HC Deb 06 October 1831 vol 8 cc142-51

Colonel Perceval rose to call the attention of the House to the subject of the newly appointed Lord Lieutenants of Counties in Ireland, and to ask its support for a motion with which he meant to conclude. He must first observe, that it was essentially necessary that, some persons should reside in the county with whom the Government could communicate, and what person was more fitting for this than the Lord-lieutenant? It had been thought that no one would have been appointed Lord-lieutenant under the bill but one who resided in the county. This, however, was far from being the case. Lord Duncannon was appointed a Lord-lieutenant. He was a Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, and it was impossible for him to perform both duties. The Marquis of Hertford, an absentee, had been appointed to the county of Cavan, although Lord Farnham, who possessed an estate in the county, was generally there, and universally respected. He considered that this was a great insult to the noble Lord. The noble Marquis appointed to the Lord-lieutenant-ship of Donegal lived at Belfast, which, was seventy miles distant. It was impossible that he could perform the duties of his office in the manner that was required. The noble Earl (Leitrim) had never resided in Kildare, but was generally fifty weeks out of the fifty-two in the year in Cumberland-place. He next came to the counties of Waterford and Wexford, and he must say, that the appointment to the county of Waterford really excited his great surprise. The gentleman appointed was a most respectable person (Mr. Villiers Stuart), but he understood that he had let his house, and had no residence in that county. He knew that a most respectable young nobleman (the Marquis of Waterford) had a very large property in that county, and would have been the most proper person to fill that office. True, he was as yet a minor; but the same course should have been followed here as had been adopted in the cases of the Duke of Buccleugh and Lord Hopetoun, who, while they were minors, had the Lord-lieutenancies of the Lothians placed in commission until they became of age. Why was that most respectable gentleman, Mr. Wynne, not appointed to the lieutenancy of Sligo? Why should the Government have gone to another county to look for a Peer for such an honour? This objection equally extended to the appointment of the Lord-lieutenant for Wexford, believing him at the same time to be a most respectable Gentleman. He had been assured by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, that it would be a principle, that residents only should be appointed to the office of Lord-lieutenant, and there were not less than eight exceptions to this rule. He should, therefore, conclude by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he would be pleased to direct the removal of those Lord-lieutenants recently appointed, who are nonresidents in the respective counties to which they were appointed."

Mr. Young

did not think it was just, as a principle, to depart from the original pledge of the Government, that residents only should be appointed Lord-lieutenants, for the purpose of appointing those who were politically connected with the Government,

