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under degradation at home. He strives against you at home, because you oppress him; and he fights for you abroad because you there trust him. It was easy to point a repartee to any thing, but it was not so easy for the right honourable gentleman to point an argument. Because the Roman Catholic pays your church and fights your battles, therefore he is to be disqualified. The right honourable gentleman had showed in this a higher spirit of bigotry than he could have expected from a politician; but his country would show him that it was not in the power of a declamatory minister to prevent them from obtaining their object. He had maintained that the Roman Catholic having a religion, was in itself no disqualification, and that if he was free from treasonable practices, he stood precisely as any other dissenter who was a Protestant. If the first was right they were right, because their political opinions were unimpeachable. Would they, without enquiry, refuse to admit that portion of their fellow-subjects, to a participation of privileges, whose loyalty could not be impeached, The right honourable gentleman had shown no reason why they should be either excluded from the state, or the army, but he has shown reasons sufficient to disqualify himself from continuing to be any longer minister of the country.
The House then divided : for the motion 83, against it 146; Majority against it 63. Tellers for the Ayes, Mr. W. Smith, and Mr. Hutchison.
Noes, Mr. Bankes, and Sir George Hill.
LORD MORPETH'S MOTION FOR A COMMITTEE ON THE STATE OF
February 4. 1812. IN 1811, the Roman Catholics, with a view to further their
emancipation, resolved to depute a certain number of individuals from each county in Ireland, to act on their behalf, and promote their views, in the attainment of the objects of their peti. tions, which they had so frequently presented to Parliament, and which had as frequently been attended with bad success. Many of their delegates were accordingly appointed, and they proceeded to meet; upon which Mr. William Wellesley Pole, then Secretary to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, issued, by the direction of government, a circular letter, whereby he declared, that assemblies met for such purposes were illegal; and he authorized the magistracy to enter and disperse them and, if necessary, to commit to prison.
The Irish government (the Duke of Richmond Lord-lieutenant). determined to prevent the Catholics from assembling; and the Catholics determined on trying the right. They accordingly met in the month of October ; and in December, application was made to the Chief Justice to issue his warrant, which he accordingly did; and Lord Fingall was arrested in the chair of the assembly, together with several other members. Informations, ex officio, were granted against two of the delegates (Dr. Sheridan and Mr., Kirwan). The trials took place in the Court of King's Bench in Dublin, before a full bench of judges, - Chief Justice Downes, and Justices Day, Daly, and Osborne. After a long trial, the jury found a verdict of Not guilty, in the case of Dr. Sheridan. The government, however, proceeded with the trial of Mr. Kirwan, and on the same evidence, but by another jury; a verdict of guilty was returned. It appeared in the evidence, that the list of the jury had been delivered by the Under Secretary (Sir C. Saxton) at the castle, to the Crown Solicitor (Mr. T. Kemmis), and by him to the sheriff. In consequence of these measures, the country was thrown into great agitation; the spirit of party was greatly embittered ; and the whole of the proceedings having appeared not to be perfectly consonant to the spirit of the British constitution, or to those principles of justice which should ever distinguish British juris, prudence, Lord Morpeth gave notice, that he would bring forward a motion on the subject: on the 3d, he rose in pursuance thereof, and after having dwelt upon the situation of Ireland, the agitation which the conduct of government in their legal proceedings had occasioned, and the construction put upon the convention act, he moved, “That the House do resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the present state of Ireland."
The motion was seconded by the Marquis of Tavistock; and was supported by Lord George Grenville, Mr. Hutchinson, and Sir Arthur Pigott.
