§ On the motion of Mr. Bennet, the order of the day was read for the attendance of Thomas Arrowsmith, William Shackle, Henry Fox Cooper, and R. T. Weaver. Mr. Arrowsmith accordingly appeared at the bar, and was examined as follows:
By Mr. Bennet.
—Are you the proprietor of the newspaper called the "John Bull?"—I am not.
How long have you ceased to be the proprietor?—Since the 10th of February.
To whom did you give up the proprietorship of that paper?—To Mr. Weaver.
For what consideration?—None.
Was there any agreement, written or verbal, between you, that you were to receive a share of the profits of that paper? —None whatever.
Do you receive any of the profits?— Not any.
Are any of the proceeds paid into your hands?—The weekly profits are paid into my hands.
Do you keep a shop for printing in Johnson's court, Fleet-street?—I do.
Do you ever reside there?—Never.
Is that the place where the printing of the "John Bull" is set up?—Yes.
Does Weaver give you any compensation for the setting up of the printing there?—Not any.
In point of fact is he not your journeyman?—He is not now in that capacity.
Do you not pay him three guineas a week? We pay him nothing for "John Bull." Does he not receive a salary?—He did receive a salary for reading proofs and for printing.
Was the "John Bull" his then?—No.
Are you in the habit of allowing journeymen and others in your employment to set up printing in your shop, on their own account?—It is not my shop in which Mr. Weaver prints.
Is it not on your premises?—There are two houses, in one of them the "John Bull" is set up.
634 Is that the next door?—Yes.
Who pays the rent of that house?—I do, and Weaver pays me.
What have you received as rent from him?—Nothing, as payment of rent, for I take it out of the proceeds of the paper.
How do the proceeds of the paper come into your hands?—From the publisher.
Who is he?—Mr. Weaver.
Do you say that the proceeds of the paper come to your hands through Mr. Weaver?—Yes, certainly.
All?—?Not all; there is the money for the advertisements, which comes through other hands.
Who pays the workmen?—Sometimes I do, sometimes my partner, and sometimes Mr. Weaver.
Do you generally pay the wages of the men?—No.
Then, if any one were to have said that you paid the wages of the men, would he not have stated that which was not true?—I do not pay the wages of the men on the "John Bull" generally; sometimes I do.
If any person had told the House that you did pay them, would he have told that which is not true?—It is not the fact certainly.
Did you employ Cooper as editor?— My partner did.
Who is he?—Mr. Shackle.
Was it done with your knowledge and consent?—Yes.
What salary was Cooper to receive?— Three guineas per week, with the understanding that it was to be increased if the paper got on.
Has he got any increase of salary since?—No.
What induced you to give up the proprietorship of the paper?—The idea that the paper would not succeed, and my being unable from want of time to read over all the proofs.
By Mr. Robert Smith.
—Was there no agreement between you and Weaver as to the sum of money on the first commounication?—None.
No account to be given?—None.
To whom do the types of the "John Bull" belong?—They are ours.
Was Weaver to receive the profits?— Yes.
If the receipts of the paper were to exceed the expenses, you say Weaver was to receive the profits?—Yes.
If the expenses were to exceed the receipts, who would have to bear the loss— 635 you or Mr. Weaver?—We should bear the loss.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—Did any written or oral agreement take place at the time Weaver got the paper, as the compensation he was to pay you?—There was an agreement made.
What were the terms?—That Mr. Weaver was to be the proprietor of the paper: we did not think at that time that the paper would have gone to the height it has; indeed, we thought we should lose by it in the end.
But Was there no agreement as to the compensation which Weaver was to pay you if it succeeded?—None.
One prosecution had been commenced against "John Bull?"—Yes.
How soon after this did you give it up?— Shortly after.
In what time after?—About three weeks after.
Was it in as short a time as three days after?—No; it was more.
By Mr. Smith.
—How came it that you made so strange an agreement as you stated?—We started the paper, and risked the consequences.
What induced you to enter into an agreement of that sort, by which you could not gain, and might lose?—Because, if the paper did not succeed, it could be dropped.
