, after observing that his object was not to punish the printer, but to get at the proprietors, moved that the Order of the Day for the attendance at the Bar of John Joseph Lawson, and James William Lawson, be read.
§ Mr. Methuen
rose for the purpose of moving, that the said Order be discharged. In taking this step, he was not actuated by any feeling of disrespect towards the hon. and learned member for Dublin, He had no doubt that the hon. and learned Member thought, that he was doing his duty in the course which he had pursued and was pursuing; but he (Mr. Methuen) also had a duty to perform as a Member of that House; and he felt most conscientiously, that he was called upon in the discharge of that duty, to object to the House being placed in a situation which might, perhaps, prove to be one of great difficulty; a situation which the House had always avoided to be placed in, whenever it was possible to avoid it; and which, he hoped, they would always continue to avoid, unless circumstances of an imperative nature should require them to dootherwise. Undoubtedly he did not think that they were at all called upon, on the present occasion, to place themselves in 68 that situation. And first, with respect to the propriety and expediency of calling the printer to the Bar. It was impossible that the printer could be the offending party. In one point of view, perhaps, the reporters might be termed the servants of the printer, for the time during which they were engaged; but they could not be considered as his slaves. Nor was it possible that the printer could compel those gentlemen to act in any way in which they might not choose to act. He begged leave also to observe, that the subject of this dispute did not originate within the walls of that House. It originated at a time when the hon. and learned member for Dublin was not acting in the capacity of a Member of Parliament, but in that of a private individual; and he must protest against their being called upon to interfere in any private dispute in which the hon. and learned member for Dublin might happen to be involved, and with Which that House could have nothing whatever to do. The hon. and learned Member complained of a breach of the privlleges of that House. But his proposition involved a strange coutradiction. How had a breach of the privileges of that House been committed? It was a breach of the privileges of that House to report their proceedings at all. But it was not of that that the hon. and learned Member complained. The hon. and learned Member complained not that the proceedings, of that House had been repotted, but that they had not been reported. He (Mr. Methuen) Was perfectly aware that the House had the power, and he thought properly had the power, of defending its own privileges. Their power in that respect was very great, and, therefore, it ought to be exercised with caution———'tls excellentTo have a giant's strength;But tyrannous to use it like a giant.He must say, that to resort to the privileges of the House in the present case, would be not merely an act of injustice towards the parties in question, but a most unwise and impolitic proceeding on the part of the House itself. The hon. and learned member for Dublin complained of partial reporting. But, Unless his (Mr. Methuen's) information was incorrect (and he was perfectly satisfied that it was not so), there was no Member in that House who had profitted so much from partial reporting as the 69 hon. and learned member for Dublin himself. He was given to understand that an Irish newspaper, called The Tralee Mercury (the hon. and learned Member smiled; but he (Mr. Methuen) had no doubt that the information which he had received on this subject was perfectly correct)—and three Dublin papers—of course he did riot suppose that they were employed by the hon. and learned Gentleman—throughout the whole of the present Session, had reported fully the speeches of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, but had not given a word of the triumphant answers made to those speeches by the right hon. Gentleman, who was now the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department. That this was true he had been informed on excellent authority. If so, it was impossible for him to suppose but that the hon. and learned Member must have Seen those papers. But the House had not had any complaint of partial reporting on that account. One word with respect to the reporters. He did not mean to justify the course which they had taken. But human nature was frail; and he put it to the House whether the Words which had been used by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, "deliberate falsehood," were not calculated to rouse all the warmest feelings of a man and a gentleman. He had made inquiry into the character of those gentlemen; and he had good reason to believe that they were gentlemen of education and integrity; many of them had been brought up to the Bar; and there were many and proud instances of individuals of the body having risen to high and well deserved honours. At the same time that he thought it exceedingly impolitic on the part of the hon. and learned member for Dublin to bring forward this question, he also thought it exceedingly unnecessary, as every hon. member must feel how great the pressure of public business was at the present moment. And after all the attention which had been bestowed during the Session to the consideration of Irish affairs, he really did not think that the hon. and learned member for Dublin was entided to take up their time with the consideration of his private quarrels. He lamented, therefore, the proposition which had been made to the House. Coming from the hon. and learned member for Dublin, it especially surprised him, for 70 to him it appeared to be an act of tyranny, and there was no man in that House who had the word "liberty" more frequently on his lips than the hon. and learned member for Dublin. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would give one practical proof of his love of liberty, by consenting to discharge the present Order of the Day, before the House went to a division upon the question, he would do more to gratify the real lovers of liberty than by all the declamation in the world. He must apologise to the House for having detained them so long. He disclaimed all feelings of a personal nature. He wished that, consistently with his sense of duty, he could have avoided the task which he had undertaken; but he could not consent to allow the House to be brought into a situation of difficulty, from which it might find it exceedingly difficult to extricate itself.
