HC Deb 10 June 1842 vol 63 cc1429-48
Sir R. H. Inglis rose

to move, that the writ for Nottingham should issue.

Sir G. Grey

wished to know whether his hon. Friend intended to press this motion. He was ready to admit, that if his hon. Friend insisted on his right, that it was competent for him to bring it on, but he would put it to him whether it would be advisable for him to do so. ["Hear, hear!"]

Sir R. H. Inglis

observed, that the application of his right hon. Friend had not so much surprised him, as the cheers that had come from his right hon. Friend, the Member for Montgomeryshire, because his right hon. Friend agreed with him, that when a vacancy occurred, it was a matter of course that a writ should issue. If it was the opinion of the House, that he should not proceed, he would withdraw his motion. [Cries of" Go on"] He believed the impression of the House was, that he should at once proceed with his motion. [" No," and Hear!"] He thought he should best consult his duty, and at the same time, the prevalent feeling of the House, if he proceeded. He could not, indeed, hope, after the interruption, however good-natured, he had just experienced, that the motion he was about to make would be unopposed, but he threw himself with confidence upon the House. He was totally unconnected with the persons from whom the petition proceeded, and he presumed that the petition had been entrusted to him simply in consequence of the opinion he had expressed upon the subject of issuing writs in general. He did not seek in moving, that this writ should issue, to make the House stultify itself in reference to any of the proceedings which had been adopted upon the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or in connection with that motion. He did not ask the House to rescind any of the resolutions which stood on its journals respecting the issue of writs. On the day, that the vacancy was declared to exist in the representation of Nottingham, an hon. and learned Friend of his moved, that the Speaker do issue his warrant for the issue of a writ to fill that vacancy; that motion was not negatived it was met by a motion, which was carried, "that this House do now adjourn." On the 10th of May, the same motion was renewed by the hon. Member for Carlisle; that motion was not negatived; it was withdrawn: and, therefore, so far as the forms of the House were concerned, he was entitled to say, that he was not asking the House to violate any of its rules in reference to this case, but he was asking it to conform to its general rule of issuing a writ when a vacancy for any borough, city, or county is declared. He was not asking the House to take any proceedings which need baffle the object of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. The hon. and learned Member, it was true, had included Nottingham in the list of those boroughs which he had pointed out for inquiry; but all the other boroughs comprised in that inquiry were boroughs, the seats for which were occupied. It was only the happy accident of one of the seats for Nottingham having become vacant, that placed that borough in a different position from Read- ing, Penryn, and the other places which constituted the preamble of the hon. Member's bill,' there was no circumstance in the case which justified the exclusion of Nottingham from its fair share in the representation in Parliament. If there were, on what principle was it that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not moved the exclusion of the sitting Member for Nottingham? [Mr. Roebuck: Nothing has been proved yet.] The hon. and learned Member admitted, that as yet he had proved nothing. He thanked the hon. and learned Gentleman for that admission. He would ask, then, were they to disfranchise Nottingham, not only when no proof of its guilt had been given—not only when the sworn committee, after examining witnesses on oath, had made no damnatory reproof—but when the hon. and learned Member himself, upon whose allegation an inquiry into alleged bribery and corruption in this borough was to take place, admitted at once, very honestly and candidly, and very usefully for him, that he had no proof as yet against the constituency of this borough. Under such circumstances, he would contend, that Nottingham was fully entitled to that rule of law, which gave the benefit of a belief of innocence to every borough, to every constituency, to every body corporate, as well as to every individual who has not been proved guilty. There was no instance in the whole Parliamentary history of England in which a writ had been suspended, except on the report of a committee especially directing the attention of the House to the subject. In the present there was no such report, but only the allegation of one hon. Member, who, rising in his place in the House, and very dramatically pointing with his finger, first at his friends on his own side of the House, and then at his opponents on the other, gave forth an ipse dixit that this among the other boroughs, was tainted with corruption. He wished to call the attention of the House to some facts. On the 4th of May, a committee of that House reported by its Chairman, that "the committee appointed to try and determine the merits of the election for the borough of Nottingham, declared that Sir J. C. Hobhouse, Bart., and Sir G. de Hochpied Larpent had been duly elected." It appeared from the journals that no proceedings had subsequently taken place, as far as any resolution of the House was concerned, for vitiating the report of that committee, that these Gentlemen were bonâfide elected. Now, as regarded Sir George Larpent, he had yesterday received a letter from that Gentleman, the substance of which he felt it but an act of justice to his hon. Friend to state. It had been insinuated that Sir George Larpent had withdrawn from the House in order to avoid any proceedings which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite might take. Now, the fact was — a fact which he had not been acquainted with till he received this communication, that for five weeks before the House had the report of the committee. Sir G. Larpent had been confined to his room by a severe medical and surgical malady, which had, indeed, for the greater part of the time kept him in bed; in fact, the hon. Gentleman had not been in the House of Commons since March. At the same, time, he did not mean to say, or suggest, or insinuate, that Sir G. Larpent was induced to accept the Chiltern Hundreds, in consequence of the state of his health; the case did not depend on the state of Sir G. Larpent's health one way or the other, but the fact that he had been so afflicted was sufficient to justify him from the imputation of having vacated his seat in