§ Mr. Wilks
presented a petition from Clotworthy Dobbin Devitt, late of the General Post-office, Dublin, stating that he had held a confidential situation in the General Post-office of Ireland for about seventeen years, during which time his conduct, in the faithful discharge of his duty, met with the united approbation of the Postmaster-General, the Earls O'Neill and Rosse, under whom he served; that about November, 1829, the petitioner, in the exercise of his official duties, discovered a system of fraud and peculation carrying on in some of the branches of the Post-office departments, whereby the revenue thereof was purloined; that on such discovery petitioner instantly reported the matter to the Chief Clerk in his department, and also the Earl of Rosse, the then acting Postmaster General, who immediately caused an investigation into the charges brought by petitioner, when it appeared that persons holding some of the highest offices of trust under the Postmasters-General were deeply implicated, and that the public had lost upwards of 5,000l.; that on the Report of the Earl of Rosse to the Lords of the Treasury, the Law Officers of the Crown were directed to prosecute some of the persons so charged, one of whom (George Wilkinson) was convicted, and sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, which he underwent in the gaol of Newgate in Dublin; whilst another (Thomas Harrison fled from public justice, and is, it is supposed, in America; that the testimony given by petitioner on that occasion, and the faithful manner in which he discharged his duty to the public, drew forth from both the eminent Judges who presided (Justices Jebb and Johnson), their joint and unqualified approbation, and the Lords of the 379 Tresury were pleased to issue a minute for his continuation in office, and to which minute he also refers; but that, notwithstanding the public services which petitioner had rendered, and the Treasury Minute, under which he was continued in his situation, without even the shadow of reproach against petitioner, yet on the consolidation of the Irish Post-office with that of England, under the Duke of Richmond (who never visited the Irish department) when the New Secretary, Mr. Godby, arrived from Scotland in Ireland, he informed petitioner (on the 28th of February, 1831) that his future services would be dispensed with, and this without any previous notice, any written dismissal, any authority produced, or any cause whatever assigned; and subsequently, a person from Scotland was placed in the office from which the petitioner had been so unceremoniously and unjustly ejected, and thrown upon the world entirely destitute, with a wife and a numerous family of young children, after having devoted the best part of his life, with zeal and fidelity, to the public service, with the most unremitting attention to the arduous duties of a public office (giving up all other professions), and having been the means of detecting gross fraud and embezzlement of the public money. Petitioner was thus shamefully deprived of his situation in the land of his birth to make room for a stranger. That the Duke of Richmond stated personally to petitioner, after various efforts to gain redress, that his business would be settled; and subsequently by letter, that he would himself speak to the Lords of the Treasury to recommend their early consideration of his case, yet five years have elapsed without any relief or redress; that petitioner submitted a petition in 1832, which procured no practical effect; and his application to the Treasury, made in 1835, when at length by a minute of the Board the balance of salary due to petitioner, 53l. 6s. 10d., was ordered to be paid; but which had not been paid. He, therefore, was thus reluctantly driven, a second time, to lay his grievances before Parliament, and to entreat the House to order the production of all documents necessary to a fair exculpation of his character and the investigation of his case, and to institute such inquiry into the allegations of this petition and the circumstances of his case as would afford him such ample re- 380 lief and redress as the public interests; and benevolence and justice demand.' He thought the case imperatively demanded interference. The hon. Member quoted Lord Rosse's testimonial sent to the petitioner; stating "though the inquiry into this may be retarded, as it has been, it will ultimately and necessarily, unless justice be done to both, come forward; and perhaps it may lead not only to redress in your case, but better and honester principles prevailing in public offices in future in this country, where it is the practice, under notions of subordination, to muzzle all the inferior men in office, lest they should disclose the malversations of those above them, and prevent the public from being plundered with impunity. One of my reasons for remaining in this country is to attend to your cases next Session." What could be more honourable or just? He would move that the petition should be brought up and read, and on Friday next he should move for the papers necessary to substantiate the statements in the petition, and for the appointment of a Select Committee there on.
§ The Speaker
.—I do not know what can be meant by the words "relief and redress" in this case, but the asking for a grant of money. I apprehend that there is no rule connected with the practice of this House which is more clearly defined, than that which simply declares that no petition shall be received which contains an application for money, without the sanction of the Crown having been first obtained. This is a question to which, in the discharge of my duty, I think it very necessary to call the attention of the House, because a practice has lately grown up in the instances of a variety of petitions which have been presented, of carefully keeping out of view the term "money," and then proposing to refer these petitions to the consideration of the House. These petitions have been renewed under these circumstances, and the consent or recommendation of the Crown has been evaded and dispensed with; not only by thus reviving the petitions, but by the division of Committees. I say this the rather, because I have had my attention called to the subject. I have looked back to several of these petitions, and I apprehend there has been an irregularity in our proceedings which renders it the more necessary we should revive that practice.
§ The Speaker
.—I do not mean to enter into the general merits of the case to which this petition refers; but I would throw out a suggestion for the consideration of the House, which it appears to me may obviate any difficulty which may exist. Perhaps it will be more convenient, if the petition be received, that some memorandum should be put on record, that it is received only in so far as it does not relate to an application for public money.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that with respect to this petition, he thought that every subject of the realm, who felt that he had been aggrieved by any branch or department of his Majesty's Government, had a legitimate claim to appeal to that House, even though the wrong he had suffered might be of a pecuniary nature; but he had no right, with a view to redress of those wrongs, to come before the House for pecuniary redress without the consent of the Crown. As the hon. Gentleman who had presented the petition had stated that it was his intention to bring the allegations contained in it before the House, he thought the petition should be received. Unless the House was prepared to act on the suggestion of the Chair in petitions of this description, it would be establishing the most inconvenient of all precedents, as it would open the door to all manner of private applications for money, which it behoved the House to watch with great caution, and tend to great annoyance. He had no objection, as he said before, to the receipt of the petition, but when the subject was again brought before the House, he should be ready to deliver his sentiments on it.
§ Petition laid on the Table, and ordered to be printed.