§ Mr. Brownlow
said, that after considerable delay, he was at length happy to bring this subject under the consideration of the House; and he was the more anxious to do so, because he felt it to be one of great importance to the interests of Ireland. If hon. members would but condescend to listen to him for a short time, he felt assured that they would coincide with him in this opinion. The object of this motion was, to induce the House to place upon their table, papers containing the correspondence between the magistrates of Lisburne and the Irish government, relative to a recent transaction which had there taken place. In introducing any question relative to Ireland, he felt the difficulty under which he laboured. Things which were mere matters of fact in that unhappy country, were looked upon as the fictions of romance throughout the other parts of the united empire. It had been said, that if any complaint existed in Ireland, it was sure to find its way to the government of the country. Now, he was anxious to furnish the House with at least one sample of that bad article which was called government in Ireland. It was needless to go back to the history of former ages. They saw in Great Britain, in this boasted age, the greatest, the most flourishing improvements in every branch of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce—improvements so great, that, if the great lord Chatham were to arise and open his eyes, he must feel as if in a strange place, and gaze with wonder and astonishment upon them. But, if he should look to Ireland, there too would he find equal cause of wonder and astonishment. He would there see, that from the reign of Henry 6th down to the present period, there had been continued, with little variation, the same system of favouritism, and monopoly of places and power, on the one hand, and the same continuance of bars, barriers, and exclusions towards the great mass of the people. This was an evil to be measured only by the discontent and alienation of feeling which it had produced in that country. The great question for their consideration, as legislators, was this:—Had they so acted as to unite and enlist the hearts and hands of the Irish people in the cause of the empire? He had put this simple question to every English gentleman whom he had met— 134 whether they depended upon the security and support of Ireland?—and he found it generally thought, that Ireland was a spot upon which the greatness and glory of England might be overthrown. Two years ago, a bill was introduced into and passed that House for the suppression of all associations in Ireland. Many men thought that the bill emanated from the opponents of the Popish party, while on the other hand, it was said to be levelled against the Orangemen, with a view to the suppression of their societies. He, for for one, supported the measure, because he thought it would have the effect of suppressing, all illegal societies. Now, he was not called upon to show that such was the effect of that bill; inasmuch as they all knew it had not put down the Catholic Association. It was at this moment well known that the Catholic Association was in full force and vigour; that it held its sittings, and made its orders, in the same way that that House did; that it represented the bulk of the Irish Roman Catholic body, and levied taxes upon them. But he would say—let no man ridicule the Catholic Association; let no man make little of the speeches made by the members of that body, because they do not square either with his feelings or his politics; let it not be for a moment imagined that each word uttered in that Association would not have a ready echo from the Catholics of all parts of Ireland, and find every breast ready to carry its resolutions into effect. There was, indeed, a time when the aristocracy kept aloof, as well as the priesthood, from the great body of the people; but that time had passed away, and now the aristocracy, the prelacy, the priesthood, and the people, were united and acted as one body, and they all looked up to the Catholic Association, and received their commands, with an obedience never exceeded by that paid to any legislative body in any country. Such were the persons who, upon presenting their petitions to that House, for relief from the disabilities under which they laboured, were told that they had not made out even a primâ facie case, in support of their claims even for an inquiry. Thus driven back, the Catholics felt that they had now to surround the Throne with their loud and bitter complaints. This, he maintained, was a state of things which ought to arrest the attention of ministers, and of that House, and induce them to 135 interfere while it was yet time. He said, that the Catholic Association ought to be put down. But how? They had already tried to put it down by law; and they had failed. They could not then put it down by law; they could not put it down by force, or by penal enactments; but they might put it down by wise and judicious concessions. They might put it down by creating in the minds of the Irish people a feeling of respect and obedience to the laws and institutions of the country, which could only be done by shewing them that they were entitled to equal rights and equal privileges with their other fellow-subjects.