§ , prayed to be allowed to meet and confront such alle- 1057 gations; to give their evidence at the bar of the house touching the proceedings during and since the late election for Westminster. Mr. Moore then alluded to the extraordinary petition that had been on the last night presented by an hon. member (Mr. Biddulph), and said that he had it in his power to prove by evidence at the bar, that the mode resorted to for the purpose of obtaining signatures to that petition was a foul fraud against the very respectable electors of Westminster, whose names had been thereunto subscribed.—He then presented a petition to the purport above mentioned, signed Henry Burgess, James Wallis, F. Homan, and A. Johnston.
thought the petitions premature, as they seemed to pre-suppose the allegations in Mr. Paull's petition already substantiated.
§ Mr. Sheridan
was convinced that the noble lord did not mean any thing unfair or dishonourable, and that therefore he could not mean to summon witnesses against him, and deny him the opportunity of refuting their assertions by opposite testimony. Arraigned as he was of having either himself of by his agents, tampered with witnesses, it surely could not be intended to deny him the privilege of disproving the truth of the, charge at the bar.
thought that the petition had a just claim to be laid on the table of the house, and that when the proper time came, the petitioner ought to be heard at the bar, in his own defence.—The petitions were then ordered to lie on the table.
The order of the day having then been read, for taking into consideration the petition of James Paull, esq., the same was accordingly taken into consideration, and lord Folkestone moved, that the petitioner be heard by himself, his counsel, and witnesses, in support of the allegations contained in his petition.
declared, that feeling every desire that this transaction should be investigated in such a manner as to satisfy the public, and anxious to remove the slightest pretence for accusing the house of an intention to deprive the petitioner of the means of supporting his charge, he, for one, would be willing to allow, that, the counsel should be heard; but he wished the house to observe, as a guide to their proceedings, that since the passing of Mr. Grenville's bill, it had been the practice to abstain from hearing at the 1058 bar, evidence which might tend to defeat the ends of justice in a subsequent committee. He trusted that the house would confine the examination simply to the point of tampering, and that if, in the outset, any question should be proposed affecting the merits of the election, the examination would be stopped.
§ Mr. T. Grenville
was of opinion that the present case ought to go to a committee. While the house looked only to the examination of facts in having the case proceeded upon at the bar, a precedent might be established which might tend to much inconvenience, and much mischief hereafter. He was, he confessed, more inclined than others seemed to be, to doubt of the propriety of the house having proceeded even so far as it had already done. But if it was improper to have gone so far, it would be much more improper to go farther. The question before the house seemed to him, if not an integral part of that which was reserved by the Grenville act, for the decision of a select committee, at least so nearly to border on it, as that it would be impossible to keep the two objects distinct. He had no doubt that under the Grenville act, a committee was perfectly competent to do the justice required in this case, if the facts alleged could be substantiated or completely falsified. The committee might Make a special report, if either should be found guilty of improper practices. If no inconvenience could arise to public justice, as he thought none could in this case, he was of opinion the house ought not to interfere with a jurisdiction so nearly connected if not altogether identified with that which it had, by a solemn act, put out of its own hands, and delegated to its committees. He did not suppose that the members in the house unsworn were a less desireable tribunal than the sworn members of a committee. But there was no doubt, that a sworn committee, with its attention particularly directed to the objects it was to try, was as eligible a tribunal as the house unsworn. He was so strongly convinced that this was a case that ought to be reserved to a committee, that he felt an indispensable duty to state his opinion to the house, though he could not hope that any opinion of his would have such weight with the house as to lead its decision. If, notwithstanding the considerations he had thrown out, the house should persevere in the present course, he was of opinion that there 1059 would be great danger in hearing of counsel. By the interference of counsel, it would be rendered next to impossible to keep this case wholly distinct from the question of the validity of the late election which was to be tried by the committee between the parties in this case; a question which the house was by law prohibited from interfering in. If the whole matter was not sent to the committee, the only way the house could reserve that part which belonged exclusively to the committee, was by keeping the examination of the witnesses in its own hands. An advocate who looked only to what was best adapted to his present object, could never act up to the delicacy which became the house upon this head, and there would thus be an endless necessity for the interposition of the house. If, however, the house should agree to have counsel, as well as to examine this matter itself, he hoped that it would not be permitted to such counsel to attempt to instruct the house with respect to its privileges; and that particular care should be taken to prevent him from involving the two cases, which it was so essential to keep distinct.
