§ Mr. Grote
appeared at the Bar of the House with the Report of the Committee of Privileges. As soon as the Clerk had received it, a number of voices called "Read, read." The Clerk then read it as follows:—The Committee of Privileges, to whom the matter of complaint was referred, arising out of a paragraph in The Examiner newspaper, dated November 10th, 1833, have agreed upon, and do hereby submit to your honourable House, the following Report:—The paragraph in question, purporting to form part of the report of a speech publicly delivered by Matthew Davenport Hill, Esq., Member of Parliament for the borough of Hull, is as follows:—It is impossible for those not actually in the House to know all the secret machinery by which votes are obtained. I happen to know this: (and I could appeal, if necessary, to a person well known and much respected by yourselves), that an Irish Member who spoke with great violence against every part of that Bill, and voted against every clause of it, went to Ministers, and said, 'Don't bate a single atom of that Bill, or it will be impossible for any man to live in Ireland.' 'What, (said they) this from you, who speak, and vote against the Bill?' Yes (he replied), that is necessary, because, if I don't come into Parliament for Ireland, I must be out altogether, and that I don't choose.' [Cries of 'Name,' and 'No.'] Consider for a moment: can I do it? ['No'—'Yes.'] That is a point for my consideration. I have a great respect for every one here: but if every one in the room was to hold up his hand for it, I would not do it. The secret is not my own. If he had told it to me, I would have said, 'Mark! I'll keep no such secret as this: I will publish it to the world.' But if I name the Member, I put it in the power of the individual who made the declaration, to know the gentleman who told me.Your Committee, in entering on the delicate and embarrassing duty imposed upon them, ascertained from Mr. Hill, that though he could not admit the entire accuracy of the above paragraph, as a report of what he had publicly spoken at Hull, he nevertheless recollected to have publicly charged an Irish Member of Parliament with conduct similar in substance to that which the paragraph describes. The Irish Member so alluded to, was Richard Lalor Sheil, Esq., Member of Parliament for the county of Tipperary; and Mr. Hill states the charge, to the best of his belief, to have been substantially as follows:—That Mr. Sheil made communications respecting the Irish Coercion Bill to persons connected with the Government and others, 398 with the intention thereby of promoting the passing of the Coercion Bill, and having a direct tendency to produce that effect, whilst his speeches and votes in the House were directed to the defeat of the Coercion Bill.Such was the substance of the allegation into which your Committee proceeded to inquire. Two witnesses were called before them at the suggestion of Mr. Hill, and others were about to be examined, when Mr. Hill himself, finding the testimony already heard, very different from what he had expected, freely and spontaneously, made the following communication to the Committee:—That he had come to the conviction, that his charge against Mr. Shiel, of having directly, or indirectly communicated, or intended to communicate to the Government any private opinions in opposition to those which he expressed in the House of Commons, had no foundation in fact; that such charge was not merely incapable of formal proof, but was, in his present sincere belief, totally and absolutely unfounded; that he had originally been induced to make mention of it in a hasty and unpremeditated speech, under a firm persuasion, that he had received it on undeniable evidence; but that being now satisfied of the mistake into which he had fallen, and convinced that the charge was wholly untrue, he came forward to express his deep and unfeigned sorrow for having ever contributed to give it circulation. Mr. Hill added, that if there were any way consistent with honour, by which he could make reparation to Mr. Sheil, he should deem no sacrifice too great to heal the wound which his erroneous statement had inflicted.It is with the highest gratification, that your Committee find themselves enabled thus to exonerate an accused Member of Parliament from imputations alike painful and undeserved. The voluntary avowal of an erroneous statement on the part of Mr. Hill, now puts it in their power to pronounce a decided opinion, and to close the present inquiry. Neither of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee, deposed to any facts calculated to bear out the allegation against Mr. Sheil; nor did their testimony go to impeach his character, and honour, in any way, or as to any matter whatever. The Committee have no hesitation in declaring their deliberate conviction, that the innocence of Mr. Sheil, in respect of the whole matter of complaint referred to their investigation, is entire and unquestionable.Your Committee feel bound, at the same time, to express their full confidence in Mr. Hill's declaration, that the statement impeaching Mr. Shed's character, was made by him. at Hull, under a sincere, though mistaken, persuasion of its accuracy. They derive this confidence as well from the tone of generous regret which characterized his communication at the close of their proceeding, as from the candid admissions, and the evident anxiety to avoid all exaggeration and mis-statement, 399 which they have observed throughout his testimony, as delivered in their presence.
