HC Deb 05 August 1840 vol 55 cc1287-304

Lord J. Russell moved, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.

Mr. Aglionby

rose to move:— That an humble address he presented to her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to direct that a commission may be issued to inquire into the allegations contained in the petition of Mr. Feargus O'Connor, presented to this House on the 1st day of June last, and into what has been and now is his treatment in York Castle; also to inquire into what has been and now is the treatment of prisoners confined under sentences for writing and publishing seditious libels, or for uttering seditious words, or for attending seditious meetings, in the gaols or houses of correction of York, Wakefield, Northallerton, and Beverley. He assured the House that he had no intention whatever to throw any imputation on any individual, his only object was, that inquiry should be made into the circumstances, with a view to the proper elucidation of the grounds of complaint. He thought that he should be able to make out a prima facie case of hardship quite sufficient to justify him in the course which he had adopted, and that he should also be able to show that a commission was the best and most satisfactory mode of obtaining that satisfaction and information to which the country was entitled. He would proceed first to the second part of his motion. The case of York Castle would include the complaint of Mr. Feargus O'Connor, and the other places named had been selected, because, being in the same county, it was probable that the same regulations prevailed in their gaols, and also because strong cases of hardship had been made out in petitions presented to the House from persons confined in them. Mr. Joseph Crabtree was confined in Wakefield gaol, and a petition had been presented to the House from him on the 30th of June. That petition set forth many circumstances showing the greatest hardship to have been employed towards the prisoner, which in themselves formed a ground fully sufficient to entitle him to succeed in his motion. All he asked for was, that an inquiry might be made by competent persons, in order that the result might be known to the House. The hon. Member then proceeded to read extracts from the petition, at considerable length, which, he contended, stated the petitioner to have been subjected to a degree of indignity and hardship which he thought was unfitting his condition. The hon. Member also referred to the petition of Richard White, a prisoner for similar offences, and of a prisoner who was confined in Northallerton gaol, who had been subjected to hard labour. The latter petition had not been printed, and he could not vouch for the accuracy of the allegations contained in it, but if it were that the prisoner was put to hard labour, he contended that a case for inquiry had been made out. He thought that the hon. and learned Attorney-general would confirm the opinion which he expressed when he said, that hard labour was not such a punishment as was contemplated in such cases. He had had the honour of sitting as chairman of the committee upon the subject of the Affirmation Bill, and the hon. and learned Attorney-general had made use of an expression upon this subject of which he had taken the liberty of making a note. He said, "Hard labour ought never to be imposed, because it is an infamous punishment, unless it be for an infamous offence." This case was not infamous, and if the parties were subjected to hard labour it was improper. He called upon the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Home Department to satisfy the House whether hard labour was part of the sentence pronounced. If it were a part of the sentence, it was an erroneous sentence; if it were not, the punishment had been improperly inflicted, and he claimed that an inquiry should be made. With regard to the first part of his motion, regarding Mr. F. O'Connor, he founded it on the petition presented by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Reading. Mr. O'Connor alleged a series of hardships and grievances, which at the time excited very strong sympathy; and he begged to ask whether, if these statements were true, such punishments had not been inflicted as should never have been employed? It was matter of public notoriety that some relaxation had been made—an admission of the necessity of taking that course. Mr. O'Connor in his petition stated,— That, in consequence of the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, your petitioner was consigned to the custody of the governor of York Castle, on Tuesday the 19th day of May, at ten o'clock at night. That your petitioner was first deprived of his money and a few newspapers, and, after being examined by a physician, was conducted to a stone cell, seven and a half feet long and four feet ten inches wide, about eight feet high, the door up to petitioner's chin, and only wide enough to admit petitioner sideways. An iron bedstead, not near the width of petitioner, a thin flock bed, not so long as petitioner, and the usual number of blankets, with a horse rug for a counterpane, were then shown to petitioner, which, with a black pot, composed the furniture, &c. On former occasions some of the facts stated in the petition were denied, and it was alleged that he had voluntarily imposed upon himself those hardships, of which he complained. Mr. O'Connor, however, assured him, that that of which he complained was strictly in accordance with the rules of the prison. That very contradiction was a reason for inquiry. It was also stated in the petition that Mr. Clarkson, the professional adviser of Mr. O'Connor, had presented a petition complaining of his not having been allowed to visit Mr. O'Connor. He denied that he had ever admitted that he was not the professional adviser of Mr. O'Connor, or that he wished to see him as a private friend only. Up to the month of June last he was still refused admittance to his client, though since that period he had been allowed to see him. He thought that some explanation of this refusal to admit Mr. Clarkson was due from the hon. Under-Secretary. Government had sent a responsible officer (Mr. Crawford) down to inquire, but his instructions were verbal only, and there was no record whatever of his investigation. He thought that such a course on the part of the Home-office was, to say the least of it, not salutary, and that he was entitled to call for a commission to inquire into the state of the discipline in the prisons in question. He thought that the House could not have before it a question of greater importance, or one of deeper interest to the masses of the population, and respecting which they had so repeatedly petitioned the House. The demand which he made for inquiry was supported by precedents, and it had been allowed at periods not remarkable for the liberality of the Government: and he had shown a primâ facie case of hardship. In conclusion, he called upon the House to grant him what he required, and he should leave it until the inquiry was completed, or to a future period to found a substantive motion on the subject. The hon. Member concluded by making his motion for an address, which we gave at the early part of his speech.

Lord John Russell

did not feel that it would be convenient to revive the whole of the discussions which took place on previous occasions on this subject, and what had now been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman respecting Mr. Feargus O'Connor was substantially the same as had been stated on former occasions, when the House decided by a very large majority against such a motion. The present motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman was founded on the allegations made by Mr. Feargus O'Connor as to his treatment; immediately on complaint being made to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he directed that the treatment of Mr. F. O'Connor should be altered, and he did not understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman found fault, unless with respect to some of the phrases used on the subject, with the treatment now experienced by that person. The question was, whether or not the justices of Yorkshire had complied with these directions; an inspector of prisons was on the spot at the time, and he was directed to investigate the subject; and on his doing so, he stated that he was satisfied that the directions of the Secretary of State had been complied with, and that the magistrates did not enforce the prison regulations against Mr. Feargus O'Connor. If the House was disposed to think that those who had the regulation of the prison had altered or suppressed the facts of the case, there might be ground for further inquiry; but it should be recollected that if this were discovered it would be instantly followed with the dismissal of the parties: they had then the declarations of Mr. F. O'Connor, but he did not think that they were so much to be relied on, or ought to be considered such sound or good authority as that which he referred to. With regard to these cases generally, he thought that a great deal of sympathy was felt towards those persons who were found guilty of libels at particular moments of excitement, and growing out of strong fervour or feeling occasioned by the collision of parties, or other similar causes, and this not merely in the minds of those who had attended to the subject, but in the mind of those who had administered the law; but he confessed that he did not think that any such sympathy was called for in the case of those who, by means of pamphlets or newspapers, or by speeches, indulged in language far beyond the bounds of propriety, and which tended to bring the Sovereign and the law and the authorities into contempt, and which held up individuals to public attack, and which thus, either by writing or speech, induced persons to violate the law. He recollected that on this subject a distinguished friend of his made some striking observations in 1819, when the Six Acts, as they were termed, were before Parliament. He alluded to the late Sir James Mackintosh, who drew the broad distinction between the two classes of libellers in so much more striking language than he could use, that he would read some of his late Friend's observations to the House. The noble Lord quoted, at considerable length, from Sir James Mackintosh's speech on Dec. 23, 1819; and for the passage, see Hansard, vol. 41, pp. 1132–1133. Sir James Mackintosh also proposed an amendment for the purpose of carrying these opinions into effect, which was thus worded, namely, to leave out all these words, Tending to bring into hatred or contempt the person of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors, or the Regent, or the Government and constitution, as by law established, or either House of Parliament, or to excite his Majesty's subjects to attempt the alteration of any matter in Church or State, as by law established, otherwise than by lawful means; And to insert these words in their room, Or any seditious libel tending to excite his Majesty's subjects to do any act which, if done, would by the existing law be treason or felony; or any libel in which it shall be affirmed or maintained that his Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, in Parliament assembled, has not, or ought not to have full power and authority to make laws binding on his Majesty's subjects in all cases whatsoever. He thought that this was a clear distinction, and that it would have been expedient and just to adopt the amendment as proposed by Sir James Mackintosh. He thought, that by the adoption of some such words as these they might easily draw a distinction. If he was called upon to refer to particular cases illustrative of his opinion, he would say that one of the least blameable cases of the first kind of political libel, and which evidently grew out of the extreme fervour and excitement of the moment, was that of Sir Francis Burdett; another case, very similar, was that of Gilbert Wakefield, and there were others of the same kind which he could