HL Deb 31 July 1840 vol 55 cc1167-77

On the motion of Viscount Duncannon the Municipal Corporations (Ire land) Bill was read a third time.

Lord Lyndhurst

had two or three amendments to propose, to which he begged to call the attention of their Lordships. The first of these was that which related to the Recorder of Dublin. An alteration had been made in the bill in committee, but he believed that their lordships were not aware of all the circumstances under which that alteration had been made. He therefore proposed to strike out of the 161st clause these words, "or as the Lord-lieutenant shall from time to time think fit to direct." Three years ago an agreement had been made between the Recorder of Dublin and the law officers of the Crown, meaning by them the law officers of the Crown in Ireland, by which it was stipulated that no alteration should be made in the office of the Recorder of Dublin. The law officers of the Crown, however, had since been changed, and it was said that with new men came new measures, and in consequence an alteration had taken place in the bill of the present year. Now, if the object of that alteration was to exclude the present Recorder of Dublin from Parliament, that object should be carried into effect by a direct clause, and not by a side-wind, which it was the object of the present bill to accomplish. It had been said, "why should not the Recorder of Dublin be placed on the same footing as other recorders?" Why, for this plain reason, because the office which he held was different in its nature from that filled by other recorders in Ireland. The office of the Recorder of Dublin was an ancient office. He held a Court of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery for all crimes except that of high treason. He also held a court for the trial of civil causes of which he had cognizance to any amount. Their Lordships would find also that his office was regulated, not only by charter, but by Act of Parliament. The Recorder of Dublin held a session eight times a-year, which he was obliged to do by Act of Parliament, so that he held a court every six weeks. Did he perform his duty and carry into effect the provisions of the Act of Parliament? He did more, he held a court for the trial of criminals twelve times a-year. He also held a court four times a-year for the purpose of discharging persons who were out on bail. Further, he held sessions four times a-year for the purpose of hearing appeals. He also held a court four times a-year for the hearing of civil bill causes, so that their Lordships would find, that he held about twenty-eight sittings in the course of a-year And in what manner did he conduct himself? Fie never quitted his court when one prisoner remained to be tried, or when one cause was undisposed of, unless a special application had been made for postponement. Why, then, should the Lord-lieutenant dictate to the Recorder of Dublin the times of holding his court any more than he should interfere with the superior courts in Ireland? Who was the proper person to decide— the judge who held the court, or the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, or he should rather say the Secretary for Ireland? It had been said in debate that the judges were not satisfied with the conduct of the Recorder. That, however, was not correct. The profession were satisfied and so were the judges, with one exception, and that exception was Mr. Justice Perrin. It was far from being his intention to speak of Mr. Justice Perrin with disrespect, but at the same time he knew him as a violent political partisan, and one who had throughout opposed himself to the Recorder and the corporation of Dublin. Their Lordships knew that Mr. Justice Perrin formerly sat for the city of Dublin, and that, on the prosecution of the parties connected with the corporation, he was convicted of bribery, and disabled from sitting again for that city. He confessed, therefore, that when he found that all parties were satisfied with the administration of justice in the Recorder's Court except Mr. Justice Perrin, he was not much disposed to lay any great stress upon the authority of his opinion. Now what did the commissioners say? He did not rely upon the evidence, because that evidence was given ex parte, and he bad been too much accustomed to the administration of justice to attribute much weight to evidence given where no opportunity was afforded for cross examination. But what did the commissioners say? Why, they said this—that the Recorder had discharged his duties efficiently. He saw no reason, therefore, why this alteration should have been introduced in the present bill. It was not in the bill of last year, nor in the bill of 1838; and with these few observations he should move that the words which he had read be omitted from the clause.

Viscount Duncannon

regretted that he could not accede to the proposition of the noble and learned Lord. In the first place the provision in the present bill was the same which stood in the bills of 1835, 1836, and 1837. In 1838 certainly an alteration was made. He could not see why the Recorder of Dublin should not be placed on the same footing as the recorders of other parts of Ireland. The gaol of Dublin was, as their Lordships well knew, filled with prisoners, and the Recorder in Cork held a court every week. The present regulation was to enable the Lord-lieutenant, if he should think fit, to empty the gaols by directing the recorder to hold courts at shorter intervals than at present. He could not see why an exception should be made in favour of the Recorder of Dublin, and he should, therefore, take the sense of the House on the subject.

