HL Deb 24 May 1860 vol 158 cc1641-51

rose to draw the attention of the House to the appointment of Mr. Lyle, the Receiver Master in Chancery in Ireland, to the Office of Lieutenant of the County and City of Londonderry; and to ask Her Majesty's Government for some Explanations with regard to that Appointment. The noble Earl said that the office of Lord Lieutenant of a county in Ireland was created by an Act which was passed in 1831. In the discussions which took place on the passage of the Bill through Parliament, it was admitted that the persons chosen for the office should be persons of the highest rank and character resident in the counties to which they were respectively appointed. In the House of Lords, on the question of going into Committee on the Bill, Earl Grey (who followed the Duke of "Wellington) said— With respect to the qualifications of those persons, no doubt they should he of high character and rank, and above all, as suggested by the noble Duke, residents in the county. In the House of Commons, Mr. O'Connell opposed the Bill, and said— He no more doubted than he doubted of his existence, that the measure would create discontent and heart-burnings throughout Ireland. Mr. Stanley (then Chief Secretary for Ireland) replied to the objections of Mr. O' Connell, and, in the course of his speech, said, Generally there would be no difficulty in finding a person whose high standing and weight in the county, would point him out as a fit person to be entrusted with the responsibility of this office. And Lord Althorp said— One great advantage of the introduction of such a system as this into Ireland was, that they would have persons of rank, station, and respectability in the several counties there, whom they could make responsible for the recommendation of magistrates in their respective counties, and who would take care that none but proper persons would be selected to fill that office. The duties of a Lord Lieutenant of a county were to recommend persons for the Commission of the Peace to the Lord Chancellor, to appoint the colonels (and now all the officers) to the Militia of the county, and as Custos Rotulorum to appoint to the lucrative office of Clerk of the Peace. About two months ago a vacancy occurred in the Lord Lieutenancy of the County of Londonderry by the death of Sir Robert Ferguson. The appointment was given to Mr. Lyle, a Master in Chancery, a gentleman, he admitted, of the very highest character, but who certainly did not fulfil the conditions which he had stated: whereas there were resident within the county two Peers, and several gentlemen of wealth and the highest social position. He had no objection of a personal kind to make to Mr. Lyle, of whose private character and of whose efficiency as an officer of the Irish Court of Chancery he had heard many people speak in terms of the highest commendation. But there were many grounds for questioning the propriety of his nomination to the position of Lord Lieutenant. How was it possible that a gentleman who was bound to attend every day in the Irish Court of Chancery, could properly perform the duties of Lord Lieutenant of a county which was one of the most remote in all Ireland from the Irish capital? Again, a Lord Lieutenant recommended gentlemen to the Lord Chancellor for appointments to the Commission of the Peace; and in that capacity he was supposed to offer a check against the introduction by the Chancellor of unfit persons into the magistracy; but a Master in Chancery could hardly be expected to control in any way the action of a great public functionary in whose Court he filled a subaltern office. Was it, he asked, constitutional that the Crown should appoint one of its own officers to be the head of the unpaid magistracy of the county. Another fair objection to the appointment was the smallness of Mr. Lyle's property. All that he (the Earl of Belmore) could, learn upon that point was that Mr. Lyle was the owner of a very nice model farm in the county of Londonderry, and that he had property there of the value of about £1,000 a year. He was informed that when that gentleman announced himself to the grand jury of Londonderry as their Lord Lieutenant, that statement was received by everybody present, with the exception of one person, in solemn silence. Of course, he admitted that where there were several persons equally well qualified to fill the office, the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) had a perfect right to appoint one who agreed with him in political matters, rather than an opponent; but he hoped that if he (the noble Earl) had determined, when he could not find a person in any particular county, who entirely agreed with him, to seek for a Lieutenant from amongst the class of small proprietors, he would re-consider the matter, as he (the Earl of Belmore) knew that very often a Lieutenant so chosen would be overwhelmed with solicitations to make the most improper appointments, both to the magistracy, and to the Militia. There was another point to which he wished to refer. The other House of Parliament had a Standing Order which declared that any Lord Lieutenant of a county using the influence of his office to secure the return of a particular Member to that House would be guilty of a breach of their privileges. Now, it was stated that Mr. Lyle, within a day or two after his appointment, had taken an active part in a recent election for the city of Londonderry, and although it might be urged that he had only done so in his private capacity, it appeared to him (the Earl of Belmore) that he would have done better to abstain from any interference in such a political contest. These were circumstances which, in his opinion, called for explanation, and he hoped that explanation would be given on the part of the Government.


