HC Deb 13 April 1869 vol 195 cc680-97

said, he rose to move | for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the manner in which the Irish Society administered their property in the North of Ireland. He ventured to say there were not 100 Mem- bers of the present Parliament who had any accurate idea of what the Irish Society was, or who could understand the nature of its relations with a portion of the North of Ireland. He might go further and say that, except in London, not only in all the rest of England and Scotland, but even in many parts of Ireland, there was no knowledge whatever of this society, or any proper understanding of its connection with the North of Ireland. Under these circumstances, he respectfully asked the attention of the House while he made his statement, in order to enable them to judge whether the Motion with which he should conclude was a reasonable one or otherwise. But before addressing himself to the immediate subject of his Notice he might express the reason of the change which he had made in it. He had intended to bring the question of the London companies before the House, including the Irish Society, but by some inadvertence on his part, he did not specifically mention the Irish Society. It was quite impossible, however, to bring forward the London companies without reference to the measures adopted in the time of James for parcelling out a large portion of Londonderry among several of these companies. But the more he inquired, the more he looked at the magnitude and diversified character of some of these companies, he felt less disposed to bring forward the general subject; and he had also been influenced to a certain extent by a conversation he held with an hon. Member on the other side, for whom he always entertained the very highest respect. An hon. Member had stated to him that some of his constituents had become rather apprehensive of the terms of his first Motion—that many of the representatives of those who originally acquired their property by confiscation were naturally apprehensive, if his Resolution was carried, it would more or less shake the security of their property. He deprecated all reference to these companies on the present occasion; but had he the opportunity of dealing with them, he could give ample reasons for regarding their estates as essentially different from private property, which he held to be sacred and inviolable. If it had any original defect it had been purged by the long line of succession; indeed, many of the gentlemen in the North of Ireland who held property originally derived from confiscation were among the very best patriots of that country, their ancestors being the most illustrious men Ireland ever produced. Therefore he now confined himself simply and entirely to the Irish Society, and he was glad the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. II. Gregory) had removed his Amendment from the Paper, so that, having to deal with a specific Resolution, he would endeavour so completely to establish its justice and sound policy that the House might adopt it unanimously. In order to understand what the Irish Society really was, he must take them back to the time of James I. He knew there was no more ticklish portion of Irish history than that which related to the confiscation of Ulster. He had his own feelings in regard to its policy and justice, but he left that controverted question to the consideration of the historical student. But, as a matter of fact, there were several counties in the North of Ireland confiscated by the Crown. James had shortly before come to the Throne, and he determined to signalize the event by planting these confiscated counties with settlers from England and Scotland. He looked about to see where he could get proper instruments for carrying out the scheme, which he regarded as at once patriotic and pious. Naturally, he looked to the Corporation of the City of London—which he styled the incomparable City—to assist him in planting a portion of Ulster. In order to arouse their attention and excite their cupidity, being an able penman and a sublime puffer, he sat down to write certain "motives and reasons for the plantation of Ulster." James, in fact, praised everything in the North of Ireland but the people. He and his predecessors had done their best to banish the original inhabitants to the mountains; but he praised everything else, animate and inanimate. He complimented the turf as good and wholesome; spoke of the abundance of the fish and their readiness to be caught. He told the Corporation of the incomparable City that the country was a terrestrial paradise; that it contained store of all things necessary for man's sustenance, so as not only to maintain its cultivators, but likewise to feed the incomparable City; that was an incitement to the aldermen. He told them that sheep would breed abundantly in Ire- land, and that the nature of the soil was very wholesome. Hemp and flax, it was added, grew more naturally there than elsewhere; and it must be admitted that that natural production of the soil—hemp—was liberally employed for the pacification of Ireland by successive monarchs. Curiously enough, King James added that linen yarns and all stuffs made irom linen yarns, or flax, were finer there than could be obtained in any other part of the kingdom—which would show that manufacturing industry