HC Deb 11 March 1824 vol 10 cc885-902
Lord Althorp

rose to submit to the House the motion of which he had given notice. If he succeeded in the attainment of his object, it would, he said, enable the House to determine what measures would be the most likely to restore quiet to that disturbed country. It would be recollected that the tumult which prevailed in 1820 had broke out in Galway, and had speedily extended itself through Mayo. The disturbances were attributable to what was called the system of Ribbon-men. They ran so high, that an hon. friend of his, the member for Galway, had found it necessary to move himself for the renewal of the insurrection act, and that the powers of the act should be extended to that county. The consequences were, numerous trials and convictions, with some executions. Shortly after, proclamation was made by the principal police magistrate, offering an amnesty to the Ribbon-men, on condition of their taking the oath of allegiance, renouncing their secret associations, and delivering up their arms. A great many accepted the conditions, and since that time these counties had been remarkably tranquil; so much so, that the orderly conduct of the inhabitants had been much praised by the government of Ireland. He would therefore move, in the first place, for copies of the proclamation, and of every other document by which the arrangement had been effected. In November, 1822, the attorney-general of Ireland instituted prosecutions against some persons for administering illegal oaths to the Ribbon-men. Two were convicted, and remained in prison under sentence of transportation. A Mr. Bennett, counsel for one of the prisoners, informed Mr. Gregory, under-secretary to the lord lieutenant that he had communications of considerable importance to make upon the system of Ribbon-men, and requesting an interview thereupon. The letter was received by Mr. Gregory, who answered by another, dated Feb. 20, requesting Mr. Bennett to put his communications into writing. He did so, and he stated that the Ribbon-leaders of Meath, Westmeath, and Tipperary, were all ready to take the oaths of allegiance, renounce the societies, and give up their arms, on condition of government extending the amnesty to them. Receiving no instructions from the secretary, Mr. Bennett pressed for an answer which Mr. Gregory assured him he should have on the arrival of the lord lieutenant. In the mean time, a communication was made to the government by Mr. Lubie and Mr. Yore, two respectable priests, stating that it would be advantageous to the government to stay execution of the sentence on Thomas Hughes, one of the persons convicted; and that by giving time, they would be enabled to get at the secrets of the Ribbon-men though the examination of Hughes. No answer was returned to the letter, and Hughes was shortly after transported. In July following, Mr. Gregory was reminded by Mr. Bennett of what had taken place in February before; to which Mr. Gregory replied that he had no directions upon the subject from the lord lieutenant. Now, he (lord Althorp) was perfectly at a loss to account for the conduct of the Irish government in the affair. It appeared to him extraordinary that they did not seize with eagerness so favourable an opportunity for putting down the disturbances and, restoring the country to tranquillity—that no advantage whatever should be taken of it. Probably the officers of the Irish government would be able to explain their conduct by satisfactory reasons. But candidly speaking, it did impress upon his mind strongly, that the explanation would not be very favourable to the character of the government. It was strange enough that no answer should have been returned to the communication called for by Mr. Gregory from Mr. Bennett, and still more strange, that they should not have preferred the conciliatory arrangements submitted, to the attempt of silencing the disturbances by the strong arm of the law. The government knew the effect of the step taken in 1820, that the line of conduct then adopted had produced no evil, and that the country had been tranquillized. It was desirable that this information should be laid before the House, that they might be enabled to judge if the disturbed state of Ireland could not be cured by adopting the conciliatory course, rather than by appealing continually to the force of arms. He could not anticipate the answer which would be given by the right hon. secretary for Ireland; but, in the hope that it would be satisfactory, he begged leave to move for, "1. Copies of any proclamations which were issued, during the year 1820, by Magistrates, or other persons authorized by government, in the counties of Mayo and Galway, offering an amnesty to the persons styling themselves Ribbon-men, on condition of their delivering up their arms, and taking the oath of allegiance. 2. Copies of any communications which have been made to the Irish government from the magistrates, or others, respecting the disposition of the people towards the government since the year 1820. 3. Copies of all correspondence which passed between Mr. R. N. Bennett and Mr. Gregory, during the year 1823, respecting Ribbon lodges. 4. Copy of a memorial to the lord lieutenant of Ireland, from the rev. Messrs. Lubie and Yore, in the case of Thomas Hughes, which was presented during February or March 1823."

