§ On the motion of Mr. Courtenay, the order of the day for the attendance of John Hope, esq. was read. Whereupon he was called in; and the Speaker communicated to him the proceedings of the House of the 9th instant, in the matter of the complaint of a printed letter, signed John Hope, and addressed to Mr. Abercromby. The said printed letter; being shown to Mr. Hope, he confessed himself to be the author thereof. Upon being informed by the Speaker, that if he had any explanation to offer to the House this was the time for doing so,
§ Mr. Hope
said:—Sir, I beg to return my grateful acknowledgments to this 1669 honourable House for the opportunity which has been afforded me, and of which I gladly avail myself, of offering some explanations for the publication of that letter which has been voted by this House to be in breach of their privileges.—Sir, it is not my intention, or my purpose, to state any thing which can he at variance with the resolution of the House communicated by you, declaring that letter to be in breach of their privileges. I am fully sensible that the letter may be construed as a breach of their privileges; though I hope there are many reasons which will induce the House to consider it rather as a technical and venial than as any serious breach of their privileges. And, Sir, with the feelings, and with the principles upon which all my opinions are formed—entertaining the most profound respect for this House—regarding its privileges as not less valuable to the people than to the representatives of the people—regarding the representative branch of the constitution with the feelings of one who values, dearer than life, the liberty which it has secured and maintained—with these feelings and with these principles, I own, Sir, that in the cruel situation, in which recent occurrences placed me, there was nothing which gave me more pain or more regret, than that the only effectual and direct course which I thought I could take to vindicate my own character and honour, led to that which may be considered an apparent act of contempt against this House. I am induced, however, to believe, that, in disposing of this case, you will hale regard to the circumstances in which that breach of privilege was committed, and to the situation and feelings of the party who is to answer for it.
Sir, the House, I believe, is aware generally of the circumstances in which this breach of privilege was committed; and I hope they will give me credit when I state, that that letter was not published with any view of contemning the authority, or of invading or decrying the privileges, of this House. My object was, the vindication of my private and professional character and of my public conduct, and the correction of the misstatement—as they appeared to me, the unaccountable and unjust misstatements, upon which grave and serious imputations had been founied.—Sir, in that publication which went forth into the world as the report of a recent discussion in this House, there 1670 were accusations against me, founded alleged delinquency in the discharge of public duties, of a very serious and grave description. Had these accusations related merely to alleged illegality or irregularity in any part of my official conduct, I should have waited with perfect composure and with perfect confidence, until a regular inquiry might be made respecting my conduct. But the charges contained in the report of that debate were of a different, of a more serious, and, permit me to say, somewhat of an intolerable character. The charges were those of malicious prosecution and of wanton oppression—of having instituted a prosecution, in which it was said I never intended seriously to insist—for the inhuman, the horrible, the revolting purpose of prejudicing the cause of another person who was about to stand his trial in a case of life or death. And, Sir, the ground upon which that motive was imputed to me—the way in which colour and plausibility seemed to be given to the charge—was by adducing in evidence of the alleged personal hostility and malignity against the individual who was so to be put upon his trial, certain proceedings which had taken place in one of the Scotch courts antecedent to the duel which gave occasion to that trial, and for which proceedings it was asserted that I was responsible.
Sir, these accusations imputed to me, that I had engaged in a private cause with a degree of furious zeal and malignity and personal haired, which had actuated me afterwards in my officialeconduct—These accusations imputed to me, that I had sacrificed the interest of my supposed clients, and aggravated the offence for which they were prosecuted in order to gratify and to indulge those feelings—imputed to me, that, to indulge those feelings, I had advocated a plea which it was said was calculated to lead to crime, to bloodshed, and to murder—imputed to me, the employment and the abuse of professional exertions and opportunities, in order to gratify personal hostility—imputed to me, in short, the absence of all those qualities, without which, of course, no counsel can ever hope to obtain public confidence—without which no gentleman is worthy of acting in any court of law. These accusations were accompanied also with imputations of a more serious description, to which I do not wish to trust myself even to allude. Need I say, that these were imputations 1671 injurious to my own feelings? Need I say, that these imputations were injurious to my character? Need I say, that these imputations were eminently calculated to injure me in my professional prospects—to withdraw from a young man, who may have been fortunate in obtaining professional employment, the confidence and estimation which he was desirous to secure? And, Sir, upon what ground was it, that those, imputations were founded? I never was counsel in the cause in which those proceedings had taken place. I knew less, of those proceedings than the hon. members by whom those statements were made. I was totally ignorant of the contents of the paper to which allusion was made, or appeared to have been made, from the report of the discussions in this House, until it became necessary for me to become acquainted with it after the publication of that discussion. For a considerable period after the paper had been lodged in court, which was in the course of the month of January last, I was myself ignorant that in the usual course of business, according to the rule and constant practice of the Scotch courts, I had signed that paper for one of my brother advocates, without even knowing the names of the parties in the cause, when the paper was brought to me. I state with perfect confidence this mode of signing pleadings for another counsel to be the undoubted rule and constant practice of the Scotch courts—a rule and practice necessary for carrying on business:—and there are some honourable members perhaps in this House, to whom that rule and practice must be perfectly well known. Sir, the gentleman who was the party in that action, in which it was supposed I had acted as counsel—he who alone was entitled, as it humbly appeared to me, to complain—had made enquiry whether I was counsel, and was satisfied upon that point.
