HC Deb 06 December 1837 vol 39 cc687-707
Mr. William Smith O'Brien

rose, pursuant to notice, to present a petition, which he believed was somewhat of a novel nature, but not more unprecedented than the circumstances out of which it had arisen. The existence of an election subscription Fund carried on for several months in England and Scotland was a matter of public notoriety, although it had not yet been alluded to in that House. It appeared to him, that a subscription professedly raised for the purpose of encouraging the presentation of petitions—

Sir Edward Knatchbull

rose to order. He would be the last to interfere between any hon. Member and the right to present any petition he thought proper to that House; but he understood, on the authority of the chair, a rule had been adopted by mutual consent of both sides of the House, that no discussion whatever should take place on the presentation of petitions. If it was the intention of the hon. Member merely to state the substance of the petition, he would be acting in complete conformity with the rule which had been laid down; but he appealed to the authority of the chair whether it was competent for the hon. Member to enter generally into the subject matter referred to in the petition.

The Speaker

said, the question had undoubtedly been submitted to the consideration of the House, and whatever rule existed was founded upon the authority of the House. There was a discussion announced for this very evening with reference to the subject matter of the petition, and, therefore, the hon. Member would probably think, that he would not only satisfy the rules of the House, but also meet the full justice of the case, by stating merely the substance of the case. Any argument on the merits of the petition would most appropriately be given in the course of the evening.

Mr. O'Brien

was quite ready to comply with the suggestion which had been thrown out. He was not disposed to enter into any argument on the subject; but it appeared to him, that under the particular circumstances of the case, he should adopt a legitimate and constitutional mode of bringing the matter before the House in the shape of a petition, considering himself aggrieved by the conduct of an hon. Baronet, a Member of that House, subscribing to a fund, having for its object the encouragement of petitions against the due return of hon. Members to that House, and among others, of himself for Limerick; and therefore he hoped he should be allowed—he believed he had a right—to read the petition at length.

The Speaker

said, the hon. Member might state the substance of the petition, but the rule of the House was, that he must not read the petition at length.

Mr. O'Brien

would then merely move, in the first instance, that the petition be brought up.

The Petition having been brought up,

Mr. O'Brien moved, that the petition be read at length by the clerk—he insisted on his right to have it read, and if it were necessary, he should divide the House upon the point.

The Clerk read the petition, as under: To the Hon. the House of Commons. The humble petition of William Smith O'Brien, one of the sitting Members for the county of Limerick, Humbly showeth,—That your petitioner most respectfully approaches your hon. House with a petition and complaint touching a matter which not only affects himself, but also deeply concerns the privileges of your hon. House, the rights of the electors of these realms, the especial interest of the people of Ireland, and the general well-being and concord of all parts of the United Kingdom. That your petitioner begs respectfully to call the attention of your hon. House to the existence of a public subscription set on foot in England for the purpose of encouraging the presentation of petitions against Members returned to serve in this present Parliament for the counties, cities, towns, and boroughs of Ireland, and of defraying the expenses attendant upon the conduct and prosecution of the same. That it appears from successive advertisements in the public newspapers, that a very large fund has been already raised in England for the purposes above-mentioned. That inasmuch as the persons who have been induced to subscribe to this fund for the most part are unconnected with the constituencies of Ireland, and have had no opportunity of personally witnessing the proceedings at the Irish elections, they have necessarily been liable to be misled by the misrepresentations of persons who have an interest in deceiving them.

Sir E. Sugden

rose to order. He submitted that the course which had been adopted on the present occasion, was altogether a novel proceeding. He had no wish to prevent the sentiments or opinions of any hon. Member being given fully to the House and the country upon any question of public or private interest. He simply rose to submit the question whether this petition should be received, it being the petition of the Member himself who presented it, on a question which concerned a public grievance.

Mr. O'Brien

said, he brought the matter forward as a matter of private grievance. He approached the House in the character of an aggrieved party. He complained of an hon. Baronet, a Member of that House, subscribing to a fund, having for its object to deprive him among others of his seat; and he did not see how the circumstance of his being a Member of that House should deprive him of that right of complaint which belonged to every other subject of her Majesty.

Sir E. Sugden

said, that the hon. Member had not opened the case as one of private grievance. At all events, this course, if adopted, would occasion a very serious public grievance. What; would it lead to? Hon. Members would write out an argument, deliver a pamphlet in the shape of a petition to the clerk at the table, and insist upon its being read at length, and thereby the greatest possible inconvenience must be produced. If it were a private grievance that was complained of, he should offer no objection to the reading of the petition; but having been opened as a matter of public grievance, he called for the opinion of the chair for the guidance of the House on so important a question.

Mr. Lambton

could not but think it an act of great presumption on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to interfere when the clerk was reading the petition, the Speaker having expressed his opinion in favour of its being read.

Sir E. Knatchbull

was sure the hon. Gentleman had made a charge of presumption against his right hon. and learned Friend which was wholly untenable. The hon. Member was under a misconception. When a Member presented a petition and required that it should be read, as a matter of courtesy it was usual to have it read. That was the extent to which the rule had hitherto been carried. But the question was in the present instance greatly affected by the fact that the petitioner was the hon. Member himself, petitioning on his own part, and complaining of a public grievance. If it were a private grievance of which he complained, by which he was likely to suffer, his right hon. and learned Friend would not have urged his objection.

Mr. H. Grattan

said, his hon. Friend, (Mr. O'Brien) had distinctly stated that he complained of a private grievance; but after the letter written by the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, (Sir F. Burdett) he was disposed to think the matter should have been treated as a direct breach of privilege. There could be no doubt of the hon. Member's right to have the petition read at length.

