Address For Returns
in rising to to move an Address for—
said that, under ordinary circumstances, he should have been content to see whether these Returns would not have been granted without opposition; but the circumstances were of an extraordinary character, and he thought he should be able to prove to the House that he was justified in moving especially for that portion of the Returns which would give the dates at which certain right hon. Members, still Members of the House, and also certain distinguished persons formerly Members of it, were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council. There was, he was sorry to say, the strongest reason to believe that, solemn as the Privy Councillor's oath was understood to be, it was not always respected. If, for instance, certain statements correctly represented as having been made by a right hon. and distinguished Member of that House had been really made, it would be seen that the confidence which was reposed in persons occupying the honourable position of a Privy Councillor was sometimes violated. It would be in the recollection of the House that he had a few days back given Notice that he intended to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, which, however, he was informed by the Speaker it would be irregular to put, and he thereupon stated it to be his intention to call attention to the subject on a Motion which the hon. Member for Hackney(Mr. Fawcett) had announced it to be his intention to bring forward. The Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney had, however, never come on, and the result was that he had been deprived of the opportunity of putting the Question which, he submitted to the House, related to a matter of grave public importance. The Question was as follows—"Returns of the form of the oath or oaths taken by persona sworn Members of the Privy Council; and, showing the respective dates when the following persons were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council:—The late Edward Geoffrey Smith-Stanley Earl Derby, the late Viscount Palmerston, the Right honourable John Earl Russell, the Right honourable Member for Bucks, the Right honourable Member for Greenwich, and the Right honourable Member for the University of London,
That being the Question of which he had given Notice, and being unwilling to assume that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had uttered the words attributed to him without giving the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to deny this before taking any further steps in that House on the subject, he, as a Gentleman and fellow Member, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the following communication:—"To ask the right hon. Member for the University of London whether he is correctly reported in The Daily Telegraph of the 19th of April to have spoken at a Liberal banquet at East Retford with reference to the Royal Titles Bill as follows:—'I strongly suspect that this is not now brought forward for the first time. I violate no confidence, because I have received none; but I am under a conviction that at least two previous Ministers have entirely refused to have anything to do with such a change. More pliant person have now been found, and I have no doubt the thing will be done. And, if so, whether he will state further to the House to which Ministers of the Crown he referred in such speech; and whether the information upon which he made such statement was communicated to him by any one holding the position of a Privy Councillor.
"28, Hamilton Terrace, N.W.,
"28th April, 1876.
"Sir,—You will, no doubt, have seen in the public journals this morning the terms of a Question on a public matter of grave importance, which I gave Notice of putting to you when Mr. Fawcett's Motion on the Royal Titles Bill in the Order Book of the House fixed for this day came on for discussion. That Motion having now been withdrawn, and the Speaker having ruled that the Question cannot be put in the ordinary way, I take the liberty of requesting your attention to the words imputed to you, as quoted in my Question, and to be informed whether the report of your speech in The Daily Telegraph to that extent is correct or not?—Your obedient servant,
"C. E. Lewis.
To that letter the right hon. Gentleman replied—"The Right Hon. R. Lowe, M.P,"
"34, Lowndes Square, S.W.,
April 29, 1876.
"Sir,—My recent speech at Retford contained nothing relating to you, and I therefore owe you no explanation of anything in it. You will not, I hope, therefore, think me discourteous if I refuse to answer your question."—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
He might, perhaps, here be allowed to observe that he had not asked for any explanation, and all he wished was to ascertain whether the statement to which he referred had been correctly attributed to the right hon. Gentleman. In reply to that letter of the right hon. Gentleman he wrote as follows:— "28, Hamilton Terrace, N.W."ROBERT LOWE."
"May 1, 1876.
"Sir,—In acknowledging the receipt of your note of the 29th ult., I would remark that you appear to have mistaken the character of my request, and not to have appreciated my motive in making it. So far from assuming that you owed me personally any explanation of your speech at Retford, I have, as it must be perfectly obvious to you, treated the matter as a public one only, and, as a Member of the House of Commons, I have sought to put the Question publicly to you. Failing in that endeavour, I then thought it only fair to you, before I took any further step, to give you an opportunity of denying the words attributed to you if they have been incorrectly reported.
