§ Mr. Lambert
Sir, in rising to move for information relative to the late deplorable event in Newtownbarry, I may be permitted to express a hope, that this hon. House will be pleased to grant me that indulgence which, as I am informed, it usually extends to inexperienced Members. The task which I have felt it my duty to undertake, is one of more than ordinary difficulty; for I have to contend, not only with the embarrassment inseparable from the novelty of my situation, but I have also to struggle with feelings of a very painful and powerful nature, which I may not be able altogether to subdue, but which my profound respect for this House will not permit me to indulge without restraint, for the blood of my countrymen has been profusely and wantonly shed. In the county which I have the honour to represent—a county distinguished for its industry, its loyalty and its obedience to the laws—in the county of Wexford, many valuable lives have been lately sacrificed. The shouting of a few boys, the alleged apprehension of the rescue of some cattle distrained for tithe, perhaps a few stones thrown, were the pretence for commencing a murderous fire on the people, which was continued in every direction; and it appears, that the Yeomanry officers themselves found considerable difficulty in putting a stop, after several discharges of musketry, to this atrocious and indiscriminate massacre. Sir, it has been distinctly proved, that no rescue of the cattle took place, or was even attempted. We have the evidence of persons deeply implicated in this lamentable affair, that the conduct of the people was orderly and good-humoured; that no weapons were seen with them; and that the man whose cattle had been distrained, readily consented to leave the disputed point to the arbitration of disinterested persons. I seek not to embarrass his Majesty's Government. I have no wish to prejudge the case, as it regards individuals. I do not demand revenge—I supplicate for 554 justice. All I require on the part of my deeply-injured constituents is, the rigidly impartial execution of the laws; and as I know, too well, how difficult it sometimes is, to obtain that impartiality in Ireland, I appeal to the generosity, the high honour, the humanity, of Englishmen. Are they willing to sanction such horrible proceedings as these? Shall massacre, and proscription, and outrage of every kind, continue for ever to ruin and disgrace a country that England rules, and has ruled at her pleasure for seven centuries? But, Sir, this subject leads to still higher and more awful considerations than those of mere worldly wisdom or policy. What idea must foreigners form of the religion, the laws, and the government of a country, where such violations of all ordinances, divine and human, arise from the mode of subsistence appointed for the ministers of the Gospel! It has been said, indeed, that the excitement produced is Ireland by the agitation of the Repeal of the Union, left no alternative to his Majesty's Government but to embody the Yeomanry, or to re-enact an odious and oppressive statute. I cannot pretend to say, that this may not have been the case in other parts of Ireland, but I utterly deny, that any necessity whatever existed for an increase of armed force, and least of all such a force as the Yeomanry, in the county of Wexford. In that county habits of peace and industry have long prevailed. The civil power was abundantly sufficient to maintain the respect due to the laws; but even if additional force had been required, the Yeomanry are the very last men to whom arms should have been confided, from their condition, their party feelings, their total want of discipline. Look at the result. The county of Wexford was in a state of the most profound tranquillity; the Yeomen received their arms, and in one week the county was in a state of uproar and alarm from one end of it to the other. Oh, Sir, I will venture to assure his Majesty's Government, that they can silence the clamour for the Repeal of the Union by better and more effective means, than by letting loose the Yeomen on a defenceless people, or calling for unconstitutional enactments. Let Ministers do justice to Ireland, and treat her misgoverned and calumniated people with humanity and kindness. I have not hitherto been an advocate for the Repeal of the Union, and most devoutly do I 555 hope, that circumstances may not compel me to change my opinions on that point; but I do know something of Ireland, and I warn his Majesty's Government, that unless a better system be pursued towards Ireland, and that without delay, the question of the Repeal of the Union will assume a new and more formidable shape, which will quickly bid defiance to Yeomanry bayonets and coercive statutes. Sir, the late events on the continent of Europe afford an awful and instructive lesson. A mighty spirit of innovation is abroad. Revolution knocks at our very door. Let us prepare to meet the danger, by at once removing all just ground of complaint from the people. By such a line of conduct, promptly and decidedly pursued, can we alone avert the threatened evils, and secure the venerable fabric of the Constitution. I feel grateful to Ministers for the Reform they have proposed, and I earnestly hope, that they will proceed in their patriotic career, by taking into their immediate, and most serious consideration, the long and unmerited sufferings of the loyal, brave, and generous people of Ireland. I now beg leave to move for "Copies of such information as his Majesty's Government may have received relative to the late affray at Newtownbarry, in the county of Wexford."
