Imatges de pÓgina

of business, but he considered it to be for the difpatch of the property of himself and his conftituents. When such things as these were passed over unnoticed, he should be hurt to death to extend the utmost rigour of the House to offences comparatively so inferior in danger and malignity. He hoped that other Gentlemen would turn their attention to the subject to which he had alluded. The House might reft aflured that if it did not protect itself against the libellous attacks of its own members, it would be in vain that it endeavoured to repress and punish the attacks of others. Members were protected in the House from any consequences that might arise from what they said, except what the House itself might inflict; but in return for that protection they ought not to be permirl ted in other places to degrade and vility, and libel the House, and endeavour to overthrow what the people of this country feel to be the safeguard of all that was dear to them. If no other member did propofo some measure applicable to such cafes,' he pledged himself to do it, and in doing it he should consider that he performed an effential service to the country. As to the present complaint he conceived that it was necefsary for the hon. Gentleman first to move for leave to withdraw it.

After some conversation between the Speaker, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Percival, refpecting the form of withdrawing the motion, the Speaker stated the mode to be-“That the hon. Gentleman having expressed a with to withdraw his complaint, the House atented, and the order wab discharged.”

Mr. Tierney said, 'he rose to make some observations on what the right hon. Secretary had thrown out. The right hon. Gentleman had now come forward with a charge which he had carried six months in his pocket, and it seemed rather to be produced as a set off, than with any view of vindicating the honour of the House. If the hon. Gentleman did really entertain such an opinion of the expression which he had imputed to him, he did not now fay whether juftly or 'not, why did he not, if the House was sitting, complain of it in fuis place, or if not, recomipend it to the attention of the Attorney General ? At the distance of time which had elapsed it could not be expected that he should be able to remember accurately what he had said. He knew, however, that whatever speeches he made he was answerable for them, but it certainly was putting Gentlemen in an awkward situation to bring forward such charges at so great a distance of time after


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the offence was said to have been committed. As to what had been said too of another hon. Gentleman, of whom he could never speak but with respect and veneration, that hon. Gentleman, he was convinced, could justify himself from any charge of the kind which had been urged against him.

Mr. Dundas explained and said, that he thought that the law at present was not adequate to punish libels which members of the House in other places might be guilty of against the House, and that a legislative measure was neceflary to enable the House to punish fuch offences in its own members.

The Attorney General said, that when Gentlemen on every occafion referred to the conduct which his Majesty's Attorney General ought to pursue, they did not consider the difficulty of the fituation respecting what was to be done in case of libels upon the House. What had been stated in the newfpapers to have been said by the hon Gentleman opposite on the 22d of June, 1798, he should confider himself guilty of a libel on the hon. Gentleman in imputing it to him. It was indeed a most gross libel upon the House of Commons, and on the hon. Gentleman, if falsely ascribed to himn. If, however, gentlemen did not vindicate their own characters, what could be expected that he should do? The answer to any profecution which he could institute immediately was, that the House itself did not feel hurt at the circumstance; the Attorney General was the only person who had found any fault with the matter. He must say diftin&ily, therefore, that unless others did what belonged io them to do, it was impossible for him to exercise with effect the duties of his particular office. It was necessary that others thould co-operate with him to put an end to that system which for several years had been pursued to degrade and vilify the House, and to sap the foundations of the conftitution. How was it. poflible for hin to step forward to profecute libels which the House itself totally disregarded. It was in vain for him without that to : go into a Court of Justice and prosecute offenders. He would venture to say, that the reason why twelve men thought themselves justified in acquitting perfons so prosecuted was, hat no complaint was made by the House itself against what was profecuted as a libel upon it. What then did Gentlemen with the Attorney General to do in such circumstances? He alluded to such cases as that libel which was ascribed to the hon. Gentleman himself. He likewise did say farther, that it was intolerable that members of Parliament thould go 10 ale- houses in Covent-garden and say things which were

next day published in the papers, and, if faisly fated, were of the most libellous nature against the House, No man, however, in the situation of his Majesty's Attorney General, could do what his duty required of him, if the House itself endured such attacks and outrages from its own members. If the House continued to tolerate such thủngs, it bught not to blame him, because in his subordinate situation hd did not em, ploy those means to check the evil which its own neglect rendered fruitless. Some blamed him for profecuting too inuch, and to this charge he was extremely indifferent, when he was conscious of discharging his dury. Others (for whom he had great respect) again found fault with him for not prosecuting oftener ; but, if the matter was duly confidered, Gentleinen could see that it was not with him that the fault lay. He felt great satisfaction at what had been said by his right hon. Friend, and he hoped that it would be followed up. It was impossible that others could be punished, if the members of the House were allowed to libel it with impunity, When Gentlemen every morning read libellous attacks which it was within their own province to notice, how was is to be expected that the Attorney General alone should make unavailing efforts to vindicate the dignity of those who did not avail themselves' of the means they had' of protecting the honour of the House? (He was convinced that the people of this country would feel grateful to those who, by their own conduct, endeavoured to vindicate that constitution under which they enjoyed so much happiness, from the attacks of those who had long been labouring to compass its deftru&tion.

