The Marquess of Londonderry
said, that he had a Petition to which he wished to call the particular attention of their Lordships, for he felt the deepest interest in it. In his opinion, the present was one of the most important petitions which had ever been presented. It was one of the most essential and agreeable duties of a Member of either House of Parliament to present petitions from his fellow-subjects on great constitutional questions. It was highly gratifying to him that this petition had been placed in his hands. It was a compensation to him for any little disappointment or mortification that he might have met with in his political career, when he saw so large a body of his countrymen and townsmen place so much confidence in him. There were some strong circumstances connected with his presenting this petition, and circumstances which bore strongly on the condition of the Roman Catholics of Ireland—namely, that this petition was not presented by an Orangeman nor a party Churchman, but by a man who, from the earliest period of his political life, had been the steady friend 341 of the Roman Catholics; so that they might see that the great body of Irish Protestants of the north had intrusted their petition to the hands of an impartial man. The petition expressed the apprehensions of the Protestants of Ireland as to the increased and the dangerous influence of certain popular leaders, and their conviction that every concession made to the Catholics would but lead them on to make fresh demands. The first and most important signature to the requisition to the High Sheriff was that of the Marquess of Downshire, who had assisted in carrying the measure in favour of the Roman Catholics; but when he found that these mischiefs were arising, and this danger coining to the Church, he stepped forward in the most manly way and said, that thus far he had gone, but that he would go no farther; and when he saw that the Protestant religion, and Protestant interests, and their Protestant homes, were struck at, he must come forward to protect them. For these reasons that noble Marquess had taken the same step as the noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Richmond), and the noble Earl (the Earl of Ripon), whom he did not then see in his place, and had separated himself from the Whigs. The petition, and the conduct of the noble Marquess with respect to it, had produced a most extraordinary effect. A letter had been written to the then Lord-lieutenant, violently censuring the conduct of the noble Marquess, and calling on the Lord-lieutenant to remove him from his situation as Lord-lieutenant of the county of Down. The tone and matter of the letter were so dictatorial that it assumed completely a tone of despotism, and it asked the Lord-lieutenant the question, whether, by permitting Lord Downshire to retain an office of so much confidence, to which duties so important were attached, he and his associates were not exposing themselves to the resentment of the great mass of the people, on whom Parliamentary Reform had made them dependant, by whom the majority of the Representatives was returned, and who were, therefore, armed with full power to carry their wishes into effect—that they had not now the choice of abiding or not the consequences of this new principle in the Government, for it must influence their regulations, and from the operation of which it was not in their power to withdraw. Such were the terms of Mr. Sheil's letter to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The Lord-lieutenant, notwith- 342 standing this letter, felt the impropriety of removing the noble Marquess, and he was not removed. The next vengeance of Mr. Sheil was directed against the humble individual who now addressed them. In that matter he had been more fortunate than in the other; but for himself he must say, that the praise and condemnation of the hon. Member were alike to him. What was it that was alleged against him? That he was the orator of an Orange mob, and, therefore, unfit to be trusted with an important post in the King's service; and all this was represented of him merely for the part he humbly but conscientiously took on the subject of the maintenance of our institutions. The second signature to this petition was that of Colonel Ford. This was a matter of considerable importance; for, on a former occasion, the noble Earl, then at the head of the Government (Earl Grey) had laid much stress on the fact that Colonel Ford's name was attached to a petition, observing that Colonel Ford was a Reformer. That fact proved that even Reformers joined those who stood up for the preservation of the Establishment. Colonel Ford was one of the best landlords, and the man most looked up to in the county, and his signature, therefore, was a strong point in favour of the petition. Great efforts had been made to run down the meeting, and it had often been said, the landlords had driven their tenants to it like sheep. This was not true, and he wished to God that all Ireland could produce such an exhibition as the county of Down on that occasion. The tenantry followed their landlords willingly, and there was no such affection entertained for the landlords by the tenantry in any part of Ireland as there was in the county Down. It would be a proud day for Ireland did such affectionate feelings and attachment exist between landlords and their tenantry in other parts of Ireland, as had been shown in that county on that occasion. They had no banners, no mottos, no colours, no tunes, no exciting tunes, such as they had recourse to on a recent occasion. He wished it had been the same on an occasion of which the noble Viscount opposite had not yet given an explanation. He must take that opportunity of telling the noble Lord, that that was his sincere opinion; and he should also take the opportunity of expressing his hope that his noble Friend would use all his influence amongst the protestants of Ireland, that they might not resort to the use of banners and mottos in July next— 343 that they might not take a leaf out of the disgraceful book of their opponents. The violent threats of the noble Viscount opposite would not hinder them from so doing, but he trusted that the influence of his noble Friend would be powerful enough to produce such an effect. Looking at the state of Ireland generally, he could not but be surprised that the noble Viscount should allow so much influence to a certain individual. He remembered a speech made by a noble Lord then at the head of the Government, in which it was said that a noble Marquess, who had pacified India, was to go over and tranquillize Ireland. They had all formed the highest anticipations at the appointment of the noble Marquess, but the system he had pursued was not such as to produce that effect. He gave the noble Marquess credit, however, for many valuable and important improvements which had occurred during his administration. Among these were the establishment of the constabulary force and petty sessions; and had he remained there, it would have been more satisfactory to the people of Ireland than the appointment of the noble Lord who was Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The noble Viscount had asked him a few days ago why he had not presented this petition, which had been agreed on six months since, at an earlier period. He was too frank not to tell the noble Lord that he had a motive in doing so, and that was to let Ireland and this country see what he conceived to be the most unnatural coalition between the noble Viscount and the faction which now governed Ireland. That was the object of the petition when the noble Viscount was at the head of a former Government. Part of the object had been gained immediately after the petition was agreed to, for the noble Viscount was dethroned from his place as Minister and another was appointed in his stead. He did not present the petition during the existence of that Ministry, because he did not think that he was called on to embarrass that Government by a discussion of this sort, for he believed that that Government had given confidence to