HC Deb 05 July 1861 vol 164 cc413-36

Order for Committee read.

Motion made and Question proposed. That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair.


rose to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the recent evictions at Partry, and into the expediency of devising some means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes. The hon. and learned Gentleman said he was aware that the subject of these evictions had been recently much considered by the House, and he apprehended that the felling which generally prevailed was that it was not desirable for the House to inquire into the way in which a landlord exercised the rights conferred upon him by the common law. But he should remind the House that there were special Acts passed in favour of the landlords in Ireland. Those Acts, however, were passed upon an implied understanding that the landlords would not abuse the powers which were thereby conferred on them. There was no necessity for such Acts in this country, inasmuch as English landlords never committed such outrages upon their tenantry as had been recently perpetrated in Ireland. If Parliament thought it necessary, at one time to grant these extraordinary powers, he apprehended that, upon its being shown they had been abused, it was competent for Parliament to modify or withdraw them. It was also understood, when those statutes were passed, that they were such as would be carried into effect by the civil power; while, in fact, to such an extent had those powers been put in force, that the ordinary civil power was found unequal to the execution of them; and, consequently, the aid of an armed police and a military force was required to protect those engaged in them. He submitted that it was a fit subject of inquiry whether it was the duty of the Government to lend the assistance of the armed force to support such cruel and extraordinary proceedings. He admitted the right of the landlord to evict his tenants under certain circumstances; but he denied the right of those armed authorities, after they had seen the landlord placed in possession, to assist in the levelling an destruction of the tenants' houses. With the exception of the Church question no great practical grievance was left in Ireland, except the state of the law which permitted such wholesale evictions being carried out as those of which the House had heard so much of late years. To such an extent had these wholesale evictions been carried, superadded to the effect of bad government, that coercive Acts were the order of the day, and the Volunteer movement was not allowed to operate in Ireland. The county of Galway was, comparatively speaking, in a very quiet state until the Bishop of tuam, Lord Plunket, a Member of the House of Lords, about five years ago purchased property in a portion of that county. He (Mr. M'Mahon) regretted being obliged to make a complaint against the son of a man to whom every Roman Catholic must ever feel grateful. The Lord Bishop of Tuam, soon after obtaining possession of his Partry estate, established proselytizing schools for the purpose of educating the children of his tanants in the Protestant religion. The rector of the parish, the Rev. Mr. Townsend, a mis- sionary connected with the Church Missionary Society, gave every assistance to the Bishop of Tuam to carry out his views. This rev. gentleman was examined as a witness in Galwy about two years ago in the case of a trial for lible on the Rev. Mr. Lavelle, the priest of the parish; and he swore upon his oath that he believed a Catholic priest to be the minister of Antichrist, and that he sent a challenge to the Rev. Mr. Lavelle to meet him in a controversial discussion. Dr. Townsend, with the Scripture readers and the bailiffs and agents of his Lordship's estates, want among the tenants and requested that the children might be sent to the school. There were printed rules with regard to the management of the estates; and the sixth stated that it was Lord Plunket's carnest desire that all the tenants should send their children to the school; but, it was added, his Lordship would not compel the observance of this rule by any person entertaining conscientious objections to doing so [derisive cheers.] He hoped that cheer would reach Lord Plunket. But, whatever might be Lord Plunket's intention, his conduct had led his tenants to the opinion that the "earnest desire" was to be enforced on pain of eviction. All the tenants who sent their children to the school were left on their farms; with only three exceptions, every tenant who did not send them was evicted. But there was a seventh rule, which stated that previous to the 1st of May in each year a notice to quit would be served on the tenants throughout the estate, the reason urged being to prevent a recurrence of the delay which had attended a refusal of the tenants to give up possession on demand by the agent when it was desirable to "strike the land." Now, was ever such a thing heard of in the world? Another rule required the tenants to adopt a proper course of husbandry in the cultivation of the land. If the proceedings of Lord Plunket had been in conformity with human principles, the noble Lord might have enforced his rights by means of the ordinary civil power, without the aid of a body of troops and armed police; but on that occasion a body of troops and 150 of the police were sent down to Partry to give the sheriff possession, and they stood by while the houses of twelve families were levelled to the ground, and the old, young, and helpless were left without shelter. Every one who had been so unfortunate as not to send his children to the proselytizing school was turned out.

Since November there had been evictions on a smaller scale. Two families only had been turned out, and one of he persons evicted was a man who had sent his children to the proselytizing school, but who subsequently withdrew them. The result was that he and they were turned out but not for refusing to "strike" the land. Lord Plunket, not choosing to justify himself by declaring that every man had a right to do what he liked with his own, had given reasons for his conduct, and one reason was that some of these tenants had burnt their land contrary to the rules of the estate. This burning of the land was one of the best things to produce fertility, and it had always been done before, but it so happened that those persons, or some of them at least, who had to sent their children to the proselytizing school had burnt their land. Other reasons were given for the evictions, but it was a curious fact that all who had not sent their children to the school were turned out; and that several who had refused to "strike," but who had sent their children to the school, were never evicted. He supposed that it would be alleged by some hon. Member that the Ribbon conspiracy had something to do with this matter, but it appeared to him that this Ribbon conspiracy was a sort of myth, which was always brought forward whenever it was desired to justify some oppressive proceeding on the part of a landlord. He trusted that the House would be of opinion that he had laid a basis for his proposal for a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances of these evictions, and also into the expediency of devising means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes as had been witnessed at Partry. He thought that he had now laid a basis for such an inquiry as he desired. As he should not have an opportunity of again addressing the House he must announce that it was his intention to go to a division. The hon. and learned Member then moved— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the recent evictions at Partry and into the expediency of devising some means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the recent evictions at Partry, and into the expediency of devising some means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes,'

—instead thereof.


