§ Sir Edward Codrington
rose, and addressed the House in nearly the following terms: Sir, I rise to complain of a breach of the privilege of this House on the part of The Morning Post newspaper, in having misrepresented what I said the other evening: and, indeed, what was said by other hon. Members also. In each case that which has been reported has been equally erroneous; and in saying this I do not mean to impute motives to any man on a matter which might have led to a breach of the peace, and which is a breach of privilege. I have made extracts from the paper to which I refer, and I will first refer to that part of the report which is intended to apply to myself, which is this. It is reported that I stated, "I for one, disapprove of Sir Pulteney Malcolm's conduct, and I think that many men would have been turned out of the service if they had acted in the same way." Now, the expression which I really did use was, that Sir Pulteney Malcolm had in what he had done subjected himself to be tried by a court-martial. As, however, I have a letter in my hand from Sir Pulteney Malcolm, I shall, I hope, be allowed the opportunity of reading it. Then, again, it is further stated in this report, that I said Sir Pulteney Malcolm did not speak the truth. I declare I never had the slightest intention to make any charge of the kind. I did not and never meant to attribute to Sir Pulteney Malcolm anything of the sort. I said he spoke freely of me, and I am sure he will not deny it. I have disapproved of his conduct, but there is no ill-will towards him on my part. I was using my observations as an argument for the unfortunate people whose cause I advocated. I brought nothing personally alluding to Sir Pulteney Malcolm. It was, and is a matter of indifference to me whe- 1307 ther he is in a command or not: he is not a rival of mine; and this fact I hope will be proved by the correspondence which has passed between us, and which is printed in The Courier newspaper of this evening; and I have not the least objection to all the words used being made known. So much, then, for the explanation of that part of the report which relates to myself. The next error is one which attributes motives to me, and of which it is necessary I should take notice. In the report of the observations given to my gallant Friend below me (Admiral Adam) he is represented as saying, "Why did he not make them in an open and manly manner, and not by way of insinuation?"
§ The Speaker
suggested that unless the hon. and gallant Member rose to a point of order he could not be heard.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
The next passage which I shall refer to, as given in The Morning Post, is, I believe, and I hope I can prove, not true. These words were imputed to the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Cumberland (Sir James Graham), and I hope I shall find, that the right hon. Baronet will admit that they were such as ought not to be, and were not, used by him, because they impute motives to me, which is a proceeding not warranted by Parliamentary usage. The right hon. Baronet is said to have declared, "I admit that I am responsible for having superseded the honourable and gallant officer, and that I did so because I would not listen to insinuations and charges which were made in such a manner as the insinuations and charges made to me were made." Now, allow me to say, that the origin of my referring this subject to the right hon. Gentleman was the complaints which were made to me by the men engaged in the battle of Navarino, who asked for some remuneration for their losses, &c. I remember that that gratuity was a long time before it was paid, the poor fellows having had all their clothes torn off their backs. But I complained, moreover, that these men, who had been in the battle, had neither pay nor anything else beyond this gratuity. I beard that others who were not in the battle shared amongst them two French crowns which had been obtained from the fishing up of guns. That report reached me, 1308 and I at once made use of it in the claim I made to the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) on behalf of the men under me. I never dealt in insinuations, nor have I ever tried to whisper away the character of Sir Pulteney Malcolm. I have dealt openly on the occasion, and made the charges directly. The reports did not originate with me. I am one who want much to uphold the character of the profession to which I belong. I will not even throw just censure upon an officer where it is possible to avoid it. I, in all I have done, have been most anxious to make every allowance for a man's past services, his wounds, &c., I have nothing to say against Sir Pulteney Malcolm; I have only made use of the reports in order to obtain justice for my men. I am glad to say that by letter, Sir Pulteney Malcolm has convinced me, that if he was at all guilty, he was guilty of a mere venial offence in the transactions to which I referred. I am ready to believe anything which Sir Pulteney Malcolm has stated; and therefore I solemnly acquit him of any thing but what was merely venial, if we come within the strict letter of the articles of war. I don't know that I need do anything more than, with the permission of the House, read the letter of Sir Pulteney Malcolm to me; but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me an explanation in reference to the words which are imputed to him. The hon. and gallant Admiral then read the following letter:—No. 23, York-terrace, April 14,1837.Sir—It appears from the report of your speech in the House of Commons last night, as reported in The Morning Post, that you stated that I ought to have been turned out of the service for my conduct when in command of the Mediterranean squadron, and I understood the charges to be, that I fished up some brass guns from the wrecks of the ships at Navarino, which were sold, and the proceeds shared as prize-money on board the Asia, and that I had employed ships of the Government in conveying materials for building a House on speculation, and not for my own residence. I hope and believe you have made these statements under a false impression as to the facts. I shall now proceed to state what occurred, on the honour of an officer, and I have no doubt that on attentive consideration you will repair, as far as you may have the power, the injury you have done my character, by stating in your place in the House of Commons that you had been misinformed. It is true that some brass 1309 guns were taken up from the wrecks at Navarino by a boat of the Asia, and that Captain Hope Johnstone proposed to me that they should be sold, and the money divided amongst those who had got them up; of this I approved, and it was so divided. In reply to the other charge, I have to state that in the year 1830 I purchased a piece of land near to Athens, for the purpose of building a small House to perpetuate my name in Greece, in whose