« AnteriorContinuar »
by this procedure. If the insolvency be no crime, why is it punished with arbitrary imprisonment? If it be a crime, why is it delivered into private hands to pardon without discretion, or to punish without mercy and without measure ?
I know that credit must be preserved ; but equity must be preserved too; and it is impossible that any thing should be necessary to commerce, which is inconsistent with justice. The operation of the old law is so savage and so inconvenient to society, that for a long time past, once in every parliament, and lately twice, the legislature has been obliged to make a general arbitrary jail-delivery, and at once to set open, by its sovereign authority, all the prisons in England.
I never relished acts of grace ; nor ever submitted to thein but from despair of better. They are a dishonourable invention, by which, not from humanity, not from policy; but merely because we have not room enough to hold these victims of the , absurdity of our laws, we turn loose upon the public three or four thousand miserable wretches, corrupted by the habits, debased by the ignorniny of a prison. If the creditor had a right to those carcases as a natural security, I am sure we have no right to deprive him of that security. Put if the few pounds of flesh were not necessary to his secuirity, we had not a right to detain the unfortunate debtor, without any benefit at all to the person who confined him-Take it as you will, we commmit injustice. Credit-has little or no concern in this cruelty, I speak in a commercial assembly.
You know that credit is given, because capital must be employed : that men calculate the chances of insolvency; and that they either withhold the credit or make the debtor pay the risque in the price. The counting-house has no alliance with the jail. Holland understands trade as well as we, and there was not, when Mr. Howard visited Holland, more than one prisoner for debt in the great city of Rotterdam. Although Lord Beauchamp's act has already preserved liberty to thousands; and though it is not three years since the last act of grace passed, yet by Mr. Howard's last account, there were near three thousand again in jail.
Speecb at Bristol, p, 21-25. The confinement of any debtor in the sloth and darkness of a prison, is a loss to the nation, and no gain to the creditor; for, of the multitude who are pining in those cells of misery, a very small part is suspected of any
fraudulent act by which they retain what belongs to others. The rest are imprisoned by the wantonness of pride, the malignity of revenge, or the acrimony of disappointed expectation.
Idler, vol. i. p. 121. Those who made the laws of imprisonment for debt, have apparently supposed, that every deficiency of payment is the crime of the debtor. But the truth is, that the creditor always shares
the act, and often more than shares the guilt, of
Ib. p. 124.
He whose debtor has perished in prison, though he may acquit himself of deliberate murder, must at least have his mind clouded with discontent, when he considers how much another has soffered from him ; when he thinks of the wife bewailing her husband, or the children begging the bread which their father would have earned.
· STATE TRIALS.
So unreasonable is the ambition of princes, that [his majesty] seemed to think of nothing less than reducing the whole empire of Blefuscu * in. to a province, and governing it by a viceroy. I endeavoured to divert him from this design by many arguments drawn from the topics of policy as well as justice: and I plainly protested, that I would never be an instrument of bringing a free and brave people into slavery. This open
bold declaration of mine was so opposite to the schemes and politics of his imperial majesty, that he could never forgive me; he mentioned it in a very artful manner at council, where I was told that some of the wisest appeared at least by their silence to be of my opinion; but others, who were my secret enemies, could not forbear some expressions, which by a side-wind <reflected on me. And from this time began an intrigue between his majesty, and a junto of minis. ters maliciously bent against me, which broke out in less than two months, and had like to have ended in my utter ruin. Of so little weight are
the greatest services 10 princes, when put into the balance with a refusal to gratify their passions.
It may be proper to inform the reader of [this] intrigue.
When I was just preparing to pay my attendance on the emperor of Blefuscu, a considerable person at court (to whom I had been very serviceable at a time when he lay under the highest displeasure of his imperial majesty) came to my
very privately at night in a close chair, and, without sending his name, desired admittance. After the common salutations were over, observing his lordship's countenance full of concern, and enquiring into the reason, he desired I would hear him with patience in a matter that highly concerned my life and honour.
You are to know, said he, that several committees of council have been lately called in the most private manner on your account; and that it is but two days since his majesty came to a full resolution.
You are very sensible that Skyris Bolgolam (galbet, or bigh-adiniral) hath been your morta! eneiny almost ever since your arrival : his original reasons I kuow not; but his hatred is increased since your great success against Blcfuscu, by which his glory, as admiral, is much obscured. This lord, in conjunction with Flimnap the high treasurer, Li:ntoc the general, Lalcon the chamberlain, and Balmuff the grand justiciary, have prepared articles of impeachment against you for treason and other capital crimes.