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universal reprobation of their conduct in the affair of Manchester. But to secure their places against the effects of these untoward circumstances, was not the only parpose to which the alarm might be applied. The · Radicals were capable of rendering far more lasting and valued service to their country. * Jacobin,' become a stale phrase, was now varied; and many worthy men, in the enjoyment of much Jucrative preferment, began to flatter themselves with the pleasing prospect of deriving as much profit from Radicalism, as they had in past times, the golden era of the French Revolution, drawn from shouting Jocobinism,' and campaigning against the domestick enemy.
There is always a certain class of persons, high in station and well provided with treasure, to whom those vulgar, noisy, indelicate things, called popular meetings, are an object of fastidious disgust, and, indeed, of perennial alarm. When the multitude is assembled, they are strong and make themselves respected ; a certain deference becomes due to those who individually are our inferiors; and they do in fact possess a power which it requires the vigilance of the magistrate in executing the law of the land, to render safe for the publick peace. With such habitual alarmists, any measure must always find favour which affords a prospect of bringing to an end what they really think hurtful to the country, because they feel it unpleasant to themselves. The same persons mortally hate a free press; they are shocked at its licentious attacks upon private character; and, far from pardoning these faults in consideration of its political services, they regard those services to the cause of Liberty as no small aggravation of the principal offence. Measures for restraining newspapers, accordingly, are hailed by our alarmists as eminently wholesome; and, when these are combined with restrictions upon publick meetings, there is such a semblance of general views, of large policy, of systematic vigour, as perfectly captivates and dazzles their moderate understandings. It is in vain that you call for proofs of new danger; they have it within—in their perpetual fears and constitutional squeamishness. In vain you ask those habitual eulogists of the English Constitution, whether it has provided no remedy for such obvious evils, and how in past times we have been saved from their devastation. The answer is silent contempt or a charge of disaffection. In vain you propose the equal and unsparing enforcement of those laws which brought us through the dangers of domestick rebellion, foreign attack, and a disputed succession, for a whole century, and of the French Revolution, and its plots and its wars, for thirty years. To execute the old law has in it nothing new, and therefore nothing satisfactory; they hava worked themselves into a belief that the danger is novel, and they can only find comfort in its being met by a new code of police and of punishment. Thus it has happened, we are verily persuaded, that the blind supporters of Government, far from being scared by the late changes in our Statute book, are disappointed at more violent alterations not having been propounded, and discontented at the large concessions in each measure, extorted by the strenuous efforts of the Opposition.
Not only has the object now appeared for the first time to be changed, and a party to have grown up to power, whose principle is the permanent alteration of the Constitution to one less free; but the mode of carrying on the plan of alarm has been materially varied. The publick, and even the Parliament, could no longer bear the gross delusion of pretended inquiries by Secret Committees, which the ministry first packed with their tried supporters, and then fed with such evidence as it suited their own views to produce: thus securing a favourable Report as matter of absolute certainty. Any examination of papers, without seeing and questioning the authors, would no longer satisfy those who deemed inquiry requisite at all; and the ballot had, from frequent use and frequent exposure to ridicule, become a term not to be used with the due gravity of countenance. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus, too, and its accomplice, the Bill of Indemnity, had been too recently tried, and too de cidedly condemned at the last general election, to make any such measures of restriction tolerably safe; especially as they must, in conformity with the new scheme of Government, be made lasting, if not perpetual. Accordingly, the ministers satisfied themselves with producing a number of papers, as proofs of their conspiracy; and upon these they at once founded the first chapter of their Code of Imperial Law. 1
It seems obvious, that this course of proceeding is liable to every objection; and is in all respects less consistent, without being in any manner more satisfactory than the line proposed by Lord Grenville and Mr Plunket, of resting upon the general notoriety of the facts, in other words, upon something made up of light and shade; partly of what we see, parily of what we hear by report ; a little of what we know, and a great deal of what we know nothing at all about:-a very vague ground of legislation, it is true, and a most sorry foundation upon which to build great and lasting changes in the Constitution of the country; but not in reality one ióta improved in solidity by the addition of selected scraps of paper flung upon the tables of the Two Houses, without any confronting, or cross-examination whatever, and in many cases without a disclosure of the names of the authors.
Upon the former occasions the evidence was suppressed; the publick saw nothing but the Reports of the Selected Committees, and were left to conjecture the force of the arguments by seeing the effects which they produced upon the minds of the chosen inquirers. Now the contrary course is pursued; the farce of an inquiry, where there can be no examination, is given up: and such evidence is produced as would have been sufficient, be fore a Committee, to obtain the Report desired by the Ministers, we will venture to say, whatever that might be. In some respects, this is a more fair method of proceeding; but it also has its advantages for the Government, who thus avoid recording their own description of the plot which they wish the country to believe in. Formerly we had the great benefit of seeing, in the Reports of the Secret Committees, the portrait of the danger which was asserted to exist, and which was said to jus tify the measures proposed; from whence we derived the power of afterwards comparing the picture with the reality, as disclosed by the event, in the course of a few weeks or months; and the result of this comparison, both in 1812 and 1817, was quite fatal to the accuracy of the conclusions drawn by the Secret Committees; or to the credit of the evidence laid before them,
Lor, it may be, to both. This opportunity we have not in the present instance; but are left to collect the impression intended to be conveyed by the Ministers, of the kind and magnitude of the peril, from the evidence itself, and from their own statements in debate, and the published Speeches of their supporters, the two most considerable of which are now before us.
