HC Deb 25 July 1842 vol 65 cc589-605

On the question that the Order of the Day for the Committee of Supply be now read,

Mr. T. Duncombe

rose to renew the motion of which he had given notice some time ago, and which he had postponed at the request of the hon. Member for Stafford and the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The observations of the right hon. Baronet on that occasion had been read with much astonishment and surprise by the persons interested in the fate of the unhappy men who were now suffering in Stafford Gaol. The trial took place on the 2nd of the present month, and they were immediately sent to prison. A petition and memorial were immediately forwarded to the Home Office on the 13th, and on the 16th a reply was received which purported to be written by the direction of the Home Secretary; and yet, when questioned upon the subject in the House, the right hon. Baronet said, he had never received any memorial, and, of course, had caused no reply to be written to it. Considering that the present Government had taken credit to itself for " never making mistakes, never stumbling over stones, or falling into puddles," this contradiction certainly appeared very extraordinary. It would seem that the business of the public departments was not conducted in a more accurate manner under the present than it was under the late Government. If Lord Normanby had happened to have made the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, with respect to this transaction, the public would not have heard the last of it for some time. The question which he was about to bring under the consideration of the Rouse was one of a serious nature. It involved the sacred right of the people to meet peaceably in public to discuss public grievances. Ifs it should appear that that right had been violated by the magistrates of Staf- fordshire, he hoped the House would aid him in obtaining from the Government that information for which he was now about to move. It appeared a report had gone abroad that a statement bad been made by some magistrates in Sedgeley, that if a Chartist dared to show his face in the town, he should be immediately arrested. Mr. Mason, a Chartist lecturer, however, thinking that the magistrates had no right to make such a statement, determined on holding a meeting in Sedgeley. He had proceeded about ten minutes in his lecture, whet) he was interrupted by a constable of the name of Beman, who, it should be observed, was the only witness who appeared on the trial I against the prisoners. And what, after all, was the language to which the constable deposed? According to his account, Mason was telling the people, and telling them, as he (Mr. Duncombe) believed truly, that the laws of this country were made by the aristocracy—that the people had no voice in the election of their representatives—that the laws which were to be obeyed by all should be made by all, and consented to by all; that the individuals in this country who worked the hardest received the least; and that those who worked the least received the most. The constable then interrupted the lecturer, saying that he could stand that no longer, that he at all events should do something for his pay; that Mason was using seditious language; and that it would be his duty to break up the meeting. Mason told the constable that he had no business to interrupt him; that his only business would be, if he was using seditious language, to go before a magistrate and lodge information against him, which might be tried on a future day. The constable persisted in putting an end to the meeting; he took hold of the bench on which Mason was standing, and tilted up the lecturer. The people interposed, but finally Beman carried off the bench. No breach of the peace was committed, except by the constable. Mr. Mason took out a warrant against the constable, upon which the constable took another against Mason, and caused him to be apprehended. The magistrates committed Mason for trial, and dismissed the charge against the constable. Mr. Mason and seven others were committed for attending. an unlawful meeting, and for assault. The meeting was one which no lawyer would call unlawful or illegal. It was perfectly peaceable till interrupted by the constable. These poor working men were committed on a charge of unlawfully meeting, and on a charge of riot and assault. All the charges against them, except for unlawfully meeting, had subsequently vanished, and he denied that for even that part of the charge there was any good ground. They had not come with arms, or with banners, or in anything like military array, nor was the meeting accompanied by any circumstances that could constitute it an unlawful assembly. Mason had not been guilty of using seditious language; but that even if he had been guilty, the constable would not have been justified in interrupting the meeting. Mason had been found guilty of attending an unlawful meeting; the others had been found guilty of a common assault. He complained of the arrest; he complained of the circumstances that had taken place at the trial; and he complained of the sentence that had been passed. The constable had evidently a dislike to Mason, and yet the chairman in passing sentence gave one man two months' imprisonment, another man four, and another six months' imprisonment, having no other evidence than the dictum of the constable. If guilty, they were all equally guilty, and in awarding punishment to refer to a partial witness could certainly not be fair. These men were now prisoners in Stafford Goal, after having been sacrificed to the party spite of the magistrates. In the present state of feeling in Staffordshire such treatment, he contended, of the working classes was anything but prudent. When they coupled such occurrences with what had lately occurred in Ireland, the people naturally asked, were they returning to the days of Sidmouth and of Castlereagh? He maintained that the people had a right to meet peaceably and discuss what they deemed to be grievances, and this prosecution, instituted by the magistrates, was disgraceful to the county of Stafford. He did not believe that any judge of assize would have found these unhappy men guilty, and it would therefore be better if the power of magistrates to try such offences at quarter sessions were taken away. It was too late in the Session to ask for a committee of inquiry to investigate these charges, but he would endeavour to obtain the best information within his reach. The hon. Member concluded by moving— That there be laid before the House a copy of the depositions upon which J. Mason, Chartist lecturer, Thomas Casswell, and six others, were committed for trial at the late Midsummer sessions for the county of Stafford, together with copies of the indictment, or indictments, and the names and addresses If the magistrates and jury before whom they were tried,

