HC Deb 21 July 1834 vol 25 cc297-303
Mr. O'Connell

rose to move, as the right hon. Secretary of War was in the House, that the Report he had that evening laid on the Table be printed.

Lord Althorp insisted, that the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Suppression of Disturbances, Ireland, Bill, should have precedence.

Mr. Ellice

said, if, after the statement which he should have the honour of making to the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman thought fit to make the Motion, he should have an opportunity of doing so at some later period in the evening without any opposition. For the first time since coming into the House he had just seen, although he was not altogether unacquainted with the fact, that something had passed in the course of the morning, with reference to the subject, in a Committee up-stairs; for the first time, he had just seen the Report which had been presented by that Committee, of which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) was Chairman. In that Report it was stated, that a noble friend of his had applied to him, as Secretary to the Treasury, for an advance of money by the Treasury, for the purpose of paying the expenses of an election then going on in the borough of Colchester. He had no hesitation in stating to the House, that the facts so stated by his noble friend—he was satisfied quite unintentionally on his part—had been misrepresented, and were totally untrue. It was quite true, that during the course of that year (1831)—a year, he believed, which would be long recollected by the youngest Member in that House—when they, at least those among them who were reformers, were anxiously engaged in the arduous struggle to carry that question on which the previous Parliament had been dissolved, great preparations and exertions were made both by the friends and opponents of that important measure, On the part of its opponents a club was estab- lished in Charles-street, to the fame of which he thought it unnecessary now more particularly to allude, but where it was notorious large sums of money were collected to pay the expenses and advance the interests of those who repudiated reform in different parts of the country. The advocates of Reform had no other way of meeting that state of things than by endeavouring to promote similar subscriptions in their turn, in order to prevent their friends being oppressed by the general contest. It would be recollected by many hon. Gentlemen, that at that period be had taken on himself the labour of making arrangements connected with the general election then about to take place—not so much in his official situation, as he knew some would be disposed to impute to him, but simply as an humble individual most anxious for the success of that great constitutional principle for which they were contending. In that character several Gentlemen who had superintended subscription funds to a considerable amount on the side of Reform, were in the habit of asking his advice, and, indeed, he might say of consulting his discretion, as to their appropriation when collected; and he had no hesitation in saying, that beyond the money applied towards the election at Colchester, various sums out of the funds raised were applied under his advice at different times, by different Committees throughout the Metropolis. Beyond the misrepresentation in the evidence of his noble friend, which he repeated he was quite sure had been altogether unintentional, it was stated in the Report, that the money in question had been advanced for the particular purpose of forwarding the interests of one individual in the borough of Colchester. Now, it would be recollected that they were then exposed to the execrable system of sending down all the out voters; and it having been represented to him, that one side had the means of sending down those voters while the other side had not, he stated to an independent friend of both parties, that he knew no individual, except as engaged for or against Reform, all he asked being whether they were in favour of the principle for which they were contending; and on a statement, that there was a Committee or some other means of conducting the general expense of sending down voters,—a perfectly legal expense,—he certainly did apply to the Committee who had the management of the funds at that time, and procured the advance of 500l. for the Reform interest. Such was his recollection of what had passed when the subject was first mentioned to him by his right hon. friend, the member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Wynn). Whether there had not been an indiscretion in bring the matter before a Committee up-stairs, he would not take on himself to determine; it was a matter of the most perfect indifference to him, whether it was discussed in a Committee up-stairs or in that House. His answer was, that he acknowledged at once the fact, that he had been the instrument at the time of apportioning the funds which had been subscribed throughout different parts of the country; and having stated that to the House plainly and candidly, he was content to throw himself on their impartial judgment. So far went his recollection, without having had the opportunity of referring to documents, or other means of ascertaining whether the facts were precisely in accordance with his impressions. But since he had entered the House, by the courtesy of the hon. member for Colchester (Mr. Harvey), he had been put in possession of the letters which he (Mr. Ellice) had written to that hon. Gentleman on the occasion alluded to; and if the House would allow him to read them, for they were very short, it would be seen in the first place, that the funds had not been advanced for the exclusive use of one or other of the candidates for Colchester, but for the purpose of enabling the Reformers of that borough to send Members to that House who would support "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." He used those words because they formed, in point of fact, the test which had been put to all the Reformers throughout the country. The two notes to which he alluded completely bore out his own recollections, so that whatever opinion the House might form as to the propriety of the transaction itself, there could be no doubt whatever as to the facts of the case. The right hon. Gentleman then read the following Letters:— Wednesday, May 4, 1831. Dear Sir,—I hope all will go right. I have done everything in my power to contribute to it. 500l. was sent from one subscription fund to Mr. Savill; and 200l., I hear, has been contributed by the other—(Meaning the Crown and Anchor Committee, of which the hon. member for Middlesex knew something. That hon. Gentleman was very meritoriously engaged at the Crown and Anchor, while he (Mr. Ellice) was occupied elsewhere.)—I am obliged to return to Coventry to-night, and shall not be again in town till Saturday, but if you are in difficulty in the mean time, you must press upon the Committee at the Crown and Anchor, who feel every disposition to exert themselves on behalf of Colchester. Yours faithfully, E. ELLICE. D. W. Harvey, Esq. Sunday. Dear Sir,—I had written (before opening your letter), according to the wishes of Mr. Western, to Mr. Savill relative to affairs at Colchester, and given him authority to do any thing which I held out to you the prospect of being able to do on behalf of the liberal cause. I hope what has been done will be sufficient. At all events, it is all I have at present in my power; but if you send me up a good account of your proceedings to-morrow, I will urge the Committee to make further exertions. That, however, must depend upon their means and inclination, neither of which are under my control. Yours faithfully, E. ELLICE. D. W. Harvey, Esq. After what he had stated, he thought it quite unnecessary to add, that not one single shilling of the fund had been contributed front the public money; indeed, it was much more likely that it had come out of his own private purse. Such was the explanation he had to offer, and which he trusted would be satisfactory to the House. Throughout the transaction he did not think he had done more than any other Member, agreeing with him on the great principle in question, would have felt himself justified in doing, under the circumstances he had described.

