§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the allegations of the petition of Mr. Jonathan Duncan on the maladministration of affairs in the General Post Office. He said if it were the intention of Government to accede to the Motion of which had given notice, he should not trouble the House more than a few minutes; but if it were their intention to resist his Motion, he must persevere in laying his case before the House, because he could not conceive any public department in this country in which it was more necessary that allegations of abuses when made should be at once and immediately inquired into before a Committee of that House. At the close of the last Session of Parliament, when it was almost too late for a Committee to inquire, he had moved for such a Committee to investigate a portion of the complaint which he had now to make, more especially that portion with regard to the manner in which the servants in a particular department were paid by fees. He now called upon the House, if it had any regard for its own honour—irrespective even of the public interest—if they did not wish to see every order which issued from them treated with contempt, to agree to the inquiry which he now sought for. He believed that there was no public department in this country against which there were juster grounds of dissatisfaction than against the General Post Office; of dissatisfaction too, not heard without the walls only of that department, but which existed to a most alarming and discreditable extent within. The petition to which he 808 was about to call the attention of the House charged that department with all sorts of maladministration. The public complained of that department in consequence of the delay in the delivery of their letters; and he believed that but for certain malpractices which existed in that department, letters would be delivered in the town an hour and a half earlier than at present. That could be proved. There was dissatisfaction within the walls of the establishment, in consequence of the manner in which many very meritorious officers of that department were treated by their superiors, and of insufficient remuneration. If a subordinate officer had any complaint to make to the Postmaster General, it had no chance whatever of fairly reaching the ears of that functionary; for it must pass through a certain channel in that department, and it would either be stopped altogether, or the affair would be very much misrepresented. Such was the danger, that men were afraid to make any complaint whatever, lest they should be suspended or greatly injured in their prospects. The petition to which he begged to call the attention of the House, emanated from a gentleman of great respectability, Mr. Jonathan Duncan, of No. 13, Chester Place, Kennington, in the county of Surrey, who described himself as proprietor of the Sentinel newspaper—a gentleman who he was sure would not approach that House with such a petition unless he were fully prepared to prove every allegation which it contained. Some of the offences which Mr. Duncan attributed to the General Post Office had been published by him in the Sentinel newspaper, in consequence of which two actions for libel had been brought against him by Mr. Kelly, the inspector of letter-carriers. The first action, after being held for a considerable time in terrorem over the head of Mr. Duncan, was at length dropped, with the payment of the costs. Mr. Duncan then repeated the insertion of the article for which the original action had been brought. A second action was the consequence. It was kept suspended as long as possible, and when it was about to be brought to issue again, the costs were paid, and the action was abandoned. Mr. Duncan stated—That your petitioner has lately become acquainted with many facts concerning the present management of the General Post Office in St. Martin's-le-Grand, which your petitioner is firmly convinced that parties employed therein have wilfully withheld from the knowledge of yonr honourable House, especially in the inquiry ordered by 809 your honourable House, and conducted by your Committe in 1837, as well as from each Postmaster General, for many years past, and from Her Majesty's Government, to the great injury of the public service, and accompanied by a grievous fraud on the revenue.The allegation stated "for many years past"—showing that the charge of malversation applied not only to the present but to former Postmasters. The only improvement which had of late taken place in the establishment consisted in the appointment of a few more incompetent hands, and in a slight addition to the salaries of a few sub-sorters, who were found to be dangerous persons who could expose the abuses of the establishment. To suppose, however, that even those persons were satisfied now, or that they would allow their subordinate brethren to be oppressed, was a very great mistake. The petitioner went on to say—That one of the principal causes of the delays that have so frequently occurred in the delivery of letters, and of the difficulties that impede the arrangements to meet the increase of business in the General Post Office, is a private undertaking, carried on in the office by means of the public servants, letter-carriers, sub-sorters, inspectors, and others, and of the public stores, to a considerable amount annually.By that private undertaking, allusion was made to Kelly's Post Office Directory, which he (Mr. T. Duncombe) had no hesitation in characterizing as a gross job, converting a great public establishment into a sort of lucrative printing office, to the injury and disadvantage of all engaged in the establishment. He might indeed call it the bane of that establishment, and so long as that Directory remained, there would be discontent, corruption, and tyranny in the Post Office, and so long would the public be injured by delay in the delivery of their letters. The petitioner continued—That in the compilation of these Directories certain inspectors, sub-sorters, and letter-carriers are compulsorily employed throughout the year, principally during those hours which ought to be appropriated to the duties in their respective capacities; that in many instances the Post Office servants have been occupied during official hours at the printing office of these Directories, while those who remained in the Post Office have had to perform their work; that to this place messengers have been sent to recall them, when letters and newspapers have been in danger of detention through their absence.The former part of that allegation still remained. He believed that they were even now preparing for the year 1847; and when the letter-carriers ought to be delivering their letters to the public, they 810 were obliged to be picking up information for Mr. Kelly. The latter portion of the allegation had, he believed, been corrected now; but previously those inspectors, sub-sorters, and letter-carriers, when they were wanted for the public service, had frequently to be sent for to Mr. Kelly's printing-office in Boswell-court. A large book, price 30s. comes out at the commencement of each year, and at a subsequent period of the year there is a Supplementary Directory published. When those Directories came out, the letter-carriers were directed to deliver them by Mr. Kelly; and the House could form a judgment of the effect upon the public service which was produced by causing the letter-carriers to attend to that delivery, when he informed them that on the last occasion of that Supplementary Directory coming out, the public letters were detained fully half an hour beyond the proper time of delivery. What was the cause of that delay? It was caused by the hurry which prevailed in the Post Office, in consequence of sending out by the letter-carriers so many numbers of the Directory to be delivered on that morning. The last occasion of distributing the Supplementary Directories happened to be on the morning when one of the India mails arrived. It was the mail which was in the Great Liverpool when she was lost, and was subsequently brought to England by the Oriental; and the consequence of devoting so much of the time of public officers to the distribution of the Directories was such, that letters and papers that arrived by that mail had been detained for ten days in the Post Office. The day upon which the mail arrived was the 20th of March; and some of the letters and papers which had so arrived, had been detained in the Post Office for so long as ten days without delivery, in consequence of the amount of attention which was bestowed upon the distribution of the Directories. There could be no doubt as to the fact; and he had in his hand a list of several addresses to which those letters so delayed had been directed. The letter-carriers who were most alert in distributing those Directories were the most approved by Mr. Kelly; and those who felt themselves ill-treated had no power of complaining directly to the higher authorities, unless under the penalty of being-charged with insubordination. The consequence of being subjected to the charge of insubordination, unless they made their complaints through Mr. Kelly, was such, that many complaints which might other- 811 wise be sent directly, were not now made known to the Secretary of the Post Office, or the Postmaster General. But in addition to the distribution of the Directories, the business of collecting information for the book was also imposed upon the letter-carriers. It was true they would be told that this information was collected out of official hours; but that was not the fact—nothing could be more false; and he could bring fifty or one hundred letter-carriers who could prove that nothing could be more absurd or idiotic than the idea that the information could be collected out of official hours. He was perfectly acquainted with the mode in which the information was collected, and he had in his possession several of the forms which were supplied to the letter-carriers, in which they were obliged to insert the names required for the completion of the Directory. He might be told that the men so employed had an interest in the book; but what was the interest? They had a sort of commission upon its sale. Now that was what he called a most improper course of proceeding on the part of a public establishment, for