§ SIR R. PEEL
Mr. Speaker, in rising, Sir, to move the Order of the Day for resuming the debate on the Bill for the Prevention of Murder in Ireland, I deeply regret that it should be necessary for me to obstruct, even for a short time, the progress of public business by any explanation of a personal nature. I deeply regret that it should be necessary for me to avail myself of the privilege (perhaps a doubtful one, as I have spoken in the course of the debate), of making any observations upon the Motion for reading the Order of the Day; but, Sir, I greatly doubt whether there be any Gentleman, however deeply impressed with the importance of proceeding with the public business, however he may regret the obstruction of that business by personal explanations, however rigid his adherence to the forms of this House—I greatly doubt whether there be any Member who now hears me, in whose estimation I should not suffer were I not to avail myself of the earliest opportunity of noticing that 689 which took place in this House on Monday last.
I thank the House, at least the great majority of the House, for their ready acquiescence in my appeal to them to suspend their judgment upon the accusations which were directed against me until they had the opportunity of hearing my defence. There was on the part of this House a general and a generous acquiescence in the justice of that appeal. They felt, Sir, that I must labour under no small disadvantage in being called upon to answer accusations which might have been preferred at any time within the last fifteen years, when the means of defence were more within my reach, and the opportunities of elucidating the whole matter were greater than they can be after the lapse of so many years. I little thought that I should have been called upon in the year 1846 to answer accusations connected with the transactions of 1825, 1827, and 1829. There have been great political conflicts and great political excitement since that period. Since the first period—since 1825—there has been the severance from Mr. Canning; the formation of his Government; the formation of the Government of Lord Goderich; the union of the friends of Mr. Canning with the Duke of Wellington and myself in 1828; the separation from us of those friends of Mr. Canning in the same year, on matters totally unconnected with the reputation or character of Mr. Canning. Then followed the fierce conflicts of 1829, when I felt it my duty to propose the adjustment of the Catholic question. In 1830 the Government of the Duke of Wellington—the combination of parties against that Government, and the loss of power by the Duke of Wellington, and those who held office under him; then followed the Government of Lord Grey, and the severe conflicts of Reform; of the dissolution of the Government of Lord Melbourne in 1834; and the formation of that Government over which I presided in 1835, attempting, to conduct the affairs of this country by a minority of this House for about three months, when I yielded to the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and the formation of their Government in 1835 ensued. Surely after such a series of party contentions, I was justified in presuming that the events of 1825, 1827, and 1829, so far as they could be the subject of crimination against me, were buried in oblivion; and many years ago every document connected with those events had been sent 690 to a distance from London, in the full confidence that it would not be necessary to resort to them for any purpose of explanation or defence. When the speech to which I have referred was made on Monday night, I had not the means of access to a single paper; occupied as I was by urgent public duties, I was unable to repair to the place of their deposit; the private secretaries by whose aid the correspondence of that period was conducted have passed away; the whole of the correspondence had been sent to my country residence in Staffordshire. It has been examined by those who were no parties to the conduct of it, and who have brought to London a confused and complicated mass of documents, from which I have for the last three days been attempting to collect the materials for my vindication from charges directed against my veracity and honour. Sir, when I heard those charges, I had a perfect conviction that they were unfounded. I listened to them with that calmness which results from the conscious knowledge that they were not founded in truth, but yet with that anxiety which every man must feel who fears that after the lapse of twenty years he may not be enabled to establish that complete and satisfactory defence which he could have made, if, in common fairness and common justice, such accusations had been preferred when the memory of those who heard the debates, and took part in them, was yet recent; when I could have referred to personal friends whether I had used this or that expression; when I could have trusted, not merely to the recollection of friends, but to the honour and generosity of political opponents, for their confirmation of my own impressions as to facts, and the inferences to be drawn from them. Sir, that advantage is denied me; and, debarred of it, I am now to answer these charges. I confine myself to the charges and to the evidence by which they are suported. Nothing else shall I notice. If there be other charges and other evidence, they ought to have been brought forward at the time. It will not be just, on a second occasion, to prefer new charges inculpating my honour, unless the evidence on which those charges rest be at once brought forward in the fullest manner. If there be other evidence, hitherto withheld, of which I am not cognizant, I shall be prepared to meet it; but I ask this House again to be generous and just enough to suspend their judgment on any new allegations, and to give me the opportunity of 691 repelling any new evidence, if new evidence is to be adduced.
Sir, I will now proceed to the vindication of myself from the charges which the House has heard; and, whatever may be the difficulties I have to contend against, if I do not succeed in establishing to the conviction of every honourable mind, not biassed, not thwarted by party, that those charges are utterly without foundation, I shall retire from this discussion with deep mortification and poignant disappointment. What, Sir, are those charges, and the evidence which has been brought forward in their support? When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury rose to speak on Monday night, the question at issue was this:—On a preceding night, the noble Lord the Member for Lynn—a Member of Parliament in 1826, in 1827, 1828, and 1829, the relative and private secretary of Mr. Canning, and fully cognizant of Mr. Canning's feelings—brought forward, at a late stage of the debate on the Irish Bill, and not upon any question affecting the character of Mr. Canning, this charge against me. The noble Lord said—That was the conduct of the right hon. Baronet in 1827; but in 1829 the right hon. Baronet told the House that he had changed his opinions on that subject (the Catholic question) in 1825, and had communicated that change of opinion to the Earl of Liverpool. That, however, did not prevent the right hon. Baronet, in 1827, from getting up in his place, and stating that he had severed himself from Mr. Canning's Government because he could not support a Government of which the Chief Minister was then favourable to the measure, which it appeared afterwards the right hon. Baronet had approved of two years before.Such was the charge of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. He asserted that I had declined to act with Mr. Canning as Prime Minister in 1827, upon the ground that I was adverse to the removal of disabilities from the Roman Catholics; that I objected to hold the office of Secretary of State, Mr. Canning being Prime Minister. Said the noble Lord, "in 1829, in bringing forward the Roman Catholic question, you informed the House that in 1825 your opinions on the Roman Catholic question had changed; you intimated that change of opinion to Lord Liverpool, then at the head of the Government, and yet, notwithstanding that admitted change of opinion in 1825, you refused to act with Mr. Canning in 1827." I said at once—not imputing to the noble Lord any wilful mis-statement—that the charge was altogether unfounded. I never did inform the Earl of Liverpool in 1825 that my 692 opinions on the Catholic question were changed; but this I told Lord Liverpool—that I was Secretary of State for the Home Department, responsible for the government of Ireland, with the charge of almost every domestic question in the House of Commons; that in 1825, on three great questions vitally concerning Ireland—the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities, the curtailment of the elective franchise, and the payment of the Roman Catholic clergy—I was in a minority; that all my Colleagues in the Cabinet, having seats in the House of Commons, were opposed to me on these questions; and that in regard to those qustions they were acting in concert with my political opponents. I said to Lord Liverpool, in 1825, "This is not seemly; this is not right; I seek to be removed from my position, and no longer to remain responsible for the conduct of affairs in Ireland." And there the matter rested, until the speech of the Member for Shrewsbury, on Monday last, implied that my defence was wholly without foundation, that I was not justified in giving that denial to the noble Lord. He insinuated that there was some letter of mine to Lord Liverpool in existence which proved that I had intimated to Lord Liverpool that there had been not only a wish to relinquish office, but that there was a change of opinion, on my part, on the Roman Catholic question. He cited as a proof of that an article in the Edinburgh Review, in which it was stated that I had the copy of that letter in my desk. To this I replied, that those who made such an assertion ought to be enabled to prove it; that I challenged the production of any such letter; and I promised that, if the copy of it existed, and was in my possession, it should be produced by me. It is most material, before I proceed, that we should correctly understand what are the charges preferred against me, and on what grounds they are supported. I have no right or wish to plead any statute of limitations. I know that a public man is required to confute charges of this nature, whatever be the lapse of time since the transactions took place. I desire no evasion. I say not now a word about the motives of my acccusers. I seek to gain no prepossession in my favour from questioning those motives. I desire to meet the charges themselves; and for that purpose, as a preliminary, distinctly to state the purport and effect of them. They amount, first, to an assertion or insinuation that some letter was written by me to Lord 693 Liverpool, in the year 1825, intimating a change of opinion on the Catholic question; secondly, that whether or no that change of opinion had taken place, or whether or no it had been communicated to Lord Liverpool, still that I had in my place in Parliament in 1829 distinctly avowed that there had been this change of opinion. That was the second charge; and it certainly is possible, though it is not easy to divine a reason for it, that, although no change of opinion had taken place, and no communication had been made to Lord Liverpool, I may still have informed the House in 1829 that I had changed my opinion in 1825, and intimated that change to Lord Liverpool. The evidence in support of the charge was this: There was a report in the Mirror of Parliament of a speech made by me in 1829, in which it was stated that I had informed Lord Liverpool in 1825 that "the time was come when something respecting the Catholics ought to be done." Now, that is the whole foundation of the charge. These are the expressions upon which the hon. Gentleman founds the charge that I had informed Lord Liverpool that a change in my opinion on the Catholic question had taken place. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to say — for I wish to state most fully the whole of the evidence against me—whether it be actual or plausible — the hon. Gentleman said, "The Mirror of Parliament employed an independent class of reporters, men of high eminence, men of peculiar attainments in the art of shorthand writing; the Mirror of Parliament was published once in three days, and therefore there was a strong presumption that its reports were accurate; and, if there is any doubt of the fact, there is strong corroboration of the accuracy of the report in the Mirror of Parliament to be found in The Times newspaper, which contains a report having in it the same words which occur in the Mirror of Parliament. Consequently there is a confirmation, from a separate and independent authority, of the correctness of the report of the Mirror of Parliament." There was also other evidence corroborative of the accuracy of that report in the fact that Sir Edward Knatchbull, speaking about a fortnight afterwards, on the 15th of March, 1829, referred to the report in the Mirror of Parliament, and assumed the correctness of it. These are, I think, the grounds on which the charges to which I have referred rested. There is also another 694 charge, that I had been guilty of a suppressio veri — and that, for unworthy purposes, I had mutilated and garbled the report of the speech which I made in 1829 in bringing forward the Catholic question, omitting the passage inserted in the report of the Mirror of Parliament. There may have been other less important charges; but these are the three charges immediately insisted upon. I think I have correctly stated the gravamen of the charges, and the nature of the evidence by which it is sought to sustain them.
Sir, I shall first address myself to this question—did I intimate to Lord Liverpool in the year 1825, or at any other period, that my opinion upon the Catholic question had undergone a change, and that I was prepared to support the removal of Catholic disabilities? First, I will refer to the course which I took in Parliament in the year 1825; and I ask whether that course was consistent with such an intimation as that I am asserted to have conveyed to the head of the Government? The House will probably recollect that Sir F. Burdett brought forward the Catholic question in 1825. He began, as usual, by moving for a Committee to consider the Roman Catholic claims. During the progress of that discussion two other measures were proposed, intended to facilitate the success of the main measure, and called on that account "the wings," the one for a reduction of the number of freeholders in Ireland entitled to vote in counties, the other for granting stipends to the Roman Catholic clergy. It was on the 28th of February, 1825, that Sir F. Burdett brought forward the Catholic question. I took a part in the debate on the Motion for the House resolving itself into Committee, and I then stated, in concluding my speech—Without dwelling on the objections as to the time at which this Motion was proposed, or its present expediency, he openly announced his objection to its principle. He should, therefore, pursue the course which hitherto he had uniformly persisted in, and give his decided opposition to the measurc.At the conclusion of the debate, Sir F. Burdett said, in reply—He thanked the right hon. Gentleman (meaning me) for the candid manner in which he had declared that his objection went to the principle, and not to the details of the question of Catholic emancipation.There was a considerable majority in favour of the Motion so made by Sir F. Burdett: the numbers voting for it, 247; 695 against, 234: the question, therefore, was carried by a majority of 13. The second reading of that Bill came on on the 21st of April, 1825, when I find it reported—Mr. Secretary Peel said, he had heard, and with the most perfect conviction of his sincerity, the avowal of the hon. Member for Armagh, that he had changed his opinions upon it. If he (Mr. Peel) had changed his own opinion, he should have been most ready to avow it; but, as he had not changed it, he trusted that his hon. Friends would give him the same credit for purity of motive in retaining it, that he gave to the hon. Member for Armagh in abandoning it.The second reading of that Bill was carried by 268 to 241—a majority of 27. The third reading came on on the 10th of May, 1825. I again spoke; for, as I complained at the time, the weight of debate fell chiefly on myself and two or three others. I had said on a previous occasion, that I was not prepared to support the total removal of disabilities—that I thought the chief offices in the Executive Government ought to be reserved to those who dissented from the Roman Catholic religion—that from the Legislature Roman Catholics ought to continue excluded—that I retained those opinions, and was not prepared to assent to the admission of Roman Catholics to seats in the Legislature or to the chief offices in the Executive Government. What I had previously stated was, that—If the Legislature and the chief executive offices of the State were reserved, and all others opened to the Roman Catholics, I did not consider there would be just ground of complaint.And I said, on the 10th of May, 1825—Believing as I did that those exceptions and this exclusion ought still to be continued, and the conviction of my mind remaining unaltered by any of the arguments I had heard, I felt it to be my duty to that conviction, and to the Crown, of which I was a Minister, to persevere in the course I had adopted.After such declarations publicly made in Parliament, is it probable that I could have gone to the Earl of Liverpool, and informed him that my opinion on the Roman Catholic question had undergone a change, and that I was prepared to acquiesce in the concession of the Roman Catholic claims? It was after the 10th of May—after the third reading of the Bill—after I had been in a minority on every division, and also in a minority on the two other Bills which were called "the wings" of that measure; it was subsequently to the 10th of May that I intimated to Lord Liverpool, that, with these majorities against me, and with a divided Cabinet, I had an objection 696 to remain in office; that my position in the Government, charged as I was with the administration of Executive affairs in Ireland, and defeated on Bills vitally concerning Ireland, had become untenable; and I asked to be relieved. It was between the 10th of May and the 20th of May that my communications on that subject with Lord Liverpool took place; that I intimated my desire to be relieved from office; that I subsequently intimated my reluctant consent to retain it. This important fact had occurred in the interval: the Relief Bill had been sent up to the House of Lords; Lord Liverpool had made a more decided speech against the Catholic claims than on any previous occasion; and the Bill had been rejected in the House of Lords, on the 17th of May, by a majority of forty-eight. It thus appeared that the majority of the House of Lords were in favour of the views I took on the Catholic question. It was represented to me in the strongest terms that my retirement from office would lead to a dissolution of the Government; that Lord Liverpool would retire in the event of my resignation; and consequently that the whole responsibility of breaking up the Government would rest with me. At a subsequent period, on the 26th of May, there was a debate on the state of Ireland. The present Lord Monteagle (then Mr. Spring Rice) brought the question before the House. On that occasion, after my interviews with Lord Liverpool, I took part in the discussion; and this was the language I held on the 26th of May, in reference to a speech made by Mr. Brownlow in the course of the debate:—His hon. Friend now seemed to expect an apology from him for continuing of the same opinion. His hon. Friend thought it necessary to call upon him to explain why he too was not converted by the evidence of Dr. Doyle, telling him that the cause was hollow, that the ground was utterly untenable. Now, he admitted that if his hon. Friend felt the ground untenable, that was a sufficient reason for his abandoning it. He admired his hon. Friend's sincerity; and, if he himself had felt the same motives, he would have followed the example of his hon. Friend, and defied all attacks for so doing. But he would beg to be allowed still to occupy ground which he did not feel untenable. He would beg to be allowed, with those who thought with him, to continue of the same mind, seeing that the same light had not broken in upon them which had broken in upon his hon. Friend.Such was the language held by me on the 26th of May, 1825, in the presence of Mr. Canning, who, I firmly believe, was entirely cognizant of what had previously 697 taken place between Lord Liverpool and myself. Is it probable, I again ask, that I should have held that language in the presence of Mr. Canning, and in the face of Parliament, if I had told Lord Liverpool that my opinion on the Catholic question was changed? I imposed no restrictions of secrecy as to my communications with Lord Liverpool. Mr. Canning was as much in Lord Liverpool's confidence as I was—probably still more; and I have not a doubt that Mr. Canning was perfectly aware of what had passed, namely, that I had expressed an earnest wish to be relieved from the responsibility of office under the circumstances in which I found myself placed.
