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ous. From hence two inferences may be drawn; and either is decisive of the present question. The privilege claimed is not in the least degree necessary for enabling the public to have the fullest and freest access to all Parliamentary papers; and there is no real risk attending a publication of such papers, whether the Houses of Parliament choose to authorize them by their orders or not. If the first of these positions is deemed insufficient for the purpose of the argument, on account of the lesser interest taken in Documents than in Debates,—the second shows how easily persons may be found who will run the risk, should the Houses desire to eirculate their papers. Such a thing as an action or prosecution for a libel in publishing a speech, is hardly known, unless when the speaker is likewise the publisher. Had Mr Hansard not published as the servant of the House, he would most probably have furnished no exception to the remark. But even persons employed by the Houses would run a risk quite insignificant.
Now, if these things are undeniably true, there is an end of the argument; for no one contends that privilege should be dealt out to any body of men without necessity,—or an expediency so high as not to be distinguished from necessity; and if it is clear that complete publicity would be given to whatever was fit for publication, without any privilege exempting the publishers from the operation of the laws, no one can seriously maintain the propriety of giving the agents of the House of Commons such an exemption.
The supreme power in our Constitution is composed of three branches, each, of course, irresponsible in the exercise of its functions. Two of those branches being not individuals, but bodies of men, their irresponsible character cannot be fully enjoyed without certain immunities being given to their individual members. Hence these have freedom from all civil process, and absolute liberty of speech within their several Houses of Assembly. To all criminal process they are liable like the rest of the community; and for every thing done by them without the walls of those Houses they are answerable, civilly as well as criminally, The necessity of the case is here the measure of the privilege ; and all the privileges once claimed and allowed-e. g. protection to their servants of any kind,-being beyond the bounds which that necessity prescribes, have been long ago abandoned. So, the Sovereign is wholly irresponsible; but whoever acts, or speaks, or publishes by his command, is answerable to the law, and will in vain plead ihe orders he may have received as a justification of bis conduct. That the Houses of Parlament should have powers of acting beyond their own walls, and by agents
whom their orders will protect from legal process, is to a certain extent necessary; and those powers exceed any possessed by the Crown. Thus, the King can neither order an arrest for a contempt-nor cause men's houses to be broken
and searched for papers-nor direct persons who have offended him to be summarily punished. Why is this? Manifestly because the Crown has no functions to perform like those of the Houses, which make it necessary that they should enjoy such extraordinary powers. The King is sufficiently protected and aided in his functions by the ordinary operation of the law. But that either House should be privileged to publish, by agents irresponsible to the law, whatever it chooses to publish, has been shown to be wholly unnecessary.
There are many reasons why such powers should not be committed to a body of men; even if it were ever possible to regard without the greatest alarm their being vested in an individual. A numerous assembly acts without any check or control from public opinion in each particular case. In the long run, it will be intluenced by the sentiments prevailing among its fellow-citizens at large; but this imposes no effectual restraint in a moment of temporary excitement; and it is at such times that injustice and oppression are most likely to be worked. All judicial functions are worse exercised by large bodies than any other functions. No man of common sense would regard without the utmost dismay the trial of any valuable right,whether of person or property, before such a tribunal. He would infinitely prefer the decision of the worst constituted court, composed of a very few men singled out from among their fellow-citizens, permanently engaged in judicial duties, answerable as individuals to public opinion, and acting according to fixed rules previously laid down, not according to unsettled principles adopted on the spur of the occasion, or moulded by its exigencies.
The judges of this country, however, are placed under other cheeks, while they are strengthened by important immunities firmly to discharge their duties. They are independent both of the Crown and of the People; that is to say, they are absolutely and to all intents placed beyond the control of the executive government; and they cannot be affected by any sudden temporary revolution of the country. If indeed they make themselves hateful to their fellow-countrymen,-if they give just displeasure to the two Houses of Parliament,--their conduct may lead to their removal. But, secure against the influence of any sudden impulses of popular feeling, and against all influence of the Court, their determinations are far more to be relied on; and afford to the suitor a much greater prospect of inflexible justice than can ever be held out by the deliberations of the best constiluted assembly, numerously composed; whether it represents others, or acts by personal or by hereditary right.
Many well-intentioned persons, ci liberal opinions, have been led away by the feeling that it is safer to intrust the House of Commons with power, now than it was before its resormation ; inasmuch as it now represents the people more fully. That it is still but an imperfect representation, must be admitted; but were the elective franchise greatly extended-Day, were the most universal suffrage to be the origin of that assembiy, we should only the more dread its being armed with any unnecessary irresponsible powers. Such a body would be well adapted to conduct enquiries, and to perform all the functions of legislation; but it would be little likely to deliberate upon the rights of individuals with judicial calmness; and it would be still more prone than it now is to domineer over the minority of its fellowcitizens. It is of the essence of all justice to protect the weak against the strong; and whether oppression is threatened by the Crown and its marshalled forces, or by the unarrayed Multitude through its organs, he who opposes a firm resistance to attempted wrong is the true friend of real liberty.
