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In order that my countrymen and that the world may not be deceived, duped, and cheated upon this subject, I, WILLIAM COBBETT, of Botley, in Hampshire, put upon record the following facts; to wit: That, on the 24th June, 1809, the following article was published in a London news-paper, called the Courier:—“The Mutiny amongst the L0“CAL MILITIA, which broke out at Ely, was “fortunately suppressed on Wednesday by the ** arrival ; four squadrons of the GERMAN “LEGION CAVALRY from Bury, under the “ command of General Auckland. Five of the “ringleaders were tried by a Court-Martial, and “sentenced to receive 500 lashes ench, part of which “punishment they received on Wednesday, and “a part was remitted. A stoppage for their knap“sacks was the ground of the complaint that ex“cited this mutinous spirit, which occasioned “the men to surround their officers, and demand “what they deemed their arrears. The first “ division of the German Legion halted yesterday “ at Newmarket on their return to Bury.”—That, on the 1st July, 1809, I published, in the Political Register, an article censuring, in the strongest terms, these proceedings; that, for so doing, the Attorney General prosecuted, as sedi. tious libellers, and by Ex-Officio Information, me, and also my printer, my publisher, and one of the principal retailers of the Political Register; that I was brought to trial on the 15th June, 1810, and was, by a Special Jury, that is to say, by 12 men out of 48 appointed by the Master of the Crown Office, found guilty; that, on the 20th of the same month, I was compelled to give bail for my appearance to receive judgment; and that, as I came up from Botley (to which place I had returned to my family and my farm on the evening of the 15th), a Tipstaff went down from London in order to seize me, personally; that, on the 9th of July, 1810, I, toge. ther with my printer, publisher, and the news. man, were brought into the Court of King's Bench to receive judgment; that the three former were sentenced to be imprisoned for some months in the King's Bench prison; that I was sentenced to be imprisoned for two years in Newgate, the great receptacle for malefactors, and the front of which is the scene of numerous hangings in the course of every year; that the part of the prison in which I was sentenced to be confined is sometimes inhabited by felons, that felons were actually in it at the time I entered it; that one man was taken out of it to be transported in about 48 hours after I was put into the same yard with him; and that it is the place of confinement for men guilty of unnatural crimes, of whom there are four in it at this time; that, besides this imprisonment, I was sentenced to pay a thousand pounds TO THE KING, and to give security for my good behaviour for seven years, myself in the sum of 3,000 pounds, and
two sureties in the sum of 1,000 pounds each; that the whole of this sentence has been executed upon me, that I have been imprisoned the two years, have paid the thousand pounds TO THE KING, and have given the bail, Timothy Brown and Peter Walker, Esqrs. being my surelies; that the Attorney General was Sir Vicary Gibbs, the Judge who sat at the trial Lord Ellenborough, the four Judges who satat passing sentence Ellenborough, Grose, LeBlanc, and Bailey; and that the jurors were, Thomas Rhodes of Hampstead Road, John Davis of Southampton Place. James Ellis of Tottenham Court Road, John Richards of Bayswater, Thomas Marsham of Baker Street, Robert Heathcote of High Street Marylebone, John Maud of York Place Marylebone, George Bagster of Church Terrace_Pancras, Thomas Taylor of Red Lion Square, David Deane of St. John Street, William Palmer of Upper Street Islington, Henry Favre of Pall, Mall; that the Prime Ministers during the time were Spencer Perceval, until he was shot by John Bellingham, and after that Robert B. Jenkinson, Earl of Liverpool; that the prosecution and sentence took place in the reign of King George the Third, and that, he having become insane during my imprisonment, the 1,000 pounds was paid to his son, the Prince Regent, in his behalf; that, during my imprisonment, I wrote and published 364 Essays and Letters upon political subjects; that, during the same time, I was visited by persons from 197 cities and towns, many of them as a sort of deputies from Societies or Clubs; that, at the expiration of my imprisonment, on the 9th of July, 1812, a great dinner was given in London for the purpose of receiving me, at which dinner upwards of 600 persons were present, and at which Sir Francis Burdett presided; that dinners and other parties were held on the same occasion in many other places in England; that, on my way home, I was received at Alton, the first town in Hampshire, with the ringing of the Church bells; that a respectable company met me and gave me a dinner at Winchester; that I was drawn from more than the distance of a mile into Botley by the people; that, upon my arrival in the village, I found all the people assembled to receive me; that I concluded the day by explaining to them the cause of my imprisonment, and by giving them clear notions respecting the flogging of the Local Militia-men at Ely, and respecting the employment of German Troops; and, finally, which is more than a compensation for my losses and all my sufferings, I am in perfect health and strength, and, though I must, for the sake of six children, feel the diminution that has been made in my property (thinking it right in me to decline the offer of a subscription), I have the consolation to see growing up three sons, upon whose hearts, I trust, all these facts will be engraven.