Mr. Hume

seconded the motion. Some forbearance should be shown in such cases; particularly at the present time, when so much distress prevailed, the people should at least have full liberty to complain.

Sir J. Graham

said, in reference to certain observations which had fallen from:he hon. Member for Montrose, that he absolutely denied that, the administration of justice in this country should be made dependent on circumstances. It was the duty of the Executive Government to take care that the laws of the country were administered with strict justice, tempered with mercy; and he did not feel that it was their duty to consider, in the execution of the laws, any particular circumstances, such as the hon. Member had alluded to. With reference to the mistake which he had committed the other night in relation to the motion before the House, he might state, that about 4,000 cases connected with criminal proceedings annually came before him; and that at the present period of the year he was obliged, besides attending to other business, to be present in that House about ten hours every day. He did, however, plead for pardon on this account for the error he committed, but would state how it arose. The motion of which the hon. Member gave notice related to a person named John Mason; and he (Sir J. Graham) found in the Home Office a memorial, headed by the signature of Thomas Caswell, and not John Mason. It referred, it was true, to the conviction of John Mason; and he (Sir J. Graham), after reading the short statement, expressed his opinion that there was no reason to alter the sentence. With respect to the persons named in the hon. Member's motion, the Government had nothing to do with their apprehension or prosecution, and he thought the hon. Member for Finsbury was taking a strong step when he asked the House to constitute itself into a court of appeal against the verdict of a jury and the proceedings of a competent tribunal. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the constable exceeded his duty in attempting to apprehend John Mason; but he (Sir J. Graham) had yet to learn that it was not the duty of a constable, when he saw an assembly tending to a breach of the peace, and heard language used of a most exciting character, to apprehend the parties engaged in the proceedings of such an assembly. [Mr. Hawes : " Hear, hear."] The hon. Member might deny his statement, but he (Sir J. Graham) repeated it. If a constable interfered without sufficient cause, he would do so at his own peril. At all events, this question had been decided by a competent tribunal; and surely the hon. Gentleman would not contend that a jury of twelve men were not competent to decide upon it, and bring in a verdict founded on the facts of the case? He (Sir J. Graham) was informed that the chairman of the magistrates before whom the case was tried was a gentleman of the legal profession, and had presided at the sessions for seven years. This gentleman stated, in a paper forwarded to him (Sir J. Graham) that during those seven years he had made a point of never attending any political meeting and that he had refrained from giving any public expression of his politics, in order to prevent even the shadow of a suspicion that he was influenced by political opinion in the administration of the laws. He also said, that he never heard any political discussion among the magistrates when assembled at the sessions, and he therefore trusted that both he and his brother magistrates would be defended from the aspersion of being actuated by political feelings. This was the statement made by the Gentleman, who had shown, he believed, the utmost skill and impartiality while presiding at the sessions where these parties were tried. He did not wish to go into the evidence, but he was told that the language used by Mason was of the most exciting description and of a seditious character; and the jury found him guilty on two counts—for aiding and abetting in an unlawful meeting, and for riot. The prisoners were charged, first, with aiding in an unlawful assembly; second, for riot; third, with assaulting the constable in the execution of his duty; and fourth, for a common assault. The jury brought in a verdict against all the prisoners for aiding in an unlawful assembly, and against seven Of them for an assault. As it was Mason's conduct and language that gave to the assembly its unlawful character, the chairman passed on him the heaviest sentence. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the time had arrived when the people were not to be permitted to meet lawfully together? He (Sir J. Graham) replied, God forbid that it should not be competent for any multitude to assemble lawfully and peaceably to discuss grievances and petition for their redress. But in this case the question was submitted to the jury, " Did the multitude meet peaceably and lawfully?" and he asked, had they arrived at that time when hon. Gentlemen opposite, the great advocates of trial by jury, would contend that that was lawful which a jury, by their verdict, had declared to he unlawful? It was quite superfluous to argue this question, or to defend the verdict of the jury, whose impartiality could not be impugned. The conduct of the chairman was also irreproachable, and the imputation that he had tampered with the jury had been abandoned by the hon. Gentleman himself. It appeared that the trial began at nine o'clock in the morning, and lasted till four in the afternoon. Previous to summing up the chairman retired, and at the same time two of the jury asked leave to retire, and left the jury-box in the custody of an officer. Being ignorant of the passages of the court, the jurymen went out at the same door with the chairman, who merely pointed out to them the proper way. The trial was a fair, honest, and impartial one; and nothing could be more inexpedient than that that House should constitute itself into a court of review on a trial so conducted. He opposed the motion.

