HC Deb 21 March 1844 vol 73 cc1352-5
Mr. Wyse

presented the petition, of which he had given notice on Tuesday, from the Members of the Repeal Association of Ireland, and others, complaining of the manner in which the late State Prosecution had been conducted, and praying that an immediate inquiry might be granted, with a view of enabling the petitioners to establish the truth of the allegations contained therein. He could state with truth, that this was no ordinary peti- tion in respect to the numbers who had signed it, to the wrong complained of, or the period at which it was presented to the House. It had received in the short interval of three weeks, not less than 821,334 signatures; nor were these names collected at hazard, but on the contrary, received with all due precaution to verify their authenticity, and to preclude, as much as possible, all chance of fraud; he could speak with certainty on this subject: he was in possession of a complete analysis of the number of petitioners sent from every part of the country, divided into counties, and each county again divided into parishes. It appeared from that analysis that every portion of the country, north, south, east, and west, had concurred. The north, indeed, in proportion to its population might he considered, if anything, more zealous than the south. Monaghan had contributed 20,329; Down, 22,525; Donegal, 20,041; Antrim, 26,410; Cavan, 47,340; while Clare had sent in 9,648; Kilkenny, 12,327; Kerry, 12,880; Meath, 23,755; Galway, 36,395; Dublin, 39,799. This was evidence that it was not a local movement; and he might, with equal truth infer, it was not one of party or sect. Nor was less diversity observable in the several classes who had pressed forward. The names comprehended all classes as well as persuasions. The names of the Catholic hierarchy and clergy were to he seen intermingled with those of the principal inhabitants, merchants, and traders of each place. The following Corporate bodies had also signed it:—The Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of Dublin; the Mayor and twenty-nine Members of the Corporation of Cork; the Mayor, and fifteen Aldermen, and Town Council of Sligo; the Mayor, and twenty-four Aldermen, and Town Council of Kilkenny; the Chairman, and twenty-four Commissioners of Longford; the Chairman and seven Commissioners of Armagh; the Chairman, and fifteen Commissioners of Dundalk; by fifteen Commissioners of Galway, the Chairman, and fifteen Commissioners of Kells; by ten of the Commissioners, and by the Clergy, and Poor Law Guardians of Mallow; the Mayor, and twenty-four of the Aldermen, and Town Councillors, and Burgesses of Clonmel; by nine of the Commissioners of Kinsale; and by the Chairman and eighteen Commissioners of New Ross. Every precau- tion, as had already been stated, had been taken to guard against unauthorised and fictitious signatures. Each person signing was required to add his place of residence. Every Care was taken that the subject matter of the petition should be explained fully before the parties were allowed to sign, and that no name should be permitted to be affixed without the fullest consent of each individual. He did not believe there had ever come from Ireland a Petition where more scrupulous accuracy had been sought and observed. He was quite sure there had never appeared before that House from Ireland a Petition signed by a greater number. He now turned to the Petition itself, and though he was debarred by the regulations of the House from reading it, and going into any discussion on its details, and though he had determined to bring later the whole matter by a substantive Motion before the House, he could not pass by so momentous a document without slightly referring to its several allegations. The Petitioners refer to the meetings held in various parts of Ireland to exercise their equal right of petitioning Parliament for the Repeal of an Act of Parliament which they considered prejudicial to their interests; that although several millions of people attended those meetings, and no breach of the peace occurred; that although those meetings continued to be held for several months, no declaration of their illegality by the functionaries of the Crown, or of the determination of Government to suppress them, had been made until the 8th of October, when the meeting at Clontarf had been announced, and the mode in which the Government interfered to prevent that meeting, the Petitioners complained of as being an unlawful interference with the right of the people. They then referred to the late State trials, and complained that the most unjustifiable means h ad been resorted to by the law officers of the Crown to procure a conviction. They complained of the striking out the names of the Roman Catholics from the panel, and of the statement of the Attorney-General, that if the Bill against the traversers were found "the would undertake to establish the existence of as wicked and foul a conspiracy as ever existed in this Empire." This they alleged was calculated to produce a prejudicial effect on the minds of the Jury, against the traversers. That statement, however, the Attorney-General had failed to prove. They also complained of the charge of the Lord Chief Justice to the Jury, as being partial against the traversers, and they further declared that if an inquiry were granted, they would undertake to prove that the Chief Justice had invaded the province of the Jury, by expressing an opinion as to the fact, while in doing so he suppressed every thing that was favourable to the traversers—and that all the circumstances connected with those proceedings were calculated, and had had the effect of inducing great distrust in the minds of the Irish people in the administration of justice in Ireland—that they infringed the right of Trial by Jury, and the right of meeting to petition Parliament—and they prayed that an immediate inquiry might be granted with a view of enabling them to establish the truth of the allegations contained in the Petition. This was not a mere Petition to this House—an ordinary complaint of grievance; but a solemn remonstrance—a dignified but determined protest, in respectful but not less firm language, of the people of Ireland, against what they considered the greatest wrong which could be inflicted—the greatest injury which could be aimed at the liberties of a country. With regard to the circumstances of the times, he should not now break through the regulations of the House by referring to them; indeed it was needless; they were present to every man's mind. He trusted, however, he had said enough to justify the intention then expressed, that, on an early day, he would move for a Committee to take the charges of the Petition into consideration. He moved that the Petition be brought up.

Petition brought up, read, and laid on the Table.

Back to