Mr. Alderman Wood
said, he rose to submit a motion to that House, founded on a petition which he had the honour to present on the 8th instant from the corporation of London (see p. 159.) In the observations which he had to make preparatory to his motion, he should confine himself strictly to facts, and the merits of the case, as grounded solely upon them. The petition related to the occurrences which had taken place at Knightsbridge, and the attack on Mr. Sheriff Waithman, on the 26th of last August, and was founded on a report drawn up by a committee of the common council, who had taken evidence on the subject, and given it a patient and impartial investigation. The committee was not one selected from any particular class of persons; but was a committee of general purposes, and consisted of persons of different political opinions, some of whom 802 were known to maintain principles of which those who affected most loyalty must approve. The petitioners, grounding their statements upon the report of this committee, now called on the House to know, whether those who served the high office of sheriffs of the county, when called out to preserve the peace, should sit down quietly without redress after a wanton and violent attack on their persons? In consequence of its being known, that the funerals of the unfortunate men who had lost their lives on the 14th of August, would be public, the government thought it right to send a notice to that effect to the lord mayor, who was called upon to provide for the preservation of the peace. Nay, the government went farther, they sent a notice, signed by one of the Treasury solicitors, to a respectable tradesman living in his ward, who was connected with the proceedings, informing him that steps had been taken to prevent the funeral from passing through the park. But not a word of all this was said, no notice was sent to the sheriff, who had the peace of the county intrusted to his care, and of course the government must have been aware that the funeral would take place in Middlesex. The sheriff, however, without any such intimation, knowing what was his duty, prepared every means in his power by which disturbance might be prevented. He knew that there existed an ill feeling between the people and soldiers, arising out of the circumstances under which the two persons had met their death; and understanding it was intended that the funeral should pass by the barracks at Knightsbridge, he used every means in his power to prevent it, if possible. With that view, he sent a letter to some of the newspapers, in which, after alluding to the intended route of the funeral, he strongly deprecated such a measure, and expressed a hope that the public would refrain from attending it. He could do no more; and the fact itself was a full answer to the charge, that be wished to disturb the peace. No man under the same circumstances could have done more to preserve it. When he found that the funeral was to pass by the barracks, he gave orders to the officers under him to have an attendance of emir stables, to be in readiness to take into custody ail who should be found breaking the peace; and in order to carry this into effect, be himself, accompanied by his under sheriff (his colleague in office was 803 at the time in Brighton), proceeded to the neighbourhood of the barracks. He remained there without interfering in any way, until information reached him, that a brick-bat was thrown amongst the people from over the barrack wall. This produced some hissing on the part of the crowd; but on the sheriff entreating them to be quiet, order was restored. The procession passed the barracks; and on the return of a great portion of the people from Hammersmith, the sheriff learned, that a riot had occurred between some of the soldiers, and the people at the barrack gate. On hearing this, he returned to the gate, where he found the soldiers engaged with the people, some of the soldiers with sticks, some with their fists, and some with drawn swords. Some of the soldiers wore their uniforms, and others were in undress. The sheriff did all in his power to restore tranquillity, and at length succeeded, by insisting on the soldiers retiring within their barracks, which they did. After waiting for some time, and every thing appearing quiet, he again went towards town, when he was overtaken near Hyde-park-corner by a person, who informed him that the soldiers and the people were again contending. He rode back, and found a great disturbance. Again he endeavoured to restore order, and exhorted the people to go away; but, while thus engaged, some of the soldiers endeavoured to shove his horse off the path-way into the road, and one man was seen to load his carbine, and present it in the direction in which the sheriff was; and in the opinion of several witnesses, if the soldier had fired, the shot would have struck him. He had thus given a brief outline of the transaction as detailed in the evidence. Now, during the whole time of these occurrences, the conduct of the sheriff was most cool and peaceable. This was borne out by the evidence of all the witnesses. That of Mr. Derbishire, the gentleman who reported the case for the "Morning Post," was quite in favour of the sheriff. It was true, that in a part of his evidence he said that the sheriff at one time used some irritating expression towards the soldiers; but, in the course of the examination, he said he would not be positive that the sheriff had used such expression. The sheriff had, as was his duty, endeavoured to check the soldiers. Mr. Derbishire said, that the conduct of some of them was fair and manly: he supposed he 804 alluded to those who used only their fists the quarrel; but in allusion to those who had swords, be stated that he had ever seen any thing so violent in his life. This was fully confirmed by the evidence of all the witnesses who were examined. And here he should remark, that the witnesses examined were not selected. There was not one of them who was in any way mixed up with the proceedings on the inquest of Honey. They were for the most part persons who had been present in the discharge of their duty. Among these was Mr. Mortimer, who vas along with Mr. Waithman the whole day, acting as his under sheriff. His statement was most clear in favour of the sheriff, whose conduct he described as most praiseworthy. This was further confirmed by the sheriff's officers who could have no interest in saying what was not the fact. Then the gentlemen who mended for the daily press could not be said to have any interest in making the ease otherwise than it really appeared. In the evidence of those gentlemen, particularly in that of Mr. Tyas and Mr. Woods, the case was strongly made out in favour of the sheriff's conduct.—But it would perhaps be said, that the sheriff had no business there. He, on the contrary, would contend that it was his duty to be present. What would have been said if he had not attended? They would have heard comments on the man, who, it would have been added, had made himself so busy on the inquest, but was absent on an occasion when it was likely that a disturbance would take place. Indeed, it was made a subject of a sort of reprimand in the letter of lord Bathurst, that the sheriff was not present at the subsequent part of the evening, when the riot act was read. It had ever been considered the duty of the sheriff to attend on those occasions where the public peace was likely to be disturbed. He recollected, in the year 1810, when an hon. baronet was committed to the tower, the right hon. gentleman who then filled the chair of the House required the attendance of the sheriffs of London, and he (alderman Wood) and his colleague in office were in attendance, endeavouring to preserve the peace, from morning until a late hour at night, and were also similarly engaged on the return of the hon. baronet from confinement. If he had not so attended; he would have failed in the discharge of his duty. He maintained it would have 805 been an omission of his duty, if the sheriff had refrained from attending on the late occasion. But what was the conduct of government after this transaction? Lord Bathurst, in one of his letters to sheriff Waithman, promised that an inquiry would be speedily made into it. Had that promise been fulfilled? No inquiry had ever since been made by government: at least none had transpired. What, then, was the duty of the corporation? The common council, finding that a wanton outrage had been committed on their officer, and that no inquiry was made into it by government, instituted an inquiry themselves. The result was, that the conduct of the sheriff appeared, throughout the transaction, most praiseworthy, whilst that of the soldiers was proved to have been most violent. They had acted like men who were under no control. Under all the circumstances, he thought there was a strong ground for inquiry, and, therefore, he would move that the petition be referred to a committee. It was evident that the government had neglected its duty, in not having a magistrate present during the whole of the day. The hon. member concluded by moving, "That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the facts stated in the petition from the Corporation of the City of London, complaining of an Outrage committed on the person of Mr. Sheriff Waithman, on the 26th of August last, whilst in the exercise of his official duty for the preservation of the Public Peace."
§ Sir W. Curtis
rose to second the motion. He also was anxious that the petition should be considered by a committee, but for reasons different from those urged by his hon. colleague. In the first place, he would say, that the sheriff had no authority to act on the occasion in question, and it would have been much better for him to have remained at home. [Hear.] The office of sheriff of Middlesex, was vested in the two gentlemen who were chosen sheriffs of London, and the authority could not be exercised by one alone. Mr. Sheriff Waithman himself, was not therefore, justified in acting by himself. He was anxious that a committee should investigate this question; but it was because he wished to let the world know the real character of this great common council, who were always meddling with matters with which they had nothing to do, and which were far above their wisdom and energy. [Hear.] It was from such 806 a principle, that they bad engaged in the recent inquiry, which he would contend they had no right to enter upon. It was said, that evidence was not selected by this committee. Now, he maintained the contrary. Not only was evidence selected, but questions were put, to draw such answers as the party putting them desired. Of this there were abundant proofs in the evidence annexed to their report. He trusted that if a committee were appointed. those gentlemen of the common council might receive such a hint as to their conduct as they deserved, and as would teach them how they acted so again. He begged the attention of the House to one extract which be should read, just to show the kind of evidence which had been received, and how well qualified the common council were for such an inquiry, A man named Thomas Oliff was thus examined by this committee:—"Where do you live? At No. 90, Fore-street.—What are you? I superintend the business for Mr. Smith, the corn-chandler.—You were at Knightsbridge at the time the affray happened with the soldiers and the populace? No, I was not there.—Then what do you know about it? I got a note to attend here. All that I know was, that I was in company with a friend of mine, on the Monday or Tuesday evening, and he said that he had been into the shop of a person of the name of Crabb, and heard a man named Properjohn, or his man, tell Mr. Crabb, that he heard a corporal of the life guardsmen say, damn Alderman Waithman, we are prepared for him, and have got a ball ready for him."—Let the committee be appointed, and they would see a great deal more of the folly of this great common council. But though for that purpose he second the motion, it would be for hon. members to consider whether it would be worth while to consume any of the time of the House in exposing such nonsense. [Hear, and a laugh.]
