« PreviousContinue »
No nobleman, no clergyman, no naval or obtained is, in other words, to resist until the military officer, in short, none who held places, British constitution be fundamentally overor received pensions from government, had any thrown. right to sit in that House. This is what the I am not now prepared, and it would be House of Commons was, what it ought to out of place for me, -to enter at length upon be, and what we wish it to be. This is the this important subject, on which so may per, wanted change in our form of government,- sons have been so grossly deluded.' But I the Commons House of Parliament restored to cannot avoid pointing out, in a few
sentences, its original purity; and this, beyond a doubt, that at no one period, either in England or would strike at the root of the greatest part of Scotland, did universal suffrage ever prevail ; the evils we groan under at the present day." and in Scotland, in particular, from the great subAt page 24. it states, “ that the only effectual division of property, the elective suffrage was means that can be adopted to relieve the nation never so extended as it actually is at the prein some measure from its present distresses, sent moment. It is matter of notoriety, that are, by restoring the imprescriptible rights of the the history of the British constitution is to be nation, by a reform in the representation of the found in the feudal system, and that the conpeople in the House of Commons, and by an stitution of Parliament in particular, while it nual parliaments; and until these take place, the sprung out of that system, has ever retained people can entertain no reasonable expectation of features which strongly mark its descent. The ever having their condition improved. But, immediate vassals of the crown, the great should thes: salutary measures be adopted, Barons who held of the King “in capite," were they are confident that such a Parliament would the first members of Parliament. Originally always act for the good of the nation, and there were no persons who possessed seats in ensure the respect, confidence, and support Parliament as representatives of others; nor of the whole body of the people. And it is were any such introduced into the Legislature not without justice that the meeting ascribe until the great estates, to which the duty of to the want of a fair and equal representation attendance in Parliament was incident, having of the people in Parliament, all the wars, and been divided, and that duty had actually be their consequences, in which the people has come a burthen upon the small proprietors, been engaged for half a century past; for if, the foundation of the representative system at the commencement of the first American was thus naturally laid. The first step in the war, this country had been blessed with a progress which seems to have been made was House of Commons chosen by the free suf- this, that charters of exemption from Parliafrage of the tax-payers, would they have acted ment were frequently solicited and obtained, consistently with the constitution of their own but those were declared to be illegal. Accordbody, to have gone to war with a people of ingly, it would seem next to have grown by the saine origin and language, merely to force degrees into a law to oblige the great barons taxes upon them without their consent? Or only to attend in person, and to permit the would they have opposed the struggles of the lesser to attend by their representatives. This French nalion, in endeavouring to obtain that is in truth no matter of conjecture; for by a freedom which every Briton cherishes as his statute of our Parliament, passed in 1427, the birth-right? And of ultimately forcing upon smaller barons were excused from coming to them a hated Dyvasty, contrary to the wishes | Parliament provided they sent coramissioners of pine-tenths of the people: The idea is from the shires. truly preposterous." In page 26, they explain In like manner, it is proved by the introwhat they mean by the tax-payers. “Consi- | duction to the laws of Robert III., that those dering ihat of two millions of inhabitants, burghs alone which held property in cupite of only 2,700 have a right of voting for Members the crown, had the right of being represented of Parliament, the remaining 1,997,360, al- in Parliament. It is, therefore, a delusion to though tax-payers, direcily, or indirectly, have state, that universal suffrage ever made part ing no more right of voting, than if they were of our constitution, or indeed that the right of an importation of Slaves from Africa." the elective suffrage was ever broader or more
After going through all this long detail of extensive than at present. In fact, I know of grietances, you will recollect, that unless the 'no country in which universal suffrage, or any reforms called for are granted, and the evils, thing like it, ever existed, but one, and that complained of are redressed, the people were was France in the year 1793. At that period, told that their allegiance was to be thrown off; no doubt, there was an assembly elected by and if allegiance be thrown off, rebellion must something like universal suffrage, and what follow. The result, therefore, of the whole was the result? The degradation of the nothat I have read is, that as the condition of bility,—the dethronement and murder of the the people never could be improved till uni- Sovereign,—the overthrow of the church,--and versal suffrage and annual parliaments were the extinction of religion. Is it those things obtained, so unless all this was granted, resist that these prisoners would recommend ? I ance toust be made, and insurrection against have already told you, that liberty, as it was the Government and the laws must be the practised in France in 1793, has been held up. coasequence. But you know that in this by them as an object of admiration; and if country, to resist, unless universal suffrage be you look to what is stated in the 320 page VOL. XXXII.
