§ MR. I. BUTT
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to a matter which I think they will consider to be of some moment to the character, not only of a large section of the Members of this House, but to the character of the House at large; and, under these circumstances, I am sure the House will pardon me if I venture to ask their attention for a short time to the case I have to bring under their notice. I believe I may presume that there are very few Members who have not read in an influential journal of yesterday morning, an article certainly insulting to one section of the Members of this House, and I think derogatory to the character of the House in general. I feel persuaded that there is not a Gentleman in this House who will not think that the charge which has been advanced in that article against the Irish Members, made it incumbent upon some one of those Members to take the very earliest opportunity which the forms of the House permitted of bringing the subject under the consideration of this branch of the Legislature. The facts of the case may be briefly told. At a public dinner, given in Tuam, in the county of Galway—a dinner at which it is not unimportant to observe that some Gentlemen who are Members of this House were present—at that dinner, given, I believe, to celebrate the principles of the Tenant League, statements were made by two gentlemen, to the effect that within their own knowledge instances had occurred in which the patronage of the Crown was sold by the Irish Members of this House; that those Members had obtained that patronage from the Minister of the day in return for votes given on divisions in which the Minister was hard pressed; and that the patronage so procured had been sold for money. I think every Member of this House must feel that if the forms of the House should permit it, it is of vital importance that we should put this matter in a train for immediate investigation, so that 320 the scandal charged should be disproved if it have no foundation, or that if it be well founded, the guilty parties should be exposed to whatever penalties they may have incurred. I think I can state a precedent which we may follow for the purpose of attaining that object. I believe that when I shall have read one or two sentences from the article in the Times of yesterday, the House will feel that it contains a libel on this House, and, therefore, constitutes a breach of our privileges. The course I propose to pursue is, to complain that the article is a breach of our privileges, and then to move that it be read by the Clerk at the table, and afterwards that it be referred to a Committee of Privileges, to inquire into the charges in question, and to report thereon. In so doing, I have strictly followed the precedent I have alluded to. I have exactly copied from the Journals of the House the words of a Resolution adopted on a similar occasion. In the year 1834, a Gentleman, who was then a Member of this House, stated, at a public dinner in the north of England, that an Irish Member, whose name he did not mention, who had publicly spoken and voted against the Irish Coercion Bill, had spoken approvingly of it in private to the Minister of the day. One course was taken at the time which I hope will not be followed on the present occasion—namely, several Irish Members rose in their places and denied the imputation, as far as they were concerned. It appears, from the Journals of the House, that the Examiner newspaper, which happened to contain a report of the speech in which the charge was put forward, was handed in as containing a breach of the privileges of the House; that the charge was read by the Clerk at the table; and that a Committee of Privileges was then appointed to investigate and to report upon the matter. That Committee reported that the charge against Mr. Sheil—for it was against him that it was directed—was unfounded; and it was afterwards withdrawn by the Gentleman who had first made it. I believe, that, following that precedent, we shall be able, consistently with the forms of the House, to institute an investigation, for which, I think, hon. Members generally must be anxious, into the scandalous charge to which I am now referring. The course I shall pursue is formally to complain of the article as a matter affecting the privileges of this House, and then to move, first, that it be read by the Clerk 321 at the table, and afterwards that it be referred to a Committee of Privileges, who shall have full power to inquire into, and to report upon, the whole matter. Having stated the course which I propose, and the precedent upon which I rest it, I must now ask the attention of the House to a very short statement of the facts on which the charge is founded. From the Times of the 30th of January, it appears that at a public dinner held in the city of Tuam, which is stated to have been a "most influential" one, and which was attended by his Grace the Lord Archbishop of Tuam—I hope the Solicitor General for Ireland is not taking a note of the title—by Mr. Moore, Member for Mayo; by Mr. Lucas, Member for Meath; by Mr. Swift, Member for Sligo; and by some other Irish Members—it appears that at that dinner Dr. Gray, a gentleman who was a candidate for an Irish county at the last election, and a gentleman, as I can say from my own knowledge, of considerable position in Ireland—Dr. Gray stated—I need not read his speech, which was delivered at a public dinner, with perhaps some oratorical amplitude of expression, which I may condense without injury to the substance—Dr. Gray stated that at a time when paid guardians were appointed to administer the business of Poor Law Guardians in Ireland, a friend of his consulted him with respect to a proposal made to that friend by an Irish Member of Parliament, to the effect that that Member would obtain for him the situation of a paid guardian if he made over to him the amount of one year's salary on obtaining the appointment. Dr. Gray, however, had ascertained that the office was one which the Government meant shortly to abolish, and that a person purchasing if at the price of a year's salary would only enjoy it for five months. Now a more scandalous charge than that against a Member of Parliament it is impossible to conceive; and the charge was made not anonymously, but was made by a gentleman addressing a numerous and excited audience, in the presence of Members of Parliament, and made, it will be observed, not as an isolated instance, but as an illustration of the mode in which business is managed in this House, and the means by which Ministers obtain majorities. There was a second statement made by another gentleman, a Mr. Kelly, of whom I know nothing, but who, I