§ Colonel Lygon
said, that he had witnessed the transactions of the 26th of August, and had attended to the complaint made in the petition. He would, therefore, in the few words he had to offer, confine himself entirely to the statements there made. Knowing that such a procession was to pass by the barracks on that day, he had, on dismissing the parade in the morning, given orders that the gates should be closed, and that the men should keep within the barracks, and not 807 even appear at the windows. The soldiers attended divine service that day as usual. There was, during great part of the forenoon, a large collection of persons in the neighbourhood of the barracks, waiting for the approach of the funeral. It did pass, but nothing particular occurred in its way down. As to the story of a brick having been thrown over the barrack-wall amongst the people, he had made the most anxious inquiries on the subject, as well amongst the troops as from the persons residing opposite the gates, and the result was his firm conviction, that the statement was altogether without foundation. He also assured the House, that he had never received any message from the sheriff during that day; and to those who knew him it would not be necessary to add, that if he had, he would not have sent such an answer, as that which it was said was delivered to the sheriff. [Hear, hear.] He had never been out of the barracks the whole of that day; be dined there on Saturday, the 25th, and did not leave them till Monday, the 27th. In the course of the day, a great number of well-dressed persons were walking in the neighbourhood of the barracks, as was usual on sundays; and some time after the funeral had passed, he ordered the gates to be opened for their accommodation to pass through. He pledged his honour, that his only object in ordering the opening of the gates was for the convenience of the people. [Hear, hear.] After the gates were thus opened, he sent an officer to take his station in the road to let him know when the procession returned, that he might again order the gates to be closed, and the men to be recalled. This was about half-past three. Soon after four, or between that and five o'clock, an attack was made by the populace with stones, by which 282 windows were broken in the barracks, though at the time there was a line of constables wedged in front of them, whose duty it was to arrest any person who should disturb the peace. At six o'clock the cries of "murder" were heard by the soldiers within the gates, and it was said by some one, "they are killing our men." It was soon ascertained, that the people were beating a trumpeter and farrier of the regiment, who were outside. Those of the men who were nearest the gate, seized whatever weapons first presented themselves to their hands, and rushed out to the rescue of their comrades; but, so far from mak- 808 ing a wanton attack on the people, he could declare that he never saw men act with greater forbearance, considering the circumstances in which they were placed. Immediately after this, he came to the gate, and commanded the men to return to their barracks. This command they instantly obeyed, and it would not be doing them justice, if he did not say, that their conduct was marked by the most implicit obedience, and the greatest forbearance. After the return of the men, the riot and disorder continued from the people without; and at length, finding no interference of the civil power, he sent for a magistrate, (sir N. Conant,) by whom the riot act was read; soon after which the people dispersed. He did not know what the House would do with the motion: for his own part, he could have no objection to it, being fully satisfied that the more the matter was inquired into, the more the good temper and forbearance of the troops would be made evident. [Cheers.]
§ The House was about to divide, when, after a pause of some seconds,
rose. He stated, that after the plain and sensible address which had been just delivered by the gallant colonel, he should be one of the last persons in the world, who would attempt to remove any part of the impression which he had made, if he were not imperatively called upon, by some things which had been said by him and the seconder of the motion; but he was more particularly called upon to make a few remarks, on account of the transaction having taken place in a part of the precincts of the city which he had the honour to represent. He would be unworthy of the place he held, if he were not ready to offer to the House such observations as the merits of the case required, in regard to what had fallen from the worthy Alderman, and the gallant Colonel. It did appear to him, that on no occasion did the House shew any reluctance, or feel any difficulty, in entering upon inquiry, when the demand came from his majesty's ministers. In the instance of Manchester, the government, on anonymous evidence, got a select committee appointed, and on that anonymous evidence, enacted laws which abridged the liberties of the subject. On repeated occasions, when the public functionaries demanded inquiry on any evidence whatever, the demand had never been resisted, and surely they-could not, as members 809 of the House of Commons, be justified, if in this case, which so materially affected the rights of the country, and when so respectable a body as the citizens of London came forward as complainants, they should refuse to institute any inquiry. He had heard nothing in what had fallen from the gallant colonel or the worthy alderman which sheaved that the inquiry ought not to be granted. The gallant colonel had stated, that 282 windows were broken in the barracks. Considering the affray that took place, such an occurrence was by no means improbable; but, was it therefore to be tolerated, that because those windows were broken, the sheriff, who had exerted himself to preserve order, should be insulted and his life put in danger? Was it, therefore, to be tolerated, that almost in the heart of the metropolis, the weapons of war should be raised by the soldiery against the citizens of England? Some mischief, indeed, might be expected from these inland fortresses which, in defence of our once free constitution, were now placed as a check upon the liberties of the country. But this was an outrage scarcely to be looked for, even from such a cause. Was it an argument, that because windows had been broken, no inquiry should take place into an outrage against the person of the sheriff, who was entrusted, with the guardianship of the peace of the county, and was there exercising his authority like one worthy of so great a trust? Nothing had yet been stated that falsified the material allegations of the petition. It might be said, that those allegations were not on oath. That was true; but, whose fault was it? Government had not thought proper to institute any inquiry into the subject. Why had not lord Bathurst, who, when he acted for the Home Secretary of State, pledged himself that an investigation should take place, redeemed that pledge? There had been no reason whatever assigned, why there had been no inquiry. The evidence that had been given before the common council was no such laughing matter as the worthy alderman wished to represent it to be. The worthy alderman had endeavoured, with all that good humour and jocularity which be usually displayed, to ridicule that evidence, and the mode in which the witnesses had been examined. It was not surprising, that persons unaccustomed to the examination of witnesses, should not have been aware, that it was necessary to 810 stop a witness, as soon as he had declared that he was not present on the occasion respecting which he was under examination. So far was that evidence from exhibiting any thing like unfairness, that it appeared to him to show the utmost fairness, no attempt having been made to suppress any part of it, however ill calculated, to make a good appearance upon paper. It was certainly true, that the general tendency of the evidence was, to shew, that stones had been thrown by the people at the barracks; but it had also been as clearly shown, that stones had been thrown from the barracks against the people. This had been stated most distinctly. One witness declared, that. it was impossible for him to say, whether stones were thrown first from the barracks or by the people, for he saw them as soon from the one as from the other quarter. Another witness stated, that he saw the stones flying in all directions from both parties. This was the evidence of persons wholly unbiassed. It was not the evidence of individuals connected with newspapers, who might be supposed to have a tendency towards popular feelings. It was the evidence of several persons rather inclined towards the opposite sentiments. Of those individuals, one of them, the reporter for "the Morning Post," used an expression with respect to the soldiers which he (Mr. H.) certainly would not use with respect to them because he did not think it justifiable. That individual had declared, that the soldiers behaved "in a cowardly manner;" a character which, in his opinion, could never belong to an English soldier. This, however, he would say, that even admitting for argument's sake, that there had been provocation on both sides, the country had a right to expect more temper and forbearance from disciplined soldiers than from the people. Even though the people had been so misled as to throw stones and break the barrack windows, did that justify the soldiers in forcing their way from the barracks with arms in their hands and attacking the people [hear, hear!]