HC Deb 08 May 1823 vol 9 cc117-9
Colonel Barry

rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to an article in a newspaper respecting the pending inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff of Dublin. He felt reluctant to propose the bringing a printer to the bar of that House; but the object of the paragraph to which he alluded was so obviously to impede the course of public justice, that he felt obliged to notice it. The obscurity of the paper in which it was contained might have induced him to pass it by in silence, were not its wickedness and falsehood such as to make it unfit that, even upon the limited number of the readers of that paper, such an impression should be suffered to remain. He then proceeded to read an article from "The British Press," animadverting upon the conduct and character of the Orange party in Ireland, and commenting upon the evidence given at the bar of the House. The hon. member proceeded to read a precedent from the Journals of the House, where a prosecution by the attorney-general had been ordered during the inquiry on sir E. Impey's case, in 1788. That course it was not his intention to pursue, but he still thought he should not be doing justice to those persons whose character it was the object of the writer of the paragraph to blacken, unless some notice was taken of it. He should now therefore move that the printer of "The British Press," do attend that House to-morrow.

Sir M. W. Ridley

thought, that as the paragraph read by the hon. gentleman did not contain any reflection upon the character of any member of the House, although its insinuations were injurious to the characters of others, enough had been done in the notice which had been already taken of it. As those individuals, who, some how or other, obtained a knowledge of the proceedings of the House, had in general abstained from commenting upon the inquiry, he would suggest to the hon. gentleman the expediency of withdrawing his motion.

Colonel Barry

had no objection to adopt the course recommended, if the House were of opinion that the article which he had read was an instance of gross injustice. He did not wish to bring the House in collision with those people. "But unless something be done," said the, hon. member, "the press will become our masters, instead of we being theirs."

Mr. Wynn

said, that witnesses and even culprits charged in that House were under its protection. He, however, thought, in the present instance, that sufficient had been done to prevent a repetition of the offence.

Mr. Abercromby

observed, that if the newspapers refrained from making any comments upon the inquiry now in progress, they would be better employed. With respect to the article just read, he had no hesitation in saying, that was a highly-coloured statement. He was, however, happy to have that opportunity of stating, that since he had become a member of that House, there was no instance in which he had received such a multiplicity of newspapers, pamphlets, and other writings, all coming from the other side, and containing statements that were most exaggerated with respect to the conduct of the attorney general for Ireland. He requested the hon. member to consider, whether, under, all the circumstances, it would be advisable, to engage the House in a contest, which it was not probable that they could speedily get rid of. There were other publications which contained statements fully as bad on the opposite side.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he would advise his hon. friend not to proceed further. Much consideration was certainly due to his wounded feelings, but he should recollect that his character was proof against any attack of the kind. When the liberty of the press was so abused, its licentiousness became its own correction; for it was the natural consequence of gross and disgraceful exaggerations to lessen the credit of the source from which they proceeded.

The motion was then withdrawn.