HC Deb 13 May 1861 vol 162 cc1941-65

I wish, Sir, to call your attention and the attention of the House to a matter relating to a question of privilege, and I do so with great hesitation. But before I state the facts of the case I will precede them by a short preliminary statement of the circumstances which have led to my addressing the House on this occasion. On Wednesday last certain statements were made to me which led me to make an appeal to you, Sir, that appeal was as to bringing the matter forward as a matter of privilege, on that day, and you, Sir, said to me on that occasion that you thought that I could not intervene between the orders of the day, and that I had better delay the matter until the next day. On Thursday last I waited upon you, Sir, and you stated to me that the subject which I wished to bring before the House was one which might be painful to an individual, and might lead to harm to that individual, and that, therefore, you thought that all the benefit which I sought to obtain by a public mention of the circumstances could be obtained by private negotiations; and, therefore, you asked me to withhold any statement that I might wish to make on that account. In obedience to your wishes, Sir, I withheld any statement from this House on that occasion, and I waited until Saturday, when you, Sir, stated to me that you had been unable to obtain by private negotiation that which I sought to obtain by a public statement, and that, therefore, I was at liberty to take any coarse which I thought fit. Upon that I determined to make the statement which I am about to make to the House, which I do with great pain, as I am obliged to mention the name of a Gentleman who is afflicted with a calamity which must excite commiseration in the minds of all, and whose name I should not mention were I not by the necessities of public duty compelled to do so. Sir, about fifteen years ago Mr. Andrew Steuart—


As the hon. and learned Member has mentioned the name of a Gentleman, I think I may put it to you, Sir, whether, considering that which the hon. and learned Gentleman has sufficiently announced to the House that he is going to lay before the House, it is usual to bring forward a matter of this sort without some previous statement to the House that notice has been given to the hon. Member who is about to be affected, or at all events, in a case so peculiar as this, that some notice has been given to some persons standing in the position, we will say, of next friend, as it were, to that Gentleman?


The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has risen to make a Motion upon a subject which he considers to affect the privilege of this House. On a matter of privilege no notice is necessary. The hon. Gentlemen, is in the exercise of his own discretion, and is not contravening any rule of this House.


Sir, I am quite sure that I am not contravening any rules of the House; and I am quite sure also that I am taking the course which the public advantage requires me to take, and I am not doing it, Sir, without grave consideration and consultation. When I have stated the facts I think it will appear clear to the House that I am right in the course which I am taking. Some fifteen years ago Mr. Andrew Steuart, the Member for Cambridge, was unfortunately afflicted with brain fever, which left upon his constitution a susceptibility, and also a liability to paroxysms of insanity—and, Sir, this hon. Gentleman has also that peculiarity which is not confined to himself, but which, as must be known to all hon. Gentlemen who have read the life of Charles Lamb, was also a peculiarity of his sister who was afflicted in the same way, and she had, as this Gentleman had, a sort of foreknowledge that the paroxysms were coming on—and he of course knew that his senses were about, by that great affliction, to be taken away from him. This hon. Gentleman felt those paroxysms coming upon him, and he went to the licensed proprietor of a private lunatic asylum and begged to be taken into that asylum. That person said to him that of course by law he was unable to take him into the House without a certificate from two physicians, and that if he could obtain such a certificate he should be happy to take him in charge. Very shortly afterwards, Sir, two physicians were found to give that certificate, which contained the remarkable statement that Mr. Steuart was not only dangerous to himself, but also dangerous to others, and thereupon he was received into that lunatic asylum. I believe the name of the keeper of that asylum is Dr. Winslow, and Mr. Steuart was put under the charge of Dr. Bartlett, and he was in charge under that physician, the certificate stating that he was dangerous to himself and others. Under those circumstances, Sir, on the evening of Thursday week, or rather on the Friday morning, the hon. Member for Cambridge appeared in this House and voted upon a matter which was exciting to us all and one of very great importance to the country. Now, that a person in that condition should be allowed to come among six hundred excited men—[Laughter]—it is no laughing matter, and I do not bring it before you as a laughing matter. I am stating it as gravely and as calmly as I can, and I wish to bring before the House the very great danger, affecting not only the personal safety of every individual Member of this House, and more especially of the leaders on both sides of the House, but also of the public at large; and not only that, but affecting also the character of our divisions—that a person in this condition, under a certificate of that peculiar description, should be allowed to come into this House out of a lunatic asylum, and to give his vote upon a matter gravely affecting the interests of the country at large. Now, Sir, I think that into this matter this House is bound to enquire. I charge nobody. I make no charge affecting anybody. I only state the facts. But it is quite clear that somebody must be to blame; and under those circumstances what I wish is that this House should find out the person upon whom the blame ought to rest. You thought, Sir, that by a private intimation to the Commissioners in Lunacy you might obtain from them a promise that they would take precautions that this should not happen again. In that, Sir, you failed, and now I want to know whether the law is in fault or whether the Commissioners in Lunacy are in fault, or whether the person who had the charge of this Gentleman is in fault. Somebody must be in fault, and I wish the person to be pointed out to the world, and I wish the precaution to be taken that such an occurrence shall not happen again, and that among the public at large this House should not incur the imputation of allowing a person under those peculiar circumstances to vote upon a matter which is before them. Therefore, Sir, without further delaying this House, I will move, if the House think fit to grant it, for a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances under which Mr. Steuart, the Member for Cambridge, voted in a division of this House on Friday morning week last.


seconded the Motion.


put the Question.