was not unknown in Ulster before the advent of the British Solomon. He described the country as very plentiful in wax and honey; and, no doubt, to attract the attention of the goldsmiths, he said—"There be also some good store of pearls upon the coast, especially in the river of Lough Foyle." Then the furrier was appealed to, for the King described the abundance of "fells "—red deer, foxes, sheep, lambs, rabbits, martens, squirrels, &c. As for the position of this part of the country for trade and commerce, the King wrote— The coasts be ready for traffic with England and Scotland, and for supply of provisions from or to them; and do lie open and convenient for Spain and the Straits, and fittest and nearest to Newfoundland. And he added—"the harbour of the river of Derry is exceedingly good." Now, one of the chief charges which he (Mr. Maguire) made against the Irish Society was this—that they had not carried out the intentions of the plantation so far as its trade and manufactures were regarded, and had not taken fair advantage of the mutual advantages described in the "motives and reasons" of King James. As in this important State Paper James said nothing of the people who were to be replaced by new races, it might be well to describe them in the language of a historian who wrote a history of Ireland some forty years before that time. Campion described the Irish as "frank, amorous, ireful, sufferable of paines infiniter, very glorious, excellent horsemen, delighted with wars"—and very well for England that this is true—"great almgivers, passing in hospitality." Not a bad description of a people, and with some alteration it might tolerably well represent their descendants of the present day. The Corporation seriously listened to the Royal tempter, but being a prudent race, they did not enter blindfold into the matter, but adopted the heroic expedient of appointing four of their number to go to Ireland and inquire into the real state of things. The four who went over were John Broad, goldsmith; Robert Tresswell, painter stainer; John Rowley, draper; and John Munns, mercer. I shall afterwards have to tell how the society treated a modern John Munns—probably, a descendant of the courageous mercer. They left London amid dismal forebodings, amidst the tears and lamentations of their wives and families; but it is pleasant to learn that these excellent citizens were well treated by the barbarous people who were to be civilized by the Corporation of London, and that they returned safe and sound to make their report—which corroborated generally the statements of King James. The Corporation then appointed a committee of their body to enter into negotiations with the Privy Council on the part of the Crown. From that committee sprang the Irish Society, which was then, as it is now, a committee or branch of the Corporation of the City of London. The Irish Society was to consist of twenty-six discreet citizens—namely, one Governor, one Deputy Governor, and twenty-four assistants. The original vice of the society was that, from the time of James I. to the present day, all members did not remain in office long enough to acquire a knowledge of the affairs of the society. Twelve of the body went out of office every year; hence, as might be expected, perpetual inexperience and ignorance, and consequent blundering. Their knowledge of Ireland was, and is, derived through an annual visit or trip in the summer; and he would describe its character farther on. The county of Coleraine, afterwards the county of Londonderry, was handed over to the Irish Society for the purpose of being planted; and, in order to raise funds for that purpose, a certain sum of money—some £20,000—was levied on the twelve great companies, with which smaller companies were associated; and these companies received large tracts of land, the extent of which bore some proportion to their respective contributions. The Irish Society paid nothing whatever; but they reserved for their share, as the undivided portion; the City of Derry, the town of Coleraine, the fisheries of the Bann and the Foyle, and some thousands of acres of land, which constituted the property given to them in trust, and which they admit they hold only as trustees. James had praised the society for the "flagrant zeal" with which they had entered into his pious views; but scarcely had they taken possession of their lands than the opinion of the King changed towards them. He had handed the property over to trustees for the object of the plantation, but he told them they had sought to administer it for their private benefit, and not for the public good. There were complaints from the Scotch and English settlers, as well as from the representatives of the Crown; and James sent Commissioners to Ireland, who reported against the undertakers who had received this property for public purposes. In 1624, the property was taken away from them, and, in 1637, they lost their charter, which was not restored to them until the reign of Charles II., in 1670. It was originally intended by the charter that a large portion of the land should be laid on to the City of Deny, and another large portion to the town of Coleraine, and that bog and waste land should not be included in that allocation. The land the City—or Corporation, for them—never received; and of the bog or waste they were shamefully plundered by the society. A