Mr. E. Buller

confirmed the statement of the right hon. Baronet, that the chairman only pointed out the proper direction to the jurymen. Any one who was acquainted with the gentleman in question very well knew be was perfectly incapable of tampering with the jury. He also bore testimony to his impartial conduct on the bench, and expressed his regret that the present question had been raised at a time when all the Gentlemen of the legal profession, who were best qualified to give an opinion as to this Gentleman's conduct and impartiality on the bench, were absent from the House.

Mr. Aglionby

totally dissented from the doctrine of the right hon. Baronet opposite, that such questions as the present were improper for discussion in that House. He thought it right, on the contrary, that in all cases concerning the liberty of the subject that House should be a supreme court of appeal. They, however, were not now called on to decide whether the chairman and the jury had acted properly, but whether they ought to have a copy of the documents moved for by the hon. Member for Finsbury. He did not mean that every Member would be justified in bringing such questions before the House for any frivolous cause, but the present was a case of doubt and suspicion, as the only, evidence on which those men were convicted was that of the constable, who put his own construction on the language made use of. He dissented from the right hon. Baronet's description of an unlawful meeting. To constitute an unlawful meeting, and to render interference justifiable, it was necessary that the meeting should, in consequence of being armed, or by its violence, or some such cause, occasion a belief in the minds of reasonable people that a breach of the peace would ensue. In this case no breach of the peace was committed until the constable interfered, and he denied that this single constable had the high authority given him to decide that the meeting was unlawful. He should support the motion of his hon. Friend with the greatest pleasure; and whenever he saw a case of this kind, which was not light or frivolous, he should assume the right of that House to be a court of appeal as the rule, and the refusal as the exception.

Mr. Hawes

hoped that the law officers of the Crown would stand up and protest against the unconstitutional doctrine of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. With regard to the circumstances Of the case, he knew nothing; but the right hon. Baronet declared that it was competent for a constable, who might attend a public meeting, to judge whether the language of the speakers was seditious Or not, and that upon his view of the case lie might take them into custody.