§ Mr. Robinson
had great pleasure in seconding the Motion for the discharge of the Order of the Day. He agreed with the hon. Member who had just spoken, that, whatever might be the case at present, this dispute originated in an occurrence with which that House was in no way connected, and which in no way involved any of their privileges. Without, therefore, vindicating in the slightest manlier the course which had been pursued by the Reporters, he was perfectly prepared to say, that in his opinion the House would take a very unwise course, if it were prevailed upon to adopt the proposition made to it by the hon. and learned member for Dublin. It was the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman to call the proprietors of one of the London newspapers to the Bar, for reporting the proceedings of that House. It was impossible for him (Mr. Robinson) to deny that that was a breach of privilege. But he begged to ask the hon. and learned member for Dublin with what propriety he could proceed to punish the proprietors of one of the papers, without following up that proceeding by calling all the proprietors of all the papers to the Bar, for they were all equally guilty? He knew that the House had occasionally pursued the course recommended by the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He believed that the last time at which a question of this sort had been brought before the House was in 1771, when the House was prevailed upon to summon the printer and 71 publisher of two papers, in which a report of the proceedings of the House had appeared. And although there was at that time no question, any more than there was now, that it was a breach of the privileges of that House, the consequence was that the proceeding (proposed, he believed, by Colonel Onslow) involved the House on the 8th of February in a perplexity, from which it was unable to disentangle itself before the 30th of April. Gentlemen might indeed well smile. But the period to which he alluded was filled up with angry debates, to the complete interruption of public business, and leading to popular commotion, and eventually to the commitment of two Members of that House to the Tower; and the House was glad to get out of the business by means not altogether consistent with the maintenance of its dignity. The complaint made by the hon. and learned member for Dublin was, not that he had been reported, but that he had not been reported. He (Mr. Robinson) did not mean to defend the course which had been pursued by the newspapers towards the hon. and learned Gentleman. But if the hon. and learned Gentleman had not been reported, how many hon. Members might make the same complaint? And although the hon. and learned Gentleman might suppose that he had great claims to peculiar attention in the reports of Parliamentary proceedings, he (Mr. Robinson) must beg leave to remind the hon. and learned Member, that it was important for the humblest Member in the House to have his sentiments reported, with reference to his constituents, and to enable him to justify the course which he pursued in that House. One of the hon. and learned Gentleman's complaints was, that a speech of his had been put into a single line. Why, he had seen three speeches huddled together in the most extraordinary manner in a single line; but the Members who were so treated, had not thought it worth their while to make any complaint upon the subject. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not be prevailed upon to adopt the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition. Every other hon. Member in that House, as well as the hon. and learned member for Dublin, was liable to have his sentiments misstated by accident or mistake. For he cordially concurred in the opinion, that not only were the reports of the debates in that House given with 72 wonderful fidelity, but that their general accuracy was quite surprising. Of all men in that House, the hon. and learned member for Dublin was the last who ought to have made any complaint upon this subject. He (Mr. Robinson) implored the House to consider well before they agreed to the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion; for he was convinced, that if they adopted it they would find themselves in a situation which would neither add to the dignity of their proceedings nor elevate their own character out of doors.
had heard the speech of the hon. member for Wiltshire with very considerable surprise. When he commenced the controversy he had complained that the reports of the present Session were to his own knowledge exceedingly defective, and to his knowledge also designedly false; and then the kindness of the hon. Member induced him to applaud him ["No, no," from Mr. Methuen.] He understood that hon. Member had said as much as that he was misreported.
had thought that was the case. The hon. Member had, however, said he (Mr. O'Connell) had some control over the Tralee Mercury.
§ Mr. Methuen
I declare I did not say so. I said—but I am in the recollection of the House, and will not repeat it.
said, he had heard the hon. Member say so, if the House did not. But the Tralee Mercury had nothing to do with it.
§ Mr. Methuen
observed, that what he had said was, that the hon. and learned Member's speeches were reported in that paper and not the speeches of his opponents.
said, with respect to the three Dublin papers, only one of them had a reporter in London, and that paper was opposed to him. As for himself he should be glad to see all he said published, if it were but done fairly. The hon. Member said truly, that none spoke more in favour of liberty than he did. It was because he had liberty in his heart. But there was a despotism and a tyranny exercised towards this House, and on the part of hon. Members there was a shrinking which he was sorry to see. It was because he hated despotism that he was determined to persevere, and he would persevere, until the present privileges of the House were so 73 ludicrous, that no man would afterwards talk of the dignity of the House. When he used the term "designedly false," it was at a public meeting, at which reporters were present, and might have contradicted him if they had pleased—he would have taken care to get them a hearing. They had all the newspapers at their command, and might have contradicted him and assailed him in any way they pleased. The cause of the quarrel was out of the House, but the reporters had attacked him by declaring (as was stated in The Times) that they would not report what he said in that House. By the privileges of the House, no publication could take place, except by the permission of the Speaker, nor could any evidence of Committees of the House be published without his permission. He (Mr. O'Connell) should be very glad that the Debates of that House should go fully abroad, but then they should also be under the correction of the Speaker. It was not right that reports of what was said in that House should be incorrect; they ought to be correct if given at all. If papers went on publishing the business of Parliament, and that incorrectly or falsely, the only remedy was to prevent all reporting. An hon. Member had spoken of the infringement of the liberty enjoyed under sufferance by the Press: he should like to be told if it was necessary he should submit to the infringement of his liberty. The King could not control the liberty he enjoyed; nor could the House of Lords nor the Judges control it; and he would ask the House if it would permit this system of reporting to establish itself as a higher tribunal than that of the King, Lords, and Commons, or the laws of the land? The power possessed by the Press at present was such as it ought not to possess. It had been accumulated by a monopoly of the Press, arising out of excessive taxation, and to so great an extent, that it required a fortune to establish anything in competition. This monopoly was now become a most domineering aristocracy, and it was said, that nothing could put it down; but he had put his hand to the business, and he would try. The reporters boasted that they had succeeded in putting down some of the greatest men the country had produced, that they had overcome a member of the present Administration—nay, that they had overcome the Lord Chancellor himself, and they added to the list the 74 names of Tierney and Wyndham, the last of whom had conciliated them at the end by a dinner. But they should not put him down, and that they would find. It was said, that the time of the House had been taken up with Ireland; but what blessings had the House conferred upon her? She had rather cause to regret than appreciate those attentions. He would have the House not to be misled on this question; but calmly to consider that if its proceedings were not fairly reported in any paper, that that paper was not worthy the sufferance of reporting at all. He wanted to know who were the managers of The Times, the reporters or the proprietors. He would persevere, therefore, in the course he had entered upon, and would not abandon it till he had put an end to that tyranny which domineered over the House and the country.
