§ There is no postscript. Was it possible, he would appeal to their Lordships, whether a more proper, more respectful, more gentlemanlike address could be made to the noble Marquess than that of Mr. Spoor? And he put it to any one of their Lordships, if they had received such an appeal to their feelings, what would have been their conduct? Was there any one of their Lordships who would have sheltered himself under the technical plea that the appeal was not made to him by his Peer in Parliament, and therefore that he was not obliged to do justice to those whom he had aspersed. What, after all, would such conduct amount to but the claiming, as a Member of that House, an immunity (which the law allowed as a protection for the exercise of high functions, but never intended to be perverted to lower and less worthy purposes) from all legal proceedings which might be taken against any individual in any other place who might venture to speak so erroneously and so injuriously against the character of an upright and an unoffending man. He was one of the last persons who would question the value of the privileges of Parliament when applied to the great interests of the country; but he was satisfied that it would soon be held by the country to be an intolerable and an unjustifiable nuisance if persons were enabled to avail themselves of it to refuse to render justice after they had committed wrong. What was required of the noble Marquess on the receipt of the letter which he had read? The noble Marquess need not have expressed any opinion; but he was bound, on receiving this intimation from the magistrates, whose conduct he had impugned, to make their vindication as public as he had made the accusation. Could any of their Lordships believe that these Gentlemen were not speaking the truth? There were eight of large and expensive bathing and lodging- 257 them assembled together, they were speaking of the acts which they had themselves committed, and they signed a solemn declaration that they had committed no such act as the noble Marquess had attributed to them. In what a situation, then, would they be placing themselves if they were not supported by a perfect consciousness of the truth of every word they asserted. What was the charge which the noble Marquess made against them? That they had refused a licence to every individual not of Whig principles. How was that charge met by the magistrates? In the clearest and completest manner. They expressly resolved, without one dissentient, that the charge was wholly without foundation, and they disproved it by a reference to facts. He believed that he might here very safely leave the question, as far as related to the magistrates of Sunderland; but he felt bound to add one word in justice to one individual, named in the paper to which he had called their Lordship's attention. The mayor of Sunderland was Sir Hedworth Williamson, the late Member for the northern division of the county, and high sheriff, and those who knew him must feel that there never existed a person in the world less likely to pervert his judicial power to any party purpose. He had constantly acted as chairman at the quarter sessions, and had authorised him to say that no licenses had ever been refused on the ground of politics. Besides Sir Hedworth Williamson had assured him that he never heard of such a thing discussed as the granting or withholding licences on party grounds. When he stated this, he thought he was strengthening the case of the gentlemen who had been so unfairly dealt with by the noble Marquess. Who was it that made this accusation against the magistrates of Sunderland? The Lord-lieutenant of the county whose duty it was, if he believed the information upon which he acted to be true to make such representations to the Government as should lead to the instant dismissal of magistrates who had so grossly abused their power. But it appeared to him that those gentlemen, in repelling the accusation made against them, were speaking the plain and simple language of truth. If they were doing so, the noble Marquess had been induced, by the most extraordinary credulity, and upon most unworthy information, to make an accusation which had no founda- 258 tion in fact. Nobody doubted that the noble Marquess believed what he stated to be true; but with the opportunity which his situation of Lord-lieutenant of the county afforded him of obtaining the most correct information upon the subject, his credulity was doubly blameable. The conduct of the noble Marquess in this matter confirmed him, in the opinion that his appointment to the Lord-lieutenancy of the county of Durham was a most unfortunate one. What were the qualities that should distinguish a Lord-lieutenant? Perfect fairness, perfect impartiality, and above all, a rigorous and careful spirit of inquiry which should lead to the perfect conviction of his mind, before he adopted any particular act. There had been instances in which the expression of an opinion of Parliament as to the unfitness of particular individuals to fill particular situations, although followed by no specific vote, had yet had an effect, and been followed by consequences. He wished to remind her Majesty's Government of that fact. He said that this act of the noble Marquess was, of all others, the most inconsistent with the due discharge of the duties of a Lord-lieutenant? That he, who should be the vindicator of the character, the supporter of the rights of the magistracy, whilst he was at the same time the careful superintendent of all their acts— that he, in his place in Parliament, should have made a statement against the magistracy which they at once found, by reference to documents, to be utterly unfounded — that he should have done this, showed that he was wholly and totally unfit for the situation to which her Majesty had been advised to appoint him. Nothing could prove any one more unfit for such an office than a determination, in spite of all proofs, not to render tardy justice to persons who felt they had been most undeservedly censured. He had the greatest respect for the private character of the noble Marquess, and in expressing himself so strongly now, he confined himself to the public position and the public acts of the noble Marquess, and would conclude by putting the question to the noble Marquess, of which he had given notice, whether he was disposed to retract or adhere to the accusation which he had made against the magistrates of Sunderland?
