HC Deb 24 July 1856 vol 143 cc1386-408

said that, according to the rules of the House, he was entitled to precedence in the Motion he was now about to submit, which was one for the expulsion of a Member. He was about to ask the House to exercise a power inherent in it, and which was of the greatest importance as regarded the maintenance of its honour, its efficiency, and its influence in the country. He would not call upon hon. Members to use that power on light grounds, nor upon an occasion when it could be said that their act would tend to the establishing of a precedent dangerous to that House. He would not ask them to pass judgment by way of punishment on a man whom he supposed to be guilty, but to free themselves from the companionship of a man who had disgraced himself in the eyes of the nation. He would not ask them to constitute themselves, and assume the functions of a Court of adjudicature, for those functions, properly speaking, they did not exercise. All he desired was, that hon. Members should satisfy their own consciences as to the truth of the statements which he was about to lay before them: and if, as was the general rule, they would take the observations of one hon. Member as to facts of which he himself was cognisant to be correct, he felt no doubt that they would accede to the Motion which he had risen to propose. That Motion was, that Mr. James Sadleir, Member for the county of Tipperary, be expelled this House. The grounds on which he made the proposition were briefly these:—He did not say that Mr. Sadleir was guilty of the charges brought against him; with that he (Mr. Roebuck) had nothing to do. All he had to say was, that charges had been brought against him derogatory of his honour and destructive of his power and capacity as a Member of that House—charges which, not being rebutted by him, were a disgrace to that House as long as the person to whom they related continued a Member of it. Such were the accusations that had been brought against Mr. Sadleir. Into their truth he would not inquire, but what he did charge against him was, that, knowing that these accusations had been made against him, he fled from justice and did not attempt to defend himself. The charge which he (Mr. Roebuck) made was, not that he was guilty of a crime, but that, having fled from the accusation of one, he had confessed himself guilty of it. All that he had to make out was, that Mr. Sadleir had fled from the charge. The proof of that fact, he considered, would suffice to justify his expulsion. The first thing to be done was to show that he had been charged with a crime. On that point the papers that had been laid upon the table furnished abundant evidence. The bill of indictment found at Clonmel Assizes by the grand jury of the county of Tipperary—a document of which he held in his hand a certified abstract—attested that, upon the 18th of July, the grand jury returned against him a true bill, charging him on eight counts with fraud. That, be it observed, was on the 18th of July. On the 20th of June, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland used these words in delivering a judgment:—"It is now necessary to go to the succeeding stage of these proceedings, which I believe is unparalleled in the annals of fraud." So that, as early as the 19th of June, Mr. Sadleir must have known that he was charged with fraud. Last Friday, he (Mr. Roebuck) gave notice that he should call upon the honourable Member for Tipperary—no, his tongue had made a lapse—he would not call him the honourable Member, but the Member for Tipperary, to be present in his place while he (Mr. Roebuck) made a Motion for his expulsion. It appeared, therefore, that the Member had had notice, first, that in a judgment delivered by the Master of the Rolls, as far back as the 20th of June, he was charged with fraud; and, secondly, that on the 18th of July a Bill of indictment for that offence was found against him in the town of Clonmel by the grand jury of the county of Tipperary, Nor was that all. Some time previously a warrant for his apprehension had been issued by the Government, and the House had sent their messenger in search of him both to Dublin and to Tipperary. He was not to be found. He was not in the House, nor had they been able to discover him elsewhere. The inference was, that he had fled from justice, and, having done so, he asserted that he was not worthy to sit as a Member of that House. It might be said that he (Mr. Roebuck) was about to commit the House to a perilous precedent; and this case had been put to him, "Suppose that you had gone to America, and that some Member were to get up in his place and to give notice that next Thursday he should move that Mr. Roebuck do appear in his place on a subsequent day, when a motion for his expulsion would be submitted, what would you say to such a proceeding?" His answer was, that if he had been charged with fraud by the Master of the Rolls, if a bill of indictment had been found against him, if a warrant had been issued against him, and if that House had sent out their messenger to find him, and if, notwithstanding all these proceedings he had failed to appear in his place, he should deserve to be expelled. But it might be asked, "Why act with haste in such a matter? Where would be the danger in waiting till next Session?" Waiting till next Session! Had they not waited long enough already? Was this a case for delay? To protract it further was as though a man should lie down by the side of a dead body and attempt to compose himself with the noisomeness thereof. This man had disgraced the House, had brought shame and ignominy on the House, and the House, if it regarded its own honour, had nothing for it but to cut off the peccant Member. His expulsion, hon. Members must be aware, would not render him incapable of being again elected. The case of John Wilkes had established that fact. Though they should expel him that evening, it would be competent for him to go down to Tipperary to-morrow and solicit the suffrages of the constituents. But would he do so? He (Mr. Roebuck) would appeal to any Member of that House to say whether he did not in his heart believe that Sadleir had evaded the law, and that, in expelling him, the House would only be doing justice both to him and to themselves? Precedents were not to be disregarded on a question of this kind, and, if required, they could be cited. It might, no doubt, be argued that there had been in the case of the Member for Tipperary no conviction; but it was by no means necessary for his (Mr. Roebuck's) case to prove that there had been, inasmuch as the other grounds upon which he had based his Motion were, in his opinion, amply sufficient to recommend it to the adoption of the House. One of those grounds was that James Sadleir had evaded public justice; and a man could be supposed to take that course only for one of two reasons—either because he imagined he would not have a fair trial, or because he was conscious of guilt. The former reason could not, as hon. Members well knew, have any force in the case of the Member for Tipperary; therefore, the only conclusion at which they could legitimately arrive was, that he knew himself to be guilty and had sought safety in flight. But to advert to precedents, he (Mr. Roebuck) might observe that there was one to be found in 5 Geo. II., in the year 1732. In that case George Robinson had had the following charges made against him, and the following Resolution passed in his regard:— George Robinson, Esq., having been charged in Parliament with being privy to, and concerned in, many indirect and fraudulent practices in the management of the affairs of the Charitable Corporation for the Relief of Industrious Poor, and having never attended the service of this House, although required so to do, is guilty of a high contempt of the orders and authority of this House; resolved, that for his said offence he be expelled this House. Now, was not that a case exactly parallel with the one before the House? Mr. James Sadleir had been charged with fraud; he had been summoned, but he did not comply, and failed to appear in his place in that House. The Master of the Rolls, as far back as the 19th of June, gave him clearly to understand what was hanging over his head; the grand jury at Clonmel found a true bill against him; warrants had been issued against him by the Crown, but he had not been found. What greater proof, therefore, could they have that he had evaded justice? Another case that might be cited was that of Mr. Benjamin Walsh, who had been tried and convicted of fraud; but the conviction had subsequently been quashed, yet, notwithstanding that circumstance, the House proceeded to expel Mr. Walsh. On that occasion, Sir Francis Burdett observed:— He was very far from being a stickler for what were called the privileges of Parliament, but certainly, if there was a privilege or a power in any body or assembly less disputable than another, he conceived it to be that of declaring any one of the individuals of which they were composed unfit and unworthy of associating amongst them. It was, at all events, a power which, when compared with the other extraordinary privileges assumed by Parliament, appeared to him to be of all others the least liable to abuse, because if any member was expelled from any motives of party zeal or personal persecution, a remedy would be open to him in an appeal to his constituents, who, if they thought differently of his conduct, could unquestionably restore him to his scat."—[1 Hansard, xxi. 1187.] Mr. Wynn, a great authority on Parliamentary matters, also said that— The object of the present Motion was not to punish Mr. Walsh, but to take a very important trust out of the hands of a person entirely unworthy to hold it."—[Ibid. 1194.] Mr. Perceval remarked, as to the previous case of the Member charged with misappropriating the funds of a charitable corporation, that there had been no legal conviction, yet the House was not content with simple expulsion—it also asked for a legal prosecution. Thus it appeared that the House, after expelling a Member, went further, and addressed the Crown to institute a prosecution against him. It did not wait for a conviction before it acted; and even after the acquittal of Mr. Benjamin Walsh, it thought itself justified in expelling a man who had been legally pronounced innocent. It said it was morally convinced of his guilt, although by the laws of his country he had been allowed to escape; and that not as a court of justice, but as a body of persons called upon to satisfy their own consciences, they were persuaded the individual in question was unworthy to hold the important trust confided to a Member of that House. Such being his opinions, and feeling that every hour the representative for Tipperary remained a Member of that House, the power, the consideration, and the honour of that assembly were tainted and impaired, he should beg to move the expulsion of Mr. James Sadleir on the grounds set forth in the statement which he had just made.


