Disappointed in this quarter, the odious race of incendiary spies of Government tried their arts, and succeeded in duping some individuals in Yorkshire, and many more in Derbyshire. That the principal Government spy, Oliver, was busily engaged in this work of stirring up the ignorant and suffering population to open insurrection from the 17th of April to the 7th of June, when such an outbreak took place in Derbyshire, we have the most complete evidence. It then came out, from a servant of Sir John Byng, commander of the forces in that district, that Oliver had previously been in communication with Sir John, and no doubt obtained his immediate liberation from him on the safe netting of his nine victims. In fact, in a letter from this Sir John Byng (then Lord Strafford), in 1846, to the Dean of Norwich, he candidly admits that he had received orders from Lord Sidmouth to assist the operations of Oliver, who was, his lordship said, going down into that part of the country where meetings were being frequently held, and that Oliver, who carried a letter to Sir John, was to give him all the information that he could, so that he might prevent such meetings. Here, as well as from other sources, we are assured that Oliver only received authority to collect information of the proceedings of the conspirators, and by no means to incite them to illegal acts. We have also the assurance of Mr. Louis Allsop, a distinguished solicitor of Nottingham, that Oliver was in communication with him on the 7th of June, immediately on his return from Yorkshire, and informed him that a meeting was the same evening to take place in Nottingham, and he and another gentleman strongly urged him to attend it, which Oliver did. Mr. Allsop says that Oliver had no instructions to incite, but only to collect information. All this has been industriously put forward to excuse Ministers. But what are the facts? We find Oliver not only—according to evidence which came out on the trials of the unfortunate dupes at Derby—directly stimulating the simple people to insurrection, but joining in deluding them into the persuasion that all London was ready to rise, and that one hundred and fifty thousand from the east and west of the capital only waited for them. We find him not only disseminating these ideas throughout these districts from the 17th of April to the 27th of May, but also to have concerted a simultaneous rising in Yorkshire, at Nottingham, and in Derbyshire, on the 6th of June. Thornhill-lees, in Yorkshire, was on the verge of action, and ten delegates, including Oliver, were arrested. In Derbyshire the insurrection actually took place.
What immediately follows shows that Oliver had planned and brought to a crisis, by his personal exertions, this unhappy rising. On Sunday, the 8th of June, Jeremiah Brandreth, a framework-knitter of Nottingham, appeared with some others at a public-house called the “White Horse,” in the village of Pentrich, in Derbyshire. This village is about fourteen miles from Nottingham, and about a mile from the small market town of Ripley. It is in a district of coal and iron mines, and is near the large iron foundry of Butterley. The working people of the village, and of the neighbouring village of South Wingfield, were chiefly colliers, workers in the iron mines or iron foundry, or agricultural labourers—a race little informed at that day, and therefore capable of being readily imposed on. This Brandreth had been known for years as a fiery agitator. He was a little, dark-haired man, of perhaps thirty years of age. He had been much with Oliver, and was one of his most thorough dupes, ready for the commission of any desperate deed. He had acquired the cognomen of the “Nottingham Captain,” and now appeared in an old brown great-coat, with a gun in his hand, and a pistol thrust into an apron, which was rolled round his waist as a belt.
