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concern or regard. In retaining him in with success. In the other house of para the situation which he now holds, I looked liament, however, it was introduced on the only to the equity of the business. I could suggestion of the lord chancellor, and when not reconcile it to my ideas of justice to I have said this, I have surely said enough disiniss one against whom no decision to shew that the clause was not meant to of this house had taken place; against be an idle, unmeaning provision ; but an whom no proof of criminality, so far as active, positive regulation, on which every the use of the public money is con- individual appearing before the commiscerned, has been even attempted to be sioners had a fair right to act, Wilson established. He indeed refused to answer uid take advantage of the clause, and in certain questions from the commissioners so doing, only did wlial almost any man of naval enquiry, but on what grounds did would have done under such circumstances. his refusal rest? It was expressly under Though only himself an instrument, he the idea that his answers would subject him was sensible that his answers inight bring to certain pains and penalties; not that he him into an unpleasant situation, which participated of any money improperly ap- therefore he prudently avoided. In such plied, but that he acted as the deputy of conduct there was no criminality, since, a person whom a vote of the house had while the individual exercised a right which declared guilty of a misapplication of the the law allowed him, the public sustained public money
In all these transactions no loss. This, sir, is the view which the Wilson was nierely the deputy, merely the best cousideration of the subject has suginstrument to carry forward the designs of gested, and, acting on these principles, I another. True it is, he filled up drafts in the have not thought it ny duty to dismiss absence of his principal, but it was impos- Mr. Wilson from the situation which he sible for him, while he continued in the holds in my office. This house has hitheroffice, to refuse such an employment. He to decided nothing on the case of Wilson, might indeed have resigned, but nothing and, therefore, I have not felt it my duty short of this could have superseded the to dismiss him from his present employnecessity of the conduct to which so much ment. When the house does express such blanie is now attached. Having then offi- a determination, it will undoubtedly be my ciated as a deputy, Wilson very naturally duty to bow to it with all suitable respect; refused to answer questions to which he but, till that opinion is expressed; I shall knew that punishment might be applicable, continue to follow that line of conduct and to which, under a clause of an express which appears to me alike consistent with act, he was entitled to refuse any reply. justice and humanity. I am sensible, that Surely, sir, it will not be contended by the iu following this course, I subject myself gentlemen on the other side, that the to a great deal of odium and abuse. My clause, under which Wilson refused to an- conduct is ascribed to the most dishonourswer the commissioners, was intended to able motives ; ny refusal to dismiss Wilson be an absolute nullity. It was certainly is branded with the opprobrious epithet of intended for some purpose, or it never protection of convicted guilt. Seeing the would have been adopted. It was de- matter, however, as I now see it, I shall signed for the protection of those who, endure all this odium and reproach. When though conscious of no moral delinquency, this house shall declare their opinion might, uuder particular circumstances, have fairly, it will be any duty to submit to it; been guilty of a legal criine. Such was till that period arrives, Wilson shall not, exactly the situation in which Wilson stood in the absence of any proof of his guilt, be in the whole of this business. Looking to dismissed from his situation. I shall nethe transaction in a moral view, looking ver, either by my voice or by my conduct, to him as not deriving the slightest ad- patronize the tyrannical, despotic principle vantage from any misapplication of the of punishmeni previous to conviction. public money, he had no more to do with Having said so much in answer to the hou. it than the pen which he used, than the member opposite, I have only to say, that very ink which he used for those drafts by I shall not oppose the motion. which the transfer was effected. Let me Mr. Fox, in explanation, maintained remind the house too, that the clanse was that the right hon. gent. had totally mise not introduced into the bill on light au- represented his argument. He had not thority. I contended for it strenuously asserted that the conduct of the right hon. here, but my exertions were not crowned gent, as treasurer of the navy, was any
aggravation of the particular libel in ques- make it a fair subject of prosecution, and tion, but he insisted that the particular if it really was of that magnitude it was circumstances in which the house were surely expedient that any proceedings conplaced, rendered it highly necessary to sequent on it should not be carried by acwatch over the dignity and honour of their clamation. As the affair now stood, to proceedings, and not permit them wan- agree immediately to the hon. gent.'s motonly either to be opposed or insulted. In tion, would carry with it an air of precialluding to the case of Wilson, he had pitation which he wished to mark no part meant clearly to explain to the house bis of the proceedings of the house. These opinion, that when men in high offices in observations he applied to the motion inthe state, acted as the protectors of those mediately before the house, but it was against whom strong accusations existed, necessary for bim to advert to other topics, it became a matter of necessity that every wbich had been introduced into the deattack on the character of the house, bate. He thought his right hon. friend, tlie "should be carefully looked to and signally treasurer of the navy, had been very unpunished. As he was up, he could not justly attacked for retaining Wilson in his help remarking, that there was a very situation. Doubtless, Wrison was legally great distinction betwixt the right of a guilty; but he was morally immocent, and person to refuse answering certain ques. therefore in refusing to discharge Wilson, tions before parliamentary commissioners, his right hon. friend drew the proper disand the propriety of continuing those per- tinction. Wilson refused to answer cersons in office after such a refusal had taken tain questions, but in this no criminality place. It was surely a strong proof that was established. He acted under an exall was not right when an individual was press clause of an act of parliament, and afraid of the consequences arising from a he was besides protected by that general plain question, and yet it was to such a benevolent provision of our common law, plain question that Wilson refused to give that no man is bound to give evidence a direct answer.
