§ Sir John Newport moved for Copies of the Case, and the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, on the subject of the re-valuation of the benefices to the First Fruits Fund, as taken on an Address to his Majesty, of the 14th March last.
wished to draw the attention of the only Law Officer of the Irish Government then present, to several statements of occurrences in Ireland which had come to his ear, and seemed to require explanation. He wished, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had been in his place, as he meant to ask, if he would allow the papers concerning these outrages to be laid on the Table. In his absence he would only say, that a party of Orangemen, on the 19th and 22nd of December, paraded the town of Maghera, in the north of Ireland, with symbols, flags, and Orange music playing, and had sung songs to provoke a breach of the peace. They afterwards came into the town with guns and bayonets, and committed gross outrages; wounding and stabbing some of the harmless women and children. They set fire to and destroyed the village. They took the furniture out of the houses, and set fire to it; they abused the old women, all the males having fled, with the exception of one, who had become an idiot, in consequence of having, upon a previous occasion, seen his father murdered by the Orange party. The damage 1037 done to the poor inhabitants, amounted at least to 400l., and Government had sent down a Commission to try the offenders. Verdicts, it appeared, were given, all against the Roman Catholics, while not one Orangeman had been found guilty or punished. He should wish to have some information on this subject, and should have been glad to have been allowed to see the report of Mr. Perrin, who was sent down on the occasion by Government; but as the right hon. Secretary was not in his place, he must postpone his questions till a fitter opportunity arrived.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, that the Secretary of Ireland was very much occupied in the performance of the official duties of his situation; but he was sure that right hon. Gentleman would have been in his place, had he been aware that any intention existed to ask for information. He (Mr. Crampton) was not able to answer the question put by the hon. and learned Member, but he informed the House, that several verdicts had been given, acquitting the parties accused of participating in the outrages described by the hon. and learned Member; and he did not think it fair for the hon. and learned Member to endeavour to impugn, by vague assertions, the verdicts of juries.
said, that he had received his information respecting the outrages committed by the Orangemen from the very highest authority. He had also been informed, that the Crown prosecutor of Kilkenny had received instructions to challenge, previous to the swearing of the jury, every Roman Catholic.
§ Mr. Crampton
begged leave to state, in the strongest possible terms, that no instructions of such a nature had been given by the Irish government, to the Law Officers of the Crown. Their zealous endeavour was, to do justice impartially, disregarding all party feelings.
§ Mr. Leader
said, that he would be the last man to impugn the verdicts of Juries, but he knew that if unfair means were taken to compose Juries, suspicion would attach to their proceedings, and their decision would be looked upon with contempt and aversion. As a Protestant gentleman, residing in Ireland, he felt great anxiety on this point, for he was satisfied that much of the peace and tranquillity, or the turbulence and discontent, of the people, depended on it. Living in a large 1038 Catholic province, with a population of 50,000 Roman Catholics close around him, he must say, that nothing could be more injurious to the Protestant, than to insult the Catholics. If it were true, that the Crown Prosecutor in Kilkenny had passed-by Roman Catholics in the formation of Juries, the conduct of that officer had been most disgraceful, and must have been, he was sure, in violation of the orders of Government.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
did not think that much reliance was to be placed on loose reports of occurrences which took place in Ireland; and he would give the House a specimen of their inaccuracy. It had been stated in that House, by the hon. and learned Member, that the Grand Jury of Carlow had drunk the following toast:—"Our heels on the necks of the Papists." When he heard that statement made, he lost no time in writing to Ireland, to inquire whether there was any truth in the report, and he received in answer a direct contradiction. A letter had also appeared in the newspapers, signed by Colonel Rochford, the Chairman of the Grand Jury, and another gentleman, who had formerly been a Member of that House, distinctly denying the truth of the statement. This was a specimen of the general inaccuracy of the statements made in that House respecting transactions in Ireland.
