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lawyers of eminence, — by whom the public tranquillity bad been disturbed ? Other meetings had been held without molestation : why then was this meeting singled out for the inopportune vigor of the magistrates ? If it threatened danger, why was it not prevented by a timely exercise of authority? If Hunt and his associates had violated the law, why were they not arrested before or after the meeting? Or if arrested on the hustings, why not by the civil power? The people were peaceable and orderly; they had threat. ened no one; they had offered no resistance.

Then why had they been charged and routed by the cavalry? It was even doubted if the Riot Act had been duly read. It had certainly not been heard ; and the crowd, without notice or warning, found themselves under the flashing swords of the soldiery. Throughout the country, "the Manchester Massacre," as

it was termed, aroused feelings of anger and in Meetings and petitions for dignation. Influential meetings were held in many inquiry.

of the chief counties and cities, denouncing the conduct of the magistrates and the government, and demanding inquiry. In the manufacturing districts, the working classes assembled, in large numbers, to express their sympathy with the sufferers, and their bitter spirit of resentment against the authorities. Dangerous discontents were inflamed into sedition. Yet all these excited meetings were held peaceably, except one at Paisley, where the magistrates having caused the colors to be seized, riots and outrages ensued. But ministers were hard and defiant. The Common Council of the city of London addressed the prince regent, praying for an inquiry, and were sternly rebuked in his reply. Earl Fitzwilliam, a nobleman of the highest character, who had zealously assisted the government in the repression of disorders in his own county, joined the Duke of Norfolk and several other noblemen and gentlemen of the first importance, in a requisition to the high sheriff of the county of York, to call a meeting for the same purpose. At this meeting he attended and spoke ; and was dismissed from his lord-lieutenancy.: Hitherto the Whigs had discountenanced the radical reformers; but now the rigors of the government forced them to make common cause with that party, in opposing the measures of the executive.

1 The evidence on this point was very confused. Earl Grey, after reading all the documents, affirmed that the Riot Act had not been read. Lord Liverpool said it had been completely read once, and partly read a second time. Lord Castlereagh said the Riot Act had been read froin the window of the house in which the magistrates were assembled. This not being deemed sufficient, another magistrate went out into the crowd to read it,

nd was, trampled under foot. Another vainly endeavored to read it at the Justings after the arrest of Mr Hunt.

Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 4, 51, &c.; Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii. 249, et seq.; Ann. Reg., 1819, p. 106; Trial of Mr. Hunt and others, 1820; Ann. Reg., 1820; Chron., 41; Barn. and Ald. Rep., iii. 566; Papers laid before Parliament, Nov. 1819; Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 230 (Mr. Hay's statement); Bamford's Passages from the Life of a Radical, i. 176-213; Prentice's Manchester, 160.

In the midst of this perilous excitement, Parliament was assembled, in November; and the Manchester Meeting of

Parliament, meeting was naturally the first object of discus

Nov. 230, sion. Amendments were moved to the Address, in the Lords by Earl Grey, and in the Commons by Mr. Tierney, reprobating all dangerous schemes, but urging the duty of giving just attention to the complaints of the people, and the propriety of inquiring into the events at Manchester. It was the object of the Opposition to respond to the numerous meetings, petitions, and addresses, which had prayed for inquiry; and to evince a spirit of sympathy and conciliation on the part of Parliament, which had been sig.


1 Ann. Reg., 1819, p. 109.

2 Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii. 263-272; Ann. Reg., 1819, p. 113, and Lord Grey's observations; Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 11-15, The resolutions of this meeting, without condemning the magistrates, merely demanded inquiry.

8 Lord Liverpool, writing to Lord Sidmouth, Sept. 30th, 1819, said:* As far as the Manchester business goes, it will identity even the respectable part of the opposition with Hunt and the radical reto mers." — - Lord Silmuruth's Life, iii. 270.

+ Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 4. 51: Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii. 237, et seg.

nally wanting in the government. Earl Grey said, “there
was no attempt at conciliation, no concession to the people ;
nothing was attended to but a resort to coercion, as the only
remedy which could be adopted.”—“The natural consequen-
ces of such a system, when once begun, was that it could not
be stopped : discontents begot the necessity of force: the
employment of force increased discontents: these would de-
mand the exercise of new powers, till by degrees they would
depart from all the principles of the constitution.” It was
urged, in the language of Burke, that “a House of Commons
who, in all disputes between the people and administration,
presume against the people, - who punish their disorders,
but refuse even to inquire into the provocations to them,
this is an unnatural, a monstrous state of things, in such a
But conciliation formed no part of the bard policy of min-

isters. Sedition was to be trampled out. The

executive had endeavored to maintain the peace of the country; but its hands must now be strengthened. In both Houses the amendments were defeated by large majorities; and a similar fate awaited distinct motions for inquiry, proposed, a few days afterwards, by Lord Lansdowne in the Lords, and Lord Althorp in the Commons.? Papers were laid before Parliament containing evidence

of the state of the country, which were immedi

ately followed by the introduction of further measures of repression, -- then designated, and since familiarly known, as the “Six Acts." The first deprived defendants in cases of misdemeanor of the right of traversing: to wbich Lord Holland induced the chancellor to add a clause, obliging the attorney-general to bring defendants to trial within twelve months. By a second it was proposed to enable the court,

1 In the Lords there were 159 for the Address, and 34 for the amend. ment. In the Commons, 381 for the Address, and 150 for the amendment.

Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli., 50, 228. 2 Nov. 30th. Contents, 47; Non-contents, 178. Ayes, 150; Noes, 323, - Ibid., 418, 517.

The Six



on the conviction of a publisher of a seditious libel, o order the seizure of all copies of the libel in his possession, and to punish him, on a second conviction, with fine, imprisonment, we were banishment, or transportation. By a third, the newspaper stamp-duty was imposed upon pamphlets and other papers containing news, or observations on public affairs ; and recognizances were required from the publishers of newspapers and pamphlets for the payment of any penalty. By a fourth, no meeting of more than fifty persons was permitted to be beld without six days' notice being given by seven householders to a resident justice of the peace; and all but freeholders or inhabitants of the county, parish, or township, were prohibited from attending, under penalty of fine and imprisopinent. The justice could change the proposed time and place of meeting; but no meeting was permitted to adjourn itself. Every meeting tending to incite the people to hatred and contempt of the king's person, or the government and constitution of the realm, was declared an unlawful assembly; and extraordinary powers were given to justices for the dispersion of such meetings, and the capture of persons addressing them. If any persons should be killed or injured in the dispersion of an unlawful meeting, the justice was indemnified. Attending a meeting with arms, or with fags, banners, or other ensigns or emblems, was an offence punishable with two years' imprisonment. Lecture and debating rooms were to be licensed, and open to inspection. By a fifth, the training of persons in the use of arms was prohibited ; and by a sixth, the magistrates, in the disturbed counties, were empowered to search for and seize arms.

All these measures, except that for probibiting military training, were strenuously opposed in both Houses. They were justified by the government on the opposed in ground of the dangers which threatened society. It was argued by Lord Castlereagh, “that unless we could reconcile the exercise of our liberties with the preservation of the public peace, our liberties would inevitably perish."

The bills


It was said that blasphemous and seditious libels were undermining the very foundations of society, while public meetings, under pretence of discussing grievances, were assembled for

purposes of intimidation, and the display of physical force. Even the example of the French Revolution was not yet considered out of date, but was still relied on in justification of these measures. On the other side, it was contended that the libel laws were already sufficiently severe, and always liable to be administered capriciously. Writings, which at one time would be adjudged innocent and laudable, at another would be punished as subversive of the laws and constitution. Zealous juries would be too ready to confound invectives against ministers with incitements to hatred and contempt of established institutions. The punishments proposed were excessive. Transportation had hitherto been confined to felonious offences; and banishment was unknown to the laws of England. Such punishments would either deter juries from finding persons guilty of libel: or, if inflicted, would be out of all proportion to the offence. The extent of the mischief was also denied. It was an unjust reproach to the religion of the country to suppose that blasphemy would be generally tolerated, and to its loyalty, that sedition would be encouraged.

To the Seditious Meetings Bill it was objected that the constitutional right of assembling to discuss grievances was to be limited to the narrow bounds of a parish, and exercised at the pleasure of a magistrate, — probably a stanch supporter of ministers, jealous of popular rights, and full of prejudice against radicals and mob orators.?

These discussions were not without advantage. The monstrous punishment of transportation was withdrawn from the Seditious Libels Bill; and modifications were ad. mitted into the bill for restraining seditious meetings : but

1 See especially Speech of Lord Grenville, Nov. 30th, 1819, on Lord Lansdowne’s motion for inquiry. — Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 448.

% Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 343, 378, 594, &c.

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