said, it was the earnest desire of the right rev. Prelate (Lord Plunket) to have the case fully investigated, and he (Mr. Lefroy) would himself have seconded the Motion but for the objectionable practice which appeared to be springing up of demanding Committees of that House to investigate the management of private estates, the effect of which could only be to create ill will between landlord and tenant. He was, nevertheless, rejoiced that the matter had been brought before the House, because they would now have the opportunity of judging on what utterly groundless charges an excellent Irish landlord had been held up to reprobation. He regretted that the hon. and learned Member for Wexford should have joined with those whom he must call clerical agitators in bringing such a charge forward; he should have remembered that the right rev. Prelate was the son of a great and distinguished man who had devoted the whole of a long life to advancing the cause of his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and not thus ungratefully avail himself of the position he held in that House, partly through the efforts of that noble and learned Lord—to calumniate his son. One would have supposed from the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman that the evictions from this estate had been numerous and indiscriminate, that fifty or sixty families at the least had been evicted. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, moreover— That the notices to quit had been served to an enormous extent; and that the persons who had been evicted had been turned out because they refused to send their children to a Protestant school. The hon. and learned Member, however, forgot to state that the notices were served upon tenants who were many years in arrear; that all the notices had been withdrawn except twelve, and that the twelve persons against who they had been put in force had all been directly or indirectly concerned in violations of the law. He (Mr. Lefroy) was prepared to detail the particular crimes for which ever one of the evicted persons had been convicted; they had acted in persevering and litigious opposition to the rules of the estate; and others were not tenants, but had located themselves upon the property without permission. He would read to the House a list of the individual offences of the evicted persons— Martin Lally—The father 'burned' his land, contrary to law and the rules of the estate; one son returned by coroner's jury as accessory to the murder of Lord Plunket's ploughman, a second convicted of 'brutal assault.' Edward Joyce—Tried for perjury; eleven jurors for his conviction. James Henaghan—charged with 'assault,' and pleaded guilty. Patrick Murray—The son convicted and imprisoned for 'brutal assault.' Michael Cavanagh—His son-in-law, engaged in 'riotous assault;' the father-in-law offered holding elsewhere. John Boyle—'Burned' his land, took defence, and vexatiously summoned Lord Plunket to appear as witness. Patrick Lally—Ditto. Mary Lally—Ditto. Thomas Lally—Ditto. Michael Henaghan—Ditto. Sally Lally—Squatter. Margaret Duffy—Ditto.' Such was the character of the persons turned out of possession of their land because it was said by the hon. Gentleman "they did not send their children to Lord Plunket's school." The House could see what was the general state of insubordination in the district from the proceedings at a meeting of the Mayo magistrates in February, 1859, and presided over by the High Sheriff of the county. At that meeting the following Resolution was unanimously agreed to:— That we consider it our duty as magistrates, and resident proprietors in this district, to represent to his Excellency the Lord Licutenant the disturbed state of the district comprising the parish of Ballyovey, situate in the Barony of Carra, and county Mayo, and the townlands of Churchfield Lower and Churchfield Upper, situate in the baronyof Ross, and county of Galway. We are of opinion that sufficient protection is not given at present by the Government to the peaceable and unoffending inhabitants of that district For some time back there have been many outrages perpetrated therein. One man brutally beaten, inoffensive women assaulted, a house burned, large mobs collected to intimidate some of the people, witnesses attending sessions at Ballinrobe and Claremorris have not been able to do so except under the protection of the police. These offences have been followed by the murder of an inoffensive man. We, therefore, urgently recommend that the above-mentioned district should be proclaimed, in accordance with the provisions of the Crime and Outrage Act, and that his Excellency will be pleased to take such other steps as he may think desirable for the protection of the peaceable and well-disposed inhbitants of that district. It had been urged that the conduct of the priests on these occasions had been meek and mild; but he (Mr. Lefroy) Would quote a specimen of the language employed by the priest of the district, Father Lavelle. That individual concluded a letter of denunciation in these words— You may draw the sword in aggression against the 'poor,' but the 'poor' are determined to a man to meet you. Let the 'notice to quit,' and the 'ejectment process,' and the 'sheriff,' and the 'crowbar'—let all come—there shall we remain to meet them, with the same stern courage as did the Ghebers their Moslem foe in a less holy cause; and when all this is dine the beginning has not yet arrived. The right rev. Prelate having heard that it was the intention of the Bishop of Orleans to preach a sermon, in the course of which he was to charge him with having evicted from his estate a number of Roman Catholic tenants, in consequence of an alleged refusal on their parts to send their children to a Protestant school, wrote a letter to Lord Cowley, our Ambassador at Paris, to this effect— The facts of the case are simply these:— During the past year I have been compelled to evict from my estate twelve persons with their families; some of these were tenants who had been directly or indirectly concerned in serious violations of the law of the hand. Some were tenants who had acted in persevering and litigious opposition to the rules of the estate; others were not tenants, but had located themselves upon the property without permission. To have retained such persons upon my estate, after the continued and systematic provocation to which I have been subjected, would have only encouraged a spirit of general insubordination and lawlessness; and, therefore, in justice to myself, to my peaceabley-disposed tenants, and to my neighbours, I felt reluctantly compelled to remove these tenants from my property. Such were my only reasons for evicting them; and to state that I evicted them, or that I ever evicted any tenants, for refusing to send their children to a Protestant school, is to assert that which is absolutely untrue. I am aware that a number of most specious misrepesentations have been industriously circulated in reference to this matter. Your Lordship will be, doubtless, surprised to hear that even falsified reports of the very evidence which I have given upon oath in open court have been furnished to the press, and words which I have never uttered have been published, and quoted as mine, with a view to convict me of prevarication