By Mr. Wynn.
—Have you ever paid any thing on account of the profits to Weaver?—Never.
Did you, in the oral agreement, reserve aright to drop the paper when you thought fit?—Yes.
This, you say, was about the 10th of February last?—Some time thereabouts.
Are you sure that it is more than two months?—Yes.
Did Weaver continue with you as a journeyman down to the time of the agreement you speak of?—Yes.
By Mr. Bennet.
—Did you ever, after your having given it to Weaver, exercise any control over the articles inserted in the paper?—No; every thing was left to Mr. Cooper.
Did you see the manuscript of the articles which were inserted in the paper?—I might have seen some of them; but I did not; read them.
Did you ever see the manuscript of the article in question?—Not before it was printed.
Is it customary to keep the manuscript of articles inserted in the paper?—No.
636 Do you say it is not the practice in your printing-office?—Yes.
Is it the practice not to keep them in other offices?—I do not know.
Do you not know that the practice in other offices is the reverse?—No.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—Had you any conversation with Weaver yesterday as to the order which he had received to attend?— Nothing more than that he told me he bad received the order.
What time did he tell you this?—I think about half past nine or ten in the morning.
Were you alone?—No; I think Mr. Cooper was present.
Are you positive that Cooper was present?—I am not certain.
By Sir R. Fergusson.
—When did you first hear that Weaver was ordered to attend this House?—About ten yesterday.
And you then heard it for the first time? —Thereabouts.
And you say no conversation passed between you, except that Weaver told you he was ordered to attend the House?— None whatever.
Were you present in this House yesterday evening during, the examination of Weaver; and did you hear any of the questions asked?—I was not present, and did not hear any of the questions.
Have you had any communication with Weaver on the subject since yesterday?— Of course, on his coming to the office, I could not but ask him what had happened.
The witness was now ordered to withdraw, and, on the motion of Mr. Bennet, W. Shackle was brought to the bar and examined.
By Mr. Bennet.
—Are you the proprietor of the paper called the "John Bull?" —Not now.
How long is it since you ceased to be the proprietor?—I believe in last February: I think about the time I had the honour of waiting upon you, sir.
What was the occasion of your having given up the proprietorship of the paper? — I candidly confess the idea of a prosecution was not pleasant.
Did Weaver make any compensation to you for the paper?—No, I asked for none.
Is he to make any hereafter if the paper should be profitable to him?—No.
Then you surrendered your share of the paper to him without receiving any remuneration at all?—None at all.
What situation did Weaver then hold? 637 —He had been in my service for some time.
In what situation?— As overseer.
What was his salary?—Two pounds a week for doing one thing or another.
What does he get now?—Three guineas a week.
What does he perform for this?—He has the superintendance of the paper.
What paper?—The "John Bull." What do you pay him for the superintendance of his own paper?—It is all his own.
But then why not give all the profit to him, if it is all his own—what do you do with the rest?—We give him three guineas a week of his own: he gets the remainder when the accounts are settled, because he is sole proprietor.
But why pay him only a part of his own?—Because three guineas is all that is necessary now: he will have the balance hereafter.
How do you know he gets three guineas a week; who pays him?— Sometimes I pay him, sometimes Mr. Arrowsmith, and sometimes he pays himself.
Who receives the profits?—Sometimes Arrowsmith, and sometimes I myself, in trust for Weaver.
Have you no account current with Weaver, for whom you hold those profits in trust?—There are the books open to Weaver, and he may see the payments.
Who keeps those books?—Mr. Arrowsmith or myself, as occasion may happen.
Who is in possession of them?—There are two books at the office: I believe they are now lying on the desk.
I speak of the book of accounts current, in which are entered the monies received for the "John Bull?"—There are two; one, of the monies received; and another, of the monies paid for stamps and other disbursements.
To whom are the debts and credits entered?—There is no debtor and creditor account: there is only a plain statement of the receipts and expenses.
Are you in the habit of looking at the manuscript of the articles inserted in the "John Bull" before they are printed?— Sometimes I do see them.