—Having said so much, he now came to the more immediate matter of which he had given notice. In 1825, the magistrates of Lisburne met for the purpose of taking steps to prevent the usual party symptoms which were manifested on the 12th of July. The magistrates agreed, under the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, that the Orange exhibitions usual on such occasions were illegal, and therefore determined to suppress them; but a gentleman, the rev. Mr. Johnston, was determined to try the question. This was on the 11th of July. On the following day, the 12th, the usual parade, accompanied by drums, &c., was announced, and the magistrates to whom he alluded, acting upon their decision, proceeded to the spot, pronounced the conduct of the persons so conducting themselves to be illegal, and ordered them to disperse. While in the act of doing this, the rev. Mr. Johnston came up and asked what they were doing? The magistrates replied, that they were acting upon the resolution to which they had yesterday come, and were advising the people to disperse, in order to avoid the penalties of the law, "Ah," said the rev. Mr. Johnston, "that may be just as you please—I think otherwise."The rev. gentleman then led or the Orange mob; who shouted:—"Hurrah, hurrah for Johnston," and the town was kept in a state of alarm and confusion during the whole of the day, On the next day the magistrates sat to take informations, and to inquire into the reverend gentleman's conduct. They all transmitted those informations to his excellency, the lord lieutenant, and they were by him transmitted to the lord Chancellor of Ireland. In a few days after this, the rev. Mr. Johnston received a letter from the lord Chancellor, con- 136 gratulating him upon his conduct, and on the satisfactory explanation he had given of his conduct. When the magistrates saw this, they were astounded; they could scarcely believe their eyes; they said "We were expressly called together by government to take steps to prevent these Orange processions, and therefore this letter of approval of the rev. Mr. Johnston's, conduct must be a forgery; it is impossible that this gentleman, who marshalled the Orange band, and directed them which way to go, could receive from the lord Chancellor a letter of congratulation." Such, however, it was found, was the fact. Mr. Hawkshaw, one of the magistrates, feeling the question as he ought, wrote to the Irish Secretary, stating that he had heard of the lord Chancellor's letter of congratulation to the rev. Mr. Johnston, and begging to know what was thought of the conduct of himself and those who acted with him upon that occasion? To this letter he received an answer from the right hon. Secretary, informing him, that his excellency the lord lieutenant highly approved of the conduct of Mr. Hawkshaw and his brother magistrates. While the conduct of Mr. Johnston thus received unqualified approbation from Dublin, the letter which the magistrates sent up received no answer. Surely that was misgovernment: it was worse: it was a satire upon any thing like good government, and all that Junius ever wrote was not so powerfully satirical, nor could it equal in the bitterness of its words, this practical illustration of inattention to the proper duties of government. Was it in an assembly of Englishmen that such conduct was to be described as government? Was it, he would ask, the part of any good government, either directly or indirectly, to sow divisions among the people? Or ought any one to be permitted thus to set one man against another? Were the Irish people to be the victims, whose humour, or error, or misinterpretation, was thus to create an unusual law? He never was, nor ever should be, ashamed to own that he had once been an Orangeman. There was not in the whole kingdom a finer race of subjects—a more independent, highminded, or public-spirited body, or a set of men more willing and more anxious to do their duty, according to their sense of it—than the Orangemen of the North of Ireland. They possessed, in an eminent degree, both spirit and 137 strength; and if these were properly directed to the service of the true interests of their country, instead of being employed in that maddening question which wasted its strength, their existence would indeed he a blessing to Ireland, promoting a general love among the people, instead of maintaining their prevent unhappy enmity to each other. The Orangemen possessed energy and industry sufficient to make the country prosper in a time of peace, while they were also distinguished by that manly spirit which would guard and defend it in the time of war. But, unfortunately, their energies were misdirected, and nothing but misery to the country was the consequence. On the Orange anniversary, it ought to have been the care of every man to prevent any thing that might lead to riot; but, if one body of persons were permitted to walk in processions, another would do the same. Quarrels must be expected to ensue, perhaps loss of life—and vengeance would then be bequeathed as a sort of legacy to the survivors. Hence arose that anarchy which was the curse of Ireland: hence the want of employment, the want of food, the want of national production, and of contribution to the general necessities of the state: hence it was, that Ireland was one vast mad-house of demoniac spirits, one half of which were ready to range themselves under the standard of any man who would undertake to lead them to the destruction of their fellow-subjects. The more distinguished theirleader, the better for them, since he would be more able to justify their conduct, or to shield them from its consequences. On the other hand, the remaining half would be the willing soldiers of any man who possessed the talent to state their wrongs; the wish to relieve them; and especially if that individual had not the means of gratifying his wishes and their own by the operation of the laws. The hon. member then alluded to the divisions of the cabinet, and declared that it was his decided opinion that they were productive of much harm; that, if it were not for them, the evil would be much diminished, if not destroyed; for that they were, in fact, if not the source, at least the cause, of the augmentation of the evil; since they descended from the highest to the lowest ranks, and perpetuated the divisions in Ireland. The hon. gentleman concluded by moving for "Copies of the Correspondence between 138 Mr. Hawkshaw and three other gentlemen, four of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the county of Antrim, and the right hon. Henry Goulburn, relative to the Marching of a Body of Orangemen, on the 12th of July, 1825, in Lisburne, together with Copies of all Affidavits forwarded by said Magistrates to his Majesty's Government."
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that if the object of the hon. member, who had just concluded a long address to the House, had been to repress that party spirit which had been, and still was, so injurious to Ireland, he had adopted a very strange method to bring about such an end; and if he thought that the welfare of that country depended, in any degree, on the existence of harmony and good will between magistrates of different sentiments, on the one great subject, he had, indeed, taken a strange mode to promote such an object, by listening so totally to the one side, and dropping so completely the defence of the other. It was the duty of the Irish government, and was, surely, equally the duty of each individual member of that House, when bringing forward and discussing charges of a personal nature, to take the pains to inquire into the origin of those charges, and to ascertain the grounds upon which they were made. Now, he would first of all declare, that the government of Ireland, though formed of those who differed upon the one great question, uniformly acted with the greatest impartiality; and that, though there were many persons in it, who thought that concessions to the Roman Catholics ought to be granted, and others who felt and contended, that they ought to he withheld, whenever questions came before it, with reference to the existing law, there was no difficulty in the government being perfectly agreed upon that law, whether it affected an Orangeman, or a Catholic, or any other class of the community. In all cases, the strictest justice was given, and the law most impartially administered. To the case now before the House, he was prepared to show that a proper consideration had been given, and that a decision upon it had been formed—not by the lord lieutenant in one way, and by the lord Chancellor in another; not by the Secretary for Ireland after one fashion, and by the Attorney-general for Ireland after another—but that, whether the decision had been right or wrong, no difference of opinion 139 had existed with reference to it. The circumstances of the case were these. It was perfectly true, that previous to the 12th July, 1825, the government did take every means in its power to prevent such expressions of popular feeling as might tend to excite animosity, either on one side or the other, and to promote riot and disturbance. With this view, his majesty's Attorney and Solicitor General were called upon to deliver their opinions as to the illegality of Orange processions; and those opinions decided the government in the course it was to pursue. On the 11th July, the magistrates of Lisburne had a meeting for the purpose of giving effect to the wish expressed by the government. At that meeting five magistrates attended, four of whom held opinions such as had been stated by his hon. friend, and one of them, the rev. Mr. Johnston, differed from them. He said he entertained doubts, as to the statute referring to processions at all; and he, therefore, stated to his brother magistrates that they should resort to every means, before they resorted to force, to prevent them from taking place. He did not however refuse to co-operate with them; on the contrary, he declared his readiness to assist them in their views, at the same time that he declared his opinion, that force ought not to be resorted to. Now, he would state his conviction, that no rational magistrate need be ashamed to hold such sentiments; or to think that, before he resorted to force, he was bound to use every other means, and that to force he should only apply as a last extremity. When the House was informed that this magistrate was also a clergyman, and that he was, therefore, more especially bound to inculcate the lessons of humanity, and when to this was added, that at the period referred to he was in his seventy-eighth year, the House, he felt assured, would not be inclined to tax him with any want of proper vigour, or any distaste to discharge his duty, in counselling his brother magistrates, that they ought not to resort to force to suppress those processions; or, at least, not until every other means had been tried, without effect, to suppress them. The next day was the 12th of July, and it was true that a riot did take place at Lisburne, in the early part of that day, but it was strenuously denied by Mr. Johnston, that he had promulgated the opinion which he had previously given to the magistrates, and it was declared by him on 140 affidavit, that he had given that opinion to the magistrates alone. He had, however, been charged with promulgating such opinion, and he could do no more than deny it. On his side it was distinctly stated, and confirmed by affidavits, that he did not arrive at Lisburne until after the riot had taken place; and that, subsequently to this riot, and after he had been present, no material disturbance of any kind occurred. On the receipt of the application which so greatly affected the character of Mr. Johnston, the lord lieutenant directed the papers to be laid before the lord Chancellor, who immediately applied to the accused party for an explanation of his conduct. This Explanation contained the facts now stated. On receiving Mr. Johnston's first letter, the lord Chancellor made no reply; but that gentleman, being extremely anxious that some decision should be come to, wrote again to his lordship, and forwarded to him additional statements and affidavits. To this second letter, the lord Chancellor sent the following answer:—"Sir; I am sorry that you should have had the trouble to write a second letter, as