The Chancellor of the Exchequer
having moved the order of the day for resuming the adjourned debate upon the amendment proposed [26th February, See p. 712] to be made to the question, "That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the cleric of the crown, to make out a new writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this pre sent Parliament for the Borough of Penryn in the room of Henry Swann, esq. whose election has been determined to be void;" which amendment was, to leave out from the word "do" to the end of the 907 question, in order to add the words, "not issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown, to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present parliament for the Borough of Penryn, until the House shall have proceeded to take the said Report into further consideration," instead thereof,
Sir Charles Burrell
began by declaring, that he had no connexion whatever with the committee whose report suggested to him the propriety of the motion with which he meant to conclude, nor with Penryn itself, nor with any of the parties concerned in the recent election. But he felt it his duty as a member of parliament to submit the case to the judgment of the House, leaving it to its own discretion to determine, as to its sense of justice might seem meet, upon a full consideration of all the merits of the question. The minutes of evidence taken before the committee were in the hands of the members, and they presented such a view of the practices which prevailed in this borough, that he thought it impossible for the House, consistently, to abstain from some special proceeding upon the subject. The House was called upon to consider, not only the bribery and general corruption which the evidence disclosed as to the late election, and the inconsistencies in that evidence, but the understanding which prevailed as to the usually corrupt habits in this borough. In defence, indeed, of the rights of their fellow subjects, the House was bound to take this case into its serious consideration. He had taken an abstract of the evidence as it appeared in the minutes upon the table, in order to show the grounds upon which he proposed to proceed. The first witness called for the petitioner was Henry Carter, who deposed, that Mr. Swann said to him that he expected that the witness wanted money as well as the rest—that accordingly, Mr. Swann offered witness a five pound note, which was afterwards received by witness's wife, telling him that he should have five pounds more after the election, adding, that sir C. Hawkins would be answerable to pay the witness ten pounds more, if he (sir C. H.) were brought in, making on the whole twenty pounds. This witness further stated, that he voted for Mr. Swann, but not for sir C. Hawkins. It was but justice to state, that this witness prevaricated very much in the course of his cross-examination. The next witness examined was Thomas Rosman, who de- 908 posed, that Mr. Swann promised him a situation if he would give him his vote, and that he received five one pound notes from his wife, which was given by Mr. Swann, as witness understood., Mr. S. told witness that he (Mr. S.) had given money to his wife. The vote of witness, which he tendered for Mr. Anderson, and sir C. Hawkins was rejected. Witness did not, however, return the money which his wife received from Mr. Swann, and he declined to state the reasons which induced him not to tender his vote for that gentleman. Edward Rosman the son-in-law of the last witness, deposed, that Mr. Swann threw a five pound note upon his mother's bed, between six and seven o'clock in the morning of the 15th of June, to induce witness's father-in-law to vote for him, witness being at the time a-bed in the same room. Witness having lived at Penryn since he was a child, remembers that "Penryn breakfasts" mean giving of money by the candidates to the voters after an election. John Gill deposed, that upon Mr. Swann's application to him for his vote, witness told him he must have 15l. for his vote. Mr. Swann, hugging him round the waist, between five and six in the morning, told him to go to Abey Winn, who gave witness 6l. but saying that the 15l. he demanded should be made up to him after the election was over. Witness, however, regarded the 6l. as not enough, as "a mere fly," as he called it, but still retaining that money, he voted for Mr. Anderdon and sir C. Hawkins. Witness declared that he did not receive any money from those for whom he voted, but that he was promised more than six pounds at different times. Upon the question being put whether the witness who has lived fourteen years at Penryn, knew for what purpose voters want a "breakfast" after an election, he declined to answer it. William Timmin deposed, that he saw Mr. Swann in presence of Mr. Goodeve, give 8l. to Chas. Lucas, and for his vote I heard him promise Lucas 5l. more after the election. Witness was appointed by Abey Winn to stay with a voter of the name of Lamp-shire all the night before the election commenced, on which night Lampshire supped in company with Mr. Swann and Abey Winn, and that in the morning Lampshire went to the poll, declaring that he would not poll for Mr. Swann unless paid by Wynn; that on his return from the poll Lampshire showed witness some notes 909 which Lampshire said he had received from