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a writing as any person is entitled to compose, to print, and to publishi.” When such opinions were declared from the bench, who can wonder if complaints were heard that the law punished as sedition the advocacy of parliamentary reform ? Palmer was found guilty and sentenced to seven years' transportation, not without intimations from Lord Aber. cromby and Lord Eskgrove that his crime so nearly amounted to treason, that he had narrowly escaped its punishment."
After these trials, the government resolved to put down the Convention of the friends of the people in Edinburgh, whose proceedings had become William marked by greater extravagance. Its leaders Jan. 6th and
7th, 1794. were arrested, and its papers seized. In January, 1794, William Skirving, the secretary, was tried for sedition, as being concerned in the publication of the auldress to the people, for which Palmer had already been convicted, and in other proceedings of the convention. He was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years' transportation. On hearing his sentence, Skirving said: * My Lords, I know that what has been done these two days will be rejudged ; that is my comfort, and all my hope.": That bis guilt was assumed and prejudged, neither prosecutor nor judge attempted to disguise. The solicitor-general, in his opening speech, said :—“ The very name of British Convention carries sedition along with it.” “ And the British Convention associated for what? For the purpose of obtaining universal suffrage : in other words, for the purpose of sub
i St. Tr., xxii. 237.
2 It was now called the British Convention of Delegates, &c. Its members were citizens: its place of meeting was called Liberty Hall: it appointed secret committees, and spoke mysteriously of a convention of emergency.
3 State Trials, xxiii. 391 - 602. Hume's Criminal Commentaries were compiled “ in a great measure for the purpose of vindicating the proceedings of the Criminal Court in these cases of sedition;” but “there is scarcely one of bis favorite points that the legislature, with the cordial assent of the public and of lawyers, has not put down. - Lord Cockburn's Mem., 161; and see his art. in Edins. Rev., No. 107, art. 7.
verting the government of Great Britain.” And when Skirving, like Muir, objected to the jurors, as members of the Goldsmith's Hall Association, Lord Eskgrove said, " by making this objection, the panel is avowing that it was their purpose to overturn the government.”
Maurice Margarot' and Joseph Gerrald, who had been Margarot and sent by the London Corresponding Society to Gerrnid, Jan. the Convention of the friends of the people at and March,
Edinburgh, were tried for seditious speeches and other proceedings, in connection with that convention; and on being found guilty, were sentenced to fourteen years' transportation. The circumstances attending these trials, and the extreme
severity of the sentences, could not fail to raise
animadversions in Parliament. The case of Mr. Jan. 31st,
Muir was brought before the Lords by Earl Stan
hope; 4 and that of Mr. Fyshe Palmer before the March 10ih. Commons, on a petition from himself, presented by Mr. Sheridan.
The cases of Muir and Palmer were afterwards more fully brought before the House of Commons by Mr. Adam. lle contended, in an able speech, that the offences with which they had been charged were no more than leasing, making, according to the law of Scotland, for which no such punishment as tran-portation could be inflicted. He also called attention to many of the circumstances connected with these trials, in order to show their unfairness; and
These trials noticed in Parliament.
i St. Tr., xxiij. 603. 2 Ibud., 805.
8 Mr. Fox said of Gerrald, in 1797, "his elegant and useful attainments made him dear to the circles of literature and taste. Bred to enjoyments, in which his accomplishments fitted him to participate, and endowed with talents that rendered him valuable to his country, : the punishment to such a man was certain death, and accordingly he sank under the sentence, the victim of virtuous, wounded sensibility."'-Parl. list., xxxiii. 617.
4 Parl. Hist., xxx. 1298. 6 Ibid., xxx. 1449.
Scots Act of Queen Anne, 1703, c. 4.
moved for a copy of the record of Muir's trial. The trials and sentences were defended by the Lord Advocate, Mr. Windham, and Mr. Pitt; and strongly censured by Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Fox. The latter denounced, with eloquent indignation, some of the extravagant expressions which had proceeded from the bench, and exclaimed, “ God help the people who have such judges!” The motion was refused by a large majority."