said, that on several occasions he had found it necessary to differ from the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and the present occasion was one of that number. He was surprised that the hon. and learned Member should place so humble an estimate upon his own character in this matter. He recollected having once heard a friend of his make use of a very strong assertion respecting the hon. and learned member for Dublin—he had said, that he conceived, that the hon. and learned Member had rendered more signal services to his country than the King, Lords, and Commons. Now, he never saw an occasion on which a Gentleman had so far forgotten the situation which he held in the estimation of his fellow countrymen as the hon. and learned Gentleman had just done. When the hon. and learned Gentleman placed himself in opposition to the reporters, he surely could not have looked back upon his own career; a character like his was not at the mercy of the reporters. Gentlemen of character inferior to that of the hon. and learned Member were not at their mercy. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed greatly to overrate the power and influence of the newspapers. The power and influence of a newspaper consisted in its fidelity and accuracy of information, and even The Times, potent as it was, would lose all its present power and influence if it ceased to remember its duty to the public. He should not himself have had the power of addressing the House at all had it de- 75 pended upon that newspaper, for it had advocated his defeat upon two distinct and separate occasions. Indeed, The Times and the Morning Chronicle had advocated the cause of every candidate who bad been defeated since the last general election. Did not that circumstance prove that those papers had no influence save when their power was exercised with justice? They had recently been advocating the claims of an hon. Member of that House to a judicial office in the city of London. Every one who knew the character of that hon. Gentleman knew that he had every qualification to deserve success. He had failed, however, in consequence he believed of their recommendation, in carrying his election, and been triumphed over by a gentleman of much inferior ability. He regretted very much, when, about a week ago, the hon. and learned member had alluded to the conduct of the reporters towards him, he regretted it, he repeated, very much; yet he thought that it was possible that public good might arise from it. He regretted for the sake of his hon. and learned friend, that he had entered into such a contest with any body of men, and he said this without wishing to depreciate the body with whom the hon. and learned Member was contending. He thought that his hon. and learned friend had forgotten the situation which he held in the public mind. He thought that it would be necessary for the House to consider the nature of their privileges, which placed it at the absolute will of any individual Member to exclude strangers from the gallery. Some of them were quite obsolete, especially that which left this power at the caprice and will of any Member. The remedy for the partiality at present complained of would be found in the removal of those taxes on knowledge which the noble Lord on the other side of the House had censured when in opposition, and had promised to repeal. He thought that competition in literary affairs, as well as in commercial and other public affairs, unembarrassed by taxes, would ensure to the public a due report of the proceedings of that House. He did not consider this as a contest between the hon. and learned member for Dublin and the Press, for the public had an interest as well as the newspapers in having the speeches of its Representatives well reported. The vanity of Members might be consulted in 76 the reports of their speeches, (he was aware that he himself made very bad ones)—the report of those speeches might not be of interest—still, however, he thought it incumbent that the arguments of the leading men in that House, and especially of one who had created for himself an historical memory, should be conveyed with fidelity to the public. He therefore, suggested, with all deference to the hon. and learned Member, that he should allow this matter to pass off. No newspaper could long venture to omit the hon. and learned Member's speeches. He therefore would support the proposition of the hon. member for Wiltshire for the withdrawal of the present Motion. He would move, at some future stage, a substantive Motion that the power of clearing the gallery upon the Motion of a single Member should be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, the hon. and learned member for Dublin had placed himself and the House in a false position, for he had forgotten that the Members sat there under the fiction, that nobody saw them—nobody heard them there. The complaint here was, not that the printers of The Times had violated the privileges of that House, but that they had not violated them. They had not intimated their intention of publishing what hon. Members said; on the contrary, they had declared that, so far as the hon. and learned member for Dublin was concerned, they would never commit a violation of the privileges of the House by publishing his speeches. Now, was not that the sum and substance of the complaint of the hon. and learned Gentleman? It had been stated by the hon. member for Worcester, that this inconvenience had befallen many of the Gentlemen who then heard him. It certainly had befallen him that what he had said a few days ago—he did not complain of it—upon the East-India question, had not gone forth. In the last fortnight he had spoken half a dozen times, and all notice of what he had said had been omitted in the reports. He did not complain of this, for the fact was, that it was physically impossible, that in the space allotted to different matters of this kind in a newspaper, such as foreign correspondence, law reports, and commercial information, you could bring together all that was necessary and desirable for every class of readers. 77 Those, therefore, who had to administer to the taste of all must be permitted to make a selection. Ladies, as well as gentlemen, were purchasers of newspapers. Some of them took them in for the birthday dresses, and thus it often happened that debates of importance to the country were sacrificed to make way for the description of a milliner's finery. The hon. member for Dublin, he repeated, had placed himself in an awkward situation. If the printer were at the Bar, was it possible for the Speaker, however great his parliamentary knowledge was, to devise a formal speech to place before him the nature of the offence which he had committed? The printer was not the offender. The offenders were the reporters; but he was perfectly sure that the object of the present motion was to punish them, not for a breach of privilege which they had committed, but for a breach of privilege which they had not committed. The hon. and learned Member had said, that they were now living under the irresponsible despotism of the reporters. He hoped, that those who knew him did not suppose that he was a man likely to submit to such despotism. He hoped, that the House would recollect that some time ago he had attacked, not these reluctantes dracones, the reporters, but the editors of the papers themselves. He had attacked those, who commented on the proceedings of the House, and who had called a certain portion of them the lacqueys of the Peers. He felt for one, that he did not deserve such language, and, therefore, he had deemed it his duty to bring the editor of The Times to the Bar of that House. He should never shrink from doing that which he conceived to be his duty, nor from bringing those who attacked the privileges of Parliament in that way before its Bar. He agreed in the suggestion of the hon. member for North Wiltshire, for he felt, that, if the present Motion were carried, and the printer placed at their Bar, the House would see the same thing occur again, which the hon. member for Worcester had told them occurred sixty years ago, and thus the rest of the Session be wasted, not in compelling individuals to conform to the rules of the House, but in compelling them to violate all those rules systematically. Now, he thought, that, in a case like this, the House ought to adopt the least difficulty. He had seen The Times of that day, and he had read in it 78 a letter from the individual who had been attacked by name on Friday last. The gentleman in question he had never seen, but he had made reference to his friendship with Sir James Mackintosh; and when he said, that any man who was honoured with the friendship of Sir James Mackintosh, might be considered as the equal of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he meant no offence to him. He repeated, that he had never seen that individual, but if it were as he said, that he was the friend of Sir James Mackintosh, he was equal to any Gentleman in that House, and, therefore, some allowance ought to be made for the irritated feelings of such a man. When he was informed that the hon. and learned Member had stated, that he had performed his duty in an improper manner, and had stated that which was false—
§ Sir Robert Inglis
Well, be it as the hon. Member said; still great allowance must be made for the irritated feelings of that gentleman. The offence which the hon. and learned Gentleman gave was not given in the exercise of his parliamentary privileges, but had occurred in a speech which he had delivered elsewhere. Whilst the words "parliamentary privilege" was in his mouth, he could not help looking back to the case of Sir Francis Burdett. He could not but feel that the privileges of that House—which authorized them to attack private persons, and then to act as judges in their own cause, which authorized them to punish summarily all libels upon themselves, and to vent, without fear or shame, libel upon others—were privileges which ought to be exercised with great caution. Whilst the House retained the power of punishing men thus summarily for libels on its proceedings, it should be cautious how it proceeded in defending language which attacked the character and livelihood of those who were as entirely gentlemen as any Member of the House. In using that language he trusted that he was not yielding to the despotism of the Press—he hoped that he should not be considered as conciliating its favour; but the House was in a difficulty, and the hon. and learned Member had placed it in that difficulty; and though he saw some difficulty ill the course proposed by the hon. member for North Wiltshire, so far as it regarded the hon. and learned Member, 79 he should support the less of two difficulties which now presented themselves to their consideration.
