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nity of that house, to pay attention to the solicitations of an unruly people. He wanted to know if it were not an insult to the house, to have petitions offered up by ringleaders of mobs. He then entered into a detail of his being surrounded by a riotous mob near the Tholsel, and challenged by them to know, if he were not an abettor of Sir John Blaquiere's bill; but as a guiltless man, that could never be intimidated, he declared he was; in consequence of which, he found hims. If ingulphed in a vortex, whence he could not extricate himself; and on demanding who they were, he received for answer, that they were the aggregate body. Thus he perceived, that if Napper Tandy thought proper to go into the remotest recesses of that city, and excite the inhabitants to acts of desperation, these meetings were to be legalized by the specious appellation of aggregate bodies.
The Recorder, in the strongest terms, reprobated the whole bill, as a system of unexampled tyranny and oppression. It placed, he said, in the hands of a set of low persons, (for commissioners acting for 1501. a year could be no other) a power to fine and torment with all the insolence of authority, every citi. zen of Dublin. It gave them power to raise taxes, and to borrow money; to summon whomsoever they thought proper before their tribunal: and upon neglect or disobedience, to impose a fine of 40l. By this inquisitorial act, the father would be compelled to give evidence against his son, and the son against his father before that honourable board.
The principle of the bill, he said, was utterly repugnant to the law and constitution; and although the mover of the bill expressed his readiness to admit of any reasonable amendment to it, that could be suggested, he objected to the whole principle, as utterly incapable of being modelled to the public benefit.
In this licentious disposition of the public mind, Mr. Foster had been particularly marked as an object of obloquy* in the
* This appears to have been the case from what Mr. Gardiner remarked in the debate. “ The continuation of abuse, which is thrown upon one of the most virtuous characters in this house ; a man, to whom the trade and agri. culture of Ireland is more indebted, than to any other person living, demon. strates the necessity of the bill. No man can serve this country as things are now conducted, without becoming at one time or other the object of calumny. I have experienced this myself, though now I happen to be a favourite, possibly with as little reason, as my right honourable friend is the mark for obloquy
“ The licentiousness of the press is so great, that no man can rest one hour secure, that his character will not become the prey of some hireling defamer. A bill, therefore, to secure character from malignant attacks, is absolutely necessary. Nothing can be more moderate than the principle of that which is now before us. It allows every man to publish whatever he thinks proper,
newspapers: he therefore brought in a bill for restraining the liberty of the press, which was the only remaining subject of importance, that was agitated in parliament during the session. It was then opposed by sonre of the opposition.,
On the 2d reading of the bill, Sir Edward Crofton said, he was astonished that a bill of such a dangerous tendency to the constitution, and so violent an attack on the liberty of the subject, should be agita ted in such thin houses. He considered the press as the strongest bulwark of the constitution; and as he valued that constitution, would resist any measure of a tendency to lessen its securities. He then moved, that the second reading be postponed to the 1st of August.
Mr. Foster said, that it was highly unjust to suppose any injury intended to the liberty of the press by the bill in question; the manifest design of that bill was to preserve the liberty of the press, by curbing its licentiousness, which of late had grown to such a degree of enormity, as to become a national reproach. The bill was not intended as a restraint upon any man, to prevent his publishing his sentiments or opinions. If the bili should pass, every man would hereafter be at full liberty to publish whatever he should think proper, with this difference only, that if a jury of his countrymen should deem such publication a false, scandalous, or malicious libel, he would be answerable. After a very warm debate, the house divided, 22 for the adjournment, and 77 against it. On a subsequent day Mr. Brownlow supported the bill; and Mr. Grattan said, the necessity of the first clause of the bill, that for making known the real name of the printer or proprietor of every newspaper, was apparent, and if carried with unanimity, would produce the most salutary consequence. There was one paper, said he, that teemed with exhortations and incitements to assassination, which daily published such atrocious matter, as would not be suffered in
other country existing. Parliament was called upon to check such proceedings, and to guard the liberty of the press from the injury it might receive, through the scandalous and licentious conduct of the newspapers. He had no idea of wounding the liberty of the press ; but if it were suffered to go on in the way it then did, one of two things would ensue; it would either excite the unthinking to acts of desperation, or it would itself fall into utter contempt, after having disgraced the nation. To prevent either of which consequences, he thought parliament called upon to interfere consonant to the spirit of the constitution, not by imposing any new penalty, nor by compelling printers to have
only making him responsible for what he does publish. This is simply the priuciple of the bill; if there be any defect in its clauses, that may be reme, died by going into a committee.” 3 Parl. Debates, p. 162.
their publications licensed, but merely to oblige them to put their names to their newspapers.