thought the house ought to protect the witnesses summoned to give evidence at its bar, and that no gentleman having a seat in the house ought to speak of witnesses about to come to the bar, in the terms of reprehension lately used a right hon. gent.
thought it necessary to oppose himself a moment to the impatience of the house, in order to suggest the justice and propriety of allowing the benefit of witnesses and counsel to all the parties, as well as to the one that wet already allowed to be so heard.
§ Mr. Sheridan
wished the house to go directly, into the business. As to counsel, he had no objection to give his opponents all the counsel in the realm. For himself he asked no counsel, but the justice and rectitude of that honourable house. What the petitioners connected with him might wish for, he knew not.—On the suggestion of lord Howick.
was instructed to acquaint the counsel when called to the bar, that it was the pleasure of the house that be should confine himself to the matters fact alleged in the petition, to which he meant to adduce evidence.
counsel for Mr. Paull, was then called in, and being instructed by the 1060 Speaker to this effect, he proceeded to state the matter of the petition, the charges contained therein, and the nature and character of the evidence by which they were to be supported. The first witness, Mr. Drake, was a lieutenant in the navy, and had had a share in those glorious actions which had attached so much glory to that service. The second witness, Weatherhead, was also in the navy. The other witnesses were men of low and humble stations. But it was only persons of low situations that any one would attempt to tamper with, and the evidence of guilt should be sought from the scenes where it had been committed. The story Mr. Drake would tell, would perhaps strike the house with so much astonishment, as almost to appear incredible. But he would here again represent to the house, that the effect should be taken in the mass, and that each part ought to be regarded as confirmatory of the rest. With respect to the object of these charges, he was a man of very high talents and character, unstained in the present instance; as such, Mr. Paull, as well as himself, were willing to describe the right hon. gent.; and they wished the present transaction might not be found of a nature to give an opinion different from what had been entertained. When the whole of the evidence should be before the house, he was sure it would not seem too much to ask for the interposition of the house. Mr. Paull asked the house to take his witnesses under its protection till the trial of his petition. Without that it would be vain to expect justice. It was in vain, if tampering with witnesses were allowed, to hope that the house would be fairly constituted, or the people fairly represented.
William Drake was then called, and deposed that he had been a lieutenant in the navy; that he had entered it, to the best of his recollection, in 1785, and quitted it in 1802; that he had married a natural daughter of Mr. Sheridan and had been acquainted with him upwards of 5 years; that he became acquainted with Mr. Paull after the election, and that this acquaintance had begun in consequence of the manner in which Mr. Sheridan had treated him; that he had got a great many votes for Mr. S. during the election; that he at that time saw Mr. S. every day, and that Mr. S. made him several promises; but that after the election he could not procure access to Mr. S., whose porter had 1061 grossly insulted him; that Mr. S. had afterwards sent several people to him with a view to bias him; that he had been sent for by Mr. Sheridan in February last to the house of Mr. Homan, where he had drank several bottles of wine; that he had a private conversation with Mr. S. in a room it the house of a Mr. Edwards, where Mr. S. had offered him money to procure for him a letter which Mr. S. had sent to E. Harris, a Jew; that Mr. S. had offered to provide for him and his father, and told him to keep out of the way, and offered him money, and said that he would settle the matter about the summons; that he had several communications with Mr. S. on the subject of the letter; that no one except himself was present at the writing and signing of that letter by Mr. S.; that he had informed Mr. S. that E. Harris could procure 6 or 8 votes, but would not do it except he signed the letter. The letter had been signed by Mr. Sheridan in his own house, 3 or 4 days after the commencement of the election, but not