the Protestants of Ireland. If the noble Viscount doubted him in that respect [Lord Melbourne: "Oh, not in the least!"] He would prove the truth of what he asserted; but when he saw the noble Viscount in office again not only with a Government as bad as before, but infinitely worse, he thought himself bound to come forward and present it. Not only 344 did the law appointments of Ireland show the influence of that person, but he (Mr. O'Connell) spoke as if from the Treasury Bench, and said "we" will do this, and "we" will do that. It was not possible, therefore, to disconnect the noble Viscount at the head of the Government from Mr. O'Connell—they were one and the same. His Government existed on the breath of Mr. O'Connell; tomorrow, if that hon. Member pleased to desert the noble Viscount's Government, the noble Viscount must resign the Seals. The whole country knew that, if the noble Viscount did not. Did the noble Viscount recollect the King's speech in 1834, and could he reconcile his conduct to the sentiments then expressed? Let the noble Viscount look to the latter part of his Majesty's gracious speech on that occasion. His Majesty was made thus to express himself:—"To the practices which have been used to produce disaffection to the State, and mutual distrust and animosity between the people of the two countries, is chiefly to be attributed the spirit of insubordination, which though for the present in a great degree controlled by the power of the law, has been but too perceptible in many instances. To none more than to the deluded instruments of the agitation thus perniciously excited is the continuance of such a spirit productive of the most ruinous consequences; and the united and vigorous exertions of the loyal and well-affected in aid of the Government are imperiously required, to put an end to a system of excitement and violence which, while it continues, is destructive of the peace of society, and, if successful, must inevitably prove fatal to the power and safety of the United Kingdom." He would ask the noble Viscount to answer him this question—whether this passage did not refer to Mr. O'Connell? If it did, then he wished to know whether the noble Viscount had now the same opinion as at that time of Mr. O'Connell and his—he was going to say tail, but he would say Mr. O'Connell and his suite. He would not say tail, because he understood that that word was thought to be offensive, though he should have thought that he would have been proud of having a tail. He believed it was said without offence, that Lord Stanley had a tail; but as that expression was objected to, he should not use it, and he was sincerely sorry if he had used any expression that was offensive. He had chanced casually to cast his eyes over some of Mr. O'Connell's speeches; he did not 345 often do so, but these were extraordinary speeches, and he had refreshed his memory with reading them, in order to tell the noble Viscount how that hon. Member had spoken of him with whom he was now united, and was carrying on the same Government. Mr. O'Connell had said, "In plain truth, Lord Melbourne is incompetent to the office he holds, and it is lamentable to think that the destinies of Ireland have been intrusted to such a person. Of the Marquess of Lansdowne, Mr. O'Connell had said—"His hostility to Ireland is the more active and persevering, as he is bound by every tie to entertain different sentiments towards her." Of Lord Brougham—no, he would not say one word of what Mr. O'Connell had said of that noble and learned Lord, of whose extraordinary talents the noble Viscount had not availed himself in the formation of his Government, but had rather made an olla podrida of the Chancellorship in a way that nobody could understand. Mr. O'Connell had not spared the noble Viscount at the head of the Woods and forests. He said "The people may despair of Lord Duncannon and the Whigs ever doing any thing in accordance with common sense. Their whole career is marked by drivelling fatuity and disgraceful folly." Such were Mr. O'Connell's opinion of the Ministry. The noble Viscount came down on the first day of the session, and told their Lordships that he had no connexion with Mr. O'Connell, and that he did not know whether that learned person was supporting him or not. But at the very moment the noble Viscount was making this assertion in this House, two writs were being moved for in another place on the appointment of the Attorney and Solicitor-General for Ireland, and Mr. O'Connell was universally declaring, that although he himself had no office under Government, yet he had the law appointments in his pocket. He (the noble Marquess) had heard and believed that all the law appointments in Ireland were under the directions of Mr. O'Connell. Noble Lords opposite might cheer, but he still believed that to be the fact. He could assure their Lordships that he had received letters from persons in Ireland, expressive of the greatest apprehension in consequence of the influence exercised by Mr. O'Connell over the Government of that country, and who declared (what was perfectly true) that the position of that Gentleman behind the scenes was more fatal to Ireland than if he had been 346 Attorney-General. The noble Marquess then read a letter from an individual whom he described as possessing the very best information of the state of the public feeling in Ireland. The writer stated—"That since the change of Government, affairs had been materially, and for the Protestants in that country, ruinously altered; and that he saw much greater ground to fear the result of the secret influence which Mr. O'Connell possessed, and would most assuredly exercise, than he did the effects of the direct acts of the Legislature itself. Every office would be filled by his nominees. The judgment seat and the constabulary force would also be filled from his ranks. This was no exaggerated picture. The question of the forfeiture of estates was already openly discussed, and was brought more prominently before the public than it had ever yet been in the whole History of Ireland." Noble Lords might deceive themselves, but he had done nothing more than state what was the impression on the minds of a great portion of the people of Ireland. He would ask if there had not been a palpable influence exercised upon the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government by Mr. O'Connell as regarded Ireland? He would tell the noble Viscount that there had been. This was his conscientious belief, and it was this which had induced him to state so much to their Lordships as he had done. Some very severe animadversions had been made on some Members of their Lordships' House by Mr. O'Connell in another place. It happened to him (the Marquess of Londonderry) to be well acquainted with a certain event that had occurred in Ireland between a relation of his own and the hon. Member for Dublin. He was perfectly aware that as that hon. Member had taken his line, any measure of the nature of that to which he alluded was unnecessary to be pressed upon him. If the hon. Member for Dublin had clothed himself with the garb of a miserable impunity, and had placed himself in a situation which all others who ranked in society as gentlemen were separated from, those who came under the lash of his animadversions must bear it as they could and must let it pass as the idle wind which they regard not. The hon. Member for Dublin not only attacked the living, but those who were gone equally fell under the wanton lash of that person. He (the noble Marquess) did not allude to what had been said of a lamented relative of his own, but the 347 other day Mr. Alexander's name was most wantonly brought forward by Mr. O'Connell. If that hon. Gentleman, when using that great magical word Reform, would endeavour to reform himself a little, it would not only be more beneficial to Ireland, but to himself, for he and all Irishmen would then respect the hon. Member for Dublin much more than at present. The hon. Member would fill a far higher place in his country's esteem. The noble Marquess concluded by presenting the petition.
