HC Deb 15 March 1848 vol 97 cc598-617

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.


admitted that it was the privilege of any hon. Member to move the issue of a new writ, and his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk was quite right in moving it on the preceding night. He was aware of his hon. Friends' intention, and he had told them that he intended to move the Amendment which he had moved upon it. But as he had been markedly alluded to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby) as one belonging to that side of the House which had never been remarkable for opposing bribery or exposing corruption, he begged to say that for the long period of fifteen years during which he had occupied a seat in that House he had uniformly voted on every question of bribery and corruption which had been raised, and his vote had always been recorded in favour of the exposition and suppression of every sort of corruption. He might not have gone so far, or made himself so conspicuous as other hon. Gentlemen, but he had followed a moderate and steady course. As to the report upon the former election, presented by Mr. Roebuck's Committee, to the reading of which the hon. Member for Cockermouth had been so much opposed, he (Mr. Blackstone) found, on looking into Hansard, that the hon. Gentleman had upon that occasion (in 1842) spoken more severely than he (Mr. Blackstone) had done on Tuesday night against that system of bribery which the Committee had disclosed. But his sole object on the present occasion was to have the evidence taken before the Select Committee, which had reported on Tuesday, laid before the House, before the issue of a new writ. He had a right, under such circumstances, to call attention to the former report. He was told, indeed, that bad as the case was, it had been agreed to hush it up. But he found that a division had been taken on the question that the issue of the writ should be suspended, and forty-seven Members had voted for the Motion. The only result, however, had been that the Members were saved from the penal consequences, but the borough was not thereby protected from responsibility. The hon. Member for Cockermouth had read the report of the Committee on the preceding night, and found that at the late election there were only three cases of bribery made out, out of a constituency of 180. But it should be remembered that the Gentleman who was unseated by that report was Mr. Attwood, the same who had been unseated on the former occasion for bribery, when it was proved that more persons had received bribes than there were voters on the register. Those matters should be taken together. He should therefore move as an Amendment— That the Minutes of Evidence and Proceedings taken before the House at Election Committees be laid before the House, and that Mr. Speaker do not issue his warrant for a New Writ until the said evidence shall have been printed and laid before the House.


said, that as allusion had been made by the hon. Gentleman to what had fallen from him on the preceding night, he would take that opportunity of explaining an expression which he feared had been misunderstood. He was far from meaning to say that the hon. Member for West Norfolk had acted in an unparliamentary manner in moving the issue of the new writ last night. The Speaker had clearly declared the right of any hon. Gentleman to move it whenever he pleased. But after the objections that were taken by the hon. Member for Wallingford, he thought the debate ought not to be taken at that hour, it being then nearly one o'clock, and he thought it would be only right to suspend the issue of the writ until the evidence should be placed in the hands of hon. Members. As to the report of what was called Mr. Roebuck's Committee, in 1842, there was at that time an Act of Parliament passed to indemnify the parties giving evidence, with an arrangement that no Motion respecting disfranchisement was to take place. But if any Motion were to be founded upon that report, it certainly ought to have been between 1842 and the close of the last Parliament—certainly before 1848. The Motion of disfranchisement of the borough upon that evidence should have been made before new writs were allowed to issue. If it were now to be made, it would affect the undisputed seat of his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Bagshawe). In the case of the borough of Lancaster, a new writ had been issued; and was it right that a different course should be adopted with regard to Harwich, under circumstances not of a more aggravated character? He trusted, therefore, that the House would support the Motion of the hon. Member.


