HC Deb 28 July 1857 vol 147 cc614-40

COLONEL FRENCH moved the issue of a new writ for the county of Mayo. This was a totally distinct case from the one just settled by the House. In the Galway case it was impossible to quarrel with the decision of the Committee; but here it was very different. He was bound to take the decision of the Committee as final, but he would show that the Report was contradictory in itself. They unseated Mr. Moore for having been guilty, by his agents, of undue influence; but they also found he did not sanction, nor was he aware of, any such influence. They showed a total disregard of the principles of the law. They admitted the hearsay evidence of a man who deposed to a speech in Irish, of which language it was proved he was totally ignorant. Let them look at the case, however, on broader grounds. Mayo was the third largest county in Ireland, containing a million and a half acres, and 400,000 inhabitants. Was it consistent with reason that they should withhold the writ till next Session, or the Session after, because a catholic clergyman was alleged to have threatened to turn a voter into a cat, or something of that sort? There was not a particle of evidence to show that any one voter had been prevented from voting; between 2,000 and 3,000 had polled, and the evidence of the first gentlemen in the county was that they never saw a quieter election.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a new Writ for the electing of a Knight of the Shire to serve in this present Parliament for the County of Mayo, in the room of George Henry Moore, esquire, whose Election has been determined to be void.

MR. SCHOLEFIELD rose to call the attention of the House to the fifth Resolution of the Mayo Election Committee, and to move as an Amendment that the Attorney General for Ireland be directed thereon to prosecute the Rev. Peter Conway and the Rev. Luke Ryan. It was not his intention to trouble the House by reading the voluminous evidence referring to this case; it was for the House to judge how far that evidence justified the decision at which the Committee had arrived; and, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, a careful perusal of the evidence taken before the Committee would, he thought, convince every one that Mr. Moore's election had been carried mainly, if not entirely, by the influence of the Roman Catholic priesthood—not the influence of advice, or suggestion, or even of persuasion, but the influence of spiritual intimidation in its most marked and obtrusive form. The House would see by the evidence that the proceedings of the election began by the issue of a most unseemly electioneering mandate, signed by "John Archbishop of Tuam," and three Roman Catholic Bishops, in favour of Mr. Moore and against Colonel Higgins. This was followed up by incessant activity on the part of the priests, by threats and denunciations, by spiritual intimidation and incentives to violence, until the county was in such a state of excitement that it was not possible for Colonel Higgins' voters to go to the poll, except under the protection of an escort of military—they were not safe even in the booths. The hon. and gallant Member said that there was no evidence to show that any voters had been prevented from voting, but there were plenty of such instances in the blue-book, and there were also instances of men being compelled to vote in a different manner from that which they had intended. In one case a witness went into the polling-booth intending to vote for Higgins, he was surrounded by priests, "and they told me," said the witness, "that if I would vote for Higgins my soul would not be in the right place when I went to the other world." In reply to further questions the witness said, "They told me my soul would he in hell unless I gave a different vote, and I then voted for Moore and Palmer." The evidence abounded in instances of intimidation on the part of the priests, but he would confine himself to the two who had been specially reported to the House, Conway and Ryan. Father Conway's name appeared in almost every page of the blue-book; he seemed to be everywhere, and wherever he was he was the centre of violence and commotion. The first mention of him was in reference to a denunciation which he uttered from the altar of his chapel at Ballinrobe, on the Sunday before the election. This incident was related to the Committee by Mr. French, a landed propriety in the county, who was present at the time, and who took down the words in writing. After eulogizing Moore and Palmer to the highest degree, Father Conway proceeded to say, "As to Higgins, he is a most consummate scoundrel; he has deceived you in every point and broken every promise; he has sold his country and himself, body and soul, and now he presumes to come forward and ask for your votes. The curse of Cod will fall on every one who gives him one." It was only fair to say that that evidence was contradicted to some extent by a gentleman of great respectability, who give a different interpretation to the curse; but the Committee came to the conclusion that it was really uttered in the terms stated, partly because the words were taken down by Mr. French at the time, and partly because from other evidence given it seemed to be Father Conway's usual mode of electioneering. Evidence was given of another curse uttered by Father Conway on the same day. Addressing some voters from the top of a wall, who had been brought into the town to vote for Higgins, he said, "May the curse of God be upon any man who votes for Higgins!" He understood that it would be denied that Father Conway had ever uttered these words, but if he did not utter them there was a place in which he could have repudiated them with great force—the Mayo Election Committee-room. He was in the lobby during the whole of the inquiry, but he was never called. The second case was that of Father Luke Ryan. On the 22nd of March that rev. gentleman read from the altar a list of the freeholders in the parish, commenting upon every name, and applying the terms "traitor," "blackleg," and "black sheep" to the names of those who were likely to vote for Colonel Higgins. He told the congregation that Higgins had sold them and his country, and, pointing to the middle of the church, he said, "If the devil were to come up there I would vote for him in preference to Higgins." He struck the altar with his right hand at the time to give greater emphasis to the expression. On the 29th of March he said, "that the curse of God would come down upon any one who voted against his country and his country's cause, and voting for Higgins would be doing that." "He would not give the rites of the Church," he said, "to anybody who voted for Higgins." He desired the congregation "to keep their eyes on the black sheep and to mark them." "He would brand them," he said, "he would mark them for life." It had been said that these addresses were not uncommon in Ireland, and that they must not be measured by the English standard; but if they were common that was a strong reason for Parliament to interfere to put an end to them. But he believed that these denunciations were not so common as was supposed, and that they were quite at variance with the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church; for he held in his hand a Resolution agreed to unanimously by the Bishops of the Church of Rome in 1834, in which they pledged themselves to recommend their clergy most earnestly to avoid in future any allusion from the altar to political subjects. He directed attention to this, because he was anxious that the House should not think that the Committee had been actuated by any prejudice against Roman Catholics. The Committee had felt that it was not a question of Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism, but that it was a question of freedom of election as against priestly intimidation. So viewing it, the Committee had discharged their duty faithfully, and although he (Mr. Scholefield) had always done his best to maintain the civil and religious privileges of his Roman Catholic fellow subjects, he considered it to be his bounden duty to see that the priests did not infringe the civil liberties of the people. He admitted that Colonel Knox and several other most respectable witnesses who had been called on behalf of Mr. Moore had stated that the last election was comparatively a quiet one; but if that were so the previous elections must have been very remarkable ones, for those witnesses all said that at no time could an elector who did not vote on behalf of the priest's candidate go to the poll without a military escort. They proved indisputably, in fact, that mob influence was very much in vogue at that election, and that that influence had been elicited and encouraged by the priests. With respect to future proceedings, he must tell the House unhesitatingly that he did not believe if they issued a new writ that they would obtain the free expression of the opinions of the voters of the county of Mayo. If, however, the writ were suspended time would be afforded for vindicating the law by the trial of the two priests whom the Committee had named, time would also be gained for further investigation if it should be deemed necessary, and for allaying the state of bitterness and irritation in which the county was unfortunately plunged at the present moment, and on the whole he believed that much good would result. If, on the other hand, they decided to issue the writ, his opinion was that they might just as well save themselves the trouble of an election by despatching it straight to Archbishop M'Hale.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "Mr. Attorney General for Ireland be directed to prosecute the Reverend Peter Conway and the Reverend Luke Ryan.