they had no right to use the services of those men in that manner. It was a dirty, miserable piece of jobbing, and was a course which ought not to be permitted. It had happened that where a letter-carrier had neglected to collect the information so required, he was deprived of a sufficient amount of his wages to pay another for collecting it; and this was done although the letter-carrier who so omitted to collect information would not have been paid if he had collected that information. It was monstrous that another man should be paid out of the wages of a letter-carrier for collecting that information, and especially as the collection of information was not voluntary on the part of the letter-carriers. The next objection which he had to make to this system was, that the public stores had been used to a very great extent in the preparation of this Directory. The allegation in the petition which was now before him was—That in the preparation of these Directories at the General Post Office, public stores, consisting of charge books, and other official documents, ink, paper, coals, and string, are freely used.What right had any individual to use the public stores in preparing that book? None, and yet the public stores were used to a large amount for that purpose. But the complaint in the petition went further. It said that Mr. Kelly was in the habit of 812 sending out letters on the subject of the publication of this Directory without a proper Post Office stamp; that they were delivered by the letter-carriers without having that stamp attached to them; and that the revenue was therefore defrauded to a considerable amount. He had been furnished with one of these letters, which he held in his hand, and it was, as described, without the proper stamp. He maintained that it was a fraud on the revenue to send out large numbers of letters in that manner without the stamp. There were thousands of these letters so sent, and containing puffs of the Directory, with extracts from newspapers which contained puffs of the book, and sending them without proper postage stamps was a fraud on the revenue. The next allegation in the petition was—That the said Frederick Kelly has instructed the letter-carriers how to evade the Hawking Act, in the disposal of copies of Kelly's Directories, and thus rendered himself liable, as your petitioner is advised, to a criminal prosecution, for aiding and assisting in a breach of the law.The petition went further and stated—That in several cases the said Frederick Kelly, when debts have been owing on account of Kelly's Directory, has of his own authority stopped the wages of letter-carriers to repay himself, even in cases of disputed debt; and where the parties have been ill and in hopitals, and their families destitute; and the said Frederick Kelly has also withheld the resignation of letter-carriers, duly tendered, for several months, until the claims on them for copies of Kelly's Directory were satisfied, by which the revenue has suffered, inasmuch as moneys were paid to the said Frederick Kelly as for the salaries of persons who had ceased to be in the office.He (Mr. Duncombe) was in a position to prove that resignations had been sent to Mr. Kelly, and that he had not tendered them to the Postmaster General, because the individuals sending in those resignations happened at the time to owe him something on account of Kelly's Directory; and the result of this was, that money continued to be paid to make up for the debt after they had ceased to do any work for the public. That was a gross fraud and injustice on the public service, and it was highly discreditable to the authorities of the Post Office to encourage or sanction such a system. There were 150 copies of this Directory paid for every year for the use of the sorters and sub-sorters, paid for out of the public revenue, on the pretence of assisting those engaged in the assorting and delivery of letters, in finding addresses where any difficulty existed; and notwithstanding that pretence, it was a fact that 813 the sorters and carriers were not allowed to use them by the higher authorities, in consequence of its being supposed that their use would cause a loss of time instead of affording facilities in the Post Office. But the system was still further pursued; for the petition to which he referred alleged that those were most likely to get promotion who gave the most attention to the distribution of this Directory to the neglect of their public duty; whilst by the too great advantage given to one publication, the public were deprived of the benefit of competition. He would tell them the result of the want of competition. It was that the public now paid 30s. for a work which any publisher in Paternoster-row would willingly produce for 13s. or 15s. What chance, he would ask, had any individual, such as Mr. Robson, to come into the field and depend on private enterprise or exertion in opposition to the advantages which the compiler of this book possessed? It was stated in the return that Mr. Kelly bought the copyright from Mr. Robson; but he had in his possession a letter from a friend of Mr. Robson, which stated that he (Mr. Robson) had been driven to the workhouse, and ultimately to insanity, by the unfair advantages which had been given by the Post Office authorities to another publication, and by giving this public patronage to the ruin of private persons. In the puffs, of this Directory which were sent to the subscribers, it was stated that the blunders of every description which had been found to exist in other Directories had been carefully corrected in this Directory, and that the names and addresses had been most carefully and correctly printed. What would the House think when he stated that, notwithstanding the alleged corrections of this work, it contained no less than 16,000 blunders? That was the Directory which, according to the puffs, no one could approach. This Directory had, in consequence of the advantages which its compilers possessed, distanced all its competitors, and was at present the only Directory published in London, a fact of which its publisher made a boast. Of course it was the only Directory which continued to be published in London; for what private individual, however industrious, could compete with the amount of patronage which was bestowed on this Directory. Thus not only did the public suffer from the want of competition, but a numerous class of public servants were rendered discontented by the manner 814 in which they were employed in connection with this publication. It was no light matter to see so many individuals in a state of discontent and insubordination, such as, to his knowledge, existed amongst them. He had had individuals coming to him within the last fortnight, in numbers of ten and twelve together, to complain of this system; and those individuals were merely deputations representing the feelings of larger numbers; and when he said they were wrong in exposing themselves to the risk of such a course, they said that they were resolved on complaining of their treatment, and that they would bring two or three hundred, if necessary. Now, if hon. Members would fancy two or three hundred letter-carriers waiting on him of a morning — they would not fail to perceive the dissatisfaction which prevailed amongst them. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer laughed at that—he laughed at the state of insubordination in which so large a number of the public servants were; but it was no subject for laughter. He had received a letter that morning, stating that the sub-sorters had presented an address to their superior authority, expressing their pleasure at their treatment; and it added that this address was signed by a small number, and that some of those who signed it were not long in employment; whilst so far from the feeling of satisfaction being general, several respectable officers had waited upon Mr. Bokenham to complain of their treatment, when the only answer they received was, a threat to kick ten or twelve of them out of the office, and report them also. If he were asked for a remedy for this evil, he would say, that a great deal might be done by doing away with the whole system of fees, which was an imposition on the public. Under the present system, a man commenced as letter-carrier at a salary of 20s. a week, which was then raised to 23s., and was, at a subsequent period, reduced to 14s., and made up by a system of fees, for what was called "early delivery." The effect of this was, that if a man could not give security, which was required for early delivery, he was not allowed to take a favourite walk where the fees were good; and thus, although he came in at 20s. a week, he was reduced to 14s., without any counterbalancing advantage. That system was most unjust. He would do away with fees altogether. He was for a consolidation of the two deliveries, by which the public would escape the evils 815 resulting from being obliged to wait for their letters. Why should there be only one department for the delivery of letters? Why should there not be a delivery for each mail? Let the letter-carriers have a fair remuneration for their labour, and be rewarded by a graduated scale of fees, proportionate to their length of service. Let them also, after a certain time, pass from the office of a mere deliverer of letters to a sub-sorter's situation, instead of remaining all their lives letter-carriers only, while other individuals were at once appointed to the place of sub-sorter. The whole matter might be placed on a much better footing; and if a Committee of Inquiry were appointed, he was quite sure that he should be able to show, by the evidence of practical men, that a change was absolutely necessary. He had been in communication with several of these letter-carriers, and he was satisfied that they could give much useful information. At present, however, there were plenty of men to stand between them and the Postmaster General; and the consequence was, that the public did not get the benefit of the information which it was in their power to afford. He contended that the early delivery ought to be done away with. The Post Office was established for the benefit of all, and one man ought not to have his letters earlier than another because he could pay an extra fee for the service. It was imagined