HC Deb 11 June 1824 vol 11 cc1204-6
The Speaker

rose and said, that he would take that opportunity, the House being then pretty full, to state to them a circumstance which deeply affected their privileges. Shortly after he had taken the chair, he was informed that an honourable member had been grossly assaulted by some individual in the lobby, or within the precincts of the House. He immediately directed the serjeant at arms to take the individual into custody. That had been done; and the prisoner now awaited the pleasure of the House. He understood that the name of the prisoner was Gourlay. The member who had been assaulted was the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea (Mr. Brougham). He wished to receive the directions of the House as to the course which ought to be taken.

Mr. Brougham

begged leave to inform the House of what he knew respecting the subject which the Speaker had brought under their notice. Shortly after the House assembled, he was passing through the lobby, in which a considerable number of persons were collected, when he heard somebody ask, whether he was Mr. Brougham, to which reply was made that he was. He took no notice of the circumstance, but immediately after he felt something strike him twice. The blows appeared to be inflicted with a small snitch, and he at the same time heard the voice of a person, as if muttering something. He turned round and saw a man with rather a wild expression of countenance, who was held by the persons about him. He recollected that he had seen the individual about three years ago, and he asked him what was the matter. Mr. Gourlay replied, "You have betrayed me." He recollected that, about three years ago, he had presented a petition from Mr. Gourlay; since when he had neither seen him nor had any correspondence with him. He did not know how to account for his conduct, except on the ground of insanity. He had been informed, that Mr. Gourlay was occasionally deranged. The distresses which he had suffered had impaired his intellect. It was not his wish to take any steps on the occasion.

Mr. Hume

said, that Mr. Gourlay had been sent from Canada under a state of mental derangement. He had presented two or three petitions from him to the House, on the subject of the poor-laws. Some time since he proceeded to Wiltshire, where he had once rented a farm of the duke of Somerset, at 1,300l. a-year. He there availed himself of the poor-laws, and continued for three months to break stones on the road, refusing all assistance, except the parish allowance. At that time he was under the influence of derangement, but he subsequently became sane, and having expressed a desire to go to Canada, to try to recover some property which had belonged to his family, he (Mr. H.) and some friends, had furnished him with the means of carrying his intention into effect. About ten days ago, however, he received a letter from Mr. Gourlay, which satisfied him that he was deranged. There could be no doubt that Mr. Gourlay was insane. When sane, he was a very sensible man. His work on Canada was creditable to his talents.

Mr. Wynn

said, that care ought to be taken that Mr. Gourlay should not commit a repetition of the present offence. He thought it would be unwise to discharge him out of custody.

Mr. Canning

said, that the usual course of proceeding was, for the House to hear the person in custody at the bar, before they came to any resolution with respect to him. He suggested that that proceeding should be postponed, and the individual kept in custody until a future day, in order that information might be obtained with respect to the state of his mind; which would enable the House to form a just estimate of his conduct. In offering this suggestion, however, he begged it to be understood, that he did not undervalue the strict and summary exercise of the privileges of the House, in cases such as that which had been brought under their notice.

Mr. Brougham

repeated his belief, that Mr. Gourlay was insane.

The Speaker

said, he understood it to be the pleasure of the House, that Mr. Gourlay should be kept in custody until the House received further information respecting him.