moved the order of the day for the balloting for the Secret Committee, to which the papers on the internal state of the country were to be referred.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that in ballotting for the Secret committee, they would have very little trouble, as the lists were all prepared by ministers themselves. He hoped, however, that no gentleman would be named who was not in the habit of attending the House, and on whose attendance in the committee they might therefore calculate.
The clerk proceeded in the usual way to call over the names of members alphabetically. The first ministerial members who came forward with their lists were cheered by the opposition members. The opposition members did not present any lists. The names of the members having been twice called over, scrutineers were appointed, who afterwards reported the names of the members chosen to be the Secret Committee; viz. Lord Milton, lord G. Cavendish, Mr. W. wynn, lord Castlereagh, lord Lascelles, Mr. Bathurst, Mr. Lam be, sir Arthur Piggott, sir W. Scott, sir John Nicholl, Mr. Solicitor General, Mr. Attorney Genera], Mr. Canning, Mr. Yorke, Mr. Egerton, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Bootle Wilbraham, Mr. W. Dundas, Mr. Peel, sir W. Curtis, and admiral Frank.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
remarked, that his noble friend, lord George Cavendish, was at a considerable distance from town, and under such circumstances made it impossible for him to attend. He wished to know whether there would be any objection felt to the nomination of Mr. Tierney in his place.
apprehended that this 201 would be a proceeding perfectly inconsistent with the nature of a committee chosen by ballot. The noble lord, whose absence he regretted, was in every point of view a most proper person to be on the committee, and as such had been elected.
Upon the mention of lord Castlereagh's name,
§ Mr. Brougham
rose, and disclaiming any thing invidious, protested against the attempt to constitute the noble lord a judge upon this question, whether the noble lord himself and his colleagues had behaved improperly towards individuals, who had perhaps already commenced actions against ministers, for depriving them of liberty, and stigmatizing their characters.
observed, that if the proposition of the learned gentleman were admitted, namely, that because he was a minister, he ought not to become a mem-ber of this committee, he wished to know to what functions he was competent in that House? For were he precluded from giving an opinion, or promoting an inquiry, upon any question in which the administration of the government was concerned, he hardly knew what business he could have to transact in parliament.
§ Mr. Brougham
referred to the noble lord's objection to the proposition for substituting another name for that of lord G. Cavendish, and asked how the House would proceed, in case persons were chosen by ballot to any committee who could not possibly attend? The House would, in such a case, no doubt, help itself out of the difficulty, by renewing the ballot; and as to nomination, he called to the recollection of the House, that the last committee of last session was chosen by nomination, and not by ballot. So much for precedent. But to return to the selection of a person by ballot, who was physically incapable of attendance, it appeared that pro tanto, such was the situation of Lord G. Cavendish. The attendance of the noble lord was, no doubt, peculiarly desirable, not only from his personal character, but from his acquaintance with the transactions in Derbyshire. But the noble lord, it appeared, could not attend; and was the committee to have no one in his place. Sir Arthur Piggott also was among the names returned; but it would be remembered, that his learned friend, when chosen upon the committee 202 of last session, declared his unwillingness and inability to attend. It was probable, therefore, that his learned friend would be equally unwilling and unable to attend upon the present occasion. Possibly that was calculated upon. Thus it appeared, that two of those members, who might be regarded as impartial, and whose names were inserted in the ministerial list, were likely to be absent from this committee, while the noble lord, with two other cabinet ministers, and the attorney and solicitor generals were sure to be present. How, then, was the country to regard this committee? They saw it composed of the very persons who were mixed in the transactions with respect to which it was appointed to inquire. Yet such was the committee on whose verdict the House would be called upon to legislate. Such was the committee that would no doubt recommend an act of indemnity to shelter ministers from any responsibility for the exercise of the powers with which they were invested by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act. What a spectacle for the country, that a committee composed, by far the most part of ministers and ministerial adherents, should be appointed to decide upon the question, whether persons imprisoned by order of ministers should have their right of action at law—whether, for instance, such persons as the Messrs. Evans, Mr. Cliff, and others, who had already, he understood, commenced proceedings against ministers, should have an opportunity of seeking legal redress and vindicating their character, or whether all their proceedings should be quashed, while they themselves should be condemned to pay all the costs they had incurred !