The House of Commons had ordered their Serjeant at Arms to take the publishers and printers of the offensive newspapers out of the custody of the civil power, and commit them over to military escorts, under which they were more cruelly and severely treated, than they could have been by the civil power. Against these illegal stretches of power, some of the warmest patriots vehemently exclaimed. Although the bulk of the house were against them, the agitation of the question upon the unwarrantable exercise of a rigour so manifestly beyond the law, produced in that ferment* of the public mind the very worst of consequences.
General Luttrell, who was at no time a popular favourite, may by some be suspected of having exaggerated the truth, when on the 12th of April, he said in the house, no country was ever disgraced in the manner Ireland had lately been ; nothing less than essays in praise of murder, investigating the diferent means, by which it might be perpetrated, and giving preference to the poignard as the most certain and least dangerous to tlie assassin. There was no place in the worid where excitements to murder would be permitted ; and if the mobs there committed murders, they must be attributed to the newsprinters, who, not content with assassinating characters, had proceeded to the shedding of blood. The bill before them, woulil, le hoped, remedy that enormity, and also another, which they had lately imported from London, that is, the raising contributions by defaming, or threatening to defame innocent per
He hoped a newspriper would no longer be able to say, give me so much money, or your character shall be destroyed by calumny. This is like the means used to raise contributions by a set of infamous miscreants in England, against whose practices the legislature of that country was compelled to exert itself; they lised to threaten persons, that if not paid for silence, they would accuse them of crimes, which to mention, shocks our nature : how much better, he asked, have been the practices of some news-printers here?
Mr. Gardiner, however, who was at that time the prime favourite of the people, as he was the avowed advocate of the distressed manufacturers, thus confirmed the General's statement :...." I have been in some degree, the inno“ cent cause of the disturbances that have prevailed of late; but I trust the “ house will do me the justice to recollect, that I did declare in November “ last, upon the very first appearance of them, that if the people would not ds“ sist from all violence, and demean themselves in a peaceable manner, I “ would abandon the cause, which I had undertaken. And could I have “ foreseen the tumolts that have happened, I certainly would have been as “ good as my word; not will I in future ever undertake the smallest thing for “ the relief of the manufacturers, if the people continue to act so improperly “ as of late they have dine ; and I hope the gentlemen who divided with me
upon the question of protecting duties, will make the same determination.
"As to the bill now before us, the first clause is on all hands admitted ; “ and the necessity of the last, (by which the hawker of any unstamped, in“ flammatory, or libellous paper, may be compelled to prove from whom he “ received it,) is obyious. It was by the inflammatory hand-bill lately dis“ persed, that all this tumult has been excited, as I am well assured by the “ working people themselves, who declared, that they had no idea of stirring “ till they saw it.
