rose to present a Petition, which, in a constitutional point of view, was of considerable importance. The petition was that of certain individuals, who had assembled at Nobber, in the county of 544 Meath, on the 15th instant, for the purpose of petitioning the House on the subject of tithes, but who had been unable to effect that lawful object, in consequence of the interference of one of the Deputy-lieutenants of the county and some Magistrates, who came with a large force of army and police, and dispersed the meeting. The petition stated the circumstances at some length; amongst them the fact, that one Magistrate was in the chair, and another moving a resolution to petition the House, at the time the array came up. He did not know whether the circular letter of Sir William Gossett, desiring Magistrates to disperse illegal meetings, had been or not issued before the meeting took place, but that was of little consequence, for the letter was couched in such vague language, that he (Lord Killeen) should feel obliged to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland to define what an illegal meeting was, as otherwise, supposing himself to be applied to, he could not pronounce a meeting of this description to be illegal. The people had understood that tithes were to be extinguished, and they had endeavoured to effect the object. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had certainly promised the people of that country a total abolition of tithes; instead of which, he had brought in a Bill to perpetuate them, and render the payment compulsory. Some endeavours to alarm the Legislature had been made, by referring to the non-payment of rent, but the moment the people struck at rent, those who now advocated their cause would be against them.
§ Sir Edward Sugden
thought, that the noble Lord had used the right hon. Secretary for Ireland rather unfairly, in putting the construction which he did upon the Resolution moved by that right hon. Gentleman. That Resolution was declaratory of the expediency of a commutation for tithes, and not, as the noble Lord now seemed to wish it to be considered, as expressive of a desire on the part of the Government for the total extinction of them. The noble Lord appeared to think it quite proper that meetings should be held for the extinction of tithes, but he would wish to ask him how long would it be before those who now aimed at the extinction of tithes would strike at the total abolition of rents? He agreed with the noble Lord, that the moment the people struck at rents the landlords would be against them. Why would they be so? The answer was obvious; such a step would draw from the pockets 545 of the landlords instead of the clergy. He had seen, with the deepest pain, the accounts in the public prints of the proceedings in Ireland on this subject, and he had no hesitation in asserting, that they placed Ireland in a state of direct rebellion. Every body must think, that meetings of the description alluded to in the petition were highly illegal. ["No," from Mr. O'Connell.] He was quite ready to meet the hon. Member on that ground, if he thought they were not so. The present state of Ireland was infinitely more dangerous as regarded the operations of Government than one of open war and rebellion, and would lead to consequences which every one (and the noble Lord opposite would himself be one of the first to do so) could not but deprecate. He knew, indeed, that the extinction of tithes would be the means of putting into the pockets of the landlords a great portion of that which now went into the pockets of the clergy, and it was therefore no wonder that those who would be thus benefited advocated and sanctioned such illegal proceedings. He would, however, warn them that they would be among the first to suffer from the consequences of resisting the law.
could not help congratulating the right hon. Secretary on the new friend that he had found at that side of the House, though, on reflection, he must feel convinced that the nature of his intentions towards Ireland would always secure him friends at that side of the House. He certainly could not have a more able advocate, or a better lawyer, but decidedly no worse political adviser. The right hon. Baronet had accused his noble friend of acting unfairly towards the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Now it was not the habit of his noble friend to act unfairly towards any person. There was not in the House an individual less capable of acting unfairly towards any human being; but he did not feel surprised that the right hon. Gentleman was incapable of understanding minds of the order of that of his noble friend. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that Ireland was in a state of direct rebellion. Was it, indeed? Now, he would beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman, at any of the tithe meetings in Ireland was there a single feather shaken, a single assault committed, or an act of violence of any kind perpetrated by those who met peaceably and constitutionally for the purpose, if possible, of procuring the total extinction of tithes? He would defy 546 him to point out, in all the meetings that had taken place in Ireland, one single instance. He thought that the right hon. Baronet, with a very bad grace, indeed, had brought a charge of unfairness against his noble friend, for having charged the right hon. Secretary with using the words extinction of tithes, for the purpose of deluding the people. The right hon. Secretary had certainly used the words extinction of tithes, and then what did the noble Lord charge him with? Why, that