My Lords, I have to express my acknowledgments to the noble Earl on two accounts—first, for having treated this matter with good taste and temper, and secondly, for having brought it forward when I had an opportunity of being here present, and offering such an explanation as I may deem proper. It has been stated, though not by the noble Earl, that in the appointment of Mr. Lyle to the office of Lord Lieutenant of Londonderry, I acted very much under the inspiration of others. I mention this because, though I hope I am not indisposed on all due occasions to act in full concert with my colleagues, whether in England or in Ireland, I should be sorry to lose any of the direct responsibility of this appointment, inasmuch as I think it, for the reasons I am about to state, a remarkably good one. I shall begin by admitting that Mr. Lyle does not possess those attributes of large fortune, or of very high birth and lineage, which may, perhaps, be properly looked for, and which I will not dispute with the noble Earl are generally looked for, in these appointments. However, as many of your Lordships are aware, the county of Londonderry is very peculiarly circumstanced in this respect. A very large proportion of the county is in the hands of the great London Companies, comprised under the general designation of the "Irish Society." The area of the whole county consists of 518,000 acres. The properties held in fee by individual proprietors amount to 87,000 acres only, and the remainder—that is, about four-fifths of the county—is in the possession of the great London Companies. So that, really, if you were to look only to territorial possessions and influence, the Governors of the Irish Society or the Lord Mayor of London would be the most appropriate persons to appoint as Lord Lieutenants of the county. But the noble Earl has referred to certain individual proprietors connected by property with the county. He has stated that there are two Peers either of whom I might have selected for the office. One is the Marquess of Waterford. Now, I presume the noble Earl would hardly recommend me to place the office of Lord Lieutenant, who has the supervision of the magistracy and the Militia, in the hands of a Peer who is himself in Holy orders. I hold, moreover, the primary qualification for the office of Lord Lieutenant to be that of residing in the county; and it is well known that the noble Marquess referred to not only never resides in Londonderry, but resides in the county of Ireland the most remote from Londonderry. The other Peer is Lord Garvagh, who does not at present possess any property in the county; the estates belong to his mother. But I admit at once that if I had thought it fitting to have recourse to persons differing in political opinion from the Government with which it is my pride and pleasure to be connected, I might have found one or two persons, but scarcely more, whose stake in the county exceeds that of Mr. Lyle. I might have selected Lord Garvagh or Sir Harvey Bruce; but I think it due to those who concur in political opinion with Her Majesty's Government, whenever I have to assign stations of honour and distinction, unless there is some strong reason to the contrary, to give the preference to those who entertain the opinions and support the principles to which I myself owe the position I hold, and the power I possess of dealing with such matters at all. Such, I am sure, has been the general practice in this country, and it was the intention, as the noble Earl rightly stated, of those who brought forward the measure creating the office of Lord Lieutenant of a county in Ireland, to introduce the English system, and to follow the English precedent. In this country, under all Governments, the course has been followed of giving the preference in these cases to persons coinciding in political opinion with the Government of the day. I may cite two very remarkable instances which occurred in my own time, one under a Conservative, the other under a Liberal Government. There was a vacancy in the office of Lord Lieutenant for the county of Bedford. I need not tell your Lordships of the great extent of property possessed by the Duke of Bedford in that county. But the Government of Lord Liverpool, upon that vacancy occurring, did not give the Lord Lieutenancy to the Duke of Bedford, but gave it to Earl de Grey, who at that time did not possess one single acre within the county. The other case, which occurred under a Liberal Government, was a much stronger one. There was a vacancy in the county palatine of Lancaster. That office had been immemorially held by the family of the noble Earl who usually sits opposite, who was the last Prime Minister, who owns the largest estates in that county, and who, I have no scruple in saying, is by his position, by his public services, by his genius, and by his personal worth, one of the most eminent subjects, if not the most eminent subject, of the Queen. Still the Lord Lieutenancy of Lancashire became four times vacant, and four times it was given by different Governments not to the Earl of Derby, but to other persons, who however eminent, as to position, family connexions, and public eminence, could in no way compete with that noble Earl. I say that a much stronger argument might have been raised against the omission of the noble Earl in those instances than against the overlooking of any person in the county of Londonderry in the present case. The noble Earl