§ Upon Mr. C. Wynn rising to move the resumption of the debate upon the subject of general Clavering,
§ The Speaker
took occasion to observe, that he had received a letter from that officer, asserting his innocence, and expressing his readiness to submit to the jurisdiction of the house, which letter the right hon. gent, added, he would read if called upon to do so.
§ Mr. C. W. Wynn
could not conceive such a proceeding regular in this instance, as he had not so considered with regard to the Letter of the Duke of York, which he had intended to make the subject of a specific motion. This intention, however, he was now induced to wave, in consequence of what had occurred since he gave his notice. The house having resolved, that after the resignation of the Duke of York, it was unnecessary to take any further proceeding relative to his case, and the right honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer having explained, that the most objectionable passage in the Letter alluded to, was hot designed to convey the meaning imputed to it, and which it appeared to him and his friends to import; but still more, understanding that this objectionable passage was suggested from another quarter, and inserted in the Letter against his royal highness's own judgment, he was induced to abandon his intended motion. But With 773 respect to the question which stood for the order of the day, he felt it his duty to bring it forward. It was now before the house, and it was for its consideration to dispose of it as it thought proper.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was glad to find that the hon. gent. had abandoned the notice he referred to; at the same time, adding that he was perfectly ready to meet the discussion. As to the explanation mentioned by the hon. gent, as made by him, that, in fact, was stated to the house before the hon. gent. gave his notice, and, therefore, if that explanation were a reason for abandoning the notice, it was also a reason for not giving it at all. He knew nothing of the means of information upon which the hon. gent. grounded his statement respecting any particular paragraph in the Letter alluded to. Certainly, no such information came from him; but from whatever source it was derived, was immaterial to the main question, for there was not a single position in that Letter which he was not fully prepared to maintain, as conformable to a due regard for the principles of the constitution, and a perfect respect for the privileges of that house, as well as a proper solicitude for the ends of public justice. Therefore, to whomsoever the Letter was imputed, it was not to be imputed as matter of blame, as there was nothing blame able in it.
§ Mr. Whitbread
still retained the opinion he had before expressed upon the subject of this Letter, namely, that it was highly unconstitutional and derogatory to the privileges of that house. But yet he felt that it was very natural in the right hon. gent, to entertain a contrary sentiment, as lie was stated to be a principal party in the authorship of that Letter. Indeed, if his information was correct, that really was the case: and, therefore, it was only the author defending his own production. The right hon. gentleman's readiness to maintain every position in the objectionable part of the Letter was easily to be accounted for; but still he must say, that the right hon. gent. did not appear, from such readiness, to have a right understanding of the principles of the constitution, or the privileges of that house. It was to be recollected, that the right hon. gent, had explained twice relative to this Letter, and he rather thought that it was the second explanation which formed one of the grounds stated by his hon. friend for abandoning his notice, and which explanation was made after the no- 774 tice was given. He was surprised at the manner in which the right lion. gent. thought proper to allude to his hon. friend's abandonment of his notice. Such manner was certainly not discreet, yet he should be sorry if his hon. friend were provoked by that conduct to revive the discussion. Enough had been said about this Letter to mark the general sentiment with regard to the character of this Letter, and to prevent, he hoped, the recurrence of any similar attack upon the privileges of that house.
§ Mr. C. Wynn
declared that he did not abandon his notice from any change whatever in his opinion as to the unconstitutional character of this Letter, but solely upon the grounds he had stated.
said, that such was his opinion of the Letter alluded to, that were he in the house when it was read, he would have opposed the motion for laying it on the table. At the same time, he saw no reason now for renewing the discussion of its merits, as it had been sufficiently Ob-served upon.
The motion being put for resuming the debate, relative to general Clavering.
Lord J. Campbell
moved an Amendment, that the debate should be deferred, till Tuesday, upon the ground that there were some members absent at the Assizes, who had particularly considered this case, and who wished to deliver their sentiments upon it, and to this amendment he hoped the hon. mover would have no objection.
§ Mr. Whitbread
thought the grounds stated quite inadequate, as the absence of particular members might at any time be urged for postponing a debate; therefore, however he regretted the necessity of resisting any proposition coming from the noble lord, he should certainly oppose the Amendment. He was sorry to see any individual in the situation in which general Clavering had placed himself; but he should be still more sorry to see that house neglect its duty, or expose its character to the imputation of wishing to screen any person from condign punishment.
§ Mr. Ellison
followed on the same side, observing, that when the situation of Sandon was considered, to allow any farther delay in deciding upon tins case before the house, would not be consistent with the principle of impartial justice.
