§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR G. CLERK
suggested, that the question would be more conveniently raised on the next Order of the Day "for the consideration of the petition of Henry Ed- 218 wards," and that both the Motion and the Amendment should be withdrawn.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Order for consideration of Petition of Henry Edwards read.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he did not think this a question for much argument or discussion; the matter was in the hands of the House, who, he hoped, would temper judgment with mercy. He would only observe that Edwards had never been called before the Committee, except for the purpose of being identified by those who spoke to the facts with which he was connected. He had never been called as a witness, nor had he been brought to the bar of that House, and asked whether he had anything to say in mitigation of his offence. He (Mr. Aglionby) was not responsible for the course taken by Edwards, or for the accuracy of his allegations, but he had thought it his duty to present the petition entrusted to him. Now, the question was changed. Edwards did not deny the allegations that had been made against him, and he thought had exercised great prudence and discretion in doing so. He had presented a petition, in which he stated that he submitted to the sentence of the House, and that he had been since the 7th of this month in the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. He also stated "that he had been found by that honourable House guilty of a Breach of the Privileges of that House, and begged to express his deep contrition for the same. He submitted himself to the mercy of that honourable House, and having endured imprisonment while those nearest and dearest to him were and had been dangerously ill, he prayed that he might be deemed to have suffered enough, and that that honourable House would order him to be discharged." Leaving the matter in the hands of the House, he should merely move that Henry Edwards be called to the Bar, reprimanded by Mr. Speaker, and discharged on payment of his fees.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That Henry Edwards having submitted himself to the mercy of the House, be called to the Bar of the House, and be reprimanded by Mr. Speaker, and discharged, on payment of his fees.
MR. EDWARD ELLICE
would merely observe, as Chairman of the Committee, that he thought the Committee, having reported Edwards to the House, had done 219 with him; it then became a matter between Edwards and the House, and it was not his duty to recommend to the House any course respecting him. If there had been any doubt on his hon. Friend's mind with respect to the terms of the late Reports against Edwards, he trusted that both his hon. Friend and other Gentlemen were now satisfied that there were ample and sufficient grounds for the course adopted by the Committee.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
had certainly expected, not that the hon. Chairman of the Committee would have risen, but rather that one of his hon. and learned Friends, the Attorney or Solicitor General, would have risen to inform the House with regard to the course that ought to be pursued under those circumstances. As they had not risen, however, he felt compelled to assume a rather unwelcome office, that of pressing with severity against a person who had humbled himself before the House, who had acknowledged his offence, and expressed his deep contrition. The House would be really trifling if they were to yield to the application now made by Edwards; they would be covering themselves and the proceedings of the Committee with ridicule; they would be abandoning a duty which, however disagreeable and painful, they were imperatively required to discharge. One could perfectly understand why Edwards had not thought proper to petition that he should be brought to the bar, because it was quite evident he could not venture to face the House, to deny the statements made on oath with respect to his practices, and on which the Committee had acted and reported. Edwards had adopted a different course. A petition, whether stamped with truth or falsehood, presented the same appearance; and Edwards had, in the first place, come to the House with a petition, in which, though not in very direct terms, he certainly had denied that he was guilty of those practices which had induced his being reported to the House; and he petitioned for his discharge on that ground. It appeared that the petition of Edwards, presented originally, was entirely false; and he came before the House with this falsehood, and claimed as his right, as a person who was guilty of no offence, to be discharged. Edwards, finding now that the House would not yield to his application, shifted his ground, presented himself in the attitude of a suppliant, and admitted, in extraordinary terms it was true, but in terms 220 amounting to an admission, that he was guilty of the conduct charged against him. It was rather curious to see that indirectly his admission, like his denial, was worthless:—"Your petitioner, having been found by your honourable House to have been guilty of a Breach of the Privileges of the House of Commons, begs to express his deep contrition for his conduct," &c. The petitioner did not admit that he had been guilty of a Breach of the Privileges of the House, though, as he expressed contrition, it might be assumed that he admitted it; and, as he asked pardon, it was to be presumed that he asked pardon for something. For what was it he expressed that contrition, and asked that pardon? It was for a gross and scandalous attempt to obstruct the course of justice by bribing witnesses to go out of the way. The consequence was, that the whole inquiry had been defeated; after all the expense the petitioners had incurred