HC Deb 01 June 1842 vol 63 cc1057-87
Mr. Fleming

rose to present the petition of which he had given notice, with reference to the personation of electors, by attaching their signatures to a petition presented to the House on a previous occasion. The petition which he now had in charge, did not emanate from the general body of electors, but from those persons who, from their official positions and high station in the town of Southampton, felt it to be their special duty to watch over the morals of the town. It was signed by the mayor, bailiffs, a large majority of the aldermen, a majority of the councillors of the town, and by many gentlemen, merchants, and tradesmen of the highest character. They said that they had seen a petition, purporting to be that of certain electors of the borough of Southampton, and that they could not forbear expressing their surprise at many of the persons who had signed the petition representing themselves to be electors of the borough. The petition went on to state, that the former petition, which purported to be signed by 171 electors, was signed by thirty persons who were not electors. It is also stated, that some of such petitioners, by themselves and agents, offered to compromise the petition presented against the return of the Members.

Petition read at length.

Mr. Fleming

moved, that it be printed with the votes.

Mr. Ward

wished to know, whether it was the intention of the hon. Member to found any motion on the question.

Mr. Fleming

thought, that he had only done his duty in presenting the petition, and having shown the fraud that had been committed, would leave it to the House to say whether they would call upon any of the parties to support these statements. He did not intend to take any further steps upon the subject.

Mr. Ward

had only asked the question because the hon. Member stated, that it was his intention to found a motion upon the petition.

Sir J. Easthope

said, that he had received communications from very respectable parties in Southampton, denying the statements and impressions intended to be conveyed by the petition now presented by the hon. Member for South Hants (Mr. Fleming). The petition complained of was signed by Mr. Atherley, the brother of a gentleman who formerly long represented that town, and who was himself a most respectable banker and a magistrate. The next person who had signed this petition was a magistrate, and the third was a most respectable banker of the town, and also a magistrate. He could point out others of equal respectability, so that manifestly there was no reason in the world to impute to any of those petitioners the intention to commit a fraud on the House.

Mr. Fleming

had received a return from the town clerk, who stated, that he had gone over the register of electors, and he did not find the names of the thirty persons alluded to. He was ready to place this statement on the Table of the House.

Lord John Russell

observed, that the rule was, not to print a petition with the votes, unless an hon. Member intended to found a motion on it. He doubted, after the statements of the hon. Member, whether it would be right or necessary to have the petition printed.

Sir Robert Peel

said, the rule had been broken through the other evening, when a petition presented by the hon. Member for Finsbury was ordered to be printed, although contrary to the rules of the House, because it would throw light upon this very case of the Southampton election. The reason was, that the case partook somewhat of a judicial proceeding, and as this person offered to give evidence, and he then stated, that he thought that the rule should be broken through. There was, therefore, a precedent for this motion.

Mr. Macaulay

thought, that the cases were hardly parallel. The former petition had reference to a motion for a select committee, to inquire into the proceedings at the late election for Southampton. If the hon. Member for South Hampshire un dertook to affirm that the present petition was calculated to throw light upon the subject they were about to discuss, and would state that on Thursday, or some other day, he would draw the attention of the House to the subject, then there might be some reason for printing the petition.

Mr. Mackinnon

said, that the motion for printing the petition was not a substantive motion, but an amendment. How did hon. Members know that it was his intention to postpone moving for the writ until to-morrow?

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

thought, that the House had acted very properly in deciding that the petition of John Wren should be printed, because it was calculated to throw light upon the discussion on which they were about to enter. If the present petition had been calculated to throw light upon the subject, the hon. Member ought to have presented it before, as he had had it for more than a week in his possession; but it appeared that it would not suit the purposes of the Conservatives of Southampton to have light thrown upon the subject. He did not think that there was the slightest importance to be attached to the petition.

Mr. Henry Baring

thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire had acted very discreetly in abstaining from presenting the petition until this evening. He had attained his object, which was, to show that the petition presented by the hon. Baronet was a fraudulent one. He did not say, that none of the persons who had signed the petition were respectable, but certainly vast numbers of them were not what they represented themselves to be. The hon. Member for Hampshire having gained his object, he saw no reason for having the petition printed.

Motion withdrawn.

Mr. Fleming

had a petition to present of a greater importance than the last. A petition from John Wren had been printed, and the present petition, which was numerously and respectably signed, was from persons who stated, that in their opinion that individual was not to be believed upon his oath. In a very few hours the petition was signed by upwards of 250 electors of the town of Southampton, and if it could have remained longer, it would no doubt have been signed by four times as many. The petitioners stated, that they heard with astonishment, that John Wren had presented a petition with relation to the corruption which he said had taken place with a view of delaying the issue of the writ. They stated, that the said John Wren did not in any degree possess the confidence or esteem of his fellow-towns men; nor was the estimation in which he was held such as to afford any grounds for confidence being placed in his statement. That opinion was entertained by persons of all political creeds. The petitioners prayed the honourable House not to give credence to statements coming from such a quarter, and that they might not be deprived of their political privileges.

Petition to lie upon the Table.

The hon. Member

then moved, that the petition be printed and circulated with the votes.

Sir John Easthope

was sure that he only faithfully expressed the opinions and wishes of a large number of the most re spectable in habitants of Southampton, when he said that it was desirable that everything that the hon. Member had offered to the House should be printed; and that the most searching inquiry should be made into the whole proceedings before the House proceeded to issue the writ. It could not have escaped the observation of the House that the hon. Member for Hampshire had not produced the effect which he was desirous of producing in bringing forward his indictment against the former petitioners. The hon. Member evidently entertained an opinion that he should be able to produce an impression on the House that the petitioners had committed a fraud which would lay them open to severe animadversion. Now, what were the facts of the case? A few of the individuals who had signed the petition had changed their residences, and were not on the present register. Those parties, however, who were complained of for having signed this petition were stated to him to have been on former registers, and expected to be on the next. He had received a letter from a most respectable individual at Southampton, who stated that the inhabitants of that town were anxious that the House should make the most searching inquiries into this matter, which, they stated, would prove, that no fraud whatever had been committed against the House by the petitioners complained of, but that the complaint was made in tone and manner more deserving the character of fraud and contrivance than the petition which was so improperly impugned.

Mr. H. Hinde

hoped that the hon. Member would not proceed with the motion for the printing of the petition, as the continuance of that discussion was only calculated to keep alive ill-feeling on the subject. If they agreed to the motion of the hon. Member for Hampshire, they could hardly agree to the issuing of the writ that night. Under these circumstances he hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his motion, in order that they might come at once to the main question.

