HC Deb 25 February 1846 vol 84 cc98-104

On the Motion that the Orders of the Day be read,


said, that so much anxiety existed out of doors in consequence of proceedings of a very extraordinary nature, as he must characterize them, which had taken place at the late South Nottinghamshire election, that he felt bound to take the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the House to them. According to the accounts of the newspapers it appeared that the hon. Member for Malton, in addressing the electors of South Nottinghamshire from the hustings, stated— That when Lord Lincoln wrote to ask for his support, he had answered, that if Lord Lincoln had come in his old office to ask for re-election on the ground of the Corn Laws, he had made up his mind, though not entirely agreeing with the Government measure, to give him without a reservation, and without a word, his cordial support. But as Lord Lincoln came in the new and responsible office of Secretary for Ireland, entertaining strong opinions, which he did, on certain points of policy, both as regarded Church and State affairs in Ireland, he could not offer the noble Lord an entire and cordial support without some explanation, in the first instance, as to the views with which he entered on that office. He had had a conversation with the noble Lord on Irish affairs, with which he was entirely satisfied; and, convinced that the noble Lord would enter on those high duties in a spirit of firm and liberal policy, he at once assured him of his cordial good wishes and earnest support. The views, therefore, of the noble Lord were perfectly satisfactory to the hon. Member for Malton, who stated that he entertained very strong opinions on the subject, the nature of which might be gathered from the support given by the hon. Member to the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield, for the destruction of the Irish Establishment. The Earl of Lincoln subsequently, in one part of his speech, mentioned that, although his opinions on the subject of the Corn Laws had changed, he had still remained on the Government benches; but that although his position in the Ministry would have entitled him to speak on the Corn Law debates, which had taken place on former occasions in that House, yet his convictions as to the necessity of abolishing protection altogether were so strong that he refrained from taking part in those debates. Taking these two circumstances into consideration, namely—the declaration of the hon. Member for Malton, that he was perfectly satisfied with the views of the noble Lord in reference to Ireland, and the declaration of the noble Lord himself that he considered it proper and right to remain a member of a protection Government, entertaining sentiments hostile to protection, satisfying his conscience by taking no part in the Corn Law debates—he felt called upon to tell the Government that the greatest consternation existed in the minds of the people as to the opinions of the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland, on the subject of the Irish Church; and he must take this opportunity of repeating publicly in his place in Parliament what he had stated at Northampton yesterday, namely — that he deeply regretted that a person for whom he entertained so sincere a regard should have uttered such sentiments as that he considered it right to maintain silence upon a subject respecting which his opinions were directly opposed to the professions of the Government to which he belonged. If the Irish Church was to be destroyed, and its revenues confiscated, he should most sincerely prefer that the noble Lord the Member for the city of London should have the task rather than the Members of Her Majesty's Government. It was not his intention to ask any question of Her Majesty's Government; it remained for them to decide whether they chose to make any comments. He had always said, if you turn out the Government you will have the noble Lord the Member for the city of London in power, and then what will become of the Irish Church? But if the sentiments of the Earl of Lincoln, so satisfactory to the hon. Member for Malton, who was distinctly pledged to the destruction of the temporalities of the Irish Church, were the sentiments of the Government of which he formed a part, however much they might have heard of common honesty and public faith, he did not think he was transgressing his duty us the Representative for Northamptonshire, and a Member of that House, in earnestly requesting the Members of the Government, as speedily as possible, to declare their views.


said, that had it not been for the declaration made by the hon. Member at the close of his speech, he certainly should have felt some surprise at the hon. Member putting a question to him without having the courtesy to give him notice. It was quite possible that in the course of a few days the Earl of Lincoln might be in the House to answer any question which the hon. Member might think proper to put to him with respect to his conduct in reference to the Corn Laws; and he trusted that the noble Earl, in his seat in Parliament, would be able to explain his conduct on that subject fully and satisfactorily, both to the hon. Member and to the House. The hon. Member had referred to a conversation which was said to have taken place between the Earl of Lincoln and a Member of that House, during the Northamptonshire election, on the subject of Irish policy. With regard to that conversation he (Sir J. Graham) had no more information than the hon. Member himself, or any other Member of that House. He had had no opportunity of conferring with the noble Lord, and had received no explanation from him in reference to that conversation. As he read the report in the newspapers, the hon. Member for Malton declared that the communication which took place between himself and the noble Lord was satisfactory to the hon. Member. He did not know what the opinions of the hon. Member for Malton were with respect to Irish policy; they might be satisfactory to him and to Her Majesty's Ministers. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Malton might entertain opinions with which he could not concur. The hon. Member said he had much rather see the destruction of the Irish Church intrusted to the noble Lord opposite than to Her Majesty's present Government. He was not aware that the noble Lord was at all prepared to destroy that Church; at all events, he had never heard him make any such declaration. He had differed from the noble Lord as to the appropriation of a portion of revenue of the Irish Church; but it remained to be shown that the noble Lord was prepared, either in or out of office, to support a measure having for its object the destruction of that establishment. Certainly he was not in a condition to state the substance of the conversation which had been so vaguely rumoured abroad. As far as he was aware of the sentiments of his noble Friend with respect to Irish policy, it was in unison with those of his own; and those sentiments were decidedly opposed to any policy destructive of the Protestant Church in Ireland.


