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House, of the printed newspaper, entitled, person
alluded to. The mistake “ The Times, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 1798," had originated in a misstatement of the forLondon : Printed at the Printing Office, tune of that noble lord. The right hon. in Printing House Square, Blackfriars, gentleman, however, had stated from his by C. Bell, and published by J. Bonsor, personal knowledge, that the account was as containing an account of the debates, utterly unfounded. He now, therefore, and misrepresenting the speeches of some withdrew his sanction from a statement of the members of this House, in contempt which had come to him as a rumour. of the orders, and in breach of the privi- Mr. Secretary Dundas said, he thought lege, of this House." The said paper the hon. gentleman must now have attainhaving been delivered in, and one of the ed the object he had in view in bringing paragraphs complained of read,
in this complaint. It was certainly true Mr. Pitt said :
-I do not rise to oppose that misrepresentation was an aggravation the motion. Not having seen the paper of the breach of privilege in printing the alluded to, it is impossible for me to have proceedings of the House at all : but the any farther knowledge of its contents than breach of privilege was what the House what I have been able to collect from the had to consider. If the hon. gentleman statement made by the hon. gentleman ; was not content with stating the complaint but as it relates to what passed a few even- for the purpose of correcting an error, ings ago, I beg to say a few words on it which probably would be corrected by now. The hon. gentleman has candidly | what had now passed in the very same påstated what then fell from me on that sub- per to-morrow, the complaint must go a ject. And I have no doubt now, that great deal farther than the hon. gentleman what the hon. gentleman then stated was might intend. Every other person who intended by him merely in illustration. had published the proceedings alluded to, But though the hon. gentleman has con- must likewise be called up. He thought, fessed that, according to my statements, therefore, that it would be better at prehe was in the wrong, yet he has not made sent to withdraw the motion. If the obany answer to the question, whether the ject in view was the protection of the prinoble personage to whom I alluded, was vileges of the House, this would be atthe same person he meant. I hope the tained ; as what had already taken place hon. gentleman will have the candour, so would show that the House was deterfar to clear up the point as to give an ex- mined to go to the rigour of its privileges, plicit answer to that question. And now, if they were abused. If it was persisted having said thus much on this particular in, no distinction could be made; and subject, I beg leave to offer a few words those who had been equally guilty of a on the point immediately under the con- breach of the privileges of this House as sideration of the House. I am clearly of the printer in question, would be equally opinion with you, Sir, that if the House liable to its animadversion. take up this business at all, it will be ne- Mr. Tierney said, that this case differed cessary in the first place to advert to the widely from every other. The account breach of the standing order of the House, was inserted several days after the conwhich forbids any publication of what versation had taken place, and professed passes in it. It will be for the House to to correct other statements. As to the consider how far they will wave the con- motion, he thought it belonged to the sideration of the repeated breaches which House to dispose of it. He should not have been made, with regard to this order. withdraw it. He did feel it as a malevo1 should be very sorry to interpose the lent attempt to excite animosities between authority of the House in restricting what individuals, and he was convinced that its has long been permitted, as a medium of insertion had been paid for by some percommunication between this House and sons in this view. the public. But, Sir, the daily occasions Mr. Windham (Secretary at War) said, which are given by the public prints for that since this subject was brought before complaints from every quarter of the the House, they had no option, under House of misrepresenting and misstating their order, with respect to the vote they what passes in it, require the attentive were to give, and he hoped it would have consideration of the House, to devise the effect to correct a practice which he some means of checking or preventing this had even thought before he was in parlia. growing abuse.
