§ Mr. Lygon
moved, that strangers should not be re-admitted after the division on the Brecon Canal Bill.
moved an adjournment; first, because he wished it to appear, that when one member exercised an acknowledged right of excluding strangers, another member exercised a right equally undisputed, that of moving an adjournment: and secondly, because he owed it to himself, as a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Yorke) had uttered an indiscreet menace on the preceding evening: he should not however press his motion to a division if contrary to the sense of the House.
The question of adjournment being put was negatived without a division.
§ Mr. Cochrane Johnstone
then rose in pursuance of his notice, and said, that it was the undoubted right of the hon. member (Mr. Lygon) to act as he had done, in clearing the House of strangers: if, however, this precaution had been taken under the impression that any thing he had to say would be unbecoming the respect he owed to that House, or inconsistent with what was due to the feelings of every branch of the royal family, such apprehensions were utterly unfounded. He thought it a duty he owed, in the first instance, to the Princess of Wales, to declare, that for the motion he was about to submit, he had no authority from her, he had had no communication with any person or persons whatsoever, and that the proceeding originated entirely and exclusively with himself. He had had no communication with the Princess of Wales, further than to send her a copy of the Resolutions, 1132 as he had done to the ministers—he had consulted no one—he did not even know that there was a member in the House who would second his motion.
The hon. member proceeded to observe, that it was well known that a Commission had been granted by the King in 1806 to four noble lords, Grenville, Spencer, Erskine, and Ellenborough, to examine into certain allegations that had been preferred against the Princess of Wales. He then read the whole of the Report made by the Commissioners above stated, containing the most unqualified opinion, that the charge produced by sir John and lady Douglas, against the Princess of Wales, of having been delivered of a child in the year 1802, was utterly destitute of truth. It added, that the birth and real mother of the child, said to have been born of the Princess, had been proved beyond all possibility of doubt. The Report concluded with some objections made by the Commissioners, to the manners, or to levity of manners, upon different occasions, in the Princess.
The hon. member next proceeded to state, that the paper he should now read was a document which he was ready to prove at the bar of the House, was dictated by lord Eldon, Mr. Perceval, and sir Thomas Plomer, though signed by the Princess of Wales; it was a letter written, or purporting to be written, by her Royal Highness to the King, on the 9th of October, 1806, as a Protest against the Report of the Commissioners, just detailed; the letter being read at length appeared to be a formal and elaborate criticism upon the nature of the commission under which her conduct had been reviewed; it asserted in the most unqualified terms her own innocence, and called the charges of her accusers a foul conspiracy, made ex-parte, and affording no appeal. In this letter, the Princess of Wales threw herself and the honour of her family on the justice of the King—her honour and her life being at the mercy of the malice and foul perjuries of her accusers—she complained of the ex-parte recrimination, and of the manner and way in which the charges were credited. After some interval of painful suspence, and hearing from various and anonymous letters, that an accusation was preferred against her—the duke of Kent announced to her Royal Highness the near approach of two attornies to take away, by a warrant, half of her family, in order to examine them as evidence on the 1133 charge—the only request she made was to request the duke of Kent to remain in the room with her till her servants were gone, for fear she should be suspected of holding any conversation with them. Upon this letter being read, the hon. member observed, that he fully concurred in the sentiments it expressed upon the subject of the commission, and he insisted that the charge against the Princess before that tribunal, by sir John and lady Douglas, was nothing short of treason; that if the Commissioners had power to acquit her Royal Highness of the crime charged, they had equally the power to convict her; what was the state of that country in which such a thing were even possible? He declared, that in his opinion the noble lords had no authority to give a judgment on the occasion—they had no right to pronounce an acquittal, for they had no right to find a verdict of guilty—as a question of law, the matter was left as the Commissioners found it. Besides, he inquired what became of sir John and lady Douglas? If he was rightly informed, they still persisted in the same story, but if all they maintained were so notoriously false, why were they not prosecuted? The hon. member went on to remark, that he understood no proceedings of the late privy council, except the Report, had been transmitted to the Princess of Wales. This was the case in 1806, but he submitted that copies of all those examinations should be given to her. As to the minor charges, he should be silent about them—it was the duty of ministers to transmit to the Princess of Wales the fresh informations they had taken.—He recommended the case to be tried by the whole privy council, and that the present ministers should not be of the number;—after the discussion that the Princess had provoked, if she should then be injured, she would have herself alone to blame. The hon. member concluded by moving the following Resolutions:
Resolved, I. "That from disputes touching the succession to the throne, bitter public animosities, tumultuous contentions, long and bloody civil wars, have, at various periods of the history of this kingdom, arisen, causing great misery to the good people thereof, grief and affliction to the royal family, and, in some cases, exclusion of the rightful heir.
"That, therefore, loyalty and affection towards the sovereign, and adjust regard to the happiness of the people, call upon 1134 every subject of this realm, and upon this House more especially, to neglect nothing within their power to prevent the recurrence of similar calamities from a similar cause.
"That it has been stated to this House, by a member thereof, who has offered to prove the same by witnesses, at the bar of this House, that, in the year 1806, a Commission was signed under his Majesty's royal sign manual, authorizing and directing the then Lord Chancellor (Erskine), earl Spencer (the then Secretary of State for the Home Department), lord Grenville (the then First Lord of the Treasury), and the then and present Lord Chief Justice (Ellenborough), to inquire into the truths of certain written declarations, communicated to his Majesty by his royal highness the Prince of Wales, touching the conduct of her royal highness the Princess of Wales.