and falsehood. I shall now beg to call the attention of the House to the two following facts, which are open to investigation. At present there are 179 Roman Catholic tenants on Lord Plunket's estate, none of whom send their children to a Protestant school; and at the time when his Lordship first acquainted the twelve families with his intention of evicting them, he could not have been influenced by any refusal upon their parts to send their children to his schools, for there was not, a it happened, amongst them all at that time, with perhaps one exception, a child of an age suitable for attendance at school. With respect to the rev. Gentlemen from whom the hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Mr. M'Mahon) had obtained much of his information. He (Mr. Lefroy) much infrom the House, and he did so with much regret, that the Rev. Mr. Lavelle was obliged to leave Paris for misconduct of some sort; when he came to this side of the Channel, thinking, perhaps, that he might take greater liberties. The rev. gentleman attended a meeting in the round room of the Rotunda in Dublin, upon which occasion the Rev. Mr. Anderdon, formerly a Protestant clergyman, now a Roman Catholic priest, gave a reading of his translation of the sermon then lately preached in Paris by M. Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans. The proceeds of this meeting, it was stated, were, as in the case of the French bishop's sermon, to be applied to the relief of the "victims" of Partry, and of "similar cases of unmerited distress." What were the real motives which underlay this system of tenant commiseration and landlord denunciation might be gathered from the concluding proceedings of the meeting. On that occasion Mr. Kavanagh, of the Catholic University, moved a vote of thanks to the Rev. Mr. Anderdon, and the Rev. Patrick Lavelle seconded the Motion, and concluded, in the words of the report, in these terms— We are all Nationalists. [Great cheering.] We have all one end in view—the liberation of our dear, suffering, bleeding country. [Tremendous cheering, and waving of hats.] Do you know my creed at this moment? I know I am looked upon by the magnates of the land, and by the powers that be, as a firebrand. [Hear, hear, and laughter.] Well, I proclaim this:— give me Jew, Turk, Heathen—give me anything for twelve months—but send away the English tyranny. [Loud and long-continued cheering.] Such was the language in which it was sought to raise up the worst passions of the people of Ireland, and such was an instance of the meekness for the rev. gentleman on whose authority the hon. and learned Member relied. He would leave it to the House to say how far they were disposed to come to a decision adverse to Lord Plunket on such evidence. Before the House appointed a Committee as was moved for to inquire into "the expediency of devising some means to prevent the recurrence of such scenes," it should at least be ascertained that the cases which were supposed to warrant an investigation were neither doubtful nor paltry. It appeared to him upon every consideration that he had given to the subject that not a single fact had been stated to warrant the Committee which the hon. and learned Gentleman required.


said, that after the clear and complete answer which had just been given to the charges of the hon. and learned Member for Wexford, he should not have risen but that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lefroy) seemed to admit that the House had jurisdiction in these questions. On the contrary, he submitted that a greater abuse of the time of Parliament, and a greater outrage on the attention of Members, could not be perpetrated than by occupying the House with a mere question of the relations between a landlord and his tenants. In the county where he lived there had been cases of men having been put out of their holdings for acting in discharge of their political convictions, but it never entered into their head to bring their grievances before the House. But what was the charge against the right rev. Prelate? It was that he had attempted on a grand scale a system of proselytism. Why, what should he do? If the hon. Gentleman had seen Ireland as he did in 1847, when he could have taken a line and marked out the townships where famine and death and starvation extended almost precisely according to the jurisdiction and control and power of the Roman Catholic priests. ["Oh, oh!"] What should any right-minded and benevolent man then desire so much as to establish a system of proselytizm? He wondered what the rev. rector of Partry should have done, when at his ordination he recognized the religion which they not only tolerated but encouraged and paid for as "blasphemous and idolatrous." Every clergyman was called upon to preach against the "blasphemy and idolatry of Popery." He was not using his own words. Why, then, should a right rev. Prelate be attacked as for doing something wrong when he had merely endeavoured to proselytize and to win people away from a system which those who had examined it knew to be injurious, and to produce misery and all those miseries which were the natural results of its teaching? It was a first principle of that religion that no one should be at liberty to exercise his own judgment—that no one should read the books they pleased, but implicitly rely on what they were told, and thus, as it were, emasculate themselves, and render themselves incompetent to discharge the civil duties of life. Why, then, should hon. Gentlemen presume on their position in that House to make a charge against the right rev. Prelate of proselytizm, when he had endeavoured to reclaim his tenants, not for the sake of religion merely, but for the sake of civil society, for the sake of the welfare and material interest of the country, from such a system of religion as that? ["Question."] It was the question. If hon. Members wished let them discuss the matter as it was discussed in 1688, when it was declared that the first principle of the Constitution should be Protestantism, and that Romanism, the effects of which they had then experienced more recently than now, should by all possible and tolerant means be discouraged. Was it, then, right that the House should be occupied for two or three hours with a discussion like that because a landlord and a Bishop had endeavoured to exercise his authority as a landlord to reclaim his tenants from the social evils of Rome?—[Laughter.]— well, was it not a social evil when these evictions could not be carried out without police and without putting the country to expense? But it was the result of the education which was given at Maynooth, as he knew full well. It was in precise conformity with the doctrines and principles there taught that the law could not be carried out without the assistance of the police and military. Should the hon. Gentleman go to a division, he (Mr. Whalley) should go with him, in order, if possible, that they might have some principle laid down as to whether the time of the House should be occupied in discussing the relations between landlords and tenants, and especially to see whether it was not the duty of every man in the country, to the extent of his ability, to proselytize and to maintain and extend that Protestantism which was recognized as part of the Constitution.


Sir, I do not intend to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken into the horrors of the social evil, or the iniquities of the Scarlet Lady, in dismissing which rather complicated question the hon. Gentleman has not only confounded himself, but utterly bewildered the House. Neither shall I attempt to follow him through the maze of his mental vagaries, which would not be a very useful or profitable pursuit. I assume that the hon. Gentleman had forgotten part of the famous Maynooth harangue, which was to have astonished the House and the country, and pluverized the College, if not demolished Popery in Ireland; and that he has, therefore, thought it right to supplement that magnificent oration by the speech which we have just heard. I can assure that hon. Gentleman that Catholic Members have heard that great as well as that supplemental speech, not only with the most perfect satisfaction, but with a sense of pleasure which it is almost impossible to describe. The hon. Gentleman has taken upon himself to decide on the propriety of bringing questions such as the present before Parliament, and he has gone so far as to designate their introduction "an abuse and an outrage." But I put it to the hon. Member for Peterborough himself, who, if he could only get rid of his nonsense about Popery, would be a useful and, indeed, efficient Member—that is, with respect to small Bills—whether there is any other course left to a persecuted tenantry than an appeal to public opinion, through the medium of this House? Let us really see what the state of things is. We find that the vast majority of the tenants of Ireland are tenants-at-will, that they hold their farms from year to year, and that they can be removed from them at any moment by the owners of the land which they cultivate by their capital and labour. It is a fact beyond controversy that about nine-tenths of the tenants of Ireland stand in this precarious position. Now, I not only admit, but, as an Irishman, I am proud to state, that we have in Ireland numbers of landlords—Protestant landlords of Catholic tenants— who are an honour to their country, and towards whom their tenants display a feeling of clannish attachment and devotion such as cannot be exceeded in any country whatever among a class holding similar relations with the owners of the soil. For such landlords changes in the laws are unnecessary; for not only do they deal with their tenants kindly, humanely, generously, and according to the principles of justice and equity, but they act wisely and prudently by encouraging the industry and protecting the interests of those on their estate; for they well know that the more their tenants are prosperous and contented, the more certain must they be of their own prosperity and that of their estates. But unhappily, there are landlords in Ireland who entertain different notions of their duties, and who regard their tenants in a very different light; and it is against this class that protective laws are necessary— or, if changes in the law cannot be obtained, that the aid of public opinion is to be invoked. The right of the landlord is clear and unmistakeable. Where the tenant does not hold by lease, the tenant is absolutely at his mercy. If the landlaord have 100 tenants, or 1,000 tenants, on his estate, he can, at any moment, or from any motive, whether of caprice, love of gain, or desire of vangeance—clear these 100 or these 1,000 tenants from off his property. If this be so, and it is so, I ask is not the landlord endowed with the most extraordinary powers over the tenant—a power almost of life and death? Then, in case that wrong is inflicted by those who hold and exercise such powers, and that there is no redress to be had in the ordinary tribunals, what is to be done? Public opinion alone is influential in checking the undue exercise of these tremendous powers. In a court of law, save where the law has been violated, the tenant cannot be heard with much practical effect; and if the voice of oppressed and persecuted men is not be heard in this House, where, in God's name, is it to be heard? There is no Parliament in Dublin—I wish there was; and I confess, for my own part, I would gladly surrender the honour of belonging to an assembly which legislates for and concerns itself with interests that embrace so large a portion of the world — I say I would cheerfully exchange all the honour and glory of forming part of this great Assembly, for the opportunity of devoting all my energies to the improvement and happiness of that country which I love with the ardour and earnestness of one sprung from the soil. But, as there is no Parliament in Dublin, I would look upon the Irish representative as a dastard and a coward who, being a Member of this House, did not raise his voice to proclaim and denounce any wrong to which his humble countrymen had been subjected. It is true, Parliament has no power or authority to restore these unhappy victims of Lord Plunket to their holdings, and to reinstate those against whom this grievous wrong has been done; but it has the influence to check, by the expression of its opinion, the intentions of those who might be inclined to imitate so evil an example. And it is in this spirit that my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. M'Mahon) has brought forward this question. As to this case of Lord Plunket, we have abundant evidence to prove that he had acted harshly and inhumanly towards those people whom he has banished from his property. It has been established by sworn evidence, given before a Judge and jury, that this right rev. Prelate—this Bishop of a Christian Church—this gentleman of high rank and illustrious lineage—has transgressed every principle not only of Apostolic teaching, but of ordinary justice and fairness. No doubt he has acted strictly in accordance with the law of the land; but it is because he has done so that it is necessary to appeal to public opinion against