HC Deb 01 July 1844 vol 76 cc133-4
Mr. Bright

had on Wednesday last presented a Petition, signed by 5,000 persons at Rochdale, praying that the House would not sanction the raising of a troop of yeomanry in that district. It stated that that force was expensive and needless, as breaches of the peace rarely took place in that district; it also stated, that the members of this troop of yeomanry were all of one political party; that in case of any breach of the peace occurring, the force would be wholly inefficient, as it was notoriously cowardly when brought in conflict with danger.

Mr. Miles

rose to order. He wished to know whether it was competent to any Member of that House to speak of so valuable a body, and to charge them with cowardice.

Mr. Bright

was stating what were the allegations of the Petition; it said, that such a force was not only cowardly, but cruel also, as cowardly persons generally were. It said, that the regular force was a better one in all respects, as for neighbours to fire on each other raised ill blood and enmity that might take years to assuage; and that young men were called away from their business and shops to their injury, as they had not the means of affording to play at soldiers in this manner; it was injurious to themselves and detrimental to the district. The question he wished to ask the Secretary of State was, whether the Government had given encouragement to the formation of such troops; and, if so, whether the right hon. Gentleman had any objection to lay on the Table the correspondence that had taken place upon the subject?

Sir James Graham

said, that the noble Member for South Lancashire having communicated to him that a number of persons in the district of Rochdale had offered to raise a troop of yeomanry, he referred the communication to the Earl of Derby, the Lord Lieutenant of the county. The reply of the noble Earl was, that he saw no objection to raising such a troop, and on that official opinion he had advised Her Majesty to accept the services of this troop. The hon. Gentleman and the House were aware, that in August, 1842, the manufacturing districts were much disturbed; that property and life were in danger, and an application had been made to him of the most urgent kind for military aid to give assistance to the civil power. Objections had been raised to the employment of yeomanry in the place where they resided. Orders had been sent by Sir W. Wane that the Bolton and Wigan troops should proceed to Preston, yet, notwithstanding this order, such was the state of things in Bolton, that the Mayor set at nought the instructions that had been issued by his noble Friend, and detained the Bolton troop for the protection of the lives of the inhabitants of the town. That was no doubt a great stretch of power, on the part of the Mayor, and he doubted the discretion of it; but nevertheless this yeomanry, which had been designated as "hired assassins," were detained in Bolton for the purpose of protecting life and property. He could not forget what had been the state of things at Rochdale. It was much disturbed, and there was a great, pressure for troops, urgent applications from master manufacturers for military protection. He hoped no such dangers would again recur, and no such precautions be required; but remembering the danger that threatened both Bolton and Wigan, and the applications made for the aid of the yeomanry when the danger was pressing, he was happy to accept the offer of the loyal yeomanry that was made to the Government from the neighbourhood of Rochdale. There were sixty who had tendered their services, and were enrolled. He hoped there would be no occasion for their services; but if the hour of danger should arrive, then he was sure their active aid and protection would be eagerly sought, even by those who, perhaps, did not now feel any gratitude for the services already rendered to them at a time, when they declared their lives and property insecure.

Subject at an end.