HC Deb 21 June 1844 vol 75 cc1210-2
Mr. Christie

would take that opportunity of putting a question to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, which the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite competent to answer if he pleased. He (Mr. Christie) observed by the Votes that the hon. and learned Gentleman had—no doubt as the organ of Government—last night obtained leave to bring in a Bill for the Disfranchisement of Sudbury. The question which he was about to put, and of which he had given the hon. and learned Gentleman due notice, arose out of the proceedings at the late election for Abingdon. The question was this—whether it were or were not true, that on the close of that election, the hon. and learned Member, while seated in his triumphal chair, and borne about in grand procession, had distributed the sum of 501., by scattering it amongst the crowd from a bag of silver which he held in his hand. He did not make this statement on his own authority, but on that of a communication made to him. In that account it was said, that at twelve o'clock the chairing procession moved off from the Crown and Thistle Inn, preceded by a brass band, consisting; of some twenty old men. Then followed many of the hon. and learned Gentleman's supporters, after whom the hon. and learned Gentleman himself was borne in his triumphal chair. The account sent to him went on to say, that an election was always a very important matter at Abingdon, but the chairing was the most important thing of all for on that occasion it was customary for the successful candidate to scatter what was called "scramble money" from a bag of silver which he had in front of him. The amount of scramble money thus distributed varied according to the feelings of the Member. In Mr. Maberly's time, the amount of scramble silver was said to be at least 150l. Mr. Duffield used to scatter about half that amount, but in the case of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, the scramble silver did not, it was said, exceed 50l. It was curious to see men and boys, nay, even old women and children, holding out their aprons and caps, while the Solicitor General like an elegant Gentleman as he was, was scattering the silver among them, and for which they were pushing, jostling, scrambling, and fighting, in much admired confusion. He was not answerable for the eloquence of this description, he gave the account as he got it. He did not mean to say that this practice was against the law as it now stood, but certainly it was not calculated to exalt the character of any hon. Member who made himself a party to it. He hoped he should be excused for having put the question, which he had put, not from any personal feeling but with the view of promoting the principle of purity of Parliamentary election.

The Solicitor General

said, that a very inconvenient, and, as it appeared to him, a very irregular practice had been introduced into that House, of putting questions to Members, not in relation to any business before the House, or to any Bills with which Members were charged, but with regard to matters wholly foreign to such topics, and relating to occurrences in a very different place, and which had no connection with the business before the House, however they might excite the curiosity of hon. Members. The hon. Member had, so long ago as yesterday week, given him notice of his intention to ask this question, but circumstances had prevented him from attending on the evening to which the notice referred: but he had hoped that the opportunity of reflection afforded the hon. and learned Member in the interval would have induced him to give consideration to the extreme impropriety of putting a question of this description. He certainly should not by his practice on this occasion, give his countenance to such a course, and he should, therefore, beg leave most decidedly though without the least want of respect for the hon. and learned Gentleman to decline answering that question.

Mr. Christie

said, that of course the hon. and learned Gentleman would do as he pleased with respect to the question. He had said, on putting it, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was quite competent to answer it or not as he liked; but as the hon. and learned Gentleman was a Member of the Government, and as in that character he was one of those who obtained leave to bring in a Bill for disfranchising the borough of Sudbury, he did hope he should stand excused for having put his question, relating, as he conceived it did, to a matter connected with purity of Parliamentary election.

Subject at an end.

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