"That the said Commissioners, in pursuance of the said authority and direction, did enter into an examination of several witnesses, and that they delivered to his Majesty a Report of such examination, and also of their judgment on the several parts alledged against her Royal Highness; which Report, signed by the four Commissioners aforesaid, and dated on the 14th of July, 1806, was accompanied with copies of declarations, examinations, depositions, and other documents on which it was founded.
"That it has been stated to this House, in manner aforesaid, that the said written accusations against, her Royal Highness expressly asserted, 'That her Royal Highness had been pregnant in the year 1802, in consequence of an illicit intercourse, and that she had in the same year been secretly delivered of a male child, which child had ever since that period been brought up by her Royal Highness in her own house, and under her immediate inspection.
"That the Report farther stated, that the Commissioners first examined on oath the principal informants, sir John Douglas, and Charlotte, his wife, who both particularly swore, the former to his having observed the fact of the pregnancy of her Royal Highness, and the other to all the important particulars contained in former declarations, and before referred to, and that the Report added, that the examinations are annexed to the Report, and are circumstantial and positive.
"That the Commissioners, after the 1135 above statements, proceeded in their said Report to state to his Majesty that they thought it their duty to examine other witnesses as to the facts in question, and that they stated, as the result of such farther examination, 'their perfect conviction that there is no foundation whatever for believing that the child now with the Princess is the child of her Royal Highness, or that she was delivered of any child in 1802, or that she was pregnant in that year,' and that the Commissioners added, That this was their clear and unanimous judgment, formed upon full deliberation and pronounced without hesitation, on the result of the whole inquiry
"That the noble lords composing the Commission aforesaid had not, and could not, in that capacity, have any legal power to pronounce a judgment or decision in the case, that the matter of charge submitted to them as a subject of inquiry, amounted to a charge of high treason, a crime known to the laws, and therefore liable only in a known court of justice; that if, as justices of the peace (a character belonging to them as privy counsellors) they were competent to receive informations and lake examinations regarding the conduct of her Royal Highness, they had no legal power in that capacity or in any other capacity that could be given to them, to pronounce an acquittal or a condemnation upon the charge referred to them; for that to admit them to have been competent to acquit, is to admit them competent to have found guilty, and this would be to admit their competence to have sent her Royal Highness to an ignominious death in virtue of a decision founded on selected ex-parte evidence taken before a secret tribunal.
"That the whole Report as it relates to the judgment of the Commissioners (if the making of it be not an unlawful act,) is at least of no legal validity, and, in the eye of the law, leaves the question of the guilt or innocence of her Royal Highness where the Commissioners first, found it; that the depositions and examinations upon oath (supposing the Commissioners to have taken them in their capacity as justices of the peace) possess a legal character; but that no legal decision has been made upon any of the important facts stated in these depositions and examinations, and that it has not yet been legally decided that the fact positively sworn to, of her Royal Highness having been delivered of a male child in the year 1802, is not true.
1136 "That in any claim to the succession to the throne, which, by possibility, at least, may hereafter be set up, by any aspiring personage possessed of great power, the circumstantial and positive evidence of sir John Douglas, and of Charlotte, his wife, if again called for, would still retain all its legal character and weight, while it might happen, that the evidence on the other side might, from death or other causes, be found deficient; and that there can be no doubt that if it should hereafter be made to appear that the facts sworn to by lady Douglas are true, and if the identity of the male child so born should be proved, he would be the legal heir to the throne, notwithstanding any assertions, or any proofs, relating to the alleged illicit intercourse of her royal highness the Princess of Wales.
"That therefore the honour of her royal highness the Princess of Wales, the sacred right of the Princess Charlotte of Wales, the safety of the throne, and the tranquillity of the country, do all unite, in most imperious call on this House, to institute now, while the witnesses on both sides are still living, and while all the charges are capable of being clearly established, or clearly disproved, an ample and impartial investigation of all the allegations, facts, and circumstances appertaining to this most important subject of inquiry.
"Resolved, II. That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, requesting that his Royal Highness will be graciously pleased to order, that a copy of a Report made to his Majesty on the 14th day of July, 1806, by the then Lord Chancellor Erskine, earl Spencer, lord Grenville, and Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, touching the conduct of her royal highness the Princess of Wales, be laid before the House, together with the copies of the following written documents, annexed to the said Report, namely,
"The Narrative of his royal highness the Duke of Kent, dated the 27th of December, 1805.—Two written Declarations, or Examinations, of Sarah Lampert; one dated Cheltenham, 8th of January, 1806, and the other the 29th of March, 1806—One of Mr. Lampert, baker, Cheltenham, same "late with the last.—Four of William Cole, dated 11th Jan. I4th Jan. 30th Jan. and 23d February, 1806.—One of Robert Bid good, dated Temple, 4th April, 1806.—. One of Sarah Bidgood, dated Temple, 23d April, 1806.—One of Frances Lloyd, 1137 dated Temple, 12th May, 1806—The King's Warrant for holding the Commission, dated the 29th May, 1806.—Deposition of lady Douglas, dated the 1st June, 1806.—Deposition of sir John Douglas, dated 1st June, 1806.—Deposition of Robert Bidgood, dated 6th June, 1806.—Deposition of William Cole, dated 6th of June, 1806.—Deposition of Frances Lloyd, dated 7th of June, 1806.—Deposition of Mary Wilson, dated 7 th June, 1806.—Deposition of Samuel Roberts, dated 7th June, 1806.—Deposition of Tho. Stikeman, dated 7th June, 1806.—Deposition of J. Picard, dated 7th of June, 1806.—Deposition of Sophia Austin, dated 7th June, 1806.—Letter from lord Spencer to lord Gwydir,20th June, 1806.—Letter from lord Gwydir to lord Spencer, 20th June, 1806,—Letter from lady Willoughby to lord Spencer, 21st June, 1806.—Extracts from the Register from Brownlow-street hospital, dated 23d June, 1806.—Deposition of Elizabeth Gosden, dated 23d June, 1806—Deposition of Betty Townley, dated 25th June, 1806.—Deposition of Thomas Edmeades, dated 25th June, 1806.—Deposition of Samuel G. Mills, dated 25th June, 1806.—Deposition of Harriet Fitzgerald, dated 27th June, 1806.—Letter from lord Spencer to lord Gwydir, dated 1st July, 1806.—Letter from "lord Gwydir to lord Spencer, dated 3d July, 1806.—Query to lady Willoughby, and Answer, dated 3d July, 1806—Farther depositions of Robert Bidgood, dated 3d July, 1806.—Deposition of sir Francis Millman, dated 3d July, 1806.—Deposition of Mrs. Lisle, dated 3d July, 1806.—Letter from sir Francis Millman to the Lord Chancellor, dated 4th July, 18()6.—Deposition of lord Cholmondeley, dated 6th July, 1806."