by many that one man was sent out from the Post Office on purpose to deliver the letters intended for early delivery; but that was a great mistake. He would take Chancery Lane as an example, where a number of lawyers lived, all of whom, it might be presumed, were anxious to have their letters delivered as early as possible. Some of these gentlemen paid an early-delivery fee, and submitted, like great idiots as they were, to this extortion. A gentleman on the third floor, perhaps, paid this extortionate fee, while persons living on the first and second floors did not pay for it. The letter-carrier went out with his letters, and delivered those he had for the man on the third floor, and afterwards went on to all his customers who paid him a guinea as an early-delivery fee till he had come to the top of Chancery Lane, and had delivered all his early-delivery letters. He then came back, and delivered what he called his late-delivery letters, which he had for those who resided on the first and second floors, though he might without trouble have delivered them as he passed by to give his 816 customer on the third floor the letters addressed to him. He maintained that this proceeding was a contravention of the Act of Parliament, and was contrary to the letter-carriers' oath. The system was carried on for the sole purpose of making up the wages of these men, who were put on a reduced salary after a certain time, and who, as a recompense, were placed on what was called a favourable "walk." If the House had any regard for its character, it would concur in the Motion which he now brought forward for inquiry. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn said, during an earlier portion of the evening, and said truly, that every public department ought to be responsible for the returns made by it to the House. Now, there was a return which he (Mr. Duncombe) had moved for, calling for a statement of the fees and emoluments which had been received by different officers of the Post Office. Among other statements in this return, there was a return made by the inspector of letter-carriers, this Mr. Kelly. In the first place, Mr. Kelly returned his salary at 350l. a year; and he then went on to say, that upon his appointment he was obliged to purchase the Post Office Directory, and that after a time he was also compelled to purchase the copyright of Robson's Directory, which, as he (Mr. Duncombe) had proved to the House, was in fact destroyed and ruined by the system pursued at the Post Office. Mr. Kelly stated that the work, the Post Office Directory, was carried on by means of a large private capital, supported by official assistance; and he returned the amount derived from it for the year 1844 at 1,276l. He, however, could tell the House that Mr. Duncan stated in his petition that the profits accruing from that work were above 10,000l. a year. If the House would grant him the Committee for which he asked, he would undertake to prove that instead of 1,276l., Mr. Kelly made 12,000l. or 15,000l. a year by the Post Office Directory. That was the amount which the work brought in either to Mr. Kelly or to some persons in connex-with the establishment: and the result was, the corruption and confusion of the whole department of the Post Offic. He thought Mr. Kelly ought to be called before the House, to show what he received from the Post Office Directory. What was the use of the House calling for returns if they were incorrect? On a former night, there was supposed to be some mistake in the commercial tariff prepared by Mr. M'Gre- 817 gor, and a great deal was said about the necessity of inquiry; but it was explained afterwards that it was a mere typographical error. Here, however, there was a deliberate fraud committed, for the purpose of misleading the House and the public. If the House meant to throw its shield over such a delinquency as this, it was of no use to move for returns. He asserted that the department of the Post Office was most justly complained of by the public at large. He contended that great maladministration existed in that department, which ought to be remedied, or at least inquired into. In addition to this, great injustice had been donc towards the meritorious servants of that department, and the consequence was that great discontent prevailed amongst them. If the House did not inquire into the causes of that discontent, they might lay the foundation for great danger to the commercial intercourse of this country, and of this metropolis in particular; for he should like to see in what state this city would be, on any given day, if the letter-carriers should strike work. What he wanted to know was, what was the reason for which the present system was continued. He contended that it was merely for the purpose of carrying on this gross job of the Post Office Directory. The whole system of that establishment ought to be put upon a new footing, and an inquiry before the House, fairly conducted, would, he was satisfied, place it in a proper position. The hon. Member concluded by submitting the Motion he had announced at the commencement of his speech.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
, in seconding the Motion, said he believed that Mr. Duncan was a gentleman of that high honour and integrity which rendered him incapable of making any statement to the House without being thoroughly convinced of the accusations which he had brought forward, and of his ability to prove them. The charges brought forward by his hon. Friend (Mr. Duncombe) were such that the House could not refuse to inquire into them, unless they were prepared to proclaim to the country that public servants were justified in committing frauds on the public property. Here was a charge made that the public property was used to serve the private interests of an individual. He believed there was no department connected with the Government that more required looking into than the Post Office. There was a time when the Post Office was an example of correctness and order, but that time was gone by. He 818 could state two very important facts, which came within his own knowledge, in confirmation of what had been stated by the hon. Member for Finsbury. That hon. Member had stated, that the names in the Directory were procured by the letter-carriers. This was quite true; for within the last month, the carrier who delivered letters at his house sent in a paper to him with his address, and wished to know if that was his address at present. Now, the carrier might have been kept there for a quarter of an hour, or probably he might not have been detained beyond a minute or two. Now, he begged the House only to consider that this carrier might have been to fifty other persons before he came to him. The consequence would inevitably be, that the delivery of the letters would be delayed for an hour, or an hour and a half beyond their time. He had also to state that, when formerly connected with the city, he used to pay regularly for the early delivery of his letters; to get them immediately after nine o'clock in the morning, while his neighbours who did not pay received their letters one or two hours later. Now, the letter-carriers were already paid by the public; they were in every respect public servants, and ought therefore to treat every individual of the public alike. The hon. Member had also pointed out the very extensive errors in the Directory. There was no question about the fact; because, from the advantage which Mr. Kelly had over all competitors, he had become a complete monopolist, and the public had no resource but to purchase his inaccurate Directory, everybody else having been driven out of the field. Now, if there was no other circumstance than this of gross mismanagement to call for inquiry, Her Majesty's Government ought not for an instant to resist it; but when there was a charge of direct fraud and robbery of the public stores brought forward, then he could not see upon what ground Her Majesty's Government could refuse inquiry. Were the Government prepared—was the Secretary of the Treasury prepared to say, upon any man's authority, that these charges were untrue? If that statement were made, the hon. Member said he would prove them to be true, and in those circumstances what would a denial go for? Why, it would go for nothing. He knew nothing of the charges himself; but he knew that his hon. Friend had investigated them; he knew that the gentleman who had pre- 819 sented the petition had investigated them; and he knew that gentleman to be incapable of making any such charges as those contained in the petition without a thorough conviction of their truth. To refuse the inquiry, therefore, would be offering a premium to public servants to act not only with dishonesty, but also with a total disregard to the performance of their public duties. He seconded the Motion with much pleasure, and he hoped that the Government would offer no objection to the inquiry.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that before following the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion in the detailed reply which would probably be expected from him to the charges which he had made against an important public department, perhaps the House would allow him to make two observations which applied to the whole question. The first was, that he begged to assure the hon. Member and the House, that there was not on the part of the Treasury, or on the part of the noble Lord who now presided over the Post Office, any more than there had been on the part of the noble Lords who had preceded him, any wish to screen from detection, from exposure, or from punishment, any malpractices like those which he had denounced to the House. The other observation which he wished to make was this, that the noble Lord who presided over the Post Office was always open, and that the Treasury was always open to the reception of memorials or applications from any of the parties who were the victims of the alleged malpractices. [Mr. DUNCOMBE: Hear!] The hon. Gentleman cheered him derisively, but the hon. Gentleman forgot two statements that he made in the course of his own speech. The hon. Member stated that the oppressed subordinates were afraid of addressing a memorial to the Treasury; but the hon. Member also stated, in another part of his speech, that when he asked them whether they were not afraid of getting themselves into a scrape with their superiors in making their representations to him, they told him, in reply, that they were ready to come, to the number of 200 or 300, to him for the purpose of publicly expressing the indignation which they felt at the treatment they had received. Now, the hon. Member would excuse him for saying, that persons who were so little afraid of the displeasure of their superiors, that they went in a multitude of 200 or 300 for the purpose of attacking those supe- 820 riors, had no reason whatever to be afraid to approach the Treasury or the noble Lord at the head of the Post Office, with a respectful memorial, stating in the fullest and plainest detail the facts of their case, and requiring the case to be investigated. ["Hear!"] He was not to be put down by derisive cheers when he made that statement; because he would tell the hon. Gentleman that if he could produce an instance of a memorial having been plainly drawn up and respectfully worded, being submitted to the noble Lord at the head of the Post Office.