HC Deb 01 July 1831 vol 4 cc587-92

On the question, moved by Lord Althorp, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Customs Acts—

Sir H. Hardinge

said, that seeing the hon. member for Middlesex in his place, he wished to advert to a subject which had been started a few days ago. It arose out of a statement, or opinion, given by the right hon. member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), that certain seditious and disgusting publications were the authorship of the parties from which they purported to have proceeded. The hon. member for Middlesex, on the other hand, had insisted that they were written by persons "in the enemy's camp"—that is to say, that the authors of them were men who there professed opinions very different from the sentiments they really entertained. After some skirmishing, the hon. member for Middlesex had admitted, that what he had at first broadly asserted was only matter of suspicion. As he (Sir H. Hardinge) had said on a former day, if this suspicion were true, no punishment could be too severe for such a treacherous libeller; and without attaching too much importance to the matter, he might, perhaps, be allowed to ask the hon. member for Middlesex, whether he was able to substantiate the assertion, that the publication came from the "enemy's camp," or whether he was prepared to admit, that he had made an improper statement?

Mr. Hume

was certainly not at all prepared to admit, that he had made an improper statement; on the contrary, he was prepared to re-say what he had said on the former day. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) on a former day had argued, that certain publications, such as The Republican, for instance, were actually written by the parties who stood ostensibly forward, while he (Mr. Hume) had then some reason for believing that Mr. Hetherington was only the printer of that work in the way of his trade. On a subsequent clay, the hon. member for Dundalk came forward, as he contended, prepared to show, that these publications emanated from the Political Unions, which Political Unions were encouraged, by him (Mr. Hume.) To establish that assertion, a letter of which he (Mr. Hume) was the author, and the sentiments of which he did not wish to retract or disown, was produced, but it by no means proved the point for which it was employed. On that occasion he (Mr. Hume) had taken upon himself to deny the correctness of the statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), and he had done so on the authority of manuscripts of the 11th and 18th numbers of The Republican, which he received from Mr. Hetherington, who received them from a person of the name of Lorimer, who appeared to be the author of them. It happened that this very morning he had received a very curious letter from Mr. Lorimer, who seemed to anticipate that the subject would this night be mentioned. It was addressed to "Citizen Hume, M. P "7, Bryanston-square." and it began, "Respected Fellow-Citizen." The writer went on to say, "that perceiving by The Morning Chronicle, that in the Assembly of which Mr. Hume was a Member, The Republican had been noticed by him as emanating from the enemy's camp (meaning the miserable Anti-Reform Opposition) the writer took the liberty of rectifying this absurd error into which Mr. Hume had fallen, as the author of The Republican had no connection of a political nature with any of the Unions, with the despotic Anti-Reform Tories, nor with the hypocritical double-dealing Whigs." The writer of the letter proceeded to say, that he could not imagine on what authority Mr. Hume had made his statement, as he (Mr. Lorimer) was the superviser of The Republican, and its ostensible and responsible Editor. The communication concluded with a request that Mr. Hume would send back the manuscripts of which he had possessed himself, and which had been removed from Citizen Hetherington's office without his consent; it was subscribed "Your respectful fellow-citizen, J. S. B. Lorimer." After reading this communication, he (Mr. Hume) would add, that the suspicion he had entertained, that the writer of The Republican belonged to the enemy's camp was confirmed. The righthon. Baronet and the hon. member for Dundalk, were decidedly in error in what they had advanced, and he Mr. Hume) had unquestionably traced the authorship of The Republican to the West End of the town. This, he again said, was in itself a ground of suspicion that the man who wrote The Republican could not be an honest Reformer. Besides, what he wrote was so violent and offensive, that it threw ridicule upon the Bill and its advocates, and could not, in any way, advance the cause. He denied, that he had ever coupled the right hon. Baronet with the writer of The Republican; he could not do it; and it was only said that he had done so by those whose over-zeal induced them to catch at anything in the shape of a charge. Of what he had said he would not withdraw one word, for he still entertained the suspicion he had at first expressed.

On the question being put, that the Speaker leave the Chair,

Sir H. Hardinge

observed, that the House would probably agree with him, that a more impotent explanation had never been attempted. He was at a loss to conceive how the hon. member for Middlesex could, after deliberation, come down to make such a statement, so unsupported by truth, or the real state of the fact. On the former day the hon. Member had complained also of the pompous haughty tone of ridicule with which he had been treated by the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel.) After the letter he had read, he (Sir H. Hardinge) had expected that the hon. Member would have frankly declared, that he had been mistaken, and would not have resorted to such subterfuges. When an attack of the kind was made by the Press, he despised it; but coining from a Member of Parliament, who had weight and influence out of doors, he felt it necessary to take notice of it. He hoped still that the candour and manliness of the hon. Member would induce him to admit that he had made an improper accusation.