§ Sir M. Ridley
begged gentlemen to consider the peculiar situation of general Clavering, whose character and prospects were so deeply involved. When the meanest 775 individual was accused in any court in the country, he was allowed the aid of counsel to plead his cause, and that was all applied for in this instance.—The learned gentlemen who had examined general Clavering's case, and prepared to speak their minds upon it, being out of town, he only requested the indulgence of a few days to wait their return. When it was recollected that none of the postponements which had already taken place upon this business was solicited by general Clavering or any of his friends, he hoped this single application would not be rejected. This officer continued to declare before God and his country, and he believed the truth of his assertions, that he was totally innocent of any intentional prevarication, but that his incorrectness, which he admitted, was the effect of inaccurate recollection, and a misconception of the questions put to him. Under those, combined with the death of a near relation, which aggravated the sufferings of general Clavering, he submitted to the feelings of the house, whether the Amendment ought not to be acceded to.
§ Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, he really felt himself called upon to set the lion, baronet light upon a matter of fact. Any delay that had arisen had not been occasioned by him, for it was much his wish to have brought it forward sooner than what the house was inclined to do. He thought the house did not really consult its own dignity by such frequent postponements, for he deemed it their duty to act. with severity to any person who prevaricated, cither before a committee of the whole house, or a committee above stairs; and it was even of the utmost utility to inflict the requisite punishment immediately, and with promptness. It was to be treated as a contempt of the house. In the present case, the only clause of delay was, that gentlemen thought they had not had a sufficient opportunity of considering the evidence which general Clavering gave upon a former day, and latterly it was thought proper to postpone it till the other question was determined, and the papers printed. It appeared, therefore, that the matter was entirely taken out of his hands; and it was for the house to determine, whether or not it was consistent with their dignity to take it up now, when the opportunity was offered; for it was not a matter that could admit of postponement, on account of additional testimony, as was required.
§ Sir M. Ridley,
in explanation, said, he 776 only meant that general Clavering's friend should be present at the discussion, but not as a witness to be examined.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
allowed that the postponements which had already taken place were by no means imputable to the hon. gentleman. He maintained, however, that the grounds which had been stated by the noble lord were sufficient to induce the house to consent to the postponement proposed. He did not think it would be well that it should go forth to the public, that such a cause for delay as the absence of individuals, whose evidence was necessary to the accused, should be stated in that house and overruled.
§ Mr. Whitbread
denied that it was the absence of witnesses: it was the absence of members. The absence of witnesses would have been a very different consideration.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, in explanation, that he understood the duke of Argyle was to have been called to the bar, to give testimony in favour of general Clavering, but as no witness was meant to be called, his observation fell to the ground.
§ The Speaker
said, that in his view of this subject the offence was of the nature of a contempt of court, and consequently no testimony could be usefully heard. They were not in their proceedings to follow the rules of any inferior court.
§ Mr. S. Lefevre
trusted the house would defend its own character, by dealing out impartial justice to all witnesses who gave evidence at its bar, and that would go a great way towards disposing of the Amendment for the purpose of delay. As to the idea of many members being likely to be present on Tuesday, who were absent now, he hardly thought there was much in that expectation; he saw no reason the house should not decide the question now, as well as on Tuesday next. He was as anxious, and had, perhaps, as much reason to be anxious as any member of that house, to go out of town, having a great deal to do at the Quarter Sessions. But he must perform his public duty in the house of commons, before he attended to any thing else; and he could not, consistently with his notion of that duty, assent to postponing the present subject to Tuesday next, because lie believed that was a mere prelude to postponing it to the next session, and then for ever. One witness was already sent to 777 Newgate, and had been there some time. He did not mean to inquire into the hardships of his situation, but they were not more than another should endure if he deserved them as much. Equal justice was at all events what he should vote for, and he did not think he went further than he ought, when he took leave to thank the hon. member who brought this subject forward.
§ Mr. W. Smith
would have assented to the motion for the delay of this matter, if he saw any advantage likely to result to general Clavering by so doing; but as to his wailing for the purpose of being defended by lawyers, he considered that the general's reputation lost nothing by being refused a delay that could afford him nothing better than that species of defence. Nevertheless, as this was the only application for postponement made on behalf of the party accused, he did not feel disposed to refuse it. General Clavering certainly stood in a most painful situation; and he should think he was one that would, of himself, wish it to be speedily terminated. If the ends of substantial justice, or the dignity of the house, stood in the way, he certainly should not urge a postponement; but that not being the case, he was not disposed to be harsh towards the individual.
§ Sir John Newport
said, he could not understand why substantial justice could not be done now, instead of delaying it to a period when the house would be much thinner, for by Tuesday next many persons would have left town. He approved of its coming on now, for otherwise it might be shifted, and not come on at all, and, in the eyes of the public, the justice of the house must suffer by any postponement. During the interval of the previous postponements, it was well known that another person, erring in a similar manner with general Claveriug, had been treated as captain Sandon had been, and therefore he wished the country not to suppose they were inclined to favour that officer, on account of his superior rank or connections. He was very far from wishing to press this matter harshly, on account of the respectable family, with whom general Clavering was connected; but that officer having unfortunately placed himself in his present situation, impartial justice surely demanded that he should be treated as captain Sandon had been.
