The Earl of Lincoln
presented a petition from 600 electors of Nottingham, praying that the House would vindicate the rights of the honest voters of Nottingham, as well as the privileges of the House.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, that before he called the attention of the House to the petitions which had been presented relative to the election for Nottingham, and which had been printed with the votes, he might be allowed to refer to the part he had taken with respect to those petitions. On the very day after that on which he took his scat, as Member for that Borough, two petitions were presented complaining of the return. He had never imagined that those petitions would be proceeded with. A petition from certain electors of Nottingham was forwarded to him, which he was requested to present, praying the House not to permit the petitions to which he had just referred to be withdrawn, and requesting that, in case of the withdrawal of those petitions, the House would institute an inquiry into the proceedings at the election. He informed the parties who forwarded this petition to him, that whatever might be their opinion as to the proceedings at the election, they had been called upon to appear before a legal tribunal to answer for their conduct at that election; and that until they had appeared before that tribunal, and had proved the propriety of their conduct, he felt it would not be right to proffer such a petition to the House, and under the circumstances he declined to present it. After the report of the committee had been presented to the House, he had presented those petitions to which he was now about to call the attention of the House. He was about to call the attention of the House to a borough in which the greatest abuses had for a long period prevailed at Parliamentary elections— abuses which 485 had been proclaimed by a committee of that House to be a disgrace to the country. He would, however, say, that two pure elections in succession had been conducted.by two candidates. In the first case Mr. Walter and Mr. Sturge were the candidates; and he would say that on the part of Mr. Sturge no corruption bad been practised; and he believed, that so far as Mr. Sturge was concerned, that was a pure election. In the first petition, from electors of the town of Nottingham, they set forth, thatAt the elections which took place in the months of April and June, 1841, for the said town, certain corrupt practices were carried on, which were afterwards fully inquired into and exposed by a select committee of your honourable House.The petitioners then proceeded to state,That in the month of August, 1842, an election of a Member to represent the said town of Nottingham in the place of Sir G. Larpent, who had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, was held, and Mr. John Walter and Mr. Joseph Sturge were candidates. That at such election the said Mr. John Walter, by the expenditure of large sums of money, amounting, as your petitioners have reason to believe, to nearly 4,000l., was returned as duly elected; but that petitions were presented against such return, on the ground of extensive and systematic bribery and treating on the part of Mr. Walter and his agents. That such petition were tried before a committee of your honourable Douse in the month of March last, and extensive bribery and treating were proved to have been practised by the agents of the said John Walter, and he was in consequence declared not duly elected; but that much more extensive, systematic, and general bribery and treating had really taken place at the election of the said John Walter than were proved before the said committee.He might also show how this subject had presented itself to the acute, and impartial, and judicious mind of the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Hogg). On the 23d of March that hon. Gentleman, in speaking on this subject, said he did not mean to state that the bribery which Sad taken place in the town of Nottingham was limited to the twenty-six or twenty-seven cases which the committee had reported, for the bribery and treating_ went considerably further than they had reported. On a subsequent occasion the hon. Member stated, thatNo case of casual bribery would have influenced his mind, as a member of the committee; but that the 486 acts of bribery Committed in this borough were not single or isolated cases.These words were sufficiently expressive of the opinion entertained by the hon. chairman of the committee appointed to inquire into that election. The petitioners further stated,The friends and partisans of Mr. John Walter the younger, and who had, before that time, been supporters of the said John Walter the elder, again resorted to a system of treating and promising money to induce the electors to vote for him, the said John Walter the younger,He had no doubt that the petitioners would be able to prove before that House that most extensive treating had taken place on the part of Mr. John Walter, jun. The petitioners proceeded to state,That after the decision of the committee, which unseated the said John Walter the elder, and before the election of the said Thomas Gisborne, several persons who had been influential and active supporters and partisans of the said John Walter the elder, and who afterwards supported the said John Walter the younger, declared their determination to win the election if possible; but that if they could not, they would petition against the return, and were resolved not to rest satisfied until. they either succeeded in electing a member of their party, or procuring the town to be disfranchised, That in pursuance of such resolution, two petitions, signed respectively by Mr. William Hannay, one of the magistrates of the said town, and Mr. Thomas Hollins Smith, were prepared and sent up to your honourable House within four days of the return made by the sheriff; and that the partisans of Mr. John Walter the younger publicly boasted that such petitions were sent, and would meet the said Thomas Gisborne on his taking his seat in your honourable House.The next representation of the petitioners was, in his opinion, the most material allegation. The petitioners stated, thatImmediately after his (Mr. Gisborne's) election, a commission composed of the friends of Mr. John Walter sat at an inn called the George 4th, in the town of Nottingham, whence they sent forth emissaries—many of them of bad character—to all parts of the town, among the poorer classes, offering money to induce them to give evidence of transactions which had taken place, or which were alleged to have taken place, in the course of the election,The petitioners complained that the other party thus endeavoured, not to find a case, but to make one; and it. appeared that for six or seven weeks the commission, to which he hail alluded persevered in its 487 endeavours to obtain evidence by these means. The petitioners stated also,That on the trial of the said petitions before a Committee of your honourable House, proof was given by several witnesses of money having been paid by the hands of the said John Douglas Cook, William Mark Fladgate,—Ratcliffe, and Edward Pilbeam Cox, to such witnesses for their having given evidence, and that, had the inquiry been further prosecuted, proof would have been adduced before such committee that, in a vast number of instances, money had been offered and paid to persons to induce them to give evidence before such committee; but the petitioners, fearful of the disclosure, hastily withdrew their case, in order to prevent such proof being given.He now came to consider the manner in which the petitions against his (Mr. Gisborne's) return had been presented. The election — the polling—took place on Thursday, and the return was sent up on Friday; but, as the House did not sit on Saturday, the return was not made to the House. On the Monday he took his seat, and on the very next day two petitions were presented against his return. He had on a former occasion asked the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lincoln) whether he had any connection with the petitioners against his return; and the noble Lord had admitted that he was connected with the petition, that he had advised its preparation, that he bad counselled its prosecution, and that by the noble Lord's advice or direction, Messrs. Clarke, Fynmore, and Fladgate, were appointed the agents for the petitioners. The noble Lord could not have heard the result of the election before Friday or Saturday, but it appeared from