§ Mr. Ruthven
, in presenting a Petition from an aggregate meeting of the Freemen and Freeholders of the town of Galway for an extension of their elective franchise, took occasion to observe, that he believed that the petitioners would get all their prayer if the Reform Bill for Ireland were carried. He was most anxious that the English Reform Bill should have been carried, on account chiefly, that he hailed it as an omen of intended improvement in Ireland, for he was sure the people of England could not receive any benefits without being desirous that their brethren in the sister country should also have 595 their due share of the good. The rejection of such a Bill in another place had caused universal indignation, and made it the more necessary that the House of Commons should attend to the complaints of the people. He, therefore, fully agreed with those who thought the conduct of the Bishops, in voting against the Reform Bill, was utterly indefensible. He must express his surprise that men, whose whole lives ought to be dedicated not merely to the preaching, but also to the practice of peace, good-will, and charity to all mankind, should have so forgotten their sacred duties as to have given a vote, which, more than all others, was calculated to spread dissatisfaction and discontent throughout the country. He was convinced that, after the public-spirited decision to which the House of Commons had come two nights ago, and which had spread such great satisfaction throughout the country, the Reform Bill might now be considered as good as carried. He was convinced that that Bill must be passed, by the peaceable manner in which the people had conducted themselves that day, in a procession which, though its numbers rendered it formidable, was deprived of all terror by its quiet, and tranquil, and regular demeanour.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said: Sir, I am astonished at the assertion that the people this day conducted themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner. Sir, I say I am utterly astonished at this assertion, when I know that a noble friend and relation of mine, in coming down to the House of Lords this day, in performance of his duty, was attacked in a most cowardly and dastardly manner, and struck off his horse by stones, and so severely wounded, that he was obliged to be conveyed to his residence in a hackney coach. When, therefore, an hon. Member thinks proper to talk of the peaceable conduct of the mob, I cannot refrain from expressing my amazement. I do not mean to deny that many respectable persons, feeling strongly in favour of this measure of Reform, may have accompanied the procession in its progress to St. James's. Though I must at the same time observe, that such a mode of proceeding—such a mode of bearding the King in his palace—even if it should not be contrary to the strict letter of the law, is decidedly contrary to its spirit and its principle. And though, Sir, there may be found on the opposite 596 benches Ministers who, upon the part of the Government, may explain why the noble Secretary for the Home Department did not interfere upon this occasion, yet I, for myself, will take upon me to say, that the system of allowing immense masses of the people to advance in procession to petition the Throne, must eventually lead to confusion and disorder. Sir, I should not have troubled the House with any observations, if the hon. member for Downpatrick had not thought fit to talk of the peaceable conduct of the mob. But, Sir, what are we to expect? What are we to expect, save that which we are witnessing every day—when the windows and property of the Duke of Wellington are assailed? I need not speak of his services—I need not talk of the gratitude which is due to him from every Englishman. And then, if he be adverse to this Reform Bill—if my noble relative, the Marquis of Londonderry, who has also well and bravely served his country, be adverse to it—why should they not fearlessly and honestly express their opposition to it? What are we, I say, to expect when these individuals, their persons and property, together with those of other distinguished persons who happen to hold similar opinions, are exposed to the fury of a mob? What are we to expect when we find Ministers—and Ministers of the Cabinet too—corresponding with Political Unions? And as I see a noble Lord there who has rendered himself famous (I will not use the other word, for he does not deserve it) by the introduction of that Bill—having seen a correspondence between the noble Lord and the Birmingham Union, I am induced now to address myself to him. In reply to a communication from the Chairman of the Birmingham Union, conveying an account of a vote of thanks to him having been passed at a Meeting, the noble Lord says, 'I beg to acknowledge the undeserved honour done me, with heartfelt gratitude.' This undeserved honour was a vote of thanks of the Birmingham Political Union. And further, in alluding to the rejection of the Bill in his reply, what expressions did the noble Lord use? 'I hope our disappointment (or something to the same effect) will be only for a moment, for it is impossible the whisper of a faction can prevail against the voice of a nation.' Sir, I say that this language identifies the Cabinet Ministers with all the Political 597 Unions. I say that the Government are thus identified with all the Unions—that they are leaguing with them—and that they are under the direct influence of Government. I say that the words of the noble Lord do encourage all such meetings as that he has addressed. I had no intention of addressing the House; but, after the assertion of the hon. member for Downpatrick, I could not remain silent, when I was told, on the one hand, that the meeting this day in London was peaceably conducted; and when I remembered on the other, that the noble Lord had expressed his heartfelt thanks to an assembly of 150,000, as it was said, in Birmingham, at which according to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, language was used which amounted to sedition and to felony. For my own part, I trust I never shall be deterred from coming down to Parliament to discharge my duty, as my noble friend and relative was not, and will not be, by any base and dastardly attack. And as for his Majesty's Ministers, I shall only observe, that I am convinced that it is not the mode to allay the fermentation that prevails (as it is their sacred and bounden duty to do), by thanking and encouraging meetings at which such language is held as that to which I have alluded, and by designating a fair, and honest, and independent vote of a majority of the House of Lords—the second branch of the Legislature—as the whisper of a faction.
Lord John Russell
begged to trespass for a short time upon the attention of the House, whilst he said a few words in reply to the extraordinary attack which the hon. and gallant Officer had just made upon him. He was not disposed to defend himself from that attack; because he made allowance—and be was sure that the House would do the same—for the irritated feelings under which the hon. and gallant Officer rose. He was sure that the hon. and gallant Officer must be hurt by the occurrence of that day—an occurrence which, he assured the hon. and gallant Officer, no man regretted more than he did—he alluded to the attack which had been made on the Marquis of Londonderry, and to the severe injuries which he had received on his head from a shower of stones. He lamented the occurrence of such an outrage; and he agreed with the hon. and gallant Officer, that it was most disgraceful to those who 598 had been cowardly enough to perpetrate it. He also thought it right to say, that if there was a continuance of such outrages, they could not be looked upon in any other light than as acts of hostility against all good government, and that they must alienate the minds of all sober and respectable men from the cause of Reform. He also agreed with the hon. and gallant Officer, that the attack on the house of any noble Lord was base and disgraceful; but much more base, and much more disgraceful was it, when the attack was made on the house of the Duke of Wellington, to whom the country was so much indebted for past services. In defence of those outrages he would not say one word, either in palliation or excuse. As to the manner in which the hon. and gallant Officer had connected these outrages with his answer to Mr. Attwood, he would only observe, that the hon. and gallant Officer had not laid any substantial grounds to induce the House to think that the language which he had used in that letter had led to any breach of the public peace. The hon. and gallant Officer had charged him with having corresponded with the Political Union of Birmingham. He would not at that moment enter into the question of the propriety of engaging in such a correspondence; but in this case no such question could arise. Mr. Attwood, the banker of Birmingham, had written to him stating that there had been a great meeting at Birmingham, at which he believed 150,000 persons were present. He would not say that the meeting was so large as Mr. Attwood had represented it, but still it was a large meeting, and that meeting had thanked his Majesty's Government for the manner in which they had conducted the Bill through the Commons House of Parliament. In such a resolution on the part of the meeting, he saw nothing unconstitutional, nothing inconsistent with the rights which as Englishmen they possessed, and more especially nothing inconsistent with that right which they had enjoyed from their ancestors—he meant the right of pronouncing an opinion upon the conduct either of Government or of Opposition. He had therefore thought, that it was a duty which he owed to the people of Birmingham and himself, to express his gratitude to them for the vote of thanks which they had given to his Majesty's Ministers generally, and to himself individually; 599 and he had yet to learn that there had been anything in the conduct of that meeting which ought to lead him to refuse accepting a vote of thanks from it. He saw no reason why he should say to the thousands who had been awaiting with interest the result of this Bill, "You are unfit to be in communication with the King's Government, and I therefore repudiate your praise." On the contrary, he thought that he might notice the loyalty and good sense of the people of Birmingham; and he imagined that, when he stated that the success of the Reform Bill was only deferred for a time, but was still certain, he was expressing a sentiment which, so far from leading to tumult, would induce the people to wait with patience for the reintroduction of that measure to which they attached so much importance. He had undoubtedly said, and he now repeated the assertion, that 'it was impossible that the whisper of faction should prevail against the voice of a nation.' It was a sentiment which he had expressed on first receiving Mr. Attwood's letter, and he now saw no reason either to retract or to withdraw it. He thought that the number of those who supported the Reform Bill, compared with the small number of those who opposed it, justified him in stating that the Reformers were the nation. He thought, he repeated, that the Reformers did constitute the nation, and that the greater part of the opponents to the Bill did belong to, and might justly be denominated, a faction. Such being his sentiments, he could not think of retracting any expression in that letter. He was sorry that it did not meet with the approbation of the hon. and gallant Officer; but he could not give up his opinions to please that hon. and gallant Member. It was his most earnest desire that the people should conduct themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner at this crisis. If they did so conduct themselves, and would only avoid all violations of the peace, he felt confident that nothing could prevent this great measure of Reform from being passed speedily into a law. He was sure that the country would soon have the satisfaction of seeing the two Houses of Parliament agree in the expediency of a measure which he considered necessary to the preservation of the Constitution, and to the consolidation of its most important interests.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, that he was not aware that he had used any language which the noble Lord could justly complain of. Certainly he had used none which he was disposed to retract. He had said, and he now deliberately repeated it, that the noble Lord had designated the legitimate decision of an independent majority of the House of Lords as the whisper of a faction.
Lord John Russell
thought, that he had a right to complain of the conduct of the hon. and gallant Officer, who had coupled his letter with the attack on the Marquis of Londonderry—an act which was not of his commission, and for which he could not be considered responsible. The hon. and gallant Officer had said, that he was not surprised at these outrages having been committed after his (Lord John Russell's) letter was published. He put it to the House whether the language which he had used, when speaking of the Anti-reformers as a faction, was not much less strong than that which was ordinarily used in political warfare, and than that which had been used by the opponents of all Reform, during the discussions on the Reform Bill.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, it was intolerable that the voice of a majority of the House of Lords should be called the mere whisper of faction. That expression the noble Lord had made use of; and from the use of that expression it was impossible for the noble Lord to escape. In using that expression the noble Lord had identified himself with the different Political Unions.
