§ Mr. Trevor rose to call the attention of the House to a case of great importance. He held in his hand, an advertisement, which had appeared in The Times newspaper of the 7th instant, relative to the passing of the Vestries Bill. The advertisement to which he called the attention of the House was drawn up in the following manner:—'Select Vestries.—At a numerous meeting of the Committees and inhabitant householders of the parish of St. James, Westminster, the following resolution, proposed by Mr. Ewen, and seconded by Mr. Pitt, was unanimously agreed to:—'That this Committee acknowledge with the utmost gratitude, the exertions of his Majesty's Ministers in favour of the Bill for the better regulation of Vestries, &c. now before Parliament; and as the success of that excellent measure is no longer doubtful, it is the opinon of this Committee, that the meeting of the inhabitant householders of this parish, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of withholding the payment of all parochial rates under the select vestry system, 698 as advertised in The Times, Morning Herald, Morning Chronicle, and Morning Advertiser, on the 23rd of September last, should be postponed, and in the mean time the Committee recommend to the householders not to uphold the payment of such of the rates as may have become due—William Maule, Esq, chairman.' He considered that if such threats as were conveyed in that advertisement were allowed to be made, and the people were told to withhold the payment of taxes, it would be impossible for that House or the other House of Parliament any longer to exist as a deliberative assembly. Though he was inclined to regard parish politics with the greatest contempt, yet he thought that he was justified in bringing this case before the attention of the House; because, if not noticed and reprobated, it might form an example which would be followed in matters of State. When it was said in this advertisement, that in consequence of the bill having passed, the intentions of the advertisers to withhold their rates was postponed what was that but to say, "We hold the rod over you, but we shall not whip you on this occasion." If every assembly was allowed to beard the House of Commons in such a manner it must interfere with the fair and proper investigation of any public question that might be brought under its notice. He considered the precedent thus set extremely dangerous, and he should, therefore, move the adoption of a resolution, declaring—"That the course adopted by a certain portion of the parish of St. James, Westminster, in holding out a threat of withholding the payment of rates and taxes, is a daring violation of the privileges of Parliament, and a most improper attempt to intimidate its Members in the proper discharge of their duty—mischievous as an example, and pernicious in its effects."
was surprised, that this subject had been brought before the attention of the House by an hon. Member who had told them that he despised parish politics. He differed entirely from the hon. Member as to the degree of importance he attached to parish proceedings. Did the hon. Member think that the proceedings of parishes containing 120,000 or 150,000 persons were to be regarded with contempt? This appeared to him to be riding the high horse, with a vengeance. Parish Vestries had a public duty to perform; 699 they had to attend to the interests of the parishioners in general, and if they were not to meet and express their opinions upon all subjects connected with parochial rates, of what possible use could such institutions be? The inhabitants of parishes oppressed by the Select Vestry System had as much right to complain of that system, by which self-elected persons taxed them, as the people of England generally had to complain of the corrupt constitution of that House, by which pretended Representatives of the people increased their public burthens. He looked upon the interference of any Member of that House, on the present question, as most unwise; and it appeared to him, that the hon. Member must have been at a loss for something to bring before the House when he turned his attention to this advertisement. But why did the hon. Member propose to censure the inhabitants of St. James's? They had done nothing; they had, in fact, postponed the meeting which had been called for the purpose of considering the propriety of withholding the payment of rates. He could inform the hon. Gentleman, that he might have fixed upon a parish where the inhabitants had actually come to the determination of withholding the rates, if he wished to bring the matter to an issue. At a meeting of his fellow-parishioners of Mary-le-bone (of which he was the Chairman) a resolution was come to, not to pay the taxes imposed by the Select Vestry, but to allow their goods to be distrained. He considered that his fellow-parishioners had acted legally, and their conduct had produced a most beneficial effect, for a disposition was already shown on the part of the Select Vestry to accommodate matters. He should give the Motion his decided negative.
§ Mr. John Campbell
thought the subject introduced by the hon. Member (Mr. Trevor) was not fit for the notice of the House. He could not, however, allow the assertion made by the hon. member for Middlesex, that parishioners were justified in law in refusing parochial rates because they were imposed by a Select Vestry. He was as much opposed as any one to the Select Vestry System; but while Select, Vestries existed, they existed by the law of the land, and the rates imposed by them ought to be paid. The hon. member for Middlesex said, that he was Chairman of a meeting at which a resolution was passed, 700 expressive of a determination to withhold the parochial rates. He supposed that the hon. Member did not concur in that resolution. [Mr. Hume: "I did."] For it did appear to him (Mr. Campbell) that an extremely bad example was held out, when a number of persons entered into a combination to place themselves above the law. Perhaps the hon. member for Middlesex, and the other persons who attended the Marylebone meeting, compared themselves to Hampden who would not pay ship-money. But Hampden opposed the payment of ship-money, because of the illegality of its imposition: whereas, until the law of the land put down the Select Vestries, the rates imposed by them were legal.
said, that the parishioners of Marylebone had no intention of violating the law. The law directed, that in case of nonpayment of rates the goods of the party refusing were to be distrained. The inhabitants of Marylebone would refuse to pay the rates imposed by the Select Vestry, but they would submit to the alternative provided by the law, and allow their goods to be taken away. He thought that their resolution could not be considered in the light of a violation of the law.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
said, the course defended by the hon. member for Middlesex was a bad example to all the people. The precedent was most dangerous, and there was a natural and easy transition from the refusal to pay parish taxes to the refusal to pay parliamentary taxes: it was an easy transition from the course pursued by the hon. member for Middlesex to that recommended by the Political Union.
Sir John Hobhouse
was sorry that the time of the House had been so long occupied in the discussion of such a trifling question as the one before it. The inhabitants of St. James's would, no doubt, feel themselves excessively flattered by the notice which their proceedings had attracted from the hon. Member; but he could not help thinking, that the hon. Gentleman had unnecessarily thrown away a great deal of indignation. All the bad example of which the hon. Gentleman had complained originated in an error of the press, the words "not to uphold the payment," being printed, instead of "not to withhold the payment." Indeed, so far from the parishioners of St. James's having recommended the non-payment of taxes, they met to advise the payment of them.
