HC Deb 17 June 1839 vol 48 cc328-427
Lord John Russell

having moved the Order of the Day for the consideration of the report of the committee on printed papers said, that not having been one of the majority in the committee, he thought it right to say, that if any proposition was to be made to the House respecting the opinion of the majority of that committee, he was quite ready to permit such proposition to be made to the House; what he had to propose could come after such a motion had been made, and he would then state the course which, as he thought, the House ought to take under the present circumstances.

Mr. Williams Wynn

said, that whatever course it might be fit for those who supported the report to take it would be fitter, in the first place, that her Majesty's Ministers who had proposed the appointment of the committee, and who had hitherto moved all the steps taken by the House in this business, should explain the course which they meant to propose the House should pursue; it was, for them to state this, and it would be for the House to judge afterwards how far they would act upon the recommendation.

Lord John Russell

had already said that he was ready to state the course which, in his opinion, ought to be pursued; but it was a matter for the House to determine, for it interfered with the privileges and powers of the House of Commons as a House of Commons, and it did not relate to the conduct of the Government as a Government. It was, however, necessary that in the present circumstances some course should be proposed without any further lapse of time. To-morrow a most important legal step would be taken in the proceedings in the action in respect to which the House had taken the circumstances into consideration. If he did not feel the great necessity of some immediate decision being come to with reference to this question, and that some immediate measure or resolution should be adopted, he would have left it to those who had more deeply studied, and more closely followed than he had done, the question of privilege, and who would have recommended it with greater fertility of argument, and with greater weight of authority; but as it was necessary that some immediate steps should be taken, and as the House from the report of the committee, now knew the absolute necessity of coming to an immediate decision, whether the House would or would not take any further steps with respect to this action, and to certain proceedings which might be taken against the printers of the House, he would therefore propose certain resolutions for adoption by the House. In the first place, and before proceeding further, he would put the House in possession of the resolutions which it was his intention to move. He would move, first, That it is the opinion of this House, that under the special circumstances of the case of Stockdale v. Hansard, it is not expedient to adopt any further proceedings for the purpose of staying the execution of the judgment. And secondly, That this House, considering the power of publishing such of its reports, votes and proceedings, as it shall deem necessary or conducive to the public interests, an essential incident to its constitutional functions, will enter into the consideration of such measures as it may be advisable to take, in consequence of the recent judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, for the maintenance and protection of that power, so soon as the Committee shall have made that full and complete report on this important matter, which they have declared it to be their intention to make in the commencement of their second report. He would now state as shortly as he could the reasons why, as he thought, the House ought to come to that practical conclusion, without entering upon that larger and graver question which the House would consider upon receiving the full and complete report, or when any fresh proceedings should be taken against the printer publishing under the order of the House. When he proposed to the House the resolution, that under the special circumstances of the case, it was not expedient to take any further proceeding for the purpose of staying the execution of the writ, he was bound to state that his own impression was, that nothing which had occurred in consequence of the resolution of the House, which recommended to the House the adoption of the pleading to the action, had put it out of the power of the House to take instant and immediate proceedings to stop the execution of the writ. The argument in that behalf had been stated very clearly and very ably in the Committee by an hon. and learned Member, who had placed his opinions upon record, in the form of an amendment to the report, drawn up by his noble Friend, the Chairman of the Committee. This was also the opinion of many Members of the House belonging to the profession of the law, who had considered the case, before the House had determined to direct the Attorney-general to plead in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard—of many Members belonging to the profession of the law, belonging to both sides of the House, who had informed him, and had informed the House also, that such was their opinion. It was likewise stated, that the same course was taken in a stronger case than the present—in the action brought against the Speaker by Sir Francis Burdett. Mr. Ponsonby was of opinion that the Speaker ought to plead to the action, though he thought, at the same time, that the House ought to commit the solicitor in the action. That was the course adopted by the House upon that occasion, and by the Government of that day; and so far as the direction went, it was agreed in by Mr. Ponsonby, who was a high authority, not only from his studies and his station, but as belonging to the political party opposed to the Government of that day. All that the House had done by pleading was, in effect, to inform the Court of Queen's Bench that this was considered by the House of Commons as a question involving the privileges of the House of Commons, and a power which they deemed essential to the performance of their functions; they had, therefore, pleaded in order to bring correctly and formally before the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench the information, that the House of Commons so considered it. It was obvious that the pleading to this cause, and placing this opinion before the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, could not prevent the House of Commons from taking any proceeding they thought, proper after the decision of the judges of I the Court of Queen's Bench. But it was a totally different question, whether the House of Commons, being competent to stay the execution of the writ, would give any such directions. The first question, then, which he asked himself was, whether it would be consistent with justice that they should do so? He owned that he could not persuade himself that it would. The House of Commons had brought the question under the consideration of the judges. They were bound not merely to accept the information from the House of Commons, that they considered it part of their privileges, but also whether they were legally prevented from giving their judgement in this case as they would in any other which might come before the courts of law. This being the case they had, whether rightly or wrongly, decided, that the defence was not sufficient, and judgment was given for the plaintiff. The damages had since been assessed by a sheriff's jury, and 100l. had been awarded. The sheriff, who would have to execute the writ in consequence of this award, would have no means of considering whether he had received any legal or sufficient authority to induce him to execute the writ. The sheriff was not the party instituting the action; he was not the solicitor bringing it forward, he was not the counsel appearing on behalf of the plaintiff; he was not the judge who had decided against the privileges of the House of Commons; he was only the ex ecutive officer to whom and in the legal and usual course in an action would be entrusted the execution of the writ to levy the damages against the defendant. It seemed hard, then, to pass over the party, to pass over the solicitor, to pass over the counsel, to pass over the court which had delivered the judgment, and to commit the sheriff who would have to execute the writ. This would be, as he thought, against those notions of justice which all men, whether learned or unlearned, would entertain upon this subject. He would say, then, with respect to this particular action—not merely allowing, but asserting that the House of Commons was right in instructing the Attorney-general to plead in the action—that in the present stage of the proceedings, after judgment had been given, it would not be consistent with justice to order the sheriff not to proceed with the execution of the writ, with a view of committing him to custody if he should disobey such order. When he said, that such a course was not consistent with justice, he thought that he had already said, that it would not be consistent with expediency. If they were to proceed in this question in a manner which would be thought by the people of this country in general, as it appeared to him, inconsistent with justice, there could be no higher degree of inexpediency—there could be no more decisive evidence of the inexpediency than the idea, that such a decision would not have justice on its side. He would not, therefore, enlarge upon the impression that might be produced, or upon the feelings that might be created, by a proceeding, on the part of the House of Commons, which would excite general repugnance and dissent. It was sufficient for him to I state, that he thought those feelings of repugnance and dissent would be naturally excited, and therefore he had come to the conclusion, that it was not expedient in this case to adopt any proceeding for the purpose of staying the execution of the writ. He thought, that the House I was not debarred if there should be a case of absolute necessity; but as he did not consider, that the sheriff was the person on whom the punishment ought to fall, it would be highly inexpedient to take that course. Having said thus much in support of the first resolution, he would state with regard to the second, that he thought it necessary to make some few remarks in favour of the resolution to which the House had already come, and the substance of which was stated in the report, namely, that the House should have the power of publishing such of its votes and proceedings as it should deem necessary or conducive to the public interests, and which it stated to be incident to its constitutional rights and privileges. The House would recollect an action was commenced in the Court of Queen's Bench; but they did not think it proper without further knowledge, both on the part of the public and on the part of the judges, to order the commitment of any persons who were parties to the proceeding. The House decided, that the Attorney-general should appear and state that the House of Commons considered this was a function and a power necessarily belonging to them; and it appeared to him, that in so proceeding, while they did not give up the lights of the House, the House had acted with great temper and moderation. They might have taken a less moderate and more violent course; but it appeared to him, that the House had acted right in submitting to the judges the grounds on which they thought that no action could be maintained. His hon, and learned Friend, the Attorney-general, had stated with very great ability, with very great learning, and with very great judgment, all the points which it was incumbent on him to press on the attention of the court. He (Lord John Russell) would not enter into a consideration of the precedents which his hon. and learned Friend had quoted upon that occasion, but he thought it necessary to say a few words as to the nature of the decision which had been come to by the judges upon this question. His hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-general, had stated to the House, immediately after the judgment was pronounced, the general effect and substance of the opinion of the judges. That statement was impugned at the time; but from what he (Lord John Russell) had read since of the opinions of the judges, he must say, that it not only confirmed the general accuracy of his hon. and learned Friend's opinion, and had also confirmed him in the opinion, that however right the House of Commons might have been in not proceeding to any violent or extreme measures till they had submitted, by pleading, their cases to the judges, yet that the judges, however con scientious they might decide the question, and however great might be the learning displayed by them, were not the fit judges of the privileges of the House of Commons. It was not wonderful that it should be so; it was consonant with the whole of our history; it was consonant with examples without number, that the judges, however eminent they might be in their own places, and however eminent they might be in the discharge of the functions which they had to perform, were and ought not to be the supreme judges of the powers and the privileges of the House of Commons. On matters which were not of a nature to come under their usual consideration, and to attract their daily and ordinary attention, it was obvious that they must come to a narrow and a very exclusive decision. He would take the liberty of reading some passages from the judgments of some of the judges in support of the opinion which he had given, and he would not have done so unless the statement of his hon. and learned Friend had been impugned the other evening, and as consequently this general statement of his own was liable to contradiction in that House. The case before the court arose out of the reports of the inspectors of prisons, and it was the opinion of Lord Denman that the statement of the inspectors of prisons had nothing to do with the proceedings of the House. Let it be observed, that this was not a legal opinion, arising on any legal question, but this legal question, not being a question for judgment. The Lord Chief Justice of the court of Queen's Bench, had thus spoken in his judgment of the proceedings of the House of Commons:— It is likewise fit to remark, that the defamatory matter has no bearing on any question in Parliament, or that could arise there. Whether the book found in the possession of a prisoner in Newgate were obscene or decent, could have no influence in determining how prisons could best be regulated, still less could the irrelevant issue whether it was published by the plaintiff. He would now beg to call the attention, of the House to this question in particular. It might happen, that matters were ready for the consideration of the House, of which no present notice was taken; but it occurred that on this question in particular, not only might the opinion of Parliament be fitly pronounced, but more than once they had been called upon to do so. Three years ago, in 1836, as he thought, or in 1837, a bill for the regulation of prisons was introduced into the House of Lords. It passed that House; it was then sent to this House. The bill in general met with the approval of the House, but one exception was taken to it. It was said by many Members in that House, that the prison of Newgate was exceedingly well managed; that there was little or no abuse, and that there was little that required regulation; and he was threatened with the loss of the bill, if he did not exempt the prison of Newgate, from its operation. The exception in favour of this prison seemed to him to be unreasonable. An inquiry in the House of Lords showed, that the prison was not so free from irregularity as it had been said, and he declined, to exempt Newgate from the bill. Only let them conceive, then, a person—he would not say an excellent judge, but only conceive a judge saying, that any question as to the prison of Newgate had nothing to do with legislation, when the very question was whether Newgate was so well regulated as to preclude the necessity of inspection. The next year a committee sat on the regulation of prisons, and the first question was, whether it was not possible to propose better means of regulating Newgate, and whether it was not possible to build a new prison?—and the committee reported in favour of such a resolution; and was he to be told, that the regulations in force in Newgate, were matters which could not properly come before the House of Commons. When the House considered the question as to the possibility of substituting any better course of prison discipline, it was important that the House should know what the inspectors of prisons, authorised by the Legislature, said as to the prison visitors, as to the gaolers, and though on a minor subject, still on an important one, as to what books were introduced. It was a part, a small part if they would, but still a part of the general system of prison discipline. The judge said, also, that if the ascertainment of these facts "by the House was a thing indifferent, still less would the publication of them to the world answer any one Parliamentary purpose." When the prison inspectors reported, that the management of Newgate was very loose, that obscene books were introduced there to the con tamination of the youthful prisoners, it was surely just and proper, that the Court of Aldermen and those who had the management of that prison should be made acquainted with that report, that they might contradict its accuracy, if they could. Yet it would seem, according to the learned judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, that any Member of the House who, when the report was printed, should have communicated it to the Court of Aldermen or any person not a Member of the House, would have been guilty of publishing defamatory matter, and subjected to the most vexatious, expensive, and harassing proceedings. Another learned judge was also of opinion that, though Members ought to have their papers, they ought not to communicate them to other persons, and Lord Denman observed, The reasoning is, if you permit the number of copies to be as large as the number of Members, the secret will not be confined to them; and this affords a strong appeal to justice and expediency against printing, even for the use of the Members, what may escape from their hands to the injury of others. So that the bias of the learned Chief Judge's mind was, that if any doubt existed on the subject, that doubt would induce him to decide against the power of printing even for the use of Members. The judgment of another learned judge (Mr. Justice Patteson) extended to a great length over the whole question. In the course of it, he observed: It is said, that if papers, however defamatory, must needs be printed for the use of the Members, as it is plain they must, and the point is not disputed, their further circulation cannot be avoided; for what is to be done with the copies upon a dissolution of Parliament, or upon the death or retirement of a Member? The answer is obvious; the copy of such defamatory matter ought to be destroyed. Now, only imagine the House of Commons reduced to such a position as that each of its Members should be obliged to destroy his copies of all Parliamentary papers on the dissolution of Parliament, or his retirement from the House. He would put this case: the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets at the commencement of the Session retired from Parliament, on his acceptance of the judgeship of the Admiralty Court. According to the views of Mr. Justice Patte son, the first thing the right hon. and learned judge should have done on resigning his seat would have been to go into his library and destroy all copies of such of his Parliamentary papers as might contain what could be considered defamatory matter. This statement of the learned judge showed the House that whatever course they might think fit to adopt, whatever should be the result of the advice of the Committee, it was quite impossible they could acquiesce in this opinion of the learned judge. He did not see, for instance—and this point did not appear to have at all occurred to the judges—he did not see, for instance, how the House could entertain any complaint respecting the conduct of a person holding office, or in the situation of a judge, or proceed to any address for the removal of such person, if they were not able to communicate to any party, even to the party accused, copies of the complaint made against him. There was an infinity of cases which could be put forward as illustrations to show, that the House could not admit this interpretation of the learned judge. Put the case of the proceedings in a question in which the hon. Member for Oxford took such interest, the slave trade, and the conduct of the Government respecting that trade, as carried on under the flag of Portugal. According to the court of law, if the hon. Member moved for copies of the despatches which had passed on this subject between the Government of this country and the Government of Portugal, and these were produced, it would be perfectly competent in the Government of Portugal to go to the Court of Queen's Bench, and say, that these despatches were in some part of their contents a libel, either against the Government, or against some captain of a vessel, or against the Queen of Portugal in general, and proceed to an action. And how, again, would the Government of this country be able to defend themselves in reference to any proceedings they might advise her Majesty to adopt on the subject of Portugal, if they were not able to communicate to the country what the case was as regarded the Portuguese slave-trade. But then the question, as stated by Mr. Justice Patteson, came to this, whether or not the House of Commons or the Court of Queen's Bench was to decide ultimately and absolutely with respect to the privileges of the House. Mr. Justice Patteson argued that it was the Court of Queen's Bench which was to make inquiries and decide on the points, and, indeed, as the Attorney-General had observed, not only the Court of Queen's Bench, but any court of quarter sessions, or borough court, or any other inferior tribunal, might make inquiries, and decide upon these points, according to the opinion of the learned Judge. He was ready to admit, that it was quite possible for the House of Commons to exceed the due and proper powers which were vested in it, and necessarily vested in it, for the performance of its duties. Indeed, Mr. Justice Coleridge had put this extreme case, that the House of Commons might order capital execution to be done on a person convicted of petty larceny. This certainly was a very extreme case, and if the putting such extreme cases had anything to do with the real bearing of the question, it would be very easy to suppose an extreme case on the part of the court, though it would be difficult to go beyond that suggested by the learned Judge. But the House must bear in mind, that if the judges were to have the power of defining the privileges of the House, they might not only prevent any new privileges being asserted, but they might also restrict the ancient privileges of the House, and deprive them of all their powers; for that tribunal in which was vested the power of explaining, interpreting, limiting, and restricting the privileges of the House, would also have the power of settling what those privileges should be. He could imagine the case of some Member making a speech in the House against one of the learned judges in England, Scotland, or Ireland, and asking the House to proceed to an address against him. If the case were brought before the Court of Queen's Bench, it might be argued in answer, that the party who had made the speech in the House of Commons was not answerable for it, as it was spoken in the House of Commons. Upon this the judge might say, upon the newly-declared principle—he (Lord John Russell) was only following the example of a learned judge in putting an extreme case—the judge might say, it is true that Members have the power of saying what they please in their own Court of Parliament; but when the House has once admitted strangers to be present at their debates, when they have declared their opinions in the presence of strangers in particular cases, or against particular persons, this is a communication to strangers, a publication to the world, and the opinion becomes a slander, and an action for slander will lie against the person making the speech, not because he pronounced it as a Member of the House, but because he pronounced it in presence of several persons sitting in the gallery, and therefore virtually published it. Such a judgment given by the Court of Queen's Bench would not be near as extreme a case as that which had been quoted in order to justify depriving the House of its ancient and essential privileges. There was no case so extreme, so absurd, so improbable, that might not be imagined for the purpose of affording grounds for taking away any power vested in the House of Commons, the House of Lords, or the Crown. The Crown had the clear right of declaring war against all the powers of Europe tomorrow, if it thought fit; but would any one make this very improbable contingency a ground for demanding that the Crown should be deprived of its right to declare war. It would be utterly preposterous and unjust to talk of depriving the Crown or either House of Parliament of their due and essential and constitutional powers, because it was possible to conceive a case in which these powers might be improperly exercised. He would repeat his admission, that the House might possibly exceed its powers; but he could see no means of its maintaining its authority, its dignity, its independence, except reserving to itself entire and undiminished, the power of declaring what were its due and constitutional privileges, and by taking care that such a declaration on its part should beheld final and sufficient throughout the empire With respect to the manner in which these powers were to be best asserted, the way in which the House could best proceed on the general question, he did not propose to give any opinion whatever on this occasion. The House had seen that their Committee, having considered this matter very anxiously, was extremely embarrassed as to the course to be pursued. He found that even Gentlemen on the Committee, the most conversant with the subject, and the most competent to give an opinion on it—the Attorney-General, among others, had great doubts as to the course to be adopted, and he thought it better to abstain at present from offering any suggestion on the point. All he would do on this occasion would be to declare his conviction, that the maintenance of their power to print their votes and proceedings was essential to them, and must not in the slightest degree be abandoned, if the House wished to preserve its efficiency and its authority.