said, he was ready to substantiate every word which he had said, and a great deal more, by sworn testimony at the bar of the House. Colonel Rochford did not deny in his letter that the toast had been given, but only said, that it was not drunk while he was in the chair. He thought that the hon. Member who had accused him of inaccuracy, ought himself to have been more correct in stating the contents of Colonel Rochford's letter. He was ready to prove, at the bar of the House, that the four following toasts were drunk in the Grand Jury Room at Carlow, in the presence of three or four Magistrates who were members of the Jury, They took little pains, indeed, to conceal their opinions or the course they were pursuing, for the doors were thrown open, so that every body in the town might hear and see. The toasts were "Captain Graham, and the brave Yeomanry of Newtonbarry,"—"Our heels on the necks of the Papists"—"The Pope in the pillory in hell, and the devil pelting 1039 him with Priests" and "the glorious and immortal memory of King William." The hon. and learned. Member lamented the prejudices and bigotry of the Roman Catholic peasantry of Ireland as much as any man, yet he could not think they were so ignorant and superstitious as to believe, what an hon. Gentleman had sworn, in evidence presented to that House, viz. that the Roman Catholic Priests could turn them into hares and goats.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
said, that he had only sworn, that it was reported in Ireland that the peasantry held such a belief; but he had not sworn that he believed that report. In the letter to which he had alluded, it was stated, that no toast of the nature described by the hon. and learned Member was drunk by the Grand Jury of Carlow.
admitted, that the Grand Jury, as a body, did not drink the toast, because the foreman had previously left the chair; but he still asserted that it was drunk in the room.
expressed his regret, that the hon. member for Dundalk should have been betrayed into the use of observations which were likely to fan the flame of religious and party animosity in Ireland, and he also lamented that attempts were made to excite religious animosities in Scotland, where there were many thousand Roman Catholics. The Committee who drew up the petition against the grant to Maynooth College, were also recommended to present a petition praying for the Repeal of the Catholic Relief Bill, but they refused. When he heard the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, he must say, that however much he respected his zeal, he doubted his discretion.
said, he felt confident that the statement of the member for Kerry, with respect to the Carlow Grand Jury, was correct. He firmly believed these toasts were given and drunk by many of those who composed the Grand Jury, and some opportunity ought to be afforded for proving the statement. The Commandant of a Corps of Yeomen was present at the time and was actually a member of the Grand Jury impannelled to try five or six of his own corps, who were indicted for firing on an inoffensive people. Was such a state of things to be endured? The same Gentleman also acted as croupier upon this occasion, and 1040 he was the person who gave the toast of "Captain Graham and the brave Newtonbarry Yeomen."
regretted, that he was not in the House at the commencement of the present conversation, but he hoped the indulgence of the House would be extended to him, when they heard that he was daily engaged in the performance of the official duties of his situation from nine to four o'clock. Had he been aware that any hon. Member intended to ask any questions with respect to Ireland, he would certainly have been in his place. He said, that he had no objection to the production of the papers desired by the hon. and learned Member. With respect to the transaction stated to have taken place in the Grand Jury-room at Carlow, he had to inform the House, that inquiries had been made, whether the offensive toasts mentioned by the hon. and learned Member had been drunk at all, and if they had, whether they had been drunk by persons holding any situations under the Government. He had received a letter from the Foreman of the Grand Jury, in which that gentleman stated, that he remained in the chair until half-past nine o'clock, and up to that time no such toasts had been drank. The gentleman added, that he would not have allowed them to be proposed in his presence. He (Mr. Stanley) thought, that as the company continued together till late in the evening, it was not improbable that toasts of a violent character were proposed by persons who ought to have known better; but from the information which he had received, he believed that those toasts were not proposed by Grand Jurymen or Magistrates, but by some persons present in the character of guests. A very large portion of the party refused to drink the toasts, and expressed their abhorrence at the introduction of such toasts in a public assembly. It was true, however, that these toasts were drank by a part of the Grand Jury, but he believed that all the persons concerned in the matter were heartily ashamed of their conduct next morning. He did not think, that the case called for any further investigation on the part of Government, and still less for official inquiry at the Bar of the House.
said, that the governor of the county was a principal actor in those obnoxious proceedings.
was aware, that the right hon. 1041 Secretary for Ireland was much occupied in attending to the English Reform Bill, but he begged to remind the right hon. Secretary, that it was his duty to make the affairs of Ireland his principal consideration; and he considered, that it would be advantageous to the country if the right hon. Gentleman should always be present in the House when the affairs of Ireland were discussed. It was of the utmost importance to the peace of Ireland that official information should be given with respect to all transactions in that country. It appeared, from the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that there was some foundation for the charge, which had been denied, in a tone of imperious contradiction, by the hon. member for Dundalk.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
observed, that what he had denied was, that the toast was drunk by the grand jury.
