§ Clause I,—Repealing Acts and Charters relating to the several boroughs named in schedules A, B and C was then read.
§ Mr. Shaw
thought, as that clause had reference to the schedules, he might then call the attention of the Committee to the entire want of principle or consistency which pervaded the measure, even upon the shewing of the promoters of it. It appeared from page 8 of the Commissioners' Report, that they professed to go upon a mixed principle of population; and the circumstance of Corporations being "now effectively existing, and exercising the functions of such bodies." Schedules A and B were tolerably intelligible—but in schedule C, he (Mr. Shaw) was wholly at a loss to understand the ground upon which the boroughs were selected; for instance, Midleton and Belturbet were inserted, one with a population of 2,034, the other of 2,026—whereas Newry and Dungarvon were omitted; the former having a population of 13,065; the latter of 10,86l. But perhaps it would be said, that the two former, though of such small population, were "effectively existing" Corporations; no doubt they were arranged in a column under that heading; but he would beg to refer to the Commissioners' Report for a definition of what was "an effectively existing corporation, and exercising the functions of such a body;"—take the case of Midleton. The Report stated, that the Corporation was created solely for the purpose of returning Members to the Irish Parliament, which was exercised according to the dictation of Lord Midleton, up to the time of the Union, when the right was taken away, and compensation awarded to them; and then they came to what he (Mr. Shaw) presumed was the Commissioners' description of "an effectively existing Corporation, exercising its functions"—it was in the following words:—"Since that period the Corporation has been kept up, and an annual election of officers has been held, but for what purpose it is not easy to discover—the members of it having no duties to discharge, nor any privileges or emoluments, and the inhabitants of the town deriving no benefit or advantage 255 from the Corporation." Of Belturbet, the other favoured place under the lower classes, the Commissioners Report—"This borough, until the year 1800, possessed the power of returning two Members to the Irish Parliament; it was a close borough, and wholly under the influence of those who claimed to be the patrons or purchasers of its Parliamentary privileges. Originally created for Protestant purposes, it always continued an exclusively Protestant Corporation." The next anomaly was—the Bill departing from the list to which he last referred;—go to the next, also to be found in page 8 of their Report, "of Corporations which have become extinct since the Union," and they pass over the first in that list, viz.: Castlebar, with 6,373 inhabitants, and insert Ballyshannon, with 3,775 —and then, for what reason, it is impossible even to surmise, they add Antrim—not to be found in either of the two last lists— with a population of only 2,655, and of which the Commissioners state in page 6 of their Report, "that it never possessed the character of a municipal Corporation.'' Then another great absurdity on the face of the Bill was, that it left altogether untouched the eight last of the Corporations, which the Report stated to be "effectively existing" as well as the minor incorporated guilds of the city of Dublin, with respect to which a separate Report had been promised by the Commissioners, but had never yet appeared. He (Mr. Shaw) requested the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, or the right hon. Gentleman, the Attorney-General, to explain these apparent inconsistencies and absurdities, and to inform the Committee upon what principle, if there was any, upon which the Bill proceeded.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw), must say, that he thought it would have been better to postpone his observations till they came to the schedules. He would, however, say, that the general principle upon which the borough had been selected was population—the schedule A above 20,000, the schedule B above 15,000, and as to schedule C, it would be open to correction. Belturbet and Midleton might certainly be omitted if desired, and he did not himself exactly see upon what principle Antrim and Ballyshannon had been taken in, unless there were Corporations already existing there. As to the towns that had been altogether omitted, if the hon. Gentlemen opposite pleased, they might move clauses to abolish them. He thought the 256 minor guilds in Dublin would be met by the interpretation clause; but if not, a clause might be introduced expressly abolishing them.
§ Clause agreed to, as were clauses 2 and 3.
§ On Clause 4, corporators to be styled mayor, aldermen, and burgesses.
