Riot Act

Such was his ineptitude as a public speaker that David Hartley (a member of Parliament for Hull and the son of the famous philosopher of the same name) regularly emptied the House of Commons when he rose to speak.

On one occasion in 1783, having culled the audience from about three hundred to eighty (most of whom were half asleep), Hartley demanded that the clerk of the House read the text of the 1765 Riot Act to illustrate an obscure point which he was trying to make. At this point Edmund Burke leaped to his feet. "The Riot Act? The Riot Act!?" he cried. "To what purpose? Don't you see that the mob is already quietly dispersed?"

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