has alluded to Mr. Lyle's property, which for the sake of his argument, he a little understated. I know from the best authority that Mr. Lyle has an estate in fee simple producing £1,300 a year, exclusive of his house and demesne containing 300 acres, and well worth £400 a year; he has also leasehold property worth £94 per annum, making a total of £1,800 a year. This is certainly not a magnificent estate; but I am within the truth in saying that it is of greater value than the estate which was possessed by the late lieutenant of the county, Sir Robert Ferguson, who performed the duties of his office with the utmost efficiency, and was held in universal respect and honour. It may be some consolation to Mr. Lyle under the unmerited, and, I think, ungenerous attacks which have been made upon him, to know that just the same taunts and imputations were levelled against the appointment of Sir Robert Ferguson. I might quote what was said at the time of that gentleman's appointment; but I am sure that those who made the attacks lived to see that Sir Robert Ferguson was a most excellent lieutenant, and I have little doubt that the same correction of hostile opinions will occur in the case of Mr. Lyle. Now, with respect to the personal qualities of Mr. Lyle—to those which, after all, constitute the real man, and which qualify him for the duties which he has to discharge, and the part which lie has to play in life—I can only say that I would answer for him as I would for the most honoured of your Lordships. It was my lot—for my experience of Ireland has now been rather a long one — to recommend Mr. Lyle for the first legal office which he held. He has, since then, under different Governments with which I had no connection, risen gradually higher. He first became Deputy, and then Chief Remembrancer, an office held by the late right hon. Anthony Blake, whose reputation must be well known to many of your Lordships; and on that office being abolished he was made First Master in Chancery. I do not imagine that the duties which he has to discharge as a Master in Chancery in any way disqualify him for the performance of those which will pertain to him as Lieutenant of the county. If there should be any incompatibility between the two sets of duties, it will not be of long continuance, because it has long been notorious in Ireland that Mr. Lyle intends within a very short time to retire, as he is enabled to do by the Acts constituting the different Courts to which he had been an officer, from discharging the active duties of his profession. He has for fifteen years been a deputy lieutenant of the county of which he is now made Lieutenant; he has regularly attended the grand juries; he is intimately acquainted with the business, with the gentry, and with the interests of the county in which he resides. He has already been in the habit of living in the county of Londonderry. The noble Earl (the Earl of Belmore) asks how he can perform the duties of lieutenant of that county when he has to spend part of the year in his office in Dublin?—but I will at least make bold to say that he resides in his county much more than many of the noble Lords and Gentlemen, some of whom have seats in Parliament, and others hold offices under the Crown, who act as lieutenants for other counties in Ireland and England. He already resides there a great deal, and it is his intention to do so to a still greater extent. As to his still more personal qualities, I know him to be judicious, discreet, sensible, unblemished in character, and in the whole course of his life; in short, he is made of just the stuff to fit him to be a good lieutenant, and to enable him adequately to perform the duties of that office. Really, if I had not been specially called upon to do so, I should feel ashamed of detaining your Lordships so long by making excuses—that is not the word I ought to use, but by giving reasons—for the appointment of such a man, because he does not possess all the mere external attributes of fortune and position of which many far less really qualified than he is can boast. Having thought it right to say this much for Mr. Lyle, I am glad that at least in this place no insinuations have been hazarded that this appointment was made from sordid motives, to secure his retirement from his office in order that the Government might bestow it upon another. Had such insinuations been made, I should have been able to show your Lordships how exactly the reverse of the truth they were. I have thought it due to Mr. Lyle to say thus much, and I am sure that every succeeding year that passes over our heads will prove the propriety of his appointment. For myself, my Lords, I have only to add one or two very short sentences. I perceive that some censures have lately been passed upon my conduct—that, in short, charges of general mischief-making and personal corruption have been made against me. I do not forget how gracefully and how generously I was defended, and have only to say, with regard to them, that I have now been for a very long time, I believe for thirty-five years, before the public in one or the other House of Parliament. I have served large constituencies; I have been connected with the actual Government of Ireland for above ten years. No doubt shortcomings and errors in judgment might be plentifully alleged against me; but with respect to personal probity and integrity, if my conduct requires any defence, it is not worth defending.


said, he would trespass on their Lordships but for a few moments, to express to them his sense of the great respectability and high character of his Friend Mr. Acheson Lyle. Since he had been translated from the diocese of Limerick to that of Derry every day's acquaintance with this gentleman had increased his appreciation of his merits. He might be allowed to say that he felt perfectly assured Mr. Lyle would discharge the high duties of his office with honour to himself and with advantage to the county, which he certainly would adorn.


said, he had listened with some surprise at what the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) had said in defence of the appointment. It appeared that he relied upon and brought forward the Earl of Derby's case as a parallel, and he mixed up his defence with expressions of pride and personal gratification at being connected with a "Liberal Government." Liberal! Why, what was this liberality? What was the liberal conduct of the Government? And what was the liberal conduct of the noble Earl? Was it to be said that no matter how great the services that had been rendered to the country by one of rank and position, no matter how meritorious those services, or how eminent the individual, he was to be set aside and overlooked in favour of a man who was called a "Liberal?" although inferior in point of position, inferior in every respect to the individual so set aside. Having performed no service for his country, but because be called himself a Liberal, he was to have a preference and be placed in a more prominent position than the person whose services were so exemplary. Were those the "liberal" sentiments of Her Majesty's Government? He should call this the reverse of "liberality;" indeed he should say this was "bigotry in politics." Was it to be understood that no situation, great or small, was to be given to any person who did not support the existing Government? That henceforth no favour or honour was to be bestowed on any person who would not go in every respect along with the noble and liberal Earl? It might be the noble Earl's pride, as he had said, to belong to the present Government—but what were the opinions of Her Majesty's Government? What were his principles? It appeared to him that they had no principles—nobody could fathom them:—at all events they held one set of principles in Ireland, and another in I House of Commons England. They had a Janus head. In England they upheld a Protestant form of Government; in Ireland a Popish form. The British Government was Protestant in form and expression. The noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) was just the reverse. He was not satisfied with appointing Roman Catholics to every office great and small, to the exclusion of all Protestants, but he appointed Ultramontanists, or, as they were called in Ireland, Papists. Under the mask of liberality the noble Earl sought to establish a despotism of the very worst kind. The noble Earl said that his character was not worth defending. But the country was worth defending, and the question came to this—were they to have the Government of Queen Victoria or that of the Po These were the grounds on which he would address their Lordships. ["Hear, hear!"] He rejoiced at those cheers. He trusted the House would lend him their patience, for he would require it. Mr. Lyle's selection for the office of Lord Lieutenant of a county was not an isolated case. The noble Earl had made equally objectionable appointments in the Queen's County, Wexford, Cork and Roscommon. Could the same excuse that had been advanced for the appointment of Mr. Lyle be urged for passing over Lord Clancarty, Lord Clan-brock, Lord Castlemaine, Lord De Freyne, Lord Ffrench, Sir Gilbert King, and other Resident Proprietors of much greater importance than Mr. Tenison. But Mr. Tenison wished to have a seat in the House of Commons. Perhaps the noble Earl would favour their Lordships with his reasons for appointing Mr. Tenison for Roscommon?


was under the impression that the last-named appointment occurred while he was at the head of the Irish Government.


thought it would not be denied that the noble Earl (the Earl of Carlisle) appointed Mr. Tenison, Lieutenant of Roscommon. Being so appointed, that Gentleman stood as a candidate at the last election for his county. Will the noble Earl deny that, excepting for the purpose of advancing his electioneering prospects, there were not other gentlemen in the county better qualified than Mr. Tenison to fill that important office? but happily the noble Earl failed, in seducing the county of Roscommon to return Mr. Tenison, he lost his election, and having been defeated, he petitioned the to unseat his adversary — pending that Petition, and the decision of the House of Commons, it became the duty of the noble Earl to select a gentleman to fill the office of High Sheriff for that county, and in so doing, he thought himself justified in setting aside Mr. Balffe—a gentleman fully qualified to fill that I office, and whose name had been approved of by the Judges of Assize, and in consequence of the course taken by the noble Earl, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the following correspondence ensued. The noble Earl was proceeding to read a correspondence with the Irish Government respecting a recent choice of sheriff for the county of Roscommon, when—


rose to order. The noble Earl's remarks were quite irregular, there being no Motion before the House.


said, that he had asked a Question of Her Majesty's Government.


also interposed. It was usual for their Lordships, although no Motion was before them, to give a hearing, as a matter of courtesy, to any speaker who confined himself to the subject raised by any question that might be put to a Member of the Government. But in this ease the noble Earl was assuming to himself a latitude wholly inconsistent with the order and usage of the House.


said, he wished to be beard while the noble Earl the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was present to answer him. He had been taunted with bring- ing forward charges against the noble Earl in his absence; and now he had the noble Earl he thought it convenient to address their Lordships on the subject of his appointments.


, as an Irish representative Peer, thought that if the noble Earl had any charge to make against the Irish Government he should put a notice upon the books of the House. It was very unfair to attack the acts of any Government without any Motion or previous intimation.


said, he hoped the noble Earl would take the advice just given him. Though he sat as Speaker he was sensible that he had no more authority over the debate than any other I of their Lordships; but, speaking as a Peer, he could not but express his regret t at the irregularity of the noble Earl's proceedings.


said, he did not think it necessary to add anything to the testimony of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Derry) as to the character and I qualifications of Mr. Lyle. He had no; doubt that gentleman would fill the office to which he had been appointed with honour to himself and to the Government.


, if such was the wish of their Lordships, would for the present postpone the subject; but if he brought it forward again — and bring it forward again he most assuredly would— he hoped the noble Earl, the Lord Lieutenant, would be present to defend his appointments generally.


Will the noble Earl forgive me if I express a hope that he will bring forward some appointment in particular?


I will bring forward the noble Earl's appointments in general.

House adjourned at a quarter before Nine o'clock, till To-morrow, a Quarter before Four o'clock.