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the actual exercise of the powers which parliament has entrusted to the executive government, and to the effect of the known existence of such powers ready to be called into action when necessity requires it, and in representing the danger which would threaten the country were those powers to be withdrawn at the present moment. And the committee feel that they should ill discharge the trust reposed in them if they did not declare their own entire agreement in this opinion. With the fullest confidence in the general loyalty and good disposition, not only of those portions of the kingdom which have hitherto remained in a great degree untainted, but of by far the most considerable part of those very districts which are the chief scenes of the operations of the disaffected-a confidence which very recent experience has satisfactorily confirmed-they cannot refrain from submitting to your lordships, as the result of all the information they have received, that the time is not yet arrived when the maintenance of the public tranquillity, and the protection of the lives and properties of his majesty's subjects, can be allowed to rest upon the ordinary powers of the law.
The order of the day for continuing the suspension of the Habeas, Corpus Act being read on the 16th of June in the House of Lords, Lord Sidmouth rose, and after mentioning that the ministers of the crown had been disappointed in their hope of closing the operation, of the bill with the session of parliament, and had, thought it necessary, to propose a new enquiry, he went over the several facts
which had been reported to the committee, and had induced them to lay their discoveries before the House. Having descanted upon the accumulated proofs that there still subsisted very dangerous designs in different parts of the country, he said, that all which he asked was the adoption of the measure now proposed, if their lordships would agree with him in thinking it essential for the preservation of the constitution. those places where the schemes of the conspirators had been most advanced, the act had been put in execution, and the leaders were in custody, by which means their atrocious designs were defeated; and government had received information from Manchester and other places, that they should greatly deplore the withdrawing of these powers at the time they were most wanted. His lordship concluded with moving, that the bill for continuing the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act be now read a second time,
Lord Erskine asked, What were the causes of that disturbed state of the country which was the subject of the first report, and of the renewed one now before them? The causes were manifest in the universal, distresses of all classes of people from the stagnation of trade and manufactures, increased and embittered by a devouring revenue; and in the direction of the public mind under the pressure of such calamities, because the people in their turns, when looking to the removal of such distresses, examined the cause of them, which they attributed to their not having that share in the public councils which they thought themselves
themselves entitled to in the theory of the constitution. They might, said his lordship, be mistaken in this reasoning, but it was unjust to brand it as hostile to the government, when it had been over and over again maintained in parliament by the most illustrious statesmen, that a reform in the representation was the only possible security for our invaluable constitution. This alone had been the object of every one of the numerous meetings which had so much alarmed his majesty's ministers, and which they had taken such violent and dangerous measures to suppress.
Speaking of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, his lordship said, the House might depend upon it, and he spoke from an experience which scarcely ever belonged to any other man, that the administration of justice, instead of being strengthened by it, was sure to suffer in the extreme from the odium attaching even upon just prosecutions; and government might lay its account with being completely foiled in every attempt to produce order and obedience by judicial trials, as long as the Habeas Corpus Act remained suspended, and other measures of distrust and coercion were in force against the whole mass of the people.
Lord Redesdale, in his speech in favour of ministers, observed that a great deal had been said about spies and informers, and the infamy of employing such characters. But he would ask, whether in the history of the whole world an instance of the detection of a conspiracy of this kind could be found but by such means, It was
really ridiculous to decry the employment of such instruments under such circumstances. That practice was even more necessary now than on any former occasion, especially in 1793, for the secrecy and caution of the conspirators were so much greater.
Earl Grey, touching upon the argument in his speech on the opposite side of the question, said that he had thought that this practice had been condemned by orators and statesmen, and by great men of every age and nation; that it was a practice sanctioned only by the most despotic governments; that it poisoned the sources of confidence between man and man; and was destructive of domestic happiness and individual security. He regarded the employment of such engines as the great distinction between a free and a despotic government; but if these men, sent to penetrate into the designs of others were to impel them to the commission of crimes, what must be the state of society to sanction such a proceeding? He was himself persuaded that these disturbances might have been put down without the use of any such means; and he lamented to see in that House, as well as in the other, and in the whole community, a sort of apathy and disregard of the conduct of ministers, and a disposition to fly to force as a cure for those evils for which the law had appropriated milder and more efficacious remedies.
The Earl of Liverpool said, that the real question was, whether there did not exist, in the judg ment of that House, an organized conspiracy for overturning the government. In fact, it was not
confined to one town, one county, or one district. It pervaded seven or eight counties; and the disaffected were acting by associations, by correspondence, and by sending delegates from one meeting to another. With respect to the employment of spies, he affirmed, that whatever might be the language of orators or writers, the fact was, that in practice this weapon had always been employed. He allowed that considerable difficulty existed in the application of this principle; but it was almost impossible, without such means, to secure the information necessary for the public tranquillity. He then resorted to the peculiar character of the present disturbances, and concluded with calling upon their lordships, in the name of eternal peace, of good order, and of security and liberty, to adopt the proposed measure.
