HC Deb 25 August 1831 vol 6 cc592-7
Mr. Sadler

presented a Petition from the Ship-owners of Whitehaven, Workington, and Maryport, trading to Dublin, praying that the system of employing Coal-meters in that city might not be abolished.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the petitioners might, if they pleased patronize a body of Coal-meters; and pay them themselves, but it was most unfair to impose a tax on the poor people of Dublin to support them. Many abuses existed in the system, and had been enforced by the instrumentality of the Court of Conscience which he had recently adverted to. The corporation of Dublin regulated the fees but now the coal duties were abolished the Coal-meters were left to any legal remedy they possessed. Some measures should be taken to prevent the Alderman of Dublin deciding upon the fees imposed by the Corporation. The House ought not to interfere in the manner required by the petitioners.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, he had received a memorial from the Chamber of Commerce in Dublin, which bore out to the letter all that the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated. From that document it appeared, that 8,000l. a-year was expended upon that establishment, which, if the coal-trade were properly carried on, would be wholly unnecessary. The claims of the Meters were enforced in a Court over which those Magistrates who had appointed them presided. The matter had been brought before the Court of King's Bench, and that Court was prohibited from proceeding. But the prohibition was of no avail, for the parties insisted that it only applied to the particular case that was argued, and not generally.

Mr. Lefroy

said, that as the Coal-meters were claiming compensation, it was not fair to say anything that could have the effect of prejudging their case. It had been asserted, that they had no right, no authority, for taking that which they had been in the habit of demanding. But undoubtedly they had charters, some of them 200 years old; and on these they had acted so long as coals had been brought into Dublin. But perhaps their possession of "charters" would now be considered a circumstance of no moment. Up to the present time, however, charters had been considered of some value. The prohibition in the Court of King's Bench referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, in no respect determined the validity of the claim to Coal-meters dues generally. The demand had been split into portions, to bring it under the jurisdiction of the Court of Conscience, and the Court held that it was illegal. He believed the whole might be explained by the events of the late election. The Government desired to influence the Meters, and had held out hopes of compensation to them.

Mr. Crampton

said, that he was much surprised at the remark of his hon. and learned friend, that the Coal-meters of Dublin had a charter, but he supposed he had made it in order to renew an attack which had before been made upon the Irish Government, and which he should take the present opportunity of replying to. On Saturday last a noble Lord (Stormont) had stated, that he had received a letter from Dublin, in which it was alleged, that the Irish Government was using its influence in favour of the Reform candidates at the present election; that the Under Secretary for Ireland was seen openly canvassing for votes; and that Sir William Gossett had gone the extreme length of writing to one of the Magistrates to come to town immediately to propose one of the Reform candidates. He (Mr. Crampton) now took it upon himself—from his intimate knowledge of the principles by which the Government was actuated, and from his personal knowledge of Sir William Gossett—to contradict that statement in the most decided and unqualified manner. Not only could he contradict it from the highest and most unimpeachable authority, but he was, happy to say, that he had it in his power to demonstrate to the House the utter falsehood of the charge. He had written to Sir William Gossett, on hearing the statement made within those walls, and what was the answer? With respect to canvassing, he had, in no single instance, canvassed; and he challenged any individual, be he whom he might, to come forward and name whom it was that he had canvassed. He was a freeman of Dublin, and, as a freeman, he voted for the Reform candidates, but as a government officer, he felt that his conduct was liable to misconstruction, and therefore he had studiously avoided anything that could look like interference. It was asserted, that Sir William Gossett had written a letter to Mr. Alderman Darley, directing him to come to town, in order that he might propose one of the Reform candidates. What was the answer to that? Why, on the 15th of August, (the election being appointed for the 18th) it was thought necesssary by the Irish Government to have the police in attendance, for the purpose of preserving the peace, there being at the time much excitement in Dublin, and still greater excitement being expected. A letter was in consequence written to secure the proper attendance of the police. He had in his possession the letter addressed by the Government to Alderman Darley, the head of the police of Dublin, which had nothing to do with the election, but was intended solely to preserve the peace of the city prior to, pending, and after the election. A similar letter was written to other Aldermen, not calling on them to support any party, but leaving to them the constitutional right of giving their vote for whomsoever they pleased. [The hon. and learned Gentleman read the letter]. He suspected, that he knew the person from whom the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy), who had reiterated the charge, had received his information. He believed that he knew the individual. It was not the first time that he had come forward with information, and it was not the first time that information was found to be false. On receiving that letter, Alderman Darley came to town, in order to have the police force in readiness; and, on his arrival on the 16th, he had a visit, which, as it appeared to him, was rather an inquisitorial one. That visit, he believed, had afforded the hon. and learned Gentleman the information which he had so liberally dealt out on Saturday last. Alderman Davley was on that occasion visited by Alderman Perrin, by Mr. Long, whose name was well known as connected with the last election, who spoke of being dismissed from the employment of Lord Anglesey, but who was not so dismissed, and there came, he was sorry to say, in his company, Lord Ingestrie. Of that noble Lord he would say nothing, but what was respectful; but he was sorry, he repeated, to find his Lordship in such company. One of the company said, "Have you not, Alderman Darley, received a letter, ordering you to town in consequence of the election?" Alderman Darley says, "I answered, 'I have received a letter, desiring my attendance in town, as a Magistrate of Dublin, during the election;' and I handed the letter to Lord Ingestrie, who perused it before the other parties." He (Mr. Crampton) did not know how to describe that visit. Lord Ingestrie might have been duped; but how that noble Lord could construe the letter to Alderman Darley into a letter directing him to hasten to town, to propose one of the Reform candidates, was utterly beyond his comprehension. This, evidently, when the matter was properly considered, would appear to be a visit for the collection of information on which might be laid the foundation of a future election petition, if such a proceeding were deemed necessary. But, be that as it might, of this he was sure, that the House could not have the least doubt that the charge against Sir William Gossett was a mere invention—a weak invenvention—a wicked invention, which deserved the reprobation of every one who had the spirit, the honour, and the feeling of a gentleman. After the letter to Alderman Darley, a general letter was addressed to all the police Magistrates, calling on them to abstain from appearing in the election in any way, and leaving them to give their votes precisely as they pleased. After this statement, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would rise and say, that he felt he had been imposed upon, and that what he had stated was not warranted by the facts, but was directly opposed to them. The charge against the Irish government, for taking part in this election, was monstrous—was false. The illustrious nobleman who now governed Ireland would not descend from his high situation to lend himself to such a proceeding. He had made great sacrifices to the cause of Reform, and he was willing to make still greater, if it were necessary. He had declared, that on the success of the measure which was now before Parliament depended, in his opinion, the salvation of the country. This he had stated in public and in private. But that illustrious nobleman, strong as his feelings on this subject were, could never, as he had before observed, think for a moment of descending from his high elevation, to compel individuals to act contrary to their own impressions and inclinations.

