§ The Speaker
said: Mr. Walter, you will now hear read the report which the Select Committee on Election Proceedings yesterday made to this House,
Report read. (See ante, p. 635.)
§ The Speaker
said; I have now to ask you whether you have any further statement to make respecting the matters set forth in the report of the Select Committee.
addressed the House in these words:—I beg to assure you, Sir, that in refusing to attend this committee I was far from intending any disrespect to the House. Neither was I reluctant to lay before a committee nominated by the House the fullest explanation in my power of all transactions in which I was personally concerned connected with the late election for Nottingham. On the contrary, it would pain me excessively to be prevented by what I conceived to be a paramount duty from rendering the fullest obedience to the House, and declaring all I know.I hope it will be considered as an additional proof of my respect for the House if I abstain from consuming the time of the House by any lengthened defence of the course which I have taken, which course was dictated by the deepest and most conscientious sense of the obligation imposed upon every subject of the British Crown to stand upon his constitutional rights, and to demand that he shall be tried by none but an impartial, tribunal, to 703 which personal prejudice and affection should be alike unknown.I received the summons of the committee at a quarter past three o'clock on Friday last, ordering my attendance forthwith, with an injunction that I should produce papers which I never even saw, especially the much talked-of compromise. The House must now be possessed of the grounds on which I hesitated to comply with such an order. I believe it would be very difficult to find in the records of a free nation any example, any precedent not already revoked with indignation by the public voice, for a proceeding by which a subject is to be arraigned before a court, the presiding Member of which has expressed himself in terms of so much personal hostility as the Member for Bath has used respecting me; and this, the House will be pleased to observe, not obscurely, not in a whisper, but loudly and openly in this very House—that is, in the superior court itself, from which the inferior court where he presides has emanated.I trust, therefore, that I may claim the indulgence and protection of the House, when placed, by no act of my own, in so embarrassing a position; and having, with all deference to the House, made these observations, which I hope, will be considered in the nature of a respectful protest, I shall submit myself to any order which you may be pleased to address to me.
§ Mr. Roebuck
conceived he should best perform the duty which devolved on him ministerially, as Chairman of the committee appointed to inquire into Election Proceedings, by simply moving, "That John Walter, Esq. do attend and give evidence before the select committee on Election Proceedings to-morrow at eleven o'clock.
§ Sir R. Inglis
I still retain, Sir, the opinions which I have already frequently expressed npon the subject of this committee. If on a former occasion I was guilty of any irregularity in the manner in which I referred to the hon. and learned Member for Bath as the originator of the committee, now, at least, I am sure I may be permitted, without rendering myself liable to be accused of violating the rules of courtesy or of this House, to address myself to him, for now, at any rate, he is the individual who moves for the attendance of Mr. Walter. I will not, Sir, enter into the question how far the Gentleman who has lately appeared at your Bar may or may not have had a right to complain of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and of the language which he imputed to that hon. and learned Member. Strictly speaking, perhaps, he may be said, by a 704 fiction which we are all content to profit by, to have been irregular in alluding to that which has passed in this House, and which has not been printed in the minutes of its journals; and I admit that, technically speaking, if any person should think fit to avail himself of the subterfuge, Mr. Walter has been irregular in the reference he made to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bath; but I am sure that no Member of this House is of opinion that Mr. Walter has violated its rules by having so referred to that speech. No hon. Member, at least, has thought right to rise in his place and denounce Mr. Walter as guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House for having referred to it; while the hon. and learned Member for Bath did not deny the use of the words attributed to him. That being the case, I own I cannot understand upon what principle it is that the one can sit as a judge, or the other be blamed for refusing to attend as a criminal. I think my right hon. Friend the Recorder of Dublin for correcting an error which his judicial mind has at once seized. He says that Mr. Walter is not a criminal, that he is only accused. But that distinction, though sufficiently clear to a legal mind, is not so clear in the