§ Mr. Adam
rose pursuant to the notice he had given on a former evening, to propose a motion somewhat new in its nature, because the circumstances which had induced him to bring it forward were novel, and, he might say, unprecedented. Before stating the terms of this motion, he found it necessary to enter into some discussion of general principles, and to state the facts upon which he intended to found it. The object was, to prevent the repetition of a practice which the house had had occasion 899 to witness on the 3d of Feb. last, and which stood recorded on the journals of the house of the 8th of Feb. he hoped, for the last time. When any thing irregular occurred in the course of the debate, it was not unusual to check that irregularity at the time it took place; but because the irregularity to which he alluded was not checked at the moment it happened, it was no reason why the house should not now impose an effectual check upon its recurring on a future occasion. He should now endeavour to shew that the right hon. secretary of state, by reading extracts from official papers not before the house in the course of the debate, had been as disorderly as if he had introduced his majesty's name for the purpose of influencing the decision of the house; than which, it was unnecessary for him to state, nothing could be more irregular. In the year 1757 a member of the house of commons having expressed a wish, to be absolved from his oath of secrecy on a court martial, a message was sent to the house by the king, in which there was a reference to what had passed in debate on the subject. The message was received, but particular mention was made of the circumstance on the journals of the house, as being of a nature which ought not to pass unnoticed. In that instance the violation of form, he was inclined to think, rather proceeded from oversight; but, on a late occasion, he had not the same apology to make for a much more flagrant breach of order. He hoped, therefore, that the house would so mark it with its reprobation as to prevent its ever occurring in future. In order to induce it to come to this decision, he should shortly recapitulate the circumstances on which he meant to ground a motion; and he was confident that if the house did not adopt some resolution similar to that which he meant to propose, it would be impossible to go on with the transaction of public business in the way in which it had hitherto been conducted, and that there was an end at once to the constitution of parliament. The first point he wished to establish was, the difference that there was between simply answering a question which might be put for the sake of obtaining information on any particular subject, and the practice which the right hon. secretary had introduced, of reading extracts from official papers in the course of debate, to serve any temporary purpose which he might have in view, either in his private 900 or official capacity. There was as great a difference between these, with regard to the forms of that house, as there was in a court of law between the speech of a leading counsel in the cause, and the evidence he adduced in support of the pleadings. The right hon. secretary, not contented with giving his own representation in support of that side of the question which he espoused, had brought forward a chain of evidence, the truth of which it was not in the power of the house to verify, for the sake of influencing its decision upon the question at issue. On the 3d of Feb. certain papers had been moved for by a right hon. friend of his (Mr. Ponsonby); and in the debate which took place, the discussion embraced not only the motions for papers, but the conduct of the individuals to which these papers referred. On that evidence the secretary of state for the foreign department read extracts from two of those papers which had been moved for, for the purpose of putting the house in possession of the information necessary to enable it to form a judgment of the propriety of the hostile proceedings which government had adopted against Denmark. On the 8th of Feb. another hon. friend of his (Mr. Whitbread) moved for the production of those very papers from which the secretary of state had read extracts on the 3d of Feb. on the ground that the extracts which had been given conveyed a different impression to the house from that which the writers of these dispatches (lord Howick and Mr. Garlike) intended to convey. On the 3d of Feb. the reason given for not producing the whole of these papers was, that their contents could not be disclosed without detriment to the public service; and, on the 8th of Feb. the right hon. secretary had persisted in opposing their production, on the pretence that he had not misrepresented, in the extracts which he had read from them, the opinions of lord Howick and Mr. Garlike. On the 26th of Feb. however, the right hon. gent. had come down to the house, and himself moved for the production of those very papers, the contents of which, on the 3d of Feb. he had contended it would be unsafe to disclose, and the production of which he had resisted on a different ground on the 8th of Feb. for the purpose, as he stated then, of vindicating his own character! When the right hon. gent. read the extracts from these papers on the 3d of Feb. it was not done with the view of communicating information to the house, 901 but for the purpose of influencing its judgment upon an important public question. It was not done preparatory to a proceeding, but on the very model of a proceeding which was to terminate in adjudication; and it was upon this ground that he pronounced his conduct to be wholly irregular, and highly censurable. If a libel was published upon any member of the house, it was competent for that member to move that the libel should be read in the house; but the house would not ground any proceedings upon the libel till it was upon their table. This practice, which he contended to be invariably adhered to, was supported by an analogy which was completely impregnable. On the 29th of Nov. 1767, it was contended by Mr. Grenville, on the one side, that it was competent for any member to demand that any part of the journals of the house should be read: and, on the other side, it was argued by Mr. Dyson that this could only be done in consequence of a vote of the house, and that this point of form was now waved for the convenience of the speaker. Mr. Adam asserted, that it was in the competence of the house to