HL Deb 07 June 1858 vol 150 cc1596-600

, who had placed on the paper a notice of his intention to put nine distinct Questions to Her Majesty's Government, with reference to various subjects, including the appointment of Mr. Sullivan to the mission at Lima, the resignation of General Ashburuham, and the conduct of Rajah Brooke, expressed his desire to postpone the questions to a future evening.


observed, that in some of these notices the conduct of a most valuable public servant, Rajah Brooke, was referred to in most unbecoming and improper language; and, as the notices had now been upon the paper for some days, he now called upon the noble Earl either to withdraw them, or at once to bring them forward.


was understood to say, that his questions were founded upon statements contained in the bluebook, according to which a number of men, women, and children had been destroyed as pirates under the order of Rajah Brooke; and also on his conduct on the occasion of the Chinese outbreak at Sarawak in 1856. He thought the subject was one which deserved inquiry.


observed, that there could be no objection to a discussion as to the conduct of Rajah Brooke, for every one who knew that gentleman would be convinced that the more the subject was inquired into, the more clearly would be demonstrated the wisdom and humanity with which he had acted on all occasions. With reference to the old charge that Rajah Brooke had treated as pirates, persons who were not pirates, a solemn inquiry had been instituted, which terminated in the complete and triumphant acquittal of Rajah Brooke from every charge that had been preferred against him. It was well known that, almost by a miracle, Rajah Brooke escaped from a cold-blooded attempt on the part of the Chinese to murder him by surprise, and that in self-defence he entered upon a war, in the course of which a great number of Chinese were killed. Whenever the noble Earl (the Earl of Kingston) thought proper to bring these questions forward, there would be no indisposition to discuss them if they were brought regularly before the House. What his noble Friend (Earl Stanhope) objected to, and what he (Earl Grey) also objected to was, that charges contained in language which was quite unusual in Parliament, and which reflected upon Rajah Brooke in a manner which he believed to be utterly undeserved, should continue day after day on their Lordships' Minutes, without any opportunity being afforded of fully answering them. If the noble Earl thought proper at that moment to bring forward his charges, he was sure their Lordships would be ready to listen to him, but he (Earl Grey) must protest against continuing upon the paper such notices as had stood upon it in the noble Earl's name for some days past.


added the expression of his hope that the noble Earl (the Earl of Kingston) would either bring forward the questions of which he had given notice, or that he would abandon them; but if he did press them, he hoped the noble Earl would bring them before the House in such a manner as to enable their Lordships to give a decision upon the subjects to which they referred. The noble Earl had placed upon the paper a very extraordinary string of questions, some of them relating to persons altogether unconnected with Rajah Brooke; the noble Earl had, however, given notice of a slumber of questions which he proposed to pat to the Government with regard to Rajah Brooke, some of which, it was self-evident, it was impossible for the Government to answer. For example, the noble Earl had given notice of his intention to ask what was the amount of Rajah Brooke's fortune when he went out, what revenue he had collected, and under what circumstances he sought to obtain the assistance and sympathy of the Government and people of this country. If the noble Earl put those questions to Rajah Brooke himself, he might choose to answer them, but it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to do so. With regard to the last two questions of which the noble Earl had given notice—namely, whether the Chinese had not been subjected to great oppressions and exactions, which, to a certain extent, justified their attempt to murder Rajah Brooke, and whether the whole course and conduct of Rajah Brooke in the East had not been such as to desecrate the name of England for humanity and justice—he (the Earl of Derby) could only say that, if those questions were put to him, all he could state in reply was, that to the best of his belief Rajah Brooke was not liable to either of the imputations which they conveyed. Charges had been made against Rajah Brooke; a full and searching inquiry had been instituted; and impartial persons had declared their opinion that the course which he had pursued had been perfectly justifiable. If charges of this nature were preferred, they ought to be brought forward in such a form that a definite answer might be given to them, and not in the form of questions put to the Government which it was impossible for them to answer, but which conveyed imputations of a most serious character against a very meritorious official.


was understood to assure the House that he did not wish to advance any charges which could not be fully proved, and to express his readiness to postpone his questions to a future day. [Cries of "Withdraw!"]


suggested, that the noble Earl had already received the only answer which, as the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) had stated, the Government could give to several of his questions, and he therefore suggested that they should be withdrawn.


said, he should like to move that the notices should be withdrawn, but did not know whether he would be in order in doing so.


said, that such a course would not be in order. The noble Earl at the head of the Government had, however, answered the questions as far as he could, and he would appeal to the noble Earl (the Earl of Kingston) as to what good could be done by allowing these questions to remain on the Notice-paper? If the noble Earl intended to bring forward a charge, let him put it in a different form; let him propose a substantive Resolution, and their Lordships would know how to deal with it. But questions that had already been answered should not be allowed to remain on the Notice-paper.


also urged the noble Earl to withdraw his questions.


would move that the clerk at the table be directed that these notices be not printed with the Votes of the House.


said, the questions of the noble Earl had been on the paper for four nights. On one occasion the noble Earl was sitting opposite when the clerk called upon him, but he merely shook his head, and refused to put the questions. On the other occasion when they were on the paper the noble Earl did not attend. He (the Earl of Wicklow) hoped there was some mode of avoiding such a practice, for it would reflect great discredit upon that House if it was in the power of any individual Peer to put forward, day after day, libels against individuals on the Minutes of their Lordships, and then, when called upon to bring them forward, to refuse to do so, and postpone them indefinitely. He hoped some measures would be taken for the protection of the public against such a practice.


said, that the course taken by the noble Earl, in reference to these questions, was in every way unfair to the individual upon whom they reflected.


suggested, that, although it might in this case be a very proper course to resolve that the notices should not be printed, their Lordships ought to be careful that they did not establish a precedent. He thought, however, that it was most objectionable that any noble Lord should be allowed to continue to impute grave crimes and misdemeanours to individuals, without bringing those charges directly under the consideration of the House.

Several other noble LORDS having appealed in vain to the Earl of Kingston, either to ask his Questions or to withdraw his Notices,

LORD LYNDHURST moved, "That the said Questions have been sufficiently answered, and ought not to be renewed."

On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.