HC Deb 18 June 1832 vol 13 cc763-9

Lord Althorp moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Reform of Parliament (Ireland) Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

begged to take that opportunity to present two petitions—one from the National Political Union in the City of Dublin, and the other from the City of Waterford—against this Bill, and praying for a more extensive and just measure for that country.

Mr. Praed

took that opportunity of remarking upon an extraordinary calculation which had been put forth by the hon. and learned member for Kerry, with respect to the claims which Ireland had to an increase in the number of the Representatives in that House. The hon. and learned Member had taken the population on the one hand, and the revenue of Ireland on the other, and had formed a calculation, upon which he asserted that the number of Members which Ireland ought to have, when compared with the number which, upon the same data, had been awarded to England, was 178. Now, there was a great fallacy in supposing that those data had formed the basis of the Representative force of England, for if they were to be so applied as the hon. and learned Member had applied them, the number of Members which England might claim was no less than 1,034.

Mr. Petre

said, that he understood the hon. member for Kerry to have said the other night, in the discussion on this Bill, that the English Catholics, before emancipation was passed, would have been content to have received a lesser measure, and that, in fact, they would have been content to have been allowed to be Justices of the Peace. He (Mr. Petre) would take that opportunity, more for the satisfaction of others than for his own, to inquire from his hon. friend (the member for Steyning), who had for so many years acted as Secretary to the Catholics of England, whether such was the fact?

Mr. Blount

, having been thus appealed to by his hon. friend, begged to say distinctly, that the Catholics of England would not have been content with a less measure than that which they had received, and which had restored to them the whole of their rights.

Mr. Henry Grattan

supported the prayer of the petitioners. He would only say, in reference to the observations of the hon. member for St. Germain's (Mr. Praed), that if the calculations he had referred to were false, they had been made by Lord Castlereagh at the period of the Union.

Petitions read.

Mr. O'Connell

, in moving that the petition be printed, said, that when the proper time came for the discussion of the point, he would be ready to meet the arguments of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Praed), who had brought his ingenuity to the aid of the right hon. Secretary opposite. He could not avoid, indeed, congratulating the right hon. Secretary on the support he received from the Tories. They knew that he was their best friend, and always came down to support him with their votes, and enforce his reasoning by their arguments. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. member for Ilchester (Mr. Petre), he begged to say, that what he (Mr. O'Connell) had said on a former evening was, not that the Catholics of England, before emancipation was passed, would have been contented with being allowed to act as Justices of the Peace, but that they would have been glad to have obtained such a boon; and he then proceeded to state, what he would now repeat, that it was to the exertion of the 40s. freeholders of Ireland they were indebted for what they got. Yet these English Catholic Members, thus placed in that House by the efforts of the Irish 40s. freeholders, had, the other night, gone down below the bar with those who voted against them! He would tell the hon. member for Ilchester, that there was not a single shirtless, ragged fellow amongst those 40s. freeholders who would change places with him, and have such a stain of ingratitude imprinted on his character.

Mr. Praed

must repeat his statement, that, upon the grounds which the hon. member for Kerry put forward, as entitling Ireland to additional Representatives, England would be entitled to claim 1,004 Members. He was not before aware that Lord Castlereagh's authority had so much weight with the hon. Members opposite, but if Lord Castlereagh's calculations were the grounds of their arguments, those calculations completely upset the hon. Member's declamation. Lord Castlereagh's data gave 108 Members for Ireland at the period of the Union, and if it now merited, according to the hon. and learned Member, 178, was not that a striking proof of its progress in prosperity? With respect to his own assertions, if the hon. and learned Member could prove them to be inaccurate, he would support every amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that he certainly, in common with the hon. member for Ilchester, understood the hon. member for Kerry to assert, the other evening, that, at the time the Irish Catholics obtained emancipation, the English Catholics would have been content to be allowed to act as Justices of the Peace. He thought that the hon. member for Ilchester was perfectly justified in rising in his place on this occasion, and, for the satisfaction of others, appealing to the late Secretary to the Catholics of England on the subject, he did not think that his doing so at all called for the taunts and sarcasms of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He (Sir Robert Peel) heard the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, on the night referred to, make a most extraordinary declaration. He heard the hon. and learned Gentleman, after the division on that night, referring to the vote given by the English Catholic Members on that occasion, declare that they ought to be disfranchised of their rights, and that the penal code should be again applied to them. The English Catholic Members expressed their opinions independently upon a certain subject, and for so doing the hon. and learned Member would re-subject them to the penal code! Was the hon. Member aware that such doctrine would justify altogether the past existence of the penal code, for that code was enacted solely against opinions? The hon. and learned Gentleman talked of the ragged and shirtless 40s. freeholders, and yet such were the persons to whom he wished the franchise to be extended.

