HL Deb 22 April 1847 vol 91 cc1150-5

said, that he had now to call their Lordships' attention to a matter which he would most willingly have refrained from doing; but that, standing in the situation of an Irish representative Peer, and having the crime of being an Irish proprietor resting upon him, he did not choose to be made the butt of misrepresentation in any organ whatever, as to the motives of his conduct, or as to the manner in which he thought fit to execute his duty in their Lordships' House. He was as sensible as any man could be of the fact that if any Member of either House of Parliament spoke in his public character upon any public question, he was open to have his language and his conduct criticised. He did not object to that. As a mite of the British public, he was open to have his conduct observed upon. He complained not of that; but he did not choose, acting in that House as an Irish representative Peer, to have the ground cut from under him, and to have mis-statements go forth respecting what he thought it his duty to say, for the purpose of maliciously founding upon those misrepresentations, or suppressions, arguments calculated to attempt to cajole or bamboozle the Irish representative Peers of their Lordships' House, or of those Peers who were connected with that country by property, out of their common sense and freedom of action. He had also another objection to make of a thing which was equally unfair, and that was, that words should be put into his mouth which he did not say, and that those words should be suppressed which he did say, and then to found upon such false premises accusations and imputations against him. He had to remark, that in The Times newspaper on Wednesday, there was a report of their Lordships' proceedings, in which what he stated was purported to be given, but which he did not say; and that what he did say was carefully and intentionally omitted. The passage ran thus:—"The Marquess of Westmeath complained of the ridicule with which his proposal had been received." If he ever should say anything to their Lordships which exposed him to their Lordships' ri- dicule he must be content to labour under it; but when he knew that he had not exposed himself to their Lordships' ridicule—nor did he complain of having been ridiculed by their Lordships — he could come to but one conclusion, that the intention of that newspaper, and of another newspaper which he should presently mention, was to excite a feeling in this country and in Ireland, so that, if the assassin's stiletto might not reach him, the bullet might possibly do so. He was too well acquainted with the machinery of all this work not to be sensibly alive to all these matters. He did not mean to say that he feared either. He just cared as much or as little about his life as any of their Lordships did about their own; but he certainly did not wish to court the bullet of the assassin any more than any of their Lordships. He complained of no ridicule; but what he did complain of was, that the Lord Chancellor should have got up and replied to him in the manner he had done; and if he (the Marquess of Westmeath) did express himself strongly on the occasion, he, at the same time, felt great regret that he should be obliged to use such strong language towards a man for whom he entertained the sincerest regard, and who was as good a Lord Chancellor as ever sat in the court over which he presided. There could not be a more amiable man than the noble and learned Lord; nevertheless, he (the Marquess of Westmeath) thought that the noble and learned Lord did him injustice; and he certainly did say that he thought it was a pity that the Lord Chancellor of England should place himself in the situation of trying to get rid of a Bill, the necessity of which he admitted, by endeavouring to raise a laugh among their Lordships, without mooting the case as he should have done. He would further remark, that the noble and learned Lord had no good cause for taking that course, inasmuch as the cause which the noble and learned Lord assigned, and which brought the laugh of their Lordships upon him (the noble Marquess), was altogether unfounded. The noble and learned Lord said, that he (the Marquess of Westmeath) supposed that the Act of Parliament from which his Bill was framed was an English Act; whereas he (the Lord Chancellor) had discovered that it was an Irish Act; and upon the noble and learned Lord saying this, the laugh of their Lordships was turned upon him. The noble and learned Lord stated that his (the Marquess of West- meath's Bill was to prevent the erection of houses. Now the fact was, that the term "houses" did not occur once in the Bill. The object of the Bill was to prevent the erection of huts and cabins, which everybody knew was a great evil at the present day in Ireland. But if this manner of taking up their Lordships' debates and misrepresenting them, for the purpose of coolly, calmly, and maliciously founding upon such false reports arguments which were to tell, when the time came, either for or against any measure which some wretch, concealed somewhere or other—for he was not seen, but scribbling somewhere or other—might wish to promote or oppose—if this practice of misrepresentation should be permitted to proceed, it would finally take away the liberty of discussion and deliberation which belonged to their Lordships in their legislative capacity. The Sun newspaper also put words in his mouth such as he certainly should be ashamed of having ever used; for the composition was almost illiterate and bad English. The words attributed to him were these: "Lord Almighty help us!" (continued the noble Marquess) "it is a poor thing that no exertion can be made to protect the condition of the Irish landlords without subjecting us to ridicule!" He (the Marquess of Westmeath) said no such thing; he merely objected to the frivolous attempt made by the noble and learned Lord against his Bill. As far as his exertions in their Lordships' House were connected with his own proprietorship, he might consent to make very little use of them; but he was there as a representative Peer, and he was determined, cost what it might at this awful crisis, when the time came, to do his duty; and he hoped their Lordships would not allow themselves to be stayed by these attempts to control their proceedings. He should now move that the printers of these two papers be called to the bar of the House.