The Earl of Haddington

said, the Recorder of Cork did not hold an office of the same magnitude as that of the Recorder of Dublin, nor did he hold a Court of Oyer and Terminer. The noble Viscount opposite said, that he should like to know what difference there was between the Recorder of Dublin and other recorders in Ireland. He would tell the noble Viscount. The Recorder of Dublin, happened to be a Member of the other House of Parliament, and the whole object of the bill was to prevent him from sitting there. Now, if it were right that the Recorder of Dublin should not have a seat in Parliament, in Heaven's name let a bill be brought in with that avowed object, but he would resist any measure which, like this, attempted to effect that object in an underhand manner.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

had heard with some surprise from his noble Friend opposite, that there was a difference between the Recorder of Cork and the Recorder of Dublin. He believed, that the words which his noble Friend used were, that the office of Recorder of Cork was not an office of great magnitude, and it was exactly because the office of Recorder of the city of Dublin was one of great magnitude, that he thought that the Recorder ought to render efficient services to the population of that city. The recorder of Dublin had a very large salary assigned to him, and he ought to discharge his duties in a way not inferior to the manner in which they were executed by the recorders of other large towns. He said nothing disrespectful, he meant nothing disrespectful to the learned Gentleman who at present filled that office, and who he knew had discharged his duty most honourably, most faithfully, and most ably. But he was not to be told, because that learned Person was a Member of Parliament, the people of Dublin were to be deprived of the services of their recorder. He cared not whether the Recorder of Dublin was a Member of Parliament or not, but he did care whether there was or was not an efficient recorder. In Cork the population had the benefit of a weekly delivery of criminals; the population of Dublin had not that benefit; but it was contended, that they ought to want it, because the recorder was a Member of the other House of Parliament. He held in his hand a return of the accumulated number of prisoners at present in the gaol of Dublin, which amounted in the whole to 212, 90 of whom were females. Now, was that fit or right? He asked the noble and learned Lord who had paid so much attention to the subject of prisons generally, whether he thought that this ought to be the permanent state of the prisoners in the city of Dublin? He could not think, that their Lordships ought to come back to the consideration of this subject after having introduced an alteration in the committee which gave to the Lord-lieutenant the power of relieving the gaols, and he hoped that his noble Friend would take the sense of the House upon the question. The name of "justice to Ireland" might often have been abused, but if ever justice to the inhabitants of a particular city was at stake, he thought that it was in the present instance.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that after the lapse of several years it had at last been discovered that the recorder, who was an officer, proved to their Lordships to hold his court twenty-eight times in the course of a year, and to have been most effective, most zealous, and most able, in performing his duties, and against whom no complaint whatever had been made, ought to be excluded from Parliament. The question for their Lordships to decide was, whether the Recorder of Dublin, only because he was a Member of Parliament, and had not exactly pursued the course which was agreeable to certain persons, should for that reason be excluded from his situation in Parliament, and branded as a criminal, in order to satisfy a particular party. "Come forward fairly," said the noble Duke, come forward fairly with a clause in the bill, and say that the right hon. Frederic Shaw shall not sit in Parliament—do that, if you please, and see what Parliament will say to that proposition. But do not come forward with a proposition, and throw upon the Lord-lieutenant the necessity of relieving the gaols by way of making a specious proposition which you well know could not be otherwise made without opposition, and which is introduced for the first time on this occasion. I for one will vote against that proposition. If I did not vote against it, I should accede to an unjust party proposition, made for the purpose of gratifying those who have a disinclination—for I will not use any more forcible term—to Mr. Shaw. It is a proposition made to gratify a particular party in Ireland, and directed against a gentleman by whom it is undeserved in every way, because I declare my firm belief is, that there is no public officer in the service of the state who has performed his duties in a more zealous, a more meritorious, a more able, and a more satisfactory manner than that right hon. gentleman.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

wished to say, in explanation, that this was not the first time on which this provision had been introduced into the Irish Municipal Bill, but that, on the contrary, it had been introduced into every bill but one. He wished also to state, that he did not say that no complaints had been made in Ireland against the Recorder of Dublin. He had stated, that no complaints whatever had been made against the great talents and integrity of that learned gentleman, but there was a complaint made that the gaols were not delivered. [Lord Lyndhurst: By whom]? I make it. It is in this paper. I ask the noble and learned Lord whether he does not think there is cause for complaint when 212 prisoners, 90 of whom are females, are left untried? I state most solemnly on my part that I have no party feeling to gratify in this matter, but I think that whether the Recorder of Dublin be Whig, Tory, or Radical, the Lord-lieutenant ought to be able to make arrangements to make him do his duty.

