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that court; but whatever he might suffer from such calumny and mistatement, he enjoyed the consolation that he had been incorrupt in his office, and he could form no better wish for his country than that his successor should be penetrated with an equal desire to execute his duties with fidelity. The feelings and fate of an individual were in themselves of small importance to the public, and he (the lord chancellor) might be sacrificed to the insults which he daily received; but he begged noble lords to reflect that he might not be the only sacrifice. If the object was, as it appeared to be, to pull down the reputation and throw discredit on the motives and conduct of men in high official situations—if every man who occupied an eminent station in the church or the state were to become the object of slander and calumny— then their lordships might lay their account with similar treatment, and might rest convinced that their privileges as peers could not long be respected when such characters had been sacrificed. Earl Grosvenor explained.—If the noble lord was not overpaid by the emoluments of his office, it ought to be recollected that it had extensive patronage. Lord Redesdale defended the conduct of the lord chancellor. The bill was then read a third time and passed. The Marquis of Hastings moved that the opinion of the judges be heard on the construction of the act for regulating the interest of money in India. Lord Chief-Justice Best delivered the opinion of the judges in favour of the bill of the noble marquis. The act for restricting
the interest of money to 12 per cent. was to be interpreted according to its letter, as it was a penal statute; and by its literal interpretation it was only to be enforced in the dominions of the company. House of Commons, June 27.3Ir. Bernal presented a petition from Frances Helligar, complaining of the grievous and intolerable oppression and delay of chancery proceedings. The petitioner is a widow, reduced to pauperism, in the Greenwich workhouse, although her husband left 1,400l. and more to her in 1809, of which 300l. have been claimed by his creditors, and 1,100l. wasted by a common proceeding in chancery for the distribution of the effects. He had hitherto abstained from taking part in the discussion upon chancery abuses, but it was not because he was ignorant of them; on the contrary, he could speak with certainty of the abuses of the practice in the master's office, which were too expensive and dilatory to be countenanced by any persons, the masters themselves not excepted. Mr. Peel said, that he would take care that the substance of the petition should be referred to the commissioners of equity inquiry. He admitted that the evils complained of were considerable. Mr. Denison wished to ask of the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Huskisson), a question of very great importance to the fo– reign trade of the country. He would ask, whether it was allowed to the ships of a different nation to import into this country the produce of another country 2 For instance, whether a Swedish ship would be allowed to take a cargo to the Mediterranean—to sell it there— there—and, having taken in another lading in a French port, to bring that lading, the produce of France, to this country? If that were the law, he conceived our merchants must labour under a considerable disadvantage; because he believed the foreign vessel could be fitted out at much less expense than a British vessel. The foreigner could procure his pork and beef 50 per cent. cheaper than the merchant in this country; and if the former were allowed to import here the produce of France, the situation of the latter must be considerably deteriorated.
Mr. Huskisson did not know whether the hon, gentleman was speaking of any supposed alteration that was about to take place in the navigation laws of this country, or as to the alteration which had been made in them some time ago. Before the revision of the act of Charles II., goods, the produce of Europe, were allowed to be imported into England, in ships of the country to which the articles belonged. There were, however, some bulky articles to which this provision did not extend, such as flax, timber, masts, tar, and several others, which were commonly known under the name of enumerated articles. These were generally exempted from the operation of the law, which allowed the bringing of goods, except those specified, from any ports in Europe. By an act brought in by an honourable friend of his in 1822, the law of Charles II. was so far altered, that the enumerated articles were placed under a new provision. That new provision was, that the enumerated articles might be brought from the countries where they were grown in
the ships of that country, or in British ships; and from any other countries where they were not grown, if carried in ships of the countries where they happened to be so deposited. Thus masts could not be brought here from Russia except by Russian or British ships; but if those masts found their way to Holland, or any other country in Europe, and were landed there, they might be brought to England in the ships of that country, or in British ships. Prior to the act of 1822 those enumerated articles could not be imported except in ships of this country. The alteration as to the carriage of those articles to this country in ships belonging to a country where they were not grown, but where they had been landed, was found to be a most useful and wholesome provision. The general provision of the act of Charles II. was, that no article, the produce of Europe, should be brought to England, except in British ships, or in ships of the country where the article was grown. But they had been obliged to modify that provision. Since the United States became an independent state, European articles were allowed to be imported in ships of that country; and it had been subsequently found necessary farther to alter the clause, in consequence of the new states which had recently sprung up. Mr. Wallace moved the order of the day for the house resolving itself into a committee of the whole house on the combination of workmen bill. The right hon. gentleman said he would, in moving “ that the speaker do now leave the chair,” briefly state the ground on
on which the present measure was founded. Thé statement made on a former night by a right hon. friend near him (Mr. Huskisson), though it had not been substantiated in all its particulars by the evidence, yet was so far borne out, as to the general extent and nature of the combinations that existed throughout the country, and the effect of those combinations, that it was quite clear, from what had come to light, that some farther intervention of parliament was absolutely necessary. It appeared to him and to others, that the only practical view that could be taken of this subject was to examine the actual state of those combinations, to see if any alteration had taken place in the conduct of the parties, in consequence of the repeal of those laws, which it was confidently asserted had given rise to the combinations that formerly existed—and also to inquire whether the character of those combinations was in any degree softened or mitigated. All those points were duly considered, and it did appear that the character of those combinations was in some degree altered—that they were greater in extent, but more open in their proceedings, than they used to be. No less than 13 cases of absolute combination were stated to the committee, and of these seven had grown up since the sitting of the committee. With respect to the constitutional character of those combinations, they had found it much the same as heretofore. The parties met regularly and constantly, with presidents, secretaries, and committees. They attempted to take from the masters all resources, by restraining them from taking ap
