HC Deb 17 May 1811 vol 20 cc198-200
Mr. Sheridan

presented a Petition from Mr. St. John Mason, setting forth "That the petitioner was admitted a member of the Irish bar in Trinity Term 1803, and that in August thereof, the petitioner was, when on circuit, arrested at the distance of seventy miles from Dublin, to which he was directly conveyed, and committed to the prison of Kilmainham, where he was detained in close and rigid custody for more than two years; and that the instrument by virtue of which the petitioner had been 80 committed, was a state warrant, signed by Mr. Wickham, then chief secretary for Ireland under the earl of Hardwicke's administration, and by his excellency's command, containing a sweeping and general charge of treason; and that the said warrant did not specify that the said charge was founded on any information given upon oath; and that the petitioner and his friends have applied to the Irish government in every shape, both personally and otherwise, respecting its oppressive treatment of the petitioner, soliciting examination, and claiming to be informed of the cause of the petitioner's having been so deprived of his liberty for more than two years; but that all such applications have been wholly unavailing, in consequence, as the petitioner doth firmly but most respectfully assert to the House, of the absolute inability of that government to state with truth, any just cause whatsoever for such rigorous and cruel imprisonment of the petitioner; and that, as it is impossible for the petitioner to prove the negative of an undefined and unspecified charge, the petitioner can, in general terms only, most solemnly declare his innocence, to establish which, he had also during his imprisonment, when he was at the mercy of vile and corrupt informers, repeatedly, but in vain, demand-ed from the said government of Ireland, that right which the constitution gives to every subject of the land against whom accusation bas been laid, namely, a trial by the laws of his country; and that the infringement and suppression of justice, which had been exercised in the case of the petitioner, not coming within the scope or cognizance of any legal tribunal, he begs leave, with the most becoming respect, to approach the House for constitutional redress, and, as an injured subject of this realm, in whose person the general rights of the community have been violated, humbly to appeal against such violation and suppression of justice; and, fortified as well by the rectitude of his conduct as by a firm confidence in the protecting justice of the House, the petitioner begs permission to present his complaint against that officer of the state, under whose government such violation had been committed, and whom the petitioner, however elevated might have been the trust and station to which that officer had been exalted, cannot constitutionally consider as divested of responsibility for the acts of that trust as exercised in his administration in Ireland; which said complaint the petitioner most humbly begs to present to the House as his duty, in the last resort to society and to himself, challenging all inquiry, and defying all imputation on his probity and honour; and that the petitioner doth therefore distinctly and directly charge the government of the earl of Hardwicke, when that noble earl was lord lieutenant of Ireland, with injustice and oppression, by having, in the person of the petitioner, abused, to the injury and destruction of the subject, the discretionary powers of that trust which had been granted for his protection; and further, that the said earl of Hardwicke has since continued to deny that humble measure of justice to the petitioner, the acknowledgment of his innocence, of which the petitioner cannot but think his lordship is now convinced; and the petitioner now humbly prays, that the House, which the petitioner looks up to as the grand depositary and guardian of the public rights, according to the structure of the constitution, will be graciously pleased to grant to the petitioner, who is now in humble attendance awaiting the pleasure of the House, such means and opportunities of substantiating his said allegations as may, in its wisdom, appear best calculated for the attainment of such his object, and for the accomplishment of justice; the petitioner so praying, not only for the purpose of vindicating his character, but also, under the protection of the House, of guarding by his humble efforts, the rights of the subject against similar infractions, which rights have been so unconstitutionally violated in the person of the petitioner."

Mr. W. Pole

had no doubt that lord Hardwicke had sufficient grounds for procuring the arrest of this gentleman. The information upon which he had been taken up was secret, and from his knowledge of that information, he had no hesitation in saying, that lord Hardwicke had not only grounds for what he did, but that he would have been guilty of a gross dereliction of his public duty, if he had not done so. He had no objection, however, to the Petition lying upon the table.

The Petition was then ordered to lie on the table, after a few words from Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Peter Moore.