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in such a case, be ridiculous to al. process, and by the public nature low a seditious libeller advantages, of the complaint. which are denied to an ordinary Besides, this argument, if at all breaker of the peace ; when sedi- admitted, will prove too much ; tion is a crime of so much greater the same reasoning might hold as guilt and importance than a me. well in treason, felony, and actual
, nacing gesture, or even an actual breaches of the peace. No doubt, alfault
. That the privilege of par- either house of parliament would, . liament is a privilege of a civil na- on complaint, deliver up their memture, instituted to preserve the bers charged with such offences ; member from being distracted in his yet it is allowed, that the privilege attention to the business of the na- neither does nor ought to cover tion by litigations concerning his them. And no one criminal matprivate property, but by no means ter seems more within the reason of to prove a protection for crimes. privilege than another.
If, said they, this distinction It is the argument in favour of of breaches of the peace were
criminal privilege that proves too to hold, members of parliament much. The assertion, that this armight not only libel public and gument against it does fo too, is not private persons with impunity, grounded; for a good deal is inbut might, with the fame impuni- tended to be proved. Those, who ty, commit many other misdemea- are for declaring the law of privihours and offences of the groffest lege not to extend to the case of nature, and the most destructive libels, do not mean to suppose to morality and order ; because all these other heinous offences of they, as well as libels, the same nature, upon which their breaches of the peace but by declaration is filent, to be, thereconstruction and in their confe. fore, within privilege. They deny quence. If privilege were of this it to exist in the case before them"; nature, the freedom of the mem- that is all their present business bers would be the slavery of the but they do neither thereby affirm, subject, and the danger of the or imply it, in any other. state.
Privilege of parliament, being Upon what had been asserted on defined solely by the discretion of the other side, “ that no inconve- either house for itself, is a matter "nience could arise by the prefer- of the most delicate nature ; it is, "vation of this privilege, because, therefore, to be used with the ut
on application to that house of most moderation. If it should be parliament of which the delin- fo exercised as to appear incomquent was a member, he would patible with the public peace or certainly be given up to juf- order, or even, perhaps, with the
tice," they observed, that this safety and quiet of individuals, the remedy might come too late ; for, people might come to think that as the offender could not be arrested they lived under a constitution, and held to bail, he might easily injudiciously and even absurdly escape by the length of time necef- framed, in which the personal lifary to be taken in that mode of berty of the representatives of a
free people might become incon- that body of which he was a mem+
parts. In 'this duel, Mr. W. Nov.
On some such reasons, wounded ; and the state of hiş 24th.
the commons, though not health being represented to the
without a ftrenuous oppo- house, the hearing on the charge fition, agreed to the resolution; and against him was adjourned from in a conference, this resolution was time to time. During these adcommunicated to the other house. journments, Mr. W. observing the Nov.
They also concurred in it. decision of all the preliminary 29th.
The resistance in this house questions relative to his case, the
was still more considerable, vigour with which administration A protest against it was signed by urged the prosecution, and the seventeen lords.
coldness with which every thing The North Briton having been that was personal to him in these Dec.
declared a seditious libel by disputes was treated almost by the Ist.
the concurring votes of both whole party, he thought it ex. houses, and as such burnt pedient
Dec. by the common hangman, the com- France, until a change in
24th. mons proceeded in the complaint administration might proagainst Mr. W. as the author of it.' duce dispositions more favourable. This prosecution, which was be- to him. gun and pushed forward with great The last adjourned
Jan. 19th, earneftness, was, however, some day of the complaint be
1764. time respited by an accident, which, ing arrived, the house, though unfortunate to Mr. Wilkes, certified that he had refused to was advantageous to the party; admit furgeons sent by their aufor it ftill kept the popular fpirit thority to examine into the state of and hopes alive, which probably his wound, and his retreat into would have expired under an ear- France rather indicating a difly and final decision of the house trust of his cause, than any thing against him ; the people without amiss in his constitution, proceeddoors would have cooled, when ed regularly to hear evidence in they found him condemned by support of the charge against him.
They considered the letter and the To fill the measure of the degraapology he sent for his non-ap- dation of this late idol of the
popupearance, together with the testi. lace, a book, which he had privatemony of the French surgeons, ly printed and dispersed amongst which accompanied it, as quite his friends, was presented by one nugatory. If his wound had been of the secretaries of state to
Jan, in the condition in which he re- the house of lords. This presented it, a journey to Paris book, full of indecent and 19th. was a strange measure ; and the profane ribaldry, reflected on the consequences arose from his own character of a right reverend memvoluntary act.
ber of that house, whose vast ex. The evidence appearing satis- tent of erudition and genius adds factory as to the author, and the dignity and lustre to his high stahouse having previously, passed tion. The peers proceeded against judgment on the piece, the ques- the author for a breach of privition of expelling Mr. Wilkes was lege, while he was indicted in the carried without difficulty ; the di- courts below for blasphemy. And vision in his favour being inconsi- now expelled by one house ; under derable.
