said, that the absence of his noble friend (Earl Grey) would induce him to defer until to-morrow the adverting to a subject, the notice of which it gave him the greatest uneasiness to postpone for a single moment. He alluded to 256 a most gross and scandalous libel upon himself, which had appeared in some of the public prints, purporting to be observations made by a Member of the other House of Parliament, and imputing to him (Lord Plunkett) conduct of the most unjustifiable description. The whole statement was a gross and abominable falsehood from beginning to end, and he was wholly at a loss to imagine where the materials for so foul a calumny could be found. Indeed so utterly destitute was it of the slightest semblance of truth, that he was perfectly unable to conjecture by what extraordinary effort of ingenuity such a statement could be fabricated. This statement, in which there was not one particle of truth, was put forth as having proceeded from a man of honour, a gentleman of respectability, and the Member of an important county in Ireland. And he thus adverted to the matter, to ascertain if any of their Lordships could offer any excuse for this most false, scandalous and libellous statement. He would to-morrow bring the subject under their Lordship's consideration.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, that he concluded an hon. Baronet, a friend of his, was the Member of the other House of Parliament to whose observations the noble and learned Lord alluded. He had had some conversation with his hon. friend, as to the statement of the extraordinary interference of the Government in Ireland during the late elections. Of this he was sure, that a more honourable man, or one more incapable of making any unfounded statement, injurious or libellous towards any individual whatever, did not exist. He would almost pledge his honour that for any statement which had been made by the hon. Baronet, he would be able to give such satisfactory reasons to the noble and learned Lord as would induce him not to bring the subject under public discussion, until some private explanation had been given respecting it. As far as he understood the matter, the particular statement repeated by the hon. Baronet had been made to him in Dublin, by an individual who asserted that he knew its truth. It was clear, therefore, that the hon. Baronet took his information upon trust; that his statement had been made upon hearsay. Such being the case, he was sure that the hon. Baronet would be quite ready to give up his authority. Therefore—
The Lord Chancellor
apologized for 257 interrupting the noble Marquis, put him right on a point of Order, but there was a distinction, perhaps subtle, but certainly necessary, which he wished to submit to the noble Marquis's consideration. If any Member of the House of Commons said any thing of any noble Lord, however gross and unfounded; if he charged any noble Lord with any offence, however scandalous and vile, it was for the House of Commons, if it so thought fit, to punish or take cognizance of the accusation; but the House of Lords had no power what ever to do so; the law of the land, the Bill of Rights, declared, that no Member of the House of Commons should be called in question elsewhere for any statement which he might think proper to make in that House. But, if any publication took place out of doors, of any statement made within the walls of the House of Commons, whoever made that publication was without any defence whatever; for he could receive no protection from the privileges enjoyed by a Member of the House of Commons. This was a plainly marked line of distinction; and the noble Marquis would, therefore, at once see, that a Member of the House of Commons could not be called over the coals in the House of Lords for any thing which had fallen from him in his own House of Parliament. Under these circumstances, therefore, the noble Marquis had, perhaps, better wait until tomorrow, when his noble and learned friend had intimated his intention of bringing the subject forward, and he might then apply his observations to the statement which had been made in the newspaper, and not to the Member of the House of Commons to whom that statement was imputed.
The Marquis of Londonderry
was obliged to the noble and learned Lord for setting him right. His only anxiety had been, to defend his hon. friend from the charge of having advanced any statement, without having, at least, some reason to believe that it was founded in truth; for the hon. Baronet alluded to had come to him that morning in great anxiety, requesting him to give this explanation, should the subject be mooted by the noble and learned Lord.
observed, that he should bring the subject forward, not for the purpose of attacking any Member of the House of Commons for what he might 258 have said in the House of Commons, or for what had been imputed to him in a newspaper; but for the purpose of publicly defending himself from one of the grossest and foullest attacks that was ever made upon an individual.
said, that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had certainly placed the matter on its true ground. If an attack appeared upon any noble Lord in a newspaper, to whomsoever that attack was imputed, it was the duty of that noble Lord to stand forward and defend his honour and character; but if the attack was made in the other House of Parliament, then it was not open to any noble Lord to bring the conduct of that Member under their Lordships' consideration.
repeated, that the attack upon him was of the grossest description. He was charged with trafficking in judicial and other offices for the purpose of influencing the late elections in Ireland; and with having, in one particular instance, bartered an assistant Banister's place for thirty votes. He had also been charged with promising appointments in the Church (he wished he had any to give) for similar purposes. These charges were made upon hearsay, and he called upon any man, cither in that or the other House, to state the grounds on which this gross slander was founded.
The Marquis of Londonderry
could not think it possible that his hon. friend would have brought forward such charges, without conceiving that there was some foundation for them, whether good or not; but whether these charges were to the extent represented he could give no opinion.
again denied, that there was the slightest foundation for the charges. If any person said, that they were founded, to any extent whatever, he said that which was not true.
§ The Motion for inserting his Majesty's Answer to the Address in the Journals, agreed to.