HC Deb 12 February 1849 vol 102 cc626-39

On Motion of SIR W. SOMERVILLE, Order (8th February), "That the Committee do consist of twenty-one Members," read and discharged.

SIR W. SOMERVILLE moved, that the Select Committee on the Irish Poor Law do consist of twenty-six Members, and that the following Members he added thereto:—The Earl of Lincoln, Sir Lucius O'Brien, and Mr. Moore.

Motion made that Mr. Bright's name be added to the Committee,


said, as originally constituted, there was too great a preponderance of borough Members upon it; but above all men, he did not see why the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) should be added. What he (Captain Taylor) wanted was a fair, and at the same time an effective Committee; but he had yet to learn why the Manchester school should be allowed to send its delegates to this already large Committee, and perhaps delay its proceedings by pressing the marvellous doctrines which were heard from that quarter, upon all subjects and upon all occasions. He, therefore, objected altogether to Mr. Bright, and with the less hesitation, because he bad a distinct and an unhappy recollection of the hon. Member having served as a selected Member upon a former Committee. That Committee certainly sat upon a different question; but having watched the proceedings of it, he now looked with jealousy and no small fear at the hon. Member for Manchester being commissioned to deal with interests for which he (Captain Taylor) had a great affection, but with which he did not think it possible the hon. Gentleman could in any manner be identified. The hon. Member concluded by proposing to substitute the name of the hon. Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) in lieu of Mr. Bright.


supported the nomination of Mr. Bright, and called the attention of the House to the enormous interest which Manchester and Lancashire had in the proper administration of the poor-law in Ireland. A very large proportion of the poor's-rates both of Manchester and Liverpool had arisen from the enormous amount of Irish pauperism thrown into those towns. He could not exactly call to recollection to what previous Committee the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain Taylor) alluded in his objection to his hon. Colleague; but he (Mr. M. Gibson) must express his conviction, that if his hon. Friend were selected, he would do his duty faithfully.


said, that after what had taken place, it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the composition of the Committee, although he might have taken exception at the way in which Ulster was represented on it. The addition of Members to those originally proposed was a change, but he did not consider it an improvement.


had no personal objection to the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) serving upon this Committee. He admitted the great interest which Lancashire had in this question; but he contended that it would be adequately represented by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford). He objected to the number of English borough Members which had been selected. Out of eight English Members upon the Committee as originally constituted, six represented boroughs. Now, he submitted that, as this inquiry involved questions of poor-rates, some county Members ought to be consulted. If the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) were appointed to serve, there would then be nine English Members upon the Committee, of which seven represented boroughs. He appealed to the House whether this was not a very unusual proportion. He recommended the Government to add to the Committee some Gentlemen representing a large agricultural county.


said, that allusion had been made to the conduct of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) on another Committee. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Captain Taylor) had objected to the hon. Member for Manchester being placed on the Committee, because after having watched his conduct on another Committee, the hon. Gentleman said he felt no confidence in the hon. Member for Manchester with regard to the Committee proposed. He believed the Committee to which the hon. Gentleman (Captain Taylor) referred, was the Dublin Election Committee. Now, this was the first occasion on which the character and honour of a Member of any Election Committee, appointed during the time he (Mr. F. Maule) had had the honour of being chairman of the Committee of Selection, had been called in question. And any charge of that sort was a serious one, when it was recollected that a Member of an Election Committee did not proceed to discharge his duty until he took an oath, or made an affirmation, that he would discharge his duty honestly and conscientiously. The present was not the time for calling in question the conduct of any Member while serving on an Election Committee. If the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had been guilty of a breach of his affirmation, there was a proper time for calling him to account. But so far from that being the case, he believed on every occasion involving any proposal, the decision of the Committee was nearly unanimous. The hon. Member for Manchester had been placed on the Committee referred to with the unanimous consent of the Committee of Selection; and he (Mr. F. Maule) believed that the hon. Member was as incapable of doing anything contrary to his affirmation as any other Gentleman contrary to his oath.


