HC Deb 31 March 1832 vol 11 cc1157-65
Mr. O'Ferrall

presented a Petition from the landholders and inhabitants of Cadanistown and Mylerstown, in Queen's County, praying for an alteration of the tithe system. The petitioners remarked that in consequence of the manner in which tithes were collected, and the excited state of the country, they had been compelled to refuse altogether to pay tithes.

Sir Henry Parnell

said, that, as member for Queen's County, he could not help adverting to the state of that part of Ireland on the present occasion. He had received information that morning, apprizing him that a public meeting had been held, at which a petition was agreed to, signed by the whole of the Magistracy and most other persons of the highest character and respectability, in the county. It stated, as he understood (for he had not received a copy of it yet) that disturbances of the most dangerous character existed in that county; that a confederacy prevailed among the lower orders, which enabled them to exercise a complete control over the higher orders, and to set at defiance the laws which were passed for the general protection of the community. He was further informed, that houses were frequently attacked by armed parties in the open day, and that murders were sometimes committed during such attacks. He was likewise informed that the reign of terror made it impossible to obtain a conviction against these marauders when brought to trial, and that thus peaceable persons, who disapproved of these violent proceedings, were obliged by a regard to their own safety, to give them an implied but involuntary sanction. He called the attention of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland to this subject; he trusted that something would be done to restore peace and security to that part of the country. The Magistrates were of opinion that the Insurrection Act should be renewed, and that Government should be invested with additional powers to put down this system of intimidation and outrage.

Sir Charles Coote concurred

with his right hon. colleague in every word he had said, and in demanding the immediate application of some remedial measure to the perilous state of things which prevailed at present in the Queen's County. The law, as it at present stood, had been wholly unequal to cope with the evil, even with the assistance of the police and military.

Mr. Lefroy

begged to read a letter which he had this morning received from a gentleman in the Queen's County, respecting the state of part of the county. It stated, that, in consequence of the bands of armed parties traversing the county, and committing every species of outrage, the gentry were obliged to stay at home from church on Sundays, or to leave some members of their family behind to protect their property. In the adjoining county of Carlow, they were obliged to adopt the same plan. The troops of Lancers which had been stationed there had been withdrawn, and now not a soldier was to be seen. The persons who committed those outrages made no secret of their intentions, but openly declared their determination to take all the arms they could get in every house.

Mr. Stanley

did not mean to deny that considerable disturbance had, for some time past existed, and did even now exist, in the Queen's County. In a conference which he held with the right hon. Baronet, and some other gentlemen of that county, he had stated the readiness of Government to furnish arms to the resident gentry and inhabitants of that county, if they would join the police in forming daily and nightly patrols for the protection of property, and for the apprehension of the disturbers of the peace. That offer was received with satisfaction at the time, but would the House believe that, from that hour, to the present, not a single patrol had been formed, nor a single application made to the Government for arms. He asked the right hon. Baronet if any application had ever been made by the magistrates of Queen's County to the Government, which was not promptly attended to? He had that morning received a letter from Sir William Gossett, stating, that an application had been just received for powers for the Magistrates to enforce the preservation of the Peace Act, which authorized an augmentation of the police, and gave additional authority to the stipendiary Magistrate This application had been immediately acceded to, but, before it was possible to put that Act effectually into operation, the Magistrates of the county came forward, through the right hon. Baronet, and asked for a renewal of the Insurrection Act. Now, most of the offences which the right hon. Baronet had spoken of, were committed in the face of day, and the Insurrection Act only applied to persons who were found from their homes between sun-set and sun-rise. As the Insurrection Act would, therefore, be unable to abate the evil of which the right hon. Baronet complained, he could not consent to call for its application. Though he certainly must admit that there was a considerable amount of crime in the Queen's County, he was able to state from the returns which had been made to him, that there was a diminution of it in February, as compared with January last. The right hon. Baronet had required additional powers for the Government to put down the outrages, but such persons must consist mainly of a military force: and the right hon. Baronet had very recently contended for a reduction of that force, and had made great boasts of his intentions in that respect, had he continued as Secretary at War. Surely there was something very inconsistent in these conflicting statements, which he would leave it to the right hon. Baronet to reconcile. He regretted, that, under all the circumstances, he could not comply with the prayer of the Magistracy of the Queen's County for the renewal of the Insurrection Act. At the same time, he felt it necessary to assure them, that every possible assistance by means of the police or otherwise, would be afforded them by his Majesty's Government.

