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Colliers and
Balters, in
Scotland.

service, nor to send him out of the country without his consent." The negro in Scotland was now assured of freedom : but,

startling as it may sound, the slavery of native Scotchmen continued to be recognized, in that

country, to the very end of last century. The col liers and salters were unquestionably slaves. They were bound to continue their service during their lives, were fixed to their places of employment, and sold with the works to which they belonged. So completely did the law of Scotland regard them as a distinct class, not entitled to the same liberties as their fellow-subjects, that they were excepted from the Scotch Habeas Corpus Act of 1701. Nor had their slavery the excuse of being a remnant of the ancient feudal state of villenage, which had expired before coal-mines were yet worked in Scotland. But being paid high wages, and having peculiar skill, their employers had originally contrived to bind them to serve for a term of years, or for life ; and such service at length became a recognized custom. In 1775 their condition attracted the notice of the legislature, and an act was passed for their relief. Its preamble stated that “ many colliers and salters are in a state of slavery and bondage ;” and that their emancipation would remove the reproach of allowing such a state of servitude to exist in a free country.” But so deeply rooted was this hateful custom, that Parliament did not venture to condemn it as illegal. It was provided that colliers and salters commencing work after the 1st of July, 1775, should not become slaves ; and that those already in a state of slavery might obtain their free. dom in seven years, if under twenty-one years of age; ir ten years, if under thirty-five. To avail themselves of this enfranchisement, however, they were obliged to obtain a decree of the Sheriff's Court; and these poor ignorant

1 See Dictionary of Decisions, tit. Slave, iii. p. 14,549.

2 Forb. Inst., part 1, b. 2, t. 3; Macdonal. Inst., i. 63; Cockburn's Mem.,

8 15 Geo. III. c. 28.

Seven years

Slave-trade

informers.

slaves, generally in debt to their masters, were rarely in a condition to press their claims to freedom. Hence the act was practically inoperative. But at length, in 1799, their freedom was absolutely established. The last vestige of slavery was now effaced from the soil of Britain : but not until the land had been resounding for years with outcries against the African slave-trade. later that odious traffic was condemned ; and at and colouial

slavery. length colonial slavery itself - so long encouraged and protected by the legislature gave way before the enlightened philanthropy of another generation.

Next in importance to personal freedom is immunity from suspicions and jealous observation. Men may be Spies and without restraints upon their liberty: they may pass to and fro at pleasure : but if their steps are tracked by spies and informers, their words noted down for crimination, their associates watched as conspirators, — who shall say that they are free? Nothing is more revolting to Englishmen than the espionage which forms part of the adminis. trative system of continental despotisms. It haunts men like an evil genius, chills their gayety, restrains their wit, casts a shadow over their friendships, and blights their domestic hearth. The freedom of a country may be measured by its immunity from this baleful agency. Rulers who distrust their own people must govern in a spirit of absolutism; and suspected subjects will be ever sensible of their bondage.

Our own countrymen have been comparatively exempt from this hateful interference with their moral

Spies in freedom. Yet we find many traces of a system

1 39 Geo. III. c. 56.

2 Montesquieu speaks of informers as un genre d'hommes funeste." Liv. vi. ch. 8. And of spies, he says: -“ Faut-il des espions dans la monarchie? ce n'est pas la pratique ordinaire des bons princes." — Lir. xii. ch. 23. And again :—“L'espionage seroit peut-être tolerable s'il pouvait être exercé par d'honnetes-gens; mais l'infamie necessaire de la personne peut faire juger de l'infamie de la chose." - Ibid.

1104.

repugnant to the liberal policy of our laws. In 1764, vre see spies following Wilkes everywhere, dogging his steps like shadows, and reporting every movement of himself and his friends to the secretaries of state. Nothing was too insignificant for the curiosity of these exalted magistrates. Every visit he paid or received throughout the day was noted : the persons he chanced to encounter in the streets were not overlooked : it was known where he dined, or went to church, and at what hour he returned home at night."

In the state trials of 1794, we discover spies and informSples in 1794. ers in the witness-box, who had been active members of political societies, sharing their councils, and encouraging, if not prompting, their criminal extravagance. And throughout that period of dread and suspicion, society was everywhere infested with espionage.