enforce its observation. A vote of the house was not necessary, however, to authorize the reading of such papers as were upon the table of the house, whether in consequence of an address of the house, or by command of his majesty; and in this case any individual member could, at his own instance, demand that they should be read. In support of this doctrine he appealed to the authority of Mr. Hatsell, and of Mr. Speaker Onslow; and the conclusion he drew from it was this: that the house never came to a decision on any evidence, of which it was not in the power of any individual member of the house to compel the reading, either long or short, to use the technical term; and that any member who presumed, of his own accord, to read official documents which were not before the house, was guilty of a flagrant violation of its forms of proceeding, and of an infraction of the law of parliament. Mr. Adam quoted two remarkable cases, in which an attempt of this kind had been checked. The first took place at a very extraordinary period of the history of this country, when we were in alliance with France and Prussia, and were endeavouring to prevail upon the Low Countries to join us in a confederacy against a league which was formed between Spain and Austria. An address 902 was then moved in the house of peers; in seconding which the duke of Newcastle read part of a letter which he had received from Mr. Stanhope, the British minister at the court of Madrid, containing information respecting certain articles of the treaty supposed to have been signed between Spain and Austria. The duke was immediately asked whether he was authorized to read this letter; and on his answering that he had the king's permission to read a part of it, lord Lechmere observed, that in this case the document went for nothing. Here then was a precedent drawn from the practice of parliament, which clearly shewed that it was irregular in debate to quote any paper which had not been regularly submitted to parliament. And the case to which he alluded bore directly upon the circumstances on which he meant to found his present motion. The papers quoted by the right honourable secretary, on the 3d of Feb. were not before the house in either of the two regular modes by which public papers could be laid before the house, viz. in consequence of the command of his majesty, or of a vote of that house; and therefore could not be read in debate, conformably with the law and practice of parliament. Mr. Adam next quoted, in support of the same doctrine, the more recent authority both of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox. In 1792, when a question came before the house, relative to the seizure of Oczakow by Russia, some members being then of opinion that the house was not in possession of information sufficient to warrant it in coming to a decision, moved for the production of other papers; which Mr. Pitt thought proper to refuse. But Mr. Pitt, in refusing these papers, did not, like the right honourable gentleman opposite, pull from his pocket, or his box, the papers which he refused, and read extracts from them to the house; but in a bold and manly way asked the house, in the absence of information which he did not think himself warranted to grant, to repose in him not a base and servile confidence, but such a fair degree of confidence as a minister who had long acted before them was entitled to expect. The other circumstance to which he alluded, happened in 1801, when some complaints were made of a part of the army not having been properly supplied with provisions; and when in answer to these complaints, a member of that house (Mr. Dundas) attempted to read a letter from 903 sir C. Stuart, he had not proceeded two sentences in that letter, when he was interrupted by Mr. Fox, as in a thing which was altogether irregular. Here then were the two highest authorities of modern times, uniting in support of the general doctrine which he had already laid down. But in opposition to this doctrine, the right hon. secretary had read extracts from papers which were not before the house evidently for the purpose of influencing its decision upon the subject to which they related; and afterwards carried off the papers, part of which he had read, thus putting it out of the power of the house to recur to that evidence upon which its decision was to be grounded. On this conduct he thought it was the duty of the house of commons to put such a mark of censure, as to prevent the practice from being ever in future repeated. And if there was no precedent for what he was about to propose, he reminded the house, that the circumstances also were altogether novel, and on this ground he hoped that it would consider itself warranted in creating a precedent. The practice, if it was not checked, might be productive of the most prejudicial consequences: because it tended to draw the house into a decision, not upon evidence, but upon a simple representation; because it might be converted into an unconstitutional means of influencing the resolutions of the house; and because it went to introduce a new mode of bringing public papers before parliament, different from either of those which had been hitherto practised. There was also a favourite word with the right hon. secretary, namely 'diplomacy,' and upon this part of the public service it could not fail to have the most pernicious influence. Did the right hon. gentleman think that it was matter of indifference to Mr. Garlike, that a part of one of his dispatches should he read; and that the dispatch should afterwards be carried away, before the house was enabled to judge whether it would bear out the representation which had been founded upon it? Such a system, if persevered in, might have the effect of depriving the public of the services of the ablest diplomatic men, by the apprehension which it would impose of their communications and characters not being safe in the hands of a secretary of state. And what servant of the public in that capacity would be secure, if a secretary of state were at liberty to come down and 904 read a part of a letter or a dispatch, and afterwards carry it off in his pocket, without leaving the house in possession of the document by which alone it could judge whether the representation given of it was just or erroneous? There were a variety of ways in which this practice might become prejudicial, not only to the constitution but to the whole code of parliamentary regulations. If it was allowed, it