presume from the "rapturous applause" with which he was received at this great 322 demonstration, is a gentleman of some standing and position. He stated that he knew, of his own knowledge, a Member of Parliament who received 500l. on condition that he obtained for a third party the promise of an appointment as a stipendiary magistrate, and who was to receive 500l. more as soon as the appointment should have been actually made. Mr. Kelly added that on a particular occasion when the Minister was hard pressed for votes the promise was given, and the 500l. were paid; and that on another occasion, when the Minister was again hard pressed, the appointment was actually obtained; and then the man who had purchased the office turned round—it is hard to say that this or anything else can aggravate the infamy of the transaction—turned round on the person through whom he got the place and refused to pay him the second 500l. Now, I think that if the matter rested here, there is not a Member of this House who would not feel anxious, that, if the forms of the House permitted it, this statement should be subjected at once to investigation. It is very easy to say that this is a libel on the character of Irish Members, and it is very easy for English Members to treat that as a matter of little moment; but it is impossible, even if you were so disposed, to lower the character of one-sixth of the Members of this House without lowering the character of the whole of this assembly. I will go further, and say that it is impossible to lower the character of Members representing Ireland in this House, as this statement does lower them, when applied to them as it is applied in the Times of yesterday, without inflicting on the cause of constitutional government all over the world a heavy blow and great discouragement. No persons, I presume, would be more anxious that this statement should be investigated than the Gentlemen occupying the Treasury benches opposite. It is a libel on the Minister, because it is plain that no person can dispense the patronage of a Minister without his consent; and observe, that the statement made is, that when the Minister was pressed on a division he placed this office at the disposal of a man who made his vote the condition of obtaining the office, and who turned into money the patronage so given to him as a bargain for his vote. Speaking for the gentry of Ireland, I must say I think they have some right to demand an investigation into these two transactions. See how the case stands. The parties to whom 323 these proposals were made were offered the office of a paid guardian and the office of a stipendiary magistrate. Both these offices were created for the express purpose of securing by paid officials of the Government the due discharge of duties which you would not confide to Irish gentlemen in their own districts. The duties of our guardians of the poor were transferred to paid guardians—the administration of the Poor Law was taken out of our hands—the local guardians were not to be trusted. To insure efficiency and purity they were to be superseded by persons selected by the Government. How are they selected? The office is set up for sale. So again with the office of stipendiary magistrate. They said that they could not trust the local magistrates—that those magistrates were partisans, and that the administration of justice should be free from taint; and they therefore sent into every district paid magistrates to watch the gentry of Ireland. That office, too, was sold. I think the gentry of Ireland have a right to ascertain whether the powers which were taken away from them because it was said they could not fitly use them, have been obtained in the mode stated in this charge. But, more than this, there is another reason for the investigation which I now propose. I believe that many of the Irish Members can afford to despise these accusations; but how are the stipendiary magistrates of Ireland circumstanced—in what position are they placed? There is a statement that one particular magistrate purchased his place and then cheated the man from whom he bought it; and that man is now, perhaps, sitting upon the magisterial bench in Ireland, lording it probably over the unpaid magistracy. He is sent down, we may naturally suppose, on particular occasions to institute inquiries which could not be confided to the partisan spirit of the unpaid magistracy; and this paid agent of the Government is sending perhaps to the treadmill men, who, if this story be true, are far more honest than himself. Is it not just to the stipendiary magistrates of Ireland—is it not due to the law they administer, that an inquiry should be made into this subject, that they should know who this man is who bought his appointment? But I do not hesitate to say justice to every Irish Member of Parliament demands that, if I may use the expression, the saddle should be put upon the right horse, and that if there is a guilty man among them his name should be made 324 known. If there were any doubt upon this point, I think that doubt would beset at rest by a paragraph to which I am about to call the attention of the House as a breach of its privileges. The Times of yesterday morning deals with the matter thus:—We have satisfied the theory of the constitution, as far as the Irish division of the Empire is concerned, with no sparing hand, but we have not succeeded in obtaining a body of representatives which an Irishman could look upon with satisfaction, or an Englishman without dismay. In the name of constitutional government, we may be permitted to ask what does the section of Irish Members represent beyond the embodied wish of some hundred needy men to obtain place, salary, and position?Now that statement is made because it is alleged, that at a dinner at Tuam, two Irish Members—it is not even said at what intervals—were charged with this high offence. This journal, for no other reason, thinks it right to hold out to the British public, and to hold out to Europe, without exception, or without qualification, that 100 Irish Members—unless we assume that 100 instead of 105 being mentioned constitutes some exception—that 100 Irish Members here are nothing but needy men seeking place, salary, and position. I confess I felt indignant when I read this charge. I felt I should be justified in appealing to the sense of justice of British gentlemen, and asking them if this is a fair way of dealing with us. I ask—and I am sure the House will not refuse the demand—that I be judged here by my own actions. Believe me these libels do mischief. These libels on a whole nation are read, I know, with feelings of deep indignation in Ireland. They mar that desire for amity between the two