The Secretary at War
would not argue 778 the point, but saw a great deal of difference between the case of general Clavering, and that of captain Sandon; the latter was an obstinate adherent to a denial of the truth. As to the case of general Clavering, he would not now say whether it was right or wrong, but certainly it was a very different case from that of captain Sandon.
§ Mr. R. Dundas
thought, that, whatever intimation might have been formally given some time ago, that this motion was to be brought forward, it was clear, from the thinness of the attendance, the house in general did not anticipate this discussion tonight, and that perhaps might be a consideration for postponing this subject.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
thought the present subject one in which there ought to be as little delay as possible, and he could not help remarking, that this measure had been already before the house once or twice, and that the house would convey to the public no very favourable specimen of its readiness to perform its duty, by delaying this subject even to a day so early as Tuesday-next, a point which he recommended to the consideration of the house, and as a matter not unconnected with its dignity. As to the idea of waiting for a fuller house, he saw no reason to give way, because he thought it impossible for the house, in any state of attendance of its members, to have any difficulty on this subject, and therefore the hon. gentleman was justified in bringing it forward in a thin house. Whether general Clavering was guilty of that which was imputed to him or not, the house should not decide the question on any little shift, and he was perfectly sure, that if the equity of the case was with him, the house would lake pleasure in deciding in. favour of general Clavering; but he must repeat, that in this case, he really thought that tile dignity of the house was at stake, and unless he heard much better reasons than any that had hitherto been assigned for the delay of this subject, he must vote for deciding it now.
The question was put, and carried for determining the matter now.
§ Mr. C W. Wynn
declined recapitulating the evidence which general Clavering gale before the committee of the whole house, when he came as a volunteer for the avowed purpose of contradicting the testimony of Mrs. Clarke, on the subject of the Inquiry into the Conduct of his royal highness the Duke of York; that he said, was in the recollection of the house; it needed no 779 repetition. It was for the house, according to its own sense of justice, to determine. He therefore now moved; "That brigadier general Clavering, in the Evidence given by him before the committee of the whole house, who were appointed to investigate the Conduct of his royal highness the Duke of York, the Commander in Chief, with regard to Promotions, Exchanges, and Appointments to Commissions in the Army, and Staff of the Army, and in raising Levies for the Army, has been guilty of prevarication."
§ Sir M. Ridley
rose and re-asserted the innocence of that officer, as to the charge conveyed in the motion, although he admitted his incorrectness in some points, owing to the imperfection of his understanding. Was such incorrectness, he would ask, any matter of astonishment, or to be regarded as improbable, when the embarrassment of other and intelligent witnesses was taken into account; when it was considered that even the honourable mover of the inquiry himself, competent as his capacity was, and fully prepared as his mind must have been, for any examination, was yet so confused, that he did not remember what had happened even within 24 hours immediately preceding, with respect to the number of times he had seen Mrs. Clarke. Now, he put it to the house, whether if cross examination could produce such an instance of confusion in a man of ability, what was to be expected on the part of a person so reared and educated as general Clavering had been; so unaccustomed to interrogation or public speaking as he must be naturally supposed. General Clavering was perfectly aware of the power of the house, and, of course, willing to submit with all humility to its decision. But yet, whatever that decision might be, which acknowledging his fault as he did most sincerely, would, he hoped, be tempered with mercy, he trusted to his conscious innocence, and that the opinion of a just and generous public would save his character from suffering; that it would acquit him, at least, of any intentional guilt.
argued, that it was no reason at all why the house should not take immediate cognizance of this prevarication, because some other member wished to speak upon the subject, who was necessarily absent, or that some evidence was to be brought forward: no additional evidence was necessary. He could not conceive why general Clavering should not be 780 sent to Newgate, in the same manner as captain Sandon had been. It had been argued, that it could not be supposed a person of such respectable birth, high rank, and good education, as general Clavering, could be guilty of prevarication; but in his opinion, these were circumstances which only aggravated his offence, and ought to subject him to greater severity of punishment. He was sorry that a gentleman, descended from a respectable family, should have subjected himself and that family to have their feelings hurt, by a discussion of this sort. With respect to the family with whom general Clavering was connected, he had been always taught to look up to them with the greatest respect; but he could not be led on that account to compromise such a question at this, even although they were one of the most noble families of Great Britain. There was, however, no risk of the honour of that family being tarnished by the misconduct of one individual. What the house had done it must do again. Captain Sandon had been sent to Newgate, although he declared his misrepresentations proceeded not from a bad heart, but from a bad head. General Clavering now said the same thing; but why admit that apology in the one evidence, and not in the other? The connection, education, and rank of the latter, ail made against him. Captain Sandon was an unwilling witness, who had been forced to the bar of that house, but general Clavering was a man volunteered to falsify, the evidence of another witness, who was absolutely his benefactress. These were aggravating circumstances. He had heard a great deal of general Clavering's honour. But where, he would ask, was the honour of a general officer, in offering a thousand pounds to a whore, to purchase promotion? What would the public say to them, if, after so many postponements of this question, and after committing captain Sandon to Newgale, they allowed general Clavering to escape? It might appear to the public, that the house wished by postponing this question, to get clear of it altogether. They might say, with King Lear,'Through tattered clothes small vices do appear, 'Robes and fur gowns hide all.'