Some further observations were made by different lords, which it is unnecessary here to repeat. The question being at length called for, the result was, for the second reading of the bill,
On June 19th, the third reading of this bill was called for in the House of Lords. Several peers took the occasion of giving their sentiments on the subject, but nothing occurred to render their
On June 5th, Lord Castlereagh presented to the House of Comnions a message relative to seditious meetings, expressed in the same terms as that sent to the House of Lords, with a bag of papers accompanying it. His lordship said, that he should now confine himself to a motion of thanks to the Prince Regent, assuring him, that the House would take the papers into their immediate and serious consideration. After this motion was disposed of, le should submit that the papers should be referred to a select committee, to be confined to the same persons as were members of the last, except the late attorney-general who had ceased to be a member of that House; and in his stead he would propose the present solicitor-general.
Lord Castlereagh's first motion being agreed to, he next moved for referring the papers to a committee. Lord Folkestone moved, by way of amendment, to examine and arrange the same, and to report the substance thereof to the House," which was negatived. It was then ordered that a committee of secrecy, consisting of 21 members, be appointed; after
which Lord Castlereagh moved "That such members as were of the committee of secrecy appointed on the 5th of February last, and who are now members of this House, be members of the said committee." Sir J. Newport obSir J. Newport objected to the proposal, and by way of amendment gave a nomination almost entirely new. A discussion of some length followed, after which the House divided; For the original Motion 126, For the Amendment 66: Majority 60. The main question was then agreed to, and the solicitor-general was added to the committee.
Lord Folkestone then moved, "That it be an instruction to the said committee that they enquire particularly into the origin, character, and extent of the disaffection supposed to exist in the country, &c." which was negatived. Another motion was offered by the same noble lord, which was, to make it an instruction to the said committee that they enquire into the particular case of every person detained under the provisions of an act passed in the present session of parliament, &c.; which was also negatived.
The Second Report from the Committee of Secrecy of the House of Commons was to the following effect.
In forming an opinion on the present internal situation of the country, your committee could not fail to bear in mind the information laid before them, at an early part of the session, upon which their first report was founded.
The papers now communicated to the committee, continue the narrative of the proceedings of
the disaffected in the counties before referred to, viz. Lancashire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire (to which, part of Yorkshire and the towns of Birmingham and Stockport, must now be added), from the period of that report down to the present time.
Your committee find in these papers, not only a complete corroboration of the justness of the apprehensions, which they then expressed, but proofs, equally decisive of the continuance of the same machinations, and designs, breaking out into fresh acts of violence and insurrection, up to the present moment.
Your committee stated in their former report, that even where petitioning was recommended, it was proposed to be conducted in such a manner, by an immense number of delegates, attending in London at the same time, in several parties, attached to each petition, as might induce an effort to obtain by force whatever they demanded; and that a general idea seemed prevalent, that some fixed day, at no very great distance, was to be appointed for a general rising."
The first attention of your committee has been directed to the proceedings of the public meeting held early in March, in the town of Manchester. At that meeting, which consisted of persons assembled from various towns and populous villages in the vicinity of Manchester, as well as of the inhabitants of Manchester itself, it was proposed by the same leaders who had previously attracted the notice of your committee, that the petitioners, should assemble,
at the same place, on Monday, the 10th of that month, prepared to set out on a march to London, to present their petition themselves to the Prince Regent in person; that they should form themselves into parties of ten each (which arrangement was proposed with the professed view of not trans. gressing the law); and that they should supply themselves with provisions for the march, and with blankets for the purpose of sleeping on the ground.
At many other meetings previous to the 10th, which, though comparatively private, were yet numerously attended, it was represented to them, by their orators, that they would be surrounded by the police and the military, and that they would be an easy prey if they proceeded with out arms for their protection. They were assured, however, that their numbers, which, in the course of their progress, would amount to not less than 100,000, would make it impossible ultimately to resist them. It was stated that all the large towns in Yorkshire were adopting the same plan, that the Scotch were actually on their march, and that if the petitioners could once reach Nottingham, or Birmingham, the business would be done. They were advised to choose leaders over each subdivision of tens, fifties, and hundreds, and to appoint a treasurer to receive contributions, which were actually made in a great number of small sums, out of which fund they were taught to expect that each man would be supplied with a daily allowance.
A petition was accordingly pre
pared, with a copy of which every tenth man was furnished; and which concluded by stating to his Royal Highness, that, without the change which they demanded, they could neither support him, nor themselves;" and they were told, that if their petition was rejected, they must demand it; if still rejected, they must force it, and say they would be righted. It appears, that some of the persons apprehended, were fully prepared to act up to these instructions ; though it is to be presumed, that many of them had no very definite idea of the way in which their services were to be employed; and that even among their leaders, some of the more moderate reckoned rather upon intimidation, than upon the actual employment of force. At one of those more private meetings, however, which preceded the general assembly, one of those persons, who appeared to have most influence, avowed himself a republican and leveller; and professed his determination never to give up till they had established a republican government: the examples of the insurrection in the reign of Richard 2nd, and of the rebellion in Ireland in 1798, were held out, as objects of imitation; and the most violent of such declarations was generally received with the strongest marks of applause.
In consequence of these preparations, the public meeting proposed took place at the time appointed; and was attended by probably near 12,000 persons : many of these proceeded to the ground in regular order, with knapsacks on their backs; and notwithstanding the assembly was