HC Deb 22 February 1821 vol 4 cc901-17
Lord John Russell

rose, pursuant to notice, to present a petition complaining of a military outrage alleged to have been committed by the high sheriff of Dublin, at a county meeting lately held at Kilmainham. He had, in the first place, to express his regret as well as his surprise—and it could not fail to excite the surprise of the House—that while there were so many able members from that part of the kingdom, the petitioners should have requested him to present their petition. He was sure, however, that in doing so they had been actuated by that generous feeling which was known to be characteristic of their country; that they believed the circumstance of which they complained to be the grievance of the whole kingdom; and that they felt, if English members were not disposed to consider it as affecting the constitution of the whole kingdom, they needed not apply to parliament for redress. The petitioners stated, that, on the 27th of December last, the high sheriff of Dublin published a requisition from the nobility, clergy, gentry, and freeholders of the county, requesting him to call a county meeting, for the purpose of voting a loyal address to his majesty; together with a notice from himself, appointing the said meeting to be held on the 30th, in the county-court, at Kilmainham. He was aware the noble lord opposite had said that county meetings did not express the sense of the country; but that, he believed, was only a recent opinion: it was not till those who called themselves loyal addressers were defeated in every corner of the kingdom—it was not till the grapes were sour—that the noble lord found out that these meetings did not express the sense of the country. According to the notice published by Mr. Steele, the sheriff, the nobility, clergy, gentry, and freeholders, assembled between 12 and 1 o'clock on the day appointed, outside of the court-house. At one o'clock several of the freeholders went to the door of the court and requested admission, but were told by the police-officers who surrounded it, that they had express orders from the sheriff not to admit any persons but those who were pointed out to them. At a quarter past one the doors were opened, and the freeholders, on entering, found the room nearly filled with persons who had previously been admitted; among whom they recognised most of those who had signed the requisition, and a large body of police-officers. A motion for a loyal address having been made and seconded, the sheriff, without putting the question on it, proceeded himself to name a committee, who were to prepare the address. In consequence of this irregularity, a respectable freeholder remonstrated in the most temperate manner, and suggested to the sheriff that he ought to take the sense of the meeting in the first instance, whether an address should be voted, and then on each of the names proposed to be on the committee; but the sheriff refused to listen to his suggestion, and proceeded to name the committee, who retired to prepare the address. Now, he would ask, what would be thought of the House of Commons if it; should name a committee to draw up an address to his majesty, without having previously decided that an address should be presented? The person who had suggested the regular mode of proceeding again complained of the course pursued, and the high sheriff told him that if he Uttered another word, he would turn him out of the room. In a few minutes the committee returned with the address, on which the question was about to be put to the meeting, when Mr. Byrne, a most respectable gentleman of the legal profession, and a king's counsel, rose to move an amendment. That gentleman prefaced his motion with some remarks, expressive of his attachment to the throne; and so far he was listened to with patience; but the moment he began to condemn the conduct of ministers, and to state his intention of moving an amended address, the sheriff interrupted him, saying that these topics were irrelevant, and he would not allow him to proceed. He would put it to the noble lord opposite, whether such topics were irrelevant at a meeting assembled to express loyalty and attachment to the throne. In usual circumstances, and in ordinary times, it was riot necessary for subjects to express their loyalty otherwise than by a willing obedience to the laws. Some extraordinary circumstances, therefore, must exist, before such expressions of loyalty were required; and accordingly he observed that in all these loyal addresses some such circumstances were alleged to exist. In the address passed by the sheriff at this meeting, and which had appeared in the Gazette, the prevalence of sedition and blasphemy was alleged as the circumstance which had induced the requisitionists to address the throne. But surely it was equally competent 'for other persons to express a different opinion, if they thought that no blasphemy or sedition existed; and ministers themselves had warranted the latter opinion, by putting into the mouth of his majesty a speech to Parliament, in which no mention was made of the existence of either sedition or blasphemy. He held in his hand a copy of the amendment proposed by Mr. Byrne, and he would read it to the House in order to convince them that what was about to be submitted to the meeting by that gentleman did not deserve the imputation of encouraging sedition and blasphemy. [The noble lord here read the amendment, which breathed the most loyal attachment to the throne, but censured severely the conduct of his majesty's ministers.] The high sheriff, however, appeared not to be aware of the constitutional laws of the country; for he would not permit the mover of the amendment to proceed, and on that gentleman's saying, in the most respectful manner, that he was strictly in order, the high sheriff declared that if he did not desist, he would call in the military. The petitioners stated that a body of his majesty's troops were stationed in the vicinity of the court-house as a guard on the gaol of Kilmainham. The high sheriff having refused to hear the amendment of Mr. Byrne proceeded to put the question on the original address; but even this question he put in the affirmative only, and hearing a few voices exclaim "ay," he gave it as his opinion that the address was carried unanimously. It appeared from the petition, that the sheriff having left the chair, a large majority of the freeholders present, thinking that the address was not legally carried, voted lord Cloncurry, a magistrate of the county, into the chair, in order to effect the object for which they had been convoked. That noble lord having taken the chair, the sheriff declared the meeting to be illegal, and, quitting the room commanded all who were loyal men to follow him. The meeting was then proceeding to vote a loyal address to the king, with a magistrate in the chair, when a body of troops, with an officer at their head, armed with loaded muskets, and some of them with I drawn bayonets, entered by all the avenues leading to the court-room and by threats and personal force applied to lord Cloncurry, compelled him to retire from; the chair, and dispersed the meeting. If the following assertion of the petitioners; were not satisfactorily contradicted, the House, he thought, must agree to the motion he intended to make for a committee to inquire into this unconstitutional outrage. It was stated that at the time of the introduction of the military into the meeting, and previously to that introduction, they were proceeding with the utmost order and regularity, being assembled in a room, and every other requisition of the late acts of parliament being complied with; and that, if there had been any indication of disturbance, a large body of police officers were present, sufficient to repress any tumuli and to disperse the meeting, if necessary. Such was the outrage of which the petitioners complained, and surely it would be superfluous in him to say a single word in order to prove that the conduct of this sheriff had been highly improper and unconstitutional: he should think that all the liberties of the people and all the safeguards of the constitution were irretrievably gone, if it were necessary to use any arguments on that subject. But he must beg the attention of the House to a circumstance which followed the dispersion of the meeting. An application had been made to the lord lieutenant for redress, but he had been obliged to wait for an answer from the government in this country. That answer at last did come from the same quarter from which thanks had been sent to the magistrates of Manchester. [Hear, hear.] That answer was—" The courts of law are open." He believed, however, on the authority of very eminent lawyers, and the opinion had been stated in the discussions on the Manchester question, that the courts of law would not like to interfere in such a case. If there was no redress to be expected from the magistrates, and if the government refused to take up the question, it behoved the House of Commons to see justice done. The celebrated protestation of 1621, expressly declared that "the arduous and urgent affairs concerning the king, state, and the defence of the realm, and of the church of England, and the making and maintenance of laws, and redress of mischiefs and grievances, which daily happen within this realm, are proper subjects and matter of counsel and debate in parliament.*" He had heard, that the grand jury of Dublin had sanctioned the conduct of the sheriff. If this was so, the necessity for the House to interfere became the stronger, because the act of a hot-headed officer became that of a great faction. The noble lord then moved, "That the said Petition be brought up."