portion of this so-called waste was known as the Sheriff's Mountain—between 200 and 300 Irish plantation acres in extent, and had been held by the Corporation of Derry for 200 years without question. In the year 1820 certain lands called "commons," which the Corporation of Derry held from the society, and on which they had made several public improvements, fell in; but the society refused a renewal of the lease unless on the condition that the Corporation surrendered all claim to the Sheriff's Mountain, and, in fact, took it in lease from them. They likewise raised the rent from £45 to more than £500, and deprived them of their property at the same time—thus damaging the body they were bound to protect to the amount of £1,000 a year. The main charge which he brought against the society was that, owing to mismanagement and the application to Ireland of principles that might, perhaps, very well apply to England, they had retarded the progress of the City of Derry. In 1733 they made this rule—that no determinable lease was to be renewed until within three years of its expiring. Those were no agricultural leases, but building leases in the City of Derry, and the consequence was that, when a deputation came over—there was always an annual deputation—in 1765, the City of Deny was crumbling into ruins. Alarmed at the sight, the deputation, at the head of which was Alderman Allsop, granted longer leases, and Derry dated its real prosperity from that time. Alderman Allsop's name was not honoured in the Corporation of London, but it was in Derry. The course then adopted saved Derry from extinction. A considerable portion of property thus passed out of the direct control of the society, but they retained another portion in their hands. Since then the people of Derry had made repeated demands for longer terms than the society were willing to give for houses, for villas, or for mills and factories; but though promises had been made that satisfaction would be given, these promises were constantly broken. He did not propose to go much into detail, or to enter into particular instances of wrong. But he might refer to the matter of the so-called 1,500 acres. These had been obtained by the Bishop of Deny, when the charter of the society was cancelled for their misconduct, and the Corporation of Derry, who could not resist a powerful prelate, were content to take this land on lease from the Bishop; but when the Bishop's successor refused to renew, the society, with the aid of the Corporation, went to law, the dispute ending in a compromise—the Bishop getting so much a year, and the society getting back their property, including their fisheries. But when the Corporation asked the society to restore the property which had been granted by charter to the city of Derry, the society defied them, and hold it to this hour. What could the Corporation do? They were powerless, and the society were powerful, with almost unlimited funds at their disposal. There was no use in resisting the society, for if they did not crush their opponent in Chancery, they did so in the House of Lords. The law costs of the society were enormous; they were as fond of law as aldermen were of turtle and champagne; but the taste was always indulged in at the expense of the people of Derry. In 1832 there were Royal Commissioners to inquire into the Corporations of England and Wales and of Ireland, and by both of these bodies the Irish Society was condemned; the one declaring that there was no shadow of reason why this control should be exercised by a corporation in London over a corporation in Ireland, and that such a control was inexpedient; while the report of the other body cited the wrongs done to the people of Derry, and recorded the fact that the utmost dissatisfaction was felt by them with the management of the Irish Society. As to their love of law, it appeared that in twenty-three years up to 1843 only £38,000, or one-fifth of the expenditure, had been appropriated to the purposes of the trust, while three-fifths, or £100,000, was expended in management, £27,500 having been spent on law alone. In 1854, there was a Royal Commission to inquire into the Corporation of London, and Judge Patteson, Mr. Labouchere (now Lord Taunton), and Sir George Lewis were members. A deputation came over from Derry and Coleraine, and was examined on oath before this Commission, giving evidence of the mismanagement of the Irish Society, that the society did not carry out the object of the trust, and that there was no necessity for its continuance. Upon this evidence the Commission declared that the Irish Society were merely trustees, and recommended that the society be dissolved, that the charter be abolished by Act of Parliament, and that the trust be handed over to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who would have power to make rules suited to the necessities of the time. This affirmed more than one principle. Besides establishing the entire unfitness of the Irish Society to hold this property as trustees, the Commissioners clearly pronounced against the management of so important a trust by an absentee body, who could know nothing practically of the country or its inhabitants. The Commissioners said they felt bound to express their opinion that great abuses existed no long time since in the administration of this trust property; and they reported that from 