HC Deb 12 March 1835 vol 26 cc888-902
Mr. Dobbin

moved for a copy of the proceedings had at an investigation held at Armagh of the transactions which took place at Keady in the county of Armagh between the Magistrates, the police, and the Orangemen, on the 5th of November last, with all the documents connected therewith.

Sir Henry Hardinge

could not grant the papers to which the Motion referred, because, as the Government had determined to prosecute the parties concerned in the transaction, the Crown Solicitor had taken the documents with him to the Armagh assizes. Under these circumstances, the hon. Member would perceive that he could not consent to the Motion, the more particularly as a judicial proceeding was pending.

Mr. Finn

complained of the encouragement given to Orangemen, and said that the people did not place confidence in the Administration of justice in that country.

Mr. Littleton

said, he understood that the Armagh assizes would commence tomorrow, and, therefore, the trial would in all probability be over before the papers could be laid upon the Table of the House. There was no case better calculated to satisfy Members of that House of the baneful effects resulting from party divisions in Ireland than that to which the Motion referred.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that if the right hon. Gentleman had listened attentively to what he had previously said, he would have found that he made no objection to the production of the papers, further than that orders had been given to prosecute the parties implicated. And how were they to know that the case might not be postponed, or that some other impediment might not have come in the way? But there was another reason why he could not produce those papers—namely, that they had been carried by the learned counsel to the Assizes, and he therefore could not produce them.

Mr. Henry Grattan

considered that the order ought to be pressed. They were bound to do thus much to show the people of Ireland they were disposed to do them justice. He had received from his agent a man of grave, sage, and steady character, a detail of the outrages committed by the Orangemen in Clanes, with the details of which he would not trouble the House. He declared that the people would not endure the armed Orange banditti tolerated by Government, and if that party were not put down, it was to be feared that their passions would get the better of their reason, and the Catholic gentry of Ireland would arm their tenants to fight it out with the Orangemen, who now conceived the present Government owed its elevation to them.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

was almost sorry that the hon. Gentleman had not substituted for some parts of his address the substance of the communication he had received from his agent, who, it appeared, was a very grave, sage, and steady character; and, he had no doubt, that what he said would have displayed a little more moderation than some of the hon. Member's observations. The hon. Member who originated this Motion moved for two sets of papers, the latter of which referred to a case in which no judicial proceeding had been commenced; rewards had been offered by proclamation for the discovery of the delinquents but without success. Now, the paper relating to this transaction his right hon. Friend was prepared to give. But the other Motion related to transactions upon which trials were now pending. Nothing could be fairer than the request of his right hon. Friend, who merely asked for such a delay as the attainment of the ends of justice required. He was sure that the hon. Gentleman would, on reflection, see the propriety of withdrawing, for the present, that part of his Motion objected to. There would be no objection to produce all the papers at a subsequent period.

Mr. Roebuck

thought the House should act upon the suggestion of the hon. Member for Meath, and order the papers, leaving them to be produced when convenient.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

entertained the strongest objection to such a course. The only objection to produce the papers at once was, that such a course might interfere with the ends of justice; but at a future period they could be moved for. The orders for returns made by the House of Commons should be imperative, and not left to the discretion of subordinate agents. He put it, therefore, to the good sense of the hon. Gentleman whether he would not obtain all that be required by moving for the returns at a future period.

Motion was withdrawn.

Mr. Dobbin

moved for a copy of the proceedings of an investigation held at Armagh, of the transactions which took place in the neighbourhood of Keady, between the police and the country people, on collecting an arrear of tithe due to the rev. James Blacker, &c., which Motion was agreed to. The hon. Member also moved for a copy of the proceedings had at an investigation held at Armagh, on the transactions which took place in that town and neighbourhood on the 15th of January last, and the following week, during which several houses in that town were wrecked, and fourteen Catholic houses buried in the neighbourhood, by a body of Orangemen, together with the several papers connected therewith.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that the Government was anxious to discountenance the improper proceedings alluded to in the Motion just made. With that view, a reward had been offered for the discovery of the offenders, and the hon. Member might be sure that no steps would be neglected to bring them to punishment.