The Marquess of Normanby

would only say in answer to the question as to where the complaint was made, that it was a complaint not made now for the first time, and made upon an occasion when he did not think their lordships would say there was a party object to be served. In 1837 the judge whose duty it was to charge the Lord Mayor of Dublin—[Lord Lyndhurst: What judge?] Mr. Justice Perrin. [Lord Lyndhurst: That is sufficient to account for the complaint]. Mr. Justice Perrin called his attention on that occasion to the state of the gaol, and the result of the inquiries which he had instituted in consequence convinced him that it would be of the greatest benefit to the city of Dublin if there were more frequent gaol deliveries. The noble and learned Lord had taken particular notice that it was Mr. Justice Perrin who had charged the Lord Mayor on the occasion to which he had referred. He had named Mr. Justice Perrin as the judge who had performed that duty, and in naming him he named a judge who had devoted more time than perhaps any other person in Ireland to the subject of prisons generally, and whose opinion was consequently entitled to the greatest weight.

Lord Wharncliffe

asked if it was intended that in all towns which had a large population the recorder should sit every week? Was it so in London; and if not, although the population was much larger, why should it be necessary in Dublin?

The Marquess of Clanricarde

observed, that the whole debate showed that the amendment was supported upon party and personal motives. The measure was considered solely with reference to the right hon. Mr. Shaw, an able, an upright, and a learned judge, he admitted; just as if he were immortal, and was to be Recorder of Dublin for ever. Not one word had been said about the welfare of the people of Dublin on the other side of the House. Exactly the same thing was done when this measure was passed, and that measure rejected, because it would be disagreeable or agreeable to Mr. O'Connell; and now, because Mr. Shaw was concerned, the cause of good legislation and the due administration of justice in Ireland was sacrificed. As to the comparison made between London and Dublin, it proved nothing, for experience showed that a gaol delivery once a month was not sufficient in Dublin.

Their Lordships divided: Contents 58; Not-contents 42; Majority 16.

Amendment agreed to.

On the 185th clause.

The Earl of Haddington

proposed an amendment, enabling the Lord Mayor elect of Dublin to fill the office of President of the Court of Conscience for one year.

The Marquess of Normanby

opposed it, on the ground that the gentleman who was Lord Mayor elect had once already filled the offices of Lord Mayor and President of the Court of Conscience, and had gone out of his way to fill the latter situation again, knowing that this bill was sure to pass into law.

Their Lordships divided on the question that the amendment be added: Contents 58; Not-contents 39; Majority 19.

Clause added to the bill.

The Bishop of Exeter

rose for the purpose of proposing an amendment relative to the interests of the Protestant Church in the advowsons of livings in the gift of the Irish corporations. He had been told that the amendment which he was about to propose was a money clause, and therefore an interference with the privileges of the other House of Parliament. If it were so, he would not press his amendment to a division. He intended to propose that when these advowsons should be sold, the proceeds, instead of being paid into the hands of the treasurer of the borough to which they belonged, should be paid into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to be by them expended for the purpose of building a church or churches in that borough, or for such other religious purposes as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might think necessary within the limits of the borough. Their lordships must be aware, that as the bill now stood they were giving away funds from the Church of Ireland to corporations which would prove its deadly enemy.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that it had always been the study of their Lordships to avoid interference with the privileges of the other House of Parliament. Now this amendment was a decided interference with those privileges, and as such he must oppose it.

The Bishop of Exeter

said, that after the peremptory declaration of the noble Duke, which he had no doubt was made after due deliberation, he should withdraw his amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

On the question that the bill do now pass.

The Bishop of Exeter

said, that it was not his intention to divide the House on this question; but he could not suffer this motion to pass without expressing his deep regret, and he must even add, his great astonishment, that such a vote should be carried in their Lordships' House. In passing this bill their Lordships were not, as in 1829, passing a bill which they believed would pacify Ireland, and give stability to the Protestant Church in that country. On the contrary, they were passing a bill, which they saw must be destructive to that Church; they were passing it knowingly and deliberately, against warning, against experience, and, he firmly believed, against their own conviction. "It will not, and it cannot, come to good,"

Bill passed.

The following; protest was entered by the Bishop of Exeter against the passing of the bill.


