HC Deb 12 February 1836 vol 31 cc332-45
Mr. Finn

rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to propose a Resolution relating to the Orange System in Ireland. His anxious wish to promote the peace and happiness of Ireland, as well as to vindicate the character of the Government, led him to the performance of what he must call a very painful duty. He hoped that he should be able to perform that duty honestly and firmly to his constituents, and temperately and courteously towards those from whom, on this subject, he was obliged to differ. He hoped that the House would extend its patient indulgence towards him whilst he assured it that the system which he now wished to extinguish was that baneful system under which Ireland had been governed during the last forty years. Before he entered into the consideration of the question at large, he would ask leave to vindicate his own character and that of the Committee which had been appointed on his Motion last Session, from the aspersions which had been thrown upon them by a paper, purporting to be a Report emanating from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. That Lodge was at the head of a very powerful body. He believed that one half of the Protestants of the Established Church of Ireland, who were of adult age, were Orangemen. Of the Yeomanry corps of Ireland, consisting of 27,000 men, 25,000 were Orangemen; and of the Police-force, which amounted to 7,000 or 8,000, he believed that between 5,000 and 6,000 were enrolled in Orange lodges. Among Grand Jurors, Petty Jurors, Magistrates, Sheriffs, and Sub-sheriffs, it was impossible for any man unacquainted with the details to conjecture to what extent Orangeism prevailed. The House must perceive the deplorable consequences that necessarily flowed from such a state of things, when they recollected that the Orange system was one of deadly hostility to the great mass of the population. [" No! no!"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite would have the kindness to hear him out, he thought he should be able to prove it, if not to their satisfaction, at least to the satisfaction of every impartial mind that had not been deluded and contaminated by the principles of Orangeism. The professed object of this Lodge was for the purpose of keeping alive feelings of loyally and attachment to the Crown, and supporting the real interests of religion; and yet, could it be credited, consistently with such a character drawn by itself, that no Roman Catholic could be a member of that Lodge; nay, that no Roman Catholic who had recanted and who had trampled upon and calumniated the religion of his fathers for interested objects, would be admitted into its sanctuary, unless he were recommended by the unanimous approval of the members. He would, however, say no more at present on the subject of the constitution of the society, but proceed to vindicate himself and the Committee from the declaration, as it is called, of the Orange Lodge of Ireland, with reference to the conduct of that Committee. The charge was contained in a Report of the Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, which had been published in the Dublin Evening Mail, and copied into the newspapers of this country. The document was authenticated by the name of the hon Member for Cavan (Mr. H. Maxwell; grand secretary of the Orange Society, He undertook to show that the imputation; contained in this Report were perfectly unfounded, The Meeting of the Grand Lodge, at which this Report had been read, was very numerously attended—500 members (more than ever assembled before) being present. Among these were several Members of Parliament—Lord Cole, the Earl of Roden, both the Members for Sligo, and the Members for Cavan and Drogheda. The Report stated that a Parliamentary Committee was appointed on his Motion, and added, that "the Committee was not one from which impartiality could have been expected. It consisted predominantly of those who had repeatedly prejudged our case, and to whom the very excellencies of our institution—its Protestant character, its uncompromising loyalty, and its tendency to consolidate the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, must naturally have been a cause of offence, or a ground of objection." Now, how did the fact stand? When he submitted his Motion to the House, the list of the Committee consisted of thirteen Orangemen and Tories, and of fourteen Catholics, Whigs and Liberals. It was stated that the majority of the Committee consisted of persons opposed to the Orange Society, on account of religion—" its Protestant character;" it would not be difficult to show how perfectly unfounded was this assertion. He believed that conscientious Protestants professed that their religion was a thing belonging not to this but the other world; on the contrary, it seemed that the religion of Orangemen, was solely confined to earth—a religion of loaves and fishes. If so, it would be understood how the Orange religion might afford "cause of offence" to others besides Catholics. But the Report insinuated that a majority of the Committee were Repealers, whereas of twenty-seven Members only three were for a Repeal of the Union, those individuals being himself, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary. Was that a majority of Repeaters? He repeated that the Committee consisted of thirteen Orangemen, or supporters of Orangeism, and of fourteen others of whom, excluding the chairman, nine were Protestant Whigs, and four Catholics. Changes took place in the Committee from time to time, but they were made at the special request of Gentlemen opposite, or in consequence of official appointments. There was no alteration in the proportion of parties. One name that he saw upon, the List of the Committee filled him with unaffected sorrow-he alluded to the late Lord Milton, the worthy son of a worthy sire. If the nobility of the country generally resembled that excellent young nobleman, no misunderstanding or want of sympathy would exist between them and the people. There was not a single suggestion relative to the Constitution of the Committee to which he did not accede at once. The hon. Member for Armagh was originally nominated, but declined to serve, and on his subsequently expressing a wish to be put upon the Committee, the Members thought that he had no claim. The hon. Member thought he had a right to a seat on the Committee, as he had been personally assailed, but to the Members of the Committee that seemed to constitute a reason why the hon. Gentleman should not be placed on it.

