§ Mr. J. S. Wortley
said, he should ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments, while he referred to something that was said by the noble Lord opposite in the late debate, and he hoped the circumstances of the case would be sufficient to justify him. The noble Lord, at the close of a debate of four nights, and at three o'clock in the morning, when the House was in expectation of the important division which immediately afterwards took place, had thrown upon him imputations under which he was unwilling to rest. His respect for the House had at that time prevented him from interposing in order to offer any explanation. On the next day the noble Lord, for good and sufficient reasons no doubt, did not make his appearance in that House. The present, therefore, was the first opportunity he had been able to take, and the only one he was likely to have, to perform the duty which he conceived was incumbent on him, to set himself right with the House on this point. The noble Lord, in the first place, had, as 484 he considered, entirely misrepresented the opinions he had stated on the general question of the Poor-laws. He should not, however, now enter upon the subject, as he should find other opportunities of doing so. The noble Lord had also accused him of having gone down to Yorkshire in order to raise an Anti-Poor-law cry against Lord Morpeth. He wished to ask what right the noble Lord had to make any such charge? The noble Lord could know nothing personally of the facts of the case, except from the account of some strong partisan, or perhaps from the columns of that calumnious press of which he seemed so ready to complain when its attacks were directed against himself. The noble Lord could not know that in 1837, when he (Mr. J. S. Wortley) was engaged in a contest of the same description, proposals were made to him by parties feeling strongly with respect to the Poor-laws, that he should make them the subject of a party cry. Representations were made to him that it would lend force to the exertions of his friends, and he was also told by the parties connected with the noble Lord, that if he would consent to take up the question, and at once declare himself in favour of the repeal of the law, he might count on the accession of hundreds who would otherwise not vote for him. His answer was, that he cared not what the effect of the course they suggested might be, but he would refuse to take that course. He said he would state his opinions on the subject distinctly, that he would never undertake to vote for the total repeal of the law, because he considered that there were parts of it which deserved to be maintained. When it was remembered that he was only 400 behind on that occasion, it would be admitted, that had he given his consent to the course recommended, he might have then stood in the situation he now occupied. At the last election similar representations were made to him, and he returned the same answer; therefore the noble Lord had no right to accuse him of having raised the Anti-Poor-law cry, as he said, in order to turn out Lord Morpeth. The hon. Member for Sheffield had said, that by some of his (Mr. Wortley's) supporters cards were thrown among the crowd, with figures of the Bastile upon them. That was, no doubt, one of the jokes of the election; but he might as well accuse the noble Lord of the hon. 485 Gentleman of raising the cry of cheap bread, with figures of the big loaf and the little loaf.
§ Mr. Wortley
was perfectly aware he was not speaking strictly to the question; but he had thrown himself on the indulgence of the House. He had said it was the only opportunity he should have— Mr. Roebuck rose again to order. The hon. Gentleman was referring to a preceding debate, and that was contrary to one of the rules of the House.
§ The Speaker
said, that rule applied in all cases, but where a Member had a personal complaint to make, it was usual to grant him the indulgence of making it.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, what he objected to was, that the hon. Member having defended himself made attacks upon others.
§ Mr. Wortley
had not said anything which could be considered an attack upon the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or any of his Friends.
§ Mr. Wortley
had meant to show, that it was too much to make him responsible for matters of the kind alluded to by the hon. Member for Sheffield, for he might just as well say, the noble Lord opposite was responsible for a placard which covered the walls of every street in the Metropolis on the previous day, announcing that the Queen of England was to consider herself now no other than a State prisoner. If hon. Members were to consider each other responsible for such popular topics of clamour, there was no knowing where it would end. He considered that, the noble Lord might better have refrained from throwing out random imputations against him.
Lord J. Russell
observed, that in what he had stated the other night, he had taken for his authority not mere random imputations or rumours, but accounts which he had seen of the speeches made by the hon. Member, and especially an address, signed "J. S. Wortley," issued with a view to the West Riding election. [The noble Lord read the first paragraph of the Address, which Mr. Wortley acknowledged.] He had not Found fault with the hon. Member for holding opinions against the 486 new Poor-law, or for opposing any of the Former Members, but for stating those strong opinions against the new Poor-law at the time of the election; and when the House met, so far was the hon. Member from endeavouring to enforce his opinions, that he took the first opportunity to place persons in power who were the strongest supporters of that law. The hon. Member said in his address,As to the character of the new Poor-law, my objections remain unchanged, as well as to the Administration of the Commissioners.The hon. Member then went on to protest against relief being given only in the work-house, and concluded by saying,It appears to me clear, that this law must undergo much alteration, and I shall always approach the subject, whether the law is to be altered or repealed, with a deep conviction, that the first principle I should be guided by is, tenderness to the poor.He did not find fault with those opinions, but he said, that any hon. Member who thought a man should not be obliged to accept the workhouse as a condition of relief, who thought it a hardship for a man to be separated from his family, and who thought it was a question whether the law should not be totally repealed, ought not, when he came forward to bring the condition of the country before the House, to have omitted these important matters. The hon. Member said, that some persons had called for cheap bread, and had pointed out the difference between a little loaf and a big loaf. He (Lord J. Russell) hoped that those who had done so, did do so in the belief that an alteration of the Corn-laws would give the poor a large loaf, and they were consistent in their opinions when they proposed an alteration in the Corn-laws; but if the persons who had done this out of doors, were to enter the House and never make mention of the Corn-laws, then he should say that their belief in the advantage of an alteration of those laws was not very sincere. The hon. Gentleman had not convinced him, by his speech on the first night of the Session, that he attached any very great importance to an alteration of the new Poor-law. It would be seen by the subsequent speeches of the hon. Member whether, though he might think the subject one of small concern, he was disposed to vote for an extensive alteration or a total abolition of the present Poor-law.
§ The question agreed to.