§ Mr. Hogg
, from the select committee appointed to try and determine the matter of the petition of George Gill and Samuel Bean, electors, and also of Joseph Frearson and others, electors, complaining of an undue election and return for the borough of Nottingham, appeared at the Bar and informed the House that the committee had determined:—That John Walter, Esq., was not duly elected a burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the borough of Nottingham,1323That the last election for the said borough was a void election.He further informed the House, that the committee had come to the following resolutions:—That John Walter, Esq., was, through his agents guilty of bribery and treating at the last election for the borough of Nottingham.That it was proved before the committee, that—
l. s. d. William Spurr was bribed by 0 16 0 William Wright 0 10 0 William Milner 0 12 6 John Upton 0 10 0 Edward Flinders 3 0 0 William Middup 1 1 0 James Rayner 2 0 0 William Beardsal l 10 0 Matthew Daniel 0 7 6 James Wilkinson 0 15 0 William Jarvis 0 15 0 Henry German 0 15 0 James Newton 0 15 0 Richard Roberts 0 10 0 Charles Birkin 0 10 0 James Ash 1 7 6 Thomas Johnson 1 18 0 Charles Clarke by a promise of 5l., of which he received 10s. William Hart 1 0 0 Samuel Colley by a sum not stated, given to his wife Francis Beastall by a promise of 5l.,of which he received 1l. Thomas Beastall by a promise of 5l.,of which he received 1l. John Day, paid to himself and wife 1 5 0 John Kirkham 1 0 0 William Middleton 1 0 0 John Emmerson 1 0 0That it was not proved that such bribery was committed with the knowledge or consent of the aforesaid John Walter, Esq.The report brought up and ordered to be laid on the Table.
The Earl of Lincoln
said, that it had been the practice during the last Session of Parliament, whenever a report like this was presented, that a new writ for the borough should not be granted until the evidence taken before the committee was printed. He wished to know from his hon. Friend the Chairman of the committee, whether, in conformity with this practice, he intended to move that this evidence should be printed, and that the issuing of a new writ for the borough of Nottingham be suspended, until the evidence was before the House? If the hon. Member did not take this course he should.
§ Mr. Hogg
had only one object or desire 1324 in this case, which was to pursue that course which was in conformity with the opinion of the House, and which was best calculated to promote the ends of justice. He had received no instructions from the committee over which he had presided, either to move the writ, or to oppose that motion in the event of its being brought forward by any hon. Member—he was however, happy to move that the proceedings before the committee be printed.
§ Motion carried.
§ Mr. Hogg
said, he had received no instructions from the committee; but he hoped that he should not be acting in opposition to their wishes in moving that, until the House had an opportunity to consider this evidence, the issuing of the writ for the borough of Nottingham be suspended. He would say for a fortnight.
§ Lord John Russell
had no objection to the motion of the hon. Member in the present instance, but he thought that it was a motion to which they ought not to agree in every case. It was, he thought, in this instance a proper motion, and other cases might arise in which it might be equally proper, but he thought that the House would not consider itself bound to take this course upon every occasion.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was rather inclined to think, that as this was a motion of which no notice had been given, it should hardly on this occasion be pressed on the attention of the House.
§ Mr. C. Wood
, as a Member of the Chairman's panel, felt himself bound to say that he did not think that it was quite fair to throw upon the Chairman of a committee the responsibility of taking such a course as that which on this occasion had been cast upon the hon. Gentleman opposite. The duty of a chairman was to obey the desires of the committee; and, such being his position, he thought that the hon. Gentleman ought not to have been called upon to assume the position in which he was placed, because he must be taken, to a great extent, to express the feelings and views of the committee of which he had been Chairman.
§ Mr. Aglionby
thought that the noble Lord the Member for Nottinghamshire (Lord Lincoln) was in error in supposing that that which he had stated was a correct description of the prevailing practice of the last Session of Parliament. He thought that that which he had stated was 1325 not the practice, but the exception, and that it was only when grounds for the suspension of the writ were stated, that the course which the noble Lord had described was taken. He did not know that any grounds had as yet been stated for this motion. In the case of the Athlone election committee the other day the writ was moved immediately and issued accordingly; and that was the general rule of proceeding; and unless the House received an assurance that some grounds existed to induce the committee to take the course now suggested, and call for the suspension of the writ, he maintained that that course ought not to be adopted.
