§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. AGLIONBY
would now remind the House, that, when the question was last before them, he had moved that Henry Edwards, having been informally committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at- 149 Arms, should be discharged without the payment of fees; and that thereupon the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) moved, as an Amendment, that Henry Edwards be forthwith brought to the bar, and examined as to the allegations in his petition. Ultimately the Debate was adjourned, and he was happy to say now, upon resuming it, that they were relieved from all those technical difficulties and legal arguments which before surrounded it. The final report of the Committee having been received, recommending the appointment of a Commission to make a searching inquiry into the bribery and corruption which had prevailed at St. Albans, he thought it was now unnecessary, and would answer no good end to pursue the case further. In addition to Henry Edwards, who had been placed in custody without being heard, upon the charge of inducing witnesses to absent themselves so as to avoid giving evidence, there were four other persons against whom Mr. Speaker had issued his warrant, upon the report of the Committee that their testimony was required by the petitioners, and that they believed those persons to be absenting themselves in order to avoid being served with the summons of the Committee. As the case was now over, however, and no good end could be served by their attendance, he submitted that Mr. Speaker was using his power to no purpose, and that the warrants should be discharged. He begged to move that the warrants against George Sealey Wagget, John Hayward, John Skegg, and Thomas Burchmore be discharged, and that Henry Edwards be discharged out of custody without payment of the fees.
§ MR. SPEAKER
informed the hon. Member, that the original Motion and Amendment must be first disposed of before his present Motion could be made.
§ MR. BANKES
said, he thought the question before the House was, that Henry Edwards should be brought to the bar of the House. He had voted for that Amendment. He agreed with the hon. Member for Cockermouth, that the man had been hardly dealt with; and he would not have consented to forego the question on Friday, had he not learned that the party himself was satisfied to abide until Monday. He thought, however, the man ought then to be brought to the bar, that he might have an opportunity of affording any explanation he thought fit to the House. The question of the discharge of 150 the warrants was, in his opinion, a much more grave subject for consideration; for, if he understood the nature of the proceedings before the Committee, their inquiry had been defeated by the acts of the persons against whom warrants had been issued. If that were the case, so far from, wishing the warrants to be discharged, he would be disposed to contend that they should be strictly enforced, and that the persons against whom they wore issued should be brought to the bar to explain their conduct, which had defeated the ends of justice. The effect of their delinquency was, that the borough would now be represented in Parliament by an hon. Member who had been charged with holding his seat unjustly by another person who assumed to be unjustly deprived of that seat. He could not, therefore, agree to that part of the proposition which related to the discharge of the warrants. He must say also, that, if it was usual for persons in custody under similar circumstances to pay fees, he should object to the discharge of Henry Edwards without payment of fees.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
thought there was no reason for calling Edwards to the bar of the House, unless it was in-tended that he should receive a reprimand from Mr. Speaker.
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
inquired why, if Edwards deserved a reprimand from Mr. Speaker, the House should be asked to consent to his discharge without payment of fees?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
certainly could not concur in the proposal to relieve Edwards from payment of fees; on the contrary, he thought he ought to be required to pay them.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
He was, therefore, at a loss to understand why it was proposed that this man should be discharged at all. If, upon being brought to the bar, Edwards could satisfy the House that he had not been guilty of the contempt imputed to him, or if he made such submission as satisfied the House, they might agree to his discharge; but what was the position in which they at present stood? The Committee had made two Reports to the House. They represented, in their first Report, that Edwards had given money, and had used other improper means, in contempt of the authority of the House, for the purpose of frustrating its proceedings in investigating the charges brought against the sitting Member for 151 St. Albans, and had prevented witnesses from being served with the warrants of that House. What greater contempts of any judicial authority could possibly he committed? But there was another Report from the Committee before the House; and that Report told them that the contempt of Edwards had been perfectly successful—that be had effected his object— and that what he was charged with having done had prevented the possibility of prosecuting the inquiry. The hands of the Committee had consequently been paralysed, and they had been obliged to report to the House, that they had been unable to go into the investigation committed to them, because Edwards and others had, in contempt of the authority of the House, prevented witnesses from coming forward. If, after receiving such a Report, they determined that the man in custody should he discharged without any punishment, or even so much as a reprimand from Mr. Speaker, the House might as well give up its jurisdiction at once. He thought it was due to the jurisdiction administered by Committees under Acts of Parliament on behalf of the House, and due also to the dignity and authority of the House itself, that Edwards should not be discharged until he had been brought to the bar, nor—if there should be ground for further inquiry—until the House had determined whether it was necessary to pursue further inquiry or not.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