Now, Sir, under these circumstances, I ask the House with perfect confidence, whether it, was possible for me to see such imputations,—affecting my professional character—affecting my integrity and my honour as a gentleman—affecting my character as a counsel—to see such potations disseminated throughout the whole of this country, in that way in which public opinion is most powerfully and most authoritatively influenced influenced, with out some feelings of warmth, and without 1672 being irresistibly urged to take the most effectual and the most immediate means for my vindication? Sir, with respect to the imputation of having wantonly and maliciously prosecuted the individual in question, without intending to bring him to trial, I have stated in that Letter—and that statement was one of the motives of publication—I have stated that my intention and my wish was—not to maintain the appearance of prosecution, without bringing it immediately and regularly to a conclusion—but, that my intention and my wish was to have brought the case to a conclusion at the ensuing assizes at Glasgow, long before that trial could take: place for the purpose of prejudicing, which it was said that the prosecution was instituted and protracted.
Sir, under these circumstances, feeling that the whole of the imputations against me had proceeded on a complete and total misstatement of facts, arising, of course, from some misconception or some erroneous information—I say, Sir feeling that all those imputations had proceeded upon a total misstatement of facts, I ask, how it was possible for any man against whom such imputations were directed, not to feel warmly, and not to embrace the first opportunity of endeavouring to remove the impressions which such statements might have produced, by a contradiction and a defence as public as the way in which those imputations were circulated throughout the country? Sir, perhaps to those who are engaged in the more important matters which claim the attention of this House, it may be difficult to convey an adequate idea of the impression produced in narrower circles by personal imputations, and by personal attacks of that description; or how much the opinion of people in distant parts of the country, in provincial towns and narrow circles, are influenced—blindly and implicitly influenced, by the statements and opinions which appear to come from a quarter which stamps so much more authority upon them than any other species of attack. Sir, I may state, that the greatest, and, to me, the most, painful sensation, was produced by the report of that debate, and by the imputations contained in it against myself; and, under all these circumstances, I adopted, therefore, a step which I thought in the whole circumstances of the case, even at the risk of a breach of the privileges of this House, I was warranted by my feelings and the 1673 situation in which I was placed, in taking, and which, at all events, I knew would attain the object of vindicating my character in the opinions of those upon whom the imputations against me had made an impression. If, Sir, in the manner in which I have done so I have been betrayed into any warmth of feeling, I own that is a part of the case as to which I feel little anxiety. I cannot believe that it can be necessary to say much in my defence to the gentlemen of England in order to justify me in their opinion, because I felt as a British gentleman, and as a British counsel, ought to feel, when his integrity, his honour, and his character, are unjustly impeached—because I felt as a British counsel ought to feel when his rights and privileges as a counsel, and his professional judgment and character are unjustly attacked: and I am not much afraid of being condemned by those whom I now address for the expression—be it the hasty and warm, at least, I am sure, the natural, the honest, and, I hope, not unbecoming expression, of feelings, which, I am sure, they, in similar circumstances, would be ashamed not to entertain.
Sir, with these observations I submit my case to the will and to the good pleasure of the House, expressing most sincerely my regret, that the publication of that report should have placed me in circumstances which have led to an apparent act of contempt of the authority of this House, and wishing—respectfully wishing—to be understood not to deprecate, from any personal motives, any of the consequences of that breach of privilege, in so far as the exercise of the authority of this House may be considered necessary in order to vindicate its own dignity and may be reconcileable with the substantial justice of the case.
Mr. Hope then withdrew, amidst loud and continued cheers.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, that he had, never been more shocked than at hearing the cheers in which hon. members opposite had indulged in approbation of what had been said at the bar. They were assembled there as judges, and by such expression of their feeling, gentlemen rendered themselves parties in the case at issue. It was impossible to expect that impartial justice should be done when such conduct was observed.
then moved, "That Mr. Hope, having confessed himself to 1674 be the author of the said letter, is guilty of a breach of the privileges of this House."