The Earl of Lincoln
bad stated what he believed to have been the common practice in the last Session of Parliament when such reports were made. In the Athlone case there was no specific report alleging bribery. [Mr. Aglionby: Alleging treating.] But there was no report in that case, such as had been read at the bar that evening upon the subject of the election at Nottingham.
§ Mr. Cochrane
, as a Member of the committee, begged to state that he should object to the suspension of the writ.
§ Mr. Hawes
thought that to assent to the present motion under the present circumstances, would be calculated to establish a precedent which it was not right should be acted upon. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would withdraw this motion, upon an understanding that no motion for a new writ should be made without notice.
§ Sir R. Peel
did not see how they could come to such a distinct understanding, unless every individual Member gave his assent to it. The usual course to pursue was for some Member to move for the writ. If the House chose to lay it down as a rule that no one could move for a writ without giving notice it might do so, but he did not see how they could come to this constructive understanding. He thought the best course would be for his noble Friend to move that the evidence be printed and laid upon the Table of the House, and then to give notice that he should oppose the motion for a new writ in case it should be made prior to that evidence being laid before the House. But he did not think the proposed understanding would be binding on any individual.
§ Sir C. Lemon
observed, that the motion 1326 of the hon. Member (Mr. Hogg) seemed to him to be founded upon a misconception. This was not a special report, but simply a report in conformity with the act. In order to justify the suspension of the writ it should have pointed out this case as distinguished by some extraordinary act of corruption.
§ Mr. Hogg
expressed a hope, if any importance were attached to the circumstance of the present motion having emanated from him, that the House would permit him to withdraw it; because in his individual capacity he was of opinion that no case had been made out for the suspension of the writ, and he made the motion merely for the purpose of affording the House an opportunity of coming to a decision on the subject, and not for the purpose of expressing any opinion either on behalf of the committee or for himself.
§ Motion withdrawn.
The Earl of Lincoln
gave notice, that, on a motion for a new writ, he would move that it be not issued until the evidence of the committee was before the House.
§ Mr. Hume moved that a new writ be now issued for the borough of Nottingham.
§ Sir G. Grey
thought it was the feeling of the House that the writ should be suspended until the evidence was printed; but, as any hon. Member might to morrow move that a new writ be issued, he should join the noble Lord in opposing the issue of the writ while the evidence was in the printer's hands.
§ Mr. French
called on the House to observe that the chairman of the committee and also another member of it, declared it to be their opinion that the writ ought not to be suspended. As a motion had been made, he thought the House should go to a division on the question whether the writ be issued or not.
The Earl of Lincoln
thought the most convenient course for him to pursue would be, to move, as an amendment, that the writ be suspended to that day sennight.
§ Sir G. Grey
knew nothing of the proceedings of the Nottingham committee except what he had now heard from the report, which contained a list of voters who were proved before the committee to have been bribed. It was well known that the cases of all the voters actually bribed were not brought before the committee, and that as many only were pro- 1327 duced as were necessary to establish the charge of bribery. It did not follow that many others might not have been bribed. But, at all events, looking at the previous proceedings of this borough, at the fact that a former election had been set aside by a select committee on the grounds of notorious bribery, and looking also at the long list of persons who had been bribed on this last occasion, and considering that the House had already gone out of the ordinary course, in having ordered the evidence to be printed with a view to its consideration, he could not see any objection to the amendment of the noble Lord, and should, therefore, support it.