In the early part of 1827, before Lord Liverpool's illness, when I had not the slightest anticipation of so early a termination of his public career, the Roman Catholic question again became the subject of discussion; and on the 6th of March, 1827—(it was not till a later period that Lord Liverpool became incapable of transacting public business)—I said—He (Sir R. Peel) should still retain his opinions as to what was the system which the country and the Legislature ought to enforce. He thought it ought to retain all the existing disabilities, as far as related to admitting Roman Catholics to the Legislature and to offices of State.If his opinions were unpopular"—observe, the death of the Duke of York had then taken place—"he had now the opportunity of showing that he stood by them still, when the influence and authority that might have given them currency were gone, and when it was impossible that he could be suspected of adhering to them with any view to favour or personal aggrandizement.I most fully expected in 1827 that I should be again in a minority; and, I was prepared to take the same course as in 1825, namely, adhering to my own opinions, immediately to relinquish office. But, to the surprise of all parties, in 1827 there was a majority of four against the Roman Catholic claims. The course I had thus taken in 1827, had not had the slightest reference to the appointment of Mr. Canning as Prime Minister. On the retirement of Lord Liverpool, when Mr. Canning succeeded to the office of Prime Minister, I at once intimated to him that I could not retain office in consequence of the diversity which existed in our opinions on the Roman Catholic question.
Such was the public and Parliamentary declaration of opinion at that time. It is not of course conclusive evidence as to the purport of the confidential communications that may have taken place with Lord Liverpool. 698 If I could find that I had intimated an opinion in writing to Lord Liverpool, I should produce the document at once; but I have a firm impression that my communication was a personal one. During the discussions on the third reading of the Roman Catholic Bill, I saw Lord Liverpool almost every day, and was not in the habit of making formal written communications to him. My impression, as I stated on Monday night, is, that there was no written communication between us. I have not the slightest doubt that such is the fact; for I find that in 1827, when speaking in Parliament on this subject, and when the memory would have a hold of the particular circumstances infinitely more strong than it can be expected to have now, after the lapse of so many years—I find that I stated, not that I had written to Lord Liverpool, but that I had waited upon him:—After I had been left in minorities on three different questions immediately connected with Ireland—the Catholic Question, the Elective Franchise, and the Payment of the Catholic Clergy—I waited on my noble Friend then at the head of the Government. I told him that I anxiously desired to be relieved from my situation. The reply of my noble Friend was, that my retirement would determine his own.And, again, that was what I said in 1827, in the presence of Mr. Canning.
But it may be justly observed, "There may have been no written communication—it may have been verbal—have you the whole correspondence with Lord Liverpool at that time?" I desired the correspondence for seven years under the letter "L" to be brought to London, and, on searching it, I find that my written communications with Lord Liverpool at the period in question were extremely few. This, no doubt, was owing to my habits of constant personal intercourse with Lord Liverpool during the sitting of Parliament. There is, however, no letter which has the remotest bearing upon the subject; there is no letter which can throw the slightest light upon it, which I am not ready to produce. Here are letters written to me by Lord Liverpool in 1825; some may think they are material; others may think they are not. I hold in my hands the originals. I have looked into the letters of other years; but I do not find that they have any bearing on the point in question. I do, upon my honour, declare that there is no letter passing between Lord Liverpool and myself upon this matter which I am not most willing to produce. I am willing to communicate the 699 whole in extenso to any Gentleman who has the least desire to consider their bearing. I have only three letters, written in 1825; and the House will judge, whether from the tenor of these letters, they give the slightest colour to the charge that I had intimated to Lord Liverpool a change of opinion on the Catholic question. In March, 1825, I had been in a minority on the Motion of Sir P. Burdett. There were rumours that Lord Liverpool had himself changed his opinions on the Roman Catholic question. It was most material for me to ascertain whether such were the case or not; because if Lord Liverpool's opinions were changed, and I was in a minority in the House of Commons, there were additional reasons for my retirement from office. I received from Lord Liverpool, on the 10th of March, 1825, this letter:—
§ "Fife-house, March 10, 1825.
§ "My dear Peel — I return the report of the Irish Association. I have thought it quite necessary, in consequence of the paragraph in the Morning Chronicle of this day, to send an article to the Courier, contradicting the reports in circulation respecting any change in my sentiments upon the Roman Catholic question.—Ever sincerely yours, "LIVERPOOL."
§ Is it very likely that that letter should have been addressed to me by Lord Liverpool, if I had then intimated to him a change of opinion on my part on the subject of the Catholics? It was subsequent to that communication that I expressed my earnest desire to be relieved from the responsibilities of office. I have been repeatedly charged with avidity and appetite for place. I know not why such an imputation should be thrown out against me. Having acted several years as Irish Secretary, I voluntarily retired from that office in the year 1818. I declined to become a Member of the Cabinet in 1821; and when I did resume office in 1822 it was with no very gratifying prospects, in consequence of the position in which the Government was placed in reference to the Roman Catholic question. On the 17th of March, 1825, the division in the House of Lords took place, and I then intimated my willingness to remain in office rather than bear the responsibility of breaking up the Government. I find the following note from Lord Liverpool, written after the division in the Lords:—
§ "Fife-house, May 19, 1825.
§ "Do not trouble yourself to send an answer."
§ My impression is, that at that interview I repeated to Lord Liverpool my earnest desire to retire, but that I consented to remain in office. I cannot prove certainly at this distance of time that that interview had reference to the Catholic question: I believe it had. I find a letter which was written to me upon an important subject by Lord Liverpool, bearing date the 15th September. Lord Liverpool was at Walmer Castle at the time, and it was necessary, therefore, that he should communicate with me in writing. He writes:—
§ "Walmer Castle, September 15, 1825.
§ "(Most confidential.)
§ "My dear Peel—I return in another cover, Goulburn's letters. You may wish to hear from me what I think about dissolution. In the first place, it must be decided one way or the other on the 22nd, the day of our meeting. I have had some correspondence with Canning upon the subject: the inclination of his opinion is to put off the dissolution till next year. I am decidedly for the dissolution now, if the Catholic question is to receive the support of those who are generally friendly to it in the Government in the next Session. But if they are willing that the Catholic and corn questions shall remain in abeyance during the next year, and are prepared, therefore, as to the former, to discourage its being brought on, and, if brought on, to move a previous question or adjournment upon it, in that case I have no desire to press the dissolution during the present autumn. I say to press the dissolution, because I think the reasons for and against it are nearly balanced; and I can readily acquiesce in the decision, whatever it may be. I hear Lord Wellesley is for the dissolution now, and — and the whole — connexion, for very opposite reasons, decidedly against it.—Ever sincerely yours,
§ There are mentioned in this letter two names which, with permission of the House, I omit. They are the names of persons not holding office. This letter was written in the autumn of 1825. Is it possible that this letter could have been written to me if I had previously intimated to Lord Liverpool that I had changed my opinions as to the Catholic claims? It is a communication, "most confidential," on the probable bearing of a dissolution on the Catholic question; and it is surely in the conviction that my opinion is in concurrence with his own that Lord Liverpool thus confidently writes to me. Those are the three letters which in 1825 I received from Lord Liverpool. They may not be in themselves very important, but they 701 surely are not letters that would have been written by Lord Liverpool to me if I had intimated to him a change in my opinions on the Catholic question. These are the whole of the letters in my possession which appear to me to have any bearing upon the communication alleged to have taken place with Lord Liverpool. In speaking, in the year 1829, I stated that I held in my hand a document which would prove that my retirement from office would lead to the dissolution of the Government. I do not very well recollect what that document was. The object was to prove that my resignation would have led to the resignation of Lord Liverpool. I have the strongest impression that it referred to conversations between me and other Members of the Cabinet opposed to the Catholic claims, in consequence of an intimation from Lord Liverpool that he had made up his mind to retire in the event of my resignation. I have searched for the statement, but I have been unable to find it.
I have been hitherto addressing myself to the preliminary question, what was the communication between Lord Liverpool and myself? I now come to the second question, which is a different one. Though I made no such communication as that supposed to Lord Liverpool, did I in 1829 declare that I had made it? The whole foundation for the charge is this—that I said, in 1829, that I had communicated in 1825 to Lord Liverpool my opinion that something as to the Catholics must be done. I am not going to put any strained interpretation upon those words. I positively deny that I used them. I deny that I stated in 1829 that I had informed Lord Liverpool in 1825 that the time had come when something must be done for the Catholics. This second charge against me is to this effect, that in 1829 I made that statement, and afterwards garbled the speech in which the statement is alleged to have been made. Says the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury—
I am making no charge against the right hon. Gentleman; but I say that his is a mutilated, a garbled, or, to use the softer language of this House, a mutilated report.
[An hon. MEMBER: Corrected.] Well, "corrected." The variation in the reports as to that expression only shows that too much confidence cannot be placed in them; and yet twenty years after the events have taken place I am to be condemned on account of discrepancies in newspaper
reports! But hear my answer to the charge of Monday night. The hon. Gentleman began by stating that he adverted to this subject with the deepest pain. He said—
There were two reports, one in Hansard, in which members corrected their own speeches, and another in the Mirror of Parliament, in which were taken down by the most skilful shorthand writers, most of them men of education and intelligence, reports of everything that occurred in Parliament, which were published every three days.
And the hon. Gentleman came down on Monday night, I having no conception whatever of what was about to occur, and, professing that he approached the subject with great pain, stated also that he had been making careful inquiry, and had found that there was an independent body of reporters reporting for the Mirror of Parliament, not connected with the public press. The hon. Gentleman has a connexion with the press that enables him to speak with some authority on these points. I heard his statement, and it struck me, as it struck others, that evidence of concurrence between two independent and separate authorities was strong, if they had made the same report. The hon. Gentleman went on to say—
I have made every inquiry, and I have been informed that the report in the Mirror of Parliament was made by Mr. Barrow, one of the most finished shorthand writers, and a man of education and intelligence.
Well, Mr. Barrow is dead, and reference to him is impossible; but I have made inquiry from others, and I give the most peremptory contradiction to the statement that the report in the Mirror of Parliament was written by Mr. Barrow. I deny that Mr. Barrow was the reporter at all. Mr. Barrow was the editor of the publication, and was not then, though he might have been a reporter, in the habit of reporting for the Mirror of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman, for the purpose of adding weight to his charge, having told the House that the report of the Mirror was a separate and independent report made by men of high character and attainments, went on to say—
I had the discretion to refer to the report of the speech given in one of the most eminent public papers of the day, and I find, in The Times of March 6, 1829, the report is"—so and so.
All this apparent caution invests the hon. Gentleman's statement with additional authority; it shows he has not been hasty and indiscreet; that he does not prefer a charge against me on an individual report without
having carefully compared and collated it with other reports; and he asks credit for discretion in not making the charge upon a single one. Finding that the report in The Times confirms the report in the Mirror of Parliament, he concludes that two concurrent reports from two independent authorities render it unnecessary to call for further evidence. Now, I put this question to the hon. Gentleman—As you have had the discretion to refer to the report in The Times, and have informed the House that it is concurrent with that in the Mirror of Parliament, have you had the discretion to examine other reports also? There were other morning papers at that time, for which there were separate and independent reports, and as you took the precaution of referring to one, and, finding an apparent concurrence, have informed the House of that fact, and have concluded that there was no necessity for further evidence; allow me to ask if the same sense of justice has induced you to examine the other reports? Did you look at the reports in the Morning Chronicle, the Morning Herald, the Morning Post, and the Morning Journal, a paper which was set up to destroy the hopes of the success of Catholic emancipation? There were four other papers; as you hunted up the report in The Times, I ask the question, did you examine the others? If you did not, how came you to limit your caution and discretion to the production of the only report that seemed to give a confirmation to your charge? If you did examine the others, why did you not, in common honesty, admit the discrepancy they exhibit? Why did you not, in justice to me, state that which is the fact, namely, that each report of the four other newspapers, all made by separate and independent reporters, altogether exclude the words on which this imputation is founded? Observe, the words are these—"The time has come when something with respect to the Catholic claims ought to be done," introduced into the passage in which I said I wished to relinquish office. This appears in the Mirror of Parliament, and those identical words are in The Times, and yet it is stated that these are two independent reports. I will now read the reports of the other papers: this is the report of the Morning Herald:—
But, so far as his personal conduct was contrasted with that of 1825, he begged to be allowed to state, that in that year he was a Minister of the Home Department, and, being then in a minority on the Roman Catholic question, he felt that his situation was untenable. He did not at
that time seek to be relieved from the duties which had devolved upon him; but he stated to Lord Liverpool his opinion that the time was come when he ought to be relieved from the duties and responsibility of Irish affairs, being, as he then was, in a minority on the question that had the most important relations to them. It was at that time notified to him that his retirement from office would involve that of Lord Liverpool and others, and that a probable consequence of that retirement would be a dissolution of Parliament.
See what reports are! The speech reported took four hours in the delivery; I speak it to the honour of the gentlemen who furnish these reports, that I believe they are influenced by an earnest desire to be correct and just to all parties; but how can they avoid mistakes of this kind? Here is a most material one: the report speaks of "a dissolution of Parliament," when it is obvious I must have said a dissolution of the Government. That is the report of the Morning Herald. I will now take that of the Morning Chronicle:—
As far, Sir, as my own personal experience goes, allow me to say that in 1825, when I, being the Secretary of the Home Department, was expected to state my opinion on the Catholic question, I felt my situation as a Minister to be one of considerable difficulty, charged as I was with the superintendence of Irish affairs, and yet in a minority in the House of Commons on a question of so much importance as that we are now considering. With this feeling, I sought to be relieved from the duties of a responsible adviser of the Crown. I applied to Lord Liverpool, who was then at the head of Her Majesty's Government, stated the painful situation in which I found myself, and earnestly pressed to be relieved from it. It was, however, signified to me that my retirement from office would determine the retirement of Lord Liverpool, and that that would dissolve the existing Government.
Now for the Morning Post, which took a part decidedly against me:—
But, as far as he himself was personally concerned, he must state that in the year 1825, when he, as the Minister for the Home Department, found himself in a minority, he felt at least the difficulty of his position, charged as he was with the administration of the affairs of Ireland. He did at that time seek to be relieved from the responsibility of office. He did then state to Lord Liverpool that the time had arrived when he found himself so situated as to require to be relieved from the duties of the station he had filled. He had before had occasion to state that fact, and also to add that Lord Liverpool had said, in reply to his application, that if he (Mr. Peel) retired, the Administration must be broken up, for that he (Lord Liverpool) would send in his resignation also. He held in his hand the proof of these facts.
Is not this a marvellous concurrence? But I come now to a still more hostile paper, the Morning Journal, established for the express purpose of defeating the measure of 1829; the Morning Journal says—
So far as my personal conduct is concerned, I can state that, in 1825, when I was Minister for the Home Department, I was in a minority upon the Catholic question in this House; I felt this at least to be the case, that my situation as Minister was untenable. In the office which I held I was charged with the administration of the affairs of Ireland; and, finding himself in a minority on that question, which, in reference to the state of that country, was the most important that could engage my attention, I at that time sought to be relieved from the responsibilities connected with my situation. I at that time told my noble Friend (Lord Liverpool), who was then at the head of the Government, that one thing at least must be done, namely, that I should be relieved from the responsibility of office. It was upon that occasion notified to me that my retirement from office would lead to the retirement of my noble Friend; that this would break up the whole Administration. I should have wished to have been spared the necessity of making any reference to this correspondence. However, I am ready to submit it to the perusal of any person who chooses to inspect it.