concurred in the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Roundell Palmer) respecting the magnitude of the offence alleged to have been committed by Edwards. He thought the course taken by the House in this instance was perfectly correct, and in conformity with the precedent set by the Ipswich case. In the Ipswich case the highest authorities concurred in the view that in order to obtain necessary information from a party against whom the principal charge was that he was either absenting himself or keeping others absent, the proper course was to have him taken into the Custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, and at once brought to the bar of the House to clear himself, if he could, or at all events to explain what had taken place. If that were done, or the man otherwise committed, it would be the natural course at once to have him brought to the bar of the House; and he quite agreed that Edwards had a right to be brought to the bar; but the House would recollect that a question had 152 been raised by the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby) tending to invalidate the whole proceedings of the Committee. When that case was raised, it was again suggested even then that Edwards might be brought to the bar before that point was determined; but the hon. Member for Cockermouth moved that the whole matter might stand over, and that the legality of the existence of the Committee should also be taken into consideration in reference to the Motion he was making. The hon. Member objected to the existence of the Committee and its competency to report, and that became the question upon which the principal part of the debate on Friday took place. Since that time they had had a Report from the Committee, which had been received and ordered to be entered on the Journals of the House. As far as the sitting Member was concerned, and the petitioner against him, he took it to be beyond all question their cases were both concluded by that Report, and that they never could again discuss the legal constitution of the Committee, or the terms of its Report; nor could there be any doubt as to the propriety of the House complying with the terms of the Act, and entering the Report on their Journals. A different question arose with reference to the individual in custody. If they decided that he should he heard at the bar, they would be obliged to hear him on the point of whether the evidence substantiated the charge, and also on the preliminary question of whether the Committee was so constituted that the report ought to have been adopted as a primâ facie evidence of the man's guilt. For it must he observed that the House proceeded on the Ipswich precedent, and adopted the Report of the Committee as primâ facie evidence of guilt. He had no doubt whatever that the man had been duly committed in point of form, in conformity with a power which the House had a right to exercise, and which, he was confident, could never be questioned elsewhere; the form of commitment was the same that had been used in the ease of Stockdale versus Hansard, and no court could call in question the propriety of the proceeding. But although no court could look behind their order, it was quite right that those who had committed the man should look behind it, and see whether they had been just in the whole of their proceedings with reference to the existence of the Committee, because, if there were any doubt with re- 153 spect to its existence, they would not have been justified in taking the report as primâ facie evidence. It did appear to him that, when a question of doubt arose, as in this case, they might do well in discharging this prisoner, who had been in custody for a week, upon payment of his fees. If the party had no wish to appear at the bar of the House to assert his innocence, he thought they would be perfectly justified in taking that course; but if, however, he wished so to appear, unquestionably he ought to be heard, supposing he chose to take that responsibility on himself. He would put an analogous case which occurred with respect to crime and criminals of a much more aggravated description than the present—he alluded to the Monmouth disturbances and the subsequent trials for high treason. Frost and others were then convicted of high treason in its most aggravated form. The House might remember that there could have been no question that those men would have been executed, except for a point of law of the most technical description. This was referred to the Judges, and a majority held that there was nothing in the objection; yet the consequence was that the men were transported for life, their lives being spared. If he were to ask any of the different members of the profession in that House, he thought there would be hardly any one who would not say that a grave doubt existed as to whether, when the Committee made its Report, it was at the time a valid Committee. Looking to that state of doubt, and to the further fact that there could be no beneficial effect to be arrived at in the present instance, except the punishment of the parties, he thought the House might take the middle course that was taken in the case of Frost, and consider Edwards sufficiently punished by the week's imprisonment and the payment of the heavy fees incurred.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