a statement made by Mr. Rawson, the chairman of a Conservative dinner which took place on the Mon.. day at Nottingham, that on that day a messenger came down from the London agents with a draught of the petitions, and that at twelve o'clock on Monday Mr. Rawson had to get the petitions engrossed, in order that they might be presented on Tuesday. It was necessary, Mr. Rawson said, that that should be done, because the House adjourned on the Wednesday for the Easter recess. He thought that if any person of caution—he might almost say fair dealing—had been applied to as the noble Lord was, he would at once have said, "There is no need of this hurry. Are you sure of the case? Are you sure your opponents have been 488 guilty of the conduct imputed to them?" Instead of that, however, the noble Lord said, "Present helter-skelter petitions. Charge personal bribery against the Member. Charge bribery against his friends—against his partisans—against his agents, and demand a scrutiny." He wondered the noble Lord omitted the question of qualification, and that that was not made a matter of petition. The noble Lord, it appeared, determined that a petition should be prosecuted, and at once sent down the petitions to Nottingham—he had almost said with indecent haste—to be engrossed, in order that the idle boast, that a petition should meet him on his taking his seat might be fulfilled. He did not charge the noble Lord with any connexion with the getting up of evidence in support of the petitions against his return; but he must be allowed to call the attention of the House to the conduct of the noble Lord. It appeared from the noble Lord's own evidence before the Compromise Committee, that he was not present at the election in April, 1841, though he was in communication with some persons who were members of the committee; but the noble Lord, having no opposition to encounter to his own return, was present at the election for Nottingham in June, 1841, and stated that he arrived in the town on the day of nomination. The noble Lord was present at a meeting of the friends of Mr. Walter held on the clay of the nomination. The noble Lord was also present at a meeting that took place on the morning of the polling day, He (Mr. Gisborne) would proceed to show what took place there, and by doing so he thought he should show what title the noble Lord had to be the person to come forward and advocate purity of election. His first witness should be a gentleman of great credit in the town of Nottingham, Mr. Hannay. This gentleman was qualified to speak on the subject of parties in the borough of Nottingham, from his long residence in the neighbourhood. The hon. Member quoted the evidence of Mr. Hannay at considerable length), to show that corruption and bribery had been practised for many years at Nottingham, particularly by the Conservative party. That was the account Mr. Hannay gave of the general state of the Conservative cause in Nottingham. Mr. Rawson, a solicitor in great practice at Nottingham, was also examined before the Compromise 489 Committee, and Mr. Rawson did not deny the presence of the noble Lord at a certain meeting that took place early in the morning of the polling day. It appeared in evidence, that 5,500l. had been spent on that election; Mr. Walter himself, who must know best, had said that 3,500l. was what he spent; about 2,000l. was spent by the other gentleman's friends; making altogether 5,500l. Then came a meeting at five o'clock in the morning, at which the noble Lord attended; and what said Mr. Rawson? Again the hon. Member quoted the evidence of Mr. Rawson and Mr. Hannay, to show that one election had been carried by bribery, and that at another they would not go to the poll be- cause they could not bribe sufficiently high. He would show (the hon. Member continued) that the noble Lord was a party to that meeting, that he was consenting to that bribery; in fact, that he was urging on the meeting that that bribery and corruption should be carried still further. Failing in that front want of funds, what did the noble Lord do? He turned round on the borough and took up a petition for its disfranchisement, and that petition was given up merely because it was not convenient to prosecute it, as the House would see presently. However, with respect to this meeting, everybody in it was for giving up, except the noble Lord; he was the only person who urged that the election should be continued. Would the noble Lord get up and say he did not know how the election was to be continued —how the 5,500l. had been expended? Would he say he did not know that the election could only be continued by the most violent, depraved, and corrupt means? He would not; and yet for an hour and a half the noble Lord deprecated giving up the contest, and urged that the election should be continued, though it was to be so continued only by the means he had referred to; and the noble Lord himself had stated that he only gave way because he thought it wrong to involve thy candidates in facther expense when their own partisans were against their going on. But what farther expense could they have been involved in? Every expense that was a legal expense had been already incurred; the hustings had been paid for, the polling clerks engaged, all other legal expenses had been determined and satisfied—what farther expense remained? None but bribery, so that in point of fact, 490 the noble Lord was here seen, without any disguise, engaged in corrupting the electtors of Nottingham. It was manifest that the noble Lord was the party who opposed the putting a termination to that corruption; and that when he found that he could not carry the election, he said, then—We will put ourselves in a condition to petition, that if they have beaten us here we may turn their flank and beat them elsewhere.And with this view the noble Lord urged that a few votes should be polled. The noble Lord had also discussed with the meeting whether they could put themselves in such a condition as not to run any risk of recrimination. The noble Lord had told them to petition, but not to ask for the scat; then there could be no recrimination, and their man could stand again. The noble Lord, before Mr. Roebuck's committee, told them on what grounds he had acted; that Mr. Walter was the original petitioner, but that he was frightened at the expense, and at length gave it up; that then the noble Lord took it up, and appointed his own agents to conduct it. The noble Lord stated to this committee that he had done so—With a view of exposing the transactions in the town, and laying the whole matter before the House of Commons; and if the House of Commons should see fit, showing grounds for the disfranchisement of the borough.The noble Lord said he had employed Messrs. Clarke and Fladgate to get up the case, who, he said, had been recommended to him—As parties who had some experience in getting up cases for committees of the House of Commons.Such was the noble Lord's ominous phrase, and the noble Lord went on to state, that he was prosecuting the petition in concert with certain friends at Nuttingham, and that one specific object of it was the disfranchisement of the borough, and that he had no personal interest whatever in the matter, but undertook it on public grounds alone. He bad seen a weatherglass formed in shape of a house, on which when the sun shone, a lady stepped forth with a parasol; when the sun retired under a cloud, a man armed with a Mackintosh and a stout umbrella made his appearance. The noble Lord resembled the gay lady with the parasol. When, the 491 sun shone on him and his party then he was all for elections; but when the sun was averted, and shining on the Liberal party, then moody discontent and disfranchisement assumed the dominion over his mind. He thought it quite depended on the state of the political aspect of things which of these characters the noble Lord should take up. But a compromise had been made. The evidence came before the committee. The noble Lord got out the facts in a way he never could have expected; and when the compromise was made, they heard no more about disfranchisement. The noble Lord on the last division having dropped all ideas of disfranchisement, voted for issuing the writ. Well, Mr. Walter was unseated. The noble Lord again wished to disfranchise. Haying failed to corrupt and enslave the borough he determined to disfranchise it. He would show, also, what had been the conduct of the noble Lord with respect to the petitions. The noble Lord, on a former occasion, had said