§ SIR GEORGE GREY
, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to disfranchise the borough of St. Albans, said, the House would remember the proceedings connected with the last election for the borough of St. Albans, and were aware that in consequence of the obstacles that were thrown in the way of a complete inquiry into those proceedings, the House passed an Act last Session in the preamble of which it was stated—There is reason to believe that the practice of bribery at elections of Members to serve in Parliament for the borough of St. Albans hath long prevailed in the said borough, and that bribery to a great extent hath been systematically committed there at the last election of a Member of Parliament;and that Act appointed three Commissioners to conduct an inquiry on the spot, giving them large and extensive 606 powers, and compelling all persons concerned in that election to give evidence before the Commission. He must now congratulate the House on the complete success of that Act, and the Commission appointed j under it, shown as it was by the blue book then before him containing the evidence of the details and the Report the Commissioners had presented to Her Majesty founded upon the evidence. The Commissioners stated that they began—"with an investigation into the facts connected with the last election, in order to ascertain whether the corrupt practices alleged to have prevailed were confined to that election, or whether they were the result of a system or practice of bribery which there was reason to believe had long prevailed in the borough. This course of proceeding soon disclosed that the practices referred to were the result of a system which was the ordinary accompaniment of every contest." [Parliamentary Papers, No. 67.]He would not trouble the House by reading long extracts from the Report, and would only allude to some of the more striking facts they had detailed, and which he believed were fully supported by the evidence. They stated that the number of electors, including 10l. householders, scot and lot voters, and freemen, was 483, and that the number who usually took bribes was 308; and they stated that the money expended at eight elections since 1831 was 37,000l., of which two-thirds, or upwards of 24,000l., were spent in bribery. Polities, they said, appeared to have no influence in these elections, the agents being ready to transfer their own services and the votes they commanded by the means of bribery, to every candidate who would find the money. At page 20 of the Report, the Commissioners said—Mr. Bell made his entry into St. Albans on Monday, the 2nd of December, 1850, when the apparent canvass commenced, but Edwards had already begun to see the electors at the committee-room in Sovereign-alley, The course adopted then, and pursued up to the day of election, was one of systematic, unblushing bribery, which, but for the failure of evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, we should have thought could not have escaped detection. The house in Sovereign-alley was taken by Edwards. It consisted of throe rooms below, and two above; in one of the rooms below there was always refreshment, and there the voters attended from time to time in great numbers, in the evening, and waited until they were introduced to Edwards. A doorkeeper was stationed at the head of the stairs, whose duty it was to introduce the voters who inquired for Edwards, singly, to his presence, in a room where be sat alone. His brother-in-law had at former elections acted as doorkeeper; but on this occasion the office was filled by one of Edwards' sons. Edwards began to see the electors in this room on the 29th or 30th 607 of November, and on the evening of that day he saw and secured from 40 to 50 voters, to each of whom he gave a sum varying to from 5l. to 8l., but generally 5l. These voters being thus secured were afterward canvassed at their own houses or elsewhere by the candidate and his party, when they formally promised their votes….The same system of seeing and bribing voters by Edwards in the room in Sovereign-alley continued up to the day of the election, the great majority of the persons bribed by him receiving their money in the manner stated, although in a few instances Edwards saw and bribed a voter in his own house, or left the money with the voter's wife.As to the rival candidate, Alderman Carden, it was only fair for him to state, that the Commissioners reported that, while practices the reverse of pure were resorted to by some of those who brought him forward, and that very improper payments were made to voters by his agent, Mr. Lowe, which in their judgment amounted to bribery, they acquitted him of all participation in the bribery committed by those who brought him forward; he persevered to the last in his expressed determination to stand wholly upon what was termed the "purity principle;" and from the first he firmly discountenanced any idea of obtaining a seat in Parliament by anything like corruption. Nothing would tend more to show the extent to which corruption prevailed in this borough, than the fact that when a gentleman of Alderman Carden's position was desired to stand, it was found impossible to secure to him even that small minority of votes which might have been expected, without having recourse to the practice which he had described. The Commissioners, at page 27, summed up the evidence upon which they gave their final opinion, and said—Having now presented to Your Majesty the facts of the two elections in 1847 and 1850, and detailed the system of bribery adopted, we think it right to add that the habit of taking bribes was not confined to those who might plead the state of their circumstances as a temptation, but was usual with many who from their position might have been supposed least likely to accept them. Professional men and tradesmen of a superior class admitted that they received money for their votes, and were active in bribing others, and persons holding subordinate offices connected with the administration of justice in the borough were deeply implicated in these disgraceful transactions. The system had so long prevailed, and corruption was so widely extended, that the moral sense of the inhabitants was deadened, and they evinced no shame when they avowed their participation in these practices. From this sweeping charge we are happy to be able to exempt the clergy of all denominations, and some of the principal inhabitants of the town, who united their efforts to put an end to so degrading a system.608 As to the individuals themselves who had given evidence before that Commission, as they were indemnified by the Act of Parliament, he said nothing; but as to the borough itself, they finally reported—That the practice of bribery at elections for Members to serve in Parliament for the borough of St. Albans hath long prevailed in the said borough, and that bribery to a great extent was systematically committed there at the last election of a Member to serve in Parliament.The perusal of that Report must carry conviction to the mind of every man that corruption, to an extent almost unprecedented, had prevailed for a long time in St. Albans, and that the evil was so ingrained in the constituency that the borough ought to be disfranchised. This was no new course; it was the remedy which Parliament had contemplated in the appointment of the Commission, in the event of the result of that Commission being such as it had been. He supposed, therefore, there would be no objection to the Motion. He would not say one word on the Motion of which notice had been given by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, as he understood that the hon. and gallant Member did not intend to press it on this stage of the Bill.