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quest of the committee, in order to be printed in an account of the proceedings, but he had no concern in printing that account. With regard to the expressions which are charged as seditiously directed against the Legislature, we shall satįsfy the Jury, and shall shew your Lordships, that giving them a fair construction, they contain nothing improper against any of the orders of the State, against the King, the House of Lords, or House of Commons. In sound construction, the expressions apply only to the administration for the time, and every person at such a meeting is entitled, if he thinks it right, to attack the policy and conduct of Ministers. I need not enter into the question, whether there has been mal-administration or not; but every person feeling himself aggrieved is entitled to state his grievances, and more particularly at a meeting convened for the purpose of applying for redress to the Legislature. This will not be denied. And what was done in consequence of this meeting, and of the speeches which were made there ? Every thing was conducted in a regular and orderly manner; no injury was done to any property or to any person ; the only consequence of the meeting was, that three petitions were resolved on, one to the Prince
Regent, another to the House of Lords, and the third to the House of Commons; which last petition, when presented to that House, was ordered to be brought up and to lie on the table. This is proof that the petitions contained nothing that was offensive to the Prince Regent, nothing seditious, nothing offensive to the Houses of Parliament. Eve'ry thing that resulted was legitimate and proper. Taking the whole circumstances into consideration, it clearly appears, that the first passage objected to relates to the measures of Ministers; and I will prove even by witnesses for the Crown, that, so far was my client from employing any expressions disrespectful towards the head of the Government, that he did quite the reverse, and spoke with the utmost respect of the Prince Regent.
This being the situation of the matter, and my client having done nothing but what he was entitled to do, we shall show that the language he used was no other than what he was entitled, and completely authorised to use. In numerous petitions to Parliament, much stronger language has been used, and found not only to be not seditious, but to be not disrespectful to the House. What was the language held when Parliamentary Reform was first talked of at the Thatched-house-tavern? In the second resolution of that meeting it was said, “ This meeting, considering that a general application by the collective body to the Commons House of Parliament cannot be made before the close of the present Session, is of opinion, that the sense of the people should be taken at such times as may be convenient this summer, in order to lay their several petitions before Parliament early in the next Session, when their proposition for a Parliamentary Reformation, without which neither the liberty of the nation can be preserved, nor the permanence of a wise and virtuous administration can be secured, may receive that ample and mature discussion which so momentous a question demands." These are strong terms, and imply, that, without reformation in the representation of the people, the liberty of the subject is in danger; and if there is any doubt as to the meaning of the passage, look to the letter written by Mr Pitt to Mr Frost, in which it is said, that Reform" is essentially necessary to the independence of Parliament, and the liberty of the people.” Down to this day strong language is always used in petitions on that subject and never objected to, except when the House of Commons is denied to represent the people, or matter is introduced against the House that is not relevant to the object of the petition. It has been laid down by constitutional lawyers and statesmen, by Lord Thurlow, by Mr Pitt and Mr Fox, that where the language is expressive of the grievance, however strong it may be, it is justifiable. I therefore submit, that, as it is competent to put such language into a petition to Parliament,-as such language has not been held objectionable in the House of Commons, it cannot be considered as seditious, or as tending to bring the Legislature into contempt. If such language is lawful in petitions to Parliament, then it must be held lawful in the speeches and resolutions made at meetings preparatory to such petitions. For there would be an inconsistency and absurdity in saying, that such language might be lawfully used in a petition, which if used in discussing whether it should be inserted in the petition would be unlawful. If it should be necessary, we shall make out to the satisfaction of your Lordships and the Jury, that the language, even as stated in the indictment, does not amount to seition.
Having stated thus much, I conceive I have opened the nature of the defence we mean to plead, at sufficient length to make the opposite side of the bar aware of the nature of our defence, and I think it unnecessary to detain your Lordships any longer.
LORD JUSTICE-CLERK.--It is a perfectly fair and distinct statement.
Mr JEFFREY.--I appear here in behalf of Thomas Baird. I suppose we are all agreed, that it is the right and province of
the Jury to take into consideration both the facts and the law of the case; first, to find whether the facts libelled are proved ; and then to judge of the import of the facts so proved. We have no desire to quash the trial in any preliminary stage of the proceedings; and, notwithstanding some incorrect statements in the libel, as we do not wish to shrink from investigation, we shall not trouble your Lordships with any preliminary objections to the relevancy.
I have little farther to state in addition to the written defences. Mr Baird is a merchant in Kilmarnock, and has always maintained, not only an irreproachable but a respectable character in the estimation of both his superiors and equals. He also has served his country in a military capacity, and held successively commissions in different bodies of volunteers. In the last corps to which he was attached, he served down till the dissolution of the volunteer system in 1813, when the allowances which had been given to them were taken away; and his conduct, character, and sentiments, were always considered loyal, respectable, and praiseworthy.