of their publication, you will find, that while surrection. Can any thing more insidious,— they hold up to reprobation the higher orders any thing more wicked,-any thing more sediof the State, the revolutionary fate of the tious be conceived or imagined ? I will fairly Church does not seem to have been altogether tell you, that, in my opinion, no publication out of their contemplation. “Their reverend has ever been brought before this court of a hirelings,” say they, “would convince you that more wicked and pernicious tendency, none you are suffering under the visitation of the better calculated to produce turbulence and Almighty, and therefore that you ought to be commotion, than that which I have read to you. submissive to the chastening stroke.” This Look to the publication for which Palmer* allusion has a direct application to the esta was tried at the circuit court at Perth in the blished church,-its object is not more to dis- year 1793, and was transported to Botany suade the people from submission under their Bay; and although these times are not of a distresses than to bring the clergy and religion description to render it necessary to inflict the into contempt. It is to tell the people, that same degree of punishment upon the prisoners while their rulers were corrupt and oppressing as was awarded in that case, there is not any them, the ministers of religion were not less thing in it nearly so inflammatory, so seditious, base nor more worthy of consideration. tending so much to excite discontent against
But while the people are thus told in plain the government, or to introduce turbulette language to throw off their allegiance, while and commotion, as there is in the paper which they are urged on to resistance to the exe- is this day brought under your consideration. cutive government,—to overthrow the Legis That paper I think it my duty to read to you lature, and degrade the ministers of religion, from the records of the coart. It is in these the publication proceeds to hold out the most terms: direct encouragement to rebellion. Look to “ Friends and fellow-citizens ;-You, who the passage about the army in page 32. by your loyal and steady conduct, in these “ Your infatuated oppressors may harden days of adversity, have shown that you are themselves against your requests; they may worthy of, at least, some small portion of consider themselves as fortified behind a liberty, unto you we address our language and veteran army, which, they may imagine, will tell our fears. be always ready to support them, though in an “ In spite of the virulent scandal, or maliunjust cause, and by which they may conceive cious efforts of the people's enemies, we will it possible to awe a nation into silence and tell you whole truths; they are of a kind to submission. But let them recollect that the alarm and arouse you out of your lethargy. army is still composed of men and of Britons, That portion of liberty you once enjoyed is fast And shall they—though they have exerted setting, we fear, in the darkness of despotism their valour in the cause of fanaticism, - and tyranny ! Too soon, perhaps, you who though they have been led to fight the battles were the world's envy, as possessed of some of oppressors, and establish the thrones of small portion of liberty, will be sunk in the tyrants ; shall they, in violation of the privi- depth of slavery and misery, if you prevent it leges of freemen,-forgetful of the glory !of not by your well-timed efforts. their country,--forgetful of all that is dear to “ Is not every new day adding a new link themselves,-contemptuous of all that they to our chains ?' Is not the executive branch love, and regardless of the fate of posterity, daily seizing new, unprecedented, and unwar-shall they turn their arms to destroy the raptable powers ? Has not the Iłouse of Comconstitution of their country? What! after mons (your only security from the evils of displaying such feats of valour that has immor- tyranny and aristocracy) joined the coalition talised them for ever,—will they stoop so low against you? Is the election of its members as to become instrumental in the ruin of their either fair, free, or frequent? Is not its indecountry, for the sake of a faction which has pendence gone, while it is made up of pensions cast a deep shade of disgrace over all the and placemen? splendour of their victorious achievements ? “ We have done our duty, and are deterI appeal to the army itself for a reply. I hear mined to keep our posts, ever ready to assert it burst like thunder from man to man, from our just rights and privileges as men, the chief line to line, from camp to camp,-No! Never! of which we account the right of universal Never! We fight not for the destruction, but suffrage in the choice of those who serve in the for the preservation of the rights and privia Commons House of Parliament, and a frequent leges of our beloved country!"
renewal of such power. You will please here to remember, that you “ We are not deterred or disappointed, by are told, in the outset of the publication, that the decision of the House of Commons conunder the circumstances stated, allegiance has cerning our petition. It is a question we did become forfeited, and is to be thrown off; but not expect (though founded on truth and reain the passage I have just read, as if the son) would be supported by superior numbers. readers might have the army in view to restrain -Far from being discouraged, we are more their patriotic fury, their fears are removed, and more convinced that nothing can save this and they are encouraged with the hope, that nation from ruin, and give to the people that the army will not fight against them, but will oin and co-operate with their projects of in
# 2 How, Mod. St. Tr. 237.
happinesss which they have a right to look for said to be corrupt, and not to be the represenunder government, but a reform in the House tative of the people: the whole rulers of the of Commons, founded upon the eternal basis country are stated to be corrupt, and while of justice, fair, free, and equal.
