HC Deb 18 August 1831 vol 6 cc218-20
Mr. Hume

rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move for a Copy of the Report of the Commissioners of Legal Inquiry on the claims of Louis Lecesne and James Escoffery, in 1826 and 1827. The hon. Member observed, that the Motion was of great importance, not on account of the sum of money at issue, but on account of the principle. The whole claim was only about 16,000l. and the balance to be paid was 10,500l. The circumstances of the case were these: Two individuals, of the names of Louis Lescene and James Escoffery, were, in the year 1823, removed from the island of Jamaica, on the allegation that they were dangerous aliens. They were removed under the authority of the Governor, the Duke of Manchester, aided by the advice of the Council, the Assembly, and law authorities of the Island. They claimed compensation from the British Government, on the ground that their deportation was illegal. The case was referred to the Commissioners of Legal Inquiry, who decided against their claim; but the case was subsequently referred to the law officers of the Crown in this country, and they decided in favour of the claimants. It was proposed to grant Messrs. Lescesne and Escoffery 16,000l. out of the public purse, by way of compensation for the losses which they had sustained by what now turned out to be the illegal conduct of the Duke of Manchester. If they were improperly deported, he contended that the indemnification for the losses of those individuals should come from the Duke of Manchester, or from the colonial legislature; but under no circumstances could he see any ground or reason why this Government should be called upon to pay the sum of 16,000l., which had been allotted to these individuals. He concluded by moving for a copy of the Report of the Commissioners of Legal Inquiry in the case of these persons, in the years 1826 and 1827.

Lord Howick

objected to the Motion, on the ground that, if it were acceded to, it should necessarily be followed by the production of many other papers—a proceeding which, while it would put the country, for printing and copying, to an expense of between 5,000l. and 6,000l., could not possibly be attended with any practical or good result. The point of law had been already decided by Mr. Justice Bosanquet and the law officers of the Crown, and he submitted, that no practical good could follow from having this decision reviewed by the House. He also remarked, that it would be an act of gross injustice to compel the Duke of Manchester to repay this money, as he had acted with the advice of the Council, the Assembly, and the law authorities. Equally unjust, however, would it be, that the injury suffered by those people should not be considered, and the money for which the Government stood pledged paid over to them.

Mr. Burge

said, that in the absence of the report and evidence on this case, he could only give his own private opinion with respect to it. He conscientiously believed, that, the conduct of the government of Jamaica was perfectly justifiable. He filled an official situation in Jamaica at the time the occurrence took place, and he did not shrink from saying, that he approved of it. The case was one, partly of law and partly of fact; and if it were to be discussed in that House, that course could only be taken on the production of every paper and document connected with it. He could not perceive any necessity for such a proceeding.

Dr. Lushington

said, that in October, 1823, these two individuals, who had lived in Jamaica from their infancy, were seized, for the purpose of being deported, on account of some suspected disaffection to the government. They applied to the Chief Justice to know whether bail could be taken in their case. They were informed that there was no charge against them, and they were set at liberty. They returned to their business, and were not molested for five weeks. A Secret Committee of the House of Assembly was then formed, and in consequence of their proceedings those persons were again arrested, and sent out of the island. The minutes of the Secret Committee disclosed conduct which no Englishman could view without detestation. He had afterwards moved for a Select Committee of the House to investigate the case. But Mr. Canning said, "Let the whole matter be laid before the Government, and it shall be inquired into." Persons were appointed (Mr. Courtenay and others) who inquired into, and reported on it. The matter having been thus taken up and decided by Government, there was, in his opinion, no necessity for re-considering it in that House. At all events, he was certain that they could not come to any decision on it, unless the whole of the documents were produced, and then holding an investigation, which would last, at least, six months. He trusted, for these reasons, that his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, would not persevere in his Motion.

Mr. Hume

agreed to withdraw his Motion, but declared, that when the grant was proposed, he would object to it, on the ground that they had no information on the subject, and he would take the sense of the House upon it.