said, he rose to second the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which raised a most important constitutional question. The jurisdiction which the House was invited to exercise concerned not only its own character and honour, but also the interests of the constituency of Tipperary, now left substantially without a representative. A notion very generally, and perhaps very naturally, prevailed, that the House at that moment had not materials technically sufficient to act upon. That impression doubtless arose from confounding the jurisdiction of that House with the ordinary jurisdiction of the courts of law. They could not examine witnesses on oath, they did not proceed on technical grounds, but rather on what satisfied the conscience of the House. That assembly being the exclusive judge of the worthiness of its own Members had now to determine whether, having regard to facts well known to them all, and on which they could fairly act, it was not due to the honour and dignity of Parliament that James Sadleir should no longer be suffered to retain his seat? In matters of that kind they must be governed by established usage and precedent. A Committee of that House sat in 1807 to examine into all the precedents of the expulsion of Members; and in the Report of that Committee all the precedents down to that date were set forth and classified. It was remarkable that by far the greater number of them were cases in which there had been no legal conviction. It should be observed in limini, that in one or two singular instances of this description the House proceeded first to expel the person whom it regarded as an unworthy Member, and then addressed the Crown to direct the Attorney General to prosecute him—thus marking the distinction which it drew between the case of Members whom it deemed not entitled to the appellation "honourable," and that of those who might or might not be legally convicted of crime. A man indicted for a heinous offence might elude punishment on some purely technical point, and yet in substance and in fact be really unfit to remain a Member of that House. There was a class of offences—such for example as the frauds in regard to which the Attorney General for England had brought in a Bill in the course of the Session, and the Attorney General for Ireland had promised to bring in one next Session,—which were undoubtedly grave crimes in foro conscientiœ, although not indictable by the law of the land. It therefore became the duty of the House, without setting themselves up as affected purists, honestly to inquire whether one of their own Members was not proved, by notorious facts to which they could not shut their eyes, to have evinced a degree of moral turpitude which disqualified him from remaining enrolled in the list of that assembly. On such questions the House acted on the statement of one of its Members in his place. And why so? Because they were bound to repose confidence in the honour of each other, the principle being that hon. Members, though returned for particular constituencies, were all bound together, as, in a sense, representing the whole community. In the Report of the Committee to which he had referred, the precedents were chronically arranged, and the first one enumerated was very remarkable. It happened in 1558. Mr. John Smyth had defrauded several merchants in London, and the question was raised whether he was entitled to the privilege of Parliament in regard to legal process. In Hatsell, p. 81, it was stated:— It should seem from the words of the order that the doubt was.…. whether a man who appeared to the House to have been guilty of so gross a fraud ought any longer to continue a Member. And as Prynne says, 'How honourable this vote was for the House in the case of such a cheating Member, carried only by five voices, is not fit for me to determine.' Again, the case of Sir John Leeds, in 1620, was that of a Member who, having been committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, made his escape; and it was remarked, in the fourth volume of Hatsell, page 109, in a note, that "having by his flight acknowledged his guilt, he is expelled the House of Commons." Passing over many intermediate precedents, and coming to the period subsequent to the Revolution of 1688, there was the case of 1710, in which the House resolved, nem. con.:— That it appears in this House that Thomas Ridge, Esq., a Member of this House, is guilty of great fraud and abuses, by having contracted to furnish 5,513 ton of beer upon his own account, and 2,704 ton of beer in partnership with Mr. Dixon, and having received bills for the whole; although he delivered but 3,213 ton on the first, and but 1,269 upon the latter contract; that the said Thomas Ridge, Esq., be, for the said frauds and abuses, expelled this House; that an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will please to give direction to Her Attorney General to prosecute the said Mr. Ridge for the said frauds and abuses. He would not refer to the South Sea cases, because their circumstances were peculiar. The ground upon which Mr. Robinson—to whose case the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had referred—was expelled, was thus declared in the Resolution of the House of Commons:— Resolved, that George Robinson, Esq., having been charged in Parliament with being privy to and concerned in many indirect and fraudulent practices, * * * and having never attended the service of this House, although required so to do, is guilty of a high contempt of the orders and authority of this House. The expulsion was not based upon the charge of fraud, but simply on the ground that Mr. Robinson having been ordered to attend in his place, and having failed to do so, he had been guilty of contempt of the House. He found, from the Journals, that in the following year an Address to the Crown was agreed upon, praying that the Attorney General might be directed to prosecute the expelled Member. The next case to which his (Mr. Napier's) attention had been directed was that of Mr. Atkinson, who was indicted for perjury; a verdict was found against him, but he was never called up for judgment. The Attorney General for that day stated the whole process against Mr. Atkinson, the issue of which, he said, was,— That Mr. Atkinson had absconded from the justice of his country. In this situation it became Parliament to attend to their own dignity and importance. The Member had been indicted, in his opinion, on the clearest and most unexceptionable evidence, for what the laws of this and every other country held a very grievous offence; and the question would naturally be with Gentlemen, how was