صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Alarmists should have been so little comforted by contemplating these proceedings—these manifest symptoms of innate debility in the cause of the disaffected these demonstrative proofs that the machinations of such miserable creatures never could hurt the State--and that whatever ferment might have at one moment subsisted, had all yielded to the operation of the ordinary laws of the land. But it was now said that the danger lay not in London. Here was a material change of doctrine; for the whole malignity of its character in 1812 and 1817, had been made to depend upon the influence of the London chiefs, and the universal ramifications into the country of a conspiracy, the root of which was planted in the capital.' But, then, all ferment in the country had also ceased; no outrages were committed ; not a meeting of any sort had been held, or even announced for weeks before the Bills were brought into Parliament, and for two months before the new measures were in force. How could this be reconciled to the accounts so lavishly circulated, and so greedily devoured, of the imminent dangers of our situation ? Surely every man must have been aware that the prospect of restraints upon publick meetings would necessarily have forced on the crisis, had any such risk really existed; for those who really wished to meet, and those whose plan was to avail themselves of meetings to work their mischievous purposes, must equally have endeavoured to hold meetings while they were yet lawful: Yet not a meeting was called while the new Bills were in progress. Of all this there is but one explanation. The season of tumult, the time for being afraid of such assemblies; had passed by; and there never was any ground for the alarm which they had excited ; nor the shadow of a ground for maintaining that the ancient constitutional law of the country, if steadily as well as equally administereel, would not prove more than a match for all the machinations of discontent.

We have now seen two months more pass away in equal tranquillity; on which we shall only observe, that a more vile piece of empiricism never was practised than their's who now pretend to ascribe this quiet to their rostrums of last Session.

The operation of the act restraining meetings, never could have checked the evil all at once, had its nature and magnitude been such as those men described; for that measure left so many means of holding meetings of the most dangerous description, that it would have been found wholly ineffectual, had real dan ger existed. For example, all meetings in buildings, however numerously attended; all processions, if without emblems; all district meetings; all meetings of whole towns and counties, provided discussion was not the object, including a meeting and

[subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Alarmists should have been so little comforted by contemplating these proceedings—these manifest symptoms of innate debility in the cause of the disaffected these demonstrative proots that the machinations of such miserable creatures never could hurt the State—and that whatever ferment might have at one moment subsisted, had all yielded to the operation of the ordinary laws of the land. But it was now said that the danger lay not in London. Here was a material change of doctrine; for the whole malignity of its character in 1812 and 1817, had been made to depend upon the influence of the London chiefs, and the universal ramifications into the country of a conspiracy, the root of which was planted in the capital. But, then, all ferment in the country had also ceased; no outrages were committed; not a meeting of any sort had been held, or even announced for weeks before the Bills were brought into Parliament, and for two months before the new measures were in force. How could this be reconciled to the accounts so lavishly circulated, and so greedily devoured, of the imminent dangers of our situation ? Surely every man must have been aware that the prospect of restraints upon publick meetings would necessarily have forced on the crisis, bad any such risk really existed; for those who really wished to meet, and those whose plan was to avail themselves of meetings to work their mischievous purposes, must equally have endeavoured to hold meetings while they were yet lawful: Yet not a meeting was called while the new Bills were in progress. Of all this there is but one explanation. The season of tumult, the time for being afraid of such assemblies; had passed by; and there never was any ground for the alarm which they had excited; nor the shadow of a ground for mainlaining that the ancient constitutional law of the country, if steadily as well as equally administered, would not prove more than a match for all the machinations of discontent.