in presence of any person but the witness. The letter had been signed between 11 and 1 o'clock in the day, but he could not exactly say on what day of the month. He had delivered no other letter, either during or since the election, to E. Harris from Mr. S., but had delivered one to him previous to the election, which had been signed also by Mr. S. E. Harris had offered him a sum of money to procure a letter for him from sir P. Parker, or sir S. Hood. In the interview he had with Mr. S. at Mr. Edwards's, Mr. S. told him that he had acted improperly, in having gone out of town during the election, though he had constantly attended, and sent in the names of the voters he brought up every morning. When he asked Mr. S. what he was to do with respect to the summons he had received to attend the committee, Mr. S. desired him to get out of the way, and to leave the rest to him. Mr. S. said, he would provide for him, as they were old friends, by getting him a situation under government, which he had been promised many years. Mr. Johnson had also asked him to get the letter from Harris, and he had replied to Mr. Johnson, that if Harris did not give it up, "by G—d he'd knock him down." Mr. Homan, also of Frith-street, had said to him that he was wrong in writing to Harris, and that it would be a good thing to get the letter, if possible, from him. Mr. S. had told him, 1062 when he asked him to get the letter from Harris, that he should not want any money, as Mr. S. and he were old acquaintances; and he had reason to believe that this money was offered him to induce him to procure the letter front Harris. Witness being further examined, would not say that Mr. S. authorized him to offer any specific sum to Harris to get back the letter, or that he even ever mentioned the word money, but insinuated in general, that every possible means should be used to get it back, observing, that the getting back the letter was of the most serious and important consideration. He had, however, offered 30l to Harris, to prevail upon him to return the letter, which money he would pay out of his own pocket, and of his own authority. He had got acquainted with Mr. Paull, by means of a letter he had written to him, stating the ill-treatment he had received from Mr. S. and his servants; but Mr. Paull had not instigated him by money or any other inticement to get possession of the letter, but merely advised him to tell what he knew, but to advance nothing that he would not be ready to swear to. When he got possession of the letter, he never mentioned the circumstance to Mr. Paull or to any of his agents, nor, indeed, to any person whatever, before he mentioned it this night at the bar of the house. Yet, upon Cross-examination upon this point, he confessed, that he himself had not only seen the petition that had been presented to the house, but that he had dictated a part of it to Mr. Powell, more particularly that part which referred to the letter; and this he had done a few days before the petition was presented. Mr. Paull certainly expressed a wish that the letter might be got and produced before the committee, but he never promised money, or any kind of reward for that service. He allowed, however, that his intention was when he got hold of the letter, to use it against Mr. S. He never heard that any suspicion existed that the letter was a forgery; but he destroyed it himself, because he did not conceive it to be of any use. He got a second letter from Mr. S. during the election after the first had been destroyed; did not know the date of it; had seen Mr. S. Sign it in one of the rooms at the Shakespeare tavern; when cross-examined, he said, that the letter was signed in Mr. S.'s drawing-room, while he himself was in another apartment, and there- 1063 fore did not see him actually write his name upon it; but verily believed that it was Mr. S.'s hand-writing; made different answers, at different times, respecting his means of procuring money; had half-pay as a lieutenant in the navy, and several pensions from the king, and also one from the Patriotic Fund, yet was never confirmed a lieutenant in the navy; never had been examined at Grenwich, nor had ever presented any memorial to obtain his pensions.
During the examination of the witness, frequent questions were started, and discussions naturally arose as to the propriety of the course of examination adopted by the learned counsel. The witness and counsel were of course ordered to withdraw, and await the decision of the house on such points.