Mr. Speaker; In rising to second the motion of my hon. friend, one of the Members for that county where this melancholy business has occurred; I also must bespeak the indulgence of this House for myself, in case, being a new Member, I should inadvertently transgress its forms. I shall not long trespass on its time. Indeed, the subject is so exciting, that I dare not trust myself too far; but it is my anxious wish to avoid giving offence to any individual here, and I shall endeavour to speak without asperity, and with as much temper as can be expected from me as an Irishman, when referring to a deep and lasting injury inflicted on my country, and to the cold-blooded, and I assert, unnecessary massacre of so many of my friends and countrymen, whose lives and liberties I value as dearly as my own. I trust, that no one will attribute the bringing forward this motion to any desire on my part to oppose or embarrass his Majesty's present Ministry—that Ministry which our much-injured people have sent me here to support; but my hon. friend who represents the whole population of that county, and who 556 was chosen by a large and respectable majority, could not tamely, or in silence, hear of the ruin which has been wrought in our heretofore happy county, in which we are both so intimately connected by ties of friendship, property, and relationship over whose interests and prosperity, as resident Magistrates and Grand Jurors, we have, for so many years, watched anxiously, and, I may say, successfully. The county of Wexford has, for nearly thirty years, been the most peaceable and improving county in Ireland. Within that period scarcely a dozen capital punishments have occurred, and not one within the last five years. It has been the constant theme of admiration by the Judges of the land, in their charges to the Grand Juries, and in their reports to Government, and I attribute all this good conduct of its people, as much to their inherent dispositions, as to the exertions of their liberal Magistrates; much, however, of this peaceable disposition is to be particularly attributed, I assert it from personal knowledge, to the Catholic Clergy of that county. Such was that happy people when I left them, but two short weeks since, and they are now the most distracted, and if Government act unwisely, they will be immediately the most disaffected, people in Ireland. They cry aloud for justice—I, myself, have great confidence in the present Government, that it will afford justice to an injured people. But does that Government know who it is have fallen? It is those who have been at the late election their staunch supporters; those who sent from their county, and their two borough towns, four Members to this House to support that Government—and who are ready to sacrifice many of their private opinions to do so, in expectation that the present Ministry mean well to Ireland. Do the Ministry know who they are who have thus wantonly shed the blood of their friends, and broken up the peace of our county? Do they know, that it is the Yeomanry—that faction, who opposed the friends of the Ministry at the election, and who have always been, and are, the determined and sworn foes of his Majesty's present Government, and of the wise and conciliatory measures they have proposed. I repeat, I have great confidence in the present Government, and it arises from what has fallen from them in the early part of this evening, and also from the tenor of his Majesty's Speech, 557 for it is the first document of that nature which says, that the constitutional laws are sufficient to repress outrage in Ireland, and it is the first, that promises to govern that country by measures of kindness instead of coercion. I will not go into the particulars of the evidence I have received respecting this horrid massacre—I have received it authenticated by the notes taken by brother Magistrates who attended the Government investigation. I have received letters on the state of the county from most respectable gentlemen, who are not party men, and who know the feelings of the people well. They say, that all the people want is justice, but if that be withheld, no power on this earth will be able to control them. They will seek, and I fear, will have vengeance: I know the Government will do justice, and I beseech them also to conciliate a heretofore attached and faithful people. I shall just state generally, that it is authenticated that the interference of the Yeomanry was unnecessary, that there was no rescue, that there was no refusal to pay tithes, that the people had no arms, that they were flying when they were fired on, that their general demeanour was peaceable, and that it was a disputed point whether the distress was legally made—all this is uncontroverted: but for argument sake I shall take it in the worst view against the people, I will suppose them as having committed the worst case of rescue, which is the utmost offence sought to be brought against them by their accusers, and I ask this House, does that justify the use of arms to prevent it? Does that justify the pouring vollies of musketry on unarmed and defenceless people, men, women, and children? Does that offence sanction a band of ruffians to inflict instant death, in a case of mere assumption of guilt, without trial, without preparation to meet the last penalty of the law? when, if that offence came regularly before a Court of law, in its most aggravated form, after a conviction before a Jury, the utmost punishment one of his Majesty's Judges could inflict would be, imprisonment or hard labour for a limited period. And yet, in this case, for the mere suspicion of a minor offence, fifteen individuals have been suddenly put to death, and nearly thirty more are wounded, who are yet in daily expectation of following their ill-fated companions. The people of our county have been severely oppressed, and their property has been 558 extorted from them in tithes and cesses, in a manner that reflects discredit on those who impose such exactions. They have murmured, no doubt, often and deeply— who would not?