§ Mr. Harvey
thought that, notwithstanding the suggestions which had been offered to the House, there was a difficulty in this question not easily to be surmounted. The substantive matter of this complaint was two-fold—it involved a great public as well as a personal principle; with the public principle he would not deal at present; but so far as the matter was personal, he would say, that after having read the statement of Mr. Eugene Nugent, and heard the charge of Mr. O'Connell, he considered that no difficulty could present itself to their considering it. There was nothing to do but to have the discussion on it referred—and he thought that it might easily be referred—to any of the Gentlemen who had just addressed the House; for, after all, it was a personal question, and nothing but a personal question; and if he were expected, in common with all the Members who then heard him, to adjudicate on the subject, he should look upon it in that light, and in no other. As there had been an appeal made to the House with great candour by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and as the accusation which had been made by him had been repelled in terms which were equally unequivocal by the party accused, who stated that he was as incapable of such misconduct as the party who accused him, the adjudication must turn on the truth of their respective statements. It had been well observed by the hon. and gallant member for Westminster, that good frequently sprung out of inconvenience; and though he agreed that it might be impossible to report verbatim all that occurred in that House, the mere circumstance of attempting it would soon work its own cure; for if every Member were to address the House under the conviction that every word which he uttered in the House would appear the next morning in the newspapers, no course could be so effective; and instead of having many Gentlemen complaining that the reporters had not done them sufficient justice, and upbraiding the reporters for not having reported them at length enough, they should have them moving that the masters of those reporters be called to the bar for sending forth their sentiments to the world too amply. For his own part, he had never had any personal communication 80 with the reporters; he had never on any occasion corrected his own speeches; and he had had occasion to think, that a slight measure, and only a slight measure, of justice, had been dealt out to him. He did not, however, complain. He recollected that he had once had occasion to communicate with a reporter, in consequence of a note which one of them had written to him for certain documents connected with his speech on the Woods and Forests. He had gone into the gallery, and in a small ante-room he found several of them together. He was induced to ask them how it happened, that speeches which he read in the morning had so little coincidence in point of extent with the speeches he heard over night, and one of them answered him, and he believed that there was great good sense in the observation; "Do you wish the newspapers to write themselves down? If we stated to the public one-half the nonsense"—he believed that was the word—"which is spoken in that House, we should soon write ourselves out of existence"; and his experience had subsequently led him to concur in the correctness of that reply. His hon. friend, the member for Sheffield, had suggested that great advantage would be derived if the speeches of hon. Members were limited to a quarter of an hour's duration. He thought that a good suggestion. It might be done by the Chairman, whose despotism they all willingly acknowledged, having a glass at one side of him and a bell at the other, and by the fourth estate, whose despotism they all refused to recognize, having a similar chronometer near them. Then, with the exception of the opening speeches of the hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial benches, who were supposed to be all orators as well as statesmen, and with the exception of hon. Gentlemen who thought it necessary to redeem themselves in the opinion of their constituents by an opening speech in redemption of their pledges at the hustings—with the exception, he repeated, of these great opening displays, if all other Members were reduced to limit their speeches to a quarter of an hour, he was sure that they would be better thought of by the reporters, and would appear better in the mirror of their debates. "I should therefore recommend (said the hon. Member) that you, Sir, should have an hour glass by the side of your chair, or rather a glass for a quarter of an hour, on one side of your chair, and a 81 bell on the other, that when the quarter of an hour had elapsed by your glass, you should touch your bell, and then, if the papers contained a similar memorial to that inserted now, when the hour of three o'clock comes, and when the Speaker is said on that account to leave the Chair—no matter what may be the importance of the subject—why then, Sir, when any hon. Member was in the highest flights of his oratorical fancy, he would at once be let down, on the assurance that his sand had run out. These are the considerations that strike my mind on the subject now immediately before us. As far as the principle of the matter is concerned, I should beg leave to offer a suggestion, which I trust will not be the less acceptable because it is novel. I have no doubt that my hon. and learned friend thinks he has cause to complain: he says, 'Let me have a hearing—give me a Committee, and I will show that I have been wilfully misrepresented.' If so, why let him have his Committee, and the matter will drop there. If the charge is made out, Mr. Nugent will not stand quite as well as I could wish; and we may send our compliments to Mrs. Brodie, and say that her gentleman has not conducted himself as he ought. His connexion with the House, that is, his connexion with the paper, would cease. Though I think, Sir, that this question, as a personal question, ought to be thus got rid of, yet, with respect to the other part of the question, I think we should, adverting to our own character, preserve that character more pure, and add to the dignity of our deliberations, if we could rid ourselves of our habit of talking, and confine ourselves to the substance, and length will then be no longer the test of merit. Now, however, it is so—for whenever an hon. Member is speaking on a particular subject, and I am coming down to the House and meet some hon. Gentleman coming up from it, and I ask who is speaking and how—the answer often is, 'Oh, pretty well—he has only been speaking forty minutes.' The length of a speech is now the test of its excellence. I do not think it ought to be. In my mind he is the greatest man who is able to put the greatest number of facts in the fewest words, and occupy the House for the shortest time. If that were the test for us, I think we should show our good sense more than we do now, and we should not have reason to be alarmed 82 with the prospect of the Session lasting till September."
