HC Deb 21 February 1845 vol 77 cc932-1022
Mr. J. Collett

, in resuming the debate, said, that before entering on the general question, he wished to say a few words with respect to the adjournment last night. No person could regret more than he did the inconvenience to which the right hon. Baronet had been put; but in the first place, considering the importance of the subject, and that it involved considerations with respect to the liberty of the subject, and the rights of Members of Parliament, he considered he was justified in demanding an adjournment. In the second place, he thought that the state of public feeling required a full discussion on the subject. In the third place, he thought he was justified in moving that adjournment, by the lateness of the hour when the noble Lord's (Lord Howick's) Amendment was brought forward. In the fourth place, he thought an adjournment was due to the Speaker, who had sat for nine hours in that Chair, and the House had appointed to meet at twelve o'clock on the following day. In the fifth place, he considered that an adjournment was due to the Members on his side of the House, and to Members on the other side, who were desirous of addressing the House on this subject, and for whom it was well known it was impossible to obtain a hearing at a late hour of the night. It might be all very well for the right hon. Baronet opposite, or for the noble Lord the Member for London, to say they wished the debate to close—it was all very well for those great guns, who could always secure a hearing whenever they chose to speak, if it were six o'clock in the morning—but for those little men, who very seldom troubled the House, they knew very well that if they rose after eleven o'clock at night, they were interrupted by the Members who then came pouring in for the purpose of swelling a majority. If it were really desired that the debates of the House should be brought to an earlier conclusion, the duration of the speeches of Members should be limited. The Member, for example, who made a Motion might be allowed half an hour at the outside, and every other speaker should be limited to a quarter of an hour; but if some Members would persist in speaking two or three hours at a time, the little men had no chance at all. With regard to the main question, he considered the construction of the Committee and all the proceedings before it as highly unsatisfactory. They had come to a most lame and impotent conclusion in the last paragraph of their Report, where they said, "Under these circumstances it will be for Parliament to consider whether they will determine upon any legislative regulation," &c. Why, those Gentlemen very well knew that it was impossible for Parliament to do any such thing without the evidence before them which had been submitted to the Committee. To do so would be like the performance of Hamlet with the principal character left out. A serious charge had been brought by his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, and he had offered to prove that charge, and it was impossible that the affair could be properly examined by a Committee which was secret, and from which that hon. Member was excluded. The Committee had power to send for persons, papers, and records, and if they had chosen they might have examined the hon. Member for Finsbury. What the country wanted was a bonâ fide honest inquiry, for the purpose, if possible, of getting rid of the degrading and un-English custom of breaking open and resealing letters. Without any reference to the question whether this or that Government issued the greater number of warrants, let there be an open inquiry into the whole question, and let this abominable system be put an end to, so that the people might gain confidence in the inviolability of their correspondence. That must sooner or later be done, and if soon it would be with a better grace. About the end of the last Session there was a trial in the Exchequer where the point at issue was the age and identity of a horse, and the Judge was reported to have said to the counsel, that if he wished to influence the court or the jury, and to obtain a verdict, he should produce his horse. So he (Mr. Collett) said to the right hon. Baronet, if he wished to secure a majority in the House, and influence the public mind, he would produce his horse; for the hon. Member for Finsbury wanted to look into his mouth. The hon. Member concluded by insisting upon the necessity of an opportunity being given for the fullest investigation.

Mr. Ridley Colborne

said, that if the question before the House had merely affected the hon. Member for Finsbury he should have been content to have given his negative to the hon. Gentleman's proposition; but the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland made it necessary for him to explain the reason of the vote which he should give on the present occasion. Frequent allusions had been made to the proceedings of the Committee of the House of Lords on this subject, the Chairman of which was a noble relative of his; and having taken considerable interest in the proceedings of that Committee, it was but natural that he should look with more than usual anxiety to the fate of the present Motion. His noble Friend undertook the office of Chairman to their Lordships' Committee with the greatest unwillingness, feeling it to be a task which it was most difficult to fulfil in a satisfactory way, because it was almost impossible to prepare a Report that could fail either to dissatisfy the parties calling for the inquiry, or inflict a severe rebuke on Her Majesty's Government. But a Report having been drawn up, in which noble Lords of the highest character had mainly coincided, he was bound to say that if he were to concur in the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, he should be doing neither more nor less than virtually passing a vote of censure upon his noble Relative and the other noble Lords who were Members of their Lordships' Committee. But passing by the personal view of the question, he was not inclined to agree with the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. The Committee to which this question had been referred was composed of men of high character, sound judgment, and independent of all party bias. Admitting that, he was bound to say that he could fully understand why the people of England should not be satisfied with their decision. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) had chosen to make the Committee a secret one. It might be true that he did not actually propose it himself, but he knew very well that any suggestion of his immediately became a law. The right hon. Gentleman might be a better judge as to the persons who should form the Committee than he was; and, led away by the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Colborne) certainly did vote against the hon. Member for Finsbury being a Member of the Committee. But he was not now ashamed to own that, in that instance, he considered that he had acted perfectly wrong. They ought all to have remembered the attacks which that hon. Gentleman had made upon Her Majesty's Government, and that if the hon. Gentleman had been on the Committee three nights arduous debate would have been saved, and great questions of public importance would not have been postponed. He was aware that this case had excited great interest throughout the country, and he could not help thinking that it was chiefly caused by the contemptuous manner in which it was met when it was first broached in that House. He was very far from wishing to be one of those persons, if there were any such, who from political reasons would run down the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman had acted with a view to the interests of the country. It was quite impossible, after what the right hon. Gentleman had stated, and which had been corroborated by Members of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament, to assent to a vote of censure upon the right hon. Gentleman. He differed in opinion from those who wished to have this power of inspection entirely done away with. No doubt it was a power most invidious in its exercise, and most disagreeable to the Minister who had to exercise it; still he could imagine cases when such a power would not only be useful, but absolutely necessary. The only question, therefore, was the amount of confidence reposed in the Gentleman who, for the time being, filled the office of Secretary of State. It had been insinuated that this was a Motion founded on party motives. He could not pretend to know the motives of the noble Lord who had moved the Amendment, but for himself he could honestly say, that he felt not the slightest personal feeling on the matter. The Amendment of the noble Lord involved no censure of the right hon. Baronet, and had no party character, and he should support it by his vote.

Mr. Ferrand

When this question, Sir, was before the House during the last Session, I studiously avoided taking any part in the discussion, because, so soon after I myself had been engaged in a personal altercation with the right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department, I doubted whether I could, unbiassed by personal feeling, give a vote upon the question. But, Sir, I paid a studious attention to the debates; I heard the statements of the hon. Member for Finsbury; and when I heard the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government object to that hon. Member being upon the Committee, he distinctly said that justice should be done to all parties by that Committee. That Committee has sat, and has reported to this House. The hon. Member has come to this House and declared in his place that that Committee has not done justice to him. Sir, in the last Session of Parliament the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department declared that he placed his honour in the hands of that Committee, confident that they would do justice to him; and he reserved to himself a right of appeal to this House. Now, Sir, I should like to know upon what grounds the right hon. Baronet has a right to reserve to himself an appeal to this House, and refuse it to the hon. Member for Finsbury? If he is satisfied with the Report of the Committee, the hon. Member for Finsbury is not; therefore the hon. Member takes advantage of what was proposed by the Government, and comes now before this House and appeals for its justice. But I heard myself last night a right hon. Gentleman, speaking from the Treasury Bench, charge those who think the hon. Member for Finsbury has been wronged, with striking at the right hon. Baronet whilst his hands were tied behind his back. I should like to know who it was that tied his hands? The hon. Member for Finsbury says he has received a personal injury at the hands of the right hon. Baronet, and the right hon. Baronet refuses to give him redress; and I am surprised that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should have tied his own hands for the purpose of committing the suicidal act of destroying his political character. There is another point I wish to bring to the notice of the House. It is this—if the right hon. Baronet has acted impartially in his office of Secretary of State, in issuing warrants for the opening of letters, the Committee which inquired into the circumstances was partially formed. The right hon. Baronet must recollect that during the year 1842, not only was the hon. Member, according to the inference which we must draw from the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury, engaged in private correspondence with persons who were supposed to be plotting against the safety of the State; but I myself the other night heard the First Lord of the Treasury quote from a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton in this House during the month of July, 1842, and upon this speech he grounded the inference which he referred to the hon. Member for Finsbury. The House will remember that in January, 1842, an article appeared in the Quarterly Review charging Members of this House with having been instigators of the populace in the manufacturing districts to break the peace; and, Sir, in that article there is reported the proceedings of a meeting held in London by some of the most influential members who compose that body as well as guide it. And, Sir, I find in that article the following statement, extracted from the columns of The Times. The House is aware how excited the public mind was during the autumn of 1842; it has not forgotten the trials which took place of large numbers of the working classes in Lancashire, when one of those persons, in defending himself, quoted largely trout speeches made by Members of this House; and that the learned Judge, when he heard those quotations read, said that although they had nothing to do with the proceedings before the Court, yet if any of the parties who used that language were indicted for it, they would be punished. These were not the exact terms which the learned Judge used; but they are the purport of what he said. On the 2nd of December, 1842, a meeting took place in London, and it was stated in the public papers the following day that— In consequence of the recent division of the metropolis into sections by the League, for the purpose of carrying on the Anti-Corn Law agitation, the first great district public meeting, section No. 1, of the Metropolitan Anti-Corn Law League was held last night in the Mechanics' Institution, Southampton-buildings; there were 800 persons present, including at least 100 females. And who does the House suppose presided over that meeting? Why, Sir, Mr. H. Warburton, ex-M. P. for Bridport. At that meeting there was strong and violent language used, within a short distance of the Home Office. The Chairman made a speech, and called upon Mr. Villiers to propose a resolution, which was seconded by Mr. Ricardo. Mr. Ewart proposed the next resolution, and said when things came to that pass, it would be better for every Englishman who loved his country to sacrifice his life in maintaining his liberty. And upon that declaration from the hon. Member, a Mr. Blackmore rose and said, "That is our order; that is physical force." The hon. Member for Bolton was also present at that meeting; and what I want to know from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department is, did he also open the letters of the hon. Members composing the Leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League, who were using that language in London—who had formed the city into sections, according to the method adopted in Paris immediately before the breaking out of the French Revolution? If he did not, he has acted partially towards the hon. Member for Finsbury, and not done justice to the office he holds. I have been struck with the manner in which the hon. Member for Finsbury has stood up in this House and boldly made his charge. I heard the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State reply to him Sir, he did not reply to him like a man who felt he had conscientiously done his duty to the office he holds. No, Sir; his defence was uttered with "bated breath" and "faltering phrase;" but if he appeared not to enter with spirit into his defence, how much more, I ask, did the hon. Member for Kendal appear to falter under the duties which he had undertaken? If the hon. Member for Kendal had not had his letters opened by the right hon. Gentleman, I think the hon. Member for Finsbury will be justified in saying, that from personal feeling towards himself the right hon. Baronet has made use of the office which he holds for the purpose of satisfying a "prurient curiosity," in peeping into his letters. But, Sir, there is another question of more vital importance than any personal feeling between the hon. Member for Finsbury and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Let the House remember he has said it is a personal feeling. Sir, I believe that those two Gentlemen were friends in their youth; they, Sir, have served in the same gallant corps; and I extremely regret to have heard expressions used in this House by those two hon. Members towards each other, which I feel in their cooler moments they would both sincerely regret. But that is no reason why the attention of this House is to be called from the serious responsibility which attaches to it, while inquiring into the circumstances connected with the power which the right hon. Baronet has legally invested in him. Now, I should like to call the attention of the hon. Member for Finsbury, the Colleague of the hon. Gentleman who promotes this question, to the power which the right hon. Baronet says he has—the power of issuing these warrants. The House and the country is well aware that the right hon. Baronet is a great advocate for the system of centralization. The right hon. Baronet is now attempting to carry out that system by introducing into Rochdale, and the vicinity immediately surrounding, the Poor Law Unions. I believe that, upon his authority, and under his sanction, the Poor Law Commissioners have sent down an Order into that district for the purpose of forming Unions. According to the Order which was so sent down, a Board of Guardians have been elected in Rochdale. ["Question, question!"] I will convince the hon. Member who calls "Question," that it is the question upon which I am now addressing the House. When I was interrupted, Sir, I said, the ratepayers of Rochdale had elected a Board of Guardians who have refused to enforce the law. The consequence has been that the Poor Law Commissioners have applied to the Court of Queen's Bench, and obtained a mandamus to compel them. The guardians have instructed their solicitor in the country to enter an appearance in the Queen's Bench, and to try the question upon its merits. That solicitor sent his instructions, as well as the merits of the defence which the guardians mean to argue against the mandamus, through the Post Office. The right hon. Baronet and the Poor Law Commissioners are both parties supporting each other in their attempts to force that law upon the Rochdale Union. I do not mean to insinuate for one instant that the right hon. Baronet has opened the letters of the solicitor to the Board of Guardians, but I mean to assert that he has the power of doing it. [A laugh]. Hon. Members may laugh, but the right hon. Baronet has the power of opening the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury, and those of as many other people as he chooses; and therefore he might open those of the solicitor to the Rochdale guardians. The right hon. Baronet issued eighteen warrants in the autumn of 1842. We do not know whose names are inserted in those warrants. I believe there are the names in them of Members of this House—of many other Members than the hon. Member for Finsbury. If there are not, it was an act of gross injustice. I say, the right hon. Baronet, if he is an unscrupulous Minister, has the power of stopping that solicitor's letters upon their road to his agents in London, to know what the merits are of the opposition of the Rochdale guardians to the Poor Law Commissioners. Whether the Poor Law Commissioners have learned the merits of the defence which the Rochdale Board of Guardians mean to offer to the determination of the Poor Law Commissioners to enforce the law in that Union, I know not; but this I do know that the Poor Law Commissioners now shrink from meeting the guardians. [Sir J. Graham: No, no.] Then I want to know why they have not proceeded with the trial during the last term? I believe myself that if the merits of the case were brought before the court—I believe that if the merits of the guardians' defence were brought fairly before the court the mandamus would be quased, and that the evidence which will be brought forward will go far to annihilate the Commissioners. It is more on this ground than any other that will cause me to vote with the hon. Member for Finsbury, for I am desirous of taking out of the hands, not only of the present Secretary of State for the Home Department, but of every other Minister of the Crown who may be hereafter in office, the opportunity of using such a power.

Mr. Strutt

I am anxious, Sir, as a Member of the Committee to which so many allusions have been made, to offer a few remarks upon the subject of this discussion. I am anxious to add my testimony to that of the noble Chairman of the Committee, and of my hon. Friend the Member for Kendal—that nothing could be more full, more open, or more voluntary, than the evidence tendered to that Committee by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and of the Members of the present and late Government. I am sure, Sir, that the Members of that Committee will agree with me in this statement that if their Report be defective, it has not been in consequence of a want of any evidence. It has been said that our Report is extremely defective; inasmuch as it does not communicate all the information which it should communicate. I beg the House to consider the position in which the Committee were placed. I would remind them that when the Committee was moved for, it was stated by the Ministers of the Crown in this House, the Committee would necessarily inquire into matters of the most secret and confidential character, and that consequently, in their opinion, information could not be given unless the proceedings were secret. The House concurred in that opinion. I took no part in the discussion; but the House unanimously decided that the Committee should be a Secret Committee. Of course the witnesses who came before us came avowedly upon the understanding that they were confiding their most important statements to our honour, otherwise their evidence would not be given. If the Members of this House now wish to repudiate the decision they came to then in acceding to the proposal that the Committee should be a secret one, they are of course at liberty to do so. If they now wish to come to a different decision, and to call for the evidence, I say it is a matter in their discretion; they may so act if they think proper; but certainly, after having come to the decision which they adopted, I do not think they can reasonably complain of the Committee for having adhered to the rule which the House itself laid down; and for having refused to publish that which would have been a gross violation of honour and confidence. But my hon. Friend, the Member for Liskeard (Mr. C. Buller), has noticed one point in which he thinks the Committee acted erroneously, in not making a greater disclosure to the House—that is, in not reporting especially upon the charge made by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, of the alleged opening of his letters. My hon. Friend (Mr. C. Buller) put his charge in this way:—there are three distinct statements made in this House; one with regard to the opening of the letters of Mr. Mazzini; a second with regard to those of the Polish gentlemen; and a third with regard to the opening of the letters of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. He says, "You have reported upon two of these questions, and you decline to report upon the third." I am not going, Sir, to enter into any statement of the reasons which may have influenced the Committee in their decisions, but I think I am able to show that there is a very decided and clear distinction between these cases. Let it be recollected that the whole question originated in the presentation of a petition from Mr. Mazzini, complaining that his letters had been opened, followed by two other petitions from the Polish gentlemen I have mentioned. The statements contained in those petitions produced a very strong feeling of indignation and sympathy, both in the House and in the country—a feeling that there had been a breach of hospitality in the case of these unfortunate foreigners—a feeling that they had been treated, if not with harshness, in an ungenerous spirit. I believe that impression was very general, both in the House and in the country; and for myself, I must say, to a considerable extent, I participated in that feeling. So strong was this feeling that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department thought it necessary to come down to this House and make a statement which, I believe, was wholly unprecedented; namely, that he had issued a warrant for opening these letters, and suggested that a Secret Committee should be appointed for the purpose of investigating the whole case, to which Committee the petitions of these foreigners were referred. I must also call the attention of the House to this fact—that the other allegation, with reference, I mean, to the opening of the letters of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, was made under very different circumstances. In that case no admission whatever had been made by the right hon. Baronet that he had opened any letters whatever. In fact, he declined altogether to answer the question. It should also be recollected, that the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury was not distinctly made in his opening speech. He only stated that he did not know but that his own letters were opened. The charge was not made in that direct form it has subsequently assumed-Besides, it was not a recent case on which the public mind was excited, the circumstance having occurred, according to the statement of the hon. Gentleman himself, in the year 1842; and if the allegation were well founded, it must have been mixed up with proceedings totally different from those to which the attention of the Secret Committee was specially directed. I repeat, Sir, that I don't pretend to give the reasons which influenced the Committee in their decision, reporting on this and not reporting on that allegation; but I think I have said enough to show that at all events there was a great distinction between the cases; and that, while a great reluctance was felt to mention any names, there might be sufficient reasons for reporting on one question, and at the same time abstaining from making a report on another, lest a precedent should be established under which every demand made by any one to know whether his letters were opened must be reported on by a Secret Committee. But even supposing the Committee were not able to go into all these questions of fact in their Report, which their duty as Members of a Secret Committee prevented, still it has been said, their summary of the evidence is not satisfactory; and they ought to have pronounced a more distinct and clear opinion as to the degree of discretion under which this power has been exercised by different Secretaries of State. I can only say, looking to the constitution of that Committee, considering that it was composed of nine Gentlemen holding very different political opinions, recollecting the difficult and delicate subject they had to deal with, it could not have excited surprise if they had come to different conclusions as to the precise degree of discretion exercised in each particular case, and chose therefore to reserve themselves altogether on that point. With reference to this most important branch of the inquiry, I must say, to whatever misconstruction I may expose myself, although I am a political opponent of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, certainly, in my opipion, he has been unfairly and harshly treated on this subject; and, however odious this power may be generally considered — however disagreeable its exercise must be to that public functionary to whom it is intrusted, I do believe he has not acted otherwise in the execution of his duty than those who preceded him in the Home Office. Sir, I consider it a matter of common justice on my part to make this avowal; and I care not, as I said before, to what accusations it may expose me. It has been said, that in another respect the Report of this Committee is unsatisfactory; inasmuch as it embodies no clear and specific recommendation to Parliament with reference to the course that should be pursued in future. There are, of course, often great varieties of opinion among the different Members of a Committee; and nothing is more common than for the Committee on such occasions to report the evidence only, leaving the House to draw what conclusions and enact what measures they please. In the case of the Committee in question, as it was a secret one, this course could not be adopted; but, at the same time, it was natural that we should not be all agreed in taking the responsibility of the particular plan to be recommended to this House; and although the course we took has afforded a fair subject for ridicule to the hon. Member for Finsbury, yet I think we took the only course competent to us when we only pointed out the different views taken by different persons of the evidence, and left the House to form its own conclusion. For myself, I should say, looking to the amount of advantage that has been obtained by the exercise of this power, on the one hand, and to the effect that has been produced on the public mind by its exercise, on the other, that if the power be continued it should not be continued in its present state. One point in the speech of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government struck me much. The right hon. Baronet described in very strong terms the state of responsibility in which the Government were placed during the outbreaks in 1842—and he added, what would be said if any Government which, having such a power and labouring under such a responsibility, neglected to use that power? I feel the full force of the right hon. Baronet's remark; but at the same time I cannot but see also that even the most honest Government, the most well-intentioned towards the country, might, under circumstances of such responsibility, be induced to make an exercise of that power which in their cooler moments they might regret, or not think advisable. Of course, I only put this hypothetically. For these reasons, however, I should wish to see some greater check put upon this power. The check which I myself should be disposed to put upon it would be, to assimilate the proceedings under warrants for opening letters as nearly as possible to those under search-warrants. Those are only granted after certain formal preliminary proceedings, and on information taken on oath, the party against whom such warrant has been issued having, in case of any abuse of the power, the means of legal redress. Now, my mode of imposing a check on the undue exercise of this power of opening letters would be, as I have said, to assimilate the proceedings with those in the case of a search-warrant, and so afford the parties affected the means of redress. With this view I must say I think the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh was well worthy the attention of the House. I am well aware that this is not the proper question to be discussed at the present time; but I do hope that at some future period it will come under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government and of this House.