Having stated the constitution of the Committee he asked whether it was one that could be fairly accused of hostility to Protestant institutions, or of an anxiety to sever the union between Ireland and this country? He had shown that this was no just description of the character of the Committee. Yet this document went forth to 1,600 or 1,800 Orange Lodges, and was read by men who never saw a newspaper, and, meeting with no contradiction of the statement, thought that the House of Commons was acting unjustly, and were therefore disposed to treat its proceedings with contempt. The Report next proceeded to impugn the conduct of the Committee, and set forth, that "when the Committee assembled, it appeared that our adversaries were not prepared to enter upon their case, and we were therefore placed in the singular predicament of accused persons called upon to make their defence before they were made acquainted with the crimes of which they were accused, or the nature of the evidence by which the charges against them were to be supported." The course taken was adopted in consequence of the suggestion of the Orangemen themselves. ["No! no!"] He asserted that such was the case. The hon. Member for Armagh, a grand master of the Society, proposed to go into the Orange case first. The Report slated, "that our laws and regulations were referred to in proof of the Christian spirit by which we are actuated; instances were brought forward of individuals having been expelled from our body whose only offence was a violation of that law which enjoins universal charity; and we defied our enemies to produce a single instance to justify the very erroneous impressions which prevailed to our prejudice, by which intolerant and persecuting sentiments were ascribed to us—sentiments directly opposed to the spirit of our order, and most abhorrent to the feelings of our members." This affectation of peace, charity, and brotherly love was absurd in the face of the knowledge that we possessed of the irritating processions, party toasts, and offensive tunes of the Orangemen. The next allegation of the Report was the following:—"And here our adversaries upon the Committee interposed, by intimating that as they were then prepared to go on with their case, the further examination of our witnesses should be for a time suspended. Our friends expostulated against this, as being not only unfair, but contrary to what had been expressly agreed on; but they were silenced by the proposition, that after the evidence against us had been heard, we should be permitted to make a rebutting case—that our witnesses, who were then dismissed, should be resummoned—and that we should be at liberty to adduce any further evidence which might be available for the defence of our institution." He must here state the reason why the Committee put an end to those proceedings. They had had the rev. Mortimer O'Sullivan before them for five or six days, and by his evidence that gentleman attempted, not to vindicate the Orange Lodges, but to prove by Latin, Greek and Hebrew quotations, that every Roman Catholic was in principle a murderer and perjurer. The rev. gentleman quoted, among other authorities, Dens' Theology, of which he had never heard before. "Whilst this was proceeding, he heard it stated out of doors, that the inquiry into the Orangeism of the army was to be stifled, and that the object was to prevent the Committee from making a Report. The fact was, that, in the first instance, he and his friends had proposed Mr. Ward as Chairman of the Committee, but they were defeated, for Mr. Wilson Patten was chosen. The Orange party succeeded in beating the Liberals on every division, and, in fact, the proceedings of the Committee were only restrained by the force of public opinion. He put the Member for Middlesex in possession of the discoveries made with regard to the army, and after the result of the hon. Gentleman's Motion, the Orange party abandoned their attempt to stifle the Report, and extended the inquiry. The Report proceeded—"The brethren are, we believe, aware that this pledge, on the part of the Committee, was never redeemed. The remainder' of the Session was consumed in the examination of a host of witnesses, the known enemies of the institution, whose object it was to blacken our character, and criminate our principles; and the Committee closed their labours without having given us any opportunity of correcting the error or refuting the calumnies of our ill-informed or malevolent accusers; and thus debarring us of the privilege of making known the whole of our case, and leaving untouched many points which would have satisfied even the most prejudiced of the excellency and utility of our institution." This accusation was as groundless as the preceding: he asserted, and believed it would be admitted that he had proved, the proceedings of the Committee to be perfectly fair towards the Orange party. The Orangemen said—"We were prepared by the most unquestionable