pursuant to notice, rose to move that the order for taking the Westminster Election petition into consideration on the 13th of January, should be discharged, for the purpose of postponing it to a future day. The circumstances on which this motion was grounded were these; he had presented the petition on the earliest possible day. In balloting for the petitions, the Westminster had come out of the glass the fourth, and consequently was appointed for the second day for considering Election petitions. Since that time, he understood that it was not supposed he would have presented it so soon, and the agents informed him that there was such a mass of evidence to be collected, as might naturally be supposed in such a city as Westminster, that they could not be ready by the time appointed. The noble lord hoped that the house would not be disposed to make the petitioner suffer from any mistake of his in presenting the petition, and concluded by moving, "That the order for considering the Westminster Election petition on the 13th of January, be discharged, and that it be fixed for the 24th of February."
§ Mr. Sheridan
said, that after the communication which he had had with the noble lord, he would not oppose his motion; but he did not yield from any weight in his lord- 233 Ship's arguments, for these made against his own proposition. He said, that a great mass of evidence was to be produced, and the inference was, that it ought to be produced early, on account of the length of time which the business would occupy. All the witnesses were here; it was not necessary to. send for them to a distance, as in country cases. The parties ought to have considered before, what evidence they had to produce, and not now be coming to the house to gain time to hunt out more. But when his lordship placed the matter on the footing of a mistake of his own, he would not, out of compliment to him, or any other gentleman, move any opposition. He understood from him, that he had presented the petition earlier than the petitioners wished; but as to the observation about the balloting, if it had come out of the glass the fifth instead of the fourth, it would only have made a difference of three or four days; so that there was nothing in that argument But though the question was now respecting delay, he believed that the next notice of the noble lord would be, that we were to hear no more of this petition. They seemed to have employed very judicious counsel, who had, in considering the circumstances, advised them to delay it, and fix it for the very time when these counsel would be on the circuit. This would afford an excuse for further delay, which out of compliment to these judicious gentlemen, he could not of course oppose. He would take this occasion to advert to something that had fallen from a learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Perceval) on a former day, in his absence.—[Hear! hear! from Mr. Perceval.] He was happy to hear this challenge from the learned gentleman particularly as it was a proof that he continued in the same mind on this subject which was not his general practice. The learned gentleman had talked a great deal of his want of popularity, and had observed, with a degree of wit correspondent with its candour, that it was not till the government horses had been yoked to his car that he had been brought in. Now, though his majesty had thought him worthy to hold an office of trust and emolument, he was bold to think, whatever the learned gentleman and some few other clamorous persons might pretend to the contrary, that his claim to public support was not thereby lessened. There was a sort of report that he was about to take another office, namely, 234 the Chiltern hundreds, for the purpose of vacating his seat [A laugh]. He had no objection to take that office, if the learned gent. also would take it, and bring his popularity to the test by facing him on the hustings in Covent-garden [A laugh].
§ Mr. Perceval
said, that instead of forcing this matter forward on a former night, he had expressly abstained from agitating it, on the ground of the absence of the right hon. gent. The noble lord (H. Petty) had, however, ingeniously put into his mouth the expressions now brought forward by the right hon. gent., but he had disclaimed them. He had, however, no hesitation now, nor at any time, to answer for what he did say. The expression, the wit of which the right hon. gent. described as equal to its candour, arose from the accident of his having seen the right hon. gent. parading the streets in a sort of triumphal car, decorated with laurels—[a loud laugh]. The hon. gent.had said, that it was contrary to his practice to adhere to his opinions. That was an accusation that came rather oddly from the right hon. gent., and those who sat with him on the other side of the house. With respect to himself, he was not aware of any such deficiency in adhering to his opinions as the right hon. gent. imputed to him. Certainly his opinions on the subject now before the house had undergone no change, and he saw no reason to change them. With respect to the right hon. gent.'s challenge to meet him on the hustings in Covent Garden, he had to excuse himself, on the ground that he had constituents who had shewn him uniform favour since they had returned him to the first parliament he had sat in. These constituents he was attached to, and was unwilling to desert them for the ambition of representing any greater place. The right hon. gent. had at times spoken of a similar attachment, though he had afterwards found it so easy to get rid of it. At least, such was the amount of what was represented in the news-papers, in the right hon. gent.'s name. But, perhaps, what was, thus stated on the subject, was not authentic. It was easy to credit an excuse of that kind from the extravagancies contained in the speeches imputed to the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Sheridan
said, that when he stood for Westminster, it was with the full permission of the electors of Stafford [a laugh]. It was not, however, the severity of the learned gent.'s remarks that he complained 235 of, but the prejudice they were calculated to cast on a contested election, on which the learned gent. himself might be called to sit as a judge. The triumphal car and the procession which had excited the spleen of the learned gent., was, he would venture to say, one of the most popular triumphs that had ever been witnessed in this or in any other city. [A laugh.]
said, that he had not been aware of the circumstance with respect to the circuit, and that it certainly would be necessary to accommodate the counsel.—The motion was then agreed to.