HL Deb 13 July 1831 vol 4 cc1173-84
Lord Farnham

said, that in rising to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice, for the production of certain papers connected with the melancholy transaction which had lately taken place in a part of Ireland with which he was intimately connected, he must first express his satisfaction that his right rev. friend had preceded him, and had called the attention of their Lordships to the petition which had been just laid before them. That petition was signed by nineteen or twenty beneficed clergymen of the diocese in which the affair he was desirous of making some observations on had occurred. The petitioners complained, and justly complained, of he difficulties which impeded the collection of their tithes—a payment, which, he was sure, their Lordships would allow was as justly due to them under the existing law, as their Lordships' rents. No person could be better acquainted than was that right rev. Prelate with the difficulties which those clergymen had to contend with in securing their property. By his constant residence amongst, and intercourse with, the clergy of his diocese, he was intimately acquainted with all their circumstances, and having always paid the utmost attention to their wants and wishes, any statement from him on the subject did not need any confirmation. If it did, he could justly bear out his right rev. friend in the statement made to their Lordships. In bringing forward the present motion, he was willing to con- fess that he felt considerably embarrassed; because premature discussions on subjects of this nature, before the legal investigation which they must necessarily undergo had been brought to a conclusion, were attended with great inconvenience; and so feeling, he should never have thought of bringing this matter under the consideration of their Lordships at the present juncture, if the same line of conduct had been adopted by every one else, and if it had not been endeavoured by one party to pre-occupy the public mind, to interrupt the stream of justice, and to heap the foulest calumnies on persons concerned in this unfortunate affair, by the publication of the most scandalous libels and flagitious misstatements that had ever disgraced the press of any country. But even the publication of such calumnies and misrepresentations would scarcely have induced him to take the step which he was now about to take, had they not gained additional weight from observations which had been made in another place, to which he did not deem it expedient to refer more particularly, where the grossest misrepresentation of the facts of the case had been promulgated, and where the phrases "indiscriminate slaughter," "massacre," and other opprobrious terms, had been applied towards the acts of individuals whose conduct had as yet to undergo the ordeal of a judicial investigation. It was under such circumstances, that he felt it necessary to call on their Lordships to agree to the motion which he was about to make, for the presentation of an address to his Majesty, praying his Majesty that he would be graciously pleased to order the production of certain papers, which would throw a proper light upon this unfortunate transaction, and which he was sincerely convinced would establish the correctness of the view which he had taken of it. So gross had been the misrepresentations which had been sent abroad of this transaction, that in many of the provincial towns of England handbills had been circulated, with descriptive figures in them, containing the most exaggerated account of the affray at Newtownbarry. He held in his hand one which had been distributed in Wolverhampton and Birmingham, which spoke of "the dreadful slaughter at Newtownbarry," and which gave the most libellous and abominable description that it was possible to give of the whole occurrence. Their Lordships would recollect, that early in the last Session of Parliament, he had more than once called their Lordships' attention to the subject which his right rev. friend had pressed upon their consideration that night. He had upon that occasion called their Lordships' attention to many disturbances connected with the collection of tithes, which had taken place in the parish of Graigne, in the county of Kilkenny. He, at that time, took occasion to state, that he was firmly convinced, and what had since occurred had confirmed him in that opinion, that a systematic conspiracy had been formed in that part of Ireland to oppose the payment of tithes, and he mentioned the names of those whom he considered as foremost in organizing that conspiracy. At the head of that conspiracy he had placed that reverend Prelate to whom his right rev. friend had alluded that evening, and who had lately addressed a letter to Mr. Spring Rice, the Secretary to the Treasury, urging the necessity of establishing some provision for the poor of Ireland. He would take the liberty of reading to them a passage from that letter, to which his right rev. friend had referred, and he trusted, that their Lordships, on hearing it, would be of opinion that anything less likely to allay the excitement which existed in Ireland against tithes could not be composed, than the passage in question. Talking of the Irish nation in this letter, Bishop Doyle remarked— "The Irish people, since their first conversion to the Christian faith, always understood rightly the Gospel dispensation. They were always too rational, and too acute, to submit willingly to an unreasonable, I might add, an unjust imposition, and the law of tithe, whether civil or ecclesiastical, has never had—either in Catholic or Protestant times, no, not to the present hour—the assent or consent of the Irish nation. They have always been at war with it, and I trust in God they will never cheerfully submit to it." Truly, the Irish people had been at war with it, and this letter was well calculated to encourage them in keeping up that war. The Doctor went on to say—" There are many noble traits in the Irish character, mixed with failings which have always raised obstacles to their own well-being; but an innate love of justice, and an indomitable hatred of oppression, is like a gem upon the front of our nation, which no darkness can obscure. To this fine quality I trace their hatred of tithe. May it be as lasting as their love of justice!" To him the circulation of such sentiments appeared calculated to do much mischief—and he could not avoid expressing the indignation which he felt at finding a person filling the situation of Dr. Doyle, sitting down in his study and coolly disseminating, through the means of the Press, such sentiments as these throughout Ireland — sentiments which were calculated to lead to sedition, rebellion, and civil war. He did in his conscience believe, that to Dr. Doyle and to his writings, in a great degree, the state of Ireland, with regard to tithes, was to be attributed, and he did think that Dr. Doyle was morally responsible for the very blood which had been shed in the late unfortunate affair in Newtownbarry. Their Lordships would recollect that, in the former Session, he (Lord Farnham) alluded to the conduct of an individual of the same name as Dr. Doyle. He was then informed, that he was mistaken in supposing that that rev. gentleman was a near relative of Dr. Doyle, and that he was only a distant relation of his. That rev. gentleman had resided in the parish of Clonegal, which adjoined that of Newtownbarry, for several years, and he (Lord Farnham) was aware, that he had been in the habit of exciting the people there against tithes. He would openly assert, that one of the chief conspirators in the conspiracy which existed in Ireland to resist the payment of tithes, was the celebrated person from whose letter he had just read an extract to their Lordships. A singular consideration here arose. He had been told—at least the fact had been stated on newspaper authority—that this rev. Prelate had been made a Magistrate of the county of Carlow.