liament, and since he had been in it, an Mr. Tierney said, that lord Auckland intolerable abuse, materially affecting not only the dignity of the House, but the in-, up in a few hours ought to be distinguishterests of the country. These disadvan-ed from an account which had been contages resulted from it, independent of the sidered for several days; and he left it to misrepresentations so justly complained gentlemen to judge, whether there was of. He hoped therefore that this com- not here an intention to convert reports plaint would operate as a check, and re- into a vehicle of attack upon the members move any false impressions as to the rea- of the House. sons which had induced the House to per- Mr. Wilberforce said, he stood in a parmit the practice. He assented to the mo- ticular situation in regard to the question. tion, not on account of the injustice which He certainly, the other night, declared it the hon. gentleman had suffered, though to be his opinion, that it became the he should not be less sensible of the in. House, for the credit and the character of justice done to him than to any other individuals in certain respects, but for the member, but on the general ground, that great object which the House ought ala particular case of injustice was vastly ways to have in view, the character of the subordinate to the great object of pro- House of Commons and the safety of the tecting the privileges of the House, which constitution, to provide some remedy were violated by the publication of their against the misrepresentations of the proproceedings at all. However long the ceedings of parliament, which had of late House had connived at the practice, he arisen to a height too great to be allowed should be sorry that the question should to continue. All that had passed since go off without the House giving an opinion had not contributed to alter his opinion. upon the important subject of these privi. But although the article now complained leges. He had stated his opinion on the of by the hon. gentleman might be liable general point. As to the misrepresenta- to censure, yet he must observe, that to tions complained of, it was impossible to take this paper, and this only, as one that expect that daily subject of complaint ought to be the object of censure, would would not occur when the situation of be a very unfair mode of proceeding. persons concerned in the employment, but with regard to the sort of reflection and the influence of every kind to which that had been cast upon him, he could not they were subject, was considered. This help observing, that there seemed to be a practice had grown into a great evil, and disposition in some gentlemen to take it was but of recent origin; nor did he notice always of the manner in which he think that parliament, in former times, had spoke his sentiments in that House, and been so ignorant of what was proper to it was rather insinuated, as if he was acbe done with regard to the regulation of tuated by some angry motives in what he their privileges, and that it was only in said. He thought this a little extraordimodern times that we had discovered what nary to come from some gentlemen who was the proper course to follow.
had for a long time been acquainted with Mr. Marlin wished the matter to be him. Perhaps from a natural warmth of now decided. There was no occasion for temper, he was led sometimes to speak in farther warning, after what had been said a manner that was more acrimonious than a few days ago by an hon. gentleman. He he might wish; his motives, however, were had long observed the misrepresentations always the same, and all his conduct tended which were given of what passed in the to one point, the good of the public. Be House; and thought that those who wrote these things as they might, he should althe reports made gentlemen say just what ways express his opinions freely; and now they themselves pleased.
that he was upon this subject, he should Mr. W. Smith said, that gentlemen did take the liberty of saying, there was a not seem willing to observe the distinction very common practice in that House, between this case and others where mis- which, for its honour and dignity, he representation might exist. However the wished to be discontinued. Gentlemen orders of the House might consider the were in the habit of speaking of one anopublication as the chief offence, gentle- ther in a fulsome style of compliment, in a men's minds must take into consideration way that might, perhaps, please some bythe intention with which a misrepresenta standers, but which neither aided the tion was accompanied. If misrepresenta debate, nor had the least tincture of sintion was an aggravation of the breach of cerity in it; and the very members themprivilege, the intention was an aggravation selves, who used that sort of language in of that misrepresentation. A report made the House, treated it every where else as empty sound and Airting nonsense. This i believe that the account was sent to the was a practice that did no credit to the editor by some person whose object it House, and he, for one, wished to see it set was to misrepresent what had happened, aside, and the language of sincerity adopt- but which person, he feared, he should ed. With respect to the question before never be able to bring forward. Indeed, the House, he never wished to put a stop the editors of papers having no interest in to the fair statement of the proceedings misrepresenting what passed in the House, of parliament. It had long been a desire but, on the contrary, a direct interest in with him, that they should be accurately the accuracy of the accounts they gave, given to the public; and he should look he did not think they would designedly back with pleasure to the moment of his misrepresent any thing. But when an aclife, in which he was aware he had been count was brought to a newspaper several in any degree instrumental in bringing days after the occurrence took place, and about that desired object. But he must was inserted as an advertisement, the case repeat, that if any notice was to be taken was different, and there the intention of by the House of the inaccuracy of news. the misrepresentation was manifest, and papers, this paper should not be the only the evil was greater too than if it appeared one complained of, while there were others the day following the date; in the one equally faulty:
case, the error was likely to be detected Mr. Pitt thought it would be much by comparing one paper with another ; better to defer this debate, as it involved but when it was published several days a point of great importance; namely, the afterwards, that advantage was lost. There mode in which the matter should be dis was no reason, however, in this case to posed of. On the question of the stand. impute to the editor of " The Times” any ing order there could be no difference of design to misrepresent what had taken opinion; but on the other points many place in the House. As it was clear that arguments ought to be urged, and when somebody had brought the account, and they came forward, no doubt the House paid for it as an advertisement, and as he would give to them the attention they could not bring forward the author, it should merit. He would observe, how would be unjust to call upon the House to ever, in passing, that if any determination censure the editor. He would therefore was come to upon the paper now com- move " That the said order be displained of, the House owed it to its jus charged.” tice to adopt the same with regard to Mr. Windham (Secretary at War) obothers. After the long connivance of the served, that the hon. gentleman might House at the publication of its proceed- act as he thought proper, either to call ings, and the gross abuse of that conniv- for, or to desire to withdraw, the attention ance, it would be inconsistent with the of the House from the matter now before dignity or the justice of the House to it, and so far as it regarded the personal make any partial order upon this particu- feeling of the hon. gentleman, no person lar case.