your first was of so satisfactory a nature as to have rendered it unnecessary. That first letter reached me when I was on the eve of quitting Ireland, or it should have received a reply. Assuring you that I do not feel myself called upon to censure you in the discharge of your magisterial duty, I certainly differ from you in the construction you have put upon the opinion of his majesty's law officers; for, undoubtedly, if Orange Societies be illegal, any deputation from a procession of them must be equally illegal; independently of the effect that such processions must have in irritating; the minds of many persons, and the danger that they may lead to riot and disturbance."So, then, instead of giving support to this magistrate in the declaration of his opinion, here was the lord Chancellor directly condemning it; and it would be difficult to say how he could have more distinctly declared that he differed from him, than by the words which had been now read from his letter. If the gentlemen who placed the information in the hands of his hon. friend had had common candour, they would hardly have instructed him so completely to condemn a letter containing such a paragraph. Now, it so happened, that in consequence of the Chancellor's going to England, these papers came into 141 the hands of the civil officers of the Crown; and it was thought, as there were such conflicting statements contained in them, that the better way would be, to lay them before the Attorney-general—a gentleman whom, at all events, the hon. member would not stigmatize as an Orangeman; and the short note which he (Mr. G.) received from the right hon. gentleman was as follows:—"I think the magistrate in question has given such an explanation of his conduct, as must quite do away with any necessity for his removal." Such was the opinion of his right hon. and learned friend, and it was in strict accordance with that of the lord Chancellor. Mr. Johnston subsequently made an application to the lord-lieutenant for the affidavits which had been made, and the letters that had been written, relative to his conduct, and containing charges made against him as a magistrate, in order that he might make them the ground of an inquiry before a legal tribunal. But the government of Ireland had conceived itself bound to consider the effect which the granting such a request might have upon the public mind, in perpetuating discord, and continuing that irritation which it was their earnest desire to repress. He (Mr. G.), therefore, wrote to Mr. Johnston a letter, in reply to his application, stating, that it did not appear to the lord-lieutenant that it would be proper to place in his hands the documents for which he sought, or to give him any assistance, in bringing the subject before a legal tribunal. Such, then, was the state of this transaction. He had endeavoured to explain it fairly and openly, and as he conceived it to be. There was, however, one point more on which he had to observe. The reasons that induced the Irish government to withhold from Each party the statements made by either, against those to which they were opposed, would have the same effect now, in inducing him to withhold the documents for which the hon. member had moved. Their production could not possibly do good; and would only tend to excite that animosity, and renew those irritated feelings, which, but for the expectation of this motion, would long since have passed away. To bring them forward would. be only to rip up those sores that had been long healed, and to bring once more into being, those feelings of bitterness and hostility, to suppress which had been the policy of the Irish government.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, he would put it to any member to declare, whether the production of the papers that had been moved for could, by possibility, do more injury than had been done by the debate. The House was now in possession of all that could be said, both on the one side and on the other; and the motion was merely to put it in possession of documents on which it might hereafter act. The question at issue was, whether lord Manners, in writing the letter referred to, was justified or not? in considering which, it was necessary to recollect, that Mr. Johnston came into the town of Lisburne, in his character of a magistrate—in his character of a clergyman—decorated with Orange emblems; and, forgetting every thing but his passions, lent the sanction of his name and character to the proceedings of the Orange-men there assembled. By the letter in question, lord Manners stood convicted of not having carried the law into effect. The hon. gentleman proceeded to enforce the arguments of the hon. mover; contending, that if ever there was a case which called for the application of that power with which the lord Chancellor of Ireland was clothed, the present was that one. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the Attorney-general for Ireland had approved of the letter of lord Manners. But, what was the fact? That when the case was laid before him, he merely said, he saw no cause for striking Mr. Johnston out of the commission of the peace. The hon. gentleman here pronounced a warm eulogium upon Mr. Brownlow, whose frank, honest, manly, candid, avowal of former errors, gave the very best proof that the alteration in his opinions was sincere. He had earned and received the blessings of the independent portion of his country, and had only taken that course freely and liberally, which others, less prudent as well as less candid, would hereafter find themselves compelled to adopt.
