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to the peace and tranquillity of the head of preceded these words to hell with our allegithe state, the most eminent person in the land; ance.". He is positive (and was equally so and partly by reason of the possible evil in- upon his cross-examination) with regard to fluence of such an example on the affections what he heard MʻLaren say. He states, that and dispositions of his subjects."
the words, “ to hell with our allegiance," Having thus explained, from what I certainly struck him as strong, and that though he did take to be undoubted authority, what consti- not take any notes of them, he considered them tutes sedition, I have to state to you what is so strong that he can swear to them. You equally clear in point of law, and what it is of will therefore consider as far as this witness essential importance you should keep in view, goes, whether you have not a deposition to the and upon which both sides of the bar are very words. It will be for you to judge agreed, -that it must be held as the funda- whether the exact words charged in the indictmental rule of your conduct in deciding this ment have been proved or not, or whether the case, that by the law of Scotland your duty is essential parts of the passage have been Dot limited to a consideration of the facts proved. When a very close affinity is in merely, but that it is your province to take structed, it is for you to consider what is the into view the nature of the speeches and wri. fair import. ting complained of, as well as the fact of pub Another witness was called on the part of Jishing; and I state to you in the words used the prosecution, who, though he gives but an by a distinguished judge in a former case of imperfect account of the speech in general, sedition, though not exactly parallel to the does swear to what is deserving of attention. present, that it is not only your right and pri. He remembers part of the speech towards the vilege, but your unquestionable duty, to say end,“ to hell with," or " for allegiance." He whether sedítion has been committed or not. * said, the words, “if he turned a deaf ear to
Having paved the way to the consideration of the voice of his people,” were followed by the the question before us, we are first to consider expressions I have just cited about allegiance. whai is the evidence which the prosecutor has | This is the evidence of Merrie, and you will adduced as to MʻLaren having delivered a speech consider whether it does not corroborate the containing passages such as those set forth in the special account which Mr. Finnie gives of indietment. You will recollect that you had the speech he heard MʻLaren deliver." No brought before you Mr. Andrew Finnie, a attempt was made to examine Finnie as to witness on the part of the crown, but who, the situation where he stood at the meetingi in reference to the whole of the transactions or whether there was any noise or difficulty under consideration, was himself, to a certain of hearing. " extént, a party concerned. He was a mem The question as to the speech actually de ber of the committee that prepared matters for livered does not rest here, because you will the meeting, was himself present at the meet- find it was admitted by M‘Laren himself, in ing, and was afterwards selected to take a lead his declaration before the sheriff, that he did in the subsequent proceedings. You are to give in a manuscript containing his speech to judge of his evidence, which he appeared to the committee to be printed, and that the give in a fair, 'open, and candid manner. I printed account" is near about what the declasee no objection to the weight of his evidence. rant said on the above occasion, except what is He says, that he is not able to speak distinctly said about the middle of the seventh page as as to the whole of M‘Laren's speech, but that to allegiance, which the declarant thinks he to the latter part of it he did pay particular did not deliver in the words as expressed in attention. He swore that he heard him deliver the publication.".. You have, besides this, the these words: “We wil lay," or“ let us lay, evidence of other witnesses. In particular, our petitions at the foot of the throne, where Samson swears, that the speech was read ovet sits our august prince, whose generous nature in M‘Laren's presence, and that Mr. Baird, will incline his ear to the cries of his people, the other prisoner, made an alteration on it in which he is bound to do by the constitutional pencil; that be inserted words, making the laws of his country; and we are thereby bound speech conformable to the printed account of to give him our allegiance : but if he should be it here before us. So that this circumstance so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear to the gene- of the MS. having been produced, read over ral cries," or,“ voice of his people, to hell with and revised, in the presence of these men, and our allegiance.” This is the whole of the an alteration being made by Baird, without passage as far as the witness recollects. It | any objection, as Samson swears, having been was at the close of the speech these words made by M‘Laren, shews that M‘Laren apwere used. He states, that the words,“ And proved of the alteration, or at least that he did we are thereby bound to give him our allegi- not oppose it; and this, with the other evidence, ance; but if he should be so infatuated as to goes far to shew what was the true nature of turn a deaf ear to the general cries" or " voice the speech delivered upon that occasion. ” of his people," and not just petition," being You have to compare the printed report the words subsequently cited in the indictment, with the very words as heard by Finnie which
came out of MʻLaren's mouth. If you think * See Lord Abereromby's summing-up in it your duty to take the printed statement as the case of Eyshe Palmer ante Vol. 2. p. 367. the true account of what was said,“ But should
he be so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear to Having stated to you what appears to me to their just petition, he has forfeited that allegi- be the result of the evidence in these particulars ance; yes, my fellow lownsmen, in such a as to the facts of delivering and publishing the case, to with their allegiance;" you will speeches complained of in this indictment, keep in view, that M.Laren gave in the there still remains a much more important manuscript of his speech to be printed, and question for your decision, which it is your was present when Baird inserted these words; entire province to decide on, but with respect and you will decide for yourselves, whether to which, it is my duty to submit a few obserthere is any doubt that he permitted that, vations to you. You have already had an opwhich he took no steps to prevent. But again portunity of hearing, that on the face of this inif you take into view the words as given by a dictmeni, as the matters are there disclosed respectable witness, and confirmed, to a cer- and undertaken to be proved, the court contain extent, by another witness, and admitted sidered the charge relevant, and fit to be subby the prisoner himself to Mr. Johnstone, you mitted to a jury; and now that the evidence will consider whether there is any rational has been led, and we have the whole circumground for doubt as to the import of the stances investigated, I have no difficulty in passage of the speech which M'I .aren delivered stating, that notwithstanding all that I have having beeen sufficiently established.
