Imatges de pàgina

on legal sentences in a state of perfect ignorance of the cir cumstances under which they are passed, thews not less of temerity than want of candour, and in any crisis of the affairs of a country is not only unkind but inflammatory. (Here Mr, Courtenay attempted to explain, that he was far from meaning to censure the sentence of the court of King's Bench. But the speaker called him to order, informing him, that he would have an opportunity of explaining after the hon. and learned Gentleman concluded his speech.] The Attorney General proceeded. He said he could believe the hon. Gentleman meant not unjustly and indiscriminately to asperse the character of the court of King's Bench or its Judges, but might not he be deceived by truiting too implicitly to information loofely and inauthoritatively conveyed to him, and come down to that Houie without giving the subject that deliberate confideration it was entitled to:

With respect to the proceedings against Mr. Smith, and his trcatinent since his confinement, he could assure the House Rothing fevere or harth was done on the part of government 'or its officers. That prisoner could not but remember with how much readiness government allowed the state prisoners in 1794, every indulgence suited to men in their situation that was consistent with the measures taken for their safe cuttody, And here he could not help remarking, that the charges against them were of the most serious nature. A charge, which if not supported by proof of legal treason, most certainly the evidence given on the trials tully thewed that there did exist grounds of accusation, for never in the world was a conspiracy against a government, and for the subverlion of all order and all law so clearly unfolded, and the intentions of the men who composed it, fo manifestly wicked. If gentlemen would but calt a glance back upon that memorable æra, they would perceive that the accused were not only treated with kindness, but he inult think with two great lenity; and had Mr. Smith made any representation to the Secretary of State of unneceifary rigour or unmerciful treatment, he was sure it would have been attended to. No such representation was made; he was free therefore to conclude there existed no grounds for reasonable complaint. On what an hon. Gentleman had thought proper to lay of the prison, by them called the Ballile, he must be periniited to make a few observations. It was relerved for our time, for the beneficent and moderate age of philosophy and the rights of man, to call those places Baltiles, which were instituted for the imprisonment of of

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fenders against the law. Would gentlemen look a little at the origin of this kind of scandal, and at the kind of persons by whom it is used; it claimed close kindred with the revolutionists of France, for our prisons were first called Bastiles by the orators of Copenhagen-House, and Pancras Fields, who used it not only in their public harangues, but in confidential letters, so that we trace it most distinctly to the hot bed of anarchy ; and now it is only used by persons willing to propagate French principles, and distroy the English consitution and the English government. And he most sincerely believed, that at the inoinent he was speaking, had not the legislature palled the acts so much inveighed against by this kind of people, we would not have that constitution to which an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Tierney) had that night proteild his attachment; and for himselí, instead of being occupied in the discharge of his duty, he believed he would not be in old England, nay, not any where ; so malignant and destructive would have been the operation of the new fangled doctrine. But to return to the case of Smith.--An hon. Gentleman had particularly alluded to the proceedings in Court, and one circuinfance he would men'ion which trust in every impartial mind, produce entire conviction that nothing could be more remote from the with of the noble lord who presided there, than unnecessarily to treat prisoners with rigour. When it was known to the Court dat Smith had made a representation of the severities of his confinement, Lord Kenyon, a magistrate of great firmnels, directed an enquiry into ihe truth of the case, and the result was; that the governor of ihe prison, and the physician, both testified that it was a proper place of confinemeni, and that every possible degree of attention was paid to the health, &c. of the prisoners. if, however, it could be proved that fince the fufpenfion of the Hibeas Corpus, that in a few caf's perfons were treated with leverity, nay, if even there exitled many cales of this kind, much as he must lament ii, it would not be sufficient to feusible minds not to suspend the at. He did not know who were the visitors of places where fufpected persons are confined, he believed they were many of them of high character, but surely they might have enquired of the sheriff's concerning the truth or talthood of the representation of prisoners. Hud gentlemen done so, they would have found that it had been attempted to impose upon them, and the House would never have heard the accufation of that evening. He had himself been applied to by some of the state prisoners, buz.

