was desirous to have the Report of the Select Committee produced, as they had now terminated their labours. Tile early production of it would be a great convenience, particularly as it was to be followed up by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus. It was extraordinary that any member should keep such a report in his pocket. The person whom he alluded to was not then present in his place, but he hoped the House would find a remedy for his absence. He would therefore move, that lord Milton, have leave to report from the select committee.
said, he understood the report would be presented in the course of the evening. It was not intended to propose any immediate delibera- 1082 tion upon it, but merely that it should be printed.
felt happy that the report was soon to be produced. He believed that the motion of the noble lord might be amended, and would move therefore as an amendment, "That the right hon. Charles Bathurst do forthwith attend this House in his place."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
contended, that a member could not be ordered to attend forthwith, but ought to be desired to appear at a certain time.
said, when high words passed some time since between two members, on their withdrawing, it was ordered that both attend forthwith.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he would move as an amendment, that the House do now resolve itself into a committee of ways and means.
§ Lord Milton
said, it was his wish that the report should be read when the House was full, and not at twelve or one in the morning, when most of the members had gone away. He was acquainted with the conclusion of the report, and it therefore struck him to be desirable that other members should know it. He must confess, that in the course of the proceedings of the committee there appeared on the part of some, he would not say many of the members, a disposition to enlarge on the dangers of the country. He could not help thinking that the report contained matter that might have been expressed more in coincidence with the evidence; but on the other hand, he thought there were some things that ought to have been stated, but which were not in the report. It struck him that many members of the committee seemed to have an opinion that there was nothing but disorganization in the country, and attempts to produce a revolution. To him, however, the causes that led to the present situation of the country appeared very different. He considered the disaffection to be nothing but the system of the Luddites five years ago, enlarged and grown more dangerous. Then, however, a remedy was applied that counteracted the evil, and it was in his opinion, therefore, rather inconsistent, that the same measures should not be adopted now.
§ Mr. Bathurst
having entered the House the chancellor of the exchequer and Mr. Ponsonby withdrew their motions. Mr. Bathurst then presented the Report of the Secret Committee, which was read 1083 by the clerk. On the motion, that it do lie on the table,
§ Lord Milton
observed, that it appeared to him, that the report, in some respects, was so drawn up, as to give too much the appearance of having been wholly agreed to by all the committee. He thought it stated many circumstances too strongly as to Manchester. He doubted not that many of the leaders were very mischievous and revolutionary; but a meeting of even 12,000 persons at Manchester and Salford, which contained a population of 100,000, surrounded by a populous neighbourhood, could not be called a very general meeting of the people of that part of the country. Too much importance was given to the proceedings. It had been said that the people marched in files to the meeting at Manchester, as if they were all drilled and disciplined; but that was not the case: after all, only about 50 of them reached Ashbourne. Several hundreds, it was said, passed through Leeds; but he had no evidence of that. The poor deluded manufacturers had been suffering under the severest distress that was ever perhaps known in this country. He could not exactly make out insurrection and treason in the idea of coming in a body to petition the throne. The majority of the committee seemed unwilling to put down in the report those facts and observations which had a tendency to allay the alarms of the country. He was convinced that, in being themselves actuated by these alarms, they were as sincere as he was in entertaining a contrary opinion. He thought it his duty to mention another circumstance that occurred in the committee. The utmost anxiety was shown, after the publication of the report of the Lords committee, to counteract the effect of a paragraph in that report, relative to the conduct of the agents of government, in leading to the formation of designs which they were employed only to detect. That paragraph, which had excited so much notice in the country, had not gone far enough in describing this species of mischievous conduct, or characterising those who engaged in it. He knew that much of the disturbances in Derbyshire and Yorkshire had been produced by the arts of government emissaries. When he expressed this conviction, he did not mean to insinuate that ministers were aware of what their agents were doing; far less that they recommended to them such a course of conduct, or approved of their transac- 1084 tions. A delegate from London lately arrived at Sheffield in the pay of government. His approach was expected by the majority of the respectable magistrates with alarm, and by the deluded people, who were not disposed to suspect the trick that was played upon them, with exultation. What purpose could this serve but to agitate the public mind? This system of employing spies under the mask of delegates or agitators was not confined to