order to avoid inquiry. But the case of Nottingham did not stand alone, nor alone in connection with the other boroughs which the hon. Member for Bath had brought forward. There were many other places to which the hon. and learned Gentleman might with equal advantage have directed his attention, because, strictly speaking, if the hon. Gentleman's proposition that the withdrawal of a Member from his seat in the House after the presentation of a petition against him on the ground of bribery were sufficient to justify another hon. Member in demanding an inquiry into the circumstances of such alleged bribery or corruption, then not merely Nottingham, Reading, Lewes, and the other places in question ought to be comprised in the hon. Gentleman's proposition, but a goodly list of other boroughs, Weymouth, to wit, Clitheroe, Belfast—not Belfast under the new report, but Belfast under the old petition—and a number of other places. He had looked over the whole list of petitions, and he found that besides the six into which inquiry was ordered, there were twenty-one cases in which allegations of bribery had been made, in which the prosecution of the petitions had been withdrawn, and other circumstances of which might seem to place them on the same footing as those boroughs specially named and included by the hon. and learned Member in his Witnesses Indemnity Bill. But the point at issue was this—not whether the hon. and learned Member for Bath was or was not consistent, in taking the six boroughs and not taking the other twenty-one cases, or, indeed, all the cases in which bribery was suggested; but whether he had laid before the House any sufficient grounds for excluding the electors of Nottingham from the exercise of their great constitutional right. The hon. Member for Bath, perhaps, would reply that the matter was not confined to his ipse dixit— that there was more in it than that—that a vehement suspicion had been added, from the circumstances that one Member for Nottingham had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, and that the other right hon. Member had refused to answer the question put to him—circumstances which, by the peculiar reasoning of the hon. Gentleman, were supposed to afford a strong presumption of corruption. The hon. Member reasoned altogether in the way that the people formerly used to decide in cases of alleged witchcraft; if the accused when thrown into the water could swim, she was adjudged guilty and taken out and burnt; if she could not swim, she was allowed to be innocent, but then she was drowned; so, according to the hon. and learned Member for Bath, if an hon. Gentleman admitted, that a compromise had taken place, this admission at once proved him so guilty that he was not eligible to sit again; if, on the other hand, the hon. Member should, as Sir J. Hobhouse had done, refuse to answer, then this refusal would be made an equal proof of guilt, and the hon. and learned Member for Bath, at once proceeded in either case to move that the writ do not issue. The petition which he presented from Nottingham, and which had been printed with the votes, stated the case of the petitioners in a manner so clear and temperate, that did he not suppose every Gentleman present, who had to act that night judicially, whether in giving or refusing his vote for the issue of the writ. had made himself master of this document, he should have been tempted to trespass on the patience of the House by quoting largely from it; as it was he should call the attention of hon. Gentlemen to two or three particular points in the petition. It stated— "That in consequence of the vacancy thus occasioned, your petitioners expected that your honourable House would have forthwith directed the clerk of the Crown to issue a new writ to the sheriff of the town and county of the town of Nottingham, ordering him to take the usual legal measures for the election of a burgess to serve in the present Parliament for the said borough; but that up to the present moment your honourable House has abstained from giving any such directions, to the great disappointment and manifest grievance of your petitioners. That your petitioners have been informed, and verily believe, that a writ for a new election for the town and borough of Nottingham—which they claim as a right and privilege belonging to the said borough, of which they ought not and cannot be legally divested, at the arbitrary will and pleasure of any single branch of the Legislature—has been withheld from them on the mere surmise and allegation of an individual Member of your honourable House, thus stated in your printed votes:—That a corrupt compromise has been entered into in the case of the election petition from Nottingham, for the purpose of avoiding investigation into the gross bribery alleged to have been practised at the election for the aforesaid town. That, if any such corrupt compromise has been entered into, your petitioners are ignorant of its nature, and are in no respect parties to its stipulations; and they, therefore, submit to your honourable House that they ought not to be punished, even by the temporary suspension of their franchises, for an offence of which they are not guilty, and in which they disclaim all participation. That, although grievous allegations have been made against your petitioners on the score of gross bribery practised at the last general election, no proof has yet been adduced in support of such allegations; but that, nevertheless, your petitioners have been condemned to the deprivation of the services of one of their representatives in Parliament without having had an opportunity afforded them to make any defence against such charges—a course of proceeding which they firmly but respectfully maintain to be unknown in the history of Parliament, and in the practice of the courts of law, and to be contrary to the immutable laws of substantial justice. That the law of the land regulates the issue of all writs on vacancies occasioned in your honourable House by deaths, by unjust returns, by the acceptance of office, and by other causes which it is unnecessary to enumerate, and that any new restraint upon the issue of such writs, cannot be legally imposed without the assent of all the three branches of the Legislature. That in all the other cases in which your honourable House has proceeded against boroughs for gross and extensive bribery, it has never suspended the writ until it has received a report from one of its own select committees, declaring that the sitting Members had been guilty by themselves, or agents of such bribery, and no committee has ever yet come to such a report without hearing counsel, and examining witnesses on both sides, in confirmation and refutation of