Colonel Talbot

said, in seconding the motion as one of the representatives of the county of Dublin, I feel myself called upon to say a few words on the subject of the petition. I was not present when the outrage complained of was committed; but I have no hesitation in saying, from every circumstance which has come to my knowledge, that the petition contains a correct * See New Parl. Hist. vol. 1, p, 1361. although a moderate statement of the atrocities which took place on that occasion. Shortly after the period alluded to in the petition, I had the honour to be called to the chair at a numerous and most respectable meeting of the freeholders of the county of Dublin, the great part of whom had attended at Kilmainham, on the special invitation of the high sheriff, with the impression on their minds, that every freeholder would be at liberty to deliver his sentiments on any measure to be proposed; instead of which, they had the mortification to witness a scene unparalleled in the annals of any civilized country—a meeting so called together and so dispersed by a military force; in consequence of which the meeting I had the honour to preside at was convened, for the purpose of petitioning parliament for redress, and met not at Kilmainham, the usual place where county meetings are held, but in the city of Dublin, out of the reach of that power which had already insulted them; and the petition now before you was there unanimously adopted. The petitioners are anxious to prove the truth of the allegations therein contained by affidavits, or respectable witnesses at the bar of this House. However great my personal esteem may be for the high sheriff, I cannot avoid saying he has, from some very unaccountable misconception of his duty, been misled into a gross violation of the constitution; for after having convened the meeting, it was his bounden duty to put the question on the amendment, which he had no right to assume was less loyal than the address proposed. Mr. Talbot then read the following extract of a letter from Mr. Byrne, describing the dispersion of the meeting:—