Two of the workmen from Butterley Foundry entered the “White Horse,” which was kept by a widow Wightman, whose son George was deep in the foolish conspiracy into which Oliver and this his blind, savage tool, the Nottingham Captain, were leading him. They found Brandreth with a map before him, and telling them there was no good to be done, they must march up to London and overthrow the Government. He said all the country was rising; that at Nottingham the people had already taken the castle and seized the soldiers in their barracks, and were waiting for them. This shows that he had come straight from Oliver, who, on the 7th, was at Nottingham, attending the meeting there, and who knew that the meeting in Yorkshire had been prevented. Yet he had allowed the people of Nottingham to believe that the Yorkshire men were coming, according to agreement, in thousands; and he allowed Brandreth to go and arouse Derbyshire, under the belief that Nottingham that night would be in the hands of the insurgents. On Monday night, the 9th of June, Brandreth and a knot of his colleagues proceeded to muster their troop of insurgents for the march to Nottingham. They roused up the men in their cottages, and, if they refused to go, they broke in the doors with a crowbar, and compelled them to join them. Most of these unwilling levies slipped away in the dark on the first opportunity. At South Wingfield he assembled his forces in an old barn, and then they proceeded through the neighbourhood demanding men and guns. An old woman had the courage to tap the “captain” on the shoulder, and say—”My lad, we have a magistrate here;” and many of the men thought Brandreth must be mad or drunk. At the farm of widow Hetherinton he demanded her men and arms, and when she stoutly refused him, he put the gun through the window and shot one of her men dead. As the day dawned, Brandreth and his infatuated troop appeared before the gates of Butterley Foundry, and demanded the men; but Mr. Goodwin, the manager, had been apprised of their approach, and had closed the gates. Brandreth had planned to take Butterley Foundry, and carry away not only the men but a small cannon kept there; but Mr. Goodwin went out and told Brandreth he should not have a man for any such insane purpose, and seeing an old man that he well knew, Isaac Ludlam, who bore a good character, and had been a local preacher amongst the Methodists, he seized him by the collar and pushed him into the foundry court, telling him not to be a fool, but stay at home. Ludlam, however, replied, “he was as bad as he could be,” rushed out, and 长沙桑拿水疗会所体验 went on—to his death; for he was one of those that were executed.
All this time it was raining heavily, and Brandreth, daunted by the weather, or by the courageous conduct of the manager, gave the word to march. The manager calculated that there were only about a hundred of them at this point; but they were soon after joined by another troop from Ripley, and they took two roads, which united about three miles farther on, collecting fresh men by the most direful threats. When they reached Eastwood, a village three or four miles farther on the road to Nottingham, they were said to amount to three hundred, but ragged, famished, drenched with the rain, and not half of them armed, even with rude pikes. Near Eastwood they were met by a troop of horse from Nottingham, which had been summoned by Mr. Rolleston, a magistrate, and at the 长沙桑拿论坛 sight they fled in confusion. About forty guns and a number of pikes were picked up, and a considerable number of prisoners were made, amongst them Brandreth. These prisoners were afterwards tried at a special assize at Derby. They were defended by Thomas (afterwards Lord) Denman, whose eloquence on the occasion raised him at once into notice, and whose generous, gratuitous, and indefatigable exertions on behalf of these simple, ignorant victims of Government instigation, showed him to be a man of the noblest nature. Notwithstanding his efforts, twenty of these unhappy dupes were transported for different terms, and three—Brandreth, Ludlam, and Turner—were hanged and then beheaded as traitors.
Such were the means employed by the British Government in 1817 to quiet the country under its distress—a distress the inevitable 长沙桑拿论坛 result of the long and stupendous war. The only idea was to tighten the reins of Government—to stimulate the sufferers into overt acts, and then crush them. Fortunately, with the exception of the Derby juries, the juries in general saw through the miserable farce of rebellion, and discharged the greater part of Oliver’s and Lord Sidmouth’s victims. Watson was acquitted of high treason in London on the 16th of June, less than a week after the Derbyshire insurrection. His son had eluded the pursuit of the police. Seventeen prisoners on the like charges were liberated in July in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and were paid seven shillings each to carry them home. On the 22nd of August, of the twenty-four persons that Oliver had entrapped in Yorkshire, twenty-two were discharged—against eleven of them no bills being found by the grand 长沙桑拿酒店娱乐 jury—and the two left in prison were detained there because, under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, they were not brought up for trial. The Manchester Blanketeers were, in like manner, all discharged, though the Duke of Northumberland did his utmost to stimulate Lord Sidmouth to get them punished. On the country at large the impression was that the Government had propagated a most needless alarm, and that those who had fallen on the scaffold had been exalted by them from poor, ignorant labourers into burlesque traitors, through the execrable agency of their incendiaries, Oliver, Castles, Mitchell, and others.
