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tion were tried before an incompetent tri- | the papers unnecessary, and would, therebunal, and on that account alone the fore, oppose the motion. Prince Regent had been advised to remit the sentence.
Mr. Whitbread said, he was sure if his hon. friend had spoken from any other part of the House, [Mr. Wilberforce was sitting on the Opposition bench], and the right hon. gentleman had not had the benefit of his glasses, he would have acceded to the motion. He begged to remind the right hon. gentleman, that the object of the motion was not to impeach the Government, or the conduct of his noble relative in the exercise of what he conceived to be his duty but it was to prevent any misrepresentation going forth to the world as to the grounds upon which those persons had been pardoned. Now really, when they recollected all that was necessary for furthering the great work of the abolition, it could not be unimportant to have all the aspersions and calumnies which had been cast upon the Government removed; and to show that it had not taken any part against the abolitionists, but that the sentence had been remitted through a mere defect of form in the trial. He would again beg the right hon. gentleman to recollect that it was the member for Bramber who had brought forward the motion, and that though accidentally among them, he was not one of those who wilfully sat upon that bench.
Mr. Horner expressed his surprise that the right hon. gentleman should oppose the motion, and observed that there was, in the present instance, sufficient reason for parliamentary inquiry. The case was this, Parliament had felt a great and laudable anxiety for the total abolition of the Slave Trade. It was therefore a very natural curiosity in them to inquire, why three persons convicted of being engaged in that traffic, should have received the royal pardon. It should be shown to Parliament and the country, that it was in consequence of some defect in the manner of their conviction, and not from the merits of the case. It should be shown that the authority of the Crown was not exercised to sanction that traffic; for these, as well as for ulterior objects, the motion should be acceded to. If the acquittal arose from some defect in formfrom some inadequacy in the Act, or in the commission-it was important that the House should strengthen the Executive against all future cases, lest similar acquittals might be the consequence of the present system. This casè had been stated by a person high in judicial authority in Sierra Leone (Dr. Thorpe); and by him it had been studiously reported, that they were acquitted, although British subjects, because the crime had not been committed within British territory. Every lawyer, however, must perceive, that by the letter of the law, any British subject who was found guilty of slave-trading might be made amenable to the law. One of these men pleaded guilty. Another was, on the clearest evidence, proved to be guilty. The third alleged that he was a subject of Ferdinand the 7th; it appeared, however, on the trial, that he was a native-born subject, and that his pretence for calling himself a subject of Ferdinand 7 was, that he had served for a certain time on board a Spanish slaveship. He was perhaps a very fit subject for such a sovereign. He did not mean to impute the slightest blame to Government on this oocasion, but he saw no reason for refusing the papers.
Mr. Bathurst deprecated all interference by Parliament, in the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, and in none more than that most valuable one, of extending mercy. He thought the production of (VOL. XXX.)
The Solicitor General said, that the opinion which the law officers of the Crown had given on the occasion, was not founded either on the imperfection of the act of parliament for the abolition of the Slave Trade, or on that of the commission which was sent out to carry the purposes of the Act into execution. There was no question, that whenever the crime was committed, if by a British subject, it was liable and punishable by law. But the opinion was founded on the deficiency of the power of the colonial jurisdiction. This crime was tried by the colonial court of Sierra Leone, though not committed within the territories of Sierra Leone. It might be another question, whether it might not be right to give the colonial court the same powers in criminal matters which the courts here have. But the fact was, that they had not them. He said thus much to show that it was not on the ground of any point of form, but on that of the deficiency of the jurisdiction of the colonial court, that the sentence had been laid aside. On no other occasion did Parliament give a colonial court a power (2 R)
to try for crimes committed out of the colonial territories, and it was not extraordinary that they did not do so in this.
Mr. Peter Moore said, that he had laid the foundation-stone of this debate, as the petitions presented by those persons had been orignally transmitted through him. He had no hesitation in acknowledging, that lord Sidmouth and the rest of his Majesty's ministers would have acted with justice and liberality towards those men; but he must say, that but for his exertions their case would not have been so attentively considered, and that they would now have been perhaps suffering the penalties of their sentence. It had been asserted, that the judge who tried this case had been appointed by the chief justice of the upper court; this he felt authorized distinctly to contradict. But, in reality, there had been no evidence to convict the prisoners. He had both read and written on this subject, and he felt satisfied that the best mode of treating it would be in a committee. There they could examine into the nature and efficacy of the Act, and of the manner of carrying it into execution; and there, too, he feared, they would discover that the present system, under the operation of that Act, had done greater injury to the cause of humanity than the Slave Trade itself, during the unlimited violence of its fury. This alone would be a good ground for instituting a committee, to which should be referred the papers now moved for, forming a mass of evidence, and of valua ble information: He conceived the case of the individuals who had been convicted, to be extremely severe, and those who declared them British subjects, and guilty under the Act, seemed but little acquainted with the circumstances. In fact, only one of them was a British subject, Mr. Brodie, and he had not been engaged in that traffic for near twelve months previous to the passing of the Act under which he had been convicted, and of the others, one was an American and one a Spaniard. Could it be denied, that such an occurrence did not call loudly for inquiry? And where could the case be so well investigated as in a committee? He would, therefore, entreat the hon. member to prefer that mode of procedure, in which he promised him his most sincere co-operation; his time and his exertions should be most sedulously devoted to the attainment of that interesting object of their mutual wishes..