nations which some of us, who in this article are insulted and maligned, have made sacrifices at home to support. I do not, Sir, mean to follow up my Motion by any penal proceedings against the editor of the Times. I think the time is gone by when this House can maintain its character by any such proceedings. I believe the best way in which we can now maintain our character and vindicate our honour, is by showing that we are anxious to ascertain the truth in cases such as this, and that we are prepared to punish the offenders if such charges be established. But the House will pardon me for speaking under the influence of strong feeling, when I find that that which is as dear to me as my own personal honour—the character of 325 my country—is attacked. I ask English Gentlemen, is there any particle of justification for this article—one more unfair and ungenerous than which has never, I think, appeared in the English press? There are Irish representatives in this House who are in station, fortune, and rank equal to any of the English representatives; and I will say that among those of us who have not the advantage of hereditary wealth and station, there are men as incapable of pursuing a sordid and unworthy course as any one of the English Members. Believing as I do that this article in the Times violates the privileges of the House, I think that the House has a right to inquire into this case; and I believe that, in conformity with the precedent to which I have already referred, the House, in treating this as a question of privilege, ought to refer it to a Committee, which would give the parties who have made the charges an opportunity of substantiating them, or would enable the Irish Members against whom the charges are directed to prove that they are unfounded. I think the Irish Members are, in justice, entitled to the investigation for which I ask. I believe it is not necessary for me to trouble the House with any further observations. The subject is one upon which I feel very warmly, and, indeed, I have scarcely allowed myself to trust to my own feelings in bringing the matter before the House. If I have spoken upon the subject—I will not say with warmth, but with more warmth than was becoming, I am sure the House will feel that that is owing to the earnest wish which I entertain that the Irish Members should occupy a position above suspicion; and that if there is any guilty one among them, the just consequences of his guilt should fall upon him alone. We, the representatives of Ireland, in this the Parliament of the United Kingdom, stand on a perfect level with you, the representatives of England. We believe that it is only by professing our readiness to investigate any charge which may be advanced against us, that we can maintain a character which will enable us to discharge efficiently the duty which we owe, not only to Ireland, but to the Empire at large. With these few observations, and thanking the House for the patience with which it has listened to me, I beg leave formally in my place to complain of the article in the Times of yesterday, to deliver in the paper at the table, and to move 326 that the article be read by the Clerk of the House.
The Clerk at the table accordingly read the article from the Times.
then moved that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the allegations contained in the said publication.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
I rise, Sir, to second this Motion. I differ, however, from the hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed it, but only on one point—namely, with regard to his complaint of the Times newspaper. I do not think that we Irish Members are at all justified in complaining of the conduct of the Times newspaper; for, when our own newspapers have set the example of defaming and maligning the character of the Irish representatives, I think our indignation should first be directed against them, and that we cannot wonder that the great organ of England should—in the immense scope of the intelligence it gathers from all quarters of the world—have taken up this subject among others. There is, unhappily, a most miserable spirit of accusation, recrimination, bitterness, and dissension in Ireland, which renders us the laughing stock of the word. With regard to the charges themselves, I will say this. I believe I had not the honour of a seat in Parliament during the period to which those charges refer; but I had the honour of a seat in this House for a number of years, and I must say that I never before heard any such charges advanced with anything like the colour of proof adduced. I sincerely believe, from what I know of my brother Members, and from what I have always known of the Irish Members generally, that these charges will be found to be utterly baseless—that they will be found to be mere miserable calumnies. At the same time I most heartily concur in the inquiry now proposed. I go with the hon. and learned Member to the fullest extent, and I hope the inquiry will be pushed to the uttermost degree. There is one feature, however, with respect to the article, which has not been noticed by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butt), and that is, the position in which the gentlemen who brought forward these charges have placed themselves. Dr. Gray admits that he was consulted upon this most foul transaction. The appointment of paid guardians has now ceased for nearly three years. For nearly three years, therefore, these charges have been kept 327 locked up within Dr. Gray's breast. His zeal for the public interest, for the honour of his country, and for the purity of its representation, have consequently been in abeyance all this time. I must confess that if a gentleman presumed to consult me upon the details of any such transaction, I don't know whether I might not at the moment be hurried into some act of heat; but this much I do know—that not for one day, not for one hour, not for one minute, would I consent to bottle up such a subject. I say Dr. Gray has placed himself in this position—that, from having so long concealed it, he is, to a certain extent, an accomplice in the matter. As to Mr. Kelly, if I am rightly informed, he not only was equally guilty of concealment—for he did not bring the subject forward till what he thought a convenient moment—but he actually assisted in the nefarious transaction, he actually lent his aid to this gross, base, disgraceful, infamous, and unconstitutional proceeding. I do trust, that before the Committee now to be appointed, these gentlemen will be called upon to explain their reasons for so long concealing the circumstances. I hope Her Majesty's Ministers will not offer the least objection or opposition