Sir J. Graham

wished to explain. He said, not that the constable was justified in doing so, but that he did it at his own risk. A constable hearing language used which, in his judgment, tended directly to a breach of the peace, was justified at his own peril, in apprehending the party using it.

Mr. Hawes

resumed. Of course the constable was not exempt from the penalty of the law if he acted against it; but he protested against the doctrine of his being a judge of such a matter as the one in question. Since Lord Sidmouth's circular there bad not been a more invidious attempt to put down public discussion. That circular was universally scouted, and Lord Sidmouth could not maintain his ground. He hoped, then, that the opinion of the right hon. Baronet would meet with the same condemnation throughout the country. There was a long debate on the circular in 1817, and Lord Holland and Lord Erskine then declared that it might be true that from constables not having full power offenders might here and there escape; but better it was that they should escape than such an officer as a constable should have powers like a judicial authority.

The Attorney-general

said, that after the sort of challenge which the hon. Member for Lambeth had thrown out to the law officers of the Crown, it seemed to be his duty to take some notice of what had fallen from the hon. Member and the hon. Member for Finsbury. A debate had been attempted to be raised upon an expression of his right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, to which expression, if it were not misunderstood, he himself had no objecjection whatever. What were the papers that were called for? If they were for any practical purpose, he should like to know what it was; if not, it must be to cast a slur on the magistrates and jury. The part of the motion relating to the notes of the chairman was abandoned. He should, had it been persisted in, certainly have objected to the production of them, but that was the only document which there was any pretence to call for. As to the copies of the depositions, every person committed for trial had a right to such copies, and he had no doubt the parties in question had received them. They might have been put into a petition to that House, and if they furnished any matter of complaint, they might have been brought under the notice of that House. With respect to the copies of the indictment, he would undertake to say that they were nothing more than copies from some book of Crown law, containing charges of attending unlawful meetings, but of those the parties might have had copies. Then the last part of the motion was for the names of the magistrates and the jurymen. The former must have been appended to the commitment, and the latter must have been notorious to every one who attended the trial. He knew nothing of the merits of the case, except from what had passed in the House, and from the petition which had been presented to the House on this subject. To the petition he wished to call their attention. The petitioners expressed their surprise at the verdict of the jury. Now, that House was the last assembly in which the verdict of a jury ought to be made the subject of comment or inquiry. if it were a criminal case, let it be brought before the Secretary of State, and if that Officer did not do his duty, let his conduct be brought before that House. The petitioners also said, there was no breach of the peace until the constable went into the assembly, and that there was no justifiable cause to interfere. But he would say, that the officer who saw a person measuring out the ground in a convenient spot, and others standing near, was not bound to wait until a pistol was fired before he took the parties into custody. It was sufficient if he saw enough to convince him, that a duel was about to take place. He begged, then, to say, that in his view of the law, whenever a constable saw any act done, or heard language, the immediate tendency of which was to lead to a breach of the peace, it was his business to watch and take care, that no such breach was committed; and it might become his imperative duty to interfere at once to prevent it; but if he did so, it was on his own responsibility. He should be sorry to see revived the old proceedings which tended to put down public opinion; but when he saw a constable acting in a way which the verdict of a jury had sanctioned, he thought the House ought not to interfere. Under these circumstances, he trusted the House would feel that this was not a case for the interference of their inquisitorial powers in calling for papers of this description.

Mr. O'Connell

said, it struck him that the party in question had been accused of one offence and convicted of another. The charge made against him was for using seditious language, and the depositions were necessary to hear what it really was. He must repudiate the doctrine that a constable was to decide whether language was seditious or not. This party was found guilty of attending a seditious as- sembly; but that was not the original charge; that was made after Mason had charged the opposite party. The first person who commenced the violence was the constable. How could the meeting be called au unlawful one? Would it be permitted, if a number of gentlemen assembled together to discuss any public question, for any constable, how strong so ever the language used might be, to interfere? He should therefore support the motion for a copy of the depositions; but should advise his hon. Friend to withdraw the part relative to the names of the magistrates and jurymen.