mention. Now, he did not think that his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-general, ever instituted proceedings against any of this class of libels; nor had he received any instructions from the Government to prosecute in any such case. He believed, that no proceedings of the kind had been carried on since the Government of the Duke of Wellington, when the Attorney-general felt called upon to proceed against certain newspapers for using language of certainly a very intemperate and violent nature, at a period of great political excitement. But with reference to the second species of libel, by which attempts were made to excite persons either by speeches or by writings to rebel or to act against the law, or to overthrow the law, or to commit acts of violence against individuals, and this by persons who wished to get some pecuniary advantages for themselves out of such proceedings— against such persons he thought that it was the duty of the Government to direct prosecutions to be instituted. He thought also, that although sympathy or commisseration might be extended to the former classes of offenders, it would be very ill to feel or manifest any thing of the kind towards the latter. He did not hesitate to say also, that he thought that Mr. F. O'Connor's was one of the worst cases of the latter description of libel; for that person was the proprietor of a newspaper by which he made a very considerable profit, and which had an extensive circulation in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and other manufacturing districts, and in which there were constant attacks on the law and the institutions of the country, so as to lead to the endangering the peace of the country. He thought, that with regard to persons of this class, all that the Secretary of State could be called upon to do in case of their conviction and their being sentenced, was to take care that they were not exposed to any unnecessary or extreme hardships. At the same time, however, it was not to be allowed that this person, or any other of the same class, was to have all the honours of martyrdom without any of the sufferings of the martyr. If that were to be the case, it would be only giving a premium to others to follow their example, and to imitate them in violating the law, and thus lead to the greatest confusion in the country. Before he sat down, he wished to advert to one or two of the points alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman in reference to the case of Mr. O'Connor. The House had heard many complaints of the hardships inflicted on Mr. O'Connor, in putting him in a room in company with felons. He said, that the facts of the case were these: it so happened, that at the time that Mr. O'Connor was committed to York Castle, there were no prisoners on that side of the gaol in which misdemeanants were confined. On his being conducted to that side of the prison he complained of being placed in solitary confinement, and he was asked by the keeper of the prison whether he would prefer being placed in a room with some felons who had been convicted of offences of a less heinous character to continuing where he was, and Mr. O'Connor at once stated his desire to be removed there. One of the strongest complaints made by Mr. Feargus O'Connor was his being placed in the society of felons, and it certainly had made some impression on the public; but the fact of the case was exactly as he had stated, and that Mr. O'Connor was placed in their society at his own desire. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the treatment of these prisoners for political offences should be similar to that of debtors; he contended, however, that there was no ground for any such analogy, and he could not conceive why such a change should be made in the treatment of a person guilty of a misdemeanour of a very bad character. If they sent down a commission to inquire into all these grounds of complaint, the report would inevitably be, that the several sentences were carried into effect according to the decision of the judges. If the hon. and learned Member and the House were of opinion that in these cases of sedition the persons found guilty should be treated with peculiar mildness, he could only say that it would be for the Legislature to make a change to this effect, which must be done by an act of Parliament; but the appointment of a commission could only have the result of seeing whether the sentences had been carried into effect, and whether the magistrates adhered to the instructions of the Secretary of State. He could assure the hon. Gent, that neither the Government nor himself would be deterred by either petitions or motions, from proceeding against persons instigating others to a breach of the law, or from adopting those steps which they believed were essential to the peace of the country.