The question being put by the Speaker,

Mr. Stanley

defended the appointments which the Government had made. The hon. Gentleman had first made a general charge of dereliction of duty against the Irish Government, and then referred to one case, in which the Government declined appointing the individual which the hon. Gentleman had recommended. He did not expect, from the motion of the hon. Gentleman that it was intended to charge the Government with doing that which they had not yet done. In the first place, no Lord-lieutenant was appointed for the county of Sligo. In the next place, the rule laid down for the selection of Lords-lieutenant was, to appoint the most respectable persons, whether noblemen or gentlemen, connected with a county by fortune and respectability. The object of the Government in bringing in the bill had been, to appoint persons residing in or contiguous to the counties, who by their influence with the particular district, and by their residence, would be better able to attend to the interest of Ireland. It was certainly said, that the preference should be given to Peers, because they wished to select persons of the highest rank, that there might be an avoidance of jealousies which would have been created if Commoners were appointed when there were so many in one county of equal rank. But in no case was it stated that residence in a county was absolutely necessary; and the principle acted upon was the same as was pursued in England. In Clare, Roscommon, Longford, Tyrone, and Wicklow the appointments were unpopular, and the Lord-lieutenants actually opposed the views of the present Administration. So much for the love of patronage which Ministers had exhibited, and of which so much complaint was made. In the selection which the Government had made they had sought for those who were of the highest rank and influence in the several counties, without adopting a system of exclusion on account of the political opinions of the parties. He thought it was somewhat invidious on the part of the hon. Gentleman to demand the reasons why the Government made such and such appointments, though he (Mr. Stanley) did not deny, that in any extreme case of unfitness the appointment was open to objection. He repudiated the idea that those only were to be appointed who lived in the county; the Bill gave the power to the Vice-lieutenants to act and to receive all patronage during the absence of Lord-lieutenants for Ireland—but not when absent from the county merely. It was considered a very bad precedent to appoint young noblemen under age to the situation of Lord-lieutenant, as it was well known they had most important business to perform during the first six months after the appointment. It was objected that they had appointed Lord Duncannon, whereas there was no man more popular in the county, or more fitted for the important office. In England, in some instances, one individual was Lord-lieutenant of several counties. For instance, the Duke of Beaufort was Lord-lieutenant of three counties—Lord Lansdown for two—and the Duke of Wellington was Lord-lieutenant of Hampshire as well as Prime Minister—offices which might be considered incompatible with each other. The Duke of Manchester did not think it incompatible with his duty to fill the office of Lord-lieutenant when he was governor of Jamaica. With regard to the non-appointment of Lord Farnham, so much complained of, all he had to say was, that that noble Lord, had a strong political bias, and considering the opinions which he held upon many irritating subjects, the Government did not think they could confide in his judgment and discretion. The hon. Member when he charged it on the Government that they had insulted Lord Farnham by appointing another individual to the Lord-lieutenancy of Cavan, might have left it to the noble Lord to complain, if he had any cause of complaint, which did not appear to be the case, judging from the noble Lord's silence on the subject. When Lord Darnley was appointed to Meath, he pledged himself not to dissever his connexion with that county; and the same observation would apply to Mr. Stuart, with whom it was a sine qua non that he should make Ireland his principal residence. In the appointment of Lord Leitrim, it was understood he had a residence in the county; and notwithstanding the charge of favouritism in the appointments, it turned out that in the thirty-two counties there were only six that were non-residents; and he was surprised that the hon. Gentleman, without any grounds whatever, should have taken the course he had done, by moving an Address to the Crown. He was ready at all times to defend the whole of the appointments, and lamented that the hon. Gentleman, from party feeling, or from the disappointment of himself or friends, should have brought forward the Motion. There had been no breach of faith on the part of the Government, and no departure from the principle of the Bill, and he should decidedly oppose the Motion as altogether unprecedented.

Captain Maxwell

said, the right hon. Gentleman had instanced five or six counties in which he said persons had been appointed who were not attached to the present Government, but he wholly overlooked the contrary cases. In Sligo, the people, knowing to whom the office had been offered, felt themselves offended, and he was of opinion, that in the case of Water-ford, the Lieutenancy should have been put into Commission for a few months, till the Marquis of Waterford was of age.

Mr. Blackney

condemned the appointments when they were in opposition to the general feeling and interests of the people of Ireland. The appointments of the Beresfords for years was not pleasing nor palatable in that kingdom. When he asserted that absentees ought not to be appointed, he meant absentees from Ireland, and not non-residents in counties. In the present state of Ireland, he should consider the appointment of a minor as highly objectionable. The only appointments he found fault with were those where the parties were politically opposed to the Government.

Lord Ingestrie

said, that there was just ground of complaint that the Marquis of Waterford had not been appointed to the county of the same name, in which he constantly resided. The appointment of a commoner as Lord-lieutenant, instead of the noble Lord, was very impolitic, and an act of injustice to that noble family.

Sir George Warrender

wished only to express his firm opinion of the impropriety of an interference on the part of the House with the exercise of the important prerogative of the Crown in the appointment of Lord-lieutenants. He was prepared to justify the appointments on the principle which had been usually followed, of only nominating persons connected with the existing Administration, and as he believed, on the whole a fair selection had been made, he should resist the Motion. He rose principally, however, to state, that both the Duke of Buccleugh and the Earl of Hopetoun were endeared to all Scotsmen, and as these young noblemen only wanted a few months of being of age when they were appointed, to have appointed any other persons would have been felt as an insult by every inhabitant of those counties in which those Peers possessed by far the largest landed property of any person in the county.

Sir John Newport

said, that the Crown was perfectly justified in the appointment for Waterford. Mr. Villiers Stuart, in point of estates, ranked with any man in the county. In the case of Wexford, too, the person appointed, Mr. Carew, possessed a princely property there, and was in all respects qualified for the station.