said, as the hon. Member for Malton was not present, and as the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had moreover, in his strictures upon the conduct of the Earl of Lincoln, referred to sentiments entertained by him (Lord J. Russell), he thought it due as well to his hon. Friend as to his own public character, to make a short statement to the House. His hon. Friend the Member for Malton had communicated to him generally all that passed between him and the Earl of Lincoln on the occasion alluded to. He was not authorised to make any statement on the subject; but in justice to the Earl of Lincoln he felt bound to state that nothing which the noble Lord stated to his hon. Friend the Member for Malton implied any opinion that he was prepared to assist in the destruction of the Protestant Church in Ireland. Indeed, he believed his hon. Friend said little more than this—that he was for a firm and liberal policy as regarded the affairs of Ireland; that with regard to the particular measures in reference to that country he coincided with his Colleagues in the Cabinet in the course which they had hitherto pursued; to the future measures which it might be advisable to take he would prefer postponing an opinion until he had held the office of Secretary for Ireland some time longer. Those opinions, in his (Lord J. Russell's) opinion, were perfectly honourable to the noble Lord: whether they were satisfactory to the hon. Member for Malton was entirely a matter for the consideration of that hon. Member. It was to be considered likewise that the hon. Member for Malton had been long connected by ties of friendship with the Earl of Lincoln; that he entertained the highest respect for his character; and that it was that very respect which induced the hon. Member to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the noble Lord's views with reference to Ireland, in order to see whether the policy was likely to be such as he should be able to support. He did not think that anything had passed in that conversation, as the information had reached him, at all inconsistent with the previous conduct of the Earl of Lincoln in reference to the Irish Church. With regard to himself he must decline the task which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire proposed to impose on him, of framing measures for the destruction of the Church of Ireland. He had never held the opinion that the Irish Church ought to be destroyed. He thought that a portion of its revenues were misapplied, and ought to be otherwise applied; but it was a matter of controversy between hon. Gentlemen opposite and himself what would be the tendency of such a measure—they contending that it would end in the destruction of the Irish Church; and he maintaining that it was calculated to preserve it. For his own part he was ready to declare that, although he could never think the present situation of the Irish Church endowment, as it stood with regard to particular parishes, satisfactory, yet with regard to that Church as a whole, his wished for its maintenance and support, and he trusted that Parliament would maintain and support that part of the United Church of England and Ireland. He, therefore, could not accept the duty which the hon. Member seemed to think should devolve on him. He would not disguise, however, that although he thought it would be inexpedient to introduce any measure with respect to the Irish Church at present, yet that when the time should come for the consideration of that question, there were parts of that Church which might be usefully and beneficially reformed, which would make that Church better able to withstand future attacks. He begged pardon of the House for thus entering into the subject, but he thought the explanation necessary, in order to correct unjust representations, which might, otherwise have gone forth to the prejudice of the Earl of Lincoln.


thought the House greatly indebted to the hon. Member for Northampton for calling their attention to the conversation to which he had alluded, and sincerely wished the noble Lord the Member for the city of London had confined himself to the cordial cheer with which he greeted the statement of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, respecting his views as to the destruction of the Irish Church.


had been extremely gratified at that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire in which he drew the clear distinction—a distinction never to be forgotten—between the Established Church of Ireland and its temporalities. The distinction was emphatic, and should not be lost sight of: for he knew no one who desired the destruction of that Church, unless by the conversion of its members to the precepts of a purer faith. The Protestants of Ireland had as much right, he contended, to maintain their Church in Ireland as the Roman Catholics had to maintain theirs, which they did by their own exertions: would that the Protestant Church were on the same footing! But the temporalities were another affair. He could not allow that they formed any part of the Irish Church, and he begged to press on the House the consideration of their allocation. Let them remember the debt which they owned to Ireland after so many centuries of misrule, which had ruined the country; he wanted no other authority for this assertion than the Report of the Earl of Devon's Commission. They could never take the affairs of the Irish Church into consideration without making some better allocation of its temporalities. He wished to deprive no man of his vested rights, but would have him retain them for life; but he could not hold out the least hope to those who desired an amalgamation of the two countries, unless some very strong and decisive measure were taken in reference to the temporalities of the Irish Church.


complained of those Gentlemen who had lately on the hustings at public meetings indulged in epithets towards their Catholic fellow subjects, calculated to embitter the feelings which existed between Catholics and Protestants, and to fan the almost extinct flame of religious discord. For his own part, he thought Gentlemen as much bound to be cautious in their expressions on the hustings as in the drawing-room. He could not conceive why these Gentlemen should think fit to describe those as Papists, and their religion as Popery, who, in the Votes which he held in his hand, were called Roman Catholics. If such were the conduct of Gentlemen of education, and who professed to represent the aristocracy of the country, what was to be expected from the ignorant and the low? Protectionists or anti-protectionists, it was by courtesy and argument—not by vituperation and invective—that men would recommend themselves to the good feeling and honourable regard of their fellow-countrymen.

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