Mr. T. Duncombe

could not help complaining of the language which the noble Lord had thought proper to use in reference to the persons who were the subject-matter of the present motion, in charging them with urging others to the violation of the law, and to acts of violence and rapine. He did not think that there was anything in their conduct which would justify the use of such expressions on the part of the noble Lord. What he complained of was, not that prosecutions had been instituted, but that the sentences had been carried out in a way in which the judges did not intend they should be, and which the law did not justify. As for the inspector of prisons, Mr. Crawford, visiting York Castle, in conformity with the instructions of the Home-office, they had been told that that gentleman had taken no examinations or depositions, and had made no written report. Now, he believed that the statement of Mr. Feargus O'Connor was to be relied on in this point, who declared that depositions had been taken, and had been signed at York Castle. With respect to the motion, he regretted that his hon. Friend had not extended it to all gaols in which persons were under confinement for political offences. The motion would not then be confined to York Castle and Wakefield House of Correction, but would extend to Oakham, Warwick, Knutsford, Chester, Lancaster, Monmouth, and other places. The House was hardly aware of the number of persons suffering in the various prisons at the present moment, for offences of a political nature. Now he was anxious that an inquiry, if one was instituted, should be extended to every case of the kind. On this subject he had that day presented a petition from a man of the name of Martin, who was now confined for a political offence in Northallerton gaol. This petitioner, William Martin, had been sentenced for sedition to twelve months' imprisonment in the Northallerton house of correction, and to be bound over to keep the peace for three years. On his being taken to the house of correction he was put to hard labour, and for a certain period was placed on the treadmill. This was clearly illegal, and contrary to the sentence passed on him; for on his conviction, and being sentenced, he asked the judge who tried him whether he was to be sentenced to hard labour. The judge replied, that the law did not authorise him to sentence a person to hard labour convicted of the offence of which this person had been found guilty. Notwithstanding this, he was placed on the treadmill for several days, and therefore, if the statement of the prisoner was true as to the language of the judge who tried him, there could be no doubt of the illegality of his treatment. This man did not ask the House to curtail his punishment, but he requested that he might be treated as others convicted of similar offences, and that he might be sent back to York Castle. The noble Lord had declared that the case of Mr. Feargus O'Connor was one of the worst cases of the kind. Why, then, should Mr. Martin's treatment in gaol be so much worse than that of Mr. O'Connor? He thought, however, that one part of the treatment of Mr. Feargus O'Connor was absolutely disgraceful, namely, the opening and reading his private letters before they were handed to him. If they wished to prevent his communicating anything they objected to, let either the chaplain or gaoler, or other officer of the prison whose duty it was to do so, read that gentleman's letters before he was allowed to send them away; but there could be no possible necessity to violate confidence to such an extent as to open the letters sent to him. With reference to the case of Vincent, he felt bound to thank the Government for the mitigation that had been made in the treatment of that person, and of Shellard, and of two or three others now in confinement for political offences. He believed that if a commission was appointed, it would be found that upwards of 200 persons were confined in different gaols on charges of a political nature, and that the treatment they experienced varied considerably. He hoped that on reflection the noble Lord would agree to the motion of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Wakley

had hoped the hon. Member below him, the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, would have communicated to the House what he knew upon the subject; but the hon. Gentleman seemed to rely upon the argument and statement of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, who had now retired from the House. He was very glad his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cockermouth had brought forward the motion; he returned that hon. and learned Gentleman his thanks for the perseverance in the matter, and for the resolution he had shown, that this question should not remain unmooted in this House, or that the public should continue ignorant of these atrocities. But, important as the question was, it was not now being discussed before the representatives of the people, but before the benches which those representatives ought to occupy. He knew not what explanation hon. Members would give of their conduct in the matter on the hustings, but he trusted that a faithful account not only of the present state of the House, but also of the arguments which had been urged, would be presented to the public. Why, if the Government would not pledge itself to an inquiry into these matters, did it refuse to grant a commission. He thought a commission would expose acts of atrocity which the country would condemn, and even the House would not approve. Had there been, he begged to ask, any refutation of the allegations contained in the petitions which had been presented? It was said, that Mr. Crawford, the inspector was satisfied that the allegations in the petition of Mr. Feargus O'Connor were untrue; but where was the evidence of Mr. Crawford's satisfaction on that point? The Government had been entreated over and over again to produce Mr. Crawford's report, and at one time it was said that his report had been orally communicated, and at another time the answer given was, that if a report in writing had been made, there was nothing in it. Over and over again the informations or depositions upon which Mr. Crawford had formed his opinions had been sought from the