Mr. J. H. Smyth contended, that the doubts of the law which had been expressed by the Solicitor General, afforded an additional proof of the necessity of acceding to the motion.
Mr. Wilberforce, in reply, maintained, that unless his motion were granted, the world would understand, that the crime of which these persons had been convicted might be committed with impunity. He was most anxious that it should, on the contrary, be distinctly understood to be a great and atrocious crime, punishable by the British laws; and that, in the present instance, the individuals convicted of it had been pardoned simply because they had been tried by an incompetent tribunal. Adverting to the calumnies which had been cast on the proceedings of the Sierra Leone Company, he said, that with respect to his lamented friend, the late Mr. Henry Thornton, he had been too long known in that House, and too highly respected for his ability and integrity, to render it necessary that he should be vindicated on this occasion. [Hear, hear!] But he wished to state, with regard to another gentleman, whose character was not so much in public view, he meant Mr. Macaulay, that a greater public benefactor, a more disinterested and indefatigable individual, he had never met with in the course of his experience. As to the wish of his hon. friend, for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the subject, he was convinced, that the more light was thrown on the conduct of the Company the purer would it appear; and he would court the inquiry, were it not that he really did not think it a pleasant thing to spend morning after morning in a contentious investigation on the subject. With respect to the appointment of Mr. Purdy, in contradiction to the statement of his hon. friend, he read an extract of a letter from Dr. Thorpe, in which Mr. Purdy was recommended for the situation. He complained of the small sum, only 96,000l. granted the Sierra Leone Company for civilizing the country around them, while there had been two millions granted formerly for rendering Sierra Leone a depôt for the Slave Trade.
Mr. Addington said, that the judge who tried those persons, not thinking the evidence conclusive, was resolved to recommend them to mercy; but that, subsequently, the question of the point of law was started, on which the pardon was founded.
Mr. Horner said, he understood the three men had, in their petitions, acknowledged their guilt.
Mr. Addington replied, that such was the impression at present on his mind.
Mr. William Smith said, that as no injury would arise from the motion, he hoped there would be no farther opposition to it.
Mr. Barham said, that as we were calling on other nations to put down the Slave Trade, and as many doubts were thrown on our own sincerity, every opportunity should be taken to show the injustice of such calumnies; he thought, therefore, that the papers should not be refused.
The Attorney General defended his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General, from the charge of throwing any doubt on the existing law. His hon. and learned friend had distinctly stated, that Slavetrading by British subjects, was always felony. If it were thought by any one, that the pardon of the individuals in question proceeded from any disposition on the part of Government to relax in their honourable perseverance in destroying, root and branch, the horrible traffic in human blood, such a supposition was utterly unfounded; it arose from a laudable solicitude to keep different jurisdictions distinct and separate-a precaution indispensably necessary for the security of the liberty of the subject.
Lord Castlereagh.-Immediately on its receipt by his Majesty's Governmentabout three days ago.
Lord Castlereagh put it to his hon. friend, whether his object had not been completely answered by the discussion which had taken place? It was manifest, that the indulgence which had been granted to the persons in question, arose not out of the merits of their case, but out of the nature of the jurisdiction by which they
Mr. Ponsonby. I repeat, Sir, that I am anxious, not improperly to press any question on the noble lord, but this is a subject which seems to me of the highest importance. Is it in the contemplation of of his Majesty's Government to take any
had been tried. Under these circum-step aggressive towards France before the stances, he submitted to his hon. friend, the answer from Vienna shall arrive ? - whether it would not be wise to withdraw his motion?
Lord Castlereagh.-I must really beg leave to decline replying to this question.
