§ MR. KEOGH
Mr. Speaker, in rising to make the statement of which I have given notice, I am sure I shall not ask in vain for the indulgent attention of both sides of the House, whilst I endeavour to defend myself against charges impeaching my veracity, and derogatory to my personal honour: and I have that confidence, because I have always observed that, no matter what may be our individual and party conflicts, this House receives fairly, kindly, and with a generous disposition, any explanations which any of its Members may be driven to make in vindication of his character. I am not indeed, Sir, without a conviction that discussions of this nature are irksome and tedious, and disagreeable to the House. I am not without a conviction—to me a most unpleasant one—that altercations of a personal nature have too often arisen between the representatives of Ireland. But this I wish to remind both sides of the House—and I hope justice will be done to me in regard to this, at least— that in this case I am not the aggressor— that I have not sought or originated this cause of quarrel—that it has been put upon me under circumstances which I do think that every Member of this House, when they are fully explained, will believe are inconsistent with that fair play and just consideration which is conceded to every political opponent, and which I have never known to be denied by any generous man to an absent individual. Sir, it will be in the recollection of hon. Members that upon Friday last, in another place (the House of Lords), a discussion occurred in 258 which my name was brought much in question. To that discussion, and to the apparent object of that discussion, it is not now my intention to allude, further than may be necessary as an introduction to the issue raised between me and the noble Lord the Member for Coleraine (Lord Naas). For the discussion upon that occasion I came to this House perfectly unprepared by any notice from any person whatsoever. No previous intimation was given to any of my friends, in order that any defence which I had might be offered on my behalf. It came with perfect surprise upon me, when, at a quarter past five o'clock in the afternoon, I met my hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) in the lobby, who then for the first time intimated to me that my name was to be mentioned. Sir, that discussion has taken place, and as I perceive it is to be renewed in a formal manner before the highest tribunal, it is not necessary for me now to follow the example of the persons who assailed me. I shall not prejudge their inquiry, although I think I have fair grounds for concluding that they wished to prejudge my character. That discussion originated with a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Westmeath), to whom I only now allude for the purpose of entirely passing him by. He was followed by a noble Earl late at the head of Her Majesty's Government, who in the course of his speech thought proper to say that he considered my appointment to the office which I now hold as a most unfortunate one. Now, I at once say that, however painful it may be to my feelings to have heard that observation made by so distinguished a person, yet I do not conceive that there is anything in his criticism which I should be entitled to challenge, as I am now about to challenge an observation of another noble personage. The noble Earl to whom I have referred was followed by another noble, and, as I have always heard, a very chivalrous, Earl (the Earl of Eglinton); and he was pleased to say that he considered that my appointment was the least reputable which had been made by the present Government. Now, I scarcely think that the expression to which I have alluded is justified by any circumstance which the noble Earl can mention in deterioration of my character. I do not think that there is any rank or station so exalted as to justify any person in pronouncing such an opinion upon statements conveyed at second hand, after a 259 long period of time—at least twelve months —conveyed, too, by persons whose names are not mentioned, and especially without the knowledge of the person who is most interested in the inquiry. I do not think that such a course is justifiable, either in this or in any other House, at least without some inquiry, or without some opportunity being given for the person so accused to explain his conduct. But so it pleased that noble Earl to pronounce upon my appointment. I was then at the bar of the House of Lords. I heard the words used. I immediately communicated with a noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle), who was kind and generous enough to undertake my defence. I thought that the remarks ought not to have proceeded from any one; and I confess I was indeed surprised when these observations wese uttered by the noble Earl (the Earl of Eglinton) who had held the office of Viceroy of Ireland; when I knew—when many knew, as I shall prove, before I sit down, upon incontrovertible evidence—that the noble Lord who now sits opposite to me, and who then held the office of Chief Secretary to that Lord Lieutenant (Lord Naas) had sought me with eagerness immediately upon the formation of the Government to which he belonged—had pursued me from street to street, from house to house—had inquired after me, not of one or two, but of friend after friend of mine, in eager haste, in order that the communication which I shall presently mention might be made to me by that noble Lord. I thought, Sir, it was likely that some of those circumstances must have reached the ear of the noble Earl who was the Viceroy of Ireland; I thought it likely that these things could not have been done without the knowledge of the noble Earl the late First Minister of the Crown; and I authorised and asked the noble Duke to state the fact to the House —the fact upon which I now rely, the fact upon which the noble Lord (Lord Naas) has joined issue with me—that when he was already named as Chief Secretary for Ireland —that on the day when it was uncertain, as he himself has stated (though possibly there may be some doubt on the subject), whether or not he would accept the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, the noble Lord sought an interview with me, and at that interview asked me if I would accept office under Lord Derby. Now, the statement which I then made is the same which I now make—is that which the noble Duke in another place made upon my behalf—is 260 that which I have put upon the face of the letter which upon that evening, without any time for deliberation or equivocation, I wrote to the noble Lord opposite from this House. The statement is, that the noble Lord, having sought an interview with me, under circumstances which I shall presently detail, did at that interview ask me if I would accept office under Lord Derby. Now, I admit that a question depending upon the recollection of two individuals, was rather a perilous issue for any one man to take with any other. I confided, however, to the noble Lord's honour, and trusted to the accuracy of his memory. Now, what are the circumstances which it is necessary for me to mention before I proceed to read the documents in this case? In the first place, it will be in the recollection of the House that the formation of Lord Derby's Government, until all the appointments were completed, occupied, I think, some nine or ten days. It was late in those days that the noble Lord was named for the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland. I had been for some time a constant attendant on the House, and was not indisposed to enjoy the cessation of business which then took place, and, not having the remotest idea that I could be in any way concerned in the formation of Lord Derby's Government, I took no interest in the subject, and went some short distance from town. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. F. Scully) is in the House, and has, I believe, lately communicated with the noble Lord. The noble Lord met him at that time, and was very anxious in his inquiries for me. He asked my hon. Friend to take him to my private residence. He did not find me there. He went thence to the Reform Club, of which I was not a member at the time. The noble Lord inquired at the Reform Club for me—I do not know whether that has escaped the memory of the noble Lord? The noble Lord is silent. [Lord NAAS: No!] Well, he dissents, and I must try if I can refresh the memory of the noble Lord and satisfy the House upon the subject. The noble Lord went to the Reform Club, and having been informed that I was not a member of the club, he inquired for some friends of mine, and being informed that one of them was in the House, he waited in that great hall which, when Ministries are changing, is a sort of political encampment. I need scarcely say that the noble Lord's presence there excited no small surprise. I do not suppose that I am stating any very grave 261 charge against the Members who surround me when I say that they exhibited a justifiable, a natural, curiosity to ascertain what his business was. In fact, the noble Lord was the observed of all observers—"the cynosure of neighbouring eyes"— and it became perfectly well known that his object in having recourse to that club was to ascertain where I was to be found, and to see me upon the mission on which he was then engaged. That the noble Lord went there and made that inquiry, there can be no doubt. I did not know it at the time, but I have since inquired with respect to it. I have appealed to the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) as to his recollection of the transaction, and he has written me a note which, with his permission, I shall now read. He says—My dear Keogh—You wish to know whether I can remember the circumstance of Lord Naas calling at the Reform Club and making inquiries respecting your residence, at that particular period of last year when Lord Derby was forming his Administration. I have a distinct recollection of meeting Lord Naas in the Reform Club during that period. The fact of his visit to the Reform Club was the more impressed on my mind from the peculiar position of parties at that moment, especially as it was shortly afterwards commonly reported that you had been asked if you were willing to accept office under Lord Derby's Government. This impression was subsequently confirmed by your stating to me that Lord Naas had expressly asked if you were disposed to take office under the new Administration of Lord Derby. —I am, very truly yours, "R. B. OSBORNE.June 15, 1853.I think, that, after that letter, even the noble Lord's memory can hardly fail to advise him, that in those days he was a visitor of the Reform Club. Well, he was not successful in finding me there. Certainly, I think I am justified in concluding that he must have been extremely anxious to meet me, because immediately afterwards he paid two visits to a club to which I did belong. But as the circumstances which occurred there and afterwards are mentioned in the letter I addressed to the noble Lord, I shall now take the liberty of reading that letter. It will be in the recollection of hon. Members that the noble Earl late at the head of Her Majesty's Government stated distinctly that he had heard this rumour before—but that it was put about by friends of mine upon my appointment to the office which I hold under the present Administration—and that he had directed all his friends to contradict it in every quarter. It was certainly a curious circumstance, that, immediately after making that declaration, the noble Earl the late Lord Lieu- 262 tenant of Ireland, who sat beside him, rose and stated that he had then, for the first time, heard that rumour, and, consequently, had never heard the contradiction. Well, I think it is now clear enough that the rumour was abroad, not for the first time after my acceptance of office under the present, but, as my hon. Friend's letter proves, immediately upon the formation of the late Administration. However, upon hearing the statement of those noble Earls, I left the bar of the House of Lords; I instantly came here; and without any hesitation whatever—without any communication, or taking time to deliberate with other persons—I addressed to the noble Lord the letter which I shall now read:—Reform Club, Friday Evening.Dear Lord Naas—I have just returned from the bar of the House of Lords, where I heard Lord Eglinton state that he considered my nomination to the office I now hold the least reputable of those made by the present Government. Upon hearing this, I at once communicated with the Duke of Newcastle, and authorised him to state that immediately upon the change of Government in the year 1852, and before the Ministerial arrangements of Lord Derby had been completed, I was asked by your Lordship whether I would accept office under Lord Derby's Government; a question which I had answered in the negative. The Duke of Newcastle stated this to their Lordships, and, thereupon, Lord Derby, in the most explicit manner, denied that he had ever authorised any such proceeding; and I, therefore, at once address you upon the subject. It will be in your recollection, that, shortly after Lord Derby had undertaken the formation of his Ministry, you called at my club at least twice on the one day, leaving on each occasion your card, and subsequently a note, requesting to see me at your house upon the following morning. I called, but did not see you, as you afterwards informed me by some mistake on the part of your servant, and you again wrote requesting that I should call upon you. I did so, and after some conversation of no importance, you stated that you had been directed to ask me whether I would accept office under Lord Derby. I jestingly asked you if you intended to make me Chancellor of the Exchequer, President of the Board of Control, or some such office? You replied that you had asked me a serious question, and expected a serious answer. I reminded you that you had not stated by whose authority you put the question; and you replied at Major Beresford's desire, adding, that he was in communication with Lord Derby. I then told you that it was impossible for me to join Lord Derby's Government. Major Beresford having subsequently spoken to me in a deprecating tone of the opposition I thought it my duty to give to Lord Derby's Government in the House of Commons, reminded me, when I expressed my surprise at his remonstrance, that I had been asked to take office by you, and that he felt my hostility the more as he was the person who had spoken with Lord Derby in reference to my name. With the distinct recollection of these facts on my mind, I need scarcely say how much Lord Derby's decla- 263 ration surprised me; and I have, therefore, to request that your Lordship, as a matter of justice to me, will, in reply, state that the narrative I have given of my interview with you is substantially correct. Our friend Mr. Anthony O'Flaherty was aware of your calling upon me at my club; I showed him your notes as I received them, and within half an hour after the interview communicated to him the details of our conversation. I have now read to him this letter, and he perfectly concurs with me as to the accuracy of my recollection.