listened to in the very learned, able, and inNext, with regard to Mr. Baird, the case is genious criticisms, both on M‘Laren's speech of a different description as to the facts, for and on the passages of the publication which he is not alleged to have made any speech at have been founded on, I am still of opinion all. The charge against him is, that he was that there is matter of a seditious description. one of those who printed and published a | It would be most improper, however, on my statement of those proceedings, containing not part to hold out to you that I think this a case only M‘Laren's speech, but those of others of sedition of a most atrocious or aggravated which are founded on as being of a seditious description. That would be an erroneous imand inflammatory nature. It does appear in pression. I have to observe, also, that I am evidence that Mr. Baird was at meetings of the far from thinking it proper, in the case you are committee, both before and after the public now trying, to refer to other cases which are meeting; and when the decision was taken as not parallel to it in the facts. But in reference to printing and publishing the proceedings he to the prisoners at the bar, it does appear to was present. It has no doubt been proved, me, and to the rest of the judges, to be clear, on his part, that he was one of those who did that there is on the face of the speech of oppose in the committee the printing of the M‘Laren, and in the differeut passages which passage in M'Laren's speech, but that his have been referred to, as well as in the context objection was overruled ; and had Mr. Baird's of the publication, matter of a seditious nature. case rested here, and had the public prosecu- How far that seditious matter has existence in tor endeavoured to implicate him in the pub-point of fact, or is affected by the circumstances lication, by his merely being present at the in evidence, or the remarks made on it, you, public meeting, it would have been difficult however are to decide. In judging of this, indeed to have persuaded any jury to have you are called upon to look to the intention found a verdict against him. But bis conduct imputed to the parties ; and I concur with the was different; for, after his objection had learned gentleman in thinking, that it is the beer overruled, he superintended the publi- part of the public prosecutor to establish the cation ; and it is fully proved that he went criminal tendency of this alleged seditious twice or three times to the printing-office with publication. Criminal intention, or that the Mr. Andrew, who was employed in revising facts were committed wickedly and feloniously the proof sheets, and that, upon one of these as charged, constitutes the very essence of the occasions he suggested the correction of a crime. You must be satisfied, that the programmatical error. This evidence will pro- ceeding was not only seditious in itself, but bably be sufficient to satisfy you that Mr. Baird that there was the criminal purpose in the did take a concern in the printing and pub- speeches and publication which is charged in lishing of what is complained of, even after he the indictment. I do apprehend, that when a stated objections to one passage. His con- jury is called upon to decide upon the import duct, therefore, at this period, makes him re- of a speech or of a publication, it is their sponsible, even if the evidence stopt there; bounden duty to put upon that speech and but has it not also appeared in evidence, that publication a fair and even a mild interpreCrawford holds him responsible for the payment tation. They are not called upon to stretch of the printer's account? and were not many co matters, or to endeavour to find out a farpies of the pamphlet sold at his shop? Mr.Finnie fetched meaning in words. If words are of swore that Mr. Baird got some copies from him, an ambiguous nature, the mildest construction and expressed surprise that the witness had of them is to be adopted; but, on the other not got quit of all his copies. Mr. Baird is not band, reason requires that a sound, plain, hoa bookseller, but a grocer, and disposed of the nest meaning be given to language. It is not copies in his shop; one of which copies it disputed by the public prosecutor (for he bimhas been proved was there bought by Hugh self
, in some measure, followed such a course), Wilson.