1818 down to 1847 the expenses of management had amounted to 60 per cent, or £133,900 out of £219,000. In a dispute with the Skinners' Company the Irish Society de- fended a suit in Chancery, on the ground that they were merely trustees of the property, and their contention was held to be good, both by the Court of Chancery and by the House of Lords. Under these circumstances, it must be assumed that they only held as trustees, and, therefore, no question as to the rights of property could arise. The Bill, which was passed by the House in 1849, for the conversion of leaseholds was strenuously opposed by the Irish Society, who refused ever since to act upon it; but, in 1854, the society received a fright, and they thereupon commenced to make promises of instant amendment. When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be; When the devil got well, the devil a monk was he. The society went over to Ireland officially in order to hold a court in the City of Derry—an event that had not occurred since the time of King James. Alderman Humphrey, accompanied by the Deputy Governor, the secretary, and nineteen members of the society, opened the court in due form, in their official capacity, whereupon the Corporation of the City made a demand upon them, which was the main feature in the Motion he was about to make, to the effect that they should grant leases of such a term as would encourage persons to build factories, warehouses, and residences. The Irish Society took great credit for the flourishing condition of Ulster; but the only part of the country with which they had to do was that portion which was, unfortunately, under their control. The prime cause of the progress of Belfast was that building leases were granted upon fair terms, whereas the Irish Society had done all that in them lay to obstruct the progress of Derry by refusing to grant such leases. This fact was brought forcibly to their attention by the memorial presented to them by the corporation of the latter city. In Belfast no one would think of building factories except upon ground held in fee simple, or upon perpetual leases, whereas the Irish Society would never grant a lease longer than sixty-one years. It must not be forgotten that King James had held out a promise that Derry was to be the great seat of the linen manufacture, and that, therefore, the Irish Society were bound to do their best to encourage that manu- facture. Well, in answer to the appeal of the Corporation, in 1856, the society gave a solemn assurance that the desire of the people of Derry should be satisfied, that leases for long terms of years should be granted, and that a system should be introduced under which renewals could be demanded as a right, in place of being prayed for as a favour. Upon this promise being made the gentlemen who composed the court in Derry were feted by the people, and great enthusiasm and excitement prevailed in the city; but having crossed the Channel—and, perhaps, having been sea-sick on the passage—these gentlemen refused to fulfil their promises, on the ground that they had no power to make them, as a court could not be legally held out of London. He called that transaction a scandalous one. The policy of the society seemed to be against the increase of manufactures, and he would state facts to show reasons for his belief. In 1836, Mr. John Munn stated to the deputation from the society that he was anxious to establish the linen manufacture in Derry, but had a short lease, on which he could not build a factory. The society told him to buy an intermediate lease then existing, and thus become the direct tenant of the society, and promised, on his doing so, to extend his lease to sixty-one years. In the year 1838, another deputation went over and reported that Mr. Munn had bought up the intermediate lease for £2,700, and laid out from £7,000 to £8,000 on plant and machinery, and had established the linen manufacture, which gave a large amount of employment, and that it was necessary for them to give him an extended lease to make other improvements; and Mr. Babington, the solicitor, in 1854, stated before the Royal Commission that up to that moment the lease had never been granted. The society got so much ashamed that eventually they gave a lease either to the son or grandson of Mr. Munn. At a late dinner, in Belfast, Lord Lurgan read a few lines from a speech of the Lord Lieutenant, in favour of establishing manufactures in Ireland, which concluded by saying he trusted to see in that country an increase of that manufacturing element. He (Mr. Maguire) submitted that the policy of the society was opposed to the increase of manufactures in Ireland. When one entered Derry from the bridge he saw a pile of buildings which would do credit to any town in England; and when he found that in those buildings manufactures were carried on, he was inclined to conclude that the Irish Society could not be so bad, after all; but by letters from three different firms at Derry it was stated that the society did not act in a way calculated to promote the manufacturing interests of that town. The buildings to which he had referred were not erected under leave from the society. He did not mean to assert that there was any desire on the part of the society to retard the progress of manufactures on their property. He did not even suppose that they had any such wish, but