Lord John Russell
said, that his expression did not mean to include all the Peers who voted in the majority: he only alluded to a small and self-interested portion of their Lordships.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said: I am not disposed directly to make any charge against his Majesty's Ministers, nor any direct attack upon either of them, on account of their corresponding with Political Unions; neither is it the intention of my hon. and gallant friend to insinuate that his Majesty's Ministers had in any manner wished to promote or sanction by their letters the disturbances which had taken place in the metropolis. I say, that when the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord the leader of this House (although the former, I allow, used much more moderate language), correspond 601 with Political Unions, we may fairly assume that both approve of these associations, and are influenced by sympathies similar to those which prevail within these bodies. My hon. and gallant friend did not, I believe, mean to say, that the intention of the noble Lord was to excite disturbance, but his argument was, that his letter must inevitably have that tendency. Notwithstanding the eagerness of the noble Lord opposite to fix upon my gallant friend the charge of having said that he had corresponded with the Birmingham Political Union, hoping that such a correspondence would lead to riots, I think it must be in the recollection of the House, that such was not the charge of my gallant friend, although the House and the public have yet to learn how it was possible for Cabinet Ministers to suppose that they could enter into such a correspondence without leading the individuals addressed by them to the supposition, that their resolutions were in unison with the sentiments of the King's Government. The corresponding Ministers, after having read the resolutions passed at the great meeting which took place at Birmingham last week, and knowing that such resolutions contained language which has been designated by one of their colleagues in the other House of Parliament, as felonious and almost treasonable, have, by such correspondence, approved of that language, in fact if not in words, and it will not be difficult to shew, that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has admitted the right of this meeting to enter into resolutions with regard to the non-payment of taxes, since he has condescended to allude to that subject in one part of his letter. So novel is this practice of corresponding with persons who set themselves in array against the Legislature of the country, and it must be so dangerous, that had not my gallant friend taken notice of it, it was my meaning to have called the attention of the House to the subject this evening. Of all men in the House of Commons, the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the last person who, I should have thought, would have entered into a correspondence with any individual respecting the Birmingham Political Union. That association was formed in the month of January, 1830—nine months before, the Duke of Wellington quitted office—and it was declared in the resolution which accompanied the act of its formation, that 602 the Union was set on foot in consequence of the refusal of the House of Commons to inquire into the distress of the country. The noble Lord, and most of those who sit with him, for reasons which they explained to the House, thought it necessary to vote against the appointment of a Committee. When I mentioned this circumstance at the close of the last Session, I expressed my surprise that those who had voted for the inquiry, were now to be stigmatized as the enemies to the people, while those who had determined that no inquiry should take place, were to be considered as the monopolizers of all liberal sentiments. The noble Lord said, that he voted against such an inquiry because he was convinced that the Committee, if appointed, would have had its attention called to the question of the currency, and he, for one, was determined never to consent to any alteration in the existing circulation. The Birmingham Political Union was formed avowedly in consequence of those repeated refusals to inquire into the state of the country; and not a fortnight since a memorial was, he believed, presented from the Council of that body, to Earl Grey, entreating him to look into the question of the currency, and assuring him that the case was so urgent, that unless some alteration in it immediately followed, or was made concomitant with the measure of Reform, the petitioners feared that great disasters would almost immediately come upon the nation. With these facts before us, is it not surprising that the noble Lord should have corresponded with the Birmingham Union, or the Birmingham Union with the noble Lord? Upon what point do they agree? We may be told upon the Reform Bill; but, even upon that, we shall find that there are many differences of opinion between them. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is rather unfortunate in his avowals and disclosures: it was only the night before last that, to the surprise of many who heard him, in answer to the charge brought against him by the right hon. member for Tamworth, of attempting to gain popularity by bringing forward so strong a measure as the Reform Bill in its present shape, he protested against such motives, at the same time carefully turning off the attack by assuming that the right hon. Gentleman referred to popularity in the House of Commons instead of among the people at large. 603 And how did he proceed to prove this? Why, by telling the House that he was perfectly satisfied that, had the late House of Commons divided upon the first reading of the Bill, it would have been rejected by an immense majority. The noble Lord corrects me, I perceive, by saying "the first night." It matters not for the argument; the avowal, Sir, is all I want, because that avowal proves what his Majesty's Government have always been charged with—that they brought forward the Reform Bill knowing that it must be unpalatable, not only to the upper House of Parliament, but, as appears by their own confession, to the House of Commons which brought them into power. The noble Lord assures us, that it would have been considered too extensive had the first feelings of the House been acted upon; so that, in reality, the Ministry stood upon the ground of a projected popular excitement alone, when they ventured to bring this violent measure before the notice of Parliament previously to the late dissolution. At present they have a House of Commons pledged to support them, which is not surprising when we consider the mode in which the late Parliament was dissolved; but they find themselves opposed by such a majority in the House of Lords, as no Minister has ever encountered a second time; because the usual practice has been, to retire from office when a measure by which an Administration has declared that it will either stand or fall, has been rejected in so unceremonious a manner. I know of no instance of an attempt on the part of a Government to continue in power after such a failure, and this, notwithstanding all the excitement and the attempts at getting up meetings which have taken place since the Bill passed this House. The noble Lord admitted that last Session he set himself against the majority of the House of Commons, and now he joins the Birmingham Political Union in hostility to the majority of the House of Peers. This is not the way in which the King's Ministers have been accustomed to govern the country. When letters of this description are written to individuals who have expressly declared their intention of defying the laws, how can the Ministers who wrote them, venture with any show of justice upon strong and severe measures for putting down the attempts that may be made in consequence of this excitement? I would ask the noble Lords who sent 604 those letters, whether they are prepared to exercise the full powers of the law, or to employ that strength which the acknowledged institutions of the country and its statutes may afford. Take the question of refusing payment of taxes as an example; how will the Government act? Of course this can only allude to the assessed taxes, because, notwithstanding all the declamation that we have heard upon this subject the taxation of this country is so arranged that the malcontents cannot avoid payment except in the case of the assessed taxes, and the noble Lord might have well said to them, "Do not think of refusing the payment of those taxes, or you may oblige me to postpone the payment of a part of the dividends, which portion, perhaps, may belong to individuals resident in Birmingham, and be expended among the butchers, bakers, and others, of that town; so that you will lose as much as you will gain." I do not say that the noble Lord should have used language like this; but if he had thought it necessary to address the Birmingham Political Union in a deprecatory tone upon this subject of non-payment of taxes, such is the language that he might have adopted. But what has he done? He has alluded to that which was not in their letter to him—to the really factious part of the resolution passed at the meeting, and instead of avoiding all notice of such a subject, the noble Lord, the Finance Minister of the country, has almost admitted the legality of such refusal, and by noticing it, he has I magnified the injury which it might occasion, even if it were legal. I am sorry that Ministers of the Crown should have condescended in the way in which the noble Lords opposite have done. It is the first time that such a correspondence has been entered into; I trust sincerely it may be the last. The noble Paymaster of the Forces says, he does not mean by the "whisper of faction," the majority of the House of Lords; may I then be allowed to ask—what he does mean? I know not what he can mean, unless that were the faction alluded to. Now, let us see this short letter; its brevity will admit of my reading it to the House without much loss of time:—'I beg to acknowledge, with heartfelt gratitude, the undeserved honour done me by 150,000 of my countrymen. Our prospects are now obscured for a moment, and I trust only for a moment.' In this letter, the noble Lord, the sworn 605 adviser of the Crown, identifies himself under the word "our," with those whom he addresses. Is it not new to hear of Cabinet Ministers openly writing thus to a popular assembly, and venturing to keep office one moment afterwards? Now comes the important paragraph:—It is impossible that the whisper of a faction should prevail against the voice of a nation.' Who constitute the faction? What means "the whisper of faction?" What could the noble Lord have meant by using such language? Faction, indeed! Did he hear of any secret influence at Court—any private power of the King—any threat of dismissal from places about the King's person, used as arguments against the darling Bill of his Administration? Were certain sums of money given stealthily to Peers, to induce them to vote against it? Were hints or promises proffered about the raising or lowering the balls on certain coronets, increasing their number or taking some away, with a view of replacing them by strawberry leaves? Were any of these means used to influence members of the majority of the House of Lords to vote against the King's Ministers? I believe not; for these have generally been considered the weapons of an Administration. Where is the faction, I repeat? Is it to be found in the bench of Bishops, so much abused and calumniated even in high places, by persons from whom language of violence to dignitaries ought not to have been expected? The Bishops, at least, have hitherto been accused of being habitually subservient to the powers that be. Their crime is that of always voting with the Administration. This is the first time I have heard it imputed to them as a fault, that they have not supported Government; they have given a vote by which they had much to lose and nothing to gain—a vote which, at all events, cannot have added to their popularity, although it may have endeared them to those who are sincere in defending the Constitution of the country. If this faction is not to be found in the majority of the House of Lords, what unknown and secret cabal had the noble Lord in his head, when he made use of these words? Is the noble Lord certain that the cry in favour of the Reform Bill is the voice of the nation? Have we no test by which we can measure this? What does the noble Lord say to the contest now going on and nearly concluded in Dorsetshire? That was a county in 606 which, at the general election, and during the excitement of the last four months, a gentleman, greatly respected and well known to the public, was rejected and a strong supporter of the Bill returned. Has the noble Lord a right to talk of the voice of the nation when we find in that county the Anti-bill candidate (I will not say the Anti-reform candidate) has as many—[cries of "more.!"]—I will be satisfied with as many—as many votes as his opponent? I shall be equally satisfied whether Lord Ashley gains or loses this contest—it will be just the same thing either way for the argument, and that argument is, that at least the country is divided on the subject. When the country comes to look at this Bill with calmness, that which has taken place in Dorsetshire will take place all over England. That contest, has been the first trial since the first excitement has subsided. I remember that before the election it was said, with much boasting, "No Anti-reformer will dare to show his face in Dorsetshire." The boast has been contradicted, and that contest shows the opinion of the people of that county, that the Government should alter and modify the Bill. I must know from the noble Lord whom he alluded to when he talks of a faction, and I must ask him, whether he does not deceive himself when he supposes that the other party are "the nation?" With regard to these riots that have taken place this day, I wish to ask the noble Lord whether he has observed that numbers of persons have appeared in the crowd with white ribbons round their arms, marked with the words, "National Union." Does he know of these general combinations, and does he not know that when general combinations took place in 1793, they were put down? and that when general combinations again took place in 1819, they were again put down? I ask him this, and I ask him, too, whether those who in Dorsetshire have shown themselves to be at least half of the people, will allow themselves to be silenced and intimidated by such combinations? The traitors, under whatever guise they appeared, were put down in 1793, and again in 1819; and I call on him to remember the fact. I do not mean to say, that the noble Lord intended to direct these attacks against any one in particular, but I say that he must and ought to have been prepared for them when he wrote such a letter. I say, too, that traitors, under whatever guise 607 they appear, must be grappled with, instead of being caressed. Those who are opposed to this Bill of Reform are accused of desiring to govern against the wishes of the people, and without any regard for their interests. I deny the fact. That which is called public opinion has, in this instance, been uttered by persons who are not capable of forming any opinion. The people ought to have liberty, and in no other country have they more than in this; they ought to participate in the advantages of the Government, and they do so. Yet we are put under the imputation that we who have voted against the anomalies in this Bill, have voted against all Reform and against all improvement. It is not true. We shall, no doubt, have to separate in a few days, and I hope that, during the time of our separation, the Ministry will have modified this Bill in such a way as to make it a safe measure, and that they will make it such a measure as will be consistent with the prerogatives of the Crown, the privileges of the House of Lords, and the liberties of the people. But when I see those hand-bills, fringed with black, pointing out by name the Peers who voted against the Bill, and thus marking them for the knife—when I see these things—when I see no police employed to put them down—I must suppose, that though the Ministers did not intend to create this excitement, they at least have the intention of deriving what benefit they can from the excitement itself. Though I do not say they wished to create these riots, still I must believe them too happy not to derive all the advantage they can from such proceedings.
