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Tie Hon. Dudley Ryder thought that as there was no motion before the House, the Hon. Member had no occasion to withdraw.
The Speaker stated that no motion could be made relative to any Member, in the presence of such Member.
Sir Benjamin Hammet having withdrawn; after some remarks on the order of proceeding, General Tarletan moved, "That it does not appear to this Honse that Sir Benjamin Hammet is in such a state of bodily infirmity, as to require that he should take advantage of the clause in the Act of Parliament, by which a Member is entitled to delegate the privilege as franking, and that he has delegated that trust for two years to his son."
the Hon. Dudley Ryder asked, where were the facts by which the charge contained in the resolution now proposed to the House was established? From the paper on the table it only appeared that Sir Bejamin Hammet had delegated the exercise of his privilege to another; it did not appear that when he had so delegated it, he was in a capacity of exercising it himself. The charge then was merely founded upon the idea that he had continued the delegation at a time when he was qualified to resume his privilege. The Hon. Gentleman bad certainly admitted that he had enjoyed intervals of health, but that these were uncertain, and of short continuance. To make out the charge it would be necessary to prove that he had still continued to exercise his privilege, after having delegated it to his son, a circumstance which the Hon. Gentleman himself had expressly denied. As to the charge that the delegated privilege had been abused, in point of the extent to which it was carried, that merely rested upon the assertion of the Hon. General, to whose assertion he would pay as much respect as to that of any man ; but it had not been substantiated by any proof, whieh eould render it a proper subject of discussion. Upon the whole, he thought that the charge was frivolous, and that the motion ought to be dismissed as unworthy the attention of the House; he should therefore move that the other Orders of the Day be now read.
Mr. Grey said, this certainly was a question, on which, as particularly affecting an individual Member of the House, no person could speak without unpleasant sensations. At the fame time the question having been started, he differed extremely from the last Right Hon. Speaker, who had proposed to dismiss it as altogether unworthy of attention. He, on the contrary, thought that if the House acted with a proper sense of their own dignity, or regard to their privileges, they were bound seriously and impartially to entertain the discussion. He however admitted, that there had not yet been produced . ' • sufficient sufficient evidence, upon which to ground such a resolution as had been proposed to the House by his Hon. Friend. The privilege of franking had been given to Members, not to be applied to their own individual interests, but to cover the expence of that correspondence, which they were obliged t» carry on in their public capacity. It Wot provided, that in case of infirmity, a Member might be allowed to delegate his privilege to another, for the fame purpose. But if there was ground of suspicion that a Member, not being in that state of infirmity which incapacitated him from the exercise of hi« privilege, had yet delegated it to another, who had applied it to an enormous extent, for commercial and other purposes, that surely was a case which called for the attention of the House. Though he therefore did not seel himself justified, from the evidence which had been produced, in afienting to the resolution of his Hon. Friend, he should however propose, that the House should go into an inquiry, in order to obtain proper documents upon the subject. If the House saw that the Hon. Member did not appear to be in that state of indisposition, which he had pleaded as the ground of his incapacity, they would, no doubt, be disposed to approve of such an inquiry. The Hon. Gentleman had produced letters from kis physician and apothecary, stating that he was not in a situation of health, which qualified him to carry on business. Was the privilege of franking given to Members, to be applied to the purposes of business? He should conclude with moving that the House do now adjourn, in order to afford time for inquiry.
Mr. Alderman Nenvnham was of opinion, that the Hon. Member who had withdrawn had said what was sufficient to exculpate him from any censure. He had assured the House, and he doubted not the truth of that assurance, that, at the time he had delegated the power to his son to frank his letters for him, he was actually in that state of indisposition and infirmity which the Act required; and though he might have continued it longer than was necessary, yet he had done so from an idea only, that as one person only was employed to do this business, he had not offended against the privileges of the House, or the principles of the Act of Parliament. He thought the Hon. General, who brought forward the motion, had done so without any kind of evidence which ought to authorise so harsh a proceeding as that of censure: He did not even think it sufficient to ground the charge of abusing the privilege of that House upon. The Hon. Member who had withdrawn, had declared in his place, as his defence and exculpation, that he did not mean to do any thing which was
contrary contrary to the Act of Parliament, and that he was very sorry if he had unintentionally done so. He did not think what was said of Members in trade abusing the privilege of franking, applied in general more to them than it did to Members who were Gentlemen of landed property, receiving letters from their tenants and stewards, in the remission to them of their rents, and other monies transmitted to them. A great deal had been said about the Hon. Member who had withdrawn, having delegated this privilege to his son. He believed there were many Members of that House who had frequently delegated the privileges of franking to their wives, daughters, and other ladies occasionally, and he saw no greater crime or offence in one case than in the other. In short, he said, it was his opinion, that the evidence was altogether so defective, that the business might fairly be said to be frivolous and trifling, and he should therefore vote for the Order of the Day.