Mr. Wakley

said, he would be glad to learn from the Speaker the course which ought to be pursued on this occasion. The hon. Member below him, in introducing the petition by a few remarks, was interrupted by the right hon. Baronet opposite, and the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair then directed him to state the substance of the petition. But, not content with stating the substance, the hon. Member desired that the petition be read at the table, when the Speaker intimated to him that he might pursue that course. In accordance, therefore, with the suggestion from the Chair, the hon. Member moved that the petition be read; which question having been formally put from the chair, and no opposition being made, he wished to know whether it was competent for any hon. Member to interrupt the reading of the petition? It appeared to him that the clerk was bound to proceed, and the observations of hon. Members should be deferred until the petition had been read.

The Speaker

said, it was not a common thing for an hon. Member to present a petition having immediate reference to himself. The usual course was, when any hon. Member had a complaint to make, to state the subject matter in his place in Parliament. In the present instance, the hon. Member for the county of Limerick, having adopted the mode of appealing to the House by petition, and having stated it to be a case of private grievance, he could see no reason for objecting to the rending of the petition.

The remainder of the petition was then read by the clerk as follows:— That your petitioner sincerely believes that the persons who have set on foot this subscription, desire and intend thereby, to frustrate and annul the choice of the electors of Ireland by the following means: First—Taking advantage of the expensive nature of the present process for the trial of controverted elections, they hope to overbear, by such subscriptions, the possibility of any resistance or defence upon the part of such sitting Members as may not be able to defray the expense of defending a seat in Parliament—an expense, which not unfrequently has amounted to several thousand pounds upon the trial of a single petition. Secondly,—Availing themselves of the present state of the law, they propose by the presentation of petitions against a considerable number of Members of your honourable House to disqualify from sitting upon committees for the trial of election petitions a large portion of those Members whose political opinions are in accordance with the sentiments of the electors of Ireland, and thus to obtain committees favourable to the objects for which this confederacy has been formed. That your petitioner humbly conceives that such a confederacy and subscription is in the highest degree unconstitutional, and that if it be converted into a precedent, a similar proceeding may hereafter be used as an instrument destructive to the rights and liberties of the British people. That in reference to the connection be- tween Great Britain and Ireland it will be productive of the most injurious effects, as tending to create in Ireland an opinion that there exists among the English nation a strong antipathy to the Irish people, and a disposition to obstruct the free expression of their opinions through their Representatives in Parliament, and that thus the harmony which ought to subsist between two nations, united as well by mutual interest as by an international compact, will be endangered if not destroyed. That your petitioner has seen in the public newspapers a letter purporting to have been signed by Sir Francis Burdett, a Member of your honourable House, in which letter the said Sir Francis avows that he has contributed to this fund. And your petitioner humbly submits that it is the duty of your honourable House to inquire how far it is consistent with the impartial exercise of the functions which this hon. Member may be compelled (subject to the obligation and sanction of an oath) to undertake that he should thus voluntarily have made himself a party in a casein which the law constitutes him a judge. That, in exemplication of the results which may be expected to arise from the employment of the above-mentioned subscription, your petitioner has observed that a petition has been presented, impeaching the validity of the late election and return for the county of Limerick, which petition your petitioner conscientiously believes would not have been presented with a view to its being brought before a Committee of your honourable House, unless the parties from whom it emanates had expected to receive assistance and support from the above-mentioned confederacy. That it does not become your petitioner, in his own case, to make any statement which may induce Members of your honourable House to prejudge the merits of a petition which will be subjected to the investigation of a Committee of your honourable House, but your petitioner firmly believes that his return was the result of the free choice of the electors, of the county of Limerick, and that the grounds of the said petition are of a nature wholly frivolous and untenable. That your petitioner is not ashamed to confess that, even though assured of a favourable result, he does not regard with indifference the expense of defending his seat under the present mode of defending the trial of controverted elections; and he therefore humbly submits that if he should decline to defend his seat under a feeling of unwillingness to enter upon an equal contest with parties sustained by a subscription collected in England from individuals who are both wholly regardless of the interests of the constituency of the county of Limerick, but only anxious to promote the objects of the party to which they were attached, the free choice of the electors of the county would in such case be defeated and annulled by the machinations of the unconstitutional confederacy. That, as well therefore upon grounds of public policy, as with reference to his own individual case, your petitioner humbly prays that an inquiry may be made into all the proceedings connected with the said subscription, for the purpose of ascertaining whether such subscription be consistent with the laws of the land, the usages of Parliament, the privileges of your honourable House, and the rights of the electors of Great Britain and Ireland; and that your honourable House may take such other measures for securing to the people of Ireland protection against any injury or injustice that may arise from such confederacy and subscription as in its wisdom it shall see fit. And your petitioner will ever pray WILLIAM SMITH O'BRIEN. Upon the question being put, that the petition do lie on the table,

Mr. Hume

said, as the subject was to come under the consideration of the House at an early day, he should submit to the House whether it would not be proper to have the petition printed?

The Speaker

thought, if the hon. Member who had presented the petition desired to have it printed that it was incumbent upon him, and not upon the hon. Member for Kilkenny, to move that it be printed with the votes. It was also necessary that the hon. Member should fix some specific day on which it should be brought under the attention of the House.

Mr. O'Brien

announced his intention to call the notice of the House to the question, whether an hon. Member—the hon. Member for Wiltshire, for instance—could subscribe to a fund to enable parties to question a return, in which he had no interest, and of which he knew nothing? He should move that the petition be printed in the votes of the House. He begged to give notice that he should bring the subject under its attention to-morrow.

