HC Deb 13 April 1848 vol 98 cc284-301

MR. THORNELY brought up a special report from the Select Committee on Pub- lic Petitions, which was read by the clerk at the table as follows:— The House, on the 26th of November last, directed your Committee, in all cases, to set forth the number of signatures to each petition; and also, having regard to the powers delegated to them, to report their opinion and observations thereupon to the House, and they have agreed to the following special report: That on the 10th of April last, a petition for universal suffrage, &., from the inhabitants of the British Isles, and subjects of the British Crown, was presented to the House. Your Committee strongly feel the value of the right of petition, and they consider that the exercise of it is one of the most important privileges of the subjects of this realm. They feel the necessity of preserving the exercise of such a privilege from abuse; and having also due regard to the importance of the very numerously signed petition forming the subject of the present report, they feel bound to represent to the House, that in the matter of signatures there has been, in their opinion, a gross abuse of the privilege. The hon. Member for Nottingham stated, on presenting the petition, that 5,706,000 names were attached to it; but, upon the most careful examination of the number of signatures in the Committee-room, and at which examination thirteen law-stationers' clerks were engaged upwards of seventeen hours, with the person ordinarily employed in counting the numbers appended to petitions, under the superintendence of the clerk of your Committee, the number of signatures has been ascertained to be 1,975,496. It is further evident to your Committee, that on numerous consecutive sheets the signatures are in one and the same handwriting. Your Committee also observed the names of distinguished individuals attached to the petition, who can scarcely be supposed to concur in its prayer: among which occurs the name of Her Majesty, as Victoria Rex, April 1st, F. M. Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, &. &. Your Committee have also observed, in derogation of the value of such petition, the insertion of numbers of names which are obviously fictitious, such as "No Cheese," "Pug Nose," "Flat Nose." There are others included, which your Committee do not hazard offending the House and the dignity and decency of their own proceedings by reporting. It may be added that there are other signatures appended obviously belonging to the name of no human being.

On the question that the report do lie on the table,

MR. F. O'CONNOR said, he was happy to think that there had been unusual activity with respect to this petition. It was announced to him yesterday, about twelve o'clock, by a Member of the Government, that the petition had been examined, and that there were not above 1,900,000 signatures to it. He did not undertake to say, nor had he ever said, nor would it be possible for him to say, that there had not been some of the practices resorted to which the Committee had represented; but there was an old saying, "He who hides can find;" and he had no doubt that in a great national undertaking like that, something like the spy system had been had recourse to. He had, however, pretty strong collateral proof that the number of signatures to the petition had far exceeded what the Committee had reported; and, without wishing to cast the slightest blame upon the Committee on Petitions, he should move for a Committee to investigate that particular petition. He had himself received statements from parties who had been concerned in getting up that petition, and who, he was sure, would not lend themselves to anything of an improper kind, showing that in Manchester alone the petition had received 175,000 signatures, and in Birmingham 75,000; and he had other statements from England, Scotland, and Wales, from parties who had undertaken the petition, showing upwards of 4,800,000 signatures. He had presented a petition, praying for the introduction of the Land Company Bill, which contained 203,000 signatures. In that number there was no error, and he did himself lift that petition, and place it upon the table of that House. The petition which he presented on Monday, however, was on four rolls, and not a Member of that House could have lifted the largest of them. He did not impute anything to the Committee, but he did say, that if they left out absurdities, such as "Pugnose," "the Duke of Wellington," and so forth, he had no doubt but there would be left five million of legitimate signatures. He asserted, moreover, that thirteen clerks could not have counted 1,900,000 signatures in seventeen hours, nor could twenty have done it. He did not believe any such thing as that the petition was only signed by 1,900,000 persons; and if the House doubted his assertions, he would, ere long, present one with two or three times the amount.

MR. THORNELY, as Chairman of the Committee on Petitions, assured the hon. and learned Gentleman that the petition in question had been received with all the respect due to a petition so very numerously signed; and if he might take the liberty of speaking of an individual so humble as himself, he would say, that there were points which the petitioners urged for the consideration of that House —the ballot for instance—in which he entirely agreed with them. But the House would be aware—a fact of which the hon. and learned Gentleman was, perhaps, ignorant—that when the Committee on Petitions was appointed, at an early part of the Session, they were instructed to report to the House the number of signatures to each and every petition presented. It had been necessary to call in additional aid for that purpose in the case of the present petion; but he believed, and indeed he had no doubt, that the number had been fairly ascertained. He should add that the petition had been weighed, and that its weight was 5¾ cwt. He had no more to say, except that the Committee was too well known to require any vindication by him.