—but they have never illegally resisted those payments. I shall conclude by again expressing my confidence, that the present Government will do justice to their real friends, and by stating an important fact, that in those parts of our county where there are no Yeomanry, or where that force has fallen into disuse, we have no party nor religious feuds—Protestant and Catholic live like brothers; but wherever the Yeomanry exist, party processions and dissensions prevail. I know it has been thought economy to employ them, but it is expense; for where there are Yeomanry there must also be a body of the regular army to keep them in order.
complimented the hon. Mover and the hon. Seconder on the very creditable temper with which they had introduced the subject, and assured them that neither they nor any hon. Member connected with Ireland, could be more anxious than he and his Majesty's Government were, to give the means of throwing every possible light on the unhappy occurrence to which the Motion referred. They had no wish whatever to screen the guilty: their only desire was, to remove any imputation from those who might be innocent. They felt it to be of great importance, that the people of Ireland should know, that no partiality, no religious or political considerations, would be allowed to interfere with the administration of justice. They felt it to be a lamentable fact, that hitherto there had been too strong an impression on the minds of the people of Ireland, that the law was not intended for their protection; and that they regarded it rather as a heavy yoke imposed upon them, than as a friendly and beneficial protection. He could assure the hon. Mover and the hon. Seconder, that it was the earnest endeavour of his Majesty's Government so to conduct themselves as to prove to the Irish people their disposition to do justice to them; and to satisfy their own consciences, and the God to whom they were responsible for their actions. He could assure them, that if he thought that the ends of justice would be better obtained, or that the truth would be more effectually elucidated, by the production of the documents in question, not only 559 would he consent to the Motion, but he should have felt it his duty to anticipate the hon. member for Wexford, by making the Motion himself. Under the existing circumstances, however, and while the investigation of the case was still pending; while witnesses were in the course of examination, and while the most contradictory statements had been made, the respective merits of which only a Court of Justice could ascertain, he felt, that it would not be consistent with his duty to the unfortunate persons who might be criminated, on whose hands there was blood, and who would most likely have to answer for their conduct before a legal tribunal, to enter into any premature discussion of the facts, or to lay before the House the evidence which his Majesty's Government had obtained as the guide of their own conduct. The case would shortly come before the Judges at the Assizes. The feeling which existed, the origin of the transaction, the degree of blame attachable to this party or to that, the moderation or otherwise of the magistrates, the police, and the populace, would there be fully investigated. He really could not think it advantageous to prejudge the decision of a Court of Justice, by a debate in which angry political and party feelings must necessarily be mixed up; and which must, therefore, impede what he and every hon. Member must be most anxious to promote. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. member for Wexford would not compel him to oppose his Motion; but that he would voluntarily withdraw it. He hoped, that what he was going to say would prove, that there was no desire on the part of his Majesty's Government for concealment of the facts. In the course of the legal proceedings it might appear, that although there was no absolute criminality, yet that some of the individuals acting under the control of Government, whether Magistrates, Yeomanry, or Police, had been guilty of great indiscretion. Should such turn out to be the case, and should his Majesty's Government take any step in consequence, he should then feel it to be his duty to lay the whole evidence of the affair on the Table of the House; for it could then be so submitted without prejudice to the parties implicated. After this explanation, he trusted, that the hon. member for Wexford would withdraw his Motion; and he hoped other hon. Mem- 560 bers would exercise what he considered would be a sound discretion, in abstaining from discussing a subject which was so soon to come into a Court of Justice.
