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and therefore we are constrained to go to a / amount to a proof of such intention, and large and general consideration of the specific whether they are sufficient to entitle a Jury facis, from which the criminal intention is to upon their oaths to say, that such must have be deduced.
been the purpose and state of mind from which What, then, is sedition? I do not object to the acts proceeded,-acts, you will observe, in the prosecutor's statement on the subject. their own nature, unavoidably equivocal, and He described it generally as any act, writing, as to the true character of which no two men or speech, the intention and probable effect of of opposite parties would form the same which is to excite disaffection towards the opinion, Government, and tumult and commotion in You must be already aware, then, of the the country. Now, you will observe here, that extreme caution with which a Jury is bound in order to constitute sedition, it is not abso- to proceed in considering a case of this comlutely or indispensably necessary that the plex kind. It can never be pretended, in the prosecutor shall bring proof of discontent or broad words of the definition of my learned disturbance having been actually excited or friend, that, to express dissatisfaction with the having followed in consequence of the acts proceedings of government, or opinions against charged. Nor should I think it right or safe the existing laws, or laws intended to be to make the fact of having excited such dis- brought into existence, can be arraigued as content or disturbance the criterion for the improper and seditious acts. On the contrary, crime of sedition; for there may be many it is from such acts that all the great improvespeeches and writings by which tumults and ments in our institutions have originated, and disaffection may eventually he excited, without to such proceedings are we indebted for all any such intention on the part of the speaker our distinguished advantages as a free, a powor writer. God knows there have been many erful, and enlightened people. Not only then measures adopted by Government here and is it the privilege, but it is the duty of those elsewhere, and probably believed by them at who think that measures may be taken for the time to be most expedient and proper, bettering the situation of the country at large,' which have led to disaffection and disturbance, to state their sentiments, and, if necessary, to to dreadful wars and most sanguinary remedies. complain aloud of the existing evils and imHere, then, we feel at once the practical diffi- perfections. It may often be highly proper, culty of applying the definition of the crime and absolutely necessary, to point out the which is here charged. Sedition is said to disadvantages attending present institutions, consist in any acts by writing, speaking, or and to employ every form and mode of elo otherwise, that indicate, with sufficient clear- quence in order to recommend the adoption ness, a purpose to divert the affection of the of those measures and principles, which may people from Government, and to excite hatred lead to regulations and laws that are better and dislike against the said Government, lead- and more efficient. Petitions for the abolition ing to rebellion, tumult and public confusion of the Slave Trade,- for Peace,—for the aboWe have evidence of this when a speech or lition of the Income Tax, were opposed by writing actually produces such an effect. those in the actual administration of the GoThat is the most certain, and perhaps the only vernment: But it was never, I believe, ima--sure proof that a speech was uttered for such gined, that these petitions had the most distant a purpose-that it has done so. But I do approximation to the shameful crime of sedinot say that this is absolutely necessary. It tion. But see where we are at this first step. is enough if there are acts established which can it be doubted that the agitation of all are clearly and unequivocally intended to pro- these questions was offensive to Government? duce such an effect: But all this just places us Can it be doubted that petitions setting forth under the necessity of judging and conjecturing the evils of the Slave Trade were opposed by as to the intention,-not upon such evidence the Government,-that trade which spread and as the shooting a man through the head is of encouraged ignorance, vice, and misery in intention to kill; but by the exercise of a Africa, -and which debased, and would have sound judgment, and a delicate discrimination perpetuated the degradation of the human upon nice and subtle questions of politics and character in the west?-Can it be doubted morality; in the course of which we must that the complaints made in petitions for endeavour to divest ourselves for the time of Peace, charging Government with unprinall our cherished prejudices and partialities, cipled conduct in carrying on the war,-a war and to judge of a probable intention, from of advantage to a few individuals, but unnefacts, as to the import and character of which cessary and ruinous to the country, and perhaps no two men will agree. In order to attended with an enormous and prodigal exdetermine whether disorder, and discontent penditure of human blood, and of the means were intended to be excited against the Go- of national prosperity,~can it be doubted vernment, we must consider whether the ob- that such complaints were disagreeable to the jects that were professed to be in view,-the Ministers ?-Can it be doubted that petitions means that were adopted for their accomplish- against the hateful and inquisitorial but proment,—the words that were used,—the situa- ductive tax on income were opposed by them? tion of the audience,-and the result of the -Can it be doubted that the proceedings at measures adopted, do all or any of them public meetings respecting these objects tended
to excite violent indignation atnong the people and health of the constitution ultimately doagaint existing laws and establishments; and, pend. It is not a frightful commotion, but a with regard to a great number of the measures healthful exercise :-not an exhausting fever, alluded to, excited the indignation of the peo- but a natural movement, proceeding from the ple against those who are entitled to be called vigour of the constitution, and at once indiand are known to be our rulers? Many of cating and maintaining that vigour unimpairthose measures of public policy which I have ed. Wherever men are entitled to rise to high stated, were very warmly defended by the stations, whatever their birth and condition Government; and it may be very truly said, may have been, there great dissention will inthat, in loading such measures with the oppro- evitably be found. In that fierce, but generous brious epithets which all men now agree they struggle, there will necessarily be great heats, deserve, we were throwing an odium on our and appearances of violence and intemperrulers.