Sir. F. Burdett
said, he could not conceal from himself that there existed a general feeling of the great danger likely to arise from their frequent assumption of a power of this sort, and he thought it his duty to urge the constitutional objections which he entertained against its exercise upon occasions like the present. He was not in the House when Mr. Hope was at the bar, nor was he actuated by any personal feeling upon this subject; be the upon which he (Sir F. B.) acted was the same. The House would bear in mind the circumstances of the case. The letter in question arose out of a report in the public papers, of what was said to have passed in that House on a former evening. That report might have been an unintentional, or even a malignant misrepresentation of what really had been said; but were they, nevertheless; to prevent the party whose character and honour suffered in consequence of such a publication, from doing himself the justice of contradicting it? This was an assumption of power on he part of the House which, were it claimed by the Crown itself, would not be for a moment tolerated. The parties in this case felt their characters traduced by a report which they found in the public papers; they complained of that report and asserted that its statements were untrue. But how this could be called a breach of the privileges of that House, he was at a loss to determine. It was absurd to talk of the daily reports in the public papers as breaches of privilege. If this doctrine was to be maintained and acted upon, neither the public press, nor private individuals would be safe. There was a report published, stating that Mr. such-a-one said so and so of such an individual Was not the party alluded tot liberty to contradict those statements in such a manner as he conceived most effective he being of course the best judge of his own conduct? This, he contended, any individual had a right to do without any charge of breach of privilege. If, indeed, a person out of doors called a member to account for what he had said in his place, such member would himself be guilty of a breach of privilege if he did not immediately bring the case under the consideration of the House. But here 1675 the case was different. Let hon. members recollect what the privileges of parliament were, and for what purposes they were given. They were given, not for the purpose of exercising power over others, but as a protection for members themselves—they were given as a shield to protect members from the power of the Crown, while they were discharging their duty to the public. The privileges of parliament were never given as a sword of power to be used against the people. It was never intended that that House should, by an ex post, facto law, declare an act to be criminal which the party did not know to be so at the time he committed it. How was a person out of doors to know what was or was not a breach of privilege? If a man knew exactly what was or was not a breach of privilege he would no doubt avoid placing himself in jeopardy; for no man would willingly put himself in the power of an assembly who were at the same time the judges and the jury; who were the makers of the law after the fact had taken place. Cicero, speaking of the law of the twelve tables, says—"Vetant leges sacratæ, vetant duodecim tabulæ, leges privatis hominibus irrogari; id enim est privilegium nemo unquam tulit: nihil est crudelius, nihil perniciosius, nihil quad minus hæc civitas ferre possit." Their proceeding in this way would, in fact, be nothing else than a subversion of all the rules o justice. A person is called to the bar, and asked if he did so and so? He, not conscious of any impropriety, answers in the affirmative; and then, after having extracted the fact from him, the House proceeded to declare it a crime. They went farther; they sent him to a gaol, thus assuming a right to inflict the severest punishment; though they dared not inflict upon him the minor punishment of a fine, no not even a fine of 6d. This was a line of conduct which appeared indefensible. In fact, if hon. members were to notice such breaches of privilege as that now under consideration, they would have little else to do than discuss them from day to day. He repeated, that he could not see where the breach of privilege was in this case, as it did not appear that the accused parties had at all entertained the intention imputed to them of proceeding in another way. The present proceeding was, therefore, in his view, most improper. It was, perhaps, an inconvenience to public men to have re- 1676 marks made upon their conduct, but it was an inconvenience which ought to be submitted to, as it was productive of great advantage. Besides, nothing was more unfair than that gentlemen should, be entrapped into admissions which were afterwards declared to be criminal. There were, indeed, several cases where the privileges of parliament mere grossly violated; and in such cases a parliamentary inquiry was not only necessary, but highly beneficial. It was admitted, for instance, that it was a gross breach of privilege to intermeddle with, or improperly procures votes at elections; it was admitted, also, that bribery was a gross breach of privilege; and yet he remembered that whet; the noble marquis (Londonderry) was detected in bartering for a seat in that House for one of his supporters, the thing was allowed to pass by. Here was something which called upon them to defend their privileges, but the thing was discovered too soon, and the noble lord was, allowed to get off without even a vote of censure. How, then, could they feel justified in entertaining this question as a breach of privilege? The power claimed by parliament was arbitrary: it was a power which would not be endured for a moment if attempted to be exercised by the king; and, therefore, its exercise was unbecoming the representatives of the people. It was a power which they ought not to exercise, even if they were the real representatives of the people, instead of being, as was notorious, the proprietors of boroughs in some instances, and the nominees of noble lords and country gentlemen in others. They had constantly in their view the interference of peers at elections; and yet they slept on their posts, and were only awakened by cases such as that before them, by omitting to notice which they would best consult the character and dignity of parliament. There was one privilege of parliament which was of great importance at a time when the Crown was in the habit of seizing upon members coming down to that House. He meant freedom from arrest. Now, however, that we had Septennial parliaments, such a privilege was unnecessary, and had only the effect of protecting the dishonest debtor against his unfortunate creditors; and it was of the less use, inasmuch as members were obliged to swear that they were worth so much after the payment of their debts; so that no member of parliament, if he 1677 swore truly, could he in debt. With respect to the question before them, he felt it his duty to protest against the exercise of such a power in such a case, and should take the sense of the House upon the resolution.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, that if the letter in question was a breach of privilege, it was their own fault. The original breach of privilege was in publishing a report of the hon. member's speech, but having allowed that report to go forth, it was hard to say, that no man had a right to contradict a statement which he conceived incorrect, and which tended to injure his character materially. If the facts with which the hon. member had been furnished were not true, and if in the report of the proceedings gentlemen saw that that had been circulated which wounded their feelings and injured their characters, would it not be monstrous to say, that knowing those statements to be unfounded, they must not take any steps to contradict them publicly? If the manner in which that report was contradicted, was a breach of privilege, it was the duty of the House to prevent the publication of accusatory statements, where no defence could be entered into. He should certainly vote against any motion having the punishment of Mr. Hope for its object.