Mr. Goulburn

said, he must oppose the noble lord's motion, because, although it was only for the production of papers, yet every one must see, that the real object was to censure the Irish government. He would state the case as it had occurred. Every body knew that there was an association in Ireland called Ribbon-men; associated not for innocent, but for illegal objects; bound together for the most mischievous purposes; having in view nothing less than the subversion of the constitution of the country. From the very nature of the society, and from the secrecy observed with respect to its proceedings, it became a matter of great difficulty to bring crime home to any individual connected with it. In the beginning of 1823, however, it so happened that the Irish government obtained the means of bringing to trial a person, not a subordinate member of the society, not a man inadvertently drawn in to a participation of their guilt, but a man of great importance in the society, and allowed by every one to be a leader and a principal. This man was tried and convicted. After his conviction, a question arose, whether or not it was expedient that mercy should be extended to him. His majesty's government were petitioned in his favour on two grounds; the first, that the society to which he belonged was an innocent one; the second, that if he were pardoned the Ribbon-men generally, amounting to above 13,000 men, would give up their arms, and return to their allegiance to government. To such a proposition the government could not accede. As to the institution being an innocent one, it was the opinion of his hon. and learned friend that the institution was an illegal one; and its illegality was established by the verdict of a jury. The petition expressly stated, that Hughes was a leader of the party. Now, if there was any person more fit to be selected for punishment than another, it certainly was that man. The government were told that if the prisoner were allowed to go at large, he would harangue the Ribbon-men wherever he could find them, and promised, that through his influence the Ribbon-men would abandon their evil courses. Could such a proposition have been agreed to by government? Nothing was more distant from the mind of the noble lord at the head of the government of Ireland, than to administer the criminal law with harshness; there was nothing he more wished for, than to find out a ground for mitigating the severity of the law. But, though anxious to extend mercy even to the guilty, yet it was not to be supposed that he would be guilty of the puerile imbecility of aban- doning the administration of justice, by agreeing to a proposition of the nature he had alluded to. On these grounds, the sentence of the law was carried into execution; and he was sure that the House and the county would agree with him, that it had been properly carried into execution.

Mr. Abercromby

agreed with the right hon. gentleman, that if the proposition made to the government of Ireland were such as he represented, the government were right in not acceding to it. The only point between them was, that the right hon. gentleman would not give the House the means of judging as to the exact terms of the proposition made. Let the right hon. gentleman, shew the House what the proposition was "No, I will not," said the right hon. gentleman, "but I call on the House to vote in the absence of that evidence." Now, before he could assent to the proposal of the right hon. gentleman, he must have the evidence before him. The application that had been made to government, was, he had reason to believe, without qualification or condition of any kind. The right hon. gentleman shook his head. There was, then a difference between them as to a matter of fact; which was, in his opinion, a reason for producing the evidence, which would put an end to that difference. He knew that his noble friend had seen the correspondence in question; and he was justified in saying that he had seen the answer of Mr. Gregory, the under-secretary; there did not appear on the face of it any condition or qualification. If the government had any other proposition made to them, containing the qualifications and conditions which the right hon. gentleman alleged, certainly they had acted wisely in not conceding any thing. But why not enable the House to form a fair judgment? Where could be the evil of producing the correspondence? Why should the government withhold papers which, according to the right hon. gentleman, would bring the government of Ireland triumphant out of the discussion? There were, in fact, two distinct statements made; the first was made by Mr. Bennett the barrister; the proposition was, after some time repeated, and the reply returned by Mr. Gregory was, that he was still without any authority from the lord lieutenant to return any answer from the government. The proposition, it was clear, did not appear a monstrous proposition in the eyes of Mr. Gregory. He (Mr. A.) had reason to believe that he had given a true statement of the correspondence: and if so, it was clear that government were in the highest degree culpable in not having secured the opportunity afforded to them. It should never be forgotten that the root of all the evils which afflicted Ireland was, this,—that one part of the population of the country was arrayed in hostility against the other. He was equally hostile to the ribbon-men and the orange-men. He disliked both: he would wish to destroy both, they were both opposed to the law, to the peace, and to the happiness of the community. It was the bounden duty of a wise and honest government to avail itself of an opportunity of putting an end to either party. Here an opening did present itself to the government, of putting an end to the ribbon association; but of that opportunity they had not thought fit to avail themselves.

