HC Deb 10 March 1865 vol 177 cc1476-8

said, he rose to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the fact of a Stipendiary Magistrate having signed a requisition to the Lord Mayor of Dublin to convene a meeting to form an association for certain political objects; and, if so, whether he considers it consistent with the duty of a Stipendiary Magistrate to sign such a requisition?


said, in reply, that the attention of the Government had been drawn to the circumstance alluded to by the hon. Baronet. The gentleman referred to was Mr. Ffrench, a Roman Catholic, who had been many years a Stipendiary Magistrate, and who had always discharged his duties to the satisfaction of the Government and of those with whom he had been thrown in contact. The Government, however, pointed out the inconvenience that might result from the course he had adopted, and Mr. Ffrench was called upon for an explanation. He admitted that he had signed the requisition, but he expressed his great regret for having done so. He stated that he had only signed the requisition in his capacity as chairman of the Town Commissioners of Cashel. Mr. Ffrench, feeling that he had not acted rightly, had since resigned the latter office, and the Government had not thought fit to proceed further in the matter. He was sure that his hon. Friend if he had been in his (Sir Robert Peel's) position would, under the circumstances, have acted in the same spirit.


For the purpose of putting myself in order, I shall take the liberty to move the adjournment of the House. I rise to protest against the doctrine that a person occupying the position of Chairman of Town Commissioners is to be precluded from signing a Requisition placed before him while acting in that capacity. The signature by no means implies his assent to the principles put forward in the document, and I submit that it is in the highest degree unfair to attack a resident magistrate, and to placard him all over the country as having outstepped his duty, for appending his signature in quite another capacity, and under the circumstances which I have described, to a document placed before him. When I saw the notice upon the paper originally it was couched in much stronger language, and directly imputed to the gentleman conduct "tending to promote political agitation." The language, indeed, was so strong that I thought it not in accordance with the practice of the House, and it was my intention, Sir, to have called your attention publicly to its character. Since then, however, the terms of the notice have been modified; though it still appears to me not quite in accordance with the usual practice of the House, that an ex parte notice should he made the medium for putting forward statements and opinions which may or may not be facts, and which, in this instance, are not facts; for it is untrue that in this case Mr. Ffrench signed the paper in the capacity of resident magistrate. I have no communication from Mr. Ffrench, but I am perfectly familiar with the neighbourhood, and I know no gentleman more esteemed by those who have the advantage of his acquaintance. He is a brother of Lord Ffrench, and presumptive heir to the title, and he is a man incapable of giving offence. The hon. Baronet, I am sure, if he knew that gentleman, would not say anything calculated to wound his feelings. [Cries of "Question!"] I have moved the adjournment of the House, Sir, and I am quite in order. This is a personal affair—it is a personal imputation on an absent gentleman of high position—and I am not making at all too much of the matter, or viewing it in too serious a light. Why, I saw in a most respectable organ of Irish opinion—a newspaper of politics opposed to my own, and representing the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite—I allude to the Dublin Evening Mail, which usually expresses itself in courteous terms—a leading article, headed with such a sentence as this, "Stipendiarism on the Stump." [Laughter.] That was the way in which the subject was treated in the leading article I speak of; and it stated very plainly that this worthy gentleman would be called over the coals in this House for what he had done. The hon. Baronet, I am sure, is too good-natured to originate a question himself in any shape that would wound a gentleman's feelings. But it is precisely because he is a goodnatured man that he was chosen to put the question—his very good nature has been made use of by others. I reject utterly the idea that a gentleman filling the position of Chairman of the Town Commissioners of Cashel should be precluded from signing a Requi- sition to the Lord Mayor of Dublin with the simple view of having a meeting convened for certain public objects. This Requisition is placed before him, as Chairman of the Town Commissioners, to sign, and if, having signed it, he is forced to resign his position, the loss is not so much one inflicted upon him personally as on the locality. Really, I have scarcely known any gentleman connected with official life in England who has not taken part in political movements, and that without being charged with promoting political agitation. I think I have heard of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland attending public meetings even at Exeter Hall. I do not now say that he was not perfectly right in doing so, but it is evident that he was not fettered by his official position. And I read in the paper only yesterday—in this same Dublin Evening Mail—that the Lord Lieutenant attended a meeting in Dublin called the Protestant Young Men's Christian Association. But because a resident magistrate, a man esteemed in the locality where he had resided and acted for twenty years as a most useful official and member of society, attached his name to a document put before him in a totally distinct capacity, he was to be forced out of his position, entailing thereby great loss on the locality. In conclusion, Sir, I have to move the adjournment of the House; and I beg to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he will consent to postpone the second reading of his Union Officers Superannuation (Ireland) Bill until some time after Easter, when Members interested in the proposed measure can be present from their respective assizes in Ireland?

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

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.