Mr. Colquhoun

observed, that the honourable feeling displayed in the speech just delivered, was quite refreshing in the midst of what had been, in some respects, an acrimonious debate. He would first consider what was the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland (Lord Howick); and secondly, what it was not. If the opinion of all Members were asked whether it were not desirable to abolish such a power, if it were possible, their answers would be universally in the affirmative; but all would admit that it must be a matter of extreme difficulty to withdraw such a power altogether from the hands of the Government. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Strutt) said, regulate the power, but do not withdraw it. The hon. Member for Sheffield believed it necessary; and the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Sergeant Murphy) thought such a power so important, that, rather than do without it, he would revive the stringent provisions of the Alien Act. On this part of the question, he had looked with great anxiety for the sentiments of the noble Lord the Member for London, because last Session he had said that if he were satisfied that the Home Secretary had exercised the power in a legitimate manner, he would vote against the appointment of any Committee. Looking at the character of the Committee in both Houses of Parliament—looking at the men who had served upon them—it was evident that they had arrived at the conclusion that it would not be safe nor prudent to deprive Government of a power which it would be fit for it to exercise in case of emergency. What, then, was the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland? He did not, with the hon. Member for Finsbury, impugn the Report of the Committee; on the contrary, he entirely approved of it, and did not cast the slightest reflection on their proceedings; yet he called upon the House, on the allegation of the hon. Member for Finsbury, to inquire whether his charges were true, that his letters had been opened. It was to be observed that all the warrants issued by the Secretary of State previous to July, 1844, had been produced before the Committee; if, therefore, there had been any warrant for opening the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury, it must have been among them, for it was not pretended that any of his letters since July, 1844, had been examined. Therefore to adopt the Motion was, in fact, to impugn the Committee, for the Committee had already had the case before it, if indeed any such case could be established. The Committee had pronounced that there was no ground for a charge against the Home Secretary that he had perverted the powers of his office for any unworthy end. It had been urged that the letters of a Member of Parliament ought to be peculiarly guarded from examination; but it seemed to him that there was no more reason for guarding the letters of a Member than for guarding those of a constituent, and if both were to be guarded, of course the power was a nullity. When he found that it had been exercised by successive Secretaries of State, and when he saw the Report of the Committee freeing the present Secretary of State from all imputation, he could not for a moment think of joining in any censure of the mode in which the power had been exercised. That power had been conferred by the Legislature, and if there were any blame, upon the Legislature it ought to rest. It became all who thought the power ought to be continued, to protect the Minister in the just exercise of it, under his own responsibility and for the public advantage, from ungenerous assailants, who had employed against him the harshest terms and the most contumelious expressions.

Mr. W. Williams

was quite sure that if the letters of other Members had been opened, they would have been as indignant at the insult as the hon. Member for Finsbury. It could not be forgotten that when inquiry was originally proposed, Ministers had offered the strongest resistance to the Motion; and when at last they were driven to concede a Committee, they resolved that it should be secret, and should consist only of persons of their own selection. He had, therefore, moved that the two hon. Members for Finsbury and Montrose should be placed upon it, and he had taken a division as to the former. Nevertheless, the hon. Member had been excluded, in direct violation of the ordinary practice of the House; and, as might have been expected, the Report of the partial Committee had given anything but satisfaction to the country. Strange as it might appear, they had not taken the slightest notice of the most important part of the case—the opening of the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury—and had touched only upon the opening of the letters of the two foreigners. The hon. Member who spoke last, and others on the same side of the question, had utterly failed in making out any defence; and the hon. Member for Finsbury justly felt himself insulted, and that a lasting stigma was cast upon him, unless the inquiry which he challenged were conceded. He had gone before the Committee and claimed to be heard; but the Committee had not shown the sympathy which they ought not only to have felt, but to have expressed in their Report. Why had it not been stated openly that there was or was not a warrant under which the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury had been opened? The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) and the hon. and learned Member for Bute had, not in direct terms, but by implication, cast a stigma upon the hon. Member for Finsbury, and had argued that the opening of his letters was justifiable; and he (Mr. Williams) was glad to hear that his hon. Friend was resolved, consistently with his manly character, to persevere to the last, until the unjust imputation upon him had been entirely removed. He had been an object of suspicion with the Government; they had implied that he corresponded with incendiaries and traitors; therefore he was entitled to the freest and fullest vindication. He had felt shame for his country when he saw the different course pursued in France upon this subject—in France, where espionage had formerly been carried to a system of perfection, but where, it now appeared, they disdained in secret to open the letters of private individuals. What did this prove, but that the subject enjoyed more real security in France than in this country? He could place no confidence in a Minister of Police in Great Britain who could be guilty of the violation of privacy by the secret opening of the letters of a Member of Parliament. The evidence of the fact might not be complete, but who could doubt that espionage existed amongst us to a greater extent than was generally supposed? He maintained that it was the duty of the House, for the assertion of its own character, to grant the Motion. It was its duty also at the earliest moment, if it did not abolish the odious power now possessed by the Secretary of State, at least to put it under such restraint and limitation that no person could again be guilty of the act which had been committed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Home Department. On these grounds, he should give his hearty support to the original Motion.

Mr. B. Cochrane

would merely trouble the House with one or two observations, to show why he voted on this occasion with Her Majesty's Government, and refused to support the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord. He considered that two points had been established, namely, that the power exercised by the right hon. Baronet was a constitutional power, and also that that power must, of necessity, be exercised in a secret manner. The very manner in which the power was exercised was the only way in which it could be employed consistently with its design. The seals were placed on the letters, so that the parties to whom those letters were addressed might not know that the letters had been opened. He could perfectly understand that such a power as this must be employed in a secret manner, and that being the case, how could the hon. Member for Finsbury suppose that the right hon. Baronet could give the information required? The hon. Member said there could be no inconvenience in giving the information which he sought; but when Her Majesty's Government refused to give that information, he should have supposed that there were reasons for witholding it beyond those which appeared on the surface of the case. He could not see that the character of the hon. Gentleman was at all affected by anything that might have taken place. When a letter was opened there were two parties concerned, the party who wrote the letter, and the party to whom it was written. The opening of a letter, however, did not affect the party to whom it was addressed, but the person by whom it was written. The hon. Member said he only required information on a particular point, and therefore ought not to be refused; but the right hon. Baronet might reply:—"I will not answer this question, for, if I do, you may go on and ask others; and, when at last I am forced to be silent, you will say my silence criminates myself." He had met a passage three days since in the Duke of Wellington's despatches, in which the Duke recommends his officers not to discuss military arrangements. "My recommendation, said the noble Duke, "is not for the sake of mystery. I recommend silence upon all the questions relating to military transactions, in order to avoid mystery upon any." And it was on similar grounds he (Mr. B. Cochrane) understood that Her Majesty's Government had refused to enter at all upon the question. It was impossible that the Government could give any explanation without proceeding either to an inconvenient length, or, by their silence on any point, criminate themselves. But, he would ask, how did the hon. Member for Finsbury obtain the information that his letters were opened? He wished the hon. Member to answer that question. He thought the House had a right to know how the hon. Gentleman obtained the alleged information. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had stated that the French Government never violated private correspondence; but the fact of their doing so was too notorious to require discussion. It was a notorious fact that letters were constantly opened in the French Post Office. He had been for some time on the Continent, and he knew that it was the practice of the French Post Office to open letters. No matter who might hold the government in this country, whether Whig or Tory, he was sure that the government of this country was in the hands of men who would not use the power they thus had intrusted to them for the purpose of any little petty objects, or violate the privileges which, for the public benefit, had been placed in their hands. He did not approve of the Amendment that had been made to the original Motion. It appeared to him that the House of Commons was every day becoming more and more a Court of Appeal respecting every trivial circumstance. Every trivial thing that happened in the country was brought forward in the shape of an appeal to that House. If a soldier received more lashes than he ought to get, the matter was at once brought under the consideration of that House. That House had been constituted for the purpose of legislating, and for the correction of great abuses; and he thought that in all those trivial, small, and personal matters, they ought to place the fullest confidence in the Executive Government of the country. Why, six months would not be sufficient for the business of the House, if their time was to be taken up in this way with the discussion of those personalities, which were painful to witness from whatever side they came. Now, did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that he thought his character had been injured by what had taken place, by the circumstance of his letters having been opened? He thought that the hon. Member occupied in the mind of the country, and of all who had the happiness of knowing him, too good a position to be affected by such a circumstance in his position as an honourable man. If the hon. Gentleman felt that he was injured, he was assured that, after the discussion which had taken place, the hon. Member's character would remain as much untainted as if this discussion had not taken place. It was painful to witness such discussions night after night—it must be most painful to the right hon. Gentleman to have those motives imputed to him, and to have suspicions cast upon him, of having been actuated by the most unworthy motives. For his own part he deprecated those attacks that had been made on the right hon. Gentleman, who, he was sure, discharged with the highest integrity the great trust which the constitution of the country had placed in his hands.

Mr. Blewitt

could only say for himself, that if he had discovered that the right hon. Gentleman had opened any letters of his, he should have felt bound to pursue precisely the same course as the hon. Member for Finsbury—and he would further say that if any Member would not hold the same opinions in the same circumstances, he must say that such an individual would show that he had no notion of civil freedom, and would deserve to be considered one of the veriest slaves that crawled upon the face of the earth. In the speech delivered last night by the Secretary at War, allusion had been made to the fact that it was unfair to attack the right hon. Gentleman, because his hands were tied up. Now, if so, who had tied them up? It would be much better for the right hon. Gentleman's character and peace of mind if he would notice them as speedily as possible. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be allowed to get rid of this case until he had explained the circumstances under which those warrants had been issued. He thought that this explanation must be given. It was altogether an improper proceeding of the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Baronet to wish on all occasions to shelter themselves under the Queen's name. He was very sorry that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was not now in his place; but on former occasions he had called the attention of the right hon. Baronet to the circumstances under which he had introduced Her Majesty's name. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would get out of this case in the way in which he expected to do. Whenever a difficulty arose, there was no occasion on which the right hon. Baronet did not introduce Her Majesty's name as a shelter for himself and his acts. When Ireland was to be coerced, and honourable and independent Gentlemen excluded from the magistracy, the Queen's name was put forward. When the odious Income Tax was to be introduced, they were told that Her Majesty had come forward to bear her own portion; and the other day, when the right hon. Baronet spoke of the increase of the Navy Estimates, he introduced an account of the economy exercised by Her Majesty by the way of contrast. He did not think that that House was a place where with propriety such references could constantly be made. The right hon. Baronet was in this respect imitating the Ego et Rex meus of Cardinal Wolsey, and adopting the Ego et Regina mea. The Postmaster stood in the place of a general carrier, and when once a sealed letter was placed in the Post Office, that office was bound to carry it with as much rapidity, and with as little delay, as possible to its destination. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the Acts of Anne and Victoria, but he contended that these Acts of Parliament did not give to the right hon. Gentleman the power of opening letters unless on his official responsibility. It was true that, at the present day, official responsibility had quite a different meaning from what it possessed in former times. Official responsibility did not now mean the axe of the executioner, or the dungeons of the Tower; but, in the present day, it meant the power of public opinion, to which all Governments must bend. He supported the Motion, and thought that this question ought to be satisfactorily explained.

Lord C. Hamilton

would observe, in the first place, after what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that if the Secret Committee had felt that Her Majesty's Government had used this power improperly, they ought to have recommended an impeachment of the Ministers. He congratulated the hon. Member for Knaresborough on his great ingenuity in discovering a new cause of complaint—namely, that the right hon. Baronet had not issued more warrants, and opened more letters—the letters of the hon. Member for Kendal himself, and others, who might be supposed to stand in the same position as the hon. Member for Finsbury. [Mr. Ferrand: I said, that if he had not done so, he had acted partially and unjustly.] Yes; that was another charge against the right hon. Baronet, that he had not opened more letters. He admired the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity, and thought, at the same time, that the new accusation furnished a very good answer to the malevolent attacks which had been made upon his right hon. Friend, whom he considered unjustly blamed for the manner in which he exercised the power reposed in him, as long as he had not committed any unconstitutional act—as long as he had only used that power as a means to prevent crime, bloodshed, and civil war, without infringing on the rights of free-born Englishmen. He viewed the manner in which this case had been brought before the House as highly objectionable, and little creditable to the parties themselves. However great the reason of complaint, and however just the cause advocated, the limits of fair play, and justice, and honour, should never be passed. Such conduct would not be tolerated in private society; and he thought it ought not to be permitted in that House. What had been the effect of the monstrous misrepresentations which had been made with regard to the proceedings of his right hon. Friend? Why, it was believed by the population in the provinces that the right hon. Baronet spent half his time at the Post Office, looking over the letters of other people. No good could ever come of such accusations. All this was foreign to the question itself. He did not wish to be understood as giving his unqualified approbation to the present system. Great difficulty surrounded this subject. But the conduct pursued by those who brought it forward would increase the difficulty of either modifying or abolishing the existing practice. There was one point connected with the treatment of this subject which he could not pass over. It had given him considerable pain to observe the silence observed by some of the occupants of the Benches on the other side of the House, upon a question which awakened the attention, and enlisted the sympathies of the country; he meant those noble Lords who, a few years ago, held the offices now filled by his right hon. Friends. He must remind the House that those predecessors of his right hon. Friend were also responsible for the exercise of this practice; for they had always exercised it when in office. Considering their lofty position—their great talents — and their high character, he thought it a source of legitimate regret to all who wished to see political contests carried on fairly, that they had permitted, unchecked, and unstayed by their efforts, the whole current of public odium to flow against those who had succeeded to that responsibility which formerly rested on themselves; and that they had not come forward to enlighten the House, as they could have done, by stating their opinion as to the expediency of retaining it, or as to the mode in which it should be exercised. But not one syllable had they said. He thought that the public had a right, considering that they were public men—for they could not absolve themselves from their responsibility to the public—to expect that they would, in a case of difficulty like the present, come forward with their assistance, counsel, and advice. He was satisfied that the two noble Lords were not actuated by any improper motive; but the public at large would be apt to put peculiar constructions on their silence. It had gone forth to the world, that for three nights the right hon. Baronet had been attacked by every kind of bitterness, of vituperation, and misrepresentation; and those noble Lords had not stood forth and said,—"All this would apply as much to ourselves; for we also have exercised this power." He regretted it. But the country would form its judgment of the liberality of those liberal ex-Ministers. Of the original Motion, the House had unequivocally expressed its disapprobation on various grounds, into which he need not enter. A great deal had been said about the maintenance of the old English honour and character; yet it was coolly proposed that the evidence taken before the Secret Committee should be published. Now, he must say, that after having inveigled persons into a Committee room, and induced them to make statements on the assurance that they were fully protected by the sanctity of an oath; if their evidence were to be exposed to the public gaze, that would be one of the greatest compromises and degradations of British honour that could be effected. An amendment had been moved by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, for the purpose of confining the inquiry, should one be granted, to the case of the hon. Member for Finsbury alone. Now, he had yet to learn that there was any peculiar sanctity in the correspondence of a Member of that House beyond that of any other subject of the realm. When was it so enacted? By what statute, law, or custom, was the peculiar right established? He knew that it had been asserted, and various arguments had been advanced in favour of it, but no specific ground had been given to prove the correctness of the opinion. What would be the effect of such a privilege? The House would remember that Mr. Feargus O'Connor had once been a Member of that House, and was subsequently imprisoned for treasonable acts. Well, he had been suspected of being connected with those more immediately engaged in sedition. Would it be contended, then, that having once entered the walls of that House, that person was not liable to have his letters opened, whatever suspicions were entertained with regard to him? Why, that would be absurd. It might, indeed, if such a rule existed, be an additional inducement to young Gentlemen to become Members of that House. He had often heard it said out of doors, that an inducement to young Gentlemen to become Members of that House was, that they would then be free from the law of arrest for debt; and surely, if the other privilege existed of being free, though suspected, from detection of seditious correspondence, it might be considered by some another great inducement, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman wished to have that established. It was said, that the opening of letters was not, perhaps, so very bad; but the worst part of the business was the closing of them up again, and not telling the parties of the fact. But it should be considered why this practice, odious, invidious, and painful us it certainly was, was to be exercised. It was to obtain information secretly which could not otherwise be got; and if on the examination of the first or second letter the parties were apprised of the fact, they would be on their guard, and the practice would be rendered altogether nugatory. Therefore either letters should not be opened at all, or the present system must be continued. The hon. Gentleman seemed to consider it a degradation that his letters had been opened—an insult not only to himself, but to his hon. Colleague, and to the constituency he represented. He complained of the act as one implying that he had been engaged with seditious persons. Why, what could be more ridiculously absurd? Who had published all this? Did the right hon. Baronet state it? Did he promulgate it to the constituency of the hon. Gentleman? Who told his constituency? The hon. Gentleman himself. And he was glad to have such a thing to go to them with. He was rejoiced at this opportunity of becoming a pseudo martyr. The hon. Gentleman resembled a soldier who, after slightly scratching himself, represented to his friends that he had been in the heat of the battle and suffered severely. The hon. Gentleman made out that he had received a gross insult, and that in his person the people had been insulted too. He came forward as the defender of public rights which had been infringed. But that was not enough—having received a private insult he divulged it. Who indeed took so much pains as he to prevent his constituency and the world at large from being ignorant of it? In a case of libel it was necessary to prove damage in order to gain reparation. What damage had the hon. Gentleman suffered? Had he any exhibition of a withdrawal of the confidence of his constituency in him? Was there any decrease of their affection for him? Why, he knew that he had never made such a lucky hit in his life. He had made so much ado about nothing as to put Dogberry out of sight. Why, he (Lord Hamilton) read in the public papers that the admirers of the hon. Gentleman were actually getting up a memorial to him—that they were raising a subscription to purchase property for him. Such was the horrible effect of opening his letters; such was the stigma it had brought upon his character! The hon. Gentleman complained of suspicions being raised against him. Why, there were other suspicions respecting the conduct of the hon. Gentleman, in alluding to which he (Lord Hamilton) did not desire to make any charge against him. But he had heard of certain reports which, if true, affected his character. He knew nothing about them; but they were so publicly related that he would give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of contradicting them, if he liked to do so. He had heard that the means by which the hon. Gentleman had received information concerning the opening of his letters were certain persons employed in the Post Office, who betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them, and gave the hon. Gentleman such information as he desired. That might account in some degree for the refusal of the hon. Gentleman to produce his witnesses before the Committee last year. For, what did he say? So suspicious was he, that he would not produce his witnesses before nine hon. Gentlemen, "because there was no one there to protect them." He should like to know what upon earth was meant by this "protection" of the witnesses? Did the hon. Member mean to say, that they required to be protected from having their evidence devulged? Could it be pretended? From what they could possibly require to be protected was a perfect mystery, unless explained in accordance with these current rumours. He had not made anything like a statement even of his own belief. He was not bound to say whether he believed the rumours or not; but he would say, that this extraordinary anxiety to "protect" them, formed ground for great suspicion, and, unless explained, he should feel perfectly at liberty to give credit to those rumours. With respect to the Amendment before the House, Members of Parliament could claim no peculiar exemption; the hon. Member for Finsbury had shown no grievance; and he hoped the House would not be led away by a mere statement of suspicion that letters might have been opened, but confine itself to the broad great constitutional question, whether this practice should exist or not, and not look to the past, but "let bygones be bygones."

