called the Spencean, looked to lis ; that similar designs were extengeneral division of landed property. sively diffused through the country, The proceedings of these societies were particularly in the manufacturing discarried on with the utmost secrecy, tricts—and that farther provisions are being seldom committed to writing, necessary for the public peace. It had but almost every thing transacted ver- been asked, why government had not bally at the meetings. The commit- instituted prosecutions for punishing tees could not but consider the late the infamous libels with which the outrage on the Prince Regent as a press teemed ; but it was but justice to proof of the wish which existed to de. government to state, that they had not stroy all reverence for government; neglected their duty with regard to and they were on the whole led to ex. those publications. As soon as they press a decided opinion, that farther reached the hands of ministers, they measures were necessary for the pre- were transmitted to the law officers of servation of the public peace. The the Crown, who felt that these publireport of the Lords, from which that cations were drawn up with so much of the other House does not materially dexterity, the authors had so profited differ, is given at large in the Appen- by former lessons of experience, that dix, (P. 226.)
greater difficulties to conviction pre.