Mr. Ponsonby, after saying that he would not press it, proceeded to observe, that there was another subject on which it was necessary to make some arrangement. He alluded to his motion respecting Genoa, which had fallen to the ground, in consequence of a House not having been made yesterday. As he understood the noble lord when this subject was lately talked of by them, the noble lord was disposed to grant some of the papers which he required, though not all. It would perhaps save time were he to read the motion, which it was his intention to make; it was as follows: "That an humble
Mr. Wilberforce acquiesced in this proposition; and, after paying a compliment to the accurate manner in which what passed in that House was stated to the public, withdrew his motion.
ruler of France to the Government of this country. I wish to ask the noble lord in the first instance, if such a proposition has been made; and in the next instance, if it has been made, what has been done by his Majesty's Government in consequence? It has been rumoured, that the communication to which I allude has been transmitted to the Court of Vienna. If the noble lord should answer the two questions which I have already put to him in the affirmative, I wish then to ask him, if the noble lord has no objection to the inquiry, and I am not disposed to press any question improperly, when any communication may be expected from Vienna in return?
OVERTURE FROM BUONAPARTE.] Mr. Ponsonby rose and said :-Sir, I wish to ask the noble lord opposite some questions on a subject of the greatest importance. It is very generally rumoured, and the rumour is very generally believed, that a proposition-an overture-a communication-I really do not know by what name I ought to call it has been made by the present
Lord Castlereagh.-I am sure, Sir, that under the present circumstances of Europe, the right hon. gentleman will not expect me to state the nature either of the communication or of the reply. I have no difficulty in saying, that such a communication has been received by his Majesty's Government, and, as the right hon. gentleman has surmised, that it has been transmitted to our Allies assembled at Vienna. At what particular moment the answer may be expected it is not in my power to inform the right hon. gentleman.
Mr. Ponsonby-When was the communication sent off to Vienna ?
Address be presented to the Prince Re-ing Ferdinand the 4th as king of Naples. gent, praying that his Royal Highness I wish to ask the noble lord, with a view, would be graciously pleased to order that not of course to any present, but to some there be laid before the House, copies of ulterior proceeding, whether, in point of any instructions given to lord William fact, the letter so published is substantially Bentinck in 1811, 1812 and 1813, by his accurate, although it may not be so in Royal Highness's command, touching his terms? lordship's conduct respecting the Island of Sicily, and the government thereof, as well as the application of the British forces in the said Island; and also touching his lordship's conduct respecting Italy, and the States and people thereof." He wished to ascertain how far the noble lord might be disposed to accede to this motion, that he might thereby regulate his future proceedings.
Lord Castlereagh replied, that he had no objection to the early part of the motion respecting Sicily; and that with respect to the latter part, although he could not consent to produce lord W. Bentinck's instructions generally as respecting Italy, he was perfectly disposed to produce the part of his lordship's instructions which, perhaps, might be desired by the right hon. gentleman.
Mr. Ponsonby inquired if the noble lord was disposed to consent to the production of so much of the instructions of lord W. Bentinck respecting Italy, as regarded the taking advantage of any disposition to insurrection against the power of France?
Lord Castlereagh, answered, that he had no objection to the production of that part of lord W. Bentinck's instructions. If the right hon. gentleman would communicate in private with him on the subject, they might probably come to an understanding upon it.
Mr. Ponsonby said, that the noble lord appeared disposed to give all that he wanted. He would at present fix his motion for Tuesday, and would, in the course of the evening, avail himself of the indulgence of the noble lord to communicate with him on the subject,
PRINCE TALLEYRAND'S LETTER.] Mr. Whitbread.-Sir, another most extraordinary paper has appeared in the public prints. I mean the Letter from Prince Talleyrand to the noble lord opposite, purporting to be an answer to a letter from the noble lord, desiring his opinion on the conduct which ought to be pursued by Congress towards Naples; and ending with a request to the noble lord to apply to his Court for authority to subscribe a resolution of Congress, recognis
Lord Castlereagh.-I can only say in reply to the hon. gentleman, that the reasons by which I was influenced the other evening in declining to satisfy the hon. gentleman's inquiries continue to operate. Whenever they shall cease to exist I will cheerfully answer all questions, enter into any discussion, and give every information on the subject. I am at a loss to conceive what can be the object of these questions by the hon. gentleman with respect to individual documents and circumstances, seeing that, whether I were to answer them affirmatively or negatively, it is impossible that the hon. gentleman could found upon such answers any parliamentary proceeding.