"In exercise of your undoubted right, you have declined to say whether they are correct or not. I have, now, therefore, as a matter of fairness and courtesy, to give you notice, that on a Motion for certain Returns connected with the oaths of Privy Councillors which I propose to make on Tuesday next, I shall draw attention to your speech at Retford, and thus give you an opportunity, in the face of the House and of the public, to contradict or explain the extraordinary statements attributed to you in the public papers.
"In the meantime, owing to the course you have taken, I think I may fairly assume, primâ facie, that the reports are substantially correct.—I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
"C. E. LEWIS.
Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who has communicated to me that he was unfortunately unable to be in his place in the House to-night, thought the subject to which those communications related of such importance that he became a voluntary witness in the matter, for he addressed the following letter to the Press, which has appeared in all the newspapers within the last few days:—"The Right Hon. R. Lowe, M.P."
An ex-Prime Minister would never have condescended to write to the public Press on the subject unless he had found that there was great anxiety respecting it, and he regarded the denial of the right hon. Gentleman as a proof that he considered the rumour so widely circulated ought to be publicly contradicted. He asked the House to consider the character of the statement attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London. His statement was that, according to his conviction, upon some evidence which he would no doubt give to the House—for it was impossible that he could have made such a statement without any evidence whatever—two Prime Ministers had entirely refused to have anything to do with a change in the title of the Queen, but that more pliant persons had been found, and that he had no doubt the thing would now be done. He (Mr. Lewis) was sure the House would feel that he was entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London who were the Ministers to whom that request was made. The matter did not, however, end there. The Times, which had given a report of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman on the 19th of April, published a supplemental report on the following day, and in this report a most extraordinary statement appeared. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said—"It was rumoured some little time back that Her Majesty had been pleased to suggest to two late Prime Ministers the proposal which has now been embodied in the Royal Titles Bill. To the best of my belief, I was not named as one of them; and, for reasons which seem to me important, I thought it better to take no notice of an unauthenticated report, which might at once die away. Further attention has, however, been given to the matter within the last few days; and, although I deem that the merits of the question cannot in the smallest degree depend upon the truth or untruth of any such allegation, I think it my duty to state, so far as I am myself concerned, that neither this nor any other suggestion was mentioned by me to Her Majesty during the time when I had the honour to be in her service."
What was there involved in the statement but that Her Majesty had asked somebody to do something involving serious damage to her Crown and dignity? What was it but a charge that the right hon. Gentleman who was now Prime Minister had not the courage which previous Prime Ministers had—that he had not the straightforwardness and manliness to tell an exalted Personage that he would not submit to do anything which would be injurious to her Crown and dignity? Now, was it possible that this statement of the right hon. Gentleman could be true, without there having been a gross breach by two persons at least of the Privy Councillors' oaths? He wanted to know authoritatively the form of that oath, but he had some idea of its contents, and he should ask the House to assume that the oath contained these clauses: a Privy Councillor was sworn to advise according to his best discretion for the Queen's honour and the public good, to keep the Queen's counsels secret, to avoid corruption, to help and strengthen what should be resolved, to withstand demands to the contrary, and to do all that a true Councillor should for his Sovereign. If the right hon. Gentleman had spoken the words which were attributed to him—and he had taken care not to deny or explain them—what had he done? He had stated that two previous Ministers of the Crown had broken the secrecy to which they were bound by the solemn oath laid on them. How was it possible that such a request could be made known to any third person except by her who made it or by those to whom it was made? Was it to be supposed that the exalted Personage who was the object of the right hon. Gentleman's attack had communicated the secret which he said was made known? What was the result? That two of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, or two of the persons who had filled the office of Prime Minister, had broken the secrecy to which they were sworn. It would be in the recollection of the House that when the Government of India was changed in 1858, the late distinguished Nobleman (Lord Derby) was Prime Minister. He would leave it to any one who knew that Nobleman and his character for integrity and honour to say whether he was likely to be one of the two persons who had broken the