HC Deb 05 July 1848 vol 100 cc139-50

On the Order of the Day being read for resuming the Adjourned Debate,

MR. REYNOLDS moved the postponement of the debate to that day three weeks.


wished to call the attention of the House to the course which had been pursued with reference to this order, which related to what was asserted to be a very important question—the repeal of the Union. That subject was brought before the House on the 11th of April by the hon. Member for the city of Limerick (Mr. J. O'Connell); and, after the speeches of that hon. Gentleman, of the Member for the county of Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien), who seconded the Motion, and of one or two other hon. Gentlemen, the debate was adjourned. Now, those hon. Gentlemen had since absented themselves from the House; they had shown no further interest in the matter; and he thought the House ought now to determine whether the order should any longer remain on the books. He wished it to be understood that he did not cast the slightest blame on the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), who had been in his place whenever the order stood upon the Paper; but he did think that as hon. Gentlemen who had put themselves forward as the leaders of a great party—who had asserted that their proposal for the repeal of the Union was the only panacea for the evils of Ireland—and who had taken up the time of the House for a whole night in speaking on the subject—had since absented themselves from the House, and had not attempted to bring the question forward again, the House ought to determine whether the order should be discharged or not. The Motion was submitted to the House, as he had stated, on the 11th of April. The debate was then adjourned to the 10th of May, a day when the hon. Gentleman who proposed the adjournment must have known it could not come on, the Roman Catholic Relief Bill being the first order of the day, and four other orders of material importance intervening between that order and the order for the adjourned debate. If the hon. Gentleman had wished to bring the subject forward, he might have fixed it for the following Wednesday, for which, at that time, only one order was on the Paper; but no attempt was made to do so, and the debate was again adjourned to the 31st of May. On that day neither the mover nor the seconder was present; and as a matter of courtesy the order was postponed to the following day, in order that some hon. Member might fix a day for resuming the debate; and on the Motion of the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Reynolds) the order was further postponed to Wednesday the 7th of Juno. On that day the mover and seconder were not present; and they had now arrived at the 5th of July, three mouths after the Motion had been submitted to the House, without any attempt having been made to resume the debate. He, therefore, thought he was only doing his duty to the House in giving notice that, unless the hon. Members for the city and county of Limerick were in their places on that day three weeks, he would move that the order be discharged. Those hon Gentlemen had sometimes complained that they had no influence in the House; and if they conducted themselves in this manner, he was not surprised that they did not possess any influence in such an assem- bly. [Cries of Move!"] No; he would not make the Motion now, for if he did so it would be said by some hon. Gentleman in Ireland, "Here is an English Member who, because we were not present, takes the opportunity to discharge from the Order-book an important Motion." He (Sir B. Hall) must say he thought this was a miserable exhibition, for there were not at present in that House a dozen Members connected with Ireland who were favourable to the proposition to which he had referred, and which was represented in Ireland as one of paramount importance.


must confess that there was much truth in the observations of the hon. Baronet. He begged to thank that hon. Gentleman for exculpating him (Mr. Reynolds) from any blame in relation to this matter. The reason his name had been connected with the various postponements of the debate was, that he had moved its adjournment, and had therefore a sort of official connexion with the question. He (Mr. Reynolds) wished to state, not only for the information of the House, but of the public, who felt much interest in this important national question, that he condemned the hon. Member for the city of Limerick for choosing the occasion he selected for bringing the subject forward. He (Mr. Reynolds) and several of his hon. Friends had remonstrated with that hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. O'Connell) against bringing the matter forward at that time. They stated that upon that Wednesday there would not be sufficient time to discuss the question; indeed, the hon. and learned Member's own speech occupied four hours, and the House on Wednesday could spare only six. It was impossible for him (Mr. Reynolds) to bring on the Motion on any of the other days for which it was fixed; and now it was half-past 4, and the House must rise at 6 o'clock, and not more than three Repeal Members were at that moment in the House. [Cheers.] He understood that cheer; the absence of the hon. and learned mover, it was to be presumed, would be satisfactorily accounted for hereafter; the seconder was absent, it was believed, in consequence of illness in his family; the greater part of the Repeal Members were at the assizes, and discharging great and important duties in Ireland; and under these circumstances he (Mr. Reynolds) thought he should not be doing justice to the subject if he were to ask the House to discuss it then. He, for one—and he did not mean to say that any of the Irish Repeal Members were disposed to shrink from the discussion of this question—he, for one, believed conscientiously that it was of all questions the one most calculated to confer benefit upon Ireland. If there was any intention to back out of the discussion, he was not aware of it; but, on consultation with the hon. Member for Tipperary, Mr. Maher, and the hon. Member for Kilkenny county, Mr. Butler—these hon. Members were unanimously of opinion that the debate ought to be postponed for a fortnight. The paper of that day fortnight being preoccupied, he had moved that the debate be deferred until that day three weeks.


