an inquiry. Then the Tories began to flinch. They well knew that an inquiry could not strengthen their case, and might weaken it. The issue, they said, had been tried; a jury had pronounced; the verdict was definitive; and it would be monstrous to give the false witnesses who had been stoned out of Manchester an opportunity of repeating their lesson. To this argument the answer was obvious. The verdict was definitive as respected the defendants, but not as respected the prosecutors. The prosecutors were now in their turn defendants, and were entitled to all the privileges of defendants. It did not follow, because the Lancashire gentlemen had been found, and very properly found, not guilty of treason, that the Secretary of State or the Solicitor of the Treasury had been guilty of unfairness or even of rashness. The House, by one hundred and nineteen votes to one hundred and two resolved that Aaron Smith and the witnesses on both sides should be ordered to attend. Several days were passed in examination and crossexamination; and sometimes the sittings extended far into the night. It soon became clear that the prosecution had not been lightly instituted, and that some of the persons who had been acquitted had been concerned in treasonable schemes. The Tories would now have been content with a drawn battle; but the Whigs were not disposed to forego their advantage. It was moved that there had been a sufficient ground for the proceedings before the Special Commission; and this motion was carried without a division. The opposition proposed to add some words implying that the witnesses for the Crown had forsworn themselves; but these words were rejected by one hundred and thirty-six votes to one hundred and nine, and it was resolved by one hundred and thirty- three votes to ninety-seven that there had been a dangerous conspiracy. The Lords had meanwhile been deliberating on the same subject, and had come to the same conclusion. They sent Taaffe to prison for prevarication; and they passed resolutions acquitting both the government and the judges of all blame. The public however continued to think that the gentlemen who had been tried at Manchester had been unjustifiably persecuted, till a Jacobite plot of singular
Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/577
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