Winn. Witness stood behind a screen in the room where Mr. Swann supped with his friends, on the night before the election, having been ordered by Winn, for whom he usually worked, to stop there in order to prevent Mr. Swann from experiencing any interruption. Abey Winn was generally an active man in the Penryn elections. Thos. Cock deposed, that he saw Mr. Goodeve give Lucas 8l. which he received from Mr. Swann at the house alluded to by the last witness, and that he also heard Goodeve promise Lucas 5l. more after the election. Witness saw Mr. Durnsford, a friend of Mr. Swarm's give Mrs. Trathen the 16l. in her husband's presence, as well as in the presence of Mr. Swann, to induce the former to vote for the latter. Witness followed Mr. Swann through Penryn previous to the last election, believing that he was bribing, as witness understood that he had usually done at former election.—William Hellard deposed that he saw the 16l. given to Trathan, as alleged by the last witness, and that Goodeve and Durnsford the friends of Mr. Swann, were master-brewers at Penryn.—James Cock deposed that Mr. Swann gave his wife some silver in his presence, in order to induce him to give his vote for him. Witness heard of the "breakfasts" after the election; but never heard of the electors receiving 15l. 18l, or 20l. each for their votes.—Francis Major deposed, that he received 10l. from Mr. Swann, to induce him to vote for that gentleman, which he did, and he received 2l.after the election from Abey Winn.—Here the case was closed on the part of the petitioners; and John Goodeve, adduced on the part of the sitting member, denied the allegations of bribery deposed to by the witnesses on the other side, and in which he was stated to have been a party. Witness, however, declined to answer a question with regard to an offer stated to have been made by him to an elector of the name of Jenkins to induce that elector to vote for Mr. Swann. —Wm. Trathan being adduced, it was decided by the committee that he was a competent witness as to the general transaction of the election, but that he could not be examined to rebut the evidence of the fact of his having been bribed himself, that is, that he should not be allowed to Say any thing in vindication of his own character. Upon what ground the committee had come to this decision, he (sir 910 C. B.) declared himself incapable of comprehending; for a witness having sworn to tell the truth and the whole truth, it appeared very extraordinary that the tribunal before which that oath was administered should determine that he should tell only a certain part of the truth. But he would make no farther comment upon this part of the transaction. It was open to the House to draw its own inference from the minutes. Trathan stated, that Mr. Anderdon, the petitioner promised to make him master of one of his vessels, if he (witness) would vote for him, and that Mr. Mitchell an attorney, was present at the time that promise was made, as was Mr. Williams at the repetition of it on the next day. Peter Brabin deposed, that Mr. Anderdon called upon him immediately before the last election to solicit his vote, he was accompanied by Mr. Sewell. Witness hesitating to make any promise, Mr. Sewell beckoned him into a small passage where he went with Mr. S. alone; but upon the question being put as to what passed in that passage, the counsel for Mr. Anderdon objected to the admissibility of the evidence, while the counsel for the sitting member contended that it was admissible to show that Sewell was the agent of the petitioner, and the committee decided in favour of the objection of the petitioner's counsel. Upon what ground this decision was pronounced, he could not at all imagine. Robert Earle deposed that he heard Thos. Toy say, in presence of Mr. Anderdon, at a public meeting, on his first appearance at Penryn, that he was the son of a very respectable gentleman in London, as well as the son in law of Mr. Manning, one of the bank directors; adding, that Mr. Swann had never paid the "breakfast," and was not likely to do so on this occasion, but that Mr. Anderdon would stand or fall by the electors. Lord de Dunstanville, the hon. baronet observed, was, as it appeared from the evidence, the recorder of Penryn, and that a certain action brought against one of Mr. Swann's supporters was compromised under mysterious circumstances. The last witness examined was Oliver Gregory, who contradicted the evidence of Peter Brabin, by alleging that the latter told him. during the last election at Penryn, that Mr. Swann had given him (Brabin) 25l. for his vote. The hon. baronet, after shortly recapitulating his statement of the evidence, expressed his conviction that some proceeding should be taken by 911 the House, not upon any visionary view of reform, but in order to prevent the recurrence of such scandalous corruption as marked the conduct of the electors of Penryn, either by throwing open that borough to the inhabitants of the vicinage or by such other measure as to the wisdom of the House might appear expedient. He concluded with moving as an amendment, "That a Committee should be appointed to make farther inquiry with regard to the corrupt and illegal practices proved by the minutes on the table to nave taken place at the election of Penryn, and to report their opinion thereupon to the House."