rose and said, he felt that he should act most consistently with his duty in confining himself to explanation, with respect to parts of the hon. member's speech, which would tend to guard the House against those false impressions which that speech might otherwise excite. The mode of proceeding adopted by the hon. member was somewhat singular. His first Resolution was, in fact, even in his own view of it, without any proof. His second Resolution called for those very papers, as matters of information on "which his first Resolution was founded; as if they were matters of certain knowledge. He did not mean to urge 1138 it in the way of cavil against the proceeding, but surely if there were any grounds for the Resolution, the second should have been the preliminary one, as the first, in its order, could by no possibility be adopted by the House. The only object of the information called for seemed to be to persuade the House, that such serious doubts existed as to the succession to the throne, as required the interference of parliament. He should not enter into any detailed enquiry as to the legality of the privy council acting as a tribunal in their proceedings on this subject; but he would state, that he was perfectly satisfied, that they were fully competent to enquire, whether there were, or were not, sufficient grounds of charge for putting the Princess of Wales on her defence. The present motion, however, did not go to the extent of settling the question, whether any such proceedings were, or were not, necessary. But he must say, that if the Commissioners were not competent to decide upon the charges against her Royal Highness of being pregnant in the year 1802, the House of Commons was certainly not the proper tribunal for deciding; on such a question. If, on the other hand, no actual criminality was imputed to her Royal Highness, that House was equally an improper tribunal for deciding on that question. If, again, every shade in the conduct of the Princess of Wales, from the highest degree of guilt, down to the lowest levity, were to be considered, that House was not, certainly, the place where such matters should be discussed. He must also observe, that if any unfortunate disputes existed between any branches of the royal family, any discussion in the House of Commons could serve only to augment the evil, and widen the breach. The only solid practical ground, therefore, on which parliament could proceed, would be, that doubts attached to the succession to the crown. But in the present case there was not the smallest doubt entertained upon that subject. The Commissioners in 1806, from their known character and high legal qualifications, were certainly fit persons to decide upon that question; and they had decided, and no doubts remained on their minds that required the necessity of parliamentary interposition. They did not make a comparative enquiry into the weight of the evidence of lady Douglas, as compared with, or contrasted to, that of other witnesses; but they decided, that they had 1139 traced the whole history of the child so completely and satisfactorily, that no possible doubt could remain that it was not born of the Princess of Wales, but of another woman, named Sophia Austin. Nor, indeed, did this decision rest only on their Report, for it was afterwards referred to other confidential servants of his Majesty, who gave a solemn judgment, confirming the Report of the first commissioners. The supposed doubt respecting the succession, was, therefore, rebutted by the authority of the commissioners of the first cabinet; and also by that of the subsequent cabinet, to whom the matter was referred, and who confirmed the judgment. If any doubt found its way into the mind of parliament, he would not deny, in the abstract, that no case might exist, as to the question of succession, which it might be the duty of parliament to examine; but would the hon. gentleman say, that after all those authorities which he had stated, it would be rational for parliament to interfere? Would not such interference rather serve to originate doubts, where no doubts existed; and give countenance to suspicions, contrary to the repeated declarations of all parties, that no case whatever had been made out, to require any such interference on the part of parliament? The hon. gentleman himself had made his statement in such a manner as to shew that he entertained no doubt upon the subject; yet when neither he, nor any other member, had any doubt respecting the legitimacy of the succession, he called upon parliament to legislate. It was perfectly true that there had been no prosecution entered into of lady Douglas; her evidence was taken by the commissioners in the discharge of their duty; and the hon. gentleman should have stated in candour, that the first cabinet recommended that no proceeding should be had, unless the crown lawyers deemed it advisable to prosecute lady Douglas for perjury. A case was laid before them; and though they were satisfied as to the perjury, they nevertheless saw difficulties in the way of establishing it by legal evidence, and, therefore, they did not advise prosecution. If he were so disposed, he might use some grounds of personal complaint against the hon. member, for he had transgressed the rules of his parliamentary duty, in stating that Mr. Perceval had prevailed upon the cabinet to espouse the cause of the Princess of Wales. The cabinet had acted deliberately and conscientiously 1140 in the business, and had advised that there were no reasons why her Royal Highness should not be admitted to the presence of the sovereign, agreeably to the recommendation of the former cabinet, with whom, indeed, it had originated. The hon. member had stated, with a marked emphasis, that lady Douglas's evidence was given by command of his royal highness the Prince Regent. In this matter, the Prince Regent followed the advice of lord Thurlow, which was to have the evidence reduced to writing, for the purpose of submitting it to legal consideration. Then his Royal Highness felt it to be his duty to communicate the charges to his royal father, with whom, and with whose cabinet, and not with his Royal Highness himself, the whole affair had from that time remained. He could really see no necessary for pursuing the subject of this discussion any further. It could not be properly brought forward, except on the presumption that some doubts existed relative to the succession to the crown; and he trusted, that in what he had said, he had convinced the House that no such doubts did exist. Calling for further information, if agreed to, would only be the means of gratifying public curiosity, by making parliament the instrument of procuring that gratification, that taste for calumny, which was so much the rage at the present moment. He should trust to the indulgence of the House, to explain in reply, in case other circumstances were touched upon, which might render farther explanations necessary; and he hoped that the House would not tolerate suspicions or doubts, where none whatever existed, by adopting the motion of the hon. gentleman.
