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judgement which he has formed is a regular one, to declare it publicly in his place, to abide by it, and boldly to face any difficulties which may encounter it. I am under no restraint either from this or that side of the House; I know and feel my own independence on both; and while I continue here, I will exert it; and upon this occasion execute an office greater than any which the wildest applause of the multitude can give, or than the King himself can bestows greater than the office of first Commissioner of the Treasury, or either of the Secretaries of State. The honourable and noble office of speaking the truth, and of doing impartial justice, I will.not palliate this man's offences, or try to move your compassion; for that would be to appeal to your weakness against your judgement, much less will I inveigh against him in bitter terms, and strive to excite your indignation; for instead of your weakness, I should then apply to your wicked passions. With these sentiments I shall proceed to the immediate examination of the question before you. And in the first place, I cannot agree with those who have urged in behalf of Mr. Wilkes, that this motion ought not to be complied with, becaust-he is already the most unhappy, as well as the most oppressed and injured man that this age has seen; he is indeed unhappy, because he is guilty, and guilt must ever produce unhappiness; but in other respects, considering his repeated offences, he has certainly been more fortunate than his most sanguine wishes could have expected. I mean not to enter into a detail of all that has happened to him, it would carry me too far; but to justify what I have said, let me ask a few questions. When he wrote that seditious libel against the King and both Houses of Parliament, coujd he foresee that he should be taken up by a general warrant, against the declared opinion and desire of the two Secretaries of State, who repeatedly proposed to have his name inserted in the warrant of apprehension, but were over-ruled by the lawyers and clerks of the office, who insisted they could npt depart from the long-established precedents and course of
N 2 proceedings? proceedings? Could Mr. Wilkes foresee, that after an hundretf years practice, under the eye of the greatest lawyers, before the Supreme Courts of Justice, without being ever questioned in one single instance, that this irregularity and illegality would be first found out in this cafe, and afterwards adopted by the voice and clamour of the people upon- the occasion of his apprehension? Had he been tried and convicted without this irregularity, what would have been his situation, and where his popularity and the liberal support which he has met with? What would have become of the large damages which he has already obtained by this means, or the immense sums which he now sues for, and on which he plans his last dependance? Are these the proofs that he has been the most unfortunate, or is it more true that he has been the most oppressed and injured man this age has seen i Dr. Shebbeare was taken up by a general warrant from the Secretary of State, dated 12th of January, 1758, conceived word for word in the fame terms for writing the sixth letter to the People of England on the progress of national ruin, in which is shewn, that the present grandeur of France and calamities of this nation are owing tothe influence of Hanover on the Councils of England. Under this general warrant all his papers were seized as in the cafe of Mr. Wilkes, and he was prosecuted for this offence by Mr. Pratt, then Attorney General, now Lord Chancellor of Great Britain. He was tried and convicted of it on the 17th of May, and on the 28th of November following he was sentenced to be fined, to stand in the pillory, to be imprisoned for three years, and then to give security for his good behaviour for seven years. The prosecution against Mr. Wilkes was directed by the unanimous address of both Houses of Parliament. He was tried and convicted by a favourable Jury, for a libel certainly not less seditious or criminal than Dr. Shebbeare's. He was sentenced to be fined five hundred pounds, and to be imprisoned for one year instead of three years, to give security for hisgood behaviour for seven years, and the ignominious
part of the punishment was wholly remitted. He was tried and convicted likewise for being the author and publisher of the three obscene and impious libels, upon a prosecution directed in consequence of aa address frora the House of Lords, for which he received exactly the fame sentence as for the former offence, including the two months imprisonment, which. he had suffered before judgement was given. Was he for either -of those offences, or indeed for all of them taken together, so severely dealt with as Dr. Shebbeare for one alone? I do not go any farther back, though a multitude of similar instances, and some were more severe than that of Dr. Shebbeare, might .be produced within these last forty or £fty years. What I Jiave already mentioned seems to me fully sufficient to shew, that Mr. Wilkes is not intitled to any extraordinary favour oa the present occasion, from the plea of his having been the object of extraordinary severity during the course of the former proceedings. But though not to favour, yet he is most certainly entitled to that justice which is due to every man, and which we ought to be more particularly careful to preserve, in an inilance where passion and prejudice may both concur in the violation of it. There are principles which no one will dispute with me, and in consequence of them, after having thoroughly .considered the charge contained in your question, and the arguments urged in support of it, I am clearly of opinion that I ought not to give my assent to the proposition which has been made to you; because if I did, I should thereby commit a capital injustice. I am sensible that the expression is a strong one, and that it is incumbent up on me to strew my reasons for applying it t© the motion now under your consideration, which I lhall endeavour to do as fully and as satisfactorily as I anj, 3ble. . . - , .......