the House to act in such a case? Every society, in his opinion, were competent to their own preservation. It was the duty of Parliament, as he conceived, for that reason, to come to an immediate decision on a point, in which its honour and respectability were so essentially interested. In the present case, indictments had been found against James Sadleir; he had absconded from justice; the Attorney General for Ireland and the Government had done everything in their power to cause his apprehension; a warrant had been issued against him, and a reward had been offered for his capture. An order of that House had been made, requiring the attendance of Mr. Sadleir: and, as he had neither appeared to answer the indictments nor obeyed the order of the House, he (Mr. Napier) considered that the precedents he had quoted fully justified his expulsion. In the case of Lord Cochrane, Lord Castlereagh said:— Indeed, it never had been held that expulsion could rest upon any other grounds than that the Member expelled had not delivered himself from the charge legally charged upon him, and that therefore he was not a fit person to remain in this House. He (Mr. Napier) thought that opinion of Lord Castlereagh, and the opinion of the Attorney-General in the case of Atkinson, fully justified the House in adopting the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. When a Judge had declared in public Court that James Sadleir had been guilty of gigantic frauds; when it had been stated in a judicial judgment that those frauds had resulted from a conspiracy; when the charge had been embodied in informations; when warrants had been issued; when indictments had been found by the grand jury, which James Sadleir did not appear to answer; and when, having been ordered to attend in his place in that House he had neglected to do so, he (Mr. Napier) would ask whether it was right and fitting that the constituency of Tipperary should be left with such a person as their representative, and whether he should still be the companion of Members of that House, and entitled to claim the title of ''honourable"? The Attorney General for Ireland had stated that the case was one of such a special character that the opinion of high legal authorities in Ireland, that James Sadleir should not be prosecuted by the Crown, had been overruled, and the Attorney General had himself undertaken the prosecution. The case of Mr. Walsh was one of a very remarkable character. He was charged with felony; but the opinion of the Judge was that the offence did not amount to felony. On the Motion for his expulsion there were in the minority of eighteen the names of some of the most honoured Members at that time in the House, including Sir Samuel Romilly, Lord Brougham, and the father of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair. He (Mr. Napier) willingly admitted that in a case of this description they ought not to act upon light grounds or to be influenced by mere suspicion. He thought, however, that the present was a very peculiar and special case. James Sadleir, according to the statement of the Government, could not now be made amenable to justice; he had withdrawn himself from the service of the order of that House. Was it fitting, then, that he should continue to enjoy all the privileges of a Member of Parliament? Had the recent elections in Ireland afforded any ground for believing that, if he again presented himself to his constituents, they would be likely to re-elect him? Mr. Walsh, as he (Mr. Napier) had stated, was acquitted of felony, but the House considered that he was guilty of a fraud which attached a stain to his character and honour, and they expelled him. With reference to that case Sir Francis Burdett stated that of all the privileges of the House that of the expulsion of Members was the one least liable to abuse, because if the House committed any mistake the constituency of the expelled Member would set them right. Were a constituency, however, to be saddled with a representative who had withdrawn himself altogether from their service? What he would ask, was, according to the precedents, the duty of the House? He conceived that they were bound, by the consideration of what was due to their own dignity and honour, to teach a great moral lesson to the people of Ireland and of this country by expelling James Sadleir, and leaving it to his constituents, if they thought fit, to return him again to Parliament. He (Mr. Napier) had considered the subject most carefully, and when he had fully acquainted himself with all the circumstances of the case he was satisfied that some action ought to have been taken at an earlier period. There were such facts before the House as must lead them to the conviction that fraud had been committed—committed by men possessing considerable political influence and position, and having seats in that House. A great scheme of fraud had been established, but the scheme was broken up—the waters gathered around them, and the wheels of their chariots were broken. Here they had a great moral lesson, for though the perpetrators of this fraud might escape from Courts of Justice they did not escape from the consequences of their conduct, and he hoped with respect to the individual whose case was now before them, that he would not be permitted to enjoy the honour of a seat in that House, the Members of which were entitled to the appellation of "honourable." He did not think they were called on to declare whether this individual was guilty or not, but they were entitled to act upon facts and proceedings that were perfectly notorious. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD indicated dissent.] The Attorney General for Ireland shook his head at that statement, but he believed they were fully entitled to proceed in that House on the statement which had been made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself on to the fact that an indictment had been preferred against James Sadleir. If he understood aright the gesture of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Government meant to oppose the Motion; but if so, he would ask was nothing to be done? As far as he (Mr. Napier) was concerned, he had done a simple constitutional duty; and if the House shrank from the duty which he believed rested with them, they would be sheltering guilt, exhibiting a miserable example of timidity, and telling the world that men might be guilt of, or at all events charged with, crimes of the greatest dishonour and yet might set justice at defiance, and, at the same time, defy the orders and privileges of that House, and continue to claim the title of "honourable members."