to this Motion. I trust there will be no objection to it on the point of form or otherwise. I also hope that the investigations of the Committee will be most searching. The honour of Irish Members is concerned, and I think we are indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman for taking up the question. I must say, however, that I don't think it ought to have been left with him to take it up. On looking at the reports of the dinner, I saw that there were Members of Parliament present; and when such an offence against morality was imputed to Parliament—when such a charge was made against their brother Members, they were bound either to vindicate them, to join in the denunciation, or to bring the matter before the High Court of Parliament to which they belonged. Since, however, they have not thought proper to do so, I must say that I, as an individual, feel deeply indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman—and I think the House ought to feel so too—for having brought this subject under our notice.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I think. Sir, the House cannot feel the slightest doubt or hesitation in the propriety of assenting to the Motion of the hon. and learned 328 Member for Youghal, It is due to the honour of Parliament, to the character of the Government, and to the character of those Irish Members who have been included in that sweeping denunciation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has called our attention. I do not, however, wish to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his remarks respecting the comments of the Times newspaper, or to follow the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion in his observations upon the conduct of Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly. I will only say that we have the names of Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly as the persons who have made these charges. We have, therefore, the means of investigation, and I trust that the investigation will be pursued to the utmost extent, in order to ascertain whether there is any truth whatever in these statements. If such offers were made, I trust the Committee will ascertain from whom they proceeded, and to whom they were addressed; and, in short, that they will inquire into all the particulars and details connected with the transactions.
Mr. Speaker, I should not interfere on this occasion but that possibly I may contribute a little to the information the House may desire to have as to one of the transactions commented upon in the Times. In the course of the various articles which have appeared in different newspapers on this subject, it is stated that the Government of the day was responsible for the appointment of paid guardians in Ireland. Now, it does so happen that the persons responsible for such appointments have been Mr. Twisleton, the late Chief Commissioner of Poor Laws in Ireland; the present Chief Commissioner, Mr. Power; or the humble individual who now addresses the House. I believe Mr. Twisleton was well known to many Members of this House; he was well known out of it; and I will venture to say that no public officer in any position could have shown more independence, or a more honest, anxious, and scrupulous desire to discharge his duties without regard to any considerations of party or personal favour. With regard to Mr. Power, I may say the same, and I think I may appeal to Irish Members—at least to those who have been acquainted with his proceedings during the long time he has been in Ireland—for confirmation of my statement. But, fortunately, a practice was 329 introduced into the office, and was most diligently adhered to as long as I was able to exercise any influence there, of requiring that every recommendation connected with appointments in that department of the public service should be made by public official letters; and I believe that every single appointment made—at least during the time I was connected with the department—can be traced to official letters. I may observe that I think such a practice might be found of immense value in other departments of the public service. Whenever persons sought by private recommendations or letters to obtain appointments to offices, the uniform answer of my colleague, Mr. Power, and of myself, was, "State anything you think proper to say as to the gentleman you mention in a public letter addressed to this office." I earnestly hope that these transactions or allegations—for I venture to doubt whether there were any transactions—will receive a most searching investigation, and that the calumnies which have been spread abroad by those who, I must say, cannot be called Irish patriots, may be the subject of the strictest inquiry.
§ MR. LUCAS
Sir, an appeal has been made to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the appointment of the Committee, and, therefore, I think it would not be becoming in me to allow the question to be decided without offering a few observations. I am in no way personally cognisant of the two cases stated at Tuam by Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly. I was present when they were stated. One of them I had never heard stated before; the other I had heard stated by Dr. Gray at public meetings on many previous occasions. That is part of my answer to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John O'Connell) who complains that, until the dinner at Tuam, Dr. Gray had never stated this case of corruption. I had heard this case frequently stated before, and I am bound to say I believe the statement to be true. I feel myself bound to come forward on this occasion, though I am in no way mixed up with these particular accusations, because I sat by when these particular statements were made, and I had approved and do approve the line of argument and observations which these statements were meant to illustrate. I have frequently brought similar accusations in a general way myself. I believe them to be true. I have no doubt whatever they are true; and I will say this—that it is utterly impossible for any gentle- 330 man to take a part in the political conversation that goes on with reference to the management of public affairs in Ireland, without hearing, very frequently, cases of this kind mentioned upon evidence which it is impossible for any man to disbelieve. The difficulty in dealing with cases of the kind is simply this—you hear a case mentioned; it is mentioned to you in private as a matter of conversation by persons well acquainted with the facts, by persons whose evidence you cannot disbelieve, but you are not at liberty to mention their names; you cannot break the seal of confidence under which the facts have been revealed to you. I have heard many Members of this House relate facts of a similar kind, and I believe it is utterly impossible for any gentleman acquainted with the details of political affairs to disbelieve that such transactions as this have taken place. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. I. Butt) has commented upon the article in the Times—(and, indeed, some words in the article lead to that mode of treating it)—as if the accusation of corruption brought against the Irish Members was based upon the statements of Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly—as if no such accusations had been made before—as if the Times was resting upon that evidence, and made the accusation upon the information which these two after-dinner speeches conveyed. Now, nothing can be further from the truth; nothing can be further from the fact. I have with me a statement made in the Times last September—months before the Tuam banquet—months before the statements of Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly—very much stronger than the statement made in the article of the Times which has been alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman. With the permission of the House I will read the statement to which I refer. When hon. Members talk about an article in the Times, we are not, of course, to pry into the mysteries of newspapers; that is a very delicate subject; but we know it is not nobody that writes the article in the Times, and we sometimes hear very exalted names mentioned in connexion with London newspapers. I don't know—perhaps nobody in this House knows—whether the article in question may not have been written by a Secretary of State. Perhaps, at all events, it may have been written by the Secretary to a Board. At any rate, what is a matter of public notoriety is this, that the proprietor of the Times—one of the proprietors of the Times—is a Member 331 of this House; a supporter, not the least efficient supporter, of the present Government; a man perfectly cognisant of all the rumours and talk of the Treasury Bench, and who does not insult his fellow supporters of the present Government by making allegations which the Government itself believes to be false. The accusations brought against the whole body of Irish Members I believe, in that generality, to be unfounded. I have never brought allegations so general and sweeping. Being an Irish Member myself, of course I have not intended to include in these accusations either myself or the gentlemen with whom I act. I have brought no such accusations against the Irish Members who sit on this (the Opposition) side of the House. My accusations have been directed against those who, for a long course of years, have been connected in a commerce of corruption with the successive Whig Governments. Of such transactions the editor of the Times is a very proper and fitting witness. But let me read this article. I have not copied the whole of it, but I will read some extracts. Before I do so, let me recall to the minds of hon. Gentlemen a scene which took place in this House in the course of the last Session, when an accusation of corruption was brought against the present Government, in connexion with certain Irish Members who were not named, by my hon. Friend the Member for New Ross (Mr. Duffy). No one who was in the House on that occasion can forget the frenzy—the indignation—which that charge of corruption excited on the benches opposite. It was almost impossible to stand against the torrent of indignation which that charge evoked. Even the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was almost borne down by it, and weaker and less practised Members were fairly overwhelmed by the torrent. I declare that, such was the impression which that burst of indignation produced upon my mind, that for a moment, I believed the opposite side of the House to be pure. Well, the House recollects how that affair ended—how, when it was found the accusation did not mean that money was actually paid down into somebody's palm in the lobby by the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter), but referred merely to political corruption—to the prostitution of public principle through the ordinary agencies of Government—the noble Member for the City of London—if I did not misunderstand what 332 he said—rose in his place and declared he thought there was no accusation to answer. Well, the Session ended. We went to our homes with that scene fresh in our recollection, and with that burst of indignation never to be erased from our memories. Parliament was not up a month when I saw the following article in the leading columns of the Times, written, perhaps, by a Member of the very Government opposite. I don't know, of course, who wrote the article, but it is as probable as not that it was written by a Member of the Government:—There are things which are violent and destructive in their instincts and ordinary course, but which, nevertheless, may be subdued or managed, as hawks and ounces may be taught to assist man in the capture of game.Here is a complimentary description, which the writer evidently means to apply to some Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House—"hawks and ounces may be taught to assist man"—that is, the nobler creatures on the Treasury bench—"in the capture of game."Everything has a handle, and every man has his price, and the only question is, how to get at them. We presume we must put down in this category of dangerous yet manageable commodities that very truculent yet most convenient body, the representatives of Ireland in the British House of Commons. Finding themselves but scantily reported, and discovering also that duels are not much in fashion"—Hon. Gentlemen opposite will see with what respect they are treated by their friends and patrons——"they begin to reflect, and dawning reason is happily assisted by some other circumstances of a sobering character. After a few months their bills come in faster than their receipts, and every post brings a heap of letters from their constituents asking for this or that place, or rather why this or that place has not already been obtained. The Member's scruples, if he has any, are met with the rejoinder that his predecessors were not so unsuccessful or so nice; and the result is, that before long the whole Brigade is on very good terms, if not with the Government as a whole, at least with some very influential functionaries therein.Some of the Brigade now are "on very good terms with the Government as a whole," and even form part of the Government. Then the writer goes on to observe upon the universal influence of patronage in Ireland:—In this country (he says) there is a very