§ Viscount Melbourne
My Lords, the observations which have been made by the noble Earl will not render it necessary for me to trouble your Lordships at any great length. From the beginning of the noble Lord's speech, I was in hopes of being able to bear testimony to the great prudence and discretion which he manifested, but in the conclusion of it he relapsed into his usual strain, and certainly indulged in language not characterized by that wisdom which marked the commencement of it. I apprehend that the petition is the expression of the sentiments of the people by whom it was voted, at the time at which, and in the circumstances under which, it was voted, and that undoubtedly it should have been presented to the persons to whom it was addressed by that body, at least at the first convenient opportunity after it had been so agreed upon by that meeting. Now, my Lords, when was this petition adopted? It was agreed upon on the 31st of last October, and the noble Lord presents it now on the 2nd day of June, at a period at least of three months after your Lordships have been sitting. I beg leave to say, my Lords, that in other hands than those of the noble Marquess, and at other times, a petition of this sort might be made subservient to party views and party projects. It might be kept in the pocket of the individual to whom it was committed, during the time that a Ministry was in power to whom it was not suited to present it; and it might be brought forward again, and that with great pomp and ostentation, at a moment when other Ministers were in power, upon whom it might be thought more effectually to operate. But the noble Lord had said, that he did not think it worth while to present it to your Lordships at an earlier period. Why, whose petition is it, pray? Is it the petition of the noble Lord, I ask, or is it that of the meeting from which it purports to come? Did the noble Lord receive a discretionary power to present it or to detain 348 it, according to his pleasure? Who gave him, I should like to know, any control or command over the presentation of that petition whatsoever? Was it not his duty then, to be directed by that meeting what to do? My Lords, as soon as that meeting was dispersed, it was gone—it was functus officio; and it could not afterwards change the direction already given as to the time of its presentation. Whatever private intimation the noble Lord might have had, he had no right to do otherwise than fulfil the directions given by that meeting. We do not know now, my Lords, that this petition, under the present altered circumstances of the Government and the country, is expressive of the real opinions of the persons who originally agreed to it. We may presume that it is so; but I say we do not know that the petition expresses their opinion at present. Why, then, I own I should have been much better satisfied if the noble Lord had persevered in the prudent course he has followed for the last three months, and had abstained from presenting the petition at all to this House; for it does compel me to do what I otherwise should not have done, namely, to go a little into the circumstances connected with the getting up of that petition. Undoubtedly the meeting at which the petition was adopted, was viewed with great anxiety by the Government of that day. It was a meeting called by the High-Sheriff, in pursuance of a requisition signed by the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, and a great number of noblemen and magistrates, who were charged to preserve the public peace; and the meeting so called was an exclusive meeting of Protestants. Now, I do not wish to use any language of bitterness and asperity, but I do put it to noble Lords on the other side of the House, whether it was consistent with the duty of those noble Lords, considering the station they held, and the responsibility with which they were charged—I put it more particularly to the noble Earl, who so lately brought a strong charge against the Irish Government respecting the late procession in Dublin, on the ground that it was exclusively a Roman Catholic assembly—whether it were wise or prudent, under the circumstances, for persons in such a station to call a meeting of that kind, and in that part of the country? Consider, my Lords, if this example had been followed—consider if, in those parts of the country where the Roman Catholic religion prevails, exclusive meetings of Roman Catho- 349 lics had been called; consider, my Lords,—and I appeal more particularly to those who are so anxious not to divide that country into two distinct classes,—what a prolific source of discord and animosity that must have been! But I beg leave to observe to your Lordships that that example was not followed by the Roman Catholics; and as it has not been followed by those who are sometimes taunted for their love of outrage, I have nothing more to do than to express my strong opinion of the imprudence of the noble Lords who were the promoters of that most dangerous example. This meeting was called against the then existing Government, and against the strong and decided opinion of the then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland—a Nobleman who has tonight received the highest meed of praise—the tribute of admiration of the noble Lord opposite—and whose opinion I much wish had had the same weight with the noble Lord on that occasion which it appears to possess at present. In all the praise which has been given to my noble Friend, I cordially concur. It is no more than, nor even so much as, he deserves. I only object a little to the time at which it has been given. I wish it had been bestowed at a period when it might have been of some service, and when it might have tended to support his government—if, indeed, it could have given any support to one of his high and eminent character. I do not, I confess, admire that practice which delays all praise to public men, until it is no longer of any service; and, I beg leave to observe, that a little earnest support to a man when in office, is worth a hundred speeches of eulogy when he has retired from it. My Lords, the noble Lord has, in the end of his speech, adverted to the present Government, both in this country and in Ireland, and has very frequently mentioned the name of an hon. and learned Gentleman, a Member of the other House of Parliament. I remember the time when the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden) told us that by the frequent mention of the name of that hon. Gentleman in this House, we gave him a power and influence in the country which he would not otherwise possess, and I always thought there was great weight in that observation. But that admonition seems to have been entirely forgotten by the noble Lords opposite, for we now rarely hear anything else from them but the name of that hon. and learned Gentleman. I can only however in reply to 350 the accusations of the noble Marquess deny most decidedly the truth of the insinuations which have been made by the noble Marquess. With respect to the speeches and letters which have been read, it is rather for Mr. O'Connell himself than for me to reconcile how he can give support to his Majesty's Government consistently with those letters and speeches. It is not a matter, at least, on which I am called upon to speak. With respect to the legal appointments in Ireland having been influenced by Mr. O'Connell, I at once utterly and entirely deny it; more especially with regard to the appointment of the Attorney and Solicitor-General, whom the noble Lord has particularly mentioned, do I give this denial; for it so happens, that at the very period when Mr. O'Connell was writing and publishing these letters, the present Solicitor-General had his appointment, and every body knows that at that time we were extremely anxious, if we could have compassed it, to have had Mr. Sergeant Perrin in the situation which he at present holds. They were both designated then, as they are now, by their ranks and talents, both in Parliament and in their profession; and I utterly deny that they were in any respect the nominees of Mr. O'Connell, as I utterly deny all the other imputations that have been cast upon us by the noble Lord.