§ Lord Althorp
said, the hon. Baronet has made an attack on me for having written, as he says, a letter to the Political Union. I deny that I did write a letter to the Political Union—I wrote a letter to the Chairman of a meeting, which he said consisted of 150,000 of my fellow-countrymen, and which he stated in his letter to me had come to an unanimous vote of approbation of my conduct. I know not what may be the feelings of the hon. Baronet, but mine must be very different from what they are if I did not value the language of approbation from so large a body of my fellow-countrymen. I do value it highly, and when a vote of thanks is given to me in that manner, I am sure I shall never be the person who would disdain to acknowledge it. But what did I 608 say in that letter to which the hon. Baronet objects? I returned my thanks through the Chairman, for the vote of approbation which the meeting had given me, and pro-fitting by that opportunity, I stated then to a gentleman whom I knew to be possessed of great influence among his fellow-townsmen, my strong wish and desire that he would use that influence to prevent the adoption of any unconstitutional and illegal measures. I said, it is true, that I thought the rejection of the Reform Bill was a serious calamity. I do think so. The hon. Baronet says, that by saying this I put myself in opposition to the House of Lords. Did I, by writing that letter, put myself in opposition to them? Was it not notorious before I wrote that letter, that I must be in opposition to them by my having supported so long and so eagerly a measure which the House of Lords has rejected? The hon. Baronet says, that the House of Lords did not exceed their privileges in rejecting this measure—I agree with him they did not; but if they have the privilege of expressing their opinion on any measure which may be brought before them, I have also the privilege of expressing my opinion on what they do with respect to any such measure. That opinion I have expressed, and I shall always be ready to express, and whatever may be the assembly, whether the House of Lords, or the House of Commons, or whatever other assembly may be against me, I have a right to hold my opinions, and to express them freely on all occasions. I do not see on what ground it is, that such a letter as I wrote, or such a letter as was written by my noble friend, can be in any way considered as exciting to riot, or to illegal practices. The hon. Baronet asks how I could write to a man who differed from me on the Question of the Currency—I am aware that Mr. Attwood does differ from me on the Question of the Currency, but is that a reason why I should not express my thanks to a meeting at which he presided, for their approbation of my conduct? The hon. Baronet, in his speech of tonight, puts me in mind of the speech which I heard from him in April last. He stated then, as he states now, that the opinion of the country was against us. The hon. Baronet stated then, the opinion of the country would be against us at the elections; on the present occasion I admit he does not go so far, but merely asserts that we have not a right to say, that the 609 opinion of the country is with us. I am astonished that a Gentleman possessed of his experience should still labour under such a delusion, and should still so far suffer his wishes to get the better of his judgment as to make such an assertion—that seeing what he does see, and hearing what he does hear, he should still think that the opinion of the people is not nearly unanimous in favour of the proposed Bill. I could not conceive it possible that such an attack as this should be made upon me; and I should have thought that my letter was as innocent a letter as ever was written; and I must say again, that any Englishman who should receive the thanks of a large body of his fellow-countrymen, and should disdain to acknowledge them, would act upon feelings contrary to any feelings I possess, or hope I ever shall possess.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, the noble Lord had quoted the language he was supposed to have used in April last, but the noble Lord had not quoted correctly. He (Sir R. Vyvyan) had then declared, that he thought the dissolution dangerous, because any Government would succeed by exciting the passions of the people on a subject similar to the Reform Bill. He held now the same opinions, and time had much opened many persons' eyes. The result of the Dorsetshire election was one proof of the truth of his former assertions and his present opinions.
§ Mr. George Bankes
did not intend to call in question the discretion of the noble Lord who had just addressed the House, but he must confess, that, he entertained a very different opinion with respect to the letter of the other noble Lord; and viewing him in the situation which he now filled—that of a sworn Minister of the Crown—it must be admitted, that whatever might be the sentiments and feelings of that noble Lord, he should have withheld himself from expressing them to that extent, being a Crown Minister. It was much to be wondered at that he should write such a letter, still more that he should so far forget himself as now to justify it. They had this day seen the repetition of an evil, which, at the outset of his career as Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had, in mistake of the law, stated not to be illegal. That noble and learned Lord had then stated, that the going in procession in large bodies with flags and devices was not illegal. As a 610 consequence of that doctrine, a Peer of the realm had this day been severely wounded by a mob. Let him guard himself from calling those who went up with Addresses to the King this day, a mob. He meant no such thing; but the circumstance of their going up in procession produced a mob. He was in the next house to that to which the hon. member for Middlesex came to join his colleague, and to put himself at the head of the procession, and the windows of the house in which he was were broken by the mob, who had assembled in consequence of the procession. The people of the procession were waiting for the hon. Members; for he happened, unfortunately in this instance, to have been behind his time, and while they were waiting, it was the amusement of the multitude to break the Earl of Bristol's windows. The words of men of rank and consequence were of importance, and with all their ability and desire for the public good, if they would speak or write in such a manner, they must produce a bad effect. He implored the noble Lord (the Paymaster of the Forces) to explain what he meant in the letter he had addressed to the Political Union. He (Mr. Bankes) must consider, that that letter was intended to include in the stigma of faction a part at least, if not the whole, of the majority in the House of Lords; and if it did include even a portion of that majority, he asked whether there was anything to justify such an imputation? The majority in the House of Lords was respectable, and showed what were the opinions of the Peers in spite of the late creations made for the avowed purpose of carrying the measure.
§ Lord Ebrington rose to order. He submitted that it was out of order for the hon. and learned Gentleman to speak of these creations as made for an improper purpose.
§ The Speaker
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not, out of order, unless he said that these creations were an improper exercise of the prerogatives of the Crown. He had not said so, and the noble Lord by his objection seemed to assume that there had been an improper exercise of those prerogatives when he called the allusion disorderly.
§ Mr. George Bankes
fully concurred with the opinion of the Speaker; but if the noble Lord thought the allusion disorderly—though he by no means entertained the same opinion—he would put himself into 611 the noble Lord's hands, and would withdraw the observation. He now came to the Dorsetshire election, and he was happy for the information of the other side of the House to inform them, that the numbers polled having exceeded what had ever been polled in any former election, Lord Ashley was now ten a head on the gross poll. That was the state of the tenth day's poll, and the contest might yet terminate in favour of the other side; but whether it did or not, it could equally disprove that which was called the unequivocal expression of the approbation of the country with regard to the Reform Bill. He ventured thus modestly to express himself as to the result of the election, because he found upon the canvass, that the respectable people of the county declared that they feared not the mob (for there was no mob in the county), but the vengeance of those whom no man could avoid or meet—incendiaries. He stated upon his honour, that respectable men whom he had canvassed said to him, "our hearts are with you, but if we should vote for you we should be in dread of incendiaries." If they lost the election, it would be from that fear, and that fear the letter of the noble Lord was calculated to create; for though it did not justify excesses, it went far to keep alive that fearful state of excitement now existing in several counties. He had called the opinion of the majority of the House of Lords "the whisper of a faction." He (Mr. Bankes) would tell that noble Lord, that if that description were true, he would rather have with him the whisper of a faction than the clamour of a mob. No doubt the noble Lord would thank him for the opportunity thus given of stating what was the meaning of the phrase.
Lord John Russell
said: The House will indulge me for a few minutes, as the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has made such a call upon me. He asks me what is the sense which I put on the words of my letter? In the first place, as I have I already stated, I deny any intention of calling the majority of the House of Lords by the name of a faction. The House of Lords has as perfect a right to reject the Reform Bill as this House has to approve of it; but I conceive that there may be factions in both Houses of Parliament—that they, instead of examining a measure, and weighing its advantages and disadvantages, may look to their own advantages 612 and their own ends, as a faction; and I conceive, that when there are numbers on one side and on the other, the whispers of a faction combined together may have the greatest influence On those who are disinterested. That, I conceive, may take place in any house or body of men; and without again referring to the House of Lords, which I do not wish unnecessarily to make the subject of discussion, I will say, that that is what did take place in this House of Commons previous to the dissolution, when there was a majority against the Ministers, not upon a consideration of the merits or demerits of General Gascoyne's motion, but, obtained by the work of faction. I will not, as I said before, enter into the conduct of the House of Lords, as the discussion in one House of the proceedings and votes of another is most inconvenient; but I must and do say, that the opposition to the Reform Bill was, in many quarters, conducted with the spirit of faction. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talked of ours as a profligate measure, and of our conduct as wicked and profligate in producing it. Was not this somewhat, like the language of faction? But what is faction? Dr. Johnson has given the definition under the words "Whig" and "Tory;" and the only fault I should find with the definition in the present day is, that the meanings given to the two words in his Dictionary ought to be reversed. Under the word "Whig" he writes, "the name of a faction;" and under the word "Tory" he says, 'one who adheres to the ancient Constitution of the State and the apostolical hierarchy of the Church of England, opposed to a Whig.' If so grave a man as Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary of the English language, can thus advisedly, and upon consideration, use the word faction as applicable to a body in the State, I know not why it may not be permitted to me to say that now the definitions ought to be changed, and that Whigs are those who wish by Reform to restore the old Constitution of the State, and that Tories are the faction banded in opposition to them. Till this day I did not know that there was anything culpable in a large meeting giving a Minister their thanks, or in his acknowledging the honour. With regard to the creation of Peers, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. George Bankes) has alluded, he must know that there was 613 a creation at the Coronation of George 4th and that there was the same number, or only a small number less then created than were created at the time of the Coronation of William 4th And I must say, besides, that I know not if any Member of this House has a right to complain of the creation of Peers, if the prerogative of the Crown has been exercised in the same manner that it has always before been exercised on similar occasions; and I believe that if the hon. and learned Gentleman pleases to make a motion on the subject for blame to the advisers of the Crown, for advising this exercise of prerogative, he would not find any supporters. Nor is it at all wonderful, or at all out of the course, that those who are now in power, believing the measure of the Reform Bill to be necessary to the safety and advantage of the country, have advised his Majesty to confer the honour of the peerage on those who were known to be in favour of that measure, in the same manner as those in power at the time of the Coronation of George 4th advised his Majesty to adopt the same course with respect to those who were favourable to the measures they were then pursuing. Yet, notwithstanding all this, I know not how the accusation can be brought against us that this creation was for the expressed and avowed purpose of making a majority in favour of the Bill. I can only say for one, I never expressed or avowed such a purpose; nor do I believe that there has been any such avowal on the part of my right hon. and noble friends. The hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken of the Government as wishing to take advantage of the excitement. On that point I must say one word: the rejection of the Reform Bill I considered as a serious calamity, not so much as endangering the final success of the measure—for I do not think it will be endangered—but on account of the excitement to which it was sure to give rise. It is the duty of those who are his Majesty's advisers—it is the duty of the Secretaries of State—to endeavour to calm, to allay excitement as much as possible, and to prevent any tumult of this kind; and, indeed, to use their utmost efforts to put down such tumults. To the Ministers of the Crown, therefore, so far from these tumults and this excitement being an advantage of which they wish to avail themselves, they are a great disadvantage; for it is necessary that peace should be completely preserved, 614 in order to give effect to the measure of the Government. If they thought that peace would be better preserved by their not being in office, they would be happy to retire; for there would not then rest on them the responsibility of maintaining it, now created by the rejection of the measure. It is a painful and a difficult situation for a Minister to be placed in, to recommend a measure which is so much to the satisfaction of the country, and then afterwards to be charged with the duty of allaying the dissatisfaction which the rejection of that measure has occasioned. That is a situation which no man can covet—no man can envy; but it is the situation in which the present Ministers feel themselves compelled to remain, thinking, as they do, that their retirement, so far from occasioning a cessation of irritation, would be the signal for the renewal and extension in a more serious manner, of those excesses which have this night been so much deplored. I am not responsible for the discussions that have been raised to-night, and I cannot allow it to be said, that I, or any of my colleagues, am in any way chargeable with having occasioned the excitement that now exists. After the explanation I have given, I am ready to bear any blame that the hon. Gentleman opposite may think attaches to me.
