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was uttered for such a purpose,--that it has done so. But I do not say that this is absolutely necessary. It is enough if there are acts established which are clearly and unequivocally intended to produce such an effect : But all this just places us under the necessity of judging and conjecturing as to the intention,-not' upon such evidence as the shooting a man through the head is of intention to kill; but by the exercise of a sound judgment, and a delicate discrimination upon nice and delicate questions of politics and morality; in the course of which we must endeavour to divest ourselves for the time of all our cherished prejudices and partialities, and to judge of a probable intention, from facts, as to the import and character of which perhaps no two men will agree. In order to determine whether disorder and discontent were intended to be excited against the Government, we must consider whether the objects that were professed to be in view,—the means that were adopted for their accomplishment,--the words that were used,--the situation of the audience, and the result of the measures adopted, do all, or any of them amount to a proof of such intention, and whether they are sufficient to entitle a Jury upon their oaths to say, that such must have been the purpose and state of mind from which the acts proceeded, acts, you will observe, in their own nature, unavoidably equivocal, and as to the true character of which no two men of opposite parties would form the same opinion.' 1. You must be already aware then, Gentlemen, of the extreme caution with which a Jury is bound to proceed in considering a case of this complex kind. It can never be pretended, in the broad words of the definition of my learned friend, that, to express dissatisfaction with the proceedings of Government, or opinions against the existing laws, or laws intended to be brought into existence, can be arraigned as improper and seditious acts. On the contrary, it is from such acts that all the .great improvements in our institutions have originated, and to such proceedings are we'indebted for all our distinguished advantages as a free, a powerful, and enlightened people. Not only theri is it the privilege, but it is the duty of those who think that measures may be taken for bettering the situation of the country at large, to state their sentiments, and, if necessary, to com plain aloud of the existing evils and imperfections. - It may often be highly proper, and absolutely necessary, to point out the disadvantages attending present institutions, and to employ every form and mode of eloquence in order to recommend the adoption of those measures and principles, which may lead to regulations and laws that are better and more efficient. Petitions for abolition of the Slave Trade,- for
Peace, for the abolition of the Income Tax, were opposed by those in the actual administration of the Government: But it was never, I believe, imagined, that these petitions had the most distant approximation to the shameful crime of sedition. But see where we are at this first step. Can it be doubted that the agitation of all these questions was offensive to Government? Can it be doubted that petitions setting forth the evils of the Slave Trade were opposed by the Government, --that trade which spread and encouraged ignorance, vice, and misery in Africa,-and which debased, and would have perpetuated the degradation of the buman character in the west,Can it be doubted that the complaints made in petitions for Peace, charging Government with unprincipled conduct in carrying on the war,-a war of advantage to a few individuals, but unnecessary and ruinous to the country, and attended with an enormous and prodigal expenditure of human blood, and of the means of national prosperity,—can it be doubted that such complaints were disagreeable to the Ministers ?--Can it be doubted that petitions against the hateful and inquisitorial but productive tax on income were' opposed by them ?Can it be doubted that the proceedings at public meetings respecting these objects tended to excite violent indignation
among the people against existing laws and establishments; and, with regard to a great number of the measures alluded to, excited the indignation of the people against those who are entitled to be called and are known to be our rulers ? Many of those measures of public policy which I have stated, were very warmly defended by the Government; and it may be very truly said, that, in loading such measures with the opprobrious epithets which all men now agree they deserve, we were throws ing an odium on our rulers.
But, says the Public Prosecutor, our rulers are the King, Lords and Commons; and all attempt to excite hatred against them, is clearly within the narrowest definition of the crime of sedition. To this, however, I reply, that our rulers are his Majesty's Ministers for the time being, and those, and those only, who concur in their measures. It is only through these Ministers, and by their advice and influence, that the Sovereign is understood to act, according to the principles of our Constitution. The Ministers are the King; and it is not lawful to impute any bad act to him personally, his acts being the acts of the Ministers. And who are the Lords and Commons ? The majority alone of them having been in fact our rulers, the minority have nothing to do with it.--If, therefore, it has been the pride and boast of Great Britain, eminently distinguished for the sense, the virtue, the morality,
the science which it contains, that, by the right of discussing politics and petitioning the Legislature, oppression has been shut out, corruption exposed and circumscribed, and, in despite of their rulers, the people enlightened and enabled to judge of public men and public measures ;-if it is on account of this invaluable right that we joy and pride ourselves among the nations;—where is the propriety of rashly interfering with the exercise of this right, and why object to the speech of a petitioner, because some things in it may fall under the general terms of the definitions which lawyers have given of the crime of sedition ? Perhaps no better definition of sedition could be given ; but here the intention was not to excite tumult or disorder, and therefore no sedition was committed. The petitioners did not approve of the measures of our rulers,--they believed a reform in the representation would be beneficial, and they stated their sentiments on these subjects to the King, Lords, and Commons.