§ The Speaker
begged to suggest that this motion could hardly be received as an amendment on the motion for a new writ. The universal practice in such cases had been, to move that the Speaker should not issue his writ till a certain day, and thus put off the proceeding, from time to time, till a decision had been come to on the merits of the case.
Sir C. Burrell
felt obliged to the Speaker for setting him. right, and the amendment being withdrawn, he proposed another amendment to the question, by adding the words "not issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown, to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Penryn, in the room of Henry Swann, esq. whose Election has been determined to be void, before this day month."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he felt great difficulty in rising to discuss this question, as he must confess that he had not been able to pay that close attention to the subject which it deserved from its importance, not only to the character of many individuals, but to the character of the House itself. He, however, could find in the statement of the hon. baronet nothing that ought to induce the House to alter the constitution of the borough in question, by throwing it open to those who had not heretofore enjoyed the right of voting. It had undoubtedly been shown, that several instances of bribery had occurred, but nothing had been proved that went so far to inculpate the great body of the electors, as to justify a measure of such severity. In a case where the punishment must fall on the innocent as well as the guilty, the House ought to pause before they decided on taking the course which had 912 been recommended to them, He could not conceive a more injurious precedent than that which would be established if the House were to appoint one committee, as had been proposed to try the decision of another with the same witnesses, to examine with precisely, the same means of obtaining information. The result of this might be, that the two committees would make reports of an opposite character, and then he could wish to know what part the House was to act. In every former case, where a borough had been thrown open, it had been proved that a great majority of the voters were corrupt. In the present instance, this had not been proved; there had indeed been a good deal of loose surmise, and a great deal of gossip and tittle-tattle, but nothing had been positively proved against the great body of the voters. Under these circumstances, he trusted the House would not go farther against the electors generally, whatever steps they might feel themselves called upon to take in order to punish particular individuals.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, he had listened with some attention to the few arguments which the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down had employed in the course of his speech. By so doing, he had discovered that the right hon. gentleman had entered into reasonings which were, in their tendency, of much greater importance than the original question it-self. That question, however, was one of the most important questions that could come before them; and, in the present temper of the country, was rendered more important than ever, inasmuch as it was necessary to show the disposition of the House with zeal and vigour, where such corruptions as had been just produced were brought before it. He was therefore sorry to hear the words gossipping and tittle-tattle applied to facts which were so well substantiated, because they were not the words which a minister of the crown ought to apply to such heinous breaches of the constitution as had been reported to the House. He should almost suppose that the chancellor of the exchequer had not heard the speech of the hon. baronet as be had so completely mistaken its tendency and bearing. The hon. baronet had not talked of disfranchising the borough; be had only told them that there was a prima facie case of bribery and corruption 913 established against it, which called for the strictest examination, and which ought, therefore, to be investigated most narrowly in justice to the House, the country, and the borough which was so strongly implicated in it. As the hon. baronet had not said a word about disfranchisement, the arguments used against it were inapplicable, and did not require any notice from him. He could not, however, in justice to that hon. member, refrain from saying, that his conduct in this business had been highly laudable, and had given him a fair title to the thanks of the House and the country, inasmuch as he had brought the question forward in a manner well calculated to reconcile the people to the laws and constitution as they existed. At present, any man who had read the minutes of evidence, must have seen that there was a complexion of corruption in the whole business from beginning to end; and the question in consequence was, whether it was such a colour and such a complexion as authorized inquiry? In his opinion it certainly was sufficient, especially when he recollected what the chancellor of the exchequer seemed to have forgotten, that, a few years back, the election of the members returned for Penryn had been voided on account of bribery. With regard to the argument that the appointment of another committee would be to retry the case, he maintained that it would be no such thing. The former committee had concluded its sittings, had given in its report, had declared the sitting member to be unduly