evidence, to give the Committee an insight into the diabolical system of Ribandism, by which this country is at present distracted. We were prepared to show the atrocious and treasonable character of this conspiracy, the dreadful nature of its oaths, and the bloodthirsty malignity of its denunciations. We were prepared to show that this confederacy is not confined to the lower orders, but extends to individuals holding a respectable place in society, and, in some instances, lays claim to a connexion with Members of Parliament. We were prepared to prove that individuals of great consideration have availed themselves of the organization of this band of miscreants for the purpose of forwarding their views at contested elections; and that, again, the leaders of the Ribandmen have availed themselves of the countenance thus afforded for the purpose of consolidating and extending their system until it has now reached the length and the breadth of the land. All this we had witnesses in readiness to prove, and when it is considered that to many these facts would have afforded a most complete justification of our institution, and that much of our adversaries' case consisted in attempts, by indirect, second-hand, and hear say evidence, to prove that either the Riband system had no existence whatsoever, that it was confined entirely to the lowest class of the peasantry, and that no person of the rank of a gentleman ever was connected with it, we do think that we have much reason to complain of having been debarred the opportunity of putting upon record a plain statement of indisputable facts, by which the most confident amongst our enemies would have been confounded. 0"He called upon the Orange party, if their loyalty were not merely conditional, to prove to the satisfaction of the Government the existence of treasonable societies in Ireland, and he had no doubt the Attorney-General would order a prosecution. He had done with the accusations contained in the Report of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. In reference to the charges made against the Orange Society, the Report treated the matter very lightly,—there were no charges of any consequence adduced against Orangeism—merely a sort of petty treason. It was true, according to the Report, that warrants had been issued to hold lodges in the army; there were about fifty regiments thus circumstanced. Passing over that part of the subject, he would proceed to show that the society had interfered with the administration of justice in Ireland. A person of the name of Richards, an Orangeman, was brought to trial for the murder of a poor man, and the friends of the prisoner called upon Mr. Bridge, a Dissenting clergyman, to give him a character. Mr. Bridge refused, whereupon a party of Orangemen went to his chapel for three Sundays, and on the third attempted his life, because he would not come forward in behalf of an Orange murderer. The Protestant rector and curate went to a place of worship which they had never entered before, to use their influence for the prisoner, and, finally, Mr. Bridge was hunted from the parish. Another Orangeman had robbed a Catholic chapel, an act which hon. Gentlemen opposite might not consider sacrilege; and in spite of his own confession and the charge of, the Judge who tried him, the Jury acquitted the prisoner. To prove the influence of party spirit on men of station and respectability in Ireland, he referred to the evidence of Colonel Blacker, who appeared before the Committee as a witness on the other side, A man, named Bell, was executed, under Lord Ellenborough's Act, for two atrocious attempts on the life of a fellow creature, and the following evidence was given by Colonel Blacker in reference to the transaction:— The case of one Saunders Bell has been mentioned to the Committee, do you know any thing about it?—I do. He is stated to have been in the yeomanry, in your corps?—He was. What was his character?—He was as quiet and as inoffensive a man as any in the country, and as good a soldier in his way. Will you state what you know of his case?—It is now twenty-nine years ago; he was, as I said before, a quiet, inoffensive man himself; unfortunately some members of his family were not quite so; there was a quarrel between some of them and one of his neighbours; I believe it was confined" to the females of his family, I do not know that he had a son. As well as I recollect, it arose out of something connected with poultry, or something very triflig; the family with whom the quarrel took place was that of a man named Birmingham. It appears that Birmingham got a summons from a magistrate for some of Bell's family, and went to serve the summons in person. As Bell told me the story, and as he persisted in it to the hour of his death, he was cleaning his bayonet in the kitchen. Birmingham says he took it off the shelf against which he was leaning; at all events, it was a matter of the most sudden and unpremeditated nature; he made a blow at Birmingham with that bayonet, he says, to frighten him, but unfortunately inflicted a very severe wound. Birmingham, of course, lodged information; a warrant was issued against Bell, he fled the country, returned at the end of nearly three years, I think, and he was taken and tried under, I believe, what is called Lord Ellen-borough's Act. The event took place in 1806, he was tried in the summer of 1809, convicted, and executed. Do you know whether the yeomanry were employed to take Bell?