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of breach of privilege, and would move, that the editor of the paper in which the statement first appeared, should be called to the bar. Mr. Sheil observed, that the original form of the charge was, that an Irish member, who had spoken violently and voted against the bill, had gone to ministers and recommended that it should be persevered in without alteration. This charge had now been distinctly negatived. The noble Lord, as he understood him, had said that no communication in favour of the coercion bill had been made or transmitted to any cabinet minister by any Irish member who had voted and spoken strongly against the bill.
Lord Althorp had not meant to authorize any such inference; what he had said was, that no statement had been made, or message transmitted, in favour of the bill to any member of the cabinet by any Irish member who had voted and spoken against it.
Mr. Sheil.-Or communicated in any way whatever. (Cries of "No.") He did beg that the noble lord would give a decisive answer. The noble lord had said, that more than one Irish member, who had voted and spoken warmly against the bill, had held language out of doors on that subject very different from their expressed opinions in the house; and he had declared that he believed that statement: but he refused to give the name of the individual who made it, adding, that he took on himself all the responsibility. I would ask him whether I am one of the members to whom he alludes ?
Lord Althorp.-The hon. gentleman is one.
Mr. Sheil, who had resumed his seat on putting the question to the noble lord, remained in it some
moments without attempting to rise. At length he rose and said"Having heard the statement which the noble lord has just made to the house, I beg on the other hand to declare in the face of my country, and if I may do so without irreverence, in the presence of God, that if any individual has said to the noble lord, or to others, that I gave any approbation of the coercion bill in private, he has belied me by a gross and scandalous calumny; but as the noble lord has put the statement on his own responsibility, I shall say no more." After some remarks from Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Hill stated, that his attention had not been drawn to the words attributed to him until some time after the delivery of the speech; and he found that three reports had been published, which, as far as his recollection served, were, in some of the expressions, not quite accurate. The purport of what hehad said was, that a member of parliament, who voted and spoke against the coercion bill, had, in private, communicated to ministers that the bill was necessary, and ought to pass. He now hoped that, as the subject had been introduced, it would be inquired into, and that no forms of the house would be allowed to preprevent investigation. If, therefore, any hon. member would move for the appointment of a committee of inquiry, he should feel happy in seconding the motion, and he pledged himself to prove before the committee every word which he had said.
A desultory discussion ensued, after which the Speaker required Mr. Sheil to assure the house that "the matter now before it should not be prosecuted out of its walls, but should be left to abide such inquiry as the house
might think fit." Mr. Sheil made no answer. Lord Althorp, being required to give a similar assurance, was willing to pledge himself not to adopt ulterior measures out of the house; but could not say that he would not respond to a call.
Sir F. Burdett then moved, that both parties be taken into custody; and sir R. Peel having seconded the motion, the Speaker put the question that Richard Lalor Sheil and lord viscount Althorp be taken into the custody of the sergeant-atarms until the farther order of the house, which was carried nemine contradicente. Lord Althorp left the house, followed in a few minutes by Mr. Sheil, when both were taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms. In the course of the evening, however, they submitted to the pleasure of the house; and, having respectively given the required assurance, were discharged.
On the 10th of February, Mr. O'Connell put in a copy of a newspaper, containing the report of Mr. Hill's speech; and, the paragraph having been read, moved that it should be referred to a committee of privileges. Sir Francis Burdett moved, as an amendment, that the house do proceed to the order of the day. On a division, the proposition of Mr. O'Connell was carried by 192 against 54.
The committee met. One of lord Althorp's informants, it appeared, was Mr. John Wood, formerly member for Preston, but who had recently undergone the usual metamorphosis of a patriot, by being transformed into a commissioner of taxes. His evidence did not support the charge; and though Lord Althorp stated, that he had other informants, he refused to disclose their names. There being
thus no evidence to establish the accusation, the committee, on the 14th of February, made their report in favour of Mr. Sheil, stating that two witnesses were called before them at the suggestion of Mr. Hill, and others were about to be examined, when Mr. Hill himself, finding the testimony already heard very different from what he had expected, freely and spontaneously made the following communication to the committee.
