§ MR. SINCLAIR AYTOUN
said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is aware that a proclamation has been issued by Mr. Edward Sholton, Mayor of the Borough of Tynemouth, giving notice that any persons attending the lectures to be delivered by Mr. Murphy at North Shields, on the 5th, 6th, and 7th instant, and who shall pay money for admission to the place where such lectures are to be delivered, are liable to a penalty of £20 under the provisions of Act 39 Geo. III., c. 79, s. 15; and, whether, in his opinion, the Mayor of Tynemouth has, by issuing such a proclamation, exceeded his authority?
Sir, I am aware that such a proclamation has been issued by the Mayor of Tynemouth, and I hope that in so doing he has not exceeded his authority, inasmuch as he acted under my authority and by my directions. The Act in question was passed in 1799, and was an Act of extreme severity. It enabled any informer to cause persons to be summoned for delivering lectures in places not duly licensed, and, in that case, the lecturer and owner of the room were liable to a penalty of £100 each, and persons attending the lecture were liable to a penalty of £20 each. By the 9 & 10 Vict, this Act was amended, and the power of taking such proceedings was limited to the Law Officers of the Crown. Now, it happened that Mr. Murphy had lately been delivering one of his inflammatory lectures at Tynemouth, and the result was much violence and some bloodshed. He proceeded to some other towns in the North where the good sense of the inhabitants prevented his being accommodated with a room in which to deliver his lectures. Finding that to be the case, he gave 760 notice that he would return to Tynemouth, and the Mayor, under these circumstances, applied to me to know what steps should be taken to prevent the repetition of these dangerous meetings. That being so, I did not hesitate to put in force an Act which I quite admit is one only to be used in extreme cases. The case here was one which, in my opinion, justified its application. Here is a man who, for no good purpose whatever, goes about exciting the peaceful inhabitants of towns in such a way as to lead to acts of violence, creating dissension and disorder wherever he appears; and, as long as there are means of repression known to the law, I think it is the duty of those charged with the preservation of the peace to use them. It was, therefore, under my direction and on my responsibility that the Mayor of Tynemouth made known that all persons attending these lectures would be liable to a penalty.