HC Deb 20 June 1832 vol 13 cc909-21

A Message from the Lords was here announced to the Speaker, who, by order of the House, called the Messengers in, and announced to the House that the Lords desired a present conference with the Commons in the Painted Chamber, on a subject materially affecting the safety of his most sacred Majesty's person, and also the happiness of his people.

Lord Althorp moved that the house do instanter agree to the conference with their Lordships' House.

Question agreed to unanimously.

Managers appointed, and a conference immediately held.

Lord Althorp

shortly afterwards brought up the Report of the conference which had been held (his Lordship stated) with the House of Lords, for the purpose of requiring the assent of that House to an Address to his Majesty, on the subject of the atrocious and treasonable attack which had been made on the most sacred person of his Majesty.

The noble Lord then brought up the Address which was read. [For the Address, see the Resolutions in the Lords' Debates, p. 903.] His Lordship then said, it was not necessary for him to use any argument to induce the House to concur in the Address just read. Every man, not only in that House, but throughout the country, must feel indignant, that so atrocious and violent an attack should have been committed on his Majesty's person, when appearing before his subjects yesterday, when an individual chose to throw a stone, which hit his Majesty on the head. Fortunately his Majesty received no injury; and it was gratifying to reflect, that whenever his Majesty appeared before his people, he was received with the strongest expressions of applause, and with an enthusiasm which must have convinced his Majesty that every person concurred in the indignation by which they were all animated. The noble Lord proceeded to say, that the expressions of indignation to which he had alluded, were such as would be felt at any period, by every one of good feeling; but doubly strong must they be at the present time, when the country owed so much to his Majesty. And, indeed. when they considered what pains his Majesty had taken to make himself popular, and the whole course of conduct which he had pursued, it must excite the greatest astonishment that any individual could be found in these realms to be guilty of so flagitious and atrocious an attack upon his sacred person. He would not detain the House longer than by these few words, and would conclude by moving the House to concur in the Address.

Sir Robert Peel

seconded the Motion, and remarked, that all observations to induce that House to give a ready and unanimous consent to the Address must be superfluous. No man could contemplate the facts of an assault so wanton and so audacious as that upon the sacred person of his Majesty, or of that some time previous, upon the Duke of Wellington, without the utmost indignation. But he did not understand from the noble Lord that the wretched individual who made this assault was in a state of mental derangement; and, if he did not happen so to be, he (Sir Robert Peel) conceived that this wild conduct could have arisen only from the state of political excitement which prevailed, an excitement which he trusted all loyal subjects would see the necessity of calming; and of inducing a return to that strain of sentiment and course of action for which Englishmen in former days were distinguished. Such was the duty of every loyal man; but he maintained, that it was peculiarly the duty of those in high station, or possessed of great influence, to inculcate obedience to the laws. He had heard doctrines promulgated in that House, calculated to produce consequences, which he was convinced never were intended by those who uttered them. If Members of that House maintained, that in cases of supposed grievance, the resort to physical force was justifiable and even laudable, who could doubt that the very worst effects must be thereby produced upon the ignorant classes. The natural conclusion for such persons to draw from such doctrines was, that they also would be justified in avenging their fancied wrongs by physical force. He hoped, therefore, that at a time, when it was so easy to inflame, they would all see the necessity of being guarded in the expressions they used and the doctrines they set forth; and that they would remember that one of their first duties, as Legislators and Representatives of the people, was, to inculcate obedience to the laws.