On the motion that the petition be printed,

Mr. Williams Wynn

said, that the petitioner stated so much relative to the election, the trial of which was pending, that the House would do well to pause before it assented to the motion. The statement in the petition went the length of attacking the late Limerick election upon the merits, and he, therefore, thought the hon. Member should have given notice of his motion.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, that on a former night a petition presented by an hon. Member on his side of the House from Berwick on Tweed had been withdrawn, on the ground that it interfered with an election petition, and he thought equal justice would not be dealt to both sides of the House if they allowed a petition to come before them complaining of circumstances which must come before them hereafter judicially. They had acted on this principle in the cases of Bridgewater and Berwick, and ought to do so in the present case.

Mr. S. O'Brien

presented himself to the House as an aggrieved party in reference to the Spottiswoode conspiracy that had been entered into against those who, like himself, represented large constituencies, but were unable to defend the expenses of petitions. He therefore intended, on the circumstances he had stated, to found a motion for to-morrow, in reference to the conduct of the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wilts. And he begged to move, as a necessary preliminary, that his petition be printed with the votes.

Lord John Russell

did not think the petition stated anything with regard to the last election; it merely alleged, that as between those complaining of the return and the sitting Member there could not be a fair trial, in consequence of circumstances having special reference to a Member of that House. He did not, therefore, see how the rule which had been applied in the cases of Bridgewater and Berwick-upon-Tweed must necessarily hold here. At the same time, he could not see why the hon. Member should give notice of bringing the matter before the House to-morrow, when another hon. Member intended discussing the same subject to night. The petition stated nothing which was not known throughout the whole country; and if the discussion anticipated came on to-night, why should the House be again called on to enter into the matter afresh to-morrow?

Sir Robert Peel

hoped the House would pause, before they established a precedent by sanctioning the printing of the petition on another ground. This was not the application of an individual merely complaining of a private injury or grievance; but the petition contained an argument on grounds of public policy. These were the words of the concluding paragraph:—" That as well therefore upon grounds of public policy, as with reference to his own individual case, your petitioner humbly prays," &c. The petitioner referred to a number of cases, and argued that a subscription raised for the purposes alluded to was impolitic; but before the House assented to the printing of it, let them see the advantage they would give to one Member over another. An hon. Member might embody an argument or a speech, which might be a very good one, in a petition, and procure its authentic publication with the votes, while ordinary Members of the House must trust to the reporters for the publication of theirs. He hoped the House would pause before they established a precedent of that kind in favour of a petition, not complaining of any individual act of grievance merely, but discussing the whole question on the grounds of public policy. The hon. Gentleman, at all events, was bound to give notice on the subject.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the question was one of privilege, and did not require any previous notice. The objection of the right hon. Baronet was rather comical. He said the petition should not be printed because it contained an argument; why if the petition contained no reasoning, that would have been an excellent reason for not having it presented at all. Seriously, the question involved the interest of many individuals in that House. It might be desirable to know how many in that House had contributed to this fund. As far as he understood the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, he had put his name publicly in the newspapers; he gave all parties fair notice; certainly, there was candour in his conduct; and they all knew, therefore, if the hon. Baronet should be called on to serve on any election Committee, that he was one of the parties to the petition, and he would be challenged of course; for what could be more monstrous than that a man should be both a party and a judge? Was it to be endured in this country, that there should be a tribunal where men could contribute to the expenses of a suit, and yet adjudicate on the merits as a judge? He had heard much of this and that being un-English, surely this was exceedingly un-English. He therefore hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite who had contributed to this fund, or suspected others, would come forward and avow themselves, that the House might know who were partisans and who were not. There would then be some chance of fair play; there would be "edification in their vice." All the hon. Member now wanted was, having given notice of his motion for to-morrow, that the petition should be printed with the votes, in order that the House might fairly be apprised of the contents of the petition. He could see no objection to such a course.

Lord Stanley

said, he hoped neither the House nor the hon. Baronet would now be led into any premature discussion on a general question which was to undergo, or at least which he hoped was to undergo, full discussion to-night, as to whether an individual or set of individuals, singly or collectively, had or had not a right to subscribe to the legal expenses of an election petition. The question now before the House was one of much narrower compass; and he rose principally with the view of pointing out to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that there existed between this case and the Bridgewater and Berwick-upon-Tweed petitions a much closer connexion and analogy than he seemed disposed to allow. The petition, which had been presented from Berwick, had been withdrawn by consent of the House. It did not complain of anything which had occurred at the election; but it stated that an agent or some person on behalf of the rejected candidates had written a letter to the petitioner, who had voted for the sitting Members, requesting him to give evidence of bribery before the Committee; and that upon his answering that he could not conscientiously give such evidence, that agent had offered him a large sum of money to appear before the Committee—an offer which clearly amounted to subornation of perjury. That petition had nothing whatever to do with the merits of the election: it did not enter into it even so much as the present petition did; but as it appeared to prejudge some person who had been instrumental in bringing forward the petition against the return of the sitting Members for Berwick, it had been thought advisable that his hon. Friend who had presented that petition should withdraw it. The petition was in consequence withdrawn; and he left it to the House to say, whether the petition of the hon. Member for Limerick did not go much more into the merits of his return than the petition to which he had just alluded.

