HC Deb 15 February 1836 vol 31 cc432-8
Mr. Charles Buller

rose to present a Petition from Mr. Vigors which contained statements relative to the allegations in the petitions from Bath and Carlow, which complained of that gentleman having acted in illegal concert with Mr. O'Connell as regarded certain transactions connected with the late contested election for the county of Carlow. The petition prayed for the fullest inquiry into every circumstance connected with that transaction. As the petition had been put into his (Mr. Buller's) band only at six o'clock that evening, and as it inculpated the landlords of Carlow, and also an hon. Member of that House, he should not enter into particulars; and as it related to a question which would come under the consideration of the House to-morrow, he should content himself by moving that the petition be printed, and put into circulation amongst hon. Members. It certainly would not be proper to make statements calculated to prejudice individuals until such time as those individuals should be prepared with answers. He should, therefore, content himself with briefly stating the facts. [The hon. Member proceeded to read an outline of the petition, which, on account of the interest attached to it, we subjoin in full.] He had now only to add, that it was his intention to move hereafter that this peti- tion should be taken into consideration whenever the inquiry into the other petitions commenced; and as hon. Members on the other side were calling for inquiry into one set of practices, interfering as they said with the purity and freedom of election, he could not believe that they would so far show the hollowness of their professions as to make an inquiry into the acts of their opponents, and skulk from an inquiry into their own conduct. He concluded by moving that the petition be read. It was read as follows: — To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled— The humble petition of Nicholas Aylward Vigors, of Chester-terrace, Regent's-park, in the county of Middlesex, and of Old Leighlin, in the county of Carlow— Sheweth—That your petitioner is informed that petitions have been presented to your honourable House by certain Electors of the county of Carlow, and by certain Inhabitants of Bath, complaining of an alleged illegal, unconstitutional, and corrupt conduct of your Petitioner, in concert with Daniel O'Connell, esq. (a Member of your honourable House), and Alexander Raphael, and other individuals, and praying that your honourable House will be pleased to inquire strictly into the circumstances thereof, and to bring to punishment all persons whom your honourable House may, on inquiry, deem guilty of illegal or unconstitutional acts. That your petitioner has read the copies of such petitions in the printed Votes of your honourable House. That your petitioner respectfully denies the truth of the charges and imputations conveyed in these petitions, alleging illegal and unconstitutional conduct, both as respects himself and the said Daniel O'Connell and the Independent Electors of the county of Carlow. That the money transactions alluded to in the said petitions were, as your petitioner avers, and is advised, strictly legal, constitutional, and honourable; that the great majority of your honourable House is accustomed to make similar money arrangements in respect to their seats in the Commons' House of Parliament. That the said Daniel O'Connell, esq., at the request of Alexander Raphael, and with the consent of your petitioner, was the individual with whom the monies referred to were lodged by mutual consent; that the said Daniel O'Connell duly and honourably accounted for such monies with your petitioner, in no ways interfering with the appropriation thereof— that no part of such monies was illegally or unconstitutionally expended, and that your petitioner was not, directly or indirectly, concerned by himself or his agents or partisans in any malpractices whatever in relation to the Representation of the said county of Carlow, or in relation to the Commons' Committees thereon. That your petitioner and his family are extensive Protestant landed proprietors in the counties of Carlow, Queen's County, and Wexford, and that your petitioner represented the county town of Carlow in Parliament in 1832, 1833, and 1834. That your petitioner, on the dissolution of Parliament, in December, 1834, was an unsuccessful candidate for the borough of Carlow; but in June last your petitioner, on the unseating of Messrs. Bruen and Kavanagh, was called upon by the leading Reformers of the county to become a candidate for the representation of that county, and your petitioner thereupon was a candidate, and was returned by a majority of fifty-seven votes. That Alexander Raphael was returned at the same contest, in conjunction with your petitioner, by a majority of fifty-six votes. That the said Henry Bruen and Thomas Kavanagh were the candidates on the Tory, or "Conservative," interest, opposed to your petitioner and the said Alexander Raphael. That the said Henry Bruen and Thomas Kavanagh, on a petition of Carlow County electors against the return of your petitioner and the said Alexander Raphael, were declared by a Committee of your honourable House the Members for the said county, in lieu of your petitioner and the said Alexander Raphael. That your petitioner, by himself and his agents, is anxious to be rigidly examined at the Bar of your honourable House, or by a Select Committee, on all matters without reserve relating to all his said election matters, and without limitation as to time or circumstance. That your petitioner is anxious and willing to produce to your honourable House all accounts, papers, documents, vouchers, and any other matters or things whatsoever, without reserve, directly or indirectly relating to elections or election committees of the county of Carlow, and directly or indirectly relating to the matters in the said petitions, reflecting on the personal or political conduct of your petitioner or other parties. That your petitioner humbly and respectfully represents to your honourable House that your honourable House cannot fully or impartially investigate the merits of the said petitions without a full and strict investigation into all the peculiar circumstances of the Car-low election contests in the years 1832 and 1835. That the circumstances and facts connected with such elections will disclose a system of unexampled Tory persecution of the electors, and of conspiracy against the freedom and purity of election, without parallel in the records of election fraud and oppression, and circumstances immediately bearing on the merits of the said petitions. That the evidence before