Lord Tullamore

decidedly condemned many of the appointments, and observed, that in Callow the principal nobility and gentry felt aggrieved and insulted that they should have been passed over, and an absentee, who was never for a week in the county, should have been appointed. Why Lord Downes should have been passed over he knew not, or Sir Thomas Butler, Mr. Rochford, or Mr. Kavanagh. The appointment of the latter gentleman, who was a descendant from the Kings of Ireland, would have afforded the highest satisfaction to the people. In Wexford why should the Government, have overlooked the resident Peers, who had large estates in the county, and have appointed a Commoner who was a Member of Parliament for the county? Lord Courtown would have been a proper person for the office. The Nobleman appointed Lord-lieutenant of Tipperary was bed-ridden, and, though a most respectable nobleman, was quite incapable of performing the duties of his new office. It was an indictable offence for a Lord-lieutenant to influence elections for Members of Parliament, and how could it be possible for that gentleman to avoid it, he being sure to exercise his influence in his own favour. In King's County they had overlooked five Peers—who possessed most extensive property—and had appointed a Commoner.

Mr. Stanley

observed, that there were not five Peers in the county.

Lord Tullamore

said, that the right hon. Gentleman had proved to the House, by that assertion, how very improper the appointments were, by displaying such ignorance of the residences of the Peers in that county. He thanked the gallant Colonel for having brought forward this Motion, as it had given him the opportunity of expressing his surprise and disgust at many of the appointments.

Mr. Lambert

was of opinion, the appointments in every instance were most wise and politic; and he would declare that, in his opinion, the Government would have acted most injudiciously and censurably if they had appointed Lord Courtown, with his political feelings, to preside over Wexford. The best proof of the fitness of Mr. Carew for the office was, his universal popularity.

Sir Robert Bateson

said, that when the Bill was brought, into the House he gave it his support, because he understood it was bottomed on the principle of encouraging the residence of the Lord-lieutenant in each county, and he considered non-residence or absenteeism to be the bane and curse of Ireland. The residence of the Lord-lieutenant in each county would be sure to secure the residence of a numerous and important class of persons. Ministers were palpably inconsistent. Their assertions when the Bill was brought into that House were, that there would be no exclusion on the ground of political opinions, yet, in spite of this, the Marquis of Water-ford was rejected for his political opinions.

Colonel Conolly

said, that he had supported the Bill because it was declared that the Lord-lieutenants would be an effective organ of communication with the Government—a connecting link between the county Magistrates and the Castle of Dublin. But he had been deceived. He deprecated the appointment of absentees, and he particularly condemned the appointment which had taken place for the county which he had the honour of being connected with. He saw that the objects of the country had been lost sight of by the appointment of favoured individuals, who resided as far from the county to which they had been appointed, as the county itself was from Dublin Castle. In alluding to the noble individual who had been overlooked in the county of Cavan (Lord Farnham) he must say, that his Majesty's Ministers should not take credit for impartiality on this occasion, as they had only appointed one Nobleman who was as violent in one extreme of politics as they charged Lord Farnham with being on the other. He would describe this from Horace: "Dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt." He did not mean to apply the stulti to his Majesty's Ministers, but he could not forego his quotation merely out of courtesy to them.

Mr. Cresset Pelham

said, they had recently heard so much of the rights of the people, that he was glad to be refreshed by hearing of the prerogatives of the Crown, which he began to fear were likely to be wholly lost sight of. He had no doubt that many of these appointments had been made from political views, and therefore he should support the motion of the gallant Colonel.

Sir john Millay Doyle

was happy to see the Government paying; attention to the interests and wishes of the people of Ireland, which had been particularly displayed by their appointment of the Lord-lieutenant for Carlow. He declared it impossible for the Government to have found residents in the different counties, who, if appointed Lord-lieutenants, would have given satisfaction to the people.

Mr. Anthony Lefroy

said, the right hon. Gentleman had made a display of liberality by appointing Lord Lorton to the Lieutenancy of Roscommon, but who else could they appoint with decency? His Lordship was a constant resident, and was surrounded by a most thriving and industrious tenantry.