elected, and nothing could again call it into existence. The committee now moved for had not to renew the investigation which the previous committee had begun; it had only to inquire, whether the borough of Penryn had not been guilty of such corrupt and illegal practices as required the interference of parliament.; and whether its inhabitants had not betrayed the most sacred trust which could be confided in them—the privilege of ejection. But then, gays the chancellor of the exchequer, the House has not the power of examining witnesses upon oath. What then had become of those decision which had been made previously to the passing of the Grenville act? If the right hon. gentleman meant to say, that the House could, under no circumstances, administer an oath, what did he say of the proceedings in impeach- 914 ment, or what, in the proceeding, which he did not mean to defend, on bills of attainder? To use such language was to arraign the principle on which our fore fathers had acted, and was calculated to bring into contempt both the justice and the jurisdiction of the House. He therefore must treat every objection which was founded on the principle that the House was not able to administer on oath, as irrelevant to the question. The hon. gentleman then proceeded to argue n the necessity of appointing another committee, because the last-appointed committee had no right to inquire into the corrupt practices which had existed previously to the late election. Great evidence of them had come incidentally upon their minutes, though, in his opinion, it was not sufficient to disfranchise the borough of Penryn. It was however worth considering, whether these incidental discoveries were not such as ought to lead the House to prosecute the investigation further, and to reflect, whether they ought not to transfer the elective franchise to those who would make a better use of it than its present possessors. Such a line of conduct was most calculated to vindicate the honour and integrity of parliament, and he should, in consequence, vote for the motion of the hon. baronet.
Mr. A. Wright
was of opinion, as the first committee had acted under the sacred obligation of an oath, no second committee should be appointed, as if to try the merits of their decision. A general impression seemed to prevail in the committee of the intended disfranchisement of Penryn; but he had given his opinion to those who spoke to him on the subject, that there were not sufficient proof's of general corruption to authorize any proceeding to such an extremity; and that opinion he did not now see any reason to alter.
The Hon. F. Douglas
said, he considered the question of considerable importance, inasmuch as it showed the practices which were only too common in many boroughs. He would go so far as to suspend the issuing of the writ; and if the borough were found guilty of the practices imputed to it, he would vote for merging the right of suffrage in, the neighbouring hundreds. He wag less inclined than many members of the House to support the cause of reform, because, though he saw the evils which, existed in the pre- 915 sent system, he was afraid of any vague and indefinite investigation into the nature of government. He was, however, anxious for investigation into isolated cases, whenever they occurred, and especially when they occurred in open rotten boroughs, where it was well known that the greatest abuses existed. In the present case, he should consider the matter judicially, as far as related to the borough, and constitutionally as far as regarded parliament. He did not think it requisite that bribery should be brought home to all the electors before a borough could be disfranchised—such evidence had never been required in any of the precedents to which he had been able to refer. In the borough of Cricklade, though many of the electors were convicted of bribery, great numbers had been actually proved not to have received any; and yet the value of their suffrage had been equally diminished to them all. In Shoreham, the whole borough had been disfranchised, because one party had endeavoured to oppress the other: he, therefore, could not conceive, after these cases, that the House could labour under much difficulty in the present instance. When he recollected all the circumstances under which the facts now known to the House had come to its knowledge; when he recollected that each party only brought forward such witnesses as could speak to particular facts; when he recollected that many of the transactions had only been discovered by cross-examination of reluctant witnesses; when he recollected that meetings had been held to deliberate on the price of their votes, and that one man had even refused to vote till the price had been paid up; when he recollected the public breakfasts, and the extraordinary purposes which they were made to serve; and when he also recollected the practices which had transpired before a former committee of the House, with respect to this very borough, he could not help feeling that the House was called upon to enter into an investigation. He was against all wild and visionary reform; but when the reform of specific abuses, like those at present before him, could be safely and practically remedied, he would never lift up his voice against so salutary a proceeding. And he would even rather come to a summary vote on the question then before the House, and have something final determined, than have the writ issued for so foul, so flagitious, so corrupt a borough as Penryn.
