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jured the house not to make this a matter of all that licence that the house has ever of such consequence. He thought a bare allowed to discussions upon its proceedreprimand would answer every fair pur- ings out of doors. Sir, I have read this
article, and I must certainly allow that The Speaker suggested, that the original it is a very severe libel. But when I say motion should first be disposed of, and this, I must at the same time observe, then the house could more readily deter- that though in itself it is extremely immine what course was to be followed.
proper, yet when compared with a vast Mr. Windham said, he was not inclined variety of other articles that have appeared to press the matter further, if the house respecting the proceedings of the house, really appeared to agree with the argu- it is by no means so severe. Indeed, in ments and proposition of the hon. gent. this view, it may be said to be mere milk who had just sat down. He should wish and water. But then, my hon, friend to know, whether that hou. gent. who had says, “if we are to allow things of this just sat down was disposed to do that, in sort to go on, where are we to stop? Is regard to his own person, which he seemed the house of commons to suffer every sort inclined to do towards the house of com- of censure on its proceedings to pass with
Did he (Mr. Wright) inean to say, out any animadversion :" Wby, sir, to that he would despise every thing that this I reply, that if the house is about to could be said against him? Really, for adopt a new feeling, and to take notice his part, he could see no reason why mem- of expressions of this sort, after they have bers ought to be more tender of their own so long slumbered, and allowed these things characters, as individuals, than they should to pass unheeded, it ought to give warning be of the character of the house of com- that it has changed its sentiments, in order
The not being equally attentive that people may be prepared, and that the character of the house was saying punishment may not fall on a particular to the public, “ You may say what you individual, where so many are involved please, we do not mind it.” If such was in the same sort of delinquency. I do the rule, why not proclaim it? Why not not say that my hou. friend is not persay to the writers of newspapers, you may fectly warranted in the mode of proceedwrite what you choose, there will be no ing which he has adopted; but it is but injury done by your misrepresentations? fair at the same time to observe, that the Was it to be said, that, because the house house has been long in the habit of tolehad passed over a great many instances of rating such paragraphs as that of which a similar nature, we ought on that account complaint is now made. We are accusto pass over every one? This would be tomed to connive at these things. We false logic. The freedom of the press had connive at reporting our debates, and very been too long tolerated, not only to the properly, because I should consider it as injury of public, but private men--not a great, if not a mortal blow to theliberonly to the general degradation of the ties of this country, that the public should higher orders of society, but to the general be kept in ignorance of the proceedings corruption of the lower. The only ques- in parliament. Now, it ought to be retion was, whether the instance now before collected, that we use a great deal more the house was one which went to that ex-freedom with our own characters than we cess as should lead them to interfere to think it just that other men should do. maintain their own dignity. It was impos. But when people are obliged to report, sible, in his opinion, to conceive any thing if they do report well, the severe things more gross, injurious, calumnious, and li- which we say of one another in this house, centious, and therefore he should be guilty is it not natūral that they should fall into of 10 great vindictive principle, if he should an imitation of our style, and speak of us, vote for punishing the offender in a in some measure, as we do of ourselves? I certain degree, as a caution to others. do therefore think, tbạt in these cases a
Mr. Sheridan.-Although, sir, no person great allowance ought to be made. I should feels more highly than † do the respect be extremely sorry that any thing like a that is due to this house, yet, on this oc- prosecution should take place in this incasion, I certainly do not think that we stance. My first reason is, that I am a ought to be too eager in taking notice of warm friend to the liberty of the press, this paragraph. My hon. friend has said, and the second is, that I very well rememthat this has overstepped the boundaries ber the usual result of such prosecutions. I recollect, sir, that a certain libel was his friend, and equally to the perfect purisome time ago published on the house of ty of intention in the jury he addressed. commons, and I was one of a committee Mr. Cunning said, the conclusion of his appointed to discover the author of that right hon. friend was perfectly consistent pamplalet. I certainly had no doubt that with the premises. it was a libel ; however, when it came into The Attorney-General said, he supposed a court of law, an hon, friend of mine had we might then, have acquitted libellers, the ingenuity to persuade the jury, that it though we were not allowed to talk of was no reflection whatever on the house acquitted felons." of commons, If, therefore, the author of Mr. For.-- Sir, it has never been my opithis paragraph makes an ample apology, nion, and I think my conduct has pretty which I have no doubt he will be ready to well shewn it, that the liberty of the press do, I cannot think that the matter ought should be rashly meddled with. But, howto be carried farther, It will be sufti- ever, when a gross breach of privilege is cient to have hiin reprimanded and dis. committed, it is not perhaps altogether charged.