These cases were again incidentally brought into dis cussion, upon a motion of Mr. Adam respecting March 25th. the criminal law of Scotland. They were also discussed in the House of Lords, upon a motion of Lord April 15th. Lauderdale, but without
results. The prisoners were without redress, but their sufferings excited a strong popular sympathy, especially
Sympathy in Scotland. “These trials,” says Lord Cockburn, for the
prisoners. “ sank deep, not merely into the popular mind, but into the minds of all men who thought. It was by these proceedings, more than by any other wrong, that the spirit of discontent justified itself throughout the rest of that age.” This strong sense of injustice rankled in the minds of a whole generation of Scotchmen, and after fifty years, found expression in the Martyrs’ Memorial on Calton Hill.5
Meanwhile, some of the cases of sedition tried by the courts, in England, brought ridicule upon the other cases administration of justice. Daniel Isaac Eaton was tried for publishing a contemptible pamphlet inti- Daniel Istao tuled “ Politics for the people, or Hog's Wash,” in 24th, 1794. wbich the king was supposed to be typified under the character
1 Ayes, 32; Noes, 171; Parl. Hist., xxx. 1486.
8 Ibid., xxxi. 263. For an account of the sufferings of Muir and Palmer on board the hulks, see St. Tr., xxiii. 377, note. Palmer, Gerrald, and Skirving died abroad; Muir escaped to Europe, and died in Paris, in 1799 - Ann. Reg., 1797, Chron., p. 14, and 1799, Chron., p. 9. 4 Lord Cockburn's Mem., 102; Belsham's Hist., ix. 77-80. 6 Erected 1844.
of a game-cock. It was a ridiculous prosecution, character. • istic of the times: the culprit escaped, and the lawyers were laughed at. Another prosecution, of more formidable pretensions, was
brought to an issue in April, 1794. Thomas
Walker, an eminent merchant of Manchester, and Manchester, and others, six other persons, were charged with a conspiracy April 1794.
to overthrow the constitution and government, and to aid the French in the invasion of these shores. This charge expressed all the fears with which the government were harassed, and its issue exposed their extravagance. The entire charge was founded upon the evidence of a disreputable witness, Thomas Dunn, whose falsehoods were so transparent that a verdict of acquittal was immediately taken, and the witness was committed for his perjury. The arms that were to have overturned the government and constitution of the country, proved to be mere children's toys, and some firearms which Mr. Walker had obtained to defend his own house against a church and king mob, by whom it had been assailed. That such a case could have appeared to the officers of the crown worthy of a public trial, is evidence of the heated imagination of the time, which discovered con spiracies and treason in all the actions of men.
It was not until late in the session of 1794, that the minis. King's ters laid before Parliament any evidence of sedispecting
tious practices. But in May, 1794, some of the practices,
leading members of the democratic societies having Muy 12th, been arrested, and their papers seized, a message May 16th.
from the king was delivered to both Houses, stating that he had directed the books of certain corresponding societies to be laid before them. In the Commons, these papers were referred to a secret committee, which first reported upon the proceedings of the Society for Constitutional information,
1 St. Tr., xxiii. 1014. 2 Ibid., 1055. 8 Parl. Hist., xxxi. 471.
and the London Corresponding Society; and pronounced its opinion that measures were being taken for assembling a general convention " to supersede the House of Commons in its representative capacity, and to assume to itself all the functions and powers of a national legislature.” It was also stated that measures had recently been taken for providing arms, to be distributed ainongst the members of the societies. No sooner had the report been read, than Mr. Pitt, after recapitulating the evidence upon which it was founded, moved for a bill to suspend the habeas corpus act, which was rapidly passed through both Houses.
A secret committee of the Lords reported that “a traitorous conspiracy had heen formed for the subversion Lord's com of the established laws and constitution, and the mittee, May
, introduction of that system of anarchy and confusion 21st. which has fatally prevailed in France.” And the committee of the Commons, in a second report, revealed evidence of the secret manufacture of arms, in port of Secret connection with the societies, of other designs (Commons) dangerous to the public peace, and of proceedings ominously formed upon the French model. A second report was also issued, on the following day, from the committee of the Lords. They were followed by loyal addresses from both Houses, expressing their indignation at these seditious practices, and their determination to support the constitution and peace of the country. The warmest friends of free discussion had no sympathy with sedition, or the dark plots of political fanatics; but, relying upon the oyalty and good conduct of the people, and the soundness of he constitution, they steadily contended that these dangers were exaggerated, and might be safely left to the ordinary administration of the law.
Notwithstanding the dangers disclosed in these reports,
i Parl. Hist., xxxi. 495.
4 Ibid., 688.