said, he was surprised at the speech of the right hon. Baronet, which seemed to him to be intended to cover the abuses which took place at elections. In the last Parliament a Motion was brought forward by Mr. Roebuck on the subject of the bribery which took place in boroughs generally. Mr. Roebuck having in the most fearless and manly way declared in the House that he was prepared to prove bribery, not only on the part of the electors, but of persons having seats in that House; and having made charges implicating five boroughs, though he might easily have extended the list to fifty boroughs, succeeded in inducing the Government to agree to the appointment of a Committee. That Committee sat, with the understanding that no penalties should attach to any individuals on account of transactions which occurred up to that period; this arrangement being considered necessary in order that the Committee might be the better able to obtain evidence. Before that Committee the most wholesale bribery was proved to have taken place at Harwich; and after what the House knew of the scandalous transactions there at former elections, and which were now repeated, because the parties escaped with impunity at the last time, was it right that such haste should now be shown in issuing a new writ? He would ask the right hon. Baronet, was there any report of bribery having taken place at Lancaster at the former election? and if not, there could be no similarity between the two places. He understood that the House had agreed last night to wait for the report of the evidence. From the number of individuals who had been removed on account of bribery, he believed the character of the House could not be supported unless a Committee were appointed to go into all these cases under the Act of Lord John Russell. It was said that the Committees shut out evidence of general bribery, except as far as was necessary to support the charge against the sitting Member. If that were so, and if the proceedings of Committees were intended to unseat Members, but to screen the boroughs, he thought they ought to suspend their decision until they had the evidence before them, in order to see whether that course had not been pursued in the present case. He had heard imputations against Lyme Regis, and other places also, but for the present he did not wish to mention names. If there were no other reason than the very limited number of the constituency of Harwich, he thought that it ought to be disfranchised. The noble Lord at the head of the Government himself admitted that he thought 300 electors the lowest number that a place should have to entitle it to return a representative. But, independent of that consideration, they had proof of gross and systematic bribery; and it had been even said, that on a former occasion five members of an election committee for Harwich had been bribed with 1,000l. each. The time was come when such scandalous means for securing seats in that House should be put an end to.


If I might offer a suggestion, I would propose a course which will tend to the convenience of the House on the present occasion, and insure that deliberation which is due to the importance of the subject now brought under our consideration. On reading the Votes of the House which were circulated this morning, I observed that at, I believe, one o'clock, a writ was moved for the borough of Harwich—that some discussion ensued, and an Amendment was moved—and that the Motion proposed was with the leave of the House, withdrawn, on the understanding, as I thought, that the minutes of evidence were to be printed. I admit most distinctly that it is the privilege of any Member of the House, at any time and without notice, to move for a new writ; but certainly I was never more surprised than to find that a Motion of this kind should be so suddenly proposed to the House at that hour of the morning, after what had taken place. I am extremely happy that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Stuart Wortley) was chairman of that Committee, because in ascertaining what evidence ought to be disclosed, and what kept back, we could find no chairman more competent to form an opinion; and if he were in his place he would have been most able to inform the House of what had taken place. If my right hon. and learned Friend had known that the question would come on to-day, he would no doubt have been in his place; but we all came down to-day under the expectation that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) would have been allowed to bring in his Bill on a subject affecting six seats in this House. We were all prepared to consider that question, whereas this other question affecting only one seat we were not prepared for. The hon. Member for West Surrey, and the other Members of the Committee, are also absent, not expecting that this discussion would come on to-day. Under these circumstances, I think that the better course would be to adjourn the question. I think that it would be highly convenient to adjourn it even until to-morrow, when we would be better prepared to discuss it; but should the question now proceed, I must say, after what occurred in a former Parliament, that this case of Harwich is, in my mind, a case requiring careful scrutiny. I believe it to be numerically one of the smallest boroughs in England, returning two Members to Parliament. I remember that in the case of Stafford the writ was held over on a former occasion for a great part of the Session, and the same course was also followed with regard to other places. Therefore, if the Motion to issue the "writ forthwith be now persevered in, I most certainly shall feel it my duty to vote against it. I strongly advise that the question be adjourned.


If the understanding that the right hon. Gentleman alludes to had really been the understanding in the House last night, I certainly should not have supported the issue of the writ; but I need not remark that the Votes only give the result of the proceedings of the House, and not the discussions upon them. In order that the hon. Gentleman might not be misled, I said that I wished the House should be in possession of the report of the Committee printed this morning, and that if the report did not contain any special recommendation—if it were not a special report, but in the usual form—I should be prepared to support the issue of the writ. But I said that if, on the contrary, a charge of general bribery were contained in the report, with a recommendation that the House should interpose its authority, then I could not consent to the writ being issued.


said, as the hon. Member for Montrose had, during his absence, stated that at the former election for Harwich a very considerable sum had been paid to the committee, he begged to give the charge a most unequivocal and decided denial. It was quite new to him that there had been a recognised committee of his opponent's appointed at that time; and how he could have bribed a committee that never existed he was at a loss to understand.


said, that as a Member of the Committee, he felt called upon to make a few observations. He had not been aware that it was intended to move for the issue of the writ that morning, as he understood, with the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham), that the question would be allowed to rest until the evidence was laid before the House. He wished to offer merely a few words as to the question of bribery. The only case of bribery proved was that of a person named Saxby, who obtained 41l. There were two other persons, named Horlock and Knight, who obtained money under the pretence of demurrage; and there was no doubt but that they would have found further cases of bribery if the payments to them could have been brought home to the sitting Member. The hon. Gentleman inquired whether the Committee had not kept back evidence, or assisted in not bringing forward evidence, with regard to general bribery in the borough. In reply to that question, he begged to say, that after the Committee had sat three days, they were of opinion that the case had entirely failed, and they were even doubtful whether some collusive arrangement had not been come to between the parties. They found afterwards, however, that the delay arose from the difficulty which was found to exist in connecting the agency with the sitting Member. As the case went on, the Committee felt that the petitioners had had great difficulties to contend against in bringing out the evidence; and in some conversation which they had as to the course to be pursued in the event of the case failing against the sitting Member, and of a strong suspicion only resting against him, they all agreed that it was the duty of the Committee to go to the end of the evidence, and to get the best possible information that they could obtain as to the real state of the borough. Therefore, he could say distinctly, that nothing had been done to keep back or to check the production of any evidence that could have been brought forward. They had a most able chairman, and one who performed his duty in a most exemplary manner; and he certainly did interfere on one or two occasions to prevent what he considered to be illegal questions from being put. The other Members had bowed to his decision; but the questions were of a very immaterial character. He thought it was due to the borough of Harwich to say, that there had been nothing brought before the Committee which would warrant them in making a special report, or in alluding to former cases, of which they know nothing.


had only asked for the suspension of the writ until the evidence was printed. The delay could not be more than two days at furthest, and after what had occurred he thought it was tolerably plain that there was something behind the scene, and that the House was warranted in requiring the delay.


trusted that, whatever was the decision of the House, they would sift the matter to the bottom. There was a general impression abroad—more especially in Ireland—that the boroughs in this country were becoming more corrupt and more rotten than before the Reform Bill. As an Irishman, he felt a particular interest in having the question sifted to the bottom; because, for every borough disfranchised in this country, he intended to put in a claim on the part of Ireland. [Laughter.] He saw nothing to laugh at in the matter; and he begged to tell the House that the question of corruption was a very important one; for what had been the great element in the late revolution in France? Was it not that by the corrupt influence of a powerful Monarch, and a powerful Government, the voice of the people had been smothered in France?


was not in the House last night when the character of his unfortunate borough was under discussion. He did not mean to deny that great corruption had prevailed at the election in 1841. On the contrary, he believed that a great majority of the voters were then bribed; but the moment that election had passed over, a change came over the spirit of their dream. In 1841, there were but 180 voters in the borough. At that election he made his canvass alone, without the aid or assistance of any individual or of any committee; yet the House was told not only that his committee was bribed, but that the chairman had received 1,000l., though he had emphatically declared before Mr. Roebuck's Committee that he never had a committee; out of the 180 voters at that election, 124 independent men (as he believed) promised to give him their votes, but they did not keep their word. He was sorry the right hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir G. Clerk) was not in his place, because he once sat for a short time for Harwich; and he had been told, that when the right hon. Member was asked whether he would stand again, he was emphatically told, "Bagshawe's interest is so strong, that you must take some indirect means to countervail it." Since 1841, the register had increased from 180 to 290 voters; and he would ask, whether the House would suspend a writ against a constituency more than one-half of whom were not upon the register in 1841?