§ General Phipps
observed, that when counsel and witnesses were ordered to withdraw from the bar, it was not to be allowed that a petitioner should take the advantage of an indulgence which the house granted in such case, not to insist or the witness withdrawing more than a foot or two below the bar, instead of outside of the door; it should not be permitted that a petitioner should lay hold of such an opportunity for conversing with the witness, or making observations on whatever might fall from any hon. member of that house.
from below the bar, lamented that he had not an opportunity of fairly answering what was said in that house with reference to himself. But when he heard an observation so gross as that which had bean made by the hon. general— Here the petitioner was prevented from proceeding any further, by the authority of the chair, and was ordered to withdraw.
The Speaker observed, that the house would judge for itself what it was proper for it to do after the proceeding that had just taken place, and which appeared so him so extraordinary that he should abstain from denominating it. He wished also to collect the sense of the house as to its practice, in the case of petitioners who prayed to be heard by themselves or their counsel whether having made their election to be heard by their counsel, they did not relinquish their right to be heard by themselves.
had been so surprized at the extraordinary conduct of the petitioner that he had only been prevented by his 1064 feelings from calling the attention of the house to the gross, insolent, and outrageous proceeding. He thought the house was called upon to adopt some measure, in vindication of its own dignity; and recommended that the petitioner should be brought to the bar, and acquainted by the Speaker with the sense entertained by the house of the impropriety of his conduct.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
urged in mitigation, not in justification of the petitioner, the feelings that must have been excited by the statement made by the hon. member under the gallery.
§ Mr. Whitbread
had never had his eye off that part of the house since the commencement of this investigation, and assured the house that Mr. Paull had never gone out.
submitted whether it would not be better than the house should not have any direct communication with him, but that whatever was to be done on the occasion should be done through the serjeant at arms.—The motion of lord Howick was then agreed to, and the petitioner and his counsel having been called in.
The Speaker addressed him in the following terms: "Mr. Paull, I am directed by the house to acquaint you, that, in its judgement, you have been guilty of great impropriety of conduct, and committed a gross outrage upon the privileges of the house. I am also directed to acquaint you, that you having made your election to be heard by your counsel, are no longer entitled, according to the practice of this house, to be heard by yourself. I am also again directed to inform the counsel that they confine their examination to matters of fact respecting the tampering with witnesses, and suppressing of evidence."
was next examined. He stated, that he had been long acquainted with Drake, who had been a shipmate of his. Drake and he called at Mr. Sheridan's, in Somerset Place, on the 19th of Feb. He there saw a very motley crew, such as he had never met before, and such as he wished never to meet again. He waited sometime in a large room with this company; when Mr. S. came in. Mr. S. addressed himself principally to Drake, with whom he continued in close conversation, elbow to elbow, for above ten minutes. They were at the opposite side of the room from where witness stood. He did not hear any part of their conversation, nor did he think it was audible to any other person in the room. 1065 There was a confused noise among the persons present, some of whom stood between him and Mr. S., and prevented that gentleman from addressing him, as he several times attempted. At length, however, Mr. S. did address him, and talked to him about the motion which he meant to propose in the house of commons, for postponing the trial of the election, saying, he knew he had rascals to deal with, and would act accordingly. Witness told Mr. S. at this time, that what was said of the letter in possession of Harris, was unfounded, and that Mr. S. was misinformed, for that he was sure Drake would have nothing to do with a spurious letter. Drake wrote the second letter in the presence of himself and Harris. Witness saw this letter before it was signed, and afterwards, and the words "treasurer of the navy" were attached to the signature. All but the signature was in the hand-writing of Drake. Mr. S., after finding that he was unemployed, promised him (witness) an appointment at the interview of the 19th of Feb. He desired him to call at Somerset-Place about two o'clock on the next day. He did so call, conceiving it very improper to make an appointment and not keep it. In this call he was accompanied by Drake. When they entered