said, that he had been intrusted with a petition from the Baptist congregation of the Romney-street chapel, Westminster, deprecating the Canadian war; he had also a petition to the same effect from the inhabitants of the metropolitan borough of Marylebone, unanimously agreed to at a numerous meeting convened by public advertisement. In the prayer of these petitions, and in the general feelings and principles which actuated the petitioners, it was unnecessary for him, after what had passed in the House both last night, and in the debate which took place last summer, to state more, than that he concurred most heartily and cordially. But he wished to apologize, if he took this opportunity of stating the real cause of an omission on his part last night, which might betoken a want of respect both to their Lordships and to his noble Friends behind him. He understood that last night, after he had left the House, observations, some of them in a vehement, others conveyed in a pleasant, strain, had been made upon his accidental absence at that period. Now, he would state the cause of his absence. He had heard his noble Friend at the head of the Government admit that he had no 250 defence to offer to the main charge which he (Lord Brougham) had felt it to be his painful duty—he retained the words, notwithstanding the denunciations of it by another noble Friend of his (if, after a night's repose, and refreshment, and rest, the noble Lord would still permit him to call him so—in spite of the denunciation into which the noble Lord had worked himself up respecting that absence)—when he had heard, he repeated, his noble Friend at the head of the Government state that with respect to the charge which it was his (Lord Brougham's) painful duty to bring, he was at a loss to defend or justify the Government; he really had supposed that there was an end of the debate, and he found he was confirmed in that view—in that mistaken view, as it now appeared to be—because another noble Friend of his, the President of the Council, having got up and- presented himself to their Lordships, apparently with the intention of addressing the House, but had sat down again without doing so.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
observed, that he gave way to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ripon).
had not been aware of that; but the noble Marquess having resumed his seat, he had thought that his noble Friend had determined not to speak or to answer his speech. However, having thus stated one reason for his going away, he must also add, that yesterday he was only partially and slowly recovering from a severe indisposition, that he had been two days under medical treatment, and had been desired, in this weather, to take great care not to expose himself at night; this further apology he had to offer to his noble Friends and to their Lordships for the discourtesy he had shown by having left the House. But then he wished to consider whether his noble Friend had any ground of complaint against him, or if any other noble Lord had any ground of complaint, none had a less right than had his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies; for he had been informed upon all hands, that if he had been present, he should have deprived his noble Friend of the very best part of his noble Friend's speech in reply; indeed, some of the admirers of his noble Friend had said, that his presence would have deprived his noble Friend of the expression of the very best things he ever said in his life. Amongst other remark- 251 ably pleasant things, his noble Friend had said that he (Lord Brougham) was like his friend Papineau and others.
Then I have no right to complain; the noble Lord says he did not make the comparison. I was not present myself, and I must have been misinformed; it was, however, so represented to me. He had also been told, that his noble Friend had, in allusion to his (Lord Brougham's) absence, made use of not a very refined or courtly word when his noble Friend said that he had bolted.
resumed. If it were so, as he was bound to believe, then he began to be afraid that he had been totally misinformed, and that his noble Friend did not say any of those good things which his noble Friend's admirers, flattering his noble Friend, had told him were the best things his noble Friend had ever said in his life. It, however, turned out to be a mistake, and that his noble Friend had only compared him to those persons in Canada who "had gone across the line." Now, he (Lord Brougham) could not arrogate to himself the merit of any similarity of conduct compared to that of those rebels or resisting parties in the province of Canada; for he had not retired across the line—he had not left his place or the House from any fear of her Majesty's troops—he had retired across the line in consequence of the accidental circumstances to which he had referred. It did not, however, appear, that he had got out of the way of her Majesty's troops; but here, however, he was again ready to defend himself to the best of his humble abilities against any attempt by her Majesty's troops to put him down, as he hoped they would put down those parties to whom he had been so unworthily likened. His noble Friend had, however, last night said, that the Canadians had already received concessions, and were now only quarrelling about a further demand, which was unreasonable, and which they had never before urged, and the present state of things was the consequence of yielding to their demands. But he had shown last night the Canadians had not been given that which they felt of the only real value—namely, an Elective Legislative Council. It had been said, they had already received a great gift. This re- 252 minded him of the miser in the play, who said, "Thank God, I never gave anything away in charity, except once a bad shilling to a blind man for holding my horse." This was exactly like what this country had given to those on the other side of the water. He rejoiced in the great patriotism displayed by his noble Friend, Lord Durham, by undertaking the mission with which he was charged. His noble Friend had last night stated, that extensive powers were conferred upon him, and therefore he concluded those powers would include the authority to grant an Elective Legislative Council; if they did not, he warned his noble Friend and those who sent him out, that if they did not give him that—the only power which would please the Canadians—they had better not send out any person at all. If his noble Friend was going out merely to report and to receive fresh instructions, it would only be further delay, for the first thing he would have to report would be, that the Canadians would be satisfied with nothing short of an Elective Legislative Council.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that the explanation, on the ground of personal indisposition, was amply sufficient to account for the departure from the House last night of his noble and learned Friend at the time he did; but he apprehended that it was unusual for any noble Lord, after making a speech animadverting upon the measures of the Government, to withdraw from the House without hearing the reply that could be given to those animadversions. He must say, with great deference to his noble and learned Friend, that if he had confined himself to the plea of indisposition, which was amply sufficient to account for the conduct he had pursued, and if his noble and learned Friend had omitted the other parts of his speech, and the other excuses it contained, which did not appear to him to be of the same strength, he would have pursued a much better course. He (Viscount Melbourne) was a much older Member of Parliament than his noble and learned Friend, but if he did not feel his noble and learned Friend's superiority on this and other subjects, he would offer him the advice, not after he had retired to calculate by inference what might take place in the course of the debate, who might speak, or what might be likely to occur, for nobody could anticipate any of those facts; but to do that which he was sure 253 his noble and learned Friend would admit to be due to the House in general, and to those upon whom he had severely animadverted in particular—to remain (except, of course, personal illness, which no man could avoid, prevented him) and hear what was urged upon the subject in the defence. The inconvenience of a contrary practice had been made evident from the course taken to-night by his noble and learned Friend, who, in consequence of not having heard what had taken place, sought to renew afresh the debate of last night, and to enter upon the arguments used on that occasion. Not only this, but his noble and learned Friend had been led into a misapprehension of that which he really had heard, and which did take place in his presence. He did state, he certainly had conceded the point as to the not sending out troops last season: he felt that to be the most pressing part of the argument, the most difficult part of the case which the Government had to answer, but at the same time he had stated, that he considered this point to be perfectly defensible, and that there were just grounds for the course the Government had pursued in that respect. His noble and learned Friend had said, that he had maintained that course by no argument of any force or validity: of that it was for others to judge between his noble Friend and himself. He, however, by no means admitted, that there was not a complete defence for the course which the Government had pursued.
§ Petitions laid upon the table.