§ Sir Samuel Romilly
said, that if the motion had been merely for a production of papers, he should not have taken any part in the debate, for there were circumstances which would make it extremely improper in him to state any opinion upon the conduct of her royal highness the Princess of Wales, but the motion conveyed a strong censure on the proceedings which took place in 1806, and, knowing what he did of those proceedings, he could not in justice to the persons concerned in them remain silent. He believed that no impartial man who was acquainted with the manner in which that Inquiry was instituted, and the mode in which it was conducted, could think that any blame was imputable to those concerned in it. 1141 In November, 1805, he received the commands of the Prince of Wales to attend him at Carlton House, and his Royal Highness upon that occasion informed him, that he was desirous of consulting him on a matter of great importance to himself (the Prince) to his family, and to the state; that it was by the advice of lord Thurlow that his Royal Highness had selected him to advise with and his Royal Highness either said in express words, or conveyed by what he said, the impression that what had principally determined that he (sir S. Romilly) should be advised with, was that he was not connected in any manner with the Prince, and that he was wholly unconnected with politics. His Royal Highness then stated the information which he had received respecting the conduct of the Princess of Wales, and the manner in which it had been communicated to him, and told him (sir S. Romilly) that the information should be put into writing, and delivered to him, in order that he might give his opinion and advice upon it.
Soon afterwards the written information, with certain other documents, were put into his hands: he considered them with all the attention and anxiety which their great importance demanded, and in a letter which he addressed to his Royal Highness, he stated the impression which they had made on him, with his reasons, at considerable length. After this, he knew that the Prince had caused means to be taken to ascertain, as far as was possible, the truth or falshood of the statement which had been made to him, and those means were, as he believed, adopted at the suggestion of lord Thurlow.
While those matters were depending, Mr. Pitt died, and in consequence of his death a total change took place in the administration. In that change he was appointed Solicitor General, and some time afterwards he again saw the Prince on the subject of the Princess's conduct, and by his Royal Highness's command waited on lord Thurlow, who told him that he thought the information much too important to remain without any step being taken on it; that it ought to be communicated to the ministers; and that in his opinion it had already remained too long in the Prince's possession unproceeded on. On the same day he delivered this message to the Prince, and immediately, or very shortly after, the matter was communicated to some of the ministers, and his Majesty 1142 was pleased, under his sign manual, to authorise the four privy counsellors who have been named, to enquire into the truth of the representations which had been made, and report their opinion on them. Several meetings then took place for the examination of the witnesses, at which no person was present besides the four Commissioners and himself, and the only office he had to discharge was to write down the depositions of the witnesses, and read them over to them before they were signed. For this office he was selected in preference to the then Attorney-General, or to any other person, merely because ha was already acquainted with the case, and it was advisable, if it should not be therefore necessary to institute any judicial or legislative proceeding, that as much secrecy as possible should be observed.
Having been present at all the examinations (except on one day, when by accident he did not receive the notice), he would say from his own observations that they were conducted with all the impartiality of judges acting under the sacred obligations of an oath. Of the Report which they made, it would be highly improper for him to say any thing; he could not state any opinions without adverting to the facts, which, considering the manner in which he had become acquainted with them, it was his duty not to publish. Some observations had been made on the opinion afterwards given by the then Attorney and Solicitor General. Of that opinion he would only say, that if they did not recommend a prosecution against any of the witnesses, it certainly was not from any doubt that they entertained of the authority of the Commissioners to administer an oath, or of the legality of the commission under which they acted.
Doubt, however, had been suggested by the hon. gentleman upon its legality, and in the Letter which the Princess of Wales addressed to the King in 1806, and which, the hon. gentleman ascribed to lord Eldon, Mr. Perceval, and the present Attorney General, the legality of all the proceedings are called in question. That the letter was written by those persons he never would believe till he heard it from unquestionable authority. It bore the strongest internal evidence that it could not have had the sanction of such persons.
The objection, indeed, seemed to turn merely upon the forms observed with respect to the instrument giving the authority, and yet it was surely impossible to 1143 doubt, that upon a representation of misconduct in a member of the royal family', involving besides a charge of high treason, and presenting the danger of a disputed succession, the King's verbal authority to a number of privy counsellors was sufficient. The letter complains that the ordinary modes of inquiry were not resorted to, as if ministers ought immediately, without endeavouring to investigate the truth of the charges, to have caused a bill of indictment to be preferred to a grand jury, and to kindle a flame in the kingdom upon a charge of such importance, when possibly there might be no real foundation for it.
The slightest knowledge of our history was sufficient, to leave no doubt upon the constant recourse had to such inquiries. From the time of sir John Fenwick, to go no earlier, to the trials of Mr. Home Tooke and Mr. Hardy, certain members of the privy council had, upon a charge of treason, or treasonable practices, always inquired into the truth of the charges, before any judicial proceeding was instituted. The legality of such proceedings was indeed recorded by the whole legislature. In the act passed on occasion of Mr. Harley's life having been attempted while he was sitting as a privy counsellor upon such an inquiry, the act states that it was while he was in discharge of his duty; but it should seem according to this objection, that it should have been stated that he was acting illegally and in violation of his duty. That this committee of the privy council consisted only of four persons, could afford no objection; no one would pretend, that by law a larger number was necessary.
