said, that as Chairman of the Select Committee to inquire into the regulations of the Inns of Court it had devolved on him to lay before the House a first Report of the labours of that Committee as far as they had then gone. That Report was found to contain the particulars of a transaction involving one of the grossest charges of breach of privilege that had ever been brought under the notice of the House. He felt that he should not be discharging his duty if he did not call the attention of the House to the circumstances to which he alluded. The facts deposed to before the Committee were these—that a Gentleman who at the time referred to, held the situation of one of the Secretaries of the Treasury was written to by a Gentleman then interested in the election going on for the borough of Colchester, for the remittance of a sum for the purpose of supporting the cause of one of two Gentlemen then Candidates for that borough. He admitted, that controversy might exist as to which of those Candidates this money was destined to support, or whether it was for the benefit of both of them; but there was no pretence for disputing the fact, that 500l. was sent to Colchester from the then Secretary of the Treasury, and for the purpose of ensuring the return of one of the 378 two Members elected for that borough. The house would see that whether one or both of those Members were supported in their election by the funds so supplied was a question utterly immaterial. Such being the facts of the case, it was equally unnecessary for him to use any arguments to prove, that a very gross breach of their privileges had been committed. He did not pretend to say, whether there had ever been a period in which such proceedings as those of which he now complained were considered justifiable; but, if ever there were, that time was gone by. He admitted, that the statement which had been made in that House by the right hon. Gentleman to whom he had referred, now the Secretary at War, in explanation of his conduct in this affair, was such as very materially to palliate the features of the case. That individual was one for whom in his individual capacity he entertained the highest respect, and to whose assertions he had every disposition to give implicit confidence. But it should be borne in mind, that the statement of that hon. Gentleman was merely a verbal one, unsupported by papers or records, or any testimony whatever, whilst the information on which the charge had been brought forward had been formally given in evidence by witnesses before a Committee of that House. As to the explanation itself, he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would excuse him when he declared his conviction that the right hon. Gentleman had been mistaken, not to use a harsher term, as to the grounds upon which he had rested that explanation. If, as that hon. Member had stated, the money in question had been supplied by the subscriptions of private individuals, no doubt there existed some list on record of the names of those individuals, and of the appropriation of the funds so subscribed—documents which there could be no difficulty in producing, if they really existed, to corroborate the hon. Member's statement. Indeed it appeared impossible to suppose that any body of men could be induced to subscribe their money for any particular object without some evidence of the kind that the amount had been applied to the object towards which they had supplied it. In the absence of all corroborative evidence of this kind, the House was called upon, for its own satisfaction, to put the explanation which had been advanced to the proof, and require a de- 379 monstration of its correctness. After all there must always appear something very suspicious upon the face of such transactions, from the circumstance of the money passing through the hands of the Secretary of the Treasury at all. How very easy was it for such private monies to get mixed up with the public money, especially when it was recollected that a large sum was annually granted to Government for what was called the secret service. Under all these considerations he thought that the House was imperatively called upon to institute an inquiry into this matter. No doubt it would eventually turn out as had been stated, but the public would not be satisfied without a full and searching investigation. It was necessary for the character of the House—it was necessary for the character of the Government—it was necessary for the character of the individual, that the Motion he (Mr. O'Connell) was about to make should be complied with; that a Committee should be appointed to sift the whole of the proceedings and lay the facts clearly before the House. What was it that the people of England now dreaded, and what had they to appeal against? They were no longer oppressed by a proud aristocracy, for by the recent wise acts of legislation the power of the aristocracy had been almost entirely taken away. What then was it that the people of England had still to dread, violating their rights and liberties? What, but that which had already sapped the strength of many of our proudest institutions—that canker-worm of corruption which stooped to procuring the votes of freemen by purchase, and added to the disgrace of bribery the crime of perjury? If ever there was a period when such proceedings were doubly disgraceful, and called more loudly for visitation than at another, the present was that period. Let it not be said of a Reformed House of Parliament that they refused to inquire into such a cause. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving, that the first Report of the Select Committee on the Inns of Court be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he had not been at all prepared for the part which the hon. and learned Member had taken on the present occasion. He must say, that he could not perceive that there existed any grounds to demand the appoint- 380 ment of a Committee of Privileges. If any individual connected with the Government had given money out of the Treasury for the purpose of controlling an election, he would be acting not only in opposition to the spirit of the Constitution, but also in opposition to the express desire of his Majesty's Government. But was any Gentleman in the House prepared to say, that the Secretary of the Treasury had not in his individual (in contradistinction to his official) capacity as good a right to interfere in elections as any other Member of Parliament? His right hon. friend had made a statement to the House a few evenings since, in which he showed from letters that the money which he had advanced was not from the public coffers, but had been raised by public subscription, and had been intrusted to him for distribution. He did not then think it was a case that ought to be sent to a Committee. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had observed, that there should not now be any such thing as nomination of Members to that House. He perfectly coincided in the opinion, and he could not help thinking that the hon. and learned Member himself furnished one of the very few instances in which the power of nomination still actually existed. He thought his right hon. friend was entitled to the enjoyment of the same privileges which was possessed by every other Member in that House. The money which had been advanced was as already stated—a public subscription, and it was advanced for the purpose of defraying the legal expenses of the Colchester election.