would be impossible to avoid referring to former nights' debates, which at present was not permitted; because there was no necessity for it, when the documents which formed the subject of discussion were upon the table of the house, and therefore might be referred to as often as occasion required. In a constitutional view it was obviously of the most fatal tendency, because it might be converted into an engine of dangerous influence upon the proceedings of the house on the part of the king. The fact, therefore, having happened, it was incumbent upon the house to come to some resolution respecting it which would prevent it from again recurring. There was also another point of view in which the conduct of the right hon. secretary appeared to be highly censurable, namely, in disclosing the secrets of his office, without the command or permission of his sovereign. The great officers of state were bound by law to the most profound secrecy in the exercise of the trust reposed in them, and they could not be absolved from this obligation of secresy, excepting by command of the sovereign. A secretary of state had no more right, of his own accord to disclose the contents of any dispatch with which he was entrusted, than a person picking it up by accident would have to publish it. The interference of the house, therefore, was essentially necessary on the present occasion, as well to mark its disapprobation of the misconduct of one of the servants of the crown in his official capacity, as to secure the regularity of its own proceedings, and the independence of parliament. On these grounds, Mr. Adam concluded with moving the following Resolutions: 1. "That it appears to this house, that one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state did read to this house dispatches, and parts of dispatches, and other communications, to and from the accredited ministers of this country at foreign courts, relative to the subjects of their missions; and that he has stated and read other matters respecting the transactions 905 of this country with foreign powers, none of which were then communicated to this house by his majesty's commands, and some of which this house has determined to be unfit to be produced. 2. That such conduct is subversive of the ancient and approved usages of parliament, is destructive of fair discussion and decision, and has a direct tendency to injure the public interest, by making the resolutions of this house proceed on inaccurate statements, which it cannot correct by reference to the documents from which those statements are made; or to force on the consideration of this house, papers which, in its wisdom, it may deem unfit for public production. And further, That such conduct is contrary to the trust which is reposed by the constitution in the confidential servants of the crown."
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, he rose with more confidence than he expected he should have done. When he considered the profound legal knowledge, the deep parliamentary research, the great experience and the great eloquence of the hon. and learned gent. he feared that he should sink under the combination of all these acquirements. He expected something would have come from the honourable and learned gent. which would have entirely changed the nature of the question. If the hon. and learned gent. was satisfied with his speech, he was no less so; for with whatever confidence he had delivered himself to the house, he could assure him it had entirely relieved him from the doubt and anxieties so natural to a person in his situation. The hon. and learned gent. according to the tactics of accusation, had bestowed great part of his argument to prove that no advantage was to be taken of official situation, and that no information was to be communicated to parliament but in a regular form, either by command of his majesty, or in consequence of an address. If this principle was to be adopted in consequence of the hon. and learned gent.'s motion; if the doctrine was now to be laid down, that no minister was to convey any information, except in that particular form—it would be impossible for the business of the country to go on. Where would the hon. and learned gent. draw the line? Would he say, that to answer a question would be perfectly correct, but to receive voluntary intelligence would be inadmissible? But if communication according to the practice which, he was confident, he would be 906 able to prove before he sat down had existed, were to be made, in what way was it to be done? Should it not be either in the way of summary, or by extract? The reasons for preferring the latter were obvious; and considering the candour with which, on all occasions, he had been treated by the gentlemen on the opposite side, he concluded they would not maintain that the extract was not correctly stated. The hon. and learned gent. complained of the injury which the diplomatic character of some of his friends sustained by withholding some parts of the correspondence, and reading others. But had not that been always the case? In one part of the hon. and learned gent.'s speech he cordially concurred. He joined with him in condemning the practice which had prevailed of late years, of laying, upon every trifling occasion or petty provocation, voluminous and mischievous extracts before parliament. It would afford him the highest satisfaction, if that or any other discussion would have the effect of checking a practice productive of such very great inconvenience. The hon. and learned gent. in the course of his profound parliamentary research, could discover but two instances in which this practice, which he reprobated so severely, had prevailed; and both these, he thinks, are decisive against the practice because the persons who resorted to it met that censure, which it was the object of the hon. gent. to heap upon him. The first was the instance of the duke of Newcastle, who was rebuked for reading an extract from a dispatch. The next instance was that of lord Melville, who was reprimanded by Mr. Fox for an attempt of the same kind. And by whom was he rebuked? Was it by an impartial authority, holding the balance with an even hand, or by a zealous political opponent, engaged in a virulent political war, who would have taken the same advantage of lord Melville. that the hon. gent. sought to take of him? But Mr. Pitt, it was said, abstained from the practice. Now, had the hon. gent. searched the modern records with the