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, I desire, unaffectedly, to express the feeling of embarrassment under which I rise to address the House on the present occasion; but I throw myself without fear or hesitation upon the generosity of this English assembly, and upon that spirit of fair play which, whatever its prejudices, has always characterised the British Parliament, while I endeavour to vindicate the cause of an absent friend, and while I also endeavour to remove the misconception under which many hon. Gentlemen now labour, owing to their imperfect information on the subject before them. The Chairman of the Committed has laid down the proposition that the election of Mr. Moore was carried not by legitimate means—not by persuasion, not by fair solicitation, not by those means of which the constitution approves; but by spiritual intimidation. To this proposition I give a decided and unqualified contradiction; and I will endeavour to show that the election of Mr. Moore had been carried in spite of influences which I consider most disgraceful to those who brought them into operation. Now the House should take into consideration the history of the two candidates then before the electors of the County of Mayo, in order to understand whether it were necessary to lash the people into excitement by undue influences, to effect the triumph of Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore was one of those men who were identified with a considerable portion of the Irish population by a thorough sympathy on certain important grounds of political policy; and whether the views of Mr. Moore were right or were wrong, there is no doubt of two things—that they were in unison with those of the majority of his constituents, and that he had proved himself eminently consistent in their advocacy and maintenance. It was notorious to what an extent Mr. Moore had gone in the promotion of those principles which he professed, and that in many counties and boroughs in Ireland he was seen at the late election endeavouring to accomplish their triumph by the return of candidates holding the same opinions. At any rate, whether his policy was a wise one or not, he was consistent in its maintenance; and such consistency, instead of rendering him unpopular, on the contrary, rendered him most popular in his native county, which he had faithfully and ably represented in this House. I say then that my hon. Friend was returned because he remained faithful to his pledges, and not through the exercise of undue influence on the part of the Catholic clergy. It was also notorious that Colonel Higgins, whether rightly or wrongly—for I do not mean to introduce any controverted question into this debate—had receded from certain pledges of fidelity to a certain policy. His conduct excited considerable indignation throughout Ireland, and especially in Mayo: and it did not require that violence and that intimidation alleged against the Catholic clergy of that county to rouse an indignation which that gentleman's own conduct had already created. Therefore I assert that the excitement, such as did exist, was the natural result of the consistent conduct of the one candidate, and the desertion of the popular party by the other candidate; and that the election was the free act of the voters, and not the result of undue influence upon the part of the priests. I said that Mr. Moore's return was effected in spite of certain discreditable influences, and this I now proceed to establish. If the decision of the Committee, who condemn Mr. Moore for no act of his, and in the full knowledge of his attempts to promote order and tranquility—if their decision can be justified on this ground, the marked and culpable omission made by them in another respect is, in my mind, wholly unjustifiable. While the Committee criminated Mr. Moore for no act of his, they said not a single word in reference to the conduct of the High Sheriff of Mayo, Captain Higgins, the father of the candidate, Colonel Higgins. My assertion is this—that the conduct of the High Sheriff was most unbecoming, most partial, and most unfair, and that it was so from the first moment of the election to the last. He placed the disposal of the military force in the hands of partisans, and he filled the booths with his deputies, nearly every one of whom was a notorious partisan. It had been the custom in former elections for the High Sheriff to grant what are termed "deputations" to certain of the local magistrates, in order to secure the tranquillity of the country, and to afford protection to voters on each side; and with this object in view, the "deputations" were granted to magistrates on both sides. This was acting on an intelligible principle, that of fairness and impartiality. But the very first thing Captain Higgins did was to grant these deputations to violent partisans, and to refuse them to every magistrate on the other side. The High Sheriff is the returning officer of the county; and as returning officer his first duty is to take an oath imposed on him by the law, and in the spirit of the constitution, to act honestly, impartially, and without favour to any candidate. But what does he do? There were nine polling booths in the county, and to those nine, with I believe a single exception, he appoints notorious partisans of his son, who, by their future conduct, vindicate the wisdom of his selection. To this conduct I shall presently allude. But now I beg to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen to one of the most contemptible and disreptable tricks I ever heard of being practised on such an occasion, and such as would disgrace the worst days of the turf. By the Act of Parliament the Sheriff was empowered to demand from each candidate a certain amount of money to cover the expenses incurred by him during the election. Now the High Sheriff, or the sub-sheriff, in his name, demanded from Mr. Moore no less a sum than £200, although the gross amount which he could claim from all the three candidates did not exceed £184 3s. 1d., and the sum which he had a right to demand from Mr. Moore was about £65 at the outside; but he insisted upon £200. More than that, he said, or the sub-sheriff, in his presence, said—"Unless you pay this sum in cash, in notes or gold, I will not put you in nomination"[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh; but this was no laughing matter; it might have proved a fatal obstacle to Mr. Moore. Now I ask hon. Gentlemen, which of you would like to carry so large a sum into a crowd? Mr. Moore offered his cheque for the amount; and the friends who stood around him, some of the first men in the country, made the same offer; but the trick was to prevent his being nominated, and the cheque was refused. Now, considering the difficulty which there might be of getting this amount of money at the moment in a small town, and considering that the High Sheriff or sub-sheriff did not ask either of the other candidates to pay at the same time, I do not think it too much to characterize this conduct as a piece of gross unfairness; and if it did not meet with the reprehension of the Committee, it ought to excite the disgust and indignation of every lover of fair play. Mr. Moore was charged with bribery and corruption of all kinds, and it was not until the last moment that these charges were withdrawn. But the only person proved to have been guilty of bribery was one of the High Sheriff's deputies, Captain Brabazon, who, I hope, may be made to feel, through the Attorney General, that he is as amenable to the laws as any humble man in the land. This Captain Brabazon, who, harangued against Mr. Moore one day, who canvassed for Colonel Higgins another, who poured out invectives against Mr. Moore a third day, who on another day was sworn to act impartially to all candidates, and without favour to any—this gentleman wrote to a stamp distributer named Mulligan, whom he had previously canvassed, guaranteeing him against all consequences if he voted—if he voted contrary to the express prohibition of an Act of Parliament wisely framed to prevent servants of the Crown from interposing in elections. On the man's proper refusal, Captain Brabazon, who happens to be his landlord, said—"Very well, then I am no longer a friend of yours." Now by that offer and promise of a guarantee, Captain Brabazon has subjected himself to the penalties of the Bribery Act. His conduct at the booth was only a counterpart of that of the other deputies, with one or two exceptions. The Chairman of the Committee said the voters were not safe in the booths. That I admit; but I contend the fault lay not with the priests, but with the deputies. To their conduct and to that of the High Sheriff I attribute much of the excitement which prevailed. Only imagine the conduct of one of the deputies, a Mr. Jennings, as deposed to by Sir Robert Blosse. This Mr. Jennings rejects a man's vote because probably owing to his being a pig-jobber, who in his visits to England had caught up the Cockney accent—he voted for "Mr. Paumer," instead of Mr. Palmer. Mr. Jennings, whose fine Celtic ear was offended at the pronunciation, said there was no such person as "Paumer," and refused the vote. Another unhappy voter presented himself, and was asked, "are you the person whose name is on this list?" His reply was, "I am." He was then asked, "Did you vote before at this election? The reply of the poor clodhopper was—"I am." And the impartial deputy rejected this man's vote on the frivolous ground of this mistake—and this man was about to vote for Moore and Palmer. Then there was a Mr. Sharkie who did not belong to Mayo, but who had been brought in for the purpose, he being a friend and violent partisan of Colonel Higgins. This gentleman it was who gave so pathetic a description to the Committee of the sufferings and persecution he had endured at the hands of the friends of Palmer and Moore; but whose romance about brandished sticks and showers of stones was dispelled by the undoubted testimony of Colonel Wardlaw and Licut, Grayburn, who saw neither sticks, nor stones, nor violence of any kind. I advise any hon. Gentleman who desires to settle in Ireland, and ambitions the elective franchise, to shave off his mustaches. I give this advice, because of what happened to a gentleman who, having the misfortune to possess mustaches, went into Mr. Sharkie's booth to record his vote for Palmer and Moore. He gave his vote for these two Candidates; but his vole was only recorded for "Palmer," because it was alleged that "Moore" was smothered in the Doctor's mustache. Then Captain Brabazon was as stern as Rhadamanthus to the friends of Mr. Moore, and threatened to clear the court, and send the offenders to bridewell; but when the friends of Colonel Higgins hooted against Moore and Palmer, he laughed pleasantly. An English Protestant gentleman, Mr. Wilbraham, deposed that a Mr. Hildebrand allowed in his booth cheering for Higgins, and hooting against Palmer and Moore. Another deputy, a Mr. O'Dowd, a solicitor, harangued a mob against Mr. Moore one day, and he is sworn to act without partiality or favour the next. Another, a Mr. M'Donald, grants time when the name of a voter of Colonel Higgins is called, but will not permit a moment to the voters of Mr. Moore; thus if the name be not at once answered to, that person cannot vote until the whole list is gone through, and his name is come to again. The evidence of several witnesses, Colonel Knox, Sir Robert Blosse, the Honourable Geoffrey Brown, the two Mr. Jordans, and Mr. Wilbraham, proved that, with the honourable exception of Dr. Burke and another, the deputies acted as partisans of Colonel Higgins, and thus fully vindicated the wisdom of the Sheriff in their selection. It has been said that this election has been carried by priestly influence. What proof is there that it has been so carried! I assert that there is no evidence of such being the case. Look at the polling. The gross number of electors on the list was, in round numbers, 2,600. Of these 2,200 voted, and but 400 were unpolled. Colonel Higgins had 772 plumpers, while Captain Palmer had only 96, and Mr. Moore but 48. And of the comparatively small number of 400 who did not poll, a considerable number were kept from polling, not by the misconduct of the priests, but by the illegality of the High Sheriff. In the barony of Tyrawley there were 535 votes on the registry; and Mr. Lee, the agent of Captain Palmer, applied to the Sheriff for a second booth—which application was refused by him, although the Act leaves him no option, and requires