§ Lord Castlereagh
rose, pursuant to the notice which he had given, to present to the House a Petition which under any circumstances, would call for the serious attention of that House. The present times and the peculiar situation of Ireland rendered it, he must say, a duty incumbent on the part of that House to look at the expression of public feeling contained in this petition with earnest and grave attention; and however unwilling he was at any time, more especially on a hot day like that, to take up the time of the House, he feared he would not be discharging his duty if he did not trespass at some length upon their patience. The duty which he had undertaken was one of a most important nature, and never in his life had he experienced more pride than in being selected by so large a portion of his fellow-countrymen as the medium through which their opinions were to be conveyed to that House on a subject of such great importance as that to which the petition referred. The petition was from the county of Down on behalf of a meeting held in that county on the 30th of October last. The noble Lord said he wished to explain in the first instance why it was, that this petition had not been presented at an earlier opportunity. After it was adopted a dissolution of Parliament took place, and the new Parliament did not meet until February. It met, too, under circumstances very different from those under which the former Parliament sat, and 589 which circumstances had excited the feelings and the fears of the promoters of this petition. The petitioners, at the time they assembled, felt that the Government of that day did not employ the power which it possessed to vindicate the law, or to protect the interests of the Church of Ireland. Under such circumstances the Protestants of Ireland hailed with joy and satisfaction the accession of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) to power, and they found when he was removed that they had not vainly put their trust in him, for he had staked his station as Minister of the Crown for the preservation of their rights. This petition, therefore, would have been presented earlier in the Session, but that on consulting the leading persons engaged in getting it up, he found that it was their opinion that its presentation should be delayed, as at that time the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had sufficient difficulties to contend against without his Friends bringing forward anything that might embarrass him. The petitioners were strongly opposed to the Board of Education established in Ireland, to which he would venture to say that 19-20ths of the Protestants of Ireland were hostile. But when Parliament assembled in February last, they felt that that was not the time to urge their complaints, and that when matters of greater moment were in the balance, it was not their business to embarrass the King's Government. With respect to the petition itself, he would state that the requisition to the High Sheriff for calling the meeting contained eighty-four most respectable signatures. Among them were the names of seven Peers, thirteen Deputy Lieutenants, and twenty-five Magistrates. Among them were the names of the Marquess of Downshire, the Marquess of Donegal, Colonel Ford, and several Reformers; in fact, nearly the whole weight and respectability of the county, whether property or anything else were taken as the criterion, were attached to the requisition. As it was not his wish to cast any personal reflections upon any Member of the House, he would confine himself to stating, openly and fairly, the facts connected with the petition. The meeting was called on the 30th of October. He was himself present, as well as many worthy Friends whom he then saw in the House; the Resolutions were passed, on which the petition was founded; and he was only stating 590 that which was the real fact when he observed that the Resolutions were passed, and the meeting closed without violence or breach of the peace, and not a single circumstance occurred that called for interference. If, at a time like that, and in a county so quiet and undisturbed as Down, it was thought right to come forward, and express to the House the distrust and dismay with which the petitioners viewed the measures that were being carried forward by the Government, he would only ask the House whether, at the present time, the reasons which called for the petition last year were not increased tenfold? The hon. and learned Member for Dublin cheered him. He did not wish to say anything that would be offensive to any man, but he thought that he had a right to consider the hon. and learned Member as one of the leading persons against whom the petition was directed, and against whom his Majesty had directed his Speech last year. The noble Lord then read the passage in the King's Speech of last year, which he thought alluded to Mr. O'Connell, and said, that Sir Robert Peel's Government was now at an end; and he saw the hon. and learned Member for Dublin cross the floor of that House for the support of a Government composed almost of the same men who counselled that Speech. They were placed upon the seats opposite by the hon. and learned Member, and they fought under his