Did you see the manuscript of the article in question?—I do not know that I did; I might or might not. The articles for insertion generally go from Mr. Cooper to the compositor.
Do you examine any of the manuscripts sent to the office of the "John Bull?"— Sometimes.
638 Do you take upon yourself to say, that you did hot see the manuscript of the paragraph in question before it was printed?—I cannot recollect; but I am quite clear that I did not read it till it was in print.
Did you appoint Cooper to be editor? —I did.
What was to be his salary? —Three guineas per week.
Is there any other editor?—No.
Was there ever any other?—Never.
Has he the sole management of the paper?—Yes.
Does he examine all the manuscripts before they go to the compositor?—Yes; and after they are printed.
Do you consider Cooper responsible to you?—He is responsible to Weaver.
Is he to you? — He is responsible to Mr. Weaver. When we transferred the paper to Mr. Weaver, we transferred, the services of Mr. Cooper also.
At the time that you had the paper, did you consider Cooper responsible to you? — I Considered myself as chiefly responsible, as my name was given at the Stamp-office.
Who pays Cooper?—Sometimes Mr. Arrowsmith, sometimes Mr. Weaver, and sometimes I pay him.
Then it appears that Weaver was hot to pay all expenses?—Not so.
How then?—Mr. Weaver is to be paid the balance when there is any; till then we keep it.
Who keeps it?—Mr. Arrowsmith and myself.
§ Are you quite sure of this?— Yes.
§ Was that the agreement?—It was.
§ Did Mr. Arrowsmith know of that making the agreement?—Yes.
§ Then you say that if the income were to exceed the expenditure, Weaver was to have it?—Yes.
§ And if the expenses were to exceed that income?—I dare say the paper would not go on.
§ By Sir J. Boughey.
—When you made the proprietorship over to Mr. Weaver, did you conceive he had a right to drop tile paper or continue it as he might think fit?— I conceived that he might do as he pleased in that respect. I had nothing more to do with the paper; although I started it, and may be considered as the father of it.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—I think I understood you to say, that some part of the outgoings of the paper were borne by you up to this time?— Out of Mr. Weaver's money.
Do you occasionally pay the journeymen and other persons who are employed? —For Mr. Weaver.
Does Mr. Weaver ever pay them himself?—Not always.
Has he ever paid them? — I think he has paid Mr. Cooper sometimes.
Do you happen to know how often he has paid Mr. Cooper?—Not exactly.
More than once or twice?—I think he has.
By Sir R. Fergusson.
—Has Mr. Weaver been employed by you for any other purpose than in printing "John Bull?" — I do not employ Mr. Weaver in printing "John Bull."
Did you not employ Mr. Weaver to print "John Bull" while you were the proprietor?—Yes, while I was the proprietor.
Did you at that time employ him for any other purpose?—Yes, in my employment generally, as overseer.
Are any of the journeymen employed in printing "John Bull" employed by you in any other part of your business?— When there is such an influx of matter that Mr. Weaver requires assistance, we lend him some men.
When those men are lent to Mr. Weaver, does he pay any thing for their labour?— Of course. They are paid so much an hour.
Has Mr. Weaver ever paid any sum to you on account of those men?—They are among the several disbursements in the books, and the amount will be accounted for in the balance.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—The question asked you is, whether, when you lend any extra men to Mr. Weaver, he pays you for the loan?—The money is not paid; but it is among the disbursements in the books.
§ By Sir W. De Crespigny.
—In what capacity do you consider yourself as standing to Weaver, agent or trustee?—As his friend. I presume it is common for one man to take care of another man's money.
Were you in the habit of taking care of Weaver's money before "John Bull" was transferred to him?—He had then a certain salary; he has now three guineas a week for his present maintenance, and expects at the end of the year, or of the half year, the balance, if there is any, to be paid him of the profits.
640 You have not answered the question. Were you in the habit of taking care of Mr. Weaver's money before "John Bull" was transferred to him?—I presume he is capable of taking care of his own money.