Sir R. Inglis

said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had thrown over one part of the motion, and the hon. Member for Finsbury himself had thrown over another; and with respect to the depositions, what had they to do with the trial? On the whole, he was of opinion that they had not evidence before them even for the hypothesis that the constable had executed his duty. Upon those grounds he should oppose the motion.

Mr. T. Duncombe

would not press for the names of the magistrates or jurymen.

The Solicitor-General

said, there could be no other object to be attained by this motion than to cast a censure on the magistrates and jurymen. The hon. and learned Member for Coekermouth said that that House ought to be a court of appeal. If there were any real grievance that House was the place where it ought to be made known; but he protested against the doctrine of that House being made a court of appeal on the decision of a judge or jury in any matter civil or criminal,—that House was wholly incompetent to such an object; and it was because this was intended as an appeal against the decision of the magistrates and the jury that he now objected to this motion. Upon what ground was it made? Take the petition, which, as he had understood, was presented to the House by the hon. Member for Finsbury. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury disclaimed any intention of bringing charges against the magistrates, the chairman, or the jury, he declared that he did not mean to ask for the names of the jury, or the magistrates, or the chairman, but yet what did the petition say? It proceeded in these words:— That your petitioners are fully convinced, from the proceedings connected with the trial, that the prosecutors, and the magistracy, and the jury who were sworn to return a verdict in accordance with the evidence, were influenced more by factious motives than a strict regard to equity. Now, he would ask with what view was the House of Commons called upon to agree to this motion? It was said that there existed no intention of pronouncing censure upon either the magistrates, the chairman, or the jury; then with what view was the question raised? In order, it was said, that an inquiry might be instituted; but he professed himself at a loss to discover how a case even for inquiry had been made out. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork county had told the House that he was not in possession of any information on the subject, and so had almost every Member who addressed the House; he would, therefore, just briefly state, that the first count in the indictment charged the prisoners with having created a riot; the second, with holding an unlawful assembly; the third, with assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty; the fourth with a common assault. Upon the question of law to which this trial gave rise the chairman pronounced a judicial opinion, and surely it would not now be maintained that the hon. Member for Finsbury wished the House of Commons to pronounce a censure upon that, for, if such were his wish, why should he disclaim it? The hon. Member said, he did not complain of the chairman or any one concerned, yet he presented a petition preferring charges against all concerned, he got that petition printed with the votes, and he founded a motion upon it. Each of the charges in the petition were gone through and denied, and after giving up every one of the papers which lie demanded in the first instance, he then asked for the depositions. What could the production of the depositions effect? No practical result could be obtained from any papers except the chairman's notes; for those, however, the lion. Member did not ask. If the House went into an inquiry, the depositions would be wholly immaterial. It was suggested, that if the depositions were produced they would show the grounds of the committal; but of what importance would the grounds of the committal be after the question had gone before a grand jury? After they had investigated the question, after they had found a true bill, after the prisoners had been tried, nay, after they had been convicted, of what possible use could the depositions be? No censure, no suspicion ever could rest upon the chairman, upon the magistrates, or upon the jury. What advantage could result from agreeing to the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury?

