HC Deb 30 June 1842 vol 64 cc838-58
Lord Clements

rose, pursuant to the notice he had given for a committee to inquire into the conduct and management of the grand jury system in the county of Donegal; and in bringing forward such a motion, expressed his hope that he should have the approbation of the House, and the support of the noble Lord opposite. The matter on which he was about to address them, was of the utmost importance to Ireland; and he must say, that he felt compelled to bring it forward, from a grave and serious sense of public duty. He was obliged to take this step, because it was necessary for him to do so in the exposure of the bad system which had hitherto prevailed. Some of the matters that he was now about to submit to the House he had already brought before the grand jury of the county. The first time that he had done so he had obtained something like a hearing, but the second time he ventured to mention it he was scarcely listened to. He had also laid these matters before the late Government, and they said, they could not do anything for him—he had brought them before the Chief Remembrancer, and he said, he could not do anything. He then submitted the matter to his noble Friend, the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the answer given by him was to the same effect as that which he had received from the former Government. And yet what was the case for which he was told that no redress could be procured? It was this—that forgery had been committed in the presentments for that county. He had at length got the Chief Remembrancer to investigate his charge—the Chief Remembrancer looked into it, and decided that there had been a forgery committed. The Chief Remembrancer communicated his decision to the foreman of the grand jury the gallant Colonel opposite (Colonel Conolly), and also to the judge of the assize; and yet, with this representation before them, the grand jury did nothing! Under these circumstances, then, the duty was imposed upon him of bringing these matters before the public. It was to him a subject of the greatest grief to be compelled to do so; but he was determined to shrink from no portion of his public duty. There was, he said, no portion of the Irish grand jury law observed in the county of Donegal—neither in its presentments, nor in the proper mode of having its accounts authenticated by the Chief Remembrancer. Every part of the law was unobserved. This was a question which, if he did not, as he intended, make out fully, he would not ask of the House to go any further with him. In, however, bringing such a subject before the House, he wished at once to be distinctly and clearly understood, that he made no complaint against the grand jury itself—he made no complaint against the gentlemen composing that grand jury; but he did make a great and a serious complaint against those persons in whom the grand jury confided, and in whom they placed confidence. But which confidence has been abused. His charge was principally against the gallant Officer opposite, and the officers of the grand jury. Sure he was that most of the gentry of the county Donegal were as anxious as he was to have abuses rectified. The existing law in Ireland for the management of the fiscal affairs of the country, laid down the rule that the presentments should all be made in open court. The law also provided that the fiscal business should be entered into at a proper time, before the opening of the commission. How had these regulations been complied with in Donegal? He went so far back as the year 1836, and in that year he found the fiscal business of the grand jury was began on the 11th March, and the commission was opened on the 12th March. The sum presented was 18,362l. 2s.4½d. At the summer assizes, in the same year, the fiscal business was commenced on the 19th July, and the commission was opened on the 21st July. The amount of presentment was 14,146l. 6s. 6¾d. The short space of three days was all that was allowed to be devoted to the fiscal business of the county in the entire year, and the amount presented was 32,508l. 8s. 11¼d. during that short period. In 1837, he had not been able to ascertain when the fiscal business commenced and when the commission opened. In 1838, the fiscal business began on the 13th March; the commission opened on the 15th March—the sum voted was 17,987l. 11s. He had not the dates of the summer assizes in 1838: but the sum voted was 16,636l. 15s. 10d. The total for the year was 34,624l. 6s.10d. In 1839, the spring assizes commenced on the 15th March—a Sunday intervened, and the commission was opened on the 18th March. At the summer assizes the fiscal business began on the 24th July, the commission was opened on the 25th, and the sum voted for the entire year was 35,763l. 4s. 4d. All this was voted in three days. In 1840, there was 38,220l. 3s. 6d. voted in the course of four days. It would naturally appear surprising to the House that such large sums of money should be voted away in so short a time; but how was it done? It was done, he said, by the foreman of the jury, contrary to law—contrary to the express provision of the Act of Parliament—it was done by dividing the grand jury into committees—it was done by the Gentlemen of each barony making presentments for their baronies, and their barony presentments never coming before the grand jury in a body at all. The hon. and gallant Colonel opposite, in his own person, laid a tax on two baronies; he first nominated the cess-payers, who were to be associated with the magistrates of the barony at the presentment sessions, and