Mr. Stanley

had hoped that, on such an occasion as the present, the feeling, not only of both Houses of Parliament, but of all loyal subjects, would have been in perfect unison, whatever might have been the individual differences in political opinion, and that no string would have been touched by any hon. Member, which was calculated to introduce a jarring feeling, or an interruption of that full current of harmony which they were about to pour forth before his Majesty. It was upon that account that, although not differing from the sentiments of the right hon. Baronet, he regretted the intermixture with their loyal expressions—their utter indignation, and deep abhorrence of the atrocious and treasonable attack upon his Majesty—of any sentiments which might lead, if the House were disposed to enter upon it, into a discussion of great political questions which had long distracted this country, and which had produced an excitement that, he agreed with the right hon. Baronet, it was the duty of every loyal subject to allay and assuage. It was impossible that any man could contemplate the atrocious attack on the Duke of Wellington without the utmost disgust—the utmost shame—if such conduct could be attributed to any large body of the public. No man could hesitate to say, that the attack on the noble Duke was most deeply disgraceful; and doubly disgraceful, when it was considered that it took place on the anniversary of that event which, while it permanently established the peace of Europe, added fresh laurels to the head of the conqueror, and from him reflected imperishable glory upon the country—a glory which every Englishman must be ashamed to think had been tarnished by throwing insult upon the Hero of Waterloo. But now they were looking to a higher character—to a higher and more sacred object—to one who, personally and constitutionally, had a claim upon the loyalty and affection of the people of England. No man could hesitate to declare, that the attack upon his Majesty had been most atrocious; and he, therefore, regretted that the right hon. Baronet had mixed up this question with political considerations with which it could not properly be connected. From both attacks the people of England shrunk with horror; no less from the attack on the noble Duke, the conquering hero of a hundred battles, than from that upon his most gracious Majesty, the father of his people, the constitutional Sovereign; whose situation personally, and whose public character, claimed alike the affection and the reverence of all Englishmen. The attack, however, upon his Majesty, was still more deeply to be reprobated; but he denied that there was anything of politics mixed up in it. It was the atrocious act of an individual; it originated in no political feeling; and he again regretted that the right hon. Baronet had introduced any allusion to politics, and expressed his conviction, that every body must look upon the act with the greatest abhorrence, and that the House could not fail to concur in its reprobation.

Sir Robert Peel

explained, that he never intended to say, or had said, that the attack upon the Duke of Wellington was of equal enormity with the attack upon the King. He had only intimated that each was referable to the same cause—namely, the political excitement which prevailed—not solely on account of the Reform Bill, but from a variety of concurrent causes on which he had not touched. He had said, and he now repeated it, that both those events ought to be a warning to them how they propounded doctrines, and used language, which might produce the worst effects upon the ignorant classes—effects which, he had no doubt, had not been intended by the persons who incautiously maintained the doctrines to which he referred. He denied that he had introduced any question of party or political feeling. It was true he had alluded to the hon. member for Middlesex. He remembered other occasions on which that Member had used language in his place in that House which had been misconstrued, and had produced effects which were greatly to be lamented. He remembered that, in November, 1830, when great excitement prevailed, the hon. Member had used the expressions which were before quoted in that House—namely, that the day of vengeance was come. Now, he asked, if a member for the metropolitan county told the people that they should resort to the use of physical force, if their grievances were not redressed, and boasted that the day of vengeance was come, could they wonder that an ignorant man should be misled by the promulgation of such opinions, and fancy that he had a right to vindicate his personal wrongs by physical force? He, therefore, once more urged upon the House, that these things should be a warning to them to be moderate in their language, and cautious in the doctrines they propounded.

Mr. Stanley

quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet in the sentiments he expressed, but only objected to the admixture of a political feeling with that expression of indignation at the assault, and congratulation to the Monarch on his escape, in which all men must agree.

Mr. Hume

said, that after the unfair attempt of the right hon. Baronet to join the recent attacks upon the Duke of Wellington and the King, with words used by him, he could not avoid making one remark. He had already, at the time, explained those words, and his explanation remained uncontradicted; it was, therefore, uncandid and illiberal for the right hon. Baronet, to again put an erroneous interpretation upon them. And as to the quotation respecting the words attributed to him in November, nobody could refuse to allow that he had always deprecated violence. If the right hon. Baronet objected to any phrase he had used, he ought in fairness to have moved at the moment that it be taken down. It was an illiberal attempt to make it appear to the country that there was a connexion between his words and the recent events. He felt as indignant at these attacks as any man could—they were most atrocious in themselves, and most deeply to be regretted from the time at which they were made.

