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ed; and it is the business of an impartial Critic, to expose the fallacies and misrepresentations on either side, in order to unveil the truth, which both, perhaps, are equally ftudious to conceal. This we fhall endeavour to do with regard to the subject of the pamphlet before us.

This able and animated Writer begins with accusing the Author of a Letter, first published in the Gazetteer, and lately reprinted with the Wallet, with having mis-stated the motion lately made in the House of Commons, which, according to the Letter-Writer, was “ Whether a general warrant from a Secretary of State be warranted by law or not?” Whereas the Author of this pamphlet proves, from a transcript of the Votes, the motion to have been, · That a general warrant for apprehending and seizing the Authors, Printers, and Publishers of a sediticus Libel, together with their Papers, is not warranted by Jaw.' This question, as he very justly concludes, varies from that stated by the Letter-Writer, not only in form but fub Atance. That, as he observes, extends to all cales of emer gency; and the determination of it in the negative, would preclude the use of general Warrants iflued by Secretaries of State, in every extreme case which imagination can put, or which ne ceflity could justify: whereas the question actually'moved, confines itself to general Warrants issued in the case of a feditious Libel, which decides not upon the exercise of the same power in cases not included.

Our Author, in the next place, takes the Letter. Writet to task, for affuming, that the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas had, in the cause of Wilkes against Wood, determined the seizure of papers, under such Warrants, in such cases, to have been illegal : and that, Bills of Exception presented in appeal from that decision, having ever since been actually depending before the whole bench of Judges, it was the duty of the Minority to have waited the issue of that appeal.

In answer to this, our Author shows, that the question of the legality of the. Warrant is not now fub Judice, nor has ever yet been in a course of legal determination. Which he proves by transcripts from the Bills of Exception, whereby it appears, that the only question depending thereon is, IV hether the Secretary of State be a Justice of Peace within the equity of the Act of the twenty-fourth of George the second; which is a point very material in the defence of the Messengers acting under orders, but has no connection with the question upon the legality of the Warrant itself,

Thus far this able and animated Writer has refuted his An-tagonist by fair and unanswerable arguments. But we cannot

Lay, fay, that, in what follows, he acquits himself with the candor and perspicuity we could with. The letter-writer, and others after him, charged the Minority with insincericy, because, after tofing the question they had agitated, they refused a bill moved by Sir John Philipps, to regulate the practice of. Secretaries of State in issuing warrants. This imputation, our Authe endeavours to remove by the following arguments. Here too the fame writers are unfortunate, and again led into another falle triumph by their original ignorance of the question moved in the House of Commons. They would otherwise have recollected, that the Minority held the “ general Warrant for apprehending and feizing the Authors, Printers and Publishers of a seditious Libel, together with their Papers, to be Illegal,” and from thence have seen, how little they could vote for a bill to regulate, what They did not admit to be legal.

• Can it be seriously believed, that Sir John Philipps or the Ministry expected to be supported by them in bringing in a bill to regulate, what they had asserted neither did nor ought to exift? No : they could have no right to suppose the Minority would not adhere to their declared opinion; and they must have recollected, that if they acted uniformly, they would necessarily confine themselves to the fingle case before them. By what other conduct could they have hoped to execute the plan upon which they professed to act? To provide at once for private liberty and public safety; by condemning the wanton ufe of an ufurped power, in the instance under consideration, which, in their judgment, had no circumstances to justify it; and by leaving uncensured, the use even of illegal warrants in those extreme cases, which it is impoflible to describe and distinguish before they happen; but which the wiseft legislators of all times, and the framers of the law of England in particular, have ever thought it most expedient and safe to consider as deviations from the general law; to be made at the peril of the persons acting, and to be explained in the exception, and defended in the exercise, by the allegation and proof of those extraordinary circumstances, which the minority argued might justify, but ought always to accompany such cases. They alleged that extraordinary provifions might else be extended to all times, and an authority, granted reluctantly even in the minute of imminent danger, might, in fecure peace, be made destructive to freedom.

• This method of reasoning is the more conclusive, because no danger can follow to the servants of the crown from leaving the law upon this footing; for should a Secretary of State, upon intelligence of any crime, really formidable to the commonwealth, and of a nature requiring dispatch and fecrecy, be under a necessity of issuing such a warrant as is now complained of;


and should his mefsengers, in pursuit of the Offenders, take up an innocent man; reasonable to suppose that any jury would be found so narrow in their notions of government, as not to ate tend to a distinction clearly made, and well supported, upon the peculiar circumstances of such a crisis ? Or should prejudice of ignorance influence the determination of juries, would not the officers thus suffering for the publics be relieved by the interpofisition of parliament?

