§ Case considered.
§ MR. SPENCER WALPOLE
Sir, I hold in my hand a Petition from Mr. 153 Charles Edmund Grissell, and I desire to explain the circumstances under which I undertook to present it to the House. Two days before the commencement of the Session I received a letter from Mr. Grissell, in which he asked me whether I would agree to present a Petition for him relating to his case. My answer was that I thought it would be better that someone who was not a Member of the Committee to which the question had been referred should present the Petition; but, inasmuch as I understood him to say that in his Petition he would express great regret for what had happened and would submit himself completely to the House, I said I would so far take charge of the Petition as to present it. At the same time, I gave him no advice relative to the Petition, as to which he must consult his own friends. The day before Parliament assembled I received from Mr. Grissell a Petition which, it was clear to my mind, would not be considered by the House as satisfactory to them, and I accordingly wrote to Mr. Grissell, stating that the offence was so grave a one—much more than a mere fault as he had designated it—that my belief was that the House would not pass by the matter so easily as he seemed to imagine, and I was perfectly confident the House would expect him to make a much more complete submission than the language he had used in the Petition appeared to me to convey. From that day till yesterday I heard nothing from Mr. Grissell. Yesterday afternoon, in consequence, I suppose, of a Notice appearing upon the Paper referring to the subject, together with the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I received a letter from Mr. Grissell, asking whether I would grant him an interview. My answer was that it appeared to me that any interview would be useless, inasmuch as I could say no more to him than I had already told him in writing, and that, therefore, I must decline to see him. Since yesterday, and in the afternoon of this day, I have received a Petition which I think is fully respectful to the House, and, as I read it, completely submissive; and I, therefore, feel no hesitation whatever in presenting it to the House for their consideration. I will now move that the 154 Clerk at the Table shall read the Petition.
§ Motion agreed to.
Petition of Charles Edmund Grissell presented, and read, as followeth:—
To the Honorable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of Charles Edmund Grissell, of Curzon Street, May Fair, in the county of Middlesex,
That a Select Committee of your honorable House reported in August last that your Petitioner had committed a Breach of the Privilege of your honorable House.
That your Petitioner was thereupon ordered to attend at the Bar of your honorable House, but that he had previously been obliged to leave London in accordance with the direction of his medical adviser.
That on his return he was arrested in virtue of a Warrant issued by your honorable Speaker, and was committed to Her Majesty's gaol of Newgate.
That your Petitioner deeply deplores the grave offence of which he was adjudged guilty, and desires to tender his humble apology and the expression of his sincere regret to your honorable House.
That your Petitioner desires to make the fullest submission and to throw himself upon the merciful consideration of your honorable House.
Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honorable House will be pleased to accept of his humble apology and the expression of his deep regret for his grave offence.
And your Petitioner will ever pray.
