§ The Earl of Harrowby
rose and said, that as chairman of the Secret Committee appointed to examine the Papers referred to the House by his majesty's message, relating to the conduct of the queen, he was commanded to present the Report of the Committee to the House. The noble earl moved that it be read, which being agreed to—
The Clerk read the Report as follows:
"By the Lords' Committees, appointed a Secret Committee to examine the Papers laid before the House of Lords on Tuesday, the 6th of June last, in two sealed bags, by his majesty's command, and to report thereupon as they shall see fit, and to whom have been since referred several additional papers, in two sealed bags, relative to the subject matter of his majesty's most gracious Message of the 6th of June last,
"Ordered to Report, That the Committee have examined, with all the attention due to so important a subject the documents which have been laid before them, and they find that those documents contain allegations supported by the concurrent testimony of a great number of persons in various situations of life, and residing in different parts of Europe, which deeply affect the honour of the queen, charging her majesty with an adulterous connection with a foreigner, originally in her service in a menial capacity; and attributing to her majesty a continued series 168 Of conduct highly unbecoming her majesty's rank arid station, and of the most licentious character.
"These charges appear to the Committee to be calculated so deeply to affect, not only the honour of the Queen, but also the dignity of the Crown, and the moral feeling and honour of the country, that in their opinion, it is indispensable that they should become the subject of a solemn inquiry; which it appears to the Committee may be best effected in the course of a legislative proceeding, the necessity of which they cannot but most deeply deplore."
§ The Report was Ordered to be printed.
The Earl of Liverpool
said, that in consequence of the report which their lordships had just heard, it was incumbent on him to give notice, that he should tomorrow bring in a bill, founded upon the report, the object of which he should then explain to their lordships. At the same time all facilities would be given to the illustrious personage whose conduct was implicated so much, for the purposes of defence or exculpation in every way. He concluded by moving, that their lordships be summoned for to-morrow.
§ Earl Grey
would, in the present situation of the proceedings, abstain from saying much that occurred to him upon this most important subject, the difficulty and danger to be apprehended from which was, in his opinion, increased in an immense degree by the report now on the table. When he before objected to the course which the noble lords opposite proposed to pursue, he stated then, and he now repeated, that his only object was to obtain for the parties concerned strict and impartial justice. He had now again to enter his protest against the injustice of a proceeding which did not leave the case of the person accused in an unprejudiced state. The charges now made were not merely brought forward by the ministers of the Crown, but came before their lordships through the medium of a committee of their lordships' House. It was therefore important that their lordships should consider the situation in which they were placed. Though the noble lord had alluded to the introduction of a legislative proceeding, it must be anticipated that their lordships would have to act judicially in the course of the inquiry. They ought, then, to come impartially to that part of their duty. The charge set forth, on the authority of the report, was that of an 169 adulterous connexion with a menial servant, and a long course of licentious conduct. A charge of a more abhorrent nature never could be made against any individual, to say nothing of its being brought against a queen. If this charge rested upon evidence which could be supported, it certainly formed a case for indispensable inquiry, and he agreed that it was for the honour of the Crown and the welfare of the country, that the inquiry should proceed in the way calculated to secure the honour and interests of both. But by whom were their lordships told that the evidence could be supported? By those ministers who were willing to continue her majesty in the character of queen—to make arrangements for her introduction to foreign courts—and to recommend their ambassadors to pay respect to her. They now told their lordships that the queen was a person liable to imputations of the most abhorrent nature. They had permitted this conduct to go on for years, and now they brought forward the charge with the greatest haste, leaving it suspended to agitate the country, and thus compromising not only the dignity of the throne, but the safety of the state. Her majesty, now standing under a charge proceeding from such authority, was placed in a situation that no one before her ever stood in. It appeared to be thought that it would be necessary to suspend the charge, in order to allow time for the defence; but he did not think that her majesty would lose any thing by the inquiry proceeding immediately; for she must sustain more injury from the circumstance of this report being promulgated to the world, than she could gain advantage from any delay for procuring evidence. As the case now stood, she had no means of knowing the characters of the witnesses that were to be brought against her; even the name of the menial servant, with whom the adulterous intercourse was said to have taken place, was not mentioned. In this situation the charge was to stand against her for months; and then perhaps she would have, after all, to meet the investigation with very imperfect means of defence. He thought that justice required that her majesty should be forthwith furnished by ministers with a distinct statement of the charges, and a list of the witnesses on whose authority they were made. He concluded by saying that his object in rising was merely to eater his protest against a course of pro- 170 ceeding that seemed to violate every principle of justice.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
