§ Mr. Morgan O'Connell
presented a Petition from Ballinrobe, in the county of Mayo, praying the House not to pass the Coercive Bill for Ireland. The petitioners cautioned the House against receiving too readily the statements of interested individuals, and against relying on the representations put forth by newspapers.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that he bad several petitions from Mayo to the same effect, in which the petitioners stated, that they were afraid a great part of the information on which his Majesty's Ministers had relied, had been given by a person who had been confined in Newgate in the same room which he himself formerly occupied. 296 That individual had been, however, sent there for telling a falsehood, while he (Mr. Cobbett) had been imprisoned for telling the truth. He gave his cordial support to the prayer of the petition.
§ Mr. Robinson
had been requested by the petitioners to support the prayer of this petition. He felt bound to say, that the petition came from a very inconsiderable number of his constituents, and as there had been no general meeting of the other part of his constituents, he could not say what their opinions were; but as he had voted for the first reading of this Bill early this morning, he hoped the House would allow him to explain, in a few words, what he had not had the opportunity of doing when he gave his vote. He had given his vote in favour of the first reading, because he thought his Majesty's Ministers required and deserved this mark of confidence, and out of respect to that branch of the Legislature from whence the Bill had been sent into that House; but he must, at the same time, say, that he did not think a sufficient case, after all that had been said, had been made out, to warrant the Government to call upon the Legislature to pass such a Bill as the present, inflicting such a wrong on the whole people of Ireland as this measure was calculated to inflict. He should, in the progress of the Bill—[Cries of order interrupted the hon. Member.]
§ The Speaker
was quite confident that no Member of that House would be more ready to consider such statements as this out of order than the hon. Member who had now been addressing the House, if those statements had proceeded from any other hon. Member. However satisfactory it might be to the hon. Gentleman's constituents to give them an explanation of the vote he had given this morning, there were other modes of letting them know his reasons for the course he had adopted than explaining at that moment. Hon. Members were assembled on this occasion for the purpose of presenting petitions, and it would be very hard on any other Members of that House if they were not to be allowed to explain their motives after the hon. Gentleman sat down, if they wished to give explanations; and then, if they were to be allowed to do so, into what 297 a state of confusion would the House get upon the subject upon which there had already been so many days' discussion, and which was likely to occupy so many more.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that he should always bow with great respect to the decision of the Chair, although he should certainly have thought that, being a representative of the constituency from which the petition proceeded, he might have been allowed to make a few observations upon the subject matter to which it related. What he meant to say, however, was merely, that although he had voted for the first reading of the Bill, he should, in its future course, be guided by circumstances, and certainly should not vote for its passing into a law, till it had undergone considerable modifications.
Petition laid upon the Table.
§ Mr. Fryer
presented a similar Petition from Wolverhampton. He said, he perfectly agreed with the petitioners, that this was a most unconstitutional measure. He did not attribute it to barbarity on the part of the Ministers, but to an error of judgment. He might call it an Act for the Separation of Ireland from England; and if he gave it that name, if he so christened it, the people of Ireland would stand sponsors. He said this rather from what he feared than from what he wished. The Bill had been read a first time in that House—it would be read a second time in Ireland, when the French or some other foreign Power were in Ireland, and a third time when the British were expelled; and then it would be passed nem. con.
§ Mr. Vigors
presented a Petition from the city of Carlow against the Irish Coercive Bill. The petitioners submitted, that his Majesty's Ministers could make out no case which would justify the House in arming them with powers so unconstitutional, and never hitherto resorted to, except when the country was in a state of rebellion.
§ Mr. Blackney
supported the prayer of the petition with all his heart. He had the honour of representing the county of Carlow, and was in possession of some petitions from that county of a similar nature to the one now brought before the House; which he feared he should have no opportunity of presenting before the measures of Ministers were completed. Nothing during the debate on that important measure had given him so much pain as the 298 speech of the noble member for Nottingham, the Lord Lieutenant of Carlow (Lord Duncannon). That noble Lord had stated, that he had not yet received from the police officer the report for the last month. He, however, would take leave to say, that at this time the county of Carlow was in a perfectly tranquil state. This he said, with the utmost confidence, and without fear of contradiction, for there was no Member of that House who could be so intimately acquainted with the state of Carlow as himself. He had, during the recess, made every inquiry throughout that county. He had been, and was still receiving daily communications from every part of that county, and he could not describe to the House how much he had been shocked by the representations made by the noble member for Nottingham, to whose statements every person knowing the worth of his public and private character would give great weight. He felt himself called upon to remark upon the statements of that noble Lord last evening; but, as he did not then see the noble Lord present, his courtesy towards the noble Lord, and his feelings as a gentleman, had prevented him doing so in the absence of the noble Lord. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had risen last evening before the noble member for Nottingham came in, and thus circumstanced, he could only have a private communication with the noble Lord, in which he learnt from him that this day the Report for the last month would be received. But from whom would it be received? From a police officer! He had the highest respect for the character of the noble Lord, but he was convinced that the noble Lord had been imposed upon. He should be able to prove to the House, that all the other Reports upon which the measures of Ministers were founded came also from police officers. He could take upon him to say, that the number of outrages mentioned by the noble Lord could not possibly have taken place in the county of Carlow without his cognizance; and this he said, as a Magistrate, who gave more attention to what was going on in that county than any other Magistrate. It was with these feelings that he took the liberty to address the House at more length than perhaps he ought to have done. He should only further say, that he had five or six petitions to present to the House from every 299 part of the county which he had the honour to represent, against this measure. There were few in that House who knew Ireland better than he did, and he would venture to affirm, that among the whole thirty-two counties of Ireland there was not a more peaceable one than the county of Carlow. In looking over the list of outrages that had been instanced by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, he found that that list had been made up to the end of January, and it had been most grossly exaggerated. He knew the county well, and could positively state, that in the month of January there had not been a single outrage, with the exception of one that was of a very trivial nature. If he had an opportunity, before this question was settled, he should show, that Ireland was not at all in the state in which it had been represented. He should show, that the contents of the "Red Box" were most gross exaggerations. It was too much for the patience of an Irishman to believe, that that House would legislate upon such flimsy materials. His election, and that of his hon. colleague, was conducted without a single outrage. There was not one even in the election town. Indeed, there was no outrage either before or after the election, nor had there been a single case of murder in the county which he represented for several years. If there had been any outrage at all, it was committed by the Whitefeet of King's County, Queen's County, and Kilkenny, who had been permitted to creep into the county without at all being checked by the authorities. If the proper authorities had exercised the powers with which they were invested, Whitefootism would have been suppressed the instant it appeared.
§ Petition laid on the Table.