Sir, it is not my intention in rising to this Motion to offer any argument to the House, either one way or the other, why such a Committee as that for which the hon. and learned Gentleman has moved should not be appointed; but filling the position which I do towards the hon. Gentleman whose name has been so unnecessarily mentioned, and considering that a near relative of my hon. Friend has within the last few months left the House, it devolves upon me, standing in the position, as I do, of the colleague of Mr. Steuart as Member for Cambridge, to address a few observations to the House. I know no one here that stands in a nearer relation to him than I do, and certainly there is no one who is more intimately acquainted with the facts than I am. Mr. Speaker, but for one's knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman, one would have been inclined to suppose that this Motion had been made for the purpose of giving pain to individuals. I cannot imagine that that was any part of the motive of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I cannot conceive for what public purpose the name of Mr. Steuart has been introduced into this matter. Bat as the matter has been brought forward, and as Mr. Steuart's name has been mentioned. I think that I may be excused for informing the House as to what are the mere unmixed circumstances attending Mr. Steuart's recent ailment, and then the House will see how much or how little ground there could be for the hon. and learned Member's bringing this subject publicly before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a statement with regard to an ailment under which Mr. Steuart is supposed to have laboured a great number of years ago, and I want to know what was the relevancy of that statement to the subject which he has brought before the House. I want to know where the hon. and learned Gentleman got his information from? This I do know, that a week ago nearly, or rather last Tuesday, I became acquainted accidentally, and. then afterwards, Sir, by your great courtesy and indulgence to me, with the intention which it seems the hon. and learned Gentleman had laboured under to bring this matter before the House—and I having received no notice from the hon. and learned Gentleman put myself in communication with him, and on that occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman confided to me a statement wholly different from that which he has laid before the House to-night. He told me that he was under a public necessity of bringing this matter before the House as a gross breach of privilege, because, on evidence of which he was possessed, derived from the clearest sources, the hon. Member had been brought down to the House by management, that he was brought down in a dangerous state accompanied by two keepers, who were placed within the doors of this House, who waited for him at the door, and who accompanied him away. I told the hon. and learned Gentleman that that could not be true, for that I accompanied Mr. Steuart out of the House myself. I walked with him down the stairs, and I walked arm in arm with him across Palace Yard, and left him to go into a cab in the middle of Parliament Street. The hon. and learned Member told me that I was mistaken, and that the keepers were really close by us although I did not see them. I told the hon. and learned Gentleman that, from souces of information which I had and from my own personal knowledge, there was no doubt whatever, that when Mr. Steuart came down to this House on Thursday night to vote, his mind was free from anything that could be called insanity, and that there was not a vestige, nor a trace, nor a streak of anything which in ordinary parlance is called insanity or lunacy or derangement of mind, but that he was, at the very least, as sane as my hon. and learned Friend himself. I was ignorant at the moment when I spoke to my hon. and learned Friend of the details attending this recent ailment of Mr. Steuart, but I told my hon. and learned Friend all that I then knew, which was this: that about throe weeks previously I had received a letter from Mrs. Steuart asking me to take the charge of Mr. Steuart's letters on business, for that he was unwell and was gone for a few weeks into the country. Shortly after that, and about ten or twelve days before the vote, I received myself a long letter from Mr. Steuart, and if I could have imagined or foreseen then that the preservation of that letter would have been of any value on an occasion like this, or that any such occasion as this was likely to arise, I would have preserved the letter and have read it to the House. As it is I can only state what Mr. Steuart said to me of himself ten days before he came down to vote. His letter was dated no doubt at the House of Dr. Winslow, in the neighbourhood of London, about five or six miles distant, and Mr. Steuart said? "You will recognize by the date of this letter where I am—the fact is that I have recently been suffering under attacks of extreme depression of spirits, and I have placed myself where I am, in order that I may undergo a perfect restoration, which I have no doubt I shall attain in the course of a few weeks. In the meantime I have thought it better that I should abstain altogether from every kind of business, Parliamentary and private, for a time—but I am now much better. I am all but well, and I am perfectly able to come down at any time to the House to vote. That was ten days before the division occurred. Of course the House will be prepared to hear me say that with regard to Mr. Steuart's suggestion to come to the House and to vote at any time before his perfect restoration to every other kind of business I took no notice of it, nor had I any communication upon the subject of his voting either with himself or any other human being that I know of either in or out of this House. I wish the House to understand what had been Mr. Steuart's position between the 6th of April and the day when he came down to vote. Mr. Steuart had, as has been stated, voluntarily called upon a medical man and disclosed to him his own sensations, which let the House understand were nothing but sensations, and informed the medical man whom he consulted—namely, Dr. Winslow, that he desired for his own safety, and for his peace of mind, to place himself under medical control and treatment. Dr. Winslow informed him that by the statute law that could not be unless he had the certificates of two physicians that would enable him to receive him into his house; and let the House bear in mind that it is, I believe, a peculiarity of the law of England that it is not lawful for any person who feels a growing infirmity, or a desire to sequester himself and place himself under such medical treatment, unless the medical man with whom he places himself has the certificates of two other medical men to sanction his confinement. Accordingly Mr. Steuart visited two other medical men, and from his own statement and from his own evidence those formalities were perfected which entitled Dr. Winslow to receive him into his house. That was upon the 6th of April, and from that day until the vote of last Friday week Mr. Steuart never underwent the smallest coercion, nor the slightest restraint—he lived in the house as any other visitor—he was not even accompanied out of doors by an attendant, but he went in and out, walked, drove about, and came into London and saw his friends just as if he was an ordinary guest of Dr. Winslow, and by no means as a patient; and during the whole of that time, from first to last, it cannot be repeated too often, or at all events it cannot be repeated too strongly, that there never was, and there never has been in this case one symptom, or one streak of mental alienation of any kind whatever. Sir, this being so, when I conversed with the hon. and learned Gentleman last week, I felt, and I expressed to him very strongly that I did feel, that this matter should not and need not be brought before the House, unless there was some person to be called to the bar of the House, whom the House and the House alone would punish and visit if in fault. Now, Sir, what are the circumstances attending Mr. Steuart's appearance in this House on the division? It appears that in the early part of that day he had called, as was not unusual upon Dr. Winslow, and expressed to him his intention of coming down that night, expecting a division to take place and a voting, and that Dr. Winslow said everything that he could to dissuade him. Of course Dr. Winslow's real feeling was that it was impossible that he should do so whilst he was an inmate of his house, and that it was his duty of course to take whatever measures were requisite to defend him from excitement. But Dr. Winslow did not say so much to Mr. Steuart, but he worked upon his mind by telling him that coming into the crowd, and the lights and the excitement as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, and one thing or another, might be seriously injurious to his health; and he went away leaving Dr. Winslow under the impression that by reason of his intimations of opinion he had entirely abandoned all thought of coming here. So far, therefore, Dr. Winslow was not personally responsible for what afterwards took place. I am informed, and I am not stating a matter in controversy, or one on which there are two statements, that later in the day, or rather in the evening, Mr. Steuart intimated to the medical man in charge of the house where he was residing that he meant to come down here and vote. I do not know whether that gentleman's name has been mentioned, but it is Mr. Bartlett. Mr. Bartlett dissuaded him in the same terms that Dr. Winslow had previously applied. Mr. Bartlett was aware of what had passed between Mr. Steuart and Dr. Winslow in the morning, and, therefore, he did all he could to enforce what Dr. Winslow had said; but Mr. Steuart feeling perfectly unconscious upon his part of his being subject to any kind of personal control—for such restraint or such treatment had never been made use of—felt that he was perfectly free to go and come when he wished. Mr. Bartlett was in this embarrassing position. Mr. Steuart said he would go, and Mr. Bartlett having had him as an inmate of his esta- blishment for six weeks, and never having controlled his proceedings before, thought that if he endeavoured to administer any other coercion than before, he might possibly be inflicting a greater injury upon Mr. Steuart than would arise from his being left to do as he liked. Therefore, as a choice of difficulties, and balancing between two hazardous courses, Mr. Bartlett elected to place no further opposition to Mr. Steuart's intention. Accordingly Mr. Steuart ordered a cab and drove down here and afterwards went back to the house from which he came. The ease being such as it is, I strongly urged upon the hon. and learned Gentleman whether, unless there were some grievous offence against this House, or some breach of privilege for which either Dr. Winslow or Mr. Bartlett, or somebody else was to be called to the bar, and to be punished, unless something had been done which the ordinary censure of the superiors of those gentlemen could not reach, there was anything to be attained, cither for the public good, or for the protection of this House, which could be at all weighed for a moment in the scale against the unutterable pain which this proceeding, if made public with Mr. Steuart's name annexed to it, must produce amongst a very large circle of perfectly innocent people, and at all worth the pain which must he inflicted upon Mr. Steuart himself, who, like all the rest of mankind, will read to-morrow so much as is published of our proceedings to-day. Well, Sir, I am contented with having made known to the House what I believe to be the true and the more facts with regard to this Gentleman's condition at the time of his voting and the circumstances which, attended his coming down here. I am not the only Member of the House of Commons who saw Mr. Steuart on that occasion, and if additional evidence were required to-night, there are those who not only knew him in the House, but have known him for years before I had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and who will inform the House, if necessary, that Mr. Steuart was as sane and was as healthy, both in body and mind, as any hon. Member of this House, and upon that statement I would stake my own reputation, whatever may happen, to be as a witness. Well, now, Sir, I said at the beginning that I would offer no observation as to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. It was some time before the Motion was seconded, and I thought that it was possible that I might have to second it myself, in order to have the opportunity of making this statement before the House. As it is I offer no observation upon the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend. I have merely to express my regret that he himself should have felt under the uncontrollable influence of some feeling or other which prevented him from being able to see or to feel that the country or the House could dispense with this public statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman has made.


—Sir, in the present state of our information it seems to me most inexpedient that we should undertake to discuss the details of this painful occurrence. I will only state my opinion that the law is not in fault, and that the Commissioners of Lunacy are not in fault; and I also believe that the act of Mr. Steuart, in attending this House for the purpose of voting upon the occasion referred to, was entirely spontaneous, and was not actuated by any other person. I have reason to believe that this case has been carefully investigated by the Commissioners in Lunacy, and that they have taken whatever steps appeared to them to be proper with respect to the persons in charge of the asylum in question; and I believe that if the document which is in existence were laid before this House it would put them in possession of all the material facts of the case. Under these circumstances it appears to me that the proper course for this House to take before proceeding to appoint a Committee would be to take means for obtaining the document in question, which contains the result of the investigation of the Commissioners and their decision in their Report. If, Sir, this House should be of that opinion, they might attain their end in two ways—they might either move for a Return to be made by the Commissioners in Lunacy, or if that course should not appear desirable, I will undertake to address an official letter to the Commissioners in Lunacy, calling upon them to make to the Home Department a full Report of the case; and I will then undertake to lay that Report upon the table of the House as soon as it can be obtained. If that course should appear to hon. Members to be suitable to the circumstances of the case I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman either to consent to withdraw his Motion altogether for the purpose of carrying out that suggestion, or if he should be un- willing to take that course, I will ask him whether he would object to withdraw his Motion, for the present, subject, of course, to his power of renewing it if the paper presented should not appear to him to furnish the information required?