§ Mr. Trevor
had directed his observations to the general tendency of the advertisement, and not to one word of it, which, of course, he must have seen was a misprint. The part of the advertisement he objected to, was that which said that 'as the success of the measure was no longer doubtful,' the parishioners were recommended not to withhold the payment of the rates, as if they would have been justified in doing so had the measure not been likely to be successful.
Sir John Hobhouse
said, that if the advertisement went to recommend the people not to refuse the payment of taxes, he hardly knew what the hon. Member had to complain of. The meeting was, in fact, convened for that purpose; and there presided at it a gentleman named Maule, of high professional character and ability, who had taken that means in order to divert the parishioners from adopting the other course, of which he had heard rumours. That gentleman had a great deal to lose, instead of to gain, by the adoption of any unconstitutional measures. He must beg further to state to the House, that Mr. Maule had written a letter to his fellow parishioners, containing an opinion opposed to the proposition for refusing the payment of rates, a proposition which the writer described as silly and dangerous.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
was glad to hear the explanation, for he had seconded the Motion from supposing that it rested on the ground that certain persons had entered into a combination to refuse the parochial rates.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, that if a resolution was passed at any meeting recommending the non-payment of taxes, there was no lawyer who would not pronounce that resolution illegal. Though there was nothing unlawful in a man refusing to pay taxes because he had not the wherewithal, yet it was a very different matter when persons, situated as the hon. member for Middlesex, who had a house in Bryanstone-square, and was well able to pay the taxes, entered into an agreement to withhold payment. He had no hesitation in saying, that the refusal to pay taxes to the state was a high misdemeanour; it was a most dangerous proceeding, totally subversive of the law, and if persevered in, might be the means of the entire dissolution of society. He under stood that a meeting in the country had come to the resolution of refusing to pay 702 the taxes, in the event of a new Administration being formed. He considered that the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had addressed that meeting in a proper manner, by pointing out to them the impropriety of the course they had adopted. It was absolutely necessary, for the preservation of the institutions of the country, that the payment of taxes should be enforced. He thought the case brought before the House called for no interference on the part of Parliament: the law was quite sufficient to put a stop to those proceedings of which the hon. Member (Mr. Trevor) complained.
§ Mr. George Robinson
was surprised that the House should have their time occupied by such a subject. The meeting referred to in the advertisement did nothing, and yet the hon. Member now called on the House for a Resolution as to the object of a meeting, after that meeting had been indefinitely postponed, and he asked the House to declare that that which might have been proposed, had the meeting not been postponed, was calculated to intimidate Members of that House from doing their duty. He, therefore, hoped the hon. Member who had brought the matter forward, would see the necessity of withdrawing his Motion forthwith.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that this refusal to pay taxes had been recommended by a portion of the public Press, and sanctioned by the hon. member for Middlesex. He had no doubt of its illegality. A man might refuse to pay the taxes, and allow his goods to be distrained; but that was not the question. The question was, whether it was lawful for 150,000 persons to conspire together to refuse the payment of taxes. But the matter did not stop there. Threats had been employed to prevent auctioneers from selling distrained goods; and an auctioneer in Bath had been obliged, in consequence of intimidation, to issue a handbill, in which he gave public notice, that he would not receive for sale any goods distrained for the non-payment of King's Taxes. He would now show the House what sort of creature a Whig was; for this refusal to pay taxes was a Whig measure. It was the measure of the friends of the Bill; the Radicals had nothing to do with it. He had had a letter put into his hands, to which a forged signature of his name had been affixed. The letter was addressed to his printer, and was drawn up in these terms: 703Please to print 1,000 double-crown broadsides as follows, and get them struck off as soon as possible.HENRY HUNT.Englishmen, rouse yourelves! Pay no rates nor taxes, until you get the Reform Bill.This forging of his name by the Whigs, in order to recommend to the people the non-payment of taxes, was, he considered, carrying the joke too far. He thought that the hon. member for Kirkcudbright had given Ministers as severe a drubbing as ever they had in their lives. The hon. Member had declared that the Birmingham meeting had been guilty of a high misdemeanour; and yet, two noble Lords opposite, Ministers of the Crown, had corresponded with that meeting, without expressing disapprobation at their conduct.
Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
disclaimed having thrown any imputation on the two noble Lords to whom the hon. member for Preston had alluded; on the contrary, he had applauded them for having expressed their disapprobation of the doctrine adopted by the Birmingham meeting.
said, that the letters of the noble Lords opposite, being addressed to the chairman of a meeting which had adopted an illegal resolution, so far from discountenancing had rather sanctioned that doctrine. He certainly could not participate in the declarations which had been made from that (the Opposition) side, that Ministers were not sincere in their desire to put down disorder. His belief was, that the right hon. Gentlemen would, if they could, put down riotous proceedings; but their language and acts excited that feeling which created riots. There was, however, one excuse for their conduct. They had been so long in opposition, that the abuse of the institutions of the country had become almost habitual to them. The abuse of those institutions, however, proceeding from them when in opposition, was trivial, but it assumed a more serious complexion when it came, particularly at such a moment as the present, from the confidential advisers of the Crown. He implored the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to recollect, that a single incautious word falling from men in their situations might be productive of consequences the most pernicious to the State. 704 He would advise them to disconnect themselves from those who, he believed, were against all government, and to try honestly to allay excitement. He could assure them, on his honour, that if they brought forward a measure of Reform which he did not think destructive of the Constitution, he would be most anxious to vote for it. He had, on former occasions, expressed a strong opinion against the right hon. Gentlemen: he retracted not one word; but, at this moment, they must not look back; they ought to look at circumstances as they stood, and to the future. If he really believed that the line of conduct pursued by the right hon. Gentlemen was calculated to alleviate evils which at present existed, he would cross the House and support them, if he did so alone. He implored them to look seriously to the state of things, to weigh their words carefully, and to remember, that though it was their duty to improve the institutions of the country, it was also their sacred duty, as Ministers of the Crown, to defend them as long as they existed. It was a dereliction of their duty to hold up the institutions of the country to disrespect, and he exceedingly regretted that the noble Lord opposite had thought proper to call the majority of the House of Lords "the whisper of a faction." They had heard a great deal of that majority; they had been told that the decision in the House of Lords had been come to by interested persons, and by the bench of Bishops, who were not fit to form any opinion on the subject. Now he believed it would be found, that if all the Peers who were proprietors of boroughs, and all the Bishops, were excluded from the calculation, a majority of the House of Lords was against the Bill. It was a great deal too hard, therefore, to have it stated that the Bill was thrown out of the House of Lords by those who had a personal interest in getting it rejected. He believed that those noble Lords who possessed property in boroughs were not guided in their decision by improper motives. It was a libel on the English peerage to say, that they had not manliness to resist such influence. He did implore Ministers to consider whether it would not be better to bring forward a measure of Reform less efficient than the last one, than to run the risk of the consequence which would probably follow the second rejection of the Bill by the Lords. Questions of this kind 705 ought always to be regarded as a balance of evils; and if, by diminishing the violent character of the measure, they could conciliate the party opposed to them, he thought they would only be performing their duty in doing so.