said, the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had not met the question fairly; for he had argued as if the Motion before the House was for the disfranchisement of the borough, which was not the immediate point. The question, however, would arise, whether a borough, which had been remarkable for many years for gross bribery and corruption should return Members again, after a report from a Select Committee in which bribery to some extent was charged as being proved. He believed, that collusion had existed between the parties. It was clear that some bribery had taken place at the last election; and he would remind the House of what had been stated by the sitting Member (Mr. Bagshawe), then a candidate, before Mr. Roebuck's Committee, although he now stated, a change had come over the electors. The hon. Gentleman was asked in that Committee— Do you know of your own knowledge that a large number of the Harwich constituency received bribes at the last election?" His reply was, "Yes; I think the great majority of them. And to another question he answered, that although he did not see money actually given, he could convince any Committee that the great majority of the constituency might be called bribed. This was the case in 1841; and when this borough was again brought forward, it having been shown that the same disgraceful practices still continued, he contended it would be disgraceful to the House to allow a writ to issue for another election. Allusion had been made to the bribery of committees at the elections. Connected with this he would mention, that a friend of his once stood for the borough of Harwich, who was told by one of the voters that he would give him one of his votes, but he did not intend to vote till late in the day. That man actually received 475l. for his vote. He had given notice that to-morrow he would move for returns of the number of electors upon the register for the borough of Harwich, and the number of persons among them holding official appointments, in consequence of the hon. Member (Mr. Bagshawe) having stated that there were more persons holding official appointments than there were voters upon the register. He conceived there would have been no objection to such a return; but no sooner had he given notice of his intention than the hon. Gentleman who represented his constituency (Mr. Bagshawe) said he should oppose it. ["No, no!"] At all events the hon. Gentleman said he would oppose that part of the Motion which referred to the number of voters holding appointments under the Government. In conclusion, he hoped the House would not allow the writ to issue until the evidence before the late Committee was in the hands of Members, and it had been thoroughly sifted, in order to ascertain whether it would be necessary to institute further proceedings.


was not prepared to give any opinion upon the question of the suspension of the writ for the borough of Harwich, because he was not in Parliament in 1842, and because he had no knowledge of the circumstances mentioned in the report from Mr. Roebuck's Committee. In the Committee of which he had the honour to be chairman, he thought it would be only just towards all the parties to shut his eyes to all that had passed at former elections, and to exclude everything from his consideration, except what referred to the immediate case. He therefore felt himself bound to state the impressions created upon his own mind by the evidence before the late Committee. The petition against the return contained extensive allegations of bribery and corruption; and there was no indisposition on the part of the Committee, but quite the contrary, to give every facility to the petitioners to investigate the whole of the case. On more than one occasion it was thought they ought to confine themselves to the particular charges of bribery against the sitting Member. The petition, however, opened a wider field of inquiry; and after sitting two or three days inquiring into the general charges, they found that the petitioners utterly failed in sustaining them. As he had said before, he knew nothing of the previous state of the borough of Harwich; and he was now bound to say that, before the late Committee, there had been nothing like evidence of general corruption either by bribery or treating. There were, however, three distinct cases of bribery proved, two of which were specified in the report; but there was a difficulty in ascertaining upon whose part they had been committed, and the Committee had been unable to bring them home to Mr. Attwood. He had no wish to introduce names into the discussion unnecessarily. The third case, which had been reported, seemed to his mind a clear case of bribery. These were the circumstances under which the Committee had reported; and again he begged most distinctly to say that the inquiry disclosed no evidence of general corruption. The treating had certainly not been of an extensive kind, and it was confined to a period after the poll was over. If the question lay between the suspension of the writ and the adjournment of the debate, he should vote for the adjournment.


was sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman had displayed great judgment and impartiality upon the Committee. If public opinion was so strong in Ireland upon the subject of corruption in English boroughs as represented by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Roche), he would venture to suggest that the borough of Kinsale was not more free from bribery and corruption than the borough of Harwich. At all events if the evidence before the Harwich Committee was to be printed, he hoped the evidence before the Kinsale Committee would accompany it. He felt that if questions of this sort were to be carried out, the noble Lord the Member for London would shortly have to come down with a new Reform Bill; and on this question he would remind the hon. Member for Montrose that he had been in the habit of practising upon the credulity of the old House of Commons by promising extreme purity in the new. On the ground of purity of election he thought, in spite of his own evidence, the hon. Gentleman was entitled to his seat. The Government should not, in his opinion, be too anxious to disfranchise this and similar boroughs; neither was he in favour of extending too much the number of electors in the constituencies, for when they were too large they did not exercise that nice discrimination in the choice of their Members which smaller constituencies might do, as was shown by the loss of their seats by two or three of the brightest ornaments of the present Government.


thought that it would be very inconvenient to discuss at present the question of a disfranchisement of the borough of Harwich. He thought that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had been somewhat hardly dealt with by hon. Members. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had attacked him as though he wished to screen the offence. He understood him to take no such course. The question which the right hon. Baronet put to the House was, whether the writ should issue now or not. That was a question entirely distinct from the disfranchisement of the borough. He thought that in a constitutional view of the question the writ ought to issue, because no borough ought to remain unrepresented for any longer period than was absolutely necessary. One of the hon. Members on the Committee had said that it appeared to them that there was something like collusion practised between the parties; and he (Mr. V. Smith) thought that circumstance, coupled with the recommendation of the Chairman of the Committee, ought to have some weight with the House in inducing it to allow the present debate to be adjourned.


agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, that the further consideration of the subject ought to be adjourned, in order that the evidence given by the Committee should be in the hands of hon. Members. The hon. Baronet the Member for Essex seemed to insinuate that an agitation might shortly be raised for a new Reform Bill. He warned the House, that unless cases of corruption and bribery, such as the present, were inquired into, and the sources of representation were kept pure, most assuredly the people would agitate for a new Reform Bill. The Motion for an adjournment was so reasonable, that he thought the House could not object to it.


said, he was willing to withdraw the Motion, or to submit to its being adjourned.


trusted the House would accede to the first alternative offered by the hon. Member, namely, that his Motion should be withdrawn—that therefore the debate should drop—that the Motion for issuing the writ should not be renewed until after the minutes of the evidence taken before the Committees should be printed, and in the hands of Members a sufficient number of days to allow those minutes to be fully considered—and that due notice should be given beforehand of the renewal of the Motion. He thought that that course would reconcile all the opinions which had been expressed, and that it would be the one which a consideration of what was due to the House and the country would point out as being the most fitting to be pursued. He must confirm the statement of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, as to the understanding which prevailed on the previous evening. He was himself in the House, and he acquiesced in it. The understanding to which he was a party, and which he conceived to have been agreed to by the other side, was, that the decision whether the writ should issue or not should be postponed until after the report of the Committee should have been received. That, however, did not prejudge the other question, whether, when that report should be in the hands of the House, a further postponement should take place until the minutes of the evidence were before them. He owned that his own personal individual opinion led him to state that he should be perfectly ready, upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the chairman of the Committee (Mr. S. Wortley), to vote for the issue of the writ; and he thought that the reference which had been made to the former report of the Committee of 1842 rather confirmed him in that opinion; because, whereas it appeared that upon that occasion there was a charge of general if not universal corruption in the borough of Harwich, it appeared upon the present occasion that the most searching inquiry instituted on the part of the petitioners had not resulted in the proof of anything like general corruption; but, at the same time, he did feel that this question of bribery was one of such great importance to that House and the country—that the abuse struck so vitally at the root of everything on which the influence, and character, and respectability, and usefulness of that House depended—that he thought the House ought at all times, if it erred at all, to err upon the side of extending opportunities of inquiry, rather than to take that view of the case which might sanction the supposition that bribery could be practised with impunity. Though he was quite aware, therefore, that upon general and constitutional principles the House ought to be careful not unnecessarily to suspend the issuing of writs, and thereby keep any portion of the people unrepresented, yet he did think it would be expedient in the present case that the Motion should be withdrawn, and that the issue of the writ should not be moved for until the minutes of the evidence should be in the hands of Members, and the House should have had an opportunity of considering them. He would suggest, therefore, in accordance with the proposition of the hon. Member for Wallingford, that the Motion should not only be withdrawn, but that the minutes of the evidence taken before the Committee should be forthwith printed and laid upon the table of the House.