Mr. Watson

thought the attack that had been made by the noble Lord on his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury was most uunecessary, uncalled for, and unjust. But snch a course of proceeding as that pursued by the noble Lord was not unusual. Whenever an independent Member made a complaint to that House of any grievance or delinquency, the young and the inexperienced in that House—the mere recruits of the party—made charges and insinuations which persons with more judgment would be on their guard against making. With respect to the Motion before the House, he thought that the Report of the Committee of Inquiry was unsatisfactory in many respects. When the Committee was originally appointed, he did not object, although he entertained some doubts on the subject of its constitution, as he thought that there were some Members who should be placed on that Committee who were not named on it. For instance, his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, who had brought the subject forward in that House, and who had paid great attention to it, and had carefully examined the whole matter, and was, therefore, most competent to have suggested the course of investigation, above all, should have been on the Committee. It had long been the custom of that House to appoint the Member who brought forward the subject which was referred to a Committee for consideration, to be Chairman of such Committee. Why this was not done in the present case he could not by possibility tell; but of this he felt assured, that if his hon. Friend had been Chairman of that Committee, the Report presented to that House would have been more satisfactory than the one which had been laid on the Table. The right hon. Baronet claimed great credit to himself for having taken care to put no lawyers on the Committee; now, he, as a lawyer, would at once candidly state, that he was not particularly favourable to placing lawyers on Committees of that House; but he thought that it was of most essential service that a Committee appointed to consider an important question of this kind, involving as it did many legal and constitutional points, should have the aid of eminent professional men; and, above all, the aid of such a man as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Worcester (Sir T. Wilde), and his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, as it required habits of legal investigation, and of pursuing a searching inquiry through a multitude of ramifications. The right hon. Gentleman said, that if there were lawyers on the Committee, they would delay it by squabbling on points of law; now he would ask, what was the use of appointing the Comittee, if the House was not to be informed as to what the law was on the subject? The House had heard many most excellent speeches upon this debate, but upon the law of the subject there had been no discussion whatever. When the question was first agitated, he (Mr. Watson) called upon the Government to say on what law they rested their claim to examine letters passing through the Post Office, they being the carriers of those letters; but he received no information upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, referred to the Statute of Queen Anne and that of Her present Majesty; but it was clear, and so stated in the Report of the Lords' Committee, that the Secretary of State did not from either of these Acts derive any right upon the subject. The latter Statute he (Mr. Watson) had before him, and that Act (1 Victoria, c. 36) merely stated, that whosoever should open or wilfully detain a letter in the Post Office should be guilty of a misdemeanor; adding a proviso that this should not extend to the opening or detaining a letter in obedience to a warrant from the Secretary of State. Now the Statute adopts the same form of recognition as the Statute of Anne; and that of Victoria, according to the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, gives no right to the Secretary of State on the subject. It states,— This Act gives no power to the Secretary of State to detain or open letters, but prohibits others from doing so, except by an express warrant in writing, under the hand of the Principal Secretary, for any such opening or detaining. The offence of opening or detaining a letter, is a misdemeanor. The effect of this Statute was simply to relieve the subordinate officer from the offence, where he acted under the warrant of a Secretary of State, but left the legality of such warrant where it found it. This is analogous to the case of constables, who, by Statute, are exonerated from the consequences of executing illegal warrants—leaving the magistrate responsible if the warrant is illegal. He had taken some pains to look into and examine authorities on this subject; and he had looked carefully into the law of the matter, and he could not find any authority, or any case reported, or any dictum in any law book, which affirmed, that the Secretary of State had the power of issuing a warrant to open letters in the Post Office. He could not find in any text book or Report a statement by which it appeared that the Secretary of State had the legal authority to grant warrants to detain or open letters. What was the right claimed and exercised? It was not merely to seize and detain letters, but to open those letters, seal them up again, and then send them on to the parties; not to take the bold measure of seizing and keeping an individual's papers for public purposes, or for the ends of justice, but to read his letters and take copies of them, and copies of the seals, in their passage to him. This was a great constitutional question. To talk of investigating the subject without inquiring into the law under which they lived, was really entering into no inquiry at all; the subject being the right of the Secretary of State by law to examine in the Post Office the letters of the public at large, and letters addressed to Members of the House. He said, that there was no such right; and that was a question which must ultimately be determined. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. J. S. Wortley) had been pleased to ask on the previous night why was not information laid before the House, and evidence adduced by those who complained? Why, where was the evidence to be obtained? What letters had been opened was known only to the Secretary of State, and his subordinates. How could evidence be produced by the hon. Member for Finsbury, except that he had heard certain things, and thought them probable, and believed them? The Government and its subordinates alone had the information. His hon. Friend the Member for Weymouth (Mr. Bernal) had said that this question ought not to be discussed in the House, but in the Queen's Bench, or in some other Court; and some other hon. Members appeared to hold the same view. He must state, in the face of the House, that if the inquiry did not take place in Parliament, it could take place nowhere. How could it take place in the Queen's Bench? How could it be proved that letters had been opened? Were the subordinates of the Post Office to be called? No single individual could prove that any particular letter had been opened; and even the Secretary of State, if called to be examined on the subject, was privileged from making any disclosure. It had been decided in Courts of Law that a Secretary of State could not be examined before them on matters connected with the public affairs of the country. This wat clearly and distinctly the decision of the late Lord Tenterden. How, then, could any individual carry this case into a Cours of Law to try the question of right? The only information that they could obtain must be given by the Government, or by those employed by it. If the Government, then, was anxious to have this question determined, let the right hon. Gentleman admit that he had opened the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury, and thus the whole case could be tried. But he would challenge his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General as to the statement that the whole system of opening letters was illegal. The case of general warrants was analogous to this; and under one of them it was not declared to be illegal to seize papers until the time of Wilks. General warrants had been used in the time of Elizabeth and James; precedents of general warrants were to be found in Dalton and Rushworth, in the time of the Commonwealth, and during the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II.; and from the Revolution to the case to which he alluded, when they were declared to be illegal, they were frequently issued by Secretaries of State. He contended that the principle involved in that case was perfectly analogous to that in the present question. There were two cases to which he would particularly call the attention of the House. One was the case of the editor and printer of the North Briton. The Secretary of State issued a warrant to seize all his papers; the validity of that warrant was tried, and the jury gave very large damages against the persons concerned in issuing the warrant. And what did the Chief Justice say upon that occasion? He spoke as follows:— A warrant was granted by Lord Halifax the Secretary of State, directing a messenger to apprehend and seize the printer and publisher of a paper called the North Briton, without any information or charge laid before the Secretary of State previous to his granting the warrant. Whereas every lawyer knew that no warrant to arrest a person and examine his house was good without information duly laid, and the warrant itself stating the offence upon the face of it; and it was there decided that a Secretary of State would not take an information on oath, for he had no power to administer an oath. The Chief Justice then proceeded to state that the small injury done to the plaintiff, or the inconsiderableness of his station, were not material to the question of right; of course the same arbitrary power could have been claimed over all the King's subjects, violating Magna Charta, and destroying the liberties of the people. The King's Counsel of that day and the Solicitor of the Treasury endeavoured to maintain the legality of that warrant; but his Lordship said,— To enter a house by a nameless warrant, in order to seize there, is worse than the Spanish Inquisition. That was not the speech of a political partisan in that House, or on the hustings; but the judicial opinion of a Chief Justice. And the Chief Justice added,— It would be a law under which no Englishman would wish to live an hour. It was a most daring public attack made upon the liberty of the subject. Really there seemed to be very little difference between issuing a warrant to seize the papers of "the editor and printer of the North Briton," and issuing a warrant to examine, read, and copy letters. But Mr. Entick's case in the State Trials, vol. 19, came still nearer to the present. A special verdict was found in that case, in reference to the warrant found against Mr. Entick, and the case was very elaborately argued; the judgment of the Chief Justice affected the present case materially. His Lordship was pressed by a variety of arguments, and among others by this, that it had been a usage continued for a long period:— It began at the Revolution," said his Lordship, "and is too modern to be law. The Common Law does not begin with the Revolution. The warrant," he added, "was an execution in the first instance, without previous information, or hearing of the plaintiff—a power claimed by no other magistrate whatsoever, Chief Justice Scroggs excepted. It was argued that if the Secretary of State had power to commit in treason, he hath it in lesser crimes. This I deny." Justice Rokeby said, "he is only a conservator of the peace. There is no law, and less justice, to justify the defendants in what they have done; if there was it would destroy all comfort in society, for papers are often the dearest property that a man can have. If such a right as was claimed in this case really existed, to examine and copy letters passing through the Post Office, would not some instance of it, in some period, be found in the law books? It was impossible to suppose that it was law if it could be sanctioned by no authority. But it was urged that there was usage for this claim, and several instances of warrants to examine letters were given in the Report. There was in the Appendix some writs to Robert de Kendell, the Warden of the Cinque Ports, of the date of 2 Edward II., to detain all letters from France. Again, in the time of Cromwell, and during the civil wars, it appeared that warrants or Orders in Council were issued to seize papers but this was a very different matter, illegal as it probably was, from seizing letters in the Post Office, and examining and copying them. There were also Orders of the time of Charles I. and Charles II.; but although those were bad times, times when the law had been so perverted as to get Judges to sanction "ship money," and the "dispensing power," still it did not appear that any Judge had said that any law existed which could give a Secretary of State the right to detain and examine letters passing through the Post Office. There was nothing but the practice from the Revolution; and what was the value of that? It was only a continuance of illegal acts; it was only so many Secretaries of State, from year to year, issuing warrants which were illegal; and a continuance of illegal acts would not constitute a legal right. In Money's case, the argument from usage was urged in vain. In reference to general warrants, Mr. Justice Yates said—"If you show me an usage from the foundation of Rome, it will not legalise such a practice as this." So, he said, that an usage from the creation of the world for Secretaries of State to open letters in the Post Office would not make the practice legal. And what sort of warrants were these? Warrants must be founded upon information, and the offence stated on the face of them. Where was the information? How did the Secretary of State take it? Was he able to administer an oath to the party? Certainly not. The warrants, therefore, were illegal. It was true they were referred to in those Acts of Parliament; but was it intended by the Acts to confer upon the Secretary of State the right to issue them? Certainly not. No such power restraining the rights and liberties of the subject, could be conferred by intendment from the words of an Act of Parliament; such power could only be conferred by express words. They merely relieved the Post Office authorities from penalties in acting under his warrants to detain letters, but conferred no right to open letters — though the former was nearly as bad as the latter. Upon a great question like this it was of the deepest importance to the country to know what was the state of the law; and he invited the Solicitor General to state, in the face of the House and of the country, upon what authority and what grounds of law he justified the Secretary of State in examining letters at the Post Office. It was not of the slightest avail to refer to usage; and there was no legal authority for the practice; the thing was utterly and entirely illegal. Again, the Committee had not investigated the question as to the manner and as to the nature of the information on which these warrants for opening letters were issued. It was a matter of the deepest consequence, that the nature of the information should be known on which they were granted. Some Secretaries of State might require very strong authority to issue such warrants; while others, more credulous, might be induced to issue them without the slightest hesitation, upon vague and loose gossips. An hon. Baronet said last night, that the speeches of two hon. Members might furnish a justification for the issuing a warrant to open their letters. This, however, was no authority which could justify the issuing a warrant; for it was merely a vague suspicion that a party had been guilty of some illegal act. One argument used the other night was, that it was necessary for the safety of the State, and for the preservation of the public peace, that the Government should possess this power; but the same plea of necessity would justify any tyrannical act, such as breaking into a man's house and imprisoning his person. To be justified in such a proceeding, you must act upon the evidence that some crime was about to be committed; therefore it was important that the House should know on what political grounds the Secretary of State had issued his warrant. The Report said,— So far as the criminal warrants go, no suspicion arises that unfairness or partiality has directed their issue. With regard to the other class of warrants, though there have been some few issued by different Administrations that have been in power during the last twenty-two years, in regard to which it is obvious, that on a subsequent review of the facts, a difference of opinion might arise as to the discretion exercised in each particular case; yet your Committee see no reason to doubt that the conduct of the Secretaries of State belonging to each of those Administrations, has been guided by no other motive than an anxious desire to preserve the public peace, with the maintenance of which they were charged. Now, he understood from this that the Committee did not investigate the grounds on which a warrant to detain and open letters was issued by the Secretary of State. He said that it was the duty of the Committee to have investigated and stated to the public the nature of the information which would induce the Secretary of State to issue such a warrant. The Committee, therefore, decided on a matter of the greatest importance to the public without examining into the grounds of the case; but he might be told that the latter part of the passage in the Report was a virtual acquittal of the Government; but for this purpose the Committee should have referred to the records of the Home Office before they were satisfied. It appeared from the Report that no other condition or motive was required than an anxious desire to preserve the public peace. If warrants were issued merely on such grounds, he would say that they never should have been issued. They found that the number of those warrants had been greatly increased within the last few years; and it appeared that they had been issued, not for the examination of letters for a few days, but had remained at the Post Office for years. He said, under such circumstances, the Committee should have insisted upon knowing the grounds for their issue, and have examined and probed the matter to the bottom. One matter struck him in connexion with this subject. He found that in 1817 a warrant was issued to the Postmaster of Nottingham, to detain and open letters. At that time disturbances occurred in that town and the neighbouring districts. Was it not known that persons who were supposed to have taken part in them were convicted on the evidence of spies, and it was probable at the instigation of those persons the warrant to open letters written by themselves and directed to persons suspected was issued; and thus these spies created at the same time the evidence and the information. Again, in 1819, when the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended, similar proceedings took place in the manufacturing districts; and it was probable that information was given to Government by spies, so as to lead to the stoppage of letters, and by this means many unhappy men were led to their ruin. The hon. and learned Member for Bute alluded to some indictments which had been tried in York for treasonable misdemeanors. Now, certainly there was no ground for supposing that those persons corresponded with his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. These persons, as he believed, defended by the hon. and learned Member, had been sentenced, he believed, to four years' imprisonment in Northallerton Gaol. Now suppose these individuals before trial wished to communicate with their law advisers, was it to be allowed that their letters should find their way into the hands of the Government, so as to enable it to obtain information to lead to a conviction? Such a case would be prying into letters which was the property of individuals, for the most unjust and injurious purposes. The hon. Member for Sheffield had talked of the discredit cast on Foreign Powers, in consequence of the extent to which this practice of letter opening was carried. Now he did not think that the practice was creditable to Foreign Powers, or to the character of the English nation. But when they talked of opening the letters of English subjects pasting through the Post Office of this country, he would at once say that the practice was unconstitutional and illegal. He, however, deeply regretted that there was no means of bringing this case before a Court of Law, unless through the interposition of that House, or unless the Secretary of State had admitted that he had opened the letters. It was quite clear that last year, after the case had been submitted to Parliament, that the Committee appointed was to inquire into the legality of the proceeding, and not whether this power had been used or not for a long or a short period? There was no act of oppression against the liberty of the subject which had not been resorted to some time or other in this country; and if you referred merely to precedent as a ground of right, you would find a justification for every atrocity that could be perpetrated. The right hon. Baronet said, with a tone of great triumph, that he had not gone further than his predecessors in the execution of his power; he did not suppose the right hon. Baronet had, but still that was not a justification. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, last year, complained, on the part of a foreign exile, that his letters passing through the Post Office, directed to him, had been opened; and the right hon. Gentleman turned round and said it was only in conformity with a practice which had been followed by Mr. Fox and other eminent statesmen of both parties. Whether, however, the example had been set by Whig or Tory, he was satisfied that it was illegal, and was most discreditable to all parties. He would not say that a Secretary of State was to be condemned because he had exercised this power, which he found had been resorted to by his predecessors; but this he would say, that when a Gentleman became a Secretary of State, and he found such a practice prevailing, it was his duty to examine into the subject, and see upon what principle it rested, and to look into the evidence of its legality. As to the letters of his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, the question was this:—A Member of Parliament had many public duties to discharge, and advice was often asked of him by his constituents; therefore, to direct his letters to be opened and examined at the Post Office was derogatory to the dignity of that House, and to the honour of the Member who was so treated, and to his constituents. Reference had been made to the manner in which this proceeding of opening the letters of Members of that House had been taken up in the corrupt times of Sir R. Walpole, in 1735. Even at that time they had a precedent declaring that it was a high breach of the privilege of Parliament to open or look into any letter belonging to a Member of that House, except under an express warrant in writing, under the hand of one of the Principal Secretaries of State, for every such opening and looking into. But, then, inquiry should be made what was done under such a warrant, and whether such a warrant was legal. It should be recollected that a warrant was not the mere creation of the brain of a Secretary of State, any more than a magistrate. He must proceed on exact information, as Chief Justice Pratt had stated, and must issue his warrant grounded on such information. It was a breach of privilege to proceed without positive and legal information to issue such a warrant, even according to the Resolution of 1735; bad as these times were, and corrupt as Parliament then was, still it was declared to be a breach of privilege to prevent a Member receiving his letters free, unless they were stopped by a warrant, and that a legal warrant. It was resolved by this House in 1766, that to seize papers of a Member under a general warrant, was a breach of privilege; how much stronger must be the breach of privilege in opening and reading the letters of Members coming from their constituents. The voice of that House and the country must have told the Government that the time had come when the question should be set at rest, and the country should know on what law this custom of detaining and opening letters was founded, and what had led the Government to exercise that power in this case. The hon. and learned Member for Bute had talked of the feelings of the right hon. Baronet; he (Mr. Watson) should be sorry to say anything to hurt them, but then he should recollect that there were feelings on the other side. Must it not be grating to the feelings, and derogatory to the honour of a Member of that House to know that he was the object of such suspicion—that the Government had acted in a way to lead to the supposition that he had, primâ facie, been guilty of a crime? To show what inferences were often drawn from such an act on the part of the Government, he need only refer to what had been said that night by the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone, who declared most erroneously that a former Member for Cork had been imprisoned for felony. No doubt, in an equal spirit of exaggeration, in the course of two or three years, some person would be getting up and saying that the hon. Member for Finsbury had been suspected of felony, as his letters had been detained and opened. In conclusion, he considered that the House was entitled to know the nature of the information which led to the issue of these warrants, and to the grounds on which they were granted. If he was wrong in the statement which he had made as to the law of the case, it was not from any want of attention on his part, as he had carefully looked into the law on the subject; and he was sure that it would be satisfactory to the House and the country to learn from his learned Friend the Solicitor General, that the detention and examination of letters in the Post Office rested on legal grounds.