Lord Mandeville

was anxious to vindicate the Armagh Magistrates from the charge of favouring the Orangemen.—There was no foundation for the accusation. The investigation was about a brawl at a public-house. The hon. Member was quite wrong when he assumed that the outrage was commenced by the Orangemen. He (Lord Mandeville) attended the investigation, and he could assure the House that there was no evidence whatever that the outrage was perpetrated by Orangemen; on the contrary, there was distinct evidence that the rioters were not Orangemen. The history of these feuds was this:—At races held before this outrage, a party of Catholics had surprised and attacked a body of Orangemen who were not prepared for, and did not expect, any hostility from their opponents. Another race was held in another part of the county, soon after, and the Protestants came prepared for their defence. There the Catholics again mustered strong, and having provoked the Protestants there ensued a second fight, in which the Catholics were worsted. Then came the races of Armagh. The Lord-Lieutenant. got intimation that a riot was meditated, and issued an order for the suppression of the races. After this the Catholics, animated by a strong feeling of animosity towards the Protestants, absolutely went about marking each obnoxious Protestant for vengeance. One Protestant and his daughter, on going to church, were waylaid and beaten to such an excess that their lives were despaired of. The houses of other Protestants were subsequently attacked and absolutely wrecked. Then the Protestants took fire, and naturally.— This was the origin of the disturbances now complained of. There were as many as six wounded Orangemen the victims of Catholic outrage. The consequence was, that the Protestants turned out and burned seven, not fourteen, houses of the Catholics. After that 400 Catholics, all armed, turned out and attacked the Protestants indiscriminately. The Protestants, to the number of 300, turned out next, and repelled the invasion on their houses, property, and lives. The case was brought before the Irish Government, and an investigation was ordered. The Lord-Lieutenant, whose duty it was to act impartially, summoned only the Magistrates who belonged to one party, the Catholic party. He absolutely excluded Magistrates who were known to be friendly to the Protestant party. When it was a complicated inquiry, involving the interest of two parties, why, he would ask, should the inquiry be conducted by the partisans on one side only? The Lord-Lieutenant's conduct was highly reprehensible. He selected his own court, formed his own tribunal, selected his own witnesses—for even the witnesses were all chosen from one side, to the utter exclusion of rebutting evidence. He did more—he made the investigation a scant and partial one, he excluded the public press—there was no official reporter admitted—the reporters for the press were excluded—all was done within closed doors, and by the organs of a particular party. Even the evidence given in open court was not suffered to be produced before this dark and scanty tribunal. Was this a seemly, was it a just, was it an honest, was it a wise proceeding? In a case deeply involving the interests of many individuals—affecting too the public welfare, and the public tranquillity—should a high functionary stoop from that lofty ground of impartiality which it was his duty to maintain, and link himself by the establishment of such a private inquisition with the Ministers of a party. Everything was done before that tribunal to inculpate the Protestants, and cleanse the Catholics from guilt. Witnesses were refused on the Protestant side to overturn the evidence given by the Catholic party. When the inquiry was ordered by the Lord Lieutenant for the furtherance of public justice it should surely be conducted in the spirit in which it was ordered; it should not be one-sided, but impartial.

Mr. Feargus O'Connor

said, he would not have uttered a word on the present subject were it not that the hon. Baronet opposite said there was some palliation for the conduct of the Protestants. He hoped the party feelings of the noble Lord and of the Orangemen would be confined to the court house, and not uttered in that House. When the noble Lord talked about his anxiety for the Protestant party —when be heard declarations made in that House that the time was come when the Protestants of Ireland should stand in defence of their rights—he, as the Representative of the Irish Catholics, should be excused if his feelings sometimes hurried him too far. The noble Lord said the Catholics were armed, and therefore it was necessary the Protestants should be armed also. He also declared, the Protestants would drive the Catholics into the sea if they got one good field day. Words are but wind, While actions speak the mind. When he saw the defenders of the Orangemen on the Treasury Benches he could expect little conciliation, little relief to the Irish people. It had been stated that few police had attacked the people, but the fact was, that there were thirty-seven police who had joined in the attack, and by whom murder had been committed, and there was no magistrate to control them in the outrage. It disgusted him, and all Irish, and all English Members, that they were obliged to rise, night after night, to defend themselves from a fanatic and out of the House, which would lead to the desolation of Ireland. He had no confidence in the declaration of Government that their great aim was to put an end to party feeling in Ireland. He had no confidence in the late Government, for their professions were falsified by their acts. They gave him a Commission, and when they put him to the trouble of the inquiry they did nothing. The Orangemen were now become too powerful to be interfered with. He had no confidence, therefore, in the present Administration, nor in any Administration. His confidence was in the pressure from without.

Mr. Herbert Curteis,

as an English Member of Parliament, could not help rising to express his disgust that an Irish clergyman should be found acting in the character of a Magistrate during the collection of his own tithe; and he thought that the Government ought to issue an order to prevent the repetition of a like occurrence. He fortunately belonged to a county in which clergymen were considered to have a higher occupation than that of a Magistrate. But, at all events, there could exist no difference of opinion on this point—that clergymen should not be allowed to act as Magistrates in their own cases.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that when the papers moved for should be laid on the Table, the directions given by the Government on the subject of the attendance at the collection of tithe, not only of clergymen but of all Magistrates being parties interested would fully appear.

Sir Henry Hardinge

would content himself with saying, that he had himself taken the pains to impress on the Magistrates of Ireland, and particularly clergymen, the impropriety of being present at any collection of tithe in which they had an interest.

Lord Mandeville

denied having used the words which had been attributed to him by the hon. Member, (Mr. F. O'Connor.)

Dr. Lushington

thought, that on one point at least originating out of the present discussion there could be no difference of opinion. He meant, that if the assertions of the noble Lord (Lord Mandeville) were correct, Lord Gosford was not a fit person to remain in the important situation of Lord-lieutenant of the county of Armagh. The assertions of the noble Lord must be either true or false—if false, the noble Lord had much, indeed to answer for in having made them in that House; if true, Lord Gosford could not escape the marked censure of that House. The truth or falsehood of the charges it became now the object to ascertain, and he, therefore, rose to ask if the papers moved for were calculated to effect that object, and if not, whether it could be collected by any other documents in the power of Parliament to command? He maintained that it was the duty of the noble Lord, as an upright and honest Magistrate, to represent the conduct of the noble Earl, whom he accused, to the Government, with a view to its receiving a strict investigation. Honourably, he could not avoid doing so; but, at all events, the House was now bound to interfere. As an English Member, unacquainted with the state of parties in Ireland, he felt quite unable to ascertain the truth of the representations made on either side of the House night after night; and, feeling convinced, that if Ireland was to be pacified they must act on the principle of doing equal justice to all parties, he did desire to have all documents calculated to throw light on the question in dispute. He had the honour of being acquainted with the noble Earl whose name had been brought forward, but, notwithstanding that, he was prepared, should the noble Lord opposite prove the facts he laid to his charge, to vote with bum upon any motion of censure he might please to make. Justice would be paralysed if any man guilty of one-half of what Lord Gosford was accused, was suffered to retain the post of Lord-Lieutenant; but, as the subject had been broached incidentally, and without notice being given, so that an answer might be made on the noble Earl's part, he entreated the House to suspend their judgments upon it until the noble Lord did that which now lie must do—by bringing forward proof of the truth of his assertions—either save his own character, or for ever destroy that of Earl Gosford. One other point and he had done. It appeared that certain outrages had been committed at Armagh, but, hitherto it had been found impossible to discover the perpetrators. This the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had stated to the House, adding, at the same time, an earnest desire, that Government might be able to bring them to justice. That desire might now be accomplished; for, if the noble Lord's assertions were to be believed, it was in his power to identify and bring the parties to justice. The noble Lord confidently stated, that they, meaning the perpetrators of the outrages, were not Orangemen. If the noble Lord knew that fact, he knew who they were—if his evidence was good to prove they were not Orangemen, it was equally good to convict them in a Court of Justice. To this fact he begged to call the attention of the right hon. Secretary, and he might be assured the House would now expect him to avail himself of the noble Lord's testimony in discovering who the parties in question were. For his part, he only hoped the law would be enforced impartially; for, until that was done, Ireland must be a perpetual source of trouble to the Legislature. It was really disgraceful that an assembly should be, as the British House of Commons now was, night after night, and day after day, having its precious time wasted in discussions, as to whether this outrage at Rathcormack or that riot at Armagh should undergo investigation, as if there could be a question that every such violation of the law ought not to be inquired into and punished by the Government. The course that had been pursued by the Government on the two occasions to which he alluded was quite sufficient to raise the impression that justice was not so impartially administered, and while such an impression prevailed, it was altogether vain to expect either peace or tranquillity. It did seem as though the Government were resolved upon giving countenance to the Orange party to the prejudice of its opponents; and while that was the case, there never would be wanting leaders to incite the multitude to violence.

Sir Robert Bateson

was not surprised that English Members should complain of the disgraceful and disgusting language with which the House was night, after night, polluted whenever Irish subjects were brought on the tapis. It was the habit of a certain set of Gentlemen, all most partial to one side of the question, to keep fulminating their threats and abuse against those who differed with them; and if any of the Members on his side of the House got up to state what he conscientiously believed to be the true history of the case, he was sure, without either justice or fairness, to be accused of partisanship. He knew nothing of the transactions to which the notice referred; he only rose to entreat hon. Members not to express an opinion upon them until they were better acquainted with the facts than they were likely to be from the speeches of the hon. Members who had spoken on the other side of the House. They were continually hearing from the other side of the House of midnight outrages; and they were told, that as long as the present Government remained in office, there was safety for neither life or property in Ireland. [Cries of "Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] It was easy to cheer, but doing so did not of itself prove the truth of the assertion. As to himself, he believed it to be as great a falsehood as could be concocted, and he was happy to say, that all the respectability of that part of the country from which he (Sir R. Bateson) came, fully agreed with him in opinion. All that the gentry and Magistrates of Ireland required was even-handed justice. They sought for no partiality—they looked for no favour. He (Sir R. Bateson) never was a party man, and all he wanted was justice to men of all religious opinions. As to the allegation that his Majesty's Government countenanced a certain party in Ireland, he did not believe it, and was prepared to prove it was not the fact. Indeed its best refutation was to be found in the fact that both extremes of the Irish parties were equally disappointed at the course of policy the Government had adopted. He addressed himself particularly to English Members, for he knew it was quite useless to address the few who arrogated to themselves the title of "The Irish Representatives par excellence," and he asked them not to believe what they heard night after night reiterated about Ireland, in speeches only made to keep up that party feeling which it was the wish of every sincere friend of Ireland to put down. He complained that the hon. Members for Ireland who were in the habit of speaking from the other side of the House always took the same side of the question, and never allowed their opinions to coincide with those expressed on his side. He would not follow the example they set him; but if he did, he could state instances of outrage committed on Protestants as revolting and exciting as any of those detailed by the hon. Member for Dublin and his supporters. Within a very short time no less than twelve such cases had occurred in the county he represented. All he wished was a fair representation of the real facts, and that justice should be done to all parties.

Mr. Elphinstone

rose to put a question to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. It had been stated that a clergyman of the Church of England had placed himself at the head of a body of soldiers, and that death had occurred in consequence of orders which that clergyman himself gave. He wished to know, why that reverend gentleman had not been struck off the commission of the peace?

Sir Henry Hardinge

replied, that this question did not affect the present Government any more than the Rathcormac case. When he went to Dublin, he wrote a circular letter to all the magistrates, directing that no one should act as a magistrate where he was himself interested, and that no clergyman should act as a magistrate in the collection of his own tithe.

Colonel Verner,

as one of the representatives for the county Armagh, in some degree identified with the occurrences which took place in that county, and having been personally alluded to by the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion now before the House, trusted he should be permitted to make a few observations in reply to what had fallen from that hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for the borough of Armagh (Mr. Dobbin), had told the House that a numerous body of persons came into the town of Armagh for the purpose of attending the election of the county members, and that those persons were the promoters of all the disturbances which afterwards took place. He did not think it was fair upon the part of that hon. Gentleman to have concealed from the House that his own election, the election for the borough, had been going on for five days, and had not terminated when the election for the county commenced. He was sure the hon. Member would not hesitate to admit that at that election strong party feelings were exhibited—that frequent riots had taken place—that broken windows, and broken heads were not less numerous than on former occasions—that the friends of neither candidate were in a state, soberly, to discuss the claims of either, and that the town was in a great degree of excitement when the election for the county came on. It was not, therefore, fair upon the part of the hon. Member to lay to the charge of the persons who came to attend the county election, the injury done to the town. But the hon. Member has also omitted to mention that some persons well known to the hon. Member, amongst whom were Mr. Sinclair, his brother, and son, who left the town to return home at the early hour of four o'clock, were stopped upon the road so well described by the noble Lord, the Member for Huntingdonshire, by a Roman Catholic, who prayed them for God's sake to return home by another road, as there were at least 700 men well armed waiting until they came up to where they were, and not one of them would go home alive; to which Mr. Sinclair replied that he was not aware of having given offence to any person, and that he would go on. The party did proceed, and when they arrived at the part of the road described by the person from whom they had received the caution, several guns, from both sides, were presented and attempted to be fired at them, but fortunately, owing to the wetness of the afternoon, not more than three or four went off; otherwise, the prediction of the informant must have been verified. Several persons returning home were dreadfully beaten by this party. On his return from the county Tyrone, where he went to attend the election for that county, he found a letter from a very respectable Gentleman residing in Blackwater town, in which he stated that 400 men had marched through that town, all armed, denouncing him (Colonel Verner) by name, himself, and all those who had dared to support him at the election. That there were neither military nor police in the place—that they were in expectation of being hourly attacked, and, with the exception of half a dozen young men who had guns, and who were assembled together, they were without the means of defence or protection. He mentioned these circumstances, to which no allusion had been made by the hon. Member for Armagh, in order that the House might judge whether the Protestants had not sufficient cause for alarm. The hon. Member had taken upon him to state, that the injury done to the houses, whether in the town or in the country, was done by Orangemen. It is very evident that the hon. Member did not attend the investigation at Armagh, or he would not have uttered such a calumny against that body. He had had a copy sent him of the evidence, taken by a professional gentleman, at that investigation, which was compared with the evidence taken by the clerk, appointed by the persons who conducted that inquiry, and admitted to be correct. He had carefully read it over, and in no one instance had a witness sworn that any of the depredations were committed by Orangemen. The hon. and learned Member for Tower hamlets has said, in reply to the noble Lord beside him, that the persons guilty of these acts must be Orangemen, because it was not proved that they were not Orangemen. That was a most extraordinary argument. Now, there were several persons examined belonging to the houses which were burnt, and they every one swore, that they did not know an individual amongst those who were concerned in burning their houses—that they had never seen them before, and did not think they should know them were they to see them again; and yet from this evidence the honourable Member concluded they must have been Orangemen, and accused them accordingly, of being so; but the evidence of the inspector of police went to say, that he was unable to trace any connexion between a body of persons upon a hill about four hundred yards distant from where the houses were burnt, admitted to be Protestants, and the party who burnt those houses. A curious circumstance occurred to Mr. Olpherts, the magistrate, who was actively engaged in quelling the disturbances, and endeavouring, to discover the offenders. He went into the house of a woman, who stated her house to have been set fire to at the outside, but which fire had been subsequently extinguished. Upon examining the premises he was clearly of opinion that the fire must have originated at the inside. Upon interrogating the daughter apart from the mother, and ignorant of the evidence her mother had given, the daughter swore that she saw her mother take a candle, and go down to the room in which was a quantity of dry straw. Whether this was done for the purpose of charging Orangemen with the act, or, as appeared on another occasion, for the purpose of recovering the expense from the county, was a matter of conjecture. In allusion to what has fallen from the noble Lord respecting the manner by which the Court of Investigation was assembled, he would beg to say a few words. He admitted, as a magistrate, he had no right to expect any summons. He had ceased to belong to the magisterial body in the county of Armagh; he had resigned the commission, which he could no longer bring himself to hold, when he saw those with whom he had been acting for upwards of thirty years, insulted and deprived of their commission without any investigation into the charges preferred against them; but as one of the representatives of the county—identified with those persons who were charged with being the disturbers of the peace—he did, he confessed, feel that his being overlooked was not a matter purely accidental. He was on his way to leave the country with his family, when, by accident, he heard the inquiry was to take place next day; he did, in consequence, delay for a day his journey, and was present at the first day's investigation, when he saw the hon. Member for Armagh, who, like himself, was not, he believed, present, except upon that one occasion. He heard the letter of the right hon. Secretary read by the noble Lord who presided at that meeting—he heard the instructions which that letter contained read, and which were, that the investigation was not to be confined to the recent outrages which had been perpetrated, but was to go back to the time of the races in October last. Why those instructions were not complied with, he was unable to say. The attention of the House had been frequently of late, called to the circumstance of the Protestants of Ireland having arms. Now, he would beg to ask, were the Protestants of Ireland the only persons in that country who were to be permitted to have arms? He recollected perfectly well being told so by the hon. and learned Member for the city of Dublin last Session of Parliament. He thought it was during the discussion upon the Coercion Bill that the Roman Catholics of Ireland were armed, and the hon. Member added, and well armed too. [Mr. O'Connell: What he said was the Roman Catholics of the North.] He would address himself more particularly to the English Members, and he would ask them, whether it was right that the only acknowledged friends of British connexion in Ireland should be the only persons who were to be deprived of the means of defence, and whether the handful, which they were said to be, were to be delivered over to the millions, of whom they heard such repeated boasts, to be sacrificed by them whenever the proper or convenient time might arrive, at the shrine of Repeal or Popery. ["Oh, oh!" from Members opposite.] Hon. Members might cry "oh, oh" but had not the hon. and learned Member said, that all he required was the co-operation of Protestants, to insure the Repeal of the Union before twelve months. Was not that admitting that the only obstacle to the attainment of that measure was the opposition of the Protestants of Ireland? Disarm that body, and the hon. Member's object would be at once gained.