the Carlow Elec- tion Committee of your honourable House in May, 1835, was never printed, and is generally unknown to your honourable House. That your petitioner begs leave to refer your honourable House to that evidence, and to the remarkable testimony of the Reverend James Maher, of the borough of Carlow, before the Select Committee of your honourable House, appointed in the last Session of Parliament, 'to consider the most effectual means of preventing Bribery, Corruption, and Intimidation in the election of Members to serve in Parliament.' Your petitioner humbly averring that the said Reverend James Maher is a gentleman of indisputable integrity, education, intelligence, and local knowledge of Carlow county. That during and subsequently to the last three contested elections for the representation of the county of Carlow, viz. in December, 1832, and in January and June, 1835, the most scandalous corruption and inhuman intimidation on the part of the Tory-landlords and of a Peer of Parliament have prevailed in the said county against honest and independent but poor electors; that during the last few years thousands of the Catholic tenantry and ancient resident labouring families by political party spirit and religious persecution have been expelled from their residences and lands, and Protestants substituted in their place; that hundreds of widows and orphans have been included in this wicked and unchristian proscription and persecution; that, by the fear of similar persecutions, numbers of the electors have been coerced to give their votes for the Tory candidates, who would have otherwise notoriously supported the Reform candidates; that persecution, by the cost and terror of distraints for rent and other legal processes, has been extensively resorted to for political and party purposes, and that appalling misery, dissension, heartburnings, and all sorts of crime, have been, and still are, the unhappy consequences of these illegal, unconstitutional, and wicked proceedings. That to inform your honourable House of the extent of these dreadful oppressions, partly perpetrated for political and election purposes, your petitioner inserts the following account of expelled and substituted families in parts of the said county of Carlow—a public account never yet contradicted, as acts, though the motives have been questioned; viz.— 'In one parish, the parish of Dunleckney, there have been ejected within the last few years, by three or four landlords, 178 families, amounting to 992 individuals, including 224 widows and orphans—namely, 'From the townlands of Ballinkilten, the property of Viscount Beresford, where the system first commenced, there were evicted at once 39 families, amounting to 205 individuals, including 56 widows and orphans. 'From Ballyknocken, the property of the same noble Viscount, 7 families, amounting to 33 individuals, including 13 widows and orphans. 'From Slyguff, the properly of the same., 9 families, amounting to 64 individuals, including 13 widows and orphans, 'From Clowater, by the same, 6 families, amounting to 29 individuals. 'From Clonegath, by the same, 25 families, amounting to 151 individuals, including 30 widows and orphans. 'Making a total of 86 families, amounting to 492 individuals, including 112 widows and orphans. 'From that part of Colonel Bruen's estate, which is situated in this parish, the following number of families were expelled:— 'From the townland of Ballyloughan 13 families, containing 63 individuals, including 8 widows and orphans. 'Ballytarsna, 19 families, containing 101 individuals, including 21 widows and orphans. 'Knockthomas, 11 families, containing 53 individuals, including 13 widows and orphans. 'Bohermore, 7 families, containing 45 individuals, including 14 widows and orphans. 'Kildrina, 4 families, containing 23 individuals, including 6 widows and orphans. 'Nurney, 5 families, containing 30 individuals. 'Oldtown, 2 families, containing 9 individuals, including widow and orphans. 'Ballyteglea, 1 family, containing 7 individuals, widow and orphans. 'Knockullard, 4 families, containing 18 individuals, including 8 widows and orphans. 'Making a total of 66 families, containing 348 individuals, including 82 widows and orphans. 'One of these townlands was not in the possession of Colonel Bruen at the time the tenantry were ejected. 'From the townland of Ballywilliamroe, the property of Colonel Latouche, Mr. Butler, agent, 16 families, containing 98 individuals, including 17 widows and orphans. 'Dunroe, the property of Messrs. Newton, 8 families, containing 44 individuals, including widows and orphans. 'Kilcarrig and Dunleckney, belonging to the same, 2 families, containing 10 individuals, including 2 orphans and widow. 'Making a total of 10 families, containing 54 individuals, including 3 widows and orphans. 'Amounting, in all, to no less than 178 families, containing 992 individuals, including 224 widows and orphans. 'Besides those already evicted, notices to quit in a few months have been served by the same landlords upon the following number of families, viz. 'In the townland of Slyguff, the property of Viscount Beresford, 15 families, amounting to 94 individuals, including 23 widows and orphans. 'In Shaughanrane, the property of Colonel Bruen, 23 families, amounting to 123 individuals, including 33 widows and orphans. 'In Knockullard, by Colonel Bruen, 2 families, amounting to 11 persons, including 5 widows and orphans— 'Making a total of 25 families, amounting to 135 individuals, including 41 widows and orphans. 'In Kilcarrig, the property of the Messrs. Newton, 31 families, amounting to 163 individuals, including 28 widows and orphans. 'Making a total of 71 families, amounting to 391 individuals, including 82 widows and orphans. 'These families, added to those already ejected, make in all 249 families, amounting to 1383 individuals, including 316 widows and orphans.' That your honourable House, fully to do justice to your petitioner, to the Carlow electors, to Daniel O'Connell, Esq., and to the several petitioners, and all parties concerned, cannot, in the respectful opinion of your petitioner, decide on the merits of the said petitions without a full and unrestricted inquiry into all the above facts and circumstances. Your petitioner, therefore, humbly prays that your honourable House will be pleased to institute such a full and strict inquiry, and that your petitioner may be examined with all necessary agents, parties, and witnesses, in the matters of the said petition, and concerning the said elections and matters in the county of Carlow; and that your petitioner may be heard by himself, counsel, or agents. And your petitioner will ever pray, &c. NICHOLAS AYLWARD VIGORS.