But the Government had to receive another lesson this year on the folly of endeavouring, in the nineteenth century, to crush the liberties of Britons. There was an organ called the Press, which, partaking neither of the Governmental fears of a natural complaint by the public of the evils which preyed upon it, nor the Governmental hopes of silencing the sufferers without any attempt to mitigate their calamities, reported freely the mingled folly and cruelty of Ministers, and called for the only remedy of the country’s misfortunes—Reform. On moving the second reading of the Bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, Lord Sidmouth observed that some noble lords had complained that the authors and publishers of infamous libels on the Government were not prosecuted. He assured them that the Government were quite as anxious as these noble lords to punish the offenders, but that the law officers of the Crown were greatly puzzled in their attempts to deal with them; that authors had now become so skilful from experience, that the difficulties of convicting them immeasurably exceeded those of any former time.
It would seem that the law officers of the Crown despaired of proceeding in the old way, but they, or the Ministers themselves, hit on a new and more daring one. On the 27th of March the Secretary of State addressed a circular letter to the lords-lieutenant of counties, informing them that the Law Officers were of opinion that a justice of the peace may issue warrants to apprehend persons charged with the publication of political libels, and compel them to give bail; and he required the lords-lieutenant to communicate this opinion to the ensuing Quarter Sessions, that all magistrates might act upon it. This was the most daring attack on the liberty of the subject which had been made in England since the days of the Stuarts. Lord Grey, on the 12th of May, made a most zealous and able speech in the House of Lords against this proceeding, denouncing the investment of justices of the peace with the power to decide beforehand questions which might puzzle the acutest juries, and to arrest and imprison for what might turn out to be no offence at all. He said:—”If such be the power of the magistrate, and if this be the law, where, I ask, are all the boasted securities of our independence and freedom?” But it appears from the correspondence of Lord Sidmouth, that he was at this moment glorying in this expedient and triumphing in its imagined success. He said the charge of having put such power into the hands of magistrates, he would do his best and most constant endeavour to deserve; and that already the activity of the dealers in libellous matter was much diminished. He had, in truth, struck a deadly terror to the hearts of the stoutest patriots, who saw no prospect but ruin and incarceration if they dared to speak the truth. Cobbett then fled, and got over to America. In taking leave of his readers, in his Register of March 28th, he gave his reasons for escaping from the storm:—”Lord Sidmouth was ‘sorry to say’ that I had not written anything that the Law Officers could prosecute with any chance of success. I do not remove,” he continued, “for the purpose of writing libels, but for the purpose of being able to write what is not libellous. I do not retire from the combat with the Attorney-General, but from a combat with a dungeon, deprived of pen, ink, and paper. A combat with the Attorney-General is quite unequal enough; that, however, I would have encountered. I know too well what a trial by special jury is; yet that, or any sort of trial, I would stand to face. So that I could be sure of a trial of whatever sort, I would have run the risk; but against the absolute power of imprisonment, without even a hearing, for time unlimited, in any gaol in the kingdom, without the use of pen, ink, and paper, and without communication with any soul but the keepers—against such a power it would have been worse than madness to attempt to strive.”