Again, in 1817, government spies were deeply comproIn 1817. mised in the turbulence and sedition of that period. Castle, a spy of infamous character, having uttered the most seditious language and incited the people to arm, proved in the witness-box the very crimes he bad himself prompted and encouraged. Another spy, named Oliver, proceeded into the disturbed districts, in the character of a London delegate, and remained for many weeks amongst the deluded operatives, everywhere instigating them to rise and arm. He encouraged them with hopes that, in the event of a rising, they would be assisted by 150,000 men in the metropolis ; and thrusting himself into their society, he concealed the craft of the spy under the disguise of a traitorous conspirator. Before he undertook this shameful mission, he was in communication with Lord Sidmouth, and throughout his mischievous progress was corresponding with the government or its agents. Lord Sidmouth himself is above the suspicion of having connived at the use of covert incitements to treason. The spies whom he employed had sought him out and offered their services in the detection of crime; and, being responsible for the public peace, he had thought it necessary to secure information of the intended movements of dangerous bodies of men. But Oliver's activity was so conspicuous as seriously to compromise the government. Immediately after the outbreak in Derbyshire, his conduct was indignantly reprobated in both Houses; ? and after the outrages, in which he had been an accomplice, had been judicially investigated, his proceedings received a still more merciless exposure in Parliament. There is little doubt that Oliver did more to disturb the public peace by his malign influence, than to protect it by timely information to the government. The agent was mischievous, and his principals could not wholly escape the blame of his misdeeds. Their base instrument, in his coarse zeal for his employers, brought discredit upon the means they had taken, in good faith, for preventing disorders. To the severity of repressive measures, and a rigorous administration of the law, was added the reproach of a secret alliance between the executive and a wretch who had at once tempted and betrayed his unhappy victims.

i Grenville Papers, ii. 155.
2 St. Tr., xxiv. 722, 800, 806.

8 Supra, p. 143; Wilberforce's Life, iv. 369; Cartwright's Life, i. 209; Currie's Lite, i. 172; Holcroft's Mem., ii. 190; Stephens' Life of Horne Tooke, ii. 118.

4 Ibid., xxxii. 214, 284, et seq.; Earl Grey, June 16th, 1817; Hans. Deb., 1st Ser. xxxvi. 1002.

5 Bamford's Life of a Radical, i. 77, 158; Mr. Ponsonby's Statement, June 23d, 1817; Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xxxvi. 1114.

The relations between the government and its informers are of extreme delicacy. Not to profit by timely Relations information were a crime; but to retain in govern- utive with ment pay and to reward spies and informers, who informers. consort with conspirators as their sworn accomplices and encourage while they betray them in their crimes, is a practice for which no plea can be offered. No government, indeed, can be supposed to have expressly instructed its spies to instigate the perpetration of crime; but to be unsuspected, every spy must be zealous in the cause which he pretends to have espoused; and his zeal in a criminal enterprise is a direct encouragement of crime. So odious is the character of a spy, that his ignominy is shared by his employers, against whom public feeling has never failed to pronounce itself, in proportion to the infamy of the agent and the complicity of those whom he served. Three years later, the conduct of a spy named Edwards,

i Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii. 185. 2 16th and 230 June, 1817; Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xxxvi. 1016, 1111. 8 St. Tr., xxxji. 755, el seq.; 11th Feb., 1818; Hans. Deb., xxxvii. 338; Speeches of Lord Milton, Mr. Bennet; Feb. 19th and March 5th (Lords); Ibid., 522, 802.

in connection with the Cato Street Conspiracy, The spy Ed. wards, 1820. attracted unusual obloquy. For months he had been at once an active conspirator and the paid agent of the government ; prompting crimes, and betraying his accomplices. Thistlewood had long been planning the assassination of the ministers; and Ellwards had urged him to attempt that monstrous crime, the consummation of which his treachery prevented. He had himself suggested other crimes, no less atrocious. He had counselled a murderous outrage upon the House of Commons, and had distributed hand-grenades among his wretched associates, in order to tempt them

edo deeds of violence. The conspirators were justly hanger the devilish spy was hidden and rewarded. Infamy so great and criminal in a spy had never yet been exposed; but the frightfulness of the crime which his information had prevented, and the desperate character of the men who had ploited it, saved ministers from much of the odium that bad attached to their connection with Oliver. They had saved themselves from assassination ; and could they be blamed for having discovered and prevented the bloody design? The crime had been plotted in darkness and secrecy, and countermined by the cunning and treachery of an accom.

1 Ann. Reg., 1820, p. 30; Hans. Deb., 2d Ser., i. 54, 242; Lord Sid. mouth's Lite, iii. 216; Edinb. Rev., xxxiii. 211; St. Tr., xxxiii. 749, 754, 987, 1004, 1435.

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