Page images
PDF
EPUB

sullar. He reported all the proceedings to thc secret committee and the board of controul: and it was not until lord Wellesley was informed by those high authorities, that heir sentiments perfectly coincided with his own and with lord Powis's, that he gave his final instructions on the subject, two years after the discovery of the correspondence of the nabob with Tippoo sultan; the charge therefore of precizitancy was quite unfounded. The treaty with Azeem ul Dowlah was concluded in July 18.6, it was immediately transmitted to England, and it was now only necessary to shew, that it was approved of by the government at home A hasty decision was'not pronounced upon that important measure. In September 1802, fourteen months after the treaty had been concluded, the secret committee, having bad the papers a long time under consideration, wrote to lord Powis as follows: “ We do not feel ourselves called upon to enter into the detail of the circumstances connected with the case, or to state at length the reasoning upon those circumstances, which has led to the conclusion we have come to after the fullest and most deliberate caution. It is enough to state to you that we are fully prepared, upon the facts as at present before us, to approve and confirm the treaty in question ; and we are of opinion, that acting under the instructions of the governor general, you stand fully justified (upon the evidence, written as well as oral, on which you proceeded) in deeming the rights of the fainily of Mahomed Ally, as existing under former treaties, to have been wholly forfeited, by the systematic perfidy and treachery of the late nabobs of the Carnatic, Wallajah and Umdit ul Omrah, in breach of their solemn treaties with the company. The claims of the family having been thus forfeited, and a right having accrued to the company of making provision, at their discretion, for the future safety of the Carnatic, we are further of opinion that the nature of the security which has been provided by the treaty, for the defence and preservation of our interests in that quarter, is of a satisfactory description." The ho. nourable member here begged the house to observe, that the view which he had taken of this subject, was formed apon an attentive perasal of the papers laid before parliament, upon which alone we could form our judgment; indeed the substance, almost the whole of the statement with which he had presumed to trouble the house, was grounded upon those documents. He should therefore oppose the resolutions moved by the honourable baronet. But before he sat down, he would beg permission to say a word in answer to what fell from the honourable baronet, who, speaking of the commissioners, liad used an epithet, which, colonel Allan said, he was sure he would not have dove, if he had been personally acquainted with that gentleman : if the honourable baronet had paid any attention to the papers before the house, he must have knowu those Gentlemen by character and reputation. But whatever opinion the honourable baronet might have formed of those gentlemen, he could assure him, that there were not in that house, nor in this country, two men of a higher sense of honour, or of more conscientious and honourable feeling. Colonel Close, so highly distinguished by his talents, bis zeal and integrity, was resident at the court of Poonah ; if he were in this conntry, he should have wished him to have been examined at the bar of the house, and he was persuaded that the honourable baronet would have formed a far different opinion of the secret correspondence, to that which he now entertained. The other commissioner, Mr. Webbe, who, at the time of the transactions with the Carnatic, was chief secretary to the government of Madras, and with whom he had been in habits of the most affece tionate friendship, unfortunately for his friends and his country, was dead. He had sacrificed his life in the service of his country; he was a man of the nicest sense of honour, and was looked up to as one of the highest characters in India. He could tell the honourable baronet that Mr. Webbe's memory was justly revered throughout that country: his noble and independent mind would not have allowed him-(The honourable member was here so overpowed by his feelings, that he was unable to pro. ceed any further, and sat down.)

Mr. Windham, on account of the lateness of the hour, and the number of honourable members that had yet to speak upon the subject, proposed that the debate should be adjourned to Tuesday next.. Ordered.

The few remaining orders on the list were then fixed før future discussion, and the house adjourned,

[blocks in formation]

HOUSE OF LORDS.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18. In the Roxburgh appeal, Ker, v. Jones and Ker, Mr. Clark was further heard in reply. Further hearing tomorrow.

Some private bills were brought up by Mr. Graham, Bir M. Folkes, Mr. Campbell, lord Barnard, and other members, and read a first time.

The house proceeded further in Bland's divorce bill. Two witnesses were examined, after which the further consideration of the bill was deferred till Monday.

A great number of private bills on the table were for, warded in their respective stages. Adjourned till to: morrow,

HOUSE OF COMMONS.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18.