The Solicitor General

said, if he had been disinclined to take part in this discussion, one of the most disagreeable and painful he had ever heard within the walls of the House—and which had already been sufficiently protracted—it was impossible, after the pointed notice of the noble Lord and of the hon. and learned Member for Bath on a preceding evening, independently of the appeals that had been made to him to-night, that he should avoid trespassing on the attention of the House. Though he felt most acutely a considerable portion of the proceedings which had taken place on this subject in the House—though he regretted the Motion, and deeply regretted many expressions which had been used, and the general tone and temper of the debate—he trusted that the observations he had to make would be confined within the limits consistent with a due regard to the importance of the subject, and the dignity of the House. He was placed in a most extraordinary position with respect to the Motion of the hon. Member. The Motion of the hon. Member as originally framed, was prepared after due consideration, and no doubt after consultation with his friends; but it contained expressions so objectionable, that his better judgment, or sounder advice, induced him to omit them; and the Motion, thus considered and thus remodelled, was at last presented to the attention of the House. Two nights were nearly spent in debate upon this Motion, when, at a late period of the second night's debate, the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland came forward with an Amendment—an Amendment which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury said was not conceived in a hostile spirit, and, what must have suprised many of us, that it was not supported by him in a similar spirit. The noble Lord the Member for Sunderland was a manly, a generous, and an open opponent. We knew where to look for such an opponent; we met him where a fair adversary ought ever to be met—face to face. It was, therefore, quite competent for the noble Lord to bring forward his Amendment even as a party measure, and to propose it for the consideration of the House in the course of fair Parliamentary warfare. The noble Lord had felt that the proposition which had been conceived and put forward by the hon. Member for Finsbury would not be generally entertained;—that it had been condemned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh. He wished that right hon. Gentleman would allow him to prefix the word "learned" also to his name, for he (the Solicitor General) was proud to recollect that the right hon. Gentleman had been once of the profession to which he belonged. It had been condemned also by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Ward) in a most admirable speech, which, from the generous spirit which it breathed throughout, it was refreshing to hear in such a debate. That hon. Gentleman had stated that it was impossible for him to agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury; and under these circumstances, the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland felt that it was necessary to bring the straggling party together again. The noble Lord was determined to raise a standard round which his party might rally. It was quite fair, and quite consistent with Parliamentary tactics; and he had accordingly framed an Amendment which it appeared had the advantage of conciliating the good feeling of all those who usually voted with the noble Lord. It was probable that all the fugitives would thus return to the noble Lord's standard, and would unite with him in one body to support his Amendment. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury had, not unexpectedly, given his support to the noble Lord. He said, not unexpectedly, because it would be in the recollection of the House, that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury, and the noble Lord the Member for Liverpool (Lord Sandon) rose together, there was a general call by hon. Members opposite for the former hon. Member, to which call his noble Friend had been compelled to give way. Now, though he admitted the talent and ingenuity of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, yet he shrewdly suspected when that hon. Member rose to address the House, it was not the anticipation of the pleasure to be derived from the exhibition of these qualities, which accounted for the eagerness to hear him, but that it was from some previous knowledge of the course which he meant to pursue which made them so ready to receive him with open arms. Nor were the hon. Gentlemen who exhibited such anxiety to hear the hon. Member for Shrewsbury deceived in their expectations, for he had supported with all his heart and power the Amendment of the noble Lord. The hon. Gentleman had told them that he gave his support to the noble Lord through no hostile feeling towards the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham). He regretted, however, that the tone, the manner, and the expressions of the hon. Gentleman strangely belied that declaration. He had for some time felt at a loss to conceive what it was that had provoked the hon. Member for Shrewsbury—he wondered what motive could have actuated him to display such feelings; but the hon. Gentleman was at length kind enough to clear up his doubts, by informing the House that he had received from his right hon. Friend nothing but courtesy. The cause of the spirit exhibited by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury was therefore perfectly clear; and he could thus understand why it was that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had appeared to be prepared for the speech which the hon. Gentleman had made. The hon. Gentleman had taken the legal grounds of the question for his argument, and in that he had been followed by the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck). The latter hon. and learned Gentleman had pressed him (the Solicitor General) with the opinion of what he was pleased to call the highest legal authority in Common Law; by which he presumed his hon. and learned Friend meant the Judge who presides in the highest Court of Common Law in this kingdom. They had had on that night the question of law renewed, by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Blewitt), who had acted as a sort of leader for his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinsale (Mr. Watson). The latter hon. and learned Gentleman had regretted that no one before him had touched upon the legal bearing of the question, which had formed the principal portion of the hon. and learned Gentleman's own speech. He did not know if that regret was shared by the House; for it had certainly occurred to him that the real question under consideration had not the slightest connexion with the legal matters which his hon. and learned Friend had introduced to their notice. He confessed that he still entertained the same opinion; but he was placed in a situation of some embarrassment on the subject. He felt that he was entering on irrelevant matter, but yet that, if he did not reply to the observations of his hon. and learned Friends, he might be supposed to agree in the law which they had so authoritatively laid down; while, by following them in the course which they had taken, he must enter on a field of debate quite foreign to that which ought to be the subject of discussion. At the same time he must say, that nothing appeared to him more unsatisfactory than the legal opinions which were expressed by Gentlemen of his profession in that House. Whatever might be the sincerity of those opinions, however strongly the speakers might be impressed with the correctness of their view of the law, still it was impossible for other hon. Members of that House, and for the public generally, to divest their minds of the impression that those hon. and learned Gentlemen were speaking under a bias which thwarted their judgments, and which prevented them from coming to an honest and a fair conclusion. He knew perfectly well, that if he happened to express an opinion—as he feared he should be compelled to do—on a point of law opposed to that which had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend who had preceded him, it would be immediately supposed that he had done so merely because he happened to sit on the opposite side of the House to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He was aware of the natural and inevitable consequences that were to be drawn from their respective positions in that debate; but, with that knowledge, he would still not shrink from the responsibility of the place which be filled. The House would, he trusted, permit him to say that he did feel very seriously the responsibility of every opinion in point of law which he was called upon to express. He did not, however, approve of the course followed by his hon. and learned Friend, of pledging his professional reputation to the accuracy of every opinion which he put forth. He knew the danger of offering such pledges too frequently, as at last no credit would be obtained upon them,—he knew, also, how prone men were to cling to favourite views and to feelings of party,—yet still he did not shrink from the responsibility of the opinion which he was about to give. In reply to his hon. and learned Friend, he must, in the first place, remark, that when the question had been originally opened, the noble Lord alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman was of opinion, not merely that the issue of warrants was sanctioned by law, but that the law recognized even the issue of a general warrant in this case. In the House of Lords, they had the Lord Chancellor, Lord Brougham, and Lord Denman, in favour of this view. He admitted that the opinion of Lord Campbell was different, but the other three noble Lords all concurred in the opinion that a general warrant to detain and open all the letters of a particular individual, within a certain period, was a valid instrument. Lord Campbell, he admitted, was of opinion that it was necessary to have a specific warrant for each particular case of opening a letter. He would also admit that the noble Lord who presided in the Court of Queen's Bench appeared to have afterwards changed the opinion which he had originally entertained; but the subsequent declaration of the noble Lord was very vaguely and unsatisfactorily expressed, and he did not, therefore, consider himself much pressed by it, and, even if it were otherwise, he should still feel bound to put forward his own views fearlessly upon the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Kinsale was the only member of the legal profession—and he had taken credit to himself for the fact—who had argued and reasoned on the question of law; but he feared that his hon. and learned Friend and himself were not very likely to agree upon the view of the law. His hon. and learned Friend had failed in convincing him, and he had not much hope of making his hon. and learned friend a convert to his opinion. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them that he cared not what the usage in the matter might be; that if he were given usage from the foundation of Rome to the present time, it could not, in his mind, sanction such a practice as that of which he complained. His hon. and learned Friend appeared to have forgotten that position, however, towards the conclusion of his argument; for he then inquired what objection there could be in the case of the hon. Member for Finsbury to produce the legal warrant, if any such existed. [Mr. Watson had not made use of the word "legal."] His impression was, that his hon. hon. and learned Friend had used the word "legal;" but of course, after the denial which had been given, he would not press the point farther. His hon. and learned Friend said, the case under their consideration was like that of general warrants; and in the midst of his other avocations, he appeared to have found time to search for authorities on the subject. His hon. and learned Friend came to the House armed with the opinions of Judges as to the legality of general warrants; and he said there was one case conclusive on the point, and that the warants in question could no more stand than general warrants. But did the hon. and learned Gentleman know this—that general warrants existed under the authority of an Act of Parliament until the year 1694, when the Statute expired?—that subsequently to that date there was no law empowering Secretaries of State to issue general warrants; and yet that, notwithstanding the absence of any legal authority, general warrants continued to be issued until the year 1763, when it was decided that they were illegal? His hon. and learned Friend objected that there were no lawyers on the Committee. He supposed the hon. and learned Gentleman did not regret not being on that Committee. Certainly, as far as he was concerned, he was very glad that he had not been placed on it. But his hon. and learned Friend would admit that his objection did not apply to the Committee of the House of Lords. In the Committee of the House of Lords there were two excellent lawyers, both of whom had held the Great Seal. He alluded to Lord Cottenham and Lord Brougham. But his hon. and learned Friend said, that the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords expressly declared that this power was not conferred by any statute. But that was not all that the Report stated. His hon. and learned Friend had read a passage from the Report, but he omitted the reasoning on which the statement was founded. It was true the Lords' Committee stated, and the passage had been read by his hon. and learned Friend, that the Act of the 9th Anne, c. 10— Gives no power to the Secretary of State to detain or open letters, but prohibits others from doing so, except by an express warrant in writing under the hand of the Principal Secretary for every such opening or detaining. But if his hon. and learned Friend had read the two preceding lines, he would have found these words:— The terms in which the provisions of the Act, 9 Anne, c. 10, upon this subject are enacted, can only be explained upon the supposition that this power was at the time fully recognized. After which the Report goes on with the sentence which the hon. and learned Gentleman had read. His hon. and learned Friend would forgive him for charging him with suppressing a very important part of the paragraph, and thus inducing the House to believe that the Secretary of State exercised the power of opening and detaining letters without any legal right. His hon. and learned Friend said that he had been unable to find any authorities to warrant the belief that any such power existed in connexion with the office of the Secretary of State. He wondered whether it ever occurred to his hon. and learned Friend, inasmuch as this was a power exercised in secret, that it was very likely that there would be no authorities in the books upon the subject. If that had occurred to his hon. and learned Friend, it would have saved him a great deal of valuable time, which he might have devoted to more important and useful inquiries. But his hon. Friend said this was an illegal power which existed nowhere, neither under Common Law nor Statute Law, of which, even if usage could be adduced in support of it, from the time of the foundation of Rome to the present moment, there would, in his opinion, be no justification With such a conviction in the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman, it was impossible to argue with him. He trusted, however, that other hon. Gentlemen would not require the same amount of proof, and though he could not go back so far as the foundation of Rome, still, through the labours of the Committee, and the antiquarian researches of the hon. Member for Kendal, he could show that the power of carrying letters had always been a part of the Prerogative of the Crown, which had been thereby enabled to detain any suspected letters; that at the time of the Commonwealth an ordinance was passed, in the year 1656, which enumerated, among the advantages of a Post Office, that it would afford the best means To discover and prevent many dangerous and wicked designs which have been and are daily contrived, against the peace and welfare of the Commonwealth, the intelligence whereof cannot well be communicated but by letter of escript. He cared not whether that power had originally the constitutional authority contended for; but he would maintain that by the Act of the 9th of Anne, that power had been distinctly recognized as existing in one of the Principal Secretaries of State. He was afraid he detained the House too long upon this part of the case; but it was important that they should have the evidence on that subject clearly before them, and he trusted the House would therefore allow him for a moment to refer to the Statute of Anne, of which so much had been said in that debate. The 40th section of that Act was in the following terms:— And whereas abuses may be committed by wilfully opening, embezzling, detaining and delaying of letters or packets, to the great discouragement of trade, commerce, and correspondence; for prevention thereof, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, and from and after the 1st day of June, 1711, no person or persons shall presume wittingly, willingly, or knowingly, to open, detain or delay, or cause, procure, permit or suffer to be opened, detained or delayed, any letter or letters, packet or packets, after the same is or shall be delivered into the general or other post-office, or into the hands of any person or persons employed for the receiving or carrying post letters, and before delivery to the persons to whom they are directed, or for their use, except by an express warrant in writing, under the hand of one of the Principal Secretaries of State for every such opening, detaining or delaying; or except in such cases when the party or parties to whom such letter or letters, packet or packets, shall be directed, or who is or are hereby chargeable with the payment of the port or ports thereof, shall refuse or neglect to pay the same; and except such letters or packets as shall be returned for want of due directions, and when the party to whom the same is directed cannot be found; and that every person or persons offending in manner aforesaid, or who shall embezzle any such letter or letters, packet or packets, shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of 20l. All the Acts relating to the Post Office had been subsequently repealed and consolidated in the reign of Her present Majesty; but this power was retained, and in proof he might refer to the Oath of Office which was taken by the Postmaster General. That oath was in these words:— I do solemnly and sincerely declare that I will not wittingly or willingly open or delay, or cause or suffer to be opened or delayed, contrary to my duty, any letter or anything sent by the post which shall come into my hands or custody by reason of my employment relating to the Post Office, except by the consent of the person or persons to whom the same shall be directed, or by an express warrant in writing under the hand of one of the Principal Secretaries of State (or, as to Ireland, under the hand or hands of the Lord Lieutenant or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland), for that purpose, except in such cases where the party or parties to whom such letter or anything sent by the post shall be directed, and who is or are chargeable with the payment of the postage thereof, shall refuse or neglect to pay the same; and unless such letters or anything sent by the post as shall be returned for want of true directions, or when the party or parties to whom the same shall be directed cannot be found; and that I will not in any way embezzle any such letter or thing sent by the post as aforesaid; and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously, intending to fulfil and obey the same; and by virtue of the provisions of an Act passed in the first year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, intituled 'An Act for the Management and Regulation of the Post Office.' That oath or declaration was taken under the Act 1 Victoria, ch. 32, and in a subsequent Act of the same Session, it was provided that— Every person employed by or under the Post Office, who shall, contrary to his duty, open or procure, or suffer to be opened, a post letter, or shall wilfully detain or delay, or procure or suffer to be detained or delayed, a post letter, shall, in England and Ireland, be guilty of a misdemeanor, and in Scotland of a crime and offence, and being convicted thereof shall suffer such punishment, by fine or imprisonment, or by both, as to the Court shall seem meet; provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend to the opening or detaining or delaying of a post letter returned for want of a true direction, or of a post letter returned by reason that the person to whom the same shall be directed is dead or cannot be found, or shall have refused the same, or shall have refused or neglected to pay the postage thereof, nor to the opening or detaining or delaying a post letter in obedience to an express warrant in writing under the hand (in Great Britain) of one of the Principal Secretaries of State; and in Ireland under the hand and seal of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Now, he could not understand what the hon. Member for Shrewsbury meant in the course of his speech on the preceding night, by stating that the Secretary of State had no power whatever to issue his warrant for detaining and opening letters under the Statute. That the object of the Legislature in enacting the provisions he had read, was simply to prevent any clerk or sub-agent, or other subordinate person in the Post Office, from opening or detaining letters, not to confer any such power upon the Secretary of State. But would his hon. and learned Friend, who pursued the same line of argument, tell him why the Legislature should have taken the trouble to introduce anything about warrants from the Secretary of State, if its object was merely what his hon. and learned Friend had stated? If the Legislature only intended to prevent improper conduct on the part of inferior officers, why should it have made an exception in cases where a warrant would issue from the Secretary of State? The result of all these arguments was the opinion to which he had come—and which he humbly tendered to the House as his deliberate conviction, produced by all the consideration and inquiry he had been able to give to the matter—and that opinion was, that this being a power exercised by Common Law, and before any of the Statutes to which reference had been made were passed, these Statutes could not confer the power, because it had already existed, but they recognised and sanctioned it; and it was, therefore, a legal power existing at Common Law, sanctioned and recognised by the Statute law of the land. Now, he willingly passed from this part of the case, and before doing so, he again begged to apologise to the House for dwelling so long on points with which they had really nothing whatever to do. He passed next to the consideration of the manner in which the exercise of this power affected the privileges of Members of Parliament. That was certainly a very delicate matter, and he knew that many hon. Gentlemen present were peculiarly sensitive upon it. He therefore feared that he might incur their censure when he expressed his opinion that Members of that House possessed no greater privileges with regard to the power of the Secretary of State over their letters than any other individuals in the community; and he ventured to maintain that opinion from the very words of the Resolution of 1735. In that year, as they were informed by the Report of the Committee,— Complaint being made in the House of Commons by certain of the Members, that their letters had been opened and read by the clerks of the Post Office, on the pretence of ascertaining whether or no the franks of these Members were counterfeited, and a copy of His Majesty's warrant, whereby letters of Members and certain public functionaries were permitted to pass free from postage, being read, it was ordered, that the copy of the said warrant be referred to the consideration of a Committee, and that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their opinions thereon, to the House; and on the Committee making its report, the House resolved, inter alia, 'That it is a high infringement of the privilege of the Knights, Citizens, and Burgesses, chosen to represent the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament, for any Postmaster, his Deputies or Agents, in Great Britain or Ireland, to open or look into, by any means whatsoever, any letter directed to or signed by the proper hand of any Member, without an express warrant in writing, under the hand of one of the Principal Secretaries of State, for every such opening and looking into; or to detain or delay any letter directed to or signed with the name of any Member, unless there shall be good reason to suspect some counterfeit of it, without an express warrant of a Principal Secretary of State, as aforesaid, for every such detaining or delaying.' They had, then, a Resolution of the House of Commons, passed so long ago as the year 1735, in which it was expressly admitted that the Secretary of State had the power of issuing warrants for the inspection of their letters. But the noble Lord, the Member for Sunderland, said, the power ought not to exist with regard to Members of Parliament, because it might be perverted by a corrupt Minister of the Crown, to party and political purposes. Undoubtedly such a result was possible, but what conclusion did he draw from that? He did not reason from the abuse of the power against its use or existence. He admitted that the power vested by law in the Principal Secretary of State became infinitely more dangerous, and that the issue of the warrant required infinitely more caution in the case of a Member of the Legislature, and that if it were discovered that the Minister exercised the power which he possessed in such a case for party or political purposes, he would justly incur the animadversion of the House and of the country. But while he admitted, with the noble Lord, the possibility of the power being so exercised, it should not be forgotten that the Reports of the Committee, both of the Lords and Commons, concurred in stating, that having looked back to the proceedings of several Secretaries of State during successive Administrations for more than twenty years, they found the practice had been nearly uniform; that the power had been very sparingly exercised, and never from personal or party motives; and that in every case investigated it seemed to have been directed By an earnest and faithful desire to adopt that course which appeared to be necessary, either to promote the ends of justice or to prevent a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or otherwise to promote the best interests of the country. With regard to the expediency of continuing that most important power, it was a question which ought not fairly to be included in the present Motion. Hon. Gentlemen might entertain very different opinions on this subject—and all have very sound reasons for their peculiar views; but in general, as far as he could gather the feelings of the majority of hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, he thought they were in favour of a continuance of the power, under certain restrictions; but he was afraid, if it were intended that the power should be in the smallest degree useful, it would be found utterly impracticable to impose any restrictions or conditions whatever upon it. He feared there was no alternative between the utter abolition of the power, and the entrusting it, under the responsibility of his own discretion, to the Secretary of State, in whom it was invested. When the subject had been brought before the House last year by the hon. Member for Finsbury, his right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham) was placed in a most embarrassing position. He felt himself bound by his official duty, by what he owed to the public, to remain perfectly silent. It had been said that the right hon. Baronet might have prevented all discussion by a single word. True, he might; but why was not that word uttered? Because the right hon. Gentleman was restrained by an overruling sense of official duty. But there were Members of that House who knew the embarrassment of his position—who had themselves filled the office of the right hon. Baronet, and had exercised the power for the use of which he had been assailed. They knew the difficulties of his situation, and one word from them would have relieved him; but they remained silent. The word in due season was not spoken. Did the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman connected with the former Government get up for the purpose of preventing the odium attaching to his right hon. Friend in consequence of the exercise of this power? Were they even silent? On the contrary, they seemed to feel—they must forgive him the expression—inconsistently with the general manliness of their course, that his right hon. Friend was in a difficulty from which it was impossible for him to relieve himself, and not one of them came forward to his relief. In consequence of the cry which was raised from one end of the kingdom to the other, the position in which his right hon. Friend originally stood was altered. Silence had been originally imposed upon him as a duty, but the general feeling which prevailed now rendered inquiry necessary. He could hardly believe that the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House could have anticipated the manly course which would be adopted by his right hon. Friend. He could not help suspecting that they thought his right hon. Friend's lips were sealed by his official duty, and that he would not be able to come forward and court inquiry. When the hon. Member for Finsbury proposed the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the subject, his right hon. Friend, in a speech, the manly, calm, and dignified composure of which was calculated to produce the deepest effect on the House, expressed his assent to the appointment of a Secret Committee; and then the noble Lord the Member for London, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, feeling that the practices not only of his right hon. Friend but of his predecessors would be made known, spoke out, and, joining with his right hon. Friend, contended that the Committee ought to be a secret one, and that the evidence ought not to be published. The Committee was accordingly appointed, consisting of Gentlemen of whom it had been said over and over again that there was not a Member of the House who would not intrust to them his honour, character, and whatever was dearest to him in existence. The House decided against the proposal that the hon. Member for Finsbury should be on that Committee; and upon that decision of the House he stood in precisely the same situation as any other Member of the House who was not a Member of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh was pleased to say, that in consequence of the different constitution of the Committee in that House, and the Committee in the House of Lords, he would support an Amendment, which he dimly shadowed out, and which had been since put into shape by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland. The right hon. Gentleman said, that it was proposed by the Government that no person who was a Member of the late Government or of the present Government should be a Member of the Committee, and that the hon. Member for Finsbury should also be excluded, — that he was struck with the apparent fairness and justice of the proposal, and had been beguiled into giving his vote for the exclusion of the hon. Member for Finsbury from the Committee. He must be permitted to say, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh was not in the habit of so readily yielding up his judgment. He did not think that the strong man was so very easily bound and led away captive. He must assume that the right hon. Gentleman had exercised an unfettered judgment upon the subject; and that it was his deliberate conviction that it would be inexpedient that the hon. Member for Finsbury should sit upon the Committee. The hon. and learned Member for Kinsale (Mr. Watson) said, that the Committee had no power confided to them to report upon the law. He would have done better, if instead of diving into his books, he had read the Report of the Committee, at the beginning of which he would find it stated that— The Committee of Secrecy appointed to inquire into the state of the law in respect of the detaining and opening of letters at the General Post Office, and into the mode under which the authority given for such detaining and opening had been exercised, and to report their opinions and observations thereupon to the House, and to whom several petitions were referred; have examined the matters to them referred, and have agreed to the following Report. Now this was a most important part of the case. What was the object in the appointment of that Committee according to the view of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh? He said there could be no doubt that the intention was, that this Secret Committee should state to the House, not particular cases, but the general principles upon which the Post Office, or other authorities, had acted—so that even upon this view they were called upon to report with regard to the state of the law. Their authority was ample and well defined; and how did they perform their duty? Turn to the ninth page of their Report, and the House would see who were the persons they called before them. Before entering, however, on this head of inquiry" (said the Committee), "they consider it proper to observe, that they have had before them, with a few exceptions, every person now living who has held the seals of Secretary of State for Home or Foreign Affairs, since the year 1822, as well as two noblemen who have discharged the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and several persons who have held confidential situations under them; and they have further examined the present Postmaster General, the Secretaries of the Post Office for England and Ireland, together with several of the most confidential officers in every branch of the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the Post Office; and that all these witnesses, without exception, have made to your Committee the most full and unreserved disclosures; so much so as to have rendered it superfluous for your Committee to examine any other witnesses. The Committee, thus constituted, armed with these powers, and calling before them all the witnesses that were necessary to be summoned, came to a conclusion which, he would venture to say, to every generous and dispassionate mind, amounted to a perfect and complete acquittal of the right hon. Baronet. Nay, they showed that in some respects the practice of the right hon. Baronet had improved upon that of his predecessors. There is a marked improvement," (said the Report) "in the practice of the present Home Secretary as compared with that of his predecessors. Since the average duration of the warrants issued since September, 1841, does not exceed forty days, and in many cases it is as low as three or four days. The Committee fully exonerated his right hon. Friend from the charge of having exercised the power in an unworthy manner, and showed that that power had been used fairly and properly. But the hon. Member for Finsbury, who was not upon the Committee, and who was not considered by this House to be a proper person to form part of the Committee, presented himself with his witnesses to be examined. Did the Committee refuse to examine them? No. Why were they not examined then? Because the hon. Gentleman chose to impose a condition upon that examination, which would have been quite inconsistent with the duty the Committee had to perform. The Committee were ready to investigate every matter that was brought before them, and to have examined all the witnesses who might be produced. But they could not submit to the imposition of the terms on which alone the hon. Gentleman would permit those witnesses to appear. Therefore it was that the case of the hon. Gentleman was not inquired into. The House resolved that the Committee should be a secret one, and that the evidence should not be published, because the public interest required it; accordingly the witnesses who appeared before the Committee, felt that they were giving their testimony under circumstances which would relieve them from responsibility, and enable them to communicate matters which, if the seal of secrecy were taken off, it would be most impolitic and improper to communicate. And now the hon. Member for Montrose proposed that the whole of that evidence should be published; that they should undo all that they had so deliberately done, from a feeling of the absolute necessity that existed for secrecy, having constituted a Committee on that foundation, and examined witnesses upon the same principle; and publish the whole evidence, and thus give rise to all those mischievous consequences for preventing which the Committee was in the first instance made secret. Was the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury intended to be for a public inquiry into all the subjects connected with the exercise of this power? Was it intended that the powers of his proposed Committee should be as extensive as those which were conferred upon the Secret Committee? Did he propose that all the practices and customs of the predecessors of the right hon. the Home Secretary should be investigated by his Committee? Not a bit. But his Motion was restricted to the warrants that had been issued from the 1st of January, 1840. Now, why was that? It would have been too palpable if the hon. Gentleman had dated the time of his Motion from the period when the right hon. Baronet entered upon his office. That would be, too obviously, a personal attack on the right hon. Baronet—therefore, in order that his Motion might not have so much of that appearance he extended his time, and added another year to the period for the Committee's inquiry. But there could be no doubt that the view was still to continue the obloquy and odium which, if it ought to attach at all, should attach to the power itself, and not to the exercise of it by the right hon. Baronet, who, if he had departed from the practice of his predecessors, had done so in favour of public liberty. When once an opinion had fixed itself on the public mind, it was hard indeed to eradicate it. The hon. Member for Finsbury had contrived to attach that feeling most unjustly and improperly, as he thought, on his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary; and now, by endeavouring not to investigate the particulars of the general exercise of this power, his object was to keep alive that feeling which was directed against the right hon. Baronet. He would not advert to the terms in which the hon. Member for Finsbury introduced his Motion—they had been properly characterized by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. He thought he might venture to say, they went to the extreme verge of Parliamentary license. But that this was a personal attack on his right hon. Friend; that it had also conveyed a serious imputation on the Committee; and that it attached to them the opinion that they had not faithfully discharged their duty—were facts that could not be denied. Did the noble Lord's Motion improve the matter? Why if it were of a personal nature before, it became ten times more personal by the Amendment of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Finsbury said, "The noble Lord has taken the matter out of my hands, and has made it a personal matter between the Government and myself;" but the hon. Member would forgive him (the Solicitor General) if he said that the Motion of the noble Lord would not change the position which the hon. Gentleman had assumed from the beginning to the end of the debate. From the first it was a personal attack; it continued a personal attack; and at this moment remained a personal attack. And now the noble Lord, instead of confining the inquiry to the period chalked out by the original Motion,—limited as it was—actually proposed to restrict the inquiry to a particular exercise of the power by the right hon. Gentleman. Let him, then, appeal to right hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House. They had had occasion to exercise this power. They had exercised it with a due regard to the advantage of the country. What would they say if some individual case had been selected, and if that had been made the ground of a personal Motion against them? If they had been called upon in this House to account for the exercise of that power in such a case, would they not have felt that they had a paramount duty to the public not to allow any one who chose to assail them for the purpose of dragging into light the exercise of that which must be felt to be an odious power? Would they not have felt that it was hard to be called to question when, from the responsibility attaching to their official character, they were unable to make a full and complete defence? If that would be the feeling which would prevail in every noble and generous mind, he called upon the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to have the same feeling towards his right hon. Friend. He called upon them to consider his case as their own, and to judge from their own feelings, and from their knowledge of all the circumstances connected with official character and responsibility, what ought to be the answer to such a Motion as that now under discussion? He felt that the time would come when this attempt would meet with its just reward. He trusted there were generous spirits in the House, who would not be caught by any observations which might be made upon this subject; who would see that all that ought to be done by men of honour and integrity had been done; that after the verdict which had been pronounced, his right hon. Friend should not be called again to the bar of public opinion; and that they would reject the Amendment of the noble Lord, and the Motion of the hon. Member.