As representing the county for which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge has been returned, and as having some knowledge of the facts which have been now laid before the House, I must say that the indelicacy of bringing this matter before the House, the great pain which it will occasion to the friends of Mr. Steuart, and the wound which it will inflict upon the family of the hon. Gentleman will only be very much increased, confirmed, and added to by the appointment of a Committee. Unless the House are disposed to dispute the statement which has been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge, I cannot understand why a question which, I think, never ought to have been brought before the House, and which, I think, militates against the kind consideration which one Member of this House ought to feel for another, a question which can do no possible public good, ought not to be at once and for ever disposed of, for I say it is not politic and it is not consistent with any due consideration for the feelings of others or for the general interests of the House at large that such an unfortunate case so brought before the House should be carried on. Therefore, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman upon consideration will see that there is no necessity of appointing a Committee, but that the matter will be allowed to drop, with the statements which have been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.


—I do not quite acquiesce, Sir, in the view which the hon. Member has taken of this question. I quite feel that the mooting of a question of this sort must be attended with great pain to all who are related to or concerned for the hon. Member who is the subject of it, and nobody can regret that pain more than I do. But at the same time there are higher considerations involved, and I think that we cannot let the decision of the House upon this ease turn upon the question of more or less pain which may be occasioned to individuals in regard to such an inquiry. Sir, it is a very serious thing that a person labouring under mental infirmity, and being at the moment un- der care and treatment for that infirmity, should present himself at this House to vote upon a great question of public policy, and I must say that it is very desirable that steps should be taken to prevent a recurrence of such an event, both for the dignity of the House, for the character of our proceedings, and for the public interest, viewed in many different lights. But, as my right hon. Friend stated, we believe that this matter has been investigated by those whose duty it was to look into it,—namely, by the Commissioners in Lunacy; and, therefore, I quite concur in the recommendation which has been made to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield to withdraw his Motion as premature at all events, and to content himself with the offer which my right hon. Friend has made of obtaining from the Commissioners in Lunacy a Report of the proceedings which they have instituted with regard to this matter. That Report may show that there is no danger of any recurrence of an event of the same kind, and in that case my hon. and learned Friend will probably be satisfied without going further. If, on the contrary, there should appear to him to be grounds for further proceedings, he will then have only to renew his Motion, and the House will give their opinion on that course.


Sir, I want to suggest to the House that I think there is a mode by which we might get out of all the difficulty which is raised by the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. That proposal will be liable to this objection at any rate, that any withdrawal of the Motion now, to be followed by an inquiry and subsequent report, and possibly by another discussion, will prolong that state of pain and anxiety which we all feel ought to be avoided. With the permission of the House, Sir, I will suggest another mode by which we may at once get all the information which we desire, and yet come to a settlement of the question to-day. My right hon. Friend has stated that an inquiry has been instituted, and evidence upon all the facts taken upon oath, by the Commissioners in Lunacy. Now, Sir, I apprehend that any Commissioner in Lunacy, sitting in this House with a knowledge of all those facts, would be at perfect liberty to make a statement of thorn if called upon by you, Sir, under the authority of this House. A Commissioner in Lunacy cannot state those facts as a Member of the House because his lips are sealed by his oath of office. But, Sir, the interposition of this House would absolve him from that oath, and under your authority he would be enabled at once to state to us now all the facts and all the circumstances of the ease which have come to his knowledge in connection with this inquiry. One of those Commissioners, who must he cognizant of all the facts, is sitting in this House at this moment and occupying the Bench beside me, and if, Sir, he would have no objection to being called upon by you, and if the House feels that a statement of the facts by him would carry conviction to the minds of every hon. Member of the House, I think that by having that statement from him we should at once get rid of the whole subject without any further inquiry, or any Report, or any subsequent discussion, the very apprehension of which must be painful to the mind of the hon. Member. I would, therefore, humbly suggest to the House that you, Sir, should be invited to call upon the hon. Member near me, the hon. Member for Hereford, as a Commissioner in Lunacy, to state to the House what he knows of the circumstances in order that they may be able to judge of the propriety or otherwise of withdrawing the Motion for the purpose of reviving it on a future occasion.