"When just in the act of proposing the; amendment, and before I had lime to read it, the military were called in, and dispersed the meeting. I had a copy of it in my hand at the time, which fell down in I the confusion, and stooping to take it up perhaps saved my life, for a soldier came; at the rear of the seat I was on, and violently thrust in his musket, which, if it had come in contact with my head, might have broken it, hard as it is. If a committee is granted to inquire into the allegations of the petition, I am ready to go over to be examined, as well as several others." Now, allow me to say if the House suffer such proceedings to pass unnoticed, in future a county meeting will indeed merit no better name than a political farce. Sir, my countrymen are an open-hearted, generous people, and are always grateful for any kindness shewn them; and if ministers will either give them back their parliament, or the full benefit of all those promises made them on surrendering their independence as a separate kingdom, by doing away all religious distinctions, and by repealing that most odious tax on the light of Heaven; and should they want an equivalent for revenue, they easily can find one by imposing a percentage on the incomes of those absentees, who, having sold their country, then deserted it.

Lord John Russell then moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the matter of the said petition."

Mr. C. Grant

said, he thought it right to declare on the part of the Irish government, that they had no connexion, publicly or privatety, with any of the proceedings which formed the subject of the petition. He deemed it further necessary to say, that no man deprecated more than he did the unnecessary interference of the military power: no one was more convinced that such interference was generally inexpedient; and he could say, that such was the conviction of the Irish government; appealing boldly to those who had witnessed the conduct of that government since he had been connected with it, whether they had shewn any disposition unnecessarily to resort to military force. The system of the Irish government had been, not to interfere; and he should continue to adhere to the same course on this question. He did not stand there as the defender of the high sheriff, but to state what the Irish government had done, and what, in his view, the House should do. But it was but just for him to mention what statement the high sheriff had given in. He should not remark on the degree of credit due to either of the statements; but it was fair that both of them should be before the House, and as to the main facts, it would be seen that the sheriff decisively contradicted the petitioners. The Irish government, when it had received the address had required an explanation from the sheriff, which he accordingly gave. Whenever the petitioners had alleged that he had not put the question whether there should be an address, the sheriff asserted that he did put the question, which was carried without opposition. The committee was not appointed by him, but in the usual way; he having named one, lord Howth, lord Howth named lord Frankfort, lord Frankfort named another, and so on till the committee was completed. It had been said, that while Mr. Byrne was moving an amendment, the sheriff threatened to bring in the military. The sheriff asserted, that he had not done any such thing. The sheriff in this statement did not advert to one part of the allegations of the petitioners, viz. that he had not put the question on the address in the negative; but he had subsequently called on the lord lieutenant, and stated that he had done so, and there were affidavits of persons who had heard him do so. To shew that the muskets were not loaded, he referred to the letter of the officer of the guard, as also to shew that no violence was offered to lord Cloncurry, and that the bayonets were not fixed. The sheriff also said, that the police officers, only fifteen in number, would not have been sufficient to clear the hall; and that such confusion prevailed in the meeting after he had withdrawn from the chair, that he was under the necessity of employing a military force for its dispersion. This letter from the sheriff was accompanied by several affidavits, corroborative of the statements which it contained. Under these circumstances, the Irish government was called upon to investigate the business, with a view to supersede or suspend the sheriff. But, independently of these circumstances, he felt that the Irish government could not consistently interfere in the manner required by the complainants. The interposition of the military upon the occasion alluded to, the Irish government very sensibly regretted; but he submitted that, with such contradictory statements, it was quite impossible for that government to form any decisive opinion. It was said that the House of Commons ought to enter into an investigation of the subject. If that investigation could be carried on by persons who had a power to examine upon oath, according to the practice of courts of justice, the case might be essentially different. But the House did not examine witnesses upon oath; and here the injuries complained of were such, as being proceeded in in a court of law, must, upon oath, be deposed to. And supposing that upon such an inquiry as that House could institute, the House should come to the conclusion that the sheriff had acted wrong, would the government be justified in discharging such an officer for the mere exercise of what he conceived to be his duty? And if the government, pursuing a middle course, had thought fit to remonstrate with the sheriff, would the parties have been satisfied? Still more monstrous, however, was the proposition, that government should suspend or dismiss the sheriff. He would venture to say that it was incompetent for the government in such a case to do so; and still more unbecoming, if it did so without some strong authority.