ance. There will be some real excesses also, But, says the public prosecutor, our rulers and a great deal of dirt will be scattered about are the King, Lords, and Commons; and all in the competition, -which is all the injury attempt to excite hatred against them, is clearly that the main body of the people will experiwithin the narrowest definition of the crime of ence. In a free country where the principles sedition. To this, however, I reply, that our of government are well understood, and the rulers are bis majesty's ministers for the time laws well administered, parties will ever be being, and those, and those only, who concur found opposed to parties, all of them calumin their measures. It is only through these mi- niating and abusing one another, taking adRisters, and by their advice and influence, that vantage of the slips of their adversaries, the sovereign is understood to act, according to and fastening on them the keen and eager the principles of our constitution. The ministers eye of bostile animosity,-contending with are the king; and it is not lawful to impute the most strenuous emulation for those places any bad act to him personally, his acts being and offices attended with power and pathe acts of the ministers. And who are the tronage, which are then only respectable and Lords and Commons ? The majority alone of honourable, when filled by persons distinthem having been in fact our rulers, the mi- guished for those talents, and that industry nority have nothing to do with it.-If, there and merit, which can neither be generated, fore, it has been the pride and boast of Great nor made manifest on any other scene. This Britain, eminently distioguished for the sense, dissention, though, the parties engaged in it the virtue, the morality, the science which it are somewhat reviling and reviled, is the life, contains, that by the right of discussing politics and beart, and spirit of our constitution ; and and petitioning the legislature, oppression has true policy should promote discussion on those been shut out, corruption exposed and circum great points, on which discussion must always scribed, and, in despite of their rulers, the be keen, and in some degree, stormy and viopeople eolightened and enabled to judge of lent, because it is on them that the liberty, public men and public measures ;--if it is the prosperity and happiness of the nation deon account of this invaluable right that we pend, and to them that all men of spirit, inenjoy and pride ourselves among the nations; genuity and talents have devoted their whole -where is the propriety of rashly interfering lives, from their birth to their last moments. with the exercise of this right, and why ob- The lives, accordingly, of almost all the great ject to the speech of a petitioner, because some men who have adorned the history of this things in it may fall under the general terms country, have been a continued scene of warof the definitions which lawyers have given of fare; and, except in a few instances of indithe crime of sedition ? Perhaps no better defi- viduals endowed with more than usual planition of sedition could be given ; but here cidity of temper, our most eminent statesmen the intention was, not to excite tumult or disc may be said to have passed their lives in traorder, and therefore no sedition was com- ducing the conduct and measures of their opmitted. The petioners did not approve of ponents, glorsing over the faults of their partithe measures of our rulers, they believed sans, and employing the strongest language in a reforma in the representation would be denouncing what appeared to them contrary beneficial, and they stated their sentiments to the spirit of the laws and the constitution. on these subjects, to the King, Lords, and If this dissention were prevented, liberty would Commons.
be extinguished. That very hostility which But my learned friend said, the conduct of appears to excite so much apprehension, is the the panels was calculated to excite dissention. parent of public prosperity, and of all the adIn one sense I admit that it was: But I have vantages in a free state for which it is worth no such horror at dissention as the learned while to contend. lord. There is a dissention known to this The right of exposing misconduct in the adcountry, and known to all free countries, and ministration of the government, and of apto them only, which, however terrible it may plying in a constitutional form to the legislaappear to the sons of habitual slavery, or the iure for redress of grievances, whether real or minions of arbitrary power, or the contented imaginary, is the result of this wholesome priand envied possessors of present influence, is vilege of discussion. It might perhaps Ve of that wholesome nature, that on it the life / maintained, that under the right of petitioning VOL. XXXHI.
