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command of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and the papers leave me without information, from whom any communication to the Prince originated, which induced him to give such commands.
Upon the question, how far the advice is agreeable to law, under which it was recommended to your Majesty, to issue this Warrant or Commission, not countersigned, nor under Seal, and without any of your Majesty's advisers, therefore being on the face of it, responsible for its issuing, I am not competent to determine. And undoubtedly, considering that the two high legal authorities, the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, consented to act under it, it is with the greatest doubt and diffidence, that I can bring myself to express any suspicion of its illegallity: But if it be, as I am given to understand it is, open to question, whether consistently with law, your Majesty should have been advised, to command by this warrant or commission, persons, (not to act in any known character, as Secretaries of State, as Privy Counsellors, as Magistrates otherwise empowered ; but to act as Commissioners, and under the sole authority of such warrant, to inquire (without any authority to hear and determine any thing upon the subject of those Inquiries,) into the known crime of High Treason, under the sanction of oaths to be administered by them as such Commissioners, and to report the result thereof to your Majesty. If, I say, there can be any question upon the le
gality of such Warrant or Commission, the extreme hardship with which it has operated upon me, the extreme prejudice, which it has done to my character, and to which such a proceeding must
person who is the object of it, obliges me, till I am fully convinced of its legality, to forbear from acknowledging its authority; and, with all humility and deference to your Majesty, to protest against it, and against all the proceedings under it.
If this, indeed, were matter of mere form, I should be ashamed to urge it.
But the actual hardships and prejudice, which I have suffered, by this proceeding, are most obvious. For, upon the principal charge against me, the Commissioners have, most satisfactorily, and “ without the least hesitation,” for such is their expression, reported their opinion of its falschood. Sir John and Lady Douglas therefore, who have sworn to its truth, have been guilty of the plainest falseliood: yet upon the supposition of the illegallity of this Commission their falsehood must as I am informed go unpunished. Upon that supposition, the want of legal authority in the Commissioners to inquire and to administer an oath, will render it impossible to give to this false, -hood the character of Perjury. But this is by no means the circumstance which I feel the most severely. Beyond the vindicating of my own character, and the consideration of providing for my future security, I can assure your Majesty, that the punishment of Sir John and Lady Doug
las would afford me no satisfaction. It is not therefore with regard to that part of the charge, which is negatived, but with respect to those, which are sanctioned by the Report, those, which, not aiming at my life, exhaust, themselves upon my character, and which the Commissioners have, in some measure, sanctioned by their Report, that I have the greatest reason to complain. Had the Report sanctioned the principal charge, constituting a known legal crime, my innocence would have emboldened me, at all risques, (and to more, no person has ever been exposed from the malice and falsehood of accusers) to have demanded that trial, which could legally determine upon the truth or falsehood of such charge. Though I should even then indeed have had some cause to complain, because I should have gone to that trial, under the prejudice, necessarily raised against me, by that Report; yet in a proceeding before the just, open, and known tribunals of your Majesty's kingdom, I should have had a safe appeal from the result of an ex parte investigation. An investigation which has exposed me to all the hardships of a secret Inquiry, without giving me the benefit of secrecy ; and to all the severe consequences of a public investigation, in point of injury to my character, without affording me any of its substantial benefits in point of security. But the charges, which the Commissioners do sanction by their Report, describing them, with a mysterious obscurity and
indefinite generality, constitute, as I am told, no legal crime. They are described as “ instances “ of great impropriety and indecency of beha“ viour" which must “occasion the most unfa. “ vourable interpretations,” and they are reported to your Majesty, and they are stated to be, “ cir.
cumstances which must be credited till they are “decisively contradicted.”
From this opinion, this judgment of the Commissioners, bearing so hard upon my character; (and that a female character, how delicate, and how easily to be affected by the breath of calumny your Majesty well knows) I can have no appeal. For, as the charges constitute no legal crimes, they cannot be the subjects of any legal trial. I can call for no trial. I can therefore have no appeal ; I can look for no acquittal. Yet this opinion, or this judgment, from which I can have no appeal, has been pronounced against me upon mere ex parte investigation.
This hardship, Sire, I am told to ascribe to the nature of the proceeding under this Warrant or Commission; For had the Inquiry been entered into before your Majesty's Privy Council, or before any magistrates, authorised by law as such, to inquire into the existence of treason, the known course of proceeding before that council, or such magistrates, the known extent of their jurisdiction over crimes, and not over the proprieties of behaviour, would have preserved me from the possibility of having matters made the subjects of inquiry which had in law no substantive criminal
character, and from the extreme hardship of hav. ing my reputation injured by calumny altogether unfounded, but rendered at once more safe to my enemies, and more injurious to me, by being uttered, in the course of a proceeding, assuming the grave semblance of legal form. And it is by the nature of this proceeding, (which could alone have countenanced or admitted of this licentious lati. tude of inquiry, into the proprieties of behaviour in private life, with which no court, no magistrate, no public law has any authority to interfere,) that I have been deprived of the benefit of that entire and unqualified acquittal and discharge from this accusation, to which the utter and proved false. hood of the accusation itself so justly entitled me.
I trust therefore that your Majesty will see that if this proceeding is not one to which, by the known laws of your Majesty's kingdom, 1 ought to be subject, that it is no cold formal objection which leads me to protest against it.
I am ready to acknowledge, Sire, from the consequences which might arise to the public, from such misconduct as have been falsely imput. ed to me, that my honour and virtue are of more importance to the state than those of other women. That my conduct therefore may be fitly subjected, when necessary, to a severer scrutiny. But it cannot follow, because my character, is of more importance, that it may therefore be attacked with more impunity. And as I know, that this mis. chief has been pending over my head for more