Mr. M. Fitzgerald

said, that he gave full credit to the right hon. gentleman for his desire to communicate to the people of Ireland the principles of the British constitution; but yet he must declare, that he thought his objections to the motion perfectly futile and inconclusive. The right hon. gentleman had much underrated the importance of this question, which involved nothing less than the right of petitioning, and which right it was the imperative duty of that House to assert and maintain. With respect to the reference of the case to a court of law, in what shape could such an appeal be made? Was it to be made to the grand jury, which might be impannelled by the sheriff himself, or which would most probably consist of the very persons who had approved of that conduct of which the petitioners complained? But supposing even a successful appeal to a court of law terminating in the punishment of the sheriff, would that punishment afford adequate redress to the country for the injury which this individual had done to the popular privilege of petitioning, especially in the introduction of a military force to disperse a meeting convened by his own authority? He did not mean to deny the right of the petitioners to appeal to a court of law upon this question, but be maintained that such an appeal could lead to no practical effect. The idea appeared to him. quite monstrous, of referring such a case as the present to any court of law, while that House was sitting, which ought to be the peculiar guardian of popular rights. The present question did not refer merely to the county of Dublin, but to every county, for if it were allowed to introduce the army for the purpose of dispersing a county meeting in Dublin, what was to prevent the example from being universally acted upon? With respect to the allegations in the petition, the court-house was crowded before the mover and seconder of the ori- ginal address could get in, and those two noble lords were therefore raised by pul-lies to the upper windows, in order to afford them an opportunity of performing the task assigned them. Those who were in the body of the court could not hear what either the mover or seconder said, those two reverend lords being merely seen bowing to each other, like Noodle and Doodle, in the farce of Tom Thumb. A gentleman of the highest respectability, a king's counsel, happened to use the words, "the king's ministers." The sheriff objected that this was beyond the scope of the requisition. This was the first irregularity committed, and for any irregularity after that the sheriff was accountable. No amendment would be allowed, and, without an opportunity for expressing a difference of opinion, there could be no discussion. The sheriff declared the court then dissolved. A distinguished nobleman was afterwards called to the chair, and a state of tranquillity was then established which had not existed before. The doors were next forced by the military, detachments moved off by the galleries, and the chair was taken possession of according to the best rules of military tactics. A similar case had taken place in the king's county. During the warm discussions on the question of the Union, the present postmaster-general for Ireland, lord Ross, called a meeting to petition against it. The meeting was in an open place, and the military were readily led to the spot, provided with a charge of rape-shot. The meeting dispersed, and the union was suffered to pass without a petition from the king's county against it. The sheriff was called to the bar of the House of Commons, and that House, although in acceding to the Union it did an act which shewed that it deserved annihilation, pronounced an appropriate censure upon that officer's conduct. This sheriff was, however, soon afterwards, he supposed by accident, appointed to a very valuable office. Ireland had been tranquil during the proceedings which recently agitated every bosom in Great Britain. He lamented that Ireland had been tranquil, not on account of the proceedings which had been going on, but on account of the cause of her tranquillity. Ireland was so dejected with calamities as to be unable to attend to any thing but her own misery. Now he would say that all the discontents of Ireland originated in local evils; to his majesty they were warmly attached. If his majesty should visit Ireland, he would be received with an enthusiasm, characteristic of that gallant, brave, and generous people. If, however, he might propose an amendment to the proposed intention, he would move that his majesty, when half seas over, should throw his ministers overboard. [A laugh.] If any thing could enhance his majesty's reception, it would be some summary process of that kind against his ministers.

