HC Deb 24 May 1833 vol 18 cc68-93
Mr. Bernal

, having moved, that the Special Report from the Committee upon the merits of the late Election for the Borough of Hertford be read, said, it became his duty to call the attention of the House to certain parts of the evidence contained in the Report which peremptorily required from the House a deliberate and strict opinion upon the extraordinary proceedings which were there detailed. He should not detain the House with any prefatory observations, and that he might not weary them, would point only to those parts of the case which appeared in his eyes the most tainted. In 1831, a feeling rose up in the borough of Hertford adverse to the return of Mr. Duncombe as their Representative in Parliament. A club called the Union Club was formed, and met from time to time, the object of which was to concoct plans for the return of a man of whose principles the Members might approve. It was afterwards thrown open; the only pledge required from new Members being, that they should support the man in whose interest the club might choose to embark. Soon afterwards refreshments were at every meeting distributed, and no payment whatever was required for them. Every one had what he liked, free of any expense whatever. Early in the spring a requisition from this club was forwarded to Lord Ingestrie, and in May the noble Lord consented to come forward as a candidate. He (Mr. Bernal) must here introduce the name of a Mr. George Nicholson, which would frequently be mentioned in the course of the discussion, and who was in considerable private practice as a lawyer, besides being Under Sheriff, having the good fortune to possess as a client the Marquess of Salisbury. This Gentleman, it was in evidence, being applied to for his fostering care, entered the club, and afterwards supplied it with money. It was also in evidence that there had been serious disputes among the leading members of the club, on account of the complaints of Nicholson, as to the great expense incurred by the Members; and in some cases he must admit this gentleman had refused to pay those expenses. It was in evidence that the Unionists had walked in procession, that a dinner had been given by Alderman Clark, that the Unionists, as a body, had attended that dinner; and, as they had shown themselves a body capable of giving efficient support to any particular cause, so they required assistance to be given to them in return, should they need it. There had been a practice in the borough of distributing-dinner tickets, or as they were called, refreshment tickets. He had known something of elections; but this distribution of dinner tickets was a perfect novelty. In the month of August the first issue of these tickets took place. The general number of these tickets consisted of orders to the amount of 2s. 6d. and 5s. each. The great agent for the two noble Lords appeared to have been a Mr. Dack. That person had become a man of great importance under the fostering care of Mr. George Nicholson. On the evidence of Mr. Nicholson, from his own distinct avowal, and from the confession of his partner, it appeared that at least 100l. had been paid in August last for the issue of tickets upon this occasion. He did not mean to contend that men should be deprived of proper refreshment; but he was convinced that if a strict line of demarcation was not adopted and adhered to, they would ascend the steps of the grossest bribery and corruption. He was prepared to prove, from the evidence taken before the Committee, that these tickets were issued, not solely for refreshment, but as a sort of paper coin to circulate through the shops of the town, and that they were paid as such for calico, linen, tea, sugar, meat, and other things, all of which were obtained through the use of these tickets; so that the pretence of their being refreshment tickets was a mere election manœvre. Mr. Nicholson admitted, that he had no particular check over the issue of these tickets, but that the person by whom they were issued did as he pleased in the issue. Subsequently to the month of August, there had been two other issues of tickets, the latter of which took place on the 28th of November, a few days before the test of the writ. Mr. Pollard, a woollen-draper, said, that tickets of this kind had come into his shop during the election week. When they were presented for the purchase of goods at the shop to the amount of the value of the notes, the shopman at first refused them, and then went to Mr. Dack to ask him whether the tickets would be paid, or rather in their peculiar phrase, would be "honoured?" Dack said, that they would be duly honoured, and goods were then furnished on the credit of these tickets, and a sum of 9l. 7s. 6d. was paid for them after the election. In the same manner meat was obtained, on the credit of these tickets, from a Mr. Huckiss, a butcher. When such facts were clearly proved on the evidence, was he required to say that this was a mere shallow device to evade the law against bribery at elections? It appeared that there were only 690 voters on the registry, and 670 of these persons polled at the last election. The sum of 300l, to expend among such a constituency in the small borough-town of Hertford was much too large to be required for refreshments, and he did not think he was going too far in calling the pretence of refreshment under such circumstances a mere shallow device. But the case was still stronger, for the tickets Were not confined to sums of 2s. 6d. and 5s. for there were some tickets for 10s. [A noble Lord dissented from this statement.] Such a statement was certainly made in several parts of the evidence. James Taylor, at page 197, said, that tickets for 10s. each had been left at his House in purchase of the goods he sold. Again, Francis Wilson, at page 103, stated the same thing with respect to tickets brought to his House in November 1832. He now came to another serious matter, the practice of treating, which he was prepared to prove prevailed to a great extent. According to the strict letter of the law at this moment, there could be no treating before the test of the writ. Still, though that was the fact as respected the letter of the law—still it was notorious, that there was constantly treating to a most gross and abominable extent. He did not charge the noble Lords who had been returned for the borough with being personally guilty of treating. It was sufficient if he was able to fix that upon their avowed and authorised agents, and be thought he could do so most satisfactorily. Francis Edwards, whose evidence was reported in p. 275, and the following pages, stated, that a Bill had been run up at his house to the amount of 270l., for three days—December 10th, the 11th, and the 12th. Now, those days were the nomination day and the two election days. When asked from whom he expected payment, he said that he looked to a man named Atkins, who it appeared was a small saddler in Hertford, and who was not likely to incur the expense on his own account. Another person, a Mrs. Cook, whose evidence was printed at p. 277, said, that she had a bill for 94l., incurred at her house for refreshments during the nomination and the two election clays. She had opened her house under the orders of two persons, of the names of Baker and Fordham. Then, again, there was Robert Gill, who kept the Maidenhead public house, and whose house had been open in the month of December under the directions of Mr. Dack and of a Mr. Munday. In p. 286, was the evidence of a person named Farrer, who had a bill for 177l., for things furnished in his house from the 18th November to the 12th December. When pressed to declare from whom he expected payment, he said he expected it from Mr. George Nicholson, but it appeared that he had made out his bill in the names of two poor labouring men. There were several other persons who had small bills which they had sent in to Mr. George Nicholson, and which, at least, had not been rejected by that Gentleman. There was another tavern-keeper, one John Nicholson, who kept the Red Cow, and with whom a bill for 54l. had been incurred for refreshments furnished to voters on the polling days. Then there was a charge of 110l. for bullies. He ought to mention, that John Nicholson's house had been opened avowedly under the direction of two persons, in the town, but who could not in reality have been the persons to whom credit was given, since one of them was only foreman to a plumber in the town, and the other had been but recently a declared insolvent. The person who kept the Woolpack, whose evidence was at p. 248, stated that he had a bill for 220l. for refreshments, and that he had opened his House under the direction of Mr. William Tysoe. He should now have occasion to mention a most important person, a Mr. Newman who was well known in the Committee by the name of Doey Newman. This man admitted, that his shop, which was a baker's shop, he had converted into a Tom and Jerry shop, and had distributed beer on the election day to the amount of 82l. He had also a bill for 170l. headed "Election Account," but to whom the credit was given did not distinctly appear. There was a person named Joseph Cooke, who had a bill for 150l. He kept his house open under the orders of a man named R. Drummond. After all these smaller houses, he came to the chief inn in the place, the Salisbury Arms, kept by William Griffiths, who had a bill for 440l. which now remained unpaid. On being questioned about this bill, he said he did not desire it to be paid, and he added, "though I cannot afford to lose it, yet I do not know who is to pay it." In this manner considerable doubt and mystery hung over these accounts. It appeared, however, that bills to the amount of 1,700l., still remained unpaid. That sum had been expended after the test of the writ. [An Hon. Member said, that this was a small amount]. If the hon. Member thought so—though to him, considering the small numbers of the constituency, he thought it a large sum—he would only add, that, by the testimony of Mr. George Nicholson, it appeared that 2,500l. had been expended before the test of the writ. He did not pretend to equal the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wynn) in knowledge of parliamentary law, but he wished to call that right hon. Gentleman's attention to the Resolution of the House in 1677 against Treating. That Resolution had been made a Standing Order in the subsequent year. In the year 1695, the statute 7. Will. 3rd., c. 4, was passed upon the subject of treating. It was passed for the purpose of affording a further remedy against the abominable system that had been got up. The Resolution of the House, afterwards made a Standing Order, had mentioned the sum of 10l., but the statute did not refer to that or any other particular amount, but directed its provisions against treating generally. There was, however, this further distinction between them, that the Standing Order made the mere treating an offence, whereas the Act required, that to constitute the offence, the treating must have been for the purposes of the election, It was much to be regretted that they had coquetted as they had done with the law of bribery. They had not made their approaches in a manly and steady way. They had not done what they ought, to make the arm of the law long enough and strong enough to reach the offence of treating before the time of the election. As the law now stood, the greatest corruption was practised in the way of treating, and provided this was done before the test of the writ, the offence remained without punishment. Yet its evil effects must be acknowledged by all, and the extravagance committed in that way by some men often occasioned the ruin of their families. He did not despair of the Legislature being able to provide a remedy for this abominable evil; and if they called themselves a Reformed Parliament, the evidence that they were so should be found in the Government seriously addressing itself to these matters, and following up the recommendations of Committees with some enactments to prevent such scandalous corruption in future. It was too much for any individual Member to undertake such a task, so replete with difficulties, and so certain of being received with ingratitude. It was too much to expect him to allow such a bill to be tacked to his tail like a kettle to the tail of a dog, and to have to attend there, from the sitting of the House to its rising, through all those tedious hours, to get the Bill passed through a stage, and to receive, almost as a personal favour, an order for its committal or recommittal at a particular time. This was a task which no Member, in his individual capacity, ought to undertake, and which he, for one, certainly would not. If that House thought that the matter ought to be taken up seriously, he called on the Government to do it. For himself, he would not undertake, like the man of yore, to leap into the gulf, and sacrifice himself to a public object, which might be attained in a better manner without such a sacrifice. Something, however, must be done. There were now the cases of four or five boroughs under the consideration of the House; and in considering them, the House must not be too nice and too delicate—they must not "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." They must not allow it to be said, that it was not exactly proved that those noble Lords had not given a warrant of attorney for the expenses at the various taverns. He trusted that he never had and never should allow his political sentiments to bias his judicial opinions; he hoped that he had not done so in the present case; but he must say, that there was evidence—and an accumulation of evidence—sufficient to affect the present constituency of the town of Hertford. The sum of 1,700l. for treating after the test of the writ, still remained unpaid; there were other accounts of the same kind that had been settled in the name of Mr. George Nicholson, at the Bank. Much of the money thus expended was expended under the direction of Dack, of Waddel, and of various other persons, who, in other parts of the business, were the recognised agents of the noble Lords. If they were so in one instance, he had a right to presume that they were so in another, and to say that their conduct must affect the rights and liabilities of their principals. If that was so, then he had a right to assume, that the public houses were opened, if not by the direct, yet by the indirect, authority of the noble Lords themselves. The House should remember, that they were not now dealing with the seats of Members. They were called on to say whether the borough was in a healthful state, so as to be fit to be again called on to send Members to that House, or whether it was in that diseased state that a remedy must be applied to it before it could be allowed again to exercise its elective franchise. He could not dissemble his opinion, that it was better to have a close borough, where the seat could be bought from one individual for 2,000l. or 3,000l., than a borough with a constituency of 700 or 800 persons, whose votes could not be obtained at a less expense than 5,000l., or 7,000l. If any man could read the Report of the evidence on this case, and not come to the conclusion that this constituency was most corrupt, he could only say, that the state of mind of such a man was to him most amazing. The very counsel for the sitting Members, while attempting to prove that they had no connexion with the bribery and treating, never denied that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. A practice had prevailed at former elections, and was still in force in Hertford, of giving to the voters a fee of 10s. after the election. This sum was expected to be given by each of the successful candidates. It appeared from the evidence of Nicholson and Long more, that 670 voters polled at the last election, and that from 300 to 400 received this fee. The House would see on referring to the evidence of Charles Little, p. 218, that that witness stated that he had borrowed 1l. upon his voting money—an expression which, proved that the voting-money paid to the electors at Hertford was considered as an indefeasible security. Now, was that a practice to which, if it came under the cognizance of Parliament, Parliament ought to give the go-by? The House was not now called upon to deal with Lord Ingestrie or Lord Mahon, but with the corruption of the borough of Hertford, which, beyond all dispute required purification. Besides the leading facts which he had already mentioned, there were many minor circumstances, all leading to the same conclusion. Blankets had been distributed after the election to different voters in the interest of the two Lords. He mentioned this fact to show that even charity had been made a cloak for bribery; not that he meant to insist strongly upon it, as he knew that this distribution of blankets was not uncommon in the winter season after elections. It appeared, however, that 400l. or 500l. had been advanced to Twaddle for the purchase of these blankets as a sort of compensation to him for his services, which were not otherwise remunerated. Now, as to the direct bribery in this borough. As to what was termed direct bribery, this case might want the marked and disgusting features obtruding themselves in the instances of East Retford or Penryn; but it was clear, that there was a corrupt influence—an atmosphere of corruption always floating about the town of Hertford; there were always plenty of Mephistophiles whispering in the ears of the voters, like the Dæmon in Goethe's "Faustus," when the heroine in a celebrated passage was obliged to call upon her neighbour for the loan of her smelling-bottle. Sterne had talked of a shower of mitres, but in Hertford there was a constant pouring down of new hats, new coats, and new shoes, which would not fit all the voters, but seemed measured to a nicety for the heads, backs, and feet of the electors in the interest of one of the parties. A good hat and a new pair of shoes seemed to be always ready for any elector who would promise to devote all his energies to the two noble Lords. Edward Harding, p. 64, stated that Dack offered him 5l. if he would promise him a plumper for Lord Ingestrie, and that Dack told him that all who gave his Lordship plumpers were to have 5l. a-piece. At p. 154 they would find a Mr. Drew figuring away as a distributer of gifts, and John Tween stated, that this Mr. Drew offered to give him a bed and bolster and a new pair of shoes. James Rogers, p. 158, stated that this same Mr. Drew told him, that he would pay his arrears of rent, amounting to 6l. 10s., if he would vote for Lord Ingestrie, and that he would double it if he would vote for Lord Mahon; and Drew likewise added that he would give him besides two fat pigs in his sty. They would find evidence of similar transactions at p. 182, p. 195, and p. 197. At p. 201 they would find Twaddle promising to give a witness of the name of Edward Phypours 13l. if he would vote for the two Lords. Now, as to direct gifts, they would find that Huckle and Bunyan distinctly spoke to the giving away of smockfrocks, stockings, and hats to different voters. There was also a curious transaction detailed in the evidence of Elizabeth Meed, which he would explain as clearly as he could. Elizabeth Meed, whose husband was a union man, had her house robbed of seven sovereigns. She handed about a petition shortly afterwards, to get something towards the reparation of her loss, but she never got, as she stated, a farthing. It was before Michaelmas that she lost her money. Some time before the election, Dack, knowing that her husband and her son were both voters, sent for her, gave her 5l. and two sovereigns, and drew up for her the petition which he would now read. "The humble petition of John Meed showeth, that 7l. was taken from his house by some villain or villains unknown to the said John Meed. The money was saved by the industry of the said John Meed and his wife to serve him in case of illness or want of work, and to keep him from the parish. He makes this humble appeal to the charitable and humane in hopes they will replace this, which to him is a very great loss, and your petitioner will ever pray. Signed, W. G. Munday, 1l.; and R. Drummond, 1l; C. Mortlock, 1l.; Edward Laurence, 1l.; Samuel Dack, 1l.; W. C. Twaddle, 1l.; William Tysoe, 1l." Now, the majority of these names were the names of persons who had flitted about Hertford in no very questionable shape during the time of the election, and it seemed to him, from the names signed to the petition, that the subscription was a mere device to gain the votes of the Meed family upon that occasion. There was another curious circumstance proved by Charles Deller, with respect to a doctor's bill which he owed to a Mr. Norwood, and which was paid for him by Mr. Longmore. It appeared that Deller owed Norwood who proposed or seconded Lord Mahon at the election, a bill of 4l. or 5l. Mr. Longmore admitted in his evidence that he had mentioned the subject of this bill to Norwood, and Deller states, that when he afterwards went to Norwood, Norwood told him that the money had been sent to him in a note. The evidence was to this effect:—"What did he (Norwood) say to you when you first entered the house?" "Deller, I will fetch you the money."—"Did he fetch you the money?" "Yes."—"He put the money into your hands?" "Yes."—"What did he say when he gave it you?" "He said, that Lord Mahon was a friend of his, or he was a friend of Lord Mahon's."—"He said nothing else?" "No; I said that I had much rather that he should keep the money, now that he had got it, and receipt the bill; and he said no, he had rather that I should take the money away, and bring it at a future time." The transaction ended by the witness taking a receipt for the bill, and 4l. 16s. too. He inferred from this circumstance, and many like it, which were scattered throughout the evidence, that the whole atmosphere of Hertford was tainted and corrupted. If gentlemen could have witnessed the prevarication of the witnesses, the gross immorality of principle which they displayed, and the utter recklessness with which the voters made promises which they intended to break, they would not treat this matter with levity or indifference. He cared not on which side this immorality was most flagrant. He was not there as an advocate either for the unseated Lords or the rejected candidates, he was there only as a legislator. It was sufficient for him to have seen that a disregard of honour, of principle, of morality, and of the most sacred engagements had sprung out of these corrupt proceedings. It was sufficient for him that these corrupt proceedings had given rise to universal profligacy to induce him to endeavour to apply some legal remedy to them. He referred to the evidence of John Wooding, page 185, of Henry Hunsden, page 197, and of John Hylott, page 231. Let the House listen to the disgraceful reasons which they gave for thus shamelessly disposing of their votes:—Q. "Did you consider that your vote was to be sold? A. No, not to be sold particularly—we did not study much about the voting."—Q. "Did you think that your vote was given you to be sold? A. No, I do not know that it was."—Q. "You think there is no harm in taking money for it? A. I never see much harm in it."—Q. "You do not think there is any harm in it—do you consider it the part of an honest man to take money for his vote—yes or no?" A. "I do not say anything about that." One man had the assurance to tell the Committee that he sold his promise, but not his vote. He hoped that after this statement he should have no occasion to enter into any argument, to prove that bribery and corruption brought in their train a mass of crimes which no man could view without horror. It was a disgrace to the British nation that those things should occur every day, and almost with impunity. Whose fault was that? The fault of the Legislature. The statute-book was crowded with laws for the prevention of bribery, but it was quite clear that those laws were inefficient. He therefore trusted that his noble friend below him, who had acquired such lasting glory, by destroying the corruption of that House, would endeavour to acquire a still more brilliant reputation, by destroying the corruption of those who had the power of electing that House. In the mean while, he would beg leave to submit two resolutions to the House. The first went to state, that the bribery and corruption which prevailed in Hertford, both before and after the late election for that borough, required the most serious consideration of that House. His next resolution, supposing the resolution which he had just read to be carried, would be to move, that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the best means of preventing bribery and corruption, in the borough of Hertford. This was a new practice; but he hoped that it was not a bad one. The case of Abingdon was analogous to the case of Hertford; but supposing that it were entirely without a precedent, had not the House sufficient confidence in its own wisdom to make a precedent for the occasion? As the neighbourhood of Hertford was populous, and as several towns and hamlets were within the radius of a few miles, it puzzled him much where to place the limit, in case the House should be of opinion that the extent of the borough should be increased. Some Gentlemen called for the disfranchisement of a certain class of voters. He did not know how far that might or might not be desirable, but, in his opinion, a sufficient, case had not been made out for the total disfranchisement of the borough. He thought that a Committee might trace out new limits for the borough, by which fresh blood might be introduced for the purification of that which had become corrupt. He believed that they might amalgamate a new constituency with the old constituency to such a degree, that if the old corrupt practices could not be exterminated together, they might at least be rendered innoxious and harmless. The hon. Member concluded, by moving the following Resolution: "That the Bribery and Corruption which had prevailed during the last Election for the Borough of Hertford deserved the most serious consideration of the House."

Mr. Edward Stewart

said, the allegations of bribery contained in the evidence were not sufficient to induce the House to disfranchise the borough. All the precedents of disfranchisement, as, for instance, at East Retford, New Shoreham, &c., were based upon a much more extensive system of corruption than had ever been proved to exist in the borough of Hertford, At Shoreham, there were seventy voters out of 120 proved to have been bribed; at Cricklade, there were 123 out of 240; at Aylesbury, 257 out of 417; and at East Retford, every resident voter was proved to have been bribed except six, and every non-resident voter except five. No bribery had been proved at Hertford; and if the House punished the constituency of that borough, because Lord Ingestrie and Lord Mahon gave meat and drink, it would establish a new doctrine—a doctrine inconsistent with the entire previous practice of Parliament—and would do an act of great injustice, inasmuch as it would punish the constituency of Hertford for doing that which was not illegal.

Lord Granville Somerset

said, that not merely as a legislator, but as a judge in this case, he felt it necessary to explain the reasons why he came to a different conclusion from the hon. and learned member for Rochester. He was as ready as any man to condemn treating, and any kind of corrupt practice in elections; but while he would punish the guilty in such cases, he would not include the innocent. He therefore differed from the hon. and learned Member in the view which he took of this case. He could not but complain of the course taken by the hon. and learned Member, who had kept the House in the dark as to the measure with which he intended to follow up his Motion. He did not say, that this was done with the view to mislead the House; but he would assert, that up to that evening the House did not know to what extent the hon. and learned Member intended to say, that the borough of Hertford was guilty or not. That, he thought, was not a fair way of dealing with the House, and therefore he felt himself placed in a difficulty in meeting the question. The hon. and learned Member had made out a case for unseating the late Members, rather than one which should induce the House to take further steps with respect to the borough. The hon. and learned Member had dwelt much on the sums expended in the borough before the testing of the writ; but even admitting, that these sums were expended in the manner described, they did not amount to an offence which ought to be visited with such a punishment as the hon. and learned Member seemed to have in view. Was it not an every-day practice, that long before the issuing of the writ for an election, houses were opened in boroughs by the friends of candidates, for which tickets were issued entitling the bearers to certain refreshments? Nothing was more common; but though he did not approve of such practices, he must contend that they could not be construed into offences within the meaning of the Act. He had passed through Rochester some time before the issuing of the writ for the late Election, and he found that the whole town was in a state of rejoicing, and anxiously looking out for the arrival of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bernal). There were houses opened at which the voters were regaling themselves, but he should hope, that in that case there had been no distribution of tickets. [Mr. Bernal: Certainly not]. He was glad to hear it; but suppose it had been otherwise, he would ask, would it have been a case within the meaning of the Act? He contended it would not. In the case before the House, it appeared that these tickets were issued long before the testing of the writ,—that they were for very small amounts, and that they were issued indiscriminately to men and women—to men who had no votes, as well as to those who had. Surely this was not bribery in the ordinary acceptation of that term. But was not the same practice well known in counties; and why should one measure of justice be held out to a county, and another to a borough? But the hon. and learned Member dwelt much upon the alleged expenditure of 1,800l. after the issuing of the writ for the election. He should, however, bear in mind, that the fact of 1,800l. being charged, was by no means a proof that it was spent. Many instances could be cited of charges having been made of large sums which never had been expended. He remembered one in the case of a county election, where 500l. had been charged for soda-water alone. The mere allegation, therefore, that a large sum had been charged, was by no means a proof that it had been expended, and still less that it had been expended for improper purposes. Looking at the whole of the evidence, he thought that the hon. and learned Member's Motion would sanction ex post facto punishment. It would go to punish for acts, which, however objectionable in themselves, were certainly not within the meaning of the Bribery Act. He would also beg of the House to consider that the borough of Hertford would, if this Motion were passed, be taken by surprise. The borough had never been defended in the Committee. The barristers who were engaged for the sitting Members, looked only to the interests of their clients, and did not feel it necessary to call evidence, which could be adduced, to disprove the charge of corruption against the borough. It would, therefore, be unfair to condemn the borough, without giving it the opportunity of being fairly heard. The House, he admitted, had a right to interfere for the purpose of preserving the purity of election; but assuredly, in pursuing that object, they ought not to interfere with the purity of justice. The noble Lord then went into an examination of the evidence, and contended, that Mr. Russel Davies, who had stated, that he could prove the locus in quo, the place where conversations had been held, which went to fix certain parties with the intention of committing bribery, had failed to substantiate his assertion; and that Mr. George Beck having been decidedly contradicted on one material point, had thereby rendered his whole testimony liable to suspicion: he, under these circumstances, contended that such a case had not been made out as would warrant the interference of the House in the manner which the Motion called for. As to the distribution of blankets, it was plainly shown, that blankets had been given away during the three preceding years; and, if they were to visit with punishment those who were connected with this charitable deed, it could only have the effect of drying up the sources of benevolence. In conclusion, the noble Lord observed, that in his view of the case, sufficient ground was not laid to justify the House in agreeing with the proposition of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Clay

observed, that the whole speech of the noble Lord went to this point—namely, whether the decision of the Committee, which had inquired into the Hertford Election, was right or wrong? Now he, looking at the whole of the evidence, was of opinion that the decision of the Committee was a right and just decision. This must, he conceived, be quite evident to any one who took the trouble of analyzing the evidence. The unworthy conduct which was pursued by many of those who were connected with the election, precluded the House from passing lightly over this transaction. They would not be doing their duty if they did not, in strong terms, express their sentiments on this occasion. Looking to the evidence, what did he find proved? Why, that in the last three or four elections, out of 650 voters, not less than from 300 to 400 received polling-money—that was, 1l. a-piece. There was one part of the petition to which the late election gave rise, that had not been noticed by the Committee, and which had not been mentioned in the course of the discussion. To that point he was anxious to draw the particular attention of the House. It was alleged that, contrary to the orders of that House, and contrary to every constitutional principle, a noble Lord had taken a most active part in the Hertford election. That was a practice which could not be too strongly reprobated, and, in his opinion, the complaint thus made called for serious investigation. Would the noble Lord contend, after the evidence adduced on the subject, that no primâ facie case had been made out to show that the constituency of the borough of Hertford was not, in its present state, such a body as could be depended on to exercise the elective franchise, or that this was not a case for inquiry? For his own part, he felt satisfied, that the way in which the reformed Parliament could best secure the confidence and affections of the people of England was by adopting a firm, conscientious, and searching inquiry into any case of corruption that might arise, and by taking steps to remedy the evil.

Mr. Wynn

observed, that the question was not as to the conduct of the late member for Hertford, but whether the electors of that borough generally had abused the trust reposed in them to such an extent as to call for the adoption of strong measures, and justify the House in making an alteration in the constituency. Bribery was a serious offence by Statute and Common Law, both in the receiver and giver; but to constitute the offence, the money must be given in consideration of a vote; and if the consideration were not proved, a general giving of money or clothes, as in the present case, was not bribery. Then as to treating, that was an offence only in the person who treated—voters were not punishable for it. In former cases (such as those of New Shoreham, Grampound, Aylesbury, and East Retford), where the House had interfered, it was invariably on the ground that bribery to a great extent, generally embracing a majority of the electors, had existed; but in the present instance there was not evidence of direct bribery in more than eleven or twelve cases (the number was certainly under twenty) out of 600 voters. He maintained, that that was not an extent of corruption sufficient to justify the interference now called for. And as to treating, to which he had already alluded, if the principle were pushed as far as it would go, and to the extent proposed, any Member might be unseated, and the issue of a writ suspended for any place in the kingdom. There was nothing illegal in a gentleman who had been elected in November, going down to the place he represented in January and making a distribution of money, provided he had not procured votes by a promise of such distribution, and provided there had been no previous understanding on the subject. There might be reasons for altering the law in this respect, but the House had now to do with the law as it stood, and must act upon it. In conclusion, he again expressed his opinion, that no case had been made out against the borough sufficient to justify the suspension of the writ.

The Attorney General

, considering the important nature of the subject, the grave authority on which the case had been brought forward, and recollecting that the object of the Reform Bill was to prevent corruption, of which he looked upon the present as a decided case, felt bound by duty and principle to vote for the Resolutions. The object of the Reform Bill was to secure a pure representation of the people in that House by means of as pure and independent an exercise of the elective franchise as possible. That object had been defeated in the case of the borough of Hertford. It returned two noble Lords, than whom no two individuals could be more unexceptionable in point of character, or fitter to sit as Members of that House: yet, the Committee had been compelled by the law and by the principles of the Constitution to eject those two noble Lords, not on account of any personal faults (for no report accused either of them individually of corruption or bribery), but because the constituency of Hertford had abused its trust. The Committee had reported that bribery and treating had prevailed previously to, and during the last election for the borough of Hertford. Was the House prepared to disgrace the Committee by expunging that statement from its records? He could not bring himself to believe that any Gentleman would be hardy enough to propose that. If, then, the Resolution which had been come to by the Committee was not to remain a dead letter, what other course was there for the House to pursue but that which had been proposed by his hon. friend, the member for Rochester? He did not wish to do any thing harsh towards the parties implicated in this affair; but he must say, that he thought the Resolution before the House was scarcely sufficiently strong to meet the case. The Committee had resolved that the bribery and treating which prevailed at this election deserved the serious consideration of the House—was the House prepared to say that bribery and treating during this election, the consequence of which had been the unseating of the two Members for this borough, did not deserve its serious consideration? Would any hon. Member, in the face of the people of England, dare to say so? Was the fact of bribery and treating disputed? Was it doubted? Would any Gentleman propose to expunge the Resolution of the Committee from the records of the House? Unless the House inquired into this matter, it would disgrace itself in the eyes of the public and forfeit its confidence.

Mr. Pollock

said, that if reference were made to the Report before the House, it would be seen, that the Resolution to which the Committee had come was at least premature, if not absolutely unjust. The Report did not implicate the sitting Members, and it would have been fully justified if a single instance of bribery and treating had been proved previously to, or during the election. All that the Report of the Committee said was, that it appeared to them that bribery and treating did prevail during that period. Why did it say it appeared to them? Because it was not before the Committee to decide whether bribery and corruption prevailed or not. He, for one, did not know until this night what Resolution the hon. Member who had been Chairman of the Committee intended to move upon this subject, and he thought, taking into account the body of evidence contained in the Report of the Committee, that hon. Members should be allowed time for consideration before they were called upon to come to a decision upon the matter. It was impossible for them at once to travel through 450 pages of evidence; and it was only fair, that they should know some time beforehand the scope of the hon. Member's Resolutions, and the extent to which he would go in any measure he might propose to the House. If the hon. Member would bring forward any general measure, the object of which would be to prevent the recurrence of scenes of this kind in every other place hereafter, he (Mr. Pollock) was prepared fully to go with him to that extent; but the House should not come to a resolution that bribery and treating had prevailed in this particular instance, without hearing the parties accused in their defence. The statement of the Committee merely went to show, that bribery and treating appeared to have prevailed—it did not state that it had prevailed. If bribery did prevail, why did not the hon. Member bring in a Bill at once to disfranchise the borough; and where was the necessity of appointing a Select Committee to tell them that it had prevailed? He would put it to the House, whether there was enough in the evidence contained in the Report of the Committee to call for legislative interference to disfranchise this borough?

Mr. Hardy

would not have troubled the House on this occasion, had it not been for the speeches of the learned Gentleman who had just sat down, and of other hon. Members who opposed the Motion. He differed altogether from those hon. Members. It was only necessary to look into a few pages of the evidence contained in the Report of the Committee to see that bribery and corruption had prevailed to a considerable extent in this borough. It appeared, from the evidence of Mr. Longmore, that after the issuing of the writ, 2,000l. had been expended, and it was in evidence that 4,000l. had been expended previous to that period. Was there more complete evidence required to prove that bribery and treating had been practised in this borough?

The Earl of Kerry

would not have addressed the House but that the Resolution of the Select Committee of which he had the honour to form a part had been alluded to, and a complaint had been made that the evidence had not been a sufficiently long time before the House in order to come to a proper adjudication or decision upon the Resolution which had been submitted for adoption by the hon. and learned member for Rochester. Neither the Resolution of the Committee, nor that proposed, involved the question of the disfranchisement of the borough of Hertford, as had been assumed by the hon. member for Bradford and other Members, but sought a further inquiry only. The evidence had already been upward of six weeks on the Table of the House, and the objection on that head was therefore ill founded; neither had he anticipated any opposition to the Resolution before the House on the ground of expediency. In allusion to what had fallen from the noble Lord, the member for Monmouthshire, he must observe, that if such a case as that which he had stated had occurred in a county, the House would not proceed to disfranchise that county, but would adopt such measures as might seem meet for the regulation of its constituency.

Sir Henry Hardinge

denied, that sufficient time had been given to the House for the consideration of the evidence taken before the Select Committee, which had adjudicated upon the Petition complaining of the Hertford election, and of this the hon. member for Bradford (Mr. Hardy) had himself given a sufficient proof by the quotation which be had made from the evidence. It was too much to judge of a whole case by the extract from the evidence of three or four lines; neither ought the House to determine upon the grounds before it, because the simple question which the Committee had to try had not been whether the borough of Hertford was corrupt or not, but whether the two noble Lords had been guilty of treating. He could not see what the hon. member for Rochester was to obtain by his Motion, for treating before the lest of the writ of election was no offence against the law of Parliament, and therefore, if the House took up the Resolution, it would make an ex post facto law, and do that which was most unjust. There would also be a great difference between the decision of Election Committees on different cases; and he would take as an instance the Newry case in the present Session. In the Newry case the result of the proceedings had been merely the directions for a criminal indictment against a party concerned in the bribery which it was manifest had prevailed. In the present case an entirely different course was proposed for the adoption of the House, and he must object to any distinction being made between the two cases.

Mr. Wason

could not make any distinction between treating and bribery, indeed he regarded the first as a worse offence than the latter. It was clear that treating had prevailed in Hertford anterior to the last election, and the simple question was, what would be the best remedy for the prevention of those scenes which had attended the late contest for that borough? With a view to attain that remedy he should support the Resolution.