LORD J. RUSSELL: I give the most implicit credit to the report of this Committee. I think it is entitled to our full confidence. We must remember, however, besides all the circumstances which they have mentioned, that they could not take into account the great number of idle people and passers by who, seeing a petition at the corner of the street, might have thought fit to sign it, without having any wish for the Charter, or at all concurring in the views of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman, however, has made one suggestion, which I think is rather valuable, namely, that that proceeding of feigned names may be a part of a spy system of the Government. Now, I beg to suggest to the hon. Gentleman whether that spy system may not extend still further, and whether the Members of that Convention themselves are not parts of a spy system? Because, if they intended to promote peace and order, and were spies of the Government, I think they could have done nothing better than put forward such menacing declarations, and then have I acted in so orderly and peaceable a manner as they did.

The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY stated that, in a proclamation which had since been put forth by the Chartists, it was declared that a glorious demonstration had taken place, and that a quarter of a million were present on Kennington Common. From the highest and most unsuspected sources he had been assured that the number, spectators included, at no time exceeded 25,000. He believed there were not more than 15,000; but, in order to be quite safe, he would say 25,000. He asked why would the people longer be gulled by the leaders of that Convention, who bad so grossly deceived them with regard to their numbers, and had thus proved themselves false to the country, traitors to the Queen, and rebels to their God?

MR. J. O'CONNELL stated that he had been waited upon by the leading Repealers in London, who had informed him that the Repealers as a body had taken no part in the proceedings of Monday last, and that they would not ally themselves with any agitation which was accompanied by violence. There were not above 2,000 Repealers, including women and children present.

SIR R. H. INGLIS said, that there had been never such a gross exaggeration of numbers as in respect to the petition of the Chartists; except perhaps the exaggeration of numbers in respect to those who formed their meeting on Monday last. For weeks past it had been announced that this petition was signed by more than had ever joined in any address to this House or to the Crown; and the number of signatures was stated, in his hearing, on Monday last, when the petition itself was brought up, to be 5,706,000. He pledged himself that this account was formally and deliberately given in the face of the House of Commons by the hon. Member for Nottingham, who had the charge of the petition, and professed to be the leader of the petitioners. Now what was the fact? Why, that the absolute number of signatures professing to be names was 1,974,496. He did not deny, that this was an enormous and perhaps unprecedented mass of signatures; but, in the first place, and as to proportions, it was as if some one had asserted a fact as if more than 500, whereas it turned out to be, at the best, a fact of less than 200; in the next place, as to the real value of the signatures themselves as representing the mind and will of any body of men, it was obvious on a glance at the petition itself, that large strings of names, perhaps whole sheets, were written by one and the same man, without any explanation, profession, or allegation that he was authorised by any others to subscribe their names. In the next place, some of the names, as the special Report had already stated, were names of persons so eminent in position, and at the same time so notoriously hostile to the objects of the petition, that the bare enumeration of them would prove that they had not been attached by the parties themselves to any such prayer: In the last place, there were, among the so-called signatures, words such as "No Cheese, Pugnose, Flatnose," &. which no less obviously represented no real petitioner. Though he did not deny, that, after all, there were hundreds of thousands of real signatures, however little many of them might have been bonâ fide cognisant of the object of the petition; yet all this proved, that the petition itself had been so got up as to be hardly worth the paper on which it was written; at least, he might say, that a petition with a tenth or twentieth part of the number of professed signatures would, under other circumstances, have been worth much more. He felt bound, therefore, to add, that the parties who made such exaggerations in the first instance, and committed such gross abuses in the next, were the real and the worst enemies of the right of petitioning. He did not mean to propose any formal resolution to the House on the subject at present; but he could not help submitting, whether it would not be a just and proper means of securing the House from similar impositions hereafter, and the right of petitioning from the contempt which the late abuses cast upon it, if the House were in future to require that the designations and the residences of all the parties who subscribed a petition should be attached to their names. This would prevent some of the abuses, and diminish the recurrence of others, which had thrown on the present petition a scorn and ridicule so deserved. So much for the matter of the petition of the Chartists: as to their meeting, he desired to add his hope, that Her Majesty's Government would state to the House what resolution, or what measure, they intended to propose—first, with a view of preventing such a disturbance of the public peace as had taken place last Monday; and, secondly, with a view of acknowledging the means by which its further and more serious violation had then been prevented. No exertions ought to be omitted to preserve the institutions which we enjoyed; and if we were to be threatened, week after week, with such a demonstration as the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham had made, or attempted to make, last Monday, he trusted that some measure would be taken to prevent its recurrence. It was true that, in the late instance, the physical force which was wielded by the hon. Member, was about in proportion to the moral-force value of the petition which he had presented. But the evil which, even by his failures, he could still accomplish, was too great to be tolerated by any Government in a healthy action. He hoped, too, that Her Majesty's Ministers would bring forward, or could state that they had already prepared, some proposition for acknowledging the exertions made to preserve peace and good order by the almost unanimous energies of the people of this metropolis. It was not by a military force that this result had been obtained. He did not undervalue the disposition of the forces on that occasion—he did not underrate the indirect influence which the knowledge of their nearness and their readiness must have produced on the organised masses of the multitude whom the hon. Member for Nottingham had on that day brought together in London; but he could not forget that far larger military means than our own had lately failed utterly in Paris, in Berlin, and in Vienna, in preserving the institutions which they were appointed to defend. And in respect alike to the civil and to the military power, he felt assured, that both his noble Friend at the head of the Government, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on the one side, and his right hon. Friends the Members of the late Government, whom he saw on the other side of the House, would concur with equal cordiality in the acknowledgment that England owed its present safety, not to an arm of flesh, or to any human wisdom and firmness, but to the blessing of Almighty God; and, therefore, that all would gratefully ackowledge, that "unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