guilty of the most gross oppressions on the * Fellow-citizens ;—The time is now come, people, caring for nothing but their own base, when you must either gather round the fabric sordid, and tyrannical purposes. The clergy of liberty to support it, or, to your eternal in- are said to be hirelings, falsely deluding the famy, let it fall to the ground, to rise no more, people with the notion of their distresses orihurling along with it every thing that is valu- ginating with Providence ; and while the able and dear to an enlightened people. people are called upon to throw their alle
“ You are plunged into a war by a wicked giance to hell, they are encouraged with the ministry and a compliant parliament, who seem certain hope of the support of a brave and careless and unconcerned for your interest, victorious army. the end and design of which is almost too It seems impossible in my mind, therefore, horrid to relate, the destruction of a whole 1o doubt, that if the publication in Palmer's people merely because they will be free. case was seditious, that now upon the table
“By it your commerce is sore cramped and can be otherwise ; that if the one meriled almost ruined. Thousands and ten thousands punishment, the other can be innocent. On of your fellow-citizens, from being in a state the contrary, I will tell you fairly, in my view of prosperity, are reduced to a state of poverty, of the subject, the present is the worst of the misery, and wretchedness.-A list of bank- two. ruptcies, unequalled in any former times, It is now proper that I should tell you, that forms a part in the retinue of this Quixotic ! the same course of defence which has been expedition; your taxes, great and burthea- pursued to-day, was followed in the case I some as they are, must soon be greatly aug- have just been speaking of. In Palmer's case mented; your treasure is wasting fast; the it was said—and we were told to-day that it blood of your brethren is pouring out, and all would be proved—that language similar 10 this to form chains for a free people, and that used in this publication had been emeventually to rivet them for ever on yourselves. ployed in petitions to the House of Commons,
“To the loss of the invaluable rights and without censure or animadversion; that lanprivileges which our father's enjoyed, we im-guage not less strong was employed by Mr. pute this barbarous and calamitous war, our Piti, and by the duke of Richmond, and ruinous and still-growing taxation, and all various other statesmen; and the inference the miseries and oppressions which we labour which was drawn in the year 1793, and which, under.
I presume, will be drawn to-day, is, that it “ Fellow-citizens ;—The friends of liberty was legal for Mr. Palmer in his case, and for call upon you, by all that is dear and worthy the prisoners in theirs, to employ the language of possessing as men; by your own oppres- which those statesmen have made use of. But sions; by the miseries and sorrows of your my learned friend (Mr. Clerk), who was also suffering brethren; by all that you dread; by of counsel in the case of Palmer, was told the sweet remembrance of your patriotic an- then, and I beg leave to repeat it to you now, cestors; and by all that your posterity have a that the question before the jury and the court nght to expect from you,—to join us in our was not how often the crime of sedition liad exertions for the preservation of our perishing been committed, or how often it had been liberty, and the recovery of our long lost rights. committed with impunity: it was not whether
Gentlemen, this is the publication which petitions containing seditious matter had been was held by a jury in 1793 to be a seditious presented to parliament, without the authors libel; and I ask you, whether from the be- i being punished : it was not whether parliaginning to the end of it there is any thing ment had allowed seditious words to be used more offensive, any thing more calculated to in its own presence without animadversiou ; alienate the minds of his majesty's subjects and, last of all, the question was not whether from the government and constitution of the the law officers of the Crown had allowed country, any thing better imagined for leading their duties to sleep, and passed over sedition the people to the use of physical force and to without bringing prosecutions: but the quesopen rebellion, than is to be found in almost tion simply was then, as it is now, whether every passage of the publication lying on the the crime attributed to the prisoners at the bar table? Sure I am, that there is not to be amounted in law to sedition, and whether, if found from the beginning to the end of it did, they were guilty of having committed Palmer's Address, a direct recommendation it. If it were proved, that five thousand to the people to thow off their allegiance,- petitions containing language equally strong that there is no incitement to actual rebellion as that found in this publication, had been re
that there is no encouragement held out to ceived by parliament, or that the House of the people, that if they rose to enforce the ac-Commons had permitted language ten times complishment of their purposes, the army stronger to be used in their own presence, would join them. But in the pamphlet upon that can never establish that the prisoners have your table, all this is done in the most plain not been guilty of the crime of sedition charged and direct terms. The House of Commons is in this indictment. The House of Commons
has no power of making or declaring law, or flammatory language of one description or of legalizing that which is contrary to law. It another, the minds of the labouring classes had is but one branch of the legislature, and if it got into a state so unsettled, as to have become permits language to be used reflecting on it- prepared for violence of any kind, to which self, on the Crown, or on the House of Lords, their leaders might direct them. In some which every lawyer out of it holds to be sedi- quarters the effects of this system had become tious, which courts of law have found to be not less tremendous than those of its predeseditious, that is no reason why the same lan- cessor in 1793. In others, its consequences guage, when employed out of doors with a were even worse. We know the effects in view to corrupt the minds of the king's sub-Glasgow. You have lately heard the fruits of jects, and to excite disaffection and commo- it in Manchester. tion, shall not be repressed with the punish This situation of public affairs, which is ment of sedition.
