HC Deb 30 March 1860 vol 157 cc1620-32

said, he rose to draw the attention of the House to the recent appointment of Mr. Lyle, at present Receiver-Master of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, to the dignity of Lord Lieutenant of the county of Londonderry, and to the circumstances under which such appointment was made. He believed that it would be admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that no gentleman had held that office so long as he had done with less opposition from the body of Irish representatives. Having been in office himself, and having suffered from an unscrupulous opposition, he should be very unwilling to make an un- fair attack upon any one so courteous as the right hon. Gentleman had always shown himself to be; but the matter to which he was about to call attention was one which he thought the House would be of opinion ought to receive a satisfactory explanation. Within the last fortnight the death of a very old and respected Member of that House, Sir R. Ferguson, had created a vacancy in the representation of the city of Londonderry and in the Lieutenancy of that city and county. The Lieutenant of an Irish county—which office was created in the early part of the Feign of William the Fourth by Earl Grey and Lord Melbourne, with the assent of the Duke of Wellington—commanded the Militia, appointed its colonels and other officers, was the custos rotulo-rum of the county, nominated the clerk of the peace, and, being supposed to be the man of most eminent station in the county, he recommended to the Lord Chancellor such of the gentry as he thought ought to be made magistrates. The Chancellor was not disposed to act without his recommendation, and therefore he acted as a check upon that high officer to prevent his appointing unfit persons. In fact, he was the first man in the county. Shortly after the office was created, a Member of that House complained of the appointment of Lord Dun-cannon to be Lord Lieutenant of his county, on the ground that he held an inconsistent office, he being at the time First Commissioner of Works. In the debate upon the subject Mr. Stanley, defending the Ministry, said:— The rule laid down for the selection of Lords-lieutenant was to appoint the most respectable persons, whether noblemen or gentlemen, connected with the county by fortune and respectability. The object of the Government in bringing in the Bill had been to appoint persons residing in or contiguous to the counties, who, by their influence with the particular district, and by their residence, would be better able to attend to the interest of Ireland. It was certainly said that the preference should be given to peers, because they wished to select persons of the highest rank, that there might bean avoidance of jealousies, which would have been created if commoners were appointed when there were so many in one county of equal rank. The contest for Londonderry city was proceeding that day. He did not blame the Government for wishing to preserve the seat for the maiden and unconquered city; nor did he indulge in the political prudery of supposing that they would not exercise any legitimate influence they possessed in support of their Friend. The other night the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs warned them not to place implicit reliance upon telegrams, and when he received by that means an announcement that a gentleman whom he left at his desk in an office of the Court of Chancery in Dublin, busy settling the accounts of the receivers, looking after defaulting tenants, and seeing that balances were lodged in court, had been pitchforked into the Lord Lieutenantcy of the county of Londonderry, he said to himself that he would not believe it, and would put no question upon the subject until he was better informed. On the following day, however, he looked into a Dublin newspaper, and there he saw a paragraph stating that "the newly appointed Lord Lieutenant of Londonderry, Mr. Lyle, his son and son-in-law, had left town en route for Derry, where it was said the new Lieutenant would use all his influence in support of Mr. Greer, the tenant-right candidate, in the contest then going on." This made him think the matter more probable, and soon afterwards he received a letter, from a gentleman in Londonderry, stating that Mr. Lyle had walked into the grand jury room and announced to the gentlemen present that he was the Lord Lieutenant of the county, an announcement which, as his letter stated, "they received in solemn silence." Now, the Receiver-Master was bound by law to be in his office so many hours every day, though, no doubt, in an Easter vacation he might be at liberty to assist at an election; but surely, if objection could be taken to the appointment of Lord Duncannon, it must apply still more forcibly to that of an official of the Court of Chancery who was withdrawn from his duties to be manufactured into a Lieutenant of a county. He objected to it especially if it were done at the present moment in order that the influence of the Lieutenant of a county and city should be thrown into the scale in support of a candidate at a closely contested election, whom the Government were disposed to favour. One of the duties of the Lieutenant of a county was to recommend magistrates to the Lord Chancellor and to act as a chock upon his appointment of them. How could such functions be exercised by a person whose very office it was to execute the orders of the Lord