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spectable publican in the town of Manchester, but by the pressure of the times became insolvent, and was arrested on the 5th of June, 1811, and remained a prisoner in Lancaster Gaol till the September following. He had the misfortune, during bis confinement, to break his leg, which was set by Mr. Higgins's son, but so unskilfully that he (Mr. Spencer), apprehending lameness, sent for an eminent surgeon in the town of Lancaster, and when he came Mr. Higgins refused him admittance; the consequence of which was, that Mr. Spencer (with a wife and six children) was lame for his life. He further stated, that on modestly remonstrating with Mr. Higgins, he with held from him the county allowance of bread and potatoes, and denied his son, a boy of sixteen years of age, all access to him. This letter, signed J. Spencer, was witnessed by Jasper Fletcher and Messrs. Keiland Phillips. He repeated again that he did not pledge himself to the truth of these statements, but he thought they were such as called for inquiry-(hear, hear!)—and that he did not think could be now well refused, when they had on their table a Petition from Mr. Higgins himself, praying for the fullest and minutest investigation. Before he sat down he could not help adverting to a pamphlet published by a reverend gentleman, a Mr. Bingham, who had been most honourably acquitted upon a malicious and groundless charge of arson. This gentleman had represented that in the prison of Horsham, of which the gaoler was said to be a most humane and worthy man, the regulations were, bowever, of the most rigorous description, such as loading the prisoners with irons, confining them in cells, and compelling them to wear a degrading uniform.
Sir C. Burrell rose to order, as he thought the regulations of Horsham Gaol had nothing to do with the present question.
Sir F. Burdet admitted that he might not have been strictly in order, but he had only stated it to shew the necessity of a general inquiry into the gaols shroughout the country--(hear, hear!)-He meant to move for the appointment of a commission, though the conduct of the one appointed to inquire into the state of the gaols in Ireland, had in one instance excited his jealousy ; in reporting of the misconduct that prevailed in the management of the gaol of Kılmainham, in the county of Dublin, they had enumerated seven different instances of gross misconduct on the part of the gaoler, Mr. Dunn, and a Doctor Trevor, and yet they conclude that Report with a panegyric upon both. He concluded by acknowledging the readiness of the gentlemen opposite to give every facility to inquiries of this nature. He must say that this was the first Government he had ever known in which he perceived a willingness to pay attention to the complaints of the people. When he formerly preferred his charges in that House against Mr. Aris, he was met and resisted by a very different spirit. The bonourable baronet then concluded by moving, that an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, praying that he would be graciously pleased to appoint a commission to visit and examine into the general state of Lancaster Castle, and the conduct of the Keeper and the other Officers employed in the arrangement of the prison, and the charge of the prisoners.
Mr. Wilbraham Bootle-stated as a fact that came within his own knowledge, that the Magistrates employed in the late investigation were men of the first respectability, and in no way connected with Mr. Higgins. The gaoler had no controul whatever over the county allowances, they were disposed of at tbe discretion of two Magistrates ap. pointed for that purpose. Lancaster Castle, continued the honourable and learned gentleman, was, like many other county gaols, used as a receptacle for lunatics, as well as a prison ; and it happened tbat the man alluded to in the speech of the honourable baronet, as having died in consequence of improper treatment, had been tried for murder, bui acquitted on account of insanity; and along with six or seven other lunatics, had been put under the charge of Mr. Higgins, who was obliged to keep them in order in the best way he possibly could. He then read a number of affidavits and certificates, tending to disprove the charges which had been brought forward. Never was a complaint brought before Parliament with less foundation and truth; and though he did not mean to impute any blame to the honourable baronet for the part he had taken in the business, he certainly thought it was the duty of Members of Parliament to inquire into, and to be convinced of the truth of the circumstances on wbich any complaint was founded, prior to bringing it before Parliament. He then read a certificate from 114 debtors confined in the Castle of Lancaster, in favour of Mr. Higgins's conduct. The gaoler was, like every innocent man, anxious that bis conduct should be inquired into, convinced that such inquiry would place bis character in the most favourable light. Vol. III.--1812.
Lord Castlerragh observed, that supposing a commis. sion to be appointed to inquire into the conduct of the Keeper of Lancaster Gaol, there was a great part of the case opened by the lionourable baronet which was not stated in the petition, and which consequently could not be embodied in the commission, and placed before the commissioners notice, so that any investigation could lead to no effectual good. He thought when such a complaint was brought before the House, it was proper that the Member bringing it should state the evidence on which it was founded. When the honourable baronet introduced the case of Cold-Bath-Fields Prison to the House, be stated, that he himself had been at the prison, and could vouch for the truth of the statements. In the present case, the assertions of the petition were rebutted by a number of afidavits ; and they had not even the assurance of the honourable baronet, that he believed the assertions would be proved. He would therefore suggest to the honourable baronet the propriety of withdrawing his motion for the present, and in the period betwixt this and the next session, to inquire into the truth of the circumstances he bad laid before the House.