Motion made and Question proposed—"That Mr. James Sadleir having absconded from public justice, be expelled this House."


said he wished to know whether the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield desired to have the indictment read at the table of the House?


said he had no wish that it should be done unless the forms of the House required it. He had supposed the House would have considered it as read.


said, he wished before any statement was made by a Member of the Government to suggest the course which he considered should be adopted, because he was not sufficiently acquainted with the facts of the case, and he had no doubt many hon. Members were similarly situated. He thought the House should not come to a hasty decision on the subject, but rather take time first to investigate the truth of the charges alleged against Mr. James Sadleir, and to read the official documents which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) had so largely quoted from. The present was a grave judicial question, and ought not to be settled without examination. But, besides that his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Roebuck) had produced documents which he had been asked from the chair whether he wished to have read or not, and (Mr. S. Wortley) thought it was desirable that those papers should not only be read by the Clerk, but put in such a shape that every Member would have an opportunity of reading them for himself. He believed that the precedents that had been cited were not identical with the case before them. In the cases referred to the Members had been expelled for their conduct towards that House, after conviction of an offence, or from notorious conduct before conviction, and on which the House had afterwards addressed the Crown to prosecute. Whether the proceedings in those cases had or had not been hasty, and under what time and causes those proceedings were taken, he was not then prepared to say, but they sounded to him of harsh and hasty proceedings. Here they had the case of a Member of that House charged with the greatest possible frauds, who as yet had made no answer to them. Those charges had been made the subject of a prosecution, and which prosecution was now hanging over that Member's head, and they were about to expel him on the ground that having been charged with the committal of those frauds for which he was to be prosecuted, he had left the country to avoid justice. Now it should be remembered that Mr. James Sadleir left the country before the warrant was issued against him, and it was impossible for them to say he would not appear at the proper time and place to answer to the indictment framed against him, because it was well known that persons who were charged with an offence were unwilling to remain in prison for a period antecedent to their trial, and they consequently kept out of the way until the day of trial, when they surrendered, and that was one ground why he considered that they should not proceed at once to decide on this Motion. If they did, and Mr. James Sadleir appeared hereafter to take his trial, the House would be placed by it in a very painful and curious position. He should therefore move, that the documents referred to be printed, and the debate adjourned.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "the Papers presented to the House this day, relating to Mr. James Sadleir, be printed," instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he thought it was proper, before proceeding any further with the discussion, that the House should be made aware of the facts which were in evidence before them, because he, for one, must protest against the House proceeding on certain facts merely because they were declared to be "notorious." There was before the House proper evidence of the following facts:—That on the 4th of July informations were sworn before a magistrate against James Sadleir, and that the offence sworn against him was not felony or a misdemeanor, but that of conspiring with his deceased brother John Sadleir, to cheat and defraud the public by means of false representations; that the Tipperary Bank was a solvent institution when it was otherwise, in order to induce people in this country to become shareholders in that bank. They had also this evidence that, on the 4th of July, in consequence of this sworn information, a warrant was issued against James Sadleir; that on the 18th of July—being the first day of the assizes for the South Riding of Tipperary—bills of indictment were presented against him to the grand jury of the county of Tipperary, and that the grand jury, on the evidence of three witnesses, found a true bill against him; and further, that, on that bill of indictment, so found against James Sadleir, the Judge of assize issued a bench warrant for his apprehension on Saturday last. He believed he had accurately stated all that the House had before it in the shape of evidence. There were a great many charges and accusations which might be true—which they might perhaps believe to be true—but of evidence the House had nothing more before it than what he had stated. He might state, further, that Mr. Sadleir had not been arrested under the warrant issued on the 4th of July, and had not appeared to answer the charge preferred against him on the 18th. Assuming that the ordinary course of proceeding would be followed if Mr. Sadleir did not appear to plead to the indictment, the Crown would proceed against him to outlawry, and upon that outlawry, although the law did not consider a judgment of outlawry tantamount to an admission of guilt, yet if that step was arrived at, the House would have something on which it might act, and, if it thought fit, expel Mr. Sadleir. He would now allude to another matter. It would he recollected that on Monday last the House made an order that Mr. Sadleir should attend in his place on that day. As yet the House had not before it what took place upon that order, but he might state that on Monday evening one of the messengers of the House proceeded to Ireland, and on the following day (Tuesday), he served the order at the residence of Mr. Sadleir, in the county of Tipperary. Also, on the same day, he served the order at a place pointed out to him in Dublin where Mr. Sadleir had once resided, and likewise upon parties who were represented to him to be the solicitors who acted for Mr. Sadleir, in the Tipperary Bank case. It thus appeared that due diligence had been used; but they could not shut their eyes to the fact that it was only on Monday last that the Order of the House was made, and that it was not until the following day that it was served at the residence of Mr. Sadleir, in Tipperary. He made this preliminary statement to enable the House to form its judgment. Speaking of the case generally, he did not say that it was his intention, or the intention of the Government, to resist the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). The case was peculiarly one for the House itself to determine. It involved the honour and character of the House, and the House ought to deal with it in its judicial capacity. But it behoved them, the proceeding being judicial in its nature, to act with great care and with prudent examination beforehand. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield said he did not call upon the House to come to the conclusion that the charges were true and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) asked the House to proceed, not on evidence but on conscience; but he would say that in a judicial proceeding they should proceed with great care, and in his judgment if they made an Order in accordance with the Motion they would take a very dangerous step. He did not say that the Motion ought to be resisted. It was a proper Motion, but the decision of the House upon it, he considered, ought to be deferred, inasmuch as the time had not yet arrived when they could act upon anything before them. He could not forget that the House had already by statute, with respect to seats affected by election petitions, denuded itself to a great extent of the power which it once exercised and in some cases abused; had confined that power within narrow limits; and had decided that in its proceedings it ought to be guided by something like legal evidence. In the case of Mr. Sadleir, his opinion was that, having regard to the constitution, the House ought not to pronounce a judgment without a proper preliminary inquiry—without either a confession of guilt or an amount of legal evidence tantamount to it. Nothing had yet occurred to justify the House in coming to the conclusion that there had been an admission of guilt. There was not to be found one solitary case in which the House, unless in times of violence, when might and not law regulated its proceedings, had expelled a Member without either a conviction, a confession of something which rendered him unfit to continue in his seat, or some inquiry at the bar or by a Select Committee. All the precedents which had been referred to classed themselves under one or other of those categories. In the first—that of Mr. Robinson, in 1732—a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the alleged frauds. Mr. Robinson, however, was not expelled for fraud, but for contempt, he having obstinately refused, after due notice had been served upon him, to appear and answer the charge before the House. The case of Mr. Benjamin Walsh in 1812, was one of conviction for felony, but the charge of felony contained within it an accusation of gross fraud, whatever might be the legal definition of the crime. Walsh, in fact, could not have been convicted unless the jury had found the truth of this charge of fraud. After his trial and conviction the Judge came to the conclusion that, though the charge was true, yet in its legal definition it was not felony. Such was the state of the case when the House undertook to deal with it. The charge of fraud was found to have been established beyond the shadow of a doubt, and, although that fraud did not amount in a legal sense to felony, the House very properly expelled the Member. In almost all the cases which had been referred to the Member was either personally present or had made an admission of his guilt. He did not put these cases forward to prove that the House could deal only with cases of crime. If a Member had been guilty of that which tainted his moral character—which, though not a legal crime, made him unfit to continue in his seat—the House might and ought to expel him. Nor did he wish to say that, in order to warrant the expulsion of Mr. Sadleir, the House must come to the conclusion that crime had been committed. The House need not even enter into that question, but if it found that he had been guilty of fraud of such a character that he ought not to be allowed to consort with the Members of the House, it would then be its duty to expel him. None of the cases which had been referred to, including those mainly relie upon by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, were at all similar to that of Mr. Sadleir. In the case of Mr. Wilkes, which bore no analogy to the present, a speech was delivered by Mr. Grenville, which pointed out very clearly what course the House ought to pursue. Mr. Grenville said— Whenever this House has expelled any Member it has invariably assigned some particular offence as the reason for such expulsion. By the fundamental principles of this constitution the right of judging upon the general propriety or unfitness of their representatives is intrusted with the electors; and, when chosen, this House can only exclude or expel them for some disability established by the law of the land, or for some specific offence alleged and proved. … We are now acting in our judicial capacity, and are therefore bound to found the judgment which we are to give, not upon our wishes and inclinations, not on our private belief or arbitrary opinions, but on specific facts alleged and proved according to the established rules and course of our proceedings."—[Hansard, Parl. History, xvi. 561.] In that advice so given by Mr. Grenville, the House would find the soundest principles to guide its proceedings, and a course of action laid down, which he hoped would never be departed from. The only precedent which he could find that had a distinct bearing upon the matter before the House was the case of Mr. Hunt, in 1810. Mr. Hunt held the situation of Treasurer of the Ordnance, and, upon the Report of a Commission, was charged with being a defaulter, and with having misappropriated public funds to the extent of £83,000. The Report of that Commission had been on the table some time when Mr. Calcraft gave notice that he would, upon the 4th of April, 1810, bring the case before the House; but on an intimation from the Speaker that his notice had been too short, he withdrew it, and gave notice again for the 17th of April. Upon that day, again at the suggestion of the Speaker, he deferred his Motion, and it finally came on for discussion on the 23rd of May. It appeared then that Mr. Hunt had gone to Lisbon, and that an Order of the House had been served upon him. Mr. Calcraft also produced a letter, which was proved to be in Mr. Hunt's handwriting, in which he admitted to have received the Order of the House, and also admitted his guilt, although not to the extent charged against him. The House then came to a Resolution that Mr. Hunt had been guilty of embezzlement, and to the further Resolution that he should be expelled the House. From the course which the present case had taken it was quite unnecessary that he should go through the whole of the precedents, and he would only state that he had examined them with care, and that they all partook of the character which he had pointed out. He had also gone through the records of the Irish Parliament for the last century, and he found that the same rule had prevailed there—that they had expelled Members who had been guilty of crime and of fraudulent misconduct; but that in no case had they done so, except on conviction, confession, or inquiry. In 1703, a Mr. Asgill was expelled. The Resolution stated that the House had examined several witnesses, and found that Mr. Asgill was the author of a certain book, and therefore ordered him to be expelled. He would now see whether there was anything in the present case on which the House could safely proceed. It was said that the charge was made by the Master of the Rolls on the 4th of March, but James Sadleir was no party to the proceedings in that Court, and it was not until the 4th of July that anything took place on which they could act. If he might advise the House, he would say let the Motion stand over until they met again; in the meantime the proceedings would go on, Mr. James Sadleir would either be made amenable and tried, or judgment of outlawry would be recorded against him. In either case then the House would have something on which to proceed. He would only advert to one remark of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, who told the House they should proceed on conscience. From that it would appear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was inclined to view this as a political question. He (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) hoped there was no Gentleman in the House who, on a question where the honour and character of the House were involved, would, under the name of conscience, deal with it in a political spirit. Against such a course he, at least, would enter his solemn protest.


