HC Deb 09 July 1847 vol 94 cc104-12

trusted the House would extend to him that indulgence which it was usual to give when a Member brought forward a matter of a personal character. He would simply state the facts of the case; and when he had done so, he would leave it to the House to say what line of conduct he should follow. On Tuesday last, in conformity with the judgment which he usually exercised in questions before the House, he came to the conclusion to vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose on the subject of the Rajah of Sattara. He happened on the following day to be sitting next the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, who heard all that passed—and if he stated that which was incorrect, the hon. Member would correct him, or supply any deficiency in the statement—when the hon. Member for Montrose came across the House, and said, in a very excited manner, "So you voted against me last night." He (Mr. Spooner) replied, "I certainly did." The hon. Member immediately added, "I shall bring the conduct of your son before the House on Tuesday, as well as that of Mr. Hutt, the relation of the hon. Member for Gateshead, who also voted against me." The hon. Member added, "I will bring the whole matter before the House; and I can prove, that not more than thirteen independent Members voted in the majority." That was a plain statement of the facts of the case. He (Mr. Spooner) immediately said, "If you have any charge to bring against my son, I hope, as a matter of courtesy, you will let me know what it is, so that I may form an opinion of it, or take steps to meet it." The reply of the hon. Member was, "Look at this book," holding up a blue book, "there is plenty of evidence here." Now, he did not know then what line of conduct to take. He had taken time to consider what course to take; and he had consulted several hon. Members of greater experience than himself, and they were of the same opinion as himself, namely, that he could not let the matter rest, but that he must state the matter to the House; and having now stated it, he should leave the House to pass its opinion and judgment on the matter. He was of opinion, that if it was not a breach of privilege, it approach- ed very nearly to it, as it implied a threat against a Member for pursuing a particular line of conduct. If this were to be allowed, it would imperil the independence of Members, and the privilege of voting according to the dictates of their consciences. Feeling this, he had made up his mind not to keep the case from the knowledge of the House. As to any charge against his son, if the hon. Member thought fit to prefer it, he hoped that he would do so with due notice, so that proper time would be given to those who had a regard for the character of his son, so that they might be prepared to defend it. He would call the attention of the House, however, to a very curious circumstance connected with this case. Whatever charge the hon. Member was prepared to bring forward against his son, must have been known to the hon. Member for more than two years, during which time he had said nothing about it. The whole conduct of his son and his proceedings were fully described in the book which had been on the Table of the House for upwards of two years. It was, therefore, a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of the hon. Member, first, to make a communication to him that he had a charge to bring against his son, in the morning after he had felt it to be his duty to vote against the hon. Member. But the hon. Member not only did this, but he then made a rejoinder by saying, "This matter has regard not only to yourself, but to Mr. Hutt, the Member for Gateshead." His hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead had had no intimation whatever from the hon. Member for Montrose on the subject, until he (Mr. Spooner) had mentioned it to him. These were curious circumstances, and he had stated them as calmly and coolly as he could. He had one remark more to make. If the House should think fit to hear now, or at any future time, the reasons which induced him to give the vote which he did the other night, he was perfectly ready to state them. He gave merely a silent vote on that occasion, and had abstained from addressing the House, as he had no information to communicate on the subject. He would not answer any hon. Gentleman who questioned him in the offensive way which the hon. Member for Montrose did. He felt that there was something more than a personal consideration in this proceeding on the part of the hon. Member; and with these observations he should leave the matter to the House.


must acknowledge that this was the most extraordinary proceeding he had ever heard of during the whole period of his being a Member of that House. Yesterday afternoon, at five o'clock, while at his own house, he received a note from the hon. Member for Birmingham, requesting him to be at the House at four o'clock, as he had a serious charge to bring against him. He could not by any possibility tell what the hon. Member alluded to. He thought that the hon. Member must have supposed that he had committed some violation of his Seduction Act, and wished in consequence to bring him to the bar of the House; but now he understood the accusation, he would ask whether any individual up to the present period had ever brought a charge against a Member of that House for having privately spoken to hon. Members on a subject which was to be brought forward in the following week? The hon. Member should have been obliged to him for having casually mentioned the matter to him, if the hon. Member had any interest in the subject which he (Mr. Hume) stated he should bring forward. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire, he believed, was present at the conversation. He was passing on the opposite side of the House, by the side of the Table, and the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Spooner) was sitting there. What he had said to the hon. Member for Birmingham was, "I see you voted against me last night;" he said, "I did." "Have you seen the result of the numbers?"—"No." "Then I can tell you, that out of the numbers who voted against me, twenty-eight belonged to the late and present Government, and to the East India House; and you and Mr. Hutt, whoso relatives were involved in the early part of the proceedings, should not have voted under such influence; therefore only fourteen independent Members really voted against the Motion. I, therefore, put the fourteen independent Members against my twenty-three supporters, and I consider that the division was in my favour." He referred to the Mr. Spooner mentioned in the blue book; and the hon. Member for Birmingham said. "He is my son." He (Mr. Hume) then said, "On Tuesday next I will give the House an opportunity of reconsidering this question; and I will then refer to this division, and show that only fourteen independent Members voted against me." That was all that had taken place; and a more gratuitous appeal to the House than that of the hon. Member for Birmingham he had never known. It would he his duty on Tuesday next to show that both the hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. Member for Gateshead had been influenced by external circumstances; their near relatives being acting magistrates in the earlier history of these circumstances—the one being the magistrate before whom the robber was brought on whose body were found the papers connected with the Goa conspiracy; and the other the magistrate who imprisoned Govind Rao, the principal Minister of the late Rajah, and obtained a confession from him against the Rajah, and who afterwards stated that it was obtained under constraint and threats, and that it was without foundation. He did not mean to impugn their characters as magistrates, because he could show that they had acted under instructions from head-quarters. This was the whole extent of the proceeding. The hon. Member had charged him with a breach of privilege; he though he could better charge the hon. Member with a breach of confidence in thus bringing before the House private conversation. He thought that the hon. Member, rather than himself, had to answer for a breach of privilege. He should be sorry to see the day when hon. Members could not talk to each other on further proceedings to take place in that House. The hon. Member had not on that occasion acted with his usual good sense in bringing the matter forward; and now his explanation showed that the hon. Gentleman was altogether mistaken.


