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VOL. XIV. No. 18.]
LONDON, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1808. (PRICE 10d.
"That it is the RIGHT of the subject to petition the king.......
And they " (the people of England) ❝ do claim, demand, and insist upon, all and singular the premises" (the right of petitioning being only a part), as their undoubted rights and liberties; and that no declarations, judgments, doings, or proceedings, to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises, ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into "consequence or example."-BILL OF RIGHTS.
TO THE FREEHOLDERS AND OTHER INHABITANTS OF HAMPSHIRE.
It is with great pleasure, and with some degree of pride, that I have seen, in the public papers, a notification, that, on Wednesday, the 2d of November, a meeting of the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy, Freeholders and other Inhabitants of this county, is to be held at the city of Winchester, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of a petition to the king for an Inquiry into the causes of the Convention, lately entered into by cur generals in Portugal. That this meeting will be well attended as to numbers, and that there will be present gentlemen able and willing to point out what ought to be done, there can be no doubt; but, as it appears to me, that a few previous remarks, with respect to the objects of the meeting, may tend towards producing unanimity, and thereby adding force to the decision, I beg leave to offer you my sentiments upon the subject.
Gentlemen, the sorrow and indignation at the Convention in Portugal have been, and are, more general than any feeling ever has been known to be in this country, within the memory of the oldest man living, with the sole exception, perhaps, of the sorrow which was felt at the death of LORD NELSON. That this sorrow and indignation were not founded in reason no one has attempted to shew us. There have been attempts made, amongst the parties concerned in the transaction, to shift the blame from one to the other; there have been attempts made to make us believe that the Convention was not altogether so bad as we thought it; but, there has been no man bold enough to stand forward and assert, that we were a nation of fools, who had all joined in condemning that which had in it nothing worthy of condemnation.
It is clear, then, that the thing itself, the deed which we so universally lament, is a proper subject of lamentation. It is clear, that our sorrow and our indignation are well founded. But, if these feelings of ours are to produce no effect upon the conduct of
[674 those who are invested with the care and superintendance of our rights and interests; if our feelings are to be stifled; it we have not the right, or, which is the same thing, if we are deterred from exercising the right, of demanding justice to be done upon those who have been the cause of what we complain of; if this be the case, there is nothing in our situation which distinguishes it from that of slaves. For, Gentlemen, what is the great characteristic of slavery? It is this; that though the slave feel loss and vexation, he dares not openly complain. We are in the daily habit of speaking of Buonaparte as a despot, and of the people of France as his slaves; and, in so doing, we are not, I am convinced, guilty of injustice. But, what are the proo's, which we possess, or pretend to possess, of the despotism of Buonaparte and of the slavery of the French people? What are these proofs ? For, if we assert, without proof wherewith to support our assertions, we are guilty of falsehood; and falsehood is not less falsehood, merely because it is uttered against an enemy. What are these proofs, then? Not that he has no parliament, for he has a legislative assembly as well as we; not that, in his legislative assembly, his ministers have always a decided majority, for, you know well, that our king's ministers have the same; not that be can do what he pleases with his army, appointing, promoting, and cashiering the officers at his pleasure, for, you know, that our king has precisely the same power, and that, when, upon a late occasion, an attempt was made to abridge that power, that attempt was stigmatized as an attack upon the just prerogatives of the crown; not because the people of France are not represented in their legislative assembly, for, there are elections in France as well as in England, and, perhaps, it would be very difficult to prove, that between those elections and ours there is any material difference. Well, then, Gentlemen, what is the ground, upon which we charge the people of France with being slaves, and what is the proof which we pos. sess of the fact? The ground is simply
this, that they dare not go to their sovereign with complaints; and, the only proof that we possess of this fact, is. that they do not go to him with complaints. If, therefore, we do not complain to the king, when it is notorious to the world, that we have so bitterly complained to one another, will not that world conclude, that we dare not complain; and, upon the same ground that we call the French people slaves, will not the world justly impute slavery to us? No matter what be the cause, by which we are restrained from complaining; whether it be the bayonet in the hands of a soldier, or the means of corruption in the hands of a ininister; whether it be the dread of death from the hands of the executioner or from the cravings of hunger. The cause matters not, so that the effect be the same; so that we are slaves, it matters not whether we are held in slavery by the force of steel or by that of gold.