Lord Plunkett

that is not true: he is not a Magistrate.

Lord Farnham

said, the fact might not be so—he only spoke from public report. If it were the case, Dr. Doyle might be placed in a very awkward situation if he were called on to adjudicate on a question concerning tithes.

Lord Plunkett

said, that if the noble Lord meant to say, that Dr. Doyle had been made a Magistrate, he (Lord Plunkett) had no recollection of any such thing having taken place: if it had taken place, it was very unlikely that he should have forgotten such a circumstance with regard to so remarkable a person, and he had every reason to think that such was not the case. Indeed, it was quite impossible that it could be the case.

Lord Farnham,

in continuation, was sure therefore that the statement in the newspapers must have been incorrect, and he should not proceed with the observations which he had intended to make upon this point. He now came to the subject which he wished to bring more immediately under the consideration of their Lordships. No person could lament more deeply than he did, the unfortunate result of what had taken place in Newtownbarry, where he believed from fifteen to twenty lives had been sacrificed—as he thought it would appear, unavoidably—in consequence of the resistance of the people to the payment of tithes. The right rev. Prelate had correctly stated, that the parish of Newtownbarry was under the operation of the Tithe Composition Act, and the incumbent could therefore recover his tithes in that parish by distress, which enabled him to recover them in as full and ample a manner as any of their Lordships could recover their rents. With regard to the rev. gentleman who was the incumbent of the parish, as he had been most unjustly attacked, he wished to say a few words in his defence. It had been said in another place, that this rev. gentleman had been at variance with his parishioners. He had had the honour of that rev. gentleman's acquaintance for twenty-four years, and during that time until the period of these disturbances, he never had the slightest difference with his parishioners on the subject of tithes. Never until this conspiracy was formed was there anything like a disagreement. He was universally and deservedly beloved; he had lived in the parish in peace and harmony, and he could say, both from his own knowledge, and the general estimation, that there was not a more worthy or more pious clergyman in the diocese. He had been lately appointed to another parish; but still his income was not considerable, even if the two parishes were taken together into the account. He had a family of nine or ten children, and that family would have been in want of food if his (Lord Farnham's) steward had not furnished them with sheep from his flock. Yes, they would have starved, if his steward had not given them sheep from his own flock. He would ask their Lordships, who could venture to defend this state of things? Was this to be tolerated anywhere where law existed and ought to be respected? In the instance out of which this melancholy transaction had arisen, this rev. gentleman had levied a distress for tithes that were due to him. Cattle were seized for that purpose, and in making the distress the rev. gentleman did not go to a poor man, but he went to a rich man, who could as easily pay the demand as any of their Lordships. The cattle not having been bailed out. the day of sale was fixed for the 18th of June last. The day preceding, namely, the 17th, was the fair day of Newtownbarry. He would here read to their Lordships a copy of a placard, which was printed in very large type, and carried about on a board, so that every one could see it, in the fair of Newtownbarry, and which had been distributed in every town, village, and hamlet within twenty miles of that place. This placard was headed with the ominous words—" Reform! The Church in danger!!" And it was couched in the following terms:— "The Government have sent circular Letters to all the incumbents in Ireland, requiring them forthwith to furnish the lowest account of all their incomes, with a view in order, in future, to pay them out of the Treasury. Inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary, Newtownbarry, there will be an end to Church plunder! Your pot, blanket, and pig will not be hereafter sold by auction, to support in luxury, idleness, and case persons who endeavour to make it appear that that is essential to the peace and prosperity of the country, and your eternal salvation, while the most of you are starving! Attend to an auction of your neighbour's cattle, on Saturday next, the 18th instant, seized for tithe, by the Rev. Alexander M'Clintock." That placard was carried through the fair by a boy, who was paid 1s. for carrying it, by the son of the man whose cattle had been seized. It was printed in Dublin. He (Lord Farnham) knew the printer who printed it, and he knew the person at whose solicitation it had been printed. Any thing more calculated to create a riot could not have been promulgated. What did the Magistrates do? They immediately took precautions to assert the dignity of the law. They sent Letters to the Captains of the different Yeomanry corps in the neighbourhood to attend, and they also called on' the police to attend the sale next day, in order to assist the civil power. One of those Magistrates had been grossly calumniated, and his whole conduct had been vilely attacked—he meant Captain Graham. That gentleman possessed property in several counties in Ireland; he had served in the Peninsula: he had shed his blood in the cause of his country, and he was distinguished by possessing a most humane and benevolent disposition. Another of the Magistrates who acted on that occasion, had resided in the neighbourhood for twenty-five years, and a third in its immediate vicinity for the same period of time: they were all aware of the disposition of the people, and being apprehensive of some disturbance from the exhibition of the placard, they called in a force to aid the civil power, which amounted to about 150 Yeomen, and about forty of the constabulary police; and, in order that the Yeomanry should not come into contact with the people, unless a necessity existed of so doing, they were placed in a yard, or within an enclosure, which they were ordered not to leave, unless the police proved insufficient to carry the law into effect. The cattle were then brought into the market-place for the purpose of sale; but some delay took place, for it appeared, by the testimony of the bailiff, that they were rescued from him and driven towards home. The Magistrates, however, sent for the cattle, and they were brought back, driven into the pound, and given in charge of the police. However, while the police were employed in conducting the cattle to the place of sale, being in number, as he said, about thirty-six or forty, they were hemmed in by a mob of 2,000 persons, who kept pressing on them from every side. Apprehensive of the' consequences, they called on the Magistrates for assistance, and the Magistrates desired, that the Yeomanry should be brought out to protect them. The pound was a quarter of a mile from the market-place, and it was necessary that the cattle should be driven to the latter, in order to be publicly sold; and when the Yeomanry were called out, the cattle were put in the front, and the Yeomanry marched in the rear. But as they came forward they were assailed with showers of stones, of which they took but little notice; and they endeavoured to keep off the people with their bayonets, and the butt-ends of their muskets. At length, when they endeavoured to get on in the direction of the town, a rush was made, evidently with the intention of disarming them, and a shot was fired. A Yeoman was killed, the son of another was killed, and several of them were knocked down, bruised, and severely injured by the assault of stones. Then, and not till then, the Yeomanry certainly did fire; and it appeared on the Coroner's inquest, that the firing did not last more than three or four minutes, from whence he concluded that he was justified in saying, that the firing only lasted while the danger continued. It unfortunately occurred in this case, as in all others of the like nature, that the innocent suffered with the guilty. It was so stated with regard to this affray, but of that he did not mean to speak. He wished only to speak of facts; and with respect to those which he had stated, there could be no doubt. There was a dispute about the time of firing, but no one denied that shots were fired by the mob, for they could only have come from the place occupied by the mob. Let him now inquire if all this did not prove that there was a premeditated design to resist the law? Why else did the people come armed? They were proved to have fired from the ditch at the side of the road. These were a few of the circumstances which would appear if the papers for which he moved were granted—