said, it was as unfounded a charge as ever was made, to assert that it was the intention of the Ministers to induce the people to refuse to pay taxes. It was not the act of the Reformers—it was the act of the Anti-formers. It was their vexatious opposition to the Bill—their opposition to the spirit of the people, by delay, by frivolous pretexts, by motions made every hour, every day, and every month, for the purposes of delay. Did they think that the people would bear this for ever? They had endured the delay most patiently, from the certainty, as they hoped, that the measure would be successful after some delay, and now that hope was at an end, by the foolish and absurd rejection of this popular measure. These were the causes of the popular excitement. Hon. Members talked of the institutions of the country. Were the rotten boroughs the institutions of the country? Were the nominations of Peers to places in that House the institutions of the country? The people in general looked upon these things as a corruption that must be remedied, and yet it was on behalf of such abominations that hon. Gentlemen called on the Government to suspend the measure; that what the people endured so long, they might endure yet longer? He, on the contrary, called upon the Ministers steadily to pursue their course, and to cut away the gangrene that preyed on the vitals of the State with a firm hand. He trusted, that the people would soon obtain what they deserved—a full Representation in that House. The English nation had often been compared to the lion; and if hon. Members thought that Englishmen were totally regardless of the manner in which their most earnest wishes were rejected, they would find themselves mistaken—they would find the truth of that expression which they had heard so often: "irœ Leonum vincula recusantium." He warned them not to put matters to such an extremity. He earnestly hoped, that the people would be peaceable; their opponents must be beaten by that mode of conduct; the people must and could carry the measure, without, violating the law: 706 the people of Ireland had, in that manner, beaten their oppressors, without a single assault, without breaking a pane of glass; and in spite of the interested opposition and strong party spirit, that would have forced them into such measures they kept the peace, if they did not keep their tempers. The people of England were perfectly competent to follow that example. He hoped they would not violate the law. He was not surprised that they had shown some degree of warmth at their disappointment. What had been the nature of the discussions on the Bill? Why, every part of the Bill but that which was at the moment before the House had been the subject of remark and protracted debate. Three months had been spent in that manner. The opposite party had had their triumph of delay, but it was only a triumph of delay, for the King's Government could bring in the Bill again, and the Anti-reformers would not have the power to reject it. They had indulged their self-flattery—they had said, that the people did not care for the Bill, and that the Bill was destructive to the Constitution; and they had repeated these things usque ad nauseam. They talked now of this recommendation not to pay taxes amounting to treason. He would tell them that, if this measure was carried, any man might be left to talk high treason as he pleased, for the people of England would totally disregard it: but, until it was carried, it would be in vain to attempt to strangle their cries of indignation. The people ought to keep within legal bounds. The success of the great measure depended on the people—on their keeping their acts and expressions within the channels of the law, and on their not having recourse to any violence whatever. Feeling this, and seeing how utterly improper was the introduction of this debate at this moment, he hoped the Ministers would not condescend to give any further answer respecting the letter than that which they had given last night. Who was to dispute whether it was the whisper of a faction that had rejected the Bill? If the people were for the Bill, the whisper of a faction must be on the other side—there could not be a faction on both sides—the faction must be on one or the other; and if it was disputed that the people were in favour of the Bill, his answer was, that that question would be very shortly settled.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, he happened to be absent from the House when his name was called, and he wished then to know, whether he might not bring his motion by way of amendment, or in some other manner, at the present moment. It should be observed, that his notice stood on the paper before that of the hon. Gentleman whose motion was now before the House.
§ The Speaker
said, the regular mode was, to bring forward the different notices in succession, until all were disposed of; and unless that practice were adhered to, the paper, it must be obvious, would be of no use at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked whether he could not introduce his motion, or a discussion relative to that motion, on the consideration of the question before the House. That must depend on the fact whether the hon. and learned Gentleman's observations had reference to the motion now before the House, because, if a different course were taken, it would defeat the right of precedence, which belonged to the hon. member for Durham.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
rather thought that he had an opportunity of bringing before the House the subject matter to which his motion referred, without trespassing on the rule which the Speaker had laid down. As he was strictissimus juris, he felt anxious not to interfere with any rule by which the right of another might be affected. He would therefore proceed, notwithstanding the sardonic smiles and satirical gestures of Gentlemen on the other side of the House, to declare his opinion with reference to the subject to which his notice of motion referred. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had allowed sentiments to fall from him which could not be heard but with feelings of indignation: and—
§ Mr. George Robinson rose to order. He wished to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was not bound, before he entered into a discussion, to show in what mode he meant to bring forward his motion, so as not to infringe on the rule laid down by the Speaker.
§ The Speaker
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman was bound, after what he had stated, to introduce his observations in a manner consistent with the orders of the House; but he was not bound to state to the hon. Gentleman how he meant to effect that object.