such charges. That in the instance of your petitioners, all these safeguards of justice have been disregarded and set aside, and your petitioners, feeling how deeply they have been aggrieved in being condemned without proof, and in being punished without conviction, implore your honourable House to reconsider the propriety of directing a new writ to issue for the borough of Nottingham. Now, did the hon. Gentleman mean to tell the House that the individuals signing this petition were parties to the compromise? At the last election, speaking from recollection, there were, he believed, 529 votes for Sir G. Larpent, 527 for Sir J. C. Hobhouse, and 147 and 127 for the other two candidates respectively, showing an aggregate which very little exceeded the number of electors whose petition he had presented, and who declared in that petition that if any such corrupt compromise had been entered into, they were ignorant of its nature, and in no respect parties to its stipulations; and not merely that, but that they were no parties to any of those corrupt practices included in the allegations of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, which the House had been pleased thus far to sanction. The petitioners state, "That, although grievous allegations have been made against your petitioners on the score of gross bribery practised at the last general election, no proof has yet been adduced in support of such allegations; but that, nevertheless, your petitioners have been condemned to the deprivation of the services of one of their representatives in Parliament without having had an opportunity afforded them to make any defence against such charges —a course of proceeding which they firmly but respectfully maintain to be unknown in the history of Parliament and in the practice of the courts of law, and to be contrary to the immutable laws of substantial justice. That the law of the land regulates the issue of all writs on vacancies occasioned in your honourable House by deaths, by unjust returns, by the acceptance of office, and by other causes which it is unnecessary to enumerate, and that any new restraint upon the issue of such writs cannot be legally imposed without the assent of all the three branches of the Legislature. That in all the other cases in which your honourable House has proceeded against boroughs for gross and extensive bribery, it has never suspended the writ until it has received a report from one of its own select committees, declaring that the sitting Members had been guilty by themselves or agents of such bribery, and no committee has ever yet come to such a re- port without hearing counsel and examining witnesses on both sides in confirmation and refutation of such charges. In this case the writ had been suspended, not by any order of the House, but upon what the right hon. Baronet the Member for Devon port called a tacit understanding. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury admitted—he believed he ought to apologize to him for using the word, for it was a full and free admission, his right hon. Friend had rather maintained that the issuing of the writ was right, and ought not to be withheld except for a reasonable time, and upon good cause being shown. He asked the House, then, whether he was not entitled, upon the 10th of June, to ask the Speaker to take the necessary steps for issuing the writ? and whether a reasonable time, had not elapsed, and a good cause had not been shown" what was a reasonable time was a question which could not be fixed by statute; but must be left to the feelings, the principles, and the judgment of the House to determine. He would say five weeks, even on the report of a committee charging a borough with corruption, which was not the case in this instance, but that even then, if no proceeding had been taken to disfranchise the borough, five weeks would have been sufficient time to have been allowed to elapse in order to justify the House in ordering the issue of the writ. Then with regard to "good cause being shown;" the hon. and learned Gentleman himself admitted that he had as yet shown no cause for the suspension of the writ, although five weeks ago he alleged that a corrupt compromise had been entered into by the withdrawal from the House of one of the hon Members. The petitioners also stated that "They likewise submit with all deference and respect to your honourable House, that the right of the electors of Nottingham to their writ, and a right which has belonged to them for some centuries, not derived from the House of Commons, and therefore not to be taken away by the House of Commons, except upon proof satisfactory to both Houses of Parliament that the electors have offended grievously against the law, and have therefore individually and collectively, forfeited their title to this privilege, which is and must be exercised under the law. It was a right which, he contended, could only be properly taken away by a bill, that bill becoming an act of the entire Legislature. But, at all events, let them not take it away upon the allegation of an individual member, however learned and acute he might be; let them not do upon the authority of one man that which they had never done before, unless upon the report of a committee, supported by the sworn evidence which was taken before it. Upon these grounds he called upon the House not to refuse to issue a new writ for the borough of Nottingham. To withhold it under the circumstances he had stated, was to substitue allegation for truth it was to punish without trial, and even without indictment — it was to punish those who might be innocent as much as if all had been proved to have been guilty; or, admitting, that some were guilty, it was to punish one hundred innocent men in order that ten might not escape. He had already shown that 1,257 of the electors were no parties 1o the alleged compromise, and, moreover, were not guilty of those corrupt practices to which that compromise was stated by the boo. and learned Member for Bath to have been owing. He was willing to admit, if a legislative measure involving these boroughs were before Parliament, even though it should not have proceeded through that House, that the legal right of those parties might be suspended; but as he felt he was asking for them no more than any hon. Member would feel himself entitled to ask for any borough whose guilt had not only not been proved, but whose innocence had not been suspected, he should conclude by moving, that the Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new writ for the borough of Nottingham in the room of Sir G. de Hochepied Larpent, Hart., who since his election has accepted the office of Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds.

