§ Mr. Wakley
said, that before he made the motion which was on the paper, he should take the liberty of presenting to the House a number of petitions which had been intrusted to him, and which had reference to the case of the Glasgow cotton-spinners. 1060 He believed, that there was no subject which could have been brought forward in that House likely to be so unpalatable as that to which his motion had reference; but he trusted, that the character of the House would not suffer in the eyes of the country from the fact of there being only one individual who was prepared to come forward and argue a question which was regarded with a feeling of hostility by all hon. Members. [No, no!] If the opinion intended to be conveyed by this expression of "no" really existed, he was glad of it, but he must say, that the public mind was most firmly disposed to entertain a feeling of prejudice against the unfortunate cotton-spinners of Glasgow. Nor was this prejudice the effect only of recent disclosures; for at the time of summoning the jury, many of those who were called upon to act had written to the officer requesting that they might be exempted, and declaring their belief that, from the prejudice which then existed, they would be unable to give an impartial verdict in the case, although they were to be sworn to give such a verdict only as would be warranted by the evidence which should be adduced before them. From the very moment of the assassination of the unfortunate man, Smith, in Glasgow, the press and the authorities of the place had striven to cast a prejudice on the cotton-spinners, and to point them out as the persons by whom the murder was committed; for after the death of the unfortunate man, certainly in a most deplorable manner, a proclamation was issued, offering a reward of 600 guineas to any one who should give such information and evidence as would lead to the apprehension and conviction of the offenders; and also at the same time declaring, that there was every reason to believe, that the cotton spinners had committed the murder. Thus at the very outset, the parties were prejudged, and the formation of a conviction was induced in the public mind, that the assassination was, in truth, the act and deed of the union of the cotton spinners. Now, what was the history of the case? In 1836, the working men in Glasgow, the cotton spinners, considered that they were under paid, and he believed that it would be admitted by hon. Members that they were entitled, in consequence, not only to enter into a consideration of the subject, but also to combine to protect themselves. It was on the 22nd of July last that Smith 1061 was shot, as he was returning home between eleven and twelve o'clock, and it was on the following Wednesday that the proclamation was issued. On the 3rd of August, the Sheriff of Glasgow, with a posse of constables, visited the committee of the cotton spinners, and they seized eighteen persons, and took possession, in addition, of all the papers and documents found in the room. The individuals seized were all consigned to a gaol, and from that time until the 10th of October, the public prosecutors, it was to be supposed, were engaged in collecting evidence against them. Their trial, however, was postponed from time to time, and the indictment which was at first delivered to the agents of the prisoners was withdrawn, and a second served, through which it would have been imagined that it was impossible for the prisoners to have escaped, and the trial, at length after various further postponements, came on in the first week in January. The Lord Advocate was public prosecutor, and was therefore present at the trial, and he was glad to see him now in his place, because the learned Lord would be able to give a distinct account of all the transactions which had passed in court under his own notice; but the House, in receiving those statements from the learned Lord, must not forget the character in which he appeared at the trial, and could not expect that he could entirely divest himself of the feeling which he must have entertained there; the position in which he was placed being that of counsel for the crown, and, in fact, he being in that House in the same capacity, and to defend his own conduct, and that of the individuals who had acted under his advice. He was unacquainted with the nature of law proceedings of Scotland, and he was much rejoiced at it, if the proceedings in this case were to be taken as a sample of the manner in which they were carried on. But it was said that the law was so made, that large flies should escape while the little insects should be caught in the meshes of the net set for them. This appeared to have been the case in the present instance; but it was extraordinary how the prisoners had escaped the full punishment of the law. The indictment contained twelve counts, on three only of which had the prisoners been found guilty, notwithstanding, at the trial, the witnesses had been allowed to state facts connected with meetings which had taken 1062 place years before, at a time when none of the prisoners were more than six or seven years of age, and with which the witnesses themselves were acquainted only by hearsay; but such a mode of trial was utterly inconsistent with justice. In the indictment there was a count for vitriol throwing, a count for arson or fire raising, a count for murder, and others, which alleged crimes to have been committed, of which, if the prisoners had been guilty, they might well have been thought the vilest culprits who were ever brought into a court of justice. The first count was, that the prisoners agreed to use intimidation, molestation, and threats, to spinners, and deter them from taking work; the second was, that the guard committee and the prisoners agreed to set upon the spinners, and assault and molest the new hands employed; the third count was to the same effect, and alleged the molestation and assaults to have been on the return from work of the spinners; the fourth count alleged that the prisoners and others had conspired to set fire to Messrs. Hussey's factory, and hired a person to carry that object into effect, to whom they offered a reward of 20l. to complete the act, by throwing a packet of combustibles into the yarn room. The fifth count was, that the prisoners and others appointed a secret Select Committee, who were hired to send threatening letters to employers, and to set fire to a cotton mill, and forcibly to invade the dwelling house of a spinner, and to commit assaults on spinners, and to shoot and murder a spinner, and that these acts were done and committed. The sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh counts set out the various acts alleged to have been committed in the fifth count, and the twelfth count alleged the murder of John Smith. These men, then, were grievously and foully calumniated, for they were only convicted of a conspiracy, to raise wages, and also for assault, for which a most severe sentence was passed upon them. He should now proceed to call the attention of the House to what was said by the judge who summed up the evidence and passed sentence on the prisoners. With regard to the charge of murder, it was most emphatically stated, that if the evidence of Christie was not believed, the prisoners must be acquitted. It was also stated that the charge against the four prisoners of hiring Maclean was deficient in proof, 1063 With respect to the charge of murder against Maclean himself, he gave no further opinion than by saying that if they believed the witnesses to the alibi, Maclean could not be the murderer. With respect to the threatening letters, he said, "As to the charge against Macneil of writing and sending the threatening letter to Mr. Arthur, it was not proved." Although, then, the judge said that the charges could not be believed as to the murder and threatening letter, he intimated to the jury at the conclusion of the summing up, that with regard to the charge of threatening letters, the jury would judge from what quarter they would come, but from persons taking the most lively interest in the association, and so with regard to the attempts at fire raising; and such observations on the part of the judge were called the system of justice in Scotland. Again, on passing sentence on the prisoners, the Lord Justice Clerk said, "It is for the purpose of deterring others from persisting in their evil courses, and of bringing that part of the community with which you are connected back into a state of order, &c.'' Lord Mackenzie said, "We must keep in view the distinction between the crime proved, and that which was charged and not proven." He could not help saying, that it was a remarkable thing that a judge should make such observations. It was, in fact, passing sentence for a crime of which they had not been found guilty; they had not been found guilty of murder or writing threatening letters; but the language of the judge was to the effect that they were guilty. Lord Moncrieff said, that the indictment stated two distinct instances of intimidation and assault on the part of the guard committee. In the first indictment, the two assaults he had alluded to were not mentioned. He should like to know under what statute or what law a misdemeanour of the kind these persons had been found guilty of could be punished with seven years' transportation. An hon. Gentleman below him, said, by the common law; but he (Mr. Wakley) contended that the common law of England did not admit of such a punishment for a simple misdemeanour. In 1825, the Legislature passed an act for the repeal of the combination laws. In one of the sections of this act it was stated that "combinations of workmen had taken place in England, Scotland, and Ireland, often to a 1064 great extent, to raise and keep up their wages, to regulate their hours of working and to impose restrictions on the masters respecting apprentices or others whom they may think proper to employ, and that the laws have not hitherto been effectual to prevent such combinations: that it was expedient that the statute laws that interfere in these particulars between masters and workmen should be repealed, and also that the common law under which a peaceable meeting of masters or work, men may be prosecuted as a conspiracy, should be altered." The common law had not been acted upon since the appointment of the Committee in the year before the act was passed. Of that Committee, his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny— to whom the working classes, for his indefatigable and able exertions in their behalf must ever owe a debt of gratitude —was chairman, and drew up a most able report on the subject, to which he begged to direct the attention of the House. He denied, according to the act he had just referred to, that the combination at Glasgow was illegal. There might be certain acts committed by certain persons connected with the combination, which were illegal; but he had the highest legal authority for saying that the combination itself was not illegal. But even in cases of illegal combination what was the punishment under this act? In one of the sections of it, it was enacted, "that after the passing of this act any person found guilty of violence towards any person or persons or property, or by threats or intimidation forcing, or endeavouring to force, any workman or journeyman to depart from his hiring or leave his work, or preventing or endeavouring to prevent, any person not being hired or employed from accepting by threats or intimidation any work or hire, shall be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a period not exceeding three calendar months." He might be told that this act did not extend to Scotland. He would ask why it did not? It appeared, however, that the usual clause for this purpose was not in the act, and the common law was revived with regard to Scotland. If any parties in England were found guilty of the charges these persons were found guilty of, and which was called conspiracy in Scotland, they would be liable to only three months' imprisonment; but in Scotland they were, it appeared, liable to have a sentence of 1065 transportation for seven years passed on them. Seeing the nature of the evidence adduced on the trial, what he then intended to call for was a full inquiry into the nature of the Cotton-spinning Association. He did not intend to propose the two resolutions which he had given notice of, but should confine himself to the first of them. He intended to do so because he thought that it would be more prudent to withdraw his second resolution, relying as he did, on the friendly feelings of Members, and even on the good feelings of those who even if they had committed errors in their proceedings, had done so from ignorance. He brought no charges against the executive government — he brought no charges against the Lord Advocate, or against the other legal advisers of the crown, for he believed, that if he had been situated as they were situated, and with the nature of the statements laid before them, he should have acted in the same way that they had. It was, indeed, impossible, that they should not pay some attention to the representations made as to the circumstances alleged to be attendant on the proceedings of the Cotton Spinners' Association. After the alarming statements made to them, it was the duty of the Government to make the most rigorous search and investigation into the alleged proceedings. The question, however, was whether the feelings and imaginations of the authorities had not been excited by the supposed proceedings of this Association, and whether a more severe punishment had not been passed on these men than the circumstances of the case required. He, therefore, on these grounds, made no charge against the executive Government; but he asked, he implored, them not to send these men from the country until the whole case had been fully investigated. When a case was before a court of law it often happened that the matter turned upon some technicality. If the case were alluded to in the House, it was instantly met with the objection from Gentlemen on one side of the House or the other that there was no precedent. He did not think that it always happened that a court of justice was the most favourable place for investigating such charges as had been brought forward with respect to this Association; but before a Committee of that House the whole matter would be investigated in the fairest and most favourable manner, He 1066 would ask whether the House or the country would gain anything by sending these men out of England? If they awarded the punishment which was imposed by the statute they could not award more than three months imprisonment to these men, but according to the law authorities on the other side of the Tweed the offence was to be punished with seven years' transportation. A few years ago the six Dorchester labourers were, in the opinion of many Members of that House, most properly sent out of the country for having taken an illegal oath; but was there then a single Member in the House who was not convinced that those men were most hardly and severely punished, on being convicted under the 57th of Geo. 3rd of taking an illegal oath? That was the only breach of the law of which those men were guilty, and for which they were sent out of the country. The sentence on those men had been rescinded, and one of them had returned to this country, but the other five men had not been heard of. He warned the House against acting in anything like a spirit of hostility to the working millions of Englishmen. Such a course could not but be attended with the greatest danger, and he would tell hon. Gentlemen opposite not to suppose that they could long uphold the conservative institutions of the country when the feelings of the people were against them. He begged the House to recollect that the working classes were not the ignorant body that they were formerly said to be, but that knowledge and intelligence were extensively spread amongst them. That large body was not represented in that House, and indeed they had created a peculiar qualification which prevented the working men from sending any of their own class into that House, and in addition to that, the franchise given by the Reform Bill excluded the larger portion of them. [Hear, hear!] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheered, but were they when they appeared to think with him that the Reform Bill was not a perfect or sufficient measure, prepared to go further—would they support a proposition for universal suffrage? He was sure that the result would be, that the working millions in this country would force their demands on the attention of the House until their just claims were heard with success. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had given notice of an amendment to his motion. 1067 The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that he was favourable to inquiry. This was all that the members of the trades' unions demanded; they said that they were most anxious for the fullest investigation, so that they might have an opportunity of removing the imputations which had been cast on their characters. In consequence of what had taken place in the sister island his hon. and learned Friend had made an attempt to disabuse the public mind of the working classes as to certain transactions connected with the combinations, and as to some unfortunate effects they had had on the trade of Dublin; in consequence of this he was charged with being hostile to the interests of the working classes, and an attempt was made to excite the feelings of the people against him. He believed that the charge was without foundation, and that nothing of the kind was true—indeed the hon. Member's whole life was an answer to the charge. Whether the House agreed to the inquiry on his motion or on that of his hon. and learned Friend was immaterial; all that he required was, that the inquiry should be full and complete, and that the unfortunate men who had been convicted in Scotland should be retained in this country until the investigation was at an end. Because the combination laws had been repealed hon. Gentlemen thought that the working men acted improperly if they made any provision for a future time out of their weekly wages. So far from this, he thought that the working man deserved credit for making provision out of his wages, to apply it when the day of want came; and it was quite immaterial whether this was done by union amongst the working classes or otherwise. Indeed it was a question with him whether the law should not do a little more than it did at present for the protection of the interests of the working classes. The fact was, that there was nothing but combinations amongst the rich from one end of the country to the other. He had no hesitation in saying that there was a trade union in that House. The landed proprietors in that House constituted the large majority, and took care to prevent any alteration in the law which would make corn cheap. By doing so they thinned the blood of the people and kept down plethora among them. He trusted, therefore, that Gentlemen in that House would be more chary for the future in making such charges against the working 1068 classes. His hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin, condemned the workmen of that city because they did not allow each tradesman to have more than a certain number of apprentices. He did not, however, condemn a similar practice which existed in his own profession, for no attorney was allowed to have more than two apprentices; and they not only had an arrangement amongst themselves, but they got a statute passed for the purpose. That rule, therefore, which was highly approved of with regard to lawyers was most strongly condemned in other trades. Again, had they not a trade union in the Temple. Had they not in that place a recent and remarkable instance of conspiracy against the genius and abilities of the extraordinary man near him— which had prevented him acquiring that station and wealth in the profession which his talents would have insured to him? When there was such a remarkable instance of the preventing the acquisition of rank and wealth in a liberal profession, by a combination of a detestable clique in the heart of the metropolis, they should not make such loud complaints of combinations of working men at distant places who had such difficulties to contend with. They ought not to sanction such a state of things in the law, and punish with the utmost rigour poor and unfortunate men who attempted to gain an addition to their scanty earnings, and to obtain bread for themselves and families. This was the system that was pursued with regard to the working classes; and he would ask any hon. Member whether he would not blush if he thought that those men were his countrymen, who could patiently submit to the infliction of such hardships on them as the working classes had been subjected to? When the same class of persons fought the battles of the country, no praise that could be bestowed on them was too great; there was no limit to the applause bestowed on their brave soldiers and gallant tars; and the class whose cause he thus advocated, were possessed of the same feelings and habits, and were the fathers and brothers of those upon whom praise was so lavishly bestowed. He knew not how to treat the question before the House in any other manner than that which he had stated. He knew that there was the greatest repugnance to discuss questions in that House which involved anything like an appeal from the 1069 decision of a court of law. It was the common custom to state that it was inexpedient to make that House a court of appeal from courts of law; but he would ask to what other tribunal could they appeal? Where could matters of this kind be so properly discussed as in that House? It should be remembered that the judges were not the masters of the public but the servants. He did not wish to make any remarks on the conduct of the judges in any court of law; all that he was anxious for was securing the confidence and respect of the people. He would ask the learned Lord Advocate under what English statute these men could be transported. He was aware that under the 9th of George 4th it had been maintained that if they conspired to commit assaults, they could be capitally indicted. They were not, however, indicted under this statute, indeed no mention was made of it; he therefore thought the indictment was framed under the common law. All the papers of the Association were seized by the Sheriff when the documents of the committee were taken by surprise; and he would ask what internal evidence these documents exhibited of the existence of an illegal association? But suppose that these persons were present when the assault was committed, did it justify them in passing on the prisoners a sentence of transportation for seven years? After the enactment in the Act of Parliament which he had read to the House, he was of opinion that the highest punishment that should be inflicted on the prisoners was imprisonment for three months. By taking an analogous case he thought that a great light might be thrown on the subject. He intended to direct the attention of the House to the analogous case of the Orange Association. He knew that some hon. Members might object to any allusion to the Orange Association, but he did so, because it would show in what a different manner the law was administered to this exalted body, and to the humble association of workmen. It was well known that the Orange Association was an illegal body, and it was rendered so by the oath taken by its members. With respect to the Glasgow Association, it was asserted that an oath was administered: three of the witnesses for the Crown denied that there was such an oath in that body; again, four of the witnesses for the Crown denied that there was any secret committee 1070 in connection with the Association. Such, indeed, was the contradiction on the part of the witnesses for the Crown, that it was surprising that the counsel for the prisoners thought it expedient to call any witnesses for the defence. If this had taken place, he thought the Lord Advocate would have felt, that he had been placed in rather an awkward situation. He would proceed to make a few remarks as to what had taken place before the trial. He had already said that 600l. had been offered for information which would lead to conviction. But how were the witnesses treated before the trial? The four chief witnesses for the Crown were confined together in one room. These men were members of the Association, were confined together in one room, and they were in expectation of receiving the 600l. if their evidence should convict the prisoners. Need he add, that by pursuing this course, the witnesses had every opportunity of agreeing to the evidence they should give, and of framing it in away which was most likely to lead to conviction. On the trial no objection was allowed against the testimony of these witnesses, although they had lived together; but the judges refused to receive the evidence of two witnesses for the defence, because they had, previously to the trial, signed a declaration that Macneil was not on the spot when the murder was committed on the night it took place. He did not understand how the impartial administration of justice could be promoted by receiving the evidence on one side, and refusing to receive the evidence of witnesses for the defence, for the simple reason he had stated. But he might be told that the witnesses were put into gaol for protection; there was no necessity however, for putting them in one room; there was no necessity for cooping them up in one narrow spot where they could have an opportunity of conversing together on the evidence they would be called upon to give on the trial. He should now return to the Orange Association, and what he wanted to establish was, that if the law was to be administered to the people, it should be administered with strict and undeviating impartiality. It had been elicited by the Committee of that House which inquired into the nature of the Orange Association, that oaths were taken by its members, yet had any of the nobles and right honourables of the land, who were the leaders of that Association, 1071 been prosecuted or punished? Not one: and why, then, inflict this severe punishment on poor men daily struggling for their bread, and who, if they had sinned in this matter at all, had not sinned because they were vicious. If justice were to be administered, let it be with an even hand. And what was the oath taken by this Orange Association, which boasted that it could raise 150,000 men at a minute's notice, through the influence and interest of those who were its heads, and than which a more dangerous Association, more rife with peril to the Crown and to all the institutions of the country, never existed in any state? Its organization was most complete, and the oath which it imposed on its members the most solemn and binding that could be framed. What was that oath? "I, A. B., do solemnly swear that I will, to the best of my ability, defend the present King and Royal Family,"—yes— "defend the present King and Royal Family, so long as he and they support the Protestant ascendancy." So that here were 150,000 men taking a qualified oath of allegiance. And who were to be the judges as to whether the King supported the Protestant ascendancy? Why the heads of the Association. Well, just so long as the King, in the opinion of these parties, supported the Protestant ascendancy, and no longer, did the Association pledge itself to defend the King. Then came a paragraph having reference to the secrets of the Association:—"And I do further swear that I will always conceal, and never reveal, any part or parts of what is now about to be privately communicated to me till empowered to do so by the authorised heads of the Association," &c. And who were among the heads of this Association? The noble Member for Bucks, opposite, the Duke of York, the Duke of Cumberland, the Bishop of Salisbury, ''the lord prelate of the order," Lord Lowther, Lord Kenyon, Sir Robert Peake—not Sir Robert Peel—the Marquess of Thomond, and other nobles and great men of the land, too numerous to mention. But it might be said, this was a religious Association, established only from the purest of motives; but he had shown that it was a political institution, and he had also shown that its members took a qualified oath of allegiance. One of the persons examined by this Committee was a Mr. Whittle, a maltster, of Rochdale, who stated that he had been 1072 an Orangeman for twenty years, but had been expelled in 1835, by the Grand Lodge held at Lord Kenyon's, because he had voted for the Liberal candidate for Rochdale; and, further, that several other Orangemen had been expelled on similar grounds. The Orange Association was, therefore, not only in the highest degree a dangerous Association, but it was an unlawful one. Seeing, therefore, that it was an unlawful Association, and that some of the greatest men in the land belonged to it, what must be the feelings of the working millions of this country, when they found that no prosecution had been instituted against any one Member of that Association, while people were sent hunting and peering about the country for the purpose of discovering any persons who might have been guilty of violating the law in these trades' unions. What he asked was, that these men should not be sent away until an inquiry had been made into this Glasgow Cotton Spinners' Association. He asked for no inquiry into the trial. It might, perhaps, be said, that there was no parallel between the case of this Association and the case of the Orange Association—that no serious outrages had arisen out of the Orange Association. But this was a mistake. Near Glasgow itself, serious outrages had been caused by Orangemen, in one of which, a constable, was shot by an Orangeman. The murderer was taken and executed, and here the question arose, if the assault at Mile End could be traced to the leaders of the Cotton Spinners' Association, merely because the parties committing it were connected with that Association, how was it that the leaders of the Orange Association were not prosecuted for the murder committed on the constable by one of their body? If there was culpability in one case there was criminality in the other. This was a mode of administering the law which would be productive of the most frightful consequences. If they wished the Crown to be respected, the courts of justice to be beloved, they must keep the fountain of justice free from all impurity and corruption. The hon. Gentleman concluded by stating that he should only move the first resolution of which he had given notice, which the hon. Member read as follows:—"That this House is of opinion that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the constitution, 1073 practices, and effects of a society which has long existed in Scotland, under the title of 'the Association of Operative Cotton Spinners of Glasgow and its neighbourhood.'"