Here is an exact concurrence in the purport of the speech in all four papers, and they all omit the passage about the time "having come when something with respect to the Catholic question must be done." The House never heard till I stated it, that though the report in The Times did appear to lend a sanction to that in the Mirror of Parliament, there were four other papers, with separate and independent reports, all agreeing, with marvellous accuracy, in the general purport of what I said, and all omitting the passage in question. Still when one paper giving an independent report agrees with the report of another paper as to a particular passage of a speech, the absence of that passage in four other reports, however strong a circumstance it may be, does not altogether destroy the effect of such concurrence. There is something remarkable in the concurrence, particularly when Mr. Barrow, this able and intelligent man, an independent reporter for the Mirror of Parliament, which had a separate class of reporters, came to the same conclusion as the reporter of The Times. But I deny the fact that Mr. Barrow wrote that report; I deny the fact also, that there was a separate class of reporters for the Mirror of Parliament. I have inquired into this subject as well as the hon. Gentleman; and I state this fact, which I can positively demonstrate, that Mr. Barrow did not report any speech for the Mirror of Parliament; and I state also this other fact, that the Mirror of Parliament had not a separate class of reporters. I deny altogether the force of the evidence from the supposed accidental concurrence—I state this
as the fact, that the reporters of the Morning Chronicle and The Times were in connexion with the Mirror of Parliament—that they did not make separate reports—(it would have been absurd if they had done so)—but they met together, compared each other's reports, and sent to the Mirror of Parliament that which gave the fullest report of one part of a speech, and that which gave the fullest report of another; and the reports of the Mirror of Parliament were concocted from the reports so furnished. That is the information which has reached me, and which I can establish by the most unquestionable evidence. I could prove what I state by taking the report of the Mirror of Parliament, and the reports of The Times, Chronicle, and Morning Herald, and showing that the report of my speech inserted in the Mirror of Parliament is a mere concoction from the reports of the three newspapers. I can prove that whole pages are taken from one or other of those papers, with scarcely the variation of a word, or only changing the person; altering "he" into "I;" I can prove it by the fact, that trifling errors which by some accident occurred in the report made for The Times, by a most able and distinguished reporter (Mr. Tyas), have been copied in the Mirror of Parliament. Then, if this be the case, that there were no separate reports for the Mirror of Parliament—if they were taken from the other papers—and if in this instance the reference to the "something that ought to be done for the Catholics" was copied from The Times; what becomes of the concurrence between them? Does not the argument, founded upon the concurrence of two reports, altogether break down? Well then, as to the charge of garbling my speech. When I knew I had not made use of the words attributed to me, when I saw that the newspapers generally consulted on such matters had excluded them, was I not justified in relying on their concurrence, and in excluding those words also? But the hon. Gentleman says he finds this note appended to the speech in Hansard, "Inserted with the permission and approbation of Mr. Secretary Peel," and that remark elicited "prolonged cheering;" as if I had sent to Hansard a corrected report of the speech with the suppressio veri, and begged him to insert it! What is the fact? I should have thought the hon. Gentleman would have known it. Mr. Murray, the bookseller, published that speech, and had the copyright of it; the
publishers of Hansard's Debates applied for my permission to insert that report, and I asked Mr. Murray to grant it; when it was published they inserted a note in order to show that this was not done surreptitiously, but had my authority and concurrence. I observe, that The Times reporter, he who originally made this mistake, and inserted the words, "something ought to be done with the Roman Catholic question," regrets, at the end of the report—though other reporters make no such complaint—that "the right hon. Baronet's voice was occasionally so low that he was but indistinctly heard in the gallery;" and, nineteen years after the fact, I am to be called on and condemned upon that report. And on what ground? Because there was a deaf reporter for the The Times. Every other reporter reported me correctly: The Times reporter made a mistake, and The Times reporter says I was "indistinctly heard in the gallery."
It was on Monday night last, that, for the first time, I heard of any discrepancies in the reports; and I was denounced as a garbler, and mutilator, and suppressor of the truth, because in correcting my speech I took the authority of four reports against one, the four confirming what was my own impression. I think I have disposed of Mr. Barrow and his independent reports—this man of intelligence and education, who wrote reports which I have demonstrated he did not write. I have not Mr. Barrow to appeal to; but I cannot doubt he would deny the allegation that the Mirror of Parliament had a band of reporters separate and distinct from the reporters for the newspapers. I now come to that part of the subject which relates to the speech of my right hon. Friend, Sir Edward Knatchbull. As I have said, I was engaged in all the fierce conflicts to which I adverted a little while ago; and I never heard of this charge before. I was not aware that it had been preferred in 1829 by Sir Edward Knatchbull. The fact is, that if I had stated in 1829 that my opinions on the Catholic question had undergone a change in 1825, such a statement would have been utterly at variance not only with the fact, but with the whole tenor of the speech made in 1829. I said in that speech, that I was prepared to take the same course then which I had taken in 1825—namely, resign my office; but with this addition, that I then advised the adjustment of the Catholic question,
and that I was prepared in a private capacity to support to the utmost of my power a measure for its adjustment. My speech in proposing the Roman Catholic Relief Bill in 1829, was delivered on the 5th March. On the following day, the 6th of March, I was questioned, not why I had stated that in 1825 my opinions had changed, but the natural question was put to me—if you are prepared to grant Catholic Emancipation in 1829, why did you not consent, in 1827, to form part of an Administration of which Mr. Canning was to be the head, and which was favourable to concession? That question was put to me on the 6th of March by the Earl of Uxbridge. With respect to the speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull, I know well that my right hon. Friend would be incapable of garbling or omitting anything in a speech of his; and I wish hon. Members would read that speech. He does there assume that, in the statement made by me on the 5th March, I had used the words in question; but might not Sir Edward Knatchbull have seen the report of the Mirror of Parliament, and drawn his inferences from that report? Here let me ask one other question. As the hon. Member for Shrewsbury thought it right to collate the report in the Mirror of Parliament with that in The Times with regard to my speech, I ask him, did he take the same course with respect to the speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull? The hon. Member did not trust to the Mirror of Parliament in preferring his accusation against me, but said that he had had the caution to refer to The Times, for the purpose of ascertaining whether that newspaper confirmed the report of the Mirror of Parliament. Has he taken the same course with respect to the speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull? Has he compared The Times' report of Sir Edward Knatchbull's speech with the report in the Mirror of Parliament? Here is the report of that speech, which appeared in The Times newspaper, and which contains not one single word of the accusation which the Mirror of Parliament represents that Gentleman to have made against me, namely, that I had admitted that in 1825 I was of opinion that the time had come when concessions should be made to the Catholics. This is the report of Sir E. Knatchbull's speech in The Times:—
With reference to the occasion he alluded to, he asked the right hon. Gentleman, if the state of Ireland and the country were the reason of his
present policy, ought not the measure to have been, in justice to the country, conceded in the time of Mr. Canning? If the same grounds of argument, the same necessity from the state of Ireland existed then as at present, why did not the right hon. Gentleman support it when it received the aid and countenance of Mr. Canning? If the right hon. Gentleman had not then discovered the necessity of concession, why did he oppose Mr. Canning on other grounds which he has since abandoned? Mr. Canning was the powerful, the consistent, the eloquent advocate of the Catholics; and if the right hon. Gentleman, in 1829, saw reason for adopting the line of policy invariably maintained by that distinguished statesman, why did he not as readily see it in 1827, when Mr. Canning was alive?
The House will not fail to observe, that in the report of The Times, there is not one word to favour the supposition that Sir E. Knatchbull charged me with having asserted, in the year 1829, that my opinions with respect to the policy of offering further resistance to the Catholic claims had undergone a change in the year 1825. But, Sir, I have not contented myself with a reference to The Times report alone. This accusation is not in the report of the Morning Herald, nor in that of the Morning Journal. I will take up the Morning Journal again. Its version of the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull runs thus:—
I say, then, in reference to that period, that if the policy of conceding the claims of the Catholics was so strong as the right hon. Gentleman describes it to be, in common justice to the country, in common justice to himself, that was the moment when he should have conceded them. When Mr. Canning, who was the advocate—the able and the consistent advocate of the Catholic claims, first introduced into Parliament a measure for conceding those claims, I did not consider such concession either expedient or necessary. Such was also my impression when they were again brought forward in 1827.
Is it fair to condemn me because there was such a report of the speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull in the Mirror of Parliament, of which report I had not the slightest conception; a report which is not confirmed by that of The Times, or the Morning Herald, or the Morning Journal, none of which attribute the expression in question to Sir E. Knatchbull?—is it, I say, just to impute to me that I remained silent under a charge which, so far as my recollection serves me, was never made. I am not prepared to say whether Sir Edward Knatchbull was or was not absent at the time my speech was delivered; but be that as it may, I am certain that he is totally incapable of garbling or mutilating any speech attributed to him.
§ Now, Sir, I have gone through, one by 710 one, the charges which have been brought against me. I thank the House for the attention with which they have listened to me. I am deeply sensible of the disadvantages under which I have had to labour. Oppressed with public business, I have had to devote two or three days to the collating and contrasting of newspaper reports, of speeches delivered many years since, for the purpose of rebutting charges founded upon such an authority, preferred seventeen years after the transactions in question took place. I trust I may venture to assert I have succeeded in vindicating myself; and yet, considering the difficulty in which I was placed, how possible it is that I might have failed! I might not have been able to have proved my case so completely. But I have had the willing aid of gentlemen connected with the public press—gentlemen beyond my influence, beyond my control. Actuated by no other feelings than those which are suggested by a love of justice, they have generously come forward to supply me with the information necessary for my vindication—the information which enables me to deny that Mr. Barrow reported one line of the speech in 1829—which enables me to deny that the Mirror of Parliament had a band of reporters independent of the public press—which enables me to shatter to pieces the hostile conclusions which are founded on the apparent concurrence of the report of The Times with that of the Mirror of Parliament. I have been enabled to prove that that report is at direct variance with the reports in all the other morning newspapers—to prove that it is not an independent report—that the reason why an equivocal expression appeared in the Mirror of Parliament is simply this, that the report of The Times was adopted and engrafted into the Mirror of Parliament.
§ The hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by a passionate representation of his veneration and affection for the memory of Mr. Canning; and at a fitting time, and in a fitting manner, these are feelings which are to be held in respect. The hon. Gentleman described Mr. Canning as an eagle; he spoke of him as the rider of Bucephalus. One would have supposed that he had devoted all the energies of all his intellect to magnify the praises of Mr. Canning, and that he had submitted to some great personal sacrifice on account of his devotion to Mr. Canning. Why, Sir, if he has those feelings, they are to be held in honour; but if the hon. 711 Gentleman is parading these feelings of veneration for the memory of Mr. Canning for the mere purpose of wounding a political opponent, he is desecrating feelings which, when sincere, are entitled to esteem and respect. So far from succeeding in his purpose of inflicting a blow upon me, he is rallying around me public sympathy; and exciting public indignation at the time chosen for this attack, and the motives which led to it. The hon. Gentleman frequently and feelingly complains that I won't condescend to bandy personalities with him. I, Sir, defend myself when I think defence is necessary; I defend myself now on account of the plausibility of the charge and concatenation of circumstances brought together as evidence. But when the hon. Gentleman is so industrious in his research, as to point out at what house on a certain day I attended a certain dinner, I say at once I will not descend to his details; I know not where the dinner to which he refers, on the 3rd of May, 1827, was given, and I trust the House will pardon me if I do not condescend to inquire. No, Sir, I will not answer that hon. Gentleman. I will not inquire whether that hon. Gentleman has a right to talk about "an organized hypocrisy," "a pharisaical association." With these charges and these phrases I have no concern. Every man has a right to determine for himself with whom and on what occasions he will descend into the arena of personal contest. I will not retaliate upon the hon. Gentleman. I limit myself to the defence of my character when unjustly attacked. If new and unheard-of charges are to be brought against me—if documents of which I have had no notice are to be produced against me after my successful refutation of the argument founded upon those which have been produced, then I put in a preliminary appeal to the justice and to the generosity of this House—I entreat them to bear in mind that I have now no opportunity of replying to new charges. If new charges are to be preferred, I trust, either that notice will be given to me of the nature of them, or, if it be not, that the House of Commons will again accede to my appeal, and again suspend their judgment until the time shall come for my defence.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: Sir, the charges which have been preferred against the right hon. Baronet were made by the humble individual who now addresses you, and not by my hon. Friend the Member 712 for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli). It was my hon. Friend who rose to defend me against the reply of the right hon. Gentleman; and I, therefore, think the House will agree with me, that it becomes me, rather than my hon. Friend, to get up and maintain the charge which I meant to make. Sir, I was not in this House in 1826 or in 1827; but I was a Member of this House in 1828, and I was a Member of this House in 1829; I heard the speech of the right hon. Baronet; I heard the question asked him by the Earl of Uxbridge, and I heard his answer to it. I heard also the speech, the crushing speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull; I heard the answer; and I am prepared to show, by the internal evidence of those reports, that the statement which I have made is the truth. The right hon. Baronet has stated that Mr. Barrow was not the reporter. Why, I presume there is not a Gentleman in this House who does not know that to a speech of four hours' length there would be four, six, or twelve different reporters; and when my hon. Friend spoke of Mr. Barrow, he spoke of him as the head of the establishment, not as actually the man who made those reports. But I appeal still to those reports: I take Hansard's corrected as it is; I will take the Mirror of Parliament, and I will undertake to show by the internal evidence which these afford, that what I imputed to the right hon. Baronet is to be found in the speech which he himself made. Other evidence—why I have no other evidence. When I made this charge I had referred to the Mirror of Parliament, and to nothing else; I was not aware even that Hansard had been submitted to the correction of the right hon. Baronet. Well, I will go into those reports. What does the right hon. Baronet say in the outset of the paragraph?So far as I am personally concerned, I beg to say that my own course on this question is the same as that which suggested itself to me in 1825.Another paragraph stated that in 1829—and we all know what was the course of the right hon. Baronet—his course was the same as it was in 1825. I will confirm that by Hansard, which, in the corrected report, says—So far as my own course on this question is concerned, it is the same with that which suggested itself to my mind in 1825.We have thus the right hon. Baronet's 713 own evidence, and we have the report of the Mirror of Parliament, to attest that his conduct in 1829 and in 1825 were the same. The right hon. Baronet has told you they were not independent reporters, but he has also told you that all the different corps of reporters met together, that they collated and compared their reports, and that a selected report was inserted in the Mirror of Parliament. The reporters agreed to and fixed upon that report which they deemed the best and most accurate. Why, Sir, if I had wanted evidence to prove the correctness of the Mirror of Parliament, what better evidence could I have than that which is furnished in this statement of the right hon. Baronet? The right hon. Baronet goes on to say—After the House of Commons came to a decision, I stated in 1828 I was prepared to take the course I had been prepared to take in 1825.With this addition—I intimated to the noble Duke at the head of His Majesty's Government, that I was not only prepared and anxious to retire from office, but that seeing that the current of public opinion was setting in favour of the Catholic claims—in whatever station I might find myself, I could no longer feel justified in opposing them."To this I add"—(and the right hon. Baronet did not press this sentence)—For this great object I was prepared to make a sacrifice of consistency and friendship. By whatever parties the settlement of the question was taken up, I for one was prepared, in whatever post I might be, to support any measure for that purpose, which I might consider compatible with the safety of the Protestant establishment.So that this was the addition—in 1825 the right hon. Gentleman had seen the time was come when a concession ought to be made to the Roman Catholics: in 1825, he was prepared to retire from office, and let others carry the Catholic Emancipation; yet, in 1829, the addition was, that he himself was prepared to carry it. The right hon. Baronet referred on Monday night last to the question of, and the answer which he gave, to the Earl of Uxbridge. This is the answer that he gave to that noble Lord. On the 8th of March he said—The noble Lord has asked why, in 1827, I did not take the course which I took in 1828; and why I did not consent, in 1827, to assist Mr. Canning either in carrying on the Government, or in an adjustment of the Catholic question? To that question I reply, that between the circumstances in 1827 and 1828 there was this material difference: in 1827, when Mr. Canning made that proposal to me, the subject had been discussed 714 in the House of Commons by the new Parliament, and I had been in a majority; in 1828 I was in a minority; and in 1828, therefore, I took the course I took in 1825.I have only to read on to ascertain what this course was in 1828. I pursue the speech, and I find that he states that in 1828 he proposed to retire, having been in a minority, and he said—The time is now come—a new House of Commons having decided in favour of the claims of the Catholics, and the House of Lords being opposed to concession—when an attempt must be made to settle this question, and to that attempt I bend myself.The right hon. Baronet has entered at great length into this matter: he has appealed to probabilities, and he has asked whether it was likely that he should have taken the course he did take, and have opposed the Catholic question in 1825, if he had in reality communicated to the Earl of Liverpool that he was prepared to retire from office to allow the measure to be carried? Why, who is to say, from the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman at one time what it is probable he will do at another? He told you what he did in 1828; he told you, when opposing the Roman Catholic claims, that he then said, something must be done—the question must be carried. In 1831, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay) twitted the right hon. Baronet with the course which he had pursed. It then pleased the right hon. Baronet to go, at great length into a statement of his conduct in 1828; and what did he say was his mode of proceeding? In 1828, he said, having offered every opposition while in office, and having continued it to the last, and being again left in a minority, circumstances had arisen which had produced the strongest impression on his mind that there was more danger in resisting than in consenting to the measure. The right hon. Baronet even said that his opinion on this question had remained unchanged, but at that time his conviction that resistance should be offered, was counterbalanced by doubts and apprehensions with respect to the evils that might arise in Ireland. What account did the right hon. Baronet give respecting the state of his own mind in the year 1828—I mean in the summer of 1828? We have it in this statement:—The right hon. Baronet stated, that in the summer of 1828, at least in the latter end of the 715 summer of that year, that he was not in London; that he wrote to the Premier of that period, stating, that if it should be thought necessary, that he would propose a measure upon that greatest of all questions; and he should at once set aside all considerations of false delicacy, and do that which the service of the King might require. No fear of inconsistency should prevent him from doing that which he believed to be his duty. At any hazard, and by any sacrifice of individual feelings or opinions, he should be prepared to propose whatever measure the necessities of the Government might require. He should put all personal feelings out of the question. He avowed that he was ready to quit office, and he believed that out of office, rather than as a Member of the Government, he should be most useful as a supporter of the Roman Catholic claims. He suggested that his authority with the Protestant party could better advance the object in view if he did not hold a place in the Government. The right hon. Baronet further stated, that he continued to entertain the intention of quitting office until the month of January, 1829, when he was told, that if he were then to retire, the influence on the mind of the King would be productive of the most unfavourable effects upon the question of Roman Catholic relief. He did, in his letter to the Premier, state, that it would be most painful to his feelings, and very injurious to his character as a public man, if he were to remain in office