—I know they were. It has been stated, that Bell could have been taken sooner had the yeomanry wished it, have you any reason to doubt that?—I have this strong reason to doubt it, that the man was out of the country, and out of their reach. Do you happen to know, of your own knowledge, where he was at any time during that period?—I remember his making his appearance in the town of Tuam, in the county of Galway, where my regiment was quartered at the time; he made an offer of himself as a recruit; he wished to enlist into our regiment, but the surgeon would not pass him. I believe he continued a considerable time in the town of Tuam, and I think when we left it he remained there. Can you fix the particular period when he was in Tuam?—It was in 1807. How long did he remain white the regiment was there?—As well as I remember some months. Here was a Magistrate, a major of militia, and captain of a yeomanry corps, admitting that he was aware of the retreat of a man accused of a serious crime, who had set the law at defiance for three years, and would have been passed into the militia, but that the surgeon did not approve of urn. It further appeared that two Magistrates, Mr. Blacker and another, made an application to the Judge, not on the ground of the prisoner's innocence, but because it was apprehended that the prosecutor and witnesses would be murdered by his friends if he were executed. There was another case of two men, named Murphy and Ford, who were tried for the murder of a man found guilty of manslaughter by an Orange Jury, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment, in 1830. These persons were rescued, and in November, 1832, Ford was admitted into the police by a Magistrate and clergyman of the county of Galway. As for Murphy, he became a member of the Tanderagee Yeomanry in October, 1832. The hon. Gentleman read a letter from. Earl Bandon, for the purpose of proving that the prevalence of Orangeism in the yeomanry corps of Ireland was quite incompatible with the maintenance of regular discipline, insubordination and mutiny being everywhere its natural and necessary results. And with respect to the army, nothing but mutiny and insubordination marked the conduct of the regiments into which Orange Lodges had been introduced. He would further allude to the atrocities which had been committed at Killenane, by the parishioners of the rev, Mortimer O'Sullivan, where the gallant Colonel, the Member for Armagh, having interfered, for the protection of the unoffending peasantry, was threatened with murder by his own tenantry. Five years had elapsed since the ravaging of the town of Maghara, and although the Catholics, who had committed outrage to the extent only of 10s, had been severely punished, no measures had yet been taken to bring those Orangemen, who had demolished twenty-nine houses, to justice. The hon. and learned Member proceeded to read extracts from a variety of documents, to show the character of the language held by the Orangemen towards the Roman Catholics. "Damnation to their Papist souls," appeared to be one of the expressions most commonly in use. What at this time was the conduct of the Govern- ment? Were the parties who bad these opprobrious epithets perpetually on their tongues brought to justice? Was any endeavour made to visit them with the punishment their conduct deserved? Far from it. When complaints were made upon the subject, the answer of Sir Henry Hardinge, who at that time held office in Ireland, was, that he thought no further proceedings should be taken. This reminded him of a speech of Mr. Grattan, in which that eloquent and accomplished man described the conduct of the Government in Ireland in the year 1792. "Under the present Administration," said Mr. Grattan, "the Orangemen of Ireland, instead of the punishment which their outrages should bring upon them, meet with success, impunity, and triumph." Were not these words strictly applicable to the present times? Lord Gosford again, in the year 1795, after eloquently describing the outrages committed by the Orangemen in Armagh, concluded by stating that he conceived such outrages to be injurious, in the highest degree, to the cause of Protestantism in Ireland. With these observations he should conclude by moving the resolution of which he had given notice, viz.