HC Deb 19 June 1857 vol 146 cc27-35

said, that a petition had just been put into his hands, and as it related to a matter of privilege he presumed that he could present it at once. The petition was from John Newall, Parliamentary agent, who stated that he was the agent to the petioners against the return for the borough of Rochdale; and that Abraham Rothwell, a material witness, had informed him (Mr. Newall) that he had been offered £50 by one Peter Johnson to induce him to go to New Orleans. He would move that it be read at the table.

Petition read as follows:— TO THE HON. THE COMMONS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED. The humble Petition of John Newall, of 44, Parliament Street, Westminster, Parliamentary Agent, Showeth, That your Petitioner is the Agent for Andrew Stuart and Thomas Southworth, who signed the Petition complaining of an undue Election and Return for the borough of Rochdale, presented to your honourable House on the 11th day of May last. That the evidence of Abraham Rothwell, of No. 12, Packer Street, in the said borough, but now residing at No. 6; York Street, Blackfriars Road, is necessary to enable the said Petitioners to establish their case before the Committee to be appointed to try and determine the matter of the said Petition. That, on the 12th day of May last, your Petitioner caused the said Abraham Rothwell to be served with a warrant, under the hand of the right hon. the Speaker, requiring him to appear before the Select Committee to be appointed to try the matter of the said Petition. That the said Abraham Rothwell has this 19th day of June stated to your Petitioner that Peter Johnson, beerghop-keeper, Toad Lane, Rochdale, did, in the evening of yesterday, the 18th of June, offer the said Abraham Rothwell £50 to induce him to go to New Orleans, for the purpose of avoiding giving evidence before the Committee upon the subject matter of the said Petition, and the said Peter Johnson appointed to meet the said Abraham Rothwell this evening the 19th of June, to conclude the arrangement, and that one John Lord has been cognizant of and assisting in the said offer. That your petitioner begs respectfully to submit to your honourable House that such tampering with the said Abraham Rothwell in respect to his evidence to be given to the Committee appointed to try the matter of the said Election Petition, and endeavouring to deter or hinder the said Abraham Rothwell from appearing or giving evidence before such Committee, is contrary to the Standing Orders of your honourable House, and may, if permitted with impunity, prevent the Petitioners against the said Election and Return from establishing their case before the said Committee. Your Petitioner, therefore, humbly prays your honourable House to take the premises into consideration, and to make such order thereon as to your honourable House shall seem meet. And your Petitioner will ever pray, &c.—JOHN NEWALL.


then moved that the petitioner and Abraham Rothwell do attend this House forthwith, and it being ordered accordingly, and the said John Newall and Abraham Rothwell attending according to order, the said John Newall was examined in relation to the matter contained in the said petition, as follows:—


John Newall, you have stated, in a petition which has been presented in your name, that the evidence of Abraham Rothwell is essential in the case of the Rochdale Election Committee. Is that so?

Witness: It is so.


I rise to order.

Then the witness was ordered to withdraw.


I would suggest to you, Sir, and to the House, that it is essential that a shorthand writer should be present. If it should result from the decision of the House that a warrant should be issued under your direction for the taking into custody of any person by the Sergeant at Arms attending this House, it would be desirable that there should be a record of our proceedings.


A shorthand writer is in attendance,

The witness having again come to the bar,


You have stated in your petition that on the 12th of May last you caused the said Abraham Rothwell to be served with a warrant requiring him to appear before the Select Committee to try the matter in question.

Witness: I did.


And that the said Abraham Rothwell stated to you on this day that Peter Johnson, a beershop keeper in Rochdale, did on the evening of yesterday, the 18th of June, offer to the said Abraham Rothwell £50 to induce him to go to New Orleans for the purpose of avoiding giving evidence before that Committee. Is that so?

Witness: That is what he stated to me.


That is all that you know of your own knowledge in this matter?

Witness: That is all.


What answer did he tell you that he made to that proposal?

Witness: That he was dissatisfied with the offer; that £100 would not be too much. If the House will allow me I will read from a written statement which is signed by Abraham Rothwell—I will read the answers which he gave, I said "Who shall I have to see?"


Did Rothwell say to you that he would absent himself from the examination of the Committee for any given sum of money, if that were promised to him for that purpose?

Witness: No; certainly not.

The witness was directed to withdraw.

Abraham Rothwell was called in and examined as follows:—


Where do you live?—At Rochdale, in Packer Street.

Were you served with a warrant to attend to give evidence before the Committee in the case of the Rochdale Election Petition?—Yes.

On what day? I have been served with one to-day.

Were you served with a warrant on the 12th of May?—Yes, Sir.

Has anything occurred in consequence of your having been summoned to give evidence before this Committee?—Yes.

What has taken place?—Last night I was met by a friend of the name of John Lord. He asked me respecting some little matters. We went and had a glass of ale together, and then he said he had a friend who had come up from Rochdale entirely to see me, to see if he could arrange with me to go out of this country to prevent giving evidence before this House.