§ Mr. Finch
said, if Ministers would consent to strike out that clause, it would have the effect of inducing him to withdraw the greater part of his opposition to the Bill. After the concession which the noble Lord, the Secretary at War, made upon a former evening, very little difference of opinion existed between the two great parties in that House, except as regarded the administration of police, which was a matter that could be quite as satisfactorily provided for under the statute of the 9th of George 4th, as by a mayor and corporation. He would ask the hon. and learned Member for Dublin and the Attorney-General for Ireland, what great advantage in other respects was to be derived from the establishment of a mayor and corporation? He called upon them to point out, if they could, what ad vantage the people of Ireland would obtain from possessing these bodies. The only object of the party with which the hon. and learned Member for Dublin was connected was, to make these Corporations political bodies, and to employ them as engines of political agitation, which the law could not reach. He could assure his Majesty's Ministers that no man could be more anxious than he was for the good government of Ireland, and if it could be shown that this measure would tend to that object, there was no one who would more readily support it than he would; but as he was convinced that the Bill would not only not conduce to the good government of the towns and cities of Ireland, but would render that country absolutely ungovernable by any British administration, whether Whig, Conservative, or Radical, he felt bound to protest against it in the strongest terms. It was known that when Ireland was under the influence of agitation, it was positively ungovernable. Lord Althorp and other individuals who had been in his Majesty's councils, had submitted statements to Parliament to show that the law was powerless under the influence of agitation. When this Bill passed, how was agitation to be suppressed? Suppose an emergeney to arise, which would render it necessary to pass another Coercion Bill, would it be possible, under that Bill, to deprive corporate bodies of the privilege of 257 holding public meetings and discussing political questions? And if this were not done every part of the country would be subjected to the legalised process of political agitation; and under such circumstances it would not be possible for any administration to govern Ireland. If the franchise were raised, the consequence would be, that a certain number of the Corporations would fall into the hands of the Protestants, and a certain number into those of the Roman Catholics. The result in this case would be, the agitation of the country from one end to the other, and the corruption of justice at its source. Was it supposed that the cause of agitation had ceased? During the last year a calm—a deceptious calm had prevailed; but did any rational man suppose that the present or any future Government would remove the causes of agitation? If that were the case—if there were to be no agitation for the future, this measure would be comparatively harmless; but it was avowed that agitation was only suspended, on condition that justice was done to Ireland. They all knew what was comprehended in that term. The fact was placed beyond the possibility of denial or dispute. The agitators had declared that justice to Ireland required that absenteeism should be put an end to. Now, he (Mr. Finch) asked, whether the present or any future British Government could be expected to pass a law to compel absentees to reside in Ireland against their wish? Again, it was known that "justice to Ire land" involved the principle, that the religion of the majority should be the dominant religion. How could any British Ministry reconcile this principle with the existence of a Protestant establishment in Ireland? Dr. M'Hale, no mean authority, had given an illustration of his notions of "justice to Ireland;" he said that he looted for "successive reforms of the Protestant church, until not a vestige of the nuisance should remain." The national independence, too, was comprehended in the term so often employed. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had publicly announced, that he had only suspended the agitation for "repeal" until he saw whether Ministers would do "justice to Ireland." Consequently, justice to Ireland was, in his (Mr. O'Connell's) opinion, equivalent to the separation of the two countries. Under these circumstances, and without entering into further argument, seeing that the Bill before the House, so far from being calculated to promote good government, was 258 calculated, in the highest degree, not only to promote bad government in the towns but to render Ireland itself ungovernable, he would content himself with entering his protest against it, knowing that all further opposition was futile.
§ Clauses agreed to.