matter of notoriety, must enter deeply into In the course of the statement with which your consideration in weighing the views and it has been my duty to trouble you, and which intentions of the prisoners in committing those I have put into as plain language as I could acts which I have charged against them as inemploy, I had occasion to mention that in all ferring the crime of sedition. But, indeed, of cases of sedition the state of the times when the malignity of their intentions I think you the act complained of has been committed is can have no doubt. It is impossible for me, or to be maturely viewed and considered; that for you, to look into the minds of men, and to what may be innocently done at one period discover what is the purpose at the bottom of may be highly criminal at another; and that their hearts. That can only be gathered from under one state of the country, language may their actions. Now, if you consider the time be used, or a writing published, with impunity, and the situation of the country when this which, under another, would render the author speech was delivered, and this pamphlet was amenable to the arm of the law. Keeping this published; and if you weigh the terms of that in your minds, it is, I apprehend, impossible speech, and the various passages of that work, for you to forget the period when the speech the whole of which will be before you, and in question was made, and the libel before you which I trust you will seriously consider, it was published. It has been proved, and I seems to me impossible that you should hesitate freely admit, that at the time when all this took in forming a decided and clear opinion that place the distresses of the country were not the purpose of the prisoners was to render the only great, but that the misery of the lower people disaffected to the government, and to classes of the people had reached to an extent excite them to acts of commotion and rebellion. seldom experienced in these realms. Those If such is your opinion, it is your duty to find calamities, overwhelming as they were of them- the prisoners guilly. selves, were, however, aggravated by this, that! No doubt they have been represeuted as at the period in question they were converted, persons of good character. Be it so. With as all of you must recollect, into an engine for their character in general I have nothing to do, exciting discontent throughout the great body and leave them every advantage they may have of the manufacturing population, who had then upon this branch of the evidence. To myself been thrown altogether out of employment, it appears, that what has been proved of their The most unprecedented exertions were then characters, however good in other respects, is employed, by the circulation of inflaminatory against them in this case. In that point of and seditious tracts, to excite the minds of the view, I should state the evidence respecting people against the settled order of things in the their characters to you, were I to dwell upon country, while, with a malignity before utterly it, which, however, I shall refrain from doing. unknown among us, and having a precedent Indeed I shall notice it no further, than merely only in the means that were employed for pre- to mention, as matter of curiosity, that evidence paring the people of France for the direful of the same sort was brought forward and inevent of the Revolution, a simultaneous ac- sisted upon in the trials of 1794 and 1795. In tivity was employed in the dissemination of fact, the defence in the present case seems immoral, irreligious and indecent works, to modelled upon those cases of a similar descripsubvert the religious principles and habits of tion that have gone before it, and will, I trust, the people. No doubt public conventions, as meet with the same fate. in 1793, were not held, because all things Having thus detained you at so great length, which had then attracted the eyes of the police I shall leave the case to you, perfectly satisfied and the administrators of the laws, and were with having done my duty in bringing it before repressed by the judgments of this court, were you. It appeared to me, after a full considecarefully avoided. But a system no less dan- ration, to be a case which could not be passed gerous had then been adopted in their stead. over, as it was necessary to put limits to the That system was, to keep the whole population circulation of the dangerous and seditious pubof the country in a state of ferment, by con- lications disseminating at present in every voking meeting after meeting in the different quarter of the country. It is for you to say manufacturing and opulous districts, under upon the evidence, whether my opinion has the pretence of petitioning parliament against been correct or not. I am satisfied myself abuses. At these meetings, by the use of ine that my opinion is right, and that the expres
sions charged in the indictment are seditious ; ! no intention to excite them toʻsedition or reand I have had to-day the satisfaction to hear bellion, to any species of violence, or to any chat the court thioks so likewise. You will unlawful act. They had met with the fair and afterwards learn their lordships' opinion upon legal purpose of petitioning the different the evidence, as you have now heard mine. branches of the legislature for relief against the That I have thought it my duty to give you 'grievances of which they complained ; and in plainly and without varnish. But clear though speaking of those grievances, the panel did I be on the whole case, 1 shall be satisfied with nothing more than assist in the previous dewhatever verdict you may give, and I can have liberations necessary to ascertain the views no doubt the country will be so likewise. and wishes of the people assembled, as to the
nature of the applications that ought to be Mr. Clerk.—Gentlemen of the jury, in the made. This defence, so important for the long and able argument which you have just panel, was opened at the beginning of the trial; beard, the lord advocate has attempted to con- but so far from attempting to refute it, the vince you that both of the prisoners at the bar lord advocate did not, in the course of his very bave been guilty of the crimes laid to their long argument, so much as allude to it: and charge. I attend you for one of them only, you will see that the indictment, unfairly supMr. M*Laren, and shall leave the defence of pressing the object and purposes of the lawful the other, Mr. Baird, to his own counsel, Mr. meeting at which the panel made his speech, Jeffrey, who is able to do the most ample justice represents it, as well as the other speeches to his client.