§ Mr. Whitbread.
—Sir, I am not in that situation in which the hon. gentleman has described himself to be with respect to his personal knowledge of general Clavering, to whom I had the honour of being introduced many years ago. When I first 781 heard that letter read, in which, he requested to give his testimony at the bar of this house, I certainly did anticipate some very important and authentic information; for I could not suppose it possible that from a general officer of high family connections and respectability, any thing could be offered at the bar of this house but truth and candour. I was disposed to give implicit credit to general Clavering. Having stated the prepossession which I felt at that time, I think it necessary to explain the grounds on which I shall give my vote this night, oil a subject which is, I well know, painful to the feelings of every One. I must; however, in the first place remark, that I think the hon. bart. (Sir M. W. Ridley) has been not a little hard on my hon. friend (Mr. Wardle), on whom, without endeavouring to exculpate general Clavering, he commences a direct attack. Now, Sir, if the hon. baronet thinks it proper to make the testimony of my hon. friend the subject of attack, I shall be ready to meet him on that point at any moment. Let the hon. baronet bring forward a specific motion, and I shall feel no difficulty in giving my sentiments on it: but I think it must be clear to the whole house, that there is a striking and important distinction between the deliberate testimony of general Clavering, and the sudden unpremeditated examination of my hon. friend, to whom no conceivable motive can be imputed for wishing to conceal the truth, or to evade the disclosure of all that he knew. I must say, that this mode of attack, by insinuation—this throwing out accusations, is unfair. If there be any intention of attacking my hon. friend, let the attack be open; Jet the charge be definite; that it may be known of what lie is accused: to that I have not the least objection. What is the fact, Sir? General Clavering, it is now apparent, had a motive for the extraordinary testimony which he gave; that motive, Sir, was an anxiety to invalidate the testimony of the principal witness brought forward to prove the Charges against the Duke of York. Gen. Clavering came forward voluntarily as a witness, with a design, by overthrowing that testimony, to exculpate the Duke of York—and also to exculpate himself from the saspicion of having trafficked or tampered in the disposal of military promotions —and, as a voluntary witness, he must be treated. How does he appear, according to his own account, at a subsequent exami- 782 nation? As a voluntary witness—colluding with Mr. Lowten—he himself first states by letter, that he came a voluntary witness—then, that he assumed that character, in pursuance of the advice of Mr. Lowten, who told him that it would be to his advantage to appear to be a voluntary witness. He tells you, that in the first letter which he wrote, Mr. Lowten's name was mentioned, but that it was expunged at the instance of Mr. Lowten, who said it was proper that he should appear to come without instigation. This Mr. Lowten expressly contradicts. The hon. baronet says he can bring witnesses to shew that Mr. Lowten was in an error in what he stated; but in whichever way you put it, whether you believe general Clavering, who admits himself to have colluded with Mr. Lowten—or whether you believe Mr. Lowten; certain it is to demonstration, that general Clavering gave a false account at the bar. And this, I apprehend, is a complete dilemma, from which it is beyond the power and abilities of the hon. baronet to extricate general Clavering. This gentleman is summoned to the bar of this house by his own express desire; and the whole tenor of his evidence has for its object the complete destruction of the credibility of Mrs. Clarke, the principal evidence against the Duke of York, by shewing that she was utterly unworthy of belief. Now, although the minute correctness of general Clavering was not eminently conspicuous from the commencement of his examination, for we soon saw that he had not the most correct idea of the nature of evidence, I do assert that, if the letters which were afterwards so fortunately; I may almost say providentially, found, and that, too, let it be remembered, without the premeditation or even expectation of Mrs. Clarke; the evidence of general Clavering would have been believed; that of Mrs. Clarke would have been discredited; completely overthrown; and there would have been an end of the investigation of the Charges against the Duke of York.—But, says the hon. baronet, the moment he discovered his mistake, general Clavering came forward with the utmost anxiety to correct his evidence. Now, what is this, Sir? When those letters were brought to light —of the existence of which, from their not having been produced, or mentioned, or even hinted at; the General had never dreamt; when it was as clear as troth that the General had spoken any thing 783 rather than the truth; when it was in the mouths of even the multitude, "What will be done with general Clavering?" then comes the General, after a lapse of several days, to correct his mistake, to tell us, that although he had positively denied ever having had any communication whatever with Mrs. Clarke on the subject of military promotions, his memory is refreshed, and he suddenly recollects, that lie had had some such communication. But, says he, I did not understand you. I thought personal communications were meant, which by the bye, as I shall afterwards shew, even if it could be believed, would not greatly improve his case. Upon this readiness to correct the mistake, the hon. baronet places great reliance; as if the voluntary correction of the mistake was a mere gratuitous act of the General. Why, Sir, has any man been so wild as to have supposed, that, if the General bad omitted to tender this voluntary explanation, he would, or could have escaped the notice of this house r No, Sir; the contrast between the oral testimony and the