We have now seen two months more pass away in equal tranquillity; on which we shall only observe, that a more vile piece of empiricism never was practised than their's who now pretend to ascribe this quiet to their rostrums of last Session. The operation of the act restraining meetings, never could have checked the evil all at once, had its nature and magnitude been such as those men described; for that measure left so many means of holding meetings of the most dangerous description, that it would have been found wholly ineffectual, had real danger existed. For example, all meetings in buildings, however numerously attended; all processions, if without emblems; all district meetings; all meetings of whole towns and counties, provided discussion was not the object, including a meeting and

procession to bury Paine's bones, though attended by 100,000 persons--all these were left as legal as before the new law was passed. But, another most demonstrative proof that this law had no connexion whatever with the peace we have enjoyed since it passed, is the equally profound tranquillity enjoyed for an equal period of time before it was in operation at all. This clear point ought ever to be kept in view, in order to detect and confound the political quacks who would palm their pernicious drugs upon us, as having effected cures which had been completed by the regular practitioners long before their vile medicaments were compounded.

And now we have had a proof, if possible more striking, of the truths which have been inculcated in these pages. Having shown at large, from reason and probability; from analyzing the evidence; from known facts; and from subsequent events, that the danger was imaginary; we have at length, to crown the whole, obtained an ample admission that the authors of the alarm themselves believe it to have been so. They have chosen to dissolve the Parliament at the earliest day, instead of waiting for six months as the law allowed; and have thus flung the country into all the bustle and confusion of a general election, and suspended * the law which they had a few weeks before pretended to think necessary for preserving the country from revolution. Nothing can more clearly show their intiinate persuasion that all the plots and insurrections had no existence but in the heated imaginations of their adherents, or the false mouths of their spies. Let them then make the only reparation the country ought to accept at their hands, by restoring those constitutional rights which in an hour of delusion they were suffered to abrogate.

We conclude with one or two more general observations. The two distinguished persons whose Speeches are before us, and, with them, the great body of Ministerial Alarmists, agree in maintaining, that the present clamour for Reform, and its attendant spirit of discontent and disaffection, have been constantly afoot in this country since the year 1793, or earlier, and have been uniformly gaining strength among us during that eventful period :- and the remedy they propose for this evil, is increased restraint on the liberties of the people, and on the freedom of speaking, writing, and complaining, which they for

* The provisions of the Seditious Meetings Act are suspended from the l'este of the Writ-one of the many mitigations introduced by the Whigs.

merly enjoyed. Now we humbly conceive, that this very account of the progress and state of the malady affords a conclusive proof that this cannot be the remedy.

If these thirty years had been years of relaxed authority and popular encroachment-if the influence of the Crown had been all that time diminishing, and the democratic elements of the Constitution been proportionally multiplied and extended_if the Whigs had been all the while in office, and, in the wantouness of confirmed authority, had proscribed the principles of their opponents, and carried their own to unprecedented excess,- there might have been some reason to ascribe these new and progressive disorders of the commonwealth to this new and progressive disturbance of its wholesome constitution; and to expect that its harmony might be restored by measures of an opposite tendency-by strengthening the hands of the Executive, and restraining the license of the people. But it is but too notorious that our condition has been in all respects the very reverse of this. The thirty years during which this evil has been generated and diffused, have been years in which the power and influence of the Crown, and the burdens of the people, have been increased to an extent not only unprecedented, but unimagined in any former period-in which the Constitution has been almost as often suspended as in operation, and more restraints laid on the exercise of popular rights than for a whole preceding century. There have, in snort, been more coercive and restraining laws passed in that period-more strength added to the Crown, and more privileges, and more money taken from the people, than any one before could have imagined possible. If these are the things that have been most manifestly progressive during that period, and if discontent and impatience, and loud and angry clamours for reform have been progressive along with them, it really appears more natural to ascribe these last symptoms to the former as their causes, than to suggest that they may be removed, by multiplying and adding force and activity to these causes. If there be any plausibility in the notion, that restraints and encroachments on our liberties are the causes of discontent, (and we cannot see any thing very extravagant in the supposition), we cannot but think it a strange way to cure this discontent, by increasing those encroachments, and multiplying those restraints. If a system of coercion and severity be the true cure for our present disorders, it is rather unaccountable that they should have grown up under such a system, and should never have been heard of till it was adopted. The discipline which is now proposed to correct our errors, has proved insufficient to prevent them; and was no sooner recurred to, than they spread and multiplied in all directions.

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »