HC Deb 01 July 1831 vol 4 cc582-7

Mr. O'Connell, in presenting a Petition from the town of Drogheda, in favour of a Repeal of the Union, begged to ask the noble Lord (Althorp) if he was aware that five days after the Newtownbarry affray, another corps of Yeomanry had been furnished with arms. He had received a letter from a man of rank and talent in Ireland, which stated the fact in these terms—"My blood boils with indignation at learning that they are arming another corps of Yeomanry to massacre the people." He begged to assure the noble Lord, that the greatest agitation prevailed in Ireland upon the subject. He understood, that a procession was intended to be got up for the 12th of July, and if that did take place, he could assure the noble Lord there would be some more blood spilt. He begged now to refer to the petition which he had to present, and which prayed for the re-establishment of the local legislature in Ireland. The petitioners had intrusted him with a discretion whether or not he would present it, and, after the discussion of last night, he felt it his duty to present it. He appealed to the many independent men who had been sent into the House by the late election, whether Ireland could be so treated by the Reform Bill? The counties of England had received additions to the elective franchise, they had got several very numerous classes, such as freeholders, copyholders, and leaseholders; the people of Scotland had had their franchise greatly extended, but the franchise of Ireland would be diminished by the effect of the Reform Bill as now proposed to be brought in, which would have the effect of turning the counties into boroughs. The county he had the honour to represent contained a population of 216,000 persons; the number of voters for the county would be 700, of which forty-one were beneficed clergymen of the Established Church, and 136 of them resided in the town of Tralee; and as Tralee was an open borough, the effect would be, to turn the county almost into a borough. The scurvy franchise proposed by this bill would not give an addition of voters to the constituency. England and Scotland were to receive a great increase, while Ireland was to be diminished. Why should not property be equally represented in Ireland as in England? Was it to be supposed that the people of Ireland were so stupid as not to feel this? He entertained no jealousy for the English Bill. He would vote for it willingly, but in doing so, he had a right to appeal to his fellow-reformers in England, and to ask them whether Ireland ought not to be entitled to the same privileges as England? Government was not to suppose, that Ireland would not feel in suited if they did not give in some degree privileges to Ireland, such as England enjoyed. The hon. Member wished not to be misunderstood. He had supported the Reform measure as far as it regarded England, and he would support it still, even if it were a measure affecting England alone. England had the 40s. freeholders preserved to her. Ireland had the 40s. freeholders taken away, and taken away too without any crime, notwithstanding the very basis of the Union was founded on the 40s. freeholders. He, however, knew, that the only crime of the freeholders was their independence. They had shaken off the control of their landlords, and returned independent Members. He denied, too, that these freeholders were under the influence of the priests, which he knew, had been attempted to be proved before Committees of that House, but the attempt had failed. He gave notice, therefore, that, in the Committee on the Irish Reform Bill, he should move various amendments, the object of which would be, to place the system of Irish and English Representation on a more equal footing. He should move to restore the 40s. freeholders to the right of voting: and if that failed, he should propose, that those should have votes who possess perpetual interest in land (the fee simple) to the value of 40s., as was the case in England; also, to extend the right of voting to those who hold seven years' leases at a rent of 10l. and upwards.

Mr. Sheil

said, in reference to the Yeomanry, that he had the greatest confidence in Government, especially Lord Anglesey, who had made an entire dedication of his heart to Ireland. He, therefore, believed, that Government conceived it to be necessary to resort to that obnoxious force. The disease must, however, have been terrible, which could induce Ministers to apply so formidable a remedy. The Yeomanry were drawn exclusively from the fourth or fifth gradation of Protestantism —from men who believed themselves born to ascendancy, and looked on the right to trample on the people as a portion of their inheritance. Their passions became ferocious from becoming gregarious; when they had arms in their hands, they retaliated for every the least offence with a disproportioned savageness, and assailed the multitude, between whom and themselves there existed such disparity of force, and such reciprocity of detestation. Thus every riot turned into a massacre. The least disturbance offered an arena for the passions, which only required to be uncaged, in order, with a sanguinary precipitancy, instantaneously to rush out. How applicable these observations were to the Newtownbarry transaction! The Government might not be able to get rid at once of their Praetorian guards; but let them beware of their very insecure allegiance. They should, however, act with promptitude with respect to the late terrible transaction. They had before them a report from Mr. Green; why not act upon it? If that report, from their own accredited delegate, implicated the Magistrates or the Yeomanry, the former ought to be struck out of the commission, and the latter deprived of their arms. This might be done at once, without involving any question as to the guilt of individuals. If they waited until the Assizes, justice would be found too tardy for the feelings of the people. Something must be clone without delay, otherwise the mass of the community would be inflamed and exasperated beyond the possibility of afterwards allaying their emotions. Wicklow and Wexford were associated with terrible recollections in the annals of Ireland. He, therefore, implored the Government to interpose at once—not to omit an occasion, which might never return, of appeasing the popular indignation. He was aware that his language was strong; but the facts to which it was applied were still stronger, and presented the most awful anticipations.

Mr. J. Grattan

hoped, that his Majesty's Government would lose no time in reconsidering the scheme which they had adopted, of calling out the yeomanry of Ireland. He could state, that the county which he represented (Wicklow), and the neighbouring county of Wexford, did not require such a force. The consequence of calling that force out was, that a feeling had been excited in Ireland which it would require a long time to allay. The hon. member for Kerry had stated, that it was the intention of the yeomanry in those counties to parade on the ensuing 12th of July. He (Mr. Grattan) sincerely hoped that his Majesty's Government would take steps to prevent such pernicious processions. With regard to the Reform Bill, he begged to say, that he trusted that when it was finally passed, it would have the effect of extinguishing the Repeal of the Union Question in Ireland.

Mr. Lefroy

did not wish to add to the excitement which prevailed in Ireland: but he felt he ought to be excused if he attempted to do justice to a large body of persons who were unfairly accused. It was most unfair to assume that those persons who were concerned in the affray of Newtownbarry had been guilty of a massacre. When a legal investigation was pending, Gentlemen considered their lips sealed, if the affrays occurred in England Wales; and in proof of the accuracy of this observation he need only advert to the late occurrence at Merthyr-Tydvil, and to what was called "the Manchester massacre." In the latter case, though it was represented that there was a failure of justice in the Courts below, the House refused to interfere; and surely one law should not exist for occurrences in England, and another for what occurred in Ireland. It was a sweeping libel on the Juries, the Magistracy, the laws, and the Government of Ireland, to say, that the Legislature should, interfere, as if the Government and the local authorities were not anxious to have justice done to all his Majesty's subjects. He merely trespassed on the House with these observations lest it should be supposed, that all the Irish Members, from their silence, acquiesced in the charge made against the Yeomanry forces in Ireland. Some time since, it was said a Yeomanry corps should be disbanded, because it had allowed itself to be disarmed; and now it was contended that a yeomanry corps ought to be disbanded for doing its duty. The course now pursued was neither candid, just, nor fair. As to the question of Reform, he begged also to protest against its being supposed that the hon. and learned member for Kerry (Mr. O'Connell), or the hon, mem- ber for Louth (Mr. Sheil), spoke the sentiments of the people of Ireland. A great proportion of the wealth and intelligence of Ireland was altogether opposed to the measure of Reform; but he considered it right to reserve himself for this subject until it came regularly before the House.

Lord Althorp

suggested the propriety of abstaining from all remarks, and begged that hon. Members would not proceed further in a discussion upon this subject before they knew what was the result of the Coroner's Inquest. The adoption of such a course of proceeding could not lead to any good consequences, whilst it might be productive of the worst effects. He had not interfered until the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and who took a different view of the question from those who had preceded him, had had an opportunity of delivering his sentiments. After what had fallen from that hon. Gentleman, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was still more confirmed in the opinion, that if such a discussion should be allowed to go on, it might lead to very bad consequences indeed.

Mr. Hunt

rose amidst loud cries of "Question," and proceeded, amidst considerable interruption, to allude to the Manchester massacre, and the recent affray at Merthyr-Tydvil. The hon. Member, after proceeding for a few minutes amidst cries of "Question" and much coughing, sat down.

Colonel Chichester

denied, that the wealth and intelligence of Ireland were opposed to the Reform Bill. He had the honour of representing a county from which four Members were sent to that House: he alone of those four Members voted for the Reform measure in the late Parliament, and he was the only one of them that had been re-elected as a Member of the present Parliament. The county to which he alluded was the county of Wexford, and as far, therefore, as that county was concerned, he was able to state, that the intelligence of Ireland was not adverse to the Reform measure.

Mr. Lefroy

had not stated, that all the wealth and intelligence of Ireland were against the Reform Bill. He had said, that a great portion of the wealth and intelligence were, and to that opinion he adhered.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the Irish county Members were as two to one in favour of Reform, and the Members for open towns. and cities were almost unanimous in favour of it. The Irish had just common sense enough to see that nomination boroughs were an indifferent substitute for a Representation of the people.

Mr. Portman

complained of the loss of time occupied in discussions like that which had just now arisen. The hon. member for Kerry (Mr. O'Connell) had much better discuss those matters on specific motions, than waste the time of the House by incidental discussions.

Mr. O'Connell

totally disclaimed the right of the hon. member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Portman) to lecture him. The subject on which he spoke was well deserving the consideration of the House. It was not one of idle curiosity, but related to the shedding of blood and the protection of life.