HC Deb 23 February 1813 vol 24 cc698-705
The Speaker

acquainted the House, that he had received a Letter from the right hon. the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the contents of which he communicated to the House; and the said Letter was thereupon, by direction of the House, read by the Speaker, and is as follows: Dover Street, 23 February, 1813. Sir; The corporation of the city of Dublin, in common council assembled, having prepared Petitions to be presented to Parliament on the subject of the Claims about to be preferred on behalf of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, I beg leave to state, that I have been deputed, as lord mayor of the city of Dublin, to deliver their Petitions at the bar of both Houses of Parliament; and I have now the honour to solicit, through you, Sir, that the honourable the House of Commons may be pleased to indulge the corporation of the city of Dublin by permitting me, as chief magistrate of that city, to deliver at their bar the Petition addressed to their honourable House, an indulgence which it is humbly hoped that the House of Commons will be pleased to concede to the citizens of Dublin, in analogy to the usage so long established of receiving Petitions at their bar from the corporation of the city of London, and which, if granted by that honourable House, will not only demand the gratitude of the petitioners, the second corporation of the empire, and yielding to none in loyalty and attachment for the laws, government, and constitution of these kingdoms, but will also be received as a grateful and flattering condescension by the inhabitants at large of the metropolis of Ireland; that city which had been for so many years the seat and residence of the Irish parliament. I have the honour to remain, Sir, &c. ABM. BRADLEY KING, Lord Mayor of the City of Dublin. To the right hon. Charles Abbot, Speaker of the House of Commons, &c.

Mr. Grattan,

while he dissented from the opinions contained in the Petition which had been alluded to, conceived it to be his duty to support every proposition which had for its object the honour or interest of the city of Dublin, the capital of Ireland, and the second city of the empire. He should therefore move, "That the right hon. the lord mayor of the city of Dublin be admitted to present a petition of the lord mayor and corporation of the said city, at the bar of this House, according to the usages observed, in like cases, regarding the sheriffs of the city of London."

Mr. Robert Shaw

seconded the motion.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

said, in rising to oppose the motion, it was far from his wish to object to any compliment which the House might think proper to pay to the corporation of Dublin, or to the chief magistrate of that city; but, in his opinion, they ought to be guided, in such cases, by precedent, and he knew of none that could bear out the present motion. If this claim were admitted, he thought it would be likely to occasion great inconvenience to future chief magistrates; as it would no longer be a matter of option to transmit a petition from Dublin, by a member of that House, or by the lord mayor; the custom being recognised, they could not depart from one regular course; and, however unwilling, the chief magistrate would be obliged to act. It was undoubtedly the fact, that the House, through courtesy to the city of London, within which they almost held their meetings, permitted the sheriffs of that city, alone, to present petitions at their bar: but such a privilege was never permitted to any other part of the kingdom. In reference to the Petition from Dublin, the House were placed in exactly the same predicament as when petitions were sent from Edinburgh, in the custody of the Lord Provost. On those occasions, such a claim was never made. In the Petition on the case of capt. Porteous, in 1736, when the Lord Provost was in town, and under examination, he never demanded such a privilege; and the same observation would apply to the Petition of!746. But a very strong objection to the admission of this claim was founded on the fact, that it never was advanced when a parliament was sitting in Dublin. The corporation did not enjoy any such right when the Irish parliament was in being, and he saw no reason why this privilege, which he contended would be rather troublesome than advantageous, should now be granted. There could be no doubt, that a petition, presented from the corporation of Dublin, through any hon. member of that House, would have every attention shewn to it; and he could not, therefore, conceive the necessity of transmitting it by the chief magistrate of that city. If the claim were admitted, it must either occasion the lord mayor of Dublin to be sent over to this country with every petition to parliament, which originated in the corporation, or, if that body acted differently, it would leave them open to the imputation of" not treating other questions with the same dignity which marked their proceedings in the case of the Catholic question. If the claim having been allowed, a petition were presented by a member of parliament from that body, on a subject of importance at some future period, it might be said, "O! they do not see this question in the same elevated light as that respecting the Catholics, or they would have sent over the lord mayor!" Besides, if they granted the privilege to the corporation of Dublin, they could not refuse it, if claimed by the city of Edinburgh. For these reasons, he would oppose the motion.