§ After the Clerk had finished the perusal of the Report, there was a loud call for Lord Althorp.
§ Lord Althorp
spoke to the following effect:—I know not why I should be called upon to rise in my place, after the Report which has just been read to the House. Rising, however, as I now do, after it has been read, I feel bound to say, that no man present rejoices more at its contents than I do. The charge, as stated in the paper, which was referred to the consideration of the Select Committee, was, that the hon. and learned member for Tipperary had made a communication to the members of his Majesty's Government, and also to other persons, with a view which was specifically mentioned in the Report. The answer which I first gave to the question put to me by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, was, as the House will recollect, that there was no foundation for any such charge. I then stated, upon the authority of a person on whose veracity I placed entire reliance, that, though such a charge had no foundation in fact, I had reason to believe, and I did believe, that the hon. and learned Gentleman, whom I afterwards named, had expressed in private, respecting the Coercion Bill, sentiments very different from those which he professed in public. I feel that, after what has taken place in the Committee, it is due from me to the House, and I may also add, to myself, to state frankly the reasons why I added the latter observation. I had seen in the public papers very strong attacks made upon my hon. and learned friend, the member for Hull, for the speech which he had addressed to his constituents. I was quite sure, that the questions put to me by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, were put to me with a view of following up in this House, the attacks which had been made elsewhere upon my hon. and learned friend, and I felt, that if I had stopped short, and had answered the question simply, I should have made a statement which would have been contrary to what I had reason to believe, and which would have supported and encouraged the attacks on my hon. and learned friend, which we all knew were in contemplation. I believe, that, at the time, it was thought, that in acting as I did, I acted rightly; but I am now inclined to admit, upon 400 subsequent consideration, that I acted wrongly—nay, that I acted imprudently as a man, and still more imprudently as a Minister. With respect to what I did in my character as an individual, I admit, that I may have acted hastily; but in a case where I am actuated by the reasons which then influenced me, I frankly confess, that I would rather be found fault with for having acted with too little, than for having acted with too much prudence. My conduct, I am also inclined to admit, was imprudent, perhaps very imprudent, as a Minister; but if I am to put into competition my conduct and character as a man, with my conduct and character as a Minister, I must say, that I shall look at the first with more regard than I shall look at the latter. I am now called upon by several hon. Gentlemen, to state what my opinion is, now that I have heard the Report of the Committee read. As to the facts to which the Report refers, I have no scruple at all in saying, that I am satisfied with it. I have also no scruple in saying, that the hon. and learned Gentleman never did, directly or indirectly, intentionally or actually, communicate to other persons, any opinions in favour of the Coercion Bill, which were to be communicated by them to his Majesty's Government. I know, also, that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not communicate any such opinions to the Government himself. The communication which I received on the subject, came from persons on whose veracity I entirely rely. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in denial of the statement which I offered to the House, did not, as it appeared to me, deny the truth of the communication which was made to me. I intend to say nothing disparaging to any man in this House, when I say, that, in loose conversation, hon. Members may have expressed sentiments to a certain degree varying from the tenour of their votes in the House. At the same time, I do not pretend to deny, that the expression of sentiments in private, directly adverse to the sentiments expressed by hon. Members in the House, is a disparagement to them. I have, since I last addressed the House, made inquiries respecting the information given to me on this subject, and I am now prepared to say, if the hon. and learned member for Tipperary asserts distinctly, that he has not done what I stated him to have done, that I believe his assertion. At present 401 I am in this situation—I have had certain information given to me on the authority of gentlemen on whose veracity I entirely rely. They may have been mistaken in what they stated to me. They stated to me distinctly that which I stated to the House; but if the hon. and learned member for Tipperary will come forward and say, that it is untrue that he ever used language in private different from that which he used in public on the Coercion Bill, I will not only say, that I entirely believe him, but I will also apologize to him for the language which I used. Whilst I am upon my legs, though the question is not now regularly before the House, I trust, that I may be permitted to make another statement. On this, the first opportunity which I have had since I addressed the House on this subject, I feel bound to say, that, having on the former occasion stated, that more than one Irish Member had made similar communications to Members of his Majesty's Government, I conceived it to be my duty to communicate with my informant, and I have now to acquaint the House, that, though my words on that occasion are liberally borne out by his information, the impression which it produced on my mind, and which I may have produced in consequence upon the House, is not borne out.