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, with respect to the Amendment of which he had given notice—to include Harwich in the Bill—he believed there were ample and substantial grounds why such a Motion should be agreed to. But he was aware that technical objections might be proposed. A Commission had not sat with respect to this borough. There had, however, been a Committee to inquire into the corruption that had taken place in Harwich; and it was his impression that if a Commission were appointed to inquire into the practices that prevailed there, instead of a lesser case than at St. Albans, greater corruption would be found in Harwich, and more ingrained in the constituency. The Committee over which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had presided, had done all that a Commission appointed by the Crown could do, and therefore, instead of proposing as an Amendment on that occasion the Motion of which he had given notice, he should to-morrow move that no new writ should be issued for Harwich without ten days' notice, which would afford an opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon the propriety of that borough being disfranchised.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
said, that the borough of Harwich being unrepresented in that House—[Cries of "No, no!"]—and he having been the chairman of a Committee that had sat to inquire into the votes given on the election for that borough, he must say that of bribery and corruption there was only a very slight trace, he could not say more; there was one case in which some thought that the election was influenced by corrupt practices, but that was the only case, and that was very doubtful. He did not say that the electors were immaculate; but at all events they wore prudent, and that prudence ought to serve them in good stead. There was no proof of corruption, and, that being so, he thought that, having no representative in that House, the borough ought to have some consideration.
§ MR. BAGSHAW
said, that no one doubted that up to 1841 the greatest possible corruption did exist at the elections for the borough of Harwich; but he emphatically denied that anything of the sort had taken place since that time. Could anything show it more than the circumstance of Sir John Cam Hobhouse's having been nominated for the borough, and being returned for it without having ever seen the place? But unquestionably, from that time to the present, nothing in the shape of corruption had existed in the borough; and he was delighted to find that the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster would move for a Commission to inquire into the corrupt practices alleged to prevail there, as the bad odour and bad character of the borough would be at once obliterated, and it would come out pure and shining from the ordeal.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
had been nominated to serve on the last Harwich Election Committee; that election was voided not on the proof of any corrupt practice, but because the polling booths had been carried away while an election was polling, before four o'clock.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he was anxious to do away with a sham. There could not be a doubt of the downright corruption of the House. There could not be a shadow of doubt in any man's mind—in his own heart he could not hesitate to decide that such was the case. The question he wished to put to the House was this: Wherein lay the difference between this corruption which they were about to punish in the many, and that which they were in the habit of seeing in a single rich man with 610 his powerful borough influence; or did they differ at all? he very much wished to ask what difference there was between the man who sold his vote for 5l. and the man who sold his borough for 2,000l.? he wished to know that. [Ironical cheers.] Yes, it was a question worth their attention in these days, when a new theory was afloat with respect to the representation of the people, namely, that a nomination borough was an ease to the Ministry, and a corrupt borough an evil to the community, he hoped that in the Bill the Government were proposing to bring in to reform the representation of the people, there would be a clause excluding all pretences, all schemes, all admirable contrivances for bringing the influence of the private man to bear upon the public interests of the constituency. In a free representation a poor man sold his vote for 5l., and he was branded in that House with the name of a corrupt voter, Yet, at the same time, a rich man was in the habit of selling what he called influence, and he was allowed to do so with impunity. That was unblameable in a rich man which they punished in the poor. One man might with impunity practise the same amount of corruption, but under a sham and a pretence they came forward to disfranchise St. Albans, because 200 people in that case had done no worse than one rich man did in another borough. Let them no longer practise shams. Let them get rid of nomination boroughs. He should vote for the disfranchisement of this borough and of every corrupt borough; but, at the same time, he should lose no opportunity to get rid of the nomination boroughs.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, the hon Member for Harwich (Mr. Bagshaw) had spoken in defence of his constituents, but he did not know whether what he had said would do them a great deal of good, or arrest the wish of the House to get rid both of corrupt and nomination boroughs. He hoped the House would yet adopt such measures as would make the representation a reality, and not a mockery. The hon. Gentleman, however, to prove the purity of his constituents, cited the case of Sir John Cam Hobhouse, who was elected for Harwich without going near it; and he thought that a defence. He (Lord D. Stuart) did not think a man's being unknown to a community was any proof of the purity of his election. He knew an instance of a man who now sat in the House of Lords, who, before Parliament 611 was reformed, for two successive Parliaments represented a borough, and all the time he never saw his constituents, and never put his foot within the House. He hoped the Government would lend their aid, by their present measure, to make the House what it pretended to be, a representation of the people, and not of landed property.