WM. COBBETT. . Botley, July 23, 1812.
LONDON: Printed by J. M'Creery, Black Horse-Court, Fleet-street.
COBBETT'S WEEKLY POLITICAL REGISTER.
vol.xxii. No. 14.] London, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1812. [Price is.
That famous, that prime thing, called a general election, is at hand. Now, then, what talk we shall hear about the glorious Constitution ( Now the glorious privilege of Englishmen is about to be exercised: A friend advises me to make an appeal to the virtue, to the public spirit of the people upon this occasion. I will do no such thing. I will practise no such delusion. I will do nothing that shall tend to make any human being believe, that the people's voice is expressed by the tools of the Borough-mongers. But I will do that which will be much more suitable to the occasion, as well as more consistent with truth and sincerity, and more likely to produce good to the country: I will here call to the recollection of the public, and will place before them, not my own opinions upon the state of the representation as it now is; but the opinions of others, together with some facts, which, though already pretty generally known, can never be too often repeated; facts, which ought always to be kept alive in the mind of every man in every country, where there is one spark of the love of real liberty existing. I shall begin with giving, in their own words, the opinions of men, for some one or other of whom almost every reader will be found to entertain respect.
Blackstone and Locke.
As it is essential to the very being of Parliament that Elections should be free, therefore, all undue influences upon the electors are illegal, and strongly prohibited; for Mr. Locke ranks it amongst those breaches of trust in the executive magistrate, which, according to his notions, amounts to a dissolution of government, if he employ the force, treasure, and offices of the society to corrupt the representatives, or openly to pre-engage the electors, and prescribe what manner of persons shall be chosen; for, thus to regulate candidates and electors, and new-model the ways of election, what is it but to cut up the government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of pub
EARL MULGRAve. . . . . . But, my lords, there is another kind of incapacity worse than this; I mean that of parliament-men's having such places in the exchequer, as the very profit of them depends on the money given to the King in parliament. Would any of your lordships. intrust a man to make a bargain for you,' whose very interest is to make you give as much as he possibly can? It puts me in mind of a farce where an actor holds a dialogue with himself, first speaking in one tone, and then answering himself in another.— Earl Mulgrave's Speech, in the House of Lords, Dec. 22, 1692.
The GREAT Lord Chath AM.
Mr. Pitt, when contending for a Reform in Parliament, in 1782, told the House, that he personally knew, that it was the opinion of his father, that, “without recur-. ring to first principles in this respect, and establishing a more solid and equal representation .# the people, by which the proper constitutional connexion should be revived, this nation, with the best capacities for grandeur and happiness of any on the face of the earth, must be confounded with the mass of those whose liberties were lost in the corruption of the people.”
Mr. PITT. The defect of representation is the natioual disease; and unless you apply a remedy directly to that disease, you must inevitably take the consequences with which it is pregnant. Without a Parliamentary Reform the nation will be plunged into new wars; without a Parliamentary Reform you cannot be safe against bad ministers, nor can even good ministers be of use to you. No honest man can, according to the present system, continue minister.—Mr. Pitt's
Mr. Fox. The whole of this system, as it is now carried on, is as outrageous to morality as it
is pernicious to just government; it gives a scandal to our character, which not merely degrades the House of Commons in the eyes of the people, but it does more; it undermines the very principles of integrity in their hearts, and gives a fashion to dishonesty and imposture. They hear of a person giving or receiving four or five thousand pounds as the purchase-money of a seat for a close borough; and they hear the very man who received and put into his pocket the money, make a loud and vehement speech in this House against Bribery; and they see him, perhaps, move for the commitment to prison of a poor unfortunate wretch at your bar, who has been convicted of taking a single guinea for his vote in the very borough, perhaps, where he had publicly and unblushingly sold his influence, though that miserable guinea was necessary to save a family from starving under the horrors of a war which he had contributed to bring upon the country. . . . . . . . . These are the things that paralyze you to the heart: these are the things that vitiate the whole system, that spread degeneracy, hypocrisy, and sordid fraud over the country, and take from us the energies of virtue, and sap the foundations of patriotism and spirit. —Mr. Fox's Speech, 1797.
Mr. GREY (Now EARL GREv).