Mr. Redington

was anxious that the House should not set aside the statement of a witness on oath for the statement of a petition. All he could say was, that as the unseated Member lost his seat upon the evidence of Mr. Wren, if that evidence were not to be believed, then the unseated Member had been hardly treated.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that any one who had read the evidence could not be surprised that Wren had refused to give all the evidence in his power. That witness, when under examination, declined to answer questions put to him, on the ground that by answering them he should compromise himself. He now offered to give evidence, and asked for indemnity to enable him to do so. It would strike a person unacquainted with Southampton except by the evidence, as very strange to find it asserted that Wren was disbelieved by the whole town, when it was shown that he was a regular election agent. It was stated that he was the principal objector in the registry courts where the battle of the Constitution was fought, and that he also possessed the confidence of the Conservatives, and fought their battles at the election by distributing money to the voters.

Motion withdrawn.

Mr. Mackinnon

Sir, Notwithstanding the threat held out by the hon. Member opposite in his amendment to my motion, I appeal with confidence to the House on the subject, satisfied that when the case is laid before the House, and thoroughly examined, full justice will be done to the constituency of Southampton, and a new writ will be granted. I have no feeling or interested motive whatever, it is to me a matter of perfect indifference whether the writ is granted or not, so far as I am personally concerned. As I wish the case to be thoroughly understood, and to have no concealment whatever, I will read to the House the report of the committee on the late election, which is as follows.

That the said select committee also agreed to report to your honourable House the following acts of bribery:— First. That Charles Coombe Callen was bribed with ten pounds, paid to his wife for him; Secondly. That Joseph Whitmarsh was promised a bribe of twenty pounds, the whole or some portion of which was afterwards paid; Thirdly. That Joseph Redwards was bribed with five pounds; Fourthly. That William Andrews was bribed with five pounds; and, Fifthly. That Giles Paskins was bribed with three pounds; each of them to vote for Lord Bruce and Mr. Martyn." That the evidence given before your committee relative to an extensive system of treating carried on through the means of local associations, the payment of large sums to chairmen and colourmen, many of whom were voters, and the expenditure of a sum of money for the purposes of the election, amounting to nearly five thousand pounds, and therefore far exceeding the ordinary legal charges, is deserving of the serious consideration of the House." That the Committee feel they have been prevented from ascertaining the exact mode in which the whole of this money was expended by the loss or destruction of the vouchers and other documents connected with those payments, especially in the case of William House Mabson, who, after being served with the Speaker's warrant, disposed of those in his possession. From this it appears that five individuals were bribed at the last election, and that a sum of 5,000l. was expended in the contest; but what is there in this report to prevent the issuing of a writ? In the year 1837 it appears a larger sum than 5,000l. was expended, and yet a writ was issued. Now I would beg leave to call to the mind of hon. Members, that on Thursday last a writ was issued for Ipswich, and that the report of the committee on the Ipswich case was much more unfavourable than the report for Southampton, it was as follows:— That this committee are of opinion from the evidence given before them, that extensive bribery prevailed at the last election for the borough of Ipswich, that the issuing of the writ be suspended until the evidence be printed and submitted to the House. Now, Sir, if in the case of Ipswich a new writ has been ordered, what possible ground or what rational argument can be used for preventing or withholding the issue of a writ for Southampton. Sir, I think I can pretty well guess the line of argument or of opposition that the hon. Member for Anglesey will make to my motion; he will say, that the committee on the Southampton petition, of which he was a member, were unable to sift the evidence sufficiently, and therefore that another committee is required, can anything be more fallacious than such an argument; on looking over the names of the gentlemen of whom that committee was composed, I see the names of men of talent and experience, and of high consideration in this House, of men exactly qualified for the purpose, and why the hon. Member should cast such a slur on the committee, really is beyond my comprehension. If the hon. Gentleman had been in a minority in the divisions of the committee, if he had desired to sift out evidence which was refused him, then I think there might be some colour of plausibility in his desiring another committee, but such was not the case. On looking over the divisions in the committee, I find the Member for Anglesey always in a majority with only one exception, he therefore cordially agreed with all the proceedings of the committee, and after this requires at your hands another committee to sift evidence which was before done by that body of which he was an active member. What possible advantage, then, could arise from the formation of another committee, and from the course of proceeding recommended by the hon. Gentleman in his amendment to my motion; what purpose it could answer I am at a loss to conjecture. After, it would seem, cordially supporting the proceedings of the Southampton committee, the hon. Member turns round and says to them by his amendment, "You have not done your duty; give us another committee that they may endeavour to do better than you have done." Unless, therefore, you have some lethal proof, some satisfactory assurance that some evidence can be brought forward which could not be obtained by the last committee, why should you suspend the writ? Look at the anomaly, at the monstrous precedent you are likely to establish if you refuse to issue the writ; you deprive a constituency of fifteen, now almost seventeen hundred, of their elective franchise, of their just constitutional rights, and you act in such a manner because an individual chooses to present a petition to this House, Why if this principle were adopted, any borough or county may be deprived of its elective franchise by some vagabond or dissatisfied person, of whom abundance will be found in every Place, ready to pour in petitions to this House to suspend the issue of a writ on every occasion. Would the establishment of such a precedent be in accordance with the constitutional law— with the custom of Parliament? Would not such a precedent be of dangerous tendency; might it not arise that if such were established, a corrupt minority in this House might keep out a majority. The numbers of this House are 658; suppose a minority of 325 were in the House, having ten places for which Members were to be returned, which Members when returned would vote with the remainder of the House against the 325; suppose that writs were to be issued for the ten places alluded to, and ten petitions from various vagabonds in those places were presented and the writs were in consequence withheld, the result would be, that, instead of a majority of 333 against the 325, there would only be 313 against the 325, and consequently the minority would be the powerful body in the House, and carry on the business of the nation in opposition to the real majority of its representatives. Would such a state of things be tolerable, and are you not establishing a precedent that might lead to these results by withholding the writ for Southampton on account of this petition from John Wren. Now this John Wren, of whom I know nothing beyond the fact that he was brought to the Bar of your House by the late committee for prevarication or refusing to answer such questions as were put to him by counsel. It is on the petition of such an individual that you refuse to issue the Southampton writ, and withhold the elective franchise from 1,700 electors. Now, supposing even that you formed another committee, what possible result could take place, what evidence could be adduced that was not given before the last committee? It is said that John Wren can furnish fresh evidence, but what dependence can be placed on a person who betrays the secrets of his own party, with whom he has acted, according to his own statement, for years. Sir, if the Gentlemen opposite would direct their attention to the forming of some legislative enactments to prevent bribery at elections, either by penal statutes or by some other means, they would deserve well of their country and of this House in putting down an evil that we all in common deplore. Having given my sentiments to the House on this subject, and reserving to myself the right of answering any argu- ments that the hon. Member for Anglesey may adduce in his amendment to my motion, I will at once move that a writ be issued for the election of two burgesses to serve in Parliament for the town and county of the town of Southampton.

Mr. W.O. Stanley

was anxious to offer himself to the notice of the House, in opposition to the motion of the hon. Member for Limington, and he was aware, that in doing so, he was taking an extraordinary course. He was aware that it was extraordinary to ask the House to suspend the writ for a place, but he thought that he could show, that the evidence taken before the Southampton committee would satisfy the House, that this was the proper course to take. In addition to this, circumstances had taken place since the election committee had made its report, which, he thought, should induce Members who had already made up their minds on the subject, now to agree to suspend the writ until further inquiry had taken place as to what had occurred at the late election. He had been an attentive observer of what had taken place before the committee, and he was satisfied that they had not obtained the account of all the expenses incurred at the last election for Southampton. Certainly much evidence was adduced to show that there was most extensive treating, and he believed that it was much more extensive than the committee had been able to obtain evidence of. He believed that if evidence were gone into, it would be shown that there was equally extensive treating on the other side. He would now proceed to state the nature of the evidence taken before the committee. On the evidence taken, the committee made this special report:— That the evidence given before the committee relative to an extensive system of treating, carried on through the means of local associations, the payment of large sums to chairmen and colourmen, many of whom were voters, and the expenditure of a sum of money for the purposes of the election, amounting to nearly 5,000l., and, therefore, far exceeding the ordinary legal charges, is deserving of the serious consideration of the House. He thought, after this special report, the House should take into its consideration the report so made, and should at once accede to the proposition to make further inquiry. With regard to treating, the committee had proof before it that the sum of 5,000l. was expended. And here be must observe, that as on this part of the subject he should have to comment on the evidence of a Member of that House —he hoped he might say, that he was most anxious to avoid giving offence. It was proved that 4,000l. was expended in treating previous to the election. It appeared from the bankers' books that 500l. of the sum so expended came from the hon. Member for Hampshire, and the hon. Member admitted it when called before the committee. Being asked from whom he had received that 500l., the hon. Member said— I must at once explain to the committee, that finding there was a great deficiency of money to defray the expences, I undertook myself to apply to my friends in the town of Southampton, and the neighbourhood of Southampton, and from them I received subscriptions which I paid into the bank to the credit of the Conservative party; and I consider I could not mention the names of the persons from whom I received the money without a betrayal of their confidence, which would be improper and dishonourable on my part; therefore I must at once throw myself upon the feelings of the committee, whether I am to be placed in the painful position of being compelled to betray that confidence, which, as a Gentleman, I think 1 ought not to betray. The hon. Member further said,— This subscription took place a considerable period after the election, a period of six weeks. Finding that the legitimate expenses were not paid, and which I consider were only the legal expenses, I said I would do the best in my power to obtain subscriptions to relieve them from the difficulty; I did so from various persons, and I will not, under any circumstances, betray that confidence which they reposed in me. The House would bear in mind that the hon. Member had refused to answer the question. The House being appealed to, declared that the hon. Member ought to answer it. On a subsequent day he appeared before the committee, and being asked for what object he had collected the subscriptions, he said:— The agents' expenses were not paid. I was told, that they had not paid the agents; and I was told also that the bill at the Dolphin was unpaid, which I apprehend must have been a very expensive one, as that inn was engaged, as you have just heard, from a very early period, of those proceedings. I should think it would be at least six weeks before the writ came down. I do not know what was paid. I am sure, if I may judge from what I heard about the charges at the Star, it must have been very considerable indeed; and the small sum that I collected would go but a little way to defray it but, however, whatever I could do I was very happy to exert myself in doing, for the purpose of assisting in paying it. I ought to have said, the Dolphin being constantly resorted to by the Conservative party during that six weeks, the charge must have been large. It appeared, that besides the 500l., a further sum of 200l. or 300l. was collected and paid in by the hon. Member, and he subsequently stated, that he had paid 200l to Mr. Lefevre, the sums in all amounting to 1,000l. Now, it appeared in evidence that no demand had been made for the rooms in the Dolphin occupied by the committee, and that only a trifling sum of 13l. had been paid. The day before the 31st of August a sum of 200l. had been paid to the agents, Messrs. Hunt and Blanchard, and a sum of 80l. to the town clerk for the legal expenses of the hustings. But the evidence before the committee of that House afforded no satisfactory explanation of how that large sum of 1,000l. could have gone in legal expenses. That point required further investigation, and he thought, if a bill of indemnity were granted to witnesses coming before a select committee, that further evidence on that point would be procured. It appeared that bribery to a considerable extent had been carried on by means of paying messengers, colourmen, porters, and others nominally employed, 3l. for their votes. One witness, Mr. Lisle, had received 600l., in the usual way, he could not tell from whom, and paid it away without order or direction from anybody, one-half to porters, messengers and colourmen, and one-half to chairmen and voters for attending the candidates at the day of the declaration. It appeared that Southampton was divided into five wards, in each of which there was a Conservative association. The chairman of one of these associations (Mr. Cheese-man) was examined, and hon. Members would be amused with his evidence. It was proved that Mr. Cheeseman had received about 400l., which appeared to have been spent in a system of treating. Mr. Cheeseman was asked,— "Give me leave to ask you of what nature? In forming the society.—What were the great expenses incurred in forming the society? Roast beef, plum-pudding, grog, and wine.— Did you find that the expense increased as you got on towards the period of the election? I suppose that the expenses did not diminish? Why, our first expenses were heavy when we had these dinners; that was before the election; that was on the 2nd June I believe the dinner was, In fact, the greater part of 5,000l. had been conveyed away in corrupting the electors of the town of Southampton. With respect to the evidence of Mr. Wren, he was not there to stand up for Wren. Wren was a friend of the hon. Member for South Hants. There was no direct evidence of personal communication between Mr. Wren and the hon. Member; but the hon. Member rode into Southampton every day to see what was going on, and was every day in the committee-room, to which Wren was constantly going to consult and communicate with those with whom the hon. Member was associated. Wren was employed by the Conservative party, and he withheld as much as he could from the election committee. He could hardly be got to answer a question, constantly asserting that the answer might criminate himself. This man, however, some of his evidence having been contradicted and discredited by some of his own party at Southampton, presented a petition in which he said,— That if your honourable House will, by indemnity bill, protect your petitioner from legal consequences, he will submit himself to the pleasure of your honourable House, and disclose most material facts within his knowledge, respecting bribery and corruption, practised for a series of elections, at the late elections for Southampton, and especially at the said last election in question. That your petitioner is able and willing (so indemnified), to inform your committee of the names of resident electors in Southampton, partizans and agents of the late sitting Members, who organised and accomplished an extensive system of bribery and treating at the last election for the said borough; and which parties, summoned to the Bar of your honourable House, or before a select committee, must (when indemnified) disclose full particulars of such extensive corruption of the constituency. That your petitioner is in possession of a certain memorandum book, not produced before the select committee, which, contains divers entries of sums of money, corruptly given as bribes to several electors, and also the names of several bribers who were electors: and that the said book contains also the signature of one of the returning officers at the said late election, authorising the bribing of a particular elector, and who was bribed accordingly. When such a statement as that was made to the House, he did not think that it could be overlooked. When, moreover, the committee had declared the last election void, and found the sitting Members guilty of bribery by their agents, he thought the writ ought to be suspended, until further inquiry had taken place. He believed the same system of extensive treating, of which evidence had been given, was carried on, at this moment, by the Conservative associations. He did not think, that electors, corrupted in this manner, or those who, to the number of, at least, 200, had been bribed as colour-men and chairmen, should now be allowed to exercise the franchise which they had so grossly abused. He thought the House ought to take this subject into its serious consideration, with a view to pass such laws as might prevent a recurrence of such corruption, and they ought not to issue a writ for Southampton, until they had taken effectual measures for securing, that a real return would be made to it. He should, therefore, move, as an amendment: — That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the extent of the bribery and treating which had prevailed at the last election for Southampton, and that a writ be not issued until some preventive measure had been passed through that House.

