§ Mr. Littleton
rose, for the purpose of presenting a Petition against the Truck-system. He trusted that the House would allow him to take this opportunity of noticing a passage in a speech which had been made at a parish meeting in Ireland, by the hon. and learned member for Waterford. He need hardly say that this passage contained a reflection on himself; and, although he did not think that any disapprobation, coming from the hon. and learned member for Waterford, was likely to injure his character, yet, as a public man, he felt it necessary to notice it, and to expose the misrepresentation. On one evening towards the close of the last Session of Parliament, when a bill which he had introduced respecting the truck-system stood for committee, the hon. and learned Member came across the House to him and said, "Your bill stands for to-night; I shall vote against it, because it is against my principles; but I should not have spoken against it if you had not included Ireland in it; have you any objection to 332 leave Ireland out of the bill?" To this observation and to this question from the hon. and learned Member, he (Mr. Littleton) carelessly replied, but in words which he perfectly recollected, "Well, I do not care about Ireland." By this expression he meant, as he was sure every Gentleman he was addressing must see, that he did not think it essential that Ireland should be included in the measure, and that he was, therefore, willing to accede to the request of the hon. and learned Member. It appeared almost impossible that any one could have misconstrued his meaning. The hon. and learned Member, however, received his observations with a smile, which excited in his mind, and in the minds of many of his hon. friends who were then sitting around him, a suspicion that his words would be misrepresented. He was particularly careful, therefore, on that very evening, to explain to the hon. and learned Member what he had meant by the expression which he had thus carelessly used. Thus, he had supposed that all misconstruction of his meaning, and that the misrepresentation he had suspected, would have been avoided. But let the House see how he had been treated in this matter by the hon. and learned Member. At a parish meeting in Dublin, the proceedings of which were reported in the Dublin Evening Post of the 23rd of October, the hon. and learned Member, after speaking of the manner in which English Members performed their duty with regard to Ireland, said, "One of them, Mr. Littleton, the member for Stafford shire, brought in a bill respecting the truck-system:" the hon. and learned Member then made some observations respecting that system, which it was unnecessary that he (Mr. Littleton) should trouble the House with reading, and the hon. and learned Member continued thus:—"I expostulated with him on the subject, and told him that I would not stand between the operatives of England and their employers; but I requested that Ireland might not be included in the bill, for that, in Ireland, the evils complained of in England had not been experienced from the system. What reply did he make me? It was this—'What do I care about Ireland?' Good Gentleman, said I, I shall take care to tell the people of Ireland how little English Members care about Ireland." Now was this consistent with fair dealing? Was it necessary that he, after eighteen 333 years' service in Parliament,—after having been the first to introduce into that House a measure with regard to the elective franchise of the Catholics, after having, upon every occasion, though at much risk and inconvenience, done all he could to advance the interests of the Catholics,— was it necessary that he, after such conduct, and after the manner in which he had always carried himself upon questions relating to Ireland,—was it necessary, he asked, that he should rise up in that House and vindicate himself against the charge of caring nothing about Ireland,— of being altogether insensible to the interests of the Irish people? He did not believe that any hon. Member, with the single exception of the hon. and learned member for Waterford, and even of that hon. Member he would not have believed it unless he had seen it in print, could have given utterance to a charge so unjust, so utterly unfounded, and so injurious to his character. He begged pardon for having trespassed thus long, he hoped not unnecessarily, upon the attention of the House.
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, that he had been a good deal astonished at the warmth of the hon. Member; for, as it appeared to him, by the hon. Member's own showing, he had merely repeated the expression which the hon. Member acknowledged he had used ["No, no".] Was he, then, still labouring under some extraordinary misconception? The hon. Member's expression to him was, "What do I care about Ireland" [" No, no"]. Well, then, would the hon. Member be good enough to state once more what the expression was which he had used upon the occasion referred to?
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the expression he had used was, "Well, I do not care about Ireland;" and he had already explained, he hoped satisfactorily to the House, the manner in which he had used it.
§ Mr. O'Connell
said, was this, then, the distinction intended to be drawn,—the distinction between the expression" What do I care about Ireland?" and the expression, "I do not care about Ireland." The words of the hon. Member were still ringing in his ears. By those words the hon. Member appeared to him to throw off Ireland altogether, his mind being entirely taken up with his English constituents. He thought that the hon. Member, in using those words, meant to cast off Ire- 334 land with contempt; and he was very sorry if he had misunderstood the hon. Member.