HC Deb 19 March 1847 vol 91 cc210-4

moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill.


said, that before the House went into Committee, he wished to say a few words in defence of a friend of his. It would be in the recollection of the House that the hon. and learned Member for Bath stated that two Roman Catholic clergymen from the south of Ireland had waited upon him, and made certain statements as to the conduct of the landlords in that part of the country, and more particularly with respect to two gentlemen who lived not far from Mallow, and which the hon. Member repeated in a manner so as to make an undue impression on the House. On that occasion he had equal authority for asserting that the information given to the hon. Member was not correct. He had, therefore, stated to the House some few particulars which he knew to be correct. When the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) also was about to mention the name of one of these gentlemen, he had urged him not, as he was sure, on inquiry, that that gentleman had not acted as had been represented. The hon. Member, however, persisted in making his statement. Since that, he (Mr. Callaghan) had received a letter from one of these gentlemen, who stated in it that he had been represented as having more than 10,000l. a year in the neighbourhood of Mallow, and that he had not subscribed anything to the relief of the poor, and that he also was possessed of a large property elsewhere. This was not the case, for the amount of this gentleman's pro- perty had been greatly exaggerated. It was also stated of this gentleman that he had kept a great number of dogs, namely, 70, in a place near Mallow, which were extremely well fed, while the people were; starving; whereas he had never, at any period, kept more than twelve dogs. With respect to this gentleman having refused to subscribe to the relief fund, he stated that, last Session, when it was being raised, he was attending that House to oppose a Railway Bill which ran through his domain; but when he went back to Ireland, an application was made to him by one of these Roman Catholic clergymen alluded to by the hon. Baronet, to subscribe to this fund. He at once, on receiving this, sent it to his man of business, with directions to take steps for that purpose, but to look also to the relief of other places where he had property. Before, however, he got any reply from this person, a charge against him was made by this Roman Catholic clergyman that he had refused to subscribe, which was couched in very improper language; he had, therefore, declined subscribing to that fund. At the same time this gentleman largely employed the people of the neighbourhood on his property near Mallow; and in another part, where he had 160 acres of land, he had subscribed 10l. to the rev. Mr. Moore, the Roman Catholic clergyman of the district. To show that this gentleman was not a bad landlord, he could state that many of his tenants owed him five, seven, and ten years' rent. Beyond this, he extensively employed the poor in his neighbourhood, and paid last year not less than from 25l. to 30l. a week in wages to agricultural labourers. He thought that, for the character of the House, nothing should be stated in it by an hon. Member which could not be supported by facts, and not on such authority as had been quoted by the hon. Member for Marylebone, when he mentioned the name of Mr. Courtenay. The hon. Baronet ought, in common fairness, before he did so, to have made inquiry as to the truth of such charges.


had felt obliged to his hon. Friend for having given him notice of his intention to bring this subject forward on that evening. He could assure his hon. Friend and the House, that if he had made the statements in question on mere representation, and if he had not used his best endeavours to authenticate the facts of the case, he should undoubtedly have thought himself open to severe censure. After hearing the statement of his hon. Friend in reply, he must express his deep regret at any wrong that he had done to the gentleman whom he had named. He was sure that the House would allow him to explain the circumstances of the case as regarded himself. Some time ago, there was held at Fermoy a large meeting of Roman Catholic clergymen, on the subject of the New Poor Law Bill for Ireland; and the result was, that they determed to send two of their body to the noble Lord, to state what were the feelings of the Roman Catholic clergy with respect to that Bill, and above all as regarded out-door relief. He believed that the reverend gentlemen sent over to this country as the deputation were most respectable and excellent men, as they been selected for that purpose by a large body of the Roman Catholic clergy. They had done him the honour also of calling upon him, to make certain statements as to the situation of the people in the part of the country from whence they came, and as to the conduct of the landlords. These reverend gentlemen had assured him that they wished what they had stated to him should be made known to the House, and that thus it should go through the usual channels of information, so that the public might be made acquainted with the facts of the case. In order to prevent any misapprehension or misrepresentation on his part, he requested that any statements that he should make, might be given to him in such a form that he could not misunderstand them. He therefore had the alleged facts furnished to him in writing. He would state, that he never had hesitated to attend to statements made to him by Protestant clergymen respecting the condition of the poor in their own localities, and should always be ready to attend to them. It had been his lot, in the course of his life, to know several Roman Catholic clergymen; and he thought that he should have been guilty of insult to that highly meritorious body of men if he hesitated to give the same credence to statements by them as by Protestant clergymen. He had not quoted conversations, but had merely cited those statements which had been given to him in writing by these reverend gentlemen. Having made that statement to the House on the authority of these reverend gentlemen, and having heard the statement of his hon. Friend on behalf of the gentleman alluded to, he trusted that the House would believe that he was not negligent as to the obtaining correct information. He had some documents in his possession respecting this subject; but after what had passed, he did not think that it would be right on his part to refer to them; he therefore should refrain from troubling the House further in the matter. His only desire was to set himself right with the House, and to show that he had what he was justified in considering good authority for the statement which he made; such authority being two respectable Catholic clergymen living in the neighbourhood of the place where the circumstances were alleged to have occurred. As regarded Mr. Courtenay, if the statement which he had made was in the slightest degree unfounded, no one could more regret it than himself. He would only add, that as far as he was concerned, he should let the matter rest between the reverend gentlemen and Mr. Courtenay.


remarked, that he had forgotten to state that Mr. Courtenay distinctly stated that, for the last six months, he had only had a single dog in his possession.


hoped the present case would be a lesson to the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall). He had always thought that the hon. Baronet had departed from his own better judgment and feeling in allowing himself to be made the instrument in that House of bringing forward charges against the resident gentry of Ireland upon insufficient information, and then holding up those individual cases as samples of an entire class. He had said in the House, on the moment of the first statement of Mr. Courtenay's case, that he did not believe it, and requested the House to suspend their judgment until an opportunity was given for explanation. The accusation made in the House was, that that gentleman had been pampering seventy dogs on good meal and milk in the neighbourhood of Mallow, while he had refused a farthing's subscription to relieve his fellow-creatures who were starving around him. Well, what was the answer? That, instead of seventy dogs, Mr. Courtenay had never had in the neighbourhood of Mallow more than twelve, and for the last six months not one: and, as regarded his refusal to subscribe to the relief of the poor, in consequence of an abusive letter respecting him, written by one of the rev. gentlemen in question, he had determined not to be bullied into giving his subscription through that rev. gentleman; but that so far from having contributed nothing to the relief of the suffering poor, he had given to the treasurer of the relief fund in that neighbourhood at one time, 5l., and to the rector of the parish 10l. subsequently; besides which, he was all the time paying at his own residence from 25l. to 30l. weekly, in wages, for the support of the poor. He did trust that the House would take that case as a specimen of the manner in which charges were got up and paraded in that House against the landlords of Ireland.


regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not followed the example of the hon. Baronet. The rev. gentleman, to whom allusion had been made, was a most deserving and respectable man. If any mistake could be found in the statement of the rev. gentleman, they should be pointed out, instead of bringing a charge against him of writing a false and scurrilous letter to the newspapers.


did not mean to bring any charge against the rev. gentleman. He had merely referred to what Mr. Courtenay, in his letter, had stated on the subject.


denied that the attacks made on the Irish landlords, as a body, were well founded. Sweeping charges were made in consequence of the misconduct of a few individuals. Most of the landlords had exerted themselves in an admirable manner for the relief of the poor; and they had been most zealously and ably assisted in their endeavours by both the Protestant and Catholic clergy.

Subject at an end.