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11.-Lord Mansfield's Speech in the House of Lords, 1770,
on the Bill for the further preventing the Delays of Jus
tice, by reason of Privilege of Parliament. My LORDS,
WHEN I consider the importance of this bill to your Lordships, I am not surprised it has taken up so much of your consideration. It is a bill, indeed, of no common magnitude; it is no less than to take away from two thirds of the legislative body of this great kingdom, certain privileges and immunities, of which they have long been possessed. Perhaps there is no situation the human mind can be placed in, that is so difficult and so trying, as when it is made a judge in its own cause. There is something implanted in the breast of inan, so attached to self, so tenacious of privileges once obtained, that, in such a situation, either to discuss with impartiality or decide with justice, has ever been held as the summit of all hús man virtue. The bill now in question, puts your Lordships in this very predicament; and I doubt not but the wisdom of your decision will convince the world, that where selfinterest and justice are in opposite scales, the latter will ever preponderate with your Lordships
Privileges have been granted to legislators, in all ages and in all countries. The practice is founded in wisdoin ; and indeed, it is peculiarly essential to the constitution of this country, that the members of both Houses should be free in their persons, in cases of civil suits; for there may come a tiine, when the safety and welfare of this whole empire, may depend upon their attendance in Parliament. God forbid that I should advise any measure that would in future endanger the state--but the bill before your Lordships, has, I am confident, no such tendency; for it expressly secures the persons of members of either House, in all civil suits. This being the case, I confess, when I see many noble Lords, for whose judg. ment I have a very great respect, standing up to oppose a bill, which is calculated merely to facilitate the recovery of just and legal debts, I am astonished and amazed. They, I doubt not, oppose the bill upon public principles. I would not wish to insinuate, that private interest had the least weight in their determination.
This bill has been frequently proposed, and as frequently miscarried; but it was always lost in the Lower House. Little did I think, when it had passed the Commons, that it possibly could have met with such opposition here. Shall it be said that you, my Lords, the grand council of the pation, tlre highest judicial and legislative body of the realm, endeavour to evade, by privilege, those very laws which you enforce on your fellow subjects ? Forbid it, justice !-I am sure were the noble Lords as well acquainted as I am, with but half the difficulties and delays occasioned in the courts of justice, under pretence of privilege, they would not, nay, they could not, oppose this bill.
I have waited with patience, to hear what arguments might be urged against the bill, but I have waited in vain; the truth is, there is no argument that can weigh against it. The justice and expediency of the bill are such as render it selfevident, It is a proposition of that nature, that can neither be weakened by argument, por entangled with sophistry. Much, indeed, has been said by some noble Lords, on the wisdom of our ancestors, and how differently they thought from us. They not only decreed, that privilege should prevent all civil suits from proceeding, during the sitting of Parliament, but likewise granted protection to the very servants of members. nothing on the wisdom of our ancestors; it might, per. haps appear invidious; that is not necessary in the present case. I shall only say, that the noble Lords who flatter themselves with the weight of that reflection, should remember, that as circumstances alter, things themselves should alter. Formerly, it was not so fashionable, either for masters or servants to run in debt, as it is at present. Formerly, we were not that great commercial nation we are at present; nor, formerly, were merchants and manufacturers members of Parliament, as at present. The case now is very different; both merchants and manufacturers are, with great propriety, elected members of the Lower House. Commerce having thus got into the legis lative body of the kingdom, privilege must be done away. We all know that the very soul and essence of trade, are regular payments; and sad experience teaches us that there are men, who will not make their regular payments, without the compulsive power of the laws. -The law then, ought to be equally open to all; any exemption of par: ticular men, or particular ranks of men, is, in a free and commercial country, a solecism of the grossest nature
I shall say
But I will not trouble your Lordships with arguments for that which is sufficiently evident without any. I shall only say a few words to some noble Lords, who foresee much inconveniency from the persons of their servants being liable to be arrested. One noble Lord observes, that the coachman of a Peer may be arrested while Ire is driving his master to the house, and consequently he will not be able to attend his duty in Parliament. If this were actually to happen, there are so many methods by which the member might still get to the House, that I can hardly think the noble Lord is serious in his objection. Another noble Peer said, That by this bill one might lose their most valuable and hopest servants. This I hold to be a contradiction in terms; for he can neither be a valvable servant, nor an honest man, who gets into debt, which he is neither able nor willing to pay, till compelled by law. If my servant, by unforseen accidents, has got in debt, and I still wish to retain him, I certainly would pay the debt. But upon no principal of liberal legislation whatever, can my servant have a title to set his creditors at defiance, while, for forty shillings only, the honest tradesman may be torn from his family, and locked up in a gaol. It is monstrous injustice ! I llatter myself, however, t.e determination of this day will entirely put an end to all such partial proceedings for the future, by passing into a law, the bill now under your Lordships' consideration.