—I appeal to the House, whether my hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary, is bound to make any such declaration as that which the noble Lord calls for. I say, that he is not. It was not from any wish to guard himself against vague accusation, but in answer to a distinct charge preferred against him by the noble Lord, that my hon. and learned friend gave to the House the solemn denial which we all heard. My hon. and learned friend gave that denial flatly and unequivocally; and the noble Lord having, when called upon to retract the accusation, repeated it, notwithstanding the cautions he received from his own friends, has now no right whatever to call upon my hon. and learned friend to confirm that which wants no confirmation—I mean his former denial. I will not presume to suggest to the noble Lord what he ought to do upon this occasion, but will leave it entirely to his own feelings.
§ Lord Althorp
—If I am to understand, that the solemn denial which the hon. and 402 learned member for Tipperary gave to the charge preferred against him by my hon. and learned friend, the member for Hull, was also meant as a denial to my statement, then I have no hesitation in saying, that I cannot disbelieve a declaration so solemnly made; and that being the case, I must apologize to the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, for the language which I used.
§ Mr. Cobbett
could not help remarking, that the statement made by the noble Lord opposite, appeared to him to apply to the whole body of Irish Members who opposed the Coercion Bill. Now, the aspersion which that statement cast upon them, had been completely wiped away by the Report of the Committee. Of the conduct of the noble Lord on this occasion he did not pretend to decide, but as far as he was a judge, he would say, that it was just the conduct which the House expected from his Lordship.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
said, if the noble Lord had expressed himself unequivocally upon the Report which had just been read, he would have done that which was his duty. In drawing the attention of the House to this subject, he was anxious to disconnect himself from his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary. His hon. and learned friend was now fully and honourably acquitted of the charge which had been preferred against him; but as it appeared to him, the country at large, that is, the country to which he had the honour to belong, was still implicated in it. He could not refrain from expressing his surprise, that the declaration of Ministers was not, on this occasion, more explicit and more exculpatory. The charge, as it was originally brought forward, was designed to prostrate, not merely his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary, but also every Member of the party with which he was connected.—The hon. Member was interrupted by
§ The Speaker
, who reminded him, that the case now before the House, had been entertained by the House as a question of privilege. Indeed, when once noticed, it could not be otherwise dealt with. It was then left in the judgment of the House, how it would proceed with such a case. The House decided, that it should be investigated in a Committee of Privileges, and, in consequence, delivered over the matter to that Committee; the Committee had decided upon it, and their 403 Report had just been read. The conversation which had since taken place, far from diminishing, had absolutely given additional weight to that Report. He therefore put it to the feelings of the hon. and learned Member, whether there were not many reasons, besides points of order, which ought to induce him to avoid the warmth in which he was then indulging? He put it to the hon. and learned Member, whether he would not best consult the order of the Debates, the interests of his friends, the dignity of the House, and, he might also add, the authority of the Report, which all parties admitted to be most satisfactory, by refraining from opening a fresh discussion connected with a case which was most important and most delicate.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
felt it to be his duty to yield upon that occasion, as he would upon all others, to the intimation of the Speaker, which had been given to him in a manner which imparted information without inflicting offence. He should abstain from entering further into the topics to which he had just been alluding: but this he must say, that during the last two or three days, the hon. and learned member for Tipperary had been pursued with the most unrelenting rigour; that I he had been attacked by parties, and assailed from quarters which were supposed to be under certain influence; but that, in spite of all the malignity which had combined to crush him, his character, and with his character, the character of his party, had been fully vindicated. He availed himself of this opportunity to say, that the hon. and learned member for Hull had done himself great honour by the manner in which he had conducted this case before the Committee, and that he had extorted from the Committee the most flattering testimony to the sincerity with which he had acted throughout. The hon. Member concluded by passing a warm eulogium upon a right hon. Baronet, who, on the first evening that this transaction was discussed, had risen superior to the prejudices of party, and had gallantly come forward to do justice to an injured man.