Mr. Smith O'Brien

said, it seemed that the north of Ireland was in a state of civil war, and the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave encouragement to the factious feelings which prevailed, by receiving, and forwarding gracious answers to, addresses of an illegal character. For what other purposes were those addresses received, if it were not to keep up the feelings of faction, and the excitement that existed? He had the pleasure of listening, the other night, to the professions made by the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, but he had not the pleasure of hearing him declare that such things were not to occur again. When the Orange party saw the allies, by which they were surrounded, and the spirit with which they were defended, could the Government be surprised, that it had not the support of a single Catholic in Ireland, nor of a single Member who truly spoke and represented the sentiments of that body?

Mr. Dobbin

wished to state an instance of 2,000 Orangemen having marched, during the last election, into Armagh, with colours flying and decorated with the Orange emblems. They did so much mischief, that two days were occupied in assessing the damage, which was estimated at 1,400l., from the injury done to houses in the town.

Colonel Verner

was not out of the town on the day in question, and he denied that the Orange party appeared in the town decorated as had been described.

Mr. Dobbin

said, he was on the hustings, from which he should doubtless have been dragged by the Orange party, and his life perhaps sacrificed, but for the protection the police afforded him.

Mr. O'Connell

had no desire to prolong the debate, but having interrupted the hon. and gallant Colonel in his allusion to him, he would state the opinion with which he had accompanied his declaration, that the Catholics were arming in the north. He had distinctly declared, that the greatest mischief consequent upon the possession of arms, by Orangemen, was, that Catholics who ought not to have arms, would procure them, at all hazards. For his own part, he wished neither party to have them.

Motion agreed to.

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