then, when the presentments came before the following grand jury, he being the foreman, divided the grand jury into committees, and by himself, and in his own person, he laid on the tax on the two baronies of Boylagh and Banagh. In this was, he might say, to be found the first step to the mode in which the business of the county was smuggled through the grand jury-room. In the summer, assizes of 1840 it had been represented to him (Lord Clements) that eleven presentments which had passed the road sessions had been quashed. Now, here was a remarkably strong case, and he had brought it before the grand jury. The grand jury went into the case, and it was shown to them that the secretary to the grand jury, Mr. Spence, had either quashed them, as he would observe, either from fraud on his part, or through wilful neglect. The charge against him was, that he had fraudulently suppressed them. When that person was asked why they had not been brought before the grand jury after they had passed the road sessions, it was said (as we understood the noble Lord) to a Mr. Law, by Mr. Spence, that he would have them passed before the judge, though they had never been before the grand jury. The grand jury asked for the presentment paper, and every one of these presentments which had been before the road sessions, and there passed, and as it was asserted, by Mr. Spence, were afterwards lost by him, which prevented their appearing before the grand jury,—yet, when called before the grand jury, he produced these very presentments on a paper corresponding with those that had been before the grand jury, and which were going before the judge, and ready to be fiated by him. The person who did this acted in violation of the act of William 4th.; for he was not only acting as secretary of the grand jury, but also as deputy treasurer and deputy clerk of the Crown. Thus the intentions of the act, which meant that there should be a check and control of different officers on each other—were set aside and rendered of no avail. The grand jury submitted thus to be treated by a man who thus represented several persons. He (Lord Clements) had requested that he might be dismissed; but the grand jury voted that he should be obliged to give up the situations in the treasurer's office and the clerk of the crown's office, and that he should be severely reprimanded in court, and be mulcted in half a-year's salary. He was accordingly reprimanded, and having made an apology, was told that half a-year's salary was slopped from him—but what was the result of all this? After having been told that, the secretary of the grand jury allowed the presentment for his salary to be fiated by the judge. He must communicate to the House the scene that was exhibited in the grand jury-room when he attempted to impugn the conduct of their secretary. Never did he behold such an exciting scene as that grand jury presented. One gentleman got up and said, "this was nothing new at. all—that it constantly happened that presentments were thrown out at the road sessions—then brought, perhaps, before the grand jury, again thrown out—and at last fiated by the judge and levied off the county." Another gentleman stated that the barony of Innishowen was divided by a forgery. According to the act, the grand jury had the power of dividing the baronies. The matter had been brought before the grand jury, and they objected to the division. Notwithstanding the objection of the grand jury, it was, however effected, and that by means of a forgery, and Sir James Stewart stated to the grand jury, That it was true that his name had been forged to the presentment; but, he believed, that it was not the secretary who had forged it, but a grand juror. At the spring assize of 1841, he again called the attention of the grand jury to the conduct of their secretary, at the time that the presentment for his salary was brought forward, and requested that an investigation should take place into the general conduct of that officer. But he was particularly requested by the hon. and gallant Colonel not to bring it forward at that time, because a discussion would be excessively inconvenient and that they never should be able to get through their presentments. He did withhold it until the grand jury had gone through the presentments, and then, when the time had arrived for him to make his representations, to his astonishment the hon. and gallant Colonel, instead of calling upon him to speak, called on Mr. Alexander Stewart, who with great energy, particularly requested of the grand jury not to enter into the investigation, but only to notice any charges that might be brought forward. That gentleman laid down a rule for the grand jury to follow. He did not blame the grand jury for what they did; but he did blame those who took the lead amongst them—who had the confidence of the grand jury, and by whom that confidence was abused. When he was allowed to speak, he repeated the accusations that he had brought forward at the former assizes, and he requested that the question should be put to the secretary of the grand jury, as to who had put the presentment for his own salary before the judge to be fiated, and the hon. and gallant Colonel was directed by the grand jury not to put the question. He then requested of the grand jury to hear the complaint of Mr. Bateson, who made a serious charge against the secretary. The charge was this—that Mr. Spence had improperly procured payment from the treasurer of 12l. 3s., which he had no authority to receive, and also that he had improperly substituted one map for another, the latter having no