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Captain, after exercising bis men, having announced to them that their meeting was put off, on account of their paper being illegal; but that this would give them more time, and that they would want a colour, and twelve young ladies to carry it!!
Another witness describes a drill, or parade, or field-day (for it does not exactly appear which), as being held near the highway, and relates the march of the persons concerned in companies on the road itself, he having seen and conversed with them from the mail-coach, then passing through them (p. 25). Nor is there one single deposition, even from the anonymous witnesses, that gives the least impression of any mystery or concealment being used in the whole course of these proceedings. Their object appears to have always been openly avowed, before strangers, in crowds, and upon the highways; and against this incontestable evidence of facts, we are desired to set such testimony as that of three persons, who, without swearing to any fact at all, except generally to night drills, take upon them to say, upon their oaths, that the intent of that drilling is to • qualify them for hostile purposes, against the Government of • the country, and against the peace of our Lord the King, • his crown and dignity, and to the disturbance of them these * informants,' (p. 15.) - words evidently prepared for them by some Attorney, or Justice's clerk, who mistook the work he was set upon, and added to a Deposition the but-end of an Indictment.
But we should be glad to know, in general, why the names of all these twenty-eight personages are suppressed? What risk can they run by being known? The Magistrates and Constabies all appear in their proper characters, and seem to apprehend no evil, though they are far more the objects of attack than their more obscure neighbours. Several even of the spies are named at full length; and one man who had actually been maltreated for spying, and threatened with death if he interfered again, is yet not afraid of coming forward with his tese , timony, and signing his name to it. Can any good reason be imagined for keeping back all the others? Have we not a right to conjecture, either that they would be found persons not of the best character and credit, or that their stories would be contradicted by responsible witnesses ? Above all, it is most unaccountable that such meetings as those on the highway and at Tandle Hills, should not be described by any of the hundreds, and even thousands, who were present as spectators, and some two or three of whom might have been expected to give the account of what they saw and heard. It may safely be as-" serted, that they who prepared a case resting on scraps of de
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positions vouched by no names, may lay their account with an inference being drawn extremely unfavourable to their good faith. They may expect to be told that they have good reasons for suppressing so much; and they seem to do a foolish and inconsistent thing in giving such evidence at all, unless they chuse to tell more about it; for while they admit the necessity of proof, they in truth do little or nothing to furnish it. · All inquiry,-in short all methods of informing the Legislature of the country must needs be futile, except one,--the examination of witnesses : And, unless the subject is such as to admit of this species of investigation, it is infinitely better to allow measures to be adopted on the responsibility of the Executive Government alone, than to deceive the nation with the mockery of evidence. The kind of tribunal before which the examination shall take place, is comparatively of little moment; whether before the Houses of Parliament openly, or, where the subject requires secrecy, before a Select Committee, to whom the discretion may be entrustod, of withholding facts in some cases, and concealing names in others, as has been done in the most delicate of all inquiries, those concerning the affairs of the Bank. But that those who are to judge, should see those whose testimony is to guide their decision, seems a proposition too selfevident to require, or even to admit of demonstration. Even if the Ministers were suffered to pack the Committee, something like the truth must be elicited from examining witnesses ; whereas, if the Committee be as 'fairly named as possible, nothing but deception can result from their labours, if they are only to read such documents as the Ministers select to suit their own views, and are not to have the power of putting a single question, or seeing a deponent, or even knowing his name. The fairest Committee must thus be wholly in the hands of the persons who pack the Green Bag, as much as if those persons had packed the Commitiee also. To take an example from the mistakes of the Committee in 1812; the false statement that Mr Horsefall was murdered in the face of day, before a multitude who rejoiced in his massacre, never could have been made, had the Committee, instead of reporting upon the contents of letters and reports from Magistrates, seen the person who gave the account, or had the power to call before them one or two by-standers to contradict him ; for, in all probability, the least cross-examination would have shown the story to be a fiction ; and no one could have confirmed it, because there were so few people near, that there was only a single passenger who could help the wounded man to a house at some distance, as afterwards fully appeared by the Crown's evidence at the trial of the murder
egal--the The Worthat it was le assemblage
ers. In the same manner, ment of the loose saias rumours and surmises, stich the depositions of this rear contain, if shed br the smallest rigoer of cross-examination, roak hare con to afford the least ground for beljering in an emeric conspiracy. But the depositions of rather sach portions of thens, and of their secret correspondence, as suited their own purpose, were la before Parliament, without any of the checks which an eramination would have afforded, before the most partial Committee that could have been packed.
We now resume this Evidence, such as it is; and, passing over the too well known events of the loch of August, me met advert to the state of the other discontented counties. Each step we take will now tend to dissipate whatever portion of alarm may seem to arise from Lancashire,- for the whole case of the Government and the Alarmists is to be found there; and wherever greater forbearance was shown, the danger seen's to have subsided of itself.