Mr. Ellis,

of Dublin, said, that he had not the slightest acquaintance with the sheriff; but having been at the meeting, it would be a dereliction of duty in him not to come forward and state what he knew. He would speak not as an advocate, but as a witness. It was absolutely impossible that the petitioners could have been guilty of premeditated misrepresentation; but they had stated many things calculated to mislead the judgment of the House. He himself had observed placards on the walls of the most inflammatory nature. The sheriff was attended by sixteen police-officers. He (Mr. Ellis) had heard the question put, but he was bound to say that he had not heard the negative put. But the sheriff and the noble lord who seconded the address, had both convinced him that the negative had been put. He was bound in candour to say, that he would not have acted as I the sheriff had acted. But the sheriff's situation was one of considerable difficulty. It was one of the most difficult I questions that could occur to ascertain where relevancy ended and irrelevancy commenced. It depended on the mode of the speaker, and the temper of the listener. If the sheriff had taken the wrong side of a difficult discretion, was he, on that account, to be calumniated, and to be dragged to the bar of that House without the imputation of a corrupt motive? If he had committed a great public injury, for which no adequate redress could be obtained in any other way, then such a course as this would be proper, But until such a case could be proved, it would be putting a man on his trial when be was not accused. He now came to that part of the subject which related to the calling in of the military. The facts of the case were these:—When the assembly was dissolved, the sheriff desired that the persons present should disperse. This was not met in a very civil manner. He then called for the police, not in a low inaudible tone, but in a tone of voice which was heard throughout the hall. But either the police from the confusion which prevailed, did not hear the call, or, if they heard it, did not attend to it. The sheriff then desired loyal persons to withdraw; and he (Mr. E.), amongst others, obeyed the injunction. As he went out of the yard, he met the sheriff coming in with the military. What occurred afterwards he did not personally know; but the statement of the commanding-officer authorized him to say that no violence was resorted to, but the noble lord who was in the chair was handed out of it. [A laugh.] What he mean to state was, that no illegal violence had been made use of. It was simply that practice, molliter manus imponere, which was Veil known to our law, and absolutely necessary for sometimes executing its ordinary process. If the military were properly introduced, the circumstance of their muskets being loaded, or their bayonets being fixed, could not alter the nature of the question; if they were improperly introduced, such a circumstance could not aggravate the impropriety. As respected the conduct of the sheriff the only material point was, whether the civil power was incompetent to disperse the meeting. He was exercising a discretionary power, and he hoped no sheriff and no magistrate would be made responsible for a mere error of judgment.

Sir J. Newport

said, that this was a petition complaining of a gross outrage upon the rights of the people; and if the House refused to interfere, what would be the necessary inference? that the imperial parliament declined to do what the last parliament of Ireland had done. The county of Dublin complained that the right of petitioning had been invaded, and he knew of no way in which that public grievance could be so properly redressed as by an inquiry in the Commons House of Parliament. If it were possible to conceive a case in which the military ought not to have been introduced, this was the case. What freeholder would attend a count meeting, at which he was to be exposed to the violence and outrages of the military, and then to be turned round to his action at law for redress?

Sir J. Sebright

said, that when he voted for the late bills imposing restrictions upon public meetings, he certainly did not expect that the powers given to sheriffs would have been exercised as they had been by the sheriff of Dublin. He had heard with great pleasure the speech of the right hon. the secretary for Ireland, a speech which abounded in those liberal sentiments which he was led to expect from him after all he had heard of his conduct in that country. It was his firm conviction, however, that this was the occasion of all others in which they were bound to appoint a committee to investigate the grievance complained of.

Mr. Bathurst

said, that the late acts did not apply to county meetings, which stood entirely on the basis of common law. The only question which the House had to consider was, whether this was the most proper tribunal before which the inquiry could be carried on. If the sheriff had done wrong, what punishment was the House to inflict on him, or had they the same means of examining evidence which were possessed in courts of law? If they were to appoint a committee, this would not prevent individuals who thought themselves aggrieved from seeking their remedies against the sheriff in the ordinary courts of justice. Now, what a strange situation would the House be placed in, if two distinct proceedings took place on the same subject of investigation? If that House passed a resolution of censure or of acquittal, it would not prevent the parties complaining from instituting legal proceedings.