The Attorney-General

said, the question for the House to decide was, whether this petition ought to be printed or not. It complained of a breach of privilege. The hon. Member for Limerick stated in his petition that he had been aggrieved by the conduct pursued by another hon. Member: why, then, should not his petition be printed according to the common course of the proceedings of the House? If that petition sought, like the Bridge-water petition, to prejudice the merits of the question to be tried before the election Committee, he should tender his advice, as he had tendered it before, that it should be withdrawn. He had been clearly of opinion that the Bridgewater petition ought to be withdrawn, because if it had been inquired into it must have compelled them to go into the merits of the late election. But that reason could not be alleged to exist in this case, for the hon. Member for Limerick merely said, "I believe I was duly elected, and I wish to have a fair trial. I think that the chance of my having a fair trial is prejudiced by the fund to which the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, has subscribed." The questions, then, which the House had to inquire into had no reference to the election; they were confined to these points—first, whether a subscription had been given by the hon. Baronet to that fund or not; secondly, whether, if it had been given, it was legal or illegal; and lastly, whether the printing of this petition would or would not prejudice the petition against the seat which the hon. Member for Limerick then held. Leaving the two former points undecided, he was prepared to contend that the printing of this petition could not prejudice the election petition which had been presented against the hon. Member for Limerick. No man could feel more strongly than himself the great importance of not doing any thing calculated to prejudice the cool march of justice in this country. Now, they would prejudice that march if they did not allow this petition to be printed.

Mr. Hinde

said, that the speech of the Attorney-General was intended to show that there was a difference between the Bridgewater petition and that which was then under the consideration of the House, but what had fallen from him had tended to prove that it was very inconvenient when an hon. Member ventured to enter upon a discussion of which he had not heard the commencement. If the hon. and learned Attorney-General had been in the House the—[Attorney-General, I was.]—Well then, if he had been attentive to what had taken place in the House, he would have known' that an analogy had not been drawn between this petition and the Bridgewater petition, but between this petition and the Berwick petition, to which he had adverted last night. In the present case complaint was made that subsequently to the election an attempt had been made to prejudice the tribunal, before which the trial of the election petition must take place, by what was called the unconstitutional conduct of the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wilt hire, in the other case the assertion was, that the trial was to be prejudiced by an attempt at subornation of perjury. The petition from Berwick was entirely confined to what occurred subsequently to the election, and to the means taken to prejudice the trial before a fair tribunal. Admitting the present case to be a breach of privilege, the other case could not be considered to be less so. Last night he had offered either to name a day for the consideration of the petition which he had then presented, or to withdraw it altogether. His right hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, had suggested to him that it would be better to withdraw that petition for the present, and in that suggestion the noble Secretary for the Home Department had concurred. In obedience to their suggestions, and to the general feeling of the House, he had withdrawn it. But the House would give rise to an opinion very unfavourable to its character for impartiality, if it called upon him one night to withdraw his petition, and yet, when a similar request was made on the next to another Gentleman, it declared that that Gentleman's petition must not be withdrawn, but must be presented and printed.

Mr. Pryme

observed, that the reason alleged for the withdrawal of the petition last night was, that it related to a matter which could be inquired into before the Election Committee. Of course it could, for it was the duty of every tribunal to inquire whether any witness examined before it had been tampered with or not. But that was not the case here. How could the grievance of which the hon. Member for Limerick complained be inquired into before the Election Committee? It clearly could not be inquired into, if the hon. Baronet, the Member for Wiltshire, was not a member of that Committee. Could it be inquired into, even if be was a member of it? He thought not. He conceived that he had clearly established that there was a broad distinction between the circumstances which had been respectively urged for the withdrawal of these two petitions.

Mr. Hinde

I distinctly stated last night, that the allegations of the petition which I then presented could not be inquired into by any Election Committee, as the party complained of was not an agent of the petitioning candidate.

Sir F. Burdett

—Sir, it is personally indifferent to me what becomes of this petition; but I must say, that if the hon. Member who presented it had been mo e accustomed to the usual courtesies of the House, he would have given me notice of his intention to present it. He did not think proper to do so. That is not, however, a matter of the slightest importance tome, further than this—that I might not have been in the House at the time of his presenting it, and the hon. Member might have averred things to which I might have wished to reply, without having the opportunity to do so. After what has just fallen from my noble Friend, I will not enter into that question now. The whole of this proceeding is so extraordinary to me, is so contradictory to all previous Parliamentary experience that it is difficult to comprehend the meaning of it. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin has pursued a similar course to the hon. Member for the county of Limerick—for he calls an act of mine by a name which attributes criminality to it, and yet he does not venture upon a single argument to show how injustice is done by honest men, who wish to see justice done, aye justice done to Ireland, and more particularly justice done upon the hon. and learned Member himself. It is not to be borne that any man should suppose that by big words, an assuming tone, and a confident brow, this House can he driven from its usual mode of proceeding into measures which are contrary to its usual practice, and I may say, to its ordinary privileges and to the common sense of every thinking man in the country. The hon. and learned Member charges us with a conspiracy. A conspiracy!—and for what? Conspiracy is not an offence, except it be a combination for an illegal object. Conspiracy is only combining together for a certain purpose; and if combination alone constitutes conspiracy, then is the hon. and learned Member for Dublin the greatest conspirator whom I know in the world. His cry has been for years, "Agitate, agitate agitate—combine, combine, combine;" and as to funds, why, "Rent, rent, rent." Yes, that has been the great thing with him. Why, Sir, the hon. Member shows a total want of acquaintance with all the proceedings of Parliament, and a strange ignorance of that profession of which he is a member, when he fancies and supposes that a petition must be crammed with arguments and reasons instead of being a plain statement of facts; and when he says, on our rejecting a petition because it is crammed with the one and contains nothing of the other, that if there be no argument in the petition, there can be no reason for presenting it. This logic will not impose on you, Sir, nor will it pass current with the House of Commons for petitions register facts and allegations which are to be duly inquired into at a proper time. If a vote is to be taken upon this question, I shall withdraw, I have no interest whatever in the petition. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for having made this attack on me, for I have put myself in front of this question, and am prepared to stand the brunt of all this trial, be it a legal trial or otherwise. I believe that I have acted upon just, upon honest, and upon constitutional grounds. The hon. Member who presented this petition is evidently interested in the fate of the election petition against his return. I ask whether members in his situation,—and there are many of them on the benches opposite—are entitled to call upon us to make fresh election laws, and to devise new modes of trial for the honorable object of creating unconstitutional procrastination and mischievous delay? They sit here, let me tell them, in a very equivocal condition. We call them, it is true, Members of Parliament, and yet they are in a critical position, for their seats are questioned. It is, in my opinion, the first duty of the House to try whether those Members are or are not entitled to their seals, and I much doubt whether we ought to have any holyday until we have decided by our vote who ought to keep their seals, and who are the real Representatives of the people. I doubt also whether it would not be a proper thing to lay it down as a fixed principle that all persons petitioned against should be excluded from voting on any question in that House until the petition against them was decided. I have now done. Nothing has occurred this day which is not to me most acceptable. I do not mean to oppose the printing of this petition, but I shall beg leave to walk out of the House if the House should determine to divide upon it.

Mr. O'Connell

rose to explain [Spoke spoke.] He had a right to explain, and if he were interrupted he would move the adjournment of the House. He congratulated himself on the impartiality of the Speaker. He had attacked nobody—he had even gone out of his way to give credit to the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire for his candour. [Great tumult in the house.]

The Speaker

called on Mr. O'Connell to explain.

Mr. O'Connell

I did not use a single harsh word. I did not describe what I think a crime by its proper denomination. The hon. Baronet has therefore misstated me. He also misstated me in saying that I used no argument to show how a person could be partial in a case like this. I did so. [Renewed tumult—Mr. O'Connell sat down, the Speaker rose.]

Mr. Hume

rose amidst loud cries of "Chair" Why chair?

Sir R. Inglis

I called chair, Sir, because you rose, and when you rise, Sir, it is due to your station that you should be heard.

Mr. Hume

I have not yet spoken. I am not out of order. Why then does the right hon. Baronet call out "Chair?" ["Order," "Chair."]

Sir E. Knatchbull

—I never till now, saw an occasion, since I have been in Parliament in which the Chair rose to offer its opinion on a point of order and was not duly attended to.

The Speaker

It is true that I rose, and I did so for the purpose of stating that when the hon. and learned Member for Dublin was about re-stating his arguments, he was doing that which was inconsistent with an explanation. The hon. Member for Kilkenny, I suppose, rose for the purpose of showing that the hon. and learned Member was in order; for otherwise he had no right to rise.

Mr. Hume

had not risen with the view attributed to him by the Speaker, but because his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Dublin, had desisted from his argument, in compliance with the call made upon him from the Chair. He could not refrain from expressing his surprise at the attempt which the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, had made to turn the attention of the House from the subject before it, by talking of the rent and other irrelevant but irritating matters. The hon. Baronet had talked of justice; was it justice to introduce topics which were not before the House, to raise a prejudice against the question which was regularly under discussion? The hon. Baronet had said, that as an honest man he was anxious to see justice done with respect to those election petitions. Now, was it justice to allow an individual to be a judge in his own cause at the very moment he was expending large sums of money for the purpose of carrying his cause? The petition of the hon. Member for the county of Limerick complained that several individuals of rank, and especially the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, whom it mentioned by name, had subscribed money for the purpose of interfering with the privileges of that House. Notice had been given by the hon. Member for Limerick that he would to-morrow move for a Committee of Inquiry, to ascertain how many other Members of that House were in the same situation with the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, and were therefore disqualified from sitting on Committees to decide controverted elections. He contended, that the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, was, upon his own admission, clearly incapable of sitting upon any election Committee. If there were fifty other Members who had joined him in his subscription, parties would go to their election Committees, not knowing whom they ought to strike off, as parties who had prejudged the case. It was for the purpose of ascertaining who bad mixed themselves up with that subscription as the hon. Baronet had done, and for the purpose of giving the House an opportunity to purify itself by striking those Members off' all Election Committees, that he wished hon. Members to have this petition in a printed state before them. The allegation having been made that the House did require such purification, and that there were so many Members who ought not to be allowed to sit on Election Committees, and a notice having been given of a motion for a Committee to inquire into the truth of that allegation, would the House refuse to possess itself of that document, and to put it into the hands of Members in time to enable them to judge by to-morrow whether the Committee ought to be granted or not? There was ample necessity that the House should do justice to itself by purifying these tribunals. When the House knew the extent of the evil, it should then proceed to determine what ought to be done with the men who had prejudged every election question, and yet were ready to sit upon Committees appointed to decide upon controverted elections. If the hon. Baronet should tell him that it was consistent with the character of honest men to seek justice in this extraordinary manner, he would tell the hon. Baronet in reply, that it was not consistent with the institutions of England that any man should be a judge in his own cause. He would put it to the Speaker whether he had not decided again and again, that when a petition alleging a grievance and calling for inquiry was presented, and when notice was given that a motion would be made on the subject matter of that petition, that petition must be printed before the subject came under discussion. Now they were twenty-eight hours before the discussion of that motion—and he asked the Speaker whether it were not consistent with the practice and the convenience of the House to have the petition printed and distributed with the votes to-morrow? He would not on the present occasion enter into any investigation of the charge which the hon. Baronet had brought against his hon. and learned Friend of being an agitator or conspirator. When the proper opportunity for discussing that question arose, he would be prepared to show that there were other agitators more violent and more unconstitutional than his hon. and learned Friend. He concluded by saying that this petition ought to be printed before the House proceeded to the discussion upon it to-morrow.

Mr. Aglionby

could not give his vote upon the present question without making a few observations in support of it. It would not raise the character of the House with the country, when it was known that a mere question as to the practice of the House had engendered so much personal heat and party violence. His reason for voting for the printing of this petition was, that he could see no analogy between it and the Berwick and Bridgewater petitions. It was a fit petition to be received, and therefore the only question for the House was, whether it was not a fit petition to be printed. What would the House say if a juryman were proved to have given, nay, were even accused of having given, an undertaking to pay part of the costs of the prosecution which he was empanelled to try? If any Member of that House were accused of having done something like this by subscribing to the funds necessary to defray the costs of prosecuting an election petition, ought not the House to put a mark on such a man, and reject him from their body? It was important not only that Members of that House should be impartial judges, but also that they should be deemed above suspicion. If the House rejected this petition, it would be said that it had done so because it was anxious to stifle inquiry, because it was afraid to let the public know how it carried the inquiry on. He hoped that if it valued its own character, the House would let this petition be printed, as it did not prejudice the merits of the election.

Sir Edward Sugden

begged to call the attention of the House to this paragraph in the petition of the hon. Member for Limerick:—"That it does not become your petitioner in his own case to make any statement which may induce Members of your hon. House to prejudge the merits of a petition which will be subjected to the investigation of a Committee of your hon. House, but your petitioner firmly believes that his return was the result of the free choice of the electors of the county of Limerick, and that the grounds of the said petition are of a nature wholly frivolous and untenable." He put it to the noble Secretary for the Home Department, whether such a statement did not make this an election petition.

Lord J. Russell

rose to address the House in consequence of the pointed appeal which had just been made to him, and because he thought it important that the House should settle the mode of proceeding as to this question. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last had asked him this question—"Do you not think that the words of the paragraph which I have just read affect the merits of the election petition for the county of Limerick?" To that question he replied, that he did not think that words of such general meaning did affect the merits of that election petition. The petitioners against the seat maintain, of course, that the sitting Member is not duly elected. If he is determined to maintain his return and to defend his seat, he, of course, contends that he is duly elected, and that the petition against him is frivolous and untenable. A mere assertion like that was very different from alleged fuels, such as bribery or intimidation, or coercion of voters, or any other circumstance which affects a seat. Therefore it was, that he thought that an allegation of this sort did not bring this petition within the rules laid down in the cases of the Berwick and the Bridgewater petitions. The hon. Member for Newcastle seemed to understand him to have said that the House ought to proceed with this matter to-night, and that it had no occasion to have the petition printed. Now, what he wanted was this—that the House should understand thoroughly what it was prepared to do. If they wished the discussion on the general question to come on that night, then the petition ought to be considered in the general discussion. If, on the other hand, the hon. Member for Limerick wished to bring on his motion tomorrow, he being interested in the matter, had a perfect right to do so, and as the hon. Member came forward as an aggrieved party, the House ought to give him a fair opportunity for entering into the merits of the case, and for asking for a Committee of inquiry. In order to state the merits of his case, it might be more or less material that his petition be printed. The printing of a petition, before a substantive motion was made upon it, was the ordinary course of the House, and to depart from it on this occasion would seem as if the House did not intend to give the hon. Member a fair hearing. If, then this matter should come to a vote, he should certainly vote for the printing of the petition. But he could not do this without saying a word as to the course to be pursued. He had a motion on the books with respect to the days on which the different Election Committees were to be fixed after the recess. Now, there was nothing in this petition which at all altered the grounds on which he proposed to fix the days after the recess for each election petition. Therefore if he now voted for the printing of this petition for the sake of going into the whole question of the subscription, so far as it had reference to the seats in Ireland, he wished it to be understood that he felt himself at liberty after the division to move to fix days after the recess for the taking into consideration the different petitions on controverted elections. He was excessively sorry that the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, had mixed up this preliminary discussion with matters of extreme passion and excitement. That was a course suit likely to procure justice. When a specific motion was made, he should be prepared to state his opinion, whatever it might be, on the conduct of the hon. Baronet, and on the course which he had pursued that night.

Mr. O'Brien, said, that his course would depend very much upon the result of the discussion of that evening. One fact, to which he wished to bring the attention of the House, and which had not been alluded to by the noble Lord who had just sat down, was, that an hon. Member of that House had avowedly become a subscriber to that fund. But he had risen on the present occasion for one object alone, and that was to offer his sincere apology to the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, for not having given him private notice of his intention to present his petition. He had given public notice of it some days ago. He had thought that that notice would be sufficient to raise the whole question, as he understood from the public papers that the hon. Baronet was absolutely burning for the first opportunity to avow himself a member of "The Spottiswoode Gang."