The Lord Chancellor

rose, very unwillingly, to interrupt the noble Lord; but considering that that House was the highest Court of Judicature in the kingdom, he must before the noble Lord proceeded further, ask the noble Lord whether the investigation of the lamentable occurrence, of which the noble Lord was speaking, had been finished and brought to a close; or whether the occurrence was still in the course of judicial inquiry? As he understood the matter, this affair was still in a train of judicial investigation; for though the Coroner's Jury had given no verdict, the business might yet have to come before a Grand Jury and a Petty Jury, and, if his understanding of the matter were right, he put it to the noble Lord, whether their Lordships, being the highest Court of Judicature, ought thus prematurely and prejudicially to occupy themselves with the merits of a case which the law had consigned to other tribunals? He put it to the noble Lord, whether, because the newspapers had thought proper to embark in a discussion upon this affair, that was any reason why the House of Lords should anticipate the course of the common law? However painfully alive the noble Lord might be to misrepresentations on this most unfortunate occurrence—however ardent and natural the desire of the noble Lord might be for a complete investigation of the nature and the causes of it, still he thought that the good sense of the noble Lord would lead him to perceive the inconvenience and the impropriety of that House pronouncing an opinion upon a case which was about to be brought before a legal tribunal, and thereby incurring the imputation of interfering with the fair and even course-of justice.

Lord Farnham

continued. — He was fully sensible of the difficulty which the noble and learned Lord had suggested, now that he was aware of the fact, which he had not before been made acquainted with, that the occurrence was stilt in a train of judicial inquiry. He knew that the Coroner's Jury had come to no derision; but he was not aware that other legal measures of inquiry had been instituted.

Earl Grey

said, the Coroner's Inquest had been ordered to re-assemble.

Lord Farnham

said, he readily agreed that it would be most improper for him to go into any facts which were likely to become the subject of investigation before a criminal tribunal, and in the few observations, therefore, which he had now to trouble their Lordships with, he should carefully abstain from touching upon any such facts. The subject naturally divided itself into two branches—of which the first consisted of the matters which would be the subject of judicial inquiry, and the other was the consideration of the conduct of those persons who were in the employ and under the control of the Government. The impropriety of touching upon the first branch he had already admitted—and he should confine his remaining observations to the second. It was necessary that he should speak of this second branch, because it had been said in another place, that although there might have been no criminality, yet that it was possible that there might have been such a degree of imprudence on the part of the persons who were under the control of Government, as to call for some alteration in the powers of those persons. Let their Lordships then consider what had been the conduct of the magistracy. He thought that there could be no doubt that the Magistracy had, under the circumstances which he had stated, exercised a sound discretion in assembling a force sufficient to maintain the peace; and that the Magistrates were right in assembling a large force, because the larger the force, the less probability would there be of resistance. A Magistrate was entitled to call both the civil and the military power to his assistance, and whether, therefore, the Yeomanry was to be denominated a civil or a military force, the Magistrate was clearly entitled to call them out to assist him in the preservation of the peace. This power was given to Magistrates in Ireland by the 3rd of George 3rd, c. 98, which Act also empowered a Magistrate as well to take rioters into custody, as to disperse a riotous assembly. The Magistrates, therefore, had a right to call out the yeomanry, and the Yeomanry were bound' to obey the orders of the Magistrates. He was fully convinced that, in any future investigation, it would appear that both the magistrates and the Yeomanry had conducted themselves with great moderation, Considering all the circumstances of the case. He felt considerable embarrassment in pursuing this subject after the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, the propriety of which suggestion he once more acknowledged. He thought, however, that he had stated enough of the causes of this affair, and the guilt or the innocence of the parties concerned in it would be determined by another tribunal. He would conclude, therefore, by moving, "That an Address he presented to His Majesty, for a copy of the evidence taken before Mr. Green, King's Counsel, who had been sent by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to inquire into the affray which had taken place at Newtownbarry on the 18th of June last. Also for a copy of the report of the Chief Constable of Police, and of the Inspector-general, respecting the occurrences of that day."