“I must say once more, that had I foreseen what was to happen, I never “ would have undertaken the cause of the manufacturers ;• and I feel myself “ extremely hurt at the improper conduct of the working people : I lament it
Towards the close of the session Lord Hilwarlin's motion in the House of Commons for a special address to the lord lieutenant, declaratory of their approbation of his Grace's just and wise administration, produced some very angry debates for several days. The treasury bench resounded with the highest eulogies of the peculiar and signal advantages of the Duke of Rutland's administration. His most impressive panegyrist was Mr. Foster who in answer to the three chief arguments from the opposition benches, namely that the people was discontented, that the session had been disgraceful, and that the House of Commons was unpopular, thus expressed himself. “ They say, the
people have cause to be discontented. I deny it, unless they mean that cause, which no human
the " inclemency of the late season. The utmost efforts indeed " have been made to alleviate it, by the corn bill and other mea
sures : I know the news-papers have taken pains to inflame " the public mind, and to irritate the passions of the people, " by false and seditious writings; and those, who credit the “ falsehoods of newspapers may be discontented, but I will not “believe, that there are many such; the more reasonable and “ discerning persons cannot be misled, they must see, that their " representatives have been watchful of their interests, and that “ that session of parliament had been distinguished by many “ wise and beneficial acts. They say, that it has been a disgraceful session. He had sat many sessions, and he never knew
one wherein so many good acts had been passed, or more pub“ lic benefits procured. They said, that house was unpopular:
unpopular it might be with the promoters of discontent and
sedition, but it was popular with the wise and discerning: it “ would be a fatal day to Ireland, when the people should quar" rel with their parliament. The privileges of that house were “ the privileges of the people: its strength was their's, and if " they failed to support its strength and its privileges they were 66 undone."
The cry on the other hand from the opposition benches was for what bounties received from the Duke of Rutland were the people of Ireland to offer up their thanksgiving? Was it for the rejection of their favourite bill to reform the representation in that house, and to renovate the constitution ? Was it for the precipitate dismissal of the equalization bill, without deigning it any offer of redress, any slight promise from the minister to sooth the disappointed? Was it for that lenient and equitable act the postoffice bill, the adoption of which from a former administration
on their own account, because parliament never will be driven into mea" sures; and though otherwise what I promised might be taken up and carso ried into effect, perhaps in a less degree, yet while riot and disturbance con: us tinue, nothing can be done.”
only aggravated the injury? Was it for the contemptuous rejection of every resolution proposed there, to enforce the residence of certain absentee great officers of the state, who drew immense salaries from that kingdom, and squandered them in another, inattentive to, and negligent of the duties annexed to these offices ? Was it for filling the streets of the capital of that free country with an armed host, not amenable to the control, and derogatory to the privileges of its peaceful citizens ? Or was it for the transforming the House of Commons into a court of star chamber, and converting the Castle from an Irish court to a French bastile, or a Grenada inquisition ? The thanks the people owed for such benevolences were in fact rendered by the torrent of disapprobation and discontent out of doors, which rolled from shore to shore of that kingdom, loudly proclaiming their disapprobation of the administration of his Grace of Rutland in toto.
The original address, which was highly flattering to the lord lieutenant, was carried by a very decided majority.* After
• The following was the address presented to the lord lieutenant (11 Journ. Com. p. 282.)
To his Grace Charles Duke of Rutland, Lord Lieutenant General and Ge. neral Governor of Ireland.
The humble address of the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses in parliament assembled.
« MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
“ WE his majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the " commons of Ireland, in parliament assembled, see with particular satisfac. • tion the arrival of that period, which calls upon us to review the various “ measures of our session, and to testify to your Grace thereupon the warm “ sense of our obligation and duty.
“ We have at once to congratulate ourselves, and to acknowledge the good. . “ness of our sovereign, in the appointment of a chief governor, who by atten. “tion to regulate his conduct by our wishes, hath fully confirmed the justice “ of that early confidence, which we zealously professed in the liberality of “ his disposition, and the spirit of his hereditary virtues; a just estimation “ of such qualities must ever render him the favourite of a spirited and gene“ rous nation.
“ We are persuaded, that his majesty hath observed with pleasure our at. " tention to those objects, which were recommended to our deliberation at “ the opening of the session, and has graciously accepted the assurance of " satisfaction, which we have repeatedly expressed in the blessings of our
« And when we reflect upon the measures we have taken to ensure a con“stant supply of corn under every possible circumstance; upon the prospect “ of benefit in the management of the revenue ; upon our attention to make " the additional security of private property a cause of increase to the na“tional credit; upon our provision for the improvement of the metropolis ; " and our encouragement of useful establishments, and of various branches of “ trade and manufacture, we doubt not of receiving the true reward of our “ services, in the approbation of our sovereign, and in the gratitude of our fel. "' low-subjects.