Chancellor? This question he put to himself, and having no one to reply to it he answered it himself—"He is going to retire." If there was an election to be carried, the Government, despite the defaulting Exchequer, would not stick at trifles, and he therefore ventured to think that Mr. Lyle would get his retiring pension of £2,500, the amount of his salary. He had no doubt that Mr. Lyle was entitled to his full pension, as when he ceased to be Remembrancer and was transferred to the Court of Chancery, it was fairly arranged that his time as Remembrancer should be reckoned in his services in the Court of Chancery. He would not grudge him his pension, nor any mark of personal respect that could be paid to a useful, diligent and punctual servant of the Crown. But what was to become of his office in the Court of Chancery? That was a very nice point. The House ought to be informed that whenever a Gentleman contested a county or a city in Ireland, and was defeated, it was necessary to soothe his wounded feelings with a lucrative place. The Earl of Carlisle had been more patriotic and benevolent in that respect than most of his predecessors. The Gentleman who contested the county of Dublin in the Whig interest at the last election was now a Commissioner of something or other, it was immaterial what,—gaols or lunatics, it was all the same. The son of the Lord Chancellor contested the city of Dublin and was defeated; by a like equity he must be provided for. However, there was some difficulty as to whether the Chancellor could make his son Receiver-Master in his own court, but parental feelings were universally respected and the rumour was that an excellent Gentleman, and a friend of Lord Carlisle, the Commissioner of the Bankruptcy Court, was to be transferred to the office of Receiver-Master in the Court of Chancery, and the Chancellor's son was to be appointed to the vacant Commissionership. Then they had—what? A Lord Lieutenant, who was Receiver-Master of the Court of Chancery, or if not, who was the pensioner of the Crown, the Crown paying the salary of that Gentleman, and that also of the hon. and learned Gentleman to be appointed. Who was that Gentleman? He was informed it would not be the son of the Chancellor, but Mr. Berwick, who was to be transferred to that office from the Bankrupt Court, so that the Gentleman who had contested the city of Dublin might be suitably provided with a place. Did the Chief Secretary expect to govern Ireland upon such principles? When the office of Lieutenant was created in Ireland, it was objected to on the ground that the Lord Lieutenant of a county might interfere in elections. The answer was, that peers would generally be appointed, and that, as it was a breach of privilege for peers to interfere in elections, the apprehended danger would not arise. What had taken place in the present case? It was stated that no sooner had Mr. Lyle received his appointment than he proceeded straight to Londonderry, where a hot contest was raging, and gave his support to Mr. Greer, a gentleman who advocated those tenant-right views which had met with no sympathy in the House of Commons, but whose vote might always be depended upon by Ministers. Hitherto none but noblemen and gentlemen of influence in their respective counties had been appointed to the office of Lord Lieutenant. Was the Chief Secretary authorized to state that, unless Mr Lyle had been Receiver-Master, and had held opinions similar to those of the Earl of Carlisle, he would ever have been made Lieutenant of Londonderry? The appointment was one of which the Chief Secretary might not have heard, yet he was responsible for it. The law officers of the Crown were not consulted upon such occasions. Why had the Earl of Carlisle passed over the Marquess of Waterford, Lord Garvagh, Sir Harvey Bruce, Mr. M'Causland, and many other gentlemen owning large estates in the county of Londonderry? Mr. Lyle was a younger son of a respectable family in Londonderry, a member of the bar, and a gentlemen who had long discharged the duties of a public office in an exemplary manner; but the gentry of Ireland had to ask themselves whether the place of Lord Lieutenant of a county was properly filled at the moment of a contested election either by an actual Receiver-Master in the Court of Chancery, or by a pensioned officer of the Crown. Such an appointment was utterly unjustifiable; it was unprecedented, and it was contrary to all principle. Mr. Lyle had a model farm in Londonderry, the best cultivated in the county, on which, in his leisure moments, he had certainly spent some time and money; but he did not possess a considerable estate in the county, such as would justify his appointment to an office of so much importance. Why had he been made Lord Lieutenant, in the middle of a contested election, by a clique in Dublin, headed by the Earl of Carlisle, in preference, not only to the noblemen and gentlemen whose names he had already mentioned to the House, but to the two Members for the county, one a relative of a distinguished statesman, and the other the descendant of a chief magistrate of the metropolis? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that they ought to apply rules framed on the highest standard of morality to elections. How could he reconcile his principle with the practice of the Government, who had made an appointment such as never was made before, and which he was quite certain, if that House did its duty, would never be made again.