wished to state one fact. Fifteen human beings—men, women, and children—had been killed, and twenty-five wounded. But no single being was in custody. Those persons, whoever they were, who had been guilty of this multitudinous homicide, were all at large; in perfect security; able to abscond in a moment if they chose. If that were so, where was the delicacy of talking of an interference with a Court of Justice, when no one of the parties implicated in this affair was under confinement? The county of Wexford was at present in a most frightful state of agitation. In 1798, that county was unimplicated in the treasonable union of the United Irish. Yet that county, then one of the most tranquil in Ireland, the majority of the inhabitants of which were descendants of the Normans, subsequently burst out into a simultaneous and open rebellion, occasioned by a regiment being sent there, which interfered with party feelings and party quarrels. The people subsequently fought five battles with the King's troops, in three of which they were victorious. It was the most formidable county in Ireland in which such a circumstance as that which had lately happened could have occurred. He believed, that the hon. Mover, and Seconder, and himself, were the only persons in the House who knew the state of the county of Wexford—who knew, that the people were waiting, not for law, but for vengeance; and who knew, that if blood once began to flow, it was impossible to say when it would be staunched.
found it necessary to say, after the observations of the hon. and learned Member, that he certainly could give no orders for arresting the parties, nor did he think it would be right in the Magistrates to do so while the investigation was pending. He must repeat, too, that while the judicial inquiry was going on, discretion dictated, that no legislative interference should take place. He thought that some expression had been made use of, which would lead the House to believe that the Yeomanry had been called out in Ireland upon permanent duty. That was a mistake, and he took the earliest opportunity of setting hon. Gentlemen 561 right upon that subject. Some hon. Gentlemen had censured the Government for calling out the Yeomanry at all. Now, the fact was, that the Yeomanry were called out, not by the Government, but by the Magistrates, according to what the Magistrates, no doubt, deemed the best exercise of a sound discretion; for it appeared to them, that the police force was not sufficient for the enforcement of the law. Whether it had been required or not, would, of course, form part of the question to be considered in the approaching investigation.
repeated, that the persons engaged in the late affrays ought to be placed in confinement, even before the verdict of the Coroner's Jury had been found. Surely, by allowing them to be at large, it was giving them permission to abscond if a verdict of guilty were found; and he was convinced that the ends of justice would be defeated unless Government ordered their immediate arrest.
said, that when allusions had been made to the unhappy transactions in the county of Wexford, he had observed an hon. Member near him indulging in a smile unbecoming a man [calls of order].
§ The Speaker
observed, that when an hon. Member rose to speak under the excitement of great warmth of feeling, it was likely he might make use of some hasty expressions; but he ought not to impute motives to others; and above all, he should be careful not to impute motives which it was impossible to suppose could exist. He was sure the hon. Member would regret the expression he had so hastily employed.
hoped the House would make due allowance for his warmth of feeling. He had been in the neighbourhood at the time of the unhappy affair, and had witnessed nearly the whole of the proceedings. The conduct of the Magistrates had been most improper. They had not exercised a sufficient degree of vigilance in apprehending those against whom a distinct charge could be proved. They had arrested some men against whom there was no proof whatever, and they had allowed others to escape without being arrested, against whom plenty of evidence could be produced; and some of whom were actually present while investigations were going on as to their conduct. The people, seeing this, were 562 much dissatisfied, and their common cry was, "We cannot expect justice from our Magistrates; we must obtain it ourselves; we must avenge the fall of our countrymen." He had endeavoured to appease their feelings, and had assisted in the investigation. He had had conversations with many of the Magistrates. One of them told him, that the affair was one of a most serious nature. He had urged, that warrants should be issued; he was promised that they should be; but no warrants had been issued. The people were willing that the matter should go before the Government, for then they were satisfied they should get justice; but all the offenders were allowed to escape without being apprehended. The Magistrates, too, had ordered the informations to be given to the felons as well as to the people who were to prosecute them. The real offenders were not arrested. He complained of that at the time; he had offered to arrest them himself, if he was allowed the legal authority to do so, but he was refused. The whole business was owing to the misconduct of the Yeomanry, and he must say, a more ragamuffin set of fellows he never saw. The Magistrate who had promised him to see, that the offenders were arrested, afterwards thought fit to pass him without notice. As for the Yeomanry, he would as soon have a set of butchers' boys to preserve the peace as these Yeomen. He should not trespass further, as he should have another opportunity, at another time, to speak upon this subject, when he hoped he should be able to state it more properly than he had done now. The Yeomanry were not disciplined as they ought to be; they were not men to whom arms ought to be confided.