§ The Speaker
said, the witness would do well with regard to the House, and would make a better impression with respect to himself, if he would deliberately attend to the questions put to him, and then give direct answers to those questions.
Mr. Shackle begged pardon if he had offended the House; but observed, that he was rather deaf, which sometimes prevented him from hearing the questions exactly.
Were you in the habit of taking care of Mr. Weaver's money before the "John Bull" was transferred to him?—No.
Have you given Weaver any security for the safe custody of his money?—None at all. I was never asked.
What are the journeymen employed in printing "John Bull" occupied about in the early part of every week?—They are occupied in what is called distributing, and preparing for the next publication.
On the motion of Mr. Bennet, Mr. Copper was then called to the bar, and examined.
By Mr. Bennet.
—, Are you the editor of the Sunday paper called "John Bull?" —I am.
How long have you been so?—From its commencement.
Are you the sole editor?—I am.
Are all the manuscripts which are sent to the paper for insertion submitted to you?—They are all submitted to me.
[The clerk was here directed to place in Mr. Cooper's hands the "John Bull" of Sunday last, with the objectionable paragraph marked].
Was that article submitted to you before its insertion?—Part of it is an extract from "The Courier." The observations were written by myself. The House will, perhaps, allow me to add that I how understand the facts stated in that paragraph are not true. I am extremely sorry to have done any thing offensive to the hon. gentleman, and which is considered a violation of the privilege of the House. I believed, from general rumour, that the facts contained in those observations were true, or I would not have inserted them.
Whom did you talk to on the subject? —To nobody.
641 From whom did you receive the facts which you stated?—From general rumour.
What do you mean by general rumour? —I heard it mentioned in the office.
By whom?—I heard it mentioned by Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith, as generally current.
Did you hear it from any one else?— No. Dining the whole, of Saturday I was in the office.
Then, on the general rumour mentioned to you by Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith, you wrote the paragraph?—Exactly.
The paragraph is headed, "We have been requested to republish," &c. who requested you? No one.
Then that part of the paragraph is not true?—No; nor the latter part, as I how understand.
Are you in the habit of inserting paragraphs of this description on the authority of Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith? —I am in the habit of receiving intelligence from various persons, and from them among the rest.
But you inserted this paragraph on their authority alone? — Yes, that the facts were correct.
Did they see the paragraph before it was printed?—No; the paper was gone to press before I saw them again.
Did they know the paragraph was inserted?—No, they did not.
Whom do you consider as the person in the office to whom you are to account for your conduct?—To account for my conduct! Yes, who is your master?—Mr. Weaver.
Who employed you as the editor?— Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith.
Have you any thing to do with the receipt and payment of money?—No.
Who pays you?—Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith. I once received my salary from Mr. Weaver.
But you generally received it from Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith?—Generally.
By Sir R. Fergusson.
—Was the paragraph in question written in your own handwriting?—The greater part of it was.
Have you it in your possession?—I have not.
What has become of it? —The paragraphs and all the other articles are given by me to the compositors. What becomes of them I do not know. I believe they are destroyed.
Do you know if the paragraph in question is destroyed?—I believe it is.
642 In the office of the "John Bull" newspaper, are all the paragraphs of this nature destroyed after they are printed?—I know nothing of them after they are given out of my hands.
To whom do you deliver them? To the printer.
What is his name?—Blackey.
Did you hear the examination of Mr. Weaver yesterday?—No.
Where were you when the warrant was served at your house last night?—In the city. I was at Cornhill at half past eight, and went home afterwards.
Did Mr. Weaver communicate to you that he had appeared here?—No.
Did any person communicate it to you? —No person.
When did you know it?—I knew it yesterday.
At what time?—In the afternoon.
Did you see Mr. Weaver yesterday after his examination?—No.
Did you see him this morning?—Certainly.
You have stated, that if you had known the paragraph to be untrue, you would not have inserted it. How came you then to insert the first part of it? "We are requested to republish," &c. knowing it to be untrue?—It is a usual way to introduce a paragraph to say, "we are desired to say," or, "we are requested to say."