At Birmingham a meeting was held on the 19th Juls, for s purpose clearly illegal- the choice of a Member of Parliament without the King's writ. The worthy Magistrate who records its proceedings, begins by stating, that it was not attended
with any breach of the peace, and that the whole assemblage
had quietly dispersed before seven o'clock,' the hour of meer. ing having been nominally three. He adds, that the proces. sion and ceremonies were ridiculous; the speeches far more moderate than in other places, and confined to the topics in vogue with Reformers; and that the whole members who artended, did not exceed 10,000, including a great portion of women and children, although the meeting had been represented as consisting of 25,000. The attendance of women and children, also, at the Manchester meeting, and their accompanying the processions which came from the country, affords a strong presumption, rebutted by no one ascertained fact, that those who took part in it had conceived no designs whatever hostile to the peace; and if it be said that the leaders had designs unknown to their numerous followers, we can only answer, that any meeting in the world, if numerously attended, may in the same way be accounted dangerous; both because large mobs are easily inflamed, and because a great show of numerical strength is, at all times, a mode of intimidation.
But the history of these proceedings in the West Riding of Yorkshire, is still more important in elucidating the nature of the supposed conspiracy. The first Reform meeting mentioned in the Papers, was held at Hunslet Moor, near Leeds, on
TOL. XXXII, NO. 65.
the 19th of July. The truly venerable and patriotic Nobleman, who happily was then at the head of the County, had arrived at his post, and offered the Mayor of Leeds whatever aid he might deem requisite, for enabling him to preserve the King's peace. That worthy Magistrate, however, required no assistance; and Lord Fitzwilliam then gives an account of the proceedings - which, as compared with that of the meeting held there some time before, merits all our attention... : For the present, I have to report to your Lordship (according to the reports made to me), that the tone of these gentlemen was manifestly humble and much lowered, compared to that they assumed at the preceding nieeting, at the same place ; so much so, that even an
inclination to petition Parliament was expressed ;-at the close, the , meeting was dissolved. ; - I am given to understand, that scarcely more than half the number of the preceding meeting had assembled at this, and that the proportion of women was much larger at this than at the former : It passed off without the least disturbance or tumult; and they dispersed in the most peaceable and orderly manner, without insult or affront to any one. I have reason to think, that such a termination of · this meeting was foreseen by the Mayor, founded upon an opinir::., that the mass of the population within his jurisdiction is by no means disaffected, nor seditiously disposed; though they are suffering most cruel privations through want of employment, the consequence of stagnation of trade. But I am told, that, aware of the cause, they . bear their hard lot with wonderful patience and resignation ; but the very circumstance of want of occupation, leads many to make part of the throng on occasion of such meetings, without being parties in the views of the leaders, or participating in their sentiments.
It will be a happy thing, if the seditious and dangerous language that undoubtedly has been most directly held by these itinerant ora-, tors, can be brought home to them; the conviction of any will be a public good. But, bad as the men may be, and indefatigable in propagating their doctrines, their mischievous spirit does not pervade the inass of the population of the West Riding ; on the contrary, from all I can collect, I report with confidence to your Lordship, that the peace, tranquillity, and good order of the Realm, will not be disturbed by these people.' Papers, p. 12.
Some days after making this satisfactory report, his Lurdship went to the Assizes at York; and, during that great assemblage of the County, had a favourable opportunity of learning the prevailing sentiments of all classes, touching the real state of their several districts; and he found his own opinion both as to the cause and the extent of the discontents amply confirined.
I am confident,' says lie, • I speak the general sentiment of those present at York, in saying, that there is no cause for suspecting any disposition of the people of this Riding, to turbulence or commo
tion: if there be any discontent in their minds, it has nothing to do with constitutional considerations, but arises out of the improvements in the art of manufacture, which diminishes the calls for their exertions and industry, and has become to them a real afflicting grievance. - I add likewise, as the prevalent and I believe universal opinion of the gentlemen I met at York, that no step that could in any way convey a suspicion or jealousy of the people's views and wishes, should be adopted; but that, on the contrary, we should prove to them by our own demeanour, our opinion of their good disposition, and our confidence of their good conduct.' Papers, p. 13.
Thus it is to be observed, that, previous to the 16th of August, the meetings in Yorkshire had dwindled away in numbers and lowered in spirit; and that the local authorities, though properly upon their guard, were in no degree alarmed or uneasy respecting them. When the affair of Manchester unhappily took place, immediately we find the spirit of discontent revived, and the meetings both more frequent and more numerously attended. On the 20th of August a meeting of 3000 was held at Huddersfield, and very violent language was used; but it is added that the speaker was suppose ed to be a spy. * About the same time, a meeting as large was held at Leeds; and the Mayor states 'a considerable change to be working among the reformers,' since the Manchester business; to discuss whic!), all these assemblies were convened. At Wakefield, complaiuts are made by the Justices, of the great irritation occasioned among the lower orders by the laudable conduct of the civil and military authorities at Mans chester;' and various assemblages are stated to have been hell there since those occurrences.' (Papers, p. 36, 37.) On the 27th of August, however, the Mayor of Leeds, having obtained an addition of cavalry, writes, that · he feels perfectly confident'in the sufficiency of his precautions, for keeping the peace at the great meeting about to take place. It is impossible to praise
* It is remarkable that the orator, Mitchell, whose violence so greatly alarmed men at those meetings, and who is the person alluded to in the text, has since been arrested, and is to stand his trial for the seditious practices which he pursued, in order to seduce the unwary, and make business for himself with his employers in the Home Department. His intimacy with Oliver was the ground upon which the suspicions against him first arose, and in consequence of which he was turned off from the Hustings at the Yorkshire County Meeting. He now lies in jail for want of bail; and, by a strange coincidence, the committing Magistrate was the very person who gave the alarming accounts from Halifax.