him to comply. What was the result? This—that while in other baronies there were 17, 30, 40, or not more than 60 unpolled, there were 103 unpolled in Tyrawley, a barony known to be favourable to Moore and Palmer. Now, as to the influence of the priests. Sir Robert Blosse, the hon. Geoffrey Brown, and other witnesses declare that whatever influence the priests may have had on previous occasions, they never had less influence than at the last. This evidence coming from men of high position and character, proves that the assertion of the Chairman of the Committee, that the election of Mr. Moore was carried by spiritual intimidation, is not borne out by the real facts of the case. And yet the House is ready to believe every exaggeration with respect to the Catholic clergy, and not to give crdit to what is proved in their defence. It cheered every expression of the hon. Chairman; though I am compelled to admit that the hon. Gentleman has expressed himself as fairly and temperately as under the circumstances he could. But I believe that the hon. Gentleman has his prejudices, honourable and upright as he is; and I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friend has been sacrificed to those prejudices, and the prejudices of his colleagues of the Committee. For what is the fact? It is proved that Mr. Moore went through the country preaching peace and moderation. Mr. Moore said to the electors and people what every hon. Gentleman here, who wished to avoid the shoals and breakers of this House, would himself say—"Do not commit any violence; if you do you are my enemy, and not my friend." No doubt, there were occasional disturbances in spite of Mr. Moore's remonstrance. There was occasional excitement, yet no real disturbance; but I assert, as I can establish, it was mainly caused by the supporters of Colonel Higgins. I beg the attention of the house while I proceed to defend an absent man, now not only arraigned at your bar, but at the bar of the public opinion of this country. I allude to that most wronged gentleman, the Rev. Mr. Conway. The Chairman of the Committee has asked why the Rev. Mr. Conway was not examined before the Committee; and the House cheered the question. But do hon. Gentlemen recognise this document which I hold in my hand? It is the Speaker's warrant, which had been served on the Rev. Mr. Conway, not by Mr. Moore or Captain Palmer, but on behalf of Colonel Higgins. Father Conway came from Mayo in obedience to this warrant, and when he arrived in London he presented himself to the agents of Colonel Higgins, and was told by them that he was their witness; two days after they told him he was not their witness. But it is most unfair to Mr. Conway to charge him with not having been examined, when the agents of Colonel Higgins had summoned him over, and when it was in the power of Colonel Higgins' counsel to have examined him. The hon. Chairman grounds his Motion upon two occurrences in which he holds Mr. Conway implicated. First as to his address in the chapel of Ballinrobe. He is accused of having called Colonel Higgins "a consummate scoundrel, and said that "the curse of God would fall on any one who would vote for him," This language I do not justify; but I deny that it was ever used. What is the evidence? The person who swears that he heard the words used, is some poor decrepit old gentleman, who, having got the idea into his bothered head, ran off at once to an active partisan of Colonel Higgins, and committed to writing his version of it, as a good provision for an anticipated petition. But that he used the words "a consummate scoundrel" was denied by three respectable witnesses, who also proved that the more important words were used in quite a different sense. The first witness was Mr. Geoffrey Martin, one of the most respectable men in the county, the chairman of a board of guardians, and a magistrate of thirty years' standing. He denied that Mr. Conway called Colonel Higgins "a consummate scoundrel," and so did two other witnesses. Now, it is the belief of Roman Catholics that they are guilty of a grievous sin if they abstain from mass on Sunday. This is the belief of the Catholic population of Ireland; and by no people in the world is this obligation observed with greater reverence or awe than by the people of Ireland. Thus the stranger might have seen the miserable chapels which up to a recent time existed in that country crowded with worshippers, while the better endowed churches were almost deserted. Now it happened at the last election that several Catholic landlords Kept their Catholic tenants from mass, thus not only, as they were bound to believe, committing a sin themselves, but being the occasion of the sin of others. Mr. Conway did say—as three witnesses deposed—that he hoped the curse of God would not fall upon those Catholic landlords who prevented their Catholic tenants from attending mass; and, whatever opinion Protestant gentlemen may hold with respect to this form of expression, I hold it to be defensible on strict religious grounds. Make it the case of a Protestant minister, of Protestant landlords, and of Protestant tenants, and suppose it a Protestant belief that it was a mortal sin not to go to church on Sunday; and I ask, would it not be the duty of the Protestant minister to reprehend the conduct of those superiors who compelled their dependants to violate, for a mere political purpose, a great religious obligation? Now Mr. Martin had been, as he states, denounced from the altar some years since, and therefore he instinctively listened with close and anxious attention to what fell from Mr. Conway; and he positively swears that the words charged against him were not uttered. Now as to the occurrence on the wall. What are the facts? A party of voters were brought into the town of Ballinrobe, and, instead of taking them down a large open street, they were taken down a narrow lane. Some confusion was caused; and the Rev. Mr. Conway, fearing that a breach of the peace would be the result, and that bad work would follow, got into a yard that overlooked the house, and was pushed up upon a wall, with a slanting top, for the purpose of preventing, and not exciting violence, A respectable witness, Mr. Nicholas Walsh, through whose hands £60,000 of the public money of the country have more than once passed, swears to what Mr. Conway said to him at the time. In answer to question 10,738, he says:—"He requested me to do all I could to keep the parties from throwing stones, or committing any breach of the peace." The same witness says:—"I heard him say to the people outside, to keep quiet, and to commit no act that would be the cause of having it injured." But there is another witness, Mr. James Fleming, who says—" The people were shouting; and Father Conway said any one who would violate the law would be his enemy, not his friend; and he begged of them, for God's sake, and other names he mentioned, to be quiet, and not put themselves in the power of the law." And this is the man who mounted up the wall to hurl horrible imprecations on the head of Colonel Higgins' friends!—the man who in the same breath calls on the people, in the name of God, not to violate the law but to prove his friends by keeping the peace. I ask, is such a statement consistent with reason or probability? And Lieutenaut Grayburn also heard Mr. Conway call on the people not to hurt the soldiers or the police. Was the election carried by violence? I assert it was not; and I place against the evidence of active partisans, the evidence of gentlemen who had no interest whatever in the contest. For instance, take that of Colonel Jasper Creagh, who had great experience of Irish elections, and who speaks of the general quiet which he witnessed. It is true, he saw the troops led to the charge, but, as he states, it was against "imaginary mobs." Colonel Wardlaw, who commanded the Royals, was at Castlebar, and also at Ballinrobe; and that gallant officer could see nothing of the dreadful rioting and violence by which the election was carried. And what Lieutenant Grayburn saw was caused by the folly of voters belonging to Colonel Higgins, when passing through Claremorris. They began to cheer and shout; and, on being told that they were fools to do so, as they would be sure to draw a crowd, they repeated their challenge to disturbance, and a slight row was the consequence. Now such being the real state of things, I say it is too hard, not only on my hon. Friend Mr. Moore, but upon the electors of Mayo, that he should have been visited with the deprivation of his seat, and they with the denial of their right to return the representative of their choice. I say this straining of the law is a dangerous principle, and hon. Gentlemen who now hear me may yet find it so to their own personal cost. If, indeed, a general state of excitement and violence existed, the result of a widespread conspiracy, by which voters were prevented from going to the poll, although the candidate was not conscious of such a state of things, a Committee might, according to the spirit and meaning of the law, visit the candidate with the penalty by depriving him of his seat, so obtained. But the late election of Mayo was not a case of the kind; and save £ few isolated cases of indiscretion, then was nothing whatever to mark it from the most peaceable and orderly election. The Chairman of the Committee observed that the system of intimidation and priestly influence began with Dr. M'Hale. Now while the archbishop in question had a perfect right to express his opinion as to the duty which constituents owed their country, of returning to Parliament honest, upright and faithful men as their representatives, I am prepared to show that that which has been described as "an unseemly election mandate," reflected the highest credit on its illustrious author [Laughter.] I treat that laugh with the most perfect philosophy, and understand its motive thoroughly. But what did the archbishop say? Here is the concluding passage of his Pastoral:— Whatever may be the issue of these angry elections, you will not forget to deport yourselves with the wisdom becoming your holy station; to inculcate among the people, often goaded to excitement, the quiet ferbearance becoming men engaged in a noble and victorious contest; and to breathe forth from the sanctuary the calm and holy spirit of peace over the troubled waters. We trust hat amidst the most stormy scenes the electors will not fail to remember, that, whilst they are struggling for the assertion of their rights, their clergy are engaged in stretching out their hands in prayer for the success of religion and social order, and imploring the Almighty that riot and intoxication and bribery should not bring down His wrath upon the land; and that hatreds, or violence, or enmities should not embitter those contests that have been so unseasonably cast into that great work of peace and mercy that commemorates the reconciliation of earth with an offended Heaven. Now, do those words, I ask the House, convey an incentive to undue excitement; or do they not, on the contrary, breathe a spirit of peace and conciliation, worthy of the position of that eminent person.


