having presented several petitions for the abolition of slavery, said: It becomes now my painful duty to call your Lordships' attention to a topic intimately connected with the subject-matter of some of the petitions I have just presented, and I wish I could, by any means that appeared to me feasible, have been spared this painful necessity; because it is always painful to be obliged to charge any person filling a high situation, where equity and fairness ought to shine forth, and almost equally painful to charge others whose position is less eminent, with neglect of that duty which every man owes to his neighbour—I go no farther than that—but with respect to that duty which every man owes to his neighbour, namely, to ascertain the accuracy of the facts upon which any charge is founded before that charge be launched at the head of the individual to whom it is intended to apply. But if, in addition to a total want of the most ordinary attention for the purpose of ascertaining facts, it shall be found that these facts were not of a recent nature—that they were such as had passed before hundreds of this House—that the most universal circulation had been given to them through the medium of the newspapers, if, in addition to these ordinary means of information with respect to what passes here, which consists, first, of the presence of the Members of the other House; and, secondly, of the universal circulation given by the connivance of your Lordships to all that takes place here through the ordinary channels of information, the public newspapers—if, in addition to this, there have been very extraordinary means taken upon this important occasion with the view of preventing misconstruction—with the view 346 of avoiding misunderstanding—with the express and avowed purpose, for it was avowed expressly and distinctly at the time, that these extraordinary means were resorted to for the purpose of making it utterly impossible to misrepresent what had been said, then I think I have a right, not only to complain that the ordinary course of justice has been departed from, but that a very extraordinary course, even extraordinary in the history of injustice, has been dictated by the zeal—(I call it by no other name, for I will not imitate the example I condemn)—but I have a right, I think, to complain that a course extraordinary even in the history of injustice has been adopted towards me—that course, as I conceive, having been dictated by the over-zeal of political partisanship. But that that political partisanship should leave the floor of the other House of Parliament—that it should not merely be found with all monstrous, all crawling, all unutterable things which move upon the level of the earth's surface, but should emerge above that atmosphere and be found to taint what ought to be purer regions, I confess may well appear to be so astounding by its unexpected novelty as hardly to obtain credit when stated. I proceed to mention those facts which will enable your Lordships to tell whether I have already too highly charged the picture, or whether I may have been led away by the zeal with which I regard everything connected with this important question to misconstrue or exaggerate the accounts I have received. It is not a matter of individual concern—it is not even a matter that concerns the decorum of the proceedings of the two Houses of Parliament; but it is a matter intimately connected with—twining itself, as it were, around the whole of that most important question involved in the subject of slavery and the African slave trade. For, if I had been guilty of exaggerations—as I once before demonstrated to your Lordships I had not, but was only chargeable with under statement—much more, if I had made my attack upon slave trading the vehicle of abuse unwarranted by fact, and, even if warranted by fact, the vehicle of exaggerated and exacerbated statements against the honourable and gallant men engaged in the naval service of this country—if I had done this, I should, as the advocate of the great cause of negro emancipation, as the person to whom the interests of that great 347 cause are now mainly confided, as the party in whose hands it is now very much left by the country, and I am sorry to say by the Government; and, as I hope for the present only, by a great body of both Houses of Parliament—as the advocate of that great cause, had I been guilty of misstatement or exaggeration, I should have greatly damnified and have placed in much peril the cause which I support, and in which I feel so deep and strong an interest. Therefore it is that I take the very earliest opportunity of repelling and of exposing, as I shall at once be enabled to do, the utter groundlessness of those charges which have been so thoughtlessly made. A gallant officer is reported in this day's paper—in the one at least which I have read—to have said in reference to a speech of mine, made in this House on the 20th of February last—the gallant officer is reported to have said, addressing the Chair in the other House of Parliament, and in speaking, of course, within the hearing of the Chairman, that a noble and learned person had very grossly misrepresented the conduct of the navy; and then the gallant officer is reported to have burst forth with this exclamation, "How did he dare to utter in the House of Lords such falsehoods?" That is what the gallant officer is reported to have said in so many words. I have read it this morning with my own eyes. I have represented it in a respectful note to the Speaker of the other House, who heard it. [Lord Lyndhurst: Had you any right to address the Speaker of the House of Commons?]