HL Deb 03 June 1839 vol 47 cc1232-5
Lord Brougham

said, it was a thing which very seldom happened to him, to have to complain of a breach of privilege, because he paid little regard to statements made out of doors; but there was one way in which the privileges of that House might certainly be abused, and that was by gross, and manifest, and wilful—and he confined himself to that—wilful mis-statements of what took place in that House. If it had been merely an inaccurate report, he would be the last person in the world to complain of it; on the contrary, it was a matter of wonder to him, as it must be to others, that the reports were so accurate as they were. That was his opinion, but when he saw a wilful misrepresentation in the newspapers, and more especially when it was directly in the teeth of its own report, he felt it his duty to call attention to it, for the purpose of exposing to the people of that country how little faith they could fix upon party statements of facts. He would now appeal to the House, whether any one of the three following assertions, which he was about to read in the paragraph he held in his hand, had any foundation; and if any one Member of their Lordships' House (and that was a great degree of audacity of assertion—that was a bold challenge), if any one of their Lordships would say, that there was any truth whatever in any one of the three following assertions, then he would cease to make any observations:—"The answer was as distinct and satisfactory as any answer that ever was given."—He did not know how far that might be true, but his noble Friend behind him could not think so. It then proceeded—"We are compelled to state"—now what compelled a man to state a gross falsehood he could not tell—except it might be his nature—"that there was not a single Member of the House who did not leave it disgusted with the speech." Not a single Member! He admitted that ninety-nine out of a hundred might have been disgusted. His noble Friend near him (Lord Melbourne) might have felt disgusted, but certainly there were some besides himself who did not leave it disgusted, for he had stated facts. Now there followed a more serious charge—"That the object of the speech was only in reality to indulge in his known inveteracy of hatred to the monarchy." Why he was the person who had defended the monarchy on that occasion, and he had objected to his noble Friend (Lord Melbourne), because he had said too little in its favour, for he only quoted King William—that he could not tell whether he liked best a monarchy or a republic. He declared upon his honour, that he never spoke with less idea of throwing disrespect upon the monarchy. His opinion and his argument was in favour of a monarchy, and it held up the monarchical principle; and if it was not his belief that what had been ill done by one party, and misrepresented by another, endangered the monarchy, he should not have inflicted that speech upon their Lordships. There was one kind of monarchy for which he had not expressed respect, and that was a monarchy which could not carry on its own measures; but that was not his sentiment or his speech—it was the sentiment of his noble Friend behind him, borrowed from King William. He did not believe that any single individual who heard him, had the least idea of that sort. The last paragraph was equally painful and equally false. It asserted, that he had assailed—whom did their Lordships think?—the actual Sovereign! Could anything be more base? Was there a man in the House, however disgusted he might be with his speech—was there one man in the House who could say conscientiously, that he made any—the slightest disrespectful allusion to the Sovereign? On the contrary, he had thought he was unnecessarily endeavouring to prevent the possibility of perversions, blunders, and misinterpretations. He now found that he, not unnecessarily, but uselessly and ineffectually, did so, for all that you could take in the way of pains, to prevent the possibility of that most offensive, and, to him, certainly painful misrepresentation was, he found, all thrown away, for the misrepresentation had been made.—[Several Peers, "What newspaper is it?"] The Observer Sunday paper—the organ of the Government. Two things appeared to have been in the contemplation of the parties who made that statement;—first, to ascertain what the fact was, and then to find out how they could say that which would be the most untrue, the most injurious, the most offensive, and the most painful to the individual against whom it was made. If it was any satisfaction to the parties to know they had succeeded in one of their objects, in saying that which was most untrue three times over, let them enjoy that satisfaction. He defied any body to surpass them in that; but if they required the other satisfaction of having given any great pain, why it was always painful to see one person hated another so much as to tell such falsehoods: any other pain he did not feel. He knew that if he had not mentioned this to their Lordships, and had held it up as a sort of a challenge, that for the next six months, he would have been misrepresented, first by one paper, then by another, and then by a third, till at last all papers, all speakers at country meetings, all orators at those great, unanimous, hearty, and most respectable and most numerous meetings, like the one at Kensington the other day, which, out of 12,000 inhabitants, had seventy-two present. At all those great, unanimous, and multitudinous meetings, as he saw one account called them, he should have been represented as having made an attack on the monarchy, and actually an attack on the Sovereign on the Throne. He had merely made these remarks for the purpose of repelling the statement, and to show there was not a shadow of foundation for it. The best thing any respectable publication could do, would be to give up the name of the individual who made that false party statement, and suggested it would be a good thing to put forth to the public. If anybody should say that he was interfering with the liberty of the press, of which he was a great advocate, he would answer, that he was only interfering with unlicensed falsehood, put forth to deceive the people of this country, and the sooner the people opened their eyes to such stratagems and falsehoods, the better it would be for the country.

The Marquess of Londonderry

certainly lamented that the noble and learned Lord had thought it necessary to trouble the House with a repetition of such trash, published in the newspaper he had just quoted. There was not an individual in that House who had not gone away with the conviction, that there never was a more eloquent, a more able, and a more constitutional speech than that made by the noble and learned Lord the other night. He and those nearly connected with him, had been opposed to the noble and learned Lord in political sentiments during the whole course of their lives, but he believed they were all agreed, that they had never heard so able and so clear an exposition of the British Constitution, and of the rights of the people, as that which the noble and learned Lord then made. If the noble and learned Lord had not already had sufficient praise bestowed on him by the universal acclamations and testimonials of regard and esteem he had received from all societies and all towns he had visited, he believed these marks of admiration would shortly be renewed from every part of the country. If the noble and learned Lord had not already had sufficient encomiums passed on him to satisfy his vanity, he believed there would be a renewal of them to such an extent as would overwhelm him.