against himself, and that no judge has a The Attorney General rose, not, as he right to enforce questions from whiclı declared, to trouble the house with many punishment of a very severe nature may observations. There were, however, a arise. The house would recollect the cire few remarks which he thought it his duty cumstances under which this clause was to throw out, in consequence of what had introduced. He had hiinself thought it fallen from the gentlemen on the other unnecessary on the precise principle which side of the house. He confessed he was he had now stated, that the humane spirit not surprised that the hon, morer thought of our laws rendered it supertluous. this the most favourable moment for bring- Being introduced, however, it was surely ing forward the libel in question to the no matter of guilt that it was acted on, attention of the house. The opportunity and yet for the very act of Wilson, in was favourable, when the hon. gent. found availing himself of it'; gentlemen blamed himself in a majority on a great question, his right hon, friend for not dismissing but he hoped, as his right hon. friend near bim. With what justice this was done, he him had said, that when such motions left it to the fair judgment of the house to were brought forward they would be con- decide; the legislature meant the clause ducted with impartiality. Though he cer- as a clause of protection, and now the tainly did not mean directly to oppose the house were to be told, that the use of it motion, he did not wish the house to be was a proof of criminality. The legislature taken by surprise, and therefore he sug- never could have such an object in view, gested io the hon. gent. that he should and, therefore, Wilson was not, from his only in the mean time give it in the form silence, to be presumed guilty. of a notice, that thus all the members Mr. Rose, without opposing the motion, might have an opportunity of fully consi- rose principally with the view of vindicatdering the nature of the passage in ques- ing the conduct of his right hon. friend the tion. Ile thought it would be more con- treasurer of the navy, from the aspersions sistent with the dignity of the proceedings which had been thrown out against him in of the house to act with this degree of the course of the evening. He thought his temper and moderation. It was of im- conduct respectingWilson was, in the highrest portance to ascertain whether the libel was degree, commendable, and afforded a strikof that magnitude and importance as to ing contrast to the conduet pursued by a pay-master of the forces at a distance off in the character of a servant of the public; time of rather more than thirty years. He and certainly such conduct as Wilson's on hiinself at that time did belong to the trea- his examination before us is much to be sury, and therefore what he was about to condemned. If questions are put, and state was the more to be relied on. He answers are thus to be refused it inquiries recollected that two officers in the pay- respecting the application or mismanage. master's office were found guilty of gross meut of the public inoney are to be trifled fraud on the office with which they were with, there is no utility in appointing com. connected. This appeared on a solemn missioners of naval or military enquiry. examination by the lords of the treasury, We have the head of a board who refuses who accordingly ordered them to be dis- us all information-we come to the deputy, missed, and actions were instituted against and he is equally silent-and thus may we them to recover their illegal gains in a go through the whole range, and still no court of law. One of them died before satisfaction is obtained. Wishing, then, this process could be accomplished, but that these difficulties should be removed, the survivor was actually cast in an action, the commissioners certainly never can exand was confined in the King's Bench pri- press themselves satisfied with the manner son. A change of adıninistration took in which Wilson eluded their investigations. place, and those defaulters were actually Thus much have I felt it my duty to say re-placed. He recollected that an hon. respecting this part of the subject; and gent. opposite (Mr. Fox), who was now so before I sit down, I shall add an obseryaclamorous against the continuance of Wil- tion or two respecting the conduct of the son in his situation, was violent against a right hon. treasurer of the navy. I do say proposition for condemning them, declar- then, and say it with confidence, that the ing, as far as he could remember, “ Gra- right hon. gent. did not give our inquiries cious God, will you condemn people with all those facilities which might bave been out hearing them? Will you suppose them expected. We did encounter difficulties guilty without even listening to any proofs of a pretty formidable kind, to which the of their innocence ?" He wished to know, dilatory proceedings of that right hon. then, on what principles the hon. gent. gent. did not a little contribute. could reconcile his present conduct with Mr. Canning. I feel myself, sir, so perhis former appeals in favour of justice and sonally alluded to by the hon. baronet, humanity.