said, that at all events it was drank in the Grand Jury room, if not by the Grand Jury themselves, at least by their compotators. This affair had justly been a source of regret to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who had expressed his conviction, that the parties would be ashamed of their conduct on reflection, and that their blushes would be mingled with those of the succeeding morning. But he wanted to know, whether the men who had so conducted themselves were Magistrates, and how long they were to be allowed to continue in such a situation? He entirely concurred with the observations made by the hon. member for Dundalk, that assertion and the fact very often widely differed, and he found a complete verification of the hon. Member's remark, when he went to the library and looked to the evidence which had been alluded to by the hon. and learned member for Kerry (Mr. O'Connell). The hon. and learned Member had charged the hon. member for Dundalk with being peculiarly addicted to credulity, and with believing, that a large portion of the peasantry of Ireland were firmly convinced, that a sort of sacerdotal metamorphosis could be performed, and that they could be all converted into goats and hares by the power and magic of Priests. The hon. Member had denied this charge; but he begged leave to refresh the hon. Member's memory by reading an extract from his own evidence. In answer to a question put to the hon. 1042 Member, whether he had heard that any portion of the people believed that their Priests could turn them into goats and hares, the hon. Member answered, that he had no personal acquaintance with such instances; but that he had no doubt whatever of their existence. Now he begged to be permitted to entreat the gallant Member, not to avail himself of the seat which he possessed in that House, as Representative for Dundalk, a town containing 15,000 Roman Catholics, for the purpose of persevering in that course of theological controversy which he had, no doubt honestly and zealously, pursued in Ireland. That House was not an arena for theological controversies and scholastic discussions.
assured the hon. Member, that he felt no want of interest for the affairs of Ireland. He said, that the toast "Captain Graham, and the brave Yeomanry of Newtownbarry" was not denied to have been drunk, but those more violent toasts were disclaimed; and the persons sent down to investigate the affair had doubts whether they were drunk or not. Certainly they were not drunk, if at all, till very late in the evening.
Sir Robert Peel
was sorry, for the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, that this debate had arisen. It was inconvenient, that statements made in the House, and tending to produce animosity abroad, should remain for many days without receiving any answer. One of the statements of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) was, that a village in the north of Ireland had been set on fire, the furniture of the inhabitants burned, and the aged women who were there, inhumanly used, no male remaining in the place, except one who had lost his intellects. Now this was a charge of a most serious nature. The second statement was, that, on a late trial in Kilkenny, the Crown Solicitor directed every liberal Protestant to be set aside, and every Roman Catholic on the panel to be objected to. The third statement related to certain toasts, one of which was, as stated, "Our feet on the necks of the Papists." Every person must see, that things of this kind, remaining without an answer for any length of time, were calculated to produce serious mischief. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) was perfectly justifiable in making those statements, but it would be more convenient, and, far 1043 better for the real interests of Ireland, if he gave some previous notice of his intention.
§ Lord Tullamore
said, as member for the town of Carlow, he, of course, felt some interest in this subject. He had many communications upon it from Ireland. "The Glorious Memory of King William," and "Captain Graham, and the Newtonbarry Yeomanry," were drunk, but not the other objectionable toasts. If they were drunk, it was at a late hour, when the majority of the Grand Jury had gone away.
§ Mr. James E. Gordon
said, that it had been attempted to fix a contradiction upon him by a reference to his published evidence. He could assert, without fear of contradiction, that he had never sworn that he believed that the Roman Catholic Priests could turn people into hares and goats. He had only sworn, that the people believed that the Priests possessed such power. Were there no Irish Members present who were acquainted with that local feeling, or were there any that would say that it did not exist? It had been observed, that he had come into that House by some fortuitous circumstances. He would tell the hon. Member who had made that observation, that it was one unbecoming a Member of the House. He stood in that House with as clean hands as the hon. and learned Gentleman, and would discharge his duty honestly and conscientiously, in spite of any taunts or innuendoes which might be indulged in by the hon. and learned Member, or any other person. Whilst he had the honour of a seat in the House, he would exercise his unquestionable right as a Christian and a gentleman. He claimed the respect which the House owed to each of its Members, without being taunted in a manner which was unparliamentary, and which he might designate in another manner, but that he disdained to do so.
said, that the hon. Member had totally mistaken what had fallen from him. He had not insinuated that the hon. Member had come into the House by improper means. He merely said, that he could not conjecture how the gallant Member became the Representative of a town containing 14,000 Catholics. He could not avoid expressing his astonishment, that the hon. Member, who talked so much about Christianity, should allow his Christian spirit to be so soon soured. 1044Tantæne animis cœlestibus iræ.
§ The Motion to which Mr. O'Connell referred in his speech, having been acceded to by Mr. Stanley, was agreed to.