HC Deb 10 December 1819 vol 41 cc1004-8
Lord Castlereagh

having moved the order of the day for the second reading of this bill,

Mr. Tierney

said, he had no intention whatever to provoke a debate in the present stage of the measure. His objection was not so much to the principle of the bill, which was local and temporary, as to certain provisions of it. Therefore he thought it most advisable to let it pass the second reading and go into the committee, where perhaps the amendments might be adopted, which he thought requisite. If not, there were two subsequent stages at which it might be opposed. A clause to which he most strongly objected was one empowering one justice, on any information, to grant his warrant for entering into the House of any man by night.

Mr. Bennet

hoped the whole of the county of Northumberland would not be put under the operation of the bill. All its purposes would be answered by making it act on certain parts thereof.

Mr. Lambton

hoped the noble lord would feel it his duty to state to the House whether he had made the inquiry he promised, in consequence of what bad passed in the House last night. He now again asked the noble lord whether he had seen any communication from the deputy-lieutenant of the county of Durham to any of his colleagues, containing a representation at the end of the peaceable state of the county?

Lord Castlereagh

said, he had read the communication referred to by the hon. member. But the evidence it afforded did not go the length that the hon. member seemed to imagine. It merely stated that the county was not in a state of tumult at that time, without venturing to assert that tranquillity would be permanent. Now, it had never been alleged, that the county was in a state of actual tumult, but only in such a state as might lead to tumult. The letter was written to lord Sidmouth, in consequence of an application to certain magistrates to call out the yeomanry, by the commanding officer at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he considering an additional military force necessary for the security of the county. The letter conveyed intelligence of this application, and added what he had before mentioned, as the opinion of, the writer. The South Tyne corps had in fact been put on duty in consequence of the commanding officer's wish. This was the only document he had seen.

Mr. Wharton

declared that his information was of the most alarming kind. A system of communication had been established throughout extensive districts in Durham and Yorkshire, and the spirit of disaffection was on the point of exhibiting itself in armed force. The colliers and pit-men were thoroughly organized, and assembled every day in parties of twenty, their leaders assembling every week. A letter which he had received from a gentleman in that part of the country, and one not easily alarmed, stated, that with- out some commanding military force, there was an end to all security—that arms were provided, and the landed property already parcelled out [a laugh]. An hon. member opposite might be more interested than he was aware of, and if he knew the source of this information as well as he did, would come to the same judgment. At many of these meetings reform was, indeed, the professed object, but not any reform of that House, even upon the wild scheme of universal suffrage. The reform contemplated, and for which they seemed to entertain an enthusiastic desire, was a transfer of property from those who now enjoyed it to those who did not.

Mr. Lambton

said, that were it not for the disagreeable nature of the subject, he should have been extremely amused at some of the observations of the hon. gentleman, but the subject was too serious for mirth. Yet he thought it a little extraordinary that a gentleman who had not been for some years in the county of Durham, and who, when he did reside there, lived some miles distant from the people against whom he had preferred such heavy charges, should come down to-the House and make assertions concerning persons exactly opposite to what he (Mr. L.) had stated, who lived amongst them, and had caused the most diligent inquiry to be made into their conduct. He then described the contents of a letter he had received from a person who had a few days before been present at a meeting of owners of coal-mines, where the fact of the colliers having arms happened lobe discussed, but not one among them could affirm the fact of his own knowledge. He stated, however, that the colliers had been pretty generally classed, but that that practice was very much abating, and that it had prevailed among the colliers only, and not among the smiths, or any other description of workmen. He never recollected any year in which the men were more anxious to work—he did not remember one idle day among them, but that of the meeting at Newcastle. He had also seen a gentleman from one of the villages to which he had before alluded, who represented every thing there as perfectly quiet. This intelligence had been confirmed by another gentleman from that county, with whom he had recently had a conversation. He had informed him, that many of the persons classed as radicals had left the classes. An hon. friend had suggested that he ought to explain what that classing meant. It only implied, that persons formed themselves into parties of twenty, who chose a leader to read a newspaper to them, purchased in common. He could not allow the fact of classification to be any evidence against these persons; he believed in his heart it was done for no other purpose but that of reform, and not to pass Agrarian laws; and that they were as quiet and peaceably disposed as any description of his majesty's subjects. Accordingly, he still adhered to his intention of proposing in the committee, that the county of Durham should not be within the operation of the act. He assured the noble lord, that in making these inquiries, he had been actuated solely by a desire of dissipating what he conceived a false alarm.

Lord Milton

said, he believed there was no connexion whatever between the colliers in Northumberland and those in Durham. He lamented extremely, that a bill like the present should be proposed to be continued for two or three years, when it was in fact totally uncalled for by the state of the country.

Mr. H. Clive

mentioned a report from the mayor of Newcastle, which was in the Secretary of state's office for home affairs. It contained the depositions of four respectable individuals, on the subject of the meeting near that place on the 12th October. The hon. gentleman read the substance of three of these depositions. The first stated, that the deponent had no doubt but that the parties marching to the meeting were secretly armed; the second, that the radicals were armed with pikes; and the third, that the deponent believed that upwards of 1,000 had arms in their pockets.

Lord Castlereagh

rose merely to mention a matter to the hon. gentleman (Mr. Lambton), not that the statements of the hon. gentleman would, even if accurate, alter his view of the expediency of the extended measure; but he wished the hon. gentleman to inquire into the truth of the fact which had been stated to him last night, namely, that the agent of the hon. gentleman had discharged from his mines the leaders of these classes. If this was the case, it was curious that so excellent a reformer as the hon. gentleman should have so indifferent an opinion of these reformers as not to trust them even in his coal-mines.

Mr. Lambton

rose, with considerable warmth, to repel the conjunction of his name with radical reformers. He had-often been attacked for his opposition to their principles, and it was too much for gentlemen who had never ventured to meet them face to face, to taunt him in this way with a sympathy in their doctrines.

Lord Castlereagh, with much good temper, assured the hon. gentleman that he called him an excellent reformer in a constitutional sense, and never meant to class him with the radicals. He knew he was not a radical, for he had read the hon. gentleman's speech, delivered at the Newcastle meeting, with all that open manliness which marked his conduct in every other respect. He only thought the hon. gentleman was more disposed to place confidence in those persons than he should be, and mentioned the subject entirely that the hon. gentleman, if not acquainted with it, should ascertain whether his agent had thought so ill of the leading reformers as to dismiss them from his service.

Mr. Lambton

said, the noble lord having, with that conciliating manner which no one knew better how to display, disclaimed the intention of imputing those violent principles to him, he of course could not for a moment retain the idea that any thing personal was meant. If his agent had dismissed these men, he was not implicated; and, to be good for any thing, it must be shown that they were discharged on account of their political principles, and for no other cause.

Sir C. Monck

said, he hoped the noble lord, when the bill was considered in the committee, would consent to limit the operation of the bill to three wards in the county of Northumberland, they being the only parts of that county where symptoms of disturbance had manifested themselves.

The bill was then read a second time.