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But I will not trouble your lordships with ar. guments for that, which is sufficiently evident without any. I shall only say a few words to some noble lords, who foresee much inconveniency from the persons of their servants being liable to be arrested. One noble lord observes. that the coachman of a peer may be arrested while he is driving his master to the house, and consequently, he will not be able to attend his duty in parliament. If this was actually to happen, there are 80 many methods by which the member might still get to the house, I can hardly think the noble lord is serious in his objection. Another noble peer said, that by this bill they might lose their most valuable and honest servants. This I hold to be a contradiction in terms; for he can neither be a valuable servant, nor an honest man, who gets into debt, which he is neither able nor willing to pay, until compelled by law. If my servant, by unforeseeu accidents, has got in debt, and I still wish to retain him, I certainly would pay the debt. But upon no principle of liberal legislation whatever, can my servant have a title to set his creditors at defiance, while, for forty shillings only, the honest tradesman may be torn from bis family, and locked up in gaol. It is monstrous injustice! I flatter myself, however, the determination of this day will entirely put an end to all such partial proceedings for the future, by passing into a law the bill now under your lordships' consideration.
I now come to speak upon what, indeed, I would have gladly avoided, had I not been particnlarly pointed at for the part I have taken in this bill. It has been said by a noble lord on my left kand, that I likewise am running the race of populárity. If the noble lord means by popularity, that applause bestowed by after-ages on good and virtuous actions, I have long been struggling in that race-to what purpose, all-trying time can alone determine; but if that noble lord means that mushroom popularity, which is raised without merit, and lost without a crime, he is much mistaken in his opinion. I defy the noble lord to point out a single action in my life, where the popularity of the times ever had the smallest influence on my determinations. I thank God I have a more permanent and steady rule for my conduct-the dictates of my own breast. Those that have forgone that pleasing adviser, and given up their mind to be the slave of every popular impulse, I sincerely pity: I pity them still more, if their vanity leads them to mistake the shouts of a mob for the trumpet of fame. Experience might inform them, that many, who have been saluted with the huzzas of a crowd one day, have received their execrations the next: and many, who by the popularity of the times have been held up as spotless patriots, have, nevertheless, appeared upon the historian's page, where truth has triumphed over delusion, the assassins of liberty. Why, then, the noble lord can think I am ambitious of present popularity, that echo of folly and shadow of renown, I am at a loss to determine. Besides, I do not know that the bill now before your lordships will be popular; it depends much upon the caprice of the day. It may not be popular, to compel people to pay their debts; and in that case the present must be a very unpopular bill. It may not be popular, neither, to take away any of the privileges of parliament; for I very well reinember, and many of your lordships may remember, that not long ago, the popular cry was for the extension of privileges; and so far did they carry it at that time, that it was said, that privilege protected members even in criminal actions : nay, such was the power of popular prejudices over weak minds, that the very decisions of some of the courts were tinctured with this doctrine. It was undoubtedly an abominable doctrine : I thought so then, and think so still; but, nevertheless, it was a popular doctrine, and came immediately from those who are called the friends of liberty-how deservedly, time will show. True liberty, in my opinion, can only exist when justice is equally administered to all--to the king and to the beggar. Where is the justice, then, or where is the law, that protects a member of parliament more than any other man from the punishment due to his crimes? The laws of this country allow of no place nor employment to be a sanctuary for crimes; and where I have the honour to sit as a judge, neither royal favour nor popular applause shall ever protect the guilty. I have now only to beg pardon for having employed so much of your lordships' time; and am sorry a bill, fraught with so good consequences, las not met with an abler ad. vocate; but I doubt not your lordships' determination will convince the world, that a bill, calculated to contribute so much to the equal distribution of justice as the present, requires with your lordships but very little support.
SPEECH OF LORD MANSFIELD, ON THE MATTER OF
MR. EVANS, WHO REFUSED THE OFFICE OF
MY-LORDS, I APPREHEND the action brought against the defendant is not well grounded, and I shall show that it must fail in every view of it. If they ground it on the corporation act, by the literal and express provision of that act, no person can be elected who hath not, within a year, taken the sacrament in the church of England. The defendant hath not taken the sacrament within a year. He is not therefore elected; here they fail. If they ground it on the general design of the legislature in passing the corporation actthe design was to exclude dissenters from office, and disable them from serving; for in those times, when persecuting principles and arbitrary mea. sures were pursued, the dissenters were reputed and treated as persons ill-affected and dangerous to the government. The defendant therefore, a dissenter, and in the eye of this law a person dangerous and ill-affected, is excluded from office, and disabled from serving. Here too they fail. If they ground the action on their own bye-law, since that bye-law was professedly made to procure fit and able persons to serve the office, and the defendant is not fit and able, being expressly disabled by statute law-Here too they fail.
If they ground it on his disability being owing to a neglect of taking the sacrament at church,
when he ought to have done it--the toleration act having freed the dissenters from all obligation to take the sacrament at church—the defendant is guilty of no neglect, no criminal neglect; there therefore they fail.
The defendant, in the present case, my lords, pleads that he is a dissenter within the description of the toleration act; that he hath not taken the sacrament in the church of England, within one year preceding the time of his supposed election, nor ever in his whole life, and that he cannot in conscience do it. Conscience, my lords, is not controllable by human laws, nor amenable to human tribunals; persecution, or attempts to force conscience, will never produce conviction, and are only calculated to make hypocrites or martyrs.
My lords, there never was a single instance, from the Saxon times down to our times, in which a man was ever punished for erroneous opinions, concerning rites or modes of worship, but upon some positive law. The common law of England, which is only common reason or usage, knows of no prosecution for opinions; only for atheism, blasphemy, and reviling the Christian religion; and there have been instances of persons being punished for these upon the common law; but non-conformity, my lords, is no sin by the common law, and all positive laws inflicting any pains or penalties for non-conformity to the established rites and modes, are repealed by the act of toleration, and dissenters are thereby exempted from all ecclesiastical censures. My lords, what blood and confusion have been occasioned from the