reference to the presentment for which the map was intended. When these charges were read, there certainly was a strong feeling amongst the members of the grand jury that they had got themselves into a scrape, and that it would have been better for them to have gone on with the investigation which he had desired. Like persons, however, in similar circumstances—" in for a penny, in for a pound"—they determined to abide by wrong, having commenced in error. He regretted that such a course was adopted; the gentleman who brought forward the charge was not better received than he had been. Evidence was produced, to show that the person's name had been forged. The draft for 12l. 3s. was professed to be received by a man named Owen M'Daid, and to that the witness was Mr. W. M. Spence. It was signed by M'Daid, as if he were a marksman, when the fact was, that he could write as well as Mr. Spence himself. Now, this was too plain, and there was only one way of getting out of the contradiction. He had seen a hungry lawyer badgering a witness at quarter sessions; but then, he had never supposed—he had never dreamt of seeing a gentleman on a grand jury, and acting under the solemn obligation of an oath, conduct himself in such a manner as did that gentleman, who took the lead on this occasion, and who acted as a sort of counsel for the defendant, and examined the principal witness, John Dogherty. Never did a counsel for the defendant so banter the leading witness of the plaintiff, as this gentleman bantered the unfortunate witness,—such a bantering he had never heard. Words were put into his mouth that he had never uttered—he was examined and cross-examined until the perspiration was running down his face. It was repeatedly suggested to him, that he had employed the secretary of the grand jury to receive his money, and it was as repeatedly denied by him. It was repeatedly said to him—" Did you or did you not empower the secretary to receive the money?" And although the answer was always in the negative, yet this was carried on for such a length of time, that at last the grand jury became bewildered; and he believed that there was not one of them, except the gallant Officer opposite and Mr. Stewart, who was examining the witness, who really comprehended the matter; Mr. Bateson, was not allowed to make any reply—and was not per- mitted to call back the attention of the jury to what was the real question at issue; and he did not believe that the Members of the grand jury knew very well what it was that they were voting for. On that occasion, the secretary of the grand jury was severely reprimanded, and was declared to be guilty of the greatest irregularity, though it was said there was no proof of fraud, even though he had kept the poor man's money for four months in his own pocket. Now, he had brought this matter before the Chief Remembrancer in January last. The Chief Remembrancer went into the case, and from the minutes of it, it would appear, that Spence admitted that the mark of Owen M'Daid was put to the receipt not by M'Daid, but by him; he admitted that M'Daid could read and write, and had given him no authority to sign his name, or put his mark to the receipt; he stated that the money was payable, not to M'Daid but to John Doherty, who had done the work for which the presentment had been made; that after spring assizes 1840, he (Spence) delivered the receipt to the treasurer, and received a draft from him for the amount drawn in favour of M'Daid, or order; that he endorsed the draft in M'Daid's name, and drew the amount from the county bank; that he applied the money to his own purposes; and that he paid the amount after summer assizes to John Doherty, who had done the work. That M'Daid admitted that he authorised Doherty to receive the money; and Doherty admitted that he had received it after summer assizes from Spence. He had followed up this subject by calling the attention of the foreman of the grand jury, and also of the judge of assize to it, at the last spring assizes. He might remark that there was one curious thing about the minutes of the Chief Remembrancer, who, he did not think, had fully performed his duty; in the matter, that in that minute, the fact was omitted that the secretary of the grand jury having kept the money for his own purposes, had not paid it until he had been repeatedly dunned for it over and over again by the poor man who had earned it in making a road. He did not understand why Mr. Blake had not sent a copy of the presentment on which the money was levied; for it would appear that the presentment itself was a forgery. It came, however, to this, that either the presentment was forged, or Mr. M'Clintock had signed it out of sessions—that is to say as it was on a mail car road, the levy was to be half on the barony, and half on the county at large: Mr. M'Clintock being the presiding magistrate at the barony sessions, and not at that for the county at large, could only sign the presentments for the barony. Yet strange to say, the presentment in question was signed in his name for the county at large, and as it was stated that Mr. M'Clintock had refused to sign a presentment out of sessions, how came it that this presentment was signed by him? Mr. M'Clintock is dead, but his signature may be known. As the hon. and gallant Officer opposite took upon himself the management, not merely of two baronies, but of the county at large. It might naturally be expected that the hon. and gallant Officer would look at least to the two baronies that he took care of, and see them properly regulated; and yet even there he found the most extraordinary proceedings had taken place. He found, for instance, a contract there entered into with one Henry Cassidy, to repair a certain portion of a road at 13l. 7s. 4½d and this presentment was to continue for seven years. There was to be the same sum on the barony as on the county at large; and yet in the spring assizes of 1838, the 13l.7s.4½d. swelled into 26l. 14s. 9d. on the barony, and 13l. 7s. 4d. on the county. In the spring assizes of 1839 it was 7s. too much, while on the county at large the sum was correct, and so the charges went on. There was another case somewhat stronger, which he should be glad to hear the gallant Colonel explain. In the barony of Banagh, there was a contract entered into with Hugh Meehan for 17l. 9s. 9d., to continue for seven years, and it afterwards rose to 50l. 13s.4d.