same zeal he did the old Parliamentary Journals, he would have found, this unconstitutional, this never-to-be-sufficiently-reprobated practice sanctioned by the authority of that very person. He would produce an instance to shew that Mr. Pitt did not think the practice improper. In the debate which took place in the year 1800, on the overtures to France, the discussion principally turned on the 907 pacific disposition of the administration. On that occasion, Mr. Pitt, in the course of one of the most splendid effusions of eloquence which he had ever poured forth in that house, gave first a general history of the measures of government as far as respected their efforts to obtain peace, and, as a proof of their pacific disposition, did take from his pocket an extract of a dispatch written five years before to the Court of St. Petersburgh, and read it in his place. What was the conduct of Mr. Fox on that occasion? Did he complain that Mr. Pitt violated the duties of his office, and broke in upon the forms of parliament? No: he said that he had never before heard of the application to the court of St. Petersburgh, and that he highly approved of the tone in which the document was written. There was no insinuation here of garbled extracts, for partial purposes. So much for one of the hon. gent.'s instances. But it was not on that occasion only that an extract was read. It occurred in twenty debates during the last war. It might be proper, perhaps, for the hon. gent. to endeavour to draw down the indignation of the house upon him by way of 'experimentum in corpore vili;' and to check a system of which he was not the beginning but the end. He would give the hon. gent. another instance. It was no later than the last year that lord Howick came down to that house, and read, in angry debate, an extract of a letter from a noble friend of his (lord Castlereagh) to lord Cathcart. This letter was taken from among the papers which the hon. gent. was so anxious to impress on the house were state property, and could not be applied, without a gross breach of duty, to private purposes. And yet it was in favour of this noble lord that all these whimpering complaints were made. He was not yet at the end of his instances. In 1804, when Mr. Pitt moved an enquiry into the conduct of the Board of Admiralty, he could recollect, that a right hon. gent. now in his eye (Mr. Tierney) who was not a cabinet minister, came forward and read masses of papers, which never would have come into his possession, in consequence of having any official controul over them. He could also recollect that a great constitutional lawyer (Mr. Adam) upon a motion respecting the grant of a pension to a Scotch judge, did rise in his place and read a long extract from a letter, for the purpose of fixing upon the duke of Portland the stigma of 908 that transaction. A noble friend of his (the marquis of Titchfield) immediately went to Burlington house, and returned before the debate was concluded, with a flat negative to the hon. gent.'s assertion. What did he think of this instance? As to the motions which were rejected on the 3d Feb. not one of them would have brought the letter to which the hon. gent. alluded before the house. That on the 8th certainly would, and that he rejected not on account of the public mischief likely to arise from its production: he refused it, because it was demanded upon a false assumption, namely, that of his having made a charge against lord Howick. He afterwards granted it in his own exculpation, to prove that the extract he read was supported by the context.—He would say a few words, with permission of the house, upon the Resolutions as they applied to him. It was not for him to state what would have been the course for the hon. gent. to have pursued; but he could not help thinking, that it would have been more advisable for him to have adopted a prospective measure, than to have laid down the principle, and then applied it to him. Why did he not follow the example of Mr. Fox, call him to order, and not let him go on in error, when he read this offensive extract? Why did he not take notice of it at the time, aware as he was, by his own confession, of its impropriety, and not come down a month after, and make it a subject of accusation? The hon. gent. in the Resolutions he had moved, laid down, in language more eloquent than accurate, the general principle, and then made a particular deduction from it. He made it a matter of charge and grave accusation, that he (Mr. C.) attempted to persuade the house to refuse a paper, an extract from which he had read, But did not the house refuse it, and was not the guilt therefore, if there was any, chargeable upon the house? The hon. gent. deduced also as a corollary from the premises in the first Resolution, that he had committed a breach of trust. If he had done so, he could not be prosecuted with too much vindictiveness. He would deserve those rebukes which the duke of Newcastle received from lord Lechmere, and lord Melville from Mr. Fox. When Mr. Pitt read the dispatch sent to St. Petersburgh, when lord Howick read the letter of his noble friend to lord Cathcart, when another right hon. gent. read volumes of extracts from the records and 909 correspondence of the Admiralty, there was no question on these occasions of breach of trust. But to this charge of breach of trust and violation of official duty, he would reply, that ministers had his majesty's confidence each in their several departments, and that that confidence implied they were to exercise their discretion either in using or withholding, except in consequence of his command or an address, any correspondence in their respective offices. If documents were to be produced on every occasion; if no information was to be communicated but in the manner stated by the hon. gent.; the business of parliament, and of this great, prosperous, and happy country, must stand still.—The right hon. secretary then stated, that as a high criminal charge was preferred against him, he should withdraw, and throw himself upon the judgment of the house. He withdrew accordingly, amidst loud cries of "question, question."
§ Mr. Windham
and Mr. Whitbread contended, that this was not a case when it was necessary for the right hon. secretary to withdraw, and appealed to the authority of the chair.
§ The Speaker
said, that he had looked into precedents on this point, and found that the uniform custom on such occasions was for the person accused to withdraw.