Mr. Plunkett

said, he rose to notice some observations which had fallen from the noble mover, and from his hon. and learned friend. He did not pretend to be so well acquainted with the usages of parliament as they were; but, if he did not mistake it was not a matter of course that papers should be produced; in order to see if something might not be found in them, that would warrant a charge against government. Such a motion ought to rest at least on prima facie evidence, that the papers did contain matter sufficient to induce the House to question the conduct of the government? But, he would ask the House whether, in any thing that had fallen from the noble lord, there was any rational ground for presuming that the correspondence contained matter which would authorise an inquiry into the conduct of the government? He could not suffer the charge that had been made to pass by without bearing his testimony to the fact, that it was utterly impossible that there could exist in the breast of any man anxiety more intense or more sincere, than existed in the breast of the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government, to find out even an excuse to extend the mercy of the government in every case which could admit of it; but, in the case in question, mercy could not be extended consistently with the due administration of justice and the claims of the loyal and the well disposed part of the community. The persons who had been convicted were, in the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, concerned in a dangerous and an illegal association. It was scarcely possible for the House to imagine the full extent of the danger, and the mischief, which a person in so humble a situation as Hughes had the power to effect. He had endeavoured to succeed with the lower classes in the city of Dublin, and in various parts of the country, in undermining their principles, their morals, their virtue, and their religion; to bind them by secret oaths to undefined objects, but tending to one certain point—the overthrow of the constitution, and the separation Of the two countries. Such schemes were chimerical and wild and hopeless; but they were not the less illegal, nor the less necessary to be checked. Hughes was put upon his trial, and a verdict, upon the clearest evidence, was found against him. After that proceeding an effort was made by him to escape the justice of the country: an application was made to the lord lieutenant, resting on no accredited mission, and coming merely from the counsel for the prisoner. It was, it would seem, expected that the lord lieutenant would enter into a treaty with a band of conspirators, which that counsel represented. The learned gentleman had fortunately failed in establishing his credentials. For if he had not so failed, instead of the government granting an amnesty, they would have had to have taken a proceeding of a very different nature. He did not mean to speak disrespectfully of the learned gentleman, or of the bar, of which he was himself a member; but he would venture to say, that there was no mode of application to government more vague or suspicious, than that made through the counsel concerned for the prisoners. The government of Ireland had already suffered very great inconvenience in consequence of having entered into a negotiation with that gentleman, in the case of a person who had been tried and convicted. He did not mean to say that there had been any misconduct on the part of that learned gentleman in the course taken by him in the case just alluded to; but he repeated, that much inconvenience had been felt by government, in consequence of having entered into a negotiation with him. The House would observe, that the documents asked for were not exclusively in the possession of the government. The noble lord who had made the motion, was well acquainted with that correspondence. He could have wished that, being so in possession of them, the noble lord had stated the contents of them more in detail. If the noble lord had gone into a particular statement of the overtures that had been made, it would not, he apprehended, appear that the proposal made was unconditional. The persons who formed the association, were bound for illegal purposes by a secret oath. Now, if they wished to abandon the association, what was to prevent them from doing so? and what necessity was there for any stipulation with government? If they had arms, what could prevent them from giving up those arms? He would suppose that pardoning Hughes was not a condition, although the fact was otherwise; but he would suppose the case to be so—what other condition was annexed to the proposition? Why this: "If you," said the ribbon-men, "grant a general amnesty—ifyou undertake not to prosecute us—certain persons amongst us will not continue members of the association." In other words, "if you do not agree not to prosecute us, we will continue the association." If the government of Ireland had listened to such a proposal, they would have deserved to be laughed at—to be covered with eternal ridicule. Who were the parties? On the one side was the government—on the other the criminals. Where was the bonus? What was the consideration?—"If you," said the criminals to the government, "do not agree not to prosecute us, we will continue our illegal courses; we have been going on for months; we are avowedly an illegal association; our leaders and ourselves have been guilty persons, and therefore we will treat unconditionally with you, the government." Was the government to be bearded in that manner? Was a proposition of that nature to be listened to? If the government had entertained it, they would have disrobed themselves at once of power and character—they would have rendered themselves pusillanimous in the eyes of thebad—they would have forfeited the respect and confidence of the well disposed. It had been said, that the government, in not treating with these persons, had departed from the course which they ought to have pursued. If no condition were annexed, why was the application made? If the parties were anxious to take the oath of allegiance what necessity was there for any stipulation on the subject with government? The very fact of making the application at all went to shew, that it contained conditions and qualifications. There was another circumstance: part of the system of the Ribbon-men was to get arms in their possession. He did not believe that they had been able to succeed in that object to any extent; some arms, however, they had got into their possession; but no proposition whatever was made to give up those arms. If any such offer had been made, it was certainly retracted, no arms whatever were given up, nor were oaths of allegiance taken. He agreed with his hon. and learned friend that no illegal associations of any description ought to be countenanced,—that every association that was against the law ought to be punished. It could be no excuse for the Ribbon-men, or for any other description of persons, to say that they combined for an illegal purpose, because they were exposed to the violence and insult of counter-associations, because against such aggressions there was no other defence than the law of the land. He deprecated as much as any man the Orange Association; but, resistance to the law must be met by the law, and not by lawlessness. Whether It Ribbon-men or Orange-men, if associations were opposed to the law, by the law they must be put down—by the bold, the fearless, the honest exercise of that power with which the constitution had entrusted the government of Ireland. He was sure there was not within the walls of the House one individual with the feelings of a gentleman and a man of honour, who would wish to humble the officers of the Crown for endeavouring honestly to discharge their difficult duties. If the House saw that there was any rational ground for an inquiry into the conduct of government, he would be the last man to oppose it; but, feeling as he did that it would not tend to that object, he must vote against the motion.

