HC Deb 14 March 1848 vol 97 cc595-8

moved— That Mr. Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown, to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Burgess to serve in this present Parliament for the borough of Harwich, in the room of John Attwood, Esq., whose Election has been determined to be void.


thought the House should pause before they consented to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He would remind them that with regard to Harwich the grossest cases of bribery had been proved that ever came before Parliament. It appeared from the report of a Committee which, on a former occasion, had inquired into the subject, that a sum of 6,300l. had been then expended by Mr. Attwood at an election for the borough, a large portion of which was expended in direct bribery, and that amongst thirty-three persons a sum of about 3,000l. was expended in direct bribes. It appeared that the costs of Sir D. Le Marchant amounted to 1,500l., and the expenses of Mr. Bagshaw to 500l. He wished to put the House in possession of some portion of the evidence given before that Committee. It might be urged that the evidence was not taken on oath; but when he mentioned the name of Mr. Bagshaw, he was sure his testimony would be received. He was asked by the Chairman of the Committee— Have you a mercantile establishment at Harwich?—Yes; I am a shipbuilder. What number of voters are in your establishment?—About a dozen. Are you directly or indirectly cognizant of any bribery being practised?—I have since the election heard there was bribery; but I was not aware of it at the time. Do you, of your own knowledge, know that a large number of the Harwich constituency received bribes?—Yes, I think a great majority—I do not mean to say I saw the money paid at the time; but I think I could induce any Committee to believe that they were bribed. He had said Sir D. Le Marchant had paid a smaller sum than Mr. Attwood; but the reason of that might be explained by the answer to the next question put to Mr. Bagshaw:— Has Sir D. Le Marchant obtained any Government clerkships, &c.?—I should think that about twenty or thirty were procured within the last five years, but not exactly through Sir D. Le Marchant. Perhaps it would be amusing to the Committee to know that there were more persona in Harwich enjoying Government situations at present than were on the poll. Now, when that borough had gone through another ordeal—when Mr. Attwood was now unseated, and when bribery had been proved, he did not think the House should issue a writ before they made some further inquiries respecting it. He was not prejudging the question; but he would move as an Amendment to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk, that the Speaker do not make out his war rant before Monday, the 10th of April; and he should also move, that the minutes of evidence taken before tie Election Committee should be laid on the table.


thought the Motion of his hon. Friend so reasonable, that the House could not object to it. He wished some plan could be devised for the prevention of bribery and corruption.


thought the hon. Member for West Norfolk was rather premature in moving the issue of the writ. He was not aware that the Committee had made any special report, as in other cases. But until the report should have been laid upon the table of the House, he thought the writ ought not to be moved for. At the same time, he thought the Amendment ought not to be put in the form in which the hon. Member for Wallingford had moved it. If the hon. Member for West Norfolk persisted in his Motion, the Amendment properly to be moved to it would be, that the evidence taken before the Committee should be brought up; and then would follow a Motion for printing that evidence. And there should be an understanding that until it were printed, the new writ should not be moved for. But he recommended the hon. Member for West Norfolk to withdraw his Motion for the present.


did not know what electioneering tactics might be at work; but he could not help feeling some misgivings when he found an attack upon bribery and corruption coming from the hon. Member for Wallingford's side of the House—a side which had never been remarkable for opposing corruption. He could not help having some doubts when he saw a book relating to past transactions, and one which had been before the House for some considerable time brought forward upon that occasion, and not before. He had sent for the report of the Committee, which would shortly be printed, and in the hands of all hon. Members, and he found not a word in it about the wholesale bribery of which the hon. Gentleman had spoken. There was one single case of money given to influence a vote; and there were two cases mentioned in which money had been given; but the Committee could not say that these sums had been given to influence the votes of the parties. However, if they took the outside, there were only three cases of bribery reported out of a constituency of 180. Where, then, was the case made out for disfranchising the borough? On the subject of treating, the Committee made a most milk-and-water report:— It was proved to your Committee that there was treating practised to some extent; but there was no proof given of by whom the treating was committed. If they were to disfranchise upon such a report as that, they would be hanging the borough under false pretences.

Motion and Amendment withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.