§ The Lord Advocate
was bound to acknowledge the perfect courtesy with which the hon. Gentleman had brought forward this question. But while he acknowledged this personal courtesy to its fullest extent, he must regret that, in reference to other persons, not present to defend themselves, the hon. Gentleman had made some observations which he conceived to be totally unfounded. He referred to the opinions alleged to have been delivered by the learned Judges, and he must say, that, with the exception of one particular allusion only, no such opinions had been delivered by them—and before he concluded the observations he had to make, he would direct the attention of the House particularly to an opinion of one of the Judges in a case allied to the present, and which he should submit to the House as expressing sentiments honourable to any Judge in any country. But when the hon. Member complained that an observation had fallen from one of the Judges to the effect that the guilty persons were punished for the sake of example, and not because of what they had done, it might be asked what punishments at all were adjudged in any part of these realms but as an example? In no case was punishment dealt out on a criminal in satisfaction of the vengeance of the prosecuting party, but for the good of society alone, for the repression of crime; on such grounds alone was a judge justified in pronouncing the sentence of the law against any individual. Such a sentiment as this was doubtless uttered by the learned Judge, but in every other respect the imperfect and erroneous view which had been given by the hon. Member of the opinions delivered by the learned Judge, showed that he had been entirely misinformed as to the real facts of the case. He regretted that he had not been present when the hon. Gentleman first brought the question before the House, but he had had no idea, from the feeling which prevailed in Scotland respecting these proceedings, that they were likely to engage the attention of the House during the short interval between the assembling of Parliament and the recess. Had he been at all aware that it would be brought 1074 forward, he would have taken care to have been in his place. As it was, the hon. Member would do him the justice to admit that since the re-assembling of Parliament, he had manifested no desire for delay in bringing the question under the consideration of the House. On the contrary, he much rejoiced that it was now before the House, so that the whole matter might be fully considered, and the justice of the laws of Scotland vindicated. It had been stated, that many of those summoned on the jury were confessedly so prejudiced as to be unfit to try the case, but how stood the fact? That every advantage had been in this respect, as in others, given to the persons accused, and had been fully exercised by them. Not fewer than twenty-five challenges were made to the jury by the prisoners, while not one single challenge was made on the part of the Crown. Indeed, it had seldom happened, except in cases of treason, that the privilege of challenging had been carried so far, and he might add, that so far as he knew of the public opinion of Edinburgh, very few persons there were prejudiced on the subject. The question before the House had been in some degree placed by the hon. Gentleman on a more favourable footing than some other cases, where the object was to have the trial reviewed and the judgment amended, but this was disclaimed by the hon. Gentleman, and, being so disclaimed, he had no occasion to make any further remarks, except, indeed, this—that no tribunal was less fitted to try a case of this nature than either a Committee of the House, or the House itself. He did not, however, mean for a moment to dispute but that if any flagrant wrong had been committed, that if the law was in anyway defective, or if the public officer had failed in the discharge of his duty, the House might very properly give redress in such a case by amending the law, or addressing the Crown to remove the person who had acted in a manner unworthy of his situation, and he would say at once, that, in his opinion, any individual would be most unworthy of that high station who should manifest any feelings adverse to the industrious classes, any man would exhibit himself equally deficient in all the qualities of heart or head, who had not as much regard and affection for, as much joy and pleasure in, the prosperity and happiness of those classes, as in that of persons of station and wealth, The hon. 1075 Gentleman had observed, that he considered himself fortunate in not having been in a country where such laws were in force. In comparing any new system of law, it would be most unjust to take any one particular detail of one system, and draw conclusions upon the whole from that only, and not from the other parts of the system which balanced it. It should be always recollected that the law of Scotland was far more favourable to persons accused than the law of England. He did not say that the law of England in this respect was bad, or ought to be changed, it had very great merits, it was suited to the country, it gave great security to life and property, it lived in the hearts and feelings of the people; but in considering these or any other laws, they must be taken into consideration one with the other, in order to see how far they were perfect or otherwise. The law of Scotland, he would repeat, gave great advantages to persons accused which they did not possess here. In the first place, and this should be attended to, as the circumstance led to some of the peculiarities which had occasioned much remark out of doors—in the first place, by the law of Scotland no crime, whether of great or small importance, could be proved against any person without the evidence of two witnesses at the least, or of one witness supported by circumstantial evidence confirmatory of his evidence. Take the case of a person of the highest character, who had brought forward his evidence that he had been robbed or assaulted, or otherwise aggrieved by any other inferior offence, however clear and direct his evidence, however unimpeachable his character, unless the public prosecutor could call some other witness, or prove some circumstance to confirm the evidence, the jury would be directed by the judge unanimously to find that the offence was not proven. Nay, a very high authority, Judge Hume, had expressed the extreme opinion, that the evidence of one witness only, though this witness was a particeps criminis, would not be sufficient to prove an offence. Whatever might be thought of this rule, it certainly gave a great advantage to the persons accused, and persons accustomed to the administration of the law in Scotland were frequently surprised at seeing in English criminal courts persons adjudged guilty on evidence on which a conviction could not be obtained in Scotland. This rule had led to the giving 1076 verdicts in the different forms of "guilty" or "not guilty," "proven" or "not proven," because it would be most unreasonable to require of a jury, convinced by the unimpeachable testimony of one witness of the guilt of an accused person, to pronounce him not guilty, while the law of the land forbade them to declare him guilty, except on the evidence of two witnesses. In such cases it was left to them to declare the offence "not proven." Another advantage was, that the accused person had a copy of the indictment furnished him fifteen days before the day of trial, containing a narrative of the facts to be proved against him, and thus-enabling him to prepare his defence. There was also at the same time furnished him a list of all the witnesses against him, while here a copy of the indictment was only furnished to the prisoner on the very day of trial. These were great advantages to the accused person. Another peculiar advantage which the accused person possessed in Scotland, the policy of which was less clear, was, that after the public prosecutor had concluded his case and examined his witnesses, the prisoner was entitled to reply, to have the last word, and might call evidence as to alibi or any other fact in his favour, while the public prosecutor was not able to recal any witness in explanation. The hon. Gentleman had contrasted the evidence of one person on the trial, who stated, that on a particular evening a secret meeting had been held, which evidence had been contradicted by another witness, who stated, that he was in the chair on the evening in question, and that the meeting was only an ordinary one, which broke up at half-past nine, whereas, if the public prosecutor had been allowed to recal his witness, he could have shown that the secret meeting he deposed to, took place the same evening after the ordinary meeting, which broke up at half-past nine. The hon. Gentleman had asked under what statute this trial had been had. The answer was, under no statute at all—no statute was mentioned. The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the law respecting combination applied to Scotland? Undoubtedly, yes, there was no person who was not liable to punishment for combination. In England this offence, if accompanied with violence or menaces, was punished with three months imprisonment; in Scotland this offence was tried 1077 by the justices of peace or the sheriffs. But this was a different case from simple combination, or of working men casually committing violence against other working men. This was a conspiracy formed during a long course of years — a conspiracy seeking to accomplish its object by deeds of violence, by systematic outrage, and giving alarm to the whole community where it existed to that extent that, besides the ordinary police of the place, it had been found necessary to employ an additional force of 100 armed men to keep the peace. According to the law of Scotland, a conspiracy, as defined by the Act, was one of the most formidable crimes that could exist. That a conspiracy bad existed in this case was proved by the atrocities that had been carried on for a series of years, by the terror that had been resorted to, by the domination that had been practised, by the despotism that had been exercised over all. The hon. Gentleman complained of the partial administration of justice, and referred to the difference between the course pursued in the present case, and that which was adopted in reference to the combinations and riots between the Roman Catholics and Protestants. On that subject he begged to refer to the cases which arose out of the riots at Airdrie in 1835. It was then necessary to try both Roman Catholics and Protestants who had committed riots; the Roman Catholics were transported for seven years, and the Protestants, whose crime was considered greater, were transported for fourteen years. These were, in their circumstances, the same cases as that of the association at Glasgow; the punishment awarded was not greater, and the persons were of the same description as those to whom the hon. Gentleman had alluded. He did not think it desirable to go into all the details of the evidence in this particular case, but there were one or two points to which he felt it his duty to allude. The hon. Gentleman asked were these five individuals, the president, the secretary, and the others, present on the occasion when the riots took place? No, they were not, and he would say, that the crime was greater, was more serious and dangerous, of hiring, maintaining, and directing the individuals whom they excited to riot, than it would have been had they exposed their own persons to the consequences of the grave offences that were 1078 committed. Tranquillity was much more endangered, and far greater terror was produced, when designing men laid their plans, and in secret advised and excited their weak and deluded victims to carry them into execution, and expose themselves to the just vengeance of the law. There were some minor details, arising out of the adjudication of this case, which the hon. Gentleman had referred to, and which he could not pass over, because his doing so might create an impression unfavourable to the administration of justice in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman spoke of witnesses for the Crown having been imprisoned for a considerable period of time before the trial. Now the great difficulty of this case was attributable to the terror under which the witnesses for the Crown laboured. The fact was, that they themselves had solicited to be put into prison. They had positively refused to give any information unless they were lodged in a place of security. At a subsequent period, the sheriff was obliged to meet them in remote parts of the town, it being declared and believed, that if they were seen to go to the sheriff's, their lives would not be safe. That they should all have been confined to one apartment was a circumstance he regretted, but that