What had already happened had a right to judge upon the matter but might be considered as a fair warning to himself; but when this subject came beothers. If the particular passages com- fore the House, he would say,
without any plained of in this paper were to be pointed disrespect whatever to the hon. gentleout, he thought that the regular way man, that his feeling upon the matter was would be to adjourn the debate to some by far the least important part of it. This future day.
distinction was not much entered into The further consideration of the matter whien this subject was first introduced to of the said Complaint was then adjourned the notice of the House; but now that it till the 31st.
came before the House, he should con
sider the question of a breach of privilege Dec. 31. The House having resumed, upon its broad principle as it affected the according to order, the adjourned con- state, and not as a narrow question of persideration of the said Complaint,
sonal feeling. The nature of the ques. Mr. Tierney said, it was his wish that tion was the same whatever accident had the said order should be discharged. He brought it before the House, or whatever had been assured that the editor of “ The connivance might be imputed to the House Times” paper did not wish to give an in- with regard to the publishing the reports accurate account of what had passed in of its proceedings; and therefore he should the House, and he had good reason to proceed on the question itself, without regard to the mode in which it had been porters of newspapers had been permitted brought forward to the notice of the to publish their proceedings; for it was a House. To proceed on an offence against growing evil. After having had fair the hon. gentleman who had complained warning, they would not have any reason of it, and to treat it as an act of guilt, to complain for they ouglít to be taught as a libel upon that hon. gentleman, with- that there was to be an end of the pracout taking notice of it as a breach of tice of detailing the proceedings of the the privilege of that House, could not House; and although they could not pass be regularly done. To treat it with seve- over altogether the case of the person rity at once in the person of the offender, now before them, but must censure his was what he would not recommend, not conduct in this first instance of their noonly because there were other accounts of tice, yet, if any one should hereafter ofdebates in which the name of the same fend, he should be treated with greater hon. gentleman occurred, in which asper- severity. Perhaps he felt more strongly sions of the most malignant kind were than others the effect of this practice of poured forth and which had hitherto reporting the proceedings of the House, passed in silence, but also because he and therefore was more ready than others thought it would be hardly fair, now that to call for a remedy for the evil of relaxathey had a particular individual in their tion of the duty of the House, it being power, to proceed to extremities with him only from that relaxation that such a in the first instance, and, as it were, on a practice could possibly arise. He knew sudden and without notice. There were à number of persons who held all many instances of crimes in which the these things extremely cheap, and thereoffender was not punished to the utmost fore would be ready to look with compasrigour in the first instance: in the case of sionate feelings towards those who became a highway robbery the law was to be pro- the object of the resentment of the House nounced at once, but not so in offences of for publishing any of its proceedingsinferior degree; and in some cases where who would smile at all these irregularities the complexion of the thing was uncer- as trifles below the grave attention of a tain, where the intention of the party was House of Parliament. He had no great doubtful, he could not think of calling for respect for that sort of wisdom in itself. the vengeance of the law. So in this case, He knew how things apparently trivial in although the thing itself was decidedly their nature produced prodigious effects. illegal, yet as some persons might have To things in their appearance trivial at been led to think that the opinion of the first sight, was owing the downfall of legislature upon the propriety of conniv. France. Things of a trivial nature were ing at the matter was altered, and that passed by as unworthy of notice, and, in such conoivance to a certain degree war- less than twelve months afterwards, there ranted the practice, those who acted, tumbled a whole kingdom into a heap of however erroneously, on that opinion, had ruins, and with its fall there appeare a claim, if not upon the justice, at least lamities which no mortal, not bereft of the upon the generosity of the House. But feelings of humanity, could behold without it would be dangerous to indulge any dis- horror. He therefore wished not to posposition to lenity in the second instance, sess that species of philosophy which for that led to a repetition of the argu- teaches us to despise trifling things; ment by which the practice was attempted on the contrary, he saw great things aristo be supported; for if the connivance of ing out of those that were apparently yesterday be a reason for to-day, to-mor little. Indeed, the whole system of hurow the reason will be stronger than it is man nature showed how attentive we now, and indulgence will give birth to ought to be to those things that were the assumption of right; and thus the commonly called trifles, since the existHouse, if they did determine upon the ence of human life frequently depended first case that came before it, would soon