Sheffield. Another instance had lately been read from a country newspaper, and brought before the public in a manner of which he could not approve. He should have paid little regard to that extract or statement had its truth not been confirmed by other evidence taken before the magistrates of the west riding of Yorkshire, and before the lord lieutenant of the county. In his opinion, the committee in their report had not paid sufficient attention to the system of Luddism. The Luddites were a peculiar kind of banditti, who lived by plunder, and sought arms as the means of attack or defence. This circumstance, had it been taken into the account, might have accounted for the continued demand for arms in the disturbed districts, without leading to the inference that they were to be used for rebellious purposes against the government. He was not disposed to undervalue the dangers with which the country was threatened; but when he saw them exaggerated, he could not lend himself to give them credit himself, or to allow others to be unnecessarily alarmed. These dangers, though great, might have been removed, or at least reduced, had government taken a different course from that in which they had proceeded. He himself had proposed in the committee, as the means of preserving the tranquillity of the country, that the agitators, many of whom had been arrested, should be brought to speedy justice, and suffer a punishment adequate to their offences. This would have had more effect than the exertion of the extraordinary powers demanded by ministers. He did not mean to assert that the government agents were the original framers of the conspiracy described in the report, or that a general rising was not resolved upon before they were sent to the disturbed districts. He would, however, go the length of stating his belief, that but for those emissaries the design might never have been attempted to be carried into execution. A plot was formed, but it might never have exploded. Great jea- 1085 lousies existed among the leaders—they were each envious of the other's influence and power. The funds of the association in particular, though small in themselves, were a tempting bait to those needy adventurers; and would have furnished, in any contest which a robbery of them would have given rise to, a certain cause of disunion.—He had heard much of the organization of this conspiracy, and of the evidence of it supplied in the system of signals, by means of the firing of rockets from different elevated points at proper distances; but he never could be made to understand, how these rockets could answer any purpose whatever. He believed, therefore, the story of their being fired on hills at the distances of ten miles from each other, so as to convey intelligence from one body of rebels to another, was a mere humbug to deceive the credulous; or that, if they were discharged at all, it was to ridicule the fears of the alarmists. The organization of the disaffected was said, likewise, to be proved by the system of sending delegates between one district and another. Though there might have been a system of delegation, yet he was convinced that no extensive conspiracy was organized, by which the whole population might be excited, and brought to act against the laws and the constitution of the country. He allowed that there was cause for alarm; that there was every reason for the utmost vigilance of government; and that the circumstances of the country called for diligent and active exertions from the magistrates. Nay, he would even go farther, and say, that some new measures might be necessary; but he protested solemnly against the one which was in contemplation.
§ Mr. Bathurst
was surprised that the noble lord should now state objections to the Report, as, excepting the concluding passage, it certainly had the approbation of every member of the committee.
§ Lord Lascelles
had heard the noble lord's speech with some surprise, and he would add regret. When the committee broke up that morning, neither he, nor any other member with whom he had conversed, had the most distant idea that the noble lord disagreed with any part of the report. He had heard in debate that men might blind themselves to alarms, and that the noble lord was not so much alarmed as the rest of the committee. The noble lord had it in his power to have conveyed that impression, and to have stated his dif- 1086 ference of opinion. He understood that at the conclusion of their work there was not a single difference unadjusted, except the practical recommendation that grew out of the facts and observations in which all concurred. If any difference of opinion arose, it was debated in no spirit of acrimony, and with no obstinacy of opposition: but recourse was immediately had to the evidence; the members weighed with each other its force, and coming to a general understanding, qualified the observation or phraseology so as to meet the views of all. The delay of the report was occasioned by this desire of accuracy. Even so late as that morning, doubts arose respecting the force of some statement, and recourse was again had to the evidence to prove its accuracy. He stated this, because it might have been supposed, from the turn that the debate had taken, that every thing was discussed in the spirit of party hostility; that there was an attempt, on the one hand, to exaggerate every alarm, and on the other, a disposition to believe in no danger. He was surprised that the noble lord should have made such a speech, after he had assented to every part of the report that described the dangers of the country, and only reserved his opinion as to the manner in which that danger should be met. He himself (lord L.) believed, that nothing short of this measure could repress the efforts of the agitators.