fact would not surprise the House when they recollected how crowded the gaols of Scotland unfortunately were. These prisoners could not, under the circumstances, be placed in a better situation, there were no means of providing them with a separate apartment. The present condition of the gaols was certainly a great evil, which he hoped would be redressed, it was universally acknowledged, and he trusted that the Bill brought in during the last Session of the last Parliament would pass in this, and provide the Crown with the means of disposing of the prisoners properly. The propriety of prosecuting the leaders in these combinations was particularly apparent when the situation in which the ignorant and distressed were placed by them was considered. In such cases the uninformed, being perhaps out of employ, and suffering from extreme destitution, were made to feel that while they committed crimes, they were sure of their reward from those with whom they lived and associated, but if they refused to be parties to the criminal proceeding, or if they gave information, they were certain of per- 1079 secution, and exposed themselves even to the danger of losing their lives. Such being the difficulties in the way, he always felt extremely uncertain as to what would be the nature of the evidence that might be given. It was evident that the prisoners had the means of using an influence far greater than that which any public prosecutor could exercise. This state of things could not be disputed, for crimes were committed in Glasgow and its neighbourhood sometimes under cover of the night, and sometimes in the open day, and though large rewards were offered for their detection, no person came forward to give evidence. It could not be expected, that in such cases the evidence would always be clear and overwhelming, but in this instance a feeling of remorse on the part of many, and a desire for the restoration of tranquillity on the part of others, who regretted the violence that had been committed, occasioned them to come forward for the purpose of establishing the facts. The hon. Member for Finsbury had asserted that the law of Scotland punished offences of this nature with far more severity than that of England, but he was sure the House would not think transportation for seven years too severe a punishment for a crime so grave, or that the punishment inflicted on the Airdrie rioters was disproportioned to their offences. The law of Scotland, while it subsisted, must be administered, and he hoped the House would support the judges of the land in the discharge of their duty. The hon. Member had observed, that punishment was awarded on three only of the acts charged, but the tenth charge of employing persons to enter the house of a cotton-spinner, named Donaghey, at night, had been found by the jury to be proved. The court, however, had declined to pass any sentence regarding this charge, on account of the failure of one of the previous charges. So far, therefore, from any undue harshness or severity being used towards the prisoners, they had all the advantages which the leniency of the law could allow them. It was impossible to forget that the charges on which they were convicted were distinctly proved against them, or that the offences might, if unpunished, be followed by consequences the most dangerous to the welfare of the inhabitants of the populous district in which they were committed. One of the individuals whom the prisoners were sus- 1080 pected to have employed, was apprehended and brought to trial at Glasgow for the outrage he had committed at the very time the trials in Edinburgh were going on. What followed? As was frequently the case as regarded crimes committed under the authority of the association, the man pleaded guilty, thinking it, no doubt, better to do so, inasmuch as the offence could be easily proved. Thomas Riddle was the prisoner's name. He begged to read to the House the judgment Lord Cockburn passed upon the prisoner. The learned Lord read as follows:—Thomas Riddle, it is impossible not to be sorry, as well as surprised, at seeing a person of your appearance where you are. But you have committed a very great crime, and in order that neither you, nor anybody else, may have any pretence for not understanding its atrocity, I shall tell you the facts, as stated in the indictment to which you have now pleaded guilty. The indictment sets forth that you had struck work. But this is not your crime—it is not even a part of it. The law now entitles you, and every man, to strike work when he pleases. Your labour is your own, and you may sell it as you please. So may every other man by law. Whether there be certain persons who won't let this law be acted upon we shall see immediately. The indictment also states, that you struck in concert with a number of other operative cotton-spinners. But this is no part of your crime either. The law not only allows every man to demand what wages he pleases, and to refuse working if he does not get them, but it allows him to arrange and combine with others, in order that by concerted strikes, they may make their joint demand more effectual. Masters may combine against workmen, and workmen against masters. By law the market of labour, like that of capital, is free. Would that the workmen of this country had always shown themselves worthy of the recent removal of the old restrictions on the power of demanding what wages they chose, and of uniting to enforce this demand. But your crime is this—namely, that you, along with some of your associates, invaded the house in which a person lived who chose to be satisfied with lower wages than you and they were holding out for; that you did this under cloud of night, and when the inmates were in bed; that with sticks, stones, and menaces you broke open the door, and even shook bricks from the partition in which it was fixed: that you threw the inmates into a state of great terror and alarm; and that you compelled the workman you were in quest of 'under terror of personal violence, and in fear of his life, to swear or promise, that he would leave the cotton-mill in which he was then working.' Now, all this is bad but its chief guilt consists in the 1081 motive and object for which it was all done. This object is set forth to have been 'for the wicked and felonious purpose of compelling a workman to leave his employment,' in order that you might thereby give efficacy to your own demand. This is your crime: that you tried to deprive that man of the disposal of his own particular labour—that, not content with the liberty of selling your own strength and skill at your pleasure, you denied that liberty to another; and attempted, by violence, to dictate to that man the terms on which he should sell his. For this crime, and for its attendant circumstances, you are to be transported for seven years. If you think this punishment severe, this can only be because you choose to shut your eyes to the wickedness and to the plain consequences of what you and others have been doing. The labour of a poor man is his principal property; and he who robs him of this makes him a beggar. Yet there are masses of people who set themselves up as the dictators of the market of labour, and who have the audacity to band themselves together in defence of this tyranny. These persons not only abstain from working themselves, which the law leaves them at perfect liberty to do, but they proclaim that nobody else shall work for less; and if their insolent mandate be disregarded they enforce it by violence, and then declare themselves the friends of free trade. How anything so iniquitous and absurd should ever enter the minds of the educated people of Scotland has always appeared to me incomprehensible.He referred the House to this address, which he believed to be accurarely reported, as a fair exposition of the opinions of the judges on the subject. He should not consider it necessary for him to dwell further on the details of the law of this case, if it were not that elsewhere there had been statements made impugning the conduct, nay, attacking in the most violent terms, the conduct of those who had instituted the prosecutions in Scotland. It was said, elsewhere, that these prosecutions had been conducted in the most bungling manner, that there had been every sort of blunder committed, and that in consequence of those blunders the trial had been delayed, and the individuals had been subjected to a long and severe imprisonment. His answer was, not merely that the statement was on the whole not true—but that it was the very opposite of anything approaching to truth. With respect to the indictment, his answer was, that lawyers of great ability had it for a long time under their consideration, and the result was, that the court unanimously sustained it. On what ground did any noble and learned Lord, in any 1082 place, consider himself entitled to assert, without saying what it was, that there was any defect or blunder—on what ground did he consider himself entitled to make such an assertion, not only against the whole of the authority of the professional persons who had been engaged, but in opposition also to the authority of the court? It was not a little extraordinary even if there had been mistakes—if in a case of such great interest there had been some oversight. Was it not novel with those who had belonged to the profession of the law to talk in that tone, and with that feeling of the proceedings? But when there was no foundation whatever for the remarks, when it was quite clear that there was none, it was extraordinary that any individual who had filled a high legal station for years with honour and credit should make a statement, not only reflecting on lawyers of the highest eminence, but even without the least foundation in point of fact. The statement was, that the trial had been delayed. Now, before the trial came on, and before its result could be known, he had explained that the reason why the trial had been delayed was, that the public prosecutor had received some fresh information. And was he not justified in obtaining all the important information that he could? He entered the court with a belief that the trial would come on, but after the argument of counsel accounts from Glasgow were received from the sheriff, stating that some important documents, which before it had been impossible to recover, had been obtained, with other important evidence, and it was left to him to say whether the trial should go on or not. Now, in a case of this sort, in which murder had been committed, would any public prosecutor have hesitated to delay the trial, in order to avail himself of the fresh evidence. He desired the sheriff to pursue his inquiries, which he did, though with the greatest difficulty. He could not see the witnesses except by stealth, without exposing them to the persecution of the association; and was it to be told in the high places that this trial was delayed in order to recover blunders and errors—blunders and errors that existed nowhere but in the fancy of the noble and learned Lord who thought proper to make that statement? He supposed that the noble and learned Lord could not be aware that he had stated the ground 1083 on which the trial had been delayed, because he could not imagine that if he had been aware of that statement, he would have made the observations he did in reference to a person whom that noble and learned Lord had known for forty years, whose character, however inferior it was for talent and ability, had at least been not less distinguished for straightforward conduct and veracity than even that of the noble and learned Lord himself, honourable as he believed his character to be, but in that humble and low attribute to which all men might lay claim, he thought he was not guilty of any remarkable presumption in saying that he considered himself his equal. Whatever had been remarked about his own abilities as a lawyer was comparatively of small importance, but the charge made affected not only himself. He did not suppose that it was meant to attack him personally, but, fearing that it might affect other persons, particularly a very able and rising man in his profession, when it was charged that there had been gross delay, he felt it to be his duty to come forward and prove to the House that this case had been conducted not only with perfect fairness, but he trusted with zeal, humanity, and moderation. He considered that the explanation he had given was due to the Government, which had been attacked on account of these prosecutions, for the misplaced confidence which they were said to have reposed in those who conducted them, but above all, to the country, who have a right to expect that in such matters as this, concerning the freedom, the rights of property, and the lives of a large and valuable portion of the community, justice should be zealously, humanely, and impartially administered.
