§ Mr. Hunt
presented a Petition from a person named Hetherington, the Chairman of one of the Rotunda meetings, who, in behalf of the persons assembled, expressed the conviction, that the persecution of Mr. O'Connell by the Government would increase, rather than allay, the disturbances of Ireland. The hon. Member, in supporting the petition, took occasion to disclaim all connection 344 with the meetings held by Mr. Taylor, Mr. Carlile, and Mr. Jones; and having condemned the cold-blooded policy which the noble Lord (Althorp) had expressed himself willing to adopt towards Ireland, when he uttered the threat, that he was ready to support a civil war rather than suffer the dismemberment of the empire, he declared, he was satisfied that no jury, except a jury packed by the Government, could ever pronounce a verdict of guilty against the patriot Daniel O'Connell.
§ Mr. North, although unwilling to raise a discussion on a petition of this kind, could not allow the observations of the hon. Member, with respect to the Government juries in Ireland, to pass without notice. He (Mr. North) had twice, in his professional life, had occasion to form a judgment of the merits of those juries. Once, when Dr. Sheridan was tried and acquitted, and a second time, when certain persons, in 1822, were charged with a conspiracy, and the jury could not agree in their verdict; on these occasions, as well as on many others, the juries of Ireland had proved themselves as honest, independent, and virtuous, as any number of men who could be collected; and he trusted that such instances would satisfy the hon. Member, as well as those to whose attention such suggestions were directed out of doors, that it was not so easy to pack juries in Ireland as some were led to imagine.
§ Mr. Leader
lamented the occurrences which had given rise to the prosecutions, but expressed his pleasure to hear that the question was not to be determined by a tribunal which united judge and jury in itself.
§ Lord Stanley, adverting to the language of the member for Preston, with reference to the expressions used by the noble Lord (Althorp) last night, said, that in the absence of that noble Lord, he, as one of those present most closely connected with him and the Government, felt bound to express his surprise that any one could interpret the expression of the noble Lord into a threat of having recourse to civil war. On the contrary, he distinctly understood the noble Lord to say, that, much as he abhorred civil war, he preferred the dreadful chance of civil war to the dismemberment of the empire.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, he had been called on to explain or to apologise for an expression he had used with reference to the lan- 345 guage of the noble Lord (Althorp) last night. Now, he recollected these expressions well, and he knew, and had said so at the time that they, as well as those used by the other noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) bore the construction which he had put on them. It was true that the member for Clare had held out a threat, that if this country refused to suffer the question of a separation to he discussed, the people of Ireland would plunge into a civil war. Well, the member for Clare had asserted, that if they did not agree to a separation, they would have civil war. The noble Lord had probably put forward his threat in reply to that; but he repeated, that he regretted the use of such threats, and he regretted it the more, as he said at the time, because the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), and the hon. member for Borough bridge (Sir Charles Wetherell), had both hallooed the Ministers on to let slip the dogs of war. He cautioned the Ministers against being misled by these cheers, and he repeated that caution now; but he begged to say, with all his desire to respect the House and its forms, that he could not withdraw what he had said. As to the petition before the House, although it bore the signature of but one person, it was as good as if it had ten thousand, for, from what he had seen, all the petitions appeared to go into that gentleman's bag [pointing to the Clerk] under the Table, and were out of sight in an instant.
§ Lord Stanley
said, he could not abstain from repeating his conviction, that the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) merely alluded to his being willing to prefer the dreadful chances of civil war in Ireland to the dismemberment of the empire. This was his recollection of the noble Lord's expressions; and although he was present during the whole of the evening, he did not recollect that the member for Preston accused him of using a threat.