he was ready to go before a committee and give an account of each of his several election transactions, and the noble Lord had dared him to do the same. He had anticipated the noble Lord, for before a Committee of the House of Lords he had made a clean breast of his sins in this way; he had told them what was the whole amount of the corruption and bribery that he had been engaged in during his life; in fact he had never made any disguise of it. He had purchased a seat from the freemen of Stafford before the Reform Act. He might have bought one from the noble Lord's father, or any other borough monger in those days—he might have bought one from the Government of that time—he had had an offer of a seat on those terms from the Government. He had never had any hypocrisy about the matter; there was no danger—the bribery oath was never put at Stafford. He remembered well, on his second election, that 3l. a head was given for votes; and when one of his men came up to the court house to vote he said openly, "that he had got 3l. and should vote for Gisborne;" he remembered another who declared, "he had his money and would never sell him for 30s." In short he had never had any disguise about it. If the committee should be granted him, it would he open to the noble Lord to ask him any questions he chose, and he should exercise the same privilege 492 with respect to the noble Lord. One question which he should put, if the noble Lord did not answer him at present, was where the money came from to prosecute the petition against him (Mr. Gisborne). However the petition having been presented, he should now proceed to show that there was not the slightest ground for it. 1,801 men had polled for Joseph Sturge in his contest with Mr. Walter, and no suspicion had been raised that any corrupt practices had been resorted to on Mr. Sturge's part. If those 1,801 persons voted for Mr. Sturge without any suspicion of corruption, it was not to be supposed that the 1839 electors who voted for him were actuated by impure motives. and there was no ground for any imputation deducible from that fact. The evidence which had been adduced before the committee in itself proved that there was no foundation for the petitions. It was clear, too, that the petitions had not been presented in consequence of information; but, on the contrary, that they had been presented at random, and he would show the House in what manner an attempt had been made to support them by evidence. A committee, amongst whom were Messrs. Fladgate and Cook, the latter a near relative of Mr. Walter, sat at the George 4th, for seven weeks for the purpose. The people of Nottingham must be very slow of apprehension, for the emissaries of the committee went about, week after week, before any person came to give information, and it was only after it was well dinned into their ears—" If you go to the George 4th, and make a statement which will give grounds for a petition, you shall receive 2l."— it was only after this that persons were found who said to themselves, "We may as well go and make out something." When he first heard of the proceeding he thought these parties were, in some measure, excusable for what he would call their folly, when such men as Messrs. Clarke, Fynmore, and Fladgate, used such means to procure witnesses to state something which they wished to have stated, wholly ferent whether or not the statement were true. It would be seen by the evidence of William Coxon, that he received 4l. before coming to London, and 2l. before going into the witness-box, independent of his expenses to London, and back to Nottingham; and, moreover, that his maintenance in London was paid for, to- 493 gether with an allowance in the way of compensation for loss of time. The witness Albey, before leaving Nottingham, had a sum of 5l. 13s. 6d., together with a coat, waistcoat, and pantaloons. In fact, he had no idea of the extent to which inducements had been held out, until it was discovered by the inquiry before the committee, and he treated the petition against his return with such contempt, that he did not even employ an agent until the Saturday previous to the Monday upon which it was to be heard. They should have known nothing with respect to the clothing which had been issued out to them were it not that Mr. Austen's attention had been attracted to a coatee of New market cut, and he requested the witness to inform him where he had procured it. It was thus by accident, that they arrived at the fact that a great quantity of clothing was placed at the George 4th, with sacks of boots and shoes, to which the witnesses had access, each to fit himself as best suited his person. The hon. Member entered into more details, to show how the petition had been got up. That was the way (he continued) the attempt had been made to back up the petition, and, after all, there was not even the semblance of evidence in support of it. If there had been any evidence, it would have been brought forward, but none could be procured. Messrs. Clarke, Fyumore, and Fladgate, had, on the failure of the first petition, set forth another, in which they admitted the payment of money to the witness, and then attempted to justify it. They stated in the commencement, that—In criminal matters, particularly in prosecutions carried on in the name of the Crown, the payment of money for information is openly resorted to.There could be no doubt that such was the fact, for the safety of society requited that offences should be punished, but there was nothing in such a case analogous to the attempt of purchasing evidence to create a crime. If a dead body were found with marks of violence, it would be clear that an act of murder had been committed; but here were men paid to make a crime which was not itself apparent. He did not suppose that such arguments would come out of the mouths of any person but some pettifogging practitioner, thoroughly imbued with the air of the Old Bailey. The petitioners com- 494 plained, that a gross deception bad been practised upon them. No doubt they expected to hear from the witness-box the same evidence which had been given at the George 4th in Nottingham, and they took their chance that such would have been the case; but if they, experienced and practical men as they were, took for truth, the evidence given at the George 4th, they must have been the most gullible beings in existence. There were seven weeks spent in collecting the in- formation. They should have placed some confidence in it if they considered it to be true; if they thought it false, they might have suspected it; but the fact was, they were aware of the character of the testimony, and they produced the witnesses in the hope that these latter would persist in stating before the committee what they had previously stated at the George 4th. Under these circumstances, Messrs. Clarke, Fynmore, and Fladgate, turned round on their own witnesses and said—Your petitioners were greatly surprised, on the trial of the said petitions, at finding that a gross conspiracy had been planned and executed by and amongst certain of the witnessess summoned on the part of the petitioners, and by and amongst other persons, to defeat time ends of justice, and that in con. sequence of such conspiracy the ends of justice were defeated, and the petitions were with-drawn.It was clear, however, that what the witnesses stated in the witness-box before the committee of the House was true, and that what they stated in Nottingham, at the George the Fourth, was false. Two of the principle witnesses had admitted to certain parties that they had previously concerted the statements which they had made at Nottingham. They had been cross-examined on the point, and that testimony had not been shaken. It had been made abundantly evident that they had arranged between them to give the evidence which had been tendered at the George the Fourth. The whole of the, matter would have been exposed before the committee, had not the petition been given up. There was no redress, then, to be had in the case but by the House assenting. to his motion, and that brought him to; another part of the question, which he wished to submit to the consideration of the House. The hon. Member entered into some details as to the mode of con- 495 ducting the petition against this own return, and concluded by moving that—A select committee be appointed to investigate the circumstances detailed in petitions from Nottingham (presented on the 12th 21st, and 27th of June) complaining of proceedings at elections for that place.