Where did this take place?—I cannot positively say the House—it was in a vault leading from where I am working. He asked me to go and see his friend who had come up. I objected to do it till I had been and had my tea. After that I agreed to meet them at nine o'clock at the Falcon Inn, in Falcon Square. I got there at a quarter after nine, and Lord was waiting for me in the square. He took me to the vault at the corner. I can't say the name of the vault, for I am a stranger here. Then his friend, Peter Johnson, was there. As soon as he saw me he came to speak to me—he said that I knew what he had come about? I said, Yes. He then further asked me if I meant to go away; if so, he would find me an outfit of £50; that he would go as far as £50. I said I thought that was full little. I thought £100 would look much better. He said he did not wish to press me to give an answer then, and he allowed me till to-night to give my answer, and we then agreed to meet to-night at nine o'clock.

Was that all that took place between you and Peter Johnson?—That would be about the amount of it; there were some little things more besides.

Did you then agree to meet him this evening and arrange matters further?—Yes, about taking the money.

By the ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND: Do you know where Peter Johnson lives?—Yes, Toad Road.


Do you know where he is to be found in London?—No, only to-night at nine o'clock.

What is Peter Johnson by trade?—He keeps a public-house.

In Rochdale?—Yes.

Is he here as a witness in the Rochdale Election case?—I am not aware of it.

You mentioned that he said something about £50?—Yes.

Was anything else offered you besides a sum of £50?—£50 was mentioned for my outfit and my expenses to Mr. Houldsworth—that is his brother-in-law who is now in New Orleans. But he did not name the name of New Orleans, but that I could go to Mr. Houldsworth's. My outfit was, I expect, the shipping expenses, and my fare, and the remainder would be to make up altogether £50.

Was any statement made to you expressly for what purpose you were required to go to Orleans?—Yes, to get out of the way of giving evidence here.

On what occasion?—On the occasion of the petition against Sir Alexander Ramsay.

The Rochdale Election Petition?—Yes.

Was anything said upon that occasion by you or by Johnson about the sum of £100?—Yes, by me.

What did you say to Johnson about that?—I said that I thought £50 was too little, and that I thought £100 little enough.

When you got to Orleans, were you to remain there any time?—No, I was to please myself; he also offered me money to go to any part of the country; he offered that he would pay my expenses as far as I liked to go away, to be out of the way of the petition now in London, so that he might arrange with me to get me right away.

To get out of the way of giving evidence on the Election Petition?—Yes.

After that offer had been made, and you made an arrangement to meet Johnson again this evening, what did you do?—I went home and wrote it down.

And to whom did you give that writing?—To Mr. Newall.

To the Petitioner's agent?—Yes.

When did you give the writing to Mr. Newall?—To-day.

About what hour to-day?—Perhaps it would be two o'clock.

Have you since last evening had any communication, direct or indirect, with Peter Johnson?—No.

By MR. WARREN: Did Peter Johnson show you any money?—No.

Did he tell you where the money was to come from?—He said that he had it in his possession.

He did not produce it to you?—No.

Was anybody else present?—John Lord.

Where was this?—It was in a vault near Falcon Square.

Who was the first person you told of this after it had happened?—Samuel Holland.

Do you know where John Lord is?—I have heard that he lives near to Falcon Square.

Did John Lord hear about the £50?—Yes.

Did he hear about the £100?—Yes, he heard all the conversation.

Where are you to meet this evening?—At the Elephant and Castle.

Did Peter Johnson say where the money was to come from?—He said he had it in his possession.

He did not say that any one was to pay the money?—No. I asked him the question when he mentioned the money. I said, "Who shall I have to see." He said, "No one."


Will you repeat what Lord said to you when he first spoke to you about this?—He said, I have a friend come up from Rochdale, and has brought me some news respecting some money that you are bound for, and he then changed the subject and said, he had also to deliver a message, or rather a question to ask me, that were it possible for me to go away money should be found me. He said that his friend had come up entirely to see me, for fear that another friend of mine, who is likely to come up on this petition, would get two years for not doing his duty. I said I should be very sorry if he got two years. And he said that he had come up to London to see me, if I thought proper, and I said I had no objection to see him. He said the money would be forthcoming to me to get away, if I thought proper, and he thought it was my best way, as I had taken some money to get out of the way.

Did he say to you, or did you say to him anything about the warrant that had been served upon you to attend the Committee?—I believe there was not anything said expressly about that.

When Lord was present at the interview yesterday evening, are you sure that he was near enough to hear what Johnson said to you about the money, and about your going away?—Yes, he assisted it on.

In your interview last evening when you met Johnson, and when you say Lord was "assisting it on," did he say anything?—He advised me to go away.