coincided with the noble Lord, that a sufficient case to call for the appointment of a Committee had not been made out. He thought, in fact, that it would be impossible for the House to send the case to a Committee after the statement of the right hon. the Secretary at War, without, in point of fact, conveying an opinion that they discredited that statement. His hon. and learned friend had undoubtedly brought forward the question with much fairness. He refrained from stating any of the charges, and put to issue the simple question whether or not the money advanced had been advanced from the public funds? He was a member of the Committee sitting upon the Inns of Court, and he had no hesitation in stating, that no evidence had been givn before that Committee to justify 381 the conclusion that it was public money. On the other hand, it had been stated by the right. hon. Gentleman opposite upon his honour, that it was not public money. He had in private urged the Secretary of the Treasury to give his explanation before the Committee; but so satisfied was the right hon. Gentleman of the rectitude of the course he had adopted, that he much preferred to have it mentioned in the house.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that it was precisely because he believed the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman, that he thought a Committee ought to be appointed. There was in his judgment no other way of meeting the case so as to do justice to the character of that House. The information upon which his hon. and learned friend grounded his Motion was of such a nature as absolutely to require the appointment of a Committee. It was given by a noble Lord, a Member of the other House of Parliament, who, in his examination, had said, that money had been sent to Colchester from the Treasury—which he thought was sent to support Mr. Mayhew—and that he was returned. Now, after this statement of the noble Lord—that money was sent "from the Treasury" to defray the election expenses of a particular Candidate, who was eventually returned—could the House, in justice to its own character—could it, in justice to the character of the right hon. Secretary, refuse the appointment of a Committee? That right hon. Gentleman he knew was much interested in the elections of the period—and here was a charge that money came from the Treasury—not from private subscriptions—and how then could the House get rid of that charge except by appointing a Committee? He was well aware that his right hon. friend would be able fully and most completely to exculpate himself, and what objection could there then be to the appointment of a Committee? He recollected that on a former occasion the right hon. member for Ipswich stood up and challenged any individual in the House who had ever filled the office of Secretary to the Treasury to show that he had ever been concerned in transactions like the present on the part of Government. He certainly did not believe that such proceedings were attributable to Government. There was only one source from which money could be supplied for such purposes 382 unknown to the public, namely, the secret service money, but that was generally distributed amongst low parties for other and miscellaneous services. However, as the case now stood before the public, he sincerely trusted that the House would not allow any public man to remain subject to the allegation which had been brought against him of having advanced money under circumstances like the present. He trusted, that upon those considerations the noble Lord would withdraw his opposition.
§ Lord John Russell
begged briefly to explain the grounds upon which he had felt called upon to oppose the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. He was quite prepared to admit, that if the only accounts before the House relative to this matter were the evidence before the Committee on the Inns of Court the case would be in a very different position to what it now assumed. The ground upon which he opposed the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin for a Committee of Inquiry was, that the statement which had been made by the right hon. Secretary at War in explanation of his conduct in this transaction had been corroborated by letters actually written between the parties at the time of the occurrence. These documents were amply sufficient to satisfy the House upon the merits of the case.
supported the Motion. Instead of the direct opposition which the Members on the Ministerial Bench seemed inclined to give it, he thought that at least they should propose, by way of amendment, some measure of less formality in accordance with the objects of the hon. and learned Mover.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
said, he would meet the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member by proposing an Amendment to the Motion before the House. He could not help observing, that the present Motion came with a particularly bad grace from the hon. and learned Member, who, with other hon. Members in that House, were so much beholden for their political position to the right hon. Member the Secretary at War and his colleagues in office. The people of England would always feel grateful to that right hon. Gentleman for his exertions in their cause. And he sincerely hoped that the House would not allow a shadow to be cast over the reputation of individuals to whom the 383 country was so deeply indebted. When Scipio Africanus was gravely accused of having raised an unjust tribute, which gave offence to the Roman people, instead of defending himself against the various charges with which he was assailed, he simply reminded the assembled multitudes that that very day was the anniversary of his great victory over Hannibal and the Carthaginians, and then called upon them to follow him to the temple and return thanks to the gods for the triumph of their arms. This they did, and prayed at the same time that all their future commanders might be like him. He did not know whether the House would be inclined to follow the right hon. Secretary at War to the temple and return thanks for their signal victory over the boroughmongers. But this he did say, that he hoped for the future they would always have Secretaries to the Treasury equal to that right hon. Gentleman. This was not his Amendment, however. The Amendment which he had to propose to the House was—"That the House, having heard the statement which had been made by the right hon. member for Coventry, relative to the transactions referred to in the evidence of the first Report of the Select Committee on the Inns of Court, considers that explanation satisfactory, and will proceed no further in the matter."