—[Mr. DUNCOMBE: It would never get there.] He received day after day scores of memorials in the public department in which he had the honour to serve; and he should not dare to stand up in that House and vindicate his conduct, if it could be truly said that memorials plainly drawn up and properly expressed, containing charges of malpractices, were treated with disrespect in that department. He would say, that if the hon. Member could truly make such statement he would have a good case, not merely for a Committee of Inquiry, but for severe reprobation upon the public servants, who could make no answer in that House when any one brought forward so grave a charge, He repeated, that the Government were no more anxious than the hon. Member to protect malpractices of the sort referred to, and that the doors of the Treasury, not only through the medium of the Post Office, but directly and immediately, were open; and that if the hon. Gentleman could prove his statement that any representations had been neglected, he would say that he had a good ground of complaint against the representatives of that department in that House. He had been drawn into these general observations; but the House would now expect that he should go into some details with respect to the particulars of the case. The hon. Gentleman towards the close of his speech had referred to the early delivery of letters. With respect to this point, he begged to say that this practice had not originated recently, but was an ancient practice, and had been continued, not for the advantage of persons connected with the Post Office, but because it was believed that a large part of the mercantile community were not prepared for its immediate and sudden withdrawal. He assured the hon. Gentleman that if he could produce an instance of a gentleman in Chancery-lane residing on a third floor, getting his letters early, because he had 821 paid his guinea, while his neighbours on the first and second floors who did not pay did not receive theirs, which were included in the same delivery, till a later period of the day—if, he said, the hon. Gentleman would produce such a case before the Treasury—[Mr. DUNCOMBE: No; but before a Committee.] He was not asking the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion for a Committee — nothing was further from his thought—he wanted merely to show that what the hon. Member had represented as an essential ingredient in the early delivery was a mere abuse of it; and that if the victims of it did not think it too much trouble to favour the Treasury with the particulars of the grievance under which they laboured, he undertook to have the grievance fully redressed; and he did not say this because the hon. Gentleman had brought forward his Motion to-night, but because the grievance referred to had never been sanctioned either by the officials of the Post Office or the Treasury. Having so far disposed of the subject of the early delivery, he would now venture to turn to what formed the gravamen of his speech—he meant the Post Office Directory. The hon. Gentleman and the House would, perhaps, bear with him while he briefly stated what the Post Office Directory actually was, the mode in which it was got up, and the history of the publication. The House was aware that the metropolis was, of course, divided into a great number of walks for letter-carriers. He thought that it would be readily admitted that it was absolutely necessary that the Post Office should from time to time have correct information of the addresses of the persons whom those letter-carriers were intended to serve. How was this information collected? Every letter-carrier collected those addresses in his own district. It so happened—and he had no doubt a point would be made of it in the course of the discussion—that the "form" in which they were collected was headed "Post Office Directory;" of course it was not essential to the official duties of the Post Office that the "form" should be so headed, but it was essential that there should be some form. Well, there were, he believed, about twenty letter-carriers to one charge-taker. When the letter-carriers collected the names, they were handed over to the charge-takers, and they again handed them over to the inspector. Thus the inspector of letter-carriers was the first person in whose hands the information 822 requisite for a Directory existed in a collective shape. All this was information for official purposes. If they abolished the Post Office Directory, this information would be as necessary then as now. It appeared that towards the close of the last century, it occurred to the gentleman who then filled the office of inspector, that as he was in possession of information which no other person was in possession of—viz., an accurate account of the addresses of all the persons living in every district of the metropolis—it would be a convenience to the public and an advantage to himself if he were permitted to publish, under the authority of the Postmaster General, a Directory. The office of inspector was then held by Mr. Sparkes, who applied to Lords Auckland and Gower, the joint Postmasters at the time, and by them he was permitted to publish and sell a Directory, investing in its production the necessary capital. Mr. Sparkes was succeeded by Mr. Pritchard, who continued the publication of the Post Office Directory until 1836, when, upon his death, Mr. Kelly was appointed to the situation. Desirous of continuing—with the approbation of the Postmaster General—that course of procedure which, under the authority of preceding Postmasters, had been adopted, Mr. Kelly applied to Lord Lichfield, who thought it right to consult the Solicitor of the Post Office—not so much with reference to the legal bearings of the question, as because the widow of Mr. Pritchard was desirous of making an arrangement with his successor; and it was thought desirable to have the advice of the Solicitor of the Post Office on the subject. After consulting with that gentleman, an arrangement was sanctioned by the noble Lord, under which Mr. Kelly paid a sum to Mr. Pritchard's widow, and entered into the position of her late husband, so far as regarded the Post Office Directory. That arrangement had gone on, and the expenditure of Mr. Kelly on the Directory was considerable. Mr. Robson's name had also been mentioned in connexion with this subject; and the hon. Gentleman had made some severe animadversions upon Mr. Kelly, in reference to the circumstances under which Mr. Robson died. He (Mr. Cardwell) had no knowledge of any circumstances which led him to suppose that Mr. Kelly was guilty of any misconduct with respect to Mr. Robson; but he believed that Mr. Kelly had made a payment to him, in 1840, for the copyright of 823 his Directory. Last Session the hon. Member for Finsbury moved for a Return connected with the Post Office Directory, and in that Return a certain sum of money was entered, by or on behalf of Mr. Kelly, as the sum received by him as the produce of the Post Office Directory. The hon. Gentleman questioned the accuracy of that Return. He stated that the number of Directories sold was much greater than that which would answer to the amount professed to be received; and the hon. Gentleman said that he was ready to prove that his suspicions were correct. His situation at the Treasury had not brought him into actual contact with Mr. Kelly, but he had felt it to be his duty to institute a most careful inquiry. He had seen on the subject the Secretary of the Post Office, and the officers under him; and he felt it incumbent on him to state that he did not at all agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite in the estimate he had seen fit to form either with respect to Mr. Bokenham or Mr. Kelly. He believed, on the contrary, that the sum mentioned in the Return was perfectly accurately stated. He had had the whole accounts examined, and he was told, that taking one year with another, and allowing for the amount of capital embarked in the undertaking, that the profits were only that fair and reasonable remuneration which a man had a right to look to for his risk and labour. Let it not be forgotten that the gross amount stated in that Return was proved by a searching investigation to be the amount of interest returned upon the capital invested, as well as the amount of remuneration for the labour employed in getting up the book. More—the Directory had been undertaken under the sanction of the Postmaster General, and there was no ground for imputing any departure from the regulations of the Office. He was free to confess that it would not be right for either the Post Office or the Treasury to sanction any exorbitant or unfair amount of profit to be derived from a work of the class of that under discussion, and that it would be the duty of those departments, in case of any such return, to regulate the matter, with a view to its adjustment on fair and equitable principles. He did not say but that if the matter was in the position of a res integra, it might not be possible to adopt another arrangement; but considering the labour and expense necessarily attendant upon such a publication, he was not prepared to say, that it would be 824 desirable, either on grounds of revenue or public convenience, to accede to the plan proposed by the hon. Member. But the hon. Gentleman had gone on to tell the House of the delay occasioned to the public owing to the circumstances of the letter-carriers being employed with respect to this Post Office Directory. Certainly no such delay ought to occur, and no such delay within the knowledge of the superior officers, did occur. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that on the last occasion when this work was published—the morning when it came out—happened to be that of the arrival of the Indian mail—of the mail which ought to have arrived by the Great Liverpool, but which was conveyed by the Oriental. The hon. Gentleman stated, that on that occasion, so busy were the letter-carriers with the Post Office Directory, that letters and newspapers addressed to influential gentlemen in the city—and he mentioned the name of one most deservedly influential person, Lord Metcalfe—were left lying about the floor for ten days, unnoticed and undelivered. Now when such statements were made to him, did not the hon. Gentleman imagine that it was impossible that such an instance of neglect could have occurred without complaints having been made, and redress obtained? No such complaints, however, were heard. Inferior officers, it was suggested, were afraid to complain of their superiors: would influential merchants, or would Lord Metcalfe, be afraid to address the Postmaster, or the Treasury? Did not the very improbability of the case suggest to the hon. Member some suspicions with respect to the accuracy of those who had informed him? [Mr. DUNCOMBE: The letters have perhaps not yet been received.] It was more than ten days since the event took place; and as the hon. Gentleman had stated that ten days was the time during which the letters lay about the Post Office, he could himself draw the inference that they could not be there now. But let the hon. Gentleman listen to the truth of the matter. The letters in question were exceedingly damp, absolutely forming one wet mass, which occupied the servants of the Post Office a considerable time before they would separate the individual letters, and ascertain the addresses written upon them. Hence some delay occurred before the letters in question reached their destination. The hon. Gentleman said that he had hoped, after the discussion on the subject which took place last Session between the hon. 825 Gentleman and himself (Mr. Cardwell), some inquiry into the system of the Post Office would have taken place, and some change been effected; and the hon. Gentleman added, that the only improvement which had taken place was some increase in the salaries, and that it was a very suspicious circumstance, that on the morning of the day on which he was to bring forward his Motion on the subject, this increase was made. He could only answer to this, that he believed nothing was more remote from the minds of the Lords of the Treasury, when they made it, than that the increase had any bearing in the slightest degree on the subject of the Motion with respect to Mr. Kelly's Post Office Directory. Certainly it had not crossed his mind, and he did not believe it had occurred to anybody at the Treasury. Then the hon. Gentleman said these services rendered to Mr. Kelly by the subordinates of the Post Office took place in official hours; and the hon. Member who seconded the Motion said, that an inquiry by a letter-carrier took place at his door, as to his designation, which might have occupied a quarter of an hour, but through his courtesy it was not made to occupy many minutes. Now, if the hon. Member had attended to the description which he (Mr. Cardwell) had given of the manner in which the affairs of the Post Office were conducted during the last century, he must have seen that official information as to addresses was indispensable, and therefore that when the letter-carriers were occupied in this manner they were engaged in what was strictly a port of the duty they owed to the Office. Another statement of the hon. Gentleman was, that the servants of the Post Office were employed at the printing-office of Mr. Kelly, to do what was not their official business at all, but the business of Mr. Kelly solely. There was certainly some truth, or rather some colour of truth, in this. In former times it was allowed that the servants of the Post Office should be so employed generally, but for their private advantage, Mr. Kelly paying them as much as other persons for what they did for him; but the noble Lord who lately filled the office of Postmaster General had discountenanced that proceeding, and since the year 1842 it had not been adopted. The hon. Gentleman had also stated, that the public stores were employed in getting up Mr. Kelly's book. Into this matter he (Mr. Cardwell) had made a careful and searching inquiry, not through inferior, but through superior officers; and 826 he gave the charge a most distinct and positive denial. The hon. Gentleman had said that a number of printed circulars were sent round by Mr. Kelly, through the letter-carriers, without having paid the stamp duty. Now if the Post Office directors had allowed Mr. Kelly, or if Mr. Kelly had, without such allowance, presumed to do as the hon. Gentleman stated, and sent round these circular letters without paying the postage, he (Mr. Cardwell) should have felt that nothing could have been said; but he believed that in fact it was the practice of all the large houses in the city to send round circulars to their customers by hand; and he understood that the letter-carriers carried round these circulars out of office hours. Then the hon. Gentleman spoke of debts deducted and resignations withheld, and various other matters; but the hon. Gentleman did not mention the specific cases to which he referred. Allegations of this nature were contained in the petition on the Table. He had caused inquiry to be made; he was informed it was not true that these proceedings had taken place. If the hon. Gentleman had specified instances, he should have been prepared to meet them. Then the hon. Gentleman said that abusive language had been applied to some persons, and that, when these much-abused persons applied far redress, they were discountenanced. [Mr. DUNCOMBE: That is stated in the petition.] The hon. Gentleman mentioned the name of Roberts, a person who was suspended in the sub-sorters' office. Now, it happened that he was ready to answer that case. There was a new officer acting as the colleague of Roberts, and Roberts declined to assist the new comer. The case was now under the consideration of the Post Office authorities. That offensive language was used, was a charge he gave a direct and unqualified denial to. The hon. Gentleman said that a vote of thanks would probably be placed in his (Mr. Cardwell's) hands, signed by all the sub-sorters. Now, all his information respecting this vote of thanks had come from the hon. Gentleman; and no argument was ever intended to be derived from that vote of thanks, about which, except from the hon. Gentleman, he was totally uninformed. The hon. Gentleman said he was disappointed that nothing had been done with respect to the Post Office since last Session; but he (Mr. Cardwell) could tell him that this question had been inquired into by the Post Office authorities, and had 827 been specifically under the notice of the noble Lord who last Session so ably filled the office of Postmaster General, as well as of the noble Lord who now filled it. Immediately on the close of the last Session of Parliament, the Post Office did pay the hon. Gentleman that just respect which was his due in taking up the consideration of this subject; and he (Mr. Cardwell) was informed that it having been stated by Mr. Kelly to be his wish that all persons connected with the department should be relieved from the duty of collecting information for his work, the noble Lord who lately presided at the General Post Office had said, that whatever might be the arrangement with respect to Mr. Kelly, he felt it incumbent on him to require the full discharge from all letter-carriers of the duty they owed him and the public, and that this information was necessary for the interests of the department. The present Postmaster General, when the matter was brought before him, did not feel it his duty to depart from the principles laid down by the late Postmaster General; but he was desirous to remove the objections which some of the letter-carriers felt to collecting this information, and said that he would allow these parties to be excused; and there was no person now so employed who did not do it perfectly voluntarily. With respect to the payment, it must be borne in mind that out of every 30s., to answer the large capital invested, there was a commission of 6s. allowed to the letter-carriers. Accordingly, the number of dissentients had been exceedingly few. But the hon. Gentleman said, that unless the sub-sorters neglected their duty by attending to Mr. Kelly's business, they had no chance of promotion. Promotions, however, were in the hands of the Postmaster General, and not in those of Mr. Kelly; and the hon. Gentleman might be assured that, if Mr. Kelly made such representations as he spoke of, they would not be attended to by the Postmaster General. That was an answer to the statement that Mr. Kelly had it in his power to oppress these persons. The hon. Gentleman might also rely on the responsible public officers having the utmost desire to secure an efficient and pure administration in every department of the public service, and they were open in this instance to a direct appeal, not through inferior officers, and it was most remarkable that although persons of the highest consideration had been put to inconveni- 828 ence by the mismanagement of the Post Office, according to the hon. Gentleman's statement, yet they had presented no memorial to the Treasury, and that although 300 persons had applied to the hon. Gentleman on the subject, no one of them had ever come near that department. He thought that would be a guarantee to the House of the insufficiency of the hon. Gentleman's positions, and that the House would feel that it would not be just to lay on the Post Office the reproach of those charges, which he humbly submitted that he had answered.