the law as well as against him. The friends of Lord Plunket seek to defend their noble client by attempting to damage the Rev. Mr. Lavelle; and the hon. Member (Mr. Lefroy) stated that Mr. Lavelle had been driven out of Paris—thereby endeavouring to produce an unfavourable impression against him on that account. But the simple part of the case was this—Mr. Lavelle, being a Professor of the Irish College at Paris, had a dispute with the President of that establishment as to its internal organization; and I am authorized to state, on behalf of Mr. Lavelle, that he had the approval of the Catholic Prelates of Ireland for his conduct on the occasion. So much for that accusation. A speech attributed to Mr. Lavelle has been also quoted against him. With that speech, whether it were "incendiary" or not, I have nothing whatever to do, as I know nothing whatever respecting it. If Mr. Lavelle speaks as a freeman ought, he is entitled to every protection; and if he transgress the law, there are those who can take cognizance of his indiscretion. But the question is not as to whether Mr. Lavelle was driven from Paris or not, but whether this Bishop of a Christian Church did turn out the people or not? It is not whether Mr. Lavelle spoke a certain speech or not, but whether this Protestant Prelate exercised his enormous power as a landlord for an unworthy purpose? My hon. and learned Friend mentioned only twelve cases of evictions; but there have been twenty-eight cases; 165 people having been turned out within the last five or six years by the right rev. Prelate—all of them with the exception of a few families who had been evicted by a near relative of his. It has been asserted that these persons who were evicted had no children—no children of a sufficient age to be sent to school—no children of such an age that the proselytizers would desire to get hold of them. In justice to these proselytizing gentry, it must be admitted that they are not at all particular, and that if they cannot procure a child of eight, or ten, or fourteen years of age, an infant of two will answer their purpose—which is to make a show in their schools. If there were no children, then the charge against Lord Plunket at once falls to the ground. But were there no children? If there were no children, why the "earnest desire" that they should be sent?—why the repeated applications to their parents by the agent, the missionary parson, the bailiff, and the daughters of Lord Plunket? It is said that the people last evicted had no children. That statement is entirely unfounded. The direct opposite is the fact. When these poor people were expelled from their homes in that merciless weather, by a more merciless act, there were seen hanging about them children of all ages, who had to follow their wretched parents into desolation and misery. Over and over again the representatives of Lord Plunket called upon these Catholic parents, importuned them, besought them, threatened them — used every influence to induce them to send their children to his schools, the avowed object of whose teaching was to make them Protestants. The evidence of the Rev. Mr. Townsend is conclusive as to the object in obtaining these children. There was no disguise whatever about it. The mothers of the children were in the habit of resorting to all sorts of expedients to escape this shameful persecution. Sometimes the child was hidden behind a box, at another time under a bed, at the approach of Miss Plunket and the Scripture readers, and one child narrowly escaped suffocation in consequence. It was proved that the Rev. Mr. Townsend went to poke with his stick under the bed to discover if any juvenile recusant were there concealed. Before I give evidence—sworn evidence—upon this question of the children being sought after by Lord Plunket and his agents, I may allude to the striping of the land, which has been given as the alleged reason for these evictions. Now, what is the fact in reference to these twelve cases? With the exception of two holdings, all the rest had been striped for several years before. Here, in this single fact, is the answer to that alleged reason for demanding possession. At the trial at Galway eighteen witnesses were examined on Mr. Lavelle's side to prove this system of proselytizing by threats of extermination. Mr. Lavelle had sixty witnesses to prove to the same effect; but the Judge and jury were wearied with a trial that had extended over six days, and only the number I mentioned were examined. Lord Plunket was present, looking down from the Bench on many of the victims of his landlord cruelty; and his agents, of all kinds, were likewise present. But not one of them was able to answer the main allegations of those poor people. [The hon. Member then read extracts from the evidence of several witnesses, in corroboration of the facts he had before stated; and then proceeded]— I could multiply these facts to show that the landlord's agent, the bailiffs, the proselytizing minister, the daughters of Lord Plunket—in fine, every one who had authority or influence over the people—came to them, over and over again, to induce them, by threats as well as by persuasion, to send their children to schools which, according to the sworn admission of the Rev. Mr. Townsend, were intended, by their teaching, to make Protestants of them. What did Lord Plunket say, in reply? He said "I expressed my earnest desire that my tenants should send their children to my schools." His "earnest desire!"