letters of general Clavering, was too striking to have been passed over in silence; justice, and the dignity of the commons of England, demanded reparation; and I must insist, that it the Whole of the testimony of general Clavering had been received at one examination, it would have been impossible for the house to have hesitated in committing him instantly to Newgate. The offence of general Clavering could not by any possibility of reasoning have been deemed inferior to that of caplain Sandon. And here ii is observable, that although the consideration of the question of the prevarication of general Clavering was adjourned, because members were naturally supposed not to have the first examination in such full recollection as if it had been given at the same time with the second, I confess it appears to me, on reflection, that the culpability was greatly increased by the length of time which had elapsed between the first examination and the discovery of the epistolary communication: for there was an interval in which a man might surely have recollected the existence of such a correspondence, which, in the agitation of a personal examination, might, by possibility, have not been recollected. The hon. bart. has, and I am sure from the most honourable and worthy motives, very strongly urged a variety of reasons in extenuation of the offence committed by the General. And 784 being himself convinced that he was innocent of intentional prevarication, the hon. baronet has said that he believes the time will come when the country will do justice to gen. Clavering. Sir, I hope that the period will also arrive when the country will do justice to the proceedings of this house; and that as long as they can be read, it will be thought by the public and by posterity that we could not, consistently with justice and our own dignity, come to any other decision than that which I am persuaded the house will come to by their vote this night. It has been said, Sir, that gen. Clavering was not so capable of contending with lawyers in an examination as another man; that he has passed his life in camps, and amidst military transactions, where examinations are so summary as to exclude that endless variety of interrogatories to which he was exposed; in short, that military habits incapacitated him from undergoing a civil examination, for that is the true extent of the argument. Sir, I have, since I came into the house this evening, seen a printed paper, in which these futile arguments are confidently urged, with a view to shew that the apparent prevarication of gen. Clavering arose from his incapacity. Amongst other reasons it is urged, that he did not expect to be examined beyond a certain point. Why, Sir, if a witness knew precisely to what point he would be examined, there would be an end to the credibility of human testimony: and therefore the law not only allows, but recommends and encourages cross examination, which is calculated to elicit truth, by an examination beyond that point which a witness may have fixed in his own mind for the extent of his examination. But, Sir, what shall we say to the plea of incapacity? The incapacity of a general officer of the British army to answer the questions that were put to him in this house, and certainly without harshness or disrespect! I would ask, Sir, if such a man is fit to have the command of men? Is such a man fit to be entrusted with a military command at Malta? in Ireland? Is such a man fit to sustain a high character in the army of Great Britain? I do think that these arguments carry with them their own refutation. With regard to the appeal to the humanity of the house, it is impossible to be silent. I trust, Sir, that no man, either in or out of this house, feels more strongly than I do for this gentleman, who has so unfortunately placed himself in the situation in which be now stands. Sir, 785 I can well conceive what must be the feelings not only of gen. Clavering, but of his whole family, which no man regrets more truly than myself. I am the last man who would harshly press a case of this nature to its fullest extent against any man: but we have here, unfortunately, no choice but that of justice, or palpable, manifest injustice. Can this house hesitate in the decision of that which must clearly stamp either our consistency or our utter and absolute inconsistency? We are asked, will you not feel for the family of general Clavering? Sir, I feel for the family of every man under misfortune. But has capt. Sandon no family? Has he no wife? No relations? Does not the case of capt Sandon and his family, silently suffering, without one voice having been elevated in this house in their favour, speak much more loudly to our feelings than that of gen. Clavering, for whom the clemency of this house has been so pathetically implored by a host of friends and defenders? Every mouth is dumb in respect of captain Sandon, whose name and sufferings appear to be forgotten, or absorbed in the superior consideration of the feelings of general Clavering and his family. Sir, is this consistent with justice, or even with common propriety? We ought to reflect as seriously, and with as much consideration, upon the feelings of capt. Sandon and his family, as upon those of general Clavering. I have a very great compassion for gen. Clavering, but, "Tender mercies may be cruel." To permit the offence of general Clavering to pass with impunity, would be both cruelty and injustice to the public, to whom it ought to be made evident, beyond all possibility of doubt, that this house will not fail to visit false testimony with censure, punishment and degradation, and that it will dispense equal justice, whatever be the rank, station, or connections of the offender. Truth is one of the most vital principles of society. There can be no shades of truth: testimony must be true or false; and if we should pass over offences against truth, I know not how to estimate the extent of the evil; for although our examinations are not accompanied with the solemnity of an oath, the man who escapes with impunity here, might, by the weakness