On the first resolution being read,

Dr. Lushington

said, he should have been glad if some other Member had addressed the House on this resolution before he himself offered a few remarks upon it. He had not been a member of the committee to whom the consideration of this question was originally proposed; but he had the honour afterwards to be named on the committee which lately sat, whose report the House was now considering, and he felt himself bound to come forward under the existing circumstances, not to oppose the resolution of his noble Friend, but to support and maintain the opinion which, after much consideration, he had taken the liberty of stating in the committee. There was a great deal in the speech of his noble Friend to which he (Dr. Lushington) could give his acquiescence. He concurred in his opinion, that this was a privilege indispensable to be maintained by the House of Commons, without which it would be utterly impossible for the House honestly to discharge its duties to its constituents. But after hearing this privilege so ably maintained, and the various parts of the judgment so ably animadverted on by the noble Lord, he (Dr. Lushington) must confess that he looked upon the conlusion to which the noble Lord had come as an abandonment of the privileges of the House. This was a question of vital importance to the interest of the people at large. It was not a question of personal privilege. It was not a question of privilege from arrest, a privilege affecting themselves personally, or their property; but it was a question of a privilege without the exercise of which they could never satisfactorily perform their inquisitorial duties, expose the abuses which might exist in the administration of justice, give satisfaction to their constituents, or do justice to the people of this country. Let the House look at the circumstances of this case; let them reflect what their position would be if they once abandoned this privilege; and then let them ask themselves how, on a future occasion, differing as it might in all essen tial particulars from the present case,—how, if they now submissively humbled themselves before the judges, they could have the slightest prospect of success in their asserting that privilege which they had almost unanimously voted to be essential to the House. How bold was the House in conclusions! how courageous in recording its opinion! how weak—how vacillating—how imbecile, in acting upon it! How did this question come before the House?—how did it originate?—in any extraordinary exertion of the rights of the House—in carrying its power to its extremest bounds—or in the performance of one of its first, its greatest, its most sacred functions? It originated in an inquiry into the gaols of the country—an inquiry into those dungeons which within his own memory he recollected to have been not merely full of abuse, cruelty, and injustice, but the fostering haunts of crime and contamination. In the prosecution of that great and most just inquiry, inspectors were sent into these gaols, whose reports were ordered to be laid on the Table of the House. These reports were laid on the Table of the House, and from them it appeared, that in a prison—not in a distant part of the country, where there were slight inspections, where there was little inquiry as to whether abuse existed—but in a prison in the heart of the metropolis, within two miles of the House of Commons, within the City of London, and under the management of a body who had shown themselves excessively zealous of their own privileges; that here there had been found the abomination of abominations, a prison half filled with youth of both sexes, in which the most obscene, demoralizing, and disgusting books were allowed freely to circulate. And who was the plaintiff in this case? A man whose character had been unjustly slandered, who was smarting under the injustice of a publication without having the opportunity of vindicating himself and his property before the world, as might happen in the case of a man against whom a petition was presented containing particular charges?—No such thing: the plaintiff was the very publisher of these horrible publications, the very author of the crime, the very individual who sent forth these obscene books! This was the man who came forward, and brought an action impugning the privileges of the House. It would be utterly impossible for ingenuity to imagine a case which presented less grounds for an action—impossible so to combine together circumstances as to form a case which should present to the mind greater iniquity in the offence, or a greater offender in this respect than the person bringing the action. It was said, that the House would be taking an unpopular course in contravening the judgment of the court of law—that the people of England would stand by the court of justice in insulting the House of Commons. He (Dr. Lushington) would tell the House that the people of England would do no such thing. As he said in the committee, he would repeat now, and from the bottom of his heart, "Go to the people of England, and tell them this; go to the poor parents, to the poor widow, with children dependent on her, and under her control, and having scarcely the means of supporting them; tell her, that should these children become the victims of crime and of accusation, they will be shut up in a prison, where such contamination as these books will surround them." Did the House suppose that the people of England would not have all their feelings aroused against this? They would reflect, that the innocent as well as the guilty were inmates of this gaol. What said the noble Lord? His opinion was, that it would be unjust to proceed in this matter now. If it were unjust, the question would be at an end; but he denied that it was so. How did the case arise? The Attorney-General had proposed a course which had been followed. He should not trouble the House with any legal argument on the subject, but he would maintain this: that all that had been done by pleading in that action did not admit the jurisdiction or concede the right of the Court of Queen's Bench to try the action but merely informed the Court of Queen's Bench in the most authoritative form and in the most respectful manner, that this was an act of the House of Commons, that it was done by their order, and that they demanded that the proceedings should be put an end to. The resolution which the House had come to passed unanimously—at any rate, there was no division upon it. Well, then, the House having acted with such forbearance, having acted in strict conformity with former proceedings, and the Court of Queen's Bench having thought fit to disregard the communication from the House of Commons so authoritatively made, was it consistent with propriety, with the maintenance of its just rights, that the House should now abstain from further proceedings in the matter? The noble Lord talked of injustice. To whom would injustice be done? The noble Lord said, to the sheriff. But no one proposed to commit the sheriff. What was proposed, was to give notice to the sheriff, in the name of the House of Commons, that if he proceeded to execute the writ, he would be guilty of contempt. It was said, that it was the duty of the sheriff to execute the writ; he would assert that it was not. It was his duty to obey the House of Commons. The House of Commons was the judge of its own privileges, and if they abandoned any of those privileges, it would be impossible for them efficiently to perform their duty to the country. Assuming that the sheriff obeyed the order of the House, and any proceedings were taken against him in consequence, then it would be the bounden duty of the House to uphold him, and to commit to the custody of the sergeant-at-arms any individual, be he who he might, who ventured to outrage the House by contravening its orders. Had the House become so impotent that it could not, and so pusillanimous that it dared not, defend itself from aggression? If so, it had better at once formally abandon all its nominal privileges, and become really as powerful as it seemed to suppose itself to be. His noble Friend had gone on to propose, that, after having thus submissively prostrated itself at the feet of the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, after giving this precedent of entire acquiescence in the dicta of those judges, the House should, when the report came, set about devising some plan which should have the effect of preventing the recurrence of this breach of the privileges of the House. He could not conceive it impossible that, in any report which could be made by the committee, any means could be suggested to the consideration of the House, for replacing the House in the position in which it now stood—namely, with the power and full right, at the very first moment a court of law declined to acknowledge its authority, to go fully, and in the face of the country unflinchingly assert and maintain its privileges in the most distinct and unequivocal manner. He might be asked what practical course he should propose. Had he the slightest prospect of obtaining any extensive support, any hope of being able, by a motion, to maintain the privileges of the House as they ought to be maintained, humble individual as he was, he would not shrink from the responsibility, if no other Member of the committee, entertaining similar opinions were to come forward and propose a resolution. [Cries of "Move, move!"] But, no: diis aliter visum; and after the opinion which the noble Lord, so justly looked up to by his party, had given, it would be absurd, not to say impertinent, on his (Dr. Lushington's) part, to attempt to force a motion of his own on the House. He would only observe, in conclusion, that the evils depicted by the noble Lord as imminent, if they abandoned this privilege, were nothing compared to the reality.

Sir R. H. Inglis

said, that whatever gratitude might have been awakened in the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, towards his right hon. Friend by the opening passages of his speech, every succeeding sentence must have tended gradually to dispel it, because, whatever might be the decision, or the vote with which that speech closed, all the intermediate part was most hostile to the noble Lord's proceedings. A termination more contradictory to the great body of a speech he had never heard. The speech itself, indeed, was worthy of the talents, worthy of the eloquence of his right hon. and learned Friend, worthy of everything, except its conclusion; and why, after seeing so clearly as he did the conclusion to which he should have come, he should stop short and turn round and take another course, was most extraordinary. He would say now, what he had said two years ago, that they had placed themselves in the most difficult position, after being led on by two learned Gentlemen, in which, as a legislative body, they had ever been placed. He saw no alternative for them but retreat, after eating as much leek as ever was eaten by ancient Pistol. He had warned them that such would be the result; and had formerly stated, that the easiest and straightest course would be to retrace their steps. He had told them on the 1st of May 1837, they should do that which they were prepared to do on the 17th of June, 1839—that was, most humbly to acknowledge, by a resolution on the journals of the House, not perhaps in such strong words as he was about to use, that they had bullied the courts of law, and finding that to be of no use, would alter their conduct. His right hon. and learned Friend had made a most grandiloquent speech, to night, about their rights and privileges, and he remembered, when in like manner, the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Attorney-general declared, that there was no lawyer in Westminster-hall who held a different opinion on this question; yet on the very first division, though the Attorney-general was followed by 120 Members, and the minority did not consist of more than 36, yet the number of lawyers in each division, was, he believed, alike 12; and the views of those in the minority had been since confirmed, not only by the opinion of the great body of the bar, and of the House, but by the unanimous judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench. His right hon. and learned Friend though he had adopted the conclusion of the noble Lord, had suggested, that the course which the House ought to take was not to summon the sheriff to attend at the Bar of this House, but to warn the sheriff and to give him notice, that if he executed the writ of execution he would contravene the judgment and violate the privileges of the House. What next would the right hon. and learned Gentleman do, supposing the sheriff did execute the writ? The sheriff was bound to execute the writ issued to him by a superior court, and without assuming much professional knowledge, he apprehended, that a party having obtained a writ, had some means of calling upon the law to enable him to obtain the amount of the damages which had been assessed to him. If so, was it possible to conceive, that in the event of the sheriff neglecting to levy, a party having obtained such a writ would be content to remain twenty-four hours quiet, and thus to leave his verdict, as it were, reversed, and himself deprived of the pecuniary benefit awarded to him. If, he repeated, the sheriff should be frighted from his duty by the course suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, could it be doubted but that some means would be found to call upon that officer to execute the law, and then, he begged to ask, would the House be prepared to seize the Judges of the Court of Queen's Bench, with the Lord Chief Justice of England, himself a Peer? He called upon his right hon. and learned Friend opposite to answer that question in the face of the House and of the country. Let him not fly at the inferior birds—let him seize the eagle at once, and on that principle bring the Lord Chief Justice of England to the bar. He believed no man possessed more moral courage than his right hon. and learned Friend but if he engaged the people of England in such a contest, some physical as well as moral courage would be necessary. He believed it would produce a revulsion in the country if the course hinted at by his right hon. and learned Friend, and to which the House had been invited the other day by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, was pursued. But until it was resolved to bring the Lord Chief Justice to the Bar, then, and not till then, ought any attempt to be made to resist the sheriff; for, let it not be supposed, that any moral courage would be displayed by letting the great authority pass free, and taking only the inferior party. Who was it, that had overruled their privileges? Not the party to the action nor the jury who assessed the damages, nor the counsel, nor the attorney, nor the sheriff, but the expositors of the law, who called on the jury by their order to assess damages, and who directed the sheriff to execute their writ. His noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) had quoted passages from the speeches of the judges in a way which would give the House a very imperfect view of the judgments and opinions of those learned personages. His noble Friend had quoted a passage from the judgment of Mr. Justice Patteson, which had been open to much unseemly ridicule both when the matter was formerly before the House and in committee. While the noble Lord was making that quotation, there was sitting near him, another noble Lord his colleague who had been a party in the cause quoted by Mr. Justice Patteson in p. 177 of the parliamentary volume which he (Sir R. Inglis) held in his hand, and which opened the question, what were confidential communications, and what were not? The learned judge said:— In the case of' Fairman v. Ivis,' 5 Barnewall and Alderson, 642, a petition addressed by the creditor of an officer in the army to Lord Palmerston, the Secretary-at-War, was held not to be actionable, although containing defamatory matter; but can it be doubted, that if Lord Palmerston had ordered it to be published, the publisher would not have been liable to an action? Or, can it be contended, that the Secretary of State, to whom the report and reply on which this action is brought were by act of Parliament directed to be sent, to be by him laid before Parliament, would have been justified in publishing them? And if not, why should the House of Commons be at liberty to do so. The noble Lord there stopped, but he should have added the next passage:— In the same manner, the protection of all confidential communications extends no further than the necessity of each particular case requires. The learned judge then made a great distinction between communications which were, and those which were not, privileged. And, on that authority, he contended, as he had once on a former occasion, that a privileged communication was that which was intended only for the use of Members of that House, and that communications were not privileged, which, by sale or otherwise, were published to others. Now, no one pretended to set up any distinction as to the act of publication, between the distribution and the sale of Parliamentary documents. He had formerly contended, that the House was not at liberty to publish by way of sale, but the decision of the judges had satisfied him that he was wrong, that sale made no legal difference in the act of publication, and that neither by sale or gratuitous distribution had the House a right to publish matter which was essentially libellous. Half the argument in this case rested on the difference between libellous and privileged communications necessary for the information of the House, and it was only necessary for the House to avoid libels to escape all the difficulty. There was not one case in twenty in which the most fastidious person might find anything libellous in the papers of the House. Why, then, in the instance Which formed the matter of the trial, was not greater care exercised? Could it be said that it was impossible to exercise sufficient care to avoid libel? Why, in many instances, in the police committee for instance, parties implicated had been designated by the letters A, B, C, and D, and though all the facts appeared for the judgment of the House in these reports, still they contained nothing that could lead the world to know who were the parties designated by those letters, and therefore those parties could not be damaged or injured. He repeated, therefore, that it was easy to do this, and that greater caution should be exercised in the publications directed, and that the House ought not to consider itself at liberty to publish every matter or allegation brought forward before its committees, when there was no opportunity of defence on the other side. In the present instance the name of the author had been suppressed, and why had not, also, the name of the publisher? The whole difficulty had arisen from the carelessness, the recklessness, and the want of attention, with which a Parliamentary document had been published and sent forth to the world. But it was now too late to refer to this; the House had got into a great scrape, (the simplest word is the only one fit for the occasion) and the only question was how to get out of it. The proposition on which he (Sir R. Inglis) had originally desired to take the sense of the House, was one which, in substance would have met the views of his noble Friend opposite. But it occurred to him, that his noble Friend having abandoned the great and leading proposition—namely, the right of the House to resist the law, had comforted himself with the consolation, that he might keep in petto materials for vindicating with effect the dignity of the House on a future occasion. That comfort was for ever denied his noble Friend after the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets. He did not stand there to defend the character of the party who had brought this matter to issue—into the merits of that question he did not at all think it necessary to enter; it had not been raised on the pleadings, but by observations, in which he could not concur, His noble Friend had cited many instances from the judgments of the learned judges, to show how little they ought to be trusted with powers to revoke the privileges of the House. He (Sir R. Inglis) might deny the conclusion at which his noble Friend had arrived; but what would be the result of his noble Friend's proposition? Did it not leave the judges in exactly the same position? Would it be impossible that next week there might arise a similar ease, and another, and another? But by the second resolution of his noble Friend some ulterior result was to be reserved. This was to be accomplished either by a resolution of the House or by a bill to be passed through Parliament. As to a resolution, was it not clear that those who had already set at nought one resolution would set aside another? Then, if the remedy was to be by bill, it must be either a declaratory or enabling bill—if the former, it must declare that to be law which the Court of Queen's Bench had pronounced not to be law, and which the House, by not resisting that decision, had also said was not law. Was not that resistance open to the Attorney-General on behalf of the House? The hon. and learned Gentleman had not exhausted all the resources which the law afforded him, but he had not ventured upon them. There was a writ of error open to him, but the hon. and learned Gentleman feared to tale that course, as it might lead to the same result. A declaratory bill would, therefore, surely not be resorted to. Would they, then, proceed by an enabling bill? How could the power of that House to claim, or of the other to concede, be limited? When a bill was introduced to "enable" that House to exercise certain privileges, they must exercise them under the controul of another body. Now he would not enter into the question which body was the most popular, or the most deserving; but this he would say, that it would be as unconstitutional for that House to yield to the House of Lords in a matter relating to their own privileges as to yield to the learned judges themselves. What, then, were they to do in this case? No man could feel more than he did the difficulties in which the House was placed, nor desire more earnestly and sincerely to put an end to them, because he admitted to the fullest extent the principle, that the privileges of that House were not for individual Members, but for the benefit of the people whom they represented. That, however, which was before theory, had now become fact; that which had been thought a mere legal supposition, had now been decided by the Court of Queen's Bench. The course of the House, then, was clear. If they could not evade or resist that decision by any process, known either to themselves or to the constitution, their first duty as good subjects was to obey the law, and to declare, not in the terms of the report of the committee, but in terms contrary to it, that the House was not prepared to resist the execution of the law. He would, in conclusion, state his views as embodied in the resolution he had prepared, and which, if he had felt at liberty, he would have stated to the House in the first instance. The resolution was to the effect— That this House having directed the Attorney-General to appear on behalf of Messrs. Hansard and Son in an action brought against them for the publication of a certain paper alleged to contain libellous matter against John Joseph Stockdale, which paper the House had directed them to publish, and the Attorney-General accordingly having appeared on behalf of the defendants in the Court of Queen's Bench and argued the question of law on a demurrer to a plea—namely, as to the right of the Court of Queen's Bench to inquire into the power of this House to direct publication without liability to the defendant, thereby, and judgment having passed against the defendants by the unanimous decision of the judges of the said court, and the ordinary appeal from such judgment not having been adopted, and the damages having been assessed against Messrs. Hansard and Son by a jury duly summoned, and the same being about to be levied forthwith, this House do not resist such execution of the law. Though this resolution left the matter as it stood, still it treated it in a more straightforward manner than the proposition of his noble Friend opposite. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the resolution as an amendment.

The Speaker

having put the amendment,

Sir R. H. Inglis

said, as the first resolution of the noble Lord proceeded on the same principle as his, though it did not go so far, nor so straight to its object, it was not his intention to press his resolution to a division, as he merely wished to have it recorded.

Amendment withdrawn.

Mr. Warburton

had thought when he heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman so warmly and so eloquently argue the case, and express opinions in which so many hon. Members concurred, that he would at least have placed the House in the situation to put on record a resolution expressing those opinions. As he had not done so, however, he (Mr. Warburton) was prepared to give those hon. Gentlemen who might concur with him in opinion an opportunity to put their opinion on record. The amendment which he would propose was a paragraph taken from the excellent draft of the report presented to the House by the hon. and learned Member for Newark, who had acted a straightforward and manly part on this question, because the opinions he had expressed he was prepared to maintain. How great a contrast did his conduct afford to that of other hon. Gentleman, who were so loud on former occasions in maintenance of their opinions, and of their readiness to show that those who had adopted the course which gave rise to these discussions had been guilty of a contempt of the privileges of Parliament. He should proposed the following resolution by way of amendment:— That acquiescence in the judgment pronounced in this case will create on the part of the House a great impediment in the future necessary exercise of Parliamentary authority in vindication of their privileges, and that it is therefore necessary that the House should forthwith declare, that the further prosecution of the said action and the attempt to levy any damages on the defendants for a publication in pursuance of the orders of the House directly impedes the exercise of their Parliamentary functions, and is a high contempt of the privileges of the House; and that the House will visit with severe displeasure all officers, ministers, and others who may act or aid in any manner in enforcing the judgment on that matter, or in troubling or molesting the said defendants for such publication, and that a copy of this resolution be served on the sheriff. He would merely say a very few words in support of this resolution. He desired to remind the House of the many instances in which that House in the exercise of its inquisitorial functions had published matter which, according to the authority now set up, must be deemed libellous. One instance he would particularly refer to, which occurred only a session ago. He alluded to that case in which a magistrate for the county of Kent was charged with having induced thirty or forty persons for a sum of four or five shillings each to put their names down as subscribers to a railroad scheme for thousands of pounds, when those parties we shown to be persons of no means. Now was, or was not, this a fit case for the investigation of Parliament? Was it a case the circumstances of which ought to have been confined within the walls of Parliament, or one which ought to have gone forth to the public, so that others who might be prone to resort to the same course might be warned from it? A similar investigation took place in regard to five or six other subscription lists. The investigations were of no use whatever unless the names of the individuals proved to be insolvent, yet subscribing their names for thousands of pounds, were given to the public. Yet he might as a publisher of those libels, for he gave away several copies of them, have been called on by the Court of Queen's Bench as a libeller. To talk of their exercising these inquisitorial functions without being able to make the result of them public was trifling with the House. But he apprehended the question was not to be argued. It was a res acta, a matter on which the House had already decided, and all that the hon. and learned Member for Newark called on the House to do was to stand by its own resolutions. The noble Lord called on them to be prudent now and valiant hereafter. This was to suppose, that the House could choose its ground as advantageously in a similar instance as in the present; to suppose, that some knew Mr. Stockdale would bring his action for libel while the House was sitting, and that the House would therefore have the opportunity of commencing its resistance ab initio. Suppose, on the other hand, the action were commenced during the long vacation, proceeded in with the greatest activity, and pushed on to judgment before the House again met, so that execution had either been levied, or was on the very point of being levied when the House met:—what, in such case, would become of their threat to visit the court with their displeasure? The same appeal to compassion on the part of the sheriff would again be made; the House would be told it was too late to commit him, and to dispute any of the proceedings, and, therefore, it would again be recommended that judgment should be allowed to go by default, and execution suffered; and again they would be told, that the next case should be that on which they should no longer be cowed. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his amendment.

Mr. Hume

, in seconding the motion said, that no Member of the House was more interested in the question than himself, for since he had sat in Parliament no man had brought forward more cases of abuse, in which evidence was elicited which might be considered libellous. He was of opinion, that the powers of the House, as the grand inquest of the nation, would be destroyed if they delayed to do those acts of justice which the interests of the nation required. They might as well shut the doors of the House (which, by the way, many might wish to do) as give up a privilege, by the exercise of which so much good was done, and likely to be done to the country. He was very anxious to hear the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, deliver his sentiments on the present question, for he (Mr. Hume) could not but bear in mind the very argumentative speech which that right hon. Gentleman made on a former occasion in defence of this privilege, which he was now, as he (Mr. Hume) inferred, about to give up, in—the right hon. Baronet must allow him to say—a most dastardly manner. The House would, however, no doubt, hear from the right hon. Gentleman the reasons why he had changed his opinions on this question. If he remembered rightly, the right hon. Baronet, on the occasion alluded to, recommended the committal of the individuals: for consistency's sake, therefore, he hoped the right hon. Baronet would state his reasons for adopting the present course. The course taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had spoken so strongly on the one side, while he appeared to be about to vote on the other, had also struck him with much surprise. After having so ably demolished the argument of the noble Lord, he expected nothing less from the right hon. Gentleman than a demolition of his motion also; but a more tame and milk-and-water conclusion he had never heard. He expected that, at least, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have moved an amendment affirming the privileges of the House. According to the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, if the House acquiesced in it, if a witness, for refusing to give evidence, or any other cause, was committed to Newgate, the Court of Queen's Bench would have the power to pronounce upon the exercise of its privileges by that House. Every court in the kingdom had the power of maintaining its own privileges; and surely the House of Commons—the highest of all—should have the same power, or the evil effects to the interests of the people would be most serious. The hon. Gentleman concluded by seconding the amendment.