? It was worse than foolish and idle to contend, that the first recourse of the soldier must always be to arms, a fatal necessity might justify such an appeal; but it was both cruel and cowardly, not to say unconstitutional, to hold a doctrine under which no man's life could be safe, as long as a standing army was allowed to exist. No doubt the hon. 811 colonel did his utmost to prevent the contest, and so, by every account, did Mr. Sheriff Waithman. He was quite astonished when he heard the worthy alderman ask, what business the sheriff of London and Middlesex had to be there? He was not deeply read in law; but it Certainly struck that a sheriff of London and Middlesex could not properly absent himself on such an occasion, because he could not prevail on his brother sheriff to attend with him. On the contrary, when one sheriff declined to do his duty, it was the more incumbent on the other to do his. It, undoubtedly, astonished him to hear a representative of the city of London talk as the worthy alderman had done of the sheriff of London and Middlesex. The worthy alderman certainly knew the duties of a sheriff better than he did; but if the House would allow him to read a passage from that so frequently quoted author, Blackstone, they would hear a very different description of a sheriff's duties and dignity. The passage was as follows: —"The sheriff, as the keeper of the king's peace, both by common law and special commission, is the first man in the county, and superior in rank to any man therein during his office; he may apprehend and commit to prison all persons who break the peace, or attempt to break it, and may hind any one in a recognizance to keep the king's peace; he may, and is bound, ex-offcio, to pursue and take all traitors, murderers, felons, and other misdoers, and commit them to gaol for safe custody; he is also to defend his country against any of the king's enemies when they come into the land; and for this purpose, as well as for keeping the peace and pursuing felons, he may command all the people of his county to attend him; which is called the posse comitatus, or power of the county; and this summons every person above fifteen years old and under the degree of a peer, is bound to attend upon warning, under pain of fine and imprisonment." It appeared by this quotation, that the sheriff was bound to maintain the peace. Mr. Sheriff Waithman had a right not only to command the soldiers to keep the peace, but if they failed in doing so to follow them into the barracks, to levy the posse comitatus, and follow the soldiers, taking the people with him, and to secure every soldier, who, in violation of his orders, continued to break the peace. He defied any gentleman to contradict 812 him in this assertion. It was true, that one of the evidences examined had conceived that the original breach of the peace did not commence with the soldiery; but, let it begin where it might, the law allows the sheriff to be the best judge of this point, and to act instantly upon his own discretion. All that Mr. Sheriff Waithman did, was what his duty forced him to do, and if he had not done it, he would have subjected himself to the censure of the Crown, and that House. He was surprised to hear the worthy alderman treat with ridicule the common council of that city of which he was an alderman and a representative. The common council of London: was formerly a most important body; and if all the members of it resembled Mr. Alderman Waithman or the worthy alderman who had made the, present motion, it would be so still. At the time of the revolution, the common council of London were thought worthy to represent the people of England. About 70, or he believed 72, of them sat in that House as part of the body which transferred the Crown from James II. and gave it to a more worthy sovereign. The common council of London had-formerly made the predecessors of the noble lord and the right hon. gentleman opposite shake in their seats; and if better times should arise, he trusted the common council would imitate the example of their predecessors [a laugh]. He must again say, that this was a question which ought not to be put off with a laugh. It was much more important than the worthy alderman seemed to think: it vitally concerned the constitution. An outrage, or at least an alleged outrage, had been committed by the military on the first officer of the county, the preserver of the king's peace; and the subject was treated by the worthy alderman as if it did not deserve inquiry. The worthy alderman did not treat the matter with a hundredth part the attention that he would bestow on a sealed green bag brought down by his majesty's ministers. The interest of the question went further than its immediate relations. They had daily proofs of the wish entertained by ministers to turn the government of this country into a military government. This had been so often said and so often taunted, it was such a thrice-told tale, that he was almost ashamed to repeat it; but it was not the less true. This he would add, that if the. House of Commons suffered such an out- 813 rage to be perpetrated upon their constituents without enquiry, they would prepare the way for the accomplishment of their own degradation and ruin. There was, somehow or other, a strong inclination in that House to receive with respect every thing that proceeded from the public functionaries or the military: but when the opinions of the common council of London, or any body of the people were mentioned, they were received with a laugh. He recollected, that when the subject of her late majesty's funeral was before the House a noble lord, a member of that House, and an officer of the regiment of life guards (lord Uxbridge), said, that he knew a whole set of persons who were ready to perjure themselves on the subject, the instant the phrase fell from the noble lord's lips it was met with a loud cheer. Now, did bon. gentlemen consider what they cheered? Did they consider that they cheered the assertion, that a number of their fellow creatures were ready to commit the infamous crime of perjury? If true, it was a subject not of cheering or congratulation, but of lamentation and regret. He had not the least doubt that the noble lord believed what he stated to be true; but, still, he would take the liberty of asking him, how he could know that those persons were ready to perjure themselves? The noble lord might have heard that they were so, but-bow could he know it? And when the term "perjury" was used, he put it to the House whether there was not a great distinction to be made between malicious perjury and that description of perjury which took place when any one swore to that which he thought was a fact, but which actually was not so?—The noble lord said, that there was a set of persons ready to swear that he was present on the occasion alluded to, when he was not so. He (Mr. H.) had been there himself; he had seen two or three of the officers; and although he was so near as to be able to speak to them, yet the similarity of dress, the badness of the weather, and the state in which the troops were, concurred to render it almost impossible to distinguish one from another. It was almost too much, therefore, for the noble lord to say he knew a set of men who were ready to perjure themselves, because they thought he was present when he was not. Perjury was not a word to apply to such an act. The noble lord had shown a little more 814 zeal on the occasion than was quite prudent; although he (Mr. H.) could allow, a great deal for the esprit du corps. If the noble lord, however, was not to be: blamed for that, neither ought he (Mr. H.) to be blamed for his earnestness in behalf of the people. He certainly thought that the people of England had a right to know whether or not, as barracks were maintained in the heart of the metropolis, and soldiers kept in those barracks, they were to cut the throats of the people [cries of hear, hear!]? He desired the House to recollect that be did not say this had been done; but it might be done; and the House should be alive to the slightest suspicion on such a question. It was necessary that the people should know what purpose the soldiers were kept for. He did not say that all the all the allegations respecting the conduct of the troops were true. But of this he was certain, that when these "fortresses" existed in, the heart of the metropolis, and when so many persons deposed that the troops had issued from one of these fortresses with arms in their hands and attacked the people, be thought the country had a right to know if the soldiers were henceforward to be employed or tolerated in such wanton attacks. All that he demanded was inquiry. In the answer which lords Bathurst returned to Mr. Sheriff Waithman's letter, he appeared to consider himself so superior to his correspondent, that instead of regarding the sheriff as the, first man in the county, he could not have treated him worse had he been the last; and lowest; for he had hinted, and that pretty broadly, that the worthy sheriff had said what was not true. But he had, not withstanding, promised an inquiry he asked of the right hon. gentleman was whether any such inquiry had been made? If it had, why not communicate the result? If it had not the House had a right to draw the inference, that what appeared to be the fact on the first blush of the affair actually was so; namely, that w gross and wanton outrage had been perpetrated on the preserver of the king's peace. A pledge had been given, that the matter would be investigated. He now called upon the right hon. secretary either to redeem that pledge, or to state, his reasons fur coming to a contrary determination.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that in the vote which he intended to give that night, and it the view which he intended to take of the 815 question, be should be guided solely by those general principles, which ought to be considered as valid in all arguments for instituting inquiry. He should commence his observations by assuring the worthy alderman opposite, that a desire to criminate Mr. Sheriff Waithman had never entered his mind, and that he was not urged by any feelings of ill will to that individual to give a negative to the proposition for inquiry. He must also assure his hon. and gallant friend, (col. Lygon), that he fully entered into his feelings, and comprehended the reasons why he was anxious to have an inquiry instituted into the conduct of the regiment to which he belonged; but at the same time he could not admit that those feelings would justify him in permitting an inquiry to be made. Still less could be admit that a legitimate ground for inquiry was laid by his hon. friend, the alderman near him, who had wished it to be made in order that the common council of London might be exposed to general censure and ridicule. The ground upon which he should form his decision would be this—had there been any grounds stated in the speech of the hon. mover, or contained in the documents then in the possession of the House, which would justify it in departing from its ordinary course, and instituting an extra-judicial inquiry. That there were allegations of outrage in the letters of alderman Waithman, and in the petition which had been presented by the corporation of London, he was ready to admit; but when he looked at the evidence upon which these allegations rested, he was bound to state his opinion, that it by no means bore them out. An inquiry had been