§ Mr. Windham
lamented, that the circumstance of the right hon. secretary having withdrawn from the house, prevented him from answering as fully the arguments of that right hon. gent. as he should have felt himself bound to do if he had been present: He then proceeded to touch lightly on the different precedents, as they were called, which the right hon. secretary had called in to his aid; and maintained, that not one of them was such as could bear out that right hon. gent. in the inferences which he had drawn from them. From the rarity of those instances which that right hon. gent. could, with the utmost stretch of his ingenuity, suppose to be at all analogous, it was pretty evident that, at least, such was not the general practice of parliament. But, putting all question of authority or precedent aside, the right hon. gent. said, Would it be argued that, in no case whatever, a person who was in an official situation, should make any communication to that house, of what came to his knowledge, in his public capacity as a servant of the crown? The fact was, that his hon. and learned friend who made the motion, said 910 no such thing: he only went so far as to say, that no minister ought to be suffered to read, at his own pleasure, such partial extracts from official documents as might tend to mislead the judgment, and give a wrong turn to the decision of that house. But then, said the right hon. secretary, 'It is difficult to know where to draw a precise line in such cases.' Even so: admitting that, was it to be said, that for that reason we were to have no line at all? was it to be said, that because, in a case where there was obviously no mischief to be apprehended, a practice something like this was suffered to pass without any formal reprobation on the journals, and with only a slight personal censure; was that a reason why we should allow the practice to prevail unnoticed, to the most unlimited extent that any person in office might think fit? It was one thing to place confidence in his majesty's ministers collectively; or in any one giving information, either when called upon in that house, or when ordered officially to do so by his majesty; but it was another, and a very different line of conduct, for one of his majesty's ministers to ransack the archives of his office, for the purpose of finding out such documents as might be serviceable to him; to pick out what scraps he pleased, and read them when he thought proper, and in what manner he thought proper, with a view to a personal triumph in debate; and afterwards to refuse the house an opportunity of reading those documents and judging for themselves, when they were told, from high authority, that a false colour was given to them by that partial reading. The house owed it to the character of lord Howick, and to the character of Mr. Garlike, to express its disapprobation of such conduct in the present instance.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
concurred in every principle and sentiment that had been laid down by his right hon. friend, and did not hesitate to declare, that of all the charges and accusations he had ever heard, none appeared to him to have so little foundation in argument or precedent as that now made against his right hon. friend. His hon. and learned friend had alluded to the profession he had formerly followed, and he would now answer him in the language of that profession, that all his arguments went only to open a non-suit, and that every step he advanced, the deeper he laboured to involve himself in difficulties. The charge now stated in the 911 resolutions, was not that the dispatch was garbled, but the objection was to the shape in which it appeared, that of an extract. Yet was not every communication made to the house uniformly made in that shape? The same objections would lay to any other extract, even that of a private letter which any member might choose to react as a part of his speech.
§ Mr. Whitbread
declared that he lamented the absence of the right hon. secretary on his own account; as he was, owing to that, deprived of the pleasure of witnessing the change in the conduct of his right hon. friend (the chancellor of the exchequer) towards him since the 8th of Feb. when he (Mr. Canning) was entirely deserted, not only by that right hon. and learned gent. but by all his colleagues. The right hon. gent. might have gone away satisfied in some degree with the effect of his own lively speech; that speech, however, he must confess, had made no impression on his mind.
said, the arguments urged by his two right hon. friends were so extremely forcible and convincing, that he should only say a very few words. He then went over his former argument, that his right hon. friend had refused the motion of the 8th of Feb. for those papers, because he had been charged with reacting them for a purpose which he disclaimed; and the noble lord thought if the motion was agreed to, it would so bind the house up, that it would be next to impossible to read any information to the house. He should therefore support the amendment, and vote for the order of the day.
§ Mr. Sturges Bourne
was sorry, that in all arguments of this kind a great deal of party spirit and party animosity was too often introduced. In the instance he was about to introduce, he declared he did not mean to impute any blame to the noble lord for having done as he did; but as so much stress had been laid on reading extracts of dispatches by the other side of the house, he could not help mentioning a case of that nature which happened not a year ago. At that time a change of ministry having recently taken place, lord Howick, in the absence of ministers, who were then in the country attending their elections, had produced, and read to the house, an extract from an official document, made on the subject of a private interview between his sovereign and himself. He repeated that he did not men- 912 tion it as a matter of blame in the noble lord. He might have the leave of his majesty to read it, but it was certainly a case very strongly in point on the present occasion.
§ Mr. Adam.