concurred in the observation which had fallen from the noble Lord, that it was the duty of every one not to add to the excitement which at present prevailed out of doors; and he trusted that, whatever remarks might fall from him, they would not be attended with such an unfortunate effect. The noble Lord (the Paymaster of the Forces) had vindicated one paragraph in the letter which had been brought before the attention of the House, on grounds which he considered most extraordinary—extraordinary, if assumed by any Member of that House, but ten times more extraordinary when assumed by a Cabinet Minister, of whom the tranquillity of the country ought to be the peculiar care. He was not present when this discussion commenced, because, in attempting to reach the House, he had been overborne by an assembled multitude. How had the noble Lord attempted to vindicate that part of his letter in which he spoke of "the whisper of a faction prevailing against the voice of the nation?" The noble Lord had forsooth referred the House to Dr. Johnson's definition of the 615 word "faction." Did the noble Lord really see no difference in the use of that word by an individual writing a dictionary, and by a Cabinet Minister? The words of the noble Lord, if unexplained, would naturally seem to apply to the majority of the House of Lords; and he thought that the noble Lord must be sensible of the indiscretion into which he had been betrayed; but he could tell that noble Lord, that it was useless to try to escape from that indiscretion by a reference to a lexicographer. The noble Lord said, that he did not mean to designate the majority of the House of Lords as the "whisper of a faction," but he understood the noble Lord to state, that part of the majority were factious. Was it, he asked, proper for a Cabinet Minister to hold up to the multitude of Birmingham, that part of the majority of the House of Lords were influenced, not by their own conscientious opinions, but by factious motives? And to whom was the noble Lord's letter addressed? To the Chairman of a meeting of 150,000 persons, who, at the time the noble Lord was writing, had not met to deprecate the actual decision of the House of Lords on the Reform Bill, but to induce that House to pass it by a display of numbers, and by the employment of threats. The noble Lord might wish to prevent excitement, but he had taken an unfortunate course to secure that object.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple
said, that he had been present at part of the transactions to-day. At about three o'clock he was riding in Hyde Park, when he saw a column of people approaching, headed by a person with a white flag. The main stream passed the bronze figure, and had gone by the house of the Duke of Wellington, when some mischievous person threw a stone, and others then followed his example, while the crowd halted and stood looking at what was passing. He had also watched them, and for about a quarter of an hour about twenty men and boys were pelting his Grace's windows. Those who were following the white flag, at least took no steps to prevent this outrage; and when they were tired of standing they began to move away, but not until a cry of "police" had been raised, and the people began to disperse. He then waited upon Colonel Rowan, and represented, that, considering the situation of his Grace's house, there ought to have been a detachment of police there to protect it; 616 but Colonel Rowan gave him an explanation which showed that the police force was so posted in various directions, that the men could not be spared for that particular duty. That explanation had appeared entirely satisfactory to him, and he said so, that no undeserved blame might attach to the heads of the police establishment. He had risen to state these facts; but, as he was upon his legs, he might add, that he was entirely satisfied by the explanation of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he could not say that the attempt of the same kind by the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, had produced at all the same favourable impression upon his mind. The insinuation certainly was, that the majority of the House of Lords was a branch of a faction. He would ask whether the noble Lord had never heard of a Government being supported by a faction?
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
The noble Lord has said, that I called the Reform Bill a profligate measure, and he in a manner challenges me to repeat the term. I certainly said that it was jacobinical and revolutionary, and therefore, perhaps, the inference may be that it is profligate; but, in the course of the many discussions, I did not use that word. Such expressions as I did employ I am not disposed to withdraw, and what I have said I usually stick to. I beg leave to observe, that never on any occasion did I cast out the slightest imputation against the abilities or conduct of the noble Lord. At present I am dragged into this discussion; I am dragged into it by the noble Lord, and being dragged into it, I must say, that two more improper letters, bearing the signatures of Cabinet Ministers, were never written than those signed Althorp and Russell. I give my opinion on them, not as a volunteer, but because I am dragged into the discussion by the noble Lord. If I address myself to a lawyer, if, indeed, Ministers have a lawyer among them, I shall be told that a meeting of 150,000 persons, assembled under certain symbols of concert, according to the undoubted decision of constitutional lawyers, is a misdemeanour. If an authority be required, I will refer the lawyers, if any there are on the other side, to Lord Chief Justice Holt, who has held expressly, that 'an array of people, consisting of unusual numbers, congregated together is a terror, and as it were an assault upon the people.' Those 617 are the words of one of the most learned and enlightened constitutional lawyers that ever sat in Westminster Hall. What are the facts? After the rejection of the Bill by the House of Lords, two of the King's Cabinet Ministers take it into their heads to write letters to the Chairman of a public meeting; I was not in the House when the question was put regarding the letter of the noble Paymaster of the Forces—I did not hear the accusation, but I heard the defence, and that defence seemed to me most unfortunate. If it were written from inadvertence (a word, by the way, not unknown to the Cabinet)—in a moment of haste, and in the overflowing of the gratitude of the noble Lord for the support offered to him and his friends, he might have told him so: but no, he deliberately enters upon his defence, which turns out to be, not a satisfactory answer, but a metaphysical sophistication. Then he taunts us, forsooth, with being Tories, and he tells us how Dr. Johnson defines the words "Whig" and "Tory;'' but if the noble Lord quote one page from Dr. Johnson, I may be allowed to refer to another, and elsewhere I find that great authority giving it as his opinion, that the "Devil was the first Whig"—I do not say so; it would be irregular and unparliamentary in me to say it, but I may, after the example of the noble Lord, back myself by so great a literary authority. As I said before, I did not mean to have taken part in this discussion, but I am dragged into it; and of the letter of the noble Chancellor of the Exchequer I must observe, that it seems to me grievously improper. What does he tell the people?—"Pray do not be violent—do not refuse to pay taxes;" and why are they not to refuse? Not because it is against the law, and because they will expose themselves to certain punishment, but because they will endanger the success of the Reform Bill. "Do not," says the noble Lord, "endanger the success of that measure by virtue of which we retain our places in his Majesty's councils." This was very sensible advice in the noble Lord, as far as regarded his own interests. The noble Paymaster of the Forces went into other topics, which I shall not pass over, as I mean this night to give notice of a motion. Among other things, he tells us, that he hopes the debates this evening will preserve the tone of moderation of the other night. Let me ask the noble Lord whether he alludes to 618 the speech of the hon. and learned member for Calne, whose sentiments were so heartily adopted by the Ministers? That hon. and learned Gentleman told us, among other moderate sentiments, that the law did not depend for its virtue and efficacy upon its own vigour, and that it was merely a dead letter, unless supported by the strength of public opinion—in other words, that public opinion is the law, for law is not the law without it. That doctrine, I remember, was vehemently cheered by his Majesty's Ministers—by the adherents, I may call them, of the hon. member for Calne, although, perhaps, I may not call them a faction; he contended and they admitted that the arbitrium popularis aurœ was the only law of the land. Then the noble Paymaster of the Forces, with his milk and water executive Government—his lemonade and orgeate Ministry—talks of the destruction of the palaces of the nobles of the land: when he spoke of the acts of violence and insurrection against Peers of the Realm and their property, surely he might have picked out a little stronger phrase from his vocabulary than the admission that it was the duty of the public authorities to calm the popular excitement. I say that it is the duty of Government to suppress and to punish—to exert the strong arm of the law in its full force; and I refer the noble Lord again to his dictionary to find some form of words that may convey that such acts of criminality shall be met by adequate and condign punishment. I say, and I say it without fear of contradiction, that Government have connived at the acts of violence encouraged by their own organ, the leading journal The Times, which has been daily exciting and irritating the people. I remember that the hon. and learned member for Calne told us the other night, that the law officers of the Crown were but as rusty nails; it seems but too true, that they are as inefficient as they are decayed; and when the bill for giving a retiring pension to Mr. Abercrombie, Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer in Scotland, shall come before this House, I shall beg leave to tack his Majesty's Attorney General by way of rider to it. Sure I am that no man better deserves to retire, although whether he deserves a pension for retiring, may be another question. I think that the country would not lose much by paying him for dispensing with his services. When I see these excitements and provocations 619 to violence and burnings in papers that are friendly to Ministers, I can only suppose, by no great stretch of fancy, that the office of his Majesty's Attorney General is vacant. Out of doors I know that there are many who distrust Government at the present crisis; and in doors, I, for one, in a tone as loud as I can raise, will assert that I distrust it. I do not see opposite—yes, I do see opposite—the right hon. Under-Secretary for the Home Department, against whom no complaint can be justly made for what he has either said or done in connexion with the Reform Bill. I entertain the highest respect for the talents and firmness of mind of the noble Lord at the head of that department, and perhaps intelligence of what has just passed at Nottingham has not yet reached the Home Office; but, let me ask, would the noble Paymaster of the Forces recommend merely calmness and soothing syrup for the popular irritation, if Woburn Abbey had been burnt down instead of Nottingham Castle? The destruction of the noble Lord's ancestral mansion would, I apprehend, occasion some trifling ripple upon the glassy surface of his temper, however he may talk of moderating public excitement and calming the public mind. It may be very well for him to endeavour to induce us to believe that what we witness is only a transient feeling—the mere inflammable gas and fumigation of the moment, but would not his equanimity—his imperturbable spirit—his unshaken nerves be a little discomposed if he were told that a lawless mob had destroyed one of the mansions belonging to his own family—this, too, merely because his noble father had ventured to discharge his duty in his place in Parliament? The four Ministers I see opposite would not tell the truth if they said that their minds would remain tranquil, while the torch was set to the palaces of any of their noble supporters. Yet, as the attack has been made upon the property of their opponents, this is the calmness, this is the equanimity, the noble Paymaster of the Forces wishes to be preserved.