Mr. R. Martin

said, that a proclamation of amnesty was distributed in his county, at the Catholic chapels by the Catholic clergymen. He could not agree to the motion, because he did not see that it would be productive of any good. Even taking the statement of the noble lord for granted, there was no ground for laying the correspondence on the table.

Lord Althorp

rose to reply. He said, that a copy of the correspondence in question had certainly been put into his hands. In that correspondence he saw no condition, no qualification whatever; he saw, indeed, a distinct offer to give up arms. The right hon. and learned gentleman had said, that if there were no qualifications annexed to the proposal, it was not necessary to make any proposition. Did he mean to say, that the people, finding that, in the eye of the law, they stood guilty of felony, did not stand in need of the protection of government? He would now proceed to read the Correspondence which he held in his hand, and he would leave it to the House to form a judgment upon it. The first letter was written by Mr. R. N. Bennett on the 18th of February 1823, to W. Gregory, esq. and was as follows: Sir; I have a communication to make for the information of his excellency the lord lieutenant, relative to the illegal society of persons styling themselves Ribbon-men, of the county and city of Dublin. Do me the honour to acquaint me when and to whom this communication is to be made I have &c. R. N. BENNETT. The next document was a letter, dated Dublin Castle, the 20th of February, 1823, written by Mr. Gregory, in answer to the foregoing; and was as follows: Sir; I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant, which has been submitted to the Lord Lieutenant; and I am directed to acquaint you, that if you wilt be so good to commit to writing any communication on the subject to which you allude, and transmit it to me, it shall be immediately brought under his Excellency's consideration, I have, &c. W. GREGORY. On the 22nd of February, 1823, Mr. Bennett wrote to Mr. Gregory as follows: Sir; I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 18th instant, requiring me to commit to writing the communication to which I alluded in that letter, and which I had to make on behalf of the Ribbon-men of the county and city of Dublin.—Having frequently been employed for them as counsel, I made use of the opportunities thus afforded me, to endeavour to ascertain the real objects of that society. I was assured, that the principle of their union was wholly defensive against the Orange party. They informed me, that the Ribbon system commenced in Armagh, where outrages of a very sanguinary character were alleged to have been committed against the Catholics, by the Orange party with impunity; and this, it appears, created a bitter spirit of retaliation in the minds of the sufferers, which ultimately produced the Ribbon Association.—Persuaded that this was a correct representation of the principles and views of this body, and that they were not hostile to the constitution or the king, it occurred to me, that recent circumstances connected with the prosecutions of the rioters at the theatre presented an opportunity (if properly acted on) of reconciling this society to the government.—Under this impression, I succeeded in opening a communication with their leaders, principally through the medium of Thomas Hughes, now under sentence of transportation for administering the Ribbon-man's oath. In consequence of effecting this communication, two most respectable Catholic clergymen, distinguished for loyalty and intelligence, were deputed on their part to confer with me, on the subject; and, after several meetings, for some weeks past, I became fully convinced that there existed on their part, a sincere disposition to affectionate loyalty towards his Majesty and the present Government of Ireland. And, were all other proofs wanting, a circumstance occurred, during these conferences which appeared quite decisive. At that period some malignant and exaggerated rumours respecting the nature and extent of the king's late indisposition were industriously circulated in Dublin, on which occasion these clergymen informed me, that the despair of the delegates, from the Ribbon-men, was so excessive, as nearly to put an end to all further proceedings as useless. But, upon the assurance of his majesty's restoration to health, the matter was resumed with increased ardour and activity—I suggested to them the propriety, and, perhaps, importance at that time, of coming forward and offering to take the oath of allegiance, to renounce all secret associations, and to give up their arms; and I now have the satisfaction to state through their authorised agents, that these suggestions have been embraced with enthusiasm; and I am now commissioned by them to communicate to you, for the information of his excellency the lord lieutenant, that they are ready and anxious to come forward and subscribe to these terms upon obtaining amnesty.