MR. CRIPPS said, after what the hon. Gentleman had said, and the reflections he had made upon the Committee—[Mr. F. O'CONNOR: I made no reflections upon the Committee.] If the hon. Gentleman did not mean to reflect upon the character of the Committee, he meant nothing at all. The Committee had taken every pains with this petition, that there should be no mistake. His attention was first called to the circumstance when the hon. Member made that audacious statement, that the petition was signed by 5,000,000 persons. He went from his place as soon as he heard that statement, and spent two hours and a half over that very interesting document, the Population Abstract for 1841; and he might state, that upon every calculation which he could make he came to the conclusion that the petition could not be signed by half that number. He certainly was not aware at that time that the petition was signed by women. He found, however, upon taking a number of sheets at random, that in every 100,000 names there were 8,200 women. The hon. Gen- tleman said the petition weighed five tons. They had weights and scales in the Committee-room, and found that it weighed little more than five hundred weight. Perhaps the hon. Member would say he meant five hundred weight. [Mr. F. O'CONNOR: I never said so.] He would pledge his word of honour to the House, that the hon. Gentleman had said it weighed five tons. He had himself heard him say so. At any rate three crazy cabs brought it down to that House. He did not wish to throw ridicule and obloquy upon the petition, but he did throw ridicule and obloquy upon the hon. Gentleman who presented it.

MR. F. O'CONNOR: I rise, Sir, to order. The hon. Gentleman's observations require explanation.

MR. SPEAKER: If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make an explanation with regard to personal conduct, though he has no absolute right to speak upon the subject, I have no doubt the House will allow him. If the hon. Gentleman does not wish to explain personal conduct, he must not interrupt another hon. Member when he is addressing the House.

MR. CRIPPS continued: He would repeat the observation, and he would say that if ever any Member of that House had laid himself open to charges which ought to deprive him of every credence to which man is entitled, that Member was the hon. Member for Nottingham. He would say for himself, that he could never believe the hon. Member again; and he trusted that those deluded persons who had assembled on Kennington Common would also withdraw their confidence from him. Were such meetings to be allowed, bearing in their train robbery and the most atrocious results; was another meeting to be held within a fortnight, for the purpose of concocting such a ribald mass of obscenity and impiety as was contained in the petition under consideration? Language the most disgusting pervaded the whole petition; there were words in it which the vilest strumpet in the street would blush to name. The Duke of Wellington's name occurred fifteen or sixteen times. The name of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) several times; and the names of the hon. Members for Manchester and West Yorkshire he did not know how many times. On one of the sheets he knew, and he believed on several of them, were written the words, "We could not get paid for any more to-day." He was thankful from the bottom of his heart, that he had not done what he was very nearly tempted to do. If he had only taken up a sheet of the petition, when it lay at the foot of the table, and had happened to have stumbled upon one of the ten or twelve sheets, he should have objected to the receipt of that petition; for he could have put sheets into the Speaker's hands, which he could never have read to that House. He deeply regretted that such blasphemy and obscenity should have caused the Government so much uneasiness, and have put them to so much expense. Now the hon. Gentleman said he could present a petition signed by three times as many persons. Why, the whole number of males in England above 15 years of age did not exceed 7,000,000 persons. He hoped the House would not cast a reflection upon the Committee on Public Petitions, by appointing another Committee to consider this particular petition.