Viscount Melbourne

thought, that the obstacle which had been so properly raised by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and which had prevented the noble Baron from continuing his speech on this transaction, ought also to convince their Lordships of the impossibility of their agreeing to this motion. Disposed as he was to make every allowance for the feelings of the noble Baron with regard to a transaction in which the noble Baton was necessarily so deeply interested, it having taken place upon his own property—disposed also to make every allowance for that irritation which the noble Lord naturally felt at what he considered to be calumnious misrepresentations—still he could not help expressing at once his surprise and his regret, that the noble Baron, whose experience, and knowledge, and long practice in Parliament, must have accustomed him, like all other public men, to misrepresentations in newspapers, and to violent language, as well within the walls of Parliament, as out of doors, should have been betrayed into making a motion of this very exceptionable character. In the few observations which he should think it necessary to make to their Lordships, in opposition to this motion, he should not enter into any discussion of the tithe question, which had been very properly introduced by a right rev. Prelate, because the petition which that right rev. Prelate had presented was upon that subject, but which he must be allowed to say the noble Baron had no such excuse for having entered upon. Still less should he think himself justified in entering upon the discussion of the disputes about tithes at Newtownbarry. Neither should he make a single observation, much less give any opinion, upon the case which the noble Baron had laid before their Lordships. The noble Baron had expressed a strong confidence, that that case would turn out to be as he had opened it to their Lordships; but surely it would have been wiser in the noble Baron to have left their Lordships to acquire a knowledge of that case from the certain information of the law, instead of hurrying them into this premature, this precipitate, and, he must add, this dangerous discussion. As to the papers for which the noble Baron had moved—the first was, the report of a gentleman who had been sent, most properly, by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to investigate the affair. This report, however, was of a confidential nature; it was framed only for the information of the Irish Government; it consisted of evidence which had been taken before no authorized tribunal; all that evidence was voluntary, and had not been given upon oath. Now he did not mean to say, that such a case might not be made out as to call even for the production of a document of this nature; but then he was quite sure that their Lordships would take care, that a very strong and special case should be made out before they sanctioned the production of such a document. With respect to the second paper for which the noble Baron had moved, that also was a document of a confidential nature. It was the report of an officer of police, communicated confidentially to the Irish Government, and was necessarily ex parte. He believed that that officer of police had conducted himself in the affair with great prudence. Thus much he had no hesitation in saying of that individual; but then that individual was engaged in the affray, and might be affected by the ulterior proceedings. Such was the nature of the two documents, and noble Lords he was sure must see, that when the very first step of the investigation was not yet completed—when they were without even the verdict of a Coroner's Jury—nothing could be more improper than the production of such documents. The noble Baron had referred to discussions and proceedings on this subject in another place; but if their Lordships would take the trouble to refer to the Journals of the House of Commons of the 30th of June, they would find that a motion for similar papers was made in that House, which motion was withdrawn by leave—the termination being, as their Lordships knew, a proof that both the mover and the seconder of the motion had been convinced, that it ought not to be granted. He did not feel it necessary to trespass further upon the attention of their Lordships. He neither affirmed nor denied the statements which the noble Baron had made; but he hoped, that their Lordships would see the necessity of leaving the administration of justice to take its course; and he was sure that the Irish Government would do all in its power to ensure a full and fair investigation of the whole of this melancholy affair, and to do justice to all parties.

Lord Farnham

said, that he should be wanting in candour if he did not admit that the arguments of the noble Secretary were unanswerable. With the permission of their Lordships, he would withdraw his motion.

Motion accordingly withdrawn.