—to 40l. four difent times, and then rose to 50l. 13s. 4d. This, he thought, was a curiosity in its way. He must remark, that it was very difficult to get at the county books; few of them were printed, and when printed, they were not brought into circulation. He was happy to say, however, that he had possession of some of them; and, on looking at this case of Hugh Meehan, he found him put down in the schedule at 17l. 9s. 9d.—that was, he took it, the sum that ought to be levied of the county—while the sum set down in the grand warrant was 50l. 13s.4d Thus, while the presentment in the schedule is 17l. 9s. 9d., which is the right sum,—that placed in the grand warrant and levied off the county appears to be 50l. 13s. 4d.—yet attached to this grand warrant, is the affidavit of the Clerk of the Crown, to certify its correctness as compared with the presentments. This was for the summer of 1840. It appeared to him, that the whole was a system of fraud—that it almost taxed the credence of the House to place faith in. He had, he must say, gone through the grand warrants of the county with great labour and attention; and he was perfectly satisfied as to the correctness of what he had stated, and what he was about to state. He now went to the barony of Innishowen, where matters were still worse. Robert Mitchell entered into a contract for seven years, for 11l. 5s. 4½d. This sum ought to appear every assizes. It did not do so; one time it was 45l. 1l. 6d., and another time 22l. 10s. 9d.; and so it went up to January, 1840. Why was there this difference made with regard to this man, Robert Mitchell, unless it was for the purpose of defrauding the county? He should be glad to hear the gallant officer explain this—he should be glad to hear him explain the conduct of the salaried officers of the county—he should be delighted to hear a satisfactory explanation; but if the hon. and gallant Officer could not give him an explanation, he begged that he would not interrupt him. Under the same head of presentments, and to the same person, he found another contract for seven years for the sum of 17l. 0s. 2½d.—this, like the former, should be continued at the same amount each assizes. But at summer assizes 1837, it rose to 51l. 0s. 7½d. spring, 1838, it was 68l. 0s. 10d.; summer 1838, 68l. 0s. 10d.; spring 1839, 34l. 0s. 5d.; summer 1839, 34l. 0s. 5d.; spring 1840, 34l 0s. 5d.; summer 1840, 34l. 0s. 5d and he found, that under the two last mentioned cases, there had been presented to Robert Mitchell the sum of 316l. 16s. 9d. more than the amount of his contracts for the above period, and of which amount the county was defrauded. He should be glad to know from the hon. and gallant Colonel what had become of this money. He meant now to trouble the House with one case more, and then he intended to proceed to something else. With Peter Hegarty a contract had been entered into for seven years, and the sum to be presented for was 21l. 10s. 6d. That was the sum that ought to have been continued to be presented for at each assizes. In the spring assizes of 1838, it was 86l. 2s. 0d,; in the summer of 1838, it was 86l. 2s., instead of 21l.; in the spring of 1839, it was 43l. 1s.; and so to 1840, 43l. 1s.; and at last, upon this one presentment, the country had been defrauded of 215l. 5s. 6d. He should be glad to hear the hon. and gallant Officer explain that. These were only isolated cases that he brought forward, and not a tithe of what might be laid before the House. He only mentioned those things that he had gone through himself, that he had investigated closely, and of which he was certain that he was correct in every iota. He must now go back to the assizes of 1841. Previous to those assizes, he had received a letter from Lord George Hill—one he was sure that the hon. and gallant Officer opposite must respect, and one whose very name must ensure the belief, that it would be impossible for him to make any statement that he did not believe to be well founded. He had, then, received a communication from that nobleman, to make an inquiry as to a sum of 3l. 3s. 4d. which was due upon a contract to a poor man named J. M'Bride—a man who was kept out of his money on account as was stated, of a mistake being made in his christian name which was printed "John," instead of "James." He (Lord Clements) brought this case before the grand jury, but they would not listen to it. He brought it then before the judge, who examined the county surveyor, and he having certified that the work was done, the judge asked for the original presentment, when a letter was produced by the secretary of the grand jury to show that the presentment had been forwarded for the purpose of being made the subject of prosecution, notwithstanding that the county surveyor's