after having talked of tithes as a grievance, and declared that they should be abolished, he proceeded to extinguish them by bringing in a Bill to render the payment of them permanent and compulsory. That was what the noble Lord complained of, and what he had every right to complain of. When the right hon. Gentleman talked in that House of the extinction of tithes, to a people who were anxious for their extinction, what wonder was it that the people should give the words their plain and obvious meaning, without heeding or caring for those explanations which the hon. Member had asserted they were accompanied with? That was the whole amount of the charge of unfairness, but, if there was any unfairness to be complained of, it was the attack which, with such unbecoming taste, the hon. and learned Gentleman had thought fit to make upon his noble friend. The hon. and learned Gentleman had talked of a rebellion in Ireland—what, a rebellion in which there were no arms? If there was a rebellion in Ireland it certainly was a very extraordinary kind of rebellion, for the people assembled without either musket, bayonet, sword, or pike, and they dispersed wherever a Magistrate appeared to declare their assemblage illegal. The people met occasionally in considerable numbers, but their meetings were peaceable and orderly. Had not the people of Ireland a right to express their opinions, and to send forward their petitions to that House? Was the right of petition to be withheld from the people of Ireland at the arbitrary caprice of any official underling. Was this interference attempted with the rights of the people of England? Had not the Reformers mot in large numbers, and who had attempted to disperse them? When the right hon. Secretary and his colleagues were driven from that bench, and 150,000 Englishmen assembled at Birmingham, who dared attempt to disperse them? They met without interruption or impediment, because they were Englishmen, 547 and would not permit their rights to be invaded with impunity. Where was the wretched treasury hack, or the paltry scribe, who would have dared to send a circular letter to the Magistrates to disperse that meeting, or to tell the people of Birmingham that their meeting was illegal? The people of Birmingham held their glorious meeting. They displayed their power—God bless them for it; and there no meddling Magistrate had the audacity to read the Riot Act and disperse the meeting, and send the people to their miserable homes with the police running at their tails for fear they would not go fast enough. The people of Birmingham had triumphed—they had nobly triumphed, and their triumph was not yet at an end. Its consequences would be felt, and its first and best results would be the security of the constitutional rights of British subjects from insolent and capricious aggression. Let them be assured of it, the Irish government would have to answer in a Reformed Parliament for daring to interfere with the right of the subject to petition. [Mr. Stanley smiled.] The hon. Gentleman might sneer, but he would find it to his cost. In the next Parliament they would have the House cleared of 250 nominees of Peers and boroughmongers, and if he (Mr. O'Connell) had the honour of a seat in that Parliament, he would himself be the person to bring forward the articles of impeachment. To that he pledged himself—[cheers]. Hon. Members might cheer, but he was determined that in a reformed Parliament the right hon. Gentleman should be made to answer for his conduct towards Ireland. Was there ever any such thing heard of as the Irish government were perpetrating in Ireland? At the assizes of Wicklow persons had been fined and sentenced to two years imprisonment, for having been present at a meeting alleged to have been illegal. Had they not torn the priest from his altar, the merchant from his counting-house, and the barrister from his circuit, the tradesman from his shop, and the gentleman from his home, in an unholy attempt to put down the Irish mind. Did they not send their thief-takers to the houses of respectable persons, to drag them through the public streets for the purposes of insult, when those persons, who were in a station that was a guarantee for their appearance, would at once have surrendered themselves, upon a verbal intimation of its necessity. But he could tell them that they never 548 would succeed in their attempts to extinguish the Irish mind. The people would triumph as they did before. They would persevere in their peaceable but steady course. They would ask the advice of those who had never deceived them. They would infringe no statute, violate no law, observe peace and order. They would continue to hold their meetings. They would disperse whenever a Magistrate appeared to pronounce their meetings illegal. They would continue peaceable, quiescent, and imperturbable; but still, nevertheless, they would pay no tithes. Yes, they would pay neither tithes nor Church rates, and the reason was, because they got no value for either. He had heard it said, that the resistance to tithes would end in producing a resistance to rents. He did not believe it. They could not delude the Irish gentlemen who took part with the people, or detach them from them by such a clumsy artifice. They were too shrewd to be so easily imposed upon. Those who knew the Irish mind required no argument to convince them of the fallacy of such a supposition. The Irish people had strong and ready perceptions. They had a love of justice beyond any people in the world, and they possessed a keen capability of judging what was right and what was wrong. Any man who knew the mind of Ireland