thought that the noble earl might have abstained from saying any thing until his noble friend had had the opportunity, to-morrow, of explaining the course of proceeding which he thought should be adopted. He could assure their lordships that he as deeply regretted the necessity of the proceeding, and as anxiously desired to avoid agitating the public mind, as the noble earl or any other person; but he thought it requisite to make one or two observations on what had fallen from the noble earl. He had accused his majesty's government with having committed a great act of injustice by the course which had been pursued. If that course was injustice, their lordships were completely accomplices in it. The arguments of the noble earl and his friends were stated to be unanswerable; but those who were convinced by those unanswerable arguments had not thought fit that the public should know how large their numbers were. As to the inconvenience to the accused person, of which so much had been said, how was it to be avoided? Every regard had been had to the strictest impartiality in laying the proceedings before the committee. But if any member of that House had risen to propose a measure similar to that which was the object of the committee, would their lordships have allowed him to open his mouth? When the call from the accused person for trial had been so strongly made, there was no other mode of proceeding left. Before the call was made, the committee had been appointed, and then their lordships did not think it consistent with propriety or justice to change their course. But it was said, his majesty's ministers were highly blameable for not having themselves instituted a proceeding like that which it was now proposed to institute on the recommendation of the committee. And yet what the noble earl contended ought to have been done before, he now wished to delay; and alleged that to proceed would be dangerous to the tranquillity of the country. He could assure the House for himself, that if there were any part of the conduct of his majesty's ministers to which they could look back with more particular satisfaction than another, he believed it to be that which had been employed in endeavours to avoid, by some compromise, the public discussion of the present sub- 171 ject. Had it been possible, by allowing her majesty to spend her days in comfort m any part of Europe in which she pleased, without disturbing the country or injuring its interests, that would have been an arrangement which he was confident would have obtained their lordships' approbation; and he thought if there were any occasion on which a public man might be excused for making some sacrifice of consistency, it was for such an object. No compromise had, however, taken place, and ministers must now endeavour to do their duty in the situation in which they were placed. With regard to the difficulty of the duty their lordships had to perform, he could not think that the objection on that ground had any weight. He believed that, until the charge was proved by other evidence, the report of the committee would not be regarded in any more important light than the verdict of a grand jury. There was always an interval between the finding of a bill of indictment and the commencement of a trial; and it was never considered that that arrangement operated to the disadvantage of the accused. There were cases in which charges had been suspended for many years, and the party at last acquitted. That there should on the present occasion be some interval, was, from the nature of the case, unavoidable. His noble friend would, however, to-morrow explain the course of proceeding which it appeared most advisable to follow.
The Earl of Carnarvon
could not admit the justice of the noble earl's comparison of the report on the table to the verdict of a grand jury. Before a grand jury found a bill, they heard a complete body of testimony against the accused. He would ask the noble earl whether the committee had examined such witnesses as a grand jury must examine before they sanctioned an accusation? Were the witnesses brought before the committee as they must have been into a grand jury-room? There was another subject, however, on which he thought it necessary to say a few words. He wished to know whether it really was the intention of the noble lord opposite to shorten the duration of the present session, in order to afford an opportunity for the exhibition of a splendid pageant, which would at present be very ill-timed. He was aware that the coronation was an occasion on which oaths were interchanged between the sovereign and his people, and therefore he 172 did not mean to deprecate such a ceremony, though he thought it had much better be delayed. After expunging her majesty's name from the Liturgy, and bringing forward the present report, it would appear as if it had been intended to put a stain on her character in anticipation of that solemnity. The measures might with some have the appearance, not of a wish to do justice, but to throw an insult on her majesty before trial. He did not call upon their lordships to pay attention to popular clamour, but wished them to regard the feelings of that respectable part of the public which looked with anxiety as well as respect to their proceedings. Under these circumstances, he thought it would be right to suspend the ceremony. No possible danger could arise from a delay of three months. A great responsibility would be incurred by those who advised this proceeding, if, at a time when oaths were to be interchanged between the sovereign and his people, the season, instead of being one of joy and harmony, should become one of sorrow and dissatisfaction—if feelings should be excited which might unfortunately lead to some intemperate act. There were two courses before them. If one way was adopted, there would be harmony and peace. If the other, the only object for which the ceremony ought to be attended to would be defeated.
The Earl of Darnley
was afraid that nothing but mischief could result from the report laid on the table, and sincerely wished that the proceedings had been avoided. He had before alluded to the measure of the omission of her majesty's name in the Liturgy, the injustice of which was so glaring. After her majesty had been prayed for during twenty-five years as princess of Wales, the refusing to pray for her as queen was quite unaccountable. How did it happen that she, who was worthy to be prayed for on the 29th of January, became all at once an unworthy object on the 30th, the very next day? The conduct of ministers in this respect could not be exculpated.