Lord John Russell
I know not whether the hon. and learned Gentleman heard me, but what I said was this, "That the attack upon the house of the Duke of Wellington and other similar transactions, nothing could induce me to palliate or excuse.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
I do not quarrel with the words of the noble Lord, but I 620 contend nevertheless, that the expression does not keep pace with the spirit of the times. I beg to ask the right hon. First Lord of the Admiralty, who has just taken his seat, whether, if a ship had been wrecked in a tempest, he would talk of it as a calm? Then I maintain, that if Government have not been exciting these proceedings, they have been conniving at them. The noble Lord, in his most improper letter, tells the people, Be tranquil, not because you will break the law, but because you will defeat the Reform Bill: this is the respectable logic—this the un-statesmanlike principle—this the dereliction of duty—for I can use no less forcible expression—contained in the two letters to the illegally constituted Birmingham Union. I have felt called upon to say, that I do not confide in the exertions of Government to suppress disturbances; and what is more, I do not believe that the public confide in them: on the contrary, I am persuaded that my opinion is the general opinion, and that Ministers will use the disturbances, as the vehicle and means of carrying their Reform Bill; and in proof I vouch the letter of the noble Lord. Having become acquainted with what has passed at Nottingham, it is my intention—I fairly say it—I avow it—I do not meanly and dirtily whisper away my words—to give notice of a motion on the subject. I do not believe that Ministers will boldly, manfully, and energetically use the constitutional powers in their hands to control and suppress these scandalous and anti-social outrages. Believing it I will say it, and saying I will adhere to it. I cannot regularly move at present, and therefore I shall give notice, that I will to-morrow move an Address to the Crown, praying that a Special Commission may be issued to try the offenders concerned in the outrage of burning down Nottingham Castle, the property of his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, and concerned in the other disorders committed in that neighbourhood. I came down to the House for the purpose of giving that notice; but as the noble Lord has called upon me, I have shown that I am ready to meet him. I am ready to state in strong terms—in unmeasured terms—in strong and unmeasured terms—that Government, in permitting the attack, not only upon this louse but upon the other House of Parliament, and upon the property of private individuals, have yielded to the most illegal 621 threats and intimidation, at the daily propagation of which Ministers have purposely and sedulously connived. It is held by every moral and legal writer, that there is as slender a distinction as the noble Lord has drawn regarding his word "faction" between the Magistrate who connives at a crime and the offender who commits it; and although I cannot regularly give my notice of motion now, I can enter into the subject [cries "Question"]. I do not know who calls "Question," but whoever he be, he will call it in vain: he may put it in his pocket until I have done: he may keep it in loculo, to be produced at a more convenient time. I have said that the Duke of Newcastle's mansion has been burnt down merely because he voted against the Reform Bill; and let the noble Lord know, that by a happy convertibility of public opinion, which changes with the utmost rapidity, and without the possibility of control, the attack even upon Woburn Abbey may not be long postponed. At present the Duke of Newcastle's property has been destroyed, because he is the enemy of Reform: to-morrow the property of the Russells may be assailed, because they are friendly to it. I need not remind the noble Lord, that there is a vast body out of doors who look with as much contempt on this 10l. clause as I do upon the whole measure: proximus ardet Ucalegon, and Tavistock Abbey, Althorp House and Chatsworth, may be among the next to be sacrificed.
§ Sir John Wrottesley
spoke to order, on the ground that the hon. Gentleman was pointing out places to be the objects of popular fury.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
I do not apprehend that the people—the tide of the mob—the "turbid flowing base"—will need my information if they at any future period should have a spark of fire for any of those splendid fabrics: but I think the objection of the hon. Baronet would have come with much more fitness during the speech of the hon. and learned member for Calne on a former night, for whose incitements he seems disposed to have so much charity. I was going to conjure Government not to act on the inferior principle of soothing popular passion and calming irritation, but at once to take offenders into custody, and to punish them. 622 For this purpose I would remind the noble Lord and his coadjutors, that those who are now friendly to Reform, may hereafter be its enemies; and that the smallest change in the wind of politics will blow the flame from the mansions of their opponents to their own. When revolution begins, no man can tell where it will end, nor whose property may be sacrificed to the alternations of popular fury; and every man who thinks differently from me on such a point may have the brains of a coxcomb, but not the intellect of a man. I repeat, that out of doors no confidence is felt that Government will exert due and legal means to preserve the peace of the country and the property of individuals.
I am sure the House will feel, that no man connected with the present Administration—serving his Majesty at a time of peculiar danger—at a time when, I will venture to say, no other Administration could be formed that would possess sufficient confidence in the country to carry it through its difficulties—could be expected to restrain the feelings of indignation which now agitate my breast at the outrageous attack of the hon. and learned Gentleman. However unnecessary for the satisfaction of the country, and however impossible it may be to convince the hon. and learned Gentleman, I may say, for one and all the members of the Administration, it is due to our characters, as men filling responsible situations, to repudiate, as utterly unworthy of him to have made, and of us to endure, the imputation he has thrown out—that we have encouraged the outrages to which he adverts.
If any man had told me that the hon. and learned Gentleman, upon this or upon any other topic, in the utmost violence of political and party spirit, would have so far deviated from calm and measured expressions, I certainly should not have believed him; but that he should profess to abandon all restraint—should boast of using strong and unmeasured terms—did indeed astonish me. These, too, from the beginning to the end, were directed to such a perversion of the facts of the case, and of the speech of my noble friend, as nothing in my mind could warrant. The hon. and learned Gentleman complains that Government uses palliatives, 623 and endeavours to calm the popular excitement, and that the use of these was not justified at a time when the laws ought to have been enforced and the guilty punished. Did my noble friend say anything like it? He addressed temperate language before any burnings had been commenced, before any individuals had been attacked, to a gentleman who had been the chairman of a great political Meeting, and at a time when it was the duty, not only of the executive authorities, but of every sincere lover of his country, to allay irritation and to prevent the display of popular excitement. The object was, to prevent that exhibition of public feeling which might be naturally expected after the rejection of the Reform Bill. Next the hon. and learned Gentleman objects to the course of the argument—if argument it may be called—which is confined to a single line in the reply of my noble friend. A letter was received, stating that a large body of people had been collected—not the Birmingham Political Union—but of 150,000 inhabitants of Birmingham and the neighbourhood, convened to express their sentiments on a public question, as, I believe, they had an undoubted right to do: the same letter conveyed to my noble friend the approbation of his conduct, and they might have added of the temper he throughout displayed. Is it disputed that alarm had been excited, and that my noble friend's reply was calculated to allay the spirit by which the apprehensions were produced? Its object was, to prevent those acts of illegality which no man can palliate or defend, and which are perhaps more difficult to be controlled than open violence. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, that my noble friend should have threatened the terrors of the law—that the full power of the Government should have been enforced; but I will venture to say, that no man but the hon. and learned Gentleman ever supposed that when the occasion arose the full power of Government would not be enforced. The object, in the first instance, was, to allay the irritation, which might lead to breaches of the law. To presume that there would be any necessity for enforcing the law in its rigour would have been to encourage the evil which the hon. Gentleman so justly deprecates. Is there any thing degrading, unwise, or intemperate, in the letter of my noble friend—any justification for the perversion 624 of it by the hon. Gentleman? If my noble friend had said "we must use calm language and endeavour to allay excitement," after the burning of Nottingham Castle and other outrages, the hon. Gentleman would have had some pretence for his accusation. But, Sir, the time is not long past when acts of incendiarism were rife in the country, and when there were Ministers, who not only did not suppress the outrages, but abandoned their posts, and left it to their successors to control the tumults which had already attained an alarming height. Those successors did control and put down the incendiaries; and are they now to be attacked by the hon. Gentleman opposite, in the face of the country, with a charge of encouraging and conniving at acts of violence and incendiarism? It is impossible to express the abhorrence which every man feels at such acts; and it is most unjust for any man to charge the members of his Majesty's Government with being indifferent to them. It will be time enough for any man to make so heavy an accusation when he shall have seen that the Ministers have not put out their utmost force to repress tumult and disorder, using only the language of persuasion, and not availing themselves of the means with which the laws and the Constitution have provided them.
§ Mr. Spencer Perceval
said, though he could not approve of the conduct of his Majesty's Administration, he begged to keep himself aloof from the sentiments which had been uttered by his hon. and learned friend below him (Sir Charles Wetherell), so far, at least, as the charge that hon. Gentleman had made against his Majesty's Government of being indisposed to put down those illegal proceedings against persons and property; but he also wished to stand aloof from any thing like an approbation of the letter which the noble Lord opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had addressed to the Chairman of a public meeting. In his opinion, that noble Lord should have paused before he expressed his satisfaction at receiving the praise of that meeting, when he had before him the resolution it had come to of resisting the law of the land. The noble Lord should have put forth the power, or, at least, the remonstrance of the Government, and he ought to have remembered that even the moral reprobation of a good subject would have its influence on misguided 625 people. The moral censure of a good man must have a great effect on his fellow creatures, and those who are intrusted with the conduct of public affairs should not have hesitated to use it at this moment, in order that they might be saved the necessity of resorting to stronger measures. He was no lawyer, but he thought that the processions which they all witnessed that day were illegal, and he would wish to know why his Majesty's Government did not take steps to prevent them, and promulgate all over the town proclamations from the King, declaratory of the law of the land; and then those individuals who persevered in breaking it could easily be laid hold of, and the arm of the law could be directed against the principal ringleaders. It appeared to him that this would be a safe course, and that the dangerous collection of large bodies of men would have been prevented.
An Hon. Member
thought that too much of angry language had been used in the course of that discussion. He thought that it might, perhaps, have been better if his noble friend (the Paymaster of the Forces) had avoided the use of so offensive a term as "faction," and that he had rather designated the opposers of the Bill as a small party; and he had no doubt that all which his noble friend meant to say was, that a small party stood against the just wishes of the people. He would take that opportunity of assuring the hon. member for Corfe Castle that the progress of the election in the county of Dorset was not to be taken as a test of the opinions of the country at large upon the question of Reform. It was to be remembered, that that county was, to a very great extent, in the hands of persons who had long shown themselves the determined supporters of a system of corruption: and he thought that, great as was the influence of those persons, if the decision of the House of Lords had sooner been known to that county, the state of the poll would have been very different. But it could not be apprehended that there was any change in the opinions of the people at large upon the question of Reform, unless, indeed, it were that they were more than ever desirous of the success of that great measure; and he was satisfied that the course pursued by his Majesty's Ministers was the only one by which the peace of the country could be preserved.
§ Mr. Trevor
said, that having witnessed 626 the dastardly attack made on a noble Lord, the Marquis of Londonderry, on his coming down to the House of Lords to-day, he could not allow the present discussion to pass without making one or two observations thereon. He thought that the commission of this outrage was a bad specimen of the means taken to keep the public peace. And if any noble Lord or hon. Member, in coming down to his duty was to be subject to the attacks of a lawless mob; merely because he had given a conscientious vote, to be, not only grossly insulted, but to have his life endangered, the consequences might be most fatal. The result must be, if such breaches of the peace were now tolerated, excited as they were by a base and wicked Press, that the hands of the mob would be imbued at last in the blood of those who had opposed themselves to a Bill which he considered to be one of the worst that had ever been brought within the walls of Parliament. The town, from one end to the other, had been all day occupied by a lawless and bloody-minded mob, ready to attack all those who would not administer to their evil passions. The counties of Derby and Nottingham were also subject to the riotous proceedings of lawless assemblages, who went about destroying property. The country was altogether in a state of great peril, and it was incumbent on Ministers to act with firmness and vigour, and repress all such outrageous proceedings.