§ Mr. George Robinson
Then, I say that, in point of order, the hon. and learned Gentleman is not applying himself to the subject before the House.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
continued. He had heard of a man coming forward with a hand and a glove—but, in the attack of the hon. Member, he could see neither hand nor glove. That was very strange, as the hon. Member represented Worcester, the great manufactory of gloves. But to return to what had been said by the hon. and learned member for Kerry. He would ask the hon. and learned Member, whether the British lion he had alluded to was the infuriated rabble who had attempted to drag from his carriage, and had in fact seriously ill-treated, a noble and gallant Peer? He would appeal to English Members on this point. He would ask them whether such a proceeding as this indicated the presence of the British lion? The hon. and learned Member was the only Irish Member who seemed to contemplate a ferocious attack on an Irish nobleman as a proof of the prowess of the British lion. He supposed that the hon. and learned Member considered that the British lion was merely shaking the dews from his mane, when a highly-excited mob treated a nobleman in this ignominious manner. Every one except the hon. and learned Member, deprecated and deplored the circumstance to which he had alluded. So far as he had observed, it certainly was not characteristic of an Irishman to be a coward, it certainly was no part of the general conduct of an Irishman to attack an individual who could not defend himself; it certainly was no part of an Irishman's well known gallantry, when a noble Lord was attacked, to mix himself up with the cowards and dastards who perpetrated that attack, and then to speak of the magnanimity of the British lion. He conceived that many of those who placed themselves on that (the Opposition) side of the House—and the hon. and learned member for Kerry amongst the number—might, with great propriety, place themselves on the Ministerial benches. The corporeal frames of these hon. Members which he and his hon. friends did not want, were placed near them, while their metaphysical part, their mental part, transported itself to the other side of the Table. He wished that these Gentlemen would take refuge among the Radicals and Liberals, instead of giving interruption to those who sat on the Op- 709 position side of the House. Not only did those Gentlemen proceed in the most inconvenient manner, but certainly they did not act according to the usages of Parliament, as practised in the better, and he would add, the gentlemanly times of the House of Commons. In his earlier days, neither the hon. member for Kerry, nor the hon. member for Worcester, would have taken their places where they now sat. In the present day he knew not whether liberality might not have made very great advances, but with respect to gentility, he was confident that they had retrograded considerably. He now came to that part of his address in which he would prove that his notice of motion was intimately connected with the proposition then before the House. There were now abroad two subjects—subjects of great public excitement, which demanded and deserved particular attention. One of these was a treasonable conspiracy to prevent the payment of taxes—a treasonable conspiracy, he repeated, with the abettors of which two Members of his Majesty's Government had thought fit to correspond. He would not here introduce the subject of yesterday's discussion, but merely allude to the foundation of it. Another subject, connected with public excitement, must also attract, their attention—namely, that of an attack on the persons and property of all those Members of the House of Peers who constituted the majority against the Reform Bill. Of that system of attack they had already heard, and his motion would go to a specific point connected with that system—he meant the attack on the property of the Duke of Newcastle. The hon. member for Middlesex had advocated, and strongly too, the principle that a resolution might legally be agreed to, having for its object the refusal to pay taxes. He would, however, take the liberty of saying, that such a resolution, proposed in any place, would be illegal; and if connected with a general purpose (and he stated the law in the presence of the mute Attorney General) would become a most serious offence. The passing such a resolution at all was a misdemeanour; and if matured, so as to have a general purpose in view, it became high treason. These were the two propositions which he called on the mute Attorney General of the Cabinet to get up and answer. It seemed that there had been at Birmingham a meeting of 150,000 persons, and one of the resolutions to which 710 they came was to support the non-payment of taxes. ["No, no," from Lord Althorp.] The noble Lord cried "No, no." Now he said that the statement was in the newspaper, and the noble Lord's letter was also in the newspapers. The resolutions were printed, and the letters of the noble Lord and his noble colleague were printed. This being the case, it was for the House to decide on what the effect of those resolutions, and of those letters, was likely to be. Ministers might say that, if it were deemed fitting, they, or their legal advisers, would take proper notice of the outrages which had been committed; but as yet he had not heard that they had taken any steps in the matter. They were all acquainted with the destruction of the house (not the family seat) of the Duke of Newcastle. Formerly it was the family seat of that noble man, but it had long ceased to be so. To what were they to attribute the burning of that property? It could be traced to no other cause but that the Duke of Newcastle was an opponent of the Reform Bill. The hon. member for Middlesex treated this conflagration as a mere trifle. That hon. Member was an economical man. He was quite happy when items of 2¼d. or 1¾d. were the subject of his consideration. On a late occasion, he advised the first Lord of the Admiralty to feed our seamen on bad biscuit and sour pork, because 1¼d. might be saved per lb. but now he carried his economy much further. He said that the Duke of Newcastle's mansion, which had been burned down, was not worth much—it was only a lodging-house; thus carrying economy even to the crime of arson—thus adapting economy even to the offence of destroying property by fire. The hon. Member would, no doubt, contend that a considerable saving had been effected because Clumber-hall, the country residence of the Duke of Newcastle had not been consumed. Now, what he wished was, that a Special Commission should be issued to try the offenders. He knew not whether the hon. and learned member for Nottingham had had all the facts detailed to him, but he understood that the demolition of the house belonging to the Duke of Newcastle took place under circumstances which left no doubt that these practices were directed against him personally, and against his property, on account of his conduct with respect to the Reform Bill. [The Attorney General: Not personally.] Those practices could not, of course, be 711 personally directed against the Duke of Newcastle, because he was at the time of the attack in London. But when the learned Gentleman drew this distinction, he must be aware that the Reformers, as they were called, were not unmindful of the noble Duke's residence in London. While the Radicals were burning down his house in Nottingham, his mansion in Portman-square was not forgotten by individuals in town. There appeared to be a sort of sympathy on this point, for while the noble Duke's house at Nottingham was in flames, his house in town was surrounded by an angry mob. If under these circumstances, the Attorney General could show any good reason for not sending a Commission to try the offenders, he would not persevere in his motion. It was, however, not unlikely that Gentlemen opposite would meet this subject as the hon. member for Middlesex had thought proper to meet it. And yet one would suppose that such a case as the burning of a house of the Duke of Newcastle would excite in a considerable degree the attention of Government, and that they would be found willing to protect the property of their political opponents. But when he recollected what a portion of the Press said, namely—that if the Bill failed, the torch must be applied to the property of its opponents—when he saw his Majesty's Government go the length of corresponding with those, who if they did not recommend burning, did declare themselves in favour of not paying taxes—when he marked this, he must beg leave to repeat what he had before stated in that House, that he did not and could not give his