prentices. They were all under the superintendence of committees, which committees appeared to be composed of leading members in the trade over the great body of which they presided. The manner in which they issued their orders, and the promptitude with which those orders were obeyed, sufficiently showed their influence. He knew that in the estimation of many gentlemen, those combinations were considered as light and unimportant. He confessed that he was of a different opinion. He viewed the subject as one of very great importance. He knew it had been said, that a good deal of difference might be traced between meetings which took place about a round-table and about a longtable. There was more equality at the round—individuals could more readily deliver their opinions; but, at the long-table, those who were at the upper-end, who acted as directors, could contrive to have their projects carried without much interference from those at the lower end. He believed this was the case in those combination meetings, where the measures were generally carried by the worst and most violent characters. It appeared that the intervention of journeymen had for its object to settle when they would work, whom the master should employ, what they should receive, how many, if any apprentices, should be allowed ; –in short, to take all power out of the hands of the master. Beyond this, they had, in some cases, pointed out men to be assassinated—a circumstance which ought not to escape from the memory of gentlemen. He declared that he had not overstated the case: he had confined himself
to the evidence. In Ireland it was stated, that 70 or 80 persons had been wounded. Of these 30 or 40 had their skulls fractured ; and two had been actually murdered, in the open day, without the possibility of bringing the murderers to justice. In Scotland, a still more organized system prevailed, and he begged leave to call the attention of the house to the oath which was said to be taken by the persons engaged in Scotland in those combinations. It had been produced before the committee by a respectable manufacturer, and ran thus:—“I, A. B., do voluntarily swear in the awful presence of Almighty God, and before those witnesses, that I will execute, as far as in me lies, every task or injunction which the majority of my society may impose on me, whether it be the assassination of oppressive and tyrannical masters, or the demolition of shops deemed incorrigible; and I will also cheerfully contribute to the support of my fellow-workmen who may have left their employment in consequence of any reduction of wages. And I do farther swear never to divulge the form of this obligation, unless duly authorized to divulge it by the proper authority.” Now, supposing this to be a real obligation, what must be the state of society amongst those who would not scruple to subscribe it ! Was it fit that such a state of things should be suffered to remain 7 Could any thing be more dreadful than a combination in which vast numbers of persons were bound together by such a tie o The hon. gentleman then proceeded to detail the evidence of John Kean, an artisan of Glasgow, who in his
confession declared that the object o
of the workmen in their combinations was to keep up their wages. That there were two committeemen in the general association at Glasgow, whose duty it was to report to the select committee; and that these committee-men were changed every two months. He proceeded to describe the organization of these committees, and stated, that it appeared by the same confession that it had been resolved to take the lives of four of the workmen, Wright, Dunlop, Lindsay, and Ewens, as soon as possible. This committee, it appeared, met every Saturday night between 9 and 10 o'clock. The confession to which the honourable member now alluded, had been made by a man who had been convicted of shooting a workman of the name of Graham, who had gone contrary to the wishes of the committee. He felt that it was unnecessary for him to dwell upon this case, because the atrocity of it must strike every one, and the opinion of every hon. gentleman must be, as his was, that a state of things in which such crimes could be perpetrated ought to be put a stop to without delay. He believed that the same motives were common to all the committees, and that they all pursued the same course. The evil which resulted from it was perhaps greater than could be calculated at the first sight. The most innocent persons might be led, step by step, to become participators in acts of the most atrocious description, and from which, if left to their own unbiassed feelings, they would recoil with the utmost abhorrence. It was very well known that to ensure success to the designs of any committee like those he was .
warnings—then threats and intimidation; and if these were found to be insufficient, then murder, or an attempt to murder, was resorted to, as had been seen in some recent instances. All these various means had, indeed, been lately practised. The shipwrights in the neighbourhood of London had quietly left their work, and withdrawn from the employment of certain masters. The shipwrights of Bristol had gone a little farther, and had resorted to threats. The coopers of London had made all the workmen who would not obey the rules they laid down, as they called it, uncomfortable. It was difficult to say exactly what they meant by “uncomfortable ; ” but its effects were easily understood. The consequence was, that all the workmen who had been made uncomfortable became members of the association. The weavers of Yorkshire had proceeded as far as threats, and the workmen in Scotland had gone even greater lengths. An instance occurred a few days ago of a man who had struck with others, and who had received a small sum from the society; afterwards, conceiving that he had permission to return to work, he had done so, and was called to account by the society, and punished for his offence. In Scotland there had been more than one attempt to murder, and in Ireland even some men had actually been murdered. For these reasons it was ...that he wished to see the law relat
ing to combinations made stronger, and that the people might be guarded against the possibility of running into excesses, which in
the end must be dangerous to themselves; and that they should not, as they did now, think it was meritorious to enter into combinations against their masters. He was no friend to the principle of the laws which had been repealed;
he did not wish to see them reenacted, but he wished that the common law as it had stood before should be again brought into force. This, he believed, would be quite sufficient for the purpose, and he expected that in saying this he spoke the general opinion of the house. By that law sufficient powers were given to the workmen for the preservation of their own interests: they were permitted to meet for the purpose of obtaining an increase of their wages; but if they went beyond this, and attempted to mix up any intimidation of others in their scheme, it was going too far. The object of the present bill was to keep up this distinction, and every thing beside was left to the operation of the common law. He thought the bill of last year went too far, because it gave the men an opportunity of controlling their masters in their trade, and opened to them the power of exercising a compulsion which was unjust and impolitic. The attachment which some workmen had to their masters was very strong; their affection to their families must of course be much stronger; and yet the influence which their societies exercised over them was found to be stronger than either, and induced the workmen
in many instances to neglect both,
and in preference to obey the