HL Deb 19 February 1818 vol 37 cc518-9
Lord Holland

wished, before the Mouse proceeded to the order of the day, to call their lordships attention to two petitions, which he had to present. The subject of these petitions was similar to that which his noble friend had presented the other day, and on which he was now about to make a motion. They had been put into his hands not two hours before, he came down to the House, and though he had not had time to read them minutely, he could say that their titles wore correctly worded and that they were couched in in language which he considered decorous and respectful. They both complained of the execution of the act for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus. The first came from a person of the name of Knight, and stated several circumstances of cruelty which were worthy of inquiry, and described a variety of sufferings which the petitioner had undergone in consequence of his being arrested, fettered, imprisoned, and finally compelled to enter into recognizances. He knew nothing of Mr. Knight; but in presenting this or any other petition, he wished it to be under- stood, that he neither vouched for the truth of the statements which it contained, or the character of the individual from whom it came. It was his duty to bring the complaint under the notice of the House. The second petition was from a man respecting whose character he had heard reports, but as they were not of a favourable nature, he should not state them. His name was Mitchell, and he also stated that he had suffered severely in consequence of being unjustly imprisoned. As he had before observed, he could not vouch for the truth of the allegations in these petitions; but bethought it no way surprising, that persons who had suffered unjustly should sometimes state their case with a degree of aggravation, nor could he regard that as a reason for not inquiring into the facts. It was fit the petitions should be laid on their lordships table, whether the injury complained of was attributed to ministers, or to persons of inferior authority. He had made these remarks, because he knew from experience, that when complaints were made of the violation of the laws and constitution, it was often endeavoured to identify the individual who brought forward such complaints with the cause of the persons into whose statements it was proposed to inquire. He was standing up for the laws of the country, and not for the character of the petitioners, or the accuracy of their statements.

The petitions of John Knight, and of Joseph Mitchell were then read. They were couched in the same terms as the petitions of the same individuals to the House of Commons. [See pp.191,399.] With respect to the petition from Mitchell, lord Holland observed, that several of the statements in it could be verified by persons of respectability. The petitions were ordered to lie on the table.