—I have to address you last—I am instructed to state, that the members of Kildare, Meath, West Meath, King's and Queen's counties, and Tipperary, have desired to be included in this communication; and no doubt is entertained, that the whole body of Ribbon-men will follow this example. The number of organised Ribbon-men in the county and city of Dublin is stated to be 13,000 and those in the country very considerable. I have the honour, &c. R. N. B. To that statement no answer whatever was returned. It was, the House would see, a communication which contained no condition; which claimed nothing but an amnesty. The next communication was a letter written to Mr. Bennett on the 28th of Feb. by Mr. A. Lube and Mr. W. Gore:— My dear Sir; a number of persons from different parts of the country, in addition to those we mentioned to you, have called on us to know what has been done relative to the proposition you made to Mr. Gregory, last week? We beg leave to state, that they are most anxious to carry that proposition into effect. We request that you will endeavour to obtain the answer of Government as soon as possible. With best wishes, yours, &c. A. LUBE. W. GORE. February 28, 1823. Sir,—Not having had the honour of receiving any answer to my communication of the 24th [this should have been 22] inst. relative to the Ribbon-men, and great anxiety having been expressed by these people for the determination of Government thereon, I think it my duty to call your attention to the inclosed letter from the clergymen to whom I before alluded. "R. N. B. To W. Gregory, Esq. &c. Dublin Castle, March 3, 1823. Sir,—I submitted your letters of the 24th and 28th ult, relative to the Ribbon-men, to the lord lieutenant, and whenever I receive his excellency's commands, I shall not fail to communicate them to you.—I have the honour &c. W. GREGORY. To R. N. Bennett, Esq. &c. &c. March, 1823. May it please your excellency from the moment that counsellor Bennett communicated to us the gratifying hope that it might meet your Excellency's benevolent views to extend your mercy, and bring under our most gracious sovereign's protection the deluded Ribbon-men of Ireland, we lost not a moment in using all our exertions to bring about so fortunate an occurrence—an occurrence which we look upon to be of the greatest importance to this divided country. We can, with the fullest confidence, assure your Excellency, that these deluded men were by no means actuated by any hostile views to our most gracious Sovereign's, or your Excellency's mild and conciliating government; on the contrary, they re loyal from principle, and, as far as we could learn from them, their intention in this illegal association was, to protect themselves from a faction that persecuted and oppressed them. In our communications with them, we found them willing and eager to avail themselves of your Excellency's clemency, in procuring for them our most gracious Sovereign's pardon. And we beg leave to suggest to your Excellency, that it will serve, in a powerful degree, to increase their confidence in us, were your Excellency pleased, if not to extend pardon to Hughes, now under sentence of transportation in Kilmainham, at least to suspend his transmission to Cork for some time. He has greatly contributed to the change that has taken place in the sentiments of these misled men. In a word, we could have no communication with them were it not for him. Hoping that your Excellency will take this our bumble suggestion into consideration, we remain, &c A. LUBIE. W. GORE. To his Excellency, &c. &c. &c. No answer was given to this, and Hughes was transported. July 16, 1823. Sir—On the 24th (22nd), and 28th February last, I had the honour of submitting through you a communication to the lord lieutenant, from the Ribbon-men, and on the 3rd of March you informed me that whenever you received his Excellency's commands on this subject, you would communicate them to me. Having received no answer after such a lapse of time, I am apprehensive that this matter (under the pressure of important affairs) may have escaped his Excellency's recollection; I therefore beg leave to request you will call the lord lieutenant's attention to the subject, and acquaint me whether it is the pleasure of government to give any answer to the application of the Ribbon-men. Though they were ex- tremely anxious to know the sentiments of government on their case, they did not wish to press for an answer, until certain discussions which have since occupied parliament had terminated. I have, &c. R. N. BENNETT. To Wm. Gregory, esq. Dublin Castle, July 22, 1823. Sir;—I submitted your letter of the 16th instant to the lord lieutenant, and have not any commands from his Excellency to return an answer. I have, &c. W. GREGORY. R. N. Bennett, esq. After reading the correspondence, the noble lord proceeded to say, that he agreed with the attorney-general for Ireland, that to enter into any communication with the Ribbon-men, with a view to granting a pardon to Hughes, would have Been highly improper on the part of the Irish government; undoubtedly they did right in having the sentence passed upon, that individual put into, execution. If the present motion went to question the propriety of that act, no doubt it would deserve but little support; but the ground work of his motion was, to ascertain whether the government had acted properly in refusing to grant an amnesty to the Ribbon-men, who had come forward to take the oath of allegiance, to give up their arms, and to renounce their secret associations. It was, in his opinion, much to be regretted, that the Irish government did not embrace the opportunity that had been offered to them.