had witnessed with great delight the virtuous indignation of the noble Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and he should not be surprised to see that noble Lord one day appearing as the illustrious head of a powerful Radical party in that House. Stranger things than that had occurred before now in that House. He was proud to see that the noble Lord was not determined, with inflexible stupidity, like some hon. Members, to stick to old and obsolete prejudices, but had shown himself willing to advance in the right direction. The noble Lord the Member for Marylebone and the hon. Member for Northampton had endeavoured to excuse, or to palliate, the conduct of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He could not account for that course of conduct. Last night the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) was for delay; to-day, he being acquainted with the facts of the case, was anxious for the immediate issuing of the writ. Shortly after the appointment of the right hon. Baronet to office, he had taken a phrenological view of his cranium, and he noticed distinctly that the right hon. Baronet was possessed of a very large organ of "justice." Now, after knowing that bribery had been practised in this the most corrupt and rotten of all corrupt boroughs in the kingdom—["No, no!"]—well, then, one of the most corrupt—the right hon. Baronet was in favour of issuing the writ. To whom was he to send this writ? The writ would have to be sent to these corrupt electors, who were thus to be the instruments of adding another to the number of "Attwoodian" Members in the House. What, he would ask the House, was there that would be safe in this country, if the fountain of justice were so corrupted? Would the lives and property of the people of this country be safe or protected, if the fountain of their laws were to be thus corrupt? Large sums of money had been expended for the purpose of corrupting the House to a degree which had never been known. The hon. Member for Essex, who seemed to entertain a fear for the necessity of bringing forward a new Reform Bill, had said that he thought the large constituencies were not in the habit of judging with sufficient sagacity, or exercising a proper degree of caution in the choice of their representatives. Why, was not the hon. Member himself a Member for a large constituency? He wondered that the hon. Member had not found a complete refutation of his arguments in his own person. Essex had always been famous for its representatives. The House might rest assured that these things would be constantly recurring so long as the election for Members was septennial instead of annual, and if they continued to be elected by small constituencies who could be influenced by corrupt means. If the constituencies were enlarged, it would be out of the power of persons to corrupt them. At present it was considered a good speculation for persons to invest their money in an election; they knew that they would have their seats for seven years, and could be able by that time to palm their relations upon the public. The hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) had said that in one case as much as 470l. was given for a single vote. Did the House suppose that such a sum would have been paid for a vote if the party paying it did not consider that it would be a profitable outlay? There was an opinion fast gaining ground amongst the people out of doors that they were not properly represented, and they would demand as a right that they should be fairly represented in that House. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute said the Committee did not restrain the petitioners from entering into the general charge of bribery and treating. He said, "We found there was bribery, but we could not discover for which candidate it was paid." Now what a searching inquiry that must have been which could not make such a discovery. To him the inquiry did not appear a very searching one. Why, they had the admission of the sitting Member, who, they must suppose, represented the virtue of the place, that the majority of the voters were corrupt; and under such circumstances was the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) to get up in his place and move simply that the debate be adjourned? Let the House "assume some virtue if it have it not." Out of doors the people were dissatisfied at the conduct of the House with respect to these matters—they were becoming sullen, and declined to make any application to the House, because they were impressed with the idea that they did not fairly represent them. The people were willing to conform to the established state of things if they were fairly represented. Proof of this was to be found in the fact that there was not the same demand for a republic here as in France. Those who were guilty of such conduct as that pursued with respect to this borough, ought to be punished with the utmost rigour of the law. Unless this was done, and the people more fairly dealt with, anarchy and confusion could not fail to be the result.


