HC Deb 16 March 1815 vol 30 cc231-4
Mr. Whitbread

presented a Petition from Mr. Lovell, the proprietor of "The Statesman," taking notice of his former Petition presented to the House on the 23d of November last; and setting forth: That, since the same was presented, the petitioner has been officially informed, that his Majesty's Government have consented to a remission of the fine of 500l. and a reduction of the sureties to half the amount ordered by the court, and to take the petitioner's recognizance for 1,000l.; and that he is impressed with a due sense of this lenity shown to him; but has still the misfortune to declare, that, owing to the heavy losses sustained during his long imprisonment, he is still unable to give the sureties required, except so far as relates to his own recognizance of 1,000l.; and that the petitioner still continues to labour under severe attacks of disease, and his general health is much impaired; and he therefore again appeals to the justice and humanity of the House to afford him such further relief as to them shall seem tit, for, without such interference, the petitioner expects to terminate his existence within the walls of his prison.

Mr. Addington

stated, that the fine had been already remitted, and the sum required from the two sureties reduced from 500l. to 250l. each, at the solicitation of a worthy member (Mr. Alderman Atkins.)

Mr. Whitbread

said, that the petition acknowledged the lenity of the Crown, but the petitioner was unable to find even the sureties now required. He hoped his Majesty's Government would extend full mercy to this unhappy man, who had suffered a severe sentence, and a great aggravation of it.

Mr. Alderman Atkins

joined in the humane intreaties of Mr. Whitbread, and stated the distressed circumstances of Mr. Lovell. He had communicated to Mr. Lovell the intentions of the Government. He had, however, tried all his friends, and could not get any two persons to step forward in the security of 250l. each. There were many gentlemen who would rather pay down the money, than give their names as sureties under such circumstances.

Mr. A. Browne

expressed himself satisfied with the conciliatory disposition of his Majesty's Government, and hoped the mercy of the Crown would be still further extended to Mr. Lovell.

Mr. Bathurst

thought that the public was entitled to some security, and that it was extraordinary that any man of sufficient character to conduct a newspaper should not be able to find two sureties in the sum of 250l each.

Mr. Whitbread

stated, that he had taken occasion to visit Mr. Lovell in Newgate, and that he should not have presented this petition, if he was not fully satisfied of the truth of the allegations it contained. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last, appeared not to have recollected the statement of the worthy alderman who had behaved so meritoriously in this transaction, and according to whose observation, many individuals would be ready to subscribe the sum required for Mr. Lovell's surety, who would yet be indisposed to put their names forward as bail for that gentleman. The motives of that indisposition were indeed obvious. As to the right hon. gentleman's observation upon the petitioner's character, which, according to that right hon. gentleman's opinion, could not be respectable, because he found himself unable to procure bail, it ought to have occurred to him that the petitioner was placed in very peculiar circumstances, in no degree affecting his general character, although naturally creating an obstacle to the attainment of bail,—that being in prison he was under the necessity of committing his publication to other hands, by whom he had already been betrayed into farther misfortune. The suffering of the petitioner then was, in a great measure, attributable to the misconduct of others; but this very circumstance must operate to augment the difficulty of procuring bail; for persons would naturally reflect, that they would have to become security, not only for the petitioner himself, but for those to whom he was liable to commit the conduct of his paper. Hence the petitioner might feel a great difficulty in procuring bail, without any imputation upon his general character. He was unwilling to make any statements whatever that could serve to inflame the mind of any one upon this subject; but in fact, the most effectual way of inflaming the public mind, as to the fate of the petitioner, would be to reject the prayer of his petition, and let him die in prison. This, however, he hoped and trusted would not be the conduct of ministers, but that feeling for the unfortunate situation of the petitioner, and seeing his inability to procure bail, they would allow him to be liberated upon his own recognizance.

Mr. Bathurst

disclaimed the intention of saying any thing injurious to the private character of the petitioner, of which he really knew nothing; but added, that he could not conceive how any individual or individuals could deem themselves liable to an imputation in paying the sum required for the petitioner's security, if such a disposition existed.

Sir J. Newport

thought the continuance of the petitioner in confinement, furnished demonstrative proof of his incapacity to procure bail, and he was therefore astonished at the doubt expressed upon that point.

Mr. J. P. Grant

concurred in the opinion of the right hon. baronet; for, four months having elapsed since the fine imposed upon the petitioner was remitted, and his security was mitigated, it was obvious that he would not have so long remained in prison, if he were not unable to procure bail.

Mr. Whitbread

repeated his hope that ministers would accede to the petitioner's prayer: it was evident, from the extreme length of the petitioner's imprisonment, that the ends of justice could in no degree suffer by the grant of mercy on this occasion; for this was indeed an extreme case, which could not be drawn into precedent, while the punishment suffered by the petitioner, was surely sufficient to make a due impression upon his own mind and upon the mind of others also.

The petition was ordered to lie on the table.