§ MR. J. BELL
said, I rise, Sir, to say that I shall prefer reserving myself for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
begged to ask the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department whether the attention of the Government had been directed to that part of the St. Albans evidence which stated that Government places had been the reward of persons who had committed corruption on behalf of Reform candidates?
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
was ignorant of any such rewards having been given by the Government to which he belonged for any such corrupt practices; but the evidence referred to having been given on oath, it was not for him, of course, to question it.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
wished to put this test to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) who had spoken of the corruption of the House, whether, being a member of a certain political club, he ever tried to get rid of a man who bore the character of having corrupted more electors than any man of his age? he asked the hon. Gentleman whether he ever heard of the name of Mr. Coppock, that remarkably active member of the Reform Club; and whether, if he were a member of the Reform Club, he had ever tried to purge that society of his company? No sooner had a vacancy occurred in the representation, than that gentleman was busy, first with the members of the Reform Club, then with the constituency on the scene of action. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman ever tried to put a stop to that gentleman's conduct, which had been notorious for the last twenty years? he thought when the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of shams, he, like others, was but making a pretence, well knowing a dissolution was near at hand, and sincerely hoping such a debate would not be without its weight at the poll.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished the House would allow him to answer the question put to him by the noble Lord. He said he was now Member for Sheffield. He meant simply to answer the question. 612 He was solicited to go down to that borough; he went down by train; he was elected without opposition; he asked what were the expenses of the election, and the answer he received was, "Mr. Roebuck, that is no business of yours." [Laughter.] Let not the House sneer at that observation; it could not misunderstand it. He asked what were the expenses of the framework from which he had spoken, of calling together the electors, indeed what was called, and properly so, the legitimate expenses of the election; and for these he was told he was not in any way a debtor. That was the last election. Of the two former, the earlier, being the first in which he had ever appeared, cost him not a farthing; and the second was the same; but of Mr. Coppock, his name, or his influence, he had never known anything. That person dared not come where he was a Member, and pretend to be on his side of the question. He said he stood in the country upon his character, and he told the noble Lord that he had put forth flimsy imputations that were based entirely on the fancies of his own mind.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he had asked the hon. and learned Gentleman a question, and his answer had no bearing on it whatever. Was not the hon. and learned Gentlemen a Member of the Reform Club?
§ MR. SPOONER
considered the subject then before the House one of grave importance, and which required an answer on the part of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary different from that which he had just given to the question put by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside). On turning to the evidence the House would see that Mr. Coppock was asked—Have you, as a matter of feet—we do not ask any details or any names—exerted yourself to obtain places for those who have served you on those occasions, either under Government or elsewhere?—I have exerted myself on every occasion to serve those to whom I considered myself indebted.But in that particular way of obtaining a place?—Not more in that way than in any other.Have you in that way?—I have taken people into my own office; I have placed them in other people's offices; I have got them situations on railways, and I have got them situations anywhere.613Have you got them situations under Government in any one case?—I certainly have been the means of recommending people to situations under Government.And they have obtained them ultimately?—I have had clerks in my own office who have had situations from Government.Have you, as a matter of fact—I do not ask any details or any names—exerted yourself to obtain places for those who have served you on those occasions, either under Government or elsewhere?—Certainly, I have exerted myself to serve parties who have served me.Now, he (Mr. Spooner) thought no person could read these questions and answers without seeing that at some time or the other Government places were obtained on the recommendation of Mr. Coppock. That was a serious charge to be made, and required a serious answer from the right hon. Baronet opposite. He would, therefore, put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether, after that statement, he did not feel himself called upon to examine these cases and see if there was ground for the charge; and if not, vindicate the Government from the obloquy. But if be should decline, then the country would believe that whilst measures were being brought forward to put down bribery and corruption, the Government themselves were the principal promoters of both in the elections of the country. He made no charge, but there was the evidence on oath which he had just read, and therefore it was incumbent in the Government to put themselves right with the country.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), asked me if I was aware that it was stated that places had been given by Government upon the application of certain parties. I told him that if it was so I was ignorant of it; that I had no cognisance of it; but if it was stated upon oath before the Commission, I had no reason to doubt it. I can only say that, judging from the cheers with which the observations of the hon. Member for South Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) was greeted, no Member now in this House has been guilty of such a course of proceeding.