Have you told Mr. Arrowsmith or Mr. Shackle, that you intended to avow yourself the author of this paragraph?—Yes.
At what hour?—I cannot tell exactly.
Did they inquire of you who the author was?—They spoke of it in conversation, generally.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—You have said that the latter part of the paragraph was in your hand-writing. In whose hand-writing was the former part?—It was an extract from the "Courier."
The whole of the remarks were in your hand-writing?—Yes.
In whose hand-writing was the extract from the "Courier?"—It was in print.
Then you occasionally send to the press of the "John Bull," printed copy from the "Courier?"—Yes.
By Mr. Macdonald.
—Was any body present at the time you told Mr. Shackle and Mr. Arrowsmith that you intended to avow yourself the author of the paragraph?—Nobody.
Not Mr. Weaver?—No.
643 When there, is any doubt as to the safety of inserting a paragraph, to whom do you refer it?—The whole of the literary management of the paper is confided to me.
Do you mean to say that you consult with nobody on the propriety of inserting any paragraph that may appear hazardous?—With nobody.
Does Mr. Weaver continue to discharge the same duties with respect to the paper; as he did previously to the month of February?—Yes, he does.
§ By Lord Nugent.
—Did you ever see Mr. Weaver at your own house?—No.
Did you ever receive any note, letter, or other written communication from Mr. Weaver, addressed to you at your own house?—None.
Did you ever tell Mr. Weaver where you lived?—Never.
§ By Dr. Phillimore.
—Did Mr. Weaver know before his examination yesterday, that you wrote the paragraph in question? —I do not think he did.
When was it you first communicated with Mr. Weaver on the subject of the paragraph? Was it before his examination here?—I do not exactly recollect when it was.
§ The witness was ordered to withdraw.
said, they had now arrived at the close of the examination into a subject, the necessity for bringing which forward no one regretted more than himself; although he had felt that he could not, in the discharge of that duty which every man owed to his own character and to the House, abstain from doing so. The House had now had before it, the printer, proprietor, publisher, and editor of the paper; the latter of whom had avowed himself the author of the paragraph in question. He would say nothing of the falsehood displayed, of the perjury exhibited, of the shameful evidence given by these mere creatures of straw, in the disgraceful exhibition which the House had witnessed. Nor would he say any thing of the character of the paper with which they were connected. Its merits (if he might use the expression) were well known to the whole country; and there was but one opinion among honourable minds, namely, that it could receive its support only from persons of the basest, vilest, and most infamous nature. He repeated it, that let those persons be whom they might, they could be none but the basest and lowest of their species. It was those by whom such a publication 644 was patronised and supported who deserved the severest reprobation. It was not of those who took pleasure in such slander, and delighted in such circulation, that he spoke. That was unhappily but too general a taste. It was of those who gave to it their immediate assistance and support. The objects which he had had in view, in this investigation were, first, to clear his own character; next, if possible (although he hardly ventured to think that he should succeed in that object), to extract from the wretches who had appeared at the bar, who the persons were who employed them, and who furnished the funds for assailing the character of others. In that last object he had failed. He could not say that lie much regretted this; and, indeed, he would rather believe, if it were possible to believe, that those wretches were the authors of the libellous matter of that publication, than that it proceeded from any other quarter. He knew very well that by the rules and practice of the House, in breaches of privileges of this or of a much less serious nature, there was one course generally adopted, namely, at once to commit the offenders to Newgate. Since, however, he had had the honour of a seat in parliament, he had held and professed but one opinion on the subject of those summary judgments. That which he had stood up to oppose in other cases, he certainly would not maintain in his own. He knew well that real obstruction of the proceedings of the House was a breach of privilege which ought to be immediately punished; but he was by no means prepared to say the same of a constructive obstruction. Therefore, however he might differ from others who were perhaps better able to pronounce on the subject than himself, yet his heart, if not his judgment, told him, that there was only one course which he ought to pursue, namely, to give these people an opportunity of making the best of their case before a jury of their country. He would therefore move, "That Mr. Attorney-general be directed to prosecute Henry Fox Cooper, William Shackle, Thomas Arrowsmith, and Robert Thomas Weaver, for a false and scandalous libel on the Hon. Henry Grey Rennet, a member of this House, contained in a paper, intituled, 'John Bull,' dated Sunday, May 6, 1821."