regretted, that persons who entertained such opinions of the dispositions of the people as those expressed by the last speaker, should take so much pains to excite them. Nor did he think anything could be more calculated, except such language, to urge the people to a vehement expression of their feelings, than the declaration of the hon. member for Corfe Castle, that they had become less desirous of Reform. But from what did that hon. Gentleman infer that there was such a change of opinion? Had there ever before been given such proofs of universal agreement upon any question? Was it ever before known that all the shops in a large district of the metropolis had been closed, and that all business had been suspended, for the purpose of affording to the inhabitants an opportunity of showing that their opinions were unchanged, and that their zeal was not abated, but had been increased? Whatever violence had been 627 committed, from the dawn of that day to the close, was not to be attributed to the great concourse of respectable persons who accompanied the deputation with an Address to the King. No individual suffered the slightest molestation from those who took part in the procession [cries of "the Marquis of Londonderry," "the Duke of Wellington," "Lord Bristol," from the Opposition Benches]. The deputation which went up with the Address to his Majesty were not to be charged with the acts of those who crowded about the Houses of Parliament. Such crowds were always assembled upon remarkable occasions, such as the visits of the King to the House of Lords. But the real cause of such manifestations of angry feeling upon the part of assemblages of the people was, the irritating language that was used in reference to them. Was it to be wondered at that they should be enraged at being told that they were bloody-minded fellows? Would not such language excite the anger of any set of men? He had thought that the day was passed when men, who had attained the age of the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House, could allow themselves to be carried so far by their passions beyond the bounds of Parliamentary discretion. If any number of those who accompanied the deputation that day with the Address to his Majesty had allowed themselves to be raised to such a pitch of fury as the hon. and learned Gentleman below him, what would have been said of them? The feeling of the people in consequence of the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords, was unparalleled in unanimity in the history of England, and never, in such a state of excitement, had there been so much discretion manifested. Did the hon. Gentleman, who attributed any excesses which had lately been committed to the supineness of his Majesty's Ministers, mean to deny that there had been fires before? Did he mean to deny, that there had not been more during the late Administration, the Members of which were now sitting on that (the Opposition) side? Nothing but the spirit of faction, or at least of a party which was engaged in the pursuit of personal and selfish objects, could have drawn forth the language which he had that night heard from hon. Members near him. Did not the hon. Member who spoke last designate the people of England by a name which no man had ever before heard 628 applied to them—a bloody-minded mob? Was it to be wondered at that they should be enraged when the report of such a calumny came before them? No man more than he, could regret the violence which had been done to the Marquis of Londonderry. He repeated, that no man could regret it more than he did. Nothing could be more contrary to the advice which he had always given to the people, and he would add, that nothing could be more contrary to the feelings of the great mass of the people themselves. He should now be able to say to them, "Here is proof of the goodness of the advice which has been given you; look to the consequence of the weight of that advice by a few violent men among you; your enemies have no other means of throwing imputations upon the intentions of your friends, and upon the cause for the success of which you are anxious, but by exciting you to violence." It was plain that no opportunity of excitement was to be neglected; for the House had been that night occupied by a violent discussion about two letters, which contained nothing objectionable, and afterwards about trifling disturbances. Why, were they not trifling?—were they not trifling, he asked, compared to what had happened in times of less general excitement? For his part, if his exertions could have prevented it, there should not have been one pane of glass broken from one end of the kingdom to the other. Yes, he had been always most anxious to prevent the slightest violence, because he knew what use would be made of any accidental tumults by the enemies of the people to cast odium upon the supporters of Reform. He had been most anxious to prevent the people from hurting a hair of the head of the most violent Anti-reformer, and he should be most happy to see such a man walking unmolested through crowds of the people, that he might be able to congratulate them upon their moderation to those who were withholding from them their rights. He did not wonder at the efforts of those who had rejected the Bill, to retain their unhallowed power. When he looked around him in that House, he saw enough to account for the tenacity of those persons. Were those who sat around him the Representatives of the people [cries of "They are"]? He denied it. There had been too many proofs that they were not. They were the delegates of a few Peers. 629 Were the people, then, to be blamed for manifesting some indignation when they saw their rights withheld by a handful of men—by a mere faction? And here he must say, that he was sorry the noble Lord who had applied the term faction to that small party should have attempted to explain his words. He much more approved of the course adopted by the hon. and learned member for Aldborough, who did not attempt to explain away anything which he might have said, however violent. What else was there opposed to the voice of the nation but the whisper of a faction? What else were the 199 Members of the other House, and the 240 Members of that House who resisted the wishes of the people, arid who had disappointed their hopes, but a very small faction, as compared to the whole nation? He, therefore, thought that the noble Lord could not rightly have designated them otherwise. He thought the hon. Members upon that (the Opposition) side, had adopted the most effectual means that could he devised to produce mischief; but he would not, therefore, say that they connived at the mischief; nor did he think it possible that any man could really think what the hon. and learned Member said, who accused Lord Grey and the other Members of the present Administration of conniving at outrages, or of willingly permitting them. With what feeling could it be supposed that they should act so basely, occupying so high a station, and enjoying the confidence both of the King and of the nation? What! would hon. Gentlemen venture to say that his Majesty's Ministers did not enjoy the confidence of the people? And if they did not he should be glad to know who would? Would the hon. Gentleman who cried hear, hear! or his friends enjoy the confidence of the people? On the contrary, was it not the fact, that in the present state of the feelings of the people, they could scarcely venture to show their noses out of doors? What did that state of feeling arise from? Did hon. Members around him suppose that his Majesty's Ministers had been able to inspire that degree of horror with which the people regarded the party opposed to the Ministers, and with which they would regard any party that should now come into power in their stead? And if not, what were these cheers about? To what more did all that the hon. Gentleman complained of amount than the spontaneous expression of that 630 feeling with which Englishmen must regard those who deprived them of their rights? Meetings had been held in all parts of the country, declaring the earnest hope of the people that his Majesty would retain his present Ministers. Could any man suppose, that those meetings had been occasioned by any other than the spontaneous and unanimous feeling of the people? Blind must they be who assented to such a supposition. Blind must those around him be, and ignorant of what was passing throughout the country, and unable to take warning from the lessons of experience, if they supposed that such spontaneous manifestation on the part of the people had occurred only by the connivance of the Ministers. But the fact was, that their only hope was founded in the belief that they had to deal with a nation of weak-minded men, who were to be excited by words of exasperation and violence. He hoped, however, that the people of England had too much good sense to be influenced by the rash language of any hon. Member who would venture to call them bloody-minded men. For his part, he had found them reasonable men, when they were addressed in the language of reason. But it could not be expected that they should be content to be denominated as they had been that night by an hon. Member below him. He was sure that such language as that hon. Member employed was likely to be attended by the most disastrous consequences. The public interest—that is, the interest of the people themselves—required that order and peace should reign. He could not hesitate to say, that the struggle which was at present being carried on was unequal; but neither could there be a doubt that the struggle must be carried through. Considering the situation in which the Peers were placed, he only wished to carry conviction to their minds. He did not deny that they had a constitutional right to reject or adopt the Bill; and all that he had to regret was, that they had chosen such a course. He was therefore anxious that time and events should satisfy them that they were mistaken when they said that the people were indifferent to Reform, and that they would, consequently, alter their course. In the question upon which they had to decide, they were not disinterested judges. They were personally interested in supporting the old borough system; and, unfortunately, the law had 631 given them the power to decide in their own case. When the peace of the country was endangered, and a handful of men—a faction—could stand out against the wishes of twenty millions, it was not to be wondered at that exasperating conduct and offensive language should lead to violent results. He heard hon. Gentlemen calling on his Majesty's Ministers to put down the rioters, and to prevent acts of incendiarism, as if those Gentlemen themselves did not know, of their own experience, that it was impossible to prevent those occurrences which suddenly arose from accidental causes of excitement. They had occurred in all periods of our history, and at no time had they been more frequent than in October last, when his Majesty's present Ministers could scarcely be blamed for them. Why did not hon. Gentlemen near him come forward then to accuse the Government which was then in power. Was it because the objects of the incendiary's rage were then only corn-stacks, and farm-houses, and barns? Were these of no consequence? But now, when an old castle, or rather the occasional lodging-house of a Peer—for it was magnified, to give greater importance to the outrage—when the hem of the garment of the Duke of Newcastle was touched, the Government was held responsible for not having prevented the accident. To make so marked a distinction between outrages upon the property of farmers, and those that were committed upon the property of Peers, did not seem to him to be equal justice to the high and the low. But if the people would take his advice, they would not give to their enemies the triumph of a single pane of glass being broken; and by that course they themselves would triumph more than they could by resenting the exasperating language with which their enemies chose to tempt them. In the large assemblage of his countrymen which he had that day had the honour to meet, there were men as much distinguished for talent and as respectable on account of property as any man in that House; and their sole anxiety was, to preserve tranquillity. He could not, therefore, patiently hear them accused as rioters, and the Government blamed for not publishing proclamations to prevent their assembling. The course which the hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Trevor) would recommend—that was, to prevent such meetings by the King's proclamation, 632 would necessarily be to rule by the sword; and if such a course were adopted, it would drive the people to the alternative which they were desirous to avoid. It was to prevent the coining of that alternative that he for one was desirous to put down or to prevent all violence to person or property. Therefore it was, that he deeply regretted the violence which had been offered to the Marquis of Londonderry. But he must, at the same time, protest in the name of the people of England against any such stigma being cast on them.
§ Mr. Trevor
said, that the hon. member for Middlesex had misrepresented him. He had not said that the people of England were bloody-minded; and he should take shame to himself if he had been betrayed into the use of such language towards the great body of his countrymen. What he had said was, that the Peers who had opposed the Reform Bill, owing to the excitement that had been raised by an inflammatory Press, had been exposed to the merciless attacks of a reckless and bloody-minded mob; but God forbid that he should confound with such a mob the people of England. If the hon. Member had seen the attack which was made upon the Marquis of Londonderry, at the door of the Palace—if the hon. Member had heard as, upon his life, he (Mr. Trevor) had heard, the cries of "cut his throat," "murder him"—if the hon. Member had seen and heard this, the hon. Member could not have complained of his having said, that the life of the Marquis of Londonderry had been exposed to the attacks of a bloody-minded mob.