Sir Robert Peel

, even had he not been so directly appealed to by the hon. Member, would have felt it necessary to give his opinion on this question to-night, because he did not shrink from maintaining the opinion he had given in committee. He had advised the committee to the best of his power, and he should advise the House to the best of his power, and without any of that apprehension of the consequences which some hon. Members had shown. The hon. Gentleman had challenged him to prove, that his present course was not inconsistent with his recorded opinions. On the 30th of May, 1837, he (Sir Robert Peel) was a party to the following resolutions then agreed to by the House:— That the power of publishing such of its reports, votes, and proceedings, as it shall be necessary, or conducive to the public interests, is an essential incident to the constitutional functions of Parliament, more especially of this House, as the representative portion of it. 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. These were the resolutions agreed to by the House. Shortly afterwards, the hon. and learned the Attorney-general brought the subject of the petition of the printers under the attention of the House, and what were the opinions then given. [Mr. O'Connell: Hear.] It was very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to exclaim "Hear, hear!" but what was the course that he then pursued, and what was the language then used? He agreed to the appeal then made; and he then stated that they could so far make a very favourable case, and that they should stop short as regarded further proceedings. This was the opinion that he then gave. He had not heard without great regret, the opinion of the Attorney-general, that it was 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 had been brought against them. He had hoped that this House possessed sufficient power to vindicate, by its own exclusive authority, without the aid or recognition of any extrinsic jurisdiction, their privileges, which are absolutely essential to the performance of its proper functions, and even to its existence as an independent branch of the Legislature. He was aware of the precedent 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, he 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 the repetition of the course which was then followed. These objections were made by him at the commencement of his speech, and he found that, at the conclusion of it, he made the following remarks:— By the course recommended by the Attorney-general, that they, by the instruction to their officers to plead, virtually submitted a decision on their privileges to a court, the head of which had already given an adverse decision with regard to them. If that decision be confirmed, their next step would 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 they laid claim for themselves in matters of privilege. He had every confidence that justice would be done according to the law and constitution of the country; but, believing that the privilege of free publication was essential to the proper discharge of their functions, he could not, without anxiety, see it made the subject of litigation.* Several Gentlemen expressed their opinions on this subject, and there was a considerable difference of opinion as to the course which it was most advisable to pursue. Among others, the noble Lord, (John Russell), after stating that he agreed in most of the arguments advanced by him, stated that He did not agree with him in thinking, that they should not allow the parties to plead; he added, that he did not think that, by so doing, the House would thereby be surrendering the power and authority which, in the second resolution, it claimed the right to exert." † On that occasion, he was supported in the view that he had taken by several hon. Members, and, amongst others, by a high authority. He alluded to the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, who had now charged him with inconsistency, and with not having pointed out the results that were likely to follow the course they were then about to take. He had not only done so, but it was also clear that the hon. Gentleman himself had seen before him all that was likely to follow, for he thus concluded his speech in such peculiar language and phraseology, as he did not attempt to rival him in. The hon. Member then said, The truth was, that this was an attempt to drag them through the mud in a very unpleasant manner."‡ *Hansard, Vol. xxxviii. Third Series p. 1281. † Ibid. p. 1283. ‡ Ibid. p. 1296. Here then it appeared, that the hon. Member, having been dragged through the mud, now came forward, and shook his muddy locks at him, and asked, Why did you not tell us of the probable result, as you state that you anticipated what would follow, if the steps were taken that had been pursued? Again, the hon. and learned Member for Newark, who had drawn up an able report on this subject, and who had been a most consistent supporter of the view that he had taken of the subject, said:— 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 Queen'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 honourable Members who would not stand boldly forward in defence of their privileges, could not stand up for any other. Honourable Members should be enabled to leave to their successors the privileges which they themselves had a right to enjoy."* He thought that it would have been infinitely better, if they had acted on their resolution, and committed the first person who had infringed the privilege of that House. Another course that they could have pursued was that defended by his hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, and other hon. Gentlemen. The third course was that recommended by the hon. and learned the Attorney-general, and which had been followed. They did plead, or allowed their officer to plead, and all the points of that plea had been overruled by the court, and the decision had been against them. And what would be the state of public opinion on the subject? The public opinion would be, that they had asked the Court of Queen's Bench to give its decision on this question, involving these privileges:—that the House would have availed itself of that decision, if it had been favourable * Hansard, Vol. xxxviii. Third Series, p, 1302. to its views; but now that it was against them, if they took the course that was recommended by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it would be said, that having submitted your case to the court, you would have availed yourselves of the judgment, had it been in unison with your opinions, but as it was adverse, you refuse to abide by it. Instead of holding the court and tribunal guilty of contempt, that had given this decision, and to which the House had allowed the appeal, it was proposed to proceed against the ministerial officer, who was to be placed in this anomalous situation—that if he levied in conformity with the decision of the court, that House would commit him for a breach of its privileges; and if he obeyed that House, and did not levy, the Court of Queen's Bench would commit him for disobedience. It would be more consistent with the boldness of proceeding which had been recommended, if they held that the court and tribunal had been guilty of contempt, and to commit them if they persisted, instead of proceeding against the ministerial officer, who was bound to obey the orders and decisions of the court. It was a bad and dangerous example, to set to direct the ministerial officer not to obey the law of the land. What was the course that the House had pursued? It submitted to the tribunal; the House had the power of stopping the proceedings at once, by telling the individual who was plaintiff in the cause, that he had no right to go to any other tribunal than that House, as it was the only judge of matters involving its privileges, and that if he persisted, he would be committed for contempt. The House, however, allowed and instructed its officer to plead, and directed counsel to appear for him before the court. The Attorney-general appeared and argued the case, for three days, in the most able manner. You allowed the court to consider the case, and to believe that you submitted the matter to its decision, and that you was a willing party before it; and, in confirmation of this view of the case, he would ask, how did the Attorney-general conclude his speech to the court? Why, in a manner to confirm such an opinion in the minds of the judges. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded in these words: "My Lords, for these reasons, I pray judgment for the defendants." It was proposed, however, that the officer who acted for the sheriff of London should be committed if he levied the execution. Was this the proper step to take after the course the House had allowed to be parsued? As regarded his opinion on the subject matter under consideration, he had no hesitation in saying, that he believed that its privileges were essential to the usefulness of Parliament, and he did not think that they could sit with honour or advantage to the country for a single evening without them. If they might be questioned in the Court of Queen's Bench, there was nothing to prevent their being questioned in every subordinate court of judicature in the empire. If they allowed it to be supposed that any court could determine on what occasions their privileges were justly exercised, they only held their privileges by sufferance, and they had better attempt to suspend the exercise of their privileges than attempt to exercise them at all. He trusted that it would not be supposed that he would hesitate to give his opinion on this subject, or that he was not prepared hereafter to take the necessary steps for vindicating the privileges of that House, but he would not mix up that question with another totally separate and distinct, and encumber it with an act of injustice to an individual. They should also consider whether they presented the best ground in thus refusing their submission to the decision of a court of law, to which they had apparently presented their case for decision. The report stated that it was the duty of the committee to submit a practical question to the House, of which the decision could not be postponed, and that they had not yet prepared a full and complete report on the subject. It would be some time before this report was ready, but what was the situation in which the House had placed itself? He believed, that out of the House, nine men out of ten were under the impression that the House of Commons had opened a shop for the sale of Parliamentary papers, and that this proceeding arose out of that circumstance. It might appear to be equally open to objection in public opinion to give permission to open a place for the sale of those papers, as having directly done so themselves. Whether this had misled the public mind or not, he would not say. The question, however, was whether, in the present imperfect state of information, and notwithstanding the feeling which he thought prevailed on the subject, it would be wise and expedient for them to direct the sheriff not to enforce his writ and execution in this case. If the House determined on resistance—if it determined that the process of the court should not be executed—if they pursued this course, did they not decide practically on all the points of the case, and even on those on which the public mind was not prepared for such a decision? If a similar case occurred to-morrow, he would recommend that the House should deal with it without hesitation, and determine that, as a case involving its privileges, it should not be submitted to a court of judicature. In such a case there would be a proper exercise of the authority of the House of Commons when it committed for contempt. Such an opinion was laid down by Mr. Justice Littledale in his judgment, and it strongly confirmed the view which he originally took of the subject—namely, that if they did not resist the proceedings in the first instance, they would find great difficulty in doing so after they had allowed their officer to plead to the action. The learned judge says, There is no doubt about the right as exercised by the two Houses of Parliament with regard to contempt or insult offered to the House, either within or without their walls; there is no doubt, either, as to the freedom of their Members from arrest, nor of their right to summon witnesses, to require the production of papers and records, and the right of printing documents for the use of the members of the constitutional body, and as to every other thing which may appear to be necessary to carry on and conduct the great and important functions of their charge. He would, therefore, say, do not disregard public opinion on this or other similar constitutional subjects, but take care that, in your proceeding, you have that most powerful sanction. The hon. Gentleman who moved the amendment said, that he was satisfied that any person who was at all acquainted with the subject, and that all classes of society would coincide with them in an attempt to vindicate and maintain the privileges of that House. He did not think that the proceeding which the hon. Gentleman had proposed was the right mode to be adopted. It was, however, of immense importance that any erroneous impression that had been produced on the public mind should be removed, and that it might be shown that the maintenance of the right was essential for the public welfare. He should be sorry if they persisted in calling the sheriff of London before them, and committing him, as they would be bound to do; for they might depend upon it, that, next week, they would have to call the judges of the Queen's Bench to their bar. He would, however, proceed with the opinion of Mr. Justice Littledale:— In the case of commitments for contempt, there is no doubt but the House is the sole judge whether it is a contempt or not, and the courts of common law will not inquire into it. The greater part of these decisions and dicta, where the judges have said, that the Houses of Parliament are the sole judges of their own privileges, have been when the question has arisen upon commitments for contempt, and as to which, as I have before remarked, no doubt can be entertained. But not only the two Houses of Parliament, but every court in Westminster Hall, are themselves the sole judges whether it be a contempt or not; although, in cases where the court did not profess to commit for a contempt, but for some matter which, by no reasonable intendment, could be considered as a contempt of the court commiting, but a ground of commitment palpably and evidently unjust, and contrary to law and natural justice. Lord Ellenborough says, that in case of such a commitment, if it should ever occur (but which he says he could not possibly anticipate as one likely to occur), the court must look at it and act upon it as justice may require, from whatever court it may profess to have proceeded. Was this opinion shared by the other judges? The House might, he thought, reasonably rely on this being the case. He should, therefore, prefer righting the battle as an original question of contempt; and if, for the future, any proceedings were taken in consequence of any publication, that they should not allow their officer to plead. On these grounds he cordially concurred in the motion which had been proposed by the noble Lord. He could not agree in advising them to commit the sheriff—he could not advise any further application to the court—he could not advise an appeal to the Exchequer Chamber or to the other House—he thought, that the better course would be, as they had gone so far, was to acknowledge the proceedings that had occurred, and allow in this instance their officer to submit to the sentence. He could not go further until he saw clearly the steps that it would be necessary to take. He knew that a number of actions stood at their door for the proceedings that it was essential for them to take, but he thought that they could rely for the future on their re- solutions, and on the dicta of the judges, as to the jurisdiction of the House. This was the course open to them, and was the best in his opinion, that could be pursued. The noble Lord said, that he should propose that the House should pledge itself to the consideration of the subject at the earliest period, and to take such steps as to prevent a recurrence of a similar proceeding to the present. In the balance, therefore, of inconveniency, and looking to the apparent submission of the court, he thought that it would be wiser to submit to the court in this instance, and to take steps to prevent for the future any matter of the kind coming under the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench or any other court. They should also take care to show to the country that the maintenance of their privileges was absolutely essential to their existence, and to the discharge of their functions as the representatives of the Commons of England. With these feelings he would only add, that it would be absolutely necessary within a very few weeks to determine how they should proceed, and what steps it was expedient to take.

The Attorney-General

felt very strongly the truth of the observation made by his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Home Department, that this was not a Government question, nor was it a party question, for the privileges of the Commons of England were involved in it, and they had but one common duty to perform, namely—to assert their privileges, for the benefit of their constituents and for those who should come after them. He felt called upon to state the reasons why he felt bound to differ from his noble Friend and the right hon. Gentleman. It was his opinion, that this was the time for the House to take its stand; and if they did not now do so, he had no hesitation in saying, that their privileges were for ever gone. This was no party feeling; for, in the divisions that had taken place in the committee, he was supported in the view that he had taken of the subject by his right hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Wynn), and by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Stamford, (Sir G. Clerk), and by other Members who sat on the opposite side of the House, and when they came to the division that night, he trusted that it would prove no party question. In the first place he must observe that the on. Baronet the Member for the Univer- sity of Oxford, was quite consistent in the course that he had pursued, for from the premises which the hon. Member had laid down throughout these discussions he had come to a just conclusion on the subject. The hon. Baronet thought, that the House possessed no such privileges, and that this was a just and right decision of the Court of Queen's Bench. If these premises were admitted, it would have been a case of monstrous injustice to have resisted the payment of damages awarded by the court. It would, however, as the case stood, be a bad and dangerous example for the Commons of England to remain silent or passive on this matter. He thought, therefore, that he was bound, as a representative of the people, boldly to give his opinion on this subject. He found, that his noble Friend said, that these privileges of the House of Commons were essential to its usefulness, and that without these privileges the House of Commons could not discharge or exercise its functions with advantage to the nation; and when he found that the right hon. Baronet agreed in this opinion, and that their privileges bad been set aside by the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, he could not help feeling that the conclusions that had been arrived at were most erroneous. If there were privileges of the House, and those privileges had been invaded, and as no other plan had been pointed out by which those privileges could be vindicated, he thought that the judgment that had been given should not be acquiesced in. His noble Friend had said, that what was unjust was inexpedient and wrong, but he now proposed to abide by this decision. If, then, Mr. John Joseph Stockdale by a rightful judgment was entitled to 100l. for damages, the House would act most improperly by seeking to deprive him of that sum. But his noble Friend said, that the judgment was wrong, and that it was a flagrant usurpation on the part of the Court of Queen's Bench to annul the privileges of the Commons of England, and therefore, he concluded, it was now the duty of the House to resist this judgment which was contrary to law. He repeated if this was an unlawful judgment it should be resisted by all possible means, and his noble Friend said, that by the constitution of England they were justified and bound to maintain their rights and privileges, and in a resolution he at any rate made use of the expression—they had repeatedly made use of these rights and privileges, and he could only say, that if they did not possess them, they would be in a most deplorable condition. But not only these privileges, but every privilege that they possessed might be over-ruled on the same ground, if they submitted in this case; and this was admitted by his noble Friend, and by the right hon. Baronet. What was become of their privilege of freedom from arrest? What was to become of their privilege of summoning witnesses to their bar, and of calling for the production of papers and records, and of committing persons from the bar of the House? But suppose the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench to say, you can punish persons for breaches of privilege in proper cases, but we must determine what are proper cases. Now suppose the case of a person committed for equivocation at the bar and who brings his action; suppose a plea to be put in, which plea is over-ruled, and the Sergeant at Arms is called upon to pay damages. Such might have been the result in the case of Sir F. Burdett v. Abbott, if judgment had been given for the plaintiff. If the plea then put in had been over-ruled, and they had allowed the case to go to the Sheriff's Court to estimate, instead of the amount being, as in the present instance, only 100l., it would probably have been 5,000l. Would the House have allowed these damages to be paid? Would they have allowed their mace to have been seized and taken in execution in that case? That was an action against the Speaker of that House, and supposing an adverse judgment had been given by the court, would the House have allowed the sheriff to have entered that House, and seize the mace, which would indeed have become a bauble in such a case? Would it have allowed the sheriff to have seized the Speaker's chairs and tables and other furniture, in liquidation of such damages? The House would have given the sheriff of Middlesex orders not to levy such execution, and if he did they would have committed him. Why was a distinction now drawn between the two cases? His noble Friend and the right hon. Baronet both said, that in this case their privileges had been improperly annulled by the Court of Queens Bench. The right hon. Baronet said, that he regretted, that the Attorney-general had been allowed to appear in the case, and that the order of the House for him to put in a plea for the defendant had led to the ulterior inconvenience. The right hon. Baronet also said, that he would not advise an appeal to the Exchequer Chamber; he would not advise a declaratory law, or an enacting law on the subject. To be consistent, then, in the view that he had taken of the case, he should have advocated the course which was recommended by his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Newark, and his hon. Friend, the Member for Bridport. The right hon. Member for Tamworth, however, took this line of argument, "You need not have appeared to the case; you might have resisted in the first instance; but it is too late to do so now." The right hon. Baronet was under a very great delusion on the subject when he used such an argument; as there could be no possible ground of complaint, nor could the case be made worse by putting in a plea in either case. What had the right hon. Gentleman said on the subject of public opinion? He said, that they could not carry public opinion in their favour by committing the sheriff to custody. Now, it was important for them to consider whether they would have had public opinion in their favour if they had pursued the course recommended by the right hon. Gentleman. In the first instance, could they have committed with effect Mr. Stockdale? What was the course pursued in the case of Sir F. Burdett? The House gave orders, that a plea should be put in; and the public would have made its own remarks, and would not have supported the House with its opinion if they had not allowed the Speaker to plead to the action. They would have asked, why should not the same course be pursued in the present crisis? Would not the public have said, that they did not place the same confidence in the Court of Queen's Bench and the other courts of justice as their predecessors had done. But if they had not entered an appearance in this case, and filed a plea in answer to the declaration, judgment would have gone by default. If they wished to stop the action at the commencement, it was not by committing the plaintiff, as be still might have gone on with his case; and if a plea had not been entered, a judgment would have been obtained as a matter of course. The right hon. Gentleman, in support of his opinion, had quoted a passage from the judgment of Mr. Justice Littledale, to the effect, that there was no doubt as to the House being sole judge in cases of contempt; but if the cases were allowed to be submitted to the courts of common law, then the case became different; but Lord Durham showed, that be entertained directly the opposite opinion in the cases of the King v. Patys and the King v. Curry. He thought, that they were in a favourable situation by having adopted every mode of avoiding a collision, and by applying to the Court of Queen's Bench, in expectation of that court respecting the privileges of the House. In confirmation of this opinion, he would refer to what took place in the convention Parliament, when Chief Justice Pemberton and Mr. Justice Jones were brought to the bar for the unrighteous decision which they gave; and they declared, that if the House had pleaded at bar, instead of pursuing the course that they did, that they would have given a different decision in the matter. The mistake was in the terms of the plea. If they had pleaded in bar they would have decided in their favour, for God forbid that they should decide against the powers of the House of Commons. Suppose that the case had terminated the other way—that there had been judgment for the defendant—would not every Member of the House have rejoiced at the line of conduct which had been pursued? Supposing also that Mr. Stockdale had been committed, he would have applied for a habeas corpus; and if he had remained in prison, still the action would have continued, and a writ to levy damages would have issued, and it would have been for the House to say whether it should have been admitted or resisted. The difficulty was unexpected, and why? Because it was unexpected that a court of common law would have taken upon itself to overrule the decision of the House. It was a circumstance which the constitution had not anticipated, and for which no remedy had been provided. Since Westminster-hall had existed, with the exception of those infamous judgments in the King v. Williams, and Day v. Topham, which had disgraced the reigns of Charles 2nd and James 2nd, the judges had uniformly respected the privileges of the House. He was bound to say, then, and to say conscientiously, that in his firm opinion the decision in Stockdale v. Han- sard was totally contrary to law, and that it involved a usurpation of the privileges of the House of Commons, and a flagrant usurpation of power by the Court of Queen's Bench. As to the question of their having submitted their privileges to the court by their pleading to the action, he would suggest this case:—Suppose a Member of the House to have been committed for words spoken in his place in the House, and that he were to bring an action for assault and false imprisonment. The Speaker (for against him the action would be brought), would be obliged to plead, and the court would then have jurisdiction. The Speaker might plead, that the Member had been voted to have been guilty of a breach of privilege by reason of words spoken, and that he was, therefore, committed to the Tower; there would be a demurrer to the plea, and the defendant must join in demurrer; but should it be said, that in that case, because they were so far compelled to submit themselves to the Court of Queen's Bench, they therefore gave up all power and control over Members of that House? The two cases were identical, because there must be an appearance entered by the defendant, a plea, demurrer, and rejoinder in demurrer; and if judgment were given against the defendant in that action, would the right hon. Baronet opposite say, "Now, the next time I certainly will not submit, but now we have pleaded, and the judges of the Court of Queen's Bench are in the nature of arbitrators. We have submitted to their arbitration, and it would be ungracious for us, after that, not to submit to their jurisdiction." He begged to say, however, that it was a mere fallacy to say, that because a party pleaded the authority of any body to do any act, there was a submission to the tribunal before which the plea was pleaded of the whole authority of that body. If the law were admitted to be so, it might be that the defendant might justify under an Act of Parliament, and it might as well be said that by that course he would submit to the court, whether the two Houses of Parliament had any right to legislate in this land. Thus, what was to be done? He concurred with the right hon. Baronet in one point, and thought that they could not recede from their own act with propriety. He might hope that the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench might be reversed; but he could not recommend the adoption of any course attended with so much peril; for by bringing a writ of error they would at once, by what then became their own voluntary act, submit themselves entirely to the jurisdiction of the court. What was the next course which had been suggested? It had been said, that a declaratory act might be passed. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet, however, that such a proceeding would be highly inexpedient, because he took the law to be abundantly clear already; and, besides, even if they were to carry such a measure through this House, he knew not what reception it might meet with elsewhere. There was this other strong objection to it, however, that if the House were by such a proceeding to admit the jurisdiction of the court, they could not afterwards say that the judgment of the court was illegal. The next suggestion was, that an enabling act might be adopted; but he considered that that would be still more objectionable and still more humiliating, because they would be acquiescing in the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, that they had no such privileges as they contended for, except such as that court chose to allow—that was to say, that that court were to be the judges of all their privileges. The present judges said, that the House might examine witnesses and do various other acts, and that its Members were free from arrest, but he knew not what their successors might be disposed to decide; for the predecessors of the existing court had declared that Parliament alone had the power of inquiring into and of deciding upon their own privileges. If, therefore, the present judgment were admitted, it was impossible to say where the current which ran against them might stop. What was then to be done? It was said, that the next time any such action was brought, the House would commit the plaintiff; but even, if that course were to be pursued, the action might still be continued according to law. What was to become of the damages in the present case? If they were to be paid, he supposed that they would not be paid out of Mr. Hansard's pocket, and he expected that he should find it as an item in the miscellaneous estimates. There would, then, be a vote to pay the damages; they would then acquiesce in the judgment of the court, and the next time that any action of this description was brought they would commit the plaintiff. But suppose that they were to do so, they would not stop the action. Whether they pleaded or not, there would be judgment against them. There would be an assessment of damages, and they would be called upon to say whether they should be paid; and he begged to ask most respectfully, how they would be in a better situation upon the execution of that judgment than they now were? He said, that they would be in a worse position, because they would have a judgment against them in which they had acquiesced. He felt, that the other course recommended by the hon. Member for Newark was also full of difficulty. He owned, that his mind had vacillated upon the subject, and while he thought, that there was any other course which could be adopted or recommended, he would never recommend that either of those modes of proceeding should be determined upon. He saw, however, that the House, by pursuing the course proposed by the right hon. Baronet, would place itself in a position of as much difficulty and of as much danger as they were now placed in. They would have public opinion strongly against them, and the resistance which they would offer would only be after having acquiesced in the decision of the court by their own act. There were those who said, that this was a necessary privilege of the House, and that the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench was improperly given, and who thought, that Mr. Stockdale ought not to have obtained these damages, and ought not to have put the money into his pocket; that it was contrary to law; and that if the Queen's Bench had issued an order to levy the damages, it was issuing an illegal order; and that, therefore, they were bound to believe, that the law had been violated by the Court of Queen's Bench. This was most undoubtedly a serious crisis in which they were involved. He would not make any observation which would be in the least degree disagreeable to the Court of Queen's Bench, for he had a most profound respect, and the greatest regard and esteem, for all the judges of that court; but he must say, in vindication of the rights and privileges of this House, that this crisis had not been produced by any act of their own; but now, not only had the Queen's Bench declared, that the privileges of the House might be usurped, but that they had a right to assail the privileges of the House. Mr. Justice Patteson, above all others, laid down the rule, that if a declaration disclosed any circumstance over which the court had jurisdiction, although it should appear, that the act was done by the authority of either House of Parliament, the court had a right to be judges of the privileges of that House. This was a most alarming dictum. The constitution had provided no specific remedy for such an evil; but he thought, that the least difficulty now would be, the determination that some plan ought to be adopted. There was one point on which he thought objections might fairly be raised, and he thought, that upon this the community at large would take part with the House of Commons, and say, that it was for their own advantage, that the judgment should be opposed. The court said, that they might print 658 copies of any work, or report, or document, which they pleased, for the use of the Members of that House, and that it should be lawful to do so, and that any ill effect which arose from such a course would be damnum absque injuriâ; but was not any injury so conveyed as likely to prove dangerous to the person, against whom the imputation was conveyed, as if it were produced by the general publication of the work. Who, however, was the hero upon that occasion—who was the asserter of the rights of the public against that House? He was no other than the author—the publisher of the "Memoirs of Harriette Wilson," a work so bad in itself, that when an action at law was brought against him in reference to it, he pleaded his own infamy, and al leged that the work was so immoral, that the contract which was alleged could not be supported, and the plaintiff must fail in his action. The jury in that case, on the view of the book and of the infamous prints in it, found a verdict for the defendant, on the ground, that it was an obscene publication, and calculated to injure the morals of the country. He asked then, whether it were likely, that they could ever enter upon this subject under circumstances in which they could calculate upon public opinion being with them? It appeared to him, that the time had arrived when they ought to assert their rights. He had thought it his duty to come forward upon this occasion. He had looked round and round, and most anxiously so, to point out any other course which could be adopted, but he could find none better than that suggested by the amendment which had been moved, for which therefore he should give his vote.