that it is necessary to look to the context, and
not to take half a sentence of a speech or pub- , to the petitions of the people at large, or to the lication, but to give fair play to the accused, petition of these particular persons. The term, by referring to what precedes and to what just petition, no doubt, is employed. But follows. It is your business to take the docu- who is to judge of the justice of the petition ? ments into your own hands, and looking to the It would appear from all that passed that the whole context to draw the conclusion whether petitioners themselves were the judges. What there is sedition or not.
was said to be the alternative if this petition It is hardly possible at this late hour to go was refused ?—“To hell with allegiance," or through every one of the passages which are “our allegiance.” I ask of you, as sensible and founded on, and far less through the whole reasonable men, whether this language does publication ; but I beg leave to say, in re not indicate that the Speaker had formed a ference to the speech of M‘Laren, that there do purpose of throwing off his allegiance, in the appear to me a most improper style and tone event contemplated of a rejection of the pein the whole of it. He refers to transactions titions in question ? He was to array himself of a very distant period, of which no sober- against his sovereign, not in the ludicrous minded man would wish to revire or obtrude manner that Mr. Jeffrey suggested, but in a the recollection, as affording any rule of con- very different and much more serious manner; duct for the people of this country, in reference and I boldly affirm, that if a single step had to their present situation. From the beginning been taken, by following up the language therr of the speech, in which complaints are made employed by any overt act, it would not have of the oppressions under which the country is been sedition, but plain and palpable treason. labouring, to the conclusion, in which reference Whether the language that was here used, is made to the Prince Regent, there is a ge- which, it has been said, only expresses a very neral style of inflammatory declamation. Nor delicate principle in the constitutional law of was this effusion unpremeditated, for notes of this country, was calculated to excite disconthe speech were prepared by him at an earlier tent, disunion, and public disturbance, is the or later period before the meeting. Without question for your decision. You will judge going into particulars, I say there is a tone and whether the words were uttered; you will give language in this speech which are strongly in- | them fair play in judging of their meaning; flammatory, and tending to excite in the people and in the interpretation of them you will refer discontent and disaffection against the govern- to the other parts of the speech. In that way, ment and legislature. Of this it is, however, you will satisfy your minds as to the grounds of your province to judge. I have no difficulty the conclusion you may come to, and decide as in saying that the language appears to me not to the intention of the speaker, and the import to be of a description which can be reconciled of the passage. to the single object of petitioning.
You will judge, also, of the meaning of the The passage upon which the most important term “Oligarchy," which occurs in the speech, comments have been made is that with regard and in different parts of this publication : you to the petition to the Prince Regent, and the will consider whether it alludes to any of the consequence of his not listening to the just pe- branches of the legislature, or must be limited titions of the people. The passage is in these to the persons forming the actual administrawords: “Let us lay our petitions at the foot tion. I coincide with the opinion which was of the throne, where sits our august prince, hinted at by my brother on my right hand whose gracious nature will incline his ear to particularly when I consider the way and listen to the cries of his people, which he is manner in which the term is explained by bound to do by the laws of the country: But, another speech founded on in the indictment. should he be so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear to “We have these twenty-five years been contheir just petition, he has forfeited their alle demned to incessant and unparalleled slavery giance. Yes, my fellow-townsmen, in such a by a usurped Oligarchy, who pretend to be our case, to hell with our allegiance." Take the guardians and representatives, while, in fact, expressions as given either in the publication, they are nothing but our inflexible and deteror as in evidence by the witnesses, and say mined enemies." I think it is impossible, by what is your opinion as to this part of the any interpretation, to suppose that this has respeech.
ference to ministers. It obviously has refeA great deal of most able and ingenious rence to the House of Commons, one of the criticism has been bestowed upon this passage, branches of the legislature. When they comand with it the counsel for the panel grappled plain of the oppression under which the coun to the utmost, perceiving it of vital importance try labours, they have reference to the Comto the interest of his client. He was bordering mons House of Parliament. I think the same upon very delicate ground, indeed, in the de interpretation is applicable to M‘Laren's fence wbich he maintained. But, after all you speech. You are to consider, then, whether have heard on the subject, you are to consider, the House of Commons, as now constituted, is whether, notwithstanding the favourable re meant to be designated by the “usurped Olimarks made in reference to the Prince Regent, garchy, who pretend to be our guardians and which I admit do appear in the first part of the representatives, while in fact, they are nothing passage in question, the language in the following part be justifiable, as having reference * Lord Reston, vide p. 16. VOL. XXXIII.
