HC Deb 08 June 1836 vol 34 cc203-7
Mr. Emerson Tennent

had to pray the attention of the House to a matter, which, though not immediately connected with the petition he had just presented, was a portion of those attacks which had lately been made upon the private character of the Irish Landlords, and he hoped to be conceded that courtesy which was always extended to a Member on a question of a personal nature. The Gentleman of whom he had to speak, was Mr. M'Neale, of Carling-ford, in the county of Louth, whose character as a landlord one would have supposed was so well known in Ireland as to protect him from such factious assaults. Of this Gentleman, the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Sharman Crawford) was pleased to state, a few evenings back, that from political irritation against one of his tenants, who had voted contrary to his wishes, he had with his own hands set fire to and burnt the turf which the poor man had prepared for his winter firing. Now, the facts of the case which had been thus misrepresented were simply these:—Mr. M'Neale had early in the year 1826, and long before the period of the election in question, dismissed from his service, for misconduct, a man called Mills, who was a tenant on his estate, and a labourer in his employment. The turf-bog on Mr. M'Neale's property, it so happened, was the most valuable portion of his lands, letting so high as from 4l. to 7l. an acre, and was specially reserved in all his leases, permission to cut it being required and granted by favour only to his tenants. This favour Mr. M'Neale, on discharging Mills from his service, told him he should no longer enjoy as his tenant, and he at the same time warned him that if he persisted, contrary to his orders, to cut turf, he (Mr. M'Neale) would himself burn it, as he had been in the habit of doing towards all persons who presumed to cut in his turf-bog, without his permission. And to prove that Mills was aware of the withdrawal of his permission, he sent his son in the May following still before the Louth election, to entreat permission, which was again refused, and Mr. M'Neale's determination to burn it himself was repeated, if his father should attempt to proceed contrary to his order. When the election came, in July, Mills actually sent to Mr. M'Neale to request permission to vote along with the rest of the tenants, but Mr. M'Neale sent his bailiffs to tell him, that he would not even permit him to walk into Dundalk in company with them, and that if his single vote would secure the return of both his friends, Mr. Leslie Foster and Mr. Fortescue, he would not accept of it. As to any subsequent conduct of Mr. M'Neale, therefore, being in revenge for Mills' withholding a vote, which he bad already scorned to se-cure, the idea was too ridiculous to be entertained for a moment. Subsequently to the election, however, Mr. M'Neale was informed by his bailiff, that, contrary to his express commands, and notwithstanding Mr. M'Neale's reiterated warnings of the consequence, Mills bad actually entered on the bog, and cut and prepared his turf, upon which Mr. M'Neale, in observance Of his own previous warning, proceeded to the lands and destroyed it. For this he was summoned to the petit sessions on a charge of larceny, when the idle charge was dismissed. The Roman Catholic Association then took up the matter, and Mills was supplied with the means of annoying his landlord by instituting proceedings in the superior Courts. Mr. Holmes and the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Sheil) were counsel for the plaintiff, who was actually nonsuited on the evidence of his own son. He could make no observations on this case so powerful, as a few sentences from a statement of Mr. M'Neale himself, which he begged the House would permit him to read to them.

Mr. Hutt

rose to order. He would appeal to the hon. Member, whether he would take up the time of the House with such statements.

Mr. Emerson Tennent

would appeal to the hon. Member, whether, if his character were assailed in such a public assembly as the House of Commons, he would not be anxious to remove the slanders heaped upon it? The hon. Member then proceeded to read the following statements of Mr. M'Neale:—"Mr. Sheil made a long speech in court against me, but in the evening sent his friend (Mr. Peter Colman) to me to assure me, that he meant nothing personal in his speech, and that he hoped, if he had made use of any expressions to hurt my feelings, I would forgive it, as his speech was a political one, and meant for the people of England in favour of emancipation. Since I came of age, thirty-three years ago, I have only had occasion to turn three tenants from my property—Mills being one, and two Thompsons both Protestants, but of bad character. I defy Sharman Crawford to prove one act of oppression against me, towards any of my tenants. I have lived all my life on or near my property, and spent my income amongst my tenants. At the election for Louth, in 1826, neither the threats and curses of the priests, nor the mob could seduce any of my Catholic voters from me, except in one solitary instance of a man who took a large bribe, as he afterwards acknowleged to me. When the late Mr. Richardson was returned for the county of Armagh, I polled for him thirty-seven Catholic tenants out of forty—two were ill, and one in England, although they were cursed and threatened by priests in my presence, who also offered them large bribes. During the election for Louth in 1826, whilst attending one of my Roman Catholic freeholders to the hustings, we were surrounded by a number of priests near the court-house, many of whom asked my tenant, if he was going to desert his creed and his Saviour, and to send his soul to hell. I could wish Mr. Sheil were asked in his place in the House of Commons, if my statement with respect to Mills is not correct. False and unfounded as this attack of Mr. Crawford is, it is not without a malignant object. It is meant to injure me with the Government, whose servant I am, as I still hold a commission in the revenue, and at present my memorial is before the Treasury, praying for a retired allowance on the abolition of my situation at Carlingford." The hon. Member for Tipperary could, he had little doubt, respond satisfactorily to this appeal of Mr. M'Neale, and do justice to the reputation of an injured gentleman. Such were the simple facts of a case which had been unwarrantably misrepresented, for the purpose of injuring the character of Mr. M'Neale as a landlord; and singularly enough, and as if to prove the groundlessness of the charge brought by the hon. Member for Dundalk, that Mr. M'Neale could be actuated by such motives, Mills was at present a freeholder in Dundalk, and voted for the hon. Member, but became a bankrupt after being nonsuited; Mr. M'Neale was appointed his assignee; he still owed him 60l., and, were he so disposed, Mr. M'Neale could at this moment sell the very freehold out of which he voted for the hon. Member, and deprive him of his franchise.

Mr. Sheil

said, that he would very briefly state his recollection of an occurrence that had taken place now more than ten Years ago. He remembered very well that Harry Mills—that was the man's name—made a complaint to the association that he had been turned out of his holding, in consequence of his having voted for Mr. Alexander Dawson. Mills was a tenant of Mr. M'Neale. There had been a quarrel between them previous to the general election in 1826. The matter was brought to trial, and there certainly was a verdict for Mr. M'Neale, but the verdict was returned on a point of law, as it was held that Mills had no property in the turf. It was undoubtedly considered a very extraordinary proceeding on the part of Mr. Wolf M'Neale, that he should assemble a number of persons, and go, in the broad open day, and with his own hands set fire to this man's turf. That was all that he knew of the case.

Mr. Potter

said, that it would appear, from the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, that Irish landlords consider themselves entitled to the votes of their tenants.

Subject dropped.

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