HC Deb 08 June 1837 vol 38 cc1249-308
The Attorney-General

rose to bring under the notice of the House the case of Messrs. Nicholls and Messrs. Hansard, which was a subject of great importance and delicacy, and he had no hesitation in saying, that he felt it to be one of very great difficulty. But he had this consolation, that the House had been involved in it, not by any step voluntarily taken by themselves, but by the conduct of others. It was now indispensably necessary, that the House should make a stand, and give directions as to the course which should be pursued, in order to defend what he considered one of their most important and most undoubted privileges. The House in so doing was making a struggle for the benefit of the public, not for any benefit or advantage derivable to individual members from the privilege in question; they were fighting for the interest of the country at large. They were contending that the public should not be deprived of information, and of the advantage of the diffusion of knowledge. He owned, at the same time, that he felt considerable difficulty in recommending any course for the House to adopt in reference to the petitions of Messrs. Nicholls and Messrs. Hansard. He begged, first of all, to say, that he adhered most firmly to the resolu- tions which had been adopted by the Committee on the publication of printed papers, and which had been ratified by the House. Those resolutions had been adopted in Committee with only one dissentient vote, and in the House by a very large majority. The substance of those resolutions was, that it was in the power of the House to publish what they considered necessary for the public good, and useful for the public to be informed upon, and that it was essential for the due performance of their functions that the House should do so; that Parliament was the sole judge of its own privileges, and that to bring any action calculated to call their privileges into question, to be decided elsewhere, was a breach of their privilege, and, as such, liable to be visited by the displeasure of the House. Those resolutions had been adopted by the House, and to them he still firmly adhered, believing them to be founded on the law of Parliament, and the law of the land. It was his intention, therefore, in accordance with the precedent which they had in the case of Burdett v. Abbot, humbly to move, that the printer of the House, as the Speaker was in that case, be directed to appear and plead to the action. This was the only course by which the reason and ground of the defence could be laid open. The writ which was served upon Mr. Hansard and Mr. Nicholls gave no other information on the subject than that they had printed a libel on the plaintiff. Upon, the face of this writ the bench had nothing to tell it who Mr. Hansard or Mr. Nicholls were, nor under what circumstances they had acted as alleged; and unless the Bench knew the nature and vocation of the parties, and the nature of the defence which was to be set up, it would be impossible for it to interpose. The only method of giving this information to the bench was to put a plea on the record, that the defendants had acted by order of this House, and in accordance with the privileges thereof. In former times they had a precedent of the Speaker of the House of Commons writing to courts of justice, and stating that certain actions were pending before them contrary to the privileges of the House, and requiring them not to be proceeded with. But it had been already decided that such a course of proceeding was contrary to law; and, therefore, they had been disregarded, and would, he had no doubt, again be disregarded by the judge. He should, therefore, not recommend that the Speaker should write to the Chief Justice of the King's Bench to state that Mr. Hansard was doing what it was within his functions to do, in obedience to the orders of this House. Another course which this House had most undoubtedly authority to adopt, was to commit the parties in these actions, together with their counsel and solicitors, for breach of the privileges of this House. That might, however, be considered a strong measure; it was very doubtful whether the public would support them in it; and it was very desirable and necessary, that on all occasions the House should be backed by public opinion. Lord Denman, without an opportunity having been afforded to defend the privileges of the House, had said, very erroneously in his opinion, (he said so with great deference,) that such an action as those now in question might be maintained. Lord Denman having said so, it might seem a strong measure to adopt to commit those whom the Chief Justice of the King's Bench had declared to have brought an action which they were entitled to maintain. The House might certainly commit the parties, but there was this to be considered, that by adopting such a step the House would not stop the actions which were pending. It was now necessary to plead to them, or judgment would go by default, and then a writ of inquiry would be issued to assess damages, and after that a writ of execution would be issued to levy them upon the defendants. Therefore, by committing the parties they would not succeed in evading the consequences of these actions. Another course which had been adopted in ancient times, and which the right hon. Member for Montgomeryshire would very likely recollect, was to order the officer of the King's Bench to attend that House, with the declaration and record, which, by order of the House, might then be taken away and destroyed. This was a course which had been pursued in other cases as well as that of Lord Newburg, but it was one, however, which he could not safely recommend. It would at once cause a collision between the House and the judges of Westminster-hall, by whom it was impossible to say how such a proceeding might be treated. The court, for instance, might hold that its officer was not justified, not in obeying the order of the House—that he undertook to say, the court would never hold; but it might order another declaration to be entered and the record to be restored. This would be a proceeding which would put the action in statu quo, and cause the step taken by the House to be of no avail. Another course which the House might adopt, was to direct the defendants to suffer judgment to go by default, and after the suit of inquiry and writ of execution to give notice to the sheriff of Middlesex, by letter or warrant from the Speaker, not to put in execution the suit of the Court of King's Bench. But this was a step which would be accompanied with much difficulty and uncertainty. Suppose the sheriff should disobey the warrant of this House: what were they then to do? They might certainly take him up and commit him to Newgate for contempt. Suppose, on the other hand, the sheriff should obey the warrant of the House, and not execute the writ of execution of the Court of King's Bench. The parties would then, perhaps, bring an action against the sheriff for not performing his duty. He must, therefore, say that the more convenient course for the House to pursue was to pass a resolution that the petitioners might appear and plead in a court of law. That was the course pursued in the case of Burdett v. Abbot. An action was brought against the Speaker for having issued his warrant for taking the plaintiff into custody, and a long debate took place, the result of which was, that the House directed the defendants to appear and plead. On that occasion a distinguished Member of that House, the right hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Wynn), opposed the motion, as did Lord Milton, now Earl Fitzwilliam. But Mr. Giddy, the chairman of the Committee, Lord Folkestone, Sir Vicary Gibbs, the Attorney-General, Mr. Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Ponsonby, and Mr. Wyndham supported it. All these illustrious names expressed sentiments conveying the opinion which the House had sanctioned by adopting the resolution agreed to the other night. Though they were of opinion that a direct violation of the privileges of the House had been committed, and that the House was the only competent authority to determine its privileges, still they recommended the course which he was about to propose that evening. As the opinions of the Members who spoke in favour of that motion ought to have some weight with the House, he would read a few extracts from their speeches on that occasion. The hon. and learned Gentleman then read the following extracts from The Parliamentary Debates, volume xvi, p. 970, et infra. Mr. D. Giddy: There was then only one mode remaining, and that was, to plead to the actions, and let the parties sued show to the court that the acts complained of were done in consequence of the privileges of that House.—The Attorney-General (Sir V. Gibbs): The House was the sole and ultimate judge of its own privileges, and of their extent. No court had any jurisdiction to decide on their existence and extent. They were to be judged by this House alone. No other body had the power to decide. Not but that their privileges might be incidentally brought before another court, which court, however, could not look to their privilege, but to their decisions upon them. It was by these that the court would he bound to decide. He felt not a doubt that the judge, on reading the Speaker's plea, would refuse to listen to the action.—Mr. Ponsonby: In proceeding to state his opinion, he should ground what he had to offer upon two principles—the first was, that each Hou3e of Parliament was, in its respective capacity, the sole judge of its own privileges; the sole judge of what those privileges are; the sole judge of the extent to which those privileges are to be carried; and the sole judge of the manner in which such privileges are to be exercised. It followed, by consequence, that no Other court in this country had the right to interpose their opinion upon what was the privilege of Parliament—the nature, the extent, or the exercise of it. The other proposition which he would lay down as a principle was, that whenever the court of Parliament, no matter which House of Parliament, had declared a matter to be privilege, that all other courts throughout the country were bound to pay respect and implicit obedience to that declaration. The hon. Member then cited Lord Hale as follows:— For as every court of justice hath laws and customs for its direction, some to the civil and canon, some to the common law, others their own peculiar laws and customs, so the high court of Parliament hath also its own peculiar law, called the lex et consuetudo Parliamenti, suis propriis regulis et consuetudinibus consistit sua lex, a law not to be judged of by other courts, or questioned therein, and the same is law, because secundum legem et consuetudinem Parliamenti, and the rather for that every Member of Parliament hath a judicial place recognised by various judges. He also cited Blackstone as follows:— The maxims upon which they proceed, together with the method of proceeding, rest entirely in the breast of the Parliament itself and are not defined and ascertained by any particular stated laws. The privileges of Parliament are likewise very large and indefinite. And therefore, when in 3lst Henry 6th the House of Lords propounded a question to the judges concerning them, the Chief Justice, Sir John Fortescue, in the name of his brethren, declared, 'that they ought not to make answer to that question for it hath not been used aforetime that the justices should in anywise determine the privileges of the high court of Parliament. For it is so high and mighty in its nature, that it may make law; and that which is law it may make no law, and the determination and knowledge of that privilege belongs to the Lords of Parliament, and not to the justices.'—Yet monstrous as it appeared to some, and novel as it must seem to all, it was his firm persuasion that the Speaker ought to appear and put in his plea to the action. Such course was open to him without the slightest apprehension of his surrendering, in the remotest degree, the privileges of that House, and such course the House could adopt, although it had determined to commit the solicitor. For, unless such a course was adopted, how was it possible for the courts below to be apprised of the nature of the case? How was it possible for them to inform themselves of those facts, without the knowledge of which they could not know whether the injury complained of was committed in a private or public capacity.—Should the Speaker write? If he did so, and were he (Mr. Pansonby) a judge, presiding in the court where the process was instituted, without meaning any personal disrespect to the Speaker, he would most certainly take no notice of the letter, nor treat it in that court with the smallest respect. If, then, there was no proper mode of proceeding, either by prohibition from that House, or by notification from the Speaker, how else was the House to proceed for the information: of the courts of law, except by authorising his appearance? For surely, to leave the court of law in ignorance of the nature of the case, and afterwards to find fault and quarrel with proceedings which that court might allow, from the want of the information which the Speaker could give, would be an extreme exercise of the power of that House—a stretch of its privileges which, with some justice, might subject them to the severest reprobation of the people. Upon every view of the case it was his opinion that the Speaker should plead, and that the plea should state, that the act of which the plaintiff complained was done in obedience to the orders of the House of Commons, and that there existed in no other court a power to relieve him. If, after that appearance was made and such information was communicated, a court of law should still think proper to proceed, by such act it would, to his view, most certainly exceed its jurisdiction, it would go far beyond the limits of its authority and power; but, indeed, he could not bring himself to conceive that any constitutional tribunal of the land, that any judge would venture—venture he would not say, because he could not imagine that those placed in such high and elevated stations could, under any circumstances, he guilty of that which would most certainly amount to a gross dereliction of their duty—a gross transgression of the law of the land. But such a consequence he could not anticipate, feeling the confidence he did in the learning, the wisdom, and the purity of the legal tribunals of the country.—Sir S. Romilly: On the question he had no doubt whatever, as, in his opinion, the Speaker and Sergeant ought to appear to actions brought against them.—Mr. Wyndham: The only thing for them to do was simply to let the judges of the court know that this was not pleaded to because it was founded on a step proceeding from the House of Commons. He was originally averse to the mode of proceeding proposed, but the speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ponsonby) had reconciled him to it. The House had here the opinions of several high authorities, and of persons quite as solicitous for the preservation of the privileges of that House as the right hon. Member for Montgomery. They stood up for that House being the sole judge of its privileges, but, at the same time, they admitted the necessity of the defendant appearing to plead. He would follow their example, and submit a motion, that the petitioners do appear and plead that they acted by the authority of the House. In proposing such a motion, he did not forget the high station of the noble Judge who had lately expressed an opinion on the subject. He had the highest esteem and regard for Lord Denman, who was not more remarkable for the boldness and firmness of his character than for his impartiality and candour. He was quite convinced that that learned Judge would fairly hear the case, and when he had heard it, he had no doubt that the learned Judge would come to the conclusion that judgment should be given in favour of the defendants. The learned Judge had already admitted that the publication of reports for the use of Members of that House was perfectly justifiable; and he thought the noble and learned Lord would very speedily see that his distinction between reports printed for the use of the House and those which were otherwise applied, was wholly unfounded. He would find, that if the rule he had laid down were to be supported, a Member of that House, showing to a friend or constituent reports which reflected upon the character of any individual, would be immediately liable to an action or an indictment. He would find that if a copy of any such report were deposited in a public library for the use of the present generation and of posterity, the individual who so deposited it, and the librarian who received it, would both be liable to an action at law. He would find that if a gentleman who happened to be a Member of the House at the time when he received such a report took it to the country with him, and if, on ceasing to be a Member, he shewed it to a friend, he would be immediately liable to an action or an indictment. Nay, he might say, if Lord Denman himself took the votes of the House of Commons and showed them to his brother judges, and if those judges showed them to one another, if those votes contained anything derogatory to private character, Lord Denman and the twelve judges might be indicted for libel. The very petition which was the subject of the action against Mr. Nicholls might have appeared in the votes, and the judges, if they read it and shewed it, might be prosecuted; nay, they might be found guilty of libel, and would be liable to fine and imprisonment. That principle could never be supported. It was found lawful that reports should be printed for the use of Members, and why? Necessity gave the law, and necessity alone must limit the privilege. It was equally necessary that the proceedings of that House should be communicated to their constituents as to the representative body. It was indispensable that the public should be informed of their proceedings. Indeed the gallery was thrown open to little purpose, and their debates would be given to their constituents in a very imperfect manner if they denied them an opportunity of perusing the documents to which the debates referred. No action would lie for publishing what took place in a court of law, and surely the House of Commons had a similar privilege. The privileges of the House did not, in fact, rest upon mere assumption. They were sustained by the established law of the land, and by unquestioned usage. For the space of two hundred years the practice had subsisted of the House of Commons ordering its proceedings to be published, and even sold, and, except in the case of the action against Speaker Williams, it had never been questioned. The proceedings which were taken against him were considered a great public grievance, were mentioned in the Bill of Rights, and constituted one of the great causes which brought about the Revolution. He had no doubt that the judges of the Court of King's Bench, when the question was argued, would come to an unanimous resolution in favour of the defendants. In this question, he would add, that the other House was equally interested. Many things had been published by their order, and no action had as yet been brought against any of their servants. At the period of the impeachment of Lord Melville, they ordered that an account of the proceedings should be published; and in this account there were many things which might well have been made the subject of actions. And yet, Lord Erskine, who was then Lord Chancellor, went to the length of deciding that the printer who then enjoyed the monopoly of printing the proceedings of the House of Peers should enjoy his monopoly intact, and granted an injunction against another printer for interfering with this monopoly. The privilege was one which was equally essential to the proper discharge of the functions of both Houses; and it was totally impossible that the Members of the House of Commons could, with any degree of security, discharge their duties as representatives without the protection of this privilege. He would conclude by moving, in the words of the resolution adopted by the House in the case of "Burdett v. Abbott," "That it is the opinion of this House that the petitioners be allowed to appear and plead to the said action."

