Abbildungen der Seite

very numerous class, consisting of the illegitimate children of European fathers by Indian mothers, were disqualified from serving upon juries, under the idea that they were not British subjects. By the bill which now passed, this disqualification was removed, and "all good and sufficient persons resident within the limits of the several towns of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, were declared to be competent jurors, with the single exception that only jurors professing the Christian religion should sit upon the trials of Christians. The details of qualification, summoning, and challenging, were left to be regulated by the supreme courts, subject to the approval of the king in council.

The demands of the civil department of the company's service had so much increased, that it became necessary to facilitate the means of supplying them. An act of parliament, passed in 1813, had provided that no person should be eligible to be a writer in the company's service, who had not passed four terms in the East-India College. In consequence of the subsequent extension of the company's territories, and the establishment of new courts in Bengal, much inconvenience had been experienced in the administration of justice: many persons preferred submitting to wrong, to the risk of being summoned a hundred, or a hundred and fifty miles in prosecution of their rights. The college could not turn off a sufficient number of young men. Seventy more writers than it could furnish were required, and an annual production to the amount of fifty would, it was calculated, be necessary to supply the demand. In these circumstances, a bill was passed suspending the operation of

this provision of the act of 1813, for three years, and allowing the company to appoint any person to a writership, who should produce testimonials of character, and undergo such an examination as might be fixed by the Court of Directors and the India Board.

The case of Mr. Buckingham, who had formerly, on more occasions than one, complained to parliament, accusing the Indian government of having deprived him of his property, and despotically banished him from the country, was again brought before the House of Commons by lord John Russell, who presented a petition from him, and moved that it should be referred to a select committee. The charges contained in the petition, and which were principally directed against the late Mr. Adam, who had exercised the government of India on the departure of the marquis of Hastings, were, that after he had expended 20,000/. in establishing, under a licence, a newspaper called the Calcutta Gazette, he had first of all been ordered to quit India himself, and next, the licence of his newspaper had been withdrawn; that by these acts of government he had not only lost the whole sum invested in his speculation, but had been involved in debts to the extent of 10,000/.; and that all these arbitrary proceedings had been adopted against him merely because of some strictures which appeared in his journal upon certain public measures. Mr. Wynn and Dr. Phillimore argued that there was no reason for the interference of parliament, as the petitioner had been treated according to law. No person could reside in India without a licence; and the obstinate conduct of Mr. Buckingham, in defiance of all warnings, had rendered his removal necessary. No sensible man could think of a free press in India, where the empire of a handful over so immense a population was the empire of opinion. The Calcutta journal had begun with virulent attacks upon individuals, and then assaulted the government, canvassing even the most delicate transactions with the utmost violence, in articles which were immediately translated into the native languages. Its editor had received a warning of the consequences of persisting in this conduct in 1818, and disregarded it. In 1821 it was repeated, and it was communicated to him, "that the Governor-general, in council, found himself constrained to exercise the powers vested in him; and, however painful it might be, he could not shrink from the discharge of that duty; that he would be deprived of his licence, and would be required to furnish security for quitting the country." In the course of 1822, Mr. Buckingham again repeated his attacks on the government by severe remarks on some transactions which had taken place in the kingdom of Oude. Lord Hastings then gave him his final warning, stating, at the same time, that if he persevered in the same course, his licence would be cancelled, and he would be required forthwith to leave India. This took place toward the close of the year 1822, and lord Hastings embarked for England in January, 1823. Mr. Buckingham, on his departure, began again to calumniate the government; and Mr. Adam immediately enforced the orders of lord Hastings against him. Any other course would have been pusillanimity. The motion, however, for re