in support of their petition, it turned out to be futile and fruitless; and Edwards having succeeded in his object, and admitted he was guilty of this misconduct, now applied to the House to be discharged, on the ground that he had suffered eight days' imprisonment. He prayed that he might be deemed to have "suffered" for his fault, and that he should be set at liberty. It was to be supposed that he meant he had sufficiently suffered for his fault. If the House were to yield to the petition of Edwards, would they not be holding out encouragement to similar persons, to persons disposed to stifle inquiry? and many strong partisans would not be indisposed to submit to a week's imprisonment if they could frustrate inquiry. It would be a most dangerous example were Edwards allowed to escape with so mild a punishment as he asked. Edwards did not propose to offer any further explanation of his conduct. He admitted he was guilty. What ought the House to do in the circumstances? It was a subject for regret that Edwards should refer to the sufferings of "those nearest and dearest to him," who "have been and now are dangerously ill." It generally happened that persons connected with those who were subjected to sufferings for their own acts, suffered as well as the parties themselves. That was one of the checks that punishment gave on the commission of offences. The sufferings endured not only in person by those who were punished, but by those who were "near and dear" to them, offered a warning and 221 a preventive. If the House were to yield to these representations, every guilty person would escape with impunity. The offence was one of a very serious character. Edwards had endeavoured to deceive the House; and, under the circumstances, he (Sir F. Thesiger) felt it his duty to move, as an Amendment, "That Henry Edwards be committed to Newgate."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
quite concurred in all that had been said by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger). He did not rise at once, because he felt that, when a question of law was pending, those who belonged to the legal profession ought to tender their assistance; but where there was no such question, and the only question respected the amount of punishment that should be inflicted on the offender, that course did not appear to him necessary. But it was unquestionable that the House should visit with punishment the offence now clearly known to have been committed. It appeared to him that all must now admit the wisdom of the proceeding of yesterday, when the House, instead of at once sending the person to Newgate, gave him the opportunity of coming forward to deny the offence alleged against him, or of admitting it, and submitting himself to the mercy of the House. The petitioner admitted that he had been guilty of an outrageous violation of the Privileges of the House. It was impossible for the House to pass this over; and he concurred with his hon. and learned Friend (Sir F. Thesiger) that the petitioner ought to be sent to Newgate. The expression of contrition was not sufficient atonement for the offence of which he had been guilty. Per-haps the House might take it into consideration on a future occasion, when the question as to the duration of the punishment was brought before them; but at present there was nothing to do but to follow the course recommended by his hon. and learned Friend.
Sessional Resolution relating to witnesses, read as followeth:—Resolved—That if it shall appear that any person hath been tampering with any Witness, in respect of his evidence to be given to the House, or any Committee thereof, or directly or indirectly hath endeavoured to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence, the same is declared to be a high crime and misdemeanor; and this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.
Resolution and Order of the House [7th
April] in the case of the St. Albans Election, read as followeth:—
Resolved—"That George Sealey Waggett, having evaded all attempts to secure his attendance before the said Committee, and John Hayward and Henry Edwards having prevented his attendance before the said Committee, have been severally guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House.
Ordered—That George Sealey Waggett, John Hayward, and Henry Edwards, having been guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House, be for their said offence taken into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms attending this House; and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrants accordingly.
To leave out from the word 'having' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'been guilty of a breach of the Privileges of this House, be committed to Her Majesty's gaol of Newgate, and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrants accordingly,' instead thereof.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, it was not his intention to raise any discussion on the merits of the case. The House was the sole judge, and all the facts were before it. It was quite manifest that the feeling of the House was that the offence had not been expiated by the punishment which this man had already undergone, and that there must be further punishment. He assumed that there might be a period of termination for that punishment. Under these circumstances, be should not divide the House upon this question.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
was very glad that the hon. Member for Cockermouth did not mean to divide the House against the proposed Amendment. It was always desirable that the House should be unanimous, or agree as far as possible, on questions affecting their Privileges, and they must all be of opinion, after hearing the Order and Resolutions of the House read, that they ought to proceed to visit this grave offence with severity.