I beg to assure the hon. Gentleman I did not allude to the Pastoral, but to certain resolutions bearing the signature of Dr. M'Hale.


Even so, the phrase used by the hon. Gentleman does not apply to those resolutions. Why did he not rend them to the House? I did read them, and they contained nothing reprehensible or improper. But other resolutions, appealing to the worst passions, to the bitterest sectarian animosity, emanated from the other side; and no notice was taken of them. This investigation has satisfied me more fully on one point—the danger of not having a sound lawyer put in the chair, to say what evidence should be received, and what rejected; for such decisions were scarcely ever come to by any judicial body, as with reference to certain evidence either received, or rejected by the Mayo Committee. Not only what such a man said, but what such a man heard another man say, was admitted by the Committee—evidence that would be rejected by any bench of magistrates sitting in petty sessions. Thus, for instance, gentlemen who did not know one word of Irish, gave evidence of cursing in that language. As well might an Englishman who knew no language save his own, listen to the conversation of a number of Frenchmen, and then come forward and swear that he heard them conspiring against the Emperor of the French. The Fact is, the Chairman is a good natured, easy gentleman, and was bullied by lawyers—very vulgar lawyers too—and thus he and his colleagues received hearsay evidence upon the most important points. The case is now in the hands of the House; and I call upon hon. Gentlemen to beware how they sanction a manifest straining of the law against a Member of their House who is made to suffer not only for no act of his, but in spite of his earnest efforts to preserve order and quiet. I also call on the House to give weight to the testimony of impartial witnesses, both as to the character of the election, and the conduct of the priests; and that testimony shows that there was a total absence of organized violence and real disturbance; and that the charges against the priests are, as I have shown in the case of the Rev. Mr. Conway, the result of misrepresentation, partizanship, and gross exaggeration.