§ Mr. Finn
expressed exultation in the triumphant result of this inquiry, not only to his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary, but also to the entire body of Irish Members. He must complain of the unwillingness with which the House 404 had entered into this examination, and to contrast the gratification with which the House hailed the denunciation of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary by the noble Lord, with the pointed coolness with which they subsequently received the solemn denial which his hon. and learned friend gave to that denunciation.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
had heard, not with surprise, but with pleasure, the total acquittal which the Committee of Privileges had given to his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary. He was sure, that the whole House participated in the pleasure which he felt upon hearing, that one of its Members had been acquitted of so grievous an accusation as that which had been brought against his hon. and learned friend. There was one fact connected with this discussion, to which he could speak from his own personal knowledge: during the Debates on the Irish Coercion Bill, he had given his assistance, such as it was, to those Irish Members who opposed it. He had, in consequence, had several conversations with Irish Members who were averse from that measure. During the conversations which he held with them, he had never discovered anything which could induce him to suppose, that their opposition was not founded on justice, and conducted with sincerity. He had never discovered any thing which could lead him to believe that they were guilty of the misconduct which had been recently imputed to them. The Report which had just been read, would, when it was dispersed through Ireland, do honour and justice at once to the character of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary. It would likewise acquit the House of certain imputations cast upon its fairness and impartiality, which ought not to have come from the quarter in which they originated. He must express his entire conviction, that any impression which had been made by the recent charges, to the disadvantage of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Tipperary, would be more than removed by the publication of this Report.
§ Colonel Leith Hay
could not allow this discussion to close without stating what he felt now, and what he had felt all along, respecting this transaction. What he had stated on a former evening, when this question was under discussion, was not stated with any intention of injuring 405 the character of the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, with whom, by the by, he had not the slightest acquaintance. He understood well what was due to the private relations of social life; but when he saw the noble Lord below him questioned in his place, as to communications which had been made to him, he considered that those communications were made public property, and that he had a right to deal with them accordingly. His chief object in rising upon the present occasion, was to express his satisfaction at the Report which had just been presented to the House, and his joy, that the hon. and learned member for Tipperary had been so completely exonerated from the charge which had been alleged against him. On a former evening, when he stated to the House what he had heard, he had stated it upon authority which he believed to be unquestionable. It was his duty to believe, that his friend, in the information which he had given him, had been in error; but if his friend had been in error, he had been in an error into which fifty other Members of Parliament had also fallen.