—"That Orangeism has been productive of the most baneful effects upon the character and administration of public justice in Ireland; that its prevalence in the constabulary and peace preservation force, and yeomanry corps of that country, has led individual members, as well as large bodies of the above description of force, to the gross neglect and violation of the public duty, and to the open, daring, and lawless resistance to the authority of the magistracy and of the Executive Government, on various occasions; that the systematic and surreptitious introduction of Orangeism into every branch of the military service, into almost every part of the empire, in direct violation of orders issued in 1822 and 1829 by the Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty's forces, and the resolute power and control vested by its governing bodies, the Grand Orange Lodge of England and of Ireland, in his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, together with the rank, station, influence, and numbers of that formidable and secret conspiracy, are well calculated to excite serious apprehensions in all his Majesty's loyal subjects, and imperatively call for the most energetic expression on the part of the representa- tives of the people of this empire, to secure he safe, the peaceable, the legal, and rightful succession to the throne of these realms. He might be told that it was wrong to include his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, but if it was wrong in the King to be connected with these Lodges, was it not suspicious in the Duke of Cumberland? This was a power which the peace of the empire demanded should be put down.

Mr. Edward Buller

rose to second the Motion. As a Member of the Committee which sat upon the subject of Orange Lodges in the last Session of Parliament, he trusted the House would allow him the opportunity of expressing the opinions he had formed in consequence of the evidence which had come before him in the course of the investigation. On entering upon the subject he was surprised to find that an association formed, as was said, solely for the purpose of self-defence, and for the protection of life and property, should be a strictly exclusive society, If the objects of the Association were only such as were described, why should the respectable Roman Catholics of Ireland be rigidly excluded from it? The fact was, that the views of the Association were solely those of maintaining the Protestant ascendancy, and of rendering permanent the dominion of one particular party in Ireland, Proceeding further with the Inquiry, he found that this Association interfered materially in the administration of justice in criminal cases. He found it furnishing legal advice and aid of counsel in cases where any of its own partisans were concerned, especially in Government prosecutions. He found further that to this society belonged a great majority of the Magistracy of Ireland—of that Magistracy who presided at quarter sessions and by whom the police were appointed: and in the northern part of the kingdom one of the consequences of this combination of partisan Magistrates was, that five-sixths of the police were Protestants. He found, besides, that in the north of Ireland the Sheriffs and under Sheriffs—the officers who summoned and empanelled juries, were members of this Association, and that some of them had avowed their determination never to put a Roman Catholic upon a jury which they should empannel—a determination which, in one instance, at least, had been very religiously adhered to. Surely, then, with tribunals so constituted, with Magistrates, Sheriffs, and subordinate officers so associated, for the purpose of sustaining a strong and violent party feeling, it would be a miracle if justice were impartially administered. If hon. Gentlemen would refer to the Report of the Evidence given before the Committee of last year, they would find abundantly sufficient to show that justice was not impartially administered in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman then referred to many cases detailed in the evidence, in which it appeared that the Orangemen had been aggressors upon the Roman Catholics, and in which all attempts to bring the delinquents to justice were rendered nugatory by the powerful influence of the Orange Association. One of the pretended virtues of the Orange Association was, that it was peculiarly loyal. He had very great doubts upon that point. He believed that the loyalty of the Orangemen was only conditional. The oath originally administered to every member of the society bound them in loyalty to the Crown only as long as the Protestant ascendancy should be maintained by the Crown, It was true that that oath was no longer administered; but its spirit still remained. He warned the Government against identifying itself with such an Association, and against relying upon its boasted loyalty, nay, calling to mind the nature of the facts which had been developed in the course of the investigation before the Committee, he would recommend any Government to use every exertion in its power to put down such an Association.