thought that the House must be careful of the steps they took in this case, otherwise they would he apt to get into very great difficulty. The original question they were called upon to decide was, whether the House should discharge Edwards without payment of his fees; and on this an Amendment had been moved, that Edwards should be brought to the bar of the House. He would make this remark to the House, that Edwards had made no application at all at any time to be brought to the bar of the House, and on the occasion of the former discussion o hon. Member professed to have the au- 154 thority of Edwards for pursuing that course. Now, were they prepared to discharge Edwards, and without payment of his fees? He had no doubt that hon. Members had read the evidence which implicated Edwards in the offence of having endeavoured to keep witnesses away from giving evidence upon the petition in question. He had himself read the evidence very carefully, and had no doubt whatever as to the fact of Edwards having tampered with the witnesses. He could not imagine anything much worse than the conduct of Edwards had been; and the petition he had presented to the House praying to be discharged contained only an indirect and evasive denial of the facts. The consequence of his misconduct was, that justice had been defeated, and that the object of the petition in the St. Albans case had entirely failed, the petitioner having been unable to procure the attendance of witnesses, who, they were bound to assume, from the earnest endeavour to keep them out of the way, would have given most important evidence against the sitting Member. He could not quite agree with his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General as to the course he had recommended, and the reasons for it. His hon. and learned Friend said, there was a legal doubt as to the existence of the Committee at the time of its reporting. If his hon. and learned Friend was correct in that view, what right had they, without further inquiry, to make Edwards pay the costs of his committal? But he thought there could be no doubt as to this part of the case. There was a conditional adjournment by the Committee—that was, an adjournment, provided the House should give leave for the Committee to adjourn to the day named, and the House did give leave. The entry was—Resolved— That the Chairman, on the application of the counsel for the petitioner, should apply to the House for leave to adjourn till eleven of the clock on Thursday next, in order to allow time to procure the attendance of the witnesses. Adjourned until to-morrow at eleven, in case the House should not give the power of adjourning to Thursday.And on the next day, the House having given the power to adjourn, the Committee adjourned to Thursday at eleven. He therefore felt convinced that the conditional adjournment was made good by the House having given the power demanded. When the parties met on the day fixed, no objection whatever was made to the legality 155 of the Committee, and the proceedings continued. It was afterwards that the evidence was given which affected Edwards, and on the 4th of April he went to the house in Cottage-place, where Waggett lived. There could be no doubt, therefore, that the Committee had then a legal existence, and power to report. But they did not need the report of a Committee for a proceeding of this kind. If the House was informed in any other way, as by the statement of any hon. Member, that a person had been tampering with witnesses and endeavouring to obstruct justice, they would be perfectly justified in interfering and committing him to custody. There was nothing extraordinary in his having been committed without being-brought to the bar. He found a case, even in the common-law courts, where a party, on affidavit, was charged with having endeavoured to keep a witness out of the way to prevent him being served with a subpoena. The Court of Common Pleas instantly issued an attachment of the party, and it was not discharged except on his agreeing to produce the witness and paying the costs of the Motion. Why should they here at once discharge Edwards, who had been guilty of this great contempt, interfering with the privileges of that House, and acknowledging the object he had in view of stifling a most important inquiry? He confessed he was not disposed at present to discharge Edwards at all. Edwards, he believed, was a professional man. [An Hon. MEMBER: No; he is not.] He thought he had been so, and therefore could not have the excuse of ignorance. When a person, having conducted himself in this way, was triumphing in the success of his artifices, was he to be discharged without the slightest submission on his part, or the slightest, acknowledgment of his offence? Until Edwards had made a proper submission, he, for his part, should unquestionably not consent to his discharge.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that Edwards had been committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms upon the order of the House for a specific purpose—that he might be produced to give evidence before the Committee; and he apprehended that, in conformity with the previous practice of the House, if they retained him any longer in custody, he ought to be committed to Newgate as a punishment. He (Sir G. Grey) quite agreed in the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon 156 (Sir F. Thesiger), in his condemnation of i the conduct of Edwards. There certainly could be no sympathy for a man who had used his professional knowledge to obstruct the course of justice with regard to an inquiry instituted by that House; but as some doubts existed as to the validity of the Committee at the time they made their Report, he thought the House should be careful not to involve themselves in any difficulty. He considered that they ought not to continue Edwards longer in the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, the object for which he was committed to that custody having ceased to exist. He had, however, been under the impression that nearly all the legal authorities in the House had a doubt as to the legal existence of the Committee; and if such a doubt existed, the House might be unwilling to assume the guilt of Edwards on the Report of that Committee. But it appeared that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Abingdon entertained no such doubt. If the hon. and learned Gentleman were correct in that view of the case, and if Edwards ought to be further punished—and he (Sir G. Grey) did not feel at all satisfied that he ought not to be—then the proper course would be to commit him to Newgate.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
wished to state that he had been informed Edwards was not a professional man. He was never either an attorney or an attorney's clerk. He had been a banker's clerk, and was now a farmer.
