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it been adopted. He repeated that the powers granted by this Stamp act was a perfect anomaly in the history of England, and amounted to nothing less than an imprimatur. His learned friend was perfectly right to refer to the period of Charles 2nd; for he believed the object and aim of his majesty's government was, if pos. to suppress those liberties which the people had since obtained. That they would succeed, he believed was impossible; but even in the attempt they would alienate the people, and thereby produce those consequences which were the natural result of their wild and absurd dabbling in legislation. Mr. Bankes considered the present measures of restriction as the salvation of the state, and maintained, that now, if ever, the ress was to be restrained, when it had grown up to so monstrous and dangerous a degree of abuse. Those gentlemen who talked of a free constitution, and quoted Blackstone and other elementary and accredited writers who had affirmed the necessity of upholding it in its present state, forgot that there was no sort of conformity between their times and the present. Blackstone could never have contemplated the increase of that class of publications they were now called upon to consider. But he totally denied that the press of this country had ever been free and unshackled. Here the hon. gentleman went into an historical detail of all the measures by which, at different times, the press had been placed under still more arbitrary regulations than those now contem
plated. He severely reprobated the cheap tracts which sowed discontent and sedition among the vulgar, and reminded the House that it behoved them narrowly to watch an evil which threatened the destruction of property, the demoralisation of every class, and consequences altogether dreadful. There was one other evil which he thought might have occurred to some hon. gentlemen, as connected with the evil they were considering. For his part, he could not help doubting the prudence of carrying the education of the lower classes to the extent which had been proposed. Mr. Abercromby argued against the precedents adduced by Mr. Bankes, and felt himself constrained to give his decided opposition to the bill. Mr. H. G. Bennet said, the bill itself, though objectionable in every point of view, did not appear to him so alarming as the speech of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Bankes). There never, he believed, had been so unconstitutional a speech delivered within the walls of that House since the enactment of the arbitrary statutes it described. Those severe and arbitrary acts, which he had collected as precedents for similar measures now, if good for any thing, would prove too much. Adverting to the regret expressed by Mr. Bankes at the progress of education, he said that the hom. gentleman must also regret the progress of religion and morals; for, without education, the blessings of religion could not be understood or appreciated, nor the duties of morality taught and practised. practised. After a few other remarks on this subject, he proceeded to the bill before the House, which he opposed, as the duty would raise the price of knowledge to the poor, whose improvement was principally derived from small tracts. ith regard to the clause inflicting pemalties before publication, by demanding securities which must be considered as equivalent to a bond of 600l. he thought it would ruin entirely that useful body of men who supplied cheap publications to the poor. It threw the whole trade into the hands of the rich, and affected a privilege higher than that of trade—the privilege of every Englishman to publish what he pleases, subject only to a punishment for the abuse of the privilege to the injury of others. All the members on the other side who supported this and the other restrictive measures, professed to do so from a desire to preserve the constitution. But what was the constitution? It was not the forms of the constitution that composed the consti
tution, but the blessings which those forms protected; in the same manner as the forms of law were not the law, or the forms of a court of justice were not administration of justice. The constitution was only the body of rights and privileges which we enjoyed under our political establishments; and among these was pre-eminent thefreedom of speech and writing. Gentlemen who professed to support the constitution, while they allowed the destruction of its most essential advantages, might live to repent the day when they drew, such a distinction, and forgetting the substance, adhered only to the form. The bill was the greatest invasion of the constitution, as it made it to depend upon a man’s fortune whether he should have theright of publishinghis thoughts to his countrymen. The bill underwent farther discussion and considerable opposition in the after stages of its proress; but it finally passed both ouses, and received the royal assent on Dec. 30th.
M 2 CHAPTER
Proposal for changing the Election Law carried in the Chamber of %.2%; new Peers created in consequence.—Election Law in the Chamber of Deputies.—Report of Commissioners on it.—Statement in the Chamber % Deputies ...?"; the Persecution of Protestants in the South.--Threatened Renewal of Disturbances at Nismes.—Protestant Petition.—The Budget.—Law on the Liberty of the Press.-Society of Friends of the #, of the Press.—Debate on the Return of }. State of the French Church.—Letter of the Clergy to the Pope.—Reception of the Missionaries at Brest.—Ordinance for the Building of Churches.—Report on the State of the
Establishment.—King's Speech on re-opening the Chambers.