Sir F. Burdett
said, he could not partake in the virtuous indignation displayed by the House on the present question, because he had long been aware, that the practices which had called it forth were "as notorious as the sun at noon-day." When he recollected that, on one of the king's ministers being accused of trafficking in seats in parliament, the accusation was met and stopped by this declaration, he did not see what right the House had to assume so much of the pride of virtue upon this occasion. It was hard to say, and it would be still more hard to get any man in that House to believe, that the other boroughs were more immaculate than the borough of Penryn; and, therefore, when he heard such loud vaunts about purity of election, privileges of parliament, breaches of those privileges, and so forth, he looked upon them as nothing more than gaudy topics of declamation—speciosa verbis, re inania. Such proceedings as were now contemplated were not, in his opinion, calculated to do good; inasmuch as they would only render these corrupt practices more secret, but not a whit less pernicious. He did not see that Mr. Swann was at all more to blame than a great many gentlemen who were fortunate enough to retain their seats, nor that Penryn and its electors were at all more culpable than the boroughs and electors in many other parts of England, and especially the west. Mr. Swann might say to some of those who now censured him so severely, "mutato nomine, the case applies to yourselves: you have been guilty of bribery as well as I." What pretence was there for saying, that there was more virtue in Old Sarum, or even in Knares-borough, though represented by the hon. and learned gentleman (sir J. Mackintosh) than in Penryn? It was perfectly notorious that 4,000l. or 5,000l. were taken for seats by great proprietors of boroughs; and why should indignation be so vehement against a body of men, who having their living to get, had accepted a paltry 20l. a piece? On the contrary, it should seem that these individuals had been remarkably moderate in their demands, and had set an example to the rest of the tribe, that might be followed to advantage, for they had given a seat for the comparatively small sum of 2,500l, It was ridiculous to talk of an inquiry like this; it was a mere mockery to suppose that it would accomplish any good end. The honour of the House, or if that were 917 begging the question [Hear, hear!], at all events, the sense of the country demanded a general and immediate investigation of the whole subject. In truth, the character of the House, and the respect that ought to be felt for it out or doors, had been lost by idle opposition to it. He could not, therefore, agree to the disfranchisement of Penryn, or to any step that might lead it. It would be a gross act of injustice to punish an individual who had not sinned more than a great many others who were untouched, and a borough which was probably not so corrupt, as a great number of others that could be mentioned. It was well known — no gentleman could venture to deny—that bribery had been committed in a thousand other instances, and the punishment of it in this particular case, instead of correcting the evil (if hon. gentlemen could persuade themselves that it was one), would have directly a contrary effect: it would be considered in the country as a proceeding where injustice was backed by hypocrisy. The folly of it also was apparent, for no man would be imposed upon out of doors; no man with his eyes open would believe that it was any thing but a trick and contrivance—a pretence to induce the weak and childish to imagine that parliament was desirous to purge itself of corruption, when in truth it was only anxious speciously to cover its iniquity. For his own part, he would much rather that boroughs were at once rendered legally and publicly saleable as at an auction, because he knew that there were many honest and independent men in the kingdom who would willingly give 4,000l. or 5,000l. for a seat in the House, if they could do it fairly and properly, that they might bring forward schemes which they thought would benefit their country [Hear, hear!] They wished, and he wished, that the system of secret nomination and secret intrigue should be totally abolished, and that the morals of the country should no longer be undermined, and the character of the house invaded, by such nefarious practices. Why should not boroughs avowed to be marketable, be rendered openly marketable like any other commodity? For these reasons, he protested against all measures of severity against any of the parties concerned in these transactions.
