§ Mr. Bolton King
presented a Petition from the Members of the Council of the Warrington Political Union, against the Irish Disturbances Suppression Bill. He was sorry he could not agree with so large a body of his constituents, but feeling convinced that the measure brought forward by Ministers was indispensable for the preservation both of the lives and of the property of his Majesty's peaceable subjects in Ireland—a measure (although coercive) in which he perfectly Concurred—he could not support the prayer of the petition.
An Hon. Member
said, he had been requested by the petitioners to support the prayer of the petition, but he felt himself unable to do so, because he was convinced, from all he had heard, both in the House and out of it, that measures of coercion were indispensably necessary to repress the outrages now taking place in Ireland, and to protect the lives and property of his Majesty's more peaceable subjects. He also felt convinced that Ministers had brought forward the measure with great reluctance; and he was persuaded 23 that the powers contained in it would not be harshly or unnecessarily exercised.
§ Sir Gray Skipwith
had also been requested to support the petition, but he could not do so, as he felt that the measure before the House was a necessary one.
said, as this was the first petition from Englishmen against the Bill, he thought it was due to them that some Irish Member should make some observation on it. He, for one, was happy that it had been presented, and he hailed it both as a token of good will in the English towards his countrymen, and an augury that the fatal measure against which it was directed would not be suffered to pass into a law.
Petition to lie on the Table.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
presented a petition, numerously signed, from the inhabitants of Drogheda. With the permission of the House he would enter somewhat minutely into the prayer of the petitioners. The petitioners referred, in the first place, to the coercive measures for Ireland, introduced to that House by his Majesty's Ministers within the last few days. They stated, that they had learned the intention of the Government with sensations of the utmost grief and astonishment; and they designated the Bill as one of the most tyrannical and despotic ever attempted to be passed into a law for a free people. They stated that they expected measures very different indeed from a Reformed House of Parliament, and not such a proceeding in this respect as the worst Parliament that ever sat in that House ever took—or the worst Government that ever cursed the country dreamed of inflicting. They expressed their humble, but entire confidence, that that and the accompanying measures—called a panacea for Ireland—would have no such effect; but, on the contrary, that measures of coercion first, with measures of relief to follow, would most assuredly increase the irritation, and sting an excited people to madness. They stated also, something of their efforts in the great struggle for Reform in which this country was lately engaged; but he should be sorry to suppose that that House valued the aid of so insignificant a fraction of the United Kingdom. They asked that honourable House "to consider their case first, and then to act towards them as justice should dictate." But they little knew the feelings of that honourable 24 House for Ireland, or they would spare themselves the humiliation and the pain of such a petition. They staled that the town of Drogheda was, as usual, quiet and peaceful as any other town, or city, or village, in the British Empire, notwithstanding the daily—nay, the hourly extortion and iniquities of those in power and in authority there. They moreover stated, that "the neighbourhood of the town is nearly tranquil," "It was never otherwise." They begged to assure that honourable House, with all the humility which beseemed them in the guise of petitioners, though the right hon. Chief Secretary had marked it out as the scene of riot and lawlessness—an assertion which he (Mr. O'Dwyer) should in proper time effectually controvert, not by the authority of prejudiced spies, not by the misrepresentations of paid agents, whose interests and policy it evidently was to keep up the delusion regarding that oppressed country—but by the evidence and on the testimony of honest men, as much above suspicion as reproach. The district in their neighbourhood, the petitioners stated, was nearly tranquil, and the excitement produced by the oppression for tithes had almost died away. Yes, all the misery and disturbance of the country were caused by the persecutions for tithes—by the boon which was lately bestowed on them by his Majesty's gracious and benignant Government, the Tithe Bill—that measure which entailed an expense of a pound on the recovery of a penny due for tithes. The petitioners requested that that honourable House would deign to try first the experiment of mild and equal laws for Ireland (how little they knew the temper of those they thus supplicated!), before they visited that country with all the horrors of military despotism. The petition concluded by asserting that the Irish people ever were and ever would be, if justice were done them, among the most loyal, faithful, and effective subjects of the British empire. The hon. Member observed, that he had read the petition with attention, and, he need not add, with the deepest interest. He hoped it would meet the same attention, and some little portion of interest, from the House. He hoped it; but he feared his hopes had no foundation. It would be certainly "passing strange" if the petition of an integral portion of the people of this realm should not meet with the attention which the Legislature be- 25 stowed upon the affairs of foreign lands. Reserving to himself the right of making any further observations on the measures at another time, he would with the permission of the House, read a letter he had received from Ireland. The hon. Member read a letter which expressed the belief of the writer in these words:—" It grieved us much to read the King's Speech; but the Government are deceived if they suppose the people of Ireland are prepared to acquiesce patiently in their horrible measures. No, they are determined to resist them to the death." And this letter was written by a moderate man. He would not allude to other letters which he had in his possession, having stated enough, he hoped to give Ministers more correct information than could he hoped be obtained from paid spies. He should take an opportunity, when the subject was in full discussion, to deliver his sentiments at large on the oppressive measures proposed by Ministers.
Petition to lie on the Table.
§ Sir Richard Nagle
presented petitions from Castleton and another parish in Westmeath, against the coercive measures for Ireland. He begged to state, that he had received a letter from a Gentleman in the neighbourhood of Castleton, which said, that he had not for ten years, known the country more peaceable than it was at the present moment. The unfortunate individuals, who a short time back had been driven to commit the nightly disturbances of which they had heard so much, had delivered up their arms, had returned to a sense of duty, and many of them had gone to work on the roads. The letter added that food, employment, and impartial justice, would do more to keep the country in peace than Mr. Stanley's Bill, and that the King's Speech had done more to advance the cause of Repeal than anything else could possibly have done.
Petition to lie on the Table.
§ Mr. Wm. Roche
had also a petition to present on this portentous and important subject—the proposal of his Majesty's Ministers to coerce the people of Ireland. It was signed by 600 of the most respectable inhabitants of St. Mary's, Limerick. They prayed that no harsh measure might be resorted to without inquiry, as it would be attended with the most mischievous effects; although they were as loyal as any class of his Majesty's subjects, they could not restrain themselves from pro- 26 testing against this invasion of public liberty. For him self, he could not but express his abhorrence of the measure, which he considered to be unprecedented in the annals of despotism.
§ Mr. O'Brien
was convinced that the measures of Ministers would give great dissatisfaction. The petition came from a part of the country which never was quieter than now. The recollection he had of the atrocities committed by the soldiers and police when the Insurrection Act was granted on a former occasion made him look with horror upon the present Bill. On a former occasion, the police committed the greatest atrocities under their power of making nocturnal visits at the dwelling of any person. He knew of an instance of the police unthatching the roof of a cottage, and setting it on fire, and compelling the inhabitants to show the men that they were men, and the women that they were women. He supported the petition, which declared that nine-tenths of the country were peaceable, and that only one or two counties were in a disturbed state; and it was very singular not a single petition had been presented in favour of the coercive measure—not one of the thirty-two Lord-lieutenants had come forward to support it. He understood that a letter had been received from the Marquess of Anglesey, declaring that he believed, even if he had the Act of Parliament, he could not carry it into effect. He should give, on every occasion, his opposition to the Bill.
Petition to lie on the Table.