§ Sir E. Sugden
said, that, in his judgment, it had been proved that the prisoners were rightly found guilty, and that the punishment was not greater than was necessary. He had looked over the evidence with the utmost attention and that suspicion which such evidence induced; but it did appear to him on the evidence, without feeling any bias from other causes in operation on his mind, that he could not have voted for the motion of which the hon. Member for Finsbury had given notice, but had since, as he understood, withdrawn, for an address to the Crown, praying the commutation of the sentence which had been passed on the fire con- 1084 victed cotton-spinners. It appeared to him that no case had ever been investigated with more attention. No advantages had been taken, as far as he could find, against the prisoners in any particular, while the atrocity of the offence was greater probably than any of which man could be guilty. There was no crime, and the fact was never shown to a greater degree of clearness than in this case, to which combination rising into conspiracy could not instigate. A more atrocious case, he must say, he could not conceive; and that the law had not been exercised rigorously in it he felt himself bound to declare. The system of combination which prevailed was worthy of the best attention: in the case in question, it appeared that, the sums expended on the part of the association exceeded in amount 10,000l., and while the workmen were going into this expenditure hundreds and thousands of persons dependent upon them were thrown out of bread. When the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wakley) said that that House was not sufficiently sensible to the interests and wishes of the lower orders, he answered for himself and for hon. Gentlemen near him, and he believed that there was not a Gentleman in that House who did not sympathise with every true interest of the poor, and he believed that he who could prevail upon them to lay aside their combination would prove their best and truest friend. As to the hon. Gentleman's remark of the harshness of these proceedings, he would say, that the harshness of these combinations and the excessive cruelty was such, that if the law inflicted the one-thousandth part of it, there would be no end to the complaints that would be made. Upon the whole, he had come to the conclusion, that the evidence justified the verdict, and that the sentence which had been passed ought not to be commuted under the peculiar circumstances.
§ Mr. O'Connell, as well as the learned Gentleman who had just sat down, had also read the evidence with great attention, and he felt that it gave the House no right to impeach the conduct of either the bench, the jury, or the prosecutors. He thought his hon. Friend was right in not pressing his motion for a mitigation of punishment. He did not see that there was any fair ground stated for an inquiry into the Glasgow case in particular; but if the system which had been so properly 1085 denounced prevailed more extensively—if combinations, not only illegal, but despotic and tyrannical, existed in any part of the empire, it was the duty of the House to give protection to the labourer, so as to enable him to dispose of his labour freely. He believed that no laws could have been more unjust than the combination laws were before they had been repealed by Mr. Hume's Act. Two persons meeting together to raise to its highest price any commodity, if it were not for labour, might so combine; but the moment they met to raise the price of labour they were considered to be guilty of a crime in the eye of the law. It was true that employers might also be found guilty of a crime, but then it was almost impossible to detect them, and they were also protected by their wealth; but the poor man was easily detected and punished. He had felt it to be his duty, and a most painful one, to take an active part in the matter, and this at the risk of a great deal of his popularity. He had in doing so of course been misrepresented; and he would avail himself of the opportunity of stating what his objects were, He was quite content with Mr. Hume's Act, and was extremely anxious that the labouring classes should have the full benefit of it. It repealed an unjust law; and he did not wish for any more law, certainly, than was to be found in Mr. Hume's Act. He called it Mr. Hume's Act. He did believe that whenever the country lost that hon. Gentleman—and he conceived that whenever it did happen it would be a great loss—but that no more honourable inscription could be placed on his tomb than that he was the person that brought in that Act of Parliament. That at least was his belief. That Act stated what it was that was permitted to be done in future. It allowed combination to every class of workmen. They could combine and agree together to obtain more wages than they had before, or to prevent their wages from being lowered. It was fair for them to combine for such purposes. This they could do for themselves; but the moment they attempted to coerce others, the moment that they carried the effect of their combination to any other individuals, that instant crime commenced, and they were not only guilty of a crime in the eye of the law, but also of a moral crime, and they inflicted a robbery upon 1086 others. The hon. Member for Finsbury seemed to think that the sentence which had been passed was contradictory to the Act of Parliament, for having read those particulars which were not included within legal combination, the hon. Member said that the punishment for any of those offences was only three months' imprisonment. The hon. Member had not read the Act with the eye of a lawyer. The crimes were made so punishable by a summary process by the seventh section; but the Legislature, in allowing a summary process before magistrates, only limited the punishment to persons "being convicted thereof in the manner hereinafter mentioned." Where there were no judge and no jury to decide, and where the summary process was permitted, the punishment was not to exceed three months' imprisonment. But where there was an indictment for a conspiracy, then the case would be tried before a judge and a jury, both in England and Ireland; and if a conviction took place, a much longer punishment could be inflicted: and, as it seemed in Scotland, even transportation could be imposed. There was, then, no violation of the Act on the conviction that had taken place. The object of the Act was to secure individual freedom. The very recital of the Act showed that it was intended upon the one hand to make combination perfectly legal, and upon the other, to punish the infringement upon the rights of third persons. The Act had been called the great charter of the workmen of this country, and it was so. That charter distinctly recognised the right of each individual to his liberty, and the law protected that individual in the exercise of his labour. The efforts made by combinators to raise their wages when confined to themselves were legitimate, and as long as they kept within the bounds of the law they ought not to be disturbed; but it appeared that they had forgotten the maxims on which they ought to act. They were not entitled to wages out of capital; they were only entitled to them out of profits, and if their employers made no profits the wages must decrease. Wages, which were the price of labour, must depend upon the demand; and when the supply was greater than the demand, the price of labour of course must be lowered. This was the condition of Ireland; there was a great supply of labour, and a small demand for 1087 it. Labour was in such quantities that labourers were ready to accept the small wages of sixpence a day. Labour there was so cheap because there was no demand for it. The question, then, in Ireland was, how was the demand to be created? There was but one way of creating the demand. It was only to be created by tempting capitalists to the country, in order that having cheap labour they might have profits from it. The misfortune of Ireland was, that workmen, impatient of their present state of suffering, did not wait for a gradual and progressive improvement, but they endeavoured by monopoly to obtain that which ought to arise from the competition of employers. The workmen of the city of Dublin (for his attention was directed to Ireland) sought a remedy in monopoly. They had endeavoured to narrow the supply, in order that the demand might be kept up and the amount of the wages preserved. The demand did not equal the quantity of labour in the market. The combination had for its object to close the market of labour; it sought to keep persons from entering into a competition in the market of labour, and to raise the wages by diminishing the supply. The monopoly was almost complete in Dublin. There was nothing to equal the regulations and the arrangements for keeping up that monopoly. The right hon. Gentleman had well said, that there was no tyranny equal to that which was exercised by such persons over their fellow-labourers who endeavoured to carry their own labour into the market. He had wished to show those persons the folly of their course, as well as its illegality and wickedness. He had wished to show them the evils and the defects of their monopoly. He had interviews for hour after hour with the deputation of different trades, and he must say, that he had never met with men of more ability, seldom with men of more information, and never with men of more talent in putting their views of their own case; but, instead of discussing individual cases, he had wished for a public discussion. He had sought for, he had challenged public discussion. The authorities of the city of Dublin had sanctioned it; he had made two efforts at discussion; the employers all attended for the purpose of discussion; they were ready to discuss the subject, and to show how injurious the monopoly was to the 1088 tradesmen themselves. These attempts were vain; for the workmen, by an organized arrangement, overpowered the employers, the authorities, and himself. They refused to hear him; they would not listen to him, as they acknowledged; they did not deny the violation of the law, and they expressed their determination to persevere in it. They had objected to the discussion—they refused it. He had at least done his duty, and the fault was not his, the crime was theirs, and if punishment followed from it they must blame themselves for it. He had stated that there was combination in Dublin, the workmen were associated in regular bodies, and he had now to show the effects of that combination. The plan they adopted was this:— It consisted of several parts; first, there was a large sum charged for admission into the regular bodies. The object of this was to make the monopoly as close as possible. The next was to limit, as much as possible, the number of apprentices. His hon. Friend had talked of his being an enemy to the limiting the number of apprentices. The law said there shall be no limit to the number of apprentices. The tradesman said that if they did not limit the number of the apprentices the avarice of the masters would induce them, for the purpose of receiving a fee, to take a great number of them, and thus to overstock the trade. He wanted to know if there were not in the nature of things a remedy for this. The masters took, it was said, the apprentices for the sake of the fee. Surely it was the duty and the wish of the parent to take care of his child. Was not the guardianship of the parent a good and sufficient remedy for any such case? Surely the father would not throw away his money and the time of his child by sending him to a trade likely to be overstocked. Surely this would be much better than any regulations of trade. Surely, if any human being had a regard for anything, it must be for his money and his child; and yet the legislators of the trade said it was necessary for them to have the guardianship of grown-up parents over their own children, and to prevent them throwing away their money. The next regulation was to compel workmen not to work under a minimum rate of wages. These were so high that no employer could have sufficient profits to enable him to give any man more than a 1089 minimum rate of the wages. They prescribed a minimum rate of wages, so that the best workmen would not receive more than the worst. This was one of the rigid and iron rules of the