Government, and in every instance the attempt to obtain either the one or the other had wholly failed. This was not treating the House and the country either fairly or justly, and the course pursued in the matter was calculated to bring the House to the lowest possible degree of public odium. If the allegations contained in the petitions of the various political prisoners who had addressed the House were untrue, they themselves would be the parties who would suffer for their falsehood; but his belief was, that those allegations would, on inquiry, turn out to be well-founded, and in that belief he was confirmed by the fact that the Government did not dare to grant such an inquiry as would expose the atrocities which had been committed. If they did not shrink from inquiry, why should they refuse a commission? Let the House bear in mind some of the allegations. What was the statement of Crabtree? Why, he had told the House that he was obliged to keep his face in one position. Did the hon. Member below him (Mr. F. Maule) sanction this infamous treatment of political offenders? The hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth had most ably and adroitly laid before the House what had taken place in the year 1812, when those in office were Tories—a party condemned by those who now held office for their political prosecutions of the Liberals. But it appeared that even then, in a corrupt and atrocious boroughmongering House of Commons, a motion similar to the present was succesful. There was now a reformed House of Parliament, in which it was said the opinions of the people were faithfully reflected; and yet now, when a motion was made by a friend of the people, what was the answer given to it by the noble Lord, the leader of the House? Why, precisely the same answer as had been given at the former period by Lord Castlereagh. In short, the noble Lord appeared as the Castlereagh of the present day. This was but too true; for the noble Lord had, in resisting the present motion, employed the selfsame argument as had been used by Lord Castlereagh in 1812. Did her Majesty's Government suppose the people would respect such conduct on the part of professed reformers? Was this to be the course of reform, that out of office they should support liberal principles, and in office condemn liberal principles? Was this such honesty of heart and of intention as would win the affections of the people of England? On the contrary, would not the people rather condemn such conduct, and do right in visiting it with their severest condemnation? He had expected that, on a former occasion, the Administration would have said, and said truly, "We have been deceived; we had expected that the magistrates had pursued a different course, and we do not approve of political offenders being subjected to this severity of punishment; we discredit the statements which have been made, and we will at once institute an inquiry, in order, if possible, to ascertain whether an efficient remedy may not be applied." Instead of this, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had quoted the language of Sir James Mackintosh, supplied him by an hon. and learned Gentleman on the opposite benches, who held the opinions now which Lord Castlereagh entertained in 1812. The hon. and learned Gentleman must rejoice that the noble Lord had fallen into the trap so ingeniously laid for him. But the noble Lord had divided political offenders into two classes, and had called upon the House to look with clemency upon language used in the heat of argument by such men as Sir F. Burdett in 1819. Now, Sir F. Burdett was a man of education and of large property, and in his opinion it was upon the educated man, upon the man of property, whose influence and example were calculated to have a great effect on the community, that the severity of the law should fall, rather than upon the uninstructed and untutored. He would exhibit no leniency to such men as Sir F. Burdett, but he would extend it to individuals like William Lovett and John Collins. And how had those two men been treated in Warwick gaol? Why, for the first six months, except during a short time while they were in the infirmary, they were denied the use of animal food. Looking to that case, he was of opinion that the inquiry ought not to be confined to that of Mr. Feargus O'Connor, but that the commission should issue to inquire into the manner in which political offenders were treated in all the gaols of the United Kingdom, and, therefore, he trusted his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Cocker-mouth, would withdraw the first portion of his motion, and amend the second part of it in such a manner as to include the cases of all political offenders. Would the Government object to such an amendment? It would be better that they should do so, for the question would otherwise come to a division, and in that case, though the commission might be lost, the Government would lose the House. The course which the Government had thought fit to pursue in this matter was deeply to be regretted and deplored. The hon. Member below him (Mr. F. Maule) was of a sanguine temperament and an excitable constitution; he might be one day out of office, and in a year or two find himself in such a place as Warwick gaol. The hon. Member was not very mild in his expressions towards his political opponents; he gave free currency, and he admired him for it, to his thoughts and views with respect to those whom he believed to be the enemies of his country, and thus he might bring himself under their prosecution. Now, in that case, he begged to ask the hon. Member how he would like to be put on the treadmill, or be obliged to keep his fine face in one position for eight hours at a time in order that the people might admire it. Such treatment as these political offenders had experienced was a disgrace to a country which boasted of its civilization. If the Government was ready to take upon itself the odium of this proceeding, let them; he, for one, at least would take especial care that no part of it should fall on him. Nay, if he were in the Administration, nothing should induce him to continue there, if his colleagues would persist in a course which must bring disgrace upon any Government professing liberal principles.

