HC Deb 09 December 1830 vol 1 cc901-9
O'Gorman Mahon

said, that the Petition which he had the honour to present, was that of the inhabitants of Clondegad, in the county of Clare, praying that the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland be rescinded, and attributing to that measure the deep distress which at present prevailed in every part of Ireland. In moving that the petition be brought up, he would throw himself on the indulgence of the House whilst he said a few words respecting a matter in. which he was personally concerned. In such a case he would not occupy the House, if it were not one in which all the Members were equally interested with himself. For if a system of calumny and misrepresentation out of doors were not at once put down by exposure in that House, no hon. Member could defend himself against such attacks. If any man came forward in a bold and straightforward manner to impugn his conduct, he would cheerfully endeavour to satisfy him. As that was the first time he had had the honour of addressing the House, he hoped for that lenity which was usually conceded to new Members, and which, in his peculiar case, would be more especially needed, as he should feel himself under the necessity of trespassing upon their patience and indulgence at greater length than was customary upon the presentation of a petition, having to vindicate himself from a charge under which no Member of that House could permit his character to rest. As the circumstances to which he should find it necessary to advert involved a very heavy personal charge, he hoped, as a boon, that a hearing might be granted him, which, under different circumstances, he might claim under another denomination. The injurious attack upon his character to which he alluded, and which injured him both as a public and as a private individual, had been carried on under the mask of secret correspondence—a mode of attack, he was happy to think, as little recognised by the laws of that House as it was by the usages of respectable society out of doors. Though he might not be prepared to name the person who had been guilty of that false and scandalous attack upon his reputation, yet he was able to proceed thus far:—He was able to affirm, that a Member of that House was the guilty individual. He therefore trusted, that, as his place in Parliament was the proper situation from which a Member of that House should defend himself, the House would at least feel he was asking it to do no more than extend to him that indulgence which was due to a man who came fairly, openly, and above-board, to protect himself from charges dishonourable to those who preferred them, and deeply degrading to any man who could silently submit to the imputations they conveyed. Yet, notwithstanding all this, he should scarcely feel himself justified in addressing them at the length he intended, were it not that what he had to say involved an important principle, and one which interested every hon. Gentleman in that House. That of which he had to complain was put forth by means of ambiguous insinuations—put forth to the public through the medium of the newspapers. He felt that some apology was due to that House for seeking to make it the means of repelling an attack made outside its walls, but when it was recollected that he could—as he pledged himself he could—establish at that bar, by the most irrefragable proofs, that the correspondence in question proceeded, and could proceed from no one but a Member of that House, it was upon that ground chiefly that the sympathy, he hoped, would be extended to him, which, in similar circumstances, he should be most proud and happy to extend to others who might have occasion to rebut charges most false and injurious, or to vindicate their characters from imputations the most unworthy and discreditable. Besides those he had mentioned—any one of which would have been more than sufficient to plead his justification for trespassing upon the indulgence of the House—he could not but recollect that he was there, not alone the guardian of his personal rights, or to vindicate his private reputation—he stood there as the Representative of a great county, and that he should ill discharge the duty he owed to the constituents who sent him there, did he not repel with indignation the charges which had been conveyed through the channels to which he alluded. It had been charged against him, that upon a late important occasion there was some portion of his conduct which had been governed by the influence of the then existing Administration—that, in a word, he had been guided by the Treasury influence of the late Administration. That was a sort of charge to meet which it behoved him, not merely as an individual—not alone as the Representative of a great county, but for the sake of the other Members of that House; and it was therefore in an especial degree that he claimed their indulgence. He would repeat, too, that that was the proper place for him to do it, seeing that he had no alternative but to adopt that course, or engage in a paper war. Having premised thus much, and having stated generally the nature of the accusation which he had to meet, he would call upon the Member in question to get up in his place to repeat the allegation referred to, and bring forward proofs, if any he possessed. He defied that Member to the proof—he defied him to show that the charge was not a gross, deliberate, wilful falsehood. As he felt that the rules of that House did not permit him there to impute deliberate and wilful falsehood to any Member, yet he had not been prevented from contradicting it in another place, and in a different form. Now, as that Member had been apprised that such language was applied to him if he disregarded the opportunity which the present occasion afforded him of standing up in his place to defend himself, that Member must feel that he stood in a very invidious situation. [cries of "name, name.!"] He came there for the express purpose of bringing the name, and, if possible, the man before them. [laughter, and cries of" Order."]

Mr. Warburton

said, it was equally out of order for the hon. Member to allude to disorderly language spoken or written by him out of doors, as if it were actually uttered within the walls of that House. To adopt that which was out of order, was tantamount to a breach of order.