Mr. Pemberton

stated, that the course which the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) had taken upon this subject had been most inconsistent, for, from the very first day in which he had declared his opinion in the committee to the last, he had insisted again and again, that, adopt what course they might—let them pass a declaratory Act or an enabling Act—there was, nevertheless, one course they ought at all events to discard as not worthy of consideration. "What! "said the hon. and learned asserter of the privileges of Parliament," will you submit the question to the decision of the judges, argue it for three whole days at their bar, and consent to take the chance of their judgment in your favour? Can you do all this, and then can you—in common decency can you—turn round upon them, and tell the people of England that you have consented to abide by this chance; that you do not complain of the damages awarded against you being excessive, but that you do complain that the judgment of the court is against you?" Had the hon. and learned Gentleman, he asked, from first to last expressed until that night any other opinion than this? He and others who were of his opinion, had voted for the resolutions of 1837, because they asserted, that a prosecution against an officer of that House, for the publication of its papers under its own order was contrary to law, and a breach of the privileges of that House; they supported those resolutions for the very purpose of bringing them to the test, and defying the power which it was now sought to be assumed. They were now ready, as they ever had been, to concur in any measure the House might consider necessary for the purpose of conferring on it the power, which he contended they had not by any privilege they possessed, or any means of enforcing any privilege they possessed, of protecting all persons acting under them from criminal or other proceedings in courts of justice. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, had been leading them through this case for the last two years, and now that it had terminated, they were at the very opposite points of the compass. They were now asked to try another road, but were those who proposed it, certain that it would lead to a different result from that which they had already arrived at? He apprehended not; the question now only was, whether they could in the present state of the proceedings, with common justice or common decency interfere to prevent the execution of the writ; and if they did attempt it, could they by possibility succeed? Let the House observe in what manner, and in what manner alone, they could interfere. There was no course open to them but the vindictive one of committing the party to prison, and that they could not do without justifying such a step by some reasonable grounds. Mr. Stockdale had complained of a libel having been published by an officer of the House of Commons, and had brought an action against him. Did the House of Commons appear in that action? He would ask those Gentlemen who were insisting that the judges had decided directly against the privileges of the House of Commons, whether the Attorney-general had not been distinctly instructed by the House itself to appear for the defendants in that action, and to call for the judgment of the Court in their favour? The hon. and learned Gentleman had put in a plea that the publication was justified because it was under the Order of the House of Commons. And here he would take the liberty of requesting the attention of hon. Members to a circumstance of no little importance, and to which he had referred in the committee—namely, the misstatement of the date of their own resolution. The very resolution of the House of Commons, which stated that the publication of their proceedings was essentially incidental to the functions of Parliament, and especially of the House of Commons, that very resolution which, it had been stated, was twelve months antecedent to the date of the action, was not passed till twelve days after the action. That was a very important error, an error which he was sure no one would attempt to defend by saying, that they ought to meet such a case by an ex post facto proceeding. The Attorney-general admitted the insufficiency of that resolution, and thereupon both parties called for judgment. Where, then, was the act of contempt, and who had been guilty of it? Was it the judges, or the counsel, or the jury, or the sheriff? And if no party had been guilty of contempt, if you assented to the prosecution and conduct of the action, if you met the party in a court of law, and there contested the question with him, could yon in common decency attempt to interfere and arrest the progress of the decision which had been had in that court, rob the plaintiff of its fruits, and expose him to all costs which had been incurred in a prosecution, which you had invited him to continue? If you had had judgment in your favour, the costs would consequently have fallen on the plaintiff in the action; but it turned out otherwise; the plaintiff had obtained judgment, he now called for the fruits of it, and yet you proposed to interfere and supersede the law of the land, which in this case you had distinctly invoked. He would ask, how any man could with common decency put forth such a case as that to the people of England? Was there any one who could believe that the people of England would do otherwise than cry shame upon the House of Commons for such an enormous outrage? In what position would it place you? You first endeavour to obtain judgment by fair means; then, like the fraudulent gamester who first took his chance of the die, and afterwards tried to evade the just payment of the debt by bluster and intimidation, you endeavour to deprive the successful party of the fruits of the result by an unjust and arbitrary proceeding. The hon. Member for Bridport it was, he believed, who had called upon the House to vindicate the resolutions of 1837. But had the Attorney-general made that call? He had not; he doubtless would not; and he would prove from the hon. and learned Gentleman's own argument and admission, that he distinctly abandoned that part of the resolutions of the committee of 1837 which states— Your committee having considered the subject of Parliamentary privilege and the jurisdiction of this House to determine the extent of its own privileges, submit as their opinion that by the law and usage of Parliament, the House of Commons does possess an exclusive jurisdiction, and that it is a breach of its privileges to bring them into discussion for decision before any other tribunal directly or incidentally, and that such breach of privilege subjects the parties to punishment by this House. Now, he would ask, was there a lawyer in the House, not excepting the Attorney- general, who was prepared to stand by that resolution, or say it should be enforced? He believed there was not. The next resolution was similar in substance, and stated generally that the action brought against Messrs. Hansard was a breach of the privileges of that House. But he begged the attention of the hon. Member for Newark to pages 15 and 16 of the report of the proceedings in this case, and having read them, to say whether it was not distinctly admitted by the Attorney-general that it was no breach of privilege to discuss any question of privilege that came "incidentally" before a tribunal. Having stated that this question arose incidentally, he stated in the next page— Where it arises incidentally, it is perhaps necessary that the Court, resorting to the best means of information it can possess, should decide the question. And yet the resolution which he had read to the House, and which they were called upon to vindicate, distinctly asserted that any such proceeding was a violation of the privileges of the House of Commons, and deserved to be punished. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general said, that the judgment was erroneous; but if he dared not dispute its legality, upon what pretence could be resist the execution of it? What advantage would they gain by doing so? They might threaten to commit the sheriff; but what would be the result? Would it prevent the execution of the writ? No, for if the sheriff disobeyed the Queen's Bench, the writ would be executed by others, while the sheriff would be liable to be committed for contempt of the Court of Queen's Bench, and also to an action from the plaintiff for refusing to levy the damages which had been awarded him. Again, what would be the consequence of an attempt to commit the sheriff in case he proceeded to obey the Court of Queen's Bench? Did they suppose that the Court of Queen's Bench would allow its officer to be thrown into prison at their instance? He was persuaded, if they did suppose any such thing, that they would find themselves greatly mistaken. He was persuaded, moreover, that the people of England would not tamely stand by and see tha authority of the courts of justice set at nought, and the laws subverted. He was convinced, too, that the House of Lords would inter- fere. Would they venture to commit the judges? Would they venture to commit Lord Denman? No; they flinched from such a consideration, and why? Because they knew they dared not do so—that they could not do so in point of law, and that the people would not quietly stand by if they attempted it. The stones of Westminster would cry out against such an arbitrary exercise of power under the name of privilege. They were told that it was a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, for a court of justice to decide a question relating to the privileges of the House contrary to its own determination. The same authority, however, told them that their privilege was not the privilege of the House of Commons, but the privilege of Parliament—the same in both Houses. Then he had to inquire, whether it was or was not an infraction of the privileges of Parliament to bring an action in a court of justice. The House of Commons, in 1703, had resolved, just as they had recently resolved—on the 26th of January, 1703, the House of Commons passed the following resolution:— That whosoever shall presume to commence or prosecute any action, indictment, or information, which shall bring the right of the electors, or persons elected to serve in Parliament, to the determination of any other jurisdiction than that of the House of Commons (except in cases specially provided for by Act of Parliament), such person and persons, and all attornies, solicitors, counsellors, and serjeants-at-law, soliciting, prosecuting, or pleading in any such case, are guilty of a high breach of the privileges of this House. The present House of Commons had come to a resolution which could be rendered similar to this by substituting the word "action" for "libel," for those referring to the right of electors in the resolution he had just read. But what, let him ask, had the House of Lords done at the same period? On the 27th of March, 1704, they came to this resolution:— That the declaring Matthew Ashley guilty of a breach of privilege of the House of Commons, for prosecuting an action against the constables of Aylesbury, for not receiving his vote at an election, after he had, in the known and proper method of law, obtained a judgment in Parliament for the recovery of his damages, is an unprecedented attempt upon the judicature of Parliament, and is, in effect, to subject the laws of England to the votes of the House of Commons; that the deterring electors from prosecuting actions in the ordinary courts of law, when they are deprived of their right of voting, and terrifying attornies, solicitors, counsellors, and serjeants-at-law, from soliciting, prosecuting, and pleading in such cases, by voting their doing so to be a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, is a manifest assuming a power to control the law, to hinder the course of justice, and subject the property of Englishmen to the arbitrary votes of the House of Commons. Looking to the resolutions so frequently referred to in the course of the present discussion, he found them diametrically opposed to each other, and would any one in that House tell him that the courts of law must take the determinations of one of the Houses of Parliament as a sole and infallible guide? It really would seem that Stockdale was the only party by whom a breach of privilege had been committed. The absurdity lay in this, that the House did not attempt to punish him. The House appeared quite disposed to deal out a severe measure of punishment against the counsel, against the attorney, and against the judge; but not a word about inflicting any punishment upon Stockdale, who had, if any one had, been guilty of a breach of their privileges. They appeared disposed to punish those who could not, if they would, obey them, who certainly could not obey, for the House had never intimated its wishes or commands. The sheriff of London had solemnly sworn to execute the writs which her Majesty's justices might issue. Could it form a part of the privileges of the House of Commons to punish him for not violating his oath? The Court of Queen's Bench would punish the sheriff for not executing the writs, and would the House of Commons then punish him for executing them? He firmly believed, that there was no part in the civilized world which would not condemn such a course of proceeding. He entreated hon. Members to reflect for a moment upon the state of the country—upon the condition of the disturbed districts; were they prepared to recommend that the House of Commons should stand forth in opposition to the solemn decisions of the judges, and the acknowledged law of the land? There could not be a shadow of doubt, that the resolution of the hon. Member for Bridport ought to be negatived, and he earnestly hoped that it would be negatived. There were questions connected with the subject then before the House, which he should very much desire to abstain from entering upon; but sooner or later the House must grapple with them, though they might not, at the present moment, possess all the information which it was desirable they should possess before they finally proceeded to deal with them. He had heard it suggested by a high authority that they might get over the difficulties with which this matter was surrounded without compromising their dignity, for, though they could not change the law, they might alter the state of public feeling in reference to the question which then occupied their attention, It was clear, that if they referred the question at issue to the decision of any other tribunal, they must admit that they were bound in law by the judgment of that tribunal, whereas if they confined themselves to the simple case before them, and proceeded to alter the order of 1837, much of the embarrassment by which they were surrounded might be removed. The House was in a position in which it might with some prospect of success conciliate public feeling by rescinding an objectionable resolution, and making it evident that they sought for the establishment of privilege barely to the extent that was necessary for promoting the public interest, by the due discharge of the functions of the representatives of the people. But if they proceeded to threaten the counsel and the attornies, he hesitated not to tell them that they must be defeated. They might commit one barrister, but one hundred Members of the profession would start forward to fill his place. Although little disposed to offer himself as a martyr, yet he, for one, would not be backward in discharging the duty which the bar owed to those who had claims upon their services. From the oldest and most eminent Members of the profession, from Sir Charles Wetherell to the junior who was called yesterday, there were thousands who would infinitely rather incur the displeasure and endure the punishments which the House of Commons could inflict, than be exposed for a single hour to the silent scorn which they could not fail to be conscious of deserving, if they shrunk from the discharge of those duties which belonged to them as members of the legal profession. It being so clear as to need no proof, that if the House entered into a contest with the bar, they must be defeated, he desired to know if they were disposed to enter into a conflict with the House of Lords. It was not unworthy of remark, that privilege was only thus maintained when it became subversive of the law of the land. He trusted that the House would not enter upon any course resembling those contests, the possibility of which he had been supposing, for they could not come out of them with anything but discredit. If they succeeded, it must be a triumph over the independence of the judges, and over the law of the land.