ferring the petition to a select, committee was carried by a majority of three; and, two days afterwards, the committee obtained authority from the House, to send for persons, papers, and records. On the latter motion being made, Mr. Wynn complained that the motion for the committee had been carried by surprise; he never having anticipated that more would be moved for than the reading of the petition, and no notice having been given of the unusual mode of proceeding which had been adopted, while he was informed, notice had been sent to the opposition members to be at their posts. But since a committee had been carried, he must stipulate for a fairer one; the present list contained only five names from his side of the House, and eleven from the opposition. The chancellor of the Exchequer had come down to the House about six o'clock, and learning that the presenting of petitions was not yet over, he had, he was ashamed to say, turned back. Mr. Hobhouse maintained that when the opposition did gain a question by some strange accident, they were entitled to make the most of so unusual an occurrence; Mr. Calcraft, that it was only by active and unexpected evolutions that his side of the House could ever hope to defeat their opponents; and lord John Russell, that the system of notices was extremely prejudicial to his friends and him, as a notice never failed to bring down all the numerous representatives of Downing-street. An amended list of the committee was agreed to without a division.

In our North American colonies, the law of naturalization was extended in the Canadas. By an act passed in 1791, no person could be summoned to the legislative council, or elect, or be elected, to the legislative assembly of these provinces, unless he was either a natural born subject of Great Britain, or a subject who had become so by the conquest and cession of the Canadas, or had been naturalized by an act of the British parliament. A bill was now passed, giving to a naturalizing act of the Canadian legislature the same effect as to one of the legislature at home; but providing that such act should be null and void if not ratified by his majesty within two years after it should have been presented to him for that purpose.*


Excepting the relaxation of the navigation laws in favour of the new states of South America, which has been already noticed,t and incidental remarks on the progress of the insurrection in Greece, which excited no discussion, and led to no result, the only measure regarding our relations with foreign states, which occupied the attention of parliament, was the expiry of the Alien act. During this session it died a natural death, and the expectations which had been entertained that no renewal of a measure always unpopular, although sometimes necessary, would be proposed, were not disappointed. In introducing the milder set of regulations which, conferring no power of sending aliens out of the country, were now to take its place, Mr. Peel said, that, in relinquishing the power which that act had bestowed, he had the gratifying consciousness that, in no instance, had it been abused. The only case in

* 7 Geo. 4. c. 68.
t Virft ante, p. 67.

which it had been used was one which bore not the slightest shade of a political aspect. It was that of a man who had menaced a foreign ambassador, and who, there was the best reason for presuming, would have carried his threats into execution, had he not been brought before the Privy Council, and dealt with under the provisions of this act. With the exception of that singular case, the powers, which had been confided to him under that act, not only were, he trusted, not abused, but were actually not exercised. He had also the satisfaction of stating, that in addition to the act remaining inoperative in his own hands, it had never been used for the purposes of annoyance by those in subordinate situations. He could also bear testimony to the excellent conduct of the foreigners resident in this country; and had it not been for such discretion on their part, the House and the country would now have been deprived of the satisfaction of seeing such a measure as the present introduced; and he trusted they would so conduct themselves as not to incur the imputation of making a bad return for the confidence about to be reposed in them. Many of them had been compelled to seek, and had found, an asylum in this country; and it would be but a bad return for the reception they experienced, were they to make England the scene of plots and conspiracies against existing authorities in their own country. If, however, that should turn out to be the case, an event he by no means anticipated, he would feel it his duty to apply to parliament for the renewal of those powers for which he had the satisfaction to believe there was now no


necessity, and for which he trusted there would be no future occasion. The new act* required that every alien resident within the kingdom at the time it passed should transmit to the Alien Office, within fourteen days, a written declaration of his name, rank, occupation, the country from which he last came, and how long he had been in this country, accompanied, in the case of domestic servants, with the name and abode of their masters. An alien arriving after the commencement of the act is required to make a similar declaration, and deliver up his passport to the chief officer of the Customs at the port where he lands, with the name of the place to which he intends to go, and the name and place of abode of any persons to whom he is known. He receives a certificate from the Customs, and the declaration, the passport, and a copy of the certificate are transmitted to the Alien Office. When they are received, a new certificate is given to the alien; and if he be found thereafter, without the certificate, or residing, without legal excuse, in any other place than those therein expressed, he is subject to a penalty of 20/.; but if the certificate shall have been lost or destroyed, the alien shall obtain a new one on its being attested by a justice of peace that such is the case, and that he has complied with the requisitions of the act. Twice every year, viz. on the 1st January, and 1st July, he must repeat the declaration of his place of residence, and where he intends in future to reside; but a Secretary of State may require this declaration from him more frequently either by a