Do you recollect the words he used?—did he advise you to accept the offer made to you by Johnson?—His mode of talking to me was, how foolish it was for me to go against Sir Alexander Ramsay, now we had made a commencement of it—that as I had received the money I ought not to have gone against him.

How long have you known Lord?—Five years.

When did you come up to London?—On the 10th of May.

Have your been in London ever since the 10th May?—Yes.

What brought you to London on the 10th of May?—I came up expressly to be out of the way of what I call my enemies, that were always at me, trying first one way and then another, and I came out of the way intentionally to get work.

To get out of the way of whom?—Of both parties.

Both the sitting member and the petitioner?—Yes.

Have you been living in London ever since?—Yes, I have got work here.

What have you been doing? what has been your occupation since you have come to London?—I am now working for Gooch and Cousens.

What are you by trade?—A wool-sorter.

How long have you been with those parties?—A week since last Tuesday.

Had you any occupation in London before you got the employment you speak of?—No.

Where does Lord live in London?—Somewhere near Falcon Square.

How soon after you cause to London did you see Lord?—About a week.

Have you been in the habit of seeing him since you came to London?—I have seen him two or three times.

Has he made any proposion to you before yesterday similar to that which you have stated?—He wrote me a letter.

Have you that letter?—No, one day I sent it to Rochdale.

Whom did you send it to at Rochdale?—The Attorney, Mr. Harris.

Why did you send that letter to Mr. Harris?—To let him see his opinion, and what he was saying to me.

That is Lord's opinion?—Yes.

Are you yourself a voter for the borough of Rochdale?—Yes.

Did you vote at the last election?—Yes.

Where were you when the Speaker's warrant was served upon you?—I am not exactly sure whether I was at Mr. Newall's office or not.

Were you in London or at Rochdale?—I was in London.

Do you know by whom it was served?—I believe it was Mr. Newall's clerk.

Do you know the clerks name?—No.

Should you know him again?—If I saw him I should—I have seen him to-night.


What do you expect to receive from Mr. Newall?—Not anything.

Are you quite sure of that?—Yes.

Did Mr. Newall know that you were going to see this man Johnson last night?—No.

Did the Attorney at Rochdale that you wrote to know of it?—No.

Did you tell nobody that you were going to see Johnson last night?—Only my friend Mr. Holland.

Who is he?—A friend of mine at Rochdale.

How was it that you wrote to the attorney at Rochdale, that you did not tell anybody that you were going to meet Lord last night?—Because nobody knew that I was going to meet him—he met me.

Then nobody knew of the meeting beforehand except yourself?—No, except Holland.

How came you to tell Holland about it?—Holland is an agent under the Rochdale Petition.

Then Holland, one of the agents of the Petition, knew beforehand that you were going to meet Johnson last night?—I told him where I was going and he went with me part of the way.


In a former answer you said that you had received money from some party?—Yes.

From whom?—From Sir Alexander Ramsay's Eleetioneerers—a person of the name of Metcalf.

When did you receive this money?—On the day of election.

Have you received any money since that time?—No.

When you said in a former answer that you received money, did you refer to receiving money at any time since the election?—No.

Who paid the expenses when you came up from Rochdale?—It was money borrowed.

Who has paid your expenses since you have been in London?—I have borrowed money.

From whom?—From Mr. Livesey.

Have you received from Mr. Newall or from any other person money to support yourself or for any other purpose since you have been in London?—I have not received any money from Mr. Newall or from anybody belonging to him that I know of.

You said that you borrowed some money, from whom did you borrow it?—From Thomas Livesey.

The witness was directed to withdraw.

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON moved that Peter Johnson be ordered to attend in the House forthwith.


Would it not be right to order the other persons also to attend this House?


said, he did not intend to offer any opposition to the Motion, but he wished to call the attention of the House to the circumstance that a witness at the bar had charged a man named Johnson with having last night offered him a bribe to abstain from giving evidence before a Committee—an act for which Johnson was liable to be indicted for misdemeanour. He (Mr. Macaulay) presumed the object of calling Johnson to the bar was to ask him whether he was or was not guilty of an act which was a misdemeanour; and such a question could scarcely be put to him unless it were intended that he should answer it under compulsion. He (Mr. Macaulay) wished to know, before acquiescing in the Motion, whether such a course was justified by the law and practice of Parliament?


replied that it was declared by Sessional Resolutions of the House, that if it should appear that any person had been tampering with a witness in respect of his evidence to be given in that House, or any Committee thereof, and had directly or indirectly endeavoured to deter or hinder a witness from appearing or giving evidence, the same is declared a high crime and misdemeanour, and that the House would proceed with the utmost severity against the offender. He apprehended, however, that the House would afford to a person under such circumstances the opportunity of making any statement he pleased.


Yes; but one at a time.

Motion agreed to.

Ordered, That Peter Johnson do attend this House forthwith.

Then on the Motion of Viscount PALMERSTN, it was

Ordered. That John Lord do attend this House forthwith.