The Marquis of Londonderry
assured the hon. member, that no one regretted more than he did the breach of privilege 645 of which he had so justly complained. In the course of his observations he would shortly point out what he conceived the most proper course to follow, under all the circumstances of the case. His opinion was, that it would be expedient to wait another day, before they came to a decision upon this question. He felt convinced that the hon. member was the last man in the House who would give his assent to any vindictive or harsh proceeding; and, on the contrary, that he would be the first to concur in the course now proposed. The hon. member was certainly placed in a situation of much delicacy and difficulty. He had stated that, in pursuance of a theory of his own (which was repugnant to the forms of the House), he would move a prosecution by the attorney-general. Now, he did not mean to say that there were not cases in which such prosecutions were directed by the House; but he must maintain, that in this instance it was not the most proper way of vindicating the character and privileges of parliament, to send these persons before a jury loaded with the condemnation of such an assembly as that. The hon. member might certainly have moved a prosecution by the attorney-general when he first brought the subject before the House; but, was that the proper course, now that a person, after examination, had confessed himself to be the editor of the paper? There was no instance in which such a prosecution had been directed by the House, after having proceeded so far in the examination of the parties, and after those parties had disclosed that which would be a part of their case before a jury. He was not prepared to say how the House ought to dispose of this case, and therefore he proposed delay. He was sure the hon. member himself would regret that the House should hastily determine upon any thing harsh. He proposed, therefore, that the proceedings should be stopped till the House should be prepared to act when they took the redress of the grievance into their own hands. He would move, therefore, "That the debate be adjourned until to-morrow."
said, that unquestionably if it required time for further consideration to dispose of the motion, he would not dispute that the discussion ought to be adjourned. But he thought it due to the House to state, that he was prepared to meet the question for directing the attorney-general to prosecute with an imme- 646 diate negative. It would be unjust to the defendants and to the House to take that course. The offence was a misrepresentation of their proceedings. The publication misrepresented the speech of the hon. member. It represented that the hon. member had made an apology, not from conviction of error, but from fear of the consequence. The heaviest part of the offence could not come before a jury. Whether it was false or true, was a question which the jury could not enter into. It would be impossible for a jury to inquire into the truth of the representation. Members of that House could not go before a jury to prove what they said in that House. He could not consent, except upon the very strongest grounds, to depart from the usual practice of the House in such cases—the exercise of the privilege of commitment. He thought that, as an editor of a paper was now clearly brought before them, they ought to proceed against him instanter by a commitment for contempt; for no doubt could be entertained of their having, like every other court, a right to proceed in cases of contempt by prerogative. When the House had disposed of the editor, it would then become them to decide what measures they should adopt with regard to the other individuals who had been brought before it; and, indeed, when the gross prevarication of which they had been guilty was taken into consideration, he thought that the House ought to deliberate, whether that prevarication did not deserve their serious attention, and whether they ought not to commit them for it, rather than for the original breach of privilege with which they had been charged.
said, he might hold particular opinions, and differ from most of his friends upon this occasion; but he should be sorry to employ against these individuals those powers which he had denounced as improper when exercised against others. He had made his proposition under the idea that it was the most lenient measure which could be adopted towards the offending parties.
