Imatges de pÓgina
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Mr. Fox.

M1, Rigby. Mr. Rigby opposed this last resolution. It was unjust and

unprecedented. The gentlemen pointed at in the petition must be accounted innocent until they should be proved guilty. A mere allegation was not sufficient to authorise the House to bring Col. Holroyd and Mr. Yoe to the bar in the character of delinquents; he would therefore give the motion for this resolution his negative.

General Smith faid, that the resolution was not unprecedenSnitb. ted. He himself had been brought to the bar of the House in

the humiliating character of a delinquent, before any evidence was called for against him, and merely upon a suspicion that he had secreted certain witnesses whom he named ; a circumstance in his life which had made a deep impression in his mind, and which he could never efface. At the same time candour obliged him to declare, that he did not bring that fact as a precedent for summoning the attendance of Mr. Yoe and Mr. Holroyd. He thought he had been treated unjustly, and he could not in justice to himself pass by this opportunity of animadverting on a proceeding by which he confidered himself greatly injured.

Mr. Fox did not conceive that he did any thing unkind or unjuft to Col. Holroyd and Mr. Yoe, when he desired their attendance on Thursday at the bar of the House. He was of opinion, on the contrary, that the gentlemen themselves would wishi and be anxious for an opportunity of making known their innocence. Whenever the honourable gentleman [Mr. Rigby] had any accusation to bring against him, he begged that he might bring it face to face, and give him an opportunity of answering for himself. A new writ would be moved for to-morrow for an election of members to serve in Parliament for Coventry; and in the mean time a very great inumber of voters, friends to the petitioners, would be absent from the election, while Cól. Holroyd and Mr. Yoe would by this partial conduct, have an unfair advantage over their competitors. This would be the littlest manquvre to which a ministerial majority, amongst all their condescensions, had cver descended. He thought that this cause should be decided before any election at Coventry should take place. It was, indeed, Mr. Holtoyd's and Mr. Yoe's interest that a new election should take place as soon as possible, both because the practices of which, as was alledged, they had been guilty, must give an unfavourable imprellion of them, which might! have an unhappy influence on their election, and because, if the election thould be over before the enquiry into the


things charged against the accused party, the petitioners would not have the same motives that they have now for making good their charge, and might therefore very naturally be supposed to relax in their zeal of prosecuting this appeal

and complaint to the House of Commons. Mr. Grenville's 1 bill, as it was called, had, indeed, been productive of much

good'; it, however, was the source of some inconveniencies'; and among these he reckoned the possibility of influencing, by such a manzuvre as that he had mentioned, an election. He begged and hoped that ministry would not be fo uncandid as to take advantage of an inconveniency attending that excellent bill, and of establishing a precedent, which was in itself unjust, though it could never militate against themselves. He also adverted to that forwardness of ministry in endeavouring to bring on an election at Coventry, which appeared on the firft day of the meeting of Parliament, &c.

Lord Beauchamp said, the law requires, that within a cer- Lord Beautain time writs, Bhould be issued for elections, and that time cbamp. would expire tomorrow. No hurry had been shewn in appointing a time for examining the sheriffs of Coventry. If these officers had done as they ought to have done; if they had made a return of two members, according to the numbers that were actually polled, however few, the circumstances that rendered the election undue and of no avail might have come before the House in the way of petition as ulual, and much trouble have been thereby prevented. An honourable friend of his had said, that there would be partiality in bringing on the election at Coventry at a time when the petitioners with their witnesses, who were their friends in the election, fhould be attending the bar of that House. But would there - not be as great partiality in ordering the two other gentlemen to be absent from the place of election, as it would be to call to the bar voters on the other fide? The petitioners might appear by counsel; but it was proposed that Mr. Holroyd and Mr. Yoe should attend the House in perfon. His Lordship farther contended, that the vote of the House when printed, was a sufficient, and the proper intimation to tho last mentioned gentlemen to attend, if they thought their interest required their attendance, and that any order to attend was- equally improper, unjust and unprecedented. For. with regard to what had been advanced by General Smith, he believed that he had been ordered to attend, after the affair he alluded to had made some progrels in the House, and that it was by a committee of the whole House on that subject, that he was ordered to attend.


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General General Smith from the Journals of the House evinced, Smiibo that Lord Beauchamp, in making this last position, was

miftaken. Ms. Fox. Mr. Fox replied to Lord Beauchamp. He allowed that

there would be partiality in ordering Colonel Holroyd and Mr. Yeo to attend the House, if the election were to be hurried on in the manner he apprehended it would be ; but he was for deferring the election until this cause was decided, therefore an order for the attendance of these gentlemen wouk

not betray any partiality. General General Smith observed, that there was a precedent for

putting off the election of members for Coventry, in the Borough of Hindon, to which no writ had been sent for

electing a member of parliament for the course of two years, Lord Beau- Lord Beauchamp replied, that the cales were totally difficbamp.

milar; for the burgesles of Hindon had been guilty of cer. tain practices, for which that delay to send a writ of election was a deferved punishment, whereas the inhabitants of Coventry were not charged with malversation of any kind. His Lordihip added, that he had a petition, in opposition to that presented by his honourable friend, from Colonel Holrord and Mr. Yeo, and others, burgesses of Coventry. He read the prayer of the petition; which was, that the sheriffs might be punished for not making a return of members to serve in

Parliament for Coventry, &c. Mr. Tox.