Mr. Gooch presented a petition from certain land owners, farmers, and others, of the county of Suffolk; Mr. :. Campbell, a petition from the city of Glasgow; and GeSneral Tarleton a petition from the mayor and burgesses of

Liyerpool ; respecting the report of the committee on distilleries ; but owing to the very inaudible manner in which those petitions were read by the clerk, we are unable to state with precision whether they were in favour of the report, or in opposition to it.

Mr. Lethbridge presented the minutes of the evidence stated before the committee on Mr. Palmer's petition.

On the motion of Mr. Lethbridge, an account was ordered to be laid before the house, of the per-centage due to Mr. Palmer, on account of the net revenue of the post office above 240,0001. from the 5th of April, 1798, to the 5th of January, 1808, together with an account of the sums that Mr. Palıner had received, &c.

Sir J. Sinclair having objected to the word " due” ir the motion,

The Speaker informed the honourable baronet, the house had resolved it was due.

CRIMINAL LAW. Sir Samuel Romilly rose to make his promised motion on the criminal law of the country. He was conscious that any person wbo proposer an alteration in the laws of the country, stood in an invidious point of view; and the only apology he had to offer for doing so was, that he had not taken up the subject lightly or suddenly: but that the opinion which he had adopted upon it, was the result of long deliberation. For many years of his life, he had intended to submit it to the consideration of parliament, and he felt bimself to be culpable rather for, having neglected it so long, than for bringing it forward in the present instance. In common with many others, he had always lamented, that by the criminal law of the country, capital punishments were appointed to be inflicted for so many crimes. He said " appointed," because, in fact, they were not so frequently executed, although no prina ciple was better established, than that the certainty, and not the severity of punishment, rendered it efficacious. This principle had long been proved and published to the world by marquis Beccaria ; but the admiration which his work produced in Great Britain was unproductive of any change in our system, which was directly the reverse of that noble writer's; for with us punishments were most severe and most uncertain. It was notorious, that of the persons who were sentenced to capital punishments, few suffered death. In 1805, three hundred and fifty persons were capitally convicted in England and Wales, of whom only sixty-eight (being less than a fifth) were executed. In 1806, three hundred and twenty-five persons were capitally convicted, of whom only fifty-seven (being little more than a sixth) were executed : a considerable portion was composed of persons who had committed murders or forgeries, crimes rarely pardoned in this country; and of the remainder, a large part consisted of persons who had committed highway robberies and burglaries, crimes notmuch more frequently pardoned. It was evident that the numbers of persons guilty of felonies that had been exe

cuted was very small, and that he was justified in stating that not above one in twenty of criminals of that description underwent the punishment of death. Now, whether this, generally speaking, ought to be the state of the law in any country, namely, that a law should exist in theory, but be dead in practice, he would leave with the house to détermine. At present, he would confine his observations and his motion to one class of those crimes, which, as he Irad before stated, seldom received the punishment which the law appointed for them: a class on which the law inflicted extraordinary severity of punishment, without any well-founded motive to that severity. He meant those cases where the capital part of the charge depended on the amount. By a statute of William and Mary, privately to steal from a person to the value of 5s. was rendered capital.' In queen Anne's reign, to steal to the value of forty shillings in a dwelling-house was rendered capital; and" by a statute of queen Elizabeth, a theft of so small a sum as twelve pence was under certain circumstances made a capital offence. When one recollected the great changes that had taken place since the enact. ment of those statutes, one was astonished the law had remained so severe to the present moment. If ever it were a true assertion ibat time was the greatest of all innovators, that assertion was true on the present occasion. As the necessaries, the conveniences, and the luxurics of life had become dearer, the life of man had become cheaper. Many mischievous effects lurked under this evil which were not manifested at first. The severity of the laws occasioned the frequent non-execution of them. Juries were placed in the painful situation of choosing between the violation of two duties, their duty to their country on the one hand, the duty of humanity on the other. The consequence was obvious. It was well known how frequently juries against the most direct evidence declined finding a criminal guilty of stealing above a certain value. Blackstone noticed this circumstance in his Commentaries, änd characterized it by two words which no one could wish to see associated, " pious perjury." Long also ought this evil to have been removed; and the necessity of removing it became every day more pressing and urgent. So small a number of persons were convicted of these

« PreviousContinue »