The Marquess of Downshire
was understood to say, that he did not regret the step which he had taken in calling the meeting from which this petition originated. He was prepared at that time, as he was now, to abide by the consequences of it. He had supported Catholic emancipation because he deemed it a measure necessary to the tranquillity of the country. In the year 1834 he found all this expectation of benefit from that measure totally frustrated. He had in consequence, in August last, attended a meeting of Protestants in Dublin, where he had expressed the same sentiments which he was now expressing to their Lordships. He had expressed great regret that the result of that measure was not satisfactory, and had said, that the time was at last come in which it was not only incumbent, but also necessary, that all true Protestants should make a stand. He had made that stand; and, without making any boast, he would add, that he was ready to stay where he was. He considered that unless the Protestant Church Establishment in Ireland was supported 351 with fairness, the continuance of the connexion of that country with England would he seriously endangered. As a proof of the great respectability of the meeting, he would state that though many of those who attended it had to travel thirty miles from the place of their meeting to their homes, there had not been a single breach of the peace brought before any of the magistrates of the county of Down arising out of the events of that day. He thought it right to inform their Lordships that those who differed from the petitioners in their religious creed had not offered to them any insult, either as they went to or returned from the place of meeting. They had attended without banners, and he mentioned it, to do honour to the Roman Catholics of the county of Down, that there had been no insult offered by them to any of the Protestants. He could confirm the statement of the noble Marquess as to the mutual good feeling which prevailed among the landlords and tenantry in the county of Down, which had arisen from the good conduct of the landlords on the one side, and from the conviction which experience had stamped upon the minds of the tenantry, that the landlords were most anxious to promote their happiness. He had troubled their Lordships with these few remarks because he had promoted that meeting, and was as well convinced at present, as then, that the course he had pursued was the proper one.
§ Viscount Duncannon
observed, that from the speech of the noble Marquess, it was quite manifest that the country was more indebted for the preservation of the peace to the forbearance of the Catholics than it was to the prudence and discretion of those who had brought together so numerous a meeting of parties exclusively Protestant. When the noble Marquess stated, that the persons who attended this meeting had not assembled with banners, he forgot to state that they had done so in consequence of a notification issued by five Orange Magistrates to the different Orange lodges in the county of Down. [The noble Lord read the notification, which purported to come from the grand Orange lodge of that county, and desired the members of the different subordinate lodges to attend without flags, sashes, or badges] He contended from this placard, that their attendance without flags was not spontaneous, and argued that their marching without sashes and badges proved that this large Protestant meeting was as much under the 352 direction of a particular body as the large body of Roman Catholics which had recently assembled at Dublin to meet his Majesty's representative. ["No, no."] He said yes, yes—exactly the same. Their Lordships had heard a great deal lately about the manner in which those who went out to meet the Lord Lieutenant were marshalled by certain individuals. Now here was this great Protestant meeting of the county of Down evidently marshalled and arrayed by five Orange leaders, by five gentlemen, who, as they were armed with the commission of the peace, were not acting, as he conceived, very consistently with their duty as Magistrates. The noble Marquess had taken credit for the meeting, because it had broken up without any breach of the peace; and he had done it in a manner which meant to imply that no blame could attach to him for convening that meeting, inasmuch as it had not committed a breach of the peace. He contended that if there was any force in this argument, it applied also to those who had recently assembled at Dublin to meet the Lord Lieutenant, and who had been so vehemently attacked in consequence by the noble Lords opposite. There had been no breach of the peace in consequence of their assembling; and, therefore, according to the noble Lord's argument, no blame could attach to them for assembling. He concluded by expressing his conviction that the country was very much indebted to the forbearance of the Roman Catholics of the county of Down for the preservation of peace in that part of Ireland.