said, that if they were now to decide that the denial of a fact by a Secretary of the Treasury was, in consequence of his high character, to overbear evidence and silence inquiry, it would establish a precedent mischievous in the extreme. Hereafter, if they were to institute any inquiry after a Secretary of the Treasury had uttered a denial of the charge, whatever it might be, it would be fairly considered as an insult to that Gentleman. The evidence was to the effect, that Lord Western, when a commoner, had applied to the Treasury for money for election purposes, and that money was accordingly supplied for these purposes on his application by the Treasury. These, he maintained, were sufficient grounds for instituting the inquiry which was demanded. It had been contended, that there was no difference between the testimony of Lord Western, and the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; but there was: and that difference was obvious. 384 Lord Western was not the defendant. He had not made a statement to exculpate himself; he had simply given evidence on a question in which he had no personal interest. He begged to call the attention of the House to one of its Resolutions, which bore directly upon the question before it:—The House had resolved, "That it is highly criminal in any Minister or Ministers, or other servants of the Crown of Great Britain, directly or indirectly, to use the powers of office in the election of Representatives to serve in Parliament; and an attempt at such influence will at all times be resented by this House, as aimed at its own honour, dignity, and independence, as an infringement of the dearest rights of every subject throughout the empire, and tending to sap the basis of this free and happy Constitution." In 1807, the conduct of Mr. Freemantle, one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, became the subject of animadversion in that House. Mr. Freemantle was a landed proprietor in Hampshire, and of course entitled to a vote for the county, and he wrote a letter requesting votes in favour of a particular candidate. From the contents of that letter nothing whatever could be inferred of Mr. Freemantle's connexion with the Government, and the complaint turned altogether upon the fact of the letter having been dated from the Treasury instead of the writer's private residence. On that simple fact it was contended, that Mr. Freemantle had used the influence of Government in the election. No Member in the course of the debate which took place upon that occasion, disputed Mr. Freemantle's right to take part in the election as a voter or canvasser in his private character. The objection was simply to his having interfered in his official character Now, what was the case with respect to the right hon. Secretary-at-War? He had interfered in the election of Colchester, not as a private individual, but as a Secretary for the Treasury. It was the more necessary to examine scrupulously the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, because the Secretary for the Treasury was the only officer intrusted with Secret Service money, who was not sworn under Mr. Burke's Act, with respect to its distribution. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was, under that Act, obliged to swear that the money received by him on account of 385 Foreign Secret Service had been bonâ fide expended. The Secretary of State for the Home Department also swore, that the money received by him for Secret Service, was expended in the detection and defeat of treason, and other dangerous conspiracies. The only limitation however, which the Act imposed upon the Secretary of the Treasury was, that he should not draw on account of Secret Service a larger sum than 10,000l. in any one year, and the only check upon the expenditure was, that the names of the persons who received Secret Service money, together with the sums paid them, should be entered in a book, to be produced in either House of Parliament, if required. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him, that the Secretary of the Treasury was the most improper person in the whole kingdom to be employed in the distribution of money subscribed for the purpose of carrying on elections. Taking the fact to be as the right hon. Gentleman had himself stated it, was it a matter of no importance that such a sum of money should be placed at the disposal of the Secretary of the Treasury? He appealed to the common sense of the House upon this point. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he had issued similar sums of money for ten or twelve other elections. Was not this a source of dangerous and unconstitutional influence? How could independent Members who had no funds but their own to apply to compete with candidates who were backed with such powerful means? But it was said, that all this money had been expended in the cause of Reform. Now, let the House recollect what definition of the cause of Reform had been given in those walls. The cause of Reform had been defined by the hon. member for Middlesex to be voting that black was white upon the question of the Russian-Dutch loan. The hon. Member said, that he did so to promote the cause of Reform, and that the end justified the means. Was it not possible that Members who owed their seats to the money issued by the Secretary of the Treasury, might consider themselves under an obligation to vote with the Treasury, not only upon the question of Reform, but upon other matters? In the next place, it was said, that the money was appropriated to defray legal expenses, and the right hon. Gentleman spoke of its being applied to carrying out-voters to 386 Colchester. Now, he felt justified in stating, that such an expenditure of money on the part of any persons but candidates themselves had always been considered by Committees of that House as coming within the Treating Act. The House would, upon the present occasion, have to decide, whether they would place such confidence in the assertion of a person accused, as to allow it to be a complete bar to any inquiry. Unreformed Parliaments had always exhibited extreme jealousy rather than confidence with respect to questions of breach of privilege. The Reformed Parliament, however, it would appear, was about to show confidence in, instead of jealousy of, a Minister charged with a grave offence.