Sir William Plunkett
said, the House would feel that he could scarcely give a silent vote upon the present occasion. He did not agree with those hon. gentlemen who treated the question as one merely of fact. The fair question, he thought, was this: whether the hon. member for Armagh had made out such a primâ facie case, as called upon government to produce the correspondence referred to; and he had no hesitation in saying that, in his opinion, no such primâ facie case was established. 143 In fact, he did not recollect ever to have heard a complaint brought before the House, which had been pressed with more earnestness, or had been more destitute of real ground to stand upon. It was difficult to collect the object of the complaint. He gave every credit for purity of motive to the hon. gentleman who had introduced it; but he did not see what practical advantage was to be gained by investigating the history of an insulated transaction, which was two years old, and which every body had forgotten. Was it meant to prosecute any of the parties concerned in the quarrel in question? Or was it meant to remove the magistrate, Mr. Johnston, from his place; or to fix a censure upon the lord Chancellor of Ireland? His belief was, that the object desired was none of these; but that there was a wish to convince the House of the evils which the administration of the law was exposed to in Ireland, in consequence of the divided politics of the government of that kingdom. Then, if this was the case, he had never seen a more complete failure; for he appealed to the House, whether every step which had been taken in the transaction in question, did not show that, however divided the members of the Irish government might be upon other subjects, as to that there had been among them the most entire accordance. The hon. member for Limerick had expressed his regret that he should take upon himself the task of defending the conduct of the lord Chancellor of Ireland. He had no doubt that this regret was meant in a complimentary sense: but it was a compliment which he could not accept; for he had no hesitation in saying, that upon the present transaction, as well as upon every other point connected with the administration of justice, he was most perfectly ready to identify himself with that noble and learned lord. It could hardly be necessary, he hoped, for him to defend himself against every imputation of favour to Orange principles or Orange feeling. In office, and out of office, he had incessantly showed himself an enemy to the Orange system, and had done his best to put it down. In his endeavours to accomplish that end, he might, perhaps, be accused of haste or indiscretion; but there were few who would refuse him credit for having been sincere in his endeavours. Therefore, while he agreed with his right hon. friend that the great body of the Orange party 144 was composed of as honest, independent, and worthy men as any in Ireland, yet he thought that their very connexion with that system poisoned all their utility, and neutralized all their good qualities. Freemasons, Orangemen, Ribandmen, or what not—the opinions of the Irish government, ever since he had been connected with it, had been that all associations were prejudicial to the well-being of Ireland, and the uniform object of the government had been to put them down. There were many honourable persons near him, from whose general views of policy he differed; but as to the treating every description of association, of whatever character, with discouragement, there had never been a difference of opinion among them. Now, in the case of the transaction immediately in question, his hon. and learned friend; the Solicitor-general for Ireland, with himself, had been consulted, as to the exhibition of processions of the same character with that of the 12th of July; and they had at once been of opinion that they were illegal. The society, whether it were. one of Masons or of Orangemen, being illegal, it followed that its procession must be illegal; and it was further illegal, because it was sworn upon affidavit, that it was likely to lead to a breach of the peace. Then what, upon the showing of the hon. member for Armagh himself, had been the conduct of Mr. Johnston? Mr. Johnston had thought, and thought very weakly, that because the word "procession" did not appear in the act of parliament, therefore the procession could not be illegal; but that was Mr. Johnston's opinion only. The question now was not Upon his opinion, but on his conduct. From what had been said by the hon. member for Limerick, the House might be led to suppose, that Mr. Johnston had promulgated this opinion to the mob, but he had done no such thing; he had expressed his opinion to the magistrates, but to the mob he had used no advice, but that they should at once yield to the law, as it was laid down to them, and disperse; and they had, in consequence, dispersed without any breach of the peace, and from that day to the present there had been in Lisburne no similar procession. The mob were aware of Mr. Johnston's opinion; but they yielded to his advice; and, instead of producing mischief, he had rendered a service to the country.