the room, they found an old woman in black, an old man also in black, and a young man strutting about the room, By-and-by another character appeared; and soon after Drake called him, saying, "you are not aware of what suspicious company you are in here: that fellow, who is just come in, is a Bow-street officer." Upon this, he and Drake withdrew from the room; but, on their way out, he was met by a man of the name of Burgess, whom he understood afterwards to be Mr. Sheridan's solicitor. This man immediately saluted him with great familiarity, and claimed an acquaintance with him. But what struck him was, that the man could not point out any place where he had ever met him, and he could not remember to have ever seen the man before in his life. While Burgess was in conversation with Drake and himself Harris came up and joined them; and told Drake that Mr. S. meant to take him up on a charge of forgery. Drake was indignant, and he and witness went away, and at the first convenient tavern Drake took out his pencil and sent a very sharp note of reproach to Mr. S. Witness received the Speaker's warrant to attend the committee on the 24th of Feb., and received another summons since. He met Mr. Johnstone about 1066 the 12th of Feb. at Mrs. Drake's, and heard Johnstone complain of Mr. Drake's misbehaviour towards Mr. Sheridan, and state that Drake was in a carriage with Johnstone the night before. Witness admitted that he had been discharged by Capt. Trollope, under whom be served; but denied that any crime was imputed to him. His discharge was merely the result of the captain's. pleasure. The first letter for the use of Harris was written by him; but the second, which was much stronger in its terms; was written by Drake himself. The first was objected to by Harris, principally because it had the letters M. P. annexed to Mr. S.'s signature. He did know who wrote these initials; though he wrote the letter, he had nothing to do with the insertion of M. P.; when Drake brought him this letter signed by Mr. S., he saw, for the first time, the letters M. P., and they, as well as the signature, were quite wet. Harris did certainly propose to Drake to give him some money if he would procure him a letter from sir H. Parker or some other flag-officer, recommendatory of him in his business of slop-selling. He never saw any money paid on this score, but was aware of the contract. He really did believe the signature to the first letter was that of Mr. S., but he thought M. P. quite absurd, as no parliament existed at the time. He advised Drake to destroy the first letter. Drake thanked him for the advice, after he had acted upon it. He never gave this advice under any impression that the signature was a forgery. He entertained no such uncharitable suspicion. He had no more disposition to suspect the genuineness of the second than that of the first letter. Witness was asked by Mr. S. whether there were not 4 or 5 witnesses present at the only time that he ever happened to see him? Yes.—Did I not say in your presence, that I never conversed with any one upon the subject of the Westminster election unless three or four witness were present? A. Something to that effect.—Q. Were you not introduced to me by. Drake, upon that the only time I ever spoke to you, as a clergyman? A. No, I am no cushion-thumper.—Q. Did not Drake describe you as the Rev. Mr. Weatherhead? A. It might be so, but I did not notice it.—Witness further deposed that Drake was to be remunerated in money for his trouble in getting the second letter from Mr. S., and that Harris promised his vote and interest for Mr. S. at the election Witness 1067 sent at the supper given at the Bath Hotel in Piccadilly, where Harris, Daws, and Drake were. He heard no conversation about the letter in the possession of Harris. He did not hear any sum of money offered by Drake to Harris, to induce him to give it, nor any request whatever, upon the subject John Richards stated that he had been employed in the election by Mr. Downes, and that he had received money from Burgess by recommendation of Downes, for his services and expences. On being cross-examined by Mr. S., he said he had never seen Mr. S. with Mr. Burgess. He had not written a threatening letter to Mr. Downes, but he was obliged to acknowledge that he had, since the election, written a letter to Mr. T. Sheridan, complaining that he had not been sufficiently remunerated, and threatening to go to Mr. Paull's side, and to do every thing in his power against Mr S., unless his demands were complied with. Being examined by the petitioning counsel he stated, that he had been present at conversations in which Wallis had stated, that the warrants of the Speaker would be out when the consideration of the petition was postponed, and those who chose might go out of the way, and would receive money to that purpose.