HC Deb 19 November 1830 vol 1 cc592-5
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from the same places, complaining of the evils of absenteeism, and praying for a repeal of the Union. He took that opportunity to state, that he now held in his hand documents confirming his statement as to the serving of notices upon the estate of Earl Fitzwilliam, in the county Wicklow. Instead of 800 persons having got notice to quit (which was his original statement), it would appear from the documents which had been forwarded to him, that 1,544 persons had received such notices, and their names and residences were furnished to him. He had also received documents fully confirming his statement as to the estate of Lord Rathdown. He had also received one of the circulars which had been sent round by Lord Fitzwilliam's agent to the tenantry, informing them, that if any of them had sublet, they should not have their leases renewed. He had submitted those documents to the hon. member for Wicklow (Mr. James Grattan), and he had offered to lay them before the hon. member for Northamptonshire (Lord Al-thorp.)

Mr. J. Grattan

did not mean to deny, that what the hon. and learned Member had stated with respect to the notices was fact; but it was not the mere consequence of the Subletting Act, nor was that fact sufficient to justify any imputation on the landlord. It was impossible, in the present state of the law, to relet the farms without giving this notice, in order to be strictly regular; but though these notices had been given, he denied that 800 or 1,500 persons had been turned off the estate. So far from it, indeed, he had the best reason for believing that only one of the tenants on whom notice was served was likely to quit. He took that opportunity of bearing his sincere testimony to the excellent character and conduct of Mr. Challoner, the agent for the noble Earl. He had had amply opportunity of witnessing the manner in which that gentleman managed the noble Earl's estate, and nothing could be more excellent or more liberal. Mr. Challoner had this last summer spent a very large sum of money in improving the estate, and the consequence was, that the peasantry in that neighbourhood had the advantage of good employment.

Sir H. Hardinge

reiterated the statement contained in the letter of Archdeacon Trench, with regard to the estate of Lord Rathdown, and at the same time said, he should be most happy to see the documents spoken of by the hon. member for Waterford.

Mr. Doherty

deprecated the practice of introducing such discussions upon the presentation of petitions; and, above all, he deprecated the practice of the hon. member for Waterford, in thus constantly recurring to statements which had been repeatedly contradicted. Was that House to be a court of appeal for the peasantry in these matters, and what sort of tribunal, he would ask, would the House of Commons become, if, night after night, state- ments should be repeated after the flattest contradictions had been given to them— contradictions so direct and positive, that they must come home to the heart of every one who felt like a gentleman? A detailed statement had been received by the hon. member for Youghall from Mr. Challoner, which amply refuted the attacks directed against him, and reflected the highest credit on him.

Mr. Hume

wished to know to whom were the peasantry of Ireland to prefer their complaints, if not to that House? He defended the conduct of the hon. member for Waterford, and contended that, as the serving of the notices had been admitted by the hon. member for Wicklow, the statement was untouched, and that the hon. Gentleman, the Solicitor General for Ireland, appeared to be ignorant of the facts of the case. His hon. friend, the member for Waterford, had been accused of stating falsely, that 800 notices to quit had been served on Earl Fitzwilliam's tenantry; he had accordingly brought documents to prove that 1,500 notices had been served; the accuracy of those documents was not denied by the hon. member for Wicklow, and therefore his hon. friend had completely made out his case, notwithstanding the loud and confident assertions of Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Doherty

explained. He had never meant to assert that the people should not have the right to petition that House.

Mr. G. Dawson

observed, that upon the first night of the Session the hon. member for Waterford had asserted, in his speech upon the Address, not that notices had been served upon 800 families upon the Fitzwilliam estate, but that 800 families had been actually turned out from their homes, and sent adrift upon the world. The learned member for Yorkshire, in adverting to that statement upon the same evening, said, that it was the most horrible picture he had ever heard drawn of the condition of any country, and that such a state of things should not be allowed to exist in any portion of the civilized world. Such was the impression, too, which the statement of the hon. member for Waterford made then upon the House. That hon. Member afterwards retracted the statement as to 800 families, and confined it to 800 persons; and he had now retracted his statement as to the fact, for it appeared that the notices of which he spoke were not real ejectments. The object, however, was obtained by the extensive circulation of such inflammatory statements, in quarters where the retractations of them, and the answers to them, might never reach to counteract the misrepresentation.

Mr. O'Connell

replied, that he had all along asserted that 800 persons had received notice to quit; he had therefore retracted nothing, and the documents which had been furnished to him had nearly doubled that statement. He congratulated the House on its readiness to lead on a cheer against him, and assured the Members that such cheers gave him a proud conviction that he had done his duty to his country.

The petition was ordered to lie on the Table, and to be printed.