HC Deb 09 November 1830 vol 1 cc318-30
Mr. O'Connell

presented a petition from Waterford for a repeal of the Legislative Union with Ireland. The hon. Member supported the prayer of the petition.

Mr. Doherty

wished to know from the hon. and learned Gentleman, whether it was his intention to bring the question to which the petition referred substantively before the House, so as to admit of a fair and full discussion, and thus give hon. Members an opportunity of expressing their sense of its merits? He thought this would be the fair and straight forward course for the hon. and learned Gentleman to pursue, instead of habitually indulging in irregular and vapid observations on the presentation of petitions.

Mr. O'Connell

did not intend to bring forward a specific motion for the repeal of the Union till the number of petitions in its favour should show that the measure was one not emanating from individuals, but from the majority of the people of Ireland. He would take the opportunity of assuring his excellent friend, the member for Middlesex, that the repeal of the Union was no mere whim of his, but the ardent desire of 99 persons out of every 100 in Ireland.

Mr. Doherty

said, that as the hon. and learned Gentleman had shrunk from affording the House a tangible opportunity of expressing a decisive opinion on the subject, he would in future abstain from any remarks relative to the repeal of the Union, on the occasion of petitions being presented. He recommended other hon. Members to pursue the same course, and await the opportunity, if ever it presented itself, of the hon. and learned Gentleman's bringing forward the question so as to admit the sense of the House being taken upon it.

Mr. Tennyson

protested against the principle just laid down by the Solicitor-General for Ireland, that Members should abstain from addressing observations to the House when presenting petitions.

Mr. Brownlow

earnestly hoped a day would be afforded for the full discussion of the subject; for he was sure that the House would be unanimous against the present project of the hon. and learned member for Waterford. Nothing could be more detrimental to the peace and the prosperity of Ireland than agitating this question.

Mr. Shaw

could assure the House, that the great majority of his respectable and enlightened constituents—the inhabitants of the city of Dublin—were against the scheme of a repeal of the Leglislative Union with Ireland.

Mr. O' Connell

had no other object in view in agitating the question of a local Parliament than to prevent the forcible separation of Ireland from England, and to add to the benefits of their union. The Union had long been an object of hatred to the people of Ireland. The Chief-Justice of the King's-bench in Ireland declared, that the Act of Union was a nullity, for the Parliament had no authority to pass it. The Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas, Ireland, Lord Plunkett, declared, that like Hannibal, he would bring his sons to the altar, and make them swear perpetual hostility to the measure. The great majority of the Irish people now called for its repeal, and he could assure his hon. friend (Mr. Shaw) that he was mistaken as to the opinions of his own constituents. The declaration against the repeal, got up in Dublin, had not been signed by more than a score persons.

Mr. G. Dawson

maintained, that notwithstanding the perverse obstinacy with which the hon. and learned member for Waterford agitated the question of a repeal of the Union out of doors, for the sake of mob-popularity, he would not dare to bring it forward substantively before the House, so as to bring the favour in which it was regarded by hon. Members, of every shade and party, to a tangible and satisfactory test. It might answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's purposes, as the organ of the mob of Ireland, to make irregular speeches on the subject at dinners and on presenting petitions, but it would not so well suit his views to enable the public to know that in that. House he could not influence a single Member to vote or speak on his side of the question. The hon. and learned Gentleman professed, then, that his object was, to strengthen the Union between the two countries; but every one who had heard him knew that the question did not assume its present form till the recent transactions in Belgium invested it with a new character, so as to afford him a favourable opportunity of carrying on his old trade of agitation. To attain his own personal object, mob-popularity, the hon. and learned gentleman seemed to think all means legitimate. For example, he had lately stated that a venerable nobleman (Earl Fitzwilliam), eminently distinguished by those qualities befitting his rank and station, was about to expel 800 families from his estate in the county of Wicklow, under the authority of certain clauses of the Subletting Act. Now, what were the facts of the case? Why, a Gentleman, a Member of that House, Mr. Challoner, the member for York, whom Lord Fitz-william had appointed to be the agent of his Irish estates on account of his humane, intelligent, and truly gentlemanlike qualifications, declares, in a letter in one of the Irish papers, which he had read that morning, that it was impossible to give utterance to a "more gross falsehood." This Gentleman had been selected by the hon. and learned Gentleman as an object of his calumny and gross libel. The hon. and learned Gentleman, to be sure, might retract his expression, for he was well known to be in the habit of making assertions, and retracting them when pushed for an explanation. "I will not," said the hon. Member in conclusion, "repeat the strong language of Mr. Challoner with reference to the hon. and learned Gentleman's assertion; but this I will say to his face, that I do believe Mr. Challoner, and that I do not believe his assertion. He may, if he likes, take an opportunity of retracting his gross libel on Mr. Challoner; but I am sure that a candid public will deem his retractation and his assertion equally satisfactory."