certificate was produced in court, to show that the work had been performed. There was no seal on the letter. The person who wrote it must have been in the court-house—he must have been present. Why was he not examined? But he must go a little deeper into this matter. That letter was handed to the high minded judge, who could not believe it possible, that a secretary of a grand jury, for the purpose of evading the payment of such a sum, should have resorted to such a device as this—or that he would say, that the presentment had been forwarded to Mr. Barrett if it were not so. The judge then desired, that the presentment should be forwarded to him to Derry, and that he would, upon the receipt of it, come to a decision. What was the result? As the judge was going over the bridge, the secretary of the grand jury laughed at the poor man, for he knew that the commission was at an end. He would now read the judge's letter. It was from Chief Baron Brady, and stated that he enclosed the papers referring to the claims of James M'Bride, about whom he had interested himself—that he had since written to Mr. Spence about the presentment, but had not received any answer from that person—that he hoped the poor man would receive what he was justly entitled to; but that all power with him (the Chief Baron) to interfere further was at an end—that it must rest with the judge at the next spring assizes. That was the letter of the Chief Baron. His next step was to communicate with Mr. Barrett. Mr. Barrett stated that he had received from Mr. Spence, the secretary of the grand jury, a number of presentments on which to prosecute for non-fulfilment of the contracts; that he had selected some names for that purpose, and returned the list to Mr. Spence; and that on looking over the names of those proceeded against, he did not find the name of M'Bride; and that he had no presentment or bond of any such person; and that he had received no directions to that purpose in 1840 or 1841. Thus it was that they saw this unfortunate man treated, and that, too, by an individual who had the confidence of the grand jury, and who was sheltered by the hon. and gallant Officer opposite. He had one or two strong cases still left. He had compared the warrants of the county, and he wished now to draw the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland to this subject, in order that he might see what was done in the county of Donegal. He found that there was a very great discrepancy between the gaol reports laid on the Table of that House, and the returns that had been made by the grand jury. This was most remarkable with respect to the salaries of officers. He was only able to compare them for two years—these were 1836 and 1839. He found 8l. put down under the head of "other officers" in the gaol report, and in the grand jury warrant it was 82l.; he found officers employed of whom no account was given in the report. There was, for instance, a nurse-tender 8l.; there was the keeper of lunatics 20l.; a messenger 10l.; a providore 40l.: besides this, there was the keeper of the bridewells at Donegal and Letterkenny. He did not object to these officers as not being wanting; but he objected to them as not appearing in the gaol report that was laid before that House. In 1839, it was remarkable that almost every officer in the county had his salary charged twice over. The local inspector, according to the gaol returns, was to receive but 95l. 16s. 8d., while there was presented for him that year 140l. The chaplains were in the one account to have but 90l., while by the other he had been paid 135l. The Governor 150l., in the gaol report swelled into 225l. when it had to be paid by the county. 140l. was to be given by one account to the turnkeys, but 159l. was to be levied under the same item from the county. Under the head of "other officers" only, 12l. 4s. by the gaol report, while the county, it seemed, was to pay them 76l. 4s. In this year he found officers belonging to the gaol not mentioned in the gaol report. For instance, there was for the keeper of the lunatic ward, a nurse tender more; there was a messenger, and so on. He had now very little more with which to trouble 'the House; but he must first of all read part of a letter, addressed to the commissioners to inquire into the grand jury laws (whose report has lately been laid on the Table of this House), by the hon. and gallant Officer opposite. [Colonel Conolly: Read it all.] It is too long for that. But the hon. and gallant Officer was asked how he would amend the Grand Jury law, and his answer was to the effect that "many poor persons had sustained grievous Josses," like, he would say, to poor James M'Bride, "by inattention and negligence on the part of secretaries to the grand juries. He suggested, that the grand juries should, on memorial, have the power of awarding the amount of loss out of the salaries of such persons, or by giving a remedy by civil action, for any loss thus sustained by the wilful neglect of such persons." Now, he would ask the hon. and gallant Officer if he had, in penning that paragraph, his eye upon any body else than Mr. Spence, or did he suppose that any other secretary to a grand jury could act in the manner that it seemed he was in the habit of doing? He believed not one; and he was sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, when writing, must have had before him Mr. Spence as the original for every word he penned, and nobody else. He had now to mention some very curious local facts, just as a sort of wind up. He meant just to show to the House what these gentlemen said of themselves. What, first, said the treasurer?