said, he quite agreed that this was a matter with which the House could not act with too much caution, but he did not think that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had stated to the House what the real facts of the case were. The facts were these:—Mr. James Sadleir's connection with the Tipperary Joint-stock Bank had been the subject of inquiry in the highest Court in Ireland, and the Judge of that Court had found that a letter had been written by the late Mr. John Sadleir to his brother James, pointing out by what means one of the most unparalleled frauds could be carried out. They had it before them that that letter had been found in the possession of Mr. James Sadleir, and also that the directions contained in the letter had been fully carried out by them. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: No, no!] Well, at all events, they had the fact that, in obedience to the directions contained in that letter, Mr. James Sadleir put his name to a fraudulent statement in respect to the position of the bank, and also that a fraud of so gigantic a nature had been perpetrated that the whole of the English shareholders, who in consequence of that fraudulent statement had invested money in the bank, were released from their liabilities. Those were the real facts which had been laid on the table of the House in the documents which were produced; and he must say, he was strongly of opinion that they ought, in consequence, to take some steps to secure the honour and reputation of the House. It must be recollected it would be impossible that any trial could take place before the Lent assizes, and therefore until the month of March next, Mr. James Sadleir would occupy the honourable position of a Member of Parliament. There was one thing he wished to know, which was, whether any proceedings of outlawry could be taken before that time? Although it was very true that until a trial and conviction had taken place, the House could not be put into formal possession of the facts of the case, yet he thought that no reasonable man could doubt—after what had been stated by a most upright Judge, who had fully investigated the facts of the case— that a great fraud had been committed by Mr. James Sadleir. His right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. S. Wortley) had moved as an Amendment to the Motion made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) that the papers should be printed. The effect of that would be to get rid of the Motion altogether. The papers were very short, and hon. Members had been placed in full possession of the facts of the case, therefore he thought there was no excuse for not coming to a decision upon the main question.