Mr. Charles Grant
had heard with the deepest pain and affliction what had fallen from hon. Members in the course of this debate. He had hoped that, after they had brought to a close their discussions upon the great measure of Reform, every one, at least, that was placed in the high and responsible situation of a legislator, would have carefully abstained from saying one word which could by possibility tend to excite the feelings of the people. Sorry, indeed, had he been to find that night that so reasonable a hope had been utterly disappointed. He must say, with regard to the language of Gentlemen on both sides the House, that he had heard what had fallen from them with the most heartfelt regret. He was sensible that the themes upon which hon. Gentlemen had so unsparingly descanted that night, were no 633 light themes even to advert to. He joined with those who had expressed so strong and so just reprobation of the outrages that had been committed, and at violations of the law from which they ought all to shrink with horror, but which became doubly appalling when no other pretence was set up for the palliation of that which never could be justified, than that the great and the noble had performed what they believed to be their duty, and what no one disputed that they had a right to do. But this reprobation would have found an echo in every well-regulated mind, and he could not, therefore, help bitterly regretting the unnecessary heat with which it had been urged—heat which had caused it to be mixed with matters altogether irrelevant, and with topics which could hardly be discussed in any assembly without producing great excitement. If he regretted this, how much more must he regret that Gentlemen could have so far forgotten themselves as to impute to persons in the highest stations, connivance at outrages which could be countenanced only by the most vicious or the most ignorant? He would not suffer himself to be led, even by such provocation, into the use of violent language; but he could not help expressing his regret that his hon. and learned friend, however heated, however irritated, should have so far forgotten what was due to himself, what was due to that assembly, and what was due to common justice, as to have ascribed to Ministers motives which he was sure his hon. and learned friend must see, upon a moment's reflection, could not influence any honourable mind. He did not wish to protract this discussion, and he would resist the strong provocation he had received to enter upon many of the topics which had been brought under discussion. Would, then, the House permit him, for the sake of the dignity of the House, for the sake of the peace and composure of the country, and appealing to the feelings of every honest and nobleminded man who heard him—would, he said, the House permit him to entreat that this discussion be closed and put an end to? He would not have made this appeal but from a strong conviction that the most fatal consequences to the country would result from the prolongation of the debate. He did hope, that there was sufficient patriotism in the House of Commons not to allow him to make this appeal in vain; and if that appeal were listened 634 to, it would fill him at once with the sincerest pleasure and with the deepest gratitude.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that notwithstanding the admonition which the House had received from the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, it was impossible for any man who felt for his country, to sit silent on this occasion. For his part, he would not consent to do so after the language which he had heard from the hon. member for Middlesex. What was the fact? A Member of the other House of Parliament, the Marquis of Londonderry, in coming down to do his duty to-night, as a Member of the Legislature, had been grossly assulted by a cowardly mob. Blood had been shed. A Peer had been wounded. And the hon. member for Middlesex would have it sent forth to the country that all this was accident. Was not that an encouragement to mobs to vent their anger to the utmost upon all those with whose opinions they did not agree? The hon. member for Middlesex did not content himself by saying that the attack upon the Marquis of Londonderry was an accident, but he called the fires at Nottingham trifling occurrences. The hon. Gentleman compared those outrages to the burning of corn-stacks and farmhouses, by a peasantry driven to desperation by hunger. But he (Mr. Hunt) had risen to reply to the right hon. member for Windsor, who, with a great degree of anger and indignation, had accused hon. Members upon the Opposition side of the House of a perversion of facts. He did not think that they had perverted one fact. But he would ask the hon. member for Windsor, did not he attempt to pervert facts? Did he not say, that the letters of the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the Paymaster of the Forces, had not been addressed to the Birmingham Union, but to the gentlemen who presided at the meeting which voted thanks to those noble Lords? He must say, that that was a perversion of facts. The meeting had been called by the Council of the Birmingham Political Union, who invited other Unions in Staffordshire to attend there. Upon the call of the Birmingham Union, therefore, those other Unions did attend, with banners, bearing the names of the places they came from, and devices expressive of their political sentiments. Now that was precisely what happened at Manchester, at a meeting at which he presided 635 in 1819. The number of persons assembled was nearly the same. But there was one great difference between the two meetings—the one held at Manchester did not vote a resolution to resist the payment of taxes. They had assembled only to petition Parliament for Reform, and for a repeal of the Corn-laws. Yet on that occasion thirteen people were killed by the military, and a great number were wounded. But the people at the Birmingham meeting held up their hands, without a single exception, in favour of a resolution to resist the payment of taxes, because the House of Lords had thrown out the Reform Bill. Was not that illegal? It was no business of his to call the Ministers to account for whatever letter they chose to write, but he would take the liberty of asking them, was it wise to write a letter of thankful acknowledgment to the Chairman of the meeting which had passed the resolution? He could not concur with the right hon. member for Windsor, that there was any great wisdom in that. He did not go the length of accusing the Ministers of conniving at the atrocities which had been committed lately, nor of anything which might have been done by the multitude that were assembled that day; but he would remind them, that the meeting at Manchester had been violently dispersed, on the ground that so great an assemblage of the people was dangerous to the public peace. The hon. member for Boroughbridge had accused the Government of conniving at the present riots. Whether there might or might not be foundation for that charge, there could be no doubt that the Press had put forward threats of the vengeance which should be executed upon such Peers as might oppose the Bill. Had they not heard that the Peers were to be put in schedule A, if they did not agree to pass the Bill? and some Latin quotation had been used in the Times newspaper of yesterday, about strike at the face ["quote".] Hon. Members might call on him to quote, but he begged to inform them that he had forgotten more Latin than most of them had ever learned. He made no pretensions to being a literary character. It was a long time since he went to school, and he was not one of those who kept up classical reading—he made no pretension to being a quoter of Latin. But to turn to matters more important. A good ground of complaint had been laid against the Government. It was for suffering the Press 636 to proceed in their mischievous course of reviling and holding up to public vengeance Peers and Members of Parliament. He was perfectly ready to admit, that the people in some parts of the country, and about the metropolis, were in a state of great excitement; but did that justify the Government in asserting that the nation was unanimous in their support? Did not the conduct of the people of Dorsetshire falsify such a statement? and was it not plain enough that, even in the county with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was himself connected, there did exist considerable difference of opinion? And surely no man could call the late election at Dublin an unanimous declaration in favour of the Bill. He had himself lately attended a meeting which separated without personal violence—without breaking windows—unlike the meetings at which other hon. Members in that House had thought proper to attend. At the meeting which he attended, the question on the Bill was put, and the numbers for it were seven, while those against it were 2,000. He did not possess sufficient influence over the people to delude or to deceive them; but the hon. member for Middlesex certainly possessed sufficient influence for that purpose, for he succeeded in persuading them that they would derive more advantage from the Bill than in his conscience he believed would ever accrue from it. No doubt those who collected great multitudes were responsible for their conduct in so calling them together; and those who previously furnished the means of excitement to meetings to be afterwards called, were likewise responsible for results. Did any one suppose that the multitude who followed the hon. member for Middlesex were ignorant of the letters which that morning had been published from the two noble Lords opposite? Would not those letters then be received by the great mass of the people present as sanctioning the proceeding in which they were engaged? He would again say, that he thought it most extraordinary that any Government should have allowed the public Press to run the length which the Press in these days had gone; and if this state of things went on, where would it stop? The right hon. member for Windsor might laugh, but matters might soon become serious. It might be all very well for a time, but sooner or later Ministers would regret the turbulence which it served their present purpose to 637 permit—the time might come when it would put their noses out of joint. Really the state of things was alarming, and not easily understood. At the very moment when the Duke of Newcastle's place was being destroyed, the military were parading the streets of Nottingham, but would not march to its rescue, having no orders to that, effect. Since then a rumour had gone abroad, that the people were proceeding to Belvoir Castle with the same purpose. If they allowed the present state of things to continue and grow worse, they must in the end call out the military, Did he, therefore, advocate acts of violence? Quite the contrary; but he then, and at all times, very much questioned the prudence and expediency of large bodies of men going up to the King for the purpose of presenting petitions—it bore the appearance of intimidation: and in the year 1816, at the Spafields meeting, when it was proposed that the whole body of those present should go up to the Prince Regent with an Address, it would have been agreed to but for him; he owed it to his own safety, and to his own character, not to implicate himself in any such proceeding. He had some influence in those days, and he prevailed upon the meeting to give up the design of proceeding in a body to the Palace. He requested the assembled people to interest themselves with the petition, and he would take care that, it should reach the hands of the Prince Regent. He told them that Parliamentary Reform was the one thing needful, and did not encourage them, as the Press of that day did, to break open the shops of the butchers and the bakers. What he said then, and what he continued now to say, was, that, the first step was to obtain for the people the privilege of being duly represented in Parliament. At the several meetings at which he attended or took an active part, the people uniformly went home in the most orderly and peaceable manner; and not so much as a single pane of glass was broken. No doubt there was some mischief done in Bristol on one occasion; during an election there was some serious rioting in that place, but that was after he went to bed, having been fatigued in consequence of attending all day to the business of the election. He did not deny that upon that occasion there was much violence, and that blood was shed; but never in his sight was there an intentional breach of the peace. At the 638 meeting to which he had already alluded, which took place within these few days in the metropolis, though there were 2,000 within the walls of the building, there were from 3,000 to 4,000 persons collected outside the doors, and, even in the present disturbed state of the metropolis, they went home without committing a single act of violence towards person or property—not a window broken—not a word spoken about violence of any sort, and yet it was anything but a Whig meeting. On the occasion of the meeting to which he was then referring, he addressed the meeting. He thought it necessary to be thus particular in giving an account of what occurred, as the Press had grossly misrepresented him. He told the people of the gross mischief of which the Press was guilty—he desired them not to be, deceived by any one telling them that the Bill would not be so good for them as some people represented, and he added, that, if the 10l. householders thought proper to refuse paying taxes— which he thought would be very wrong on their parts—that was no rule for the people. He said, too, don't you (the people) refuse to pay your taxes; and that meeting separated without the slightest indication of a riot. See how different was the fact with respect to other meetings which took place. Even that very day he heard that a police constable had been assassinated.
§ Mr. Hunt
resumed. He was glad that the statement was without foundation. Breaches of the peace he should always most deeply regret. But, in times, and under circumstances, who were most peculiarly responsible for breaches of the peace? Why, the Government; and it was now full time that all this sort of work should be put an end to—the Government ought to feel that they had had enough of approbation. They must be very cormorants in the love of praise, if they desired to have any more. He really thought the time had arrived when Ministers might be satisfied with the expression of public feeling to which recent events had given rise, and they ought now to adopt, some means for protecting person and property in this metropolis. He had understood that Commissioners Mayne and Rowan had given directions that no man should be struck on the head unless he were detected in some act of violence, 639 endangering life. For himself he had no fears—he had lived to little purpose, if he could not venture amongst his fellow-citizens unarmed. At the same time if he should encounter violence from a multitude, though he had but one life to lose, he would still defend that life—he would not die without resistance. He by no means concurred with those hon. Members who thought that the present discussion ought to be cut short; on the contrary, he thought that discussion would be likely to produce beneficial results. If the multitude should be so cowardly and bloody as to attack single individuals, they ought manfully to defend themselves, which, though the boldest, was the safest course. It was cowardly and bloody to attack single individuals; and he felt assured that the people of England were incapable of any thing of the sort, unless when peculiarly excited, or very grossly misled. But they now were under excitement and misguidance, and he hoped that the Government would at length see the necessity of interfering for the preservation of person and property, and the preservation of the public peace.
said, he felt it necessary to make a few observations, in consequence of the censure which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had thought fit to cast on the department to which he belonged, for it was evident that his remarks were directed in fact, though not in terms, against that department. In doing so, he would premise, that however severe the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman might have been, he hoped that he should, in the few words which he meant to address to the House, although his feelings were somewhat wounded, preserve that calm spirit, and that cool feeling, which every hon. Member ought to command, in the present state of public affairs. He did not know—indeed, he could not conceive—upon what acts, or upon what omissions, the hon. and learned Gentleman had chosen to cast upon the Home Department the responsibility of certain circumstances which had that night formed the subject of discussion. He, however, would challenge inquiry—yes, the most rigid inquiry—into the proceedings of the department with which he was connected. He thought that, before the hon. and learned Gentleman had entered into a tirade relative to what had occurred at Nottingham—before he made it the ground of charge and censure—it 640 would have been well if he had taken a little time for consideration. The hon. and learned Gentleman would not, perhaps, have been so much surprised at what had taken place, if he had recollected that, at the moment, it was not probable that the means would be at hand to prevent it. He had very good reason, however, to state, that these outrages could not be continued. The moment their existence was notified, measures were taken to put an end to them. He, however, must say, that the hon. and learned Gentleman took the most effectual way of encouraging those outrages, when, by his speech, he sent it forth to the public, that the Government, by its conduct, connived at such proceedings. Nothing could be more injurious, nothing more dangerous to the peace of the country, than to state that those whose duty, whose imperative duty, it was to prevent such outrages, had absolutely overlooked, or encouraged, or connived at them.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
denied, that he had used the word "encouraged." He had said permitted or connived.
said, the admission of the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite sufficient. Such a declaration, it must be evident to all, was exceedingly dangerous. As to an assassination having been perpetrated that evening, to which circumstance the hon. member for Preston had alluded, he had, he was happy to say, received a notification, from which it appeared that no such circumstance had taken place. On that point, so contradicted, he would not dwell—he would build no argument upon it. He would speak only of the general outrages, and these, he would say, demanded, and had received, the prompt attention of Government. He could assure the House, that the utmost vigilance would be exercised for the preservation of the public peace. The proper measures for effecting that object would be taken, without distinction as to persons of any party. With respect to the outrage perpetrated at the house of the Duke of Wellington, no man regretted it more deeply than he did; but it was one of those occurrences which would sometimes happen, in spite of the utmost exertion. Allusion had been made to what he had said on a former occasion, as to large bodies of the people meeting together. He did not disavow the language which he had then used; and when Gentlemen talked 641 of putting down and dispersing such assemblages, he called upon them to look at the Act of Parliament, and to see whether it was or was not easy to act effectually upon it. He repeated that he deeply regretted the commission of such outrages, but he did not regret that the people were not prevented from approaching their Sovereign, and declaring their feelings and wishes.
