§ Sir William Molesworth
presented a petition from the inhabitants of the borough of Launceston, complaining of corporate abuses, and of the want of respectability in the persons composing the body of Aldermen in the 202 borough and praying inquiry into the subject. As an instance of the deficiency on the score of respectability, he would mention that the gamekeeper of the Duke of Northumberland had been appointed an Alderman, thereby presenting the singular junction of a preserver of game and an administrator of justice. Not withstanding the intention of the Reform Bill had been to diminish the interest of the noble Duke in Launceston, yet it was notorious that attempts had successfully been made to regain that influence, and Launceston was now as much a nomination borough as it was before the passing of the Reform Bill. He had felt it his duty to state thus much, as the petitioners felt deeply on the subject, and begged to move that the petition be referred to the Committee on Corporations.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
, after thanking the hon. Baronet for his courtesy in having communicated to him his intention of presenting this petition, observed, that though the petition stated amongst other things that the law had fallen into disrepute owing to the want of respectability of the Aldermen of the borough, yet not one fact or one instance of misconduct in any of the Aldermen was brought forward to prove the statement. The hon. Member had indeed said, that the Duke of Northumberland had appointed his gamekeeper to the office of Alderman; but he must inform the House that the individual alluded to was a person possessing considerable property in the borough, whose father and grandfather had both filled the office before him, and whose only crime was, that, being fond of shooting, the noble Duke had given him a deputation to shoot over his grounds, but the individual did not receive one shilling for his services. The petition also alleged, that the corporate funds, which were considerable, had been misapplied, but not a single instance of misapplication was stated. He did not believe the assertion, for, in the year 1831, when complaints were made in this respect to the Corporation, that body submitted to a full inquiry for any period that the parties thought proper. That inquiry was gone into by Mr. Pearce, an attorney, whose name appeared first to this petition, and another gentleman; and though they went back into the accounts for a period of upwards of twenty years, the result was that not a single instance of misapplication or abuse could be found. The petition was got up to serve electioneering purposes by Mr. Pearce, who had been the 203 agent of the defeated candidate at the last election. Mr. Pearce had formerly been a Tory, but changed his politics on the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill, and had been disappointed in his wishes to obtain the Aldermanic gown for himself. He considered the great part of the petition a most contemptible libel on the Corporation of Launceston; and though he protested against the accuracy of the statements it contained, he should not object to its being referred to the Committee on Corporations.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
regretted that the gallant General should have thought it necessary to attack a respectable gentleman like Mr. Pearce, who was not present to defend himself. The only charge that he (Mr. Buller) knew against Mr. Pearce was, that he had once been a Tory, but that stain he had wiped away by two or three years constant opposition to that party. With respect to the gamekeeper he had himself inquired into the circumstance, and had learned that the individual who had been alluded to received 50l. a-year from the Duke of Northumberland, and that this was his chief means of subsistence. He had been so informed by the opponent of the gallant General at the last election. He could also add, from the complaints which had reached him, that the Corporation of Launceston was the worst in Cornwall as to general character, and that there had been more complaints made against its honesty than against any other in the same district.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
held letters from most respectable persons in Launceston, which corroborated his statement as to the respectability and property of the alleged gamekeeper; and he again repeated, that the petition did not contain a single fact against that body, either as magistrates or corporators.
Petition referred to the committee on Municipal Corporations.