§ The motion was agreed to.
said, that if he knew himself at all, he came to the consideration of this question with a perfectly unprejudiced mind. Since the introduction of this question, he had continually been considering how he should follow it up; and he felt that that must mainly depend upon the course which the gentleman would take when called to the bar. In looking to the conduct of Mr. Hope, he was certainly disposed to give to the language and manner of that gentleman all the consideration which they deserved. At the same time, that a breach of privilege had been committed, the House had already unanimously decided. Whether he was right or not in having brought the matter forward for the consideration of the House, the House must judge, upon a review of all the circumstances. His great object had been, to prevent a breach of the peace, arising from what he now firmly believed to have been a mutual misapprehension of what had passed in that House. He hoped it would be understood that the privilege which parliament undoubtedly possessed, of freedom 1678 of Speech, was esssentially necessary to be preserved in all cases; and that this, and other privileges, they possessed for the benefit of the people and not of themselves alone. The House had heard the manner in which Mr. Hope had expressed himself, and he (Mr. C.) had now to move a resolution which, while it asserted the privilege of parliament, would show to that gentleman, that the House, upon his explanation had no wish to proceed any farther in the case. It was to this effect That Mr. Speaker do communicate the said resolution to Mr. John Hope: and do further inform him, that, under all the circumstances of this case, this House, taking into consideration the explanation given by him at the bar, does not feel itself called upon to proceed farther in the said matter."
§ Sir R. Wilson
did not think the motion went quite far enough. This was a breach of privilege which the House was bound to notice in a most pointed manner. It ought to take such steps as would protect its members. Many of the most eloquent members of that I louse might have no wish to become gladiators, or to enter the list in defence of every opinion which they felt it their duty to advance in that House. The House ought at least to have an assurance from Mr. Hope, that no farther steps would be taken to produce that result which the hon. mover had been so anxious to prevent.
§ Mr. Brougham
agreed, that if, as had been stated by Mr. Hope at their bar, this was a mere technical and nominal breach of privilege, any the scantiest apology would be sufficient. But he felt unfeigned regret at being obliged to inquire, whether more had not been committed here than some hon. members seemed to be aware of. They had heard Mr. Hope's case. He had felt himself aggrieved by certain accusations; he felt his, character at stake, both privately and professionally; and, under those feelings he sat down to write the letter in question. He would be the last man to weigh too scrupulously the words tied by a gentleman defending himself from an unjust charge. Besides, he was, on other grounds, reluctant to visit Mr. Hope severely on this occasion. But, as regarded that House, he should be guilty of a squeamish delicacy if he did not state that that gentleman had beeen guilty of great misconduct. Besides, they must see, that even if they disposed of the ques- 1679 tion ever so favourably to Mr. Hope the subject would not be set at rest. The investigation was only beginning. Mr. Hope was on his trial. In looking to the letter on the table, tbey would see that a direct and substantial breach of privilege had been committed. It was a mistake to say that the letter was merely a complaint of a report of a speech said to have been spoken in that House. It was an attack upon a member of that House, and directly imputed to him as having been actuated by improper motives in the discharge of his duty. In the course of debates in that House many hasty words were used, and many attacks were made by one member upon another, which the Speaker did not consider it necessary to notice; but which would amount to a breach of privilege if uttered against a member by persons out of doors. But the words used in Mr. Hope's letter were such as no member could use to another, without being reprimanded by the Speaker. What member would venture to impute to another motives of an unjust, unfair, and malignant nature? But if it was against all parliamentary order for one member so to accuse another, what would be thought of a person out of doors who thus accused a member of that House? His learned friend (Mr. Abercromby) had brought forward his charge against the parties in Scotland with temper and moderation; and yet he was charged by Mr. Hope with having brought it forward with a view to forward the interests of political associates out of doors. This was language which no member was permitted to use; and the question to be considered was, whether there were any persons out of doors entitled to that protection which their own members did not enjoy? The resolution before the House talked of Mr. Hope's "explanation at the bar." What explanation? How, after voting his conduct to be a breach of privilege, could an explanation exempt him from their censure? He believed there existed no case of a person declared guilty of a breach of privilege, being excused, except on the expression of contrition. But where was the explanation in this case? For himself, he was at a loss to discover that any reasons had been given. Mr. Hope stated, that he wrote under feelings of irritation, but no apology did he make. There were but two senses in which Mr. Hope's letter could be taken. The first was, the hasty 1680 and intemperate spirit in which the letter was written; the other was, a wish on the part of the writer to provoke a member of that House to commit a breach of the peace. Mr. Hope had left the House in total ignorance upon the subject. Had he done this, he (Mr. B.) would have understood that Mr. Hope had given some explanation; but as the case stood, explanation or contrition, he saw none. With respect to the question of privilege, that discussion, if it terminated as it was proposed to terminate it, would leave the House in so disgraceful and dishonourable a situation, that even the hon. member for Westminster, much as he contemned that House, would feel for the situation to which it must be reduced. Ho must repeat, that that house would be reduced to the most pitiable condition, unless they opposed those who were determined to save the character of Mr. Hope, at the expense of the dignity and privileges of parliament.