—Sir; it is now my privilege to rise in reply; and considering the manner in which this subject has been treated by gentlemen on the other side of the house, and particularly by they right hon. gent. who has left the house, I have no doubt but that I shall be heard with attention.—I have to regret, from the very bottom of my heart, that the right hon. gent. has thought it proper to retire before he heard my answer to some of his statements, because I detest the idea of saving behind a man's back, that which affects himself personally. But he is the cause of this, and not me. I must desire his friends who remain to report to him, and to state the positive contradiction which I am about to give to a matter which he stated respecting myself. Which I shall do, I can assure you, sir, much as I feel the injury of his misrepresentation, in language perfectly parliamentary. Sir, I must begin with this, because I am determined to set myself right, not only from the misrepresentation of the fact, but from being supposed capable of having accused another of a transgression which I had myself committed. The right hon. gent. was pleased to say, that I had myself, on a former occasion, transgressed the usage which I now contend for in the motion I have now made. The right hon. gent. chose to introduce this with a despicable witticism. "A pension during pleasure (he said) oh, no, it was not, it was the profit, not the pleasure, that the learned gent. who made this motion, looked to."Sir, I challenge him, or any other man, to cite an instance, in my life, that could serve to justify any unworthy insinuation on that score, or that can warrant a charge on my independence. That right hon. gent. may look to profit and power, and insinuate against others, what he feels in himself. But I will not permit him to charge me with such motives of action. But, to return to the subject, sir, the representation which has been made by the right hon. gent. respecting my conduct about lord Cullen's pension, is not supported by the fact. A fact which passed in the presence of the house and of which I have the most perfect recollection. The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer, in moving the finance committee, threw out, most injuriously, some reflections 913 against the late ministers for pensions granted in Scotland. I was ill at the time, and did not hear him. But lord Howick communicated it to me, saying, the only unpleasant thing was a pension said to be granted to a judge during pleasure; and wished me, as probably acquainted with the transaction, from my connection with that part of the country, to give an account of it. In consequence of that, I moved for the pension warrants to be laid on the table. In making that motion, I stated, certainly, though I say it of myself, in a manner to create no irritation or debate, the circumstances which gave rise to the proposed pension; and, in doing so, it was a necessary part of my narrative to state, that a noble duke, now at the head of his majesty's government, proposed to obtain that pension for the learned judge. A noble lord, nearly connected with the duke of Portland, who was present at the statement, without leaving the house, rose and said, that he was authorised to deny that the duke of Portland had ever had any intention to grant a pension to that learned judge. He had, indeed, once thought of obtaining a small pension to the lady of the judge, but that he had abandoned. I had occasion to rise in reply, and to vindicate the truth of my original assertion, which was positively contradicted by the noble marquis (lord Titchfield); and not thinking it sufficient, and it would not have been sufficient, to set my assertion against the other, I read from a note of the learned judge, written after an interview with the duke of Portland, a statement, that he had seen the duke, had made him master of all the circumstances, and that his grace desired to see me on the subject of his (the learned judge's) pension. This is the real state of the case, it passed in the presence of you, sir, and the house, and I defy it to be contradicted. I ask, then, sir, if this bears any, the least resemblance, to what was stated by the right hon. gent. and whether he has not completely misrepresented the fact? I ask if this reading a private note, is like a minister reading public dispatches—if reading it to induce the house to grant a paper or warrant, is like a minister reading dispatches, to influence the vote of this house, and to make a part of his own defence, and which he does not lay upon the table? But, sir, I did not even do what I here suppose. I did not read any note or letter; in the first instance, I read it in answer to an allegation, made in contradiction to my statement, to 914 prove the fact to be as I stated it, and which did prove it to be so. But the right. hon. gent. is not only so much mistaken in his fact, that it cannot aid; but he has shewn in the statement of it, such a determination to misrepresent, that I cannot hesitate now to say, that there is good reason to believe, from his having misrepresented this fact, that he did garble the documents which he read on the 3rd of Feb. So that, this is not only a case which does not aid his defence, but it is a case in which he has been guilty of absolute misrepresentation, and which affords the strongest reason to conclude, that his conduct has been that which it has been charged to have been, when he read the dispatches. I trust, sir, that by this statement, I have clearly destroyed the authority of the case derived from my own conduct.—Let us see now, sir, how his other case stands—he tells us that Mr. Pitt, when charged by Mr. Fox, did the same thing, and for some purpose he states, that I have represented Mr. Pitt's character in glowing colours, and have not, I suppose he means, spoken in the same terms of Mr. Fox. Sir, I spoke of Mr. Pitt, as I felt on the occasion to which I was referring, and speaking, of a great man, who is no more, with whom I never had any political connection, but constant political difference, I think I did right to speak of his character and conduct as I felt it; the occasion being one of strict adherence to constitutional ground. But sir, with Mr. Fox, I not only always acted, but I lived with him in habits of the closest intimacy and friendship. I feel, in praising Mr. Fox, the sort of indelicacy that belongs to praising publicly, a person closely connected and belonging as it were to oneself. It is not that I do not hold the character of that great man and most illustrious senator, above all those of his time; it is not that I do not daily lament his loss; but that it is unnecessary and almost unfit, that I should detail those sentiments to the house.