§ "CHARLES E. GRISSELL."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, there one or two observations which naturally occur to one in hearing the Petition which has just been read. In the first place, it would certainly have been more satisfactory if that Petition had been presented by Mr. Grissell on the first re-assembling of Parliament. He might then have seen the gravity of the offence which he committed last Session; and it would have been more satisfactory if he had, on his own motion, submitted himself and apologized to the House. Of course, another observation that might be made on the Petition itself is, Mr. Grissell scarcely sets out in full the nature or extent of the offence which he committed in disregarding the authority of the House. He speaks of a summons having been sent to him in August last; but, in point of fact, it was on the 22nd of 155 July that Mr. Grissell was ordered to attend the House on the following day, the 23rd. On the 23rd of July, however, the Serjeant at Arms reported that Mr. Grissell was not in attendance, and he read a telegraphic message, from which it appeared that Mr. Grissell was at Boulogne. Mr. Speaker thereupon issued a Warrant for his apprehension, and on the 13th of August the Serjeant at Arms reported that he had taken Mr. Grissell into custody. On the 14th of August the House committed Mr. Grissell to Newgate for evading the execution of Mr. Speaker's Warrant, and on the following day Parliament was prorogued and he was discharged. The Petition, in setting forth the nature of the case, does not show really what the full circumstances were. I do not believe the House will feel any desire to be vindictive in such a matter; but, at the same time, I think it right that notice should be taken of this grave Breach of the Privileges of the House, and I will move the following Resolution:—That Charles Edmund Grissell, having evaded punishment for his offences against the Privileges of this House until the close of the last Session, he sent for in the custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House, and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant accordingly; and that he be reprimanded, at the Bar, by Mr. Speaker, for his contempt of this House.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I do not think the House will desire now to discuss what further steps should be taken with regard to Mr. Grissell; but it seems to me that the course proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, at all events, the first step which should be taken, and, therefore, I beg to second the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Charles Edmund Grissell, having evaded punishment for his offences against the Privileges of this House until the close of the last Session, be sent for in the custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House, and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant accordingly; and that he be reprimanded, at the Bar, by Mr. Speaker, for his contempt of this House."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
MR. C. BECKETT-DENISON
said, it was very difficult for a private Member to offer an opinion of his own on such a delicate question as this after the Leader of the House had spoken; but as two points were combined in the same Resolution, he must say he ex- 156 pected that Mr. Grissell would have made his appearance at the Bar of the House before any Resolution was come to as to what should be done to him. Although he cordially agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that no hon. Member of the House would wish to appear vindictive in such a case, yet he could not help remembering that another gentleman, Mr. John Sandilands Ward, remained in custody for the space of 10 days; and it was not until he had made ample submission that he was, upon a medical certificate, released. He had pointed out at the time that there was a great danger of the lesser offender meeting with the severer punishment; and he feared that that would be the result of the adoption of the Resolution. He should have been glad, therefore, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Resolution had confined itself to commanding Mr. Grissell's presence at the Bar of the House.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, it appeared to him that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a proposal which, if it meant anything, meant that Mr. Grissell, if he would now allow himself to be taken into the custody of the Serjeant at Arms, and brought to the Bar of the House, would be let off with a reprimand by Mr. Speaker. He (Mr. Rylands) could not think that was by any means a course which it was desirable to pursue. He ventured to remind the Leader of the House that Mr. Grissell treated the House last Session with the greatest contempt, and that he had added to the offence by keeping out of the way, only delivering himself up at the very end of the Session. Indeed, he turned the whole proceedings into a farce. Under these circumstances, the proper course would be to pass a Resolution that Mr. Speaker issue his Warrant for Mr. Grissell's apprehension, and when he was in their custody—the House not having made any terms with him—they could then decide what should be done with him. [Cheers, and cries of "Move!"] He had not wished to move an Amendment; but as it seemed the feeling of the House, he would move that there be omitted from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Resolution the following words:—"And that he be reprimanded, at the Bar, by Mr. Speaker, for his contempt of this House."
