HC Deb 31 May 1824 vol 11 cc954-6
Mr. Brougham

said, he rose to present a petition from a great number of individuals of the Roman Catholic persuasion in Ireland. That body formed a large class of his majesty's subjects in Ireland, a class much to be respected, not only for its great and still increasing numbers, but on other accounts; and on no account more than for that unshaken confidence which they had always reposed in parliament, notwithstanding it had so frequently defeated their hopes, and withered their expectations. As he differed from the petitioners in some of the points of the petition, he should use no other language but the very terms of the petition itself. The petitioners began by expressing their gratitude for a disposition which they thought prevailed in parliament to redress their wrongs. They next expressed their regret on a subject on which he certainly did not agree with them. They expressed their regret that the act of Union between the two countries had ever been adopted. At the same time they complained, and in that complaint he concurred, that none of the promises which had been held out to them at the time of the Union had been fulfilled. They stated, that the abuses of the local jurisdictions had not been suppressed—that the oppressive and injurious power of the corporate bodies had not been diminished—nor had the Catholic population, forming seven-eighths of the inhabitants, been restored to their just and lawful rights; but that on the contrary, the consequence of the Union had been, to withdraw from them the protection arising from their landlords residing in the country, and to leave them to the abuse of power—the extortion and oppression of agents. He wished it was in his power to negative that part of the petition, but he feared that it was beyond contradiction. They were also right in stating, that the Union had materially aggravated these evils. They also complained of the present system of tithes. They complained of its injustice, and not of the principle on which tithes were levied; of the right claimed by a small body of men to-have immense sums of money paid to them by the body of the people, in order to support a hierarchy which insulted and oppressed them. All legal measures of resistance, they said, seemed to be forbidden, and they therefore called on the House to give its most serious attention to the outrages now committing in various parts of Ireland; and they prayed the House to institute an inquiry into the cause of those outrages. They complained of the insults to which an attachment to their ancient faith had subjected them; of the unbecoming and unchristian language in which that faith had been spoken of. They complained that their deceased friends were refused the rites of burial according to the ceremonies of their religion, and that, in the city of Limerick, the military had been called in to enforce the prohibition of rites which had scarcely ever been denied by the most barbarous nations. They complained of the injustice frequently practised towards persons of their persuasion in the inferior courts, and they gave as an example the province of Ulster, where they said justice was almost altogether lost in cases between persons of different persuasions, and they referred to the conduct of the son of a right rev. prelate. They also complained, that they could not find redress for the outrages committed by the Orangemen in the North, and that in the South the existence of the Insurrection act had only proved that the gross want of attention to the feelings of the people, and of the absence of those means which might have been used to conciliate them, had alone rendered that measure expedient. In support of this, they referred to Mr. Serjeant Lloyd and to Mr. Justice Torrens, who were employed in the administration of the Insurrection act in that part of Ireland. They said, that in cases between Protestants and Catholics, or between the government and an individual, there was no equal justice meted out to the parties. While this system continued to be triumphant in Ireland, while it reigned all over the country, while it existed in the church and state, and while it governed in the law, while it continued increasing on every side, while the heir presumptive to the throne (although the petitioners believed the suggestion to be false) was pointed out as the patron and protector of the Orange faction, and of the system of political exclusion, and while no attempt was made by the parliament to check the influence of that system, Ireland could not be expected to emerge from the gloom that surrounded her, or to feel for this country any kindly sentiments; but must in case of a war, be a source of danger to this kingdom. On these grounds the petitioners prayed the House to take into its serious consideration the reform of the church, the exclusion of Orangemen or others belonging to secret or unlawful societies, from serving on juries, and for the speedy and unqualified emancipation of the Irish Catholics. Such was the petition which he had undertaken to lay before the House, and, in doing so he had stated to the petitioners his qualified approbation of some parts, his entire concurrence with others, and his total dissent from the remainder of the petition. While he told the petitioners here as he had told them elsewhere, that he could not support the whole prayer of their petition, it was but fair that he should add, that he was deeply impressed with the improper treatment which they had experienced, and with the probable consequence that would result from inattention to their request.

Ordered to lie on the table.