Mr. Sergeant Wilde

said, that although he was very unwilling to take any active part in this discussion, he could not help attempting to contribute, to the utmost of his power, such information as might be necessary for the due consideration of the question. He thought that any one who attempted to offer advice on this occasion, without feeling that it might lead to consequences extremely serious—without feeling that he offered that advice under great responsibility—would render his counsel innoxious, by shewing that he did not duly appreciate the occasion which called it forth. He had bestowed some attention on this subject; but that attention had been bestowed only with the most anxious desire to inform himself of the true conclusion to which he ought to come. And he was now desirous of respectfully submitting to the House, what appeared to him to belong to the question, with the hope and confidence that, if he had formed an erroneous conclusion, it would be corrected by the wisdom of the House. He had been unwilling to rise, because it unfortunately happened, that in matters on which the House had a right to expect information from professional men, their interference was too often an embarrassment to the House, instead of an assistance, by the opposite opinions which they expressed. He must say, that he had been astonished at some of the opinions which his hon. and learned Friend had just expressed, and he could hardly have persuaded himself of the fact, if he had not known his hon. and learned Friend to be a lawyer, and one of eminence in his profession. In offering his sentiments to the House, he must beg first to observe that they were in a situation in which they were compelled to act. He used the word in the largest sense; because, in forbearing to act, they would produce consequences as distinctly as by any affirmative act they could perform, He had only to congra- tulate the House (feeling, as he did, to the full, the extreme difficulties by which they were surrounded), that the House had no fault to lay to their own charge. The House had not voluntarily embarked in this question. It had been forced upon the House, and to shrink from it would be to abandon their trust in the greatest degree. This was not a case in which the House came forward to claim an exemption or privilege for an individual Member. It passed by the name of privilege; but, in fact, as the judges truly said, it was not a case of privilege. It was a question of the power of the House of Commons, and not of the privileges of its individual members. Between power and privilege there was this distinction: privilege, though given in order that the House might be better able to discharge its duty to the community, necessarily operated to the benefit of individual members; but power was for the public benefit alone, and the power that came in question here was the power of the people of England, exercised by their Representatives in carrying on the great affairs of the country. What were the duties that belonged to them? The country appointed them to inquire into the execution of every department of the state, to ascertain abuses, to apply remedies, and to legislate as the wants and necessities of the State might require. What, then, did their power enable them to do? That was the question on which they were now engaged. They were not contending now for anything by which they themselves could gain. Abuses might be concealed, delinquents escape, and the public suffer by their not possessing this power; but the Members could in no way be benefited by it. What was the situation of the House if, instead of claiming the right of publication, as incident and necessary to the discharge of their duty, they were to adopt a different course? What would be the condition of the country if they determined not to publish. They had petitions complaining of abuses. They had petitions pointing out great occasions for the amendment of the law, or perhaps complaining of official misconduct. Suppose the House to inquire, and the public to demand the result of the inquiry, the answer must be, "The House dare not tell you." The public functionary might be charged with malversation in his office, or possibly a judge with miscon- duct in the discharge of his duty, but the public must be kept in ignorance, or information rendered to them anonymously of the facts ascertained and reported against him. The observation equally applied to a minister, whom it was the peculiar duty of the House to watch and control. Look at the abuses which the House had exposed, and the alterations they had made in the law. They had abolished the slave-trade; they had corrected the errors and inconveniences which had arisen in the course of time in corporations; they had altered the Poor-laws. He need not detain the House by further enumeration; but how were they to satisfy the country respecting the necessity and efficiency of their legislation? How were they endeavouring to do so, or how could they do so, but by the publication of their reports? Did they want to know what would be the situation of this House if the lawyers of Westminster hall prescribed the limits of their power? Let them read the judgment in the case of Stockdale v. Hansard. No public exposure of the grounds of their proceedings would be permitted. They had come to a new era, as it struck him, by this decision of Stockdale v. Hansard. He had heard, with regret, Members of that House do themselves injustice. They said they were the judges of their own privileges, and allowed that the constitution of Parliament was distinct from the common law; but Members, even of the first intelligence, seemed to attach undue consideration to the merely legal bearings of this question. There might be technical considerations mixed up with it, on which the information of practical lawyers was necessary; but the main question depended not on technical rules, nor on the confined views which belonged to practical lawyers, but on constitutional grounds. What was necessary for the discharge of the functions of the House of Commons—what were the powers necessary to discharge their difficulties—and by what tribunal were they to be determined? These were questions not to be decided by lawyers, but by men conversant with the constitution of the country. He would be glad to know if the state of the legal business of this country permitted time and opportunity to the judges of the land to enter into practical constitutional questions affecting the privileges of that House. Where had they condescended to acquire the necessary information to enable them to judge of such questions? Was it reasonable, when the House was bestowing time and labour in making inquiries, and giving subjects full discussion, that their judgment of what the public necessities required to be communicated to the country should be set aside by the judges sitting in Westminster Hall? It was plain, that the business of the country could not be carried on under such circumstances. A right hon. and learned Friend, who spoke early in the debate, had called their attention to the circumstances under which this inquiry had arisen. He ventured to think—he did it with real respect—but he could not control his understanding, when he was satisfied, after deliberate consideration of this subject—he fully believed, that there was no pretence to call the report which had been brought in question, a libel when published by any one, still less being published by order of that House. He knew that Captain Baylis had been held guilty of no offence in the publication of a letter relative to the abuses in Greenwich Hospital. By the theory of the Constitution the Commons of England were all in that House. Even Chief Justice Holt, the enemy of privilege, said, "Truly you can't believe that one room contains the whole Commons of England, but, they are virtually there by their Representatives." No law of libel could extend to such a case. Where matters of common and public interest were involved, nothing reflecting upon individuals could constitute a libel. But when commissioners were appointed by Act of Parliament to inquire into the prisons of Great Britain, for the express purpose of legislation, he asked were the people of England not generally interested in those inquiries? Had their gaols conduced to the public advantage or otherwise? Should it be said that they might publish a trial in a court of justice where A. and B. were concerned, but that, when Parliament directed an inquiry into the general management of prisons, by an almost judicial officer, and published the results, that the contents of those reports might be a libel. Should it be said that the Commons of England, upon subjects of universal interest, should not communicate with each other, while every tradesman might write letters filled with libels from beginning to end, no matter into whose hands they might pass, if the extent were not mischievous and wanton, and beyond what the occasion required? Who should decide, in the case of Parliament, what the occasion required? Who had charge of the interests of the public? Not the judges. Their duties were much more limited. They were not to inquire what the law ought to be, or to ascertain its defects with a view of amendment, but to administer the law as it is; and they were deserting their functions when they inquired into the authority of that House. Upon a subject of universal interest, which engaged the most careful attention of Parliament, commissioners were appointed to inquire, and to lay the results of their examination before the House. For what purpose? That they might be kept secret? This particular inquiry was under the authority of an Act of Parliament. What was the machinery by which Parliament was to place it before the public? By the reports placed upon that Table. An intelligent commissioner was appointed to inquire into the state of a gaol. What did he discover in it? That in some one ward or part of the prison, there were confined together a man of the worst description, a lad of seventeen years of age, and another who was only imprisoned for fourteen days, and whose offence, therefore, must have been trifling. In that one room they were all found, and in that place a book calculated to make the imprudent guilty, and he who was guilty tenfold worse. Thus it was, that the commissioners found a prison converted from a place which ought to be for punishment—for true punishment and subsequent amendment—into a place in which the passions were inflamed, which had already been too strong; and the mischief was increased even where it might be supposed that it would be temporarily suppressed, and permanently diminished. In that place were found four books of the most obscene description. He had procured a copy of one of them, but did not intend to produce it; he had left it in the library up stairs, but if he read the letter from Dr. Bayley to the author of it, the House would understand of what character it was. Dr. Bayley had been told that it was a scientific work, and had been asked to allow the book to be dedicated to him; and he consented, if it were published deprived of some passages. Some time afterwards, however, it was published with the objectionable portions, and Dr. Bayley then wrote to Dr. Robertson, the author, to the following effect:—" That, about six years before, Dr. Robertson had written a work, and previous to its publication, had requested permission to dedicate it to him (Dr. Bayley). That he had consented to such request, on condition that it was published with the omission of certain passages. That, a few days previous to the date of this letter, a friend of his had shown him a third edition of the work, in which there were many passages of the worst nature. That he could not express what he thought when he saw the obscenity of the work, though he remembered that he had been requested to allow it to be dedicated to him. That, in his opinion, it was a work in gross violation of every principle of decency and decorum." So far, then, for the indecency of that book, which Dr. Bayley had not discovered sufficiently soon, but which, when he had ascertained, he did not hesitate thus to denounce it. What, then, was done to promote its circulation and sale? The work was published with Dr Bayley's letter prefixed to it, and with that were given plates, such even as the most profligate, he would venture to say, could not see without surprise. He had not imagined, he could not conceive a greater degree of grossness than what was to be found in the book, which was described to the jury as one for which 100l. damages ought to be given as a scientific book. The commissioners made a report. What was to be done? Were they to keep this a secret from the man to whom misconduct was imputed? Was it not, on the contrary, their duty to give him the opportunity for denial and explanation? The libel, as it was called, was published. It was handed to the corporation of London, as they were in some degree affected by the statement. The corporation of London made a report contradicting some parts of the report. No doubt the corporation believed fully the truth of that which they were induced to represent to the Government. Then it was the duty of the House to refer the statement of the corporation to the commissioner, in order that he might have the opportunity of giving an explanation. Thus it was, that the first report was made the subject of the first action, as the second report was made the subject of the second action. And yet Lord Denman asked, what had this to do with the regulation of prisons? It might, indeed, be asked what but that had to do with it? Was it not a part of the regulation of prisons well deserving of their attention? In what could the public feel more deeply interested, than that a lad who had fallen into temptation and to crime should not, by his confinement in one of their prisons, be rendered one of the worst of criminals? Was it not a part of the prison discipline, which they ought to know of, how individuals passed their term in gaol? how the gaolers performed their duties? What belonged more to the discipline of a prison than the amusements or the occupations of the prisoners? But, first, Lord Denman said, this did not relate to prison discipline; and secondly, he said, even if it did, why give Mr. Stockdale's name? Now, he, on the contrary, asked what would be the value of the report? What credit would be given to it, if the case were that of an anonymous person. What justice would it be to a man to allow a report against his character to be circulated amongst 658 persons?—thus to give it every publicity, and yet not put it forth in such a manner as to give him an opportunity of meeting directly the criminality with which he was charged. He would beg to say, that much which had been said, and much which they had heard upon the subject, was founded in error. It had been said, might the House of Commons libel whom they pleased?—what motive had the House of Commons to libel an individual—what inducement could the House of Commons have for such a proceeding, when its only object could be to prosecute nothing but what was for the public good? But then it had been said, a man should not be left without a remedy. Now, in the little experience he had had in that House, he had no hesitation in saying, that if matters were published by them which reflected upon the interests of individuals, he believed that if it were found that their interests were undeservedly affected by them, that the individual so affected would and must obtain practical justice from that House. Supposing that an individual had, from information, wrongfully—supposing him wilfully to have misled the House—why, could not the House commit him for doing so? That House would allow no witness with impunity to tell a falsehood to them, whether the person was on his oath or not. They would not permit an individual to libel intentionally another. But supposing that the House of Commons had, for some public purpose, authorised a certain publication, and that, through its means, a party had suffered loss, then, in that case, he was sure that the House would not refuse remuneration. He did not believe that a party injured by them would be left by them unredressed. He believed that it would be found that more strict justice would be done by them than would be given by any court of law. He denied that the jurisdiction of that House was incompatible with justice; he believed the reverse. An action having been brought against Mr. Hansard, he defended himself; the House took no part in it. What then was the first matter that occurred? In this case, the jury found that the publication was obscene, as it had been represented. Lord Denman summed up to the jury in that case; he, too, declared that the book was obscene, as it had been represented. In that case, when an appeal was made upon the merits of the publication and of its publisher, a special jury of the county of Middlesex declared that the man who published such a work was entitled to nothing. And yet they were there charged with doing injustice, for having taken measures to prevent a man pocketing 100l., because they had said that which a jury had since declared—that he had published an obscene book. But this was a case which might be decided upon its merits; and yet Lord Denman thought it to be his duty in connexion with it to make a strong declaration with respect to the privileges of that House. He firmly believed, that if there was a man who was above courting popularity, or whose feelings could be less influenced by an improper display of it, Lord Denman was that man. He believed that Lord Denman was not insensible to public favour; but then, he was a man of such high honour, that to be acceptable and grateful to him, it must follow the discharge of a public duty. He thought his Lordship's motives to be pure, and of his honesty he was certain. He was a man of strong and energetic mind, and he, therefore, expressed himself in strong terms. He spoke, for instance, of that House publishing libels. They had the declaration of the noble Lord; but who were to be the judges of the fact? Was that House to have no authority in the publication of any matters whatever which they might deem of importance for public purposes? What were they to do? They could not pass by the first court of justice promulgating the opinion that they published matters without any just right or pretence. The noble Lord necessarily called the attention of Parliament to the state of the law, and the committee which they appointed directed their attention to this case. The hon. Member for Oxford had said, that the House had been misled by two learned Members. He did not doubt but that he was one of those who was thus alluded to, but who was the other he could not imagine. He had laboriously collected all that which he thought the committee ought to know. He had received the greatest possible assistance from the enlightened intelligence of many hon. Members, but particularly from the right hon. Baronet opposite, and the right hon. the Member for Montgomeryshire, who was never absent upon any one occasion, and never refused to devote all his energies to the maintenance of the privileges of that House. That which he collected he presented to the committee, and he certainly held out no inducement to them to come to particular resolutions. If the documents which he collected did not appear to him to prove that the House possessed the privileges, which he was now convinced it had, he should most willingly have stated that to be the result of his labours. This matter had been well and closely sifted by the right hon. Baronet, by Sir William Follett, by Sir Frederick Pollock, and by the Attorney-general, and he never submitted anything to the committee, until it had first been considered out by the committee. Sir W. Follett had made no suggestions, from which he disagreed. So far was he from instructing others, that what he had done was read over in his chambers, by them who met him there. So far, then, was his committee from being misled by two hon. Members, that no Member of the committee could have been misled—and he must say, there was no diligence which he could bestow upon the case, that was not patiently and sedulously given to it. The right hon. Baronet had softened many paragraphs in the report presented to the committee, and he had added to it that most important paragraph, soliciting the House to pay great attention and bestow caution in the publication of their reports. That was presented to the House, and he maintained that it would be found to be sustained by legal authority, even to its least point. He had never stated anything in his resolutions, for which there was not distinct authority to be found in almost every sentence. He felt most confident, that if the House and the committee would go through them line by line, they would be found to be supported by the law and the constitution to the fullest extent. The Court of Queen's Bench pronounced in favour of that which was the basis of Parliamentary privilege in terms—namely, that the House possessed privileges necessary to enforce the functions requisite for the discharge of its duties, and that it had no privileges beyond that. What member would not pretend to have a regard for the public interests—and who could pretend to less than that? The Court of Queen's Bench admitted, that their privileges were rightly possessed, and that, when necessary, they could be lawfully exercised by the House of Commons. But to whom and before whom were they to establish that necessity? The whole question turned upon that. The Court of Queen's Bench admitted that the House had the privileges. It must have them, when it had great public duties to discharge; but then it was idle to tell them that they had those privileges, when, at the same time, they found a judge to ask them when the case for exercising them arose—" Where was the necessity?" Was it by them or by others the point was to be discussed as to the necessity for exercising their privileges? If he were to say to them, they were all at liberty to do as they pleased, and to act without restraint, if they could satisfy him that there was a necessity for unlimited freedom, that made the thing at once a burlesque. It was admitted that the House had the power, if there was a necessity for its exercise; but, then, if the House were not to judge of that necessity, of how little use would it be. The House and the judges agreed on the one point; but the difference between the judges and the House arose as to who was to determine upon the point of necessity. Were they to find that point determined there, or by others who did not belong to the House? That House, when a report was made to them, had come to certain resolutions. Now, he must say, that he wished well to the present Government, though he was perfectly unconnected with it; and feeling favourably towards it, he must remark, that he did believe, that the Government would suffer more, and he could not help saying, not without some justice, from its abandonment in this case of the highest public duty with which it was charged, than from anything else. He did not believe, from everything that he bad seen, that Gentlemen on the other side interfered in this matter from anything like a party bias, although their proceedings had a strong party tendency. That tendency was to bring down strong condemnation on the Government, for pursuing a course by which the privileges of the House of Commons were put in peril. That the Government had induced the House of Commons to adopt certain resolutions, pledging them to pursue a certain line of conduct, and then, having done this, they held the Parliament up to contempt by declaring that its resolutions were not proper to be acted upon. Whatever might be the propriety of these resolutions, they now found themselves taunted that they dare not act upon them. An hon. Friend (Mr. Wakley) who was near him, had observed, that if the sheriff were committed by them, he supposed his coroner would follow next. He had the utmost confidence in the Government; but be never could be a party to the threat which they had held out. He thought that the House of Commons having come to a resolution, should carry it into effect, and never go an iota beyond it. He was not for the House of Commons declaring that it would interfere with the administration of justice, nor of making that determination public. But after what had now occurred, what reliance, he asked, did they expect would be placed in any resolution which they passed. He hoped that this question would be decided with calmness and with deliberation—that no passion would enter into their proceedings—that they would show themselves above resentment—that their power and their authority would be enforced without acrimony or displeasure; but then, having deliberately resolved, let them firmly do their duty. The public mind had been much abused upon this subject; but, then, how were they to look for having the public with them, when it was understood that they had abandoned their resolutions? They said that this privilege was necessary to the performance of their duty. They placed their character before the world on the truth of that declaration—they were called upon to act and they flinched! They dared not to follow up their own resolution. He agreed in the words which had been said, that public opinion was the strength and power of that House. Public opinion was often, for a short time, mistaken. Those who honestly discharged their duty, must even be prepared to stand, for a time, against public opinion. He might be allowed, however, to say that the House would have crushed the adverse opinion; if they had performed that which he thought to be their duty, and that which those on the other side thought so too. If they were confident in their own resolutions, if they did not waver in their mind, if they had not changed their own opinions, and fallen into vacillation of conduct, they would now be before the public mind in a very different state. He did believe, and he meant it without any disrespect to the present House of Commons, that if- other Parliaments had shown timidity equal to that now exhibited, the privileges of the House would long since have been destroyed. The right hon. Baronet bad referred to a part of his own speech, in which he had recommended that the proper course to be adopted was to punish the person bringing the action, by committal. As to the report of his own speech, which was in the Mirror of Parliament, he must take that opportunity of saying there were expressions used, and language ascribed to him, against which he protested, and that had never been Uttered by him in that House. He had not consented to that course which the Attorney-general had proposed. He thought he had said that he entertained a very different impression respecting the course proposed, and that which was felt regarding it by the Attorney-general, for the tendency of all tribunals, and he did not except the House of Commons, was to extend their jurisdiction. There were no tribunals who had so extended their jurisdiction so much as the courts of justice. The courts of justice had in fact repealed Acts of Parliament. The courts of law in Westminster had continually extended their jurisdiction; and now there was something to prove that they desired to be, as compared with the House of Commons—the paramount power. The question, then, was this—was the House of Commons or the Courts of Westminster to be the paramount power of the State? What was the foundation of the prosperity of the country and of Parliament? It was, that the high character of that House was to be maintained—it was, that they were to be looked tip to as the first tribunal for correcting and restraining all others—that they should be the terror and the dread of all evil-doers in other public offices; but they were now in that state, that they never could again be useful and beneficial to others, as they had been. He had wished them to maintain that dignity which had been found so useful to the people; When the course was proposed by the Attorney-general which had been adopted, he suggested that the Speaker do write to the judge. He knew that was an irregular course, and that the judge was hot bound to take notice of it. There would, however, have been an advantage in adopting it. Though he said he had, upon that occasion, disagreed with his learned Friend, and warned him as to the probability of the case terminating in the way it had done, yet he could not say that his learned Friend did wrong as Attorney-general, in the proceeding he adopted, because it was a strictly legal course. Language had been used on the other Side With regard to their proceedings, which Was not worthy of the occasion. Did his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Pemberton) know that no other course could be taken to stop the action? There was not a word or sentence Uttered by his hon. and learned Friend that was not completely destitute of sound argument. That hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of Mr. Hansard having sent a card of invitation to the plaintiff to discuss this case in the Queen's Bench. a card of invitation, forsooth! Mr. Hansard was dragged before the court by a legal process. What was meant, then, by a card of invitation to the plaintiff? Did it mean that Mr. Hansard unnecessarily opposed the plaintiff. The defendant was dragged before the court, he resisted the attempts made against him—he tried to Stop the proceeding—he protested against the jurisdiction—and now, was it to be said, that it was not common justice in the defendant to refuse to bow down before the judgment against him?

