HC Deb 01 August 1850 vol 113 cc634-5

said, that a person named Somerville, better known as the "Whistler at the Plough," who had been discharged from the Army, had recently published a circular addressed to the Manchester school, in which he stated that he had been involved in great expenses in his exertions to put down the Land Company scheme; that he had been in daily attendance upon the Committee of the House upon that subject; and that he had received 10l. for procuring information for the private use of the Chairman of the Committee on the Land Company. He now wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the 10l. thus paid for procuring information was paid out of his own pocket, or the secret service money. He wished to know whether the statement of this great man was true or false—whether Mr. "Whistler at the Plough" had been paid for getting up information against him?


said, the hon. Gentleman had not thought proper to give him any notice of the question—[Mr. O'CONNOR: I only heard of the matter this morning]—but it happened that the facts were perfectly fresh in his recollection. The hon. Member for Nottingham had endeavoured to throw discredit upon the person to whom he referred, and who, he (Mr. Hayter) believed, was quite as respectable as the hon. Member himself; but the statements he had made with regard to that person were not borne out by the circumstances of the case. The hon. Gentleman, with a view to throw discredit upon Mr. Somerville, who, he (Mr. Hayter) believed, was a very respectable person, had stated that he had been dismissed from the Army. The facts connected with the case were known to almost every Member of that House, and it was well known that Mr. Somerville was not dismissed, but that he was permitted to purchase his discharge, and obtained his discharge in consequence of that permission. At the time when he (Mr. Hayter) had what he must always consider the misfortune of being Chairman of the Committee appointed to inquire into the affairs of that company, which had obtained so unenviable a notoriety, and in which the hon. Member for Nottingham had so large a share, a person named Somerville, whom he had never seen before, was recommended to him as a person capable of giving very important information with regard to the matters which would come before the Committee. He made inquiries of some hon. Members as to the character of that person, and found that he was a man of intelligence and good conduct. The statements he received from that person were, unfortunately, not very material; but he certainly endeavoured, as far as he could, to acquaint him (Mr. Hayter) with some of the circumstances which were afterwards disclosed in evidence before the Committee, and a considerable portion of his time was occupied with reference to these communications. He (Mr. Hayter) thought it right, therefore, that a person who had been so employed, and who was so ill able to dispense with remuneration, should be remunerated, and he accordingly made him such a compensation for his lost time as he thought suitable, not, as the hon. Member had insinuated, from any public funds, but out of his own pocket, and with his own money.


hoped he might be allowed to state, in justice to the person who had been named, that he (Mr. Hume) and several other gentlemen collected a sum of money to purchase his discharge, under circumstances which attracted great attention at the time, and which were honourable to that individual, who had got into a scrape in his regiment, and had been subjected to punishment. Every act of that individual—["Order, order!"] When an attack was made on an absent individual, the House, he believed, generally allowed an explanation to be made; and he had only to say that every act of the person referred to, since he had been discharged from the Army, had been highly to his credit, and had met the approbation of his friends.

Subject dropped.