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of sufficient magnitude to justify the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, which, properly speaking, was the only question for consideration before the House. That measure, he granted, was of considerable importance ; it was a remedy only to be applied when the emergency was so great as really to call for it. The fair question, therefore, which gentlemen were to put to their own minds, was simply this, whether the danger with which the constitution of the country was threatened by the practices now exposed, was, or was not, greater than any Janger which could result from putting into the hands of the executive government, a more than ordinary degree of power, for the purpose of resisting what they considered, and what parliament considered, a very dangerous conspiracy? The honour. able gentleman had carried his argument so far as to say, that if the bill passed, all the rights of the people, and all the privileges of parliament, would be at once destroyed--a doctrine which he could never admit, by whatever ability or eloquence it might be supported. On that point it was important for the consideration of the House, a point which had not yet been touched on by any of those who had argued the question, that the bill was limited in its duration ; that it was but a temporary measure, adapted to a present existing evil, and was to continue in force for little more than six months; and that it invested the executive government with a temporary discretionary power, to imprison suspected persons for that limited time, without bringing them to trial;- all the rights of the people, and all the privileges of parliament, remaining uninterruptedly the same, attaching all the time the same responsibility upon ministers to which they were liable in every other situation in which they acted, and equally answerable for any abuse of this power, if they should abuse it, as they were for the abuse of any other discretionary power which was vested in them. Stating the question in that view, which was the real and proper state of it, could any gentleman think that all the liberties of the subject, and all the privileges of parliament, would be so completely annihilated by the bill, as to make it a question, whether a member of parliament ought, or ought not, to give up his attendance in parliament, or the interest of his constituents? Hewould not do those honourable gentlemen the injustice to suppose that any of them thought so for a moment; and it would not be doing justice to their own characters, were they to make any such declaration.
The right honourable gentleman, and those who argued on the same side with him, had contended, that in this, and other measures of government, there appeared a strong imitation of the French system of procedure : upon what grounds they knew best : hitherto they had never taken the trouble of explaining them to the House. Wherein was the comparison to be found? He begged gentlemen to attend a little to the comparative state of the two countries. Here a case had been stated, and clearly made out, proving that there was a party in this country, whose avowed system aimed at the destruction of all civilised order, the annihilation of parliament, and the subversion of the constitution, by the introduction of Jacobinism, which had already proved so fatal to France, and at that moment threatened the dissolution of every established govrrnment in Europe ! Such being the case in this country, it was proposed to prevent the calamitous effects of this dangerous conspiracy, by the adoption of a legal measure, limited in its duration, and which the experience and wisdom of our ancestors had approved, and found highly beneficial. What, then, was to be compared to this in the situation of France, under the influence of the present ruling power in that country, miscalled a government ? - a power which, to support its reprobated, detestable, and presumptuous usurpation, had recourse to every stratagem that fraud, robbery, and injustice could suggest. It was, therefore, unfair to impose any such comparisons upon the House ; for, in the present instance, we were doing no more than resisting French crimes, by opposing to them English principles; and between them it would not be said, there could be found the least comparison, analogy, or imitation. The right honourable gentleman had next proceeded, in the climax of his imagination, to augur consequences the most portentous, ominous, and inauspicious, from the arguments of the 'right honourable gentleman * who sat near him; and, taking that to be the first step of the ladder which he supposed reared for the destruction of the constitution, seemed dreadfully afraid about the extent to which that reasoning might be carried; and on that point he had produced somewhat of an extraordinary kind of argument, which was, that, because all the measures which had yet been taken had proved ineffectual to check the progress of the evil they had been applied to remedy, we were not there. fore to persevere in endeavouring to overcome the evil by the application of means stronger and more efficacious. But here it might be asked, whether, if those measures had not been adopted, and the vigilance of government exerted, the evils complained of might not have been much greater now than they really were ? and whether, if no such steps had been taken during the last two years, we should have enjoyed the same tranquillity that had prevailed during that period? The fact was, if these measures had not been adopted, we should have been hurried much faster to the same scenes of mischief which had now been opened to our view, and from the dreadful consequences of which we had been saved by the vigilance of parliament, and the exertions of government, assisted by the prevailing opinions of the country.