Perhaps the House will allow me to interpose for the purpose of requesting my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford not to make without preparation, and without having before him the documents from the office, a statement to the House upon this subject. I am desirous of calling the attention of the House to this fact, that every Commissioner in Lunacy takes this oath before he enters upon his office— I do swear that I will discreetly, impartially, and faithfully execute all the trusts and powers committed unto me by virtue of the Act of Parliament dated the 9th year of Her Majesty, and intituled, &c., and that I will keep secret all such matters as shall come to my knowledge in the execution of my office, except when required to divulge the same by legal authority, or so far as I shall feel myself called upon to do so for the better execution of the duty imposed upon me by said Act. Doubtless in order that the Speaker acting as the organ of the House should be a legal authority to any hon. Member to dispense with the oaths, I apprehend that it would he necessary to have a formal Resolution of the House passed upon notice, and altogether it seems to me that that would be a more inconvenient mode of obtaining information upon the matter than that which I have suggested to the House. By the mode which I have suggested the House would have a Report made by the full Board of Commissioners, and not a statement made by single Commissioner without previous communication with his colleagues. I have no wish to lay before the House more information than is necessary for elucidating this single point; but it appears to me that the matter having been once formally brought before the House it can scarcely be passed over without some authentic information, but it is possible the Report of the Commissioners without the detailed depositions might be sufficient for the information of the House.


So far from agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman, I think that we have had quite sufficient information already on the subject to give a negative to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. We have had a statement of the facts, such as they were, and I regret very much that they ever were brought under the notice of the House. After the very frank and candid explanation which the hon. Colleague of this unhappy Gentleman has made, I own, taking for granted all that has been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and without reference to the explanations which have been offered by the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge, I feel considerable difficulty in saying that any breach of privilege has been committed. I am not aware that with regard to that dire calamity to which we and all mankind unfortunately appear to be subject under Providence (and we are all unhappily liable to that dire disease), that there is any authority for saying that an hon. Member so afflicted, and being here, is disqualified from voting in this House. I am not aware that any precedent can be found in which a vote has been challenged, or any Member has been disqualified from the circumstances of his being afflicted with that calamity. I should like to ask the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield this question—What is this Committee to inquire into? Are they to inquire into the sanity of this unhappy Gentleman? Are they to perform the functions of the Lunacy Commissioners? Are they to take it for granted that the certificate of two medical men is to determine the fact of the sanity or insanity of a Member of this House? That is raising a question which I think we had better not have raised at all. Therefore, let me remind the House that a gentleman who is sent under such a certificate to confinement in a lunatic asylum, is for the time in prison—he is put under restraint—and then we shall have this question arising, whether it is right, consistently with the privileges of the House, to put a Gentleman, who is thereby disqualified from voting, under that restraint, without communicating the fact immediately to this House. We all know that it is part of the privileges of this House that if any Member is put into prison the authorities are bound to communicate it to the House. That question has never been raised with reference to this unhappy subject of insanity, and if it is to be held that the House is to conclude from the certificate of two medical men that a Member of this House is insane and is in prison, then I say you will at once have this further question raised, whether, upon such an occurrence happening with reference to any one of us (which God forbid it ever should), the communication of that painful fact is not to be publicly made to the House by the authorities, I must say that I see that it is possible that an inquiry of this kind may raise questions far beyond the statement submitted by the hon. and learned Member. I only regret that the hon. and learned Member has thought it necessary to bring this matter before the House. There are some subjects which had bettor he left alone amongst an assembly of English gentlemen, and if the Motion goes to a vote, I shall be ready at once to give it a decided negative.


I feel that I should be acting unworthily of my duty to the House, and towards the hon. Member whose name has been mentioned, if I did not rise in my place and state the conversation which I happened to have in this House with Mr. Steuart immediately after the division. On Friday week I met Mr. Steuart in the lobby, not knowing that he was afflicted, and I asked him to join with me to take a carriage on his way homo. He replied that he was living in the neighbourhood of Richmond, that he was going into the street to take a cab, and that he was not very well. I remarked, in reply, that that was a long distance for him to go, and his reply to me was, "I have felt rather nervous lately, and I thought it advisable to live a short way out of town, but I am very well now, I am happy to say, and I shall resume my duties as usual." I must say that up to that moment, and indeed at that moment, I did not know that Mr. Steuart was in the slightest degree afflicted, nor did I know until several days afterwards that there had been the slightest suspicion of any mental affliction. And, Sir, perhaps I may be allowed to say that, like many other hon. Members in this House, it has devolved on me to serve on Committees of Public Lunatic Asylums, and I have had an opportunity of judging in some degree of the mental condition of a vast number of persons, and I think that if there had been any aberration existing in Mr. Steuart I should have discovered it, and should in one moment have made some remark upon it. Sir, I can undertake to say that he walked away from this House into the street, took a cab, and proceeded by himself in that cab to his residence. It is not my intention, Sir, to presume upon offering any argument after the able speeches which have been made in this House upon the subject, but perhaps I may be permitted to say that it would be most painful to the family of Mr. Steuart if this inquiry were permitted to proceed any further. And so convinced am I that no good result would accrue from any inquiry, that I would even appeal to the right hon. Member the Secretary of State to withhold the proposition which he has made. Sir, I can only say that if that paper were published and circulated, it would inflict the greatest pain upon the hon. Gentleman and his family, which I am sure everyone would regret to do. With these few observations I trust that the House will negative the Motion, and I venture to suggest to the House that it ought not to permit this Resolution to be withdrawn but that it should be negatived.