green banner. This circumstance had given great and just alarm to the loyal and well-disposed Protestant inhabitants of the north, as well as to those of other parts of Ireland. He felt satisfied that the noble Lord opposite would not rise in his place and declare, as a noble Lord in another place had declared, that the Government had no connexion with the hon. and learned Gentleman, for in his (Lord Castlereagh's) opinion the influence of that hon. and learned Gentleman was all in all in the Cabinet. He believed that that hon. Member's influence was paramount at the present moment in the Cabinet. The hon. and learned Member had himself a few weeks ago talked of the measure of Corporation Reform "which we shall propose." With regard to Ireland, all the Irish legal appointments were obviously his—his mark was there—his handwriting was upon the wall. Every thing was done by the Government to conciliate that hon. and learned Gentle- 591 man, and conciliating him excited the fears of the Protestants of the north of Ireland, knowing as they did that nothing would come from him that would not be hostile to their dearest interests. Then, as to the disturbed state of Ireland, it was quite as great and as alarming as when this petition was adopted. It was but the other day that the reverend Mr. Dawson was murdered in Limerick, and indeed there was no opening a newspaper that did not contain accounts of some two or three murders in the south of Ireland. These things naturally filled the minds of the people of the north of Ireland with dismay and terror. Such feelings were not lessened by what occurred as to the procession which attended Lord Mulgrave into Dublin. There were green flags at that procession. There were flags (so he had heard) with "Repeal of the Union," "Daniel O'Connell for ever," inscribed upon them. There was a flag, too, with a harp without a Crown, the very flag under which the rebels marched to join the French in Bantry Bay. If there had been a procession of Orangemen on a similar occasion, with Orange flags inscribed with, "British connexion," "The Constitution for ever," &c., what loud outcries would have been raised against them. But because the procession to which he alluded had been got up and conducted under the auspices of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, the King's Government were as mute as mice. There had just been sent forth an enormous petard by Lord Melbourne against the Orangemen walking on the 12th of July. He believed the Orangemen of Ireland to be as devoted, loyal, and gallant a body of men as had ever proved their affection to their King and country, and if they did not walk on the 12th of July, it would not be in consequence of this intimidating menace of Lord Melbourne (which, by-the-bye, came too late after the green flag procession in Dublin), but in consequence of the advice of their best and wisest friends. He was sure that the Orangemen of Ireland would act as they had always done, as became faithful and loyal subjects of the King. The meeting at which the Resolutions were agreed to, had been called an Orange one. He admitted that many of the Orange party were present; but there were also many present who had never belonged to that society. Amongst others there was one 592 name which he felt convinced would command the attention of the House—he meant Dr. Cooke, a most eminent man amongst the Presbyterians of the north. The noble Lord read an extract from the speech of the reverend Gentleman. The noble Lord, after repeating that the reasons which existed for the adoption of this petition in October last, had now multiplied tenfold, concluded by presenting the petition.
§ The Speaker
would for a moment request the attention of the House. The object of petitioning he had always understoood was either to express the opinion of the petitioners respecting some measure then under, or about to be under, the consideration of the House, or to convey to the House a complaint regarding some particular grievance. It had, therefore, been understood that general discussions should be avoided on the presentation of petitions. He did not particularly refer to the noble Lord, who was only following the example of others. If, however, on the presentation of a petition not only the subject matter of it but transactions that had occurred since its adoption should be gone into and a general debate should ensue, it would be quite impossible to get through the business before the House. At that moment he had on his list for that evening the names of thirty Gentlemen who had petitions to present. He could not interfere in the matter. It was for the House to decide what course should be pursued. He repeated, however, that if topics should be discussed on the presentation of petitions which would be more fitly discussed in some fixed debate, no time would be sufficient for the transaction of business.
§ Lord Castlereagh
said, he seldom addressed the House, and he would not have trespassed so long on its attention on this occasion, but that the petition was a very important one.
§ The Speaker
said, he had made no particular reference to the noble Lord, he had, on the contrary, said, the noble Lord was only following the example of others.
