The Serjeant-at-Arms having reported that he had taken Robert Poer French Pilkington into custody, pursuant to an order of the House, Mr. Peel moved that he be called to the bar.
§ The Speaker
then addressed him:—"Robert Poer French Pilkington; you have been examined before a committee of this House, and have acknowledged yourself the author of a petition, purporting to be from the Protestant inhabitants of Ballinasloe, in favour of Catholic emancipation; and this House has resolved, on the report of that committee, that you, 839 having been proved to be the author of such counterfeit petition, and having affixed the signatures thereto, and having sent it as a genuine petition to a member of this House, that you have been guilty of a high breach of the privilege of the House. If, therefore, you have any thing to offer in extenuation of your conduct, the House is now ready to hear you."
Whereupon the said Robert Poer French Pilkington stated, that he had nothing to offer in extenuation of his conduct; that he had been guilty of a very foolish and rash action; that he had come from Ireland for the purpose of submitting himself to the will of the House; that he alone had been concerned in fabricating the petition, and in forwarding it to the member who presented it; that he meant no disrespect either to the honourable House or to the honourable member to whom the petition was forwarded; that his health was in a very precarious state, he having been obliged to send for medical assistance since he was in custody; and that he entirely threw himself on the clemency and mercy of the House:— And then he was directed to withdraw.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he was at all times disposed to support the privileges of the House, and this was a case in which they ought to be asserted; but at the same time he hoped the House would concur with him in thinking, that the readiness with which the person who had just left their bar had come forward and confessed himself the author of the petition in question, should be taken as such an extenuation of his fault as might induce the House to relax the severity with which it might otherwise visit it. His conduct, it was true, involved a high breach of the privileges of the House, and was calculated to lessen the confidence with which members would receive petitions coming from Ireland, and other distant parts of the empire; but, looking at all the circumstances of this case, at the individual's state of health, and at the readiness of his confession, he thought that, without being drawn into a precedent, the privilege of parliament would be sufficiently asserted by allowing the prisoner to remain in custody; and tomorrow he would move that he be discharged on Monday.
§ Sir J. Newport
concurred in the view taken of the case by the right hon. gentleman. He thought that the readiness with which the person at the bar had confess- 840 ed his fault, and thus removed the suspicion of having fabricated the petition from a large body of men interested in the success of the object to which it referred, was an extenuation of his offence. It was now fully ascertained, that a class if men who, without the confession of the individual at the bar, might have been suspected of having got up this petition, were wholly innocent. T he person at the bar was a Protestant, and was in no way connected with those to whose claims the petition referred. Under these circumstances, and under that of the state of health of the person in custody, he would fully concur in the motion of the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Brougham
would suggest, that as it was not the practice of the House of Commons to commit for a certain time—a practice peculiar only to the other House—it would be better to let the prisoner remain in custody until further orders.