construction at least of the great majority of this House—it is not so clear as to make it important whether I should use the one word or the other. Practically speaking, every individual called before that committee is, I understand by an acknowledgment which was made yesterday, called before an inquisition. I use the word deliberately, and not for the sake of making an accusation against the committee. The individual is called before an inquisition, where, without knowing who may have been heard before him, or who would be heard after him, he is to answer all questions that may be put to him, by or in the presence of a person who has himself proclaimed that he is not strictly impartial. The hon. and learned Member for Bath has not professed himself impartial, and yet the party accused is called upon to place himself in the room with nine Gentlemen, presided over by that hon. and learned Member, and there required to answer any such questions as the majority of the committee may think fit to put to him touching every matter connected with the last election, and possibly any other election, for the borough of Nottingham, and, without seeing any of his accusers, he is obliged to submit to 705 this inquisition. I understand that the committee have decided that whenever any allegation is made touching any particular individual, due notice should be given to such individual that such allegation has been made. I ask him would that be tolerated in any court of justice? Is there any place—I hope not in England—I would say almost out of England,—but is there any other place in England in which such a perversion—such a denial of law and justice would be for a moment tolerated? I do not look to one side of the House or the other in asking that question—I appeal to the House in general, and I ask them as English gentlemen, whether they will consent to the continuation of this system? It was my intention to have called the attention of the House to the subject, upon recently hearing that a Member of the House had been refused admittance to the committee-room as a party interested, though he was told that if he wished to claim admittance as a Member of the House his application would be granted. I had intended to raise the question how far this tribunal, giving them credit, if you please, for perfect impartiality and a sincere desire to seek for nothing but the truth—how far they did not owe it to themselves and their own character to conduct their proceedings on the same principles as those upon which every court in England, from the highest to the lowest, has from time immemorial, with one single exception, been constituted to carry on its proceedings? That single exception, Sir, was the Star Chamber. In another country the exception was the Inquisition. Let me not be told of the grand jury as a case in point. There the proceedings are not criminal; there the inquiry is merely preliminary, and you do not bring the accused party before you. That is the point of distinction between a grand jury and this tribunal which the House has so hastily—far too hastily, I must say—instituted. Before such a tribunal is it that the person accused is to appear and submit himself, if you please, to nine judges of the most impartial and unimpeachable characters; say, that they are absolutely unimpeachable—still, is it, I ask, fitting that an English subject on being acccused should be called before such a tribunal as that? If it were a jury, he might challenge a juryman. The hon. and learned Member for Bath would not, I am sure, contend that he could sit as a juryman; and if he could not sit as a juryman, ought 706 he, let me ask, to sit as a judge? But the hon. and learned Member for Bath is not the only person with whom the House has to deal. Mr. Walter has appeared at the Bar, made his protest, and expressed his willingness to submit to the Order of the House. With that Order of the House, I, for one, as Mr. Walter has thought it right to make that submission, shall not consider it my duty to interfere. Who have been Mr. Walter's advisers, or whether he has had any advisers, I know not; but of this I am sure, that if I had been his adviser, I would not have counselled him to take the course which he has taken. I certainly would not have dictated the letter which he has addressed to the committee. I think, that, first, by having written that letter, and that, secondly, by having stated his willingness to submit to the Order of the House, he has relinquished that high ground upon which he might have stood. At all events, I felt myself justified in calling the attention of the House to my own view of the case, because I stated on a former occasion that such a case might occur; and as this is, perhaps, not the only instance in which it may occur, I would ask the House to consider what will be its course in the event of another individual refusing to appear before the committee, and how far it is prepared to apply the process of the screw to such an individual? With the willing witness who has been at the Bar the House may deal as it seems fit; but suppose another individual to say, "I claim the