§ Mr. Peel
said, that the regulation that no letter should be sent by convicts on board the hulks, unexamined by the inspector, had existed from the earliest institution of the punishment of transportation, and it had been uniformly observed: and he saw no reason why a letter to a member of parliament should be excepted from the general rule, as that hon. gentleman might otherwise be made the innocent instrument of fraud. In April last, the escape of some convicts was prevented by the opening of a letter; the very criminal who had addressed the hon. member had been very recently detected in a fraud, which might have been effected but for the opening of a letter. If he recollec- 282 ted rightly, the name of the hon. gentleman's correspondent was Jones.
much doubted the fitness of the rule which prevented unopened communication between members of parliament, and convicts who might have just ground for complaining of treatment, food, or other grievance. He apprehended that it was a breach of privilege to open a letter addressed to a member of parliament; and he read an extract of a letter from lord Sidmouth to support his opinion. He had accompanied his hon. friend to the hulks, in consequence of the letter in question, and found that the prisoner had no ground of complaint.
§ Mr. Brougham
wished to enter his protest against the doctrine, that it was not a gross breach of privilege to open a letter sent under cover to a member of parliament. It was the constant assertion, that the privileges of members were given them for the public benefit; but where were those privileges if they were to be thus invaded with impunity? He did not go so far as to maintain that it was a breach of privilege to open, under such circumstances, a letter franked by a member; but to open a letter addressed to a member was as violent an outrage of his privileges as to put his person under arrest.