§ MR. C. ANSTEY
said, they had not now to consider whether they could compel Edwards to do anything to further the administration of justice, but whether he had been guilty of a high offence against the privileges of Parliament and the law of the land, and, if so, whether it was seemly that the House should dismiss him without punishment. It had been erroneously stated on a previous occasion that Edwards had not met his accusers; but it appeared from the Minutes of the Committee that he was personally confronted with two witnesses, who identified him. He wished to know from the hon. and learned -Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) what he proposed to do, even if Edwards should appear at the bar and say that the witnesses against him had not spoken the truth. The Motion he should make was that Edwards be brought to the bar, and confronted with the witnesses again, lie entirely assented to the view of the hon. 157 and learned Gentleman the Member for Abingdon; and under these circumstances could vote neither for the Motion nor the Amendment.
The MASTER OF THE ROLLS
said, he wished to state why he thought that the Motion of the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth (Mr. Aglionby) ought not to be acceded to, and that Edwards had not put himself in a situation to entitle him to be discharged. It was admitted that, if the evidence was to be believed, he had been guilty of a grave offence. He had presented a petition commenting upon the evidence, and seeking to show that it did not amount to proof of his being guilty of a Breach of Privilege; but he did not seek to come before the House to give explanation, but put forth a general denial of the offence. It was a rule of law that where evidence was suppressed, it must be taken to be of the very strongest description against the party withholding it, and it must be taken that Edwards was aware of that. Therefore it ought to be supposed that the evidence which had been kept out of the way was of the most vital importance to the petitioners. Now, it was plain that Edwards could not remain where he was; he ought to be either committed to Newgate or discharged. But he (the Master of the Rolls) had never hoard of any person who had been committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms or to Newgate having been discharged without that person's having presented a petition to the House expressing cither his contrition for his offence, or the fact of his having committed it through ignorance. If Edwards should pursue either of these courses, he might be discharged from custody, but not without the payment of his fees, for that amounted to a declaration that he had not been properly committed. He agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abingdon that the question of the legality or illegality of the adjournment of the Committee had no immediate connection with the point which they had then to consider. It appeared that any hon. Member of that House might upon his own responsibility state that some other person had been guilty of a Breach of their Privileges, and upon that statement the House might commit that person if they should think fit. It appeared to him that Edwards ought then to present a petition to the House, explaining his conduct, or expressing contrition for his offence, and that if he did not pursue that 158 course, the House ought to send him to Newgate. But as the Easter holidays were at hand, and as it might be a serious disadvantage to Edwards to be compelled to remain in prison until the House should reassemble after Easter, he would suggest that they should adjourn that debate until to-morrow, and so afford an opportunity of presenting in the meantime a proper petition to the House.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
must remind the House that this person had been committed for a gross contempt of the authority of the House; and it was said, it seemed, that he was to come forward and take an objection to some irregularity which, even if it existed, had probably been cured. The Committee represented that the investigation ought to be carried on by a Commission; and was the House to set this man at liberty, to enable him still further to defeat justice? The right course was, to send him to Newgate; and the only further question was, whether the Attorney General should be directed to prosecute him.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, all were agreed that Edwards should not be set loose. The question then was, where was he to remain that night? He should be either sent to Newgate or afforded an opportunity to free himself of the charge against him. In the meantime he (Mr. Roebuck) thought it better to have him sent to Newgate, from whence he might appeal to the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