The Marquess of Londonderry
had listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the noble Marquess, and it ap- 259 peared to him that the noble Marquess desired to make an attack upon her Majesty's Government; the latter part of the speech certainly seemed pointed against the appointments of that Government—questions which he thought ought not to have been mixed up in the statement that had been made by the noble Marquess. When the noble Marquess had brought forward all his statements on the subject of the magistracy on a former occasion, he had been met by the unanswerable arguments of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack; but the noble Marquess had, nevertheless, armed himself again in every way for the purpose of coming down to the House and renewing a determined attack upon the same subject as connected with the humble individual who then addressed their Lordships. Considering the ability of the noble Marquess, his experience, and the high situations he had filled, what fell from him ought to have weight and authority, but before he sat down, he trusted be should stand excused before their Lordships, and be entitled to claim their verdict of acquittal from the charges brought against him by the noble Marquess. He must, at the same time declare, that he had felt the other evening somewhat hurt at the want of courtesy on the part of the noble Marquess; for if it had been the intention of the noble Marquess to ask the questions he had then put, the noble Marquess might in the morning have given some notice to him, in order that he might have come down prepared to answer; and he was the more disposed to think so, because in a postscript, to the communication he had received from Sunderland, was an intimation that copies of the resolution of the magistrates had been sent to the Marquess of Normanby and Sir H. Williamson. He had asked the noble Marquess to read that postscript. [The Marquess of Normanby: There was no postscript to the letter I got.] There was one in mine, which said,A copy of the resolutions has been forwarded to my Lord Normanby, as also to Sir Hedworth Williamson, who is now in town
The Marquess of Normanby
The noble Marquess must see that such a postscript could not be in a letter addressed to me.
The Marquess of Londonderry:
Why not? It gave information, that the resolutions were sent to Sir H. Williamson as well as you. He trusted, now, he might be allowed to state, in his own way, the reasons why he had not volunteered a statement on this subject on the 260 former evening. By the postscript he had alluded to, he was led to believe that either the noble Marquess or Sir Hedworth Williamson would have acquainted him in the course of the morning of the receipt of such a communication, as they had got, and he had waited at home in such expectation. Under the circumstances, he did not conceive that it would have been regular in him, upon coming down to the House, to presume to originate any proceedings upon the letter and resolutions of the mayor and council, and, therefore, he did not take the initiative. That, he apprehended, was the proper and dignified course to take. On the 20th April, the subject of the magistrates had been under discussion, and on that occasion he stated, that there were ten Whig magistrates in Sunderland. On the 23rd of the same month, he received a letter from a respectable resident friend, which was as follows:—In Whig times, there was only one Conservative borough magistrate in all the boroughs in Durham, and in Sunderland, the appointments were all Whigs, and no Conservative. In Sunderland, the Whigs have still a majority of two, and in Gateshead the Conservatives have now four, and much they were needed, for Gateshead had a Radical agitator appointed by the Whigs, whilst all the Conservative appointments were men who had taken no public part; and Gateshead has now only its proper number in comparison with other boroughs. In the county I find the Whigs have a majority of sixteen, and this is reckoning all the parsons, who, with few exceptions, never act. There are in Sunderland ten magistrates appointed by the Whigs, and all Whigs—Sir H. Williamson, Mr. W. Bell, Mr. J. Lotherington, Dr. Browne, Mr. J. Simpson, Mr. R. Spoor, Mr. A. White, Mr. R. White, but was Conservative before his appointment; Mr. E. Backhouse, and Mr: W.' Featherstonhaugh.The magistrates said, there were two Conservatives, but they did not name the two; was he then to take their declaration, when he had such information as he would read in the letter of another friend, on whose authority he could rely? One letter stated that this Mr. Spoor was only a pretended Conservative. [The Marquess of Normanby: Name the writer.] He would give the name to the noble Marquess if it were the pleasure of the House. The writer of the letter said, that if Mr. Spoor were only a pretended