HL Deb 21 April 1831 vol 3 cc1738-41
The Lord Chancellor

presented a Petition from the parish of St. Matthew, Bethnal-green, in favour of the Ministerial plan of Reform. The petition was signed by 7,000 persons, and the whole number of inhabitants did not exceed 9,000: these circumstances afforded a sufficient contradiction to the assertion that had been made elsewhere, to the effect that the inhabitants of Spitalfields, of which this parish constituted a considerable part, were opposed to the Bill that had been introduced into the other House of Parliament. The noble and learned Lord also presented a Petition from the County of Cornwall, and fifty other Petitions from various places, in favour of the Reform Bill.

The Duke of Sussex

presented a Petition from Non-resident Voters of Rochester, living in London, in favour of the Reform Bill. The noble Duke observed, that the petition was signed by three-fourths of the whole number of out-voters. He had also to present a petition agreed to at a county meeting of the inhabitants of Denbigh; and a petition from a hundred in the county of Norfolk, in favour of Reform.

Lord Beresford

presented a Petition from out-voters of Berwick-on-Tweed, praying that they might not be disfranchised. The noble Lord stated, that the number of voters in the borough would be reduced from 1,143 to 300 by the proposed disfranchisement, of which he expressed his disapprobation, as well as of the attack made upon Corporations in general by the Reform Bill. He saw no reason why the Corporation of London should be allowed to retain its noxious privileges if the corporations of other towns were to be broken up. He meant to resist the Reform Bill.

The Duke of Richmond

presented a Petition, agreed to at a numerous and respectable meeting of Freeholders of the county of Sussex, in favour of the Reform Bill. The petition was well deserving of their Lordships' attention, as expressing the almost unanimous wish of that great county. In it, county meetings were not common things, for there had not been one before this for forty years.

The Duke of Norfolk

expressed his hearty concurrence in the prayer of the petition. Every day he lived, he became the better satisfied of the necessity of carrying into effect the Ministerial plan of Reform, with a view to secure the welfare of the country.

The Duke of Wellington

presented a Petition from the Mayor, Sheriffs, and Commonalty of Cork, against the extension of the Elective Franchise to 10l. householders; and a second from the Protestants of Cork, against the Ministerial plan of Reform, on the ground of its tendency to give a preponderating power to Roman Catholics at elections. He agreed with the petitioners in the opinion which they entertained, that in the event of the passing of the Bill, it would be found difficult to maintain that article of the Union with Ireland which guaranteed the safety of the Church of Ireland. In passing the Reform measure, Parliament exposed his Majesty to the risk of consent- ing to a Bill calculated to break down the Church Establishment in Ireland. He could not but express the surprise he felt the other night at hearing the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack assert that the Reform Bill had put down agitation in Ireland on the subject of a Repeal of the Union. He thought it impossible that the concession of the elective franchise to 10l. householders in a few towns in Ireland could have any such effect. He hoped and believed, that, the Irish Government would resort to those wise measures of relief, accompanied, if necessary, by measures of severity, which might put down the insurrectionary spirit that existed in parts of Ireland; and he thought it would be better for Parliament to occupy itself with the consideration of such measures, than to spend its time upon the Reform Bill.

The Marquis of Clanricarde

said, if the noble Duke had not argued, that the measure of Reform would destroy the Church of Ireland, he should not have thought it necessary to notice the subject, and state that he entertained a contrary opinion. The noble Duke supported his arguments in an extraordinary way, when it was considered that he had given the Roman Catholics political power; for the noble Duke now asserted, that doing that would endanger the Church; but, for his part, he had always denied that assertion, and denied it now. If the noble duke entertained that opinion, it was strange that he should have introduced the great measure which had laid the foundation of the prosperity of Ireland by tranquillizing it. He believed that, as the country improved, the great measure of Reform would become the foundation of the prosperity of Ireland. He did not deny, that it would enlarge the constituency, but that was now necessary, for the noble Duke had began his reform at the wrong end, by curtailing the constituency. The enlargement of the constituency would, he believed, be beneficial to the country. He had heard no argument which could convince him that it would be disadvantageous. He believed that no danger would accrue to the Established Church from the admission of the Catholics to political power. Their Lordships had, in fact, decided that question, when they agreed to give the Catholics political power, and that measure had been attended with great benefits.

Lord Farnham

expressed his astonishment that any noble Lord who had resided in Ireland could doubt that, by the passing of the Reform Bill, a constituency would be created under the direct influence of those who, from North to South, were unanimously opposed to the Established Church; and he wished to know whether such a state of things could exist, consistently with the safety of that Church? He could but express his astonishment at such a measure being contemplated by those who pretended to wish well to that Church, and he challenged any Peer—he challenged the noble Marquis—to prove that extending the elective franchise would not create the constituency he had described. With respect to the Repeal of the Union, if a strong feeling were not now openly at work upon that subject, it was only because the Roman Catholic clergy, and the agitators, had issued their orders to the people to remain quiet till the Reform Bill should be carried. The hon. member for Clare had publicly addressed the Irish people, and advised them not to agitate the subject of the Union at present, lest they should impede the measure of Reform, at the same tune assuring them that a reformed Parliament would grant what they wanted. He wished to take that opportunity of observing if the reports that day current in both Houses of Parliament should turn out to be well-founded, that tremendous responsibility would rest upon Government for not having attempted measures cither coercive or remedial with respect to that country. He did not say which species of measures ought to have been adopted at the present moment; perhaps a mixture of both would have been best; but he repeated his opinion, that tremendous responsibility must rest upon those who had given the advice stated to have been given, without previously adopting measures to prevent the ill effects to be apprehended from the present state of things in Ireland.

Petition to be laid on the Table.