intimately, knew that the Irish people could walk on the verge of a volcano with as much discrimination and as much self-possession as any five Members of that House could manifest in all the ease, composure, and security of a private chamber. There was no danger of an attack upon that property for which the people received value. The only and the inevitable danger was to that for which they received no value, so that he would make them a present of their silly bugbear. He would now ask the House to consider what were the circumstances attendant upon this meeting that had taken place in the county of Mayo. A gentleman of fortune was in the chair. A Magistrate of the county was in the act of moving a resolution to petition this House, when another Magistrate stepped forward and pronounced the meeting to be illegal. He was asked why he considered the meeting to be illegal, and he replied, that he had heard that some flags had been used. Was not that a most satisfactory definition of the legality of a meeting, that flags had been made use of? He supposed that it had been declared that the using of flags at a meeting con- 549 stituted its illegality. This was exactly the Star Chamber addition to the law that was made to sanction the butchery at Manchester, when that Star Chamber sentence was pronounced which consigned the hon. Member below him (Mr. Hunt) to an imprisonment of two years and a half, exciting the boiling indignation of every lover of liberty in every part of the empire. That dangerous Star Chamber interpretation of the law was ever found to be the last resource of tyranny, and was always sure to be resorted to whenever oppressive and despotic power essayed to abridge the liberty of the subject, to trample on the best privileges of the British citizen, and suspend the constitution itself. It was the last, and, let him tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it was the worst resource of tyranny. He would make the Irish government a present of their new judge-made law. He did not grudge them the benefit of their Star Chamber proceeding, but, let him assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that it would not avail him, for the right hon. Gentleman might rest assured, that the day would come, and that the day was fast arriving when he would be put upon his fearful responsibility, and would be made to answer to a reformed Parliament for his outrageous and unconstitutional conduct towards Ireland. He had said, and he would repeat it, that Star Chamber interpretation of the law, and judge-made definition of illegal meetings, whenever it was necessary to suit a particular purpose, was ever the last resource of tyranny; and he had no hesitation in making the right hon. Gentleman a present of both. Was there ever such a document issued as this circular of the Irish government to the Irish Magistrates? In his opinion it was decidedly insufficient in point of law, for there was no direction to the Magistrate to determine the illegality of a meeting by any test, or no direction to act only upon information upon oath. It certainly appeared to him to be a most extraordinary document, and, in his opinion was, as his noble friend said, most vague and indefinite. It told the magistrates to act, but it cautiously avoided giving them any directions to procure any information upon oath, or any sworn evidence of the legality or illegality of the meetings that they might be called on to disperse. He trusted the noble Lord would move for the production of this letter, for if not, he would certainly do so in the next Parliament. This letter im- 550 powered magistrates to disperse meetings, on their own belief of their illegality. It gave to every official in the capacity of magistrate, the power of capriciously determining, according to his own fancy, what might be or what might not be an illegal meeting. What other construction could be put upon the letter? No magistrate had the power of dispersing any meeting, or of acting, unless in excepted cases, without information upon oath. In this case there was no direction to the magistrates to procure information upon oath, and this letter went to violate one of the principles of the British Constitution, which preserved the inviolability of the subject's liberty. It was the very principle of the British Constitution that no magistrate should dare to interfere with the liberty of the subject, or to act without information upon oath. This was a principle religiously preserved and rigidly guarded in England, but in Ireland it was quite a different thing. Let a magistrate dare in England to act upon his own capricious opinion—let him proceed to violate the liberty of the subject without proper authority by sworn information, and he would have to suffer for it. But what were the very plain and satisfactory instructions which this letter held out? It is stated to the magistrates that they were called upon to suppress all meetings which appeared to be sudden and preconcerted. Sudden and preconcerted!