Mr. J. P. Grant

thought the House was bound not to leave the protection of the right of petitioning to the courts of law. If such outrages as those which had been committed in Dublin were to be treated as mere acts of indiscretion, there would be an end to that guardianship which the House was bound to exercise over the rights and liberties of the people.

Mr. R. Martin

contended, that even if the conduct of the sheriff were as illegal as it had been represented, still the subject was not one that ought to be investigated by a court of law.

Mr. Peel,

in voting against the motion, wished to guard against any possible misconstruction; for he certainly could not express any approbation of the conduct of the sheriff in the introduction of the military. Such an approbation would contradict the principles upon which he had uniformly acted when he held an official situation in Ireland. He had been accused of extreme severity in the measures which he adopted at that time; but he thought it better to put down the sys- tern of illicit distillation by strong and coercive laws, than to encourage the constant interposition of the military. He regretted that resource had been had to the military on this occasion. He, however, approved of the conduct of the Irish government in not censuring the sheriff, or even causing an inquiry to be made into his conduct; and he did so on this principle—because he had always considered it most injudicious in the government of Ireland to interfere at all with ministerial officers.

Sir J. Mackintosh

said, that the matter of the present motion might be divided into two parts;—the first relating to the conduct of the Irish government in refusing to interfere, after the address presented; the second relating to the line of conduct which, under existing circumstances, it would befit the House of Commons to adopt. With respect to the first question he did not materially differ from the practical conclusion of the right hon. secretary for Ireland, and that of his predecessor. He thought, upon the whole, that the non-interference of the Irish government was fairly accounted for; but one of the reasons assigned for that interference struck him as a little singular. His right hon. friend contended, that it would have been improper for the government of Ireland to have removed the sheriff from his office, even if they knew that he had misconducted himself in it. That might, as a general principle, be true; but if it were true, what should be said of ministers who, without inquiry, and even without hearing removed from his post one of the most illustrious, virtuous and respectable men in England—giving him the first intimation of his dismission, too, in a way which would have been thought harsh from a private master to a menial servant, namely, by a paragraph inserted in a ministerial newspaper? If so much respect was due to the sheriff of Dublin, surely a little respect ought to have been shown to the illustrious individual (earl Fitzwilliam) to whom he had alluded. The House ought to examine into the cause of so much rigour on the one hand and so much lenity on the other: the lenity was shown to a man who cut short a proceeding likely to terminate in strictures upon the government; the rigour was exercised towards one who favoured the expression of public opinion. With respect to the second question, it had been argued that the violation of individual right was not a wrong for the in- quiry of the House of Commons. Now, if a private individual suffered injury as a private individual, no doubt the care of his interest belonged to himself; but where, even in the case of a private person, a constitutional right was violated, an injury was suffered by the whole people of the British empire. But he must go farther. It had been said, that for the wrong in question a legal remedy existed. He denied most positively that there was any legal remedy whatever. Where could a definition be found of the duties of a high sheriff at a public meeting? But, to come to the latter part of the sheriff's conduct. Was there redress at law for the employment of the military? Suppose an action brought for common assault, the military would defend themselves by pleading the command of the sheriff. No one would doubt that the sheriff had a discretion to act. The question would be, not whether he rightly used that discretionary power, but whether he did use it: and the soldiers must be acquitted. Then, change the course of proceeding—would the sheriff himself be answerable in a court of law? Every member knew that to convict a civil magistrate, corrupt motives must be made out. Suppose a sheriff, a short time after any little error on the right side, to receive a lucrative employment—and there had been such an instance—would that fact be enough to support an allegation of corrupt motive? It would not. In fact, to say that the House of Commons was not to inquire into the wrongs committed by public officers, was to say that, nine times in ten, public officers might commit wrongs with impunity.

Mr. Shaw

said, he had been present at the meeting in question, and thought the conduct of the sheriff indiscreet, but not corrupt. He objected to the interference of the House, because a remedy was open at common law, and because he believed that that remedy was likely to be resorted to.

