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conclusion in the present session of par- ther the language made use of by ministers liament: the mode of obtaining this ob- upon the subject of sedition, conspiracy, ject, whether by requesting a conference and treason, was not at least premature at on the subject with the Lords, or other the time it was uttered, and consequently wise, your Committee beg leave to submit that nothing had happened that could justo the judgment of the House-at the tify government in the steps they had tasame time, considering that the applica- ken, and the proceedings they instituted: tion would be merely to desire that the at present he had the satisfaction of thinkLords would allot more days, in a given ing, that these reports were ill founded ; time, than has been usually allowed for to remove all doubt, however, upon that this trial, if it could be done consistently subject, and to obtain complete informawith the dispatch of the other great and tion, were the objects of his motion. important concerns which engage their Parliament met early in December last, time and attention; and considering also and they were called together in a very the great length of the trial hitherto, and extraordinary manner: this of itself was the time during which it may still continue, matter of aların to the country; for they and all the circumstances attending this naturally concluded that it would not have case, your Committee cannot but hope been so assembled, had there not been that such a measure might with benefit and strong reasons for it. We were then under propriety, be adopted on the present oc- the apprehension of a foreign war. From casion.
that very moment parliament seemed so Resolved, That this House do meet as a taken up with that object, that they lost committee, to-morrow morning, in West- all curiosity with respect to the internal minster-hall
, at the trial of Warren Has- situation of this country; they took it for tings, esq.
granted, that every thing that was said by
ministers was true upon the subject of se. Debate on Mr. Sheridan's Motion rela. dition lurking in the country at the begintive to the Existence of Seditious Practices.] ning of the session: they took it for Mr. Sheridan rose to submit to the House granted, too, that every step taken to his promised motion; the object of which check it was just: this was a fraud upon would be for the House to resolve itself the public, and the House ought to feel it into a committee to inquire into the truth so, for he in his conscience believed, that of the reports of seditious practices in this the alarm was spread for the express purcountry. He should not attempt to prove, pose of diverting the attention of the pubthat there never existed any sufficient rea- lic for a while, and afterwards leading them son for apprehending the danger of the the more easily into a war. When minissedition, or that there had not been any ters called upon that House to strengthen act of insurrection in any part of the king the hands of government, they were always dom, to warrant the propagation of such bound to explain the real motives they reports: it was well known, that there had for asking for that assistance, in order never was any thing of that sort of conse- that the House, as the representatives of quence enough to merit the description the people, might be able to tell that peowhich had been given of it, or to create ple, whose lives and money were to be exthe alarm which followed. However, he pended, the reasons why they were to be perhaps might be obliged to retract that deprived of the rights they had before enopinion in consequence of the proofs that joyed; for he would maintain it as a might be brought forward before the com- maxim, that to strengthen the hands of mittee of inquiry, for which he intended government was necessarily, for a time, to move; if that should happen to be the to weaken the rights of the people; and case, he should be glad to see that minis- that to strengthen the hands of governters had only done their duty in spread- ment in carrying on a foreign war, without ing an alarm at a time of real danger, and informing the people of the real state of should be glad to praise them for their vi- the country, was making mere machines of gilance, however he might deplore the ne- them, was a conspiracy against the concessity that gave it birth. When he said stitution, and was laying down a plan by he should move for a committee to inquire which their liberties might be lost for ever. into those things, he did not wish to say With respect to the late supposed sediany thing upon the effect of such inquiry tion in this kingdom, and of that supposed at present; his object was to know in what temper for insurrection, and of the lurksituation this country really was, and whe- ing treason of which we had heard so much by hints and conjectures, there were thy gentlemen of the associations the three circumstances to be considered, and people of this country were called upon to three points of view in which the subject revile the French in expressions, and to might be placed. The first was, that the follow their system in practice, namely, to danger in this country had been real: se establish a government by clubs. He condly, that the danger was not real, but wished the House to reflect on what was that the whole was a false alarm, really likely to be the result of all this. The entertained by government, the effect of a people of this country were accused of a delusion successfully practised upon them; spirit of disaffection; many plots and conin which case the propagation, on their spiracies were said to be hatched ; and part, although unfortunate, was yet honest. now he, in his conscience, believed there The third was, that the whole was founded was not an iota of truth in any part of on a systematic plan, laid by government the charge to justify the apprehension for deluding the sense, and finally subdu- which government expressed at the coming the spirit, of the people. It was, in mencement of the session. What was to his opinion, the duty of parliament to re- be done? Institute a committee of in