—I remain, dear Lord Naas, yours faithfully, "WILLIAM KEOGH.I think, Sir, whatever else that letter does, the last sentence of it, which I have read in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr, A. O'Flaherty), completely disposes of the issue which was raised by the noble Earl in another place—that this rumour was for the first time circulated after my appointment to the office which I now hold. Well, I sent that letter to tie noble Lord on Friday evening. I had no reason to think that the noble Lord was out of town. I had seen him very near town on the previous day. I waited all Saturday; and, towards evening, receiving no reply, I inquired if the noble Lord had arrived at his club, and was informed that he had not, hut that he was expected, I inquired again on Sunday; there was no answer. On Monday, being very anxious that this matter should be decided here— [Lord NAAS: Hear!] — the noble Lord cheers. Has the noble Lord been desirous that the whole of this inquiry should come before this House, the proper tribunal to decide upon it? Has he been of that opinion from the commencement? Was he of that opinion yesterday? Was he of that opinion to-day? Was he so half an hour ago? The noble Lord is silent, and he knows the reason why. On Monday I wrote another letter to the noble Lord, in these words:—Reform Club, Monday.Dear Lord Naas—I addressed a letter to you on Friday evening to the Carlton, and on inquiry on Saturday and yesterday, was informed that you had not been in town. I called this day at your house, and was told that you are still absent. May I beg the favour of a reply as soon as possible after your arrival?—Dear Lord Naas, truly yours, "WILLIAM KEOGH.Now, I quite admit—I am sure—the noble Lord was out of town on Saturday, I am certain that he was out of town on Sunday; but he arrived in town on Monday. He had this letter before he came to this House, because he asked, significantly enough, a friend of mine in this House whether this question was likely to be 264 brought before the House of Commons. The noble Lord was in the division on that evening. He had my two letters: and, if, to the first he did not think it was necessary there should be an immediate reply, he had my second letter, pressing for an answer. And yet I had to wait until two o'clock the following day before the noble Lord and a gallant Friend of his entered the scene of his former visits, the Reform Club, and left the letter which I shall presently read to the House. I do not wish to deprive the noble Lord of any value which he may attach to the reading of his letter immediately after those which I have read. I will read the noble Lord's letter word for word; it shall be read with all the emphasis I can command. The part that appears to give the most direct negative to what I have asserted, is that upon which I most rely, because something tells me that although the noble Lord was of that mind at two o'clock upon Tuesday last, he has since seen reason to think very differently, and to recollect very differently to what he did when he wrote this letter—as we shall see, I venture to say, before he sits down, after he rises to speak in reply to me. This is the noble Lord's letter:—4, Grosvenor-place, Tuesday.Dear Sir—I only received your note last night on my return to town, after an absence of some days. I distinctly deny that, either directly or in directly, I made an offer of office to yourself or to any of your friends, or that I had, or that I assumed I had, authority from any one so to do. As to the interview which took place between us about the period to which you refer, my recollection of it so essentially differs from the version given by yourself, that I cannot admit its accuracy, or the deductions you seem to have drawn from it.—Truly yours, "NAAS.Well, now, I say that no language can be more positive, more precise, more comprehensive, than the noble Lord's denial. But does the noble Lord mean by that denial merely to deny that he made me an offer of office, or does the noble Lord mean to deny what I have asserted—that he asked me if I would accept office under Lord Derby's Government? If the noble Lord means to deny only the actual offer of office, but not the only thing which I asserted, namely, that he asked me—he being then nominated as Chief Secretary for Ireland —whether I would accept office under Lord Derby's Government, then what means the noble Lord by the words "directly or indirectly?" If the letter ran thus, "I distinctly deny," leaving out the words 265 "directly or indirectly," "that I ever made you an offer of office," then, unquestionably, that might not be a denial of my assertion. The question, I say, was put to me by the noble Lord, "would I accept office?" But he says that neither "directly nor indirectly" did he make me an offer of office. Therefore, I suppose I am to assume that the noble Lord did not put to me the question which I stated in my letter. Now, upon that subject I have no object except to vindicate my own honour, and to maintain my own veracity. It has been impeached in most sweeping terms by the noble Earl at the head of the Government to which the noble Lord belonged, because here are the words of the noble Earl: "He had heard the rumour for the first time after the appointment of Mr. Keogh had called forth a great deal of observation in Ireland, and was loudly condemned." Now, I will not pause upon that remark, except to say, that as the organs of public opinion are sometimes referred to, I might remind the noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas), that those journals with which he is supposed to have the most community of feeling, and which, not in Ireland but in this country, were known to express the wishes of the noble Lord's Government when in power, so far from condemning the ruoured appointment, rather selected it for approbation. But, the noble Earl goes on to say—I heard it had been put about by Mr. Keogli's friends that a certain offer had been made, and I lost no time in authorising every person who might hear that to state upon my authority that I did not know, nor have I ever authorised, nor did I then believe, nor do I now believe, that any such offer, proposition, suggestion, or hint was ever made to Mr. Keogh by any person.Now, the noble Earl holds the very highest position in this country. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Naas) holds in rank a position to which I, in my humble and inferior station, cannot venture to aspire. Of course it would be most improper in me to question the veracity either of the noble Earl or of the noble Lord; but let me ask the noble Lord (Lord Naas), who now sits opposite to me, who now hears my words, and shall presently hear the other evidence which I shall lay before the House—has the noble Earl been labouring under a misapprehension or not when he says that no offer, proposition, suggestion, or hint, as to the acceptance of office, was conveyed to me by any Member of his Administration? Well, I will turn to the letter 266 of the noble Lord. What is the meaning of that portion of it where he denies that he ever made me any offer of office? I never asserted that he did. ["Oh, oh!"] I trust that if any hon. Member is of opinion that I did, he will rise in his place and state when and where I made such an assertion. I am not now an absent man. I can, I hope—no doubt, with very inferior ability, but still with good heart and purpose—defend myself. I state distinctly, and I have in my hand, "in this House, a body of evidence which cannot be controverted, to show that I never stated that the noble Lord offered me office: but I always stated, not alone since my appointment to office by the present Government, but as I did within half an hour after I had the conversation with the noble Lord to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Middlesex (Mr. Osborne), eo instanti to the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. O'Flaherty), that the noble Lord had asked me if I would accept office under Lord Derby. I do not want to state anything in this case except what I have evidence for. I wish the noble Lord to have every advantage in his favour that he may; and then, when the whole case comes to be considered, I will confidently await the opinion of the House, and of that honest British public who will not be turned from facts by any prevarication. The noble Lord wrote a short letter; mine was not a very long one, but it stated facts. Does the noble Lord, in passing by my statement that he had sought me twice at a club, mean to deny or to assent to that statement? Does the noble Lord, when I asserted that he had written me two notes on two consecutive days, and when he passes over that statement, mean to imply that he admits it, that he denies it, or that he has forgotten it? I do not know. He has any one of three alternatives; but he has left me perfectly in the dark, up to this time, as to which he intends to adopt. I do not yet know whether he admits, denies, or forgets. When he passes over that portion of my letter where I stated that I bad jestingly said, "Do you mean to make me Chancellor of the Exchequer, or President of the Board of Control?" and that he replied, "I have put a serious question, and I expect a serious answer"—does he mean to admit it, to deny it, or to forget it? Does the noble Lord, when I mentioned and reminded him that he had told me that he put the question to me, and made the offer, by direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Essex (Mr. W. 267 Beresford)—does he mean by passing it over in his reply to admit it, to deny it, or to forget it? Finally, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Essex, whether he has forgotten the day, when, taking me from outside the door—the door of the House, into the window of that division lobby, at a morning sitting, he, in a whining tone —I do not use the word disrespectfully, but because it is the one which best characterises what occurred at the time—he, I say, whiningly complained of the attacks which I was making upon Lord Derby's Government. I stated to him that I had a perfect right to take what course I thought proper. I expressed myself surprised at the remonstrance of the right hon. Gentleman; and he replied, "Of course you have; but really we expected better things from you, seeing that Lord Naas asked you to take office." Now, I want to know —does the noble Lord when I remind him that he stated he had the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Essex to put to me that question—does he by passing that, too, over in his reply, mean to deny that he had mentioned the right hon. Gentleman's name? Does he mean to convey to me that he was entirely ignorant, either by knowledge obtained at the time, or subsequently acquired after the receipt of my letter, that the conversation with the right hon. Gentleman to which I have alluded had taken place? But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Beres-ford), I am sure, has a memory that is accurate enough for my purpose; and lest I should be mistaken in that supposition I would wish to remind him that there was a Member of this House, an hon. Friend of mine, the Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Serjeant Murphy), who was very close to both me and the right hon. Gentleman when that conversation or remonstrance took place. The hon. and learned Serjeant the Member for Cork is now in the House. He saw the right hon. Gentleman and me in conversation—he heard the tones of the right hon. Gentleman—he thought that something very odd was going on. He at once asked me what the right hon. Gentleman had been conversing about. Mind, this was not since my appointment to office under the present Government; it was not, as the noble Earl late at the head of Her Majesty's Government would insinuate, got up for the occasion; it was not, it could not have been prepared for the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentle- 268 man; for when the circumstance took place; and, the conversation occurred, the noble Earl and the right hon. Gentleman were both in office—before the last dissolution of Parliament. And that conversation was repeated by me eo instanti to my hon. and learned Friend: the hon. and learned Gentleman asked what the right hon. Gentleman was talking or remonstrating about. I said, "Curiously enough he has been 'rowing' me for my attacks on the Chancellor of the Ex-quer,"—attacks which, by the way, I am sure he never regarded in the least—"and he has assigned as a reason why I should not do so, the question which was put to me by Lord Naas as to whether I would accept office under Lord Derby's Government." Now, when I call the attention of the noble Lord the Member for Coleraine to that curiously corroborative conversation with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Beresford), I wish to ask him, does he mean, with respect to the statement I have made, to admit it, to deny it, or to forget it? The noble Lord will explain. I now come to another part of the noble Lord's letter, as to the interview which took place between us. He says—I distinctly deny that either directly or indirectly I made an offer of office to yourself or any of your friends, or that I had, or that I assumed I had, authority from any one so to do. As to the interview which took place between us about the period to which you refer, my recollection of it so essentially differs from the version given by yourself, that I cannot admit its accuracy, or the deductions you seem to have drawn from it.Now, I want to know, had the noble Lord then made up his mind when he wrote this letter? If he had, has anything taken place since to alter his recollection? Has he not in fact entirely altered his mind as to that conversation? The noble Lord has. He knows he has; and what is of vital importance to me, he knows that I know he has. I now beg the noble Lord's attention to the words I am about reading from a paper which I have before me. The noble Lord will understand me. When, first— since the noble Lord wrote