considered the case a very embarrassing one. This individual (Edwards) had been, in the first instance, ordered into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, but at the same time the House ordered that he should remain in the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, and that he should be brought by him before the Committee to be by them examined. Well, the Committee had ceased its functions, and the question now was, what should be done with Edwards? In the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms he could not remain; because, the Committee being dissolved, the purpose for which he had been consigned to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms had ceased. Therefore, they must either commit him to Newgate or discharge him. In his (Lord J. Russell's) opinion it was desirable to adopt the course suggested by the Master of the Rolls, namely, not to decide the question now, but adjourn it till to-morrow. If to-morrow there should appear no reason for assenting to his discharge — in the 159 event of his not coming forward, or coming forward and failing to prove his innocence—then he should be either sent to Newgate, or ordered to be prosecuted. It was desirable that that House should vindicate the authority of its proceedings— and therefore fully agreeing in the suggestion of the Master of the Rolls, he moved the adjournment of the debate till Tomorrow.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. HUME
thought it mere trifling with the House to think of adopting any one of these courses. If ever an individual deserved the censure of the House, as also the punishment, it was Edwards. By his conduct the means and objects of justice had been frustrated. The Committee had done their best to investigate the matter submitted to them; but all the means of arriving at a just or satisfactory cenclusion had been removed by Edwards. Under such circumstances he never recollected an individual being discharged without at least presenting a petition. In his opinion they ought to send Edwards to Newgate until he should have presented a proper petition to the House. Therefore, at present, they were only losing time. The matter had been already three times before the House, and if then adjourned, to-morrow would be the fourth time.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
thought it would be an anomaly to adopt the course of hearing Edwards at the bar, and receiving his unsworn assertions in opposition to the Report of a Committee of five sworn Members of that House, as also of the witnesses examined upon oath before them. If Edwards were to express his contrition the House might extend to him its mercy; but without such an expression of contrition, he (Sir R. H. Inglis) would not be disposed to allow him to be discharged.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
wished to ask this question, was Edwards committed for contempt, or for further examination? It appeared he was originally committed with a view to examination by the Committee; but if committed for contempt, he had done nothing to purge himself of it. He (Sir J. Graham) did not understand that any member of the Committee, indeed he might include the hon. Member for Cock-ermouth, was prepared to say that he disbelieved the report of the Committee, and believed the qualified denial of Edwards. If such were the state and merits of the case, the point raised by hon. Gentlemen 160 on the other side was in the highest degree technical. The hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger) doubted very much if there was anything informal in the proceedings of the Committee previous to the adjournment; and, therefore, he (Sir J. Graham) spoke with great deference, after such high legal authority. But, if he was not much mistaken, there was no court in Westminster that would allow a party committed on a contempt, to plead informality in mitigation of his punishment. He did not think that this person was in a position to ask for any lenity from that House. He was therefore of opinion, that both the Motion and Amendment ought to be withdrawn, and that Edwards ought at all events for that night to be committed to Newgate. Let him to-morrow, before the House adjourned, present a petition to the House; and if couched in proper terms, he had no doubt it would be attended to by the House.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, that the facts had not been proved against Edwards, as they should have been, previous to his committal. No tribunal in England would commit a man to Newgate without giving him an opportunity of defending himself from the charge made against him; and he thought that the House should not call upon a man to express contrition for an offence, the commission of which he denied. He thought that Edwards had in his petition clearly expressed his desire to be heard at the bar of the House, for he said therein that he "has never to his knowledge committed a Breach of the Privileges of the House of Commons, he submits to the justice of your hon. House that he should not be condemned unheard, or punished by imprisonment without having an opportunity of defence." It was for the House to say if they wanted any more formal expression of Edwards' desire to be heard. He (Mr. Aglionby) had communicated with the gentleman who placed Edwards' petition in his hand; had asked him whether Edwards wished to be heard at the bar; and had been told in reply that Edwards expected to be discharged on the technical point without being called to the bar; but that if he was not so discharged, he desired and was ready, at any time, to be called to the bar, and asked any question that the House might think proper. Even if the House thought that they should have a more formal petition from Edwards, he (Mr. Aglionby) thought that the House 161 would hardly, in the meantime, send him to Newgate for that night, when he (Mr. Aglionby) told them that Edwards desired to be heard at the bar.
