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Compare the situation and resources of this country, feeling for the burdens of the country, which must be felt by the poor and industrious to a certain extent, and deploring their necessity, as they must obstruct the increasing wealth of the country. Look also at the manufactures and trade and revenue, and compare it with the expense of the war. Compare the annual expenditure of twenty or twenty-five millions sterling, to the enormous sum of twenty-seven millions sterling per month, or three hundred and twenty-four millions per annum, the sum yearly expended by France. After you have made these comparisons, tell me whether you will lay aside your exertions, under the peculiar circumstances in which you are now placed. You have laid on taxes unprecedented in their amount, but at the same time having the satisfaction to know that they are borne by the inhabitants of this country without any material severe pressure. You are provided therefore with the most ample and liberal supplies for the present campaign. But is that the case with France? No. Every month, every week, is an additional strain of the new machine, and they are not provided with any of that enormous expense which I have mentioned, but must raise it all by forced means, by requisitions, by robbery, and plunder. I have trespassed too long on the patience of the House. I conclude by observing again, that I have to hope for a more favourable order of things, and I have no reason to be satisfied with any attempt at negotiation at this moment: but by a vigorous prosecution of the war for a short time longer, we have every reasonable prospect that we shall be able to procuré for ourselves a solid, permanent, and honourable peace.
The resolution was rejected: the House dividing on the order of the day, moved by Mr. Windham,
November 10. 1795.
THE House having proceeded to the order of the day for taking into consideration His Majesty's late proclamation against seditious meetings,
Mr. PITT rose and said,
That the circumstances, upon which he meant to ground the proceedings of that night had made so deep an impression on the mind of every gentleman in that House, as well as on that of every man in the country, that it would not be necessary for him to make any comments on them. The public had seen with becoming indignation, that a virtuous and beloved sovereign had been attacked in the most criminal and outrageous manner, and at a time too when he was in the exercise of the greatest and most important function of kingly capacity, when he was going to assemble the great council of the nation: that great, and indeed only resource against every national evil. The first impulses of every man's mind, after an attack so immediately directed against the life of the King of these realms, must be those of horror and detestation of the wicked, the diabolical wretches, who in contempt of the respect and reverence due to the sacred character of their sovereign-in contempt of the whole legislature, by a kind of concentrated malice, directed a blow at once at its three branches, in attempting to assassinate a mild and benignant monarch, who was the great cement and centre of our glorious constitution. In contemplating this calamity, the House would feel that some correction must be given to the laws, at present in force against such crimes; means must be found to repress the spirit which gave birth to so daring an outrage, and to prevent such unprecedented consequences of sedition, and of sedition too leading to assassination by the most despicable, as well as the most dangerous of all modes of attack, against the vital principles of the state, in the person of the sovereign.
If, under this first impression, every man should think him
self called upon (as he was sure would be the case) by the loyalty and allegiance he owed to the sovereign office, and by affection to the person of the sovereign, by the reverence due to religion, by self-preservation itself, and the happiness of society at large, to apply a remedy to those very alarming symptoms, another impression would arise out of it, equally forcible, and equally obvious, namely, that they would do this. business but by halves, and act carelessly and ineffectually, if they directed their attention only to that separate act, and not to those very mischievous and formidable circumstances, which were connected with it, in point of principles, and which produced it, in point of fact.
In endeavouring to lead the attention of the House to the remedies which appeared to him most likely to be efficient to this purpose, he would not advert to legal distinctions, but to prudential principles. If the House viewed the separate act with that eye of horror he conceived they must, and if, viewing it so, they felt the conviction, that a repetition of such enormities should be prevented immediately: the next point, that would impress itself upon their minds, as arising from the two former, was, that they should adopt some means to prevent these seditious assemblies, which served as vehicles to faction and disloyalty, which fanned and kept alive the flame of disaffection, and filled the minds of the people with discóntent. He had the most indubitable proof to support him ́în saying, that this sentiment pervaded not only that House, but all the kingdom; and that in no one instance which had ever occurred, were the Commons called upon more loudly by the wishes and prayers of an anxious community, than they were at this time by the whole people of England, to avert the ruin with which those assemblies menaced the country, by preventing their further proceedings. In full hopes that the House felt the force of these impressions as forcibly as he did, and would agree to some such measure as he had' alluded to, his motion of that day would go to that object. It might, perhaps, occur to gentlemen, that a law should be previously
made for the protection of His Majesty's person: but he informed them, that the other House had now under its consideration a bill to that effect, which he hoped would soon be laid before them for their concurrence. His motion, therefore, was not directed to alter or enforce the laws of the King's safety, but to prevent those meetings, to which all the mischiefs he had mentioned were attributable.
The meetings to which he alluded were, he said, of two descriptions; under the first of those descriptions, fell those meetings which, under a pretext (to which they by no means adhered) of petitioning parliament for rights of which they affected to be deprived, agitated questions, and promulgated opinions and insinuations hostile to the existing government, and tending to bring it into disrepute with the people. The other description, though less numerous, not less public, nor less dangerous, were concerted evidently for the purpose of disseminating unjust grounds of jealousy, discontent, and false complaints, against the constitution; of irritating the minds of the people against their lawful governors; and of encouraging them to acts of even treason itself. In these meetings every thing that could create faction, every thing that could excite disloyalty, every thing that could prepare the minds of those who attended for rebellion, was industriously circulated. Both these required some strong law to prevent them; for, if the arm of the executive government was not strengthened by such a law, they would be continued, if not to the utter ruin, certainly to the indelible disgrace of the country.
As to the first of those descriptions, no one would venture to deny the right of the people to express their opinions on political men and measures, and to discuss and assert their right of petitioning all the branches of the legislature; nor was there any man who would be farther from encroaching on that right than himself. It was undoubtedly a most valuable privilege, of which nothing should deprive them. But on the other hand, if meetings of this kind were made the mere cover or the pretext for acts which were as inconsistent with the liberty of the sub
ject as it was possible to imagine any thing to be; if, instead of stating grievances, the people were excited to rebellion; if, instead of favouring the principles of freedom, the very foundation of it was to be destroyed, and with it the happiness of the people; it was high time for the legislature to interpose with its authority.
This consideration, he confessed, occasioned considerable difficulty, but it did not create an insuperable dilemma. In applying the desired remedy, two things were to be looked tothe first, to correct the abuse of a sacred and invaluable privilege; the second, to preserve that privilege inviolate: caution, was therefore necessary, lest, on the one hand, they should encroach on the rights of the people, or, on the other, should suffer the abuse of those rights to become the instrument of their total extinction. This was a matter of great delicacy, and should be attended to in the detail; but the House would see, that at present the real question was, did not the pressure of the moment call for some remedy?
According to the opinions which he had collected, as well as he had been able, from others, and such as he had formed for himself, the great point wanted at this moment was a more clear and defined power in the magistrate, to disperse and put an end to all meetings likely to be productive of consequences such as were already mentioned. He by no means meant this power of dispersion to extend to meetings professedly and obviously lawful, and held for legal and constitutional purposes; but that, in every case of a numerous meeting, of whatever nature, or under whatever colour, notice should be given, so as to enable the magistrate to keep a watchful eye over their proceedings. He should therefore propose, that whatever be the pretext of a public meeting, (if the House was at all of opinion there was any necessity for the regulation of such meetings,) such notice should be given to the magistrate, in order that he might attend, for the preservation of the public peace; that he might watch the proceedings, to prevent any measure that might tend to attack, or to bring into contempt, either the sovereign himself