large class who have never asked a favour from a Government, and would think it a degradation to ask one—that is, for themselves. There is no such class in Ireland. There everybody counts the chance of a place of some sort, for himself or 333 his children, as part of his prospects in life. He is positively ill-used if he does not get something. It is this enormous mass of expectation that constitutes the pressure on the Irish Brigade, and is really irresistible. What can an M. P. do but represent his constituents, and state their grievances in the proper quarter? But, if their first and only real grievance is that they have not got places, it follows that the proper field for an Irish patriot's exertions is, not the House of Commons but the Treasury. This, of course, involves relations more or less amicable with the authorities of that place. Hence the good understanding that is sure to spring up eventually between any Government whatever and the whole tribe of Irish firebrands. They learn to roar at last like sucking-doves—to reserve their opposition for points of little importance, or for questions where it will be utterly in vain.I think that is a very fair description of the line of policy which we have seen pursued by some Irish patriots on the other side of the House.In a word, they are brought at last as much under the Ministerial manége as steam in the hands of the engineer; so that their heatings and their coolings, their explosions and their collapses, are turned to equal account in moving the great machine of the State. This is the real function of the Irish Brigade, and the not unimportant assistance rendered by Ireland to the conduct of this great empire. We will not depreciate it. The Irish Member is a very serviceable animal.Gentlemen opposite will be pleased, I have no doubt, by what follows, and by the terms of respect in which they are spoken of by their friend in the article which I am reading:—The Irish Member is a very serviceable animal—all the more serviceable for not being very nice in his habits. It is not too much to say that hardly a single measure would have passed for the last twenty years but for this facile and well-paid Swiss corps.The Irish Members, continues the writer, "must all be paid, and they will all vote for their pay." He then goes on to refer to a letter of a correspondent, whom he describes as—Hopeful, not of the Irish and their innate good sense or honesty, but of the British Government, which he seems to think has the remedy in its own hands. As the Irish Brigade have generally got elected upon speculation, with no capital whatever but their seats and the virtues we have attempted to describe, they have to fight rather an uphill game with the world. It is the nature of the business to require quick returns, otherwise the constituents, P. P.'s, and representatives all become discontented. Our correspondent, therefore, proposes that the Minister shall starve them out by shutting the doors of the Treasury against them. It seems to be thought possible, indeed, that they might be literally starved, and that the Irish Brigade might be induced to surrender at discretion, as a garrison is after it has eaten its horses and its boots. For 334 our part we don't quite see how the plan is to work. Unfortunately, there is always a demand for tools, and so long as there is a demand there will be a supply. A Minister hard-set"—(that is, a Whig Minister)—"and threatened with a factious defeat, will seldom reject the proffer of votes, or non-voting, if it will keep him on the right side of the hedge. In fact, he cannot refuse; and when the vote is tendered, used, enjoyed, and appreciated, it is about as difficult to refuse the pay as it is to eat a good dinner and throw the bill in the waiter's face.The next sentence, I think, will meet with general approbation:—The sentiment of the transaction is not high, but we question whether Aristides the Just would have refused to avail himself of a mercenary vote, or to give the voter a small place for his friend, if he thought the safety of his country (or his place) depended on it.I have interpolated the word "place" because that is the obvious meaning of the writer. Well, now, the House will please to recollect that Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly had not spoken, and these particular charges had not been heard, when, in the course of last September, this article appeared. What I have a right to say from that article is, that when immense indignation is expressed about these two cases of corruption, when such an earnest desire is expressed to have these two extraordidinary cases of corruption inquired into, I hope the desire for that inquiry does not spring from a desire to ignore the fact—the general, great, broad, and leading fact—that this system of corruption, in which there have been the Whig Ministers on the one side, and a body of Irish Members on the other, has been the system by which the Whigs have maintained themselves for a series of years in power. That is the notorious fact; as the writer in the Times says—very well acquainted he is, no doubt, with the traditions of Whig Government—"it is perfectly notorious, though, of course, it may be denied." I am prepared for any amount of denial; but no amount of denial will destroy any sane man's belief in the fact I have stated. What have we had before us? I offer, of course, no objection to the appointment of this Committee; I wish these two charges to be inquired into; I wish every charge of corruption that is named to be inquired into; but I object to this inquiry into two specific charges being held by any one as decisive of the general fact. Why, what was one of the first things that drew my attention to this subject? I recollect a speech being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) at 335 Ballina some time since. It was published afterwards in a pamphlet, corrected by the speaker, and he said in that speech that, from his experience, he believed the price of place was as well known as the price of Stocks. I have had facts stated to me which I have a difficulty in stating, or might have a difficulty in stating, because I am not at liberty to mention the names of my informants, but which leave no doubt on my mind as to their truth; and I believe I shall not be doing what is wrong if I mention these facts to the House—not under any pressure, for I am perfectly free at this moment to mention them or not. If I mention them, I do so warning the House beforehand that I have them from authority which I am not at liberty to name. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh, and are, perhaps, very glad that the authority cannot be named; but the facts themselves are true, and I am merely cautious before mentioning them to guard myself from being called on to name my authority, because I cannot in honour name it. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, now, hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that that throws a doubt upon the accuracy of the statement. Then [addressing the Irish Members on the Ministerial benches], you don't wish to hear the statements made? [Cries of "No, no!"] I am delighted with these frank admissions on your side. I believe you do not want to have the statements made; I believe that you don't want to have the facts known; I believe that you agree with the writer in the Times that a system of corruption is necessary for the management of the affairs of this country, and you wish to have as decent a veil thrown over the inevitable infamy as possible. ["No, no!"] Oh, then, you do wish to have the facts stated? Well, then, if it please you, I will state the facts. Here is one stated to me by a friend of mine. He may, for anything I know, when I have stated the fact, be willing publicly to come forward and vouch for his share in the transaction, which was in no respect a disdishonourable or discreditable one. The case was this:—A poor man came to him with 9l. in his hand, thinking that my friend had some influence with a certain county Member on the other side of the House, and he said, "I believe you have influence with such and such a person—naming him—and I wish you would use that influence to get me the situation"—I think it was that of porter in the Cus- 336 toms; at all events, it was such a situation as a poor man might fairly ask for. My friend refused to have anything to do with the transaction. The sum offered, however, was 9l., and he was curious to know why that particular amount was offered. If it had been 10l., perhaps my friend's curiosity might not have been excited, but an odd sum like 9l. did stimulate it, and my friend asked the reason why that amount was offered. The answer was—"Oh, that is the exact sum which was given by the person whose death has created the vacancy to such and such a Member of Parliament—naming him—when the place was vacant before." [Cries of "Name!"] I have heard mentioned dozens of these cases, but I heard one fact mentioned which is worth a great many isolated cases, because it refers to a system of Government. It refers to something which fell frem the lips of the late Mr. Sheil, in the interval between the Durham letter—which I dare say the noble Lord the Member for London recollects—and the meeting of that Parliament in which the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill was to be brought forward. During that interval some of Mr. Shell's friends were very anxious, I am told, to know his opinion as to how the Government of the country was to be managed in future if the Whigs quarrelled with the Irish Members; and Mr. Sheil answered, as it was reported to me—and the authority on which I have it is so good that I have no hesitation in saying I believe it—Mr. Shell's answer was, "Lord John Russell has calculated everything minutely, and—mentioning some one connected with the Treasury—I am not sure about the name, and therefore I will not mention it—holds the Irish Members in the hollow of his hand." The gentleman to whom Mr. Shell gave that information was rather curious to know what this figurative language of one gentleman holding so many other gentlemen in the hollow of his hand could possibly mean, and the explanation given to him, I am told, was this:—That before any great debate was to come on—when a division was apprehended, as the writer in the Times, or, as Mr. Kelly says, in which the Government would be hard pressed—on the eve of such a division, Gentlemen received a circular stating that such and such a place was vacant, and that it awaited their recommendation to have it filled up; that the recommendation was not filled up till after the division—that is, as I understand it, until after the Member had given the 337 vote in favour of the Government, or—if he happened to represent a very unmanageable constituency—until after he had stayed away. Mr. Sheil added—and of this it is possible the Government is not cognisant—that a certain number of Irish Members were in the habit, when they got these recommendations, of taking them forthwith to a person whom he described as a broker, and of selling them in the way which we have heard described in the speeches of Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly, which form the basis of the present Motion. This account Mr. Sheil, I believe, deliberately gave in Dublin, at the period I have described, as the rationale of the relations between the Whig Government and a certain branch of the Irish representation, and as the means by which the Whig Government of that day was to be kept in power. Now, I have stated this to the House, because, having sat by while the accusation was made, I was very unwilling to shrink from taking my proper share of the responsibility. I am in no way responsible for the particular facts alleged at the Tuam banquet, but, that hon. Gentlemen may not imagine there will be nothing for the Committee to inquire into, I will mention one fact. Immediately after we got notice of the discussion last evening from the hon. and learned Gentleman who has introduced it to the House, I telegraphed to Dublin to Dr. Gray to tell him what had occurred, and to ask him for instructions, and I have at this moment, only five minutes before I rose to speak, received back from him this telegraphic message—"I am ready to attend at the bar of the House." Dr. Gray, therefore, has not stated what he is afraid to meet; he has stated it, believing it to be true, is ready to take the consequences of his statement, and, either at the bar of this House, or at the bar of the Conmittee, he is ready, I have no doubt, to make good what he has said. I must, in conclusion, apologise to the House for having troubled it so long on this subject; but I thought it was my duty to be as frank to the House as I could, seeing that I have made statements on this subject out of the House, and wishing to show that I was not afraid to repeat them in the House, face to face with some of those whom they might concern—if, indeed, they do concern any hon. Gentleman opposite. With that explanation I shall resume my seat.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