Mr. Ward

seconded the amendment. He said, that the evidence given before the Southampton Election Committee, and the petition recently presented from Mr. Wren, rendered it the bounden duty of the House to prosecute inquiry into this matter to the utmost extent. He had read over every word of that evidence with the greatest attention, and it showed, in the clearest and most decisive manner, that a systematic, extensive, and admirably arranged system of corruption, prevailed in the borough of Southampton. It was arranged in the most effectual manner for corrupting the voters and preventing discovery. In the whole course of the evidence of the leading witnesses, it would be found, that their memory always failed them at the most convenient time, and with respect to the most material facts. No particular authority appeared to be necessary for the most important transactions. No accounts were kept of the amount of checks. The check-book lay on the table of the committee-room, and any respectable person, it appeared, might draw sums of money from the bankers; and no one knew what had become of the check-book. Large checks had been drawn by particular individuals, but when questioned as to the objects, their memory appeared to be a perfect blank. As to the petition of Wren, it contained one most important statement. The petitioner stated, that he had a memorandum book, containing the signature of a returning officer, authorising the bribing of a particular elector. He might be told, that the witness refused to produce this book before the election committee. The witness, indeed, had not been asked for a book, but for a paper, and might have satisfied himself with that quibble. Yet it was a quibble with which the party, whom Wren served, found no fault with, so long as he was true to his colours. He said, if this memorandum book existed, they ought to have it. The statement respecting the returning officer, involved one of the gravest constitutional charges that could be adduced against any man. The man who made this statement had been long employed by the party opposite. He had been twenty years an elector of Southampton, and for fourteen years had voted on the same side. It was now attempted to blacken his character, and the hon. Member for South Hants had read a letter from Southampton for that purpose. He had also had a letter, stating that Dawkin, one of the hon. Member's correspondents, had been turned out of the tradesmen's rooms at Southampton, as a notorious liar, never to be admitted again. He stated this to show that if dirty pettifogging stories of individuals were allowed to influence the judgment of the House in this matter, they were as easily produced against one party as the other. The corrupt practices which had been already proved, would be repeated in Southampton the moment a writ was issued. A petition had been presented, signed by 290 electors of Southampton, exclusive of forty names, of which there was some doubt, confirming the conclusion of the election committee. If the House was in earnest in wishing to put a stop to corruption, they would not repeat the great mistake they had made in the Ipswich case. They would not issue this writ until they found to what extent corrupt practices had prevailed in Southampton, and had provided against their repetition.

Mr. Fleming

said, however little he might be personally interested in the immediate question before the House, it was really quite impossible for him to hear the statements and accusations that had been made without some attempt on his part to disabuse the House of the erroneous impressions which those statements were cal- culated to produce; and at the very outset he must warn hon. Gentlemen who were without any local knowledge of the subject against those persons who had lent themselves to a foul conspiracy, which had been undertaken by a certain class of parties at Southampton in revenge for a positive rejection of an offer made by them to enter into a compromise for the purpose of screening that bribery and corruption of which they now expressed such a virtuous horror, the condition of the proposed compromise being that the overwhelming majority of Conservative electors of Southampton should consent to the election of one Member for that borough of their (the proposers') political opinions. This it was that had originated the misrepresentations which had imposed upon the hon. Gentleman, and of the charge that 300l. had been given to the witness Wren for the perjury he had committed. He had not had the opportunity of reading the votes, having been absent from London; and he had, therefore, not read the petition presented by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets; but he understood that his name had been very largely discussed. He begged to say, that it was a matter of indifference to him what was said of him by such a witness as he who had signed the petition, and who had been perfectly described by the learned and talented counsel before the committee, when he said, that he did not know what seat in that House would be secure if the evidence of such a witness as Wren were to be believed. As to the comments of the hon. Member for Anglesea, upon what he had done, he would only say, that he did not feel that he had done anything wrong. If hon. Gentlemen opposite thought proper to believe such statements as those which had been brought forward, they were welcome to do so. If they had the bad taste to do so, he could not help it; but he hoped, that they did not concur in the assertion that had been made, that he would have enough to do to look after his own character an assertion which the hon. Member for Sheffield, who made it, had not had the courtesy to withdraw. He could only say, with regard to it, that such a statement was false, scandalous, and unfounded.

The Speaker

hoped the hon. Member would retract an expression which must have fallen from him unintentionally. The hon. Gentleman had said, that a statement made by an hon. Member of that House was false and scandalous. Those were words that could not be permitted in that House.

Mr. Fleming

was quite ready to withdraw the expressions he had made use of in deference to the opinion of the chair. But, at the same time, he thought it rather hard on him to be told, that he would have enough to do to take care of his character.

Mr. Mackinnon

begged to remind the hon. Member and the House, that the expression made use of by the hon. Member for Sheffield, was not, that the hon. Member for South Hants would have enough to do to take care of his own character, but that he would have enough to do with respect to his own conduct in reference to the matters stated in the petition.

Mr. Ward

had really not been aware that so much importance had been attached to what had fallen from him on the occasion in question. Words would often escape in the heat of debate which would not be uttered in cooler blood. The fact was simply, that on the occasion of a very severe censure being passed on certain parties by the hon. Member for South Hants, he observed, looking at the petition, that there were statements in it that would give the hon. Member enough to do to defend his own conduct. That was what he had said. If there was anything in it that was unparliamentary or offensive to the hon. Gentleman, he need hardly say, that he would be one of the first to express his regret.

Mr. Fleming

would enter no further into the subject of the evidence entered into by the hon. Member for Anglesea. No doubt similar statements were made before the committee, and all he would say was, that he hoped they would not induce the House to agree to the suspension of the writ. With respect to the evidence before the committee, living as he did in the neighbourhood of Southampton, and feeling a sincere interest in the maintenance of the good character of the borough, it was naturally a source of satisfaction to him, that after a most laborious investigation, in which more than forty-one witnesses were examined, only five cases out of thirty or forty, alleged by the learned counsel in his opening speech had been sustained; that out of those five, two were of payments made to electors for services actually performed, the only penalty for which would be, that they would be prevented from, voting. With regard to the case of Whitmarsh, who, it was stated, had received 20l., which was authorised by the returning officer to be paid, he could only repeat, that he had already declared that gentleman's most positive denial of the assertion, and his readiness to substantiate his denial on oath before that House if necessary. As regarded the other cases reported by the committee, the opinion of the committee rested wholly on the uncorroborated evidence of the witness Wren. With regard to the charge, that 5,000l. had been spent on the election, he could state, that the amount actually spent was 3,960l. He stated this from the account of the bankers of the money paid into their hands and disbursed by them. If he was rightly informed, two candidates who were nearly connected with the hon. Gentleman opposite, were prepared to contest the election; he would only say, that nothing would please him more than that they should come forward.

Mr. Macaulay

would be very brief in what he had to say, for a case which lay in a smaller compass he had never seen. The whole argument of the hon. Gentleman who had moved the issuing of this writ might be reduced to this single point, Because you granted the issuing of the writ for Ipswich on Thursday last, therefore you ought to agree to the issuing of the Southampton writ to-night. That appeared to him to be the sole argument of the hon. Gentleman; if he had used any other it had escaped his notice. Now, he conceived, that the writ for Ipswich was wrongly issued. He regretted the issuing of that writ on a ground which was certainly not one of a party nature, for, looking at that subject as a party man, that defeat must rather be considered a victory but because he hardly thought the issuing of that writ consistent with the course which the right hon. Baronet generally pursued on questions of this sort, a course which he held to be deserving of high praise, and because he felt convinced, that it was not in the power of either party, by itself, to get rid of this execrable practice one which threatened not more the dignity and character of that House, than the morality of the people at large. He felt quite convinced, that the concurrence of both the parties in that House was necessary, in order to put a stop to that practice. Nevertheless, he must say, that the present was a much stronger case than that of Ipswich. As far as he understood the right hon. Baronet's argument with regard to Ipswich, it was, that there existed in Ipswich a most unsatisfactory state of things, and that there was a great deal of ground for suspicion; but that it did not appear to be a case affording grounds for disfranchisement, and that there did not appear any reason to think, that if there was an investigation, the case would be made much more clear than it was at present. Now, such an argument could not apply to Southampton, for in this case it was intimated by the committee itself at the end of their report, that they had been prevented from ascertaining many things which they believed would have led to more important conclusions; and following this declaration of the committee comes a person and tenders information, if the House would indemnify him. Thus, this case differed from the Ipswich case in a most important point, and that, too, the very point upon which the right hon. Baronet's support of the Ipswich writ was founded. The circumstance of the evidence being offered by a person on whose character such reflections had been cast was utterly immaterial. Where did they expect that they would obtain information about rogueries of this sort? Whence could the evidence of bribery having been committed be extracted, except from the agents in the practice of that bribery? An old proverb said, "When rogues fall out, honest men get their own," and every criminal court made it a practice to avail itself of the testimony of persons who had been engaged in the crime. Thurtell was hanged upon the evidence of Probert, Burke was hanged upon the evidence of Hare; and it certainly would have been thought most extraordinary if, when Hare and Probert were brought forward to give their evidence, the counsel on the other side had risen and said, in the tone of meaningless taunt which had come on this question from the other side of the House "I wish you joy of your auxiliary." It really did appear as if this petitioner could be of some use to the public on this occasion. If it were true, that the witness had in his hands a book with a signature in it of such importance, then, whatever might be the character of the person producing that book, even if he had been a perjurer twenty times over, that ought not to prevent the House from getting at evidence of this kind; because, notwithstanding all that had been said on the other side upon the character of Wren, it did not appear, that there had been any denial, that there was the signature of the returning officer appended to a particular item of bribery. As to the imputation that had been thrown out by the hon. Gentleman who moved the issuing of the writ, he must say, that a more unfounded proposition he had never heard. The hon. Member said, that they on that (the Opposition) side, were blinded by party in regard to this question. Had they been blinded by party in the case of Nottingham? Had the hon. Gentleman any knowledge of the circumstances that attended the Nottingham case a case involving a town of much greater size and importance than Southampton? [A cry of "No."] He did not know who the hon. Member was who cried "No," but if he meant that Nottingham was a town inferior in wealth and population to Southampton, he very much miscalculated its relative importance. The evidence in regard to the Nottingham case was, that an hon. Member of that House stated in his place, that he was prepared to make out a case of corrupt compromise as regarded Nottingham; upon which, the right hon. Baronet, at the head of her Majesty's Government, afterwards remarked, that the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, was borne out by the fact, that Sir G. Larpent had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds. This appeared to him to be a ground, that had been far too much insisted on as a reason for the suspension of the writ; for if Sir G. Larpent had been guilty of a single case of bribery by means of his agent, that would have been reason as sufficient for a compromise, as if he had bribed 4,000 electors of Nottingham. Nor was the acceptance of the Chiltern Hundreds, or the compromise, supposing it to be proved, to be taken as evidence of general corruption of a nature to justify the suspension of a writ; it was worth no more than as an evidence of a single act of bribery, which single act of bribery would have afforded as strong a reason for a compromise as a multitude of cases would have done. The only evidence in the case of Nottingham was, that a petition had been presented, and an hon. Member of that House declared his belief that there had been a compromise. In the South- ampton case, on the other hand, evidence had been given before the committee, proving bribery in the clearest manner; and there was, furthermore, a witness offering himself for examination, stating, that he was in the possession of evidence which the committee had themselves declared they thought they could elicit, if they could carry their examination further. All this would be precluded if the right hon. Baronet took the course proposed by the hon. Gentleman who had moved the issuing of the writ, and he must say, if the right hon. Gentleman, after having opposed the issuing of the Nottingham writ, where there might appear to be some reason to cast suspicion upon the supporters of the late Government, now, in the face of tenfold evidence compared with that of the Nottingham case, supported the motion for issuing the Southampton writ, the whole country would cry out that all the feeling of aversion expressed on the other side of the House towards bribery and corruption, was a mere pretence that it was all hypocrisy—and consequences would follow that were beyond all description. He had said this upon the hypothesis that the right hon. Baronet would, on the present occasion, support the motion for the issue of the writ—an hypothesis which he hoped, and indeed believed, to be untrue; because he could not but think that the right hon. Baronet, in spite of his unfortunate vote of last Thursday, did entertain a desire to maintain the credit of that House, of which he was so distinguished a Member, and to preserve the morals of the people from that great taint which all must regard with so much loathing, but which recent events seemed to show had acquired so wide spread and universal an influence. He trusted, the right hon. Baronet would avail himself of the opportunity which this motion afforded.