Mr. Peel

hoped, under the particular circumstances of the case, that the House would be induced to accede to the right hon. gentleman's proposition—particularly as the chief magistrate of Dublin had actually arrived in town. The corporation of Dublin had no other motive in transmitting the Petition, in the manner they had done, than a desire to give it every weight in their power; and he did think the House would be acting too strictly, if they rejected the application. He wished particularly to observe, that he was by no means induced to accede to the motion, on account of the nature or sentiments of the Petition. He was sure, in deciding this question, it was quite unnecessary to know what they were—it was sufficient to state, that a request was made by the corporation of the second city in the empire, which it was easy for the House to grant, and which would be received by those seeking it with every proper acknowledgment.

Mr. Tierney

did not think that the arrival of the lord mayor of Dublin in this metropolis was any argument for agreeing with the motion. He thought the worthy magistrate had acted rather hastily, in proceeding on his journey before he had ascertained whether he was likely to succeed in the object of it. If, as had been staled, the parliament of Ireland were never in the habit of receiving petitions from the corporation of Dublin, through the medium of the lord mayor, they could not now claim such a right with any propriety.

Mr. W. Fitzgerald

said, the present was a request made on the part of the second city in the empire; it referred only to one particular occasion, and was not meant to extend to every question. He was of opinion, that the chief magistrate of Dublin having arrived, he ought not to be sent back without having performed the duty on which he was employed; and it was one thing to refuse a favour, and another, by the refusal, to offer an indignity. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Wynn) was anxious to save future magistrates from inconvenience; but he did not seem to feel any regret for the inconvenience which the present lord mayor of Dublin would experience, by returning without having executed the purpose of his mission. It was requested as a matter of favour, and it Would be received only as such.

Mr. Tierney

wished to know, distinctly, whether the lord mayor of Dublin was admitted, in a similar way, to present petitions at the bar of the House of Commons of Ireland?

Mr. W. Fitzgerald

said, he had made inquiries on the subject, from persons possessing more information than he did himself, and he had reason to believe that such a permission was not granted.

Lord Castlereagh

understood there was a particular resolution of the Irish House of Commons, "That no petition should be presented to the House, except by a member." Therefore, he contended, the course of proceeding there did not bear on the present question; for, had it not been for this particular resolution on the subject, the corporation of Dublin might have been treated with the same attention by the Irish parliament, as the corporation of London received from the united parliament. Certainly, the House was placed in a situation of great difficulty, as there was no precedent applicable to the occasion; but, as a general wish to receive the lord mayor seemed to prevail, and as it would tend to shew a desire to conciliate that part of the United Kingdom, he trusted the motion would be agreed to. He did not think that the concession would be attended with any consequences beyond the present occasion. He owned, if it appeared to him, that, by agreeing to the motion, the door would be opened so wide as some gentlemen seemed to suppose, he should feel very considerable difficulty in deciding on the subject. But the question was here very much narrowed—it was merely whether this particular Petition might be presented, in the manner desired, at the bar of that House. If a similar indulgence were requested on the part of the city of Edinburgh, he was sure the House would not hesitate to grant it. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would agree to the motion in the spirit of conciliation and good humour.

Mr. Tierney

wished to know, whether the parliament in England had any standing order similar to that stated to have existed in the Irish parliament. The present was an important question, as introducing a very serious precedent, and he would take the sense of the House upon it.

The Speaker

said, he could not at present charge his recollection with any standing order on the subject. With respect to the sheriffs of the city of London being permitted to present the petitions of the corporation, it was always put to the question; and, in 1690,* it was the pleasure of the House not to receive them. The mode of acting was wholly in their own power.

Mr. Tierney

thought the Lord Mayor had better place the petition in the hands of a member of parliament, for presentation; and the House would decide on the question, so that no person should be mistaken hereafter.

Mr. Grattan

observed, that the addresses of the city of Dublin were presented to the Lord Lieutenant on the throne. *This took place on the 17th of April, 1690. The question for the admission of the Sheriffs was moved by colonel Birch. After debate, it passed in the negative, by 215 to 1G6. See New Parliamentary History of England, vol, 5, p. 586.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed that no claim whatever had been made; the privilege was requested, on this particular occasion, as matter of favour, not of right; and he hoped it would not be forgotten, that, in the present instance, the Lord Mayor had actually come over. By receiving this Petition through the Lord Mayor, they did not bind themselves to receive others in the same manner.