Mr. F. Maule

could not help observing, that he thought the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Finsbury was much better adapted for the marquee in which Lovett and Collins had dined the other day, than for the occasion when this important question was discussed. The speech of the hon. Member had so much of the serio-comic vein, that the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth could scarcely thank his hon. Friend for his support on this occasion. The hon. and learned Member who had brought forward this motion had said, that the issuing of a commission was the proper mode of proceeding. He was sorry to differ from him. He had quoted the case of Thomas Holden, brought forward by Sir Samuel Romilly in the year 1812. Now, Holden was confined for a simple debt, and while in prison had been subjected to all sorts of most infamous treatment. At that period the transactions in the management of gaols were but little known to the Executive Government, and he could well imagine, that in 1812 the House of Commons consented to an inquiry into the circumstances of that case and into the government of that particular gaol. But his hon. and learned Friend might have brought forward a case much more analogous to the present—that of Mr. Hunt, confined in Ilchester gaol in the year 1819. But in that case the complaint was against the gaoler, whose conduct was described to be of so tyrannical a nature as to unfit him to remain at the head of that gaol. These circumstances were strongly put to Mr. Goulburn, then the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, who moved an amendment, the effect of which was the issuing of a commission of inquiry, and the result of that commission was, that the gaoler was held to be unworthy to retain his situation. There, then, was an inquiry into a specific complaint; but in the present case the House was asked to consent to issue a commission to inquire into the management of all gaols in which political offenders were confined. Now, the first case which had been brought under the notice of the House was that of Joseph Crabtree, who, by the hon. Member for Finsbury had presented a petition. He had taken some pains to inquire into that case, and he found that Crabtree was a very peculiar sort of person, and that he not only petitioned the House of Commons, seeking for remedies for the treatment he received in the gaol in which he was confined, but that he also had addressed the Home-office offering to make disclosures and discoveries as to the con duct of his brother Chartists. In his petition Crabtree stated, that he had been afflicted with a disease of the liver for the last six years, and that he suffered also from a pulmonary complaint, which, with imprisonment, would be likely to prove fatal. The Home-office had inquired into that statement, and he had the authority of the surgeon of Wakefield gaol, of whose conduct he had never heard any complaint, for saying that Crabtree was not suffering from any serious disease of the liver or from any organic affection of the lungs, and that, though delicate, he had no complaint of a serious character as tending to shorten life. He next complained of being kept in close confinement, and being prevented from walking about. In answer to this, the gaoler stated, that he was only prevented walking about after he was locked up at 8 o'clock at night, and that rule was established to prevent prisoners in the adjoining cells from being disturbed. With regard to the statement as to his being obliged to hold up his head, and prevented from speaking or making any motion or sign to other prisoners, it was a most exaggerated statement of the discipline of this gaol—a discipline known as the silent system. Whether that system was right or wrong was not the present question, but under it, it was true that Crabtree could not speak or communicate by any means with the neighbouring prisoners with whom he was confined during the day. That system was sanctioned by the law, and had been productive of great good where great numbers of prisoners were confined together. As to the allegation that he had been cut off from communication with his family, and that he was not allowed to write, the visiting justices stated that Crabtree had had frequent visits from his friends, and had enjoyed all necessary correspondence with his wife upon domestic affairs. As to his diet he had been allowed an addition of a pint of milk daily, besides other indulgences. In May last he wrote to the Home-office, offering to give information as to the Chartists, but the offer was not attended to, because it was felt information ought not to be received from an individual who was himself in the custody of the law. So much, then, for the case of Crabtree. The hon. Gentleman, who frequently became very inaudible, was understood to say, that with respect to William Martin, if his case were rightly stated, there must be something wrong; but, for his own part, he had had no previous knowledge with respect to it. As regarded the case of Mr. O'Connor, it had already been admitted that his treatment at York Castle had, for the first two days of his imprisonment, been unnecessarily severe, but the moment the Secretary of State was made aware of it, measures were promptly taken that similar cause for complaint should no longer exist. Mr. O'Connor subsequently denied that the instructions given by the Secretary of State upon this point had been carried into effect, but on inquiry made, the Government had been assured, by a communication from the visiting governors, that those instructions had been acted on. The complaint being reiterated, a person was sent down by Government to York Castle to make inquiry