Abbildungen der Seite

"will immediately give the house the most "exact detail, which will necessarily compre"hend a full justification of my conduct rela"tive to the late illegal proclamation, equally "injurious to the honour of the crown and the rights of the subject, and likewise the whole "business of the printers.


"I have acted entirely from a sense of duty to this great city, whose franchises I am sworn "to maintain, and to my country, whose noble "constitution I reverence, and whose liberties, "at the price of my blood, to the last moment "of my life, I will defend and support.

"I am, sir,

"Your humble servant,


This spirited conduct, on the part of Mr. Wilkes, enabled him to foil and elude all the power, talents, and wisdom of that house, of which he claimed to be a member. On receiving the above letter, which was immediately read from the chair, a new order was made out for his attendance on the ensuing Monday: on the expiration of that period, without any symptom of compliance on his part, the summons was renewed for "the 8th day of April next;" and, as it was well known, that he would

not appear in any other capacity than that of knight of the shire for the county of Middlesex, the house, to prevent its authority from being thus outraged any longer, deemed it prudent, on the 30th of March, to "adjourn to Tues-day sevennight, the 9th day of April next," partly to conceal his disobedience from the public, and prevent such a humiliating example of contumacy from appearing on their own journals.

At this period, several members of the opposition questioned the jurisdiction of one branch of the legislature. But, both on this occasion and in the proceedings relative to the Middlesex election, Mr. Fox, who had just entered into public life, and then held a place as commissioner of the treasury, stoutly contended for the privileges of the commons; and, alluding to the numerous petitions on the table, rashly asserted, "that he knew nothing of the people, but through the medium of their representatives there assembled." This position, which his riper judgment afterwards disavowed, rankled for years in the breast of Mr. Horne, and continued to operate with effect through a large portion of his life. Mr. Wilkes, too, was actuated by a similar resentment, and neither of them could ever be prevailed upon to unite

cordially with this celebrated statesman, even after he had abjured all the political prejudices' of his early life.

Meanwhile the house, incensed at the violation of its dignity, by two of its own acknowledged. members, at the instigation of the ministry, determined to proceed to extremities. Accordingly, after the minutes had been expunged from the city register*, the lord mayor Crosby, and Mr. alderman Oliver, who had attended in their places, were committed to the Tower, where they were kept prisoners during the remainder of that session of parliament, and at the end of that period liberated, amidst the applauses and honours conferred on them by their fellow citizens, the corporation having voted their thanks at the same time, and presented them with gold boxes, as memorials of their esteem. A large portion of the nation, also, testified their approbation and so strongly did the current of popularity then run, that they were hailed as men who had at once vindicated the privileges of the city and the freedom of the press.

[ocr errors]

By mere violence, and without the shadow of right, they have EXPUNGED the record of a judicial proceeding. Nothing remained but to attribute to their own vote a power of stopping the whole distribution of criminal and civil justice. Lord Chatham very properly called this the ACT of a мOB, not of a senate." JUNIUS, vol. ii, p. 160..


sessions at Guildhall, and the grand jury actually found bills of indictment against William Whitham, the messenger, who had endeavoured to enforce the speaker's warrant, and Edward Twine Carpenter, a printer, who tried to carry the proclamation into effect. On this, it was proper, on the part of the officers of the crown, to remove these two causes, by certiorari, into the court of King's Bench.


All legal proceedings were soon after suspended, however, by a rule to show cause, why a noli prosequi, on the part of the attorney-general, should not be entered up? On this, the printers, at the instigation of Mr. Horne, employed Mr., afterwards serjeant Adair, as their counsel on the occasion. This gentleman, accordingly, in pursuance of notice, attended Mr. attorney-general Delgey, May 17, 1771, to show cause; and after the indictment, and an affidavit on the part of the defendant had been read, delivered a long and learned argument on this subject.

Mr. Adair, who, for his conduct on this and similar occasions, soon after obtained the office of recorder of London, concluded by questioning the power of the commons to issue such a warrant as that under colour of which Mr. Miller had been apprehended; ånd quoted the 11th of Henry VI, c. 11, to prove that the au

thority of an act of parliament was deemed necessary to punish an assault on the person of a member. He added, that the warrant, signed "Fletcher Norton, speaker," under colour of which Mr. Whitham acted, was for taking Mr. Miller into the custody of the serjeant at arms, or his deputy; and Mr.Whitham is described, in the direction of the very same warrant, to bę neither the one nor the other of these.

The attorney-general, however, proved inex ́orable, resting the defence of his conduct solely on the question: how far it is fit the king should be a prosecutor of a servant of the house of commons, in the exertion of a privilege which they now claim, which they have claimed, and have been actually in possession of for ages? "The noli prosequi," he observed, "is called a prerogative right of the crown; it amounts to no more than this, that the king makes his election, whether he will continue or not to be the prosecutor on an indictment, and the noli prosequi is entered in the same words in case of the crown as of a private person. private person. The entry upon the record is exactly the same by the attorney-general as by a plaintiff, upon record, in any civil suit."

Mr. Adair, in his rejoinder, observed, that, in a prosecution by indictment, the crown was not

« ZurückWeiter »