§ Lord Morpeth,
the noble Lord rose and said that he had only heard a portion of the noble Lord's speech, but that he was perfectly ready to answer the statements which the noble Lord made in his hearing respecting the Irish Government. He 593 did certainly intend in the course of the discussion to make that reply, but in consequence of what had fallen from the Chair he was induced to defer it to the first fitting opportunity that should offer itself. If, however, it was the wish of the House, he would proceed now.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
being now called for, rose and said, that though this petition had been presented to the House as expressing the sentiments of the Protestants of the county of Down, he would venture to assert that it did not emanate from the Protestants of Down, nor express their sentiments. This same petition had been presented to the House of Lords as coming from 20,000 persons, and it now appeared that it only bore the signature of the High Sheriff. As seven months had elapsed since its adoption, surely more signatures might have been obtained for it, if it really expressed the sentiments of the great body of the Protestants and Presbyterians of Down. He was ready to accord to it all the weight and authority of the High Sheriff, whose name was affixed to it, but nothing more. This meeting was held at Hillsborough, on the verge of two other counties, Antrim and Armagh, and the place was obviously fixed on as being convenient for gathering together the Orangemen of those two counties, as well as the Orangemen of Down. If the meeting was intended to convey a fair expression of the feelings and opinions of the people of Down, why was it not held in the centre of the county, in the county town, where the county meetings were usually held? Two requisitions had been issued for calling tit is meeting—one came from the High Sheriff, the other from the grand dignitaries of the Orange lodges. The High Sheriff issued a requisition in the first place calling a meeting of Protestants. The Grand Orange Lodge of the county of Down at a meeting on the 6th of October passed a Resolution calling on all their brethren to attend the said meeting. Such being the avowed nature of the meeting, and such the requisitions calling it a large body of respectable Protestants in the county of Down, amounting to upwards of 200, and including ten Magistrates, published a protest assigning their reasons for not attending it. In that document they truly stated that it was highly unconstitutional on the part of a public officer, like a High Sheriff, to summon a 594 meeting of any one portion of the inhabitants of his bailiwick, as distinguished by their religious opinions from another, and that such a proceeding was in direct opposition to those wise and benevolent measures passed by the Legislature for doing away with religious differences and distinctions as regarded civil rights. They also alluded to the Orange requisition, as stamping a character on the meeting that alone would prevent them from attending it. He was ready to admit the great respectability of many persons who attended that meeting; but he would contend that the great mass of the respectable inhabitants of Down were absent from it. The authority of Dr. Cooke had been referred to, but Dr. Cooke, it was well known, did not speak the sentiments of the Presbyterian body. At this meeting Dr. Cooke, in his speech, talked of a marriage between the Protestant Episcopalian and the Presbyterian Churches. The Presbyterians repudiated such an idea. From Dr. Cooke's own parish of Killileagh he had presented a petition, signed by a large number of Presbyterians, repudiating such a principle, and calling also for the abolition of tithes. The hon. Member having referred to the proceedings that took place at this meeting, and the heavy charges perferred at it against the Members of Lord Melbourne's then Government, asked, if such charges were well founded, why were they not brought forward in that House? If the noble Lord, believed them to be true, it would be a more manly course on his part—indeed, it was his bounden duty, to rise in his place in that House, and have the Ministers who were accused of such things called to the Bar of Parliament to answer for their conduct. That was the proper course for a loyal subject to pursue, instead of scattering such violent charges before a popular assembly. It was said that one of the objects of this party was to oppose the Repeal of the Union. He denied it. He would assert that the Orangemen had shown their readiness to raise that cry, but not on the honourable principles of the learned Member for Dublin. They had threatened Lord's Grey's Government with it, and several of them had been known in public to express their determination to repeal the Union by force, unless their objects were carried. The hon. Member read an extract from a speech of the reverend Mr. Martin, deli- 595 vered, he said, at an Orange-Tory meeting in Dublin, in which the Speaker declared the Union had been fundamentally violated, and that it was at an end through the conduct of the Whig Government; that the authority of the United Parliament was virtually nonexistent—that there was an end to the authority of the laws, to the authority of tax-gatherers, &c. Were these men to oppose the Repeal of the Union.