instituted by earl Bathurst into the whole transaction, and had been instituted on oath. He should not, however, refer to the depositions which had been so collected; but, arguing solely from that evidence which the common council had collected, he should endeavour to transfer into their minds the conviction which existed in his own, that it was insufficient to prove the accusations which had been founded upon it. An hon. member had said, "Give us an inquiry because an outrage has been committed." On the contrary, he said, "No outrage had been committed, and therefore he could not consent to grant inquiry." The worthy alderman near him had anticipated one objection which he had intend to raise 816 against the evidence admitted by the committee. It was the testimony given by Mr. Oliff, to which he had alluded. After stating that he had not been at Knightsbridge, he added, "All that I know was, that I was in company with a friend of mine on Monday or Tuesday evening, and he said that be had been into the shop of a person of the name of Crabb, and heard a man of the name of Properjohn, or his man, tell Mr. Crabb that he heard a corporal of the life guardsmen say, "Damn alderman Waithman, we are prepared for him, and have got a ball ready for him." The next question put to him was, "Do you know the man? Where does Proper-john live?" To which he made answer, "At Knightsbridge—he is a butcher." Now he wished to be informed why, as the residence of Properjohn and his man was known, they were not summoned to give their evidence upon that particular point. They could have stated whether such language as "Damn alderman Waithman, we have got a ball ready for him," had or had not been used; and surely it was the duty of those who conducted that examination to have called Properjohn, or Popplejohn, or whatever his uncouth name might be, to give evidence before them regarding such atrocious language.—The House would be able to judge of the general character of the evidence from the specimen which he had just submitted to it. He would now call upon them to consider how far that general evidence supported the particular charges founded upon it. It was almost unnecessary for him to mention to the House, that on the day of the Queen's funeral two men lost their lives at Cumberland-gate; that their bodies were afterwards buried at Hammersmith, and that the funeral procession passed by Knightsbridge barracks. He could not help regretting, that after it was determined to select Hammersmith church for the place of burial for those two unfortunate individuals, those who possessed influence over the parties intending to join the procession had not exercised it in persuading them not to select the road passing the barracks of the soldiers who had caused the deaths in question, as the road by which they would proceed to Hammersmith—a parish with which neither of the deceased had any connexion whatsoever. Now, the first allegation in Mr. Waithman's letter was, "that the funeral passed the barracks in an orderly 817 and quiet manner, marked by no other peculiar circumstance than that of a brick being thrown from the barracks, which fell near my horse, and wounded, as I am informed, a young girl." Now, really, before Mr. Waithman had given publicity to the statement, that so wanton an act had been committed, he ought to have ascertained two distinct points; first, that a brick had been thrown from the barracks; and secondly, that it had wounded a young girl. He would admit that if a brickbat had been thrown from the barracks into the crowd, as the funeral procession was passing, it would have been, if not a justification, at least a palliation, of the insults which before the close of the day the mob took occasion to offer to the soldiery. On looking, however, to the evidence, he could not find any proof whatsoever of that allegation. In the letter of Mr. Mortimer, which it had been stated could not be shaken in any of its details, he found the following statement:—"The only provocation given to tumults on the passage of the funeral to Hammersmith, was occasioned by a brickbat being thrown, as it was said, from the barracks at Knightsbridge, by the individual who produced it to you, and who appeared to he cut by the same." Now he would ask, was that individual the girl who, it was said; was wounded? He found not the slightest proof of it in any part of the evidence. A woman, however, was wounded in the course of the day; but under what circumstances? Why, on the return of the procession from Hammersmith. There were evident attempts made by some members of the committee of the common council to prove that this woman was the girl that was said to be wounded. Mrs. Brooks is called to give evidence regarding this woman, and among the questions asked her, the following formed a part:—"Is she a married woman?—She is a widow. Was she a small sized woman?—About the size that I am: she is rather slight." —Now, could the House believe it?—so eager was the committee to prove this woman to have been the young girl mentioned in Mr. Waithman's letter, that though the witness had stated that the woman was a widow, they asked, "Is she a girl?" And the answer they received was, "No; she is as old as I am." The unfortunate woman herself was afterwards called; and her evidence was decisive that she was not the person alluded to in 818 Mr. Waithman's letter. She was asked, "Were you at the barracks before the funeral passed by? to which she replied, "I was; I went by with it." She was then asked to describe how she got the blow under which she suffered. She replied, that she had got it as she was going towards the Park gate. Before he came to the next question, he thought it necessary to observe, that the conflict was going on at that time, on both sides of her. Now the next question was—"It struck you behind?—Yes. Therefore you could not see where it came from?—No. Which way was your face?—Coming up towards Oxford-street; they did say that that came over the barrack wall, but I did not see that myself. Did you hear the people about you say that at the time?—Yes. Were you in that position that it might come from the barrack wall?—Yes, it might come from the barrack-wall, for I was not very far from it at the time. I did not see the stone, though it rust have been a large one." Upon this evidence he felt himself justified in stating, hat this first allegation of Mr. Waithman vas not proved. The next specific state-neat in Mr. Waithman's letter was, that t soldier had loaded a carbine and directed it at him; but that a constable on seeing the circumstance had knocked the carbine down. Now, such an allegation vas an allegation of great importance; Or if it could be proved, that the man lad directed his carbine against Mr. Waithman, and had it knocked down whilst it was so directed, the moral guilt of that man's conduct was not much less than it would hate been had he actually red at Mr. Waithman. But, after reading every part of the evidence with great attention, he could not help concluding hat, whether the man in question acted with propriety or not, he had not his carbine in the direction which Mr. Waithman stated. He should think that the evidence of the constable who had knocked down the carbine was the best that could be offered upon such a point; and here he must say that that officer, who spoke decidedly upon the conciliatory conduct of Mr. Waithman, during the whole clay, could not be considered to have given his evidence with any bias against that gentleman. Now what did Levi say—"I perceived a man standing on the bank with a carbine in his hand lien first I came to him, he held it in this manner (describing it); and just as 819 I got up, he was levelling it in this manner (describing it). I had a staff in one hand, and a stick in the other. I ran up to him right at the muzzle of the piece; I struck him, and hit him over the hand, and down the piece went, and I catched hold of it. I then laid hold of him, and said, 'You villain, has there not been bloodshed sufficient, without your spilling more?' and I had the piece I think in my left hand, and he had hold of the butt of it; he said my life is in danger—and I said, go in, and I will protect you; and I believe I did go with him into the barracks." He was then asked the following questions, to which he called the particular attention of the House—"What was your idea of his pointing, was it that he was singling out the sheriff?—I cannot say that. I was so irritated with seeing him with the piece, and the people squalling on the opposite side; but he had it in different directions—"Was it in that position that it appeared to be presented at sheriff Waithman?" If I were upon my oath, I could not state that. A short time afterwards, the same witness was asked, "Did you imagine at the time you saw the soldier that he was looking at or for any one in order to shoot him?"—to which his reply was as follows: "My impression was, that he might have picked out any person that he pleased, because he stood in that elevated situation; if I wanted to shoot a person directly opposite to me, I should not elevate my piece, but this was held up in this manner (describing it.)" The evidence which he had just read to House was, he trusted, quite sufficient to chew that these allegations were not such as could be safely relied on. There was only another specific statement in Mr. Waithman's letter that was of any importance, and he would give it to the House in Mr. Waithman's own words—"I could not obtain an interview with any of the officers of the regiment; and when I desired some of the constables to represent to the officers in the most respectful terms my desire that the soldiers should be kept within the barracks, the message returned was, that the sheriff might be damned—they would not make their men prisoners for him." Now, if such a message had been returned, he would admit that it would have been a most shameful answer; but his gallant friend the member for Worcestershire, had declared that he had not returned any such message, and had totally denied the use of any such language. 820 Now, he could not help remarking, that it did not appear from this evidence that Mr. Waithman had sent any message at all into the barracks. Levi, the officer who had delivered it, had stated that "he carried it of his own accord—that he saw danger, and that he had therefore said it." He was then asked, "What did you consider gave you authority to go to the barracks and see the officer, and give Mr. Alderman Waithman's request?" And again he replied, "because I saw danger would occur from what was going on." Now, though this testimony proved that this request was made to some officers in the barracks, it did not prove Mr. Waithman's allegation, that it had been made by his specific order.