§ MR. CONINGHAM
Mr. Speaker, I have placed a Notice on the Paper of a Motion to refer the Petition of Mr. Irwin, 1286 which I presented to the House on Friday last, to a Select Committee. That Petition had been printed by the express direction of the House for the use of the Members of this House only. As that Petition contains allegations against an hon. Member who is now in his place, I beg to know whether I should not be doing right in bringing the matter forward before the other business on the Paper is proceeded with.
I am rather doubtful whether the hon. Member can plead Privilege in this case. Prima facieany question affecting an hon. Member would be a case of Privilege. In this case the allegations of the Petition appear to reflect upon the conduct of Mr. Lever as Manager and Director of a certain public Company, before he was a Member of this House; but the Petition makes no charges. as I read it, against his conduct since he became a Member of this House, or in his character of Member. Under these circumstances I am not aware that there is any absolute precedent upon the point, and it will be for the House to say whether they will permit the Motion of the hon. Member to be now Proceeded with, or whether it shall come on in its due course.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The Notice on the Paper does not state that the matter will be brought on at this hour of the evening. I am quite ready to state the course which it is my intention to make with regard to the Motion. If the hon. Member to whom that Petition refers, and who I observe is in his place, wishes the Motion to be proceeded with at once, probably the House will not object to that course.
§ MR. LEVER
Mr. Speaker, being engaged in most extensive mercantile operations, I am most anxious that the charge which has been made against me should be met at once—I am most anxious, now that the charge had been brought, that it should be gone into immediately, with a view of proving the utter groundlessness of the accusations that have been made against me in the Petition which had been presented by the hon. Member for Brighton.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, it appears to me that at whatever period the transactions alluded to in the Petition are alleged to have taken place, it must be painful for any hon. Member to have these charges hanging over him indefinitely. I, therefore, assume it to be the general feeling of the House that the Motion of the 1287 hon. Member for Brighton should come on at once.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
Then, Sir understanding it to be the feeling of the House that I should bring my Motion on at once, I beg leave to move—That Mr. Irwin's Petition relating to the Royal Atlantic steam Navigation Company be referred to a Select Committee, to inquire into the allegations of the said Petition.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. George O'Malley Irwin's Petition [presented 19 the July] be referred to a Select Committee, to inquire into the allegations contained in the said Petition."
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, having looked into the precedents bearing upon the case now under the consideration of the House, I find that charges made against a Member of this House, whether in his capacity of Member or in his individual capacity, have, as a general rule, been received by the House; but not until after the Member accused has been afforded an opportunity of reading the Petition, and of knowing distinctly what the charges contained in it against him are, and until he had had a full opportunity of being in his place and of replying to them. In those instances in which the conduct imputed has directly affected the honour and character of one of its Members, in that capacity I find that the House had deemed it right to investigate the matter; they have thought it right to investigate the charges so made against one of its Members in respect to his conduct as a Member of this House. I will refer to two cases, one of which occurred a long time ago In the Year 1826 a petition was presented on the part of the Shareholders of a Coal and Iron Mine Company, containing charges of misconduct against certain persons, one of whom at that time occupied the position, one of whom at that time occupied the position of Chairman of Committees of this House. The House did then appoint a Committee to enquire into the management of that Company, with an especial direction that they should report on the conduct of certain Members of the House in reference to that company. The other case is one of very recent occurrence. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Youghal is present, but a petition was presented within the last few years by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield against the hon. Member for Youghal, directly affecting his conduct and character as a Mem- 1288 ber of this House, upon the ground that he had received pecuniary payment in consideration of his having advocated the claims of certain persons in this House. An immediate and searching investigation into the allegations contained in the petition was invited by the hon. Gentleman accused. The hon. Gentleman insisted upon and begged the House to institute a searching inquiry into the charges so brought against him. A Committee was appointed by the House to investigate the charges so brought against him, and the Committee came to a decision favourable to the hon. Gentleman against whom the charges were made.
Now, there are two other cases which seem to me to be strictly analogous to the one now before the House. In the year 1849 a petition was presented by the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire, which I think bears precisely on the present case. It was a petition by the shareholders of the Eastern Counties Railway Company charging misconduct against Mr. Hudson, who was then Member for Sunderland, and a Gentleman, the Chairman of the Company, who was at that time Member for one of the boroughs in Suffolk, the petition charged them with misconduct and fraudulent practices as between them and the shareholders of the Company. The Petition was received, and was ordered to lie on the table—the accused Members having been heard in their places—but then the questions involved being of a nature which it was competent for the parties to have caused to be investigated before the ordinary tribunals of the country—namely, the Courts of Law, and bearing upon the Members only in their individual capacity, the House did not institute any proceedings in the matter; and I believe that in taking that course they acted upon a very wise and a very sound principle.