said, he felt it a duty which he owed to the House and also to a beloved friend and relative, to make a few. observations upon the present occasion. It had been said, that if they suffered Mr. Hope to depart without farther question here would be at once an end to the privileges of parliament, the freedom of de-ante. He differed from that learned member, and thought, on the contrary, that on all questions of privilege they were bound to deal with the accused parties as leniently as possible. He contended, in apposition to the learned member, who said he looked in vain for an explanation in Mr. Hope's speech, that explanation had been fully given. He appealed to the House whether they had ever heard a more firm or respectful address than that delivered at the bar by Mr. Hope? It had seen said that Mr. Hope did not explain. Now he did explain, and that very distinctly. He declared that, in writing the letter, he had not the remotest intention of violating the privileges of that House. Charges had been circulated against Mr. Hope, through the public papers, in every part of the kingdom, under which it was intolerable for him to live; they attacked his reputation as a gentleman, and marred his prospects as an advocate. Had the inquiry into the charges against Mr. Hope, been likely to come on this session, the letter would never have been heard of. It was not until it was found that that inquiry was 1681 postponed for eight or nine months, that Mr. Hope had felt himself compelled to take such a step in defence of his honour and character. Let it be remembered, that Mr. Hope had been accused of acting in his professional capacity, from the basest motives which could actuate the human mind. His learned friend had been accused of having favoured an apparent prosecution of Borthwick, for the purpose of prejudging the case of a gentleman who was about to be put upon his trial for life or death. Good God! Was a gentleman to lie tamely under such a charge, from a fear of a breach of the privileges of that House? Mr. Hope was bound to give a contradiction, an indignant contradiction to such a statement. The envenomed dart had been shot forth, and had lodged deeply in his side. Mr. Hope did not say that the learned member for Calne had made a wilful misstatement; he only said that he had proceeded upon misinformation. Mr. Hope might, perhaps, have been surprised at finding that the learned member was ignorant of the practice in Scotch courts. The charge of the learned member was perfectly regular and proper, had it been founded in fact; but there was not a word of truth in it, from the beginning to the end. Would not the House, then, consisting of high-minded English gentlemen, make allowances for the distressing situation in which Mr. Hope was placed? The noble lord next alluded to what had fallen from the learned member for Knaresborough (sir J. Mackintosh). That gentleman's high authority was thrown into the scale against Mr. Hope. He was a gentleman remarkable for great moderation—for manners the most amiable and conciliating. Known as he was and respected by the people of Edinburgh, when they learnt that the hon. member gave his countenance to the charge, they would naturally saw that Mr. Hope must have been actuated by improper motives. The hon. member for Knaresborough had said, that a furious zeal had been manifested, in a cause of gross injustice and oppression. Such was the colouring given to the case, as if Mr. Hope had mixed himself up for the purpose of injuring Mr. Stuart, though the answer was signed in January, and the duel did not take place till the 26th of March. The letter might contain some imputations of motives. But, had no bad motives been imputed to Mr. Hope? If the charge had been made against a 1682 member, would he not have risen indignantly to repel it? Was Mr. Hope to be debarred the use of terms which were used by every Englishman who felt himself aggrieved? He had been brought from Scotland at a considerable expense, and with great professional inconvenience. Yet all this was to be considered a mere expedition of pleasure. True it was, that the House had come to a vote that the letter was a breach of privilege; but it had done so hastily. The question now was, how that breach was to be visited upon Mr. Hope, and he trusted, that the House, in making up its mind, would remember that their privileges might be pressed too far. This breach was founded upon another, the publication of the debates—a daily breach of privilege. He did not say that it ought not to be connived at; but when it was allowed, it was but common justice not to visit severely an offence merely growing out of it, and which might with greater justice have been punished half a century ago. If Mr. Hope had not taken this step towards his vindication, it would have been impossible for him to have pursued his professional duties. As far as it went, it was complete; and the House would probably think, that, under all the provocations, it might be pardonable to give a little vent to the ebullition of his feelings.