—He had now disposed of all the specific allegations, and had shown, he trusted, to the satisfaction of the House, that they were not borne out by the evidence on which they were founded. Against general and sweeping charges, he could not expect to make so decisively victorious a defence. For instance, he could only give a general denial to such an accusation as this—that the sheriff of the county had been left to defend the people against the merciless outrages of an infuriated and armed soldiery, unaided by any means save the constitutional ones in his own power. It was likewise stated, that "the gates had been unexpectedly thrown open, and that the soldiers had rushed out armed with swords, carbines, and sticks, and attacked the people most furiously without distinction of age or sex." That would have been a most atrocious fact if it had been true; but he would appeal to the House whether such a circumstance could have taken place without more mischief having accrued to the people than actually did accrue; or indeed without a general massacre having been committed. Against that allegation, however, he should oppose the fact, that only one single case of casualty on that day had been reported to the Middlesex Hospital—a fact, into the accuracy of which be had himself taken the trouble to inquire. In the whole evidence collected, he saw not a syllable about any wound inflicted by sword or carbine. In one case, a question was put to a witness about a wounded man, and it turned out that the wounded man was a soldier. There might be cases of wounds with which he and the public were unacquainted; but, if there were, it proved that none of them could have been very serious. He must now, therefore, express 821 a hope that no case had been made out which could warrant the House in instituting an inquiry. If the evidence were so satisfactory as was stated on the other side, there was no reason why some criminal prosecution or indictment should not have been instituted by the sheriff against the military; and yet he had not heard that any legal measures had been adopted by Mr. Waithman against the life guards to obtain satisfaction. When he heard it stated, that positive orders had been given to the soldiery not to quit their barracks—when he learned that 282 of their windows had been broken by the populace—and when he was also told, that a number of constables were ranged among the crowd to seize on every person that attempted to disturb the peace, he could not conceal his surprise that not, a single individual had been apprehended. He was free to admit, that the evidence then before the House went a long way to prove that the general conduct of Mr. Waithman had been most pacific and conciliatory; but still he could not help saying, that after the active part which Mr. Waithman had taken at one of the inquests, he ought to have formed this conclusion, that his presence before Knightsbridge-barracks on the day of the funeral could not tend in any great degree to the keeping of the peace. There were, he was very ready to admit, strong expressions often uttered in the heat of particular moments, on which it would be wrong to lay too much stress; but he must say, that Mr. Sheriff Waithman did not stand entirely acquitted, in his mind, of imprudence in the manner in which he had conducted himself on the day of the funeral. He found that the sheriff took an opportunity, when the populace were vehement, and apparently ill-disposed to moderation, to address them in words certainly, to say the least of them, imprudent. What other character could he give the sheriff's address, not to hiss the soldiers, "for the best way to annoy the troops was to remain quiet?" Did such expressions become a man intrusted with the high office of sheriff, and acting under such circumstances? They were surely very indiscreet, if not highly improper. When he considered the whole of the circumstances which had occurred at the time—the cry within the barracks among the soldiers, that two of their comrades were overpowered by the mob without—he was not much surprised to find that a few soldiers rushed out to rescue 822 their companions from a situation of danger. He regretted that any act of violence had been committed: but he repeated, that he could not feel surprise at the rush out of a party of soldiers, with whatever weapons they could lay their hands upon at the moment, and that when they supposed their comrades in danger, they did not show that regard to the peace of the public which they otherwise would have evinced. When also he considered, that one of the life-guardsmen was struck by Mr. Sheriff Waithman, and offered no violence in return, he must own that the conscientious conviction of his mind, formed not on the evidence taken before the secretary of state, but on that given elsewhere, was, that the soldiers had behaved with as much forbearance as could have been expected from them under all the circumstances of the case, and that there existed no shadow of a ground for the proposed inquiry.
§ Mr. Denman
contrasted the conciliatory tone adopted by the right hon. secretary with that of a worthy alderman who had spoken previously in the debate. Astonished, indeed, he was at the conduct of the worthy alderman, who had attacked, in the most unprecedented way, the corporate body to which he himself belonged. Surely if the worthy alderman did not approve of the course which the committee of his corporation were pursuing in this investigation, he ought to have attended and interposed during their proceedings. But that he, a member of their body, should have abstained from interfering when he could have interfered with effect, and afterwards come down to that House to. deride the proceedings of his own corporation, to throw dirt, as it were upon the report of those who sent him here; was a good reason why his constituents should not give him another opportunity to impeach their character, and was to merit something like indignation for such a line of conduct. With reference to what had fallen from the right hon. secretary, he could not help observing, as a singular fact, that although the right hon. gentleman professed to found his observations upon the evidence taken in London, he nevertheless constantly referred to other evidence which appeared to have been taken before lord Bathurst; and alluded to the rushing out of a few soldiers from their barracks, in consequence of a rumour of a supposed outrage upon some of their body outside. Was that fact to be found in the evidence 823 on the table? Certainly not. It rested altogether on the authority of the gallant officer opposite (colonel Lygon.) From this it was obvious that the right hon. gentleman had formed his opinions upon other evidence than that known to the House: but bow much of his conviction was formed from that extraneous evidence, or how much from the statement of the gallant officer, it was quite impossible to ascertain. From the statement of the gallant officer, nobody would he led to imagine that Mr. Sheriff Waithman was on the spot at all. He said, that he received no message from the sheriff, nor sent any uncivil reply. That he sent no such message he was quite convinced; but whether any such message was returned from any other quarter, they were left entirely in the dark. In the statement of the hon. and gallant officer, a period of several hours was filled up by a few data, explanatory of his desire to keep order among his soldiers, and of the remarkable forbearance of the men. He must say, from what he had heard that night, that he never knew, in the course of his experience, any evidence treated more unfairly than this had been by the gentlemen who had spoken opposite. Nobody pressed the statements of the witnesses as legally conclusive evidence ripe for final decision: it was, on the contrary, before them more in the nature of the minutes of inquiry taken before a magistrate than as clearly ascertained facts. It was a mere inquiry to see what was the general outline of the case, to hear what had been dropped in the way of information by individuals, without forming any ultimate decision upon the bearings of the evidence itself: for he admitted; that parts of it were susceptible of the interpretation which different gentlemen seemed disposed to put upon it, and that very circumstance showed the fairness with which the evidence had been sought for and collected. What did the conduct of the corporation prove? —that they wanted information, and endeavoured to obtain it through all the requisite channels; and that, after conducting the inquiry as well as they were able, they laid the details before the House, not to prove a case of delinquency against the soldiers, but to lay the ground for an ulterior and more solemn inquiry. All they had done was, to show a prima facie case, that the military power had attempted to act in opposition to the civil power; that the latter had been ill treated by the 824 military, and prevented from doing its duty on a particular occasion. The worthy alderman opposite had laid down for them a piece of law, which would be extremely convenient for future rioters, for he had told them, that as the two sheriffs of London only constituted one for Middlesex, neither could act alone as sheriff out of the precincts of London. See the consequence of such a doctrine, and how successfully it might be used for the purposes of rioters! Suppose (as indeed was, the case here) that a riot occurred while one of the sheriff's was at Brighton, or that one of them was at a turtle feast, or confined to his bed by indisposition, what then was to he done in the event of a riot? Was the other sheriff to repair to the spot? No; according to the hon. alderman's law, there would be no use in his going, he being but half a sheriff. But it was idle to dwell on that proposition; indeed, it had been properly answered by the right hon. secretary, who admitted the proper motive which had dictated the attendance of the worthy sheriff on the occasion alluded to. The statement made by Mr. Sheriff Waithman to lord Bathurst, on the, morning after the occurrence loudly called for inquiry. In the letter transmitting that statement, Mr. Sheriff Waithman drew a general picture of what had happened; he stated the facts according to his own observation of their occurrence; he sought inquiry, he offered, his assistance in that inquiry; be requested to be present at such investigation as lord Bathurst should institute. His assistance or attendance was never, however, required, and the answer he received from the noble secretary of state was certainly not very encouraging. The allegations of the worthy sheriff were, as far as the House knew, perfectly uncontradicted. The right hon. gentleman had commented upon the statement of the worthy sheriff, respecting the throwing of a brickbat. But after all, to what did that amount? The expressions of the worthy sheriff were, "A brickbat was thrown from the barracks, it fell near my horse, and struck as I was informed, a young girl." Now, in this statement there were three points, two of which must be best known to the worthy sheriff himself, namely, the direction from which he saw the brickbat thrown, and its falling near his horse; as to its having struck a young girl, that, he says, he was only informed of. The last part might be erroneous, and the two 825 former be still untouched. But it was said that the person struck was not a child, but a widow woman, Mrs. Dalton; and that she was struck, not while going with the funeral, but on her return. Now he could not find this in the evidence: her statement was this:—"Were you at the barracks before the funeral went by? I was, I went by with it.