—was there ever so lucky a definition of illegality. A meeting, sudden, and also preconcerted! He was sure it was quite impossible that any magistrate could go wrong who happened to be furnished with such lucid instruction. This was the second celebrated letter which the Irish Government had addressed to the Irish magistrates. Indeed the right hon. Gentleman had every reason to be proud of his ability in letter writing. However, he might now congratulate himself that, as his celebrated manifesto was hitherto unparalleled in absurdity, it could not longer boast of that distinction, for it had got another to match with it. What he complained of was, that this capricious interference with the right of the subject should be attempted by any Government. Where was the safe guard with which the boasted Constitution of Great Britain fenced round the right of the subject, if the right of petition could be thus capriciously interfered with? Had he not a right to complain—had not the people of Ireland a right to complain of this arbitrary despotism, to which they 551 were surrendered. The meeting in the county of Meath was dispersed without there appearing the least pretence to say that it was likely to produce any breach of the peace, or to create any disturbance. This meeting thus assembled to petition this House, was arbitrarily dispersed. He would ask if the right to petition was once taken away, was there not an end to the British Constitution? What guarantee had the subject for his liberty—what guarantee was there for freedom, for justice or security, if the inalienable rights of British citizens could be thus wantonly, capriciously, and arbitrarily interfered with? The hon. and learned Gentleman, who had last addressed the House, had talked of legality and illegality, and of rebellion in Ireland. He did not think it necessary to follow the honorable and learned Gentleman throughout his observations; but he could not fail to notice some expressions which had fallen from him. He had talked of violent and intimidating language having been held out at the tithe meetings in Ireland. Now he would give a challenge to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he defied him to point out, in any authentic Irish newspaper, one single passage, or one single observation made use of at any of the tithe meetings throughout Ireland, bearing the character of either violence or intimidation, or in the least degree having a tendency to either the one or the other. He defied the hon. and learned Gentleman to point out a single passage of the description. On the contrary, the advice uniformly held out at these meetings was, "obey the law, procure redress peaceably and constitutionally, take the advice of those who have always advised you wisely, do not commit any breach of the peace, or put yourselves in the power of your enemies; seek redress by the only constitutional means, and in a manner that will prove your anxiety to obtain it. Seek it not by occasional petitions, but by the voice of millions, peaceably expressed before Parliament." This was the advice that was given; and he challenged the hon. and learned Gentleman to point out any expressions, or any passage different from that. Let the right hon. Gentleman be assured, that this transaction would not end here. It would be heard of again and again; it would be revived in a Reformed Parliament, and it would never cease to be renewed, until the result of its repeated discussion would be, that the people of Ireland would be as free to meet in any 552 numbers they choose, to exercise the right of petition, as the people of England were at the present moment. When the people of England met in hundreds of thousands, and held their glorious meetings; exhibiting their strength and their combined moral energy, they were not only not dispersed or resisted, but they were cheered and encouraged by that House.—Aye, but it might be said, that these meetings were not for the purpose of refusing to pay tithes; but he would remind the House, that if they did not refuse to pay tithes, they refused to pay taxes. And why was it not as fair to meet in Ireland to refuse to pay tithes, as it was in England to refuse to pay taxes. A noble Lord opposite of the highest station and character, (Lord Milton) had given a noble example to the people of Ireland. That noble Lord, in his place in this House, had declared, that he, for one, would not pay taxes until the Reform Bill had passed. That declaration was cheered by the House, and by those hon. Members who usually sit around the right hon. Gentleman. Now he would ask, did the right hon. Secretary for Ireland think he could impose upon him by telling that noble Lord, that his declaration would produce a combination against rents? The people of England refused to pay taxes. The glorious people of Birmingham declared that they would discontinue to pay taxes until the Reform Bill was passed. As well as the people of England refused to pay taxes, in like manner would the people of Ireland refuse to pay tithes, and they would find no law to compel them to pay tithes. The Quakers did not pay tithes, and they were right. The people of Ireland would not pay tithes—they would commit no violence. Let the right hon. Gentleman and his supporters feel assured that they would not put themselves in the power of their enemies. There was no law, nor no Star Chamber decision of Judges, which would say to the people that they must not meet to petition the Legislature. They would continue to meet—if the magistrates came to disperse them they would quietly disperse, but no attempts to put down the mind of Ireland would prevent the people from coming before Parliament with their complaints. The right hon. Gentleman had made many attempts to extinguish public discussion, and suffocate the voice of the people of Ireland. He had failed—signally and egregiously failed—there was a recuperative energy in the mind of Ireland which would baffle 553 every attempt to suppress it, and however the right hon. Secretary might lay the flattering unction to his soul, he never would extinguish the public mind of Ireland, and until he had first done that, he would find all his attempts to re-establish tithes in Ireland end in fatality and disappointment.