—the "earnest desire" of a man who had the power of life and death over these poor helpless people. Of course, charges are now trumped up against the unhappy victims of this merciless system—this system of fraud and tyranny. One of these tenants was found guilty of an assault? A Scripture-reader went one day into one of the cottages, and seeing a scapular—which is a symbol of a particular devotion—suspended from the neck of the woman of the House, he rushed at her, told her that it was an emblem of the devil, and tore it from her bosom. The woman struck him, and her son afterwards punished him for this ruffianly outrage; and I think those who hear me will agree with me when I say, in the language of a certain finding of a jury— "Served him right." We are told not to judge of Lord Plunket's motives. But the motives cannot be mistaken; they lie on the surface, and are patent to all men. Here is a grand fact—every tenant evicted was a tenant who refused to send his or her children to the proselytizing schools, while all those who yielded, and sent their children, have not been disturbed. When Mr. Lavelle came to Partry he found the Catholic chapel almost empty, and the Catholic school without children; but being a man of energy and zeal he set about remedying such a state of things, the result of which is that his chapel is crowded with pious worshippers, and that his schools are filled with children whose faith is protected against the base and dishonest artifices of the proselytizer. Hence the enmity to Mr. Lavelle—hence these evictions. Mr. Lavelle would have failed in his duty if he had not acted as he did. A Protestant clergyman, under similar circumstances, would have done the very same. It has been said that Lord Plunket had a right to preach the doctrines of his church, and endeavour to win converts to his creed. That I do not deny. On the contrary, I admit it. Let him preach on the highway if he please, provided that he does not provoke to a riot thereby. There is, however, a more suitable and a more potent way of preaching his doctrines—by the gentleness of his manner, by the beneficence of his acts, by the virtue and holiness of his life. But I hold it is contrary to the principles of justice, of liberty, and of Christianity, that Lord Plunket should wield his enormons power as a landlord against these unhappy people, not to make them converts to his creed from a sincere belief in the truth of Protestantism, but to make them liars and hypocrites, sacrificing their unfortunate offspring for some temporary gain. The whole system is one of the meanest imposture and of the most fiendish cruelty; and what I desire to elicit is some generous expression of opinion by some influential English Member against any attempt to propagate religion by such abominable and iniquitous means. The greatest misery and wretchedness are inflicted upon the humbler classes of the people of Ireland by this madness for proselytizing. I know of a striking example of it in my own county. In a certain rural parish of that county the priest and the parson lived together on terms of neighbourly kindness and Christian amity. Each respected the other, and the other's faith. In works of charity and kindness they were sure to be found associated together; and in the hour of emergency, when their people suffered from any cause, the united appeal of these two worthy ministers of the Gospel was irresistible in their behalf. In the fulness of time it pleased God to remove the worthy Protestant clergyman from his earthly labours, to the grief of the priest and his flock. The successor was a man of a different stamp, and was one of those who happened to be in connection with Exeter Hall, or one of its missionary and aggressive associations. Soon after his arrival peace fled from that once quiet parish, and hate and discord prevailed. The fruits of his zeal were visible ere long in riots on the highway, in prosecutions at petty sessions, quarter sessions, and even at the assizes; and for years this wretched locality was torn asunder by strife, malice, and hate, disgraceful to a civilized community, and degrading to the name of religion. It has been said, in vindication of Lord Plunket, that he has 175 Roman Catholic tenants still on his estate. My answer is his Lordship may not find it over convenient to eject them; for not only would such folly be sure not to pay, but he may not desire to brave public opinion farther than he ahs already done. Mr. Lavelle has been stigmatized as a "priestly agitator;" but Mr. Lavelle was bound to defend his people, and to protect their faith; and it is not because a priest is a minister of religion that he loses his rights as a citizen on that account—and, in my opinion, the clergy of Ireland would be guilty of a dereliction of duty, as citizens, if they did not appeal against laws which oppressed and demoralized their people, or if they did not seek redress for such flagrant wrongs as that which Lord Plunket has inflicted on the victims of his power. If the tenants of Ireland do pay their rent honestly, then there is a law to compel them to do so; but there should be no authority given to coerce their conscience. I yield to no man in the feeling of reverence which I entertain for the great name borne by Lord Plunket—I honour the memory of the illustrious man who made that name famous. I am proud of his glorious genius, and prouder of the still more glorious use to which it was directed; and, therefore, my regret is the deeper when I see a degenerate son of that great man practically repudiating every one of those principles which his illustrious father so eloquently proclaimed, not alone for the guidance of his own time and country, but for that of the world and posterity. Sir, I call upon this House not to be guilty of the folly, the insanity, of refusing to listen to such an appeal as is now made to it. Do not close your doors or shut your cars to the recital of wrongs such as have been described. Let no feeling of impatience or annoyance, let no considerations of momentary convenience prevent you showing that you are not indifferent to evils which inflict misery upon the poor and the helpless. This, I say, is the right place, and the only place, where an appeal against legal injustice can be made with a hope of advantage, and I beseech the House to listen to the appeal now made on behalf of a suffering and a persecuted people.