Mr. Whitbread.-What the noble lord has said is a complete admission of the authenticity of the letter in question. No person who has heard the noble lord can entertain a shadow of doubt that the letter which has been published in the newspapers, and described to be from Prince Talleyrand to the noble lord, is genuine. This, Sir, is not the time to press a debate on the subject. The noble lord says he is prepared, whenever the proper time shall arrive, to give the House every information upon it. If the noble lord really will communicate the whole of the correspondence that passed between him and prince Hardenberg and prince Talleyrand, prior and consequent to the notable letters in which prince Hardenberg, prince Talleyrand, and the noble lord, cut such a figure, Parliament will then be enabled to take a full and fair view of the question.
MOTION FOR A COMMITTEE ON THE CIVIL LIST ACCOUNT.] In pursuance of the notice he bad given,
Mr. Tierney rose to move for an inquiry into the causes of the excesses of the Civil List. The object which he had in view was not so much to move the appointment of a committee, for he considered that no objection would be made to this, so as to couple with the appointment of that committee a power of examining such persons as could explain, and of calling for the production of such papers as might be calculated to throw light on the expendi
less than 4,108,000l. The excess beyond the established allowance was therefore no less than 809,000l. He needed not, therefore, to say one word more in order to prove to the House the necessity for an investigation; and he would ask the House if it was possible to state a case which called more loudly for a strict inquiry? The new æra, which commenced in 1812, had at once produced the terrible excess of 809,000l. But the excess was actually greater in amount; for to make the new æra set out well, 100,000l. had been voted as an outfit. His Royal Highness, therefore, it appeared, had expended more than 900,000l. above the sum allowed to him, in less than two years and three quarters, and that after being allowed to exceed by 124,000l.
ture of the Civil List. He felt that such a case existed in the excess of the Civil List expenditure, as justified him in asking for a power to enable the committee to send for persons and papers; and he admitted that on ordinary occasions such a measure ought not to be resorted to, and that it was desirable in general that as delicate an investigation should take place into the royal household, as possible. He was ready to admit this as broadly as the right hon. gentleman opposite could do. He felt it necessary for him to make out, that there had been such an enormity in the expenditure of the Civil List, such an inefficiency in the labours of all former committees, that unless the House were determined to say, whenever there was a debt on the Civil List they had nothing to do but to pay it, if they did not appoint a committee with such powers, there would be an end to every thing like control over the royal expenditure. If this was not a case for the interference of Parliament, he knew not when a case could possibly be made out. If gentlemen would refer to the last page of the accounts laid before the House, they would see the first reason why brought this subject before them ;-they would find, that since 1812, two years and three quarters had elapsed to the period up to which the accounts before them were made up ;-and they would find, that since 1812, Parliament had provided, for the purpose of squaring the Civil List accounts, the sum of 2,827,000l. voted under different Acts of Parliament. In 1812, there was a sort of recognition of the expenditure of a farther sum of 124,000l. He did complain at the time of this; it was not, however, now necessary to do more than to state, that one of the objections he had urged against sanctioning the expenditure of this excedent, which took place between the years 1804 and 1811, was, that it would beget an indifference to any farther excedent. The result had but too clearly proved the truth of this; for instead of the excedent of 124,000l. which might be said to be sanctioned by Parliament, the actual excedent in the last two years and three quarters, had been 321,000l. The total of the sums of the Parliamentary estimates, the surplus of Exchequer fees, and the excedents, connived at by Parliament, amounted to 3,299,000l.-that was the whole of the sums which they were entitled to expend in two years and three quarters. The
charge during that period amounted to no to what extent the liberality of the public
The next thing he was called on to show was, that the Civil List, for a length of time, had been in the practice of a yearly encroachment above the Parliamentary allowance. In no one case of an average of years had they ever attempted to keep within any thing like reasonable bounds. The knowledge of this was gehenerally kept from Parliament till it was found necessary to come before Parliament to have the Civil List debt paid off. This was one of the inconveniencies of leaving the droits of the Admiralty at the disposal of the Crown. The result of this had been that for seven years together the Civil List excess had been kept from the House by the great amount of the droits of Admiralty; for the right was assumed by the Crown of distributing the proceeds of the droits of the Admiralty either among the captors, or to the Royal Family, or to the Civil List, in whatever proportions it thought proper. In 1783 the Civil List was fixed at 897,000l. In the seven years ending 1797 the expenditure amounted to 955,000l. being an excess of 58,000l. This was such an excess, however, as called for no very serious investigation; and it was easily possible, in such extensive transactions, to have such an excess. The next seven years, ending 1804, the average expenditure was 1,080,000l.; and if they were to set the 955,000l. against it, they would find that it exceeded it by 125,000l. Three committees had been appointed in different years to inquire into the Civil List expenditure, the last in 1804; and they all suggested the propriety of a new estimate being framed, that Parliament might know