HL Deb 11 February 1833 vol 15 cc463-76
Lord Teynham

felt much regret that he was obliged, in compliance with his duty, to allude to his noble friend, the Marquess of Sligo, and question the propriety of his conduct. He meant to bring before the House, before his Majesty's Ministers, and before the great bar of the nation, from which, in the last resort, justice must be expected, a question of great importance—the power exercised of subjecting the barony of Gallen to the Peace-preservation Act. He had been requested by numerous inhabitants of that barony to lend his humble aid in procuring them redress. He had reduced the facts to writing, in order to avoid the possibility of being carried away, and giving offence to the noble Marquess. Their Lordships were aware that the Lords Justices of Ireland had placed under the Peace-preservation Act, Gallen, a barony in Mayo, of which county his noble friend was Lord-lieutenant. This step had been resorted to without any communication having been made to the resident Magistrates, without any demand on their part of such an interference, and without the sanction of the landed proprietors. The noble Marquess had merely given notice to the county Magistrates, that they ought to take the state of the barony into consideration. Accordingly, sixty Magistrates assembled at Castlebar on the twenty-second of last month, in a private house, and deliberated with closed doors—a custom which he hoped would not long continue a fashion in England or Ireland. These gentlemen were, of course, unacquainted with the localities of the barony of Gallen—they knew nothing about it, and were obliged to take such information as the noble Marquess supplied. That was the ground on which they formed their opinions. Now he was instructed to say, that many persons offered to give testimony on oath, and prove that there were no disturbances to warrant such a visitation, and especially on the eve of a contested election. The election was the real cause of the whole proceeding. Reform in England was carried to get rid of nomination boroughs, and to deprive landed proprietors of the power of sending their nominees into Parliament. But the noble Marquess, as soon as he got to Ireland, said: Oh, the principles of Reform don't apply here; the county of Mayo is my Old Sarum; and any one coming here to take my power from me is an enemy, a disturber of the public peace—is, in fact, one of O'Connell's gang." Who was it that came forward to contest the representation of the county of Mayo? Sir William Brabazon, a gentleman of ancient family, of great influence and property in the county, a descendant of the man who secured Ireland for this country. Their Lordships might read in the Records of that House, that the Lord Treasurer Brabazon, in the time of Henry the 8th, came forward to settle the liberties of the country, by passing the Act of Supremacy and on the occasion now referred to Sir William Brabazon came forward to uphold the rights of Irishmen. But he would proceed no further in his eulogy of that gentleman, because his worthiness to be the representative of Mayo, and the anxiety of all classes in that county to be represented by him, were equally well known. He hoped, however, that the freedom of election would be soon as secure in Ireland as England. Who was the gentleman opposed to Sir William Brabazon? A person certainly of respectability, but of no property, without even votes, whose sole claim was, that he was the relative of the noble Marquess. At the election, acts were perpetrated of such a nature that it was astonishing Government could, after these deeds, expect that law would be obeyed in Ireland. Two men were murdered on Christmas-day for looking at the High Sheriff. Notwithstanding the laughter of some noble Lords, he must re-assert the accuracy of his statement. Another murder had been committed by the police without even the censure of a Magistrate; and in these cases the verdict returned was—"Justifiable homicide." The noble Earl now at the head of the Ministry stated, in the year 1799, in the House of Commons, as he found the words reported in Hansard's Parliamentary History. 