THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
rose to move for Copies of any Correspondence held between the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Marquess of Westmeath, as Lieutenant of the County of Westmeath, respecting Fulke Southwell Greville, Esq., a magistrate of that county, having been present and a party to certain language held on the 17th of January last at a meeting at Navan, in the county of Meath; and of any correspondence between the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Greville respecting the same. The noble Marquess said, that the meeting in question was a political one. It could not be called an electioneering meeting, because there was no election, and it was after Parliament had been returned. It was, therefore, purely a political meeting, and the leading persons present were Roman Catholic clergymen. In the published accounts of the proceedings fifty-two names of Roman Catholic clergymen were given as having been present, together with a great many others, said by the reporter to be too numerous to mention, and with this meeting and the proceedings thereat the gentleman mentioned (Colonel Greville) had identified himself in a lamentable manner. It was impossible to peruse the newspaper in which the account of this meeting was given—the official organ of the Roman Catholic party in Ireland—and not see that the persons named as being present were the leading persons of that party. Unfortunately there was a class of persons in Ireland always willing to avail themselves of the law in aid of their own objects, but who in other respects were the great disturbers of the country. The proceedings at this dinner began by the chairman proposing as a toast "The health of Pope Pius IX.," which was drunk with the most enthusiastic cheering. Excuses were then read from some Roman Catholic Bishops and other persons who could not attend, and afterwards the health of Her Majesty was proposed; but it was not drunk with the most enthusiastic cheering; it was only "duly honoured." A personage then rose to respond to the toast of "The Irish Hierarchy," who was called "the Lord 317 Bishop of Meath"—a title which he acknowledged by saying, as his name was associated with the toast he was called upon to answer it. This personage added that for thirty-four years he had taken part in the public affairs of that county— a fact which he (the Marquess of Westmeath) could verify, as during the whole of that period this rev. gentleman had been actively employed in disturbing the public peace of the county, either by proposing Members to Parliament, or by opposing those who desired to prevent the property of dying persons from passing to the priests. Other speakers followed, and among them Colonel Greville, who said be looked on it as a high honour to be invited to a banquet like that, graced as it was by the presence of the illustrious Prelate and by the presence of so many members of that party. The hon. Gentleman hoped that the tenant-right party would be enabled to get rid of that infliction of a Protestant Church Establishment on a Catholic country like Ireland. After them followed another speaker, who said that the French artillery at Jemappes had knocked off the chains of the Irish Catholics, and that he hoped the Russian cannon would knock down the Ecclesiastical Titles Act and the Established Church. He (the Marquess of Westmeath) alluded to these things with no purpose except to show that a foreign Prince—the Pope— had been preferred to Her Majesty. Why was Her Majesty's health introduced and received in that fashion if the object was not to make Her a scape-goat for the disrespectful — he would add the seditious language — that had been held at that meeting? Was it not clear that Her Majesty's name was introduced solely that offence might be offered to the law in the presence of the so-called bishop? Was it not obvious that the whole proceeding was intended to prove that the Roman Catholic priests were above the law, and that they were in possession of the fullest political licence. Before he (the Marquess of Westmeath) proceeded further, he considered himself entitled to refer to the spirit in which the Government had dealt with his representations on the subject. On this occasion the matter had been brought under his notice, officially, by his noble Friend near him, on the part of the magistrates of Westmeath; and after he had informed himself on the subject he represented the facts to the Government, with the intimation that Colonel Greville had 318 been present at the meeting, and the suggestion that Colonel Greville, having so forgotten what was due to his character as a militia officer, as a magistrate, and as a loyal subject, should be removed from the commission of the peace, and be superseded in his military commission. The conduct of the Government, however, fully illustrated the kind of policy by which it had been guided ever since the present Lord Lieutenant had come into office. He could not, in fact, avoid contrasting it with their conduct in Kirwan's case, where a magistrate who had said the peace of Ireland was owing to the Roman Catholic priests, although he had the military at his back, and who had been suspended for that act by the former Government, was restored to office, and the salary accruing during this suspension was repaid to him. He could not help contrasting it also with their conduct in the Six Mile Bridge affair, where the soldiery, who had done their duty, were degraded by being deprived of their side-arms, while the priests, who had been the cause of all the bloodshed that had taken place, were allowed to pass without prosecution, and