Sir R. Peel

was sorry, that the right hon. Gentleman should have argued on an hypothetical case. When he came down to the House, he had determined what course he should pursue with regard to this question. The issuing of a writ involved judicial considerations. Upon such considerations he had, when he came down to the House, resolved to give his vote, and he still adhered to the same opinion. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that nothing but the cordial co-operation of parties on both sides of the House could afford them a hope of checking, or of extinguishing that practice which was gradually tainting and under mining the character and authority of that House. As the popular branch of the constitution, their power was derived from their connection with the people, and the confidence of the people in their power, and fitness to represent them. If that confidence were shaken, then, of course, the influence and authority of that branch of the Legislature must be weakened. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that only in the cordial co-operation of both parties did there lie a chance of effectually removing the evil so generally complained of. He would himself be prepared zealously to co-operate as far as he could in the accomplishment of such an object with any party whatever, however opposed he might be to them in political views; but, at the same time, when he had to deal with an individual question of a judicial nature, he should strictly apply judicial principles to that question. With regard to the case of Ipswich, all he could say was, that no political feeling whatever influenced his decision that he had studiously voted with regard to the Ipswich case upon the same principles which would now guide him as regarded the present case, and without attempting to exercise that sort of influence which it was needless to attempt to deny was exercised over a party when the question was one of a political nature. He could also state, that at the time he gave his vote in the Ipswich case, he was ignorant of the relative strength of the conflicting political interests in the borough. On the contrary, he knew that parties opposed to him in opinion had been returned at the last election, so that the presumption, if any, rather was, that persons of similar opinions would be returned at the next. He therefore had given his vote uninfluenced by any considerations of a party nature, and if he had to give it again, he should give it in the same way. As the right hon. Gentleman had observed, he admitted that it was a case of great doubt and much suspicion, but how did the case stand when the question came before the House? Three weeks had passed without any Member of the committee having given an intimation of his intention to propose a further inquiry, and he then found a motion suddenly brought forward he found it proposed, that the writ should be sus pended until a certain bill should have received the sanction of that and the other House of Parliament; and, thinking as he did, that the evidence with regard to Ipswich showed that the representation of that borough was in a most unsatisfactory slate, believing that there was strong reason to think, that if Ipswich did not reform itself it would hereafter run the risk of incurring very severe punishment, yet still, aware of the very great importance of the right of constituencies to have the new writ issued at the earliest possible period, unless any good reason was shown to suspend it, he had, uninfluenced, as he had said, by party considerations, given his vote for the issuing of the writ; and with regard to Newcastle or any other case, that might be brought before the House, he should reserve his right to form a judgment upon the individual case, and upon the evidence adduced in connexion with it. Two cases might apparently approach very near each other, and yet opposite decisions might be come to upon them. The same thing must occur in all judicial cases. Each of these cases must be judged upon its own merits, and the course which he meant to pursue was, to determine in each case on those merits, whether there were sufficient grounds for the course which in each might be recommended. But because be might take a different view in the case of one borough from that which he felt bound to adopt with reference to another, he protested against being, therefore, considered not fully sensible of the evils of bribery, or not desirous of interposing to check it. He now came to the Southampton case, the evidence of which he had read over as attentively as he could; and if he were to form his judgment upon the report of the Southampton committee, observing, that there had been an expenditure much too lavish in connexion with a system of treating, which he believed, however, was not peculiar to Southampton, he should be disposed to say, that unless they laid down some rule with respect to treating, they were not likely to meet all the difficulties which cases of the kind presented. In counties, there then existed a practice of treating, which did not partake exactly of the character of bribery, but which, in effect, was almost as pernicious. He knew how fortunes were injured by this practice. It was said, that the law allowed it, and that, therefore, it was no offence; but where thousands and tens of thousands were spent in treating, although the fact did not partake of the legal definition, or even of the immoral character of bribery, it was evident, that the effect was most pernicious. [Mr. O'Connell: It is punishable by law.] Yes, if it were corrupt treating. With regard to Southampton, he must say, that upon the report of the evidence, and speaking judicially, he did think, that it was not so strong a case as that of Ipswich, because in the Ipswich case it was stated distinctly, that there had been extensive bribery. In the Southampton case there were these facts:—300 voters had petitioned the House of Commons to suspend the writ; and he certainly should vote for a bill, if proposed, which should enable the House of Commons to institute an inquiry upon the allegation of a sufficient number of electors which allegation they should undertake to substantiate, that bribery prevailed in the borough, but which in consequence of a corrupt compromise, or for some reason or other, the committee appointed by the House had not the power of investigating. They must have some inquiry independent of the inquiry of the committee of the House. If 300 electors came forward and stated, that bribery prevailed in their borough, and called in consequence for the suspension of the writ, he thought it highly desirable to provide some mode of inquiry by which that allegation could be substantiated or refuted, even if the question as to individual right had gone off before the election committee. Viewing the proceedings before the Southampton committee, and the appeals that had been made to the House, he would take that course which he considered the justice of the case required. He had seen a person at the Bar who, from his conduct at the Bar, appeared to him to be a person entitled to respect; and although he might be totally unable to substantiate the allegations of the petition, yet in the face of the House of Commons he stated facts which did make an impression on his mind, and did raise in it a difficulty about issuing the writ until they had done something with respect to those allegations. In his petition he stated— That, if your honourable House will by indemnity bill protect your petitioner from legal consequences, he will submit himself to the pleasure of your honourable House, and disclose most material facts within his knowledge respecting bribery and corruption prac- tised for a series of elections at the late elections for Southampton, and especially at the said last election in question; that your petitioner is able and willing (so indemnified) to inform your committee of the names of resident electors in Southampton, partisans and agents of the late sitting Members, who organized and accomplished an extensive system of bribery and treating at the last election for the said borough; and which parties summoned to the bar of your honourable House, or before a select committee, must (when indemnified) disclose full particulars of such extensive corruption of the constituency; that your petitioner is in possession of a certain memorandum-book, not produced before the select committee, which contains divers entries of sums of money corruptly given as bribes to several electors, and also the names of several bribers who were electors; and that the said book contains also the signature of one of the returning officers at the said late election, authorizing