—Have I no right to write a letter to a private gentleman? That, at least, is new in these days. Have I no right to write a letter? Had they a right, the one combining with the other, to charge me with an infamous offence? I say the one combining with the other—for he whose duty it was to stop such a charge upon the spot remained silent and quiescent. Have I, being so charged, no right to write a letter, because they belong to one House and I to another? I think, my Lords, I shall no longer hear that said either in this House or elsewhere. I wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons—most respectfully I wrote to him—stating what it was that I understood had been uttered, namely, the words I have recited to your Lordships, and which I saw not only in the corner of the debate—not only in the columns of the newspaper which are de- 348 voted to the report of the debate, and in which I have no doubt they were set down word for word as they were uttered—but in other parts of the newspaper, where it was ostentatiously put forward that such a one had charged such a one with misrepresentation, and had employed towards him the two offensive words "dare" and "falsehood," which I have already recited to your Lordships in the passage of which I complain. Now the charge was—and upon this depends the accusation of falsehood which is brought against me—that I was said to have charged the navy with partaking of blood-money, according as blood-money is known to operate, and with having neglected and betrayed their duty as professional men, for the purpose of increasing their professional wages. What! if I never said anything of the kind? What! if all I said amounted to nothing even approaching it? What! if all I said was not only not like it—not even approaching to it—but had not one atom, one iota, one tittle of the charge which I am falsely represented has having made? What! if I said directly the reverse! What! if for the very purpose of preventing such foul misrepresentations I took the pains of stopping and twice over stating in terms that I did not accuse those hon. and gallant men of anything of the kind? What! if I said that it was the tendency alone of this head-money that I charged with being bad; stopping there, and distinctly and explicitly stating that I did not believe its evil tendency had operated upon the hon. and gallant men who were engaged to prevent the slave trade? But I do not stop here. What! if I took he pains to publish all this. What! if for the first time in my life my name is appended to that publication upon the slave trade? What! if I stated in the dedication of that publication to the Marquess Wellesley, that I then, for the first time, notwithstanding all the volumes I had written upon the subject of slavery and the slave trade, put my name to my work, and that I did so, in order the better to authenticate the words I used? What! if I did not stop there? What! if, the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty having said in the course of the debate that I had charged the officers of the navy with this offence, I immediately got up and said, "Not so; I do not charge them with it; I expressly, and in terms said, that I did not charge them, and that it was the 349 tendency only of the head-money, and not the effect of it, of which I complained as being most prejudicial to the interests of the cause I had at heart"? Perhaps those of your Lordships who have been into the country, or who have been prevented by indisposition from attending the proceedings of this House—perhaps, for instance, the noble and learned Lord (Plunket) near me, my much beloved and highly respected Friend, who has but very recently come over from the discharge of his duties at the head of the law in Ireland—perhaps he, not having been present to observe what has been passing here, may say, as he might very naturally say, "Oh! the whole matter is only of such recent occurrence that these parties, swift to condemn, but slow to inquire and unwilling to hear, have had no opportunity of reading the authenticated statement; the speech was made some time in February, and very probably it has only been published a few days, so that these persons have not had time to read it." What! if it has been published a month or more? The speech was made on the 29th of January. The whole month of February has elapsed, and I hold in my hand a copy of the speech, of which I believe, hundreds of thousands have been circulated in various forms over the whole country, and which being delivered on the 29th of January, was printed and published on the 2d of February. Then, upon the 1st of March, one calendar month afterwards, came the charge of my having said that of which I said the very reverse, and of which a month before I had taken the unusual pains of myself causing to be printed, an exact, accurate statement of the words I used. Does that printed speech contain anything offensive to the navy? I am not aware that I could speak more tenderly or more honourably of any class of men than I did in that speech of the officers of her Majesty's navy. I should have imagined that this must have been obvious to them all—to such of them at least as are by nature endowed with even the most moderate share et clear understanding—who have not a head bewildered and bepuzzled by the want of that common temper by which