said, that memorials complaining of Mr. Kelly had been presented to the Treasury, but had not reached the hands of the department. It was felt to be a very different thing to come before the chiefs of a public department and a Committee of the House of Commons. A sense that they would have justice was wanting in people's mind with respect to the former; but there was great confidence in the latter. He thought an inquiry into the management of the Post Office was necessary on public grounds, and not merely in consequence of the allegations in the petition before the House. Justice had not yet been done by the authorities of the Post Office to the penny postage system. He felt perfectly satisfied that if the system were properly carried out, and if, among other things, increased facilities were given, the deficiency in the revenue, as compared with that under the old system, would be made up. What had taken place in the London District Post fully proved this. In the year 1844, the increase in the number of letters was 1,800,000 on the previous year. In twelve months after, that is to say, between the 15th of May, 1844, and the same day in 1845, the number had increased to 2,676,000. A consolidation of the General Post deliveries with those of the old Twopenny Post would effect a great advantage, and save a great waste, which there was at present, of both money and strength; and persons might then get their letters by nine o'clock in the morning, instead of at half-past ten, as at present. Another absurd regulation was the limitation of weight in the letters conveyed by the Post Office. In these and many other respects there was in the Post Office a false and slovenly system, which he felt assured could not long be continued were the proposed inquiry to be granted.
§ MR. PROTHEROE
thought that the hon. Secretary for the Treasury had not 829 sufficiently explained whether the book of Mr. Kelly's was a public or a private work. There was no doubt that the Post Office must have such information as that to which reference had been made; and it was also most desirable that the public should have the benefit of such information collected in such a manner. The question was not whether it ought to be made use of for the public benefit, but whether it should be so made use of under the direction of the Post Office, or under that of a private individual. He did not exactly understand the position in which these sub-sorters or letter-carriers stood as regarded Mr. Kelly. If they were paid as the private servants of Mr. Kelly, it was certainly a very dangerous thing to place them, in their capacity of public servants, in a position, with respect to Mr. Kelly, in which favouritism might be exerted. He considered, however, that the returns which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury had so promptly promised, would yield much more information on the subject than they were in possession of at present, and enable the House better to come to a decision on the subject.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
objected to the system on which these letter-carriers were appointed. Testimonials, however good or important, coming from the authorities of a borough, or persons among the public whose opinion was entitled to attention, were altogether disregarded; but a Member of Parliament who supported the Government might, by a recommendation to the Treasury, obtain these appointments, although he might know nothing of the persons appointed, who might be most unfit. He had been informed of cases where agricultural labourers had been sent from Buckinghamshire and other counties down to Manchester, many of whom were unable to read and write, and who were so ignorant of the streets of Manchester that they brought back the letters with which they had been entrusted, not being able to deliver them. And yet, while such men were appointed on the personal recommendation of Parliamentary supporters of the Government, the testimonials of persons on the spot, competent to judge of the fitness of the persons they recommended, were disregarded. He thought this was a system which ought to be amended.
§ MR. CHRISTIE
said, he would support the Motion, for there was no greater field for political jobbing than the patronage of the Post Office. He thought a case had been fully made out for a general inquiry. 830 That would elicit all the truth—not only what his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury had told them, but also a great deal more. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had given a denial to the statements which had been brought forward by his hon. Friend. He said he was "informed" that so and so was not the case. Who were his informers? He gave the House no clue to who they were, nor what was the value of the authority on which he offered the denial. He had observed that, during the progress of the discussion, there had been a frequent communication on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with two gentlemen who, by the courtesy of the House to strangers, were sitting below the bar. For anything the House knew to the contrary, those gentlemen might be Mr. Kelly himself and Mr. Bokenham, of the General Post Office; so that the information on which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury had offered his denial might after all have come only from that source. The inquiry sought for would elicit information of a more general nature. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be almost jealous of persons in the Post Office going to the hon. Member for Finsbury, instead of to him; but what encouragement had they to do so, if their complaints were met by such a speech as that of the hon. Gentleman to-night? It was of no use for them to memorialize the Treasury. Upon the whole he conceived that a ground had been made out for a general inquiry. As regarded the immediate question before the House, the hon. Gentleman had entirely failed to make out a case for the collection of such information by means of the letter-carriers; and unless inquiry were made, he could not understand how, after the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, the persons inculpated could hold up their heads.
§ MR. F. BARING
expressed his satisfaction that the question, which had threatened to become a general discussion as to the Post Office arrangements, had been brought back to its original purpose. The Motion, as he understood it, was not for a general inquiry into the affairs of the Post Office, but for a specific inquisition into certain allegations contained in the petition presented to the House. If the Committee for which the hon. Member moved were to be appointed, it could not inquire into such matters as alterations in the hours of delivery, or the appointment and distribution of letter- 831 sorters, but must confine its labours to the questions before it. In many of those matters he believed improvements might be made in the Post Office arrangements. Nor did he doubt but that improvements might be introduced into the management of every public department. Such questions were very fair subjects for the consideration of the House; and as far as this recollection of their feelings went, he believed the Post Office authorities would very gladly consent to any improvements the House might think fit to introduce. For himself he might say that his poverty, but not his will, consented to allow many of the present regulations to continue, for it was always necessary to consider how the revenue would be affected by such alterations. He was happy to find the experiment with respect to the Brighton mail, which had the effect of bringing that town within the range of the twopenny-post deliveries had been so completely successful, and hoped it would be extended to other large towns. Several symptoms of improvement had appeared in the Post Office arrangements, particularly in the addition of force made to the various departments, which had been rendered necessary by the increase of business; and he was glad to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer could afford to make that addition. As regarded the question of fees, the Government to which he had belonged had been most hostile to the system, and had done away with a great portion of it, the Post Office being the only department in which it existed in force. He hoped the Lords of the Treasury would give their consideration to the subject, and, if not at once, at least gradually abolish the system altogether. With respect to the question before the House, he must say he had very considerable doubts as to the expediency of carrying on the Post Office Directory through the exertions of a private individual. He objected to it on principle, and believed the fact created a very unfavourable impression; but at the same time he thought Mr. Kelly fully entitled to compensation for the loss of those profits which were some of the emoluments of his office. With respect to the attacks and allegations contained in the petition, he must say he differed very much in opinion from some hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House, and thought that they must take into their consideration the statement of the Secretary of the Treasury—that he had made inquiry into the circumstances connected with them. What 832 was the statement of the hon. Secretary? That the books of the various persons and departments had been looked into and examined, and that after a fair investigation, the return of profits which had been laid upon the Table had been found to be proper and just. "But," said the hon. Gentleman near him, "it is Mr. Bokenham who says so." As an old public servant, he might be allowed to say that it was not fair to attack the character of a person employed in the service of the public in such a manner as that. The Secretary of the Post Office was his personal friend—they had been early engaged together in the public service — and he was a man whose honour and integrity no person who knew him could doubt for a moment. He was bound to state that the character and lengthened public services of Mr. Bokenham entitled him to perfect credence in all his statements; and he would ask the hon. Member for Lambeth, and those hon. Gentlemen who had served with him on the Post Office Committee, whether the frankness and candour with which Mr. Bokenham had given his evidence on that occasion, had not gained their entire belief and confidence? The House had only the assertions of Mr. Duncan in proof of the necessity of this inquiry: they had no allegations from the parties most likely to be aggrieved—the public—whose letters had not been delivered. It had been stated that the affairs of the Post Office were in a state of great maladministration and insubordination; but if so the House was not the proper quarter to apply to for their correction. Public officers ought not to look to that House as their head, but to the heads of their various departments. He believed justice would be much better administered if the public service were to be carried on by those who were responsible for its execution; and that the subordinates ought to be taught to look up to their superiors alone. Under the circumstances he did not think there was sufficient ground shown for the Motion, and he was not prepared, by acquiescing in it, to cast censure on public servants.