he contended that the Corporation of London was not competent to conduct its municipal business and also to manage estates in Ireland. The ground on which the factory of M'Intyre & Co. was built in Derry was held under a fee-farm grant, and the society had nothing to do with it. It was stated that Sinclair & Co. held under a perpetuity lease, with which the society had nothing to do. What was said by Messrs. Tillie & Henderson established his case, that the society were the enemies of progress in Derry. In reply to a question respecting the owner of the land, it was said that it was at one time the land of the Irish Society, but had been let in perpetuity by the late Alderman Allsop, a Governor of the society, with a considerable portion of ground in the neighbourhood; and but for that fortunate circumstance they could not secure a site for works of such a permanent kind as would induce him to build there, and establish in Derry a branch of manufactures that is now paying £300,000 a year in wages. Messrs. Tillie & Henderson add these words— It should be noticed that the worthy alderman above mentioned (Alderman Allsop) is now looked back to as the greatest benefactor Derry ever had, not excepting Governor Walker, although the members of the Irish Society do not care to have his name mentioned. The society—and, indeed, the Corporation of London—were under the delusion that they were the greatest benefactors of the people of the North of Ireland, and that the feelings of the inhabitants of Derry were those of enthusiastic admiration and gratitude. And they persevered in holding that opinion up to the present hour, though it had been rudely dispelled on many occasions. In 1863, Mr. Cox, formerly Member for Finsbury, and who in that year was Deputy Governor of the society, visited Derry. No doubt he went there with the most beneficient intentions, and in the sincere belief that the society was a real benefactor to Ireland; but when he reached "Government House"—the building in which the local agent of the society resided—strong representations were made to him and his colleagues by the Corporation of Derry against the society's management. Mr. Cox heard what was said, and replied—"I have no idea of giving up the property of the Corporation to a parcel of fellows who come here snivelling." When Mr. Cox rose next morning he found himself famous. On every boarding and dead wall there were these words—"Cox is coming," and all the gamins of Derry repeated them. Some days afterwards Lord Carlisle, a nobleman who was very popular in Ireland, attended by invitation a dinner given by the Agricultural Society. Mr. Cox was there, and such was the disapprobation expressed on that occasion in reference to the Irish Society that Lord Clancarty had to interfere and ask the company to remember that the Lord Lieutenant was present. Mr. Cox had been evidently stung to the quick by the apparent ingratitude of those to whom, as he thought, the Corporation and people of Derry were under the deepest obligation. On a former occasion, in 1858, when Lord Eglinton was present, the boastfulness of Alderman Humphrey received a severe check. Not only did he assert, amidst hisses and other marks of disapprobation, that the Presbyterians owed everything to the society, but that the society were the best landlords of any country in the British Empire. In the Session of 1866, when Mr. Kennedy moved for Returns connected with the management of the Irish Society's estates, Lord Claud J. Hamilton, a son of the Marquess of Abercorn, said that the remedy for the evils complained of would be to abolish the charter and to sell the property, and appropriate the proceeds to pay the debts of Derry. On the same occasion an hon. Member, one of the Aldermen of the City of London, asked who complained of the society? Three weeks after a most influential meeting was held in Derry to answer that question. The principal persons who took part in that meeting were the descendants of the English and Scotch settlers. The first resolution was one passed in answer to the boastful challenge of the worthy Alderman, declaring that it was inconsistent with the fact, and that it did not represent the feelings of the people of Derry, whose indignation at being patronized by those good tradesmen in London Mr. Hamilton humorously expressed when he said that he objected to be called a native of the new Plantation of Ulster. "I object," said that Conservative gentleman, "if I take a little run in the summer vacation to Paris or Brussels, to meet a greasy-looking gentleman from White-chapel or the Minories" [Laughter]—the words were Mr. Hamilton's, not his—"turned out black and shining from Moses', and to be told by him that he had a large property in the North of Hireland, in a place called Derry, and that his tenantry were an industrious, thriving set of fellows, quite remarkable for their intelligence; but that it was all owing to his own excellent management of his property and his liberality." The citizens of Derry were, he might add, about the most intelligent in Ireland, while the members of its Corporation were inferior neither intellectually nor morally to the members of the Corporation of London. What right, then, had the latter to exercise so great a control as they did over Derry and its inhabitants? One speaker, on the occasion to which he was referring, alluded to