said, he desired, in the first place, to return his acknowledgments for that part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech in which he claimed for himself, and those who acted with him, the credit of having shown towards himself (Mr. Cardwell), since he had the honour of filling his present office, every possible courtesy and consideration. He acknowledged that fact thankfully; and he also acknowledged that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had the most perfect right to hold him responsible for every act of the Irish Government. Having made those acknowledgments, he would proceed to state what he understood to be the charge brought against him. As he understood the charge, it was that of having sought to put into the Lord-lieutenancy of a county a political partisan at the moment when a contested election was going on, and of contriving, at the same time, to provide for a relation of the Lord Chancellor. He would answer the two charges clearly, simply, and categorically; but before doing so, he would beg to state precisely what had been the case with regard to the vacant Lord-lieutenancy of the county of Londonderry. The first he had heard of it was an expression from his noble friend, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, of the extreme pain and regret with which he received the announcement of the vacancy created by the lamented death of Sir Robert Ferguson. He could assure the House that his noble Friend exercised the utmost care in the selection of a successor to the office left vacant by the death of that gentleman. The property of the county of Londonderry was largely held by great Companies in London. Upon the list of the deputy-lieutenants of the county there were the names of only two peers, one who had property in the county, but did not reside there; and the other, who did reside there, but upon property the succession to which had not yet fallen in, and which was not yet his own. There were no other names of Peers on the list. Among the commoners of the county his noble Friend, therefore, had proceeded to make the selection which the law vested in him, and for the exercise of which he was responsible. He selected a gentleman who he (Mr. Cardwell) believed would be acknowledged by every one who knew him to be a man of the most unblemished character. His (Mr. Cardwell's) understanding with regard to Mr. Lyle's property did not conform with that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He believed that he was a gentleman of considerable landed property, highly respected in the county of Londonderry, residing in the county, and taking a great interest in its affairs. With regard to the statement that this was done from a wish to create a vacancy, his noble Friend (the Earl of Carlisle) was in communication with Mr. Lyle some months before, that gentleman being then extremely desirous to resign his office, with the intention of going to reside in the county of Londonderry. He was persuaded to retain his office for a short period. This occurred some time before the death of Sir Robert Ferguson. Mr. Lyle, as he before said, consented to remain; stating, however, at the same time, the period for which he would continue in office. At the termination of a few months it was fixed that he should retire, and it was, therefore, as a gentleman, who had previously avowed his determination to reside upon his estate in Londonderry, that his noble Friends elected him to fill the position of Lord Lieutenant for the county. With regard to Mr. Lyle's interference in the election, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) himself referred to the well-known fact that many distinguished Members of that House had themselves filled the high office of Lord Lieutenant; and he (Mr. Cardwell) was not aware that it was any reflection upon the Lord Lieutenant of the county, if he should exercise in the ordinary manner, and without any circumstances which could be alleged against him as a charge, the ordinary political functions of a voter in the county. The House might imagine, from what had been said, that a keenly-contested election was going on between a warm supporter and a strenuous opponent of the Government. Now, if he were correctly informed, Mr. M'Cormick's opinions would not be found to correspond with those of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had not had an opportunity of referring to Ireland, but he believed that Mr. M'Cormick and Mr Greer had expressed the same political opinions. It therefore appeared that, so far from there being a desire to create a vacancy, there had been a desire to prevent a vacancy. With regard to the way in which that vacancy had been filled, the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) seemed to have had much freer access to the intended appointments of his noble Friend, for which he (Mr. Cardwell) was also responsible, than he could pretend to have, if he (Mr. Whiteside) could vouch for the statements which he had given to the House. All he (Mr. Cardwell) could say was, that no intimation had reached him, either from his noble Friend or from the Lord Chancellor, that there was the slightest wish of any advance of either of the two gentlemen to whom the right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred. He (Mr. Cardwell) could only conceive, therefore, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been indebted to mere rumours, which the imagination of some persons, not acquainted with the subject, had occasioned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said he rose to put to him a direct question—which was, would Mr. Lyle have been appointed to this office if he had not been Receiver General in the Court of Chancery? He (Mr. Cardwell) could answer that question most completely. Mr. Lyle was the choice of his noble Friend, on the grounds to which he had referred, and the only difficulty which occurred to his noble Friend was, whether the continuance of his holding that office for the short period to which he had referred was or was not a difficulty which ought to have prevented that appointment. Considering, however, that the period was both brief and fixed, his noble Friend regarded