—And now, what was the charge against lore Manners? It was, 145 that he had written a letter to Mr. Johnston, in which he explained to him that he had been mistaken in his view of the law, but had approved of the conduct which he had actually pursued. Why, this was exactly the true state of the case. Mr. Johnston's law had been wrong; but his conduct had been judicious and considerate. There was no congratulation in the letter of lord Manners. It merely said, "You are altogether mistaken in your view of the law, as to these processions; but I am happy to find, from your explanation of your conduct, that you have done all in your power to discourage them; and that the unpleasant duty does not devolve upon me of passing censure upon an individual of respectability." Then, for the memorandum alluded to as made by himself. He had certainly stated, in that memorandum, that he thought there was no ground for removing the rev. Mr. Johnston from the magistracy. He had stated this, and he now added, that he did not think there was ground for pronouncing any censure; because, while he had always done that which he could to put down these associations and processions, still he was opposed to the system of doing this violently, and by prosecutions, which, unless they were peremptorily called for, must do mischief to the object which they were intended to serve. He believed that the Orange spirit in the north of Ireland was abating, and that it would expire, unless injudicious measures (and none could be more unfortunate than violence) were resorted to, which should have the effect of provoking and keeping it alive; but for this reason it was, that he regretted the introduction of the inquiry before the House, as tending to revive differences and ill-feelings, long since dead in the minds of those who had originally entertained them. There was one part of Mr. Johnston's conduct, certainly, which he condemned: he meant the wearing of the Orange ribbon. This had been made the subject of a good deal of rhetorical exaggeration. It had been called a "coming down decorated with Orange emblems," &c. The short fact was, that he had come down with an Orange ribbon about his neck—a sort of decoration which he had been in the habit of wearing for years; but there could be no doubt that to do so, at such a time, had been indiscreet. Still, Mr. Johnston could not be prosecuted for wearing an Orange riband. To have removed him 146 from the magistracy for doing it, would not only have been unreasonable, but highly impolitic and mischievous. And giving, as he repeated he did, every credit to the sincerity and pure intention of his hon. friends, the members for Limerick and Armagh, he could not help doubting whether it had been worth while to rake up this stale story out of the oblivion into. which it had fallen. He left this question to the House. The intention of the hon.: gentlemen, no doubt, was excellent; but the circumstances had all happened two years since: they were forgotten over and over again; and the place in which they had occurred had ever since been perfectly tranquil. For the conduct of the government, however, of Ireland, he must once more declare, that whatever differences of opinion upon other subjects might exist among its members, upon every question connected with the administration of justice, there had always been among them—without reference to Protestants or Catholics—the most perfect uniformity.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he never expected to see the day, when his right hon. friend would admit an identity of principle with the lord chancellor of Ireland.
Sir W. Plunkett
begged pardon for interrupting his right hon. friend. Every man who heard him knew that, upon the great political question that divided the country, and upon several others, his opinions were, toto cœlo, at variance with those of the learned lord alluded to; but, with respect to the administration of just ice in Ireland, he fully identified himself with him and the other members of the Irish government.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he would repeat his regret, that, in the particular transaction then under discussion, his right hon. friend had condescended to identify himself with that learned lord, who, in a question respecting the conduct of the magistracy of Ireland, had acted in the manner which had that night been described, and which could not be justified. He felt proud of his connexion with his right hon. friend; but a sense of public duty compelled him, and, were he his brother, would compel him, to state his opinion of his conduct. Instead of exhibiting unity of sentiment and of action, the transaction in question, beyond any other that could be adduced, displayed the consequences that resulted from a divided government in Ireland. The 147 question before the House was, the production of certain documents, to enable the House to judge by them, whether or not the assertions of the hon. mover were borne out, respecting the lord chancellor of Ireland. His right hon. friend had said, that, on the occasion referred to, Mr. Johnston had come into Lisburne with an orange ribbon in his breast as usual. But it had been sworn, that Mr. Johnston had worn a broad orange sash. Was that usual with him? His right hon. friend had also said, that Mr. Johnston had expressed his opinion respecting the act of parliament to his brother magistrates. Did he confine his delivery of that opinion to them? The fact of conflicting statements as to the contents of the documents called for, was, of itself, sufficient to induce the House to grant them, in order to enable them to judge which set of statements was correct. He could not agree with his right hon. friend, that