Mr. G. Knight,

in seconding this motion, said he had no interest whatever in the matter, except the natural and pardonable interest which any man may be supposed to have in the principal town of the county to which he belongs. He considered that, except in cases of the last necessity, a borough had a right to receive the writ, when a vacancy occurred—that it was no light matter to suspend the privileges of such a borough as Nottingham, and to keep a town, containing 60,000 inhabitants, unrepresented for an indefinite period. And what are the grounds upon which the privileges of Nottingham are suspended? There was nothing before the House but the Report of the Commit- tee, and the Report of the Committee had neither substantiated, nor even brought any charge against Nottingham. The rest was all rumour — reports heard in the streets; and were the privileges of Nottingham to be suspended upon such grounds as no magistrate would think sufficient for detaining the humblest of her Majesty's subjects? And upon what principle of justice was the writ refused to Nottingham, when it had been granted to Ipswich and Newcastle? Would the House let off those against whom something had been proved, and punish Nottingham against which nothing had been brought forward? How would the public be able to understand transactions of so partial and capricious a character? He did not stand there to defend bribery. It would be better for all if no such thing existed. Bribery was the very reverse of charity: it is twice cursed—it curseth him that gives and him that takes; and whatever might have been the amount expended upon the last election, of this they might be sure, that every farthing of it was spent in drink and riot, and not a shilling of it remained to do good to a human being. But that House, in its eagerness to put down bribery, ought not to overstep the bounds of moderation. The elective franchise of a borough used to be considered a very grave matter— a matter of such importance and value, that that House had always been slow to entertain any motion having a tendency to destroy that privilege; but now it was quite another thing. Now because the "Simon Pure" of that House, who was constantly telling them that he was the only honest man, it chose to get up and put a string of the most irregular and disorderly interrogations (such interrogations as he trusted that House would never allow to be put again), that House had been frightened out of its usual course —seven boroughs had been trundled at once, most unceremoniously, into the little green bag of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and indemnified culprits were invited to come and begrime them with anything they pleased. He could not approve of such reckless and precipitate proceedings— much less could he approve when that House went further, and condemned by anticipation — suspended writs without a tittle of evidence, and where nothing but rumour had whispered reproach. If that House per- sisted in so indecent and unjust a course, it would do anything but raise itself in the opinion of the community at large. Agreeing, therefore, in the sentiments of the petitioners that the withholding of the writ was unconstitutional, unprecedented, and that it tended to destroy all electoral rights, he most cordially seconded the motion of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Roebuck

