HC Deb 26 March 1835 vol 27 cc273-9
Mr. Lefroy

rose to bring a similar matter under the notice of the House, and to draw their attention to the consideration of the petition which he had presented last night, for leave to rectify a mistake in the name of a proposed surety in the case of the Cork County Election. The object of the Petition was to obtain an enlargement of the time for entering into the recognizances, with the view of correcting a clerical error in the Christian name of one of the sureties; the words "William Mannix" having been inserted instead of "Henry Mannix."

On the Motion of the right hon. Member, Mr. John Jackson, one of the agents for the petition, was called in and examined in proof of the alleged facts; after which the right hon. Gentleman moved that the time be enlarged ten days for giving in a correct name.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

opposed the Motion on the same ground as he had voted against the last.

Mr. Williams Wynn

contended that it was perfectly competent to the House to grant the request contained in the petition. He was certainly still of opinion, that in order to guard against any possibility of fraudulent practices, the House was bound to hold parties to the strict letter of the law, and not give facilities to alterations of this description, unless in cases where the substitution of one name for another was purely accidental, and that the correction of the mistake could not be construed into any violation of the law. In the last case before the House (the Leicester petition) they had determined that one name might be changed for another, though it was impossible to grant an extension of time equal to the number of days which was allowed upon the first application, in order to enable the sitting Member to inquire into the legal securities. In the present instance it was proposed to change the name of William for that of Henry, and this alteration could be made in unison with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, so as to allow the usual number of days which were granted to afford the sitting Member an opportunity of inquiring whether the securities offered were or were not sufficient. He could not suppose, therefore, that hon. Members, under the circumstances of the case, and after the decision to which they had come in the former instance, could without exposing themselves to the charge of acting entirely from party motives, and thus holding themselves up to the public in a light which he would not attempt to describe, refuse the request contained in the petition which had been presented by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin.

Mr. Harvey

observed, that next to avoiding any error, the best course was to devise the safest and most effectual means to correct it; and when upon that principle he had voted for the prayer of the former petition, he felt himself compelled, by the dictates of justice, not to reverse in the present the vote which he had given in the previous case. He would however, for an instant recal the attention of the House to the circumstances attending the former petition. He would remind hon. Gentlemen that the request of that pe- tition was granted not as the consequence of a decision of that House, but through the concession of the sitting Member. It must be in the recollection of several hon. Members present that, upon that occasion, the party against whom the petition was presented said, with a generous and truly honourable feeling, whatever the strict letter of the law might be, and however he might if so disposed, find a shelter under it, he was not desirous to make his defence upon a strict construction of the Act of Parliament, but would at once give his consent to a compliance with the object of the petition. The object of the Motion, then, which they had that night discussed, with reference to the Leicester election, was to induce the sitting Member and the House to follow out the concession which in the first instance he had so manfully and generously made. With reference to the petition now under consideration, however, the hon. Gentleman against whose return it was presented, for reasons best known to himself, and under the guidance of his judgment, which he was, of course, in such a case, at perfect liberty to exercise, did not wish to accede to the alteration of the names; but he called upon the House to sanction the opinion which had been pronounced by the right hon. Gentleman (the Member for Montgomeryshire), that they should act in accordance with the strict letter of the Jaw, and not suffer precedents to be established which might open a door to fraud and injustice. The hon. Member for the county, it was to be supposed, from the course which he had thought fit to take, cautioned the House in the same manner as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Williams Wynn), had formerly done, against wandering into any equitable construction of the law, and advised them to take it as it was embodied in the statute, without suffering themselves to be biased by party feelings or predilections. For himself, he would take the course which he considered the most equitable; he would, if a division took place, give the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy) the benefit of his vote; but he did trust that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Williams Wynn) would spare himself from the imputation of inconsistency, and that he would attach to the lecture which he had read to the House, and which no man had a right to deliver more authoritatively than the right hon. Gentleman, that weight which must necessarily arise from a coincidence between his advice and established precedents.

Lord Sandon

thought that the hon. Member who had just sat down was not exactly the sort of Gentleman who was entitled to read the House a lecture upon equity and consistency. The reason why he (Lord Sandon) had objected to an equitable view of the former case was, that the House had only had the option of inflicting a hardship upon one side or the other, and it had therefore given its decision in favour of the party that had done nothing for which he ought to suffer; but the present case was exactly the reverse, and the House was at perfect liberty to follow the dictates of equity, and in so doing he should act with perfect consistency with his conduct on the previous division. He could only observe that, according to the doctrines of many hon. Members opposite, when equity was on the Ministerial side of the House then equity meant one thing, and when it was in favour of the Opposition Benches then did it mean another. Acting on the principle of equity, and with a view to do justice to both parties, he should feel no difficulty in acceding to the Motion of his right hon. and learned Friend. If hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had been determined to infringe an Act of Parliament for the sake of equity they ought to pursue the principles of equity now that no law was to be broken by so doing.