their offence treated sub silentio. It was the same policy which had hitherto permitted to pass with impunity the act of the gentleman whose case was under notice, a Member of Parliament, a magistrate of the county, a deputy lieutenant of the county, and a lieutenant colonel of militia, namely, his presence at a meeting of fifty-two priests, where Her Majesty's health was postponed to that of a foreign Prince, and Her name placed vastly below that of the Pope of Rome. Upon the receipt of the communication from his noble Friend, to which he had alluded, he (the Marquess of Westmeath) wrote a letter to the Lord Lieutenant, in which the facts were stated, and the answer he had received was as follows, from the Under Secretary for Ireland—Dublin Castle, Feb. 4, 1854.My Lord—I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to inform your Lordship that the law officers of the Crown entertain grave doubts whether the law gives to the Lord Lieutenant or to the Crown any power over the colonel of a disembodied regiment of Irish militia; and that his Excellency, therefore, deems it inexpedient to enter on the consideration of the case stated in your Lordship's letter of the 26th ultimo.To that letter he (the Marquess of Westmeath) replied, stating that he should like to be informed whether, if the colonel of a disembodied regiment of militia had com- 319 manded the drummer or any of the staff to do a seditious or illegal act, he would not be displaced, and the commission be held cancelled. To this the Under Secretary answered that his Excellency did not deem it necessary to enter upon a discussion of these hypothetical cases, and that he (the Marquess of Westmeath) had put an erroneous construction on the opinion of the law officers of the Crown. Under these circumstances he (the Marquess of Westmeath) had laid the case before the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The answer of the noble Viscount was to this effect—Whitehall, March 20, 1854.My Lord—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letters of the 14th of February and 11th instant, on the subject of Colonel Greville, of the Westmeath Regiment of Militia. As there appears to be some doubt as to the existence of any power to dismiss a colonel of Irish militia, and as it might be doubtful whether, even if such a power exists, it would be advisable to exercise it in the case of Colonel Greville, it seems to me that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has exercised a sound judgment in his manner of dealing with the matter.I have the honour to be, my Lord,Your Lordship's obedient servant,PALMERSTON.To the Marquess of Westmeath.He (the Marquess of Westmeath), in pursuance of his duty, then determined to bring the matter under the consideration of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in regard to the continuance of Colonel Greville in the commission of the peace. The Lord Chancellor's answer was as follows. After reciting the previous part of the letter, he went on to say—I have the honour to acquaint your Lordship that, having transmitted a copy of that letter to Colonel Greville, in order that he might make such observations thereon as he should think proper, I have received communications from that gentleman upon the subject, which, in my judgment, render it unnecessary for me to interfere further in the matter.I am satisfied, from those communications, that in taking part in the proceedings at the meeting in question, Colonel Greville did not intend or contemplate the manifestation of any opinion derogatory to Her Majesty's Sovereignty; and as regards the sentiments which the extract from the speech adverted to by your Lordship purports to express, I am assured by Colonel Greville that he not only does not entertain them, but utterly disclaims all participation in those sentiments or any others of a disloyal tendency.I have always considered that the letters from a magistrate in reference to a complaint made against him are to be treated as written for the satisfaction of the Chancellor, and it has not been the practice to communicate copies of them. I 320 must, therefore, beg your Lordship to excuse my compliance with your request for copies of the letters which I have received from Colonel Greville in relation to this matter.I have the honour to be, my Lord,Your very obedient, humble servant, "MAZIERE BRADY, C.The Marquess of Westmeath.It was true that Colonel Greville had disavowed the sentiments of the meeting—the seditious, the disloyal sentiments that had been expressed; but that disavowal was a private and not a public disclaimer of a public act, which he (the Marquess of Westmeath) held to be insufficient. The letter of that Gentleman to the Lord Chancellor was certainly an official letter, but it was sent in a close channel not open to the Legislature. He (the Marquess of Westmeath) knew nothing personally of the transaction. The case had been put into his hands by his noble Friend on the part of the magistrates, and he felt bound in honour to bring it before the House. At the same time, he had no wish that the Government should act severely towards the hon. Gentleman. The noble Marquess concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Copies of any Correspondence held between The Lord Chancellor of Ireland and The Marquess of Westmeath, as Lieutenant of the County of Westmeath, respecting Fulke Southwell Greville, Esquire, a Magistrate of that County, having been present and a Party to certain Language held on the 17th January last at a Meeting at Navan in the County of Meath; and of any Correspondence between The Lord Chancellor and Mr. Greville respecting the same.
