HC Deb 16 July 1863 vol 172 cc876-9

called attention to the Calendar of Irish Chancery Rolls recently published by the authority of the Treasury. It was of great importance that any matter relating to science or literature in Ireland should receive proper consideration at the present moment, when the Government were contemplating the measure of placing the Royal Irish Academy under the Royal Dublin Society. [Mr. PEEL: There is no such intention.] He was very glad that the idea was abandoned. In 1810 a Record Commission was appointed; it continued for thirty years, and did a great deal of useful work. Then, from motives of economy, it came to an end, and nothing further was done till 1858, when a Committee reported that the records deposited in the Rolls Office, of great antiquity and interest, should be prepared for publication. Accordingly, the Treasury made a not very liberal arrangement with the Master of the Rolls for the publication of these records. Two volumes had already been published, and a third was in course of publication. What he complained of was, that although there were at present in Dublin some of the most eminent antiquaries in Europe, yet not one of them was consulted before the work was commenced. The business was placed by the Master of the Rolls in the hands of Mr. Morrin, a clerk of the Rolls. In the two volumes already published there were prefaces amounting to 128 pages, and of these seven-eighths were taken without acknowledgment from printed works. Whole passages were thus "prigged" from the works of Mr. Tresham, who wrote upon Irish antiquities in 1826. Mr. Morrin spoke of the Seabright MSS. as lying in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, without any use being made of them. Would the House believe that in those MSS. were contained the Brehon Laws, for the publication of which so much had been voted in recent years? The two volumes also abounded in ludicrous mistranslations of Irish terms. He had no wish to be severe on Mr. Morrin, who did the work of his office very well. The Treasury had set about performing a scientific and literary work without consulting a single scientific or literary person, and had not given enough money for the purpose. Hereafter such men as Dr. Todd, Dean Graves, and Dr. Russell should be associated with the Master of the Rolls in the publication of these records, and the work would be proceeded with more rapidly. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for a Return of all monies expended during the last ten years in buildings for public records in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and also upon publications connected with public records in each of the three countries during the same period.


seconded the Motion, expressing his belief that the root of the evil was the utterly inadequate sum granted by the Treasury.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, a Return of all monies expended during the last ten years on Buildings for Public Records in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and also on Publications connected with the Public Records of each of the three countries, during the same time,"—(Mr. Monsell,) —instead thereof.

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


expressed his regret that the two volumes relating to the Irish records, which had been published by Mr. Morrin, should have been executed in such a manner as to call forth the pamphlet to which his hon. Friend had referred, and to lead to the subject being brought before that House. The object of Mr. Morrin's publication was to give to the public in a concise form the principal contents of the Chancery records in Ireland; and Mr. Morrin was selected as editor by the Treasury, upon the recommendation of the Master of the Rolls. Mr. Morrin was well known for his skill and experience in this particular branch of knowledge; he had devoted his whole life to the study of Irish records, and was eminent for his skill in deciphering ancient documents, notwithstanding the obsolete language and abbreviated forms in which these documents might be written. The Master of the Rolls was therefore justified in making this selection of Mr. Morrin; and if that gentleman had confined himself to the translation of the ancient Irish records, and had not written the prefaces—if he had not forgotten the maxim, Ne sutor—there would have been nothing for his right hon. Friend to bring before the House. But Mr. Morrin had thought it necessary to write a preface to each of the two volumes and also to annotate them, and it was these prefaces and notes which had given rise to all the trouble and annoyance which had reached its climax by the subject being mentioned to that House. The pamphlet which had been referred to was transmitted by the Treasury to the Master of the Rolls, in order that he might call upon Mr. Morrin to refute the charges brought against him. It appeared from his reply, that, as regarded the prefaces, of the extracts taken without acknowledgment one was from a work in which the passage extracted had been written by himself for its author some years ago. He admitted, that in order to make the work as popular as possible, he had borrowed from other authors, but he had not borrowed from any author whose name at least was not mentioned at some part or other of the prefaces. With regard to the text, Mr. Morrin's explanation was quite satisfactory, and his statement was confirmed by the Deputy Keeper of the Rolls, whose testimony was unimpeachable; and this was the only part of the work for which he had received any remuneration—for the Treasury had refused to pay for the prefaces, they being no part of the work engaged for. Mr. Morrin's statement was that the whole of the text had been prepared by himself, independently of the labours of any other persons; that he had never seen the calendar said to have been prepared by the Record Commission twenty years ago, and had never met with any person who had seen it. With regard to the portion said to have been actually printed by the Record Commission, Mr. Morrin stated that it only came down to the end of the first seven years of Henry VIII., that this portion was included in his volumes in order to make them more complete; but that he had examined that portion of the records with the same care which he had given to the remainder of his work. In reply to the more general suggestion of his right hon. Friend, he could only say, a Record Office was now in course of erection in Dublin, and when this was completed the question of publication of the records would receive further consideration.


said, it was a matter greatly to be deprecated that any epithet attributing incompetency to Mr. Morrin should have been used by the right hon. Gentleman, for he thought it was singularly inapplicable to that gentleman. He did not believe it was possible to find a person better qualified for the work for which Mr. Morrin was selected by the Master of the Rolls than that gentleman; and he also believed he had had but one object in view—namely, that of carrying out most faithfully the intention of the Government. Lawyers of the greatest eminence in Ireland had always looked to Mr. Morrin for assistance, and that gentleman had received letters from the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, the Master of the Rolls in England, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and many other learned persons, expressing opinions that his work had been faithfully performed, and that it would be very useful to antiquaries, to historians, and to lawyers. He (Mr. George) would conclude by saying that he was sorry an attack had been made upon Mr. Morrin in that House upon such slender grounds.


(Attorney General for Ireland) said, that as he believed that Mr. Morrin had been personally wronged, he wished to bear his testimony to his high qualifications for the work he had undertaken. He was, perhaps, the very best man in all Ireland who could have been selected for the particular task assigned to him. There had been no real property trial in Ireland for many years in the elucidation of which his assistance had not been sought by one side or the other. It was perfectly true that Mr. Morrin did not hold in the literary world the high position of Dr. Todd, Dr. Russell, and others; but it was a great mistake to suppose that those gentlemen possessed the necessary requirements for a special work like that which Mr. Morrin had been called upon to execute. He had himself found the records in the Rolls Office under Mr. Morrin in the most excellent condition, and wholly available to the public. The arrangement in that respect could not be improved. But there were other legal records in a most disgraceful condition. A sum of money had therefore been estimated last year for the purposes of a Record Office, which had been already begun. It would be amply sufficient to meet all the exigencies of the legal records in the mean time, and would be constructed so as to admit of expansion as circumstances might require.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.