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laws, and of satisfying the insulted conspiracy alone was committed when authority of the state. The justifica- a number of persons went from place to tion of this measure rested on the no- place administering, by compulsion, torious fact as to the disturbed state oaths which bound the individual taof some populous counties, the diffi- king them to perpetrate the most atroculty which had been felt in suppress- cious crimes, which could not be ex. ing the riots, the progress of the mal. ceeded in malice or depravity, and contents since the last measure for which, indeed, scarcely fell short of checking them had been adopted by high-treason. That the opinions disse. the legislature,and the important truth, minated by some persons who attributed which was known not only to the go- the mischiefscomplained of to ministers, vernment, but to every member of the might, at the present awful crisis, be legislature, that the system of organic attended with the most mischievous efsation which had given that conspira- fects ;-that the assertions thus made cy its most alarming aspect, was de were wholly unfounded, and that in rived chiefly, if not solely, from the the districts where the riots were most administration of the oath taken by serious, it had been discovered that the conspirators. It had been sug- those who had been most active were gested by some persons, that milder not in want of work, but were anima. measures ought to have been tried be. ted to their lawless proceedings by fore resorting to the punishment of other motives than distress
. That it death ; but this was well answered by was absurd to talk of the law propoasking, whether the legislature should sed as offering an inducement to those have proceeded with experiments from who had already taken the oath to week' to week, and from month to pursue their course of iniquity, since month, to see how much property the act was not to have a retrospecmight be destroyed, or how many per. tive operation, and contained, more. sons assassinated? The information over, a clause of indemnity by which wbich government was daily receiving persons who should take the oath of from all parts of the country of the allegiance might be secured. To those increasing danger, precluded any de. who maintained that the law was too lay for the trial of experiments which sanguinary to have any good effect, could not be made but by risking the it was answered, that experience had lives of peaceable persons who had no decided against their opinion,—that a protection for their property, no secu. measure somewhat similar, which had rity from being murdered even on the been adopted to prevent the seduction highways, but in the vigorous interfe- of soldiers from their allegiance, had rence of the legislature.
That it was been attended with the best conseeasy to talk of delay and enquiry in quences, although in that case only the House of Commons ; but if gentle. one individual had been apprehended men were living in the disturbed dis- two days after passing the act, and tricts, and were daily or nightly threat. even, when capitally convicted, had ened or attacked by a band of ruf- been reprieved. The example, howfians, they would soon be convinced ever, such as it was, put a stop to the that this was not a moment for pro. commission of the offence; and there crastination. That it was right in this was every reason to believe that the case to make the punishment for the same effect would follow the execution conspiracy equal to that for the of. of the present measure. fence when actually committed, be A. strong opposition was made to cause something more than the crime of the bill. It was asserted that the
proposed law would violate every max- considered indispensable to the safety im of English jurisprudence that the of the country, and accordingly receiintention to commit a crime, and the ved the sanction of the legislature. actual commission of it, had in all But still every thing which had cases, except that of high-treason, been done was found ineffectual; the been distinguished from each other ; riots increased; the discipline and or. but it was now proposed to make the ganisation of the insurgents assumed conspiring to commit a murder an of. a more formidable aspect ; the
quanfence of the same magnitude with the tity of arms which they collected was actual perpetration of that crime.- every day becoming greater, and more That by the law as it now stood, pero vigorous measures still were imperiously sons administering unlawful oaths were demanded. Lord Castlereagh accordliable to seven years transportation, a ingly brought in a bill for the presersufficient punishment for the offence; vation of the public peace in the disbut if the administering or taking the turbed counties, and to give additionoath were to be pronounced a capital al power to the justices for a limited crime, the offender would naturally time for that purpose. His lordship, argue, that he might as well commit on introducing this bill, expressed the the crime which he had sworn to at- deep regret of himself, and his col. tempt, as refrain from it, since the pu. leagues that they were once more comnishment would in either case be the pelled to apply to parliament to aid That the provision for ex
the executive with new powers for empting from punishment those who preserving the public tranquillity, as confessed their guilt, and consented they had at one time earnestly hoped to take the oath of allegiance, would that by the ordinary course of law the be of no use, since the public could disturbances might have been effectu. have very little security for the good ally put down. The delay in propoconduct of such persons. It was the sing the present law had originated in business of ministers, before proposing a great measure in the above consider. such a law as this, to have tried the ations, and in the hopes which had effect of those already in existence; a been indulged that as several of the special commission ought to have been disturbed districts (the town of Notsent down for trying the rioters, and tingham in particular) had been re. when time had been allowed for ascere stored to a state of comparative trantaining the effect of such measures, quillity, no farther measures would be ministers, if they had found them in- required. But the disturbances had of effectual, might, with some propriety, late assumed a new character,--they have come forward with the present more nearly resembled military assohill, which, so long as no experiment ciations, and a strong desire to get had been made, could not, with due possession of arms had been manifest. regard to the principles of the consti- cd through the whole of the disturbed tution, be sanctioned by the legisla- counties. The danger thus became ture. That it was highly inexpedient more alarming; and the communicato resort to the ultimum supplicium fortions which had been lately received slight offences; such a system of le- from the lieutenant of the west rie gislation renders it impossible to punish ding of Yorkshire, and several other the highest crimes with that peculiar magistrates, not only stated the furand marked severity which they de- ther and alarming progress of the spi. serve.--The measure, however, not- rit of disaffection, but asserted that un. withstanding these objections, was less some additional powers were grant .
