HC Deb 23 December 1830 vol 2 cc102-15
O'Gorman Mahon

moved for a Return "Of the number and names of those at present in the commission of the peace in each county, city, and town in Ireland; distinguishing in each the number and names of clergymen and laymen; also, distinguishing the names of the Magistrates in each department who have qualified to preside on Road Sessions, and specifying the number and nature of offices, (if any) civil or military, under the Crown or otherwise, held by each or any of such Magistrates, and the probable amount of salary or pay derived there from;—such Return to distinguish also the number and names of those Magistrates appointed under city or corporate authority, from those deriving their commissions of the peace from the Lord Chancellor; also, a Return of the number and names of those who have been appointed Magistrates in each county, city, and town in Ireland, since the year 1810, with the names and number of those who have been superseded in that period, up to the latest time."

Mr. C. W. Wynn

doubted whether the whole of these Returns could be made out. The Clerk of the Peace could, undoubtedly, give the names of those who held commissions as Magistrates; but he had no means whatever of knowing what offices they might hold, or what salaries they might receive. It was impossible that the Returns could be made out, and he suggested, therefore, to the hon. Member the propriety of withdrawing his Motion.

O'Gorman Mahon

only wished the Returns to be made out as far as possible. He did not expect to obtain all the information that he required; but, let the Return be as defective as possible, he was the person, not the right hon. Gentleman, to complain of that.

Mr. Hume

thought, that much difficulty would arise in ascertaining the meaning of the word "offices." For instance, an attorney was not an officer, and how an attorney could be described according to the Motion he did not know. Certainly, the Return could not be made without great difficulty.

O'Gorman Mahon

did not expect to have been met by so many frivolous objections. The Motion would be intelligible enough to those by whom the Return must be made. Hon. Members could not expect that he should be answerable for their want of acquaintance with facts which were well known in Ireland.

Lord Tullamore

opposed the Motion, on the ground that as there was a change in the Chancellorship of Ireland just taking place, to make such a Return at present would be extremely inconvenient.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, as the Motion was decidedly objected to, he would recommend the hon. Member to withdraw it, and give notice of his intention to submit it again on some future occasion.

Lord Althorp

said, that it was certainly the usual custom of the House, when a decided objection was made to a motion for Returns which was expected to be agreed to as a matter of course, to withdraw it for the time, and to give notice for some future day. On looking at the Motion, he saw nothing objectionable in it; but if the noble Lord opposite entertained a different opinion, he had undoubtedly a right to oppose it, or to ask that it should be withdrawn, and notice given of an intention to submit it on a future occasion.

Mr. Ruthven

was of opinion, that the Motion carried something invidious on the face of it; and he should support the noble Lord in opposing it.