confidence to Ministers. He now plainly avowed, that on this account, he felt it necessary to call the attention of the House to the motion with which he should conclude. Not many hours had elapsed, since a gross, and egregious, and scandalous attack had been made on the property of the Duke of Newcastle—noble Lords had been personally assailed—inflammatory pamphlets were disseminated in every direction—and the most baneful principles were advocated by "friendly advisers." When these things passed before their eyes, was there any man of common sense who would not at once admit that this system of intimidation was not intended to control one Peer, but was directed against the whole Peerage? Whether the Under Secretary of State did or did not agree in that pro- 712 position was a matter of no importance to him; but it was quite evident that the just and proper equality of the law had ceased to exist, if the property of the Duke of Newcastle was not placed on the same footing of safety and security as that of other individuals. He heard cheers from the Attorney General. Doubtless the hon. and learned Gentleman meant to say, that he would show his activity in prosecuting for burnings, when Lansdowne-house, and other mansions belonging to the same party, were consumed. That was his hon. and learned friend's logic. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman mean to say, that he would not agree to a Commission for trying those who had burned down an Anti-reforming Duke's house, until that of a Reforming Duke was consumed? Then they should hear by and by what the hon. and learned Gentleman meant to do. He would maintain, that for the last six weeks, the language of the Press, speeches in that House, and declarations out of that House, were all calculated to call down popular vengeance on the heads of those Peers who had opposed the Reform Bill. No doubt the noble Paymaster, and the noble Lord, the member for Northampton, had had an opportunity of looking at the speech made a few days ago by a noble Lord (Lord Milton) at the Sheffield meeting. That noble Lord there asserted, that it was by the Peers created in the reigns of George 3rd and George 4th that the Reform Bill was thrown out. Whether the Peerage of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) was to be admitted amongst those which, in the speech of the noble Lord to whom he had alluded, were called the ancient hereditary Peerages of England, he did not know. Certainly it did not belong to the feudal class. Perhaps it was to be considered in medio, between the very old and the moderately new; and perhaps on the score of antiquity the reverence for Earl Grey's title was not quite safe. But if the decision of the heads of modern houses with reference to this Bill did not please the noble Lord, he must, a multo fortiori, be dissatisfied on that ground with the votes of Lord Dinorben, Lord Panmure, and Lord Poltimore. The decisions of these novi homines—these new made Peers—was, according to the inference to be drawn from the speech of the noble Lord, not worth any thing, The conduct of the Wentworths and the Russells, according to his doctrine, they being the heads of 713 the ancient houses, ought to have been implicitly followed. The line of argument of the noble Lord went directly to that point. He said, that the modern Peers rejected this Bill; and his impression seemed to be, that they did not stand on an equal footing with the ancient nobility. All that he demanded was, rigorous and impartial justice. He wished to see Ministers active in protecting the property of political foes, as well as of political friends. If such a course had been pursued, he should not have brought such a Motion before the House. His opinion was, that if in the early part of last winter a special commission had been appointed, it would have produced beneficial effects. That was his opinion, though he had not expressed it. He knew not whether his Majesty's Government meant on this occasion to send a special commission to Nottingham. He conceived that they ought to do so. But he had seen enough, in the course of these proceedings—in the progress of these political excitements—to lead him to believe that the Government had connived at them, to serve their own purposes with respect to the Reform Bill. He had that evening noted what might be called a dialogue between the Woolsack and the people and one would suppose that in such a dialogue, the first Magistrate would peremptorily say, violence must be repressed, crimes must be brought to a trial, and the strong arm of the law must be called into active operation. But he discovered no such thing. He observed nothing more than a repetition of the mildness which he had heard from the noble Lord yesterday. He therefore felt it necessary, under such circumstances, to submit the Motion to the House of which he had given notice. Although in the heat of the debate party cheers had been given whenever the name of that honest and upright nobleman, the Duke of Newcastle, had been mentioned, yet he was perfectly convinced, that no hon. Gentlemen who sat in that House could look with indifference on an act of violence committed on the property of a Peer of the realm, because he happened to differ from them in political opinion. He was firmly persuaded, that they considered that his property was as fit an object of protection as that of any other nobleman. He did not perceive that the Ministers cheered that sentiment, but he was glad to find that the Gentlemen behind them did. Oh! he now heard a languid cheer from Minis- 714 ters. While others strongly expressed their opinion on the subject, Ministers, by their languid cheer, admitted that the property of the Duke of Newcastle ought to be protected not less carefully than that of the Duke of Bedford. The Attorney General had a serious responsibility cast upon him. He did not mean to say that Ministers had occasioned those mischiefs, but they connived at them. They approved of the proceedings of a meeting where mutiny and sedition were recommended—where burning was not denounced. But some metaphysical Paymaster would rise up and say "Oh! we did not recommend the burning of the Duke of Newcastle's house!" Then came the question, "Did you do anything to prevent it?" He must again press upon the attention of the House, that the noble member for Northamptonshire, in allusion to Lord Wharncliffe, had characterized him as a Peer of the other day—as one, he supposed, not to be spoken of at the same time with the Wentworths and the Russells. In his opinion, nothing could have a more mischievous effect than that speech. He did not mean to say that the law would not ultimately be carried into effect. But the correspondence of two Cabinet Ministers with the promoters of a meeting at which an illegal act was done, and which meeting partook even of a treasonable character, was not calculated to inspire people with a reverence for the laws. He wished to propose a Motion, the effect of which would be, to give due protection to the property of those who opposed the Reform Bill as well as to the property of those who supported it. If they were to wait for such a measure until the Reformers burned down some of the houses of their abettors, they must wait for a very long time. He would not wait, and the sober thinking part of the public would not wait. As the matter now stood, the month of March was the earliest time when the noble Duke could procure redress for this outrage on his property—that was the earliest time when he could visit the agents of this scandalous tyranny with the vengeance of the law. The King's Government, as noblemen, and leaders of apolitical body in this country, were bound to take care that the property of the Duke of Newcastle, and of all who thought with him, should be placed in a state of equal preservation with that of his opponents; and the House of Commons, as gentlemen, as men of honour, 715 as Englishmen, and as moral men, ought to declare that the property of even political foes was worthy of protection. If they did not, their honesty, their high character would be levelled with the dust [hear, hear.] By the cheers, the posthumous cheers which he now heard, he felt that he should carry his Motion. The grounds and principles on which it stood were so clear and plain that he was certain it must succeed. He would therefore conclude by proposing as an Amendment to the present Motion—"That an Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that a special commission may be issued, with all convenient despatch, to try the offenders concerned in the recent burning and destruction of Nottingham Castle, and in other outrages and acts of violence recently committed in the county of Nottingham."