ordinary minds ever approach the discussion of questions of no extraordinary difficulty or complication. Except to such understandings as this it is difficult for me to conceive anything less offensive, anything less obnoxious than that which 350 I am about to read, and which was taken as the ground of the charge of which I complain:—"I will not say that he cruisers having visited and inspected her would suffer her to pass onwards. I will not impute to gallant and honourable men a breach of duty, by asserting that, knowing a ship to have a guilty purpose, and aware that they had the power of proving this, hey would voluntarily permit her to accomplish it." Is there anything in this language to justify the charge which is brought against me? Is there falsehood in this? But I proceed with the passage I have commenced:—"I will not even suggest that vessels are less closely watched m their route towards the coast than on their return from it. But I may at least affirm, without any fear of being contradicted, that the policy"—the policy—that was my argument, the tendency of the policy, not the effect of it—"that the policy which holds out a reward, not to the cruiser who stops such a ship and interrupts her on the way to the scene of her crimes, but to the cruiser who seizes her an her way back when full of slaves, gives and professes to give the cruiser an interest in letting her reach Africa, take in her cargo of slaves, and sail for America." I did not say that the officers engaged in the service yielded to the temptation thus held put to them—I merely observed that it gave them an interest in allowing the vessels employed in the slave trade to complete their cargoes before they were attacked and captured, and it was the giving of that interest that I condemned. How did I proceed?—"Moreover I may also affirm with perfect safety, that this policy is grounded upon the assumption that the cruiser will be influenced by the hope of the reward"—surely, a very rational argument—"in performing the service, else of what earthly use can it be to offer it? and, consequently, I am entitled to conclude that the offering this reward assumes"—assumes! by whom? not by me, but by those who offer the reward—"that the cruiser cares for the reward, and will let the slaver pass on unless she is laden with slaves. If this does not always happen, it is very certainly no fault of the policy which is framed upon such a preposterous principle. But I am not about to argue that any such consequences actually take place." I cannot conceive any thing more plain than that. Is there any ambiguity, any uncertainty, in the 351 terms in which that last sentence is expressed I confess it appears to me to be perfectly plain, perfectly intelligible." I am not about to argue that any such consequences actually took place. It may or may not be so in the result; but the "tendency"—your Lordships will perceive that I limited myself entirely to the "tendency," and made no reference to the "effect,"—"but the tendency of the system is plain." I then went on to speak of the analogy that in my mind existed between head-money and blood-money. The evil of blood-money is this—an evil which I particularly pointed as making it incomparably more odious—that it has a tendency to make innocent persons forfeit their lives by the act of those who want to get the blood-money. Speaking now in your Lordships' presence, who may have some recollection of what fell from me when I made the speech from which I am now quoting, it is hardly necessary for me to say, that I made no attempt whatever to attribute the desire for this odious blood-money to the officers of the British navy. Your Lordships may remember that I did the very contrary. In order to go on the outside of safety, and to prevent the possibility of any invidious remark being made upon me on the occasion, I went on to say, "That head-money produces all the effects of blood-money I certainly am not prepared to affirm; for the giving a reward to informers on capital conviction had the effect of engendering conspiracies to prosecute innocent men, as well as to prevent the guilty from being stopped in their career until their crimes had ripened into capital offences; and I have no conception that any attempt can be made to capture vessels not engaged in the trade; nor indeed could the head-money, from the nature of the thing, be obtained by any such means. I also upon that occasion declared to your Lordships the authority upon which I founded my statement, and said that it was Mr. Laird's excellent work upon Africa that had originated my statement, that had caused me to bring it before your Lordships, and which would induce me to abide steadfastly by it until I had obtained full and complete relief for Africa and the suffering negro, and an utter extinction of that execrable and now universally deprecated and condemned trade, which none but men of confused*See Hansard, vol. xl., p. 601.352 understanding, and perverted judgment, would seek to perpetuate in any degree of its original enormity. I am very far from holding that the men who have made these charges against me have the slightest fellow-feeling in the world with those who would for ever keep alive the African slave trade. It is for the sake of defending the commanders of her Majesty's cruisers that they have come forward upon this occasion; and for the sake of defending the Government who resisted my motion. But it does not always happen that the persons for whom a voluntary defence