HC Deb 11 February 1823 vol 8 cc93-6
Mr. Goulburn

asked leave to bring in a bill to continue and amend the acts for training the Irish Yeomanry. As these acts would expire in a few weeks, he thought it requisite to move for their renewal at as early a period as possible.

Mr. Hume

said, that before he gave his consent to the introduction of this bill, he must ask the right hon. secretary whether the Irish Police act of the last session had not, in a great degree, rendered it unnecessary? The acts which it was now intended to renew, were productive of an annual expense of 66,000l. As such was the case, it behoved the House to look a little into the manner in which these yeomanry corps were constituted, and the purposes for which they were kept up. They were established in 1798; and, whatever might be the services which they then performed, he believed that since the rebellion they had been productive of much positive mischief to the country. These corps generally consisted of Orangemen; and were so far from being useful in keeping the peace, that all the tumults in the north of Ireland arose from them. During the last year, they had been called out to quell the disturbances which existed; but, instead of diminishing, they had absolutely increased them. Indeed, the formation of these corps had been a gross job from their commencement down to the present time. By a paper for which he had moved during the last session, it appeared, that ten brigade-majors of yeomanry-corps had retired upon pensions. He was given to understand that these men were by no means unfit for ser- vice; and if that were the case, ought they to be placed upon pensions, either because they wished to retire themselves, or because ministers wished to bestow their places upon other of their dependents? He had been informed that some individuals had been invalided, who were not older than he was, and who, fortunately for themselves, were in much better health. To place such men on the invalid list was not an uncommon occurence with the government of Ireland. An individual named Collis, who, he understood, was as free from infirmity as he was, and not more than 45 years of age, had been invalided on a pension, after ten years service, though he was treasurer of the county in which he resided, and had a private fortune of 2,000l. a year. The expense incurred for the present brigade majors was 3,7501. a year; whilst 1,275l. a year was paid in pensions to those who had retired, and so made way for them. This was one of the discoveries that had taken place, in consequence of his motion of last session, that an account should be rendered of all monies paid out of the civil list, previously to the estimates for the year being presented to parliament; and he could assure the House, that he had other discoveries in store for them from the same paper, each more appalling than the other. He trusted that the House would not allow this bill to pass, until some detail was given of the services for which these yeomanry corps were wanted.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he was not prepared to explain at that moment whether Mr. Collis was as strong or as infirm as the hon. member; but if it was his intention to bring that grant under the notice of the House, he should be prepared at a fit opportunity to give the necessary explanation regarding it. At present, he should confine himself to the mere explanation of one circumstance, namely, how so many brigade majors were found on the list. At the close of the war, the number which before had been very great, was reduced to the state in which it existed at present; and the supernumeraries were placed on the half-pay. Since that time, whenever any vacancy had occurred in the brigade-majors which it was determined to keep up, it had been filled up out of those supernumeraries; and therefore there was no ground for the insinuation of-the hon. gentleman.

Mr. Abercromby

said, that the right hon. secretary's argument appeared to be this—that they ought to pass this bill now, and to consider of the expense at a future opportunity. Now, he took this to be the wiser course—to consider of the expense in the first instance, and to pass the bill in the second. In the present distressing state of Ireland, it was impossible to treat as a mere matter of course, a measure which tended to perpetuate a corps, whose acts had been viewed with much anxiety, and not without a little suspicion. He trusted that no attempt would be made to press this measure hastily through the House, especially as the attorney-general for Ireland would, in a short time, be obliged to bring before their notice the present situation of that unfortunate country.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he could assure honourable members, that he never entertained the slightest intention of hurrying this bill through the house. He had placed it thus early upon the table, in order that it might receive the fullest discussion. He could assure the hon. member for Calne, that the time would soon come when the circumstances to which he had alluded would be brought under the consideration of parliament.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald

condemned the attack made upon the yeomanry corps of Ireland, as most unfair and illiberal. The corps which he had the honour to command, instead of being composed entirely of Orangemen, had not a single Orangeman in it. Indeed, to the best of his belief, in the yeomanry corps in the south of Ireland, nine out of every ten men were Catholics. In the county of Clare there was one corps in which there were only ten Protestants, and another in which there was not even one; and yet to that corps the government had been chiefly indebted, on a late occasion, for the quiet of the county. Unless the hon. member intended to assert that the yeomanry corps were altogether useless, he ought not to oppose the present bill, of which the sole object was to place them under military control. The superannuations appeared to him to be made upon the best principle, and certainly not from corrupt and profligate views. The hon. member had alluded to the superannuation of a major Collis. He could not tell whether there were two brigade majors of that name; but if the major Collis alluded to was the same major Collis who had been the inspector of his corps, he would tell the hon. member for Aberdeen, that instead of having only served ten years, he had served nearly as many years as the hon. member had stated him to have lived, and, therefore, his was not a case which deserved the reprobation that had been cast upon it.

Mr. Spring Rice

reminded the last speaker, that his remarks on the manner in which some yeomanry corps were constituted only applied to those in the south of Ireland. The yeomanry force of Ireland amounted, however, to 30,000 men, and of these 20,000 were raised from the single province of Ulster. Now, he would contend, that all the objections to the yeomanry corps, arising from the Orange infusion by which they were tainted, applied in full force to the yeomanry of the province of Ulster. If some measure was not proposed to put down the processions of the Orange societies, which were known to be illegal, he should endeavour to add a clause to the present bill, to prevent the yeomanry from joining in them; because, alarming as they were at all times, they became doubly dangerous when men with arms in their hands formed a part of them.

Mr. Hume

said, that in the paper to which he had before alluded, he found this entry—"Edward Collis, 136l. having served upwards of ten years." He had not served eleven years, otherwise it would have been so stated.

Mr. Peel

denied that the individual in question, or indeed any other, had been allowed to retire, for the purpose of giving facility to the appointment of another person in his stead.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.