The Earl of Lincoln
said, the hon. Gentleman who has made the present motion talked in the course of his long speech of his unwillingness to vapour across the Table of the House; but he has given no answer to the challenge I threw out to him on a former occasion. As to the hon. Gentleman's professed unwillingness to vapour, those hon. Gentlemen who had thought it worth their while to remain and listen to his speech, would judge how far that profession had been carried out. On the occasion I have referred to, the hon. Gentleman gave me no answer, but in the intervening time he has felt it necessary to pore through the blue-book which was the result of Mr. Roebuck's committee, and has endeavoured to represent my character in as bad a light as possible as far as regarded election proceedings at Nottingham. A more ungenerous and unfair proceeding never occurred on the part of a Member of this House. What is the motion before the House? It is a motion to the effect, that the House should take into consideration certain petitions presented on the 12th, 21st, and 27th of June. How then, could I have expected that the hon. Gentleman intended to carry back his investigation into elections long antecedent, or that one hour out of an hour and a half occupied by his speech, would have been spent in heaping charges on me, whose conduct the hon. Gentleman has chosen to characterize as neither honest nor high minded? It being the hon. Gentleman's intention to make such charges and to characterize my conduct by expressions which I believe were scarcely Parliamentary, but (at all events, I ant glad the hon. Gentleman was not interrupted in the use of them), the courtesy which one hon. Member ordinarily displays towards another under such circumstances ought to have induced him to inform me that he was about to call the attention of the House to the evidence received before Mr. Roebuck's committee, to direct my attention to those points upon which he proposed to assail me, that I might be prepared with at least a refreshed recollection upon the subject. I do not, however, shrink from an investigation of that evi- 496 dence; but I labour tinder the disadvantage of having had no notice of the hon. Gentleman's intention to advert to that evidence. I have, since the commencement of the hon. Gentleman's speech, sent for the evidence taken before Mr. Roebuck's committee, but not having had time to refer to it, I can only speak from recollection; but I can state that anything more unfair than the extracts given from that evidence I never heard. The hon. Gentleman has referred to my evidence, and to the evidence of Mr. Rawson and Mr. Hannay, and has endeavoured to link together different statements without reference to dates or circumstances, so as to form one charge. In replying to the hon. Gentleman's observations, I must say, in the first place, that if I had had the slightest idea that the hon. Gentleman was about to make this attack on me, I should have requested some Member of Mr. Roebuck's committee to attend in his place, in order to make known to the House, by his testimony, what was the impression on the minds of that committee with respect to my proceedings. If the hon. Member for Bath were now present, I would appeal to him on the subject, and ask him what was his view of the case before and after his investigation. That hon. Member had been informed that I had been mixed up with transactions in Nottingham, reflecting most seriously on my character, and as the hon. Member is not now present I will only read from the evidence the first few questions the hon. Member put to me, and the answers I gave; and I wish the House to notice that these questions could have had no relevancy before the Compromise Committee unless some such impression as I have described existed in the mind of the hon. Member for Bath. The questions and answers to which I allude are these:—Your Lordship represents one of the divisions of the county? I do. You are a deputy-lieutenant of the county I am. And in the commission of the peace?—Yes: I think your Lordship has acted as a magistrate of the county?—1 have. And you are an officer in the Yeomanry corps there? I am. Did you take any active part in behalf of either of the candidates at the Nottingham election in April, 1841? I was not present at the election in April 1841.I repeat that these questions could have had no relevancy unless it was expected that a case would be made out against me proving me to be unworthy of the position 497 I held in the county. The hon. Member for Bath had been misinformed as to the part I took — misinformed by the same party, probably, as that which has instructed the hon. Gentleman on the present occasion. [Mr. Gisborne: "No."] When the hon. Gentleman inquired of me what concern I had in the petition against his return, I replied that I had been asked by certain electors of Nottingham if I would advise them to present a petition against him; and the hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to prove that it was impossible for meat that time to have data on which to give an opinion. He has stated that the polling took place on a Thursday, and that a petition was presented on the Tuesday, and that it was impossible that I could have heard the result of the election until the Friday or Saturday after the polling. Now I, and almost every hon. Member in the House, heard the result of the election on the Thursday night, and in the course of Friday I was asked whether I would recommend a petition. I inquired what grounds there were for a petition, and I was told by the parties that they had the means of proving that in the afternoon of the day of polling the return of the hon. Gentleman opposite was obtained by gross bribery and mal-practices. They stated to me facts which, with my experience of Nottingham elections, and knowing the state of the poll at various hours, made me have no hesitation in avowing my conviction that the hon. Gentleman's return was produced by the means represented. These statements having been made to me, I did advise that a petition should be presented; but so far from its being true that I sent down the draught—[Mr. Gisborne: I did not say so.] I took particular notice of the hon. Gentleman's words, but if he did not mean to say so, I am ready to accept his explanation. [Mr. Gisborne: I said your agents sent it.] The hon. Member stated, that the draught of the petition had been sent down, and that Mr. Rawson had announced at a public dinner that such a petition was to be presented. Now, I had nothing to do with the draught of the petition. I simply gave my advice when asked for it, and by whom the draught was drawn up I know not. It could not have been sent down by any agent, because it was impossible there could be an agent before a petition was agreed on. The petitions were afterwards sent up in the usual form, and were presented on the day when the hon. Gentleman took his 498 seat, and I am quite ready to admit, that it must have been a great disappointment to the hon. Member to find the extreme readiness which existed to petition against his return. I trust, however, that the committee moved for by the hon. Gentleman will be granted, and I shall then be able satisfactorily to prove all I have asserted. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to say, that I sent down Mr. Fladgate, whom he said I had on a former occasion characterized as a good getter-up of a case. I did use that expression, and I give the hon. Gentleman all the advantage which it is possible for misconstruction to derive from any use of those words. He has characterized Messrs. Clarke, Fladgate, and Fynmore, as my agents; but if he had read the volume from which he had quoted so copiously with that case, and impartiality which he has affected, he would have seen that I was asked whether they were my agents or solicitors, or my father's, and that I replied in the negative; and on being asked why I recommended them, that I said, that having been appealed to, to recommend a solicitor to conduct the case, and having on inquiry found that Messrs. Clarke and Fladgate were acquainted with election proceedings, I recommended their employment. Until that, I never saw Messrs. Clarke, Fynmore, and Fladgate in my life. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say, in his usual rhetorical manner, that I presented this helter-skelter petition, charging every thing. I do not know, what the hon. Gentleman means. I simply advised, that the hon. Gentleman, having been seated by bribery, an endeavour should be made to unseat him; and how my conduct in so advising can be characterized as neither honest nor high-minded I know not. As for the hon. Gentleman's assertion, that it was unworthy of one hon. Member to prosecute another. I told the hon. Member what concern I had in the matter, and he ought to have hesitated before using such expressions. Being anxious for the fair representation of Nottingham, and being intimately connected with that town, I advised a petition to be presented against the hon. Member, when I thought the facts warranted such a petition; and the hon. Gentleman himself, having no intimate connexion with Leicester, has always been considered to have taken an active part in presenting a petition against the return of two hon. friends of mine. [Mr. Gisborne: I was asked to make a motion in this 499 House, and I did so—nothing more.] I am quite willing to accept the hon. Gentleman's statement. The hon. Member proceeded to ransack the blue book (containing the evidence given before the Compromise Committee), and endeavoured to prove that I was concerned in all the bribery and nefarious transactions which have disgraced the town of Nottingham. Now, as far as the House is ready to accept a positive denial, I am ready to give one to this statement, on my honour as a private gentleman. I wish the hon. Gentleman had given me an opportunity, AS he ought to have done, of meeting his charges. It is exceedingly difficult to bring forward negative proofs to rebut the charges of the hon. Gentleman: a positive denial I have given to them; but I would have endeavoured to do something more if I had had an opportunity. The hon. Gentleman has alluded to the proceedings on the morning of the poll at the general election, and has endeavoured to prove that my advice was given to prosecute the election at that time. The expressions of the hon. Gentleman were, that "I was a party consenting to the bribery which took place, and that I urged that the election should be carried on, and not abandoned, and that it was given up contrary to my wishes—that I stated, that the election could not be carried without more money, and that more money should be spent." This I deny, and the blue book will bear out my denial. I was present at the meeting to which the hon. Gentleman has alluded. The discussion was going on when I entered the room, and my opinion was asked. I was utterly at a loss to conceive the reason why the election should be abandoned, having understood on the previous evening that there would be a majority of 300 or 400 votes for Mr. Walter; and, under these circumstances, I urged that the election should not be abandoned; but I did not urge that money should be spent. I did not urge that a single farthing should be spent; on the contrary, over and over again, long before Mr. Walter ever dreamt of going to Nottingham—nay, eight, nine, or ten years ago, I urged the party in Nottingham to fight, as it was locally Called, the purity battle, and I so urged them in the hope to regain the character of the town; not only then, but also on this very occasion to which I am now adverting, I gave the advice to proceed with the election, in utter ignorance of the fact that the 500 electors had been outbribed in the course of the night by Sir John Hobhouse and Sir George Larpent; but when it was explained to me, that under the circumstances I have mentioned the majority of 300 in favour of Mr. Walter had been turned into as large a majority on the other side, I certainly did give the advice, that a few votes should be polled in order to lay the ground for a petition. It, however, is not true that I gave advice that such a petition should be presented as would prevent recrimination. The hon. Gentleman endeavoured to apply those extracts which he had read from Mr. Raw son's evidence as having relation to circumstances which had taken place in my presence. All I can say is, that if such an object was professed, it was not suggested by any advice on my part; and, again, I must complain of the very unfair manner in which the hon. Gentleman has throughout endeavoured to apply the deuce of others to me. The hon. Gentleman next referred in the course of his speech to the exceedingly pretty simile of a barometer, a weather-glass; and had drawn a comparison between my conduct and the variations of the barometer. The hon. Gentleman stated, that at one time I was anxious to disfranchise the town of Nottingham, and at another time to seat a Conservative Member. I admit, that I was anxious for the success of the Conservative party, and I will not deny, that I subsequently wished that the town should be disfranchised, and for this reason—because corruption had laid such inveterate hold of it, that I thought nothing but disfranchisement could effect a cure, and whether that disfranchisement were effected by the Legislature, or by each party in the borough returning one Member would be immaterial. The hon. Gentleman may laugh, but with regard to parties in this House, which are much more interested in the matter than the people of Nottingham, the election of a Member of each party would be the same as disfranchisement. Nottingham is not much interested in the question, for, as regards the local interests of Nottingham, I defy the hon. Gentleman, however many years he may continue to represent that town, to pay greater attention to those interests than I, as Member for the county, have invariably done; and I ask —nay, I challenge the hon. Gentleman to appeal to those very gentlemen who, at the, dinner given to him, so grossly and so 501 foully maligned me and my proceedings, whether in my transactions with the local concerns of the town I have not shown the same attention to the friends and supporters of the hon. Gentleman as I have exhibited towards my own friends. The hon. Gentleman, then, in one of those flights of invective in which, throughout his speech, he so much indulged, said, that as I had failed to enslave and corrupt the borough, I ventured upon a second attempt to disfranchise it. This also I totally and entirely deny. I did not male any second attempt to disfranchise the town of Nottingham, and as to the charge of an attempt to enslave or corrupt it, I throw back the imputation upon the hon. Gentleman with scorn. The hon. Gentleman has no grounds for such a charge. No act of mine can justify such language. The hon. Gentleman has not proved the charge. I defy him to prove it. As to any attempt to enslave the borough, I know not what it means — an attempt to corrupt it is a charge that is plain enough, and easy to comprehend; but this I will say, that whatever the hon. Gentleman may have done, I deny that I have made any at. tempt whatever to corrupt it; on the contrary, I have used every exertion to prevent its corruption. The hon. Gentleman said, it was not for me to attempt to disfranchise the town, for, continued the hon. Gentleman, "there arc no hands more impure than those of the noble Lord." Here, again, it is useless for me to ransack the hon. Gentleman's vocabulary of invective; the assertion can only be met by the most positive denial on my part, and by my reminding the House that the hon. Gentleman has wholly failed to prove any case against me, notwithstanding his laborious research through the pages of the blue book of Mr. Roebuck's committee. But the hon. Gentleman then Went on to state, that I returned to the attempt to disfranchise the town. My reply is, that I did no such thing. Before proceeding further, let me observe, that it has been stated in Nottingham, that the hon. Gentleman's advice had been asked as to the petition against Mr. Walter, and at the same time it was remarked that the hon. Gentleman had done himself great honour, by the advice he had given, and that the electors were greatly indebted to him for his services. This I understand the hon. Gentleman to admit. Now, what is the grave imputation the hon. Gentle. man makes against me? It is this—that 502 I, a Member of this House, had recommended a petition against his return, and had rendered assistance in the furtherance of that object. Be it so. The hon Gentleman has himself done the same thing, and is he to claim all the virtue and excellence of such service to himself? What is the difference, I beg to ask, between the giving advice before the presentation of a petition and the giving advice as to its being carried on? But I challenge the hon. Gentleman to state, whether he was not as much surprised with the result of the petition as I was when I came down to the House, and when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beverley brought up the report of the committee. I knew the transactions which had taken place at previous elections, and, having heard the report of the committee announced to the House, I thought there must have been very different evidence adduced before the committee than I had heard out of doors or read of in the abstracts published in the newspapers, and therefore I did say, that time ought to be given to investigate the whole of the evidence before a new writ should be issued; but when the evidence was printed and an opportunity had been afforded for considering it, I took the earliest opportunity of saving that there was not ground for any further proceedings, and, therefore, that the new writ ought to issue. If, then, the course I pursued on that occasion is alleged as an attempt to disfranchise, I say the charge is unfounded. I do not admit the charge at all —neither will I deny, that I told the Compromise Committee that my object on the former occasion was to disfranchise the town. I did so because I thought the greatest boon would be conferred upon the town if I succeeded. I am perfectly aware that many may differ from me; but having seen the demoralization of the town, the failure of its trade, and the misery of its inhabitants consequent upon the system of its elections, I am firmly convinced, that I am right in my opinion. The hon. Gentleman seemed to complain of the very cruel injury which I had done his unsullied character by the introduction of the petitions to this House, and yet almost in the same breath in which he resented the imputations on his virtue which the petition against his return contained, the hon. Gentleman announced to us that he had twice purchased a seat for the borough of Stafford. [Mr. Gishorne: No; once.] Well, once. The hon. Gentleman not 503 only avowed that, but he also subsequently avowed, that he had afterwards endeavoured to betray the constituents he had so bought; and this the hon. Gentleman had publicly announced. The hon. Gentleman first justified the purchase of his seat for Stafford, and then, with that spirit of animosity which he had exhibited against me on account of the expense he was put to in defending his seat for Nottingham, he proceeded to say he defended the course he had taken, because he thought it a much less crime than purchasing a borough from any boroughmonger; and the hon. Gentleman concluded by stating that he might have purchased a seat from my father. [Mr. Gisborne: No, I did not.] I took down the hon. Gentleman's words. I appeal to the House, and I defy contradiction; I assert positively that the hon. Gentleman used the words, "I might have purchased a seat from the noble Lord's father." Now, I tell the hon. Gentleman that he might not have purchased a seat from my noble father, and I will tell him why. My father never sold a seat in Parliament in his life. My father certainly inherited property in two boroughs, and during the time they were in his possession he invariably, under the form of the then constitution, did return four Members to the House; but, instead of receiving money for the seats, he himself spent such money as was necessary for the expenses of returning those Members. I think hon. Members may, from this single parenthetical statement, form an opinion of the spirit in which the whole attack has been made by the hon. Gentleman upon me. I have no hesitation in giving to this assertion of the hon. Gentleman's the most direct contradiction. I give the same positive contradiction to the charges derogatory to my character which the hon. Gentleman has brought forward. If the House shall please—as I trust it will—to grant the committee sought for by the hon. Gentleman, I shall be ready to