HC Deb 20 July 1847 vol 94 cc593-7

rose, pursuant to notice, to bring under the consideration of the House the subject of the petition of Robert Grapes, complaining of his dismissal from the office of letter-carrier, and the improper conduct of certain authorities at the Post Office. He must first complain of the non-presentation of certain re- turns relating to the Post Office which he had moved for some time ago, so that he was not in possession of the information which he considered it to be the duty of that establishment and of the Government to have furnished him with. Robert Grapes, the petitioner, was appointed to the situation of a general post letter-carrier in March, 1840, and continued in that capacity until July, 1847, during which time no complaint was made of him except in 1846, when he was charged with writing a circular, which charge was shown to be untrue. As a proof that there was no charge against the character of this individual, it had been stated by Mr. Peacock, the Solicitor of the Post Office, that he was one of the best officers in the whole establishment. Why then had he been persecuted and dismissed? For this simple reason—that he had been instrumental in pointing out certain reforms necessary in that establishment, and instrumental in exposing (he said this advisedly) the dishonest practices of Mr. F. Kelly, the inspector, both with respect to the Directory, which had been the bane of the establishment, and with respect to other facts. In consequence of certain charges brought by Grapes against Mr. F. Kelly and Mr. W. Bokenham, consisting of no less than fifteen heads, an inquiry was directed by the Postmaster General before Mr. Peacock, which commenced on July 8, 1846: many witnesses were examined; and on July 25, 1846, one of those witnesses, named Thomas Mitchell, whilst giving important evidence in support of these charges, was summarily dismissed the service on a false charge trumped up against him. He thought Her Majesty's Government must have been convinced of the injustice done to this man, as he had been placed in a better situation. Grapes was equally innocent; and the public were indebted to him for his services in exposing the practices of Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bokenham. Mitchell having been so dismissed, other witnesses declined giving evidence, in consequence of the terror and alarm produced by his dismissal. But, what had been the consequence of the charges? He had asserted that the early deliveries were a fraud upon the public; and they were stopped. He had said that the Directory was an impediment to the public service; and that had been altered. He had said that there was not a sufficient scale of salaries to the men at the Post Office, and that the fees and perquisites should be done away with; and both were done. There was another system by which Mr. Kelly had defrauded the public, in distributing 50,000 or 60,000 circulars (puffing his Directory) through the Post Office, without payment of postage, which had also been done away with. He had received a great deal of information from Robert Grapes, who had been persecuted in consequence; and, on the 3rd July last, he was dismissed Her Majesty's service, without any cause being assigned. On that day he had been called before the Postmaster General, and the depositions read to him of two men named Watts and Thomas against a man named Thacker, stating that which was totally false, viz., that Grapes had tampered with them respecting the evidence they were to give. Watts and Thomas were called in and asked whether their depositions were true? Watts answered, "I think so." Thomas answered, "No;" and when asked why he had signed the deposition, he replied that it had been under pressure, and through terror of Kelly. He could prove that Kelly had said, with reference to the trial of Thacker at the Old Bailey, that he would give 1,000l. if he could place Grapes in the same position. If this were true, was Kelly a fit man to remain on the establishment? Grapes had been dismissed by a written order, without date or signature; he had been refused a copy, and a copy had been refused to him (Mr. Duncombe), it not being convenient, he supposed, for the Post Office to give it. Her Majesty's Ministers should never be satisfied until they appointed a commission to examine the establishment. As to Colonel Maberly, he and Mr. Kelly were one; Mr. Kelly was paramount; for some reason or other, whoever was Postmaster General was sure soon to become the tool of this man. He challenged Her Majesty's Government to an investigation of this establishment, and he moved— That it is the opinion of this House, that a searching inquiry should be instituted into the various complaints, on the part of Robert Grapes and other subordinate officers of the General Post Office, into the conduct of Mr. F. Kelly, Inspector of Letter Carriers.


was understood to say, that the difficulty attending the preparation of the returns moved for by the hon. Gentleman was the cause of their delay; and upon this ground (namely, the absence of the papers) he suggested that it would be better to postpone the subject till an- other Session. With respect to the dismissal of Grapes, there had been a prosecution at the Old Bailey of a man named Thacker, upon a charge of embezzling letters, which had been proved; and it came to the knowledge of the Post Office that Watts, one of the witnesses, had been tampered with by Grapes, to prevent his giving evidence against the man; an inquiry took place before Mr. Peacock, a professional man of high respectability, the Solicitor of the Post Office; Watts and Thomas were examined, and it had been proved that Grapes had taken steps to pre-vent Watts from giving evidence.


regretted that the Post Office Department was not represented in that House. He regretted also to be obliged to notice the fact, that persons in the employment of the Post Office authorities should have been dismissed without being informed of their offence, leaving the world to infer that there existed no other cause for their dismissal than the fact that they had given evidence against their superiors in office.


observed, that the question, though relating to an humble individual, was one of immense importance. If any man were honest enough to expose abuses, he ought not to be dismissed merely for disclosing a scene of plunder and robbery.


thought that Grapes had done considerable service to the public, in exposing very gross abuses, reflecting the greatest disgrace upon the authorities of the Post Office; and it would only have been justice in the Postmaster General to have made ample inquiries, and made public the result. He hoped the charges which had been urged by Grapes against persons in the Post Office would receive the fullest investigation.


would not enter at all into that discursive matter which had been attached to this discussion. The ground on which Grapes was dismissed was, as alleged, that he had tampered with witnesses; and it would be apparent that a man labouring under the suspicion of such an offence, could not be retained in employment at the Post Office. The papers which would shortly be laid before the House would show whether the facts were or were not, as stated by Grapes; and it would be desirable that the House should not take any decisive step in reference to this question until in possession of the necessary evidence.


had moved for the papers of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke a fortnight ago; and it was his conviction that they had been purposely withheld by the people at the Post Office in order to put him in a disadvantageous position in entering upon the subject before the House. It had already been made perfectly clear that Grapes was dismissed without having been furnished with the reasons of his dismissal. He had asked for a copy of the order dismissing him, and it had been refused. He entreated them to give him the date of that order; and he was told in reply that it was not dated at all. If, as the right hon. Gentleman observed, it was true that he had tampered with witnesses, he would not have been a fit-person for employment in the Post Office; but the accusation was altogether false and unfounded. It would be much more creditable to the establishment, and satisfactory to the public, if an investigation were at once instituted into the cause of the man's dismissal; and he would undertake to prove that the charges had been trumped up by Kelly, whose malpractices had been exposed by Grapes; and who, therefore, had directed against that unfortunate subordinate all his enmity. It would be disgraceful to the Post Office if it could be shown that there had been no ground whatever for dismissing Grapes; and it was easy to demonstrate that his only offence had been his daring in questioning the honesty of Kelly, to whom in the end he had been most unjustly sacrificed. If he was returned to the next Parliament, he would without any delay bring the subject again before the House; and if a Committee were granted he would put it beyond all manner of doubt that Kelly was the greatest tyrant ever employed in any public department; and that so long as he remained in the Post Office the administration of the affairs of that establishment would be open to continual abuse. Under the circumstances, he would content himself with having brought the case before the House.

Motion by leave, withdrawn.