§ The Duke of Wellington
rose in consequence of the observations which had been made by the noble Lords opposite on his noble Friend who introduced this petition to their Lordships, and on his noble Friend near him, who had called the meeting from which the petition proceeded. No one lamented more than he did the unfortunate difference of opinion which existed in Ireland upon religious subjects; but without dwelling further upon that unfortunate difference, he would proceed to recall to the attention of their Lordships the circumstances existing in Ireland when this meeting was convened. For a long time previously—at least for three or four years—there had been a total cessation of payment of all dues to the Church of one description—he meant tithes. The Clergymen of the Church of England in Ireland were suffering in consequence the utmost extremity of distress. Parliament had 353 been prorogued without any measure having been passed to enable the Clergy to recover their tithes, and under these circumstances his noble Friend had stood forward to give them some relief—to exhibit the desire of the Protestants of his county to administer to their support, to declare their adhesion to the Protestant religion, and to petition Parliament to afford assistance to the pastors of that religion. [Lord Melbourne: There's nothing about tithes in the petition.] He should not recommend the Lord-lieutenant or the Custos Rotulorum to attend the public meetings of his county in general, but under the circumstances which existed at the time of this meeting, considering the state of the Protestant Church in Ireland, considering the condition in which the Tithe Question had been left at the end of the last Session of Parliament, and also considering the Measure for the future regulation of tithe which was known to be in contemplation, he thought that it was laudable in his noble Friend, the Lord-lieutenant of the county of Down, and in his noble Friend near him, to put themselves at the head of that county for the purpose of affording protection to the Protestant religion in Ireland. Their Lordships had been told that owing to the forbearance of the Roman Catholics in the county of Down, and elsewhere, this great meeting had not ended in riot, and that the hopes of his noble relative to preserve the peace had not been disappointed. Now, he believed that the real truth was, that the great bulk of the Roman Catholics as well as of the Presbyterians were as much interested as the Protestant of the Established Church in maintaining the safety of the Protestant Establishment; and therefore he could not feel such extraordinary obligations to the Roman Catholics for remaining quiet as the noble Baron professed to feel. Whatever opinion might be entertained respecting the conduct of his two noble Friends near him, it must be admitted that all the other persons who attended that meeting had a good right to attend it if they pleased, and that it would have been a breach of the public peace for any one to have endeavoured to interrupt them. He, therefore, could not think that there was any great merit in letting the parties who had been at this meeting return home without disturbance.
§ Earl Fitzwilliam
requested the noble Duke who had just sat down to read the requisition upon which this meeting was 354 convened, and afterwards to read the petition sent up to their Lordships from the meeting. The requisition called for a meeting of the Protestants of the county of Down "to consider the alarming state of their Protestant institutions in this alarming crisis of the country's fate." But the noble Duke wished the House now to believe that the main, if not the only, object of the petitioners was to take care of tithes for the benefit of the clergy.[The Duke of Wellington: No, no"] No! why, was not the noble Duke's entire speech founded on the fact that tithes were no longer paid to the clergy, and that their abstraction was not only to be apprehended but had actually taken place? If this was the object, the laudable object of the petitioners,—and he should ever consider that to be a laudable object which had in view the maintenance of property—he must say that the noble Duke had read in his speech a very wholesome lesson to those Members of that House to whose vote of last year it was owing that the Protestant Clergy of Ireland were now suffering such extreme distress. For it could not be denied, no, not even by the noble Lords opposite, who cheered so loudly, that if the Irish Tithes Bill, which came up from the other House of Parliament last year, had been passed by their Lordships, those persons, for whose especial interest, according to the noble duke, this meeting was called, would not have been in the wretched situation in which they then were. The great objection to this meeting, as it appeared to him, was, that it was the meeting of a sect, of a religious sect. No one could justly blame the noble Marquis for attending a county meeting, convened to petition Parliament for the redress of grievances which were of a national kind. ["Hear," from the Earl of Roden.] If the noble Earl by that cheer meant to intimate that he (Earl Fitzwilliam) did not think the preservation of the Protestant church in Ireland to be a great and important object, the noble Earl greatly misunderstood him. He did think it an important object: but, as it appeared to him, the noble Earl took too sectarian a view of this subject. He thought that the preservation of the Protestant religion was a Protestant object. What he meant to say was, that it was not an object for which all the component parts of the Irish nation, for it was divided into many sects, could unite and co-operate. He must say, that his noble Friend, the Lord-lieutenant of 355 the county of Down, had been in error, he would not say more, in countenancing a meeting of this sectarian kind. The great evil of Ireland was its division into sects; and if he had any further observation to make upon this petition it was, that it was calculated not to allay but to exasperate feelings of religious animosity.
§ The Duke of Wellington
had alluded to the petition, not to the requisition, as the discussions at the meeting from which the petition emanated, had chiefly turned on the distress in which the clergy were at that time involved.
contended, that the object of the petition was not to exasperate religious animosities, but as its words expressed, to support the connexion between the two countries, by supporting the Established Church in Ireland. He wished to remind the House, that a Tithe Bill had been brought into the House of Commons last Session, which, if it had reached that House, would have met with general approbation. But in deference to an hon. and learned Gentleman, whose name had been too often mentioned that evening, the Bill was sent up to their Lordships in an altered shape—in a shape which rendered it a Bill of pains and penalties on the clergy, instead of being a relief and benefit to them. It was, therefore, not wonderful that, when such a Bill was brought up to their Lordships at so late a period of the Session, it was impossible to concoct a new Bill, their Lordships should have thrown it out, with all its injurious and destructive clauses.
The Marquess of Westmeath
reminded the House that Mr. O'Connell had said, in one of his speeches, that he looked upon the 25 per cent. taken from the Church by the Tithe Bill of last Session as only an instalment of the great debt due to the people. The hon. Gentleman had not said when he would demand the next instalment; but demand it, no doubt, he would. He had often heard it said, that their Lordships by rejecting the Tithe Bill of last Session, had reduced the clergy to their present state of destitution. Now his reason for voting against that Bill was, that he mistrusted the feelings and intentions of Mr. O'Connell, as he had disclosed them in his different speeches.