treated the threat of impeachment as he did every other from the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. He admitted, that the right of petitioning was a sacred right; but it ought not to be abused by being made the cloak for proceedings of an illegal and dangerous character. The legality or illegality of meetings of this kind, must depend entirely upon the circumstances under which they took place. A meeting which in one state of the country might be perfectly legal and perfectly harmless, might, in a different state of the country, be attended with infinite hazard and danger; and thus it would become illegal. He asked the House whether the peace of Ireland, and the security of property there, had not been endangered by the meetings which had been held upon the subject of tithes? The hon. and learned member for Kerry had stated, that the meeting which the petitioners in this instance complained of, having been improperly dispersed, was one of a perfectly peaceable and harmless description, and that no banners nor other insignia, either of party or of terror, were displayed on that occasion. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also stated, that no information on oath had been given of the supposed illegality of the meeting. Now, in the whole of those particulars the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken: because it was a fact that flags and banners were displayed, and that the men, in bodies of many thousands, assembled from a distance of twenty and even thirty miles, marched upon the ground in military array. It was also a fact that information was given to the magistrates upon oath, of the supposed illegality of the meeting. It was sworn that the party in proceeding to the place of meeting had two flags flying, on the one of which were inscribed the mottoes, "The people are the stronger," and "He who would be free must strike the first;" and on the other the motto of "Ireland as she ought to be," with the device of a harp and a crown detached. Upon this and other information which the magistrates received, they were induced to believe that the meeting was 554 illegal—that it was held for the purpose of intimidation, not for the free exercise of petitioning Parliament; they therefore came to the determination of dispersing it, and they were right in doing so. Every unprejudiced person must consider meetings of that description as dangerous to the peace of the country, hostile to the interests of society, and prejudicial to the security of property. For the present he would undertake the responsibility of suppressing them, and of maintaining the peace of the country, and the enforcement of the ordinary laws. But if they should fail—if the continued resistance of the people should render stronger measures necessary, he should then come to Parliament for additional powers to support the authority of the laws.
begged to remind the hon. Member that his noble friend at the head of the Home Department took measures to suppress one that was held at the outskirts of the metropolis.
§ Mr. Hunt
—Not until the feelings of the people had been pretty well expressed. What would the right hon. Gentleman say to the meeting at Birmingham, where hundreds of thousands of men assembled from all the country round, with banners flying and music playing. What did those men meet for? To insist upon reform; and to intimidate the King, if he did not continue the existing Ministry in office. Nothing was said of the illegality of that meeting. But a reform meeting, held at Manchester some 12 or 13 years ago, was dispersed with the sword—the people were ridden down by the soldiers—they were murdered—and he himself was confined for two years and a half in Ilchester gaol. The feeling against tithes would not long be limited to Ireland. Indeed it was already gaining ground in this country. The inhabitants of Bolton in Lancashire, at a meeting of the parish vestry not long since, came to the resolution that they would not pay church cess, or church rates, and that no man ought to be called upon to contribute to the support of the clergy of any church of which they were not members.