The right honourable gentleman had then said, that if we dreaded all that our alarms had suggested, and found that the measures adopted last year had not succeeded in checking those parties, we ought not to persevere by more severe measures, when there was reason to think that such measures had been of little avail, and that those of a cooler and more moderate nature would have been more adequate: but to what did the right: honourable gentleman mean to apply those mild and moderate remedies ? Did he suppose that the progress of a Jacobin convention, were it to be once established in this country, was to be stopped, and its consequences avoided by indulgence and cons
* Mr. Windham.
cession ? or that indulgence and concession were fit to be applied as a remedy to so daring an attempt upon the existence of the constitation ? He might wish to preserve the British constitution, but that would be a thing impossible, if these societies met with indulgence or concession. Their own language clearly expressed, that they would make no compromise ; and it must be clear that no concession would satisfy them, short of a surrender of the British constitution. It must therefore appear that resistance, and the strongest resistance that could be made, was absolutely necessary, notwithstanding all that had been augured in so prophetic a strain against the adoption of severe measures, even in extreme cases. The right honourable gentleman had said, “ if there are such persons, to be sure you cannot like them ; but never imagine that persecution will get the better of their opinions, whatever they may be." If such toleration of opinions ought to be granted to persons of the description which the members of those societies proved to be, to what did it amount? It amounted to a toleration of the worst species of anarchy, sedition, and treason. In his idea of persecuting for political opinions, the right honourable gentleman need not suppose that there was any particular intention, by that bill, to go too great a length in that way ; and, once for all, to answer the question of “ where are you to stop?" It was not proper that the limit of their remedies should be ever declared, or that they should pronounce that this was the last remedy to which they would have recourse: he would at the same time say, that prosecution, in no instance, ought to extend beyond what the real necessity of the case required : and the temporary means proposed by the present bill might be supposed the best remedy in the present case.
Mr. Pitt said, he should next come to those points on which the right honourable gentleman seemed to have argued at a much greater length than he thought necessary, viz. the degree of necessity that existed, the proofs of that necessity, and the nature of the remedy applied to the case. Upon these several points, he conceived, the House was already perfectly satisfied; and he
could see no reason why the right honourable gentleman should have introduced into that part of his speech, so much in favour of the right which the people had to meet for legal purposes in a constitutional way, or their right to petition parliament for a reform in the representation, because these were points which had never been disputed, and had no connection whatever with the question before the House. With regard to the policy of such an application lo parliament, when that question came regularly before the House last year, he had fully declared his sentiments on that subject, and on a parliamentary reform, and his opinions still remained the same: but, surely, no person would presume to say, that there existed the most remote analogy between legal societies for obtaining reform in parliament, with an intention and desire legally and constitutionally to improve the representation, and that convention proposed by the Jacobin societies, whose object was the destruction of parliament, and not its improvement. That that was their design, was clearly proved by the authority of their own records: the bulk of them did not even pretend that reform was either their view or their wish ; such a measure was neither in their mouths, nor in their minds ; neither did their actions in any sort correspond with the actions of men who wished well to their country. To give any sanction to them, under the impression that their object was a legal and constitutional reform, was too ridiculous an idea to admit even of a moment's consideration : as well might they talk of giving their sanction to legal conspiracy and legal assassination, as imagine that those societies had any legal or virtuous purpose whatever in their system ! [To corroborate this argument, the Chancellor of the Exchequer read various extracts from the proceedings of the Society for Constitutional Information, and the London Corresponding Society.] These societies were, he said, the main springs of this destructive system, which called aloud for such immediate and such powerful resistance. What he had read from their own books, proved sufficiently, in his mind, that it was through hypocrisy they pretended their object was a parliamentary reform, and that they used