Page images

I apprehend, therefore, that you must now fection in the minds of the people against the concur with me in holding it to be established established government of the country, to proby the proof, 1st, That M‘Laren delivered at duce resistance to its authority, or to lead to the public meeting that speech, of which parts its ultimate subversion. are quoted in the indictment; 2ndly, That the Allow me, however, to guard myself against publication purporting to be “ Account of the misconstruction as to the use of the terms, proceedings of the public meeting of the Bur- “ the established Government,” which I have gesses and Inhabitants of the Town of Kil- now employed. By those terms, you will not marnock, held on the 7th of December 1816" | by any means understand that I refer to that &c. was printed and published by the prisoner which, in ordinary parlance, is commonly so Baird, who was active in its sale and distribu- termed, I mean his majesty's ministers. You tion; and, 3rdly, That the prisoner M‘Laren need not be told that it is competent and law, was also an accessary to the fact of publica- ful for the subjects of this realm to canvass all tion.

the measures of his majesty's ministers,—to Upon this part of the case, therefore, which state that they are contrary to law, and to the must in fact form the foundation of the opinion interests of the country ;-that their proceedwhich you are to make up, and of the verdict | ings should be interrupted, and the authors of you are to return, there neither can be any ground them dismissed from office : in talking, thereof difference between my friends on the oppo- fore, of raising disaffection to his majesty's site side of the bar and myself, nor, I am con- government, you will understand that I do not fident, can there be a vestige of doubt in your mean exciting disaffection to his majesty's miminds.

nisters. Far be it from me to contend that But that part of the case which requires this is against law, or that courts of law ought your utmost deliberation still remains to be to interfere to punish practices, words, or writconsidered. In the commencement of the trial ings, calculated to produce that effect. But you heard an admission upon my part, that it by the established government, I mean the would be competent for the prisoners, not only constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, as to dispute the truth of the facts charged in the established at the period of the glorious Revoindictment, but to plead to you, that suppos- lution of 1688; and, in this sense of the term, ing those facts were brought home to both of I state to you, that any thing which tends to them, the speech and publication in question produce public trouble or commotion,--any did not amount to the crime of sedition. To thing which moves his majesty's subjects to the that admission I still most heartily adhere. It dislike, subversion, or disturbance of his mahas always been in this country, and I trust jesty's government, amounts to the crime of always will be, the province of the jury, in sedition. Any speech or writing that is calcuevery question of this description, to find in lated, and intended to vilify and traduce the their verdict, whether there was a criminal inten- sovereign in his capacity of Head of the State, tion entertained by the prisoners—whether a or as a branch of the legislature-any speech or crime has been committed or not—and whether writing calculated and intended to vilify and that crime amounts to sedition.

traduce the House of Peers—any speech or In order to enable you, therefore, to make writing calculated and intended to vilify the up your opinions upon this subject, had it not House of Commons, stating, for instance, that been for the deliberate judgments of the Court it is not the House of Commons, that it is which you had an opportunity of hearing at the the mere nominal and pretended reprecommencement of the trial, it might have been sentative of the people, and does not repreexpected of me to enter into some details of sent them that it has become corrupi ;the history and of the nature of this offence, writings or speeches inculcating all, or any of one of the most various and comprehensive, those things, fall under the crime of sedition. and at the same time one of the most dangerous In like manner, either a speech or a writing and flagitious known to the law of Scotland. But exhorting the people to throw off their allegias you heard the unanimous opinion of their ance, under any particular contingency which lordships, that the allegations contained in this may arise from any one branch of the legislaindictment, if established against the prisoners, ture either doing an act, or refusing to do an would amount to the crime of sedition, I shall act, which may, or may not be within its parconfine myself to such a statement of the sub-ticular competency, will amount to the crime ject as is barely requisite for enabling you to of sedition. follow the conclusions which I find it my duty Allow me, also, to observe to you, that in to draw from the particular passages in this all cases of this description, the time when the publication which I have been called upon to particular act complained of is committed, the bring under your consideration.