said, if upon the statement which I made to this House I had asked the House to suspend the writ for Nottingham, then the appeal of hon. Members to me would have been pertinent; but, under the present circumstances, that appeal might be described by a much more applicable phrase. What was done was done by this House, and with the approbation of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. I never spoke upon the motion. I never expressed an opinion upon it. Why, therefore, am I to be assailed by the virtue of the hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford, and the supereminent and sublime virtue of the hon. Member for Nottinghamshire? He says I am the Simon Pure of the House, that I am invariably telling the House that I am the only honest man in it. I ask, is that a true statement? I ask him to say, to the best of his knowledge, have I ever told the House that I am the only honest man in it? If I have not, what is the value of the hon. Member's statement? But have I ever said so? [Mr. G. Knight over and over again.] I suppose it was the same sort of virtue which induced the hon. Member to make that assertion that compelled him to cry out against the Whig Ministry before they had quitted office, and then ingenuously to confess that he intended another thing. That was to say, when he cried out against their liberality he only meant their persons; it was not the thing, but the persons he disliked. The hon. Member knew very well the meaning of what he said, although what he said in June he denies in January; what he means in January is very different from what he said in June. The hon. Member said, and I put it to all the hon. Members sitting on the same Bench with him, whether it be a fair statement, that when I brought forward this measure I grounded it on my own individual honesty? I said nothing of myself. What, then, is the worth of the hon. Gentleman's statement? I have charged certain Mem- bers in this House with a particular proceeding, which they have not had the courage to deny. Some acknowledged it, while others refused an answer; but in the case of Nottingham, I said, that a compromise had been entered into. I said, that bribery had been charged against the sitting Members, and that for the purpose of avoiding the investigation into that bribery it was agreed, that one of those Members should retire; and accordingly one of them, on the very night of the arrangement, did accept the Chiltern Hundreds. What said the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth? Why, that this was a circumstance pregnant with suspicion. I appeal, therefore, not to that sort of technical knowledge so much resorted to by the hon. Member for Oxford, but to the common sense of the House, in justification of the course I have pursued. I am not a casuist. I am a lawyer, it is true, but not in this House. In this House I am a legislator, acting upon that sort of knowledge which is of service to the country. What did the right hon. Baronet say? He said, that this was a case pregnant with suspicion. Now, the hon. Member for Oxford University, tells us that Sir Somebody Something Larpent has retired on account of ill-health. That was the hon. Mover's account. That was what he said. Will he repeat it—will he say it again? I say he retired because he wished to avoid, not my question, that was not it— but an investigation into a charge of bribery. Now, is that denied? What said the right hon. Baronet upon the point? Why, he told us, that the case was so pregnant with suspicion, that he thought the writ ought to be suspended. But what have I to do with that? Did I speak upon the question? Did I vote upon the question? When I heard of the circumstances I told you the case was a case of suspicion, and you said wisely, "We will inquire into it." But I see what your tactics are now. I see perfectly well what you are about. It is to make an onslaught on me, that you came down to this House. Perhaps before I have done, you will see what is the real value of your onslaught? Tell me fairly— what was the hon. Member's statement? Was it not that I was the Simon Pure of this House, that I grounded my motion not upon public principle, but on a statement that I was the only honest man within these walls? Now, I tell the hon. Member I never said that. I never spoke such words. Then how am I mixed up with this matter? Why am I, and I only, to be assailed? I had nothing to do with it —Oh, I see the hon. Member for Oxford shake his head!—but I tell him I had nothing to do with it, and so much is this the fact, that knowing the motion was to come on, I discussed with myself yesterday what course I should take, whether I should vote or not, whether I should speak or not, whether I should be present or not, and the consequence was, that I deliberately stayed away. Then why am I assailed 1 why am I to be selected for special attack? I repeat, I never said a word about Nottingham. I never uttered a sentence against issuing a writ for Nottingham. I contented myself with the conviction, that the judgment of this House was sanctioned by the right hon. Baronet, and I purposely avoided interfering. I said I would have nothing to do with it, and I kept my word. Can any one say I have interfered? No. Is there a record in this House of my interference? No. Is there a report of a single speech I have made on the subject? No. Then I put it to the hon. Member—I put it to him as an honest man, can he say that I had anything to do with it? But let us come to facts. Whilst one party says there is no proof of bribery or corrupt compromise, another party allege that in Nottingham a foul conspiracy exists to cheat the people of England, to cheat the independent electors of England, to cheat them by buying with gold the voices of the people of that borough. ["Hear."] Ay, hear, hear, hear. We know what that cry implies. We know that there are some who think it but a very venial offence. I am well aware that many of you think it no crime so to impose yourselves upon the people. Wealth, in your estimation, covers a multitude of sins; but in my opinion the wealthy briber, whose sins seem covered by his gold, is much more guilty than the needy bribed, whose sin is created by the influence of the tempting gain. But do you defend bribery—do you shield the real guilt? And then I want to know, where is your tenderness of conscience? Is it the rich candidate you care for, or the poor elector? For whom have you such soft and tender sympathies? I know you tell us you are only seeking to uphold the privileges of the people. You say you have great regard for the people and their privileges; so have I. And my way to uphold them is, to prevent their being bought and sold like the sheep you bring to the shambles. I have a great regard for those privileges, and that is why I brought this matter under the notice of the House. It was no desire to sanctify immorality; it was no desire to exculpate vice that influenced my conduct; but standing up in my place, I thought, and still think, that I was best doing my duty when I said, "You and your rights shall not be bought and sold for gold, and he who attempts to perpetrate such an iniquity shall be fixed and crucified before the people." That was my design before, that is my desire now; and yet between me and my just object comes the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford University—he comes and spreads the influence of his name over the cause—he comes with his friend beside him and attacks me—I, who never asked for the suspension of the writ—I, who up to this time never said one word upon the subject, and who would not have spoken a single syllable now, if I had not been so pointedly alluded to. And the personal reference of one of those speakers I must say I consider to have been couched in anything but language consonant with the rules of this House. He is a Member whom I never imitated here. I may safely say, that up to-night I have never cared to refer to him, much less have I ever condescended to nickname him. I ask him, then, how he reconciles it to his conscience to nickname me, to designate me by the undeserved appellation of Simon Pure? [Laughter] Aye, the hon. Member may laugh. If I chose, however, to exercise that sort of power towards him, perhaps I should make him feel very uncomfortable. But what I say is, that I have done nothing, that I have said nothing, upon the subject of the suspension of this writ. I appeal to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. I appeal to him if I have said one word or done one act to influence his opinion, and I ask if his opinion does not influence, and deservedly influence this House? The right hon. Baronet took a particular course upon this subject. My course has been consistent throughout. I voted against issuing the Ipswich writ, and I shall now vote against issuing the Nottingham writ. The right hon. Baronet saw or fancied a difference between the cases —he voted for issuing the writ in the one case and suspending it in the other. He sees a difference—I do not. The distinction he fancies has no influence on my mind;—it had an influence on his mind, and I have no right to presume otherwise than that he acted in accordance with that influence. But, whether inconsistent or not, I see, in all his proceedings, a great regard and care for the purity and the privileges of this House; and it is not for me in any way to question the motives of his conduct. That conduct is his own— he it is who has guided this House, and the responsibility, such as it is, must rest on his own head. If, therefore, the hon. Member for the University and his Friend and co-operator in this matter had fairly considered the state of parties—if they had only reflected who guided this House — if they had been disposed to act fairly and candidly upon such reflection—why, then, the two hon. Gentlemen might have pointed the finger of reproach at the leader of their own party, and not have troubled themselves to cross the House for the purpose of attacking me: the responsibility, I say, rests with him— you have acted on the judgment of the right hon. Baronet, and you are now, it seems, very much ashamed of what you you have done.