MR. O'CONNOR: There are three points on which I must give some explanation. I hope I shall do so without the excitement which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester has displayed. The first point has relation to the House; the second to the Committee; and the third to myself personally. I gated at the outset that I attributed not the slightest blame—not even a sinister intention—to the Committee; but I said it was impossible for the number of clerks employed to have got through the work in double the time they were employed. With regard to the petition itself, I could not be supposed to be accountable for anything written in it. Was it possible for me, in the nature of things, to examine the different sheets? I never saw one of them till I saw them rolled up here. I am now told I had no business to present any petition the character of which I did not know. If such were the rule, that petition would never have been presented at all. As to my having forfeited my title to credence, in having presented a petition for which I am not responsible, with all respect to the House and the Committee, I shall have that explained elsewhere.

The hon. Member immediately left the House.

MR. J. G. SMYTH: Having been present at the meeting on Kennington Common on Monday last, I am anxious that, as far as possible, the numbers present should be accurately stated. I saw both the arrival of the procession and the com- mencement of the proceedings, and it is my deliberate conviction that at no time of the day were there more than 15,000 present. That I believe to be an excessive calculation. I have reason to know, that previous to the meeting means were taken to ascertain the whole number of persons which could be present if the Common were entirely covered. The whole space, closely packed, would not hold more than 90,000, and at no time was there more than a quarter of the space occupied. I have further to state, that I am convinced I exaggerate them when I put the numbers of the procession at 8,000. I will only add, that the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham, in my presence on Monday evening, stated the numbers present on Kennington Common as exceeding half a million.

COLONEL SIBTHORP: Sir, I rejoice that I happened to be in the House during this discussion. Most unexpectedly, God knows, I heard that my name was inserted among the signatures to that monstrous petition. I should hope that my conduct through life will be sufficient to satisfy every Member of this House, and everybody out of it, that I should be one of the last to disgrace my family, myself, and the constituency I have had the honour to represent for twenty years, by placing my name to a petition which could not fail to cast a stigma on all who were parties to it. On Monday night, when the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham, addressing me at the door of the House, said, "I am glad all went off peaceably;" I said, "I have only one regret that it did." "Why?" he asked. "Because," I replied, "if you had attempted to come over the bridge you would have got the damnedest hiding mortal man ever received."

MR. HUME: I am extremely sorry to have witnessed this scene. I submit the hon. Member for Cirencester has taken a most unusual and unfair course. No man respects the right of petition more than I do—no one would more readily express an opinion condemnatory of such proceedings as must have taken place in this case; but it would have been more consistent with the dignity of Parliament, and the fairness due to all parties, if notice had been given by the hon. Member for Cirencester that he would call the attention of the House to the circumstances connected with this petition to-morrow or some other day. There was no occasion for the hon. and gallant Member to use an oath. It is unbecoming the character of this House that hon. Members should abuse each other, and say that this or that Member was not worthy of credence. It may be true or not. I place the utmost reliance on the statement of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton; I have no doubt the facts are as he states them; but in order to secure the House from imposition—and I cannot doubt that the grossest imposition has been practised here—it should go forth to the country that every Member is responsible for the petitions he presents. In contradiction to the hon. and learned Member for Nottingham, who has now left his seat, I assert that that is the rule; and every party endeavouring to impose on the House by such improper measures as have evidently been taken in this instance discredits the right of petition, and is liable to the severest reprehension. But while every Member should take the greatest care to ascertain that the petitions he presents are genuine, let us not condescend to call each other bad names by way of vindicating the character of this House.