enter into a further investigation and to give any explanation that may be called for. I will not trouble the House with any further observations upon the part of the case to which the hon. Gentleman devoted so much time, especially in his attack upon me. I regret that he has done so, because I do feel that it is irksome for any Member, however attacked, to occupy the time of the House on matters personal to himself, and still more so to one who, like myself, so seldom addresses the House, and 504 who has now been called upon to listen to an attack of an hour and a half's duration, and to reply to a series of criminatory topics. I will only add that if I have omitted any points upon which I have been assailed, I hope the House particularly under the circumstance of that attack being unexpected, will not think that I desire to shrink from any defence here, or investigation elsewhere. Dismissing, therefore, that part of the case, I now proceed to that which forms the groundwork of the motion of which the hon. Gentleman has given notice, and which I thought would alone have occupied the attention of the House. With all his ingenuity, the hon. Gentleman will hardly attempt to mix me up in those charges, unfounded, as I believe they are, and as I hope to be able to show, except so far as he has done by representing that all the evils which have arisen were justly chargeable upon me, because I advised the presentation of the petition. The hon. Gentleman stated, that the people of the town of Nottingham were justly indignant when they heard the petitions had been presented. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the petitioners as weak and unprincipled men. The hon. Gentleman delights in hard words, which he throws about without much regard to consistency. He attacks three gentlemen (with one only of whom, Mr. Hannay, am I personally acquainted, and that gentle-man, weak as he is represented to be, has proved his strength against the hon. Member, and that may have led him to call that gentleman unprincipled, although he is known to be, and I believe him to be, as honourable a man as any in the town of Nottingham), he attacks, I say, three gentlemen, Mr. Hannay amongst them, as weak and unprincipled, and yet, in another part of his speech, he characterizes Mr. Hannay as a man of the greatest consideration and the highest character. He abuses him at one time, and extols him at another, just as suits his own temporary purpose. But the hon. Gentleman spoke of the indignation which had been aroused by the presentation of the petitions—that anything more frivolous had never been got up—that they had been presented without any serious intention of being prosecuted—and that, though emissaries had been sent out to obtain evidence, it could not be obtained, and the people were quite confident, until they were prosecuted, that the petitions would be abandoned, Why, if that were the cases, 505 did not the hon. Gentleman apply to the committee to have the petitions voted frivolous and vexatious? It is not enough for the hon. Gentleman to state that no election committee ever found a petition frivolous and vexatious, for this statement he was obliged to amend, and to say that no such instance had happened under the new law. Let the House and the hon. Gentleman remember, that the new law had been but a very short time in operation. In my recollection there have been cases in which petitions have been voted frivolous and vexatious. The Ipswich case was one instance. At any rate, it would have cost the hon. Gentleman nothing to have asked the committee to find the petition frivolous and vexatious. It is possible that the committee would have considered such an application, but the hon. Gentleman's own counsel, knowing that their case was not defensible —were but too happy that the petitions should be abandoned, and, therefore, gladly accepted the abandonment. [Mr. Gisborne: That I totally and entirely deny.] The hon. Gentleman may deny it if he chooses; but if this committee is granted, as I hope and trust it will be, it will be proved that the hon. Gentleman's counsel jumped at the offer, and were but too happy to have the petitions abandoned and not to ask for their costs. The hon. Gentleman next observed that the petitions had not been grounded on the evidence of Mr. Albey, Mr. Whitehead, and so forth; but that it had been collected in a manner which be deprecated. Now, the hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that the only course that can be pursued in such cases is, first, to get a general notion as to whether bribery has or has not been practised, and then, when the petition has been presented, to collect evidence to support the allegations of the petition. But the hon. Gentleman then proceeded to state that a commission, as he was pleased to call it, had gone down to Nottingham, consisting of "Mr. Cook, a near relative of Mr. Walter, and of Mr. Fladgate, the agent of the noble Lord opposite." Now, in the first place, Mr. Cook is no relative of Mr. Walter at all; and in the next place, Mr. Fladgate is no agent of mine. When I say, that Mr. Fladgate is no agent of mine, I beg the House to understand that I do not mean by disavowing him as an agent to cast any imputation on his character. I wish not to be understood by the disavowal as conveying anything at all 506 derogatory to the characters either of Mr. Fladgate or of Mr. Cook; on the contrary, I firmly believe that neither of them has done anything either discreditable, illegal, or unbecoming the character of gentlemen. The hon. Gentleman next arrived at that part of his case, to which I had expected he would have exclusively confined himself—namely the payment of certain voters for the purpose of procuring evidence. Of course, upon this point I am only able to give a contradiction as I am informed by others; but I am constrained to believe that no money was given to procure evidence at all. True, money was given to witnesses, but how given? Why, exclusively, as I am informed, for the loss of time whilst attending to give their testimony. I believe that no witness had more than 5s. per day, and that none received more than 1l. in all. I am instructed to deny—and I firmly believe the denial—that any money was given either for the purpose of a reward for previous perjury, or as an inducement to a witness to state any fact. I am further told, that so far from this being carried to any extent, that the whole sum that was paid to 100 witnesses for their loss of time in giving evidence did not amount to 60l. I think that one fact alone would be conclusive as to the charge brought forward by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has alluded to a statement made by one of the witnesses, that he was promised 101. if he would make a good statement, and 20l. or 30l. if he would make a very good statement. The hon. Gentleman would have acted more fairly, when stating this part of the case, if he had stated also that it was most positively denied by all concerned. I do not believe, that the statement was ever made to this man at all; but, if it was made, it must have been made by some parties who were not employed to obtain evidence, and was unauthorised. The hon. Gentleman has expressed his firm conviction that the evidence given by these witnesses in London was perfectly true, and that which they gave at Nottingham was false. Now, I can only put my conviction against that of the hon. Gentleman. My conviction is, that the evidence given at Nottingham was true, and that that given in London was utterly false. I am much inclined to think that a very different interpretation may be put upon these conflicting statements from that put by the hon. Gentleman, Is the hon. 507 Gentliman prepared to state that none of these witnesses were tampered with either in Nottingham, or in London, by his friends? Is he prepared to state that none of his friends offered to give them larger sums than they were promised, if they would give false evidence in London? Is he enabled to state that none of his friends were employed to deter these witnesses from coming forward, and that a system of intimidation was not pursued, to prevent their coming forward at all—whether they were not threatened with loss of employment, and whether Newgate was not held out to them for giving testimony of their own misdeeds, and personal violence threatened? As to this statement about the sackful of clothes, certainly, I for one do not justify that gift. I am told that none of the agents of the petitioners were concerned in this at all; but that a zealous Conservative friend did give clothes to some of the witnesses, many of them being in the lowest condition of life, even in rags, and not, as this zealous friend thought, in a state fitting to appear before a committee of the House of Commons. I certainly think it would have been much better that they should have appeared in their usual garb. But I am told, that the exact amount for all these clothes, given to sixty-five witnesses, amounted only to 13l. 15s. 8d. Now, I hope, I have gone through the statements of the hon. Gentleman, and the main facts of the case. I was anxious, if possible, to have seconded the motion of the hone Gentleman, I could not, of course, make up my mind until I knew the exact form in which he would put his motion; and following up his conduct with respect to his attack on myself, he did not, as is the usual practice, put on the books the exact terms of his motion, But, if now I move an amendment, it is simply to extend the inquiry a little further. I can only say, in conclusion, that I am anxious for this inquiry on account of the gentlemen who have been attacked by the hon. Member; and I am additionally anxious for it, now that the hon. Member endeavours to mix me up in transactions derogatory to my character. I am most anxious for the investigation; and I only trust that those who have courted and braved this inquiry, may pass through the ordeal with as little to reflect on their character through the whole of the transactions, as I am perfectly convinced will he the case, not only with myself, but with those whom the hon. 508 Member has attacked. I beg to move as an amendment:—That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the transactions connected with the late elections for the borough of Nottingham, and with the petition presented in consequence of the returns for the borough of Nottingham.
