§ Mr. Robert Inglis
wished to call the attention of the House to a circumstance that occurred on Monday last. On the Motion of the noble Lord, the Home Secretary, a discussion upon a Petition, relative to the Oath taken by Catholic Members was adjourned to the following day. He was aware that the country, and certainly every Member was supposed to know what passed in the House; but though he (Sir R. Inglis) was sitting directly opposite the noble Lord, and in conference with the hon. Recorder of Dublin on that very subject, the renewed debate on Tuesday was disposed of, on the Motion of the noble Lord, without his (Sir R. Inglis's) being acquainted with the fact. He meant to make no complaint that the subject had been taken out of his hands; but he wished to stand right with the House as to the attack that had been made upon him. He did not know whether the hon. and learned Member who made the attack was now in the House; but he wished it to be understood, that whatever offence of this kind he might be exposed to, he would much rather be the object of it than the assailant. Without adding more to the irregularity of which he was now guilty, 14 in adverting to the subject when there was no Question before the House, he would only remark, that he had been no party to the premature conclusion of the discussion. On the contrary, he was directly opposed to it, and had no intention of submitting or truckling to any opposition he might meet with. He would not be prevented, either here or elsewhere, from stating his opinions fully and freely, by anything that might be said by the hon. and learned Members for Dublin or Tipperary.
In what I said I did no more than was authorized by the ordinary rules of debate: to those I confine myself.
Personality! The hon. Member charged me with perjury. I want to know whether a person who charges another with perjury has a right to complain of personality? Is such a man to call for the sympathy of the House, by an allegation that the delicacy of his individual feelings has been violated by personality? I did then condescend to give an explanation of the nature of the oath: I never will do it again: but if a man accuses me of perjury, I cannot, find so hard a term to answer him, but in more moderate language, I can accuse him of a wilful lie—["Oh, oh!" cheers, and confusion.] Do Gentlemen who exclaim thus think that the charge of perjury ought not to be met by adequate terms? I know of no language, the strongest I could use, that would be adequate. In the way I have met the charge now, I will meet it in future. I will not condescend to bandy silly terms with any man who presumes to make such an accusation. I feel that there is no man in the House less capable of committing that crime. I have seen many instances where those who cry out loudly about the sanctity of an oath, have used it for partisan purposes, at the very moment when they were most ready to taunt and revile. In this House I do not expect to find such; but if I do—and let who will dare to make the charge—I will repel it in the strongest language I can employ.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
The hon. and learned Member, in an hypothetical form, has been guilty of the grossest outrage that one man, in a substantive shape, can commit upon another. I call, therefore, upon 15 you, Mr. Speaker, who sit here to protect the freedom of debate, to interpose. Let me add, that so long as you sit in that Chair, it is your duty to guard the honour of Members—[no,]—from being insulted [cheers.] I hardly know what is meant by the cheers by which I am interrupted. I desire that any hon. Gentleman who cheers me will rise in his place.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
If the hon. and learned Member who had said substantively what he has said hypothetically, he would have committed one of the grossest outrages a man can offer to another—["No".] I know the meaning of that "No;" it means, that if the charge is made again, it will be so met again. I call upon you, Mr. Speaker, to protect the deliberations of the House, and I shall sit down contented with your determination.
I, too, call upon you to protect Members of this House from a charge of perjury. That any man should conceive that he is entitled to ask for the protection of the Chair when he has called others a perjurer, seems to me most extraordinary.
§ Lord John Russell
interposed. After what has been said, I do not, of course, object to the decision of the Chair being given; but I do object that hon. Members should proceed with these accusations, whether hypothetically or substantively.
§ The Speaker
said, undoubtedly it is most unfortunate that this discussion has arisen; but it is not to be disguised that the word "perjury" is a strong expression. I always understood that terms only conditionally applied, were not such as called for the interposition of the Chair; thus, I recollect one of the oldest Members of this House using this phrase without reproof:—"I state, in answer to the hon. Gentleman, in the strongest terms that can be hypothetically put, that what he has said is false." When a hypothetical form is once adopted, the Chair is not required by his office to interfere. I shall never hesitate, however, when called upon, to express the strongest opinion that the use of such language is extremely inconvenient, and inconsistent with the freedom, as well as with the decorum of debate. The freedom of debate can never be better secured than by hon. Members conducting it with temper. I, therefore, hope that the usual business of the House may now proceed.