Sir R. Inglis

said, he did not rise to oppose the motion; though that motion was inconsistent, not only with the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (that was his own concern), but with the resolutions of the House itself. He did not, however, on that account object to the motion; neither, on the other hand, did he now propose to rescind those resolutions; but he trusted that the time was not distant when such motions would be needless, by the House rescinding such resolutions. The speech of the hon. and learned Member was, from beginning to end, a re-statement of all the extravagant claims which had ever been urged in support of the privileges of that House; and ended with the "lame and impotent" conclusion, that the House should submit this matter to the decision of a tribunal which, at the same time, he conended, if his argument had any force, had no right whatever to meddle with the matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman encouraged the House to this course by pledging his personal and professional reputation to his belief, that the Lord Chief Justice, and the other judges of the Court of King's Bench, would come to an unanimous decision in favour of the privileges of that House. Could the hon. and learned Gentleman quote a single judge of England who had given an opinion upon this question in favour of the resolutions at issue? Was it, he would ask, consistent with those resolutions [he did not approve of them], that the question of their privilege should be dragged before the Court of King's Bench, where they would probably be set at nought? Caricature never went further than the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman when he said of the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, that if he read a libellous passage from their votes to his brother judges, he would render himself liable to an action. Were they now for the first time to hear that the allegation of "malice" formed a necessary ingredient for the sustainment of an action of libel? And that there were such things as privileged communications (for instance, between attorney and client), which would be libellous, if not so privileged? He agreed with the Attorney-General that certain privileges were necessary in order to enable the House to discharge its duties, or even to protect its existence; but he maintained, that that analogy which the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to institute between the House and a court of law, except as to the right of each to protect itself from contempt entirely failed. By a fiction, all the world was supposed present in a court of law; and there was no limit to the right of any man being present except the limit of space. All, therefore, might publish what all might hear. Is this the case in this House? Are all men presumed to be present here? The direct contrary is the law of the House: and the opposite fiction prevails, namely, that no stranger is present. This, then, is clear, that no analogy from the conduct of courts of justice can be applicable to the proceedings of this House. He was glad that the solitary cheer, which had attended this argument of the Attorney-General, did not come from a member of his own profession. He believed, indeed, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was unsupported as a lawyer in the matter. The expediency of publishing reports of proceedings here rested, in truth, on different grounds from the right of publishing reports of trials at law; but even if it were a right, it would not affect the present question, which had nothing to do with the publication by others of any thing done within the House, but was limited to the legal right of this House to publish whatever it pleased out of the House. Now, he contended, that it was not necessary that this House should, in support of its privileges, claim a right to publish libels through the whole dominions of the king. He admitted, in the fullest manner, that the House had the right to print and to publish, for the use of its Members, matters, which, except for such privilege of Parliament, would be libellous. He had endeavoured to argue this point on a former evening, and to shew the distinction between such privilege and the claim then urged. That claim, indeed, was now practically abandoned; because, though the Attorney-General in words re-stated it, yet, after a grandiloquent declaration of right, and of the inherent and exclusive privilege of this House to take the question into its own hands, he came to the conclusion, that he would nevertheless submit it to the decision of another tribunal—of a tribunal, the authority of which at the same moment he repudiated, though, indeed, he professed to feel certain that its decision would be in his favour. In reference to that tribunal, the Attorney-General had said, that, with all respect to the present noble and learned judge, there was another chief justice (Lord Kenyon) who had held different doctrines from Lord Denman about this House. With the permission of the House he would remind the Attorney-General of a still earlier and higher authority, perhaps, than either—a name dear to every friend of the law and constitution of England—Lord Holt. In the great case of the Queen v. Patey, Lord Holt, as reported in 2 Raymond, p. 1113, had said, "I will suppose that the bringing such actions was declared by the House of Commons to be a breach of their privilege—but that declaration will not make that a breach of privilege which was not so before. But if they have any such privilege, they ought to show precedents of it. The privileges of the House of Commons are well known, and are founded upon the law of the land, and are nothing but the law. As we all know, they hare no pri- vilege in case of breaches of the peace, and if they declare themselves to have privileges which they have no legal claim to, the people of England will not be stopped by that declaration. This privilege of theirs concerns the liberty of the people in a high degree, by subjecting them to imprisonment for the infringement of them, which is what the people cannot be subjected to without an Act of Parliament." He adds soon after, "When a matter of privilege comes in question in Westminster Hall, the judges must determine it, as they did in Binyon's case." Lord Holt here asks for precedents. What are the precedents? The only two cases in which the House had claimed the right to publish libels were those of Speaker Williams and of Sir John Elliott, and the other Members in 1640–1641. All the other cases which have been cited in the Report now on the table, are cases in which this House has punished libels against itself. He admitted this right; he denied the other. But the Attorney-General could not forget that there was another case in which his doctrine was denied. In the case of Lake v. King, reported in 1 Saunders, p. 131, a case which the Attorney-General cannot surely have forgotten, it was argued, that "the printing of a false and scandalous petition to a Committee of the House of Commons, and delivering copies thereof to the Members of the Committee is justifiable, because it is in the order and course of proceedings in Parliament, of which the King's Courts will take judicial notice." This was his own argument on the last occasion when the question was discussed. The case went on:—"It was agreed that the exhibiting of a petition to a Committee of Parliament was lawful, and although the matter contained in the petition was false and scandalous, because it is in a summary course of justice, and before those who have power to examine whether it be true or false. But the question was, whether the printing and publishing it in the manner alleged by the defendant in his plea, was justifiable or not; and it was argued that it was not justifiable. For, if it were, then, under a pretence of proceeding in a course of justice, a libel might be printed, published, and dispersed, of any man throughout the whole kingdom, and yet he should have no remedy; and, therefore, it was said, that, although the exhibiting of the said petition was lawful, yet the printing of it was a publication of it to all the world, which is not lawful to be done in any case." The report goes on to state, that of this opinion Kelynge, Chief Justice, in his life-time, seemed to be strongly; but Twysden, Justice, was of a contrary opinion, because it is no more than if the defendant had employed several clerks to write as many copies as he had now printed. The gist of the argument is, that as many copies might be circulated as there were judges, that is, Members of the Committee, or of the House, as the case might be. This was always his own argument. The House might, if it were necessary, print libels: he did not deny it; all he contended for was, that they should not print and dispose of libels by sale to all the world; and that their privilege ought never to cover libels to any one whom malice or curiosity might tempt to purchase. The noble Lord, the secretary at war, had said, the other evening, that it was necessary the proceedings of the house should be circulated, in order to have the judgment of the public upon them, and he had referred to the slavery report in illustration of his proposition. Why, what a confession was this, that the House was to publish what might be false, and to wait until it should be contradicted by the parties injured! It was said that it was necessary that the public opinion should review the reports of this House; in order to confirm or to disprove them. For his own part, he did not exactly know how public opinion was to be measured in application to such a subject:—but of this he felt certain that public opinion does not support the claim of this House, to do any thing, or to print any thing against any man, without his having any redress. He (Sir R. Inglis) claimed for the people of England an immunity from the resolutions of either House of Parliament;—give them law, and the people, at least here in England, will know how to respect it; but this resolution, if communicated to the Judges, would be merely waste paper. Conceding, for the sake of argument, that the resolutions were good during the sitting of parliament, he would ask whether they would be of any force or validity in forty days after a prorogation? The question had been suggested to him, out of the House. He took it that this case was analogous to the privilege of person, which extended only to a period of forty days. What then would be the substantial value of the resolutions, as fixing the law. He had no objection to the motion of the Attorney-General—his observations were rather directed against the speech with which the hon. and learned Gentleman had accompanied it. He rather thought that the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman did not go far enough; and his objection to the course proposed was, that it would leave in the journals a resolution which it would be necessary to suspend whenever the occasion required it. The Attorney-General had told the House that he anticipated such a unanimous decision on the part of the Court of King's Bench as would restore to them the enviable privilege of libelling all their fellow-subjects. He (Sir R. Inglis) could not agree with him on that point, but must think that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been using a poetical figure of speech. He would ask the noble Lord, the Chairman of the Committee, whether he did not now think that the suggestion which he had made on a former occasion might well have been adopted? He had at first wished that no committee should be appointed; he had afterwards wished that the Report should have been suffered to lie on the table, without the House proceeding to defy all the judges of the land; and to declare in substance, that any one of them taking cognizance of matters relating to privilege should be seized on the bench and brought to its bar. The words at the close of the resolution were—"that the institution or prosecution of any action, suit, or other proceeding for the purpose of bringing them (the privileges of the House) into discussion or decision before any court or tribunal elsewhere than in Parliament, is a high breach of such privilege, and renders all parties concerned therein amenable to its just displeasure, and to the punishment consequent thereon." Was that not a threat to the judges of England? Was it meant otherwise than to prevent them even from taking cognizance of any matters which this House might be pleased to determine to be its privileges, however deeply that determination might affect the rights of their fellow-subjects? The noble Lord did not seem anxious to press that part of the resolution on a former occasion, until the hon. Member for Middlesex, not leaving a locus penitentiœ, said that if it were taken away it would destroy the value of the resolution. He had said at the time that the judges would disregard it; and now the House, feeling that it had got into a scrape, was, little by little, withdrawing. Where was the consistency or common sense of continuing on their books a resolution which they did not mean to carry into effect? Did they think that they could stand higher in the judgment of the country by insisting on a principle which they must relax or suspend whenever it was disputed elsewhere? The course which they were now about to take was inconsistent with their resolutions. If similar actions to those now pending were to be brought in the court of King's Bench to-morrow, or Saturday, or Monday, would not the Attorney-General move that it was the opinion of the House that the defendants should (appear and plead that they had acted by the authority of the House of Commons? Where, then, was the consistency of entering resolutions on the journals, and then allowing any external power to render them nugatory? In public bodies, as well as in private life, whenever a wrong step was taken—the best thing was to retract it: and there was no real dignity in persisting in error. It would be quite superfluous for him to eulogise such a man as Lord Denman. Not the country only, but that House, was much indebted to him for having interposed his authority in the manner in which he had. It would be happy for the House if they were now to listen to Lord Denman's opinion. The House had been often warned not to engage in a contest with the press. He warned them not to engage in a contest with the law. Their victory, if they could ensure it, would be upon the ruins of the constitution: their defeat would be degraded and embittered by its being the consequence of an unsuccessful attempt against the established jurisdictions of their country, and the rights and liberties of the people of England.

Mr. Poulter

thought his hon. Friend had entirely misunderstood the observations of the Attorney-General, who did not propose that the privileges of that House should be submitted to the consideration of the judges; he proposed only by pleading to inform the judges that the petitioners had acted by order of the House, conceiving such to be the most prudent and temperate mode of communicating with their Lordships relative to the claims of that House on the subject of its privileges. In that sense only could he agree with the Attorney-General; because, if the claim were not allowed, then he thought it would be the duty of the House to proceed in a different manner. If such a case arose, he trusted the Attorney-General would not hesitate to recommend the proper course, a course for which there was abundant of precedents, but for which he hoped they never should have occasion. When the privileges of that House had been fairly and distinctly brought under the consideration of the Court of King's Bench, it had been invariably determined that the claim to those privileges on the part of the House was decisive, binding, and obligatory. In the case of Patey and others, who had brought actions to try a right to vote at an election, the House summoned the parties to the bar, and committed them to Newgate; and, on being brought up by habeas corpus, the judges held that they must be remanded to prison; and so in all cases of any authority, whenever the claim of the House was distinctly brought under the consideration of the judges that claim had been allowed. The great principle on which it rested was the right of the House of Commons to make known to the people for their instruction and information what is taking place before it. It is not a popular or political claim in this House, because it most fully recognizes the same in the other House of Parliament, and the claim is not for the satisfaction of the House, but for the interest of the people. Here, then, (the hon. Member said), was a right established by practice 200 years old, recognized by the House of Lords in their frequent use of our votes and proceedings, and also, by Act of Parliament, exempting from postage the transmission of these papers; and it is easy to see why the practice, instead of being occasional, has not been so universal as to have put the matter out of all doubt. The cause of this was a feeling of jealousy towards the people declared by Mr. Secretary Jenkins in the debate of 1641, who observed, that he objected to the publication "as an appeal to the people." He would ask in this case where were the features of libel to be found? Where was the malus animus? Was it in the Speaker, the House, or in Messrs. Nicholls or Hansard? No one could conceive that any such existed. The hon. Baronet, the Member for the University, and others, have asked, "has the House the power of violating the law? Can it authorise the publication of libels? In the mode of putting the question, his hon. Friend begs the whole matter in dispute—libel, or no libel, is not determinable by looking only at the purport of any writing,—collateral circumstances must be regarded; and, without this, no conclusion can be come to? To put an extreme case; what is so libellous upon the face of it as an indictment for murder? On looking, however, at the special circumstance of such a writing, that libellous character is entirely removed; so in this case, a writing published to inform the people of the proceedings of the House of Commons loses entirely what might be its primâ facie character of libel. The hon. Member observed, that it was important to consider what substantial or good practical purpose a plaintiff could have in contesting the privilege claimed by the House—a right of publication to 658 persons, the Members, was admitted. Now, if any man on whom imputation had been cast denied to redeem his character, he must make a complete defence and answer to set himself right in the estimation of these 658 being persons most connected with society. Now, a thing known to such persons was as much known as if published to the world; and whatever would remove the effect of the reproach from the minds of those, would do the same in respect of the world; what real object could a plaintiff therefore have, but a desire to make himself notorious by opposing the House of Commons? The hon. Member declared himself on the whole most decidedly in favour of the privilege; and he only acceded to the course proposed by the Attorney-General as the most temperate and prudent mode of conveying to the Court of King's Bench the right claimed, and he limited that if the claim were resisted. The Attorney-General would not be deficient in maintaining his own opinion, and advising the House how, in that event, to proceed, with the view of placing the privileges of the Commons on a firm and imperishable basis.

Sir Robert Peel

—Mr. Speaker, I have not heard without great regret the opinion of the Attorney-General, that it is advisable, on account of the technical and legal difficulties which would accompany any other course of proceeding, to direct the servants of this House to plead to the actions that have been brought against them. I had hoped that this House possessed sufficient power to vindicate by its own exclusive authority, without the aid or recognition of any extrinsic jurisdiction, those privileges which are absolutely essential to the performance of its proper functions, and even to its existence as an independent branch of the Legislature. I was aware of the pre- cedent for pleading furnished by the case of Burdett v. Abbott; but as the result of the proceedings in that case was a distinct confirmation, by the highest judicial authority, of the exclusive right of the House of Commons to judge and decide in matters of privilege, I had hoped that that precedent rather supplied a reason for the assumption by the House of Commons of the jurisdiction which it admitted to exist, than a rule for a repetition of the course which was then followed.

The Attorney-General

has reviewed the several proceedings to which this House might have recourse in consequence of the actions of which notice has been given, and the difficulties which would arise were any one of them preferred as an alternative to that of pleading. Of these difficulties an unprofessional man is scarcely a competent judge. I only wish they had been foreseen, and carefully considered by those Members of the Select Committee who belong to the profession, and are so eminent for their legal acquirements, because they ought to have been pointed out in the Report of that Committee as important elements in the consideration of any practical measure to be adopted for the maintenance of our privileges; and if pointed out, and traced in their several bearings and consequences, might have induced the House to modify at least the resolutions which have been voted in regard to the practical assertion of the privilege in question.

These, however, are matters of subordinate concern. Upon the main point at issue,—the existence of this privilege, and the right, the exclusive right, of the House of Commons to decide with regard to the exercise of it,—I have a decided opinion, the grounds of which I shall take this opportunity of stating. Having been deputed by the House, in conjunction with other Members of the Select Committee, to apply myself to this question, I entered upon it with no previous prepossession or prejudice. I have examined the foundations on which the privilege rests, and the authorities in favour of or opposed to its maintenance; and the result is, a firm conviction that the House of Commons has the right to institute free inquiry upon every matter of public concern,—to elicit every fact connected with the subject of inquiry,—and to publish the evidence taken, and the conclusions drawn from that evidence, either for the use of its Members, or, if it shall so think fit, for the use and information of the community at large. My con- viction is, that for such publication the House of Commons is not responsible to any other tribunal; and that, therefore, the officers and agents of the House of Commons, acting by its express authority, are not liable to question in a court of law for acts done in pursuance of that authority.

I found the claim to this right, first, upon the deductions of reason and common sense, from a review of the constitutional character, functions, and duties of a representative assembly, forming one branch of the Legislature, being, as they are called by Lord Coke, "the general inquisitors of the realm, coming out of all the parts thereof," and summoned to advise the king: "De communi consilio super negotiis quibusdam arduis et urgentibus, regem statum et defensionem Regni Angliæ, et Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, concernentibus."

I found this claim, secondly, upon the recorded declarations on great constitutional principles by the highest constitutional authorities; and, lastly, upon the decisions of the courts of law.

This is the outline and general scope of my argument, and I shall proceed to establish the privilege to which I lay claim, upon each of the several foundations on which I consider it to rest. First, it is a privilege essentially necessary to the proper discharge of our legislative and inquisitorial functions; and, if necessary, deriving its origin and validity from that necessity. The principle contended for on the opposite side is,—that though we may publish for the use of our own Members, without liability to question; yet that we cannot, without incurring such liability, publish for the information of the community; above all, we cannot authorise the publication by way of sale. If this distinction be well founded in point of theory; what practical security does it afford against the supposed abuse for which a remedy is sought? We may print, it seems, 658 copies of our proceedings, and distribute them among the Members of the House of Commons. That will be a privileged communication. May the Members who thus receive the papers printed for their instruction make any use of them? May they, if questioned by their constituents as to any particular vote, defend that vote by reference to the printed proceedings which caused the vote, and may possibly constitute its only justification? Will the disclosure to constituents of such cause and justification be also a privileged communication? If it Will, where is the limit to the publicity? If it will not, this consequence must follow,—that a Member cannot safely explain to his constituents the reason for the course he may have pursued, although he may have, in common with all other Members, an ample vindication of that course in a document printed by the authority of this House.

Can it be maintained in argument, that the privilege of free publication is limited by the House of Commons to publication for the use of its Members? Suppose we should be called upon, as we have frequently been called upon, in our legislative capacity, to adopt measures affecting the liberties of the people, or measures demanded by great necessities, and at variance with the established usages and principles of the Constitution; suppose the vindication of these measures should mainly rest upon the acts and proceedings of individuals, the public developement of which might be essential to a correct understanding of the measure to be adopted, and of the exigency that required it: is it the constitutional law of this country, that we can give no information to the public on such matters, without liability to question in Westminster Hall?—that we must limit to our own body the knowledge which demands and justifies a new law?—that in the case of enactments, like the Bill of Exclusion, breaking through the established order of hereditary succession; or, like the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, depriving the subject of his security against arbitrary imprisonment; or, like the Regency Bill, transferring the exercise of royal authority from the hands of the monarch;—is it the true constitutional doctrine, that we must require blind submission on the part of the community to our own will and authority; and that we have not the power, however inclined, without liability to question for reflecting on individual character, to enlighten the public mind, and to impress it with the justice and reasonableness of our proceedings? That power we do not possess, unless we can exercise it freely, and without the risk of punishment to those who act by our commands. Better, far better, to relinquish it altogether, than to hold it at the discretion of an extrinsic authority. If a court of law may determine what shall be the degree of public necessity which shall justify our comments upon the acts of individuals,—may limit by its own discretion the exercise of our privileges, absolving our servants in one case, and punishing them in another; then not only does the privilege itself lose its character and value, but the independence and authority of the House of Commons are virtually extinguished. We have functions to perform partaking of a judicial character. We have the unquestionable power to suspend the issue of writs of election. We are occasionally called upon to pass bills for the entire forfeiture of the elective franchise,—for the annihilation of the right of constituent bodies to send Members to Parliament. In each case we act upon the evidence of corruption and abuse. That evidence cannot be taken without imputations and reflections on the conduct of private parties. Must that evidence from the fear of giving offence, be a sealed book excepting to our own Members? Must the town or city whose ancient right is forfeited remain ignorant of the grounds on which penalty and disgrace are inflicted? Or if we make public the evidence on which we have acted, for the express purpose of justifying our decision, may those whose misconduct is exposed,—to whom, individually, gross acts of corruption are brought home in our report,—may they construe our publication into a private libel, and seek for redress against our officers in a court of law?

It is occasionally our duty to make inquiry into the alleged misconduct of public functionaries. An accusation is preferred of the violation of public trust, or the abuse of authority committed to a public servant. Must the evidence affecting his character be confined to ourselves? Must the copy of the Report which condemns him be reserved for the use of Members of Parliament? It is surely impossible to draw distinctions between public and private capacities which a court of law can recognise. If our publications generally are not privileged, they are not privileged in the special case of inquiry into the misconduct of a public officer. The public officer, as well as the private individual, may appeal for redress to the courts of law for an alleged libel. He may take the criminatory evidence and the offensive report, and demand redress from the printer of the House of Commons. Surely the decision must turn upon the abstract question, whether the matter complained of be or be not a libel. The public character of the plaintiff will not enter into the consideration of the court. The court will not draw the distinction which we recognise, between the public servant and the private individual—will not admit that comments may be made more freely upon one than upon the other. The court will overlook every relation of the public functionary save that of a subject of the King requiring redress for a libel.

Now, is it possible to contend that a public servant charged with an abuse of his trust can thus sustain an action for libel? Take a case that has actually occurred. When the present Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench was a Member of the House of Commons, he felt it to be his duty to move for an inquiry into the conduct of Mr. Kenrick, a magistrate of the county of Surrey, and a judge of the principality of Wales. He charged Mr. Kenrick "with having dishonoured his magisterial functions," and with the "guilt of partiality, violence, and malignity, in imprisoning an individual in some degree under his protection." Evidence was taken at the bar in support of these allegations: evidence painful, no doubt, to the feelings of Mr. Kenrick. That evidence, and the petition preferring the complaint, were printed upon the motion of Mr. Denman, and became matter of public notoriety throughout the whole country. Now, supposing a Member of Parliament, having received his copy of these printed papers, had lent it to a friend, or to a constituent, for the purpose of justifying to that constituent his vote,—had thus given to it a publicity beyond that which was required for the use of Members; will any one contend that it was competent to Mr. Kenrick to maintain an action for libel against the printer of the House of Commons? If Mr. Kenrick could not, who can? The charges against him implied conduct highly criminal; the evidence ex parte was very injurious to his character, and the result was tantamount to his acquittal, for no vote of censure was passed, still less was any proceeding adopted for his removal either from the judicial station or the commission of the peace. Why was he debarred from redress? Because in his case, as in others, the privilege of Parliament protected the presentation of the petition, the printing of that petition, of all the documents connected with it, of the accusatory evidence given at the bar; and it would have been thought preposterous, if Mr. Kenrick, holding a public trust, and charged with the abuse of it, had sought redress from the Court of King's Bench against acts done or authorised by the House of Commons, in whatever manner they might acquire publicity.

I have thus attempted to prove, that the House of Commons may, if it so think fit direct a publication of its proceedings more extensive than that which is requisite for the use of its own Members. I found the proof of this upon reasonings derived from the duties and functions of the House of Commons, and from the necessity of satisfying the public mind as to the grounds of its proceeding in cases of grave importance, such as the suspension of the public liberties, or the forfeiture of legal rights and franchises, or the inquiry into the misconduct of public functionaries. I found it also upon long and uninterrupted, and (until Mr. Stock ale questioned it) unquestioned usage. The sale of the proceedings and votes of the House has continued without interruption from its first commencement. For nearly two hundred years papers have been printed by the order of the House, and have received a publicity (in many cases by sale) far greater than that which was required for the personal use of Members. From a remote period the invariable practice has been to print and distribute a greater number than was necessary for such a purpose.

It is contended, however, that we cannot authorise the sale of libels. Certainly not. But this use of the word libel is a begging of the whole question. My argument is, that a publication made by the authority of the House of Commons is not a libel, and cannot be questioned as such in a court of law. But under any circumstances, would the fact of sale make any distinction in the character of the publication? If the House of Commons may authorise a gratuitous distribution of a certain paper, may it not authorise the sale of it? Can it, in the eye of the law, make the slightest difference, in determining its legal character as libel or not libel, whether a Parliamentary Report be printed at the public cost, and given away, or vended at a certain price covering part of the expense of publication? Surely, the protection depends upon a higher principle than any that is involved in these narrow distinctions between printing for the use of Members, or distribution without sale, or distribution by means of sale. It depends upon that great principle which, in a narrower application of it, justifies the publication of proceedings in courts of justice, provided the Report be an impartial and accurate Report. Those proceedings may be detailed by unauthorised parties, may be sold for individual profit in Term Reports and in public newspapers. The consideration of public advantage in the publicity of judicial proceedings overruled the regard for private feelings and private interests. Can it be maintained, that the House of Commons is so much more, restricted in its powers that it cannot protect its own servants in the authorised publications of its own proceedings, for he necessary information and satisfaction of the community?

I contend, then, that this privilege is maintainable on the plain deductions of reason, from a consideration of the functions of the House of Commons, of the necessity of the privilege in question to the satisfactory discharge of those functions, and of established precedent and long-continued usage.

I proceed to support the proofs derived from such considerations by the express declarations of the highest constitutional authorities, specially applicable to the very point at issue, and made under circumstances entitling them to peculiar weight. One example will suffice; for that example is so emphatic, and so conclusive, that it is needless to produce others.

In the reign of Charles 2nd, an information was brought by the Attorney-General against Sir William Williams, who, when Speaker of the House of Commons, had printed, by order of the House, a certain paper, called the Information against Thomas Danger field. Judgment passed against Sir William Williams on this information, in the second year of the reign of James 2nd. This proceeding the Convention Parliament deemed so great a grievance, and so high an infringement of the rights of Parliament, that it appears to be the principal if not the sole object of one of the heads of accusation against James 2nd in the Bill of Rights.

The 8th head in that Bill was to this effect:—"By causing information to be brought and prosecuted in the Court of King's Bench for matters and causes cognisable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses."

To this article the Lords at first disagreed; and gave for a reason, "because they do not fully apprehend what is meant by it, nor what instances there have been of it, which, therefore, they desire may be explained, if the House shall think fit to insist further on it."

The House of Commons disagreed with the Lords in their proposal of leaving out the 8th article. But, in respect of the liberty given by the Lords in explaining that matter, resolved that the words do stand in this manner:—"By prosecutions in the Court of King's Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses."

By this amendment, the House adapted the article more correctly to the case they had in view; for the information against Sir William Williams was filed in King Charles the Second's time; but the prosecution was carried on, and judgment obtained, in the second year of King James.

That the meaning of the House should be made more evident to the Lords, the House ordered, "That Sir William Williams be added to the managers of the conference:" and Sir William Williams the same day reports the conference with the Lords; and "that their Lordships had adopted the article in the words as amended by the Commons." And corresponding to this article of grievance, is the assertion of the right of the subject, in the 9th article of the declaratory part of the Bill of Rights—videlicet, "That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament." The occasion on which this declaration was made was the constitutional settlement at the period of the Revolution; the parties to it were the Lords and Commons forming the Convention Parliament, which declared the rights and liberties of the subject. It was no vague assertion of Parliamentary privilege generally. It was pointed at a specific grievance: that grievance was the filing of an information against the Speaker of the House of Commons for printing and publishing for the use and information of the public, by order of the House of Commons, a certain document, libellous no doubt if not protected by privilege. There can be no ambiguity in the expressions made use of in the 9th article of the declaratory part of the Bill of Rights. They claimed for debates or proceedings in Parliament perfect freedom from impeachment or question in any court or place out of Parliament; and they are without effect and without meaning, if Lord Denman's decision can be sustained—namely, "that the fact of the House of Commons having directed Messrs. Hansard to publish their Parliamentary Reports is no justification for them to publish a Parliamentary Report containing a libel against any man."

I will now consider the remaining ground on which I rest this assertion of privilege, namely, the decisions of the courts of law. They appear to me to confirm the conclusions drawn from general reasoning, and the declaration of the Bill of Rights. They establish two positions—that that which the House of Commons publishes is a publication protected by privilege; and that of the limits of that privilege, and of the exercise of it, the House of Commons is the exclusive judge.

The first case I will refer to is the case of The King v. Wright. The decision in that case places the privilege on higher grounds than those for which I contend, and extends impunity beyond the limits within which I confine the present argument. I refer to that case mainly on account of the principles laid down by the highest judicial authorities, which appear to me to be conclusive in favour of the position that I am maintaining.

I will briefly advert to the particulars of that case. A Committee of Secrecy was appointed at a period of great public excitement, to consider and report upon certain documents laid before them for that purpose by the Government. A bookseller of the name of Wright, reprinted fully and accurately, but without any sanction or authority from the House of Commons, the Report of the Committee. It contained allegations against several persons, three of whom, Messrs. Hardy, Thelwall, and Home Tooke, had been charged with high treason, and had been acquitted by a jury. Now, the presumption of the law clearly was, that they were entirely innocent of the charge, and had a right to all the benefit of acquittal. And yet the Report of the Committee of Secrecy thus speaks of the parties:—"Some of the persons so arrested were prosecuted for high treason. Three of the persons so indicted were tried, and on their trials were acquitted of the charge in the indictment. But the evidence given on those trials established in the clearest manner that the views of those persons and their confederates were completely hostile to the existing Government and Constitution of this country, and went directly to the subversion of every established and legitimate authority."

Now, it is difficult to conceive a more aggravated case of libel, if the character of the publication were to be judged of upon ordinary grounds, and without any reference to the authority under which it was made. A rule was granted against Wright, the bookseller, at the instance of Mr. Home Tooke. It was argued by Erskine and Warren, in support of the rule, "That the House of Commons themselves were not justified in directing or giving a sanction to the publication of this libel on Mr. Tooke; or, at all events, they have no legal authority to direct or sanction the publication of matter that amounts to a libel on any individual, beyond an entry on its own journals, or for the use of the Members of the House," But Lord Kenyon observed:—"It is impossible for us to admit that the proceedings of either of the Houses of Parliament is a libel, and yet that is to be taken as the foundation of this application. This is a proceeding by one branch of the Legislature, and therefore we cannot inquire into it." Mr. Justice Grose said:—"This is a motion for leave to file a criminal information for publishing a supposed libel, but, in truth, for publishing a proceeding of one branch of the Legislature, when they were acting for the safety of the State. Now, on looking into the judicial proceedings of this court, I find no instance of such an information as the present." Mr. Justice Lawrence observed, that—"A true account of what passed in a court of justice could not be a libel, though the publication of such proceedings might be to the disadvantage of the particular individual concerned; for it is of vast importance to the public that the proceedings of courts of justice should be universally known. The same reasons also apply to the proceedings in Parliament. It is of advantage to the public, and even to the legislative bodies, that true accounts of their proceedings should be generally circulated; and they would be deprived of that advantage, if no person could publish their proceedings without being punished as a libeller. Though, therefore, the defendant was not authorised by the House of Commons to publish the Report in question, yet, as he only published a true copy of it, I am of opinion that the rule ought to be discharged."

Mr. Justice Lawrence

, it will be seen, rested the claim to protection on higher and more extensive ground than that of the usage or any special privilege of Parliament. He contended for the doctrine, that true accounts of proceedings in Parliament and in courts of law, were for the public advantage, and therefore entitled to universal protection. He contended for the impunity of unauthorised parties who might, with a view to individual gain, publish the proceedings of courts of justice. If Mr. Justice Lawrence were right, a fortiori the authorised servant of the House of Commons must be entitled to protection. If in the case of Wright he carried too far the claim for impunity, the objection that might apply to the extended claim, will have no necessary application to the more limited claim of privilege which the present question involves.

Against that privilege, the privilege of unfettered inquiry and free publication, either for the use of the House of Commons, or the information of the community, no argument has been advanced which has the sanction either of reason or authority. It is contended, that it may be abused; and cases of wilful tyranny and extreme oppression are brought forward hypothetically, for the purpose of showing that there ought to be the means of redress, and, therefore, that a court of law ought to have jurisdiction. The argument from the possibility of abuse, if valid in this case, is equally valid against every other privilege of Parliament. It is valid also against the right of courts of justice to commit for contempt, without liability to question by co-ordinate tribunals; it is valid against judgment in the last resort,—against the supreme authority of Parliament,—against the grant of any power to a human and therefore imperfect tribunal, from which there is not a right to appeal.

If the right of publication be a privilege necessary for the performance of the functions of the House of Commons, then, like other privileges, it is not liable to question in a court of law. The House of Commons is the exclusive judge of the exercise of it. The judgments, not of the House of Commons, but of the Courts of Westminster, are decisive on this point. I speak not of the case of the King v. Wright, but of other cases, of every case in which an application on a question of privilege, like this application of Stockdale, has been made to the courts of law. The arguments now urged in favour of the jurisdiction of these courts were urged in the cases to which I refer. The objections from the possible abuse of privileges of which the possessor was to be the exclusive judge, were distinctly brought forward; but they were overruled by the tribunals whose authority would have been extended by admitting the force of them. The courts of law repudiated the jurisdiction with which it was proposed to invest them.

The decisions of the court in the case of Crosby, the Lord Mayor of London, and in the case of Burdett v. Abbott, are conclusive on this point. In the first case, a person of the name of Miller was delivered from the custody of the messenger of the House of Commons, by the Lord Mayor, who denied the authority of the Speaker's warrant within the city. The Lord Mayor was adjudged by the House of Commons to have been guilty of a breach of privilege, and was committed to the Tower. Application was made to the Court of Common Pleas for the discharge of the Lord Mayor from custody, on the ground that the House had exceeded its jurisdiction in committing for what, on the face of the warrant, did not appear to be a breach of privilege.

In refusing the application, Chief Justice De Grey said,—"When the House of Commons adjudge anything to be a contempt or a breach of privilege, their adjudication is a conviction, and their warrant is an execution; and no court does or can bail a person in execution." The Chief Justice asked what were the objections to the power of the House of Commons? "It is objected," said he, "first, that the House of Commons are mistaken, for that they have not this power, this authority; secondly, that, supposing they have, yet in this case they have not used it rightly and properly; and, thirdly, that the execution of their orders was irregular. In order to judge, I will consider the practice of the courts in common and ordinary cases. I do not find any case where the courts have taken cognizance of such execution, or of commitments of this kind; there is no precedent of Westminster Hall interfering in such a case. In Sir John Paston's case, 13 Rep., there is a case tried from the 'Year Book,' where it is held that any court shall determine of the privilege of that court; besides, the rule is, that the court of remedy must judge by the same as the court which commits: now, this court cannot take cognizance of a commitment by the House of Commons, because it cannot judge by the same law; for the law by which the Commons judge of their privileges is unknown to us." Again, he says:—"The House of Commons only knows how to act within their own limits. We are not a court of appeal. We do not know certainly the jurisdiction of the House of Commons. We cannot judge of the law and privileges of the House, because we have no knowledge of those laws and privileges." Observe how the Chief Justice disposes of the objection from possible abuse. He says:—"Another objection has been made, which likewise holds out to us, if pursued in all its possible cases, some dreadful consequences; and that is, the abuses which may be made by jurisdictions from which there is no appeal, and for which abuses there is no remedy: but this is unavoidable." "In the case of a commitment by this court or the Court of King's Bench, there is no appeal. Suppose the Court of King's Bench sets an excessive fine upon a man for a misdemeanour, there is no remedy, no appeal to any other court. We must depend upon the discretion of some courts."