that I trust I shall be excused in rising Mr. For, in explanation, professed that again. I never stated that the commissiohe had not at that time a perfect recol- ners of naval enquiry were, by means of lection of the transaction to which the subsequent information, satisfied with rehon.member alluded. If he recollected right, spect to the conduct of Wilson; what I said however, the two persons were, at the time was, that the explanation given to me upon the vole passed in the house, actually sub the subject would, I was confident, have judice. it, however, the hon, member had satisfied the commissioners with respect to any wish to push the matter farther, he, the person alluded to. I wish, however, for his part, was ready to discuss it on an- to know whether the commissioners have other occasion in all its features and rela- reported the whole of the statement given tions.
in evidence by Mr. Wilson, aye or no? (Sir Sir Charles Pule.—The right hon. gent. Charles Pole answered yes.) Mr. Canning the present treasurer of the navy, thought was proceeding, when he was interrupted by proper to assert on a former occasion, that Mr. Plumer, who begged leave to remind certain explanations were given by Wilson the right hon. gent, that the regular way of to the commissioners, which satisfied them conducting business, was to address the of the manner in which he had conducted chair, instead of that sort of imperious cahimself during the examination, Now, techising in which the right hon.gent. seemsir, it is proper for me to state, that no ed so desirous to indulge. such explanations ever took place, and so Mr. Canning again proceeded; I ask, much the reverse of being satistied were sir, of the hon. baronet, whether the comthe commissioners, that they almost take missioners of naval enquiry have reported shame to themselves for not ordering him the whole of the correspondence which to prison for the inanner in which he gave took place between them and the treasurer his evidence. I think it necessary for me of the navy, aye or no? (Sir Charles Pole to make this declaration, standing as I do said, no.) I know, sir, they have not, and.
I shall to-morrow move for the whole of|correspondence with the commissioners. that correspondence, or at least such parts He felt that be was bound to stand forward of it as are not contained in the report of in his own desence, and he did ask whether the commissioners.
the whole of bis correspondence had been Sir Charles Pole. The commissioners of stated in the report? The answer was, naval enquiry reported, sir, all the answers “ No," and the house would judge whemade by Wilson. With respect to the cor-ther, in such case, his right hon. friend had respondence with the treasurer of the navy not some claim to their indulgence. It there is no objection to produce it; the had been said that his right hon. friend had only reason why the commissiovers did not withheld from the commissioners papers state the whole of it was their desire not which it was necessary for them to possess, to overload the report.
in order to prosecute their inquiry with Dr. Laurence defended Mr. Burke's con success. If he (Mr. Gibbs) recollected duct, in re-instating Messrs. Beinbridge and the report as far as it touched upon this afPowell. lle complimented the speaker, fair, it went merely to shew that his right whom he considered as the abstract es- hon. friend had objected to certain forms sence of public virtue, on the truly patriotic of proceeding, and had taken the advice and constitutional vote which he gave on a of counsel whether he was bound to coinformer evening. He could by no means ap- ply wtih the demands of the commissioners prore of the mode proposed by the Attor- in this respect. He did not question the ney-General, to defer the motion until the propriety of the demand of the commissiohouse should have regained its proper tone ners, but had merely had a view to the of moderation; it was nothing more than practicability of complying with it in cona project of the firstlaw officer of the crown, sistency with a proper regard to the conveto get rid of the question entirely. He biency of the public service. All the achad serious objections to the conduct of counts, however, had been made out but the right hon. gent. (Mr. Canuing,) who one, and the papers had been presented to had taken the word of Mr. Wilson against the commission. But from the manner in the report of the commissioners of naval which gentlemen spoke of the act of par. enquiry, and who, instead of facilitating, liament, and from the circumstance of one as he should have done, the enquiry, had of the commissioners having stated that thrown obstacles, altogether unexpected, they took shame to themselves for not in the
having imprisoned Mr. Wilson, one would Mr. Canning maintained his right to put think that persons were speaking of differthe question with respect to Mr. Wilson, by ent acts. A clause had been introduced the information he had : he defended the into this act, by which no person was bound questions he had put, with respect to him- to criminate himself. Yet it was contendself, by what he knew of bis own know- ed, that those ought to be imprisoned who ledge. He begged his hon. and learned refused to answer questions that had this friend to suspend his judgment till be very tendency [gestures of dissent from should have seen the whole correspondence, the other side). He was always very happy which he would not have wished to bring to be corrected if he was wrong, and from forward, if he did not think it would clear the gestures which he observed, he was inbis conduct.