the legislature for any object which the persons , case, was parliamentary reform; and, as far
and partly from the language employed, and admire our ancestors and remote times more
in parliament, as the foundation of our liberThe point then at issue is, What is the de- ties. Now, the fact is well known that some gree of criminality that demands, or where places are not directly represented at all that abouts are we to look for the excess which some large towns choose no representatives, authorises the intervention of the law?-When and that there are representatives, on the other is it that the avenging voice of a jury is re- band, who have no constituents. Now, it apquired ?- and has such a case occurred in the pears that the petitioners thought this wrong, present instance?-It is by no means enough and desired to introduce a practice a little ihat you individually regard the objects which more analogous to the theory of the constituit is proved those persons had in view with tion, which certainly was no great crime in their petitions, as erroneous, improper, and them, whatever may be thought of the expediabsurd objects. That is not the question which ency of their views. is committed to you to try. You are to judge This brings me to some leading statements whether they were actuated by seditious in- in the address of the public prosecutor. He 1entions. The object of the petitioners, in this says you may attack the Ministers, but not
the constitution. You must not deny that the , been erróneously supposed by the prosecutor
feelings of disapprobation of the language In the exercise of this control, they are not which they employed, to influence for a mocircumscribed to any particular class of topics, ment your opinion as to their legal guilt or but may expatiate freely through every branch innocence, the consequences to the law and of our laws and policy. There are a great the liberties of these kingdoms would indeed many authorities, which I need not read, to be tremendous. If such a principle of judgshew that propositions may on such occasions ment were to be admitted, 'different men bebe maintained, the very mention of which has fore different juries might, under similar cir
cumstances, meet with very different serdicts.* The next is the famous passage about hell and Every man who strongly believes in the pro- allegiance: and I shall not diminish the force priety of particular sentiments, will, in ex of Mr. Clerk's remarks on this subject, by pressing his honest opinions, regard opposite offering many of my own.-But what is the sentiments as excessively wrong, and as having gloss now pui on all this? The public proa most pernicious tendency. A sincere tory secutor here sees tremendous sedition, and thinks the principles of the whigs tend to ren reads the meaning thus :—“If you, the Prince der the crown not fit to be worn, and to put Regent, will not become a reformer, we shall the country in imminent hazard of anarchy and take up our weaver's-beams, and force you." confusion. On the other hand, there is no Now, do the words necessarily bear such an honest whig who does not believe that the interpretation? I say they do not. I say, not principles of the tories, if left entirely to them. only that they do not bear it necessarily, but selves, would annihilate the privileges of the that they do not bear it at all, and that the plain people, and put the government on a level ineaning of them is quite different. I say with that of any common arbitrary monarchy. that the passage is to this effect: “We, the In the opposite speeches of these two great Weavers of Kilmarnock, want universal suffrage parties, they continually arraign one another as and annual parliaments. We shall lay our defending principles leading to such conclu- petition for these objects at the foot of the sions. I hope neither of them will ever have throne, where sits our august prince, whose an opportunity of seeing put to the test, un gracious nature will incline his ear to listen checked, the principles of their opponents. to the cries of his people, which he is bound Perhaps you are neutral between these parties; to do by the laws of the country. But should he and I am persuaded, that, at all events, you be so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear 10 THEIR are possessed of liberal and fair toleration to- just petition, he has forfeited their allegiance.” wards persons of a different way of thinking The important words are exactly as I have now from you on political subjects, and that if their cited them,--and their plain, and indeed their lives give the lie to any idea that they intend only meaning is, that if the sovereign disregards mischief, and if they are men generally looked the voice of his whole people, he has no right to upon as entertaining moderate views—though their allegiance. It is not agreeable to allude you think that the practical application of to the miserable extremity of an actual difiheir doctrines would lead to evil consequences, ference between the sovereign and his subjects ; you will give them credit for upright intentions and no wise or moderate man could contemFairness and liberality require that trust and plate the possibility of such difference, but in confidence should not be withdrawn from the most extreme circumstances. But is there others, merely because they entertain different any thing in what I have read, which a court opinions from our own upon these disputable of law could pronounce to be seditious at all ? Walters, particularly when it is universally Our duty obliges us, in defending the panels, known that different opinions are really en to take refuge under the argument of an imtertained as to the actual safety of their doc- plied contract between the sovereign and the trines. Therefore admitting that a great part subjects, which may be broken, and of course of the statement in the speeches would be may be enforced upon either side. Now, dangerous, if the authors could convert the keeping this principle in view, let us attend to great majority of the people to their way of what the petitioners really say.—They say, thinking (in which case I should think some We the Weavers of Kilmarnock, want universal of us were in a bad way), God forbid that any suffrage and annual parliaments, and will other weapons should be used against them, than petition the Prince Regent on the subject, those of argument and good sense ;-God for- who is bound to listen to the cries of his bid we should think of binding reformers hand people. What is the meaning of this ? and foot, as the means of checking their erro- Do the “cries of bis people” merely mean neous doctrines.
the cries of the weavers of Kilmarnock? Were Having made these few obzervations, I shall these people really so blinded to reason, by now more particularly examine the speeches hunger and their desperate situation, as to which were made at the Dean Park meeting. imagine that their voice alone could regulate And, first of all, I may remark, that the mean- any measure of public policy? Is there any ing of the passage in which the petitioners reasonable ground for alleging that they meant speak about the selfishness and aggrandize to say, We, the unemployed weavers of Kilment of our rulers is sufficiently obvious. The marnock, are disposed to have universal sufMinisters for the time are quite plainly meant; frage and annual parliaments; and if you, the for what kind of aggrandizement could the Prince Regent, do not give us them, we will King or the Prince Regent look for? The term rebel against you though nobody else should must mean persons who have something in join us ? Is that the feasible sense of the view before them; and not those who have al passage? Could these persons, who seem to ready attained the heights of sublunary gran- have had some smattering of reason about deur. Upon this I am sure it is unnecessary them, think that the constitution must be alto waste another word.
tered, in order to please a few hungry men
assembled in a cold day at Kilmarnock? No l'ide 2 How. Mod. Sh Tr. 214.
such thing. The person who ultered these