protection, not of the laws of my country, but of the principle of the laws of my country: I claim to be tried before a jury to no one of whom I can fairly object: I claim to be tried before a tribunal the leading member of which has not pronounced an opinion personally unfavourable to me"—what, in that case, is the House prepared to do? I ask the House that question as much for the sake of the hon. and learned Member for Bath as for the sake of any such individual; because I can conceive no situation more painful than that of a judge sitting as the hon. and learned Member ha done—a situation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cork once described, in reference to his being placed upon the bench, as a situation in which he feared that his desire to administer justice in a just and impartial spirit towards those who were regarded as his opponents might be the very cause of leading him into acts of injustice and partiality the other way. For the sake, then, of the 707 hon. and learned Member for Bath, I deprecate his continuing chairman of a committee where he has almost prejudged the case, and where he has pronounced such an opinion, against the leading person implicated as would, in any other tribunal but a committee of the House of Commons, cause a man to shrink from acting as a judge. It is not my intention to interpose between the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that Mr. Walter do attend the committee at eleven o'clock to-morrow, and the pleasure of the House. If the House is pleased to concur in such a motion, I shall not divide the House against it, Mr. Walter having expressed at your own Bar his willingness to attend.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
cordially concurred in all that had fallen from the hon. Baronet; but regretted the hon. Baronet had not concluded with an amendment to the effect that Mr. Walter should not be required to attend the committee. He knew not, and he hoped in saying so that he was not out of order, whether to admire more the constitutional views and the able speech of the hon. Baronet, or the manly, straightforward, and respectful conduct of the hon. gentleman who had lately appeared at the Bar of the House. He repeated, that he could not but admire the firm and candid, yet perfectly respectful manner, in which Mr. Walter had expressed his readiness to obey the Orders of the House on the one hand, and on the other his manly bearing and chivalrous demonstration in resisting the order of the committee. Yes, he gloried in the conduct of that hon. Gentleman, and if it were the pleasure of the House to visit him with those pains and penalties which it was in the power of the House to inflict, he hoped he should be one of the first men to pay his respects to that hon. Gentleman in whatever situation he might be placed. He should be delighted to see this body of arbitrary gentlemen defeated; for so unconstitutional and disgraceful a proceeding had never emanated from a British House of Commons, He would not trespass further on the time of the House. He had thus openly expressed his opinion, and he would conclude by observing, that he should not be at all sorry to be placed in a similar situation to that of the hon. Gentleman who had been so recently at the Bar.
§ Sir G. Grey
said, that although he did not object to the motion, he thought the House ought not to be satisfied with its adoption alone. He thought, that the 708 authority of the House was called in question by the conduct of the Gentleman who had lately appeared at the Bar. The House had appointed a committee, and expressly delegated to it the power of sending for persons, papers, and records. He could make every allowance for the feelings of a gentleman who had been attacked in that House, where he was not able to defend himself, and he therefore did not wish to propose anything like a harsh proceeding towards that Gentleman; but it was impossible to read that Gentleman's letter, or to have heard the speech which he had recently addressed to the House, without feeling that he drew a distinction, which it would be most dangerous to sanction, between the direct authority of the House, and the authority delegated by the House to a committee of the House to send for papers, persons, and records. If he understood that speech rightly, what the Gentleman who delivered it meant to say, amounted to this:—"I will not submit to this committee, because I conceive it to be a partial committee; but if the House chooses to appoint another committee, I will submit to it; to the authority of the superior tribunal I bow, but to that of the inferior tribunal I demur," He thought, that the House should not sanction any such distinction as that; and he hoped, it was prepared to support the authority of the committee. He rather threw out for the consideration of the House, than with the view of making any distinct proposition on the subject, whether the present motion should not be followed up by an admonition from the Speaker to Mr. Walter? He was decidedly of opinion, that the House ought to express itself upon this occasion, and that the Gentleman who had appeared at the Bar of the House ought to be informed, that it was the bounden duty of every person receiving a summons from the committee of the House, to which the House had delegated the power of sending for papers, persons, and records, to obey that summons, as much as if it were a direct order of the House,