§ Mr. Abercromby
hoped the House would give him credit for a disposition not to pronounce any opinion in that House on the present question. His object in rising was, to set right a few facts. He could not but express his concern that any act of his should have engaged the attention of that House, and caused the interruption of ordinary and important business. The subject before the House was coupled with circumstances painful to him; if his feelings were only consulted, the present case certainly would not be brought before the House. Much had been said with respect to the statement of Mr. Hope having acted as counsel on the trial of Mr. Stuart. He had read the letter of that gentleman: he knew the impression it had made upon the public and upon members of that House. Having the honour of a seat in that House, he thought that there only was he accountable for any act of his, and that there only was he bound to give an. explanation of his conduct. Upon the subject he had preserved au absolute silence. He had not authorised any 1683 person to give any statement on his part; that statement, however, he now felt it his fluty to make. He might offer some facts, which would go entirely to justify himself; but he wished to limit what he had to say to an explanation of what had already taken place in that House. And now he would say in the most positive manner, according to his best recollection, that what be had done was this:—He had read passages from the publication in "The Sentinel," for which Mr. Stuart brought an action against the proprietors of that paper. He had also read the names of the gentlemen who had signed the answer to that action, as they appeared upon the record. He did not know how far those gentlemen were responsible for having signed that answer; because that was, for the purposes of his argument, matter of indifference. He alluded to them solely because they were advocates depute. As advocates depute he only had to deal with them. With respect to the practice at the Scotch bar, he was not aware of it. When he had first heard the answer to which he had alluded, it was read to him by an individual who had a copy of it; that circumstance occurred several weeks before he had introduced his motion. He had the recollection of that paper on his mind when he made his motion. There was another fact which was misrepresented. It was stated, that he had said it was necessary for his argument to fix Mr. Hope as counsel in the case of Borthwick that he utterly denied. He had stated, that the case of Borthwick was a case of great injustice and oppression; that it had been pressed with the motive of influencing the trial of another party. That was his opinion; and that opinion remained unchanged. As to the statement, that Mr. Hope's name had been affixed to a certain paper, that that paper had been commented on in a court of justice by the judge—on the 20th of June he had first seen a printed copy of Mr. Stuart's trial—on the 25th of June he made his motion; and from that report he read passages to the House. Those who had read the letter of Mr. Hope to Mr. Bennet would see the importance of that fact. He would only say, that if he had been led into any misstatement, and any person applied to him in a manner that he could attend to for the purpose of she wing such be the first to acknowledge 1684 such mis-statement, and to correct it He hoped he might say in that House, before those who knew him, that nothing could be farther from his feelings, nothing more opposite to his character, than to refuse to retract an error, and to do justice to an individual. He hoped the House would believe him, when he said, that he was most anxious to reconcile his duty to that House, with the obligations he owed to his own honour. He should always feel anxious to support the privileges of that House—to bow to its authority—but at the same time he could not forget the duty he owed to his individual character, and the necessity of upholding it.
The Marquis of Londonderry
hoped, that neither the zeal of his noble friend, nor the warmth of the learned member for Winchelsea, would interfere with a temperate conclusion by which the anomaly of privilege might be reconciled. He would not attempt the vain task of discussing this subject with the hon. member for Westminster; but he was well convinced that the letter of Mr. Hope was a breach of privilege. It was true, that the publication of the debates of the House was in itself a breach of privilege; but he considered it one that was essential to the public interest. It ought unquestionably to be tolerated, if it could exist without leading to evils which would leave the House no alternative, but to shut its doors and deny the public all knowledge of its proceedings. The breach of privilege now before the House was in the second degree; for if the publication of debates were allowed, it must sometimes produce inconveniences. Recollecting that Mr. Hope was counsel only in the private case of Mr. Alexander, he put it to the House whether he could repel the attack upon him, without at least glancing at political motives. It remained, then, to be considered what proceeding the case required, not forgetting that Mr. Hope, feeling his character at stake, had balanced between a breach of privilege and his own vindication. If the learned gentleman was called to the bar, and the resolution read to him, though the word admonition was not used, it was at least implied, and the indirect censure might have the same effect as a motion of greater severity.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that the great object having been attained all, that remained now was, to see that the farther pro- 1685 ceeding of the House was consistent with its usages, and becoming its character. He could not concur in the resolution; for if it was adopted, no gentleman could return home with greater triumph than Mr. Hope. The object could not be to disgrace the House, or to obtain a victory over Mr. Hope, but to steer a middle course. After attending to what had fallen from Mr. Hope, he was bound to say that that gentleman had offered nothing in his defence that appeared satisfactory. He would appeal to any person who heard him, whether any expression had fallen from Mr. Hope which amounted to an atonement for the breach of privilege which he had committed. Gentlemen had said that no atonement was necessary, because the breach of privilege committed by Mr. Hope grew out of another breach of privilege; namely, the publication of the debates. The great advantage which resulted to the country from the publication of those debates rendered them so important, that no man thought of interfering with the practice. All he (Mr. T.) wished was, that the privileges of the House should not be openly violated; that members of parliament should be protected. If Mr. Hope felt himself aggrieved, were there no modes of justification open to him? He might have presented a petition to that House, stating, that, in consequence of what had occurred there, his character had been injured, and praying the House to institute an inquiry. But one hon. member, he recollected, had opposed inquiry, because he said it would amount to a direct reflection upon his character; and another complained that an inquiry had not taken place. If questions were treated in that way, it was clear that there would be an end to all inquiry into abuses. The noblelord had said that the case of Borthwick was to form a subject of inquiry. But who would go into that inquiry who would bring it forward? Gentlemen, for discharging their public duty, would be subjected to violence and every possible insult. He had never known a case where an individual, brought to the bar for a breach of privilege, was allowed to go away without offering something like a satisfactory explanation. Where individuals were allowed to depart because the facts did not go home against them—where they were pardoned in consequence of expressing their contrition and regret, those cases he could understand; but 1686 without any satisfactory explanation, without any expression of regret, on the part of the individual brought before them, to vote that the House would proceed no farther, would only have the effect of affording to Mr. Hope, a triumph which he was not entitled to, and which the House could not be disposed to let him enjoy. How easy would it be for the House to vindicate its privileges, without at the same time bearing hard upon Mr. Hope. How easy would it be for the House to reprimand that gentleman, before he was dismissed from their bar. He was sorry to observe on the manner in which the speech of Mr. Hope was received, even before that gentleman left the House: he was sorry to say, that it was received with cheers in a quarter, where it would have been but right to have suppressed expressions of triumph. He had heard the speech of that gentleman—he had seen the manner in which it was received—he knew that it was in vain for him to move any amendment, stating that Mr. Hope must not offend the House any more. He knew that such an attempt would be vain; but he would most certainly vote against the resolution, unless words of reprimand were inserted. If that were not done, they would shut the door against the accusation of public delinquents. Who would stand forward as public accusers—unprotected by the privileges of parliament, and subject to the insult and violence of persons out of doors? For his part, he was in the wane of life, and was not likely to be called out in personal conflict: but any young man in that House who had a friend to advise him, would be warned not to entangle himself in a case where parliament would not stand by him. Of all cases of privilege, the present was a case deserving the most serious attention: it was this, whether their own members were to be protected front, violence out of doors? He entertained no unfriendly feeling towards Mr. Hope; his only wish was, to protect the privileges of that House—privileges which would be set at nought, if Mr. Hope was dismissed unreprimanded from their bar.