§ Lord Stormont
said, that his first intention in trespassing for a few seconds upon the House was, to repel the imputation attempted to be cast upon himself and his hon. friends, of being enemies of freedom, but, on consideration, he should allow the remark to "pass by as the idle wind." He would, however, entreat hon. Members for their own sakes, at least, not to betray a disregard of the public safety, by holding up any men as enemies to public liberty. There was one passage in the speech of the hon. member for Middlesex which was a complete refutation of what had been urged in defence of the two letters which had been referred to in the course of the debate, and justified, to the fullest extent, the interpretation which had been given to them by that (the opposition) side of the House. It was quite evident, that a prominent passage in those letters applied to the majority in that House, and to the minority in the other House.
§ Sir George Warrender
said, that though his opinion on the subject, of the Reform Bill remained unshaken, still he did not concur in some, of the sentiments delivered that night by the hon. and learned member for Aldborough. The assertion that his Majesty's Government connived at the disturbances in the country must have a most mischievous effect. He did not like that such a statement as that should go forth as the opinion of a man of discernment, and one who had lately filled the situation of his Majesty's Attorney-General. It was the duty of every government to prevent disturbances; and he should not be doing justice to the individual who was now at the head of the Home Department, if he did not say, that he believed he was most anxious to attend instantly to the preservation of the public peace. The warmth, the zeal, and the eloquence of his hon. and learned friend had, he was sure, carried him further than he intended; and he hoped that it would be understood throughout the country, not only that his Majesty's Ministers did 642 not connive at those disturbances, but that they, and every individual in that House, whatever difference of opinion they might entertain on political subjects, joined in one common feeling, that of a firm determination to protect the lives and properties of his Majesty's subjects. He confessed that he felt considerable surprise at the speech of the hon. member for Middlesex. That hon. Member began his address in a very moderate tone, but when he spoke of one of the grossest outrages that ever was committed, he spoke of it as a mere accident. He had spoken of a furious attack on a Peer of Parliament as nothing more than a mere accident. When he heard it said that individuals who had opposed the Reform Bill dared not show their noses out of doors, he was filled at once with regret and indignation. It was the duty of the Government, and he believed it would attend to its duty, to protect persons and property, and to take care that every hon. Member, after he had fairly and faithfully discharged his duty, might appear in public without annoyance. He so far expressed his confidence in the present Government as to say, that he believed they would do this; and, therefore, he was opposed to the opinion of those who called for extraordinary measures. He would have the dignity of the Government upheld, not by a military force, to which the hon. member for Preston had alluded, but by the ordinary powers of law. If it were necessary, a commission might be appointed to inquire into the whole of the facts; but he would not resort to any measures of extremity, unless the utmost necessity called for them.
§ Colonel Trench
said, he had this day witnessed a procession in Piccadilly, in which he had seen the carriage of the hon. member for Middlesex. It was preceded by a standard-bearer with a white flag, on which were inscribed the words—"the King, Commons, and the People." He followed the procession along Piccadilly. When they came to the mansion of the Duke of Devonshire, the mob gave a great shout; and when they arrived at that of the Duke of St. Alban's, they also gave a shout, but it was more feeble. He wished 643 to go to the Duke of Wellington's, but he was not able to effect that purpose. When he got near the house of the Duke of Wellington, he saw a number of respectable looking persons, persons very well dressed, walking four and four, and with ribands tied round their arms: he saw those people leave the main body, while those who followed them rushed into the gate. Those well-disposed persons made room for the individuals whom they headed, and who immediately began breaking the windows. The mere breaking of a pane or two of glass, under ordinary circumstances, was of no importance; but this appeared to him to be a regular and organized outrage. He confessed that it gave him very great pain to find that any set of men could offer insult to an individual whose warlike achievements had immortalized the British name, and who he believed to be the most upright and honest man that ever ornamented private society or dignified a public station. One individual there was whom he could identify as giving orders. This individual was a remarkably well-dressed man. He looked after the standard-bearer, but him he could not find. The well-dressed people of whom he had already spoken as being present on the occasion, if not inciting to outrage, did not, at any rate, attempt to prevent it. It was a question on a former occasion, whether these processions were legal or not; but he feared that the permission given in so many instances to such processions would take away all doubts on the subject from the minds of the people. An hon. Member had said that, in coming down to the House, no apprehensions appeared to be entertained by the shopkeepers and others as he went along. But as he proceeded to the House he was led to form a very different conclusion, for he saw a number of persons busily employed in barricading their windows, and the precaution appeared to him to be very necessary. In conclusion, he must say, that it would have been well if the hon. member for Middlesex had taken the course which the hon. member for Preston had described himself to have taken on former occasions. When he saw an angry mob endeavouring to force themselves into the presence of their Monarch, it would have been more prudent if he had said to them—"Rely upon me; I will take care, your petition shall be presented"—instead of going; through the streets with them in procession. When 644 they considered that these individuals were for many hours without food, and that, in all likelihood, they had entered a number of public houses, it might easily be imagined that their conduct would not be the most quiet or decorous. Under such circumstances, he thought it would have redounded much more to the credit of the hon. member for Middlesex, if he had endeavoured to make those people disperse, instead of enjoying such a paltry triumph as the shouts of a mob, passing through the streets and under the windows of the Sovereign, could confer upon him. He had heard, with regret, that while a resolution was debating in that House, an hon. Member had gone to another assembly, consisting, it was said, of 3,000 persons, where the same question was discussed and decided, and that hon. Member immediately after returned, followed, as he understood, by 1,000 people, to the very doors of Parliament. Such an example, he thought, was exceedingly dangerous, and he thought it extraordinary that, any individuals should stoop to such artifices, for the purpose of procuring an ascendancy over the minds of the people.
There is scarcely one word of truth in the statement which the House has just heard, and so far as I am concerned it is utterly untrue. I mean that it is altogether a mistake on the part of the hon. and gallant Officer who has just spoken; I was not in Piccadilly with the procession.
§ Colonel Trench
I did not, say that I saw the hon. Member in Piccadilly; I saw him with the procession in Pall Mall, and when he passed me, I saw him forming part of that procession which I accompanied up St. James's-street and along Piccadilly. I went with what I call his procession, and he, I presume, went to the Levee.
said, that he went to Mr. Byng in his carriage, having, in conjunction with that gentleman, agreed to take up the petitions of two deputations. He understood that four other deputations had proceeded to St. James's, and were there informed by Lord Melbourne, that it would not be convenient to his Majesty to receive their petitions, and that it would be better to present them through the hands of the county Members. Application was consequently made to him to present those petitions, and he complied with the application. He had 645 nothing whatsoever to do with the procession. He was present at the meeting, and it was well known to all who were there, that he was against deputations going up. He then said, that it would be much better that the Members for the county should present the petitions, and not deputations of large bodies of men. When, however, they afterwards came to him with three petitions, he at once agreed to receive them, and he should be glad to know what would have been thought, of him if he had refused them after Lord Melbourne had said they ought to be presented by the county Members. They were handed to him in St. James's Square, he took them down to the palace, and delivered them there. That was the only duty he had to perform; and as to the procession, he disclaimed having anything whatever to do with it. With respect to what he had said as to the attack on a noble Marquis, no person in that House or in the country regretted that attack more than he did. All he meant to express when he before spoke was, that he did not believe it was a premeditated attack, but that it arose from the irritated feelings of individuals, and was a mere matter of the moment.
§ Colonel Trench
As to the first part of the speech of the hon. member for Middlesex, I shall return my thanks for it elsewhere. What I have stated is not an untruth, as he has dared to affirm.
I thought I fully guarded myself: the statement I said was untrue so far as I was concerned. Nothing can be plainer than that the hon. and gallant Member labours under a mistake.
§ Sir George Warrender
said, that he, as well as all the hon. Members around him, fell that there was a misunderstanding on the subject between the hon. member for Middlesex and the hon. member for Cambridge. He was quite sure that the hon. member for Middlesex did not mean to apply the denial in the manner taken.
thought, the hon. member for Middlesex ought to retract the expression. It was due to the character of the House that he should retract it. [The call "Chair, chair," was now raised.]
§ The Speaker
The moment the expression was used I felt it was out of order, but almost instantly the hon. member for Middlesex retracted it in the most marked and effectual manner, 646 anticipating any exception which could be taken to it, by saying that he meant to impute nothing but a mistake. In the same manner he explained his application of the word accidental to a gross outrage.
§ Colonel Trench
said, although he was as ready as any man to resent an offence, yet he was fully satisfied with the explanation given by the hon. member for Middlesex.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, a delegate from a Political Union, who met him in the lobby, and mistook him for a Reforming Member, had made certain remarks to him which he should not further particularize than, by saying the House seemed to stand in an altered position, when Members were beset by persons connected with political associations, whose object was, to subvert the functions of Parliament. He was ready to accept any situation that might tend to keep the peace, and even to act as a policeman, if the Secretary for the Home Department considered his services of any value.
said, that many of the immense multitude that had met together that morning, were by the Reform Bill to have the franchise extended to them, and the disappointment of their hopes by the Bill not passing into a law, had been much aggravated by then being told their opinions were changed with regard to that Bill. They met to demonstrate that that was not the case, and proceeded in a body to present an address to prove their unchanged determination. His firm belief was, that the people had assembled with the strongest intention of keeping the peace. The Government had been blamed for not preventing these meetings; but if it had attempted that, he would venture to predict that the day would have terminated very differently from what it had.
said, the people had been accused of being lukewarm in the cause of Reform, and he knew not what course they could pursue to disprove that accusation, except that which they had adopted. When he heard individuals speaking of a body of men, assembled for a constitutional purpose, as a mob ready to imbrue their hands in the blood of their fellow-citizens, he considered it to be a gross libel on the people of England.
§ Subject dropped, and Petition laid on the Table.