The defendant, at every step of the proceeding, had protested against the jurisdiction of the court, and yet it was said that the stones of Westminster-hall would cry out, unless Mr. Hansard, after: keeping Stockdale at arm's length throughout the proceedings) now went and paid the damages without further dispute. The action could not be stopped unless by the plea, and how could that be considered an invitation to the plaintiff? If it was an invitation at all, it was an invitation to be off. The course taken by his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general was a strictly legal course, but there was not the slightest pretence for saying that he conceded one jot—and he (Mr. Wilde) was so astonished to hear what was said in the Committee on this subject, that he thought it right to move an amendment declaring that the steps taken by the Attorney-general had no tendency to restrict the privileges of the House. It would be recollected that Lord Chief Justice Pemberton and Mr. Justice Jones placed the defence of their conduct in the case of Jay v. Topham, one of the Sergeants-at-arms, because a plea similar to that which was made in the case of "Stockdale v. Hansard" had not been made:—Lord Chief Justice Perhbertori— When brought to the bar of the House of Commons distinctly affirmed, that an order of the House was pleadable on bar to any action for an arrest under it, and also that this House was a superior court of a higher nature than the King's Bench, and of greater authority, and that the King's Bench had nothing to do to inspect the actions of this House; and disclaimed the court having questioned the legality of the order or the power, but only whether the party had properly pursued the order. Sir T. Jones said— If the defendant had produced a copy of the journal that would have been sufficient, no judge would have been so silly, or imprudent at least, to have said that had not been a good and sufficient authority. After reading those observations, could any man say that the defendant, pleading in bar that the action complained of was done under legal authority, did anything which amounted to a concession of the jurisdiction of the court? He had at the time expressed his strong disapprobation of the-course pursued by the House; and had suggested another not strictly legal, but which was not illegal, for the purpose of avoiding greater evils. Therefore, as far as his authority was concerned, the Government knew what was the probable consequence of the step they had determined on. It was now said, that the question had been argued in a court of law; that the House had taken the chance of the judgment of the court being in its favour; and that, finding the judgment adverse, the House now complained of it. This representation of the case was loudly cheered; but what pretence was there for saying that the House had acted like a dishonest gamester, and having played for and lost a stake, it would not pay it; when the fact was, that the House had resisted the jurisdiction of the Court of Queen's Bench to the utmost, and, thinking itself injured, would not submit? And this was another thing that the stones of Westminster-hall were to cry out about! He only regretted that more opportunity had not been afforded to the right hon. Baronet opposite to consider this part of the question, for he was certain that the right hon. Baronet's intelligent mind would soon have been disabused of the grossest fallacy which had ever fallen under his notice. There had not been from the beginning to the end the slightest departure from hostility to the jurisdiction of the court. No concession of any sort or kind had been made; and the House was now in as good a situation to resist by any means in its power, as if it had let judgment go by default. Some reasons, certainly, might be urged in favour of the course pursued by the Attorney-general; but these were not such as would have induced his hon. and learned Friend to adopt it, supposing he had taken the same view of the matter as he (Mr. Wilde) did. It was true, as his hon. and learned Friend had said, that if the court had given judgment in his favour, no one would have disapproved of the step he took. His hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. Pemberton) at one time thought that no privilege of the House was good that had not existed from the time of Richard 1st, and he did not know whether the opinion of Lord Ellenborough and of Mr. Justice Patteson had yet satisfied him of the contrary. He begged, in order to fortify the statements he had made, to be allowed to read the opinions of Mr. Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir V. Gibbs, Attorney-general, and Mr. Ponsonby, as to the effect of appearing and pleading in the case of Burdett p. Abbott, The Attorney-general said— The House was the sole and ultimate judge of its own privileges and of their 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 privileges, but to their decisions upon them. It was by these that the court would be bound to decide. He felt not a doubt but that the judge, on reading the Speaker's plea, would refuse to listen to the action, but he could not feel the same assurance as to the plea of the sergeant, because there might be a doubt whether he had or had not overstepped his lawful authority in the manner of executing the warrant. Mr. Ponsonby said— 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? Mr. Perceval said:— He was confident that no authority, no judge in the land, when he learned that it was a question in which the privileges of the House of Commons were implicated, would determine upon it. He entertained no apprehension that either the dignity or privilege of the House of Commons was endangered. Such were the opinions of different politicians and lawyers of great eminence, following up the opinions of Lord Chief Justice Pemberton and Mr. Justice Jones. He had recommended, that the Attorney-general should not resist the case in a court of law at all; but as he did not succeed in preventing his hon. and learned Friend from pleading, he was anxious to give to the proceedings as little of a marked character as possible; and he, therefore, advised his hon. and learned Friend not to argue, but merely to inform the court of the privilege of the House, and there leave the matter. His hon. and learned Friend opposite said, that the House appeared and prayed for judgment; and the House would be astonished to learn what injustice was done the Attorney-general by such a statement. When he was dragged to the trial of the case, what else could he do but pray for judgment? Let the House read the opinion of Lord Denman with respect to the line of argument pursued by the Attorney-general, and they would see that the learned Gentleman was not at all indistinct in his protests against the jurisdiction of the court. Several times in the course of his judgment, Lord Denman observed, that the Attorney-general argued that the defendant had acted by order of the House of Commons, and that, therefore, the court had nothing to do but to give judgment for the defendant; and this the learned Lord repeated five or six times, distinctly recognizing the protest of the Attorney-general. Consequently, the Attorney-general's appearance was not to be taken as an admission, which in truth it was not, of the jurisdiction of the court, because he appeared precisely to protest against it. What he complained of in the resolution proposed by the noble Lord was, that it spoke of not taking a certain course under the special circumstances of the case. What were these special circumstances! They could not be mentioned without stultifying those who supported the noble Lord's resolution. There had been an observation made, which was entitled to the greatest respect. It had been said, that public opinion might be against the House. What then? Were they prepared to surrender the privileges of the House? Let them mark what they had done. They had passed resolutions before the action; they had passed resolutions after the action. Still the plaintiff went on with his dispute and his contumacy. They resisted by all legal steps, not allowing a word to drop admitting the jurisdiction of the court. However, the court decided against them, and the plaintiff persisted in seeking damages. Why, then, should they not persist in following out the views formerly acted on? What special circumstances, what changes had since occurred to induce them to swerve from the course there pointed out? He knew of none. The only special circumstance he was aware of was this—that Mr. Stockdale had proved himself to have been most specially contumacious. Had Mr. Stockdale ever been led to believe that the House had ever acquiesced? What step had he ever taken but in the perfect knowledge and belief that the House were using every means of resistance, and were resolved to persist in doing so? They were told, to be sure, that there were special circumstances. He knew of none. He could imagine none; but he saw very plainly that there were circumstances in operation—circumstances of special timidity. The House never could have a case in which they would stand on better ground for firm and unflinching resistance than the present occasion. Who was the individual that had given rise to this discussion? He was a person much below that station in life which made him worthy of consideration. He was, at all events, beneath the dignity of Parliament. He had always said, that the greatest boon which could be conferred on Mr. Stockdale would be to commit him for contempt. To make him a martyr, would be worth half a fortune to him. Therefore, he certainly would not advise the House to adopt any step not required by the absolute, unavoidable necessity of the case. If the course he had recommended, therefore, did not appear clearly and indispensably necessary, he said, at once, he trusted they would not follow it. He had moved the amendments which appeared in the record of the proceedings of the Committee, believing that he should have the support of the noble Lord below him, and the right hon. Baronet opposite. But when he found himself disappointed in that expectation, he had given up the point. He was desirous that the House should act with firmness and consistency, but that they should not go into a contest to expose themselves to defeat. Therefore, he said, resist—resist to the uttermost—calmly, but firmly adopt that position, and follow out that dignified and most proper course if the House went with them in supporting such a course; but do not attempt it, abandon it without hesitation, if they were to produce, by doing so, a division in that House, and thus appear in a weakened and less powerful position. The course which they ought to pursue should depend chiefly upon the feeling which was entertained in that House. He thought, however, that the House would find that this much commiserated sheriff would not endure such very great sufferings as had been depicted. And he did not hesitate to say, that if they were prepared to give way to such considerations, and to allow themselves to be influenced by motives of pity for subordinate officers, and always, in such cases, to give up their powers to the judges, they would speedily disable themselves of the means necessary to vindicate the privileges of Parliament. Sup- posing that the House should adopt the amendment which had been proposed, and the sheriff was ordered to proceed with the execution of the writ; he would communicate that to the House; he would tell them so. The House, in that event, would tell the sheriff not to proceed to execution, and would protect him from the consequences; and the Home Secretary would receive instructions from the House to that effect. [Laughter.] That seemed to excite amusement in the minds of some hon. Members. Did the House not act in that way when the soldiers were called out to take Sir Francis Burdett? Let Gentlemen then say what ought to be done and could be done when matters came to the last extremity. He had stated his opinion on the circumstances, and he would only say, that if the course which he had suggested were adopted, he would at once stand responsible for the result. The court, no doubt, might grant an attachment against the sheriff, if he refused to execute their writ, but, in that event, when they came to enforce that attachment, it would be found similar to the case of the man with the bear; the bear would, to a certainty, catch the man instead of the man catching the bear. They had arrived at that state of matters which made it plain to every one that something definite must be done. Supposing the amendment to be carried, and a case of privilege thus to have arisen, which rendered it necessary for the wisdom of both Houses to consider what should be done; that would necessarily lead to a conference of the two Houses. Suppose that the sheriff, on that, attempts to levy an execution, and he is taken for contempt: what, then, would be the consequence if the House of Lords should refuse to assist the House of Commons, and join in the maintenance of their privileges? He saw no difficulty in such an event—nothing that would deter him from supporting the views that should lead to such a collision, because he deemed it an unavoidable one, and the course he should in that event recommend the House of Commons to adopt, would be this:—He would suggest they ought to declare, that such and such privileges were necessary to the due exercise of the legislative functions of the House of Commons, and that, until those privileges were distinctly admitted and vindicated, the House could not go on with the dispatch of the public business of the country. It would not be the first time that that House had differed with the House of Lords, and it was probable that they would have occasion to differ again; but, for his own part, he wished to see no such difference; yet he must say, that should such a difference occur in this case, he thought the plain and most practicable method of settling such difference would be by a conference between both Houses of Parliament. Both Houses must see that such a state of things required steps to be taken for arriving at a satisfactory basis of settlement. There must be an adjustment. If not satisfied with the plan he had suggested, he begged to ask what other course could be proposed? Let any hon. Member mention a plan more practicable and more calculated to establish and preserve peace and good understanding, and he was ready to adopt it. But he had heard of none, and he had set out with this, that the House of Commons must preserve its privileges, and take decided steps to vindicate its authority. They had been misled by the doctrine of writs of error going ultimately to the House of Lords. There was no such thing as a writ of error to the House of Lords alone. Such writ of error was, reviewable by Parliament, according to the ancient constitution of the country, consisting of both Houses, or the three estates collectively assembled, It was a privilege belonging to "Parliament," call it by that name or any other name—and a privilege belonging to Parliament in that sense only. The two Houses had, on several occasions, separated, sometimes not very certain for what cause they did so. Sometimes it was in consequence of subsidies asked for by the Crown having been refused, and the Commons would not remain longer in company. But, as Lord Ellenborough said, each House on that separation took its own part of privilege along with it necessary for the due and efficient discharge of its public functions. The powers of the courts of law since that day had not changed. They still remained in comparison with the powers of Parliament in, the same relative position. The hands of the judges were purer, but their powers were not enlarged. Such was the position of the judges now, and such it had been even in the worst of times,. Lord Ellenborough distinctly laid down, that Parliament possessed the paramount right of using the power necessary to assert its privileges, and that each House possessed in the discharge of their separate functions, the authority necessary to be applied to enable it to perform its duties as a constituent part of "Parliament." Lord Holt himself, in the case of "Ashby v. White," made use of this fact, not very fairly against the Commons, asking how the Commons could object to a writ of error, when they were parties to the judgment which must be given upon the writ of error? Several cases would be found on the rolls of Parliament in which the Commons were, described as parties, and there were several cases in which the Commons complained, that they were omitted, and it had been said, that it was impossible to ascertain with any certainty whither the Commons were patties to the record or not, as the clerk of the House of lords sometimes omitted their names by mistake, and sometimes by design, in order to give the greater semblance of authority to the House to which he belonged. The House; of Commons then, was co-ordinate in point of privileges with the House of Lords, and were they by a side wind to make the House of Lords paramount? "The privileges," it was said by a high authority, "which have been since the separation, in 49th Henry 3rd, enjoyed, and the functions which have been since uniformly exercised by each branch of the Legislature, with the knowledge and, acquiescence of the other House and of the King, must be presumed to be the privileges and functions which then—that is, at the very period of their original separation—were statutably assigned to each. The privileges which belong to them seem at all times to have been, and necessarily must be inherent in them, independent of any precedent," The country had made a great struggle to carry the Reform Bill. The chief object which they had in view, the main purpose for which such, extraordinary, exertions had been made on that occasion, wag to improve the representation, and to extend the privileges of the people. He did not hesitate to say, that those exertions would be entirely lost, and that the Reform Bill would be nothing better than a piece of waste-paper, if the House were to allow the House of Lords to exercise such control over their proceedings The Queen's Bench had grasped at every inch of. ground in former: years, The, history of the coun- try showed each tribunal constantly contending for the possession of unallowed and extended jurisdiction; and Chief Justice Pemberton whom it was the fashion to pity, and who was committed by the House of Commons, told Roger North that he had made more law than King, Lords, and Commons, put together. The effect then of allowing a writ of error to go from the Queen's Bench to the House of Lords was allowing that House which only possessed co-ordinate privileges with the House of Commons, to decide the question of the extent of their privileges. Much had been said about the danger of abuse; that if the House possessed the exclusive right of judging of its privileges it was impossible to see what might be the result; that if the House possessed the exclusive power of deciding on the question of its own privilege, the House might determine anything to be privilege. Well, suppose that to be the case—suppose that there were any salutary power which could be imagined that was not open to the risk of abuse—was it not plain, that if there were anything in such an argument it would strike both ways? And that, on the same principle, it was open according to the doctrine of Lord Denman, for the Count of Queen's Bench to declare anything not to be privilege. Was it not well known to all who bad read and studied the law of jurisdiction, that there never was a particular power possessed by any public body that might not be abused? The great cheek to suck abuse was the, influence of public opinion and he begged to ask where he could be shown a tribunal more amenable to the power of public opinion than that House. It was said, however, that that House had already been, guilty of an abuse of power. He admitted such to be the fact. The House had on certain occasions been guilty of an abuse of power. What tribunal, he again asked, could be named which had not on some occasions committed an abuse of power? But, at the same time it was his, duty to bring under the notice of the House, that many of these acts now viewed, as abuses by the House, were, at the time when; they took place, clear and undeniable privileges of Parliament, In the early days of Parliament, society, it must be remembered, was in a very different state from what it is at the present day, and it was necessary to assert a very, different kind of privilege. Some of those privileges were preserved, no doubt, long after the change in civilization had rendered their preservation useless and improper. They had been maintained, in short, after the necessity for their existence no longer remained. He would not keep up a single privilege that was not requisite for the preservation of the dignity and legislative power of the House. If that necessity for any particular privilege ceased, he maintained that the privilege no longer existed. He believed, that by departing from that principle abuses may have been committed. People of worth and merit were committed—counsel, eminent counsel, were committed—and even some judges were committed. How did it happen that none of those persons moved for their habeas corpus? Not one of them did so. The most eminent men yielded obedience to the privileges of the House, and not one of those who were punished by commitment thought of applying to the courts of justice for redress. They did not dream of bringing actions at law to claim redress for alleged wrong, but yielded at once to the supremacy of Parliament. Had there been such an abuse of power as might now be supposed surely the excess of privilege would have made them the more determined to resist and to challenge investigation? But he was desirous to point out the difference between what might be considered an abuse of power by that House, and an excess of jurisdiction by a court of law. The integrity and good sense of that House formed a strong assurance, that they would never seek to assert a privilege beyond the very narrowest necessity of the case. They had indeed from that cause, surrendered privilege after privilege; but the courts of law, instead of giving up power, were constantly seeking to extend and enlarge their several jurisdictions. He must now refer to some of the cases that had been so much relied on in the pleadings, and particularly the case of Benyon v. Evelyn, which was supposed to show, that there was a general jurisdiction in the courts of law to examine and overrule what was done by the authority of Parliament. Why in that case it had been distinctly proved by the Attorney-general, that no question arose in which either House of Parliament was interested. It was an attempt, in short, by a creditor to force the writ of Parliamentary privilege on a defendant who had been a Member of Parliament to evade the statute of limitations. Sir Orlando Bridgeman, a great loyalist, who had been expelled from Parliament, and then Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, spoke merely of the question of privilege incidentally, and the action was for goods sold and delivered in April, 1657. He did not see what use then could be made of that case to support the power assumed by the courts of law. He warned the House, that the step they were now about to take, would form a lasting precedent. He had shown what had been the result of forbearance in former cases. In the particular case last mentioned, privilege was not pleaded, but forced upon him, and all that was extra-judicial. His learned Friend, the Attorney-general, had accordingly remarked, that the opinion of Sir Orlando Bridgeman, in that case, must be viewed as such, and therefore entitled to no weight. To that remark of the Attorney-general, the judges replied, that as the opinion was extra-judicial, the House was the more blame-able in not consenting to it. He was never more surprised than when he read in this judgment that the House had not interfered. Why, the House was no party to some of these cases. He ventured to say, that some of these cases had occurred when the Parliament was not sitting, and they could not interfere in an incidental case of which they had never heard. If abuse were the ground of the present judgment; if it were shown that abuses had existed, the course now taken would tend to negative all inquiry, and prevent all necessary cure by Parliament; the abuses that had been complained against were no longer claimed; but it was not removing an abuse to change the name. How stood the case with respect to the House of Lords? Suppose they claimed a privilege, which the courts of law should decide to be no privilege, the judgment of the courts of law would go by writ of error to the House of Lords; that House would say the same as they had at first asserted, and it was absurd to say that they should begin the question in one court, that they should travel with it into another court, and that ultimately it should come back to the same court in which it had originated. What was the difference between the House of Lords and the House of Commons on this point in law? In his opinion there was none, Here the Houses were co-ordinate. The language of Mr. Chief Baron Gilbert was—"The House of Commons is intended as a check to the House of Lords." What a farce then would it be, if the House of Lords could check the Commons, and if, when the two Houses were co-ordinate and independent of each other, one could so treat the other! It was necessary to give the House of Lords the same power of privilege. Why was not the House of Lords subject to abuse? The law, in fact, was not framed on the presumption, that if there were abuse on the part of the highest authority, a remedy could not be provided. Was it the only ground of claim on the part of the court, that the Commons of England were liable to abuse their powers? Why, the Commons were sent by constituents; they were acting in public, and yet they were not to be trusted with this privilege, for fear of abuse. No one dreamed that the jurisdiction of the court itself had not been usurped, though the usurpation had been sanctioned by time. But what a presumption of abuse would there be if there was this appellant power in a place secure from control—in the Court of Queen's Bench. The observations of his learned Friend contained a mass of legal argument, and yet Lord Denman said that the only merit to be found in it was that it was laboured. He could not help observing, that having read the judgment—with all the respect which he felt for the four men, than whom more honourable and more amiable men were never, he believed, under any circumstances associated together—he felt considerable surprise at finding an impression on his mind that the judgment was determined on before the argument was closed. The court had not time to consider all the arguments. Lord Denman said of the reasons given by Chief Justice Holt, that "it was easier to outvote than to answer them," and he begged the attention of the House on that point to the observation to which he had referred respecting his learned Friend's argument. He thought that it was much more easy to give a loose general judgment bearing some popular topics on the face of it, than to bring forward any legal authorities on which a judgment could be given against the House. He would shortly call the attention of the House to some of the authorities which existed on this subject. The right horn Baronet opposite would, doubt- less, recollect many of them. Lord Chief Justice Abbott declared— That it was settled by many precedents in the courts of law, and, finally, in the case of Burdett and Abbott, that it was competent for the House of Commons to convict for contempt of their privileges, and that they were the judges and the only judges of what was a contempt. The cases of Lord Shaftesbury and of the King v. Patys, were decisive authorities to show that the Courts of Westminster-hall can not judge of any law, custom, or usage of Parliament, and consequently they can not discharge a person committed for a contempt of Parliament. The power of commitment for contempt is incident to every court of justice, and more especially it belongs to the High Court of Parliament. He was speaking of the House of Commons, but in truth each branch of the Legislature was a court for these purposes— And therefore it is incompetent for this court to question the privileges of the House of Commons on a commitment for an offence which they have adjudged to be a contempt of those privileges. That was the judgment of Lord Tenterden a few years ago. Lord Kenyon had expressly said that it was impossible to admit that the proceedings of either House of Parliament could be a libel. "This," said he, "is a proceeding on the part of one branch of the Legislature, and, therefore, we cannot inquire into it." Mr. Justice Lawrence said— The proceedings of courts of justice are daily published, some of which highly reflect on individuals. Yet it is of vast importance to the public that the proceedings of courts of justice should be universally known. The general advantage to the country in having these proceedings made public more than counterbalances the inconveniences to the private persons whose conduct may be the subject of such proceeding. The same reasons also apply to the proceedings in Parliament; it is of advantage to the public, and even to 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. He would next read the judgment of Lord Camden in the case of Entick v. Carrington: Lord Camden said— The rights of that Assembly (the House of Commons) are original and self-created, they are paramount to our jurisdiction, and they are above the reach of prohibitions, injunctions, or error. Meaning thereby any writ of error. He would now refer to the judgment of Chief Justice De Grey, which was passed by in the judgment with scarcely an observation; as for answer, there was none:— When the House of Commons adjudged any thing to be a contempt, or a breach of privilege, their adjudication is a conviction, and, their commitment in consequence, is execution; and no court can discharge or bail a person that is in execution by the judgment of any other court. We do not know certainly the jurisdiction of the House of Commons; we cannot judge of the laws and privileges of the House, because we have no knowledge of those laws and privileges. Lord Denman said to this—You say, that we do not know the law of Parliament: what better means of knowledge have you V Why, when the judges said, that they did not know the law of Parliament, what they said was—that they were judges to decide the common law that their, books were addressed to the common, law, and not to matters of Parliamentary law, and, therefore, that Parliamentary law was not the law that they, as common law judges, knew. The same thing would, be said by judges who were most profoundly learned in Parliamentary law; and they, would say it all the, more, and all the more properly, because they were profoundly learned in Parliamentary law What if the Court of Queen's Bench should not know where Dublin was? And yet there was a case in which the court held, that they did not know that Dublin was, in Ireland; it was not averred, and therefore, they did not know it; was it to be supposed that the judges did not know that Dublin was in Ireland? But they did not know it judicially. To the courts of law Parliamentary law was like foreign law, and how did, the courts administer foreign law? They required evidence. He was surprised therefore, that great lawyers should not be aware, that when, the judges said they did not know Parliamentary law, the obvious meaning was, that they came to courts of common law to administer the common law, and that they would not decide on other matters not within their judicial: knowledge. That was the manner in which the subject was dealt with in Thorp's, case, when, the assembled judges were called before the House of Lords, and they declared, that "relative to the law of Parliament they could give no opinion." They did not mean, that they were ignorant, of the law, but that they had no jurisdiction in such, matters, Mr. Justice Holroyd said, that all that was meant was, that they could not give a judgment in a matter before the House of Lords, and the error of Mr. Justice Holroyd was at once corrected. The Court of Queen's Bench had adopted the error of Mr. Justice Holroyd, and got rid of the decision, Mr. Chief Justice De Grey said further— There are two sorts of privileges which ought never to be confounded; personal privilege, and the privilege belonging to the whole collective body of that Assembly. Courts of Justice have no cognizance of the acts of the Houses of Parliament, because they belong ad aliud examen. And Mr. Justice Gould added— 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. The House of Commons are the only judges of their own privileges. To the opinion of Mr. Justice Black-stone he would direct particular attention. It was most summarily dismissed in the present judgment, though he had paid great attention to the higher branches of the House of Commons. He said— The House of Commons is a supreme court, and they are judges of their own privileges and contempt's; and if any persons may be safely trusted with this power, they must surely be the Commons who are chosen by the people, for their privileges and powers are the privileges and powers of the people. He called the attention of the House to the opinion of Blackstone because he was a man connected with the aristocracy and the power of that day, and it was well known, that he had taken an active pant in the Middlesex election, and he went on to say, that "the House of Commons is the only judge of its own proceedings," and further, "it is our duty to presume the orders of that House and their execution are according to law." He (Mr. Sergeant Wilde) would not weary the House with citing farther judgments of the many learned judges who had: pronounced; opinions to the same effect; they were, all swept away in a few sentences in, the present judgment. Lord Denman said, that his learned. Friend, had admitted, that the court had an incidental jurisdiction. The report said, that the judges had no direct power to decide upon the privileges of the House; but when they came before them incidentally they must dispose of them; but there could be no jurisdiction in the courts inconsistent with the authority of Parliament, He believed, that there was no difficulty in the present case. Suppose an action should be brought for the seizure of a ship and that it should be pleaded that she was a prize of war, there would be an end to the jurisdiction, but if the question of the prize should be decided in another court, the court applied to could give effect to such judgment. Again, if the husband sued in right of his wife, incidentally it might be a question whether the marriage was lawful, but should the bishop certify that the marriage was lawful it would conclude that part of the case. So in many cases there might be an incidental power to determine something beyond the jurisdiction of the court. His learned Friend had in the argument cited a score of cases at the least, in which the judgment of the court of peculiar jurisdiction had been declared to be binding on the court of incidental jurisdiction, but the whole of this, part of the argument was passed by in the judgment with scarcely a single remark. The question, however, was whether the House was satisfied from the judgment? And what was the House to do? If there; were any general circumstances in the present case justifying the course proposed by the noble Lord, let them be seated, but let them not damage their cause by the use of general words, which in after ages would go for nothing. If there were any special circumstances in this case, he called upon him to state them, but he believed there were none. He believed, that they must come to the opposite conclusion. Were it that they relied on the pleading, were it the argument, were it the judgment for the plaintiff, and were it if they pleased, and. as be was afraid, that the public opinion was against them, yet the balance of advantage would be produced to the House, and more contentment would be given if Parliament took the manly, and honest course. Could they aver the existence of the privilege more than they had done, and were they to come to a resolution that they did not believe in the resolutions to which they had come? If it was not supported, if the noble lord had corrected his opinion as to the resolution, what further time was required—what was to be waited for after the judgment? What further search was to be made? If they were in doubt, them, say so He was ready and earnest in the cause. If the resolutions come to in 1837 were wrong, let them, be pursued no further—the honour and dignity of the House would in, such case be better asserted by the discharge pf the resolution. If they were wrong, he would be one of the first to discharge it. Why did they keep the resolution upon their journals, if they were afraid to act upon it? What warranted them in thinking that public opinion was against them, if they pursued their privileges to, the fullest extent? If they took their stand against the judgment, there would be a greater chance of peace and safety, and there would be less chance of ill-feeling on the part of the public Let there be nothing hasty, and nothing rash; but let there he firmness and decision. The public would excuse delay on account of doubts, if they set themselves to work to clear them, up, but they would never content public opinion by vacillation. They had protested against the jurisdiction of the court, and had warned the judges that they would not allow their privileges to be questioned, and if they hesitated now;, if they declined to act upon their resolutions, they could only be considered as the tenants at will of the Court of Queen's Bench, so, far as their privileges were concerned. Tell him not the Court of Queen's pencil would; allow them certain privileges, that the judges would grant them liberty of speech. If the House submitted to, this judgment, what privilege bad they which might not be invaded? What privilege did they possess which had not been condemned in the course of their history by the judges? Not one. Did they doubt the propriety pf publishing their proceedings or the reports which were made to the House? Let them stop the publication, in future if they had any doubt pf the necessity or legality of such a course. He would say, to them in the first place, do, nothing unlawful, and in the next place, let them preserve, their jurisdiction with, boldness and vigour. If they were wrong, they had no right to go on breaking the law, but if, they were right, they never could be in so good a condition, as now, to assert their privileges. They had acted with temper and moderation, hitherto, and what were they now, doing? Not, as formerly, maintaining their rights and boldly asserting their privileges, privileges which, were necessary to enable them to discharge their duties to those whose, interests they represented, and which they were bound to protect for the benefit of their country. The judgment which had been delivered was, in his opinion, an actual interruption of the public business, and the cause of that interruption ought to be removed by constitutional means. They were told to go to the judges, and how did the courts act with regard to each other? If one court claimed a jurisdiction which belonged to another, that other would not suffer the jurisdiction to be usurped. The Exchequer would not suffer any interference by any other court in regard to questions relating to the revenue. The Court of Chancery would commit any person acting in defiance of its authority, and the sheriff refusing to execute its orders would at once have been committed. In this case they might act against the sheriff with impunity, and in doing so, they would only follow the same course as was pursued by the courts of law. Such, too, was the proper course for the House to follow, and if they maturely considered who was to blame, they would find, that such a proceeding was right, and if they determined to adopt it they might rest assured that there would be no occasion for any such extreme measure. They had only to show a determination to act, and that would certainly lead to a constitutional settlement of the whole question. Did they ask how the matter would be easiest settled. Let them look to the Parliament. Much had been said, of not attacking an inferior, and in favour of proceeding at once against the superior, but he would give them an instance of how the House had formerly proceeded. In 1604 a Member of the House had been taken in execution for a sum of 4,000l., and a doubt had arisen whether, if once discharged, he could be taken again. The warden of the Fleet had refused to obey the writ of habeas corpus which had been issued in the case, and the House had in consequence committed him to the Tower. The wife of the warden next refused to deliver up the Member, and the warden had then been brought from the Tower and committed to the prison of Little Ease. The warden at last consented to obey the warrant of the House, and the Member was ultimately discharged from the Fleet. Such was the proper course to have pursued in the present case, and why, he would ask, had it not been adopted? There could have been no doubt of their right to act now, as the House of Commons had done then, and (so we understood the hon. and learned Gentleman) in the case of "Benyon v. Evelyn," which had been overruled, the privilege asserted had been confirmed by three Acts of Parliament, and had only been abandoned in the reign of George 3rd. But the question was, what was the proper course? Would they strike out a new course, or pursue the old, which time and precedent had sanctioned? Was not the old the safest course? He would say, if a considerable majority of that House were of opinion, that the privilege of publishing their proceedings was necessary to the proper discharge of the functions of the House, that the safest course was to stop the execution through the sheriff. But, if the difference of opinion was great, and if a large portion of the House considered that they ought not to act in the manner he had proposed, then he would say, that it was better that privilege should die a natural death, than that the House should enter on a struggle in which a division of opinion must produce defeat. That which was wise when the House was united, he should consider rashness when the House was divided in opinion. Such were his sentiments, and he had now to thank the House for the indulgence which they had granted him in stating his views.