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
My Lords, it is with some difficulty that I can comprehend the object of the noble Marquess in making this Motion. He has moved for correspondence between himself and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland with reference to proceedings at a meeting at which Colonel Greville was present; but I do not know exactly the ground on which this Motion is made; I apprehend, however, it is because the Lord Chancellor refused to dismiss Colonel Greville from the magistracy of the county. Now, I am not concerned to defend the conduct or the speeches of persons at public meetings; all that I am concerned to do is to justify the refusal of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to dismiss Colonel Greville from the magistracy; and on that I say that the Lord Chancellor judged rightly in refusing to adopt such a course. The noble Marquess has described the proceedings at this meeting, which was in truth a meeting to 321 celebrate the result of the election for the county of Meath, and where many speeches were made and toasts given which it is quite unnecessary for me to pronounce an opinion upon. That the health of the Pope was given in the first instance is a circumstance not unprecedented at a meeting in Ireland. I do not say that that is not a proceeding of which your Lordships may not highly disapprove; but to dismiss a magistrate for being present at such a meeting, and where such a toast was given, would be a perfectly novel proceeding, and would lead to consequences that would be very inconvenient; for it would entail the necessity of dismissing a number of highly respectable magistrates who have been guilty of the same offence—that of being present on such an occasion. Now, of course I should be the last person to attempt to justify the decency or the propriety of such proceedings as those to which the noble Marquess has referred; but I believe that Roman Catholics, in acceding to the health of the Pope being given in the first instance, consider that they are doing that as an act of faith, and that the giving of the health of the Queen is an act of loyalty—that the two do not interfere with each other. And although we may not understand that which appears to us a species of divided allegiance, yet in the mind of the Roman Catholic there is no derogation whatever from the loyalty felt to the Queen, because in drinking the health of the Pope he does that which he considers is an act of faith. Now, I am not justifying this, nor am I saying that I myself should willingly be present at any proceeding of the sort; but I am now explaining that which has taken place frequently in Ireland, and which, therefore, does not call for the interference of your Lordships. Colonel Greville was present at this meeting, and also made a speech, in which, however much I may differ from him, I see nothing at all to call for the interference of the Lord Chancellor. Seeing that the same sentiments have been expressed by many of the most distinguished Members of this and of the other House of Parliament, of course it would be preposterous to object to gentlemen in Ireland uttering them at a meeting of this sort; and, however much we may disagree with such sentiments, it would be impossible for us to mark this as an offence which is to be visited by the Lord Chancellor in the manner desired by the noble Marquess. In the speech of Colonel Greville there was certainly a great deal of laudation of 322 the magnitude and importance of the demonstration at which he was present, and speakers are, perhaps, often in the habit of using somewhat exaggerated terms in that respect on such an occasion; but, certainly, in his own speech I see nothing that would justify the infliction of any such punishment as the noble Marquess recommends. But the noble Marquess goes further, and also makes Colonel Greville responsible for the speeches afterwards delivered. That, I think, is tolerably illogical, because when Colonel Greville made his speech in laudation of this meeting, nothing of that kind had as yet taken place which the noble Marquess described. Even the subsequent speech referred to by the noble Marquess— much as it may be objected to, and highly objectionable as it certainly was—still was what I have heard over and over again in various places; and certainly that declaration of Mr. O'Connell, that the battle of Jemappes was the first means of alleviating the severe laws affecting the Roman Catholics, has been repeatedly stated. The noble Marquess says a speaker expressed a hope that "the Russian cannon might blow away the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill." Now, if that is the worst that the Russian cannon can do, I do not know that I might not be able to view it with considerable philosophy; but this speaker did not say anything about the Protestant Church, as far as I have learnt. However, if he did, it is that which many others have said before him, both in this and in the other House of Parliament, that they considered the existence of a Protestant Church in a Roman Catholic country like Ireland was a great misfortune, and the sooner it was put an end to the better.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
The words were "Perhaps the Russian guns might do as much by the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill; or, if they were well aimed, they might knock down the Established Church in Ireland."