gard the subject in these three points of quiry; for if there was any of this treason * view; and he saw in all of them no way or conspiracy lurking any where, it re
of proceeding with propriety but by insti. mained at this hour as undiscovered as at tuting a committee of inquiry. Let us the first moment when it was apprehended suppose, for instance, the whole evil was to be formed. These associations were really felt as ministers had described at formed, as it was said, for the protection the beginning of the session. What then of persons and property against republiwould follow? Most certainly, the adop- cans and levellers; and what were they tion of a committee of inquiry, in order about to do, and what in fact had they that a plan should be laid for our future been doing? First of all, they had been safety. What was the next thing to be employed to prevent the circulation of attended to, and the next view of the sub-Mr. Paine's book, and the Jockey Club, ject, supposing that ministers really ap- and to bring to punishment the distribuprehended danger, although in truth there tors of those publications-works which had not existed any ? Most certainly, that had for many months been spread all over a committee should be appointed to in the country by the connivance, as he quire, and that they might make their re- might say, of his majesty's ministers, and port upon the situation of the country, an- this, too, when one of those very minisnounce it to be in a state of safety, and ters had an opportunity of reflecting on calm the apprehensions of the public. In the impropriety of such publications, who the third point of view, that supposing the had himself formerly indulged a disposiwhole to be a mere device on the part of tion not to treat the high powers of this government, for the purpose of leading the country with that respect which was due people the more easily into a war with to them, and had, no doubt, repented of France, again he must say, that a com- that temper, and thoroughly changed his mittee should be appointed to inquire, in sentiments. What care I for the king's order that the public should know the de- birth-day. What is the king's birth-day ception which had been practised on them. to me? or some such coarse expression,
Mr. Sheridan observed, that we were had, he believed, been uttered by a noble at war with a great, a powerful, and hi.. duke sometime since. What, he asked, therto victorious republic; it was idle to had appeared of late to justify our dreadconceal the truth. He then came to the ful apprehensions ? He was not sure hints which had been thrown out by the at. that ministers felt any alarm at the time torney-general at the beginning of the ses- that they were endeavouring to alarm the sion concerning the plots and conspiracies country'; for how did the chancellor of the that were said to be formed in this country. exchequer act? In the course of the Had any thing of this been proved? Not summer he proceeded with due solemnity å syllable. But this made part of the sys- to take the weight on himself of the latem adopted by government ; and the borious office of Warden of the Cinque public were to be alarmed at the appre- Ports, and he conducted himself in that hension of the progress of French princi- situation in a manner equally pleasing to ples, in order that they might the more his hosts and to his guests, and returned readily be induced to go to war with the to town without any great apprehension French ; and by the conduct of the wor- of danger; but as the meeting of parliament approached, things became more many instances in which a panic had been and more alarming, until at last the whole communicated by one class of men to the country was said to be threatened with otherdestruction. The whole of this was a pa- -Sic quisque pavendo nic created by ministers, for the purpose Dat vires famæ; nulloque auctore malorum to which he had alluded before; this he Quæ finxere, timent. Nec solum vulgus inani feit no difficulty in saying, and he called Percussum terrore pavet : sed curia, et ipsi on ministers to deny it: he was so well Sedibus exiluere patres, invisaque belli convinced of the truth of it, that he would Consulibus fugiens mandat decreta senatus. venture to affirm, that if all the magis- His hon. friend (Mr. Windham) had trates appointed under the new police bill becn panic-struck, and now strengthened were to appear at the bar of that House, the hand of government,-he who, last they would not be able to give one instance session, to use a vulgar adage, had “ rolled of the existence of that sedition which mi- his majesty's ministers in the dirt.” At nisters had so often adverted to in calling that period his hon. friend was for pulling upon the House to support them. All off the mask of perfidy, and declaimed be requested of the House was, that a loudly against that implicit confidence, committee of inquiry should be appoint- which some had argued ought to be placed ed, or of ministers, if they said that such in ministers. He now thought such ara committee was unnecessary, to confess guments were impolitic, and no man was that they themselves had been deceived more strenuous for that confidence which upon the subject, and that what they ad- he had before with so much warmth revanced upon that topic some time since, probated. Another friend, Mr. Burke, they were now ready to retract. This, to whose doctrines Mr. Windham had behe said, was due to the public ; for the come a convert, had also been panicpeople of this country ought not to be struck. He had been so affected, that he practised upon by fraud; they were a ge- saw nothing but a black and clouded sky; nerous and a brave people; and he believed a bleak opposition, where there was not a that if this country were to be invaded by shrub or bush to shelter