Mr. Secretary Rice
said, that if the case stood as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last had put it, he should not, perhaps, dissent from the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman had arrived. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had not brought before the House the real state of the case, an omission which he would supply, and then leave them, acting judicially, to determine, whether it was a case which would justify the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry. He would not contend, that this was a question which ought to be decided upon a principle of confidence in the present Ministry. He would argue the case as he would if he had no confidence in the Ministry whatever. He undoubtedly had confidence in the individual accused, and his personal character was sufficient to convince him at once, that the statement which had been made respecting him was incorrect. The right hon. member for Montgomeryshire attempted to draw a distinction between the testimony of Lord Western and the Secretary-at-War, by observing, that the former was entirely disinterested, whilst the latter had a distinct personal interest in the matter. Observe to what a conclusion that observation would lead. If the evidence of his right hon. friend was to be considered that of an interested party, it would be necessary to exclude it altogether, although the decision of the question must principally depend upon his explanation of what he did and said in the transaction. Undoubtedly, the statement made by a Member in his place in that House was always considered entitled to great weight. The principle which the right hon. Gentleman 387 had laid down, if carried out to the full extent, would admit the evidence of Lord Western as a disinterested party, and reject that of his right hon. friend. Supposing a Committee should be appointed, would not his right hon. friend be examined before it? [Mr. Wynn: He would.] His right hon. friend's statement then must either be received as evidence or rejected altogether. He did not mean that it was to be received as conclusive evidence, but only as part of the materials on which the House was to form its judgment. He asked the House, what was the import of the evidence at present before it? In the first place, he must state, that there was no contradiction between the evidence given by Lord Western, and that of his right hon. friend. And here he might derive some aid from the transaction which occurred in 1807, and which the right hon. member for Montgomeryshire had alluded to. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that misconduct was attempted to be attributed to Mr. Freemantle by connecting his official power and influence with his interference at an election, and the proof was, that he had dated a letter from the Treasury instead of his private residence. If Lord Western's evidence were fairly examined, it would not appear there-from that his right hon. friend had acted in his official capacity in the transaction with respect to the Colchester election. He was aware, that the answers of Lord Western would bear that construction, but the House was aware in how loose a manner questions were put to witnesses before Committees. The questions put to Lord Western, were all leading ones. Taking the answers by themselves, there was nothing in them to criminate his right hon. friend. The right hon. member for Montgomeryshire had argued as if his right hon. friend's statement was the only evidence before the House; but that was not the case. The transaction occurred in May, 1831, and yet, after an interval of three years, his right hon. friend had by a singular, and fortunate coincidence, been able to produce two letters in corroboration of his statement, having on them the post-mark of the day on which they were written. [Mr. Wynn had not seen the letters.] Then, he had a right to complain of want of candour on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He came down to the House to argue a question involving personal considerations, affecting individual feel- 388 ings, and yet he had not taken the trouble to peruse the letters, which had not only been read in Parliament, but published in every newspaper in the kingdom. These letters, be it observed, did not come out of the possession of his right hon. friend, but from an unsuspected quarter. The right hon. member for Montgomeryshire said, that it would be easy for a Secretary of the Treasury, under such circumstances as those alleged against his right hon. friend, to produce a letter to give a colour to the transaction. Now, if the letters which had been produced upon this occasion were of a colourable nature, it was not a little extraordinary that his right hon. friend had not preserved the letters or even a copy of them. His right hon. friend, however, was not aware that these letters were in existence until they were handed to him by an hon. Member, who, though not much in the habit of supporting the Government, or passing encomiums upon its members, yet who, much to his honour, came forward upon this occasion, because he considered it essential to the ends of justice. Those letters corroborated the testimony of his right hon. friend. The evidence of his right hon. friend was, as he had before said, not inconsistent with that of Lord Western. His right hon. friend stated, that at the period referred to, a large subscription had been entered into by the friends of a particular political opinion. He would not now stop to inquire, whether subscriptions had been raised in other quarters; he would be satisfied with forgetting for the present that Charles-street was in existence. It was notorious that at the period alluded to, subscriptions were opened for the purpose of aiding the great cause of Reform. Deputations came up from Birmingham and the other unrepresented towns, stating, that as the battle was to be fought in their behalf, they would contribute their share of the expense. Perhaps the right hon. Member was of opinion, that the people of England ought upon that occasion to have stood still, and have made no effort to attain the object which they so ardently desired; but he rejoiced that they had come forward; the poor manufacturers in the unrepresented districts and the inhabitants of boroughs eagerly contributing their money to assist the great cause in which their hopes were embarked. Let it not be supposed that, because he approved of the constitutional 389 effort which the people made upon that occasion, he meant to argue, that it would have been justifiable to make an improper application of the money subscribed. With respect to the necessity of appointing a Committee, how stood the case? If Lord Western's evidence had been given, not incidentally, but before a Committee of Privilege, and thereupon the Committee had called his right hon. friend before them, and he had stated, as he did in the House, that it was true he had sent the money as was stated, but that no portion of it came from the public purse, would not the Committee have resolved immediately, that it was unnecessary to proceed further in the matter? If his right hon. friend would have stood in that situation before a Committee of Privileges, he ought to stand in the same position before the House. The House would not give the subject the go-by if, after having heard the charge and his right hon. friend's defence corroborated by contemporaneous letters, it should determine, that it was unnecessary to proceed further in the business. Under these circumstances, he would give his support to the Amendment which had been proposed.