Conservative, it was very laughable, for he had voted for Chaytor and Lambton, and this was the Mr. Spoor who signed the letter. He was 261 justified then in what he stated; and was it, let him ask, a matter for which he was to be censured? He was sure, that with such information as he possessed, the noble Marquess would have acted as he did. The writer, who was Mr. Wright, a most respectable, intelligent, and influential man, said, that Mr. Spoor sometimes voted for Chaytor and Lambton, but generally he voted for Thompson, and pretended sometimes to be a Whig, and sometimes a Conservative. From the documents which he held in his hand, it was quite clear that ever since Mr. Braddyll selection, Mr. Spoor had voted with the Whigs. It also appeared upon authority equally good, that Richard White had joined the Whig party; his correspondent observed, that Mr. White had been considered a Conservative, but yet there could be no doubt of this, that he said at the last election that if he voted for any one, he should vote for Lord Howick. This, as his correspondent remarked, was a pretty specimen of his Conservatism. If any of their Lordships would take the trouble of going through the long papers with which he had been furnished on the subject, they would see that the statements which he had made were fully borne out by the evidence. They would also see that the late Government had appointed none but Whigs to fill the office of magistrate in Sunderland and in Gateshead. Amongst the accusations brought against him by the noble Marquess was this—that he said the borough magistrates of Sunderland granted licenses to persons of their own political opinions, and refused them to those who held Conservative opinions, or supported Conservative candidates. The observations which he had made in that House on the subject had been, as usual, reported in the newspapers; but it so happened, that the Morning Chronicle put an interpretation upon his remarks which did not accord with the words he used, or with those imputed to him by the other journals. He did not carry his charge against these borough magistrates to the extent which the construction put upon his speech by the Morning Chronicle would seem to warrant. His allegations were, that they were not wholly free from the influence of political bias, nay, he had no doubt that they might have been very much influenced by their political feelings; but he did not go the length of saying, as he had been represented to have said, that they had in every case refused licences to Conservatives, and granted them to their 262 own supporters—that they, in fact, refused licences to all who did not vote at the last election in favour of the Liberal candidate. He might have said, that the magistrates, being all Whigs, and having the power of licensing given them, possessed an undue and improper influence, which he had heard and believed they might have abused. But they never could have been so absurd as to profess they would not give licences to Conservatives. To him it appeared singular, that the Morning Chronicle should have been the only paper which appeared to misapprehend' the purport of his remarks, and put a construction on them which he did not think they warranted, and he thought also that he had a right to complain of the want of candour with which he was treated in that journal. He hoped their Lordships would allow him to read an extract from a letter which he bad received from Sunderland, and which he thought was well calculated to throw light upon the present inquiry:—There was a quarterly meeting of our corporation yesterday, at which I was present. After the business was disposed of, and there had been long discussions on various matters, the parties present got up to go away, when the town-clerk said there was some other matter to be transacted, and began to read some papers relating to the borough-rate, which 1 fancied was some matter of form as to laying on the rate, and therefore, having another appointment, I came away. I have since learned, that after I had left the council-room, a political Quaker of the name of Hill, a shopkeeper, set on, I have no doubt, by some of our Whig justices, produced a Morning Chronicle newspaper, and called the attention of the corporation to your Lordship's speech in the House of Lords, in which you are reported to have said, that since the last election, the ten Whig justices refused to grant any license to anybody, unless he were of their own party, and the Quaker urged upon the council, that as they had recommended these ten Whig justices to the late Government for appointment, the corporation were bound to vindicate the justices from such an unfounded attack. Upon this I understand a discussion ensued, the two or three Conservatives who happened to have remained (nearly all the Conservatives having left) contending that the report