MR. R. YORKE: With all respect for the former public services of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I am sorry to be obliged to differ from him on this occasion. Without the slightest hesitation I take on myself the odium of saying, that this House and the cause of truth are under eminent obligations to the hon. Member for Cirencester. That hon. Member has undoubtedly used language of strong import; but he was not only provoked but justified in what he has said. Truth in this House should be paramount. I am here to say, that everything the hon. Member for Cirencester has stated with reference to the Member for Nottingham is strictly true. As a matter of course the Member for Nottingham denied those statements.

VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH: I rise to order. I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, whether the House will consider it consistent with its dignity to hear hon. Members repudiating and giving decided contradiction to the statements of others, whether present or absent. My own notions of honour may be different from those of other Members; but I am perfectly sure of this, that if a friend of mine were subject to such imputations in this House, who was not here to defend himself, I should feel, if I had not your protection, that this House was no longer a place where I ought to remain.

MR. R. YORKE: I can perfectly understand—nay, more, I can appreciate —the chivalry of the noble Lord. That the Member for Nottingham is not here is his own affair. I am not indulging in personalities. I am only attempting humbly to vindicate the honour and integrity of this House by reference to what should be the integrity and honour of its Members. The forms of Parliament do not allow me to say more than this, that while I have heard the Member for Nottingham assert that he was reprobated by those with whom he was associated for his adherence to monarchy and the existing institutions of this country as opposed to republicanism, six days before there appeared a long elaborate article in a paper called the Northern Star, recommending the substitution of a form of government totally different from that which happily exists in the United Kingdom, and that article was signed "Feargus O'Connor."

MR. LUSHINGTON: The hon. Member for Nottingham said he would explain two points with reference to the House and the Committee, but would explain what referred to himself personally elsewhere. My apprehension is, that from the unfortunate language which has been used, fatal consequences may ensue.

MR. DISRAELI: There seems to be an idea that a more serious meeting on Kennington Common may occur than has already taken place. It were highly ridiculous that this transaction should really terminate with an incident of that character. If any Gentleman in this House makes a statement which is, to say the least of it, grossly inaccurate, if it is the opinion of the House that that inaccuracy has a tendency to produce public mischief, and has been made with that intention —if the hon. Member for Nottingham has sinned in this respect, let the circumstances be placed before us in a proper manner, and I have not the slightest doubt the House will come to a right decision on the subject. At the same time, I must say I heard with pain the tone and language used by the hon. Member for Cirencester. I think it is highly inconvenient that an individual Member should express himself with respect to the conduct of another hon. Member not formally condemned by the House in the manner the hon. Member for Cirencester has done this evening. Still, I am bound to add, that we are indebted to the hon. Member for Cirencester for the pains he has taken on this subject; and, although I cannot vindicate the tone which, from a surplusage of zeal, he has assumed, I think every one must be extremely anxious that the hon. Member for Cirencester should not be imperilled by personal consequences of the kind insinuated. I hope, therefore, that you, Sir, by the exercise of that authority to which all of us, present or absent, are ready at all times to bow, will prevent a conflict of a personal and painful character.

SIR G. GREY: I did not hear the expression attributed to the hon. Member, and I believe that expression did not reach the chair, or the Speaker would have taken notice of it. I quite agree that nothing could be more ridiculous than a personal conflict between two Gentlemen arising out of such circumstances. The hon. Member for Cirencester certainly spoke with some warmth, and might probably have been led away by the feelings of the moment; but, if he gave any ground for personal offence to the hon. Member for Nottingham, he would not refuse to give an explanation, though it certainly had not entered my mind that any personal conflict would emanate from these circumstances.

MR. R. PALMER: I think, as this subject has been mooted, that it is my duty to state what I know respecting it. The hon. Member for Nottingham adverted to three points, stating that with respect to two of those he would offer an explanation to the House, and that with respect to the other, which related to his own personal conduct, he should explain elsewhere. If the Speaker had caught that expression, undoubtedly he would have intimated that some explanation respecting it would be required. I certainly thought, from the manner of the hon. Member for Nottingham in leaving the House, that he intended to take some other notice of the words used by the hon. Member for Cirencester, which this House would be anxious to prevent. When I heard the expressions which fell from the hon. Member for Cirencester, I was not surprised that, under the circumstances of the case, his zeal might have carried him away from the use of what might appear the most discreet language; but it did strike me that the hon. Member was indeed going far when he made the imputation against the hon. Member for Nottingham that he was not entitled to credence. I am quite sure that if the hon. Member for Cirencester did make use of such strong expressions, he will take the opportunity of setting himself right.