[ocr errors]

warrant under his hand, or by notice in the gazette. When leaving the kingdom, he makes a declaration to that effect at the port of departure, and his passport is thereupon returned to him. There is no provision requiring him to declare into what foreign parts he is going; and, in no circumstances can he, against his will, be sent out of the kingdom. If he do not make the necessary declarations, or make false ones, he is liable to a fine of 501., or an imprisonment for not longer than six months, on conviction before two justices. The repetition of the declarations may occasion to an alien some little trouble; but certainly the very least that government can be expected to ask is, that it shall at least know what foreigners are resident in the country, and where they reside. This is all that the act grants; seven years residence emancipates the alien from its restraints altogether; and neither for the certificates, the declarations, nor any other step required under it, does it allow a single fee to be taken—a happy contrast from the conduct of continental courts, who contrive to pay their fiscal officers by extortions practised upon strangers.

The session of parliament was somewhat shortened by the approach of its dissolution. On the 31st of May, its sixth and last session was terminated by the following Speech, delivered by the Lord Chancellor as one of the Royal Commissioners for that purpose. "My Lords and Gentlemen,"His Majesty commands us to inform you, that, the state of the public business enabling his Majesty to close the session at a period of the year the most convenient for a general election, it is his Majesty's intention to dissolve, without delay, the present parliament, and to direct the issue of writs for the calling of a new one.


"His Majesty cannot take leave of you without commanding us to express his Majesty's deep sense of the zeal and public spirit which you have constantly displayed in the discharge of your several important functions.

"His Majesty particularly acknowledges the promptitude and discretion with which you have applied yourselves to the objects specially recommended to you by his Majesty at the commencement of this session: and his Majesty confidently hopes, that the good effect of your deliberations will be manifested in the improved stability of public and private credit.

"His Majesty has the satisfaction to inform you, that the distinguished skill, bravery, and success, with which the operations of the British Arms in the dominions of the king of Ava have been carried on, have led to the signature, upon highly honourable terms, of a preliminary treaty with that sovereign, which his Majesty has every reason to expect will be the foundation of a secure and permanent peace.

"His Majestyfurther commands us to repeat to you, that his Majesty's earnest endeavours have continued to be unremittingly exerted to prevent the breaking out of hostilities among nations; and to put an end to those which still unhappily exist, as well in America as in Europe.

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

"His Majesty commands us to

thank you for the provisions which you have made for the service of the year.

"His Majesty's attention will be constantly directed to the reduction of the public expenditure, in every degree that may be consistent with the due maintenance of the security, honour, and interests, of his kingdom;;

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"We are specially commanded to assure you, that his Majesty's paternal feelings have been deeply affected by the distresses which have prevailed among the manufacturing classes of his Majesty's subjects; and by the exemplary patience with which those distresses have been generally borne.

"His Majesty trusts, that the causes out of which the partial stagnation of employment has arisen, are, under the blessing of Providence, in a course of gradual abatement.

"His Majesty is confident that your presence and example in your several counties will contribute to maintain and encourage the loyal and orderly spirit which pervades the great body of his people.

"And his Majesty relies upon your disposition to inculcate that harmony and mutual good-will among the several great interests of the country, upon which the common prosperity of them all essentially depends."

On the 2nd of June Parliament was dissolved, and writs ordered to be issued for a new election, the writs to be returnable on the 25th of July.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »