§ Mr. Arthur Trevor,
in presenting several Petitions against the appropriation of the Irish Church Revenues from Gateshead, Chester-le-Street, and other places in the county of Durham, observed, that it having been affirmed on a former occasion by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pease) that such Petitions as these were "got up" by the Clergy of the Diocese, he (Mr. A. Trevor) had caused inquiries to be made on the subject, and he had ascertained that though the Clergy had of course been active in promoting such petitions, they had never rendered themselves liable to the charge of getting them up in the way described by the hon. Member for South Durham.
§ Mr. Hedworth Lambton
said, that as one of the Members for the county of Durham, he should be extremely sorry that the House or the country should receive these petitions as an expression of the opinion of that county. In behalf not only of himself and his hon. Colleague, but of a great majority of their constitu- 844 ents, he would put in a total and distinct disclaimer of all the statements and assertions so lavishly put forth in these petitions. Let but the House look at the very limited number of signatures appended to these petitions, and then consider the extended population of the northern division of Durham, where the electoral body was not less than 5,000, and they would at once see and acknowledge that such petitions could not be looked upon as expressing the opinions of that portion of the county. There were two points in one of these petitions, which he was sorry had not been read, on which he would make a few observations. One of these was an assertion that the measure contemplated by the Home Secretary tended to the speedy destruction of the Protestant Church, and the encouragement of Popery. Yet what was that measure in sober fact? It was a most necessary and praiseworthy plan for rescuing millions of Catholics from contributing to the support of a Church to which they did not belong, and to put an end to the abuse of giving clergymen large incomes for doing nothing. It was a most cutting insult to the Protestant Church to say that it would be injured by such a measure as this. The next point referred to by the Petitioners, was the alleged violation, by the Catholic Members of that House, of the oath they had taken on entering it. No calumny could be more gross or false. He felt it his duty to express his firm and conscientious belief that the Catholic Members were fully as incapable of breaking an oath, and as deeply impressed with the sacred solemnity of its obligation, as any men, whether in the House or out of it. If the Catholic Members were to be debarred from giving their votes on this subject, what, he would ask, was the use of Catholic Emancipation?
§ Mr. Harland
said, that of the ten Members for Durham county, not less than seven had voted for the appropriation of the Irish Church Revenues; nor could it be said, that this majority did not represent the opinions of their constituents; for at the last election one of the main subjects spoken of from the hustings was this very measure, the support of which was forcibly impressed upon the Members in receiving the support of the electors. He would not go into any details as to the means which had been had recourse to in getting up those petitions; he would only 845 express his decided conviction, that if the question were fairly and honestly and truly put before the people of that county, a very unquestionable majority would affirm the proposition. It was a measure which, so far from injuring the Protestant religion, would put it on a firm footing, not only in the affections and love of the people, but in their reason and judgment.
§ Mr. Cuthbert Rippon
stated, as a matter of undeniable fact, that these petitions were got up by the clergy, the authors being none other than the pious and political brotherhood known as the Dean and Chapter of Durham, aided by the patriotic body called the Durham Conservative Society. It was set forth that these petitions conveyed the general opinions of the men of the county of Durham. Now, in Gateshead there were 508 electors; of these but twenty had signed the Petition from Gateshead. Gateshead contained a population of 15,000, yet among all these the reverend petition-hawkers had not been able to raise the other fifty-eight names appended to the petition, for not a few of this number were collected from the neighbourhood—in one or two cases from a distance of not less than ten miles. With these facts before their eyes, the House of Commons would not for an instant, he trusted, allow such petitions as these to be foisted upon them as expressing the real feeling of a great and influential county. The two respectable bodies he had spoken of above, were but too happy in having persuaded the hon. Member opposite to become as it were the conduit-pipe of the overflowings of their religious bigotry and political rancour.
§ Mr. Arthur Trevor
said, that his opinion of the bodies alluded to, was so very different from that expressed in no measured terms by the hon. Member, that he was very proud of being thought worthy to become their conduit-pipe. It had always been his principle, however, to bring forward any petitions with the presentation of which he might be honoured in an open and candid way, to afford hon. Members every facility for giving their opinions on the contents of them. His position in reference to his constituents, was one of great difficulty and delicacy, but being the only Member for that part of the country who sat on that (the Opposition) side of the House, it was not unnatural that persons entertaining opinions 846 similar to his own, should confide to him the presentation of petitions to the House on matters of great political moment.
§ Mr. Pease,
as one of the Members for Durham, wished to state the manner in which those petitions were got up, especially as his former statement on that point had been controverted by the hon. Member opposite. He had received a letter from a most respectable constituent of his on the subject, which he would read to the House. The hon. Member accordingly read the letter. The writer stated, that having seen his (Mr. Pease's) statement contradicted by the hon. Member, Mr. Trevor, he begged to furnish him, with evidence as to the way in which those petitions were got up. The writer said, that he had signed one of those petitions, and that he was not only ignorant of the nature of its contents, but that he had been grossly deceived on that point by one of the persons who had been sent round the county with blank sheets to obtain signatures to the petition. He (the writer) asked that person if the petition contained anything contrary to the Motion of Lord John Russell, and his reply was "no; not in any shape." In consequence of that statement, he (the writer) affixed his signature to the blank sheet. He had since conversed with others who had signed similar petitions, and who complained of having been treated in the same way. The writer said, that when the sheets with signatures were filled, they were sent to Durham, and pasted on the petition there, which had been got up by the clergy. His correspondent, in conclusion, had appealed to him to know, as this petition was a gross lie and misrepresentation, whether it was not one which should be expunged from the records of the House? Many who had signed those petitions had been deceived like the writer of this letter, though he was ready to say that several of the names he saw to them were the signatures of persons entertaining such sentiments as the petitions expressed. In voting for the appropriation Clause, he had voted in accordance with the feelings and sentiments of the great majority of his constituents.
§ Petition to lie on the Table.