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tionists, who were too dastardly and expert to commit themselves.
The meeting of parliament was fixed for the 28th of January. Preparations were made for the opening of the session by the regent in person. There was a prevalent impression, perhaps maliciously encouraged, among the more distressed and discontented of the common people, that the regent was insensible to their sufferings. His notorious taste for gorgeous pomp and oriental seclusion, favoured the supposition that he looked upon his subjects as born for bis use. A numerous mob crowded his passage to the house of lords ; but no expressions of insult or disapprobation were indulged. The regent, however, marked something sinister in the looks and silence of the crowd. This so affected him, that he read the speech with a weak and faltering voice.
The royal speech was looked for with more than usual interest. After the routine topics of the king's continued illness, — the friendly assurances of foreign powers, – the brilliant achievement of lord Exmouth
- the renewal and conclusion of an Indian war in the Nepaul territory; it admitted a deficiency in the
recommended a financial enquiry-anticipated benefit from the approaching issue of a new coinage ; and concluded with the following reference to the state of public distress:-“ Deeply as I lament the pressure of these evils upon the country, I am sensible that they are of a nature not to admit of an immediate remedy ; but whilst I observe with peculiar satisfaction the fortitude with which so many privations have been borne, and the
active benevolence which has been employed to mitigate them, I am persuaded that the great sources of our national prosperity are essentially unimpaired; and I entertain a confident expectation that the native energy of the country will at no distant period surmount all the difficulties in which we are involved. In considering our internal situation, you will, I doubt not, feel a just indignation at the attempts which have been made to take advantage of the distresses of the country, for the purpose of exciting a spirit of sedition and violence. I am too well convinced of the loyalty and good sense of the great body of his majesty's subjects, to believe them capable of being perverted by the arts which are employed to seduce them; but I am determined to omit no precautions for preserving the public peace, and for counteracting the designs of the disaffected: and I rely with the utmost confidence on your cordial support and co-operation, in upholding a system of law and government, from which we have derived inestimable advantages, which has enabled us to conclude, with unexampled glory, a contest whereon depended the best interests of mankind, and which has been hitherto felt by ourselves, as it is acknowleged by other nations, to be the most perfect that has ever fallen to the lot of any people.”
These observations were slovenly and ill-judged. It was little short of mockery to talk of “ ampled glory" to a famishing population. But the ministers were resolved upon what they called vigorous measures, and the speech was a declaration of war against sedition and reform.
An amendment to the address was moved by
Mr. Ponsonby, in the house of commons. The debate was suddenly interrupted by a message from the lords, desiring a conference in the painted chamber. It proved that lord Sidmouth, the home secretary, had made a communication to the house of lords, of an attempt upon the life of the prince regent, on his return from the house. Lord James Murray, a lord of the bed-chamber, who, with the duke of Montrose, sat in the carriage with the regent, stated that the window was perforated by two bullets, discharged, he supposed, from an air-gun; and that in a few seconds more, the glass was broken by a stone. Notwithstanding the confidence of lord James Murray as to bullets, none were found in the carriage; there was no sign of its being perforated within ; no one was wounded; and the opposite window, which was raised at the time, remained untouched. It was, however, in any case, a gross and criminal outrage; and both houses, having sent a joint address of congratulation to the regent on his escape, adjourned to the next day.
They re-assembled accordingly : lord Grey moved an amendment, in which, as well as in his speech, he urged rigid economy; efficient, not nominal, retrenchment; and enquiry into the state of the nation. It was negatived without a division. Mr. Ponsonby in the house of commons renewed his amendment, which was rejected by a majority of 264 to 112.
On the 3d of February, the following message from the regent was presented to both houses : “ His royal highness the prince regent, acting in the name and on behalf of his majesty, has given
orders that there be laid before the house, papers, containing information respecting certain practices, meetings, and combinations in the metropolis, and in different parts of the kingdom, evidently calculated to endanger the public tranquillity, to alienate the affections of his majesty's subjects from his majesty's person and government, and to bring into hatred and contempt the whole system of our laws and constitution. His royal highness recommends to the house to take these papers into their immediate and serious consideration." Lord Sidmouth in the house of lords, and lord Castlereagh in the house of commons, presented a sealed green bag containing the ominous papers.
The thanks of both houses were unanimously voted to the regent, and the two green bags respectively submitted to secret committees — the one of eleven lords, the other of twenty-one commoners.
The ministers gave no intimation of their designs, beyond the disclaimer of lord Sidmouth that the message originated in the guilty attack upon the regent. It was, however, well understood, and openly charged upon them, that they contemplated inroads upon the public liberty.
On the 18th and 19th of February the two committees made their respective reports, and concurrently proclaimed the existence of a desperate and widely spread treasonable conspiracy. The vagueness of statement, the artifices of expression, the palpable exaggerations in the reports, combined with the opinion and knowledge which a free and intelligent nation mnst always have of what is passing within its own bosom, stripped these
oracles of all terror, and even of public respect. The authority was suspected and derided, rather than the threatened danger feared or credited, and the green bags soon became a by-word of popular odium and ridicule. In truth, the reports of the lords and commons bore a close resemblance to those concocted in the inquisition, during the existence of that redoubted institution in its “ palmy state.” The same practical sophism — the same sort of vicious circle --- may be observed in the procedures of both. Here ministers supply, under seal, their materials of accusation, which, after passing through the alembic of two committees, are returned to them in the form of reports ; — and upon these abtracts of their own case, supplied secretly and ex parte by themselves, they proceed, as upon extrinsic independent evidence, to suspend the constitution.
On the 24th of February, the grand secret of ministers exploded in both houses. Lord Sidmouth in the one, and lord Castlereagh in the other, announced their intention to submit the five following bills ; viz. :- 1. A bill to extend to the person of the regent, the act for the better protection of his majesty's person. 2. A bill to revive the act of 1795, against seditious meetings. 3. A bill to revive the act of the 39th George III., against corresponding societies.
4. A bill to revive the act against the seducing soldiers and sailors. 5. A bill to suspend the habeas corpus act. The second and fifth bills were strenuously resisted : lord Wellesley opposed the suspension of the constitution, in a speech of rare, varied, and must accomplished eloquence. Every mitigation even attempted in committee