§ Lord Hatherton
would not have risen had not the noble Lord opposite stated that the Tithe Bill, which he had introduced into the House of Commons last Session as Irish Secretary, had been altered and modified by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He could assure the noble Lord 356 that he was completely in error. [Lord Farnham: I was speaking of the altered Bill, not of the original Bill.] It was quite clear, from what the noble Baron had just stated, that he had not mistaken the noble Baron's original observation. The fact was, that he had introduced into the House of Commons a Tithe Bill, which he believed would have passed through both Houses. He believed, however, that that Bill was of a nature which would have been resisted by nearly all the people of Ireland. He believed that the Government never could have forced upon that country an arrangement founded on the basis of that measure. What, then, was the duty of the Government? That which the Government pursued. The Government listened to the representations made to it by the Members for Irish counties, who informed them that they could never agree, and that the people would never agree, to the conversion of church property into a perpetual investment inland. The Government, therefore, abandoned the project of an investment in land, and were obliged, as a matter of course, to abandon all the arrangements connected with such an investment. The representations which induced them to arrive at that conclusion, came from the Irish county Members generally, and last of all from the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. It was true, that Mr. O'Connell was deputed to express the sentiments of those Irish Members in the House of Commons, that he submitted their views to the House in the shape of a motion, and that they then stated their acquiescence in that motion. But Mr. O'Connell was not the individual with whom those suggestions originated. He had made an error—he was told that it was the noble Member for Leitrim who divided the House on that Motion. He should regret if this petition were disposed of, without the opportunity being allowed him of entering his protest against the principle upon which the meeting at which it originated, was got up. That meeting was without parallel in the history of Ireland,—it was the meeting of the portion of a sect (he used the term as it was usually applied), convened by the High Sheriff of the county, on the same plan as some time before the county of Cavan had been assembled, and he did not believe that any other instances existed in which the mere portions of bailiwicks were so convened by the presiding officer. No less than five gentlemen, in their capacities as officers of the grand Orange Lodges in Ireland, had 357 brought the disinterested aid of those bodies on the occasion to which he adverted, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the Irish Government saved other similar examples, the results of which might have been most sanguinary.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
had not intended to take any part in the conversation which had arisen this evening, but he could not sit still and hear from the noble Lord who had filled the highest and most responsible office under the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland language such as he (the Archbishop )had never heard uttered before in this House, without offering a few words of dissent from that language. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Hatherton) had designated the Established Church of Ireland a Sectarian Church. It was the first time he had heard such a designation applied to the Established Church of the country, and he did think that such language was as unconstitutional as it was—
§ Earl Fitzwilliam
rose to order. He trusted the most reverend Prelate would allow him to send the right reverend Prelate back to his Latin grammar and dictionary. The most reverend Prelate did not seem to understand what was the meaning of the word sect. He contended that the Church of England was just as much a sect as the Roman Catholics a sect, as the Baptists were a sect, Presbyterians of Scotland a sect, or the Unitarians a sect. [[Oh! Oh!] "Yes," said the noble Earl, "Give me leave to tell the most reverend Prelate, learned and right reverend as he is"—[Cries of "Spoke, spoke," "Order,"]—I have a right to explain.
The Earl of Wicklow
rose to order amidst great confusion. If the Orders of the House were to be respected or not, he must beg leave to state that the noble Earl not having been alluded to by the most reverend Prelate, had no right to rise in explanation, or to answer observations directed to another Member of the House. The most reverend Prelate had directed his observations to what had fallen from the noble Lord on the back benches (Lord Hatherton), and not to the noble Earl (Fitzwilliam). The noble Lord (Hatherton) if he had any explanation to offer, would be justified in making it, but the noble Earl having spoken on the question and not being alluded to, had no right to rise in explanation. The noble Earl was entirely out of order in referring the most reverend Prelate back to his Latin grammar and dictionary, and was grossly out 358 of order in maintaning his ground on the present occasion.
§ Lord Hatherton,
in explanation, begged to say that it was true he had used the phrase "Sectarian," but at the same time the expression had been before used with reference to the meeting in question.
§ Earl Fitzwilliam
said, that he had a right to explain what he meant by a sect, and with the permission of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) he would do so. He contended that the Church of England was as much a sect as those classes of Dissenters from that Church which he had already enumerated. The Established Church, it was true, was the predominant sect, and he confessed he was surprised the most reverend Prelate should have felt himself called upon to express any regret at such a designation of the Church to which he belonged.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
said, that every body of Christians was grammatically and etymologically a sect. The Church of England was not a sect, either in the sense of the law, or in the common acceptation of the term. He apprehended that the term "Sect" was applied in its usual theological acceptation to a body or class of persons who separated or divided themselves from that which was acknowledged to be a Church. Thus it was that the professors of the Roman Catholic faith were not designated a sect because they formed a Church. The Church of England was not a sect, because it was the Established Church of the country, and on the same grounds the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was not a sect. But when the noble Earl talked of Unitarians as not being a sect, he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) wished to be informed when they had ever been otherwise so considered. In the ordinary and every sense of the word they were sectarians.