carpenters, that no man was to receive less than 4s. 8d. a day; while uneducated labour was not paid more than 6d. a-day. The carpenters insisted upon having 4s. 8d. a-day, and they took away the funds for paying the skilful workmen who might and ought to be paid twice as much as the unskilful workmen. Many men could earn much more than others, and the employers would be glad to give higher wages, but that they were compelled to give high wages to the worst men. The next rule was, not to leave the choice of workmen to employers. Each workman's name was put down in a certain order in a book, and, if an employer wanted a workman, he had to take that person whose name was the first in the order of the book; and if the employer refused that person he could not get any other workmen. That was the tyranny exercised over the master. The employer, to be sure, might turn away that man, but then he must go back to the book and get another. The carpenters carried it to this extent, that no man could take less wages than that settled by them, even if turned away a unskilful; if the same man were turned away a second time as unskilful, he must still receive the same rate of wages. If the same man was then turned away, and a third employer objected to give him the same rate of wages, he would do so at the risk of having his business stopped. Then, if turned away a third time as unskilful, there was a jury, consisting of three of his comrades, to decide upon the complaint of his unskilfulness, and if he was found not to be a skilful man, then "the indulgence" was allowed to him of taking a less rate of wages. The rules of the carpenters illustrated the system of combination in Dublin, and if the House would indulge him he would read some of their rules. The first rule was this:— "That every person from the country, not having worked more than one month in the city of Dublin, or within ten miles thereof, being desirous of becoming a member of this community, shall be admitted on paying the sum of seven guineas; and ten guineas to be the admission of colts, each person paying half the sum at first payment."—The sixth rule is this—"That 1090 no carpenter employer be allowed to take or hold more than three apprentices at any time, that is two indented and one transferred, or two transferred and one indented; the transferred boy or boys must be in all cases those who were originally bound to regular employers or regular operatives. No firm to take advantage of this rule, as there are no more apprentices allowed to any firm than there are to any single or individual employer." He believed that a more glaring, or more daring violation of law than this had never been heard of. He could show the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the effect of such regulations had been to lessen the number of employers. There was another rule (the 17th) which precluded any member from giving a detailed return for any work, except for jobbing. So that an employer could not have a detail of the day's work from one of his men. He now turned to the twenty-sixth rule;— "That any member of this community, on proof of his being discharged from three different employments for inability, to be proved by three of his shopmates, one from each employment, men of known integrity, may get indulgence for what wages the committee and his shopmates may think him worthy of." Now, who, he asked, having capital would not dispose of it, as soon as he could, rather than submit to this dictation. What had occurred since this species of combination had commenced? The cotton-printing had been established in Belfast; it had since been transferred to Dublin by Mr. Henry. The cotton-printing was carried on in Belfast by Mr. Grimshaw; and the combination had reached to such an extent in two years that the proprietor was not allowed to pay higher wages to one man than to another. The proprietor had 107 persons in his employment. He stopped his manufacture for some short time; the workpeople would not relent; the proprietor eventually abandoned the business, and that number of persons were thrown out of employment. In Bandon an extensive manufactory was established; the proprietor obtained a large contract. He bought machinery, the workmen waited until he had erected the machinery and they then turned out for higher wages — they said to him, "We know that you have got a contract in Spain and in Portugal, and you must therefore give us higher wages. The proprietor 1091 worked out the quantity which he was by writing bound to supply, and then abandoned the manufactory. The consequence was, that there was lost to Bandon ever since, wages to the amount of from 10,000l. to 12,000l. a-year. What was the consequence of the proceedings of the tradesmen of Dublin? Why, that wages to the amount of 500,000l. a-year was driven out of Dublin. Give him inquiry, and he had witnesses ready to prove this fact. Not only was this the fact, but portable articles were brought ready made into Dublin to an extent that would be actually ludicrous if it were not horrible. In the foundry trade alone he would be able to prove to demonstration that 10,000l. a-year in wages was lost to Dublin. Mr. Classon, a most respectable gentleman connected with that business, stated this at a public meeting. Another gentleman, a manufacturer in the same line, of the name of Sheridan, made a statement at a parochial meeting in Dublin, which if the House would permit him he would read. After stating a few facts relating to the Eagle Foundry, Mr. Sheridan went on to state that in consequence of the rules and regulations of the tradesmen in his employ, they were completely his masters, and he was obliged to bow to them in every respect; that business was driven out of the country every day inconsequence of the manufacturers being prohibited from employing boys, and other rules of a similarly restrictive nature, and the consequence was, that Dublin lost the advantage of having many articles manufactured in it. In order further to show the degree of tyranny that was exercised over the employers, Mr. Sheridan stated a particular instance in which an industrious man who had been long in his employment, and who had given great satisfaction, on being asked if he wished to have anything done for him, replied that he had a boy, his son, who could read and write, and that he would be obliged to his employers if they would take him as an apprentice. Mr. Sheridan agreed to take the boy as his apprentice, but his workmen immediately turned out and he was obliged to turn off the boy. The combination of tailors in Dublin had raised the price of clothes so high, that young men found it worth their while to go to Glasgow and stop a couple of days there to get their clothes, and they actually paid the entire expenses of this trip by the saving in a 1092 single suit of clothes. [A laugh.] This was ludicrous enough, but it was true. There were a number of other instances of this kind, and the result was, that business of this description had totally left Dublin. No business could better illustrate this subject than that of ship-building. He remembered that there were at one time in Dublin four principal ship-builders; there were a number of ships built there, and docks existed which were very convenient for that purpose. There was not a single shipbuilder there at present, and not a single ship was built there. There were nothing but boats built; and when any vessel put into Dublin in need of repair it was merely cobbled up so as to insure its safety across the channel, or to Belfast or Drogheda. Thus was the trade of Dublin annihilated. The employers were prevented from taking apprentices, and from employing any but the regular men, and one man who worked in opposition to the regulations of the combinators, on coming into Dublin across the canal bridge, was in the presence of upwards of twenty persons, assassinated. One of the consequences was, that shipbuilding was totally driven out of Dublin; and notwithstanding the failure of trade, when on a late occasion Mr. Fagan had two boats built on a new principle, and finding them useful gave an order for ten more, the moment he did so the workmen turned out and prevented him from building them in Dublin. The contract was taken to Belfast and executed there, and the very timber to make the boats was conveyed from Dublin to Belfast. Since the passing of the combination law four murders had occurred in Dublin, and though the combinators did not with their own hands commit these murders, yet they paid three shillings a week out of their wages for the hire of these assassins. This he was fully able to prove. He had asserted it in the presence of the parties themselves, and though certain persons said that they had nothing to do with it, yet no one denied the existence of the fact. These men, then, who paid the murderers, did not individually commit the crimes themselves, but they contributed, by payment, to the commission of crimes from which individually they would shrink. In Cork, within the last two or three years, no less than thirty-seven persons had been burnt with vitriol so as to lose their eyes, while in Dublin four murders had been committed between the time of 1093 passing and the repeal of the combination law, and three more recently. There were daily outrages, and who, he would ask, committed those outrages? It was well known that they were committed by a body of men called Welters. It would be very hard to get legal evidence against these men. There had been so little sympathy in Ireland between the governed and governors for many years, that no man who came forward in aid of a Government prosecution would feel himself safe. It was therefore difficult to get legal evidence; but there was abundant to satisfy any man of the number and nature of the crimes of these men. There was not a day but some crime was committed. On Thursday last the House of a timber-merchant was set on fire, after he had received twenty-two notices. Thus, though the tradesmen themselves did not actually commit murder, they were enabled by means of these Welters, who were ready to commit any crime, to control their employers. About a fortnight before he left Dublin, he was informed by a manufacturer that a man and his wife in his employment had died of the cholera, leaving two orphan children. The master agreed to take these orphans as apprentices without any fee, and to support them during their apprenticeship; but his men turned out and obliged him to discard the two orphans. So terrible was the power of the Welters that this gentleman did not dare to resist their mandates. If the House would allow him, he would read two cases that had occurred within the last two months before the courts in Dublin. They would give a better idea than any thing he could say of the extent of the power of the system instituted by those men. On the 4th of January two men, of the names of Quin and Murphy, were tried for beating a man violently. The evidence went to show that the only offence of the prosecutor was his not belonging to the combination, he not being able on demand to give the sign of recognition. The other case occurred on the 11th of January, when a man and his wife were severely beaten, merely because the man was not a combinator. Did he complain of the police of Dublin? A change had taken place, and the police of Dublin was now as different as possible. But he thought he had a right to say, that the magistracy of Dublin required to be changed. He did not complain of any 1094 designed faults, but Mr. Blacker was now ninety years of age, and was still a police magistrate. Major Sirr was eighty-two years old, and Alderman Darley was seventy-five. Men who had served fifteen, twenty, or thirty years in the police, ought to be removed by the Government, and why did not Government remove them? Police magistrates were entitled to retire after a certain term of service, but with only two-thirds salary. This was a false economy. It would be much better, after men had served for twenty or thirty years, to allow them to retire with their full salary. He hoped Government would consider this, and allow those gentlemen to retire on a full salary, and to appoint an efficient magistracy. He thought he had made out a complete case for inquiry. Had he made out his case as if he were the enemy of the tradesman? He had made out his case as the friend of the child whom he wanted to have educated in trade. He