HL Deb 09 March 1840 vol 52 cc1049-50
The Marquess of Normanby

rose to call the attention of the House to a petition from Newport, presented on Friday night in favour of Frost and others, which had led to a communication with that town, and which was stated by a noble Lord who had presented it, to hare been signed by 1,500 out of a population of 6,000, among whom were the names of the most respectable inhabitants, and that the four first names were those of four of the most wealthy individuals in the town. This account he had no doubt the noble Lord had received on what appeared to him good authority, and as he had appeared to attach considerable importance to it, and had announced his intention to call the attention of the House to it, with a view to induce it to comply with the prayer of the petitioners, he thought it would not be unnecessarily occupying their Lordships' time to show them the noble Lord had been misinformed in every point to which the noble Lord had adverted. With respect to the population, it was 12,000, instead of 6,000, as stated by the noble Lord. [Lord Teynham: That is the population of the borough. I spoke of the town only.] Then as to the 1,500 signatures, their Lordships would suppose these were all of males; but this was not the case, the majority of them being the signatures of women and children, and the names of several members of a family were signed by the same individual; there was also a considerable number of names evidently in the same handwriting. With respect to the four names at the head of the petition, one of them was that of Edward Frost, the uncle of the person convicted, who was himself in confinement for some time on suspicion of being engaged in the same transactions, but the Government had not preferred any bill against him. Another was that of William Townsend, the father of a person who had been con- victed at the same time with Vincent With regard to the other two persons to whom the noble Lord had alluded, as being some of the most wealthy inhabitants of Newport, the one was a small tradesman, and the other was a person who had only been resident two years in the place, and who was now selling off with the intention of quilting the place. He had been informed that hardly any tradesman of the least respectability in the place was at all aware that such a petition was in the course of circulation. It was true that a petition had been presented in favour of the prisoners, signed by a certain portion of the respectable inhabitants of the place, but that was against the extreme penalty of the law being carried into effect, and was signed by those persons, not because they entertained the slightest doubt as to the evidence upon which the prisoners had been convicted, but because, like many highly respectable persons in this country, they entertained a conscientious objection to the extreme penalty of the law being carried into effect in any case; but he believed that few or none of those persons who, in the usual acceptation of the term, would be called respectable in the borough of Newport had signed the second petition. As the noble Lord who presented that petition had deemed it of such importance as to take the rather unusual step of giving notice of his intention to draw their Lordships' attention to it after Easter, with a view of interfering with the exercise of the prerogative of mercy by the Crown, he thought it right to inquire into the circumstances attending the petition, and the result of his inquiries had been such as he had stated to their Lordships.

Lord Teynham

had never himself been in the town of Newport. The petition had been sent to him by parties whom he considered as respectable, and as the noble Marquess had admitted that the former petition had been most respectably signed, he thought he was justified in assuming that the signatures to the petition he had presented, were equally respectable.

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