HC Deb 22 February 1833 vol 15 cc1129-32
Lord Althorp

then addressed the Speaker, and said, that before the House separated he wished to call its attention to a circumstance which had taken place in the early part of the evening. In the course of the debate upon the motion of the hon. member for Middlesex for a Select Committee to examine into and report upon the number of Members of Parliament who held offices, places, and emoluments under the Crown, some expressions had been used which, he understood, were likely to lead to those consequences which the House was always most peculiarly anxious to avoid. Under these circumstances, he offered himself to the notice of the House, without having had any communication with either of the hon. Members to whom he was now compelled more specifically to allude. But having heard the expressions used by the hon. member for Middlesex that evening with respect to such officers of the army as held seats in that House, he felt hound to state that those expressions cast a strong suspicion upon the motives by which those officers were actuated in their public conduct in that House. At the same time he felt bound to admit, that the hon. member for Middlesex had fairly stated, that he did not intend his expressions to have any individual application. Expressions of that kind, however, were calculated to excite feelings which led others to use expressions still more dangerous. In the course of the discussion, strong language had been used by an hon. and gallant Officer, the member for Glocester, and had been retorted by the hon. member for Middlesex. Under such circumstances, he (Lord Althorp) appealed to the hon. member for Middlesex himself. From long experience of the hon. Member's parliamentary conduct, he (Lord Althorp) was satisfied that he (Mr. Hume) bad not intended to give any man personal offence by the observations which he had employed he (Lord Althorp) was therefore confident that the hon. Member would express that feeling with respect to the words which he had uttered in throwing back the expressions of the gallant Officer with contempt.

Mr. Hume

I can have no hesitation in stating my recollection of what took place, and in showing how impossible it was for me to have intended personal offence to any individual. I stated certain circumstances, which I said excited suspicions in my mind, but I added, that I hoped that no expression of mine would give offence to any individual. The hon. and gallant member for Glocester, in referring to what I said, observed that such a dishonourable opinion as I appeared to entertain of the officers of the army must arise from a conviction on my part, that I should act so were I in their situation. That was imputing a motive to me—a course which, in itself, is unparliamentary. I then said, that I threw back the insinuation with contempt. Contempt was the word I used. It is a word that ought never to be used in Parliament, but it is often used, and, in my opinion, always improperly. I thought at the time that the hon. and gallant Officer, in throwing out an imputation against my motives justified me in using the expression which I did, but I meant nothing more by it than to set myself and my opinion, right in the opinion of the House; and I therefore appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, whether, after guarding myself as I did by stating, that I did not mean my expressions to have any individual application, the hon. and gallant Officer was right in imputing motives to me? I never wish to quarrel with any man—I never wish to give any man personal offence. Those with whom I have quarrelled most in this House, I have always met on the best terms on the other side of that door. Like lawyers, we have battled our points warmly, and sometimes, perhaps, angrily; but when the argument was over, our warmth subsided, and we met on friendly and amicable terms. I had no intention by ray observations this evening to offend any man, but in the heat of the moment I retorted with warmth, which, if not justifiable, may perhaps be considered excusable.

At the conclusion of this speech there was a loud cry for Captain Berkeley, but as he did not come forward, it was taken for granted that he had left the House.

The Speaker

was sure, that the House felt itself deeply indebted to the noble Lord for having done that which was so essential on the present occasion, and which, coming from an individual so peculiarly entitled by his station, his temper, and his character to interpose, was likely to bring the two hon. Members back to a right feeling that personal offence was not intended on either side. He regretted, that the hon. and gallant member for Glocester was not at that moment in his place. He was perfectly well aware of what the hon. member for Middlesex had stated, that in using the expression, he had not meant any personal offence to the hon. and gallant member for Glocester. He (the Speaker) had heard the expressions to which the noble Lord had referred, and he confessed that, if his memory did not fail him when he heard them, he took the meaning to be this—that the hon. Member should treat insinuations against himself with the same contempt with which insinuations supposed to be made by him were received at the other side. He (the Speaker) had not interfered at the time; he was generally backward in doing so, lest his interposition might tend to create the offence which he was anxious to prevent. The attention of the House having been called to the expressions, he must say, that they had been explained by the hon. member for Middlesex, who had declared that he had meant no personal offence against the hon. and gallant member for Glocester. With that explanation the House was satisfied, and if the House was satisfied, it appeared to him that the proudest and most gallant man that ever lived need not object to their decision. If what he now stated did not meet the feeling of the House, then the House would be justified in sending for the hon. and gallant member for Glocester, and taking those steps which the occasion might call for; but after what had passed, it appeared to him that the words of the hon. member for Middlesex, followed by the explanation he had given, could be construed only in that way which must relieve the most honourable mind from the impression, that a personal offence was intended.

Lord George Lennox

, if he might express the feelings of his hon. and gallant relative, would venture to say, that he was satisfied. If the opinion of the House, composed of Gentlemen of all ranks and of the different services, felt that the honour of his gallant relative was satisfied, his hon. relative would be willing to bow to the decision of the House. He regretted the language used by the hon. member for Middlesex. The hon. Member had said, first the gallant Admiral, and then that he did not mean the gallant Admiral, but the gallant Captain; and the hon. Member had made an apology to the House and not to the individual. The hon. Member had not intended, however, to insult or to make any personal attack on the gallant Captain, and he would say, in the gallant Officer's name, that he was perfectly satisfied.

Subject dropped.