§ MR. BAILLIE
said, that Edwards had been committed to custody for contempt of the House upon a Report of the Committee, and he thought that the House must accept the contempt as proved by that Report. They could have no other evidence; for it was preposterous to think that they could have a trial at the bar of the House, and waste days in investigating the matter. If Edwards expressed contrition, it would be a different thing, the House might then extend its lenity to him.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
thought that the House ought not to commit Edwards to Newgate upon ex parte evidence taken before the Committee, or at all events without his being present, or having an opportunity afforded him of cross-examining the witnesses. This man had presented a petition praying to be heard at the bar. [An Hon. MEMBER: No, no!] He understood that he had, but he certainly thought that it would be hard that he should be sent to Newgate without being heard. A Motion was made the other day by the hon. and learned Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole) that Edwards should be called to the bar, and the responsibility of that Motion having been defeated rested with the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby), who had then said that he did not desire that Edwards should be heard at the bar. This matter had, in fact, been delayed so long by various means, that Edwards' petition was placed in rather an unfavourable position, and he thought, therefore, that if Edwards desired to be heard at the bar, he should not be sent to Newgate; if he did not desire to be heard, or, if being heard, he had nothing to allege in controversion of the facts stated by the Committee, no one who had made himself acquainted with the Report or the evidence upon which it was founded could doubt that there had been a gross violation of the Privileges of the House; and if Edwards did not purge himself of the contempt, or submit himself with that contrition which the House thought fit, he ought assuredly to be sent to Newgate.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, that if they followed the suggestion of the hon. and learned Attorney General, they must not only hear Edwards' own statement in contradiction to the witnesses examined by the 162 Committee, but they must also hear witnesses on both sides (who were not under the sanction of an oath), and try the whole question afresh at the bar. There was no precedent that he was aware of for calling a person who had been charged with contempt, or Breach of Privilege, to the bar of the House, and there trying whether he was guilty of the offence or not. If Edwards had any ground for alleging that he had not been guilty of a Breach of Privilege, he should have asked the Committee to investigate the matter; and the House were bound to assume that the Committee had taken the best means to ascertain whether he had been guilty of a Breach of Privilege before they reported to the House. They were bound to believe that the Committee had fully investigated the matter, and were satisfied that Edwards was guilty of a Breach of Privilege, and therefore this was not to be taken as a mere ex parte statement. Although there was a, primâfacie appearance of hardship ill committing him to Newgate, he maintained that Edwards had brought himself by his own fault into his present position; and under these circumstances he was most unquestionably not disposed to accede to the delay proposed by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), because he did not think that Edwards had placed himself in a position to ask the indulgence of the House. He had not presented a petition asking for investigation or making his submission for his offence, and he therefore thought they should dispose of both the Amendment and the original Motion, and leave Edwards to bring himself again before the House by a proper petition.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that after carefully examining the precedents, he thought that, if the House committed a party to Newgate without hearing him, they would be taking a course which had never been pursued before, and one indeed which was contrary to the course pursued on previous occasions. He had not yet heard any suggestion made for allowing Edwards to enter into evidence at the bar of the House; all that was asked was, that he should be asked what he had to say to the Report of the Committee. In the Dunfermline case in 1803, a person named Trotter was reported to the House to have absconded, in order to avoid giving evidence, and on that report he was committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. When that officer reported that lie was in custody, Trotter was brought to 163 the bar of the House, the Report of the Committee was read to him, and he was asked what he had to say with respect to it. He was then ordered to retire; the House took the Minutes of the evidence adduced before the Committee into their consideration. It was moved that the House do agree with the Report of the Committee, and, upon that Motion being carried, Trotter was committed to Newgate. The next precedent, the Grantham case, in 1820, the parties were merely summoned to the bar (not in custody); the Report of the Committee was read to them; they were asked what they had to say to it, and, after they had been heard and had retired, a Motion was made and carried for their commitment to Newgate. In the Ipswich case, in 1835, the parties on the Report of the Committee were committed to custody, presented petitions confessing their delinquency, and of course they were not brought to the bar of the House, but were forthwith committed to Newgate. Now, in this case, the party, so far from confessing his delinquency, asserted that he was entirely guiltless of the charge; and although the House could not allow him to produce witnesses, nor could they enter into an investigation of the matter, he ought not to be placed in a worse position than Trotter, or the witnesses in the Grantham case. Was it just that he should be placed in a worse position than were the parties in the cases he had cited, and that he should be sent to Newgate without giving him an opportunity of being heard by himself or counsel? The question then was whether the House was prepared to make a new precedent by sending a man to Newgate without affording an opportunity of hearing what he had to say? His (the Solicitor General's) opinion was, that he ought to be brought to the bar and asked what he had to say to the Report of the Committee, before he was committed to Newgate. He ought to have an opportunity either of defending himself, or of confessing his guilt, and asking the mercy of the House.