Mr. Sheil

said, that his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury did not mean to cast any imputation upon the chairman, the magistrates, or the jury; neither had the motion which he brought forward been founded upon the petition, as stated by the hon. and learned Solicitor-general. The petition was not once mentioned in his notice of motion. What, then, would be the advantage of producing those papers? The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary admitted that a constable in the performance of his duty had exercised some discretion; that he had received an impression from overt acts, or from words, that a certain meeting was an unlawful assembly, and he interfered to disperse that assembly without the authority of a magistrate. It was true the right hon. Baronet did not say that the constable was justified in taking such a course; but he would ask were the circumstances of such a nature as to call for the approbation of the Government? On the contrary, the Attorney-general admitted that it was inexpedient for constables thus to interfere. Was it not, then, pushing the power of the Executive Government to a great length, under these circumstances, to refuse the production of the papers? Summum jus, summa injuria. If the doctrine now insisted upon were to prevail no public meeting could be held without such meeting being liable to dispersion at the will of a constable. Suppose 10,000 persons were assembled upon any occasion; suppose a constable—an ignorant man, but one anxious to do his duty—heard or witnessed that which he conceived to be illegal, and thereupon he dispersed the meeting ex mero motu: the question came to be tried, not before any one of the judges of the land, but before an inferior tribunal; and such being the facts of the case, it would surely be inferred by the country that the refusal to grant papers was a retrospective ratification of the course of proceeding adopted by the constable, An assembly might be unlawful, but it would be most unadvisable to give to constables the power of judging with regard to that unlawfulness, and he trusted the House would agree with him, that to grant the depositions in such a case as the present would not be understood to imply any censure upon the judge or the jury. If the papers were granted it would be received as an expression of the opinion of the House of Commons that public meetings ought not to be dispersed by the authority of constables; but, if they were refused, an opposite inference must be drawn.

Sir R. Peel

said, that the right hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House had not attended to the manner in which the motion had originated. It was originally founded upon the petition, and the hon. Member moved that the petition be printed, in order, as his original notice stated, that he should call the attention of the House to the prayer of that petition, and induce the House to consent to a motion for the production of these papers, on the ground that the judge, the jury, and the magistrates were influenced by factious motives rather than a strict regard for equity. Let any hon. Member compare the original notice with the present motion, and he would find that it had dwindled down almost to nothing; but yet, if the House agreed to the motion, it would amount to saying that the verdict had been given against evidence. That allegation, in fact, constituted the first charge. The second, as already stated, accused the jury, the judge, and the magistrates with being influenced by factious motives; the third paragraph of the petition asserted the innocence of the accused; and the fourth was as follows:— That previous to the chairman of the sessions summing up the evidence, he and two of the jurymen left the court by the same door; and, after being absent for some time, the chairman and one of the jurymen returned together, the other immediately following, which circumstance ought not to be allowed to transpire in any court of justice, it being palpably indicative of unfairness, if not injustice, towards the accused. That statement was most positively denied. Though the departures from court were simultaneous, it was a circumstance purely accidental. Every one of the charges had been abandoned excepting one, and that was not contained in the petition. As to the chairman of the quarter sessions, he had not the honour of his acquaintance, and had never even seen him, but had always heard his name mentioned with the highest esteem, and believed, that his services in the administration of justice (as had been handsomely acknowledged by the hon. Member for North Staffordshire) were highly appreciated in the county. That the House of Commons had not jurisdiction in any case to inquire into the administration of justice, he could not lay down, neither could he undertake to define that jurisdiction, though, assuredly, if there were reason to believe, that a chairman had been tampering with the jury, there might be ground for intervention; but nothing could be more dangerous than, on light grounds, to interfere with the administration of justice, and set up the House as a court of appeal from juries. As to calling for the names of the jurymen, the hon. Member for Finsbury's own good sense induced him to withdraw so very monstrous a proposition. The most observable thing was, that the hon. Member had called for the names of all the parties concerned in the matter except the very person who had just the greatest concern in it—viz., the constable. And as to the charge against the constable, what was there to sustain it? With regard to what his right hon. Friend, the Minister for the Home Department, had said, he had not understood him to lay down any doctrine abstractedly. Surely his right hon. Friend had done nothing more than refer to the circumstances of this particular case. His right hon. Friend would not, of course, lay down in that House, without any deliberation, what were absolutely the duties of the constabulary in a most difficult class of cases. In the present case (which was all that his right hon. Friend had meant to advert to), the constable bad certainly performed a part very doubtful, as all cases of the sort must be doubtful, till set at rest, as this had been, by the verdict of a court of justice. The jury had found, that the meeting was an illegal one, and thus had justified the man's conduct. There had been, too, more than one appeal to law; the party complaining had brought his action for the assault (of which nothing had been said), and that action had been dismissed. Why should not, then, the decisions of a court of law be deemed sufficient? It would never do, certainly, for the House to interfere, till all legal means had been exhausted; and if once the House adopted the princi- ple of interfering, in cases so slight, with the judgments of courts of law, depend upon it, there would not be one night without some case of the sort being brought forward, for to the end of the world, losing parties would be dissatisfied with verdicts. On these grounds, then, he hoped, that to maintain intact the great principles of law, the House would negative decidedly a proposition so fraught with danger to the administration of justice in this country.

Viscount Palmerston

agreed in the propriety of the general principle, that that Rouse ought not in any way to interfere with the decisions of courts of justice; but it was also admitted that cases might occur, of which it was fitting that some notice should be taken in that House; and not long ago it had been laid down by a high legal authority, one of the judges in Ireland, that the decisions of courts of justice ought not to be made the subject of discussion by the press but that parties aggrieved should either apply to the Executive, or address themselves to Parliament. In the present case he understood application had been made to the Executive: the right hon. Baronet had more or less carefully considered the case, and had decided that there was no ground for the application. Well, then, they had the highest legal authority in another part of the kingdom for this application to the House. His opinion was, that the questions which had been mooted in this debate rendered it expedient that the papers should be produced; it was said that a constable might act on his own responsibility in interrupting a public meeting, and that if it turned out that he had mistaken his duty, then he was liable to an action. That doctrine put him in mind of a story of a party of gentlemen playing at cards, one of whom believing that one of his opponents had an ace of spades concealed under his hand, took a fork, and with it pinned his hand to the table, saying, "If you have not the ate of spades under your hand I beg your pardon." He supposed that hon. Gentlemen would say that this card-playing gentleman was justified in acting upon his own responsibility in sticking the fork into his opponent's hand, in the same way at they were told a constable would be justified in acting on his own responsibility. He, however, did not deny that when any conduct was being recommended or pursued clearly end directly tending to a breach of the peace, not only an officer, but any one, would be justified in interfering; but he understood that at this meeting doctrines, certainly, in his opinion, highly objectionable were advocated; that the proceedings consisted entirely in the promulgation of mere abstract opinions upon the question of the representative system in that House, and upon the subject of wages; nothing, therefore, to justify any interference on the part of a constable. He thought, under all the circumstances, that there was a sufficient ground for inquiry, and he did not think that the objections to the motion were very consistent, for, first, it was said that the motion could not be agreed to because it was too comprehensive; and, secondly, that it ought not to be agreed to because it had dwindled down to nothing.

Mr. Villiers

admitted the evil of suffering illiterate men to be expounders of law; but, in this case, a chairman of Sessions and a jury had justified the constable whose conduct was in question. But that, in his opinion, made the case of his hon. Friend still stronger for his application to have the depositions produced; for, as he had now framed his motion, there was no question of the mode in which the law had been administered, or any appeal to this House from a verdict of the court, but simply a request to have the depositions on which the prisoner was committed produced, which was information that was peculiarly interesting for them at this time to possess, for the Attorney-general says, that there are many laws which he should be sorry to see construed strictly, and his hon. Friend says, that if the prisoner was convicted properly, the law is in a singular state. For their information, therefore, as a legislative body, it was important that they should know under what circumstances this person had been indicted and subsequently convicted, and how far meetings to discuss political questions might be held, or might be interrupted; for if the law, as it had been construed at these sessions, was known, it might prevent violations of it in future; and if it was bad or improper to continue it, this House might desire to know that, with the view to alter it. Raising, therefore, as it did, the question of the law, as it might be then enforced, he should vote for the depositions being produced, as the best evidence they could get of the matter.

