HC Deb 27 April 1858 vol 149 cc1842-4

paid, he rose to move for copies of the Civil Bill Ejectment tried before James Major, Esquire, Q.C., Assistant Barrister for the county of Monaghan, at Castleblaney, at the last January Quarter Sessions, wherein Colonel Lewis was plaintiff and John Byrne was defendant; and, of the entry in the book of the clerk of the peace in relation to said ejectment, containing the names of the witnesses examined on behalf of the plaintiff and of the defendant. The defendant, John Byrne, was a tenant on certain property called Inniskeen, which was purchased by Colonel Lewis in the Incumbered Estates Court in 1855. Colonel Lewis, not content with devoting his attention to his duties as a landlord in the improvement of the industrial habits of his tenants, conceived he had another duty to perform, and introduced among them the religious and sectarian element. At the time of the purchase there was on the estate a national school, which, from all he (Mr. O'Brien) could learn, was conducted in a manner that gave the greatest satisfaction. This Gentleman, however, established another school on his own estates, and placed over it a scripture reader; and hero was the first invasion of the peace which reigned in the county of Monaghan. His tenant, John Byrne, was afflicted with a family of nine children, and Colonel Lewis made it a sine qua non that the children of this man, who was a Roman Catholic, should be sent for instruction— and religious instruction—to that school, from which he had excluded not only the Roman Catholic clergyman, but the Protestant clergyman of the district. John Byrne declined to allow them to be proselytised, and refused to send them to the school, and thereupon Colonel Lewis brought an action of ejectment against him at the sessions, and succeeded in evicting him from his farm. He (Mr. P. O'Brien) had given notice of his intention to bring this subject under the attention of the House before the recent change of Government; but when that event took place he allowed the matter to rest, in hopes that Colonel Lewis would be converted to a better frame of mind by the expression of public opinion. As that was not the ease, and as it was a case of great hardship, he thought it was right that the House should have an opportunity of declaring that it would not tolerate such proceedings.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed,— That there be laid before this House, Copies of the Civil Bill Ejectment tried before James Major, esquire, Q.C., Assistant Barrister for the county of Monaghan, at Castleblaney, at the last January Quarter Sessions, wherein Colonel Lewis was plaintiff and John Byrne was defendant: And, of the Entry in the Book of the Clerk of the Peace in relation to said Ejectment, containg the names of the witnesses examined on behalf if the plaintiff and of the defendant.


said, that the transaction took place in his own immediate neighbourhood in Ireland, and having inquired into the circumstances, he could confirm in the main the statement of the hon. Member. He believed it to be a very gross and most unfortunate case of the abuse of the legal power possessed by landlords in that country. The agent of Colonel Lewis fully admitted in a court of justice that the cause of the tenant's eviction was nothing more nor less than his refusal to take his children from the national school and to send them to the school established by his landlord. If there was a country in the world where the abuse of a landlord's power was more dangerous than another, it was Ireland, and if there was one district in Ireland whore it was likely to lead to more serious consequences than another, that was the district where this transaction took place. Indeed public meetings had already taken place and a good deal of excitement prevailed in the neighbourhood on this matter. The only way to remedy such abuses was to bring public opinion to bear upon them; and he trusted that one effect of this discussion would be to make landlords in Ireland exercise their rights in a more fair and temperate spirit.


said, he thought a great deal had been made of a very short and simple case, and he was glad that the subject had been brought forward in that House, where it could be discussed with- out that excitement to which the last speaker had alluded as existing in Ireland. The simple question was whether a gentleman, who provided gratuitously the means of education for the children of his tenantry was to be coerced by a mob headed by a Roman Catholic priest, and prevented disposing of his property as he liked. Colonel Lewis had built three schools on his estates; he maintained them entirely at his own expense; and, to avoid any appearance of undue influence upon the children of the peasantry, he refused to place them either under the Church Education Society or the National Board; and they remained entirely under his own control and supervision. With respect to the particular school now in question Colonel Lewis was invited by his tenants to build it, they offering, as in other cases, to assist by drawing materials. He agreed, and when the day came for opening the school Colonel Lewis was present, and was met, not by his own tenantry, but by a mob collected for the purpose of intimidating him, and headed, as he had already said, by a Roman Catholic clergyman— this "injured innocence," John Byrne, who had been made the stalking-horse, for the collection of money in all parts of Ireland, forming one of the party. The mob asked Colonel Lewis if he would put the school under the National Board, and he declared that he would not. Then this innocent man said, "Well, you may take your land; I will not live under you as tenant another day." As a matter of course the patriot was loudly cheered by the crowd; but afterwards, when he found that Colonel Lewis was not to be bullied, and began to think that be had done a very foolish thing, he changed his mind and wished to remain. But Colonel Lewis, having been defied before the world, thought it advisable to take him at his word; he therefore served him with a notice to quit his holding, not considering that he was a fit tenant to remain on the estates. An ejectment was brought and in due course was brought to a close, and the man was removed from his farm. He had no one to blame but himself for what had happened, unless it could be said that a tenant was to browbeat and injure his landlord, and set a bad example to all the other tenants.


said, that Colonel Lewis was in court when the declaration was made, but although challenged to give evidence he did not come forward to do so. At the trial of the appeal the J udge said that it was too late for him to make any explanation.


stated, that no practical result would follow the production of these papers.


said, that he did not press for them.

Motion by leave withdrawn,