HC Deb 04 October 1831 vol 7 cc1209-12
Colonel Evans

rose to propose a motion, which he supposed the House would agree with him in thinking one extremely proper to be entertained at the present moment. The motion he intended to make was founded on some proposition which had been made for the better preservation of the public peace, in consequence of the present peculiar state of affairs. It was the opinion of many, that there was no alternative between the success of the Reform Bill and a revolution, in case of its failure. Such being the opinion entertained by some, it was proper, he considered, that the House should be put in possession of the means adopted on a former occasion, when there existed reasons for apprehending popular commotion. It would be in the recollection of the House, that in November last, when the late Government issued a declaration against Reform, such was the excitement caused in the public mind by that act, that the Government thought it necessary to prepare for any commotion by making certain military arrangements. What those arrangements were was not generally known; but it was understood that, previous to the 9th of November, when his Majesty—then as much and deservedly revered as he was at this moment—was about to visit the City, all the regiments in the neighbouring counties to the metropolis were drawn together and distributed in different parts of the metropolis, to act against the people. He had heard also, that in addition to all this, every policeman received private instructions, which authorized him to select a friend, who was to act with him. His object was not now to question the propriety of that proceeding, but to attract attention to a crisis, which was not only not dissimilar to the one in question, but, as it appeared to him, of infinitely greater moment and danger. He thought it would be only prudent to provide for the apprehended danger, and place the public peace on a more secure basis than at present. He would beg leave to move an humble Address to his Majesty "For copies of papers remaining in any of the public offices, tending to show the extent of the insurrectionary movement expected to have broken out in the metropolis on the 9th of November last: also, of any arrangements or plans of operation for putting down the same by force of arms, so far as these may be communicated without detriment to public safety: also, returns of expenses for movements of troops collected to be in readiness to act against the people on that occasion, or incurred for any addition to the defences of the Tower, towards increasing the cannon and musket-fire capable of being brought to bear from it against the surrounding streets or buildings."

Sir Henry Parnell

was of opinion that the hon. Gentleman had shown no grounds for his Motion. The hon. Gentleman did not object to the propriety of those arrangements; and that nothing more had been done than was expedient, and not only usual, but the duty of every commanding officer to do on such occasions. He had made inquiry, and had ascertained that nothing more was done than to have the military in readiness to assist the civil power. He therefore hoped the honourable House would not give its consent to the Motion.

Mr. Hunt

said, the gallant Colonel had mentioned insurrectionary movement; he (Mr. Hunt) could give him every information about that; and he therefore begged leave to say a few words on the subject. A few days before the 9th of November, he was chairman at a very crowded Radical Reform meeting in the Rotunda: 2,000 or 3,000 people were present, and a great number could not obtain admittance. About 300 waited round the door for some time, and then, by a general rush, made their way into the passage, stole three or four tri-coloured flags, and then went out again in a body, making loud outcries. They were met by the police, who gave them a good drubbing. This was the insurrectionary movement, and this only. As to any danger which would have attended the King on going to the City, he could only say, his Majesty might have walked, without the slightest danger, all the way from his palace.

Sir Robert Peel

said, as the House seemed much averse from entertaining this Motion, nothing was requisite for him to do but remind the House, that he had at the time fully explained the motives which induced the Government to take the precautions alluded to. He had then adverted to the communications which had passed between the Government and the Lord Mayor, and said, that from these and the symptoms of popular discontent then observable, the Government had exercised a sound as well as a humane discretion in securing the public against the miseries of a popular commotion, by pro-providing means for its immediate suppression. The precautions were entirely defensive; and, had the necessity for ascertaining the fact occurred, they would, he believed, have proved effectual, and, by prompt interference, have averted the anarchy and bloodshed which must have been the consequence of a want of preparation to meet such an exigency. He hoped never to see a Ministry neglect such precautions. He would only beg the House to bear in mind the events of 1798, in comparison with the crisis alluded to by the hon. Member; and then he did not doubt their concurrence in his opinion—that humanity, as well as good policy, required that those precautions should be taken. Those precautions were not to act offensively against the people, but defensively, and for the protection of their best and dearest interests, which were inseparably dependent on the preservation of the public peace.

Colonel Evans,

in justification of his Motion, referred to a paragraph in the report of the right hon. Baronet's speech, delivered at the time, in which he was represented to have said, that the reason for putting a stop to the intended visit of his Majesty to the City was to prevent a collision between the military and the people. He certainly was of opinion that, in the present critical state of affairs, some inquiry was necessary for the purpose of averting the threatened danger.

Sir Henry Hardinge

deprecated any motion like the present; it could lead to no good purpose, and was, on the contrary, likely to mislead the public. No other preparations had been made at the Tower than those which were necessary, and only of a defensive nature. He acquitted the gallant Officer of any intention to convey to the troops a notion that they were not to obey the directions of the Executive as well as those of their superior Officers when constitutionally given. The troops, he was sure, would always do their duty.

Motion negatived without a division.