O'Gorman Mahon

could not recognise the principle upon which opposition was made to his Motion. He could not conceive upon what principle the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after having induced him, almost as a personal favour, to postpone his Motion on a previous night, should then call upon him to postpone it again. Had he divided the House at that time, he was sure that he should have carried the question by a strong majority; but in a spirit of courtesy towards the noble Lord, he postponed it; and he would then appeal to the candour of the House to decide, whether that postponement, under the peculiar circumstances attendant on it, ought not to be considered in the light of a virtual notice of his intention to bring-forward the Motion again, particularly as he then distinctly announced that intention. Since that time, he had new modelled the Motion in such a manner as he deemed best calculated (without relinquishing his own view) to do away with the objections of some of the extremely fastidious persons in that House, who, if their knowledge of the matter were inquired into, would probably be found to know as much about the subject of the Motion as those who at that moment, might be enjoying themselves in Kamtchatka. His late Majesty's Attorney-general (Sir Charles Wetherell) — one of the most sensitive plants he had ever met in that, or any other House— shrunk back, with well-feigned horror, some evenings ago, at the very name of his proposition. He had extracted from the Motion those words which were objectionable in the eyes of the hon. and learned Gentleman; and then he came to ask on that, the last night of the sitting of Parliament—the last moment to which his duty would allow him to postpone it— that the Return (with the respective adjuncts enumerated) of those who are in the commission of the peace for Ireland, should be laid on the Table of the House. Could it be alleged that there was anything unfair in that, or that those persons could be ashamed of having their names made public? After what had passed that evening, it became the duty of every hon. Member to institute inquiries, and to ascertain how things were really to be conducted in Ireland. An almost endless variety of subjects had already been brought forward, but they had been all, on one account or another, invariably put off until after the recess; and when the House met again, a hundred other subjects would demand and obtain precedence. What good had been yet effected for the people of Ireland? He wished to be useful in his own department—to work for the benefit of his fellow-men at his own little ant-hill. He did not wish to interfere with any of the mighty projects which would doubtless be brought forward in that House, but merely to discharge his duty on those humbler, but not less important, subjects to his constituents, in which they were deeply interested. When he reminded the noble Lord, that the portion of the kingdom which he represented was that which had been considered the most turbulent and dissatisfied; that the people there were in consequence of the neglect (he might almost say, the contempt) of Government, reduced to a state of the most extreme destitution; that their grievances were heavy, and only equalled by their patience; when he reminded the noble Lord of that, it would, he hoped, at least deter him from treating an important proposition, twice brought forward by one of their freely chosen Representatives, with any appearance of inattention or neglect; it should induce him not again to ask for a postponement of this Motion—to which he (O'Gorman Million) could not and would not accede. The humble and the poor orders of his countrymen were deeply interested in obtaining an upright and pure class of Magistrates; his motion would tend to obtain that blessing for them; the information it would procure was most important to a due consideration of the real state of Ireland: and for these reasons he must decline following the advice of the noble Lord, or of the hon. member for the City of Limerick; he was determined that the House should say whether or not the Returns should be made. He had endeavoured to shape the Motion in as conciliatory a manner as possible, and, if no other man would support it, he would go below the bar himself. His constituents, when they elected him, did not mean that he should allow himself or them to be trifled with; and by Him who made the world, he would that night have from the English House of Commons either a conclusive affirmative, or a positive negative! Was he, in coming forward in a conciliatory manner, to be told that the Motion must be again postponed? He would not postpone it; he would have the decision of the House upon it at once. It was hourly becoming evident to all, how matters relative to Ireland were disposed of in that House. That very evening several measures had been mentioned and disposed of, as if of no importance; among others, was that most important one, to prohibit the growth of tobacco in Ireland;—that measure, whenever it came forward, he would resist to the very utmost of his power and ability; and he could tell the hon. Member for Middlesex, easy a victory as he anticipated, that when it came under the consideration of the House, it would meet with a much more serious opposition than he imagined. Was the House aware, that if the measure should be carried, and the cultivation of tobacco prohibited in Ireland, thousands of poor, even from the youngest children to the oldest men, and females of all ages, would be thrown out of employment, and consequently deprived of the means of honestly supporting themselves? [" Question from Mr. Warburton."] The hon. Gentleman called "question!"—he should have enough of question, and should have answer too. He was not surprised, that the hon. Member should call out "question;" because he was then touching upon a subject which was neither familiar nor agreeable to the hon. Member; but he would tell the hon. Gentleman, it was a question too deeply interesting to every Irishman to be got rid of as the hon. Gentleman wished. No Government could expect the support of independent Irish Members, if it did not recognize the fair, legitimate, undoubted rights of Ireland—and freely to grow tobacco was one of them. The question came to this:—A starving and numerous population demanded employment; would the House allow them the means of sustenance, or would it deprive them of those means by prohibiting the growth of tobacco? The answer was a short one: —if it did, it would violate the Treaty of the Union. By the laws, Ireland was entitled to cultivate this plant freely; if the Parliament deprived her of that right, it would cut the painter between England and that injured country. Parliament had then been assembled six or seven weeks: and during that time, though almost all the Irish Members had spoken on the subject, there was but one who declared he would support the repeal of the Union. After what had occurred that night, when the hon. member for Waterford should bring the question forward, he should not want a seconder in that House; and he would venture to predict, that, from that time forward, there would be, not one, but two, and three, and four, and five, and up to ten and twelve, and, before the next Session, even twenty Members in favour of the Repeal. How could he go back to those who sent him there, and tell them that he would support a connexion which would deliberately deprive hundreds and thousands of them of the means of existence? He was bound by no pledge —his constituents elected him unshackled and unchained by any promise as to the political course which he should pursue. He had given them no intimation as to his intention either to support or to oppose this Government or that; but the very manner in which they thought proper to elect him, and the unlimited confidence thus placed in him, bound him more closely, by a thousand degrees, to the interests of his constituents than if he had given all the pledges of all the Members, English, Scotch, and Irish, put together. His gratitude to those who placed him, a free and independent Member, in that House, would be incomplete, did he not prove, that the trust they had so generously reposed in him was not misplaced. The manner in which Clare, his native county, conferred its confidence on him, was a much higher source of pride and gratification than the mere seat he occupied in the Assembly. From his place he openly proclaimed, (though conscious that no one would cheer the sentiment) that, as he had ever been, so would he be, a staunch friend to the repeal of the Union. It should always receive his best and most strenuous support; and when he said that, he knew that he spoke the sentiments of the county he represented. He stood there singly—amidst the many who were opposed to him—and those who would applaud and support him in those sentiments were far away—but he heeded it not, nor would he shrink from the avowal of his determination. That was the last time he should have the opportunity of addressing the House for some weeks:—and he wished it to remember his prediction—Before the conclusion of the Session, many Members would be found to stand up with him in favour of a repeal of the Union, and to express an anxious desire to cut the Legislative connexion between Ireland and England; many would desire to establish a separate Legislature in Ireland—before which the people might unfold their griefs with the prospect of obtaining attention. If Ireland was always to be treated as she had been treated that evening, how could the Government, or how could the House expect, that the men of that country would range themselves under the Legislative banner of the United Kingdom to fight its battles '. It would not—it could not be done. A repeal of the Union must take place; and, reverting to Clare, he could say of his colleague, who once presented a petition on this subject, but declined expressing concurrence in its prayer, or giving any opinion on the subject, that if he did not support that repeal, he would not—he could not—he should not again be returned for that county, [Order! order.!] He meant merely to state the simple fact that his colleague, except on certain conditions, would not again be returned for the county of Clare, and he apprehended that there was nothing irregular in that.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