said, that the hon. Member for Montrose was a most ungenerous man; for instead of being obliged to himself and other hon. Gentlemen for endeavouring to check him in his blunders, he flew into a state of excitement, and turned round and charged them with baseness and dishonesty. He would not charge the hon. Member with either baseness or dishonesty, for he believed he was incapable of either; but at the same time he must say that he thought that the conduct of the hon. Member did not always manifest absolute wisdom, nor was his language and demeanour on all occasions characterized by great delicacy and politeness; therefore, when the hon. Member indulged in the liberty of casting imputations on his (Mr. Hutt's) conduct, or aspersing his relatives, it did not excite his feelings in the slightest degree. He believed his character would be a sufficient shield against any calumnies the hon. Member might bring against him; and whether now or hereafter, he should listen to them with perfect cheerfulness, and perhaps rather like them than otherwise. So far for the matter as far as regarded himself; but as the hon. Member had referred to an immediate relative of his, who had no opportunity of answering for himself, he would, on behalf of that gentleman, give a bare statement of the facts of the case. The hon. Gentleman had in that House and in another place charged his relative with immuring Govind Rao, the Minister of the Rajah of Sattara, in a dark dungeon; so that he was compelled to make a statement against the Rajah, being at the time under the menace of death if he did not. Now, what foundation was there for that false and foolish story? In consequence of what had been stated by the hon. Member, his relative had put him in possession of full information on the subject. It appeared, then, when Govind Rao had been moved from Poonah, and placed in prison, Mr. Hutt proceeded immediately to release him from gaol, and had him placed in one of the principal houses in the town, and had his comforts carefully attended to. The Minister of the late Rajah wished to make a private communication to him respecting the Rajah; but he was informed before doing so, that such communication would be forwarded to the Government of Bombay. Nothing more then occurred; but some time afterwards, Govind Rao came to Mr. Hutt's house, and, in the presence of an attendant, made a full confession of all the circumstances of the conspiracy, but which he afterwards wished to retract, stating that it had been extorted from him while confined in a dungeon. The confession of this Minister had been made voluntarily; but he afterwards retracted the whole of it; and the hon. Member for Montrose believed the retractation, and no part of the original statement. If the hon. Member thought Mr. Hutt was capable of the conduct imputed to him, it was the hon. Member's duty to bring it before the House; if he did not believe it, he ought not to have made any such allusion to it.


wished, as his name had been mentioned, to make one or two observations. He begged, in the first place, distinctly to repudiate the notion which the hon. Member for Montrose seemed to entertain, that there had been any confidence or privacy in the matter. He had been an unwilling-listener to the conversation between the hon. Gentlemen; but he could not avoid hearing what was said. The hon. Member for Montrose seemed to him to have purposely come over to that side of the House to make the attack, and certainly it had been made in a very strong manner. He (Mr. Bankes) said to the hon. Member for Montrose something to the effect, "Do you mean this as a joke?" and the answer was, "It is no jest, and I will bring the matter before the House." That appeared to him to have been a threat to his hon. Friend, and an imputation on the honesty of the votes given by two hon. Members of that House. He hoped the House would believe that he had not been a party to bringing this matter before it. He was very well aware that the character of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham was such as to need no vindication. Having, however, been applied to for confirmation of the statement of his hon. Friend, he could have had no objection to offering his testimony. He was bound to say, that it had been a very offensive attack, and undoubtedly not attended by much privacy, for the hon. Member for Montrose spoke very loud, and he (Mr. Bankes) was probably not the only person who heard the remark. The hon. Member for Montrose had even gone so far as to say, that out of the majority of forty, thirteen gentlemen only gave honest or independent votes.


thought the House would agree with him that the matter was of great importance. He thought the House ought not to let the matter stand in its present serious aspect; and he did hope that the Speaker would call on the hon. Gentlemen to give the assurance, on their honour, that they would not carry the matter any further. [Much laughter.]


