« PoprzedniaDalej »
as the calumny had been circulated. I knew that the result of an ex parte Inquiry, from its very nature, could not, unless it fully asserted my entire innocence, be in any degree just. And I had taught myself most firmly to believe, that it was utterly impossible, that any opinion, which could, in the smallest degrée, work a prejudice to my honour and character, could ever be expressed in any terms, by any persons, in a Report upon a solemn formal Inquiry, and more especially to your Majesty, without my having some notice, and some opportunity of being heard. And I was convinced, that, if the Proceeding allowed me, before an opinion was expressed, the ordinary means which accused persons have, of vindicating their honour and their innocence, my honour and my innocence must, in any opinion, which could then be expressed, be fully vindicated, and effectually established. What then, Sire, must have been my astonishment, and my dismay, when I saw, that notwithstanding the principal accusation was found to be utterly false, yet some of the witnesses to those charges which were brought in support of the principal accusation,-witnesses, whom, any person, in terested to have protected my character, would easily have shewn, out of their own mouths, to be utterly unworthy of credit, and confederates in foul conspiracy with my false accusers, are reported to be “free from all suspicion of unfavourable bias ;" their veracity, "in the judgment of the Commissioners, not to be questioned;" and their infamous stories, and insinuations against me, to be "such as deserve the most serious consideration, and as must be credited till decisively contradicted."
The Inquiry, after I thus had notice of it, continued for above* two months. I venture not to complain, as if it had been unnecessarily protracted. The important duties, and official avocations of the Noble Lords, appointed to carry it on, may naturally account for, and excuse, some delay. But however excusable it may have been, your Majesty will easily conceive the pain and anxiety, which this interval of suspense, has occasioned; and your Majesty will not be surprised, if I further represent, that I have found a great aggravation of my painful sufferings, in the delay which occurred in communicating the Report to me. For though it is dated on the 14th July, I did not receive it, notwithstanding your Majesty's gracious commands, till the 11th of August. It was due, unquestionably, to your Majesty, that the result of an Inquiry, commanded by your Majesty, upon advice which had been offered, touching matters of the highest import, should be first, and immediately, communicated to you.— The respect and honour due to the Prince of Wales, the interest which he must necessarily have taken in this Inquiry, combined to make it indisputably fit, that the result should be, forthwith, also stated to his Royal Highness. I complain not, therefore, that it was too early communicated to any one: I complain only, (and I complain most seriously, for I felt it most severely) of the delay in its communication to me.
Rumour had informed the world, that the Report had been early communicated to your Majesty, and to his Royal Highness. I did not receive the benefit, intended for me by your Majesty's gracious command, till a month after the Report was signed. But the same rumour had represented me, to my infinite prejudice, as in possession of the Report during that month and the malice of those, who wished to stain my honour, has not failed to suggest all that malice could infer, from its remaining in that possession so long unnoticed. May I be permitted to say, that if the Report acquits me, my innocence entitled me to receive from those to whom your Majesty's commands had been given, an immediate notification of the fact that it did acquit me. That if it condemned me, the weight of such a sentence should not have been left to settle in any mind, much less upon your Majesty's, for a month, before I could even begin to prepare an
*The time that the Inquiry was pending, after this notice of it, is here confounded with the time which elapsed before the Report was communicated to her Royal Highness. The Inquiry itself only lasted to the 14th or 16th of July, which is but hetween five and six weeks from the 7th of June.
answer, which, when begun, could not speedily be concluded; and that, if the Report could be represented as both acquitting, and condemning me, the reasons which suggested the propriety of an early communication in each of the former cases, combined to make it proper and necessary in the latter.
And why all consideration of my feelings was thus cruelly neglected; why I was kept upon the rack, during all this ignorant of the result of a charge, which affected my honour and my life; and why, especially in a case, where such grave matters were to continue to be "credited, to the prejudice of my honour," till they were "decidedly contradicted," the means of knowing what it was, that I must, at least, endeavour to contradict, were witholden from me, a single unnecessary hour, I know not, and I will not trust myself in the attempt to conjecture.
On the 11th of August, however, I at length received from the Lord Chancellor, a packet containing copies of the Warrant or Commission authorising the Inquiry; of the Report-and of the Examinations on which the Report was founded. And your Majesty may be graciously pleased to recollect, that on the 13th I returned my grateful thanks to your Majesty, for having ordered these papers to be sent to me.
. Your Majesty will readily imagine that, upon a subject of such importance, I could not venture to trust only to my own advice; and those with whom I advised, suggested, that the written Declaration or Charges upon which the Inquiry had proceeded, and which the Commissioners refer to in their Report, and represent to be the essential foundation of the whole proceedings did not accompany the Examinations and Report; and also that the papers themselves were not authenticated. I therefore venture to address your Majesty, upon these supposed defects in the communication, and humbly requested that the copies of the papers, which I then returned, might, after being examined and authenticated, be again transmitted to me; and that I might also be furnished with copies of the written Declarations so referred to in the Report. And my humble thanks are due for your Majesty's gracious compliance with my request. On the 29th of August I received, in consequence, the attested copies of those Declarations, and of a Narrative of his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent; and a few days after, on the 3d of September, the attested copies of the Examinations which were taken before the Commissioners,
The Papers which I have received are as follow:
The Narrative of his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent*, dated 27th of Dec. 1805. A Copy of the written Declaration of Sir John and Lady Douglas, dated December 3, 1805.