him from the a foreign enemy, it would only increase gloomy aspect of public affairs; but he our energy and stimulate our exertion. had taken refuge in the ministerial gabarHe must therefore say, that to accuse dine, where he hoped for security from the them of seditious motives was highly un- approaching storm. just, as well as indecent. This panic had He had now dismissed the two first already had a great effect; and indeed, it parts of the subject, and came to the was much too general an impression to question, whether ministers had spread proceed from real danger ; a general those alarms, for purposes which they did panic was always created by phantoms not avow. It would be with great relucand imaginary evils. It had been al- tance, that he should put that construction ways so in the panics of armies, for upon their conduct ; but there had been instance ; he believed that there was such encouragement given to reports of a not to be found in history an instance in certain nature, that he hardly knew how which the panic of an army had proceeded to avoid saying, that these alarms were from real danger; it had always proceeded created for very dangerous purposes: ineither from accident or some stratagem of deed, he could not refrain from saying, the enemy. Indeed, the thing bore evi- that there appeared on the part of minisdence for itself; had the danger been real, ters, first, a desire to inflame the minds of there must have been a difference of opi- the people to prepare them to go to war nion as to the amount of it; for while with France; secondly, an inclination to there was a difference in the size and cha- divert the public mind from the quesracter of the understandings of men, there tion of parliamentary reform, for the must be a difference in their opinions : purpose of concealing the apostacy of but those who believed any thing upon certain individuals, who do not choose to the tales of sedition which he had before be put to the test and tried by the public alluded to, believed every thing that was upon the standard of their own professaid about it; and that of itself proved its sions. As to the first of these points, he fallacy. There were numerous instances need only refer to the speech of the recorded, both in prose and verse, where chancellor of the exchequer himself, who nations had been misled, and had acted had said, at an early stage of the discusupon such false alarms. There were sion of that subject, that he believed the public rather reproached government for great pomp and form, on Saturday mornsupineness, than blamed it for its promp- ing. At night all the mail coaches were titude in going to war. This was a mode stopped; the duke of Richmond stationed of bespeaking the opinion of the public; himself, among other curiosities, at the and he could not help saying it appeared Tower; the lord mayor of London had to him, from that and other things, that found out that there was, at the king's attempts were made to inflame the pub- arms in Cornhill
, a debating society, lic mind with regard to France. He was where principles of the most dangerous surprised to hear it said by one right hon. tendency were propagated, where people gentleman that the only consolation that went to buy treason at sixpence a head, could arise from the death or murder of and where it was retailed to them by the the late unfortunate Louis, was, that it glimmering of an inch of candle, and five would rouse the indignation and animo minutes, to be measured by a glass, were sity of mankind against France. This allowed to each traitor to perform his part was a consolation arising from inhumani- in overturning the state. And yet coarse ty, that he did not envy; he knew there and ridiculous as they were, these things were those who did not mourn that un- had their effect with the public for a time happy event; there were those who did and certainly did create a general impresnot interest themselves to avert that mis- sion of fear.—Here Mr. Sheridan entered fortune. But those who loved freedom, into a detail of many circumstances and or cherished liberty, must ever deplore stories, founded upon false alarms in sevethe transaction, because by one act they ral parts of the kingdom: first, when the had armed despotism, and given a fatal alarm began, carts, waggons, and coaches, blow to the general interests of mankind. were said to arrive daily and hourly at Such was his opinion now, and such it al- the Tower, filled with traitors froin difways had been upon that subject.-With ferent parts of the island, and ministers regard to the other motive of ministers, were applauded for their prudence and namely, that of diverting the attention of activity in the service of the state. Not the public from the question of parlia- one word of truth in the whole case! not mentary reform, he believed in his con- a being brought to the Tower—not a bescience that there was a design of that ing charged with treason ! The whole nature entertained by ministers which had was a miserable fabrication to deceive the succeeded for a time; but all this was credulous. Suspicion, indeed, had been temporary, for the people were not to be entertained; and he believed that many deluded 'for ever. God forbid they letters had been stopped at the post-office, should! God forbid that a brave nation and he had no doubt that many of his should be blinded for a long time by a few were among the number. He did not individuals, and that a whole country wish to talk of himself, but as so much should be false to itself, and destitute of had been said upon the subject of cor'honour, because an individual or two had respondence with foreign powers, and as betrayed their character, and because a hints were thrown out in various chanfew persons were interested in propagat- nels, under the direction and encourageing false alarms! That was not to be ex- ment of ministers, that he and others pected; indeed, the deception was too with whom he agreed on public subcoarse in its nature