§ Mr. Aglionby
would vote for the issuing of the writ. He thought they had no right to suspend the writ unless upon very strong and special grounds. He had over and over again voted for the suspension of writs in certain cases where grounds had been shown, and where the evidence laid before the House proved that there had been general corruption in the town, and would do so again in similar cases. But in this case the noble Lord had shown no grounds for the suspension of the writ; he had merely made a motion to that effect. The right hon. Gentleman who last spoke had stated some grounds, but they were neither sufficient nor constitutional. He called upon the House to suspend the writ, because on a former occasion there was bribery and corruption at Nottingham. But it would appear that bribery had diminished. He had no local knowledge of or particular interest in the borough of Nottingham, and he assured the House that what effect the issuing or suspension of the writ would have upon the different parties in that borough he was totally ignorant. He grounded his remarks entirely upon the principle of the question. If the committee had reported specially that they had found in the borough of Nottingham general and systematic bribery, and treating and corruption upon a large scale, then might their report be considered a sufficient reason for suspending the writ; but, in point of fact, there had never been presented to that House a more simple report. It said nothing whatever against the town, but merely specified a few individuals who it appeared had been bribed with very small sums. For this reason he thought it the bounden duty of the noble Lord, or some one who supported the noble Lord's opinion, to show grounds for 1328 the suspension of the writ. They had not been told by the Chairman, or any Member of the committee, that the feeling of the committee, or any member of the Committee, was that great and systematic bribery had taken place at the last election, and he implored of the House not to act rashly in suspending the writ in the case of a large town like Nottingham, because some ten or twelve persons had been proved to have accepted bribes of a very small amount. In the case of Athlone there was precisely a similar report. In the case of Athlone treating was alleged and treating was reported to have taken place. In point of law there was no difference between the offences. Treating in Athlone had the same effect in point of law as bribery in Nottingham. He thought it a dangerous precedent to adopt to suspend the writ in this case without reason; for no one could go so far as to say that sufficient grounds had been shown for suspending the writ until the evidence be printed. Unless some Member of the committee declared that sufficient grounds existed, or unless some sufficient grounds were really advanced in favour of the suspension of the writ, he should vote against it.
§ Mr. Cochrane
said, that after the question had been referred to a select committee, after the report which had been presented from that committee, and after the declaration which had that evening been made by individual Members of it that they saw no reason why the writ should not be issued, he thought it would be a most unjust proceeding on the part of the House to agree to its suspension. It could not be alleged that the cases of bribery enumerated in the report, amounting in all to about 3l. or 40l. could possibly justify the House in suspending the writ He was decidedly of opinion that they did not, and that to take such a step without sufficient ground would form a very objectionable precedent, and one which might be liable to great misconstruction.
§ Lord John Russell
The House had already ordered that the minutes of evidence taken before the committee be laid on the Table of the House and be printed for the information of hon. Members, and that step, he supposed, had been taken for the purpose of considering the result of the facts proved. The House found no fault with the decision of the committee, so far as that decision came within the 1329 purveiw of the duties imposed on them. The committee had discharged its duties, but he was not disposed to believe that, after the House had ordered the minutes of evidence to be produced, they should go so far as to say that they were entirely satisfied, from what had been said by the chairman and one other member of the committee, that no grounds existed for suspending the issuing of the writ, or for taking any further steps whatever. It had been said that the noble Lord had not stated any grounds for his proposition, and it was impossible that he should do so until he had seen the evidence which had been given. It was for the purpose of seeing and considering that evidence, and of ascertaining whether any grounds of disfranchisement existed, that the writ was now sought to be suspended. His hon. Friend (Mr. Aglionby) was justified in saying that in an ordinary case the House would not be disposed to order the minutes of evidence to be printed, and to suspend the writ, even for a day; but the House could not lose sight of the fact that there had been a select committee appointed last year to inquire into previous occurrences, and into the manner in which the seat for this borough had been vacated; and the elections for Nottingham should be, therefore, looked at with jealousy by the House. He did not say that it would not be proper, on reading the evidence, to issue the writ, but he thought that much care and deliberation was requisite upon these questions; and he confessed that he did not think that the great question of constitutional liberty would be much affected by this proceeding.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought that there was ample ground for the suspension of this writ until the House had had an opportunity of looking at the evidence. The report stated that the agents of Mr. Walter had been guilty of bribery and treating, and that the bribery had been brought home to them; and no fewer than twenty-seven cases were mentioned of persons actually receiving bribes. Let the House observe what some of these case were. It was proved in some case that 1l. had been paid, but that that sum was part only of 5l. promised; there were three cases of such promises and part payments, but there were twenty seven cases in which bribery was clearly established. He did not mean to prejudice the case as to whether the evidence would justify the suspension of 1330 the writ, but as they were to have the evidence laid before them, and as twenty-seven cases were proved, he thought that they were bound to accede to the amendment of his noble Friend.
