HC Deb 25 June 1834 vol 24 cc840-6
Mr. Feargus O'Connor

presented a Petition front an individual named Richard Keefe, of the Borough of Dungarvon, complaining of the conduct of the authorities towards him in respect to his vote at the late Election for that Borough. The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to complain of the acts of the stipendiary Magistrates in the neighbourhood of Dungarvon, and assured the House, that a number of the supporters of the present member for Dungarvon were, without cause, crammed into the Bridewell, and the stipendiary Magistrate refused to take bail for them, or at least demanded such excessive bail, that it was tantamount to a refusal. The petitioner, who was a shoemaker, he refused to release, unless he found bail to the amount of 600l. When he recollected that the gaol of Dungarvon was given to the Whig candidate for his voters, he was led to the very natural inference, that every assistance was given by the Government and the authorities to the opposing candidate of the present member for the borough of Dungarvon. There was, however, a previous election for this town, when it was proposed to start the present Solicitor General for it, and he had in his hand a Letter from that hon. and learned Gentleman to a Member of this House, in which he talked of "liberating" the town of Dungarvon. How was he to do this? Why, by means of moving. Every one, however, well knew what was meant by "liberating" a place when mention was made of moving in connection with it. As far as the present member for Dungarvon was concerned, he could assure the House, that not a single penny was spent in the way of bribery; and for this statement he pledged his honour as a Gentleman; whereas he could prove that bribery to a large amount had been committed by a Member of this House. He could also prove, that bribery had been committed by the Government of Ireland, or at least with its connivance. The hon. and learned Gentleman read a Letter from the Solicitor General of Ireland to Mr. Galway M. P., in which the hon. and learned Gentleman (the Solicitor General) said, that he trans- mitted a draft for 200l. towards opening the borough of Dungarvon, and that 300l. would be ready to be sent for the same purpose when necessary. The hon. and learned Gentleman also expressed a hope, that the Committee was a good one, and that he waited with anxiety to know how the Committee stood. He would read a notice from the notary, acknowledging the receipt of 300l., and having done so, proceeded to say, that he did not know what defence the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland would make for the Solicitor General. The hon. and learned Gentleman further observed, that the Government had adopted every means to induce persons to vote for the Whig candidate. Amongst others, a person named Hughes was threatened with the loss of his place by Mr. Barron, if he did not vote for him. The Devonshire family had used their influence at the election in a most improper manner. Would the right hon. Gentleman say, that he had nothing to do with the Solicitor General?—or would he say, that the conduct pursued by the stipendiary Magistrate, and the authorities of Dungarvon, at the last election, ought not to be inquired into? Nothing short of inquiry would satisfy the people of Dungarvon, that unfair measures were not resorted to at the last election. Had it not been for the presence of the troops the voters for the present member for Dungarvon could not have got up to the poll. He also complained of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Stanley), at the former election for Dungarvon, and he could prove, if an opportunity were afforded him, that that right hon. Gentleman also sent money to the town of Dungarvon. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give such an answer as would prove, that Government would punish the persons who had so violated the freedom of election.