looked upon the discussion throughout as a mere pretence. The quarrel between the hon. Gentlemen was "a very pretty one as it stood," and he was not inclined to interfere; but he was not at all disposed to join in exculpating the hon. Member (Mr. Reynolds). He (Mr. Keogh) happened to be in Dublin when that hon. Member, in his place in another Parliament—Conciliation-hall—informed his admiring audience, that there was to be found upon the repeal benches of the British House of Commons a greater amount of political rascality, a greater amount of political profligacy, than in like proportion had ever disgraced the sacred benches of Conciliation-hall. It was difficult, therefore, to blame hon. Members for not being in their places, to hear perhaps similar language applied to themselves. But there was another reason for not exculpating that bland demagogue the hon. Member for Dublin ["Order!"]—well, then, democrat ["Order!"]—he (Mr. Keogh) would apologise if he had used a word that was not consistent with the rules of the House—at all events that bland popular orator, bland only in that House; that was the only place where he had heard him speak in such mild and complacent language. When the hon. Member went back to Ireland for the recess, the first thing he did was to denounce his own supporters, and to say, "I give you notice that on the 31st of April—on the 31st of May, no matter what business may be on hand, no matter if I should be engaged in the Herculean labour of defending my seat, I will bring on the question of repeal. "Said the hon. and learned Member for the city of Limerick, "I was always for taking an opportune time; my opinion is, that we should keep this awful, practical, tremendous question hanging, like the sword of Damocles, over the House of Commons; the surest way of carrying it is by never bringing it on; if we could got the House to an everlasting postponement, then, assuredly, the question would he immediately carried." Yielding to his illustrious chief, the hon. Member for Dublin, instead of carrying out his public declaration, absented himself on the 31st of May, and the debate was postponed. But the hon. Member's hands might have been tolerably full since then; and, indeed, this playing with the question, and deceiving the people of Ireland, was not alone to be attributed to the Repeal Members. The Gentlemen upon the Treasury benches had been lending themselves to the agitation in that country, and the Repeal Members had got encouragement and consolation in their difficulties from the Treasury benches. At the last general election the word given was, "Let there be a Whig-returned if possible;" but if that could not be effected in any way, no matter what, then the power and influence of Her Majesty's Government were directed to the aid and support and to achieving the success of those men who had been for years confusing the state of Ireland, and keeping it in hot water. The right hon. Member for Dungarvon (Mr. Sheil) smiled; well might he smile; a speech of his in 1814 was not yet forgotten, in which he said— Against drinking let the drunkard rail, let Crockford's Club preach against gaming, but lot not a Whig Government complain of agitation. By putting forward that cry of "repeal" men were only deceiving the country, and keeping out of this Parliament those who would be disposed to look to the real practical welfare of the people of Ireland. When the hon. Member for Dublin said that he looked upon this as a bonâ fide substantial question, he must be told that none of his acts or of his supporters in that House could lead a rational man to think anything but this, that the question of the repeal of the Union had been used as a false pretence to enable them to obtain seats in that House, By preaching up that cry, which unless put down once for all must inevitably lead to the dismemberment of this kingdom, he and his friends were deceiving the people of Ireland, and not holding a fair or upright attitude before the British House of Commons.

Question agreed to,

Adjourned debate deferred.

MR. REYNOLDS moved the adjourn- ment of the House. He saw clearly, during the delivery of the speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Keogh), that he was overcharged with political combustible matter, and that it would be wise not to approach too closely to the great gun, for fear of personal injury from some of the scattered fragments. He (Mr. Reynolds) had long known the hon. and learned Gentleman, and never in the course of that long acquaintance knew him to be guilty of one act of public utility. There was an old Irish saying—"Put an Irishman on a spit, and you will get another Irishman to turn it;" on this occasion the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall) had put the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. J. O'Connell) upon a political spit, and the hon. and learned Member for Athlone (Mr. Keogh) had turned it. The hon. Member was the turnspit; he wished him joy of his new appointment. The hon. and learned Gentleman had stated that certain Members of that House, whom he had not the manliness to name, had received comfort (it was that or some such word) and consolation from the Treasury benches. That insinuation he would like to hear translated into plain English, for he liked "open and advised speaking," and it was difficult to deal with poisoned insinuations of that kind. The hon. and learned Member talked about men owing their seats to the advocacy of repeal. Some impostors owed their seats to their pretended advocacy of repeal; but the majority of the Irish Members were sincere advocates of it. It was said that some Irish Members owed their seats to other and very different causes; that some had been sent in there through the influence of wholesale boroughmongers; and that the very money to pay the expense of their election had been sent from this country to Ireland, realising the expectation that the Prosperity of Ireland was to be increased by the introduction of British capital. He would not say that any of that stream of English gold made its way to Athlone; but he should be glad to know what was meant by the statement that Irish Members received comfort and consolation from the Treasury benches. For his part, he received neither comfort nor consolation thence. He was under no obligation in that quarter. At all events, he had not been sent into that House for the purpose of distracting its counsels; he had not been sent there as "as a waiter upon Providence." He had not been sent there as an expectant lawyer, hoping for a change of Ministry, that he might pick up some of the small crumbs that might fall from the table of the future Prime Minister. He was there an independent Member. There were among those who returned him some sincere opponents of repeal, and he was not there solely because he was a repealer. He quite agreed that a great question of this kind ought not to be played with. If it was not to be followed up sincerely and steadily, it would be better not agitated at all. He was no advocate for keeping a teasing notice upon the book for the purpose that had been mentioned; and, unless the question was brought on that day three weeks, he would join in voting for the discharge of the order. Though he did not pretend to the transcendent qualifications of the hon. and learned Member opposite, he was as sincerely anxious for the prosperity of his country; and he trusted that since he had sat in the House he had done nothing to warrant the statement that he assumed a pacific and quiet tone in it, and a different tone out of it. He believed his tones in and out of it were the same. He was a sincere advocate for the restoration of the right of the Irish people to legislate for themselves; but he believed that to be perfectly consistent with a close connexion with this country; and if he thought the repeal of the Union could endanger the connexion with this country, sincerely anxious as he felt to carry the measure, he would as sincerely oppose it. He believed the interests of Ireland and the interests of England were synonimous, and that the closer the bonds of union between them were drawn, the more prosperous and powerful they might be. He had always advocated that doctrine in and out of the House, and he was not likely to alter his policy.


