HC Deb 26 April 1875 vol 223 cc1638-40

Sir, I wish to ask the kind indulgence of the House for a few minutes, while I refer to a statement made on Friday evening in the course of the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke. That statement directly affects me; but more than that, if there were any foundation in fact for it, which I can show there is not, it can only be intended to prejudice in the mind of the public the character and position of a high and honourable Judge. So long as that statement continued to be made in the pages of a print called The Englishman—so long as it was repeated in a number of Petitions, which as I understand from the Clerk at the Table were received, but not laid upon it—I was content to let it pass unheeded upon the advice of my solicitors, and treat it with the contempt and disgust that every man must feel at the continuance of libels which have been heaped without end upon men of far higher position than I can claim to be. But when I find that the statement of The Englishman newspaper has been transferred to the floor of the House of Commons by a Member of this honourable House, I have no alternative but to appeal to the House of Commons with every confidence and trust in this matter. I was unable accidentally, from circumstances over which I had no control, to be in the House of Commons on Friday evening, else I should then have taken the opportunity of repudiating the statement to which I now refer. It is true I received a letter from the hon. Member for Stoke. It was dated on Thursday evening; but I did not receive it until Saturday morning, and I was quite surprised to find that he was going to introduce my name in any way into the debate on Friday evening. At least I may say this, that as the hon. Member for Stoke intended to introduce my name, it would have been more courteous on his part if he had given me two or three days' notice, that I might have made arrangements to be present. Now, what is the charge, or rather I might say what is the statement, of the hon. Member for Stoke? I will read the words. He had been alluding to the Lord Chief Justice of England, and said they had been discussing whether it would be well to have the Lord Chief Justice to try the case. He said he had an interview with the Claimant, and that it was decided they should not oppose the Lord Chief Justice trying the case. Then, the hon. Member for Stoke said, the 13th of April came, and he said he had an interview with the Claimant, who read to him an extract from his diary. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Peterborough is in his place at the present moment, but this is the extract— Mr. Whalley has just been to me and has told me that Sir Robert Peel told him yesterday that I was to be convicted, and that the Judges had already made up their minds to give me 15 years' penal servitude. Mr. Hendricks was present. It does not so much concern me, but from my intimacy with, and from the very high respect I have for, the Lord Chief Justice, I consider it my duty to bring this matter before this honourable House. Well, there is not the slightest shadow of foundation for the hon. Member for Peterborough making such a statement as this. It is on the face of it literally impossible that the Lord Chief Justice should have told me during the hearing of a case before a jury, that he and the two other Judges had made up their minds to give the Claimant 15 years' penal servitude. It was stated by the hon. Member for Peterborough, to get a stronger hold upon me, that Mr. Hendricks was present. Now I have a letter from Mr. Hendricks this morning, who says it is absolutely false that in his presence I made any such statement as that which Mr. Whalley is said to allege, and which it was falsely stated, was made in Mr. Hendricks' presence. I wish now to say a word with regard to the hon. Member for Stoke. I do not know why the hon. Member for Stoke should so persistently have laid bold on me in this matter. I do not know that I ever spoke to him in my life. I do not know that I ever met him, yet for weeks and months my name has been dragged before the public in The Englishman. Yes; I did meet him once, at dinner—at the table of his kind friend and patron, Lord Chief Justice Cockburn. That was the only time I ever met the hon. Member for Stoke. Well, I do not know why he should so persistently have introduced my name into this matter, because he, as a lawyer, must know that it is absolutely impossible for a Chief Justice sitting with two other Judges, before a cause had been tried, to have told me that the result would be what the hon. Member had stated. The hon. Member for Stoke said—"I express no opinion," but he has expressed an opinion over and over again. Announcements of this nature have appeared—"Read Dr. Kenealy's newspaper!" I presume that The Englishman is Dr. Kenealy's newspaper. The hon. Member for Stoke says he expressed no opinion, but he was curious to learn what would be said in defence of the Judges. There would be nothing more monstrously absurd than to suppose that the Lord Chief Justice should have held such language, or that I should have made such a statement. It all rests upon that one statement alleged to have been made by the hon. Member for Peterborough, and which is directly contradicted by Mr. Hendricks. Now I put it to the House, and I put it to you, Sir, whether you will not vouchsafe to me your belief that the statement I have made is true, rather than that which has for months past appeared in The Englishman newspaper, and which has now been transferred to the House of Commons? I give it the most direct and perfect contradiction. The entry in the diary alluded to by the hon. Member for Stoke and the assertion there made are manifestly untrue and monstrously—I was going to say—false.


Does the right hon. Member apply the term "false" to a Member of this House?


No, Sir; I applied it to the diary. I say that the entry in the diary which was referred to by the hon. Member for Stoke is manifestly untrue, and I am confident that the House of Commons will not hesitate to endorse the opinion I have now expressed.