§ Mr. Hogg
wished to state his impartial opinion to the House as chairman of this committee. When he stated that there was no ground for suspending the writ, he alluded merely to the evidence that had been taken before the committee on the present occasion. He also considered it to be his duty, as chairman of that committee, to say that the committee did not, from the evidence taken before it, deem it necessary to make any special report. It should be recollected that this was a borough containing 60,000 inhabitants, and between 5,000 and 6,000 voters. On the present occasion the general prevalence of bribery had not been brought permanently under the notice of the committee, and he thought that nothing could tend more to defeat the object which the House had so much in view—namely, the suppression of bribery—than for it to press for the suspension of the writ or the disfranchisement of a place where the bribery and corruption had not been enormous. The House might depend upon it that the pursuing such a course would have a very different effect from putting down bribery. He did not mean to say that the bribery was confined to the twenty-seven or twenty-eight cases mentioned in the report of the committee; indeed he knew that it extended much further, for the evidence taken before the committee showed that bribery and treating was extensively carried on there. But admitting all this, still on reference to the number of the electors and to the size of the borough, he did not think that the bribery or treating, or other corruption, was sufficiently extensive to justify the committee in making a special report. They had, therefore, made a report in conformity with the terms of the act of Parliament. He was sure that it was the opinion of the committee that if any further steps should be taken they should originate with the House. He must add, however, that it would appear rather foolish to call for the production of the evidence and proceedings of the committee, if it was at once to put them aside. For his own part, if he was compelled to give his vote, and if the hon. Member persisted in moving that the writ be suspended, he should certainly vote with him.
§ Lord Ebrington
wished to know from the hon. Member who had stated that, as chairman of the election committee, he did not consider that there was sufficient to justify the suspension of the writ, why he so readily yielded to the suggestion made to his elbow, to move for the production of the minutes of evidence taken before the committee.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not think that it was prudent for the House rashly to suspend the issuing writs. It was a dangerous exercise of power, and if often adopted, might he productive of the most serious consequences. He agreed with his hon. Friend, the chairman of the committee, that although bribery might be found to have been committed in a place, still it might not be carried to such an extent as to justify them in resorting to extreme measures. The case of Nottingham, however, was different from an ordinary case, for it must be in the recollection of all, that the House appointed a special committee last year, to inquire into certain peculiar circumstances connected with Nottingham, and to report concerning certain corrupt compromises which had been entered into for the purpose of avoiding investigation into gross bribery, which had been alleged to have been practised there. In that report it was stated, that the number of electors for the borough of Nottingham was 5,400, that the sum expended on the election, on the part of Sir John Cam Hobhouse, and Sir George Larpent, was 12,000l. Of this sum a very large part was expended in an illegal manner; some in direct bribery, some in treating, and other unlawful proceedings, without the personal cognizance of the candidates. The expenditure on the part of the opposing candidates appears to have been about 4,000l. or 5,000l. The expense was thus, comparatively small, because the poll was not taken, and it was stated that the bribery of the voters and other illegal practices in this interest, were thus rendered unnecessary. It is clear, that the system on the one side and the other was the same, which system arose in some of the preceding elections, and was particularly developed in that of April, 1841. With this report before the House, it was clear that Nottingham did not stand in the situation of an ordinary borough, where bribery to a limited extent only had prevailed. He did not mean to say, that 1332 there were grounds in the present instance for proceeding against Nottingham as a case of general bribery and corruption, but as the House had called for the evidence taken before the committee, he thought, that before they had seen what it was, it would be improper, under the peculiar circumstances of the ease of this town, at once to issue the writ. What he had just mentioned, alone, would induce him to vote for the suspension of the writ, for he objected most strongly to resorting to such a proceeding as a general rule.