§ Earl Grey
said, there was one point on which he was most anxious that he should not be misunderstood. The noble earl had stated, that no part of the conduct of his majesty's advisers had given them more satisfaction than that which they had pursued in the present case. He must, however, say, that if those advisers had before them evidence of the queen 173 having been guilty of an adulterous intercourse with a foreigner, aggravated by a long course of licentious conduct—if that charge was true, the case was one which, consistently with the dignity of the Crown and the welfare of the country, admitted of no compromise whatever. Rut when ministers had on former occasions been hard pressed with this argument, then the crime was softened down into family differences. Family differences were, however, not to be tried by their lordships. It was the consideration of charges derogatory to the dignity of the Crown, or injurious to the dignity of the state, to which they were to proceed. The noble earl, however, when in possession of these charges, was willing to consent to an arrangement for allowing her majesty to live abroad in comfort. But was this arrangement to take place only in consequence of family differences? No; it was after a charge of living in adultery; to continue which intercourse the noble earl was willing that 50,000l. a year should be taken from the pockets of the people. This he declared to be a charge which could not be compromised, and to that declaration he would adhere. The noble earl and his colleagues had, however, thought differently. If they believed the charge, they were bound to have proceeded upon it.
The Earl of Liverpool
rose merely to say a few words in answer to what had fallen from the noble earl. The doctrine advanced by him was, that ministers had finally seen the queen's conduct in a different light from what they had done at the commencement, because they now advised inquiry, whereas they formerly showed a willingness to compromise. Now, he had not the least difficulty in maintaining that, even on the assumption of the possibility of proving every charge against the queen which had been made, his majesty's ministers had done right in offering to agree to an adjustment without a trial. He would say, that had she remained abroad, the evils attending a compromise would not have been so great as those that might be anticipated from instituting proceedings against her; and he entertained this opinion in common with ninety-nine out of a hundred of the nation. Undoubtedly, it might be said, that, if charges existed, they ought to be proved or dispelled. This, as a general maxim, might be correct; but circumstances might be such as to render the application of it 174 to certain cases highly inexpedient. If the peace of the country, if the honour of the Crown, and the cause of public morals were involved in the question, it was not only the duty of a statesman, but of every man who was actuated by public principles, to prevent as far as possible a public proceeding like that now before the House. He therefore entirely dissented from the opinion of the noble earl; and when the proper time arrived, he should be able to defend the conduct, founded on different principles, which his majesty's government had pursued. He was not afraid to say, that though the charges were known to ministers for months before they communicated them to parliament—that though they knew the evidence on which they rested, and saw the possibility of proving them—it was their duty, in all circumstances, to prevent a public investigation. Whether the steps they had taken to prevent inquiry were prudent or no was a different question; but when the queen came to this country—when her conduct was forced upon public attention—when no medium was left between admitting her to the exercise of all her rights and privileges and allowing her full influence on the morals of the country, and proceeding against her, supposing the charges to be true, they were compelled to bring them forward. Great as the evil on this latter supposition was, it appeared to them to be the least.
The Marquis of Buckingham
said, that the House had already concurred in the propriety of proceeding as his majesty's ministers had recommended, without knowing any of the particulars, but merely having before them the general charges. He concurred in all the vote9 that had been given for adjournment, in order that time might be afforded for adjustment, and he did so with great satisfaction. He wished the question not to be brought forward if it could have been prevented, because he thought it would affect the honour of the Crown, and the peace and tranquillity of the country; but when he found that all attempts at compromise had been unavailing, he as sincerely agreed in the necessity of pursuing the inquiry. The proposed duty had therefore devolved upon the committee, which duty it had now fulfilled; and if he might be allowed to say any thing concerning that committee, he would mention that the report on the table expressed its unanimous opinion on the documents laid before it.
could not allow some of the observations which had fallen from the noble marquis to pass unnoticed. It was with pain that he heard the noble marquis attempt to make the House accomplices in the proceedings of ministers—it was with pain that he saw an endeavour made to throw the responsibility of the inconsistent conduct of ministers on a majority of their lordships; but when the noble marquis went a little farther, and wished to implicate them likewise in the negotiations that had intervened, he went too far. The majority of the House stood acquitted, both of having preferred charges against her majesty, and of having attempted to compromise those charges. The noble earl had stated in loud and lofty language, that he had his reasons for believing, that inquiry, which was not necessary if her majesty had remained out of England, became necessary as soon as she returned; but he had not specified those reasons. He merely gave his opinion without producing any grounds for it; and he had forgotten that her majesty was not only to escape a trial if she remained abroad, but was to receive 50,000l. a year. The feelings of the country might have been interested in this question; but was that interest diminished by the presence of her majesty in England? The noble earl had alleged that ministers were driven to the course which they had adopted; but he had not explained why they were so driven. The course of these proceedings was from the beginning wrong—highly inconsistent—highly dangerous—derogatory from the honour of the Crown, and injurious to the best interests of the country. It was unjust that charges should be suspended so long as these must be before they were tried. He would again say, that the House expressed no opinion by consenting to repeated adjournments. Their lordships were told that there were hopes of adjustment, and on that presumption they adjourned the meeting of their committee; but in doing so they expressed no opinion of the charges. Neither did they express any opinion of the negotiations, of which, not knowing the strength of the evidence against her majesty, they could not know the propriety. He protested therefore against being considered as a party to a course of proceedings from which he entirely dissented.
§ The motion was agreed to.