said, he should not enter into the merits of the evidence which had been laid before the Committee, but should confine himself to a simple statement of the reasons why the House, in his opinion, ought to pause before they gave their assent to the very unusual course which the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Scholefield) asked them to adopt. He was opposed to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, because it tended to violate the rights of the electors of the county of Mayo, simply because two priests who were non-electors bad committed an infringement of the law. He should not, of course, object to any proposition which had in view the prosecution and punishment of those priests, should they be found guilty, but their conduct he should maintain afforded no good reason why the electors of Mayo should be deprived of their electoral privileges.


said, he meant to vote for the issue of the writ for the County of Mayo, but he should be sorry to do so for the reasons which had been submitted to the House by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire). That hon. Member indeed, appeared to be so strongly imbued with the spirit of the evidence which had been laid before the Committee by Dr. M'Hale, that he was evidently quite as ready to evade the real question at issue as that right rev. Prelate had been to shuffle out of the questions which had been put to him. The hon. Gentleman had read an extract from a manifesto of Dr. M'Hale, which was not that which was most material as evidence against him, and had observed that the denunciations of the priests had been directed, not against persons who might vote for Colonel Higgins, but against those who, in consequence of not attending mass on Sundays, were deemed to have committed a mortal sin. [Mr. MAGUIRE: "Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman might cry "hear, hear!" but he had cleverly evaded all reference to the evidence of those parties who had themselves stated that they had been denounced for reasons connected with the election. The blue-book, which few hon. Gentlemen, probably, had perused, but which, unfortunately, he had read, showed that the priests had systematically denounced, in the most solemn and awful terms, all persons who did not vote for their candidate. There was no question about this, and he would like to see the form of indictment for spiritual intimidation. He had told the House thirty years ago what would occur, and they were now reaping the fruits of their legislation. Just as was the case in Austria and in Spain, the priests were dominant and the poor degraded people suffered. "There you have it," concluded the hon. Gentleman, "and make the best of it."


