HC Deb 26 June 1835 vol 28 cc1275-8
Mr. Grote

presented a Petition, signed by 1,350 persons of Great Yarmouth, praying for the Ballot, in consequence of the scenes of drunkenness and riot which were seen at the last election, and stating that the corrupt voters who gave their votes for the sitting Members had been rewarded with two guineas a-piece. He moved that the petition be brought up.

Mr. Thomas Baring

said, with regard to the charges of the petitioners, he had only to make this answer, that no one should make these charges slightly or inconsiderately. If advisedly, the parties ought to bring proofs, and establish the case, as an act of duty to the country and to the House of Commons. But if they failed to make use of the legal remedy, and reserved the opportunity of making these insinuations and ex-parte statements, they made themselves liable to one of these two conclusions—either that these charges were without any testimony upon which to rely sufficiently to warrant taking them before a Committee, or if they brought them before a Committee, they feared that they themselves might be implicated in similar transactions; so that the object was not so much the purity of election as to suit party purposes. Such would be the answer that he would make to those electors who bad forwarded such insinuations to the House. He believed that he had a greater portion of the electors in his favour than either of the other candidates, a majority of the electors holding opinions coincident with his own. Undoubtedly a great excitement prevailed during the election, and scenes occurred which in calmer moments all must deplore; but he was not aware that the excitement was more on one side than the other, and he must do his opponents the justice to say, that they had behaved to him with exceeding politeness, for which he thanked them. But he rather thought that the object of this petition was not to discontinue, but to prolong the party spirit which prevailed, and he would ask if the result of the election had been different, would such a petition have been presented? With regard to the Ballot, his conscientious opinion was, that it would not remedy the evil complained of.

Mr. Rigby Wason

considered that the allegations were of too serious a nature to be disposed of by mere denial. The petitioners stated, that since the fourteen days expired, and, within a short time after the expiration, two guineas had been paid as head-money. Surely the hon. Member might have informed the House whether such a payment had been made or not. The House ought to know whether such an allegation were well or ill founded; and the hon. Member was perfectly aware, that after the fourteen days, no petition could be presented under the Bribery Act against his election; still the facts were serious, and he (Mr. Wason) had heard of them three weeks ago.

Mr. Thomas Baring

said, that he should only make the answer he had already made, but he was ready to meet any charge that might be brought before any Committee.

Mr. Rigby Wason

hoped that the hon. Member for the city of London would move for a Select Committee.

Mr. Thomas Baring

said, that some hon. Members appeared to be very anxious to have Committees, but as there had been no charge made against him in the regular form, he considered himself virtually acquitted.

Sir John Wrottesley

begged to remind the hon. Member that one reason why the charge had not been made in the regular form was, because the given period (fourteen days) allowed by Act of Parliament had expired, and another reason was, the enormous expense attending election petitions. He trusted that the allegations would be contradicted if not true; but he was bound to state that be had heard from several quarters on which he could place much reliance, that within three weeks after the election, two guineas head-money was paid in Great Yarmouth, and from whence that money came he would leave others to conjecture. There was a Bill before the House now respecting the county town of the county he represented, and he hoped the House would deal equal justice to all.

Mr. Ruthven

believed that there was very good reason for people not running the risk of petitioning for Election Committees. In this case there was a direct specific charge made, and he thought that in the present circumstances of the town, it was necessary that there should be some inquiry. There were many reports from Committees with reference to bribery. Were the people to be deluded by the mere printing of these reports, and were no steps to be taken? If this borough had been sold at the rate of two guineas per head, he did not think that it was a bit better than Stafford. All these corrupt boroughs ought to be treated alike. If the hon. Member who presented this petition thought that there was good ground for moving for a Select Committee, he thought that was the fairest way to proceed, and would relieve the people of Yarmouth from such charges if they were not well founded. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Baring) was certainly not bound to answer the charges of this petition—it was for him to take what course he thought proper—it must be left to his own impulse; but a Select Committee would do something which could not be done here, and he trusted that in this case the hon. Member who had presented this petition would move for a Select Committee.

Mr. Jervis

thought with the hon. Member for Dublin, that the best plan would be to refer the petition to a Select Committee, not with any view of involving the Members in difficulties, but because he thought the petition referred to a matter of extreme importance.

Mr. Grote

could assure the House that he would be the last person to bring forward any measure bearing upon the hon. Gentleman or his friends, if the legal tribunal were easy of approach. It was not because they were unable to prove the charges, but because they were in want of the necessary funds. The petition was numerously and respectably signed, and was presented simply with a view of adopting means to vindicate the purity of election. The only reason why he had any objection to move that this matter be referred to a Select Committee was, that he was personally overcharged with Committee business; and that it would be impossible for him to attend to it. But if any other Gentleman should think fit to originate the Motion, it should receive his most cordial support.

Mr. Kemeyes Tynte

said, that he did not think that it would be sufficient to lay the petition on the Table, and he therefore moved that it be printed.

Petition to lie on the Table, and to be printed.

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