to last for any length jects, held improper correspondence of time, and the reports were too ridicu- with other powers, he trusted the House lous about plots, conspiracies, and trea- would excuse him for adverting to sons, to be long credited. How stood himself, and saying, that if government facts upon this occasion ? A noble duke should think it worth their while, he (the duke of Richmond) had formerly should not have the smallest objection to been of opinion, that there was nothing publishing every word in every letter he to be seen but danger for want of a par- ever wrote upon the subject of politics. liamentary reform ; but he had so elevated This he did to refute at once all the cahimself of late upon fortifications of his lumnies which had been spread upon that own creating, and availed himself of his subject. He had not the least doubt but great power of discernment, that he was that he might safely say the same thing now able to discover plots, conspiracies, I of others who had been slandered in the and treasons, under the garb of a parlia- same way. There was a paper drawn up mentary reform, or under any reform. by him, which he had no ditticulty in sayThe alarm had been brought forward in ing he should be glad to avow every (VOL. XXX. ]
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where, and on any occasion, and this he | the people of this country as they could, said in order that it might be understood and that attempts had been made to poithat no apprehension of misconstruction son the New River. There was no doubt should deter him from saying he wished but that these things appeared now to be it to be published'; he was confident it too ridiculous to be believed ; and yet was not repugnant to the principles of many gave credit to them, insomuch that justice and humanity. This related to the proprietors of the New River were the subject of the trial of the late king of obliged to advertise in all the newspapers France. He said this in hopes of defeat- the falsehood of that report. Was this ing the purposes of those who were so no hardship, or did it not show a shamemalicious as to insinuate, from the most ful disposition to impose upon the public unworthy motives, that there existed a and to work up the people of this country faction in this country connected with its into fury against the French? In farenemies. He could have wished that there ther confirmation of this, he referred the should not have been any necessity for his House to the gross, clumsy calumny of declaring, that he abhorred the principle the various newspapers which were pub. of the decree of the National Convention lished from day to day, under the authoof France of the 19th of November. No. rity of' administration, where every thing thing should have deterred him from have that had any relation to the French was ing written his sentiments upon such sub- abused without mercy: by this the French jects. Nothing, he hoped, would deter were given to understand, for many ministers from publishing them at some months, that our court was at enmity future day, as there was no doubt but with them. This also was part of the that they had kept copies of them, and system of delusion which had been pracvarious other letters, at the post-office. tised, in order to bring about a rupture
He then came to take notice of the between the two countries. There was manner in which government had pro- one paper in particular, said to be the ceeded to create the alarm to which he property of members of that House, and had alluded. They had advertised Mr. published and conducted under their imJohn Frost and captain Perry. The pub- mediate direction, which had for its motto lic were to look upon these two gentle a garbled part of a beautiful sentence; men as traitors : 1001. each was to be when it might with much more propriety given for apprehending them. One of have assumed the wholethem, Mr. Frost, was at this hour in this, -Solem quis dicere falsum country, under bail, and ready for his Audeat? Ille etíam cæcos instare tumultus trial, if he was to be tried; and the other | Sæpe monet, fraudemque et operta tumescere was charged only with having printed in
bella. the Argus what the chancellor of the ex- But it was not the authority of governchequer had himself delivered in a speech ment alone that he rested upon, when upon the subject of parliamentary reform. he made these observations. An insurHe should not have mentioned these rection was said to be planned by corthings, but to prove that great pains had rupting the soldiers, and this turned out been taken to carry on a system of delu- to be the sum of sixpence given for porsion. There was another fact, which was ter in Edinburgh: now, what the scarcity too extraordinary to be omitted. A story of money might be in that country, he had been trumped up, that there was a could not telì; but this was very clear, plan for taking the Tower by the French; that the system of corruption had not after which, the whole of our constitution been carried to any very great extent. He was to be overturned, and the royal fa- then alluded to the burning Mr. Dundas mily were to be murdered. At the head in effigy by the people of Scotland, to of this plot was to be placed that most which circumstance he imputed the soreexecrable character, Marat, whom the ness that the right hon. gentleman had French would have done well long ago to displayed in the account he had given of have removed, and which they would the pretended insurrections in that counhave been able to accomplish, had they try. It was said that Rotundo, a very not joined to him Robespierre, and others notorious ruffian from France, had been of a different character. This fiction was in England, and no doubt for execrable not enough; for we were told that there purposes; but he was not sent here on a were certain people in pay by the French sanguinary embassy ; but fled merely to for the purpose of destroying as many of elude the hand of justice. There were