Lord John Russell

did not rise for the purpose of discussing the terms of the resolution. If he did so, he might raise an objection to some parts of it, although he was by no means prepared to say that he should dissent from the whole. But he thought it quite evident, from the state of the House at that moment, that the present was not a convenient opportunity to come to a decision on this Question. It was quite evident that upon a question in which there had been so much inquiry, and upon which opinions were so very strongly opposed on different sides of the House, that if a decisive vote were expected on such a question, there would have been a much more full attendance of Members- And if they were to have an impartial and useful discussion of the Question, he submitted that they ought not to enter into the subject peace- meal—discussing a part to day, and a part to-morrow, and another part on some more remote occasion. Therefore, not seeing any Gentleman present who would be likely to take a strong and decided part in defence of the Orange Societies in Ireland—and certainly after what had been stated on the one side, he should not feel at liberty to interrupt any Gentleman who might be disposed to come forward to defend them—but not seeing any Gentleman present anxious to interfere in their behalf, the proposal he felt inclined to make was, that the debate on this question be now deferred till some future day. There were two notices of Motions on the Notice Book for the 23rd of the present month—one given by the hon. Member for Middlesex of a resolution for an Address to the Crown; the other by the hon. and learned Member opposite, of a Motion for a fresh Committee of Inquiry into the organization of Orange and secret societies in Ireland generally. If the present debate were adjourned till that day, he should then be ready to state the view which the King's Ministers took of this great question, as well as their reasons for not adopting either of the courses which had been proposed by the hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House and, at the same time, his reason for thinking that without some further inquiry it would be impossible for the House now, at the commencement of a fresh Session, to express its sentiments on the nature and tendency of these Orange Lodges. He should then be ready to submit an opinion upon the subject, in two resolutions. He did not mean to preclude himself from assenting to any Motion that might be made with respect to other secret societies, if public inquiry with respect to them should be thought necessary; but he certainly would now state broadly, that he was an enemy to all Secret Societies, and if by further inquiry, by the appointment of Select Committees, or by any other means, they might be better enabled to get at the nature, the tendency, and the extent of such societies, he for one should readily embrace those means; convinced as he was that, in suppressing all secret societies, he should be doing (hat which would tend most to the harmony of Ireland, and, he might say, to the peaceful profession of the religious sentiments of every class of his Majesty's subjects in that country. He would con- clude by moving, "That this debate be adjourned till Tuesday, the 23rd instant."

Mr. Henry Maxwell

was fully prepared, in common with many friends then in the House, to meet on the instant the statements which the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny bad brought forward with respect to the Orange Lodges of Ireland. He was anxious to meet that statement as speedily as possible, and he was also anxious to take the first opportunity that should present itself of stating the opinion which he entertained with' respect to the construction of the Committee appointed in the last Session of Parliament to conduct the investigation into the nature and character of Orange Societies in Ireland. He was anxious to submit to the House his view of what the conduct of that Committee had been, having been as constant an attendant upon it as the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Finn) himself. He was anxious, also to state his view of the resolution which the Committee had adopted upon the evidence adduced before it. But as his Majesty's Ministers bad expressed a desire that no protracted discussion should take place upon the subject on the present occasion, he was perfectly willing in deference to them and with a view to the advancement of public business (and in that feeling he was borne out by all his friends with whom he had communicated), not to oppose the adjournment of the debate to the day mentioned by the noble Lord

Debate adjourned to the 23rd inst.