It had been said, that if they could acquit they must have had a right to condemn, as if an ex-parte examination was not sufficient in all cases to justify an acquittal, and as if it could in any case warrant a condemnation. When Margaret Nicholson was seized in a treasonable attempt on the King's life, and when, upon its being ascertained upon an inquiry before a committee of the privy council, that he was disordered in her mind, and in consequence of which she was never brought to trial, did any person ever question the legality of the proceeding? Surely, the objection could never have been seriously entertained, and never could have been made but to answer the most factious purposes. The proceeding of 1806' was entirety an ex-parte proceeding, and upon 1144 that alone no person could be convicted of any offence, whatever might be the evidence on which it had proceeded. He understood that it had been treated by the Commissioners themselves as an ex-parte proceeding, and that they had suggested that a copy of it should be delivered to the Princess of Wales, in order to afford her Royal Highness an opportunity of producing other evidence, if she should desire it. These matters with respect to the form of the proceedings he had thought it his duty to state, and he thought it as much his duty not to say any thing upon the merits of the case.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that the hon. member who had brought forward the present motion had stated his intention to him, and he had told him, that he thought his first Resolution could not be adopted. He therefore, did not rise in support of it, for he concurred in much that had fallen: from the noble lord opposite; and thought that, at this period at least, no such motion could be entertained by the House, as might render it the vehicle of communicating to the public at large, those matters which it was much better should be suppressed. He must, however, remind the noble lord of his expression of his readiness to make explanations, particularly with respect to the more recent parts of these transactions.
If the House dismissed this subject without any further explanations or proceedings, the Princess of Wales would, in his mind, be grossly injured. Her Royal Highness complained to the House, of vague and ambiguous blame thrown upon her, and demanded explanation at least. By the common uncontradicted rumour, it appeared, that she had addressed a letter to the King, impeaching the proceedings of the four noble lords who were the Commissioners in 1806; and it should be remarked, that in so doing, she was understood to be acting under the advice of Mr. Perceval. Lord Eldon, it was also stated, approved of that letter. The same was said of sir T. Plumer, now his Majesty's Attorney-General, who, being present, could contradict the assertion, if it were untrue. He wished to know from the noble lord opposite, whether, with the privity and knowledge of those persons, and for the purpose of making her Royal Highness's innocence manifest to the world, a work was not printed, intended to be published, and circulated not only throughout England but Europe? When 1145 the noble lord talked of an appetite for slander and calumny, was he not aware that the newspapers had lately teemed with paragraphs and extracts, the tendency of which was to libel the Princess of Wales? Was not the public mind in a state of agitation on the subject, which it was highly expedient to allay? Nobody doubted that lady Douglas was a perjured person; but though that was not doubted, she still remained a competent witness; and, therefore, one check ought to be put to the propagation of ambiguous reports.
It appears that her Royal Highness, finding the intercourse between her and the young Princess was restricted more and more, addressed a letter to the Prince Regent, which was twice returned unopened. At length, it seems, it was read to his Royal Highness, and the cold answer returned was, that ministers had received no commands on the subject. That letter at last found its way into the public prints; and then his Royal Highness, not as the head of his family, but as Prince Regent, by the advice of ministers, summoned a privy council to consult what he should do: and the extraordinary advice of this privy council to his Royal Highness was, not to refer to the present conduct of the Princess of Wales, but to the evidence of 1806, and for such conduct she was to be punished, and not for any thing done by her in 1807, 1808, 1809, or any subsequent year.
'Then' (exclaimed Mr. W.) under what circumstances stand their famous proceedings of 1806, for which alone her Royal Highness is to be punished? All the witnesses against her perjured and blasted! Yet at this moment sir John Douglas is in the service of one of the royal family. All the witnesses declared infamous, the evidence is declared unworthy of credit, when applied to the principal charge, and yet the same evidence is to be considered good when applied to levity of manners. It was considered as not sufficient to deprive her Royal Highness of the honours of her rank, of access to the King, of society with the Princesses, yet it is now to be raked up again to remove her from her child? It is so admitted by the noble lord, and yet he and lord Eldon mix up this old hash of evidence as the only testimony that could be found to affect the Princess of Wales. But, was not this famous evidence of 1806 laid before the Prince's legal advisers, Mr. Adam, Mr. Garrow, and Mr. Jekyll? I should be 1146 glad to know how the last insidious paragraph of that opinion came before the public? Whether it was not so made public from authority? Again; had not the cabinet of 1807, all the evidence given in 1806, before it, and the legal opinion of the Prince's lawyers I just referred to into the bargain, when their verdict of unqualified acquittal was given? From this verdict they now seem to shrink, because the evidence is stale and forgotten.'
Mr. Whitbread then read the Minute of Council of 1807; it was signed by lords Castlereagh and Eldon, and doubted the legality of the commission that sat upon the council in 1806. Yet, (added the hon. gentleman) those noble lords who in 1807 doubt the legality of the proceedings of 1806, now go back to those same proceedings of 1806, as their only guide' [He then read that part of the minute of 1807, that not only entirely acquits the Princess of Wales of every charge of criminality brought against her by the Douglasses, but exculpates her likewise from every hint of unguarded levity attributed to her by the Commissioners in 1806.] 'Do then' said Mr. Whitbread, 'Do lord Castlereagh or lord Eldon, mean to escape from their words?' There never was a verdict of Not Guilty like this. The Princess of Wales threatened a publication of her case drawn up by Mr. Perceval, lord Eldon, and sir Thomas Plumer, if she was not received at court; this they advised her to do. But the publication was delayed till lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval kissed hands; what could have been the feelings of lord Eldon and Mr. Perceval when they advised the publication, but that she was innocent—immaculate? So much for the candour, fairness, and liberality of those by whose verdict the Princess of Wales is now to be tried. Did lord Eldon, or any other conscientious and doubting judge reserve to himself a mode of escape by the specialty of the charge? Do they purpose to say that there was any other meaning to the word innocent? When is a verdict to stand good? No counsel, no witnesses, no examination in her favor—and yet the verdict pronounced by these very persons is Not Guilty.
