§ Mr. Cobbett
said, he hoped, that before the noble Lord moved the order of the day, the noble Lord would allow him to move for a Committee to inquire into the allegations of the petition he had presented on Friday.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the introduction of this subject was rather irregular, but he was very glad that it had been mentioned, as he wished to set the House right on the subject. He fully agreed with the hon. Member, that the employment of spies, such as was practised abroad, was a most abominable system, and he was sure would not be for a moment supported by the House; but the question was, whether it was not only allowable, but even the duty of Government, to ascertain what took place at public meetings. Private espionage was a system never contemplated by the right hon. Baronet, who was the author of this force, nor by his successor in office; and he was sure that the two Gentlemen at the head of this force would never sanction so abominable a system. All the meetings at which the police had been present were essentially public meetings: at these meetings it had often occurred, that most inflammatory language was spoken; and he must submit, that Government 1360 would have failed in its duty, had it not taken measures to know what took place at these meetings. At these public meetings—and at public meetings only—therefore, were the Police present; and, as it would be out of the question for them to appear otherwise, they went in their plain clothes. Popay was, in the petition, accused of using inflammatory language. If he had done so, no words which he could use would be too strong to express his detestation at so base a line of conduct; for it was precisely the worst kind of conduct attributed to spies, to excite those very disorders which the police force would afterwards be called upon to repress; and, if Popay had done that, he had acted quite contrary to his instructions. With reference to the Committee prayed for, he had not the least objection to it. He was well content to allow any inquiry into the conduct of Popay. He had merely risen to explain what the conduct of Government had been on these occasions; and strenuously to deny, that the police were ever instructed or authorized to interfere in private society.
said, that this frank conduct of the noble Lord entirely did away with any suspicion which might previously have attached to the Government on this subject. It was strongly asserted, however, that this Popay had been guilty of all the acts of espionage, so justly condemned by the noble Lord—that he had subscribed for arras—used inflammatory language—offered to teach the broad-sword exercise, &c. It was, therefore, essential that this subject should be sifted most searchingly; and he was, therefore, delighted, that the noble Lord had so frankly and cordially co-operated in promoting the inquiry.
said, it could be proved that Popay had done all the hateful things described. The witnesses were quite ready.
rejoiced in the frank and manly assent given by the noble Lord to this Committee. It was a most important subject; lie would observe, however, that the charge against Popay was not his going to public meetings, but his enrolling himself as a Member of the National Union for treacherous purposes—using the most inflammatory language, offering to subscribe for arms, and to teach the use of them. He had in his hand a petition from 500 of his constituents, praying for the most strict inquiry into this most important and alarming case, and they would be pleased to hear how readily this inquiry was assented to by his Majesty's Government.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the man Popay denied the inflammatory language, the subscription for arms, and the offer to teach the use of them. All he said lie had done was, to throw a few half-pence into a hat which was carried round for some subscription, but the object of the subscription he was not aware of. He also denied being a member of the Political Union. He would take care that the Committee should be appointed in the course of the evening.
§ Mr. Hawes
also expressed his gratification at the assent thus given by Government to the formation of a Committee. He was, however, disposed to believe, on most particular inquiry, that the case was as stated by Mr. Cobbett. He did not exactly understand where the blame rested, but he had every reason to believe that the accusations against this Popay were matter of the most undoubted fact. Indeed, he knew persons who were fully prepared to come forward and substantiate the charges.