Mr. Dawson

could not but rise to say a few words on this subject, feeling as he did the necessity there was for some steps to be taken to put a stop to these outrages in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman who had that moment sat down, had on former occasions, as well as on that, thrown out the insinuation that the proper remedies were not enforced by the gentry of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had cast out these insinuations upon the gentry of Ireland, because they had not thought proper to go out parading the streets and lanes at the risk of being overwhelmed and annihilated, as he (Mr. Daw- son) would contend they would be, by these nightly and daily marauders. The gentry could not, living as they did, in the midst of these rioters and murderers, do that which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, had so loudly said they ought to do, without certain and positive destruction. What was the case of Captain Graham? He would call the attention of the House to that case. That gallant gentleman, as hon. Members must be aware, had done that very thing which the right hon. Secretary now called on the other gentry of Ireland to do. Well, what then had been the consequence of it? Why, that he had been brought before a Judge and a Jury of Ireland, to answer for acts committed, when he considered himself as performing a service to his country. The Juries of Ireland had acquitted Captain Graham, but the Government had continued to persecute him for his conduct on the occasion of his going out. He could not, in any way, concur in the insinuations and sneers thrown out by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, against the statement made by his hon. friend, the member for the University of Dublin, as connected with this subject, because he had said, that such was the dangerous and disturbed condition of these parts of Ireland as to render it necessary for the gentry, when they went out of doors, whether by day or by night, to carry muskets in self-defence against the attacks of these marauders. The right hon. Secretary said, that an end would be put to the present state of things in Ireland were the gentry to associate, more particularly in Queen's County and Kilkenny, and patrol the streets night and day. He had no hesitation in saying, that this plan would not have the effect prognosticated by that right hon. Gentleman. It was utterly impossible for him to describe the actually disgusting state of society in Ireland at this moment, and he could not, therefore, help saying, that the conduct of the government of Ireland was not merely disgusting, but degrading to its character. On a recent occasion the answer given by the Lord Lieutenant to an application or statement of the most dreadful riotous outrages which were proceeding in a certain part of the country, was totally unfitting the office he held. He thought the Marquis of Anglesey the most unfit person he had ever seen for the government of Ireland. He was, he had no hesitation in saying, the most unfit man for the situation, of any gentleman who filled the office within his remembrance. That noble Marquis had recently made the most ridiculous display he had ever heard of before the rabble of Dublin. Indeed, to such an extent had his ridiculous conduct gone, that he had become the complete laughing stock of every person of rank, wealth, and consideration in the country. The right hon. Secretary might laugh, but he begged to remark, that he would find it but a very feeble support of his position. He would also say, that unless the present system of government in Ireland were changed, the bloody minded marauders would continue their career to a terrible end. There must be something more done to put a stop to their proceedings than the right hon. Gentleman thought of. He knew of no plan but the Insurrection Act that could effect the object. He would not attempt to defend his right hon. friend, the late Secretary at War, from the attack which had been made upon him by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland; but he did think that there was no necessity for it, and the right hon. Secretary would have consulted his own dignity better had he refrained from casting out those sneers and sarcasms on his right hon. friend, as they could only tend to raise embittered feelings where there was no other cause for it.

Mr. Spring Rice

considered that those who advocated the introduction of the Insurrection Act as a means of tranquillizing Ireland, were relying upon a broken reed. When the right hon. Gentleman opposite recommended rigorous interposition on the part of the government, he felt it his duty to object to such general terms, and must request to know what his right hon. friend meant by acts of rigour? It was notorious that the ordinary force of the law had been put in full and extensive operation—that, at the last Assizes at Maryborough, no less than forty convictions had taken place, and every demand that had been made for military assistance had been complied with. With respect to the Insurrection Act, a most melancholy instance of its effects had been given in the county of Limerick, and in his opinion, the remedy which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would tend to increase rather than allay the difficulties under which Ireland laboured. He attributed the tranquillity of Limerick and Cork to the vigorous and almost unrelenting administration of the ordinary laws of the land. He would wish to know what encouragement the Magistrates expected, or ought to receive, further than that which resulted from a discharge of their duty, careless whether a Whig or a Tory Government was in power. An analogy had been drawn between the case of the Magistrates and that of Captain Graham, and it had been said, that they did not receive encouragement from the Government, because Captain Graham had not been made a Magistrate of the county, and, therefore, it was a full justification of the Magistrates of the Queen's County not to interfere to quell the disturbances. When once a Magistrate applied for the Insurrection Act, he neglected the ordinary operation of the laws of the land. With respect to the imputations that had been thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite against Lord Anglesey, he should say nothing—they answered themselves; but if that right hon. Gentleman thought, by the observations he had made, he would withdraw Lord Anglesey from those kindly associations and feelings by which he was connected with the people of Ireland, he would prove himself as mistaken on the subject, as he was ignorant of the character of the people of Ireland themselves. Nothing that fell on the occassion alluded to from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland could be for a moment distorted into a ground for believing that had Lord Anglesey, who, by a due Administration of the law, had tranquillized Clare, was disposed to encourage violence, or to disregard the law of the land. He would assure the House, and especially those Members who had not witnessed the administration of the law under the Insurrection Act in Ireland, that nothing could more effectually promote ultimately the cause of insubordination and disturbance. If it partially relieved the exigencies, the inconveniencies, and risk, described by the right hon. member for the Queen's county, greater mischiefs were ultimately caused. If the peace and tranquillity of Ireland were at all to be promoted, it was not under Insurrection Acts, but by the firm, determined, rigorous; constant and unremitting Administration of the ordinary law of the land. And if an assize had been ineffectual, he would say let Special Commissions issue, and continue till peace and tranquillity were restored— this, and this alone, would tranquillize Ireland.

