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so. Now, nothing can possibly be opposed to that prima facie construction, save the act itself. A prima facie construction of a statute, therefore, can be nothing but the opinion that rises in the mind of a man, upon a single reading of it, who does not choose to be at the trouble of reading it again. In truth, my lords, I should not have thought it necessary to descend to this kind of argumentation, if it had not become necessary for me to do so, by an observation coming from one of your lordships,* "That the letter of the act would bear out the commons in their claim, but that the sound construction might be a very different thing." I will, therefore, add but another word upon this subject. If a prima facie construction be sufficient to decide, and if the commons have the letter of the law in their favour, I would ask with the profoundest humility, whether your lordships will give the sanction of your high authority to a notion, that in statutes made to secure the liberties of the people, the express words in which they are written, shall not be at least a prima facie evidence of their signification?
My lords, the learned counsel have been pleased to make a charge against the citizens of Dublin, "for their tests and their cavalcadings" on a late occasion; and they have examined witnesses in support of their accusation. It is true, my lords, the citizens did engage to the publick and to one another, that they would not vote for any candidate for corporate office or popular representation, who had any place in the police establishment: but I would be glad to know by what law it is criminal in freemen to pledge themselves to that conduct, which they think indispensably necessary to the freedom of their country. The city of Dublin is bound to submit to whatever mode of defence shall be devised for her by law, while such law shall continue unrepealed; but I would be glad to learn, by what law they are bound not to abhor the police institution, if it appears to them to be an insti
* Lord Clare.
tution, expensive, and ineffectual, inadequate to their protection, and dangerous to their liberty; and that they do think it so cannot be doubted. Session after session has the floor of the senate been covered with their petitions, praying to be relieved against it, as an oppressive, a corrupt, and therefore an execrable establishment.
True it is also, my lords, they have been guilty of those triumphant processions, which the learned coun sel have so heavily condemned. The virtue of the people stood forward to oppose an attempt to seize upon their representation, by the exercise of a dangerous and unconstitutional influence, and it succeeded in the conflict; it routed and put to flight that corrup tion, which sat, like an incubus on the heart of the metropolis, chaining the current of its blood, and locking up every healthful function and energy of life. The learned counsel might have seen the city pouring out her inhabitants, as if to share the general joy of escaping from some great calamity, in mutual gratulation and publick triumph.* But why does the learned counsel insist upon this subject before your lordships? Does he think such meetings illegal? He knows his profession too well, not to know the reverse. But does he think it competent to the lord lieutenant and council of Ireland, to take cognizance of such facts, or to pronounce any opinion whatever, concerning the privileges of the people? He must know it is not. Does he then mean that such things may be subjects of your resentment, though not of your jurisdiction? It would have been worth while, before that point had been pressed, to consider between what parties it must suppose the present con test to subsist. To call upon the government of the country to let their vengeance fall upon the people for their resistance of unconstitutional influence, is surely
*The processions here alluded to, took place on the election of Mr. Grattan and lord H. Fitzgerald, who had been returned for the city of Dublin, in opposition to the court candidates, one of whom was alderman Warren, then at the head of the police establishment.
an appeal not very consistent with the virtuous impartiality of this august assembly. It is only for those who feel defeat, to feel resentment, or to think of vengeance.
But suppose for a moment, (and there never ought to be reason to suppose it) that the opposition of the city had been directly to the views or the wishes of the government. Why are you, therefore, called upon to seize its corporate rights into your hands, or to force an illegal magistrate upon it? Is it insinuated that it can be just to punish a want of complaisance, by an act of lawless outrage and arbitrary power? Does the British constitution, my lords, know of such offences, or does it warrant this species of tyrannical reprisal? And, my lords, if the injustice of such a measure is without defence, what argument can be offered in support of its prudence or policy? It was once the calamity of England to have such an experiment made by the last of the Stuarts, and the last of that unhappy race, because of such experiments. The several corporations of that country were stript of their charters; and what was the consequences? I need not state them; they are notorious: yet, my lords, there was a time when he was willing to relinquish what he had so weakly and wickedly undertaken; but there is a time when concession comes too late to restore either publick quiet, or publick confidence; and when it amounts to nothing more than an acknowledgment of injustice; when the people must see, that it is only the screen behind which oppression changes her attack, from force to fraud, from the battery to the mine. See then, my lords, how such a measure comes recommended; its principle injustice, its motive vengeance, its adoption sanctioned by the authority of a tyrant, or the example of a revolution.
My lords, the learned counsel has made another observation which I cannot pass without remark; it is the last with which I shall trouble you. the commons may apply to the law, and bring an information in quo warranto, against Mr. James,
though you should give him your approbation: that is, my lords, your judgment does not bind the right, it only decides the possession of the office. To this I answer, that in this case to decide on the possession is, in fact, to decide the contest; and I found that answer on the high authority of the noble lord, who was pleased to say that "when the city had spent three years in the king's bench, she would probably grow sick of the contest."*. I was not surprised, my lords, to hear an expression of that regret which must arise in every worthy mind, and I am sure the noble lord sincerely felt, at the distress of a people, reduced to defend those rights which ought never to have been attacked, and to defend them in a way by which they could not possibly succeed. The truth is, as the noble lord has stated, the time of Mr. James's mayoralty would expire in a year, and the question of law could not be terminated in three. The present contest, therefore, cannot be decided by law. How, then, my lords, is it to be decided? Are the people to submit tamely to oppression, or are they to struggle for their liberties? I trust, my lords, you will think they have not done any thing so culpable as can justify the driving them to so calamitous a necessity; for fatal must that struggle be, in whatsoever country it shall happen, in which the liberties of a people can find no safety but in the efforts of vindictive virtue; fatal to all parties whatever may be the event. But, my lords, I feel this to be a topick on which it is neither my province nor my wish to expatiate, and I leave it the more willing, because I know that I have already trespassed very long upon your patience, and also, because I cannot relinquish a hope, that the decision of your lordships this day will be such as shall restore the tranquillity of the publick mind, the mutual confidence between the government and the people, and make it unnecessary for any man to pursue so painful a subject.
* The lord chancellor.
MR. FOX'S SPEECH,
ON MR. WHITBREAD'S RESOLUTIONS RESPECTING THE RUSSIAN ARMAMENT, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 1, 1792.
To protect the Ottoman empire against those designs of criminal ambition with which, in the late war it was menaced, by the alarming coalition of the two great powers then opposed to it, Mr. Pitt, with the enlarged, liberal, and long-sighted wisdom which eminently distinguishes the whole of the external policy of his administration, entered into an alliance with that distressed court and induced Prussia, Holland, and Sweden to become parties. A confederacy, thus authoritative, could not fail to produce the end to which it was directed. Austria, at once, concluded a separate peace, and Russia despairing of her ability to maintain the unequal contest alone, soon afterwards consented to open a negotiation. To the requisition of the allies of an entire restoration of her conquests made during the war, she finally acceded, with the reservation of the town of Oczakow and its dependencies, which she insisted on retaining. Though a remote and barren spot, this possession was not destitute of importance. It guarded the dominions of Russia against the irruptions of the Tartars, and commanded an entrance into Turkey. Finding his pacifick exertions unavail. ing, Mr. Pitt resolved to extort by force a concession of the point in dispute, and having previously secured the concurrence of the allies, he prepared by a formi