, as an Irish Member, would state the reason which induced him to think that in Ireland this Committee would be considered "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare." In the first place, it was calculated to bolster up all the evils and abuses of the present system of poor-law, for there were placed upon it one or two ex-poor-law officials—men wedded to the present system, who looked upon their bantling with true fatherly affection, however worthless it turned out. And now, by way of mending the matter, it was proposed to add the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright). Why, if the hon. Gentleman possessed such peculiar qualifications, how was it he had not been called upon in the first instance? Was it that the light of the hon. Gentleman had hitherto been hid under a bushel, that Her Majesty's Government now, at the eleventh hour, declared his peculiar qualifications for the inquiry? Or was it that the knowledge and experience of the hon. Member for Manchester in Irish affairs were so great that he could assist the Committee to remedies for evils and abuses? He (Mr. Bateson) was not aware of the hon. Gentleman having yet developed any extraordinary experience in Irish affairs; but if he had any, let him give the Committee the benefit of it by being examined as a witness, rather than permit his views to be diluted with those of twenty-six other Members. But it had been whispered that the hon. Gentleman and several of his friends had made extensive arrangements for the purchase of landed property in Ireland. That, he supposed, was the reason for his selection. But, independently of all this, he regretted to say that he was unable to give the hon. Gentleman credit for possessing a fair, impartial, and unprejudiced mind. He could not forget that upon several occasions, when the hon. Member had addressed the House with regard to Ireland, he had shown most violent, most virulent, and most vindictive feelings towards the landed interest of that country. He (Mr. Bateson) would read one short extract from one of his speeches in Hansard. The hon. Gentleman said— With regard to Ireland, you have everything Protestant—a Protestant clergy, which monopolises the places and emoluments of the Protestant Church; a Protestant magistracy before whom a destitute peasant could not hope for justice. They had not only a Protestant, but an exterminating landlord, and a Protestant soldiery, who, at the beck of a Protestant priest, had butchered a Catholic peasant in the presence of his widowed mother. He wished to know whether the Government thought that the report of the Committee would be more valuable were there added to it the name of a Gentleman holding the opinions of the hon. Member for Manchester? But why had not his name been originally proposed? The fact was that they all knew how his nomination originated. They were not so blind as not to see that it was a sop thrown by Government to a party whom they could not satisfy, and whom they dared not offend.


said, that there was only one portion of the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Bateson), to which he would allude. The hon. Member had stated, amongst other reasons for objecting to the nomination of the hon. Member for Manchester, that he had heard it whispered that the hon. Member for Manchester was about to invest capital in Ireland. Now, if this were the case—and he earnestly hoped it was—he thought the fact constituted a very good reason for placing the hon. Gentleman on the Committee. What the hon. Gentleman intended to do in Ireland he (Sir G. Grey) did not know; but there were many amongst that society with which the hon. Gentleman was connected, who had displayed, he (Sir G. Grey) could hardly say more than their ordinary benevolence—but who had displayed the whole of that customary benevolence in relieving the late distresses in Ireland, not only by great sacrifices of time and money, but by the judicious application of capital to develop the resources of the country. The society in question constituted, indeed, a body which every Irishman was, in his opinion, bound, far from depreciating, to speak of with that gratitude and respect to which it was so well entitled.


protested against the uncalled for lecture which the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had read him. He (Mr. Bateson) did not say a single word against the members of the society to which the hon. Member for Manchester belonged; and he entertained for them as deep a respect as the right hon. Baronet himself could feel.


observed that he had suggested that the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) should be placed upon the Committee, not only because he represented a community which suffered much from the immigration of Irish vagrants, but because he (Mr. Henry) had heard the hon. Gentleman make several remarkable speeches on Irish subjects; and also on account of his being connected with that religious society whose efforts had been productive of so much good during the late urgent season of distress in Ireland.


contended that agricultural Ireland was not fairly or adequately represented in the Committee. He found, from consulting the map, that half of the Irish counties would be unrepresented by the proposed constitution of the Committee.