the bribing of a particular elector, and who was bribed accordingly; that the agents and partisans of the late sitting members deputed to a local sub-committee in Southampton, the money arrangements and organization of the said bribery, and that your petitioner can inform your honourable House of the names and of many of the acts of such bribery managers. Forming his opinion on judicial considerations, he did not think it would be fit to issue the writ immediately, or until they determined what course they should pursue. He voted for the issuing of the writ in the Ipswich case, and might therefore be charged with inconsistency for the course he was taking in this, but there was a clear distinction between the two cases and he conceived he would not be acting either a judicial or a worthy part were he to do otherwise than he had determined. He had viewed both cases judicially, and, whether right or wrong, consistently or not he had come to different conclusions upon them. It would be most satisfactory to him, if the House would for the present suspend the issuing of the writ. He was afraid that the appointment merely of a select committee, without the necessary powers to obtain evidence would lead to no satisfactory result. If the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) should bring in a bill likely to meet with the assent of the House, he thought it would be worth consideration whether cases of this kind might not be included in it. At all events he thought it desirable to suspend the issuing of the writ for the present, until the noble Lord stated to the House what were the principles of the bill he meant to introduce. On these grounds he was prepared to vote for the suspension of the writ for a certain period; but he confessed it would be desirable that the House should have time to consider what upon the whole was the course which it was advisable to pursue.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, he should be glad to know, if the House agreed to the issuing of the writ without inquiry, what was to become of the petition of John Wren and of the allegations it contained, and in particular those quoted by the right hon. Baronet? It was clear that extensive bribery prevailed in the borough, and equally clear that the fact ought to be inquired into. He thought the right hon. Baronet had exercised a sound discretion in not agreeing to the issuing of the writ, and also his attaching some importance to the petition of John Wren, whom the hon. Gentleman opposite facetiously described as the" veracious John Wren." Now, that petition was presented by him, and he must say, that he not only believed the whole of the allegations it contained; but believed also that the petitioner had it in his power to prove them. He must also be permitted to observe, that in all the annals of political ingratitude he knew none to equal the ingratitude of the Conservative party towards their old Conservative associate, John Wren. He believed that Mr. Wren had been for a considerable length of time not only an agent for the Conservative party at Southampton, and a protector of voters at the registration, but the associate of several of the most respectable individuals in the borough, and also of the hon. Member for Hampshire himself. He believed that this John Wren had been the very life and soul of the Conservative conviviality at Southampton. Whenever the hon. Member for Southampton was to grace the dinner table of an alderman of the borough with his presence, the notification which John Wren received of it was, "Mr. Fleming is coming; you, Wren, must come too." And yet this individual was now told that he was unworthy of credit. What was the reason of all this vituperation and reproach with which the Conservative party now loaded John Wren? Clearly and solely because he would not agree to perjure himself before a committee of the House, and that he was able to prove. The hon. Member for Hampshire stated that Mr. Abrahams, the returning officer, denied ever having signed a memorandum book, as alleged in the petition of John Wren. "Here," said the hon. Member, holding up a small book with a red cover, "here is the record of your crime, and here is his signature authorising the payment of 5l." Was not that a fact that ought to be inquired into? He would let Mr. Wren speak for himself by reading a letter he had that day received from him: — London, May 31, 1842. Sir,—I beg most respectfully to return you my most grateful thanks for the interest you took in my welfare in presenting my petition to the House of Commons, and supporting its prayer; and I beg to enclose you the memorandum-book, for your inspection, used by me at the late election, containing the signature of Mr. Abrahams, one of the returning officers for the borough, and with the signatures of others. I leave it in your hands, to make what use of it you may think proper. I cannot refrain from making a few remarks relative to the opinion formed of me by Mr. Fleming and other hon. Members of the House of Commons. It is an opinion formed of me only within a very short period; for no longer ago than at the death of the late Earl of Elgin, and when one of the representatives, seats for Southampton became vacant I mean the seat of Lord Bruce in the House of Commons a candidate was sought for to fill the vacant seat. Mr. Mildmay was the gentleman fixed upon, and in order to obtain the feelings of the Conservative committee of Southampton, meetings were held at the offices of Mr. Blanchard, solicitor, in the borough, to which I had an invitation to attend, and I did attend them. I beg respectfully to state that I was on one occasion invited to attend one of those meetings by Mr. W. J. Lefevre, one of the aldermen for the borough, and on another occasion I was invited to attend a second meeting for the same purpose by Mr. Stebbing, the sheriff of the borough, and at one of those meetings I had the honour of meeting Mr. Fleming. It was at the meeting when it was unanimously agreed to support Mr. Mildmay. I have been a supporter of Mr. Fleming and his hon. Colleague, Mr. F. C. Compton, long before the passing of the Reform Bill, and ever since, and neither of those gentlemen thought it beneath their dignity to ask me for my vote and I have assisted in fighting the Conservative cause in the borough for years. And why am I to be persecuted by the general body of the Conservatives, and branded as I was by one of the hon. Members of the House of Commons as a vagabond? Because I would not perjure myself before the select committee appointed by the House of Commons to try the merits of the late election. It must be evident, as I shall be able to prove, that I was a companion of the parties concerned, and in the secrets of the late election; or why should a party come to me and say, ' he was directed to offer me a sum of money if I would make Mr. Martyn's seat secure? This offer was made the first time the chairman of the select committee cleared the room to decide whether I should answer the questions or not, I again repeat my thankfulness to you, and beg to remain, most respectfully, your devoted servant, JOHN WREN To T. Duncombe, Esq., M.P. Now, that was the head and front of John Wren's offence. When the committee-room was cleared an individual came and offered him a large sum of money, saying, "I know you are a good Conservative, take this and make Martyn's seat secure. Here was a charge of a most serious character; because the resolution agreed to at the beginning of the Session, declared that any one who tampered with a witness, or endeavoured to deter or hinder any person from appearing to give evidence before a select committee, should be deemed guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour. If the committee suggested were appointed, this was a point which should also be investigated. He conceived that Mr. Wren stated quite enough in his petition to justify the House in suspending the writ until further inquiry took place, and he conscientiously believed, if that inquiry were instituted, that the allegations contained in the petition would be proved, and that it would plainly appear that not only at the last election, but at the last four or five elections, and for a considerable length of time, a systematic course of bribery and corruption had prevailed in the borough of Southampton. In conclusion, he had only to recommend those hon. Gentlemen who lived in the neighbourhood of Southampton, and those worthy aldermen, who were the associates of Mr. Wren, to reflect upon this before they presented petitions libelling the character of an individual who was quite as respectable as most of the Conservatives in the borough of Southampton.