Mr. Carew

approved of the conduct of Government, and thought that the police and military formed a better force than the yeomanry.

Mr. Chapman

approved of the measures adopted by the present Administration for the government of Ireland.

Sir Henry Parnell

said, as the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland. had accused him of inconsistency, he felt bound to notice the charge; but first he would say a few words on behalf of the Magistrates and gentry of the county he had the honour to represent. From a personal residence amongst them, he knew that they were most anxious and able to perform their duties; they were above party motives, but they felt that they did not possess the confidence of Government. Now, as to himself, the plan he was about to recommend, had he continued in office, was not calculated to reduce the home force, but he thought the military in the colonies might be diminished by several thousand men. He desired that the efficiency of the army might be fully kept up, and had no intention to take one regiment from Ireland, yet, upon these grounds, the right hon. Gentleman had accused him of inconsistency when he asked Government to support the Magistrates of Queen's County.

Mr. Leader

could not have suspected that any person who objected to coercive measures for enforcing the payment of tithes, from the fear of creating disturbances, would propose the strongest of all coercive measures—the Insurrection Act—for the purpose of maintaining the tranquillity of the country. He trusted that a Whig Government would never entertain a doubt that the Insurrection Act ought to be the very last remedy applied. He was pleased, indeed, at having seen the Secretary for Ireland recoil at the idea of governing Ireland by Insurrection Acts. Force was the recourse of a bad Government, and the only Government which could hope for security and peace, was that which rested its claim for support on the affections of the people. If among the working poor, there was a great insubordination, it was the duty of the Government and the resident gentry, to blend commiseration with rigour, and never to entertain the opinion that any cause of dissatisfaction in the people was beyond the power of relief and redress. As, however, Government had been taunted for not resorting to strong coercive measures, and not calling on the Legislature for a renewal of the Insurrection Act. He had no doubt the Government of 1832 would pursue the same line of conduct which the Whig Government pursued in 1807, when the north-west counties of Ireland, Mayo, Sligo, and others, were in a state of almost open insurrection, and when a French army was daily expected to make good a landing on the north-west coast of Ireland. Under these circumstances, deputations waited on the Duke of Bedford, and the then Lord Chancellor of Ireland—the late Mr. Ponsonby, urgently requesting that the county of Sligo should be proclaimed. The answer of the Duke of Bedford was—"whatever the civil power, aided by the army and the police, can accomplish, must be tried, and must fail before I can permit the Insurrection Act to be resorted to," and the Lord Chancellor assured the deputations, that when the Magistrates had done their duty in apprehending offenders, Government would do theirs in prosecuting them to conviction, and that Special Commissions should never be wanting when there were offenders to try. A Special Commission was soon afterwards sent down, and the Magistrates were compelled to find out that there were other modes of suppressing disturbances than by the Insurrection Act.

Mr. James Grattan

deprecated the introduction of the Insurrection Act into Ireland, and was sure it was only by an act of co-operation amongst the gentry themselves that the country could be quieted, and peace restored. The police force had been introduced into Ireland to prevent the necessity of a recurrence to the Insurrection Act, and if that force was cordially supported in its exertions, by the gentry, the ordinary laws, being properly enforced, were amply sufficient to maintain the tranquillity of the country.

Mr. Ruthven

said, that instead of increasing the military force, it would be much better to endeavour to conciliate the people. With respect to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman as to the conduct of Lord Anglesey, that Nobleman's behaviour, on a recent occasion, did him credit both as a soldier and a gentleman; although it might tally with the right hon. Gentleman's feelings to characterize it as a mob concession. It was only a short time ago, that fault was found with the noble Marquis for being too military in his operations; but when a man was determined not to be pleased, he viewed every thing done by his opponents with a jaundiced eye. He knew there were men who were desirous to see the Lord Lieutenant lead his soldiers against an unarmed people; but if hon. Gentlemen wished to benefit their country, they would adopt other measures: such as imposing a tax upon absentees, and endeavour to revive that feeling of kindness between all classes which was consequent upon the Lords of the soil living upon their land. He wholly disapproved of anything like coercion being adopted. The epithets which had been applied to a people who were more easily to be governed by kindness than by the bayonet, he strongly deprecated.

Mr. Henry Grattan

had been turned out of the Representation of Dublin, yet he must complain that the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Harwich (Mr. Dawson). should have called the inhabitants of that city a rabble. The right hon. Gentleman had left his place, or, in answer to the terms of reprobation he had applied to the noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government for appearing on a day of public rejoicing with a shamrock in his breast, he would have told the right hon. Gentleman that his late Majesty George 4th, contributed not a little to his popularity by wearing, on his entrance into Dublin, a shamrock as large as his hat.

Petition laid on the Table, and ordered to be printed.

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