said, he was most anxious to echo the advice given by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, that they ought to proceed with the utmost deliberation in this case. He believed that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield was animated with no other desire than to uphold the dignity and the honour of that House. But it must be remembered that they were now exercising a judicial function—they must take care, therefore, that they did not act with precipitancy which might possibly lead to injustice. The House must thoroughly understand, that if they adopted the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend they would establish a precedent; for there certainly had never yet been a case in which the House had expelled an individual Member, since law and justice had prevailed, except upon previous conviction or some Parliamentary inquiry, where the accused had an opportunity of vindicating himself. As far as he (the Attorney General) understood, Mr. James Sadleir was not a party to the proceedings before the Master of the Rolls; neither had he had any opportunity of explaining or refuting the charges which had been brought against him. He (the Attorney General) did not pretend to assert that a conviction was necessary to justify a proceeding of this nature; but, in his opinion, there ought to be some preliminary inquiry by the House into the facts of the case. It must be remembered that the judgment of the Master of the Rolls had been appealed from, and even if it had not, that judgment was not formally before the House. He could not understand why it was necessary that they should act hastily in the matter. It was quite clear that within a few days Parliament would be prorogued. The House, therefore, could not be offended by the presence of Mr. Sadleir, neither could his constituents receive any injury, because in the interval between the prorogation and the meeting of Parliament they would have no need of his services. In the meantime, Mr. Sadleir would be required to surrender and take his trial. Upon that trial he would be either convicted or acquitted. If he did not surrender, the proceeding of outlawry would take place, and it had been laid down by the highest Parliamentary authorities that outlawry upon a criminal proceeding would be sufficient to disqualify any man from sitting in Parliament. By a postponement, therefore, they would avoid the charge of precipitancy, and they would avoid creating a precedent which might hereafter be converted into a dangerous political instrument. Taking all the circumstances, therefore, of the case into consideration, he thought that the better course of proceeding would be to postpone the Motion until the commencement of the next Session.