Before going at all into that evidence, it is fit that we should very generally remind the reader of the delusions which the Committees of 1812 and 1817 propagated or shared, supported in all likelihood by much the same sort of documents as those promulgated on the present occasion. The extreme thoughtlessness of those who can once more b: deceived by such stories, and the incredible assurance of those who can challenge credit for them, will thus the better be made manifest.
Both these Reports describe an extensive, and most dangerous conspiracy, as having been formed, and almost reached a state of maturity. In both, the explosion is represented as upon the eve of bursting forth and overwhelming the country: Yet, strange to tell, five years had elapsed between the dates of the two documents : so that we are gravely told to believe in schemeš like these, confided to hundreds of thousands, and yet kept profoundly secret; ripe for execution, and yet standing still year after year-contrary to the whole nature of men and designs and plots from the beginning of time. Indeed, the Com
mittee of 1812 indulge themselves in the most flowery descriptions of the extent and perfection of discipline already attained by the disaffected all over the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Lancashire, (from whence, they innocently remark, the contagion has spread to Carlisle.') They march, it is said, in corps of 300, well armed; place 6 mounted parties in advance, with drawn swords, and the same $ number of men also mounted as a rear guard.' They assemble in the night on heaths and commons, taking the usual milever litary precautions of paroles and countersigns ; calling over
their muster rolls by numbers, not by names; obeying leaders $ in disguise; placing sentries to give the alarm if any suspect
ed person approaches; and dispersing instantly at the firing 6 of a gun, or other signal agreed upon; sometimes also using
signals by rockets or blue lights, which enable them to com
municate from one of their parties to the other.' It is the less to be wondered at, that so well disciplined an army should have been able to levy contributions in money, which serves * the double purpose of support, and of inducement to persons
to join them,' (we suppose by recruiting bounty and the marching guinea.) Of course, they have not been unmindful of the essential duty of great commanders, the establishment of magazines ; they have, we find, for a long time, been plundering all the country of arms, powder and lead, for casting into balls; in some districts the arms of all the peaceful inhabitants have • been swept away by these armed bands;' and at one place (Sheffield) they attacked the depôt of the local militia, destroying part, and carrying off some of the arms found there. If such be the perfection of the Military system of this new European power, whose dominiops extend through the central counties of the Island of Britain, its Civil polity is in a state no less advanced. • A Secret Committee is the great mover of the whole « machine;' societies, in subordination cach to its own secret committee, are formed everywhere ; delegates pass continually . from place to place to concert their plans;' and 'signs are .. arranged by which the persons engaged in these conspiracies 5 are known to each other.' The most horrid oaths again form, as it were, the Liturgy of the community, binding each other to mischief, and assassination, and secrecy; nor is it possible, in consequence of those acts, and the system of terror established, to bring any one engaged in these alfairs to justice.
Such is the phantom conjured up by the Committee of 1812! Now no one is silly enough to contend, that the Arms and Oaths Bills then passed, could bave the slightest effect in dissolving or counteracting a plan so dcep laid and so well matured, the more
especially as hardly any thing was done under those acts. Yet, in a few months, no one recollected the existence either of phantom or report; the new military power was blotted out from the map of England; of its civil government, * etiam periere ruinæ.' The special commission held at York the ensuing winter, for trying offences connected with machinery (as they all were), found no difficulty in trying and convicting some dozens of their ringleaders by the old law of the land ; not one witness was molested for his testimony, nor a magistrate for his exertions; and the evidence of the Crown, in some most important particulars, directly falsified the statements in the Reports of ihe Secret Committees.
Unfortunately all this deception, 'so successfully practised, and so satisfactorily exposed, was forgotten in 1817-to such a degree, that there was as much alarm excited by the reading of the oath in Parliament, as if it were a mere novelty-no one recollecting that a copy of the self-same oath is given in the Reports of 1812.., The Committee of 1817 begin with a terrific description of the plan formed for attacking and seizing London; the Tower and Bank were to be invaded; the different barracks taken ; the prisons opened, and their inmates armed: And all this was not sufficiently extensive--for it is represented as only being part of a general plan of rebellion and insurrection.? The scheme, it seems, extended all over the country, both England and Scotland, looking to the leading persons in London' for orders and example. Clubs were everywhere formed under the names of " Hampden? and · Union' Clubs, ostensibly for Reform, and by many of their members only known as connected with that object, but designed by others to connect the members of the conspiracy. A Spencean Society is described as engaged in plans of dividing the land, and destroying the funds ; and a general system of propagating sedition and blasphemy, by cheap publications, is stated to be pursued.
The acquittal of the persons charged with the famous London Plot, was the first blow which this notable story required; its details were found to be too ridiculous to deserve one moment's credit. The Spenceans were next found to amount in all to less than a dozen, headed by a worthy brace-maker; and the errors of this little sect were discovered to be of a religious but fanatical cast. No one since that time has ever had the courage to pretend a dread of the Spenceans; the bare men
* See the remarkable instance of Mr Horsefall's murder, in our Journal for April 1817, where the particulars of the mistatement are detailed.