Mr. Fox withdrew his motion for the third resolution The petition, mentioned by Lord Beauchamp, was brough: up, and ordered to be taken into confideration at the same time with the other petition relating to the same subject.

A petition having been presented to the House, complaining of an undue election, and containing a charge of bribery

and corruption against the fitting members for Stafford, Mr. Sbe Mr. Sheridan rose and complained, that it was in the powe:

of any petitioner to bring a charge of crimes and misde. meanors against any member of that House with impunity. Where it is alledged that an election is undue on accounte informalities or upon certain points of law or custoin, the character and feelings of the meinber against whom such a, petition is brought receive no hurt; but the case is otherwife where an accusation is brought of bribery and corrup: tion, crimnes fo high in the eye of the laws and constitution of this country. He therefore expressed a wish that som: gentlemen of greater experience in Parliament and contequence than himself, would devise some inethod of prevent


ing frivolous and malicious petitions, and of punishing their authors suitably to the nature of their offences. It was very hard that a gentleman should lie under the imputation of

crimes of which he was innocent for a whole year, perhaps - for a longer period. He observed also, that under such cira cumstances every member, who had been fairly and independently elected, muft feel equally for the credit of his conftituents, from whom he derived his trust, and whose character, as well as intereft, it was his duty to defend : that it certainly was a moft serious hardship, that upon the accusation of a few of the lowest and moft unprincipled voters in any borough, a numerous and respectable body should reFoain traduced and stigmatized in the eyes of that House for the space of a year, in a petition which should at last be proved a gross and groundless libel. He therefore hoped that Tome gentlemen of more experience than himself would turn their thoughts towards providing some just and adequate remedy to this evil, and some exemplary penalties, whenever charges of so gross a nature are preferred on frivolous grounds, + and with unfair purposes. [He was heard with particular attention, the House being uncommonly still while he was Speaking.]

Mr. Rigby agreed with the honourable gentleman in the Mr. Rigby juftness of his complaint. He afterwards, however, thought proper to attempt to ridicule the idea of any member's being concerned for the character of his conftituents, and to throw out some insinuations against the burgesses of Stafford.

Mr. Fox observed, that though those ministerial members, Mr. Fot. who chiefly robbed and plundered their conftituents, might afterwards' affect to defpife them; yet gentlemen, who felt properly the nature of the trust allotted to them, would always treat them and speak of them with respect. He then alluded to the late member for Stafford, Mr. W. and drew a comparison between him and his honourable friend S. not very much to the credit of the former, &c. &c.

Mr. Rigby thought that all such matters were to be judged Mr. Rigbg. of in the coinmittees. It was very hard to lie under the suspicion of such enormities as bribery and corruption. He pitied poor Stafford; but poor Stafford must endure suspicion, and even imputation, for a time!

Mr. Fox fupported Mr. Sheridan, and at length the Mr. Fox. speaker reminding the House that there was no question before them,

Right Honourable 7. Townshend took this opportunity of Rs. Hon,

calling thend.

9. Iown

calling the attention of the House to a motion, which he had given notice of, a few days before, viz. that the thanks of that House be voted to their late speaker. It was not his intention, he said, on the present occasion, to enter into a long argument, to thew she strong, and efsential reasons upon which he grounded the motion he was about to offer to the consideration of the House ; that task, he flattered himself, was altogether unneceffary; for if the House could poffibly have forgotten the merits of the honourable gentleman who hrad for the two last Parliaments filled the chair with so much dignity, the euloges pronounced upon them, on the first day of the session, by the noble Lord and the right honourable gentleman who moved and seconded the proposition, “ that the present speaker take the chair,” lrad, he doubted not, fufficiently refreshed gentlemen's memories, and brought back to their recollection the impression which Sir Fletcher's conduct had made, not only on the House in general, but on the minds of some of its oldest and moft experienced members. Mr. Townshend further said, that though he did not think it indispensibly incumbent on him to state why he made the motion which he should offer, he felt it proper to say a word or two, as to the reasons on which he did not ground it. The first of these had relation to a particular paffage of a particular speech made by the late fpeaker at the bar of the House of Lords, when his Majesty was about to give his royal afsent to a bill for the increase of the civil establishment. He begged leave to say, in express terms, that he did not move the thanks of the House to Sir Fletcher Norton on account of that speech, and he thought it right to fay fo; at the same time he must declare, that he was far from disapproving of that speech; he thought it a wise one, he thought it a well-timed address, he considered it as an incontrovertible proof of the late speaker's zeal and regard for the dignity of the Commons of England, and of his judgment and spirit in selecting a fit opportunity for supporting that dignity. The, House of Commons had themselves adopted this opinion; they had thanked Sir Fletcher Norton for this speech, and by that means fealed their approbation of his conduct. It was for this reason, because the House had already thanked the late speaker for that particulår part of his conduct, that he did not now make it one of the grounds of his intended motion, and it was for this reason only. There was other parts of Sir Fletcher Norton's conduct, while he filled the chair, which peculiarly entitled him to the highest honour a


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