Sir E. Sugden

said, he could assure the House, that he did not rise for the purpose of answering the able speech of his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down. In a great deal of what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman, he fully concurred, and the only question in his mind was relative to the special circumstances of the present case. In his opinion this was not a case of libel, and it ought not to have been treated as a question of libel by the judges, but simply as a communication to the House which was necessary to enable them to frame a measure for the improvement of prisons. In making that declaration, he was emboldened in some measure by the opinions which he held in regard to the publication of the proceedings of the House. It was his impression, that the House was not justified in publishing their reports and proceedings in the manner which was at present acted upon. He thought those reports were published without due examination and care, and he should wish to see rescinded the resolution which the House had come to sanctioning the sale of all the papers which were printed by its orders. He also thought that the committee on printed papers ought to have the duty intrusted to them of deciding on the propriety of publishing reports and other accounts of their proceedings. He would wish to give an assurance to the public, that the House was disposed to send out no paper likely to prove injurious to individuals, and that due caution was exercised in deciding on the propriety of publishing any report or other document. One of the learned judges had said, that he was desirous to avoid using any language calculated to offend, but that he could not help asking, whether any public benefit resulting from the publication of Parliamentary proceedings could make up for the injury done to individuals, and inflicted on the House itself by its trading in books? Such also was the opinion of the Lord Chief Justice. The reason why he had alluded to this subject was, because the judges seemed to have been strongly impressed with the idea, that the House had allowed the sale of its proceedings, without due care having been exercised to prevent the publication of defamatory matter, that the House allowed the publication of reports without due deliberation and caution. It was also his misfortune to differ with his hon. and learned Friend, in the opinion that that House was generally and without qualification the best and only judge of its own privileges. He thought that some limit ought to be made, and that some line ought to be drawn. None of the known privileges of the House had been denied; but there were cases which might come before the courts of law, without any question being raised as to the known and necessary privileges of the House. In the case of "Burdett v. Abbott," Lord Ellen-borough, who had decided in favour of the Speaker, had said expressly, that cases might arise in which the court must decide against the privilege of Parliament. He would put an extreme case. If the House were to violate any of the rights of the subject, it could not be doubted that the courts ought to afford protection. He agreed in the opinion, that this was not a case of libel, and that the House was right in contending for the propriety of the publication of the report on which the action was founded. He wished, that in the discussion before the Court, it had been possible to confine the attention of the Court to the point, whether or not the House had a right to publish this particular report? If that point alone had been kept in view," he conceived, that it would have been difficult for any court to pronounce for the plaintiff, but unfortunately the discussion bad taken a different turn, and the whole of their privileges had in consequence come in question. The plea of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general was a very proper one—no one found fault with it; but there was this difference of opinion about it, that the judges were entitled to pronounce on the whole plea. The Chief Justice so stated, and Mr. Justice Coleridge said, that they were bound to judge and decide according to their conscience and according to their opinion of the law. His hon. and learned Friend Mr. Sergeant Wilde had made a great point of the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords, but he seemed to have forgotten that the case of "Burdett and Abbott" went to the House of Lords, and that House had adjudicated upon it, and yet that involved some of the dearest privileges of the Commons, as much as the present case could. Now he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend, that in this particular case the House had the right to publish the document, and that the Court of Queen's Bench was wrong in its judgment, and if his hon. and learned Friend had addressed the House at the time that Stockdale brought his action, he would have agreed with him that the House would have been fully justified in committing him for a contempt of its privilege; but the point on which he differed from his hon. and learned Friend was this, that special circumstances had occurred in this case which ought to prevent the House going further with it. His hon. Friend asked were they afraid to vindicate their privileges? He contended that they had done so. They had already rescinded in effect their resolution. Now, let the House see what would be the consequence to the sheriff in this case. If he refused to obey the Court of Queen's Bench, it would issue an attachment against him; and if he did issue execution, the House would commit him; and let it also be observed, that in half an hour after his refusal to issue execution, Stockdale might commence an action against him. Would the House in that case commit Stockdale? Would they deprive him of the fruit of that action which they had disputed with him? What they should have done was, to have stopped him in the beginning. Instead bf that they had argued the whole matter with him, day by day and step by step, and after that to interfere and deprive him of the fruit of the judgment pronounced in his favour, and to lay him by the heels just as he was about to reap the fruits of his action—to do this would bring the general feeling of the country against them. This was a course which he was sure the House would not dare to adopt. He said would not dare, because he was sure the House would not dare to do that which it knew to be wrong. Let the House look at the consequence if the House proceeded against the sheriff. That officer would most undoubtedly resist the authority of the House, and would obey that of the Court of Queen's Bench. If the House should proceed against the Sheriff and commit him, the Court, as a matter of course, would vindicate its authority and that of its officer, and should he be, as unquestionably he would be, brought before the court by a habeas corpus, the court would at once discharge him. What course would then be open to the House? Would they call the judges of the court to the bar of that House? But if they did, would not that be punishing the judges for the conscientious discharge of their duty? For, as had been well remarked by Mr. Justice Coleridge, the judges had not invited the case before them. It had been brought under their jurisdiction in the ordinary way, and they could do nothing else than decide it conscientiously. He should be ashamed for the profession to which he belonged if the judges of the land should be called to the bar of that House for such conduct. His hon. and learned Friend had talked of the risk of having the privileges of that House brought under the jurisdiction of the House of Lords; but suppose the verdict had been against Stockdale, what was there to prevent his bringing a writ of error, and from taking the case by appeal to the House of Lords, and there the question of deciding on the privileges of the Commons would be argued, and probably finally decided. In conclusion he would again express his opinion that the publication in this case was not a libel, and that the Court of Queen's Bench was wrong in its judgment; but still he must repeat his conviction that the House had let the proper time for asserting its privilege go by, and on this ground he must give his vote against the amendment.

The Solicitor-General

would not interfere but a few moments; but he could not shrink from declaring to the House that opinion which he had deliberately formed, and declared in the committee, more particularly as he had the misfortune, on that occasion, to differ with his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-general. He at once admitted that his reason for not adopting the proposition included in the amendment was, that, under the circumstances of this case, it was absolutely impossible for the House to take the extreme course suggested, without outraging the feelings of every person in the community. He was aware that he differed from a great number of his friends on this subject, but he begged to suggest to them shortly the grounds oh which he had come to that conclusion. His right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets, had pointed out the extremely good case the House had got in order to assert their privilege. If, indeed, they looked to the subject matter bf the libel, as it was called, he admitted that they had a case so strong, and so irresistible, that he never could hope for the possibility bf a case upon which to try the question with such advantage. That might be conceded. But that was hot the only question to be considered; for if, by enforcing this order, they should carry with it hot only the appearance, but the reality of extreme injustice, then he thought the very first step they took would compensate all the au-vantages the case gave to them. In what would the extreme injustice of such a proceeding consist? If, in the beginning, they had said that the action should not be brought, they then would have imposed an injunction upon the person bringing the action; and if he brought it, it would have been an act bf volition on his part, because he might, or might not, and the House had a right to say, "If you do bring the action, we will punish you." According to his experience of the proceedings in the Court of Chancery, the practice respecting injunctions had been erroneously represented. The court did not restrain the Sheriff, but it restrained the counsel, agent, and attorneys of the party, all of whom were persons who were at liberty to act, or not to act. Now, analogous to this practice of the Court of Chancery, the House of Commons might have said to Mr. Stock-dale, "You shall not bring this action;" and if he acted in defiance of that injunction, the House might have committed him, his counsel, agent, and attorneys. But it was admitted, that the House could not commit the Judges of the Court of Queen's Bench. They were called upon to give their opinion on the case; they did so: they could not help doing so. It would be most absurd, therefore, to proceed against them. But was not the same argument exactly applicable to the case of the Sheriff? He took an Oath that he would execute all the Queen's writs that were put into his hands. He would tell you, "I have taken an oath which absolutely binds me to execute this writ. Could you reply, "Never mind that; you shall not do it?" He could only say, that if they had at first proceeded against the party, and had by degrees got up to this last and ultimate step, it would Still have appeared to him to have been a most desperate remedy; but, in the present case, it was proposed that the House should commence with that act of injustice. That was one great objection he had to proceeding further. But there was another objection; the House, by so acting, would do no good. If they committed the Sheriff, he would remain in prison till the end of the session; he would then come out, and execution on the judgment would be levied. What, then, would the House do during the next session? They could not commit the Sheriff; for he would be out of office, and another would have been appointed, against whom no proceedings could be taken, as he would not have had anything to do with the matter. They would, therefore, find themselves at last just in the same predicament as they were in now. He, therefore, had come to the conclusion, that whatever course they might pursue hereafter, they could not persist in proceeding further in the present case. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by eulogizing, in very high terms, the speech of Mr. Sergeant Wilde, which he declared was one which, whether for depth of research, or clearness of arrangement, or aptness of illustration, was certainly very seldom equalled, and never could be surpassed.

Mr. Williams Wynn

would trespass but a few moments on the House, as an considered that the admirable speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Sergeant Wilde) had completely exhausted the subject, and urged, in a most efficient manner, the best arguments which could be adduced on that side of the question which he espoused. He considered that there was no choice between maintaining their privileges and giving them up altogether, and therefore he must support the proposition for resisting the execution of the judgment. He declared this upon the broad principle that the House had a distinct and exclusive right to decide upon its own privileges. The very privilege of publishing and even selling their documents, had, with the exception of a brief interval when it was interrupted, been exercised ever since 1680. The present judgment Was not confined to the privilege of publishing only, but denied wholly the existence of any law of Parliament which the judges of Westminster Hall were not to decide upon as freely and as absolutely as on any other part of the common law. This was in direct opposition to the answer of the judges as given in the case of Thorn, in the reign of Henry 6th., and ever since recognised as an authority by every judge. He would not now detain the House by going through the long catalogue of judges of the highest eminence who (with the exception of Lord Holt) had uniformly admitted this exclusive privilege of the two Houses of Parliament, but what said the best text writers? Mr. Justice Blackstone quoted the following passage from the Words of Lord Coke, "Whatever is enacted of law by one or two only of the three branches of the legislature is no statute, and to it no regard is due unless in matters relative to their own privileges." That was an exception made by Lord Coke; but was that all? He afterwards added, "The whole of the law and the custom of Parliament, has its origin from this one maxim, that whenever matter arises concerning either House of Parliament it ought to be examined, discussed, and judged in that House to which it; relates and not elsewhere." Now the report of the committee did not slate the privileges of the House in more express terms than those used by Lord Coke. He proceeded to comment on the judgment of Lord Denman, which, highly as he respected that learned person, appeared to him rather to bear the character of the argument of an advocate than the judgment of a judge. Of this spirit there could be no stronger instance than the passage already cited, where his Lordship declares, that "whether the hook found in the possession of a prisoner in Newgate (in a room where he was confined with two other young prisoners) were obscene or decent could have no influence in determining how prisons can hest he regulated." Every extra-judicial expression tending to intimate a doubt as to the extent of privilege is carefully collected and urged to the utmost, while the weight of the repeated decisions of the ablest judges and of the uninterrupted and unquestioned exercise of these privileges by both Houses of Parliament is studiously evaded, or set at nought as proceeding only from usurpation. A principal argument in which Lord Denman has followed Lord Brougham is derived from the proceedings of the House of Commons against individuals for trespasses on the lands of Members, which he treats as an illegal usurpation, and he asks whether "supposing, in the celebrated case of Admiral Griffin, one who claimed a right of fishing in his ponds, had brought an action against the officer who seized him, who justified the imprisonment under the Speaker's warrant, alleging his high contempt in daring to fish in a Member's pond. Would not the Court of King's Bench have been, bound to enquire as to the privilege and to declare that it did not, and could not, extend to such a case? This question is repeated by Mr. Justice Littledale, and yet the latter admits, that "in the case of commitments for contempts, there is no doubt but the House is the sole judge whether it is a contempt or not, and the courts of common law will not enquire into it" This admission would sufficiently answer the question, but even if the case be examined into, it will be found that the House did not exceed its authority as it then existed by law. The lands and estates of Members were then protected by the act of Parliament as much as their persons. The principle upon which privilege of Parliament against all sorts and proceedings originated, was, that during the time of the attendance of Parliament the attention of Members of either House should not be drawn away by the necessity of defending their private rights against actions at law. The commonest mode of instituting such proceedings, was by entry, and at earlier periods when the sessions were short, when communications with the country was dilatory and uncertain, when the attorneys in the distant parts of the kingdom had no agents in London, it by no means appears that such protection was unreasonable, though it maybe readily admitted, that it was continued long after the reasons for its existence had ceased. This protection for persons, servants, lands, and goods, is stated by Blackstone to be an immunity as antient as Edward the Confessor, and continued to be expressly claimed by the Speaker in his address to the Throne at the commencement of every parliament. It was constantly enjoyed by the Members of both Houses, and was enforced by the Lords even more frequently than the Commons, down to the reign of George 3rd., in the tenth year of whose reign this privilege was by statute limited to the protection of the person from arrest. It is not a little remarkable that while these judges wholly deny the authority of a declaration of either House of Parliament respecting its own privileges—they entirely overlook and pass over in silence the language of the Court of Common Pleas on Mr. Wilkes's case—in which Lord Camden and the other judges of that court had unanimously decided that privilege of Parliament did extend to cases of writing and publishing seditious libels. The two Houses of Parliament passed resolutions declaring that it did not so extend. Now, if these resolutions had no authority, as now contended, they would be equally invalid against the privilege of a member as they would in his favour, yet we find Mr. Justice Gould, instead of maintaining the judgment of that court, subsequently thus expresses himself, "Even in that case we now know we were mistaken, for the House of Commons have since determined that privilege does not extend to matters of libel." Yet Mr. Justice Patteson denies that a resolution of the House of Commons can be binding on the courts of law. It was now exactly twenty-nine years since, in the case of Burdett and Abbott, he remonstrated against the House instructing the Attorney-General to appear and plead to the action.* He thought the House ought to have proceeded by their ancient weapons—those of the committal of all the parties engaged in that action. He made a motion to the effect that all the persons who should be concerned in carrying on that action would be guilty of a great breach of the privileges of the House. That motion did not meet with the support of the majority. It was opposed by Mr. Perceval and Mr.

* See Parliamentary Debates, June 1, 1810. Charles Yorke, who were at that time Ministers of the Crown; but he had always the satisfaction of reflecting that the motion was supported by Sir Arthur Pigott and Mr. Adams; also by Lord Althop and the highest constitutional authorities of the day. The House had to night been told, that it would be the height of injustice to commit the sheriff for executing the process of the court, and that he was sworn to obey the Queen's writ. That he had an oath in Heaven. Now this would equally have applied to any writ which a plaintiff might have sued out for arresting a Member's person. The Sheriff was equally sworn to execute such writ, yet if he presumed so to do, it was well known and established in every case from the time of Henry 8th., that he would immediately be sent to prison by order of the House. He reprobated the course recommended, as pusillanimous and wholly inefficient. The House was advised now humbly to submit and acquiesce in the attack on their privileges, but to threaten loudly what they would do on a similar occasion in future. It reminded him of the bully on the stage, he believed Noll Bluff, who when pricked, turns round, and, with a dignified demeanour says, "well, sir, I shall find a time." Besides, what would be the inevitable consequence? It was probable that the House would be prorogued in the course of a month. The present plaintiff, or some other, would then commence another action against the printer of the House for any criminatory matter which had been printed during the last three years. Upon this he would recover damages, and when the House met again the proceedings would be in the same stage, and the House would be in the same situation as at present, with the difference that they would be prejudiced and enfeebled by a previous submission. How, then, was the contest and collision, which he deplored as much as any man, to be remedied and ended? He should answer, by a declaratory Bill, to which he did not feel the objection stated in the Report of the Committee. He agreed with that Report in looking at this question as one which it would be highly improper to submit judicially to the House of Lords. He was as jealous as any man against bringing the privileges of that House before the House of Lords by a writ of error; because it would be bringing them before the Lords as judges for them to act in a judicial capacity. But if they passed a declaratory law, and went to the Lords for their assent to the same, they would be calling on them as co-ordinate legislators equally interested in preserving the privileges of both Houses. He did not think that a declaratory bill, even if it should not pass the Lords, would, by its failure, weaken the privileges; they would still be able to support and enforce them by all the means in their power. When this question was argued before, he told the House that they must make up their minds either to protect their privileges or not; and that if they did not mean to protect their privileges to the utmost of their power, they had better give them up at once, or they would be driven into a corner at last, and be compelled to choose between submission or a resort to the severe and extreme remedy of resistance.