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, that during the discussion he had been calculating what line of conduct the ex-official Gentlemen on his side of the House would pursue with respect to the Motion, and must confess that in going through the list of names he could not find one who would be likely to vote for the Motion of his hon. Colleague. Whenever the character or conduct of a 833 public officer was called in question, there was always perfect unanimity between the "ins" and the "outs." On that subject there appeared to be universal sympathy. Probably the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke foresaw that, if the inquiry were granted, it would extend to the period when he himself was in office, or he might anticipate that the day was not far distant when he would be in office again; and in either case the inquiry was not desirable. It was absurd to say that the speech of the Secretary to the Treasury was an answer to the statement of his hon. Friend: it might be called an answer, but it certainly was no refutation. The allegations were solemnly made by a respectable gentleman, and supported by a Member of that House; and he really was of opinion that, in refusing an inquiry, the House of Commons would be relinquishing its functions as the great inquest of the nation. He did not think that, in answer to charges so formally made, and so strongly supported, that the mere denial of the Secretary of the Treasury should be deemed sufficient. In the few remarks he would make, he wished to guard himself against being understood to imply any censure upon the general management of the Post Office department. He received thousands of letters yearly, and had no reason for complaint. The duties of the Post Office were certainly most laborious and intricate, and were most wonderfully executed. Also he considered the Directory a most valuable work to the public, and should greatly regret to see it discontinued; but at the same time it was unfortunate that any circumstances connected with its publication should have caused dissatisfaction. It should, however, be borne in mind, that the present excellences of the work were chiefly owing to the system introduced by Robson's Directory. With respect to the question before the House, he had received no private communication regarding it, nor had he even read the petition until he had come into the House; but he observed that charges were made of a serious character against the government of a public department; and he found that his hon. Colleague had personally seen a great number of persons who had made allegations of tyrannical and oppressive conduct pursued in that department. Could the House, under these circumstances, refuse inquiry? His hon. Friend had also stated that on a former occasion he had moved for a return of certain profits, which had been returned 834 at about 1,279l. a year, but which was a positive fraud upon the House; and that he was prepared to prove before a Committee that the income from that source was not less than 10,000l.—thus affirming on his own authority the allegations contained in the petition. When charges of this kind were made in that House—the House of the people—and the House showed itself satisfied with a mere denial by gentlemen connected with the department, what would be the opinion of the public of the manner the House discharged its duty? On constitutional principles the House was bound to inquire. The charges were distinctly made, not only by a petitioner, but by an hon. Member in his place; and moreover the petitioner was stated by the hon. Member for Coventry to be a man of the highest character and reputation, and one who did not come forward with a grievance affecting himself, but as a member of the community, feeling that the public service ought to be honourably and adequately performed. But although it was seen that public property had been used for private purposes—that a humble class of public servants had been obliged to perform duties for the head of a department, still the House was told by the Government that there should be no investigation. What would the public think? That the Government would not grant the inquiry, in order to screen certain parties. He had expected better things of the Government, and was astonished at their refusal of so reasonable a request as that of his hon. Colleague.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the speech of the hon. Member who had just addressed the House was distinguished by a great deal of that natural sagacity which he applied to every question upon which he spoke. But he thought that he had made an erroneous statement as to what had fallen from those against whom his observations were principally levelled. His sagacity had been wonderful, because it appeared that he was right in his anticipations as to what would be the conduct, in respect to this question, of all those public men in this House who had any knowledge of the public business. [Mr. WAKLEY: No, no!] And the hon. Member said that he had come to the conclusion that one and all of them would be found to oppose this Motion. The hon. Gentleman further said, that the course of the House of Commons should be this—that when a Gentleman made a statement against any individual, it was the duty of 835 the House immediately to institute an inquiry into all the facts of the case. A complaint was made against a public officer, who had stated his emoluments derivable from the sale of the Post Office Directory to be 1,200l. a year; and because an hon. Member had stated that this return was false, and that he could prove the profits to be 10,000l. a year, it was said that they should instanter institute this inquiry. Now, the hon. Member must know tolerably well what the ordinary profits of bookselling publications were; and with this knowledge the hon. Member must certainly have his doubts as to the accuracy of his hon. Colleague's statement. If there were a doubt in the mind of the hon. Gentleman as to the truth of either allegation, the hon. Member would, he thought, be more disposed to say that the statement of the Gentleman who was thus attacked was nearer to the truth than that of his hon. Colleague. But, asked the hon. Member, were they to be content, in the face of these allegations, with the mere denial of the hon. Secretary of the Treasury? But was this a mere denial on the part of his hon. Friend? Did not his hon. Friend state that two persons had been employed to inspect the books and documents of this public officer referred to, and that the result of their inspection had impressed them with the opinion that the Returns laid upon the Table of the House were essentially correct? The hon. Gentleman had said, what was perfectly true, that the Post Office did execute most laborious duties in a most wonderful manner; but when he made that admission, and knew how well the department worked through a long period, under circumstances of peculiar difficulty, when the modes of communication were daily changing, he, on his own statement, implied a contradiction of the facts which his Colleague had brought under the consideration of the House; for that hon. Gentleman had told them that the whole department was in a state of dissatisfaction and rebellion, threatening to strike work to prevent the business of the Post Office going on, and that the inquiry was necessary to prevent those evils. The hon. Member must inwardly be convinced that the fact of the manner in which the Post Office exercised its functions was an answer to a great part of the charge. It was a popular doctrine, that whenever complaints were made, the House of Commons should appoint a Committee. What Government said was this, that these letter-carriers had a door open to them, 836 which under no Administration had been closed, so as to have the facts ascertained on which they grounded their charges against the Post Office. The House had been told that the letter-carriers were afraid of applying to Lord Lonsdale or Lord St. Germans. He believed that to be altogether without foundation; but he said that there never had been, and never need be, fear in bringing these complaints under the cognizance of the Treasury, and securing an examination before the Treasury of the wrongs under which they suffered, or of any malversation. His hon. Friend had told the House that the Treasury were always ready to listen to complaints; and he believed that there were a number of persons in the House who could testify to the readiness with which those complaints were received and carefully investigated. If it were to be said that it was the duty of the House to enter into a preliminary examination on the mere statement of a complaint which was contradicted, it would be to impose a burden from which, he agreed with the hon. Member for Finsbury, any man conversant with business would wish to exempt the House. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had so fully defended the conduct of those who were principally engaged in the business of this department, that it was not necessary for him to add anything to the testimony he had borne. He had his information from Mr. Bokenham, who carried with him the respect of all who had any communication in business with him. He did not enter into the general merits of the Post Office, or the general exertions they had made; he admitted that there had been more delay than was necessary in carrying into execution the improvements that were required; but great improvements were going on from day to day. He had assured the House, in 1842, that the Government were as anxious as any Member of the House, that these improvements should be carried into effect gradually as the revenue would bear it; and if there had been a greater delay or difficulty in the management of the Post Office, it had arisen from the fact, that from the enormous accumulation of letters and business, it had been necessary to make a large addition to the machinery of the Post Office. Whatever complaints there might have been would not again be made. He thought the House would hardly be inclined to accede to the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury to embark the 837 House in a Committee whenever any hon. Member might state that he knew a party who would volunteer information to the House. If that principle were acceded to, he saw no limit to the Committees which the House might appoint, or to the manner in which their time might be occupied.