Mr. Littleton

felt the utmost astonishment at the extraordinary proceeding of the hon. and learned Member, in bringing charges of so grave a nature without enabling him, by previously communicating them to him, to procure any information on the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman had given neither to him or his hon. friend, any intimation of the charges he intended bringing forward. Had he done so they would have been prepared with evidence to meet these charges. The hon. and learned Member charged a Member of this House with no less a crime than per- jury. Did he intimate to Mr. Galway his intention to make this charge? Did the hon. Gentleman intimate to the Solicitor General for Ireland his intention to make a charge against him? No, he had not done so and those gentlemen and the Government had reason to complain of the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Now, had he made such an intimation, was it to be supposed that those Gentlemen would not have been prepared to retort those grave charges? But those charges were, after all, founded on stolen papers. He felt himself perfectly satisfied in saying, that those papers were stolen by some scoundrel employed for the purpose—and they were now produced for the purpose of founding those charges against the right hon. Gentleman. He knew that those papers were stolen from the Solicitor General for Ireland, and the servant who did so was dismissed. Was it not likely that the person who would steal these would also falsify them? He did not say, that they were falsified, but he might assume that they were, and he, therefore, might doubt their authenticity. He had only to regret that the hon. and learned Member should have been made the medium of producing them. With respect to the charge against his right hon. friend (Mr. Stanley), had the hon. and learned Member intimated to him his intention to make it, would that right hon. Gentleman have left the House but a few minutes ago, as he had done? [Mr. F. O'Connor: He had intimated to Mr. Stanley, that he intended to make those charges.] He was not aware of that. With respect to the charge against the Magistrate, he had no information on the subject, and he hoped the House would suspend its judgment until correct information could be obtained. The hon. and learned Member asked him, whether he had any interest in the Dungarvon election? He had no hesitation in saying he had. He naturally wished that the person whose politics he preferred should be returned, but he interfered in no way in the election. With respect to the money transmitted to Mr. Barron, it was a subscription collected in Dublin by Mr. Barron's friends. It was certainly an indiscreet thing for the Solicitor General to transmit it, holding the situation he did; but he did not think it a matter of serious charge against him. He should not himself have done so. As to any money having been transmitted by Government, he knew nothing whatever about it.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

said, he hoped he might be allowed a few words by way of reply to the serious charge brought against him. He had, as he had already informed the House, told the right hon. Secretary for Ireland of his intention to charge the right hon. ex-Secretary for the Colonies. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland, had applied harsh terms to the individuals who procured these papers. He had no knowledge whatever of them, and he could not therefore, undertake to defend them. He had received the papers from the hon. member for Dungarvon, though the hon. and learned member for Dublin, in whose possession they had been, he had no doubt whatever would have been able to throw light on the subject, if his attendance as chairman of Mr. Harvey's Committee had not precluded his presence there. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had said, that if he had intimated to him the grounds of his charge, he would give him an opportunity of bringing it before the House; but he did not think it consistent with the dignity of the House that any hon. Member should do that. He stood on his own integrity as the Representative of a large constituency; and he required no aid whatever either from the right hon. Secretary or any other hon. Member, in stating to the House any case of grievance worthy of its consideration. The right hon. Secretary had made but a lame defence for his friend the Solicitor-General for Ireland. He said he believed he had interfered, but he thought it at worst only an imprudence. But by this admission the right hon. Gentleman had fastened a charge where there was before but a suppositious inference. For so much had the Solicitor-General for Ireland to be grateful to the right hon. Secretary. The case was now in such a condition that a Committee of the House to investigate into the whole transaction was absolutely imperative; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman who had the honour of his friend so much at heart would move for it himself.

Mr. O'Dwyer

was willing to admit, that those who gave such letters to the public were responsible for the correctness of the means by which they were obtained. He entertained no desire, but, on the contrary, he felt every disinclination to give utterance to a word offensive to the Solicitor General for Ireland, who was not there to defend himself, and whom he believed to be in private life a gentleman of great amiability and worth. He was bound, however, to say, that he went further than the Secretary for Ireland in condemnation of the share which the hon. and learned Solicitor appeared to have in the proceedings of the election. He could not conceive a more grave offence than for a member of the Government, having no local connexion with a town, and whose duty it was to tranquillise the public mind, to stir up social animosities, to identify himself with political cabals, and give the influence inseparable from his office to the side of one of two hostile political parties. With respect to the production of these letters, however they were obtained, they were now before the House, and should be dealt with (unless their genuineness was repudiated) as evidence so far as they went. It appeared from them that a sum of unusual magnitude had been subscribed by an officer of the Irish Government to the purposes of prosecuting an election petition. It was due to the character of the Government to ascertain from what source this contribution proceeded.—If the funds were drawn from the secret service money voted for Ireland, which, in days of less claim to political virtue used to be the manner of assisting ministerial adherents to a seat in the House, it was desirable to have that ascertained. At all events, the matter should be investigated, if it were only in a spirit of justice towards those against whom the hon. member for Cork had brought forward accusations, in very unmeasured terms.