welfare I was strongly interested. In January, 1831, the authorities who were engaged in the settlement of Greece were assembled at Salamis, and were on the point of making a finish, when they received instructions to stop, as the ministers of the alliance had hopes of obtaining an extension of the proposed limits. Great was the disappointment, and the Greeks began to despair of ever seeing the country settled; to show, however, that I considered that the delay was but temporary, I gave directions to prepare to build my House; the three residents of the alliance accompanied me to the spot, and all urged me to enlarge my plan. I was induced to listen to their suggestions, as it enabled me to show the Greeks the superiority of the Maltese workmen a number of whom went to Athens, where they got full employment. Capo d'Istria, the then President of Greece, said to me that I had conferred a real benefit on his country by beginning to build a House, as it gave confidence to those who were desirous to do the same, and who had purchased lands from the Turks, but were disheartened when we separated at Salamis, I had been in communication with Sir F. Ponsonby, and had the best means for obtaining employment for the Maltese in Greece, and this appeared to me a good beginning. When at Malta I employed the best workmen to make doors and windows for this House, and I purchased many articles for the building, which I sent to Greece by a Greek brig, which I hired for the purpose; but I remember that Captain Lyons, of the Madagascar, proposed to me to take the windows into his cabin, as they might be broken in the brig, and I consented, as he was bound to Athens; some polished stoves were taken on board the Britannia, but her destination being changed when at sea, Captain Hawkins, of the Raleigh, who was bound to Athens, proposed that he should take them up, and I consented. These are the only circumstances which I can recollect, and surely these acts are not to be construed into employing Government vessels for private emolument.I am your most obedient servant,PULTENEY MALCOLM.Admiral Sir E. Codrington.Now I wish not to make a single comment; I leave the matter in the hands of the House. I will say nothing further than that I wish it to be understood that no reflection is thrown by me on the character of Sir. Pulteney Malcolm.
§ Sir James Graham
said, after what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Officer who had just sat down, the House would expect him to say a few words in reply. He would first address himself to that part of the subject, which related to Sir P. Malcolm, for it was in defence of his gallant Friend on a former evening that he was tempted to address the House. As he understood the hon. and gallant Officer, he now retracted every charge reflecting on the honour of Sir P. Malcolm. As he understood the hon. and gallant Officer, he said he had not used the words which certainly he had seen very generally reported in the newspapers, and, relying on his recollection, he thought they were what he heard. But since the hon. and gallant Officer had withdrawn them, he was bound to believe that he did not hear them,—namely, "that Sir P. Malcolm had spoken freely of him, and that what he had said was not true." The gallant Officer now denied having uttered those words, and after that denial he Sir J. Graham could not believe that he had done so. He was quite sure that such denial would be satisfactory to the country, to the House, and to his gallant Friend. The hon. and gallant Officer had said that he was most anxious to uphold the character of the profession to which he belonged. There could not be a more legitimate object, and he hoped this discussion might create that effect. He was sure of this, that the character of a British admiral could never be a matter of indifference to the representatives of the British people. It was of the last importance that a man who had stood, as Sir P. Malcolm had done, in that situation for half a century, should, notwithstanding that, have his honour vindicated, or else after his long services he might be rendered one of the most unhappy and wretched men alive. How stood the matter with regard to the two charges which had been brought forward by the hon. and gallant Member? Passing by the personal altercation between him and Sir P. Malcolm, and understanding, the first of those charges to be, that Sir P. Malcolm had allowed some of the guns that were lost during the battle of Navarino to be fished up and sold, and the produce to be shared as prize money, what was the exact meaning of the words "shared as prize-money?" Professional men in the House knew the meaning perfectly well. It was, that all officers, the 1311 admiral included, if any money was distributed, shared in that money. Therefore the application of those words was, that Sir P. Malcolm had shared in the distribution made on the occasion alluded to. But how stood the fact, as now proved by the gallant Officer? The guns were fished up by certain boats' crews belonging to his Majesty's ship Asia. What was that ship? The flag-ship of the gallant admiral at the battle of Navarino. What was the ship's company? It consisted of the very men who fought with him. Did the gallant Officer deny that? [Sir E. Codrington: Partly.] The ship's company of the Asia fought in the battle of Navarino. When the hon. and gallant Officer was superseded by Sir P. Malcolm, by an order of the Board of Admiralty, he hoisted his flag on board the same ship, without any transfer of the ship's crew. It was the same crew that fished up the guns and they were sold, and the money divided amongst those who had picked them up, those people, or at least the greater portion of them, being men who had fought with the gallant officer at Navarino. The second charge against Sir P. Malcolm was, that having purposed to build a House in Greece, on speculation, he employed the King's ships to convey the stores of which the house was built from Malta to Athens. The gallant admiral had admitted the fact, and the hon. and gallant Officer opposite had read his admission, in his own words, to the House. As to the policy or impolicy of building the House, that was beside the question. But did he build the house on speculation? And if he did, did he employ the King's ships to convey the stores to the spot on which the house was to be erected? Sir P. Malcolm, in the letter which had been just read to the House, had stated, on his honour as an officer, that he freighted a Greek brig from Malta for the purpose of conveying those stores, with two exceptions, which were thus explained:—Some window frames and doors had been manufactured at Malta with great care and at considerable expense, and Captain Lyons, who was in command of his Majesty's ship Madagascar, seeing that they were about to be embarked with other public stores on board the Greek brig, proposed to his admiral, for the purpose of taking greater care