§ On Clause 6,
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
said, that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would take the trouble of reading the Bill of last year, as it passed that House and was sent to the House of Lords, he would find that the word "office" was inserted in it. That word was introduced in the Committee.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that in the copy which he had received of the Bill of last year, the word "office" did not appear, and this Act would confer the right of franchise on about 20,000 persons. If the city of Dublin was to be legislated for at all in respect of its corporate functions, he thought that it was, at least, entitled to a separate consideration, as in the case of the city of London, and that the same machinery could not be very easily applied to the 260,000 inhabitants of Dublin, and the 2,000 of Belturbet.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, the clause then under discussion rendered it necessary that all municipal cesses, rates, and taxes, should be demanded before the franchise could be interfered with. He (Mr. Young) had been most painfully circumstanced of late; for in Ireland the franchise was not made to depend upon the fact of publicity being given to the amount of each person's assessment. Now in England it was absolutely necessary that the assessment to the poor-rates should be published, and each individual could thereby know what was the amount to which he had been assessed; but, according to the law, as it applied to Ireland, a man might be deprived of his franchise for the non-payment of a tax of which he had no notice. The law ought to be so framed that a man should know distinctly what rates were payable by him.
said, that the hon. Member might console himself. No such law existed, or had existed. He agreed with the hon. Member that nothing could be more monstrous or more unjust; but it was not law, and no particular decision could make it law. To take away a franchise for the non-payment of a tax, without giving the least notice to those who were 259 liable to pay it, was contrary to the first principles of law, and opposed to all justice. And yet such injustice might be inflicted, though not by the statute law, for that would not authorize it, yet by the particular decision of a tribunal, intended for a particular purpose, and with the view of casting difficulties in the way of the registries.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, that it would ill become him to differ on a point of law from the hon. and learned Member for Dublin; but if the hon. Gentleman thought that any unjust decision had been come to in the quarter alluded to, for it would be affectation in him (Mr. Young) to profess ignorance of his meaning, it was impossible for the hon. Gentleman, or for any individual in that House, to feel to the painful extent which every Member of that tribunal did feel, that it had pleased the Legislature to place on the shoulders of men profoundly conscious of their inability adequately to discharge the duties required of them, a weight of responsibility from which, if it were possible, they would gladly relieve themselves. He could only say for them, as for himself, that in the decision to which they had come they had been guided only by an anxious desire to come to a just conclusion on those extremely difficult subjects submitted to their consideration. But in making the assertion that that decision was intended to serve a purpose, the hon. Member had brought a charge, and had imputed motives, which he had no right to ascribe, and which he threw back on him with such feelings as he knew the hon. and learned Gentleman would entertain if those aspersions were cast upon him. The hon. Gentleman said, that the decision was intended to serve a purpose. What right had he to impute motives, or insinuate accusations? "I say," continued the hon. Member, "that my motives were as pure and incapable of suspicion as any which the hon. Member could have had, had he been in my place. I give it him back, I tell him, with those feelings with which he would repel such imputations cast upon him. I repeat, I have endeavoured to fulfil the duties required of me to the best of my ability, and I will not allow him to cast any stigma upon me for doing so."
said, if he had imputed motives to the hon. Member it would have been the duty of the Chairman to have stopped him.
admitted he had; he meant for the purpose of excluding votes. He had not said that was a bad purpose. He was glad to find that the hon. Member was in such good odour with himself, but he regretted that his judgment was not so good as his intentions. It seemed he did not comprehend the subject, and yet he took away the franchise, and then he praised himself.
§ Mr. George F. Young
said, all the casuistry of the hon. and learned Member would not induce the House to sanction the stigma which he attempted to affix upon the Committee.
