HL Deb 06 March 1882 vol 267 cc163-6

My Lords, I rise to move a Resolution, the cause of which is a thing of sadness and of shame, though it is as happily accompanied by some circumstances of a compensating character. On Thursday last, when Her Majesty returned from London to Windsor, before Her Majesty had proceeded some 20 yards from the station, the carriage then going at a foot-pace, a man, who has since been ascertained to be called Roderick Maclean, presented a pistol at the carriage and fired. The bullet was discovered next day some 28 yards away from where the carriage was when it was fired, and in a direct line with the carriage. The man remained with his arm up and with his pistol pointed in the same direction, and he was immediately seized and disarmed. I think it will be better for me not to go into further detail, or to anticipate in any way the facts that will be brought out in the course of the judicial proceedings that will take place. I have said that there were compensating circumstances connected with this degrading, this unmanly, this most disgraceful outrage. In the first place, this deadly attempt turned out to be utterly harmless, either with regard to the person of Her Majesty and those who were with her, or with regard to any of her subjects who were standing by her. In the second place, the sensation that might well be expected in this country appears to have run through the whole civilized world. The respect which has been felt for one whose reign has been so long and so beneficent has been poured out in the warmest feelings from all civilized countries. It is, so far as we know, satisfactory that this attempt, of which it is hard to define the real motives, appears to be absolutely free from anything of a political taint. I remember, as if it were yesterday, that, in 1850, Lord John Russell, a man of singularly calm and collected character, told, me, immediately after an outrage on the Queen, as she was coming from Cambridge House, that he was perfectly astonished at the serene courage Her Majesty exhibited at that moment. Thirty-two years have elapsed since that time; great misfortunes have overtaken Her Majesty, and it is possible that there may be some diminution of physical strength; but that same brave spirit which then filled the gentlest of her sex has remained to this day. The first inquiry which the Queen made was whether anyone had been hurt. Her second feeling was her great appreciation of the courage which her devoted daughter by her side (the Princess Beatrice) had inherited from herself and had equally displayed. It is with the greatest satisfaction, after making what is, in some respects, a painful statement, that I say now on the highest authority—that of the illustrious Prince (the Prince of Wales) on the Cross Benches, who has only immediately left the Queen—that this attempt, which, was sufficient to shake the nerves of the boldest man, yet left Her Majesty with her nerves unshaken, and in possession of the health she had before. The noble Earl concluded by moving his Resolution. Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to express our horror and indignation at the reckless and wicked attempt made on Thursday last against Her Majesty's Sacred person, and our heartfelt congratulations to Her Majesty and the country on Her Majesty's happy preservation from danger; and to assure Her Majesty that we make it our earnest prayer to Almighty God that, as He has long preserved to us the blessings that we enjoy under Her Majesty's beneficent government, He will continue to watch over a life so highly prized by Her Majesty's loyal subjects."—[The Earl Granville.)


My Lords, I am sure that in proposing the Resolution which has just been read, Her Majesty's Government have been the faithful interpreters of the feelings of your Lordships' House, and that if some such Address had not been presented on this momentous and almost calamitous occasion. Parliament would not truly have represented the feelings of Her Majesty's subjects. The noble Earl has told us that the causes of this crime are mysterious, and he has wisely abstained from dealing with any possible hypothesis with regard to it; but it is a great satisfaction to know that there is no tinge of political feeling in the crime, which, unfortunately, is analogous to other crimes which this generation has witnessed. The noble Earl did rightly in stating that there is not necessarily any political feeling in these crimes, because we have seen them committed, and that with fatal effect, on the chief Rulers of States so far removed in their political character as the Republic of the United States and the Empire of Russia. Nor, again, are such crimes any indication of resentment felt against the distinguished persons against whom they are levelled; but it is, unhappily, rather those Sovereigns who have shown the deepest care and affection for their people who seem from time to time to be most exposed to occurrences of this kind. They happen, apparently, at particular periods of history. After the Reformation there was a great outburst of such crimes, which passed away, and have only been renewed within the memory of this generation; but the very fact that they are so mysterious, that they are so monstrous, and so totally repugnant to the feelings of every class and section in this country—even the minutest—should be a warning to those who are the guardians of the public peace that we live in times which in this respect are not ordinary times, and that special caution should be taken that terrible occurrences of this kind should not be lightly treated. This is not the moment to enter largely into this subject. We are now invited to express and record our deep horror of the monstrous act which has been done, and our sincere and heartful thankfulness that the attempt to inflict upon this nation so great a calamity has failed. In proportion to the love which this nation feels for Her Majesty, in proportion to the benefits which her long and brilliant reign have conferred on those who have the blessing to be her subjects, in that proportion will their response to such an invitation as this be earnest and heartfelt; and I am sure that in no part of Her Majesty's Dominions, and in no class of her subjects, will the response be so sincere and so warm as from the loyal subjects who constitute your Lordships' House.

Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and a message sent to the Commons to communicate to them the said Address and to desire their concurrence therewith.