§ MR. JACOB BELL
said, upon several occasions during this unfortunate transaction he had been placed under a kind of restraint by the urgent desire of some of his friends that he should not take any part in these proceedings. The consequence was, that for about fifteen months he had had a kind of incubus hanging over him, and he had not had the slightest opportunity of making any remark in explanation of the facts 614 which had been brought forward against him. That course, which he had taken at the request of his friends, had been misinterpreted, and it had been supposed that he (Mr. Bell) was indifferent upon the subject, or that he was unable to say anything in his own behalf. On the present occasion he was about to utter a few words, when he was particularly requested, as he had been many times before, to sit down. He had so often regretted not having acted upon his own judgment in cases of that sort, that he was determined now to do so. He had admitted the expediency of his abstaining from addressing the House on the subject while a judicial inquiry was pending, and while a number of other persons besides himself, engaged in this unlucky transaction, were capable of being compromised by any observations he might make in defence of himself or the borough; but no such reasons now existed for withholding the explanation which he desired to make to the House. Before he said anything about the borough of St. Albans, he wished, in some degree at all events, to clear himself from the extreme severity of the accusations which had been pressed upon him, and from the imputation that it was with his eyes open he had plunged into this affair, and knowing all the circumstances of the case before him. It was very easy for Gentlemen, taking a retrospective view of a transaction, all the details of which had been mapped out before them, to point out what should have been avoided, and where the difficulties and dangers lay; but he had had no such advantage when he set out in the matter. He had discovered long ago that he bad committed one grave error, and that was in going down to St. Albans at all. He committed that error under a belief, which turned out to be entirely fallacious, that there would be no opposition to his return. Was there not ground for him to suppose that in going down he should not be opposed, seeing that the three parties in the borough had each, through its representatives, requested him to go down? In his ignorance of the borough, and of the politics of the people there, when he found all three parties saying they were willing to support him, surely it was not for him to suppose that any disputes about secondary matters would set any of these parties against him when he had got down amongst them. Having once embarked on the field, having pledged himself to go to 615 the poll, having canvassed the electors vigorously in order to secure a position as soon as possible, it was too late for him to retreat; there was no opportunity of retracing his steps, or of extricating himself from the dilemma in which he found himself. And when an opponent appeared in the field, when rumours arose respecting improper practices in the borough, although he saw no evidence of them, or of anything illegal going on, at the same time he had his suspicions; but then he had not conceived it to be his duty to ferret out all the details of the proceedings. He understood that it was not usual for candidates to dive into every act of every agent who might be employed, but that it was simply the business of the candidate to canvass the constituency, in order to secure his election; and this was the course which he took. He had since found himself to have been greatly deceived in various respects. For instance, there were electors who had questioned him and cross-questioned him for half an hour together, and when the electors so questioning him had gone away as his supporters, he had imagined that he had gained them by his arguments, whereas it had transpired in evidence that these parties had been corrupted beforehand, and had merely interrogated him and argued with him in order to keep him in the dark as to their proceedings. There was one particular consideration which had made him not a free agent, though he might have had strong suspicions that something improper was going on—that he was in the field and occupying a place that would otherwise have been occupied by another individual belonging to his party, the Liberal party; he felt that he was responsible for the principles on which he went down, and he could not, therefore, have withdrawn, even had he been so disposed. He might mention that when he spoke of going down to St. Albans on the principles of "a party," he was not alluding to the Government, for the report that he had gone down as the Government candidate had no foundation in fact, and it was right that he should take that opportunity of contradicting it. He fully exonerated the Government from any participation whatever in the transaction; and, in fact, it was the Government that had been pursuing him from the period of the election to the present time. Moreover, it was they who were bringing in a Bill to disfranchise the borough; and from that and every other circumstance, he exon- 616 erated them from having any participation whatever in his election. He had nothing further to say respecting himself in this matter; but with regard to the borough, he felt in a rather responsible and delicate position—first, as the representative of the borough; and, secondly, as having a cause to defend, for which it was impossible to offer a defence. But still, that being the case, he thought that the only course which he ought to pursue, was to point out the injustice of carrying to such an extreme a measure with reference to one single borough, when it had been proved before the Commission at St. Albans that the system was not confined to St. Albans, but prevailed in many other boroughs throughout the kingdom. The object of the Commission had been to investigate the system of corruption, and to take means for putting an end to it; and he must say that the Act of Parliament which had been passed for that purpose was the most sensible and efficacious measure which had ever been passed in reference to bribery and corruption; and he believed that if a similar Act were applied to every other borough in the kingdom, it would do more towards putting an end to those