HC Deb 11 June 1852 vol 122 cc525-8

stated that he wished to ask the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland a question of which he had given him notice. In order that the House might understand the question he was about to put, he should remind it of what was called the Irish rebellion of 1848. In consequence of being concerned in that affair, Mr. Smith O'Brien and some other persons were sentenced to transportation, and had been undergoing that punishment up to the present time. Their friends in Ireland had considered it quite useless to appeal to the clemency of the late Government; hut after the advent of the present Government into power, it was supposed by them that there might, perhaps, be some chance of obtaining some remission of a punishment, which many considered had been of sufficient duration, and which all knew was inflicted not for the sake of vindictiveness, but to deter similar transgressions in future. Accordingly, a memorial was prepared, praying for a mitigation of the sentence. Whilst that memorial was in the course of being circulated and signed, it was very generally stated that it had been prepared at the suggestion of several Members of the present Government, including the Attorney General and Solicitor General for Ireland, as well as the Chief Secretary, and the hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton). It was also stated and believed that each of those Members of the Government had, by their conversations, encouraged the preparation and presentation of that memorial, and it was even asserted that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had himself revised and altered the draft of the memorial, and had stated that he would give it his support. It was asserted that the memorial had been signed by many distinguished persons upon the faith of statements made to them, that it would not embarrass the present Government, but would have the contrary effect. It was also signed by many friends of the prisoners, who could not but be seriously injured by any direct refusal to grant their prayer. Under those circumstances the memorial in question was stated to have been signed, and it was lately presented to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, by a most respectable deputation, headed by the Lord Mayor of Dublin city. To that deputation the Lord Lieutenant gave a very peremptory and almost contemptuous reply, stating that "he had a duty to perform towards his Sovereign and his country; and that he did not consider himself justified in recommending the prayer of the memorial to Her Majesty's favourable consideration "He (Mr. Scully) did not mean to enter into any discussion in regard to that memorial, or the propriety or impropriety of rejecting its prayer. He wished simply, both in order to satisfy the public and for the sake of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland himself, to ask him a plain and simple question, to which he should hope to re- ceive a straightforward and frank reply. The question was this—Did the Attorney General for Ireland himself prepare the memorial referred to; or did he, or any person on his part, or with his knowledge and sanction, suggest its preparation, or its presentation, or revise and correct any copy or draft of it, or encourage its preparation, signature, and presentation, and intimate that he would give it his support?


Sir, I will state all the facts of which I have any cognisance with respect to the memorial to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. The Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) and myself were counsel for Mr. Smith O'Brien. Mr. Whiteside defended him at his trial, and I at the House of Lords. I also presented a petition in his behalf on occasion of his transportation. I have the pleasure to be on terms of intimacy with his two brothers, the Rev. Mr. O'Brien, who is one of my constituents, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Ennis (Sir L. O'Brien), and several other relatives of Mr. Smith O'Brien, are amongst my most esteemed friends. Immediately after the accession to office of the present Government, I received a letter from the Rev. Mr. O'Brien, who subsequently waited upon me entirely as a private friend. He and I talked to-together about the case of Mr. Smith O'Brien, and had some conversation as to the prospect of procuring any mitigation of that unfortunate gentleman's punishment. We conversed as intimate friends; and I am sure that the House will not expect that I should detail anything that may have passed between us at an interview which was strictly private and confidential. I told Mr. Smith O'Brien's friends and relatives most distinctly that, in my official capacity, I could not in any way connect myself with their proceedings, and I even expressed to them my conviction that the Government could not take any move in the matter, as their doing so would be imputed to a political and electioneering purpose. I did not, however, take upon myself to indicate, either directly or indirectly, what the Government would do in the matter; and from first to last I disconnected myself, from my official capacity, while speaking on the subject with Mr. Smith O'Brien's friends. I will not, however, hesitate to admit, that I had, and still have, a very strong feeling of sympathy for Mr. Smith O'Brien. The next communication that I received on the sub- ject was a letter from the secretary of the committee in Dublin from whom the memorial emanated. I did not myself write the memorial. I did not procure it to be written. I did not revise it when written. I was not in any way concerned in its preparation. I did not even sign it. I declined to have anything to do with it, apprehensive lest my name might be confounded with my official character. I did not hold out, nor did any one on the part of the Government, that I am aware of, hold out any expectation that the Government would take any particular course in the matter. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland may have expressed his feelings on the subject as a private individual, just as I have done; but I am confident that he never gave an intimation of what the Government would do with reference to it, and that he had no part whatever in the getting up of the memorial. It is unnecessary for me to say what my own feelings or expectations may have been; but from the first I dissevered myself from any official interference in the affair. I trust, therefore, that this explanation will be satisfactory to the hon. Member for the County of Cork, and to the House.

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