Now, a precisely similar course of Proceeding was adopted shortly after that, in 1850, in the case of a petition presented against Mr. Feargus O'Connor a Member of this House, as connected with the management of certain landed estates. The parties petitioned this House to institute an inquiry into charges of fraud and mismanagement on the part of Mr. Feargus O'Connor. The petition was received, and Mr. Feargus O'Connor was heard in answer to those charges, and there the matter ended. Now, I am not aware that there are any other recent precedents to be found; 1289 but I think that the House will act wisely in this case by adhering to the principle established in the two last mentioned cases. The hon. Member having been heard in his place, and the House having heard him make a distinct and emphatic denial of the charges brought against him, I think that the House would act wisely if they proceeded no further in the matter, which may hereafter form the subject of inquiry in a court of law.
§ MR. LEVER
Mr. Speaker, the subject to which I am about to refer has been so widely spread throughout the country, and affects me so deeply, that as a mercantile man it would, I think, be highly impolitic that I should remain altogether silent with respect to it, even though the House should be of opinion that the case was one into which it was not called upon to institute any further inquiry. I did not make any statement the other evening except so far as denying the charges brought against me in general terms, but I said that I should be prepared to go into the whole subject this evening, and I am now fully prepared to do so. I have hitherto been satisfied with denying the allegations contained in this petition in general terms, but I am now prepared to enter into the matter with the proofs of the truth of what I have already stated in my hands, and I should feel exceedingly obliged to the House if they would allow me to read the petition paragraph by paragraph, in order that I may the more clearly be able to show that there is not the slightest foundation for a single charge which it contains. Having done that, I shall then leave myself in the hands of the House, and it will be for the House to say whether they will appoint a Committee of Inquiry or not.
Sir, the first Clause, which is stated in the petition of Mr. Irwin, isThat your petitioner was the original and real projector of the Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, now called the Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company (Limited).
§ MR. MALINS
I rise for the purpose of suggesting to the House whether, after the emphatic denial of the charges made by the hon. Member himself, and the statement which we have just heard from the right hon. Baronet opposite, and after the general expression of the opinion of this House, it would not be consonant with our feelings to refer this petition to a Select Committee, whether it is worth the while of the hon. Member to take the trouble 1290 and occupy the time of the House by going through the petition seriatim. [Cries of "Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The propriety of taking that course is a matter for the consideration of the hon. Member for Galway himself.
§ MR. LEVER
Mr. Speaker, I shall, with the permission of the House, pursue, as upon the whole the most satisfactory to all parties, the course which I had determined to adopt. This is Mr. George O'Malley Irwin's petition. The first paragraph of the petition says—That your petitioner was the original and real projector of the 'Atlantic Steam Navigation Company,' now called the 'Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company (Limited).'Now, my answer to that statement is, that I first conceived the idea of the Galway line towards the latter end of 1856, and that the first time I ever saw or heard of Mr. Irwin was on board one of my ships, the Antelope, at Gravesend, in March, 1858. The Antelope was carrying out troops for the East India Company. That was the very first time I ever had the opportunity of seeing Mr. Irwin. I may further observe that on referring to a Report laid before the shareholders of the Company, I find in it that the Directors of the Company make these observations—Prior to the incorporation of your Company Mr. John Orrell Lever, M.P., one of your first Directors, having satisfied himself of the geographical advantages of the ports which constitute the ocean termini of your line, placed some steam-ships between Galway and New York, and commenced negotiations with several Railway and other Companies and with the Government authorities for the purpose of permanently establishing a line of steam-ships between Galway and America. To his foresight and energy is, therefore, due the origin of this the shortest line of communication between the Old and the New World, which it will be your privilege permanently to establish.I received no money whatever from the Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company for my ships and for the expenses which I had incurred in establishing that service, from the month of June, 1858, to the 1st of January, 1859. I, therefore, entirely deny that Mr. Irwin had anything to do in projecting this Company.