Sir Matthew White Ridley
wished to relieve himself from the apparent inconsistency of now voting against a measure he had formerly supported. He should do so because, as the case now appeared, it did not seem to him to be one for the interference of the House. The expression of their sentiments by the reporters for The Times had reference to what the hon. and learned member for Dublin had stated elsewhere, and not in that House, as he had at first understood. The hon. and learned Member had stated, that the reporters had mirepresented him. He thought that, if that was a statement made in that House, that no person should presume to call on the hon. Member for words uttered in that place—but when he found that they alluded to a circumstance which had taken place at a tavern dinner, he thought that, calling on him in respect of words so uttered, was not a breach of privilege. That they were unwise in determining not to report the speches of the hon. and learned member he did not doubt; but, under the circumstances he had stated, he was at a loss to conceive that what they said could be construed into a breach of privilege; and he was at a loss to know how their determination could be met by that House. He should, therefore, vote against the Motion.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
said, that the excellent speech of the hon. Member near him (Mr. Harvey) was such as might have been expected from him if he had been Counsel for The Times in a Court of Law, and had had a brief to defend the paper; but he must say, that he did not think the hon. Member had treated the subject with great good sense. No doubt the hon. Member would be rewarded for the exhibition of to-day—he would be described as having sensibly and judiciously addressed the House; and no doubt, too, it would be stated, that the hon. Member had sat down amidst loud and long-continued laughter and cheering; and the hon. member for Dublin would have his speech compressed into one line. If anything whatever were reported of him, his speech would no doubt be represented in one line, and use would be made of the editorial power to crush him. It was not the question whether reporters should be allowed to report in that House, but whether they should have a power to 83 exercise as they pleased in suppressing the speeches of hon. Members. In his mind the suppressio veri was equal to the suggestio falsi. It was as bad that an individual should depend on their caprice as to whether they would insert his speeches or not, as it would be if they put into his mouth words which he had never uttered. He did not wish to curtail the privileges of the Press; but it was most important that Members of that House, who were not sufficiently strong to bear up against this despotism, should be supported. The question would be set at rest by their vote on this evening; if they negatived the Motion, the House could not again assert its privileges. He implored them to negative the proposition, but at that very moment they would bind themselves permissively to throw open that gallery to the public. He was free to admit that the public should be admitted; but as the matter now stood they must remember that if they negatived the proposition, they could not again exercise the power now invoked, nor ever again bring a printer to the Bar of that House. They might say that the time was now come when these matters ought to be free from the exercise of all arbitrary power. In that he agreed with them; but while the Standing Order was on their books, he did not see how they could negative the Motion.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that, having been the person who had seconded this Motion, he trusted he should be indulged with the opportunity of stating the view he took of this question. He was not sorry for the difficulty they were now placed in. He had before pointed out the folly of the regulation; but he had been answered, that every rule of that House was founded in true wisdom, and that the check which the Standing Order gave them on the proceedings of the Press ought not to be removed. What was the hon. and learned member for Dublin now doing? Why, he was keeping up the regulations of that House. Was it fit they should be kept up? He said no; and yet there was no mode of showing their absurdity but the manner in which the hon. Member had acted. It was not a question of getting rid of the regulations; but the question was, whether that rule, which gave the power to a single individual to call a person who published their Debates to the Bar of that House, should be acted on. He thought it should not; and the way 84 to get out of the difficulty was, to adjourn this question, to bring their standing rule under the consideration of a Committee, and to withdraw it; and then no one could again place the House in this position. If they chose to waive the question of publishing their Debates, which he thought it was wise they should do, then he asked, whether they did not desire that their Debates should be honestly and fairly given? He would not enter into the personal question between Mr. Nugent and Mr. O'Connell. The question for the consideration of the House stood upon broad public grounds; and if the House desired that their Standing Order should be maintained, his hon. and learned friend might go on, and deprive the public of knowing anything which passed in that House, He apprehended, that if they went on under this order they must exclude all or none. Either they must not allow their Debates to be published at all, or they must allow every person to come in, and then they could have no right to complain. Let them repeal their own Standing Order, and leave the newspapers. He wished to mention a matter which he had just heard. It was this, some of their Debates had been lately very much curtailed. The reporters were occupied in the other House, and that accounted for the shortness of some of their Debates. He appealed to the noble Lord opposite, whether it would not be better to adjourn this question, to take the Standing Order into consideration, to annul it, and to leave the question open. Then, let an authorised reporter be appointed to give their Debates. That scheme appeared to him practicable; but the idea that the hon. member for Dublin should give up his Motion, while the Standing Order remained, was preposterous.