is made by others are in the end indebted in any very great amount of gratitude to the volunteers by whom their cause has been supported; and when the cause of these hon. and gallant men, the officers of the Queen's cruisers, has been taken up by volunteers of great judgment and remarkable for no great skill in the conduct of affairs, it may happen to them to say, "Spare us from our friends—spare us your defence—leave us rather to the mercy of a fair and candid accuser." I own if I were an officer in the navy I should not feel myself bowed down to the very earth by the depth of my gratitude towards those who had volunteered such a defence for me. I should not feel the load of gratitude insupportable; in fact, I should not much thank them for forcing their defence upon me. I should rather think that they had placed themselves upon the wrong side, and that I had a claim upon them in consequence of the defence which they had chosen so injudiciously to undertake. For they have begotten suspicions in my mind that all is not right when I see men so over-zealous for one another—when I see men lose their temper in defending themselves or their friends—when I see them so touchy that they cannot stop to inquire—so hasty that they must needs look over the facts—so vehement in urging their defence that they will not even tarry to ascertain whether they were ever attacked or not—when I see them in this mingled state of feeling, with this want of judgment, this incapacity of reasoning, this loss of memory, this almost total dimness of sight, bodily as well as mental—when I see them thus coming forward, not waiting till a charge is made, but at once entering the arena of controversy, putting forward mighty charges, and supporting them by a fury of arms and storm of blows that no 353 man may dare to encounter—when I see them carried off their legs by a too generous rivalry of over-zeal and want of judgment—over-zeal in an abundant degree, and want of judgment in an unnatural excess—when I see all this I cannot help surmising, I cannot shut my mind to the suspicion, that there is some sore place. When men wince so much—when they exhibit so many contortions and twistings at the bare idea of a charge, which charge has never been made against them—when they see phantoms of injuries, no injury having been committed upon them—when they have ghosts haunting them in their waking hours, and even in their senatorial position, where they are placed to discharge duties which some constituencies in some parts of the kingdom have been found to delegate to them from extraordinary confidence in their judgment, capacity, and skill—when I see all this I cannot help suspecting that perhaps after all there may be some ground of charge against them. To elucidate that point I shall conclude with a motion which, as I am informed, taking the best advice I could obtain upon the subject, will have the effect of proving whether the system of head-money has in fact produced the consequences which are to be apprehended from it. I am not the man to shrink or quail because hard words are applied to me—I am not the man to be put down when I have a duty to perform, because some persons, in the discharge of what, I suppose, they conceive to be their duty, foully and falsely charge me with saying that which I never uttered—I am not the man to be put down by any such management as that. Even if I find that the vehemence and rancour of the assault upon me have not been confined to the mists and exhalations which obfuscate the mind and clog the vision of ordinary men, but have reached that higher atmosphere where all should be serene—where all should be calm as Justice herself—where the equal scales of Justice should be held with an untremulous, fair, and determined hand (as in the other House there is a man appointed to hold those scales)—even if I find that higher and purer atmosphere defiled and tainted by the breath of a lower sphere, I will not be deterred. When I see the judgment so obscured—when I find the judgment so hopelessly bewildered that what passed eight-and-forty hours before has been as totally erased from the 354 troubled tablets of the brain as if it had never happened at all—when I find the scales not only tremble in the hand of him appointed to hold them, but one of them absolutely kicking the beam, and that one not the Government scale, but the scale in which the impugners of the Government happen to sit—when I find that it is no want of authority which has occasioned this silence, this non-interruption, this unobstructive mood in that high quarter—when, on the contrary, I find that if ever a functionary of that House existed who had interfered more with the usages of the House, who had put down many debating practices, who had reversed and altered the whole of the right of the people to debate upon petitions, by exercising which right I gained all the greatest battles that the people have won during the last twenty years against corruption and impolicy—when I find this, then, indeed, I am led to ask how it happened that that which took place in the debate on the Tuesday or the Monday, in which not one word was used nor one allusion made as to what had passed in another House, in which the allusions that were made were of a nature the most absolutely indifferent, amounting to nothing more than a mere technical flaw in the forms of debate—I say, when I find this, I am led to ask how it happened that that vague allusion, that that technical informality, called