HC Deb 08 August 1844 vol 76 cc1925-30

On the Motion that the Order of the Day be read,

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, it was with very great reluctance he proposed to occupy the attention of the House with anything personal to himself, but publications were sometimes made with respect to what took place in that House, and made, too, under the sanction of persons in high office, which rendered it necessary to take notice of them. It would be in the recollection of the House that a short debate had recently taken place on the affairs of Guernsey. Certainly the report of that debate in the newspaper was curtailed and inaccurate. Shortly after it was published he received a letter from the rev. Mr. Dobree, whose name had been mentioned in that House by himself and the right hon. Baronet. A letter denying the accuracy of his statements regarding Mr. Dobree had also appeared, two days previously to his receiving that of which he spoke, in the Times newspaper, under the sanction of the Lieutenant Governor, and which appeared to have been inserted, because a letter from the Lieutenant Governor headed the correspondence, requesting of the editors of the Times redress by that publication. The letter which he had received was dated "Forest Rectory, 28th of July, 1844," that day being Sunday, and it was not for him (Mr. Duncombe) to say whether it was the sort of correspondence which a minister of the Gospel ought to indite on such a day. The letter was as follows;—

"Forest Rectory, Guernsey, July 28.

"Sir,—In the Times newspaper of the 24th inst. I observe, with much surprise, a speech Attributed to you, in which you think fit to charge me with 'perjury' and 'insanity.'

"Permit me, Sit, to assure you that I am neither perjured nor insane; and as I am entirely unacquainted with you, and have never given you the least cause (that I am aware of) of personal offence, I confess that I am totally at a loss to account for so virulent and unprovoked an attack on your part.

"The utter recklessness of your charges will be better understood by the absurd inaccuraracies into which you have fallen with regard to facts;—

  1. "1. Mr. Moullin did not die at my house.
  2. "2. He made no death-bed confession.
  3. "3. The Lieutenant Governor did not order a post mortem examination.
  4. "4. There is no such thing as a jury in the Island of Guernsey.
  5. "5. The proof of a plot did not rest entirely on my evidence alone.
  6. "6. I never entertained an idea in my life that I was to be shot at, although I certainly was fired at on the evening of Moullin's funeral.
  7. "7. I never nailed down my windows; nor were they ever nailed down by any one else, at any time whatever.
  8. "8. I never have been in the habit of wrapping the union jack round my pulpit, &c.
  9. "9. I never was reputed insane at any time, until you were kind enough to make the discovery; nor any of my family. I have had the honour to be brought up at the same school with Ralph Etwall, Esq., M.P.; Sir Edward Filmer, M.P.; Captain Archdall, M.P. &c, and I believe they will tell you I was not considered quite a fool at that time.

"Neither am I ashamed of those testimonials I obtained during my University career at Pembroke College, Oxford, and which are at your service if you desire them.

"At a later period, I have filled the responsible situation of first classical master at Elizabeth College, Guernsey, for six years of my life, with the entire approbation of the former and present principals of that establishment, as their testimonials will show, and I have now the honour of being senior director of that College.

"I have received the public thanks of the late Lieutenant Governor-General Ross for my humble exertions during the cholera in this island, and General Napier is perfectly satisfied I have done no more than my duty in the present melancholy affair.

"I also enclose you the certificates of the highest medical authority in this island as to my perfect sanity at the present time, and those gentlemen have known me from my boyhood intimately.

"And now, Sir, having given you every proof a man can offer of the falsehood of the infamous allegations contained in your speech (if such it be), I call on you to retract them or to give up your authority for making them. If not, I hold you personally responsible for what you have uttered. Really honourable Gentlemen should not be so ready to destroy the reputation and prospects of men with whose character they are totally unacquainted.

"The humble clergyman, whom you are pleased to style 'a perjurer' in the House of Commons, is proud to tell you, that he has more than once perilled his life and his liberty, when his honour was concerned, and he is not yet so utterly helpless as to suffer you, high though your station be, to be the first to throw a slur on his character with impunity either public or private.

"I, therefore, distinctly call upon you to disavow your assertions, to prove them, or to give up your authority for making them. If not, I hold you personally responsible for publishing a tissue of the most infamous falsehoods against me. I have little doubt but that you have been miserably deceived by some party advocate on this side of the water, and, as a gentleman, you can have no objection to furnish me with his name immediately.

"I have the honour to be, Sir,

"Your most obedient, servant,


"Rector of the Forest and Torteval.

"Thos. Duncombe, Esq., M.P., &c."

The hon. Member also read several certificates as to Mr. Dobree's state of mind, and the following letter from General Napier:—

"Haviland Hall, July 23.

"Sir—As I see that your enemies, as unscrupulously as they are locally powerful, have determined to destroy your character and prospects, I give this testimony in all sincerity of belief in its truth, and in accordance with what I have more than once written to the Secretary of State for the Home Office. From personal observation, from the assurance of British officers, natives of Guernsey, and others not natives of Guernsey, from your general character, and from the straightforward, frank, earnest, and unvarying testimony you have given to me in private, to Mr. Dampier, and in my presence at the so-called secret inquest of the Royal Court, I have the most implicit confidence in the truth of your depositions. I feel sure that you are totally incapable of falsehood, and that perjury is as incompatible with your notions of honour, as it is incompatible with your sacred character of a Minister of the Gospel. All persons of honourable minds who know you, must start with indignation and horror at the infamous attempts now made to charge you with such a crime.