practices than any thing that had ever been done. He must say, however, if that House, instead of taking that general, fair, and consistent course, were to be content with making St. Albans the scapegoat, and grafting upon it the sins of every Member of that House, upon the supposition that by exterminating that one borough the House would be left perfectly pure, that such a course would be a complete delusion, and not only a delusion, but an injustice. A few days ago he had gone over the House of Correction, and he saw there about 150 prisoners. He knew at the same time there were 40,000 outside as bad as those who were in, but rather more cunning. Now, if those 40,000 were to hold a meeting, and to pass a resolution, that, for the sake of making themselves stand well with the public, and for the sake of proving themselves innocent of all that was corrupt, they should hang those 150 who happened to be in the prison, then, he conceived, that those 40,000 would be taking a course similar to that which the House was taking in disfranchising St. Albans, and leaving all the other boroughs of the kingdom as they were. He considered that under these circumstances, as representative of the borough, and being sure that unless he advocated its cause, other 617 people would not, it was quite proper that he should come forward and oppose the proposed Bill to the best of his ability; and he put it to the consciences of other hon. Members who knew what elections wore better than he, whether it were right to single out St. Albans in this manner? he was told that the extravagance which he had indulged in, was such as ought to have left no doubt upon his mind of the nature of the transactions that were going on. He begged to say, that at the time of the election he was not aware of the amount that was being expended; and even if he had, comparing it with the amounts which he constantly heard spoken of, there was nothing extraordinary in it. He had heard it said, "Here is an hon. Member who paid 60,000l. for his election," and "Here is another who paid 50,000l.," and another he had himself heard state that his election had cost him 40,000l., while they all knew that elections costing from 5,000l. to 10,000l. were as plentiful as blackberries. Now, he had had the excitement of an election, the luxury of a petition, and the further indulgence of a Commission, and the sum total of his expenses had not exceeded 4,300l. Under these circumstances, he thought it was unfair to taunt him with any extraordinary extravagance. Hon. Members who knew what elections were ought to know better than to be so exceedingly severe on St. Albans. It was true that the system did appear to be exceedingly corrupt when every detail was made clear; but how would it be, if the same principles were applied to cases where 50,000l. or 60,000l. had been expended? he was not desirous of making any personal remarks; but he thought it only fair, having been singled out in this way, in consequence of the inexperience of himself and the imprudence of those who had conducted his election (which constituted the chief distinction between himself and many other hon. Members), that he should represent the circumstances of the ease, and do all he could to place it in a fair position. It certainly appeared remarkably corrupt for a person to pay a sum of money for his election; but they found others, who instead of paying a sum down, spread it over seven years, and at the end of that time walked over the course and entered the House perfect patterns of purity. He wanted to know what difference there was between an hon. Gentleman putting down 2,000l. or 3,000l. in several sums, in a manner most conve- 618 nient to himself, and having it dragged out of him after an election all at once? Again, if an agent at an election treated an elector with a mutton chop and a glass of ale, he was liable to a penalty, and the Member might be unseated; but if a Member of Parliament, during the period of the Exhibition for instance, invited crowds of electors to his mansion to enjoy his hospitality, even in anticipation of an election, it was considered perfect purity and mere hospitality. A great number of instances of a similar kind might be brought forward in which appearances were avoided, although the principle was precisely the same.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
had been charged with corruption because he had exercised Christian charity towards a Christian people. He had been charged with giving away coals in the winter. He had done so, and he would do it again. But what was the situation of the Government? He talked of Greenwich. Had the Government had nothing to do with that election? Would the noble Lord at the head of the Government say that he had not sanctioned many acts which amounted to bribery, and that he had not unduly influenced boroughs and counties,—aye, and a city, too? The fact was, that the Government found fault with humble individuals for acts of charity, and if they would not vote for the noble Lord's party, they soon got a broad hint that they were not wanted. He was astonished that the Government, who needed reform themselves, should dare to make a victim of a small borough like St. Albans. He had never influenced a tenant of his own to give a vote, nor would he do so; but he would not be restrained from visiting the poor man in his cottage, and relieving his wants. It was unfair to visit poor parties in the manner proposed, when their superiors were tenfold more guilty.
§ Mr. CHISIIOLM ANSTEY
would remind the House that there were two Members for St. Albans sitting in the House. One sat upon the Government side, the other upon the Opposition side. The Member who sat upon the Government side of the House, who was the junior and the least experienced, had been heard that night at considerable length; but though the other Member had been frequently called upon, he had not as yet favoured them with his explanation upon the matter. Having heard the one Member, he thought that it was but fair his Colleague should state his views upon the subject. He took 619 this occasion to notice the disinterested exertions and munificence of Mr. Alderman Carden in this matter, to whom they were indebted for the disclosures which had forced the attention of Parliament to the wholesale system of corruption which had prevailed, not only in St. Albans, but in other boroughs throughout the country.