clined to think that he was inistaken. But The Solicitor-General observed that some he had certainly understood, that this was topics, certainly not in an immediate man- the meaning of what had been stated. pier connected with the question before the But what was the use of this clause, if it house, had been alluded to in the course of were not intended that persons should avail the debate. The learned doctor had re- themselves of it? Upon their construction, proached his right hon. friend near him, it would be entirely nugatory, for the mowith catechising and putting questions to ment an answer was refused upon its authe hon. admiral who was at the head of thority, guilt was to be presumed. He could the commission; but it could not be out by no means take upon himself to say that of the recollection of the house, that his under no circumstance could a person inright hop. friend had been pretty smartly cur any legal guilt without having derived attacked, and was therefore in some njea- any private advantage froin the circumsure called upon to make a reply. He had stance he meant to conceal. Undoubtedly been severely attacked, or at least severe al- it might be possible to incur guilt by enlusions had been made to the subject of his deavouring to shelter others, apd in varis
ous other ways; but he would be glad to Mr. Serjeant Best thought the conduct know, how it was possible to take advan- of the treasurer of the navy, in not distage of this clause, and shelter himself charging Wilson, highly reprehensible. under it, except by refusing to answer It had been argued that Wilson merely such questions as might involve bim in acted according to the instructions of Trotpains and penalties? What explanation ter, as if this were any excuse for his concould he give! He could not enter upon duct. If he had acted properly, he ought explanations, because that, in effect, would to have disclosed the nefarious proceedbe exposing himself to the very charge ings which were going forward, and by which he wished to avoid. But there was such a disclosure much of the evil which another thing to which he wished to ad- was now brought to light would never vert: bis right hon. friend had been ac- have been accomplished. It was also coucused of braving the house of com-tended that Wilson, in availing himself of mons; but surely, Mr. Wilson was not the clause in the act, not to answer questo be confounded with those on whom the tions to criminate himself, did only what house of commons had already passed a was naturally 'to be expected. This, howvote of censure. If these resolutions did ever, had nothing to do with the question, not touch upon Mr. Wilson, how could since nobody doubted his right to avail bis right hon. friend be said to brave the himself of the clause, if he thought his house of commons? From the gestures conduct required it. What was complainon the other side, it appeared that he ed of, however, and with justice, was, that might be mistaken.
the treasurer of the navy retained in his Mr. Fox here interrupted the hon. and office a person who had relised to answer learned gent, and said that he could not some questions which an innocent man be explaining every moment; but that, in could have answered with the greatest the present instance, he had not said that safety. If a person had a servant, or a the right hon. gentleman had braved the steward, and wished to ask some queshouse of commons. He had only said tions respecting the state of his affairs, that he had braved the opinion of the and could obtain no satisfactory answer, house of commons, and he would now go what would be his conduct? He might farther, and say, that he had braved the think it very right for the servant not legislature.
to answer questions to criminate himThe Solicitor General in continuation, self, but he would also think it highly expressed his surprize how that conduct necessary to dismiss ove from his em. could be called braving the legislature ployment who had such extraordinary which had been expressly sanctioned by secrets. The learned serjeant also conan act of the legislature. Who had bra- demned severely the conduct of the Trea- . ved the legislature? Not his right hon. surer of the navy for the difficulties which friend, for he had only refused to remove he had thrown in the way of the enquiries from his office a person who had taken ad- of the commissioners. It was as far back vantage of a cluuse in an act which the le- as the tenth of last July that the commisgislature had passed. Was it he who avail- sioners issued a precept to the treasurer of ed bimself of ihe provision in the act that the navy, calling on him to produce cerhad braved the legislature? He could un- tain papers, and it was not a little singular derstand any thing but that.
that two months elapsed before any anSir Charles Pule submitted it to the swer was returned. What, in the mean house whether the commission would not time, was the conduct of the treasurer of have attempted, in vain, to accomplish the navy? Why truly, he could make no the euds for which they were instituted, return to the commissioners till he had while the person who was at the head of taken the advice of his majesty's attorney the office into the abuses of which they and solicitor general. This the learned were enquiring, refused to them the means gent, maintained, was to the commissionof information they called for. He denied ers as acting under the express sanction that he had employed any unnecessary of parliament, extremely indecent and diswarmth. This was the first time that he respectful. The treasurer of the navy, had in the house given his opinion of the if he laboured under any difficulty how Tenth Report, and what he had said was to act, ought to have applied to the comfrom conviction, and not from any motives missoners for advice and instruction. It of personal hostility to the right hon, trea- was not unknown to the house, that one sures of the navy.
of the commissioners was a member of the