HC Deb 24 February 1825 vol 12 cc646-8
Mr. Hutchinson

rose to present the petition of the Roman Catholics of Cork, against the bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association. The petitioners denied that the contribution, known by the name of the Catholic rent, was in any way extorted from the people. It was a voluntary gift, contributed for the moral and religious education of their poor, and in order to obtain redress for the many grievances under which the calumniated peasantry of Ireland laboured. The petitioners hoped parliament would at least allow the Catholic Association to be heard at the bar. This petition came from the largest county in Ireland, and had been agreed to at an aggregate meeting held in Cork, by a body of men as numerous and as respectable as any that had ever assembled. The petitioners felt indignant at the unwarrantable attacks which had been made upon the Catholic Association. That Association had already achieved much good both to Protestants and Catholics, and, with the aid of the priesthood, was the means by which, whilst the people were guarded against oppression on the one hand, they would be kept from expressions of irritation and discontent on the other. A measure like this must be obnoxious at any time; but above all at a period like the present, when peace and tranquillity existed in Ireland. The opponents of the Association argued the question, as if that body and the Roman Catholics generally, were opposed to the Protestants. This was a cruel misrepresentation. It was true that they were opposed to the Orangemen, but they were few in number compared to the thousands who formed the great body of the Protestants of Ireland, and who were as earnest in their prayers for Catholic emancipation as the most zealous Catholic could be.

Mr. Abercromby

presented a petition from the parish of St. Andrew, Dublin, against the bill; and adverted to a petition from certain Presbyterians of Tyrone, complaining that the Association were the authors of the rapine, and murders and bloodshed in Ireland. Now, the petition from St. Andrew's, as well as the Speech from the throne at the opening of the session, directly contradicted this assertion, as Ireland had never been so tranquil as at this moment.

Sir J. Newport

adverted to a document in the possession of the House of Lords, stating, on the authority of the viceroy of Ireland, that the peace of that country was to be attributed to the exertions of the Catholic Association. He stated that such a document existed, on the authority of the marquis of Lansdown. He should move to-morrow that it be laid before the House.

Mr. Peel

said, that under any circumstances it would be laid before the committee on the state of Ireland.

Mr. Denman

presented a petition in favour of the Association, asserting that the Association had been productive of the present tranquillity in Ireland. The learned member expressed his conviction that the Association, as far as the administration of the law was concerned, had done much good and no injury.

Sir T. Lethbridge

was not so much surprised at the statements of petitions, as that hon. members should coincide with them. In his opinion, both reckoned without their host, when they said that the tranquillity of Ireland was owing to the Association. Who could say to what extent the Association might go, if ministers, in mercy to the whole Catholic body, did not put a stop to its proceedings? The Association was self-elected, and uncontrolled. Those who said it had done no injury, were not, in his opinion, true friends of the Catholics.

Mr. Hume

said, that, notwithstanding all that had been said by the right hon. Secretary, and which had had the effect of having the walls partially placarded, the more the question of emancipation was understood by the people of England, the more was it likely to succeed. An attempt had been made by the speech of the right hon. Secretary, to raise a cry against the Roman Catholics; but fortunatety that attempt had not succeeded.

Mr. Peel

denied that he had sounded an alarm on the subject of the emancipation of the Catholics, and that through his interference the walls of the metropolis had been placarded. He had never encouraged the presenting a single petition against the claims of the Catholics in the whole course of his life; and never wished to see a petition, on that or any other subject presented to the House, unless it was the spontaneous act of the persons by whom it was signed. Ordered to lie on the table.