§ Mr. Bannerman
wished to make a short statement on behalf of the reporters of the Morning Papers. He desired to say, on their behalf, that they denied most positively the charges of wilful misrepresentation brought against them by the hon. member for Dublin, and they confidently appealed to that House for the truth of that denial; at the same time they were aware of the inconvenience that arose from the resolution of suppressing the speech of any Member, and they had only adopted it for the purpose of enabling them to procure a public contradiction in that House of the charges brought against 85 them by the hon. member for Dublin. He should now only add, that he was glad to see the hon. Member was beginning to break the neck of newspaper monopoly, by entering into competition with them himself, and beginning to be a newspaper proprietor; and if the hon. Member would withdraw the present Motion, he would subscribe to the paper.
denied, that he had had or should have anything to do with being the proprietor of a newspaper.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that it would well become the House to consider, before they took the first step, to what it must lead. At the same time he perfectly saw the nature of the complaint. The hon. and learned Member admitted, that the privileges of that House were not observed by the reporters—that they connived at the non-observance of them—that he was ready to acquiesce in that non-observance; but then he insisted that the reports should be impartially given. The question, however, was, whether the course the hon. Member proposed to pursue, would enforce that impartiality. The hon. and learned Gentleman had skilfully tried to prevent any man from taking a different view of the subject from himself, by calling that difference of opinion "a shrinking." He did not know whether he (Sir Robert Peel) was to be accused of shrinking under the despotism; but he certainly differed from the hon. and learned Gentleman on this subject. For himself, he had been unpopular with almost all parts of the Press, but at the same time nothing had deterred him from stating what was true. He had been twenty years in Parliament, and he had never had reason to complain of any wilful misrepresentation, or omission amounting to anything like a misrepresentation; and he had never had any communication with the gentlemen who reported the Debates, beyond once or twice furnishing them with documents which he had referred to in the course of his speech. He thought, on the whole, looking at the necessity of having these reports, both in that and the other House of Parliament, considering the intention of supplying the public with a general transcript of what took place in the two Houses, that the 86 task thus undertaken was performed with great impartiality and fidelity. He would mention another circumstance. He had been in office fifteen years, and he had never received any communication directly or indirectly from any gentleman connected with the newspapers—and he thought it highly creditable to the body—asking for a single favour, on condition of placing his speeches in a favourable light. Whatever testimony, therefore, he bore to their conduct, had this recommendation, that it was completely impartial. He must say, when the hon. and learned Member stated himself to possess a power in that House which should not be controlled by King, Lords, or Judges, the hon. Member ought to recollect, that because he did possess such a power, for the exercise of which he was completely irresponsible, he should use it temperately. If the hon. Member spoke of the whole body of reporters as giving his speeches not only not correctly, but in a manner decidedly false. [Mr. O'Connell only alluded to The Times.] He must be allowed to speak from his recollection—the charge was general.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Then why did the hon. and learned Member first bring forward a Motion against The Morning Chronicle? He understood that there were forty or fifty reporters, some of them holding commissions in the Army and Navy, several at the Bar, most of them having received an academical education, and occupying, therefore, the situation of gentlemen. They naturally felt sore at the imputation of "designed, deliberate falsehood." He was bound to say this in their vindication. At the same lime he could not think that any wrong they might endure from the hon. and learned Member could justify them in suppressing his speeches. They were, though not officially or publicly recognised as such, yet they were, in fact, public servants—they entered into an implied engagement, of fidelity in their reports, not only with that House, but with the public; and whatever wrong they might have reason to complain of from an individual Member, they ought to recollect that they had a paramount duty to discharge to that House and the public, and ought not to make a private quarrel with any individual a pretext for the neglect 87 of that duty. If the hon. and learned Member would only pause awhile, he would have complete justice rendered him. What was the volume to which he had referred?—It was The Mirror of Parliament. Did he complain of that?—No. The reporters for that publication had not entered into any resolution to suppress his speeches; and a month would not elapse without that or another publication being more sought after; or some other newspaper would be established, and do justice to the hon. Member. The Motion was, that the printer should be brought to the Bar. It was material to consider what would take place when he came there. The charge against him would be perfectly intelligible—namely, that he had not given a fair and full report of the debates. It savoured rather of a Jest to say, as had been said, that the complaint would be, that the reporter had not violated their privileges. The complaint would be, that professing to report their debates, he did not act impartially. But what assurance could they exact from him? A promise that he would publish all the debates correctly. Would it be possible, as their Orders now stood, to exact such an assurance? Could the Speaker require from the reporter a pledge that he would fairly and impartially report debates—the reporting of which at all was a manifest breach of the privileges of that House? The hon. Gentleman had the power in his own hands—he might clear the gallery; and if he did anything, that was what he ought to do. The hon. Member said he would do it; then let him do it manfully in the first instance. They were about to call before them one proprietor of a newspaper. Observe what would be the consequence of their embarking on this perilous voyage. The hon. Member said, he would inquire whether the reporters were masters or servants; and if servants, he should insist on their dismissal by the proprietors who employed them. He threatened to begin with The Times newspaper, and pursue the same course with all the others. Was this a very seemly contest for the House of Commons to engage in? Was it fitting that the House should undertake to prescribe to newspaper proprietors whom they might or might not employ as reporters? The hon. Member might delight in such contests, but the House had better pause before they committed themselves as parties to them. The hon. Member, if 88 he wished to resort to the step of stopping the publication of the debates, had only to do that which had been done before—to notice the presence of strangers in the gallery, and exclude them. That was the natural and proper course. In his opinion the hon. Gentleman would be better advised; if he would pause altogether, he would shortly find ample justice done to him by competition—by desire to supply the public with information. He, for one, should object to the House of Commons being brought into collision with the editors of newspapers. By attempting to dictate to them the mode of managing their concerns, and the persons they were to employ, the House of Commons would be undertaking a task they could not execute, and assuming a power which they did not rightfully possess.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the right hon. Baronet had very fairly stated, that the House ought to take care before it involved itself in the commencement of a contest out of which it would be impossible to extricate itself with honour. Where this question of privilege had been brought into action, there always had been found a very considerable difficulty. He must say, that whatever had been the difficulties which had occurred before, they must have been very small in comparison to those which in this case must arise, for the very fact was not a breach of privilege, but a desire that the privilege should be broken, and an anxiety that people should break it more extensively. He conceived that the improper course which the House was called upon to adopt would place it in a situation of the greatest possible difficulty that could be imagined. He was rather surprised that the hon. and learned member for Dublin should put so much importance on having his speeches reported, and, considering the estimation in which the hon. and learned Member was held, he (Lord Althorp) should have supposed that the hon. and learned Member could not have thought for a moment that he was called upon to bring forward this question as a serious question. The hon. and learned Member had said, that he was placed in the same situation in which hon. Members on previous occasions had brought their cases before the consideration of the House; but he must observe that the hon. and learned Member, in his opinion, would have consulted much 89 better his own situation and his rank in society, by not entering into such a contest. The position of the hon. and learned Member must certainly be particularly disagreeable to a Gentleman of his eloquence, but at the same time this could not interfere in the slightest degree with his duties in that House. He hoped that hon. and learned Member would not persevere in his Motion, but if he would choose to persevere he ought to take the responsibility of perseverance entirely upon himself. The House would do well to avoid engaging in the contest in which it would be involved, if it were to assent to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member.