§ Sir R. Peel
said, I am quite prepared to support the authority of the tribunal that has been constituted by this House for the purpose of conducting an important inquiry. The responsibility of appointing that committee rests not with the committee but with the House, and this House is bound to support that tribunal in the exercise of its proper authority. 709 Without such support, the powers of the committee must necessarily prove insufficient and fail. But, considering the language of the Gentlemen who has appeared at the Bar, considering that he has said, that he felt it to be a paramount obligation upon him to give such testimony as it was in his power to give for the purpose of elucidating the truth of the matter under investigation, and considering also, that he has expressed his readiness to submit to the order of the House, I do think, upon the whole, that the best course, and the most dignified course for the House to pursue, would be to signify to Mr. Walter, through your chairman, that it is his bounden duty to attend the committee and give evidence. I think, the best course to pursue would be, that which was adopted in the case of Mr. Fleming, which was this:—It having been reported to the House that Mr. Fleming had refused to answer a question which he deemed inconsistent with his character as a man of honour before the Southampton Election Committee, it was ordered by the House, that John Fleming, Esq., do attend In his place forthwith, and be informed by Mr. Speaker, that the legal tribunal to decide upon his obligation to answer questions, is the select committee appointed under the act of Parliament to try the matter of the petition; and that Mr. Speaker do also inform him. that any objection he has to urge must be submitted to the committee, and determined by them.Mr. Fleming attended accordingly, and the Speaker communicated to him the said order. Upon the whole, I think, that is the best course for the House to take. I do not at all agree that the case is one which calls for a reprimand. My opinion is, that the Speaker, as in the case of Mr. Fleming, ought to notify to Mr. Walter that it is his duty to attend the committee and give evidence.
§ Sir G. Grey
That was not a precedent in point, as Mr. Fleming made no allegation that the tribunal was an improper one.
§ Sir R. Inglis
said, that the motion now was, that Mr. Walter do attend the committee, and give evidence to-morrow at eleven o'clock.
§ The Speaker
put the question, which was received by a loud cry of "No," from several hon. Members.
§ Viscount Howick
understood, that the right hon. Baronet was going to move, that the same course be adopted as in the case of Mr, Fleming.
§ Sir R. Peel
What I meant to state was, that the course pursued by the hon. and learned Member for Bath is in conformity with that which was adopted in Mr. Fleming's case. There Mr. Fleming appeared before the committee, and stated his reason for refusing to give evidence; and upon that being reported to the House he was ordered to attend and give evidence, with which order he complied. It would be impossible to adopt precisely the same words. Here Mr. Walter has expressed his readiness to attend before the committee and give evidence, and I still think it only remains for the House to inform him that it is his duty to do so.
But the vote we are about to come to is not to desire the Speaker to inform Mr. Walter that it is his duty to obey the summons of the committee. According to the words of the motion the House is about to adopt a new order, which order is that Mr. Walter shall attend to the direction of the committee. This is the distinction drawn by my right hon. Friend, and it is a distinction of very Considerable importance. If we recognise the principle that the authority of the committee is not sufficient, we necessarily, and to a great extent, weaken its proceedings. I think, therefore, that the motion as it now stands should be amended, and that the House should direct that the Speaker inform Mr. Walter that it is his bounden duty to obey the summons of the committee. The motion as now put is not in accordance with the precedent quoted by the right hon. Baronet.
§ Sir R. Peel
I conceived that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) had pro-posed something in the way of a censure on Mr. Walter, which I regarded as uncalled for. Mr. Walter said that he felt himself under an obligation to facilitate the inquiry, and that he was ready to submit to the House. All I thought necessary in that case was that the Speaker should notify to him that it was the pleasure of the House that he should facilitate the inquiry by attending the committee and giving evidence.
§ Sir R. Inglis
I wish, Sir, you would state whether the question has not been already put by you. I believe it has.