put it to the Committee whether the present was either a fit time or place for acrimonious discussion? He could not, however, wonder at the warmth of the hon. Member for Tynemouth; but he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, did not mean more—though his language certainly went to a greater extent —than that the decision to which he referred had the effect of excluding votes. It was impossible to suppose that the Committee alluded to were doing their duty otherwise than fairly and conscientiously, or that they could be actuated by corrupt motives in either receiving or rejecting votes. But, to return to the clause under consideration, he must say, that it was far too important to be discussed in so thin a House. As he disapproved of the whole Bill he should not take the opinion of the Committee on the present clause, but he could not, at the same time, help observing on the unfairness of calling upon them to make provision for the self-government of those cities and towns in which Corporations were to exist without laying before them all the circumstances and information necessary to enable them to arrive at a just conclusion in each case. He should like to know how they were to decide whether a 10l. qualification should be given to this place, and a 5l. to that; when all the information they had to guide them was, that all places having a population above 20,000 were to have a 10l. qualification, and all places having a population under that number a 5l. qualification? This was all the information they had to guide them. Was this the course which had been pursued with respect to Scotland? He must also say, that making a residence of six months confer a right of voting was a sort 261 of premium to the less respectable, as opposed to the more respectable parts of the constituency in corporate towns.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
said, that with respect to residence this Bill followed the provisions of the Irish Reform Bill, introduced by the noble Lord himself. He then thought a 5l. qualification sufficient in certain places, although he now objected to it as being too low. It should not be forgotten either, that the noble Lord had culogised the statute of the 9th George 4th, which first gave the 5l. franchise. With respect to the number of votes he would observe, that in Lisburn the number of houses was 863, of which, 93 were of the value of 10l. In this borough, then, there would only be 93 voters under this Bill if the 5l. franchise were not created. The same observation would apply to Drogheda, Longford, and a number of other towns.
said, that instead of showing that this Bill was consistent in this particular with the English and Scotch Acts, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had thought fit to avoid that part altogether. He denied that he had ever eulogised, the Act of the 9th George 4th,; what he said was, that that Act gave no political power, whereas this Bill did. He denied that this Bill had any other than political objects in view, and said that the effect of it would be to establish debating societies and political clubs in every town in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of Lisburn; why, Lisburn was excluded from this Bill. He should like, however, to know where the right hon. Gentleman had got the information respecting Lisburn which he had read to the House. He found in a Report before the House that Lisburn contained 992 houses of all descriptions, and of those 209 were stated to be of the value of 10l. and upwards. The Commissioners, however, ex pressed their belief that there were 354 houses of that value, and this, he thought, showed that the Committee were not in pos session of such information as would enable them fairly to discuss the details of this Bill.
§ Colonel Conolly
said, that the whole character of the franchise established by the measure was so very low as to manifest its utter unsuitability for the county for which it was intended. The statements put forth by the learned Attorney-General for Ireland were called in question in a great variety of instances. On former occasions the learned Gentleman's statements with 262 respect to Dublin, Cork, and Naas, were shown to have been most incorrect; and that night his extraordinary statement with, respect to Lisburn was calculated to throw an additional light upon the subject under consideration. Lisburn was left out of the Bill because a Roman Catholic ascendancy could not be established there, and it was hopeless to place it under the domination of the learned Member for Dublin. The bare fact of Government having recourse to so low a rate of franchise was incontestible proof that they could not find a respectable constituency in the ordinary class of towns in Ireland.—Why, then, he would ask, keep up the machinery of these Corporations at all—and why descend to the lowest class to form the constituency? The learned Attorney-General for Ireland says, it is necessary to resort to this class, in order to enfranchise the bulk of the inhabit ants of the towns; it is necessary, in fact, as he admits, to have recourse to those who are living in a state of absolute pauperism. He (Colonel Conolly) would maintain that in large towns the functions of Corporations could be executed under Acts of Parliament now in force, while in small towns the greatest possible evil with which they could be afflicted would be the establishment of debating societies, subservient, as they necessarily must be, to the hon. Member for Dublin, who had made himself master of the Government.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that when the Committee came to the schedules, that would be the time for discussing the question, whether any particular town ought or ought not have the benefit of a Municipal Corporation. The gallant Colonel (Conolly) said that Lisburn was excluded because it would not be possible to bring it under the learned Member for Dublin's domination. No; the reason why Lisburn was excluded from the Bill was, that the Corporation was extinct. But then Mallow was also excluded from the Bill, and Dungarvon also; and it would be scarcely contended that in those two towns the learned Member's influence would not tell for something. When, then, therefore, the gallant Colonel came forward and said that we exclude a particular town because we could not bring it under the domination of the learned Member for Dublin, the gallant Colonel, spoke either in utter ignorance, or misrepresented the facts of the case. He would contend that the promoters of the Bill did not desire that Municipal Corporations should be 263 given to towns for political purposes, nor was it intended to exclude any towns from the operation of the Bill. The only object the Ministers had in view was, to promote, as far as possible, a good form of municipal government. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) had said that night, that his Majesty's Government had departed from the principle that had been adopted for England and Scotland. The object of the Hill was for the purpose of affording popular control, and that those who exercised municipal functions should be responsible to those who chose them. This would apply to all the Boroughs contemplated by the Bill, in the same manner that the principle had already been sanctioned by the King, Lords, and Commons for this country.