Sir Charles Wetherell

said, that although his right hon. friend had been not less than four times castigated by the right hon. Secretary, for introducing the subject of the outrage on the noble Duke into this discussion, he was clearly of opinion, that this outrage was by no means foreign to the subject before them. That right hon. Gentleman had charged his right hon. friend with introducing party and political topics into this discussion. The only topic of this kind to which it was possible he could have alluded, was the Reform Question; and he would be satisfied to put it to the whole House whether his right hon. friend had come within 100 leagues of that topic, in anything he said to-night. But it was enough to raise such an inference that his right hon. friend had deprecated all encouragement, by Members in that House, in their speeches to the people, to make an appeal to physical force; for, if there were anything in which the right hon. Secretary for Ireland throve pre-eminently in debate, it was in dexterously and insidiously attributing to men what they had never said, or had never entered their minds. It reminded him of what George Selwyn had said, that an accomplished debater was a man who had the dexterity to charge his adversary with advocating doctrines he had never supported. Thus the right hon. Secretary, having adopted this practice, and having secured from those able Gentlemen around him their cheers, he went on swimmingly, assuming all along that his right hon. friend, the member for Tam-worth, was all in the wrong, and he, of course, in the right. The hon. and learned Member concluded by reprobating, in strong language, the cowardly attacks made in the last and this week, on the Duke of Wellington by the populace, goaded on to it, as they had been, he acknowledged, by language delivered, in different speeches of late, by persons in and out of Parliament; and by stating that he should, however, most cordially support the Motion for the Address.

Sir Francis Burdett

said, he felt so strongly on this subject, that he was unwilling to speak lest he might fall into the error he should deprecate in others. He had heard of these attacks with great regret. It was most deeply to be lamented that anybody could be found in England to commit an outrage upon the person of the Duke of Wellington, whose fame and whose reputation was a part of the public property, and whose name our children's children, to the most remote generations, could never hear without an overflowing feeling of gratitude. It was shocking, therefore, to think that there should now be persons in existence, at a period so little remote from the glorious actions and distinguished services of that great man, who could be guilty of such an abominable display of the vulgar malignity proper to their base natures. He should have thought that there was not a man in England capable of exhibiting himself in so horrible a character. And with respect to the wretched man who had assaulted his Majesty, if he were not absolutely a maniac, he must certainly be a strangely-excited individual. But this obnoxious conduct of his was no shame to the country; because any country might have the misfortune to give birth to such a person. The learned Gentleman opposite had, he thought, read a lecture rather to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) than to the right hon. Secretary (Mr. Stanley); and he concurred with the latter in regretting that the indignation which they all felt should be mixed up with any extraneous matter. He protested not only against the attacks alluded to, but against others of an even more atrocious description, which had not been alluded to, and which must excite disgust unutterable in every true-hearted Englishman—in every manly mind—he alluded to the vile, the loathsome, the execrable attacks, upon one whose sex, not less than her illustrious station, ought to have been her protection—the attacks upon an illustrious lady, who had been brought forward in a way most deeply disgraceful to Englishmen, and which made him doubtful and apprehensive where this incipient spirit of baseness might lead to. He had finished. He was anxious to stop at the point where all must concur. His only feeling of apprehension with respect to the Motion was, lest it might appear to give too much importance in the eyes of the people, and in the eyes of foreign powers, to an event which was only important from its reference to the highest quarter in the realm.