§ The Speaker
If the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland rose before the voice was given in the negative, of course he had a right to speak upon the question. If not, he has no right to speak. My im- 711 pression is that the noble Lord rose after the question had received a negative.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 223; Noes 77: Majority 146.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acheson, Visct.||Ellis, W.|
|A'Court, Capt.||Eliot, Lord|
|Ainsworth, P.||Elphinstone, H.|
|Bailey, J.||Estcourt, T. G. B.|
|Bannerman, A.||Etwall, R.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Evans, W.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Beckett, W.||Follett, Sir W. W.|
|Bell, J.||Ffolliott, J.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Forster, M.|
|Benett, J.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gibson, T. M.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Gill, T.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Gordon, Lord F.|
|Blake, M. J.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Goulburn, rt. hn. H.|
|Bowes, J.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Greenall, P.|
|Broadley, H.||Greene, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bryan, G.||Guest, Sir J.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Hale, R. B.|
|Buller, E.||Hamilton, W. J.|
|Busfeild, W.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Butler, hon. Col.||Harcourt, G. G.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Campbell, A.||Harris, J. Q.|
|Cavendish, hn. G. H.||Hastie, A.|
|Chapman, B.||Hawes, B.|
|Childers, J. W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Clive, E. B.||Hodgson, R.|
|Cobden, R.||Houldsworth, T.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Holland, R.|
|Collins, W.||Howard, hn. C. W. G.|
|Connolly, Col.||Howard, hon. J. K.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Howard, Lord|
|Craig, W. G.||Howard, hon. H.|
|Cripps, W.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Dalrymple, Capt.||Hume, J.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Humphery, Aid.|
|Denison, E. B.||Hutt, W.|
|Dennistoun, J.||James, W.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Jervis, J.|
|Douglas, Sir H.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Johnstone, H.|
|Duncan, G.||Labouchere, rt. hn. H.|
|Duncombe, T.||Lambton, H.|
|Dundas, D.||Langston, W. G.|
|East, J. B.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Lawson, A.|
|Layard, Capt.||Rundle, J.|
|Legh, G. C.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Russell, Lord E.|
|Lindsay, H. H.||Sanderson, R.|
|Litton, E.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Loch, J.||Seale, Sir J. H.|
|Lowther, J. H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Lyall, G.||Shaw, right hon. F.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.||Smith, A.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Smith, B.|
|M'Taggart, Sir J.||smith, rt. hn. R. V.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Stanley, Lord|
|Marshall, W.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Marsland, H.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Martin, C. W.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Martin, T. B.||Stock, Serj.|
|Masterman, J.||Strutt, E.|
|Miles, P. W. S.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Morris, D.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Morison, Gen.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Morrison, J.||Taylor, J. A.|
|Mundy, E. M.||Thesiger, F.|
|Murphy, F. S.||Thornely, T.|
|Murray, C. R. S.||Thornhill, G.|
|Napier, Sir C.||Towneley, J.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|O'Connell, Dan.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|O'Connell, M.||Tufnell, H.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Turner, E.|
|O'Connell, J.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Paget, Col.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Palmer, R.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Palmerston, Visct.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Parker, J.||Vivian, hon. Capt,|
|Patten, J. W.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Walker, R.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Wall, C. B.|
|Peel, J.||Wallace, R.|
|Pendarves, E. W. W.||Wawn, J. T|
|Philips, G. R.||White, H.|
|Pigot, Sir R.||Whitmore, T. C.|
|Planta, rt. hon. J.||Wood, B.|
|Plumridge, Capt.||Wood, Col.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Powell, Col.||Worsley, Lord|
|Protheroe, E.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Pusey, P.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Ramsbottom, J.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Rashleigh, W.||Young, J.|
|Redington, T. N.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||TELLERS.|
|Richards, R.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.||Wood, C.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Allix, J. P.||Baird, W.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Bateson, R.|
|Archdall, Capt.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|Arkwright, G.||Bradshaw, J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Broadwood, H.|