ed in aid of the law as it at present promptitude and vigour which the existood, they should find themselves un- gency required. Government had able to meet the difficulty ;-that it was thus done every thing in its power ; of more importance to look at the pre- and, in addition to the direct aid which sent aspect of the evil than at the cau. it had afforded the peaceable inhabit. ses which may have produced it ;-that ants, it had given every encouragea temporary failure of employment, ment to voluntary associations among and the high price of provisions, had, themselves for the protection of their in the first instance, united the me. lives and property.-The law to be chanics against their masters, but on now proposed was to be limited to the discovering their strength in this state disturbed counties ; and in point of of union, they had ventured to carry duration, was not to extend beyond their projects much farther than they the period at which it was probable originally intended ;—that they had at parliamcsit might be reassembled. last assumed a military character so That there were three points which marked by conduct and deliberation, the new law ought particularly to that it became impossible any longer embrace : First, a more effectual proto postpone measures of severity ; vision to keep the rioters from posThat the oath administered, and the sessing themselves of fire-arms ; se. purposes for which it was taken, pro- condly, a suitable provision to guard ved that the conspiracy was of a most against the effects of tumultuary diabolical nature; and that although meetings; thirdly, a clause to give the committee which had been ap more effectual power and more exten. pointed to enquire into the state of the sive jurisdiction to the magistrates of disturbed counties, had not thought it disturbed districts. That as it seemnecessary to enter into a minute detailed to be the great object of the riotof the crimes committed, enough had ers to get possession of arms, the bill been disclosed by them to justify an should provide, that the magistrates immediate interferance. That as to the be allowed to make a search in sus. existence and extent of the riots, no pected places, without previously tadoubt could be entertained either by king a deposition on the subject, as those who read the
they were now bound to do. As many mittee, or even by persons who had well-disposed persons would chearfully access only to the ordinary sources of have given up the arms in their possesinformation. That no addition should sion but for the fear which they enterbe sought to the power of the magi. tained of being visited with the venstrates unless a case of necessity were geance of the rioters, the act shouldalso made out ; but that every man ac- give the magistrates the power of callquainted with the state of the disturb. ing on the inhabitants to surrender the ed counties, and the transactions which arms in their possession, receipts being had lately taken place, agreed in opi- given for the same; an exception, nion that the powers which the present however, being made of those persons laws gave the magistrates, were totally who might require arms for the de. inadequate to the purpose of repressing fence of their property.--The next obthe disturbances;—That a great mili- ject was to disperse the rioters who tary force had been sent down ;-that might assemble for the purposes of the magistrates had done every thing in training and discipline ;--and there their power, but that even the military could be no doubt that as these bodies and civil authorities united, were, as the of men assumed the appearance of an law stood, unable to act with that army not under the controul of the si
vil power, it was the imperious duty the disorder was owing to temporary of the legislature to provide for put- or accidental causes. It was true, said ting them down. But the magistrates, he, that the state of the country, from as the law stood, could only read the the high price of provisions, and the riot-act, and order them to disperse want of employment for labour, was within an hour; and before that hour 'such as to increase the discontents. had expired, the rioters might proba. Under such circumstances, popular bly have accomplished their purposes. disorders must always increase they It was of importance, therefore, that grow up and flourish in a rank soil ; the bill should enable the magistrates but the diseases, for which a remedy instantly to disperse all dangerous as was now demanded, arose from causes semblies held either by night or by of a more general nature. They might day ; to arrest those who might refuse be ascribed to the efforts made in cer. to give obedience, and to bring them tain mischievous publications, calculato trial at the next quarter sessions ted to alienate the affections of the peo. for a misdemeanour. The next point ple from the laws and government of for consideration was, the limited ju. the country, and to stir them up to risdiction of the magistrates ; for, as measures injurious to the community, the law stood, the insurgents could, and ruinous to themselves. Mr Canby stepping from one county to an- ning, who had been a member of the other, defeat the ends of justice ; it committee, upon whose report the bill would be proper, therefore, to bestow was founded, declared his concurrence on the magistrates of the adjacent in the sentiments of Mr Wilberforce ; counties, a concurrent jurisdiction.- expressed his opinion, that the report The proceedings of the rioters would rather underrated than exaggerated thus be met in all the different shapes the extent of the disturbances, and in which they might assume, and the de. timated, that he would have proposed luded persons who had engaged in still stronger measures than those to this atrocious conspiracy, and who which the government had thought fit might otherwise be deterred from vio. to resort, had it not been for the lating their unlawful engagements, pledge given by ministers, that if other might return to a sense of duty when measures should be found necessary, they found themselves thus protected parliament should be reassembled withby the legislature.