The Earl of Roden
denied that the term "Sectarian" justly applied to the meeting held in the county of Down in the month of October last. It was impossible for him to allow the present discussion to pass without for a very short time claiming the indulgence of the House while he repelled the insinuations which had been thrown out, and to answer a charge not founded in justice, but brought against the glorious meeting of the Protestants of Ulster, held at Hillsborough on the 30th of October in the last year. That there existed strong reasons for that meeting he thought there could be now 359 no question. Those reasons were their anxiety to preserve the Protestant Religion as established in Ireland, and to hand it down to their children, and to afford security to life and property in that country. In the latter part of the last Session of Parliament a Bill had been introduced into the other House of Parliament, the provisions of which went to transfer from the Established Church of Ireland any surplus revenues that might remain after its wants were supplied, to the purposes of the Roman Catholic. The Protestants met at Hillsborough in order to protest against a proceeding so unjust as this measure. It had been said, that the peace which had been so well preserved was attributable to the Roman Catholics, and not to the Protestants. This he denied, for the Roman Catholics had then no reason to be dissatisfied—they had no grounds for expressing their dissatisfaction by public meetings; but then they had everything their own way with a Government carrying forward their purposes and their ends—purposes and ends which went to the destruction of the Protestant religion in Ireland. Such were the feelings which the Protestants of Ireland then and now entertained, and they would have been wanting in their duty to their country and themselves if they had not, under such circumstances, legally and constitutionally given expression to their sentiments. Having himself attended that meeting, he could bear his testimony to the extreme regularity and good conduct of the people who were present, and he could further state that not an instance occurred of any attempt to commit a breach of the public peace, except one which resulted from the meeting with the noble Lord opposite, but which was happily settled and conciliated and the meeting passed off without any evil effects arising from it. The noble Lord opposite (Duncannon) had accused the Orange leaders in the county of Down with having issued their edict to the bodies over which they presided, in order to prevent those persons from attending the meeting with their banners. It was somewhat difficult to know how to please the Government; if the Protestants came with colours, prosecutions would be instituted and the parties offending brought to trial, and it was also to be held a crime to prevent such an illegal display. He (the Earl of Roden) was sure that the House would concur with him in thinking that 360 the meeting in question was perfectly justifiable. Much had been said of party distinctions in Ireland as being most injurious to the peace and harmony of the community: but he would inquire who it was that commenced these party distinctions? Who was it that issued a commission of inquiry calculated to increase and embitter the distinctions of party existing in that country? Who was it but that very party, the parents of that measure, who now came forward and charged the. Protestants of the north of Ireland with an endeavour, by the meeting in question, to make the distinctions of party still wider than before? It was the Government itself which had set the example, by sending forth a commission for taking down the number of the Protestant and of the Roman Catholic population, and on their heads must be the blame, if any could attach, of the meeting of the 30th of October last. He should be glad to know whether the Protestants of Ireland were to remain passive when they saw an individual whose name the noble Lord at the head of the Government had avoided to mention in that House—an individual, who was the head of the opposing party, had become the friend and supporter of the Government—the adviser of the Administration—by whom his suggestions were adopted, and his party put into power? He (the Earl of Roden) should be glad to know, whether, under such circumstances, the Protestants of Ireland had not reason to be alarmed, and whether they would not act a most degraded part if they had not come forward to state their determination to support those principles which were dearer to them than their lives, and to preserve that religion which had been handed to them by their forefathers. Such were the feelings of the Protestants of Ireland, and he could tell the noble Viscount that he knew little of their opinions if he thought to frighten them away from that which they conceived to be correct and right. With respect to the meeting itself, there were many circumstances to which he could refer in proof of the orderly manner in which it was conducted. It was superfluous to do so, and he would content himself with stating a further justification of the grounds for the meeting. He need hardly state (for it must be already known to their Lordships) that a system of exclusive dealing had been introduced by the Roman Catholic party into that coun- 361 try, and the Protestant Proprietors of shops, in whatever line of business they might be, had been completely destroyed in consequence. The same system prevailed also in the county of Wexford, a county with which the noble Earl opposite (Fitzwilliam) was extensively connected; and he (the Earl of Roden) had made it his business to visit every house which had come within the ruin consequent upon the system which was practised against every man who had voted in favour of the party opposed to the popular candidates at the last election for that county. With these additional facts before them, could it then be otherwise than that the Protestants should be alarmed? The meeting at Hillsborough had been described by a noble Lord as an exclusive meeting. Such was, however, not the case, for there were present persons professing liberal opinions, as well as others not connected with the Church Establishment. Colonel Ford had long been connected with the county, and was known for his liberality, and Dr. Cooke, of Belfast, the late moderator of the Synod of Ulster—a Christian pastor, who had long laboured in the vineyard of his Master—not a man living on tithes, but a valuable minister of the Presbyterian Church were present at the meeting. [The noble Earl here read extracts from the speeches of these individuals. The extract from the speech of Dr. Cooke concluded by stating that "the time for silence on the part of the Protestants had passed, and the time to speak out had arrived."] He must particularly call on their Lordships to attend to what Dr. Cooke had said, because that gentleman felt that his religion and the revenues of the Church were in danger. The opinions of these gentlemen proved that such meeting was not held for party objects—was not congregated to serve, or support any Administration; and for himself, he (the Earl of Roden) could declare that it would signify not to him who sat on the benches opposite, or what Administration might be in power, but he should, whenever he saw a Government place the Protestants in such a position, feel it his duty to act as he had done, and in the same manner as had directed his course in October last. It was his duty as a magistrate, and equally his desire as a subject of the Crown to prevent, as much as in him lay, the processions on the 12th of July next, which had been alluded to; for though the noble Lord opposite had left the country in 362 doubt whether or not such processions with party banners were illegal, he should be most anxious to prevent such an exhibition, if illegal, and thereby show that the Orangmen of Ireland would manifest a loyal affection for the laws of the land and not transgress that which it was their duty to support and maintain. A noble Lord opposite had drawn a comparison between the procession of which the Earl of Mulgrave was the idol the other day and the meeting in October last in the county of Down, and it had been said that one was as illegal as the other. What was the difference, however, between these two exhibitions? At the one—the honours to the Earl of Mulgrave—banners were displayed of a character forbidden by act of Parliament; and at the other—the meeting at Hillsborough—no banners appeared. The Protestants who had assembled on that last-mentioned occasion had but one object in view—namely, the support of the Protestant religion of the country as by law established, and to oppose a system of education, the ill effects of which had produced most calamitous circumstances, and to which he should call the attention of the House as soon as he returns moved for by him were laid upon the Table. He lamented to say, that such meetings were rendered necessary by the individuals who were now ruling Ireland, and by the Governors of that country still behind the scene, whose influence there, on account of the prevailing superstition, made the people an easy prey to their machinations, and whose object was the separation of the countries, and the dismemberment of England and Ireland by a repeal of the Legislative Union. A system of organization and combination prevailed in Ireland, running by communication throughout the whole of the country, which he believed had for their object and end the destruction of Protestant property, of Protestant life, and of the Protestant religion of that land. Such was his deliberate judgment, and he should not be an honest man if he refused to declare it to the House, and to take such legal and constitutional measures as were within his reach, in order to avert calamities such as he now foresaw impending over his country.