'What I most heartily wish for said the noble Earl, is Union between the two countries. By Union, I mean something more than a mere word—a Union, not of Parliaments, but of hearts, affections, and interests—' a Union of vigour, of ardour, and zeal for the general welfare of the British Empire. It is this species of Union, and this only, that can tend to increase the real strength of the empire, and give it security against any danger'*. Such were the words of the noble Earl; and more than thirty years had passed away since the Union had taken place—with what result, unfortunately, the present state of Ireland too painfully demonstrated. He (Lord Teynham) challenged any one to assert that hitherto it had not been a Union of power, of weakness, and oppression of every description. For nearly thirty years the great boon—emancipation—demanded by justice and religion, as well as the interest of the country, had been withheld. Reverting again to the immediate subject before the House, he could state, that he was assured by respectable persons in Gallen, that there had been no riots, nor one murder committed, to justify the infliction of the Peace-preservation Act. And why should this barony be put out of the King's peace more than Erris? Why had the proceedings been put under a bushel? Why had the noble Lord removed the quarter sessions from Tuam to Ballina, without a single reason being assigned for it? In that part of Ireland there was a large number of great fairs. Could it conduce to peace, to have policemen, with loaded arms, walking through the assembled multitudes? At the late election for Kent, the supporters of Sir William Cosway declared, that their champion would remove the Quarter Sessions from Canterbury to Ashford. But if a parallel for the slighter unconstitutional threat was to be found in an English election, there was none for the tremendous power placed in the hands of the Irish police. Was it credible that any persons could expect peace or order if such acts as had been detailed were permitted to pass with impunity? If the perpetrators of those homicides, as they were called in Ireland, had been brought to trial in England, they would certainly have been found guilty of murder. And were the Irish to be hunted down as out of the pale of humanity? The present subject deeply concerned the peace of Ireland, and the proceedings of that House were looked to with intense interest, as decisive proofs whether England was willing to render justice to Ireland. There would be no necessity for unconstitutional powers, if justice were done. It *Vol. xxxiv. p.337. was useless to attempt to conquer a people who gave their hearts to resistance. It was not his intention to indulge in praise of the gallant general who commanded the army in Ireland, or of the noble Lord who was at its head in this country but it was a strong fact, that the troops were withdrawn from Gallen about the time that it was put under the Peace-preservation Act. The noble Lord concluded by moving for "A copy of the proclamation of the Lords Justices of Ireland, declaring the barony of Gallen, in the county of Mayo, in a state of disturbance, and requiring an additional force under the Peace-preservation Act. Copy of the memorial of the Magistrates, Catholic clergy, and freeholders of the barony, to the Lords Justices thereon. Copy of a memorial thereon, from Sir William Brabazon, bart., and T. D. Ellard, esq., a Magistrate of the county, presented January 26, 1833. A list of the chief constables of the county of Mayo, serving on the 1st of July, 1832; noticing those who have been since dismissed, their names and occupations, and the parish and barony of the persons nominated in their stead. A return of the number of committals by the Magistrates of the barony of Gallen, and of the convictions at the petty sessions holden at Swinford and Fozford, in that barony, during the years 1830, 1831, and 1832. And also, the number of persons now in confinement, or under trial, for offences committed in that barony, and the nature of such offences, since the 1st of July, 1832."

The Question was put.

The Marquess of Sligo

said, it was impossible for him to know whether or not his Majesty's Government would consent to the production of the papers required by the noble Lord; as far as his own feelings were concerned, he had not the slightest objection to their production, but the contrary. He must, however, claim their Lord-ships' attention for a few moments, whilst he rebutted the attack made on him by the noble Lord. If the Lord Chancellor of Ireland were present, or if the Secretary for Ireland had a seat in that House, they could inform their Lordships that the barony of Gallen had been a cause of great uneasiness to him as Lord lieutenant of the County of Mayo during the last two years. It contained a very small number of local Magistrates, and the difficulty of things was enhanced by persons whose station entitled them to act as Magistrates refusing the office. Notwithstanding, till a recent period Gallen did not constitute a decided exception to the general peaceable condition of the county. His character having been impugned by the noble Lord who dealt in direct impeachments—not insinuations—against his honour and motives, and had brought distinct charges, the House would allow him to show that the barony of Gallen was in such a state of disturbance as to demand the application of the Peace-preservation Act, and their Lordships would also bear with him whilst he explained the causes of so lamentable a condition of things. At the same time, it was due to himself to say that, expecting no accusation of this nature, he did not bring over a single document on the subject; but from his recollection of the number of outrages that had occurred, he would mention some, although aware that he must omit many. On the 1st of September, a contest took place concerning the possession of a house at Derryhath between brothers named M' Loughlin, and the matter created such a degree of animosity and excitement that the police and military had to take possession of the House in dispute to prevent bloodshed. Shortly afterwards the haggard of a gentleman, whose son had been the agent of one of the disputants, was destroyed by fire. Subsequently to this event Mr. Burton, one of the most extensive tithe-owners in the neighbourhood, came to inform him that he could not obtain a single shilling of his tithes, and he sent his two proctors to confirm the statement on oath. Meantime the violence and disturbances had excited the attention of the Inspectors-general of Police, and thirty policemen and a sub-Inspector were sent to assist in the collection of tithes. Shortly afterwards a letter came from the Inspector, stating that 1,200 persons had marched into the town and to the chapel in regular military array, and that at the chapel they were addressed by the hon. baronet mentioned by the noble Lord. The hon. baronet, on being questioned on the subject, stated to him (the Marquess of Sligo) that the numbers of the people had been greatly exaggerated, and that all they wanted was to hear his opinion about tithes, having heard which they went away. But he had been told in other quarters, that the hon. Baronet addressed the people from the pulpit of the chapel, and asked them to withdraw, under apparent feelings of alarm. The Inspector of Police informed him that it was impossible to do anything in the collection of tithes. He had sent to the Magistrates, requesting them to evince more activity in their exertions with regard to tithes, but apprehending that they would not comply with the suggestion, he applied to Government, and Mr. Jones, an English gentleman, was sent down as a stipendiary Magistrate. After Mr. Jones had been in the county a few days, he found that the force at his disposal was insufficient, and he wrote to him (the Marquess of Sligo), stating, that it was as much as all their lives were worth to remain. Under these circumstances, application was made to Lieutenant-Colonel Hare, commanding the 27th Regiment, who with his usual promptitude sent another company to the assistance of Mr. Jones. Forty police, and 110 or 120 military, went out, not to seize, but to view tithes, and experienced such resistance, that, in order to save their own lives, they were compelled to fire on the people. No notice was taken of this occurrence in the repeal newspapers. Did not the facts to which he had alluded afford a sufficient explanation and proof of the necessity of proclaiming that district? A memorial had been sent to the Home Secretary (thus passing over the Irish Government) against the proclamation of the barony of Gallen. Was that the proper course? He wrote to four resident Magistrates, blaming them for not coming forward or affording the slightest assistance on the occasion; and he had received a species of round-robin communication from three of them absolutely refusing to act at all in tithe