Mr. G. Knight

had not intended to convey anything personally offensive, by styling the hon. Member for Bath a Simon Pure.

Sir R. Peel

said, that he could assure the hon. Member for Bath, that he was never inclined to shrink from any responsibility that properly belonged to him. If he had used any influence on the matter now before the House, he must, at the same time, state, that it was the influence which reason—and reason alone—gave him; for, as he had before said, on more than one occasion, he looked on questions of this sort as questions solely of a judicial nature, and he never intended to act with regard to them, under any other influence than that which his own reason supplied with reference to the judicial merits of each particular case. At the same time, he must also state that he felt perfectly satisfied with the vote he had given on this subject when it was previously discussed, and that he intended to give a vote to the same effect upon the present occasion. He could not say, that he thought it would be at all satisfactory to the country, that they should lay it down that the result of an investigation by an election committee, should, in all cases be perfectly and entirely conclusive. When the House appointed a committee to inquire into or decide upon a question appertaining to their rights, it did not follow, that they also parted with the general right of subsequent inquiry; and, supposing they passed a measure last Session, for the more effectual checking of bribery, and the result was, that inquiry was evaded, and that corrupt compromises were entered into, it surely could not be satisfactory to the nation, that the measures intended to be remedial, should be defeated by the stoppage of inquiry at the point where the compromise commenced. It was impossible to suppose that any measure of such a description was intended to close the House against the more general investigation. He had said before, that he thought each of those cases, they being all of a judicial nature, ought to be treated on their peculiar merits. He knew the imputations to which the expression of this opinion would subject him from the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Roebuck), as well as from others, but, at the same time, he did not see how they could otherwise arrive at satisfactory conclusions; indeed, he did not hesitate to say, that he thought it quite impossible to apply one universal rule to these cases without reference to the evidence in each. He now came to speak of the case of Nottingham. What was the course of proceeding on the motion for the issuing of the new writ being previously submitted? The House had determined to appoint a committee of inquiry into certain alleged corrupt compromises of election petitions, and under these circumstances, it was stated to the House, that the proceedings before the Nottingham committee had concluded, and that they had been brought to a close in consequence of a compromise of the nature described. It was also alleged, that there had been extensive bribery at Nottingham, and that, in consequence, further inquiry should be made. The Nottingham Election Committee, almost at the same time, reported to the House, that the two sitting: Members had been rightly returned as representatives in Parliament for the borough; but it was found the very next day, that one of those hon. Members had vacated his seat. It was possible, that that cir- cumstance might be accounted for. It might be said, as had been hinted tonight, that that hon. Member retired in consequence of ill-health. [" No, no!"] If that were not meant to be implied, he did not quite understand why any reference to ill health should have been made at all. If it had been meant, that ill health prevented the hon. Member from attending the House, then he could have understood his hon. Friend when he referred to it, but as the question stood, he must set aside that consideration. Well, then, he understood the hon. Member for Bath to say this was not only a vacant seat, of which, indeed, they had conclusive proof, but a bond had been given, or else a sum of money had passed, for the purpose of insuring the return of another Member for Nottingham, of opposite politics to the hon. Member who retired. Then the question arose of issuing the writ. Why, he must say, that under these circumstances, when they heard of 4,000l. or 5,000l. being paid or received, the meaning of which was to obtain and insure the return of a Member of opposite political principles to the Member retiring —when, he said, he heard of such statements, he must say he thought they ought not to issue the writ; and further, that there was a fair cause for inquiry by the House; the more especially, too, as the rights of the electors would not be prejudiced. He must say this, that to find a Member seated by the return of the committee, then to find, that there was a retirement immediately subsequent, together with an allegation that a sum of money had been paid — finding all this, he must say, that he retained his opinion, that it would not be for the credit of the House of Commons that such statements should be made and that no inquiry should be instituted. On that principle he should give his vote against the motion.