I perfectly agree with the gentleman who has told you, that this House has a right to inquire into the conduct of its members, and that they have exercised that right in a great variety of instances, in which they have tried, censured, and expelled
N 3 them, them, according to the established course of our proceedings and the law of Parliament, which is part of the law of the kingdom. Let us examine the proposition aow before you by this rule, and we shall then be able to judge, whether it is conformable to the usage and law of Parliament, to the practice of . any other court of justice in the kingdom, or to the unalterable principles of natural equity; or whether it is a new and dangerous mode of proceeding, unsupported by any precedent or example in the journals of Parliament, or the records of any other court, calculated merely to serve a present purpose, and as such, well deserving the term which I gave to it of a capital injustice. The charge contained in this motion contended is sufficient singly to justify the conclusion drawn from them all put together, that Mr. Wilkes ought to be expelled. Upon this complicated-charge, the House is now called upon to give a judgement for or against the question. It is a well-known and undeniable rule in this House, founded in common sense, that, whenever a question, even of the most trivial nature, is complicated, and contains different branches, every individual member has an indubitable right to have the question seperated, that he may not be obliged to approve or disapprove in the lump, but that every part of the proposition should stand or fall abstractedly upon its own merits. I need not shew the propriety and the absolute necessity for this j it is so self evident, that every argument I could urge in support of it would o»ly weaken it. And surely it holds good in all cafes where we act only in a deliberative capacity, it will not be contended that it is less true, or less necessary, when we are to censure and to punish, and to affect not only the rights of our own member, but the franchises of those who sent him hither as their representative; I may safely challenge the gentlemen, the most knowing in the journals of this House, to produce a single precedent of a similar nature. And if none shall be produced, as I am convinced there cannot, am I not founded in saying that this is a new attempt, unsupported by law and usage of Parliament-?
Mr. CrcnvUle, F<i. 3, 1769.
In moving the commitment of a printer, the House is attempting to usurp an authority, which, in my opinion, they have no right to do. According to my ideas of the law, this proceeding -of theirs is directly opposite to Magna Charta, The first of this House assuming this authority was in the reign of that despot, Queen Elizabeth, who had a complaisant Parliament that would punish any person she took a dislike to. The next attempt was made in the reign of King Charles, and I imagine the House would be sorry to hear precedents quoted from his reign. The raoft -sanguine for the power of-the House will not allow it can go farther than imprisoning the offender for the remainder of the seslion. Printers will not mind imprisonment for three or four months, as it wril possibiy be the making of them, for the public-will-support them, not as'libellers, but men who have been falsely imprisoued. The House has no right to form themselves into a Court of Criminal Judicature; there is scarcely a person among them but is prejudiced in favour of what they are contending for (the privilege of the House), and therefore are not fit persons to be Judge and Jury in their own cause. If this cause was to -come into the Court of King's Bench, and any of the members were to be on the Jury, the printer would have a just right to strike them off as prejudiced persons: by punishing the printer they will increase the number of libels; for during the eight months .the Parliament does not sit, and as it appears the Courts of Law have no right to interfere, the press would teem with the most scurrilous abuse, knowing they cannot be hurt; they .would then have some reason to restrain the liberty of it, which, 3 imagine, is what is aimed at.
Mr. Saujbridge, March 4, 1772.