thought the hon. Member had expended a great deal too much virtuous indignation with respect to him. The hon. Member had even taken a phrenological survey of his head. He hoped that nothing that he had done on this occasion had thrown any discredit upon the phrenological skill of the hon. Gentleman. He (Sir G. Grey) instanced the cases of Lancaster and Carlisle, because he thought they should follow the course adopted with respect to those boroughs; nothing, he as- sured the House, but considerations of justice induced him to take the course he had. All boroughs charged with bribery, should, he thought, be dealt with equally; and he did not think it just that the hon. Member, after having the report of the Committee of 1842 before him for nearly seven years, which stated that bribery was there committed—after allowing it to slumber for all that period—that he should come down to the House now, and with great virtuous indignation, wish to visit the sin of the constituency of 1842 upon the constituency of 1848. It was because such a proposition was unjust that he had taken the course he had. But he was willing to bow to the decision of the House.


rose not only as a Member of that House, but as one of the electors of the country, to thank the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs for the manly and straightforward declaration that he had made, of his sincere desire to aid in purifying the constituencies of the realm and the returns to that House; and he could not but contrast, painfully, that declaration with the conduct, he might say shameful conduct, of the noble Lord's Colleague, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department.


rose and said, he was sure his hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth would at once see that the expression he had used was not consistent with the proceedings of that House. The words "shameful conduct" ought not to be applied to any hon. Member.


said, that he at once withdrew the expression objected to, and which he had used only under strong feelings, and in the hurry of the moment. But certainly he had understood the right hon. Baronet to have avowed himself, by the course he had followed, an advocate for the protection of the present system of corruption. Why, the right hon. Baronet had told the House that it ought to dismiss from its consideration the monstrous corruption that had been proved on a former occasion to have been carried on in the borough of Harwich, for that it had nothing to do with the question before the House. Whereas he (Mr. Mowatt) contended, that, although the evidence before the House might not of itself be sufficient to make out the present charge of general corruption, yet that, taken in addition to the established character for corruption of the borough, as shown in 1842, it ought to prevent the House from consenting to the writ being now issued, at least until the evidence given before the Committee was printed; and yet the right hon. Baronet had urged that it should be issued immediately; and this, too, notwithstanding the understanding that had been come to last night, when he (Mr. Mowatt) was present, that the writ should not be sent out until the report of the Committee was before the House. To act thus, was in his (Mr. Mowatt's) opinion nothing less than sending it forth to the country, that one of the Members of Her Majesty's Government was disposed to shield the present system of bribery and corruption.


was extremely indebted to the House for the assurance they had given him that he need not say one word. He was certain, from the view which the hon. Member was disposed to take of his conduct, that anything which he might say would utterly fail to convince him.


maintained, that the expression which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman ought to be brought before the House. He had said, that as the sins of the parties were not visited on them in 1842, they were not to be considered now. If they were to be excused because time had elapsed, at least some steps ought to be taken to prevent a recurrence of the evils. If those steps were not taken in this House, they would be taken by the people out of doors.


believed, that at this moment Harwich, from her increasing prosperity, was not the corrupt borough which she was in 1842, and on that ground he did not think that the present electors ought to be visited with the sins of their predecessors.