and propose the measure of emancipation.The right hon. Baronet told the world that he was prepared to make any sacrifice for the purpose of carrying on the business of the Government, consistently with a concession of Roman Catholic claims. But it appeared that up to the end of 1828, that is to say, early in January, 1829, he came to the conclusion that he ought not to indulge the wish that he entertained of resigning, but rather that he should hold office, and endeavour, if possible, to reconcile his sense of duty with a repeal of the penal laws; and his reason for taking that course seems to have been this, that in the then state of the King's opinions it would have endangered the prospect of carrying Roman Catholic Emancipation, if the right hon. Baronet were at such a moment to throw up office. But now I will ask, is the memory of hon. Gentlemen so imperfect—is the memory of the country so feeble, as that any one amongst us should have forgotten the autumn of 1828—that autumn which immediately followed the summer in which the right hon. Baronet so unequivocally and unreservedly expressed his sentiments upon the Roman Catholic question to the noble Duke then at the head of the Government? Is there any man now alive, and who lived in those days, can have forgotten the triumphant progress which the right hon. Baronet made as the apostle of Protestantism? Will the country ever forget 716 that he opposed Mr. Canning on the question of the Roman Catholic claims in 1827—that he wrote his memorable letter to the Duke of Wellington in the summer of 1828—that he had the assurance, had the courage, in the year 1828, to go down to Manchester as the apostle and the champion of Protestant ascendancy? Will it ever be forgotten that he made a progress through all the manufacturing districts as the advocate of Protestantism at a time when he had deliberately made up his mind in favour of Roman Catholic claims? It was not, as I have said, alone in Manchester that he appeared as the apostle of Protestant ascendancy. He went to Bolton, he went to Liverpool. The world had heard of the "no surrender oak"—they had heard of what had been done with reference to the right hon. Baronet by Mr. Hulton, of Hulton—they heard of the snuff-box presented to him, and of all that Mr. Hollingshed had done. No man who lived in those times could ever forget the vast assemblages of Protestants and Orangemen which the right hon. Baronet attended. Who would then have suspected that the right hon. Baronet had, in the summer of 1828, made up his mind in favour of concession to the Roman Catholics? And now, then, I think that there is an end of his boasted defence. You now see the little regard that he had for his engagements, and the little credit that he deserves for consistency. The House will see that I speak my mind plainly as a man should do when he addresses plain Englishmen—men who are free from all guile. I ask such men, could they, remembering the great dinners which had been given to the right hon. Baronet in Lancashire—I ask them, is there any one amongst the Members of this House who, for a moment, can suppose that his proceedings upon that occasion were intended for any other purpose than to induce a belief that he intended to resist, while, in fact, he intended to concede, the claims of the Roman Catholics? I now come back to the speech of Sir Edward Knatchbull. The right hon. Baronet says, he has not compared the version of Sir Edward Knatchbull's speech which he read to the House with any other report which appeared in the newspapers of that period, for the purpose of seeing if they corresponded; but then the right hon. Baronet said, that Sir Edward Knatchbull had not heard the speech which the right hon. Baronet had made. Would that make 717 any difference? But then the right hon. Baronet said, that the most powerful part of the speech delivered by Sir E. Knatchbull was in answer to a speech which he had never heard. Nothing could be more evident to the House than this, that the right hon. Baronet was not able to touch that part of the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull. The right hon. Baronet has not gotten over the main part of the charge of the conduct that he pursued towards Mr. Canning; that has never yet been answered. This is the report of the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull, as it appeared in the Mirror of Parliament, at least of that part of it which bears upon the present discussion:—With reference to the occasion he alluded to, he asked the right hon. Gentleman if the state of Ireland and the country were the reason of his present policy, ought not the measure to have been, in justice to the country, conceded in the time of Mr. Canning? If the same grounds of argument, the same necessity, from the state of Ireland, existed then, as at present, why did not the right hon. Gentleman support it when it received the aid and countenance of Mr. Canning? If the right hon. Gentleman had not then discovered the necessity of concessions, why did he oppose Mr. Canning on other grounds, which he has since abandoned? Mr. Canning was the powerful, the consistent, the eloquent advocate of the Catholics; and if the right hon. Gentleman, in 1829, saw reason for adopting the line of policy invariably maintained by that distinguished statesman, why did he not as readily see it in 1827, when Mr. Canning was alive?That was the language held by Sir E. Knatchbull, the leader of the country gentlemen in this House and of the country gentlemen of England. The right hon. Baronet says that Sir E. Knatchbull complained of indisposition, and he would have it inferred that the right hon. Baronet, Sir E. Knatchbull had not heard his speech; but would not the right hon. Baronet have been the first to say, "The most powerful and cutting part of your speech in reply to mine was in answer to something which I never said." The imputation made by Sir E. Knatchbull the right hon. Baronet has never answered. Now when Sir E. Knatchbull was the leader of the Protestant party—when he was the leader of the country gentlemen of England—when acting, as he said he did, in unison with the feelings of the right hon. Baronet, in conjunction with Lord Winchilsea, he called a meeting at Penden Heath, of 20,000 persons—I ask, can it be believed that the right hon. Baronet would have passed over Sir E. Knatchbull's speech without answering 718 it, if an answer could have been made to it? Now it has been said, that the report in Hansard does not correspond with that in the Mirror of Parliament; but I believe that though the language is not precisely the same, the sense is the same. The right hon. Gentleman, however, said (that was in 1825) that even then he was satisfied that something must be done to conciliate Ireland. If, therefore, he was satisfied of the necessity of conciliation, and was thus abandoned by his supporters, why did he not consent to lend his assistance to Mr. Canning for the accomplishment of that object?" But was that the only comment that was made upon the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman? Sir, there was at that time in the House a warm supporter of Protestant ascendancy—Mr. Michael Thomas Sadler—and what was the language that he used on that occasion? He said—'Long-winded orations, passages which lead to nothing,' can never set this matter in an honest light before the people of England. They can comprehend it as little as the question of emancipation, on which they are declared to be so ignorant and besotted. They were, however, beguiled by these explanations—I was one of them. I thought the conduct of the noble and right hon. individuals concerned, a sacrifice to principle and consistency—what it was it is not now worth while to inquire, since it was anything rather than that. It is now too late to rectify the error; all that remains is to regret most deeply that, faithfully following those who have so secretly, suddenly, and unceremoniously deserted us, we were taught to regard a highly gifted individual unhappily now no more, as one who ought not to serve his King and country as the head of the Government, because he was favourable to the measures now so indecently forced upon the country. I do heartily repent of my share in the too successful attempt of hunting down so noble a victim—a man whom England and the world could not fail to recognize as its ornament—whose eloquence was, in these days at least, unrivalled—the energies of whose capacious mind, stored with knowledge and elevated by genius, were devoted to the service of his country. As to the qualities of his generous heart, let those speak to them who felt the warmth of his friendship, which, I believe, could only be equalled by its stability. Had I had the honour of a seat in this House at that time, and could I have anticipated present events, I should have conscientiously opposed him on this vital question, it is true; but with feelings very different from those with which I now approach it. This was the man with whom the present Ministers could not act, and for a reason which vitiates their present doings. Coupling, therefore, that transaction with the present—if the annals of our country furnish so disgraceful a page—I have very imperfectly consulted them. But, peace to his memory! My humble tribute is paid, when it can be no longer heard or regarded—when it is drowned by the voice of interested adulation, poured only into the ears of the living. He fell; but his character 719 is rescued—it rises and triumphs over that of his surviving — What shall I call them? Let their own consciences supply the hiatus?That was the comment of Mr. Sadler on this same speech of the right hon. Baronet. It is well remembered by all those who heard it, that Mr. Sadler wound up another paragraph of his speech with this remarkable expression — "What David said in his haste, I say deliberately, 'All men are liars.'" But I beg to remind the House that whatever Mr. Sadler may have said, or whatever extraneous evidence may be brought before us, we have here this evening under our view one most important fact, that the right hon. Baronet rests his defence upon the report in the Mirror of Parliament being erroneous, although he himself tells us that the reports in that publication were made up by a collation of the several reports which appeared in the morning papers; that they were the result of a deliberate investigation, gone into the day after the speeches were delivered. I think, then, I have fully shown that the speech of 1829 contained a statement of the reasons which were given in favour of the Catholic claims four years previously, viz., in 1825. In the latter year the right hon. Baronet tendered his resignation. That resignation was not accepted; but in tendering it he stated that he thought the time had come when something ought to be done respecting the Catholic claims. In 1828, as in 1825, he thought that something ought to be done; and yet in the autumn of 1828 he made a progress through the north of England as the champion of Protestantism. In 1829, the right hon. Baronet proposed to carry the measure of emancipation in Parliament, and he did carry it. This is the whole history of the matter, and I never thought it was at any time disputed. My hon. Friend quoted as an illustration of it, what others thought of it. The statement in Hansard, and the conclusion to be drawn from Hansard and the Mirror of Parliament clearly pointed to the fact that the statement was a verbal one, though the resignation was in a written letter. I can answer for myself that it was only in the course of Monday that the Edinburgh Review was first brought down by some Gentlemen opposite. When I saw it I put it aside, saying that it was nothing to the purpose, and some persons put it into the hand of my hon. Friend; but that was no part of the case to be made. That case stands on its own intrinsic merits; it 720 stands on its intrinsic merits as I stated them to the House, comparing Hansard with the Mirror of Parliament. The right hon. Baronet has condescended to state that the reporter for The Times newspaper was a deaf reporter. Why, he has admitted the speech was one of four hours. The hon. Baronet, by such an argument, may seek to delude the unwary, and catch a transitory cheer. The speech lasted four hours, and therefore could not all have been taken down by any one reporter; for we all know that the practice in this House is, that a speech of such a length should be divided among four, or five, or six, or, perhaps, among seven or eight reporters. We all know that the reporters here are changed every half hour, and sometimes every quarter of an hour. It is therefore quite a delusion for the right hon. Baronet to assume the imperfection or the excellence of one part of the report from the imperfection or the excellence of another. And let me call your attention to this fact, that the report upon which the right hon. Baronet rests his defence, is one much shorter than that upon which the accusation has been brought. A correct transcript of a shorthand report cannot be enlarged without wilful falsification, though it may be abridged in perfect good faith. But I find that the passage in the report on which the right hon. Baronet relies contains only thirty-eight words, while that brought against him contains sixty-six words. It is evident that the pruning knife was applied to the report which was corrected by the right hon. Baronet himself. And I verily believe that the words in dispute were struck out of that report. I feel deeply the conduct pursued towards Mr. Canning; and when I sat opposite to the right hon. Baronet, and heard his explanations as to what took place in 1825 and 1827, I watched his countenance, and though I won't say that the book fell from his hands, he threw it from him. I have, Sir, my own opinions on that subject, and I think there must be some feelings which came across him when he altered the evidence.
SIR W. JAMES
said: I rise to order, and ask whether it is correct to refer to what occurred in former years, and to declare that the hon. Member has altered the evidence?
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
The right hon. Baronet has acknowledged that he corrected 721 this report, but I have no occasion to have that acknowledgment, for there is a note at the bottom of the page to that effect. But what answer did he give to the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull? And even as corrected, his speech says that he took in 1829 the same course that he did in 1825; and there is, in direct evidence, the speech before us, which was severely commented upon by Sir E. Knatchbull, and on which a question was asked by the Earl of Uxbridge. It was with this general knowledge of the speech that I in the course of the debate said, and say again, that, though the offences of 1827 and 1829 had been forgiven, and though I believe I used the expression, that for a long series of years he had sat on the stool of repentance, yet the same offence cannot be committed twice by the same Minister. I am here representing an English constituency, and I am sure that I represent the feelings of the English constituencies generally, when I say that a course of double dealing such as that cannot be committed twice by a Minister, however high he may be in the councils of his Sovereign, with impunity. The right hon. Baronet is a great reformer of the criminal law, and he has talked to-night of a statute of limitations; but he knows that this statute applies only to civil debts, and that it has never yet been extended to criminal offences. We all know that a man for stealing a sheep may be transported for seven years—and the right hon. Baronet has been transported from office for more than seven years—and if the man returns from his transportation to society, his crime is forgiven; but if he afterwards steals, not a sheep but a fowl, the judge asks after his former conviction, and then sentences him to a punishment of transportation for a longer period than he had before. This is the charge which I made against the right hon. Baronet. I said that he re-enacted the part in 1841, against the Whigs, which against Mr. Canning he enacted in 1827. I said that he had been twice convicted of an offence of the same degree, and that the country could not forget that he had committed a second offence of a similar character; and therefore I thought as the time was come when the country had ceased to place confidence in him, so the Parliament should also—and, as far as I was concerned, would—mark its censure by a vote which would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence, and turn him out of power. Thus, only 722 incidentally, did I use the expression with respect to the change of opinion in 1825, and the mode in which he had dealt with Mr. Canning in 1827. And he has made the same change now. He united against the noble Lord, and turned him out of power, because he could not act with any one who raised the cry of cheap bread, and because the noble Lord proposed to remove protection beyond a fixed duty of 8s. a quarter. I am in the hearing of the House whether I made any unjust charges, or whether I acted from any vindictive feeling out of regard to the memory of Mr. Canning, or whether I brought forward any new story without provocation. If I had made any calumnious charge, I should be the first man to say that I am unfit to hold a seat in this House. I am here to denounce, and so long as I have the honour to hold a seat in this House I will denounce, the political profligacy of public men. I am told, Sir, that this language does not comport with decency. I am told that such language has never been heard in this House. Sir, I think I can recollect the time when the brother-in-law of the right hon. Baronet (Mr. G. R. Dawson) held such language as this. Speaking of the junction of the Whigs with Mr. Canning, he said, that "it was the basest and most unnatural coalition that ever disgraced the annals of Parliament." And yet that was the Gentleman of whom it is well remembered that Sir F. Burdett said, that he and the right hon. Baronet run in couples, and hunted together. The right hon. Gentleman is not, therefore, entitled to be quite so delicate and sensitive about strong language. Where was the base coalition—where was the unnatural coalition in 1827, neither the right hon. Baronet, nor his coadjutor, nor the other hounds with which he hunted—were ever able to say; and it seems rather hard to lecture you now, Sir, for permitting such language as I have used. Sir, I was not one of those who supported your election to the chair, I voted for another gentleman to hold that situation. You were untried at that time. You were put into the chair by a small majority of the supporters of the noble Lord opposite. But there came another election, and there was then returned a majority of more than ninety opposed to your views: and if your conduct had not been a model of justice; if you had not been a pattern of fairness, I should like to know whether we should not have turned 723 you out of that chair. But, Sir, you had won the confidence of every man in this House; because you had shown no servility to any party in this House, because you never looked to the right hand or to the left, and if the right hon. Baronet had proposed to turn you out of that chair, I believe he would not have found a seconder. You are well read in the history of your country, and though we have sometimes a supremacy of sentiment, you know well that "a delicacy and reserve is criminal when the interests of England are hazarded;" and if they are not now hazarded, I never knew a time when they were. I speak the feelings of my own heart, and I believe also the feelings of the heart of the English people, and I will maintain, as long as I have a seat in this House, my right to denounce the men, whether they are Ministers or private individuals in this House, who shall betray the trust confided in them by their constituents. I do so upon high public grounds. [Mr. B. ESCOTT: Who has betrayed them?] You ask who has betrayed them—why you. You think I do not know, but I am one of your constituents, and as such I know something of what is passing in the city of Winchester. On high constitutional grounds I say, we ought not to wrap up in deceitful language the crime of tergiversation of which so many Gentlemen have been guilty. And I use the sentiments of Lord Chatham when I say, that "if the country cannot place confidence in the promises and pledges of their representatives, the power and authority of this House will fall;" and it is because for the second time the right hon. Baronet has attempted to lower the character of English gentlemen, who are representatives in this House, and to drag them through the mire, that I denounced such conduct in the strong language I used on a former occasion. Sure I am of this, that the tendency—I will not say the object—but the tendency of the measures of the right hon. Baronet is to lower the character, and to sap and undermine the confidence reposed in the characters of English gentlemen; and that the tendency of his measures is to destroy the gentlemen of England. Sir, by the course of his political conduct, the right hon. Baronet has subverted that feeling of placing political trust and confidence in the representatives of the people, which is essential to maintain the power and dominion of the House. He has brought things to this pass, that 724 by his example he has taught the representatives of the English people, that, if it be not their duty, it is their privilege to betray their constituents; and I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that there was not when Parliament met—though I hope things are different now—a great constituency in the country that did not apprehend more danger from those representatives, whom they had themselves sent to Parliament to protect their property and to defend their rights, than from their most open and daring enemies. For these reasons, as a plain English gentleman, and pretending to nothing more than to speak the sentiments of the middle classes and of the yeomen of England, I impugn the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers and their supporters. If the term "renegade" be objectionable, I recollect a term which the right hon. Baronet has consecrated in Parliamentary praseology, the term "apostacy;" and if the term "renegade" be unparliamentary, I make him a present of the unobjectionable term. In 1835 he told the House that in the course he took when he returned to office he would be guilty of no apostacy, and that he would not swerve from his principles; and he has told the country that I acknowledged him to be my leader. I want to know when I acknowledged him as my leader? The right hon. Gentleman may get up and answer when by any act of mine I made him my leader! In 1828, when I first came into Parliament, I voted, in almost every division, against the right hon. Baronet. I not adopt the right hon. Gentleman, but Lord Stanley, who was the follower of Lord Althorp, as my leader. I voted in the majority against the Corporation and Test Acts, and then the right hon. Baronet adopted the repeal, and did not declare, as he did in the early part of this year, that he would hold office by no servile tenure. I was against him in the majority of six on another question; and I was against him in the majority which turned him out of office. I ask him, then, what claim he has to set himself up as my leader? In good report and in evil report, whether for good or for bad, I have followed my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) as long as I have been in Parliament. I followed him in the general election of 1834, when I stood distinctly as a Stanleyite, and on principles in contradiction to those of the right hon. Baronet. Upon this point I say that, to his honour, I can appeal 725 to my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. It did happen that he was asked to go and stand with me at that election; he was told that if he stood with me he would stand on the opinions of Lord Stanley, as contradistinguished from the opinions of the right hon. Baronet. To the great honour of my learned Friend, though he would have been put to no expense whether he won or lost, he said, "I have never expressed such opinions, I am a Tory, and not a follower of Lord Stanley; I am a follower of Sir R. Peel, and, as such, I cannot stand with you." When my noble Friend, Lord Stanley, joined the Administration, I followed him, but would not accept office. I had no desire then, as I have no desire now, for office. But the right hon. Baronet knows that an offer was made to me of an appointment, and that I entered into negotiation, but declined the offer. What right, then, has he to tell me that I was one who acknowledged him as my leader? I think, then, that under these circumstances the reply of the right hon. Gentleman has fallen far short of what it might have been. I put the evidence and the case before the country. I rest it on its own intrinsic merits, and I am willing to be bound by the impartial judgment of private opinion.