§ MR. B. ESCOTT
observed, that having been a Member of the Committee to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. Baring) had referred, he felt it to be his duty to say that he never heard a more intelligent or honest witness than Mr. Bokenham, when he appeared before that Committee. He had also a perfect recollection that it had been amply proved that every complaint or memorial presented to the Postmaster General was subjected to the strictest inquiry; and so satisfied had been every Member of the Committee with the fair dealing of the Post Office authorities in such matters, that no one proposed any reports whatever on the subject of the charges then brought before them. This recollection led him to suppose that any individual coming to this House should be able to show that he had made some previous representation of grievances to the Post Office authorities. In this case, this had not been done; and he must say that, while he honoured the hon. Member for Finsbury for his general championship of grievances, in this instance the hon. Member had certainly not a very good case to bring forward. It appeared to him that this was a mere trumpery squabble between the editor of a newspaper and the conductor of the Post Office Directory; and that it was not a matter which the House ought to take up, as a great public question. On these grounds he should vote against the Motion.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
replied: It was because Mr. Bokenham was an able and intelligent witness, that he wished to have him before a Committee of the House; and instead of Members of the Government running from one end of the House to the other every now and then, to pick up scraps of information on the points of his (Mr. Duncombe's) statement, from persons in attendance belonging to the Post Office, he should like to hear those parties at the bar of the House giving such information as he knew it was in their power to afford. It had been said, that Mr. Bokenham and another had examined Mr. Kelly's books, and found them correct; but it should be remembered that one of the allegations in the petition was, that Kelly and 838 Bokenham were one as regarded this affair, and that Bokenham had threatened with punishment those letter-carriers who did not comply with Kelly's requisitions. He had made it his business to inquire minutely into the allegations contained in the petition which he had presented; and he believed in his conscience that they were one and all founded on fact, and that their truth could, if the inquiry now sought for were granted, be established in the most incontrovertible manner by witnesses in the Post Office establishment itself. Nothing could be more reasonable than the request which he now made on behalf of the public for an inquiry into the subject; and the Government were pursuing an unworthy course, and one which could not prove satisfactory to the community, if they were to refuse an inquiry, and insist upon settling a question of great public interest by merely referring to a return prepared in the establishment where the wrongs complained of were alleged, and could be proved, to exist. It would be childish to move for returns from any public department, if they were to be made up as the present Return had been prepared. If hon. Gentlemen at both sides of the House were to combine in opposing such a Motion as the present, their doing so would appear to argue that there was amongst hon. Gentlemen at both sides an impression that it was the duty of public men, present and past, to screen the delinquencies of public officers. For his own part, he found in the opposition which Her Majesty's Government was offering to this Motion, the strongest possible attestation of the excellence of his case; for he was confident that the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury bench, if they thought that he (Mr. Duncombe) was not in a position to prove his assertions, would not hesitate to grant him the Committee: on the contrary they would jump at the opportunity of bringing him to confusion and into discredit. When a Motion was brought forward for a Committee to inquire into the alleged misconduct of certain Poor Law officers, it was not refused on the grounds that the inquiry should be instituted by the Poor Law Commissioners, and not by that House. No, the House acceded to the Motion, and the Committee in question was still sitting, notwithstanding that it was quite true that the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Graham) had opposed it. He believed all the allegations contained in the petition to be strictly true; and the Government might 839 rest assured that the public would not be satisfied at the matter being stifled in this manner. The present Motion might be defeated; but he pledged himself that the question should be brought before the House again and again, until the inquiry had at length been granted. If the Post Office Directory was a public work, the public should have the benefit of it. If profits were realized by its publication, they should, as had been recommended by a Committee of that House in the case of the packet lists, be applied to the credit of the public revenue, or they might be given to that overworked and deserving class of men the letter-carriers; but most assuredly they should not be permitted to go into the pockets of Mr. Kelly. In conclusion, he would only observe that he felt he had done nothing more than his duty in not suffering a petition, involving matters of the deepest interest to the public, to lie a dead letter on the Table of that House. He felt that the demand which he made for inquiring into a question of such grave importance was reasonable and judicious, and he now left it for the House to decide between him and Her Majesty's Government, whether the Committee was to be granted or not.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 92: Majority 43.
|List of the AYES.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Marsland, H.|
|Baine, W.||Moffat, G.|
|Barnard, E. G.||O'Brien, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||O'Brien, T.|
|Bowring, Dr.||O'Connell, M.|
|Bridgeman, H.||O'Connell, J.|
|Bright, J.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Browne, R. D.||Powell, C.|
|Busfeild, W.||Protheroe, E.|
|Butler, P. S.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Chapman, B.||Rich, H.|
|Christie, W. D.||Roche, E. B.|
|Collett, J.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Dawson, hon. T. V.||Thornely, T.|
|Evans, Sir D. L.||Wakley, T.|
|Ewart, W.||Walker, R.|
|Fitzgerald, R. A.||Warburton, H.|
|Forster, M.||Ward, H. G.|
|Granger, T. C.||Watson, W. H.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Hay, Sir A. L.||TELLERS.|
|Kelly, J.||Duncombe, T.|
|M'Carthy, A.||Williams, W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Antrobus, E.||Attwood, J.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. H.||Baillie, Col.|
|Astell, W.||Baillie, H. J.|
|Barkly, H.||James, Sir W. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Jocelyn, Visct.|
|Benbow, J.||Jones, Capt.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Botfield, B.||Lindsay, hon. Capt.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Broadwood, H.||Lygon, hon. Gen.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||M'Neill, D.|
|Buckley, E.||Mahon, Visct.|
|Cardwell, E.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Masterman, J.|
|Carnegie, hon. Capt.||Meynell, Capt.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Neville, R.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Palmer, G.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Patten, J. W.|
|Cockburn, rt. hon. Sir G.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Connolly, Col.||Peel, J.|
|Copeland, Ald.||Polhill, F.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Reid, Col.|
|Damer, hon. Col.||Rolleston, Col.|
|Douglas, Sir C. E.||Round, J.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Sanderson, R.|
|Escott, B.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Finch, G.||Smythe, hon. G.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Flower, Sir J.||Spooner, R.|
|Forman, T. S.||Stewart, J.|
|Godson, R.||Stuart, H.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Greene, T.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Trench, Sir F. W.|
|Grogan, E.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Hale, R. B.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hall, Col.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Wellesley, Lord. C.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Hayes, Sir E.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||TELLERS.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Young, J.|
|Hope, G. W.||Cripps, J.|