Mr. Ponsonby

said, the House would readily believe that he was anxious to pay every possible compliment to the metropolis of Ireland; but what had fallen from the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it necessary for him to rise in opposition to the sentiments which he had expressed. The right hon. gentleman had observed, that, by receiving this Petition, the House did not bind themselves to receive all others in the same manner. Now, in his opinion, if the House agreed to permit the Petition to be presented by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, they would be bound to receive all others, from the same quarter, in a similar way; for what was there in that Petition which should induce the House to give it this particular distinction, and to withhold it from all others? If no indignity were offered to the corporation of Dublin by the Irish parliament, who would not receive their petitions through any other medium but that of a member of parliament, how could the Commons of the United Kingdom be supposed to act disrespectfully towards them, if they pursued the same course? He should be glad to know, whether the hon. gentlemen opposite, who seemed anxious that the motion should be carried, intended that the rule should be universal, or confined to this particular case? If it were intended to be restricted to this single case, he should oppose it; because, by granting the privilege particularly here, it would seem as if there were something in the nature of the Petition itself, that caused the distinction.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

in what he had said, was not at all influenced by the nature of the Petition. He certainly wished it to be understood, that the permission was not to extend farther than the present case.

Mr. Croker

was anxious that the Petition should be presented at the bar, by the Lord Mayor of Dublin; but he declared that that anxiety did not take any colour from the object of the Petition—it was not any affront to the corporation of Dublin, that their petitions were not so received by the Irish parliament; because it was an invariable rule with them not to receive petitions except through a member of parliament: but here the case was different, for another course was permitted to the corporation of London; and, if the same privilege were refused to the corporation of Dublin, they might feel themselves a little lowered in the estimation of the House. The countries being now united, he hoped the House would not stamp Dublin, and through Dublin, Ireland, with a feeling of inferiority.

The cry of question now became general, and the gallery was almost cleared for a division, when

Mr. Peel

observed, that, as the Lord Mayor was entrusted with another petition, it would probable obviate the objection if he presented that first. By this it would be seen that the nature of the Petition did not influence their decision.

Mr. Ponsonby,

on this condition, expressed his willingness to vote for the motion.

Mr. Tierney

said, if the motion were agreed to, it would be an established principle that all Petitions from the corporation of Dublin, should be presented at the bar of the House by the Lord Mayor.

Mr. Croker

said, the indulgence would be the same as that extended to the corporation of London; which was always put to the vote.

Mr. Tierney

thought some resolution ought to be proposed, to set the question at rest.

The Speaker

observed, that the letter of the Lord Mayor mentioned but one Petition; if the House chose to follow the suggestion of the hon. gentleman, the word in the motion should be "Petitions."

Lord Milton

said, he thought they ought not to confine their vote to the particular instance then before them, but should lay down some general rule. As the question was now about to be decided, there would be no uniformity in the practice, since the corporation of Dublin might either transmit their petitions by the Lord Mayor, or by members of the House of Commons as they pleased themselves.

Sir James Shaw

said, as the right of the corporation of the city of London to present petitions to the House of Commons, by their sheriffs, seemed to be questioned, he had no hesitation in saying, it was their undoubted privilege, and there was no authority in that House to deny it.—(Cries of Chair! chair! Order! order!)

The Speaker

begged to call to the recollection of the House, that they never could recognise a privilege in any body, to knock at their doors and demand them to be opened—that was a right which belonged only to the crown. On reflection the hon. member would perceive that he had gone too far in claiming that as a right which was solely a courtesy.

Sir J. Shaw

admitted that his expressions were rather too strong. He only meant to state, that from a very ancient period, the corporation of London were permitted to present their petitions to parliament through the medium of their sheriffs.

The motion was then put from the chair;

"Petitions" being substituted for the word "Petition."

Mr. Wynn

expatiated on the mischiefs which might ensue in consequence of the chief magistrate of either Dublin or Edinburgh being obliged to leave his post, for the purpose of presenting petitions at the bar of that House.

Mr. Peel

observed, that, by an act of parliament of his present Majesty, in case the Lord Mayor of Dublin was obliged to proceed to England on official business, he was empowered to elect a locum tenens from amongst those who had filled the office of chief magistrate.

Lord Cochrane

moved, that the words "and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh," be inserted in the motion, after the words "Corporation of Dublin."

Lord A. Hamilton

seconded this amendment

Lord Castlereagh

thought it would be time enough to dispose of such a proposition, when application to such effect was made by the corporation of that city.

Mr. Tierney

observed, that the Scotch were generally thought a prudent people, and the corporation of Edinburgh would know better than to send their Provost 400 miles to present a petition.

This amendment was put and negatived; after which the original motion was carried without a division.