§ The Serjeant at Arms attending this House informed the House, that in obedience to their Order, and Mr. Speaker's Warrants, he had on Friday last taken into his custody Powell Marshall and Henry Whitehead, but that he had not yet succeeded in apprehending George Morris Mitchell.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he rose to present two petitions from the prisoners Marshall and Whitehead. They were worded in precisely similar terms. The petitioners stated that they were taken into custody on a charge of contempt of the House—that in consideration of having been kept in confinement for a week, and of their having acted in entire ignorance of the offence for which they were committed, they prayed that the House would consider the punishment which they had already undergone sufficient. Upon those grounds, as well as upon the fact that the petitioners had expressed their sincere regret and contrition for the offence they had been guilty of, he begged to move that the petition be laid upon the table with a view to the prisoners being discharged from custody.
Petitions from the said Powell Marshall and Henry Whitehead, expressing their 1267 regret and contrition for their offence, and praying for their discharge, brought up, and read.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that the two petitioners in question were unable to pay the fees which were demanded of them, and that to insist upon their doing so would be simply to inflict on them a more prolonged confinement. Under these circumstances he begged to move that they be discharged from custody.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the said Powell Marshall and Henry Whitehead, having expressed their regret and contrition for their offence, be discharged out of the custody of the Serjeant at Arms, without payment of their Fees."—(Mr. Heanessy.)
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he thought it was somewhat irregular to make such a Motion without notice.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Gentleman was not out of order in doing so, as the question involved was one of privilege.
§ MR. CHARLES FORSTER
said, he, on the part of the Committee of Petitions, had no wish that the House should proceed with undue severity in the present instance. What was chiefly desired was to show that the authority of the House was sufficient to repress practices which militated against the fair exercise of the right of petition. He hoped, therefore, that, inasmuch as those persons now in custody expressed their contrition for the offence they had committed, and had been only guilty in the second degree, and the authority of the House had in their case been vindicated, no opposition would be made to the Motion.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
said, that after two Committees had been sitting on the question, and after the very warm debate which had taken place a few days ago on the subject, hon. Members could be scarcely prepared for such a Motion as that of the hon. Member for the King's County, especially as he had only just presented the petitions on which it was founded. It was, to say the least, a very mild course of proceeding which he suggested, and must rather, he thought, tend to increase the number of fictitious petitions, that when only a few Members were present men who had been proved to have forged signatures should be permitted to come forward in forma pauperis to be absolved from fees imposed in consequence of their offence, and then discharged with a few complimentary remarks.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
, said, that the Report of the Committee proved that the persons in question had been merely agents in the hands of others. They had now been in custody for nearly a week, and he thought that, as they had expressed their contrition for what they had done, the House would be only acting with the usual consideration under such circumstances in agreeing to the Motion. The amount of the fees which they were liable to pay was, he understood, £10, and, as they were in a humble position of life, to insist upon the payment of that sum might involve their being kept in custody for the remainder of the Session.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the said Powell Marshall and Henry Whitehead, having expressed their regret and contrition for their offence, be discharged out of the custody of the Serjeant at Arms, without payment of their Fees.