O'Gorman Mahon

resumed:—He was perfectly ready to receive instructions from any hon. Member as to the observance of order in that House; he was, as they all must know, utterly inexperienced in the forms of the House, but he begged to call attention to this, that he had not there said a Member had resorted to a deliberate and wilful falsehood; he merely stated the fact, that he had so written out of doors, and he had no difficulty in asserting, that the Member alluded to would be acting a most pusillanimous part if he did not instantly avow himself in that House as the author of the publication complained of. Surely he was not out of order in referring to what occurred elsewhere, when he did not repeat it in the House in a disorderly form. He merely stated that strong declaration of falsehood as to the charge made against him of lending himself to the views of the Duke of Wellington's Government. In speaking of that Government, then, he could not be open to any accusation of devoting himself to the interests of a Minister. The noble Duke and his friends were now out of office. Those honorable and right honorable Gentlemen were now no longer at the side of the House from which he then spoke. He could not, then, be accused of being under Treasury influence, when he tendered to the noble Duke, on his own behalf, and on behalf of the Catholic gentry of Ireland and of England, the warmest expressions of his gratitude for the been of emancipation conferred on his country, by the prevention of civil war. He made that assertion then for the purpose of more effectually branding with his contempt the charge brought against him. He had not the slightest hesitation in saying, that the Duke of Wellington had conferred a deep obligation upon men of all parties; but he begged to add to that assertion, that he never received any proposition from that Ministry, or any member of it, or any one having the remotest connection with it. He regretted exceedingly that the noble Duke had not, at the commencement of the Session, made up his mind to those measures which, being expected from the present Administration, procured for them his most hearty and cordial support. He deeply regretted that the noble Duke had not enabled himself and other independent and liberal Members to rally round the late Administration. He still more regretted that, as a Catholic, he was not enabled to demonstrate his gratitude by supporting the Administration that conferred upon the empire the great been which entitled him to a seat in that House. He was no seeker after pensions or emoluments— he was no place-hunter—he merely stood up in that House to defend his own character, his rights as a Member of Parliament, the rights of his constituents, and, finally, to express his gratitude to the head of the late Government, to whom he unhesitatingly said, that both England and Ireland were deeply indebted. He was proud to avow himself an old Agitator —he knew the state of Ireland, and he had not the slightest difficulty in affirming, that the great measure of the late Government saved the country from civil war. Yes, he was an old Agitator, because he felt deeply the disabilities under which his brethren and himself laboured. Many a time had he sat below that bar, pining under the ineligibility which excluded him from coming above it, though no act of his, or of his country, had rendered him unworthy of that honour. There was no stain on them as a body or as individuals, and all they prayed for was eligibility; the Duke of Wellington saved the country at a critical moment, and for that great act the noble Duke had won his warmest gratitude. He was no professional man— he was no barrister, lawyer, or attorney; he came there as an honest man, representing worthy constituents, to speak what he knew of his own knowledge, and give utterance to those feelings which any right-minded man in the country must entertain. Had the great been of emancipation been deferred, what could have saved Ireland from the horrors of civil war, with the example of France before her eyes rescued in three days, and, added to that, the example of Belgium? Subsidised, as the Irish were from America, and with examples like those on the Continent before them, what but the great measure of the noble Duke could have saved the country, especially when England herself was in a flame? Had the measure been delayed, Ireland, instead of accepting it as a boon, would have thundered at their gates and enforced it as a right. In such an event, emancipation would have been thanklessly extorted, instead of having been gratefully received as a boon, proceeding as it did, from a sense of justice and expediency. No man who was acquainted with the state of parties but must know, that if the noble Duke had not thrown himself into the scale against the Church, against the Borough-mongers, and the great anti-Catholic party in England, the measure could never have been carried. For that he felt deeply grateful to the noble Duke. Neither could he forget what was due to the right hon. Baronet who formerly represented the University of Oxford, than which a more distinguished object of ambition no man could propose to himself. He happened to have been at Oxford during the election which immediately followed upon the resignation of that right hon. Baronet, when the streets were literally blackened with the crowds of persons who came up to oppose him; and who evinced, in the manner of registering their hostility, little of that Christian charity to which they laid claim—little of that gratitude which was due from the Ministers of a peaceful religion—to bin: who had saved the country from anarchy and blood, and established in their room amity and concord. Having always ex- pressed those sentiments in private, he found himself all of a sudden assailed; and for no better reason than because he had not concealed them, he was to be taunted with being a Ministerial tool— with being a creature of the Treasury-bench. He was as independent of the noble Duke and the right hon. Baronet as they could possibly be of him; he was no pension-seeker and place-hunter; and while it rested with an anonymous pamphleteer to utter a deliberate— the unparliamentary phrase was always coming uppermost to his lips [a laugh and cheers] —had he not aright to complain of having his character attacked by those who were afraid to come forward and utter these charges in open day. It was a great injury to him thus to have his character filched away secretly, instead of men coining forward openly and fairly to state what they had to say. He would now, with the permission of the House, advert to one circumstance which gave something like a plausible pretext for what had been urged against him. The first vote of consequence which had been given in that House since he had the honour of a seat in it, was on the Civil List—that he had not voted on the popular side upon that question was entirely owing to his having been shut out. He was in that House till nine o'clock at night—he sat between the Hon. member for Middlesex and the hon. member for Westminster, Mr. Hobhouse and Mr. Hume [cries of "Order."] Between two such tutelary deities, it was scarcely to be supposed that he would have gone astray—it was scarcely to have been supposed that, sitting in such company, and at that side of the House, he could have supported the Duke of Wellington without being open to the charge of most arrant hypocrisy. He had been for many hours without tasting food. He asked the hon. member for Middlesex when he expected that the division would come on? The reply was, that the debate would continue for several hours yet to come. He left the House, and was back in forty minutes, but that short time sufficed to exclude him from the division. Thus it happened that he did not vote with the majority on that memorable occasion. So the fact turned out, and as it happened, he rejoiced that in the first political act of his life he was prevented, though without any previous intention on his part, from being accessory to a vote which proved fatal to the Government of that Minister to whom his country owed so much, and whose great measure had emancipated him and his brethren. He was sincerely glad that the matter had so occurred, merely as a gratification to his own individual feelings; but at the same time he claimed no credit to himself for the event; as it was not affected by any conduct of his. He would not much further obtrude himself upon the attention of the House, but he should ill discharge the duty he owed to them, as well as to his own sense of truth and justice, did he not, after what had fallen from him, state, that there was one Member of the House to whom his observations could not apply. He had the authority of a letter, which was not to be questioned, for stating, that there was one Member of that House who had exculpated himself from any connection with the charge in question. He had authority for stating, that he would be the last to indulge in the propagation of a calumny so utterly unworthy of any Gentleman—so wholly removed from all that could constitute the line of conduct which a Gentleman would propose to himself. The Member whom he thus wished to exempt was the hon. and learned member for Waterford, who, as he had denied the charge, he felt bound to exempt. That hon. and learned Member had come to a resolution well known to that House, and having adopted such a determination, he could not think of uttering any disrespectful epithet with reference to him. That hon. and learned Member had taken a trouble which he himself would not have taken—that of rescuing him from the charge by means of the very same medium through which it had been originally preferred. It had not been his lot to have exchanged one hundred words with that hon. and learned Gentleman during the last sixteen or eighteen months, but though he thus, upon the authority of the hon. and learned Gentleman's own denial, felt bound to exempt him from the charge, yet there did remain one Member of that House to whom his observations did fully apply, and that he begged to state openly and fairly, calling upon that Member to come forward and relieve himself from the imputation of giving rise to such a calumny as that which had been made the subject of his present observations. He would appeal to the tenor of his own short career, while he had the honour of a seat in that House, whether he had not been consistent, and whether he had not acted and voted in conformity with the principles which he professed? Antecedently to their coming into Office, he voted generally with those who were now the confidential advisers of the Crown. There was no ambiguity in any part of his conduct; he supported measures, not men; and the present Administration should have whatever benefit was derivable from the full confidence which he felt in them, until they should prove themselves unworthy of it by a departure from their public professions. He supported them for the liberal sentiments which had always marked the course of their public lives; he supported them as the friends of reform, retrenchment, and, above all, he supported them as maintaining the great principle in foreign policy of non-interference. Here, then, he would take his stand, and he felt gratified at being able to avail himself of that opportunity, at an early period, of expressing the confidence which he felt in the present advisers of the Crown, amongst whom he recognised the old, staunch, and consistent advocates of liberal principles. Amidst them it would be invidious to particularize; yet there was one name which he never could omit mentioning with that affection which was so justly accorded to it by all classes —he meant the venerable and beloved Bishop of Norwich. He trusted that in proceeding thus far he had not transgressed the bounds which the usages of the House set to observations made under circumstances such as his. He would, in conclusion, declare his determination to co-operate most cordially with the present Government so long as their conduct should agree with their past professions.

Petition read, and ordered to lie on the Table.