was understood to intimate to the noble Marquess that two distinct Motions must be made.


accordingly moved— That the printer of The Times newspaper be called to the bar of the House for a breach of their Lordships' privileges.


said, that no person was more convinced than he was, that if their Lordships allowed reports of their proceedings to go forth, it was absolutely necessary that fairness, honesty, and honour, ay, and accuracy too, should be pre- in the reports so given. He admitted the full necessity of this; and if the noble Marquess had reason to complain of any misrepresentations, he would join the noble Marquess in saying that the author of that misrepresentation was deserving of censure. At the same time, the plan which he had himself invariably acted upon both in that House and in the other House of Parliament — and which was now for a period of thirty-seven years—was that which he would advise the noble Marquess himself to follow, and that was, to avoid, if possible, needlessly to interfere in such a case as this. That their Lordships had the undoubted right to exclude any stranger from being present at their proceedings no one could deny; and that it was a sort of permissive breach of privilege that they were not excluded, was equally unquestionable; but, at the same time, their Lordships ought to consider, that those persons who gave to the public an account of their proceedings, did so, he would not say 99 times in every 100, but 999 times in every 1,000, in a manner that showed that they were actuated by the fairest motives. It must be admitted that their reports were marked by very great ability, very signal ability, and that it was with most admirable impartiality that their accounts were given of what passed within the walls of Parliament. He, therefore put it to the noble Marquess whether he might not be satisfied with the notice which he had just taken of the misrepresentation of which he complained without proceeding further. Never had any good arisen, either to their Lordships' House or the other House of Parliament, from their needlessly entering into any contest with any portion of the press. He had himself long suffered under a misrepresentation by the press; and he found that the more frequently he contradicted it, the more constantly was it repeated. He was once reported to have said that the newspaper press was the best possible public instructor; and Mr. Cobbett, on almost all occasions afterwards when speaking of the newspapers, called them "Henry Brougham's best possible public instructor." It was necessary for him (Lord Brougham) once or twice to declare that he had never used those words. He had said that the press might be the best possible public instructor—not the daily press, but the press generally—and the daily press also, provided it discharged its duty in all cases without favour, fear, or affection, and without slander; but it was on a trial for slander against a newspaper that he said this; therefore, instead of saying that the daily press was the best public instructor, he said that it was not, but that it might be if it were properly conducted. He did hope that his noble Friend would not press his Motion. It should be borne in mind that there were peculiar difficulties at the present moment which these persons had to contend with. Their Lordships were in a new House, and their voices could not be heard so accurately as they would be in the course of a little time. He was sure his noble Friend would consider that circumstance, and exercise justice in mercy.


would put it to the noble Marquess whether he would enforce the order of their Lordships' House on this occasion. The noble Marquess had attributed wilfulness to the parties who had misrepresented him. But, when an inaccuracy occurred in a report in any newspaper, it was impossible, in the first instance, to say whether it was done wilfully or not. The usual course was, when any noble Lord found himself misrepresented in a newspaper report, for that noble Lord to state that he had been misrepresented, and to point out the particular sentence in which he had been so misrepresented, in order to give the party an opportunity of correcting that which he had erroneously done. He did not know the particular points respecting which the noble Marquess complained; but, as he had stated that he had been misrepresented, he would, no doubt, have it corrected.


said, having stated the case he had to bring under their notice, and their Lordships have been kind enough to accord it so much favourable attention, he would not press his Motion farther; more particularly as the noble and learned Lord opposite, who had so much more experience in Parliamentary matters than he had, had recommended a contrary course. His wish, in bringing the question forward, was to secure in future that whatever public opinions a person expressed, should be accurately reported. It was more particularly important, considering the present condition of Ireland, that whatever was spoken in that House or elsewhere on Irish subjects should be truly given. The Morning Chronicle, and all the other morning papers, had furnished his statement in a manner different from what it had ap- peared in The Times; but, connecting the language attributed to him with a leading article in that journal, of a most scurrilous and abusive nature, directed against himself, nothing could persuade him but that that particular part of his observations was taken out, and so altered as to suit the views attempted to be conveyed in that article. But as their Lordships had heard the case, and as they were best capable of forming a sound judgment as to the mode of proceeding which ought to be pursued, he would not press his Motion, seeing that the feeling of the House was in favour of that course.


was understood to say, that he had not intended to treat the noble Marquess with any disrespect. His observations had been made with reference to the Bill then before the House, and not to the noble Marquess personally.

The subject then dropped.

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