§ SIR J. HANMER
wished to say a few words, which were more pertinent to the question than the observations of the noble Lord; and he would try to prove, by the words of the noble Lord, who told them that he lived in the hearts of the English people—["No, no!"]—or at any rate said he spoke a language which would find a response in the English people, that any allusion to Mr. Fox was not well founded; for if Mr. Fox had accused any other Member of hunting an illustrious individual to death, he would have been the last to support such a Member, though he were a Minister. The noble Lord had said that he had never done anything to make the right hon. Baronet his leader; but that he had done so at a time which was most important, the noble Lord could not be in a condition to deny. He said that the noble Lord, and he could prove it, had spoken at an election as a supporter of the right hon. Baronet. He assured the House that he very rarely, unless they were of great importance, or that he had not been present at the debates, read the speeches that were made in that House. Of course he read the speeches of the Ministers and of their chief opponents. Yes, he read one 726 or two, but as to diving into the speeches, and caring about what that noble Lord or that hon. Gentleman said at one time or another, he was very little given to it indeed. They had heard nothing that evening from the noble Lord but quotations from the Mirror of Parliament and Hansard. But it had occurred to him, looking at the speeches the noble Lord was accustomed to make in that House, to see what the noble Lord had said to his constituents at Lynn, and therefore he did desire a gentleman to go to a place the other day where he believed all such speeches and records of such transactions were kept; and in his hand he had an extract from the Norfolk Chronicle and Norwich Gazette, for Saturday, the 3rd of July, 1841, in which the noble Lord, then a candidate for Lynn, was reported to have said, that—It was then six years ago since His late Majesty King William IV. had called to his councils a Conservative Administration. At that period he appeared before them (the electors) and claimed their suffrages upon the ground that a fair trial was proposed to be given to the Conservative Minister of the late King. It was then their pleasure upon that occasion to send him to Parliament to give his support to the Ministers of that day in upholding and supporting the vast and important institutions of the country.Now, at that time Lord Stanley, whom the noble Lord said he followed as his political leader, had been invited, as everybody knew, by the right hon. Baronet to form part of that Administration; but the noble Lord declined, specially for the reason that he had up to that time had no confidence in the Government. There was then at that time between Lord Stanley and the Government a great gulf fixed; there was a broad distinction between them, but yet the noble Lord distinctly said that he had been in 1835 sent to Parliament to give his support to the Minister of that day, and therefore to the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman. He thought, then, that the noble Lord had acknowledged, in the name of the country and of his constituents, that he followed the right hon. Baronet as his leader. How did the noble Lord deny it? The noble Lord had distinctly recognised the right hon. Baronet as his leader, and therefore he thought the noble Lord was obnoxious to that question which had been justly asked him a few nights ago, how it was that, entertaining the feelings he did, he could so long have given to the right hon. Baronet his confidence? He did not know how soon a 727 dissolution of Parliament might take place, but that would tell what was the real value of all that declamation, and what was the real value put upon it by the people of England, and by those men who had followed the right hon. Baronet, and given to him support as earnest and sincere as he had ever received from the noble Lord. He thought, then, he had shown that the noble Lord, according to his own account, went to Parliament for the purpose not only of giving to the right hon. Baronet a fair trial, but also of giving to him his support.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he was a plain man, and used to plain language, and being a plain person he was utterly at a loss to understand the precise position in which the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury placed themselves. He understood the noble Lord to say that he was not simply related to, but the friend of one whom he was pleased to call an illustrious statesman of this country—he was the friend and relation of Mr. Canning; he watched his career; stood by him when he was Minister of this country, harassed and borne down by the weight of office, and he saw him hunted to death; he watched his career—he saw his end; he watched the shaft that struck his noble heart; he saw the bow whence the fatal weapon came; he saw the hand that launched it; and yet that hand and that man who launched that fatal shaft had, since that fatal moment, up to a late period, been designated by the noble Lord as his right hon. Friend. He was a plain man. Had he seen his friend hunted to death—had he watched his noble career, and looked upon him as a type of the greatness and glory of the country—had he seen him hunted by inferior men to death—what would have been his feelings as a plain and honest man against those who had done it? Could he ever, even in Parliamentary phraseology, have called him his friend? Could he ever in any mere formal phrase have given him that epithet; and would he have ever joined him in any private social converse, or in any way whatsoever treated him but as his enemy? He said, that as a plain man who was accustomed to use plain language—and let him now ask this question still with all the same plainness of speech—how was it that Mr. Canning, being hunted to death some nineteen years ago, the noble Lord had never had—should he say the courage—he used a plain term; he would be quite frank; he was going to say what he thought of the 728 noble Lord; how was it, he asked, that nineteen years had passed away without the noble Lord having given expression to that feeling, or having acted upon it? How came it that the noble Lord, taking Mr. Canning as his guide, and feeling him to be his friend—and deeming the right hon. Baronet to have done nothing less than to have slain him—for he said the right hon. Baronet hunted Mr. Canning to death—had never discovered that delinquency, or given expression to that feeling, until the other day? He could only explain it in this way—and he would ask whether the country would not say it was the fact—that the noble Lord had another cause of quarrel with the right hon. Baronet, somewhat personal to himself; then he took what appeared to the noble Lord the readiest means of casting, if possible, a slur upon his opponent; and, not being over scrupulous in his phrase or assertions, said that the right hon. Baronet had hunted his right hon. relative to death? From what the noble Lord had said, he was fully convinced the noble Lord had not paid attention to the necessary inferences that would be drawn with respect to himself. He did not think the noble Lord had altogether that calm and dispassionate manner which was requisite for a minority towards a majority; he did not think the noble Lord was blessed with that discretion which would lead him eventually—["Hear!"]—he saw the noble Lord anticipated him—that he did anticipate—to be the leader of a great party; but he said that when he used the expression he had referred to he was wanting in that prudence which was requisite for the leader of a great party in this country; and he could not understand how a person of that kind, a man who had seen his friend hunted to death, had let his rancour rest for nineteen years before he gave vent to his feelings. It was for the noble Lord to reconcile, if he could, his position for nineteen years, and why it was that it was not until the end of that time he deemed it right to make a complaint respecting it. But then he had also to ask when it was that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury had found out that the right hon. Gentleman was totally unfitted to guide the affairs of this country? Was it in the year 1825, or 1827, or 1828, or 1829? The hon. Gentleman was at that time arrived at his years of discretion, and he well knew at that time what the right hon. Gentleman was doing. The hon. Gentleman came into 729 public life, and attempted to get into Parliament, in 1832. At that time, as he had said before, the Gentleman was a Radical. [Mr. DISRAELI: I was not in Parliament.] But the hon. Gentleman tried to get into Parliament. He then attempted it as a Tory; that did succeed: he then pronounced an eulogium—should he say, a fulsome eulogium? — upon the right hon. Baronet. He was accustomed then with his praise, as he is now accustomed in his vituperation, to lie by, and he came down with a prepared eulogium upon the right hon. Baronet. He did not blame the hon. Gentleman for preparation. A man to come to that House with a hasty speech, and unprepared ideas, was a bold and imprudent man; but he was not about to praise that sort of diligence which was spent in not getting at the truth—in elaborating thought and working out ideas—but in merely giving point to a dull weapon to make one blow, and giving vent to personal vanity and disappointed ambition. He, for one, did charge the hon. Gentleman, and in the face of the country, with changing his opinion because of his personal spite towards the right hon. Baronet. That was plain speaking; but he was speaking from the language, or rather the phraseology, of those who chose to call the Gentlemen opposed to them a band of hypocrites, renegades, persons who were guilty of petty larcenies. He thought it was Bacon who said, in speaking of wisdom, that truth was like the cross-bow; whether shot by a pigmy or a giant, it had the same effect; but authority was like the long-bow, and depended upon the strength and skill of the arm that wielded it. Now, he thought they might apply that rule to a man who dealt in imputations, who made charges, who weighed characters; and if he weighed a man's character, and accused him of inconsistency, and used vituperation, and expressed his opinion upon him, his opinion was of value according to his own character. If his charge consisted of facts, those facts would speak for themselves. That must be the cross-bow. But when the hon. Gentleman choose to express his opinion, and asked him or them to give it weight because it was his expression and his opinion, then he must be permitted to ask who he was who was thus flinging stones, and what was that sort of habitation in which he dwelt; and in this case he found it to be of an extremely brittle texture—he lived in a glass house; for the hon. 730 Gentleman had changed his own opinions. The hon. Gentleman said that his Radical opinions were the opinions of his generous youth, but that his Tory opinions were those of his prudential manhood. The change, it appeared, was made when the Reform Bill had ceased to tend in the way of reform, and was not likely to carry him who chose to assume the tenets upon which it passed, into the high places of power, and so he abandoned it: the hon. Gentleman accordingly set his sail to catch t'other wind, and came to that corner of the House as a Tory; but unfortunate still in the attainment of his object, he did not gain his place, and then he chose to deal in that species of vituperation of which they had heard so many specimens. He was a sort of Paganini playing upon one string; he could only play upon the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet had thought it worth his while to answer the accusations brought against him by the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman. He assured the right hon. Baronet, that although he might have felt pain that any noble Lord should have made such a charge, his answer had been triumphant; but it was unnecessary. The right hon. Baronet might depend upon the gratitude of his country for that great deed which had ensured the enmity of the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman. He had had the courage to do what? The hon. Gentleman said that he was a vacillating Minister—that he had changed his opinions. He acknowledged that the right hon. Gentleman had had the courage to change his opinions. He had for a considerable period of his life been opposed to the right hon. Baronet; he thought his opinions wrong; but the right hon. Baronet had yielded them to evidence, and not to personal ambition. No seeking of popularity—no petty or base passion had influenced him in that change; he had made the change for the benefit of his country, and he would have his reward in the gratitude of his countrymen. When he watched the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord—the little passions of the one, and the strange rancour of the other—and contrasted their conduct with the sacrifice which the right hon. Baronet had made, he felt it necessary to make a humble apology to the right hon. Baronet. He was not one who had pursued the right hon. Baronet with fulsome adulation, expecting aught from him; he had opposed him for the greater period of his life: he had not changed his 731 opinions; for, although he took no credit for it, he did think that the right hon. Baronet, in restricting trade, had been wrong; but he considered the right hon. Baronet was entitled to take great credit to himself for yielding to the force of evidence, and having the courage to meet all that coarse abuse. Was it nothing to sit there, night after night, to be baited as the right hon. Baronet had been from the commencement of the Session?—one who had passed thirty years of his life—the best years of his life in the service of his country? The party opposite would have taken anybody who would have served their purpose. First, it was the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; then the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, like the two kings of Brentford, smelling at the same nosegay; then the hon. Member for Knaresborough; and then a stripling Lord, set there to con his lesson, and who he thought was going to recite "My name is Norval," though he doubted whether the noble Lord could have done it, said, with the utmost complacency, "I have no confidence in the right hon. Baronet." That was the sight he had seen, and the people of England had seen, since the commencement of the Session; and he said that he gave expression to the right feeling of his countrymen when he said that they would not bear with anything of that sort at the present day. He was not in the slightest degree alarmed at the notion of a general election. He could meet his constituents, and was fully satisfied that the support he had given to the right hon. Baronet upon that very matter which had produced the enemity of the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman, would secure for him his reelection. At the proper time, when the measure came regularly before the House, he should oppose it, as he had always opposed such measures, whether they came from the noble Lord (J. Russell) or the right hon. Baronet. He had never changed on that question, and he would do the right hon. Baronet the justice to say that he too had not changed. He was only following in the old beaten track of English politicians as to Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for London, in opposing the Bill, was actuated by a distinct policy; but hon. Gentlemen opposite were governed by a party policy alone. Their sole desire was to destroy the right hon. Baronet as the leader of that House and the Prime Minister of the country. He (Mr. Roebuck would feel it his duty in time to 732 come to vote against the Bill; but, whatever might be the division, he earnestly hoped that the country would not lose the benefit of the great services which the right hon. Baronet could render to it. He trusted that the last act of the right hon. Baronet's political life would not be this great measure of commercial enfranchisement, but that he might be permitted to carry out his enlightened views to a still greater extent, and that those who advocated a liberal policy for the country would find in him a coadjutor for good, and not a mere Minister of evil, which he would have been had he allowed himself to follow in the footsteps of those who now assailed him. Every Minister of this country would find it difficult to govern, except by a system of compromise. He could conceive how totally impossible it would be to attempt to force upon the country a consecutive series of opinions. The right hon. Baronet, in the decided course he had taken, had performed a great political action, for which he deserved their support and admiration. A Minister of this country must receive the truth from time to time. Like other elevated minds, he would be the first to receive the light; and truth, like the sun itself, would strike upon the highest objects first, while the low level of ignorance lay still buried in obscurity. Those who were governed by back-looking prejudices would, however, still assail him after he had so received that light. He (Mr. Roebuck) felt it his duty to say what he had, and to give this expression of his strong feeling of gratitude to the right hon. Baronet, and of his supereminent carelessness and contempt for the right hon. Baronent's opponents.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I had hoped my noble Friend the Member for Lynn would have relieved me from the necessity of saying a word on this occasion. I trusted my noble Friend would have taken a course which would at once have put an end to any discussion on the subject before the House. Sir, I am not one of those who, as a general question, are disposed to blame any Member of this House for going back even twenty years to find matter of censure against a Minister — still less if he entertained a strong feeling on the subject. Nor am I prepared to say, that the great differences which have existed in this House on subjects vitally interesting to the country, are not reason and cause enough for the most excited language from Members of 733 this House against a Minister who they think is proposing measures injurious to the country. But, Sir, the question which the right hon. Baronet has brought before the House to-night is not one of general accusation, or of indiscriminate, vague censure—it is an accusation against him on specific grounds. The right hon. Gentleman told us, and I think he told us truly, that he had been charged, first, with having stated to Lord Liverpool, in 1825, that he thought the Roman Catholic question ought to be settled, and that his opinion was altered on that subject; and that, in the next place, whether he stated so to Lord Liverpool or not, he had, in 1829, made a statement to that effect in this House, thereby laying himself open to the reproach that, if he thought in 1825 that the Roman Catholic question ought to be settled, he should not have opposed Mr. Canning as he did in 1827. But the last and gravest charge of all was, that, as to his speech of 1829, he had been a party to sending a fraud out to the world—a garbled and mutilated report of that speech—and with suppressing the truth on that subject. Now, these are specific charges; whether it were worth the while of the right hon. Baronet to bring them before the House is another question. The hon. Member for Bath seems to think that it was not. I am myself of opinion, with the right hon. Baronet, that he would have suffered in character if he had not brought them forward. And, Sir, having been so brought before me, I must say I am bound in justice to give my opinion, after what my noble Friend has said, and it is, that the right hon. Gentleman has satisfied my mind as to all these points. I believe, in the first place, that in 1825 he stated to Lord Liverpool, that being in a minority in this House on the Irish question, it was not fit or suitable for him to hold his situation, but that he made no declaration or statement to Lord Liverpool as to what his subsequent course would be. I believe, in the next place, that, in 1829, in stating his measure to the House, he did state what had happened in 1825, and that he did not state that his course was exactly similar in 1828, because he went on to say that, in addition to what he had done in 1825, he had stated to the Duke of Wellington that he was now ready to lend his aid as a private Member of Parliament towards the settlement of the