§ Mr. REPTON
said, that having been called upon by the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, he would trouble the House with a very few words. He would be very short and very brief. He regretted that he did not possess the power of carrying the House with him, evening after evening, as the hon. and learned Member for Youghal was so capable of doing. This House had last year appointed certain Commissioners to inquire into the conduct pursued at the St. Albans election. They pursued their inquiry—they made their Report. He bowed to that Report, which he thought a perfectly just one. With regard to himself he had no share in any such transactions when he was a candidate there in 1841. He stood a second time as a candidate for St. Albans at the last election in 1847. He went there with a firm desire to resist everything like bribery and corruption. He said that he would not advance any money for such improper purposes. He told his agent that he would sooner lose the election over and over again than lend himself to such practices. He went to the poll; but from what he saw on that day he felt convinced, by the manner in which the poll was carried, that bribery was in some shape or another resorted to. The Commissioners put the question to him; and he answered, unhesitatingly and frankly, that he believed bribery had been carried on. About ten days after the election a number of bills were brought to him to pay. Although his legal adviser told him that he was not bound to pay, he felt, upon the point of honour, that he was called upon to pay them, and he did so. He then declared, both publicly and privately, that he would never again be a candidate for St. Albans. He had been called upon by the House to make a statement. He had nothing more to say, except that, upon the word of a gentleman, what he had stated was the truth.
§ Mr. G. THOMPSON
wished to offer a few remarks with regard to what had been said relating to the Reform Club. He did not think they would be doing strict justice if they were to censure Mr. Coppock, 620 out of consideration for many other individuals, who had been for years engaged in practices precisely similar to those of which Mr. Coppock, by his own confession, had been guilty. Having been a member of the Reform Club for many years, and knowing a large number of those who were also members of it, he wished to say that a large proportion of the members of that association were totally unconnected with Mr. Coppock and his proceedings, and that the revelations made by Mr. Coppock at St. Albans were perfectly new to many members of that club. But, admitting that there was a party in it that owed much to the assistance of Mr. Coppock, he thought there could be no question that other political associations at that end of the metropolis were quite as much implicated in such proceedings as that political club. He had been informed, and he believed that it was not at all an unusual thing, for a gentleman in that House to confer with some other gentleman connected with a club immediately adjacent, on such transactions. He should like to call the attention of the House, as he had done before, to the fact that, since the last Reform Bill, there had been an absolute necessity to employ such persons as Mr. Coppock, with the view of obtaining seats for places in different parts of the kingdom. If there were any truth in the statement of Mr. Coppock, that, beginning with Andover and ending with Yarmouth, he could tell the price of the majority of the small boroughs, it was not fair to single out St. Albans, which had the misfortune to be discovered in such practices, and to inflict on that borough a condign punishment, when, if Commissioners were appointed, so many other boroughs would be found in a similar predicament. He was anxious to see the accomplishment of some scheme of reform which would render unnecessary the intervention of such gentlemen as Mr. Coppock. He asked Her Majesty's Government to introduce some such scheme, so that a seat in Parliament might be obtained without such practices as had been equally resorted to on both sides of the House.
§ Leave given.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir George Grey and Mr. Attorney General do prepare and bring in the said Bill."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished to say a few words upon this Motion, for the Government were affected by it. As far 621 as they had evidence upon the subject, this Mr. Coppock was in the immediate confidence of the Government. He was informed that the noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Hamilton), who had put a question to him, had not intended to imply that he (Mr. Roebuck) was at all implicated with Mr. Coppock, or that Mr. Coppock had dared to interfere with him, but merely that he was connected with a club of which Mr. Coppock also was a member; and upon that he had asked—"Have you, who are a purist, done anything, after the declaration that was made by Mr. Coppock, to get rid of him as a member of the Reform Club?" His answer to that question was, that in social life he was a member of the Reform Club. He went there once or perhaps twice a year; but of the internal working of that club, or of anything connected with it, beyond taking a chop at the table, he knew nothing; and he asked hon. Gentlemen present whether the appeal which had been made to him was a fair one? he knew nothing of what went on there; but he was now going to put Mr. Coppock to the test, and the Government also. Mr. Coppock said that he was employed by somebody. Mr. Edwards said that there was an insinuation of a Government employment to be given to his son. He wanted Mr. Coppock to be there [pointing to the bar of the House]. He had not had the satisfaction of examining Mr. Coppock. He should like to have that satisfaction if the House would grant it, for he did not believe in the purity of the Government. He believed that they were working a sham, and that they were making St. Albans a sort of scapegoat to be sent into the wilderness to take off the sins of the Administration. He wanted to know if the House would support him in bringing Mr. Coppock to that bar, in order that they might have a different sort of revelation from that which bad been elicited by the Commissioners, capital as that was; but still they might reap some advantage from it. He wished the House to support him in that Amendment; and he felt sure the Government would not oppose it, because, if they did, it might be insinuated that they knew themselves to be guilty, and he was sure that they would not allow such an insinuation to pass. He wished to bring Mr. Coppock to the bar, in order to learn from him what his communications with the Government were, and who it was that told him that he had the power to dispense the favours of Government. Mr. 622 Coppock would no doubt be able to enlighten them upon those points. Hon. Members were at present in the dark on the subject. Would they allow the House to go into a discussion upon this Bill in the dark? Would it not, besides, be an advantage, before proceeding with the Bill for the prevention of corruption, to have the secret springs of corruption laid bare?—to have the instruments of corruption before them to explain the whole system of wires by which bribery had been so long carried on in the borough of St. Albans. He was sure the Government would be the first to second his Motion for bringing Mr. Coppock to the bar to explain the proceedings with respect to St. Albans, in so far as his evidence had impugned the Government; for the Government, under that evidence, were actually impugned, for employing him as an agent of corruption. Let the House, then, have him at their bar, to explain to them whether the inference which had been drawn from his evidence was a correct one, and whether he had actually been employed by the Government.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Mr. Coppock be called to the Bar of this House" instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