Colonel Bruen

said, that he would not oppose the reception of the Petition. The hon. Member was quite correct in expressing the opinion that he (Colonel Bruen) and his friends were anxious to have the most minute inquiry made into all the circumstances connected with the case of the Carlow election. He did not dread the consequences of any advantages which might be gained against him by the present, action of this petition, though he must complain of the somewhat uncourteous manner in which he, a party implicated, had been treated on the present occasion, He had never seen the petition till seven o'clock that evening, and. from what he had heard of it, as it was read by the clerk at the Table, he should say, that if the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard took upon him to have it printed, he would be lending his hand to the circulation of calumny. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had been treated more courteously the other night in respect to the petition which had been presented from the electors of Carlow; he had had time to prepare his defence against it before it was brought before the House. He, however, would not enter upon the subject of the petition now, but having agreed to the introduction and the printing of it, he should be deceiving the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard very much if he led that hon. Member to suppose, by his ready assent to printing the petition, that he (Colonel Bruen) should afterwards agree that the contents of the petition, containing matters so irrelevant to the matter of the late election at Carlow, should be taken into consideration at any inquiry which might be instituted into the latter.

Mr. Charles Buller

wished to clear himself from the charge of discourtesy which the hon. and gallant Member had brought against him (Mr. C. Buller). He only got the petition that evening: it had been put into his hand at six o'clock, and he immediately stated the circumstance to the hon. and gallant Member for Carlow on his coming into the House.

Mr. Henry Thomas

Hope wished to call the attention of the House to the situation of a noble relative of his, referred to in the petition, who did not at this moment know of its presentation. As he only heard of it at nine o'clock that evening, that noble person could not, of course, be aware of the petition, which would be before the public prior to his being able to make himself even acquainted with the allegations contained in it, much less to bring forward proof that the statements contained in it could not be substantiated. He would not, as the hon. Member for Carlow had avoided doing so, enter into the subject of the petition; but he thought it was not right or fair to let such a petition be laid upon the Table, and its allegations sent before the public, without stating that his noble relative was anxious for inquiry, and that, in his opinion, the course pursued by the hon. Member was somewhat unfair in bringing this petition before the House without intimation to the parties who were attacked in a manner so painful to their feelings, and who would not be aware of the petition before an impression was made on the public to their prejudice.

Petition to be printed.