§ Mr. Brougham
observed, that as he considered the present question to be one of more than ordinary importance, he should make no apology for addressing a few short remarks to the attention of the House. With regard to the idea of leniency towards these parties, he laid it on-tirely aside, and left it to the House to 647 deal with them as it might think proper. To justice, however, they had a right; and so too had s the House for the protection of its privileges, which would be at an end for every and upon all questions, if it were to follow the advice of his hon. friend. He would riot say that there was no case in which it might not be more fitting for the House to proceed by prosecution at common law than by commitment; but this he would say, that if the present case was not one in which they were entitled to commit, there was no instance on record in which the right of commitment had been properly exercised. In his opinion, the present was as gross a breach of privilege as had ever been brought under the consideration of parliament: it was as palpable an obstruction to the free and unbiassed exercise of the privileges of each individual member of parliament, as could be conceived by the imagination of man: it stood upon all the grounds on which former breaches of privilege had been declared such by the highest of authorities in the best of times; and unless the House was determined to abandon every point on which their ancestors had insisted, he could not consent to negative their proceeding in the usual mode by commitment. Besides this observation, he had another which he wished to press upon their attention. It was impossible to deny that if they intended to proceed against the parties by prosecutions at common law, they ought to have been more abstinent in their questions, and to have stopped far short of that point to which they had now arrived in their examination. For what had they already done. They had, in the exercise of their high authority, called upon certain individuals under the terror of immediate punishment to criminate themselves, and to state in that House facts which elsewhere might be turned into evidence against them. He was not prepared to say that there might not b}e cases in which evidence given at their bar might be made use of as evidence elsewhere; but even allowing there were such cases, the present, he maintained, was riot one of them. For himself, he could not help observing, that he should conceive the House to be guilty of a gross abandonment of its privileges, if it committed, the further prosecution of this charge to the attorney-general. He was likewise opposed to the proposition made by the noble lord for the adjournment of this debate, unless it were made with a 648 view of giving further consideration to the evidence of the other persons who had been called to the bar. With respect to the person; who either was the author, or bad taken upon himself the authorship of the offensive paragraph, he could see no reason whatsoever for delay, as there could be no doubt of the line of conduct which the House ought to pursue regarding him: upon that point, therefore, he should certainly vote against the proposition of the noble lord.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, that in the exercise of the power of commitment, which the House claimed as its undoubted right and privilege, he had on former occasions differed most widely in opinion from a large majority of it; and the more he considered the matter, the more was he convinced, that the House seldom interfered in questions of privilege without reducing itself to some awkward dilemma or another. He fully coincided in opinion with the noble marquis, that it was impossible for the House to agree to the institution of a prosecution by the attorney-general against these individuals, after having sifted and examined them in the most inquisitorial manner, by a process which, at the very best, was equivocal, and which would be most unjust and intolerable, if it were to send them for trial to a jury with a decision of that House against them, and with sufficient evidence taken from their own mouths to substantiate their guilt. This appeared to him to be an insuperable objection to the mode of proceeding proposed by the hon. member for Shrewsbury; but, in addition to this, he had another, which he would shortly submit to their consideration. The advocates of that mode of proceeding were not consistent with themselves in proposing to order the attorney-general to prosecute. The attorney-general, he begged leave to remind them, was not an officer under the orders of the House: he was an officer of the Crown; and, being such, should they wish him to prosecute, they ought to commence by proposing an address to his majesty—which he was of opinion they would think highly objectionable—that he would give directions to that officer to institute a certain prosecution in defence of the privileges of the* Commons of England. Besides, the distinction between privilege and power was this—that privilege was a shield of defence against power, and that power was a. weapon of attack upon the rights of others.