that letter, which is very laconic, and very Unequivocal—did he make up his mind "that he had a conversation with me, in which phrases were used that, under the circumstances, might have induced any hon. Gentleman to suppose that if office would be accepted, it would be offered?" I want to know; is that now the impression upon the mind of the noble Lord? I ask the noble Lord to inform the House—no matter what he wrote on Tuesday at two o'clock—no 269 matter what he wrote before I came down to this House, at the very earliest moment before the noble Lord's denial was asserted in another place—no matter what he wrote, is he now of opinion that at that interview "he did use phrases which under the circumstances might have induced 'the hon. Gentleman' to suppose that if the hon. Gentleman would accept office it would be offered to him?" If the noble Lord likes, I will write down the words. I see be is taking notes. Mayhap he has already a copy of the words I am reading? Is the noble Lord now certain that he was anxious for this statement to the House? I am defending myself. I only want to sustain my own veracity and my personal honour. They have been grossly assailed — they have been assailed with no equal odds. In my humble position I have been assailed in another place with the whole weight, power, influence, rank, and station of the late Government in that place. I have not been asked if I could explain anything that has been alleged against me. I have not experienced the common courtesy of receiving ordinary notice. I had not this justice conceded to me, though the noble Lord, when communicated with, might have said—he must now say—that what I stated was, at all events, substantially the truth; but the noble Earl determined, at any risk, to have me down. "I did not believe," said the noble Earl, "and I do not believe, that any suggestion, proposition, offer, or hint, was made by any person on my behalf, or acting for the Government, of office to the hon. and learned Gentleman." I now ask the noble Lord the Member for Coleraine, is that true? I come to another branch of the case, and I think that it alone—if all I have stated were out of the case — would place the noble Lord in no very enviable position. The noble Lord held communications with other persons besides me; and I am now going to mention the name of a friend of the noble Lord—an early friend of his, not now known for the first time, or since the noble Lord came into Parliament—a gentleman to whose honour, veracity, and high character I would have no hesitation in asking the noble Lord to speak—and that gentleman recollects distinctly that during the last summer he had a conversation With the noble Lord, who was loud in his complaints of my conduct in Parliament. The gentleman I refer to is the brother of my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. O'Flaherty), and an inti- 270 mate friend of the noble Lord. That gentleman was a candidate at the last election for the borough of Dungarvan; he left this country at the dissolution of Parliament, and happened to travel in the same train with the noble Lord — they went across the Channel in the same packet, and went up to Dublin in the same carriage —and the noble Lord was there pleased to direct his observations to so humble a person as I am. Mr. O'Flaherty mentioned the circumstance at the time to me. I appealed to him, when I received the noble Lord's letter of denial, to give as accurately as he could the substance of that conversation, and it is at right angles with the letter of the noble Lord. I will read it to the House; and though I had been treated in a very different manner, my friend who wrote it thought that it was right and proper that the noble Lord should have the earliest intimation of the existence of this letter; and be accordingly wrote to him to state that nothing was further from his intention than to say or do anything that was disagreeable to the noble Lord, but that he felt bound as a matter of justice to give me the benefit of his testimony: here, or elsewhere, if my character was impugned. I will now read the letter of Mr. O'Flaherty. It is addressed to me:—37, Jermyn-street, June 15, 1853.My dear Keogh—I-have a perfect recollection of the conversation between me and Lord Naas, to which you refer as having been communicated to you shortly after its occurrence. It took place during a journey to Ireland last summer, when we were both going over to our, respective elections, lie spoke in terms of much disappointment and regret at, what he considered your ungrateful conduct in making an attack a few evenings previous in the House on Mr. Disraeli, as they had deserved a kinder consideration from you after the feeling evinced in his having sent for you and asked you whether you would take office under the Government of Lord Derby.I wrote to my friend (Mr. O'Flaherty), begging of him to be precise and accurate in his recollection of the interview, and I again say that, however the noble Lord may be disposed to explain the matter to the House, I do not think he will be disposed to throw any doubt on the honour and veracity of that gentleman: —Lord Naas never mentioned to, me whether or not he made this offer by direction of any other person, but he dwelt much on Mr. Disraeli's kind feeling towards you, and said that the step he had taken entitled them at least to have asked for a more generous forbearance.I thought he desired his remarks to be conveyed to you, and I mentioned them when I saw 271 you. I have written to Lord Naas, apprising him of my having given you this letter; but I trust, unless absolutely necessary, you will not bring my name in question, as, independent of other feelings, I should be very sorry personally to take any course disagreeable to him.—I remain, very faithfully, "EDMUND O'FLAHERTY.Now, will the noble Lord be good enough to explain to the House how comes it to pass that he informed this gentleman, previous to the last general election, that he had expected a generous consideration from me, in consequence of his having sent for me to ask me if I would accept office? How does he reconcile that statement with this one, which is contained in his letter of Tuesday last: —"I distinctly deny that I ever, directly or indirectly, made an offer of office to yourself or to any of your friends." Though the noble Lord addresses me in these very curt terms, and does not think proper to go into any explanation with me as to the contents of my letter, I am sure my letter was not framed in a hostile spirit. I merely asked him to do an act of justice, which I fully expected. I recollected the circumstances under which my first acquaintance with the noble Lord grew up. He and I entered the House together, and sat for six years together on the Opposition benches. The noble Lord entered the House under the auspices, to use no stronger phrase, of the friends of that great statesman to whom the party which the noble Lord subsequently adopted acted in opposition. In conjunction for a short time with the noble Lord, I gave my support to the commercial policy of that eminent man. From the first, and until the end, I continued to give that policy my support, though not in company with the noble Lord. Yet I was frequently in this House thrown into personal communication with the noble Lord, and there were other subjects of conversation between us, which I may bring to the noble Lord's mind as having been discussed between us at the interview in question. At that time the noble Lord was in a difficulty: the noble Lord had been offered —and an hon. and learned Friend of mine who sits at the opposite side of the House, and is a political supporter of the noble Lord (Mr. I. Butt), has had the candour to say that he is ready to rise in his place to confirm this statement—on the day he sought, or rather obtained, an interview with me, he had been offered the Secretaryship for Ireland, but had not yet accepted it. I asked the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. I. Butt) did he 272 recollect that I came on that day out of the house of the noble Lord?—for when I received this letter I was prepared for any description of denial. I asked the hon. and learned Member for Youghal, did he recollect meeting me, as on that day I came out of the noble Lord's house? At the same time I told my hon. and learned Friend, as he was a political supporter of the noble Lord, great as the importance of that disclosure might be, I would waive the advantage of it; but, to the credit of my hon. and learned Friend, he at once said—he frankly and without a moment's hesitation said, "No matter whether it may be disagreeable to me or not—no matter what may be the consequence—you have a right to my testimony here and elsewhere, and unquestionably you shall have that testimony; and moreover," said he, "you shall have this further statement from me, that I had to wait in the noble Lord's anteroom twenty minutes during the interview you were holding with him." The noble Lord did discuss other questions; let not the noble Lord think that I shrink for a single moment from placing even the most remote recollection of what took place between the noble Lord and me before the House. The noble Lord spoke to me about the prospects of his re-election for the county of Kildare; and he asked me—attaching more importance to my influence than it deserved—whether I or any of my Parliamentary friends intended to give opposition to him. He stated other things, the disclosure of which would have tended to do me justice at the time; but from the general election I have remained under a weight of slander and calumny aimed at me, only as such a thing can be done in the Irish press, charging me with having sold the liberties of Kildare to the noble Lord, and with having entered into a corrupt compact with the noble Lord for the representation of that county; but the noble Lord perilled my political position, which is small —he perilled my seat, and that is of importance to me—rather than make any disclosure, when, with a breath, a line, he could have dispelled every kind of slander, and proved that no such compact had ever existed. It was open to the noble Lord to relieve me from that obloquy, and to do me justice in that case; it was in his power again to do me justice with a single line, admitting, what I believe the noble Lord will now recollect, "that he did use phrases that; under the circumstances, blight have induced any man to suppose that there was 273 an intention on the noble Lord's part to offer me office if I had agreed to accept it." The noble Lord asked me about his prospects for the county of Kildare, and whether I, or any of my friends, would give him an active opposition. I said, as far as I was personally concerned, I would not give him any opposition, nor would any of my friends do so; for I confess that I sympathised with the noble Lord, and did not wish to see his young ambition baffled. Perhaps that conversation may bring the Various matters contained in my letter more distinctly to the noble Lord's memory; but whether they do or not, I ask the Members of this House to fix their attention on this solemn, unequivocal, without- reservation denial of the noble Lord, that neither directly nor indirectly—the words cannot be erased—he made an offer of office to me. I ask the noble Lord, can he now say so, calling these specific words to his attention, and reminding him and the House that I never asserted that the noble Lord offered me office; but I always asserted, and now assert, and shall always assert, that the noble Lord asked me if I would accept office under the Government of which he was to be a leading member. But we know what that means. Is there any politician in this House so young as to doubt the meaning of such a question when put by the Chief Secretary for Ireland? I am asked, "If you are offered office under Lord Derby's Government, will you accept it?" Remember, I was asked that question before the formation of Lord Derby's Government was completed; before the noble Lord himself had finally accepted the office of Chief Secretary, and I ask any Member of the House what they think was the meaning of these words? It is just as if a man were to go to a lady and say, "If I were to ask you to marry me, what would be your answer?" and then to deny that directly or indirectly he had "popped the question." It would be an insult to the understanding of the House to think they would come to any other conclusion than that I drew from the question put under peculiar circumstances by the noble Lord. "If Lord Derby's Government should offer you office, would you accept it?" To conclude, Sir, if the noble Lord now admits, as I cannot but believe he must—I use the word in no way offensively—I have a perfect conviction that the noble Lord will admit "that he did Use phrases which, under the circumstances, would lead me to believe that, if I were disposed to accept office, it would 274 be tendered to me." I believe in the noble Lord's memory—I believe in his honour for this purpose. I have other reasons too, for the, to me, cheering conviction, that he will make the admission. But if that be the case, what becomes of the solemn denial in the letter—repeated again on Tuesday night at the request of the noble Lord, that neither directly nor indirectly had the noble Lord made me an offer of office? I came to this House as early as I could to give notice of my intention to bring the matter forward; and I was surprised when I was informed by the hon. Member for Roscommon that a noble Earl intended again to bring the question before the House of Lords. I sent my hon. Friend to the noble Earl after I gave the notice, to beg that he would not do so. I said they had already done enough without giving me notice, and begged they would allow me to make my defence; but the answer given to my hon. Friend, and to the noble Earl at the head of the Government was, that the noble Earl (the Earl of Eglinton) was pledged to the noble Lord opposite, to give that solemn and unequivocal denial to my allegation. The letter was not enough for the noble Lord—there should be a statement also made in another place. But the scene is now shifted—the noble Lord and I are in the presence of each other—the House has heard my statement, and the letters which I have placed without reserve before them; and I fearlessly ask the country to consider whether all the probabilities are not with me—putting the testimony of disinterested persons wholly out of the case; and I resume my seat with the conviction that truth and justice will prevail over the accidents of rank, or the influence of ephemeral position.
