HC Deb 02 June 1858 vol 150 cc1404-6

Order for Consideration of his Petition (presented 1st June) read.


said, he begged to move that Mr. Washington Wilks be discharged from the custody of the Serjeant at Arms, that Gentleman having, in a petition presented late the preceding night, unreservedly retracted every charge which the House had adjudged to be false and libellous against the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Clive).


said, he trusted the House would not think him wanting in good taste in addressing it on that occasion. He had no desire whatever to withhold his assent from the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, though he could have wished, not for his (Mr. Clive's) own sake, but for the sake of human nature, that the retractation had been as ample as the charge. There were two distinct charges in this case, and if one was withdrawn because it could not be substantiated, and the other words not withdrawn, the impression left on the public mind might be that the second charge was not withdrawn because it could be substantiated. The first charge was one of corruption. That was a stab in the dark. It was impossible to meet it by evidence; and all he could do in respect of it was to meet it with a naked denial. The other charge—that of the display of partiality—was one which, fortunately, could be met. He could bring forward evidence to disprove it. But as it, too, was now withdrawn, he would not be warranted in occupying the time of the House by going into evidence to show its falsehood. He should, therefore, confine him-self to stating the fact, in addition to the testimony of the hon. Member for Sand- wich, given in his favour on a former evening, he was now able to adduce that of the learned counsel who had been engaged in the case on both sides. He had seen Mr. Hope Scott, Serjeant Wrangham, and Mr. Forsyth, counsel for the Langholme, and Mr. Calvert and Mr. Serjeant Bellasis, counsel for the Liddesdale line, that morning, and the three former gentlemen had authorised him to say that it was only immediately before the final decision that they had become aware what his views were. All five gentlemen treated the charge of partiality as one too absurd to be entertained, and were surprised that such an idea could have occurred to any one. No evidence could be more satisfactory than this, and he hoped it would be acceptable to the House. So far as he was concerned, he would cheerfully consent to the liberation of Mr. Wilks, as the House would now see that there was not one word of truth in the charges of corruption and partiality that had been brought against him.


said, he would take the present opportunity of stating that in the remarks addressed by him to the House on a former occasion he had not the slightest intention of making any imputation whatever against the hon. Member for Hereford.


said, that in matters of this kind there were three considerations. First, what was clue to the hon. Member whose conduct was impeached; secondly, what was due to the honour of the House; and, thirdly, what was due, when a retractation was made, to the person in custody of the Serjeant at Arms. He (Mr. Walpole) thought, after reading the second petition of Washington Wilks, that the hon. Member for Hereford would, in the eyes of the House and in the eyes of the country, stand fully and completely exonerated from any imputation of corruption or undue partisanship. But if that petition had left any doubt upon the subject, such doubt must have been completely removed by the statements of those learned gentlemen, the counsel on both sides, in the case disposed of by the Committee, of which the hon. Member for Hereford was chairman. In respect of petitions of this sort, he did not think they should measure words too nicely. They ought to look to the spirit and the substance of the retractation. Now, in this case he found the retractation a full and complete retractation of all imputations against the hon. Member, and he found the regret as completely expressed as the retractation. He thought, therefore, that conugh had been done to clear the hon. Member from the charges brought against him, and to vindicate the honour and credit of the House, and that, consequently, they might consent to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton.

Ordered,That Washington Wilks, in custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House, be discharged out of custody, paying his fees.