Mr. S. Crawford

said, that he considered the House was not possessed of fair and just grounds for deciding in favour of the further suspension of this writ. An inquiry into the circumstances of the alleged compromise was necessary, but the House had clearly no right to prevent the return Of a representative for the borough, and least of all ought they to attempt to do so, when such important questions were under discussion, as those now before that House. If he thought for one moment, that the issuing of the writ would prevent or throw any impediments in the way of the inquiry, he should be the last man in that House to support the motion for issuing it, but as he did not think, that the doing: this act of justice to the electors would be attended with any such effect, he should give his vote in favour of the motion.

Mr. Williams Wynn

said, that with reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Oxford University in the earlier portion of his speech that evening, taking the strict right of the law, a Member had certainly the power to make any motion he pleased; and even if the repeal of the union were pressed upon them for discussion, there would be nothing irregular in the proceeding, though it was very doubtful how far the House would agree to it. At the same time, however, when the House had once shewn its disapprobation of a proposition like the present, it was more convenient, more in accordance with the rule of the House, if the ordinary notice were given of the intention to bring the subject under discussion. With respect to this motion, he must own, that it seemed to him to rest on exactly the same ground as when it was previously debated. It then appeared to be the general sense of the House, that having appointed a committee to inquire into certain allegations of bribery and corrupt compromises, it would be inconsistent with the appointment of that committee, that the writ should be issued. What, then, had happened since that discussion? Had there been any delay? Unquestionably, there had been delay, but that delay was caused solely by the pressure of other business, which the House thought of more urgent importance. Certainly, the hon. Member for Bath was not responsible for the delay, for he had not been at all wanting in his endeavours to press the bill, which he thought essential to the business of his committee, whenever an opportunity of so pressing it had presented itself. It seemed to him, therefore, that the question resting on precisely the same ground as before, very little argument was requited to induce the House not to alter the decision they had previously arrived at. He had heard it objected in some quarter, that the allegations of corrupt compromise were not of themselves a sufficient ground for inquiry. There was a case, however, which occurred in 1725, in which a compromise of this nature was alleged, and after an examination by a select committee of election, the sitting Member was expelled. On that I occasion, too, the House only by a very small majority rejected a resolution which was moved having special reference to the case. He mentioned this circumstance, as he understood it had been said by some parties, that this was not a case requiring such a proceeding.

Colonel Rolleston

begged leave, as one of the electors of the borough of Nottingham, to request, both in his own name, and in the name of the greater portion of his brother electors, that the hon. Member for Bath would prosecute this inquiry with the utmost assiduity and perseverance. Heavy charges had been made against the town—charges which had caused the name of Nottingham to become a by-word. It was due to the electors, and he demanded in their name, that those charges should be sifted.

Sir R. H. Inglis

would not have presented himself to the House, had it not been, that he had been misapprehended by the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Treasury. He had not referred to the letter of Sir G. Larpent to make it appear, that illness was the cause of that gentleman's resignation; on the contrary, he had, as he almost feared, with tautology, endeavoured to impress it upon those who heard him, that he did not attribute the course which Sir G. Larpent thought proper to adopt to ill-health; but he had said, that owing to the state of Sir George's health for five weeks before and five weeks after the period alluded to, Sir George had not been able to attend and answer the allegations which had been made. He hoped his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, would excuse him for thinking, that the arguments used by him referred more to the case of the candidate than the petitioners, and the inquiry could be as well proceeded with if the writ were issued, as it would if it were withheld. The hon. Member for Bath said, he was no party to the case, and wondered, that he did not address the right hon. Baronet rather than address the hon. and learned Member on the subject. Now, the hon. and learned Member for Bath had been the first to cry out "Mad dog." The hon. and learned Gentleman had permitted himself to address language to the whole of those on his side of the House, and to attribute motives to them to the imputation of which some of them were not liable. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government would be the first to disown the power which the hon. and learned Member for Bath attributed to him, and but that he did not think the matter sufficiently serious he would have called the hon. and learned Gentleman to order when he stated that his right hon. Friend could command him, and those on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. They were as little willing to call his right hon. Friend master as was the hon. Member for Bath himself, or any other hon. Gentleman opposite. Though no person could be more sensible than he of the merits of his right hon. Friend, who had so frequently obtained the praise of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, he would never consent to call his right hon. Friend master.