Mr. Mildmay

concurred in thinking that no distinction could properly be drawn between bribery and treating; the one poured into the stomach, and the other into the pocket of the individual, whose vote was the inducement. The one inducement presented itself on the wings of a bank note, and the other was conveyed through the steam of gin and tobacco. He concurred in thinking, that time sufficient had not been allowed to hon. Members to go through the evidence in the present instance, which consisted of 450 folios, but that was not to regulate the decision of the House. A Select Committee upon their oaths had reported that bribery and treating had prevailed, both previously to and during the last election for the borough of Hertford. That decision was not to be disturbed; and it was now only sought that a further inquiry might be instituted in order to see how the whole subject was to be disposed of. If the House refused to institute the further investigation, it would not be acting up to the decision, or the verdict, more properly speaking, which the Committee had delivered. That inquiry he should support, for he could not conceive a worse man in existence than he who, possessed of wealth and education, pandered to the sensual appetites or pecuniary advantages of individuals in bartering for the rights, interests, and liberties of their country.

Sir Henry Willoughby

contended, that no evidence had been adduced to prove bribery. It was true that it appeared that a man of the name of Peter went on St. Crispin's-day and asked Mr. Longmore for half-a-crown, and received 5s., and that another individual had stated that he was ready to be bribed, but he could get no blunt. The hon. Member, amidst continued cries of "Question," was understood to express his determination to oppose the Motion.

Mr. Ward

supported the Resolution. He had received a petition upon the subject, signed by 162 most respectable inhabitants of Hertford, which afforded a fair criterion of the feeling in that borough in favour of an inquiry into its present state. Many of the petitioners had not voted at all, and the others were constituted of both the conflicting parties. There was, however, another feature in the case to which he felt bound to allude—namely, the system of intimidation which had been practised and still continued. It had been hoped that with the election the intimidation by a gang of bullies (a name familiar to the Members who had composed the Committee) would terminate; but it had continued and was daily practised; the same gang of bullies still mustered to the sounds of the bugleman, also well known in the Hertford contest. Individuals of the gang had been brought before the Municipal Magistrates of the borough for assaults, and one had been discharged, and the other merely held to bail on his own recognizance of 5l., and in other outrages the Magistrates had refused to interfere.

Lord Granville Somerset

rose to order. He could not see in what manner these circumstances could apply to the question before the House; they did not at all bear upon the subject.

The Speaker

said, that he took it for granted that the hon. Member would bring his observations to bear upon the Motion before the House, and that he meant to make some proposition for the consideration of the House.

Mr. Ward

conceived that the facts to which he had alluded called for serious consideration. It had appeared, that the Mayor of Hertford had given a plot of ground for a gang of gipsies, whose business during the election was intimidation, to encamp.

The Speaker

begged to remind the hon. Member of the terms of the Resolution which had been proposed, which was, that the bribery and treating which prevailed at and previous to the late election for the borough of Hertford, deserved the serious consideration of the House.

Mr. Ward

still contended that the facts he was prepared to state, and which were vouched by affidavits now in his hand, were fit subject matter for inquiry. He should avail himself of the earliest opportunity of bringing the subject before the House. With reference to the Resolution, he should give it his support, at the same time protesting against the total disfranchisement of the borough of Hertford, which contained many respectable persons of all parties.

Mr. Goulburn

would detain the House but a very few minutes. The Resolutions of his hon. friend appeared to him highly objectionable; for the object of his hon. friend was to appoint a Committee, not to inquire into the existence of extensive bribery and corrupt treating in the borough of Hertford, but to devise means for punishing that, to the existence of which it appeared he had made up his mind, and which, he therefore assumed, the House would as readily credit, and act upon. They had before them the indictment, certainly; but was it fair to call on them to proceed to judgment, without first going through that stage, which appeared to him to be no unnecessary form—namely, an impartial trial, where the accused party would have, at least, an opportunity of defence afforded him. Allusion had been made to the case of Newry; he begged leave to read to the House the recommendation contained in the Special Report of the Committee. In the case of Newry, the Committee reported that bribery prevailed to a considerable extent in that borough; whereas, in the instance before them, all that was alleged by the Committee was, that bribery and treating prevailed, without saying to any extent; and they were, therefore, called upon to punish this constituency for what might turn out to be merely a few individual cases. It was the extent of corruption alone which could be considered to constitute a crime on the part of the borough generally. The case of Newry, a borough containing a constituency of about 600, was, in all its circumstances, very analogous to that of Hertford; and there the Resolution of the Committee was, that the Attorney General should prosecute the individuals who were most prominently engaged in these corrupt practices. He regretted that a similar plan had not been adopted on the present occasion; but, at all events, he trusted that the House would not stultify its already declared opinion by coming to a Resolution condemnatory of the borough, without hearing its defence. If he really thought that bribery prevailed to a considerable extent in Hertford, he should most certainly desire that an opportunity of establishing or refuting that fact should be given; and no one would be more ready than himself to punish the offenders, if this could be proved. But he did not think a sufficient case had been made out to warrant the adoption of such a course; and he, therefore, certainly could not concur in a Resolution which was to be followed by another, having for its object either the total disfranchisement of the borough of Hertford, or the swamping of that constituency with new voters; thereby rendering the franchise comparatively valueless. He would satisfy the impatience of the House, and conclude by expressing his determination, on these grounds, to oppose the Motion.

