HC Deb 08 August 1831 vol 5 cc920-5
Mr. Robert Gordon

presented the report of the Committee on the Dublin Election Petition. The report stated, that Robert Harty and Lewis Perrin were not duly elected; that the election was null and void; that the petition was not frivolous and vexatious; and that the opposition was not frivolous and vexatious.—The Report read.

Mr. Robert Gordon

said, he had been instructed, in the name of the Committee, to present a special report to the House, with certain resolutions which had been agreed to by that Committee. This Report was as follows:—

"1st. That Robert Harty and Lewis Perrin, Esqrs. were, by their agents, guilty of bribery at the last election for the said city.

"2nd. That it appears to this Committee, that certain individuals holding official situations in Ireland, or considered to be connected with the Irish Government, did, at the last election for the city of Dublin, in contravention of the Resolutions of the House of Commons, use undue influence in favour of, and with a view to aid and assist in, the election and return of the sitting members for the city of Dublin.

"3rd. That the Chairman be requested to move, that this report, with the evidence taken before the said Committee, be printed."

Minutes of the proceedings and evidence taken before the Committee ordered to be laid before the House.—Minutes of the proceedings and evidence presented accordingly.

To lie on the Table, and to be printed.

Mr. Robert Gordon

then moved, that the Speaker do issue a writ for an election of two Members to serve for the city of Dublin.

Mr. Hunt

said, he had proposed to stay the issue of the writ, to afford time for inquiry; but as the majority of the Committee were against him, he had yielded to their opinion, and had contented himself by declaring his own sentiments.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

said, that the case very much resembled that of Liverpool, and required to be closely investigated. He was of opinion, that the patronage of the Treasury had been employed in both cases. In the report just read, mention was made of the interference of Government officers. They would not dispense impartial justice, nor protect their own rights, if they did not suspend the writ, to allow further time for inquiry. He would therefore move, that the issue of the writ be postponed for a week.

Mr. O'Connell

seconded the Motion. There was something very suspicious in the language of the report, where it spoke of persons supposed to be connected with the Government having influenced the election. The fact was, that every Government for the time being interfered in the elections for Dublin; and the Police Magistrates, who were removable at the pleasure of the Government, were made members of the Corporation, purely in order that they might be used to support the Government candidates. He thought the state of the Corporation, who granted the franchise, as well as those who exercised it, should be strictly inquired into; and he, therefore, gladly availed himself of the hon. Member's Motion for that purpose, in order that they might have time for inquiry.

Mr. Baldwin

thought it unfair to discuss the merits of the question upon the present occasion.

The Speaker

said, the usual course was, to move, not that the issue of the Writ be stayed, but that the debate be adjourned till that day week.

Motion amended accordingly.

Sir Charles Burrell

said, he was averse to inquiries at the bar, after what he had seen lately, when the evidence taken before that House had been contradicted by that taken before the House of Lords. Until they had the power of examining witnesses on oath, they must meet with nothing but prevarication, and their time and labour would be lost. At all events, the writ, in his opinion, should issue, even if they inquired afterwards.

Mr. Leader

was of opinion, that the case alluded to in the report should be fully investigated, both for the sake of the Government, and the independence of that House.

Mr. Crampton

did not oppose the delay required by hon. Members, but he thought it right to say, that the freemen of the city of Dublin were not generally implicated in the practices complained of, and that there was nothing in these practices which could incapacitate the great body from the exercise of their privileges. He begged, at the same time, to observe, that a gentleman, a friend of his, had good right to complain of the manner in which hearsay evidence had been admitted with respect to his conduct. He believed he was out of order, and he would, therefore, merely say, that the case, as it affected the freemen of the city of Dublin, was, in his opinion, very slight, and would, he thought, on inquiry, be found so.

Sir Robert Inglis

thought, the question of suspending the writ should have been left to the Committee. That Committee, through their Chairman, had laid a report on the Table of the House, but they had not recommended the writ to be stayed; and as they were acquainted with all the facts of the case, the House was bound to adopt the more constitutional course of deferring to their judgment.

Sir Henry Hardinge

agreed in the propriety of this view of the case, and thought with the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Crampton), that it would be unjust to the Parliament, and to the city of Dublin, to postpone the issue of the writ. He was also of opinion, that it was unjust to indulge in observations, until the evidence was in the hands of Members; for he was convinced a satisfactory explanation would be given of the conduct of persons connected with the Government of Ireland.

Mr. James Grattan

was in favour of the postponement, in order to afford time for inquiry. He was the more anxious for inquiry, as the conduct of a relation of his had been commented on in the course of the proceedings.

Mr. Hume

supported the postponement of the writ, as the same persons who had interfered already in the election, might otherwise interfere again.

Mr. Cutlar Ferguson

supported the Motion for adjournment. He did not think the report of the Committee quite satisfactory. It informed them that gross bribery had prevailed, and official persons had interfered; but the manner in which it was worded made it difficult to determine, whether or not there had been a violation of the rules of the House.

Mr. Robert Gordon

said, that as a private individual, and not as a member of the Committee, he had contemplated some ulterior proceedings. There was, however, this great difference between the case of Liverpool and Dublin, that, in the first, the whole mass of the electors were corrupted, but, in the latter, a part only had been proved to have received bribes, or been improperly influenced.