Mr. Ewart

thought a constable was not a proper party to decide as to the unlawfulness of a meeting. In the Manchester case the people had implements calculated to excite terror in the people, and Mr. Justice Bailey had laid it down at York, that there must be something to terrify the people before a meeting could be said to be unlawful; but at the meeting alluded to on the present occasion, there were no implements calculated to excite terror.

Mr. M. Philips

denied that there were arms at the Manchester meeting. It might appear in evidence that there were, but such was not the case; there were no arms; nothing but flags. With respect to the present motion, he must say, that he did not think a constable a fit person to judge of the legality of a meeting.

The House divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 116; Noes 32: Majority 84.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Follett, Sir W. W.
Acland, T. D. Ffolliott, J.
A'Court, Capt. Forbes, W.
Allis, J. P. French, F.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Fuller, A. E
Arkwright, G. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Baird, W. Gladstone,rt.hn.W.E.
Baldwin, B. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Baring, hon. W. B. Goulburn, rt. hn. H.
Bateson, R. Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.
Beckett, W. Greene, T.
Boldero, H. G. Grogan, E.
Botfield, B. Guest, Sir J.
Bradshaw, J. Halford, H.
Broadley, H. Hamilton, Lord C.
Broadwood, H. Harcourt, G. G.
Bruce, Lord E. Hardinge, rt. hn.SirH.
Burroughes, H. N. Hardy, J.
Chelsea, Visct. Hawkes, T.
Chute, W. L. W. Henley, J. W.
Clerk, Sir G. Herbert, hon. S.
Clive, hon. R. H. Hodgson, R.
Cochrane, A. Hogg, J. W.
Cockburn, rt.hn.Sir G. Hope, hon. C.
Collett, W. R. Hughes, W. B.
Colquhoun, J. C. Hussey, T.
Courtenay, Lord Inglis, Sir R. H.
Cripps, W. Jermyn, Earl
Damer, hon. Col. Jocelyn, Visct.
Darby, G. Johnson, Sir J.
Douglas, Sir H. Jones, Capt.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Knatchhull, rt. hn. SirE
Duncombe, hon. A. Knight, H. G.
Eliot, Lord Knight, F. W.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Feilden, W. Law, hon. C. E.
Fitzmaurice, hon. W. Lincoln, Earl of
Flower, Sir J. Litton, E.
Lockhart, W. Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.
Lowther, J. H. Rushbrooke, Col.
Lowther, hon. Col. Russell, C.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Sandon, Visct.
Mackenzie, T. Somerset, Lord G.
Masterman, J. Stanley, Lord
Mundy, E. M. Stewart. J.
Neeld, J. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Neville, R. Taylor T. E.
Norreys, Lord Taylor, J. A.
Northland, Visct. Thornhill, G.
Puke, C. W. Tollemache, J.
Palmer, G. Trench, Sir F. W.
Patten, J. W. Vivian, J. E.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Pemberton, T. Williams, T. P.
Polhill, F. Wodehouse, E.
Pollock, Sir F. Young, J.
Praed, W. T.
Pringle, A. TELLERS.
Rashleigh, W. Fremantle, Sir T.
Richards, R. Baring, H,
List of the NOES
Aglionby, H. A. O'Brien, J.
Bowring, Dr. O'Connell, D.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Browne, hon. W O'Conor, Don
Bryan, G. Palmerston, Visct.
Buller, C. Philips, M.
Cobden, R. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Crawford, W. S. Tancred, H. W.
Ebrington, Visct. Villiers, hon. C.
Ewart, W. Wall, C. B.
Fielden, J. Williams, W.
Gibson, T. M. Wood, B.
Gore, hon. R. Wood, G. W.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Yorke, H. R.
Hatton, Capt. V.
Howard, hn. C.W.G. TELLERS.
Hume, J. Duncombe, T.
Humphrey, Ald, Hawes, B.

Order for committee read.

On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,