No one who knows the House can be surprised at the deep sensation which this unhappy matter has occasioned; but, Sir, I cannot but feel that the hon. and learned Member has been treated with something more than necessary rigour and severity in a matter of this nature, and I beg to give my reasons for coming to that conclusion. Sir, it is not only in this House that this matter has been mentioned, for the last six days it has been the topic of conversation everywhere, and if there is any person or anybody who ought to be thankful that this subject has been mentioned, I will engage to say that it is these Gentlemen upon these Benches, because of all those imputations out of doors against the manner in which this Gentleman was brought into this House. I beg to assure the hon. Gentleman that those are not my words. I am only repeating what I have heard, and having heard these things I felt that there was nothing more desirable to be done than that there should be the fullest exposition of what has passed, and that we should hear why this Gentleman came down here, that we should hear what steps were taken to dissuade him from continuing here, and that, in point of fact, the public, as well as the House, should have an opportunity of passing their opinion upon the circumstances.


I am very unwilling to prolong this discussion which has already lasted too long; but on the part of one with whom I have lived in close intimacy for the last twenty years, I should not be doing justice to him if I did not state to the House the circumstance which occurred on the night of that division on Friday week. I had heard previously that Mr. Steuart feeling himself in a nervous low state had, not by the advice of his friends, but by his own free will, placed himself near London in order that an attack which he feared might come on, might be averted by timely medical treatment. Hearing that, Sir, and concluding that he was in an establishment of that kind, I was walking in one of the lobbies of the House, and was much surprised at meeting the hon. Gentleman. He came round the corner of lobby, and there addressed me by my name as usual, in the most friendly and cordial terms. He then proceeded to refer in feeling terms to an accident which had lately occurred to one of the members of my family, the full particulars of which he seemed to know, and which he told me his family in Scotland had much deplored to learn. Then he proceeded in the calmest tones to ask me what was the nature of the vote which I was about to give that night, I, Sir, declined telling him my vote. He like many other hon. Friends of mine, disapproving of the course which I felt it my duty to take upon that occasion, did his best to dissuade me from the course which I took in terms the most sane and the most reasonable. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield and my hon. Friend opposite that at that moment on that night when my hon. Friend gave his vote, he gave his vote with the most perfect and undoubted knowledge, though I think he took a most mistaken view of it, that he was voting for "Tea" as against "Paper." I only thought it my duty to my hon. Friend to mention these circumstances to the House.


The noble Lord saw the hon. Member just before the division. I saw him immediately after the division, and I am bound to say that he was then in as sound a state of mind as any hon. Gentleman with whom I conversed that evening. We had a division upon that evening, and every hon. Gentleman knows that there is no period more exciting than the period of a division; and few divisions probably have been more exciting than that which took place on that evening. But notwithstanding that the hon. Member for Cambridge came out of the lobby with me, sat by my side here, very much in the place where I am now speaking, and he was perfectly rational. I was not aware even that he had been ill. He discussed the topics of the evening, and the chances of the division, and feeling as interested in what the result might be just as any other hon. Gentleman would. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Derby that this side of the House ought to feel obliged for the Motion which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has made. If I understand, Sir, the feelings of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, they would prefer labouring under that imputation rather than that this Gentleman and his family should be subject to such an annoyance as this public discussion of the matter. Anything more painful—anything more harrowing to the feelings of that gentleman and his family, and to all those who are acquainted with him, I cannot conceive of; and I am at a loss to understand what good object is to be gained by the discussion. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House has stated, and he states it with great authority, that he hardly knows to what this inquiry can lead. Are we to be bound by the certificates of medical gentlemen as to whether the hon. Member for Cambridge was competent to vote upon that occasion or not? I, for one, would prefer exercising my own judgment upon this matter, a judgment which I have had an opportunity of forming, and I would prefer taking the testimony of the noble Lord who has just spoken of his detailed conversation with the hon. Member as to his state of mind on that evening, than I would be guided by any medical certificates at all. I can only express my deep regret that the Motion has been made, for from the conversation which I had with the hon. Gentleman on that evening, I am perfectly sure that whatever his state may have been before, he is now fully able to feel the pain and misery, and agony to himself and his family, which must result from this discussion. Sir, I for one would rather lie under the imputation which I believe every reflecting man must know was unfounded upon this subject, than I would by my vote give the slightest sanction to the Motion, which I think is as unwarranted as I am sure it is unfeeling.