§ Mr. Brand
said, that he would not yield to any man, not even to the hon. baronet, in zeal for his favourite cause of parlia- 918 mentary reform; but he rose to protest against the view that had been just taken of this question. He was most anxious to witness the amendment of the existing system of representation; and he had indulged a sanguine expectation, that such an amendment would have been accomplished, until the hope was checked and blasted by wild and visionary schemes, like those which had now been noticed. AH those who had sincerely and strenuously, discreetly and constantly, looked forward to this object, had been repelled, at least for a time, by the violence and extravagance of the doctrines of a certain body of parliamentary reformers. He was not one of those who, because he could not obtain a general revision of the system, would not avail themselves of the opportunity of detecting and punishing the most flagitious and abandoned practices. It had been said by the chancellor of the exchequer, that there was no evidence on which the House could proceed; but was it meant to be asserted, if any member in his place asserted that he knew that in a certain borough candidates or voters had been guilty of bribery, that an inquiry could not and ought not to be instituted? Next, it had been argued, that as the House could not investigate upon oath, all inquiry ought to be abandoned; but it ought to be recollected, that a great deal probably yet remained behind, and which had been fitly excluded in the committee, because it did not touch either of the parties before it. That body had not power enough, nor sufficient range, to enter fully into the matter, but on this very account it was more the duty of the House not to allow the matter to drop. Gregory was the only witness whose evidence was totally unimpeached; the rest were assailed in one way or another; and Peter Bradin appeared to have been perjured throughout. He thought the suggestion of an hon. member well deserving attention: what he had thrown out was a most wholesome and beneficial species of reform, and if it could not be done in the particular case, he was sorry for it: he wished to see the right of election taken wholly from such places, and given to more populous towns, such as Birmingham or Manchester; or, if the landed interest were not adequately represented, let it be conferred upon one of the divisions of Yorkshire. As to unity in the right of voting, it was the most absurd of all absurd projects; it was a chimerical 919 and fanatical idea, that he believed had not entered into the head of any man who had seriously reflected on the question. One of the great advantages of the pre- sent system was, that unity of voting did not exist. He hoped that the right hon. gentleman would take time to reconsider the determination he had stated, and enable the House, by unanimity in this vote, to give a satisfactory answer to the country on the question, how it had discharged its duties in a case of such flagrant delinquency.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he had no objection to a short postponement of the motion for issuing a writ, but he should object to the proposed mode of inquiry.
§ Mr. Beaumont
said, that although no friend to wild reform, he considered the transfer of the elective franchise from such corrupt boroughs as Penryn, to towns like Manchester or Leeds, the most salutary reform which the House could adopt, or the country with a view to its own good expect, and he should therefore vote for inquiry.
