HC Deb 24 June 1835 vol 28 cc1126-7
Mr. Scholefield

presented a Petition from Birmingham, agreed to at a public meeting, and signed by not less than 12,900 persons in six days, without any persons going round to obtain signatures. The hon. Member, after stating that many more signatures would have been appended had there been time enough, and reading a letter from the High Bailiff in testimony of the immense number and respectability of the meeting, and the good order observed by them, proceeded to state the contents of the petition to the following effect. The petitioners complained.—"That Corporate funds had been squandered in exerting a sinister influence in the choice of Parliamentary representatives; and then requested that a searching reform into such corporate institutions might be adopted by the House. That they were impressed with a strong and painful sense of the mischievous effects and the extreme injustice of the present system of the Established Church of Ireland; and they expressed a wish that the surplus wealth with which the Church of Ireland was now endowed, might, with a due regard to existing interests, be appropriated to such purposes as might best soothe the wounded spirit, and provide for the intellectual wants of the people of Ireland. That considering freedom in matters of religion among the dearest and most sacred rights of Englishmen, they claimed a full, free, and equal participation in all national institutions, and in particular, unrestricted admission into the English Universities; a complete and unqualified exemption from Church-rates, and a civil registration of births, deaths, and marriages, leaving the parties, in cases of marriage, to superadd, such religious ceremonies as they might think proper. That, at the same time, they are impressed with the wisdom of so seeking the redress of their grievances as not to aid the intrigues of enemies, nor embarrass tried and faithful friends." The hon. Member, in supporting the petition, said that although he would not go into any discussion of the matters contained in it, he could not refrain from expressing his great satisfaction that a petition conceived in so liberal a spirit, and so different from the tone which characterized a petition presented from some inhabitants of the same town a night or two since, should be now laid before the House. It evinced a most gratifying change of popular feeling in a great town, which, not many years since, had disgraced itself by the most bigoted fanaticism and intolerance, and hatred of everything that was liberal. As property was a point so much dwelt upon, he was prepared to say, that there was as much, or more property, on the liberal side of the question, than on the other. The petitioners finally expressed their fear that the Church question being made a mere money matter, would have the effect of injuring the interests of religion to a most dangerous extent. He moved that the petition be laid on the Table.

Mr. Thomas Attewood

supported the prayer of the petition. He agreed in everything which had fallen from his colleague and could testify from personal knowledge that many of the petitioners were most respectable men.

Mr. Ward

also supported it, and expressed his gratification that the stigma which the petition presented from Bir- mingham on Monday night, was calculated to throw upon that influential town, was now so triumphantly removed.

Mr. Potter

said, he remembered the time, shortly after the riots, when in Birmingham any one who expressed himself in favour of the least liberality, whether in civil or religious matters, was sure to be scouted from every class of society. The petition now presented evinced that a gratifying and honourable change had taken place in popular feeling and intelligence.

Petition laid on the Table.