Sir, if all the epithets which have been applied to me are deserved, I ought to consider myself a most unworthy person. I would beg the House to listen to me just for a few moments, and not to take the opinions which are thus most openly expressed. Now, Sir, when I spoke to you, on your right hand was standing the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I beckoned to him, and I asked him to be good enough to come round, for I said that I wanted him to hear what I was about to say to you. I spoke to you, Sir; and upon your saying that I could not interfere with the Orders of the Day, I retired from the step on your left hand, and spoke to the right hon. Gentleman, and we then discussed the propriety of bringing this matter before the House, and I must say that from the right hon. Gentleman I received no dissuasion. But, Sir, he agreed with me in thinking that it was a matter of grave importance—because recollect, Sir, the circumstances under which we were standing. There was a gentleman who was in the charge of a physician, under the certificate of two physicians, which certificate said that the hon. Member for Cambridge was dangerous to himself and others. A learned Gentleman behind me says that he would rather trust to himself than to the certificate of two physicians. Now, I would not. Here is a man, under the oath of two physicians, said to be dangerous to himself and others—I hear murmurs—but if I am stating that which is not true, many hon. Members can contradict me if they think fit. A Commissioner of Lunacy is here, and he has informed me distinctly that that was the purport of the certificate. Therefore, when I discussed the matter with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he and I both came to the conclusion that it did concern this House—that it imported this House that something should be done to prevent the recurrence of such a transaction. I do not know whether the law is to blame. The right hon. Gentleman says it is not. He says that the law is not in fault, and that the Commissioners are not in fault, but he does not say that the gentlemen who had this hon. Member in their charge were not in fault. I laid blame to nobody—I stated the facts, and no one has controverted those facts. No one has contradicted what I stated. I have stated that this hon. Gentleman was in charge of others, and under a certificate stating that he was dangerous to himself and others, and that notwithstanding that he came here and voted. I say that it is a thing dangerous to society at large, and that it is contrary to the dignity of the proceedings of this House. I hear murmurs of "No," but the noble Lord at the head of her Majesty's Government seems to agree with me in thinking so, because they were the words he used. When I consulted with you, Sir, on Saturday last, my phrase was this—"You have failed in your private endeavours to prevent a recurrence of this matter, and it seems to me that we are driven into a corner," and the words which you used were, "I think we are;" and you agreed with me in thinking that it was a very dangerous matter. Because I call the attention of the House and the country to it, I am called unfeeling. Well, then, I fearlessly throw myself on the House and the country. I was determined that no private consideration should overcome the public consideration. The public consideration is this—that every person, under such circumstances as these, ought to be under the charge and control of individuals who should be made responsible if any injury should arise. You cannot mean to tell me that two physicians would have signed a certificate without his being dangerous; and suppose that he had inflicted a dangerous wound on himself or on any Member of the House? It has not happened, but it might have happened. He went at large under a certificate of that description. If the House thinks there is no harm in that transaction I am perfectly willing to do what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department wishes. I have no desire but for the public good on this occasion; and if the House will permit me, I am perfectly ready to withdraw my Motion, or the House may negative it, or do what they like with it. I have stated to the House the circumstances which I believed it imported them to know, and in doing that I think that I have done my duty to the House and to the public at large. I leave the matter in their hands to do what they like with it.


Mr. Speaker, I must take the earliest opportunity of expressing my regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield should have adverted to private communications between himself and you. I cannot help thinking that my hon. and learned Friend must have done so inadvertently; but inasmuch as he has, perhaps I may do the same to this extent—that as you, Sir, honoured me by informing me of that communication, I can testify to the earnest and anxious desire expressed by you, that while every precaution should be taken to prevent the recurrence of an event which we must all deplore, it should not be made matter of public discussion. Now, Sir, I am also aware that the hon. and learned Gentleman deferred to that wish in the hope that you would be able to communicate to him the announcement that such precautions would be taken. I certainly do not know why that assurance has not been given. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has been in communication with the Commissioners of Lunacy; and the Commissioners of Lunacy, in the exercise of powers which are vested in them by law, are investigating the case now under the consideration of the House, not with regard to the conduct of any hon. Member of this House (for I hope it will not be supposed that there is the slightest imputation on the hon. Gentleman), but as to the conduct of those who are subject to the provisions of the law which they have to see administered. They have called for a Report, and without giving the details of the Report, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department on a future day will be able to state what steps the Commissioners of Lunacy have deemed it their duty to take with regard to the persons who had charge of this Gentleman. I cannot help thinking that that ought to be entirely satisfactory to the House, and that the matter should not be treated as one of privilege.


Sir, after the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has expressed, that although acquainted in my individual capacity, as a Commissioner in Lunacy, with the facts of the case now under the consideration of the House, I am not at liberty to make them known to the House, it is not my intention, of course, to take part in this discussion, and I rise merely for the purpose of correcting what I cannot help thinking must be an erroneous opinion on the part of my hon. and learned Friend, that I was in any way whatever concerned in furnishing him with the information upon which he acted.


I did not say you were.


Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman it appeared to me spoke as if I had informed him of the contents of the certificate. Now it was a matter of public notoriety that such a certificate had been granted, and although I certainty am not prepared to say that I may not have mentioned it in common conversation with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, I certainly did not volunteer any information on the subject.