, as a member of the Committee, wished to say, with reference to the statements of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, that although evidence of partiality on the part of the High Sheriff was adduced before the Committee, they did not notice such evidence in their Report, because neither the High Sheriff nor the gentleman appointed by him to various offices were in any way on trial before the Committee. No charges were made against them in the petition, and, with one or two exceptions, they were not present to defend themselves. The evidence, too, which impeached their conduct was all given by witnesses brought forward by the sitting Member. The case with regard to the priests was entirely different. The petition distinctly charged that there was a combination among the whole body of priests in the diocese to carry the election by spiritual intimidation. The priests were therefore upon their trial quite as much as Mr. Moore. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) had raised the question whether the election was or was not void; but that was a question with which the House had nothing to do, because the Committee, discharging a judicial duty, had determined the matter, and their decision was final. It was possible some evidence might have been admitted which would have been rejected in the Queen's Bench, but every question raised by counsel with regard to the evidence had received the patient and impartial consideration of the Committee. He felt, therefore, perfectly at ease with regard to the charge of admitting improper evidence. The hon. Gentleman had also referred to the conduct of Mr. Moore. The Committee had acquitted Mr. Moore, and had stated that although persons acting for him as agents had unfortunately committed him to a breach of the law by intimidation and undue influence, he did not appear to have been cognizant of their acts. It was, therefore, quite unnecessary for the hon. Gentleman to vindicate Mr. Moore. With regard to the conduct of the priests, however, he (Mr. Puller) was confident the great body of gentlemen of the Roman Catholic persuasion would repudiate their acts as strongly as any Protestant could do. He thought the hon. Gentleman had shown considerable want of judgment in alluding to the Pastoral of Archbishop M'Hale, which directed the priests to remind their flocks that amid all the scenes of election riot and debauchery they were praying that peace and tranquillity might reign throughout the diocese. But when he found that these very priests were engaged almost to a man in acting as election agents, in bringing up reluctant voters to the poll, in controlling, and in some cases heading mobs, in dragging people from their cars, he thought the reference to the Pastoral was most unfortunate. It was proved before the Committee that similar violence and intimidation had occurred at previous election; but when Archbishop M'Hale was asked whether he had ever suspended or dismissed a single priest for disobedience to his orders, his reply was, "No; no complaint has ever been made to me." Was it necessary that the Archbishop, with the power he possessed, should wait for a formal complaint before he investigated misconduct on the part of priests who had been denounced by a Committee of that House? It appeared to him (Mr. Puller) that the question the House had now to determine was, whether the late Act of Parliament which provided that the exercise of undue influence should be equally punishable with bribery and treating should be a dead letter or not. If the House considered that intimidation ought to be suppressed, they would catch at the first just and fair opportunity of enforcing the law.


said, the observations which were proved before the Committee to have been made by priests in the Irish language, had been faithfully interpreted according to the admission of Mr. Buchanan, a gentleman acquainted with that language, who was counsel for Mr. Moore. There was another point which the hon. Gentleman had adverted to which he felt bound to notice, and he did so with great pain. The hon. Gentleman had cast an insinuation upon the High Sheriff for requiring a sum of £200 to be paid down in notes or gold as a security on the day of nomination, and refusing to take a cheque for that amount.


begged to say that all he had to complain of on the part of the High Sheriff was, that he had been guilty of omission, not commission, and certainly, as regarded the £200, he had not imputed any unworthy motive to him.


was very glad to hear that statement, as it relieved him from a very painful duty. He would only add, that the evidence which had been brought before the Committee, as affected the whole proceedings at the election, disclosed a most astonishing state of things—a state of things, however, which appeared to be regarded as a matter of course in that county. If the writs were now issued, what security was there that there would be greater impartiality on the part of the same High Sheriff at the election which would take place? He could only add as one of five Protestants who had had to decide upon a Roman Catholic case, that himself and his colleagues had not allowed themselves to be influenced by any religious predilection. He himself was a firm Protestant, but he had too many Roman Catholic friends, and had served too long with Roman Catholics, not to feel a strong respect for them, and he had endeavoured to act, as had all the other Members of the Committee, with the most perfect impartiality; but he could not help saying, that it would be a perfect farce to issue a new writ at present unless the House was content that Archbishop M'Hale should return the Member for the county of Mayo.


said, he felt considerable interest in the question because he had had some experience of Mayo elections. He had once been a candidate for the representation of that county, and he believed that he owed his defeat entirely to the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy; but at the same time he felt himself under obligations to many persons connected with that county, from which it was proposed to take away for the present the right of being represented in Parliament. He himself believed that the influence of the priests was declining in Mayo, and the proof of that was that at the last election Colonel Higgins, opposed as he was by the priests, and, also as he was by the territorial interest, polled upwards of a thousand votes. The next election would, he believed, be a perfectly fair and just one; and if the House refused to allow the writ to issue they would be laying down the dangerous precedent of punishing a constituency for the illegal acts of persons who were not electors. If any proceedings were going to be taken, such as disfranchising a portion of the electors, the case would be different, but certainly, with no proceedings contemplated as regarded the electors of Mayo, that House ought to pause before it decided that a constituency should be deprived of a representative in consequence of the misconduct of certain non-electors. It had been suggested that the writ should be withheld until the prosecution of the two priests had been carried into effect; but that would only be to say to the electors of the county of Mayo, "Until you find those priests guilty, you shall be deprived of a representative;" and the House, if it adopted that course, would be overriding the legal right of that constituency, and exceeding the powers which had been conferred upon it by the constitution.