down an instant stoppage—produced an instant interruption from the high quarter to which I have referred; whereas, upon a subsequent occasion, no hint, no sign, not even one faint and solitary cry of "order" escaped from the same quarter, when words the most uncalled for, the most unjust, the most disorderly, the most indecorous that in the whole course of my experience I ever heard of, were uttered in the presence and in the hearing of him whose duty it is, to preserve the decorum of debate? When I find all this occurring, then truly I cannot help feeling that there is something, if not altogether wrong, at least extremely awkward in this case, and that the sooner it is set right by inquiry the better. For which purpose I am about to conclude by moving for papers for the purpose of showing whether I was not precipitate in precluding all idea of charging the officers of the navy with being influenced by headmoney—whether I did not go out of my way, not in the right direction, but in the 355 wrong, when I spoke only of the tendency, not of the effect, of head-money,—when I limited myself to a discussion of the impolicy of the system, and carefully abstained from attributing any selfish motive to those who acted under it—whether, in short, the fact may not be (the very reverse of that which I stated) that the effect as well as the tendency of this head-money has been to induce the officers of cruisers to allow the lading of slave-vessels to he completed before they commenced the work of capture. I have been in communication with a very experienced naval officer, who understands this question well, and who tells me, that the object I have in view will be obtained if I can procure from the Government—1st, the dates of all captures of slave-ships for the last ten years; 2d, extracts from the logs of the capturing ships on the days before and the day after each capture; 3d, a return of all the other ships on the coast of Africa on the same day with the British ships stationed in cruising there; and 4th, the number of ships stationed on the east coast of Africa during the last ten years, specifying the years and the names of the ships.
The Earl of Minto
said, that feeling the grave and serious consequences which might result from discord existing between the two Houses of Parliament, he could have wished that the present discussion had not taken place. Placed, however, as he was, he trusted their Lordships would permit him to say a few words. He did not rise to defend the language of which the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down, had complained, because, in his opinion, such language towards a member of their Lordships' House, was not such as ought to have been used. At the same time, placed as he was at the head of the Admiralty, he felt it was due to those gentlemen belonging to the naval service, and who had been employed on the coast of Africa, to state, that when the noble and learned Lord made the able speech in question, he did understand the noble and learned Lord to bring a charge—not a direct charge for the language was guarded—against those officers who had been and were employed on the coast of Africa, in suppressing the trade in slaves. He admitted the noble and learned Lord had not made a direct charge against those officers; but if a charge was not 356 implied, then the noble and learned Lord's argument was no argument at all. If he had misunderstood the noble and learned Lord—if the noble and learned Lord said, that he had not intended to make any charge, then he would be bound to believe that he had attached a wrong meaning to the language the noble Lord had used. At the same time, however, he must say that his impression was, that the noble and learned Lord did object to head-money in consequence not only of the tendency which it had, but in consequence, also, of the effects which it had produced. He recollected one expression used by the noble and learned Lord which did strike him as inculpating the officers employed in the suppression of the slave trade, and which did, in his opinion, contain a grave and serious charge against those officers. The noble and learned Lord said, that while the slave ships were loading, her Majesty's cruisers, stationed on the coast to prevent the slave trade, carefully avoided going near the harbour or creek where the slavers were lying, and waiting till the cargo was got on board before attempting to make prize of the vessel, because unless the slaves were on board no head-money could be obtained. Such was his recollection of what the noble and learned Lord had said; but if the noble and learned Lord denied having used such language, then he should feel bound to acknowledge that his impression was wrong. If, however, he had stated correctly the words used by the noble and learned Lord, then he must say, that the expression which had been used, did convey a grave and serious charge against the officers of the navy, of neglect of duty. If the argument meant anything, it meant that those officers who were employed to prevent the traffic in slaves, grossly neglected that duty, and allowed that traffic to go on, to a certain extent, in order to secure some emolument in the shape of head-money. Certainly that was a charge to which no one could suppose those gallant men would patiently submit, and that such a charge was made by the noble and learned Lord was strongly impressed on his mind, more particularly as the noble and learned Lord had said, while speaking on the subject