HC Deb 04 May 1876 vol 229 cc52-3

May I ask the permission of the House to make a short personal statement? I was on Tuesday evening precluded by the strict Rules of the House from saying anything with respect to the communication from Her Majesty which was then made to the House. At the same time, I feel little doubt that, had I asked the House for their indulgence, it would have been granted to me. I thought on the whole, being entirely unprepared for any such statement, that it would be more respectful to Her Majesty, and that I should be more likely to conduct myself with due propriety in the matter, if I took 48 hours to consider in what manner I should deal with so very new and unexpected an event. I have employed that time in consideration, and I humbly request the House to have the kindness to listen to me for a moment while I tell them the little that I have to say upon the subject. The statement I made at Retford—and which has been made the subject of Her Majesty's communication—I believed to be true at the time I made it; but, although I believed it to be true, I must frankly acknowledge that I ought not to have made the statement. I acknowledge that it was wrong to have made it; and it was wrong, because no one has a right—and no one, looking at the matter calmly and dispassionately, feels this more strongly than I do—to drag the name of the Sovereign, even indirectly, into our disputes in this House. I sincerely regret that I did not remember the fact that in the whole of the Queen's dominions Her Majesty is, by reason of Her Sovereign dignity, the only person upon whom is imposed the disability of not being able to say anything in personal defence. That alone, if there was no other reason, ought to have closed my mouth on the subject. I hope that the House will consider that my acknowledgment on this subject is full and ample. But, Sir, that is not all. After the communication which Her Majesty has been pleased to make I cannot doubt for a moment that I was entirely mistaken in what I asserted; and nothing remains for me except to express my most sincere and extreme regret, as one who is wholly and heartily a dutiful and loyal subject of Her Majesty, that by my fault—a fault that I admit—and by my words Her Majesty should have been put to what she must, I have no doubt, felt to be the disagreeable necessity of making any communication on such a subject to the House—a necessity that ought never to have been imposed upon her. I most sincerely regret that I was the means of fixing this necessity upon Her Majesty. I cannot doubt that I was entirely mistaken. I retract everything that I said, and, if such a thing be proper from a subject to his Sovereign, I humbly offer my most sincere apologies to Her Majesty for the error that I have committed.


said, it would ill become him to say more than that he was exceedingly delighted to hear the statement that had just been made. His only object in writing to the right hon. Gentleman previously to Tuesday last was to prevent the necessity of bringing the matter before the House.