Queen's council. The next person who would be named was the noble Lord (Earl Russell), who was the Nestor of the other House, and who was once a distinguished Leader of the Liberal Party. Were they to be told that he was the person who had broken the secrecy of the Privy Councillor's oath? He did not believe it. The next person to whom this imputation would apply was the late Lord Palmerston, who had been beloved by all parties. Was he the person who would break the secrecy of his Sovereign? Was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), the Minister who once resisted and was so pliant now? It was not necessary to discuss it. There was one other Minister left—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who thought the rumour or suggestion came so near to his door that he condescended to the platform of the public Press in order to contradict the statement. They all knew what remarks were made in private, and that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and the late Lord Palmerston were stated to be the persons referred to. Well, one had denied it, and the other was dead and could not tell the true story. This was not a mere after-dinner speech. The right hon. Gentleman had received a retainer to make a great oratorical display; but whether his precise object had been to abash and throw cold water on his Party, or to inspirit them to future success, he (Mr. Lewis) had never been able to discover. At one moment he seemed to be a Liberal Cassandra wishful to destroy the hopes of the young Members of his Party of ever returning to the Elysian region of the Treasury Bench. At another time he seemed overcome with a spirit of personal bitterness, and he not only displayed that feeling, but admitted he was possessed of it; but there was too much of the prepared character about it to suppose that it was an after-dinner oration delivered by a gentleman who did not know what he was about. It was a deliberate political attack by an ex-Minister on his opponents; and they were entitled to ask him, as an ex-Minister of State, and as an ex-Privy Councillor, on what authority he had made the statements which he (Mr. Lewis) had read. He could not suppose the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to degrade his Sovereign—they knew he had no objection to degrade the Conservative Party; but the right hon. Gentleman not only intended to insult the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, but he insulted all of them. ["Order!"]"It is not merely that pressure has been put on Members of Parliament—more than political pressure—but the whole matter has been carried out in such a way as to cause in my mind the most painful apprehensions that it is only the beginning of much evil, which might by the least effort of manliness and straightforward- ness have been averted, if the Minister of the Grown had had the courage to tell Her Majesty he would not, any more than his predecessors, lend himself to such a course, which he believed in his conscience to be injurious to her Crown and dignity."
I must remind the hon. Member that he must not attribute an intention on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to insult Members of this House.
said, he did not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman intended to insult Members of that House; but, whether intended or not, what he said was an insult or affront. He would read the words of the right hon. Gentleman. He said—
If he did not intend to insult them he (Mr. Lewis) asked what was the effect of that language? The Bill was passed in that House by a majority of 105; passed not by the Members on that side only, but by the assistance of many Members of high standing on the Opposition side of the House; and they were asked to believe that, though it was carried by their votes, it was carried without the assent of their minds. Was it too much to say that the effect of such a charge was to insult a body of Members who had just as much right to express their views and give their vote as the right hon. Gentleman himself? He was not an out-and-out supporter of the Government; but he solemnly declared that he never gave a vote in that House more in accord with his convictions or with more thorough satisfaction and more thorough desire to see the measure carried into effect. It was a common practice for Gentlemen opposite, when they were out-voted, to say to Gentlemen on this side—"If you had voted as you speak in the Lobby the result would have been different." That might be the way in which they voted when in office; but hon. Members on his side of the House were not so pliant. All he would ask of hon. Members opposite was to believe that hon. Members on his side of the side of the House were as conscientious and desirous to vote according to their views as themselves. He did not intend to detain the House any longer on the subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the information desired. In thinking of the right hon. Gentleman's remarkable speech he was irresistibly reminded of the line—"This Bill was passed against the unanimous opinion of both Houses of Parliament; and it was passed under a pressure on Members of Parliament of more than political pressure."
He did not know about "Impiger," but the last three words seemed exactly to describe the frame of mind in which the right hon. Gentleman set to work not only to abuse the much-abused Titles Bill and its authors, but also the most exalted Personage in the country."Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer."