Mr. Speaker, the House is not sufficiently alive to one important circumstance in this case, and that is dates. Did the House collect from the statements of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Sheffield, that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge was sent to Dr. Forbes Winslow's Asylum, under a certificate that he was dangerous to himself and others, on the 6th of April, and that his vote was not given till the 3rd of May; as nearly as possible four weeks afterwards? And did the House bear in mind that Dr. Forbes Winslow during that time had permitted Mr. Steuart to come to London to visit his friends, and, in short, to be treated in every respect as a sound, sane man? If, therefore, the physicians who signed the certificate were right on the 6th of April, it is perfectly plain that a change must have taken place during the month in the mental capacity of Mr. Steuart, or that Dr. Forbes Winslow was guilty of great neglect of duty as the keeper of an asylum. Now, Sir, I must most earnestly deprecate the discussion which has taken place in this House upon this subject. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield communicated with Mr. Steuart's hon. Col- league in the representation of Cambridge, he would have received satisfactory assurances, such as have been given to the House to-night, that this was a case in which no Member had been exposed to danger, and that, therefore, no further investigation was required. Now, Sir, I really do hope and trust that the House will not permit the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield to be withdrawn, but that they will show their sense of the impropriety of proceeding further in the matter by negativing it, which will have the effect of relieving the feelings of Mr. Steuart, who, I believe, is now as capable of appreciating this proceeding as any hon. Member whom I have now the honour to address. Let us make this public declaration, which I do on my own behalf and on behalf of Gentlemen sitting by me, that we believe that one of its Members—Mr. Steuart—is as capable of discharging his duties as he ever was in his life, and we know him to be a man of very considerable learning and capacity. I do really much regret that this matter has been brought under the consideration of the House. I trust, therefore, that the House will agree with me that nothing will meet the justice of this case but that the Motion should be absolutely negatived, I, for one, feel so strongly upon the subject, that I am determined that the question shall be put to a division.


Sir, after the account which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield has given of a private conversation with myself, I am unwilling to remain silent.

Sir, it is quite true that a conversation of which the general effect was what has been stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman did take place. I understood that it was nothing more than such a conversation as commonly and ordinarily takes place between Members of this House who are acquainted with one another. For my part I certainly did not expect to hear it referred to in debate. My hon. and learned Friend, Sir, was in conversation with you on the subject of this discussion when I happened to pass; and he requested me to step forward for the purpose of hearing what he was saying. After a short conversation with you, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman consulted me as to the course which he should pursue. My hon. and learned Friend says that I did not dissuade him from bringing the matter before the House. I did not; neither did I persuade him; I offered no opinion whatever as to whether it was right or wrong, as to whether it was wise or unwise, for the hon. and learned Gentleman to bring the question before the House. I may state that I was perfectly aware of the efforts which you, Sir, had made to dissuade my hon. and learned Friend from taking that course.

Now, as I was officially connected with the Commissioners in Lunacy, I deemed that I was precluded from offering any opinion upon the question. With reference to the words that I used, as nearly as I can remember, I said to my hon. and learned Friend, "If you think this is an administrative question—if you say there has been a breach of duty either on the part of the Commissioners in Lunacy or on the part of the Superintendent of the Asylum, your proper course is to put a question to me, and I will undertake that the matter shall be properly inquired into. If, however, you take up the question as a breach of privilege, I have nothing to do with it; and the proper authority for you to address is the Speaker." Upon that my hon. and learned Friend said be did not regard it as an admininistrative question, but as affecting the privileges of the House. Under these circumstances I told my hon. and learned Friend that he ought to apply to the Speaker, and not to the Government; but I certainly expressed no opinion whatever either for or against his bringing the question before the House.


Before putting the Question to the House I wish to be permitted to say a few words. I do not complain in any way of what has been said by the hon. and learned Member with regard to the conversation which took place between himself and me; because I consider that he addressed me not in my individual but in my official capacity. I particularly wish to do an act of justice to the hon. and learned Gentleman, to assure the House that he most willingly and entirely concurred with me, and acquiesced in my desire that he should abstain from bringing the matter before the House if such security as he, and certainly as I also deemed necessary, should be obtained that the occurrence in question should not be repeated.

In justice to the hon. and learned Member, I beg leave to read to the House a short note which was sent to me by the hon. Member, one of the Commissioners in Lunacy, who has spoken for the purpose of shewing how entirely I have failed in obtaining that security against the occurrence of such an event. which would have enabled me with effect to request the hon. and learned Member to abstain from making his Motion. I ought, to state that I read this letter with the permission of the hon. Member who placed it in my hands. It is as follows:— Mar 10, 1861. The Board, referring to the confidential communication made to them to-day, by Colonel Clifford, of the private wish of the Speaker of the House of Commons to receive an assurance of steps having been taken by them to prevent the recurrence of any such incident as that of the vote given in the House on Thursday, the 2nd of May, by a certified lunatic patient, express to Colonel Clifford their regret to be unable to comply with the Speaker's wish, or to offer any communication on such a subject, unless required by official authority.


Sir, I trust that the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Sheffield, will withdraw his Motion, and that he will not persist in dividing the House upon this subject. I must say that it appears to me that the explanations of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge were perfectly satisfactory; and I hope the Motion will be allowed to be withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances under which Mr. Andrew Steuart, Member for the Borough of Cambridge, voted in this House on Thursday the second day of this instant May.

Put, and negatived.