HL Deb 09 May 1842 vol 63 cc248-52
Earl De Grey,

in answer to a question which had been put to him by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Normanby) on a former evening, with respect to the conduct of one of the Irish magistracy, Mr. Biddulph, begged to state to his noble Friend that, since that time, Mr. Biddulph had been struck off the list of magistrates. It was his intention to have mentioned this on Friday evening last, the earliest moment at which he received the intelligence; but as he was prevented by the miscarriage of a letter from announcing the fact with official certainty, he had deferred the announcement till that evening.

The Marquess of Normanby

admitted that the substance of his noble Friend's communication was satisfactory, although he regretted that his noble Friend had not accompanied it by some statement as to the reason why so just and necessary a step had been so long delayed. Admitting that his noble Friend's statement was in one particular satisfactory, he could not allow the occasion to pass by without offering a few words as to the time and circumstances under which the dismissal of Mr. Biddulph had taken place. To render himself perfectly in order in offering these observations, he meant to conclude by moving for the production of the correspondence between the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Biddulph, and the dates of that correspondence. His noble Friend (Earl de Grey) had protested, on a former occasion, that it was not the duty of the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland to read the newspapers. It was certainly not the duty of the Lord-lieutenant, supposing him to be rightly informed from official sources, to read the newapers with the view of founding any act upon the intelligence to be derived from them. But the question of whether the Lord-lieutenant should read the newspapers for information, upon which to direct his Government, depended upon whether he were supplied by such a constant stream of official information as should render any reference to newspaper information unnecessary. But if the Lord-lieutenant were supplied by a regular and constant stream of official information, then he conceived that the newspapers ought not to be despised as channels of intelligence. He appealed to any of the noble Lords opposite, whether it was not a very great disadvantage that the just and necessary step of dismissing Mr. Biddulph should have been delayed for the space of two months, and until after a Parliamentary inquiry had taken place upon the subject, instead of being, as he maintained it ought to have been, the instant and spontaneous act of a vigilant and united executive. He mainly attributed the popularity which attached to his government of Ireland, to the fact that during the time that he had the honour of filling the office of Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, there was the greatest unity amongst all branches of the Irish Government, and no trial of importance took place without his being informed of it by the law officers of the Crown. The case of Mr. Biddulph had been three times brought, before that House in the last Session of Parliament. That having been the case, was it not surprising that no notice should have been taken of it by any of the officers of the Irish Government, whose duty it was to supply his noble Friend (Earl De Grey) with information as to the conduct of those entrusted with the administration of the law? Were there no pe- culiar circumstances in the trial of Mr. Biddulph which would seem to call for the attention of his noble Friend, and of the Irish government? Why, Mr. Murphy, the counsel, a man of considerable eminence and standing at the Irish bar, and who conducted the prisoner's case, said, at the end of the trial, "and now, Sir,] leave you in the hands of the Attorney-general." And yet this, which his noble Friend (Lord de Grey) admitted to be the necessary consequence of the cross-examition, was taken no notice of until he brought it before their Lordships' House two months afterwards. He owned that this had left rather an unpleasant impression upon his mind. No doubt his noble Friend (Earl de Grey) meant to carry out the intentions of her Majesty's present Government, and to do as much justice to Ireland as was consistent with keeping the present dominant party in power. But he owned that the course of the proceedings in this case, and the ignorance in which his noble Friend had been kept upon the subject, left a disagreeable impression on his mind, and awakened some unpleasing suspicions as to the real hands in which the Government of Ireland might now be thought to rest. His noble Friend had asserted that he did not read the newspapers. He was afraid that some the persons did read them, and from the information derived from them learnt how to shape their conduct. Circumstances of recent occurrence had led him to think that there were some truth in the boast of one of the Government newspapers last year, that its remonstrances had led to a change in the policy of the Irish government. As this was probably the last time that he should have occasion to address their Lordships upon this subject, he begged to add a few words in reference to an address of congratulation upon the diminution of crime and the improved state of the country, recently presented to his noble Friend the Lord-lieutenant by the grand jury of Carlow. He certainly hoped that his noble Friend and the Carlow grand jury were correct in their intimation as to the improved state of the country. He had heard rumours of a contrary description; but taking the statement of the grand jury, and supposing it to be true, he would still remind his noble Friend that the improvements to which his attention was directed could not be regarded solely as the fruit of his own government, but must be attributed in no slight degree to the wise and beneficial measures adopted by his predecessors. The noble Marquess concluded by moving for copies of the correspondence between the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Biddulph, and the dates of that correspondence,

Earl DE. Grey

was not aware of any objection to the production of the papers for which his noble Friend had moved. As to the remarks that had fallen from his noble Friend, he had only to repeat now what he had stated before, that the moment that the circumstances of the case were brought under his notice, in such a manner as enabled him to act, he had not hesitated or delayed to do so. With respect to the state of Ireland, and to the address of the grand jury of Carlow, to which his noble Friend had alluded, it was certainly true that the gentlemen composing the grand jury of that county had presented an address to him in which they stated that they thought crime was diminishing in that part of the country, and they expressed their congratulations to him upon that subject. He received their address, and thanked them for it. In doing so he did not arrogate to himself any particular merit for the fact upon which they congratulated him. He merely accepted their representation as to the state of the country because he thought them competent to make it. If they were mistaken, the mistake was not his but theirs. In receiving the address, and replying to the statement contained in it, he had arrogated nothing to himself. He did not want to say, neither had he said that his noble Friend (the Marquess of Normanby's) management whilst in the government of Ireland, had been improper, so that his had been superior. He was only glad to believe that the fact was such as was stated to him, by those whom he supposed capable of forming a correct judgment upon it. If it were so, he claimed no merit to himself because it was so. He was obliged to his noble Friend for the courtesy he had shewn in referring to his conduct upon that occasion. Whilst he remained in the government of Ireland, he should continue to act according to the best of his judgment to promote the general welfare of the country, and without reference to any private objects of his own. His endeavour would always be to do the best in his power, not for himself, but for the country over which he was placed. He had no doubt that the people of that country would soon begin to feel that he had do private objects of his own. As soon as he ceased to give satisfaction to them and to the sovereign under whom he held his power, he should hasten to retire.

The Marquess of Normanby

was satisfied that nothing that had fallen from him could have led to the necessity of such a defence as his noble Friend had adopted. All that he had desired to do was to ask justice for himself, not to impute anything to his noble Friend.

Motion agreed to.

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