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
I second the Amendment. The way the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to deal with Grissell seems to me altogether inadequate. I would remind the House that both Grissell and Ward have committed so serious a Breach of the Privileges of the House as can be conceived. They stated that they could influence a Committee of this House by corruption. The Select Committee that inquired into the matter, under the presidency of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Spencer Walpole), reported that they had been guilty not only of a Breach of the Privileges of the House, but also of perjury. One of the delinquents has been punished by the House; the other evaded the Warrant by going abroad, making no valid excuse as to his health, but remaining abroad till the evening of the day before the House was prorogued. He then gave himself up, and had received the nominal punishment of one night in Newgate. I understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the end of the last Session that Grissell was sent to Newgate for evading the Warrant; and that that punishment did not purge him of the contempt of which he had been guilty. This is not a case of vindictiveness, but of just punishment: if ever a case called for punishment it is this. I know nothing about these men, and pray I never may. Considering them as A and B, they merited punishment. Grissell would not feel a reprimand, but would leave the House saying "You could not punish me; or you dared not." To bring a man of that sort to the Bar of the House to be reprimanded was virtually to inflict on him no punishment at all.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "accordingly" to the end of the Question.—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. EVANS
hoped the Amendment would be carried, as it was a very great improvement on the original proposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford must, he (Mr. Evans) believed, think so too, for he had used the words that the course proposed to be taken by the Chancellor of the Exche- 158 quer would the proper course to take "in the first instance." But if the Motion were carried as it at present stood, the House would feel itself bound in honour to go no further, when Mr. Grissell appeared at the Bar, than to reprimand him. He (Mr. Evans) very much questioned whether that was a sufficient punishment. He hoped no one would believe him likely to be actuated by vindictive feeling; but Mr. Grissell had set the authority of the House completely at defiance, and had acted in such a manner as to make the action of the House ridiculous to the outside world. That deserved more than a reprimand. They should bring him to the Bar, hear what he had to say, and then, after proper deliberation, they could decide upon what punishment they should inflict.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
sincerely trusted the House would adopt the Amendment. How should they stand if the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his goodness and kindness of heart proposed, were to pass as it stood? The lesser offender, Mr. J. Sandilands Ward, had been substantially punished—atleast, so it was said; though he (Mr. Beresford Hope) did not think the punishment had been severe enough—for the House, in a very indulgent mood, making allowance for the ticking of the clock, let him off sooner than it perhaps ought. The greater offender was now before them, the person named in the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What was his offence? In the first place, as the Committee presided over by his right hon. Colleague had found, he had been guilty of what amounted to perjury as well as contempt of the House. In the next place, abiit, evasit, erupit, and went to Boulogne. When the Serjeant at Arms sent a messenger after him, he found this gentleman, who had to seek the sea air under a doctor's certificate, seemingly in good health. Anything more flagrantly insolent could not be imagined. This gentleman—or, rather, this person—having committed the grave offence of perjury, in the most impudent manner, ran off to Boulogne, laughing at the House, and because he was a clever adventurer, and there was undoubtedly such very grotesque elements in the case, they had laughed with him, and perhaps laughed a little too much—and 159 so were now expected to leave out of account how he had exposed the Privileges and Prerogatives of this House to the contempt of all the world, and particularly of that class of society to which he himself belonged. Then, at the end of the Session, he came back in order to undergo the farce of a few hours in Newgate. Let them consider, besides, the history of the Petition sent in at the very last minute, and the higgling over it. The whole thing was impudent and offensive; one step aggravated another; one thing made the offender less worthy of their compassion than another. If they let him off with a reprimand, to which he would listen with his tongue in his cheek, they would expose the House to the ridicule and petty persecution of all other men whose views of business morality and getting on in the world were like those of Mr. Grissell.
§ MR. DODSON
said, that as a Member of the Committee the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done him the honour of communicating to him the proposal which it was intended to submit to the House; and he expressed, so far as he was concerned, his willingness to support that Motion. At the same time, he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the feeling which had been strongly manifested on both sides, he would not consent to modify his proposition in the manner suggested?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have not the smallest objection to take the course which has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dodson). What I feel on these questions is that it is, above all things, undesirable to outrun the sense of the House; and I therefore certainly made a proposal which I considered to be a mild one, but which I thought might, at all events, have received the assent of the House. I did so after communication with the right hon. Gentleman opposite and other hon. Gentlemen whom I thought it right to communicate with. It was a question of great doubt with them all whether the proposal I made would be sufficient to meet the circumstances of the case. It is perfectly evident, from the feeling of the House, that it would not be sufficient; and, therefore, I have no objection to consent to the omission of the words in the latter part of the Motion.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Ordered, That Charles Edmund Grissell, having evaded punishment for his offences against the Privileges of this House, until the close of the last Session, be sent for in the custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending this House, and that Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrants accordingly.