HC Deb 16 September 1831 vol 7 cc89-93
Colonel Evans

presented a Petition from Cranbrook, in the County of Kent, which referred to the petition of Mr. and Mrs. Deacle, and prayed that the House would investigate the case stated in that petition, and give satisfaction to the parties. This Petition was signed by 150 persons, who had directed him to refer to the hon. member for Kent for testimony of their respectability. He had, on former occasions, taken up so much of the time of the House on this subject, that he felt he should not be justified in trespassing further on the attention of hon. Members upon this occasion. His opinions, with regard to this case, were well known. He must, however, take this opportunity of correcting a misstatement which had gone abroad. It had been said in a powerful and popular publication, that he had kept the petition of Mr. and Mrs. Deacle in his pocket for three weeks before he presented it. Now this was not the fact. He had received the petition on the Thursday, and presented it to the House on the Monday.

Mr. Wilks

confirmed the statement of the hon. and gallant Member as to the general impression which the case of the Deacles had made on the country. The petitions which were forwarded showed that the subject was forcing itself on the attention of the House: and he was of opinion that something ought to be done, if it were only to satisfy the public mind.

Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey

agreed that this case had produced great excitement in the country. He understood, however, that the defendants in the action intended, in the next Term, to challenge the verdict that had been given against them. Now, if that verdict were confirmed, or if the defendants neglected to apply to the Court upon it in the next Term, no doubt the House ought to do something in the matter; but until these facts were ascertained, it would be at once premature and unjust for the House to interfere. At the same time, he was perfectly ready to admit, that Mr. and Mrs. Deacle had been most unjustly prejudiced by what had been said in that House by persons who, being all- powerful there, had not recollected that the other party was weak and powerless. He would recommend the gallant Member (Colonel Evans) to keep his eye upon the proceedings of the defendants, and if they did not apply to the Court in the next Term, or if the verdict against them were not shaken, to bring the matter once more before the House without delay.

Mr. Hodges

said, that being appealed to, he was bound to state, that he knew several of the petitioners, who were most intelligent and respectable persons.

Mr. Pringle

said, if the public feeling on this subject was as had been represented by the hon. members for Rye and Boston, he could only say, that it was in a very morbid state, which he attributed to the manner in which the Press had fastened upon this case. There was nothing in the case itself to call for the interposition of the House. It most assuredly could not be said these persons had received a denial of justice. Their cases were still before the judicial tribunals; the hon. Gentleman (Mr. B. Baring) was compelled to vindicate himself; he had been dragged by the Press most unwillingly before the public, and compelled to vindicate himself. He hoped that the House would not interfere further with the business.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that he had received petitions from Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire, and from a place in Kent, to the same effect as the present petition. He stated this now, in order that he might not intrude the subject a second time upon the House. It was impossible to deny that this case had excited a very strong sensation out of doors—so strong a one, indeed, that it was quite clear the subject would not be allowed to rest where it was. It was quite right, however, that they should wait the result of the legal proceedings to which the hon. member for Colchester had alluded: and while he felt assured that justice would be done to Mr. and Mrs. Deacle, he was equally confident that the respectable parties who were opposed to them would court the fullest inquiry.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

thought, that the Deacles had been very unjustly treated, not only in the transaction of which they complained in their petition, but also by what had passed in that House, where assertions criminatory both of Mr. and Mrs. Deacle, had been stated by persons who could not by possibility have any personal knowledge of those circumstances. He could not join in the opinion of the hon. member for Selkirkshire, but on the contrary, he conceived that the feelings of the public did them honour. Certainly, however, the House ought to wait the result of the defendants' application to the Court to set aside the verdict.

Mr. Hunt

said the Deacles were grossly injured individuals, and nothing could be more unfounded than the imputation that they deserved the harsh treatment they had received. Their case was an instance of as gross and cruel oppression as was to be found in the annals of county magistracy.

Mr. Fyshe Palmer

said, that if the Deacles had been unjustly treated, no man could desire more heartily than he did, that reparation should be made to them. He must, however, beg of hon. Gentlemen to recollect, that at the time of the occurrence of this case, the Hampshire Magistrates were placed in a situation of danger and difficulty, which required great firmness and extraordinary measures. Although there were at that time in Hampshire no less than seven mobs, some amounting to as many as 1,500, while others were, of course, much smaller—although these mobs were abroad, and riots, fires, and pillage were of daily occurrence in almost every village in the county, yet there were Members of the House of Commons who were unreasonable enough to complain, that the Hampshire Magistrates had not been, under such circumstances, as cool as Magistrates might be expected to be when they were sitting quietly in their magisterial room, and adjudicating an ordinary occurrence. He knew nothing of the case of the Deacles, except what he had heard in that House, and he could not, therefore, be prejudiced either way. Neither was he a Hampshire Magistrate, but, living on the borders of that county, and having been placed in a situation similar to that in which the Hampshire Magistrates had found themselves, he had thought it right to say thus much in behalf of his brother Magistrates of the next county. In the situation in which the Hampshire Magistrates were placed, they could not have been influenced in what they did by a mere desire of personal safety. If that had been all they wanted, they might have mounted their horses and ridden away; but they did not; they remained and faced the danger. Was there any military to assist them? No; though he had no doubt the Hampshire like the Berkshire Magistrates, applied for soldiers, and were told, as the Berkshire Magistrates were, that there were none to send to them. Now he need not remind the House of the nature of the outrages which the mobs committed; and he would put it to any hon. Member who had not forgotten those outrages, whether, if the Hampshire Magistrates were told that Mrs. Deacle was riding at the head of one of the mobs on a gray horse, those Magistrates were not quite right to secure her, and even to put her into a cart without springs until a post-chaise could be procured?

Mr. Lamb,

said, that if there was to be no further inquiry into the case of the Deacles, he must put it to hon. Members what good end could be answered by debating the merits of it; and if there were to be any further inquiry into the case, he felt it his duty to remind hon. Members, that discussions like the present must necessarily prejudice one or other of the parties concerned. He should not have made this observation but for the speech of his hon. friend, the member for Reading, who, though doubtless with the best intentions possible, had trenched very far upon provoking others to rip up once more all the circumstances of the case, and to re-discuss the individual merits and demerits of each of the parties concerned, and that, too, while legal proceedings on the subject were pending.

Mr. Francis Baring

said, that after the judicious observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he would make but one remark. It was this. He was extremely sorry that Gentlemen who now complained that prejudice had resulted from the discussions upon the subject in that House, should not have foreseen this result before they brought the case forward. If the Gentlemen did not exactly know who would be prejudiced, it might at least have occurred to them, that when parties were charged with acting with the greatest brutality, some one must suffer by having his case prejudiced.

Petition read.

Colonel Evans

was happy to hear, that the case was to be brought before a Court of Law, and if he had known that fact before, he should have abstained from saying a word upon the matter. Until the legal proceedings were disposed of, he should join with the hon. member for Colchester in deprecating any further discussion upon the subject; and he now begged leave to present, without one word of comment, another petition, to the same effect as the last, from Leamington Priors.

The Petition to lie on the Table.

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