, of Galway, said, that his principal objection to the motion was, that it tended to a parliamentary reform of the worst species. He was more disposed to the proposal of the hon. baronet, that if any inquiry was necessary, it should be a general one. He thought that no member who had ever voted against parliamentary reform could vote for further inquiry into this case. No general corruption had been proved against the borough, and it was unjust to punish the many for the transgressions of the few.
thought the proposed inquiry by a committee contrary to all parliamentary practice. He agreed, that where a gross case of corruption had been made out, disfranchisement and transference was the most unexceptionable and practicable mode of reform. It had been tried with success many years ago by Mr. Pitt, in the cases of Shoreham and Ayles-bury; but they were clearly distinguishable from the case now before the House; here the committee had laid no ground whatever for any ulterior step, and the House could not proceed therefore in the face of the minutes. At the same time he was net disposed to exclude all remedy, fey granting the writ; and though the proposed delay was rather too long, he should not object to that part of the motion He was by no means opposed to a 920 wise system of parliamentary reform; but he was convinced that there were better modes of accomplishing the object, than by pulling down upon our heads the whole fabric of the constitution. There was no instance in old times, but especially since the passing of the Grenville act, of the appointment of a second committee, after a first had concluded its labours. He did not concur in the observation, that the House could not inquire judicially, because it could not, in a case like this, examine upon oath. He was not aware that the administration of an oath to witnesses under these circumstances would be attended with any advantages. He objected to the appointment of a second committee, merely because it was not authorized by precedent, and because it would give the House too much power: it would tend to draw every thing into the vortex of the House. It was true that this was the second time Penryn had been before the House, but still he did not see his way clear in going further than delaying the issue of the writ.
§ Sir John Newport
argued, that if the former committee were functus officio, it was the strongest reason for appointing a new body of the same kind, and with more extensive powers, to embrace not merely matters brought home to the members or to the petitioners, but to the electors. If the House refused to investigate further, it would establish a precedent for not examining into any case of corruption however gross, unless it were brought home to one of the candidates. It was clear that the borough of Penryn had proceeded since 1807, not only in general corruption, but in the same system of corruption which had then been-detected: it had almost been brought home to the same parties, and if the committee had only reported against a few electors, yet at two meetings, where eighty or a hundred were present, the most corrupt propositions were made for tendering themselves for sale to the son-in-law of a Bank Director, who could come down with a certain sum of money. Though the House would not countenance the doctrines of annual parliaments and universal suffrage—though it rejected wild and visionary plans of reform, yet it owed to the country, and to those who looked with suspicion upon its conduct, to show that it was not reluctant to inquire into crime, and to punish the guilty The question was not now, what town should 921 be substituted for Penryn, but whether it was fit that any town should be substituted? These points were quite distinct: and those who voted for the one, need not necessarily pledge themselves as to the other.
§ Mr. Carew
, as one of the members of the committee, begged to observe, that proof of general corruption in the borough was given; it was sworn that it had been the general practice to give a breakfast, and to present each of the electors present with 24l.; that Mr. Swan had been three times returned, and that he owed his present failure to an abandonment of that good old custom, which had induced the voters to call in a third candidate who would give them a breakfast and 24l. Mr. Anderdon thought the bribery so notorious as to warrant a resort to the act of disqualification; Mr. Swann returned the compliment by rejecting Mr. Anderdon's voters, and a notice was mutually given that the votes on each side were thrown away. The bribery oath had not been heard of; and it was generally supposed, that if any candidate were so unpolite and so impolitic as to propose that it should be taken, he would be considered in Cornwall virtually disqualified. If there were no actual precedent, he thought the House ought to find a precedent to meet this case, which in point of grossness was perhaps not exceeded by any upon the Journals.