it as not a sufficient objection, and made the appointment. Now that he had answered the question put to him by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he would make a short reply to the statement so courteously introduced by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hennessy). The hon. Gentleman was not quite so well informed on the state of the subject as he supposed himself. With regard to Irish business, experience showed that at the end of a Session they were very much encumbered with Irish business, and Bills frequently brought in were dropped at the close of the Session. He (Mr. Cardwell) regretted that such should be the case, but the hon. Gentleman should remember, that when he referred to former Sessions he could not say that those who, at the present moment, were responsible for the conduct of Irish affairs, were responsible for anything which occurred in former Sessions. If it had been possible to have introduced Irish business early in the present Session, it would have been of the greatest satisfaction to him but he was sure the judgment of the House would be, that it would have been highly inconvenient and impossible to introduce measures about which there was any contest, until the more pressing public business of the country had been disposed of. When the hon. Gentleman said that he (Mr. Cardwell) had not brought in any Bill on the subject of education in Ireland, and put a question as to whether he intended to bring in a Bill upon the subject, he answered him that no Bill was required to carry out any change. It was only within a week that he received the rejoinder of the Roman Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland to the communication addressed by the Government, and it was quite obvious, as he had stated before, that when he introduced the Estimates was the proper time to make a statement upon the subject. With regard to the poor law in Ireland, the Poor-law Amendment Bill was introduced last night, and would be shortly in the hands of hon. Members. As to the question of poor-law removal, his right hon. Friend the President of the Poor-law Board, on a former occasion, had fully laid before the House the state of that question. With regard to the registration of births, marriages, and deaths, he (Mr. Cardwell) had, very early in the Session, announced his intention of bringing in a Bill on that subject, and he was only prevented from introducing that measure for the want of an opportunity. All he could say was, that as soon as it was the pleasure of the House to proceed with the Irish business, it would be of the greatest possible convenience and satisfaction to himself.


said, I should not have addressed the House on the present occasion had I not been personally alluded to in the course of the debate, and was it not for the fact that, amongst the reasons assigned by the Press to the public for the appointment of the new Lord Lieutenant of the county of Londonderry is the following, namely,— That there is not one nobleman or gentleman of sufficient position and character in that county to qualify him to fill the high and responsible office of Lord lieutenant. I do not mean to state, Sir, that this was the motive that actuated the Government, but I must say that the appointment of a gentleman, however respectable, holding a high legal situation in the Irish Court of Chancery, and therefore almost constantly resident in Dublin, would naturally lead to the supposition that there was no one else in the county qualified for the post. This is an imputation, Sir, that on behalf of those noblemen and gentlemen, I indignantly repudiate. It is true, as has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, that a large part of the county I have the honour to represent is the property of the London Companies, who from their constitution, although in general represented by excellent agents, are, and must be, in the position of absentee landlords, and unable to fill any public situation. Still, Sir, all who are acquainted with the County Derry know perfectly well that there are many most respectable noblemen and gentlemen of large property in the county— many of them constantly resident—who are of the class, both by position and character, usually selected for offices of the nature in question. I do not make these remarks, Sir, with the least intention of saying one word against Mr. Acheson Lyle. On the contrary, from what I have the pleasure of knowing of that gentleman, I believe him to be both a highly honourable man and one who, by his good sense and business habits, is well fitted to transact the business of any situation in which he may be placed. But, Sir, I am afraid that the real reason of the appointment is not avowed by the Government, and that political considerations are the chief things considered. In this view, Sir, the nobility and gentry of the county, with hardly an exception, undoubtedly do possess the disqualification which it is impossible they can surmount—it is, Sir, that they have not the happiness in general, to take that sanguine and complacent view of the merits of the present Government that, I suppose, they ought to do. I should have thought, Sir, that if it was desirable that magistrates should be appointed, irrespective of political considera- tions, it was equally important that he who has the nomination of those magistrates should also be selected without regard to party, or to the political opinions he may happen to hold. Before sitting down, I must correct the statement of the Secretary for Ireland, that the three candidates for the representation of the City of Derry hold the same political sentiments. I believe it will be found that Mr. M'Cormick, if elected, will undoubtedly take his seat on the Opposition benches. I should not have said a word on this subject had I not felt that the gentry of the County Derry had been unjustly attacked; and I will close my observations by adding my humble tribute of respect and regret for the loss of the late Sir Robert Ferguson, so highly esteemed as a Member of this House, and who discharged the duties of Lieutenant of the County Derry for so many years, by universal consent, with impartiality and justice.