§ Mr. Sheil
rose, amidst loud cries of "hear" from all parts of the House, which were succeeded by profound silence. After a short pause, he said: I stood, a few nights ago, before this House, with no other sustainment than the consciousness of my innocence; I now stand before it, with that innocence announced, in the clearest and most unequivocal language, by a Committee, composed of men themselves above all suspicion to the world. I do feel my heart swell within me at this instant, and almost impede my utterance. Justice has been done me. It has been done, not only by my judges, but by my accuser. He preferred his charges in the House, he reiterated them before the Committee; and, having gone into his evidence, and probed his case, he then offered me the only reparation in his power, and, with a frankness of contrition which mitigates the wrong he did me, he came forward and announced that, not only could he not prove his charge, but believed it to be utterly destitute of foundation. That Gentleman, having made this acknowledgment, then turned to me, and, addressing himself to me in the tone and with the aspect of deep emotion, asked me to forgive him. I had, I own, much to forgive. He had wounded me 406 to my heart's core; he had injured me, and given agony to mine; he had committed a havoc of the feelings of those who are dearer to me than my life, and to whom my honour is more precious than their existence; he had furnished to the Secretary for the Colonies the occasion of addressing me in the language, and with the gesture, of solemn admonition, and of pointing out the results of an inquiry, in the tone of prophetic warning. I had, indeed, much to forgive; and yet I forgive him, because, as he protested his innocence of all malevolent intention, and said, that he had been deluded, and acknowledged my innocence of his accusation, I felt that he had done all in his power to repair the wrong; and, heavy as it was, when he asked my pardon, I could not withhold it. It would have been unworthy of me to have availed myself of the occasion thus presented to me, to have cast reproaches on my accuser, or to have been betrayed to vindictive emotion. I did not manifest it then—I shall not exhibit it now—I stood on the verge of a tremendous peril, of the depth of which I was conscious, without dismay—I have trodden the edge of the precipice in calm security, and it remains, that, having passed it, I should indulge in no exultation, as I betrayed no fear. The noble Lord (for I turn to him) has tendered me an apology. I am to presume, that it is not accompanied with any miserable innuendos, and that he cannot purpose to convey any injurious hint. He says, that as I have denied his charge, he believes me, and tenders his recantation and his regret. Whatever is offered in a fair and ingenuous spirit, I am bound, in the same spirit, to accept; but let the noble Lord look back at the exact state of facts between us. The Government having been charged with obtaining votes, by alleging that an Irish Member had been guilty of an act of perfidy, was interrogated on that head. We had a right to put him the question—we had a right to learn two things—first, whether the government had resorted to "secret machinery;" next, whether any communication was made to the Government by an Irish Member. The noble Lord answered the question in the negative, but did not stop there. He went on and founded a charge of inconsistency, grounded on private conversations. We have heard much denunciation 407 from Ministers respecting the disclosures of private discourse; and yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Representative of the Government who entertain such a horror of a practice detested by all honourable men, is the very first to make a reference to the babble of clubs, to declare his belief of information to which he gratuitously attaches an injurious importance, and to announce that he would not give up his author, but would take upon himself the responsibility. This defiance having been given, the House interposed. No resource was left me but to protest that I never expressed myself in favour of the Coercion Bill, and to demand inquiry. I insisted on it. The Secretary for the Colonies, out of regard, no doubt, for my reputation, pointed out the possible results. His kind and generous suggestions had no other effect than to confirm me in my purpose, and to make me call more loudly for trial. That trial has proceeded; my private conversation at a club-house has been given in evidence; and the Committee declare me innocent of every charge which has been preferred against me. Did I shrink from the ordeal? Did I resort to forms and chicane? Did I make my honour a matter of casuistry and special pleading? No, Sir; I courted, I invited, I demanded investigation, and my private conversation at the Athenæum club having been detailed (a conversation after dinner, never recollected, even by the narrator, for eight months), the accuser declares that his charge is totally destitute of foundation, and the Committee at once resolve on my unqualified acquittal. One of the informants of the noble Lord was produced—why were not they all brought forward? My accusers were welcome to have got together every loose phrase, every casual and giddy expression, uttered in recklessness, in the moments of thoughtlessness and of exhilaration—they were welcome to have collected and collated every sentence uttered by me in convivial gatherings, and to have raked and gathered the sweepings of club-houses, in order to have made up a mass of sordid testimony, and to have cast it into the balance against me—they were welcome to have put me through an ordeal, such as not one of the Ministers themselves could encounter. Which of you all would dare to stand the test—which of you would have the veil of his 408 privacy rent to pieces, and all his thoughts, uttered in the familiarity of common life, divulged? But they were welcome to have got together all the whisperers and eaves-droppers of all their clubs against me. I should have defied them. I was prepared with proof, to be given by my most intimate and confidential friends—the men with whom I have lived on terms of familiarity and of trust for upwards of twenty years—the companions of my early life—who know me as I do myself, and to whom all my thoughts and feelings are almost as well known as their own. I should have been prepared with their evidence, and have established, that whenever the Coercion Bill was glanced at, I condemned it in terms of unmitigated detestation, and denounced it as a violation of every one of those principles of liberty, of which the Whigs were once the devoted but not unalterable champions. To be sure, I did—not once, but a hundred times—express my horror of the atrocities perpetrated in parts of the South of Ireland. I did say, that to put ruffianism down something ought to be done. I referred to the suggestions made by the Committee which sat in 1832 on the Queen's County, and which was composed of men of all parties; but never—I repeat it with an emphasis into which all my heart and soul are thrown—never did I express myself as favourable to a Bill which I reprobated in this House, which I denounced elsewhere in terms of equally vehement censure; and if, in place of standing here, I were lying on my death-bed and about to appear in the presence of my God, I should not dread, with the utterance of these words, if they were to be my last, to appear before him.