cases. Immediately after the events narrated Mr. Jones left Gallen, and the troops went to their quarters. He had, afterwards, received a letter from the chief constable of police, stating that numerous parties, amounting to from 300 to 400, were going about by night, swearing in men, and that the police were obliged to hide themselves. The election then came on; he would not discuss it; but he would state that there were 260 police and three troops of the 10th Hussars in the town, and that so great was the excitement they were unable to keep the peace. This was the period when, according to the noble Lord, two men "were killed for looking at the Sheriff." What was the fact? The people attacked the Sheriff because he voted for the opposite party; they attacked that party and its voters. He had had a letter from the chief constable, stating the outrages that were committed—the burning of a store of turf—the levelling of three houses belonging to Mr. George Moore. Further, as a person named Clark was returning from Ballina, he was taken off his horse and cruelly beaten; but this was not sufficient—the barbarians who assailed him literally impaled the horse, driving a stake through his breast. This occurred in the tranquil barony of Gallen. A party of revenue police went out in performance of their duty; they were pursued by a body of several hundred people, and, doubtless, would have been sacrificed had not Mr. Moore (a gentleman already mentioned) taken, them over a river in his boat. A few days afterwards a mounted policeman had a fall from his horse, and in the fall his pistol went off and wounded him; he called out to some men who were near the spot for assistance; they came, and seeing him unable to defend himself, began to pelt him with stones. The man, who possessed great courage and coolness, managed to get on his horse, and fire four or five shots at his assailants, after which he got off. A collector of rents was warned off, and told to bring his coffin with him next time: he took shelter in the police barracks, and was privately conveyed out of the reach of the people. What was the fact? That people would rather go twelve miles round than pass through this peaceable barony. About this time he learned from a Magistrate that the daughter of a shopkeeper of Smithford had been carried off in the noon day, and not a creature ventured to interfere for the poor girl's protection. He had a letter from a Magistrate, stating that bands of men, with white handkerchiefs round their hats, and hay-bands about their waists, were going about swearing the people to pay neither tithes, taxes, nor rents, and beating all who objected. A policeman had seen a dozen anvils in the road which had been taken from the smiths' forges, and the owners were not allowed to take them away till they had sworn an oath not to shoe the horses of any persons who had voted against Sir W. Brabazon. In consequence of these circumstances, he considered it his duty to apply to the Government for additional assistance to put an end to such a state of things, but the reply being that no more force could be spared, the next thing was to call a meeting of Magistrates to consider the state of the barony. The meeting was advertised for a considerable time, and it was therefore competent for all who felt an interest in the matter, either one way or the other, to attend. Of all the Magistrates present, only one gentleman opposed the proclaiming of the district. It was only fair to say, that two other Magistrates belonging to the barony did not come into the room; one of them had signed the round-robin he had already mentioned; but some time after, when the matter had been determined on, these two Magistrates came in; all they begged for was the delay of a week, to see whether the people would not return to their allegiance, thus making an implied admission of the reality of the disturbance. The vote for proclaiming the barony had been carried at once. There were two Lords-lieutenant of counties, eleven Deputy-lieutenants, and forty other Magistrates present. The noble Marquess proceeded to read letters from various individuals resident in the county, expressive of approbation of the barony being proclaimed. A Magistrate wrote, stating that "he was happy to know that Gallen had been put under the Peace-preservation Act," adding: Thank God, we shall now have a chance for our lives." A Catholic gentleman spoke of agitators from Gallen going through other baronies, and preaching up exclusive dealing," and of persons being waylaid and beaten in open day." The noble Lord was mistaken in saying, that he (the Marquess of Sligo) had put the barony under the Peace-preservation Ac—he was only one of sixty Magistrates who had determined on the measure. He knew nothing as to the removal of the Quarter Sessions; he had never heard of the circumstance before that night.