but our inflexible and determined enemies," There are other passages, into the consideraand who have these twenty-five years con- tion of which I cannot now enter. I shalt demned the country to incessant and uopa- I just refer to one which has been commented ralleled slavery; and you are to determine, on at great length. The passage is, “ And a whether , by propagating such opinions in a House of Commons; but the latter is corspeech to an assemblage of 4000 persons, and rupted; it is decayed and worn out; it is not afterwards introducing them in a pamphlet really what it is called, -it is not a House of which was sold and circulated in the country, Commons,” &c. It is said that there has been the panels were not guilty of sedition. 1 language used in parliament, and passages in submit to you, that if there is any meaning in petitions presented to parliament, stronger and words, this was degrading the House of Com- more offensive in their nature, than this inons,-casting on then the imputation of founded on by the public prosecutor ; and that having enslaved the country for the twenty, such petitions were received and laid upon the five preceding years, and attributing to them table of the House of Commons. Passages all the misery which the country is represented were read to you to prove this. Upon this as suffering.
part of the subject I must observe, that what There is another passage in the publication is, or is not, tolerated by the Houses of Parto which I think it necessary to call your at- liament, must be foreign to our present discustention. I mean that general statement which sion. They are the best judges of what is which was made as to the proceedings which a violation of their privileges; but this much I took place in the year 1793. You will find the state to you, that if seditious language be used passage in page 2, of the indictment. “But out of doors by persons in preparing a petition let us come nearer home. Look at the year for parliament, even if that petition should 1793, when the debt amounted to two hundred embody the seditious words themselves, it and eleven millions, and the annual taxation cannot be pleaded against a charge of sedition to about eighteen millions; when liberty began that the petition has been received by parliato rear her drooping head in the country; ment. We are bound to judge of the language when associations were framed from one end employed by the test of law and common of the kingdom to another, composed of men sense, and by that test to determine whether eminent for their talents and virtue, to assert it is seditious or not. It has been held, again their rights; when a neighbouring nation had and again, to be no justification, in a charge just thrown off a yoke which had become into- of sedition, that language even of a more lerable,—what did the wise rulers of this seditious tendency had been used in or out of country do? Why, they declared war, not parliament without being followed by any only against the French pation, but also against punishment.—It is stated for these panels, that the friends of liberty at home.” It has been stronger language has been used in other argued, that the term, “wise rulers," meaps quarters; but the answer is, that is nothing to the ministers for the time, and that their con- the question under consideration. If the duct may be discussed without blame. I con- language here be seditious, it is no matter cur in the observation, that there is no sedition whether such abuses have been passed over on in the censure of administration merely as other occasions. If such petitions as those servants of the crown. But the passage clearly referred to had been particularly brought under applies, not only to the government of the day, the view of the House of Commons, I should but to the system of government, to the legis- think they must have been rejected; and it lature itself
. How can that be doubted, when would be matter of astonishment to me, indeed, you observe the concluding words: “Why, if petitions couched in language far short of they declared war not only against the what is now before us were received. But in French nation, but also against the friends the multiplicity of petitions presented to that of liberty at home.” Look, also, at the context. House, some may pass without due attention. The clear import of it is, that when the coun- Perhaps very objectionable petitions do lie try was in the awful situation described by the there. But if the public prosecutor proves in learned counsel, the government declared war this Court the utterance and publication of against the liberties of the country. What seditious language, it is of no consequence took place at that time is matter of notoriety: that petitions containing such language have New measures were then necessarily resorted even been received unchallenged by the House to for the salvation of this country against the of Commons. attacks of foreign and domestic foes. King, There is a part of the defence, however, Lords and Commods, united for the purpose of deserving of your serious attention. It was securing the liberties of the country, and their ably argued by Mr. Clerk, that the language measures are here manifestly represented under which is here complained of, having been used these words: “They declared war not only in connection with the exercise of the legal against the French nation, but also against the right of petitioning the legislature, cannot be friends of liberty at home.” You will say, in considered as seditious. God forbid that any point of fact, whether the ministry or the whole thing should be said by me hostile to the right legislature were referred to in this passage, and of petitioning the House of Commons, the whether to circulate it was not to propagate House of Lords, or the Sovereign, if the peosedition throughout the country.