Mr. Sergeant O' Loghlen
said, the noble Lord had quoted from the Report of the Boundary Commissioners, and they only stated what the probable number of houses would be. The gallant Colonel (Colonel Conolly) complained that Lisburn had been left out of the Bill, because it possessed a large Protestant constituency; but he seemed to forget that Belturbet, Ballyshannon, and Antrim were inserted in the Bill, all of which were Protestant towns.
said, that the Boundary Commissioners had given too large an estimate in all cases. In Tralee the number of 10l. houses estimated by them was 354; whereas the number registered was only 179. Now, Tralee had been twice contested since the passing of the Reform Bill, and in one instance the successful candidate was only returned by a majority of four. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) said, that if this Bill were to pass, the number of persons enfranchised by it in Dublin would amount to 20,000. That was the precise number which the right hon. Gentleman said would be created by the Reform Bill. He (Mr. O'Connell) was sorry to say his prediction had not been fulfilled, inasmuch as the whole number of electors registered in Dublin did not exceed 8,000. He (Mr. O'Connell) contended, that the scale of qualification did not descend; for a tenant of a 5l. house in towns in Ireland would be equal in value as com pared to a 10l. house in Liverpool. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) would not admit that the 9th of Geo. 4th was a good Act, but yet he was willing to extend its provisions to every town in Ireland.
§ Mr. Shaw
denied, that the noble Lord (Stanley) had proposed to extend the pro- 264 visions of the 9th Geo. 4th. All that the noble Lord, or those at that side of the House proposed was, to leave that Act as they had found it—capable of being extended, in point of law, to any town; but, in fact, few had appeared willing to adopt it. He could not but admire the simplicity and innocence with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer disavowed all political objects, as connected with the Bill before the House; and would the right hon. Gentleman add, that even in his own opinion, such would not be its tendency? and would the right hon. Gentleman further venture the assertion, that if it was not the object of the Government to confer political favour on a particular party—that it was not the motive of those who, on this occasion, were coercing the Government against their opinions and judgment? With regard to the Corporation of Dublin, he admitted that it had been exclusive in its politics, and that exclusiveness he and his friends were ready, under existing circumstances, to surrender; but they never would consent to transfer all the power into the hands of their political opponents, and to gain it was the sole object of those at whose instance the measure was pressed. While he allowed that the Corporation of Dublin was exclusive, he denied that it was close or self-elected, or that any charge of personal corruption could be justly brought against its members; and he was astonished at the assertion which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Attorney-General for Ireland, had made on that subject. He would not deny that there was some mismanagement of property— that accounts had been mixed, which per haps would have been better kept distinct; but it was an entire misrepresentation of the facts to say that 1,500l. a-year had been put into the pocket of their treasurer, or that there had been any misapplication of their funds to private purposes, or the personal advantage of the members of the Corporation. As corporate functions in their proper score, they had few to discharge. The Ballast Board, the Paving Commissioners, and the Police-office, were all regulated by Acts of Parliament, and not under the control of the Corporation; and what was very remarkable, the present Bill expressly provided that they should not be subjected to the new Corporation. In short, political power and influence was what it would confer, and what its abettors wanted. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had stated in his evidence, 265 that the first act of the new town-council should be to build a new town-hall for public discussion, and that would form a centre, from which political associations, of the most dangerous character, would spread throughout the entire country, and be wielded by a power that it would be then found impossible to control. He was willing to put end to the political functions of the present Corporations, and all corporate interference with the administration of justice; hut he would ever raise his voice, and exert his utmost energy, against taking this power and influence from the attached friends, in order to confer them upon the acknowledged opponents of British connexion and British interests.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen.