Orange processions in Ireland were rapidly decaying, and would be soon extinct. His hon. friend (Mr. S. Rice), could bear testimony to the fact, that during the last year those processions had not been less frequent than in the year preceding, when the procession connected with the motion before the House had taken place. Whilst upon that subject, he would direct the attention of the House to what was stated in the year 1811, when the right hon. the President of the Board of Control brought under the notice of the House the Orange Societies in Ireland. Upon that occasion, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and several other right hon. and hon. members, had said, that if parliament did not interfere with those Associations they would decay of themselves. What had been the result? That, in the year 1824 or 1825, a bill was brought into parliament, embracing, among other objects, the suppression of those associations; and, upon the former occasion, he well recollected the statement of the noble lord now no more, that he was convinced, when the legislature expressed its disapprobation of such associations, the good sense of the people of Ireland would suggest to them the propriety of not indulging in processions of an irritating and exulting nature; but the result proved how much that noble lord mistook the feelings of the individuals composing those associations. It appeared to him, that when, in support of the 148 motion, certain statements were made, when those statements were met by direct contradictions, and when those who gave the contradictions opposed the production of documents, which would at once convince the House on which side the truth lay, it must be taken for granted, that the parties who opposed the motion, were afraid to appeal to those documents.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he should confine his observations to the single question before the House; namely, whether any parliamentary grounds had been adduced for the production of the papers. He would not follow the example of the hon. gentleman who had occupied the greater part of the time during which his speech lasted with debating the Catholic question. When called upon to pass an opinion upon high public authorities, he was sure that the House would not mix up with that the question of the Roman Catholic claims. Though he did not believe the hon. gentleman had introduced this topic for the purpose of influencing the House upon the present question, he must say that he thought the introduction of it at all any thing but fair. The right hon. baronet had said, that the conflicting statements which had been made were a sufficient ground for the production of these papers. He could not admit the extent of the right hon. baronet's reasoning. He thought that the question upon which the House had to decide was this—Had such a primâ facie case been made out, as to satisfy the House that further investigation was necessary? For his own part, he thought that there never was a case to which less suspicion attached. He thought he should argue the question fairly and properly, if he took this view of it—that a magistrate had or had not acted improperly, and that the chancellor of Ireland had or had not supported and encouraged him in his improper conduct. First, however, he must be allowed to say, that he heartily wished all these associations were at an end. He believed that they were dying away; but at the same time he agreed with the right hon. baronet, that if the processions were done away with, it would be better for the peace, the tranquillity, and the happiness of Ireland. Any opinion, therefore, which he might hold—any of the strong opinions which he was known to entertain respecting Catholic emancipation—could not fairly be supposed to influence him. upon the 149 present question. If he were a private gentleman in Ireland, he declared to God that he would, by his influence, by his example, by every means in his power, endeavour to put down these associations and processions. With respect to the question before the House, they were now called upon to investigate circumstances which had happened two years ago. He held in his hand the statement of Mr. Johnston, respecting these circumstances, and his motives. The hon. gentleman opposite appeared, by his cheers, to ask, why he did not produce it. He would tell the House why he would not—because it implicated other persons—because Lisburne had been in quietness ever since—and because these circumstances had been for some time past buried in oblivion. Why, then, should he renew the disturbances even in recollection? It appeared that a complaint had been made to the lord Chancellor respecting Mr. Johnston, and the latter was immediately called upon for an explanation. The outline of this gentleman's statement was as follows:—He was an old clergyman, seventy-eight years of age, and had no intention whatever of interfering, when the circumstances complained of took place. He was, however, called upon by a police magistrate, who entreated him to attend a meeting of the magistrates. He went there, and found them debating how they should behave on the following day, which was the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne—a day which it had always been customary to celebrate by processions. He was told, that in the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor General, these processions were illegal; but upon looking