said, in explanation, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have misunderstood what had fallen from him. He never proposed that the House should proceed against the Secretary at War without hearing him in his defence. If a Committee should be appointed, they would doubtless hear the right hon. Secretary's statement, and examine any evidence which he might bring forward. He could not consider the letters which the right hon. Secretary had read as part of his speech evidence, unless they should be laid upon the Table. The noble Lord opposite would recollect, that Mr. Canning, when Secretary of State, proposed to read a letter in his speech in defence of the conduct of Government, but he was informed, that it could only be received as part of his speech, unless it were laid upon the Table. He really had not seen the letters in the newspapers, but be their contents what they might, it was desirable, for the sake of the right hon. Secretary's character, that, as the charge had been put upon record, his defence should be put on record also.
§ Mr. Henry Bulwer
said, that he believed this to be a wheel put into motion in order to crush the most insignificant 390 butterfly of a case which had ever been brought before them. What they had to consider was simply whether the statement made before the Committee, or that made by his right hon. friend, was the more satisfactory. It seemed to him, that the object intended by the appointment of a Committee, was not to offer censure, but to vindicate the character of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, suppose the case of a person brought before a Justice of the Peace accused of an offence—upon the principle of this Motion, the Magistrate might say to the accused, "Oh, you are the most innocent person in the world; but you must go before the Judges to stand your trial." For his own part, he had every confidence in the House, and could trust that its decision upon this occasion would be correct.
said, that Parliament should not allow itself to be diverted from its duty by any special pleading or rhetoric on the opposite side. It should look to such conduct as that of the right hon. Secretary, not with confidence, as was claimed for it, but with vigilance and jealousy. The right hon. Gentleman had the secret service money in his hand, and could dispose of it without responsibility or check. He gave a sum of money to meet the election expenses of an avowed supporter of the Government; and though he said that sum was drawn from a private fund, yet what could prevent the public from supposing, that it was given by Government for the purpose of promoting its own interested views? The fact of an application of a sum of money by the Secretary of the Treasury for securing the return of a friend to Government, was proved by Lord Western, and was admitted by the Secretary himself. The gravamen of the whole charge rested on the admission of the right hon. Gentleman—for, by his own showing, he was guilty of a gross breach of privilege, and the House would grossly neglect its duty if it overlooked such a case. In what situation would the House be placed if it followed the advice of those hon. Gentlemen who were friends to Government, and rested satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Secretary? He was astonished that Ministers should so far trifle with the privileges of Parliament, and Whig Ministers too, as to advise such a course. How did the facts stand? Supposing the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary 391 at War, to be perfectly and strictly true, the affair at present was in this position:— A Secretary of the Treasury, an officer connected with the Government in a peculiar way, for there were two Secretaries of the Treasury, the one having to attend to matters properly belonging to the finances of the country, and the other having to do the jobbing, in fact the dirty work of the Government. Such was the fact, and it was notorious. He made not the remark as applicable only to the present Government, but to all Governments which had hitherto been, and he feared would be until human nature was altered, notwithstanding all the reforms which had been, and could be, introduced by the Ministers. Well, the person holding that office, upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, was selected to work the elections throughout the country, through the medium of a subscription raised out of private funds. But the noble Lord (Lord Western) whose evidence had led to the special Report from the Committee distinctly stated, that he had applied to the right hon. Gentleman, not because of any private intimacy subsisting between them, but because he was Secretary to the Treasury, and it was to the Secretary of the Treasury as such that the application was made. It was to the Treasury the letter was sent, and did the Treasury answer it? Yes.—The money was furnished. Then would that House do its duty, if it expressed itself content to leave the Report without further notice? Assuredly not. What was the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman to the statement? He said he did send the 500l. to Colchester and to a dozen other places. He managed a private subscription, and he had so used it. And upon that statement, his right hon. friend (Mr. Rice) asked if the House could entertain the thought of further proceeding. The House could not, consistently with the maintenance of its character, pass by such a matter without full investigation; and when he saw his noble friend (Lord Althorp), in whose integrity and nice sense of honour he had the most perfect reliance, countenancing a different course, he could not but express his astonishment at the monstrous lengths to which honourable public men might be driven by the violence of party feelings.—The question was not merely whether or not the public money had been used—that supposition, the statement of the 392 Secretary at War had in his mind set at rest—but here was a Secretary of the Treasury, an officer of the Crown, and whose interference with elections had been declared a high breach of the privileges of that House, receiving and answering applications for money to carry on elections at the Treasury. And when the case was brought forward the explanation was, that he had sent money to a dozen other places for a similar purpose. Some hon. Members had treated the Motion before the House as if it had come from his right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn); but it came from the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who could not perhaps be accused of enmity to the present Government, and still less to the Secretary at War—and who had doubtless brought it forward because he felt that a matter of so much importance and affecting so deeply the privileges of that House, and the character of Government, could not be passed over without strict and full inquiry. One word as to precedents. It had been said, that the transactions occurred at a particular period, when men's minds were strongly excited. That surely was no ground for passing it by without investigation; and he entreated the House to be slow in establishing a precedent which might be quoted for dangerous and destructive purposes. In justification of the transaction, it had been urged that similar funds were raised by the opponents of the conduct pursued by the party with whom the right hon. Gentleman acted. He did not understand that any one objected or could object to private subscriptions for the purpose of legally carrying on elections. They had heard, for instance, of a fund at the Crown and Anchor Tavern; and to that he did not know that any objection could be taken. It had also been stated, that there was a fund of the same description collected in Charles-street. All that he could say upon that point was, that, although he had been in the habit of meeting many gentlemen in that place, he had never been applied to to contribute to any such subscription, and upon his honour he knew of no such subscription.