§ Mr. Doherty
said, that the conduct of the hon. and learned member for Clare, with respect to the Petition reflecting upon the Mayor of Galway, which he had just presented, was most fair and honourable. He had no doubt that the hon. and learned Member would act with equal candour towards another individual, and he therefore begged to ask, when he meant to present those petitions, copies of which he had sent to the Secretary for Ireland, and which reflected strongly on the character of the individual who was then addressing the House?
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, he had sent the copies of the petitions to the Secretary for 240 Ireland, because he felt himself bound to do so; but he had since had reason to induce him to wish to examine into the subject before he proceeded further, and he should not bring forward the petitions until he had had an opportunity of getting more accurate information than he yet possessed on the matter to which they related.
§ Mr. Doherty
observed, that the conduct of the hon. and learned Member would be quite becoming and proper, if he had not already made the charges contained in these petitions matter of such notoriety, and if he had not forwarded the petitions to the Irish Government. But the hon. and learned Member had even gone further, for, unless the press of Ireland had most grossly misrepresented him, he had, at the late assizes in Ireland, most directly and positively asserted that his (Mr. Doherty's) conduct or misconduct should be made the subject of parliamentary inquiry. Under these circumstances, the hon. and learned Member, having gone so far, was bound to go further, and give him the opportunity of clearing his character.
§ Mr. O'Connell
did not know what the Irish newspapers had reported of him; but what he knew was, that his statements had been made on the authority of communications made to him. If the facts were as they had been represented to him, he should certainly bring the matter forward; but he should not do so till he was assured as to the truth of these facts. The discussion of the Irish Estimates would give him the opportunity of calling for other returns, which would enable him to decide upon the propriety of the allegations in the petitions, and to determine whether he would bring them forward or not. At present he was not in possession of sufficient evidence to justify him in calling the attention of the House to the subject.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
did not think that any man's character ought to be thus as it were kept afloat on the authority of mere allegation in a petition. It was unjust towards any man to suspend charges over 241 his head in that manner; but most of all was it unfit to do so with regard to so high an officer of the Government as the Solicitor General. If the hon. and learned member for Clare had a case against the Irish Solicitor General, let him use it; if not, let him say so at once. An advocate as he was for the utmost latitude in the use of the right of petitioning—advocate as he was for a perfect freedom to be allowed to petitioners to state complaints which they might justly entertain against the officers of the Government—he must say that that House would be a place most unfit for any man to sit in if these insidious opportunities were there to be afforded for the invasion of a man's character—if these insinuations, against it were allowed to be made, while the party making them was permitted to decline so framing his charges that they could be met and repelled. It was the duty of Mr. O'Connell, as a lawyer, as a Member of Parliament, and as a Gentleman, fairly and distinctly to come forward with his attack, if he meant to make one, and if he did not, at once, like a liberal man, to state to the House that he had no complaint to urge against the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. O'Connell
had a right to reply to the liberal or illiberal discourse of the hon. and learned Gentleman who was now liberal enough in assailing him, and would have been liberal enough to keep him out of that House if he could. He had, however, been returned, and being there, had the same privileges as the hon. and learned Gentleman. He would ask whether the petitions contained one single particle against the hon. and learned Solicitor General? It was not his fault if the complaints that had been stated to him were unfounded—and whether they deserved consideration or not, he had felt he could not bring them forward in the absence of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He wished to add, that since the petitions had been given to him, a report of the trial had appeared, edited by a most respectable Barrister, and the reading of that report had given him a different view of the subject, and he should, therefore, abstain from presenting the petitions till he had evidence to show him that the former accusations were just, and that that book was incorrect. He had some reason to think that the book was not incorrect, as the author of it was a gentle- 242 man of great respectability, and he had, therefore, been at great pains to institute an inquiry, and had not since uttered one word on the subject, either in or out of that House, [hear, hear]. "Hear, hear?" indeed—he should be glad to know whether there was any gagging power in this country? He knew there was in Ireland, but he had not been aware that it extended into England—and especially into that House—and miserable indeed would be the situation of any hon. Member in that House if he were to be kept silent by the hon. and learned Gentlemen on one side, whose opinions were echoed by the equally liberal, honourable and learned Gentlemen on the other. He disclaimed their authority. He contended that he had pursued a cautious and prudent course. He had not lent, and would not lend himself to any individual; nor would he present petitions of this sort unless he was satisfied that there was evidence to bear them out. If he were satisfied with the evidence he would bring the matter forward, if not, he would allow them to remain in that obscurity from which, by this discussion, the hon. and learned Gentleman had attempted to draw them. Having said so much, he now appealed to the Speaker to know whether this discussion was in order?
§ Mr. Doherty
would not press the former question further, but he wished to put another to the hon. and learned Member. After the trials which had lately taken place in Cork, the hon. and learned Member stated, at a public meeting, that he should avail himself of the power he possessed as a Member of that House, to drag him (Mr. Doherty) to its bar to answer for his conduct. He now wished to ask the hon. and learned Member whether he intended to bring forward any accusation respecting those trials?
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, it was his intention to do so when that House had furnished him with the fitting documents. The question he should then submit to the House involved this important question—how far Counsel for the Crown were justified, when they had in their possession documents which proved a witness for the Crown to be perjured, in proceeding for a conviction on his testimony? He could not move for the documents he now referred to before the close of the last Cork Assizes; they were now over, and 243 he meant to take an early opportunity of moving for those papers. He had but one line of conduct to pursue, and that he would pursue.
§ [Further conversation on this subject was prevented, by the evident unwillingness of the House to permit it to proceed; and though Mr. North afterwards referred to it again, he was called to order, and the subject was finally dropped.]