—Did any thing happen at that time? Not as the funeral was going on; nothing that I could observe; but a soldier shook his fist up at a window, and one of the men halloed out some outrageous word, such as 'You 'coward, stay there,' or something of that kind. There was a gentleman that requested silence on horseback, I was a good way from the gentleman at the time.—You received a blow? Yes, I did. I was cut between the two shoulders."— There was not a word here about the time when this happened. The fact of her stating that she went by the barracks at the time of the funeral did not necessarily imply that she had afterwards gone on the whole way with it, and then encountered the injury, long afterwards, when she returned. She might have turned round immediately on coming opposite the barracks. Mr. Sheriff Waithman said, at the time, he heard that the brickbat had struck a girl. Well, what was the fact? It struck a woman. Mrs. Dalton stated that fact, and yet, because she was a widow woman, instead of a young girl, although it was admitted that the military power had obstructed the civil, upon such a contradiction as that, there was, it seemed, to be no inquiry into so flagrant an occurrence. He must contend that the worthy sheriff's statement, instead of being contradicted, was in all its material parts, confirmed by the other evidence.—Besides Mrs. Dalton, there was the testimony of Mr. Charles Coote, which he would read to the klouse.—"Did you see a brick thrown in amongst the multitude on that day? I saw a brick thrown from behind the barrack wall on that day.—About what time? About half past 2 o'clock, as nearly as I can guess.—Was the procession going by? Just the head of the procession; it went in amongst some females close against the lamp-post, on the causeway; the brick was picked up, and Mr. Sheriff Waithman appeared to be coming away, and it was shown to Mr. Sheriff Waithman and the people.—Did you see it shown? I saw the people have it in their hands; they 826 showed it to him.—Did it hurt any body? I cannot say whether it hurt any body by falling, there was such a quantity of people by at the time; but I heard afterwards that it did hurt a person."—After reading this evidence how could the right hon. secretary declare there had been no case made out to justify this motion? It was, he thought, in possible to look at the evidence without seeing that a material case was made out to call for inquiry. In endeavouring to maintain the contrary, the right hon. gentleman had overlooked the most important parts of the evidence: he had, indeed, admitted that the worthy sheriff's conduct appeared to have been most conciliatory; he had admitted that he could have had no other object in attending than to preserve the public peace. With regard to the general character of the evidence, (he Mr. D.) would declare, I that the testimony of the constables was in the highest degree creditable to them; they all spoke and (such was the character of the evidence generally) with that circumspection which became men anxious to speak the truth. He must complain of the selection of page 33 as characteristic of the whole evidence: it was not a. fair sample of the witness's statement; and to quote it, as it had been quoted, was merely to take one part of what had been deposed, when it could be made to suit a particular object, and overlook the general character and substance of the examination.—In reference to what had been said of the worthy sheriff's conduct before the coroner, he could not see how it applied to the present case. At the funeral Mr. Sheriff Waithman was acting, in the discharge of his duty as a conservator of the public peace, and was entitled to the support of the law while so acting. That he had great influence with the people, on this particular occasion, was quite clear; and it was equally manifest that he had exercised it in the most laudable manner, and with the most salutary effect. It was said, that though much tumult prevailed, the sheriff had taken no rioter into custody. Was it easy, in such a multitude, and in the confusion prevailing at the time, to have marked out any particular individual? And, unless he could have been so marked out, where was the use of making the arrest? Then, it was added, "but there has been no prosecution of any of the soldiery; why not have commenced proceedings against some of them, if their conduct was such as had 827 been described?" Upon that allusion, he should only say, that, after what they saw of the treatment of witnesses before the coroner, who went to the barracks to identify the soldiers, it would have been difficult indeed to have induced individuals to have exposed themselves to such treatment. It was no great impeachment of the validity of the evidence, that persons were not pressing forward to undertake the identity of the soldiers. But why did not lord Bathurst undertake such a prosecution? Why did he not order the prosecution of the rioters who were represented as having broken open the barrack-gates? One individual only had been brought to trial at the sessions, and he was acquitted. It should, however, be recollected, that the period to which the case of the latter referred was subsequent to the attack upon the sheriff, who had left the spot before the hour when the last act of violence was said to have been committed. What really was the case which the House was called upon to consider? Here was a sheriff going on a public occasion for the purpose of preserving the peace, as he was bound to do by law, and in the heat of the moment, and while employed in the discharge of his duty, by his moderation and firmness, restraining soldiers and officers from doing that, in the ferment of supposed provocation, which when done, under whatever circumstances, must afterwards give the greatest pain to men of honourable and gallant minds. For acting so, the worthy sheriff has been exposed to wanton attack, and denied inquiry. What a singular contrast did the conduct of his majesty's ministers present on recent occasions affecting the safety of the people? Here was the case of Mr. Waithman, and the uncourteous disregard of his complaint by lord Bathurst. There was the treatment of his hon. and gallant friend, sir Robert Wilson, who had, on the day of her majesty's funeral, by his humanity and presence of mind, saved a great deal of wanton bloodshed. There was the dismissal of sir Robert Baker, for most judiciously, most humanely, and most lawfully, as a magistrate acting upon his responsibility, not heading a public procession as an undertaker, but attending in his official capacity to see that the public peace was duly preserved, sir Robert Baker on that occasion saved the lives of the king's subjects, by taking the route which he ordered on that melancholy day, yet for it his majesty's ministers had put 828 him also upon their proscribed list. Compare the treatment of these meritorious public officers with that observed towards the Manchester magistrates, and done, too, without inquiry, without reference, without explanation. Thanks were given and rewards extended to those who slaughtered the people in their own vicinage, as if they were enemies of their country, and opponents who entered it from a foreign land. The magistrates who were said to have directed that unhappy slaughter were favoured, and those by whose interference slaughter was prevented, who interposed, not to bring the military into conflict with the people, but to prevent such an unhappy confusion, were to be put down, in the first instance without inquiry, and to be afterwards met with a flat refusal to inquire in every step which they took to establish their own vindication. And this was to be done to maintain the integrity of the magistrates, and the reputation of the military! He had heard, with great pain, what had been said respecting the evidence taken before the coroner whose duty it was to conduct the painful investigation. Something had been said of the reports of that evidence, and upon that point he should only say, that if the reports of some of their own committees were given to the public with the same inveterate accuracy, he feared, they would not, perhaps be found to cut a better figure. But let it not be said, that the proceedings of the coroner were founded upon perjured evidence, because a noble lord had said the persons were ready to give evidence, that lie, though 200 miles distant at the time, was on the spot when the firing took place. It was most unfortunate that the sheriff, when so acting as Mr. Waithman had done, should be rebuked as he had been, and his statement rejected without inquiry, and that when magistrates acted violently against the people they should be honoured, and their reports confided in without inquiry. That was not the conduct which became his majesty's ministers. It was due to the feelings of the people and to the integrity of the constitution to protect the civil power in the exercise of its proper jurisdiction; it was more particularly due to them, for the purpose of showing that ministers were ready to perform a duty, which lately they had not evinced any striking anxiety to perform for the country.