of them, that he should convey them in the frigate which he commanded. But 1312 were they so conveyed under the orders of Sir P. Malcolm? Or was there any derangement of the rules, or discipline, or convenience, that should be maintained on board the ship? So far from anything of the sort, Captain Lyons, as a private mark of esteem and goodwill to his admiral, conveyed them in his own cabin. Then it appeared, that there was some ornamental stove-work taken on board the Britannia, but when at sea her destination was changed, and they were trans-shipped on board the small brig Raleigh, which was bound to Athens. But the gallant admiral had retracted the expressions. [Sir E. Codrington: I deny having used them.] Far be it from him, having answered the two public 'charges which the gallant Officer had made and now withdrawn, to resume anything of the angry tone of the debate the other night; but still, after what had passed, considering the high character of Sir P. Malcolm, considering how precious the character of such a man must be to him as a friend, considering how important the matter was to the country, and considering the high station and connexions of the gallant admiral alluded to, and that a slur cast on any portion of his conduct, under any circumstances, ought, if unjust, to be entirely removed, he thought he should be pardoned if he intruded on the time of the House so far as to make the few observations he had yet to offer in vindication of Sir P. Malcolm as an officer and a gentleman. He wished to call the attention of the House to the question who this highly-gifted officer was? There might be instances of officers being elevated by means of aristocratic friends and connexions; such, however, was not the case with Sir P. Malcolm. He was the son of a humble sheep-farmer, and had won his way to fame as his brother, Sir John Malcolm, had done, without having any powerful friends to back him, or parliamentary influence to help him. He had risen to the highest honours in his profession by his own manly exertions; and his transcendent merits, if they had been questioned in that House the other evening, had never been questioned before. He enjoyed a spotless reputation, and he possessed in an eminent degree the friendship and confidence of the greatest men in this country now living, as he had of those who had departed. He was the comrade in arms of Nelson, and the ship 1313 in his fleet which he commanded had the splendid designation of the happy Donegal; He still had the friendship of the first general of the day—the Duke of Wellington. It was he who first conveyed from the Cape to India the future hero of Assaye, and who landed on the Peninsula its future conqueror; and it was at the special desire of the Duke of Wellington that the flag of Sir Pulteney Malcolm was flying at Ostend when the destinies of the civilized world were decided on the field of Waterloo. Did his character end there? It was a remarkable circumstance, he was not only the friend of the conqueror, but he had an opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with.the conquered. His flag was hoisted at St. Helena during the exile of Napoleon, and he made every lawful exertion to soothe his sorrows and mitigate his painful situation. By the kindness of his disposition and behaviour he won the confidence of that distinguished man, who gratefully acknowledged, in his last moments, the generosity and benevolence that had marked Sir P. Malcolm's demeanour towards him. Although he had incurred the displeasure of the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite, he was still in the enjoyment of the friendship he had won amongst the living, and he trusted, that whatever other effect this discussion might produce, it would leave the honour of Sir P. Malcolm untarnished by anything that had taken place. So much for what related to Sir P. Malcolm. But something had fallen from the gallant Admiral with reference to himself. He was not present during any part of the discussion which occurred on a former evening until within a minute of the close of the speech of the gallant Admiral. He had no sooner made his appearance in the House and taken his seat than the gallant Officer, without the slightest notice, and quite contrary to any expectation on his part, opened a sharp fire on him, and without any premeditation, or a moment's reflection, he was compelled to rise and vindicate the character of the gallant officer, his Friend. But (continued the right hon. Baronet) I spoke, Sir, under your correction, and if I had said any thing contrary to the rules of the House you would have checked me, and certainly I may say, that you have never found me unwilling to obey your authority. But, Sir, if you had omitted to 1314 check me, hon. Gentlemen on the other side would have called me to order if I were wrong. Nothing, however, fell from me to call for any such interference. I am not responsible for any reports in any newspaper of what I said. The gallant Officer did not interrupt me on Thursday night; he saw me here on Friday, but he did not ask me for any explanation. I will not pledge myself as to the particular words which I did use; but I think the reports of what took place on that occasion, in all the four morning papers were very accurate; at least, they gave me a better speech than I was able to make. But there was nothing in these reports that I did not intend to say, or say in substance. I have nothing to retract—nothing to withdraw or deny. I am satisfied that I have said nothing contrary to the rules of the House, and with that consciousness I say I have nothing to explain.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
hoped, notwithstanding the cheers which had accompanied the conclusion of the right hon. Baronet's speech, that he might be heard fairly, as soon as those cheers had subsided. He had stated most distinctly, that he did not wish to go further into this question; but whatever might be the consequences, either in or out of doors, he had endeavoured to do that which was just to Sir Pulteney Malcolm—to clear him from any imputation on his character, because he believed Sir P. Malcolm's word of honour. He was bound to say that the right hon. Baronet had made some most gross allusions which he ought not to have made. Being then at the head of the Admiralty, he ought to have known, the Asia came to England and had half her crew drafted. Statements were made to him by the people who had served under him in the battle, that others who had not been in the battle, had shared the money obtained from the sale of the guns as prize money. He would now correct the statement, believing, as he did, the word of Sir P. Malcolm. Did it, then, become the right hon. Baronet to taunt him? The right hon. Baronet had not directly answered the question which had been put to him. He would, then, distinctly ask him—had he used the words imputed to him or not? He would read them again.
