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NOVEMBER 25, 1740.
The consideration of the corn bill was resumed; and it
was particularly debated from what time it should commence, which some of the members were inclined to fix on the 9th day of the session, on which occasion Mr. CAMPBELL spoke as follows:
Sir, that the laws may be observed by the nation without daily violence and perpetual compulsion, that our determinations may be received with reverence, and the regulations which we establish confirmed by the concurrence of our constituents, it is necessary that we endeavour to preserve their esteem, and convince them that the publick prosperity may be safely trusted in our hands.
This confidence is to be gained as well in high stations, as in lower conditions, by large assemblies, as by individuals, only by a constaut practice of justice, and frequent exertion of superiour wisdom. When any man finds his friend oppressive and malicious, he naturally withdraws his affections from bim ; when he observes him advancing absurd opinions, and adhering to them with obstinacy incapable of conviction, he falls unavoidably into a distrust of bis understanding, and no longer pays any deference to his advice, or considers bis conduct as worthy of imitation.
In the same manner, sir, if the legislative powers shall, in making laws, discover that they regard any motives before the advantage of their country, or that they pursue the publick good by measures inadequate and ill-concerted, what can be expected from the people, but that they should set up their own judgment in opposition to that of their governours, make themselves the arbiters in all doubtful questions, and obey or disregard the laws at discretion?
If this danger may arise from laws injudiciously drawn up, it may surely be apprehended from a compliance with this proposal ; a proposal that the operation of the law should commence eleven days before the law itself is in being.
I have, hitherto, sir, regarded it as a principle equally true in politicks as in philosophy, that nothing can act when it does not exist; and I did not suspect that a position so evident would ever stand in need of a proof or illustration.
We live, indeed, in an age of paradoxes, and have heard several notions seriously defended, of which some would, not many years ago, have condemned their abetter to a prison or a madhouse, and would have been heard by the wisest of our ancestors with laughter or detestation ; but I did not expect that the most hardy innovator would have shocked my understanding with a position like this, or have asserted that a law may operate before it is made, or before it is projected.
That where there is no law there is no transgression, is a maxim not only established by universal consent, but in itself evident and undeniable; and it is, sir, surely no less certain, that where there is no transgression there can be no punishment.
If a man may be punished, sir, by a law made after the fact, how can any man conclude himself secure from the jail or the gibbet? A man may easily find means of being certain that he has offended no law in being, but that will afford no great satisfaction to a mind naturally timorous ; since a law hereafter to be made, may, if this motion be supposed reasonable, take cognizance of his actions, and how he can know whether he has been equally scrupulous to observe the future statutes of future senates, he will find it very difficult to determine.
Mr. Pelham rose, and spoke thus :—Sir, notwithstanding the absurdity which the honourable gentleman imagines himself to have discovered in this proposal, and which he must be confessed to have placed in a very strong light, I am of opinion, that it may, with very little consideration, be reconciled to reason and to justice, and that the wit and satire that have been so liberally employed, will appear to have been lost in the air, without use and without injury.
The operation of the law may, very properly, commence from the day on which the embargo was laid by his ma
jesty's proclamation, which surely was not issued to no purpose, and which ought not to be disobeyed without punishment.
Sir John BARNARD spoke next, to this effect :-Sir, I cannot but be somewhat surprised, that a gentleman so long conversant in national affairs, should not yet have heard or known the difference between a proclamation and a penal law.
By a proclamation, his majesty may prevent, in some cases, what he cannot punish; he may hinder the exportation of our corn by ordering ships to be stationed at the entrance of our harbours; but if any should escape with prohibited cargoes, he can inflict no penalties upon them at their return.
To enforce this prohibition by the sanction of punishments is the intention of the present bill, but a proclamation can make nothing criminal, and it is unjust and absurd to punish an action which was legal when it was done.
The law ought, sir, in my opinion, not to commence till time is allowed for dispersing it to the utmost limits of this island ; for as it is unreasonable to punish without law, it is not more equitable to punish by a law, of which, they who have unhappily broken it, could have no intelligence.
A future day was agreed to.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, DEC. 2, 1740.
DEBATE RELATING TO A SEDITIOUS PAPER OF THE SAME
KIND WITH THE CONSIDERATIONS ON THE EMBARGO ON PROVISIONS..
Lord Thomson took notice of a paper which he had in
his hand, and said he received it at the door, where it was given to the members as they came in, and, com
plaining of it as an indignity offered to the house, desired that it might be read. Which being done, he rose up, and spoke in substance as follows:
Sir, the crime of exasperating the people against their governours, of raising discontent, and exciting murmurs in a time of general danger, and of attempting to represent wise and salutary measures, which have received the approbation of the whole legislature, as mean artifices, contrived only to raise the fortunes of some favourites of the minister, and aggrandize the officers of state, by the miseries of the people, is a crime too enormous to require or admit any aggravation from rhetorick, and too dangerous to hope for any excuse from candour and lenity.
To read or hear this paper is sufficient for a full conviction of its pernicious tendency, and of the malice of its author; a charge not fixed upon particular expressions capable of a doubtful meaning, and which heat or inadvertency might casually have produced, but supported by the general design of the whole paper, and the continued tenour of the argument, which is evidently intended to show, that an act of government, which cannot but appear necessary and seasonable in the present state of our affairs, an act ratified by the concurrence of all the powers of the legislature, is nothing but a scheme of avarice to grow rich by oppression.
Nor is this scandalous libel written with more confidence and insolence than it is dispersed. Not content, sir, with vilifying the proceedings of the state, the author has industriously published his calumny at our door: the time has been when defamation skulked in secret, and calumnies against the government were dispersed by whispers or private communication; but this writer adds insults to his injuries, and at once reproaches and defies
I beg leave to move, therefore, that the house do censure this paper as “a malicious and scandalous libel, highly and injuriously reflecting upon a just and wise act of his majesty's government, and also upon the proceedings of
both houses of senate ; and tending to create jealousies in the minds of the people." I also move, “that the author may be ordered to attend, to be examined at our bar.”
[This was unanimously agreed to by the house. The doorkeeper was called in, and, being shown the paper, was asked from whom he received it? who answered, that he believed the person who delivered it to him, was then detained in one of the committee rooms, upon which he was ordered to look for, and fetch him to the bar.]
Mr. SANDYS, taking notice that the person was already in custody, said, that he should be glad to know by what authority. It was not reasonable to punish first, and judge afterwards.
Upon which sir WILLIAM YONGE replied, that he had caused him to be detained, in order to know the pleasure of the house, and that be thought it his duty to secure so enormous an offender from escaping.
Soon after, the doorkeeper brought the man in, when he declared, upon examination, his name and his profession, wbich was that of a scrivener, and owned with great openness, that he was the author of the paper. He was then asked who was the printer, and answered that he printed it himself. Which he explained afterwards, by saying, that as he had carried it to the printer's, he might be said, in the general acceptation of the term, as applied to an author, to be the printer. He then discovered the printer, and was asked, where was the original manuscript, which he said he had destroyed, as he did any other use
It having been observed by some of the members, that it was printed in one of the daily papers, he was asked, who carried it thither? and answered, that he carried it himself. It was then demanded, what he gave for having it inserted, and he answered that he gave nothing.
[After many questions, Mr. Henry Archer desired that he might be asked, whether on the Friday before he was in the gallery ; at which some of the members expressed their disapprobation, and the man being ordered