§ Mr. Peel
explained. The hon. and 829 learned gentleman had stated, that he admitted the conciliatory conduct of Mr. Waldman. Now, what he had said was, that upon the evidence which Mr. Waithman had brought forward, it did appear that his conduct was conciliatory. He expressed no opinion of his own.
§ Mr. Denman
understood that the right hon. gentleman had founded all his opinions upon the evidence.
§ Mr. G. Bankes
said, that he differed entirely with the hon. and learned gentleman, who had declared that the conduct of Mr. Sheriff Waithman before the coroner had nothing to do with the present case. Now, he thought quite the reverse, and that nothing could be more proper than to look at the sheriff's conduct upon the inquest, which was certainly most improper, if not illegal. Was it proper that the same person, who had just before been acting the part of a public prosecutor of the life guards, should voluntarily tender his interposition to the same life guards, as a mediator to keep the peace between them and their aggressors? He would not go so far as to say with the hon. alderman, that one of the sheriffs of London was only half of the sheriff of Middlesex, but he would say, that Mr. Sheriff Waithman was exactly the half that should not have been at Knightsbridge on this particular occasion. The hon. gentleman then, with reference to Mr. Waithman's conduct at the inquest, quoted Blackstone's observation, that it had been determined by the great charter, that the sheriff should not hold pleas of the Crown, for it was he who summoned the jury, and who had to execute the law. If the law, then, prevented such an officer, on account of his functions, from being a judge, a fortiori, it must be improper for him to appear as a public prosecutor, and in the court of his own deputy; for the coroner, in one sense, might be so considered, as he took his oaths before the sheriff. The honourable member then quoted Mr. Waithman's admission, that he appeared at the inquest on the part of the relatives of the deceased, and to conduct the prosecution, and expressed his disapprobation at the comments made upon the testimony of some of the witnesses by the sheriff, when attending the inquest. He had lately looked back to the files of "The Times" newspaper upon this subject, and he there 830 found that the sheriff had, in several instances, given flat contradictions to the coroner. Upon one occasion the sheriff said, "The witness does not say so. "The coroner put the question a second time, and the answer fully justified his original conception of it. Mr. Waithman then said "This witness is swearing to a negative;" upon which a juror turned round and said—"You surely do not mean to impugn the evidence of the witness." For the reasons which he had stated, he felt compelled to differ from the hon. members near him, and he was the more induced to do so from a reflection, that only twelve days before that funeral, a gross scene of riot and disturbance had taken place; the streets had been torn up, and the funeral of the late queen obstructed; and yet this same sheriff, the conservator of the public peace, though present in the procession, never interfered to restore tranquillity. Then, indeed, the sheriff not only might, but ought to have raised the posse comitatus. If the sheriff had mustered his officers to remove the obstacles which had been thrown in the way of the funeral on that day, he might have preserved the tranquillity of that metropolis which, as sheriff, he was bound to watch over. He was sure that if sheriff Waithman had consulted any other man in the kingdom, he would have been told that he was the last person who ought to make his appearance at the funeral on the 26th August. The hon. member, alluding to what took place at the coroner's inquest, expressed a hope that he should never again see the proceedings of such a tribunal published day by day, or at all given to the public until a verdict was returned. In other courts, a discretionary power was exercised to prevent premature publication; and he saw no reason why that power should not be exercised in this instance also. In fact, such publications were nothing more than ex parte statements, which were calculated to prejudice the public mind, and produce much evil without doing any good. He could not, viewing the entire transaction, but look on the conduct of Mr. Sheriff Waithman with feelings of horror and disgust. [Cheers.]
rose, he said, principally with a view to defend the conduct of his hon. friend, Mr. Sheriff Waithman, from the aspersions so unjustly cast upon it by the hon. gentleman who had just sat 831 down. The hon. gentleman had been pleased to say, that he viewed the conduct of Mr. Sheriff Waithman with feelings of horror and disgust; and that censure, so unqualified, appeared to have been approved of by several gentlemen on the other side of the House. He would refer the hon. gentleman to the conduct of the right hon. secretary, who with good taste, and with still better feeling, did not express, either by word, by manner, or by gesture, any thing derogatory to the character or injurious to the feelings of Mr. Sheriff Waithman. The hon. gentleman had said, that Mr. Waithman, by attending the funeral of her majesty, had disqualified himself from attending the funeral of Honey. Now he (Mr. Bennet) had no hesitation to say, that he performed his duty to the country in attending the funeral procession of Honey and Francis. He would let the House judge of his conduct by its fruits. Did not the interference of the sheriff, his activity, his courage, and his discretion, preserve the peace of that day, and prevent the effusion of blood. He would appeal for the truth of the observation to the account of every impartial person—to any account. He would even take the testimony which had been furnished to the home department; because he was convinced that every account, if fairly examined, would show that he had taken every pains to preserve the public peace, and that his exertions had been eminently successful. To him the country was indebted for the peace of that day—to him was justly due the praise of having prevented a tumult, the consequences of which might have been calamitous. He would now ask the House, what was the situation in which the government stood with reference to that transaction? To them it must have been clear that the public peace was endangered; that, considering the irritated state of the people, and the resentment of the soldiery, a collision, hostile and bloody, was likely to take place. He did not say that it was in the power of government to control the passions of the people or of the soldiery; but could they not have prevented the irritated parties from meeting? Could they not have marched the troops out of town for that day [a laugh from the ministerial side?] He was not surprised that those who wished to govern by the sword, should ridicule the observation he had just made. Those who would 832 govern by force, and not by moderation —who would intimidate, instead of conciliating the people—might look upon the observation he had made as unworthy of attention; but he was sure that, in other and better times, the course which he had pointed out would have been adopted. But the course of proceeding was now different. Government seemed regardless of public opinion, and were satisfied to carry their measures by force alone. He would now make one or two observations on what had fallen from the right hon. secretary. That gentleman had attempted to throw a slur over the evidence; and had read some passages as if to show that. the soldiers, who were armed, were provoked by the people, who were all unarmed. Without adverting to the objections which had been taken to the passages in question, he would say, that, looking at the whole of this evidence, the statement of Mr. Sheriff Waithman, as contained in his letter to the secretary of state, was borne out in every particular. Among the witnesses he observed one name, which must be familiar to the recollection of many members in that House—he meant Mr. John Tyas, a gentleman who was a reporter to the newspaper called "The Times." He must here beg leave to observe, that the evidence of a reporter was, in all cases of public interest, of the utmost importance; it was so, upon all principles of evidence. Because it was evident, as to reporters, that correct information it was peculiarly their business to be possessed of—it was their stock in trade. They were accustomed, by habit and experience, to watch narrowly, to report faithfully, and to describe correctly. Mr. Tyas, if he recollected rightly, was the same individual who gave that very exact and faithful account of the Manchester meeting (am account that never had been shaken), and whose conduct, on that memorable occasion, was one of the most remarkable instances of presence of mind, of correct deportment, and of acute observation, that ever was put upon record. This gentleman, in one part of his evidence, made this important statement:—"I saw a soldier at the gate strike his cartridge-box, take out a cartridge, bite it, prime his piece, put something into the piece,. and I saw his arm raised, from which I conceived he was ramming it down; but; somebody intervened, and I cannot say whether he rammed it down." And there 833 he went on to say "I have not the least doubt in my own mind, that the piece was primed and loaded: at the very time that these men were rushing at Mr. Waithman, in the middle of the street, I saw this man, with a carbine on his shoulder, and moving it about as if to get an aim at Mr. Waithman, and I conceive (this is only matter of opinion,) but my opinion was, that if he could have fired at Mr. Waithman without hitting one of his comrades, he would have fired." Now, he did not mean to say that this was decisive evidence. It was not sworn to even; and this person himself was not cross-examined. But hon. gentlemen were not sitting there in judgment; the prayer was only for inquiry. Yet he would observe that this evidence was such, that even in a court of justice, where a party might be tried for his life, it would be very difficult to get over it. This evidence was corroborated, also, by that of very many other witnesses; and as to the carbine, he could not help thinking that the statement contained in Mr. Waithman's letter was amply borne out by the mass of testimony which he held in his hand. If so, surely there could not be a more fit subject for inquiry. He did think that the house must agree to listen to such grave complaints, made on behalf of no less a person than the high sheriff of Middlesex. But if it would not, it was at least not proper for gentlemen to sit there, and cheer every sentence that was made in defence of the soldiery, whatever it might be. If they should reject the consideration of this case altogether, they would soon arrive at results far different from those establishments of liberty and law which their ancestors had bequeathed to them. He did not mean to contend, upon the whole of this evidence, that this or that particular charge was true; but he contended, that where such allegations were brought forward, it was not becoming the House to close it? doors upon the complainants. They must bear in mind that the body so complaining was no less a one than the lord mayor, sheriffs, and common council of the City of London. The letter of the worthy sheriff was amply borne out by the evidence of others. He had observed before, that every thing was cheered which happened to be said in favour of the soldiers. God knows, no person was ever more disposed to applaud the conduct of the excellent corps which had been mentioned in the course of the 834 evening, than he was! In earlier periods of his life, and on the occasion of similar differences between them and the people, he had had opportunities of witnessing the excellent manner in which they discharged their difficult duties, and of admiring their moderation and forbearance. If the present motion had no other object but the mere setting right of the characters and demeanour of the soldiery who were assembled on this occasion, he would give it his support; but seeing that its object was of a much higher nature, and connected with an inquiry into circumstances under which the person and character of the high 5heriff had been attacked, he could adopt no other course than to support by his vote the proposition which had been made.