Mr. Grey Bennet

said, he did not think that the right hon. gentleman and his friends on the other side, were aware that his noble friend was in possession of the correspondence; if they were aware of it, he did not think that what had passed that evening would have occurred. It was clear, that there was not a word in the papers which bad been read to the House respecting any conditions or qualifications whatever. Where the right; hon. gentleman obtained his information, it was difficult to ascertain; but did he mean to say that the documents referred to by his noble friend were not correct? Would the government of Ireland consent to bring forward further information? If not, it would show, that there was something to be kept in the back ground, and without the production of which the House ought not to be satisfied. It had never fallen to his lot to bear a more lame and miserable defence, than that set up on the part of the Irish government.

Mr. Hutchinson

said, he was very sensible of the advantages which Ireland had reaped from the able and persevering efforts of distinguished individuals immediately connected with England. He considered this circumstance a most fortunate omen for Ireland; and when persons of the rank, weight, character, and talent of the noble lord, devoted themselves to the discussion of questions of so much difficulty and importance, the result must be happy for the country whose cause he advocated. He felt himself in a distressing situation with regard to the present motion; for as he was convinced in his heart, that the noble lord had only the most enlightened and the best intentions he felt pained to be under the necessity of resisting it. He should not, however discharge his duty, if he supported the proposition. He did not think that the noble lord had made out any sufficient case for the production of the papers, and believed, that if the motion were carried, it would be injurious to the best interests of Ireland. As an Irishman, he had little reason to be well satisfied with the marquis of Wellesley; at least, his sanguine expectations as to what would be accomplished by his administration had been greatly disappointed: therefore, on this occasion he did not appear as the advocate of the Irish government, though he was bound not to allow false impressions to go abroad as to its measures. He was satisfied that in this case the Irish government had acted rightly; for he knew enough of the state of Ireland to be satisfied, that nothing could have been more unwise than for the lord lieutenant to capitulate with persons of such a description. When they came forward, talking of their arms, and boasting of their numbers, and when one of their leaders had been found guilty by an impartial jury, the government of Ireland would have compromised not only its own dignity, but the safety of the state, if it had at all listened to the terms alluded to in the papers. If he had been asked, he should have given his advice for that course which the government had most properly followed. He hoped the noble lord would not persist in pressing the House to a division.

Mr. Secretary Peel

observed, that though the noble mover had made what was usually considered the concluding speech, yet the hon. member for Shrewsbury had subsequently drawn an infer- ence, which, in some degree, changed the view of the question. The inference was, that because the letters and papers of the noble lord did not contain the statements made by the secretary and the attorney-general for Ireland, those statements were wholly without foundation. The noble marquis at the head of the Irish government, must of course be guided by circumstances; and it appear-to him (Mr. P.), that he had been completely warranted in refusing to extend the prerogative of mercy to the case of Hughes. It would have been a gross violation of his duty, and pregnant with the most injurious consequences to Ireland, if the marquis Wellesley had consented to any sort of capitulation with the offenders. But, after all that had been said about the papers which had been read, it might be exceedingly proper that the House should hear a little about one which had not been read; and it was the more essential that that paper should be noticed, in order that no erroneous impression upon this subject might find its way abroad. He would only premise that, if in this case, they were to call for statements made by the counsel for offenders, not a man would be convicted in Ireland for the future, without praying that the same course might be taken in his case; not a single conviction would be recorded without the preliminary step of that House being called upon to examine the diffuse, garbled, and ex-parte statements (for such it must necessarily be) of the prisoner who had been condemned, and the unsuccessful counsel who had defended him. Among the papers which had been brought under the consideration of the marquis Wellesley was one from a Roman Catholic barrister, a gentleman named Luke Plunkett.