Sir, this Motion is one of considerable importance, because, unless the House interposes to check such Motions, it will find itself involved in great difficulty, and it will become what the late Mr. Drummond styled it in reference to a similar Motion, "a tremendous Inquisition." Mr. Drummond made use of this observation on the occasion of a Motion made by the hon. and learned Member for Wexford some time ago, under similar unfortunate circumstances in connection with the conduct of Mr. Pollock, who had bought a large property in Ireland, and had made some useful and permanent improvements upon his estate. The hon. and learned Member for Wexford brought that gentleman under the attention of the House, and entered into a statement in which he described the number of tenants that he had evicted and expatriated. But what turned out to be the facts of that case? The very tenants who were said to have been thus persecuted had actually signed a paper expressive of their gratitude to Mr. Pollock for his generous conduct towards them. The hon. and learned Member for Wexford, in the face of the real facts of the case, excused himself by saying, that that part of the country with which he was connected being situated at a great distance from the scene of those alleged occurrences, he was not thoroughly acquainted with the facts, and he proceeded to make the best justification he could for his unwarrantable attack upon a gentleman who was deserving of the highest commendation. Well, what difference is there between that Motion and the present one? We have heard of sixty or seventy ejectments brought by Lord Plunket against his tenantry. His tenants, however, did the same thing as the tenants of Mr. Pollock had done. They had some difference with their landlord; but they addressed their landlord in the following terms:— TO THE RIGHT HON. LORD PLUNRET. Castlebar, March, 12, 1860. We, your Lordship's tenants in this present ejectment, feel much grieved at being in a position antagonistic to your Lordship. It is not, nor ever was, our wish to interfere with your Lordship's rights on your property. We now beg to leave ourselves entirely in your Lordship's hands, and to withdraw all further defence. (Signed by all the Defendants.) Upon receiving this memorial Lord Plunket directed his counsel (Mr. Robinson) to take the opportunity of stating in Court that it was not intended to evict any of those sixty cases, with the exception of fourteen, affecting individuals who had been concerned in serious infractions of the law of the land, or of the rules of the estate. The truth is that those persons were advised not to quarrel with their landlord when they had no defence. The Bishop then offered to restore all those persons to their holdings except such as he felt he had serious charges against. I distinctly say that a more unjust and studious misapprehension of the facts cannot be made than to say that sixty or seventy families had been evicted. It appears that Lord Plunket had a very worthy man, a ploughman, in his employ. This unfortunate man, for no other offence than that he was Lord Plunket's ploughman, was shot dead at his own door. The House will judge of the nature of this circumstance by the following facts:—The family of a man named Lally was the first evicted. The Bishop I admit was inexorable as to this man—he said "Tom Lally, the son, stands at present charged with having been concerned in the murder of a poor man of the name of Harrison who had been employed by me as a ploughman." I rather think that the Crown had directed a prosecution for the murder. The evidence against the accused was that he was seen close to the spot where the murder was committed, and that on the ground was found the piece of paper which had been used in loading the gun; on it was written the name of Thomas Lally; and in a box at the head of his bed was found the sheet of paper from which it had been torn; and also in the same room the gun recently discharged. This, you will see, was rather suspicious evidence against him. I should certainly like to live out of reach of Thomas Lally's gun. The case came on for investigation; but as it could not be proved that Lally Lally had actually fired the shot, he was admitted to bail, and the case was ordered to stand over until further evidence was procured. When the case came on at the assizes the counsel for the prisoner applied to have his client admitted to hail. The House will, no doubt, be startled to hear that the Rev. Mr. Lavelle, the Roman Catholic priest of Partry, came forward as his bailsman and stood security for this man. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) must admit that in each of the cases of evictions there was a distinct accusation of crime, of one sort or another, brought against the evicted persons. The facts of the case of Prendergast, in the words of his agent, are these:—" It is now about two years ago since Lord Plunket resolved to remove Prendergast and his family from the estate in consequence of the part which his son had taken in the illegal pro- ceeding of removing the stones of Miss Plunket's house. In common with others he took defence, put Lord Plunket to great expense, and vexatiously summoned him and his daughter to appear as witnesses at Castlebar. When upon that occasion the tenants yielded an unconditional submission, Prendergast and twelve other tenants received notice that they would be evicted in November. They were thus given six months to prepare for their departure. But when November came, instead of yielding peaceable possession, they compelled Lord Plunket to resort to forcible eviction. It was upon this occasion that, just as Prendergast was about to be evicted he was permitted by Lord Plunket, at the request of a friend, to remain upon the estate, on the condition that when a farm should be provided for him upon another part of the property he should leave his present holding. To this arrangement he them gladly and gratefully agreed. Since that time, however, it appeared that other influences had been brought to bear upon him. When the time for moving to the new holding arrived, he refused sturdily to go, asserting that he would not accept the best farm on Lord Plunket's property. He felt, no doubt, that it was more advantageous to his interests to be evicted and a martyr, as it were, in the cause." But a further charge was made against Lord Plunket, that he had evicted those tenants in the month of November. He did so at that time—but why? The tenants had sown their seed crops. They had been served with notice eight months before; but Lord Plunket allowed them to remain until November, because, as he humanely said, as they had sown the seed they should reap the crops. Well, what is the grievance? The grievance is that these tenants walked out of their buildings in November, owing one and a half year's rent each, and taking with them their crops. My notion of Lord Plunket as a landlord is this, that a kinder-hearted and a better man does not live. The hon. Member for Dungarvan said that these tenants had been evicted because they had refused to send their children to Lord Plunket's schools. Why, what was the fact? Not one of those twelve families evicted had any children fit to send to those schools. As to the Rev. Mr. Lavelle, he, no doubt, had a perfect right to fill his church and his school by every means in his power. Now, I do not believe that in Her Majesty's dominions there is to be found a speaker who can express himself with more force than the Rev. Mr. Lavelle. I understand that the rev. gentleman sometimes displays his cloquence in the shape of appeals to the Irish people to relieve themselves from what he calls English connection and English tyranny. I believe, too, that he has been a professor in the Irish College of Paris. But