1. Because no sufficient proofs of delinquency or misconduct were adduced against the municipal corporations of Ireland, to justify so sweeping a measure pf destruction, in contempt of the sacredness of ancient charters, and in defiance of those principles which, till within the last few years, were wont to distinguish the legislation of the British Parliament, and especially of this House.

2. Because, in the admitted absence of such proofs of delinquency, the plea, on which the measure was mainly rested, the exclusive character of the existing corporations did in effect establish the fidelity of those bodies to the one great end for which they were all alike created, the maintenance of the British interest in Ire land; the more ancient corporations having been founded as fortresses and fastnesses to protect that interest against the rebellious attempts of the native Irish, and of the descendants of the earliest English settlers; the more modern combining, with this great common object, the still greater and more sacred purpose of maintaining the cause of true religion against the unceasing efforts of the Papists to re-establish the domination of their own priesthood in its grossest and most revolting form.

3. Because, if it be true that the continuance of bodies in practice exclusively Protest ant, be no longer consistent with the, policy which seeks to deal with all distinctions of religious faith, as equally unworthy of peculiar favour in the political institutions of the empire, common sense and common justice alike point out the only proper course to be pursued —the simple abolition of those bodies, when the cause for which they were created is sup posed to have ceased.

4. Because the adoption of a measure, which is admitted by all to ensure the establishment of bodies of Roman Catholics equally exclusive as those which they are made to supersede, is not only contrary to common sense and common justice, but also to the spirit of most solemn promises and engagements repeatedly made by those who advised, and ultimately carried, the Act for the relief of her Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in 1829. The leaders in that great and perilous experiment pledged themselves to propose to Parliament the reenactment of the statutes which were then repealed, or the adoption of still more stringent restraints, if the parties, who were freed from the restrictions before imposed, should prove (as they notoriously have proved) themselves unworthy of the confidence then reposed in them, and should renew their attempts against the Protestant Church in Ireland. If any unhappy concurrence of circumstances has prevented the literal redemption of that pledge, yet the least and lowest obligation which it can justly be understood to have imposed was, the duty of a resolute and firm resistance to every new proposition for increasing the power of so bitter, so unrelenting, and so perfidious, an enemy.

5. Because, although it was declared by high authority, on the second reading of the bill, that it would be unworthy of finally passing into a law, unless such amendments were introduced as should give security against the establishment of other bodies equally exclusive with those which are abolished, yet the amendments actually made not only give no such security, but do not even attempt nor profess to give it, their only object being to mitigate the acknowledged mischiefs of the measure, and in some trifling degree to limit the power with which it arms the Popish democracy of the cities and towns in Ireland to tyrannize over the Protestant and more opulent classes of inhabitants, and to extort from them funds for the more speedy and effectual execution of their own unhallowed designs.

6. Because there is strong reason to believe, that the final passing of the measure was the result rather of considerations of party convenience, than of any large and liberal views of national policy—none of those who had it in their power to decide on the ultimate fate of the bill venturing to pronounce it a measure either just or safe in itself, or worthy of favour on any other account, than that it put an end to a question which could no longer remain unsettled, without dividing public men, who, from the purest motives, wish to continue to act together. Thus were the gravest interests of the country forgotten in personal considerations—the end was sacrificed to the means, and the only plea which can justify the combination of statesmen, the more effectual assertion and maintenance of a great common principle, was here openly abandoned.

7. Because the House of Lords having, since the passing of the Act for the Reform of the Commons House of Parliament, been practically deprived of what was wont to be deemed its constitutional share of control over the Executive power of the Crown, was yet enabled, till the present disastrous Session, to retain, and to assert, its legislative independence; and by the wise and efficient exercise of its just privilege, or rather of its highest duty, in the correction or rejection of bad bills, had continued to earn and to enjoy the grateful veneration of the English people. That lofty position it has, in this instance, voluntarily surrendered; and has thus, by its own act, gone far towards realising the prophetic declaration of Sir W. Blackstone, that the constitution of England would be destroyed, and could only be destroyed, by one of the three branches of the Legislature losing its constitutional weight, and submitting to the domination of the other two.

8. Lastly, and above all, because by this wilful and deliberate abandonment of the cause of true religion, and of the security of the Church in Ireland, to which the fundamental laws of the constitution, the Act of Union, the oath of our Sovereign, and all the most sacred duties of subjects to their ruler, and of men to their Maker, alike bind us, we have provoked the justice of Almighty God, and have given too much reason to apprehend the visitation of Divine vengeance for this presumptuous act of national disobedience.