Mr. Hume

rose to protest against the extraordinary language which had been employed by the hon. Member who had just sat down. If the time of the House were to be thus uselessly taken up in stating objections to the conduct of hon. Members out of the House, there would be no end to the angry discussions which would inevitably arise out of such a practice. What right had the hon. Member to accuse his hon. and learned friend, the member for Waterford, of being an agitator in Ireland? that was not the question be- fore the House, and his Majesty's Ministers and the Gentlemen connected with them, ought to be the last persons to encourage reproaches or make such attacks as that which the hon. Member had just made on the hon. member for Waterford. He likewise wondered how the hon. Member could venture to characterise a petition signed by 7,000 or 8,000 freeholders as the petition of a mob. Against such language he would always strenuously and seriously protest. He submitted, that the hon. Member, if he thought that he had any complaint to urge against the hon. and learned member for Waterford, ought to bring it forward at once in a direct manner, and to substantiate it, if he could, to the satisfaction of the House. He had last night called on those who had charges against the Ministers to bring them forward, and in that same spirit he ought, if he had any charges to urge against the hon. member for Waterford to state them to the House on a specific motion, not waste the time of the House by attacks that were irrelevant, made in language that was certainly not very usual, and, he believed, not parliamentary.

Sir Robert Bateson

said, that he rose for the express purpose of denying the statement which had just been offered to the House by the hon. and learned member for Waterford. He had the honour of representing a constituency as numerous, as loyal, and as respectable, as that of the hon. and learned member himself. And he also appeared in the House quite as independent as the hon. and learned Member. The present question was neither a Whig nor a Tory question,—neither a Ministerial nor an Opposition question. Every man could, therefore, discuss it without the slightest reference to party feelings. He could affirm, that not merely nineteen out of every twenty, but ninety-nine out of every hundred persons among his constituents were opposed, not only to the repeal of the Union, but also to the very agitation of such a question. That was the opinion of all the people throughout Ulster. He wished to tell the English Members distinctly, that 99 out of every 100 persons in Ulster were opposed to the very agitation of the question for the repeal of the Union. In the face of the assertions of the hon. and learned member for Waterford, he declared, that the mere agitation of it had produced great mischief in Ireland. Let the hon. and learned Member, who was never tired of vaunting of the benefits which his exertions had conferred upon Ireland, explain to his country, if he could, the benefit which ho had conferred upon her by stopping the flow of English capital to her shores, and by preventing the improvement of her agriculture, her manufactures, and her commerce, which that influx of capital would inevitably cause. That was the mischief which the hon. and learned Member had done by agitating the question of the repeal of the Union. He rose to make these observations, because, after the broad and unqualified assertion of the hon. and learned member for Waterford, that all the people of Ireland were favourable to the repeal, he could not refrain from meeting it with as broad and unqualified a contradiction. He would repeat, that all the property, all the intelligence, all the respectability, and all the independence of Ireland, were opposed, not only to the repeal of the Union, but even to any agitation of the question. He had entertained expectations that a season of repose and quiet was coming for Ireland; but those expectations were fast disappearing, for there were some men, unfortunately, of great influence, who could not live, except in the elements of confusion. If this question of the repeal of the Union were to be set afloat,—if the example of Belgium were to be held up to Ireland as worthy of her imitation,—if factious demagogues were to be sent up and down Ireland, regardless of character, regardless of principle, and regardless of any offences they might commit, provided they could only agitate the mob to rebellion,—it was time for independent country gentlemen to come forward and endeavour to disperse the wilful delusions which the agents of mischief were propagating. With regard to the observations which had just fallen from the hon. and learned member for Middlesex, he would only remark, that he had as good right as that hon. Member to express his opinion in that House upon the conduct of public men and public measures. There was no other man in that House against whom such imputations could be made, as those which were made against the hon. and learned member for Waterford; for that hon. and learned Member had certainly contrived to signalize himself by his singularities.