I hope, Sir, that if this Committee should sit, they 338 will at all events have the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Lucas) before them, because he has declared that he believes all the facts as stated by Mr. Kelly and Dr. Gray to be perfectly true. Now, I am sure the hon. Member for Meath would not state that unless he had some reason for that belief, and he is, therefore, I think, bound to attend before the Committee, and assist them by a statement of the facts within his knowledge. But when this inquiry takes place, depend upon it—and this is the point upon which I rise to remark—depend upon it, it cannot be confined to Ireland. It won't stop there. I should like to draw the attention of the House to what is not an after-dinner speech, but a statement made by a Member of the present House on his oath before the Court of Chancery. It is a statement made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson), and made recently too. It appears that in a suit, "The York and North-Midland Company v. Hudson," exceptions were taken to the chief clerk's certificate, which certificate declared that Mr. Hudson was indebted to the Company in the sum of 54,000l. Among the various items objected to in this certificate there was one which is thus alluded to in the report of the trial:—A further exception was taken against the chief clerk's certificate in regard to a sum of 6,300l., which the defendant had stated in his answer to have been distributed by him in the shape of shares to certain persons of influence connected with the landed interest and Parliament, for the purpose of securing their good offices in connexion with the operations of the railway company, and which he therefore claimed, but which the chief clerk disallowed as a set-off. The defendant, having distributed these shares under a pledge of secrecy, had refused, on the plea that it would be dishonourable and improper to disclose the names of the persons to whom they were given, and to make a discovery to that effect in his answer or in open court, but offered to do so to his Honour in private.Of course his Honour refused to have anything to do with so dirty a transaction. But then comes not only this statement, made by a Member of this House, but the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, who confirmed, it appears, the decision of the chief clerk. He says—As to the 6,300l. in respect to the shares distributed by the defendant, or under his direction, to conciliate the interest of certain parties in and out of Parliament, whose names the defendant had refused to discover, the defendant must also be held responsible for this. Such a distribution was exceedingly improper, and as little creditable to the parties receiving as to the defendant who bestowed.339 The parties receiving this money were stated to be Members of the House of Commons. So, I say, if this inquiry is granted with respect to the statements made by Dr. Gray and Mr. Kelly, it is utterly impossible that the Government can pass over the remarks made by the Master of the Rolls. Extracts have been read from the article in the Times upon the subject of these accusations against the Irish Members. Now, I don't know whether that article was written by a Minister of State or the Secretary to any Board, but it was a most able article, and I think no honest man can object to it, or will fail to subscribe to every word it contains. After going through the different items of the accounts in the suit the writer says—But the principal matter, undoubtedly, is not the private jobbing of Mr. George Hudson, nor the sins of the corporation which he misled, but those transactions with influential persons in and out of Parliament which absorbed shares valued at the amount of between 6,000l. and 7,000l. This is serious, indeed, and can hardly, we think, even in an age so apathetic as to wrong and so tolerant of public delinquencies, be allowed to pass without investigation. We are familiar with the complaint that the greater part of the House of Commons is returned by corrupt influences; in spite of all that has been said, written, or decided, bribery is looked upon in certain circles as a very venial error, and discouraged rather for its risk than its immorality. But we are told that a corrupt tree can bring forth good fruit; that the poison which gnaws the root does not ascend in the sap or circulate through the branches; that our legislators may bribe, but are not to be bribed; and that they may corrupt, but are not to be corrupted. It is the fashion also to believe that those high duties which the House of Peers inherit together with their titles and dignities are performed under no other influence than that of conscience, honour, and conviction. Is this belief to continue, or are we to consider henceforth that the purity of our Legislature from the gross contamination of personal bribery will not bear investigation, and can only be believed so long as it is not inquired into? Will the Houses of Parliament tolerate so base a stigma upon them in their collective and individual capacity, placed on the solemn records of the highest court of justice in the land, and attested by the oath of a Member of the House of Commons, professing himself to be the agent and distributor of the corruption, and refusing, from a sense of honour—a strange and unmeaning excrescence in this base traffic—to reveal the names of those noble Lords and honourable Gentlemen whose hands were contaminated by his bribes?And then the writer goes on to comment upon the evils of this kind of corruption. Sir, no man who values the honour and dignity of this House will do other than subscribe to every word of this article. 340 Will not the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), who is on Friday to move for leave to bring in a Bill to prevent the bribery and corruption of poor electors, take some notice of this subject? Why, is a poor man who accepts a pot of beer, or who takes a bribe of half a crown, as at Liverpool, is he to be placed in comparison, as a criminal, with those who have corrupted Members of this House? We have disfranchised St. Albans—we have disfranchised Sudbury for much smaller offences than those committed by Mr. Hudson. I therefore call upon the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to have this charge also investigated. We know, in this case, who the corrupter is, because he has sworn to it on oath, and I must say that Mr. Hudson, in having to disgorge this large sum of 54,000l., will be one of the most ill-used men under the sun, unless those parties whom he corrupted indemnify him and return him the money that he was obliged to return to the company. I ask the Government whether they can allow that charge, now that it is formally brought before the House, to remain in its present position?
That the matter of the said complaints be referred to a Committee of Privileges, to examine into and export the same to the House.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock.