« ZurückWeiter »
being a conspiracy, which, though masked under the pretence of procuring by legal means a reform in the Commons House of Parliament, had for its real object the subversion by rebellious force of the whole frame of the constitution of the country.
In support of this Indictment it will be seen by the following Speeches, that the evidence for the Crown was divided into two distinct branches, viz. to establish, first, that such a conspiracy existed, and secondly, to prove that the Prisoners were parties to it. This course of proceeding had been sanctioned by the opinions of the Judges upon other trials, but the adoption of it upon this occasion, however legal, undoubtedly exposed the Prisoners to great peril of prejudgment, because almost the whole of the evidence given by the Crown against them had been collected by both Houses of Parliament just before the trial, and printed by their authority, and a Statute * had even leen passed, declaring that the treacherous conspiracy which constituted the first and very important branch of the evidence, did in fact exist within the kingdom. We say a very important branch of the evidence, because undoubtedly, if the Jury had considered that the evidence supported the truth of the preamble to the Act of Parliament, the Prisoners must have been in a
* 34 Geo. III. c. 54. The preamble to the Bill states, that " whereas a treacherous and detestable conspiracy has been “ formed for subverting the existing laws and constitution, and for “ introducing the system of anarchy and confusion, which has so “ lately prevailed in France," &c.
manner without a defence. Authority was also given to detain, without lail, persons already in custody, on suspicion of being engaged in the above conspiracy, or who should be thereafter committed on that account.
With regard to this Act of Parliament, it is impossible, on the one hand, to deny the constitutional competency of Parliament to declare the existence of a dangerous and extended conspiracy, endangering not only the safety, but the very existence of the State. On the other hand, the persons who may become obnoxious to suspicion, and be subjected to a public prosecution in consequence of such a legislative proceeding, come to a trial under seemingly insurmountatle disadvantages.
In the very case before us, the two Houses of Pars liament had collected and arranged the greater part of the wrilten evidence afterwards produced by the Crown against the Prisoners, and in the preamble of the Act had given it the character of a detestable conspiracy, to subvert the monarchy, although, as has been already stated, the inquiry of the Jury was to be divided into two branches—First, whether the evidence, great part of which had been so collected and arranged in Parliament and published;. substantiated the declaration made in the preamble of the Bill, of the existence of such a conspiracy to subvert the Government : and secondly, whether the Prisoners hadi any and what share in it. Now it is most obvious, that if, in deference to the judgment of Parliament, the first part of this division had been found by the
Jury, and the law of high treason, as stated by the Counsel for the Crown, had been adopted, the Prisoners could scarcely have had any defence, as they then must have been taken, upon the whole of the evidence, to have been privy to proceedings throughout the whole kingdom, directed to the subversion of the monarchy, and destruction of the King.
All that can be said upon such a case is, first, that dependence must be had upon the sacred trust of the Legislature, not without urgent necessity to adopt such a proceeding, and carefully to consider the fair result of the evidence, when made the foundation of an Act of Parliament: and secondly, that the British constitution provides for the safety of all who have the happiness to live under its protection, by giving to twelve men, to be taken from the mass of the people, the privilege and the duty to sit in judgment upon all that the authority of Parliament may have decided to be the fact, and all that the learning of the Judges may consider to be the application of the law.
In that respect, whatever may be the merits of this case, and whatever, amidst the variety of judgments in a free country, may be the prevailing opinion concerning it, the trial by Jury must ever le dear to Englishmen.-The verdict of Acquittal, instead of giving encouragement to whatever spirit of sedition might have existed at that period, produced an universal spirit of content and confidence in the people. Nothing indeed could more properly excite such sentiments, than so memorable a proof of safety under the laws.
SESSION HOUSE IN THE OLD BAILEY,
Mr. Justice GROSE ;
The Indictment charged, that the Prisoners, being subjects of our Lord the King, not having the fear of God in their hearts, nor weighing the duty of their allegiance, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, as false traitors against our said Lord the King, their supreme, true, lawful, and undoubted lord, and wholly withdrawing the cordial love and true and due obedience which every true and faithful subject of our said Lord the King should and of right ought to bear towards our said Lord the King, and contriving, and with all their strength intending, traitorously to break and disturb the peace and common tranquillity of this kingdom of Great Britain, and to stir, move, and excite insurrection,
febellion, and war against our said Lord the King within this kingdom, and to subvert and alter the legislature, rule, and government now duly and happily established in this kingdom, and to depose our said Lord the King from the royal state, title, power, and
government of this kingdom; and to bring and put our said Lord the King to death, on the first day of March, in the thirty-third year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord the now King, and on divers other days and times, maliciously and traitorously, with force and arms, &c. did amongst themselves, and together with divers other false traitors, to the said Jurors unknown, conspire, compass, imagine, and intend to stir up, move, and excite insurrection, rebellion, and war against our said Lord the King, within this kingdom of Great Britain, and to subvert and alter the legislature, rule, and government now duly and happily established within this kingdom of Great Britain, and to depose our said Lord the King from the royal state, title, power, and government of this kingdom, and to bring and put our said Lord the King to death. And that to fulfil, perfect, and bring to effect their most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassings and imaginations aforesaid, they, with force and arms, maliciously and traitorously did meet, conspire, consult, and agree among themselves, and together with divers other false traitors, to the said Jurors unknown, to cause and procure a convention and meeting of divers subjects of our said Lord the