Mr. Hume

had only to say further, that he had as much respect for truth as the right hon. and gallant Officer, and that the assertion of the one was worth as much as that of the other. His own doubts were not removed; he still had his suspicions. If the House wished to see Mr. Lorimer, he might be summoned, although it was hardly worth while to waste the time of the House upon such nonsense. He repeated, that he was correct, and the right hon. and gallant Officer, as well as the hon. member for Dundalk, were entirely in error. Hetherington was not the writer of The Republican, but a person living at the west end of the town was, who probably belonged to the enemy's camp.

Sir R. Peel

observed, that, sated with the eloquence of the hon. member for Middlesex, he had left town, and had derived his knowledge of what passed on the last occasion chiefly from the ordinary channels of such information. He had been informed, also, that during his absence the hon. Member had made something like an attack upon him (Sir R. Peel), although, when he was present, the hon. Member had complimented him on his good humour, which he professed he would endeavour to imitate. From the charge of connection, whether it was or was not intended to be made, he could not condescend to vindicate himself; and he would rather a thousand times be the object of such a suspicion than the author of it. That any man of common honesty or common sense would resort to such an infamous proceeding, it was impossible to believe. The accusation was so extravagant as to contradict and refute itself. He admitted that there were strong facts against him, and one of them was, the conclusive piece of evidence, that Mr. Lorimer belonged to the enemy's camp because he lived at the west end of the town. Of course he could not be a true and sincere friend of the Reform Bill if he lived west of Temple Bar. But notwithstanding this fact, he could not condescend to vindicate himself from the suspicion. It was too much to make any set of men answerable for the misconduct of others, even of persons who might happen to take part with them, much less of those to whom they were opposed. The riots in Paris were attributed to those who were desirous of bringing back Charles X. By the same sort of inference, the breaking of the windows during the recent illuminations was said to have been committed at the instigation of the Tories. As to citizen Hetherington, he had never heard of that citizen, until his name was mentioned in the House by the hon. member for Middlesex himself. If the hon. Member supposed that he (Sir R. Peel) alluded to Hetherington in his reply to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Burdett), he was entirely mistaken. On the contrary, he thought that the hon. Baronet was alluding to Carlile, and other persons of that description, whose names were more generally known than Hetherington's. What he then said was, that when the hon. Baronet recommended that those writers should not be punished by the arm of the law, he ought not at the same time to shield them from the only other punishment which could reach them, that is, public indignation, to which they could not be insensible, if they were not destitute of every particle of good feeling. He would mention another instance of that kind of imputation of which he had complained. He found that there had, some how or other, crept into the new Reform Bill a clause which became the subject of much animadversion, because it disqualified from voting all householders paying their rent quarterly. Well, he found that that unfortunate clause was also said to be the production of the secret enemy. But he had not been prepared to find any one going so far as to impute to any friend of his, or of those Gentlemen who generally acted with him, a connection with the authors of the infamous writings alluded to by the hon. Baronet.

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

could never think that the impression had been left for a moment upon the mind of any hon. Member, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had been connected with those base publications. At the same time he was bound to admit, that the hon. member for Middlesex had not made out his case. Imputations such as those complained of by the hon. Baronet had not always been so groundless as on the occasions to which he referred. It was well known, that in the year 1794, the most atrocious productions were put forth, purporting to come from the party friendly to the French Revolution, for the purpose of bringing that party into disrepute. It was also well known that spies were sent on other occasions amongst the people, with instructions to use treasonable language, for the purpose of entrapping those whom they could draw into conversation. But one of these fellows was caught in his own snare, and was hanged at Edinburgh for treason. Notwithstanding the explanation which had been made, he (Mr. Ferguson) could not help thinking that the direct inference to be drawn from the remarks of the hon. member for Dundalk was, that that hon. Gentleman endeavoured to identify Mr. Hume's opinions with those of the Political Union, and to identify that Association with the seditious publications which he said were the recognized organs of the Union.

Mr. James Gordon

explained, that he had not charged the hon. member for Middlesex with having been cognizant of, or participant in, those writings.

The House then resolved itself into a Committee upon