|Attwood, M.||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Baillie, Col.||Bunbury, T.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Burdett, Sir F.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Howick, V.|
|Carnegie, hon. Capt.||Hussey, T.|
|Cartwright, W. R.||Irving, J.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Jackson, J.|
|Chute, W. L. W,||Jones, Capt.|
|Cochrane, A.||Kemble, H.|
|Colville, C. R.||Knightly, Sir C.|
|Dick, Q.||Lefroy, A.|
|Disraeli, B.||Lockhart, W.|
|Dodd, G.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Douglas, J. D. S,||Maclean, D.|
|Ellice, E.||M'Geachy, F. A.|
|Escott, B.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Marton, G.|
|Feilden, W.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Fielden, J.||Neeld, J.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Neville, R.|
|Filmer, Sir E,||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Polhill, F.|
|Fleming, J. W.||Pollington, Visct.|
|Forbes, W.||Praed, W. T.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Round, C. G.|
|Godson, R.||Stewart, J.|
|Gore, M.||Sturt, H. C.|
|Gore, W. O.||Trollope, Sir T.|
|Grant, Sir A. C.||Tyrell, Sir J. F.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Verner, Col.|
|Halford, H.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Hampden, R.||Wakley, T|
|Henley, J. W.||TELLERS.|
|Hodgson, F.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Hornby, J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
§ On the question that John Walter esq. be called to the Bar, and that the resolution be communicated to him by Mr. Speaker,
§ Sir G. Grey
said, that although he was desirous not to put the House to the trouble of again coming to a division, yet he thought it very desirable that they should adopt a resolution in the terms he had before mentioned, because he considered that it ought to be clearly understood that every individual who received a summons from a committee of that House, duly signed and authenticated by its chairman, was bound to make no exception to obeying the mandate it conveyed on such grounds as those of a supposed partiality among its Members. He hoped and believed that the House generally assented to this doctrine, and that it was a common understanding that such summonses ought to' be attended to. It was the more important that the sentiments of the House should clearly be made known on the point, because this was not a solitary case. They had, in the course of that evening, already received a report from the Southampton committee to the effect that a witness had neglected to attend before it in obedience to the summons of the chairman. That individual had been 714 ordered to appear at their Bar. He might be brought up to-morrow, and might plead a similar excuse, and so they might be constantly involved in discussions as to the partiality or impartiality of particular Members—discussions which he thought would tend little to enhance the dignity of that assembly. He thought that when Mr. Walter was called to the Bar, he should be informed that it was his duty to attend before a committee of that House when summoned.
Lord J. Russell
should not have risen before the division, had he understood that the negative voice of the House had been expressed. He now only wished to say that he entirely agreed in the course proposed to be pursued by his right hon. Friend. He thought he was quite right in saying that the committee possessed sufficient authority to summon witnesses before them, and also that witnesses so summoned ought to attend to the summons. The course proposed was the course they had pursued in Mr. Fleming's case, and he supposed that it was not desired to treat Mr. Walter in any other manner than they treated a Member of their own House. The resolution they had just carried should therefore, he conceived, be communicated to Mr. Walter; but at the same time he did not wish it to be thereby inferred that the House did not give such powers to its committees as enabled them to issue summonses which should be binding upon persons to attend, without their receiving any intimation from the House itself that compliance with that summons was essential.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that as far as his own experience went, he must say that the committees appointed by that House had the power of summoning witnesses, not in consequence of any inherent right in the committees themselves, but by a devolution of the power of that House in the resolution authorizing and empowering the committee to send for persons, papers, and records. They had already resolved "that Mr. Walter do attend the committee and give evidence at eleven o'clock to-morrow." That was the resolution they had come to, and it certainly appeared to him that the ends of justice would be answered, and no danger of establishing a bad precedent would be incurred, in calling Mr. Walter to the Bar, and authorizing the Speaker to notify to him the resolution of the House. He said this, however, with the distinct declaration of his opinion that the com- 715 mittee did not require the authority of that House to summon witnesses in each case, but that they already possessed that authority distinctly and specifically delegated to them by the House's resolution, empowering them to send for persons, papers, and records.