Will it, then, be permitted to any one; will it be endured, will it be allowed to Englishmen, to rake up this evidence again, and upon this evidence to condemn, to defame, to punish? Let, then, the House and the country recollect the verdict of 1807, and the report of 1813; 1147 and then recollect that the privy eonncil was sent back to the period of 1806. Can they suppose the Princess can submit to these imputations? If Mr. Perceval had been alive he would not have suffered this; but Mr. Perceval is dead—and her former defenders mute. Is it to be permitted to go back to evidence given before this sentence of acquittal, and to pronounce anew verdict of guilt? Was ever woman so triumphant? Let the public recollect, that no one act has passed since 1807, that the active breath of slander has dared to bring against the Princess of Wales.
The hon. member then read the late Report, and proceeded to observe, that the noble lord had tauntingly asserted that the Princess of Wales had, doubtless, some legal adviser, or some friends within those walls, who would be found to advocate her cause. It had been so. She had a powerful legal adviser in that House in the late Mr. Perceval. Many, too, of the most able men in the country, in the House and out of it, had been her friends and advisers; among them he could name lord Eldon, and sir Thomas Plumer. It was due to the memory of Mr. Perceval, to state, that to his dying day he always publicly proclaimed the innocence of the Princess, but as for her other surviving friends they were mute. No doubt, the Princess had her legal adviser, one who would never shrink from the responsibility of the duties of his situation, or disown his being such adviser, to him who had any right to question him. For himself, in performing what he did, he would not call himself the friend of the Princess of Wales, but the friend of justice.
Her Royal Highness ought not to be the only person in this country, so famed for its humanity, without a friend, or a legal adviser. What resource was left to hut but an appeal to the justice of parliament? Her Royal Highness's Letter was nothing more than the appeal of a mother for the company of her child, and he would not assent to the character of a contrary nature which had been given to it. As to her Letter to parliament, he thought the Speaker highly praise-worthy for having laid it before the House, and was at a loss to know on what ground the Speaker of the other House declined to do the same. That Letter was the Petition of an injured woman, the first subject in the land: it was a petition of a kind of which we had some example in the earlier 1148 days of our history, when a brutal tyrant wished to get rid of a consort of whom he was tired. Her Royal Highness's appeal, though not perhaps in words, was in substance the same as that of the persecuted Anna Boleyn; "Let me receive an open" trial, for my truth shall fear no open "shame."* The Speaker of the House of Lords had twice returned her Letter, as we hear, unopened." You, Sir, (addressing the Speaker) have, with great propriety, submitted the Letter which you received to our consideration. Suppose you had refused to present her petition! It might have happened, Sir, that nobody else would have presented it. The hon. gentleman, who is the mover of this question, once gave me a petition, which he told me 135 members had refused to present. This might have been the situation of the Princess of Wales." Mr. W. then moved as an Amendment to the motion, that an Address be presented to the Prince Regent, praying that a copy of the Report to which her Royal Highness had referred, be laid before the House.
was particularly glad that he had reserved himself as to the Letter of her royal highness the Princess of Wales, till he had heard what had fallen from the hon. gentleman. He repelled with great indignation the charge of that hon. gentleman, that the duke of Portland's cabinet had been prevailed upon by Mr. Perceval to take the part of her Royal Highness. The fact was, that Mr. Perceval having been then out of office, was professionally concerned for the Princess; he had with that delicacy and honour which were peculiar to him, declined to take any part whatever in that proceeding. The hon. gentleman had also suppressed another fact of importance, and of which the documents must have informed him, in a manner not consistent with candour; namely, that the Report of the four commissioners had been submitted to lord Grenville's cabinet, who had come to a Resolution, of which the minute of the duke of Portland's cabinet was little, if at all, more than a confirmation. The noble lord would not enter into details, which it was inconsistent with his duty to explain, but he most confidently denied the charge of inconsistency that had been made against himself and his colleagues. The last commission was not to inquire into
* See Howell's State Trials, vol. 1, p. 427.1149 and try over again her Royal Highness's conduct, which had been cleared by the former cabinets; it was to advise the Prince Regent on a particular point, on which his Royal Highness condescended to ask the opinion of his privy council; advice to that point they gave—advice that he should be always prepared to defend; but nothing could be more unjust than to impute any inconsistency to those who recommended so obvious, and he would add, necessary a measure.—He now came to consider the Princess's Letter, which had been so eulogized by the hon. gentleman; of that Letter he should speak his mind freely, and in doing so, should consider it as the production of indiscreet advisers, to which her Royal Highness had been unfortunately induced to attach her name. This Letter, taken altogether, with its several statements, hints, and innuendos, he could not but consider as a manifesto questioning his royal highness the Prince Regent's conduct with regard to his daughter. It was a Letter calculated to involve the young Princess in these feuds, and to sow division and jealousy between the child and the father. The hon. gentleman had called this letter nothing but a maternal appeal against increased restrictions of the intercourse between the mother and her royal daughter; it was not so, it was not such an appeal, it was an inflamed statement of all the topics of grievance that could be raked together with a view of effecting the object of her Royal Highness's advisers. There were no additional restrictions imposed at this period that could have warranted this letter. The Princess Charlotte was still as before permitted to see her mother once a week, when she was in town; but when she was removed to Windsor, it was found inconvenient, and injurious to her education, that a journey to London should occupy three days out of every six; it was therefore determined, that her Royal Highness, during the period of her residence at Windsor, should visit London and her royal mother but once a fortnight; but it never, that the noble lord had heard, was intended to continue this restriction beyond the residence at Windsor, and when the Princess Charlotte should have returned to town, all would have gone on as before. Was this, he would ask, a restriction of such injury and oppression as to call for this accusatory letter? This was the whale of what had been magnified into a great infliction of punishment and