Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that he rose to present a petition which complained, and complained most justly, of a gross breach of the privileges of that House, and of a most unjustifiable violation of the right of petition. The petition he held in his hand was from certain undersigned Protestant inhabitants of the town of Ballinasloe, and adjoining parishes. They stated, that having understood from the votes of parliament, that on the 17th of March last, a petition, alleged to be from the Protestant inhabitants of that town, had been presented 1339 by the right hon. baronet opposite (sir J. Newport), in support of the Catholic Association, and in favour of further concessions to the Catholics: so soon as they heard that such a petition was presented, they were anxious to see the petition, as printed at length, and the names attached to it. They were, on perusing the document, not a little surprised to see thirteen of their own names attached to that forged document. These petitioners now declare, that their names were, wholly without their knowledge, affixed to that petition: that, in truth, their opinions were opposed to those very points, which, in the forged document, they were alleged to have recommended. That was not, however, the present question. The object was, to decide, whether an inquiry was not now necessary. It was useless to dilate on the evils that must follow, unless the communication of the people with the House of Commons was guarded from imposition and fraud. It was most unjust towards the individuals, whose names were fraudulently affixed: it was most unfair towards members, who could not make the fullest inquiry; for it would be a most grievous burthen on the members of that House, if they were to be compelled to institute such a particular investigation on the subject of every petition sent to them. It was, therefore, the duty of that House to take such steps as would prevent a repetition of such a fraud—which, as it affected the privileges of parliament, was a gross insult; and, as it trenched upon the right of petition, a great detriment. He should, therefore, after laying the petition on the table, move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the allegations, with the view of discovering the authors of such an imposition. The result of such a course would, even for the purposes of caution, be most salutary.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that if the subject had not been brought forward by the right hon. secretary, it had been his intention to have introduced it that very evening. Every member of that House was equally interested in the subject as himself; for they were all liable to be similarly imposed upon. He had received the former document, as he had received nine-tenths of all the petitions which he presented to the House; namely, by post. It came accompanied by a string of resolutions, stated to have passed at the meeting where the petition was agreed to. 1340 These resolutions appeared to have been regularly moved and seconded. The names of the parties thus moving and seconding were stated; and it had all the details of the formal expression of the meeting which it professed to be. He had, under such circumstances, presented the petition, and was much surprised recently to have received a letter from the parties, whose names were attached, stating that it was a forgery. Fraud was apparent, and had been grossly practised on him. He had no local knowledge of Ballinasloe, nor of the parties. He, therefore, in answer to the present petitioners, pointed out to them, that the more expedient mode to detect the authors of the imposition, was to make inquiries on the spot. He, however, most heartily concurred with the motion of the right hon. Secretary; and he trusted he stood too fairly with the House, to feel it necessary to disclaim any knowledge on his part, of any such improper attempt to impose on the judgment of parliament.
Mr. Secretary Peel
observed, that there was not the remotest idea in the mind of any man to impute any blame to the right hon. baronet.
The petition was laid on the table, and a select committee was appointed "to inquire into the circumstances under which a paper professing to be a petition from the Protestant parishioners of the town of Ballinasloe, and the united parishes of Kilclooney and Creagh, was presented to this House on the 17th day of March last, and report the same to the House."