§ The Speaker
understood that exceptions were taken to particular expressions used 1315 by the hon. Baronet; if such was the case they ought to have been taken at the moment.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
scarcely understood the position in which he stood. The right hon. Baronet had spoken generally, but he had not at all answered the question. What he, (Sir E. Codrington) wanted to know was, whether the right hon. Baronet had made use of these words or not. The Report stated him to have said, that "I admit that I am responsible for having Superseded the hon. and gallant Officer, and that I did so because I would not listen to insinuations and charges which were made in such a manner as the insinuations and charges made to me were made. Those who were fully competent to form a correct opinion of the conduct of Sir Pulteney Malcolm I consulted, and I now feel it my bounden duty to declare that I totally disbelieved the charges brought against him. Sir, had there been any foundation for these charges, might not Sir Pulteney Malcolm have been called upon to answer them before that tribunal to which he was amenable? He never was, and I therefore think it rather hard the hon. and gallant Officer should have attempted, for three years to whisper away his character without mentioning his name, until the hon. and gallant Officer found himself driven into a corner." Why, Sir, I believe that I have a character to sustain as well as Sir Pulteney Malcolm, and I think it very material that the House should allow me to make my statement; because the right hon. Gentleman has said further, according to the Report given, that he superseded me in the command of the fleet, and that he so superseded me on account of the insinuations which I had made against Sir Pulteney Malcolm. Now I beg at once to ask him whether he did so supersede me on the grounds so stated? I put a direct question, and, notwithstanding the cheerers, I trust the right hon. Baronet will give a direct answer.
§ Sir James Graham
said, he had already told the hon. and gallant Officer, that he was not responsible for the correctness or incorrectness of any reports which might have appeared in the morning papers, but he would say they were generally accurate. The hon. and gallant Admiral had heard what he said on the occasion in question: be had the opportunity of calling him to 1316 order at the moment, and of asking for an explanation; but on Thursday night the gallant Admiral had omitted that opportunity; and he was in the House, too, on Friday, but the gallant Admiral had not asked for an explanation. Notwithstanding all his respect for the House, he firmly but respectfully refused to give any explanation of the words used.
§ Admiral Adam
said, that called upon as he had been by his hon. and gallant Friend, he could not refuse to say that the words which had been imputed to him he had not uttered. It was said, in the report of The Morning Post that he had declared that his gallant Friend did that by insinuation which he would not do openly. Now, what he (Admiral Adam) did say was, that he could not but express his regret and surprise that these charges, if they could not be substantiated at the time, should be brought forward after they had so long lain dormant; more especially when the gallant Officer to whom they referred was, at the time, on full pay and amenable to a Court-martial. He went on to say that he was the more surprised that his gallant Friend should not have brought forward these charges at a proper time.
considered, after what had taken place, the hon. Baronet opposite was bound to give some explanation of the language used by him. Had there been any attempt to whisper away the character of Sir P. Malcolm for three years he must have heard of it, and he would have been the first to call for an explanation from the gallant Admiral.
Sir John Beresford
thought, that nothing could justify the expressions of his gallant Friend; but those words ought to have been explained at the moment. He rose, however, chiefly to state that which was his own, and he believed it was the feeling of all who knew Sir P. Malcolm, that the eulogiums which had been made on that gallant Officer's conduct had been such, as his character as an officer and a gentleman justly merited.
§ Lord John Russell
thought this discussion should not close without some declaration from the Chair as to what were the rules of the House. The hon. and gallant Admiral had stated the words reported to have been said by the right hon. Gentleman, and had asked for an explanation of those words, making at the same time a statement which seemed to imply that con- 1317 sequences might arise out of the House as well as in. The right hon. Gentleman opposite stated that he made use of all the expressions attributed to him, in the presence of the gallant Admiral, and as he had not asked for an explanation on the night, or on the night after, he was not bound to make an explanation. On the part of the morning paper, he did not think it necessary to interfere; but he thought it would be very satisfactory to the House if the Speaker would deliver his opinion upon the subject.