§ Mr. C. Wood
as he had had the honour of being the chairman of the Nottingham committee out of the proceedings of which part of these transactions had arisen, thought it due to the committee to make a few observations, because in one of the petitions the conduct of that committee had been impugned. And although the noble Lord did not impugn the conduct of that committee, he yet spoke of the statement contained in that petition, which if true, reflected on the committee. The noble Lord seemed to hint, that the committee ought to have made up a report which would have induced the House to ascertain whether these witnesses had been tampered with or not. With regard to the question whether these witnesses had committed a gross fraud on the petitioners, he had not the slightest doubt in the world that they did commit a fraud on the petitioners, they stated so distinctly in the evidence; but it was no part of the concern of the committee to attempt to ascertain this. It was utterly impossible that the committee or the House could in any way punish them for the fraud on the petitioners. No doubt, if the committee had been of opinion that the witnesses had committed perjury before them, it would have been their duty to report their conduct to the House. He would only say that the thought of the witnesses having committed perjury had not crossed the minds of any of the committee. The witnesses stated distinctly that they went before the Gentlemen who sat at the George the Fourth for the purpose of telling a lie; they stated that they communicated together beforehand, for the purpose of concerting a lie, and they told their friends that they had done so. God forbid that he should palliate or excuse such a proceeding. The question before the committee was, whether the witnesses had perjured themselves before the committee? His conviction was, and he was sure that be spoke the opinion of the committee generally that the witnesses had not perjured themselves before the committee but had told the truth; and all the cross-examinations 509 to which they were subjected did not in the least degree tend to shake the belief of the committee as to the truth of what they stated. An attempt was made to shew that the witnesses had been tampered with. What the fact might be it was not for him to say; but the attempt to show that they had been tampered with had entirely failed. It was suggested in two or three instances that they had had consultations with the agents of the opposing party. So far as the examinations went, the proof of this had entirely failed; so far, therefore, as the allegations in the petition went, that either the committee did not perform its duty in not bringing the witnesses before the House for having committed perjury, or for not making a statement of the witnesses having been tampered with, there was no evidence to induce any Member of the committee to believe that there was any foundation for such a statement. The committee were of opinion, that improper practices had been resorted to at Nottingham for the purpose of obtaining evidence. That was the unanimous opinion of the committee. The committee certainly felt that it would be improper in them to report parties without giving them an opportunity of defending themselves before it. The committee had not the power of calling the parties before it, and as soon as the petition was abandoned, the functions of the committee ceased, and its power of examination ceased, and consequently, the committee did not report its opinion as to any parties whatsoever. He was perfectly ready to say, that no evidence given before the committee necessarily inculpated the agents of the petitioners. It was distinctly in evidence before the committee that sums of money were offered by parties, he did not say with the sanction of the agents, in proportion to the value of the evidence given—that application was made from time to time to the witnesses—that they distinctly stated that they never should have given this evidence but for the inducements held out to them, the committee thought, therefore, that it would best discharge its duty by moving that the evidence be printed, stating its unanimous opinion that circumstances which led to the commission of improper practices had taken place at Nottingham for the purpose of procuring evidence. He was exceedingly glad that this committee was moved for, for if evidence was 510 to be procured in this way it was exceedingly objectionable, and he thought it very right that such an inquiry should be entered into. He would not go into the question whether the petition were frivolous and vexatious; he would not undertake to say that the principle on which costs were withheld was not a good one; whatever opinion he might have upon that question he thought it better to reserve till another opportunity. He only thought it right to state to the House the motives which had influenced the committee, and to show that it was not liable to the imputations made against it in the petition, and which were alluded to by the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Gisborne
and the Earl of Lincoln again severally addressed the House confirming their respective statements.
§ Sir R. Peel:
Sir, I know nothing whatever of this case but what I have heard in the course of this debate. I find that the parties in these transactions appear willing that an inquiry should be instituted into them. But I wish to call the attention of the House to the nature and effect of the precedent they would establish by agreeing to the motion. In the first place, would it be just to those hon. Gentlemen who may have gone through the ordeal of defending their seats, and have succeeded in defending them, that a petition should be presented after an adjudication by a tribunal appointed for the purpose by the House? Will it be right for the House to permit another committee to be appointed, not under the same sanctions, and not possessing the same powers, to inquire again into the matters of an election already decided upon? It is well to remember, that every hon. Gentleman might then be liable, after having by evidence upon oath succeeded in vindicating his seat, to another inquiry. I think it is of importance not to exclude any inquiry into improper proceedings which do not bear upon the tenure of the seat. No one is more anxious than I am for every inquiry; and that in this case the parties themselves are anxious for inquiry is quite clear. I, therefore, can have no other motive than to call the attention of the House to what may be the consequences of establishing such a precedent as this. A petition has been presented and referred to the committee; and that petition specially intreats the House to institute a strict and rigid inquiry by a committee of the House in to 511 the corrupt practices of the last two elections for Nottingham—not the last only, but the preceding. Every Gentleman then may consider to what he is liable, and what security he may have for his seat. Such an inquiry may be called for when he has not the means of disproving the allegations made against him, and that after he may have gone to great expense in defending his seat. I would ask hon. Gentlemen—those who would scorn to hold their seats by bribery— whether through animosity, even after an election petition may have been adjudicated upon, they might not be subjected to great inconvenience by the reception of a second petition, in which the petitioner would declare himself ready to prove bribery? If this House lightly consents to appoint a second committee, hon. Gentlemen, who hold their seats not by bribery, but by the free-will of their constituents, may be subjected to the most harassing annoyances. And observe this—the committee is to collect its evidence at the public charge. There is no limit, of course, to the number of witnesses or to the duration of the proceedings. The public must pay the cost, and there is no check as in cases where private rights are to be determined, where there is a check upon the number of witnesses and vexatious proceedings by the parties being compelled to pay expenses. Such an inquiry might extend over several years, and the public would have to bear the cost. If there were any charge not immediately connected with the subject before the committee of the election, if there were any tampering with witnesses, I for one should be unwilling to exclude inquiry into it. But I do think that there ought to be some consideration of the objects to which this inquiry is likely to lead, that some definition of the time over which the inquiry is to extend ought to be given; and that some information should be afforded to the House as to what are to be the particular subjects of inquiry. If a petition had been presented against the return of the hon. Gentleman after he had established his right to his seat, and that second petition should charge the hon. Gentleman with corrupt practices, and say that the petitioners were ready to establish that which they could not before prove, I never would consent to that second inquiry. I think it would be most unfair to subject the hon. Gentleman to a second ordeal after 512 having passed a first. If we were to put this case on inquiry at the instance of the hon. Gentleman, I do not know how other hon. Gentlemen might be affected. I hope the hon. Gentleman will take a little time to consider what is to be referred to the committee, what is the specific object of inquiry? By the adoption of this precedent, however, those who have opposed corrupt practices, and provoked hostility in some boroughs where such practices formerly prevailed by the determined manner in which they set their faces against them, such hon. Gentlemen—the very best Members in the House—may incur the risk of their seats, or, at the least, be subjected to great inconvenience and annoyance. Conceiving it to be a public duty in the position I hold to call the attention of the House to the nature of the precedent this motion would establish, I would, in addition, suggest to the House whether it would be just to adopt a practice which would affect the comfort or interfere with the independence of Members of this House.