—He was asked if he discharged the duties in person, and if not, what remuneration he gave to the person he employed. His answer was, that he always discharged the duty in person, but that he employed an assistant. (That is the secretary of the grand jury)—but he makes no answer as to the amount of the remuneration. Then see what the secretary says of himself,—in answer to the question put by the commissioners, as to what offices he held and what emoluments he received in respect thereof. Answer, I held the office of sub-sheriff in the years 1830 and 1831, was deputy-clerk of the Crown—and assistant-county-treasurer, I received under 20l. a year, and from the Clerk of the Crown at first 20l. a year, latterly 25l., from persons who passed receipts to the county-treasurer about 20l. a year." Thus it is seen that so small has been his remuneration, that he has been obliged to pay himself by laying a tax on those persons who passed receipts, and this without any authority for so doing. But he does not here acknowledge to having been providore of the gaol of Lifford, yet he found presentments to Mr. Spence as providore 1836, 20l.—spring, 1838, 20l.—summer, 1838, 20l—spring, 1839, 10l. With regard to the Clerk of the Crown, this most important fact was admitted by him—that he received fees, though by the act it was not allowed. He said, he received in 1838, in fees, 159l.; in 1839, 131l.; and in 1840, 174l. 2s. 10d. This individual was asked, whether he had an office in the county, and how many days he had attended during the year. His reply was, that he had an office in the county, and had attended sixteen days in each year, with the exception of 1839. He was then asked, if he had any one else in his office, and replied, that he had, in 1832. Mr. Spence, the secretary of the grand jury, to take charge of his office, and for some years afterwards. He then said, that the greater part of the duties of his office were performed in Dublin. Thus they saw the same officer—who ought to be a check on the secretary of the grand jury, and a check on the treasurer, and whose duty it was to certify the correctness of the grand warrants as compared with the presentments was not to be found in his office, but employed the secretary at a paltry salary in his own office, that same person having a paltry salary also from the treasurer. Was it, he asked, to be supposed as unreasonable that a man who had such arduous duties placed upon him would not pay himself one way or another?—that if he were not paid in the right way, he would not pay himself in the wrong way. He thought now, that he had shown clearly to the House that there was much that was wrong in all this—that the affairs of the county were not checked and controlled as it was intended they should be—that the consequence was, that much evil was practised, much wrong was done, and much injury inflicted. "Henow, then, turned to his noble Friend (Lord Eliot), and asked if her Majesty's Government would not be disposed to interfere when he proved to them cases of hardship, and made manifest to them the evil that was committed? He confessed, that he would prefer a commission for the purpose of inquiring into this matter. It would be the better course—it would be that most likely to benefit the county, as well as Ireland at large. That some mode of inquiry should be employed, was most obvious; for he said, that in this case there was as much hardship and fraud as in any case he ever heard of—he did not expect what had taken place with regard to the forgery of the Exchequer-bills. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but he thought this a matter of very serious moment, and he repeated that the extent to which these frauds had been carried, was quite as remarkable, as was that of the Exchequer-bills, and the sooner it was put a stop to the better. He confessed, that unless her Majesty's Government did step forward, with the resolution at once to eradicate those evils, it would be perfectly hopeless to expect to see it put an end to. At that moment he did not wish to say the course that he should adopt; but he would wish, if successful, that her Majesty's Government would take up the matter. It might be said, that the Government had not power to interfere with the grand jury; but, then, was it to be said, that they had not power to dismiss the Clerk of the Crown? He was confident, if they investigated this matter, it would be proved that the Clerk of the Crown had been guilty of a dereliction of duty, and that he was unfit for such a situation. Then, if the grand jury would not dismiss their secretary, the Government could take such measures, and put the law in such a form, that they should not have the power to do any more mischief. He was sorry to say, that the county of Donegal was exceedingly dissatisfied with the state of things that was going on. He had heard a great number of complaints from the cess-payers as to the charges upon the county being much higher than they ought to be. The evils that were now felt had been experienced since the year 1823, and unless her Majesty's Government would enter into an investigation of them, there was no chance of a remedy. He hoped, then, that his noble Friend, with that diligence and perseverance that were usual with him, would undertake this most necessary duty. Unless he received an intimation such as he desired from her Majesty's Government, he must move, in the terms of his notice, for a select committee to inquire into the administration of the grand jury laws in the county of Donegal.