thought it would be better for the right hon. Gentleman to come to that 555 House for Hew powers, than to take them on his own authority. Could it be laid down as the law of the land, that when a meeting assembled for the purpose of petitioning Parliament, any Magistrate, on information given him, might disperse such a meeting, and so, in fact, put an end to the right of petitioning? He wished that some answer might be given to that question. Other meetings of a much less legal character had been held, and no attempt made to put them down, though ample notice had been given of them. He had the hon. Member for Sligo in his eye when he said so. That hon. Member had told them in that very House, before the 12th of July, that the Orangemen would assemble in great force on that day, in order to show their strength, of course in support of the law and of the present Government. They did meet in enormous numbers, they were headed even by martial music and banners, they had met in various parts of the country, attended in some instances by upwards of 300,000, among whom were some Magistrates, although they were fraught with every circumstance of alarm and intimidation, and although they had been denounced before hand; while a meeting which took place in the county of Meath, not for intimidation, but for the purpose of petitioning Parliament, was dispersed at the point of the bayonet. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanley) was right in the opinions of the law officers of the Crown, why was it, that he had introduced the Party Procession Bill? The question was not whether Ireland was in a perilous condition; it was not whether these meetings were to be dispersed, but whether the law of the land was to be violated, and the constitution infringed thereby? The people of England had a direct and immediate interest in this, because if a precedent were adopted in a province, it would speedily be established and extended as convenience might require. It had been said by the right hon. Gentleman (the member for Tamworth) on a former occasion, that he would support any new clause for the purpose of strengthening the executive in Ireland, and undoubtedly if Ireland were in desperate circumstances she might be legislated for accordingly. But were the Government to act on extraordinary powers, before they received them?
§ Mr. Ruthven
said, that the crime of Irishmen was, that they were too obedient to what were called the laws, but which were not really so. If the people had a right to 556 meet and petition for reform, why were they not allowed to meet peaceably to petition against tithes? He believed the orders to disperse the meeting to have been illegal and unconstitutional. It was owing to the good sense of the people in dispersing quietly that no mischief arose, and no blood was spilt. He hoped Government would not act that part which was so much desired by those who wished to see Ireland in open rebellion. He had never attended a tithe meeting, but he would attend one to-morrow if they were to be thus suppressed.
The Petition was read.
Mr. O' Connell
observed, that the greater portion of the disturbance, the existence of which in Ireland had been so much complained of, had its origin in the defective operation of the existing grand jury laws. The power of selecting juries was altogether vested in irresponsible officers, whose conduct in most instances was swayed by party or political considerations, adverse, in the fullest meaning of the word, to those of that portion of the community who, from a desire to relieve themselves from what they considered oppression, were unfortunately the more frequent victims of the law. The hon. Member for Sligo had stated that Ireland was then in such a state that an open rebellion would be most desirable. He (Mr. O'Connell) begged to assure the British House of Commons that the state of things which had called forth such an observation from perhaps one of the most humane beings breathing, was mainly caused by the defective operation of the Irish Jury Laws—a system which, as the Grand Jury Bill had every prospect of being cashiered in the other House of Parliament, being in fact consigned to the consideration of an unnamed Committee, would, in all probability, unless amended by a Reformed Parliament, continue much longer in force. If it did, the people of Ireland would know whom they were to thank for it. He only hoped that his Majesty's Government would be able to exempt themselves from the blame of the proceeding.
§ Mr. Crampton
denied that the selection of juries was placed in the hands of irresponsible individuals. The Sheriff supplied the panel, and from that panel the jury was summoned. He begged also to deny that the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman respecting the Committee in the other House on the Irish Grand Jury Bill was correct. A Committee had been 557 named, but as yet no report was presented, and consequently the Bill could not be advanced.
begged in the most positive terms to deny the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for Kerry, to the effect that he (Colonel Perceval) had advocated an open rebellion in Ireland. God forbid that such a proceeding should ever have his sanction. What he had stated was, that an open rebellion would be a blessing when compared with the state of insubordination in which Ireland was at that moment plunged. He trusted the House would believe him incapable of expressing such a thought as that attributed to him.
§ Petition to lie on the table.
§ On the question that it be printed,
remarked that when speaking of the irresponsibility of the individual who nominated Juries, he alluded solely to Special Juries. If the Lords' Committee on the Grand Jury Bill had been named he was positive they had not met; for he had each day, during the last three months, examined the proceedings of that House, to ascertain the fact, it being his intention to offer himself to the Committee as a witness, whenever they commenced their sittings. He would venture to prophesy that the Bill would never receive such support from his Majesty's Government in the other House as would secure its becoming the law of the land.