§ The Speaker
Undoubtedly the course pursued by the hon. and gallant Officer is most irregular. This is the first time in my experience that any hon. Member has come down to the House with a newspaper, and, adverting to the material facts of a whole speech, endeavour to found upon them, questions applicable to the individual to whom the expressions were attributed, and put in a shape which would seem to imply allusions to ulterior consequences. That, I must say, is extending the rule greatly beyond anything I have ever seen in Parliament; and it would be most improper for the House to sanction any such proceeding. If any thing was said to which the hon. and gallant Officer wished to take exception, the exception should have been taken at the time. Under these circumstances, the House has a right to require an assurance from the hon. and gallant Officer, that no ulterior steps shall be taken in this matter.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
expressed his readiness to say, that he did not hear the words of which he complained, and therefore he supposed that the right hon. Baronet did not use them. But seeing them in the newspaper, he had directed the right hon. Baronet's attention to them, and the right hon. Baronet would not deny that he had used them. If the right hon. Baronet would not deny them, what was the alternative? —either he denied them, or he adopted them.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
The hon. and gallant Officer had the same opportunity as other Gentlemen in the House at the time of hearing the words if they were used. If the gallant Officer heard them, he ought to have noticed them at the time. If he did not hear them, I submit to you, Sir, and to the House, whether this discussion ought to proceed further. My right hon. Friend certainly can not be held responsible, 1318 either directly or indirectly, for any report that may have appeared in a newspaper. It is impossible, therefore, that this discussion can be continued. I think the House entitled to ask the gallant Officer to make the assurance suggested by the Chair.
§ Admiral Adam
It is, I think, impossible that the right hon. Baronet, (Sir J. Graham) could have meant to make use of the words in question, because, in point of fact, he was not in the Admiralty when the hon. and gallant Officer, (Sir E. Codrington) was recalled. The gallant Admiral was recalled on the 5th of June, 1828, when the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister, and Lord Melville First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
apprehended, that the gallant Admiral had no right to call upon the right hon. Baronet to say whether he denied or adopted the publication that had appeared in the newspaper, ft was clear, according to the rules of debate, that no member had a right to attack or make an insinuation against the character or honour of another. But if the gallant Officer objected to anything that had been said by the right hon. Baronet, he ought to have stated his objection at the time the words were used. It was contrary to all rule that he should take up the report of a newspaper, and then after a lapse of several days, come forward and take such a course as the gallant Admiral had done that evening. After the species of threat that had been thrown out, the House had certainly a right to call upon the gallant Officer to say that he did not intend to take any ulterior step. The House had a clear right to exercise that power, and it never had failed to do so when similar circumstances had arisen.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
I move, Sir, that Sir Edward Codrington be desired to make the assurance which has been customary in this House on every similar occasion.
§ The Speaker
The gallant Officer has placed his demand on grounds which are altogether untenable. I conceive, no Member of this House is, or ought to be, held responsible for any report, in a newspaper, of what he may have said in his place in Parliament. That being the clear and undisputed rule of the House, I do not think the hon. and gallant Officer is 1319 entitled now to make that demand of the right hon. Baronet, after the expression of opinion which has taken place upon the subject. I am sure the hon. and gallant Officer's own good feelings will immediately suggest to him the propriety of complying with the call which has been made upon him.
§ Viscount Palmerston
If, after what has passed, the hon. and gallant Officer refuse to comply with the suggestion of the Chair and desire of the House, I believe the only course that can be followed, to prevent any ulterior steps, will be to move, that the gallant Officer be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. But I hope this will be unnecessary.
§ Mr. Williams Wynn
The gallant Officer must know that the House has power, and most certainly will prevent any ulterior consequences. The gallant Officer may put off his acquiescence for a longer or a shorter time; but putting off compliance with the will of the House, cannot by any means prevent his ultimate adoption of the course which has been pointed out; he can only subject himself to inconvenience by standing out. I hope, therefore, he will at once perceive the propriety of complying with the wish that has been so generally expressed.
§ Major Beauclerk
With great deference to the Chair and to the hon. Gentlemen who had expressed their opinions upon the subject, differed from them as to the propriety of the first concession coming from the hon. and gallant Admiral. At the same time he must say, that he could not justify what had fallen from the gallant Officer. He thought it a great pity, that the gallant Officer had made use of the observations that had that evening fallen from him. The House generally regretted them; and he was sure that the gallant Officer, on reflection, would regret them also. But he thought, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) who sat opposite, admitting, as he did, the general accuracy of the report, ought to have no hesitation, if he entertained the game wish and the same feeling as the House, to declare that, notwithstanding what was stated in that report, it was not his intention to say that the gallant Officer (Sir E. Codrington) had, for three years, endeavoured to whisper away the character of his gallant Brother in arms. The right hon. Baronet would see, that it was quite impossible for the gallant Officer to sit 1320 under such an imputation. To bring the matter more home to the House, perhaps he might be allowed to state what had occurred in his own case only a short time since. It might be remembered, that a few nights ago he offered an opinion in that House, with respect to lord-lieutenants. A day or two afterwards, he received a letter from the son of a Lord lieutenant of a county, asking whether, in the expressions he had used, he intended to cast any reflection or any imputation upon the writer's father. He immediately replied that he had no such intention, and that he believed nothing had fallen from him that could justify the suspicion. If the gentleman who addressed him had asked him anything that, as a man of honour, he could not have instantly replied to, he hoped he should have been amongst the last that would have done so; but when he found that the feelings of a gentleman had been hurt by the expressions he was said to have used, he would not lose the opportunity afforded to him of immediately explaining them. Such being the case, he thought he was justified in saying, that if he stood in the position of the right hon. Baronet, he should immediately declare that he had no intention to cast such an imputation on the gallant Admiral as that which had been published in the newspapers, and which accused him of whispering away the character of Sir Pulteney Malcolm.