Lord Teynham

It appears on the papers moved for.

The Marquess of Sligo

Then it is my fault that I was not aware of it. Had the noble Lord read the evidence taken at the inquests of which he spoke?

Lord Teynham

said he had.

The Marquess of Sligo

regretted (hat having done so, the noble Lord came to a different conclusion from the Juries, their verdict being, in every case, justifiable homicide. He would then refer to the papers for which the noble Lord had moved. The noble Lord's first application was for a copy of the Lords Justices proclamation, declaring Gallen to be in a state of disturbance—he believed the noble Lord had the proclamation in his hands; however, he might wish to obtain it in an authoritative form, and there could be no objection to that. The next thing the noble Lord asked for was, a copy of the memorial of certain Magistrates to the Lords Justices upon their proclamation. Now this was the address of the three recusant Magistrates who had sent him the round robin, and of one other, and perhaps their Lordships would not attach much importance to that document. The third paper recalled him to the subject; and he might observe that Mayo had providentially been one of the quietest counties in Ireland for a long period. There had been nothing like disturbance, if he excepted a short period in 1829, when the Magistrates rallied against the disturbers, and beat them out of the county, without an appeal to the Peace-preservation Act, although Galway, Sligo, and Roscommon were proclaimed. As a proof of the comparative tranquillity of these counties, he would mention, that Roscommon had a force of 650 police, and 258,000 inhabitants—being one policeman to every 390 inhabitants; in Galway the number of police was 825 to 380,000 inhabitants—being one to every 460; and in Mayo, there were 198 policemen to 367,000 inhabitants—being about one to every 1,900. The comparative smallness of the force showed the ease with which peace had been preserved in Mayo. No disturbance in fact took place there till the intimidation for election purposes began. The hon. Baronet whom the noble Lord had alluded to (Sir William Brabazon) started for the county on the repeal principle; the people became excited, and the face of things was then completely altered. Their Lordships had heard before now of such a thing as a black list, but in this case, at the bottom of one of the hon. Baronet's placards, notice was given that after the election the names of those who voted "against their country "should be printed "in red," for what view and with what object he left it to their Lordships to determine. On the 10th of November an address was voted at a meeting (Sir William Brabazon in the chair), suggesting the plan of exclusive dealing, urging an extinction of tithes, and a Repeal of the Union between England and Ireland. In this address the fair sex was brought into efficient play, and "mothers, wives, and daughters, married and unmarried," ware entreated to exercise their great and uncontested influence in behalf of repeal, and exclusive dealing, as a means of accomplishing that end. Lists were promised "at the close of the election," of the free-holders and their mode of voting. Perhaps it was excusable to resort to such expedients, (most certainly, however, he should not have adopted them) during the excitement of an election contest, but to persist in that line of policy after the question of the election had been decided, and at a time when no immediate purpose was to be gained by it, would be held less deserving of pardon. However, the address was published again on the 9th of January, with the promised list of freeholders and their mode of voting. Not content with that, instructions were given, apparently with the authority of J. D. Ellard, the chairman, who had also signed the memorial moved for, as to the office and duty of "parochial constables," who were directed to call the attention of the people to the scheme of exclusive dealing. This, he contended, was extending election excitement beyond its just limits, and protracting it at a time when no election purpose could be gained by it; it was culpable for this reason, that it continued the excitement unnecessarily, and held up those who had voted according to the dictates of their conscience as marks for contumely and injury. The object of the noble Baron in moving for a return of the sixty Magistrates who acted at the petty sessions of Castlebar might be supposed by their Lordships to mean nothing; but it was with a view to show that they had been got together by him (the Marquess of Sligo), and that their decision had been influenced by the partial information which he had laid before them. With reference to the remarks which had fallen from the noble Baron as regarded the quarter sessions, and with reference to the return moved for of the number of committals at the sessions, he must say, that he could not have the least objection to that return; but if unattended by explanations, it would certainly give an appearance of less crime than actually existed. Nothing was better known in Ireland than that a small number of assaults showed that the country was in a state of disturbance; for that was a proof that the different parties had put aside their private feuds, and were united for one common object. All the evidence too in these cases was on one side. The intimidation that was exercised prevented the people from appearing at the courts to prosecute, and then those who intimidated them objected to them that they did not come forward. As to the appointment of the coroner, with regard to which the noble Baron had withdrawn his Motion, he begged to observe that the Gentleman who now discharged the duties of that important office was a man of most respectable character, of good sense, and of sound understanding. He knew no man who bore a higher character, and he fell confident that any inquiry which might be instituted into the conduct of that individual would lead to results highly creditable and honourable to himself. He hoped he had left no point alluded to by the noble Baron unnoticed; he, however, begged to ask the noble Baron, on what grounds it was that the noble Baron presented himself as the champion of liberal principles? He was anxious to know what claim he had to that title, and to inquire how far he had proved himself the friend of the people? What obligations did Ireland owe to the noble Lord more than to him, and could the noble Lord produce any flattering testimonial of having contributed to her happiness, and to relieve her distresses such as he possessed? He was unwillingly forced to speak of himself before their Lordships. There was no insult which he had been spared—there was no obloquy which had not been heaped upon him for having done his duty; but he had never been provoked to utter one word of retort, or in his own defence, till he had been assailed before their Lordships. It had been said by an eminent character in the other House, that if the people were not protected, it could not be expected that they would be obedient, and, therefore it was, that he thought it his duty, above all things, to protect the peaceable people. In conclusion, the noble Marquess thanked their Lordships for the attention with which they had heard him.

Lord Templemore

felt it due to the noble Marquess who had just sat down to state, that such were the reports as to the situation of the Barony of Gallen forwarded to the Commander of the Forces in Ireland, that that gallant officer had felt himself called upon to direct him (Lord Templemore) to order a troop of the 10th regiment to proceed by forced marches from Longford to Mayo. It was also due to the noble Marquess to state, that in his (Lord Templemore's) opinion) judging from the extensive correspondence which had taken place with reference to this subject, and from other circumstances, the measure adopted by the noble Marquess for the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of the least disturbed county in Ireland, had been highly commendable. He must bear testimony to the forbearance which the noble Marquess had shown, to the anxiety he had evinced, to save the county of Mayo from the burthen of an additional police force, and also to the accuracy of the statement which had just been made by the noble Marquess to their Lordships.