He also had entertained ideas, the wisdom and propriety of which cannot here be made a subject of discussion : But to what he considered as defects in the Constitution, he wished none but constitutional remedies. A spectator of the general distress around him, and a participator in it, he believed that the evil was ascribable, at least in part, to a defective representation in the Commons House of Parliament; and he therefore thought it proper to present a respectful petition to the Legislature on the subject. He attended the public meeting which assembled for that purpose; but he did not take any part in the discussion, not being gifted with powers of oratory, nor wishing to obtrude himself on the public notice. He did however attend the meeting, and he heard the speeches, which were not so violent as they have been represented. Some expressions were at the time reprobated by him, as tending to throw an odium on the general cause of Reform ; and afterwards, when it was determined that some account of the proceedings should be published, and the orators gave in their speeches to the committee for publication, he repeated his objections against printing several passages which appeared to him to be improper; but he was overruled by a majority of the committee, who wished a full publication of the proceedings. As the funds of the petitioners were low, it occurred to the committee that some small pittance might be collected from the publication to defray the expences necessary for the preparation of the petitions. In this way, he consented to the publication, but at the same time protested against publishing any improper expressions ; but not having any idea, (as such a discovery indeed had not then been made in any quarter), that the expressions, though censurable, were of a nature to infer criminal consequences, he gave no critical attention to the minute contents of the publication, nor considered himself responsible for them. In order to forward the end in view, which was not to excite violence or sedition, but merely to raise money,
it was determined that the members of the committee should distribute and sell as many copies of the pamphlet as possible; and my client agreed to sell some of them.
These are the facts of the case. As to the relevancy, much will depend on the interpretation to be given to the words libelled on. We do not think it necessary at present to say any thing farther on that point, as we shall prove that the expressions used were a good deal different from those libelled in the indictment. When the facts are disclosed in the evidence, we shall have a fitter opportunity for remarking on them.
Lord ADVOCATE.-- It is unnecessary for me to say any thing as to the candid statement which has been made on the other side of the bar. I admit that it is not only the right of the Jury, but that it is their bounden duty to say upon their oaths, whether the matter charged is sedition or not. In that I concur with my learned friends, and therefore I need say nothing more.
LORD JUSTICE-CLERK.--Your Lordships have heard what has been said on behalf of the prisoners, and what has been said by the Lord Advocate. I have to ask your Lordships, whether you have any observations to offer on the relevancy of this indictment.
Lord HERMAND.-I am of opinion that the indictment is relevant; and I think there can be little doubt on the point with those who hear me. The learned Gentleman who opened the defence admitted, that an attack on Parliament constitutes sedition; adding, that his client did not apply his expressions to the Legislature, but to the Ministers of the day. It may be so, but that is not what is stated in this indictment, to which alone I can attend at present. Part of the charge goes very deep. They met on pretence of a dutiful petition. Such pretences are always made. But your Lordships will attend to what we find stated: “ Let us lay our petitions at the foot of the Throne, where sits our august Prince, whose gracious nature will incline his ear to listen to the cries of his people, which he is bound to do by the laws of the country."
All this is extremely good ; but what follows. 6 But, should he be so infatuated as to turn a deaf ear to their just petition, he has forfeited their allegiance. Yes, my fellow-townsmen, in such a case, to hell with our allegiance.” Is that not sedition ? Accompanied with an ouvert act, would it not be high treason? I have no hesitation in saying it would. Things may turn out differently on the proof from what is represented in the indictment; and I should rejoice to find it so. But, with regard to the speech and the publication, as here stated, is there not here a direct attack on the Legislature? Another passage is : “ A House of Commons, but the latter is corrupted; it is decayed and worn out; it is not really what it is called; it is not a House of Commons.” We are told this is only an attack on the Ministers. It is an attack on the House itself. Any petition containing such expressions, I always understood, would be rejected by the House of Commons. " At present we have no representatives ; they are only nominal, not real; active only in prosecuting their own designs, and at the same time telling us that they are agreeable to our wishes.” Is that not a broad attack on the Legislature? I shall be glad if the facts charged are not made out. They clearly amount to sedition as they are stated.
Lord GILLIES.— I concur in the opinion which I have now heard, so far as to think the indictment relevant. I have no doubt that it is relevant, and that the ordinary interlocutor must be pronounced.
The indictment states, that at a meeting " attended by a great multitude of persons, chiefly of the lower orders," one of the pannels delivered a certain speech, which speech was afterwards circulated by the other prisoner. As to the nature and objects of the meeting, no information is given in the indictment. I must therefore hold it to have been a lawful meeting. But the libel goes on to state, that the pannels “ wickedly and feloniously delivered a speech containing a number of seditious and inflammatory assertions, calculated to degrade and bring into contempt the confidence and affections of the people, and to fill the realm with trouble and dissention.” This is certainly a charge of sedition; and, if the expressions cited in the indictment were delivered for the purpose there stated, they must be regarded as seditious. I need deliver no opinion farther at present, for the facts charged in the indictment, and, still more, the wicked and felonious intentions therein ascribed to them, are denied by the pannels. All these matters remain to be the subject of proof; and I would be arrogating to myself the province of the Jury and of your Lordship, if I said any thing farther at this period of the trial; for after the proof only can any satisfactory opinion be given on the subject.