§ Sir John M. Doyle
said, he trusted the House would afford him the indulgence usually granted to young Members, while he said a few words on this subject. There were one or two things he wished to notice. The Yeomanry had been mentioned—he wanted to make a distinction. The Yeomanry of England were one thing, the Yeomanry of Ireland were another. He had great respect for the one—he was sorry to say he had no respect for the other. He knew the Yeomanry of his country too well to respect them much; and of this he was convinced, that unless that force was laid aside, his unhappy country would never have peace. He should be 563 brief in his observations. All that Irishmen required was, that Englishmen should know what they wanted. They were perfectly satisfied that when the English did know the facts of the case, they should have justice done. He would leave the case to an English Jury. Having said this, he should recommend his hon. friend to follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman. The case was now stated, the case was known, and he should feel obliged if his hon. friend would consent to withdraw the Motion. One word more. It was not known that the Yeomanry of Ireland were now a body scattered about the country. Instead of depositing their arms in a place of safety, each man took his arms to his own cabin. That was wrong. The arms should be deposited in a safe place, under the orders of the Captain.
said, he could not but congratulate the House and the country, that this Motion had been brought forward, especially as it had brought forth the satisfactory explanation given by the right hon Gentleman, from which it appeared, that the Government had taken the matter in hand, and would see, that it was completely investigated. He could bear testimony to the great excitement which this matter had created in Wexford; a county which, up to the time of this unhappy transaction, had been one of the most peaceable in Ireland.
§ Mr. Hunt
did not feel satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, although the hon. Member who spoke last seemed to think that nothing more was desired. He had listened to the right hon. Gentleman with astonishment, and could not conceive why he should refuse the information now asked. Of one thing he was pretty sure, that if the right hon. Gentleman had information tending to exculpate the Yeomanry, that would soon have been laid on the Table. He (Mr. Hunt) had been attacked, and he wished to reply to some of these attacks. One was made by the hon. member for Kerry, who was the last man that should have attacked him, as that hon. Member shielded himself by a vow in Heaven.
§ The Speaker
observed, that reference to a past Debate was out of order; and as the hon. member for Preston had let pass the opportunity of noticing the supposed attack at the time it was made, it would be 564 for him to consider how far it was likely he should conciliate the House, or do himself any service, by referring to the subject now, even if such reference was in order, which it was not.
§ Lord Althorp
rose to order, and repeated what the Speaker had already observed, that such references to former Debates were contrary to order.
suggested, that the Motion should be withdrawn till the information on the subject had been obtained. He had listened with horror to the statement that had been made, especially with regard to the Magistrates, who, he regretted to find, were still on the Bench, and acting in their magisterial capacity.
said, that as soon as he had heard of the statement now made by the hon. member for Carlow, he had written to request the same information in writing, and to ask, that sworn informations should be given against the Magistrates who were complained of. With respect to the Magistrates in general, he would now only observe, that there was a bill passing through the House, to continue for six months the powers of the Government to examine into the Commissions of Magistrates, in order to effect a revision of the Magistracy.
after what the right hon. Secretary had this moment stated, implored the hon. Member opposite to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. Lambert
said, that as the object he had had in view was likely to be answered in another way, he should have no objection to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion withdrawn.