Lord Althorp.

—I have never seen it.

Mr. Peel.

—Doubtless that was ample reason for the noble lord's not stating any thing about it to the House; but it was an equally ample reason for his (Mr. P's.) now bringing it to their notice. Mr. Luke Plunkett, on the 24th of February, stated, "that he had made it his business to see Hughes in gaol, after he had been convicted; that he saw him in the presence of the gaoler; and that he undertook to hold out some hopes of mercy to him on the part of government, if he would become the instrument of his associates giving up their arms; or, if not of giving up their arms, of inducing the leaders to come forward and submit," In either of these cases Mr. Luke Plunkett, acting upon his own authority, had thought proper to hold out hopes of mercy. Why, what alternative did this proceeding hold out to the noble marquis, but to defend to the uttermost the sentence of the law and the province of government, which an individual had thus undertaken the conditional exercise of? But this gentleman, in another part of his letter, added—"as to Hughes, whatever may be his ultimate fate, do at least endeavour to exert your influence with the marquis Wellesley, that he may be detained at Kilmainham, till the transports which are to convey the convicts can come round to Cork." Now, when such an application was made, what did the noble marquis do? What did he know? Why, he knew that the immediate execution of the sentence upon this man would do more good, and produce more effect than any other measure whatever, and he immediately directed his removal from Kilmainham. Every body at all acquainted with the state of Ireland must know, that the least appearance of vacillation on the part of the government was always productive of infinite mischief. And, in what case was it called for in this instance? On behalf of some miserable and deluded victim to the arts and practices of others? No; but of the man who had organized the proceedings of his associates; who had been the originator of all these offences; and who had at last come under the hands of justice. And then, the proposition was made by an individual, who, without any authority whatever, had undertaken to hold out hopes of mercy to this man. Could it be doubted, under such circumstances, that the noble marquis was quite right in resisting every kind of attempt at what had been properly termed capitulation? And, what would have followed, supposing Mr. Luke Plunkett's proposition had been adopted? What would have followed upon such a promise of surrender of arms, made by such a party? Did not every body know what those arms would be? From his own experience he could suggest, that they might turn out to be stocks of guns without barrels, or barrels of guns without stocks. He felt perfectly sure, that the arms to be delivered up would have been perfectly useless, as they always were in similar cases; for they were generally such as had been kept for a long time in some bog, or out-house, while those that could be of the least use, were retained and concealed. But, another passage that he should read would completely sustain the statements of his right hon. friend. Mr. Luke Plunkett proceeded thus:—"If Hughes should be be saved, or if his punishment should be commuted to imprisonment, I have no objection to accompany him to any part of the country where his influence and presence can be useful to put down that discord which has so lately raised its hideous crest, &c." He put it to the House, whether it would have been endured that Hughes should thus be elevated into the character of a negociator between the government of Ireland and these Ribbon-men, and be permitted to travel over the country with this Mr. Luke Plunkett, preaching to the people the propriety of their giving up their arms? The noble lord had read a paragraph from the communication of a Mr. Lubie, who was pleased to state that these men "entertained no hostile views against our most gracious sovereign." No hostile views! Why, they were found in arms—they were arrayed against the peace of the country; and yet this Mr. Lubie, in the amiable simplicity of his heart, could not imagine—not he—how it could be sup posed that they entertained designs of so dangerous a nature; or why, after the man had been put upon his trial and convicted, the government should not be called upon to account, for not having interposed, in such a case, the prerogative of mercy! To have entered into any negotiation, under such circumstances, would, indeed, have been so to have lowered the government of Ireland, as to render it unfit to preside over the affairs of that country. He could not for art instant suppose that the House would lend itself to the establishment of a precedent so fatal as that which would be set, if the motion of the noble lord were carried.

The gallery was then cleared for a division; but none took place, and the motion was negatived.