Viscount Howick

said, having had the honour of being in the chair in a committee to which the same subject was referred two years ago, he could not suffer this debate to close without saying a very few words as to what were the grounds on which his vote of that evening would be given. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newark had argued so admirably, and, in his opinion so unanswerably, that on the general question he need not add one single word. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Newark had demonstrated beyond the power of any answer, and almost beyond the power of all answer, that they possessed that particular privilege of being able to publish such papers as they thought necessary, without question, and also still the higher and more important principle, that that House was the last and only judge of its own privileges. He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had demonstrated both these points, and he believed that a very large majority of that House concurred with him in that opinion. The only question on which he wished to say a single word was what, under present circumstances, was the course which ought to be adopted with a view of maintaining those ancient and valuable privileges, which the hon. and learned Gentleman had shown that they possessed. On this point, he confessed he had heard with great astonishment, indeed, the speech of the right hon. Member for Ripon (Sir E. Sugden). He said, that "the case was no libel which had been brought before the Court of Queen's Bench;" and yet the course which he recommended to them was to rescind the resolution of 1835, authorizing the sale of their papers. In what way would such a step as that contribute to relieve them? Why, in courts of justice all parties were agreed that the question of law was in no way affected by the sale of these papers. What good, therefore, would it have done to rescind that resolution, except to encourage further encroachments? If anything would tend to confirm him in his opinion, it would be the reason which the right hon. Gentleman had assigned for recommending this course; "Do this, because whatever the reason for binding us to the sale of these papers, still the feeling is against it." So Mr. Justice Coleridge, and another learned judge, Lord Chief-justice Denman, had shown that it was not "constitutional" in the House to "become a trader in books." The judges on this point had only shown their utter and entire ignorance. The House of Commons was no "trader in books;" the House of Commons did not "raise money illegally or unconstitutionally," by selling the papers which it printed. And Lord Denman, in using this language, calculated to create an impression against the House of Commons, stated that he had read the former reports of the committee on printed papers, in which it was stated that the papers were sold at far less than they cost; and whether to profit or not, that House, as a branch of the Legislature, had no concern in the subject. The whole was managed in the only manner in which it could be managed—by the executive authorities acting under the Crown. It was by (he Lords of the Treasury this was managed. Mr. Hansard accounting for the sale of the papers to them, and the produce went towards defraying the charge of printing. The House of Commons no more raised money by the sale of these papers, than it raised money by the sale of Ordnance stores in diminution of the Ordnance expenses. And because two judges had shown, he must say, in their situations, most blameable ignorance on that point; they were to rescind that regulation, which, he would say, it was on many accounts most important to the House to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman said they ought to be more cautious in publishing their papers. Had any one shown yet that a proper want of caution existed? Where was a proper want of caution shown? Was it in this individual case? Could the justice of the case of Mr. Stockdale be brought forward as was stated in the speech of the Member for Newark? So far as he had seen anything of the House of Commons, there had been a great and laudable anxiety to avoid, as far as possible, wounding the feelings of private individuals. He appealed to the hon. Gentleman below, who was chairman of the committee on transportation, if they did not leave out particulars and names which were necessary in order to give the country the means of scrutinizing the truth of statements in the reports, whether they did not err on the side of excluding information? He must say, he had seen the same course pursued in every case. He would not deny that there might not accidentally have been printed petitions, in which hon. Members, in not telling the House what the petitions were, might have abused the confidence of the House, and have moved injudiciously for the printing of the petitions; but of late years the House of Commons had been far more cautious on the subject than it used to be formerly. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must remember that the sale of petitions, which had been the great medium of conveying calumny and slander, that the printing of those petitions, and the selling of them, did not date from the year 1835. The regular sale of votes by the printers of that House had never ceased; it had been in uninterrupted practice for more than a century and a-half. That had been the regular and uninterrupted practice; and, when the judges told them that those votes contained no criminatory matter, that was another example of with how little of that ordinary information and of caution which ought to be observed in a case of this kind the judges bad taken on themselves to pronounce on this case. The votes had often contained facts conveying the severest censure on individuals. Why, the other day, had they not published a very severe censure on an individual who had attempted to commit a fraud on that House, and might not Benjamin Lovibond have prosecuted the printer for publishing that censure? The very first act of the Speaker had been to reprimand this person for the fraud he had committed. It was necessary that the public should know that reprimand, and yet for publishing that re- primand they knew their officer was liable to a prosecution. But he wished to return to the point on which alone he wished to address the House, with respect to the course they were to adopt. If they were not to rescind their order for selling papers, if they were to maintain their privileges, the question was, were they to take the course recommended by the hon. Member for Bridport, or were they to allow Mr. Stockdale to receive the 100l. awarded to him? He was far from denying that there was great weight; in the argument of the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Sugden) on the effect of public opinion on their past proceedings; he thought the answer of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newark, might be correct, but, at the same time, in having allowed Mr. Stockdale to proceed as he had proceeded, without having hitherto taken any steps, they had, to a certain extent, in public estimation, committed the House. And he had no doubt, that, what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Sugden) had said about the plea being put in was correct; but he could not help thinking, that when the plea was put in, and the Attorney-general was directed to support it by arguments, that it should have been left to the court to deal with it as it thought proper, and they ought to have committed Mr. Stockdale, his attorney, and counsel. That would have been the proper course. Having committed that error, being to a certain degree in a disadvantageous position already, they would make that position more or less disadvantageous by persevering in the course they had adopted. He confessed it was a point on which he had had great difficulty in making up his mind. For a long time he had been of the opinion of the right hon. Baronet. He was, however, ultimately led to adopt the conclusion, that upon the whole, admitting their difficulties to be increased by the injudicious step they had taken, still, on the whole, it was safer to concede no further. If they must make a stand ultimately, it was better to make it now, and run some disadvantage, than by again taking a step which would incur the entire abandonment of their right. He confessed he had been greatly confirmed in that view, by the manner in which this question had been argued by those Gentlemen who were in favour of the present concession. He found that the great majority of the Gentlemen who did advocate that course were like those who, like the hon. Member for Ripon, conceived that that House had no real means of protecting its own privileges. [Sir E. Sugden made an observation that that was not his opinion.] He was glad to hear that that was not the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. But still it did appear to him, that there was a strong leaning in his mind, that in a conflict with the courts of law, when it came to the last extremity, the House of Commons must yield. The Solicitor-general had argued under that impression. When a person argued under an impression of ultimate defeat, he must confess he was jealous of following their advice; he would rather act under the advice of those who trusted and hoped, from their conscience, that they should ultimately succeed. He trusted that they had a warning in the concessions which they had made. When, influenced by the opinions of his hon. Friends near him, he had concurred in the resolution that the Attorney-general should be directed to plead, and appear in this case, he certainly was not prepared to concede that the concession then made was to afford such arms against them hereafter; and the speech of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, and the speech of the Member for Ripon, that evening, showed him very clearly that if they made another step in the road to concession, it would be extremely difficult for them again to stop. He was not one of those who believed that their taking that course would make their future assertions of their privileges hopeless; he trusted that that I would not be the case, because he anticipated that the decision of the House would be very contrary to what he desired. He should be sorry, indeed, if that decision should irrevocably debar them from a future assertion of their privileges; he hoped; that that would not be the case. He had now stated, very imperfectly he was aware, the chief grounds which had induced him to come to the conclusion that they ought now to take measures for preventing the execution of the judgment. Having avowed that opinion in the Committee, he thought he was bound to avow it there, and he certainly should give his vote in favour of the amendment of the hon. Member for Bridport.

Mr. F. Kelly

wished to offer some observations in reply to the statements of the noble Lord relating to the judges, [Criei of divide.] If the House would not afford him a hearing for a few moments, he should be reduced to the painful necessity of moving an adjournment. The judges every where but there were treated with the respect due to them. The noble Lord had thought fit (he hoped he might not say deliberately) to attribute to the learned judges who were not there to answer for themselves, what the noble Lord had stated. He ventured to tell the noble Lord, that he might esteem himself happy if his speeches, in or out of the House, were distinguished by the sound constitutional learning which was to be found in any one of the judges to whom the noble Lord had alluded. With regard to the resolution of the noble Lord, it did appear to him that that House was brought by it into a condition in which it could not recede with dignity, advance with consistency, nor stand still with safety.

The House divided on the original question. Ayes 184; Noes 166. Majority 18.

List of the Ayes.
Acland, Sir T. D. Colquhoun, J. C.
Acland, T. D. Conolly, E.
A'Court, Captain Cowper, hon. W. F.
Alsager, Captain Cresswell, C
Anson, hon. Colonel Dalrymple, Sir A.
Archdall, M. Darby, G.
Bagge, W. De Horsey, S. H.
Bagot, hon. W. D'Israeli, B.
Baillie, Colonel Douglas, Sir C. E.
Baker, E. Dowdeswell, W.
Baring, F. T. Duffield, T.
Baring, H. B. Dunbar, G.
Baring, hon. W. B. Duncombe, T.
Barneby, J. Duncombe, hon. A.
Barrington, Lord Du Pre, G.
Bentinck, Lord East, J. B.
Berkeley, hon. G. Eaton, R. J.
Bernal, R. Egerton, W. T.
Bethell, R. Egerton, Sir P.
Blackstone, W. Farnham, E. B.
Blandford, Marquess Feilden, W.
Blennerhassett, A. Fellowes, E.
Boldero, H. G. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Bradshaw, J. Fitzpatrick, J. W.
Bramston, T. W. Fremantle, Sir T.
Broadley, H. Freshfield, J. W.
Bruges, W. H. L. Gladstone, W. E.
Buck, L. W. Glynne, Sir S. R.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Goulburn, H.
Burroughes, H. Greene, T.
Calcraft, J. H. Grimsditch, T.
Canning, Sir S. Hale, R. B.
Christopher, R. Halford, H.
Chute, W. L. W. Harcourt, G. G.
Clive, hon. R. H. Hardinge, Sir H.
Cole, hon. A. H. Hawkes, T.
Heathcote, Sir W. Pemberton, T.
Heneage, G. W. Perceval, hon. G. J.
Henniker, Lord Philips, G. R.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Pigot, R.
Herries, rt. hon. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Hinde, J. H. Polhill, F.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Praed, W. T.
Hodgson, F. Pringle, A.
Hodgson, R. Rae, Sir W.
Hogg, J. W. Rice, T. S.
Holmes, hon. W. Richards, R.
Hope, hon. C. Rickford, W.
Hope, G. W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Hotham, Lord Rolleston, L.
Houldsworth, T. Round, C. G.
Hughes, W. B. Round, J.
Hurt, F. Rushbrooke, R.
Ingestrie, Lord Russell, Lord J.
Ingham, R. Shaw, F.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Sheppard, T.
Jackson, Mr. Sergeant Shirley, E. J.
Jones, J. Slaney, R. A.
Kelly, F. Smith, A.
Kemble, H. Smyth, Sir G. II.
Kelburne, Viscount Spry, Sir S. T.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Knight, H. G. Stanley, E.
Law, hon. C. E. Stanley, Lord
Lefroy, T. Stanley, M.
Lincoln, Earl Stormont, Lord
Litton, E. Sturt, H. C.
Lockhart, A. M. Style, Sir C.
Lowther, Colonel Sugden, Sir E.
Lowther, J. H. Teignmouth, Lord
Lygon, hon. Gen. Thomas, Colonel H.
Macaulay, T. B. Thomson, C. P.
Mackenzie, T. Thompson, Alderman
Mackenzie, W. F. Towneley, R. G.
Mackinnon, W. A. Tyrrell, Sir J. T.
Maclean, D. Vere, Sir C. B.
Manners, Lord G. Verner, Colonel
Master, T. W. C. Vivian, J. E.
Meynell, Captain Waddington, H. S.
Miles, P. W. S. Whitmore, T. C.
Miller, W. H. Williams, R.
Mordaunt, Sir J. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Morpeth, Lord Winnington, T.
Neeld, J. Wodehouse, E.
Nicholl, J. Wood, Sir M.
Norreys, Lord Wood, Colonel T.
Owen, Sir J. Wyndham, W.
Packe, C. W. Yates, J. A.
Pakington, J. S. Young, J.
Palmer, R. Young, Sir W.
Palmerston, Lord
Parker, M. TELLERS.
Parker, T. A. W. Smith, V.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Mahon, Lord
List of the Noes.
Abercrombie, G. Archbold, R.
Aglionby, H. A. Attwood, T.
Aglionby, Major Bainbridge, E. T.
Ainsworth, P. Barnard, E. G.
Alcock, T. Barron, H. W.
Alston, R. Beamish, F. B.
Andover, Lord Bewes, T.
Blackett, C. Hume, J.
Blake, M. J. Hutt, W.
Blake, W. J. Hutton, R.
Bodkin, J. J. James, W.
Boiling, W. Jenkins, Sir R.
Bowes, J. Johnson, General
Brabazon, Sir W. Kinnaird, hon. A.
Bridgeman, H. Labouchere, H.
Briscoe, J. I. Langdale, hon. C.
Brocklehurst, J. Leader, J. T.
Brodie, W. B. Loch, J.
Brotherton, J. Lushington, C.
Browne, R. D. Lushington, S.
Brownrigg, S. Macleod, R.
Busfeild, W. Macnamara, Major
Campbell, Sir J. Marshall, W.
Cavendish, C. Marsland, H.
Cavendish, hon. G. Martin, T. B.
Cayley, E. S. Maule, hon. F.
Chapman, Sir M. Miles, W.
Chester, H. Molesworth, W.
Chichester, J. P. Moreton, hon. A.
Clay, W. Morris, D.
Clements, Lord Murray, A.
Codrington, Admiral Norreys, Sir D. J.
Collier, J. O'Brien, W. S.
Collins, W. O'Callaghan, C.
Courtenay, P. O'Connell, D.
Craig, W. G. O'Connell, J.
Crawford, W. O'Connell, M. J.
Curry, Sergeant O'Connell, M.
Duff, J. O'Conor Don
Dundas, C. W. D. Paget, F.
Dundas, hon. J. Palmer, C. F.
Dundas, Sir Ft. Parker, J.
Dungannon, Lord Parker, R. T.
Edwards, Sir J. Parrott, J.
Elliott, hon. J. E. Pattison, J.
Ellice, right hon. E. Pendarves, E. W.
Ellis, W. Philips, M.
Euston, Earl of Phillpotts, J.
Evans, G. Pryme, G.
Evans. W. Redington, T. N.
Ewart, W. Rice, E. R.
Fielden, J. Roche, W.
Finch, F. Roche, Sir D.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Rumbold, C. E.
Fleetwood, Sir H. Rundle, J.
Fort, J. Russell, Lord C.
Gibson, T. M. Rutherford, A.
Gillon, W. D. Salwey, Colonel
Gordon, R. Sandon, Lord
Gore, O. J. R. Scarlett, hon. J.
Gore, O. W. Scholefield, J.
Greenaway, C. Scrope, G. P.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Sharpe, General
Grosvenor, Lord Sinclair, Sir G.
Guest, Sir J. Somers, J. P.
Hall, Sir B. Stanley, W. O.
Heathcoat, J. Stansfield, W. R.
Hector, C. J. Steuart, R.
Heneage, E. Stewart, J.
Hindley, C. Stuart, Lord J.
Hobhouse, T. B. Stuart, W.V.
Howard, F. J. Stock, Dr.
Howard, P. H. Strickland, Sir G.
Howick, Lord Strutt, E.
Talbot, C. R. M. Westenra, H. R.
Tancred, H. W. Williams, W.
Turner, E. Williams, W. A.
Turner, W. Wood, C.
Vigors, N. A. Wood, G. W.
Villiers, hon. C. P. Wynn, C. W.
Vivian, J.H. Wyse, T.
Vivian, Sir R.H.
Wakley, T. TELLERS.
Wallace, R. Wild, Sergeant
Ward, H. G. Warburton, H.

Resolution agreed to.

On the second resolution,

Sir R. H. Inglis

said, at that late hour, and particularly as this resolution had been fully discussed with the former, he should not detain the House with any observations upon it. He would state his objection to it in one sentence—namely, that this resolution postponed, perhaps until the year 1842, any ulterior proceedings with reference to this subject. On these grounds he should meet it with a negative.

Mr. Hume

inquired, how soon any ulterior measures would be brought forward, as until then it would be necessary to put an end to all the printing of the House, because, as the House would not now be able to defend its own servants who distributed them, it must bend its neck to the yoke. The position of the House was most humiliating and disgraceful. He understood that there was no more information to be acquired by the committee, and therefore there would be little difficulty in any Member connected with the committee answering the questions he had put.

Lord J. Russell

said, of course he could not positively answer for the committee; but he saw no reason why there should be any long delay. He must, however, take this opportunity of stating, that he did not think the House bound to wait for the production of any report from the committee, for a notice might be given by any hon. Member to-morrow for the introduction of a measure. He was sorry the hon. Member for Kilkenny felt such humiliation at the result of this discussion.

Mr. Hume

denied that he had any share in the humiliation of the House. He had said from the first of these proceedings that the House would be dragged into the mud, and now it had got completely into a quagmire.

The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 36; Majority 97.

List of the Ayes.
Acland, T. D. Loch, J.
A'Court, Captain Lockhart, A. M.
Aglionby, H. A. Lushington, S.
Alsager, Captain Macaulay, T. B.
Archbold, R. Mackenzie, W. F.
Baring, H. B. Macleod, R.
Barrington, Lord Mahon, Lord
Beamish, F. B. Marshall, W.
Bentinck, Lord G. Maule, hon. F.
Bethell, R. Morpeth, Lord
Blake, W. J. Nicholl, J.
Blennerhassett, A. O'Conor Don
Boldero, H. G. Packe, C. W.
Bramston, T. W. Pakington, J. S.
Bridgeman, H. Palmer, C. F.
Brotherton, J. Palmerston, Viscount
Bruges, W. H. Parker, R. T.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Parrott, J.
Busfeild, W. Peel, Sir R.
Campbell, Sir J. Pendarves, E. W.
Cayley, E. S. Philips, M.
Cole, hou. A. H. Pigot, D. R.
Cowper, hon. W. Praed, W. T.
Curry, Sergeant Pringle, A.
De Horsey, S. H. Pryme, G.
Douglas, Sir C. Rice, right hon. T. S.
Dunbar, G. Richards, R.
Duncombe, T. Roche, W.
Duncombe, A. Round, C. G.
Dunganhon, Lord Round, J.
Egerton, Sir P. Rundle, J.
Evans, W. Russell, Lord J.
Ewart, W. Rutherfurd, A.
Fellowes, E. Salwey, Colonel
Ferguson, Sir R. Scarlett, hon. J.
Finch, F. Shaw, right hon. F.
Gibson, T. M. Sheppard, T.
Gordon, R. Stanley, E.
Goulburn, H. Stanley, Lord
Grey, Sir G. Stanley, M.
Grimsditch, T. Stansfield, W. R.
Hale, R. B. Stewart, J.
Hardinge, Sir H. Stuart, W. V.
Hepburn, Sir. T. Slock, Dr.
Herries, J.C. Strickland, Sir G.
Hobhouse, Sir J. Strutt, E.
Hodgson, F. Style, Sir C.
Hodgson, R. Sugden, Sir E.
Holmes, hon. W. Teignnmuth, Lord
Hope, hon. C. Thomson, C. P.
Hope, G. W. Townley, R. G.
Howard, P. H. Turner, W.
Howick, Lord Verner, Colonel
Hughes, W. B. Vigors, N. A.
Hume, J. Waddington, H.
Hutt, W. Wallace, R.
Hutton, R. Ward, H. G.
Jackson, Sergeant Whitmore, T. C.
Kelburne, Lord Wilde, Mr. Sergeant
Kinnaird, A. F. Williams, W. A.
Knight, H. G. Winnington, T.
Labouchere, H. Wodehouse, T.
Langdale, C. Wood, C.
Lincoln, Earl Wood, G. W.
Litton, E. Wyndham, W.
Wynn, C. W. TELLERS.
Wyse, T. Smith, V.
Young, J. Parker, J.
List of the NOES.
Bagge, W. Heathcote, Sir W.
Bainbridge, E. T. Hinde, J. H.
Baring, hon. W. B. Ingham, R.
Barneby, J. Knatchbull, Sir E.
Blackstone, W. S. Law, C. E.
Blandford, Marquess O'Connell, D.
Bradshaw, J. O'Connell, J.
Burroughes, H. O'Connell, M. J.
Christopher, R. Perceval, G. J.
Chute, W. L. W. Pigot, R.
Darby, G. Plumptre, J. P.
D'Israeli, B. Redington, T. N.
Dundas, C. W. D. Rushbrooke, R.
Du Pre, G. Stormont, Lord
East, J. B. Talbot, C. R.
Egerton, W. T. Williams, R.
Freshfield, J. W.
Gillon, W. D. TELLERS.
Halford, H. Inglis, Sir R.
Hawkes, T. Kelly, F.
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