It was opposed by Sir John Nicholl, Mr. Peel, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Pole (Secretary for Ireland). Sir Arthur Pigott observed, that it was necessary to enquire into the alarming state of Ireland, which had been driven from its quiet situation, by the enterprizes of His Majesty's ministers. The object that the Irish Parliament had in view, when they passed the convention act, was to prevent a threatened meeting at Athlone; but the act expressly saved the right to petition, and merely prevented the election of persons to unlawful assemblies, “ under pretence of preparing petitions ;' that is, persons who met together under false allegations. With respect to the proclaination of last July, authorising magistrates to enter the Catholic meetings, and to disperse them, he asserted that the magistrates had not a right to interfere, except in cases of treason, felony, or breach of the peace. The offence for which the Catholic committee was arraigned, was a misdemeanor, which could only be proceeded against by an ex officio information, or a
presentment to the grand jury to be tried in a court of Oyer and Terminer. He doubted much the legality of the authority which the circular letter and proclamation gave the magistrates, to commit the persons who assembled in Liffey-street Chapel. He observed, that government should have proceeded by proclamation instead of issuing a circular letter. It was also a just ground of complaint, that the informations against the members of the Catholic committee had been laid before the Chief Justice: he thought this proceeding indecorous, the more so as the Chief Justice was to preside at the trial ; and it was essential to the purity of justice, that no communication should take place between him and the Crown on judicial matters. He was persuaded that in such a case, the Chief Justice in England would have refused to grant his warrant. Mr. Canning and Sir John Nicholl entered at large into the consideration of the Catholic question. Mr. Canning expressed himself strongly in favour of the policy of granting the Catholic measure, but : was against the motion. Mr. Pole thought himself bound to explain the proceedings of the Irish government. He considered the motion to be an attack on the conduct of the Duke of Richmond, and entered into a long detail of the entire transaction. He stated that the Catholic committee was formed in 1793, was revived in 1809, and again re-established in 1810; and on the 9th of July, 1811, it was resolved that this committee be re-appointed, and be composed of the Catholic peers of Ireland; their eldest sons; the Catholic baronets in Ireland; the prelates of the Catholic church; of ten persons from each county in Ireland ; of five from each parish in Dublin ; and of the survivors of the delegates of 1793 ; in all they would have amounted to 473. These proceedings were laid before the crown-lawyers, who were of opinion, that they were a violation of the convention act; and on the 20th of July, a dispatch, communicating these circumstances, was sent to His Majesty's ministers. On the 22d he (Mr. Pole) was directed by the Lord-lieutenant to see Lord Fingall upon the subject. He had the interview on the 25th. He stated the sentiments of the Lord-lieutenant on these proceedings; and, after much expostulation and strong representations thereon, he stated that government would be obliged to take some steps to avert the threatened danger ; but that Lord Fingall should be apprized of them. On the 29th, a dispatch was received by the Lord-lieutenant from His Majesty's ministers, approving of all
that had been done; and on the 30th, he had another interview with Lord Fingall, similar in most respects to the former ; but at the conclusion of which, the Lord-lieutenant and Lord-chancellor (Manners) came into the room. They both stated to Lord Fingall the sense they entertained of the danger of such meetings, and the necessity of their interference. He (Mr. Pole) also stated to Lord Fingall that the opinion of the law-officers in Ireland and England, and that of the cabinet ministers in England, concurred in thinking the proceedings of the Catholics as contrary to law. Lord Fingall then expressed his desire that he (Mr. Polé) should write to him a letter, stating the determination of government, that he might lay it before the committee. The letter mentioned that a council was to be held, to consider the expediency of issuing a proclamation declaratory of the law, and of the course to be adopted to enforce it. On the 31st the Catholics met, (Lord Fingall in the chair,) and resolved, that they would continue and persevere in the course they had maturely adopted, for the sole, express, and specific purpose of preparing a petition or petitions for the participation of the rights of the constitution; and that, in so doing, they did not violate it, but that they acted in strict conformity with its soundest principles. They also republished the resolutions of the 9th of July, appointing the committee, composed as already 'mentioned. The government proclamation was then issued, and after that, the elections did not proceed, one excepted, in the county of Meath, where Lord Fingall presided ; and, in consequence of which, law proceedings were directed to be taken