HC Deb 12 February 1838 vol 40 cc1005-7
Mr. Wakley

said, it was always with regret that he had to speak in the language of complaint, but unfortunately he had too often occasion to address that kind of language to the House. He had strong objections to every thing in the shape of injustice; and the manner in which a large portion of the people were treated by those who, day by day, were allowed to commit a breach of the privileges of that House, was most annoying to his feelings. He alluded to the press. With regard to the press, he had, individually, no cause to complain of its conduct, either before or since he had been a Member of the House; for, on the contrary, it had done him the greatest service, as it was to the press he owed the attainment of the high station he had the honour to hold as a representative of the people. He had been for a long series of years exposed to the abuse of the press, and it was to that abuse he was indebted for his seat in that House. Individually, therefore, he had no cause to complain; and it was on the part of the working millions who came to that House complaining, by petition, of the grievances to which they were subjected, and to seek for redress of those grievances—it was on the part of those who uttered their complaints to that House that he stood forward to complain of the injustice of the press. On Friday last, he had presented seven or eight petitions in favour of the Glasgow cotton-spinners, against whom a sentence of transportation had been passed. He was sorry to go into such a discussion, he did so with reluctance, but if the privileges of the House were to be violated, it ought to be done with the strictest impartiality. The petitions to which he had alluded, complained of the severity of the sentence, and prayed for a mitigation of the punishment. But in The Morning Chronicle of Saturday, there was an entire omission of every one of those petitions—they were not even alluded to, although one of them was signed by upwards of 18,000 persons. That fact might be of little importance; but what followed? The hon. and learned Member for Dublin immediately after presented a petition, and that petition being from the merchants, bankers, and respectable traders of Dublin, a description was given of its contents in The Morning Chronicle. In The Times newspaper, there were only two lines of a notice of the petitions which he had presented. It was stated, that "Mr. Wakley presented several petitions in favour of a remission of the punishment awarded to the five Glasgow cotton-spinners;" but in the following paragraph it was mentioned that—" Mr. O'Connell presented a petition signed by the Lord Mayor and 4,000 inhabitants of Dublin, praying for an inquiry into the system of combination amongst workmen." Now, he would ask, was that House prepared to witness, day by day, a violation of its privileges; and, at the same time, to witness without notice such an act of injustice? Some hon. Members might consider the Glasgow cotton-spinners guilty; but it ought not to be kept from the public, that there were thousands upon thousands who considered the sentence upon those unfortunate men as far too severe, and who prayed by petition to that House for a mitigation of punishment. He did not intend to make any motion on the subject, but he wished to state for the information of the House and of the public, that on Friday last, he had presented petitions from Manchester and Salford, from the committee of the trades of Edinburgh, from the united labourers of Edinburgh, from the operative masons of Scotland, from the operative cork-cutters of London, from Linwood, and from the working lasses of Dundee, praying for a remission of the sentence. He had now, in conclusion, to state, that whatever might be the consequences to himself, or whatever might be the consequences to that House, he would, if a similar course of injustice were pursued on future occasions, fearlessly and perseveringly exercise the privilege to which he was entitled—he would call the attention of the Chair to the fact of strangers being in the House, and, as the consequence, have every stranger rigorously excluded; for, in his opinion, it was better that none of their proceedings should be reported, than that a partial and incorrect account should go forth, giving rise to delusion and misconception in the public mind. The hon. Member concluded, by presenting several petitions.

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