The Bishop of Exeter
rose to present a Petition from the Arch deacon and Clergy of Totness, diocese of Exeter, against the Government System of Education in Ireland. He would take the liberty, with their Lordships' permission, to avail himself of that opportunity to say a few words, in reference to some observations which had been made in the course of a debate in that House a few nights ago. Wishing, as he did, most carefully to avoid any reference to any thing unpleasant which might have occurred on that night, he was anxious to set himself right with the House on a matter of fact. Their Lordships would remember, that the other evening he denied that he had ever stated, that the letter of a noble Duke (the Duke of Buckingham) to his Majesty had been published in a certain newspaper. He asserted, that he had never stated any such thing, that he merely stated, that the letter in question had been alluded to in the newspaper, and he made that assertion then, on Ids recollection of his former statement. He understood that that former statement of his had been pub lished, and had excited considerable discussion in the newspapers at the time; but as he (the Bishop of Exeter) had, immediately after making it, gone into the country to attend to the discharge of his episcopal duties, it so happened that he had not read any report of what he had then said, until within the last few days, when, on referring to the ordinary records, which were, he believed, understood to be authentic accounts of the proceedings in that House, he found the following words attributed to him on that occasion:—About the 23rd of January, or some such period, there was a direct allusion in The Times to a supposed correspondence between that noble Duke, whom I have now the happiness to see in his place, and his Majesty, as well as between a noble Duke and his Majesty's Secretary. It appeared, therefore, that all he had then said was, that there had been an allusion made in The Times to the noble Duke's letter. It would appear, indeed, from what then fell from the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government, that the same notion which he (the Bishop*Hansard (third series) vol. xill. p. 366.83 of Exeter) entertained was passing through his mind, for he found that the noble Earl was reported to have used the following words:—*'The noble Duke gave no copy of it, and I can say, upon ray honour as a Peer, that I gave none. I certainly did communicate it to my colleagues: it was my duty to do it; and I think I can say for them, as I assert for myself, that it was not from them, nor from any person connected with them, that any part of the letter, any allusion to it, or abstract of it, found its way into the public papers. No person was more astonished than I was when I saw it. I do not know whether it is necessary for me to say more upon this subject, but I can safely say. that what was printed did not proceed from his Majesty's advisers. '* It was plain from this, that the noble Earl understood the matter in the same way that he (the Bishop of Exeter) did at the time. He would make no further reference to any thing unpleasant which might have occurred the other night, and he had only made this reference to it in order to set himself right with their Lordships.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, that he had a few observations to address to their Lordships, which, he conceived, he should not be out of order in making on this occasion. He was not in his place the other night when the debate occurred to which the right reverend Prelate had alluded, or he should then have called on the noble Lord opposite to explain some particular circumstances, which proved incontrovertibly, as he thought, the connexion of The Times newspaper with his Majesty's Government. When the former debate, to which allusion had been also made, occurred, he thought that he should be out of order in referring to this publication; but he conceived that he was now perfectly in order in calling the noble Lord's attention to it. The circumstances of the case were these:—About the end of the month of February, he was called on to present a petition to his Majesty from the city of Londonderry. He presented it to his Majesty at the levee on the 29th of February. He might have been wrong in reading the petition to his Majesty, in order to explain it; and, certainly, his Majesty, on that occasion, replied to him in a manner which, he thought, might give pain to the feelings of the petitioners. Such was his apprehension when he went home that day*Hansard (third series) vol xii. p. 367.84 from the levee; and he, therefore, thought it proper to write a letter at once to the Private, Secretary of his Majesty, stating the circumstances which had taken place at the levee, and wishing to know whether it was his Majesty's pleasure that he (the Marquess of Londonderry) should communicate to the petitioners as the answer to their Address, that answer which had been given to him by his Majesty. In reply, he received a letter from his Majesty's private-Secretary, stating that his letter had been referred to the Secretary of the Home Department, from whom he would receive a communication on the subject. It was on the 29th of February he had presented the petition at the levee, and, on the 1st of March, the very answer that the King had given him, he