Mr. Sheil

said, there was one phrase in the letter which he wished to call attention to. It was that which said "making altogether 500l." It was a matter of importance to ascertain the facts. The right hon. Secretary had admitted "the imprudence" of the Solicitor General. Now, it was well known that in many Government cases imprudence was a palliative expression for guilt. It was something like the old Spartan custom which made the essence of crime consist in being detected. If it were the fact, that 500l. was sent to the Dungarvon election; and if it were proved that the Solicitor General for Ireland had been the medium through which it was conveyed, he (Mr. Sheil) asked the House would the disapprobation of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland be sufficient for the country? Would not a strict and a searching investigation into the facts of the case be absolutely requisite? The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had said, he believed that the Solicitor General had sent the money, and that the money was the amount of a subscription. The right hon. Secretary, if he had any regard for the dignity of the Government and the honour of his friend, ought to make his belief certainty, and come forward himself with the proposition for a Committee. If the Solicitor General should deny the truth of the allegations, he would believe him, because he knew that he was a man of private worth and honour; but he should get an opportunity of vindicating himself. If the Attorney or Solicitor-General of England had done what the Solicitor General for Ireland was charged with having done, there would be an outcry from one end of England to the other. There was another charge in the speech of the hon. member for Cork which the right hon. Secretary did not attempt to disprove. It was that against a stipendiary Magistrate for requiring 600l. bail from a working shoemaker. How did the right hon. Secretary seek to justify such an enormous amount of bail? Surely he was as much bound to explain the conduct of the stipendiary magistrate, a dependant on the Government, quite as much, if not more, than he had to explain and defend that of the Solicitor General. But the right hon. Gentleman had perhaps not heard of the case before, otherwise he would certainly be able to give some information on the subject. The right hon. Secretary had indignantly denounced the use of a private letter; but he remembered the time that the present Lord Chancellor of England, when the organ of the party in that House with which the right hon. Secretary now acted, had read a letter of Mr. Saurin, the then Attorney General of Ireland, surreptitiously obtained, at least as surreptitiously as the present letter, and when Sir Robert Peel taunted that noble Lord with having so used the letter of Mr. Saurin, that noble Lord turned round upon him and asked "What, then, was the conduct of the Tories when they resorted to stolen letters for evidence against the Queen?" If, Mr. Saurin's letter had been made use of by the Whigs and the Queen's letters by the Tories, he did not see how either party could fairly object to the present letters being used in the same manner, or why the correspondence of the Solicitor General for Ireland, on such an interesting topic, should be kept hermetically sealed. He hoped his hon. friend, the member for Cork, would not let the matter rest as it was; but that he would take it from its present form of an appendage to a petition, and bring it forward as a resolution, in which these letters should be embodied. Then the attention of the House would necessarily be drawn to it, and the eyes of the country opened to the conduct of the public functionaries.

Mr. Gisborne

said, that the charge against the stipendiary magistrate was one of a most serious nature. And as it had been asserted that the Solicitor-General had sent down money to Dungarvon for electioneering purposes, it was impossible that the matter could be passed over without inquiry. Still he thought that the hon. and learned member for Cork county was anything but discreet in bringing the subject before the House without giving the hon. member for Waterford notice of his intention.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

explained. It had been communicated over and over again to the hon. member for Waterford, that this subject would be brought forward, but the hon. Member did not choose to appear. The letters were only that morning put into his hands, as it was the duty of the hon. member for Dublin to present them. He had only intended to speak to the petition.

Colonel Perceval

said, it was wasting the time of the House to spend it in debating as to how those letters were obtained, as in his opinion all the cases quoted were equally discreditable. Mr. Saurin had as much reason to complain of a breach of morality as the present Solicitor General for Ireland as the letters of both were obtained by unhallowed means. He hoped, however, that the matter would be fully investigated.

Mr. Lambert

said, he could never consent to an inquiry founded upon documents obtained in the infamous manner in which the present letter had been obtained. If the accusation was brought forward upon evidence fairly obtained, he would not object to the fullest inquiry.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

said, that the Gentlemen who were now in power, and who complained so much of the use made of a confidential letter, had not scrupled to avail themselves of a letter similarly obtained well known as the "tame-elephant letter." The hon. member for Wexford seemed to think, that it was no matter how foul the means used might be, so that they were concealed.

The Petition to lie on the Table.

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