HC Deb 27 September 1841 vol 59 cc824-8

The Chancellor of the Exchequer having moved the Order of the Day for a committee of Ways and Means.

Sir C B. Vere

requested the indulgence of the House for a few moments. He believed it was not strictly regular to allude to a former debate, but he felt called on to take notice of some remarks made the other night by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson), upon the late dinner of the Agricultural Association of Saxmundham. He did not hear the name at the time, or he should have risen, but he had since received a letter from the noble Lord who was President of the Association, complaining of the remarks of the hon. Member. The House would recollect that the hon. Member had spoken of the Saxmundham Agricultural Association as having shown the symptons of becoming a Conservative Association; because, while they had received the health of her Majesty with cold indifference, they drank that of the Queen Dowager with nine times nine. The hon. Member also remarked upon the course which the Association had taken in having labourers brought in, and spoke in such a manner as to cast a reflection on the motives of the Association. The Earl of Stradbroke was in the chair on that occasion, and in introducing the Queen's health he said, he had the honour to propose a toast which would always be received ' with the warmest affection—" The health of her Majesty the Queen, and may she long live in the hearts of herpeople, and the respect of all the nations of the earth." He was at the meeting, and he heard the Queen's health received with every mark of respect and affection. There were the usual cheers, three times three, and "God save the Queen" was sung, the members standing. The hon. Member for Manchester, he believed, was a member of the Association, though he was not present at the last meeting. He had received a letter from the Earl of Stradbroke, which he should now read to the House: — Dear Sir Charles—I understand that Mr. Gibson has been deceived into the belief that the East Suffolk Agricultural Society is formed for political purposes, and that he has publicly stated that the health of her Majesty was not responded to; on the contrary, that the toast was hissed, and that all the cheers were reserved at the last annual meeting for the Queen Dowager. I need not tell you that if such a statement has been made by any person, every part of it is devoid of truth. If I can claim credit for anything, it is, that during the ten years this society has been formed, I have never allowed a sentence of party feeling to escape my lips; and it is remarkable, that on the last occasion I gave the health of the Queen Dowager and the Royal Family purposely without any remark, because I was aware that the popularity of the Queen Dowager, on account of her exemplary moral character, her Christian virtues exhibited in the public and private charities, and the consequent esteem which her Majesty enjoys in the hearts of the British nation, is so great, that if I had given an opportunity for a loud and honourable expression of public feeling, it would have been considered by bigots as a proof that the toast was political. You will oblige me by making an open use of this letter whenever an opportunity offers. I remain, dear Sir Charles, faithfully yours, Henham, Sept. 26." "STRADBROKE. He could add that politics were excluded by the constitution of the society, and they did not even petition on the subject of the Corn-laws. It had now existed ten years, during which it had conferred considerable benefit on agriculture, and on the labouring classes, and before the present year it had never been whispered that it was affected by any political bias. The society had been originally formed by Gentlemen of Whig opinions, and its members now included men of all parties.

Mr. M. Gibson

said that if the House would allow him to make a few remarks in reply to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, he should first observe that there was a wide difference between proposing a toast and drinking it. He could well conceive that the noble Lord in the chair had proposed the health of her Majesty in very becoming terms, but it did not therefore follow that the meeting responded to those terms with that feeling which might have been expected on the occasion. The hon. and gallant Member had stated that he had been at the meeting, and that the health of the Queen was drunk in the usual manner. But he could say that a friend of his, who had also been present, had assured him that, not only was there a marked preference shown to the toast of the Queen Dowager over that of the Queen, but that he had actually heard some hisses. The hon. and gallant Gentleman did not hear the hisses, but they might had been given. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had not heard him mention the Association the other evening, though he was sitting opposite. But look to the public prints, and see what they said. The Ipswich Express said that the chairman proposed successively the health of her Majesty the Queen, Prince Albert, the Queen Dowager, and the rest of the Royal Family, which were drunk in the usual way, but the name of the Queen Dowager created the loudest applause. The Express, however was a Whig paper; but what said the Conservative paper, the Ipswich Journal? It said the Queen's health was drunk with three times three, and afterwards the Queen Dowager's, which was received with loud applause and succeeded by three times three. He (Mr. Gibson) said that that mode of drawing a marked distinction in favour of the Queen Dowager was the safest way to provoke an insult to the Queen. He said said so, because they drew this marked distinction, and left themselves a bridge to escape. If the Tories hissed openly, there could be no doubt of their motives. There was no more direct way of showing that an agricultural association was political than by such manifestations as only took place at political associations. Look at the late Conservative dinner at Chelmsford, where the noble Lord who presided actually cautioned the meeting to be on their guard to drink the Queen's health with the usual acclamations, because, if they did not, they would be accused of disloyalty. What was the effect? Notwithstanding the noble Lord's remonstrance the Queen's health was drank with three times three and cheers, while the Queen Dowager's was drunk with "tremendous cheers which lasted for several minutes." He quoted from the Essex Conservative paper. He did not wish to detain the House, but in reply to the hon. and gallant Member's statement that the agricultural society was not a political society, he must refer him to his own speech at the dinner, in which he himself stated that he could not help expressing the satisfaction he felt at the late change in the Administration, and at finding that their properties and interests were now in safe keeping. Those were not the exact words, but they were the sentiments; and they conveyed clearly the meaning of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. He had not made an extract from' the speech, but he was sure he was correct as to its meaning. He was far from imputing to any individual, or to to the hon. and gallant Knight any desire, on his part, to mark the toast of her Majesty's health by disapprobation, nor did he wish to impute any such feeling- to the divines, military officers, and agriculturists, who sat around on the occasion; but it was his belief that there was such marked difference between the mode of drinking her Majesty's health, and that of the Queen Dowager on the occasion referred to, as practically to amount to an insult to the Queen.

Mr. Ewart

said, that the letter received by the hon. and gallant Member for Suffolk, stated, that there was such a feeling towards the Queen Dowager, in consequence of her Christian virtues, that the noble Lord who wrote it was afraid of making a speech on the occasion, in proposing the Queen Dowager's health, was a confirmation of the observations made by his hon. friend. Were not he, would ask, the Christian virtues of her Majesty equal to those of the Queen Dowager, [cries from the Ministerial benches, "They are, they are."] If so, then why give superiority of applause to one over the other, or he should s-ay rather why exhibit that political feeling.

Sir C. B. Vere

said, that the applause was given at the mention of the Queen Dowager's name from long ac- quaintance with her virtues. As to loyalty, he begged leave to say, that that Association was a truly loyal one, and the county which it represented equally so. He (Sir C. B. Vere) held, that loyalty was not to be measured by cheers.

Sir C. Burrell

was confident that a grosser insult was never offered to the Queen of this country than that report. He believed that at public meetings persons were at liberty lo express their goodwill towards any one without any imputaton of disloyally. The charge in the present case was as unjust as it was indifferent to the party against whom it was made. In his opinion, the evidence was not sufficient to justify the charge.

Sir E. Kerrison

was present when the charge was made by the hon. Member, and then he knew it to be unfounded. He had the honour to know Lord Stadbroke well, and felt quite certain that no man exceeded him in loyalty, and that the charge was false. How did the hon. Member justify that other charge he made, that all agricultural associations were turned into political ones? He denied that charge emphatically. He was president of an agricultural association in the county of Suffolk; and, in order to render it wholly free from having any political bearing, he asked for and obtained the assistance of a Whig friend to act as secretary. Me went further, and introduced into the rules and regulations one which was to the effect, that any member who thought proper to talk politics in the association should be excluded the society.

Mr. Gibson

The hon. and gallant Member was not present at the meeting. I was informed by a gentleman who was present, and he said he heard the proceedings with great pain, and that many other gentlemen had expressed the same feeling—he himself heard some few hisses.

Colonel Rushbrooke

denied that agricultural associations were in any way made political engines. He was to have presided over a meeting only last Friday; and, as he could not attend, he had begged a Whig friend to take the chair.

Subject at an end.