Mr. Morgan O' Connell

said, that on this occasion he should certainly vote with the hon. Member for the county of Limerick. The hon. Baronet, the Member for Wiltshire, had made a violent attack on the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and had said, that for twenty years of his life the battle cry of that hon. Member had been "Agitate, agitate." Now, he should like to know what the hon. Baronet himself had been doing for a life which extended over a much longer period? Was it not the hon. Baronet who had agitated this vast metropolis to its very centre; and who had endangered the peace of the city and the lives of thousands of its inhabitants? Surely, then, the hon. Baronet should be the last man in the country to attack any person for pursuing a course of agitation which he had himself pursued so violently and so long. It was true, that the hon. Baronet had now repented him of his former errors; and so he now went on to eulogise those whom he had vilified for so many years, and whom he held up to the execration of the people of England whenever they ventured to appear among the people. It was no wonder that the hon. Baronet should attack those who had spent their youth like him in the advocacy of liberal principles, but who had not, like him, in old age turned their backs on the friends of their youth, and gone over to the camp of the Tories. He thought that the hon. Baronet had exhibited bad taste in the violence with which he had attacked the hon. Member for Dublin both in that House and elsewhere. But let that pass. He should like to know why it was, that the hon. Baronet always attacked the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, but never ventured upon similar attacks upon any other Representative for Ireland. There were other Members for that country who stood on the same principles with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, but the hon. Baronet was ever silent in reference to their political conduct.

Major Handley

said, that the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wiltshire, had expressed his intention to retire from the House, and not to vote upon this question. He wished to know whether this conduct was to be taken as an emblem of the impartiality which the hon. Baronet had determined to pursue on all election petitions from Ireland, and whether the hon. Baronet did not feel it binding on his honour not to vote at all upon those matters.

[After Major Handley had done speaking, Sir F. Burdett retired from the House amidst great cheers; but it was stated that he could not have voted, having paired off, till after the Christmas holidays.]