incident to humanity, be ultimately tempted to disregard the obligation of an oath in courts of law, where life and death are dependent on human testimony. I hope, Sir, that no gentleman in this house thinks the question 786 which is now under our consideration of subordinate importance. The public have had their eyes fixed on our proceedings, from the commencement of the investigation of the Charges against the -Duke of York, with a degree of intensity greatly exceeding any that has come within my knowledge; and although the grand question before the house has been disposed of, the anxiety of the public to see what course we shall now take is extreme. The great length of time which the consideration of the guilt of general Clavering has been deferred, has, perhaps, excited feelings and opinions, which may be well illustrated by the old song,But if rich men like us were to swing,'Twould thin the land such numbers to string.—Such opinions, Sir, if any such exist, mustbe destroyed, by shewing, that the commons of England are incapable of being influenced in their decisions by rank or station; that we are as ready to do justice on those of our own, or even superior rank, which general Clavering is to me, as upon the most obscure individual of the empire. Meaning, therefore, to do justice, and justice only, I am, however reluctantly, compelled to give my vote, That General Clavering has been guilty of prevarication.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, in answer to what had fallen from an hon. gentleman on the other side, that he hoped there were few, very few, if any, of the rank and station of general Clavering, who could be capable of involving themselves in a similar predicament. He could not admit the force of a reason that had been assigned, grounded upon the alledged fact that many of the friends of general Clavering were now absent, who were competent to set up a satisfactory defence of that gentleman's evidence, because, upon a cool and impartial review of that evidence, he, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer,) did not think that it admitted of any defence whatsoever. He thought it incapable of defence. It had been argued, that many of the answers given by general Clavering, were such, as proved that tie rather misunderstood the nature of the questions, than designedly gave false answers to them. He could not agree in that opinion, and in considering this question, it was not to be forgotten that general Clavering volunteered in his evidence, and had set out with wilful misrepresentations from the beginning. General Clavering had stated, at one time, that he came forward voluntarily, 787 and afterwards deposed, that he was urged by Mr. Lowten to come forward. This assertion was subsequently contradicted by Mr. Lowten; but the fact with respect to which he had been most directly and manifestly contradicted, was respecting that of his communication with Mrs. Clarke. This was the fact in which he had completely falsified his testimony; for he persisted in denying any communication on the subject of traffic for promotion with Mrs. Clarke; and it appeared afterwards, that he bad offered Mrs. Clarke one thousand pounds for the exercise of her supposed influence. And there was another circumstance with respect to his evidence that he was sorry to be compelled to advert to; he would ask, what brought forward general Clavering a second time? An anxiety to correct any involuntary misstatement of which, in the coarse of his former testimony, he had been involuntarily guilty? He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) feared that the general had no such motive. He believed that the general was influenced rather by the written documents which had appeared. He was urged to come forward on account of the production of his own letters, to do away their impression against himself, or to reconcile by an effort, that must be overstrained, the contents of those letters with his former testimony. Upon the whole, on his review of this subject, he felt himself called upon to vole for the motion of the boa. gentleman opposite.
Lord John Campbell
was authorized to stale, that if the duke of Argyle had been permitted by the house of peers to be examined, be would have confirmed the impression which general Clavering had stated was on his mind, with respect to the evidence he had at first given, and of his having no wish whatever to deceive the house.
§ Mr. R. Wharton
observed, that among the many precedents of the committal of persons for the improper manner in which they had given their evidence at the bar, the witnesses*were in such cases generally committed for prevarication, and not for contradiction. Now, gentlemen on the other side seemed to think that there was no difference between prevarication and contradiction (A cry of No! no!). He begged pardon if he misunderstood them, but to him there did appear a distinction, and an obvious one; prevarication was a sort of shuffling (Hear I hear!). Now, he did 788 think this was not exactly the character of general Clavering's evidence, for, if gentlemen would examine it, they would find that every answer was direct, and therefore could not justly be characterized as prevaricating. Now, if the house did not think he had prevaricated, they would in voting for his committal, be establishing a new precedent; for the general ground for committing a witness was his prevarication. He thought, too, that if the rank and consequence of general Clavering were not allowed to be of service to him, they certainly ought not in themselves to be injurious to him. It was evident from the mode in which general Clavering had given his answers throughout, that he was by no means accustomed to an examination of that kind; besides, gentlemen ought to bear ill recollection the long, tedious, and embarrassing examination he had undergone. In stating what he had done in vindication of the General, he denied that he was influenced by motives that ought not in such a question to have any weight, since the person so interested in that question was to him a total stranger.