hoped it would not be considered presumptuous if he offered a few words after what had been said by the hon. and learned Gentleman. That hon. and learned Gentleman had taken upon himself, not only to misrepresent, but to lecture him upon three points—First, for sitting on the Opposition side of the House, when it was honoured with the hon. and learned Gentleman's own presence. Not very long since, the hon. and learned Gentleman had called the Opposition side of the House a mountain, and the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to recollect that he had taken his seat upon it long before the hon. and learned Gentleman had visited it. Mahomet had therefore come to the mountain, and not the mountain to Mahomet. Mahomet, too, had exhibited himself on this occasion in one of the most grotesque of his would-be inspired paroxysms. The second charge against him (Mr. O'Connell) was, a want of gentility. Of all men, the charge of being ungenteel came most strangely from the hon. and learned Gentleman. In what school of politeness had he taken his degree? Where was the dancing-master for grown gentlemen, by whose instructions he had so much profited? Who was the hon. and learned Gentleman's arbiter elegantiarum? When the hon. and learned Member talked of gentility, he wished to remind him, that as Dr. Johnson had said that "the Devil was the first Whig," so Shakspeare had told us that the Devil was the first gentleman—The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman,Wetherall his name, and Botherall.716 If he remained near the hon. and learned Gentleman, he might catch something from him. He did not mean his gentry, but his gentility; he was in hopes that he should obtain some little infusion of that accomplished and courteous manner for which the hon. and learned Gentleman was so remarkable. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also accused him of having approved of the base, dastardly, and cowardly attack made yesterday upon an Irish nobleman. Never was any accusation more unfounded since the days of gentility were first invented, and nothing so contrary to what he had really said. Had he stood the supporter of every abuse, and the determined opponent of every improvement—had he resisted every attempt to facilitate the administration of justice—had he continually laboured to shut out the enlightment of modern knowledge from the obscurities of ancient law—had he occupied the time of the House with a sort of rollicking rhodomontade night after night—had it been his constant habit to make people laugh at him, when he possessed not the wit to make them laugh with him—he might have deservedly been the object of the illiberal attack which had just been made upon him. In the speech which had just now been addressed to the House, his Majesty's Government were accused of wilfully permitting the disgraceful outrages which had recently taken place. For his part, although he thought that the gallant nobleman who had been assailed was mistaken in his political opinions, no man could desire more than he did to see the persons brought to justice who had made that atrocious attack. But the original Motion before the House referred to certain Resolutions of the inhabitants of St. James's; and from that subject they had been turned oft to the outrages at Nottingham. Did either of the Gentlemen, the hon. Mover or the hon. and learned Gentleman below him, or did any man, imagine that his Majesty's Government would hesitate to inquire respecting every such riot or illegal proceeding? What grounds were there for supposing that they would neglect their duty? Was it known that any of the rioters at Nottingham had been taken up? If not, what a situation would the Judges be placed in when they arrived at that place, to discover there were no prisoners to try. So far they might take a useful hint from Mrs. Glass, when she said, "First catch your 717 carp." Surely it became the duty of the hon. Gentleman to ascertain whether there was any work for the King's Judges before he despatched them, on what might turn out to be a bootless errand. As for the attack which had been made upon him by the hon. and learned Member, he would say no more than that it was wholly unfounded. He might add, that every part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was utterly destitute of merit, although he must not say that it was equally destitute of truth.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the attack of the hon. and learned Gentleman, last night and on the present occasion, was most unfair, and the insinuations in which he had indulged were wholly uncalled for. He had accused his Majesty's Government of acting partially towards the supporters and opposers of the Reform Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
Then the hon. and learned Gentleman had only insinuated the charge, that because the Duke of Newcastle had opposed the Reform Bill, therefore the Duke of Newcastle's property was not so well protected as that of any other individual. That was the insinuation of the hon. and learned Member; and he should not have thought it would have been concurred in by any other Member in the House, had it not been cheered by a solitary Member on the other side. He begged to state, though it was scarcely necessary for him to state, that his Majesty's present Government were as fully determined as any Government to maintain the laws and the peace of the country. it was hardly necessary for him to defend the Government from such a charge as that of the hon. and learned Gentleman; it was hardly necessary for him to say, that they would make no distinctions, or interfere in any manner with the regular course of justice. The hon. and learned Gentleman had accused the Ministers of conniving at the disturbances in the country. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman feel anything in his own breast which could induce him to conceive it possible that any man of honour and character, not only worthy of a seat in that House, but fit for the society of gentlemen any where, could, for the sake of some private purpose of his own, connive at bloodshed, riot, and arson? It was really quite impossible to answer accusations of that kind. On one point he 718 could not be deceived. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that his noble friend and himself were legally participators in treasonable misdemeanors.