Nor were the fears of Cobbett imaginary. The Ministry at this time were such fanatics in tyranny, that they would have rejoiced to have thus caged the great political lion, and kept him in silence. At this very moment they had pounced upon one who was equally clever in his way, and who had, perhaps, annoyed them still more, but whom they did not so much fear to bring into a court of justice. This was William Hone, who had for some time been making them the laughing-stock of the whole nation by his famous parodies. Hone was a poor bookseller in the Old Bailey, who had spent his life in the quest after curious books, and in the accumulation of more knowledge than wealth. His parodies had first brought him into notice, and it did not appear a very formidable thing for the Government to try a secluded bookworm not even able to fee counsel for his defence. His trial did not come on at the Guildhall till the 18th of December, and then it was evident that the man of satirical fun meant to make a stout fight. The judge, Mr. Justice Abbott, and the Attorney-General, Sir Samuel Shepherd, from their manner of surveying the accused, did not apprehend much difficulty in obtaining a verdict against him. But they very soon discovered their mistake. The charge against Hone was for having published a profane and impious libel upon the Catechism, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, thereby bringing into contempt the Christian religion. The special indictment was for the publication of John Wilkes’s catechism. The Attorney-General did not very judiciously commence his charge, for he admitted that he did not believe that Hone meant to ridicule religion, but to produce a telling political squib. This let out the whole gist of the prosecution, though that was very well perceived by most people before; and it was in vain that he went on to argue that the mischief was just the same. Hone opened his own defence with the awkwardness and timidity natural to a man who had passed his life amid books, and not in courts; but he managed to complain of his imprisonment, his harsh treatment, of his poverty in not being able to fee counsel, of the expense of copies of the informations against him, and of the haste, at last, with which he had been called to plead. The judge repeatedly interrupted him, with a mild sort of severity, and the spectators were expecting him to make a short and ineffective defence. Hone, on the contrary, began to show more boldness and pertinacity. He began to open his books, and to read parody after parody of former times. In vain Mr. Justice Abbott and the Attorney-General stopped him, and told him that he was not to be allowed to add to his offence by producing other instances of the crime in other persons. But Hone told them that he was accused of putting parodies on sacred things into his books, and it was out of his books he must defend himself. The poor, pale, threadbare retailer of old books was now warmed into eloquence, and stood in the most unquestionable ascendency on the floor of the court, reading and commenting as though he would go on for ever; and he did go on for six hours. He declared that the editor of Blackwood’s Magazine was a parodist—he parodied a chapter of Ezekiel; Martin Luther was a parodist—he parodied the first Psalm; Bishop Latimer was a parodist; so was Dr. Boys, Dean of Canterbury; so was the author of the “Rolliad;” so was Mr. Canning. He proved all that he said by reading passages from the authors, and he concluded by saying that he did not believe that any of these writers meant to ridicule the Scriptures, and that he could not, therefore, see why he should be supposed to do so more than they. Nay, he had done what they never did: as soon as he was aware that his parodies had given offence he suppressed them—and that long ago, not waiting till he was prosecuted. They, in fact, were prosecuting him for what he had voluntarily and long ago suppressed. The Attorney-General, in reply, asserted that it would not save the defendant that he had quoted Martin Luther and Dr. Boys, for he must pronounce them both libellous. The judge charged the jury as if it were their sacred duty to find the defendant guilty; but, after only a quarter of an hour’s deliberation, they acquitted him.
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This signal and unexpected defeat seemed to rouse the Government to a fresh effort for victory over the triumphant bookseller. The Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, who was not accustomed to let juries and the accused off so easily, rose from his sick bed, where he was fast drifting towards the close of his career. The defendant was called into court the next morning, the 19th of December. There sat Ellenborough, with a severe and determined air. Abbott sat by his side. Hone this time was charged with having published an impious and profane libel, called “The Litany, or General Supplication.” The Attorney-General again asserted that, whatever might be the intention of the defendant, the publication had the effect of bringing into contempt the service of the Church. Hone opened his books to recommence the reading of parallel productions of a former day, or by persons high in esteem in the Church, but this was precisely what the invalid Lord Chief Justice had left his bed to prevent. The judge told him all that was beside the mark, but Hone would not allow that it was so, opened his books, and read on in spite of all attempts to stop him. Never had Ellenborough, not even in his strongest and best days, been so stoutly encountered; scarcely ever had such a scene been witnessed in the memory of man. The spectators showed an intense interest in the combat, for such it was, and it was evident that the general sympathy went with the accused, who put forth such extraordinary and unlooked-for power. The exhausted Chief Justice was compelled to give way, and Hone went on reading one parody after another, and dwelt especially on the parodies of the Litany which the Cavaliers wrote to ridicule the Puritan Roundheads. When he had done, the Lord Chief Justice addressed the jury in a strain of strong direction to find a verdict for the Crown. He said “he would deliver the jury his solemn opinion, as he was required by the Act of Parliament to do; and under the authority of that Act, and still more in obedience to his conscience and his God, he pronounced this to be a most impious and profane libel. Believing and hoping that they, the jury, were Christians, he had no doubt but they would be of the same opinion.” This time the solemn and severe energy of the Lord Chief Justice seemed to have made an impression on part of the jury, for they took an hour and a half to determine their verdict, but they
again returned one of Not Guilty.