Those who wish to prevent the people from petitioning the king upon this occasion, tell us, that we are not competent judges of the matter, upon which we have taken it upon us to decide. That we are not all soldiers is certain, and that very few of us, comparatively speaking, would be able to conduct battles and sieges is obvious; but, all of us, who are not absolute ideots, know, that when an army is sent abroad at a vast expence, the people who pay that expence, have a right to expect some services from that army; we know, that when one army is double the force of another, and when the latter has been beaten by a third part of the force of the former, that it is reasonable to expect, that the weaker army ought, very soon, to become captives to the stronger. There does not require any military science to enable us to speak with confidence as to these points. If we must be generals, or admirals, in order to be able to form correct opinions, in every case relating to military and naval affairs, it is plain, that we must, in future, hold our tongues; and that we have nothing to do with such affairs, but to pay the expences attending them. Upon the same principle, we could never, with propriety, complain of any measure of the government, however disgraceful or oppressive it might be. If a treaty were made giving up the Isle of Wight to France, we might be told to hold our peace, seeing that we are not plenipotentiaries and secretaries of state; the chancellor of the exchequer might, upon the same principle bidiobatsilent upon the subject of taxation duced to th
we were reeveewers of wood
and drawers of water. In the
those who do pretend to understand military affairs have not attempted to defend the transaction of which we complain; while some of those persons, who are most active in opposition to our petitioning the king, have asserted, that one of the generals protested against the Convention. But, what are their opinions to us? It is sufficient, that the thing appears to us to be matter for complaint. That is all that is required to justify our complaining; unless we be con tent to see and hear only through the eyes and ears of those, who appear to think that they have a right to treat us as their slaves, merely because they wallow in luxury upon the fruit of our labour. When, but a very few months ago, it was thought useful to those in power to obtain addresses to the king in praise of his speech about Spain and Portugal, and of the military measures be intended to adopt with regard to those coun tries; then you were not thought to be quite so unfit judges of matters of this sort then you were called upon to give your opi nions of measures even before they had been put into execution. And now, by the very same persoas, who then so called up you, you are told that military operation and making Conventions are matters abort your capacity. So that, though you are very good judges as long as you are disposed to praise, you are not fit to judge at all, w you are disposed to condemn; and, in sho you are to be well-broken dogs in the service of the ministers of the day, at whose com mand you are to dash on, come in, stand, back, give tongue, run mute, creep, cringe, or lie, dead as a stone, at their feet. Th expedition to Portugal, the intention of undertaking which you were, by the agents of the ministers, called upon to praise, has cost England as much as the whole amount of one year's poor-rates; that it has done harm to England instead of good no man h the assurance to deny; and yet you are that you ought not to call for inquiry into the conduct of those who have caused all this injury, because you are not competent judges of the matter. This insolence may show you in what contempt you are held by the persons to whom I have so frequently alluded; and, if you now suffer yourselves to be bullied or wheedled into silence, you will convince the world that you are worthy of that contempt.
But, there is another objection to our petit oning the king, at this time, which objection is worthy of your particular no tice, and, I trust you will think, of you marked reprobation. It is this that
since the promulgation of the king's answer to the city of London, any further petitions for inquiry are unnecessary, seeing that be therein declared his intention to institute an inquiry, after which further petitions, besides being useless, may seem to imply a doubt of his sincerity.Gentlemen, the petition of the city of London was expressed in terms as humble as it is possible for any description of human creatures to make use of towards any earthly being; and the answer they received contained as sharp a rebuke as any king of England ever gave to his subjects. The king told them, that it inconsistent with the principles of "British justice to pronounce judgment "without previous investigation;" and that, "the interposition of the city of London could not be necessary for inducing him "to direct due inquiry to be made."Now, Gentlemen, there was no judgment pronounced on any one by the petition ofthe poor cringing Londoners. They only pray ed that an inquiry might be ordered; they said, what the whole nation had said, that the Convention was disgraceful and injurious to the country; they expressed their sorrow that so many English lives and so much English money should have been lost and expended in vain; and they humbly implored the king to institute an inquiry into the cause of such a calamity, and to bring the offenders to justice; but, they judged no one; they marked out no one for punishment; they pretended not to say, whether the blame lay with the ministers or the generals; they, with the rest of the nation, were convinced