said, he did not intend to enter into the merits of the case, but he would put it to his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. S. Wortley) whether the better course would not be for him to withdraw his Motion for papers, and to let the House come at once to a decision on the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield. There was nothing in those papers that was not already known to the House, and they would not to-morrow be in any better position than they were in to-day for coming to a decision. As to the case itself, he entirely concurred with the opinions expressed by his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. They were now called upon to preserve the purity of the House; that was, no doubt, a most important application, but one of the chief elements of purity was a strict regard of the principles of justice, and an avoidance of precedents which might hereafter be converted to purposes of injustice. Assuming that there was a full conviction in the mind of every hon. Member of the guilt of James Sadleir, still he held that they ought not to take a proceeding in the nature of expulsion without being able to found it upon some formal indisputable ground, such as conviction or confession, or the Report, after due examination, of a Committee—something which, at present, thoy had not. He, therefore, urged the House, out of regard to its own purity and to the principles of justice, not to establish a precedent which might on future occasions be converted into an instrument of injustice, but to postpone their decision until they were in a better position to decide.


said, there was one ground which compelled him to ask the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield not to press his Motion. A Motion was made on Monday for Mr. James Sadleir to appear in the House on Thursday. That period was very short, and Mr. Sadleir could scarcely have been present if he had felt so disposed.


said, he agreed with the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the best way of vindicating the honour of the House was to act justly. Without expressing any opinion as to the case of James Sadleir, he thought that the worse the case seemed the more careful they ought to be not to act upon it until the person implicated had had an opportunity of being heard. He could not say that when notice to a person to appear in that House on a Thursday had only been given on a Monday, and there was no proofs of personal service, he was to be treated as absent.


said, he had no objection to withdraw his Amendment, if the hon. and learned Gentleman below him would withdraw his Motion. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield makes no sign. Under these circumstances he could only withdraw his Amendment, on the understanding that the noble Lord would move the previous Question.


I beg, Sir, to move the previous Question.


Sir, I suppose there will be no further discussion on this matter. It strikes me, from the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, that some political considerations are mixed up with this question—[cries of "No, no!"] I understood him so, and I think it a most unhappy thing that we cannot touch anything in regard to Ireland unless political feelings are imported into the discussion. I have done the best I could to support the honour and dignity of the House, and if I find the majority against me, of course I cannot help it. Hon. Gentlemen have talked about the danger of precedent. No man, however, had pointed out what that danger is. What is this case? A man commits a crime dishonourable in itself. He is found by the Master of the Rolls guilty of a fraud of the most atrocious description; and I ask, therefore, if such a man ought not to be expelled from the House of Commons? To talk about danger, and to affect a squeamishness of this sort, appears to me to be most inconsistent with the maintenance of the honour and dignity of the House. Sir, we stand dishonoured by the association with a peccant Member. I have done what I could to free you from that association, and the blame must therefore rest with those who have prevented me.


said, that in reference to the remark of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) he could state that efforts had been made to serve the Order on James Sadleir, but he could not be found.


said, he must repudiate in the most distinct terms, on the part of the House, the charge which had been brought against it by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. The arguments that had been urged in the course of the discussion did honour both to those who had used them and to those who had been influenced by them. As far as he could understand the grounds upon which the House had proceeded, they had wholly discarded any considerations as to the side of the House upon which the person sat who was the object of the inquiry; they had proceeded entirely upon abstract principles of justice.


said, he thought that the worst course to be adopted was, to move the previous question; but, at the same time, he wished it to be understood that his opinion was not grounded upon any hesitation of a private kind, as to whether this was a case in which it was necessary to expel a Member from the House or not. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck) would renew his Motion. He did not think there could be any mode by which, except by accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, Mr. James Sadleir could now escape from the vote of that House, and the expulsion to which he ought to be subjected.


said, that having observed the course of the whole proceedings during the last six months, and not believing that any evidence could be adduced to justify the person in question, he was prepared to vote with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. But, as it appeared to be thought by a majority of the House that it was better to wait a little, he would recommend the hon. and learned Member not to divide, since if he were in a minority the effect would be that a great number would escape whom he believed to be equally guilty.


said he had no doubt the time would come when the House would interfere, but it would be better not to proceed hastily. When the time did come he did not question that the House would act with vigour and firmness.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. James Sadleir, having absconded from public justice, be expelled this House."

Whereupon the Previous Question, "That that Question be now put," was put, and negatived.


I wish, Sir, to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. If an application is made for the Chiltern Hundreds for Mr. James Sadleir, will the Government pledge themselves not to grant it?