I come now to speak upon what, indeed, I would have gladly avoided, had I not been particularly pointed at, for the part I have taken in this bili. It has been said, by a noble Lord on my left hand, that I likewise am running the race of popularity. It the noble Lord means by popularity, that applause bestowed by after ages, on good and virtuous actions, I have long been struggling in that race; to what purpose, all trying time can alone determine; but if the noble Lord means that mushroom popularity, that is raised without merit, and lost without a crime, he is much mistaken in his opinion. I defy the noble Lord to point out a sipgle action of my life, where the popularity of the times ever had the smallest influence on my determinations. I thank God, I have a more perinanent and steady rule for ny conduct, the dictates of my own breast. Those that have foregone that pleasing adviser, and given up the mind to be the slave of every
popular impulse, I sincerely pity : 1 pity them still more, if their vanity leads them to mistake the shouts of a mob, for the trumpet of fame. Experience might inform them, that many who have been saluted with the huzzas of a crowd one day, have received their execrations the next; and many, who, by the popularity of their times, have been held up as spotless patriots, have nevertheless appeared upon the historian's page, when truth has triumphed over delusion, the assassins of liberty. Why then, the noble Lord can think I am ambitious of present popularity, that echo of folly, and shadow of renown, I am at a loss to determine. Besides, I do not know that the bill now before your Lordships will be popular; it depends much upon the caprice of the day. It may not be popular to compel people to pay their debts; and, in that case, the present must be a very unpopular bill. It may not be popular, neither, to take away any of the privi. leges of Parliament: for I very well remember, and many of your Lordships may remember, that not long ago, the popular cry was for the extension of privilege; and so far did they carry it at that time, that it was said that the privilege protected members even in criminal actions; nay, such was the power of popular prejudices over weak minds, that the very deceissions of some of the courts were tinctured with that doctrine. It was, undoubtedly, an abominable doctrine; I thought so then, and think so still : but nevertheless, it was a popular doctrine, and oame immediately from those who were called the friends of liberty; how deservedly, time will show. True liberty, in my opinion, can only exist when justice is equally administered to all; to the king, and to the beggar. Where is the justice, then, or where is the law, that protects a member of Parlaiment, more than any other man, from the pun. ishment due to his crimes ? The laws of his country allow of no place, nor any employment, to be a sanctuary for crimes; and where I have the honor to sit as judge, neither royal favour, nor popular applause, shall ever protect the guilty.
I have now only to beg pardon for having employed so much of your Lordship's time; and I am sorry a bill, fraught with so many good consequences, has not met with an abler advocate; but I doubt not your lordship's determination will convince the world, that a bill calculated to contribute so much to the equal distribution of justice as the present requires, with your Lordsbips, but very little support.
ELOQUENCE OF THE BAR.
1.Cicero against Verres. THE time is come, Fathers, when that which has long been wished for, towards allaying the envy your ordler has been subject to, and removing the imputations a. gainst trials, is effectually put in your power. An opinion has long prevailed, not only here at home, but likewise in foreign countries, both dangerous to you, and pernicious to the state, that, in prosecutions, men of wealth are always safe, however clearly convicted. There is now to be brought upon this trial before you, to the confusion, I hope, of the propagators of this slanderous imputation, one, whose life and actions condemn bim, in the opinion of all impartial persons; but who, according to his own reckoning and declared dependence upon his riches, is already acquitted : I mean Caius Verres. I demand justice of you, Fathers, upon the robber of the public treasury, the oppressor of Asia Minor and Pamphylia, the invader of the rights and privileges of Romans, the scourge and curse of Sicily. If that sentence is passed upon him
which his crimes deserve, your authority, Fathers, will be venerable and sacred in the eyes of the public; but if his great riches should bias you in his favour, I shall still gain one point--to make it apparent to all the world, that what was wanting in this case, was not a criminal, nor a prosecutor, but justice and adequate punishment.
To pass over the shameful irregularities of his youth, What does his quæstorship, the first public employment he held, what does it exhibit, but one coutinued scene of villanies ? Cneius Carbo plundered of the public money, by his own treasurer, a consul stripped and betrayed, an army deserted agd reduced to want, a province robbed, the civil and religious rights of a people violated. The employment lie held in Asia Minor and Pamplıylia, What did it produce but the ruin of those countries ?-in which houses, cities and temples were robbed by him. What