§ Mr. Thomas Duncombe
The gallant Admiral does not complain of that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he is reported to have said, that the gallant Admiral had, for three years, endeavoured to whisper away the character of Sir Pulteney Malcolm. The gallant Admiral's complaint is founded upon these words of the report: "I admit that I am responsible for having superseded the hon. and gallant Officer; and I did so, because I would not listen to insinuations and charges which were made in such a manner as the insinuations and charges made to me were made." These are the words that the gallant Admiral complains of. Now, I think, that the gallant Admiral puts upon these words a construction different from that intended by the right hon. Baronet. I think, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cumberland (Sir J. Graham) would have used these words in speaking of the gallant Admiral's being superseded, even if 1321 Sir P. Malcolm had not succeeded him, or even if Sir P. Malcolm had never existed. Then I think my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) can have no hesitation in stating, that the gallant Admiral was not superseded in consequence of anything that he had levelled against the character of Sir P. Malcolm.
§ Mr. Roebuck
thought it hardly worth while to discuss the point of privilege as regarded the publication of reports of the proceedings of that House. The fact was notorious, was every day permitted, and every day spoken of. What were they then doing? They were endeavouring, if they possibly could, to prevent any unworthy differences arising in the House of Commons. The gallant Officer said, that he did not hear certain expressions which were reported as coming on a former evening from the right hon. Baronet. The gallant Officer said, moreover, that he did not believe the right hon. Baronet to have used the expressions; but that, considering his own character, and knowing the weight attached by the country to the reports of what took place in that House, he felt bound, in justice to himself and in vindication of his honour, to ask the right hon. Baronet publicly, whether he had used the words or not? The right hon. Baronet replied, that the gallant Officer was in the House at the time, and ought to have heard the expressions, if they were used. The gallant Admiral answered, "I did not hear them." "Then," said the right hon. Baronet, "if you did not hear them, and if you found anything to complain of in the report, you ought to have mentioned it the next day, and not have deferred it to so late a period as the present." Now, if the right hon. Baronet would consider for a moment, he would see that there might have been circumstances to prevent the gallant Admiral from calling upon him for an explanation at the moment. He asked the right hon. Baronet and the House, whether it would not be as well, after all that had taken place, after hearing what had fallen from the gallant Admiral, that the right hon. Baronet should at once admit that he did not make use of the words in question, and thus prevent any other painful circumstance arising out of the dispute. Expressions had been used on both sides painful enough. It now remained for the right hon. Baronet to pay his quota of 1322 concession, and endeavour to make peace and harmony.
§ Mr. Charles Wood
was afraid, that the hon. and gallant Officer had put his question upon a ground on which the right hon. Baronet could not be called upon to answer. The question put by the hon. and gallant Officer, was this—"Why was I superseded?" Now, standing there in: some measure as the representative of the Admiralty, he (Mr. C. Wood) conceived that it was not fit for the gallant Officer nor for the House, to call upon the right hon. Baronet to say why he superseded any officer. That was the question that was put by the gallant Officer, and which he thought the right hon. Baronet was not called upon to answer. But at the same time, looking at the report in the newspaper, he must say that he could not, for a moment, believe it to be a correct representation of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, because it put into the right hon. Baronet's mouth the reason why he superseded the hon. and gallant Officer; and that he conceived the right hon. Baronet would never, for one moment, think of doing. Looking, too, at the context of the report, it was evident that what the right hon. Baronet meant to say, was this—that he had appointed Sir Pulteney Malcolm, because he did not believe that any charge existed against that gallant Officer's character; and that, having determined to supersede the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir E. Codrington) for reasons which he (Mr. C. Wood) thought he ought not to explain, he appointed Sir P. Malcolm in his place, because, believing that gallant Officer perfectly competent to the situation, and not believing the charges that had been brought against him, he conceived him to be a fit and proper person to take command of the fleet previously commanded by the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir E. Codrington). If that were the meaning of the right hon. Baronet, he thought that he ought to have no hesitation in stating so. If he did so, the only ground on which the hon. and gallant Officer had put the question, must at once fall to the ground. It was true that there was one other question a little involved; but as that was of a private rather than of a public kind, he should offer no opinion upon it. But he must say, that he agreed with the gallant Officer in this, that after the full satisfaction that 1323 he (the gallant Officer) had made in denying the use of the most offensive language; and fully vindicating the character of Sir P. Malcolm from any charge that he might have been supposed to have brought against him"—if he stood in the position of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), and really did not think that the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir E. Codrington had endeavoured for three years to whisper away the character of his gallant Companion in aims—he should have no Hesitation in declaring at once, that the Words attributed to him in the report in the newspaper, were not correct. On the other hand, if he stood in the position of the gallant Officer, and felt, as that gallant Officer must feel; how little he needed to add to the vulgar attribute Of courage, he would not, for one instant; hesitate to give the assurance which the House had a right to demand, and the power to enforce. He knew of nothing so absurd and ridiculous as prolonging these Scenes, which too often occurred in the House which always ended in one way, and which Served only to bring the proceedings of the House into great and well-deserved contempt.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
Before this matter proceeds further; Way I be allowed to ask Sir, has any Gentleman in this House a right to attribute motives or insinuations to another?