—Jeremiah James likewise spoke, to different meetings at the Peacock, and afterwards at the Barley Mow, Drurylane, where Pullen, Richards, and Sperring, had met Wallis, who, he said, had treated them with a dinner at the Barley Mow, and allowed them money for their loss of time in meeting him on the days mentioned. Wallis had told them that the warrants would be out in consequence of the petition being postponed, and that those who went out of the way would get money to do so. W. had asked him what he meant to do; but he would not tell him. W. said, every one in danger might go away. Witness being asked what he meant by that? he said that he imagined the danger referred to was of those, who had voted being bad votes.—Daniel Richardson, spoke to the same circumstances. He himself had no occasion to go out of the way. The witness was pressed to explain what he meant by that danger; or, why it should have been proposed that any should go out of the way. He gave no precise answer. At last he dropped down overcome with fatigue or agitation, and was carried out.—Ann Richardson spoke to the conversation of Wallis, at the Peacock and the Barley Mow. She added, that he said money to 1068 the extent of 6 or 7 guineas would be given to those who would go out of the way. Wallis had given 5ss. a day to her husband, James, &c. for the loss of their time the days they met him; but at last he declined making them any more allowances, as, he said, he had lost 7l. in the lottery.—J. Balam said he had seen Wallis on the 8th of Jan., who had requested him to speak to Sperring to keep out of the way, and that Mr. Sheridan would find the money. He had been at the house of Burgess with Wallies, Pullen, and Sperring; that Burgess gave him 5l for his loss of time. Sperring had told him, that he had voted for Paull and Hood, on the first day in his own name, and on a subsequent day had voted for S. in the name of Bryan, giving a different description of his abode. Sperring said, he received 10s. from Stephen Taylor, in the presence of Burgess. Wallis said, he was employed by Burgess. When pressed to state why he was to keep away, or make others do so, he could state no particular reason. He said, he had given information to Mr. Paull's agent, of what he had mentioned. He had seen Mr. Powell frequently, had told him what had passed when he saw Burgess, and Powell had taken down what he had to say.—Christ. Richardson knows Balam. He had gone to see Burgess, and met Wallis coming out of Burgess's house in Curzon-street. He went with one Gallant and Wallis to a house in Half-moon street, when Wallis told them that when the petition was postponed their services would be of no force, and those who chose might go out of the way. The witness had no reason to keep out of the way. He said, he had communicated to Mr. Powell what he did in trying to see Burgess, and in meeting Wallis. It was one John Balam that took him to look for Burgess; and the object was to see whether Burgess would offer them any money to keep out of the way. They did not see Burgess. He had seen Mr. Powell a day or two after, and Powell had given him 10s. for his loss of time the two days he went with Balam to Curzon-street. He had gone from Carey-street, where Mr. Paull's committee sat. He had seen one Percy at the committee in Carey-street, who knew he had been at Burgess's, and who, after he had gone the first day, encouraged him to go back to see what Burgess would say. Being asked whether it was his object to get money from Burgess? he said: "No:" but a former answer being read to him, in 1069 which he had said the contrary, he admitted, the object was money. He had gone not to ask, but to see if Burgess would offer any money. Being examined by Mr. Sheridan, he denied that he bad lately been locked up with a parcel of pickpockets, in the black-hole, Catharine-street; but he had not very lately been at Marlborough-street office.—There not being any more witnesses to be examined, the learned counsel were informed that on Thursday next they might proceed with their summing up, being mindful, however, that, as they had been directed to do in their opening, they should confine themselves to such matters only as went to support the allegations in the petition.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that, in a case where a wish was expressed to punish others for impeding or preventing the regular course of justice by tampering with witnesses, he had never heard of a set of witnesses who more justly merited the censure of the tribunal before which they gave their testimony, than those who had then been examined at the bar of the house, particularly the witness Richardson.
§ Sir J. Anstruther
thought that the hon. gent. was too limited in his idea of censure; he (sir J.) was of opinion that Balam was the principal man: it was he that employed Richardson; and it was necessary, for the ends of justice, that some means should be taken to secure the witnesses, as was usual in a court of criminal judicature, to answer for their scandalous prevarication.
§ Mr. Sheridan
intimated that, if he should think it necessary to go into any evidence or his case, it would amount to a recrimination against those who brought the present charge before the house.—Adjourned.