said, he felt considerable difficulty on the present occasion. It was perfectly true that his noble friend did not make any specific proposition in the committee, but he certainly stated generally, that though he did not object to any particular part of the report, yet he considered the whole as calculated to make an impression which the evidence did not justify. He (Mr. P.) would further observe, that the report did not, perhaps, contain all that could be said upon the subject, and it was understood that whatever particular opinions the members of the committee might entertain with regard to the practical conclusions drawn from it, they would be at perfect liberty to state them in that House. The House should recollect, that the committee in no instance affirmed any thing of their own knowledge. They stated only such matters as they were enabled to state according to the evidence laid before them. No member, indeed, (except those who, from their official situation, might have particular intelligence upon certain points), could know any thing 1087 beyond what they derived from the evidence. There was a palpable difference, therefore, between an affirmation on the part of the committee, arising from its own knowledge, and that opinion which they formed from the evidence submitted to them. The course of proceeding in the committee was this. For a considerable time a certain progress was made in the report with little difference of opinion; but when they got to that part of it which had been alluded to; some members of the committee expressed their opinions one way, and some another. It was on that occasion that he (Mr. P.) stated, as a general understanding, that no gentleman in the committee was to compromise his opinion, or to agree in a representation of any kind, from the hope of obtaining his (Mr. P's) assent to the farther suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. For his mind was made up against the measure, as one not at all applicable to the existing evil. Shortly afterwards, seeing but little utility in continuing his attendance, as to any chance of unanimity of opinion, he abstained from attending the committee. It was quite true, however, that till they got to that given point, the report of the committee was agreed to, and he was to be considered as agreeing to it.
said, that the committee concurred unanimously in the existence of the danger, but disagreed about the practical result of their inquiry. It was therefore, determined, that every member should reserve his own opinion on; that latter point till the question came to be discussed in the House.
§ Sir A. Piggott
said, he was unfortunately prevented, during the latter part of the sittings of the committee from attending them, but he saw sufficient while he was present, from the nature of the evidence aid before them, and the extent of the dangers, to convince him, that the report, if considered as a preparatory step towards the farther suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, did not fairly grow out of the evidence produced.
§ Mr. Brougham
agreed that the report should be printed: the more it was known, the more would its conclusion be repro- 1088 bated. He only wished, that along with the report the speech of his noble friend (lord Milton) should be printed; and that the speech of the other noble lord (Lascelles), could be circulated as widely as that report; for the noble lord stated, that concessions took place in the committee. Now, those concessions were not facts on which any conclusion could be founded; they were the mutual accommodations of gentlemen disposed to arrive at some vague conclusion. He had heard the noble lord say that there was a disposition on all sides to concede, to meet one another half way. The report, therefore, was not the fair and just view of the state of the country, but the result of compromise and concession. His hon. friend had said that the conclusion was all he had to object to, but it should be always remembered that this conclusion was attached only to a series of concessions.
§ Lord Lascelles
explained. Whenever be stated facts he had no objection that the learned gentleman should give those facts what circulation he pleased, provided it were without misrepresentation. But he was not sure that the learned gentleman had not ingenuity either to misunderstand his expressions and to view them in a very different light, or to make them bear a meaning which he never meant to attach to them. He had stated, that whenever any thing was made to bear a stronger sense than any other person could approve of, recourse was had to the evidence, and the expressions were mutually accommodated to that evidence. There was concession, but it was upon the evidence.
After some further conversation, the report was ordered to lie on the table and be printed.