649 The best mode of supporting privilege was by opposing it to unjust power, and not by using it as an instrument of attack upon those who fell under the just displeasure of its possessors. Even in the times when it was most necessary to support the privileges of that House, he should have considered the mode of proceeding now proposed to be most objectionable. For, in the first place, he must confess that he did not perceive that any privilege of the House had been violated. The House possessed no privilege by which it could legally preclude the publication of such writings as were then before it. As far as he could see, no breach of privilege had taken place, unless it were a breach of privilege to make a false report of a speech delivered in that House. But, the paragraph in question was not a false report of what had occurred in the House, but of what had occurred out of it. Unless, therefore, it was a breach of privilege to censure the actions which a member of parliament might commit out of the House, he did not see in what manner they could interfere on the present occasion. If any breach of privilege had been committed, it was by the person, whoever he was, who thought it requisite, though that part of the story had been contradicted, and contradicted, as he believed, with the utmost truth—to call upon a member of parliament to account for expressions which he had felt it necessary to employ in his place in that House. It would be a most daring breach of privilege if a member was liable to be called upon by the relatives of men in official situations to account to them for the language which it might be their painful duty to use against such characters. If any individual thought that members were to act under that species of intimidation, it would be necessary to convince them to the contrary by the exertion of their privileges, and to defend themselves by them from such attacks, in the same manner as they defended themselves by them in former days from the intimidation of the Crown, which, fortunately for the country, had long ceased to have any existence. He fully agreed with the noble lord that the mode of proceeding now proposed was highly unjust, and added that he had no doubt that the hon. member for Shrewsbury would be disposed, by his innate sense of justice, not to press a proposition upon the House which was likely to be so detrimental in its future consequences.
§ Mr. M. A. Taylor
thought that the evidence which had been given that day and the day before ought to be printed for such gross prevarication, and such wicked contempt of every thing like truth, ought not to be allowed to pass over with impunity. He should therefore move that the minutes of evidence should be printed.
suggested, that if the case were to go before a jury, it would be highly improper to print the minutes of evidence. If the House should be of opinion that no adjournment was necessary —and that was his own opinion—he did not think that any doubt could exist as to what it was requisite to do with the editor of the paper. After they had disposed of him, the House could adjourn the debate regarding the proceedings against the others. If the noble lord would withdraw his amendment, he should have no objection to propose that Henry Cooper be committed to Newgate.
submitted to the House and to the hon. mover, whether the real character of the House was not likely to suffer by seeking to support its privileges against such mere men of straw as had just appeared at their bar. Malevolence and misrepresentation was the price which every member was obliged to pay for his seat in that House. He therefore entreated the House to consider whether the exercise of its privileges by commitment would not appear extremely questionable to the great majority of the people, when put in force against such creatures. For himself, he believed there was not a single provision in any of the six acts against which certain gentlemen opposite had declaimed so much, so odious to the nation as was the questionable power of committal for breaches of privilege.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, that his hon friend was making an attempt to drag to light the miscreant, the base and dastardly assassin, who, under the protection of the press, had been waging a savage and unrelenting war against the weak, the defenceless, and the oppressed. Whatever might be the issue of the attempt, the gratitude of the House was due to him for having made it. As many members had withdrawn under the idea that an adjournment was to take place, he thought they had better not decide upon the important point of placing one of their fellow subjects in confinement, until they should be able to take the sense of a larger House.
Sir T. Lethbridge
conceived the paragraph complained of to be a gross breach of the privileges both of the House and of the people, and returned his sincere thanks to the hon. member for having brought it before the notice of the House. The paper which contained it had, for some time past, been dealing forth its malignity, in a manner which was disgraceful to the press, injurious to morality, and inconsistent with the existence of society. He had himself felt disagreeably situated from the misrepresentations of other prints, and had frequently been, on the point of bringing them under the notice of parliament. If he had abstained from so doing, it was from the sovereign contempt in which he held every thing that could fall from the editors of them. If an inquiry were to be proposed into the general state of the press, which had grown up into a fearful engine of mighty mischief, he should have no objection to support it. In saying this, he did not mean to deny that the press had also been productive of great practical benefit; and yet, unwilling as he was to trench upon its general liberty, he could not shut his eyes against the dangers which its licentiousness was calculated to create. With regard to the point, whether the debate should be adjourned till to-morrow, or finished that evening, he felt perfectly indifferent. If, however, the dignity of the House was to be considered, he thought it would be better to meet the question at once. Having had the parties before them, and heard their repeated prevarications, he thought the sooner they proceeded against the person who had avowed himself the author, the more they would consult their honour and true dignity.
§ The question of adjournment was then agreed to; and Henry Fox Cooper, William Shackle, Thomas Arrowsmith, and Robert Thomas Weaver were ordered to attend to-morrow.