was incorrect, that it was different in other papers, that the corporation had no business in the matter, and that it was ridiculous for the council to permit the malignant party feelings of the Quaker to be tolerated at that board. It ended by the Quaker carrying a motion that the meeting should be adjourned for a fortnight, and that in the meantime, the town-clerk should make inquiry, and ascertain whether 263 your Lordship had made such a charge against the Whig justices, or not. So the affair stands. I wish much I had been present, but I had no idea that the matter would have been brought on, or, indeed, that any further business beyond matters of form about the rate was to be transacted. I have no doubt they laid off until they saw I had gone, and in fact until nearly all the Conservatives had left the room. I have no doubt your Lordship did not say what the Morning Chronicle represents, but that all that your Lordship would say would be, that as these Whig magistrates had the power of granting licenses, it gave them an undue influence at elections, but without bringing any charge that they avowedly refused licenses to any except their own party.There had been an explanation attempted of these matters, but he was informed, that the meeting at which that explanation had been proposed was a secret meeting, where none but those who belonged to one party attended. They got the meeting up after an adjournment of the first meeting and that of course prevented a fair examination of the question. The explanation given at that meeting set forth that sixteen licenses were applied for, that five were granted, and that one of them was granted to the clerk of one of the most strenuous supporters of the Conservative candidate (Mr. Attwood), but they did not state who that clerk was, or how he himself voted. They stated that only five licenses were granted. It might be so; but they took care not to tell the public to whom those five licences were granted—no information as to whether the parties who got them were Whigs or Conservatives. What was the inference? Why, that every one of them belonged to the same party as the magistrates who granted those licenses. If the noble Marquess wished to convince himself and the House that he had been in error, and that the statement of the Whig magistrates was the only statement to he relied on, then the noble Marquess had better move for a return of all the licenses granted in Sunderland from 1S36 till 1842, distinguishing by the poll-book the politics of the publican, shewing whether he voted for Whig or for Conservative. He had stated to their Lordships the substance of the communications which he had received, and he had read some documents to them at length, hut the information which reached him was not derived from one source alone. His information was sustained by testimony from different quarters, some of which, with the permission of the 264 House, he would read. It was a letter from a person in Sunderland:—I trust your Lordship will excuse the liberty of this letter, but a charge has been brought against me which is destitute of truth, and although it has been published only in a low and obscure newspaper (the Sunderland Herald) it may possibly meet your Lordship's notice, and therefore I beg permission to set myself right without loss of time. At the close of the quarterly meeting of our town-council, held on Wednesday last, after Mr. Wright and several members had left, and the whole were on the point of leaving the room, amidst much confusion, Mr. James Hill, a Radical Quaker, called the attention of the few remaining members of the board to a newspaper report of your Lordship's speech in the House of Lords on the conduct of the Liberal magistrates of this borough. Some very improper remarks upon your Lordship were made, and I took my part in repelling them, by stating in substance and I believe very distinctly, that Lord Londonderry was incapable of making a false statement, and if the question was put even to that meeting, I was satisfied it would be so decided; and further, that I was quite sure no one present believed the charge brought against Lord Londonderry, and, therefore, the shortest plan was to submit that question to the meeting. The Herald party, to answer their own vile purposes, and to make an attack upon your Lordship, gave a very different reading of the matter, and made me the defender of the Whig magistrates, instead of your Lordship, my remarks being thus reported.—'Certain charges are alleged to have been made against the magistrates, why not take the sense of the meeting whether they are true or not? The charge here is by substituting the magistrates for Lord Londonderry. Again—'There is no one here believes the charge, and what can you do?' The perversion in (he first extract makes the disbelief in the second to apply to Lord Londonderry; whereas, had the first been correctly given, the disbelief would have been that Lord Londerry would have acted improperly. Again, ' If the Marquess ever made the charge, I am sure no person believes it.' Whilst I said, ' I was sure no person believed the charge made against the Marquess.' And thus by a very slight, but a most wicked, transposition of my words, I am reported to have given utterance to sentiments the very reverse of what I really said.He trusted that he had now succeeded in giving to the noble Marquess a sufficient reply. If the noble Marquess would move for the return to which he referred it would then be clearly seen by the House whether he were right or whether he were wrong. As to the noble Marquess's allusions to the unfitness for the appointment of Lord-lieutenant; whatever might be the good taste and propriety of his remarks, or by 265 whatever motives instigated, he assured the noble Marquess that he cared not for any appointment, only so far as he could in holding it, promote the public interest, or render himself useful in the public service, but he thought it was hardly worthy of the noble Marquess to get up an attack upon him for the purpose, as he vainly imagined, of "flooring him." He ought rather to direct his attacks against more distinguished Members of the Conservative party—against those with whom he would be more equally matched, and again exhibit the same spectacle which he did the other night. He confessed, too, that he noticed with regret the animosity with which the attack was carried on. He had seen a good deal of the noble Marquess formerly in Durham, and he thought that kindlier feelings might have been shown; but of this he should at present say no more. He should merely observe, that the noble Marquess's proceedings appeared to have been carried on as if it were supposed that he would fall a weak and easy victim to the first assault. Perhaps, also, the circumstance of his being selected might be accounted for by his having been the first to raise the standard of Conservatism against Whig domination in the county of Durham. It was well known that he was the first to endeavour to stem the political influence which by a dexterous management of the Reform Bill was created in that county for the benefit of the Whigs. Before he sat down there was a point to which he wished to refer. It had been supposed by an hon. Gentleman in another place, that he attempted to cast reflections upon the character and conduct of the noble Duke who preceded him in the office of Lord-lieutenant of the county of Durham. He never did any such thing nor anything like it; he stated to the House the position and circumstances in which he found the county magistracy; but he never said one word against his predecessor. However he might, when living, have differed with him in politics, the more especially as the power of recommendation was not altogether vested in him, but had been exercised by Bishops of Durham, at all events he had been silent on the subject. In another instance, also, there appeared to have been a great misconception with respect to something that had been said in another place. In alluding to Gateshead, and the revolutionary feeling which prevailed in that town, he made no mention what- 266 ever of the present Member for that borough; all that he stated was, that the former Member for Gateshead was in the habit of annually bringing forward a motion to exclude Bishops from the House of Lords; and that circumstance showed, as he thought, a strong revolutionary tendency in those who sent him to Parliament. Now this, it appeared, had brought on him a most undeserved attack, it was said, that he employed his princely fortune and used his political influence in a manner that alienated from him the respect of the county in which he resided. Of course, it was the right of any one to attach or withhold respect as he pleased; but it was too much for any individual to take upon himself to be the organ of a great county. That gentleman had been but recently transferred from Hull to Gateshead. He had been recently introduced into the county, and it was difficult to discover from what sources besides his own party feelings he derived his information, if sentiments such as those had been delivered by a great and dignified character, such as his noble Friend behind him, or even of any distinguished statesmen over against him, they would sink very deep in his mind; but considering the quarter from which they really came, he utterly disregarded them, and he would pay no attention to anything which came from one who was in the habit of bandying about such terms as "calumniator" and " liar." He should only say, that such accusations from such a quarter not only passed by him as the idle wind, which he regarded not, but he considered that the expression of them reflected honour, and not disgrace.
The Marquess of Normanby
observed, that the noble Marquess had not stated the names of the parties from whom he had received his information: he addressed the House at considerable length, and left that out altogether. He had not told the House who it was who informed him that the magistrates of Sunderland had used their functions for party purposes.
The Marquess of Londonderry
recommended the noble Marquess to move for the return which he had suggested.
The Marquess of Normanby:
Will the noble Marquess adhere to his charge? The words may be different but the charge was, that the magistrates had used their magisterial functions for party purposes in granting licences. The noble Marquess has given no explanation. I pause to give him J an opportunity of doing so.
The Marquess of Londonderry:
I think I have given the noble Marquess every possible information. My impression, from what was within my own knowledge and from information I received, was, that they, like other magistrates in many other counties, used their power of granting licences for purposes of political partisanship.
The Marquess of Normanby
Now, there can be no longer any dispute about the words, for the noble Marquess has repeated the substance of the charge—that these magistrates, as well as others, have used their magisterial functions for political purposes. On the part of the magistrates of Sunderland I repudiate the charge, and I have stated the grounds upon which I do so, and I ask the noble Lord whether he had any other authority they so used their magisterial power? The noble Lord had said that the magistrates got up a hole-and-corner meeting. There is a strange confusion in the mind of the noble Marquess. The meeting consisted of all the magistrates against whom the noble Lord made his accusation, and they have stated the grounds upon which they deny the accusation. I am surprised that the noble Marquess can think that such an explanation as he has given to your Lordships could, in the slightest degree, be satisfactory. I must say that there has been a complete misapprehension with respect to the former Lord-lieutenant of the county—the Duke of Cleveland. The number of county magistrates appointed in his time was twenty, of whom twelve were Whigs and eight Tories. And, with respect to the noble Marquess's allusion to the manner in which a Gentleman, a Member of the House of Commons had come into the county, I must say that, that Gentleman came into the county, I believe, in the same manner in which the noble Marquess came into it, namely, by marriage.
§ The Duke of Wellington
would not prolong an irregular discussion; he should only trouble their Lordships by remarking, that he thought one of the topics of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Normanby) might as well have been omitted, namely, a reflection on the Government for having appointed his noble Friend Lord-lieutenant of the county of Durham. Now, his noble Friend was the head of one of the greatest 268 properties in the county; he had rendered services to the county of Durham; he had liberally expended a large sum of money in making a harbour in that county; and he did think, that the attack of the noble Marquess upon the Government for selecting his noble Friend to fill this office in the county of Durham, which was vacant —founding his attack upon this, that his noble Friend had thought proper to resign the office of Ambassador to St. Peters-burgh because he had not the confidence of the House of Commons in that office— was not quite fair and proper. He should make only one more observation. He agreed with his noble Friend that he was quite right in not volunteering to come forward on the subject of the letter, when he received it, had he reason to believe that be would have heard from the noble than his own impression, when he made Marquess or some other noble Lord on the the charge against these magistrates, that subject. He knew well that it was the practice of some most respectable Members of Parliament not to explain in Parliament words which might have fallen from them either in the heat of debate or otherwise, when they might be questioned about them out of doors. He did not mean to say that that course was invariable, and that it might not be departed from with great propriety on many occasions, and, in the event of any injustice being done, that the party doing it might not think it his duty at once to atone for it in the House. But it was not the practice for Members of either House of Parliament to come forward to explain at the moment when persons out of doors might think proper to require it, and if his noble Friend had so come forward, he would have made himself instrumental to a breach of the privileges of the House. He would not trouble their Lordships further than to express his belief that, in all the county of Durham there was not an individual upon whom the appointment could have been more properly conferred than his noble Friend.
§ House adjourned.