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THE RIGHT HON. VISCOUNT MELBOURNE,
FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY,
LIBERTY OF THE SUBJECT
AS AFFECTED BY
THE ATROCIOUS SYSTEM
IMPRISONMENT FOR DEBT.
BY ROBERT GORDON, Esq.
J. BRADLEY, GREAT TITCHFIELD STREET;
SIMPKIN & MARSHALL, STATIONERS' COURT.
"The English never be enslaved, but by their
THE Letter of the 7th of July, which I had the honour of addressing you, on the atrocious system of imprisonment for debt, did not, I find, prevent the Lord Chancellor from moving the second reading of the bill, ludicrously called “A Bill for the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt." This event was unfortunate, not for the victims that are pining in dungeons; for, a petition to the king's Secretary of State will at once set them free; but for those persons who are engaged in the all-important duty of administering the laws of this country.
It could not be too early stated, my Lord Melbourne, not for your Lordship's information, because you are already apprized of the fact, but for the information of the public, before whom this letter will shortly appear, that at the moment, and for four days previous, the Lord Chancellor
had in his possession, a copy of the "letter" above alluded to.
As the statements, allegations, and sound reasoning contained in that "letter" went to demonstrate that, without the most flagitious violation of every law, human and divine, no such atrocious system as that of "imprisonment for debt," ever could exist in any civilized country, I did hope, that its calm and dispassionate perusal would have prevented his Lordship from risking the stability of an Administration, high in the confidence of the king, and equally high in the confidence of the people.
You, my Lord Melbourne, know that on the 7th of July, a copy of that "letter" was, by my direction, transmitted to you. And, my Lord Melbourne, I allow myself to believe, that you also know, that copies were also transmitted the same day to your illustrious colleagues,-the Lord Chancellor, and Lord John Russell.
Before entering upon an examination of the speech reported to have been made by the Lord Chancellor, on moving the second reading of that
Bill," I beg most distinctly to be understood as not, by any means, identifying his Lordship, personally, with the opinions and doctrines hastily advanced in that "speech." That his Lordship had not read the first letter I had the honour of addressing your Lordship, when he made that "speech," is evident, from the letter of acknowledgment for the receipt of it, with which he honoured my publisher. The opinions and doctrines, therefore, if advanced by his Lordship in that
speech," stand exclusively chargeable to the base
misrepresentations which had been made to him. That his Lordship has since read that "letter,”— that it has made an honourable impression on him, and, that, he deeply and sincerely regrets that he had not earlier read it, and made himself acquainted with its contents, I have good and solid reasons for believing.
It is the misfortune,-and has ever been the misfortune of men in power in this country, from the earliest ages, never, with respect to grievances, to hear the truth-until the fatal consequences, invariably resulting from them, break suddenly and irresistibly in upon them. This is a state of things which ought not to be. They ought to listen, in order to learn ;-they ought to know, in order to guard.
"Ruin from man is most conceal'd when near,
And sends the dreadful tidings in the blow!"
My attention was first directed to the atrocious system of "imprisonment for debt," by a friend, whose wife, a young and beautiful woman, fell a sacrifice to the fright of his arrest! Enraged with a system to which he owed an everlasting anguish, he determined to destroy it. He communicated to me his plan,-which was ingenious and harmless, and would have proved decidedly effectual. It was, to collect among his tenants-and the tenants of a number of his friends-about 5,000 persons, who would, on certain terms, consent to be sent to prison on executions taken out on warrants of attorney, for 207. each. I highly, I confess, approved of the "plan";-it was mild, temperate, and in no way injurious to the imme