—But, sir, with respect to the case cited to justify the act of the right hon. secretary, which my motion calls in question, I deny that it has the least influence in justifying his conduct. The right hon. secretary did on the 3rd of Feb., take from his box a great many dispatches on different subjects, and read them to the house in part, put them back into the box, and thus influenced the decision of the house by them, and refused to let the house have them as evidence or documents, exa- 915 mine whether he stated correctly, what was contained in them. But what was the case which he cited? Mr. Fox accused Mr. Pitt of not having had pacific dispositions; Mr. Pitt, in reply, says, I had pacific dispositions, and to prove it, he takes from his pocket a dispatch nine years old, and reads it to satisfy Mr. Fox, who had made a personal charge against Mr. Pitt's inclinations to peace, which Mr. Fox says, he is sorry he had not made public earlier. Now is this in the least like the case in question? Mr. P. was not required to lay the paper on the table; Mr. P. was not influencing the decisions of the house by the paper; but he was satisfying an individual objection to the pacific character of his administration, and to confirm his assertion, he read the dispatch of nine years old, and he read it throughout; how can this be compared with the conduct to which my motion refers? Does this drive me from the principle stated by Mr. Pitt in 1792? quite the reverse, it leaves his conduct and the principle I contend for quite untouched. Why did not the right hon. gent. follow it? why, because his previous misconduct and misrepresentation had made it quite impossible for him to rest on constitutional ground, and to comply with the usages of parliament. Be had published a declaration, in which he made his majesty tell all Europe, that the affair of Copenhagen was justified by the secret article of the treaty of Tilsit—so it stands in the first declaration—in the second declaration respecting Russia, the talk of secret arrangements at Tilsit, as justifying their measure—hut in his majesty's speech they drop these justifications entirely, and they call it a painful—(not a just—the usual expression)—but a painful and necessary measure. It was incumbent upon them to answer all this in parliament; they had publicly declared the ground on which they had attacked Copenhagen, and they had declared false ground—they could not have recourse to Mr. Pitt's constitutional defence in 1792—he had made no false declarations to embarrass him, therefore when he refused papers he desired the house to confide in him, that there were secrets of state, the disclosure of which would injure the public—that he required not a base and servile, but an honourable and constitutional confidence. But the conduct of the right hon. gent by his previous unfounded justification had deprived him of all right to confidence, and of all means of using it—that consti- 916 tutional argument for secrecy. He must refuse the papers, and the only ground he had for inducing the house to agree with him was, to state parts of those very papers which he refused. Sir, the manner in which the right hon. gent. has attacked me in defending himself makes it necessary for me to state, the truth.—[A laugh from the government benches.]— Sir, if I have committed a lapsus linguœ in the hurry of speaking, it argues no folly in the person speaking, whatever folly may be attached to those who raise the laugh. Sir, I have in my motions and in my opening stated nothing but truth, but I stated it in temperate and civil language.—I said nothing vindictive or personal, and I have put no coarse expression in the motion. But the vindictive spirit of the defence, and my being falsely accused of a vindictive spirit, entitles me to say now with truth, that he did garble the dispatches which he read, and that having assigned false causes for his attack on Copenhagen, he could not refuse information on the ground of confidence, but was obliged to have recourse to garble the dispatches, which he read to this house. The gentlemen on the other side say, that the cases I quoted do not bear me out, and that as no motion was made on them, that it proves there was nothing irregular done, and that Mr. Fox, being a political enemy of lord Melville, his reprimand is no authority. Sir, I deny the accuracy of this reasoning—the cases to be found are but two—they are slight transgressions, compared to that which I am now censuring, and the mere notice was thought sufficient to check them. But what was the conduct to which my motions refer?—A secretary of state for three hours together, taking from his box state paper after state paper, reading them partially, commenting upon them, and replacing them in his box, and thereby influencing debate and decision—refusing, and prevailing on the house to refuse, information by these very statements, on which he rested his case. Was this like the transaction in 1725? The duke of Newcastle stated but a short passage, and that was objected to, as contrary to. parliamentary usage.—Lord Melville read but a passage, and that was immediately objected to—but it was objected to by his political enemy, Mr. Fox. I ask, in answer, was it justified by his political friend Mr. Pitt? No, never —It therefore remains a reprobated and an unjustified transgression. I am 917 accused, sir, by the hon. gent. who spoke last, with having myself committed a most violent offence against order, by having introduced a question with reference to a former debate, at the distance of a month. Sir, I have done no such thing. Your attention to the orders of this house would have checked me if I had done so. My motion is founded upon what appears on the journals of the 8th of Feb. On that day a motion was made, and the question being put, "That an humble address be presented to his maj. that he will be graciously pleased to give directions, that there be laid before this house a copy of the dispatch from lord visc. Howick to Mr. Garlike, dated London Dec. 3, 1806, an extract from which was read by Mr. secretary Canning in his place in this house on Wednesday last, and the Answer of Mr. Garlike thereto," it passed in the negative. 