HC Deb 17 June 1824 vol 11 cc1435-8
Sir James Mackintosh

said, he rose to present a petition from an individual who complained of a succession of the most unexampled wrongs, connected with those scenes which the tragic drama enacted in Ireland had exhibited for the last twenty-five years. It appeared from the petition, that Mr. Bernard Coile, about thirty years ago, introduced into the north of Ireland, a branch of the cotton manufacture from Scotland, where he was educated. It was the branch of the muslin manufacture. In giving to Ireland, above all other nations, any such boon as the introduction of a new manufacture, he was a benefactor to his country. About the years 1795 or 1796—when first the Orange system was introduced into the north of Ireland; and when the county of Armagh was in that state of anarchy and violence which had called forth the memorable declaration of lord Gosford—the petitioner was arrested under a warrant, certainly without a parallel in the judicial records of this country. In that warrant, Mr. Coile was described as a reputed Papist, and with having also given ball-cartridge to a soldier with the view of overturning the government of the country. On that serious accusation he was never brought to trial, and was subsequently enlarged. The malice of his enemies was not satisfied. Though enlarged, he continued to be annoyed by a series of petty vexations. The result was, that he was compelled to leave that very county in which he had introduced a new branch of manufacture, and went to reside at Dublin. Soon after broke out the rebellion of 1798. Yet, such was the conduct of Mr. Coile at that time, that he was not for a single hour deprived of his liberty. In 1803, he was arrested as a state prisoner, and sent to the gaol of Kilmainham. Here began a tissue of outrages, perpetrated, in a great degree, by a Dr. Trevor, such as were unprecedented in the history of any civilized country. These outrages were of so cruel a nature—they abounded with expedients So calculated to degrade our nature, and to revolt public feeling—they formed such a combination of meanness and malice— they were so miserable, and yet, for the base object of vexation and cruelty, so nefariously operative, that he would not disgust the ears of that House, by reading them. It was sufficient to say, that the prisons of France, even under the rule of the sanguinary Robespierre, never exemplified greater atrocities. It happened, at length, through the intervention of a nobleman, who, through his whole life, had been anxious to step between the oppressor and his victim—he meant the marquis of Hastings—that Mr. Coile was liberated. In 1808, the late Mr. Sheridan brought the subject before the House of Commons, and succeeded in obtaining a royal commission to inquire into the state of the prisoners confined in Kilmainham. The persons whose sufferings were the subject matter of inquiry, demanded that the investigation should be public. Those whose deeds were the object of proof, demanded that the inquiry should be secret; and with these the commissioners acquiesced. The consequence was, that only one of the state prisoners was examined, and he was suspected to have been an informer. The only other witnesses were the turnkeys and servants of the gaol, accomplices in the alleged cruelties. The absence of lord Hastings from England, and the death of Mr. Sheridan, disheartened the petitioner from proceeding in his attempts to obtain redress. He had, however, been encouraged to renew them, by the liberal feeling which the House exhibited towards Ireland last session. He therefore wrote to him (sir J. M.) at the close of it, requesting him to undertake the presentation of it. He wrote back to the petitioner, that he considered the period of the session to be too far advanced, and advised him to defer the presentation of it till the present session. The petitioner concurred in the propriety of the advice, and had, in consequence, come over to England, at the latter end of May, judging, from the experience of recent sessions, that the present would not terminate before the middle of July. He trusted that inquiry would be made into the subject of it, in order that blame might fall upon the petitioner if he had calumniated the government, or upon the government if they had injured the petitioner in the manner which he had stated.

Mr. Goulburn

observed, that as he had been in his present office only two years, it could not be expected that he should be able, at a moment's notice, to give an immediate answer to the allegations contained in the petition. He trusted, however, that the House would not argue, from his silence on the subject, against the character of any person whom the petition might be intended to implicate.

Mr. John Smith

observed, that the petitioner had applied to him to present the petition, but really, without having the strongest reasons for believing the allegations of the petition, he did not feel himself justified in presenting it. There were parts of the allegations so revolting to human nature, that he would not enter into them; but he agreed, that it was indispensable to the character of the House and of the country, that they should investigate the disgusting tale; for never in the worst of times had there been any thing more monstrous. If the petitioner made out his case, it would certainly be the duty of the House to take care that he should be fully compensated.

Mr. Secretary Peel

was not prepared to affirm or deny, at the instant, any of the allegations in the petition. He had had some experience of the conduct of Dr. Trevor, and from that knowledge he could be brought but very slowly to believe any thing to his disadvantage. It would be unjust to the accused person, that the charge against him should be generally dispersed, without any opportunity being offered for answering it. He trusted, therefore, that the learned gentleman would be content with laying the petition on the table. Early in the next session the subject might be properly investigated.

Mr. Hutchinson

hoped his majesty's government would pledge themselves to take the case of the petitioner into consideration. The prayer of the petitioner for remuneration for his great loss of property was wholly unconnected with the merits or demerits of Dr. Trevor. Having unfortunately resided in Ireland at the period to which the petition alluded, he begged leave to state, that the outrages in Ireland, from 1794, to the time of the rebellion, which rebellion, in his conscience, he believed those outrages created, were such as had never been perpetrated in any other civilized country. He asserted, that the Catholics of Ireland were, during that period, treated with the greatest barbarity, both in Dublin, under the eye of the government, and in other parts of Ireland, on account of their religion. From his knowledge of what was committed at that time, he thought it extremely likely, that the outrages described in the petition had really occurred.

Sir J Mackintosh

consented to withdraw the petition for the present session, with the view of bringing it forward as soon as the House should meet in the next, but not with any view of invalidating any allegation in the petition.