"Lieutenant Governor.

"To the Rev. Daniel Dobree."

"And now, Sir, pray tell me what is Mr. Thomas Slingsby Duncombe?

"I am, Sir,

"Your obliged and grateful servant,


"Rector of the Forest and Torteval, Gurnsey,

"Forest Rectory August, 6."

He was justified in asking the Government whether they sanctioned the Crown Solicitor taking any part in this personal squabble between the Rev. Mr. Dobree and himself. It would be recollected that he appeared there in the discharge of his public duty. He knew nothing of any of these parties, he was merely the channel of communication between that House and the great body of the people of Guernsey. Mr. Dobree had charged those people with disaffection and disloyalty; a charge which was quite unfounded. It had been proved in a court of justice that Mr. Dobree was unworthy of credit. The following extracts from the account of the proceedings for using violent and seditious expressions, instituted against M. Lepelley, in the Royal Court of Guernsey, contained in the Guernsey Star, of the 15th of July, might throw some light on this matter. [The hon. Member quoted the paragraph.] What he complained of was, that when he moved for the correspondence which had taken place between the authorities of Guernsey and the right hon. Baronet, he should be told that the production of that correspondence would be injurious to the public service, and yet the Crown Solicitor and the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey should be allowed from time to time to refer to it in the newspapers. He thought it but just that the correspondence should be produced, or that it should not be referred to by a subordinate of the Government such as he apprehended Mr. Dampier was. As to the charge which he (Mr. Duncombe) had made, he could only say, that he was borne out by the local press of Guernsey, which teemed every week with charges against Mr. Dobree, and which defied that Gentleman to indict them for libel. He wished to know whether the Government sanctioned its officers mixing themselves up with such matters as these?

Sir J. Graham

said, it was evidently late in the Session, or the hon. Gentleman would never have taken up half an hour of their time to discuss such a question as this. If the hon. Gentleman had asked him whether the letter which had been ad- dressed to him was a letter a clergyman ought to have written, he should have said at once that it was not. But if the hon. Gentleman thought it was worth while to enter into a discussion on this matter, he was bound to say that he entertained a very different opinion. He thought it was unworthy of prolonged discussion in that House. The hon. Gentleman stated that Mr. Dampier was in the employment of the Government. Now, the hon. Gentleman ought to be better informed before he made his accusations. Mr. Dampier held no situation under Government. He was sent to Guernsey to inquire into the state of affairs there, in consequence of the information he (Sir J. Graham) received, and which had led to the trial to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Having finished that inquiry, he was as independent of any relation with the Government as was the hon. Gentleman himself. With regard to the conduct of the Governor, he had never read the letter to which the hon. Gentleman referred. He had never seen nor heard of it till the present occasion. His time was too much occupied to read the Guernsey papers, from which the hon. Gentleman quoted so largely. The Governor had known Mr. Dobree, but the hon. Gentleman had not; he had formed his opinion on grounds which the hon. Gentleman had not, and he stated that he thought Mr. Dobree was a sane and a true man; and, being of that opinion, he could not say it was at all inconsistent with his duty to certify to that effect. He thought the hon. Gentleman should be, therefore, more certain of his information. The hon. Gentleman had also, yesterday, stated that he had received positive information that Sir J. Walsham had interfered as a Poor Law Commissioner in Durham and Northumberland, and had introduced Welsh labourers to defeat the colliers who had stood for higher wages.

Mr. Duncumbe

did not say that. He had read a paragraph from the local paper which he held in his hand at the time, and he wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether it was true? It was because he did not know that it was true that he made the inquiry. With regard to another point the right hon. Gentleman had made another misstatement.

Sir J. Graham

said, he had yesterday stated that Sir J. Walsham had not interfered as a Poor Law Commissioner to put down the strike for wages in a district with which he had no connection. He (Sir J. Graham) stated that Sir J, Walsham had been an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, and had resided in Northumberland—that he was a proprietor both in Lancashire and South Wales, and that he might, as an individual, have induced persons to go to those places and obtain wages. He did not mean to say that it was in the least dishonourable for an individual. He had not then seen Sir J. Walsham, but he had since an opportunity of referring to him, and he was authorized by Sir J. Walsham to say that he had never directly or indirectly, interfered in his individual or official capacity in the manner alleged. Nothing therefore could be more unqualified than his contradiction of the statement.

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, he had never stated that he had received positive information. He had founded his question on a paragraph in the newspapers, and he had asked him whether it was true or not. The right hon. Baronet had also fallen into an error in supposing that it was he who stated that Mr. Dampier was the Crown Solicitor; it was Mr. Daniel Dobree who had stated this in his letter to the Times.