Has the House of Commons shown either vigilance of inquiry, or independence of spirit? Have they investigated the origin of their misfortunes, or checked ministers in their ruinous career? Nay, the very reverse. In a war remarkable only for misfortune, and distinguished on our part solely by disgrace, they have suffered ministers to go on from failure to failure, adding misfortune to misfortune, and madness to folly, without either investigation or inquiry.—As a remedy for these evils, Mr. Grey recommended ‘a Reform of Parlia‘ment; and to obviate the charge of mak‘ing complaints without prescribing some * specific mode of relief, he proposed, that ‘instead of 92 county members there should ‘ be 113, and that the right of voting “should be extended to copyholders and “leaseholders, who are bound to pay rent * for a certain number of years. To pre“vent compromises, he proposed that every “county should be divided into grand divi“sions, each of which should return a re“presentative. He also proposed, that the * remaining 400 members should be return‘ed by householders.”—Mr. Grey's Speech in 1797.
Mr. Bu RKE. In a speech upon that infamous job, the JWabob of Arcot's debts, on the 28th of Feb. 1785, after having described PAUL BENfield as “a criminal, who ought long “since to have fattened the region kites “with his offal,” says, that his agent, Richard Atkinson, had kept “a sort of “public office, or counting-house, where. “the whole business of the last general “election was managed.” It was,” said he, “openly managed by the direct agent “ and attorney of Benfield.” And then he says, that, as an indemnification for this, “ the claims of Benfield and his crew were “put above all inquiry.” These facts were very notorious at the time; but, when Mr. Burke afterwards obtained from the same minister(Pitt) a pension of three thousand pounds a year for life, with remainder of one half to his wife; then he treated the reformers with more severity than he had treated Paul Benfield. These opinions, and these assertions of Burke, are, however, of less weight than the statement made by the “Friends of “the People,” in 1793, in the form of a Petition to the House of Commons itself. Amongst those Gentlemen, who called their Society “the Friends of the People,” were the present Duke of Bedford, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Grey (now Earl Grey), Mr. Tierney, Lord Lauderdale, Sir Arthur Pigot, Mr. Dudley North, General Tarleton, Sir Ralph Milbank, and many others, amongst whom were 27 members of parliament. The Petition was presented by Mr. Grey (now Earl Grey) who pledged himself to prove the truth of the facts alleged in it. It was received by the House; no man attempted to deny the truth of its contents; but, it was never taken into consideration; and there it lies, unacted upon and unanswered, to this day. This is the document, which I am now about to insert, and to every part of which I beg leave to solicit the reader's attention.
“Authentic Copy of a Petition praying for a Reform in Parliament, presented to the House of Commons by Charles Grey, Esq. on Monday, 6th May, 1793.
“To the Honourable the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled.
Sheweth, “That by the form and spirit of the British, constitution, the King is vested with the sole executive power. That the House of Lords consists of lords spiritual and temporal, deriving their titles and consequence either from the crown, or from hereditary privileges. That these two powers, if they acted without control, would form either a despotic monarchy, or a dangerous oligarchy. That the wisdom of our ancestors hath contrived, that these authorities may be rendered not only harmless, but beneficial, and be exercised for the security and happiness of the people. That this security and happiness are to be looked for in the introduction of a third estate, distinct from, and a check upon the other two branches of the legislature; created by, representing, and responsible to, the people themselves. That so much depending upon the preservation of this third estate, in such its constitutional purity and strength, your Petitioners are reasonably jealous of whatever may appear to vitiate the one, or to impair the other. That at the present day the House of Commons does not fully and fairly represent the people of England, which, consistently with what your Petitioners conceive to be the principles of the constitution, they consider as a grievance, and therefore, with all becoming respect, lay their complaints before your honourable House. That though the terms in which your petitioners state their grievance may be looked upon as strong, yet your honourable House is entreated to believe that no expression is made use of for the purpose of offence. Your Petitioners in affirming that your honourable House is not an adequate representation of the people of England, do but state a fact, which, if the word “Representation” be accepted in its fair and obvious sense, they are ready to prove, and which they think detrimental to their interests, and contrary to the spirit of the constitution. How far this inadequate representation is prejudicial to their interests, your Petitioners apprehend they may be allowed to decide for themselves; but how far it is contrary to the spirit of the constitution, they refer to the consideration of your honourable House. If your honourable House shall be pleased to determine that the people of England ought not to be fully represented, your Petitioners pray that such your determination may be made known, to the end that the people may be apprized of their real situation; but if your honourable House shall conceive that the people are already fully represented, then your Petitioners beg leave