state of public opinion, and the political rela. Sedition, Gentlemen, is a crime by the com- tions of the country, internal or external, will mon law of Scotland ; and it has been laid often be essential to the constitution of the ofdown by our writers, and by the decisions of fence. For instance, to use an illustration that this court, that it reaches to practices of every I believe was given by an eminent person, who, description, whether by deed, word, or writing, in the year 1795, held the situation which my which are calculated and intended to disturb honourable friend near me now holds. Had, the tranquillity of the state, by exciting disaf- in the year 1745, any number of individuals, however few, with white cockades in their Governors, -King, Lords and Commons : but hats, and muskets in their hands, repaired to in an after part of the speech, it is explained the Castle-hill, shouting out the name of the that this last is actually the sense in which it Pretender, they would have been guilty of a was employed. The statement therefore is, crime probably not short of the highest that that the king, Lords and Commons, are corcould be committed against the state; but were rupt;— that they are solicitous only for their the same act to be done now, they could be own aggrandizement; that they care no further regarded in no other light than as madmen. for the body of the people, than as they are Various other illustrations of a similar nature subservient to their accursed purposes. Now, might be stated, but I deem it sufficient for me I ask, is not this statement calculated to bring to submit to you generally, as being clear law, the government into contempt, and to excite that if at any time publications or speeches disaffection to the established order of things! are complained of as seditious, it will always Does it not tell the people, that they have no be of importance to consider the state of the interest whatever in the stability of the state ; public mind at the period the act alleged to and is it not caleulated immediately to lead to constitute the crime has been committed, in disturbance and commotion. It is for you, order duly to appreciate their nature and im- gentlemen, to answer the question, and it seems port. With this view, and before concluding, to me impossible to doubt that that answer it will be my province to submit to you, in a must be in the affirmative. single sentence, that the state of the country But in this passage allusion is made to the at the time when this publication issued from distresses of iħe people, and these are made the press, and when the speech was delivered the instrument for giving greater effect to this by M‘Laren at the public meeting, must enter seditious libel upon the rulers of the country. deeply into your consideration in forming your | This, you cannot doubt, enhances the crime of verdict upon this indictment.

the prisoner, by having employed that under Upon this subject I have only farther to state which his hearers were suffering, and which he that the crime of sedition is one which this must have known their rulers could not recourt, and the law of this country, has viewed move, as an engine for promoting the disaffecas one of the highest and most fagitious de- tion he was endeavouring to excite. God scription. Its object is to introduce dissention, knows, that I by no means wish to under-rate troubles, and bloodshed into the kingdom, the distresses which the persons attending that to subvert the laws, and to dissolve the bonds meeting were labouring under in common with of society. It is the duty of government, there their brethern in different parts of the counfore, to resist and extinguish it in the very outset; try. No one who was at that meeting, no one and if, in the present instance, I have any who hears me now, can be more sensible of thing to regret, it is that this, and perhaps the great distress which the lower ranks in this other cases of a similar description, have not country have suffered, and none can more been brought sooner before a Jury of the deeply deplore it that I do. While, however, country

I fully appreciate the extent of those distresses, We come now to consider whether the terms and applaud the patience with which they of the speech, as delivered at the meeting by have been endured, I can ouly urge the use M+Laren, or the terms of that speech and of which is made of them in the passage I have the other speeches in the publication after- read, as tending to prove the wicked and mawards given to the world by the prisoners, licious intention of the prisoners, who could amount to the cime of sedition, according to the have had no other object in referring to them description of that offence which I have now | than to excite disaffection and sedition. had the honour of giving you.

The prisoner's speech then goes oti to state, And first, as to the speech. In it'you'will' “ If you are convinced of this, my countryrecollect, that M‘Laren stated, “ That our suf- men, I would therefore put the question, Are ferings are insopportable is demonstrated to you degenerate enough to bear it? Shall we, the world; and that they are neither tempo- whose forefathers set limits to the all-grasping rary, nor occasioned by a transition from“ war power of Rome; Shall we, whose forefathers, to peace,” is palpable to all, though all have at the never-to-be-forgotten field of Bannocknot the courage to avow it. The fact is, we burn, told the mighty Edward, at the head of are ruled by men only solicitous for their own the most mighty army ever trode on Britain's aggrandizement, and they care no further for soil; “Hitherto shalt thou come and no furthe great body of the people than they are sub- ther;:—Shall we, I say, whose forefathers deservient to their accursed purposes.“

fied the efforts of foreign tyrany to enslave In this passage the term rulers, you will ob- our beloved country, meanly permit, in our serve, is employed; and this, it may be said, day, without a' murmur, a base Oligarchy to applies to his majesty's ministers, and not to the feed their filthy vermin on our vitals, and rule government in the more comprehensive mean- us as they will ?” ing of the phrase ; but it does no such thing. Upon this passage I shall merely say, that There is no limitation, you will remark, intro- you have heard the only comment which I duced by the speaker. Even taking the term think it can fairly admit of, put upon it in the generally, and in its extensive sense, undoubt judgment of one of their lordships* in the edly it comprehends the whole order of our

* Lord Reston; vide antè, p. 16.

early part of this trial, You must be satisfied other things to be done by the Parliament, that the object of the orator here is, to recom- which it is not within his competence to do, mend resistance, and to encourage it by calling or he is to order them to be done of his own to the recollection of his hearers the popular authority; and if he does not do so, then what allusion to the battle of Bannockburn. Ac- is the penalty? No less than the forfeiture of cordingly he goes on to state that which must our allegiance, and, as he says, “in that case, leave all doubt of his intention in this passage to hell with our allegiance.” Here, then, Genout of the question, "Let us lay our petitions tlemen, the miserable and distressed people, at the foot of the Throne, where sits our au- goaded by their privations and afflictions, who gust Prince, whose gracious pature will incline were surrounding the prisoner, were in this his ear to listen to the cries of his people, speech excited to make demands upon the which he is bound to do by the laws of the Sovereign and the Legislature, which, if they country. But should he be so infatuated as were refused, no less a result was to follow than to turn a deaf ear to their just petition, he has the forfeiture and throwing off of their alle. forfeited their allegiance, Yes, my fellow giance. towosmen, in such a case, to hell with our Now all this I state to you to infer the crime allegiance."

of sedition. It was sedition to alienate the In order fully to understand the seditious affections of the people from the Government, import of this passage, it must be taken in in the manner which was done in the first part çonnection with that which I previously com- of the speech. It was sedition to tell the mented on, and a passage in the resolutions meeting, in the second part of it, that if the of the meeting, which I am fairly entitled, different reforins there called for were not under all the circumstances of the case, to granted, and if the evils complained of were take as part of MʻLaren's speech. In page not removed, their allegiance was forfeited, and 26 of the publication, it is stated, “Being to exhort them in such a case to throw it off. therefore impressed with the truth of these re- The next point for consideration is the pubsolutions, the meeting resolve to present peti- lication itself. But here I am saved repeating tions to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, the commentary upon one part of that proand to both Houses of Parliament, requesting duction, the speech of M‘Laren; for it must his Royal Highness, in particular, to assemble be manifest to you, that if the speech when Parliament without delay; to call upon it im- delivered was seditious, it cannot be less so mediately to adopt such measures as may, tend when reduced into the form of a publication; to restore to the people their undoubted right and every thing, with one exception, which in the representation; to order, in the name was delivered viva voce, is to be found in the of the people, an immediate reduction of the printed report. There is a blank before alletaxes, and the standing army, the abolition of giance,--the word "hell" is left out. It is all unmerited pensions, sinecures, grants, and your province, however, to fill up that blank. other emoluments, as the surest way of estan. And, after the evidence laid before you this blishing, on a firm and lasting basis, the rights. day, you can have no difficulty upon this of the Crown, and the privileges of the peo- point. You heard that one of the prisoners, ple: And that, in all time coming, no person in the presence of the other, wrote out the who has an office or place of profit under the whole of the passage upon the manuscript King, or receives a pension from the Crown, when preparing it for the press. The propriety shall be capable of serving as a member of inserting the passage was afterwards dist the House of Commons.”

cussed, and doubts were entertained upon the Now, the meaning of all this taken together subject, by the committee. With the fact of is, that unless the Prince - Regent shall order that passage being actually in the hand-writing the Parliament to reduce the taxes and the of Baird, looking him in the face, my learned standing army, and to do all the things friend (Mr. Grant), rather strangely in my opiwhich are there. enumerated, he has forfeited nion, pressed upon his witnesses to prove that our allegiance, and that the allegiance of the Baird, in particular, was aware of the indecency meeting is to be thrown off, and to be sent to of its character; for, under such circumstances, hell. But, you are not to be told that the the fact of publication only made his of Prince Regent has no such, power that.. fence the greater. Accordingly, it is proved Mr. Clerk. - That iş. not the meaning of the to you, that the prisoner, whether convinced of

its indecency or not, still he, the publisher and passage.

corrector of the press, sends it to be printed; Lord Advocate -If my interpretation of the and out it comes with the word only left blank, passage is wrong, my learned friends will after-. affording, I should think, to your conviction, wards have the means of correcting me. It the fullest and most complete evidence of his would be better if at present they would re- guilt., frain from interrupting me. In my view, it But let us proceed to consider the other clearly imports the meaning which I have put parts of the publication. In page 2, of the upon it. The Prince Regent is to assemble indictment there is this passage : « But let us the Parliament, and to call upon it to restore come nearer home: look at the year 1793, to the people their right of representation; when the debt amounted to two hundred rando but, in the second place, he is to order all the eleven millions, and the annual taxation to

about eighteen millions; when liberty began | been unblushingly attempted to be justified by to rear her drooping head in the country; when reason of its avowed frequency and notoriety. associations were formed from one end of the The meeting, therefore, have no hesitation kingdom to another, composed of men eminent in asserting, the debt can never be said to be for their talents and virtue, to assert their national, nor the present taxation just, seeing rights; when a neighbouring nation had just the former has been contracted by men who thrown off a yoke which was become intoler- do not represent the country, and the latter able-What did the wise rulers of this coun- raised without consent of the tax-payer; and try do? Why they declared war, not only it is contrary to the laws and constitution of against the French nation, but also against the this and every free country, that no man can friends of liberty at home.”