had made out his case as the friend of the good workman, who ought to receive large wages. He had made out his case as one who wished to see capital and the number of employers increased, by which the labourers would legitimately obtain larger wages. Could any thing be more abominable than the present monopoly; and were men to be allowed to enter into these combinations for the purpose of committing injury and injustice upon others? Was there any other country in the world in which it was so desirable to encourage the employment of labour as in Ireland? The capital in labour was immense, and the increased wealth would be immense if the capital were employed. If he had not made out a case satisfactorily he would refer to a statement made by the merchants of Dublin, which was of a terrific nature. The hon. and learned Member read certain resolutions passed at a meeting of the merchants of Dublin, denouncing in strong terms illegal combinations, and setting forth many of the regulations of the combinators which were in direct violation of the law of the land. He saw in a petition which had been presented by his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury, that this meeting, at which these statements were made, was composed of repealers. Who were these repealers? The Lord Mayor of Dublin, the sheriffs, the aldermen, the entire corporation, with whom He had been battling all his life, bankers 1095 who had several of them taken an active part in politics against him, a class of merchants of the same description, and, in fine, many who agreed with him in his general politics, but who totally differed with him in his struggle for a separate Parliament; but all of them had agreed to the resolutions to which he referred. It was manifest that the House could not refuse this inquiry. The only question appeared to him to be whether the inquiry should be extended to Great Britain, or confined to Ireland? He claimed that it should be extended to Great Britain, and for these reasons:—It was from Manchester that these unions came; and in a proclamation which had lately issued from the unionists of that town, he (Mr. O'Connell) was called the deadly enemy of the tradesman, and the tradesmen of Dublin were told that until they freed themselves from him they could never obtain their social rights, that with him they were not safe, but that without him they would be able successfully to struggle for their rights. This seemed very much like an invitation to make short work of him, but he did not think that such could have been the intention. Look, again, at the murder of Smith, in Glasgow, one of the chief towns in moral and educated Scotland. Was it true or false what the witnesses of the Crown had sworn to on the late trial? Were not the facts of a nature imperatively to call for inquiry? But were there no recent instances in England? Had they not read, in the newspapers of the week, language applied to the Poor-law of a most dreadful nature? Had not that measure been misrepresented in every possible way, in order to inflame the minds of the people? At the meeting held at Manchester, on Monday, the 5th of February, delegates from forty-eight places attended, amongst others from Bolton, Macclesfield, Salford, Liverpool, Wigan, Oldham, Preston, Stockport, Warrington, Hyde, Huddersfield, &c. The Rev. Mr. Stephens spoke in this strain —"If this Bill were established, it should be eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wife for wife, child for child, man for man, and blood for blood, so help him God." At Stockport, on Tuesday, February 6, 1838, the Rev. Mr. Stephens figured again, and in concluding a speech on the same subject, said:— "A man whom he had never seen before, told him he had come froth an agricultural district, and that rather than 1096 be separated from his wife he had prepared a knife for the parties who made the separation. He had come into this district to obtain work, and having done so, he had a knife ready for any guardian who should attempt to separate his wife from him. This was the universal feeling of the district; and although he did not coincide with it, it was sufficient to show the law would not be submitted to." Mr. Oastler followed in like spirit: —"He knew that hunger and insult would produce effects more oppressive and awful to certain individuals than even the Commissioners' conduct had been to the people. He knew that the assassin's knife would be used." At Rochdale the Rev. Mr. Stephens said, "If it were right to confiscate the property of the people, by abrogating the 43d of Elizabeth, it would be right to confiscate the property of Rochdale, and it is right if the law of Elizabeth is to be destroyed, it is right for the poor to take a dagger in one hand, and a torch in the other, and do the best for themselves." Mr. Fergus O'Connor alluded to the "arch-fiend, Mr. O'Connell." Every allusion to Mr. O'Connell at this meeting was received with loud disapprobation. Several called out that Mr. O'Connell ought to be shot. Mr. Oastler said—"I tell you, Churchmen and Dissenters, before I would submit to such an act, I would set the whole kingdom in a blaze. I am no incendiary but I have affection in my heart; I am willing to work, and should not blush to ask for my parish pay; but if I am told I should not receive it unless I consented to be separated from my wife, I would, if I were to be hanged for it, kill him on the spot." These were specimens of the language held out to the working people of this country and of Scotland—the knife, the torch, and the dagger, were the weapons recommended; and the Rev. Mr. Stephens said at Glasgow, that he would involve the whole country in a flame before he suffered this act to come into operation. If this state of things was proved in England and in Scotland, was it not desirable that an inquiry should be instituted to ascertain the extent to which it had gone not only in Great Britain, but in Ireland also? Did he want to re-enact the laws against combinations? No; he desired no such thing, for some combinations were not only harmless, but meritorious; and he wished to separate unions 1097 of this kind from those of a pernicious character. He did not care for being called the enemy of the working classes, whilst he felt satisfied in his own conscience that he was acting as their best friend. He had not yielded to the taunts and malignity of the aristocracy when he thought that he was in the right, and he should certainly not now give way to the working classes upon a point in which he considered that they were decidedly in error. It had been reported of him that he intended only to direct his observations against the working men, and to exclude their employers from inquiry. Such was not his intention, as was clearly proved by the terms of his notice on the paper; his object was to make the inquiry as complete and searching as possible, and to bring it home to all parties. With these observations, and thanking the House for the indulgence it had extended to him on this occasion, he should conclude by moving the amendment of which he had given notice, namely, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the origin, nature, and extent of trades' unions or combinations of workmen or employers of workmen in the United Kingdom, and the tendency of such unions or combinations to affect the free distribution of wages, labour, and employment, and also their tendency to induce the commission of outrages against persons and property, and the perpetration of murder; and also to report such suggestions for improvement in the existing laws against illegal combinations or societies as they may deem requisite."
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that before the amendment was put, he would beg leave to state to the House, in the absence, from indisposition, of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, what course the Government intended to pursue on the present important question, and he felt satisfied from all the observations he had heard during the evening, that that course would be consonant with the views of all parties. This was a subject of all others that required the unanimity of hon. Members, that the public might know that the House was about to legislate for the benefit of the whole community, and he thought it would be expedient that hon. Members should merge minor differences, and at once go to the principle of the question. Although he thought the House would generally 1098 agree with the views of Government, he did not calculate on the support of the hon. Member for Finsbury, whose original proposition was for a Select Committee to review the judgment of the Court of Justiciary. [Mr. Wakley: I disclaim such an intention.] If the hon. Member's present motion had not the boldness of that of which at first he had given notice, it still contained all the objectionable matter. His inquiry was not to be general, but in reference to the particular case of the five convicts. He hoped the House would enter into the inquiry generally which Government were about to institute free from any warmth or party exasperation, but in that spirit of anxiety for doing justice between master and man which had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He would beg leave, in the absence of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) to move as an amendment, "for a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the 6th of George 4th, and into the general constitution of trades' unions, and also of the combination of workmen and masters in the United Kingdom, and to report to the House thereon." It was important that, as the three countries were blended, the inquiry should apply to all. He wished again to state on the part of his noble Friend, that the object of the Government in moving for the Committee was not to work any wrong or injustice towards the working classes—it was not to impose any fetters or disabilities upon them, but its object would be to protect them in their just rights and interests, and to secure to them the free use and exercise of their powers. If there were any countries in which that protection was more necessary than in others, those were Great Britain and Ireland; in Great Britain, where mechanical means interfered with the increased demand for human labour, it was necessary, because the same spirit of combination which was directed against the employment of workmen also acted against the use of machinery, and in Ireland protection was necessary to secure to the working man his capital—his labour. He should greatly neglect his duty if he did not take this, the earliest opportunity that had been afforded him, of saying (and he was sure all who heard him would concur) that the late efforts made by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who had risked his 1099 own popularity, who had exposed himself to all sorts of misconception on the part of those of whom he had so long been the great popular leader, who had placed all these considerations at risk by the discharge of a great public duty, were deserving of the highest applause. No individual had ever given a more splendid example of the strict performance of a public duty, or who had conducted himself more firmly in his endeavours to convince his fellow-men of the errors into which they had fallen. Such he knew to be the feelings and sentiments of those in Ireland who differed most materially on other subjects from the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he hoped it would be the opinion of hon. Members opposite, who were disposed to treat this subject fairly. Under all these circumstances, he should move, in place of the amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, the amendment which he had already read to the House. At the same time he must state, that whilst it would be presumptuous in him to allude to the Scotch cases which had been matter of allusion in the course of the debate, still he could not avoid congratulating his learned Friend, the Lord Advocate upon the opportunity which to-night had been afforded him, and of which his learned Friend had so ably availed himself of answering the many attacks which had been made upon him in his absence, and of doing justice not only to his own conduct in the transaction alluded to, but to the conduct of those with whom he had acted. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his amendment as already stated.