that blame lay somewhere, and they prayed, in a most humble style, that an inquiry might take place. Was there, in this, Gentlemen, any thing "inconsistent with the principles of British justice?" Why, is not this the mode of proceeding in all our courts? The man, who thinks himself aggrieved by another man, comes into court, in his own person or by his attorney, and demands that the alledged offender be put upon his trial. The demand cannot be refused; it often happens, that the party accused is found to be innocent; but, no one attempts to say, that the demand is inconsistent with the principles of British justice; no judge, when applied to for a warrant, a writ, an attachment, or citation, ever tells the plaintiff that he is come to "pronounce judgment.” When any of us apply for a warrant or summons against a thief, or a poacher, we assert that the person has been guilty of thieving or poaching; yet, the justices never send us away with the rebuke, that we
pronouncing judgment without previous investigation." It would be an insult to your understandings to pursue the illustration; for there is not a man of you, who will not clearly perceive, that the application of the poor humble citizens of London was strictly consistent, not only with the principles of British justice, but, as nearly as the case would permit, with the forms of legal proceedings.As to the necessity of this application, the king alluded to the trial of General Whitelocke, and told the poor citizens, that he should have hoped, that his conduct in that case would have convinced them, that their interposition was not necessary to induce him to institute inquiry in this case. But, Gentlemen, pray mark the distinction. In both cases the transaction was reprobated by the nation at large; in both cases the NATION complained of disgrace and inquiry; but, not so with the MINISTRY, who, in the former case, gave, at once, evident signs of their agreement in feeling and opinion with the nation; whereas, in the latter case, they gave signs as evident, that they disagreed in feeling and opinion with the nation, and that, though they might not openly justify the Convention, their intention was not to put upon their trial any of the persons, who had framed or ratified it. Upon the arrival of the intelligence, or, at least, when the intelligence could no longer be kept from the public, they made a short and equivocal communication of it to the Mayor of London; they caused the guns of the Park and Tower to be fired, which, as you well know, is the token of joyful tidings; they caused an illumination to be made at all the offices and buildings under their controul; they put us to the expence of candles, coloured lamps, and flambeaux, for the celebration of the event; and, in short, they did, upon this occasion, exhibit all those marks of joy that were by them exhibited at the intelligence of the battle of Trafalgar.-Well, then, Gentlemen, what similarity is there in the two cases? and, why were the poor citizens of London to be rebuked, because they seemed to suspect, that Wellesley and his associates would not be brought to trial, without a direct application of the people to the king? Were they, because Whitelocke was tried for an act which the ministers openly lamented, to conclude that Wellesley would be tried for an act at which these same ministers openly rejoiced? Poor creatures, how is it possible, that they could have drawn such a conclusion? There were, moreover, Gentlemen, other circumstances to justify this interposi
what they did, it is our duty to do the same;
tion on the part of the people. Whitelocke not been given to us. If we approve of had the misfortune to commit his disgraceful act at a time when the ministry was composed of a new set of men, of men who were the political enemies of those who sent him out on his command; and the citizens of London, slavish as they have been for many many long and disgraceful years, had had opportunities enough of perceiving, that circumstances of this sort are not with out their influence. They knew, besides, 'that the Convention-making generals were not only appointed by the present ministry, who, of course, were their political friends, but that one of them, he who led the way in the transaction that has filled us with indignation, was one of the ministry, one of his brothers another of the ministry, and that his family had, at least, twelve fast friends in the parliament. These were cir cumstances calculated to have great weight; and when the citizens of London perceived, that the ministers, in the Gazette Extraordinary, in which they gave us an account of the transactions in Portugal, published the Armistice, which was negociated and signed by Wellesley, in the French language only; when they perceived this, must they not have been convinced, that it was the resolutron of the ministers to screen this general, at any rate, and that to screen him would be Impossible, if either of the others were put upon their trial? Must not this have been evident to every man of common sense? Well, then, in this state of things, what · do the citizens of London do? Why, they meet, and determine to appeal to the king; they say, we see that the ministers are disposed to withhold satisfaction from us for this great injury and disgrace, and therefore, as to the prime source of justice, we will apply to the king himself. They do this in language the most humble; their prayer is termed an unnecessary interposition; they are accused of acting inconsistently with the principles of British justice; and they are charged with pronouncing judgment previous to investigation, at the very moment when they pray for an investigation.