§ Mr. Abercromby
would merely trespass on the House to state the particulars of the conversation which had passed between himself and the hon. and learned Member. A few days ago the hon. and learned Gentleman had reminded him of a conversation they had held upon the state of Ireland, during the debates on the Coercion Bill. He had told the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he recollected having held such a conversation, but could not call to mind the particulars of it. He now repeated that statement to the House. He had found it impossible to recall the particulars; but although he could not recollect what the details of that 409 conversation were, neither could he recollect any one circumstance or opinion coming from the mouth of the hon. and learned Gentleman, inconsistent with the opinions that he had heard him express publicly in that House. He should not have thought this worth stating to the House, had not the hon. and learned Gentleman referred directly to him.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
hoped the question was at length brought to a conclusion. In the Report which had been laid before them, and the painful discussion which had followed, he trusted a salutary lesson had been impressed upon the House to guard itself against receiving as facts worthy of attention, matter which rested upon vague and rambling reports. If the experience which they had of this affair had taught them this lesson, all they had gone through would not be thrown away. He should not have said one word if the hon. and learned Gentleman had not called upon him. That hon. and learned Gentleman appealed to him, demanding to know what must have been his (Mr. Sheil's) feelings, as an innocent man, when his warning had been addressed to him. In answer to that appeal, he would say, that such must have been his feelings as would be the feelings of any man labouring under unjust suspicions, who saw a tribunal appointed which was to make manifest his innocence. He hastened to say, that, with respect to the charges brought against the hon. and learned Gentleman at Hull, he had been, by the Report of the Committee, fully, distinctly, and honourably acquitted. He also rejoiced to have heard the positive, explicit, and frank denial of the hon. and learned Member, and, which having heard, he could entertain no doubt any longer on the subject, that upon no occasion had the hon. and learned Gentleman used language out of the House inconsistent with that which he had used in the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman would forgive him for repeating over and over again, that his noble friend had not brought a charge against any one. He knew that his noble friend would not have made the statement, had he not believed it to be true, and believed it upon the testimony of persons on whose veracity he had the fullest confidence. After the denial of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he (Mr. Secretary Stanley) had thought it the best course to appoint 410 a Committee of Inquiry, the character of the House being involved in the truth of such denial. The hon. and learned Member had courted the fullest inquiry, and he was entitled to claim the benefit of the inquiry of the Committee, before which no evidence in support of the accusation had been adduced. He also stood acquitted, upon his own statement, of having held conversations of the character imputed to him, the imputations having originated in loose reports and exaggerations. He did not wish to derogate from the triumph of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he was bound to state, that his noble friend would not have advanced the statement if he had not believed it. He was glad that the House had been spared an inquiry into loose and vague conversations. He hoped that the manner in which he had just expressed himself, had satisfied the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman had obtained a complete vindication of his character, and was relieved from the painful situation in which he stood. There was now not the shadow of a doubt resting upon the word of the hon. and learned Member.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
wished, as all persons in the House did, he believed, that this discussion had ended long since. He could not, however, after the speech of the right hon. Secretary, refrain from saying a word or two. The right hon. Secretary appeared to him to have assumed most unjustly, that the vindication of the hon. and learned Gentleman rested in part upon his own denial. The Report acquitted the hon. and learned Gentleman, not only from the charge brought against him at Hull, but also from every other charge whatever connected with the subject. The Report distinctly declared, that neither of the witnesses had deposed to any points implicating the hon. and learned Gentleman in the charge, nor did their testimony implicate him in any matter whatever. The right hon. Secretary put the matter as though the accused was exonerated as to the Hull charge, upon the Report of the Committee; and, upon the other charges, upon his own denial. This, he said, was not the fair way of placing the result of these painful inquiries.