Here, had the Government been wise, they would have stopped; but they were not contented without experiencing a third defeat. The next morning, the 20th of December, they returned to the charge with an indictment against Mr. Hone for publishing a parody on the Athanasian Creed, called “The Sinecurist’s Creed.” The old Chief Justice was again on the bench, apparently as resolved as ever, and this time the defendant, on entering the court, appeared pale and exhausted, as he well might, for he had put forth exertions and powers of mind which had astonished the whole country and excited the deepest interest. The Attorney-General humanely offered to postpone the trial, but the defendant preferred to go on. He only begged for a few minutes’ delay to enable him to put down a few notes on the
Attorney-General’s address after that was delivered; but the Chief Justice would not allow him this trifling favour, but said, if the defendant would make a formal request for the purpose, he would put off the trial for a day. This would have injured the cause of the defendant, by making it appear that he was in some degree worsted, and, fatigued as he was, he replied, promptly, “No! I make no such request.” William Hone, on this third trial, once more seemed to forget his past fatigues, and rose with a strength that completely cowed the old and fiery judge. He did not desist till he had converted his dictatorial manner into a suppliant one. After quoting many eminent Churchmen as dissentients from the Athanasian Creed, and amongst them Warburton and Tillotson, he added, “Even his lordship’s father, the Bishop of Carlisle, he believed,
took a similar view of this creed.” This was coming too near; and the judge said, “Whatever that opinion was, he has gone, many years ago, where he has had to account for his belief and his opinions. For common delicacy, forbear.” “O, my lord,” replied the satisfied defendant, “I shall certainly forbear.” The judge had profited by the lesson to-day: he gave a much more temperate charge to the jury, and they required only twenty minutes to return the third and final victory of Not Guilty. Never had this arbitrary Government suffered so withering a defeat. The sensation throughout the country was immense. The very next day Lord Ellenborough sent in his announcement of retiring from the bench, and in a very short time he retired from this world altogether (December 13, 1818), it being a settled conviction of the public mind that the mortification of such a putting-down, by a man whom he rose from his sick-bed to extinguish, tended materially to hasten that departure.
The only matters of interest debated in Parliament during this year, except that of the discontent in the country, were a long debate on Catholic emancipation, in the month of May, which was negatived by a majority of only twenty-four, showing that that question was progressing towards its goal; and a motion of Lord Castlereagh for the gradual abolition of sinecures. This intimated some slight impression of the necessity to do something to abate the public dissatisfaction, but it was an impression only on the surface. This Ministry was too much determined to maintain the scale of war expenditure to which they had been accustomed to make any real retrenchment. A committee appointed to consider the scheme recommended the abolition of sinecures to the amount of fifty-four thousand pounds per annum, but neutralised the benefit by recommending instead a pension-list of forty-two thousand pounds per annum. The country received the amendment with disgust and derision.