§ LORD NAAS
Sir, I rise under circumstances of a very extraordinary nature, to claim the attention of the House, not for an hour and ten minutes, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has done, but rather for a very much shorter space of time, and for the purpose of making a statement which shall be as unornamented with the tropes and figures of rhetoric, as it will be undistinguished by those eloquent and lofty tones which graced the address of the hon. and learned Gentleman; for my address will convey nothing beyond a simple statement of the truth—and as such, and such alone, I bespeak for it your attention. Sir, I have listened for the last hour and five minutes to a betrayal of private confidence —I have listened to a betrayal of private 275 conversations—to a distortion of words employed in moments of confidential intercourse, to a degree I hope never again to listen. Sir, under these circumstances, I do not think it is incumbent upon me, or necessary for me, to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through all his wanderings—through all those unimportant details which he has laid before the House, or the deductions which he has drawn from them. Mine will be but a simple statement, and that statement I will make undeterred by the eloquence, undismayed by the threats of the hon. and learned Gentleman. But my statement will be materially different from that which the House has just heard. And I think when I have concluded, I shall be able to call upon the House to declare with whom is the verdict. I am comparatively unused to debate, and practically I own I am unable to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through the variety of topics which he has introduced; but at the same time I declare that, with regard to all the facts of the case, my memory is perfectly clear —my recollection quite accurate. And, "first, I will refer to the terms on which I lived during the early part of the present and the whole of the last Parliament with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Athlone. We certainly came into Parliament together, and together also we took our seats upon the Opposition benches of this House. Again, there was a common bond between us; the hon. and learned Gentleman was a Member of the Carlton Club, to which also I belonged; and although we differed upon many essential points, yet, from the earliest date of our Parliamentary career, a very friendly feeling existed between us. I well recollect that upon many occasions during those years I had constant communications with him upon many matters both in this House and out of it. Therefore, Sir, when I come to the facts which I shall bring under your notice, it is not to be wondered at that I should have felt justified in communicating freely—unreservedly—with the hon. and learned Gentleman—little thinking that eighteen months after, in revenge for an attack made upon him in another place—not on account of any statement of mine, but one made elsewhere, and which I do not believe the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to overthrow, though he has already authorised its denial—I do not believe he will be able to deny that statement any more than he will be able 276 to confirm the statement which he has made here this afternoon. Sir, a little before the formation of the late Administration I was in constant communication with the hon. and learned Gentleman upon the subject of a Motion which I then felt it my duty to bring forward in this House. My communications with the hon. and learned Gentleman were frequent before that occasion—he called often at my house and I saw him often in other places. That Motion to which I allude had reference to the conduct of the noble Earl, the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman was fully conversant with all the facts of the case, and he told me that he intended to take part in the debate that would come off, and that he expected to speak in favour of my Resolutions. When the debate took place, however, I believe, for reasons not connected with the hon. and learned Gentleman, but because he had been professionally engaged in the case, he found it was not competent for him to take part in it. He will admit, however, that he told me his intention originally was to have done so. Well, the very day after that Motion was made and defeated, the Government was overthrown—my Motion having been made upon a Thursday, and the division agsinst the Government on the Motion of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) took place upon the Friday. On the Saturday or Monday following, Lord Derby accepted from Her Majesty the task of forming a Ministry. Shortly afterwards —though I cannot positively name the day, yet I think it was a Tuesday—an intimation was made to me that very probably I should be offered office in case, or rather contingent upon the probability of my being re-elected. Sir, on that occasion I think it was no breach of confidence —indeed I think I might with every safety refer to a Member of an opposite party, to my political opponents, to inquire whether it was likely that my re-election would be opposed. I had, between the Tuesday and the Thursday, several communications with the hon. and learned Gentleman upon this matter; and I trust—and I think the House will admit—that in those communications there was nothing that any man could reproach himself with. I cannot understand the allusions which the hon. and learned Member has made to his character, and to the attacks made upon him by the Dublin press in connexion with this matter; I own, indeed, that I was astonished that 277 the part which the hon. and learned Gentleman took upon that occasion should have exposed him to such extraordinary malignant attacks; and I will add that, in reference to my election, I was met in a very friendly mode and with a very friendly feel-by the hon. and learned Gentleman; and I do believe that, acting under the influence of a friendly feeling, he did exert himself, without in the least degree compromising his own opinions, to prevent my re-election being contested. Well, those communications were going on on the day to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has alluded, and I bad the interview with him to which he has referred. Now, it is quite true I did seek the hon. and learned Gentleman somewhat in the manner which he describes; but really the fact is, I wanted to speak to him about some important matters, the most important of which, however, was my own election. [Laughter.] Am I, Sir, to understand from that laughter, that any hon. Gentleman opposite disbelieves what I am stating? If there be any such, let him or they stand up in their place and say so, and I shall be prepared to meet them. I should have said, that I do not in the least deny what the hon. and learned Member has said about my seeking him at the Reform Club, or writing to him at his private residence. The day on which the interview took place was Thursday. The hon. and learned Gentleman came into my room—and I do not in the least degree mean to deny that I was not able to find him before, and therefore I had written a note to his private residence asking him to see me—that was on Thursday. Well, upon that occasion we discussed certain different topics of various interest, and among them was the subject of my election. And I distinctly asked the hon. and learned Gentleman — and the House will bear in mind that upon this question the whole matter under discussion hinges—and I think that when the House hears it, coupling the question and answer together, it will come to the conclusion that never was a more serious charge uttered upon such trumpery and insufficient grounds. And I will afterwards tell the House why I put the question which I asked of the hon. and learned Gentleman, never thinking that it would afterwards be turned against me as an engine to damage my character. Well, I asked him this simple question—"If office had been offered to you under the new Government, would you or your friends have accepted 278 it?" That question, Sir, I fully admit I did ask. It may have been an imprudent question — perhaps it was; it may have been an improper one—perhaps it was; but I may safely affirm it was not capable of being used for the object to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has converted it. The hon. and learned Gentleman's answer I very distinctly recollect. His answer was this:—"Are you asking me now seriously, or are you not? I think, after all that has occurred—after the part I and my friends have taken in the overthrow of the late Government—that some such an offer might have been made." After that, Sir, we proceeded to discuss the various topics connected with the prospects of parties at the moment; and in the course of our conversation the hon. and learned Gentleman asked me a question which I thought rather a peculiar one. He asked me, "whether any person in authority had authorised me to put to him the question which I had put to him?" That question he asked me. I said—as you have asked me that question, I can tell you that Major Beresford knew of my intention to ask it. ["Hear, hear!"] Now, Gentlemen opposite seem to think that here they have a most notable discovery; but let them wait a little, and when I describe the interview I had had with the hon. Member for North Essex, perhaps they will find that their sneers were rather a little precipitate. That answer I made to the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I was bound in honour to tell him the whole truth; and the reason of my putting the question I did to him was because I had a communication a few hours previously with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Essex (Major Beresford). Walking in St. James's-square I met the right hon. Gentleman; of course I stopped him, and asked, him "What was the news?" I said, "I wonder what position the Irish party are likely to take towards the Government." He answered, "I do not know;" and then said, "I am on friendly and intimate terms with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogb), and I will have no hesitation in putting the question to him; and, indeed, I will ask the question as I have intended to do, as a matter of information for myself, whether they would be willing to accept office-if they were nominated to it." The right hon. Gentleman then informed me that the Government had no unfriendly feeling whatever towards that party. Now, Sir, that is 279 the reason, when the hon. and learned Gentleman asked me the question, that I felt bound to say the right hon. Gentleman (Major Beresford) knew I was going to ask the question; but I do declare that the right hon. Gentleman never authorised me to make any offer whatever. He never authorised me to ask the question which I did—for I felt that I myself was bound to put the question—but he did authorise me to make the statement in reference to the friendly feeling of the Government towards the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party. At the same time, it is right that the House should know, that, having the greatest objection to making what are called "authorised communications," I did not deliver the message in question to the hon. and learned Member. And, Sir, in further proof of the statement I have made, I can safely say I never did, until the day before yesterday, mention the result of my interview with the hon. and learned Gentleman to any living man. When the hon. and learned Gentleman left my room on that occasion, I own the impression left on my mind was an impression, strengthened by subsequent conversation, that no offer of office was likely to be made to the hon. and learned Gentleman; while, to do him justice, I on my part believed, that if such an offer had been made, it would have been refused. Well, Sir, let us go back a little to circumstances—let me call attention to the date at which this alleged offer was made. This alleged offer of office was made upon the Thursday, and that was the very day on which the Government offices were declared to be filled up. Yes, on that very morning the authorised list of the new Administration appeared in the Times newspaper; and, therefore, it is quite impossible, looking to facts, that the hon. and learned Gentleman can pretend to say, that, by any legitimate construction of my language, an offer of office was ever intended to be made to him. I fully admit that taking the words by themselves, unaccompanied by the statement which I have made—and which I declare upon my honour to be perfectly true—that there is a considerable probability for the inference which the hon. and learned Gentleman has drawn from it. But I can safely say that I put the question that day to the hon. and learned Gentleman—and I have a distinct recollection of the circumstance—as a mere matter of friendly conversation, and not with any view of drawing the hon. and 280 learned Gentleman into any admission by which I could bind him at any future time. I asked the hon. and learned Gentleman the questions, simply for my own satisfaction, what were his feelings in regard to the non-offer of office to him or any member of his party; and I think, if the hon. and learned Gentleman recollected the afterbirth of the conversation, he must admit that it took completely this turn—namely, as to what course the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party, and the general parties of the House, were likely to take in reference to the new Government? That, Sir, is the statement which I have to make concerning the interview which I had with the hon. and learned Gentleman. And when I assure the House again and again that I never did mention the subject of this interview to any member of the Government, or, indeed, to any person whatsoever, I think I can lay my hand upon my heart and ask the House to believe that every word I have said is true. Sir, a letter has been produced, which, I own, has filled me with considerable astonishment, stating that I said in a railway train, going from this to Dublin, that I had made an offer of office to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends. Sir, it is perfectly impossible that I could have made that statement, and I cannot believe that I ever did so. I cannot suppose that the hon. Gentleman who wrote that letter would willingly make any assertion which he thought was not true; but I say the hon. Gentleman is under a great mistake; for will the House believe that I would mention the subject to an hon. Member in a railway carriage—a political opponent, too—which I had never mentioned to any other person whatever? What could have been my object in making such a statement to Mr. O'Flaherty, so totally at variance with the truth? I now content myself with saying that I never did make the statement referred to. I have now, Sir, told my story of those private interviews. Perhaps, viewed through the light of Parliamentary tactics, where everything that is done by a public man is supposed to be done with a motive, there may be some Gentlemen who will not credit my disavowal of such an intention. In this matter, however, I feel nothing whatever to reproach myself with. I communicated freely and frankly with the hon. and learned Gentleman, under the circumstances I have now related; and when I was asked the question, upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman lays so much stress, 281 I answered that question candidly. Now, therefore, when it is sought by that answer to implicate me and other distinguished individuals in charges which have not the slightest foundation, I think that such a course is calculated to convey a low idea of what some persons entertain of the honour of public and private men. Sir, I freely admit the great talent and eloquence of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I admit that the hon. and learned Gentleman is able with all the plausibility of an experienced lawyer to get up a case against me, as if he were getting up a case against a prisoner at the bar. But I believe that the ingenuity he has shown on the present occasion, however great, will not avail him in effecting the object which he has in view. I believe that the authorities which I have adduced in support of my defence, and the pledge of my honour and my word to the truth of every word I have said, will be sufficient to satisfy the public and this House that I have spoken according to the exact facts of the ease. But, Sir, I must say I freely admit that I may have committed an error in the course I had taken; but I maintain that that error was not one of principle, but one of judgment. It was an error of judgment, because I believed that in those conversations I was freely and frankly communicating with a gentleman, who, though a political opponent, was, as I then believed, a friend. Sir, I regret to say that in this House Parliamentary warfare seems to be degenerating into recriminatory and personal attacks; and that it is deemed by some hon. Members an object sufficient for statesmen to endeavour to attack and damage the character of a political opponent. Such, Sir, will never be my course —it never was my course; and, in spite of the plausible statements of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I trust that it is a course which the House generally will not indulge. I sit down, Sir, reiterating my belief that I have not on the occasions referred to, nor on any other occasion, done anything that was in the least degree derogatory to that character which the humblest of us must be desirous to vindicate and uphold—the character of an English gentleman.