Mr. Secretary Stanley
interrupted the right hon. Baronet, to state, that he had exonerated the hon. and learned Gentleman fully and completely.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
reminded the right hon. Secretary, that he had expressly declared that the noble Lord's informant believed in the truth of the charges, and that the noble Lord himself believed in the veracity of his informant. Now, the Gentleman who had given evidence before the Committee, and who was the informant of the noble Lord, had declared, very frankly and honourably, that when he mentioned the matter to the noble Lord, he attached no importance whatever to it—and further, that the conversation he had held with Mr. Sheil was held at dinner at the Athenaeum Club House, and that Mr. Sheil then expressed to him the strongest disapprobation of the Coercion Bill. He had asked the witness whether he had ever stated the particulars of the conversation to any other person, and his answer was, that he had not—not having thought it of any importance. The witness had said also, that he did not mention the matter to the noble Lord till December, which was after the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Hull. Under these circumstances, he must contend that the exoneration of the hon. member for Tipperary, rested, not upon his statement, but, exclusively and comprehensively, upon the Report of the Committee of Inquiry. He did not mean to cast blame upon the right hon. Secretary; but he thought the hon. and learned member for Tipperary entitled to be relieved from the distinction which the right hon. Secretary appeared disposed to draw.
§ Lord Althorp
said that, after the speech of the right hon. Baronet, it became necessary that he should address a few words to the House. The gentleman (Mr. John Wood) who had appeared before the Committee, had certainly given him (Lord Althorp) such information as had just been stated to the House. But he was not the only person who had given him that information. He did not mean to retract what he had said. He had the greatest reliance on the veracity of his informant, but he did not wish to go into that question. He was then only defending himself from the charge of having made a statement of a conversation different from that which he had heard. Mr. John Wood was, undoubtedly, one of his informants, but there was another, whom he did not intend to name. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman stood perfectly clear from imputation.
hoped the matter would now be allowed to end. After the noble Lord's repetition of his exoneration of his hon. and learned friend, what more could be wanted? The House now had a specimen of the sort of mistakes to which the reporters of conversations were liable. Such was the mistake in this case, that the conversation was the very reverse of what had been reported. Never since the creation had any charge been so annihilated as this.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
said, he did not rise for the purpose of continuing this debate with reference to the case of the hon. and learned member for Tipperary; nor did he now rise from any captious motive or feeling of false honour. The House must have observed, that he was most anxious to accede to the proposition so feelingly, so eloquently, and so prudently recommended by the Speaker—of terminating this unpleasant debate. The hon. and learned member for Dublin also begged that it might now cease. With what had fallen from the noble Lord he was heartily satisfied, so, he was sure, was every honourable man. With the noble Lord, then, he had nothing more to do, but his business was with the hon. and gallant Colonel who sat behind the noble Lord. The House did not, perhaps, hear what he had heard that gallant Gentleman say at the conclusion of his speech. That part of the charge in which the gallant Colonel backed the noble Lord, went to state his confidence in that authority, which impeached several Irish Members; but the gallant Colonel, after stating his belief of the report, and repeating what he had before said, and after apologising, as he thought, concluded his observations by saying, "and I do not retract one word of what I have said." Now he (Mr. O'Connor) asked the gallant Colonel, did he or did he not—
§ Colonel Leith Hay
begged to state that he had said no such thing. His information had applied only to the hon. and learned member for Tipperary, and so he had stated it.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
, as he had misunderstood the hon. and gallant Member, was quite satisfied, and would sit down.
§ The Report was ordered to lie on the Table, and to be printed.