Now, in the second paragraph of the petition he states—That petitioner having obtained the consent of Mr. John Orrell Lever, now one of the Members of your honourable House, then of 'Hanging Ditch, Corn Exchange, Manchester,' to act as Managing Director to the projected Atlantic Steam 1291 Navigation Company, he addressed a letter to your petitioner in the following terms:—'Liverpool, June 1st, 1858. Sir, I shall be happy to act as Managing director of the projected Atlantic Steam Navigation Company. Yours most truly, J, Orrell Lever. To G. O'Malley Irwin, Esq., Burlington Hotel.' (As set forth in petitioner's answer to question 4,571, p. 8, of 2nd Report form the Select Committee on Packet Contracts.)Now, my answer to that is, that in the month of March, 1858, Mr. Irwin called upon me at the office of my brokers, and stated that he had just Baron Rothschild and Mr. Peabody, who had consented to become Directors of a Company to work the Galway line under my management. He brought upon that occasion with him the draft of a prospectus in which their names appeared, and he told me that I must go with him to call on Baron Rothschild the following day, as the Baron was anxious to have personal explanations from me and an opportunity of conversation touching the undertaking. He also said that, prior to confirming the arrangement, I must write a letter consenting to become the Managing Director of the Company, which I accordingly wrote and gave to Mr. Irwin, supposing it to be intended for the information and assurance of Baron Rothschild and Mr. Peabody, which I have since found not to be the case.
Therefore, upon that head, the House will be good enough to understand that he obtained that letter from me under fraudulent pretences.
Then, Sir, the third paragraph of the petition is as follows: —That Mr. John Orrell Lever having, accordingly assumed the management of the said Atlantic Company, by such means was enabled to get from the funds of the said Company £209,954, out of which there was to be deducted £127,000 for his ships to the Company, balance left being £82,954 according to the now published accounts of the said Company.Now, I do not think it necessary to take the slightest trouble to refute such an imputation as that; he had mentioned the matter to several parties; I do not think it worth while to give an answer to any observations coming from such a source as that.
On the 1st of September last I made a public speech to my constituents, in which I took occasion to answer some of the observations which had been made with respect to me by some of the shareholders of the Company. I will beg leave to read to the House what I then said, as I conceive it to be a perfect answer to any observations that might be made with respect 1292 to myself. I stated at Galway, as reported in the Galway Express —That real fact is that by all these transactions I have been personally a very heavy loser, while it is a matter of notoriety that had I taken advantage of other opportunities which were within my reach, I might have made a considerable profit. At the time when the Company was fully formed, I had a fleet of steamers which I proposed to transfer to the Company at a valuation price. In the course of the negotiations that followed the bills of sale were produced to show what was actually paid for the several steamers, and it was finally arranged by the Directors (I may mention that the articles of association expressly excluded me from voting on the subject) to offer me for a portion of the fleet a sum less by £11,000 than the actual cost. Having promised the Company to accept their own price, I felt bound to abide by the result, and I accepted the proposal made without any hesitation.This fact is, I think, conclusive upon this point. The money received for all the preliminary expenses and losses incurred — the published Reports of the Company shew that £s;27,000 was the sum to the paid for these expenses, and for obtaining a regular service of steamers for six months, including my losses on the first vessels, which losses amounted in the gross to £17,000 out of the £27,000. This sum of £27,000 was included in the gross sum. Some of the ships were purchased in the usual course of trade, and were sold in the same manner. Deducting theses charges there is a total sum of £81,000 due to me, which, in the ordinary course, ought to have been paid to me in cash. I accepted, instead of that £81,000, £10,000 of bills of the Company to enable me to pay the current expenses of the ships, and I took the £71,000 in full paid-up shares of the Company's stock.
Therefore I think with respect to that paragraph the statement I have made to the House answers that effectually.
Now the next paragraph is —That petitioner as originator of said Company is most desirous to have the subsidy sustained by Parliament, provided proper means are taken to prevent the committal of false and fraudulent pretences, such as have been practised by said Mr. John Orrell Lever and other officials and managers who were introduced by him into the Company.This paragraph, I believe, I have already answered in my observations upon paragraph No.1.
The fifth paragraph of the petition is —That your petitioner's anxiety to see the subsidy sustained by Parliament is perfectly reconcilable with the determination to expose and punish false and fraudulent proceedings, alike injurious to the Government of the country and to the public.1293 The Directors and Shareholders of the Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company understand their own interests and possess full power to order any investigation they deem necessary. As far as I am concerned, I shall only be too happy to meet any inquiry from whatever source it may come.