§ MR. BERESFORD
Sir, I have listened with serious attention to the lengthened speech of the hon. and learned Member for Athlone; and I have also attended to the explanation which my noble Friend has given upon this occasion. I 282 come here, Sir, not for the purpose of making a declamatory speech, but prepared distinctly to state what I know upon the subject; to stand by what I have done, and to mention to the House all I know of the state of the transaction. It strikes me, Sir, that the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman divides itself into two distinct parts. The first relates to an offer, or a hinted offer, of office to him and his friends, made by my noble Friend who has just sat down, and authorised by me. That is the first question. The second is a private conversation which the hon. and learned Gentleman details to have been held between him and me, evidently, by his own account, in a secret and confidential manner, and which has now been brought forth, as is the custom in this House and of these times, as condemnatory of myself and corroborative of the accusations now brought against my noble Friend, as I think, without any foundation. With regard to the first accusation, without disputing about words in a Jesuitical sense, as to whether office were "offered," or were "hinted at," this I distinctly state, in the presence of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and in the presence of this House and the country, that no man whatsoever authorised me to offer, or to hint at the offer, of office to the hon. and learned Gentleman; and that I, not being so authorised myself, never did authorise or hint to my noble Friend, either directly or indirectly, to offer the same to the hon. and learned Gentleman. But there are circumstances, luckily, without searching for evidence—without writing here or sending there to one hon. Gentleman and another—there are, luckily, circumstances which do assist this fair and explicit denial upon my part. My noble Friend and I had a conversation in St. James's-square upon Wednesday, the 25th of February, last year; and if I had then authorised my noble Friend to offer place, or to hint at the offer of place to the hon. and learned Gentleman, is it within the verge of possibility, or is it probable that, having given such a commission to my noble Friend, he, from that date until last Monday, should never have mentioned the conversation which he had had with the hon. and learned Gentleman, or have given me the slightest answer to my communication? Why, the simplest understanding, the most unsophisticated reason, can see that if a person who is in direct communication, and who boasts, as it is said, of being in 283 direct communication, with the newly-appointed Prime Minister of England, sends an official offer to an hon. and learned Member, who I admit is a man of great ability, he would not be satisfied without once asking for an answer, or inquiring what was the result of the conference. I say that reason and common sense show that it is impossible I should have done so. As to my boasting of being in communication with the Earl of Derby, or any other Member of the Government, or of the Opposition, that is not my method. When I do anything, I take the responsibility. ["Hear!"] Ay, I take the responsibility upon myself. I commit not others, nor bring them in; I do not communicate private conversations, nor compromise other persons; and I wish that hon. Gentlemen, who are so ready to sneer, would have the same respect that I hope I shall ever have for a confidential communication, and would not make use, for the purposes of attack, of private words, spoken, perhaps, in a friendly and unguarded moment. Now, Sir, it is perfectly true, that upon Wednesday morning, the 25th of February, I met my noble Friend by accident in St. James's-square, and that we conversed for some time together. He did inform me that he was most likely to see the hon. and learned Gentleman, and would ascertain from him what the feelings of the Irish Members were with respect to the. new Government. I said, and I repeat it here openly, that I thought it most likely, as office had not been offered, either to the hon. and learned Gentleman or to his friends, that he and his friends, having assisted as they had in turning out the late Government, would be discontented; and I added, "It cannot be helped; only I do tell you that I believe there is a friendly feeling towards them; and, individually for myself, I should thank you to convey that to Mr. Keogh;" because, as is well known to many Members here, formerly there had not been the greatest kindness and most friendly feeling between us. I wished not to offer him place, but to convey, that if we had been foes, "don't let it continue." It happened, however —and I only heard it within this week —that my noble Friend did not communicate the message. Certainly, he never gave me any answer to it; and circumstances occurred which made it impossible for me to have seen him within a very few days; and after those days had elapsed, he went to his election in Ireland, and 284 I did not think it necessary to ask the result of his conversation with the hon. and learned Gentleman, or if he had ever delivered the message; but, of course, I thought most likely that he had done so. I now come to the second part of this accusation, and, as I said before, I do protest, though I am going into it, at any accusat on being made against myself or my noble Friend which is founded upon private and confidential communications between two Gentlemen. Some time in the month of May—towards the end, I believe—the hon. and learned Gentleman made in this House what I should call a virulent attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I happened to meet the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Solicitor General for Ireland shortly after, and I then, not in the civil, not in the gentlemanlike, not in the Parliamentary language which he has made use of, but confidentially and quietly said to him that I was astonished at the violence, and I might add, the malignity, of his attack, and that I did not expect it from him. After that, I think, some conversation passed, and I asked—not stating it as a fact, but asked as a matter of inquiry from him—whether he had not received, through my noble Friend, a kindly and friendly communication from myself? I was simply desirous of ascertaining whether he had received that message or not; and that is the conversation on which the hon. and learned Gentleman now rides off, and attempts to show that I had authorised my noble Friend to offer him office. As to the offer of office to the hon. and learned Gentleman by Lord Derby and his Government, I firmly believe that his imagination being, as it is, Hibernian, is extremely brilliant; but if he means to say that the office of Solicitor General for Ireland was offered to him— [Mr. KEOGH: No, no!] I can only say that "the wish was father to the thought." I repeat, that I never made him any offer whatsoever, and I entirely repudiate having authorised any other person to do so. Before I sit down I must say again, that I do deprecate that spirit which seems to animate hon. Gentlemen opposite to make public matter of that which is private and confidential, to break down that greatest and surest barrier which stands in the way of the destruction of private and public honour, and to uproot that confidence which one gentleman ought to feel in the honour of another. I do protest against what I must call that prostitu- 285 tion of private documents, and that exposure of confidential communications, which derogate from the honour and dignity of this House, which deteriorate the high character of public men, which are detrimental to the interests of the State, which upset all the feelings one man can entertain in the honour of another, and which must have a tendency to reduce, as it were, Members of Parliament to the solitary system; for no man can speak to his neighhour lest his conversation he revealed, no man dare write lest his letters be brought against him, and no man can go forth and share in the usual intercourse of life, but he must be guarded and secret in all his actions, or things will be laid to his charge which he never thought of and never intended. There is one other subject, and I have done. The hon. and learned Gentleman has greatly complained of the conduct of some of our friends for what he calls prejudging the question. He says that statements have been made in the House of Lords prejudging the question; and that they were not content with one night, but must have two nights of it. But I say that not only have statements been made in the House of Lords, and in this House, and elsewhere, on the side of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but a long and voluminous and unproved statement of these occurrences was published in the Morning Chronicle of Monday last, detailing these facts, and much of the evidence, which we have heard here this evening. I consider, Sir, that that is prejudging the question, and in a manner that is neither fair, manly, nor open. That could not have been done except with the authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. I say, then, that there has been prejudging on the other side worse than anything which has been done on our side, and that it has been done in a secret way—in a way worthy of one who is ready to divulge in this House a confidential conversation, and to betray the confidence of friendly intercourse.
§ MR. NAPIER
I must ask the attention of the House for a few moments while I explain a matter which is open to some misapprehension. It has been commented upon by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and by the public press, as a singular circumstance that Lord Derby should have stated in the House of Lords that he had heard the rumour before, and had given authority to contradict it; whereas the Earl of Eglinton stated that he heard it then for the first time. I belive that I was the 286 cause of that difficulty having occurred, and it arose in this way:—Shortly after I returned to Ireland, after the change of Government, a gentleman connected with the Kildare-street Club came to me and told me that it had been rumoured there that an offer of office had been made to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I immediately denied that; and he asked me to give a contradiction to it in writing. I did so at once. A few days after that another gentleman, a member of the bar, called on me, and said that he had heard it stated once or twice in professional and private circles that an offer of office had been made by Lord Derby to the hon. and learned Member for Athlone, and he added, "If it is not true, it is very important to have an authoritative contradiction of it, because it is doing your party harm." I said, "I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll write to Lord Derby at once. I know he is at Knowsley, and he will give an explicit answer." I accordingly wrote to Lord Derby; and that is the way in which he came to know of the rumour at that time. His Lordship replied, on the 3rd of February, 1853, from Knowsley. In reference to the inquiry, whether, at the time of the formation of the late Government, an offer of office was made to the hon. and learned Gentleman, he says "that neither then nor at any other time was any such offer made by my authority or with my knowledge." He then states that he had enclosed my note to Mr. Disraeli, and had that morning received his answer. He' adds these words in reference to the reply of Mr. Disraeli:—"It is as full and satisfactory as it was possible to be, and I enclose it to you for your satisfaction. You may therefore, I think, state, without fear of contradiction, that the assertion is destitute of any foundation, and that no offer nor overture of any kind was made to Mr. Keogh, by or on the part of the late Government." I gave that answer to the member of the bar who had spoken to me on the subject. He was a friend of the hon. and learned Gentleman's, and I said, "You may show it to any one you please." In that way the matter came to Lord Derby's ears. But I never mentioned the subject to Lord Eglinton, nor did he hear of the interview which occurred between my noble Friend near me (Lord Naas), and the hon. and learned Gentleman, until within the last few days.