inference 1150 of guilt, and he was sure the House would see it as he did, to be a matter in no ways sufficient to justify the Letter of her Royal Highness. In respect to the conduct of the Prince, he did all that lay in his power to secure sound advice. He called in all the heads of the law, and the church, to advise merely to one point, what restraints should be placed on the intercourse between the Princess and her daughter. There never was a stronger imputation cast on any one than was cast on the Prince by the legal advisers of the letter of the Princess—it was an appeal to the country against their prince, and an appeal to the child against her parent. But of all the paragraphs of "he Letter, that which related to the canting paragraph about the confirmation, was the most reprehensible; for if her Royal Highness had ever spoken to the bishop of Salisbury, the tutor of the Princess, on the subject, with a wish on her part to have the ceremony performed, he could have told her that it was his Majesty's express wish it should not take place till the Princess had attained her I8th year. The country, he was sure, would feel that the Prince had discharged his duty; and that his consultation with the council on the education of his child was a proof of his love of his people, and that he had shewn an anxious desire to exercise the prerogative of educating his daughter, with a just sense of its great importance. It was not by any means just to infer that any criminality was imputed to the Princess, for the separation alone was sufficient to justify the restraints, and they ought to be considered merely as matter of regulation arising out of the unfortunate circumstance of the separation. He would maintain that the hon. member had not laid any parliamentary grounds for his Amendment, not having shewn what course of proceedings he would adopt, if the Report was laid on the table, and therefore he should oppose his motion.
§ Sir Thomas Plumer
being alluded to personally, felt himself called on to make a few observations: he did not know whether he was called on to defend himself against a charge for having been an adviser of the Princess, or for having given his advice, or for not being any longer her adviser. As to the first point, he had to say, that he was commanded, in 1806, to attend her Royal Highness at Blackheath, to assist in defending her from the charge at that time made against her. Did he do wrong in not withholding that advice? 1151 As to the second point, was it expected he should tell what advice he had given? He did not think he ought to be called on to stand there as a defendant; and he certainly should not act very professionally if he had disclosed what advice he had given. He had, however, the consolation of being able to say, that his opinion was in complete unison with that of Mr. Perceval, who was not at that time in the cabinet, or in any political situation. He also had the consolation to say, that his advice had been successful in defending her Royal Highness against the charge then meditated against her. He would not, however, be then tempted to communicate what that advice was. He agreed with what had been publicly stated by Mr. Perceval, that throughout the whole discussion he could not discover any thing to allow him to think there was any just foundation for the charge that was preferred. On the third point, he could only say it was from no act of his own that he was no longer a legal adviser of her Royal Highness. She had no doubt voluntarily made choice of persons much better able than he was to give her advice.
§ Mr. Brand
said, he was disappointed in the speech he had just heard: he expected to have heard some reply to the allusions made to the learned gentleman. In his opinion circumstances had come out which made him think the country was exposed to much difficulty and danger. The noble lord had made no satisfactory reply to his hon. friend; it was not enough to say the Regent had the sole prerogative of educating his daughter. Statements had been handed about in which it was said, the Princess was accused by suborned witnesses, and to suffer the matter to rest here was a denial of justice to the Princess; for this reason he would support the Amendment of his hon. friend.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, he felt very warmly on this occasion, as a man of honour and a gentleman, but he could not vote either for the original motion or the amendment. He must at the same time say, it was not the speech of the noble lord that induced him to come to this determination; for the noble lord had left the points which were the most material in the discussion without any answer. He considered this a most galling and disgraceful subject, no less than dragging the royal family before the House. The true question was, whether ministers had done their duty, first to their King, and secondly 1152 to their country. In his opinion, the four commissioners appointed in 1806 had gone farther than they were required to do. The commissioners were to examine into a charge of one kind only; but from the evidence brought to support this they formed another, and thus exceeded their jurisdiction. If their report was only to go to the King, this circumstance would not have been material, but as it was to go to the Princess, it was sure to be productive of such difficulties as no woman could submit, without complaint, to the imputations that were cast upon her. But passing by this Report, the next to be considered was that of 1807, which was a complete acquittal as to every point. This the noble lord had not denied in his speech; but the ministers of that day not only acquitted her Royal Highness, but went farther, and advised his Majesty to receive the Princess at court. With such a Report in existence, why was it necessary now to ransack the evidence of 1806, and to rake together the documents of that period to found a Report upon what regulations were necessary to govern the intercourse between the Princess and her daughter? Documents, in crushing which, the noble lord had formerly been a party. If, instead of such an unjustifiable proceeding, his royal highness the Prince Regent had been advised to say, I am the father of this child, and I will act as a father is impowered to do. I am Prince of these realms, and I will exercise my prerogative of educating the successor to the throne'—the country would have been satisfied, in his opinion, as he did not conceive the Princess was so popular, as to fear that such advice would not have been universally approved of. The hon. member said, he had as high notions of royalty as any man; but he must say that all such proceedings contributed to pull it down. He was very sorry we had a royal family who did not take warning from what was said and thought concerning them. They seemed to be the only persons in the country who were wholly regardless of their own welfare and respectability. He would not have the Prince Regent lay the flattering unction to his soul, and think his conduct would bear him harmless through all these transactions. He said this with no disrespect to, him or his family: no man was more attached to the House of Brunswick than he was; but had he a sister in the same situation with her royal highness the Princess of Wales, he would say that she was exceedingly ill-treated.