The sixth statement is—That false and fraudulent pretences have been practised by Mr. John Orrell Lever, and the officials and managers who were introduced into the Company by him, in circulating under the name of the 'Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company's New Line of Steam Ships to America,' imaginary ships which never had existence, with fictitious tonnage and fictitious horse-power. That year petitioner sustains his charge by extracts from the publications and advertisements of the Company, which were extensively circulated in 'October' and 'November, 1858,' after the Company had been duly constituted, and after the articles of copartnery had been executed on the 24th of the previous month of September, 1858,' and which were as follows;—'Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company's New Line of Steam Ships, to America,' &c., carrying Her 'Majesty's Mails, and taking passengers and cargo,'" &c.—
Steam Ship, Captain. Tons Burden. Horse Power. 'American Empire. Johnson. 3,000 1,000 'British Empire. Williamson. 3,000 1,000'For freight or further particulars apply to John Orrell Lever, Corn Exchange, Manchester, &c., as by reference to said advertisements and publications themselves, and to your petitioner's letter, published in 'The Times,' of July 19th, 1860, stating that the above ships never had existence, may more fully appear. That no attempt had been made to answer or refute even a single charge so publicly made and widely circulated.To that I answer that I publicly repudiated the statement, not that I should answer anything that appeared in a paper from such a source as that, but I felt it due not only to myself but to the Company which I had originated to give an explanation, and it was on that account that I made the speech to which I have called the attention of the House. I wrote a letter to the brokers of the Company who had the charge of all the advertisement, and in answer to that letter this is their reply with respect to the allegations of the petition charging "fictitious names of captains," "fictitious tonnage," and "fictitious horse-power.London, July 22nd, 1861.Sir,—In answer to your note of this day with reference to the advertisements which we inserted in the London daily papers in October, 1858, of the steamships British Empire and American Empire, of 3, 000 tons burden and 1,000 horse-power respectively, we beg to state that said advertisements were drawn up by us; that we were 1294 then arranging for the purchase of Transatlantic steamers of that burden and effective horse-power; that it was intended to transfer those vessels from foreign to the British flag, and change their names when transferred. The names of the commanders, you will remember, were officers in your own employ. We may add that we distinctly remember answering to the above effect Mr. Irwin's inquiry as to the steamers in questions at the time the advertisements appeared, and we can only express our surprise that Mr. Irwin should now have the audacity to make such groundless chargess.—We are, Sir, your obedient servants, Bake, Adam, and Co. John Orrell Lever, Esq., M.P., 40, Cannon Street.Therefore I think that a letter from such eminent shipowners and shipbrokers must be a perfectly satisfactory answer to these charges of Mr. Irwin.
Now the 7th paragraph is—That your petitioner has observed with regret and alarm, although some changes are alleged to have taken place in the direction of the Company and said Mr. John Orrell Lever has ceased to be a Manager of Director, that the other officials and Managers referred to who were introduced by him and cognizant of and participators in the false and fraudulent pretences are in many instances retained.Now this is a charge against the present Board of Directors, and not against myself. I ceased to be a Director of the Atlantic Royal Mail Steam Navigation Company some twelve months ago, being very much engaged in a great number of mercantile pursuits of an important character, and I at that time believed that I was transferring the management of that Company to better and more able hands. I am sure that I need not make any observation upon the character or position of the present Board. Suffice it to say that they have not only discharged their duties and carried out the service in a manner creditable to themselves (although I am not a Director), but also beneficial not only to the mercantile community but to the people of Ireland generally, and that they deserve not only the thanks of the mercantile community but the thanks of the people of Ireland.
Sir, the eighth paragraph of the petition is—That both the Government and the public, as well as your petitioner, his friends, relatives, and numerous Irish farmers, have been deceived and defrauded, and will still further be deceived and defrauded unless there shall be a searching inquiry into the false and fraudulent pretences practised by the said Mr. John Orrell Lever and the other officials and Managers who were fully cognizant of and participators therein.Mr. Irwin and his friends, under the Limited Liability Act, possess the power 1295 of calling the Directors to account and of bringing forward their charges. Mr. Irwin does not produce the name of a single shareholder who has demanded investigation, nor has he a single share in the Company. Here is a certificate to that effect which I have obtained from the Secretary to the Company: — "Mr. George O'Malley Irwin is not a shareholder in the Atlantic Company, nor has he ever held a single share in the company since its formation." So that he never was affected in any way whatever. I think, therefore, that that is a perfect answer to anything that can be said upon that head.