"That he had come to the conviction that his charge against Mr. Sheil of having directly or indirectly communicated, or intended to communicate, to the government any private opinions in opposition to those which he expressed in the house of Commons, had no foundation in fact; that such charge was not merely incapable of formal proof, but was, in his present sincere belief, totally and absolutely unfounded; - that he had originally been induced to make mention of it in a hasty and unpremeditated speech, under a firm persuasion that he had received it on undeniable evidence ; but that, being now satisfied of the mistake into which he had fallen, and convinced that the charge was wholly untrue, he came forward to express his deep and unfeigned sorrow for having ever contributed to give it circulation."
When the report was laid on the table, lord Althorp was loudly called for. "I have," said his lordship, "since I last addressed the house, made inquiries respecting the information given to me on this subject, and I am now prepared to say, if the hon. and learned member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) asserts distinctly that he has not done what I stated him to have done, that I believe his assertion. At present
I am in this situation-I have had certain information given to me on the authority of gentlemen on whose veracity I entirely rely. They may have been mistaken in what they stated to me. But if the hon. and learned member for Tipperary will now come forward and say that it is untrue that he ever used language in private different from that which he used in public on the coercion bill, I will not only say that I entirely believe him, but I will also apologize to him for the language which I used." Mr. Sheil solemnly denied the charge: and so ended this ridiculous interlude, which many men believed was obtruded upon the house, as much from a hope of embarrassing a rival in the work of agitation, as from a desire to vindicate the character of a friend. If there is any subject on which a report of a committee of the house of Commons is utterly disregarded by the public, it is on a matter of private integrity and personal honour.
The Irish members, who constituted what was called "O'Connell's tail," next exerted their tongues in attacking a judge. Mr. Baron Smith was one of the most distinguished characters on the Irish bench. He had been an honest supporter of catholic emancipation though he ever kept himself unpolluted by the contact of agitation. In former days he was the object of unbounded praise among the orators of Catholic associations; and the most enthusiastic eulogies on his moral and intellectual character were those which had proceeded from the lips of Mr. O'Connell. But past merits were now to be forgotten; for Mr. Baron Smith, who would not allow the inciters of crime to escape when he was punishing the
misled, had warned his fellowsubjects from the bench against the delusive and inflammatory proceedings of factious men, which plunged almost necessarily into guiltthe unfortunate beings against whom he was compelled to enforce by transportation, or by the gibbet, the criminal justice of the country. Mr. O'Connell, therefore, resolved to attack him with a parliamentary inquiry, in order that for the future all judges might feel the necessity of passing over in silence, if they did not mention with applause, what they believed to be the fertile sources of the crimes which they might be about to try.
On the 13th of February, Mr. O'Connell moved, "that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of Mr. Baron Smith, in respect to the discharge of his duties as a judge, and to the introduction of politics into his charge to a grand jury." accusations were two, 1. that the learned judge came late into court, and, on the assizes, tried prisoners at unseasonable hours;-2. that he had introduced politics, and politics very displeasing, into his charge to a grand jury of Dublin. Under the first charge, Mr. O'Connell stated, that Mr. Baron Smith scarcely ever appeared in court till half-past twelve, or between that hour and twelve o'clock. In the court of Exchequer, he commonly came in to write a letter, and then departed, without taking any part in the proceedings. On the circuit, in the counties of Down and Armagh, he did not sit in the criminal court till between eleven and twelve: at Armagh he had tried fourteen prisoners between six in the afternoon, and six in the following morning, the trial of more than one of them having com
menced after midnight. This was unjust. The jury were asleep; the prisoner, worn out, was unable to defend himself;his witnesses were often not to be found; the witnesses against him had been dining, and were not in a very fit condition to give correct evidence. At nisi prius he had seen the baron come into court at half past one; a practice which, by the delay it occasioned, put clients to great expense. He had once gone the circuit with the baron and Mr. Justice Fletcher. The latter tried civil cases from eight till four, when Mr. Baron Smith would commence the criminal business, and seldom rose before three in the morning.