§ The Speaker
No Member has a right to attribute motives to another. That is quite clean In the present instance I have been called on to express my opinion upon two propositions, both of which, according to the rules of the House, appear to me to be perfectly clear also. If the practice were once allowed to prevail, of calling for explanations of particular expressions used on preceding days, there would be no end of the disputes that Wight arise, that is my opinion upon the first proposition. Upon the second proposition, as to whether or not it is competent for a Gentleman to take up a newspaper and hold any other Gentleman in this House responsible for any report he may read there, I should think I acted Very improperly towards this House if I were' to give the slightest countenance to such a practice. On the contrary, I am bound to say, that no Member of this House ban be held responsible for any report of his speeches, made in Parlia- 1324 ment, that may appear in any of the newspapers.
§ Sir Robert Peel
Of all the disputes I have ever heard arise in this House, I must say the present appears to me to have the least foundation in necessity; I sat next my right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) when he made the speech in question on Thursday last. I understand the particular part of the speech of which the hon. and gallant Admiral complains to be this: he finds in The Morning Post these expressions attributed to my right hon. Friend—that the particular cause for which the hon. and gallant Officer was superseded in his command was, that he had brought forward certain charges against Sir P: Malcolm. The gallant Officer may complain of other expressions in the same report, but that to which I have alluded is the one which he thinks justifies him in making his appeal to my right hon. Friend. Now, I think there can be no harm in one's bearing testimony to the truth, and I declare; that these are not the expressions that were used by my right hon. Friend; I sat next to him, and I can therefore confirm the gallant Officer's own impression when he says he does not think that my right hon. Friend could have used them. My right hon. Friend came into the House in the midst of the discussion, not knowing what was going on. Nothing, therefore; could be more Unpremeditated than any thing that fell from him; but the expressions complained of he certainly did not use; The gallant Admiral says, that his impression is the same as mine; Here I come forward as a witness and confirm his impression; But the report in the newspaper attributes certain expressions, and the gallant Officer thinks he has a right to take that report and to ask my right hon. Friend to declare whether that report be correct or not. If my right hon. Friend had been a party, either directly or indirectly, to the report, the gallant Admiral no doubt would have a right to call upon him to explain; but if my right hon. Friend was not in truth, either directly or indirectly, the cause of the report, nor in any way responsible for it, I ask the hon. and gallant Admiral, in a friendly spirit; to consider whether he thinks it would be a good precedent to establish; that after a debate has passed in which the party complaining admits he did not hear any offensive expressions; a 1325 subsequent complaint should be made, founded upon the report contained in a newspaper? This is not merely a question between two individual Members, it is a question for the consideration of the House, and I hope the House will see the extreme inconvenience that would result from our sanctioning the principle that We are to be called upon in a hostile manner to disavow expressions, attributed to us in newspaper reports. The inconvenience of sanctioning such a principle must be manifest to every one. It would be so very easy for a person to give a turn to a report which would subject Members of the House to be called upon in a hostile manner, that it is quite impossible to see where the evil, once allowed, would end. I apprehend, that the plain course in all these cases would be this: to ask the Gentleman complaining whether he heard the words of which he complains. If he did not, and if no other Gentleman in the House at the time heard them, surely that ought to be enough to stop all further discussion, If it be sought to carry the matter further, and to call upon hon. Gentlemen to disavow expressions for which they are not responsible, that is a course against which, on public grounds, I must protest. In the present instance I come forward to confirm the gallant Admiral's own impression. If the words were not used how can he hesitate on public grounds to say—"If there be but one course to pursue, and if you who were present confirm my own impression of what really occurred, I will call for no farther explanation." And instead of assuming a hostile position, I think the gallant Admiral's own sense of what is due to propriety will convince him that that is the only proper course for him to adopt. If these were not my honest sentiments I would not utter them to the gallant Admiral.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
I am perfectly sure that the right hon. Baronet has expressed his honest sentiments; and I am satisfied that if words were attributed by him of an offensive nature to another Gentleman, he would have no hesitation to declare at once in a manly and straightforward manner whether he had used them or not. If there were a gentleman in the whole country who, taking up words attributed to me, came to me and complained of them as not being true, if I had never uttered those words I should be 1326 most ready and most glad to give the explanation required of me This I would do as a man of honour; and I ear that no man of honour would refuse to do it.