against him and other persons who attended. Mr. Pole defended the conduct of the government in issuing the warrant by the Chief Justice; the signing it was a mere official act, and the crown lawyers had recommended it. On the 19th of October the committee met, and quietly separated; but on the 23d of December they assembled again, and the magistrates then dispersed them. On the 26th an aggregate meeting was held, and violent resolutions, condemning the proceedings of the Irish government, were adopted. Mr. Pole then stated the danger likely to result from such a meeting, the former violence of the Catholic assemblies, and how impossible it would be for any government to go on with such a body sitting in the very metropolis : he alluded to the statement of penal laws, (an elaborate detail of the laws affecting the Catholics, and supposed to be written by an eminent Catholic barrister) which work he severely condemned, and he concluded by expressing his conviction that the Irish government had acted wisely. Mr. Sheridan censured, in severe terms, the speech of Mr. Pole, and moved the question of adjournment, which was carried without a division. On the 4th the debate was resumed, and the motion was supported by Sir John Newport, Mr. C. Wynn, Mr. Parnell, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Ponsonby, Mr. Tierney, Mr. Elliott, and Sir George Warrender. They set forth the policy of conciliating the Catholics, that the dangers of the country, as well as common justice, should induce them to grant the Catholics their demands; till that was done, it could not be expected that the Catholics should be contented; as for the construction put upon the convention act, it was forced and unnatural. The words under pretence were perverted, and were construed to mean "for the purpose.” The circular letter had even been condemned by some of the government, and the Lord Chancellor (Eldon) had termed it a “sloventy production:" at the time the convention act was passed in Ireland, the Catholics applied to Mr.Hobart (then secretary), and he had assured them, that the act was not intended to affect them, or their meetings: that since the year 1787, Catholic committees had been recognized and permitted by different governments in Ireland. Mr. Ponsonby stated, the view he took of the act was different
from that which the King's Bench had declared ; that objections had been constantly made in the House to the Catholic petitions, either that they were the growth of a faction, or that they did not speak the sense of the people ; or that the lower orders were indifferent to the subject; or that the clergy had not expressed their opinion on the extent of their wishes : to obviate all these objections, this delegated meeting had been selected to express the sense of all the different classes of His Majesty's Catholic subjects. The motion was opposed by Mr. C. Adams, Mr. W. V. Fitzgerald, Sir John Sebright, Mr. Manners Sutton (afterwards Speaker), Lord Castlereagh, Mr. Ryder (Secretary), the Chancellor of Exchequer (Percival), and Mr. Croker. They censured the proceedings of the Catholics, and contended that no government could permit such a numerous body to assemble and canvass the measures that should be submitted to Parliament. They defended the conduct of the Irish law officers; and in particular that of Mr. Charles Bushe (Solicitor-general), of whom Mr. W. Fitzgerald deservedly spoke in the highest terms, adding, that he was well known to be amicable in disposition to the Catholics, and a man of whose splendid talents and ability Ireland was justly proud.
Mr. GRATTAN said, he had desired to have the motion read, inasmuch as he thought that the reading was the best answer to the commencing part of the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Pole’s) objection. The right honourable gentleman had complained, that it was an extraordinary, an unwarrantable, and an uncandid motion; a proposition to enquire into the state of Ireland, he deemed worthy of such a censure; as if it was not very just, very parliamentary, and sometimes very necessary to appoint committees to enquire into the state of the nation: if more committees of that sort had obtained, the condition of the nation would have been more prosperous; such a committee, with regard to Ireland, is more necessary, because Ireland is a distant nation, of whom you have said much, and enquired little: her people, their dispositions, their condition, and their grievances have not sufficiently occupied your attention, nor have they been sufficiently made a subject of your inquiry; witness, the various speeches in this House with regard to them, and the monstrous errors by which those speeches are distinguished. The right honourable gentleman has further objected to the motion, because, as he said, it contained a reflection on the judges. A motion to enquire into the state of the nation, does not ex vi termini import an accusation of the judges; but if the conduct of the judges becomes a public grievance, that conduct, or more properly, that misconduct, must, to such a committee, become a matter of animadversion. With regard to the Court of King's Bench in Ireland, I respect it. Mr. Justice Downes, who had been a subject of debate, is a man of great integrity and knowledge: