HC Deb 12 March 1835 vol 26 cc903-8
Mr. Mullins

moved for copies of any correspondence between the Lord-Lieutenant, the Deputy-Lieutenants, and Magistrates of the several counties of Ireland, and the Irish Government, previously to, and during the late elections, with reference to the distribution and employment of the military force, and to apprehended obstructions of the freedom of election. He said, it certainly was his intention to press for their production; but, he understood it was wished by Govern- ment that a further time should be allowed.

Sir Henry Hardinge

had no objection to the returns moved for, but he would remind the hon. Members for Ireland, that an interval of two days, was not sufficient between a notice of Motion and the Motion itself, when the subject concerned related to transactions, the documents connected with which must, of necessity, be in Government offices in Ireland. On the present occasion, however, he had no objection to produce the Papers, and when they were produced, he took that opportunity of informing the House, he should move that all the Reports relating to matters occurring previously to, and at the elections, should be referred to the Committee on bribery and intimidation. With regard to the employment of the military, the Papers, when produced, would prove they had never been employed, but on grounds perfectly justifiable.

Mr. O'Dwyer

regretted to hear so confident a statement from the gallant Officer, with respect to the use of the military. He had himself known instances or the most gross and unwarrantable interference on the part of the military. He would read an extract of a letter he had received from the Rev. Mr. Webb, of Borris, as evidence of the system which had been pursued:—"We were obliged to close our chapel, these two last Sundays. This extraordinary measure we were obliged to resort to, that murder might not be committed. The magistrate brought a company of soldiers on each Sunday, and had them placed at the chapel to protect some voters. If we had permitted the people to assemble, there is no doubt the moment they had appeared, the military, armed as they were, would have found a pretext to fire on the people; for the people, it was more than probable, on their appearance, would have been greatly excited, and made an attack." The writer also requested the hon. Member to inquire of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, by what authority this military force had been stationed there.

Sir Henry Hardinge

thought it very advisable for hon. Gentlemen to avoid discussion, when moving for returns of papers. He had endeavoured to do so, but was provoked into reply by statements that were made on the opposite side of the House. He had heard of outrages, such as the hon. Gentleman alluded to at Borris, where it was stated that people were pulled out of their pews, the pews destroyed, and the people dragged into the streets and severely beaten. Similar scenes, it had been asserted, had taken place several times subsequent to the Carlow election, when neither the influence of the priests, nor the sanctuary of the temple, were any protection. If hon. Members would favour him with the names of parties engaged in such alleged disturbances, he would promise to institute the proper inquiries, and give them satisfactory answers. As far as he was able to judge, the conduct of the military had been on all occasions most exemplary. Depending on the returns of Sir Hussey Vivian, he was authorised to say so. It had been a matter of particular inquiry by the Commander-in-Chief, whether the troops had on any occasion entered into the contest influenced by the spirit of either party. The answer to such inquiry, both from Sheriffs and Returning-officers, was perfectly satisfactory, and the conduct of the military had met on several occasions the approbation of the disappointed candidate. The hon. Member for Cork, whom he saw opposite, he believed, had given his testimony in favour of the conduct of the military, an opinion, he believed, the House would universally arrive at, whenever the subject was brought forward and regularly sifted.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

said, that at the election alluded to, he was rather surprised, when about to address the people, to find himself surrounded by drawn swords and fixed bayonets, but he managed to keep the soldiers in good temper, by talking of the impolicy of flogging in the army, of the evils of unmerited pensions, and the propriety of appropriating such pensions to the relief of the widow and the orphan.

Sir Henry Hardinge

had seen a letter written by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin to Sir Hussey Vivian, in which the hon. and learned Member praised the conduct of the military at Youghal, as having been admirable. As proof, too, of the good effects of employing that force, he begged to call the attention of the House to this fact, that in 1832, troops were not employed, and in Carlow fourteen men were actually killed; in 1834, they were employed, and there was only one man killed, and that was in Meath. He thought, therefore, he was quite right in saying, that their employment was per- fectly justifiable, particularly as there had been no complaint of misconduct, every account, on the contrary, agreeing in stating their conduct to be most exemplary.

Mr. O'Connell

could not complain of the conduct of the military, but their conduct reflected no credit on the Magistracy, but on the gentlemen of the army, and the good feeling of the soldiers themselves. In the letter alluded to by the hon, and gallant Officer, he did not, as was supposed, express so much satisfaction at the conduct of the military in itself, as he did a preference to it when compared with that of the police. He had written to the Commander of the Forces with regard to the practice of the soldiery firing on the people, and had received an answer, he would admit, which was perfectly satisfactory. He willingly gave credit to the army, and he believed that gentlemen in command had received orders to adopt every precaution in cases of Magistrates giving unnecessary orders. It had been stated that in 1831, murders had taken place, and that in 1834, there were none—[Colonel Perceval: One only.] One only, and that in the county remarkable for its brotherly love. There were none killed in the Southern counties.

Sir Henry Hardinge

was sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman and the House must be aware, that the military could only act at the requisition of the magistracy in Ireland, as well as in England. The troops had strict orders not to interfere, except at the requisition of the magistrates; and, unless they did then interfere, it would be impossible for any Government to be carried on.

Mr. John O'Connell

objected to the interference of the Magistrates. In the county which he had the honour of representing for two Parliaments, the Magistrates were all of Orange particular caste of politics; they were all of Orange principles. There was not one of them who had a vote but who had voted, both in 1832 and 1834, against the popular candidate. He could bear testimony to the advantage derived from the presence of the military at elections in Ireland, at the same time he felt bound on all occasions to object to their introduction as unconstitutional. With respect to what had been stated regarding the loss of life at the Dungarvon election, he should beg the House to bear in mind that it was not through the people it had occurred, but through some marines who were directed by the Magistracy.

Colonel Bruen,

as representative of a large county (Carlow), could not let the opportunity pass of adding his testimony to that already borne to the efficiency and good conduct of the military, and, also, to the particular necessity which existed almost always in Ireland for their presence at elections, but more especially at the last election in that kingdom.

Mr. Henry Grattan

begged to add his meed of praise to that which had already been bestowed on the military. Their conduct, contrasted with that of the police, was decidedly in their favour. Advantage was always derived to the peace of the country from employing them in preference to the constabulary, in consequence of the latter being more immediately under the control of, and responsible to, a partial Magistracy.

Colonel Evans

said, that he had been in Carlow at the last election for that borough, and on that occasion he had seen a display of military, horse and foot, which would have led him to suppose the town was in danger of destruction. Yet be did not perceive the least appearance of excitement among the people, or even anything like a crowd, to warrant such a display of armed force. In England elections partook of the nature of a solemn civil ceremony. In Ireland, on the contrary, they appeared to partake of a military character. In England, the military never appeared at elections without the most absolute necessity existed; in Ireland they were called out and paraded in all places before any necessity was even thought of. With respect to the question at issue—the conduct of the Magistracy —he thought the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had gone beyond his duty in declaring his belief in their innocence. It was like prejudging the question, and could not but have its effect in prejudicing the course of justice. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Henry Hardinge) spoke from his own knowledge, or merely from the information supplied by the local Magistrates?

Sir H. Hardinge

rose, but

The Speaker

interposed, and said, that, he could not help expressing it as his opinion, that very great inconvenience would arise if discussions were entered into by hon. Members in anticipation of the production of documents which were promised to be laid before the House. If, however, a sense of justice induced him in this instance to permit the right hon. Gentleman (the Secretary for Ireland) to address the House in reply to the observations of those who had preceded him, he trusted he should not be understood as countenancing discussions of this nature which, if generally allowed, must necessarily be attended with very great inconvenience.

Sir Henry Hardinge

most cordially acquiesced in the justice and propriety of that decision. During the course of the evening various attacks had been made on the Irish Government, on the one hand for being too Orange, and on the other for being too Catholic; his great object, however, had been, and always would be, to act with the strictest impartiality; and although he did not enter into details for the purpose of vindicating the course which had been pursued, it being most improper to anticipate a debate on papers which were to be produced, yet he could not avoid stating, that the conduct of the military had, on all occasions, been most exemplary, and in consequence of the protection afforded by them to the people, not a single life was lost at the last election, while at the one preceding not fewer than fourteen were sacrificed.

Motion agreed to.