Lord John Russell

said: I make no apology to the House for addressing it on the present occasion; but the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone has thought proper to say that I am to be blamed because I have not taken an earlier opportunity of addressing the House on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. Sir, I felt no necessity for rising. With respect to the question itself, there was a Committee appointed last year, which received the evidence of various Secretaries of State, and before which Committee the right hon. Gentleman produced the warrants issued by the various Secretaries who preceded him. I was examined before that Committee, and I gave them fully, as far as my knowledge and recollection served, an account of all that I had done when I had the honour of filling the office of Secretary of State. Such being the case, there is no need for inferring merely that I took part in transactions similar to those of which the right hon. the Home Secretary is accused; that I had signed warrants directing the opening of letters; and that I had acted generally as my predecessors and my successors have done. But Sir, for that matter, I did rise last night in the course of the debate, and it was by your decision that the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland was called on to address the House. Sir, I feel no difficulty either in stating my view of what the practice is, what was the practice I followed, or in how far I think the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman is justified, and how far there is still wanting explanation as to parts of his conduct. With respect to the law of the case I certainly cannot give an opinion further than this, that if the law did not intend that the Secretary of State should exercise this power, then to unlearned persons the Statutes of Anne, and the Statutes of Victoria are mere traps which ought not to have been set, and ought not to remain. I see that by the Acts of Queen Anne, and by the Acts of Her present Majesty, the clerks in the Post Office are not permitted to open letters unless by an express warrant in writing, signed by the Secretary of State. What am I, an unlearned person, to infer from such a law, except this, that with such a warrant, this proceeding is perfectly justifiable; and if I am now to be told that persons in high authority say that such a proceeding is altogether illegal, all I say is, that you should make your law clearer—that you should place upon the Statute Book some law which it would have been perfectly easy for you to do, forbidding those persons to open letters on any authority whatsoever, and then no person filling that high office could doubt your intentions. But I think that persons who tell us that proceeding upon such warrants is illegal, should explain exactly what is the purport of the Statute of Queen Anne, and the exact position in which persons having charge of those voluntary Post Offices which the Queen's Post Office was intended to supersede; what would be the case in law if a person in London, engaging to send letters round the country, should have been found opening letters, and afterwards transmitting them—how far his conduct would have been criminal—what criminal proceeding would have been taken against him, or what would have been the nature of the civil action to which he was liable, and how he would have been punished. Upon these questions I profess to give no opinion; but if these warrants are really illegal, then I wish that these questions were cleared up for the benefit of those who can only act upon the apparent law of the case. Then, Sir, as to the practice. No doubt when last year it was discovered, owing to the questions of my hon. Friend, that letters had been opened at the Post Office, a great degree of public indignation was expressed, and an undue share of that indignation was directed against the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. For my part I can only say, with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, that, as far as I can see, the conduct of the right hon. Baronet has been exactly like that of his predecessors in the same office, and that the power has been used generally to defeat the aims of conspiracy, and to preserve the peace of the country. When the hon. Member for Sheffield said he had counted the number of warrants issued for the three years previous to the accession of the present Government to be forty, and that the number issued during the three years the right hon. Gentleman had held office was forty-four, he concluded, rationally and justly, that so small a difference made no material alteration between the conduct of the present Secretary and his predecessors, and that there had been no such exercise of the power as to call forth the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury. But with respect to the power itself, when I hear hon. Members, moved by the expression of public indignation declare that in no case ought letters to be opened, I do own that I have great doubts whether it would be safe or wise to act upon that opinion. It may be that such a power should scarcely ever be exercised—it may be that both preceding Secretaries and the present right hon. Gentleman may have exercised it too frequently without absolute necessity, and in some instances on erroneous information; but to declare by Act of Parliament, or by a Resolution of this House, that persons connected with conspiracy, that persons waging civil war against the Queen, are to be entitled to the use of the public Post Office of the kingdom,—that, indeed, would be a dangerous course to follow, having respect to the security of the public peace; for when you say that you will take this power from the Secretary of State, I hope that the House, before they do that, will well consider what are the powers and the means which they leave to the Secretary of State for preserving the public peace. Sir, it is well known that not many years ago, when Lord Sidmouth held office, he thought it was a fair and legitimate means of preserving the peace to employ the instrumentality of spies. My belief is that spies are themselves the cause of the risings and the tumults which they are employed to detect, and that persons were frequently convicted of criminal conduct to which they were led by the instigation of spies. I consider that spies are not only objectionable, but dangerous to the spirit of this free country. But are you prepared to enact, when you say that letters are not to be opened, that there shall also be no spies? At present their employment rests entirely on the discretion of the Secretary of State. I have always taken a view of the subject which induces me to think that spies ought not to be employed even in the most dangerous state of the country; and accordingly at a time when danger was apprehended from those who were then called Physical-force Chartists, when a Chartist called upon me and offered his services to detect the designs of his fellow Chartists, I declined his offer. I believe, Sir, that the employment of spies does not at present exist; but you have no sanction in law to secure you against that policy; no declaration on the part of this House; no enactment to secure you against the employment of spies. The secret service money is placed entirely at the disposal of the Secretary of State, to be disposed of in a way which he believes to be most fitting for the service of the State; and if you enact that there shall be no opening of letters, are you secure—are you certain—that no future Secretary, anxious to preserve the public peace, feeling himself charged with the responsibility of its preservation, will not have recourse to means still more objectionable than the opening of letters? The spy is a man who goes among the people, and instigates them to acts which they would not otherwise have committed. The letter which is opened is at all events the writer's own sentiments and views. To proceed: there was a complaint made last year of the opening of letters in a case which did not appear to justify the Secretary of State on any ground, either of defence of the country from internal danger, or from foreign foe. This was the case of Mr. Mazzini, which has been referred to by the noble Member for Tyrone with somewhat of pleasantry, though to me it seems a matter calling for the gravest, if not the most melancholy reflections. As far as we can make out the history of that case, it is as follows:—Information was given, or rather a suggestion was submitted to the Government, that Mr. Mazzini was at the head of a party which were seeking to overturn some of the existing Governments of Italy, and especially the Government of the Papal States. In consequence of this information, the letters of Mr. Mazzini were opened at the Post Office, and the substance of the information so obtained was conveyed to a Foreign Government. There can be little doubt that this was the Austrian Government. Now, without being certain of the fact, it seems from what we have heard, that the two Bandieras, sons of the Austrian admiral of that name, living at Corfu, had written to Mr. Mazzini that they had a project for invading the Papal States. It appears that this information, and the names of the parties concerned, were communicated to the Austrian Government; for it is observable that it is carefully stated by both Committees, both the Lords and the Commons, that the names of persons residing within the power of a Foreign Government were not communicated, the case being, that the persons in question were residing at Corfu, and not in the power of any Foreign State. The next we learn is, that a person visited the Bandieras in Corfu, and that, in the expectation that they would be joined by a large portion of the people, twenty-two men, armed or unarmed—for this point is differently stated — landed on the coast of Calabria, the person who had excited them to this enterprise accompanying them. We then learn that as soon as they had landed, this person went over to the authorities, procured the defeat of their design, and that they were soon after executed. Such is this melancholy history. I cannot think it affords any justification for opening the letters in question, on the ground of preventing a war in Europe. Nor do I think that such a case as this comes within the legitimate purpose for which this power was given. I am far from saying that the Government and the Crown were not, however, exercising that power with the view and with the intention of promoting the public welfare. Still less am I saying that the right hon. Baronet is peculiarly responsible for this exercise of power. On the contrary, I think the Foreign Secretary of State, the First Lord of the Treasury, in fact the Cabinet—the Government—are quite as responsible for such an extraordinary exercise of the power, as the right hon. Gentleman. And if any odium is particularly directed against him, I think that especial odium is unjust. I think that whatever blame is attachable—and I consider there is great blame attachable—is attachable to the Government collectively, and not peculiarly or solely to the Minister who happened to sign the warrant in this particular case. But the result is, that a Foreign Government, by threatening that troops should be set in motion, which threat probably would not have been carried into operation to any extent—by holding out fears of an insurrection, which probably after all would not have been of a formidable character—bad influence enough to induce the Government of this country to inspect the correspondence of a foreigner residing among us in the belief that, if he obeyed the laws of this country—if he did everything which a loyal subject of the Queen could be expected to do—he would not be molested. We have seen what the consequence was in this particular case; and it this is to be formed into a precedent—if we allow any Foreign Power, if we allow Russia, with reference to the Poles—if we allow Austria, with reference to all Italy—if we allow Spain, with reference to Spanish exiles—to put severally in force the powers of the Secretary of State, given for far other purposes, against exiles living here, this country will no longer be regarded as the land of hospitality, or that asylum for the oppressed, which it has been hitherto esteemed; and exiles from every place will regard England as a place where, instead of finding safety, they will be exposed to danger, and meet with treachery. With regard to that part of the case, I want no further inquiry, I do not think it is needed, and I could not therefore vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury on that ground. The inquiry which has already taken place is quite sufficient; and the Report of the Secret Committee sufficiently describes the facts of the case, to enable the House to decide that the power was not properly exercised in this case, and to express its opinion that the power which has been so used should not be drawn into a precedent in future cases. The Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, however, alludes to a proceeding connected with himself, and calls upon us to grant an inquiry into it; and this is a very different case. The hon. and learned Solicitor General, in the speech which he has just concluded, alluded to my conduct when the subject of the inquiry into those proceedings was before the House last year; but I will not detain the House on this occasion by a defence of myself, for I fear, if I entered into any such defence, I should not be able to satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman as to my conduct on that occasion. He blames me for not being favourable to the Queen's Government, when the case of Mr. Mazzini was brought before the House last year, and he next blames me for joining the Government, when it was proposed that the Committee should be secret, so that, whether I oppose or support the Government, I am not fortunate enough to obtain the hon. Gentleman's approbation. I must say, with respect to the Committee of last year, that it was fairly and justly appointed, and that I think it was right to leave out the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury when they were appointing that Committee. The Committee was, I think, fairly appointed, and consisted of persons of honourable and impartial character; but then the right hon. the Secretary at War, in his speech of last night, and the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, laid very great stress upon the fact of a majority of that Committee having been composed of Members of this House who are opposed in politics to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Now, Sir, I cannot think that there could have been any fear of an adverse Report proceeding from that Committee because the majority of its Members were opposed to the right hon. Baronet in their political opinions. I think, on the contrary, that men of honourable and impartial minds would be as likely to do justice to the right hon. Baronet on that Committee, if they were opposed to him, as if they were favourable to him in politics. If however, hon. Members opposite do not agree in my opinion, and if they think that the Secretary of State has sustained any injury in this respect, there is a remedy for it. Let them appoint another Committee of inquiry, and let them leave out the names of the hon. Member for Kendal and the hon. Member for Derby, and place on the Committee, instead of those, the names of the hon. Member for Knaresborough, and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. Then the right hon. Baronet will have the satisfaction of having a majority of Members in the Committee who sit at the same side of the House with himself, and who will take, perhaps, a more favourable view of his conduct. With regard to the Report of the Committee, we have seen that they examined the subject very closely, they went far back into history, they described so many warrants that had been issued in former days, and showed so much antiquarian research, that I may wonder they did not go still further back; that they did not instance the case of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who opened the letters which had been committed to his charge, and got Rosencrantz and Guildenstern put to death instead of himself. But they did not rest satisfied with antiquarian research, for as soon as they were done with that portion of their labours, they proceeded to give an account of various warrants issued by Secretaries of State, and said, as the Lords' Committee also said, that although they had been used by Secretaries of State for a considerable period, they believed that the power had never been applied to any personal or party object, but that it had been used—whether judiciously or erroneously—for the welfare of the country. They then go on in the Report to say,— Your Committee would have abstained from giving particular information concerning any warrant, and from naming a single individual whose letters have been directed to be opened, but for the notice which has been taken of the mode of executing certain warrants, and the mention which has been made of the names of the parties included in certain others; these being the circumstances which have mainly led to the inquiry which your Committee has been appointed to conduct. On these cases, therefore, your Committee consider it their duty to report particularly. They then refer to five cases, first mentioning the period of the outbreak in the manufacturing and mining districts in August, 1842—to the period of the disturbances in South Wales in the autumn of 1843—thirdly, to the warrant to open and detain the letters of Mr. Mazzini—fourthly, to the warrant for opening the letters of Mr. Worcell and Mr. Stolzman—and fifthly, to the warrant to open the letters directed to Mr. Grodicki at Paris. If the Committee had abstained from mentioning any names or warrants, it might be supposed they thought the mention of particular cases imprudent; but here we have the names of several individuals, to open whose letters warrants were granted: we have a distinct mention of the warrants, and when the hon. Member for Finsbury stated that his letters had been opened, I cannot understand why the Committee stopped short and gave no information with respect to this case. It had been said by hon. Members opposite, that the letters of Members of Parliament are of no more consequence than the letters of any other person; and that the Secretary of State might as well direct the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury to be opened as the letters of any of his constituents of Saffron-hill. Undoubtedly, if a Member of Parliament were engaged in a treasonable correspondence, or in any cause likely to promote sedition, and lead to a disturbance of the peace, the Secretary of State might open his letters; but that is not the question here—that is not the subject we are called upon to consider. We are called upon to say, when a Member of this House states that his letters have been opened, whether he is not entitled to be made acquainted with all the circumstances connected with that case; to have the statement fully investigated, and to have it ascertained if that Member was fit to represent a large portion of the people of this country. As a Member of this House, he is called upon to discharge serious and important duties—to pass the laws by which the peace of the country is preserved—to protect the interests of his constituents, and, if it were necessary, to cause inquiry to be made, with a view to the redress of any grievances which might affect those constituents, or be felt in any part of the country. If that be the position of a Member of this House, is it not fair, then, that when he states that his letters were opened, you should at least give him the benefit of showing that there existed no ground which would justify the opening of those letters; and, on the other hand, is it not just to enable us, if any treasonable or seditious correspondence were found, to say whether he was fit any longer to represent the people in this House? The hon. and learned Member for Bute referred to various cases of sedition, and rather implied, than otherwise, that my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury was engaged in a correspondence having reference to those cases. [Mr. Wortley did not imply any connexion of the hon. Member for Finsbury with those proceedings.] Perhaps it was not the hon. Member's intention; but in the course of the debate it has been left so uncertain and doubtful—I do not say whether the letters of the hon. Member have been opened or not (because the Committee could have stated the plain fact of their not having been opened), but what were the circumstances under which that opening took place, and whether there were any grounds alleged against my hon. Friend for adopting such a proceeding—that it is most important my hon. Friend should have an opportunity of showing whether any such cause could exist for adopting such a course with respect to his correspondence. I heard with pleasure the able speech which was made last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War; and I congratulate the House upon the eloquence and argument which it displayed, and which will, no doubt, make him a distinguished ornament to the House. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman, however, struck me as but little fitted to persuade the House of the impropriety of such an investigation as the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland requires. The right hon. Gentleman says, that the charge of the hon. Member for Finsbury is mere guess-work at present; and states that the hon. Member, by seeking to have this investigation of the circumstances entered upon, does not seek to elicit the truth. Now, I have been always led to believe that the gentleman who is desirous to elicit truth is favourable to inquiry; and that he who is not desirous of the elucidation is opposed to it. However, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War laid down a different principle. He says that the man who is favourable to the elucidation of truth will be desirous to close all inquiry — to leave the circumstances the subject of guess-work, and allow them to be enveloped in mystery; but if a man wishes for full investigation, and is desirous of inquiry into the facts, then he is surely against the elucidation of truth. Now, that species of argument seems to me to be little calculated to convince the House that the hon. Member for Finsbury is not desirous for the elucidation of truth. Why should we not inquire into the charge which relates to the opening of the hon. Member's letters? Why not agree to a short inquiry, in order to set right the character of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury? If we allow the case to remain without investigation; if we allow this charge to pass, and let it be said, that when a Member complained that his letters were opened, the House was satisfied, and there was no inquiry because the Government opposed it, I am afraid it will be calculated to shake the character of this House with the public. It cannot be that the House will not suffer in public estimation by adopting such a course. We are told that this is a persecution of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. But I will ask, is it right that every sort of imputation should be thrown out against a Member of Parliament, and that nothing should be brought forward in his favour; that he should be allowed no inquiry, and have no redress afforded him? The hon. and learned Member for Bath said, he believes that his letters were opened in 1837 and 1838. Now, I know no imputation whatever upon the character of that hon. and learned Gentleman. I know that he was at that time agent for Canada; and I know, whatever might be my own opinion of his views on that occasion, that he conducted the case with great ability and honour in favour of those whom he represented; and I must say, that if he should think fit to ask for an inquiry, I shall vote for an investigation of the facts of the case. If a Member of this House be suspected of treasonable correspondence, if his loyalty be suspected, or that there is any doubt thrown upon his fitness to be a Representative of a portion of the people of this country, then it is but just that we should agree to an inquiry which would settle the matter in one way or another. Such is the result of the consideration which I have given to the whole case. I think with regard to the Secretary of State for the Home Department there is no imputation upon him, and that he was neither the first to adopt this practice, nor that he exercised the power more extensively than it had been used before; but I say that to allow the case to rest where it is, would throw an unjust imputation where it ought not to attach. I think, with regard to the case of Mazzini, that blame is attributable to the Government, and that they adopted in this case a new and extraordinary course, which has led to melancholy results, and ought never to be repeated, if we are desirous to avoid a perpetual stain upon the fair fame and character of the land. With regard to the charge of the hon. Member for Finsbury, if you wish to do justice you ought not to refuse inquiry; and the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland has moved an Amendment, which will have the effect of obtaining that investigation. If there were a warrant issued in that case, the Secretary of State will be thus afforded an opportunity of showing that he exercised a true discretion for the public good, and showing reasons for his conduct satisfactory to this House and the country; but, on the other hand, if you refuse all inquiry—if you shut up the question altogether—you may rest as you are for the present; but depend upon it that the public mind will not be satisfied with your conduct, and that unfounded imputations—for unfounded many of them are—will continue to exist; and you will be obliged at last either to surrender altogether a necessary power, or to grant that inquiry which you before refused.