meant to persevere, and bring this question before the House every time The Times published an account of their debates. Others might not have done so—they might have consulted their quiet; but he would not allow any man to punish him. He insisted on an apology, and would not allow any violation of his rights by any person whatever. No person could say, that he was made an outlaw. He called on the Speaker to state his opinion of their privileges, and to say whether the House could be justified in refusing his Motion while the Standing Orders remained on their books. If any one would move to rescind that Standing Order, he would vote for it; but while the Order remained he should insist upon it. If the House shrunk from this Motion, he should, but not till then, clear the gallery. He did not anticipate that the House would refuse the Motion.
§ The Speaker
having been directly called upon by the hon. and learned Member, said: I should be sorry to be backward in answering his question; but I confess I do not clearly understand what point it is on which he requires information. If the question is, whether the publication of the debates of this House is a breach of the privileges of this House, I say that it is a breach of privilege, and I believe that nobody ever doubted that it was; and there is no man who ever viewed the constant violation of the Standing Order of the House as anything but permissive, for the benefit of the public; and, therefore, as consistent with the views of this House in allowing what they have deemed would be for the public advantage. If the hon. and learned Member means to ask this question, the House is aware of the answer; 90 but if he means further, whether, that being so, the House can alter or enforce the Order in each particular case, the answer I should give would be that the House retained the right of interfering or not at their pleasure, and would exercise their power according to the judgment they formed in each particular case. I am not certain whether I have answered what the hon. and learned Member meant to ask with respect to this particular case. I should say that the complaint and the grievance are both heavy; but the complaint is of one description, the grievance of another, and dealing with the complaint will not be a cure for the grievance. Under these circumstances, the House must, on this occasion, as on all others, decide whether they would carry their Order into effect or not. I shall not go further now than to say, that the question is, that the Order of the Day be read, and in this instance no Amendment can be moved, but subsequently on that will arise the question whether that Order shall be executed or thrown out.
wished to know whether there was any instance of this kind in which the House had refused a Motion such as his? He had looked into the Journals, and found none.
§ The Speaker
If the hon. and learned Member says, that he has looked into the Journals, I should be sorry off-hand to oppose my distant recollection to his recent inquiry; but I must say, that my recollection is that many hours of the time of this House have been taken up, not in a debate whether a certain matter was a breach of privilege, but whether the question was upon the whole such a one that the House ought or ought not to interfere with regard to it. The mere right to interfere was never called in question.
§ The Order of the Day for the attendance of Messrs. Lawson, was then read.
§ Mr. Methuen moved, as an Amendment, that the Order be discharged.
Mr. Kemyss Tynte
hoped that the hon. and learned Member would withdraw the Motion. When it was first agitated, he thought it was something feasible. He found that that was not so. He should now oppose it; for the hon. and learned Member was now attempting to trench on 91 the liberties of the Press, and through them on the liberties of the people. This day three years he (Mr. Tynte) stood at the barricades in Paris, and he well remembered that one chief reason why the then king lost his throne, and was driven from his capital, was, that the Journals had appeared one blank, in consequence of the censorship. The hon. Member spoke of the censorship of the Press, and of the Speaker as censor; but he (Mr. Tynte) should never consent to any censorship, not even with the Speaker as censor. He hoped the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion, and if he considered that this Was the only mode the reporters had of testifying their feelings, at a charge of being guilty of uttering wilful falsehoods, he could, not wonder they should have adopted it. Even the worm, when trod on, would turn, and there were among those Gentlemen many who had as high feelings as any Members of that House.
said, there was no man on that side of the House whose opinion he should be more proud to follow than that of the hon. Member who had just spoken. The hon. Member had said, that one of the causes of the Revolution of July, was the appearance of blank Journals. That was what he complained of—a censorship over that House, which should not be established through his person. Then he came to the charge. If he was right in it, was it not his duty to make it? The manly course was to make charges, if he was able to sustain them. He should be content to have that hon. Member, and the hon. Baronet, the member for the University, as arbitrators in this matter. His charge was a matter of fact, and if he did not prove it, there was no concession he would not make. The reporters had announced that they would outlaw one of the Members. Under these circumstances, the House might do what they pleased with the Motion.
§ Mr. Finn
was bound to state the grounds of his differing from the hon. and learned member for Dublin oh the present Occasion. The privilege of the House had certainly been mocked and set at defiance, but he would not vote for any proceedings against any individuals upon the Press, for he wanted to get rid of the privilege altogether, which was absurd and useless. For his part, speaking personally, he was little indebted to the Gentlemen of the Press, but he could not consent to punish 92 an individual for misreporting when he reflected that the House was too small, the reporters were badly accommodated, and that they were placed under every possible disadvantage of seeing and hearing, and of performing their most arduous, difficult, and important duties. He was sorry that the House had neglected the advice of the hon. member for Middlesex in his proposition to build a new House for the better accommodation of its Members. He never could vote for such a proposition as that of the hon. and learned member for Dublin; let it come from what quarter it might, but he would be always ready to vote to get rid of the absurd and useless privilege which the House never could exercise, and ought never to enforce. Hitherto the House had punished persons for violating the privilege, but now the proposition was to preserve the privilege whilst they punished men for not violating it. He had no reason to be satisfied with the reporters. He had been treated, he would not say with neglect by them, but with misrepresentation. Some of the reporters had put into his mouth words he had never littered, and in the mouths of other hon. Members words against him, which had never fallen from them. He could not be actuated by personal motives in the discharge of his public duties; and, notwithstanding what he might feel at the treatment he had experienced, he could not on that account be induced to vote against the reporters on the Motion now before the House.