Sir, the ninth and last paragraph is —That said false and fraudulent practices have thwarted and brought disgrace on this great national enterprise, and eventually caused and have been the grounds of the termination of the company's contract by the Postmaster General, the Right Hon. Lord Stanley of Alderley.Now, all that I have to say in answer to that is that this is not the reason which given in the Postmaster General's Report laid before Parliament for the abrogation of the contract.
Now, I think that the House ought to know something of the antecedents of Mr. Irwin, and it might be very useful that I should furnish them. My information has been derived from official documents which have been obtained at very considerable expense from the Courts in Dublin, and which will exhibit to you the character of this individual who brings these charges against me. In November, 1834, Mr. O'Malley Irwin was indicted for forgery. The trial came on on the 28th and 29th of November, 1835. The charge was for having forged a letter purporting to come from Mr. Johnston, Assistant-Barrister, of the country of Mayo, containing the resignation of that gentleman, and contriving by such means to obtain the appointment of Assistant-Barrister for himself. Mr. Irwin was sentenced to nine months imprisonment and fined £50. Mr. Irwin brought an action against me, which came on for trial on the 4th day of December, 1860, when the plaintiff seeing that the verdict would be in my favour agreed to a nonsuit. In the same month the costs in this action were taxed. On the 25th day of May, 1861, Mr. Irwin was taken in execution. On the 12th day of June, 1861, he came up for hearing before the Insolvent Court upon a petition, and obtained his discharge from custody. Mr. Irwin is now under process of passing through the 1296 Insolvent Court to liquidate the costs of the trial which he has put me to, amounting to many hundred pounds. The case is to be heard on the 30th of the present month, and I believe this petition has been brought forward for the purpose of influencing the conduct of the Judge on that occasion. I shall now read a curious passage from the Appendix to the second Report of the Select Committee on packet and telegraphic contracts. During the course of the trial to which I have referred, Mr. Serjeant Shee put the following questions to Mr. Irwin: —Were you not in kilmainham goal for nine months for forgery?" — "Mr. Irwin: No.Mr. Serjeant Shee: Were you not in Kilmainham Gaol for nine months, on the sentence of a Judge of a superior Court in Ireland, for forging the name of Mr. Johnston, the Assistant-Barrister in Mayo?"—" Mr. Irwin: Certainly not.But Mr. Irwin, finding that Mr. Serjeant Shee had the necessary proofs in his possession, made, a few minutes after his explicit denial, the following extraordinary admissions: —Mr. Serjeant Shee: Just listen to me; I will not ask you any question which it is not my duty under the circumstances to ask you, and I will ask the question in as little an offensive manner as I can. Were you indicted for the forgery of that letter which I read?"—" Mr. G. O'Malley Irwin: Certainly.Mr. Serjeant Shee: Were you convicted?" — "Mr. G. O'Malley Irwin: Certainly.Mr. Serjeant Shee: Were you sentenced to nine months imprisonment in Kilmainham Goal?" —"Mr. Serjeant Shee: Did you remain the nine months in goal?" —" Mr. G.O'Malley Irwin: Certainly.Now, Sir, I leave this case in the hands of the House. I only regret that the Committee could not be appointed — if it is not to be appointed — because it would have afforded me ample opportunity to give an answer to these most impudent, audacious, and untrue allegations. My own wish is that there should be an inquiry, because I want to show by undeniable proofs that there is no ground whatever for the charges which have been brought against myself; and that the Government of Lord Derby, in granting the subsidy, conferred a boon on the mercantile classes of both Europe and America.
§ Mr. JOHN PAKINGTON:
Mr. Speaker, I think it was quite natural, but altogether 1297 superfluous, for the hon. Member for Galway to go into the statements he has made with reference to this petition, because I cannot for a moment think that the House will seriously entertain this Motion. I was very glad, indeed, to hear what was stated by so high an authority as the right hon. Baronet opposite, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I entirely agree with what fell from the right hon. Baronet; and, undoubtedly, looking to the nature of these transactions, and the precedents bearing on the case which have been alluded to by the right hon. Baronet, I do hope and trust that the unanimouse feeling of the House will be that there is no occasion to refer this petition to a Select Committee.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
—Mr. Speaker, I beg to explain that I merely seconded the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, as no one else seemed disposed to do so, in order to enable the hon. Member for Galway to make the explanations which he has now done to the House.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
—In placing this notice on the paper, I certainly acted in deference to what I conceived to be the express desire of the House; but having presented the petition, having seen the documents which are referred to in it, and having heard the explanation or statement of the hon. Member for Galway, I must now say, while it is entirely in the discretion of the House to decided whether it is desirable that the petition be referred to a Select Committee for investigation; and while I am perfectly ready, as I was before, to be guided by the judgment of the House, that unless I hear a very distinct expression of opinion against the reference to a Committee it will be my duty to persevere in my Motion. I certainly do not desire to place myself in a hostile attitude, but I confess for my own part that this is a matter which can be best dealt with and brought out by investigation. Unless I hear a very distinct expression against my Motion, I am afraid I must press for the appointment of a Select Committee.