Lord Castlereagh

sincerely regretted the occurrence in question, and especially the introduction of military force. The question, however, was, what course it was prudent at present to pursue. He was by no means surprised at the opinions expressed by the hon. and learned gentleman, who had just sat down, because they were strictly consistent with those delivered by him on the Manchester question. The hon. and learned gentleman had, indeed, followed so strictly the course of argument he pursued on that occasion, that he had not even omitted to allude to the case of earl Fitzwilliam; although between the lord lieutenant of a county, who was necessarily in the confidence of government, and a sheriff there did not appear much resemblance in character. The hon. and learned gentleman's argument was, that as no magistrate could be prosecuted in a court of law, for an erroneous exercise of discretion, not attributable to corrupt motives, it was indispensably necessary that parliament should charge itself with the punishment of magistrates for all offences against the constitution, which were not punishable in a court of law. He was far from saying, that no case of this nature ought to be investigated by the grand inquest of the nation; but the question was, whether the present was that case? Adverting to the precedents produced from the reign of Charles the 2nd and from the Irish parliament, he contended, that they were inapplicable in the present instance. Even it the House were to investigate the business, it must be at the bar, and not in a committee above stairs, that a charge affecting the character and, perhaps, the personal liberty, of a sheriff of a county, must be heard. If the House of Commons were to take upon itself to inquire into the conduct of all public meetings, it would have a copious task, and might divest itself of all its other functions.

Lord Bective

was of opinion, that the high sheriff of Dublin had conducted himself with great judgment and propriety.

Mr. Creevey

said, he had been misunderstood in his observations on a former occasion on the right of petition. He on that occasion alluded to the year 1680. He never thought that it would fall to his lot to vindicate the conduct of a Russell and a Cavendish, in the part they had taken against such a wretch as Jefferies. It was the denial of the right of petition, seven years after that period, which caused James 2nd to lose his throne; and he hoped that should the right of the people of England be again invaded in a similar manner, the people would have spirit enough to do themselves that justice which had formerly been done under the auspices of a Russell and a Cavendish.

Mr. W. Wynn

was opposed to an inquiry into this subject as it was not strictly speaking, a breach of the privilege of parliament.

The House divided: Ayes 90; Noes 124. Majority against the motional 34.

List of the Minority.
Allen, J. H. Lambton, J. G.
Barham, J. F. Lemon, sir W.
Barnard, visc. Lloyd, J. M.
Barratt, S. M. Maberly, John
Becher, W. W. Macdonald, Jas.
Benett, John Mackintosh, sir J.
Birch, Joseph Martin, John
Blake, sir F. Monck, J. B.
Boughey, sir John Moore, Peter
Bright, H. Newport, sir J.
Bury, visc. Nugent, lord
Calcraft, J. Noel, sir G.
Carew, R. S. Ord, Wm.
Carter, John Ossulston, lord
Cavendish, lord G. Palmer, C. F.
Cavendish, Charles Parnell, sir H.
Caulfield, hon. H. Philips, G.
Coffin, sir Isaac Phillips, Geo. R.
Crespigny, sir W. De Power, R.
Curwen, J. C. Price, Robt.
Creevey, Thos. Rice, T. S.
Calvert, N. Ramsden, J. C.
Cole, sir Chris. Ricardo, David
Crawley, Saml. Ridley, sir M.
Davies, T. H. Robarts, Ab.
Denison, W. J. Robinson, sir G.
Denman, Thos, Rickford, Wm.
Duncannon, visc. Smith, hon. R.
Ellice, Ed. Smith Wm.
Farquharson, A. Sebright, sir J.
Fergusson, sir R. C. Talbot, R.W.
Fitzgerald, lord W. Tennyson, C.
Frankland, Robt. Warre, J. A.
French, Arthur Williams, Wm.
Fox, G. Lane Wilson, sir R.
Fitzgibbon, hon. R. Wood, Matthew
Glenorchy, visc. Wyvill, M.
Gordon, Robt. Whitmore, W.
Grattan, J. White, Luke
Grant, J. P. Westenra, hon. H.
Griffith, J. W. TELLERS.
Hamilton, lord A. Fitzgerald, M.
Harbord, hon. E. Russell, lord J.
Hill, lord A. PAIRED OFF.
Hobhouse, J. C. Forbes, visct.
Honywood, W. P. Shelly, sir John
Howard, hon. W. Lawley, F.
Hume, Jos. Ponsonby, hon. F.
Hutchinson, hon. C. Sykes, D.
Kennedy, T. F. Mostyn, sir Thos.
Lennard, T. B. Lloyd, sir E.