over the act of parliament he did not find the word "processions" in it, and he therefore gave it as his opinion, that the act did not include processions. At the same time, however, he strongly recommended them, as a friend, not to use force. He denied that either directly or indirectly he took any part in the proceedings; and though he took a different view of the law from the Crown-lawyers, yet, as a friend, he advised them to disperse peaceably. It was true that he entered the town with an orange ribbon, and certainly he would have been better advised if he had left this distinguishing badge at home. Mr. Johnston, however, stated, that he thought he should have more influence with the Orange party, if he wore the in- 150 signia which proclaimed him their friend, and appeared with a badge which he had worn on that day for nearly forty years. He thought this a fair and honest declaration; but, at the same time, he would repeat, that, in his opinion, Mr. Johnston, as a magistrate, did not act judiciously in appearing with this distinguishing mark. This statement had been sent by Mr. Johnston to lord Manners, and he received no answer to it; it being the custom of his lordship, when he received a vindication which he thought satisfactory, not to return any answer to it, but to let the matter rest. Mr. Johnston, however, was uneasy at receiving no answer, and wrote to lord Manners, who replied, that though he differed entirely with him as to the law, he was glad that he had been able to send him so satisfactory a vindication. Could this be called encouraging Mr. Johnston in his conduct, when the Chancellor expressly told him, that the view which he had taken of the law was wrong? He thought this a fair statement of the case, and, if it was, he would ask if any parliamentary grounds had been made out in favour of the motion? If, after a lapse of two years, no worse case had occurred—if the hon. gentleman who had brought forward the motion had not been able to adduce any thing of a more aggravated nature—was it Wise to revive this circumstance? Was it not fair to infer that occurrences of this nature had been made to wear away by good example? When these occurrences took place, it must be recollected, that the act which forbad them had only just passed. If it had happened lately, the matter would have worn a very different aspect. It must be recollected, that the person in question was a very old gentleman; that he had been in the habit of seeing these things done all his lifetime, and at times when exhibitions of this nature were not looked upon in the way in which they had subsequently been viewed. Some allowance must be made for circumstances and example; and a little consideration should be had for adherence to former opinions. He entreated his hon. friend (for he must allow him to call him so) to recollect, that this circumstance took place in July 1825, and that in the March preceding, his hon. friend had presented the petition from the Orangemen, which prayed an inquiry into the institution, objects, signs, oaths, and pass-words of the Orange lodges in Ire- 151 land, and stated that the Orangemen were most anxious for inquiry. He (Mr. Peel) had taken a part in the debates of 1825, and he then held precisely the same language which he held now, and said that nothing could compensate for the existence of these associations. He never could agree to the production of papers which would inculpate parties who had no disposition whatever to violate the law; and, under these circumstances, he should decidedly oppose the motion.
said, that the right hon. gentleman had promulgated the doctrine, that the best way to judge of Mr. Johnston's motives, was to refer to that gentleman's own statement. For his part, however, he thought the facts of the case would be a much surer guide to this point. The state of it was this: there were the opinions of the two legal officers of the Crown upon a certain point of law; and the rev. Mr. Johnston, a person altogether unacquainted with the law, thought proper to differ from them, and to act upon his own opinion. It was stated, that One of the parties, which formed these processions, marched under his immediate guidance and direction; and, if this were true, he thought that the person who had so prostituted justice ought not to be allowed to remain in the commission.
List of the Minority. Abercromby, hon. J. Heneage, G. F. Althorop, lord Heron, sir R. Baring, A. Honywood, P. Baring, F. Howard, hon. H. Bentinck, lord W. Howick, lord Buxton, T. F. Hume, J. Calcraft, J. Hutchinson, H. Clifton, lord Jephson, O. Colborne, Ridley Kemp, T. R. Davies, colonel Kennedy, T. F. Dawson, A. King, hon. R. Denison, W. Labouchere, H. Du Cane, Peter Lombe, E. Easthope, J. Lushington, Dr. Ebrington, lord Maberly, W. L. Fazakerley, N. Macdonald, sir J. Fergusson, sir R. Marjoribanks, S. Fitzgerald, John Martin, R. Fortescue, hon. G. Marshall, W. Maule, hon. W. Gordon, Robert Graham, sir J. Monck, J. B. Grattan, H. Morpeth, lord Grattan, J. Nugent, lord Harvey, D. W. O'Brien, Lucius Heathcote, G. Parnell, sir H.
Ponsonby, hon. G. Sykes, D. Ponsonby, hon. F. Tomes, J Robarts, A. W. Tierney, right hon. G. Robinson, G. Warburton, H. Russell, lord J. Western, C. C. Russell, lord W. Wood, alderman Rumbold, C. Wood, Charles Smith, W. TELLERS. Stanley, hon. E. Brownlow, C. Stuart, Villiers Rice, T. S.
§ The House divided: For the motion 69; Against it 124: Majority against the motion 55.