HC Deb 28 March 1822 vol 6 cc1369-71
Sir R. Wilson

presented a petition from the inhabitants of Bethnal-green, praying for a remission of the sentence on Mr. Hunt. The petition had been signed by a thousand inhabitants in the course of a few hours. It complained of the aggravated treatment which Mr. Hunt had received in violation of the directions of the judge, and it stated the great service which Mr. Hunt had conferred on the country by detecting the abuses which existed in the gaol of Ilchester. It commented severely on the conduct of a certain clerical magistrate; and certainly, if the charges brought against that magistrate were well founded, he appeared to be a most rigid disciplinarian, and one who attended but little to the precepts of the religion which he professed to teach. There was one paragraph in the petition, which would probably call forth some observation. In that paragraph a distinction was taken between two classes of members in that House, which, he believed, was sufficiently well ascertained and understood in the country. It was well known that House was composed of two descriptions of members; one class nominated by their constituents, and who represented the people; the other sent there to represent individuals and particular private interests—one class who were free agents; the other, who were the organs of the will of others—one class, who really attended to the debates in that House, and whose minds were capable of being influenced by reason and argument; the other class, whose previous engagements rendered it unnecessary for them to apply their minds to the subject under discussion. The following was the paragraph of the petition to which he alluded:—"Your petitioners disclaim any the least intention to insult your honourable House, by any remarks they may make upon its character, which they wish to see pure and unblemished in public opinion; but they canoot help observing, that when it has been stated in the public prints, that the purchase of seats in your honourable House, which should only be obtained through the free and unbiassed voice the people, 'is as notorious as the sun at noon-day;' when they see it stated by these prints, that a cabinet minister openly avowed the necessity of having useless places to confer upon members of your honourable House, in order that government might have sufficient influence to carry any ministerial question in your honourable House, which was originally designed to be a check upon the government: when your petitioners see it stated in "the New Times" paper of the 11th of February last, that a Mr. Spooner asserted at a public meeting at Worcester, that 'he had been in parliament but a very short time, still an opportunity had been afforded him of seeing how the majorities of ministers were constituted. That boys were sent into parliament, who came solely, to vote according to the dictation of ministers, and never heard a single iota of the merits of the question on which they were to decide. That he had seen the most important question agitated, the presence of sixty or eighty members, till the, period of division approached—when swarms were suddenly collected from coffee-houses, theatres, or balls, who only looked on which side stood the marquis of Londonderry, and on which side Mr. Tierney, in order to determine their votes.' When your petitioners see such statements made repeatedly in the public papers, without meeting the least contradiction, and the publishers remain unpunished, while Mr. Hunt is languishing and suffering in a pestilential gaol, for publicly expressing his opinion that such abuses ought to be removed; they cannot help thinking that shallow must be the mind, or blind the interest of that man, who does not see the necessity of an immediate remedy for the abuses which have crept into the institutions of the country, in order to preserve them from destruction."—He could, not say whether this paragraph would, or would not, be considered to be properly worded; but, leaving the House to decide that point, he would move, that the petition be now brought up. [Cries of "No, no."]

Mr. Dickinson

expressed his disapprobation of the terms in which the petition was conceived. They were highly disrespectful, and it was not true that "boys" were brought into parliament as members.

On the question that the. petition be brought up, the House divided: Ayes 17 Noes 67.

List of the Minority.
Bernal, R. Price, R.
Calvert, N. Rice, S.
Duncannon, lord Ricardo, D.
Hobhouse, J. C. Ridley, sir M.
Hume, Joseph Sykes, D.
Kennedy, T. F. Tennyson, C.
Lennard, T. B. Wood, alderman
Newport, Sir J. TELLERS.
Normanby, lord Bennet, hon. G.
Palmer, C. F. Wilson, sir R.