HC Deb 07 July 1819 vol 40 cc1537-40
Mr. D. W. Harvey

, after stating that he thought some further inquiry relative to the borough of Camelford necessary, in consequence of the reports of two committees, and that there would not be time in the present session to pursue and complete that inquiry, moved a resolution that the House would renew the investigation early in the next session, and that the Speaker should not issue his writ for a new election until 10 days after the next meeting of the House.

Mr. Primrose

argued against the resolution, contending, that the evidence of Mr. Hallet put an end to all imputation upon the two sitting members, and in a great degree relieved the borough from the general charge of corruption. He moved, as an amendment, that the report of the committee be now taken into consideration.

Mr. Tremayne

thought that the special report of the select committee was fully warranted by the evidence, and that the two sitting members had been brought within the 49th Geo. 3rd: if the evidence against them was circumstantial, it was because Mr. Hallet and Mr. Harvey had kept out of the way.

Lord Ebrington

said, that if ever there was a case in which the House was bound to interfere, either from a regard to its own consistency, or for carrying into effect that most moderate species of reform which so many members of it (though hostile to any general measure) had expressed themselves anxious to have adopted, he did not see how they could avoid pursuing the same course, in the instance of Camelford, which they had with respect to other boroughs, wherein the same practices had been detected. It should be recollected, that at Penryn, which the House had so justly visited with its condemnation, the report of the committee had been confined to a few cases of individual bribery; whereas here, we have the collective sentiments of two committees in the same session▀×the former, as to the general corruption of the borough, and the latter, as to the persons who had been the principal actors in these disgraceful scenes. His hon. friend had argued, that because Mr. Hallet had stated in evidence, that his corrupt proposal to the electors of Camelford had not been accepted, it was therefore to be presumed that they were altogether innocent; for his own part, he could draw no such conclusion, nor, when he considered the very suspicious circumstances under which Mr. Hallett came before them, and the manner in which he had given that evidence, could he place any great reliance on his testimony in this case. He thought the House could not hesitate a moment as to the necessity of withholding the writ till next session, that we might then effectually prosecute that inquiry which the facts before us so imperiously called for.

Lord Normanby

expressed his decided concurrence in the opinion of the noble lord with regard to the propriety of transferring the right of voting from boroughs convicted of general corruption, for he could not conceive the justice of still leaving the right of voting to those who had abused that right by the grossest corruption, which must be the case ac- cording to the system of merely extending that right to the adjoining hundreds.

Mr. Gurney

said, he had heard the latter part of the noble lord's speech with great satisfaction, and did hope if these boroughs were disfranchised, that Manchester and Birmingham would take their place in the representation, and not the adjacent hundreds. Perhaps there could be no instance in which this hundred system would appear more strikingly absurd than this of Camelford. Camelford was made a free borough by Richard, king of the Romans, in 1259; It is not even a parish: Lanteglos, the parish in which it is situate, contains, by the last population returns, only 1,100 inhabitants, It never sent members to parliament till the last year of Edward 6th, when the duchy of Cornwall being in the Crown, and the Commons having refused to pass the bills of attainder against the adherents of Somerset, Dudley, duke of Northumberland, dissolved the parliament, sent a circular to the sheriffs, stating whom they were to return, and first summoned nine Cornish boroughs, of which Camelford was one, the mayor, eight aldermen, and ten freemen being the only voters; and Camelford, now before the House a second time the same session, is situated in a hundred, which includes another borough of the like description, whilst there are eight boroughs in the three hundreds adjoining. He could hardly avoid the remark, that the House had been referred to the reign of queen Elizabeth as the purest period of our parliamentary history, whilst, in fact, the duchy of Cornwall still remaining in the Crown, queen Elizabeth summoned seven more Cornish boroughs, in addition to those first receiving precepts under Edward 6th, making part of 31 boroughs, added to the representation during her reign, and every one boroughs of nomination. Now, the first precedent of throwing a borough to the hundreds being so extremely modern, as well as so perfectly anomalous, and the introduction of important places to the right of furnishing representatives to parliament supported by so long a series of precedents, as, for example, the Welsh counties and towns in the reign of Henry 8th; Durham so late as that of Charles 2nd.—

Lord Castlereagh

here rose to order, remarking that the question into which the hon. member was entering, was not yet ripe for discussion, and in order that the inquiry should be really bona fide, he recommended the postponement of its further progress until the next session.

Mr. Gurney

said, he must confess that he had been considerably out of order in alluding to what had passed in former debates; but if any more of these boroughs were to be disfranchised, he did consider the subsequent proceedings of the House of such extreme importance, in the present state of public opinion, that he was anxious to express his hope that the course would be taken which, in his mind, could alone lead to any advantage, and the only one defensible on any ground either of reason, or ancient precedent.

The resolutions moved by Mr. Harvey were then agreed to.