The House divided:—Ayes 234; Noes 203; Majority 31.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Barnard, Edward G.
Ainsworth, P. Barron, H.
Alston, Rowland Beamish, F. B.
Archbold, Robert Belfast, Earl of
Bainbridge, E. T. Bellew, Rich. M.
Baines, Edward Bentinck, Lord W.
Ball, N. Bernal, R.
Baring, F. T Bethell, Richard
Bewes, T. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Blackett, C. Fitzsimon, Nicholas
Blake, W. J. Fort, John
Blewitt, R. J. French, F.
Blunt, Sir C. Gillon, Wm. Downe
Bowes, John Gordon, Robert
Bridgman, H. Goring, H. D.
Brocklehurst, J. Grattan, J.
Brodie, W. B. Grattan, Henry
Brotherton, J. Greenaway, C.
Browne, R. D. Grey, Sir G.
Bryan, G. Grote, G.
Buller, Charles Guest, J.
Buller, E. Hall, B.
Bulwer, Edward L. Hallyburton, hon. D.
Busfield, William Handley, Henry
Butler, hon. P. Hastie, A.
Callaghan, D. Hawes, B.
Campbell, Sir J. Hawkins, J. H.
Cavendish, hon. C. Hay, Sir A. Leith
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Hayter, W. G.
Cayley, E. S. Heathcoat, John
Chalmers, P. Heneage, E.
Chapman, M. L. Hobhouse, Sir J. C.
Chichester, J. P. B. Hobhouse, T. B.
Clay, William Horsman, E.
Clements, Viscount Hoskins, Kedgwin
Clive, Edward Bolton Howard, P. H.
Codrington, Sir E. Howick, Viscount
Collins, W. Hurst, R. H.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Hutton, R.
Craig, W. G. Jephson, C. D. O.
Curry, William Jervis, S.
Dalmeny, Lord Kinnaird, hon. A.F.
Dashwood, G, H. Labouchere, H.
Davies, T. H. Lambton, Hedworth
Denison, W. J. Langdale, hon. C.
Dennistoun, J. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Divett, E. Leader, J.T.
Duckworth, S. Lefevre, C. S.
Duff, James Lemon, Sir C.
Duke, Sir James Lennox, Lord George
Duncan, Viscount Lennox, Lord Arthur
Duncombe, T. Loch, J.
Duncombe, hon. W. Lushington, Charles
Dundas, C. W. D. Lynch, A. H.
Dundas, Fred. Macleod, R.
Dundas, Capt. D. Macnamara, Major
Dunlop, J. Mactaggart, J.
Easthope, John Maher, John
Ebrington, Viscount Mahony, P.
Elliot, hon. John C. Marshall, William
Ellice, Capt. A. Marsland, Henry
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Maule, W. H.
Ellice, E. Melgund, Viscount
Evans, De Lacy Mildmay, P. St. John
Evans, G. Morpeth, Viscount
Euston, Earl of Morris, David
Fazakerley, J. Murray, rt. hon. J.
Fielden, J. Muskett, G. A.
Ferguson, Sir R. Nagle, Sir R.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. O'Brien, Cornelius
Ferguson, Robert O'Callaghan, C.
Fergusson, R. C. O'Connell, D.
Finch, F. O'Connell, J.
Fitzalan, Lord O'Connell, M. J.
Fitzgibbon, hon. R. O'Connell, Morgan
O'Ferrall, R. M. Standish, Charles
Paget, Lord A. Stanley, E. J.
Paget, Fred. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Palmer, C. F. Steuart, R.
Parker, J. Stewart, James
Parnell, Sir H. Stuart, V.
Parrott, J. Strickland, Sir George
Pechell, Captain R. Strutt, E.
Philipps, Sir R. Style, Sir C.
Philips, Mark Surrey, Earl of
Philips, G. R. Talbot, J. Hyacinth
Phillpotts, John Tancred, H.W.
Pinney, William Thomson, C. P.
Ponsonby, C. F. A. Thornley, T.
Ponsonby, hon. J. Tracy, H. H.
Potter, R. Tufnell, Henry
Poulter, John Sayer Turner, William
Power, James Verney, Sir H. bt.
Power, John Vigors, N. A.
Price, Sir R. Villiers, Charles P.
Protheroe, E. Wakley, T.
Pryme, George Walker, R.
Ramsbottom, John Wall, C. B.
Redington, T. N. Wallace, R.
Rice, E. R. Warburton, H.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Ward, H. G.
Rich, Henry Whalley, Sir S.
Roche, E. B. White, A.
Roche, William Wilbraham, G.
Roche, David Williams, W.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. Williams, W. A.
Rumbold, C. E. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Rundle, John Wilshere, W.
Russell, Lord J. Winnington, T. E.
Russell, Lord Charles Winnington, H. J.
Salwey, Colonel Wood, C.
Sanford, E. A. Wood, Sir M.
Seale, Colonel Woulfe, Sergeant
Seymour, Lord Wyse, Thomas
Sharpe, General Yates, J. A.
Sheil, Richard L.
Slaney, R. A. TELLERS.
Smith, Robert V. Hume, J.
Somers, J. P. O'Brien, W. S.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. Blennerhassett, A.
Acland Thomas D. Boldero, Henry G.
A'Court, Captain Boiling, William
Adare, Viscount Borthwick, Peter
Alsager, Captain Bramston, T. W.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Broadley, Henry
Ashley, Viscount Broadwood, Henry
Attwood, W. Brownrigg, S.
Bagge, W. Bruce, Lord E.
Bailey, J. Bruges, W. H. L.
Baillie, H. D. Burr, D. H. D.
Baker, Edward Burrell, Sir C.
Barneby, John Burroughes, H. N.
Barnes, Sir E. Calcraft, J. H.
Barrington, Viscount Campbell, Sir H.
Bateman, John Canning, Sir S.
Bateson, Sir R. Castlereagh, Viscount
Bell, M. Chandos, Marq. of
Blair, James Chaplin, Colonel
Blakemore, R. Chapman, A.
Chute, W. L. W. Jermyn, Earl of
Clive, hon. R. H. Johnstone, Hope
Copeland, W. T. Jolliffe, Sir W.
Corry, H. Jones, John
Courtenay, P. Jones, Theobald
Creswell, C. Kemble, Henry
Crewe, Sir G. Kerrison, Sir Edw.
Dalrymple, Sir A. Knatchbull, Sir E.
Darby, George Knight, H. G.
Darlington, Earl Knightley, Sir C.
De Horsey, S. H. Law, hon. C.
D'Israeli, B. Lefroy, Thomas
Douglas, Sir C. E. Lewis, Wyndham
Dowdeswell, William Liddell, H. T.
Duffield, T. Litton, Edward
Dugdale, W. S. Lockhart, A. M.
Duncombe, hon. A. Logan, Hart
East, J. B. Lowther, Colonel
Eaton, R. J. Lucas, Edward
Egerton, Wm. Tatton Lygon, General
Ellis, John Mackenzie, T.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Mackenzie, W. F.
Estcourt, T. H. S. Maclean, Donald
Farnham, E. B. Mahon, Viscount
Farrand, R. Marton, George
Feilden, W. Master, T. W. C.
Fellowes, E. Maunsell, T. P.
Fitzroy, hon. H, Meynell, Capt.
Follett, Sir W. Wiles, P. W. S.
Forbes, William Milnes, R. M.
Forester, hon. G. Monypenny, T. G.
Freshfield, J. Neeld, John
Gaskell, Jas. Milnes Nicholl, John
Gibson, Thomas Norreys, Lord
Gladstone, Wm. E. Packe, C. W.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Pakington, J. S.
Gore, J. R. Ormsby Palmer, Robert
Goulburn, H. Palmer, George
Granby, Marquis Parker, R. T.
Grant, hon. Colonel Parker, T. A.
Grimsditch, T. Patten, John Wilson
Grimston, Viscount Paul, H. St.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Halford, H. Peel, Colonel J.
Halse, James Pemberton, Thomas
Harcourt, G. S. Perceval, Colonel
Hardinge, Sir H. Perceval, G. J.
Heathcote, Sir W. Peyton, Henry
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Planta, Joseph
Hillsborough, Earl of Powell, Colonel
Hinde, J. H. Powerscourt, Lord
Hodgson, F. Praed, Winthrop M.
Hodgson, R. Price, Richard
Hogg, James Weir Pringle, A.
Holmes, hon. W. A. Rae, Sir Wm. bart.
Hope, G. W. Ramsay, Lord
Hope, hon. James Reid, Sir John Rae
Hope, Henry T. Richards, Richard
Hotham, Lord Rickford, William
Houldsworth, T. Rolleston, L.
Howard, W. Rose, Sir George
Hughes, W. B. Round, C. G,
Ingestrie, Viscount Round, John
Inglis, Sir R. H. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Irton, Samuel Sanderson, R.
Irving, John Sandon, Viscount
Jackson, Sergeant Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Scarlett, hon. R. Tollemache, F. J.
Shaw, Frederick Trench, Sir Fred.
Sheppard, T. Trevor, hon. G.
Shirley, E. J. Vere, Sir C, B.
Sibthorp, Colonel Verner, Colonel
Sinclair, Sir G. Wilberforce, W.
Smith, Abel Wilbraham, hon. B.
Somerset, Lord G. Williams, Robert
Spry, Sir S. Wood, Col. T.
Stanley, Edward Wood, Thomas
Stanley, Lord Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
Stewart, John Young, J.
Stuart, H. Young, Sir W.
Sturt, Henry Charles TELLERS.
Sugden, Sir E. Fremantle, Sir T. W.
Thompson, Ald. Baring H Bingham
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