§ THE EARL OF ABERDEEN
Well, then, both would fall together. I repeat that I have heard the same sentiments in both Houses of Parliament. Still, much as I object to, and little as I go along with the speaker, it would be rather hard to make Colonel Greville responsible for a speech delivered after his own. The Lord Chancellor of Ireland put himself in communication with Colonel Greville, and received from him an assurence that, in being present when the health of the Pope 323 was drunk, he did not intend the slightest diminution of respect or loyalty to the Queen, explaining, as I have done, that it was not a political act, but an act of faith to a spiritual sovereign, and not interfering with any political allegiance. Colonel Greville, I understand, is a Protestant himself, but the large majority of the meeting were Roman Catholics; and he positively declares that, so far from sharing in any of the sentiments of the speech quoted by the noble Marquess, he utterly disclaims that he entertains any sort of sympathy in the slightest degree for such opinions. Well, having received this positive disclaimer from Colonel Greville, both with respect to the spirit in which he was present when the Pope's health was drunk before that of the Queen, and with respect to the sentiments which the noble Marquess says are seditious, and which I call very improper, but do not know if they amount to sedition—Colonel Greville having utterly disclaimed all participation in such sentiments—the Lord Chancellor did not think it necessary to proceed further in the matter by dismissing him from the magistracy. I have not the honour of Colonel Greville's acquaintance. He is a Member of the other House of Parliament, and one certainly not friendly to the present Government, but quite the contrary; but I am authorised by him to express before your Lordships this disclaimer in his behalf. The noble Marquess says that the communication with the Lord Chancellor was a close communication, and he wishes for a public disclaimer; so far as my assertion can answer the purpose, I have authority to repeat, on the part of Colonel Greville, that disclaimer which he addressed to the Lord Chancellor. That being the case, I am, as I said before, not at all concerned to justify the conduct of Colonel Greville, and still less to justify many of the speeches delivered on the occasion referred to. I am concerned only in justifying the refusal of the Lord Chancellor to dismiss Colonel Greville from the magistracy. In that course I think his Lordship was perfectly right; and he has said that these inquiries were made for his own satisfaction, and not in order to meet the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess may easily conceive that the correspondence between Colonel Greville and the Lord Chancellor might involve matters which it would not be at all desirable to lay before the public, and I must decline to give my sanction to its publication.
THE EARL OF DESART
said, that the utmost importance was attached in Ireland to a show of promptitude and vigour on the part of the Executive in repressing the utterance of treasonable speeches by gentlemen holding Her Majesty's commission of the peace. It had long been the practice in Ireland, by means of speeches and pamphlets circulated among the people, to inculcate in their minds the spirit of that treasonable axiom, that "England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity;" and when such speeches were sanctioned by the presence of any servant of the Crown, or person holding the commission of the peace, a great want of confidence and trust in the vigour and firmness of the Government was produced on the part of the people, unless they perceived that the Executive was ready to suppress any show of treasonable sufferance on the part of those who were employed under the Crown, and especially those who were in the commission of the peace. Prior to the ridiculous attempt of Smith O'Brien and his party in 1849 the same course was adopted both by the publication of pamphlets and the making of speeches. He remembered well how utterly futile they proved to be, and he knew also how futile they were at this moment. At the same time, he must say that it was most dangerous to allow a practice of the sort to continue amongst an excitable and impressible people like the Irish—a people who were bred up in hostility to England and the English Government, and which feeling of hostility was fostered by agitators, and backed up by the priests of Ireland, who had, by dint of the most extravagant superstition, established their authority over the minds of the people, and he had almost said over their souls and their bodies. If the people were now, as he had good grounds for believing they were, anxious to shake off these fetters— anxious to emancipate themselves from the slavery in which they had so long been held—their Lordships might rely upon it that that feeling would be very much weakened by every show of indecision or want of firmness on the part of the Executive in dealing with the cases that might be brought before them of treasonable conduct on the part of those who were in the service of the Crown. When the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) was in Ireland, a magistrate of the county of Kilkenny was indicted for holding treasonable language at a public meeting in that county, and, being convicted, was impri- 325 soned for the offence. He did not refer to that particular instance as a precedent. But he could not help saying that he thought such conduct on the part of magistrates was most reprehensible. They ought to bear in mind that forgetfulness of their duty was fatal to their own character; and that, by so acting, they did a great deal of mischief in weakening the desire of the people to emancipate themselves from the influence of political agitators and the spiritual tyranny of the clergy.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
said, that the disclaimer which he had gained from the noble Earl (the Earl of Aberdeen) of any concurrence in the sentiments and language held at the meeting on the part of Colonel Greville was most gratifying. He regretted that it had not been accompanied by an expression of regret on the part of Colonel Greville that he had been present when the healths of the Pope and the Queen were drunk in the order and in the manner in which they were. He could not make so light of the matter as the noble Earl had done; but he had no doubt that the noble Earl conscientiously thought that this matter was not so serious as he (the Marquess of Westmeath) believed it to be. While he was thankful that the Government had not disgraced a man who was a relative of his own, he did not think that the circumstances warranted the aspect which the noble Earl had put upon the Motion. Provided this matter brought home to the mind of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland the conviction that the public eye was upon him, and that hereafter, so long as he remained there, he must not blow hot and cold, having one measure for one person, and another for another, he (the Marquess of Westmeath) should be satisfied with the disclaimer he had obtained, and would withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.