into the matter. Captain Williams, the inspector of the northern districts—not being in the way, the task devolved upon Mr. Craw ford. Mr. O'Connor complained of the cursory manner in which the inquiry before Mr. Crawford was conducted, which, he said, was cut short in the details. Now the inquiry extended over an entire day, the 9th of June last; and Mr. Crawford, when asked respecting the investigation, said, that the whole of the allegations contained in Mr. O'Connor's petition had been inquired into most fully. When the visiting magistrates had all but one left. Mr. O'Connor proposed that the investigation should be continued the following day, not confining the inquiry to that alone which had occurred at York Castle. The magistrate, who was the only one present, consented, but the other magistrates on the next day objected, on the ground of the proposition for introducing extraneous matter. Since that period Mr. O'Connor had received all the indulgences which an imprisonment in the Castle would permit. He had a good airy day room, as well as a similar one for a sleeping apartment. He was allowed to select his food, and permitted to see his friends as well as his legal advisers, Messrs. Clarkson and Turner. Mr. Clarkson, applied to be admitted to him on the 22nd of May. The magistrates, having some doubts on the point, wrote to the Secretary of State for instructions, and an answer was returned on the 25th, directing both that his legal and medical advisers should be allowed access to the prisoner. Mr. Turner, the other legal adviser, applied for the same permission directly to the Secretary of State on the 25th of May, to which application that gentleman received an answer in the affirmative on the 26th, the visiting magistrates having been written to to that effect at the same time. Thus, then, it would be seen that no blame could attach to the Executive Government as far as regarded the access of Mr. O'Connor's legal and medical advisers. There was, indeed, one privation to which Mr. O'Connor had been subjected, and however unpopular the avowal might make him, he must say, that he concurred both in thinking that Mr. O'Connor was justly subjected to that privation, and that it was one which ought to be continued. It was this—that whilst Mr. O'Connor was enduring the punishment of a crime of which he had been convicted by a jury of his countrymen, and for which he had been sentenced by a judge of the land, he ought not to be permitted to conduct the journal called the0 Northern Star. The expression of such an opinion, and the adoption of such a course required, he admitted strong grounds of justification, but he also thought that it would not be denied that those grounds existed on the present occasion, for if hon. Gentlemen would look to that paper, they would admit that it was well calculated to work the public mind into the same state of dangerous effervescence which was exhibited last summer. If, whilst Mr. O'Connor was free, he could excite to so much danger, the chances of evil would be increased tenfold if he were allowed to conduct the journal whilst in confinement. With respect to the close eye which was kept upon Mr. O'Connor's correspondence, a communication from the governor of the gaol would show its necessity. When the person who attended Mr. O'Connor in prison, Edward Whitworth, was about to be discharged, he was closely searched, with a view to discover whether he had any papers on his person, but none were discovered. He took with him a small looking-glass, given to him by Mr. O'Connor, in which it was not supposed any papers could be secreted, and which was, therefore, allowed to pass; yet Mr. O'Connor afterwards boasted that there were several sheets of closely written paper concealed between the glass and the wooden panel at the back. Under these circumstances, it was not to be wondered at that Mr. O'Connor's correspondence was closely scrutinized. He now considered that he had touched upon most of the points which had been alluded to. Before he closed his observations he must express his regret that those who had taken up the view of the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth persisted in the use of the general expression "political offences," when the danger which attended them had not yet passed away, and which, though at present out of sight, might be, perhaps, but slumbering. He hoped, however, that this might not be the case, and that the public mind was returning to a better condition. The House should not, however, shut its eyes to the tendency which existed amongst the humbler classes, owing in a great degree to the fact, that wages were not what they ought to be. Though that tendency did not now exhibit itself in the same way in which it had lately done, still the dangerous views which had been entertained and expressed should not be hastily forgotten. It was true, that the persons who were confined for those offences had been, for the most part, the victims of others, who had deluded them. Some of the leaders, too, had suffered punishment, and he did not, and would not believe, that any persons in that House sympathised in the crime for which they had suffered, notwithstanding the exaggerated statements which had been made respecting them, and the contrast which had been drawn between former times and the present. For his own part, whilst the gaols were so well inspected, he would not suffer himself to be led away by the notion that these petitions were correct representations. He, however, would say with respect to the different systems of regulations in the various prisons, he would have no objection to see them placed under the control of a central board, as in Scotland.

Debate adjourned.