Mr. Shaw

said, that the hon. and learned member for Waterford had represented him to have drawn a distinction between the respectability and the numbers of his constituents. He had done no such thing. He had said, and he repeated the words, that a great majority of his constituents, both in respectability and in numbers, were opposed to the repeal of the Union. He was happy to say, that upon that point Protestants and Roman Catholics, Orangemen, and Anti-Orangemen, were perfectly agreed.

Captain O'Grady

wished to give the House some information respecting the opinion which was prevalent in Ireland as to the repeal of the Union. There was a prevailing sentiment in Ireland to make the question of the repeal of the Union a question of agitation in that country, in the hope of gaining thereby some measures favourable to its interests. Many persons, who would shrink from the task of agitating that question for its own merits, were prepared to agitate it as a mode of accomplishing other objects of importance to Ireland. It might be true that, before the Union, there were forty tax-gatherers in Ireland where there was only one tax-gatherer now; but then that tax-gatherer was an Irishman. Every Irishman had since been removed from office, on pretence of assimilating the mode of keeping accounts in the two countries; and now tax-gatherers, and all other public officers, were Englishmen. This circumstance produced and fostered in the breasts of Irishmen a feeling of hostility against England, which they gratified by agitating the repeal of the Union.

The petition read.

Mr. O' Connell, in moving, that it be printed, said, that he should not complain of the treatment which he had received from two persons; for in very truth he was proud of the attack which had been just made upon him by the present and the ex-member for Londonderry. He would tell the hon. member for Londonderry (Sir R. Bateson) that he was signalized by one singularity—he was that hon. Member's inferior when he was called to the Bar— now he was his equal. That equality he had extorted from those who were unwilling to concede it, and in the teeth of as foul a conspiracy as had ever been formed to crush the cause of civil and religious liberty. As to the ex-member for Londonderry (Mr. G. Dawson) he had little to say to him, except to ask him how much of the public money he had received in his time? Had he not put the public money into his pockets by shovels full? The ex-member for Londonderry had shewn the most lamentable ignorance upon two points. The ex-member for Londonderry had told the House that the subject of the repeal of the Union had not been put forward at all in the last elections. Now the fact was, that he (Mr. O'Connell) had put it forward himself in the very first address which he had published to the electors of Waterford. The ex-member for Londonderry had also stated, that before the Union, we had in Ireland forty tax-gatherers where we now had one. Even if it were so, they were Irishmen; but he denied the fact. Did the ex-member for Londonderry know what the debt of Ireland was before the Union? It was only 16,000,000l., whilst her revenue was 1,400,000l. Did he know that up to that period there was no country in Europe so lightly taxed as Ireland? Was that the case at present? Here's a man who has been in the Treasury forty years, and is still ignorant of the taxation of Ireland. The House had heard the manner in which that man had addressed him. He knew the reason of it, and was glad that he had excited his hostility. He had mentioned the amount of money which that man had wrung from the public. Now, with all his money, what good had he ever done his country? Let him look at his entire life and say, what good had he ever done for either England, Scotland, or Ireland?—ay, he would throw him in the Isle of Man into the bargain. Would the ex-member for Londonderry venture to ask the same question of him? The ex-member for Londonderry had then introduced the name of Earl Fitzwilliam into the discussion. Now he (Mr. O'Connell) had never said that Earl Fitzwilliam's agent had ejected 800 families. All that he said was, that he had ejected 800 persons. And when the ex-member for Londonderry read that pointed, but "exceedingly cautious-in-assertion" letter of Mr. Challoner,—for Mr. Challoner only denied that ejectments had been served upon 800 families, and did not state how many ejectments he had served,—he ought to have done him (Mr. O'Connell) the justice of reading his letter in answer to it. In his answer he stated, that he had never said 800 families,—no newspaper even reported him to have said so,—and he now repeated what he had formerly said,—that there were 800 persona, upon Earl Fitz- william's estate, under notice to quit on the 1st of May. [Cries of "No, no."] He said that a farm of 800 acres was to go into lease on the 1st of May next: there were sixty families upon it, consisting of about 300 persons; these had all got notice to quit, as Mr. Challoner had disposed of the farm to a person of the name of Singe. He had now disposed of 300 persons out of the 800. He had got details from two clergymen as to the remaining cases, into which he should not enter at present. He begged leave also