HC Deb 22 November 1830 vol 1 cc631-5
Colonel Cradock

having moved for leave of absence for Mr. Dundas, who was ordered to join his regiment in consequence of the public disturbances,

Colonel Davies

said, this was the second or third leave of absence that had been moved for in consequence of the disturbances which unfortunately existed in various parts of the country. He put it to the good sense of the House to say, whether, under all the circumstances of the case, it might not be expedient to defer a great number of the Election Committees till after Christmas. [Cries of "No."] The consequence of the absence of so many Members in the disturbed counties must be, that they should not be able to make a House upon ballot nights, and then the trial of certain election petitions would be adjourned, with great expense and inconvenience to all parties concerned. He therefore put it to his Majesty's Government, whether a compliance with the suggestion which he had thrown out was not desirable.

Mr. S. Rice

said, that after the decision of the House the other night, postponement could not be thought of. At the same time he admitted that much inconvenience might be felt by parties in the event of difficulty being experienced in obtaining sufficient Members for ballots. But when the difficulty arose, the House must endeavour to deal with it. The hon. Member intimated that it was proposed to get through the ballots for election petitions as fast as possible, and with that view the House, which would adjourn over from to-morrow till Wednesday, would meet again on Thursday, for which day there were three ballots fixed.

Mr. Hume

hoped no serious idea of postponing the Election Committees was entertained in any quarter. He should certainly oppose such a proposition.

Mr. R. Colborne

suggested, that between that time and to-morrow an opportunity might be afforded to apply to the parties interested, and consult them as to whether it would be of advantage to them to have their election petitions postponed. If ballots were fixed, and a House was not made upon the appointed day, it would occasion a heavy expense to individuals.

Mr. Baring

said, he did not wish to disturb what had been done the other night, but at the same time he felt that no duty was so important as that of endeavouring to restore tranquillity and quiet to the country. He might, perhaps, be considered an alarmist—a character he should be sorry to sustain, but he found it impossible to conceal his opinion as to the extent of the existing evil, and wished to call the attention, not only of individuals locally interested, but of Government, to the subject. He repeated he should be sorry to spread any unnecessary alarm, but must declare his opinion that nothing was so pressing—no duty of Government or individuals so urgent—as to endeavour to put an end to the state of things existing in several counties. The authors of those disorders, he thought, might have been, and still might be, discovered, and the disturbances put an end to, by vigilance and promptitude. He wished for no delay in the ballots on election petitions—that was, he desired no delay that could be safely avoided, but, at the same time, he thought it might be well worth while to incur delay in such matters, if by postponement could be purchased the great object of quieting the country. If putting off election committees, or even an adjournment of the House, would leave Gentlemen at liberty to contribute more efficiently to the attainment of that end, no inconvenience that might be caused to individuals should prevent him from recommending the proceeding.

Sir R. Peel

in reference to the hon. Member's allusion to, and implied want of vigilance and promptitude in the late Cabinet, with respect to the disturbances existing in some parts of the country, could only say, that every aid which it was possible for the counties in question to receive from the military force at the disposal of Government, they had received; that every suggestion of the local magistracy—every suggestion calculated to stop the evil, had been adopted by the late Government, which paid the most undivided attention, to the case. Where parties locally interested co-operated with Government—where the disposition towards disturbance had been promptly met by them—it was always suppressed. He had seen individuals, unsupported by any force, refuse to sign papers guaranteeing a reduction of rents and tithes, and he knew of no one case of personal violence having been offered to such individuals, who were uniformly successful in their resistance to such lawless demands. In all cases of this nature the rioters had retired, threatening perhaps to return on a future day, but they did not. No doubt, if there was not a sufficient military and local force to support persons who acted thus, and repress disturbance, Parliament would be at least as much in fault as the late Govern- ment, for having compelled Ministers to adopt dangerous reductions. He repeated, every thing which it was possible to do had been done in the way of despatching detachments of the military, and sending portions of the police of the metropolis (although that was a body intended for other purposes), to aid the local force where the exigency called for such assistance. Every species of civil, military, and legal assistance had been promptly given to the local magistracy.

Mr. Baring

was convinced that no person could have attended to the duties of his office more assiduously than did the right hon. Baronet; but giving the right hon. Gentleman every credit for a desire to restore the public quiet, still he must say, he was of opinion that the disturbances might have been put down at once by prompt measures; that when more confined and limited than, unhappily, they now were, the disorders might have been crushed and prevented from extending. He feared, that if the disorders went on for three or four days longer, they would extend beyond the reach of almost any power to suppress them. That was his opinion; if there was not force in the country to put down the disturbances, when they only existed in one county, what chance should we have of suppressing them when they extended, as they soon might, over a dozen counties? If there was not sufficient force to repress these disorders, it was the duty of Government to provide it. But he did not mean to say that there was really any deficiency of force to effect this object; on the contrary, he was of opinion that, with a little more vigour at first, and a better application of the force which we possessed, Government might have prevented the evil from spreading as it had.

Sir R. Peel

ventured to say, that if a proposal had been made by Government last year to increase the military force of the country, in anticipation of disturbances such as now existed,—he ventured to say that the proposal would not have met the approbation of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member had said, the disorders might still be put down, and in this sentiment he quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, he saw no reason for apprehension. He thought that, even without reference to a military force, the fact of every man that was menaced being, as was doubtless the case, prepared to fight in defence of his property, was sufficient without such an effort. If aggressions were met by a pusillanimous compliance, no military force would suffice to put down the disturbances. Every man who had landed property had dependents more or less numerous—let him arm them, and they would repel all aggression. A case had occurred in which this was done, and 150 men put down a riot. Let others follow the example, and refuse to make concessions to tumultuous violence, and he would assure the hon. Gentleman that there existed a military force sufficient (when thus aided) to put down the disturbances. But without that, all the military and civil force that could be brought to act— all the efforts of a Secretary of State—were as nothing. Indeed, it would be a perilous state of things if every thing depended upon the energy and sagacity of an individual sitting in an office at Whitehall. It would be impossible for a Secretary of State, or any other functionary, to act with advantage in such cases, unaided by the suggestions of the local magistracy.

Leave of absence was given to Mr. Dundas.