Mr. Morgan John O'Connell

seconded the motion.

Colonel Conolly

said, the noble Lord laboured under the greatest ignorance of the whole system he pretended to denounce. The noble Lord had utterly misstated all the facts, and most disingenuously asserted what he must have known to be untrue. ["Cries of Order."]

The Speaker

said, the gallant Colonel had certainly dropped some expressions which, on reflection he would regret and retract. The gallant Member could not mean to affirm that the noble Lord had spoken wilfully what was false.

Colonel Conolly

said, he was sorry to have been hurried away by natural indignation, at what he felt to be very unfounded charges, he was charged with very gross misconduct, and that, too, upon a matter which he had already explained to the noble Lord; and if he had been carried in any way too far, or beyond that which was the duty he owed to the House, he was sorry for it. He now wished to proceed. The noble Lord had proposed a motion that Mr. Spence was unfit for his duty, and that was not seconded by any person; the motion was negatived unanimously. So far then as related to that transaction. The noble Lord had next charged him with managing two baronies in the county of Donegal. It so happened in these baronies that the three principal. proprietors were two other persons and their humble servant then addressing them. Until the change in the grand jury law, it might be said that he represented three baronies in the county—but when it was required that each barony should have a representative on the grand jury, he must say that it was very difficult to get one person to represent each of these baronies. When he was away there was one of them for which the sheriff could not find another person to represent. He had taken means to have the barony represented by the agent of a noble Lord, but he had not succeeded. As to the presentments it was extraordinary that the noble Lord did not bring them before the grand jury, but should have reserved them for Parliament. It was, too, he said, a very remarkable circumstance, that with all the noble Lord's charges the grand jury were unanimous in their opinion concerning them. With respect to the gross irregularity mentioned, he did not vindicate it, he meant the irregularity of the secretary of the grand jury receiving money for one person instead of another. It was right, however, to state to the House, that it was the brother-in-law of the man to whom the money was to be paid that got it—the parties were jointly engaged in the same transaction. M'Neill had been called away on a Crown summons, and immediately on his return he was given the money. One person was substituted for another, but the man was paid the money, and there was no fraud whatever. There had been a gross irregularity, but nothing more. The statement of Mr. Blake, the Chief Remembrancer, after investigating the account, was this, and he added that there was no withholding the money from the parties. The grand jury had come to a resolution, after a long investigation, and they pronounced without a single exception that Mr. Spence had not been guilty of a fraud, but that he should be reprimanded, and that all works as to contracts should be better regulated for the future. As to the case of substituting "James" for "John," what was the wrong done here? The county treasurer could not pay to any person but the one whose name was in the presentment—so far was this from being a charge, that it ought to be regarded as a matter of praise—that in a country where there were so many persons of the same name, that the officer was careful not to pay the money to the wrong person. The noble Lord had arrainged his conduct and his dealings with the grand jury, when the grand jury in every sense of the word agreed with him. He knew not what was the noble Lords opinions of grand juries; but this he could say, that the instant the noble Lord came among them, he began arraigning every proceeding of theirs, in the most objectionable and strangest manner. The noble Lord had called the grand jury factious in the open court, and launched out in every sort of way, so that he (Colonel Conolly) had been called on by the grand jury, as their foreman, to restrain the noble Lord. Now, he would leave it to the House to say whether the grand jury of Donegal had done their duty, when he could declare that the last grand jury he was on he had the happiness to hear Baron Pennefather pronounce a panegyric upon them. He who had been so many years a grand juror had only a remark to make upon the statement of the noble Lord, so short a term a grand juror—that they were remarkable for their ignorance. The noble Lord was not aware that sums not paid by the treasurer went to the benefit of the county. If a presentment was short one half-year in the county, then they had another presentment to make it up for the three half-years. That was a thing that they did constantly in the county of Donegal. Mr. Barrett was the quarter sessions solicitor, and the grand jury having directed certain presentments to be sent to him for prosecution, Mr. Spence could produce only one, on which so much stress was laid by the noble Lord. The presentment could not be produced, because it had been sent to Mr. Barrett. The grand jury did prosecute certain persons as defaulters. The names of those not selected for prosecution were sent back, and those selected to be made examples of were retained by Mr. Barrett. No men could act better than the grand jury of Donegal, and it was with exceeding wonder and indignation that he found a body of gentlemen attacked of whom he had so long an experience, who were of the highest respectability, and who were utterly incapable of doing an intentional wrong. And now what did all the noble Lord's charges against them amount to?—the serious irregularity of Mr. Spence, which was not be excused. As to himself being inculpated in any such thing, he was really astonished at the noble Lord, for he roust know as well as any man, that he was incapable of it. ["Lord Clements had already said that the gallant Officer thought he was."] But where did the noble Lord stop in impeaching every act of the grand jury, and attacking it with every sort of expression. He asserted that the noble Lord had attacked every body and everything, by imputing the most improper motives to every act of theirs. It was really shameful to see the business of the country impeded by the unjust aggressions of the noble Lord. An allusion had been made by the noble Lord to Mr. Alexander Stewart—that gentleman had been for many years the representative for Deny, and was well known to every Gentleman in that House. He was almost ashamed to have to vindicate the character of Mr. Stewart, all he would say was this, he would be very happy to partake of Mr. Stewart's fate in the estimation of that House, various other items had been alluded to by the noble Lord, but he did not mean to reply to them. He thought he had said enough, and now he must say that he was utterly at a loss to understand why the noble Lord should have brought this matter before the House. The judge who had examined into all the allegations of the noble Lord, had been perfectly satisfied with what had been done by the grand jury, and took no steps, in consequence of the suggestions of the noble Lord. He would say, as the foreman of the grand jury that be had always objected to wrong presentments, and that the grand jury only acted for the interest of the county, and were always influenced by the highest sense of duty in every portion of their acts.

Sir E. Hayes

defended the grand jurors of the county of Donegal against the charges so unwarrantably brought against them by the noble Lord the Member for Leitrim. The noble Lord had arrived in that country, never having served upon a grand jury, and opposed himself to all the experienced grand jurors of the county, of all parties, and in every division which the noble Lord had taken upon the grand jury, in the qustion he had that night brought before the House, the numbers had been twenty-two on the one side, and the noble Lord himself on the other. And he must say, that it would be much more becoming of the noble Lord, instead of bringing unfounded charges against his hon. Colleague and the resident gentry of the county of Donegal, who were spending their time and their fortunes in improving their properties and bettering the condition of their tenantry, that the noble Lord should look after his own tenantry in that county, on a property where there was no resident, and in the improvement of which he believed there was not sixpense spent in the year.