§ MR. I. BUTT
Although I am reluctant to make any observations upon the 287 present question, I confess I should be still more reluctant that the House should misunderstand the position which I occupied in the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh). It is true that on the evening of the levee day referred to, I called upon the noble Lord, with a view of speaking to him on the subject of his standing for Kildare, and giving him some information which I thought might be useful to him. I, however, found that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland was at the time in conversation with the noble Lord, and I was thus detained a few minutes before I could see the noble Lord. I thought no more of the circumstance. The hon. and learned Gentleman having a few days ago met me in the lobby of the House, informed me that it was important to the vindication of his character that he should have my evidence upon the point, that when I called upon the noble Lord I found the hon. and learned Gentleman in conversation with him; but, said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "If you have any objection I will not ask you." I said that "you must not make it a matter of feeling —if you think that evidence important to you, make use of it." I added, that I hoped he knew well enough to be aware that I would not willingly interfere in the matter. He then said, "Do you recollect that you were kept waiting a considerable time while I was engaged in an interview with the noble Lord?" The suggestion came from the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. I did not volunteer the evidence. I said I was certainly kept waiting for some time; but the fact was it was late in the evening, and I was engaged to dine with some friends. Under such circumstances I do not think that I could be a very impartial judge of the number of minutes I was kept waiting. When at length I saw the noble Lord, I was informed by his Lordship that he had had an interview with the hon. and learned Gentleman. Nothing further occurred in reference to that interview. My next step upon hearing that the question was to be raised, was to take the first opportunity of meeting my noble Friend the Member for Coleraine, to tell him exactly what had taken place between the hon. and learned Gentleman and myself, and to tell that the hon. and learned Gentleman had—not my permission, because in such a case it was not for me to give or to withhold permission—but that I had told him I could offer no objection to 288 stating the fact that he had been visiting the noble Lord that evening. This is the entire amount of my connexion with the matter; and I can assure the House I am very reluctant to interfere in a discussion which, however, I am happy to see is likely to terminate in a better spirit than it was likely to do when it commenced.
§ MR. DISRAELI
There is no Motion, Sir, before the House; but I thought, as my name has been introduced very frequently in this discussion, that I should, perhaps, not be considered intrusive if I presumed to offer a few observations. The House will recollect that really the question before us is one which I think ought never hardly to be introduced. The real question is as to the veracity of two Members of this House—because I do not suppose that any Gentleman will for a moment pretend that there were any circumstances which did not justify the late Administration to offer office to the hon. and learned Gentleman if they thought proper. I beg the House to recollect the circumstances under which the hon. and learned Gentleman was placed with regard to the great body of Gentlemen who were sitting on this side of the House at the time when the Government of the noble Lord the Member for London was broken up. The hon. and learned Gentleman was, I think, returned first to the Parliament of 1847. He was returned as the only Roman Catholic Member who entertained Conservative opinions; and, of course, that alone was a combination of circumstances which gave him almost a position when he entered the House—a position which he sustained by his abilities. The hon. and learned Gentleman took his seat, of course, among the Conservative ranks, and he became a member, as most Gentlemen who profess Conservative opinions do, of the Carlton Club. He upheld the commercial policy of Sir Robert Peel; but at the same time he sat with us, and there were many questions on which he acted with us. He was in communication with my late lamented friend Lord George Bentinck, who had a high opinion of his abilities, and at the very moment when the Government of the noble Lord the Member for Loudon broke up, he was in personal communication with the noble Lord the Member for Coleraine (Lord Naas), as the manager of what may be fairly styled a party question. The Government of the noble Lord the Member for London within twenty-four hours of the then debate 289 ceased; and I can conceive many reasons why office should have been offered to the hon. and learned Gentleman by the Government of Lord Derby. He entered Parliament as a Conservative; he had acted with us on many occasions; he had been actively occupied in respect to a Motion which was brought forward certainly with a view of injuring the then Government, at the very moment that Government ceased to exist, though not in consequence of that Motion; and he was a Gentleman of acknowledged ability and talent. I say, therefore, that there was no reason whatever why office should not have been offered to him; and, so far as I am concerned, I, speaking my own opinions, should not, at that moment, have either been astonished or displeased if office had been offered to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and had been accepted by him. The question now is, whether the statement of my noble Friend, or that of the hon. and learned Gentleman, is the true one. The House will recollect that my noble Friend has no interest or object whatever in making a statement which is not perfectly true; because there would have been nothing irregular, unjustifiable, or improper, or anything that was not completely warrantable, if my noble Friend had offered office to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and had been authorised by Lord Derby to do so. I was imperfectly acquainted with the details of this question until I entered the House this evening. I have listened with great attention to the statements of my noble Friend, and of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have brought an impartial judgment to the consideration of the matter —because I always appreciated the ability and respected the career of the hon. and learned Member for Athlone, so far as I am acquainted with the hon. and learned Gentleman in this House; and I do express, it may be my individual but my sincere opinion, that the impressions of my noble Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman are both perfectly reconcilable with the facts of the case. The noble Lord says that at the moment when these transactions took place he was in relations of intimacy with the hon. and learned Gentleman; he was in the habit of receiving his visits and communicating with him. The noble Lord was at the moment communicating with him on a subject of the greatest interest and importance to the noble Lord—namely, the chance of the noble Lord being able to preserve his seat 290 for the county of Kildare—a circumstance of which the hon. and learned Gentleman was a very good judge, and in reference to which he might have been of great service. The very fact of my noble Friend appealing to the hon. and learned Member on that subject, and of the hon. and learned Member responding to that appeal, proves the terms on which the two were living. I believe that on the day referred to, three days had passed since the appointment both of Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland had taken place; the list of the new Administration was complete; and the only appointment which had not taken place was that of my noble Friend himself, in consequence of the difficulty about his seat. Under these circumstances my noble Friend, not having the slightest authority, as he has stated, to make any offer to the hon. and learned Gentleman— because, irrespective of every other consideration, there was no place that could be offered to him—was nevertheless extremely anxious, naturally regarding the prospects of a new Government, with parties equally divided, to ascertain what might be the probable course of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends, in a new Parliament in reference to the new Government. Now, let the House divest itself of any prejudices either on one side or the other, and I ask, what was more natural (these relations of intimacy existing at the time the new Government having been formed), than that my noble Friend, especially as he had had a recent conversation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Essex, should have sounded the hon. and learned Gentleman whether there was a prospect of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends assuming an attitude of considerable opposition to the new Government? That I take to be the state of the case as regards my noble Friend. Well, then, take the position of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He finds himself in confidential communication with one with whom he was intimate, and who had become a Minister of the Crown; from friendly feelings he is absolutely assisting my noble Friend, and my noble Friend endeavours to ascertain what might be the future conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends by asking him in this way, "Now, what would you have done if Lord Derby had offered you office?" It is far from impossible that the hon. and learned Gentleman might have considered that as something more than what I sincerely be- 291 lieve it was intended to convey, and that he might have fancied that it referred to certain results more important than the nature of the circumstances rendered even practicable. Taking the statements of my noble Friend, and of the hon. and learned Member, it would seem that they formed opposite inferences from the same facts; and this, so far as I can collect, is the true and sound view of the case. There is one circumstance to which I wish to refer, and that is the appeal made to the hon. and learned Gentleman, which seemed to have resulted from some misapprehension on the part of the right hon. Member for Essex. It seems, from what the right hon. Gentleman has stated, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had indulged in a vein of great invective against me on more than one occasion. I appreciate the talents of the hon. and learned Gentleman highly, but I do not exactly recollect the invectives referred to; but I am quite convinced that the invectives even of the hon. and learned Gentleman, however sustained, and however continuous, would never have influenced me, directly or indirectly, to send the hon. and learned Gentleman a message of the kind referred to. I always think that invective is a great ornament of debate, and I hardly know how we could get through some dry statistical nights, if our discussions were not in some degree varied and rendered a little pungent by that arm of eloquence. When I had the honour of being a Minister, bearing invective was that part of my duty which I found the least onerous; and I can assure the House, although the hon. and learned Gentleman may have indulged in those invectives which I have innocently forgotten, hut which seem to have alarmed my friends at the time, and to have been one of the great causes of this unfortunate misapprehension, that, so far as I am concerned, I am confident I always listened to the attacks of the hon. and learned Gentleman with undisturbed satisfaction. I do trust that the House will take the right view of this case. There is nothing in it that at all affects political principle of any kind. Every one will admit that Lord Derby would have been perfectly justified had he offered office to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and that he would have been perfectly justified had he accepted it. This is a discussion which has arisen out of other circumstances, and is strictly limited to the opinion which the House of Commons may have as to the veracity of two distinguished 292 and respected Members of this assembly. Now, though I should shrink from an investigation of such a nature, I would pursue it if I thought it an act of duty; but, after having listened with the greatest attention to the statements both of my noble Friend and of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I must say that I do find them irreconcilable; and I warn the House not to subject every expression that may fall in private life to that keen scrutiny which we apply to official documents and public conduct. We shall be rendering intercourse between man and man, and gentleman and gentleman, more difficult and disagreeable every day, if we put always the most uncharitable construction on their observations, or subject every word and circumstance in the intercourse of private life to keen criticism. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman and my noble Friend were entirely influenced in their original conduct by kind and genial feelings. Circumstances have subsequently occurred on which I will give no opinion as regards the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman, until they are fairly brought under our notice; but, so far as the present matter is concerned, I consider that he has done nothing, as a gentleman and officer of the Crown, but what became him. With respect to all that has passed before us this evening I am of opinion that the honour of both the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Gentleman, so far as the present matter is concerned, is clear and unimpeachable, and I shall be glad to find on both sides that such is the general feeling of the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I trust that the House will not lose sight of what I think a material result of this discussion. Hon. Gentlemen, and the noble Lord especially, the Member for Coleraine (Lord Naas) have complained that private conversations have been repeated, and private letters have been read; but be it remembered that the whole of these discussions have arisen from a personal attack upon an hon. and learned Gentleman holding the high and responsible office of Solicitor General for Ireland—an office than which there is hardly any that requires more the confidence of the public at large in order that its functions may be discharged with advantage. With respect to an hon. and learned Gentleman who holds that situation, a person of no less station and dignity than one who was lately the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, under the Earl of Derby, 293 stated that it was the "least reputable appointment" that Her Majesty's present Government had made. Now, without referring to this, the immediate point of the fact upon which there is some, but in my opinion very little, dispute, let me observe what is the result of the present discussion. The noble Lord the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Lord Naas) says that when the late Government was formed, he was in friendly communication with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh); that, before he received that appointment, he held that friendly communication with him, and that he for that purpose endeavoured to ascertain what his feelings were with regard to the Government about to be formed. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of War (Mr. W. Beresford), who held a Privy Councillor's rank, and was in immediate communication with the Members of that Cabinet, afterwards authorised the noble Lord to state that the feelings of the Government towards the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends would be of a friendly description. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) states that his opinion of the talents and abilities of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and his observation of the course that he had pursued in political life, would have led him to think it quite natural that an offer of office should have been made to him, and that he, at least, would not have been surprised, nor would he have disapproved of such an offer. Why, this is the result, then—a result which the hon. and learned Gentleman may, in the very first instance, be proud of obtaining—such testimony against the justice of the accusation and imputation which has been made on his character by one who held so high an office in the late Government. That accusation —that imputation — is swept away. It is gone—and gone for ever. Then, with regard to the point immediately under discussion, I can hardly say, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has done, that there is a doubt with respect to the veracity of two hon. Members of this House. Recollections are, no doubt, imperfect; but the statement of the noble Lord tonight, I think, confirms that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. There are different words and different expressions. The noble Lord knowing, doubtless, his own meaning, does not give the same sense to the words which he spoke; hut, even supposing that his account is precisely ac- 294 curate, and his memory unfailing, I would defy any man to receive such communications as the noble Lord made when a Government was in the act of formation— ["No, no!"] Well, I will stop for a moment on that point. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) received a commission from Her Majesty on the Saturday evening, I think it was, to form a Government, and we are told that on the Thursday evening all the appointments had been filled up. Well, I say I very much doubt whether that was the fact; but, at all events, I think it cannot be doubted that the public could not be fully aware—and that a Member of this House could not be fully aware —whether all those offices were filled up— because it constantly happens that some of the arrangements contemplated do not take place—that some persons who accepted office in the first instance, afterwards decline it—and that thus vacancies arise of which the public are not aware. I say, then, I defy any man to have such communications as the noble Lord made to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and not believe that the question was, if the hon. and learned Gentleman were willing to accept an office, some office or other would be likely to be offered him; and that impression would have been confirmed when, as the noble Lord himself says, he was asked if he had authority for making that statement, and he replied, "Yes," and that the right hon. Gentleman, who was known to be intimate with all the concerns of the party, was his authority for the question. I say, again, that it was impossible to receive that statement in the sense which the noble Lord meant to convey, according to his account to-night; and that nothing was more natural, at all events, than that the hon. and learned Gentleman should suppose that an offer of office, either immediate or prospective, was in the intention of the noble Lord. Well, then, if that was the case, I do not think there is any difference, which can be said to be a difference, affecting the veracity of two Members of this House, in respect to the particulars of a conversation, which it appears lasted twenty minutes, and occurred in the month of February last. But there is another circumstance which, to use the words of the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, is, I think, not "reputable" to the noble Lord (Lord Naas). The circumstances being such as he himself has admitted and related, when the noble Lord received from the Solicitor General for 295 Ireland, a letter requesting him to state whether or not the noble Lord had asked him, if an offer of office was made to him he would disposed to accept it, or any similar proposal—I think the noble Lord should have said, "The circumstances were so and so. The question I asked you was of this nature. It might have given you the impression—but I cannot think it a right one—that I meant to have offered you office. That was clearly not in my mind; but you are fully justified in supposing that that was the case." In candour and fairness the noble Lord ought to have said that. And I cannot conceive any man receiving such a letter, and having such a conversation, and the circumstances being such as have occurred—I cannot conceive any man answering by saying, "I have to declare that neither directly or indirectly was any offer of office made to you."[Lord NAAS: There was not.] That statement was made by the desire of the noble Lord, conveyed by message to a noble Earl, and repeated by that noble Earl in the other House of Parliament in the most direct and positive manner. And I must say that such a want of fairness, such a want of candour, and such a want, I should say, of honourable consideration for the feelings and character of a person with whom he had been on terms of friendship, it has seldom been my lot to witness. And all this, be it observed, from a noble Lord, who, although he says he is not much used to make speeches in this House, yet is one who is particularly nice with regard to public conduct, and who not very long ago constituted himself into a public accuser. He, therefore, should be remarkably careful in the conduct he pursues towards those whom he happens to be politically opposed to. As to the result of this whole matter, I do not think that there is any reason to doubt the veracity either of the Solicitor General for Ireland or of the noble Lord; but I think, by his own showing and by that of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke after, that there was every reason for the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh) to suppose that the Government of the Earl of Derby would be willing to offer him office. Whether that were so or not, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of either hon. Member; but there is reason to regret that it should be necessary to state private conversations and to read letters in this House in order to do away with the effect of a rash and reckless accusation, and that the 296 late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should have taken the opportunity, in the absence of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh), to make an unfounded attack upon his character.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
The noble Lord, in the address which he has just delivered to the House, has assumed a tone which I think the circumstances by no means justify. And I must say that he is the more open to remark, and I feel the more bound to meet that speech with some observations, in consequence of the marked difference between the tone of the speech of the noble Lord and that of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli). Anything more judicious, more conciliatory, or, in my humble judgment, more consistent with the facts, than the speech of my right hon. Friend, I never heard in this House. Nor did I never hear a tone of triumph less justified, or a tone of sarcasm less called for, than that which has constituted so remarkable a feature in the speech of the noble Lord. The latter part of the speech of the noble Lord was directed against my noble Friend (Lord Naas), in terms of harshness and of censure to which I think my noble Friend is not open upon any account, but least of all upon account of the speech he has delivered this evening. My noble Friend replied to the elaborate and carefully-prepared speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh), by avowing that he was not used to the habits of debate in this House, and by telling a plain tale in a tone and manner consistent with the facts of the case—in a manner, I say, that must have carried conviction home to the mind of every man who heard him. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) that, as regards the statements we have heard this evening—the one made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the other by my noble Friend— there is nothing irreconcilable between them. My right hon. Friend has referred to the question as one of veracity, as between my noble Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman. But I should be inclined to put it even more mildly than that, for, after having listened attentively to the whole of this discussion, I should regard it as simply a question of memory between them. My noble Friend does not deny certain expressions having reference to the possibility of his being offered office, which he addressed to the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he states—and there is nothing in what the hon. and learned Gentle- 297 man has said the least inconsistent with that statement—that it was in order to satisfy himself as to the tone of feeling of a particular party in this House, and that the language he used was, whether, if such an offer had been made, would it have been accepted, the office at that moment being filled? Now this is a most important fact. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell), however, throws doubt upon it. I admit that I am speaking from memory, but I believe the fact to be, that the whole Government was at that time formed; above all—and this is of more immediate importance to the question—that the whole of the law officers for Ireland had been appointed at the time. Still, I admit that this fact might not have been within the cognisance of the hon. and learned Gentle man; therefore he might have thought the language had a direct intention, instead of being only, as it really was, a question of what might have been the case under other circumstances. But what I wish to call the attention of the House to—particularly after the tone of triumph indulged in by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell)—is, that in the question which has been raised this evening there are two different issues. I would rather have abstained from referring to the second of these issues; but I apprehend I am correct in stating that the two issues are these. The whole of this proceeding has arisen, if I understand it rightly, out of certain language used in another place —namely, the expression that the appointment of the hon. and learned Gentleman to office was the "least reputable" of the appointments made by the present Government. I am speaking under correction; but I believe I am right in saying, that the answer was immediately made in another place—and it was considered to be an answer to that expression—that the offer of office was made by the Earl of Derby's Government to the same individual. Now, from this answer has arisen the first question, namely—whether or not that offer was made by my noble Friend the Member for Colcraine. That is one of the issues raised; and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), after this conversation, which referred solely and exclusively to what passed between my noble Friend and the hon. and learned Gentleman, now assumes a tone of triumph, and says that the question whether or not that was a "reputable appointment has been triumphantly disposed of. I join issue with the noble Lord upon that 298 point. I own I would rather not have referred to it. I had no intention to refer to it; and I would not have referred to it if had it not been for the tone and language of the noble Lord. But I now feel called upon to state to the House my opinion, and to appeal to the House if I am not justified in that opinion, that the two questions are different and distinct, and have nothing whatever to do one with the other. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) has stated—and I concur in every syllable he said—that there was no reason whatever why the Government of Lord Derby should not have offered office to the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman, as my right hon. Friend truly stated, has uniformly proved himself, ever since he has had a seat in this House, a man of considerable power and ability. The hon. and learned Gentleman came into this House an avowed Conservative. He was a member of the political club of which the Conservatives are Members. At the moment the Government of the noble Lord was destroyed, the hon. and learned Gentleman was in communication with my noble Friend on an avowedly party act, which was decided the very day the noble Lord was defeated by the noble Viscount who now sits beside him. And looking at the fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a Roman Catholic—a Conservative Roman Catholic and an Irish Member—1 see no reason whatever—there had certainly been nothing in the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that I am aware of, that amounted to anything like a disqualification or a reason why the Government of the Earl of Derby might not have offered him office. But the language used in another place, that that was the "least reputable appointment" of the now existing Government, has nothing to do with the state of affairs to which I now refer. I say it is another issue. I say it is a distinct question. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, with some triumph in his tone, that he was face to face with my noble Friend the Member for Coleraine. I am now face to face with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and speaking without having entertained the least idea that I should have taken part in this debate. I am therefore not prepared—under the circumstances I cannot be prepared—to quote any particular language, or to describe any particular circumstances. But what has led to this impression, if I am right in my opin- 299 ion, and I will not shrink from saying that what has led me to share in this impression is, that one of the most conspicuous Members of the present Government being the statesman who introduced the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, since the period of the formation of the Earl of Derby's Government— if I am rightly informed, during the period of the last general election— the language and the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman—Her Majesty's Solicitor General for Ireland—with respect to that particular law, so introduced and passed by the noble Lord, was such—I invite the hon. and learned Gentleman to make any explanation he thinks proper— but if I am rightly informed, and if the public are rightly informed—the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman was such as not to make it a "reputable appointment" for a Government that took part in the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. I think that the conduct of the noble Lord himself is involved in being a party to the appointment of such a man —a man who is said, I know not with what accuracy, but—who is said, ostentatiously, publicly, and flagrantly to have trampled that Act of Parliament under his feet. I make this statement in the hon. and learned Gentleman's presence, and, if wrong, it is open to his correction. But I myself have read language of his in a public speech, delivered by him in Ireland, upon the subject of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, which, to my mind—assuming the reports I have read to be correct—makes the appointment of the hon. and learned Gentleman one which it is not to the credit of the present Government to have made—one which strikes, in my judgment, at the credit of the noble Lord who was a party to it. There are other facts. I have also road the language of the hon. and learned Gentleman with reference to other subjects. I have read one of the most solemn appeals to the Deity that I ever recollect reading—one of the most solemn pieces of language that any human being could use—pledging, deeply pledging that hon. and learned Gentleman never to take office under any Government that would not make the Tenant Right Bill of Mr. Sharman Crawford a Cabinet measure. I have adverted to these topics in the presence of the hon. and learned Gentleman. For a long time I felt so indignant at his appointment that I kept extracts from these speeches by me in the event of any debate coming on in 300 this House having reference to the subject. The affair is now over, and I am not sure whether I have these extracts in my possession or not, but they are to be found in speeches of his which have been reported in the public newspapers. They are become public property. They are also easily accessible, easily to be found and quoted, and the hon. and learned Gentleman may refute them if he can. But certainly my opinion is that the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman to whom I refer, having occurred since the conversation between him and my noble Friend (Lord Naas), having nothing whatever to do with that conversation, but having occurred long subsequent to it—this I imagine to be the ground of the expression used in another place with regard to its not being a "reputable appointment," and I think I am perfectly justified in what I began by saying, that the two questions are distinct and different. Upon the one question every impartial listener will say that my noble Friend has made a statement at once straightforward, truthful, and clear; and that the other yet remains to be cleared up.