Mr. Justice Gould

said:—,"I entirely concur in opinion with my Lord Chief Justice that this court has no cognizance of contempts or breach of privilege of the House of Commons: they are the only judges of their own privileges; and that they may be properly called judges appears in 4 Inst. 47, where my Lord Coke says, an alien cannot be elected of the Parliament, because such a person can hold no place of judicature." "This court cannot know the nature and power of the proceedings of the House of Commons. It is founded on a different law. The 'Lex et Consuetudo Parliamenti' is known to Parliament men only."

What said Mr. Justice Blackstone, an authority whom my hon. Friend (Sir Robert Inglis) will, with myself, from our connexion with the University of Oxford, regard with common respect? "I concur," said he, "in opinion that we cannot discharge the Lord Mayor. The present case is of great importance, because the liberty of the subject is materially concerned. The House of Commons is a supreme court, and they are judges of their own privileges and contempts, more especially with respect to their own Members; here is a Member committed in execution by the judgment of his own House. All courts, by which I mean to include the two Houses of Parliament and the courts of Westminster Hall, can have no control in matters of contempt. The sole adjudication of contempts, and the punishment thereof in any manner, belong exclusively, and without interfering, to each respective court. Infinite confusion and disorder would follow, if courts could, by writ of habeas corpus, examine and determine the contempts of others. This power to commit, results from the first principles of justice; for, if they have power to decide, they ought to have power to punish: no other court shall scan the judgment of a superior court, or the principal seat of justice; as I said before, it would occasion the utmost confusion, if every court of this Hall should have power to examine the commitments of the other courts of the Hall for contempt, so that the judgment and commitment of each respective court, as to contempts, must be final and without control." "I know, and am sure, that the House of Commons is both able and well inclined to do justice. But there is a great fallacy in my brother Glynn's whole argument, when he makes the question to be whether the House have acted according to their rights or not? Can any good man think of involving the judges in a contest with either House of Parliament, or with one another? and yet this manner of putting the question would produce such a contest. The House of Commons is the only judge of its own proceedings. Holt differed from the other judges on this point; but we must be governed by the eleven, and not by the single one. It is a right inherent in all supreme courts; the House of Commons have always exercised it. Little nice objections of particular words and forms, and ceremonies of execution, are not to be regarded in the acts of the House of Commons; it is our duty to presume the orders of that House, and their execution, are according to law. The habeas corpus in Murray's case, was at common law. I concur entirely with my Lord Chief Justice." Mr. Justice Blackstone also considered the objection derived from the possible abuse of power, and the absence of a sufficient remedy. He remarked:—"The objections which are brought of abusive consequence prove too much, because they are applicable to all courts of dernier ressort. 'Et ab abusu ad usum non valet consequential is a maxim of law as well as of logic. General convenience must always outweigh partial inconvenience; even supposing (which I am far from supposing) that in this present case the House has abused its power."

In the case of Burdett v. Abbott, in the year 1820, where an action of trespass was brought by Sir Francis Burdett against the Speaker for arresting and imprisoning him, the decision of the Court of King's Bench adopted the principle which had governed former judicial decisions. The defendant, in his plea, relied on the order of the House as his justification. The Court considered that plea to contain a legal justification; and Lord Ellen borough, in the course of his judgment, observed,—"Independently of any precedent or recognised practice on this subject, the House of Commons must, à priori, be armed with a competent authority to enforce the free and independent exercise of its own proper functions."

Upon this ground, and supported by these high judicial authorities,—by the sanction of such names as De Grey, Gould, Blackstone, Kenyon, Grose, Lawrence, and Ellenborough, I claim for the House of Commons "a competent authority to enforce the free and independent exercise of its own proper functions:" the great functions of instituting inquiry into matters of public concern; of enlightening and satisfying the public mind; of reconciling the public feeling to acts which, without explanation, might have the appearance of intolerable harshness and severity. I ask for no extension of the privileges of the House of Commons, and will consent to none; I contend for those privileges only which are recognised by the Bill of Rights, by long-continued usage, and by the courts of law. To some it may appear desirable, on account of recent changes in the constitution of the House of Commons, and the increase of popular influence upon its proceedings, to curtail, as far as possible, even its legitimate authority. I cannot concur in the policy of this course. I think it more wise, more conformable with true conservative principles, to stand upon the ancient ways of the Law and Constitution; to maintain the just and ancient privileges of each of the great constituent branches of the Legislature.

I wish to speak with the highest respect for the person as well as for the station of the Lord Chief Justice. To his decision, as a judge, in all ordinary cases of the construction of the law, and the administration of justice, I bow with deference; but when his decisions impugn the privileges of Parliament, I have not only a right, but am bound by duty, to take cognizance of them. I do not believe that his judgment in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, is maintainable. His direction to the jury,—"That the fact of the House of Commons having directed their printer to publish their Parliamentary Reports, is no justification for the publication, by them, of a Report containing a libel, upon any man,"—I believe to be erroneous. I trust the sanguine anticipations of the Attorney- General, that upon fuller and more deliberate argument the court will reverse this decision, will be confirmed. Still, I cannot view, without serious apprehension, the possibility of their disappointment. By the course recommended by the Attorney-General, that is, by the instruction to our officers to plead, we virtually submit a decision upon our privileges to a court the head of which has already given an adverse decision with regard to them. If that decision be confirmed, our next step will be an appeal to the House of Lords, and thus the transfer to a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature of that exclusive jurisdiction to which we lay claim for ourselves in matter of privilege. I have every confidence that justice will be done according to the law and constitution of the country; but, believing that the privilege of free publication is as unquestionable as it is vital and essential to the proper discharge of our functions, I cannot without anxiety see it made the subject of litigation.

Lord John Russell

, after the able and, as he thought, unanswerable, arguments, which the right hon. Baronet had delivered to the House upon the subject, felt that it would not be otherwise than presumption in him if he were to enter again into the question, and to go over the various points upon which he thought the privilege of the House firmly rested; but, at the same time, not having taken any part in the former discussion, he thought it would not be right that he should allow the question to come to a vote on the present occasion, without, in a few words, expressing the opinion which, after some study of the subject, he was disposed, certainly with great diffidence, but still with unshaken firmness, to entertain. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Baronet that this privilege was essential to the performance of the duties of the House. He thought that the whole question in dispute was settled on the ground stated by Lord Ellen borough on the last occasion, that the matter came under the consideration of a court of law, in consequence of a resolution passed by that House in reference to the case of "Burdett v. Abbott." Upon the grounds stated by the learned Judge on that occasion, he thought that it was undeniable that the House of Commons could not fairly and independently exercise its functions if it were only to print its proceedings for its own use, and not be allowed to make them known to the public, Take the case, for instance, of a petition embodying a complaint against a person holding an office of trust. If the petition were printed solely for the perusal of the Members of the House, they must come to the consideration of the case, resting exclusively on the statements of the petitioners, and they would be unable to say whether that was good ground to go upon, and therefore unable properly to perform one of their most important functions. But if they made the petition known by printing it with their votes, and allowing it to be circulated, they would be taking the best means of acquiring information on the subject, which information might be brought to bear on the question before them. He must say, then, that if the principle which had been laid down by Lord Denman were adopted, it would tend to destroy one of the chief functions of the House. It clearly appeared, too, from documents which had come down to them, and particularly from a Report which he held in his hand, that, at least, since the year 1711, the votes and proceedings of the House had been occasionally printed and sold at various sums, from a penny upwards, and that that practice had continued without intermission to the present time. It was therefore a practice which was not new—which did not derive its authority merely from what took place in 1835, but was an ancient and established practice of the House. It was always to be recollected, as the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had clearly and decisively shown, that this practice, so ancient and so little interrupted, had its date from the time of the Revolution, and was introduced and established as a matter of right, in consequence of an undue and illegal proceeding on the part of a court of law in the reign of James 2nd. Agreeing with the right hon. Baronet in the general view which he had taken of the subject, he differed from him as to the expediency of the course that ought now to be pursued. He thought that the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, suggested the best course that could at the present time be adopted. He was disposed to agree to the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, because he thought it was the most authoritative manner in which the House could bring before a court of law the fact that they did claim this as one of their privileges. It had certainly occurred to him without having looked at the precedents in that respect, that the Speaker might at once have informed the judge, that the printers in this instance were acting under the authority of the House; but his hon. and learned Friend had so ably and clearly pointed out the objections to that course, that he was now fully disposed to agree with his hon. and learned Friend that the most proper manner of bringing the matter before a court of law would be to allow the petitioners to plead. By adopting that course the judges would be made fully aware of the fact, that the publication of Messrs. Hansard, and the printing of the votes by Messrs. Nicholls, were not publications conducted on their own authority, or for their own benefit, but that they were publications authorised by that House, and that the House considered such publications essential to its freedom, its dignity, and its independence. He hoped that when this circumstance was brought fully under the cognizance of the courts of law, that their decision would be in conformity with the precedents, not only of Parliamentary proceedings, but of the proceedings that had hitherto taken place in courts of justice. He thought the judges would see when they came to consider this question maturely, that it was impossible that the House of Commons should consent or allow its proceedings to be so far fettered that any, the least of its proceedings might be made matter of question, and liable to damages, or matter of action in a court of law. He would not then enter into the question of what it would be right for the House to do in the event of the Judges coming to a different conclusion. He would only state, that he did not agree with the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) that by not, at that moment, putting into force the second resolution, the House would thereby be surrendering the power and authority which in that resolution it claimed the right to exert. By agreeing to the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, the House would only be giving time to have the question maturely and deliberately argued and determined. Whatever the result might be, he thought the House would always retain the power in its own hands, and that the resolutions would be justified by their serving as a due notice to all parties concerned, that although at this particular moment, or at any other particular moment, the House might not think fit to exercise these powers, yet that when it was convinced (and he was sure the public would be convinced too) that these powers were absolutely essential, and ought to be put in force, the House would not hesitate to exercise a privilege which it retained not for its own benefit or advantage, but for the benefit and advantage of the public, and of the country at large.

Mr. Pemberton

said, he should be extremely glad, concurring as he did in the vote proposed on the other side of the House, if he could have avoided troubling the House with any observations upon the question; but having the misfortune, and a great misfortune he felt it to be, to differ in many particulars from those for whose sentiments and opinions he entertained the highest reverence and respect, with the feelings which he did entertain on this subject, he should consider it a cowardly dereliction of his duty, if he abstained on the present occasion from stating those feelings and views to the House. He should do so with the utmost doubt of the propriety of his own opinions, and with the most profound respect for those who differed from him; but right or wrong, he had formed his opinions, after much deliberation, and after the most attentive consideration of the case. It was not now a question whether a Report of the proceedings of a Committee of the House of Commons, published under its authority, was, or was not, a privileged publication; but the question now was, were the resolutions which that House had thought fit to adopt, resolutions not confined to the publication of papers, but involving a general assertion of privilege, to be followed up to all their consequences? Was the House prepared to deny to the courts of justice, directly or incidentally, the authority to discuss and decide questions of law involving the privilege, or would it consent, as his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, had proposed, to submit this species of law for the decision of the law authorities? It was a very different question whether those Reports were privileged publications, and whether it was the order for publication by the House of Commons, that afforded an indemnity to those who published them. They might be privileged publications, he neither affirmed nor denied it; he gave no opinion on the subject; but that which he asserted, and which was confirmed by the opinion of Lord Denman and nine-tenths of the bar, was this, that if the nature of the publication itself did not afford privilege, no resolution of the House of Commons could give it. He was glad to have the sanction of so high an authority as the noble Lord, the Member for North Lancashire, for the proposition. [Lord Stanley intimated that his cheers were intended to express his dissent.] He regretted to find that he had mistaken his noble Friend; but he would still assert, let who would assent or dissent, that if the nature of the publication did not protect it, no order of the House of Commons could do so. The resolutions of that House could neither alter the law nor justify its violation. The question at present, however, was one of infinitely greater magnitude; it went far beyond the publication of papers; it was this—will you act upon the 2nd resolution? What was it that this resolution asserted? He would undertake to say, that connecting that resolution with the paragraph which preceded it in the Report of the Committee, it was inconsistent with every decided case from the earliest period to the present, with one single exception only. What was it that this resolution asserted? "That by the law and privilege of Parliament, this House has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to determine the existence and extent of its privileges, and that the institution or prosecution of any action, suit, or other proceeding, for the purpose of bringing them into discussion or decision before any court or tribunal elsewhere than in Parliament, is a high breach of such privilege, and renders all parties concerned therein amenable to its just displeasure, and to the punishment consequent thereon." And what was the paragraph in the Report which explained and extended that? Why, the opinion of the Committee was, that by the law and usage of Parliament, the House of Commons possessed exclusive jurisdiction, and that it was a breach of the privileges of the House, to bring them under discussion, either directly or incidentally, and that such a breach of privilege would subject the party offending to punishment. Now, he begged to ask, the assertion being, that no court of law should assume to decide upon matters of privilege, what had been the practice in the courts of law upon the subject for the last two centuries? Why, that the courts of law had discussed, decided, and sometimes recognised, and sometimes disallowed those very privileges which he was now told they had no authority to deal with. The courts of law had never yet refused to enter upon and to discuss those privileges, and the question now was, would the House interpose to prevent the courts from entertaining them, and thus place itself between the King's subjects seeking redress, and the law of the land? He was told by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the courts of justice had never entertained the question of the privileges of this House, and that the courts had admitted that the resolutions of this House were binding upon them when those cages were discussed and decided. Now what had been the facts of the case in the time of Charles 2nd, which Sir Orlando Bridge-man decided—what had been asserted by the House of Commons then? The resolution which the Committee of Privileges then passed was, that no Member of the House of Commons should be subject or liable to be sued in any Court of law during the sitting of Parliament." And what was the language of Sir Orlando Bridge man when the question came before him and the other judges of his court? "I shall," said he, "give all reverence as becomes me to all the opinions and votes of the Commons House of Parliament, as proceeding from so honourable a body, but I am under the obligation of an oath to do equal justice according to the best of my judgment and ability, whatsoever the authority of their opinions and resolutions might be." He then referred to authorities in which the courts had disregarded the resolutions of the House, and proceeded to say, "that the use he made of this was, that the resolutions or votes of either House of Parliament, made and passed in the absence of the parties concerned, were not so conclusive upon the courts of law as to prevent us from administering the law, as we in our judgment, and upon our oaths, conceive the law to be, though that judgment may be contrary to the resolutions or votes of either House of Parliament." Up to the time of the Revolution, how did the law on this matter stand? Why, the right of the courts of justice to hear, discuss, and decide upon questions of privilege incidentally raised before them had not been denied by the House, though in one case it had been doubted by the court. The point was raised in the time of Charles 2nd, in the case of "Barnadiston v. Soames," which was an action brought against a returning officer. The court held the action to be maintainable— that decision was reversed by the Court of Exchequer—that reversal was affirmed by the House of Lords on appeal, on the ground that courts of justice could not decide upon questions of the Privileges of Parliament. But what was the consequence? The Revolution came, and an Act of Parliament was passed, authorising the action, and establishing the right of the courts of law to adjudicate upon such matters. Again, in the celebrated case of "Ashby v. White." It was an action brought against the constable of Aylesbury for rejecting improperly votes at an election. Three of the judges of the Court of King's Bench held that the action was not maintainable, but Lord Chief Justice Holt held the contrary. Judgment was of course entered for the defendant, but was appealed against to the House of Lords, by whom it was reversed, a large majority of the Peers concurring with Lord Chief Justice Holt in thinking, that notwithstanding the resolution and privileges of the House of Commons, the action was maintainable, and that decision remained to the present hour inviolate, and the law of the land was settled in conformity with the view of Lord Holt, and against the other three judges. Had that determination not established the law on that subject? Why, action after action had been brought, and down to the time when an action was brought by Mr. Fox against the high bailiff of Westminster, in the year 1774. Now, what was the opinion of Lord Holt as to the binding efficacy of the resolutions of Parliament—what was the doctrine which he, differing from the three other judges, had laid down—a doctrine affirmed by the House of Lords, and practised and followed for 100 years subsequently? He said, "where Parliamentary matters came before the court as incidental to a cause of action on the property of the subject, which the court must in duty determine, though the incidental matter be Parliamentary, they are bound by their oaths to determine it." Again, in the case of "The Queen v. Patey;" though it was held by three judges that the House of Commons were the proper judges of their own privileges, and that the court was estopped to say, that this was not a breach of privilege, Lord Holt denied it, and said it was no breach of their privilege, nor could their judgment make it so, nor conclude the court from deciding the contrary. In this case, the House of Commons, for the last time, proceeded to commit for a contempt those who in violation of the resolutions brought actions. But was that a right then established? No; on the contrary, it was denied; a writ of error was brought, but the contest on that point was put an end to by the dissolution of Parliament. And from that hour to the present, no man could aver that the House of Commons ever interposed to prevent the prosecution of actions at law, because of its privilege. He must, therefore, contend that the right of the courts of justice had been recognised, acknowledged, and acted upon, and the objection to it had never until now been revived. What, on the contrary, had been the practice since? Was there any privilege more valuable than the freedom of debate, any thing which involved a question of privilege more directly than a claim of the right of publishing that which has been spoken? The information on which the House legislated, was not conveyed to the knowledge of the public by the publication of these voluminous reports, but by extracts from the evidence, and by the speeches of hon. Members in the House, which were the subject of weekly and daily publication in the land; and yet no man, no lawyer, would venture to assert, that what was there spoken, if libellous, could not, if published, be the subject matter for an action of libel. That point had already been decided in the case of a prosecution for libel against a Peer of Parliament for having published a speech delivered by him in the House of Lords. The courts of justice assumed to proceed to the decision of that case. And did the House of Lords in that instance interpose, and say, that that was a question exclusively belonging to them—that it was nothing but a question of privileges, and try it the courts should not? No, they did no such thing. It was not an action, but an indictment, and though it was a prosecution, the House of Lords did not interpose to prevent the trial of the case. The courts then did hear the case—they did discuss it—they did decide it, and they punished the defendant by fine, and also, he believed, but was not sure, by imprisonment. Then, again, what was the case of "the King v. Creevy?" The defendant was prosecuted for a libel in a published report of his speech in the House of Commons. There the defendant pleaded privilege, and in that case the House did not attempt to tell the judge that the question of privilege being incidentally mixed up with the question, they should not try it. The House said no such thing, but permitted the law to take its course, and Mr. Creevy was convicted as Lord Abingdon had been, and though a new trial was applied for, it was refused, the King's Bench entirely concurring with the judge who had tried the cause. The late Report and the resolutions of the Committee of that House, he could assure his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, had excited universal astonishment in Westminster-hall. But was the House prepared to follow up and act upon the resolutions, by committing the attorney or the counsel who might appear in such a case? They might do so, but they could not stop for one hour the actions which had been brought; they would only provoke fresh proceedings. There would be hundreds upon hundreds of actions brought. The House by this illegal, arbitrary, and unconstitutional assumption, might commit the attorney and counsel, but the people would never submit to that which was inconsistent with the law of the land—namely, the assertion that the House had a right to interpose to prevent the trial of a legal question by the legal authorities. The House had been told that the effect of these proceedings must be to submit the ultimate result by appeal to the tribunal of the House of Lords. The Lords were themselves much interested in these resolutions, indeed, the Commons had thought fit to decide somewhat irregularly upon the privileges of the Lords, as well as their own. The individual disputing the privilege might well object to have it tried by such a tribunal, but it was strange that hon. Members should object to have the question tried by those who had a common interest with themselves. He approved of the course proposed by the Attorney-General, because it was an abandonment of the resolutions. It was quite consistent with law, and quite inconsistent with the resolutions. Any other course they would find totally impracticable. They might commit attornies and counsel until they had emptied Westminster-hall, and filled Newgate; they might even commit the judge, but they never could crush the spirit of the bar, the bench, and the people. Looking to the conflict with another place which was apprehended, it would be well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider whether they would think it advisable for them to give the advantage to the House of Peers of being known and recognised as the champions of the law. It was because he thought the House of Commons possessed (and he wished it to retain) the respect and affection of the people, that he desired to see it avoid embarking in a conflict which might risk that respect and affection. If the House did embark in that conflict, it never would retire from it until, in the collision, every privilege which it claimed had been crushed to atoms.