If they act very inconsiderately who would arm the House of Commons, as now composed, with powers far more extensive and anomalous than those the assumption of which they so vehemently resisted in 1810, still more unreflecting appears to be the disposition shown by others to take part with the House upon this particular occasion; merely because the question concerns libel, and the House is claiming a power of unrestrained publication. Let it be remembered, that the claim of the House, though now urged upon the right of publishing, is grounded upon the frightful position, that whatever it may choose to assert as a privilege becomes so of right, and without the possibility of any other authority disputing its decree; and though ranged among libellers to-day, it may to-morrow be found punishing with all the rigour of its power any one who shall utter an opinion at all distasteful to the majority of its members. Its power to commit for contempt at present extends to the whole session; and there is nothing to hinder it from arrogating the still more formidable right exercised by the Lords, of fining and of imprisoning at their pleasure. Let the friends of liberal principles further bear in mind, that the majority of the present Parliament being favourable to their opinions, affords no security whatever against the recurrence of times when the enemies of liberty shall bear sway; and let them be cautious how they arm with the perilous authority in question, a body which may hereafter use it to destroy the very name of freedom.
Art. XII.-Speech of the Honourable
Fox Maule, M.P. for the County of Perth, at a Public Meeting of the Electors of that County, held 7th July, 1837. Perth.
impending over us, have been lifted up as on its approach. It is scarcely two months since the farmer was threatened with a second 1816,-the merchant with another 1825. Providentially the Corn-Fields and Mark Lane agree in the brightness of our actual prospects. The political spectres which, for the last six years, have been stalking and gibbering in our streets, have also disappeared. During all that period we could hear nothing but one everlasting cry of Wolf.' The horrors of the French Revolution were daily knocking at our doors. At present, not only has the revolutionary alarm subsided, but most persons admit that history presents few national spectacles more encouraging than the manliness and moderation which marked the conduct of the English people throughout this stirring crisis-their honest consciousness of the rectitude of their purpose, and their just reliance on the stability of the institutions which they loved. With what vigour did they shift the helm and put about, when they saw that the vessel of the state was already almost on the breakers! How instinctively, as it were, did the good ship seem to right itself, in spite of mutineers aboard! And, ever since, how steady and gallant has been its bearing over the open sea—the fury of adverse winds from opposite quarters of the heavens only serving to keep it truer to its determined course!
The late King came to a throne shaking under accumulated discontents. Of these, the greater part has been removed by an administration of affairs in unison with the spirit of the age. The rest" bide their time,' in the confidence that justice is delayed for the moment, only that the grant of it may be made more easy and more complete. It was not with our late Sovereign, dignus imperii, nisi imperásset. We have learned to forget the faults of the Duke of Clarence in the merits of King William. While George IV. was satisfied with the boast that he found his Capital brick and left it stucco, William IV. struck out a nobler path for his ambition. He found an empire disturbed and sick at heart; he left one tranquil and full of hope. He was certainly eminently fortunate in the immediate services which it fell to him to confer upon his people. His understanding may not have been of as high an order as his good nature and his good in
tention. But in ratifying the promises of Lord Grey,-ia protecting peace, economy, and, above all, reform,-he secured for himsell, together with the honours · which should accompany old age,' a name wbich posterity will not allow to die. levaluable as we think the benefits of bis reigo, taken by themselves, its lessons, properly appreciated and applied, will be still more useful. The great moral comprised in them is one which no country can afford to overlook or trifle with. Least of all, a country whose opinions civil and ecclesiastical,—whose middle and lower classes, are all rapidly growing and ebanging, dividing and subdividing, day by day, whose intelligence and wealth are so progressive, and whose habits are yet so sta?ionary, -as the English. We think that we do not overstate the virtne of the policy of the reign of William IV. when we say that in all human probability it saved us from a revolution. But it has left us much to do in working upon the same pattern. Nation after nation, as family after family, have been ruined, for want, on the part of the old authorities, of a reasonable confidence in human nature,-of a timely view of the altered relation of the parties,—and of a graceful and cordial adoption of new powers and understandings into honourable partnersbip with their own. Let us be wiser. However slow we may seem to go, are going, and indeed in some questions ought to go, let our feet only be on the right path, and our faces in the right direction.
This is an undertaking in which we can advance only by degrees. But the spirit which is gone out, is in the meanwhile softening the stoney heart, and making smooth the way lately so impassable. There is happiness in the belief, that the temper of the times is every day increasing the facilities for bridging the gulf which separates our past and future ; and for peaceably completing the transition which triumphant Toryism so long and mischievously postponed. Reform, civil and ecclesiastical, is and must continue, for our lives at least, to be the order of the day. The subject will not be soon exhausted at the only pace at which it can proceed. Under these circumstances we must be careful how we settle the course to be pursued. A prudent selection of particular measures for adoption, and even for paramount discussion ought not at the present to be regulated solely by comparing their general importance. The science of politics, as well as of agriculture and medicine, is not so difficult as its application. The farmer, in sowing seed, must look to the nature and preparation of the soil. The doctor varies his prescription according to the constitution of his patients. In