HC Deb 03 April 1835 vol 27 cc784-7
Sir Richard Vyvyan

had a most important Petition to present from the City of Bristol, signed by upwards of 5,000 Inhabitants of that City, respecting a subject at present before the House, and the discussion on which stood for that evening—he meant the Irish Church. The petition was agreed to at a public meeting held in that City in the month of November last, in expectation of some such measure as that which had now been proposed by the noble Lord, the Member for Devonshire; but he (Sir Richard Vyvyan) had not received it for presentation until yesterday. It was from the Magistrates, clergy, merchants, and other inhabitants of the City of Bristol, and the petitioners expressed their deep and awful sense of the danger that would accrue to the Protestant Reformed religion in Ireland by any attacks that should be made on the Church Establishment there, and they declared their conviction, that they would be the enemies of all Government who should make or countenance such attacks. They farther stated, that they would stand by the Church of Ireland, being fully assured that if it were assailed, the Church of England would soon be assailed in the same way—he quite agreed on that point with the petitioners. He was sure of this—that if they should surrender up the Irish Church on the principle, that it was not to be kept up in Ireland in those places where no Protestants were to be found. He was sure that if they admitted that principle once in Ireland, it would sooner or later be applied to the English Church too. It was impossible on any such abstract principles to defend the interests of the Irish Church; but in considering that subject, they must look to Questions of high political consideration which it involved—to Questions not essentially religious—to Questions connected with the House of Lords and the seats of the Bishops there—to Questions essentially connected with the connexion of Church and State, and with the King of these realms being a Protestant. It was upon such grounds that he (Sir Richard Vyvyan) had, without hesitation, voted last night against the noble Lord's Motion. It was but one of the steps in the progress of Revolution. It was only by opposing attacks made in the first instance upon the Church of Ireland, that they should show their firm resolution to oppose the inroads about to be made in the Constitution in Church and State. In submitting this petition to the House, he must beg, that as it was an important one, it should be read at length. It was the first petition that came from the people of England on this subject, and it deserved the deep attention of the House.

The Petition was read at length.

Mr. O'Dwyer

said, that though the hon. Baronet had moved that the petition should be read at length, there was nothing in it that called for the attention of the House. It was filled with the grossest and most absurd misrepresentations, originating, no doubt, from a total ignorance on the part of the petitioners of the real condition and state of Ireland. He would deny that the petition should be regarded as representing the feelings of the people on this Question. It had not proceeded from a free assembly of the people. It came from a meeting, the work of two reverend incendiaries, who had come over from Ireland for the purpose in the course of last year, and one of whom, a beneficed clergyman of the Church of Ireland, left his parishioners to take care of themselves—not forgetting, of course, to provide that his tithes should in the meanwhile be duly collected. These two clergymen came over to this country for the purpose of raising the "No Popery" cry. From his own local knowledge of Ireland, he would state, that this petition was filled with the most audacious misrepresentations with regard to that country. It was clear that the Church of Ireland stood on different grounds from the Church of England, and that it was perfectly open to those who, like himself, wished to see the Establishment in England maintained to cut down the Church of Ireland to the extent necessary for meeting the spiritual wants of the members of it.

An Hon. Member

said, that this petition was signed by 5,000 individuals. The hon. Gentleman had said, that they had been induced to sign it through the intimidation of two reverend incendiaries. Now, he did not think that the people of England would feel very grateful at finding their petitions spoken of in those terms. The hon. Baronet had not said, that this petition represented the sentiments of the whole people of England, but that it was the first that had been presented on this momentous subject. He (the hon. Member) was quite sure that they would soon have petitions on the subject from one end of the country to the other.

Colonel Evans

wished to know, whether the expression, "enemies of good Government," contained in the petition, was to be applied to the majority of that House? If that was the case, it would, he thought, be a question, whether the petition should be received at all. He for one would say, that he was sure this petition did not speak the sentiments of the people of England.

Mr. Potter

said, that the Resolution carried by the noble Lord, would, in fact, be beneficial to the Church of Ireland itself.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

said, that this petition had been agreed to at a public meeting of the inhabitants of Bristol. He (Sir Richard Vyvyan) had not been present at that meeting, but he would not allow the two reverend and respectable gentlemen who attended there, to be called incendiaries. He had no personal acquaintance with the reverend Mr. O'Sullivan, but he knew Dr. Boyton, and he was the last person who deserved to be called an incendiary, though no doubt that reverend gentleman held strong opinions. He begged to say, that this petition, emanating from the inhabitants of Bristol, depended in no degree upon the gentlemen who had attended the meeting from Ireland. It expressed the sentiments of 5,000 inhabitants of the City of Bristol, and he believed that it truly represented the feelings of the people of that City respecting the Irish and English Church. With regard to what had been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, he (Sir Richard Vyvyan) did not think that the petition contained anything dis- respectful to the House; but, even if there was a hasty expression in it, he was sure that the hon. and gallant Member would not be the person to move its rejection on that ground.

Colonel Verner

He did not hear the expression made use of, which he was informed, applied to those two reverend gentlemen; but he could not allow any imputation to be cast upon the character of the reverend Mr. O'Sullivan, without standing up in his defence. He had the pleasure of knowing the reverend gentleman most intimately—perhaps better than any other individual in that House. He was the rector of the parish in which he resided, and from the many occasions he had had of judging of the purity of that gentleman's mind, the uprightness of his intentions, his integrity, his moral and religious worth—he (Colonel Verner) had no hesitation in pronouncing Mr. O'Sullivan to be incapable of acting in any manner derogatory to the character of a clergyman and a gentleman.

Mr. Shaw

said, that he would not sit still and hear those two reverend gentlemen, with whom he was personally acquainted, called incendiaries. If there was anything in the petition disrespectful to the House, which he did not believe was the case, he would not justify it; but he must say, that it was equally unjustifiable on the part of an hon. Member in that House thus to attack two individuals who were absent, and who were most estimable men in every respect, both in public and private life, as well as distinguished by the greatest acquirements, and the most eminent talents. He was sorry to find any hon. Member thus led away to give expression to language equally unparliamentary and unwarrantable.

Petition laid on the Table.