§ Viscount Howick
did not at all object to the view taken by his right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport, and if he had just now voted in the minority, it was simply on the ground that the means taken to arrive at the end were irregular and unsatisfactory. He had considered before the division, and he still thought, that the resolution ought to have been passed in the form suggested by his right hon. Friend. It was with that view that, finding it was too late to amend the resolution, he had voted against it, with a view to throw it out, and substitute another more regular in its shape. As, however, the House had decided in favour of that motion, he thought they could not now do better than support the motion just submitted to them.
said, nobody understood the motion to convey any censure on Mr. Walter. It only carried out the view that it was better at once to check what might be made a very bad precedent, that of witnesses summoned before a committee stopping to canvass its composition. Nobody would say that any witness had a right to do that. But there were other steps which might be taken in such cases. If, for instance, a witness objected to the appointment of a certain person to serve on a committee before which he was summoned to appear, he might come before the House and say that the person in question was not neutral enough, and so submit himself and his case to the House's pleasure. But without making out such a case, no witness had any right to quarrel with the orders of the House; and he submitted that nothing could be more irregular than the commencement of such quarrels, solely with a view to that sort of, what he would call, bye-battle, of which they had already had a specimen.
§ Lord J. Manners
could not but think that Mr. Walter bad entirely submitted himself to the House in the manner the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to consider necessary. He had appeared at their bar in conformity to their order, and had stated very calmly and respectfully his objections to be examined before a committee presided over by the Member for 716 Bath. Those objections also stood on record; they appeared on the paper of the House; and nobody up to that time had denied that they were true.
§ Mr. Wakley
contended that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet conveyed a censure on Mr. Walter, for the right hon. Baronet laid it down as a principle, that a witness was obliged to submit himself, in the most passive way imaginable, to the mandate of the committee, and that, no matter whether he was summoned as a witness merely, or was made to appear before the world as a criminal engaged in the transactions objected to, he was at once passively to submit to whatever that committee might exact. He at once and decidedly protested against any such doctrine. He said that it exhibited the very essence of tyrannical despotism, and that if it were acted on a practice would grow out of it which must be attended with danger to every individual in that House. He entirely agreed with what the hon. Member for Oxford University had said upon this subject, and it seemed to him that the House had been startled into one of the most ridiculous and unconstitutional proceedings that were ever taken by that assembly. He should never forget when the hon. Member for Bath got up and put his string of interrogations to so many Members, who all so ridiculously appeared in their places and gave answers to questions referring to perfectly private transactions. He said these transactions were perfectly private. They were transactions of which the law did not take cognizance. The law had not hitherto held parties to be criminal who had engaged in such transactions, and yet there they were requiring Members to get up in their places and in the face of the House to create convictions for themselves. In his opinion the sooner they got out of the scrape the better. The sooner they extricated themselves from the dilemma the better for that House and for the country, because, as he had heard, an impression existed out of doors that there had been unfair dealing, that the inquiry was not conducted with impartiality, and that equal justice was not dealt out to all. It was his belief too that the hon. Member for Bath, with all his acuteness, would not be able to tell them anything new. He believed he would not tell them a word which was not already well known to the country, and which had not been known for years. The only possible effect that could result would be to fasten a general 717 practice upon a few individual Members. Such a proceeding might gratify a few gentlemen, but he for one did not participate in their feelings. He thought the whole proceeding unfair, and he entered his protest against it from beginning to end.
§ Mr. Escott
objected to the proceedings which had taken place against the gentle. man who had appeared at the Bar. It was alleged that the hon. Member for Bath had for some time passed assumed a hostile attitude towards Mr. Walter, and this allegation the hon. Member for Bath had not denied. Therefore it was that Mr. Walter had declined to attend, and not from any disposition to question the authority of the tribunal. Furthermore, the hon. Member for Bath had last night made a statement to the House, the substance of which was, that the Committee on Election Proceedings had come to the resolution of adopting the extraordinary system of excluding all those against whom any accusation existed from hearing the evidence given before the committee. This was a proceeding calculated to defeat the substantial ends of justice, and he had voted against the order for Mr. Walter's attendance being made, as he was of opinion that the proceedings of the committee, as conducted by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, were not likely to conduce to the ends of justice. When he said this, however, he did not mean to dispute the power of the committee, but every lover of truth and justice must be opposed to the course of proceeding adopted in the case.