referred to the case of the county of Hants, as an authority for suspending the writ at present. It was true, that it had not been formally suspended, but no motion had been made for it until after the minutes had been printed, eleven days after the report of the special committee had been made. The question now was, whether the House should continue to suspend the writ for Penryn; and if he had thought that no grounds had been laid for further inquiry, he should undoubtedly dissent from the motion for suspending the writ. He saw many matters in the evidence already printed, requiring further investigation; but in the first place, it was the strong impression of many members of the committee that the subject should not here be closed. It appeared beyond question, that meetings had been held, at which resolutions were agreed to, and in consequence of which, a candidate had gone down; and if bribery and other corrupt practices could act be brought home to the mem- 922 bers, it was of great importance that the House should know how far the electors were implicated. Some hand-bills of a singular nature were also referred to in the evidence, but they were not received by the committee, as it was not thought that it was sufficiently shown that the candidates had any concern in them. These subjects required further investigation. It was well known, that a losing candidate would not petition the House, but would rather wish to withdraw any prayer of that kind. It might very properly be matter for the consideration of the House, whether it was possible to extend the oath taken by the committee, so as to enable them not only to try the matter immediately before them, but to report upon any acts of bribery that might incidentally come out during their sitting, and the names of the persons concerned in them. Certainly, the arguments adduced in opposition to the issuing of a new writ, by the hon. baronet and one other hon. gentleman, were all of them of the most discordant character. The hon. baronet had declared that he should not have opposed the motion, had not the same practices been permitted ten years ago, in a sitting member; so that because the House did not do its duty ten years ago, it was neither now nor on any other occasion to act as became its character! Because the House then passed over a flagrant and notorious case of corruption, it was not now to interfere to vindicate its own honour, and assert its own dignity! The hon. baronet had said that the returned member, when upbraided with his misconduct, might turn round on every member of the House, and address them—"mutato nomine, de to fibula narratur." How far this declaration applied to the hon. baronet, he really did not know; but speaking for himself, and for many, his most valued friends, at that moment sitting round him, he declared it to be an utterly false and unfounded calumny [Hear, hear!] If the House would preserve its honour, its dignity, its character, if it would vindicate these to the country, it became its bounden duty (and a grave and most sacred duty it was) to consider such offences. When these offences were known to exist generally, and strong suspicions existed as to particular cases, it was, he would maintain, its imperative duty to examine further. He could not entirely separate the case before the House from that of 1807, al- 923 though twelve years had intervened between them, especially when he found that the then and present sitting member for that borough, which was the subject of the inquiry then instituted, gave 24l. a vote, the precise sum offered on the present occasion. Here was, therefore, good reason to believe that a more extensive system of bribery and corruption existed than was yet apprehended. He thought the term of one month was too long, as it was very possible the committee might be enabled to make its report in a much less time: he should move, therefore, that "one fortnight" be substituted for the words "one month."
Sir F. Burdett
complained that the hon. member had misrepresented him, in saying he had applied his remarks to every member of the House; his statement was, that the persons accused might turn round on the members of "every other rotten borough," and make the same charge: and if the hon. member asserted he had made use of any other term, he asserted what was false.
said, he had understood the observations of the hon. baronet to take a much wider range, and to convey a general censure on members of that House, more particularly those representing boroughs.
§ Mr. V. Blake
entreated the hon. member and the hon. baronet to abstain from any allusions calculated to excite irritation during the discussion of the subject before the House.
§ Mr. C. Calvert
wished to know if the hon. baronet intended that his observation should extend to the borough of South-wark? If so, it was most false and calumnious.
Sir F. Burdett
thought it very hard to be thus called upon after his former explanation; which he repeated.
§ Sir R. Wilson
observed, that his hon. colleague might have been sure, had the hon. baronet's observation applied to Southwark, that he (sir R. Wilson) would not have allowed it to pass without observation [a laugh]. He so far agreed with the hon. baronet, that he hoped reform would not be confined to Penryn, but that it would be extended to the correction of those abuses which were known so generally to exist; but he trusted with the hon. member for Hertfordshire, that the present opportunity of commencing that reform would not be neglected.
Sir C. Burrell
said, he had no objection 924 to the amendment proposed by Mr. Wynn.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
also observed, that the alteration of the term to a fortnight removed his objections to the original motion.
§ The motion as amended was then agreed to. After which.
§ Sir C. Burrell moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire further into the existence of certain corrupt and illegal practices which appear to have prevailed in the borough of Penryn previous to and during the late election, and to report their opinion, together with their observations thereupon to the House." After a short conversation, it was agreed, that the debate on this motion should be adjourned till to-morrow.