said, he considered this a most material breach of privilege, because it interfered with that freedom of speech without which the House could not discharge its most important and sacred duties. It distinctly affected the freedom of speech, not only by comment, but by at- 1687 tributing unworthy motives to an hon. member. If this were allowed, what must be the consequence? The members of that house would be compelled to descend to the same arena before the public with those who were pleased to attack them. The publication of their debates had been tolerated, but not authorized; and, in his opinion, this course was a wise one; because, if it were authorized, gentlemen would become responsible for the words which were attributed to them; but, as it was merely tolerated, no member was called upon to declare whether he did or did not make use of the language attributed to him in any public paper. With respect to the reports of the debates of that House, it was astonishing that they were in general given with so much accuracy, considering the haste in which they were written and printed; for a few hours only intervened between the delivery of a speech and its publication. But they must know that misrepresentations did often take place, sentiments the very opposite of those stated were sometimes put into members' mouths. Now, he would ask, whether it would be at all advantageous to correct those mistakes constantly? And yet it world evidently be necessary, if gentlemen were obliged to answer for every statement which appeared in the papers. If attacks, founded on reports of speeches, were allowed to be directed against members, they could not discharge their duty to the nation. These were the reasons that induced him to view this as a real, serious, and substantial breach of privilege. But, though Mr. Hope's conduct could not be justified, it might perhaps be extenuated. Mr. Hope had stated what his feelings were at the time he commuted the offence. He conceived himself to have been reflected on, in his capacity of advocate, and his character to have been misrepresented throughout the kingdom. Did that form a justification for him? Certainly not. Had he animadverted on the statement contained in the newspapers, not assuming that statement to be correct, it would have been no breach of privilege. But he assumed the statement to be correct, and then he imputed motives to the learned gentleman who brought the question forward, and censured hint for those alleged motives. This was a breach of one of their most valuable privileges. For what they uttered within those walls they were not accountable in any other place, nor to any 1688 other authority. Considering the error as one that had arisen from the infirmity of human nature, rather than from any design to infringe the privileges oldie House, or to hurt the feelings of any member, considering, also, that Mr. Hope had expressed his concern and regret at what had occurred, he trusted the House would act with lenity. It might be introduced in the resolution, "that in consideration of his expression of regret, at his violation of its privileges, the House does not feel itself called upon to proceed farther." If the resolution were carried without such a statement, it might operate prejudicially hereafter.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that he could not vote for the reprimand of Mr. Hope. It was to be decided whether that gentleman had been guilty of an intentional violation of their privileges, or whether, having a great duty to perform towards himself, that of repelling an injurious and unfounded accusation, he did not suffer a technical impediment to stand in the way of his vindication? The subject had been considered as if it were merely a question between the House and the offender. Undoubtedly, if a person out of doors questioned the freedom of speech in that House, great mischief might follow, and the House would be called upon to vindicate its privileges: but they overlooked a material circumstance, and that was, the existence in the present case of a third party—the reporting press, the creature of their toleration. With respect to the publication of the debates so long tolerated, it would not be practicable to put it down; and if it were practicable, it would not be desirable. Before the House decided upon the case of Mr. Hope, an ardent young man, he trusted that every gentleman would look upon the case of that individual as his own. Living far from this metropolis—moving in a narrow society, where he could scarcely meet with any but those to whom he was individually known—with any but political friends to mourn over his fall—or political enemies to triumph in his degradation—what could be the feelings of such a man were he to pass over an injury such as he had received, without making some effort to vindicate his assailed character? For the learned gentleman (Mr. Abercromby) he felt the highest possible respect for his public and private character, both in that House and out of it. There was one point to which he (Mr. 1689 C.) attached importance, and on which the declaration of that learned gentleman gave him great satisfaction. The learned gentleman had declared that he was ignorant of the practice at the Scotch bar, with respect to obtaining the signatures of counsel. When he (Mr. C.) beard it stated, that Mr. Hope and Mr. M'Neil had signed that document, as counsel in the case, it made a strong impression upon his mind, and, he believed, upon the mind of the House; but the fact turned out otherwise, and the case failed for want of foundation. When he had heard the learned gentleman state that fact, he thought the case of Mr. Hope in jeopardy; and under that impression, he applied to his noble friend (Lord Binning) to know whether that point could be cleared up. His noble friend was apprized of the practice in the Scotch courts; and the fact turned out as had been expected—that the name of Mr. Hope was used merely in a technical manner.