said, that the hon. Members for Finsbury and Birmingham had both endeavoured, by the strongest language that they could use, to show that Members were not honest in endeavouring to put down the practice of bribery. When such assertions went forth to the public, the attention of the public ought also to be called to this fact, that in the present Session of Parliament a number of petitions had been presented on the subject of bribery, and almost in every instance the sitting Member had been unseated. Such being the case, with what possible justice could hon. Members be accused of favouring bribery? He thought it would be much more creditable to the hon. Members themselves if they endeavoured to support the characters of Members of the House, rather than endeavour by every means in their power to throw discredit on the House, and make the decisions of the Legislature as unpopular as possible. The hon. Member for Finsbury had even gone the length of attacking the Committee, and had said, they did not endeavour to sift the evidence, because when they stated, that two persons had committed bribery, they added that they could not tell by whom they were bribed. If the hon. Member did not exercise a little more fairness in another tribunal than he exercised in that House, he would be very sorry to be placed under him. If he would read the evidence, he would amend his views, but on the present occasion he seemed to have had recourse to what in Scotland was called "Jedart" justice.


fully coincided in the remarks of the hon. Member for Penryn (Mr. Mowatt), which had been made with such boldness. He thought that there was a mock modesty in this House about these cases of bribery. The right hon. the Secretary of State for the Home Department had led away the House when he quoted the cases of Lancaster and Carlisle. What were the cases of Lancaster and Carlisle? Hitherto they had never been mentioned as cases of bribery. As to Harwich, it had one of the worst characters for its constituency of any borough in the kingdom. The case of Harwich formed a remarkable feature of Mr. Roebuck's Committee; and there was no assimilation between that and Lancaster and Carlisle. The time was coming when they must bring about a new reform. Neither the representation of England or of Scotland could stand much longer as it was at present; and if that House did not take up the question of the franchise in a short time, it would be taken up, in a voice of thunder, by the people out of doors.


said, he could assure the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Mowatt) that the indignation expressed on that (the Opposition) side of the House, was not founded on the hasty expression which had fallen from him, and which he withdrew as soon as he perceived it to be offensive, but was called forth by the substance of his remarks. The hon. Member must certainly have forgotten the character of the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), when he assailed him as he had done, charging him with having pursued a course different from that which, on the previous day, he had announced his intention of pursuing, and with having acted dishonourably in the matter under consideration. He (Sir W. Heathcote) was in the House up to the very last moment of the previous night's discussion, and he therefore knew exactly what his right hon. Friend had said. He was ashamed to repeat what had so often been stated; but he must say, that his right hon. Friend did not utter a single word which had been attributed to him in the attack of the hon. Member, about waiting until the evidence was on the table. What his right hon. Friend had said was this: "I think it best that this Motion should be withdrawn. It may be renewed to-morrow, or at any other time at which hon. Members think proper to renew it. If by that time the report—not the evidence, but the report of the Committee, shall have been in the hands of Members, they will be able to judge whether or not they think fit to call for the evidence." His right hon. Friend further said, "I, for one, do not think it likely that the evidence will be required;" and he added, in very distinct terms, "After the report is on the table, it will be open to any one to propose a further adjournment."


was anxious to state that he felt confident that nothing personally offensive was intended in reference to the right hon. Baronet. He (Mr. Hume) had perhaps expressed himself as strongly as other hon. Members, although in a different way. What he had said was, in effect, that it was unfair to draw a comparison between the cases of Lancaster and Carlisle and that of Harwich, when, in fact, there was no resemblance. He must say, however, that if they allowed personal remarks thus to intervene, all good feeling would depart. When the hon. Member for Falmouth had been in the House a little longer, he would, no doubt, find it necessary to be more guarded in his expressions.


concurred in every ward uttered by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Heathcote). He certainly thought the hon. Member for Falmouth had made an ungenerous attack on the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey).


said, the House would perhaps allow him to say a few words in explanation. He could declare, not merely on account of the decision of the House, but most conscientiously, that he had entertained no intention whatever of imputing anything of a personal nature to the right hon. Gentleman. All that he meant was to express, in the strongest language which the usages of the House warranted, his disapprobation of the course pursued, having understood the right hon. Baronet to be an advocate for hurrying forward the issuing of the writ on that occasion.

Amendment to original Motion withdrawn.

[It was ordered that the minutes of evidence by the Harwich Election Committee be laid before the House.]

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