Mr. Speaker, the petition which has been presented to the House by the hon. Member for Brighton, if I understand it rightly, brings charges of fraud against the hon. Member for Galway. I apprehend that it is perfectly clear that the allegations contained in that petition are totally untrue—and under those circumstances it would be worse than a mere waste of time to refer the petition to 1298 a Select Committee. It appears from the documentary evidence which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Galway, that Mr. Irwin the petitioner never had a single share in the Comapany—and I apprehend that his name if connected with any company would be sufficient to ruin the undertaking. The Galway Contract, which has so often formed the subject of discussion here and out of doors, was not given to Mr. Lever, but it was given to the Irish people. That contract was a real bona fide undertaking; and any allegation to the contrary might be carried by Mr. Irwin to a competent legal tribunal. I contend that this House ought not to interfere in such an investigation. The allegations contained in this petition are now brought forward by the same party that caused the shipwreck of the steamer in Galway Bay, and the death of the unfortunate pilot. It is patent to everybody—it is perfectly clear that the intention is to disparage the company, in the same manner as the object at first was to disparage the Government that granted the contract.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Mr. Speaker, I think it must be quite obvious to the House that we have to choose between two alternatives—namely, either to appoint a Select Committee to investigate this question, or not to discuss this question in the House. It is quite clear that we have no materials for discussion before us. A petition was presented. The hon. Member for Galway denied in the most distinct manner the truth of the allegations in that petition, so far as they bore upon him. He did what appeared to me a superfluous thing in going into details of these statements, because it is impossible for us to know the grounds upon which these statements rested. It is sufficient for this House that the hon. Member for Galway should give a general denial to the allegations of the petition. If this petition bore upon the conduct of the hon. Gentleman as a Member of this House—if its allegations imputed to him, for example, that he abused his powers as a Member of a Select Committee upstairs—if they impeached his character in any way in his legislative capacity, I think it would have been incumbent upon the House to take notice of the petition, and to appoint a Committee to investigate it. But, Sir, that is not the case. The act, imputed do not concern the hon. Gentleman in his character of Member of this House; and they, moreover, took place before he was elected. Therefore, 1299 it is doubly clear as it seems to me that there are reasons why we should not interfere. Therefore, I shall give my vote unhesitatingly against the Motion of my hon. Friend, if he should think it necessary to go to a division. I cannot, however, but hope that, seeing the general sense of the House is against taking any further notice of this subject, he will hardly think it necessary to press his Motion to a division.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM and MR. GREGORY
rose together, the latter giving way to the former.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Mr. Speaker, it is my intention only to interpose for one minute between the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) and his wish to address the House.
Now, Sir, having voted for the reception of this petition, and agreeing with what has just fallen from my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, I trust that the hon. Member for Brighton will not press this matter to a division. I have had long experience in this House, and my recollections and impressions entirely concur with those of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I do not think that in modern times inquiries have been instituted into the allegations of a petition affecting a Member of this House, unless they touch his conduct on some conviction of conduct unworthy of his character and position. I have read this petition very carefully, and I do not see any allegation in it affecting the hon. Member for Galway, except antecedently to his taking his seat in this House; and these allegations are capable of being substantiated before a legal tribunal of competent jurisdiction and thoroughly capable of dealing with them. If prosecution before such a tribunal should be instituted and conviction ensues, of course it would be open to call upon this House to proceed against one of its Members who had been convicted of being engaged in fraudulent transactions, but in the absence of such conviction, and in the absence of allegations affecting the conduct of a Member of the House as such—although I am as jealous of the honor of the Members of this House as any one can be—I would certainly advise my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton not to persevere in his Motion, which on the whole, I think, would not be in accordance with the ends of justice or conduce to the honour of this House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
put the Motion which was negatived without a division.