UK, House of Lords, “Canadian Prisoners”, vol 46, cols 1218-1219 (26 March 1839)
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Canadian Prisoners“, vol 46 (1839), cols 1218-1219.
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Lord Brougham wished to know from the noble Marquess whether he had any objection to produce those papers which he (Lord Brougham) gave notice last night that he should move for this evening—namely “for a return of the names of persons tried for political offences in Canada since the 1st of October, 1837, with the result of the trials and of the sentences?”
The Marquess of Normanby had no objection to produce such a return,
Lord Brougham said that, in alluding to another class of persons, who had been condemned in Canada and sentenced to transportation, he did not wish to press the subject on their Lordships, or to raise any discussion, farther than earnestly to call the attention of Government to the situation of those prisoners. In consequence of what had passed last night, an individual had called on him and stated how deplorably these prisoners were situated. Some of them were men who had held a respectable situation in society, and were well educated; others of them had moved in a less respectable sphere of life; but they were all of them, though political offenders, thrust into convict shps, amongst thieves, swindlers, and bad characters of every possible description. He did hope that this matter would be seriously considered, and that a proper distinction and classification would be made. He believed that to cause such a consideration of the case he 1219
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had nothing to do but to call the attention of the noble Marquess to it. The noble Marquess, no doubt, had nothing to do with the matter in the first instance; for he supposed things with respect to those prisoners had only taken their ordinary course. He was, however, of opinion, that the subject was one that required consideration. The noble and learned Lord said, he should take that opportunity to express a fervent and earnest hope that every exertion would be made by her Majesty’s Government to settle our differences with the United States in an amicable manner, and to avert that most deplorable and greatest of evils, war. He was the last man in that House to counsel any course to the Government, and he was sure that if he did that their Lordships would not listen to it, that was calculated in any way to lower the honour or character of this country; for he felt how infinitely important it was that we should maintain that great name, and that warlike character, all over the world, which, thanks to our great naval and military heroes, we had achieved in every quarter of the globe.
Through them we had been placed in that proud, commanding, and unquestioned station which we had long enjoyed; and holding which, it made it proper, prudent, and safe for us, without any possibility of reproach, without having our honour in the smallest degree soiled, or tarnished, or reflected on, to lower as much as possible our demands, in order that we might secure, he repeated, without blemish to our honour, the inestimable blessing of peace. That was, in his opinion, the ground and foundation on which her Majesty’s Government ought to take their stand. He had the consolation of believing, of being convinced, that we were undeniably, clearly, and manifestly in the wrong; and, when a man or a nation was in the wrong, to acknowledge error did not make the case of either worse.
The Marquess of Normanby said, the cases referred to by the noble and learned Lord should be inquired into. He believed, however, that every thing had been regularly done. No doubt could exist as to the legality of the trials and sentences of these people. The returns required should be laid before the House.