I rise to order. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the right hon. Gentleman set to work to abuse the most exalted personage in the country. I ask whether that is in Order?
The expression that the hon. and learned Member made use of is certainly out of Order. Many of his observations have been irrelevant to the subject now before the House. In so far as the observations of the right hon. Gentleman were pertinent to the Motion now before the House, the hon. and learned Member was no doubt entitled to refer to them, but many of the observations which he made had nothing to do with it.
said, he thought he had shown sufficient ground for bringing the subject before the House. He believed hon. Members would agree with him in thinking that Gentlemen occupying the position of Privy Councillors should not either cast aspersions without justification upon those who filled high and distinguished offices or bring against individuals charges which were merely founded on idle rumours.
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Returns of the form of the Oath or Oaths taken by persons sworn Members of the Privy Council:
"And, showing the respective dates when the following persons were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council:—The late Edward Geoffrey Smith-Stanley Earl of Derby, the late Viscount Palmerston, the Right honourable John Earl Russell, the Right honourable Member for Bucks, the Right honourable Member for Greenwich, and the Right honourable Member for the University of London."—(Mr. Charles Lewis.)
The hon. and learned Member for Londonderry has got that which it is not every man can boast that he has—that is a "vocation in life." His vocation is that of interrogation. Like Hob Roy, however, the hon. and learned Member may be said to live too late. He ought to have lived in the glorious times when interrogation was seconded by certain physical appliances which made it very difficult to refuse to answer anything that might be asked. There is a mixture of questioning, and threatening, and preaching in the hon. and learned Member's speech which irresistibly takes my mind back to the glorious days of the Inquisition, and makes me feel how dreadful it would be if I had the hon. and learned Member to cross-examine me with a lever in his hand ready to crush my bones if I did not answer his questions. But the feeling is accompanied by one of great relief that the hon. and learned Gentleman, although I am persuaded that he would if he could enforce what he wishes, does not possess that power; and that after all it depends upon me whether I will answer him or not. In his zeal he has overlooked the fact that the oath of Privy Councillors, which he asks the House to order, is now part of an Act of Parliament, which anybody can turn up for himself; and in also asking that certain names of Privy Councillors, with the time at which they were sworn, shall be produced, he asks for that with which any almanack can supply him. If I had been guilty of a breach of the Privileges of this House nothing could be more proper than for an hon. Gentleman to call attention to the matter, or if I did anything in this House which an hon. Gentleman felt as offensive to himself, nothing would be more proper than that he should at the time draw attention to it, but that is not what the hon. and learned Gentleman does. If hon. Members follow his leadership—which I trust they will not—they will find themselves in this embarrassing position, that whenever there is a convivial or political meeting in the country, whether attended by a Member of Parliament or not, at which certain things are said which may not be altogether to any hon. and learned Member's liking they will be obliged to take notice of it, for it is to be observed, I am not called, upon for explanations either as a Member of Parliament or a Privy Councillor, but simply as a spouter. The hon. and learned Member certainly presents his case in a ludicrous aspect; but there is a serious side to it. Is the House of Commons prepared to take up the line of business which the hon. and learned Gentlemen has marked out? We all of us attend a great many political and other meetings in the country, and there are a great many which we do not attend, where the language used is perhaps not always strictly conventional, and where I confess I should not like to see it so. Is the House of Commons prepared to lay down a rule that it is competent for any Member to come here, with a newspaper report in his hand, and say, Mr. So-and-So—who may be an honest burgess or a Member of Parliament—has used such and such language? And then, although the privileges of the House have not been invaded, whatever opinions may have been expressed in a coarse and vernacular manner, this hon. Gentleman is to deliver a curious oration, and then, to bring himself in Order, is to move for something which can be got out of an Act of Parliament or an old almanack. Is that a course which the House of Commons is prepared to sanction? Is the House, the representative of freedom of discussion in this country, going to undertake a kind of general censorship and punish freedom of speech exercised by orators in the country? What it is really asked to do is to constitute itself a tribunal of eloquence or good taste with respect to what people may choose to say in the country. I say that nothing can be more opposed