of head-money, that if no other expedient could be resorted to, the slave trade would never be put down. But let their Lordships look at the speech as printed under the authority of the noble and learned 357 Lord himself, and which the noble and learned Lord allowed contained the very language he had used. In that speech he found the following passage:—Let me remind you of the analogy which this head-money bears to what was, nearer home, called blood-money. That it produces all the effects of the latter I am certainly not prepared to affirm: for the giving reward to informers on capital conviction had the effect of engendering conspiracies to prosecute innocent men, as well as to prevent the guilty from being stopped in their career, until their crimes had ripened into capital offences, and I have no conception that any attempts can be made to capture vessels, not engaged in the trade, nor, indeed, could the head-money, from the nature of the thing, be obtained by any such means. But in the other part of the case the two things are precisely parallel, have the self-same tendency, and produce the same effects; for they both appeal to the same feelings and motives, putting in motion the same springs of human action. Under the old bounty system, no policeman had an interest in detecting and checking guilt until it reached a certain pitch of depravity; until the offences became capital, and their prosecutor could earn 40l., they were not worth attending to. The cant expression, but the significant one, is well known. He (the criminal) is not yet weight enough—he does not weigh his 40 pounds '—was the saying of those who cruised for head-money at the Old Bailey. And thus, lesser crimes were connived at by some—encouraged, nurtured, fostered in their growth by others—that they might attain the maturity which the law had in its justice and wisdom, said they must reach before it should be worth any one's while to stop the course of guilt. Left to itself, wickedness could scarcely fail to shoot up and ripen. As soon as he saw that time come, the policeman pounced upon his appointed prey, made his victim pay the penalty of the crime he had suffered, if not encouraged him to commit, and himself obtained the reward provided by the state for the patrons of capital felony. Such within the tropics is the tendency, and such are the effects of the head-money system.Now, he would ask if there was no charge conveyed in those expressions against the officers of her Majesty's navy—were they not charged with neglecting their duty in refusing to capture those slave ships until they had got their cargo of slaves on board? Such a charge the language certainly conveyed. But the noble and learned Lord went on to say:—The slave ship gains the African shores; she there remains, unmolested by the land authorities, and unvisited by the sea; the human cargo is prepared for her; the ties that*Hansard. Vol. xl. 604358knit relatives together are forcibly severed; all the resources of force and of fraud, of sordid avarice and of savage intemperance, are exhausted to fill the human market; to prevent all this, nothing or next to nothing is attempted; the penalty has not as yet attached; the slaves are not on board; and head-money is not due; the vessel, to use the technical phrase, does not yet weigh enough; let her ride at anchor till she reach her due standard of 5l. a-slave, and then she will be pursued! Accordingly, the lading is completed, the cruiser keeps out of sight, and the pirate puts to sea. And now begin those horrors—those greater horrors—of which I am to speak, and which are the necessary consequences of the whole proceeding, considering with what kind of miscreants our cruisers have to deal.Was there no charge then against the officers on the coast of Africa? It was possible he might be told, that he was too stupid to perceive the exact meaning of such language, that he was giving a colouring to the words of the noble and learned Lord, but he could put no construction on those expressions, except that the noble and learned Lord considered that but for the payment of head-money the officers of her Majesty's cruisers would have taken those slave vessels before they had got their cargo of slaves on board. The passages he had read were, in his opinion, calculated to wound the feelings of gallant and honourable men, and it was hardly to be supposed that they would allow such insinuations against their characters to pass without notice. He thought the noble and learned Lord had little cause to complain of overheated expressions or of warmth of feeling after the speech the noble and learned Lord had delivered—the speech which had been noticed in the other House, as that speech more than appeared to convey an insinuation that some of the officers employed on the African coast had neglected their duty for the sake of wretched gain. He was very far from saying that on the coast of Africa no officer had ever neglected his duty, but he was perfectly persuaded that if there had been mismanagement, that mismanagement had nothing to do with the question of head-money. He could further say—and he felt bound to state the fact—that ever since he had been at the head of the Admiralty he had been struck with the zeal and fidelity with which the officers on the coast of Africa, who were employed in a most fatiguing and disgusting service, discharged their duties; and while he had held his present office 359 not one single complaint had been made against any one officer employed on that coast.