§ Lord Althorp
—Then if the hon. and learned Gentleman thought they were legally participants in treason, it was his duty to bring articles of impeachment against them. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that they had never meant to give equal protection to the Duke of Newcastle, till the property of some reforming Peer was burnt. [Sir Charles Wetherell:—No, no.] The conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman was so strange, that he really did not know how to apply himself to it: it took away any feeling of anger he might otherwise entertain. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that he would not persevere in his Motion, provided an assurance was given that a special commission should issue. He could give the hon. and learned Gentleman no such assurance: it rested with his Majesty's Ministers to decide that point; but he could give him this assurance, that the property of every individual in the country should be protected as far as Government could protect it. The hon. and learned Gentleman and the House might take the former conduct of the Ministers as a pledge of their present intentions. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in referring last year to the special commissions, had said that they should have been issued sooner; but they had been issued and put into motion as soon as possible, and as quickly as the machinery could be prepared. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to a speech of his noble friend the member for Northampton. He had not seen that speech; but he could say, that his noble friend had uttered in that House sentiments quite contrary to those imputed to him. A noble Lord, who was not now in his place, had expressed a hope that a Reform measure would be introduced, so modified that it might receive general concurrence, and restore the peace of the country. If there were any ground for expecting such a bill, so modified as to diminish its efficiency, so far from its promoting the peace of the country, he was persuaded it would, on the contrary, be more likely it endanger it. He (Lord Althorp) had only to repeat what he had stated the other night, that he never could be a party to a measure which he did not in his conscience 719 believe to be as efficient as the last. He would not detain the House any longer. However warmly he might have expressed himself, he felt no resentment towards any one.
§ Mr. Gillon
said, that he was were there was great excitement abroad, both on the subjects of Reform and Select Vestries, and he therefore felt no surprise that strong, and perhaps, violent language had been uttered. When, however, complaints had been made of the language of the Whig newspapers and publications, he would take the liberty of referring to Tory magazine which had recently come under his notice, and which said, "that for principles less revolutionary than those of his Majesty's Ministers, and for conduct not so much calculated to disturb the peace, large number of men, women, and children, had been trampled down by the horses of the Yeomanry, and many men sent into exile." This language was much less justifiable than any that had been remarked upon during the debate. To those Gentlemen who charged the Government with having excited the people on the subject of Reform he would say, that it was the system of misrule which those Gentlemen themselves supported that had led to the inevitable necessity of Reform.
said, that what had fallen from his noble friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), must be quite satisfactory, and the House would feel, that in consequence of his (the Attorney-General's) necessary connection with any law proceedings, if such should arise in consequence of what had occurred, it would be better for him not to enter into speculative points of law, or into the discussion of questions in which he might possibly hereafter be mixed up. As to the law, he did not apprehend that any lawyer or commonly-educated man could doubt as to what the law was on the subject alluded to. When his noble friend expressed his determination to exercise all the powers of the law for the maintenance of peace and the protection of property, he did not see what more could be required. At the same time it must not be assumed that special commission was to issue to try every outrage that might occur. It was the duty of Government not to issue such a commission unless very strong grounds were made out. But he could testify to the readiness with which the special commission was granted in November last, and 720 the determination shewn to repress outrage and violence. Immediately upon the new Administration being formed, his noble friend, the present Lord Chancellor, came to him in the Court of King's Bench, and said, "the first act of our Ministry will be to send you down to Winchester, to institute legal proceedings against the persons engaged in the riots, and to clear the gaol." But on the present occasion—in his character as member for Nottingham, and not as a Law Officer connected with the Government—he had the happiness of being able to say, that so far as he could learn, he believed the riots were for the present utterly extinguished. The force which had been sent down had proved sufficient for this purpose, and for the purpose of overawing the disorderly, and preventing, he hoped, a repetition of the outrages. The first ebullition certainly was very violent. Many of the cavalry were at the time at Derby, where also, unfortunately, some rioting took place, and lives were lost. Before a force could be collected, the Castle of Nottingham, he was sorry to say, was consumed by the miscreants. The Magistrates, however, were very active, the Yeomanry were called out, and the military were held in readiness, and, what was better than all this, all the respect able men of the town were sworn in as Special Constables, and were on the watch day and night. These measures had proved effectual, and the repetition of such outrages was a fact exceedingly improbable. He must say, on the other hand, that he feared not one of those concerned in burning the Castle had been yet taken into custody, and there would therefore be no gaol to deliver if special commission were sent down. Some few persons, indeed, who were afterwards found wandering bout, had been taken into custody, but there was nothing to prevent their being tried at the next Sessions. Let no one think that he was making light of a business of this nature. He deeply deplored the disappointment which had led in some instances to such criminal excesses; and he therefore entreated the House, in the words of a noble Lord, not to look back for the purpose of exasperating, or of unravelling unfortunate differences, but to look forward and consult upon the means by which the peace of the country might be preserved, and placed upon a solid basis.
expressed his perfect con- 721 currence in the concluding sentiments of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The House, and the public in general, he was sure, would hear with great satisfaction, the renewed assurance of the Minister's, that they would use all the power with which they were intrusted by the Constitution to repress outrage and violence, and preserve the peace and tranquillity of the country. He begged further to be permitted to remark, that although he could not support his Majesty's present Government, still they should not find him contributing to create exasperation, or taking any other course than that which would support them under the difficulties and perils which at present beset the country, in every way that he could, consistently with his own principles. He was not sorry that this debate had arisen, because it had called forth a public announcement of a determination which some had doubted, but of which he entertained no doubt—a determination on the part of his Majesty's Government to do impartial justice, and preserve the peace of the country.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
said, that he felt convinced that every person possessed of property or having the interest of his country at heart, must lament the alarming occurrences which had recently prevailed in various places. Under the circumstances of excitement, that existed, however, he thought the disturbances might be considered extremely partial and of small amount, when the means were considered by which the minds of the community had been so greatly exasperated. He rejoiced to hear the assurance that his Majesty's Government would enforce the powers of the law to protect the public. At the same time he must express his disapproval of many of the remarks which had been mad by various Members, and he must also take the opportunity of saying, that he had never heard a more revolting attack than that which had been made by the hon. and learned Member behind him (Mr. O'Connell), upon the hon. and learned Gentleman near him (Sir Charles Wetherell).