Mr. O'Connell

begged to congratulate the hon. member for Ilchester upon the defender who had stepped forward to his aid on this occasion—a defender who had kept him from his rights as long as he could, and who had at length conceded them to him voluntarily and of his own accord; that was to say, when he was compelled to do so by the Irish people. He had not said that he wished the English Catholics to be unemancipated, but what he had said was, that the English Catholic Members who voted the other night against the 40s. freeholders deserved to be deprived of the benefits of emancipation. The right hon. member for Tamworth was possessed of a singular advantage with regard to this subject, for, having been on both sides of the question, he was enabled to speak with great facility on one side or the other. There were politicians who, to keep office, often wheeled about, and veered from one side to the other, and yet who were ready, upon occasion, to talk of principle. As to the hon. calculator, he should have an answer to his mathematical conundrum when the House came to that part of the Bill; at present he had introduced it prematurely. With regard to the hon. Gentleman opposite, be could only congratulate him upon the able services of his official defender.

Sir Robert Pell

would not then go into the question, whether or not he had veered about in politics for profit or for place; but he would put it to the good sense of the House, whether the hon. and learned Gentleman had defended himself, or had not rather attempted to divert the attention of the House from himself by making an attack on him (Sir Robert Peel). He agreed with the learned Gentleman, that there were politicians utterly destitute of principle, and he would add, that there were politicians who scrupled not to keep a whole country in agitation, and to prevent the return of tranquillity and prosperity, in order to promote their own private and selfish ends. He would ask the House, if there was common justice or common sense in the position, that Members of Parliament, and those Members Catholic, should, on account of their having given an independent vote, be deprived of their rights, and have a code of disabilities re-enacted specially for them? Such were the intolerant principles on which the learned Gentleman would act, if he had the power. He had seen in other countries men professing principles of extreme liberality, like the learned Member, who, when they got the possession of power, displayed a tyranny which had never been exhibited by the greatest despots of ancient or modern times. He did not doubt the sincerity of the hon. Member, and his readiness to put his wishes in execution, if enabled to do so. When the hon. Member talked about the 40s. freeholders, did he forget, that he himself only proposed by his Motion to restore the franchise to the 40s. freeholders in fee, who formed a very small proportion of that body of 40s. freeholders to whose efforts the hon. Member attributed the restoration of his civil rights? If, therefore, the hon. member for Ilchester could be accused of ingratitude in reference to the 40s. freeholders, with how much more justice did the charge of ingratitude lie against the learned Gentleman, who had excluded the great body of the 40s. freeholders from the benefit of his own Motion.

Mr. Jerningham

said, that while he gave the 40s. freeholders of Ireland credit for the most prodigious efforts, he had voted against their enfranchisement, on general principles, and because he did not think it would be beneficial to the country. Giving those freeholders credit for their exertions, he did not ascribe the enfranchisement of the Catholics to them. It was brought about by a variety of causes, and among them was to be placed high in advance the resignation of the present. Prime Minister in 1807. He was not insensible also to the claims of the Duke of Wellington, to whom he conceived he was as much indebted for emancipation as he was to the 40s. freeholders.

Petitions to be printed.

Mr. O' Connell

presented a Petition from the Sheffield Political Union, praying that as comprehensive a measure of Reform should be given to Ireland as had been given to England. The right hon. Baronet, he observed, had said, that if he (Mr. O'Connell) were in power, he would exercise that power against the rights of others. That was a matter of prophecy, and the right hon. Baronet was a bad prophet; but the way in which others had exercised power was a matter of history. He admitted that a gross injustice had been done to all 40s. freeholders, and that his Motion did not go to remedy the whole of that injustice. He was bound, however, to consider what he was likely to effect, and, as he had been unable to carry even his limited proposition, it was quite evident that it would have been utterly useless to submit a more extended one to the House.

Petition to be printed.

Mr. O'Connell

begged to repeat a question he had before put to the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. He begged to ask, whether the Government had abandoned the Irish Jury Bill, which had been some time since disposed of by this House, or was it their intention to press it?

Mr. Stanley

said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had asked that question on a former occasion, when he (Mr. Stanley) gave the only reply he could give, and which he now repeated—namely, that his Majesty's Government had no intention of abandoning the Bill; on the contrary, he (Mr. Stanley) had within the last few days, requested his noble friend at the head of the Home Department to press forward the Bill in the other House of Parliament.

Mr. Lefroy

begged to be permitted, before the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Irish Reform Bill was read, to present a petition upon that measure. The petition was that of a Protestant Conservative Society of Ireland, suggesting several amendments to the measure now before the House. Amongst others, the petition suggested that the qualification should be a 30l. instead of a 10l. qualification, by which means the franchise would be enjoyed by the same class of persons in Ireland as in England. The petitioners concluded by praying the House to pass no measure of Reform that did not contain the amendments proposed.

Sir John Newport

objected to many of the propositions contained in the petition; but particularly he deprecated such a suggestion as that which sought to require, in a poor country, a franchise of 30l. while in a richer country, the franchise was given to a 10l. householder.

Petition to lie on the Table.

Mr. Lefroy

, on moving that the petition be printed, was satisfied merely to remark, that the object of the petitioners would be met, if the measure was so modified as to be calculated to tend to secure the safety and interests of Ireland.

Mr. O'Connell

thought it was too much to ask even the hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to reduce the constituency of Ireland to about 2,000, which would be the effect of the adoption of the suggestion of the Conservative Society.

The petition to be printed.

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