proper that the offender should escape with The Chancellor of the Exchequer.- Wheu impunity. Some allusion has been made this motion was first brought forward, Ito a prosecution by the attorney-general. certainly wished that the hon. gent. should It does not appear to nie that this is the pause upon it. Now, however, it does just mode of proceeding on a case of this stand in a very different situation from nature. No court of justice ever, or at least what it did before. However, therefore, very seldom, adopts the plan of a proseI might be disposed to pass over the pa-cution in the case of a contempt of court, ragraph which is now the subject of ani- but almost invariably proceeds by taking madversion, I cannot, in consistency with the punishment into its own hands. In a my duty, allow it to be passed slightly libel on the house of commons, therefore, over, since it has been taken notice of. At the person who has written it ought more the same time I agree very much in what properly to be punished by this house, and has been said by an hon. gent. over against fit certainly is by no means advisable, that me(Mr. Sheridau), that these things should he should be sent to such a mode of trial not rashly be taken up,--and yesterday as has been alluded to, without strong 1 adverted to this circumstance. If this grounds for so doing. But let me not, at has been tolerated long, I am certainlyof opi- the same time, be misunderstood. I am nion that it is not altogether candid that one by no means disposed to favour the disa individual should be selected for the pur-position to turn matters into contempt pose of punishment. I would only reniark, of court, which are in fact crimes of en. however, that the hon. gent, in his zeal to tirely a different nature. In this instance, detend the press, in the present instance, however, it is clear that the offence reseme has so far forgot himself, as to undervalue bles that of a contempt of court, and as the trial by jury; a thing no less sacred in such it ought to be punished by this house, ibis constitution than the house of com- and by no other. I have certainly not mons.
His argument went thus far, that often thought it fit to prosecute individuals. it was needless to commit the matter to a But at the same time I must say, that the jury, as they would not give a proper ver- gentlemen on the other side have not been dict in the case. With regard, however, remarkable for their forbearance in any to the question, whether this ought to be case where government has been concernede sent to a jury or not, the most proper time I do not, therefore, see why the house of to consider that will be when the printer commons should be the only part of the has been called in, and his apology heard. constitutional body that is to be libelled We shall hear in the first place what he has with impunity. I widely differ from my to say in his own defence, and then we may bọn, friend, when he says that such a consider what will be the just and fair paragraph as this appears alınost every day, mode of proceeding.
Undoubtedly I am not in the habit of Mr. Sheridan said, he could not easily reading the newspapers so much as he be caught addressing the bouse in dis- does, but I certainly have scarcely ever respectful language of an English jury. seen any thing like this. I defy any genThe construction just given to his remark tleman to shew me any such paragraphia was not correct; in what he had said, There are, indeed, often attacks on indi. he designed to do justice to the talents of viduals, that, strictly speaking, are whole
ly unjustifiable, but I say, that if such an listened to the arguments on both sides? imputation as this had been thrown on any Certainly this cannot be said. This may of the proceedings of the house of com- be a reason for taking notice of the libel, mons, when the majority was in favour of but at the same time it must be confessed, administration, it would not be tolerated. it is an additional proof that it could be No one would dare to do such a thing. I attended with no harm whatever. certainly do think this, therefore, an extra- Dr. Laurence differed from the hon. gent. ordinary case; but at the same time, on who had just sat down, on the nature and the general principle, that the freedom of effects of a libel. The hon. gent, said, discussion, either in or out of doors, that when a libel was not in unison with should not be discouraged, I am free to the feelings of the public, it ought to be confess, that I am not of opinion that the disregarded. By parity of reasoning, it punishment ought to be severe.