said, that if he were not aware that the noble Lord was perfectly incapable of anything of the kind he should have remarked that there were the strongest symptoms of a combination against him between those who had made the charge elsewhere and those who defended it there, because both parties fell into precisely the same mistake. The noble Lord had talked of his Parliamentary experience; it was not at any rate as great as his (Lord Brougham's). But the noble Lord upon that experience seemed to have come to the maxim. "Never mind a disclaimer." Now he contended that a disclaimer was always of the greatest possible weight and importance, because it showed precisely the object and intention of the person who employed it, and it was that which any fair and candid listener would take into account in weighing other parts of the speech, and would construe fairly and give full force to, when he came to any more strong, unguarded, and incautious expressions. When he had said, not in one, but in three or four sentences, that he did not charge the gallant officers in that service with any habitual violation of their duty—when afterwards he spoke of the tendency of the system—not of blood-money, which had been abolished, but of head-money—and then reasserted his disclaimers, could any man of candour or honesty say, that that disclaimer was not to be taken into account when he came to see what in some cases was the effect produced? The tendency of the system was general. It might be supposed that the effect would be general also. Had he ever said anything like that? No such thing. What he had said, was, that it might produce the effect. The tendency of the system was to produce the effect in every one case, and to prevent any one slave ship ever being taken until she "weighed enough," and the captor would be entitled to head-money. That was its tendency. No thanks to the system that any one ship was ever taken without the slaves being aboard. He had gone out of his way twice over—anxiously, elaborately, and even prolixly—to guard himself against being supposed to say that that tendency always produced the bad effect. But he had said, and he did say, that every now and then it might produce, and he entertained no manner of doubt 360 whatever that it did sometimes produce, the effect. Were men men? Were sailors no longer fallible creatures? Were they so far above the rest of the world that the worst possible motives being applied to them must be supposed incapable of producing in any single instance the worst possible effects? Why, the system itself was grounded upon the supposition that they would do more with head-money than without it. Did the navy mean to set itself up as a body exempt from all taint, and to sail on and run the rest of the world down with their infallibility flying at the mast head? He would venture to say that he entertained no such notion of their infallibility, and he did believe, that from time to time a few occasional instances did occur in which the evil effects of the system were seen, in violation of his duty by the officer employed in this service. Nothing, indeed, short of an absolute miracle could warrant the supposition that, the tendency being as he had stated, the effects were never produced. But this was no charge against the whole navy—this was no accusation of a general, sweeping, indiscriminate nature. This was no charge which ought to arouse the indignation of the whole service, from the most exalted officer who ever had a naval epaulette on his shoulder down to the youngest midshipman. It was a charge which any man might have made against the body to which he belonged without taking fire at it. It was merely saying, that the tendency of the system to evil might have produced evil in all cases; but, thanks to the conduct of their honourable and gallant officers, to whom the charge had been committed, it more frequently failed to produce than produced that evil. Now, if the noble Earl could not perceive the difference between a disclaimer which a speaker went out of his way to make and an observation made in the excitement of the moment, in the course of along speech—if, in fact, for it came to that, he could not see the difference between the rule and the exception; or if, having seen it, he still persisted that there were just grounds for the indignation of officers of the navy, although, as the noble Lord said, perhaps the expression "uttering a daring falsehood," as applied to a Member of that House, might be too violent, he displayed as little acuteness in his arguments and in the conduct of his case as those whose counsel he had made himself had exhibited in com- 361 mitting the offence. And let him remind their Lordships that "falsehood" meant not only that which was unfounded in fact, but that he had stated that which was not true, knowing it, whilst he stated it, to be untrue. That was the meaning of falsehood—and with that he was charged. He had, however, given his authority—he had mentioned the names of Captain Laird and Mr. Oldfield, and stated, that with one he was acquainted, but not with the other. He had pointed to their works. He rested his statement on their authority. He wished only to say one single word as to the time that had elapsed. Was it won derful—the noble Lord had asked—was it wonderful that those connected with the service should have felt great irritation under a charge of that nature, and should have rushed to the defence of the service, and even used somewhat