HC Deb 23 July 1844 vol 76 cc1288-92
Mr. T. Duncombe

said, that in the modified form in which he was about to submit to the House the Motion of which he had given notice, he hoped there would be no objection on the part of the right hon. Baronet opposite to consent to the production of the Papers for which he asked. He begged to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions, that there be laid before this House, Copies of all Despatches and Correspondence that have passed between the Government and the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, from the 1st day of April last, to the present time. He had on a former occasion postponed his Motion, at the request of the right hon. Baronet, because certain judicial proceedings were pending in Guernsey; and he wished it to be distinctly understood that he now moved for no Papers which had reference to any pending judicial investigations; but he thought something in the shape of explanation was due from that House and from the Government to the inhabitants of Guernsey. The people of Guernsey complained, that in the month of May last, to their great astonishment and surprise, a very large military reinforcement, consisting of 600 men, with ammunition and military stores landed in that island. He believed that no persons were more loyal and well-disposed towards this kingdom than the people of Guernsey and the adjacent islands; and they might well be surprised to find this large armament landed on their shores. He before asked the right hon. Baronet opposite whether that force was sent to Guernsey in consequence of any apprehensions entertained by the Government of internal commotion or foreign aggression; and the right hon. Baronet said he had felt it his duty to send that force, in consequence of representations made to the Home Government by the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey — a gallant officer in whom the Government reposed the greatest confidence. The right hon. Gentleman said that the circumstances were then undergoing investigation, and that an inquiry had been instituted by the Government to ascertain whether the charges made against some of the inhabitants were well-founded or not. The troops remained for some weeks on the island; but he believed they had now been altogether withdrawn. He did not blame the Government for the course they had adopted, after representations had been made to them by the Lieutenant Governor and by other persons on the island; but he thought it was evident they had been grossly imposed upon. It appeared that the Rev. Mr. Dobree, a minister of the Established Church, made some representations to the Lieutenant Governor. These representations were made by a person of the name of Moulin, who died at the Rev. Mr. Dobree's house. Moulin made a confession, when upon his death-bed, that he had been poisoned. The Rev. Mr. Dobree communicated this circumstance to the Government. After Moulin died, the force of which he complained was despatched to the island. The Lieutenant Governor ordered a post mortem examination of the body, and it was established that there was not the slightest foundation for the suspicion that Moulin had been poisoned. The alleged conspiracy became a matter of inquiry. The Royal Court sat several days to investigate the question. Mr. Dobree was examined by the Court. He then repeated the confession which Moulin had made on his death-bed. He would not state who the parties were who were engaged in the conspiracy; for this he was committed for contempt of court, and kept in confinement for several days. There was not the slightest foundation for the assertion of Mr. Dobree. His evidence was completely set aside by the jury. The parties tried for sedition were all honourably acquitted. The right hon. Baronet must be aware that there existed in the island considerable excitement in consequence of this charge of conspiracy. The most respectable portion of the inhabitants of that island met and voted an address to Her Majesty, expressive of their loyalty. The militia of the island also considered themselves greatly aggrieved. In consequence of the representations of Mr. Dobree it was believed that a portion of the militia had conspired against the life of the Lieutenant Governor, and intended to assassinate him when they met to celebrate the Queen's birthday. He (Mr. Duncombe) wished the right hon. Baronet to come forward and declare that not the slightest imputation rested against the loyalty of any person connected with the island. He thought that the right hon. Baronet could do so conscientiously. It was perfectly competent for the House of Commons to require these Papers and Correspondence. The expense of sending this additional force to the island would, no doubt, form an item in the Army Estimates; but, independently of that argument in favour of his Motion, he again repeated that so large a body of people, the most peaceable and loyal in the kingdom, had a right to see those Papers, and to have some public declaration from the right hon. Baronet on the subject.