Sir R. Peel

wished to say a few words in explanation. The argument which he used was, that he thought the present case was a peculiar one, from the fact of its being alleged that a gentleman who agreed in opinion with the majority of the constituency of Nottingham had lodged a sum of money with a view to aid the return to Parliament of a person opposed to him and his constituents in opinion. Such an allegation was so important that it would be highly desirable to have its truth sifted, and he considered that it was for the interest of the constituency themselves thoroughly to understand the nature of the transaction.

The House divided:—Ayes, 41; Noes, 136; Majority, 95.

List of the AYES.
Antrobus, E. Hinde, J. H.
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Howard, P. H.
Arkwright, G. Hughes, W. B.
Attwood, M. Kemble, H.
Bagge, W. Law, hon. C. E.
Bateson, R. Lockhart, W.
Broadwood, H. Lowther, hon. Col.
Browne, hon. W. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Buckley, E. Mackenzie, T.
Collett, W. R. Milnes, R. M.
Crawford, W. S. Newry, Visct.
Darby, G. O'Brien, A. S.
Duncombe, T. Paget, Col.
Escott, B. Palmer, G.
Forbes, W. Polhill, F.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Pollington, Visct.
Godson, R. Ponsonby. hn. C. F.C.
Grimsditch, T. Repton, G. W. J.
Grogan, E. Round, C. G.
Hamilton, W. J. TELLERS.
Hampden, R. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Henley, J. W. Knight, G.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Jermyn, Earl
Acton, Col. Jocelyn, Visct.
Aldam, W. Johnstone, A.
Armstrong, Sir A. Johnstone, Sir J.
Bankes, G. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bannerman, A. Knatchbull,rt.hn.SirE.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Lambton, H.
Barnard, E. G. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Barneby, J. Lawson, A.
Bellew, R. M. Layard, Capt.
Berkeley, hon. C. Legh, G. C.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Lemon, Sir C.
Bernal, R. Lincoln, Earl of
Blake, M. Lowther, J. H.
Bowring, Dr. Mangles, R. D.
Brotherton, J. Marjoribanks, S.
Chapman, A. Marsland, H.
Chapman, B. Martin, J.
Chetwode, Sir J. Masterman, J.
Cholmondeley, hn. H. Maule, right hon. F.
Christie, W. D. Mitcalfe, H.
Clive, E. B. Morris, D.
Cobden, R. Morison, Gen.
Cockburn,rt.hn.SirG. Murray, A.
Connolly, Col. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. O'Brien, W. S.
Cowper, hon. W. F. O'Connell, M. J.
Craig, W. G. O'Conor, Don
Denison, E. B. Ogle, S. C. H.
Dennistoun, J. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Desart, Earl of Peel, J.
Dickinson, F. H. Pollock, Sir F.
Divett, E. Price, R.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Protheroe, E.
Duncan, Visct. Roe, rt. hon. Sir W.
Duncan, G. Ramsbottom, J.
Dundas, D. Richards, R.
Eaton, R. J. Roebuck, J. A.
Ebrington, Visct. Round, J.
Ellice, E. Rundle, J.
Evans, W. Rushbrooke, Col.
Ferguson, Col. Sandon, Visct.
Fuller, A. E. Sheil, rt. hn.R. L.
Gladstone,rt.hn.W.E. Somers, J. P.
Gore, hon. R. Somerset, Lord G.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Granger, T. C. Stanton, W. H.
Greenall, P. Strickland, Sir G.
Halford, H. Strutt, E.
Hamilton, J. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Hanmer, Sir J. Tancred, H. W.
Hardy, J. Thornely, T.
Hastie, A. Trench, Sir F. W.
Hawes, B. Tuite, H. M.
Hayes, Sir E. Vane, Lord H.
Heathcoat, J. Vernon, G. H.
Heathcote, G.J. Vivian, J. H.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Vivian, J. E.
Hervey, Lord A. Wallace, R.
Hodgson, R. Ward, H. G.
Hollond, R. Watson, W. H.
Hope, hon. C. Wemyss, Capt.
Horsman, E. Williams, W.
Hume, J. Wood, B.
Hutt, W. Worsley, Lord
Wyndham, Col. C. TELLERS.
Wynn, rt. hn.C.W.W. Fremantle, Sir T.
Yorke, H. R: Tufnell, H.
Young, J.