question. Sir, I admit that, in conning over the debates at the present day, there are some passages, such 734 as the answer to Lord Uxbridge and others, from which you might suppose the right hon. Gentleman to have said that his course in 1828 was similar to his course in 1825; but if you look to other passages in the speeches—to what took place two or three days after, or in the following week, you will see very clearly what the right hon. Gentleman did explain; and I cannot wonder that as a Minister charged with the care of a great question, and having to reply, from day to day, to various attacks, he did not on every occasion state the whole circumstances of the case. With respect, however, to that statement, I must say I do think it is of importance that the right hon. Gentleman should have made the statement he has done, because of what happened to myself in the course of this very year. I was told by a Friend of mine that the right hon. Gentleman had, in 1829, stated what was read from the Mirror of Parliament by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. I said, in reply, that I had not a very perfect recollection of those debates certainly, but that I could not remember the right hon. Baronet to have said any thing of the kind. The Mirror of Parliament was shown to me. It did produce some impression, and I thought that a publication like the Mirror was more likely to be accurate than my recollection. I am glad on that account that the right hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity of making this statement, because it was natural that persons wishing really to know the truth, should have been misled by so positive a report in the Mirror, if they should not think it necessary to refer to four newspapers for a different report. But, Sir, lastly, the right hon. Gentleman has shown, as to the report which he saw and corrected for Hansard, that it is more conformable to four at least out of five of the newspapers of the day which reported the speech the following morning, more conformable to his whole statement, and to all the documents which remain on the subject. Therefore, Sir, I have no hesitation whatever in stating my opinion that the right hon. Gentleman is not guilty of that which, had he been guilty of it, would have been a flagrant offence; and that he has completely justified himself. Sir, having said this, I must add, that I think these questions are entirely different from any which my noble Friend the Member for Lynn, or others, can raise as to the political conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. As to his opposition to Mr. Canning in 735 1827, I have myself a strong opinion, but my opinion is not now in question. As to the general political conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, I agree with the hon. Member for Bath in thinking that he has rendered great service to his country in taking the part he has taken on this occasion; but, at the same time, I cannot with that hon. Gentleman express surprise or wonder at any warmth or vindictive feeling being directed against the right hon. Gentleman, because the right hon. Gentleman in his political career has done that which perhaps has never happened to so eminent a man before. He has twice changed his opinion on the greatest political questions of his day. Once when the Protestant Church was to be defended and the Protestant Constitution rescued from the assaults of the Roman Catholics, which it was said would ruin it, the right hon. Gentleman undertook to lead the defence. Again, the Corn Laws were powerfully attacked in this House and out of it. He took the lead of his party to resist a change and to defend protection. I think, on both occasions, he has come to a wise conclusion, and to a decision most beneficial to his country; first, when he repealed the Roman Catholic disabilities, and secondly, when he abolished protection. But that those who had followed him—men that had committed themselves to these questions, on the faith of his political wisdom—on the faith of his sagacity, led by the great eloquence and ability he displayed in debate—that when they found he had changed his opinions and proposed measures different from those on the faith of which they had followed him—that they should exhibit warmth and resentment was not only natural, but I should have been surprised if they had not displayed it; and I certainly should have a lower opinion of his sagacity than I have, unless I thought he must have been prepared for vindictiveness of this sort. Sir, I have said these few words, because I am happy to find, though I cannot say I have much doubt on the matter before the House, that whatever political differences there may be—whatever may be said against a Minister, whether in the language of Mr. Fox, or in any other language in which Ministers are assailed in this free country, be it as warm and impassioned as it may be—I am most happy to find, I repeat, that charges which I do think would, if they had been true, have affected his public honour, have been found so totally baseless and unfounded.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am not desirous of availing myself of the privilege to which from the manner in which this question is again brought before the House, I am entitled to abuse its indulgence. I shall confine myself to the statement of facts, and to an examination of the allegations in answer to them; and I will scarcely even argue on them, but indicate only the inferences which to my own mind it seems impossible should not be accepted, and on which the House will decide. I need hardly notice what has fallen from the hon. Member for Bath. There will, no doubt, be other opportunities; and we all know he never prepares his speeches. The hon. Member seems much disturbed by what he called the vituperation indulged in by myself and my noble Friend towards the right hon. Baronet. It is not for me to suppose what has been the effect of it; but this I can say, that however inconvenient it may have been to the Minister, it can scarcely have been so nauseous as the panegyric of the hon. Member for Bath. The hon. Member says I was once a Radical; and he says he is a Radical too; but if he be a Radical, it is impossible that I could have been one. I will leave him in the hands of those presumptuous and ignorant youths to whom he referred in language so decorous and parliamentary. This only I will say, that I know enough of them to be sure that, if they were placed in contact with the hon. Member, whether morally, intellectually, or physically, they would be able to give a very good account of themselves. I will now, Sir, endeavour to address myself to the matter before the House, with a view sincerely and anxiously to place the matter fairly before the House. There runs through the speech of the right hon. Baronet a remarkable but consistent fallacy. He says that we who have made this charge have been hunting out extracts from journals and newspapers in order to prove it. The case is exactly the reverse. The charge was made against the right hon. Baronet without any reference to journals and newspapers; and it was he who appealed to the records of Parliament, and said this is what I said in 1827, and this is what I said in 1829; they are the same, and your charge is groundless. Sir, we did not make the charge on what we found in newspapers. We made it on grounds and on convictions to which I will advert afterwards. 737 But when the right hon. Gentleman turned round and read his speeches in former years, and defied us to show an expression authorizing our charge, it became a matter of duty and necessity that we also should refer to the documents which he quoted; and we did so, not to make a charge, but accepting the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman. It was our duty too to avail ourselves of any collateral illustration from any source at our command; but before I refer to those authorities which have been quoted, to the reports in the newspapers, in Hansard, and the Mirror of Parliament, I must make one observation on a point which the right hon. Gentleman treated as almost the head and front of our offence; I mean my quoting the Edinburgh Review. Why, Sir, the noble Lord has truly said that the Edinburgh Review came to us in this House from Gentleman opposite. It was not wanted for the original charge, or for the main proofs, but was a collateral evidence only; and that article having been stated to be the production of a Member of Parliament, who sat in Parliament when these things were occurring, it was collateral and illustrative evidence of an opinion current in society at the time. Now the right hon. Gentleman has sneered at an expression of mine, when I said that I approached a particular part of the subject with pain. I am not disposed on this occasion to enter into anything but fair argument on the facts before the House; and therefore I am not going to retaliate any sarcasm on the right hon. Baronet. But he has quite misconceived me. When I said that I approached the subject with pain, I was not such a hypocrite as to pretend that if I thought I had a good case against the Minister, or could bring forward what would tell against him, it would give me great pain. What I said was, that the subject of Mr. Canning was one which I could not approach without pain. It is one which hardly any man can approach without pain. The right hon. Gentleman indulged in some insinuations which I do not even notice, but which certainly have not the least foundation. One thing, however, is certain, that whatever may be the various opinions of Members of the House of Commons, they must always find in every thing connected with the career of Mr. Canning much that must repress levity, and rather attune their temper to a more elevated character. I repeat that the 738 right hon. Baronet quite misconceived what was passing in my mind. I now come to the case of Mr. Barrow; and here let me say, that no man in the House can suppose that it was possible for any man to sit in the gallery and report the speeches delivered during a period of four hours. I did not mean, therefore, on a former occasion, that the speeches were all reported by Mr. Barrow himself in the Mirror of Parliament; but Mr. Barrow was a man of great intelligence, a very skilful shorthand reporter, and under his auspices the speeches in the Mirror of Parliament were prepared by an independent corps of reporters. I know that great pains were taken with that work, though it was not ultimately successful, having to encounter great opposition from the established publication of Mr. Hansard; and I believe it enjoyed but a limited circulation, but certainly it originally was produced by an independent corps of reporters. [Sir R. PEEL: On what authority do you say that?] My authority is Mr. Barrow himself, who told me himself, on a subsequent occasion, that in the first Parliament of the reign of William IV.—[Sir R. PEEL: They must have changed their mode of reporting, then.] That they changed at a subsequent period is possible; and I am anxious to be right with the House on this point. I believe, however, I am strictly correct in saying that this change did not occur until a period subsequent to the debate in question. But supposing that the principal reporters of all the journals met together in council, and gave that which, from their notes and recollection, they believed to be the most accurate version of the speeches, it cannot have escaped the impartial observation of the House that, according to the right hon. Baronet, they yet did make a mistake in one of the most extraordinary statements ever made in the House of Commons? Is such a supposition to be for a moment imagined? I will now relate to the House the circumstances of this entire case as I believe they exist in truth; and in doing so, I must not be stopped by the interference of the hon. Member for Bath, nor the generous interposition of the noble Lord the Member for London. The noble Lord has been so long habituated to the support of the right hon. Gentleman, that though it was supposed he was to be engaged in encounters of a very different kind than those in which he has 739 this night exhibited, though he was expected to be engaged in a very different warfare this evening; he comes forward, from long habit, and prompted by his generous disposition, to assert that there are no grounds for the charge against the right hon. Gentleman. I will assume, for the sake of argument, that the report which appeared in the Mirror of Parliament and in The Times newspaper—I do not care whether these were two authorities or only one—but I will assume that the report which declared that the right hon. Gentleman had said in 1829 that he was prepared in 1825 to consent to the settlement of the Catholic question, was a correct declaration, and that the right hon. Gentleman did say so on the occasion stated. I merely assume this, you will observe, for the sake of argument. Now I want to know, independently of that report, if the right hon. Gentleman did make such a statement? Understand me. I assume that he said that; but I don't for the present accept either The Times or the Mirror of Parliament as proof that he said it. Then what other report is there? Assuming that he said it, I am prepared to produce before the House the fact that a distinguished Member of Parliament replied to that statement. Will the noble Lord still get up, and say there is no room for the charge against the right hon. Gentleman, even with the knowledge of the fact that a distinguished Member of Parliament gets up, and replies to the statement which the noble Lord says the right hon. Gentleman never made? [Sir R. PEEL: The right hon. Member (Sir E. Knatchbull) was not in the House at the time the speech was delivered.] The right hon. Baronet says that Sir E. Knatchbull was not in the House when he made the speech in question. I am prepared to prove that he was in the House; for on that day there was a division, and in the list will be found the name of Sir E. Knatchbull. We have been charged with vituperation in urging this matter before the House. Sir, we have not willingly come before you with this question. It was the right hon. Gentleman who challenged us to this investigation, and we have not employed the language of vituperation. It was indeed with the greatest reluctance that my noble Friend and myself came down to the House to submit this matter to its consideration. The right hon. Gentleman did not allow the original charge to pass. He took a certain time to consider it, and 740 came down with a most deliberate and well-prepared answer. And the right hon. Gentleman accuses me of having made a malignant attack on him, though I only spoke on behalf of my noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck), who was prevented from replying to the right hon. Gentleman by the forms of the House. But to return. Assume that the right hon. Gentleman did admit that in 1825 he went to Lord Liverpool, and made the statement charged against him, then I bring forward a Member of Parliament who answered that statement, and I will prove that that Member of Parliament was in the House when the statement was made. Then, I am going to quote an authority—not Mr. Barrow—not the collective council made up of the most accomplished reporters on the London press, but a corrected copy of "the speech" of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Baronet said, on March 5th, 1829—In 1828, when the question was brought forward, and when he found himself again in a minority, he had said 'the time is now come when a new Parliament has decided against me, and when the House of Lords are in a state of division upon the question; the time has arrived when an attempt to settle the question must be made, and to that attempt I will lend my aid.'According to this, he says he was ready in 1825, in a private capacity, not only not to obstruct a settlement that appeared inevitable, but in 1828 he was ready to give his advice to promote it. Recollect I am quoting from Hansard, and we know how correct the reports in Hansard are, and how confidently we refer to them. Then, again in answer to the Earl of Uxbridge, we have a speech of the right hon. Gentleman:—To that question he (Sir R. Peel) replied, that there was a material difference in his situation in 1827, and his situation in 1828. In 1827, a new House of Commons decided against concession, but in 1828 it decided in favour of it. He then took the course which he adopted in 1825, when Lord Liverpool was at the head of the Government.In the next column of Hansard, we have this passage, and we read that the right hon. Baronet took that course in 1829, which in his mind he adopted in 1825, when Lord Liverpool was at the head of the Government. The right hon. Baronet said—In 1828, however, the House took a different view of the matter, and though it did not pass a Bill, it agreed to a Resolution favourable to the principle of adjustment. That Resolution being passed, I was again in the situation in which I 741 had been placed in 1825, and I determined to retire from office. I intimated my fixed intention in this respect to the Duke of Wellington; but I felt it my duty to accompany the intimation with the declaration—not only that I would not, in a private capacity, any longer obstruct a settlement which appeared to me ultimately inevitable, but that I would advise and promote it.["Oh!" and cheers.] It is not the cheers of this side or that side of the House that can alter the truth of this case. We will state that case temperately and firmly. We think it an unanswerable one. But when I come to what is the most important part of the proof, you try to drown the words I am reading with a cheer. The right hon. Gentleman says he was ready in 1825 to take the course he took in 1828; and in 1828 he says the time has arrived when an attempt to settle the question must be made, and to that attempt I will lend my aid. If there be truth in words—if it be true that in 1825 the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to do what he did in 1828 — then the right hon. Gentleman, in 1825, was ready to assist the Government in carrying Catholic Emancipation. I am entitled to maintain that what I assumed as correct for the sake of argument, is true, and for this reason, that on the 5th of March the right hon. Gentleman did use the expression given in The Times newspaper; and because, unless he used it, you cannot explain the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull; and, what is more, you cannot explain the speech of the right hon. Gentleman himself. ["No, no!"] It is very well to say "No;" but let the Gentleman that says "No" get up and give facts and arguments in answer to those I have given. We put this case fairly before the House, because we know we are not only speaking to the House, but to the public out of doors; and I wish it to be put without intemperance or passion. If any person can answer my facts or arguments, let him do so; but it is impossible to settle this question by a long statement, however, able such as the right hon. Gentleman has given us. We have it on the high authority of one who knows him well, that no man can dress up a case as well as he can. When the right hon. Gentleman refers to the Edinburgh Review, and enters into a minute comparison of all the reports in the newspapers, I naturally ask why does not the right hon. Gentleman explain why Sir E. Knatchbull made that speech? and why on the 5th of March he himself made that statement to which I have adverted? The 742 Edinburgh Review insinuates that the right hon. Gentleman wrote a letter to Lord Liverpool; and the right hon. Gentleman says, "I will clear my character in this way; I will bring all the letters Lord Liverpool wrote to me;" and then he complains of such attacks being made on the First Minister of the Crown, and the detriment to public business. But if instead of sending to Drayton Manor, he had sent to Sir E. Knatchbull, to ask if he had made that speech, and then read in this House a letter from Sir E. Knatchbull, denouncing that version of his speech as a forgery, I ask whether that would not have been more satisfactory than the long and elaborate statement he has laid before the House? The right hon. Gentleman says newspapers have been raked in order to get up this charge against him; but the noble Lord did not make this charge on the authority of newspapers, or of any of the printed records of our Parliamentary debates. No one who watches the reports of newspapers—though the most wonderful thing, perhaps, connected with our present state of society, and greatly improved during the last twenty years—no