understanding that they were alsociated, and kept a thop for the sale of books filled with all kinds of wickedness, books that no man would have dared to sell any where else, and for which they had been separated, he referred them to the theriffs, who soon after informed him they had done whatever was necesary. An hon. Genuleman had pleased himself by relating an anecdote of some coachman, but when gentlemen went in coaches to the Bastile it might be asked -“ Do they employ themselves properly when there?" It must be evident their enquiries are misguided, and their refults such as do not by any means justify the tone in which gentlemen accuse government of want of lenity. Had they pursued the enquiry in a proper manner, the theriffs must have been applied 10, and other persons examined whose local situation Tenders their information indifpenfible to a conclusive opinion. If the sheriffs were found to blame, it would be a grave point to proceed upon ; but nothing of this sort was alledged. He mentioned the state trials at Maidstone, and ret minded Mr. Tierney that his vote for the suspension of the Habeas Corfus in the lait feflion was given because the grand jury had found a bill of indi&tment for high treason. The parties were tried, one was found guilty, the rest were acquitted, but after what had pailed in Ireland, was it not now evident that all were implicated in a design to invite France to the invasion of England—to favour the invasion of Ireland? Gentlemen might say the evidence against these men was collected from spics, but it must be remembered that this defcription of persons is always the more calumniated as they speak truth. Ministers would not be justified to let the government take its chance against internal traitors, by noe taking measures of safety on the evidence of such meni Talking of the United Irish, he observed, that United Irishmen could make United Britons, and if as a society they did not correspond with societies bere, as individuals they propagated iheir mischief. An hon. Gentleman might, if he chofe, slander the adminiftration of this country, and its measures, by comparison with the government of France and its conduct. But would Gentlemen reflect on the close alliance in principle between the United Irish and the French : that like them they had their executive directory, that in that there was a government within a government, seeking the ruin of their country, but audacious enough to promise the deluded people of Ireland succour from the sale of the eftates of the gentry of Ireland.


He concluded with observing, that while any hopes were entertained by the United Irishmen of severing that country from this, their correspondence with the disaffected in this country could be only through the agency of individuals; but it would be from society to society, if there were any United Englishmen who had the same views as the United Irishmen. To thwart these views, to frustrate the designs of those who wished to overthrow the whole political, civil, religious and moral government of the world, was the great object of the power which the wisdom of the legislature had lately entrusted to the Executive Government of this country; to continue that power for a time to be limited, under the most ardent neceflity, was the object of the bill now before the House, and therefore it should have his heariy assent.

Mr. Courtenay explained.

Mr. Burdon said, that he himself had visited the prison in which the treatment of the state prisoners had been complained of, and he had seen nothing to justify what had been objected on the subject. It unqueftionably was necessary that a jailor should have that degree of authority over the prisoners which was necessary to their safe custody, and to the police of the prison. He had been informed, however, on visiting the prisoners in Cold Bath-fields, that the state prisoners being sent there was by no means an agreeable circumstance, and it was a thing for which the place was not destined. With respect to regulations and economy, every thing seemed to be conducted in the best manner of which such an eitablishment was capable. The state prisoners had a very liberal allowance for their support, he believed 135. 4d. a week, and every where the greatest neatness, regularity, and propriety prevailed.

Sir Francis Burdett said, that it certainly was the interest of Government acting under the law for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, that those men who were taken up should not be more fevercly treated than the circumstances required, and more severely than he thought that men convisted of the crimes laid to their charge thould be treated. Upon the subject of that treatment it certainly was important that there should be no exaggeration. He was convinced, however, that great feverity had in some instances been used. The hon. Gentleman who fpoke latt might not, in walking round the gallery of the prison, have observed any symptoms of this, and in looking into the cells he might not perceive any offensive smell, and might see that the place


was clean washed. Was it considered, however, what must be the situation of a cell seven feet square, after a person had been in it fome hours, or when persons were confined for many weeks without being permitted to go out but for a few minutes to wash themselves? In these cells there was no wood nor paper to keep the persons confined from the coniact of the wall, and in wet weather, or after a frost, it was. evident that a brick wall inust be so damp as to be extremely infalutary where no fire was allowed. He agreed, however, that these matters were not strictly in point on the consideration of the bill before the Houle. A future opportunity might occur for that discussion, and perhaps he might feel it neceifary to move an enquiry on the subject. It was the duty of ihewIouse to take care that the extraordinary powers which i: granted should not be abused; it was in its power to giant such an inqueft as was necessary for that object, and it would be its duty to grant it, thould there be reason to think that oppressions had been exercised. The learned Gentleman opposite the Altorney General) had defended the proceedings of Government, and the judgments of the courts of law in cases of libel. Certainly, however, that matter was not connected with the present subject, nor had it any thing to do with the treatment of persons saken up under the act for fuspending the Habeas Corpus. There was a case of great hardihip of which he had been informed. A number of persons were brought up to town froun Manchester. They were loaded with irons ; in this situation they cravelled, and when they arrived, they were lodged in the Correction House in Cold Bath-fields. From the effects of travelling in this ftate, their legs were very much fwelled, and when lodged in the prison, the Bow Street oficers ordered the irons to be knocked off, which was then a very painful operation. They then were thrown into places quite unprepared for their reception, and next day iaken before ibe privy council.

They were exposed to great inconvenience, as though several of them were manufacturers, they had no opportunity of giving directions about their affairs, nor of obtaining redress, as nobody was permitted to see them. Now, however, he uns derstood that the situation of these persons was much improved, and that they had all the accommodation of which their situation would admit. Objection had been taken to the word Battile. Certainly that word was cmployed merely to denote a prion; as to any comparison with ihe Bastile una der the old Government of France, that was not the question, VOL. I. 1798.



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