Mr. Hume

had no hesitation in corroborating the statement that a Committee had sat at the Crown and Anchor for the purpose of receiving subscriptions to be employed in advancing the interest of the Reform Candidates; and he believed that an hon. Member of that House had acted as honorary Secretary on that occasion. He had been anxious to know whether the 500l. had really come from the public money, and he was glad his right hon. friend had so satisfactorily answered that question.

Mr. Harvey

was anxious to state, that he had not derived one farthing of benefit from the fund which had been collected at the Crown and Anchor. As to the 500l. in question, it never should have come under the attention of the House but for the inquiry with which it was incidentally connected, and which had occupied the attention of the Committee for some time past. Lord Western having stated that he applied for that money expressly and exclusively for Mr. Mayhew, and denying most positively that it had reference to any other party, he should say nothing as to the motive or tendency of that denial, but was perfectly satisfied to find that his (Mr. Harvey's) representations had been substantially confirmed.

Mr. Rigby Wason

Would any one say it was not as notorious as the sun at noon-day that the Government, during recent elections, had been in the habit of assisting Candidates favourable to their own views? Government had been long ia the habit of doing so. He put it to Gentlemen on both sides of the House, if that was not the fact. One advantage, at all events, would arise from the present conversation, namely, that the attention of Parliament would be directed to the expediency of discontinuing the secret service money, or at least of much reducing it.

Sir Henry Hardinge

had no wish to protract the discussion, but having held two or three offices for a considerable time, he must say, upon his honour, that he had never known a single instance of the public money having been applied in the way alluded to by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. He by no means thought the question a light one. At the same time he implicitly believed the statement which had been made by his right hon. friend opposite; and he was satisfied that if the case were referred to the consideration of the Committee of Privileges, (and if he were his right hon. friend he should be most anxious to have it so referred), the Report of that Committee would be, that there was no ground for any further proceedings.

Mr. Baring

said, it was necessary, if the House wished to preserve its own respect—if it wished to preserve the respect of the country, that the matter under discussion should be made a subject of inquiry; because no invasion of the rights and privileges of the people ought to take place without the fullest investigation. This was a question which ought not to be lightly passed over; it involved the most important privileges of that House and of the people. It was for the House to institute an inquiry, and then to determine whether any and what measure ought to be adopted upon it, He would say, that no step could be taken by the House until the paper was printed. He had heard that paper cursorily read, and he would say, that he was not aware that the name of the right hon. Secretary of the Treasury was once mentioned in that paper. It was indeed stated, that a most respectable Gentleman connected with the Treasury had paid over a certain sum of money for electioneering purposes. True it was, that no Gentleman of greater respectability, of higher character, than his right hon. friend, the member for Coventry, could be found in the country. But yet, having received the Report of the Committee, they were bound to print it, otherwise they would depart from a course quite usual with the House. He felt that the paper ought to be printed, and it would then be for the consideration of the House whether any, and what ulterior measure ought to be resorted to.

The Report was ordered to be printed.