said, he wished to put a question to the Attorney General for Ireland, arising out of the circumstances now before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman was no doubt familiar with the Ecclesiastical Titles Act and with the evidence given before the Mayo Election Committee; he (Mr. Bentinck) might remind him and the House that Dr. M'Hale, on presenting himself as a witness before the Committee, stated, in reply to a question from the chairman, that he was certain he was Archbishop of Tuam. He (Mr. Bentinck) had to ask the Attorney General for Ireland if he was of opinion that the answer given by Dr. M'Hale on that occasion was in contravention of the statute to which he had referred, and, if he was of that opinion, whether he was prepared to take any steps to vindicate the law?


Sir, I am certainly prepared to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Scholefield). I do not concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last but one (Mr. Butt) when he says we are proceeding to punish the electors of Mayo. On the contrary, it seems to me that the tendency of our proceeding to-night is to protect the electors of Mayo. It appears that a great deal of most undue influence has been exerted at the last election on the electors of Mayo to compel them to vote in a particular manner. That undue influence attracted the attention of, the Committee, and it is now proposed that legal proceedings shall be taken, the object of which is to prevent a repetition of that improper and undue influence. I say, if it is fitting, which I think it is, that those legal proceedings shall be taken, it follows as a matter of inference that a new election should not take place until the law should determine whether that undue influence is or is not such as to deserve punishment. I think, therefore, it is right to protect the electors of Mayo from the exertion of that undue influence until it shall be ascertained, which it will be before the next Session of Parliament, whether the misconduct of the priests is or is not punishable by law. The electors of Mayo will suffer no injury by the postponement of the election, because, if the election were now ordered, the return could hardly be made before the end of the present Session, and therefore it would be no injury or inconvenience to them that during the period of the recess they should not be represented.


said, he perfectly agreed with the noble Lord in thinking that so far as the constituency of Mayo was concerned no great constitutional harm would arise from the delay of the writ; but there was a much more serious question than that for the House to decide. He found it was in contemplation to move that the Attorney General for Ireland be directed to prosecute the Revs. Peter Conway and Luke Ryan. If that House, which was called the great inquest of the nation, should turn its attention to the prosecution of those two individuals, it ought, before coming to a decision, to consider what the result of such a proceeding would be on the public mind. But to whom was it proposed to delegate the conduct of that prosecution? Why, to the Attorney General for Ireland, who, after the election of 1852, when he did not, as now, sit on the Treasury Bench, in a speech of nearly two hours' duration in that House, defended one of the greatest outrages that had ever taken place in Ireland, on the occasion of the return of a Member to sit in that assembly, and charged Her Majesty's troops—the gallant soldiers of England—with deliberately firing on an unarmed, innocent, and peaceable mob. ["Oh! oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House might murmur, but they did not know the circumstances. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ennis on that occasion deliberately contended that priestly influence was justifiable for the purpose of swaying the votes of the constituency. He (Lord C. Hamilton) would say, if the Government wanted this prosecution to go on after that, and if they wanted it conducted impartially, let them put it into other hands. He charged them not to let that investigation be carried out by one who, whatever his merits—and he (Lord C. Hamilton) acknowledged the hon. and learned Gentleman had legal talent—had on the occasion to which he had just referred made a fatal and unfortunate exhibition of partiality, and preferred charges against the magistracy, the soldiers, and the constabulary, which would remain in evidence against him so long as that House existed. He (Lord C. Hamilton), for one at least, would never be a party to an arrangement which would delegate to the hon. and learned Gentleman the power of conducting the criminal prosecution in question, believing, as he did, that such a proceeding would be a mockery, an injury, and an insult to the people of Ireland.


said, he had not, for obvious reasons, intended to take part in the discussion; but the attack which the noble Lord, with so much taste and discretion, had made upon him rendered it necessary for him to say a few words. The speech which had been raked up by the noble Lord was one of the first which he made in that House, and in it he brought no charges against the police or the magistrates or the soldiery, but simply defended an absent friend, the then Attorney General for Ireland, in reference to a transaction in which he had taken a considerable part. It was not by way of attack on the military that he pointed out that a riot had taken place, that a panic had ensued, that some one gave the order to fire, and that the firing continued after the necessity for it had ceased. He never said that there was not a riot, or that stones were not thrown, or that no circumstance occurred to bring about the casualty which led to a deplorable effusion of blood. He was prepared to defend all he had said on that occasion on a proper occasion. The attack of the noble Lord was unfounded, and he defied political malignity itself to fix a blot or stain upon his character or conduct. If the House directed a prosecution against those two rev. gentlemen, he could assure them it might be safely intrusted to his hands, and that it would be carried out with fearlessness, impartiality, and vigour. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), it was in reply to a question as to what was his position in the Roman Catholic Church that Archbishop M'Hale said he was Archbishop of Tuam. The Chairman very properly explained the law, and said the Committee were willing to recognize the title of Archbishop, but could not recognize that of Archbishop of Tuam. The Archbishop replied that he had not obtruded the title on the Committee, that he did not wish to do anything offensive, but, the question having been put, he felt bound to say that he did believe, and was certain, he was Archbishop of Tuam; at the same time, if that were not his legal identification, he was quite satisfied with the title of Archbishop M'Hale. The hon. Member asked, upon that passage in the blue-book, whether Archbishop M'Hale had been guilty of an infraction of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. His impression was that Archbishop M'Hale was not guilty of any infraction of the statute, and he would remind the House that the Committee had not directed any suit to be instituted for the recovery of the penalty. By the Act the suit was not to be instituted by the Attorney General, but by some other person with the Attorney General's consent. With regard to the troops being placed under the orders of partisan magistrates, the Government took special precautions that such a thing should not take place in Mayo or any other county, inasmuch as they issued a circular, directing commanding officers to pay the same attention to the orders of local magistrates, whether or not they held the sheriff's deputation, to act upon their own discretion when the orders were conflicting, and, whenever possible, to take them from a stipendiary magistrate. He believed that in every instance in Mayo the orders were given by a stipendiary magistrate.