If, therefore, this doctrine be debarred from vindicating, without the was applicable to the safety of the human imputation of harshness, its own privilege. frame, how could it be otherwise with reHe thought that the conduct of the House gard to human institutions? He thought would be rigid, if it proceeded to extre- the practice that had prevailed now for a mity on this sudden occasion ; but he considerable number of years was calcuthought that an end ought to be put to lated to produce very serious consethat relaxation of duty by which the re- quences: for the general tendency of
publishing the proceedings of that House was formerly about shutting up the galwas to change the government from a lery. He was of another opinion: if the representative, to an entirely democratic House showed a disposition for yielding
But to take a consideration of two any point, its authority might, indeed, things, a purely democratic government, be made use of to destroy itself, for the and a representative one, such as ours connivance of the House had been abused, was at present : let us take a view of what and so might his mildness: passing over was urged by some as the desirable per- such a breach of privilege after complaint fection of our system, and what never, in made, would be an act of the House; it fact, existed in the world that all the would have its authority ; that authority people were actually represented, as well would be quoted in answer to any comas virtually, and then let us see what the plaint of another breach of privilege ; and effect would be of publishing the proceed thus the authority of the House would be ings of parliament to all the people. made to destroy itself. This, however, What would be the natural effect of such was not viewing the point in its worst copublication? It must be that of changing lours. The House might protect itself at the present form of government, and of any time, when a breach of its privileges making it democratical; for it was calling came before it; but this was an abuse of every day on the public to judge of the the constitution, and led to that condiproceedings of parliament. By these tion of things in which there would be no daily publications the people were taught to room for prudence to conduct us—when look upon
themselves as present at the the question would be, 'not for a reform, discussion of all the proceedings of parlia- but a revolution. He should, for one, wish ment, and sitting in judgment on them. to see the House revert to the practice This might be a very good and a very of times, when we had a constitution that wise change when effected; but that he was worth something. The House should was not now arguing : he was only show. now follow the same plan as they did foring that this change would be the conse- merly, unless it was clear that
other quence of the practice to which he had was better, and he had not heard it yet alluded. The change of the present go- alleged, that the modern was superior to vernment of the country into a democra- the ancient practice in this particular. tical government, might be very good in But to go back to the consideration that the opinion of some; but certainly none really ought to guide the House, to conwould dispute it was a very great and ma- sider the effect of this practice in a disterial change-that it would be a material tinct point of view: the principle on which change, the proceedings of this day illus- the House proceeded in some things was, trated. How came this practice of re- that what passed in the House would not porting the proceedings of parliament into pass out of the House, except what any being? It was not much abovetwenty years member might possibly relate to his ago since it was first tolerated. Some of friends. This could never be mischievous, the predecessors of the Speaker now in for, besides the discretion which would the chair (Mr. Cust or Mr. Onslow for generally guide the conduct of a member, instance) would have been a good deal and would keep him from repeating any surprised that a practice of this kind was thing that might be of an inflammatory tento be at all debated in the House of Com- dency, it must be confined to a few hear
Either of them would have called ers, and those above the lower classes of forth, not the discussion, but the imme- society, therefore the less easily tainted diate authority of the House, to take into in their principles. But, under the praccustody any person who had presumed to tice of reporting in the newspapers, every publish any of its proceedings. But now, thing that was said in that House, and which it seemed, the House was not to do this; could not be said with safety any where, the printer, poor innocent! had no evil else, was under the cover and authority of intention; and therefore the motion, al- parliament, and by this legerdemain of rethough involving a breach of privilege of porting scattered all over the kingdom; that House, was to be withdrawn. This so that the most rank sedition that was was very modern, and he would take ever yet thought of was not confined leave to say, very mischievous doctrine. to the hearing of the House, where the There would have been no difficulty about education and condition of the hearers it formerly. Gentlemen might say, there would shield them from its influence, but was no more difficulty now than there was made public to all degrees and condi