HC Deb 09 April 1883 vol 277 cc1838-40

I beg leave, Sir, to bring a matter before the House which I humbly submit is a question of Privilege. I hold in my hands a copy of a respectable newspaper, The Western Daily Press, published at Bristol on Thursday the 5th of April last, in which it states that a Liberal meeting was held at Devizes, and that at that meeting the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) used certain language about me which I will take the liberty of reading to the House. He said— That blockhead—that pestilent blockhead, for he was nothing else—had blocked 29 Bills already this Session. Well, I am not particularly thin-skinned; I am quite prepared in the warfare of life, if called upon, to give and take in a cheerful and good-humoured manner. I have received many dozens—I may say hundreds—of worthless and insulting letters from the country since I have been in Parliament regarding the way in which I have done my duty. I have received letters threatening personal violence, and even death; but I have always followed what I believe to be the correct and proper course—namely, to take no notice of these things. No amount of insolence out of this House, no threats of violence, or even death, should have the smallest possible effect on a man's determination to do his duty. I do not bring up this matter from any personal feeling. It is my regard for the dignity of this House. The dignity of this House has hitherto been maintained by what I trust is no longer a fiction—that all its Members are honourable. We are in the habit of addressing each other as honourable; and I hope we still believe that every Member is still a gentleman, if not in the strictest sense of the word, then, at least, in this sense, that a gentleman should so far respect himself as to respect others; and this feeling of respect for oneself and for others should instinctively prompt a Gentleman, even when 100 miles away from the Gentleman he is attacking, to remember, if not instinctively to feel, the difference between fair argument and vulgar abuse.


Sir, the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) has not sent me a copy of the paper, and, therefore, I am obliged to trust largely to memory for what I said on the occasion to which he has referred. I did call attention, in my speech, to the fact that the hon. and learned Member had blocked 29 Bills this Session embodying the political opinions of over 80 Members, and that he was the "most pestilent blocker" in the House. Someone in the audience suggested "blockhead" as a better word; and, on the impulse of the moment, I very sorrowfully state that I adopted the expression, and subsequently repeated it. I frankly admit that the word "blockhead" is not such as should be applied to any Member of this House by another, and I have no hesitation in withdrawing it, and expressing my regret to the hon. and learned Member for using it.