Mr. Hodgson Hinde

said, that after the speech of the right hon. Baronet he regretted to hear one of so different a character, and so tinged with party feeling, as that just delivered by the lion. Member for Finsbury. If he had rightly collected the sense of the House, he believed there were few Members present who, if the question stood upon the evidence taken before the committee, would feel called upon to vote for the suspension of the writ. He, therefore, wished to allude for a moment to that evidence. The memo- randum book with the entries alluded to in the petition of John Wren might be genuine or fabricated; and what he wished to point out was, that if genuine the witness had made a statement on oath before the committee of a totally different character. He was asked, Did you at that time keep a list of voters whose promises you had secured? No. I do not think I kept any list at all; it was merely from my own memory. Did you keep a memorandum? I might have done so. Did you? I believe I had a small piece of paper in my waistcoat-pocket. Have you got it?— No, I have not. Have you lost it? I have not seen it since the day of election. Do you know where it is? I do not. The House would here observe two statements, both of which could not be correct; and he therefore hoped they would turn their attention to this part of the evidence before the question came again under consideration.

Mr. Williams Wynn

had heard with great satisfaction the recommendation of his right hon. Friend, as it entirely agreed with the opinion he had formed upon reading the evidence which was taken before the committee. How far the character of Mr. Wren was affected would remain to be seen; but it was perfectly possible that his character might be successfully attacked, and yet that the document he produced was substantial. He thought also that it was highly probable a circumstance not before adverted to— that the description given in the evidence of the state of Southampton merited an inquiry as to whether similar practices might not have been resorted to by the other party. It was not now, however, his duty to discuss what would be the probable result of the inquiry, how far Wren would be able to substantiate the allegations he had made in his petition, but he felt satisfied that an opportunity should be given of following the investigation. He would strongly press upon the movers both of the original motion and of the amendment, the propriety of withdrawing their motions, and allowing the issue of the writ to be suspended for a fortnight, at the end of which period, if the inquiry had not terminated, or if the House was not satisfied as to the steps which ought to be taken, the writ might be again suspended. This was the course taken under the advice of the then Speaker, in the case of a writ for the borough of Aylesbury, and he could not but think that the precedent set on that occasion might not be inconveniently followed now. Another motion for the issuing of a writ he alluded to the case of Newcastle-under-Lyme— stood upon the paper of the House for that evening. It would, he thought, be desirable that the two motions should 1 stand over together, and he would, there fore, suggest to the hon. Member for North Staffordshire that his motion should stand over until the same day.

Sir R. Peel

did not know whether he had made himself clearly understood in the reference he had made to the amendment of the hon. Member for Anglesea. He had not wished to give any opinion 1 against such a course being taken. He felt that it might be advisable hereafter to resort to such an expedient as that he suggested indeed, they might have no other course open to them, and it might be necessary to take, if not exactly that course, some steps of the sort. But at the same time he felt it would be as well that they should hear what was the measure intended to be introduced by the noble Lord, and that they should have an opportunity of seeing whether he proposed to constitute any tribunal by whom complaints of this sort might be heard. As he before intimated, he would not prejudice the proposition indeed, he desired to give no opinion upon it; but at the same time he thought it convenient, and he could wish that it might be postponed. At the end of a fortnight, if nothing satisfactory occurred, they would have the power of renewing the suspension, or it would then be competent to bring the motion again before the House.

Mr. W. O. Stanley

was perfectly prepared to follow the course suggested. He felt well assured that the right hon. Baronet would lend every facility to pass such measures as might be necessary to check the system now too extensively in operation.

Mr. Mackninnon

really must ask what was expected from the motion of the hon. Member for Anglesea? It appeared to him that the motion would be useless at any time, and that even if they got their committee, the result of its investigations would only be to show that a little more bribery existed in Southampton than was previously known to the public. He thought Gentlemen opposite might do something better than devote their abilities to cases of this sort. It would be much more useful to the community if they would lay their heads together and assist the noble Lord the Member for London in preparing some general measure to meet such cases. With regard to the facts adduced on the other side in the course of this debate, he could not but refer to the letter from Mr. Wren, which had been read by the hon. Member for Finsbury. That letter certainly showed that Wren had betrayed the secrets of his party, and he for one could entertain no respect for an individual who could so act. With respect to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet, he was desirous of following his recommendation, and would, therefore, with the permission of the House, withdraw his motion, and give notice of his intention to renew it that day fortnight.

Mr. Redington

having been chairman of the Southampton Election Committee, wished to remark that the report of the committee was chiefly drawn up with a view to call the attention of the House to the subject. The opinion of the committee was, that the laws relating to treating had proved ineffectual; that treating taking place before the test of the writ was as corrupt a proceeding as treating after the writ had been issued, and that the law should be altered with regard to that particular. He concurred with the right hon. Baronet opposite in thinking that it was not on light grounds that they ought to suspend a writ. Immediately after the close of the Southampton Election Committee's proceedings he had expressed an opinion that the evidence taken before them was not sufficiently conclusive to make out a case for the suspension of the writ, and he had privately given expression to the same opinion when the matter came on last Monday evening. But the facts asserted could not be passed over without notice. The present was a stronger case even than that of Nottingham, for it was not a mere case of bribery, not a mere case of compromise between candidates, which might not have been any great ground for suspending a writ, but here they absolutely had the evidence of an individual offered to them, that individual not being an indifferent party, but a man who was prepared to detail in evidence, if called before the committee, and indemnified, all the circumstances of the bribery at the election. For these reasons he should have voted for the suspension if the matter had come to a division.

Mr. Godson

wished particularly to call the attention of the House to some portions of the evidence of this man, John Wren. He was asked (question 2,728) — Will you swear that you did not hand in a list of sums that you wanted, the total amount of which was 90l., and that you showed that to them? I do not recollect that I did. Will you swear that you did not? I will not swear that I did not." Have you any doubt that you did, upon your oath? I must decline to answer that question. The opinion of the committee was then taken, and the committee decided that he should answer; on which he stated,— It was not to that amount. Then Mr. Serjeant Shea went on with his examination, and put to him,— To what amount was it? I think it was between 50l. and 6ol The book was not produced, and he contended, either that Wren must have perjured himself before the committee, or else that he must have manufactured the report since.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the hon. Member for Finsbury had done him the honour to show him the book he had in his possession, and he could find nothing that was contradictory to the evidence given before the committee.

Amendment and original motion withdrawn.