Now, Gentlemen, can you discover any thing in this transaction which ought to prevent us from petitioning the king for inquiry? We have all the original inducements that the citizens of London had; but, we are told, that; at any rate, the king has now declared that he will institute an inquiry, and that, therefore, to petition for that purbesides being useless, pose now, would, seem to imply a doubt of his sincerity.Gentlemen, this doctrine is quite new. The answer given to the citizens of London has
terposition of the city of London cou "not be necessary for inducing me to di "rect due inquiry to be made into a transac "tion which has disappointed the hopes and
expectations of the nation." Now, Gen tlemen, this is, you perceive, by no means a positive assurance that any inquiry shall take place; and, supposing it to amount to that, the word due, carefully qualifying the word inquiry, leaves, I think, little room to doubt, that the inquiry, if any, is not likely to be of that vigorous kind, which it is the wish of the nation to see take place.-The answer implies, that the king has been st all times ready to institute inquiries of "the sort in contemplation. There was a con vention at the Helder, by which eight the sand French sailors were released out of qur prisons to go and fight against us; and, il any inquiry did take place upon that occa sion, an occasion in which the character of the country and its arms was certainly con cerned, it was of so secret and quiet a and, that the people never even heard of it; I take it, that this is not the sort of inquiry, which we now wish for. Besides, does it greatly encourage us to rely upon the advice that
the king will now receive, that we see, at the very same levee, where the Londoners are rebuked, Sir Arthur Wellesley the first upon the list of persons graciously received by the king; that we see that saine general who signed the armistice, immediately after his return from court, set off for Ireland to resume his place and functions as a minister of the crown, and the chief minister, too, in that part of the kingdom; that we see Sir Harry Burrard, Sir Charles Cotton, Col. Murray, and all those who must necessarily be material witnesses, "left to keep the police at Lisbon"; do we, from these well known facts, derive any great encouragement to rely, to rest satisfied, to hold our tongues and remain quiet, in the assurance, that the king will be advised to institute such an inquiry as is likely to obtain us justice? Nay, Gentlemen, is it probable, is there the smallest probability, that those minister, who made public rejoicings at the intelligence of the Convention, will advise the king to proceed to the prosecution of those, who were the authors, or the cause, of that ConVention? You cannot believe, that this is probable; you can hardly believe that it is possible; the answer to the citizens of London alone must convince you of the contrary; and, therefore, if you wish to see justice done upon the authors of the Convention, you are called upon to endeavour, by a resolute exercise of your right of petitioning the king to induce him to listen to his people, and to reject the advice whi⚫ is so likely to be offered to him by his ministers.
Gentlemen; it is our lot to live in times, whe we are daily called upon" to spend our last shiling, and to shed our last drop of blood, for the preservation of the constiand, though this would be going very far, it being difficult to form an idea of any thing much worse than beggary followed by extermination, we should, I trust, if necessary, be ready to encounter the literal performance; but, then, we ought to be quite certain that we have this constitution. When the bigotted and besotted tyrant JAMES was driven from the throne of England, which he had surrounded with peculators and slaves, the nation, when they declared that another king should take his place, first declared what were their own rights, and, amongst these rights, was that of petitioning the king. This declaration, which makes part of an act of parliament, contains the letter of what we call the constitution. Every man; every individual person, in whatever rank or situation of life, has, according to the constitution of England, an unquestionable right to lay before the king a repre
sentation of what he or she deems to be■ wrong, whether public or private. It is for the petitioner, or petitioners, alone to judge of the necessity, or propriety, of pe titioning. There exists no where a right to punish them for petitioning. The right is absolute, and the people are to be the judges as to the time and the occasion of exercising it. Such, as far as relates to our present purpose, is the constitution of England, that constitution to preserve which we are called upon to spend our last shilling and to shed our last drop of blood. But, what do we now hear, from those, too, who are the most loud in calling upon us for such terrible sacrifices? What do they new tell us; "That the citizens of “ London sneaked out of the presence of "their sovereign, whose dignity had re"proved their indecency and rebuked their
presumption, and became a laughing"stock." Well, we really deserve this language. We have so long submitted to be the tools, the sport, the slaves, of the minister of the day, that there is no insult which we do not merit at their hands, or the hands of their underlings. Then, again, we are asked: "do the people believe that their old king "is wanting in justice and integrity so "much, as to require a lecture upon both, "from every Burgh, City, and county in "the kingdom?" You will observe, Gentlemen, that when the object was to obtain addresses of praise, these same people had no objection to a lecture from every Burgh, City, and County in the kingdom. But, what is now become of this boasted right of petition, if it be proper to reprove and rebuke the petitioner, and to treat his petition as a presumptuous lecture? A petition, from the very meaning of the word, must contain a prayer that something may be done; a petition to the king must necessarily con tain an expression of the petitioner's desire that the king will do something; and, therefore, if to express such a desire be indecent and presumptuous; if to express such a desire be to insinuate that the king is wanting in justice and integrity, it is evident, that there can be no petition free from the charge of snch insinuation; and, of course, that the right of petitioning the king, as laid down and secured in the BILL OF RIGHTS, is, in fact, a right to remind the king of his want of justice and integrity. The truth is, that a right, in one man, implies the power of doing, without risk to person or property or character, certain acts which may be disagreeable to some other man; and a bill, or declaration, of rights would have been downright stupid stuff;