THE two chambers of the French legislature were sitting at the commencement of the year 1819, and in the month of February a motion was brought forward in that of peers which led to an important political result. Count Barthelemy, once a member of the noted Directory, who seems in this instance to have lent himself unconsciously to the designs of others, proposed, that the chamber should take it into consideration whether some change might not advantageously be made in the law of elections. The administration instantly arranged themselves in opposition to this measure; count de Cazes did not hesitate to declare that a more fatal proposal could not have issued from the chamber than that of overturning a law so dear to an immense majority of the nation ; and in this sentiment he was joined by the principal members of the liberal or consti
tutional party., . A violent debate ensued, in which personal reflexions were not spared: M. Barthelemy himself, suddenly enlightened as to the tendencies of the measure, deserted his own proposal and declared that he should vote against it. Such, however, was the strength of the ultra-royalist party among the peers, by whom the motion was supported, that the previous question, as it may be termed, was carried by a majority of 89
to 49. This was a serious blow to the ministry; and after the personal influence of the monarch had been vainly exerted with the chiefs of the ultras individually, they judged it necessary to recover a majority in the chamber by an extraordinary exertion of the prerogative. It was determined in the royal cabinet, that 54 new peers should be created, which, with the recall of 22 more, who had
had been struck off the list by the ordinance of July 24th, 1815, would secure a preponderance to the measures of administration. Meantime a general alarm had been sounded through the country; petitions against the meditated attack on this important article of the charter poured in from all quarters: and a member of the chamber of deputies moved, that for the sake of quieting the public mind, the law which required an interval of ten days before any measure carried in the upper chamber could be of to the lower one, should on this occasion be dispensed with. This unconstitutional proposition was negatived; but a firm resolution was evinced on the part of a great majority of the deputies, to support the election law without alteration, as soon as the question should be regularly submitted to their decision. On the other hand, the triumphant majority of the house of peers defeated a measure of the ministers respecting a change in the period at which the financial year should hereafter commence; and the discord of the two chambers was only terminated by the notification of the new creations, which took place in the beginning of March. On the 18th of the same month the chamber of deputies resolved itself into a secret committee, to receive the report of a commission appointed to take into consideration count Barthelemy's motion: it was as follows:— “ You referred to a commission the examination of a resolution of the chamber of peers of the following tenor:— “That the king be prayed to
propose a law, tending to give to the organization of the electoral colleges the modifications the necessity of which may appear indispensable. “ Your commission recommends the rejection of this proposition, and they have charged me to develop to you the motives of its decision. “ The law of elections has scarcely existed two years. . It was not ranked amongst our institutions until it had undergone in both chambers a deep and solemn discussion. “If the proposition be taken literally, it must be allowed that it is reduced to a very simple question. “It does not say, in effect, that the modifications of the law of elections are indispensable; it does not even say that modifications appear indispensable; it only anticipates an event when modifications may appear indisensable, and for this latter case it requires a law. “But to whom can these modifications appear indispensable 2 To the king doubtless, to whom the proposition is addressed. But the king, invested with the initiative, does not require to be warned to make use of it when the necessity of so doing may apear to him indispensable. Is it in his duty that they would pretend to instruct him P. The mode of doing it would be little respectful. Is it general advice that they would give him? But what guarantee is there that he will hear it at the pleasure of those who offer it? Is it, finally, on a determined subject that they pretend to invoke the initiative? In this case it should be - distinctly
distinctly indicated; for it ought not to be prejudged what wisdom the king would display in a proposition for doing that which to him might appear indispensable. “During the two years that the law of elections has been executed, has the convocation of the colleges at the chief town of the department been attended with inconveniences which demand prompt remedies? No; ever thing was conducted with facility, calmness and decorum. It appears even, that in this point of view, as in many others, it may be said, in reference to France and England—Littora littoribus contraria. At the same moment that elections at the other side of the Channel displayed scandalous and violent scenes, our’s seemed to have opened anew career to French urbanity, and to benevolence farther resources for its exercise. “ Nevertheless, as one inconvenience of the assembling of the electors at the chief town of the department, it is represented that a third of the electors had no share in the last elections. “ Your committee looked in vain for proofs of this statement. Since there have been elections in France, the number of voters has never been so considerable, in proportion to the number of electors, as at the last elections. “But during two years, has not some contingency interfered to interrupt the harmony of the law P Not one has been reresented. The only complaint is, that the extension, already so liberal, of admitting to the rights of elective franchise every citizen who pays for a patent 300 francs, is become the source of the most shocking abuses by the mode of
collecting this tax. As it is paid by twelfths, and that a determined time is not required to acquire by this channel political rights, it follows, say they, that an individual may, by once paying 25 francs, vote in an electoral assembly. “ Your commission demand where, and in what electoral college, individuals have been received who have only been recently subject to the tax on patents, and have only acquitted the twelfth. Nothing of this nature, for instance, took place in Paris, where four patents only were delivered in the interval between the convocation and dissolution of the electoral college. And nevertheless it is from Paris, and on the occasion of the elections of Paris, that the first cries emanated against the abuses of patents.” After dwelling upon the deficiency of all proof of the mischiefs attributed to the present law of elections, the report states, that the commission had anxiously investigated the details which had been adduced in support of its modification, and concludes by regretting that men should have excited general alarm by entertaining notions of exaggerated and unfounded evils, and earnestly recommend the chamber to listen to the public voice which had been so strongly and energetically re-echoed from all quarters of the kingdom. Finally, the motion was rejected by a majority of 56 votes, out of a total of 244. In the course of the debate, M. de Villele, a leader of the ultras, observed, that in one department 600 more electors had voted