said, the House was indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), for having called their attention to the subject of the appointment of a Lord Lieutenant for the county of Londonderry, because he (Lord Fermoy) thought they ought to settle the question upon what principle were appointments to be made in future to those high offices. He meant to say nothing against Mr. Lyle, for he knew nothing about him, but he was willing to believe that he was a most excellent officer in the Court of Chancery, and had served his country usefully. That might be a reason for allowing him to retire upon full pay, if he chose, but it was no reason for appointing him to an office in a county, the due fulfilment of which required two things— namely, the respect of all parties in the county, and a thorough local knowledge of that county. If Mr. Lyle, however, had honestly and carefully discharged his duties in the Court of Chancery in Dublin, it was perfectly impossible he could have acquired a thorough knowledge of a distant county. Even if that Gentleman did now possess a large property in the county, he had been absent from it for the greater portion of his life, and therefore could not possess the local knowledge to fit him for the office of Lord Lieutenant. He was prepared to go the length of saying that where two men highly qualified by rank and a knowledge of the district presented themselves for the office of Lord Lieute- nant, and one agreed with the Government in political opinions and the other did not, they might appoint the man who agreed with them. Further than that they should not allow political opinions to enter as an ingredient into the question as to who should be appointed a Lord-lieutenant of a county. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had asked whether Ireland was to be governed upon that principle, but he (Lord Fermoy) wished to ask upon what principle was Ireland to be governed. They must recollect the position of affairs in Ireland at the present moment. In that country they had a large body of men representing the Ultramontane Catholic party, whose confidence the Government did not nor ever would possess. [Mr. BOWYER: Hear, Hear!] Therefore, in order to manage affairs in that country, the Government must possess the confidence of the moderate Catholics and the Protestants; but the policy that had been pursued was not at all calculated to secure that confidence. What measures relating to Ireland had been proposed? After the application of the screw Parliamentary, two Bills had been introduced, but had not progressed further than a first reading. But surely if they held out to the people of Ireland the idea that they were going to legislate for their benefit, they were bound to carry that intention into effect. He asked what had become of the Endowed Schools Bill? A Commission which sat on the subject of education had shown to them that the endowed school system in Ireland was a monstrous job. They had £80,000 a year which was misapplied, and still the Government had not attempted to deal with this question. He believed, however, the late Government, before they left office, had showed a disposition to deal with this question. Another question of great social importance to Ireland was the Fairs and Markets Bill, which had not been dealt with. True, the Government had brought in a Reform Bill; but a measure which had received less approval from the Irish people, he believed, never was brought into the House. He had endeavoured to induce the Government to grapple with the question of the Ecclesiastical Courts, which in England as well as in Ireland, was a monstrous nuisance. They impeded the whole administration of justice in Ireland. [Cries of "Question."] That was the question. It was disagreeable to many hon. Mem- bers in that House to hear subjects of that nature discussed, but they must excuse him if he told them that while they were neglecting all those material interests in Ireland, the country was slipping from them; there was no public opinion in their favour, and they should recollect they had laid down this principle in dealing with other countries, that dynasties might be abolished and dependencies might be set free by universal suffrage. The day might come when this country would want the support of the independent Catholic and Protestant party in Ireland, and the only way to obtain that support was by applying those useful measures of social legislation to Ireland. If they did not do that, public opinion in Ireland would desert them, and a Minister of some foreign country would be sending them a well-written despatch, calling upon them to appeal to universal vote in Ireland. He feared very much, when that day arrived, men like himself who had an interest in the country, and wished to see Ireland governed upon moderate, fair, and reasonable principles, would find themselves deserted by the country, and the decision of the whole people of Ireland would be against connection with England.