HC Deb 07 March 1848 vol 97 cc312-3

begged to be permitted to ask a question of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department respecting the collision between the people and the police which had taken place on the preceding day, in Trafalgar Square. There had been a meeting held in Trafalgar Square. It had been called by an individual—a certain individual. That meeting had been allowed to take place, and it had gone off perfectly decently and orderly till after a great number of speakers had been heard with decorum and tranquillity on the part of the people. After the meeting had ceased, and when the people were about to disperse, a collision took place between them, which had resulted in grave consequences. He, therefore, wished to be informed what directions had been given to the police with respect to the meeting; and he asked the question because he believed that, on the one side, the freest discussion by the people was the best security for the public peace in this country; and on the other, he also believed that the police forces of the metropolis were willing to their duty in the best manner.


The meeting was convened by a Mr. Cochrane. An advertisement convening it had been cir- culated, and bills had been posted in public places, signed by Mr. Charles Cochrane, summoning a meeting to take place in Trafalgar Square for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the total and immediate abolition of the income-tax. The commissioners of police, seeing the advertisement, wrote to Mr. Cochrane, and in-formed him that there was an Act of Parliament, the 57th George III., the provisions of which prohibited the holding of any meeting in the open air for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the alteration of any measure affecting Church or State at any place within one mile of Westminster Hall, during the sitting of Parliament, except within the limits of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden. Mr. Cochrane acknowledged the receipt of the communication, in a letter in which he stated that he was not aware the meeting was illegal. The commissioners, in reply, told him that he mistook their meaning. That it was not an illegal meeting, but that the place appointed for it was within the limits prohibited by an Act of Parliament. Mr. Cochrane accordingly abstained from attending the meeting himself, and put up placards informing the people that the meeting could not be held, and calling upon them to disperse. With regard to the "grave consequences" alluded to by the hon. Gentleman, no graver consequences had followed than a slight disturbance, and the breaking of some widows and lamps, which the police most effectually and (he believed) temperately cheeked.

House adjourned at Six o'clock.