Black Dwarf,  1 (1817), 204–05.

English Liberty of Discussion in the Nineteenth Century



Reportage, News-Commentary


Politics, Societies, Government

    Reports that 'the officers of the Academical Society, held in Chancery Lane [London]', had appeared at the Middlesex quarter session the preceding Friday 'to solicit the license of the magistrates to hold their usual meetings'. The society, open only to members of universities or inns of court, made petition for a license 'for the investigation and discussion of philosophical, literary, historical, and political subjects'. The society had previously received a license 'under the prior bill for regulating public assemblies'. However, one of the aldermen objected to the word 'political' that it was too general and would 'open a door to debates of the most unlimited discussion'. (204) The writer reports the discussions among the bench, the unwillingness of the petitioners to submit to 'furnish a magistrate with the questions intended for discussion for his approval', and the final refusal of the petition. Notes that 'the gentlemen of this society applied for an exemption from the provisions of the act, while before the legislature; but they were referred to the Session, and believing themselves sure of their own license, they were not interested in the opposition of a measure'. Draws the moral that it is the 'safest policy, as well as the highest duty, to resist every incipient design of tyranny'. (205)

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