HL Deb 06 April 1840 vol 53 cc544-6
The Marquis of Westmeath

said, he rose to present several petitions against the Irish Municipal Corporations Bill. The first to which he should call their lordships' attention was from the guild of shoemakers of the city of Dublin. That petition, which was couched in very energetic, but very effective language, he begged leave to read to the house. The petitioners stated, that in their opinion the bill which had been introduced was calculated not to reform, but to destroy the corporations of Ireland. They regretted to see various revolutionary measures brought before Parliament under the specious name of Reform, the effect of which must be the destruction of various ancient rights and privileges. They energetically protested against the violation of their rights, which they would not allow rudely to be torn from them and given to others, whether friends or foes, who had no claim whatsoever to them. The petitioners demanded of their lordships to consider, if corporation property were not protected, how long private property would be safe? They denied the right of any authority under Heaven to despoil them of their property—not only to despoil them of that which they had derived from their ancestors but also to deprive their successors of their birthright. The argument which was made use of in support of this proceeding was nothing more than the plea of the plunderer who forcibly possessed himself of the purse of the weaker party. If such a measure were carried, the petitioners felt convinced that it would be another "heavy blow and great discouragement" to Protestantism in Ireland, and they therefore earnestly prayed their Lordships not to allow this bill to pass into a law. The noble Marquess then proceeded to say, that these petitioners plainly told their Lordships that they had no right to pass this bill. They boldly used the words "no right." That was a phrase and an expression which, he believed, was to be found in the mouth of every Englishman who saw those rights or that property invaded which justly belonged to him. The noble viscount must have heard it from his schoolboy days up to the present hour. It was familiar to every Englishman. It Grew with his growth, and strengthened with his strength. And the same sentiment was expressed by the petitioners, who saw their rights recklessly invaded. He, for one, was astonished that any set of men should expose themselves, by an act of legislative duty, to be addressed in language such as that. He should feel himself degraded if any body of men could justly address him in language of that description. The measure to which the petition related appeared to him to be an act of political gambling—as if the destinies of a people were to be taken up, and any set of men who happened to be in power were at liberty to play with them as if they played with a pack of cards. He was struck with this view of the matter when the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland brought up this bill. Joy was beaming on his face when he brought up this wicked, mischievous, and plundering bill. The noble Lord, he believed, thought that he was doing a good act, for there was a great deal of difference between school attainments and statesmanlike ability, which knows how to distinguish between a wise and a vicious measure. Now, he would maintain that the bill which had been thus brought up to their Lordships' House did not receive a statesmanlike consideration. It was introduced to satisfy agitators—he would not more particularly say whom—and to keep Ministers in their places, reckless of the rights and privileges of the people who were immediately affected by it. He felt that if he, as a representative peer of Ireland, did not openly speak his mind with reference to this measure, which was calculated to convert the metropolis of that country into a scene of turmoil and dissension, he would be guilty of a gross dereliction of a sacred duty, and therefore he had trespassed thus far on their Lordships' attention.

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