the hon. Member said, that his hon. colleague should not be returned. If, however, he intended only to say that he would not be returned, there was certainly nothing irregular in the expression; but to say that an hon. Member should not be returned, implied a future threat.

O'Gorman Mahon

—was speaking of a period to come—his hon. colleague was then member for Clare; and he said, that if he did not adopt a particular course, with respect to a particular measure, he would not and should not be the Member again. Would the hon. Gentleman have him, when speaking of the future, apply the signs of the present or of the past tense to the case of his hon. colleague, when in reality he meant he future, and distinctly said what he meant,—that he would not, and should not, be again member for Clare, unless he advocated the repeal of the Union? If the hon. Gentleman wished him to promote such confusion of signs and tenses, he would willingly oblige him, did not the rules of grammar forbid it? but he apprehended, that his real object was to interrupt him, and such a course was both uncalled for and improper. Indeed, there existed in the House too great a desire to interrupt those who were honestly acting in the discharge of their duty, and who did not fear to state the truth, however unpalatable it might be.

The Speaker

called the hon. Member to order. The hon. Baronet had very satisfactorily explained the reason of his interruption. It arose from a critical distinction between the terms shall and will, and to English ears, a meaning was often attached to the one, which would not apply to the other. The hon. Baronet in this instance, thought that the word "shall" implied a menace. He was speaking to order, he did not interrupt the hon. Member for any other reason than to set him right with the House. Having said this upon the subject of the call to order, he thought he need hardly point out to the hon. member for Clare, that he should not attribute to the House a desire to close its ears against the truth. He was quite sure, that the hon. Member would feel, on reflection, that to attribute such a disposition to the House, was not only not in order, but not quite correct.

O'Gorman Mahon

was obliged for the pains which the Speaker took to set him right with the House; he must repeat, however, that his hon. colleague, except upon such conditions as he had stated, would not, and should not, again be returned for Clare. In alluding thus to his colleague, he merely wished by it to indicate his consciousness of the sentiments of their constituents, and of those of many other county Members. The House would permit him to add, that when he made use of the observation which had been found fault with, he did not mean to include the whole House in the charge of indisposition to hear the truth. He merely meant to say, that there were some particular Members who had an antipathy to the truth, and who did not hesitate to interrupt those who spoke it, and of this the House had had proof, more than once during the evening There would, however, no longer be one man only, but twenty, calling for a repeal of the Union; the Table of the House would be crowded with petitions praying for this object, which would be sufficient to show the Government, that something must be done for Ireland. That country sent 100 nominal Representatives to Parliament, for the greater part of them were any thing but Representatives; and the efforts of those who had a claim to the character of Representatives, to better the condition of their country, were overpowered and borne down by the voice of the majority of the other 55S, returned by England and Scotland; and so long as this disparity existed, powerful as Ireland was, she must remain a neglected, a suffering, and an impoverished country. Seven or eight millions of Irish, could not be adequately represented by 100 men, let them be ever so good. In times like these, however, it could not be expected that she would long continue in a state of tame subservience. If employment, at least, was not afforded to her population, to as great an extent as hitherto, tumult must follow. The people would not lie down and starve in the ditches. The Act of Union ordained, that the growth of tobacco should be allowed in Ireland, for the benefit of the people, and the privilege was given to Ireland expressly for them! If that privilege were taken away, the Union must be dissolved; and when the question came before the House, he would call on every Member connected with Ireland to do his duty, by supporting the Repeal of the Union. To revert to the subject of his motion: he would tell his Majesty's Government, that if they wished the Irish Members to be united to them, they must not treat the measures for the protection and service of the Trish with neglect. After having postponed this Motion from day to day, as a matter of convenience, either to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or to other Members, he put it to the House, whether he had not a right to express something like a sense of wrong, at the manner in which it was attempted to be thrown over. He would only add, that unless some different course was adopted towards Ireland and her Representatives, before the end of eighteen months, more than half of the Irish Members would declare themselves in favour of a Repeal of the Union. He would divide the House on his proposition, if it were opposed.

Lord Althorp

had already told the hon. Member, when he shewed him his proposition, that he saw nothing objectionable in it, and for his own part he did not object to it; but since other hon. Members had raised an objection, he was disposed to support them in the usual practice of the House, which required that the Motion should be withdrawn and notice given. He would remind the hon. Gentleman, however, when he had become such a warm advocate for the Repeal of the Union, on account of the treatment he had received that evening, that the objection to his Motion originated with an Irish, not an English Member. His Majesty's Ministers meant certainly to persist in bringing forward any measure which they thought beneficial, notwithstanding the threats of any hon. Member, He should be extremely sorry to lose the support of the hon. member for Clare, and other Irish Members, but he should like much less to lose the approving feelings of his own conscience. He was convinced that no evil could result from the adoption of his proposition, but much would result to both England and Ireland, if a stop were not put to the growth of tobacco in that country. It was possible, that the Repeal of the Union might gain some advocates; but not, he believed, by the measure he intended to introduce.

Lord Palmerston

stated, in addition to what his noble friend had said, in answer to the observations of the hon. member for Clare, that although his Majesty's Ministers were anxious for his support, as well as that of every other hon. Member, yet if the hon. member for Clare supposed that they would be deterred from proceeding with any measure they might deem advisable, from the threat of his opposition, he would find himself much mistaken; and more so, if he thought, by the menace which he had thrown out, that he would obtain his object. [O'Gorman Mahon had not used a threat, or made use of any words tantamount to one.] The hon. Member said, and the House generally understood him to mean, that he would, if this measure were carried into effect, use all his endeavours to promote a Repeal of the Union, and that, in the course of six months, Irish Members would be compelled to pursue the same line of conduct as himself. Was not that equivalent to saying, that the consequence of this measure, would be the separation of the two countries?. He would tell that hon. Gentleman that, however anxious his Majesty's Government might be for his support, as for that of all other Members, it would never be deterred from bringing forward any measure which it might deem beneficial; and that it was prepared to meet him on the question of the Repeal of the Union, or any other question, whenever he or any one else might please to bring it forward.

Mr. Warburton

had read the motion of the hon. Gentleman since he proposed it, and finding it of a very different nature from what he expected to find it from the tenor of his speech, he should be happy to give it his support. He thought the hon. Member moved for a return of all Magistrates having offices,—such as attorneys and the like,—but his Motion only applied to offices of a public nature, and to which a salary was affixed—that is, in short, to all civil or military offices. To this he conceived there could be no well-grounded opposition; but to the Motion, as he previously understood it, there would be many objections. The hon. Member had charged him with calling "Question!" He was mistaken — he had not called question, but, if he had, the hon. Gentleman would excuse him for saying, that the discursive nature of his speech would have afforded a better justification in resorting to that custom than was generally the case.

Mr. Ruthven

was in hopes that the subject would have passed off without observation, for he was sure that what had passed that evening would not tend to allay the angry feelings which prevailed in Ireland. He hoped that his Majesty's Ministers would, during the recess, turn their attention seriously to the situation of Ireland, and bring forward some measure—not calculated, like that of the noble Lord, to excite disturbance, but to promote tranquility. He should be sorry to sink in the good opinion of his countrymen, but he was prepared to meet all the consequences of the course of conduct which he was resolved to pursue. He would, notwithstanding any language which might have the appearance of intimidation, do as he had hitherto done in the House— speak, honestly and fearlessly, his opinion; and he repeated then, as he had before stated, that any measure likely to lead to the separation of the two countries would meet with his most strenuous opposition. He was decidedly favourable to the Union, though he did not mean to say that it was impossible for circumstances to justify its repeal; but if unhappily such a proceeding should become necessary, he would only listen to it on the principles of the British Constitution. He hoped, that we should not see in Britain anything like those revolutions which had disturbed the Continent of Europe. He trusted that the Union with Ireland would be preserved; but if the dissolution of it should be necessary, he trusted that it would be done in accordance with the principles of the British Constitution, and by legitimate means.

Mr. Fyler

could not let the idea go abroad, that the hon. Member, as well as any other Irish Member, did not get a patient hearing on a subject connected with that country. He would tell the hon. member for Clare, that an Irish question was listened to in the House with as much attention as an English question. The insinuation that there was an unwillingness to listen to an Irish Member patiently, was without foundation. With respect to his observations respecting Irish Members being compelled in a short time to come forward and advocate a repeal of the Union, he would tell him, that some hon. friends of his, Representatives of places in Ireland, would be deterred by no threat from coming forward and stating their opinions manfully against the repeal of the Union. He was sure, that his Majesty's present Government would support that Union at all times, and would never consent to a separation of the two countries, and he believed that nearly every honest and enlightened man in the country would support them on that question.

Mr. Callaghan

wished, as the hon. Member had challenged Irish Members, to give their opinions on the subject of the Union, to occupy the attention of the House for a very few minutes; but he also wished it to be distinctly understood, that he should not be induced to lend his support to the hon. Member in consequence of the philippic he had uttered against all those who would not support the Repeal of the Union. As he was the Member of a large commercial city, and the second place in importance in Ireland, he would declare his sentiments on this subject. He did not believe that the respectable portion of the Irish people were in favour of the Repeal; on the contrary, he considered them to be directly opposed to any such scheme. At the same time he could not conceal from himself, that many persons of great influence were of a different opinion, and one in particular, an hon. and learned Member of that House, who possessed the highest talents, and who, he was sorry to say, had exerted them in exciting a ferment on this subject. He could not contemplate the result of their proceedings without dread, as he conceived they might lead to consequences full of horror: it was even possible that they might lead to revolution and civil war. He, therefore, would fearlessly enter his protest against any measure of the sort. He had no doubt that his constituents in general coincided with his view of the subject, and, indeed, he could say, that the advocates of the Repeal of the Union met with little encouragement at Cork. The inhabitants of that city were as respectable as any in Ireland: and he felt assured that their opinions exactly agreed with his own. It was clear to him, that the advocates of that measure had nothing else in view than the independence of Ireland, and a total separation and disunion from England. The hon. member for Clare, told his Majesty's Ministers that, in case of a dissolution of Parliament a great number of Members would be returned from Ireland, and especially from popular places, pledged to support the Repeal of the Union. Notwithstanding that, and notwithstanding any charges which might be brought against him for opposing such a project, he was determined stedfastly to support, with all his power and humble abilities, the continuance of the Union; and he should appeal to his constituents with perfect confidence, being satisfied that he should meet with their support in endeavouring to preserve the Union with England.

Mr. Leader

protested against the language used in the course of the debate, and also against the introduction of extraneous subjects into the discussion. He came down to the House with the intention of giving his strenuous opposition to the measure of the noble Lord, and that measure was postponed. He considered this act of Ministers as putting a complete stop to a species of cultivation in Ireland which was rapidly increasing. He was prepared to show, that the measure would occasion great distress in that country, and would not be at all beneficial to the revenue. As to the Repeal of the Union, he must say, whatever excitement might prevail in Ireland on the subject, that it would not extend. Like the hon. Member near him, he wished that measures should always be discussed in that House with coolness, and without any angry feelings.

Lord Tullamore

expressed his regret, that he had been the innocent cause of calling forth such a strong expression of feeling. When the hon. member for Clare brought forward his motion, he thought that he had not given notice of it; but when he found that he had, and that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, saw nothing objectionable in it, he was bound to withdraw his opposition to it.

Motion agreed to.