Sir R. Peel

said: Sir, in consequence of the Amendment which has been proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, I am enabled to address you for the second time during this debate without any breach of the forms of this House; but as I have already declared fully and explicitly my sentiments upon the subject of the original Motion, I shall not avail myself of the privilege to enter into the subject on this occasion. There are, however, one or two points which have been adverted to in the course of the debate, with respect to which I wish to offer a few observations. It has been implied in the course of the debate—an hon. Member who spoke last night seemed to say—that I referred to the hon. Member for Finsbury, in reference to the Chartist movements in 1842, and that I attempted to connect him with them. The first person who put that construction upon my language was the Colleague of the hon. Member himself; and in reference to that construction of my words, I now say, that I emphatically and distinctly deny it. The hon. Gentleman said, that I indirectly alluded to the hon. Member for Finsbury; and in answer to that I say at once to him that an indirect allusion would be much worse than if I had stated the fact directly. As the course taken by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and myself, obliges us to decline answering any questions with respect to opening the letters of the hon. Member for Finsbury; as I say that my public duty prevents me from answering such a question—I should feel that I took in my situation a most ungenerous advantage, if I implied one word against the hon. Member; and I think I may appeal to my public conduct for thirty years to confirm my declaration that I am incapable of taking an ungenerous advantage of an opponent. So far as such an imputation on the hon. Gentleman is concerned, I therefore utterly and entirely disclaim the construction which has been put upon my language; and I assure the hon. Member that, with reference to him, such an idea never entered my mind. When referring to the state of the country in 1842, I cannot conceive how it was possible that any one could suppose I could have an intention of connecting him with those proceedings, or that he was capable of any act which rendered him unworthy of a seat in this House. It is true I might, without mentioning his name, convey an insinuation against him; but that would be still worse than if I had named him. The Motion of the hon. Member is, in fact, not a personal Motion, but for an inquiry as to the proceedings with respect to "the mode in which letters have been detained, opened, and re-sealed at the General or at any provincial Post Office; and also into the circumstances under which every warrant for that purpose has been issued by any Secretary of State from the first day of January, 1840, to the present time, the said Committee to report their opinion thereon to the House, and also whether it is expedient that the practice should be continued"; and the Committee he seeks for, is to inquire whether any alteration in the law is necessary: and in bringing forward that Motion the hon. Member brought forward several successive charges against us. In the first place, he said that we fabricated warrants to detain and open letters; then he told us that we were more responsible for the blood of certain unfortunate Italian refugees, who were shot, than the soldiers who pulled the triggers which deprived them of their lives; and lastly, he said, that we were chargeable with having issued more warrants for searching letters during our period of office, than had been issued in the same period by any preceding Government. He then said, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had exceeded his power; that he issued forty-four warrants in three years, and exceeded in the number of those warrants any preceding Secretary of State. I rose to answer that allegation of an abuse of power; and how was I to answer it but by the facts which I produced? I proceeded to show that the state of the country in 1842 was such as to justify my right hon. Friend in using every power of the law and the constitution, to ensure precaution against disorder. I appealed to the language which was held in 1842, and it was said that we did not credit that; but I can state that we had too much reason to credit that language. I know the position in which my right hon. Friend was in August and September, 1842; and I assure the House that no language could be used which could exaggerate the danger which then existed. We heard in 1842 of one town in which, during the winter of that year, 17,000 persons rose in the morning without the means of employment, on which they depended for subsistence. We knew well the state of this metropolis at that time—we knew the state of Manchester—we knew the state of the manufacturing districts; we are now taunted for having disbelieved the allegations made in this House as to the state of the country? but we knew that it was a state of real and serious peril, and that it was our duty to use the utmost of our power to protect the public peace. That was the reason why I referred to the state of the country in 1842, and not, I assure the hon. Gentleman, from any intention in the slightest degree to connect him with proceedings calculated to endanger the public peace. That was one of the points with respect to which he wished to offer some explanation; and there is another point to which I also wish to advert. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury, in the debate last night, declared that it was his intention to support the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland. In the course of his speech the hon. Gentleman observed, that I had, when I addressed the House on this subject, displayed a great apparent warmth; that when I addressed the House, I was emphatic in my action; and he undertook to assure the House that my warmth, although we were accused of being the cause of the shedding of innocent blood, and with fabricating warrants—with having abused and exceeded our power—that my warmth was simulated, and that I was acting the part which I thought convenient for the occasion, that of a choleric gentleman. It is certainly very possible to manifest great vehemence of action, and yet not to be in a great passion. On the other hand, it is possible to be exceedingly cold, indifferent, and composed in your manner, and yet to cherish very acrimonious feelings. Notwithstanding the provocation of the hon. Gentleman, I will not deal so harshly with him as he has dealt with me. He undertakes to assure the House that my vehemence was all pretended, and warmth all simulated. I, on the contrary, will do him entire justice; I do believe that his bitterness was not simulated, but that it was entirely sincere. The hon. Gentleman has a perfect right—who questions it?—to support a hostile Motion. It is perfectly open for the hon. Gentleman to let the debate proceed for two nights; and, finding that the Motion is not exactly put in a convenient form, to try to ascertain what is the mode of amending it which may be most captivating and convenient. He is at perfect liberty to give a direct support to the Motion; but all I ask is, that when he gives that support to the Motion, let him not say that he does it in a friendly spirit:— Give me the avowed, erect, and manly foe; Firm I can meet, perhaps can turn the blow; But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send, Save, O save me, from a candid friend! Here we meet in debate with our opponents opposite. We enter into conflict with them, mutually attacking and repelling attack adverso fronte. When engaged in that conflict, it is certainly not very convenient, though it may be unavoidable, to have a blow aimed at your right flank which you did not expect. Be it so. It cannot be helped; but all I ask is, do not let your "balm break our heads." In the course of his speech the hon. Gentleman made this charge against me:—The hon. Gentleman said—and it appears to me quite an unnecessary allusion, for the sake of his argument—it was notorious that I was in constant correspondence and communication with a gentleman who had been engaged in Despard's plot—who was now a Member of the Government—and speaking of whom I had declared that he was a friend of mine, and that I was proud of his friendship. Putting these observations together, and considering that the Gentleman alluded to is a Member of the Government, and that I had avowed my friendship for him, I cannot find any other person to whom these observations will apply than an hon. Friend of mine, of whose friendship I am proud, and who was subjected by an hon. Gentleman, in the beginning of last year, to a charge which was really laughed at by the House before I had an opportunity of defending him. I cannot doubt that these observations of the hon. Gentleman are applied to Mr. Bonham, who holds a civil situation in the Ordnance. Now, the conspiracy of Despard took place in 1802. Forty-three years have elapsed since then; and I am not sure whether, considering the great lapse of time which has occurred—considering that my hon. Friend was a young man at that time, when party passions ran high — recollecting also what took place at that period, both in Ireland and this country—I am not sure that it would be very charitable to revive the recollection of what passed so long back. On the whole, I should think it better not to revive the recollection of such a period; but if a man had changed his feelings, and altered his mode of life, I should be disposed to extend that oblivion which is consistent with true charity over even culpable proceedings of early years. But, at the same time, I am bound to say, that, considering the nature of Despard's plot—considering that one of the counts of the indictment was to the effect, that Despard and his associates intended to burn the Bank and slaughter the peaceable inhabitants of this city—but considering, above all, that they contemplated the murder of their Sovereign on his way to Parliament; I am not sure that the lapse of forty-three years would justify me in recommending a man who had been engaged in such a plot for a civil situation in the Ordnance Department. I have been speaking upon the assumption that this hon. Friend of mine was actually engaged in the plot. What will the House think of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury when I state that the imputation is entirely without foundation? It is really and truly as utterly without foundation to say that my hon. Friend was concerned in Despard's plot, as it would have been if the hon. Gentleman had stated that he was concerned in the Gunpowder Plot. I have received this day a letter from him, which I will, with the permission of the House, read. He writes— I have this moment read a speech of Mr. Disraeli's in which, though my name is not mentioned, it is impossible for me, in reference to the situation which I have the honour to hold, and the kindness with which you were pleased to speak of me in the debate of last year, to misunderstand. It charges me with being concerned in Colonel Despard's plot. I find, on referring to the State Trials, that the trial of Colonel Despard took place in 1803. The plot was in the preceding year, 1802. I was then sixteen years of age, in attendance on my father, who was then at Bath, suffering under a severe and lingering attack of paralysis, and myself under a private tutor there. My age would probably exempt me from the suspicion of being concerned in the transaction; but if not, I state explicitly that I had no more concern, direct or indirect, with Colonel Despard and his associates than yourself. He then goes on to a painful subject:— However, that I may not be charged with withholding from you or others anything which could have given rise by possibility to such a misrepresentation, I should state that it was my misfortune (or still more his against whom no specific charge was ever made), that my half-brother, fifteen years older than myself was, with Lord Cloncurry, under the suspension of the habeas corpus, confined in the Tower in 1799. I need not say that my age was then sixteen. Now, I ask the hon. Gentleman, having the advantage of this sort of foundation for his statements, but having also the means, I presume, of ascertaining the particulars of Mr. Bonham's conduct—I ask whether he thinks it fair to charge a gentleman enjoying the favour of his Sovereign, with having participated in Despard's plot, he being then a boy sixteen years old? Was it fair for the hon. Gentleman to have made that charge against Mr. Bonham, there being the readiest means of ascertaining how utterly it was without foundation? I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman had heard of the circumstances to which Mr. Bonham in his letter, alludes—namely, the misfortune of the confinement of a half-brother of his, some years older than himself; but would it not have been fairer for the hon. Gentleman to have ascertained the facts, before he charged my hon. Friend with participation in such a conspiracy? These, Sir, are the two points on which I wished to address the House. As I said before, I don't mean to take share in the general discussion into which I had before an opportunity of entering. Sir, I spoke before under feelings under which I speak now, that you are meditating an act of great injustice towards Her Majesty's Government. It was disclosed last year, that letters were opened by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In consequence of the part taken by our predecessors it became necessary to submit the whole matter to a Committee of Inquiry. The House chose its own tribunal. By an unanimous vote—at least without a division—you determined to appoint a Secret Committee. Now, let us consider what is the relation in which this House stands before the public. You chose to have the inquiry conducted by a Secret Committee. You approved of the names of the Gentlemen who composed that Secret Committee. I know not whether you did this unanimously; but I know that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition against the Government, delivered it as his opinion that the Committee ought to be secret, and that the constitution of the Committee was a perfectly fair one. A division was taken upon the question whether the hon. Gentleman should be a Member of the Committee or no. If I recollect right, the hon. Member for Finsbury stated that he had himself no wish to be named on that Committee; he begged his Friends not to divide on the question. I assured him at the time no personal disrespect was intended by his exclusion; the hon. Gentleman acquiesced in the exclusion; and in order to show that exclusion was not marked, Lord Radnor—who moved for the Committee in the House of Peers—was excluded also. You invited us to appear before that Committee, and disclose every fact of which we had cognizance. It is too late now for you to say that the constitution of the Lords' Committee differed from the constitution of your Committee. You knew that three days afterwards. It was appointed on the 14th of July. Members of the late Government were upon it. Its constitution was different, but you made no objection at the time. You did not urge that as a fatal objection to the proceedings before the Committee. I submitted a general form of words to the hon. Member for Finsbury; he objected to them; he asked me to modify them, and at his instance I did. He was satisfied. [Mr. T. Duncombe: On the understanding that I should be present.] Yes; on the understanding that the words would enable the hon. Member to be present. The hon. Gentleman then declared that he knew his letters had been opened. You knew the fact then on which you are now raising a question of privilege. At the time that Secret Committee was appointed, you knew that the hon. Gentleman charged us with having opened his letters. Sir, I have been surprised at the manner in which you have tried to overcome that difficulty. You say it was done jocularly. You say that the hon. Gentleman was speaking in a jocular mood, as if he had said, "I dare say you opened my letters." Why, what were the real expressions used by the hon. Gentleman? He said, on the 18th of July, "I believed then, and I believe now, I am in a condition to prove that my own letters have been opened." Why, what can be more emphatic than that declaration—"I am in a condition to prove that my letters have been opened?" and the hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by putting to my right hon. Friend the same question he puts now,—"Did you or did you not open my letters?" The hon. Gentleman had as much cognizance of the fact—he had as much reason for supposing that his letters were opened then as now; he told you so. He said he was in a condition to prove it. The course you chose to take, the course you took unanimously, was to appoint a Secret Committee, in order that we might have no pretence for withholding information from you. We gave it—we gave it without reserve—we gave you every warrant—we stated to the Committee the reasons upon which we had acted. That Committee being secret, as the noble Lord says it ought to have been—that Committee, constituted of honourable men —reported in our favour, so far as our intentions and honourable motives were concerned. We got a verdict of acquittal. We did not stand upon confidence. If we had stood upon confidence, we should have refused examination and stood the test of a division. We said, "We will submit our conduct to examination, and appear before the tribunal of your selection." It entered into the inquiry; it received all our evidence. It examined us as to our motives; it gave a verdict decidedly in our favour; and now, reversing every principle of justice, you propose to submit us to another inquiry and another trial. Sir, standing here before the public, I know that, ordinarily speaking, the men in Government, and the men in Opposition, can have no reserves. But there are circumstances which do unavoidably in some degree affect that relation. I was invited, after my accession to power, to be a party to an attack on you [addressing the Members of the late Government] with respect to proceedings which had an unfortunate result in India. I positively refused to be any party to that attack. I said, "No, we are now in possession of official communications — we know the real facts of the case. The course which is legitimate in Opposition is not legitimate in Government. We have a powerful support here." I did not concur in that Motion, although I was supposed to have acted with too much delicacy in the course I took. I know your position as well as you do. I know well, and state it before the country, that we have exercised no power that you did not exercise. In no single instance have we extended this power. I admit that in the exercise of it in critical times, we may have been liable, as you were, to mistake. I may admit we have stopped a letter which proved no discredit to the party, and which subsequent information has satisfied us there was no foundation for detaining; but that was your position also. You concurred in the appointment of this tribunal; you know we have done nothing you did not do yourselves. I envy you not your sorry triumph, if you shall succeed in subjecting us to a second trial, and provoking anew a condemnation from which we have escaped. The noble Lord says, we were wrong in the case of Mr. Mazzini. I admit that in the case of foreigners this power ought to be exercised with a reserve greater even than with regard to subjects of this realm; but I cannot acquiesce in the doctrine of the noble Lord, that under no conceivable circumstances—not even if the peace of Europe was at stake—should this power be resorted to. Nothing is more unwise than to lay down a general principle of that kind. I think, that when one of the Bonapartists was fitting out an expedition in this country, to create a convulsion in France, it would have been justifiable to resort to this power, however objectionable, in order to prevent the shores of this country from being the spot from which civil war should be carried into France. Sir, each case must be decided by its own special peculiarities. It is difficult to lay down any general rule. Sir, at a future period I shall be prepared to discuss the question whether there should be any alteration in the law; but this I will say, I will not purchase an acquittal for the Government by consenting to any alteration in the law, or by intimating a readiness to acquiesce in it. Condemn us, if you will. We won't avert your sentence by making any promise with respect to the sacrifice of an important power. Let it rest upon its own basis. Again, I ask you to remember the position in which we were placed in the years 1842–3. Remember the danger with which we were threatened; remember our success in averting it, almost without bloodshed—without resorting to spies—without applying for any extraordinary powers, and conducting the trials with a spirit of equity and moderation which extorted from hon. Gentlemen opposite almost unanimous praise. We did that. We are now enjoying tranquillity. Speaking of Great Britain, there probably never passed a year in which there was more of social contentment, and less disposition, speaking of political offences, to disturb the public peace, than during the last year. We have had our trial. You chose the tribunal: you approved of the nature of it. Recollect these things. Expose us, if you will, to a second trial; avail yourselves of the popular indignation, which, if applicable to all, is applicable to the principle, and not to the men. Succeed, and again I say I would rather be in the position of a man defeated by your injustice, than be one of a majority by whom that injustice was inflicted.