Mr. Croker

had heard the hon. Baronet with great pleasure. He agreed with him in every syllable he had uttered, except, perhaps, in some of the inci- dental arguments, which were hardly worth noticing. He was particularly glad that such observations had fallen from the hon. Baronet, who had, in the first instance, complained of his right hon. friend having unnecessarily introduced political subjects. But, in fact, the hon. Baronet had gone much further than his right hon. friend. Had his right hon. friend thought it necessary to allude to the brutal attacks that had been made by the Press on a personage whose sex and character, if not her station, ought to have protected her? No. He had alluded generally to the state of excitement which prevailed, and he left each man to draw his own conclusions from the particular atrocities which might have struck his mind. But the hon. Baronet followed this up, and alluded, with a feeling that did him honour, to attacks still more atrocious, as he had justly called them, than those before adverted to. He must say for himself, that he believed that the attack on his Majesty was the work of an individual maniac. He believed the wretch was mad. At least, if it were true that he professed to have assaulted his Majesty in order to obtain justice from the Directors of Greenwich Hospital, he was as mad as any man in Bedlam. But it did not follow that this conduct of his arose entirely from madness. Was not the mania stimulated, excited and directed by exterior causes? Was he not pursuing the same course with others, whom no one suspected of being mad? Was this the first insult which had been offered to his Majesty? Had he not read in the papers of the day, that his Majesty, in coming to town from his palace at Windsor, had been obliged to change the road by which his grandfather, his father, and his brother, had been wont to travel? And was it possible not to connect this with the other insult to his Majesty? He did not mean to connect them personally—he did not mean to connect the two sets of people. He only spoke as to the prevalence of the excitement which acted upon both—an excitement which, he maintained, it was the duty of all men, and especially of his Majesty's Ministers, to endeavour to allay; and certainly, not one word would he say which was calculated to increase it. There was one instrument of excitement—one provocative to such violences, to which he must call the attention of his Majesty's Ministers—he meant those detestable publications which were circulated in the streets, and forced even gratuitously, into the hands of passengers, and which excited to outrages on the King and Queen more horrible than that of which they were about to express their detestation. But this was not all: he had also heard that in a theatre of this town—and they all knew the effect of scenic representations on the people—there had been a representation directly tending to bring the King and Queen into odium; and, lest the application of the ridicule in the piece itself should not be sufficiently obvious, the play bills gave at full length the grossest libels upon the King and Queen. He held in his hand one of those play bills, and he ventured to say, a grosser libel never was published. He mentioned this as a warning to the Ministers. They might not have heard of this. He happened to have received the bill from a person who brought it from the theatre. They might not have seen it, though he certainly should think it strange that, in a well governed town, so gross and so public an outrage should have continued for so long a time unknown to the police and the Government. But to revert to the treasonable insult at Ascot. The act of this individual maniac was to be dealt with as the act of a maniac, but it was not on that account to be despised; for the nature of the disease of political maniacs was, to be excited by public events and public agitation. There was no instance in which such persons were not excited and urged forward by some great degree of public commotion, produced by agitation, by the Press, and by violent and gross attacks upon the King and Queen, and other high personages of the realm. Therefore, it was not irrelevant to connect these matters with the subject before them; and he hoped the Government would take them into consideration. It was not to be endured that while the wretched offender at Ascot was made the subject of public indignation and legal vengeance, those persons should not be visited with the highest penalty of the law, who, with no excuse of grievance or insanity, presumed, for base lucre, to make such gross and atrocious attacks upon the Sovereign and her Majesty, that they might fill their filthy house with the still filthier rabble. But, above all, he, at least, would not consent that the great agitators—the prime movers of all this commotion and sedition—should escape without notice or animadversion, while they were lavishing so much loyal indignation on the comparatively less important offence of one miserable madman.

Lord John Russell

thought, that on the present occasion it would have been well to avoid all allusion to words used on a former occasion by a Member of that House; because the contrary course could hardly fail to insure an intermixture of unpleasant and irrelevant matters with the subject under immediate consideration. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last had wisely abstained from all political or party allusions. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman respecting the noxious character of the libels in circulation. The only question was, how they were to be put down. He had observed with great regret, with pain, and with disgust, that the presence of their Majesties in the Capital had been accompanied with insult; and, particularly had he been affected with indignation at the vile attack directed against a person, illustrious by her rank, and deserving of all respect and regard from the character which she had maintained ever since she reached her present exalted situation. With regard to the libels in the street, he really knew not what course should be pursued. He feared that prosecution would only have the effect of giving them increased circulation. But as to the performance at the theatre, he had now only heard of it for the first time, and he had no hesitation in saving, that in this case, the law of the country ought not to permit such proceedings. He was told, however, that the theatre in question was not within the Lord Chamberlain's jurisdiction. He repeated, that this theatre ought to be visited with the execution of the law, and that such performances should not be suffered to exist, as being a disgrace to the British metropolis.

Mr. Croker

said, the theatre was an obscure one, under the jurisdiction of the Surrey Magistrates. He pledged himself that the play bill was as atrocious a libel on the King and Queen as ever was published, and he would take care to transmit it to the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Mr. Alderman Venables

said, it was only the lowest rabble who had attacked the Duke of Wellington in the city, and the assault on him had excited universal indignation.