to the dignity of this House or contrary to the purposes for which we are sent here, or likely to engage us in most unseemly quarrels in which we are certain to get the worst. Because if the House of Commons indulges itself in lecturing and abusing persons who make speeches in the country, it must expect that those persons will indulge themselves in lecturing and abusing the House of Commons; and so by these attacks made upon provincial meetings you will be laying the foundation for endless questions of Breach of Privilege in which you are sure to come by the worst. I therefore hold it to be the duty of every man who loves freedom, of discussion, and who wishes to keep up as high as he possibly can the character of the House of Commons, to set his face against that which the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to do, and in pursuance of that resolution I shall answer none of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions. He has already answered every one of them himself in a tone as offensive to me probably as he could easily have devised. I shall leave him to be content with his own answers and his own questions, resembling in that respect the mother of Sissera, who put questions to herself and answered them. I certainly will not imitate the example of such wise ladies. I entirely deny any right on the part of a Member of this House to call me to account for anything I may say at meetings in the country, unless I infringe the privileges of this House or make a personal attack upon an hon. Member. We can discuss these political topics among ourselves here upon Motions regularly and properly brought forward, and not upon sham Motions like this. Let us adhere to that practice, and not drag down the House of Commons and bring it into collision with every assembly in the country which may happen to hold language or express opinions which are contrary to the wishes or feelings of the majority of the House of Commons for the time being.
I regret, Sir, that this Motion has been brought before the House; but I regret still more the speech by which it has been met by the right hon. Gentleman. He has given us a picture of what will occur at our usual provincial political meetings; and he has very truly said—what everyone must feel—that nothing would be more unwise, and nothing could be more unnecessary than that expressions used on these political occasions, which may offend a Party—which may be deficient in taste and even in truth—should be called in question, and subject to the criticism of the House of Commons. The dinner which the right hon. Gentleman attended, and which has given rise to this Motion, was, however, in my opinion, one to be rather distinguished from the common order of these provincial and political gatherings. However we may indulge in what is styled the rough-and-ready expression of our political opinions, whatever they may be, and whether Conservative or Liberal—however we may sometimes exceed the limits of propriety, of gentlemanlike feeling, or taste, it is not, I believe, the practice in this country to seize that occasion to make comments on the conduct of the Sovereign. And the right hon. Gentleman must have felt during the whole time while he was attempting to vindicate that freedom of speech necessary at the meetings of Englishmen, that it was not the boisterous festivity of the East Retford assembly that led to these painful inquiries, but that it was the circumstance that a politician—and a politician of a distinguished character, who had held high and responsible office—while the country was interested in the discussion of a great public question, should have taken the opportunity of making statements which were monstrous if they were true, but which if they were not true must be described by an epithet I cannot find in my vocabulary. Sir, did the right hon. Gentleman or did he not—not merely intimate, not insinuate, but I say broadly, state to the people of this country that the Royal Titles measure was introduced to the notice of Parliament by the unconstitutional and personal influence of the Sovereign? Did he or did he not take that occasion to hold up to public prejudice, and I will say public infamy, the Chief Minister, asserting, under circumstances detailed by the right hon. Gentleman with minuteness, that after that Gracious Sovereign had been balked and baffled in her appeals to previous Ministers, she had found a pliant and a servile instrument who was now ready to do her will? [Opposition cheers.] I believe I have stated the case fairly, as an hon. Gentleman opposite acknowledges by his cheers; and having done so, let us calmly examine the facts. There were two Chief Ministers to whom the Sovereign of this country had appealed to carry a measure similar to the Royal Titles Bill—a measure with that abject, at least—and who had refused to undertake an office which they believed was dangerous to the State and to the honour of the Crown. That statement, made by a Privy Councillor, and by one who had been a Cabinet Minister, naturally affected, and does affect to this moment, the opinion and feeling of the country. Was it true? If the statement were true, it ought not to have been made. That, however, is a part of the case on which I shall not pause to dwell. That must be obvious to every hon. Gentleman, and it has been touched upon sufficiently. I confine myself on the present occasion to asking, Is it true? Who were these two preceding Ministers? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) was naturally one who was immediately in the public mind, and all of us admiring, and a large portion of the country justly placing their trust and confidence in him, must have been immensely influenced by the conviction that he had given such advice to Her Majesty, and had refused his sanction to the introduction of such a measure. The Member for the University of London served in office under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in more than one post, and posts ultimately of extreme importance, and such as naturally would entitle him to the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and therefore giving an additional plausibility to any statement he made which might depend upon the degree of confidence subsisting between him and the Member for Greenwich. The Member for Greenwich took occasion, in a most precise, and I will say almost solemn, letter, at once to meet that statement. Observe, in comparison with the conduct of the Member for Greenwich, the view of the position just taken by the Member for the University of London. This is, it seems, according to him, a rude, boisterous meeting, according to the custom of rough-and-ready Englishmen, in an obscure corner—he hardly remembers the name of the place, and really forgets the name of the society which assembled. It was nothing more than what happens every day in England. We are pursuing the most insignificant of objects, and it is absurd that the House of Commons should condescend to be aware of their Existence. But that was not the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, one of the leading Members of this House, and one exercising a just and great influence on the opinions of his countrymen. The right hon. Gentleman felt it to be an occasion on which his duty required that he should at once meet it in a manner the most precise and the most solemn, and he told the country that it was false. Now about the other Ministers? There is another Minister to whom this might apply. I am myself not in the category, because I do not suppose, being so servile at the present moment, that I was much bolder on a former occasion. But we come now to the position of the late Earl of Derby, unfortunately no longer among us. I lived with him, so far as political circumstances are concerned, in as much intimacy as probably over existed between two public men. I believe I shared his confidence entirely, and it so happens that, at the period to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, when at least the circumstances to which he refers would naturally have occurred—the change of the Government in India, and the transference of India from the Company to the Crown—I was in hourly communication with Lord Derby, because at that time the new India Bill was preparing by Lord Ellen-borough. He was its author, and was believed by all England to be the man most capable of such a task, though the Bill was not successful. From technical reasons it had become necessary that the Bill should be introduced into the House of Commons instead of in the House of Lords, as was originally intended. As I was then the Leader of the House of Commons, I was naturally called upon to undertake the task, and I was with Lord Derby every day and every hour in preparing for the fulfilment of that duty. I frequently discussed with him and Lord Ellen-borough the subject whether the Crown should, under these circumstances, take a new title in India, and there were reasons of State which rendered it most expedient, on the whole, that this question should be postponed. Indeed, I was so acquainted with these affairs that I was—which is the fact—myself personally responsible for the Royal Proclamation issued at that time, and for that particular description of the Queen's titles which have been quoted more than once in our debates. I think, therefore, I am justified in saying that I express a most profound conviction—judging from my intimacy with Lord Derby, and my recollection of all the circumstances of the time—in stating that no proposition of the kind was ever made to Lord Derby. Well, there remain two other Ministers whose confidence I did not share, and respecting whom, personally, I cannot speak. There is the venerable Lord Russell, and Lord Palmerston, whom we all re- collect with, regard and honour. Now, this matter having agitated the country, and having been brought before the attention of Parliament, it is most unwise that it should be left in doubt, or that there should be any hesitation in the public mind, because otherwise these calumnies crop up again, and these reckless speeches are again in time a source of authenticity for statements which have not been authoritatively denied and destroyed. Sir, I speak with the greatest difficulty at this moment, and I can only speak with the indulgence of the House. I have the authority of Her Majesty to make a statement on her part; but, at the same time, as I have felt it my duty to place before Her Majesty the fact that it is not according to the Rules of the House that the name of the Sovereign can be introduced into debate without the permission of the House—it therefore rests with the House whether I shall go on. If the House desires it, I shall do so. [The right hon. Gentleman resumed his seat.]