Mr. Disraeli

Having already spoken to the question before the House, I have no right left again to address it; but after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, I think I may be permitted, at least by way of explanation, to say a few words; and if I deviate beyond the limit of explanation, I think I may appeal with confidence to the generous indulgence of the House to excuse me. I will not stop now, though the House may permit me afterwards, to allude to and give the reasons why I made a statement which proves to be utterly unfounded. The statement, I beg to assure the House, for my own vindication, was not made lightly, though it was made without the least premeditation; but I wish at once to acknowledge that I have committed a great and grievous error, and I am not ashamed to acknowledge it. I am glad the House is so full that I can offer to the Gentleman whose conduct I have so misrepresented an ample, a complete, a frank, and a hearty apology. I deeply regret that I have been led to make such a statement; but I can only say that there is no language at my command that can express my deep pain that I have, without cause, and without foundation, injured his feelings. If it be possible to convey to that Gentleman in any other manner the expression of my regret, I shall do so; but I do not think it can be offered to him in a manner more satisfactory than in the place in which the misrepresentation was first promulgated, and in a House so full as the present. I repeat, the reference was perfectly unpremeditated, and I believe it was so recognized by the House at the time. A taunting cheer from the right hon. Baronet called my recollection to the circumstance, which I admit I thought might not be agreeable to him; but at half-past eleven o'clock, in the excitement of debate, there are perhaps few of us who would be superior to the weakness. I have distinctly stated the real circumstances under which the allusion was made. The fact had been represented to me, not second-hand, that the Gentleman in question to-night was concerned in the transactions referred to; and I am sure it must be highly satisfactory to him that this exculpation of his character has occurred. The right hon. Baronet has made some observations which I am prevented from noticing. He has had four-and-twenty hours to arrange an impromptu, but I must be silent. I must however, by way of explanation, correct the right hon. Gentleman, in one of his statements. He has said that I was the cause of this Amendment being proposed. [Sir R. Peel; "No, no."] Far from being the cause of the Amendment, I very much opposed it when suggested, because I knew it would give the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity to speak twice.

Sir J. Hanmer

rose to explain:—The right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government has made some observations as to the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, and I therefore deem it right that I should state what I know with regard to that Amendment; because the right hon. Gentleman has indulged in some observations, in which he appeared to me severely to impugn the right of those hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House to act in the manner in which, as I am about to state frankly and boldly, I have done. I am not about to utter again my opinion with respect to the conduct complained of by the hon. Member for Finsbury. I stated that opinion frankly and boldly on a former night; and the House will do me the justice to acknowledge, whether that opinion was correct, or whether it was erroneous, that I strictly confined my observations to the case of the hon. Member himself. I said, that I put on one side the question with respect to Mr. Mazzini, because, if that alone had been brought under the consideration of the House, as I had thought it would have been, I should have voted against the Motion. I am speaking, Sir, on a serious question, which concerns the independence of Parliament. Well, Sir, I was anxious to confine my observations to the case of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury. I spoke to that effect, and if I did not speak so forcibly to that effect as I could wish, that was my intention. I thought that a great many extraneous observations had been introduced into the debate; but I was exceedingly desirous that justice should be done to the hon. Gentleman. When I came down to the House I spoke to my noble Friend the Member for Newark, who is sitting beside me (Lord J. Manners), and expressed to him my great desire that this question should be confined within those limits. I wrote upon a scrap of paper, which I believe I have in my pocket now, an Amendment, not in the exact words, but precisely to the effect of the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland. Sitting here in my place, the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland came to me and said he understood—for he was not in the House in the former part of the debate when I spoke—that I had expressed an opinion with regard to confining the question to the hon. Gentleman. I said that I had expressed such an opinion, and that I was anxious, as an independent Member of Parliament, to have the judgment of Parliament upon that question; but, as I had spoken before, and considering that I was not a very good speaker, I thought it best not to present myself again to the consideration of the House; yet, so anxious was I that the case of the hon. Gentleman's letters should be submitted to the House, if his noble Friend, in the course of the evening, would propose such an Amendment, I would vote for it. The noble Lord said that he was of a similar opinion, and read me a paper to the same effect as my own. I then said, "That being the case, from your position in the House, and from your long standing, you will be the most proper person to take this course, and I will support it." I hope that I am not speaking hastily, and that I am not stating anything which, upon further consideration, I shall see cause to regret; but I think that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) do seriously impugn the independence of Parliament. I entertain that opinion now, and it is not for the first time. As an independent Member of this House, I give a general support to the right hon. Gentleman; but I am perfectly free, under some circumstances, boldly and frankly to declare, that I will act with the noble Lord if it shall seem proper for me so to do. If I am wrong in taking this course, I will not act any longer in this House. I will not condescend to be called the Representative of the people of England, if I cannot bear that title. For my acts and for my discretion I am responsible to my constituents; but, so long as I continue to sit in Parliament, so long will I maintain the independence of a Member of Parliament. I will not submit to have my position called in question by any man, not even one possessing the power and the high station of the right hon. Gentleman, as one unbecoming an independent Member of Parliament.

Sir George Grey

said, that it was not his intention to express any opinion as to the differences which existed between the right hon. Gentleman on this question, and some of those hon. Members of that House, who might be ranked amongst the supporters of the Government. He would only say, that any one who respected the independence of Parliament could not but feel some satisfaction at the symptoms of mutiny and rebellion which they had just witnessed—against that compulsory principle which one of those hon. Gentlemen, the hon. Baronet the Member for Essex, the other night had frankly declared was the principle on which a large portion of the hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House had hitherto supported the right hon. Gentleman. Nor was it his intention to protract the debate by any lengthened observations at that hour—a debate which he thought, considering the aspect in which it was now presented to the House, and the narrow issue to which it had been reduced by the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland, had already exceeded those limits within which it might reasonably have been restricted. That issue, narrow and obvious as it was, had been altogether evaded by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He (Sir G. Grey) had certainly expected that the right hon. Gentleman, as he had already addressed the House upon the original Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury, in availing himself of the forms of the House, which allowed a Member of that House to speak on an Amendment after he had spoken to the original question, would at least have addressed himself, not, as before, to the original Motion, but to the Amendment. He repeated, however, that the right hon. Gentleman, finding it more convenient to address himself again to the original Motion, had altogether declined to meet the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland on the issue put to the House, and which would be the real issue, on which hon. Members would be called upon to vote. Not that he undervalued the importance of the general question. It was because he felt its importance—because he felt that, after the discussion which had taken place, and the revelations which had been made, some legislative enactment upon the subject was urgently demanded; it was on this account he regretted that the time of the House had been exclusively occupied for three nights in the discussion of a mere preliminary Motion — a discussion which seemed to lead to no direct legislative measure. He should have been glad if, after the discussion of last Session—if, after the appointment of Committees by the two Houses of Parliament—if, after the Reports of these Committees, they had been enabled to proceed to the consideration of some legislative measure submitted to the House by Her Majesty's Government, in order to place the law on the subject on some definite footing, it being clear from the opinions expressed in the other House of Parliament, and expressed that night by his hon. and learned Friend who had lately addressed the House, that the law on the subject was in a most unsatisfactory state, and that a Bill should be proposed, either for the abolition of the power at present exercised by the Secretary of State, or for subjecting it to some such restrictions as had been suggested by his right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. He must say, that for the delay in public business and this consumption of time, Her Majesty's Government are mainly, if not exclusively, responsible. Returning, however, to the question now proposed to the House—he was speaking of the Amendment—it was not directed to inculpate the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, in the able speech which he delivered on the previous evening, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in the speech which he had addressed to the House that evening, had treated the Motion as one criminating the Government; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had stated that it was both unjust and ungenerous, after charges had been brought against the Government last Session, and Committees had been appointed to investigate these charges, and after the free and unreserved disclosure of all the facts connected with the case, made both by the present Government and their predecessors in office—that it would be both unjust and ungenerous, now that the Government had obtained a verdict in its favour, to repeat the charge, and to force them again to undergo the ordeal of an investigation. If that was the question before them, he should agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He thought that after the verdict of the Committee, it would certainly be unfair to repeat the same charges, and again, upon these charges, to subject the Government to the ordeal of an investigation. But that was not the question now presented. The question was not whether the Government, in the exercise of their power, had acted with discretion, or whether they had exercised this power in a way which must subject them to the censure of that House. On these points they had obtained a favourable verdict from the Committee, and to that verdict he cordially subscribed. But if the Government had obtained a favourable verdict from the Committee, and claimed the benefit of that verdict, he would ask, whether it could be assserted that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury had obtained such a verdict also? That hon. Gentleman in his place in that House had asserted a fact, which he said was within his knowledge, that his letters had been detained and opened; and he had addressed a question to the Government to know if such had been the case. The right hon. Baronet had said that that allegation had been made in the course of the last Session of Parliament. Now, he understood the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Strutt), a Member of the Committee, to have stated in his speech which he had that evening addressed to the House, as one of the reasons why the Committee did not report upon that charge, that the charge had not been specifically made in the course of last Session; that it was put merely as a hypothetical case; and he hinted at other reasons, such as a difference of opinion in the Committee, which had induced them to abstain from repotting upon it. What, then, was the position of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury? He made a distinct allegation that the Government had directed his letters to be opened. This fact must cast on the hon. Member suspicion of a grave nature, so far as any act of a Government can attach suspicion to any Member of that House. What did the Committee report? Any one who read their Report would find that if any opionion upon this point was to be inferred it was virtually against the hon. Gentleman. The Report stated that in no case within the cognizance of the Committee—and they had seen the warrants which had been issued for a space of time covering twenty-two years—in no case had these warrants been granted, or letters opened under them, for any other purpose than that of detecting crime, and maintaining the public peace. It must, therefore, have been in the contemplation of the Government that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury was concerned in some seditious or treasonable correspondence. That hon. Gentleman thus stood in that House with a heavy suspicion attached to him, and asked the House for what he had never known it deny to any man since he had had the honour of a seat in that House; he asked either for a denial of the allegation, or that the means should be afforded him of a full, fair, and complete investigation, with a view to the vindication of his character. He would now ask what had been the course of the Government? They had locked themselves up in impenetrable mystery, on a subject on which he could not conceive the grounds for such mystery. If, during the first night of the debate, they had denied the allegation at once, an end would have been put to the question concerning the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury. If, on the other hand, having already obtained the verdict of the Committee which had acquitted them of an improper exercise of the power, they had frankly avowed that they had opened the letters of the hon. Gentleman, that would have been a manly and intelligible course—either course would have saved the House two nights of discussion. They seemed, instead of this, to have purposely adopted a course of evasion and mystery, but for what object he could not conceive. They maintained that it was inconsistent with their public duty to state openly that which their silence so clearly indicated. What, then, was the position of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury? The Committee, it was said, had investigated his case. If it had done so, all that he could say in reply was, that it had made no report upon it. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had stated, the Committee had investigated the cases of Mazzini and Grodicki, because petitions had been presented to the House containing express allegations on these two cases. The Government and the Committee said, that when the letters of these Gentlemen had been opened, nothing was found in them which could criminate either of those Gentlemen. The Committee had, it seemed, the case of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury also before them, amongst other cases which they had examined into; but they had abstained from saying, as they had said in the cases of the two Gentlemen alluded to, that in the letters addressed to the hon. Member for Finsbury, there was nothing found to criminate the hon. Gentleman. Under these circumstances, what alternative was left to the hon. Gentleman but to get up in his place, and adopt a course which every man of honour would feel himself bound to adopt, and say that he was suffering under a wrong and injury inflicted upon him by Her Majesty's Government; that the Committee they had appointed had not expressed any opinion upon his case; and therefore that he, a Member of that House, for his own sake, and for the sake of the House, and also for the sake of his constituents, should be enabled, by the concurrence of the House, to repel the charge—for which purpose, he demanded a full and searching investigation. Among other reasons suggested why the right hon. Baronet should not at once have appointed a Committee for this purpose, was one suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War. Only think, said that right hon. Gentleman, of the consequences that would ensue if the Government had answered the questions put to them by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury. Why, said he, ten Gentlemen might get up and put the same question to the Home Secretary! If the Government answered in nine of these cases, but withheld an answer in the tenth, the result would be irresistible that they had done in the tenth what they had denied in the other nine. He (Sir G. Grey) fully admitted this; but he asserted that if ten Gentlemen should address such a question to the Government, under circumstances identical with those in which the hon. Member for Finsbury was placed, the Government would have no right to answer the nine, and withhold an answer to the question of the tenth: this argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War struck him (Sir George Grey) with surprise. It seemed to imply that the right hon. Gentleman believed that there might be ten Gentlemen who could get up and assert that, to their knowledge, their letters had been opened. He (Sir George Grey) must say that that was very improbable, if it did not amount to an impossibility, and constituted but an unsubstantial reason for the reserve which had all along been observed by the right hon. Baronet. The question put to the right hon. the Home Secretary was a plain question, to which a plain answer should have been vouchsafed. It was a question asked in plain, and distinct, and intelligible terms, and should have met with a plain, distinct, and intelligible answer. The hon. Gentleman might not have been as guarded in his phrases, perhaps, as he should have been; and great had been the advantage taken of the want of moderation in some portions of the address of the hon. Gentleman. But he was not there to measure the words and phrases of a man who felt himself injured, and who was asking for redress. However much portions of the speech of the hon. Gentleman might be objected to, that was no reason why they should refuse him justice. What had been the result of their course of proceeding? It had delayed important public business. Did they think, after all, that their Ministerial majority would decide this question? If a man had justice on his side, did they suppose that he would relax in his efforts to procure it as long as they refused to render it to him? Did they think that their majority, however large, when announced at that Table, would put this matter to rest—that it would be heard of no mote? No, for still the question would remain—still the demand would be made upon them—and still would it be found interfering with public business. He deprecated that; he was anxious that public business should not be interfered with; but if it were, the Government should not cast the blame of it upon others, when they themselves might remove the impediment. They ought not to complain that they could not be allowed to proceed—they ought not to attempt to throw that blame upon others with which they were themselves justly chargeable. Her Majesty's Government had last Session taken the same course in the first instance upon the subject, and had afterwards been compelled, by the strong feeling in the House and in the country, to grant inquiry. He gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for having no motive for again maintaining silence and reserve, but a mistaken sense of duty; but he believed that now, as before, the Government would be compelled to yield. He had not the slightest intention, in the vote he should give, to impute to the Committee the smallest blame. He felt how difficult and how delicate was the task that had been assigned to them. He thought a satisfactory reason for their silence had been given by the hon. Member for Derby; but, under the circumstances, he did hope that Her Majesty's Government would abandon the course they had persevered in adopting upon this point; that they would afford redress to the hon. Gentleman, and give him the means of justifying his conduct; and in doing so, they would act in accordance with the opinion that had been expressed not only upon that side of the House, but also by some who were numbered among their ordinary adherents.

Mr. Strutt

, in explanation, said that the right hon. Member for Devonport had fallen into a mistake when he represented him as having said, that in the course of last Session the hon. Member for Finsbury had not complained of his letters being opened. He had not said that, because that would have been contrary to the fact. The effect of what he had said was, that in the first debate on this subject, and before the Committee had been formed, he had not brought forward the charge with the same distinctness that he now preferred it; he did not then state that he was prepared with evidence to show that his letters had been opened; he had said something of bags being tampered with, and that it might have been for the purpose of opening his letters. The main charge at that time made by the hon. Member for Finsbury, was as to the opening of foreign letters, and not as to opening his own letters. Another point in which the right hon. Gentleman had mistaken him, was as to his having giving reasons why the Committee reported upon certain cases, and not as to others. What he had stated in his speech was, as to the circumstances which marked and distinguished one set of cases, and from which it might be inferred why there was not a particular reference to others.

