HC Deb 23 June 1831 vol 4 cc268-74
Mr. Hunt

presented a petition from the Wine-porters of Dublin, praying for the Repeal of the Union. The hon. Member said, he was convinced that they must have one of two things—either the Repeal of the Union, or the Poor-laws in Ireland. It appeared by the Papers of to-day, that twenty or thirty of the populace in Ireland had been slain by the Yeomanry Cavalry in an affray about tithes. He supposed they would hear more of this transaction, and he would give no opinion about it at present; but he must say, that this state of things in Ireland could not be got rid of by Special Commissions, and prosecutions, and the gallows. Nothing but the Poor-laws would do any good to Ireland, and if the Parliament would not give Poor-laws, he would support the measure of the hon. member for Kerry (Mr. O'Connell) for a Repeal of the Union.

Mr. Maxwell

begged to say a few words respecting the transaction to which the hon. Member had referred, as he happened to be connected with that part of the country in which it had occurred. He took it for granted that the hon. Member alluded to the unfortunate transaction that had taken place at Newtownbarry. In that parish the Tithe Composition Act was in force, so that the evils complained of in other parishes did not exist in Newtownbarry. The clergyman of the parish, who was an extremely humane and excellent man, had not been able to get his tithes from the Roman Catholic farmers, though they had agreed to the composition. The clergyman went to one of them, named Doyle, who told the clergyman plainly, that he would pay him nothing, and that he might distrain if he pleased. Upon this the clergyman resolved, very much against his will, to send in a distress, and he carried his Resolution into effect. The sale of the cattle that was seized under the distress was fixed for Saturday. In the mean time it was rumoured that a rescue of the cattle was intended, and upon this information being received, the Yeomanry were called in, but strict orders were given them not to fire on the people. The cattle were rescued from the pound, and a mob of 1,000 or 2,000 assembled. Upon this the Magistrate came up with the Yeomanry and the Police. The Yeomanry were immediately fired upon by the people: one of their number was killed, and others were mortally wounded. Then it was, that the Yeomanry thought themselves justified in firing in self-defence; and the consequence was, he grieved to say, that many of the people were killed. Such was the information he bad received, and he had thought it right to state it to the House, after the allusion which the hon. member for Preston had made to the transaction. He would only add, that Captain Graham, the Magistrate, was a gentleman with whom he had been long acquainted, and whom he knew to be a gallant, an honourable, and a humane man.

Lord Milton

entreated hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to refrain from the expression of any opinion upon this unfortunate occurrence, until all the facts connected with it were before them. He entreated them not to rely upon any ex parte statements, come from whom they might. He admitted the authority of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Maxwell) opposite to be most respectable; but he did entreat that hon. Gentleman to consider and to weigh well and maturely in his own mind whether the facts of the case would bear out one of the expressions which he had used. The expression to which he alluded was, that "the people had fired upon the Yeomanry." He had received information —but he once more entreated the House to deal with his information and with the information of all other individuals alike, and not to decide upon ex parte statements from any quarter, no matter how respectable,—he had received information, he said, of a very different character. According to his information, the people might, indeed, be said, in one sense, to have fired upon the Yeomanry, but it was with stones, not with fire-arms; and he was sure that throwing stones at the Yeomanry was not what the House would understand by the expression "firing upon the Yeomanry." He mentioned this only to illustrate the prudence of that advice which he took the liberty of earnestly tendering to the House—namely, of keeping their minds in complete indecision upon the transaction until the facts connected with it should be laid officially before them. He had left the spot only the day before this occurrence took place, and he could answer for its tranquility at that time, as well as for the loyalty and good disposition of the inhabitants. Whatever might be the merits of the Rector, as had been stated by the hon. Gentleman opposite, he (Lord Milton) could state, upon as good authority as that hon. Gentleman could have access to, that that reverend gentleman, since he had come into the possession of this benefice, had not been upon harmonious terms with his parishioners. But again he would repeat, that he deprecated discussion until they had the proper documents before them.

Mr. Leader

expressed his entire concurrence in the feeling and generous sentiments which had fallen from the noble Lord who had just sat down, and he equally concurred with the noble Lord as to the propriety of not discussing this matter until they had the whole facts of the case before them. As to the operations of the Tithe Composition Act, he (Mr. Leader) had taken great pains to extend it, and had acted as churchwarden in several parishes where it had been carried into operation, and he would state from his experience of Ireland, that wherever that Act had been put in force it had been productive of the most beneficial effects; and he, therefore, had his forebodings— he more than suspected, seeing that Act was in force in this parish—that all had not been right or fair in this case. For example, he did think that calling out the Yeomanry to enforce payment of tithes, was a measure which ought never to have been resorted to: the civil power was sufficient to enforce the laws, and if it were not, then let the Government ask for greater power, but let not the Magistrates call out heated partizans to enforce the laws.

Mr. Lefroy

did not at all question the propriety of not then discussing the subject, and of suspending their judgment until they had the facts of the case before them, but when the hon. Member who had last spoken, expressed his suspicion that all had not been right, he (Mr. Lefroy) deemed it his duty to defend the clergyman whose character was assailed in this instance, against such a charge. One circumstance was to him to place this event on the same footing as that which took place at Merthyr Tydvil; namely, that it was quite clear, that one of the Yeomanry died of a gun-shot wound, and that others had been mortally wounded before they fired on the populace. From this it was also clear, the people had come prepared with fire-arms. If it were no so, then the Yeomanry must have shot themselves. On the whole, there was no ground for casting any imputation on the clergyman or Yeomanry. He would add, that the clergymen in that part of the country where this transaction had occurred, found it extremely difficult to collect their tithes; and to such a degree had that difficulty arisen, that he knew an eminently respectable clergyman there who had been obliged to send his books to Dublin to have them sold for the support of his family. He knew that for nine months that clergyman had not been able to collect his tithes. He applied to the Irish Government, and the answer was, that he should seek his remedy; and when a clergyman did so, he was assailed in that House as the promoter of disturbances.

Mr. Lambert

lamented, that they should have entered upon such a premature discussion of this description, before they had the proper documents relating to this melancholy transaction before the House. Having lived in Wexford many years, and knowing the loyalty of the people, it would be with extreme reluctance he could bring himself to believe, that the people had done any thing to warrant the massacre that had been committed. He had been employed to defend the parishioners against the collection of tithes for three years, and he was aware that there was a strong feeling against tithes, but during the whole of that period not a single outrage bad been committed. He thought, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen ought to be slow, indeed, in coming to a conclusion that this lamentable occurrence had been provoked. The learned Gentleman opposite had spoken of a clergyman being obliged to sell his books. Now he (Mr. Lambert) knew some clergymen in that county who received such small salaries, that they were not enabled to have any books at all. Looking at the late transactions which had occurred in some districts in Ireland, he must say, that there appeared to be a disposition on the part of certain persons there, to bring on a rebellion in that county. He repeated, that, looking at those transactions, he was led to believe that there were persons in Ireland who were anxious to provoke a rebellion there, in order, as they hoped, to bring back the old state of things. He would tell such persons, however, who foolishly hoped to achieve such an object, that the days of rebellion were gone by, and that the age of revolution was come. When he spoke of revolution, he did not mean to say that he approved of it—on the contrary, he condemned it; but he mentioned it as a matter of caution to the persons to whom he alluded, in order that the people might not be driven to a state where resistance would become a duty.

Mr. J. Grattan

considered it his duty to deny the fact of the impossibility of collecting tithes, or that any combination existed to deprive the clergymen of their rights. It had been asserted by the learned member for the University of Dublin that a clergyman in the neighbourhood where this transaction had occurred, had been obliged to send his books to Dublin to be sold for the support of his family. Now he (Mr. Grattan), as a gentleman who resided in that county, felt it his duty to contradict that statement. He was ready to testify that there could not be a better set of clergymen than the clergymen of the county of Wicklow generally; but he would deny that there was any combination to deprive them of their just rights. He felt bound to state, that in his late canvass, previous to his return for Wicklow, he had heard in that part of Wexford, bordering on Wicklow, where this matter had occurred, murmurs of complaints against the individual who was prominently connected with this transaction. It was exceedingly wrong to have called out the Yeomanry. The police, who, when applied to, appeared to have conducted themselves extremely well, should alone have been employed. The Yeomanry, it was well known in Ireland, were generally selected from party motives, and they were consequently a very obnoxious force.

Colonel Chichester

thought it was highly wrong to enter into such a discussion in the absence of the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland. He did not believe that the peasantry had fired on the Yeomanry.

Mr. Walker

said, the whole disturbance was to be traced to the great poverty of the peasantry.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that having learnt that twenty lives had been lost, he had made an application yesterday to Government relative to this melancholy transaction, and had been informed by the Secretary for Ireland, that the Irish Government had at once instituted an inquiry into the matter, and that they had sent down a very proper officer, Mr. Greene, the King's Counsel, to investigate the transaction on the spot. Having obtained that information, he had determined to abstain from noticing the matter until the result of that investigation should be laid before the House. It had been, however, prematurely introduced by the hon. member for Preston, who, no doubt, could only have been influenced by motives of humanity. How deplorable was it that twenty-one human lives had been sacrificed in a squabble about tithes. Whatever might be the result of this inquiry, he should have been glad to have observed (what he lamented he did not) on his side the House, something like regret that Irish blood had been wasted, and that the spirit of the living was not unafflicted at the massacre of the dead.

Mr. Maxwell

had only stated what he believed to have been the facts.

Mr. Hunt, in moving that the petition be printed, could not agree that the discussion had been premature. Whether it had or not, he trusted it would have a good effect. It was but a few days ago they had read in the public prints of the slaughter of eighteen human beings at Merthyr Tydvil. Now they had to peruse the melancholy details of another butchery of twenty-one of his Majesty's subjects. An opportunity had now been afforded to the public of hearing something from both sides, respecting this latter slaughter. Whether the Yeoman shot himself, as the Yeoman did at Chichester, he did not know, but the fact was, that one score of a Catholic population had been slaughtered without remorse by an Orange Yeomanry. He sincerely trusted that the result of an inquiry would be satisfactory, but still he could not but regret that such a system of havoc should be resorted to.

Sir J. Newport

deprecated prejudging such a question. He lamented, as much as any one could lament, the loss of human life that had taken place on this occasion, but he hoped the House would set its face against such premature discussions.

Petition to be printed.