gentlemen coming over from London to give them lectures on self reliance, for which they objected to pay, especially as those gentlemen did not do much for them in the way of incentive to practise the virtue which they preached. Some time since, he might add, a member of a deputation published a record of the visit of the Irish Society to Ireland, only six pages of which were devoted to the proceedings of the society, the rest being all about himself. It cost a considerable sum of money, and was, no doubt, a very admirable performance; but then it was, unfortunately, likely to be more gratifying to his wife and children than beneficial to the country. Mr. Haslett described a conversation which a friend of his had with some gentleman in London who wished to take a trip to Ireland. He asked him if he had ever been in Ireland. "Oh, no," replied the other, "but I intend to get on the Irish Society and make a journey over there. Do they speak Irish? I do not speak Irish, but my daughter speaks French." "And had they not a famous siege there?" asked the intelligent gentleman. "Oh, yes, and the people of Derry are very proud of it, too." "Oh, aye, I remember—in the time of John." The position of the citizens of Derry and their relation to the Irish Society was well put by one of the speakers at the public meeting of May, 1866, the meeting called into existence by the boastful query of the worthy Alderman; Mr. Isaac Colquhoun used these words— I would illustrate our connection with the Irish Society as similar to the case of a minor and guardian or trustee. So long as a child is under age, and by the law incapable of managing his property, it is vested in trustees, but when he arrives at maturity his property is handed over for his own management. We have now been governed by the London Corporation and the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Irish Society and their assistants for about 250 years; and surely, if ever our governors were to be saved the trouble and responsibility of the trusts, it should be now that we have arrived at full maturity. It appeared that the citizens of Derry were in the habit of being very civil to those gentlemen when they went over from London to visit them. They were invited to dinners and compliments were passed them; and when they returned to London they very naturally said they were delighted with their visit, and prided themselves as being benefactors of the country. The advice which was in consequence given to the people of Derry by Dr. Brown was to be cold and repellent in their reception of such visitors in future, so as to give them no cause for labouring under so great a delusion. This was the answer given, little more than two years since, of the leading inhabitants of Derry—representing, as one speaker said, the intelligence, the energy and the wealth of the town—to those who affect to think that the Irish Society is regarded with favour or affection by those whom they patronize and protect. The hon. Gentleman then referred to the testimony of a Mr. Wright Knox, and others, to show that, so far as the general feeling of the inhabitants of Coleraine were concerned, they were of opinion that the influence of the society, instead of being beneficial, was injurious to that town, Mr. Knox stating that he could not recall to his re- collection a single instance in which they gave the slightest encouragement to any improvement. It might, perhaps, be urged that these gentlemen had turned over a new leaf, and were not so extravagant as formerly. The answer was that they had been shamed out of their old extravagance, although their present management cost about 40 per cent. It might be said, again, that these gentlemen gave a great deal of money for the maintenance of schools and charitable purposes. But where, he would ask, were the 700 acres that were intended for the foundation of a College? They could never he found. Then they were bound by their charter to build quays and make other improvements, which, however, they never did. All these gentlemen might have been as benevolent as Mr. Cox, and all of them might have gone over to Ireland with the best possible intention, but nevertheless they were quite out of date. Derry was a splendid flax-growing country, and was inhabited by a peaceable and orderly population. [Mr. Alderman W. LAWRENCE: Hear, hear.] The people were intelligent, and knew what was good for them; and, moreover, they were among the stuanchest supporters of the British connection. [Mr. Alderman W. LAWRENCE: Hear.] Well, as a Catholic Member of the House he was himself strongly in favour of the British connection. He believed, indeed, that Irishmen could govern Ireland better than Englishmen; and in believing and saying this he did not regard himself as a rebel or a traitor, but he had always been in favour of what O'Connell styled the golden link of the Crown connecting the two countries. If the people of Derry were so capable of managing their own affairs, was it not time they should be allowed to do so? They did not want their affairs to be managed by a body of gentlemen calling themselves the Honourable Irish Society, however respectable those gentlemen might be. He himself was acquainted with the late secretary of the society, a most benevolent individual, who had many virtues, and two marked characteristics—the most profound love of old crusty port, and