'Resolved, that an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions, that there be laid before this house copy of the Note delivered by Mr. Rist to lord viscount Howick, relative to the Order in Council of January 7, 1807, and the Answer thereto, extracts from which were read by Mr. Secretary Canning in his place in this house on Wednesday last.' 'Ordered, That the said address be presented to his majesty by such members of this house as are of his majesty's most honourable privy council,'—These entries are unparalleled in the history of parliament. I will venture to say, that it is the first time that any such entry appears; they establish, if allowed to stand unobserved upon, that a secretary of state read parts of dispatches, and did not deliver them in—they do not appear to be before us, in either of the legitimate modes by which we get state papers; they have not been laid, by the command of the king, and one set of them is refused to be addressed for by this house on the 8th. They are produced since on the motion of the secretary of state himself, on the 26th, and he who had before refused them, for reasons of state safety, now moved for their production for self defence. Where then is his ground for charging me with a disorderly proceeding? But, sir, the gentleman is equally unfortunate in his precedent, which has produced so much solemnity; indeed I am astonished, how he and those connected with him should have the boldness to allude to that transaction, considering that 918 some among them are guilty of the greatest violation of the constitution that ever was committed, by their conduct on that occasion. I mean the reference to the conduct of lord Grey on the change of administration, who is charged with having done what I charged the right hon. secretary to have done, by stating the minute of cabinet which took place at the change of administration. Has the hon. gent. and those near him, forgot that there is a news-paper called the Morning Post, that that minute had been previously published in that newspaper in a garbled state; who furnished that garbled minute to the Morning Post? perhaps the right hon. secretary can tell this, and if he can, shall we hesitate to be convinced that he is himself the reader of garbled extracts. But, sir, lord Grey stated here, that he acted by the permission of the king. What he stated (for he read nothing) was by his majesty's permission to counteract a newspaper misrepresentation, and not to influence decision; to set himself and his colleagues right in the eyes of this house; and it seems most extraordinary that a case thus circumstanced should be cited, as having any bearing on this case, when papers were read for hours together without any authority to read them, in order to influence debate and decision.—Now, sir, I insist that the conduct of the right honourable secretary, which I call in question, is against the usage of parliament—that this is proved by its never appearing to have been the practice of the house, and by its being checked each time on the occasions on which it was done. As to modern practice, whatever it may be, I care not, because, I deny that that justifies the practice, or defeats the ancient usage, founded on the principles that formed the common law of the country, the practice of the house, and the acquiescence of the people; and, I contend that my doctrine is confirmed and established by the entries of the 8th of Feb. which I have read to the house, being the only entries of the sort to be found on your journals. Had it been otherwise, there must have been hundreds of the same sort. It is to check this practice that I have moved these resolutions, the wording of which the right hon. secretary. has chosen to criticize. As to his insignificant grammatical observation, I certainly shall not waste the time of the house by entering on them. But as to their substance and object, my meaning 919 was this, and I contend that I have executed it—to resolve the fact in the first, and draw the conclusion in the second. The right hon. gentleman has retired, because they criminate him: and you, sir, have sanctioned his act. I can only say what my meaning was. I will not assert that; in nice construction, the latter part of the second resolution may not be connected with the fact stated in the beginning of the first, namely, that the secretary of state being charged with having done the thing, the offence may not be referred to him personally, stated at the end of the second resolution. But my meaning was, by using the words 'confidential servants of the crown,' to make it a general proposition as to all, and not a breach of trust by one, as my object was a general resolution to prevent the grievance in future. Sir, I am now, notwithstanding the tone in which this has been taken up, perfectly satisfied that I have discharged a most important duty in bringing this most important question of the law and constitution of parliament into discussion; both to counteract the entries on the journals, and to check a course of proceeding which places the means of swaying the decisions and acts of this house, by misrepresenting facts, and withholding the evidence of them intirely in the hands of the ministers of the crown. If this object is obtained I am satisfied, and I am confident that in future what has been done now will put a stop to any such proceeding hereafter; and that in our time at least, no minister will dare to do what was done on the third of Feb. last. That being my conviction, I have no desire to take the sense of the house at this late hour, and after this very fatiguing week, upon the question. It is sufficient for me that it remains on record that I have interfered to check this most injurious and unconstitutional practice.
The house then divided upon the motion for the previous question, Ayes, 168; Noes, 67; Majority, 101.—While the Minority were in the lobby, Mr. Ponsonby addressed them. He observed, that the order or the day, relative to the Orders in Council Bill, was yet to be disposed of. He supposed that ministers would not attempt to bring forward such a question at so late an hour. But if they would go into it, he hoped gentlemen would remain, and convince the chancellor of the exchequer that they could stay up as well as he or his colleagues. [A cry of hear! hear!]