one would found a charge on what appeared in the newspapers. The noble Lord made that Charge on what he had heard from the highest authority, from persons who had long been the friends of Mr. Canning, and who were Members of this House when these circumstances occurred—and he expressed it never doubting its truth. And I must remind you that the speech of Sir E. Knatchbull was heard by my noble Friend himself. We are not to expect from a person who speaks from his own experience, that he will look into all the newspapers before he brings forward a charge like this against an individual. He is not bound to do so, but is fairly entitled to make a statement to this House from the convictions of his own experience and of what he has seen and heard. It was not my noble Friend, but the right hon. Gentleman, who brought in the newspapers. We have referred to the newspapers with reluctance, but we have done so with confidence, because it is known that the reporting staff of The Times was at that time the most extensive, the most complete, and most authoritative of any of the papers published in London; and we held that in quoting it we had brought forward a sufficient authority. Now I put this case before the House, divested of all Edinburgh Reviews and all personal matters; 743 I put the question before the House, caring little what the feeling of the House may be, and I say so with all respect—whether it is in favour of the person who speaks or the person who has spoken—it is not this House which will decide the question—it is the calm, deliberate judgment of the English public. If the facts I have put before the House can be explained—throwing aside the report of the unfortunate Barrow, who never supposed he would become the hero of a debate—all the anonymous articles in the Edinburgh Review, and all the attacks on the right hon. Gentleman—if he can explain to the public why a respectable and influential Member of Parliament should get up in this House, and make a violent speech against him, all proceeding on the assumption that the right hon. Gentleman had a few days before admitted that in 1825 he was ready to settle the Catholic question—if he can explain to the country why such expressions as I have read to the House were used by Sir E. Knatchbull—if he can explain why, in one of his most elaborate speeches he himself positively declared, "That in settling this question, he was prepared, in 1828, to do what he was prepared to do in 1825;" and describes what he was prepared to do in 1828, by positively saying, "He was of opinion the time was come when this question ought to be settled, and that he was prepared to lend his aid to that settlement;"—if he can persuade the public that no such speech as that of Sir E. Knatchbull was ever made—if he can persuade the public that the speeches I have read to you from his own favourite authority, and one of them corrected by his own hand, are of no more value than a copy of the Arabian Nights Entertainments—then may the right hon. Gentleman appeal with confidence to the public for a verdict. Till that is done, it will not do to make a speech imputing unworthy motives to his opponents—exercising ingenious argumentation on worthless materials—disowning accusations never made—and putting an end to proof that never was brought forward. This is not what we require. We do not say we have a right to ask anything. Our case is before the House, and we are perfectly satisfied it should remain there. It was not the speeches of Sir E. Knatchbull nor of the right hon. Gentleman that induced my noble Friend to make the statement he did. He spoke from personal memory and 744 from personal experience, and from that in which he has more confidence than even in personal memory or personal experience—from the deep-rooted and growing conviction of society, and especially of the friends and family of Mr. Canning, that the allegation he has made was true—an allegation which has not yet been refuted.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think the time has arrived when it is desirable on every ground that the debate should be brought to a close, and therefore I don't rise to reply to the renewed assertions of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli), or to point out to the House how easy it is, by culling extracts from particular speeches, to give to those paragraphs a representation which the reading of the entire speech would dispel. I have read those debates; I was present during the whole course of those debates; and I rise, therefore, rather as a witness in the cause, than as one about to enter on the argument. I was present at the debates upon the Roman Catholic question, and I have no recollection whatever of any such expression of opinion on the part of Sir E. Knatchbull as that to which the hon. Gentleman referred as a confirmatory circumstance. I know that my non-recollection on this point can avail very little, in comparison with any positive recollection which could be pleaded as to what Sir E. Knatchbull may have said. But I think, considering the interest I took in the subject, that such a statement could not have been made without fixing itself in my memory. But the question is, did my right hon. Friend entertain such an opinion, and was he then prepared to make concessions on the Catholic question? On that point I conceive myself the best witness that can be called upon to give his testimony. I have been from the earliest period of my political life connected with the right hon. Baronet. I sympathized with him in political opinion. I acted in unison with him on every public question. There existed between us the most unreserved communication of sentiments and opinions; and at no time has he taken any important step in politics without my being privy to, and fully acquainted with, the circumstance which regulated his conduct. At the time, too, when these transactions took place, I was Chief Secretary for Ireland, my right hon. Friend being Secretary of State under whose directions I acted. We concerted together the opposition to the Roman Catholic 745 claims; and, if my right hon. Friend's opinions had undergone the change which is alleged, I should certainly not have been ignorant of the fact. I never heard from my right hon. Friend a single expression to throw a doubt upon the constancy of his opinion, in 1825, that concession on the Roman Catholic question was to be resisted. So much was I surprised when the statement was made by the noble Lord on the first occasion, that I immediately inquired of my right hon. Friend, whs was sitting near me in the House, upon what possible ground a statement so at variance with fact could be made as that which fell from the noble Lord? I rise merely to bear my testimony to the matter of fact. If the testimony of one constantly connected with the right hon. Gentleman in political life, who was a partaker with him in the counsels and struggles of the period more particularly referred to—if that testimony is worth anything, it does altogether put an end to the accusation. Beyond this I should not have thought it necessary to say a word; but the hon. Member for Shrewsbury has thrown out an insinuation, that while my right hon. Friend has produced the letters which he received from Lord Liverpool, he has kept back the letters which he addressed to Lord Liverpool. I am authorized to state, that having made a search for all the letters which could be supposed to bear on the subject, whether addressed by my right hon. Friend to Lord Liverpool, or by Lord Liverpool to him, he has produced all that he has discovered; and that if there had been any letter from my right hon. Friend to Lord Liverpool, that, like the others, would have been produced. We have already had sufficient discussion upon this subject; and, having given my testimony as to the facts, I shall forbear from entering upon it further.
§ MR. B. ESCOTT
thought the question between the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) and the noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) already disposed of by the unanimous verdict of the House. All, except a few, actuated by party motives, appreciated the justice and truth of the defence; and they all knew it was true the right hon. Gentleman might have served his party more if he had kept them together; but that in serving his party more, he would have served his country less. If the noble Lord the Member for Lynn chose perpetually to attack with his vituperations an humble Member of that House, whose only 746 right to speak was owing to the choice of the people whom the noble Lord accused him of betraying, high and noble as were the noble Lord's birth and station, there was one thing more high and noble, and that was truth. The noble Lord spoke as a constituent of his. How the noble Lord made out that he was so, it were hard to say. [Lord G. BENTINCK: I am a constituent of the speaker.] Oh! the noble Lord has got some stables at Stockbridge. There were circumstances which had rendered it advisable that he should appeal to his constituents whether they were or were not satisfied with the course he had taken. A public meeting of his constituents was accordingly called by public advertisement, and every means was taken to make it known in the city that such a meeting was to be held. The meeting was the largest that had ever been convened there. He told them what he had done; a vote of approbation was proposed, and the resolution expressed to support him on account of the exertions he had made in this House. There were in that meeting but three hands held up in opposition to that expression of approval. Would the noble Lord say, or would he not say, that it was a fair way of putting the question, to allege that he (Mr. Escott) had betrayed the people? He agreed with what had been said on the other side of the House, that they never heard of these invectives till the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli) introduced them; and when it was said the verdict of the people was to be taken upon this question, he begged to tell the hon. Member for Shrewsbury that the people did not look to these personal altercations. What they looked for was this—they looked for having the sugar question settled on the same principles on which they had seen the corn question settled; and if the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury meant to have a verdict from the people in their favour, they must forget discussions upon questions which were raised in that House nineteen years ago. But they would be told that it was they who were impeding the Government in the endeavour to feed the people, and to meet the unparalleled difficulties of the sister kingdom of Ireland. They taunted the Government with the absence of famine at the present moment, when the measures which the noble Lord and his supporters sought to thwart had prevented the famine; but the people would tell the 747 noble Lord that they looked to other things than petty and paltry squabbles on matters which occurred nineteen years ago, and that they reposed confidence in a Government which had the power as well as the will to meet the exigencies of the times, and to go on in the course they had adopted, perhaps too late—a course which, in spite of all detraction, was, in the opinion of the people, honest, and which was manifestly dictated by an anxiety for the advancement of all classes.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
must confess that it was with great regret that he had seen the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) involve himself in personal controversy. But the manner in which that controversy had been conducted was still more subject for regret. Some hasty words, such as fell from the noble Lord at first, were not much to be wondered at; but it was surprising that he, the head of a great country party, should think he raised the character of his party by picking matter for invective out of old newspapers. Could the noble Lord think that he would raise his own character, or that of the great party he represented, by an attempt to eke out and sustain an accusation, so gross and so degrading if it were true, against a Minister engaged in great political operations, by picking out from reports a piece here and a piece there, now a bit from the Mirror of Parliament, when it suited him; then a bit from Hansard, when that suited him; then a bit from The Times, when that suited him; overlooking all the newspapers that did not suit him; and all to make out a charge which no man ought to bring without being prepared to establish it upon the most clear and indisputable evidence? He would defy these Gentlemen themselves to say they were satisfied that all the evidence was on their side; or that when four reports out of five did not confirm their statement, they could be quite sure they were right. If they still held to their charge, he would appeal to the country, and was quite sure what would be the verdict if any body of gentlemen from the middle classes were required to say, whether they believed the right hon. Baronet had done what he positively denied that he did, and had done even what it was contrary to common sense that he should have done, standing up and avowing that which would have impeached his character for political honesty. Moreover, he must say, that he thought the House ought not to be nicely weighing probabilities 748 and evidence in such a case; when a Minister came down, and expressed his own strong conviction as to what he said nineteen years ago, he believed it was the first time he had been sought to be convicted, in that House, of a falsity, upon evidence, of which, to say the least, men might entertain very different views. He spoke with no bias against the memory of Mr. Canning, but as one of his most ardent friends. He was connected with the Administration of 1827, and when the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) came in, he declined to serve with him on account of the Catholic question, and because he thought the right hon. Baronet had lent himself to the opposition to Mr. Canning. He must say he saw, with much regret, the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet towards Mr. Canning, but he would not accuse him of this dishonourable conduct. He did think that the right hon. Baronet ought, if he possibly could, to have restrained the language of many persons connected with him, and to have interposed with the weight of his authority to check that persecution; but he did not believe that the right hon. Baronet had two years before announced to Lord Liverpool, that he had changed his opinion upon the Catholic question; and still less, that if so, he should have been weak enough to confess and even boast of it. It was against all probability and against the evidence of four out of five of the witnesses—for these double confirmatory records had disappeared. The hon. Member (Mr. Disraeli) had told the House that it was not merely a casual corroboration, but that he had taken pains to ascertain the independence of those two records; but it now appeared that he had not taken pains, for that if he had he would have found the contrary to be the fact. It seemed, indeed, that the case had excited his interest deeply, that he had got it up and looked about for materials to support it; and it was natural to suppose that having found The Times supporting him when he hunted over the newspapers at the Carlton, or wherever he went, he would have looked at the other morning papers to see if they were with him. It was due to the love of justice which he so much professed, that if he really did that, he should have said to the House, "I have found so many papers corroborating me, and so many not doing so." He was no servile follower of the right hon. Baronet; he had sacrificed office—he had refused office; he might have been a Cabinet 749 Minister—he declined it. He had no resentments to serve, neither had he ever poured fulsome flattery upon the right hon. Baronet; he had taken a straightforward and independent course in the House, without fear of being accused of inconsistency, simply and plainly telling the House his opinions as they were formed, and not sacrificing them either to support a Minister, or to vex an opponent; and he conceived he might claim to be heard as an independent witness. As to what the noble Lord said about appealing to the constituency, he was ready to meet the noble Lord at Liverpool on the question whose course was best for the interests of the country. Even among those who were unfavourable to the change in the Corn Laws, there was a very general opinion that more evil had been done by the noble Lord in his prolonged and inveterate resistance, than by those who, seeing that such a change once propounded by the Minister was sure to be irresistible, acquiesced in it. He had no fear of meeting the noble Lord on any hustings, agricultural or commercial. He hoped the House might now be allowed to proceed to the Order of the Day.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
trusted he might be allowed, as an independent Member of Parliament, to state what was his verdict on this question. He saw the documents on which the noble Lord founded his statement, before they were produced to the House; and he could not think that any impartial man would have hesitated on such concurrent testimony, not only collected from the individual passages, but from the tenor of the debate, to re-assert the opinion which the noble Lord had formed, particularly when that opinion was justified by means of information obtained at the time of the occurrences, which could scarcely be equalled by that of any other Member. No doubt, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer was an important witness; but the noble Lord who spoke last had no right to say that this charge had been brought forward on a collection of loose and detached paragraphs in papers. He could not account for the insertion of such a paragraph as that upon which this debate had turned concurrently in two records, and for the pointed allusion to it by a distinguished Member of the House, if there was no foundation at all for it. The paragraph might have misrepresented what the right hon. Baronet said; but there must have been ground for some such statement or representation. The right hon. Baronet 750 adduced strong testimony in the reports of the other journals; but how did he account for the two concurrent publications of the statement? ["They were one and the same."] Then, if they were the same, and if it was a conspiracy on the part of one, how was the subsequent turn of the debate to be accounted for? It might have been an erroneous statement; but looking to all this, with the information accessible to the noble Lord, he (Mr. Newdegate) could not admit that the noble Lord was liable to the imputation of having loosely and groundlessly brought a charge against the right hon. Baronet. If the noble Lord had done so, no one in the House would have viewed his conduct with deeper indignation than himself. If he (Mr. Newdegate) waved the assertion of his own opinion on the subject, it was in deference to the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for whose character he had much respect.
§ MR. HUME
had witnessed with deep regret the whole course of these attacks on the right hon. Baronet, and particularly the conduct of the party in persevering, notwithstanding the triumphant answer of the right hon. Baronet. How the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, could deliver the opinion he had, was to him a matter of astonishment. For his own part he (Mr. Hume) was satisfied that what was charged by the noble Lord could not have taken place, because in 1829 when the Duke of Wellington determined to propose Catholic Emancipation, the right hon. Baronet tendered his resignation, and addressed a letter to the Duke, from which it appeared—and it had often been brought forward as a charge — that he carried through the measure, although he had never altered his opinion. He (Mr. Hume) should have hailed with the greatest pleasure at the time any such change of opinion. But only the strongest party motive could induce this perseverance in the attack. Many opponents of the right hon. Baronet must and did consider it inexcusable; after its triumphant refutation, the noble Member for Lynn should have risen and confessed his sorrow for having made the imputation. As a witness to the whole proceeding, he (Mr. Hume) must say that he never understood the right hon. Baronet to have changed his opinion, as was pretended; and that it was so distinctly stated in 1829, when the wish of the Duke of Wellington prevailed.