be taxed but with his own consent, or with Now, I think it is impossible for you to read the consent of his agent or representative." this passage, without being of opinion that its Again at page 35, there is the following object was, to impress on the minds of the pub- passage:

“ We have these twenty-five years lic an admiration of the proceedings of the been condemned to incessant and unparalleled French nation (polluted as it was at the time slavery by a usurped oligarchy, who pretend by treason, by blood, and by crime of every to be our Guardians and Representatives, while, description which it ever entered into the mind in fact, they are nothing but our inflerible and of man to conceive), and of those who were determined enemies. But happy, happy am I termed “the Friends of Liberty at home" in to think, that you have met this day to declare, the year 1793, its imitators and admirers: - to that you will suffer yourselves no longer to hold out that the associations of that period be imposed upon.” And a little lower down were formed for the purposes of promoting it is stated in express terms:

“ At present liberty, but which all of you know it was de- we have no representatives ; they are only cided by Jurymen sitting in that box where nominal, not real; active only in prosecuting you are now placed, -Jurymen to whose in their own designs, and at the same time telling telligence and vigour the gratitude of this us that they are agreeable to our wishes." country must be for ever due,--that they were And again, at page 38, “ A set of pensioned formed for the purpose of exciting disaffection seat-buyers in the House of Commons have to the government, of introducing turbulence deprived you of all your rights and privileges. and commotion, and of overturning the Con- They hold both emoluments and seats in that stitution. In short, the object of the publica- house, contrary to the express precept of our tion was to call upon the people to imitate glorious constitution, which says, that no what was so worthy of admiration; and it person holding any emolument can have a seat would be wasting time to persuade you, that in the House of Commons. Our constitution if this was the object, one of a more seditious also allows parliaments only to be of one year's description, when taken in conjunction with duration, and that they are to be chosen anthe other passages in the publication which I nually by the people; but they have elected have already read, or am now to read, cannot themselves, and by their own assumed and be conceived.

arbitrary authority have made parliaments, The publication then proceeds in direct first, of three years, then of seven years duraterms to state, “that the House of Commons tion; and with the same lawless power they is not really what it is called, -it is not a may make them perpetual. Alarming to reHouse of Commons.” And here it is necessary late, they have disregarded our constitution, for me to read several passages to you, in order they have scoffed at her equitable precepts, to prove the seditious nature of the publica- they have trampled her and her sons under tion, and which I shall do without commen- their feet. I would now ask you where is your tary, because I am persuaded, that nothing freedom? Where is your liberty? When we that I can add could carry the conviction more reflect on such usage, it is enough to excite us strongly to your minds of its pernicious and with ungovernable indignation. They are, accriminal import than the very sentences them-cording to our glorious constitution, culpable selves which I am to bring under your consi- of treason, and justly merit its reward. Will deration.

a nation which has been so long famed for its In page 23 of the publication you will find liberty and heroism, suffer itself to be duped it stated, “ that the debt, now amounting to any longer by a gang of impostors ? No, it · nearly 1000 millions, has been contracted in will not. The unanimity of our sentiments the prosecution of unjust and unnecessary and exertions, agreeably 10 the constitution, wars, by a corrupt administration, uniformly will once more dispel the cloud which eclipses supported by a House of Commons, which the resplendent and animating rays of liberty; cannot be said, with any justice, to be a fair and will again make her shine forth in this once and equal representation of the country, but happy country with unimpeded effulgence.” which for the most part is composed of men In order to remedy all this, universal sufput in by a borough faction, who have usurped frage and annual parliaments are recommended. the rights of the people, and who, by undue Thus the publication states, (page 10.): “The means, have contrived to return a majority of House of Commons, in its original composimembers of that House ;-a fact which has not tion, consisted only of commoners, chosen only been admitted on all hands, but which has annually by the universal suffrage of the people. No nobleman, ao clergyman, no naval or obtained is, in othe. words, to resist until the military officer, in short, none who held places, British constitution be fundamentally over: or 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 many pere 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, ihat are, by restoring the imprescriptible rights of the the history of the British constitution is 10 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 these 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 betheir consequences, in which the people bas 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 Árst 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- ihis, 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 pation, 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 Dynasty, contrary to the wishes Parliament provided they sent coromissioners of nine-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 that 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, directly, or indirectly, hav- 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 grievances, 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 must 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 consequence. 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 32d page


« PreviousContinue »