LORD J. RUSSELL: In consequence of what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman, to the effect that the hon. Member for Nottingham stated that certain words must be explained elsewhere, I think it necessary to move that "Mr. O'Connor be ordered to attend in his place forthwith."

MR. SPEAKER: Before putting that question, I beg to state to the House that if what fell from the hon. Member for Nottingham had made the same impression on me as it appears to have done on the hon. Member (Mr. R. Palmer), I should have called on the hon. Member for Nottingham to make an explanation, and also on the hon. Member for Cirencester to assure the House that he did not intend any personal reflection. The greatest possible reliance is placed on what falls from a Member of Parliament; and in proportion to the great weight given to the words of an hon. Member, should be his caution that what he states is strictly accurate. The hon. Member for Nottingham, like every other Member, is responsible to the House for the petition he presents containing no disrespectful language, for its coming from the place whence it purports to emanate, and for the genuineness and propriety of the signatures to it. Of course, the hon. Member might be imposed upon with respect to names appended to the petition, as being the names of the parties signing it; but there are some points on which he could not be imposed upon if he took that proper precaution which he owed to the House. The hon. Member for Cirencester, certainly with some warmth, denied and contradicted the statement of the hon. Member for Nottingham; but it did not appear to me that he had exceeded the rules of the House. I hope, however, that the hon. Member for Cirencester will assure the House that be did not intend anything personally offensive. The Motion I have now to put is, that "Mr. O'Connor be ordered to attend in his place forthwith."

MR. CRIPPS: I cannot deny that I did feel most strongly, and that I used every single word that fell from me with perfect sincerity. However, the observations which have just proceeded from the chair have placed me in a difficulty, because the words I used were not intended to offer any insult to the hon. Member for Nottingham, but were wrung from me, they being to the effect that I could place no more credence in his observations. I certainly did use those words, and if that language were unbecoming a gentleman, I should feel bound to make atonement for it. No gentleman who knows me will say that that language arose from want of temper on my part, or that, if I saw reason to make an explanation for the use of it, I should be influenced by a wish to avoid those consequences which are supposed to be due from one hon. Gentleman to another. I should like to know what the opinion of the House generally is, for I have heard some hon. Members say that I used strong language, and others, that the language I used was justifiable under the circumstances. With respect to hostile intentions, I can assure the House that I entertain none towards the hon. Member for Nottingham.

VISCOUNT CASTLEREAGH: I hope the hon. Gentleman will explain to the satisfaction of the House the words he has used. I have no doubt that he has stated that which he believes to be perfectly true; but in so doing he has offended the feelings of an hon. Member of this House. I think the same facts might have been conveyed to the House in different and not such strong language. I am anxious to see the deliberations of this House carried on in a manner befitting its character, and so as to set an example to the legislative assemblies of other countries. Let it not go forth, so soon after recent occurrences, that on the consideration of this petition two hon. Members were not sufficiently special constables as to be able to take care of themselves. I hope the hon. Member for Cirencester will be able to explain the language he has used.

SIR DE LACY EVANS: I concur in what has just fallen from the noble Lord. I entirely admit the sincerity of the hon. Member for Cirencester. As a Member of the Committee, he has had to perform his duty in examining this petition; and I am not surprised at the strong feelings he entertained on discovering the character of the signatures to the petition, if signatures they could be called. But I am sure he will admit, on reflection, that it is entirely inconsistent with the good order and courtesy indispensable for the transaction of the business of any legislative assembly, to allow himself to use expressions such as have fallen from him, however strong the grounds might be, and strong they undoubtedly are, for such language. Therefore, not only in regard to the hon. Member for Nottingham, but from respect for this House, I am sure the hon. Member for Cirencester will think it his bounden duty, without further delay, frankly to admit that he was borne away by the feelings of the moment.

MR. CRIPPS: I am afraid that I might have been betrayed into saying something unparliamentary; but I did mean to tell the hon. Member for Nottingham, and I cannot as a gentleman retract what I said, that I could not place further reliance on his words. But if I used language unparliamentary I deeply regret it, and I have no more hesitation in expressing that regret to the hon. Member for Nottingham, who is a Member of this House, than I have in expressing it to the whole House.

MR. SPEAKER: I understand the hon. Member for Cirencester to say that if he used any unparliamentary language he deeply regrets it. I am quite sure that the House will be satisfied with that explanation.

Mr. O'Connor was ordered to attend in his place forthwith.

At a later period of the evening, it was reported to the House that the order had been served on Mr. O'Connor, and he not having obeyed it, he was on the Motion of Sir George Grey ordered to be taken into custody. The hon. Member was afterwards reported in custody, discharged, and attended in his place.

MR. SPEAKER said: Mr. Feargus O'Connor, the House has been given to understand that an expression fell from you before you quitted this House which has led the House to suppose it is your intention to take hostile proceedings against an hon. Member of this House—the Member for Cirencester (Mr. Cripps), in consequence of words spoken by him in debate. I hope you will be able to assure the House that that was not your intention; but it is my duty to inform you that, after you left the House, the hon. Member for Cirencester has already expressed his regret that any expression should have fallen from him which is at all unparliamentary. If the expression used by you had reached me at the time, I should have felt bound at once to interfere; but I think it only due to you to call upon the hon. Member for Cirencester to state in your presence what he has already stated in your absence.

MR. CRIPPS: I wish only to say, that I felt impelled to speak as I did, hearing the conduct of the Committee directly impugned, for we were charged with making representations capable of being contradicted before another Committee. I have taken a deep interest in this subject, and accordingly felt warmly; but, I say again, if I exceeded the line of expression which is due from one Member of Parliament to another, in any respect, though I confess I meant to impugn the conduct of the hon. Member, yet if I exceeded the line of Parliamentary debate in any thing I said, I deeply regret that that should be the case. I can only assure the House that this is the first time in the course of my life I have ever been betrayed into anything unparliamentary, or that I have said a single word which could offend.

MR. F. O'CONNOR: Sir, I beg to exculpate you altogether from the non-performance of your duty, and for this reason. The words I made use of were these:—"I had three duties to perform—one to the House, another to the Committee, and another to myself—that as regarded the House, I hoped they would believe that I should not be a party to any delusion being practised; and, as to the Committee, I reiterated what I before stated, that, so far from casting the slightest imputation upon them, I said, on the contrary, there was none whatever to be cast upon them." That I stated as distinctly as words could state; and, having stated what I considered was my duty to the House and to the Committee, without any further observation, I then left the House. I am proud to say that, having been in this House during tempestuous seasons, and out of this House having led a life which was likely to bring me into collision with others, whilst in this House I have never offered the slightest personal offence to the feelings of any hon. Member of it; but, on the contrary, I have studiously avoided insult. And I think every hon. Member would say I was utterly unworthy of holding a seat here, if I did not in some manner resent the observations which the House seemed to receive with so much willingness. I should not be satisfied with the apology for the unparliamentary words, if it had not been for the concluding words of the hon. Member, who, in a generous manner, having got over the feelings of the moment, said that if he used words which were unbecoming from one to another, he regretted it. I have only to say that I will entirely forget the whole matter; I am not capable of fostering or allowing anything to rankle in my breast. But I have a higher duty to perform to the House, and to the persons who signed the petition I presented. After the expression of feeling on the part of the House, I think it is now my duty to state that I shall abandon my Motion for tomorrow—I shall not found any Motion upon that petition, but shall leave it between the Government and the country —between the Committee and those who signed it. I had no reason to doubt the statements they made to this House, nor was it with my consent, nor shall it ever be, that any delusion has been palmed upon it, or that I shall be a party to any delusion. But there is one thing which I may state fairly, freely, and frankly, and it is this— though it may be the duty of hon. Members closely to examine and nicely scrutinise the signatures of a petition presented to the House, I remember when a petition signed by 3,370,000 persons was presented by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. S. Duncombe), and laid on the floor of the House. He never saw the petition till it was laid on the floor; and it would have been utterly impossible for me to have looked at all to signatures to this petition, so far as to be able to assure the House of their accuracy. I state this to show that I would not willingly, and could not, be cognisant of any deception practised upon the House, and could not, by possibility, avert the charge brought against me. I am glad I did not allow myself to be led away by that excitement to which the hon. Member, as he now states, presumed I had given rise, when he said the veracity of the Committee was impugned. Having performed his duty as a gentleman and a Member of Parliament, I perform mine, and tell him he was in error if he supposed it was my intention to cast any imputation upon the Committee. Having shown that there were no grounds for the attack upon me, and that I meant to cast no imputation upon that Committee, I think I have established a good and satisfactory basis for his gentlemanly retractation of the charge.

Subject at an end.