HC Deb 05 June 1857 vol 145 cc1212-6

I wish, Sir, to put a question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but before I do so I can hardly refrain from noticing the observations which have been made with respect to my conduct by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe). He says that I introduced a Bill which I maintained would cure all corruptions and prevent all bribery at elections. I beg totally to deny the truth of that allegation. I introduced a Bill which I hoped might render bribery and corruption at elections less frequent, but I was not so sanguine as to hope that it would put an end to all bribery and corruption. However, that Bill was sent with other Bills to a Select Committee of this House. That Select Committee comprised the late Attorney General (the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), the hon. and learned Member for East Suffolk (Sir F. Kelly), and several other Members of the late House, who were fully competent to consider the questions submitted to them. Many clauses which had been proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Suffolk were introduced into that Bill, and it was the opinion of the Committee that the provisions of the Bill would render bribery and corruption of less frequent occurrence. Now, Sir, notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Member for Finsbury, I am inclined to think that the Committee was right in that view. But the question will soon be tried, because we shall have a number of Election Committees sitting upon the petitions which have been presented, and by the result of their inquiries we shall be able to see whether that is a useful Bill or not, and, if useful, whether such additions may be made to it as may have the effect of still further correcting the evil of bribery. But the hon. Member for Finsbury says that he has propositions of his own, which are admirably calculated to prevent certain evils which he pointed out. Why, then, does he not apply his industry to the correction of those evils instead of complaining that my Bill is ineffectual? With regard to the suggestion made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hildyard), I am very much of the opinion stated by my noble Friend at the head of the Government—namely, that, although some remedies might be required, I think we ought to be very cautious how we shut the door against complaints of bribery and corruption. There may be cases, as my noble Friend stated, in which a person may in his own mind have had a perfectly good reason for presenting a petition complaining of corrupt practices, and that opinion may have been well founded, but circumstances may have taken place by which he is unable to bring forward the truth of the case, and I think he is then perfectly justified in withdrawing his petition. The question which I wish to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has some remote reference to this subject, but it refers more particularly to a Gentleman who considers himself to have been aggrieved by circumstances that took place in the late Parliament. The Gentleman to whom I allude is Mr. Stonor, who produced to the Duke of Newcastle, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, very high testimonials and recommendations, and on which the Duke of Newcastle recommended him to the Crown for a judicial office in one of the Australian Colonies. A Report was made to this House by one of the Selection Committees, which impugned the character of Mr. Stonor, and some discussion took place in this House on the subject. The Duke of Newcastle, although he believed that Mr. Stonor had been very hardly dealt with, thought it was his duty to advise the Crown to cancel his appointment. But, without entering into particulars, I think I may fairly say, that there was some misconception with regard to the imputations which were made against Mr. Stonor; at least, I was convinced when I was Secretary for the Colonies that if a vacancy should occur in any office which Mr. Stonor was competent to fill no imputation rested upon his character, and I should be prepared to recommend him to the Crown for public employment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies is aware of the circumstances to which I have alluded; and I wish to ask him whether, in his opinion, there is any circumstance affecting the character of Mr. Stonor which would disqualify him for appointment to a public office.


Sir, I shall best answer the question of my noble Friend by stating exactly to him and to the House the reply that I made to Mr. Stonor, when he made a similar application to me. I had known that Gentleman when I was Secretary for Ireland, having had some intercourse with him upon the occasion of requiring the assistance of professional gentlemen to prepare some public measures which the Government intended to lay before Parliament. Mr. Stonor was then recommended to me by some of the highest legal authorities in Ireland; and what they stated to me I certainly found to be true in my intercourse with him. That intercourse left upon my mind a very favourable impression of him, both as a private individual, and as an acute, sensible and learned professional man. Shortly after my appointment to the Colonial Office, Mr. Stonor called upon me, and stated the very fatal effects which the recall of the colonial appointment that he had accepted had produced upon himself and his family, and he asked me whether I would recommend the Crown, upon a fitting opportunity, to restore him to the colonial service. My answer to him was this:—I said that I had looked into the circumstances of the case; that the impression upon my mind was that they formed no permanent disqualification to his employment in the colonial service, and that I should have no difficulty in recommending him to the Crown for any office in this country for which he might be competent, but that I thought an appointment in a colony was a very different matter. This gentleman has been recalled from one colony, and I was satisfied that if he were sent to another colony, the impression there would be, that it had been hardly used. I should have no opportunity of justifying the appointment before that colonial community, and I therefore told him that I did not think it would be to the interest of the public service, if I should recommend him to the Crown for any colonial appointment. But I feel it to be due to him to make the declaration in this House that, in my opinion, there is nothing in the circumstances of his case which should permanently be held to be a disqualification of him for public employment in any situation for which he is competent.


said that, having been a Member of the Committee before whom some charges were brought against Mr. Stonor, he considered it right to state a circumstance which had not been alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. When Mr. Stonor was an applicant for a judicial appointment in one of the colonies, he gave the Colonial Office the fullest opportunity of considering the facts which were laid before the Committee with reference to him, and which were supposed to reflect upon his character. It was proved before the Committee that, by some oversight, the papers of Mr. Stonor with reference to the charges preferred against him were not examined at the Colonial Office; and, in consequence of his testimonials, he received the appointment for which he applied. Shortly afterwards the appointment was brought before the House by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), and the result was that, by the very mail following that which took Mr. Stonor to Australia, he was informed that his appointment had been cancelled. It was now manifest that he had been hardly dealt with. In order to accept the colonial appointment he gave up a lucrative practice in this country, and incurred considerable expense to settle himself in the colony. He was recalled without any fact in addition to those which he had taken every pains to bring to the notice of the Colonial Office having been brought against him. Under these circumstances, it did appear to him that the case of Mr. Stonor was a very hard one, and was well entitled to the consideration of the Government.


said, he had not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Stonor, although he was a member of the same profession to which he belonged. Mr. Stonor, too, entertained altogether opposite political opinions with him (Mr. Malins). These facts, therefore, were quite sufficient to show that he was not influenced by any personal considerations in the opinions he entertained respecting the position of that gentleman. He, however, had long been impressed with the feeling that Mr. Stonor had been very hardly dealt with, and he felt hound to stand forward in vindication of the character of a professional brother. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary say that Mr. Stonor was ineligible for a colonial appointment, because if so, he would, under the circumstances, be ineligible for any appointment, inasmuch as there was nothing else which would be likely to suit that gentleman but a colonial appointment. It should be recollected that Mr. Stonor had given up a professional income when he had gone out to our colonies, and that he was now in fact left without any redress. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman had taken a very extreme view of the case, when he objected to recommend him to an appointment in our Colonies.

Motion agreed to.

House, at rising, to adjourn till Monday next.