HC Deb 25 May 1846 vol 86 cc1198-201

said, that he had collected on Friday night, from the intimation of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), as well as from the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, that it was the wish of the House that the discharge of Mr. Smith O'Brien should be moved the present evening, before the commencement of the public business. He would, in the first place, assure the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the county of Cork (Mr. O'Connell), that, although his notice was the first given, and stood first on the Paper, he would willingly have given way to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and felt no rivalry in the matter; but on looking at the two notices, he conceived that his was worded in a manner more likely to prevail with the House, and that was his only object in claiming the precedence. He would, then, in a very few words, state to the House the grounds on which he moved for the discharge of Mr. Smith O'Brien, the time he had chosen for the purpose, and the form in which he had framed the Motion. In all those respects, he hoped to have the general, indeed he hoped the unanimous, concurrence of the House. The ground of his Motion, then, simply was, that the authority of the House had been vindicated, and Mr. Smith O'Brien sufficiently punished by twenty-five days' imprisonment. The time he (Mr. Shaw) had selected was when the Committee which the House had ordered Mr. O'Brien to attend, had closed its labours; and although, in point of form, the Committee had not, as he (Mr. Shaw) expected they would have done, that evening made their final report, yet his hon. Friend the Chairman of that Committee (Mr. Henley) would be prepared to state in his place that the business of the Committee was really finished; and as to the form of the discharge, he had copied his Motion from the established precedents of the House, neither taking from them, nor adding to them any words with respect to fees to meet the particular case of Mr. Smith O'Brien. He would make one observation, injustice to the feelings of Mr. S. O'Brien, and that was, that he had given his notice without the slightest acquiescence or knowledge on the part of Mr. Smith O'Brien; and further, he believed that it was contrary to the wishes of Mr. Smith O'Brien, that he was then making the Motion for the hon. Member's release. Nevertheless, he felt it his duty to make it; and he trusted the House would consider that they best consulted their dignity by determining the question upon its own merits, and without reference to the peculiar views or personal feelings of Mr. Smith O'Brien. His (Mr. Shaw's) desire had been to abstain from saying one word that could give rise to discussion, or lead to a difference of opinion. He trusted that he had succeeded in that; and that, as he had ventured to anticipate, the House would unanimously acquiesce in the Motion which he would then propose, namely— That William Smith O'Brien, Esquire, in custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms attending this House, be discharged out of custody, paying his fees.


, as Chairman of the Committee on Group XI., had great pleasure in assuring the House that no more business remained to be done than would occupy about two hours to-morrow. What remained was merely of a formal nature; and he had, therefore, great satisfaction in seconding the Motion of the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin. The House would be glad to hear that no great public inconvenience had resulted from the absence of the hon. Member for Limerick from the Committee, however public affairs might have suffered from his absence from the House. The hon. Gentleman seemed wisely to have preferred his own company for twenty-four hours in the day to the company of the Members of the Committee for only four hours in the day. He hoped he had profited by it.


wished to say a few words at the request of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick; and he hoped that they would put no serious impediment in the way of the Motion before the House. He congratulated the right hon. Recorder of Dublin on the manner in which he had come forward to rescue a fellow countryman in distress. He (Mr. P. Butler) as an Irish representative, might be allowed to say that, in his opinion, it was the duty of Irish Members to attend to the business of the Empire generally, and as much to the affairs of England and Scotland as of Ireland. With his hon. Friend, however, a serious question of principle was involved. He was under the impression that the House had acted illegally, unconstitutionally, and without precedent, in committing him. He took exception to the latter part of the Motion which regarded the payment of fees to the Sergeant. He thought that the payment of them might compromise his principle; and without attempting contumaciously to resist, he intended to protest against the demand. He believed that at the present moment his services were important to his country; but the House would recollect that he had been exposed to all the ridicule of a powerful press, and of a still more powerful public. He (Mr. P. Butler) was of opinion, that the House was now tired of the subject; and his hon. Friend had good reason to be tired of his imprisonment. He had written a letter to the Speaker, to which that right hon. Gentleman had returned an answer, politely declining to read it to the House. The present was a very auspicious moment: a young Princess had just been born; and he hoped that his hon. Friend would speedily be delivered also.


thought that the House would act most prudently by confining its consideration to the question whether any further object would be gained by continuing the commitment of the hon. Member for Limerick. He had yielded precedence to his right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw) solely in the belief that the discussion would be limited to that point. His impression, confirmed by all that had passed, was deep regret that it had been found necessary to subject a Member to restraint, and thus to interfere with the discharge of his duty towards his constituents. All that would influence him would be the consideration whether it was necessary for the maintenance of the authority of the House that the restraint should continue. He felt bound to say that it was not, and should therefore give no opposition to the Motion in the hands of the Speaker. He had been prepared to take this course irrespective of the auspicious event referred to by the hon. Member. He apprehended that the claim for the usual fees would have been made and enforced, whether the Motion had come from his right hon. Friend or from the hon. and learned Member for Cork; and the protest would prevent any personal acquiescence in what seemed opposed to principle in the mind of the hon. Member for Limerick. He rejoiced in the opportunity of permitting him to resume his functions in the House, entertaining a sincere belief that the authority of the House had been sufficiently vindicated, not merely by the punishment inflicted, but by the almost universal feeling among Irish Members that they were entitled to take part in the Legislature for the whole Empire. Not a few of them had rendered important services by undertaking and discharging duties on Committees.

Motion carried nem. con.


ordered to be discharged.