§ MR. WHALLEY
I have wished, Sir, to make a personal explanation, in accordance with a Notice I gave on a previous day. I have, however, deferred mention of the subject until the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) should be in his place and have an opportunity of replying; but I have received from the right hon. Baronet a letter, by which I presume he is not present. [Sir ROBERT PEEL here entered the House.] I am very happy to see the right hon. Gentleman in his place, and therefore I need not read the letter, the receipt of which led me to suppose he would not be here. 176 It will be in the recollection of the House that, in the course of the debate which took place on the 23rd of April, the hon. Member for Stoke read a paper in the form of a memorandum, said to have been left behind him by the person whom I may refer to, with the permission of the House, as the Claimant, stating substantially that he had been told by me that the right hon. Baronet had informed me that Sir Alexander Cockburn had told him that the Claimant would be convicted and sentenced to 15 years' penal servitude. The right hon. Baronet was not in his place on that occasion; but on the following Monday he rose, as I rise now, and said that there was not, in that statement, the shadow of a shade of truth, making use of other expressions of that kind; and going especially into the features of the memorandum, it appeared to the right hon. Baronet a palpable absurdity that a person in the position of the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench should have penned such a communication to him as he was represented to have made. I beg leave to say that I greatly sympathized with the right hon. Baronet in what he said on that occasion, as to being dragged before the House on such a subject; and also, to a certain extent, I sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman in what he said with regard to the hon. Member for Stoke reading the memorandum, and with respect to any question of veracity—though I should hardly call it that—between the right hon. Baronet and myself. I shall speak with the utmost possible reservation, or mitigation, as to my own recollection on any point which comes into collision with the recollection of the right hon. Baronet. With respect to the memorandum, I am sure that the right hon. Baronet will, at any rate, give me credit for having stated only what I believed to be true. What I stated to the Claimant was what I believed the right hon. Baronet to have said—and I take the liberty to say that my recollection still holds good that it was what the right hon. Baronet said—and, in justice to the unhappy man in prison, he has, to the best of my recollection, also accurately recorded in the memorandum what was read by the hon. Member for Stoke. With regard to the "palpable absurdity" of the statement, I would recall to the recollection of the 177 right hon. Baronet this circumstance, that the communication was made by him to me—not in a casual conversation merely, not in a mere gossiping tone, but in a formal appeal to me for information on the subject; that I did myself suggest to him how exceedingly improbable it was that the right hon. Baronet should have been mistaken in what he repeated to me as the statement of the Lord Chief Justice. But, as I have said, I desire to keep my recollection in subjection to the right hon. Baronet's recollection in the matter—and I hope he will not forget that when I heard of the intention of the hon. Member for Stoke to make public that memorandum, I took the first opportunity of writing to the right hon. Baronet expressing my regret that his name should thus be brought before the public, and stating that it was not at all with my consent, but in fact, so far as I could make any protest to the hon. Member for Stoke, that it was against my protest that that was to be done. I certainly did understand that the right hon. Baronet accepted my explanation in the spirit in which I gave it; and I think he will exonerate me from all further responsibility in the matter. I have no doubt whatever, if the opportunity were offered for further discussion between the right hon. Baronet and myself, and if the House were to grant the inquiry which it has so emphatically refused, then all differences as to recollection between him and myself would be reconciled. Rather than impute anything to the right hon. Baronet or bring myself into collision with him, I would plead some deficiency of recollection on my part; but what I would say is that it was not at the time "palpably absurd" that the Lord Chief Justice should make such a communication to the right hon. Baronet. It was not absurd then, because it was only a few weeks before that unhappy man, the Claimant—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that he is going beyond the bounds of personal explanation.
§ MR. WHALLEY
I hope that what I am about to say will be more agreeable to the House than the point I have just referred to. What I am about to say raises the question of the accuracy of statements which have passed between 178 two or three Members of the House. I quite concurred in the remark which has been made as to the unmannerly proceeding of hon. Members, directly or indirectly, allowing private conversation to be repeated and made use of for public purposes; and if the House considers that I have erred in this matter, and that I was not justified in repeating what I had heard to the Claimant, I will at once throw myself on the indulgence of the House. Recognizing the force of the observations to which I have just adverted, I will merely say that the communication in question was not made to me in a gossiping form at all, but in a tone of—["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have to suggest to the hon. Member that he is drawing too much on the indulgence of the House in repeating observations which he has made more than once.
§ MR. WHALLEY
I think I have entered upon a topic which, if I could be permitted to exhaust it, would raise this personal question into one of public importance. Therefore, I shall beg leave to conclude with a Motion, for it seems to me that nothing could be more important than the question raised by the remark as to the use that should not be made of casual conservations, and I hope the House will be pleased to listen to a statement of the circumstances. ["No, no!"] I defer at once to the feeling manifested by the House on that subject. In conclusion, I can only say that I now certify to the accuracy of the memorandum as containing to the best of my recollection that which the right hon. Baronet stated to me, and which I conveyed to the Claimant.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I wish, Sir, to say only one word with respect to the statement of the hon. Member for Peterborough. In common with the House, I have listened with great satisfaction to the statement just made; for, as far as I could gather from it, the hon. Member has completely exonerated me from having said what there is no doubt that he incorrectly reported to the person to whom he alludes as the Claimant. The hon. Gentleman has distinctly stated in the hearing of the House that he subjected his recollection and his opinion in this matter entirely to mine. I can only assure the hon. Member, as I assured him in the letter to which he has referred, that I did not and could not have 179 said what I was reported in the Orton Diary to have said, and which the hon. Member for Stoke brought before the notice of the House. What does the thing really amount to? Why, that the Claimant told his counsel, Dr. Kenealy—[Mr. WHALIEY: No, no!]—I am only stating what the charge was. It was that the Claimant told his counsel that he, the Claimant, had heard from Mr. Whalley, who had heard from Sir Robert Peel, who had heard from the Lord Chief Justice, who had been informed by the other Judges, that before the jury had decided in a criminal case which they were trying, they, the Judges, had come to the determination to convict the prisoner! That statement bore its own refutation. I am glad the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity of confirming the subjection in which he has placed his own views to mine, and I assure him that he must have been mistaken; and I have nothing to retract from or to add to the statement which the House, with its usual courtesy and kindness, permitted me to make the other evening.