A Paper containing the written Declarations, or Examinations, of the persons hereafter enumerated ;-The title to these Papers is, "For the purpose of confirming the Statement made by Lady Douglas, of the circumstances mentioned in her Narrative. The following examinations have been taken, and which have been signed by the several persons who have been examined:"
Two of Sarah Lampert ;-one, dated Cheltenham, 8th January, 1806,-and the other, 29th March, 1886.
One of William Lampert, baker, 114, Cheltenham, apparently of the same date with the last of Sarah Lampert's.
Four of William Cole, dated respectively, 11th January, 14th January, 30th January, and 23d February, 1806.
One of Robert Bidgood, dated Temple, 4th April, 1806.
One of Sarah Bidgood, dated Temple, 23d April, 1806; and
Que of Frances Lloyd, dated Temple, 12th May, 1806.
* See Appendix (B).
29 May, 1 June,
The other Papers and Documents which accompanied the Report, are,*
1. King's Warrant or Commission. 23 June, 17. Deposition of E. Gosden.
of Betty Townley.
of Sir J Douglas.
of H. Fitzgerald.
1 July, 22. Letter from Lord Spencer to
23. Letter from Lord Gwydir to
29. Deposition of Lord Cholmon-
of T. Stikeman.
of J. S.card.
of Charlotte Sander.
13. Letter from Lord Spencer to
of Mary Wilson.
of Samuel Roberts.
from Lord Gwydir to
from Lady Willoughby to
30. The Report.
By the Copy which I have received of the Commission, or Warrant, under which the Inquiry has been prosecuted, it appears to be an instrument under your Majesty's Sign Manual, not countersigned, not under any seal.—It recites, that an Abstract of certain written Declarations, touching my conduct (without specifying by whom those Declarations were made or the nature of the matters, touching which they had been made, or even by whom the Abstract had been prepared,) had been laid before your Majesty ; into the truth of which it purports to authorise the four Noble Peers, who are named in it, to inquire and to examine upon oath, such persons as they think fit; and to report to your Majesty the result of their Examination. By referring to the written Declarations, it appears that they contain allegations against me, amounting to the charge of High Treason, and also other matters, which, if understood to be, as they seem to have been acted and reported upon by the Commissioners, not as evidence confirmatory (as they are expressed to be in their title) of tlie principal charge, but as distinct and substantive subjects of examination, cannot, as I am advised, be represented, as in law, amounting to crimes. How most of the Declarations referred to were collected, by whom, at whose solicitation, under what sanction, and before what persons, Magistrates or others, they were made, does not appear. By the title, indeed, which all the written Declarations, except Sir John and Lady Douglas's bear, viz. "That they had been taken for the purpose of confirming Lady Douglas's Statement,” it may be collected, that they had been made by her, or at least by Sir John Douglas's procurement. And the concluding passage of one of them, I mean the fourth Declaration, of W. Cole, strengthens this opinion, as it represents Sir John Douglas, accompanied by his Solicitor, Mr. Lowten, to have goue down as far as Cheltenham for the examination of two of the witnesses whose declarations are there stated. I am, however, at a loss to know, at this moment, whom I am to consider, or whom I could legally fix, as my false accuser. From the circumstance last mentioned, it might be inferred that Sir John and Lady Douglas, or one of them, is that accuser., But Lady Douglas, in her written Declaration, so far from representing the information which she then gives, as moving voluntarily from herself, expressly states that she gives it under the direct command of his Royal Highuess the Prince of Wales, and the papers leave me without in
* See Appendix (A).
formation, from whom any communication to the Prince originated, which induced him to give such commands.
Upon the question, how far the advice is agreeable to law, under which it was recommended to your Majesty, to issue this Warrant or Commission, not countersigned, nor under seal, and without any of your Majesty's advisers, therefore, being on the face of it, responsible for its issuing, I am not competent to determine. And undoubtedly considering that the two high legal authorities, the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, consented to act under it, it is with the greatest doubt and diffidence, that I can bring myself to express any suspicion of its illegality. But if it be, as I am given to understand it is, open to question, whether, cousistently with law, your Majesty should have been advised to command, by this Warrant or Commission, persons (not to act in any known characters, as Secretaries of State, as Privy Councillors, as Magistrates otherwise empowered; but to act as Commissioners, and under the sole authority of such Warrant,) to inquire (without any authority to hear and deter. mine any thing upon the subject of those Inquiries), into the known crime of High Treason, under the sanction of oath, to be administered by them, as such Commissioners, and to report the result thereof to your Majesty. If, I say, there can be any question upon the legality of such a Warrant or Commission, the extreme hardship, with which it has operated upon me, the extreme prejudice which it has done to my character, and to which such a proceeding must ever expose the person who is the object of it, obliges me, till I am fully convinced of its legality, to forbear from acknowledging its authority; and, with all humility and deference to your Majesty, to protest against it, and against all the proceedings under it.