§ Sir Francis Burdett
observed, that they had now entered into a wide field of discussion. He regretted that the hon. Member should think it his duty to bring forward this question, and he did not see by what possibility the House could enter upon the discussion of it. The reporters said that a groundless accusation of wilful misrepresentation had been brought against them. Some of that body he knew were as respectable men as any Gentleman in that House; and when such charges were made against them, it was not to be expected that such men would endure it with patience. Whether the course they had adopted Was a proper one or not he would not pretend to say, but what else could they do? The hon. Member said they misrepresented him—they denied it; but the House could not enter on that question. That battle had been fought on other occasions, and on better grounds 93 than now; but it had always been found that that House had not the means of extricating itself with credit from contests of this description. He wished to say that there was much disparity in the contest. The question was, whether the reporters had violated the privileges of that House? It was answered, that they had, because there was a standing order which they had infringed, but that was not culpable, for in what they had done they had gone along with the well-understood concurrence of the House. Whether their reports were contrary to the fact could not be tried now. If the House considered men's feelings—and these gentlemen had feelings as much alive to the charge of misrepresentation as any Member of that House—they would not wonder at what had occurred. Many hon. Members had been passed over before now, but they never thought of making these complaints. The public had suffered the loss of the speeches of Tierney and of Windham; and it was indeed a loss to the public. He saw no means of remedying such occurrences, but to leave the matter to the competition of the Press. There was abundance of reporters—let the hon. Member have one of his own, and the papers that inserted his speeches would probably receive the reward of doing so from the public. There were no means of effecting the object so fair and impartial as this. He was aware that many Gentlemen thought their speeches curtailed; but that it was purposely done to wound them, was a charge he did not believe the members of the Press capable of. This was a matter out of the jurisdiction of that House, and any thing they might do would be nugatory.
had been informed of a circumstance within these few minutes, which he would state to the House. Per-haps the House might recollect that a few evenings ago he had been caught napping; and one of the Evening Papers (he did not mention it by way of complaint) had published a violent letter, exposing the ridiculous way in which he had been carried in and compelled to vote by the Speaker against his consent. The Paper in question had represented that his public character was now totally lost, and that he himself was utterly degraded. If he pursued the course of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, he should now be very angry; and call on the House to 94 assert its privileges in his behalf; he looked upon it, however, without any feelings of anger; and if the hon. and learned member for Dublin would only look on his case with similar good humour, he believed that it would soon pass over.
§ Mr. Aglionby
said, the privileges of the press were invaluably important to the country, and he would never shrink from supporting them, but, at the same time, he would never shrink from raising his voice against its abuses. If the reporters avowed a determination to suppress any speeches uttered in that House, he would put it to the House whether it would not feel itself bound to visit such conduct by its interference. He regretted very much that this Motion had ever come forward, but, now that it had been brought forward, he put it to the House whether the question could be dismissed as a matter merely personal to the hon. and learned member for Dublin? He hoped that the House would look at with a wider scope, and would at once grasp, the difficulties. The suppression by the reporters ought not to be treated by the House merely as a punishment oh the hon. and learned member for Dublin. If the public speeches delivered in that House concerned the country—if the country were a party concerned in having the debates of that House reported—then, as reporting was a decided breach of privilege, it could only be performed by a sort of implied compact with the Press that the publication should be fair, and free from all partiality whatever. When the hon. member for Westminster spoke of the inaccuracies of the Press, he begged to remind him that this was not a case of inaccuracy, but of total and wilful suppression. If this had been a mistake, he should have been the last man in that House to make it the subject of severity. No man in that House or out of the House would more readily bow to the great difficulties under which the Press laboured with respect to locality, with respect to the difficulties of seeing and hearing, with respect to the difficulties of selecting and condensing, and, in short, with respect to the innumerable obstacles with which the reporters had to contend; but all this was different from a wilful suppression and a combination or conspiracy to suppress. He had heard that night the simile of the worm turning. If the hon. and learned member for Dublin 95 had done injustice to the reporters, no man, he hoped, would be more willing to make reparation. If he thought the hon. Member would not, he would not, for one single moment, take the side of the question he was now taking. Let the worm turn in a proper way, and make a remonstrance to the hon. Member. The feelings of the House and country would then be with the reporters. This was not a personal matter: but one in which the country was concerned, deeply concerned; but how the House was to get out of the matter he did not know. The House had a privilege which it was inconvenient to continue, and a dignity which it did not know how to enforce.
§ The House divided on the Amendment—Ayes 153; Noes 48: Majority 105.
|List of the NOES.|
|Attwood, T.||Maxwell, J.|
|Barron, W.||O'Connell, M.|
|Blake, Sir F.||O'Connell, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Callander, J. H.||Oswald, J.|
|Chapman, A.||Parrott, J.|
|Clay, W.||Pinney, W.|
|Copeland, Alderman||Richards, J.|
|Cornish, J.||Romilly, E.|
|Daly, J.||Romilly, J.|
|Faithfull, G.||Roebuck, J.|
|Fancourt, Major||Ruthven, E.|
|Fitzgerald, T.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|French, F.||Stormont, Viscount|
|Halcombe, John||Sullivan, R.|
|Handley, B.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Harvey, D. W.||Wallace, R.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Warburton, H.|
|Hudson, J.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Hume, J.||Young, G. F.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Aglionby, H. A.|
|Marsland, T.||O'Connell, D.|
|Martin, T. B.|
§ On Business again proceeding after the division, the Gallery was immediately cleared on the notice taken by Mr. O'Connell, that it contained strangers, and it was kept closed for the remainder of the evening.