read in The Times, and no doubt it was communicated from the same quarter as was the statement with regard to the letter of the noble Duke (Buckingham); and on the 2nd of March, in the morning, he saw in The Times the whole account of the letter which he had written to his Majesty's Private Secretary, and of the circumstances which he had stated in it; and not only that, but an account of the answer which he received from the noble Viscount (Melbourne); and if their Lordships had any doubt as to whence that information which appeared in The Times was derived, in order to set that doubt at rest, he had only to add, that he did not receive the answer of the noble Viscount until late on the evening of the 2nd of March. He had the paper in his possession, and he would read to their Lordships the following extract from The Times published on the morning of the 2nd of March:—We hear that a correspondence has followed the scene which we de scribed as having taken place at the levee on Wednesday, and in which a noble Marquess took a conspicuous part. His Lordship, it is said (although we can scarcely credit such an act of indiscretion, even in Lord Londonderry), wrote to the King, to inquire whether the gracious observation which his Majesty addressed to him, on the presentation of the petition from the "Prentice Boys of Derry," was to be transmitted to them as his Majesty's answer to the Address? The proper officer was directed to refer the noble Lord to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who lost no time in replying to his Lordship's inquiry, that no instance was on record of the "prentice 85 boys" having claimed or exercised a privilege similar to that enjoyed by the Corporation of London or Dublin, of pre seating their addresses to, and receiving an answer from, his Majesty on the throne. The noble Marquess proceeded to observe, that he had felt it necessary, as briefly as possible, to state these facts to their Lordships. The circumstance weighed so strongly on his mind, that when he afterwards met the noble Viscount (Melbourne) on his way to the House, he told him of it. The noble Viscount admitted that it was an extraordinary circumstance, but he denied that there could be any possible connexion between the Government and The Times newspaper. It did, however, appear to him that some explanation was necessary on this subject. He could scarcely believe that the information to which his observations had reference could have come from the Private Secretary of his Majesty. It struck the noble Viscount opposite, in the same manner that itstruck him, as a very extraordinary occurrence. He positively declared, that no one knew of this communication to the Private Secretary of his Majesty, at the time that it was made, but himself, the noble Viscount, and that individual. He declared to their Lordships, upon his honour, that he mentioned it to no person. No individual could have been acquainted with the circumstance, but himself and the gentleman to whom his note was addressed. This being the case, the circumstance which followed proved to him incontrovertibly, that some—he knew not what—connexion subsisted between The Times newspaper and his Majesty's Government. He did not wish to go further into detail; but, if their Lordships required it, he would read to their Lordships the letter which he had written. It appeared evident to him, looking at the whole circumstance, that a communication must exist between some of the officers of Government and The Times newspaper. Nobody, he repeated, but the Private Secretary to the King, the noble Viscount opposite, and himself, knew of his communication. He alluded to the circumstance now, being satisfied that it was, really and bona fide, the duty of his Majesty's Government to show, that there was no connexion between any of them, or their dependants, so far as they knew, and The Times newspaper. By making this statement, he had now placed within their power the mode of 86 discovering and finding out where that connexion existed. If they did not prosecute this inquiry, as he thought they should, then individuals would be left to draw their own conclusions. But the circumstance which he particularly adverted to on this occasion was not the only cause for his forming the opinion which he had done. If noble lords would look at and read that paper—if they would examine the whole course of its intelligence since the present Government came into office—they would find, that during the whole period of their Administration, The Times had stated and foretold all that Ministers meant to do with these facts before him, he put it decidedly to the noble Viscount to say whether he had not a right to suppose that there was a connexion between some part of the Government and The Times newspaper, which they ought to endeavour to trace."
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that the statement which the noble Lord had made in the commencement of his speech might be true; but, so far as he was concerned, he knew nothing whatever of the matter.
The Marquess of Londonderry
The noble Viscount recollects my having stated those facts to him, and that at the time he expressed much surprise at them. Now I ask him whether, under that feeling of surprise, he has taken any measures to find out how these papers have come before the public?
§ The conversation ended.