Mr. Tierney faid, he had not complained of the article in question as a libel, but as a misrepresentation of what he had faid, and in withdrawing it, he wilhed' it to be 'understood that it was not becaufe he thought it ill-founded, or that it was in consequence of any compromise.

Mr. Dundas said, that certainly there was no idea whatever of a compromise: it was a supposition which he entirely disclaimed

The Solicitor General faid, that it was vnjuft towards perfons who might be made the objects of fulpicion, for the hon. Gentleman to fay that the article was paid for. He had read the article carefully, and it seemed to him be be a fair ftatement'; certainly fairer than had appeared in any other paper or in the paper on the statement of which it commented


Mr. Tierney said, that there was good reason to think that the article was not written by any of the persons who usually report for The Times, and from the circumstance of three columns of that paper being sacrificed to it, he did suspect that it was paid for by some individual.

The Solicitor General observed, that the hon. Gentleman had not said that he did not attribute it to his hon. Friend (Mr. Wilberforce). He thought he should mention whom he did fufpe&t.

Mr. Tierney said, he must repeat what he had often said before, that it was impossible to go on, if members were thus to be called upon to name persons. As to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wilberforce) he knew that he did not mean hiin, so that it was unnecessary to say that it was not to him that he afcribed the article.

Mr. W. Smith stated to the House what was certainly a breach of privilege of a very injurious nature to him perfonally. Ii was a paragraph which had appeared in the True Briton a few days after he had first spoken upon the InCome Bill. It imputed to him the most difgraceful motives for his opposition to that measure. In the House itself it was disorderly to attribute motives of any kind to Gentlemen. In this paragraph, however, his conduct was imputed to the most selfish motives. The fact was as follows : A few days ago a very respectable person who collected taxes in his neighbourhood, called upon him for some taxes—he (Mr. Smith) was talking to him of the danger which might exist of exaggerated stateinents of the fortunes of Gentlemen going abroad. This man replied, “ Perhaps, sir, you don't know what has been said of yourself," and then referred him to the paragraph. It was as follows:

“Mr. William Smith, who spoke at such length and with fuch elegant eloquence in the House of Commons, is pretty well known to possess a fortune of at least 15000l. per annum, acquired by commerce: the assessed taxes of this Gentleman do not exceed 300l. per annum--a stronger inftance need not be named in proof that expenditure is not the criterion of income, and that the mode (to which Mr. Smith so strongly objects) in the new bill, is the fairest and most equal plan to obtain the sum required for the defence of the country. Mr. Smith is one of the most violent of the seceders; his coming to the House on Friday, and exerting himself so strongly in opposition to the bill, is of course ip be attributed solely to a sense of public duty."


As to the exaggerated statement of his fortune, it was a circumstance which to some people would appear rather agreeable, but as a large fortune imposed duties upon a man, he did not with his wealth should be represented as more than it was, because it must induce men to conclude that he was deficient in the performance of those duties which the extent of his fortune imposed. The amount of his assessed taxes too was mistated, for it was nearer 400l. than three. The paragraph was certainly false, and he did think it was malicious. Though he did not intend to make any complaint of the paragraph, he did not chufe to allow the statement to be altogether uncontradicted. In the course of the bill he had found that what he had said had sometimes been misrepres sented, but he did not think maliciously. This attack, however, could not be considered in the same light. As to the question before the House, he did not meant to interrupt what seemed the disposition of the House, that it should be withdrawn. If the debate had taken a different turn, there were some things of which he intended to complain, but he hould not now say any thing farther.

The complaint was then allowed to be withdrawn.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer moved that this bill should be now read a third time.

Mr. Nicholls said, he could not allow the bill to pass with out giving it his negative. He did not approve of the new system of finance now introduced, of which this measure was a part. He thought that the best way of raising the supplies was by a loan, the interest of which was to be paid by taxes on consumprion. He did not think it possible that the country gentlemen could carry this bili into execution. In the land tax they were friendly referees, but here they would be extorters of taxes for the public. The measure could only be executed by tribunals devoted to the minister. Next year, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman might come and . call on the House, in pursuance of the principle of the bill, to furnish him with the means of putting it in execution. It was, in his opinion, a great inroad on the constitution. It would break the spirit of the subject, and, by a disclosure of men's circumstances, occafion the greatest inconveniences. The measure was brought in with great art: the lowest claires were spared; and it would fall comparatively light on the higher claffcs. If it was fair that the scale should rise from


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