Under the second head, Mr. O'Connell stated that, in October, 1833, Mr. Baron Smith had presided at a special commission in Dublin. The calender contained seventeen cases, viz. eight of larceny, four of cow-stealing, three of pig stealing, one of bigamy, and one of swindling. Here there was no room for political allusion, yet the charge to the grand jury was a political discourse, having no relation to any one case which the judge was to try, censuring the misconduct of ministers, replying to speeches delivered in parliament, and reviving and inflaming religious feuds. After telling the grand jury that, "whenever he thought the lawless state of the country not fully understood, he sounded the tocsin"--which no judge had a right to do, or to make himself a political sentinel "he went on to say, "subsequent events deplor. ably proved that I had given no false alarm. The audacity of factious leaders increased from the
seeming impunity which was allowed them," he being a judge who might be called in to try these factious persons. He represented the constitution as being tottering on its base. He referred to speeches delivered in that house, and charged the member for Drogheda (Mr. O'Dwyer) with having said of him, that he would sacrifice truth to an antithesis.
He then defended Mr. Baron Pennefather, accusing all who differed from him of being in the wrong; charged members of that house with having made speeches derogatory to the bench; censured a cabinet minister for having spoken, without terms of condemnation, of petitions which he described as being "not of submissive prayer, but of refractory invective and insolent dictation; and talked of the disposition prevalent among a great body of the people to resist rents, tithes, rates, and even taxes. This was all bad enough; but the attempt to inflame religious feuds was still worse. Speaking of the emancipation act, the baron said that by that act Roman Catholics had got all they ought to desire, all they were entitled to, and he appeared to insinuate that they were looking for much more. He asked in his charge why were such efforts being made by the Catholic clergy? Why was such abuse heaped upon the Protestant clergy? Why was there such joy at the wane of the establishment? Why was such delight exhibited at the diminution of the number of the Protestant bishops? These were questions asked by the learned baron, and he would put it to the house were they, or were they not, calculated to revive religious animosity? The manner, too, in which his opinions were put for
ward, made them still more objectionable. They were clothed in language-for baron Smith was certainly an accomplished scholar -which rendered them more likely to fasten themselves upon the mind, and they were addressed to persons who received them but too greedily, and upon whom they were but too likely to produce a most injurious influence by perpetuating, if not creating, religious animosity amongst the people. The Protestants were told, that their clergy were abused, that their establishment was on the wane, and that the Roman Catho lics were rejoicing over its downfal. Could such language be addressed to the Protestants with out producing an injurious effect? Mr. O'Dwyer seconded the motion: and unfortunately, the ministers, beginning the session with that unhappy system of condescension to the Irish party, of which they exhibited more examples before it finished, lent all their weight to the proposal for inquiry.-Mr. Littleton thought it due to the responsibility of his situation not to oppose the motion. He disapproved of any remarks of a political tendency dropping from the bench; but at the same time it could not be denied that there existed in Ireland a species of crime which naturally called for such observations; and the frequency of such crimes created, of course, the frequency of such charges.
Mr. Shaw maintained, that sir William Smith had not departed in his conduct from the practice which generally prevailed. Any censure upon him would amount to a defence of the agitation which had been the subject of his reprehension. Nothing unbecoming, or violent, had been introduced in the charge.
If the judges of the land perceived that there existed violent agitation, and systematic attempts at evading the law, they could not allow the ignorant and miserable dupes of such political knavery to be punished, while those, who were really and directly the guilty parties, escaped. Had there been any charge of corruption or misconduct brought against the learned judge, he would have been the last person to have stood up in his defence.
Mr. Stanley conceived it formed no part of the duty of a judge to introduce into his charges, as baron Smith had done, various political allusions; and the simple question was, whether or not there were substantial reasons for granting the inquiry which was demanded. By entertaining this motion, the house by no means condemned Mr. Baron Smith, whom he ad mitted to be a highly respectable and honourable man, and against whom he regretted there should have arisen even the slightest ground for accusation. It appeared, however, that, on one occasion, fourteen persons had been tried between six o'clock at night and the same hour of the following morning. Surely there could have been no good excuse for such a course of proceeding. He thought that an inquiry should be instituted, because it was proper to show that in an English house of Commons the rights of the Irish people met with impartial attention: and, although the result should be an immediate and ignominious removal of the learned judge, he felt himself bound to support the motion.
Sir Robert Peel believed, that, from what he knew of the learned judge, he might with safety venture to say, that he had been in every instance the friend and advocate of