HL Deb 18 March 1851 vol 115 cc109-12

gave notice that it was his intention to move, on Friday, the 1st of April, "That a Message be sent to the House of Commons for a copy of the Report and Evidence of the Select Committee on Ceylon." In giving that notice, he trusted he might claim the indulgence of their Lordships for a few minutes, and that they would pardon him if he called their attention to the peculiar position in which he was placed. He considered that that was the earliest opportunity on which it would have been right or desirable for him to bring the subject, to which he was about to refer, before their Lordships. Before, however, he proceeded to make any farther observations, he would read for the House the Notice of his Motion. It was to send a message to the other House for copies of the Report and Evidence taken before the Ceylon Committee. The affairs of Ceylon had been much discussed in the other House; and the case was one that had attracted a considerable share of the public attention. He was aware of this—he knew this, and he was, therefore, anxious to take the earliest opportunity to vindicate himself from the charges that had been brought against him. He had been, he said, anxious to take the very earliest opportunity of doing that; but then, considering that, in the other House of Parliament, the matter had been before it for nearly three years—that Motions had boon made regarding it, and that notice had boon given for another Motion; (and he presumed that the notice that had been so given would be persisted in, and that the matter so long discussed and debated would at last be settled in the House of Commons;) he had also felt that it would he presumptuous in lam to present himself to their Lordships' notice, until the matter should have been settled in the other House. He wished to call attention to a fact connected with this subject—and he trusted lie was not out of order in doing so—but he saw, by the Papers of the other House, that a Motion had been proposed to be brought before the House of Commons, visiting the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies with severe reprehension, and charging him (Viscount Torrington) with sanctioning and participating in acts of a fearful nature: a charge was made against those, too, acting under his authority, or to whom he had given powers to act, at a dangerous and critical time, of inflicting punishments that were cruel and unnecessary—punishments which were inflicted upon persons who, according to his opinion, and that of every loyal man in the colony, were deserving of punishment, as being guilty of rebellion. Of that Motion notice had been given in the other House of Parliament for the 25th instant. By that notice, he, whilst acting as the representative of his Sovereign in a distant colony, was charged with acting with inhumanity; in feet, the charge against him was, that he had been guilty of grave and fearful crimes. He might, he hoped, say for himself, that those who were best acquainted with him were well aware that he would not intentionally be guilty of wanton cruelty—that his disposition would not allow him to commit such acts—and that nothing but the difficulty of the circumstances in which he was placed forced him to be severe, when at another time and at another moment his wish would be not to inflict the slightest pain on a human being. He believed that, in the position in which he had been placed, he had acted most conscientiously—that he had acted rightly—and that he had acted honourably. It was, however, to be remembered, that he was placed in very difficult circumstances, and in a distant colony, and that there the transactions complained of had occurred. He could not but call their attention to the fact, that there had been many ex parte statements made with regard to these transactions. He felt that, under the circumstances in which he was placed, it would have been derogatory to him to have taken notice of those statements, being fully aware that, when the proper time came, the Members of the Government would, whenever a charge was properly brought forward against him, come forward to defend him, and prove that these ex parte statements were incorrect, were unjust, were not to be substantiated. At the moment that he expected the charges against him to be brought forward, he found them to be withdrawn; and, in consequence of the Motion being withdrawn, he found himself placed in a most painful position. He was charged with crimes, and the accusation was not at once proceeded with. He was sure that their Lordships would feel for one placed in his situation; and what must be the feelings of his friends, his family, and his relations, when charges so grave were made against him by one so well acquainted with the facts as the hon. Gentleman who gave notice of the Motion containing that charge, and who bad no excuse for not knowing all the facts. That Gentleman had gravely made a charge against him, and had lightly withdrawn it. He was aware of the reasons that Gentleman bad given for withdrawing the charge; but he must say that, fully conscious as he was that the financial affairs of the country were at that moment of paramount importance; still he was inclined to think that the honour of a Member of that House, the honour of one of the principal Members of the Government, the honour of Her Majesty's troops who were engaged in these affairs, were not lightly to be put in the balance against a mere question of finance, but the case should have been brought forward, argued, and decided. It was, under these circumstances that he felt it to be his duty to bring this subject under their Lordships' consideration, by giving notice of Motion for the production of papers. He should feel it to be his duty on that occasion to state to them "a plain, unvarnished tale." He had no mystery—he had nothing to keep back—nothing to conceal. He would do so with the consciousness that he had done his duty to his Sovereign under most difficult circumstances. His would be a plain, ungarbled statement; it would be shown that there had been nothing of cruelty in his conduct —nothing done by him that was disparaging to his own honour or to that of his countrymen. He desired nothing but the honest judgment of their Lordships and the country upon his conduct. He would not conceal a single fact, and was ready to suffer punishment if he were proved to be guilty. He thought it wise and proper to allow a considerable time to elapse before bringing on his Motion, as he wished the House to be aware of his intention, and also that Members might be fully acquainted with the facts he was about to discuss. He had now only one word more to say. Perhaps, he was one of the most humble and inefficient Members of that House; but then he equally felt with the highest Peer that belonged to it the honour of being a Member of that House; and, at the same time, he had the same feelings as themselves, and he felt equally bound to guard from reproach his name and his family; he was anxious to show that he was not unworthy of the position he occupied, and that he had done his utmost that the title he held should be handed down untarnished to those who were to succeed him. Feeling that he had been hardly dealt with, and that the charge that had been made against him could not he sustained, he had come down to the House to announce that, on the day mentioned, he would make a statement to their Lordships; and he trusted to their Lordships for a fair and impartial hearing. He was sure that in that, the highest Court of judicature, justice would be done to him, and that its Members would put aside from their thoughts all statements that might have come to them previously on this subject; that they would listen to him calmly; that they would hear him patiently; and he hoped that, having done so, they would come to the conclusion that he had done his duty to his Sovereign and his country. House adjourned to Thursday next.

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