was of opinion that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), was perfectly fitted, both by talents and integrity, to be placed upon the Committee; but his interests were not identified with those of Ireland, while the agricultural districts of that country would not be sufficiently represented—and he should vote for the Amendment.


observed, that this was an English as well as an Irish question. He could not see, therefore, why the hon. Gentlemen to serve should be nominated exclusively from the body of Irish Members. He might take this opportunity of remarking, that during the course of a pretty long experience in Parliament, he had never before heard personal motives attributed to an hon. Gentleman in the discharge of his public duties. He must add that the hon. and gallant Member (Mr. Bateson) who had made the charge, had shown great neglect of his duty, in not having brought any accusation against the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) which he had to adduce, at the time the alleged misconduct took place, and while the subject was fresh in the minds of the House. He hoped that no division would take place on the present occasion.


would not have taken any part in the debate had he not perceived that it was assuming a very serious aspect. There appeared to him to have been a military attack made on a Gentleman belonging to the Society of Friends. Already had that Gentleman been attacked by three Colonels and a Captain. There was his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington, a Colonel (Colonel Dunne); the hon. and gallant Member for the county of Dublin, ditto; the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Colonel Verner); and the hon. and gallant Member for the county of Londonderry, a captain (Mr. Bateson)—[Mr. BATESON: I am no captain.] He believed that, although the hon. Member had parted with his military rank, it still belonged to him. It had been said, "Once a priest, for ever a priest;"—once a lieutenant, for ever a captain. He would not, therefore, willingly rob the hon. Member of a title to which he had still a clear right. Now, it was quite evident that the attack which had been made on the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) was prepared; the reading of the extract from Hansard proved that it was not the result of the impulse of the moment, but had been well concocted. He would not say it had been concocted at a club which should be nameless; but he was afraid that the charge made against the hon. Member for Manchester might in one sense be attributed to himself. It was not because the hon. Member was unfit to discharge the duties which would be imposed on him that the hon. Gentleman was objected to. It was because he had happened to sit on his (Mr. Reynolds's) Committee. It was the old story of the grey mare, which was so familiar to every man's ears. The story was this:—A countryman of his (Mr. Reynolds) was indicted at the assizes of Tralee for a certain offence—a felony. It was proved clearly that he was not guilty of the crime imputed to him, notwithstanding which, the jury, without leaving the box, found him guilty. The judge was shocked at the verdict, and he said, "Gentlemen, it has been clearly proved that this man is innocent." "Yes," replied the foreman, "it has been; he is innocent of the crime laid to his charge, but he stole my grey mare last Christmas." So also the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) was innocent of the charges brought against him; but he happened not to have put him (Mr. Reynolds) out, and Mr. Gregory in; therefore he was totally unfit to be upon this Poor Law Committee. Now he (Mr. Reynolds) knew something about his fellow-countrymen, and he could safely assure the House that amongst the 553 British Members composing it there was not one man so popular in Ireland as was the hon. Member for Manchester. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Notwithstanding that exclamation, he would repeat the assertion. The hon. Member was regarded in Ireland as the friend of the poor, and as a man pleading for popular liberty. No doubt he had dealt out some hard blows against landlords; but would any man say that some landlords did not deserve them? It was, however, partly because the hon. Member knew how to discriminate between the good and the bad, that he (Mr. Reynolds) wished to see him on the Committee. His appointment would be a just compliment to the Society of Friends; for amongst the useful societies of Ireland, particularly in connexion with distress, he believed the most useful was that to which the hon. Member belonged.


deeply regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not themselves proposed a measure on the subject of the Irish Poor Law. The mere appointment of a Committee of Inquiry left the question in uncertainty.

Question put, "That Mr. Bright be one other Member of the said Committee."