§ Lord John Russell
I took the liberty of calling upon you, Sir, to know what was to be considered as the rule of the House on occasions of this kind, and I must say that I am perfectly satisfied with the opinion which you stated to the House—that it was not for the convenience of the House that, after some days had elapsed, a Member who had been present in any particular debate should bring down to Parliament a news paper, and ask specially whether certain phrases stated in that newspaper were the phrases used by a Member of that House. I am quite satisfied that the rule you, Sir, have laid down is right, and that the opposite rule would tend to great inconvenience, and to endless disputes as to the use of particular words. As to the debate in question, I must add my testimony to that given by the right hon. Baronet opposite. I attended to the debate on that occasion, and I heard words uttered certainly in the heat of debate, but I did not hear anything that went beyond the rule of fair debate in this House, After the statement on the part of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) opposite, I think my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir E. Codrington) may fairly state that he is satisfied that nothing has been stated contrary to his honour.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
I should certainly have been satisfied with what has been stated; but when I read the paragraph of which I complained, and the right hon. Baronet refused to contradict it, it is impossible for me to come to any other conclusion than that he adopts it.
§ An Hon. Member thought, that if the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) would get up and say that he meant nothing derogatory to the hon. and gallant Officer, as a man of honour and a British officer, the question would be at rest, and the House would have a right to insist on the gallant Admiral giving an assurance that the matter should go no further.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I beg to state that my object in coming forward was not in any way to defend my right hon. Friend, but merely to prevent the House from entertaining an erroneous impression as to 1327 what really took place. I came forward merely as a witness, to give evidence upon a point in which the House appeared to be interested.
§ Viscount Palmerston
Being present on the occasion, and paying attention to what was going forward, I feel myself bound to add my testimony to that of the right hon. Baronet and my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) as to what took place. The words particularly alluded to by the hon. and gallant Officer (Sir E. Codrington) certainly did not strike my ear, and I do not think they were used.
§ Admiral Adam
was ready to confirm the noble Lord's impression. But the awkward part of the matter was this, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) had stated, that he agreed to the general correctness of the report. Now, to the general correctness he agreed also; but he was at the same time quite certain that there was a statement in the newspaper in question which was not correct, and he was certainly of opinion that the part of which his gallant Friend complained was incorrect.
§ Mr. Leader
said, I think, Sir, that the only way to end the dispute will be to commit both the gallant Admiral and the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Robert Palmer
hoped, after what had been stated, that the gallant Admiral would give the required assurance that the matter should go no farther. (After a pause the hon. Gentleman continued). As the gallant Officer does not seem disposed to conform to the general wish of the House, one only course remains. I must therefore move that the gallant Officer be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
§ The question having been put,
§ Mr. Curteis moved as an Amendment that Sir James Graham be also taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms.
§ After a pause,
§ The Speaker
said, the only way in which the Amendment can be put is to substitute the name of one Member for another.
Then I move that the name of Sir James Graham be substituted for that of Sir Edward Codrington.
§ Mr. Roebuck
thought, with all deference to the Chair, that the words "and Sir James Graham" might be added to the Original Motion by way of Amendment.
§ Mr. D. W. Harvey
I, Sir, have a 1328 Motion to make. That the country may not know the way in which we waste our time in this House, I beg to observe that I see strangers in the gallery.
§ Strangers were ordered to withdraw.
§ After a brief discussion with closed doors,
§ Sir E. Codrington
said, that as he understood the Speaker had decided that the right hon. Member for Cumberland could not, according to the rules of the House, answer his interrogatory, and as he heard that the words alluded to had not been used, he should place himself in the hands of the House and fulfil its pleasure. He felt very strongly—hardly too strongly, he thought—for the honour of an officer of the navy ought not to be suspected. Nothing would ever induce him, no pains, no penalties, nothing that this House could do, to submit to the slightest imputation on his honour. Saying this, he should obey the House.
§ The Speaker
trusted that the discussion would now terminate to the satisfaction of the gallant Admiral and the House. He was of opinion that it was not regular to refer to past debates for the purpose of obtaining any explanation of the nature of that sought this evening. And, further, he must say, that no Member was responsible for what passed in this House. No one could hold any Member responsible for expressions used in debate. He believed he stated the sentiments of the House when he said, that as the discussion had terminated it must be satisfactory to all parties. The entry on the journals in this case was as follows:—Notice taken of a report of a debate of this House in The Morning Post newspaper, in which certain words were attributed to Sir James Graham respecting Sir Edward Codrington; and Sir Edward Codrington having called upon Sir James Graham to state whether he had made use of the words, Sir James Graham declined to make such statement, considering that such a practice would be contrary to the freedom of debate, and the privilege of the House; and Sir Edward Codrington having intimated an intention of taking notice of the words out of the House, he was called upon to assure the House that he would not pursue that course; and having declined to give the House such assurance, motion made and question proposed,—'That Sir Edward Codrington be taken into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms attending this House:'—And Mr. Speaker having stated that Sir James Graham ought not to be called upon to state whether a report in a newspaper of certain expressions made use of by him in this 1329 House was or was not correct, Sir Edward Codrington submitted himself to the House, and assured them that he would not pursue the matter any further; whereupon Sir James Graham stated, that he had now no objection to state that he had not made use of the words attributed to him.The Order of the Day having been read Lord John Russell moved, that the Ordnance Estimates be referred to a Committee of supply.—Agreed to.