the censure of the other ; under a In this manner the party aban- double prosecution for libel and doned the most zealous, the most for blafphemy, he began to be resolute, and one of the most use- abandoned by many of his warmest ful of their champions. They friends. Even the populace, though thought it necessary to purchase they did not disrelish faction, the credit of moderation even by could not digest profaneness ; they this facrifice. They were willing could forgive party malice, but to fhew that their opposition was were shocked at offences against grounded upon principle, not up- decency and sober morals. Mr. on discontent; and that the ad- W. was soon run to an out
Nov. ministration, who accused them so lawry, for not appearing
ift. freely of a factious procedure, to the indictments against could not, when the trial came, him; and the suits, which he had shew a greater desire to preserve carried on against the secretaries the dignity of the throne from eve- of state, of course fell : to the ry species of affront. They hoped ground, their conduct in that respect would This compleated the ruin of appear even more dutiful than that that unfortunate gentleman, who of the ministry itself; since the engaged for fome time so great a ministry, in the prosecution of an part of the public attention, and affront to the throne, avenged their whose wit, fpirit, and good-huown private injuries; whilst the mour, if not carried to such unopposition, in respect to injured warrantable excesses, merited, and majesty, abandoned their belt and would probably have met with, most fanguine friends.
ạ very different fortune,
C H A P VI.
Question of general warrants. Debates thereupon. Administration hard
pushed. Question adjourned. State of the national supplies. Scheme of ways and means criticised. Observations on that coniroversy. TITHERTO the triumph of attempts they should make, and
administration was compleat. the zeal for liberty they should maSentence had been passed on the nifest, on the occasion. Neither cause and on the person of a prin- of these methods could fail of ancipal adversary. "They had even swering their purposes. deprived all persons for the future There was also a favourable of that privilege, which had been portunity for those parties, which lately thought the strong hold of fecretly divided the body that had writers for the opposition. But hitherto supported government, to their turn was now come to be at play their game.
The royal matacked themselves, upon a point on jesty was in nowise concerned in which they were somewhat sore, and this question ; no measure pursued not extremely strong.
by any party was censured ; no On most of the preceding quef- general plan of government was tions, there was, at the bottom, affected ; the law only was to be but little difference between any declared, and the minds of the of the parties ; an offence, which subject made easy upon a practice, comprehended, at once, an attack the strict legality of which had not upon the peace; an indignity to been defended by the warmest the crown; and a censure of the advocates for the administration.
I parliament; was, in a manner, the Nothing even of a personal cenfure common cause. But on the ques- was intended.
These appearances tion of the warrants used in the were plausible ; and many sober prosecution of this offence so una- persons were seriously alarmed, to nimously condemned, the case was observe a practice prevalent in a very
different. The opposition great office contrary to what they had here no measures to keep. considered as the clearest princiThey had gone too far in repre- ples of law, and inconsistent with senting these warrants as highly the manner of governing in a free dangerous to liberty, to be able to country. The long and filent recede with the least degree of de- continuance of this practice, instead cency: They had raised an alarm, of excusing, only added to the and it was necessary that they danger of it. should have the merit of quieting Whatever the motives, that init by the application of some re- fluenced the conduct and opinions medy adequate to the violence of of men on this point, might be, the disease; or the advantage of there was no doubt that, without keeping it up by the eclat of the aiming at the persons, a confiderable stroke was aimed at the mi. nor a certain judicature by which nisterial character and considera- it was to be tried; for, whilst he tion of those in high stations. Ma- looked for the rule of legality ny of those, therefore, who relish- , only in acts of parliament and in ed neither the administration, as the common law, and endeavourit was then formed, nor the op- ed thence to form a rule for his position, were of opinion, that conduct, there might, for aught the one might be humbled, and he knew, be another in the jouryet the others not materially ex
nals of the house of commons. An alted, by their appearing for a re- action of his, for which he might solution condemning the general 'ftand clear before his ordinary warrants.
judges, may be condemned by that Accordingly a resolution was body. He might also conceive proposed to the following effect : doubts of the authority, in this Feb.
“ That a general warrant particular, though he could en
“ for apprehending and tertain none, of the power of the 15th.
“ seizing the authors, prin- house. Thus distracted, between a ters, and publishers of a fedi- dread of their power, and the ne“tious libel, together with their ceflity of executing his own as a
papers, is not warranted by law.” magistrate, a general timidity and This proposition drew on a very unsteadiness must ensue in the adlong and very warm debate. Those ministration of justice, which would who opposed it did not ground produce the most fatal effects upon their opposition on an affirmance the peace and good order of foof the legality of the warrants ciety. (for, in general, they either ad- Nor would it introduce a less mitted their illegality, or put that dangerous confusion in the fumatter out of the question), but on preme courts of law, from the the impropriety of the method pro- fame causes. The conftitution has posed for settling the law of war- taught them to believe, that the rants. They argued that the house judicial power rests in them; and of commons, by itself, cannot de- that, in the exercise of it, they are clare law legislatively, because it is to be guided only by the whole leonly a part and not the whole of gislature. But when they find the legislature ; nor judicially, be- that the house of commons takes cause it is neither the whole nor a upon itself to participate, if not to part of
any court of judicature. supersede, their power, and to alThat no abuse of warrants was, ter their rule, with what degree of in itself, so dangerous an illegality, calmness of mind, and true judias an attempt to destroy the bounds'cial resolution, can they execute which the wisdom of the constitu- their high and important office ? tion has assigned to the distinct In vain are they made independent powers which compose it ; that of the crown, if they are to be this method could be productive brought into a state of dependence of nothing but confusion, and in- on the noufe of commons. It is justice ; of confufion, as the infe, indifferent how they are influenrior acting magistrate could never ced, if they are to take the direchave a certain rule for his conduct, tion of their judgments from any