§ Mr. Wilberforce
thought it desirable, if any member returned upon the ballot was unable to attend, that another should be substituted for him, if such substitution could be made consistently with the usages of the House. To the principle of ballot he declared himself an advocate, because it afforded the best chance of escaping the influence of party, and of producing a fair selection. But even upon ballot, there must be some previous understanding in the House as to who were to be chosen, for otherwise the votes of many members must be entirely thrown away.
§ The Speaker
stated, that with respect to the proposition for the substitution of one name for another, he believed there 203 would be found no precedent on the Journals of the House; indeed, that single and individual circumstance of putting one name in the room of another would be, in a manner, jumping over several of the principal orders; and first, that one, that the committee be appointed by ballot. Now, he submitted, that if one name was substituted for another, that would not be done by ballot. He was only stating to the House what he thought was the practice, and, in making such a statement, he thought he was only doing his duty. He could not find any trace of such having been the practice. He did not perceive that any member had been left out, except it was by absolute parliamentary disqualification, a physical impossibility of attendance. As to any other disqualification of attendance, there was, as far as his knowledge extended, no account of any case having arisen.
§ Mr. Calcraft
thought, that without contradicting the orders of the House, it might be regular to fill up the places of the persons who it was supposed, would not attend. He wished to say a word or two with regard to the appointment of a committee by ballot. Of that method he could safely say, that the influence of ministers by means of it was greater than by any other mode. He had himself been a scrutineer upon the appointment of this committee by that method. He did not suppose there was any thing secret in what he was saying, but if there was he would not proceed. [Cries of No ! no.] He had not been sworn when he was appointed a scrutineer. There wore, upon this occasion, 108 persons who had put lists into the glass, and amongst those there were 97 not only identically the same, but in the same hand-writing. Whose hand it was, or whence the lists came, he would not presume to offer a conjecture. But if his hon. friend had considered for a moment, he was persuaded he would have inferred, that the quarter whence they came was not very doubtful. He thought some steps might be taken to supply the places of those gentlemen who would not attend, though he should be the last man to propose any member in the place of his noble friend; for he thought he was one of the best persons in that House to become a member of such a committee.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said, that if any member who had a list given him, thought any one was not a fit person for such a 204 committee, he might have scratched out the names, without its being suspected who made the alteration.
said, that if it were necessary to take any step with respect to the list, there was one obvious course for the House to adopt. They could insist that any member, not prevented by a physical impossibility, should do his duty. For his own part, he should protest against the adoption of any other step.
§ The Speaker
quoted the case of sir Joseph Jekyll, who was chosen by ballot to serve on a committee. An objection was made to his appointment, on the ground that he had not taken the usual oaths at the clerk's table, but the House, on a division, decided that he was qualified, and refused to substitute another name.
§ Sir W. Burroughs
maintained, that there might be a parliamentary disqualification to exclude a member from serving on such a committee. The case of the noble lord was one of those; there could be no reason why he should sit as judge of his own acts. The precedent just alluded to established this principle, that the House might review the ballot, in order to correct its own proceeding where it might be wrong. He begged to remind the House of the motion made by the noble lord yesterday, which determined that the committee should consist of 21 members. Suppose, then, that lord G. Cavendish could not attend, would not that vote be defeated? Suppose sir A. Piggott was also to absent himself, could it be said that the House was not competent to supply his place? In the last session, the name of the present solicitor-general was added to the committee. It would be desirable to know whether lord G. Cavendish was absent at the time he was nominated, or whether he had since left town. Perhaps the best course they could adopt, under the circumstances, would be to postpone the meeting of the committee until the noble lord could be personally present, as there was no urgent necessity for their meeting immediately. He trusted some steps would be taken to remedy so great an abuse as the appointment of a committee by ballot, which was the worst mode that could be employed. Had they been elected by nomination, the choice would then have been made from the members who were present, and the inconvenience now experienced would have been avoided.
§ Sir M. W. Ridley
begged to assure the House, that the absence of lord G. Cavendish was by no means voluntary. It was certainly not his own wish, but a real necessity that compelled his absence.
It was then ordered, that the committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.