Mr. Robert Gordon

complained that the merits of the Dublin election were again gone into. The allusions made to that case were equivalent to a re-hearing of the case. He thought, that the Solicitor General or Ireland would have better consulted the interests of the country by abstaining from any further allusion to that subject; such allusions could have no other tendency than to impede the progress of the Reform Bill. He thought it unfair to-wards him, who brought the subject on a former occasion under the consideration of the House. He had been a Member of that House since the year 1820, and for the last ten years, no single instance had occurred in which the evidence taken before an Election Committee had been so strong, where the Chairman of such Committee did not consider it his duty to bring the circumstances of the case under the consideration of that House, It was in that capacity (as Chairman of the Dublin City election) that he had brought the matter forward, and having done so, considered the matter set at rest.

Mr. Crampton

said, that no one could be more anxious than he was to accelerate the progress of the Reform Bill. His object, in adverting to the subject was, to defend Sir William Gossett from the unfounded charges which had been brought against him.

The petition was ordered to lie on the Table.

Mr. Sadler,

in moving, that it be printed, took occasion to observe, that he thought it but fair that the Coal-meters should receive compensation for any loss they might sustain by any new legislative enactment which might be made with regard to the metage of coals. The arrangements that were to be made would, no doubt, be for the benefit of the public, and it would, in his opinion, be unfair, that where the many were to gain, the few should lose. The compensation which, in this case, would be necessary, would not be sensibly felt by the many who would derive advantage from the alterations which were proposed.

Mr. Lefroy

was glad that Sir William Gossett had so distinctly denied the charge of having interfered in the Dublin election. He had not, however, charged him with having canvassed any particular elector: he merely said, that Sir William Gossett had accompanied Mr. Latouche in his canvass.

Mr. Anthony Lefroy

rose to defend the character of Mr. Long, a highly respectable coachmaker, in Dublin. He thought him incapable of doing any thing improper.

Sir Henry Hardinge

could not but express his surprise, that the Solicitor General for Ireland, in vindicating Sir William Gossett, should throw an imputation on Mr. Long, a respectable tradesman: it was rather an extraordinary mode of defending one person, by impugning the conduct of another.

Mr. Hunt

said, that Mr. Long had been examined before the Committee, and had left it without a shade upon his character.

Petition to be printed.

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