• Let us recolle&t, what has passed in the matter now depending. The warrant itself has been generally held illegal. The offence against the state was no higher than publishing a libel : no circumstances to make a general warrant necessary in the method of apprehending the author : the proceedings in the execution of it aggravated by every circumstance of wantonness, negligence, and opprefsion: and neverthelefs, it has not yet incurred the cenfure of parliament. Where then would be the difficulty of defence, in a case which had circumstances of real justification to allege, or in which a warrant, not strictly legal, could be thewn to have been necesary, or the danger imminent ? Thus many in the Minority reasoned, and, thus reasoning, they proved themselves the true and temperate friends of liberty, no less when they refused, by regulating this power, to furnish it with the fanction of a statute, than when they proposed, by a declaratory motion, grounded in the circumstances of a transaction before them, to confirm, as far as the resolution of one house would go, the common law of the land ; leaving the use of warrants, which, in the case before them, had no justification, but were supposed to be poffibly necessary in other cases, at present by them neither condemned nor justified, to be hereafter cenfured or excused, as the same law should decide, and such cases should require. But in one part of this praise, let not the ministry be deprived of their juft share; for no real design of passing the bill appeared amongst them; Sir John Philipps himself opening cursorily the regulations of this bill, had the ill fortune to make little impreffion upon the body even of the Majority of the house, and the whole conduct of the day fully demonstrated, that it was thought, even by that Majority, to be a doubtful proposition, resulting more from a sense of thame, than any serious or concerted plan of either vindicating the law, or establishing the ancient hereditary right of the subject against future similar oppression.'

We are ready to believe that the ministry had no real design of passing a bill to restrain their own power, or that of their succellors; and it seems equally clear that the Minority, the leaders among them at least, had no serious intentions neither, to weaken the hands of the adminiftration for the future, which they Rev. Aug. 1764.



might hope to exercise themselves. Our Author's reasoning, on this head, is equivocal and inconclusive. The bill moved by Sir John Philipps was, according to his own stating, to reguIate the practice of Secretaries of State issuing warrants' generally, not in cases of libels only: now, it is no justification of the Minority to say, that because they held the general warrant for apprehending and seizing the Authors, Printers and Publishers of a seditious Libel, together with their papers, to be illegal,' therefore they could not vote for a bill to regulate the practice in other general cases.

Admitting, however, that they held the issuing of warrants from Secretaries of State to be illegal in all cases, the motion of Sir John Philipps, as stated by our Author, did not preclude them from supporting that opinion. The bill being to regulate the practice only, it was still open for them to contest the right: and they are inexcuseable for neglecting so fair an opportunity. We all know upon what an unsettled foundation personal liberty ftands, in this and many other respects. The common law has been variously expounded, and nothing can admit of greater latitude in construction than the clause in Magna Charta, which fays, that no man shall be imprifoned, &c. but by judgment of his Peers, or the law of the land. Under these general words, the law of the land, INFORMATIONS are justified, and many other practices are vindicated, which call for redress. Magna Charta is a fine sound for patriots to rattle in the ears of the vulgar, but, as it stands, it is in reality what Oliver Cromwell contemptuously called it. It would have been a task worthy of real patriots, instead of leaving illegal warrants uncensured in any cases, to have settled by legislative authority, whether such warrants are wholly illegal ; if not, to have ascertained in what cases, and in what manner they are to issue.

Our Author argues weakly, in supposing that a jury would attend to the particular circumstances of a case justified by necessity. For the warrants are either legal or illegal; if illegal, no circumstances can influence the verdict of a jury on their oaths, farther than in mitigation of damages. In short, it is effential to liberty that lo important a point should not be left open to be determined by dubious construction, or contradictory authorities. If such warrants are in any cases legal, let those cases be ascertained: if they are totally illegal, let them be so declared : and this declaration will prejudice no right at common law, for it is no uncommon thing to have such right confirmed by the sanction of a statute.

The Writer in the next place justifies the house for proceeding by way of motion: for which he produces several prece-e


dents; and having thus gone through the several charges against the Minority, he concludes in the following spirited it rain.

« Let those then learn, if there be any yet fenfible to the feelings, and open to the call of national liberty, that it appearing, in the course of the proceedings against Wilkes, that a fubject had been taken into custody by a general warrant of apprehenfion, issued by Lord Halifax, his papers seized, and his person kept in closest custody, upon the charge of a seditious libel, the public instantly took the alarm, and the illegality of such warrants, and such custody, in such an offence, became univerfally the topic of discourse, and ground of apprehension and complaint. When therefore the proceedings against Mr. Wilkes were finished, when the honour of the crown and the dignity of parliament, traduced and injured by the licentious paper complained of, were both vindicated and satisfied, and not till after the expulsion; two gentlemen of distinguished worth, talents and consequence in their country, stepped forth; expressed their opinion of the illegality of the proceedings of Lord Halifax, and took that method, which to them seemed the best, of bringing the great question, which had so much interested the minds of all ranks of men, and upon which, they alleged, they thought the essence of private and personal liberty depended, to an amicable debate and candid discussion, for the satisfaction of this age, and, as they trusted, for the security of future times.

The house adopted the idea : the administration acquiesced ; a day was named; the ministry called for various papers, and volumes of Records; and when the hour of debate came on, Sir William Meredith moved the following question, “ That a general warrant for apprehending and seizing the Authors, Printers, and Publishers of a feditious Libel, together with their Papers, is not warranted by law.”

* It is said, and universally believed, that in the debate neither the Minister himself, nor the Attorney General defended the legality of the warrant. The M. of G. and many others who voted for adjourning the debate, exprefly declared their de. testation of the practice, and their sense of the necessity of preventing a measure fo dangerous to liberty; and the whole defence of that day consisted in arguing upon the impropriety of deciding in parliament a question then depending in a court of judicature. They, who maintained the propriety and necessity of the motion, endeavoured to thew the fallacy of this reasoning, and dwelt upon the importance of the question, the violence of the proceeding, the power of parliament exercised in similar cases, and the reproach of leaving the liberty of the subject, in a case of such notoriety, suspended by a court of law, upon the pretence

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