Mr. Brougham said, he had been anxious, when this case was first mentioned in the House, to bear his testimony to the excellent character of Mr. Higgios; and from every inquiry wbich he biad made since that period, he had beard the most favourable accounts of the delicacy of treatment and humanity of Mr. Higgins, as left him in no doubt as to his general character, but general character, however good, was no answer to specific charges ; and in order that Mr. lliggins might not suffer in the public estimation, he thought an inquiry ought to take place. He conceived ihat an inquiry mightiake place, not as the noble lord had limited it, merely into the truth of the charges brought forward in the perilion, but also into the general state of the gaol.
Sir Charles Burrill spoke in favour of the gaols of Sussex, and said a more humane set of men vid not exist than the Magistrates of that county, who had lately met with a most ur grati fui retum from the debtors. Nr. Creerey believed Mr. Higgins utterly guiltless
. He had never heard of a man n ore universally respected. , Gerarat Tarleton would bave supported the motion for inquiry, is the person w bo was accused himself wished for it ; but as a proposition had been made to withdraw it for
the present, on the understanding that, if necessary, this case would be again brought forward, he would now vote against the motion.
Mr. Burton thought this case was introducing a precedent of extreme inconvenience, which would have a tendency to excite a spirit of insubordination in all gaols throughout the kingdom. Petitions ought not to be brought before Parliament on light and frivolous grounds. Redress was open to prisoners for every grievance, not only by the common law, but by several statutes. The 14th of George the Second, and the 31st of the present King, pointed out methods of redressing grievances; but there was one remedy in particular with which every debtor could not fail to be acquainted, given in section 11 of the Lords Act, where it was directed that every debtor who had any cause of complaint, bad nothing to do but to petition that Court in which process had been issued out against him, or the Judges at Assize, who were bound to hear the complaint in a summary way, without any expence, and give redress, if necessary, either by punishing the offender or by granting a compensation to the debtor. It was time enough to complain to Parliament when this mode of obtaining redress had failed.
Mr. Lockhart objected to the practice, which was but too cu minon in cases of deaths in gaols, of naming the inquest from persons living within the prison.
Mr. Martin (of Galway) said, he shonld certainly vote for the motion of the honourable baronet, unless it was understood that some inquiry would be gone into.
Sir F. Burdelt began bis reply by observing, that he should have been induced, perhaps, to adopt the suggestion of the noble Icrd opposite, had he mentioned any time when it was probable the subject would be considered. He contended that the case was strictly a Parliamentary one. With regard to its credibility, he had so far satisfied hiinself upon the subject, as to bave ascertained the complete respectability of the person writing to him; and it could bardly be supposed that he should take up a roving commission, hunting for evidence, or that he should go down to Lancaster to make inquiries. As little should be suppose it fair to infer, that because he was not exactly pledged to the accuracy of all the statements brought forward, the case itself should be entitled to no consideration. At the same time he positively denied that his inotion bad any
thing to do with the petitions then on the table. It was grounded mainly on a charge of murder, committed under circumstances such as had been stated. An honourable Member had talked about the efficacy of existing laws; but it should be remembered that law could not be obtained without money, and that money could not be supposed to be very much at the command of poor debtors. With regard to the affidavits that had been read, he thought that they, so far from rendering inquiry useless, furnished additional grounds for that very inquiry wbich he wished, and which would be extended generally to the management of the prison, including the conduct of the gaoler, the coroner, &c. Those affidavits proved that the Magistrates had done what, he contended, was an illegal act—that of denying the county allowance of bread and potatoes to the poor starved debtors, because they complained. What! was a prisoner to be punished for complaining of ill-treatment? He repeated, that the most important part of the charge upon which be meant to ground bis motion, was the fact of a man having died through ill usage ; and he had even the names of the turnkeys (John Birch and John Cooper) who inflicted that floggiog to which he had already referred. Others had asserted that they distinctly beard the cries of the man, and counted forty blows; and a person of the name of Neale, who was officially employed in holding the unfortunate sufferer, receiving accidentally one of the blows, had so severe a contusion on his arm, that he was forced to bandage it for several days afterwards. Would it be said that such a case was not a Parliamentary one ? of, that the time of the House ought not to be taken up with it? In fact, he did not wish to take up the time of the House, nor would it be taken up if his motion was agreed to. It would not require three days for the commission to inquire into the whole transaction. He concluded by observing, that he had not heard any argument which at all convinced bim that it was not his duty to press the motion.
Lord Castlereagh explained, and observed, that he should be very happy, if the honourable baronet would withdraw his motion, to receive any communication from him out of the House, and to take such steps as the case might then seem to require.
After some further conversation between Mr. W. Smith, Mr. Manners Sutton, and Mr. Dent, Sir F. Burdett with drew his motion, upon the understanding that the Government would order an inquiry to be instituted.