The year, gloomy in itself from the dislocation of trade and the discontent of the people, terminated still more gloomily from another cause—the death of the Princess Charlotte. This event, wholly unexpected, was a startling shock to the whole nation. This amiable and accomplished princess was not yet twenty-two. She had been married only in May, 1816, to Prince Leopold of Coburg, and died on the 6th of November, 1817, a few hours after being delivered of a stillborn child. What rendered the event the more painful was that her death was attributed to neglect by her accoucheur, Sir Richard Croft. Dr. Baillie, who saw her soon after her confinement, refused to join in the issue of a bulletin which the other medical men had prepared, stating that she was going on well, and a few hours proved the fatal correctness of his opinion. Sir Richard, overwhelmed by the public indignation and his own feelings, soon afterwards destroyed himself. No prince or princess had stood so well with the nation for many years. The people saw in her a future queen, with the vigour, unaccompanied by the vices and tyrannies, of Elizabeth. She had taken the part of her mother against the treatment of her father, and this was another cause which drew towards her the affections of the people. All these hopes were extinguished in a moment, and the whole nation was plunged into sorrow and consternation, the more so that, notwithstanding the twelve children of George III., there had only been this single grandchild, and several of his sons remained unmarried.
The year 1818 commenced gloomily. On the 27th of January Parliament was opened by a Speech, drawn up for the Prince Regent, but read by the Lord Chancellor. The first topic was, of course, the severe loss which the country and the prince had sustained in the death of the Princess Charlotte. It was only too well known that the prince and his daughter had not for some time been on very cordial terms, the princess having taken the part of her mother; and the vicious and voluptuous life of the Regent did not probably leave much depth of paternal affection in his nature, which had originally been generous and capable of better things. It was remarked by Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley and Ward, that the mention of the princess “was rather dry—sulky, rather than sad.” But the death of his only issue, and that at the moment that she might have been expected to give a continued succession to the Throne, was a severe blow to him. There was an end of all succession in his line. He stood now without the hopeful support which his daughter’s affectionate regard in the country had afforded him, and he was ill able to bear the loss of any causes of popularity. He received a serious shock; and it was only by copious bleeding that he was saved from dangerous consequences; yet, so little was the depth of his trouble, that within three months of his loss he attended a dinner given by the Prussian ambassador, and entertained the company with a song.
The rest of the Speech consisted of endeavours to represent the country as in a prosperous condition; to have escaped from insurrection by the vigilance of Ministers, and to have recovered the elasticity of commerce. No amendment was moved to the Address in either House, but not the less did the conduct of Ministers escape some animadversion. In the Peers, Lord Lansdowne ridiculed the alarms which had been raised regarding the movements in Derbyshire, which, he said, had not been at all participated in by the working population at large, and had been put down by eighteen dragoons. He contended that there was no evidence of any correspondence with these conspirators in other quarters; but this was notoriously incorrect, for there had been a correspondence in Lancashire and Yorkshire, a correspondence especially disgraceful to Ministers, for it was on the part of their own incendiary agents. He observed truly, however, that the insurrection, as it was called, had by no means justified the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, for it could have been most readily put down without it by the regular course of law. In the Commons, Sir Samuel Romilly thought that the Derbyshire insurrectionists had been very properly brought to trial; for Brandreth had committed a murder, and, therefore, those who acted with him were, in the eye of the law, equally guilty. But if they were properly brought to trial, there were others who ought still more properly to have been brought to trial too—the very men whom Government had sent out, and who had aroused these poor people into insurrection by false and treacherous statements. There was no justice in trying and punishing the victims, and screening their own agents; and this was what Government had done, and were still doing. It is in vain, therefore, that their defenders contend that they gave no authority to Oliver and the other spies to excite the people to outbreak: these spies having notoriously done it, they still protected and rewarded them, and thus made themselves responsible for their whole guilt. If they had not authorised the worst part of the conduct of the spies, they now acted as though they had, and thus morally assumed the onus of these detestable proceedings. One thing immediately resulted from the p?ans of Ministers on the flourishing state of the country—the repeal of the Suspension Act. The Opposition at once declared that if the condition of the country was as Ministers described it, there could be no occasion for the continuance of this suppression of the Constitution; and accordingly a Bill for the repeal of the Suspension Act was at once brought in and passed by the Lords on the 28th, and by the Commons on the 29th of January.