But, my learned friend said, the conduct of the pannels was calculated to excite dissention. In one sense. I admit that it was: But I have no such horror at dissention as the learned Lord. There is a dissention known to this country, and known to all free countries, and to them only, which, however terrible it may appear to the sons of habitual slavery, or the minions of arbitrary power, or the contented and envied possessors of present influence, is of that wholesome nature that on it the life and health of the Constitution ultimately depend. It is not a frightful commotion, but a healthful exercise ; -- not an exhausting fever, but a natural movement, proceeding from the vigour of the Constitution, and at once indicating
and maintaining that vigour unimpaired. Wherever men are entitled to rise to high stations, whatever their birth and condition may have been, there great dissention will inevitably be found. In that fierce, but generous struggle, there will necessarily be great heats, and appearances of violence and intemperance. There will be some real excesses also, and a great deal of dirt will be scattered about in the competition,—which is all the injury that the main body of the people will experience. In a free country where the principles of government are well understood, and the laws well administered, parties will ever be found opposed to parties, all of them calumniating and abusing one another, - taking advantage of the slips of their adversaries, and fastening on them the keen and eager eye of hostile animosity,contending with the most strenuous emulation for those places and offices attended with power and patronage, which are then only respectable and ho-. nourable when filled by persons distinguished for those talents, and that industry and merit, which can neither be
generated, nor made manifest on any other scene. This dissention, though the parties engaged in it are somewhat reviling and reviled, is the life, and heart, and spirit of our Constitution; and true policy should promote discussion on those great points, on which discussion must always be keen, and in some degree stormy and violent, because it is on them that the liberty, the prosperity and happiness of the nation depend, and to them that all men of spirit, ingenuity and talents have devoted their whole lives, from their birth to their last moments. The lives, accordingly, of almost all the great men who have adorned the history of this country, have been a continued scene of wara fare; and, except in a few instances of individuals endowed with more than usual placidity of temper, our most eminent statesmen may be said to have passed their lives in traducing the conduct and measures of their opponents, glossing over the faults of their partisans, and employing the strongest language in denouncing what appeared to them contrary to the spirit of the laws and the constitution. If this dissention were prevented, liberty would be extinguished. That very hostility which appears to excite so much apprehension, is the parent of public prosperity, and of all the advantages in a free state for which it is worth while to contend.
The right of exposing misconduct in the administration of the Government, and of applying in a constitutional form to the Legislature for redress of grievances, whether real or imaginary, is the result of this wholesome privilege of discussion. It might perhaps be maintained, that under the right of petitioning the Legislature for any object which the persons petitioning might sincerely think fair, reasonable and proper, language, however strong, if expressive of the sincerity and strength of conviction of the petitioners, should be permitted. The very publicity of the act of petitioning, the ancient date of the right,--the constant and almost immemorial experience of its good effects,-and, above all, the appearance it has of reliance on the Legislature, protect almost every thing that may be done under this invaluable privilege. But I am far from exposing my case to the hazard of maintaining, that in the exercise of this great public right excesses may not be committed, of which men ought to be ashamed, and which the law is called on to avenge. Without meaning to detract from the powerful argument you heard from my learned friend Mr Clerk, -I say that, even when met for petitioning Parliament, excesses may be committed by speaking and writing for which the people are responsible to the law, and for which a Jury
may be reluctantly constrained to punish them. In such cases, their intention is to be gathered partly from the nature of the objects pursued, and partly from the language employed, and the means recommended for the accomplishment of their purposes. If a person should pretend, or even be mad enough seriously to propose, to petition Parliament for the abolition of the Christian religion --for deposition of the King or dismissal of the House of Lords, for division of property;--community of wives, or such objects, there can be no seriousness about such things, but suppose that such petitions were proposed),--the Public Prosecutor would be justified in interfering, and even the desperately ignorant could not be screened in the prosecution of such views. But supposing the object not so plainly extravagant, and obviously criminal, as any of those I have alluded to; still if the means held out for obtaining it are clearly criminal ;-if, at the same time that a petition to Parliament is recommended for universal suffrage, or any thing else, the petitioners are exhorted to appear with pistols in their hands, and to use them to enforce their requests, or even to do any thing implying an offence against decency and good order, transportation or a more severe punishment might be justly inflicted on the transgressors.
The point then at issue is,. What is the degree of cri. minality that demands, or whereabouts we are to look for the excess which authorises the intervention of the law ?
When is it that the avenging voice of a Jury is required? -and has such a case occurred in the present instance ? It is by no means enough that you individually regard the objects which it is proved those persons had in view with their petitions, as erroneous, improper, and absurd ob. jects. That is not the question which is committed to you to try. You are to judge whether they were actuated by seditious intentions. The object of the petitioners, in this case, was Parliamentary Reform; and, as far as I can see, a change to a great extent in the representation of the peo ple was contemplated. They wished for annual elections, and that all should have votes. You may think such a plan mischievous, and an attempt to recommend it productive of bad consequences. I rather think so myself. I think the introduction of annual elections would be a hazardous experiment. Universal suffrage is practically impossible ; and if possible to be introduced, it would probably aggravate some of the evils it was intended to remedy. But ought such an opinion of mine, of yours, and of a great many others, to prevent persons holding different opinions from taking cone stitutional means for enforcing their opinions ? Annual Par