Viscount Melbourne

said, that notwithstanding the grounds on which the noble Baron had based his motion, he (Viscount Melbourne) should offer no opposition to the production of the documents for which the noble Baron had moved; but it was impossible for him, in agreeing to the production, not to guard himself against its being supposed that he gave the slightest countenance to the statements and assertions made by the noble Baron. It was natural, nay, unavoidable, that his noble friend behind him (the Marquess of Sligo), attacked and condemned as he had been, should have gone at length into the statement which their Lordships had just now heard; and the clear and distinct manner in which the noble Marquess had made that statement, and vindicated himself from the charge which had been brought against him, had not only attracted the attention of their Lordships, but convinced them that his conduct needed no other justification. He felt satisfied that their Lordships, bearing in mind the Speech from the Throne, would not consider it proper that he should now enter into the discussion of the question as to the state of Ireland, as it must so shortly be brought before them in a different form. He might, however, be allowed to bear his testimony as to the admirable conduct of the noble Marquess, and also to state that, from the information he possessed, and from the correspondence which had ensued between the noble Marquess and the Home-Office he felt certain that the noble Marquess had discharged his important duties not only with zeal, diligence, and activity, but with a feeling of tenderness and regard to the interests of the people, and without having recourse to any unnecessary measure of harshness or severity.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

had heard several of the observations of the noble Baron with much regret. For himself he must say, that he had never seen a policeman walking through the county, without regretting that such a force existed; but he had never heard any reasonable man say, that the police force had not behaved well, and that it was not necessary for the protection of life and property in Ireland. He could safely and satisfactorily state, that the conduct of that force had been most exemplary. It was not to be denied that human nature might, by the force of events, be sometimes rash, but, on the whole, the conduct of the Irish police force had been most correct. If the noble Baron had read the evidence which had been adduced upon the inquiries following the event to which he had alluded, instead of relying upon his instructions (as the noble Baron had been pleased to call them, which, by the bye, was a new word introduced into their Lordships' debates), of those whose feelings he represented, he would have found that the man who fell had actually thrown two stones before the shot was fired which proved fatal to him, and was actually stooping to pick up another stone, when he was killed. Connected as he was with the noble Marquess, he did not feel it necessary to make any remarks upon the great services of that noble individual during the period at which the Ribandmen disturbed the country. The exertions of the noble Marquess were well known on that occasion, and he thought that the noble Baron ought to have been provided with better information and a few more proofs before he had brought forward the Motion which he had made. True it was, that the hon. Baronet to whom allusion had been made (Sir William Brabazon) had been a Magistrate for the county of Mayo, and the best proof of the manner in which he had discharged the duties of that appointment was his removal from that station. The charges laid before their Lordships were only supported by two Magistrates, and one of them had been guilty of a dereliction of his duty. It was no wonder that the people of Ireland looked with such distrust upon those who were placed in authority over them, when influential persons, who ought to know better, took so much pains to convince them that those authorities were guilty of such gross partiality and ill-conduct as they had been charged with.

Lord Teynham

thought he was justified by circumstances in bringing the subject before their Lordships; and though he had been met by taunts, he had only discharged his duty. He felt satisfied that if the documents for which he had moved were laid upon the Table, their Lordships would feel that investigation was necessary. He could almost rely on one document alone—namely, the memorial which had been addressed to the Lord Lieutenant, bearing the signatures of a numerous body of most respectable persons, and which was itself a proof that the barony of Gallen was not in such a state as had been asserted. He had no intention in bringing the subject forward to hurt the feelings of the noble Marquess, but he had only discharged his duty, and he felt satisfied, that by the information which these documents would afford, their Lordships would be of opinion that investigation was called for.

Viscount Lorton

had no doubt that the noble Marquess, the Lord-lieutenant for the county of Mayo, had discharged his duty in a most efficient and exemplary manner, and he also conceived that the noble Baron (Lord Teynham) had been erroneous in his statement with regard to the police force of Ireland, whose conduct, he could say, had been generally most exemplary and correct.

Motion agreed to.