Mr. Criclett stated, that he had known the Hon. Member who had withdrawn, and was now the subject of debate, for several years; that his health for some years past had been very precarious and uncertain, so much so as totally to prevent him at different times from the power of franking his letters. He not only said this from his own knowledge, but from hearing the fame very frequently from some of the first medical characters in the kingdom, among whom he mentioned Sir W. Fordyce, Mr. Pott, and Mr. Pitcairn. This, he said, he stated as a matter of justice, which he thought it his duty to do, and not, he assured the House, from any motive of sriendstiip or acquaintance. He should therefore give his vote for the Order of the Day.
Lord William Ruffel thought that the justification which had been made by Sir Benjamin Hammet, was such as proved that he had made a gross abuse of his privilege: He had delegated it to his son, in order that he might himself retire into the country.
The Master of the Rolls said, that as he had seconded the motion of his Hon. Friend for the Order of the Day, he thought it necessary to give his reasons for having done so. He by no means thought the motion of the Hon. General either frivolous or light in its importance. On the contrary, he was of opinion that he deserved the thanks of the House for having brought it forward. Nevertheless, he had thought it proper to support the motion for the Order of the Day, because he thought, that as the business stood at present, the House could not with propriety proceed further on it. The Hon. Gentleman had not produced evidence which was suf3 sicient ficient to ground upon it, and justify the adoption of the motion he had brought forward. At the same time he did not think the Hon. Magistrate, who had withdrawn,had altogether exculpated himself so clearly as might be wished. He had, however, assured the House, that he had not offended against the clause of the Act of Parliament intentionally; that he had consulted Gentlemen, his friends, upon the matter, and they all thought the fame on that as the Hon. Magistrate himself had done. He said also, that if he had really offended against the principle of the Act os Parliament, he begged pardon of the House. The chief part of the charges alleged against the Hon. Member who was withdrawn, was, in his having continued the delegation of his privilege to frank letters to his son, during those intervals of time when his state of health did not require it. This, the Master of the Rolls apprehended, arose from a wish not to give too much trouble to the Postoffice, as he knew that the returns of his indisposition were very frequent; and as it appeared from his assertion, in his exculpation, that only one person (his son) was employed in franking, he thought, that at the present moment, when the abuse, or even the power os abuse in this particular, was on the point of being effectually put a stop to, there was no occasion for the House to take any more serious notice of the matter. He was extremely glad, however, that the motion had been brought forward, as it would ihew the people of this country how feelingly alive the Members of the House were to any privilege entrusted to them for the public good—and how very jealous of the smallest abuse of them. For the reasons he had adduced, he should support the motion for the Order of the Day.
Mr. Joddrell said, that as he should not deem it consistent with the character and dignity os the House, that an idea1 should go abroad that the privilege of franking, granted to the Members by the Public, for the honour and advantage of their constituents, had been diverted to other purposes, without proper animadversion, he ihould vote for the original motion.
General Tarleton said, that whatever might be the fate os his motion, he had gained one point, that it should go abroad in the newspapers, as sanctioned by a sort of minister (Mr. Ryder), that when a gross abuse of privilege by a Member of that House, to the great detriment of the revenue, was brought forward as a proper ground of investigation and censure, it should be treated as a frivolous and unfounded charge, which ought to be dismissed, as altogether unworthy of attention.
Vol. III. G The
The question was then put upon the motion that the other Orders of the Day be now read:
The Vote of Credit Bill went through a Committee. The
HOUSE OF LORDS.
VICTORY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN.
The Firs Lord of the Admiralty (Earl Spencer) gave notice, that he should the next day move that the thanks of the House be voted to Vice-Admirals Hotham, Sir Hyde Parker, and Goodall, and the Captains, officers, marines, and seamen, serving under the command of Vice-Admiral Hotham, by means of whose skill and bravery the late victory was obtained over the French fleet in the Mediterranean.
The Earl of Lauderdale said, he did not rife to fay any thing in objection to the intended motion, but merely to express a hope, that the Noble Earl was prepared with facts to prove that a victory had lately been obtained in the Mediterranean: Perhaps it was merely owing to want of information, but he could not help entertaining some doubt of the fact.
The Firfl Lord of the Admiralty said, he believed it was not usual to debate a motion before it was made; he should therefore content himself with moving that the Lords be summoned, for the next day.—Ordered.
CONGRATULATION OF HIS MAJESTY ON THE MARRIAGE OF THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS OF WALES.
The Earl of Mansfield, in a short, but dignified and eloquent speech, called their Lordships attention to a motion which he flattered himself would meet with the unanimous concurrence of every Noble Lord present, viz. to vote a congratulatory address to his Majesty on the happy circumstance of the nuptials of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales with the Princess Caroline of Brunswick—an event which, as it gave hopes of a continuance of the Royal line, afforded the nation the flattering prospect of additional security for the prolongation os the many blessings it had enjoyed under the government of the august Sovereign now upon the throne of these kingdoms. Marriage was a state which his Royal Highness