HL Deb 25 March 1831 vol 3 cc923-5
The Marquis of Londonderry

believed, that their Lordships were always kindly disposed towards any Member of that House, who was anxious to explain any misconception or misstatement in the public journals, respecting any thing he might have said. He trusted that the noble Earl (Grey) would be good enough to attend to the explanation he was about to make. It regarded an expression which was alleged to have fallen from him in animadverting last night upon the petition from the County of Down. Some of the public journals, not all of them, had said, that he had described some of the persons who had signed that petition as the lowest rabble in the County of Down. Now he most unequivocally denied, that he had used any such expression, and he was sure their Lordships would Feel for him, when he had had attributed to him an expression which, if he had used it, would prove him to be unworthy of that place in the esteem of the county which he and his family had always enjoyed. He had been born in that county, and was naturally much attached to it, and it was quite impossible that he should have cast such an imputation upon any of the freeholders of that county. He had not said that the petition was signed by the lowest rabble. What he had said was, that the petition was signed by the lowest freeholders, and this was very different from what had been attributed to him. Another point which he was anxious to explain, related to a most respectable individual — namely, Colonel Forde. He had not seen the petition, and he could not believe that it had been signed by that gentleman, after having been informed, as he had been, by letters from the County of Down, that the petition was signed by the lowest freeholders. Besides, he had read a speech of Colonel Forde's, in which Colonel Forde opposed the expediency of the meeting at which the petition was agreed to, and also objected to triennial Parliaments as being too short. A third point upon which he wished to explain was this. He held in his hand two requisitions for meetings in the County of Down. One called upon the Sheriff to convene the meeting at which the petition was agreed to, and it was signed, he was bound to say, by nine or ten most respectable individuals. In contradistinction to this, he had a requisi- tion which called upon the High Sheriff to convene a meeting, for the purpose of agreeing upon an Address, congratulating the Lord Lieutenant on the firmness of his administration, and expressing their attachment to the Legislative Union, and to that Constitution under which the empire had enjoyed so many blessings. The signatures to this requisition contained, not the names of nine or ten most respectable persons, like the other requisition, but the name of every man of rank, and wealth, and respectability in the county. Such names not being attached to the other requisition, he had thought himself justified in stating, that the petition did not express the opinion of the rank, the wealth, and the respectability of the county.

Earl Grey

was sure that their Lordships would always receive, as they had now received the address of the noble Marquis, with the greatest readiness, any statement which was made for the purpose of a noble Lord's relieving himself from the imputation of having used an expression which he might think injurious to him. He was glad the noble Marquis had had an opportunity of disclaiming an expression, which, as the noble Marquis said he had not used it, he (Earl Grey) was bound to conclude that he had laboured under a false impression last night, in attributing it to the noble Marquis. He certainly had repeated it, and, as he supposed, after the noble Marquis; he had answered it also; and yet he had not been corrected by the noble Marquis at the time. He must have laboured under another misapprehension also; for if he had supposed that the noble Marquis had merely said that the petition was signed by the lowest freeholders, he should certainly never have made to their Lordships the observation which he did make,—namely, that the petition was signed by 1,300 persons, every one of whom was either registered, or entitled to be registered, as a freeholder of 10l. a year; for such, their Lordships were aware, were the lowest freeholders entitled to vote at elections in Ireland. It must be clear, then, to their Lordships, that he had misconceived what had fallen from the noble Marquis, and that he laboured under a wrong impression. As to the value of the petition, he left it to their Lordships to decide that matter. The noble Marquis had admitted that it was signed by many respectable persons; and as to the other point,—the address to the Lord Lieutenant,—he could assure the noble Marquis, that no man rejoiced more to hear of it than he did. Allow him, however, to observe, that addressing the Lord Lieutenant upon his wise and spirited administration in Ireland, was by no means inconsistent with the sentiments contained in the petition in favour of Reform; nor did he think, because so many noble and respectable individuals had concurred in such an address, that their Lordships had a right to conceive, that they were opposed to a measure, which seemed to have been received with so much approbation by almost every class of the community. He had only to repeat, that in what he had said last night upon this part of the subject, he was under a misapprehension, which, it appeared by the explanation of the noble Marquis, he had shared in common with those through whose instrumentality the proceedings of that House were communicated to the public.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that the reason he had not explained last night was, that he felt great diffidence in addressing one syllable to their Lordships, after that most able and eloquent speech which they had heard from the noble Earl. He assured their Lordships, that to the best of his belief he had not used the expression "rabble," and if he had, he was most heartily sorry for it. As to the connection between the two requisitions, he took it to be this—the one spoke of the blessings of the Constitution. Now he was much afraid, that if this Reform Bill were to pass, those blessings would be seriously impaired, if not altogether destroyed.

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