—The mistake was, he believed, general in the House, and originated certainly with the learned gentleman. But it was not on the mind of that House, that the impression, so erroneous and so unfavourable, had alone been made—it was made upon the mind of the country. The morning after that statement had been made, tens of thousands had no other impression than this—that Mr. Hope had sustained a most oppressive proceeding against an individual, for no other reason than to prejudice another individual, who was about to be placed on his trial for life or death. It would have been torture to any honourable mind to have sat down under such an imputation. It was most natural on the part of Mr. Hope to take speedy means to set his character right before the public. He did not take the most prudent means—he would, were the thing to occur again, take another course.—The right hon. gentleman next adverted to the conduct of Mr. Hope at the bar of the House. Far from feeling a wish to violate, he had expressed his veneration for the privileges of parliament. With a frankness which belonged to the high feelings on which he acted, he owned that, in vindication of his professional honour, he had risked the consequences of an act which might be construed into a breach of privilege. The House was not treating, in the present case, with one who had violently offended whose—object was to degrade the pri- 1690 vileges of that House, and to bring its character into contempt; but with one who felt its sanctity, and who was as anxious as any of them to maintain its power. Mr. Hope had been placed in a painful situation; he had to choose between their displeasure, and his own lasing disgrace. He had chosen rather to risk that displeasure than to seal his disgrace and degradation. He hoped, that in choosing this manly part, Mr. Hope had also selected the safer course. He hoped that in vindicating his honour, the House would see nothing to induce them to send him back to his own country—to his society and friends—reprimanded; degraded, or disgraced:
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that the sympathy of the hon. members seemed entirely turned to Mr. Hope, and both his learned friend and the privileges of the House were forgotten. The right hon. gentleman called upon every gentleman to plate himself in the situation of Mr. Hope He (lord A. H.) might also beg them to put themselves in the situation of the learned member who had been attacked. The object in view was, to protect members in the discharge of their duty. But this the resolution now proposed did not at all tend to do. He would ask any man to read Mr. Hope's letter, and say, whether the expressions used there were bonâ fide merely a vindication of character? It was the duty of the House to prevent similar acts. It would be painful to him to press for a severe resolution: but he could not concur in a vote that declared a breach of their privileges to have been committed, and then proceeded to say, that they would go no further with the business.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
did not rise to oppose any measure of lenity, but merely to answer the friendly appeal to himself of the noble lord opposite. He admitted that he was ignorant of the practice of the Scottish bar already alluded to; but, at the same time he concurred with his learned friend (Mr. Abercromby)as to the use which he had wade of that part of the case.
Mr. Courtenay consented to withdraw his original motion, and substitute the following: "That Mr. Speaker do communicate the said Resolution to Mr. John Hope; and do inform him, that, under all the circumstances of the case, this House, taking into consideration the explanation given by him at the bar, and his 1691 expression of regret at his violation of its privileges, does not feel itself called upon to proceed farther in this matter." The resolution was agreed to, and Mr. Hope being again called in, the Speaker communicated to him the said Resolution.
Mr. Menzies was then called in, and Mr. Speaker, communicated to him the proceedings of the House of the said 9th July, in, the matter of the complaint of a Letter signed W. Menzies, and addressed to the Editor of "The Courier" newspaper.
said, he felt most anxious to assure the House of the profound respect which he entertained, and always had entertained, for their privileges. But he would shortly state the circumstances which had called forth the writing now before them. A report of a speech made in that House had reached him. In that report he found a severe attack upon his conduct. He found that gross injustice was done to his motives by a false statement of his professional proceedings. If this false statement had originated with the newspapers, he considered it indispensable for him to correct it. If, on the other hand, it had really been made in that House, he felt sure that it had been made in. consequence of false information. He had therefore applied by letter to the hon. gentleman for an explanation of the fact, whether the statement as set forth in the newspapers was correct. To this application he had received an answer, that the hon. gentleman was not responsible for any, reports in the newspapers, but that what he had said was fully supported by the statement in his (Mr. M.'s) own letter. Now, as that statement did not support the reports in the newspapers, he understood this to be evidence that the reports were false. If he had understood it otherwise, he would not have applied the term false to the statement of the hon. gentleman. He had written the paragraph now complained of, under the impression that what Mr. Abercomby had said coincided not with statements in the newspapers considering the statements in the newspapers. Considering the statements in the newspapers false and calumnious, he could not retract word of what he had applied to them; but he solemnly declared that he had not had the slightest idea that what he was doing was a violation of the privileges of that House.
Ordered, "That Mr. Menzies, having explained his conduct to the satisfaction 1692 of this House, be excused from any farther attendance upon this House."