The Earl of Haddington
said, at the late hour of the evening which had now arrived, he should not detain their Lordships many moments. He did not seek to enter into a warm discussion of the 363 topics and points which had been introduced into the conversation, he wished merely to advert to a point which had been slightly referred to by the noble Marquess who opened the Debate, and by the noble Earl who had just sat down. He alluded to the appeal which had been made to the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Roden), that he would use his influence with the Protestants of Ireland to endeavour to prevent any of those displays of an illegal character which might tend to create tumult, confusion, and disturbance. Before he had left Ireland on the very last public occasion which was afforded him of addressing any words to his fellow-subjects in that country, he had ventured to offer his humble advice to the Protestants of Ireland to allow nothing to tempt them to violate the law. He trusted that, considering the situation which he had lately filled in Ireland, he might be permitted here again to offer them the same advice, and he would join the noble Marquess in his appeal to the noble Earl (the Earl of Roden) to exercise that influence which he possessed over not only the Protestants, but all sects and parties in Ireland. No individual could exercise that influence more beneficially than the noble Earl. He hoped the Protestants Would remember that there were no means by which they could place themselves in the hands of their worst enemies so completely as by violating the law, and coming into inevitable and unnecessary conflict with the Government of the country. That the Protestants had very strong feelings at the present moment was not to be denied, but their sincere attachment was to the institutions, sacred and civil, of their country. He would remind them that there was nothing by which they could so deeply injure those institutions, sacred and civil, as by making displays calculated by their character to lead to turbulence and disorder. In stating thus much to them, he begged to say the advice came from one as devotedly attached as themselves to the connexion between the two countries, and the sacred and civil institutions of both, and he trusted the noble Earl, and those who concurred with him would, in consideration of the office he (the Earl of Haddington) had lately filled, forgive him for offering this word of advice.
The Earl of Gosford
said, that he could solemnly declare, that many Protestants 364 were not only opposed to the meeting at Hillsborough, but had expressed to him the evil consequences which they anticipated would result from such an assemblage. He knew also, that excitement and irritation had been the consequence of that meeting, and that between many persons formerly living in harmony and goodwill with each other, an immediate change had followed that transaction. With respect to the meeting itself, he had been informed, upon the authority of individuals long acquainted with the county of Down, that the greatest possible compulsion had been used to collect great bodies for that meeting; that labourers had been paid three days' wages to attend it; and agents and bailiffs had been employed to congregate unwilling tenants on the occasion. Thus it was, that the meeting was resorted to in such numbers. It should not be forgotten, also, that the meeting was held in the extreme end of the county of Down, verging upon the counties of Antrim and Armagh, the very spot where the greatest number of Orangemen lived. He could further state that many respectable inhabitants of the town of Hillsborough, when they saw the orders issued to the Orange Lodges, declined attending, and protested against the meeting, assigning at the same time the cause of their protest. The feeling against the Tithe Bill of last year was not general in Ireland, and the attempt to get up a similar meeting in the county with which he was connected, was rejected by a great body of the magistracy of the county.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, with regard to the assertions of the noble Earl (Gosford) as to the tenantry of Down being paid for their attendance, he knew little of that body of men to make such a declaration. He defied the noble Earl to the proof, or to name a single instance where it occurred. Possibly the noble Lord (Hatherton, late Secretary for Ireland), who had visited, in former days his (Lord Londonderry's) tenantry in Ireland, would give him his sentiments of the description of that invaluable class of tenantry of which the landlords of Ireland had to boast, and would prove they were above such suspicion. With respect to the remarks of the noble Viscount (Melbourne) in reply to them, he must remark, first, that the main argument of the noble Viscount rested on his having kept the 365 petition so long in his possession, and by what authority he had done so? He begged to observe that a noble and learned Lord (Brougham) on a former evening, had stated distinctly his opinion, that when any petition [was placed in the hands of an individual, it was for that person to use his discretion as to the period of its presentation, and if the noble Viscount doubted that the feelings of the petitioners were now in accordance with what they were in October last, the noble Viscount should have another petition of a similar import in a very short time. The noble Viscount had then been pleased to make rather a personal allusion to his political wisdom. He would not presume to put it in competition with that of the noble Viscount opposite; but he would say, that he was not so wise as to undertake an administration founded on the basis of robbing the Protestant Church of Ireland by appropriating its surplus revenues to general purposes of education. He was not so wise as to undertake a government, whose existence depended on a radical and factious body in Ireland. And, finally, he was not so wise as to become a minister upon the resignation of one of the greatest statesmen this country has ever seen, who received on his retirement the unanimous applause, and urgent entreaty to remain in office conveyed in more than a thousand addresses bearing millions of signatures. To such wisdom he was not yet arrived. He could not wish the noble Viscount joy of his position—nor could he ever believe it would end in anything more than his entire discomfiture.
§ Petition laid on the table.