§ Mr. Ellison.
Sir; of the family of general Clavering I certainly do know something; and if it were possible that my mind could be biassed to the prejudice of my duty to the public, I should certainly be disposed to extend to this unfortunate gentleman the utmost indulgence. Sir, I am not one of those who would, in any instance, push a charge against a man; but in executing the important duty which, as a representative of the people, I owe to the public, I cannot go out of this house without declaring my unreserved sentiments; I contend, Sir, for even justice; and would put out of the consideration of this question every thing relating to the rank of the offender. I would wish that it might be considered as the case of A. B. or C. D.; of a person unknown to us all, and of whom we had never heard any thing even by report, whether he was of the highest or of the lowest rank. From every consideration which I have been able to give this case—aud I have indeed examined and re-examined the printed minutes of the evidence repeatedly—it does appear to me, that if the whole of the evidence of gen. Clavering had been given at one examination, the house could not have balanced in opinion for an instant, and he must inevitably have been immediately committed to Newgate. If in that opinion I am correct 789 as I conceive myself to be, what reason can there be for hesitating as to the propriety of doing that now, which ought to have been done long ago? General Clavering says, he did not understand the questions that were put to him: now, Sir, I am sure, that those questions were put in the clearest manner that was possible: indeed, they were put by the member for Norwich (Mr. W. Smith), whose acute and clear discrimination is so well known to this house. I will not take up the time of the house by restating the questions, as they have been too much the subject of our attention not to be in the recollection of every gentleman; but in substance, general Clavering denied every species of communication with Mrs. Clarke on the subject of military promotion or interference. And when the hot), member who put those questions emphatically repeated in a different, and, if possible, more clear form, his enquiries into that subject, the answer was positively negative. He was asked to state positively— and he answered positively—that there were no such communications to his knowledge. And, in conclusion, when desired to give a direct answer, he says, "I do not know of any such transaction." Every member of this house who was present at that examination must recollect with what scorn the evidence of Mrs. Clarke began to be treated; and what might have been the consequences to her if the letters had not come to light, God knows: but at last out came, by the merest accident in the world, letters in the hand-writing of general Clavering on the very subjects which he had denied to have ever been discussed, or on which any communication whatever had taken place. The astonishment in my mind at this contradiction I cannot tell how to describe; for I declare I cannot believe it possible, and I dare say there are very few who can; that general Clavering had totally forgotten that he had ever written letters to Mrs. Clarke on these subjects. I say, Sir, it is, in my opinion, impossible that any man who had been in the habit of writing very familiar letters, such as these were; speaking of partridge shooting in one, and asking if be can be received in boots, in another; with a variety of other points, which it is not necessary to take up the time of the house with mentioning; that he could have forgotten that he had ever had a correspondence with Mrs. Clarke; and if he remembered, that he had had a correspondence, he must have remembered what 790 was the occasion of that correspondence; communication with her on the subject of military promotions. Well, but, say those gentlemen who argue in favour of his prevarication not being intentional, general Clavering mistook the questions that were put to him: he thought they applied to personal communication only. Now, Sir, read the letters, what were they about? What was their object? Why, the direct purport of many of them is to solicit and appoint a meeting for the purpose of having personal communication on the very subject of military promotions or arrangements. This defence, in my opinion, is the least tenable point of exculpation that could possibly have been assumed; for say, Sir, that if there is any man who has read those letters, and can believe that no personal communication ever took place between general Clavering and Mrs. Clarke, on the subject of military promotions, he is the most extraordinary man I have ever heard of. If this be the excuse of general Clavering, he is doubly convicted of prevarication, and has aggravated his offence. I am very sorry to say, Sir, that general Clavering has been particularly unfortunate in his advisers; but I am not at liberty to mention names in this house, and therefore I shall say no more on that point. I will not enter into the assertions of general Clavering, or the contradiction of Mr. Lowten; but I do say, that there never was a case of more willing, more wanton, and more foolish prevarication than this. An hon. gentleman on the other side of the house, has made a very nice distinction between contradiction and prevarication, which, he says, have been mistaken as conveying the same meaning, though the meaning of those words is, in his opinion, very distinct; and he has proceeded to inform us, that on a strict examination of the Journals of this House, he has not found a single instance of a witness being committed for contradiction; although, for prevarication, the instances of commitment are very numerous; and he has warned the house to pause before they adopt a measure for which there is no precedent. Now, Sir, to my understanding, this argument is exactly of the same nature with what is