—Such was the fact; but whether there had been such a fund or not was a matter of no consequence, and had nothing whatever to do with the question before the House. To one other point only he would allude, and that but for a moment. An hon. Member (Mr. 393 Peter), in his great indignation at interference in elections, had had on the books ever since the commencement of the Session a notice of Motion for an Address to the Crown, to pray the Crown to remove the Earl of Warwick from the office of Lord-lieutenant of a county, because it had been proved before a Committee of that House, that the noble Lord had been guilty of lending his brother a sum of money which had been used for electioneering purposes.—Such was the height of the indignation of the hon. Gentleman, that time could not allay it—that the universally-admitted amiable character, retired habits, and freedom from strong political bias in the Earl of Warwick could not induce him to abandon his notice, for however much longer the Motion might be postponed. Then he would suggest, if his noble friend (Lord Althorp) still resisted inquiry in this case of the Secretary of the Treasury, that the hon. Member should extend his protective care of the privileges of that House; and, while he provided for the reprobation of a Lord-lieutenant of a county for lending money to a brother, he should at least address the Crown also to deprecate a Secretary of the Treasury working in the Treasury a dozen elections.
§ Lord Althorp
considered the present Motion more as one of censure than of inquiry; because the hon. Gentleman had declared, that the facts, as they were admitted to stand, called for the reprehension of the House. He had the honour of having been a Member of that House when the case of Mr. Freemantle, alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wynn), was discussed in 1807; and speaking from his recollection of what had passed on that occasion, he must say, it had been admitted by all, that the Secretary of the Treasury had as much right to interfere, as a private individual, with an election, as any other person in the country. The right hon. Gentleman placed the case not at all on the ground on which it had been originally discussed; in fact, he seemed to treat it as if the question had depended on the circumstance whether the letter had been dated from the Treasury-chambers, or from Mr. Freemantle's own private residence. But the question was altogether different. Mr. Assheton Smith, who had introduced the subject upon a petition, to the notice of the House, stated the charge in these 394 words:—"The Petition, it would be recollected, charged that hon. gentleman (Mr. Freemantle) with having written to the barrack-master-general, directing hint to use the whole extensive influence of the barrack department, in order to promote the election of the candidates recommended by the Ministers for the representation of the county of Southampton." And the answer which Mr. Freemantle gave was, that "he only recommended the candidates whom he wished to succeed to the favourable influence of the Barrack-master-general, and requested of him to recommend them to the other gentlemen in that department." And even Mr. Canning, who spoke in favour of the Motion for referring the petition to a committee of privileges, admitted, that "nothing was more true than that the persons composing a government were not disqualified from exerting their rights as individuals, in common with every other subject; but they should exert them with caution, so that it should always appear to be the individual right they exerted, and not the power and influence of the Government. The hon. Gentleman might have written to his private connexions and dependents with all possible zeal and ardour to exert themselves to promote the election of his friends; but the ground of complaint was, that the letter was addressed, not by Mr. Freemantle, a gentleman of property and a freeholder of Hampshire, to General Hewitt, a person of private connexion in that county, but from Mr. Freemantle, Secretary of the Treasury, to General Hewitt, head of the Barrack-department, claiming the exertion of his influence through all the ramifications, connexions, and dependencies of that department." Now, surely it would not be contended that his right hon. friend the Secretary at War stood in those circumstances. Having alluded to the case of Mr. Freemantle, he must be allowed to say, that those who sat on the Opposition side of the House did not hold doctrines similar to those which had been stated by the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Baring), because when that hon. gentleman (Mr. Freemantle) complained that he was placed in a situation of great difficulty, from having taken office immediately before a general election, Mr. Rose got up and said, he could not conceive how that circumstance could at all increase the exertions of a Secretary of the Treasury. 395 As to the question now before them, undoubtedly a subscription had been raised, of which his right hon. friend in his character as an individual, not as a Secretary of the Treasury, had been appointed manager, and in that character he had advanced money to persons who were engaged on the same side of the political question which he supported. It was by no means the fact that the case rested entirely on his right hon. friend's own evidence, because the hon. member for Colchester had put into his hands the letters which had been written on the occasion, and of the existence of which his right hon. friend had been altogether ignorant, which gave to his statement an entire confirmation, and distinctly proved that the money had been raised by private subscription. With respect to the funds which had been collected, no one could object to their application towards defraying the legal expenses of elections in support of that cause which the subscribing parties espoused. Even the hon. member for Middlesex could not possibly object to that proposition; that hon. Gentleman had too constitutional a feeling against spending any money of his own in election contests to object to it; because, when he was first elected for Middlesex there was no contest, and the expense of the hustings even had been paid by subscription. The question now simply was, whether his right hon. friend should be censured, and to refer the matter to a committee of inquiry would amount to a censure, because he had been selected by the subscribers to take the management of their funds. Notwithstanding the personal appeal which had been made to him, he must oppose the Motion.