The House divided:—Ayes 129; Noes 74: Majority 55.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Adair, R. A. S. Lincoln, Earl of
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Locke, J.
Lockhart, A. E.
Bagshaw, J. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Baines, M. T. M'Gregor, J.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Bass, T. Maitland, T.
Bellew, R. M. Martin, C. W.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Bernal, R. Melgund, Visct.
Blewitt, R. J. Mitchell, T. A.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Moffatt, G.
Boyle, Hon. Col. Monsell, W.
Brotherton, J. Morgan, H. K. G.
Brown, W. Morris, D.
Bruce, Lord E. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Bunbury, E. H. Mulgrave, Earl of
Carter, J. B. O'Brien, J.
Clements, hon. C. S. Ogle, S. C. H.
Cobden, R. Osborne, R.
Craig, W. G. Paget, Lord A.
Crowder, R. B. Palmerston, Visct.
Devereux, J. T. Parker, J.
Duncan, G. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Duncuft, J. Peel, Col.
Dundas, Adm. Peto, S. M.
Ebrington, Visct. Pilkington, J.
Ellis, J. Power, N.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Rawdon, Col.
Evans, W. Reynolds, J.
Fagan, W. Ricardo, O.
Farrer, J. Rich, H.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Romilly, Sir J.
Foley, J. H. H. Russell, hon. E. S.
Fordyce, A. D. Russell, F. C. H.
Fox, R. M. Scrope, G. P.
Freestun, Col. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Simeon, J.
Greene, J. Smith, J. B.
Greene, T. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Grenfell, C. P. Spearman, H. J.
Grenfell, C. W. Stafford, A.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Stanton, W. H.
Grey, R. W. Stuart, Lord D.
Hardcastle, J. A. Sullivan, M.
Hastie, A. Talfourd, Serj.
Hastie, A. Tenison, E. K.
Hawes, B. Thompson, Col.
Hay, Lord J. Thompson, G.
Hayter, W. G. Thorneley, T.
Headlam, T. E. Townshend, Capt.
Heneage, E. Tufnell, H.
Heyworth, L. Villiers, hon. C.
Hill, Lord M. Walter, J.
Hobhouse, T. B. Ward, H. G.
Hodges, T. L. Wawn, J. T.
Horsman, E. Williams, J.
Howard, Lord E. Wilson, J.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Wilson, M.
Howard, hon. E. G. G. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hume, J. Wyvill, M.
Jackson, W. Young, Sir J.
Jervis, Sir J.
Keppel, hon. G. T. TELLERS.
Kershaw, J. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
King, hon. P. J. L. Henry, A.
List of the NOES.
Archdall, Capt. Bennet, P.
Barrington, Visct. Beresford, W.
Bernard, Visct. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Blackstone, W. S. Lockhart, W.
Boldero, H. G. Lowther, H.
Bourke, R. S. Mackenzie, W. F.
Brooke, Lord Macnamara, Maj.
Burghley, Lord Mandeville, Visct.
Burke, Sir T. J. Manners, Lord C. S.
Butler, P. S. Manners, Lord G.
Cobbold, J. C. Meux, Sir H.
Cocks, T. S. Moore, G. H.
Cole, hon. H. A. Napier, J.
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Newdegate, C. N.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Newport, Visct.
Dod, J. W. Newry and Morne, Visct.
Dodd, G. Nugent, Sir P.
Dunne, F. P. Renton, J. C.
East, Sir J. B. Rufford, F.
Floyer, J. St. George, C.
Fox, S. W. L. Sandars, J.
Fuller, A. E. Scully, F.
Goring, C. Seaham, Visct.
Grace, O. D. J. Smith, M. T.
Grogan, E. Somerset, Capt.
Gwyn, H. Spooner, R.
Halsey, T. P. Stuart, J.
Hamilton, J. H. Trevor, hon. G. R.
Hamilton, Lord C. Trollope, Sir J.
Herbert, H. A. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Hervey, Lord A. Verner, Sir W.
Hildyard, R. C. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Hodgson, W. N. Waddington, H. S.
Hood, Sir A. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Willoughby, Sir H.
Knightley, Sir C.
Law, hon. C. E. TELLERS.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Bateson, T.
Leslie, C. P. Taylor, T. E.

The name of Mr. Bright was then added to the Committee; and also the name of Mr. Grace.