§ Mr. W. Lamb
said, that he could not support the motion, because, when he saw the limited means of investigation which the House possessed, he was always exceedingly reluctant to go into parliamentary inquiry. The hon. member for Westminster had said, that the House was always ready to go into the inquiries proposed by ministers, but to reject such as were suggested from the other side. Now, it was unfair that such a statement should be made without acknowledging the fact, that the inquiries proposed by the government were generally of an entirely different nature from those which were recommended from other quarters, and more suited to the means of investigation which the House possessed. It had lately been a practice to deprecate any assertion that there were evil-minded persons in the country who aimed to disturb its peace. On the first day of the session, the hon. member who so ably seconded the address, was rebuked for making some observations of that nature. Now, he would ask, what were the motives of the persons who got up the funeral of the men which led to the disturbances at Knightsbridge, and who paid the expenses and took the management of the procession? What possible motive could they have had, but that of adding to the excitation of the people, and taking advantage of the acts which they night thereby induce them to commit. There was one word which he was sorry to hear very often abused in that House. Upon the present occasion the hon. member for Westminster and the learned member for Nottingham had spoken of he persons engaged in these proceedings 835 as "the people." They said that if the enquiry were not gone into, there would be no regard paid to the people, and that the people would not have justice. Now, he (Mr. Lamb) stood up there to interpose in behalf of the people, against this implication. It was not the people of England who had committed the outrages upon the occasion in question. From his own personal observation, he was enabled c to state, that amongst the crowd who at tended the procession, the greatest number of those present were duly impressed with the solemnity of the scene, and appeared to be peaceful and respectable t persons. But at the same time he saw that there were attendant upon the crowd t many whose object, either from want, or profligacy of character, was that of creating disorder and riot for their own advantage. These were the persons who did create the outrage which ensued; and it was not therefore justifiable in any member to describe that outrage as the act of the people, and to throw over it that shield of protection which the name of "the people" afforded. Unless breaches I of the law in the metropolis were discountenanced firmly and steadily in that House—and if they were to be attributed to the people, and that protection afforded to them which the name of "the people" carried with it, they would sooner or later find that the consequence would be violence and bloodshed, either from the success of the turbulent, or the resistance necessary to be opposed to them by the military.—[Loud cheering.]
explained. He considered that, through the lord mayor and common councilmen of London the people were the petitioners; and that, in the person of their high sheriff, the people had been insulted.
§ Mr. Butterworth
thought it was not until they were obliged to protect their own lives, that the soldiers had interfered; and that Mr. Waithman, as sheriff of the county, had acted in a manner highly criminal in not interposing his authority at Cumberland-gate on the day of the queen's funeral. On the occasion of the queen's funeral, Mr. Waithman's brother sheriff wrote to him, to ask whether it was his intention to attend it on the day appointed. Mr. Waithman returned no definitive answer to Mr. Sheriff Williams, until a period so immediately preceding the, funeral, that he knew his letter could not reach the sheriff 836 time. It was to this effect:—"Although shall not attend her majesty's funeral in my corporate capacity, I mean to attend sheriff of the county, and to be at Hyde Park-corner at half-past seven o'clock in the morning." As Mr. Waithman must have known and anticipated, this letter reached Mr. Williams too late, and he did not go. The hon. gentleman included with a solemn appeal to the louse, to reject the proposition submitted to it. He thought his majesty's government fully justified in prohibiting re queen's funeral from passing through the city, after the corporation had disgraced themselves by attending a public thanksgiving in St. Paul's, upon such an occasion as that for which they had gone to it.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the hon. member for Dover protested against inquiry, and yet commenced his speech by a general attack upon almost every body concerned in this transaction, in the spirit (perhaps the House would be told) of Christian charity. But his appealing in the solemn manner he had just done, was an insult to religion. The sacred cause of religion vas profaned by men, who with that word in their mouths, had any thing but religion in their hearts. He rose to express his abhorrence of such conduct. With regard to the panegyrics which the hon. gentleman had lavished on the soldiers, it was the opinion of those who had witnessed the transactions of the day, that what took place at Knightsbridge was not to be connected with any thing that had occurred at Hammersmith. The time would shortly come, when the occurrences at Cumberland-gate must be made matter of discussion. But it was most unfair to mix up two transactions in the way the hon. gentleman had done; one of them had nothing to do with the other, and it was, on the hon. gentleman's part, only an attempt to throw dirt into the eyes of the House. As to the letter which the hon. gentleman had read, whether it was or was not a true letter, of this he could assure the House, that the worthy alderman did, in fact, attend the queen's funeral, but only as a private man. He appealed to the House whether, if a great corporation came forward to lay their complaints before parliament, it was not just and expedient that inquiry should take place. The appeal which had been made by the hon. member for Dover possessed any thing but justice in its principle.
Mr. Alderman Wood
rose to reply. He was not a little surprised to find the hon. baronet make so unqualified an attack upon the corporation of London; nor was he less surprised to find his majesty's ministers treat the corporation with so much disregard. It was not long since those ministers had dined with the corporation; and on one occasion a gallant general had been entertained by them at an expense of not less than 25,000l. [a laugh.] The worthy alderman quoted Dalton, 662, to shew that the sheriff as well as the coroner, might inquire into murders. He remarked, that the hon. member for Dover had adverted solely to the day of the Queen's funeral, which had nothing to do with the occurrences at Knightsbridge. As to the allegation, that the sheriff had neglected his duty on the day of the queen's funeral, that officer attended there solely as a private individual, and had no power whatever, as the force in attendance was under the command of a military officer.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 56; Noes, 184.
|List of the Minority.|
|Allen, J. H.||Leonard, T. B.|
|Brougham, H.||Martin, J.|
|Benyon, B.||Maberly, J.|
|Barrett, S. M.||Ossulston, lord|
|Bernal, R.||Ord, W.|
|Beaumont, T. P.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Crespigny, sir W. De||Phillips, G.|
|Concannon, L.||Phillips, G. R.|
|Curtis, sir W||Pares, T.|
|Chaloner, R.||Price, R.|
|Carter, J.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Denman, T.||Ricardo, D.|
|Davies, T. H.||Smith, J.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Smith, W.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Smith, C.|
|Ebrington, visc||Sefton, lord|
|Folkestone, visc.||Scott, J.|
|Guise, sir W.||Scudamore, R.|
|Graham, S.||Thompson, W.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Tennyson, C.|
|Hume, J.||Tierney, right hon. G.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Honeywood, W. P.||Whitbread, W. H.|
|Howard, hon. W.||Wyvill, M.|
|James, W.||Williams, W.|
|Lambton, J. G.||Williams, T. P.|
|Leycester, R.||Webbe, E.|
|Lemon, sir W.||Bennet, hon. G.|
|Lloyd, sir E.||Wood, ald.|