called a quibble. When we speak of the long speeches and subtle distinctions of the lawyers, from whom on the other side of the house, I must say we have had some very long speeches, which it has been my misfortune not to understand, the hon. 791 gentleman's argument is this; general Clavering did not prevaricate, he did not give a doubtful testsmony, he directly contradicted himself, there was complete falsification, but for this the house ought not to punish, there is no precedent; he might have been punished for a minor offence, but the house never having committed for the greater offence, that ought to pass with impunity. Why, Sir, this reminds me of the extraordinary case under what is known by the name of the Coventry Act, where a man being indicted for an intention to maim and disfigure, offered us his defence that his intention was not to maim or disfigure, but to kill, to murder. This, Sir, was in my opinion, with all due deference to lawyers, a prevarication as cross as any with which common sense could possibly be insulted. All this difference between contradiction and prevarication, or shuffling, as it has been called, is quite above my comprehension. Ail that I know is that we have had false testimony given at the bar; which, however painful it may be to the feelings of myself and the other members of this house, we must visit with punishment, or we shall fail in executing that duty which we owe to the public, and to our own characters as honest men. I really, Sir, am greatly concerned at being under the necessity of thus stating sentiments which appear to bear hard upon general Clavering; but it is unavoidable. If any thing can possibly be offered in his favour, I am most ready to hear it; but I have heard no reason assigned for postponing the consideration of his case to which we ought to listen. Justice cannot be done, if it be postponed without a very sufficient cause, and no such cause has been shewn. The hon. mover of this question has postponed it from time to time; he has yielded to the wishes of the house; but the time is arrived when we must come to a decision. A great deal has been said about the law of evidence, which' I omitted to notice in its proper place, where I should have observed, that I ought to know something of the nature of evidence, or I am but ill qualified for executing, so frequently as i do, the office of a Grand-Juryman and the functions of a Magistrate, at the Quarter Sessions. But it is, in fact, absolute nonsense to talk of legal evidence in this house; for the whole of our proceedings have been conducted on the principle of coming at the truth, in the best manner we could, without being fettered or restricted by the ordinary rules of legal 792 evidence; and I am sure that, if we had not adopted this mode of proceeding, which in our inquisitorial capacity we had a right to do, the house would never have known those facts which have at last come out, by degrees, accidentally, and most unexpectedly. Sir, I will detain the house very little longer: whether the offender be high or low, the offence certainly is the same. For my part, I confess I think the prevarication of general Clavering to be even greater than that of captain Sandon. He came with the intention and determination of ruining the testimony of Mrs. Clarke. But we will take the offence to be of the same degree of turpitude, and they both demand punishment. I admit, with an hon. gent., that great offences are not more incident to the great than to the little, and if they come before us judicially, we must estimate the offence by its own quality, independent of the rank of the offender; hut, morally speaking, I do think, that if a man of education, high rank, and noble family is., guilty of so mean and disgraceful an offence as that of prevarication, which is only one degree from perjury, such a man, having a superiority of knowledge, station, and character, his offence is more rank than that of a man who does not possess the same distinguishing advantages in society. I mean this observation to apply generally; and beg to be so understood. The vote which I shall give this night, I shall give with great. pain, and much reluctance; but I should be wanting in my duty to my country and myself, if i did not declare that I am of opinion That general Clavering has been guilty of prevarication at the bar of this house.
§ Mr. C. Wynn
said, that he would detain the house but for a short time. He had felt most severely the part which he was compelled to act upon this occasion, towards an individual of such rank and connection, but it was his duty, as a member of Parliament, and therefore could not be avoided. An hon. gent, had said, that the house never committed but in cases of prevarication; if that were the case, the standing order of the house was a mere dead letter, which stated, that if any witness should give false evidence before them, he should be punished. If there were any thing in the evidence that carried a doubt as to whether general Clavering understood the questions proposed to him, or not, he would say, that the word of a general" officer, that the word of a person descended; 793 and connected as he was, should outweigh all probabilities against him, and acquit him of the charge; but after a most mature investigation of the subject, after a consideration of the evidence, again and again, he could raise no doubt in his mind as to the prevarication with which he had charged general Clavering. The manner in which lie came forward he (Mr. W.) considered of great weight. Painful, most painful as his duty was, he had now fulfilled it, and he left it to the house to discharge theirs.
The Gallery was then cleared for a division, which however, did not take place. Mr. Wynn's motion having been agreed to without one. After which it was ordered That general Clavering should be forthwith taken into the custody of the Sergeant Arms, which was done accordingly.