As the House is aware, one of the Rules of the House is this—that the introduction of the Queen's name into debate, with a view to influence the decision of the House, would certainly be out of Order. At the same time, if the statement of the right hon. Gentleman relates to matters of fact, and is not made to influence the judgment of the House, I am not prepared to say that, with the indulgence of the House, he may not introduce Her Majesty's name into that statement.
There is hardly a question before the House, and the statement I have to make is not to influence opinion. It is merely this statement on the part of Her Majesty—that there is not the slightest foundation for the statement that was made that proposals, such as were described in the Retford speech, were ever made to any Minister at any time. Sir, the whole thing is utterly unfounded—merely that sort of calumnious gossip which, unfortunately, I suppose, must always prevail, but which one certainly did not suppose would come from the mouth of a Privy Councillor, and one of Her Majesty's late Cabinet Ministers.
said, that in the then state of the front Bench below him, he would venture to make one or two observations. He had listened with very great regret to this debate; but he had listened to no part of it with anything like the pain with which he heard the last words of the Prime Minister. Not sharing the advanced tendencies of the Party opposite, he recoiled from the exhibition they had just witnessed. He had heard with the utmost regret the name of Her Majesty introduced into that House in the course of one of that class of debates to which he believed the men with the highest tone of mind listened to with the greatest possible pain—he meant a debate based on a personal attack on a distinguished Member of that House. He did not justify the language used by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) at Retford. Imputations ought not, in his opinion, to be thrown upon the character or motives of a Minister of the Crown, and least of all upon the Prime Minister, who was the first man in the land. He desired to point out that there were one or two radical errors in the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry(Mr. C. Lewis) and of the First Minister. It seemed to have been lost sight of altogether that the right hon. Gentleman, as reported, distinctly disclaimed having violated, because he had not received any confidence whatever on this question. That being so, it at once lowered the level of his speech and statement from the character which the Prime Minister's observations had rather tended to give it. It reduced it from the level of a speech of an ex-Minister to the level of ordinary conversation or gossip. The right hon. Gentleman claimed no authority for his statement. [Cries of "Conviction."] The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, said he spoke from conviction; but he said that his conviction was based on no authoritative communication. Now, what had the Prime Minister done? He had stated that the subject of the Queen's title in reference to India had been elaborately discussed between the late Lord Derby and himself. The subject had therefore been discussed by one Prime Minister at any rate, and with a future Prime Minister, and could they not imagine such a matter getting about and readily taking a mistaken form? The Motion was based upon the erroneous assumption that such an important matter would be decided by a Prime Minister on his own authority. Surely that was a radical error. It would, beyond doubt, be brought before the Cabinet and discussed there, and might not confidential communications of that nature get further in the course of years? He could only, in conclusion, express his regret that this personal matter had been brought forward. It was one which did not tend to raise the character or promote the business of the House.
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the support he had received from his own side of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman supposed that he (Mr. Lewis) was disappointed or surprised by the course he had taken, he was entirely mistaken. He had never believed for a moment that the Motion, or any number of Motions, or his speech, or any number of speeches, would have induced the right hon. Gentleman to explain the statement he made at Retford. He, therefore, did not suppose that his Motion would have had the effect of removing from the public mind the impression which the right hon. Gentleman there intended to convey, or which, at all events, had been conveyed. He was quite satisfied with the discussion that had taken place, since it had proved most conclusively that the right hon. Gentleman could not, or would not, explain or deny the speech he had made; and that there was not a word of truth in the statement which had been attributed to him. It had further proved most conclusively that the right hon. Gentleman had not a word to offer in his defence for the grave speech he made, and which induced the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), his chief, to write a letter to a Sunday newspaper which circulated throughout the country, denying, upon his own authority, the imputation which had been so made. He begged leave to withdraw the Motion, being satisfied that they had ground to powder all the suggestions which had been made on the other side of the House, and throughout the country, in reference to the conduct of the Government and the Conservative Party on the Royal Titles Bill. ["Divide."]
The House divided:—Ayes 91; Noes 37: Majority 54.