, in seconding the Amendment, begged to say that in alluding to the corrupt practices of St. Albans, he had not had the slightest intention of imputing to the hon and learned Member for Sheffield any share in those transactions. But the hon. and learned Member was generally very free in the imputation of motives to hon. Members on that side of the House; and since the word "sham" had been used, he (Lord C. Hamilton) merely wished to ask the hon. and learned Member, whether as a private individual he had used his influence to remove from that society which was supposed to be the nucleus of liberal policy a person who was supposed to be an instrument of corruption. If the hon. and learned Member was as sincere as he (Lord C. Hamilton) was, in wishing to put down bribery and corruption—and he believed that the hon. and learned Member was perfectly sincere—he would persevere in using his best exertions to expose and put a stop to such practices as had been carried on at St. Albans.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that the course which had just been pursued by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) was the most extraordinary and unprecedented he ever remembered to have seen in that House. He (Sir G. Grey) had risen about an hour and a half ago, in pursuance of a notice given on the very first day of the Session, to move for leave to bring in a Bill for the disfranchisement of the borough of St. Albans. There was also on the paper a notice of an Amendment by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans), which, for the reasons which the House had heard, had not been pressed upon their consideration that evening. There was not the slightest hint that any other Amendment was likely to be moved, although the Report of the Commissioners, and the evidence which was taken before them, had been in the hands of Members for nearly two weeks. During the discussion which had taken place that evening, the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the noble Lord (Lord C. Hamilton), who had seconded his Amendment, had both, by the courtesy of the House, been permitted to make two distinct speeches; and yet neither of them had hinted in their speeches that they had any objection to make to the introduction of the Bill. It was only after the House had given leave to introduce the Bill, and upon the formal question which had been put from the chair, that the name of the Attorney General should be associated with his (Sir G. Grey) in bringing in the Bill, that the hon. and learned Gentleman, nettled at some observations that had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord C. Hamilton), rose to explain, and concluded by moving that Mr. Coppock be called to the bar, and that without reading one word of Mr. Coppock's evidence in support of his Motion—without, indeed, stating any grounds whatever for it, except his own belief, which he (Sir G. Grey) begged the House to receive with due caution, that Mr. Coppock had been employed as an agent of the Government in corrupting the electors of St. Albans. Now, speaking for himself, he (Sir G. Grey) could only express his firm belief that there was not the shadow of a foundation for the assumption of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He thought the House ought to pause before it called Mr. Coppock to the bar upon the mere suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, unfortified by any evidence which could support such a 624 Motion. With respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman's Motion, he would not prejudge the question as to what should be its fate, provided he brought it forward after due notice, and without taking the House by surprise with regard to it. He would only say that Mr. Coppock had already been examined under an Act of Parliament by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose. He (Sir G. Grey) had already stated that he had no reson to doubt the veracity of Mr. Coppock, more than of any other witness that had been examined before the Commission. The evidence of that gentleman was before the House; but if the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) thought that a further inquiry was necessary, and should, after due notice, state to the House his grounds for thinking so, the House would then be able to decide—not hastily, as the hon. and learned Gentleman now proposed, but after due deliberation, whether any further inquiry should take place. In the meantime, he hoped the House would agree to the formal Motion which had been submitted to them.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he was willing to withdraw his Motion for the present. He begged to give notice, however, that after the second reading of the Bill, and on the Motion that the Bill should be committed, he should move that Mr. Coppock be called to the bar. He withdrew the Motion now on the full understanding that when he brought it forward at the proper time there would be no opposition on the part of the Government to his Motion.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
would appeal to the House whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was using the Government fairly in insinuating, as he had just done, that he (Sir G. Grey) had given a pledge on the part of the Government that they would accede to his Motion before they had heard the grounds for it stated. He had given no such pledge.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
would appeal to the House whether it could assent to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member with a due regard to its own character, and acting in that deliberative manner to which, he thought, they were bound to adhere. What he had stated Was, that if any hon. Member should think there were sufficient grounds for hearing Mr. Coppock at the bar, the proper mode of proceeding would be to give notice of a Motion to that 625 effect, and then the House could decide whether that Motion should be granted. He asked if it was fair in the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield to insinuate that he (Sir G. Grey) had pledged the Government to accede to such a Motion before he knew the grounds on which it was made.