§ MR. KEOGH
I am sure the House will indulge me for a few moments, after the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman. But before I proceed, allow me to return my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) for the extremely kind, most generous, and, I fear, undeserved expressions he was pleased to use towards me. For those expressions I am most thankful to the right hon. Gentleman. I feel that, as to my personal character, the language of the right hon. Gentleman is an ample vindication, and a complete compensation for any attack made upon me elsewhere. And I cannot but admire how, after we have been engaged in discussing so insignificant a subject as my personal character fur three hours—after I came down prepared to meet the issue between myself and the noble Lord—after the right hon. Gentleman opposite has expressed his full and complete vindication of the propriety of offering me office—for he was pleased to say he had watched my career, and he would not have been surprised or dissatisfied at my being offered office by the Government of which he was so distinguished a Member — another right hon. Gentleman, a Colleague of his, should have abandoned the ground taken by the right hon. Gentleman; and brought forward a 301 perfectly different issue. [Sir J. PAKINGTON: Not at all; not at all!] Will any hon. Gentleman I see opposite say there was a single syllable uttered by Lord Derby, or the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with reference to my conduct on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill? Is not this new ground taken by the right hon. Gentleman? I can assure him it is both new and perfectly unsafe; because, so far from my having ever spoken at a meeting on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill in a manner which would have disentitled me to the confidence of the Government to which I now belong, since the noble Lord held his communications with me, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that, while I disavow altogether the physical performance he has attributed to me—that of trampling the Act of Parliament under my foot—so far from having made any speech—no meeting, to my knowledge, has occurred in Ireland on the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill since the conversation with the noble Lord. [Sir Jons PAKINGTON had not said that the meeting-occurred since the conversation.] Surely that is the gist of the matter. Will the right hon. Gentleman give me his attention for a moment? He complains of the observations made by the noble Lord the Member for London. He says the noble Lord is not right in saying that the expression "least reputable" was unjustifiable, because the words "least reputable" are no contradiction to the sentiments entertained by the noble Lord at the time of the formation of the Government of Lord Derby, but arose altogether from subsequent occurrences. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire says be had watched my career, and saw no reason why an offer of office should not have been made by the Government to which he belonged in February last year; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwicb says he concurs in that opinion, but that events have happened since which Came to the knowledge of the noble Earl the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Earl of Eglinton). These circumstances the right hon. Gentleman has stated were not only the physical performance with reference to the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, but a violent speech made by me with reference to that Act at a meeting, the report of which the right hon. Gentleman has perused, and has preserved, like another document used against me elsewhere—an affidavit in a box. I meet that accusation 302 by telling him that, so far from having spoken in a manner disreputable to me upon the subject of that Act, all the meetings with which I am acquainted upon that subject were held before the Government of the noble Lord was dissolved. Having, therefore, come down to this. House to defend myself on an accusation of a breach of veracity upon one point, I have the leaders of the party I see opposite stating they entirely concur in the propriety of the observations I have made, condemning, as far as personal condemnation can go, the language used with reference to my character in another place; but another Member of that ex-Government, after he has heard my defence and the noble Lord's reply to it, not in opposition to, but in corroboration of my assertions—for, with the exception of a single sentence of the noble Lord, he has been obliged to corroborate every word I uttered—but I say another right hon. Gentleman brings a new charge, and takes a new position against me. No document is read. He has the documents, but they are not produced. He brings another charge, to which I anticipated an allusion, but into which I hoped I should not have been dragged, so long as a Committee in another place was threatened where a full inquiry might be instituted into the whole of the circumstances. I hoped I should not be diverted by collateral topics. I desired to confine myself to the issue between the noble Lord and me as respected our memory or veracity. I am perfectly willing to take the testimonial paid to me tonight by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire both as an answer to the noble Lord elsewhere, and to the charge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich. I shall be prepared, at the proper time and place, to meet any other charge which is now or may be hereafter brought against me, and I have not the least doubt I shall be able to dispose of them as satisfactorily as I have of this. Probably, if any new charge is to be brought before the House, it would be as well I should sit down at once, in order that I may not be rising every moment; but I will not allow the noble Lord to travel from his part of the case. He has admitted his anxious pursuit of me at the critical time. He has admitted his letters, one following fast upon the other. He has admitted our interview, and the conversation relating to office. He has admitted that I asked him by whose authority 303 he put me the question; and that he mentioned Major Beresford's name. Why ask for authority, and for what? If it was not a question of offer or acceptance of office, what was the authority for? And then that friendly message which we now hear of for the first time, which the noble Lord was commissioned to bear to me, from the right hon. Gentleman. I will not waste the time of the House. I perceive its feeling. Is there or is there not a difference between us? If there is not, then my assertions have been corroborated; if there is, then I ask the public to contrast the statement of the noble Lord here tonight, with all its admissions—to weigh and measure those admissions with the letter in which he gave us nothing but that sweeping denial; and, when they have considered those admissions, that letter written by himself, that denial made in the House of Lords upon his authority, let them, if they can, come to a conclusion satisfactory to the noble Lord's friends, I shall not be less satisfied with the verdict which I know the House has already passed upon my share in the transaction.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had alluded to a subject which he (Mr. Whiteside) never expected to hear again mentioned in that House; and that was the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) on the subject of the conduct of the Earl of Clarendon, one of his present Colleagues, while Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Now, he happened to be one of the members of the bar who conducted the case against the Earl of Clarendon, and not having been long a Member of that House when the question was under discussion there, and not knowing that it would be consistent with the etiquette of the House in such circumstances to offer any observations, he declined to speak on that account, understanding, however, that it was the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh) to address the House upon the subject. But he could never listen to a Minister of the Crown, in a country where public morality and public principle were professed to be respected, eulogising and justifying that transaction, without giving to that justification an indignant denial—a denial of its propriety— a denial of its justice. He could not forget that he had heard it proved that Lord Clarendon, being at the time the Lord Lieutenant of a kingdom, rolled out gold to a newspaper writer for the purpose of obtaining from him panegyrics on his go- 304 vernment. And if his noble Friend (Lord Naas) had set himself up as a censor of public men in that instance, he had at all events the ardent support of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Keogh). Upon the matter which had been spoken to by his noble Friend (Lord Naas), he (Mr. Whiteside) only knew that on the Tuesday of the week referred to, he was informed by the Earl of Derby that Her Majesty had been pleased, in presence of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Napier), to assent to his right hon. and learned Friend and himself (Mr. Whiteside) being appointed law officers of the Crown in Ireland; and, until a member of the Kildare Street Club called upon his right hon. and learned Friend and mentioned that the Solicitor Generalship for Ireland had been offered, probably by mistake, to Mr. Keogh, he had never heard the present matter alluded to. If the hon. and learned Gentleman were satisfied with the explanation made this evening, he (Mr. Whiteside) would not utter one word to abate his triumph. But he could not permit an attack to be made upon his noble Friend the Earl of Eglinton, with whom it had been his pride and happiness to be connected for a year, in silence. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland, that they were not to take all the reports that appeared in newspapers as accurate. But he would say this boldly, as was his duty, speaking as a Member of this House, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman Her Majesty's Solicitor General for Ireland— he guarded himself by that"if"—if the hon. and learned Gentleman made the speech which he had read, and which was represented to have been delivered by him within the last nine months in Ireland, when, with consummate ability, be harangued mob after mob, on Sabbath after Sabbath, and in county after county—if he did declare that the Church must be overthrown—if he did declare that Mr. Sharman Craufurd's Bill must be the law of the land—if he did make that Westmeath speech which he (Mr. Whiteside) found in the paper in his hands, and which was certified by the rector of the parish and three gentlemen, and sent to Lord Eglinton; then, he said, with the deepest pain and the most unaffected regret, that he agreed—wholly and entirely agreed— in the opinion expressed by his noble Friend in another place. And whilst he admitted the ability of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he said that whenever a 305 Minister of the Crown shall be found to lay down this as his rule—to elevate to offices in the State men who are the most distinguished in the walk of agitation, let him tell him, that, in reference to Ireland, the effect of that principle would be that learning, industry, and quiet pursuit of any profession would be regarded as rather impediments to promotion; and that the short and clear road to obtain the favour of the Minister of the Crown in England would be to open a school of agitation, or to establish in Ireland nurseries of sedition.
said, he was not about to renew the painful personalities they had heard throughout the discussion; but could not help saying, the effect of it out of doors would be to create an impression that the House was in the habit of wasting a great deal of time on comparatively unimportant matters, and postponing important matters —in fact, that they were always ready to strain at a gnat, and to swallow a camel. He held this opinion on two grounds. Accusations of a much graver nature than the present had been preferred against hon. Gentlemen Members of that House, and even against persons holding a high position in the Government, which remained unanswered to this day; and yet they had devoted three hours to a debate on a matter comparatively of much less importance. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had been accused—out of, if not in, the House—of having pledged himself, in the most distinct and solemn manner, not only never to hold office under, but never to tolerate the existence of any Government which was not prepared to comply with certain conditions he mentioned. These conditions had not been fulfilled, and the hon. and learned Gentleman nevertheless held office under the present Government, which had not even made an attempt to fulfil them. The hon. and learned Gentleman might be, he doubted not, fully prepared to acquit himself from that charge; but, while endeavouring to absolve himself from charges of a minor character, he had left untouched matters of much greater importance with respect to his own character as an individual and as a Member of that House. This was his first reason for his entertaining the opinion he had expressed. The second reason he had for thinking the country would be under the impression he had mentioned, was, that a considerable number of weeks had now elapsed since much graver charges were made against the Government as a body, and yet they 306 had heard no attempt to refute them. The Government were charged by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Duffy) with corrupt practices of the grossest description. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might laugh; but he was in the recollection of the House if those charges had not been made, and if the Government had ever attempted to refute or explain them? The only explanation the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had vouchsafed was this, that one description of corruption was charged against him, and, therefore, he did not think it necessary to defend himself against the charge of another species of corruption, which was in the eyes of the country equally discreditable to the Government. Until the noble Lord refuted those charges, he (Mr. Bentinck) contended he had better not take the acrimonious tone he had adopted in the discussion of a matter of comparatively trifling importance. The noble Lord had better defend himself from those charges before he attacked others.
§ MR. VANCE
said, it was very seldom he differed in opinion with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, to support whose Administration he had been sent into that House. But he certainly could not assent to one of his observations. The right hon. Gentleman said, he should not have been surprised or displeased if office had been conferred upon the hon. and learned Member for Athlone by the Administration with which he was connected. He (Mr. Vance) could only say, that the constituency he represented, and who had returned him by a majority of 1,400 votes, would have been both surprised and displeased if office had been conferred upon the hon. and learned Gentleman in preference to the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Trinity College (Mr. Napier), or in preference to the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), both of whom had supported with consummate ability the opinions of the party with which the right hon. Gentleman had all along been connected. There were also further and graver objections to the hon. and learned Gentleman receiving any appointment in the Administration of Lord Derby, in the Ultramontane opinions he had always maintained.