an equally profound hatred of the Pope of Rome. All he wanted was that the City of Derry should be allowed to make its future for itself, and he trusted the House would ratify the decision of the Royal Commission of 1854. By doing so he believed the House would earn the gratitude of an industrious and loyal people. In conclusion, he moved that an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, praying that She would be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the manner in which the Irish Society administer the property which—according to their own admission in their law suit with the Skinner's company—they hold as trustees for the benefit of their trust; and to consider whether, under a totally different state of circumstances from those in which the Society had its origin, it would not be advisable to carry into effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1854 on the Corporation of London, that the Irish Society should be abolished; and to advise such other arrangements as would be most in harmony with existing circumstances, and most conducive to the public advantage.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the manner in which the Irish Society administer the property which, according to their own admission in their law suit with the Skinners' Company, they hold as trustees for the benefit of their trust; and to consider whether, under a totally different state of circumstances from those in which the Society had their origin, it would not be advisable to carry into effect the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1854 on the Corporation of London, that the Irish Society should be abolished; and to advise such other arrangements as would be most in harmony with existing circumstances, and most conducive to the public advantage."—(Mr. Maguire.)


said, it seemed necessary for a new Parliament to have a debate upon the Irish Society. Many hon. Members would remember last Session a debate very similar to the present, though it was raised on a very dissimilar Motion, made by Mr. Kennedy, then Member for Louth, and seconded by Lord Claud John Hamilton, then Member for Londonderry. Neither of those hon. Gentlemen, however, now had a seat in the House, and consequently they would have no opportunity of further elucidating the subject on the present occasion. In December last, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) placed the following Notice on the Paper:— London Companies' Estates in Ireland,—Select Committee to inquire into the management of the Irish Estates of certain London Companies, with a view to consider whether, in these times and under existing circumstances, it might not be advisable for the public interest to recommend the annulling of the charters of the said London Companies, and the sale of their estates, with the right of preemption to the occupying tenants. The second Notice of the hon. Gentleman, given on the 16th of February, was to the same effect, except that he proposed to substitute a Royal Commission for a Select Committee. The third Notice, now under consideration, was no doubt given in consequence of the advice of the learned Serjeant on his left (Mr. Serjeant Dowse) with respect to interfering with the estates of the London companies, and thereby unsettling all the rights of property in the North of Ireland. The Notice now under discussion was to have been brought forward on the 9th of March, but on the 6th the hon. Gentleman sent to The Times a letter, which appeared in that journal on the 8th of that month. It was in these terms— To the Editor of The Times. Sir,—Permit me the opportunity of stating through The Times that on yesterday (Friday) I postponed to an early day the Notice of Motion standing in my name for the 9th, and that I did so at the request of Mr. Serjeant Dowse, Member for Londonderry, who is professionally engaged on circuit, and is to be entertained by his constituents on Thursday, the 11th inst. I would wish also to state, for the convenience of those interested in my Motion, that I have determined to confine myself exclusively to the 'Irish Society' and its trust, and that I do not intend, at present at least, to deal with the London companies, to and by which the 'Irish Society' parcelled out so large a portion of the county of Derry. I had always intended to include the 'Irish Society' in my Motion, but, through some inadvertence, of which I was not conscious at the time, I did not mention it specially in the Notice which I handed to the clerk. Trusting you will excuse this trespass on your space, I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, "JOHN FRANCIS MAGUIRE. 21, Bessborough Gardens, S. W., Saturday, March 6. Hon. Members would thus perceive the gradual growth of the present Motion. It was very rarely indeed that the gentlemen of the South of Ireland ventured into the northern part of that country; but his hon. Friend had made an excursion to the North, when he had lost no opportunity of letting it be known that he was present there. In America such a trip would be called a "stumping" one, but he would only say that his hon. Friend went grievance-gathering; and an advertisement was inserted, he presumed by his hon. Friend's direction, in the Derry Journal. [Mr. MAGURIE: No.] The advertisement had no signature; it appeared in the Derry Journal of January 6, 1869, and was as follows:—