§ MR. J. S. WORTLEY
said, that Edwards had been daily in attendance before the Committee, and he should there have asked to be heard. The Committee had investigated the matter, and had reported to the House evidence which left not a shadow of a doubt upon the matter.
MR. VERNON SMITH
would remind the House that the question before them was one involving the liberty of a British subject, whose case was brought before 164 the House without his having had an opportunity of being heard in his defence. It was true that evidence had been given against him by two women, but he was brought before the Committee merely to be identified by those witnesses; the Committee asked him no questions, and, as he had had no hearing, he now asked to be heard by the House. He (Mr. V. Smith) did not wish to see these committals for contempt and Breach of Privilege carried to any extravagant extent, and he therefore thought it was due to the dignity of the House that they should not proceed hurriedly in this matter, but should give Edwards an opportunity of being heard, as the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Mr. Aglionby) stated that he knew he desired it. The House had assuredly the power of committing to Newgate, but he still thought this power ought not to be carried to a tyrannical or arbitrary extent. He, therefore, considered that the party should get the chance of purging himself of the contempt by giving him an opportunity of presenting a new petition.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
would not be a party to letting Edwards go without the House marking, in a proper manner, the sense which they entertained of his guilt; but he thought that they might, without any risk of compromising its dignity or privileges, accede to the course proposed by the hon. and learned Solicitor General. That was to say, that if, on the following day, Edwards should not have presented a petition, either making his submission to the House, or varying the statement which was now before the House, he should be brought to the bar: that, in accordance with the precedents, the Report of the Committee should be read to him; and that he should then be asked what he had to say to it. Under the circumstances he (Mr. R. Palmer) should then vote for that course which he had indicated, and which, in his opinion, would best vindicate the dignity of the House.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 87: Majority 21.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Barrow, W. H.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Bernal, R.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Bethell, R.|
|Bankes, G.||Birch, Sir T. B.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Boyle, hon. Col.|
|Baring, T.||Bramston, T. W.|
|Harrington, Visct.||Brisco, M.|
|Broadley, H.||Moffatt, G.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Mowatt, F.|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Connor, F.|
|Brown, W.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Parker, J.|
|Cookburn, Sir A. J. E.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Pilkington, J.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Pinney, W.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Prime, R.|
|Denison, J. E.||Pusey, P.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Duncan, G.||Reid, Col.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Ricardo, O.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Rice, E. R.|
|Ellis, J.||Rich, H.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Romilly, Col.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Freestun, Col.||Russell, Lord J.|
|French, F.||Salwey, Col.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Scholefield, W.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Seymour, Lord|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Grey, R. W.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Hardcastle, J. A.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Harris, R.||Stansfield, W. R.C.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Thompson, Col.|
|Heywood, J.||Thornely, T.|
|Heyworth, L.||Towneley, J.|
|Hindley, C.||Townley, R. G.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Tufnell, rt. hon. H.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Wakley, T.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Wall, C. B.|
|Langston, J. H.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.||Wigram, L. T.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Williams, W.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Wilson, J.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Wood, W. P.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Wyvill, M.|
|Maule, rt. hon. F.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Howard, Lord E.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Anstey, T. C.||Drummond, H.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Dunne, Col.|
|Booker, T. W.||Du Pre, C. G.|
|Brown, H.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Cardwell, E.||Estcourt, J. B. B.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J.W.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Chatterton, Col.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Fox, W. J.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Cochrane, A.D.R.W.B.||Fuller, A. E.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Coles, H. B.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Cubitt, W.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Currie, H.||Greene, T.|
|Currie, R.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Deedes, W.||Halsey, T. P.|
|Denison, E.||Henley, J. W.|
|Disraeli, B.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Hogg, Sir J.W.||Richards, R.|
|Hotham, Lord||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Hume, J.||Sandars, G.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Sandars, J.|
|Jocelyn, Visct.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Knox, Col.||Spooner, R.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Stafford, A.|
|Lawley, hon. B.R.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Stanley, hon. E. H.|
|M'Neill, D.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Mundy, W.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Newport, Visct.||Verner, Sir W.|
|O'Connell, M. J.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Packe, C. W.||TELLERS.|
|Patten, J. W.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Plowden, W. H. C.||Palmer, R.|
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow at Five o'clock.