§ Mr. Hawes
thought, that if the House was called upon to suspend the writ, that it should only be induced to do so on special grounds. He objected to the right hon. Gentleman quoting the proceedings of the Election Compromise Committee as having reference to the present question. That committee had referred to it the consideration of the circumstances which had led to the compromises which prevented the House from investigating the bribery that was alleged to have taken place at Nottingham and other places; but that committee did not allege that these corrupt practices prevailed there to such an extent as to call for the disfranchisement of the borough. The recent committee, also, although it alleged specific cases of bribery, did not make any special report as to the general prevalence of it there, he, therefore, did not think, that there was sufficient ground for suspending the writ. He must admit, however, that after having ordered the production of the evidence, that it was the rational course to read it. But in all cases of writs, he thought that it would be well to act upon a suggestion which was thrown out by the right hon. Baronet, and he hoped, that the noble Lord, the Member for London, and the right hon. Gentleman would agree to some resolution on the subject, so that there should be a practice that no writ should be moved for without due notice.
§ Sir Charles Douglas
thought, that the House, consistently, could not vote for any other course than the suspension of the writ; for, after the evidence they had of what took place at the last election for Nottingham, it was a matter of consequence that the House should look into the evidence to see by whom the parties named in the report had been bribed at the last election. If those agents which were referred to as having been instrumental in the commission of these acts of 1333 bribery, should turn out to have been electors of Nottingham, he thought, that there would be grounds for resorting to some further steps in the matter.
§ Mr. B. Escott
said, that the House was already in a position to know some of the merits of the case, for three Members of the committee had told them that they did not consider that the evidence taken before them was such as to justify the House in refusing to issue the writ. Under these circumstances he did not see what necessity there was for their persevering in the motion to have the evidence laid before the House. If the hon. Member persevered in his motion for the issuing the writ, he should vote for it on constitutional grounds.
§ The House divided on the question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 69; Noes 91: Majority 22.
|List of the NOES.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Hogg, J. W.|
|Baring, right hn. F. T.||Howard, hon. C.W.G.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Humphery, Mr. Ald.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hussey, T.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Hutt, W.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Johnston, A.|
|Christie, W. D.||Kemble, H.|
|Cobden, R.||Labouchere, rt. hn.H.|
|Cochrane, A.||Lambton, H.|
|Collett, W. R.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Murray, C. R. S.|
|Disraeli, B.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Duncan, G.||O'Brien, J.|
|Duncombe, T.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Ellice, E.||Rice, E. R.|
|Elphinstone, H.||Ross, D. R.|
|Escott, B.||Scholefield, J.|
|Evans, W.||Scott, R.|
|Fielden, J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Forster, M.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Fox, C. R.||Thornely, T.|
|French, F.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Gill, T.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Goring, C.||Wall, C. B.|
|Greene, T.||Wawn, J.T.|
|Hawes, B.||Williams, W.|
|Henley, J. W.||Hume, J.|
|Hindley, C.||Aglionby, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adare, Visct.||Aldam, W.|
|Adderley, C. B,||Arkwright, G.|
|Bailey, J. Jun.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Beckett, W.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Lascelles, hon. W. S.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Maclean, D.|
|Buller, C.||Masterman, J.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Morgan, O.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Morris, D.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Clerk, Sir G.||Neeld, J.|
|Colquhoun, J. C.||Nicholl, right hon. J.|
|Corry, right hon. H.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Northland, Visct.|
|Cripps, W.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Darner, hon. Col.||Patten, J. W.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Peel, right hon. Sir R.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Peel, J.|
|Duffield, T.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Pringle, A.|
|Eliot, Lord||Richards, R.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Round, J.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Scarlett, hon. R. C.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Smith, A.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Smith, rt. hon. T. B.C.|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Stanley, Lord|
|Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Thornhill, G.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Tufnell, H.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Young, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Freemantle, Sir T.|
|Hope, G. W.||Baring, H.|
§ The words proposed by Lord Lincoln were added to the motion, which, as amended, was put and agreed to.
§ The issuing the writ suspended for a week.