Mr. O'Connor

said, that the appointment of the Lord-lieutenant for Roscommon was most objectionable to the county, from his being actuated by a spirit of proselytism. He was ready to allow that he was an excellent landlord, and a man of high moral character, but this unfortunate spirit rendered him very obnoxious.

Mr. Lefroy

said, the charge made in this case against the Government was, that they departed from the principles upon which these appointments had been originally agreed to. He contended that, in many cases, most respectable residents were passed over, and strangers called in from other counties, to insult the Nobility and gentry who were residents. This was particularly the case in Cavan, Leitrim, Limerick, Watorford, and several other counties. Why, he would ask, was Lord Courtown passed over in the selection for the county of Wexford? That noble-Lord was a resident, a man of large fortune and liberal principles, and when he made application to obtain the Lord-lieutenancy, the only answer he received from the head of the Irish Government was, that the state of Ireland required the appointment of Mr. Carew. This was an indignity which should not have been offered to so respectable a Nobleman as Lord Courtown. He (Mr. Lefroy) denied that the appointment of the Lord-lieutenant for Roscommon was unpopular, for no Nobleman was held in greater respect by, or deserved more regard from, the people.

Mr. Crampton

said, that every species of material had been resorted to to give, colour to this Motion—books, extracts from speeches, and private letters, and private conversations. But he would not say anything which could savour of personal observation to the hon. Member who introduced this Motion. He would, however, assert, that there was no instance in winch Ministers had departed from their original intentions when bringing in the Bill; that the appointments had been made under circumstances totally disinterested, and the selection was strictly impartial. The Act gave power to the Government to select for the appointment whoever it chose, and there was no direction whatever as to residence in the county, beyond that possessed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who had the power of ordering such residence in those instances where he might consider it expedient. At the time of the Bill passing, he supported the appointment of Vice-lieutenants, assuming the duties in the absence of the Lords-lieutenant of counties, because he considered it would insure the residence of the latter persons in the county; but no pledge had been given to impose their constant residence by Government. Out of the thirty-four Lieutenants of counties, only four were non-resident. This was the whole amount of the charge against the Government; and he was sure, if the appointment to Sligo had been made upon the recommendation of the hon. Member, the House would never have heard anything of this Motion. Many applications had been made to the Government by the hon. Member (Colonel Perceval) and many other Gentlemen who supported his Motion. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, however, in making the appointment for the county of Sligo, had exercised the power he possessed, and used a proper discretion, and he saw no ground for objection. He must, therefore, defend the appointments which had been made, and express his opinion, that the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion, appeared to consider that no one was fit to hold office in Ireland, unless he were of Tory principles.

Mr. Callaghan

was sorry, at that late hour, that the time of the House should be taken up with the discussion of this question, but he was glad to see the cause of the people of Ireland attended to. The question was, whether the power and patronage should be in the hands of a few who formerly enjoyed it, or whether it was not better that it should be taken out of their hands, and given to those who would exert their influence for the good of the people? He heartily approved of the appointments, and he believed the reason the House was troubled with this Motion was, because those who brought it forward had been disappointed that neither themselves nor their friends had been made Lord-lieutenants. He felt gratified by the appointment of Mr. Fitzgibbon to Limerick, as he was a gentleman of great respectability, of large property, and Custos Rotulorum of that county.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

said, the measure had been canvassed, and the great objection made by hon. Gentlemen in the Opposition, was founded upon the rejection of those friends they had recommended to his Majesty's Ministers. It was, after all, but natural and reasonable that the Government in its appointments should prefer their own friends, but he believed the appointments had been grateful to the country. With respect to the first appointment (Lord Duncannon) every hon. Member must allow there could not be a more honourable, upright, and straightforward man than that noble Lord. The appointment for the county of Waterford, also, that was objected to, was equally honourable and upright. In some instances, however, he must say, that he thought the Government had overlooked its best friends.

Mr. Walker

approved of the appointment for Waterford.

Colonel Perceval

, in reply, expressed a hope that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would not suppose he had the arrogance to point out any individual to his Majesty's Government for appointment. He had only discharged his duty in recommending Mr. Wynne. He disclaimed all party feeling in bringing forward the Motion. He should, however, always contend, that non-resident appointments were bad. He begged leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion withdrawn.