§ Sir Samuel Romilly
said, the hon. member was mistaken as to the nature of the powers given to the commissioners in 1800. He had no-authority for saying the noble lords had officiously entered on other points besides those which were referred to them., He would ask the hon. member, if he had ever read the commission? He (sir Samuel) had seen it, and if he did not very much mistake it, it went to direct the four noble lords to inquire into all the facts contained in the statement of the Princess of Wales, which had been submitted to his Majesty; among which were other matters, besides those forming the ground of the principal charge against her Royal Highness.
§ Mr. W. Smith
fully participated in what fell from the hon. member who spoke last but one; if his sister had been treated as the Princess of Wales had been, he should feel himself extremely sore. He regretted he could not see his way clear how justice could be done to the Princess, and, therefore, wished his hon. friend would explain what further proceedings he had in contemplation.
could not accede to the motion of his hon. friend, yet he was almost inclined so to do, from the admirable, incomparable, resistless eloquence with which he urged it. He would ask, was it competent for this House to grant the prayer of the Princess's Letter? The Report of 1806 ought not to be laid before the House. Was there any thing in it that ought to be submitted to their consideration? Suppose the Report to be on the table, what would they do with it? Could they address the Prince Regent for a trial? Could they condemn? Could they acquit? This was truly an attack on the government; and the defence of the noble lord was worthy of the newspapers which advocated his cause. He denied that any person in opposition had had any connection with the publication of the papers, or with any part of the transaction; he disclaimed all knowledge of all proceedings therein, and he should despise any one who could make the royal quarrel a stepping-stone to office: he had never so done; those he acted with had never so done; and he wished he could say as much for the living and the dead, and that all could lay their hands on their hearts and say the same. He despised such base and despicable conduct from the bottom of his soul
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, after the question 1154 asked of him by his hon. friend, he might, perhaps, be allowed to make good a deficiency in his former speech, by explaining what his further views and intentions were, provided he should succeed in his motion of that night, and obtain the Report alluded to in the Letter of the Princess of Wales to the Speaker. It certainly was his intention, in the event of the success of his first motion, to have followed it up by motions for such papers as "might appear necessary for the further elucidation of the business, and for the justification or conviction of the person who had thrown herself, as her last resource, upon the justice and mercy of the House. But the few hours which, had passed since he moved his Amendment, had so entirely altered the state of the case, that he should not now even press a division. The most complete defiance on the part of the Princess of Wales had been thrown out, in the presence of those persons who had the fullest opportunity of inquiry, and whose duty it was to inquire into every part of her conduct—who had the means of searching her very heart. So completely did she now appear acquitted of all possible imputation of blame, even by those persons from whom the aspersions were, by the world, supposed, in the last Report, to have been thrown upon her, that it was in his mind unnecessary to press the matter to a division. Her innocence was entire—it was complete. To such restrictions as the Prince Regent in his capacity of father to the Princess Charlotte, or by the advice of his ministers, might think proper to impose upon her intercourse with her daughter, she must submit. It was her lot. But she had the satisfaction of knowing that her reputation henceforward was, by the confession of all parties, without imputation or reproach. From these considerations, he should not press a division.
could not sufficiently praise the honest and manly warmth shewn by the hon. member who spoke last: but all motions similar to the present he should resist. He never would consent to support that which, however plausible at the moment, would endanger the permanent interests of the country. Besides, the necessity of such motions was lessened, if the object was to declare the entire acquittal of the Princess; because, from the tone of the noble lord, as well as his repeated declarations of her innocence, any further proceedings were unnecessary. He was prepared to assert and maintain, that the 1155 words and meaning of the cabinet Report in 1807, conveyed a complete, satisfactory and unlimited acquittal. He would not have supported the late Minute of the council had he been in the cabinet; he should have been content to say that his Royal Highness was the master of his own family; as father and sovereign, he had a right to direct and controul the conduct, of his daughter, and to regulate whom she should see, and whom she should not see. The Minute, he was glad to hear it owned, left acquitted innocence, as it was, before the council made their Report. It was hard to stop these discussions; but it was better they should be so done, than left where it would be difficult to controul their circulation. He (Mr. Canning) disapproved of the original publication of the letter as the cause of all the mischief. He would not have raised the flame by calling in the aid of other persons to assist the cabinet, which had given to the proceeding a character of uneasiness and anxiety that had been very injurious.
§ Sir W. Garrow
maintained that the Prince Regent was placed by the appearance of the letter in print, in a situation that forced him to take the opinion of grave honourable persons, as to the line he was to adopt upon this subject. He denied being a party to the publication of the extracts, which appeared in a newspaper some days back. What took place was this, he and Mr. Adam, and Mr. Jekyll, were not called to revise the proceedings of the council in 1806, but they were commanded by the Prince to give their opinions upon questions proposed to them. They met at his house, locked up all the papers while the subject was in discussion; they destroyed all the copies but one, and he had not seen the papers since, till he was shewn the extract that was printed in one of the newspapers the other day.
§ Mr. C. Johnstone
refused so to do, adding, that it was a proud day for him, because it had completely established the innocence of her royal highness the Princess of Wales.
The question was put, and Mr. C. Johnstone's motion was negatived without a division. The House then adjourned.