Mr. Williams Wynn

said, that having spoken on a former occasion, it was not his wish again to address the House; but there were some points which had been stated by his hon. and learned Friend that called for observation. Upon an ordinary legal question he should feel great difficulty and diffidence in putting himself in competition with his hon. and learned Friend; but he confessed that when he heard it stated that whenever the question of privilege had been raised it had been uniformly decided by the Courts of Westminster-hall against the House of Commons, and that the very last instance in which an action was brought, and in which such a decision was given, was the action instituted by Mr. Fox, he (Mr. Wynn) could not refrain offering a few-remarks on the present occasion. He could hardly believe that there was any man who had ever practised in a court of law, but must know that the case of Mr. Fox was as different as possible from that of a question of privilege. Mr. Fox's action was an action against the returning officer for refusing votes; it was a statutable action, sanctioned by repeated Acts of Parliament, and which fixed the returning officer with certain penalties in certain cases? Could that be said to be a case at common law? Was it the same as the case of the Queen and Patey? As early as the twenty-third year of Henry 6th, an action was given against the sheriff for making a false return Subsequent Acts had rendered the sheriffs liable to penalties for improper conduct. He did not recollect whether the action by Mr. Fox was brought under the statute of the seventh of William 3rd, which gave double damages and full costs, or whether under the Act of the twenty-fifth of George 3rd, which enacted that if any sheriff or returning officer should wilfully delay making a return to the writ, the party, who should be determined by the House of Commons to be duly elected, bringing the action should recover double damages, together with costs. His hon. and learned Friend had then proceeded, somewhat triumphantly, to notice the cases of Lord Abingdon, and of Mr. Creevey; but he would ask, did the House of Commons, or the House of Lords, in those cases determine that the courts of justice had no authority to inquire into the privileges of Parliament? No; those were not cases involving the question of privilege of Parliament. Mr. Creevey afterwards brought his own case forward in that House; and the ground upon which the House refused to entertain the consideration of it was, not because they had not the right and privilege to entertain the consideration of questions affecting their own privileges, but because no plea of privilege could possibly lie for an act committed in defiance and in disobedience of the positive orders of the Houses. Mr. Creevey published his own speech; that being declared in itself a breach of privilege, and the speech containing matter actionable or punishable in a court of justice, it could not of course be assigned as a justification in a plea to that action that the speech was a privileged speech, the publication of it being itself a breach of the privileges of Parliament. It might as well be said that the publication of a libel spoken in the House was privileged. The publication of anything spoken in the House, unquestionably, might be proceeded against, and had repeatedly been so, as a breach of the privilege of Parliament; but, if of a libellous nature, it was also a breach of the common law of the land, and punishable in a court of justice. There was a double offence committed by such publication, and in either one way or the other was the party amenable. His hon. and learned Friend next stated, that there was an advantageous contrast between the proceedings of the House of Lords and those of the House of Commons on questions of privilege. But had the House of Lords never attempted to interfere with the proceedings of a court of justice? He could only appeal for this to their own journals. He found that in the year 1768 the House of Lords, being informed that an action had been brought and prosecuted in the Common Pleas by one John Biggs, and one Aylett, his attorney, against Mr. Hesse, one of his Majesty's justices of the peace, who had acted under the order and command of their Lordships' House, and who had apprehended a man, and, without any further order of the House, had committed him, and kept him in bridewell four or five days, for being concerned in a riot at the door of the House of Lords, what was the proceeding of the Lords on that occasion? They first passed a resolution, declaring "that according to the laws and usages of Parliament it is the undoubted right and duty of the Peers of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, to give such orders as may be from time to time found necessary to disperse and suppress any force which shall obstruct their coming to, remaining in, or returning peaceably from the House, or that may tend to interrupt the Parliamentary debates." They then ordered the plaintiff into the custody of the Sergeant-at-arms, and they committed the attorney to Newgate. They afterwards called in the plaintiff, who was directed to stop all further proceedings; and upon his signing a release, and not till he had so done, was he ordered to be discharged out of custody. The attorney, who having been the adviser of the plaintiff, was considered the greater offender, was kept in Newgate for ten days, and then discharged upon his humble petition. In 1788 Mr. Hyde, a justice of the peace, having attempted to get into Westminster-hall on the occasion of the trial of Mr. Warren Hastings, was refused admission by a constable, in pursuance of the general order of the House of Lords. Mr. Hyde indicted the officer for an assault—the officer pleaded to the indictment, was tried at Hicks's-hall, and acquitted. At the distance of some months the case was brought before the House of Lords. What was the conduct of their Lordships on that occasion? They committed Mr. Hyde, the justice, for his offence to the custody of the Sergeant-at-arms, that offence having been the prosecuting of a person at Hicks's-hall for an act which he performed in obedience to the orders of the House of Lords. He would next address himself more immediately to the case before the House. He participated in the feeling of deep regret which had been expressed by his right hon. Friend at the course which they were now recommended to pursue. It was impossible to conceal from themselves that it might have the effect of bringing their privileges for determination not only before the Court of King's Bench, but also before the House of Lords. He could not but feel that it would be a degradation of the House, and an act derogatory to their dignity, if a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature, as they were, and possessing equal privileges, they should appeal as petitioners for those privileges, or seek to enforce them, as suitors at the bar of the House of Lords, or in any way be liable to have those privileges there discussed. This was not the first time he had expressed this opinion. When the consideration of Sir Francis Burdett's actions against the Speaker and Sergeant-at-arms was before the House, and a similar course was recommended to be pursued, it was stated by an hon. Member of considerable authority that he had no doubt the judge, on reading the plea, would refuse to allow the action to proceed. It was upon that ground, and upon that statement, which was not justified by the subsequent event, that he and those who agreed with him in opinion acquiesced in the proposition for allowing such plea to be put in without dividing the House. It was upon that ground he could from his own knowledge state, that Mr. Wyndham gave way to the pressing arguments advanced on the other side. He would admit that, the House having formerly allowed an appearance to be entered to these actions against the Speaker and the Sergeant, without animadverting on the conduct of the persons concerned in the prosecution of them, it might create a reasonable belief that the House did not consider such actions as an offence against their privileges. He was willing to allow, also, that the high authority of the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, stated in open court as it had been, in the month of February last, till it should be controverted by the resolutions of this House, might also fairly be an apology for the persons who had commenced these actions. Though the present actions had been commenced subsequent to the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, yet that Report, till it was sanctioned by the House itself, could not be considered as possessing an authority by which the public in general were bound. Although he was strongly of opinion that the course which ought to be pursued towards all the individuals concerned in the prosecution of these actions was the ancient, appropriate, and legitimate course—that of committing them to the custody of the Sergeant-at-arms, and the adoption of which he did not think likely to be attended with that degree of resistance which had been predicted by his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Ripon, yet he was unwilling to resort to the exercise of penal powers except where clear notice had been given by the House of Commons what their privileges were, and that they were determined to punish any offence against them. If those actions were proceeded with, the parties prosecuting them would undoubtedly render themselves amenable to the punishment of the House. With respect to the course of proceeding to be adopted on this occasion, he could not object to any course by which a court of justice should be informed of the nature of the cause of an action commenced in that court, and that it was against a party for having acted in obedience to the authority of the House of Commons. Whether that communication were made by a plea, or by a resolution of the House, to the judges, was comparatively a matter of less importance. But after that communication should have been made, he was decidedly of opinion that the action ought not to be allowed to proceed. If it were necessary to exert that power which was exerted in the case of the Lord Mayor, and of Lord New-burgh, and to direct the proceedings to be taken off the file, it was competent for the House to do so. He should regret extremely to see the House driven to a collision with a court of justice; but he must say, that if they were driven to it, he, for his part, was one that would not abandon the contest. It was not fear of the authority of the Court of King's Bench which induced him to entertain the inclination to be moderate in the course he adopted for maintaining the privileges of the House—privileges with- out which they could not discharge their duty advantageously or faithfully to the country, and without which they could not justify their proceedings to their constituents. But it was said, that there might be a privileged communication of the proceedings of this House, and that Members might be privileged in making communications to their constituents. Now, he would confidently assert, that if there were a privilege for any Member to communicate the proceedings of the House to his constituents, there was necessarily a privileged communication to the whole United Kingdom; for the whole United Kingdom were the constituents of every individual Member. If, then, any Member had a right to communicate a single paper to any one individual, he had a right to communicate it to every inhabitant of the empire, for he was the representative not of a particular spot, but of the whole country. It had also been said, that the privilege of Parliament only continued for forty days after each Session. That was incorrect even with regard to the personal privilege concerning only the individual Members; but the rights of the House, and the decisions on its own privileges, were permanent, and affected not only the House itself, but the country; and those decisions were such as it was the duty of every court of law to respect. There was, however, one point which had suggested itself to him. If an action was commenced during the recess of Parliament, it was obvious that the House could not come to any immediate resolution, declaring that the act complained of had been done under its authority. In such a case, it might be difficult to convey that information to a court except by pleading. The only other way in which that could be done, was for the House to give the Speaker power of his own authority to write a letter to the court, certifying the fact, as had formerly been the practice with regard to suits against privileged persons. It might be said, that neither such a certificate nor a resolution of this House was imperative on a court of law; but the House would remember that they had equally been told to-night that the court would refuse to admit the validity of a plea. Should that be the case, they would ultimately equally be compelled to resort to extreme measures to assert their privileges by their own authority. The House had not courted such a conflict, yet, if they should be pushed to the wall' they must not shrink from it, but be prepared to maintain to the utmost privileges which had been handed down from their ancestors, which were necessary to support their own independence and the due exercise of those functions which were vested in them by the Constitution.

Mr. Hume

wished to ask the Attorney-General whether he meant to persist in the resolutions which he had proposed? If there were any doubts as to the propriety of persisting in the resolutions which they carried the other evening, the speech of the right hon. Baronet set the matter at rest. It was monstrous to think of their going back. All the cases that had been urged by the right hon. Baronet, and by the right hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, must justify the Attorney-General in the view which he originally took of the case. He did not wish that the privileges of that House should be submitted to the opinion of the House of Lords. It would not only be degrading, but it could only be done with a bad grace. They, therefore, had much better maintain and protect their own privileges. If there were one privilege more than another of importance, it was the publication of their Reports and other papers. If they abstained from the publication of the results of their own inquiries, it would be perfectly useless entering on them. This privilege was essential for the maintenance of popular rights and the independence of the House of Commons. The truth was, that this was an attempt to drag them through the mud in a very unpleasant manner.

Viscount Howick

was as unwilling as the hon. Member for Middlesex to go back from the resolutions they came to on a former evening, and for proofs of the propriety of persisting in them, he would refer to the unanswerable and admirable argument of the right hon. Baronet opposite. That they ought to maintain their privileges was perfectly clear, and that they ought also to be the interpreters of their privileges was perfectly clear. He concurred with the Attorney-General on this simple ground, that there was a precedent as to the course of proceeding, and this case would be found to be much stronger than the present. The case he alluded to was the action brought against the Speaker by Sir F. Burdett, and then the House adopted a similar course of proceeding to that now proposed by his learned Friend, the Attorney-General. The privileges of the House were then still more made an open question than in the present case. On that occasion the House came to the conclusion that the Speaker should be allowed to appear to defend the action. In the Report of the Committee of the House appointed in consequence of the proceedings in the case against the Speaker, there were the following observations:— It appears that in several instances of actions commenced in breach of the privileges of this House, the House has proceeded by commitment, not only against the party, but against the solicitor and other persons concerned in bringing such actions; but your Committee think it right to observe, that the commitment of such party, solicitor, or other persons, would not necessarily stop the proceedings in such actions; that as the particular ground of action does not necessarily appear upon the suit or upon the declaration, the court before which such action is brought cannot stay the suit, or give judgment against the plaintiff, till it is informed by due course of legal proceeding that such action is brought for a thing done by order of the House; and it therefore appears to your Committee, that even though the House should think fit to commit the solicitor or other person concerned in commencing these actions, yet it will still be expedient that the House should give leave to the Speaker and the Sergeant to appear to the said actions, and to plead to the same, for the purpose of bringing under the knowledge of the court the authority under which they acted; and, if the House should agree with that opinion, your Committee submits to the House whether it would not be proper that directions should be given by this House for defending the Speaker and the Sergeant against the said actions. It appeared, then, that there was very strong ground for proceeding in the way proposed. Be it recollected, also, that this was not an action against the Speaker, but an action for libel against Mr. Hansard and Mr. Nicholls; and it did not appear on the face of the proceedings that it was brought against them for what had been done by order of the House. The only object of his hon. and learned Friend was to allow them to state in their plea, in answer to the action, that they had published the document in question by order and with the authority of the House. The hon. Member asked what they would do if the Court of King's Bench decided against them? The House was not bound to submit to that court on a question of its privileges, but they would, support their authority in a way which no judge could set aside. If the House would refer to the case already alluded to, it would be found that the mode of proceeding now proposed had been most ably supported by Sir A. Pigott, Sir Vicary Gibbs, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Wynn). He did not doubt but that the House would assert and maintain its privileges. If they asserted those privileges, which were framed to enable them to discharge the important duties delegated to them, he was sure that public opinion would support them in the steps which it would be necessary to take to vindicate their undeniable privileges. They might act injudiciously in supposing that the court would act erroneously, or that this action could be maintained contrary to all precedent. He protested against its being supposed that by adopting the resolution of the Attorney-General they were submitting their privileges to the Court of King's Bench, or to the other House of Parliament; the House would betray its duty if they submitted its privileges to either of these tribunals.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

would not oppose the motion of the hon. and learned Member; but he intended to give it his most cordial support, and he could not help congratulating the House on what appeared to him to be the virtual abandonment of their privileges which they so hastily adopted the other night. The noble Lord said, that it was not to be supposed that the House had abandoned anything connected with its privileges. If the noble Lord, and those who acted with him, were not afraid of their hasty proceedings the other night, he never saw before such a capital imitation of fear. On Tuesday, with a great sound of war, they brought forward their resolutions, and on Thursday night he found the following language was affixed to a petition then presented, "Stockdale v. Hansard and others." "Upon reading the petition and affidavit of John Joseph Stockdale, I do order that he be admitted to sue in forma pauperis, and do assign him John Curwood, Esq., as his counsel. Dated the 27th day of May, 1837. Denman. "Now, compare this with the resolutions agreed to on the previous Tuesday. That by the law and privilege of Parliament, this House has the sole and exclusive jurisdiction to determine upon the existence and extent of its privileges; and that the institution or prosecution of any action, suit, or other proceeding, for the purpose of bringing them into discussion or decision before any court or tribunal elsewhere than in Parliament, is a high breach of such privilege, and renders all parties concerned therein amenable to its just displeasure, and to the punishment consequent thereon. That for any court or tribunal to assume to decide upon matters of privilege inconsistent with the determination of either House of Parliament thereon, is contrary to the law of Parliament, and is a breach and contempt of the privileges of Parliament. Such were the resolutions; and when they passed them, he thought that the noble Lord had some misgivings as to what might come hereafter. It was impossible for any impartial man to come to any other conclusion than that on the former evening, the voice they manifested was the voice of lions, but their actions now manifested the timidity of hares. The only answer given by the noble Lord to the question of his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, was a reference to the action of Burdett v. Abbott; but the House should recollect that at that period they had not come to such resolutions as he had just read. The noble Lord said, if the judgment of the Court of King's Bench should happen to be against them, no doubt the House would find some means of asserting its privileges, and he said that the people of England would support the House. He did not believe any such thing; on the contrary, if the Court of King's Bench and the sworn judges of the land said that the assertion of such privileges was not in conformity with the law of the land, he was satisfied that the people of England would respond by declaring, that they valued such privileges of that House as they did the paper on which they were written.

Mr. Sergeant Wilde

concurred in the course which was proposed to be taken, although, notwithstanding the authorities quoted in support of the precedent referred to by the noble Lord, he did not think that it was the best mode that could be adopted. He had not found in any case where the Speaker had written to inform the judge of the privileges of that House, that the letter of the Speaker had been thought improper, or had failed, unless in one instance, to have due weight. He thought, however, that it was a matter of great importance that the House should come, if it possibly could, to a unanimous vote on that question. The question, then, was whether the proposed course of proceeding were con- stitutional and proper? He admitted that there was some difficulty in coming to a conclusion, but he must say, with respect to the observations of the hon. Member for Finsbury, that he did not think the course then proposed was inconsistent with the resolutions agreed to the other night. The course proposed by his learned Friend, the Attorney-General, was the most likely to be supported generally by the Members of that House, although it did not exactly meet his view of the case. The House was judge of its own privileges, and it was a breach of privilege for any person to question this before a court of justice. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, that their proceedings in the first place were of a very boastful character, but their actions were very timid; but how often did it happen, in a clear and manifest case of breach of privilege, that that House did not think it necessary to call the parties before them, nor did they think it expedient to inflict punishment in every case? His own opinion was, that parties who brought actions in such cases as the present should be summoned to the bar and dealt with by the House. It appeared to him, from the mode of bringing the action on the part of Green, that he invited this course of proceeding; for the letter of his attorney showed that he knew that he was guilty of a breach of privilege. It seemed to be his ambition to be brought to the bar; and it would be well to gratify him. It was asked how the Court of King's Bench was to be informed of their proceedings in that House? He should say by their own officer; and if the Court directed him to be committed, that House had then the power to protect its officers as the Court of Chancery had. The House was a higher court than the Court of Chancery, and must have at least equal power to protect its officers. He saw no difficulty, therefore, in communicating to the Court that the action was brought in contravention of a resolution of that House, declaring it a breach of privilege. Supposing it was deemed inexpedient to allow the parties to plead in court the privilege of that Home, they might intimate to the sheriff, that any attempt to enforce the writ of execution on the parties against whom the action was brought was a breach of privilege; and if he attempted, notwithstanding, to enforce it, they might bring him to the bar, and order a release to be issued, supposing the parties applied to the Court of King's Bench to order him to execute the writ. This might be done by a motion for an attachment, or the individual might bring an action against him for not executing his duty. It was desirable that that House should avoid getting into altercation or collision with the Court of King's Bench or any other court; and such a collision had occurred so seldom, that there was a difficulty in finding precedents to guide them. It was, however, clear that if any court thought fit to allow proceedings against an officer of that House in the discharge of a duty delegated to him by that House, the House must take care that he should not suffer. As they interrupted the first action, in the emergency of a second action being brought, they might again stop it in its almost final stage, and get rid of the proceedings. The officer would thus remain unmolested, and the parties would gain nothing by it. This would keep them much farther from the chance of collision with the courts of law than any other mode of proceeding. He denied that the motion proposed that night by his learned Friend, the Attorney-General, was at all inconsistent with the resolutions agreed to on a former night. He denied, too, that allowing the parties to put in the plea proposed to these actions would submit the privileges of the House of Commons to the judgment of the Court of King's Bench. It would be merely telling that Court that the act which had been done, and with reference to which the action was brought, was done by order of that House, and was within its privileges, and was protected by it. The court might say that the House had not sufficiently explained their privileges, or that it was not satisfied of the existence of such privileges. He knew that the Court of King's Bench ought, and, he was inclined to believe, would, refuse to proceed in such case, for there was no power vested in any body of more undoubted authority than was the power of that House to determine its own privileges. At least, to enter the plea of the publication being in conformity with the order and the privilege of that House was quite sufficient. He would not indeed say how the courts might decide, for the prevalent opinion in Westminster-hall was against the privilege of the House. The question had been much discussed there; and although the feeling of the bar against the resolutions and in support of the view taken by his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Ripon, was not so general as had been stated by his learned Friend, still, no doubt, it was very extensive. He had had a great deal of communication on this subject with many gentlemen of the bar; but he had not found one who adopted the opinion just referred to, who had looked into the question, or, at any rate, who had looked so fur into it as to be able to maintain it. Most of those gentlemen, after ten minutes' conversation with him on the subject, observed that they were surprised that there was so much in his case. He was satisfied the minds of all these parties would be changed if they would well look into and examine the matter. In fact, the opinion said to prevail in Westminster-hall on the subject was not worthy of consideration, as it was not founded on an examination of the subject. To revert, however, to the question, what would be the position of the House if the plea were overruled? His opinion was, that the House would be placed in a situation of the greatest difficulty. If the Attorney-General appeared in the case, and argued the matter on the part of the House, undoubtedly it would be something like a submission. All the courts were bound to acknowledge the privileges of that House; but if the case were argued before the Court of King's Bench, the Court might determine against the House. He would recommend the Attorney-General, therefore, not to argue the question, but to submit it to the Court and ask for judgment. If the Court pronounced judgment against the resolution, then this House should take up its proper ground, and hon. Members who would not stand boldly forward in defence of these privileges, could not stand up for any other. Hon. Members should be enabled to leave to their successors the privileges which they themselves had a right to enjoy. Great attempts had been made to mislead the public—gross misstatements of the law were daily uttered, but the question to be honestly considered was, what would be the result if the House were to control or put an end to all publication of their proceedings. What could a corrupt Ministry desire more than that that House should legislate in secret? No enemy of the public liberties could require a greater boon than that that House should sanction such proceedings. The precedent would afford ample protection to a corrupt Minister or other public functionary, for it would prevent inquiry into high offences and misdemeanours, as no publicity could be given to the result of such inquiries. If, therefore, the point were conceded, it was impossible that the House could go on with any advantage to the public. In his opinion, the publication of the debates of that House was perfectly legal—quite as much so as the publication of the proceedings in courts of law. In his opinion the publishing of libels by that House, if necessary, was legal. If the publication of a libel, in a case tried before a court of conscience were legal, why should not the publication of the proceedings of that House be also legal? Why should a court of justice have the exclusive liberty? The House of Lords had adopted one undeviating course since 1620, and justified the publication of libels. The hon. and learned Gentleman then referred to the cases of Stockdale and Green. The former complained of having been charged with publishing indecent books. The justice of that complaint could be at once decided on. He was engaged professionally for Stockdale, when his printer brought an action for debt against him. The debt was proved, and the plaintiff would have been entitled to a verdict, but the admitted gross indelicacy of the publication induced the jury to decide in favour of the defendant. He had teen a series of reports of the South Sea bubble and other cases that would have led to interminable actions if this House had not defended its privileges, and he would recommend temperate but resolute upholding of those rights. The hon. and learned Gentleman, after replying to a few of the arguments adduced by the Member for Ripon, said, that too much stress was laid on the decision of Lord Chief Justice Holt. All the other judges differed from him in opinion, and declared, that the Court of King's Bench had no right to discharge a prisoner committed by the House of Commons. Much stress had been laid by the hon. and learned Member for Ripon on a decision of Sir Orlando Bridgman. But, in the first place, he was not a person who was likely to have a high opinion of the privileges of the. House of Commons, since he had been expelled from that House in the reign of Charles 1st., and was made Lord Chief Justice after the restoration of Charles 2nd. Then, in- stead of deciding, as the hon. and learned Member supposed, in the face of two resolutions of the House, he expressly stated, in his judgment, that he had made inquiry of several eminent Parliament men, who informed him, that no such resolution had really been adopted by the House, and that he, therefore, considered the question was a res Integra, perfectly open for the decision of the court. In the case of "The King against Lord Abingdon," which was an action brought against the defendant for a speech published by his authority as delivered by him in the House of Lords, by a party who considered his character slandered by reflections cast upon him in the course of the speech, the House of Lords, actuated by a high sense of honour, had declined to interfere. This case might be brought forward as an illustration of the danger to be apprehended from the publication of speeches containing any reference to individual subjects of the realm, but he must say, that, looking at the probability of such an occurrence arising in practice, the danger could only be considered as chimerical. It was not to be supposed that any Member of Parliament would come down to either House and deliver an address with the purpose of destroying the reputation and wounding the feelings of any individual. The power of defining the limits of its own privileges was necessary, he was convinced, to the useful existence of that House; their claim to it was well founded in constitutional law; and when Gentlemen talked of such a right being above the law of the land, they ought to remember that the law of Parliament was part of the law of the land. The question for the consideration of the House was, whether the claim was consistent with the law of Parliament, which was equally binding upon them with any other part of the law. And he was satisfied that the claim, tried by this standard, would be found just and valid, and that the House would neglect its duty if they failed to assert it.

Mr. George F. Young

said, that though he had listened with great delight to the speech of the right hon. Member for Tam-worth, he took a different view of the rules by which the practice of that House, regarding the publication of its proceedings, had been uniformly directed. The very House of Commons which exercised the most important of all functions—an alteration in the right of succession to the throne, had manifested the greatest reluctance to consent even to the publication of the journals. He found that on the 9th of March, 1688, the question had been put, that the votes of the House be printed. The House divided—the yeas were 145, the ones 180; and it was resolved in the negative. This showed that the strongest resistance was offered to the first step to giving publicity to papers designed for the use of the House. He was justified, then, in contending that ancient usage was against such a construction of Parliamentary law as was advocated by the hon. and learned Sergeant and other Gentlemen at the opposite side. On what grounds could the determination to refuse redress to any individual whose character might be libelled and his prospects ruined by documents put forth by a Committee of that House be defended? It might be Parliamentary justice, but it was not common sense; it was neither natural justice, nor the justice which English judges had from the first age of the Constitution dispensed to English subjects. In fact, the demands put forward by that House could only be enforced by a tyranny more monstrous than had ever existed in the country, except in the days of the Long Parliament. He considered it the duty of every independent Member to stand forward and express his detestation of such principles; and yielding to no Gentleman, as he did, in jealousy and aversion to anything approaching to arbitrary power, he felt himself compelled to declare his objections to the delegation of such power to a popular assembly.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that if the hon. Gentleman would, in the course of tomorrow, go again to the library, and refresh his historical reminiscences, he would find that he had been connecting two circumstances which were distinct and separate. He would find that the resolutions of 1688 and the Bill of Exclusion were separate and distinct transactions.

Mr. George F. Young

had not adverted to the Bill of Exclusion; though he could not put his historical recollections in competition with those of the right hon. Baronet, he was still well aware that the Bill of Exclusion was not passed in the year 1688. He had only alluded to the resolutions of the Houses of Lords and Commons.

The Attorney-General

, in reply, said, that if the hon. Member for Tynemouth would again resort to the library he would find that the proceedings of that House were published for the public information. He was glad to find that his motion had not been seriously opposed. It was quite necessary that some course should be adopted, and he thought that his was better than any other that had been suggested—better even than directing the Speaker to write a letter to the Judges of the Court of King's Bench. He had no doubt that it would gratify Mr. Stockdale to be sent to prison. Mr. Stockdale might, perhaps, deserve to be sent there; but, paltry as he might be, it might give him an importance which did not belong to him, and, therefore, he, for one, would be unwilling to gratify him at the risk of setting the country in a blaze for such a person. The only course that remained to them was either to plead, or to let judgment go by default. In the latter case the plaintiff would be entitled to execution, as a matter of course. There was another course open to them, namely, that adopted in the case of Lord Newburg. In that case the record was ordered to be laid upon the table, and then taken to Palace-yard, and burnt. He was not prepared to take that course. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newark had suggested another course. He recommended that judgment should be allowed to go by default, and then that notice should be served on the sheriff not to execute the execution. He was very much afraid the sheriff would not obey the order. It might so happen that a writ might be sued out against the officers of the House in November, when the House was not sitting, and could take no steps in the matter till the ensuing February. Nothing could, in that case, prevent the full amount of damages which might be awarded against the servant of the House from being levied. Such a course, then, was equally inapplicable with the first. [Mr. Sergeant Wilde: In such an event the amount might be lodged with the sheriff.] He did not think that this would obviate the objection, because then the damages would, in effect, be levied. It was hardly necessary for him to say a word on the question of privilege so conclusively established in the admirable speech of the right hon. Member for Tamworth. Much had been said relative to the resolutions passed by the House on a former evening. He might doubt whether it was necessary to reassert principles so often laid down before; but the language in which they were couched was that held by all Parliamentary lawyers, and every judge of Westminster-hall, from Sir John Fortescue, to Lord Ellen borough. It had uniformly been said, that Parliament was the only judge of its own privileges, and that the judges were ignorant of such matters. The resolutions, then, advanced no new proposition; they merely repeated doctrines held in all ages by Parliament and the courts of law. He had not the least doubt, that when the question came to be fully argued before the judges, they would unanimously come to the decision, that the document which had given rise to the action was a privileged publication. The hon. Member for Newark had mentioned, that many lawyers were opposed to that exposition of the powers of Parliament regarding privilege to which the House had agreed, and he fully concurred with the hon. Member in thinking that those were gentlemen who knew nothing of Parliamentary law. The hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford, had taunted him with speaking irreverently of the judges. He had done nothing of the kind, but he did not hesitate to say, that if the law were otherwise than he asserted it to be, Lord Denman, in quoting and handing the published proceedings of that House to the other judges, would subject himself and them not only to an action but an indictment. The law, however, was not so, and he believed when the case was fully argued the Court of King's Bench would be of the same opinion. He anticipated no other result. The House of Lords were as anxious to maintain their privileges as they were. In 1827, it happened that one of the messengers of the House of Lords took an umbrella from an individual on entering that House. The umbrella was lost, and an action for it was brought against the messenger. What was the consequence? Why, that the party and his solicitor were called to the bar, and if they had not consented not only to abandon the action but to make an ample apology, they would have been both sent to prison. This showed that the Lords were never behind hand in asserting their privileges. He had not brought forward his motion without due consideration of all the remedies suggested; he thought it the least objectionable, and, therefore, he hoped the House would agree to it.

The motion agreed to. The Attorney-General, was also instructed to defend the actions, with a view to the assertion of the privileges of the House.