§ Mr. Hume
was certain the working-classes only desired justice, and on their behalf he trusted that the inquiry proposed by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be allowed to take place. He thought that if his hon. Friend, the Member for Finsbury, persisted in his motion, it would be said that he attached himself to one particular class, whereas he was sure his hon. Friend had in view the interests of all classes. He thought much blame and many of the evils might be ascribed to the masters, and he therefore was most anxious that the inquiry should be directed also to them. He rejoiced, however, that the Government had come forward to take up the general question. Allusion had been made to the repeal of combination acts; he begged to state, that 1100 since that repeal and the enactment of the existing law the evils of combination had not been one in twenty so numerous as compared to what they were before, and he regretted that from a mistaken policy the masters had not joined in and encouraged those combinations which were under the law most strictly legal—namely, the combinations which, in fact, afforded the best means of improving the condition of both masters and workmen. He thought that the expressions of the House to-night would convince the working classes, that while the House would support them in the assertion and maintenance of their legal rights, it would enforce the laws which had been so much violated, and that it would not countenance such tyranny as had been exercised by the working classes towards their own brethren. On these grounds he cordially supported the general inquiry under the management of her Majesty's Ministers. He therefore recommended his hon. Friend to withdraw his motion, and permit the amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman to be assented to.
§ Mr. Harvey
approved of the amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin in preference to the original motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury; at the same time he thought that amendment would not lead to any useful result; and he was also of opinion that the amendment proposed by the Government was much too narrow, for if the object of the House was a full, honest, and efficient inquiry into criminal combinations, it was important that all the circumstances which fostered and engendered those combinations should be subjected to full and ample inquiry. The inquiry as proposed by the Government, however, was limited, and if it was not intended as a prelude to future measures to affect the interests of the working classes, it was indispensable that the inquiry should be directed into all the circumstances and all the existing laws which affected the prerogatives and the property of labour. He should be delighted to hear that it was within the scope of the proposed inquiry to consider how existing laws, affecting not merely the wages of labour, but the means of subsistence, operated. He would not even exclude an inquiry into the operation of the corn laws. He presumed such was not the intention, and therefore he said this was not intended to 1101 be an honest inquiry, and therefore he should, after the Committee had been appointed, move an instruction to that Committee to inquire into all the existing laws affecting both the rights of labour and of property. A subject had been mentioned in the course of the debate to-night, and which induced him to ask what would be the use of this Committee. The Committee would doubtless furnish a ponderous report, and after examining witnesses from England, Ireland, and Scotland, it would suggest that something ought to be done, and it would do no more. Upon that report nothing would be done, and why did he say this? Why, because he heard hon. Members talk of a man plundered of property and robbed of station by a combination; because he had heard that the chairman of a committee who had reported in favour of the man so injured— that chairman a lawyer himself, wearing deservedly in his own country the distinction of his monarch—call that combination which had so robbed and plundered the individual alluded to of 100,000l. by a cruel combination; still that report had been allowed to remain a dead letter; nothing had been done by the House to vindicate one of its own Members who had called for that inquiry; neither had the officers of the Crown nor the Government had the courage to come forward and vindicate the result of that inquiry. If he had been a member of that Committee, he should have been ashamed to have allowed so long a time to elapse without taking some steps to vindicate the report. He had called upon the Government either to move his expulsion from the House, or to take some steps to crush the combination from which he, after twenty years' service, had suffered. Neither the House nor the Government had had the courage or honesty to vindicate the Report to which he alluded; and so it would be with the Report of the Committee now moved for.
§ Mr. G. F. Young
was afraid, that if the subjects to be brought before the Committee were of a general nature, it would be attended with the "no result" which the hon. Member for Southwark seemed to anticipate. He feared that the distinction was not always observed, by those who advised the people between meritorious acts of combination and the conspiracies which led to the particular results which lately occurred. He himself 1102 knew the case of an engineer who came up to London from Glasgow, and was deprived of employment in which he had saved 20l. and supported his family, because if his employer continued him in his establishment, every other engineer would leave him. He rejoiced at the spirit which was manifested in this debate, and he trusted that the inquiry would be attended with the best results.
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
responded most cordially to the opinions pronounced by the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was no period at which the opinion of Lord Cockburn quoted by the learned Lord Advocate was more apposite than at present. The opinion to which he alluded was, that no greater despotism could be exercised, not only over the country, but over the interests of the individual workmen themselves, than that which had been attempted. He was most anxious that this inquiry should extend to combinations of all sorts. It was impossible to shut our eyes to the fact, that the spirit of combination had existed in Ireland under many forms for several years past, and had manifested itself by preventing individuals from one party in that country acquiring land in another, by fettering the exercise of the elective franchise, and by affixing the symbols of death to the habitations of those who voted in a different manner to that in which their persecutors wished. When such combinations were encouraged it was not wonderful that the same spirit should induce men to perpetrate actual murder. He was, however, gratified at the general reprobation of these practices which had been expressed, and he trusted that if any measure should result from this inquiry it would not only affect tradesmen but include the acts of others, whether they related to the taking of land or the exercise of the franchise.
§ Mr. Slaney
felt, that it would be a subject of regret if any impression should go abroad from that debate, that it was intended to restrict the labourer in his power of carrying his labour to the best market. He was convinced, that the proceeding which was intended would not have the effect of restricting any power which the labourer now enjoyed, but that it would only prevent him from exercising a most mischievous tyranny over his fellow men. When he heard statements relating to Scotland and Ireland, showing 1103 the crimes which arose from combination, he asked, what was the foundation of these things? It was because the people did not understand their true interests. They supposed they would improve their condition by the restrictions which they placed on their fellow-men; and, instead of doing so, they drove trade and the profits in which they shared from those places where they lived. It was truly stated, that the proportion of demand to supply regulated the wages of labour. It was utterly impossible to alter the natural demand, and nothing was more important than to impress upon the minds of the working people that they were attempting to accomplish an impossibility. It was absolutely essential to their own welfare and that of the country that the working men should be educated on these points.
§ Mr. Hindley
rose to move that the debate be adjourned. It was a singular feature in this debate, that though the question concerned operatives, not one Gentleman who was in the habit of employing operatives had spoken. Had he risen earlier, he should have stated the result of his experience since the year 1825. He should then merely content himself with expressing the pleasure which he felt at having the subject taken out of the hands of the Government. It was most important that this inquiry should not have the appearance of an attack on the trades' unions. The trades' unions were to a certain extent beneficial, and to a certain extent injurious. He trusted that some salutary regulations would be determined upon, and that the inquiry would give entire satisfaction.
§ Mr. Fielden
observed, that from the excitement which prevailed on this subject, nothing was more important than the appointment of an impartial Committee. If such a selection were made as that of the Poor-law Committee, that excitement would be increased, no satisfaction would be given to the country, and the most dangerous consequences might be expected. He should say a word on the sentence which was pronounced on the Glasgow cotton-spinners. It was the opinion of many Members of that House, and it was responded to out of doors, that the Government ought to pursue a course of forbearance respecting these men pending the inquiry by the Committee. If they were banished before that inquiry ended, it might become a ques- 1104 tion whether they were not unjustly treated, and whether they were not less to blame than others. It should always be recollected that these men were convicted only by a majority of one, and that if they bad been tried in this country they would have been acquitted. If they were sent away, then, before the whole conduct of the workmen was investigated, a strong impression would be made that they had been dealt with unfairly.
§ Mr. Wakley
replied. He certainly felt some surprise at the state of society which the hon. and learned Member for Dublin had described as existing in Ireland. He had been given to understand that, under the present Government, all was peace, prosperity, and tranquillity in that country; but it now appeared, that every day brought its concomitant outrage. Whether these practices proceeded from the tradesmen or others it was impossible for him to explain; but as a great deal of blood had been spilled in Ireland, as assassinations and murders were so numerous, he wished the inquiry to be as extensive and comprehensive as it could be made. There were many combinations in Ireland and England. In Ireland there had been the Orange combination, and more blood had been spilled in a single tithe affray in Ireland than could be laid to the charge of all the trades' combinations. If the rich had been instrumental in producing that sacrifice, let it be ascertained by the minutest investigation. Let there be an examination into all the combinations and monopolies established by charters and Acts of Parliament for the benefit of the rich, and opposed to the welfare of the poor, whose food was raised in price by partial and unjust legislation. What opportunity had the labouring man to obtain the best market for his labour but by combination? Were it not for the unions in London those who were engaged in them would be obliged to sell the produce of their skill at thirty or forty per cent. less than they now did. Let them give the poor the same means of protecting themselves that the rich enjoyed, and he would be satisfied. With respect to the immediate question before the House he would gladly avail himself of the proposition of his right hon. Friend, and withdraw his motion. When he opened the case of these unfortunate individuals he had staled, that there were circumstances that showed 1105 they were not guilty. Into these circumstances, however, he would not then enter. It was a fact, however, that he did not believe that one of them was more guilty of the charges alleged against him than were the nobles in the Orange lodges. He would take some opportunity of calling upon the Attorney-General to prosecute the latter. Certainly, he did not expect to get a vote from the other side on such an occasion. It was impossible to persuade the Gentlemen opposite to be liberal. They were utterly indifferent to the wishes of the people. Their case was entirely hopeless. He begged to call the attention of the House to the fart, that these persons were found guilty on only three counts of the indictment—that of illegal conspiracy, and two of assaults. But it did not appear that they were present at any of those assaults. There was nothing in the copy of the evidence which he had seen which connected them with the outrages in question. He would adduce in mitigation, not of the offence, but of the punishment, this fact, that the distinguished barristers in the Court of Justiciary who had defended the prisoners had taken the strong and unusual course of presenting to the Queen a memorial praying for a mitigation of punishment. He held in his hand the memorial, with the four signatures. The jury of fifteen found nine counts of the indictment not proven; and on the three counts which were declared proven the division was eight to seven. The minority of the jury signed a memorial declaring that in their opinion none of the charges were proved, and humbly begging for mercy to the convicted. He was, however, perfectly ready to leave the case in the hands of her Majesty's Government; and he begged leave to withdraw his motion.
§ The motion for a Select Committee was agreed to.