§ Mr. T. Duncombe
said, that supposing the whole of these allegations to be proved, what was the House to do? It was admitted that the petition was got up in that sort of way which his hon. Friend had stated, and that there had been corrupt practices at Nottingham. No doubt there were corrupt practices and gross bribery always, and at all elections at Nottingham. One of these petitions referred to a former petition. But before he referred to that point, he would say, that although some of the hon. Member's expressions were rather strong, yet he was not surprised at the fact, when he considered how really frivolous and vexatious were the objections to his return. It so happened, that he had been at Nottingham at the time of the election, and really from what he could judge, he never saw less evidence of bribery than at that contest. He had said so at the time. He believed that election was one of the purest elections that had ever taken place in Nottingham. He remembered reading it stated as one evidence of bribery, that the sitting Member had absented himself from the poll between eight and nine o'clock, he being at that time in a minority, and the other party sixty or seventy a-head. The tide turned soon after, on which it was said, "Oh! Mr. Gisborne must have been bribing whilst he was 513 away, and that has caused the influx of Liberal voters." That was the inference drawn from the hon. Member's absence; but nothing in point of fact could have been more absurd or erroneous, for the truth was, that Mr. Gisborne came to breakfast with him at his hotel, and during the time they were together, they never saw a single soul except the waiter. That was the fact; and before they had concluded their breakfast a message was sent up to Mr. Gisborne, telling him to come to the hustings, for some of the electors fancied that he was not treating them with sufficient respect. So, on hearing that there was a complaint about it, Mr. Gisborne left his breakfast and went to the poll-booth too. That all these charges should have irritated his hon. Friend he was not at all surprised; nor could he be surprised that he had that night used some rather harsh terms in addressing the noble Lord; for, as he had said before, never was there a petition more truly frivolous and vexatious. The hon. Member had called the attention of the House to the character of the petitions which must be referred to this committee, and particularly to the petition of a Mr. Edward Pillbeam Cox. Looking at all the facts the hon. Member continued and concluded, he must say that he thought it would be better to bury the whole matter in oblivion than to re-excite such an angry contest. The last election, as he said before, had been comparatively pure, and he did hope that before future elections the people of Nottingham would have seen the error of their ways, and would have decided on foregoing all such disgraceful doings. What could be done if the committee were appointed he really did not know, but he did hope that, appointed or not, his hon. Friend would take time to consider what the right hon. Baronet had so wisely suggested.
§ Mr. Wallace
thought that so long as both the factions in that House supported bribery and corruption in the unfortunate manner in which they now supported and backed it, so long they would encourage repeal in Ireland and Rebecca and her Daughters in Wales.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
felt the force of the objection which the right hon. Baronet had taken as to the re-trial of cases already settled. There was, however, one point which had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Nottingham, and which had also been referred to by the 514 committee, not indeed specially, but in bringing up their report, upon which he thought an observation advisable. He referred to the allegations that certain practices had existed in Nottingham with regard to procuring evidence to be adduced before the committee. Now, he did not say whether any improper practices had been carried on or not; but certainly if such practices had been put in execution it was not only a great impropriety and deserving the reprobation of all honest men, but it was a flagrant breach and contempt of the orders and privileges of the House. Whilst, therefore, the House rejected all inquiry into practices at the elections at Nottingham, he did think that this; subject having been brought under their notice by an hon. Member who founded his motion on the report of this committee—he did think that it was not for the House under such circumstances to reject inquiry into the mode of suborning evidence. He would suggest, therefore, that the inquiry should be limited to that part of the transaction, and with that view he would move, that a committee be appointed—To inquire whether any witnesses before the Nottingham Election committee had been tampered with in defiance of the privileges of that House, either for the purpose of procuring evidence in support of the petition, or of deterring them from giving evidence in support of it.The original motion and amendment having been withdrawn, Mr. Baring's motion was put.
The Earl of Lincoln
then said, that he was sure the hon. Member for Nottingham would feel with him that neither of them was so much involved in this inquiry as the mutual friends of each. He would therefore suggest to the hon. Member that this discussion should stand over until Monday, and in the mean time they might both consult their friends as to how far a committee thus appointed would meet their respective views.
§ Sir R. Peel
was sorry to differ from the noble Lord, but he really hoped the House would judge for itself. Decidedly they ought not to waive the exercise of their functions in order to satisfy any private individuals. For his own part he really saw no ground for this inquiry. He saw the hon. Member in possession of his seat—he saw him confirmed in it by the decision of a committee—he had heard 515 the chairman of that committee say that no perjury had been committed by the witnesses, and he really could not see the utility of appointing a committee to satisfy gentlemen out of doors—private friends of hon. Members— for whose convenience they were farther asked to forego the discharge of their duty until another day. He must say, that he did not think they would be taking a right course by doing anything of the sort. As he bad said before, he knew nothing about the facts, but it was evident that a salutary lesson had been read to the electors of Nottingham; and it was also clear, from the admission of both parties, that there had been much less bribery at the last election for that borough. He admitted that he thought the hon. Gentleman's motion an improvement; but was there any matter before them sufficiently distinct for the appointment of a committee? He freely owned that in his own opinion it would be better not to institute an inquiry at all. He thought there were not sufficient grounds for it; but at the same time, if there was to be a committee, he thought that now moved for would be the better.
said, he had been present during, the whole debate, and after hearing the charge upon one side, and the explanation from the other, he could not but ask what Parliamentary grounds there were for this inquiry? He would advise the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, after their statement and vindication, to let the matter rest where it was.
§ Motion withdrawn.