—If the right hon. and learned Gentleman really meant what he said, he knew less of the affairs of the city of Dublin than any man living; for it was established by a decree of the House of Lords in 1823—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he (Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen) should have thought, must have known the fact, that a sum amounting to 1,500l. per annum of the Corporation funds had been misapplied, from the year 1799 up to that time; making in the whole no less an amount than 74,000l. The Corporation of Dublin had not transferred the large amount which had been misapplied to another branch of their private properly, but had made it a charge upon public property.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that all he had denied was, that there could attach any charge of individual corruption as respected the Corporation of Dublin. He did not deny the existence of the decree of the House of Lords. He admitted that the Corporation had violated the letter of the Act which regulated the pipe-water rate; but he con tended, that they had observed its spirit to the extent of expending on the works in question (under the Metal-Main Act) the full amount received, although the Act required that money to be applied in payment of a debt due by the pipe-water estate; this, however, as regarded the pecuniary interest of the Corporation was little more than the transfer of a debt from one estate of the Corporation to another; and while he would not altogether justify the departure from the Act, he could, in the strongest manner, deny, that there had been any interested misapplication of the funds, or personal fraud or corruption committed in respect of them by the Corporation of Dublin.
In the misapplication of this money the Corporation of Dublin had not followed the letter of the law certainly. No; but they had violated the letter of the law as much as the man who filches your handkerchief violates the letter of the law against feloniously stealing from the person.
§ The Attorney-General
begged to call the attention of the Committee to the question immediately before them, which was not as to the merits or demerits of the Corporation of Dublin; but as to whether there should hereafter be, in the towns of Ireland a municipal qualification or franchise, which, in some cases, should be vested in 10l, householders, and in other towns in the 5l. householders. He had heard no objection raised to this arrangement, except that it did not assimilate with the practice in England. No objection, had been made to the clause which had not been already answered.
begged to ask, why in particular boroughs, where a greater number of 10l. householders existed, the 51. franchise was to be created for the purposes of this Bill. In Kilkenny there were 240 10l. householders, while in Londonderry there were 408. Now, the 10l. franchise was to be continued to Kilkenny, and the 51. to Londonderry—the latter giving nearly double the number of 10l. householders. He wished to know on what principle Government acted?
Mr. O' Connell
said, that in Kilkenny there had been no contest since the Reform Bill, and the 10l. householders, to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) alluded, were 10l. freeholders.
§ Clauses 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, were agreed to.
§ On Clause 10th,
§ Mr. Shaw
was anxious to know how it was proposed to preserve the rights of free men to their Parliamentary franchise, as the Bill had no provision for that purpose similar to the English Municipal Reform Act. The new Corporations were to be composed of burgesses deriving all their rights from a household franchise, and there would be no recognition by them, qua. Corporations, of the lights of freedom; in short, there would be no point of similarity between the old and the new Corporations, except the name; and if any discretion were left to the new town-council, as to the admission of persons, it would virtually amount to their rejection—and thus gradually would be done away the 267 only counterpoise which at present existed in the city of Dublin to the influence of the 10l. householders.
said, that it was not intended by the Bill to give any greater weight to the new Corporations than were enjoyed by the old ones. Previously to the passing of the Reform Bill, a Return was made to the House by the Corporation of Dublin, stating, that they did not recognize the right of any freeman to demand his freedom. The Court of King's-bench, by refusing a mandamus, sanctioned the view taken by the Corporation, and yet now hon. Members stand up for inchoate rights which were decided not to exist. The clause would leave the right just as it found it.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, that there was no doubt that the distinction was as well established in Dublin as in other Corporations, between honorary freemen, and those who were free by the rights of birth, servitude, and marriage; these rights were attained through the minor guilds; but, as regarded the Parliamentary franchise, it was necessary that the right should be consummated by passing what was termed the city at large. This was seldom refused, though it had been in some few instances. In one, the Court of King's-bench refused a mandamus against the Corporation. Still, in substance, the freedom by right was fully recognized and acted upon, and by virtue of it 1,900 freemen were registered in the city of Dublin under the Irish Reform Act. What he wanted to know was, whether it was intended by a side-wind to affect these rights, as well as others of a similar kind, which would accrue to freemen?
—Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to deny that the Corporation of Dublin do not recognize the right of a freeman? The Court of King's-bench decided that no such right existed. The mode adopted by the Corporation, since the passing of the Reform Bill, was in direct violation of that Act. All their admissions of freemen since were by special favour, and 400 or 500 fraudulent voters, thus admitted, had recently been placed upon the registry in Dublin.
wished to know whether the new Corporations were to admit those whom they chose to admit, and reject those whom they chose to reject?
§ The Attorney-General
said, the new town-council would have no discretion at all. An inchoate right did not exist, except where it could be peremptorily enforced.
said, the question was a 268 very important one at the present moment. If the son of a freeman claim to be admitted to his right, the Corporation may say whether or no they will admit him. What he (Lord Stanley) wished to know, whether the new Corporation would have the power of rejecting him if they should think lit. He saw the hon. and learned Member for Dublin preparing a case, but it was to the Attorney-General that his (Lord Stanley's) observations were addressed.
§ The Attorney-General
apprehended the new Corporation of Dublin would have no discretion. Those freemen who had been admitted in the way described by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, since the passing of the Reform Bill, were usurpers, and ought to be disfranchised by a quo warranto.
§ Mr. Shaw.
—Nothing can be more contrary to the fact than the assertion, that the freemen in question had been admitted by special grace or favour—those who had been so admitted (being quite a distinct class) had no right to be registered as voters for the city of Dublin, and none such were registered; but it could not be for a moment maintained, that those who were free by birth or servitude ought not to be admitted to register.
§ Mr. Sheil
begged to know what the right was at present? It was said to be inchoate, and yet the Court of King's-bench refused to enforce it. It appeared from the statement of the right hon. the Recorder, that it was obligatory in the minor guilds to admit; but that it was discretionary with the Corporation to admit to the freedom, so as to enable the freemen to vote at elections for Members of Parliament. The Bill before the Committee enacts, "That no person is to be admitted by gift or purchase, but that he should be admitted by birth, servitude, or marriage." The right of exclusion remained as at present, and he thought it just that it should so remain. There was a combination in existence amongst the Protestant tradesmen of Dublin, who declared, they would not receive Roman Catholics as apprentices, lest by possibility they might obtain their freedom. If a veto existed now, he wished to know why it should not exist under the new Corporation?
said, that the Member 269 for Bandon was Counsel before the Registering Barrister, for those persons whom he (Mr. O'Connell) contended, had been fraudulently admitted by special favour since the passing of the Reform Bill. He (Mr. O'Connell) suggested to the Registering Barrister the propriety of rejecting one of the claimants, for the purpose of having the question decided by way of appeal to a higher tribunal. The Member for Bandon thought the proposal a fair one, but in the morning Mr. Hatchell came down and said the parties could not agree to the proposition. At a subsequent period a claimant was rejected, and instead of taking the appeal to the Court of King's-bench, they resorted to the Court of Exchequer, and certainly the Chief Baron coincided in the view taken by the Registering Barrister, and the man was registered.
§ On Clause 15th,
§ Mr. Shaw
pointed out the absurdity of the shortness of the time allowed for the Mayor to perform the duty imposed upon him. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin (Mr. O'Connell) boasted, that there would he 20,000 voters under the Bill. Now, under the Irish Reform Act, it had taken eight Revising Barristers with eight separate Courts, six weeks to register 7,000 voters, and the time limited for the Mayor and assessors holding a single Court, was from the 1st to the 15th October, and the whole machinery of the Act depended upon the registry being completed in that time.
Mr. Sergeant O'Loughlen
saw no reason why the registry should not be completed in the time specified.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ The Clauses to the 42nd were agreed to.
§ House resumed. The Committee to sit again.