strong and violent expressions? Not at all. But it was wonderful that, after having read that accusation on the 30th of January, and having then felt no irritation, and having lingered through the unruffled calm of one month, they should never have taken fire from that time until the 1st of March. Did the slow matches of the Admiralty burn so very tardily? Had they lighted the fusees? He had thought that stopwatches would have been necessary in order to count the seconds before it would be safe for any one to have ventured near the Admiralty after the fatal 29th of January. But, no; no such thing. The fusees had been lighted and had burnt for the whole of February. The light was applied to the train on the 29th of January; a month elapsed, and it only went off now, on the 1st of March and made that sort of phizzing, offensive explosion—not very clear—not very distinct, nor withal very terrific. Yes, the pot—he employed the technical term—had made that offensive explosion five weeks after the train had been lighted, and on the 1st of March resembling that month too by coming in like a lion, and resembling the other quadruped in its departure. He would see what was the result of his motion, and then he should be enabled to say whether he would withdraw his disclaimer or not. He had been guilty of no over-statements, but, on the contrary, had understated everything.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that as the noble and learned Lord had introduced the present subject, he felt himself compelled to address a few observations to 362 their Lordships respecting it. If, as the noble and learned Lord himself stated, the demonstration of extreme susceptibility, and the display of much vehemence, were proofs of something wrong, he could not help thinking that the noble and learned Lord had made himself liable to some suspicion of being in error on the present occasion. It was not his intention to enter at all into the discussion of the subject; but he could not help declaring that he partook in the opinion expressed by his noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty, that it was not surprising, considering, the speech which the noble and learned Lord had delivered, and the expressions which he had used, that the gallant officers of the naval service, who were animated by nice and quick feelings of honour, should think that their profession had been subjected to grave imputations. He knew very well that the noble and learned Lord, as well as the authority to which the noble and learned Lord referred, disclaimed casting any imputations on the naval profession; and he (Lord Melbourne) was willing to give to both full credit for that disclaimer. At the same time he must say, that disclaimer was a little inconsistent with the expressions they had used, and with the arguments they had employed; and that it left their arguments on the subject without much force. The noble and learned Lord had, on the present occasion, not only remarked on what had taken place in the other House of Parliament, but had animadverted on the whole conduct of business in that place, and had made some observations on the conduct of a Gentleman who filled the highest situation in that assembly, The noble and learned Lord had said, that prejudice and violence did not alone mantle on the floor of that House, but that they ascended to higher regions, and corrupted the purity and tarnished the impartiality which ought to prevail there. The noble and learned Lord expressed his surprise that the discussion to which he had alluded should have been allowed to pass off without one observation being made on the impropriety of alluding to that which had passed in another House of Parliament. But the noble and learned Lord seemed to forget that he had, by the printed pamphlet containing his speech, himself furnished full opportunity to any Member of the House of Commons of entering into the consideration of his statements without any 363 breach of privilege. He had not read the report of the proceedings in the other House to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded; but he had such confidence in the ability, justice, and impartiality of the individual who presided over that assembly, that he felt perfectly certain and assured that there could be no ground nor reason for the imputations cast on his conduct. He felt perfectly certain that the deliberations to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded must have been conducted according to the rules and forms of Parliament, and that the right hon. Gentleman who occupied the chair held the scales on that occasion with perfect exactness and just equipoise.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that he wished to state what he believed to be a fact. In many instances the officers of her Majesty's navy, having captured a vessel, and the question having been carried into Court had been compelled to pay very considerable costs in consequence of failing to produce the requisite evidence to establish the illegality of the traffic carried on by the captured vessel. It was important that they should have some information of that description before them, and although he did not know exactly the form in which the motion should be framed, he would on Monday move for some account of that description of expenses.
The Earl of Minto
said, that the information was important, and there could be no objection to producing it.
§ The returns moved for by Lord Brougham were then ordered.