§ MR. BANKES
said, he did not rise for the purpose of opposing what appeared to be the general desire of the House; but he wished, as the House was on the eve of adjournment for the Easter recess, to ascertain what was to be done with regard to the other parties against whom Mr. Speaker's warrants had been issued. Was it the intention of the Government, under the circumstances, to offer any reward for the apprehension of those parties, such a course having been pursued in the Grantham and Penryn cases? He had another observation to make with regard to the proceedings of the Committee, and had already signified his wish to have copies of 223 the shorthand writer's notes of its proceedings on its last day of meeting. The hon. Chairman of the Committee (Mr. Edward Ellice) had made a statement with respect to the proceedings of the Committee on that day, which, according to his (Mr. Bankes's) apprehension of it, was very different from a statement respecting those proceedings that appeared in the public journals. He understood the hon. Chairman to state, that the question of the competency of the Committee at the moment to give their Report was never raised, or claimed to be raised, before them; but the statement in one of the public journals was directly the reverse. From that statement it appeared, that the counsel of the petitioners did claim to be heard on the question of the competency of the Committee; nay, he argued that the Committee was incompetent at the time, and addressed them no longer as a Committee, but as hon. Members of the House who no longer did legally constitute a Committee. He also found from the same authority that the learned counsel of the petitioners did expressly, again and again, urge upon the Committee the propriety of adjourning, in the hope of obtaining the testimony of those witnesses; and it was stated by one person who appeared before the Committee, that within an hour he would be able to give an account of one of those witnesses. Those statements were contrary to what he understood to be the statement of the hon. Chairman. He wished, therefore, when the present question was disposed of, to obtain a copy of the shorthand writer's notes of proceedings on that last day, and, although it was not competent for him to move for the speeches of counsel, he might move for the Minutes of the applications made by them in regard either to the petitioner or the sitting Member. As it was announced that a Commission would be moved for to inquire into this matter, he would suggest a form of Commission different from that which had been adopted on former occasions. It should be composed of Members of the House sworn to deliberate on this particular case, and they might then secure the attendance of the witnesses who had absconded. They could not, of course, review the proceedings of the Committee as regarded the scat of the sitting Member; but he thought that a tribunal should be instituted to inquire into the charge of bribery against the borough. He had no wish to spare the borough, and should 224 move, as an Amendment to the Motion for a Commission, that it be composed of Members of the House sworn to inquire into the charge of bribery against the borough.
MR. EDWARD ELLICE
had no wish to prolong this discussion; but it seemed to him that a charge was made against him, of which it was necessary he should take notice. He understood that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Bankes) considered that the Report of the Committee was at variance with what had occurred in the course of the proceedings; and he could not let that charge go forth without answering it. They had met on the preceding day in Committee, to hear any objection that might be urged against the legality of the Committee; but no such objection was formally raised on cither side. They asked what course the parties who moved the adjournment wished to take; and they stated that none of the witnesses on whose account the adjournment took place were present. They then asked for a further adjournment. The application was made formally, and the party making-it naturally admitted that they were a Committee competent to decide on the question. The Committee took fully into consideration the necessity for further adjournment, and also that there had been an adjournment already for three weeks to obtain the attendance of those witnesses; but, notwithstanding that adjournment, it appeared to them that they were as far from obtaining the attendance of those witnesses as ever. They also took into consideration that some of the witnesses charged with bribery did come before them, and swore they were not bribed; and it naturally struck them that the three persons who were absent would, if they attended, say the same thing, or throw themselves on the mercy of the Committee, and urge that, as they were charged with a crime, the Committee should not ask them to answer questions which would criminate themselves. On these grounds, the Committee thought that it was not their duty to keep the case hanging over the petitioner and sitting Member during the Easter holidays; and that decision was come to by every Gentleman on the Committee, without the slightest doubt of the propriety of what they were doing. He had asked the counsel for the petitioners, whether he was ready to go on with the case. The reply was, he was not prepared to proceed. A conversation then took 225 place, and perhaps the Committee ought not to have it allowed to proceed, but ought to have cleared the room when the case was closed; but a discussion took place, in which, as he had stated on a previous occasion, no formal objection was made to their legality; there was certainly an objection suggested, but the nature of that objection was not stated. Under these circumstances, he felt he was borne out in the statement he had made, that no formal objection was made before that Committee as to its legality as a Committee.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived; Words added; Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, that warrants had been issued against the three persons mentioned. The question was, whether, for the purposes of justice, it would not be wise and proper to discharge the warrants against those persons who were not in custody, at all events? If the warrants were not discharged, he would take for granted that the parties would keep out of the way, consequently they could not be brought before the Commission, where their evidence might establish a case of bribery; but if, on the contrary, the warrants were discharged, and the parties were allowed to go home, they might, under a Bill of Indemnity, give evidence, and so further the ends of justice.
§ SIR G. CLERK
thought it impossible to agree that witnesses who had absconded the moment a Committee had finally reported, should be freed from the consequences of their having absconded. He would call the attention of the House to the course that had been adopted in the Ipswich case, and suggest that, before any step was taken, sufficient lapse of time should be allowed for the execution of the warrants by the Serjeant-at-Arms. That officer should be called upon to state what steps had been taken, and if it appeared that his officers had used all due diligence in their power to execute the warrants, the House should, as on a former occasion, address Her Majesty to offer a reward for the apprehension of the parties. Perhaps it would be as well that no steps should be taken until the House reassembled after the recess; but if the parties had not then 226 surrendered themselves, that would be the proper course to take.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
did not think it would be according to precedent for the Crown to offer a reward until addressed for that purpose by the House. The House might address the Crown, and then the Crown might offer the reward.
That Henry Edwards, having been guilty of a breach of the Privileges of this House, be committed to Her Majesty's Gaol of Newgate, and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrants accordingly.