HC Deb 01 April 1805 vol 4 cc167-71
Mr. Martin

(of Galway), pursuant to notice, moved, "that there be laid before the house a copy of the evidence and proceedings before the committee of the parliament of Ireland, on passing the act of the 38th of his present majesty, attainting Cornelius Grogan, esq. of John's town in the county of Wexford, so far as the same regarded the said Cornelius Grogan." He said it was proper to apprize the house of his object in making this motion. It was, that the evidence taken before the committee of the parliament of Ireland might be re-examined, to see whether it laid a sufficient ground for the proceedings which were had in the case of the unfortunate gent. to whom he had alluded, and Whose life was taken away by the order of a military council; and by which evidence he maintained, it would appear, that nothing could be more flagrant than those proceedings were; that the life of Mr. Cornelius Grogan was taken away without the verdict of a jury, or trial by law that he Was tried by a military council, and that the members of the court Were not upon oath and that the necessary formalities were not observed, several omissions of which he enumerated, and concluded with the motion as we have above stated.

Lord Castlereagh

said, he should have wished that this motion had been made without some of the observations which had been made upon it; he should have no objection to the information seemed to be required, if it led to any practical proceeding of the house to be founded upon it; but the hon. gent. had mixed two things which are totally distinct in their nature: the proceedings of the court martial by which Mr. Grogan was tried and executed as a rebel, and afterwards the act of attainder, which was a proceeding in the parliament of Ireland, founded, not on the evidence of the court martial, but on evidence laid before the parliament itself, and such as had been held sufficient by that parliament to justify the act of attainder. He doubted whether there existed now any evidence, which the house could be satisfied with, to induce it to reverse that proceeding, and the hon. member had not stated what parliamentary use he intended to make of the information, such as it might be, after he should obtain it. For these reasons, and wishing not to deprive the hon. gent. of an opportunity to call for such information whenever he should make out a case to entitle him to its production, the noble lord moved, that the other order of the day be now read.

Mr. Martin

imputed this opposition to a wish in the noble lord to shelter the administration, of which he was a member. He considered Mr. Grogan as a person who was justified in what he did under the authority of lord Coke and lord Hale, who laid it down as the law of our land, that a man may join rebels to save his own life, and continue with them under the terror of its loss, until he shall have an opportunity to escape; this, he said, was the case of that unfortunate gent. He considered, therefore, that his execution was an act of murder, and that the attainder was an act of confiscation, founded on an act of murder. The noble lord's apprehension fell short of the fact, when he supposed there was not evidence sufficiently formal to be laid before the house. He knew there was correct evidence of the whole proceeding. He had seen it. The hon. member contended that there was no want of documents, and pledged himself, if necessary, to find the evidence which it was his wish to submit to the house, as correct notes had been taken of it at the time. Reverting to the court martial, the hon. member insisted that all the necessary formalities had not been complied with. He Would ask his majesty's attorney general, if a person taken from the king's prison, and not taken in any act of rebellion, was a legal subject of a court martial? And yet this had been the case in respect to Mr. Grogan. He had not joined, but had been detained by the rebels. He would stake his credit, that the evidence he had moved for would bring to light such flagrant proceedings as had seldom, if ever, been heard of, and which he was not at all surprized the noble lord should be anxious to keep in the back ground. The country, he asserted, was in perfect peace at the time. The king's commission was, in the county of Wexford, to deliver the gaols. Was there any reason, then, for a military court martial to call them out? The hon. member then adverted, at some length, to the evidence given by general Craddock before the Irish commons, whose answers to questions that he himself had put to him, he begged leave to recall to the memory of the noble lord, and which clearly shewed the irregularity of the proceedings of the court martial. His object in obtruding this motion on the house was, he thought, a very laudable one. Should it appear that there was no evidence sufficient to warrant the proceedings that had been taken against Mr. Grogan, his relations at least ought to have redress.

Mr. Fox

observed, that the ground of the noble lord's objection did not appear to him to be at all admissible. He had said there was no evidence to be produced. Whatever might have been the case in Ireland, such he was certain was not the case in this country, for if no evidence could be afterwards produced, attainders would be irreversible; but the noble lord was too well acquainted with the history of this country to be reminded that many instances had occurred of attainders being reversed. If what he had heard on this subject were true, there could be no doubt that that Act ought to be reversed; but that was not the question, till the evidence should be in due form before them. Severe in general were the times when acts of attainder were resorted to, but to render them irreversible by refusing a revisal, would be to aggravate that severity.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that nothing could be further from his wishes than to prevent parliament from receiving every possible information upon the subject; and the only reason that induced him to move the order of the day was, that the hon. gent. had not stated what his object was in calling for this evidence, or what parliamentary proceeding he meant to ground upon it. The hon. gent. had now stated his object to be that of reversing the bill of attainder against Mr. Grogan, which certainly was a fair parliamentary ground for calling for the document in question; and therefore he would, with the leave of the house, Withdraw his motion.

Sir John Newport

said, that the family of Mr. Grogan had been in very, extraordinary, and, indeed, most unfortunate circumstances. The very next brother to Mr. Grogan, and who would have been his immediate heir had he survived him, fell honourably, loyally, and gloriously, fighting the battles of his country. The other brother fought with the most determined bravery, till driven out of Wexford by the rebels, who were greatly superior in numbers, before the main body of the army arrived, and therefore, under all these circumstances, added to a doubt whether Mr. Grogan himself had not been forced to fight on the side of the rebels, he thought the justice of the house would incline them to agree to the motion.

General Loftus

said, he was in Wexford at the time of the court martial upon Mr. Grogan, and he begged leave to state, that the officers who formed the court were the principal men of rank and, character in the army, and every attention had been paid in the careful examination of the witnesses. After the sentence was passed, he was, told by many persons of the town, that Mr. Grogan was not so much to blame as he appeared to be; on which he applied to General Lake to suspend the execution of the sentence for some time, till he could make further inquiry; to which general Lake consented, and the execution was deferred till evening, when not being able to find any facts in his favour to counterpoise, or do away the evidence adduced against him, he went to inform General Lake of the circumstance, and the execution then took place.

Mr. Francis

rose merely to express his disapprobation of acts of attainder in general, as affecting the innocent and not the guilty.

Lord Castlereagh

said, he was anxious to do justice to the characters of Mr. Grogan's brothers and family, by allowing that they had always distinguished themselves by the most unshaken loyalty and attachment to their king and country, and government had shewn its sense of their conduct by conveying the confiscated estate to a near relation of the family. His lordship's motion was then, with the leave of the house, withdrawn, and the original motion was agreed to.