HC Deb 11 July 1844 vol 76 cc624-6
Mr. Wodehouse

rose to put a question to the right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department, of which he had given him notice, respecting the Incendiary Fires in the county of Norfolk. He would, in the first instance, call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to the case of two men named Knowles, who were tried at the last Spring Assizes before Lord Abinger, in Norfolk, for incendiarism. They were found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years' transportation; but soon after they received a full pardon and returned home. Now, if he were to ask on what grounds that exercise of Her Majesty's Prerogative had been advised, and that the right hon. Baronet should decline stating those grounds he should bow and acquiesce in that determination; but he did not ask the question. Whatever were the grounds, he must say that prosecution for incendiarism was rendered almost useless in that county. The subject had been brought under notice in the other House, a few evenings back, and it was there stated, as was the fact, that the course pursued with respect to the two men he had named had placed the noble Lord, the Lord Lieutenant of that county in a position of great responsibility. It was the earnest desire of that noble Lord to treat the poor of the county with great kindness, and he was the more inclined to do so as such kindness would tend to mitigate the severity of the Poor Law. He would also state, that whether the outrages which took place in the county of Norfolk were on manufacturing or on agricultural property, it was the great object, as it was the bounden duty, of the Lord Lieutenant to keep the peace; but if he failed in that, or if his efforts did not give satisfaction to the Government, he was ready at once to place his high office in their hands without a murmur or without a sigh. He hoped the Government would bear the state of the county in mind. In a few days from the present he should be called to his county to act on the grand jury, and probably, when the calendar was examined and found very heavy, they (the jury) would have to hear a rebuke for not having performed their duty. The magistrates would do their duty — the Lord Lieutenant would do his duty; but if that noble Lord were to remain, he (Mr. Wodehouse) would ask in his name, in the name of the high sheriff, in the name of the magistrates, but, above all, in the name of the agricultural population of the county—in their names he would ask, and what he was about to ask of the Government would, he was sure, be admitted to be only fair—it was, that justice should be fairly and impartially administered. They asked no more, they sought for nothing vindictive; all they sought, and they were fully justified in seeking it, was, he repeated, that justice should be fairly and impartially administered.

Sir J. Graham

said, that he was placed in a situation of some embarrassment by the course which his hon. Friend had adopted. His hon. Friend had given notice of a question, and he had waited patiently for it, but no question came, that he had heard. There was indeed some not very clearly defined charge against him (Sir J. Graham) as to the manner in which he had administered justice in the department over which he had the honour to preside. If his hon. Friend anticipated that, he would have declined stating the grounds on which he had advised the exercise of Her Majesty's prerogative in the pardon of the two men who had been tried before Lord Abinger at the last Spring Assizes in Norfolk, he had judged most correctly; but, without stating those grounds, he would say that that advice had not been tendered to Her Majesty without a full consideration of the case, and without a firm conviction that the ends of justice would have been defeated if they had not been pardoned. As to the request made by his hon. Friend respecting the administration of the law, he begged to assure him that he had the most anxious desire that it should be administered fairly and impartially, tempering justice with mercy. Mention had been made of the name of a noble Lord—the Lord Lieutenant of the county of Norfolk. Now, in justice to that noble Lord, he must say that he had received from him the most valuable assistance in his efforts to preserve the peace of his county—that the noble Lord and himself had worked in a most harmonious manner—and that up to the present moment he was not aware that any feeling of dissatisfaction existed in the mind of the noble Lord on any subject connected with his high office.