Mr. Jervis

wished to state briefly his reasons for voting in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord. Seeing, he said, the mode in which the personal allusion to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury had been received by the House, he should not long delay them, but state the reasons very shortly that were a justification, as he had conceived, for the vote he was about to give. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had availed himself of the forms of the House to explain the observations which he had made upon a former occasion, because he had felt, like many others, that those observations were applicable to the hon. Member for Finsbury, and he was afraid that so the country had construed them. Certainly the hon. and learned Member for Bute had put that construction upon them. It had been said by that hon. and learned Member that his hon. Friend brought forward Motions in this House in connexion with the Chartists and magistrates of the country. And so, then, it was to be said, because a Member, in the independent course of his duty, thought it necessary to support certain opinions, and act in opposition to the Government, a Minister was to be regarded, in the exercise of the power entrusted to him, as justified in opening that Member's letters. He had endeavoured to catch the Chairman's eye immediately after his hon. and learned Friend had spoken, for he wished to reply to that argument. He was glad, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had had an opportunity of making the explanation which they had just heard. He was glad of it, in order that the public might be disabused if they had put the construction which he had done upon the former speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, he begged of the House to recollect the effect that had been produced by the reply of the right hon. Baronet to the charge made on the preceding night by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. The charge had been made against a personal Friend of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Treasury. Let them, then, see how the right hon. Baronet availed himself of the opportunity of having a public disavowal of the same charges. The right hon. Baronet had skilfully availed himself of the opportunity that presented itself; when the charge was publicly made, he considered that it ought to be publicly refuted. Let them, then, he said, do the same act of justice to the hon. Member for Finsbury. They had, by their proceedings, charged his hon. Friend with being connected with a dangerous state of society in that country, and they would not afford him the ample means of refuting it. They were now silent as to the charge. His hon. Friend said, his letters had been opened; and they relied upon their official responsibility for protection. Why, he asked, would they not do that justice to a political opponent, which they insisted upon procuring for a personal friend? Did they think it right to mete out justice to the one, and refuse it to the other? (Cheers.) Did they think that the public would be satisfied with that course? If they felt it necessary to have an explantion in the one case—and the House by their cheers responded to the necessity and the justice of such a course—then, he asked, how, in candour and in fairness, they could deny to his hon. Friend that investigation which he demanded? A charge had been made. There had been no verdict of acquittal or of condemnation. It was that which the House of Commons had a right to demand. He thought that his hon. Friend was entitled to the investigation he sought for. Without adverting to minor details, he said to the Government, that their own conduct condemned them; for when an unjust attack was made upon one of their friends by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, they were not satisfied without a public retractation of it, and yet at the same moment they refused to give the satisfaction of a public investigation, and an acquittal, to his hon. Friend, who stood in the position of a political opponent. He would support the Amendment of the noble Lord, not because he wished to deal in recrimination, but because he thought that the independence of Members of Parliament was compromised, and because he conceived that the fullest confidence should be permitted to exist between the Member of Parliament and his constituents.

Mr. Muntz

—Before the debate came to a close, wished to assure the Secretary for the Home Department, that he did not mean to cast any reflection or reproach upon him; for, on the contrary, he thought that more had been cast upon him than ought to have been done. What had the Home Secretary done? Followed the acts of his predecessors. He did not acquiesce as to the propriety of what had been done as to foreigners, for that, he thought, was the worst part of the question. He had an extremely strong opinion as to the opening of letters. The public, too, had a very strong opinion about it. It had been stated the other night, that it had been long known to exist. Now, he could assure the House he had not yet recovered from the feeling that he experienced when he was told of it. The first time he heard of it, he utterly denied it. He thought it was a practice confined to the despotic States of the south of Europe—that it was to be found only in the dominions of the Autocrat of Russia and the despot of Prussia. He thought, that every man's letter was as safe as his house door. It was disgraceful to every Government; it was disgraceful to the present—it was disgraceful to former Governments—it was disgraceful to the whole country, and he hoped it would be very soon got rid of.

Mr. T. Duncombe

, in reply, said, that after three nights' debate he should occupy the time of the House but a very few minutes. He must, however, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, that he and others meditated injustice to the Government, say that was not true. But the Government continued to do him injustice. They denied to him that justice which, he said, he had a right to demand. That injustice was meditated by the right hon. Baronet and his Colleagues. The simple proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Sunderland was to supply an omission on the part of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman resisted that proposition. He would not allow that to be done, because he said it reflected censure upon the Government. The Government said they had acted so purely—they had exercised their power purely. Well, then, the more their conduct was inquired into, the more it was examined, the more that purity would appear on an examination. He had been accused by the right hon. Member the Secretary at War with being actuated by a hostile feeling towards the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and that it was to gratify that wish, and not to elicit truth, that he sought for this inquiry. As the noble Lord the Member for London had remarked, it was not the practice of men who did not wish for the elucidation of truth to seek an inquiry. Now he asked for an inquiry; and then it was said it was not truth he was seeking for, but to gratify personal motives. He disclaimed the personal motives attributed to him. He complained of a practice—against whom was he to direct that attack? He found that the Secretary for the Home Department had issued warrants. Now, who was he to go and attack? Was it the Lord Chancellor or the Lord Chamberlain? No, he must direct his attack against the Home Secretary. He knew that the rest of the Government were responsible; but he must look to the Minister who had issued the warrant; and whether it was the right hon. Gentleman opposite to him, or a right hon. Gentleman sitting near him, he would have attacked them in the same way if he thought such had exercised power in the same manner as the right hon. Baronet had done. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government said that he had chosen his own tribunal, and the verdict of acquittal was for the Government. As to choosing his own tribunal, the tribunal was not chosen by him, but by Ministers. The thing was done in a hurry. The Government had not gone through the usual form of placing the names of a Committee on the Table one day, and appointing them the next. All was done in a hurry. As to the Select Committee, the names were taken out of the right hon. Gentleman's pocket at the time—and then, if the House would not have them, they would have none at all. The result, it was said, was a verdict of acquittal for the Government, and then the right hon. Gentleman said, "Stand by your Committee." As to the verdict of the Committee, he defied any one to show a line in it that could be interpreted as a verdict of acquittal. What was the description given of it by the noble Lord the Chairman of the Committee? The noble Lord had said that the Committee was very much divided, that there was a great diversity of opinion, and in consequence they put in here a bit of black, and there a bit of white, and so it was neither black nor white. That, then, was the Chairman's opinion of his own Committee. What, then, did the hon. Member for Kendal say? That parties were very evenly balanced, and consequently that the Report was nothing else but a compromise; and the hon. Member had added, that if he were allowed to express an opinion as to Mazzini, he must say that the right hon. Gentleman had not exercised a sound discretion, so that the verdict of acquittal was in fact no verdict at all. When a jury could not agree a new trial was granted; that was all he asked. He ventured to say, that if he were allowed to put these nine Gentlemen again in the box, and let him have thus an open Committee, and let him have two witnesses before them, that they would come to a different and a more decided conclusion. But were they not to discuss the Report of the Committee? What was the use of the Committee if they were not to examine or discuss their Report? That was all he had done. He had taken their Report, and had pointed out where they were in error, and what they had left undone. He had been accused of saying that the Government had fabricated a warrant; and the hon. and learned Member for Bute had said that he (Mr. T. Duncombe) had asserted that he knew a warrant had been fabricated in his own case. He never said anything of the sort. What he did say was in regard to the case of Mazzini; and it was this—that the system of opening Mazzini's letters begun at Christmas last, and continued till the 14th of June, when he presented Mr. Mazzini's petition (a copy of which he had previously forwarded to the right hon. Baronet) to the House, while the Report stated that the warrant which authorized the opening was issued on the 1st of March, and continued in force till the 3rd of June; and he said it was a fair ground of inquiry to ascertain why the letters were opened immediately after Christmas, previous to the issuing of the warrant — a point which was not taken notice of in the Report of the Committee. Therefore, he had said that the warrant presented to the Committee was an untrue warrant. He believed, in the first instance, an order was sent down to the Post Office, from the Foreign Office, to detain Mr. Mazzini's letters, so that the warrant was not issued until some time after. Then they were about to shut out all inquiry as to the cases of Captain Stolzman and Mr. Worcell, late a member of the Polish Diet, who had petitioned the House, complaining that their letters had been opened, as they believed, under a warrant from the Home Office, and praying for investigation into the circumstances. Then, as to his own case, the Committee stated that he had not petitioned, and that Mr. Stolzman and Mr. Worcell had never petitioned; and that, consequently, they were not called upon to report specially upon those cases; but he had stated publicly, in his place, that his letters had been opened, and yet the Committee look no notice of his case in their Report. The Report mentions that a warrant to open and detain all letters addressed to Mr. Grodicki, at Paris, and another foreign gentleman, was also issued. Why was the name of the one gentleman mentioned, and the other omitted? It was generally supposed and understood that this other foreign gentleman was Prince Czartoriski, who resided at Paris at that time, and that the reason his name was not mentioned was, that he was the intimate acquaintance of one of the Members of the Committee. But after all, he said the Committee had done the greatest act of injustice to him. That the Lords' Committee had never mentioned his name in their Report he could well understand, for his case had never gone before that Committee, and they knew nothing of his complaint. He had made his complaint there in his place in the House of Commons, and again before the Committee, and he had repeated it since. The two nights debate upon the matter might have been avoided, had the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) answered him candidly when he put the question to him; and much ill-blood, ill-feeling and discussion would have been saved. The noble Lord the Member for Newark (Lord John Manners) had said, that he would think himself a degraded man if he had become so much the object of suspicion that his letters were opened, and all explanation refused; and that he was in that position no one could doubt; for did they suppose, that if his letters had not been opened, as he asserted they had, the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) would not have been but too ready to say so at once. And if they were opened, why could not the right hon. Baronet have said at once, in answer to the question put to him—"We did open your letters; the circumstances of the country at the time justified us in so doing; but we are bound at the same time time to say, that we found nothing in those letters to criminate you." He should in that case have told the right hon. Baronet that he had no right to do so, and that the Government had done him a great injustice to suspect him; but he was willing to believe their motives were pure. He should have said this, and forgiven it at once, and forgotten it as soon as he could, and there would have been an end of the matter. But how stood the case now? Here he was, with a stigma fixed upon him, and denied all explanation. It had been suggested that he should call certain officials of the Post Office to the Bar of that House, and it was his intention to submit a Motion to the House on the subject—that would be his next step. He would move to call the Officers of the Post Office to the Bar of that House, and if it should appear that they had opened his letters, or detained them without a warrant, they must be committed for the breach of privilege. It was asked why are the letters of a Member of Parliament to be more privileged than others? He said they were not; and if Government had reason to suppose that any Member of Parliament was engaged in a conspiracy against the State, there was no reason why his letters should not be opened under the authority of a warrant issued for the purpose, the same as those of any other individual. The only difference was this, that if a man opened the letters of a Member of Parliament, without the sanction of a Secretary of State's warrant, he not only committed a misdemeanor, but a breach of Parliamentary privilege in addition. Let not the right hon. Baronet suppose that he grudged him any information or any amusement he might derive from the perusal of his correspondence. If Lord Sidmouth himself had done him the honour to open any of his letters, they would have been quite as amusing and instructive to him; but he was sure Lord Sidmouth would have been surprised if he had heard that at some future day the right hon. Baronet was to be found sitting amongst those very men whom, in Sidmouth's time, he denounced as the men who invariably passed bad measures and resisted good ones. He repudiated everything like personal hostility; he attacked the right hon. Baronet, because he filled the office from which all the iniquity had emanated—he could not attack any one else. It was admitted and avowed that this power of opening letters had been used very extensively by the Government, and if they would give him a Committee, he would in his own case prove that they had grossly abused it. Now, with regard to the Amendment which had been moved by the noble Lord, he was aware that there was a strong feeling in the House not to assent to his Motion, and as he saw he had a better chance of succeeding in obtaining the inquiry, as proposed by the noble Lord, than that he had moved for, and feeling that any inquiry, however narrow and limited, was better than none, he hoped the House would permit him to withdraw his Motion, and take the sense of the House upon that of the noble Lord.

Sir R. Peel

thought it would be better to take the sense of the House on the question originally before it. Of course it was competent for any hon. Member to object to the withdrawal of the Motion, and thus compel a division; but if he understood it to be the wish of the hon. Gentleman opposite at once to take the sense of the House upon that Motion, on which the greatest amount of opinion was concentrated against the course the Government had taken, he had no objection.

Original Motion withdrawn, and the Amendment having been put as follows:— That it having been alleged by a Member of this House, in his place, that Letters addressed to him have been detained at the Post Office, and opened before being delivered to him, a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire whether this allegation is true; and if so, by what authority and upon what grounds such detention and opening of Post Letters has been sanctioned.

The House divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 240: Majority 95.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Esmonde, Sir T.
Ainsworth, P. Evans, W.
Aldam, W. Ewart, W.
Anson, hon. Col. Ferrand, W. B.
Barclay, D. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Barnard, E. G. Fitzwilliam, hn. G. W.
Bellew, R. M. Forster, M.
Berkeley, hn. H. F. Fox, C. R.
Bernal, R. Gibson, T. M.
Blake, M. J. Gill, T.
Blewitt, R. J. Gore, hon. R.
Bouverie, hn. E. P. Granger, T. C.
Bowring, Dr. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Bright, J. Guest, Sir J.
Brocklehurst, J. Hallyburton, Lord J. F.
Brotherton, J. Hanmer, Sir J.
Buller, C. Hastie, A.
Buller, E. Hawes, B.
Busfeild, W. Hayter, W. G.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. Heathcoat, J.
Cavendish, hn. C. H. Hollond, R.
Childers, J. W. Horsman, E.
Christie, W. D. Howard, hn. C. W. G.
Clay, Sir W. Howick, Visct.
Clive, E. B. Hume, J.
Cobden, R. Humphery, Ald.
Colborne, hn. W. N. R. Hutt, W.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Jervis, J.
Collett, J. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Craig, W. G. Layard, Capt.
Crawford, W. S. Leveson, Lord
Currie, R. Listowel, Earl of
Curteis, H. B. Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.
Dalmeny, Lord McGeachy, F. A.
Dalrymple, Capt. Mangles, R. D.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Manners, Lord J.
Denison, J. E. Marjoribanks, S.
Disraeli, B. Marshall, W.
Duke, Sir J. Martin, J.
Duncan, Visct. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Duncan, G. Milnes, R. M.
Duncannon, Visct. Mitcalfe, H.
Dundas, Adam. Mitchell, T. A.
Dundas, F. Morris, D.
Dundas, D. Morison, Gen.
Easthope, Sir J. Morrison, J.
Ebrington, Visct. Muntz, G. F.
Ellis, W. Murray, A.
Napier, Sir C. Strickland, Sir G.
O'Connell, M. J. Talbot, C. R. M.
Paget, Col. Tancred, H. W.
Parker, J. Thornely, T.
Pattison, J. Towneley, J.
Pechell, Capt. Traill, G.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Trelawny, J. S.
Philips, G. R. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Philips, M. Turner, E.
Plumridge, Capt. Villiers, hon. C.
Ponsonby, hn. C. F. A. C. Vivian, J. H.
Protheroe, E. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Pulsford, R. Wakley, T.
Rawdon, Col. Walker, R.
Ricardo, J. L. Wall, C. B.
Rice, E. R. Wallace, R.
Roebuck, J. A. Ward, H. G.
Ross, D. R. Watson, W. H.
Russell, Lord J. Wawn, J. T.
Russell, Lord E. Williams, W.
Scott, R. Wilshere, W.
Sheil, rt. hon. R. L. Wood, C.
Smith, rt. hon. R. V. Wyse, T.
Somerville, Sir W. M. TELLERS.
Stansfield, W. R. C. Hill, Lord J.
Staunton, Sir G. T. Duncombe, T.
List of the NOES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Bunbury, T.
Adderley, C. B. Burroughes, H. N.
Alford, Visct. Campbell, J. H.
Allix, J. P. Cardwell, E.
Antrobus, E. Castlereagh, Visct.
Arbuthnott, hn. H. Charteris, hon. F.
Archdall, Capt. M. Cholmondeley, hn. H.
Arkwright, G. Clayton, R. R.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G.
Clifton, J. T.
Ashley, Lord Clive, hon. R. H.
Bagot, hon. W. Cochrane, A.
Baillie, Col. Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.
Baillie, H. J. Codrington, Sir W.
Baird, W. Collett, W. R.
Bankes, G. Colquhoun, J. C.
Barneby, J. Colvile, C. R.
Barrington, Visct. Compton, H. C.
Baskerville, T. B. M. Conolly, Col.
Beckett, W. Copeland, Ald.
Bentinck, Lord G. Corry, rt. hon. H.
Beresford, Major Courtenay, Lord
Bernard, Visct. Cripps, W.
Blackstone, W. S. Damer, hon. Col.
Blakemore, R. Darby, G.
Blandford, Marq. of Davies, D. A. S.
Bodkin, W. H. Dawnay, hn. W. H.
Boldero, H. G. Denison, E. B.
Borthwick, P. Dickinson, F. H.
Botfield, B. Dodd, G.
Bowles, Adm. Douglas, Sir H.
Bramston, T. W. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Broadley, H. Douglas, J. D. S.
Brownrigg, J. S. Douro, Marq. of
Bruce, Lord E. Drummond, H. H.
Bruce, C. L. C. Du Pre, C. G.
Bruges, W. H. L. East, J. B.
Buckley, E. Eastnor, Visct.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Eaton, R. J.
Egerton, W. T. Liddell, hon. H. T.
Entwisle, W. Lincoln, Earl of
Escott, B. Lockhart, W.
Estcourt, T. G. B. Lowther, Sir J. H.
Farnham, E. B. Lowther, hon. Col.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Flower, Sir J. Mackenzie, T.
Forbes, W. Mackenzie, W. F.
Fox, S. L. Macnamara, Major
Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T. McNeill, D.
Fuller, A. E. Mahon, Visct.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Mainwaring, T.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Manners, Lord C. S.
Gladstone, Capt. March, Earl of
Godson, R. Marsham, Visct.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Martin, C. W.
Gore, M. Martin, T. B.
Gore, W. R. O. Marton, G.
Goring, C. Masterman, J.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Maunsell, T. P.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Granby, Marq. of Meynell, Capt.
Greenall, P. Mildmay, H. S. J.
Greene, T. Miles, P. W. S.
Gregory, W. H. Miles, W.
Grimston, Visct. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Grogan, E. Morgan, O.
Hale, R. B. Mundy, E. M.
Halford, Sir H. Neeld, J.
Hamilton, G. A. Neeld, J.
Hamilton, W. J. Newdegate, C. N.
Hamilton, Lord C. Newport, Visct.
Harcourt, G. G. Newry, Visct.
Harris, hon. Capt. Nicholl, right hon. J.
Hayes, Sir E. Norreys, Lord
Henley, J. W. Northland, Visct.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. O'Brien, A. S.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Oswald, A.
Hervey, Lord A. Owen, Sir J.
Hinde, J. H. Packe, C. W.
Hodgson, F. Pakington, J. S.
Hogg, J. W. Palmer, R.
Hope, hon. C. Palmer, G.
Hope, G. W. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
Howard, Sir R. Peel, J.
Hughes, W. B. Pennant, hon. Col.
Hussey, A. Plumptre, J. P.
Hussey, T. Polhill, F.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Pollington, Visct.
Irton, S. Powell, Col.
James, Sir W. C. Praed, W. T.
Jermyn, Earl Pringle, A.
Jocelyn, Visct. Reid, Sir J. R.
Johnstone, Sir J. Rendlesham, Lord
Jonnstone, H. Repton, G. W. J.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Richards, R.
Jones, Capt. Rolleston, Col.
Kelly, F. Round, J.
Kemble, H. Rous, hon. Capt.
Knightley, Sir C. Rushbrooke, Col.
Lambton, H. Russell, J. D. W.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Law, hon. C. E. Sanderson, R.
Lawson, A. Shaw, rt. hn. F.
Lefroy, A. Sibthorp, Col.
Legh, G. C. Smith, A.
Lennox, Lord A. Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Smyth, Sir H. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Somerset, Lord G. Trollope, Sir J.
Somerton, Visct. Trotter, J.
Somes, J. Vernon, G. H.
Sotheron, T. H. S. Waddington, H. S.
Spooner, R. Wellesley, Lord C.
Stanley, E. Wodehouse, E.
Stewart, J. Wood, Col.
Stuart, H. Wood, Col. T.
Sutton, hon. H. M. Wortley, hn. J. S.
Taylor, E. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Tennent, J. E. Wyndham, Col. C.
Thesiger, Sir F. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Thornhill, G. TELLERS.
Tollemache, J. Young, J.
Trench, Sir F. W. Baring, H.

House adjourned at one o'clock.