said, it should be remembered, that the persons examined before the select committee were called upon, not as accused parties, but merely for the purpose of giving evidence, so as to assist in an important inquiry. The object of the committee was not to inculpate any person, but to elicit certain facts relative to the subject into which they were appointed to inquire; and if Mr. Walter had any well-founded objection to appearing before that committee, the objection should have been made to the House. That would have been the proper mode to make the objection. If the question had been raised when the committee was appointed, and if it had been stated that there were reasons to suppose that any person named on the committee entertained hostile dispositions against any of the persons likely to be called before it, and that therefore a fair trial could not be expected, that might 718 furnish a good ground why the House should take the subject into consideration. No objection, however, was taken to the formation of the committee at the time that the power was delegated to it. The House appointed a committee to inquire into the alleged corrupt compromises. That was the avowed object for which the committee was appointed, and not for any purposes of a criminatory nature. Mr. Walter was summoned to give evidence before that committee, not as one criminally charged, but as a witness, and in that character he had no right to object to appear on the ground of personal feeling on the part of any of those by whom the committee was constituted. This appeared to him to be the proper view to take of the matter, and the result of his experience was, that when the House delegated to a committee the power to examine persons, papers, and records, the parties were bound to attend and produce the documents. If there were any reasons why it would be inexpedient to intrust the committee with. such power, the time to take the objection was that at which the power was proposed to be delegated.
§ Sir R. H. Inglis
did not see the question quite in the light of the noble Lord. There were some facts omitted which it would be necessary to be kept in view. The hon. Member for Bath moved for a committee of inquiry, which was, amongst other things, to take into consideration certain alleged corrupt compromises. Amongst other cases to be inquired into was that of Nottingham, for which Mr Walter had been a candidate. Two gentlemen had been declared the sitting Members for that borough by a committee of the House. The alleged compromise, it was said, led to the retirement of one of those members for the purpose of allowing another candidate to come forward, and rumour had it that Mr. Walter would be seated in that gentleman's place. If there was any charge, then, Mr. Walter was the person accused of the compromise, together with the gentleman who was said to have vacated in his favour. Not only, then, was Mr. Walter personally interested but he was accused of a crime, and of a crime now made so for the first time. The hon. Member for Finsbury had truly observed, that cases of as gross a nature as the present had frequently taken place before without exciting the indignant virtue of the House; and whether Mr. Walter was right or wrong in the course which he 719 had pursued, it was clear that he was a party interested in the issue, and might very fairly protest against the tribunal before which, under such circumstances, he was called upon to appear. The noble Lord said, that the objection should have been taken when the committee was about to be instituted, and when the power was proposed to be delegated to them; but how could Mr. Walter know beforehand the course which the committee would adopt, or how could he interfere to prevent it?
§ Mr. Ferrand
rose merely to ask one question. The noble Lord said Mr. Walter was called upon to attend the committee, not as a criminal, but as a witness. If, however, Mr. Walter should find that in the course of inquiry he was likely to criminate himself, would he be allowed to retire from the examination? If not, the investigation could not be considered in any other light than that of a criminal inquiry.
§ Captain Polhill
wished to say a few words on the subject before the House. The motion was, that Mr. Walter be summoned to the Bar, and commanded to attend before the committee and give his evidence. As far as he understood Mr. Walter's objections to appearing, the chief one related to the chairman of the committee, in consequence of some private quarrel or misunderstanding. That he apprehended was the main objection. According to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, it was competent to Mr. Walter to petition the House on this ground; and it would be but fair to give him time to do so. He would therefore move, as a substantive resolution, that Mr. Walter be ordered to attend the committee on Thursday, so as to allow the intervening day for the presentation of a petition.
§ The Speaker
The House having already decided that Mr. Walter should attend to-morrow, it would be irregular to re-open that question.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ The Speaker
I have to inform you that the House has come to the following resolution:—That you be directed to attend and give evidence before the select committee on Election Proceedings at eleven o'clock to-morrow.