Mr. Duncombe

stated, that the Dramatic Committee had had Davidge, the manager of the Coburg, before them, and that he had stated this bill was published during his absence from town, and that he had suppressed it on his return: the play alluded to was Tom Thumb. It was performed in the usual manner, and had not been by any means attractive in consequence of the play-bill. He understood, too, from what he considered good authority, that an illustrious Duke, * the object of one of these attacks, had gone in person to this theatre to witness the performance, and had returned perfectly satisfied that Tom Thumb there, was just the same as it was everywhere else.

Mr. Hunt

concurred in the Motion, but wondered very much at the speeches made by hon. Members opposite, when he remembered how they cheered when the Member who spoke last but one had alluded on former occasions to attacks upon the person and property of the Duke of Wellington. It was wrong, after having connived at the great excitement which had been produced in the public mind, to talk of paltry little publications, and pass over that great giant, The Times. He should feel that he acted most unworthily if he did not say, that the columns of The Times had been filled with articles tending to produce excitement. Had not Gentlemen opposite heard of the manner in which the King and Queen had been treated in going through Hounslow and Brentford? Had they not heard of the gross insults which they had received on their visit to the exhibition at Somerset House? Yet nothing was said of those matters then. If, therefore, they connived at those matters when they occurred, it was a little too late to express extraordinary astonishment at what had recently happened. Day after day there had been published attacks on the King and Queen in The Times. The King was accused of having been led by the Queen, and the most opprobrious epithets were used on the occasion. He should be ashamed of himself when he heard little publications * The illustrious Duke referred to in the text, is the Duke of Wellington; and in reference to Mr. Duncombe's remark, Mr. Croker in the course of the evening, took an opportunity of stating, that subsequent to Mr. Duncombe's making that remark, he had learned that the noble Duke had not seen the exhibition, or any other, at the same place. accused of creating excitement, if he did not say that The Times was much more culpable [a laugh]. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland might laugh; he congratulated him on being able to do so. To him it did not appear to be a laughing matter. He thought it a most dastardly and cowardly act to attack an individual, as the Duke of Wellington had been attacked, however unpopular he might be. But enough of excitement had appeared in The Times, without charging smaller publications. Did not The Times say it was possible the mob might tear the Duke of Wellington to pieces, as they had done De Witt? And was it not too bad to at tack little publications for exciting the people, when such articles had appeared in The Times? He very much regretted that such an insult should have been offered to the King, as that which had been offered to him yesterday. But his Majesty had been insulted elsewhere. An individual keeping the turnpike at Hammersmith, had offered his Majesty a gross insult in the presence of the Queen. But who was it that had brought his Majesty into such a state of unpopularity to be thus insulted and hissed? He hoped they would always be ready to denounce an attack upon an individual, whether that individual was the King or the Duke of Wellington. Such an attack was most disgraceful and cowardly; and he should consider himself as acting in a most dastardly manner if he did not do everything in his power to reprobate it.

Sir Edward Sugden

observed, with reference to the attack on the Duke of Wellington, that it was made by the lowest of the rabble. Several gentlemen came forward, and gave him their strenuous support; and the matter ended in a sort of triumph to his Grace, who was attended home with the greatest demonstrations of honour and respect.

Mr. Lamb

allowed that there were many publications which had laid themselves perfectly open to prosecution for libel; but the policy of prosecuting sometimes became very doubtful. With respect to the play performed at the Coburg, there was no alteration in the usual manner of performing it. So soon as the Magistrates at Bow-street heard of the circumstance, they sent for Mr. Davidge, and the piece was stopped. It was but justice, however, to Mr. Davidge, to say, that he had expressed his intention of stopping the piece before the interposition of the Magistrates.

Mr. Croker

repeated, that it was the commentary in the Bill which was the offence. That commentary went through the piece scene by scene, and song by song, and pointed out the parts which the writer supposed applicable to the King and Queen; so that, although the play might have been performed as usual, yet, by this commentary in the bill, it was rendered a most atrocious libel.

Mr. Lamb

said, that of course he could not be understood as vindicating the occurrence in question; he had merely adverted to the nature of it rendering the consideration of its prosecution a difficult question.

The Address agreed to; and it was ordered that the House of Lords should be informed of the concurrence of the House of Commons.

Lord Althorp and the other members of the conference immediately left the House for that purpose.