§ Mr. George F. Young
felt it his duty to support the Motion. He should do so, not from at all doubting the statement of the Secretary at War, in whose integrity he had the most perfect confidence, but because he thought the people had a right to be convinced as well as that House, and that inquiry would lead to a conclusion triumphant to the character of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Secretary of the Colonies (Mr. Rice) had said, there was no precedent for calling for an inquiry when a Member had pledged his word and honour to a statement; but he was prepared to show that that was a mistake. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the member for Tipperary) had 396 pledged his honour on a late occasion, and a right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had contended that that very fact made inquiry necessary, and a Committee was appointed. He contended, that the honour of the Government required investigation, and, therefore, he should support the Motion.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
said, he believed that was the first time in which a Committee had been required in a case in which both parties admitted that they heard the truth. Before any Committee could be necessary, it would be right to show that the money was given for illegal purposes.
§ Mr. Sinclair
said, he was so perfectly satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, that he should vote against the Motion for further inquiry.
§ Mr. Estcourt
would intrude on the House only for a very few minutes. He very rarely troubled the House, and never, he trusted, abused its indulgence. He was not one of those who had had the advantage of fully hearing the explanation of the Secretary at War. It was said, that explanation had been perfectly satisfactory; but when it was made, the charge was not formally before the House. It was true the Report had been brought up, and he believed the hon. and learned Gentleman who had presented it had expressed his intention to move that it should be printed; but, before that was done, the right hon. Gentleman had thought proper to make his explanations. Now, by that proceeding those who happened not to be in the House were surely not to be precluded from inquiry? [Cries of "Divide."] Some hon. Members seemed extremely anxious to divide, and perhaps they had some good reasons for such conduct. Lord Western had been asked a question as to whether he wrote to Mr. Ellice for the money, and his answer was "No." If hon. Members would hear a little further, they would find they had not cheered in the right place. The answer was to the effect, that he wrote for the money for the purpose of carrying on the election of Mr. Mayhew, that he wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, and that the money was paid from the Treasury. In a case of such delicacy he could not understand how the Government could refuse inquiry. In the 397 case of Mr. Windham Quin, which arose out of circumstances somewhat similar, Lord Castlereagh expressed an opinion that that hon. Gentleman had completely refuted the charge which was brought against him; but nevertheless he voted in favour of a Committee of Inquiry, because that noble Lord considered it essential, that a charge of that nature against a public man should be thoroughly investigated. If Ministers supposed that the country would rest satisfied with the bare explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, they were very much mistaken. He had no doubt of the integrity of the right hon. Gentleman; but he did not hesitate to say, that in the opinion of those who did not hear his statement, and in the opinion of the people of England, he was not cleared from the charge which had been brought against him.
did not think, that a sufficient case had been made out for further inquiry. If any Gentleman would state, on his honour, that he was prepared to bring forward any evidence on the subject, he would vote for further inquiry; but that not being the case, he should oppose it.
must support the Amendment; but he wished that his hon. and learned friend would withdraw his Motion, and not force on a division.