there made, as seditious and inflammatory Mr. M*Laren is accused of having made a harangues, uttered without the pretence of any seditious harangue to the people assembled at fair or legal purpose. These circumstances a numerous meeting held in a field near Kil- are not a little extraordinary, if the public mardock, and of having afterwards caused his prosecutor really had hopes of being successful speech to be printed, along with other speeches in his charge. With such hopes be should of a like tendency, as a pamphlet, which was have argued the case as it stands upon the sold and distributed in that neighbourhood. evidence : he should have attempted to answer
That Mr. M'Laren was present, and spoke a the defence on the fact, or on the law, or on few sentences at the public meeting already both; whereas, by taking no notice of a dementioned, is certainly true ; but Ï hope to fence unquestionably relevant, he either held satisfy you, that considering the occasion and it to be unanswerable, or intended to rely upon circumstances under which it was delivered, a doctrine (which can never be admitted, and the speech (if speech it might be called) con- which, indeed, the lord advocate himself did tained nothing seditious or otherwise criminal. not directly maintain), that occasion and cirAs to the publication of the pamphlet, Mr. cumstances can make no difference as to the NʻLaren had no concern with it, and knows criminality of words that the same words zothing of it. There is no evidence that he must, if they are seditious on any occasion, assisted in the printing or publication even of be seditious on all occasions, without the least that speech which is said to have been spoken regard to the purpose or intent of the speaker. by himself; and certainly there is no pretence But against such an absurdity it is unnecessary for saying that he took a concern in the pub- to reason. Every one must allow that the lication, sale, or distribution of the pamphlet. same words may be highly criminal, or altoI hope, therefore, that I may disencumber my- gether innocent, nay, absolutely required by self of this branch of the accusation, as not af- duty, according to the different situations in fecting Mr. M‘Laren at all, and leave it, in so which they may be uttered; and on this ground far as it may be thought to affect the other I maintain, that even if the words of the panel panel, to the consideration of Mr. Jeffrey, who could not have been spoken without criminality will address you for him.
in other situations, they were justifiable as As to the criminality of the speech at the they were spoken to men assembled in delibepublic meeting, much eloquence has been em- ration about lawful and dutiful petitions, reployed, and some points, both in fact and in presenting their grievances or complaints to law, have been strained to the utmost against the different branches of the legislature. Nor de panel, in declamatory comments on the does it appear of any inportance that warm or wickedness of his supposed intention to blow up intemperate expressions, not sufficiently rethe flames of sedition in the multitude, as well as spectful to their superiors, occasionally tell, in on the supposed illegal and dangerous tendency the course of their deliberations, from people of his words, as being utterly subversive of the in the lowest ranks of life, unable to express British constitution and of all good govern- themselves with that decency which is required ment. But in making these violent and un- from men in higher situations, if it be certain, charitable strictures, it was forgotten that a which it is, that they looked forward to no pablic meeting baving been called for lawful other result from their meeting, than the exer. purposes, the occasion rendered it necessary cise of their unquestionable right to petition, that the panel (who had been appointed to quietly and peaceably, without disorder or open the business) should make some remarks disturbance. ca the subject of public grievances. This is The right of petitioning has belonged to the his defence. In addressing the people, he had subjects of this country, and even to the