Mr. Maberly

opposed the motion for adjournment, and observed, that if they suspended the writ in this case, they must do the same in every case where bribery of any kind was proved to have been practised. It had never hitherto been the practice to suspend the writ, unless it appeared the great body of the electors had been corrupted; and that was not the case at present.

Mr. Wilks

thought it would be a harsh and unconstitutional proceeding, under such circumstances, to deprive the innocent and honourable portion of the freemen of the city of Dublin of the power to choose their Representatives for, perhaps, six months to come.

Mr. Ridley Colborne

was of the same opinion. Bribery had been proved against a certain number of electors, but it was by no means so general as to justify the House in withholding the writ, and thereby deprive 6,000 or 7,000 electors of their rights. He admitted, that some inquiry should take place, after the evidence had been printed, and was in possession of the Members of the House.

Mr. Anthony Lefroy,

as a member of the Corporation of Dublin, was persuaded, the constituency of that city were not generally open to the charge of being corrupt; and he would therefore support the issuing of the writ. He thought, that the delinquents in this case should be brought to justice, whoever they might be; and that if persons in high situations had been guilty of corrupting the voters, that their high situation should not screen them.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

was satisfied, that the report made it necessary to suspend the writ, agreeable to his Motion. This opinion was strengthened by the hon. Chairman of the Committee having declared his intention to take ulterior proceedings. He was, therefore, justified in asserting this was not a common case of bribery and corruption.

Mr. Hughes Hughes

asked, if he understood the hon. Chairman of the Committee rightly, when he said he would take some proceedings in the case himself? He rather apprehended, the hon. member for Shropshire had been, in some degree, mistaken in that respect.

Mr. Robert Gordon

did not pledge himself to do so. He retained the right to do so, if he found it expedient.

Sir Charles Burrell

wished to save the time of the House, by preventing the examination of witnesses at the bar. There was this difference between the present case, and those of Liverpool and Penryn: in the latter cases, bribery was general; here, it was only partial.

An Hon. Member

recommended the suspension of the proceedings until the House should be in possession of the evidence.

Mr. Francis Baring

thought it would be a harsh proceeding to suspend the Writ for a single day, unless a much stronger case had been made out.

Mr. Hunt

said, at least 1,500 persons had been made fictitious freemen for the purpose of voting during the election; each of whom took false oaths and received bribes: that was proved before the Committee. He was quite convinced, too, that the head of the Government in Ireland was deeply implicated in the practice of influencing the voters, and no one could read the evidence, without feeling that some ulterior measures were necessary. He hoped the hon. Member who had acted as Chairman, would take the question up, which would prevent him (Mr. Hunt) from doing so. In three days the evidence would be in the hands of Members.

The Earl of Uxbridge

was sure, that the head of the Irish Government would be most anxious for inquiry, and he was equally sure that the inquiry, when it came, would free that nobleman from the gross charge brought against him by the member for Preston.

Mr. Hunt

could not sit still in that House, and hear himself charged with having made gross accusations. He repeated, that the Marquis of Anglesey, by himself and by his agents, would be found to be implicated in the practices complained of.

The Speaker

said, that he understood the noble Earl to say, that the imputation was a gross one, but he did not apply that term personally to the hon. member for Preston.

The Earl of Uxbridge

had merely said, that the imputations would be proved gross on inquiry; should that not be the case, he would retract the expression.

Lord George Lennox

was a freeman of Dublin, and in that capacity should consider it no slur that the Writ should be suspended; but he confessed, he could see no difference between the present case and that of Evesham. In the case of Evesham, only eleven persons had been proved to have accepted bribes, and yet the Writ, in that case, was immediately suspended.

Sir Charles Forbes

said, after what they had heard in the course of the debate, he thought it due to the majority of the constituency of Dublin, that a further inquiry should take place. He should, therefore, certainly vote for the adjournment of the debate on this question.

The House divided on the Amendment—Ayes 51; Noes 76—Majority against the Amendment 25.

List of the AYES.
Brown, J. Brownlow, C.
Chapman, M. L. Leader, N. P.
Clive, E. B. Macauley, T. B.
Copeland, Alderman Mangles, J.
Currie, J. Mullins, F. W.
Dixon, J. Osborne, Lord F. G.
Ebrington, Lord O'Ferrall, R. M.
Evans, Colonel O'Connell, D.
Forbes, Sir C. O'Connor, Don
Fox, Col. Pelham, C.
Ferguson, R. C. Power, R.
Fergusson, R. Paget, T.
Gillon, W. D. Ruthven, E. S.
Gisborne, T. Rickford, W.
Grattan, J. Stewart, P. M.
Handley, W. F. Sinclair, G.
Hume, J. Torrens, Col.
Hunt, H. Wyse, T.
Jephson, C. D. O. Watson, Hon. R.
Johnstone, J. J. H. Wood, Alderman
Killeen, Lord Westenra, Hon. H.
Lennox, Lord G. Weyland, J
Lambert, H. Walker, C. A.

The writ to be issued.

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