Lord John Russell

,—after the able speech which had been made by his hon. friend in opening the question which was totally unanswered, should not have thought it necessary to trouble the House, had it not been for some observations which he had recently heard. The defence which had been set up in the present case, was precisely the same as had been set up on all former charges of bribery and corruption. The right hon. Gentleman had contended that the effect of the pro- posed Resolutions was, to condemn the borough of Hertford without trial. He was surprised at such an argument. The ultimate consequence of this Resolution, if adopted, would be the preparing a Bill which would be introduced into that House. On that Bill the electors of the borough might obtain leave to be heard by their witnesses and Counsel at the Bar of the House, as was done in the instance of East Retford, and after the Bill should have passed that House, it would have to undergo the same ordeal in the House of Lords, and this was what the right hon. Gentleman called condemning without trial. The cry of those who opposed such a visitation on the offending electors as was now proposed, was, that there were already laws and penalties enough against bribery, and that they should be carried into effect; nor did they object to any general measure that could be proposed against bribery, provided it could not be applicable to particular cases when they occurred. It really was a pity that the zeal which those Gentlemen exhibited against bribery in the abstract should be so lamentably deficient when individual instances were brought before them. He was surprised that his right hon. friend, the member for Montgomeryshire, should consider the treating; in the present instance as so venial an offence, for he remembered when he first entered that House, there was no Member who denounced such practices with more zeal than that right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, in that respect, they had frequently differed, he (Lord John Russell) thinking that some allowance was to be made for the temptation to which the poor electors were exposed, whilst his right hon. friend was always for sending them to prison. But now his right hon. friend thought the best thing was to hush it up. The evidence of Mr. Nicholson was alone quite sufficient to convince his mind that the borough of Hertford had been for some time in a very corrupt state. It appeared, then, that 2,500l. were expended before the test of the writ. Tickets of refreshment, as they were called, were issufd out; and Mr. Nicholson spoke of about 400 applications—applications certainly not to be registered—but for some purpose perfectly intelligible. He was perfectly ready to vole (or the Motion, and that by which it was to be followed, considering it the duty of the Committee, not to bring in a bill, but to declare what they think the best means to promote the purity of the borough. He trusted they would not stop in their efforts to preserve purity of election. They had already got rid of the abuse of seats being sold by individuals—let them now get rid of the remaining abuses, springing from the corruption of a small class of voters. It was their bounden duty to set their face against such practices. He declared that With respect to any of those boroughs where bribery and corruption prevailed, unless very satisfactory proof were offered to set aside the previous evidence, he would never consent to issue any writ to those places during the present Parliament.

Mr. Bernal

replied: It was his perfect conviction that the state of the borough of Hertford was one of complete corruption. Out of the 2,500l. expended before the teste of the writ very little was paid for the expenses of registration; full 1,700l. was devoted to corrupt treating alone, which was expended by Messrs. Nicholson and Dack; and yet Gentlemen could be found to call on that House to declare to themselves, and to their constituents, that it was not improper to circulate tickets guaranteeing the payment of their amount in cash over the whole town of Hertford, under the deceitful guise of refreshment tickets; such tickets enabling the persons possessing them to go, as they did, into the shops of the various tradesmen of the town and purchase with them any articles of which they might stand in need. Was this the bread and cheese refreshment which the right hon. member for Montgomery shire eulogized? It should not be forgotten that the exclusion of non-resident freemen had cut off one very fertile source of corruption and expense, and, therefore, there was no longer the same excuse for treating as formerly existed. Out of 650 an overwhelming proportion had received these tickets, which it was absurd to treat as the effusions of English hospitality; in his opinion it was bribery, and nothing else. Such bribery might be small in its individual distribution, but it was wholesale and gross in its general consequences. In short, they had here a case, and, if they did not choose to be wilfully blind, it imperatively called on them to do something. He denied the statement that the Report did not set forth the extent and general prevalence of bribery and corruption in Hertford. He was also at a loss to under- stand what his right hon. friend meant, by urging that the proposed Committee was to devise a punishment—it was not to devise a punishment, but to prevent the future occurrence of such transactions.

Mr. Goulburn

You punish Hertford by throwing in the circum adjacent places.

Mr. Bernal

His right hon. friend had also referred to Newry—but what had Newry to do with this case? The Committee had decided on the present course, and he thought the Members had done their duty; and he was doing his in carrying their recommendation into effect. He, of course, did not mean to intimate that the members of the Newry Committee had not also done their duty. Allusions had been made to the cases of East Retford and Penryn, but they were not analogous, for there the proposition was to take away the franchise altogether, and transfer it to other places, whereas it was proposed to incorporate other districts with the borough of Hertford. It had also been asked why he had not brought in a bill in the first instance, but considering the number of populous circum-adjacent places in the district of Hertford, he felt it more advisable that it should be dealt with by a Committee. It had been erroneously stated, that the Reform Bill had already extended the limits of the borough of Hertford to a radius of ten miles ["No, a circumference"]. He begged pardon; but even that was a mistake, for the extension of the limits of the borough was merely the limits of its Corporate jurisdiction.

The House divided on the Motion—Ayes 227; Noes 55: Majority 172.

List of the NOES.
Archdall, General Estcourt, T. G. B.
Ashley, Lord Finch, G.
Ashley, Hon. H. Forster, C. S.
Attwood, M. Gaskell, J. M.
Bankes, W. J. Gladstone, W.
Baring, H. Goulburn, Rt. Hon. H.
Baring, F. Grant, Hon. Colonel
Bateson, Sir R. Gronow, Captain
Blackstone, W. S. Halford, H.
Chandos, Marquess of Hanmer, Sir J.
Christmas, W. Hardinge, Sir H.
Cole, Viscount Hayes, Sir E.
Cole, Hon. A. Hope, H. I.
Conolly, Colonel Inglis, Sir R. H.
Corry, Hon. H. L. Irton, S.
Daly, J. Jermyn, Earl
Dare, R. W. H. Lincoln, Earl of
Darlington, Earl of Miller, W. H.
Dugdale, W. S. Nicholl, J.
Norreys, Lord Verner, W.
Perceval, Colonel Villiers, Viscount
Powell, Colonel Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Ross, C. Walsh, Sir J.
Shaw, F. Willoughby, Sir H.
Somerset, Lord G. Young, J.
Stewart, E.
Stewart, J. TEILERS.
Stormont, Viscount Pollock, F.
Stuart, C. Wynn, Right Hon. C.
Tyrell, Sir J. T.
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