HC Deb 29 January 1812 vol 21 cc399-401
Sir John Newport,

in pursuance of previous notice, rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to ascertain the amount of the Population of Ireland. He expressed his surprize that a measure should have been so long deferred which would enable parliament to ascertain the number of persons for whom it was to legislate. Twice since the Union had the population of Great Britain been calculated, but in this respect, as well as in others, the natives of Ireland had been totally neglected. The only reason he could imagine for this omission was a species of timidity on the part of certain persons, who were afraid even of letting themselves know the real amount of the inhabitants of the sister kingdom. It appeared to the right hon. baronet a solecism, that all the public bills introduced were not made to include the whole united kingdom; leaving it to the persons bringing them in to point out what parts should be excepted; but Ireland was uniformly excluded from the provisions in the first instance. He illustrated this position by alluding to the 50th Geo. 3, for taking securities from public officers, which applied only to England and Wales, and to an act of last session for liberating persons confined for small debts in Great Britain, omitting all notice of Ireland.—He then went on to notice the difficulties stated by Mr. Rose on a former night, which, in the right hon. baronet's opinion, might be overcome, by adopting partially the system of ascertaining the population in Ireland, and by employing the officers appointed by the Grand Juries in Ireland. Above all, he deprecated in obtaining the census any distinction being made between persons of particular religious sects and opinions, which could only have the effect of ranging as it were in hostile array those who being kindred in blood and nation, differed only in religious creeds; he was perfectly confident, that at present, the natives of Ireland were actuated by the warmest zeal to maintain the independence of the empire, whatever pains had been blindly taken to disunite them in the support of their common interests.—Another main object in view was, that the measure should not be temporary, but permanent; and that, at the conclusion of every seven years, the census he proposed should be taken. The disadvantage resulting from bills of this nature, which were only made to answer an immediate object, was exemplified by the boasted returns, which the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Rose) had laid upon the table, of the comparative numbers of the population of Great Britain in 1801 and 1811, for it never could be credited that the immense apparent increase of a million and a half was owing to natural causes; it was only to be accounted for by supposing, that the people in 1801 thought that the census was required for purposes of taxation, and therefore then, designedly, omitted a great number of persons, whose names were inserted in the returns of 1811. He concluded by moving, "for leave to bring in a Bill for taking an account of the Population of Ireland, and of the increase or diminution thereof."

Mr. Rose

was anxious to give the proposed Bill every support, and rose merely to vindicate himself from the implied accusation, that he ought before to have brought forward the measure. The truth was, he felt himself incompetent to so arduous a task as it appeared to be, on the very statement of the right hon. baronet; but he denied that there was any design to conceal the extent of the Population of Ireland. He was as far as any man from wishing that any religious distinctions should be made to sever a people, whom he was fully convinced were zealously attached to the existing government; and he concurred not less in the propriety of the census being taken at stated periods. With regard to what had been said on the returns of 1801 and 1811, he could not admit that the difference was owing to the cause assigned by the right hon. baronet, for the accounts themselves bore internal evidence of their accuracy. In a few days the House would be put in possession of the returns, of the separate parishes, where the amount of burials and christenings would be stated, although they did not, he admitted, exactly keep pace with each other.

Leave was then given to bring in the Bill.