Sir James Graham

said, it was true that he had asked the hon. Gentleman to postpone his Motion; but on the part of the Crown it was necessary that he should exercise discretion with reference to the production of the Papers which the hon. Gentleman had moved for. No one could regret more deeply than he did the misunderstanding which had arisen in one of the Channel Islands between the Governor and a portion of the inhabitants. He had stated on more than one occasion, what he now would with great satisfaction repeat, namely, that with respect to the loyalty and attachment of the great body of the inhabitants of Guernsey, there could be no doubt—no suspicion whatever could be cast upon them. Nevertheless there was reason to believe, and he still did believe, that a plot was formed against the life of the Lieutenant Governor, and he believed that it was intended to carry that plot into execution on the birthday of Her Majesty, when the militia would be assembled. The House was aware of the general character of the Lieutenant Governor of that island; he was amongst the most distinguished military men in the service of Her Majesty—a man of strong nerve and firm mind, who was not likely on slight grounds to apprehend danger; and yet that gentleman had informed him, about ten days before the birth-day of Her Majesty was to have been celebrated, that the wicked intention to which allusion had been made was formed, and was to be carried into execution on that particular day. The militia were consequently prohibited from assembling, and an additional force sent to the island; and the Government also sent a confidential legal adviser to collect evidence. The Gentleman to whom had been confided that trust was a Gentleman of strict integrity, and considerable legal knowledge, and, from the evidence which had been obtained, he (Sir J. Graham) again repeated the solemn statement, that he did believe such a plot existed. A person worthy of credit first gave information of the existence of that plot, and the particular day on which it was to be carried into execution. He feared that further legal proceedings must arise out of this transaction; questions were still pending intimately connected with those matters. He repeated that he had no suspicion of the loyalty of the island generally, but there existed against the Lieutenant Governor in certain quarters the most bitter and implacable animosity. There was nothing to impugn his impartial conduct. He was bound to say that at the present moment questions were pending in immediate connection with the administration of justice, and it would be, therefore, in the highest degree inexpedient that he should grant the Correspondence moved for by the hon. Gentleman. Having given an explanation which he hoped would be satisfactory to him, he hoped he would not press his Motion; if, however, the hon. Gentleman did so, he should feel it his duty to resist it.

Mr. Duncombe

said, that as the right hon. Baronet said that further proceedings would be instituted with reference to this subject, it would be most improper for him to press his Motion for the production of the Papers. But he must be allowed to say, at the same time, that he could not help thinking that the declaration made by the right hon. Baronet would cause great grief and disappointment in the island. He did not believe that there was a single individual in that island, notwithstanding what the right hon. Baronet had said, upon whom he could place his finger and say that he was a disloyal subject. It all turned upon this: did the right hon. Baronet and the Lieutenant Governor place the least credit on the statement made by the Rev. Mr. Dobree? Did they place confidence in the evidence of a man who at the Royal Court the other day, it was well known, perjured himself? The Rev. Mr. Dobree sometimes fancied, not only that persons were going to shoot the Lieutenant Governor, but that they were going to shoot himself. They had only his word, and that of Mr. Moulin, and he believed they would not find one person in the island who would give credit to the fact. Sometimes this Mr. Dobree, when he fancied that he was going to be shot at himself, nailed down the windows, and having wrapped the union jack around his pulpit, sat in it, and fancied himself under the protection of the British flag. And yet upon the statement of such a man, which he said had been given him by a person who was dead, two thousand of the loyal militia of the island were not allowed to assist in the celebration of Her Majesty's birth-day. He did not believe that there was the least foundation for any of the charges which had been made.

Sir James Graham

said, the hon. Gentleman assumed that the charge rested on the statement of one Gentleman only, but it was not so, for it rested in the first instance, on the deliberate opinion of the Lieutenant Governor himself, and General Napier was a man of as sane and strong a mind as could exist. It rested on evidence first given to the Lieutenant Governor, which had since been sifted by Mr. Daniel, and he (Sir James Graham) would again repeat that he believed such a plot existed.

Motion withdrawn.