followed, that when a libel was in unison Mr. William Smith.-Nothing, sir, in my with the public feeling, it ought to be taken opinion, can be more serious than a libel notice of. There was something in this directed against an individual. It very that distinguished it from other libels. The often does him incalculable injury, because house sat rather in a judicial capacity. it goes into a thousand places where it is This was no political question, and thereabsolutely impossible for him to follow it. fore the libel was the more intolerable. But, sir, I really think that a libel on the The house had on this occasion done every house of commons stands upon very dif- thing with coolness, and no passion or ferent grounds; paragraphs of this sort, party feeling was concerned. lle entered when they are not in unison with the pub. bis protest against the distinction that had lic feeling, are of little importance. This been made by the hon. gent. for if this was libel, sir, is certainly out of all unison with to be allowed, a door would be opened to the public feeling, and therefore, in my the most scandalous attacks on the house opinion, it is perfectly harmless. This is of conimous, when it was found that they certainly not the case when a libel is pub- might be circulated with impunity. lished on the conduct of a member of the The question being loudly called for, house, and this, therefore, ought to be a and the house having determined “ that more serious cousideration. We ought to the Printer be called in,” Mr. Peter Stuart be more careful of protecting individuals appeared at the bar. from such attacks, because when the house, The Speaker.-Q. What is your name: in a collective sense, acts with the public, A. Peter Stuart.-Q. Look at that paper: all libels on their conduct can be attended is it printed and published by you ? A. It is. with no mischievous effects, even though The Speaker:—That paper has been comthey should be more gross, if any thing plained of to the house as containing lican be more gross, than the libel in ques- bellous reflections on its conduct and chation. I do not, therefore, think, that it racter. What have you to say in answer was material to notice it; but whether to the charge? any proceedings should be had upon it, A. “ Permit me, sir, to assure you, that after it has been noticed, is another ques- I very much regret that any part of the tion entirely. I am rather disposed to " contents of my paper of yesterday should agree with the right hon. gent. on the other have incurred the displeasure of this boside, that something should certainly be " nourable house. If, sir, I have expressed done by way of marking the displeasure “ myself loo warmly in favour of lord Melof the house. But I must advert to one “ ville--for whom I shall always entertain thing, We are here accused of haste, in- “ the highest respect and esteem--I beg temperance, &c. Now, sir, how did we " that this honourable house will view it as proceed? You gave the vote that de-" the unguarded language of the heart, and cided the matter, and therefore this is not a wilful intention to provoke the more particularly a libel upon you--you censure of
a power on which our dearest whom we all respect, and whom certainly rights and liberties depend. I intreat it becomes us all to protect from any
you, sir, that some allowance may be proper imputations. This case, therefore," made for that freedom of discussion of does undoubtedly differ from any other“ public affairs, which for a long series of very materially: Can it be supposed, sir, years has been sanctioned by common that you were actuated by intemperance, usage; and that the basty composition or gave your vote in hable, after you had “ of a newspaper may not be considered
as a deliberate design to offend this ho- every thing that was just and proper that "nourable house."--Mr. Peter Stuart there was no use whatever in attending in having concluded, he was desired by the it, and that it afforded no protection whatSpeaker to withdraw.
ever to the people of this country; and I Mr. Grey then rose.—Sir, it is now remember too, that the hon. gent. was almy duty to submit a resolution to the sent from his duty in the house at the house on this business. This I shall do time. Yet, sir, I do not say that the hon. without premising it with any observations. gent. absolutely held this language ; but I Of the sort of apology that has been made, do say, that the prints made him say so, if apology it can be called, I leave the and adopted that mode of conveying their house to judge, and I shall be perfectly sentiments with more weight. But after satisfied with their decision, whatever it all this, sir, there was no interference on may be. I wish, however, to make one the part of the house. I only mention observation with regard to the charge that this, sir, to shew, that those things which has been thrown out against me by a gen- make for us do not make altogether so tleman on the other side, of having been strong an impression, as those things that too hasty in bringing forward this business. make against us. With regard to the moSir, I brought it forward as soon as the of- tion itself, I certainly have no objection to fence came before the public, and as soon it. as it was generally known, and this I Mr. Fox.—The hon. and learned gent. thought to be the most proper period. bas, I suppose, alluded to me in what he Having said this, sir, I shall only move has just said. He has stated that a certain “ That Peter Stuart, in publishing the print published observations purporting to said paper, has been guilty of a high breach come from me. When he produces the of the privileges of this house.”