protested against the language used by the hon. Member. His hon. friend had only answered an attack which had been made upon him by the hon. and learned member for Borough-bridge, and therefore it was very unfair to charge him with having made a revolting attack. He considered the spirited and 722 proper manner with which his hon. and learned friend repelled the attack, and retorted upon the aggressor, did him great credit, and he must further be permitted to say, that if any hon. Member in that House used strong and unmeasured language, he must expect to be replied to in the same manner.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that although he was not connected with the Government, and, so far as Ireland was concerned, did not approve of its meaures, yet he could not sit and listen to such unfounded, illiberal, unwarranted, ungenerous, and unjust attacks, as were made upon Ministers by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had gone so far as to assert that there was a treasonable conspiracy not to pay taxes, which his Majesty's Government encouraged. He was convinced that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not believe what he said himself [order, order]. He was not disorderly, and would not sit down. He repeated that he did not believe what the hon. and learned Member had said was his sincere opinion, because, if he bad been serious in it, he ought to have impeached Ministers who had the folly and the audacity to abandon their duty to their King and to their country, and that duty which was imposed on every well-regulated man, whether he was a Minister or not. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had not confined his attacks to his Majesty's Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman had taken occasion to say that Irishmen were not cowards. He would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman what was his idea of spirit. He thought, that to apply offensive terms in quarters where they could not receive the answer they ought, was not the part of a man of spirit. If the hon. and learned Gentleman chose to use such language, let him apply it in some other quarter, and see—
§ The Speaker rose, and said, that the language which had been used was as improper as any one Member could apply to another. He put it—not to the House—but to the hon. Member himself, on reflection, whether he had ever heard the hon. and learned Member to whom he alluded use such language without being called to order for it?
§ The Speaker
said, the hon. Member 723 must be aware that putting a hypothetical case was not the way to evade what would be in itself disorderly.
§ Mr. H. Grattan
said, he meant nothing disorderly or disrespectful to the House; but when the hon. and learned Gentleman talked a great deal of Irishmen, and then turned his back to the Chair, and looked at the Irish Members, he felt justified in assuring the hon. and learned Gentleman, that there was nothing that he could insinuate against the Irish Members, either for their support of the Government, or on any other ground, which they would not repel in a proper manner. The charges which he had brought against his Majesty's Ministers were wholly, absolutely, and completely unfounded.
§ Lord Brudenell
said, that in his opinion, his hon. and learned friend (Sir C. Wetherell) had been most unfairly dealt with, and had been attacked in the most unmerited manner. Nothing that his hon. and learned friend had said would bear the construction endeavoured to be fastened upon it. His hon. and learned friend said, that his Majesty's Government were not using the means which would tend to preserve the peace of the country. The course which they were taking was playing too much into the hands of the populace, and would lead to violence and breach of the law, instead of suppressing disturbances. As a proof of this he would put it to any hon. Member who heard him, if he thought efficient measures had been yesterday resorted to to preserve the tranquillity of the metropolis. As to the charge which had been made against his hon. and learned friend, of using offensive language, because he knew it could receive no reply, he did not believe there was an hon. Member in the House capable of such conduct. If another hon. and learned Member was—he would not say exempt—but if he exempted himself from all responsibility, he certainly ought to be cautious and more guarded in his own expressions.
Sir John Hobhouse
begged to suggest to the noble Lord, that the continuance of these discussions would do no good, and that it would be better to avoid saying the harshest thing that could be said of a man in his absence.
§ Lord Brudenell
said, he would appeal to the House whether it was not incumbent upon any man who exempted himself from responsibility, to be cautious himself 724 in the terms which he employed. The hon. and learned Gentleman who was alluded to, had first attacked a noble friend of his, and then he attacked the hon. and learned Gentleman near him, and he conceived the latter hon. and learned Gentleman was justified in replying to him.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he could not concur in the present Motion until the real state of the case was completely known. It appeared, however, that there had been riots at Nottingham, and that the populace, after having destroyed a nobleman's mansion, had returned to the attack the next day, as it seemed, to consummate their own infamy. The hon. and learned Gentleman had further assumed that some of the persons who had been guilty of these gross outrages were in custody, but it appeared from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney-General) that he had been misinformed, for none of the ringleaders were as yet taken. When he understood, and heard it asserted, that the respectable inhabitant householders had been sworn in, and were very active in the performance of the duties of Special Constables, he must express his astonishment that the incendiaries were not taken up; but the Yeomanry Cavalry had taken up some persons who had nothing to do with the offence. He did not mean to say that his Majesty's Government encouraged these acts of outrage when they were committed; but he thought there had been a sort of encouragement going on for a long time, and the Government had suffered the newspapers, which were their organs, to excite the multitude to violence. It was not, therefore, enough for him now to hear his Majesty's Ministers say they were sorry for the outrages which had been committed, and that they would do all they could to put an end to them. They ought to have taken means to put an end to the excitement which had been created.
said, in explanation, that the force employed at Nottingham did not reach the spot in time to prevent the conflagration, or arrest the authors of it, but their exertions were the means of preventing further outrages.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
felt called upon to reply to some remarks that had been made in the course of the debate.
§ Sir John Newport rose to order. He begged to submit to the Chair, whether an hon. Gentleman was entitled to reply on merely proposing an amendment.725
§ The Speaker
said, that, the hon. and learned Gentleman had certainly no right to speak if the House objected to it. But it was for the House to say how far it would hear the hon. and learned Gentleman, after the discussion which had taken place. The hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that he depended upon the sufferance of the House.
§ The Amendment was then put and negatived. On the Original Question being put,
§ Lord Althorp
said, as he understood it was allowed that the part of the advertisement complained of, arose, in part, out of clerical error, he should beg leave to move the Previous Question.
observed, that after the discussion that had taken place, he should recommend his hon. friend to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.