§ Mr. Crampton
said, the Government had no intention to interfere with the right of petitioning. But the hon. Member for Louth had assumed that the meeting on the subject of this petition was legal, and constitutionally assembled for a constitutional purpose. It was, however, assembled nominally for one purpose, and really for another. It was, therefore, the duty of Magistrates, having jurisdiction, to suppress it. He believed this petition had been got up for the purpose of dissolving those bonds by which society in Ireland was held together. The petition prayed an investigation into the circumstances of the dispersion of the meeting. Three persons had been apprehended, and on their trials at the approaching assizes, the matter would undergo legal investigation. It had assembled, not to petition but to agitate, to enter into a combination against the payment of tithes, and to pronounce a sentence of civil excommunication against those who refused to become parties to their nefarious scheme. The law of the land, he was of opinion, was sufficient for the Government, 558 but it was necessary to be enforced. By whom, however, was it to be administered, if not by the Magistrates, who were responsible for their conduct." The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite might, if he pleased, move in the Court of King's Bench for an information against the Magistrates. ["Hear" from Mr. O'Connell.] The hon. and learned Gentleman said "Hear;" he knew that he entertained an opinion that the Law Courts in Ireland did not duly administer justice, and that they were not to be trusted. That, however, was a gross libel, and although their characters were traduced, and their actions vilified, never were there abler, more honest, and more humane men, than the Judges of Ireland.
Sir Robert Peel
rose to correct a misstatement made by the hon. Member for Louth. He had not stated, on the occasion alluded to, that any new powers ought to be granted to Government—for in fact, he had great confidence in the energy of the ordinary law, if properly enforced, and until every other measure was exhausted, no extraordinary powers should be resorted to.
bore testimony to the impartial character of the Judges and Juries of Ireland. He recollected the hon. and learned Member for Kerry, stating that the Protestants of Ireland, generally, were in this outcry against tithes.—["No," from Mr. O' Connell.] He certainly had so understood the hon. and learned Gentleman. He denied that assertion. The Protestants as a body, although there might be some few exceptions, owing to intimidation, or expectations being held out to them, loathed and detested this atrocious combination against the payment of tithe. He might agree with some persons that what was called a Reform, might be introduced in the disposition of church property—but he would never agree to separate the property from the church. The bishops might cause a fairer division of the property, and appropriate it more equally; but the clergy received their tithe by the same right as the landlords received their rents. He looked on this attack on the tithes only as preliminary to an attack on the rents, and he knew that many of those who wished to destroy the tithes looked forward with confidence to a reduction of rents. It was, therefore, extremely satisfactory to him to see the Government come forward with their tithe and other measures, with a view of suppressing that combination. A great part of Ireland was now in a state even worse than rebellion. He stated as a fact, 559 that on the 6th of this month, at a meeting upon tithes at Balliman, the Roman Catholic Priests brought up their flocks with banners bearing inscriptions disrespectful towards the Protestant clergy. Roman Catholic Priests in numbers appeared on the platform, and went the length of stating, that they would form themselves into a Union to overawe the Assistant Barrister in the execution of his duty. Indeed the state of the country was such, that an open rebellion would be a blessing in comparison to it, for then Government would be obliged to use prompt and decisive measures for its suppression. He denied that the Protestants of Ireland as a body at all participated in the proceedings against tithes. He was aware that in the conspiracy to suppress the tithes a number of farmers were compelled to come forward and attend the meeting, who detested and loathed conspiracy.
§ Mr. Crampton
was inclined to place about the same degree of confidence in the prophecies of the hon. Member that he did in his statements, which from experience he knew were generally most incorrect and unfounded. The assertion of the hon. Member with respect to Special Juries was quite as inaccurate as that with respect to Common Juries. In neither case had the Crown the least power of nomination. In Special Jury civil cases the Prothonotary of the Court in which the action was brought, selected the Jurors from the panel as furnished by the Sheriffs, and he had never heard the conduct of the Sheriffs impeached. The Prothonotary was not a sinecurist, and so far from depending for his office on the pleasure of the Crown, held his office by patent, and was quite independent of the power of the Crown.
§ Mr. Crampton
answered, that the Master of the Crown-office, who struck the Jury for the Crown, in cases where the Crown was concerned, was the holder of a patent office.
thought nobody could entertain a doubt, that though a patent officer, he was under the influence of the Crown.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that it was no fault of the present Government that the Jury Bill, alluded to by the hon. and learned member for Kerry, had not passed. Those who now formed the Government, had supported it when it was in that House.
560 Petition to be printed.