ple are respectful in their language; for to.
state grievances, and apply for redress, is the in Britain in 1817 that we are called on to undoubted and unalienable right of the subjects consider such cases. An allusion was made of this realm. But I have no difficulty in to the state of the country at the former period, saying, that if, under the pretence of petition as accounting for, and justifying the prosecuing, language of a seditious nature be used, tions which then took place, as well as their those using or publishing it must answer for result. But the learned counsel was afterwards the consequences. The sacredness of the under a necessity of alluding, also, to what has right which is to be carried into effect, will recently happened throughout the empire at not sanction the use of unlawful means in the large. Extraordinary and strong measures accomplishment of it; and those who come have been adopted, and the enactment of new forward upon such occasions must abstain laws has been rendered necessary by the state of from inflammatory, seditious, or treasonable the times. But you are not to be affected by expressions. It would be a gross abuse of such considerations, and I would not even the inviolable right of petitioning, if it afforded have alluded to them had they not been alan opportunity for every kind of language luded to by the counsel. You must lay all being uttered, however improper or reprehen- considerations of this kind out of your view; sible. Such never can be the result of what and, considering this indictment as brought is due to the sacred right of petitioning; and by his majesty's advocate in the discharge of therefore the learned gentleman admitted that his duty, you are to determine on the facts, be did not carry his argument so far as to say, and say whether the panels are guilty or not that a petition may sanction any thing of an of sedition. improper nature; but he argued, that if you I regret extremely, in a different point of be satisfied that the object was, to petition the view, that this should be the first case brought legislature, you will be disposed to make due before this Court, and from a county with allowance for the language which may be used which I am connected by so many ties. It in calling attention to grievances. To this appears to me that both of the prisoners extent the observation is well founded. His had been men of exemplary conduct and good sense must have made him perceive that good character. According to the evidence, both the law and constitution would sink M‘Laren's private character had been very under any other doctrine. That is the test to respectable. Nothing but what was right had which you are to bring the matter now under ever been observed in his conduct. He had your consideration. You are to look to the never demonstrated any thing like a disposition whole facts and whole publication; and you to tumult or disturbance, but was a volunteer, will judge whether, when the people assembled and had served as such with reputation. The to prepare this petition, there was or was not testimony to his general character well dea blameable excess in the language employed serves your consideration, in judging of the by them, and whether this was not greatly criminal intentions of the parties, and deciding aggravated by the proceedings of the meeting whether their purposes were seditious. With being embodied in a publication, and circu- regard to Mr. Baird, again, you will concur lated over the country. I have no wish, with me in deeply lamenting the exhibition of gentlemen, to press this case further than the this charge against him, standing as he has facts appear to warrant. It is your bounden done in so fair a situation in society. Many duty to weigh all those expressions which are of the witnesses, even for the crown, have fairly admitted to be too strong, and even given him a high character. The inhabitants indecent; and it is your province to say, of Kilmarnock had some time ago appointed whether these expressions do amount to sedi- him one of their police commissioners, thus tion, have a tendency to bring into contempt showing their good opinion of him. It apthe government and legislature, and to stir pears, that he was a man of respectable moral up the people to disaffection and rebellion. character, and, in the opinion of the witnesses,
I certainly do most sincerely lament that attached to the government and to the conour attention has been called to this case. stitution, though he had a strong opinion of This is the first trial for sedition that has the propriety and necessity of a reform in par. occurred for a considerable length of time; liament. It has been strongly affirmed for and I can assure the learned gentlemen that I him, that he never had any thing further in had fondly flattered myself, that even at my contemplation upon this or any other occasion. time of life I should not have again had With regard to both the prisoners, they were occasion to apply my mind to the study of this not known to have been ever connected with part of the law. I hoped and trusted, that any other political societies. after the clear exposition of the law in 1793, These are points important for your con1794, and 1795, in the different prosecutions sideration in judging of the essential question which were then found necessary, sanctioned which you are to determine as to the guilt of and approved of by the unanimous voice of the prisoners.. If, upon a careful consideration the country, I should not have been obliged of the whole facts in the publication, and the to consider cases of this description. But evidence which has been adduced, you shall so it is, that although the situation of this be of opinion that no sedition or seditious country is so highly prosperous and enviable | intention has been proved against the prisoners, when compared with the rest of Europe, it is you will find by your verdict ibat they are not