out delay.--Sir Francis Burdett treat. Such was the exposition of the ed with ridicule the opinion delivered state of the country, and of the nature by Mr Wilberforce respecting the of the measures proposed, which was abuses of the liberty of the press, and given by Lord Castlereagh. In the the dangerous nature of the publica. course of the debate, Mr Wilberforce tions which had been circulated in spoke with contempt of the declama- the country, and expatiated at great tions which had been poured forth as length on the perils to which the rufto the causes of the riots, which, of fians, who had already perpetrated course, in the opinion of some persons, every sort of crime, were to be exposed were to be sought only in the conduct by the measure under consideration, of the administration, and in the com- Mr Canning madesome excellent ob. mercial distress which their measures servations on this subject. had occasioned. Mr Wilberforce de- honourable baronet had said, that if clared, that the disease was in his opi- the root of all those evils lay in the nion of a political nature ; and wished press and free discussion, there could it were possible for him to believe that be no remedy but stopping the press
and free discussion altogether. Now it was never intended the arms and the he had imagined that there was no rioters should meet together. Upon principle upon which people were the whole, he was prepared to approve more perfectly agreed, than that it was of the measures which were proposed; often necessary to compromise among and he expressed his hope that they evils, in order to produce the greatest would be found sufficient for the purgood. The liberty of the press and pose.” of free discussion should certainly be The arguments which were urged fostered and encouraged by every wise against the bill may be understood government, as the sources from which from the following summary :-That the greatest benefits to mankind fow. the supporters of the bill had looked But, at the same time, if they were merely to the surface of the evil—that pushed to an extreme by bad men, they wished to explain to the House from wicked motives, the law had only the present state of the disturbed power to correct the evils which might counties, without affording any inforbe derived from this perversion of a mation as to the causes of so unexamprinciple from which the greatest pled a conspiracy--that there was no good ought to be expected. As to occasion for the precipitation with the sympathy which might be felt by which it was intended to carry through some for the individuals who suffered the present measure, since it was known for their conduct in the recent disturb- that for some time past the riots had ances if the attention were exclu. neither increased in extent nor violence sively directed to the individual at the that the report which had been laid moment he was expiating his crime, before the House was, from the want and not at the time of his committing of parole evidence, quite unsatisfactoit, hard indeed must be the materials ry, and by no means such as to warof his heart who would not allow the rant the serious innovations on the law contemplation of such a wretch's suf- and constitution which were contemferings to efface for a moment the re- plated—that no such thing existed as collection of his guilt ; but the mea- a disciplined army in the disturbed sures proposed were not for the pur. counties--that not a regiment, not pose of punishing, but for the purpose even a company, such as the ministers of saving. It was to save the great described, could be found in any mass of the community from the evils part of the country—that the whole produced by those disturbances ; it of the distress in Nottinghamshire, was to save even the great mass of the Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cheshire, poor deluded people themselves, that originated in the impolicy of governthose measures were proposed. The ment, which had annihilated the com'evidence proved, that arins had been merce of the country--that no appear. stolen, and that men were seen drill ance of combination existed among ing at nights. Now, although it was the rioters--that, on the contrary, not proved that the men su drilled they were all disunited, and without were armed with the arms so stolen, any appearance of a settled purpose yet there could be very little doubt, that no projects were entertained that in time those arms would come against the constituted authorities or into their hands. It could hardly be the government-that the controversy supposed, that two such operations existed entirely betwixt the workmen should be going on in precisely the and their masters-that at Nottingsame part of the country, and yet that ham, by the ordinary operation of the