HC Deb 06 June 1832 vol 13 cc463-6
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from the Irish National Political Union, relative to the Irish Reform Bill. The petitioners complained of the great injustice done them, by the inequality of the proposed Representation as compared with England, an inequality that would tend to the separation of the two countries. They only wished to be placed on the same footing as the constituency of England. They had exhibited certain details, in order to show that they ought to be placed on a better footing than that on which the Bill would place them; and showed that, taking the population as a basis, they were most unjustly treated. The population of England was sixteen millions, and that of Ireland (exclusive of certain omissions in the census, one of which was the omission of 30,000 ill Dublin alone) was upwards of seven millions and a half. If population alone were considered, Ireland would be unjustly treated. But it had been said, that Ireland was very deficient in point of revenue. It was said that while the revenue of England was 48,000,000l. that of Ireland was only 4,000,000l. That was erroneous, for it appeared by the parliamentary documents, that the duty on tea consumed in Ireland, which alone was 500,000l. a-year, as well as the duties on many other articles consumed in that country, were charged in England, and credited to the English revenue instead of the Irish. All commodities from the East paid their duty in England, although a great portion was consumed in Ireland. Those duties, added to the published revenue of Ireland, would amount to one-seventh of the English revenue, and, therefore, according to that proportion, the petitioners contended that Ireland ought to have 147 Members. He had, however, never asked for more than 125. The petitioners also prayed for the restoration of the 40s. freeholders in fee, and for an extension of the constituency, by reducing the 10l. qualification to 5l., and for allowing fourteen years' leaseholders to be on the same footing as a freeholder for life. According to the proposed qualification for borough Representation, many boroughs would be merely nomination boroughs, for there was hardly one that could boast of more than 200 voters, and many not 120; so that a person with a few thousand pounds could command the majority of votes in any of the boroughs. It would also lead to perjury, corruption, and drunkenness, which was much worse than the present system, by which one agent could meet another agent, and pay over to the other a certain sum of money for a seat. The petition deserved the most serious attention of the House, and he was confident the grievances complained of, by which Ireland was placed on such an inferior footing, as compared with England, would tend to separate the two countries, which he hoped never to see accomplished, and to which he certainly never would consent.

Mr. Crampton

did not rise for the purpose of entering into any premature discussion on the Irish Reform Bill, but he trusted, when the Bill came on for further consideration, he should be able to show most clearly, that the statements of the hon. member for Kerry were very inaccurate, and founded on most erroneous conclusions. If the constituency in open towns was a subject now for reprehension from the hon. Member, on account of the riot and drunkenness it occasioned, what, he would ask, would it be when it was ransferred from property to population?

Mr. Leader

could assure the House, and should be prepared to prove it at the proper time, that many of the towns which now enjoyed a constituency, would, by the proposed Bill, be converted into close boroughs.

Mr. Shaw

agreed with the hon. member for Kerry, that the Irish Reform Bill would in the end, cause a separation of the two countries. The hon. Member had drawn a distinction between a separation of the two countries and a Repeal of the Union, by carefully reserving himself upon the latter.

Mr. Sheil

would ask the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Crampton), whether he meant to say that there would be no such reductions in the constituency of the Irish towns as had been described by the hon. member for Kerry? Would he say, that the votes in the borough of Cashel, for instance, would not be reduced to 187? He would ask, with such facts before them what would be done? Would the constituency be increased by reducing the rate of qualification, or by enlarging the boundaries? He would greatly prefer the former of these two modes. In the English Bill a change had been made in the Lords which made it more popular, and their Lordships had continued the 40s. freeholders. They in Ireland did not ask that; they merely asked that the same feeling which had been shown to England might be shown to Ireland. In order that the Reform Bill might be successful it must be satisfactory. If they were desirous that Ireland should be united to England, they must be put on the same footing.

Mr. O'Connell

, in moving that the petition be printed, said, the people of Ireland were treated with contempt. He had stated several facts which the Solicitor General did not venture to deny. He (Mr. O'Connell) was accused of being an advocate for rotten boroughs. That was not the case; he merely claimed for Ireland that the boroughs should not be in a worse state than they were before. As far as regarded the Repeal of the Union, to which some had alluded, he merely asked that Government, by giving a sufficient Reform, should take from him the power of promoting that repeal. Another thing of which he had to complain was, the difficulty felt in Ireland in registering the votes, the whole system of registration there being most atrocious.

Mr. Crampton

said, he would not be drawn into a discussion which would involve the whole principle of the Irish Reform Bill, by the hon. and learned Member; but when the proper time came, he would not flinch from the discussion.

Mr. Henry Grattan

concurred in the observations that had fallen from the hon. member for Kerry, relative to the difficulties in the registration of votes, and he felt certain that the people of Ireland would look for a Repeal of the Union, unless they had a fair Reform Bill.

Mr. Beaumont

thought that Ireland ought to be treated with equal justice to England, and he should be most happy to give his assistance to the hon. member for Kerry, in any measure that he conceived would tend to the good of that country.

Colonel Perceval

was astonished to hear of the difficulty in the registration of votes. He had never heard of any such difficulty though he had been concerned a good deal with elections.

Mr. James E. Gordon

said, the Bill would neither please Protestants nor Catholics, though for different reasons.

Mr. Blackney

knew that many freeholds had not been registered, owing to the charge which was made of 2s. 6d. for the registry of each freeholder.

Petition to be printed.

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