HC Deb 22 April 1853 vol 126 cc369-71

said, he would now beg to nominate the Select Committee on Dockyard Appointments: namely, Sir Benjamin Hall, Lord Seymour, Lord Hotham, Sir Henry Ferguson Davie, and Mr. Beckett.


said, he must protest that the course taken by the House in this matter was extremely unfair, and calculated to establish a most mischievous precedent. The whole case stated by the hon. Member for Marylebone had been sifted by a Committee of that House already, as it related to his hon. Friend, the late Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Stafford), whose public character and whose private honour had been so grossly impugned by the Times newspaper, on the evidence given before the Committee appointed to try the Chatham Election Petition, which evidence that Committee had subsequently denounced as perjured. Both the noble Lord opposite and the First Lord of the Admiralty had completely exculpated his hon. Friend from the imputations which had been so shamefully cast upon him in the Times, so far as his honour was assailed. Yet, notwithstanding that vindication, and after the House had agreed to the appointment of this second Committee, the Times had ventured to publish another article, as grossly as before impugning the character and the personal honour of his hon. Friend. Thus, in the first instance, the Times had attempted to dictate to a tribunal appointed by that House, and sworn to decide according to the evidence adduced before them; and now, again, that journal sought to prejudge the case, even before the nomination of the Committee which it was proposed then to nominate for the purpose of further inquiry. He had felt it to be his duty to call the attention of the House to this conduct on the part of the Times, because, while he desired not to ignore the power of the public press, when properly exercised, he wished to note that conduct as a flagrant abuse of the privileges of the press. As to the Committee, the nomination of which was now proposed, he must remark, that here was a case which had been already tried by a tribunal duly appointed by the House, which had taken evidence on oath. Much of that evidence, so taken, the Committee had denounced as of the worst character, yet now the House had appointed another Committee, before which the same evidence would be received, and before which the calumnies against his hon. Friend, who, before the previous Committee had been checked by the fear of the consequences of perjury, would be renewed and exaggerated, the fear of perjury being removed by the absence of power on the part of this second Committee to examine upon oath. A feeling of delicacy, of false delicacy, on the part of the late Government, and a similar feeling on the part of the present Government, had prevented them, though satisfied that the imputations against his hon. Friend were unfounded, from courageously objecting to the appointment of this second Committee; and thus a tissue of calumnies would, without fear of consequences, be brought before that Committee, by witnesses not worthy of credence, against his hon. Friend, and find their way to the records of that House. He feared there was no remedy for the evil now, if the House would not reconsider its determination to appoint this Committee; but, as an independent Member of the House, and as a Member of the Chatham Election Committee, he felt it to be his duty to declare his opinion of the injustice of this proceeding.


begged to say that, so far from regretting the appointment of this Committee, he rejoiced at it, and he should go before the Committee, constituted as the hon. Baronet proposed, with the most entire confidence that he should fully absolve himself upon the charges that had been made against him.

The Committee was then appointed with power to send for persons, papers and records.

The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock till Monday next.