Lord Clements

observed, that notwithstanding the style and manner in which the hon. Baronet had addressed the House with regard to himself, he was determined upon not being misrepresented. He had distinctly guarded himself against charging the grand jury with being influenced by improper motives. He did not say that the grand jury was guilty of fraud, but that the secretary of the grand jury was guilty—that things were done with regard to the road presentments for the purpose of fraud; and if he got a committee he would prove this—nay, if the hon. Baronet would take the trouble of going over the books, he would prove it to him.

Mr. Litton

vindicated the character of the grand jury of the county of Donegal. He had been twenty-five years as a practising barrister acquainted with the grand juries of the county of Donegal. During fourteen years of that time he was entrusted with the Crown prosecutions on the circuit, and during all his experience he had heard from the Judges of the land the highest commendation of the diligence and integrity with which those grand juries had always discharged all their duties. He considered that the appointment of a committee such as that called for would be casting a slur upon the gentlemen of that county, and it was but justice to them to scout such a motion from the House.

Sir W. Somerville bore

testimony to the honour and integrity of the gentlemen of the grand jury of Donegal; at the same time it was manifest that the gross irregularity had taken place; and if the motion were pressed to a division he should vote for it, without at the same time meaning thereby to cast any imputation upon the grand jury.

Lord Eliot

opposed the motion, and would state shortly the grounds on which he would oppose it. His noble Friend opposite had brought forward charges on two distinct grounds, and these had been answered by his hon. and gallant Friend behind him. One of these had been brought under the consideration of the law officers of two successive Governments, and they agreed that there was not any case in which any legal proceedings for fraud could be instituted, and this view was coincided in by the Chief Remembrancer. If his noble Friend opposite had been able to show that any malversation on the part of this individual had been screened by the grand jury, there might be some ground for inquiry. But, so far from this having been the case, the grand jury of the county of Donegal had on one occasion visited the conduct of this individual with a severe penalty, and in the other instance with a severe and grave censure. Under these circumstances he did not think the noble Lord was justified in taking so strong a course, or that he would be justified in acceding to the motion.

Mr. Shaw

said, that there was one circumstance connected with the present case which he felt it his duty to state in corroboration of what had fallen from his hon. Friends the Members for the county of Donegal, and in justice to the public officer, Mr. Spence, secretary of the grand jury of that county, it was this, that he had heard Mr. Blake, the Chief Remembrancer, observe upon the statement which had formerly been made by the noble Lord on the subject in that House, and express his surprise that the noble Lord should have designated what had occurred as a forgery, inasmuch as Mr. Blake, though he considered it his duty as a public officer to point out the irregularity which Mr. Spence had committed, yet that he had not attributed any wilful fraud or moral offence to Mr. Spence in the transaction. Under these circumstances he could not but consider that the noble Lord was wholly unjustifiable in applying to Mr. Spence the strong language in which he had indulged in the course of that debate.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

maintained, that malversation in the management of the funds of the country was proved, or at least strongly presumable, against the accused party, and he therefore should support the motion.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

said, it was impossible the House could be required to investigate the money transactions and accounts of every county in Ireland. The motion ought to be met by a direct negative.

Sir R. Ferguson

admitted that great irregularity had been committed in this instance, but the proper place to try the question was before the grand jury of the county.

Lord Clements

replied. He was not, he said, in the least degree surprised at the conduct of hon. Members opposite, but he denied that any answer had been given to the statements he had made. He was only surprised at the conduct of the noble Lord, for he had had the papers before him, and he might have made inquiries into these abuses. He must say that a more presumptuous speech than that of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Litton) he had never heard. He told that hon. and learned Gentleman that if he stood alone—if he stood by himself—he should feel proud—he repeated the words, he should feel proud of standing by himself, as long as his conscience told him that his conduct was in the right. But he would tell the hon. and learned Gentleman a little more: he did not stand alone—he was proud to say, that he was supported by Gentlemen who differed from him in politics. He regretted that this had been made a party question by those opposite; but he did not bring it forward in that spirit. He regretted still more to find the part the Government had taken with regard to it; but now that he saw the Government was determined to resist it, he gave notice that the matter should not rest here. He meant to recommend to the cess-payers of Donegal not to pay the county cess—to allow themselves to be distrained; and on the distraint taking place, bringing the question before the Court of Queen's Bench, to try the thing in a legal way. It was also his intention, early in the next session, to bring forward a bill for the regulation of presentments. Hon. Gentlemen might successfully resist his motion; but he told them it was not in their power to defeat him in the just cause to which he had devoted himself.

Motion negatived.

House adjourned.