The Attorney General

was desirous not to cast the slightest imputations upon hon. Members at either side of the House, with respect to the course which they had taken with reference to those petitions. He could not help, however, expressing it as his opinion, that he did not consider there was the slightest inconsistency in opposing the prayer of the last, and granting that of the present petition. He had before stated that the indulgence which was sought ought to be granted, if the House had the power of conceding the request. There was no doubt that in this instance the House had the power of allowing that alteration in the names of the securities to be made when the substitution could be made without violating the law, which proposed that there should be a certain time for the purpose of enabling the sitting Member to examine the competency of those securities.

Mr. Kennedy

said, that in the former case, the Speaker had informed the House that he had found no precedent for making extension of time a second time, after a period of seven days had, upon the first application to Parliament, been granted for altering the securities.

Mr. Shaw

said, that the former petition had prayed for the substitution of the name of Thomas for Samuel. And there-quest contained in the present petition was, that the name of William should be changed for that of Henry. The only difference he could perceive between them, therefore, was, that one was presented by an hon. Member sitting on the other side of the House, and that the present petition had been brought under their notice by his hon. colleague. He perceived, that the hon. and learned Member expressed his approval of the correctness of the opinion which he had ventured to pronounce; but he could not believe, that the hon. Members opposite would—unless they acted on the principle of the hon. Member for Middlesex, who had asserted, that he would state black was white to support the party on his side of the House—reject the prayer of the petition.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) had remarked, that these petitions were identical; and yet he voted against the one and seemed disposed to vote in favour of the other. The right hon. Gentleman, after such an admission, had certainly displayed considerable moral courage in taunting the hon. Member for Middlesex with an avowal that he would vote black to be white against Ministers. The hon. Member (Mr. Shaw) would not truly vote black to be white; but he showed a perfect willingness to vote orange one way, and green the other. He acted judicially, too, in the decision to which they had, in the former instance, come; and, as a learned Judge, he called upon those who sat at his (Mr. O'Connell's) side of the House, to do justice in the cases of both petitions, though he appeared to forget, that in these instances he was himself open to the charge of voting justice only to one party. He could not avoid congratulating the learned Judge, and those to whom he administered justice, on his admirable consistency. The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, too, charged those on his side of the House with inconsistency, in voting in one case differently from the manner in which they determined to decide in the other. Now, the hon. Member for the county of Cork had voted against the last petition, and he expressed himself ready to vote against this; and the hon. Member for Southwark had voted for the last petition, and he intended voting for the present petition, if a division were to take place. The noble Lord, therefore, must allow, that it would be more easy to find inconsistency in the conduct of some other hon. Members, than to urge such a charge successfully against those on his (Mr. O'Connell's) side of the House, who had taken part in the discussion. The noble Lord himself could not be at any difficulty to discover an individual who intended to vote differently in the two cases. He (Mr. O'Connell), however, was perfectly free, for he had not voted at all upon the last petition; and he would certainly vote in favour of the present, if he considered the error which was sought to be rectified a clerical one. When it was admitted, that Henry and William Mannix were brothers, and that Henry was meant when the name William was written, he could not help calling to his recollection an anecdote which he had once heard of an Irish witness, who, upon being called to prove an alibi, said, that he was prepared to prove, that potatoes were wheat. If the substitution of one name for another in this instance were a slip of the pen, and not a mistake of the person, he would not hesitate to accede to its prayer; but under the circumstances of the case, he felt bound to vote against the Motion.

Lord Francis Egerton

said that, if this mistake were not considered a clerical error, it could only be construed into an intentional fraud, and he did not believe that any one would attach such an interpretation to the proposed intention in the present case. Indeed if there were a doubt upon the mind of any hon. Member as to this point, he thought it ought to be immediately removed, when he reflected that the residence of Henry Mannix was given with the name of William inserted by mistake as one of the securities.

Mr. Ronayne

said, that the very fact of the residence having been mentioned in the first instance, confirmed him in the opinion that William was not inadvertently substituted for Henry; because, as it was proved that these two individuals were brothers, it was extremely likely that William, being the younger, resided at his brother's house, and that one address, therefore, answered for either.

Mr. Freshfield

said that, to show there was no intention of fraud, Henry Mannix was prepared to show that he was the person residing at Richmond Villa, the address appended to William Mannix's name, as given in the securities.

Mr. O'Loghlen

observed, that it appeared that a gentleman from Cork, named Cummins, had suggested that the address of Glanmere should be appended to the name of William Mannix when the securities were first entered; and it did not appear that this gentleman was forthcoming, although he had been called as a witness by the hon. Member for the University of Dublin.

The House divided: Ayes 130; Noes 103—Majority 27.