HC Deb 21 April 1823 vol 8 cc1144-7
Mr. C. Grant

asked the patient indulgence of the House whilst he addressed a few words to it upon a subject in which he might be considered personally interested. The House would recollect, that in the debate of Thursday, certain observations had been made by the president of the board of control, relative to the administration of Ireland for some years back. Now, it had gone forth to the world, that it was the opinion of his right hon. friend that all the governments of Ireland, preceding that of the marquis of Wellesley, had been partial in the administration of justice. As far as his recollection served, the words of his right hon. friend did not convey such an imputation; and he should not have thought it necessary to call the attention of the House to the circumstance, if an impression had not been made on the public mind, that such an imputation had been cast upon the government with which he had been connected. He was as fully convinced that his right hon. friend had no intention of making such an imputation, as he was t hat such an imputation, if made, would be perfectly without foundation.

Mr. Wynn

said, he had no difficulty in stating, that he had no intention of puting to any government of Ireland, or to any individual connected with it, any partiality in the administration of justice. If he conceived that any such partiality had been exercised, he should have felt it his bounden duty to bring it forward as a substantive charge. What he had stated had been to this effect—that in joining the administration he had reserved to him-self the liberty of supporting, or originating either in council or in parliament, any proposition which tend to ameliorate the condition of Ireland; amongst which he considered Catholic Emancipation to stand first and foremost. He had further stated, that the nomination of the marquis Wellesley as lord-lieutenant and of Mr. Plunkett, as attorney-general of Ireland, held out to him the prospect that firm and conciliatory government was about to be established in Ireland. He had likewise stated his opinion, that the existing laws should be equally administered to all classes of his Majesty's subjects in that country; and that the Catholics should be permitted to enjoy their fair share of those advantages to which they were entitled. In stating this stipulation, he did not intend to make any imputation on the preceding governments of Ireland. He felt that, when all those who differed as to the mode of governing Ireland agreed in the necessity of doing all that could be done to conciliate it, nothing ought to be said that could by possibility lead to further difference of opinion.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, this subject he must claim for himself and for those with whom he had acted in the administration of Ireland, that they had acted with most perfect impartiality. He would say further that a most scrupulous attention had been paid, to prevent the operation of any religious prejudices in the administration of justice. In any case where Protestants and Catholics were concerned in an outrage, instead of trusting to local representations, counsel of eminence were sent to the spot, and if there was a chance that they could not direct the administration of justice impartially, the law officers of the Crown were directed to take it into their own bands. So far from any religious distinction operating to an exclusion from offices to which they were legally admissible, he could say that in no one case had he made the inquiry, whether a candidate for office was Catholic or Protestant. In the whole of the six years that he was connected with the government of Ireland, he did not recollect a single instance in which any objection was ever made by any member of it to any individual because he was a Catholic. If his own particular feelings, as well as those of the other leading members of the administration, on the subject of the Catholic claims, had not been sufficient to produce impartiality in their conduct towards the Catholics, there were still two individuals in the administration—namely, the solicitor-general, and the chancellor of the exchequer for Ireland, who were distinguished for the zeal with which they advocated the right of their fellow country men to complete emancipation; and yet, though he differed in opinion with those gentlemen upon that subject, he had never differed with them in opinion in any question that related to the administration of justice, or to the admission of Catholics into such offices as they were by law entitled to fill. With respect to his own readmission into office, he would frankly declare, that he never would have consented to enter into any administration, had he supposed that there was an impression in the minds of his colleagues that he had been guilty of any partiality in the administration of justice, or in the admission of individuals in office. He had been appointed to the post of secretary of state for the home department, and had been placed in direct cor- respondence with the marquis Wellesley; and he could assure the House, that as far as he was concerned he had done all in his power to carry that nobleman's designs into execution. It was impossible for, him to acquiesce in any compliments that were made to himself at the expense of those with whom he had been connected; and he claimed credit for all of them, for having acted on the principles which he had already stated.