to call your attention to the following facts : Your Petitioners complain, that the number of representatives assigned to the different counties is grossly disproportioned to their comparative extent, population, and trade. Your Petitioners complain, that the elective franchise is so partially and unequally distributed, and is in so many instances committed to bodies of men of such very limited numbers, that the majority of your honourable House is elected by less than fifteen thousand electors, which, even if the male adults in the kingdom be estimated at so low a number as three millions, is not more than the two hundredth part of the people to be represented. Your Petitioners complain, that the right of voting is regulated by no uniform or rational principle. Your Petitioners complain, that the exercise of the elective franchise is only renewed once in seven years. Your Petitioners thus distinctly state the subject matter of their complaints, that your honourable House may be convinced that they are acting from no spirit of general discontent, and that you may with the more ease be enabled to inquire into the facts, and to apply the remedy. For the evidence in support of the first complaint, your Petitioners refer to the return book of your honourable House. Is it fitting, that Rutland and Yorkshire should bear an equal rank in the scale of county representation; or can it be right, that Cornwall alone should, by its extravagant proportion of borough members, outnumber not only the representatives of Yorkshire and Rutland together, but of Middlesex added to them 2 Or, if a distinction be taken between the landed and the trading interests, must it not appear monstrous that Cornwali and Wiltshire should send more borough members to parliament, than Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire, Middlesex, Worcestershire, and Somersetshire united? and that the total representation of all Scotland should but exceed by one ineinber, the number returned for a single county in England? The second complaint of your Petitioners is founded on the unequal proportions in which the elective franchise is distributed, and in support of it. They affirm, that seventy of your honourable members are returned by thirtyfive places; where the right of voting is vested in burgage and other tenures of a similar description, and in which it would be to trifle with the patience of your honourable House, to mention any number of voters whatever, the elections at the places alluded to being notoriously a mere matter of form. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove. They affirm that in addition to the seventy honourable members so chosen, ninety more of your honourable members are elected by fortysix places, in none of which the number of voters exceeds fifty. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove.—They affirm, that in addition to the hundred and sixty so elected, thirty-seven more of your honourable members are elected by nineteen places, in none of which the number of voters exceeds one hundred. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove. They affirm, that in addition to the hundred and ninety-seven honourable members so chosen, fifty-two more are returned to serve in parliament, by twenty-six places, in none of which the number of voters exceeds two hundred. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove. They affirm, that in addition to the two hundred
returned to serve in parliament for counties in Scotland by less than one hundred electors each, and ten for counties in Scotland by less than two hundred and fifty each. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove, even admitting the validity of fictitious votes.—They affirm, that in addition to the two hundred and seventynine so elected, thirteen districts of burghs in Scotland, not containing one hundred voters each, and two districts of burghs, not containing one hundred and twenty-five each, return fifteen more honourable members. And this your Petitioners are ready to prove, And in this manner, according to the present state of the representation, two hundred and ninety-four of your honourable members are chosen, and, being a majority of the entire House of Commons, are enabled to decide all questions in the name of the whole people of England and Scotland. The third complaint of your Petitioners is founded on the present complicated rights of voting. From the caprice with which they have been varied, and the obscurity in which they have become involved by time and contradictory decisions, they are become a source of infinite confusion, litigation, and expense. Your Petitioners need not tender any evidence of the inconveniences which arise from this defect in the representation, because the proof is to be found in your journals, and the, minutes of the
pointed under the 10th and 11th of the King. Your honourable House is but too well acquainted with the tedious, intricate, and expensive scenes of litigation which have been brought before you, in attempting to settle the legal import of those numerous distinctions which perplex and confound the present rights of voting. How many months of your valuable time have been wasted in listening to the wrangling of lawyers upon the various species of burgagehold, leasehold, and freehold ! - How many committees have been occupied in investigating the nature of scot and lot, pot wallers, commonalty, populacy, resiant inhabitants, and inhabitants at large ' What labour and research have been employed in endeavouring to ascertain the legal claims of borough-men, aldermen, port men, select men, burgesses, and council-men : And what confusion has arisen from the complicated operation of clashing charters, from freemen resident
and non-resident, and from the different and forty-nine so elected, twenty more are
modes of obtaining the freedom of corporations by birth, by servitude, by marriage, by redemption, by election, and by purchase ! On all these points it is however needless for your Petitioners to enlarge, when your honourable House recollects, the following facts; namely, that since the twenty-second of December 1790, no less than twenty-one committees have been employed in deciding upon litigated rights of voting. Of these, eight were occupied with the disputes of three boroughs, and there are petitions from four places yet remaining before your honourable House, waiting for a final decision to inform the electors what their rights really are. But the complaint of your Petitioners on the subject of the want of an uniform and equitable principle in regulating the right of voting, extends as well to the arbitrary manner in which Some are excluded, as to the intricate qualifications by which others are admitted to the exercise of that privilege. Religious opinions create an incapacity to vote. All Papists are excluded generally, and, by the operation of the test laws, Protestant Dissenters are deprived of a voice in the election of representatives in about thirty boroughs, where the right of voting is confined to corporate officers alone; a deprivation the more unjustifiable, because, though considered as unworthy to vote, they are deemed capable of being elected, and may be the representatives of the very places for which they are disqualified from