, who rose amid cries for a division, said, that the impatience of the House was a reason why they should not decide at half-past one o'clock upon a grave constitutional question. They were called upon at that time to decide not only whether or not a writ should issue for the county of Mayo, but whether they would throw the whole weight of the House of Commons against two humble persons, and the House was impatient of hearing him on behalf of the accused. There was conflicting evidence before the Committee, and the balance was in favour of the accused. What was spiritual intimidation? Far be it from him to say that a priest ought to use, or to induce others to use, violence, either at an election or at any other time. Such a course was contrary to the discipline of the Catholic Church, and to the wishes and injunctions of the Holy See. The misgovernment of Ireland and the maintenance of the Established Church there had, however, obliged the people to look up to the clergy as the only persons who could protect them and advise them with reference to the important duties of their country which they had to perform. Therefore, if a clergyman said or did an indiscreet thing, it was not for the House of Commons, which had forced him against his will into this position, to take a strong course in the matter. In the present case, unless they had Judges who would strain and wrest the law, it would be impossible to prove any offence. The charge made by the Chairman of the Committee was that curses were used against persons who voted for Colonel Higgins. That was denied. He had the authority of Father Conway to deny it. It was asked why he did not deny it before the Committee, but the fact was that he was summoned as a witness for the petitioners; and why was he not called? What Father Conway did was to denounce the Roman Catholic landlords who prevented their tenants from going to mass on a Sunday, and to say that he hoped the curse of God might not fall upon them. Supposing, however, that he had told the people that, if they voted for a person whom he believed to be an enemy of the Church, they would do wrong, was that an offence? He maintained that it was not. It was not an offence if Father Conway did it, and he did not do it at all. He asked whether on this conflicting evidence, on these doubtful facts and still more doubtful law, they were prepared to become parties to an act which would excite the just indignation of the people of Ireland? The noble Viscount at the head of the Government bad got a great majority by his fortunate legerdemain of the cry about the Chinese war, and he fancied that he could do anything he pleased, but if the Government began to persecute the clergy of Ireland, they would find that they had undertaken a most dangerous task, and that the people would rise as one man to defend their clergy. The consequences would be such that they would rue the day when they commenced this course of persecution. [Cries of "Divide!"] Hon. Members were anxious to divide. They might divide, and would probably carry this Amendment. They would go home to bed, and would think they had done a fine thing, but what would they have done? This prosecution of two priests on this loose evidence and looser law, would produce in Ireland an effect of which they little dreamt. It would awaken the indignation of the people, and they would rue the day when they undertook this course. ["Oh, oh!"] He said they would. They thought they were merely prosecuting two humble and inoffensive individuals ["Oh, oh!"]; that they were prosecuting two poor priests; but they would find that they were prosecuting the people of Ireland.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 29; Noes 153: Majority 124.

Words added; main Question, as amended, proposed.


moved the adjournment of the House in order to allow time for further consideration.


thought that the House had, in the last division, practically decided the question which Mr. Speaker had just put from the chair. It was not usual, except in extraordinary circumstances, to take two divisions upon what really amounted to one question. At all events there was at that moment a very good attendance of hon. Members, and he saw no reason why they should not proceed with the discussion if it were thought necessary to continue it any longer.


did not think that one-fourth of the House should undertake to decide a question so important as the prosecution of two clergymen. There were several Catholic Members who wished to take part in the discussion, and he thought an adjournment should take place in order to allow them to do so.

Motion made and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 16; Noes 149: Majority 133.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Ordered, "That Mr. Attorney General for Ireland be directed to prosecute the Reverend Peter Conway and the Reverend Luke Ryan.


then moved that the issue of a new writ for Mayo county be suspended during the present Session.


hoped it was not intended to suspend the writ until next spring, when the clergymen referred to would be tried. One of the complaints which had been raised before the late Committee was, that the High Sheriff had acted partially, and therefore care ought to be taken that the same objection should, not arise at the next election.


reminded the hon. Gentleman that the present Motion only applied to the present Session, and it would be competent to any Member in the next Session to move the issue of the writ.


thought the decision the Mouse had just arrived at was that no new writ should be issued until the clergymen mentioned should have been tried. That at least had been the explanation of the noble Lord. He would urge the complaint already made, that there had not been a fair return at the last election, owing to the partiality of the High Sheriff.


remarked that the High Sheriff only held office at the pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant, and therefore the Government had the power of removing all complaint upon that ground.


said, the case was as the right hon. Gentleman had described it.


reminded the House that the riots at Kidderminster were far more serious than those which had occurred at Mayo. In the former case the right hon. Member's (Mr. Lowe's) life was endangered, but it was not proposed therefore that the right hon. Member should be excluded from the House until the offenders were punished.


could not help observing that the High Sheriff of Mayo had had no opportunity of vindicating himself.

Motion made and Question put, "That the issue of a Writ for the election of a Knight of the Shire for the County of Mayo be suspended during the present Session."

The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 21: Majority, 107.

MR. BOWYER moved that the House do now adjourn.


asked whether it was intended by the Government to institute proceedings against the High Sheriff of Mayo for his alleged misconduct at the late election?


was not sufficiently aware what the alleged misconduct of the High Sheriff was, to be able to answer the question.

Motion by leave withdrawn.

House adjourned at Three o'clock.