to remind the House, that he was not imputing blame to Earl Fitzwilliam or his assent when he mentioned these cases, [Cries of" oh!"] but was speaking of the consequences of the Subletting Act. Did hon. Gentlemen think to put him down by assailing him with broad and unmannerly contradictions? If they did, they were utterly mistaken in their man. The sitting member for Londonderry had told the House, that his constituents were almost to a man opposed to the repeal of the Union. He (Mr. O'Connell) had never said, that that question was popular in the north of Ireland. He knew, however, that the people of three provinces had declared themselves decidedly in its favour. He knew also that it was gaining ground in the north of Ireland, for a newspaper at Newry, which had originally been opposed to the repeal of the Union, had recently changed its opinions, in deference to the popular sentiments prevailing in the neighbourhood. He was not acquainted with the hon. Member's constituents, but he understood that they were a pugnacious race, who built. —Their faith upon The holy text of pike and gun. He understood, that after some Roman Catholics had surrendered to them, and given up their arms on the express condition that their lives should be saved, they had done what? given the Catholics protection? No; they had done this [The hon. Member drew his hand significantly across his throat]. But he would not pursue that feud further; he wished it to be forgotten. He had heard four or five Gentlemen speak that evening in defence of the Union; but, strange to say, not one of them had pointed out a single good which it had clone. The ex-member for Londonderry had called the electors of Waterford a mob. He denied the truth of that assertion in the strongest terms that the decorum of parliamentary language would permit him to use. There never was anything asserted—he would not say by the hon. Gentleman, but — by the lowest person in the most degraded rank of society, more groundless and untrue. His constituents were nine-tenths of them equal to the ex-member for Londonderry in rank, and all vastly superior to him in intellect. He would not demean himself by entering into a comparison of his own merits with those of the ex-member for Londonderry. He (Mr. O'Connell) had had the honour of receiving an offer to return him to Parliament from three counties in Ireland—an offer made, too, by persons who could have performed it, as they proved by returning Members who had pledged themselves to act upon his principles. He (Mr. O'Connell) had given up the representation of a fourth county; and a fifth county, as they all knew, had sent him to Parliament. No man in the House could pair with him in that respect, certainly not the ex-member for Londonderry, for he had been turned out of his county. The ex-member for Londonderry had taunted him with representing an Irish mob, but the ex-member himself represented nothing Irish; and he (Mr. O'Connell) was glad of it. He (Mr. O'Connell) could have come in for five counties. The ex-member for Londonderry was turned out of his own county; he tried to take refuge in another and failed—tried again at Merchants'-hall, failed there too—and then left his country, and took refuge in an English rotten borough. And yet that man—that clerk in a public office, with an extravagantly large salary for doing nothing—came forward to calumniate him—him, disinterestedly and independently chosen by the people of Waterford; for who could expect to receive favours or patronage at his hand? The freeholders of Waterford selected him because they knew that he was an object of hostility to all who entertained views hostile to Ireland; because they knew that he was marked out for the rancor of every little mean and contemptible mind. He would take care not to disgrace their choice. He would never tire in doing his duty to his country. Ireland deserved well of all her sons. The curse had been on her long. In the words of the Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas, he would say that Ireland had never wrung any boon from the grasp of England, which England had not parted with as re- luctantly as if it had been her heart's blood. He would imitate the glorious example of the Brownlow of 1782—of that man, on whose tomb was inscribed the proud epitaph, that he had found his country enslaved, and had left her free,— of that man, whose name could not receive greater lustre, unless the Brownlow of 1830 should join with him and procure the repeal of the Union. He had that evening been assailed by language that was as low, mean, and creeping, as the source from which it came. He hailed it as his richest reward—as his highest encomium. "Ye placeholders, who revel on the hard earnings of the people," said Mr. O'Connell, addressing the Ministerial benches; "ye pensioners, who subsist on the public money; ye tax-consumers and tax-devourers, assault me as you please. I am not to be intimidated by you. I shall continue to stand by Ireland; for I represent her wants, her wishes, and her grievances." The hon. Member concluded by expressing his hopes that, as he was born in an independent country, he should not die until he had left her in possession of an independent Legislature.

Lord Althorp

said, that the hon. and learned member for Waterford had made a statement regarding the conduct of Earl Fitzwilliam, which rendered it necessary for him to say a few words in contradiction of it. In order to give full effect to that contradiction, he felt himself called upon to lay certain details before the House, not merely by the respect which every man of proper feeling must entertain for so venerable a character as Earl Fitzwilliam, but also by the special request of his noble: friend, Lord Milton, who was prevented by a severe domestic calamity from attending in his place. He would state to the House all that Earl Fitzwilliam and Lord Milton knew and believed upon the subject, derived as their knowledge and belief were from agents whom they had sent to acquire information concerning it. That information enabled him to contradict the hon. and learned Member's assertion, that 800 persons had been ejected from Earl Fitz-william's estate, as completely as Mr. Challoner had already contradicted his assertion about 800 families. [Immense cheering followed this declaration]. His noble friend, Lord Milton, had sent him up word that he had received information from his father's agent, Mr. Challoner that there were only four families under notice to quit upon the whole of Earl Fitzwilliam's estates in Ireland. Three of them held about thirty acres together in common—in conacre, he believed, was the phrase in Ireland. The other man's family was in a different township from that mentioned by the hon. and learned member for Waterford. They were not under notice to quit owing to any wish on the part of Earl Fitzwilliam to enforce severely the provisions of the Subletting Act, but because they had lately been much in arrear for rent, some of them owing as much as four years' rent. Such were the results of an inquiry which Earl Fitzwilliam and Lord Milton had expressly ordered to be made in Ireland, in consequence of the unqualified assertions of the hon. and learned member for Waterford. He had received this information from his noble friend, Lord Milton, on Saturday last. He knew that Mr. Challoner was at present with his Lordship, and every man who knew anything of that Gentleman's character, must be convinced that he would have corrected any errors, had there been any errors to correct, in the information his noble friend had derived from the agents he had purposely sent to Ireland. In conclusion he observed, that he had no doubt that, if the hon. and learned member for Waterford would make further inquiries into this matter, he would find that he had been misinformed as to the circumstance of 800 persons having been ejected from the estates of Earl Fitzwilliam.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the documents with which he had been furnished, made a very different impression upon his mind from that which had been made upon the mind of the noble Lord by the information furnished to him by Earl Fitzwilliam. He could not lay the documents which had been sent to him on the Table of the House; but he was ready to submit them at any moment to the inspection of the noble Lord. In conclusion, he repeated, that he had not, when he mentioned the fact, made any imputation against either Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord Milton, or their agent, Mr. Challoner.

Mr. G. Dawson

said, that he did not intend to indulge the House, upon this occasion, by entering upon that kind of personal altercation which the hon. and learned member for Waterford had introduced into this discussion. Whatever that hon. and learned Gentleman might please to say regarding the public character and public services of so humble an individual as himself, he was at full liberty to say it, both in that House and elsewhere, and he certainly should never complain of his observations. "I therefore did not hear with any indignation (said the hon. Member) the observations which he made on my being a clerk in a public office, with a large salary, because I knew, that to be the object of such observations is the fate of every man who holds public office, and because I feel that it is language which he is liable to hear at any time from a man of vulgar mind and mean ideas. But when the hon. and learned Member indulges in aspersions on my private character—when he states as a reflection upon me that I am no longer the Representative of Derry, though he knows that I lost my seat for conscientiously supporting his claims as a Roman Catholic to emancipation, and for assisting to give him privileges which he now uses to promote agitation in Ireland—when he presumes (and I use that word advisedly) to touch upon my private conduct, I have a right to say thus much at least to him, that I have had the misfortune in my time to receive his praises and encomiums, and that I have now, thank God, the good fortune to be made the object of his calumnies and his slanders. He knows well that he dared not have uttered a tenth part of the calumnious falsehoods which he has vomited against me, if he had not determined to cover himself with the mantle of a most disgraceful indemnity. [Loud cheering, and cries of "Order," from the Chair]. Well, I will pursue that subject no further. I will only say, that I despise anything that the hon. and learned Member can say of me as much as it is possible for one man to despise the opinion of another." Before sitting down, he wished to notice one of the observations which had fallen from the hon. member for Limerick, respecting the number of Englishmen holding situations in the Tax-office in Ireland. If that complaint were made in Ireland, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that a very different complaint was made in England, and that was, that in the Customs and Excise too many situations were given away to Irishmen. He hoped that the hon. member for Limerick would weigh one of these complaints against the other, before he allowed his mind to receive any prejudice against the Union.

Mr. Grattan

was understood to bear his testimony to the kind and paternal feelings of Earl Fitzwilliam to his tenantry in Ireland, and to the exemplary manner in which Mr. Challoner, as his Lordship's agent, watched over and promoted their local interests. He believed that, in consequence of a provision in the Subletting Act,—which he should be most glad to see entirely repealed,—it was necessary to give notices to quit to all persons on a farm, when a new lease of it was granted. Thus it might happen that notices to quit might be served on many families residing on Mr. Singe's farm, whom there was no intention of removing from their tenements. He had passed some days at that gentleman's house, and he must say that he never saw a more happy and contented peasantry than the 300 persons who were said to have been ejected from his farm.

Sir H. Hardinge

said, that he, too, had been desired to offer a few words to the House in contradiction of another statement of the hon. and learned member for Waterford. Archdeacon Trench had commissioned him to inform the House, that the hon. and learned Member had been guilty of a most gross exaggeration when he stated that Lord Rathdrum had served notices to quit upon 400 or 500 individuals on his estates. Instead of 400 or 500 notices, he had only served four, or at most five, notices upon his tenants; and during the last three years only ten persons had been discharged from his property.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that with regard to Lord Rathdrum, he had never mentioned the number of notices which he had served upon his tenantry. He had not specified any number. He was informed, however, that those persons were ejected because they were not of the same religious persuasion with their landlord.

Sir H. Hardinge

—Archdeacon Trench has authorised me to contradict that statement likewise.

Mr. O'Connell

—It can, however, be proved.

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