said, he wished to adopt the advice given him, and withdraw his Motion. He could, however, do no such thing. He spoke not merely upon his sense of duty as chairman of the Committee making the Report; but also as a Member of that House bound to consider the matter. It appeared to him to involve a plain Breach of Privilege. The Committee appointed to investigate the case of the hon. member for Colchester had no authority to demand a copy of the correspondence of Lord Western. If they had they would have insisted on its production. The answers of the Secretary at War to that correspondence slid not satisfy him of the innocence of the right hon. Gentleman, nor did he believe they would satisfy the public. Certain documents which were calculated to throw light on the matter, were admitted to exist, and without their production he did not think it would be possible altogether to acquit the Government of all participation in the charge brought against them in the person of the right hon. Secretary of War. 398 The House was told they would be establishing a bad precedent in acceding to the Motion. In his humble opinion they would be adopting a much worse precedent in refusing it. In more points than one they would be adopting a bad precedent in refusing the Committee for which they sought. It was said, that if an hon. Member on being accused of improper conduct, was able to make a defence resting altogether on mere verbal allegation, the House could not grant a Committee of Inquiry into the matter without treating the party so accused as a liar, and one altogether unworthy of belief. Surely a worse precedent than that could not be established. It was at all events a precedent which he implored the House, as they valued their character in the country, not to sanction. In his opinion, nothing was more calculated to render the present case one of frightful enormity, than the opposition which the Government had offered to his Motion for an investigation. An hon. member (Mr. C. Buller), had committed an outrage on those splendidly imaginative faculties with which bountiful nature endowed him, in attempting to prove an identity of conduct between the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary at War, and Scipio Africanus; but he put it to the House to say if the speech of that hon. Member, or the speeches of those who took a similar view of the subject, with his, were at all calculated to satisfy the public mind that the public money had not been showered forth, in God alone knew how many places, by the Treasury, for the purpose of seeming the return of their immediate partisans. What had been the conduct of an unreformed Parliament upon an occasion in every respect similar to the present? An accusation was brought against Mr. Windham Quin, an individual whose character at the time the accusation was preferred stood in the public estimation, at all events as high as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War; and although he offered a defence which in the opinion of a great portion of the House, was deemed satisfactory, a Committee of Inquiry having been moved for, it was granted, and in the result evidence was adduced which brought home the charge to that person, and in the end was the means of putting a stop to his political career. And even the Reform Parliament—that Parliament so much vaunted as the palla- 399 dium of the people's liberty,—that Parliament to which the people were told to look for redress and support—was the Reformed Parliament he asked, prepared to resist an inquiry into a matter so deeply affecting the constitutional rights of the people, that even a borough-mongering Parliament could not, had it been proposed to them, refuse it? The affair was called "a butterfly." "I'd be a butterfly born in a Committee-room," he supposed, and was melodiously warbled forth with every possible variation by the hon. Member the inventor of the Scipio Africanus imagery and his friends; but was this, he asked, the way a question of such magnitude and importance ought to be treated? Ought such a question, he submitted to the House, be treated with a degree almost, if not altogether, amounting to indecorum? The Government sought to smother the subject by the exercise of the influence they possessed in that House; but he could assure them the time was passed when they could expect to carry everything by influence, unless indeed it was the influence of public opinion. Let the Government not outrage that opinion. It had been with them for some time past; let them take care how they hazarded it. The public attention was narrowly directed to their conduct, and one false step—a step of the character they were about to take—might sink them irrevocably in the abyss of unpopularity. It had been asked in the course of the then discussion, "If it be enough to be accused, who will be innocent?" But might not he (Mr. O'Connell) with much more reason ask, "If it be enough to deny, who will be guilty?" Let the Reform Parliament, he again said, take care how they refused the Inquiry. The Reformed people expected it; let not their Representatives disappoint that expectation. Great indeed was his supprise, and great indeed, he doubted not, would be the surprise of the country, when it was ascertained that the foremost in opposition to his Motion for inquiry was the great patriot of Reform, the noble Lord, the member for Devonshire. The hon. member near him (Mr. Charles Buller)—the hon. Member whom he would henceforth dub with the title of "Scipio Africanus"—had spoken of an appeal to the gods, and he was bound to say the appeal had been promptly responded to. No sooner was it made than up started 400 the noble Lord, the god of Reform idolatry, who, parmulâ non relictâ, threw over his right hon. friend the broad shield with which his former valiant deeds in the cause of the people armed him. He besought the Government to recollect they were opposed by two parties in that House—firstly, by that which was accused of going too far; and secondly, by that which was said not to go far enough. Let it not, under such circumstances, go forth to the public that the Motion was supported by those who were deemed inimical to public liberty, and supported by that party to whom they looked up as their friends. Satisfied at all events he was it would be said that the sole motive which could actuate the Government in resisting the Motion was a fear that the result would prove unfortunate; and if there was no reason for entertaining such a fear,—and he would go so far as to say he believed there was not,—he earnestly and solemnly implored the noble Lord and his colleagues to accede to his Motion, and grant the investigation prayed for.
§ The House divided on the Amendment. Ayes 114; Noes 34; Majority 80.
§ Resolution proposed by Mr. Buller agreed to.
|List of the NOES.|
|Baring, A.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Baring, F.||O'Connor, Feargus|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Oswald, R. A.|
|Dick, Quintin||Richards, J.|
|Duffield, T.||Roche, W.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Roe, James|
|Egerton, Tatton||Ronayne, D.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Ruthven, Edw.|
|Faithfull, G.||Sanderson, R.|
|Gladstone, T.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Waddy, Cadwal|
|Hotham, Lord||Wason, R.|
|Hughes, W. H.||Wilks, J.|
|Hume, Jos.||Wood, Colonel|
|Irton, S.||Wynn, Right Hon. C. W. W.|
|Lincoln, Earl of|
|Nicoll, Dr.||Young, G. F.|
|O'Connell, J.||PAIRED OFF.|
|O'Connell, Maurice||Bruce, Lord E.|