would second the Motion for the adjournment of the House, in order to have the opportunity of saying a few words in reply to the hon. Member for Dublin. He seemed to have touched a sore point when he spoke of Repeal Members receiving comfort and consolation from the Treasury benches. When he made that allusion, it was not his intention to infer that any broad pieces had been disbursed to those Gentlemen, although since he last addressed the House an extract from a paper had been placed in his hands which went into some details respecting pounds, shillings, and pence; but he would not road it, because he had not touched upon the topic in his original observations. The hon. Member said he liked open and advised speaking, and therefore, he would state a few plain facts respecting the hon. Member and the Government. The hon. Member opposed Mr. Gregory at the last election for the city of Dublin, and although Ministers professed to be the uncompromising opponents of repeal, the first vote tendered for the hon. Gentleman was that of Her Majesty's present Attorney General for Ireland. Her Majesty's Attorney General was so zealous in the cause, that, not finding a deputy in the booth to take his vote, he pulled out his watch and called all present to remark that the polling-booth was not opened in time, which, he said, would be a good ground for petitioning if the supporter of the Government should not be returned. He could go further; he could produce a letter written by Her Majesty's present Attorney General for Ireland, who had recently conducted prosecutions against men who had only carried too far the principle tolerated in a modified form by Her Majesty's Government—he could produce under the hand of Her Majesty's Attorney General for Ireland—and if the assertion were not correct he would be answerable for it in his place in Parliament—a letter written on the morning of an election to the agent of a candidate, stating that although he (the writer of the letter) was not a repealer, he would much prefer the return of a repealer to a supporter of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. He had stated what he knew to be facts, and he defied contradiction. The hon. Member for Dublin had contradicted point blank the words which he (Mr. Keogh) had stated him to have used in Conciliation-hall. The language ascribed to the hon. Member for Dublin in the public papers of Dublin was, that there was a greater amount of political profligacy and rascality on the repeal benches than ever disgraced the benches of Conciliation-hall, which had been rendered sacred by the presence of the Liberator. Immediately after he (Mr. Keogh) sat down, the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone confirmed the accuracy of the quotation, and expressed his regret that he had just sent to his residence the newspaper containing the passage, under the impression that he would not have occasion to use it that day. He trusted that after this explanation the House would give him credit for not having made an assertion which he was not able to prove. He could refer to at least twenty cases in which the Government in Ireland had pursued conduct precisely similar to that adopted by the Attorney General in these two instances which he had noticed: and he felt justified in saying that the Government, when it suited their purpose to do so, had been playing fast and loose with the question of repeal, while under the cover of repressing the violence of the leaders of that movement they had secured majorities in that House. The Secretary for the Home Department was in his place, and would perhaps feel it necessary to address the House in consequence of the statement which he had made.


said, that he would not have interposed between the hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Dublin, who seemed to be very equally matched, had it not been for the very uncalled-for and unprovoked course which the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken in bringing a charge against the Government, supported by the most meagre evidence. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to a vote which he (Sir. G. Grey) dared say was given on good and sufficient grounds. [Mr. KEOGH: I did not say that the vote was given, but tendered.] He would take the hon. and learned Gentleman's statement to be correct, for he was bound to give credence to what a Member stated of his own knowledge; but the hon. and learned Member was not justified in founding upon the fact of a vote having been tendered for the hon. Member for Dublin a wholesale charge against the Government of throwing all their power and influence into the scale in favour of repeal candidates. The solution of the hon. and learned Gentleman's conduct was, perhaps, to be found in this circumstance—that, however solicitous he might have been to obtain the influence of the Government at his election, he found that they would not give it to him. He could only meet a general assertion by a general denial; and, in support of his denial, he might refer to the determined opposition offered to the election of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland by the members of that body to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman said the Government afforded comfort and consolation. Let the hon. and learned Gentleman bring forward and substantiate, if he could, a distinct charge against the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; for to that nobleman the charge referred, because it was well known that the Irish elections were not managed in England. He protested against sweeping charges being brought against the Government, supported by nothing but vague declamation and general assertion.

Motion for adjournment negatived.