HC Deb 25 April 1825 vol 13 cc161-2
Mr. Hume

presented a Petition from the parish of Forfar, praying that a commission might be appointed to inquire into the case of Mr. Robert Gourlay. The petitioners were impressed, like many others, with an opinion, that Mr. Gourlay had been severely and unjustly treated.

Mr. Peel

wished it to be understood, that Mr. Gourlay was not detained at the instigation of government. He was merely under the operation of the laws. If any person could be found to give security for his peaceable demeanour, he would not be detained one hour longer.

Mr. Brougham

concurred with the right hon. gentleman, but observed, that owing to the solicitor for the Treasury having attended at Mr. Gourlay's examination at Bow-street, an opinion had got abroad, that he was detained at the instance of government. This he knew to be incorrect; and he wished it also to be understood, that he (Mr. B.) had in no way been the cause of the poor gentleman's being kept in prison, nor had he taken any one step to have him lodged there. He had had no quarrel with Mr. Gourlay, and the circumstances under which he had committed the outrage upon him (Mr. B.) were such, as, whatever opinion they might give him of the soundness of his intellect, could not create any anger towards the individual. The petition of which he spoke he had put into his ( Mr. B's) hand three or four years before, and it related to the education of the poor. Mr. Gourlay wished him to introduce upon that occasion a statement of his own case; and he, although it had nothing in the world to do with it, had complied, and had made that statement. When Mr. Gourlay committed the outrage upon him, he had said, "Let the dead bury the dead," alluding to the case of Mr. Smith, the missionary; and he had added,"If you can find time to attend to the affairs of a dead missionary, why do you not attend to mine?" He believed that Mr. Gourlay had experienced very harsh and unjust treatment in Canada. The learned gentleman concluded by declaring, that, as far as he was personally concerned, he had no objection to the liberation of the petitioner.

Mr. Peel

said, that the petitioner was treated in the same way as any person who was detained under similar circumstances. He was originally detained for a breach of privilege in assaulting a member in the lobby of the House, in doing which he had declared that he was only imitating a high example—of scourging sinners out of the temple.

Mr. J. Williams

said, that Mr. Gourlay had given him a petition to present to the House, in which he complained of the manner in which he was treated with regard to the food which was given him; but, at the same time, he spoke with the greatest respect of the magistrates, and particularly of the humane conduct of the govenor of the House of Correction.

Ordered to lie on the table.