OLD BAILEY, LONDON, 1814.
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Now, much of this at the moment was true; the manufacturers were naturally anxious to resume their business, and a fall in the price of corn, after the plentiful harvest of 1817, to seventy-four shillings and sixpence, relieved a little the pressure on the working classes. Could cheap bread have been secured, the condition of the people might soon have become easy; but the fatal Corn Law came immediately into operation. By the end of 1817 corn had risen in price again to eighty-five shillings and fourpence; and then the ports were opened, but the supplies did not bring down the markets. The spring of 1818 proved wet, and then about the middle of May a drought set in, and continued till September, so that the apprehension of a deficient harvest kept up the price of all articles of life, notwithstanding that a million and a half quarters of wheat had been imported during the year. So long as bread was tolerably cheap, and work more abundant, political agitation in the manufacturing districts subsided; but it was soon proved that the apparent increase of activity in manufacturing and commercial exports was but a feverish desire on the part of manufacturers and merchants to force a trade for which the exhausted Continent was not yet prepared. Nothing but a free importation of corn could have carried the country comfortably through the crisis; and this was denied by the measures of Government, except at a rate of price that put the proper consumption of bread beyond the means of the working classes.
BEAUS AND BELLES OF THE REGENCY PERIOD.
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Meanwhile Ministers, anxious to exonerate themselves from the odium so fully their due for fomenting insurrection, commenced Parliamentary inquiries which only the more clearly demonstrated their guilt. On the 2nd of February the celebrated green bag was sent down by the Prince Regent to the Lords, and another green bag on the following day to the Commons. These green bags—or rather, this green bag, for they were classed as one by the public, their contents being one—made a great figure in the newspaper comments of the time. They were stuffed with documents regarding the late extraordinary powers assumed by Ministers, and the occurrences in the midland counties which had been held to justify them. No doubt the papers had been carefully selected, and they were now submitted to a secret committee of each House, which, being named by Ministers, was pretty sure to bring in reports accordingly. On the 23rd the Lords’ committee brought up their report, and on the 27th the Commons’ produced theirs. As might have been expected from their parentage, there was a striking likeness in the offspring of the committees; they were veritable twins. Both travelled over the same ground; the statements made by the secret committee of 1816 averring that schemes of conspiracy were in agitation, and the events of 1817, particularly in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as fully confirming these averments. They were compelled, however, to confess that the insurrections, though clearly connected in different counties, in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, were not very formidable, and that the mass of the population in these counties did not at all sanction, much less second, such proceedings. Yet, notwithstanding this confession, the fact remained that under the arbitrary measures of Ministers a great number of persons had been thrown into prison, against whom no charge could be established; and that at Derby three had been executed, and twenty others transported or imprisoned for long terms, and these, every one of them, through the acts and incitements of the emissaries of Ministers themselves. On the motion for printing the report of the Commons, which, of course, justified Ministers, Mr. Tierney said it was scarcely worth while to oppose the printing of “a document so absurd, contemptible, and ludicrous.”
But Ministers were too sensible of the unconstitutional character of their deeds to rest satisfied with the mere justification of an accepted report. A Bill of Indemnity was introduced to cover “all persons who had in 1817 taken any part in apprehending, imprisoning, or detaining in custody persons suspected of high treason, or treasonable practices, and in the suppression of tumultuous and unlawful assemblies.” Thus Ministers were shielded under general terms, and to avoid all appearance of personal movement in this matter by those in the Cabinet the most immediately active, the Bill was introduced by the Duke of Montrose, the Master of the Horse.