the laws of France are rather sharper than those of England. I once met him on the occasion of the late Mr. O'Connell's departure for Italy. The rev. Dr. Miley was the gentleman to whom I allude. Dr. Miley whilst at the head of the College referred to, had, unluckily for him, the rev. Mr. Lavelle as a professor. The House may from a judgment of the peace and happiness of the College with a professor of such literary ability and warm temper as the rev. Mr. Lavelle. Differences arose between him and Dr. Miley. At length it was determined that one or other should go. Mr. Lavelle said, "I will not go." Under those circumstances an order was given on a certain day by Dr. Miley to the porter not to admit Mr. Lavelle into the College when he should return from a walk. Mr. Lavelle having presented himself at the door about eight o'clock in the morning, was informed by the porter that he could not be admitted. Mr. Lavelle insisted upon his right to enter, and suddenly darted down the street. In a few minutes he returned with a ladder, and before the President of the College or the porter could prevent him he ascended the wall and leaped down inside, and thus again was entrenched within the premises. As soon as Dr. Miley found he was within the building he consulted the Minister of Education. The Minister of Public Instruction sent a polite message to inquire of Mr. Lavelle whether he intended to persevere in his intention to remain against the command of his superior. On Mr. Lavelle replying that he did, the minister of Public Instruction communicated with another gentleman of considerable authority—the Prefect of Police. He sent a hussier to invite Mr. Lavelle to leave; but he preferred to stay. The Prefect then drew out a paper, which, after referring to several articles of the Code, stated that for the preservation of public order it was necessary Mr. Lavelle should quit Paris within two hours. Mr. Lavelle then left France, when he could no longer remain there, and, unfortunately for the peace of mind of Lord Plunket and the tranquillity of his estate, settled himself down in Partry, and from that moment, with admirable skill, contrived to keep the place in hot water. Now, as to the question of education, it should be recollected that the Roman Catholics possessed about eleven-twelfths of the grant given for the education of all classes in Ireland. Surely, then, the Bishop of Tuam had a perfect right to establish a school at his own expense for communicating religious instruction in the way he thought best. Mr. Lavelle had succeeded in emptying the Bishop's school; but he hoped he would not succeed in inducing the House to listen to a Motion that was totally destitute of foundation, in point of fact, and contained no priciple that could justify the House in adopting it. He believed the object of the Motion was to terrify landlords from taking any proceedings against their tenantry that might not be approved by those who exercised an authority over them to which they had no right by law. He wished the House not to suppose that there was a great quarrel existing between Irish landlords and their tenants; on the contrary, an agent with whom he had travelled told him that, instead of running after the tenants for the rent, they now came forward to pay it. The tenants were as a class meritorious and industrious, and were living on the best terms with nine-tenths of the gentry, who were recovering that consequence to which their position entitled them. For his own part, he detested ejectments without good cause. In the north of Ireland they were almost unknown, and the tenantry were prosperous and comfortable. He wished them to be equally so in the west, and he was quite sure the kindhearted people of that district would get on well with the Bishop and the gentry of the country if they were not stimulated into a course of conduct which brought them into trouble and did no possible good to the country.


The right hon. Gentleman has, with usual ability, contrived to make an amusing speech on a subject which is of the most painful description to every one else. I wish to confine myself strictly to the question before the House, which is, whether this House will grant a Committee to inquire into the case that has been brought before them. Of the main facts there can be no doubt.

That Lord Plunket is an amiable man is known to all who have the advantage of his friendship. That he has spent large sums on the improvement of the district is known to all who are acquainted with that part of the country. That he and his friends have been zealous promoters of conversion to the Protestant faith of the Roman Catholics in the district is also true, and the result which unfortunately so often happens in Ireland under these circumstances followed in this case. In particular, during the last three years, since Mr. Lavelle has been settled in the district, a state of society arose deeply painful to those who are entrusted with the peace of the country; and at last a murder—the murder of Lord Plunket's ploughman—led to the application of the extraordinary powers entrusted to the Executive for the preservation of the peace. But I must say that there is no resemblance between this case and that which was discussed a few evenings ago, for there is here no charge of Ribbonism. In the case of the Derryveagh evictions there was a wholesale ejectment of families on general grounds, without any personal application to any of the families evicted. In the case now before us it is charged on the one hand that all the evictions took place because the parents declined to send their children to the Protestant schools. On the other side that statement is met by a pointed and explicit declaration by Lord Plunket given on oath. ["No!"] I am speaking from a newspaper account of the trial where Lord Plunket was a witness, and where he made a statement on oath that on one of the persons evicted was evicted for this reason. This House has not the power to administer an oath, and if it had I do not think it would be disposed to exercise it in the present case. Would there be any use, then, in appointing a Committee to hear these motives ascribed to Lord Plunket on the one side, and to hear his Lordship on the other repeat the statements which he had already made in a more solemn manner, denying them, and which he has since reiterated in his published letter to Lord Cowley? Every argument that had weight against the Motion for inquiry the other evening had increased force now. Such an inquiry would be wholly without profit; it would not tend to elevate the character of the House; but it would make the House for the first time usurp the functions of the tribunals in a way that had undoubtedly never been done before. The powers of this House are without limit; but they are limited by our own sense of discretion and guided by the precedents of former generations, and I believe that no precedent can be produced of the House having acted in a manner so contrary to its functions, and so inconsistent with its prudence. I feel I shall best discharge the duty which devolves upon me by avoiding all discussion on the details of this most painful case. The feeling I entertain is one of deep regret that our common faith should become, not the cement of cordial union and good-will in this district, but a cause of discord and strife. I should deeply regret if one word were to fall from me tending to increase those feelings, and happy should I be if the discussion in this House, and the expressions of feeling which have come from both sides, were to reach that district, and tend to the restoration of unity and concord in that portion of the community.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 15: Majorty 51.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."