paper to me, I may perhaps recollect The Attorney-General.- I do not mean what I said, so far as to give him informato object to the motion that has just been tion whether the observations came from made. But with regard to the observation me, and how far they were accurate. I am to which the hon. gent. alluded, as coming not ashamed of what I said, and, if the from a person on this side of the house, I hon. gent. wishes for information on the rather think the hon. gent, spoke of some- subject, he has only to produce the paper thing that fell from me on a former night. containing the remarks to which he has I believe the hon. gent. wishes now that he adverted. That a man may say that it is had attended to what I suggested on that of no use that he should attend the house, occasion. I stated, that I had no doubt because he can do no service in it, without that this came under the description of a being guilty of a libel, I should think inlibel, and I think so still ; but I also said, controvertible. I did say sa, and that was that it did not appear to me that the house my opinion most certainly. If he thought ought to interfere in the business. This this a libel like the paper now before us, is still my opinion. Many thing's come if he had shewn me the print in question before me which I cannot hesitate to pro- at that time, I could have told him how nounce libels; but from the circumstances far it was accurate. It may not, perhaps, that attend such cases, I should not advise be such an easy matter now; but, how. that any notice should be taken of them. ever, even at this distance of tinre, I have And I must say, that the eagerness with no objection to give him every information which the hon. gent. and his friends have in my power; and I believe I can still, taken up this paragraph savours much from recollection, satisfy him on this submore of the irritability of soreness than of ject. But, sir, I must confess I do not see any soundness of character on their part. the justice or the candour of withholding An hon. gent. over the way said, that he all allusion to the affair at the time when had great difficulty in finding any other it happened, and bringing it forward as an libel similar to the present one. Sir, libels argumentum ad hominem, when such a libel do not make such lasting or strong im- as this is before the house. I certainly do pressions in other cases as they do when think this a more serious libel than many they are directed against ourselves. This others, and confess that it has made a may have been the case at present. I re- stronger impression on me for exactly the collect, sir, when public prints made that reason that has been stated, of its not being bon. gent, state, at clubs and meetings, in favour of my own side of the question ; that the bouse of commons was so lost to not however, because I am myself indivi
duaily concerned, but because I think that taken into the custody of the serjeant at libels are much more serious when they arms. are most agreeable to the executișe power ; (PAPERS RELATING TO THE SALE OF for, in that case, there are strong suspicions CORN AND FLOUR BY MR. CLAUDE that. they may possibly come from those Scott.] Mr. Serjeant Best rose, pursuant who receive the pay of the goverment. to' notice, to call, the attention of the house
Mr. Atkins Wright defended the senti- to a transaction, which, if the circumments which he had formerly expressed, stances were as had been stated to him, but spoke so low, that we could not follow deserved the serious attention of the house. him in the particulars. The motion was In 1795, government had thought proper then put, and carried without a division. to give orders to seize neutral vessels going Mr. Atkins Wright then moved, “that Mr. to France with provisions. These vessels P. Stuart be called to the bar, reprimanded, and the cargoes had been consigned, after and discharged."
a part of the provisions had been taken for Mr. Grey observed, that if it was the the use of government, with the remaining general sense of the house that a libel of cargoes to Mr. Claude Scott, to be disposed this nature should be passed over in this of for the public account. He was informmanner, he had no objection to the mo- ed that the produce of the sale, amounting tion. He was of opinion, however, that to two bundred thousand pounds, had been when the house interfered, its sentence suffered to remain in the hands of Mr. ought to be something heavy. The para- Scott, down to the year 1500. During this graph in question had been voted a high period, Mr. Scott had frequently supplied breach of privilege by the house, and the government with corn to a large amount, author ought therefore to meet with some which there was reason to suppose he had marks of the displeasure of the house. bought with the public money, and for However, he should be sorry to urge any which he was paid in treasury bills, bear: greater severity than the house thought ing interest, so that he not only derived necessary; and he would therefore be per- mercantile profit from the public money, fectly satisfied with whatever the house but also interest from the mode of pay: judged proper. If, then, the house, after inent. If these things were true, they were hearing the apology that had been made, highly culpable: the person who had given if it was an apology, should think it proper him the information pledged himself to to agree to the motion, he had no objec- make good the fact at the bar; yet he tion.
hoped sincerely the hon, gent. could do The Chancellor of the Exchequer was away the charge. He concluded with sorry, that in this instance he should be moving for a variety of accounts relating 'compelled to propose a greater degree of to the sale of the vessels and
the severity than what had been mentioned; payments made to the lords of the treasury, but he felt that he should not have done and the several contracts between Mr. Scott his duty to the house, if he allowed the and government før meal and flour, &c. matter to rest here. However much there. Mr. Claude Scott stated, that the money fore he might be disposed to lenity, as far was much more than 200,0001, which was as the individual was concerned, yet he one proof that the hon. gent. was extremecould not forget what was due to the dig-1 ly misinformed on the subject. The pronity of the house. After having once re- duce of the sale had been paid by him to solved that a person had been guilty of a the bank, and remained therefore unemhigh breach of privilege, he could not, in ployed. He offered to give it to government, consistency with the dignity of the house but was told by Mr. Rose, that it was not be instantly discharged. He thought there- settled to what particular account it was to fore, that in the first instance, the author go, but that as soon as this was settled be of the paragraph should be committed, would be informed of it. The money for and then, if he made a proper submission, some months lay in the bænk, and then as he had no doubt he would, he should upon an order from the treasury, he paid consent to discharge him at the earliest it over to the treasurer of the navy, and possible period. He then moved, that this was the whole of the matter. the said Peter Stuart be for his said of- Mr. Rose said, he did not believe that fence taken into the custody of the ser- the hon. member, whose conduct was the jeant at arms.” The motion was agreed object of the inotion, had employed the to, and Mr. P. Stuart was immediately public money for any length of time what