If this, indeed, were matter of mere form, I should be ashamed to urge it; but the actual hardships and prejudice which I have suffered by this proceeding are most obvious; for, upon the principal charge against me, the Commissioners have most satisfactorily, and "without the least hesitation," for such is their expression, reported their opinion of its falsehood. Sir John and Lady Douglas, therefore, who have sworn to its truth, have been guilty of the plainest falsehood; yet, upon the supposition of the illegality of this Commission, their falsehood must, as I am informed, go unpunished. Upon that supposition, the want of legal authority in the Commissioners to inquire and to administer an oath, will render it impossible to give to this falsehood the character of perjury; but this is by no means the circumstance which I feel the most severely. Beyond the vindicating of my own character, and the consideration of providing for my future security, I can assure your Majesty, that the punishment of Sir John and Lady Douglas would afford me no satisfaction. It is not therefore with regard to that part of the charge, which is negatived, but with respect to those which are sanctioned by the Report, those which, not aiming at my life, exhaust themselves upon my character, and which the Commissioners have in some measure sanctioned by their Report, that I have the greatest reason to complain. Had the Report sanctioned the principal charge, constituting a known legal crime, my iuno cence would have emboldened me, at all risques (and to more no person has ever been exposed from the malice and falsehood of accusers) to have demanded that trial, which could legally determine upon the truth or falsehood of such charge. Though I should even then indeed have had some cause to complain, because I should have gone to that trial under the prejudice necessarily raised against me by that Report; yet, in a proceeding before the just, open, and known tribunals of your Majesty's kingdom, I should have had a safe appeal from the resuit of an ex parte investigation; an investigation which has exposed me to all the hardships of a secret Inquiry, without giving me the benefit of secrecy; and to all the severe consequences of a public investigation,
in point of injury to my character, without affording me any substantial benefits, in point of security. But the charges which the Commissioners do sanction by their Report, describing them with a mysterious obscurity and indefinite generality, cənstitute, as I am told, no legal crime. They are described as "instances of great impropriety and indecency of behaviour," which must " occasion the most unfavourable interpretations," and they are reported to your Majesty, and they are stated to be "circumstances which must be credited till they are decisively contradicted."
From this opinion, this judgment of the Commissioners, bearing so hard upon my character (and that a female character, how delicate, and how easily to be affected by the breath of calumny your Majesty well knows) I can have no appeal; for, as the charges constitute no legal crimes, they cannot be the subjects of any legal trial. I can call for no trial. I can therefore have no appeal: I can look for no acquittal; yet this opinion, or this judgment, from which I can have no appeal, has been pronounced against me upon mere ex parte investigation.
This hardship, Sire, I am told to ascribe to the nature of the proceeding under this Warrant or Commission; for had the Inquiry been entered into before your Majesty's Privy Council, or before any Magistrates authorised by law as such, to inquire inte the existence of treason, the known course of proceeding before that Council, or such Magistrates, the known extent of their jurisdiction over crimes, and not over the proprieties of behaviour, would have preserved me from the possibility of having matters made the subjects of inquiry which had in law no substantive criminal character, and from the extreme hardship of having my reputation injured by calumny altogether unfounded, but rendered at once more safe to my enemies, and more injurious to me, by being uttered in the course of a proceeding assuming the grave semblance of legal form. And it is by the nature of this proceeding (which could alone have countenanced or admitted of this licentious latitude of inquiry, into the proprieties of behaviour in private life, with which no court, no magistrate, no public law has any authority to interfere), that I have been deprived of the benefit of that entire and unqualified acquittal and discharge from this accusation, to which the utter and proved falsehood of the accusation itself so justly entitled me.
I trust therefore that your Majesty will see that if this proceeding is not one to which, by the known laws of your Majesty's kingdom, I ought to be subject, that it is no cold formal objection which leads me to protest against it.
I am ready to acknowledge, Sire, from the consequences which might arise to the public, from such misconduct as hath been falsely imputed to me, that my honour and virtue are of more importance to the state than those of other women; that my conduct therefore may be fitly subjected, when necessary, to a severer scrutiny. But it cannot follow, because my character is of more importance, that it may therefore be attacked with more impunity. And as I know that this mischief has been pending over my head for more than two years, that private examinations of my neighbours' servants, and of my own, have at times, during that interval, been taken, for the purpose of establishing charges against me, not indeed by the instrumentality of Sir John and Lady Douglas alone, but by the sanction, and in the presence of the Earl of Moira (as your Majesty will perceive by the deposition of Jonathan Partridge, which I subjoin)*; and as I know also, and make appear to your Majesty likewise by the same means, that declarations of persons of unquestionable credit, respecting my conduct, attesting my innocence, and directly falsifying a most important circumstance respecting my supposed pregnancy, mentioned in the declarations on which the Inquiry
See the depositions at the end of this letter.