§ MR. HAYTER
said, that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) had thrown out gentle insinuations that the Government had acted corruptly in making promises, or that some Government had made some promises; but those allegations wore of too general a nature to allow him to give them what he then proposed to give them, an unqualified denial. He could only deny, so far as he was concerned, that there was any ground for any such insinuations. But the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield became more specific in his charges, and stated that Mr. Coppock was a dispenser of the places of the Government. But where in the evidence did hon. Gentlemen find anything to warrant such an assertion? So far as he (Mr. Hayter) knew, Mr. Coppock had no connexion with the Government with respect to St. Albans, except that he had happened to be present when the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. J. Bell) had shown him (Mr. Hayter) his address. That was all that he had had to do with him directly or indirectly. He thought the address was; such a one as was consistent with the views of the hon. Member. Mr. Coppock had never in his life asked him (Mr. Hayter) a favour. It was also insinuated that some promises had been made by Mr. Coppock to Mr. Edwards, who relied on them; but he (Mr. Hayter) begged to deny in the most explicit manner, as far as he was concerned, that any promise or expectation had ever been held out by the Government with respect to the election at St. Albans.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I rise to suggest to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that he should avail himself of the proper opportunity, if the present is not considered a fair one by the Government, for pressing his Motion, which I think is a very proper Motion. I also wish to make one observation upon the charge made by the right hon. Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hayter) against my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner). The right hon. Gentleman says that my hon. Friend insinuated a charge against the Government. Now my hon. Friend merely read evidence. 626 He did not state his own opinion. He simply read a portion of the evidence from the blue hook of the admission on the part of Mr. Coppock that he had got places for his friends. That was the only statement made by my hon. Friend. It was a statement, not a charge. It was quite unnecessary for my hon. Friend to make a charge on such a subject. But, Sir, perhaps I may be permitted to recall the attention of the House to a certain document upon the table, of a very interesting character, and peculiarly apposite to the subject now before us. And here I may say that I am not one of those liable to the imputation of the right hon. Secretary of State, namely, that I came prepared for this discussion, as I was totally unaware that it was on the paper. What I wish to do is to call attention to a passage in the Report of the Commissioners appointed by a Tory Government to inquire into the existence of bribery at Sudbury, with reference to the election which took place at the general election of 1841, when the late Mr. Dyce Sombre was returned, although he never took his seat in this House. [An Hon. MEMBER: Oh, yes, he did.] I mean that he was unseated on petition. But I find this passage in the Report of the Commissioners appointed to make the inquiry in 1843. [The hon. Member then read an extract from the Report, to the effect that the Commissioners in the course of their inquiry found that Mr. Dyce Sombre borrowed a sum of 3,000l., which was placed by the bankers, Messrs. Coutts, to a separate account; that this sum was immediately drawn out by cheque payable to bearer, and that Bernard was the name of the bearer. The money was paid in three 1,000l. notes, two of which were cashed in gold on the same day. The person was required to write his name upon the back, and the name given was "Samuel Moore and Company, King William Street." Samuel Moore said that the signature was not his, and was consequently a forgery. Bernard, the party who signed his name, was at the time in question a clerk in the office of Mr. Coppock, but had since been appointed to a clerkship in the Custom House.] So it appears by this Report that the late clerk in Mr. Coppock's office was the person who received the 3,000l., who committed the forgery by signing the name of Moore and Company, and who ceased to be a clerk in Mr. Coppock's office to become a clerk in the Custom House. I 627 think this passage is extremely illustrative of the occurrences that may be brought before us. It seems to me to prove that the system was going on so far back as the election of 1841, and to afford an additional reason why the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield should be supported by the House. Whether notice is given or not, I think, after what has transpired to-night, it will not be in the power of any Minister to prevent that Motion being carried.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he would withdraw his Amendment, and should move on the second reading of the Bill, that Mr. Coppock be called to the Bar of the House.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered—"That Sir George Grey and Mr. Attorney General do prepare and bring in the said Bill."