did not think the subject was treated in a proper manner. The hon. Member for Montrose attempted, not perhaps unassisted, to raise a laugh at the commencement of his address; and another hon. Member had with more success now afforded amusement to the House. The hon. Member for Montrose must have known that Mr. Spooner in India and the Mr. Hutt in India were, or that they were not, guilty of the charges urged against them in connexion with the Rajah of Sattara. If they were guilty, he ought to have included them in the number of those whom he mentioned on a former evening; if they were not guilty, he ought not to have availed himself of the vote—doubtless an honest and conscientious vote—of the hon. Gentlemen who bore the same names to threaten that he would bring the conduct of the parties before the House. He (Sir R. Inglis) was not aware if there had been any answer given to the charges; but certainly the hon. Member for Montrose did or did not know their guilt. If he knew they were guilty, the subject should have been brought forward in the first instance; and if he knew they were not guilty, he ought not to have availed himself of the casual votes of two hon. Members, relatives of the accused, to impute that they had not acted from the influence of an independent and unbiassed judgment. Such conduct was not creditable to the hon. Member himself, and did not tend very greatly to insuring independent action in that House.


was of the same opinion on a question of this kind as the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House. To speak to Members, after they had voted, giving that vote as honestly and conscientiously as any other hon. Member, and to impute that their votes had been given in consequence of their connexion and relationship with the persons implicated in the question, was, he thought, an unbecoming proceeding; and had it been done by anybody else, he should have looked upon it as an attempt to intimidate. He hoped that the hon. Member for Montrose had not intended that his words should be open to that construction. He had long been acquainted with the language customarily used by the hon. Member; and, whether it arose from some original confusion of mind, or from a want of familiarity with the exact force of the English language, the hon. Member unquestionably did throw out imputations and apply terms, in describing the conduct of others, which from any other hon. Gentleman would give offence, but which he had heard repeated by the hon. Member without causing surprise, or occasioning anger. The hon. Member, then, being a sort of chartered libertine in this respect in the House, he hoped that the hon. Gentleman opposite and his hon. Friend (Mr. Hutt) behind him, were satisfied that they and their relations were entirely cleared on the subject; and that there was not one person of importance, either in the House or out of the House, who would pay atten- tion to the charges preferred by the hon. Member for Montrose.


had witnessed as much as any man, from having paid constant attention to the business of the House, the conduct and manner of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose; and, although he was quite ready to agree in the jocular remark of the noble Lord, that his hon. Friend had a sort of chartered liberty, he yet trusted that that chartered liberty arose from different circumstances than those attributed by the noble Lord. [Mr. HUME: "Chartered libertine" were the words.] He admitted his mistake; and though the noble Lord said that the hon. Member for Montrose occasionally used expressions which were not offensive in him, though in others they would be, he (Mr. Aglionby) ventured, in reply to the noble Lord, to observe, that if his hon. Friend did use expressions hastily, or expressions which other hon. Gentlemen were not in the habit of using, he was fully privileged to use them by his constant good humour, and by the anxiety he had shown every year he (Mr. Aglionby) had been with him in the House to favour any one in any matter of advice which his experience qualified him to give. He (Mr. Aglionby) therefore believed that no expression of his could or would give offence to any individual at all acquainted with him; and, above that, he would say that the past services of his hon. Friend entitled him to some indulgence. Though he had no right to complain of the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, notwithstanding it seemed to him that the matter was felt with unnecessary acuteness, he trusted that the hon. Gentleman would not think that any reflection was intended to be cast upon himself or upon any other hon. Member. The observations of the noble Lord, in reference to his hon. Friend, wore unduly severe; but, because his hon. Friend had not intended to use offensive words, and because of the debt which the public owed him, and which entitled him to the mildest interpretation of his expressions, it was to be hoped that nothing more would be said.


said, that on a former evening a Member of Her Majesty's Cabinet thought proper to call him a thief, or, what was the same thing, the receiver of stolen goods, not to mention a variety of other epithets; but these words having been applied by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Hobhouse) in the warmth of debate, the House would recollect that he (Mr. Hume) had not taken the slightest notice of the accusation. When, however, the First Lord of the Treasury, in that calm, premeditated manner just observed, told him that he had not learned his own language, and that, consequently, he was utterly unable to weigh the force of what he said, he felt himself compelled merely to remark that he did not know on what ground the noble Lord considered himself justified in making use of such expressions. Under other circumstances, he should probably have looked upon it as a very good joke; but for the noble Lord to come forward as he had done, was, he thought, altogether unworthy and unbecoming. He had no more to say. His conduct had always been, when violent language was resorted to against him, to pass it unnoticed, as the ebullition of temporary anger; but on this occasion he saw no excuse for the attack of the noble Lord.

[The conversation at an end. A few moments afterwards, Mr. Hume crossed the floor to Mr. Spooner, and as, after some conversation, the hon. Gentlemen were seen to smile, the laughter, which had not quite subsided, again broke forth, and the Members concerned joined heartily.]