§ Mr. Hume
presented a Petition, signed by 1,400 persons, most of whom were members of the Political Union at Aberdeen. The petitioners, after stating the abuses that existed under the old system, and in unreformed Parliaments, went on to express their opinion that the Reformed Parliament had not deserved the confidence of the people, by its tergiversation on the subject of the Malt-tax, and praying, therefore, that the House would take 634 measures for granting Universal Suffrage, Vote by Ballot, and Annual Parliaments.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he had never before originated an objection to a petition so as to prevent its reception by that House, and he did so on the present occasion most unwillingly; but, when a petition contained words so strong as were to be found in this petition, as for instance—"That the House had shown itself imbecile by its tergiversation on the subject of the Malt-tax,"—it was impossible to let the matter pass without some observation. That certainly was not a Parliamentary phrase; but it was intelligible enough, and he thought it an insult to that House.
§ Mr. Cobbett
must say, that he differed from the noble Lord. He saw nothing offensive in the phrase. Change was weakness, and weakness imbecility.
§ Lord Althorp
should like to ask the hon. Member whether, if he were accused of imbecility and tergiversation, he should not think himself insulted?
§ The Speaker
thought it his duty to call the attention of the House to another part of the petition, which had not yet been the subject of observation. In his opinion, the Chair would be very lax in the performance of its duty if it did not direct the attention of the House to passages like this:—"Reviewing the retrograde movements of all the machinery of the State during the past half century, and the consequent corruption in the most valuable of our institutions, during which period the seats of your honourable House, with one or two exceptions, have ceased to be occupied by persons identified in feeling or interest with the people, and whose voices have never been heard but in responding to the propositions of the Treasury Bench, and who, instead of representing the interests of the people, have represented only their own coffers." The petitioners, after drawing this, which they conceived to be a picture of that House, went on to declare that it had been, for the reasons they had stated, the cause of wars and taxes. This was an imputation of motive which, from one hon. Member 635 to another, would be disorderly, and certainly was so from a body of petitioners to that House. It was not only a gross insult, but a most groundless and untrue, and scandalous imputation.
§ Mr. Hume
was not sure that he correctly understood the Speaker. He did not think that these expressions applied to this Parliament. The petitioners spoke historically of past Parliaments. If he had thought there was anything that applied to this House, and was improperly worded, he would not have brought up the petition; but, looking at its statements as historically given, he had thought there was nothing objectionable in them. If, however, it was disorderly, he should only say, that he was sorry for having presented it, and should withdraw it.
§ The Speaker
did not see how the hon. Member could mistake the matter. The petition was not a historical petition, but contained a prayer against existing grievances, and stated, by way of preface, what was the character of the House of Commons,—that they had not done their duty; and inferred from thence, that the petitioners ought not to be satisfied with the present House of Commons.
At Mr. Hume's desire, the petition was read by the Clerk. In addition to the words already cited, it contained grossly offensive expressions regarding the King, and described the Ministers as the tools of an oligarchy, and the corrupt state of the preceding Houses of Commons as having been the causes of war, debt, and taxes.
thought that this petition was most disrespectful; and as he had been one who had supported the Ministers on the question of the Malt-tax, he thought he had a right as an individual to complain of it. He did so, likewise, because he knew the country, and the sort of men the petition emanated from. No wonder that such petitions should be sent up, when it was recollected, that such letters as that he was about to read were sent down to the men drawing them up. The hon. and gallant Member then read the following letter:—Bryanstone-square, Aug 3.Sir,—I shall have much pleasure in presenting the petition intrusted to my charge, and I shall also have pleasure in supporting its prayer. But the petitioners may depend on it, that this Parliament, if I judge by their proceedings heretofore, will do little to meet the just expectations of the people.636There appears, on the part of the Ministers, a determination to do as little as they can in the way of reform; and the Whigs and Tories seem, with that view, to act a very appropriate part.The one party, to keep some semblance of reforming the institutions, make some propositions, as in the Bill for Church Reform—and the Tories partly terrify them, and partly resist everything that is worth having.The whole, in fact, is humbug and mockery, and will so continue until the people show that they are in earnest, and are determined to have Reform.That letter, extraordinary as it might appear to the House, was signed "Joseph Hume," and was directed to the Secretary of the Political Union at Aberdeen.
§ Petition withdrawn.