HL Deb 18 March 1839 vol 46 cc787-8
Lord Brougham,

in presenting a Petition from Congleton, in favour of the total repeal of the Corn-laws, said, that he had carefully read it for the purpose of not falling into any error in stating its contents.* He had heard that some gallant officer did not like a French general who was opposed to him, because he would never allow him to sleep even with one eye, and he was in the same situation with regard to his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond), who was unfortunately his opponent on the subject of the Corn-laws; still, however, he ought to apologise to their Lordships for a misstatement of facts which occurred the other evening, and which the acuteness of his noble Friend had discovered. But in truth his noble Friend was unconsciously the cause of the error; for his noble Friend presented the other evening a numerously signed petition from Glasgow, and had described it as proceeding from a respectable body there in favour of the Corn-laws, which looked considerably against his statement. In consequence, however, of what had fallen from his noble Friend, he was waited upon the next day by Mr. Sturge, Mr. Walmesley, and by two gentlemen from Glasgow, who stated, to show that there was no ground for supposing that the opinion of Glasgow was unfavourable to the repeal, there was a petition signed by 43,000 inhabitants in its favour. When he came down to the House at five o'clock, one of the officers put into his hands a petition from Glasgow; he immediately put the two things together, and having no idea that Glasgow, great and important as it was, was so prolific of petitions with more than 40,000 signatures, as to send two on different subjects, signed by so numerous a body, he concluded that this was the petition referred to, instead of being, as it really turned out, a petition against Church Extension in Scotland. Still he owed the * The noble Lord by mistake on the previous Friday, presented a petition from Glasgow, describing it to be against the Corn-laws, which, when examined by the Duke of Richmond, turned out to be a petition for Church Extension (Scotland). apology he now made to their Lordships for the mistake.

The Duke of Richmond

was most happy in having detected the noble and learned Lord's error.

Earl Stanhope

could not help remarking that after the error that had so recently occurred it might so happen that out of the many petitions presented by the noble and learned Lord against negro slavery, there might have been some against white slavery, or perchance, some against the new Poor-law Bill.

Lord Brougham

would not have the noble Earl lay the flattering unction to his soul that any of the petitions had been against the Poor-law Bill. It was impossible that he could have made a mistake, for he had never, except in the last instance, presented a petition which he had not examined, of which the substance had not been extracted, and the subject matter marked on the back, generally by himself. So that the petition was first examined to make the abstract, secondly it was read by him to the House, and thirdly it was read by the clerk at the table, who would have returned it if he had made any mistake. And, so far from the noble Earl's supposition being correct, he had, on the contrary, presented many petitions in favour of the Poor-law Act, from many highly respectable persons, and men of sound judgment.

Back to