§ VISCOUNT MORPETH
happened to come 751 into Parliament during the last year of the services and life of Mr. Canning, and had for him, both publicly and privately, feelings which he could hardly qualify as less than idolatry — such as he had for no other statesman, almost for no other man. With these feelings, he certainly did not sympathize with, on the contrary he viewed with great disapprobation, the course pursued in 1827 by the right hon. Baronet and many of his then political followers. In a discussion shortly afterwards, he gave vent to the keenness of those feelings in as bitter terms as he could find. These feelings made him attend with the more anxiety to all that then took place; and he certainly had no reason for believing, but, on the contrary, every reason for disbelieving, that anything occurred which at all fastened upon the right hon. Baronet the imputation lately levelled against him. He was confirmed in this impression by his distinct recollection of Mr. Canning himself standing up in his place in the House, shortly after the resignations had taken place, and saying in a marked manner, that for the resignation of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) he had been fully prepared. After the right hon. Baronet's own statement now, he must do the right hon. Baronet the justice to say that he thought the case attempted to be substantiated against him (his own words were the best to employ) had been "completely shattered." He would only add, that in voting against the measure which the House was shortly to approach, he should feel great regret at giving a vote against the right hon. Baronet at the moment when he had conducted to a triumphant issue perhaps the most important question that ever engaged the attention of the Parliament of this country.
said, as the character and opinions of Mr. Canning had been most irrelevantly intruded on the debate, he could not help asking the House to consider on which side they thought Mr. Canning would have been arrayed on the real cause of quarrel between the different parties in this House—namely, free trade and monopoly. Why, he did not scruple to assert that the chief reason of that persecution which followed Mr. Canning to the grave, was, that he was known to be favourable to the principles of free trade; and that it was known to every friend of Mr. Canning, to every contemporary, and to every man who was watching public affairs at the time, that the men who were really the enemies of Mr. Canning, who, if 752 any, were the cause of his death, were those who represented the party with whom the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was identified. The hon. Gentleman continued: The noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) has talked much of his feeling for his relative; he has proclaimed the sense which he has always felt of the wrong that was done him; and he has traded with the sympathy which he expected from the House in the expression of those feelings on the occasion; and yet there is not a man in this House who knows better than himself that whether he looks to the opinions that he upholds, or the men he is acting with, or the principle which he professes, that he is wholly, completely, and unequivocally identified with the party, the persons, and the principles which were in fact in the bitterest hostility to his relative, for whose memory and principles he would have the House believe he felt such respect and veneration. Yes, with everything that the late Mr. Canning would have spurned, the noble Lord is associated—with every man that persecuted him, he is intimate—to the policy that the whole tenor of his life would make it certain he would repudiate, the noble Lord devotes himself — in fact, to everything that the kindly feeling, the enlightened views, and the just and liberal tendency of his mind, would have rendered dear to Mr. Canning, the noble Lord who intrudes his relative's concerns on the House, is the most opposed, and is doing precisely what Mr. Canning would have been shocked at, and with all his brilliant talent and generous soul would have resisted to the utmost of his power; and yet the business of the House is to be stopped, the feelings of its Members are to be appealed to by the noble Lord on behalf of monopoly and oppression, because the right hon. Gentleman who seeks to relieve the country from both, is alleged to have been, nineteen years ago, the enemy of Mr. Canning. Sir, the hon. Member for Winchester said that the country heard these low personalities which had been engaging the attention of the House for some months past with indifference. Sir, in one sense of the word, that is true; but, Sir, if unmitigated disgust can be construed into interest, it is otherwise: that is what is felt at the proceedings of this House of late. There is one class of persons, however, who will not receive these recent statements about the right hon. Gentleman without interest—I mean the farmers of 753 the country. They will read the abuse of the right hon. Gentleman, and they will examine the grounds on which is founded the present mistrust of him; and they will see that it rests on facts of nineteen or twenty years' date. They then will turn upon honourable Gentlemen opposite, and say, "Why you had reason to mistrust this man in your pockets. When you came to us and told us to trust him, we saw you turn out the noble Lord the Member for London, because you said he was not our friend; and you told us to support the right hon. Gentleman because he was our friend. You told us we ought to trust him, and yet you had about you the means of putting us on our guard, for it seems your charge against him now is, that he was utterly untrustworthy nineteen years ago. What are we to think of your eternal care about the British yeoman? What are we to think of your solicitude about native industry, if we see now that the man for whom you told us to sacrifice our fortunes and our principles, you yourselves distrusted, and had every reason for expecting that he would abandon the protection on which we were induced to pay you highly for our land?" This is the language they will hold, if Gentlemen opposite begin to sentimentalize with them about treachery, and all the horrible things that are said to have befallen them. "Here is the real treachery, duplicity, and perfidy (words the most choice in the vocabulary opposite), will they say; and with justice will they, probably, reject those at the future election who hope to entrap the British yeomen by the sort of language that has been lately held within this House. They knew, it seems, that the right hon. Gentleman would abandon protection, when they told them to cast out the noble Lord the Member for London, and elect the right hon. Gentleman in his place as the stanch Friend of that principle. But the noble Lord the Member for Lynn has sought to save himself to-night by saying that he was not a follower of the right hon. Baronet, but of the noble Lord the late Member for Lancashire, and now a Peer. Why was this? Can anything be so small and paltry as this? What! a follower of the noble Lord, who is a Colleague of the right hon. Baronet, and who submits to follow the right hon. Baronet, and to be bound by his policy, to be instructed in his course by him, to submit his judgment to that of the right hon. Baronet, to acknowledge 754 him, in the fullest sense of the term, a leader; and yet the noble Lord pretends to be so innocent as to suppose, because he calls himself a follower of Lord Stanley, who followed the right hon. Baronet, he is not a follower of the right hon. Baronet, whose enemies were Lord Stanley's enemies, and whom the noble Lord was therefore obliged blindly to oppose. Why, was there ever such quibbling, and such a way of escaping from the charge of associating himself with the enemies of his relative, whose memory he has brought before the House? And now, Sir, I should like to ask what right the noble Lord had to assume the privilege of criticising other men's conduct, because he was the follower of that noble Lord? That noble Lord is not exactly a pattern of consistency, of attachment to party, or regard to principle. Why, Sir, when I first came into Parliament, not disposed myself to be critical about men's conduct, to my astonishment, I observed the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) was the subject of constant reproach and jeering in this House, for having deserted his party and his principles. The thing that struck me most was, the noble Lord going through the form of sitting with the Liberals, and being obliged to pass over to the other side whenever he had to vote. It was a regular thing; the noble Lord was then marking to the House the party to which he had been attached, to which he was bound by principle and old connexion; and the new party, and the new principles, to which he had allied himself. It became so distressing at last, that the noble Lord was compelled at once to pass over to the party to which he had ever been opposed, identifying himself with them; and ready to take office with them whenever they were able sufficiently to injure and discredit his natural friends and allies. Why, Sir, it was the joke of the day that the noble Lord could get nobody to follow him as a party in his crooked and faithless course; and till the noble Lord announced it to-night, I did not know that he had had one follower bold enough to incur the obloquy which it had brought upon him. The noble Lord tells us to-night that he was the follower of the most notorious deserter of his party that was known in that day; and do not let it be said that I am charging the noble Lord wrongfully, or that I am leaving it open to him to say that the party deserted him; for it is no secret that no other Member of that noble House to which he belongs 755 changed. No! His noble father (the Earl of Derby) remained attached to the principles of his life, his family, his party, and has, I am told, actually voted for the very measure which the noble Lord the Member for Lynn would make the touchstone of honour in opposing. He has voted as every liberal-minded politician would vote—for the abolition of the Corn Laws; but the noble Lord sets himself up as a critic upon every other man's conduct, because it appears to-night that he is the single follower of this noble Lord. Well, but considering the extraordinary assumption of superior purity by the noble Lord, was there ever anything so unlucky as this very question of the Corn Laws on which to rest his battery upon the rest of mankind? Why, it seems, after all the pledges which we hear were given for the maintenance of protection at the election of 1841, it is this very noble Peer that was the great and striking innovator of it, and against whose measure there was greater violence, more obloquy heaped upon its author, than upon any other person or measure which has since been attacked. Yes, it was the Canada Corn Bill, as it was called, purporting to let in all the surplus grain from the United States, that occasioned more alarm, excited more mistrust, elicited more vehement alarm for abandonment of principle, than any Act that was drawn up to the repeal of the Corn Law itself. And I declare, having read and heard much of the protection violence and bitterness of speech, there is nothing that I have read or heard since, that has at all surpassed what was addressed to the authors of the Canada Corn Bill; and if there was reason at all in the attack on the authors of the change on that side, I am bound to say it was as well deserved as it has been on anything that has been done since. Why, the hon. Member for Warwickshire, if I am not mistaken, is at this moment pledged to move for the repeal of that Act, as fatal to the protection of British agriculture. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: I am not pledged.] Well, if the hon. Member is not pledged to repeal it, I will almost venture to pledge myself to prove that he made a strong speech against it, and that he was present when some other Member of this House did pledge himself to procure its repeal. [Cries of "Where?"] Where? why, at the Freemasons' Tavern two years ago, when native agriculture dined there, for the avowed purpose of denouncing the free-trade measures 756 of the right hon. Gentleman. For it was then that hon. Members knew perfectly well that the Government were proceeding in a course of free trade that must end in an abolition of the most obnoxious restrictions that existed. Again, if the noble Lord wants to know why it is that nothing that he or his party says excites any interest in this House or in the country, it is because he, knowing perfectly well what was the tendency of the measures of the Government, observing that he was assailing protection in every outskirt, and wherever he could do it safely, never raised his voice — never took the slightest heed of it; but regularly supported, and thereby encouraged, the Minister in his course. No! what the people now say is this: so long as the interest is small—so long as the interest was not your own — so long as the Government got strength by demolishing our protection, you were silent; you said not a word. Protection, they said, is valuable to us, if it is to exist at all, and, as much as it was to you; but while it was only abolished with respect to hats, and to corks, and to shoes, you have been benefited yourselves, and you cared nothing about the people who had to undergo temporary privation; but now that you are afraid of your own order, of your own interest, that rents may fall, that the least injury may befall yourselves, then you discover that the Minister is a traitor—then you complain of his conduct to Mr. Canning; this is the occasion for five months unceasing personality and invective. When the poor are to go to the wall, he is the only man, he is the man to rally round; but let him equally assail the great and the small, and then we have the history of this Session. The people are just and wise in this country; they see that all this violence and resistance is sordid and selfish, and they will have nothing to say to it—they wait with anxiety for its accomplishment. They see nothing chivalrous or generous in the party who are obstructing the legislation of the country on this subject. There are on the opposite side men who have been consistent on this subject; men like the hon. Members for Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire, and Northamptonshire. They have raised their voices constantly, and long have they said that protection was being abandoned; and they have complained of being deceived for three years past, and were treated by many, who now profess to be wronged, as factious troublesome men, 757 who could not enter into the enlightened views of the right hon. Gentleman. They were neither encouraged nor assisted; but now, when the horse is gone—when the thing called protection is lost—comes the noble Lord with all his abuse and invective, and shuts the doors, never having done a thing or said a word in time to avert the evil, as he deems it. The noble Lord had nothing to say against the principle that has triumphed; he slumbered while it was progressing; he has been off his guard while vigilance was required; and now, when opinion is pronounced, he disturbs the peace and good manners of this House by his violent and personal charges. The noble Lord has not a leg to stand upon. He is too late, and has nothing to say. He should, moreover, in decency, consider, when he and his Friends the Member for Evesham and Member for Shrewsbury pretend to represent the landed interest, what is the proportion of interest among those who attack this measure, compared with those who support it. Why, though it is asserted to be injurious to the landed interest, I firmly believe that those who support it, are greater proprietors than those who oppose it. Look at those three Members that I have mentioned. I never heard that the noble Lord and the Members for Evesham and Shrewsbury were great territorial proprietors. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Oh! it is not right, is it, to refer to the circumstances of Members who engage in this discussion? How comes it, then, that in that speech which the noble Lord wrote out for the Morning Post, that he says that my object for repealing the Corn Laws is that I have got a sinecure, and want to live cheap on the taxes imposed on the people? I never said anything personal in my life to the noble Lord; yet, in his lavish use of personality, he could not help uttering this, as he thought, to my disadvantage, utterly untrue as it is, and not the least pertinent to the question. I have no sinecure, and never had one, and never was paid in my life out of the taxes of the country. [An hon. MEMBER: What is your place, then?] That is my business, and not yours. If you say I have a sinecure, I say it is untrue; and if you mean it as a charge against me, it is your business to prove it, not mine to satisfy your curiosity. I do not want to be personal. It is you who are so, and have no other argument; and I can tell you that the House is getting sick of it; it has been borne too long; and if the House is 758 not impatient of it, I tell you that the constituencies are, and that the public is. ["Oh, oh!"] Oh! why, I tell you that these personalities that are bandied about here are thought discreditable to those who use them, degrading to the House that listens to them, and disgusting to the public obliged to notice them; and knowing, as I do, the deep debt of gratitude which is felt by the public to the right hon. Gentleman for having accomplished what no other man could have accomplished as well; for having conferred so inestimable a benefit on the public by repealing the odious monopoly in food, my only reason for not feeling regret at the insults, the abuse, and the contumely with which he is treated by those invariably hostile to the interests of the people, is, that I know that nothing is more calculated than their malignity to exalt him and endear him to the country.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
said, the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had sought to vindicate the right hon. Baronet from the charge brought against him, with great truth, of having unwisely, and to the disadvantage of his party, changed his opinions as to the system of protection. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to make a severe attack on a noble Lord (Lord Stanley) who was not in that House to defend himself; had he been, he would have needed no one to stand up in his defence; no one knew better how to justify himself, or to repay with interest the attacks of the hon. Gentleman. The gravamen of the charge of the hon. Gentleman against the noble Lord was, not his consistency, but his inconsistency—an inconsistency which had assisted in advancing the cause the hon. Gentleman had so much at heart. He had attacked the noble Lord, not so much for having been the persevering, unflinching friend of protection, but because he had so far swerved from the principle as to have introduced the Canada Corn Bill. In one part of his speech he had attacked the noble Lord for his inconsistency, and in another had exculpated the right hon. Baronet from the same charge. He understood the hon. Member to say that the opposition Mr. Canning met with in the latter part of his life, did not all arise from his support of Catholic emancipation, but from his endeavours to promote free trade. The noble Lord the Member for Liverpool, the Member for Winchester, and the Member for Wolverhampton, had all charged those who opposed the 759 free-trade measures of the Government with having unnecessarily prolonged the discussion on them. The delay the measures now experienced could not be charged upon that House, nor had the delay here been in itself vexatious, inconsistent with its character as a deliberative assembly, and the magnitude of the measures themselves; nor was the impression the discussion had made on the public mind unimportant. At the beginning of the Session, they found themselves disorganized as a party by the desertion of those who had before led them. It was not consistent with their character as a public assembly blindly to follow public opinion, and permit changes of such magnitude to pass without discussion; and, however the country agreed or disagreed with them, it would not consider they had thrown vexatious opposition in the way of the measure. Whether for good or evil, it had passed that House, and awaited its decision elsewhere; whatever its effect might be, whatever they might be called on hereafter to alter or confirm, he should never regret the opposition they had made to it. He was borne out in this opinion by the right hon. Baronet, who had more than once stated, not that their opinions were just, but that their opposition was neither frivolous nor vexatious. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's office, whether it was a sinecure or whether it was not, he would say nothing but this—if the hon. Gentleman thought that personalities were of little interest, he should not subsequently have rendered his speech discordant with itself by introducing them.
repeated that the opposition of the great landed aristocracy to Mr. Canning, sprang from his advocacy of free-trade principles during the last three years of his life, and not from his support of the Catholic claims alone.
§ MR. BORTHWICK
said, that in however humble a position he might stand, he could not think that even his dignity, however small, would be added to by mingling in the squabbles which he had witnessed that night. He rose, therefore, not to continue the present discussion, but to tender his thanks to the hon. Gentleman opposite for exempting him from the sordid motives which he had imputed to others; but he could not accept the compliment, for if his domains were as broad as the hon. Gentleman's—if his acres were as numerous, and his rents as large—he should nevertheless have pursued the same course 760 he had adopted, notwithstanding the sneers to which he would then have been subjected. He might add, that even if, like the hon. Gentleman, he had, by the favour of His Sovereign or her predecessors, enjoyed a fixed income from the public revenue, which would be increased in value by the measure of Her Majesty's Government, he should, notwithstanding, have opposed those measures, because he should have felt, though advantageous to him, they would prove disadvantageous to the country.