HC Deb 18 April 1832 vol 12 cc633-6
Lord Castlereagh

presented a Petition from Bangor in the County of Down, against the new system of Education in Ireland. The meeting from which it emanated, had been called upon a clear understanding that it should be attended by those only who were opposed to the system; notwithstanding which the room was filled by persons who formed it into a political meeting, and under the pretence that the promoters of it were opposed to Reform, assailed the respectable gentlemen who had assembled for a different object, with most violent language, when Lord Dufferein who was chairman adjourned the meeting to another place, at which the petition he had now the honour to present was carried by a large majority.

Mr. Ruthven

was aware that some disturbance had taken place at the meeting, but it was in consequence of the manner in which the requisition was drawn up; besides which, there was an advertisement issued, calling upon all the inhabitants who loved the Bible and wished their children to be instructed from it, and who desired the temporal and eternal welfare of their offspring, to be present. The consequence was, a numerous attendance, and certainly many persons assembled to show that the plan was not opposed to the reaching of the Scriptures in the schools. The gentleman who offered himself for that purpose was cut short by the chairman, who observed, that he did not come to hear speeches but to receive signatures. In consequence of that remark, great rudeness had been offered to the chairman (Lord Dufferein), which he did not attempt to justify. The result, however, was, that his Lordship left the meeting and went to another place. Of what had there occurred, he pretended to give no account; but at the original meeting, another gentleman was called to the chair, and a petition was agreed to in favour of the plan, which had received quite as many signatures as that against it, and had it been hawked about in the same milliner as the one presented by the noble Lord, he had no doubt the signatures would have been much more numerous. The question had provoked discussion; and persons found they had been deluded, and that the new system would by no means prevent a scriptural education.

Colonel Evans

was authorized to say, that a petition against the Government plan of national education in Ireland, which had been presented as the result of a public meeting of the inhabitants of Manchester, had emanated from a packed meeting of some 200 persons at the most, and who were only admitted by tickets.

Mr. James E. Gordon

defended the promoters of the Manchester petition against the charges which had been made against them by the hon. and gallant member for Rye (Colonel Evans) and stated that the meeting at which it originated, was not called for the discussion of affairs in general, but for a specific purpose; that this purpose was publicly stated, and that no one had a right to force his sentiments upon a meeting so constituted. With respect to what had been stated by the hon. member for Downpatrick, that hon. Gentleman had answered his own speech by substantially admitting what had been said by the noble Lord (Castlereagh) against the ruffianly conduct of the parties alluded to. This was another example of the attempts to promote the Government plan of education. Hisses; groans; "No Tories;" "Down with the Tory Lord;" "We can now do without Lords;" "I'm as good a Lord as you are;" these were meet arguments, and they were generally used in support of such a system. Before he sat down, he had to complain of the great and serious inconvenience to which they were subjected on the presentation of petitions. It amounted, in fact, to the repression of public feeling upon subjects of the greatest importance. He had daily attended the ballot at ten o'clock for nearly three months, and in the whole course of that time he had not obtained more than three or four opportunities for presenting petitions intrusted to him. The consequence was, that he had at that moment, upwards of forty in his possession. On his own behalf, therefore, and on the behalf of numbers who were similarly circumstanced, he gave notice that, if the House did not come to some understanding in favour of a better arrangement, he should move a resolution on the subject immediately after the Easter recess.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that the inconvenience complained of was very generally felt, and observed that the custom of presenting petitions ought to be taken into consideration, with a view to the adoption of some plan by which the public business might be facilitated. He must also notice the fact, of a House not having formed yesterday. If that were done designedly by the Government, he thought, in the present pressure of business, that it was much to blame.

The Marquis of Chandos

fully concurred with the right hon. Baronet. The practice of not making a House, looked like a plan of the Government to avoid unpleasant discussions.

Lord Althorp

said, it was his anxious desire that the House should have met yesterday, and he had himself suffered inconvenience from the circumstance, having had a motion to bring forward on the subject of the Bank Charter. He agreed that some arrangement should take place with regard to the presentation of petitions, and expressed his willingness to assist in any arrangement which would tend to facilitate the presentation of petitions, in order to expedite the general business.

Lord John Russell

said, that after the recess, he proposed to present two petitions in favour of the plan of education about to be adopted in Ireland. He was of opinion that it would not be desirable to prevent discussion on the presentation of petitions. He thought it would be a good plan that all petitions on the subject, for instance, of Irish education, should follow one another.

Sir Robert Peel

suggested that the subject of the presentation of petitions should be referred to a Committee, upon whose report the House might act. The consequence of the present system was, that petitions tending to inflame the passions of the people, took precedence of those of a grave, important, and domestic description. He gave notice, that after the recess, he would move for the appointment of a Committee on the subject.

Mr. Robinson

complained of the mode pursued by Government of keeping back Members for the purpose of preventing the formation of a House. He did not believe the absence of Members was accidental, and if such practices were persevered in he would find a means of retorting.

Sir Matthew White Ridley

denied that any such course was pursued by his Majesty's Government.

Petition to lie on the Table

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