had been personally assailed, or at all events, alluded to, by the noble Lord who presented the Petition, and begged leave to make a few remarks on it. The noble Lord after having abused the late Whig Ministry himself, had charged him with having done the same. He did not dispute the goodness of his Lordship's taste in this respect; and a right lion. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had commenced the Session by reading a letter from him (Mr. O'Connell) in which he had stated that they had forfeited his confidence. Yet the noble Lord contended that the present Government, which was little more than a re-appointment, was under his (Mr. O'Connell's) control. This was a little too much; first, for party purposes, it was urged that the present Ministers were unworthy of his (Mr. O'Connell's) confidence; and next, for the same party purposes it was insisted that being appointed by himself, they had his fullest confidence. Such arguments (continued the hon. and learned Member) are both foolish and absurd; I do not mean any personal disrespect when I say so, but they are unbecoming the character of a Legislator, and, Heaven bless the mark! of a Statesman, which is the rank to which the noble Lord aspires. Then it is said, that all the recent appointments have been madeby me. The late Secretary for the Ordnance (Colonel Perceval) cheers me: I am sure I had as much to do with the recent appointments as I had with his appointment. He throws up his head at that: I am certainly very glad that he has ceased to fill that office, not from any personal dislike, but because it is symptomatic of a change of party. I deny that any office in the present Ministry, or connected with it, was filled at my instance or at my suggestion, or that I had the slightest influence in the matter. I am sorry that I had not: I think that some of the places would have 596 been better filled if I had: at all events there would have been a difference, though I do not mean to quarrel with what has been done. With respect to the late Solicitor-General, for instance, I think he had a fair claim to have been made Attorney-General, but the Government decided otherwise, and I acquiesced. I acquiesced precisely as the late Secretary for the Ordnance acquiesced in his own dismissal—he could not help it. He submitted with all due humility and walked out of his office; he was, no doubt, the best of all possible secretaries, could he but have persuaded people to take his word for it; but as they would not, he took up his hat and walked out. After all, nothing can be so disreputable to party, as an indulgence in this sort of idle ribaldry. Let those who say the appointments were at my instance show me a bad appointment. Look at the Irish Law Officers of the Crown: is the appointment of the Attorney-General a bad appointment? Was he not at the head of his profession before he had any connexion with Government? Did he ever distinguish himself by partisanship? Did he ever do more in that way than putting his hand to a petition that the people of Ireland might all be on an equality? He was no agitator—no public declaimer: he maintained the integrity of his own opinions, and year after year felt the weight of exclusion: he ought to have been Attorney-General long since; and I will add, that he would be an ornament to the highest dignity in the profession. What objection can be made to the Solicitor-General? Is he not qualified? Has he not risen to the first business, though belonging to a proscribed class? He has risen by the force of his own talents; and the amiability of his disposition has compelled men of all parties to feel a regard for him in private life. Not being able to impeach the appointments, they throw me upon them; but, as I before said, this is too bad, coming from the noble Lord. He comes here with a deplorable lamentation about national education in Ireland—it is daily destroying Protestantism, and is calculated to annihilate it. If he now feels so anxiously about it, what has his conscience been doing ever since the 30th of October last? Did not the Government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth adopt that very system of national education? Yet then the noble Lord felt not the least alarm, 597 The right hon. Baronet was the foster-father of the system; but then the child had not cut its teeth; and now the noble Lord comes forward, with all the dignified gravity belonging to his character, and declares that Protestantism will be annihilated by the right hon. Member for Tarn-worth's system of national education. All this is really very edifying; but there is something not at all edifying. Are the people of Ireland not to be allowed to meet and greet the Representative of their King, that Representative having been no partisan? Had there been a banner in the procession with "No Protestantism" inscribed upon it, then, indeed, there would have been ground for indignation—for impeachment of the Lord-lieutenant, for allowing it to be displayed. Yet I can prove that in the presence of the late Lord-lieutenant, a black banner, inscribed "No Popery," was exhibited. Had it been shown openly in Dublin, the party would perhaps have been roughly handled, for there the Catholics are about in proportion lo the Protestants in London; but it was in the theatre, and there this "No Popery" banner was waved before the eyes of the late Lord-lieutenant. This, however, was only the expression of loyalty; but when the next Lord-lieutenant is received by 100,000 persons, this loyalty is instantly converted into disaffection. I remember the story of a man who was knocked down for singing "God save the King," and when he ventured to ask the reason, his assailant coolly answered, that "he liked no party tunes." "God save the King" is a party tune with the opponents of the present Ministers. But it seems there were banners—and why not? Is there any law against them? As a lawyer I utterly deny it. Banners, as the emblems of religious and political parties, are prohibited, but not when they are used to display allegiance to the Sovereign and respect for his Representative. If any offence was committed, surely the Dublin police would have been sufficient—the magistrates and barristers would have been sufficient. There would have been sufficient loyalty in a Dublin grand jury, appointed by those admirable loyalists the sheriffs, and sufficient loyalty in a Dublin special jury to have punished the criminals. Why, then, were not the offenders prosecuted? The truth is, that the different Trades' Unions carried their appropriate banners, and one of these happening to be green, excited the special indignation of 598 party. The noble Lord had mentioned Bantry-bay, and talked of the Irish going to join the French there, when, had he known anything of the history of his own country, he would have been aware that not a man of the peasantry joined the French. A gentleman, a landed proprietor in the neighbourhood, of the name of O'Sullivan, and my nearest relation, at considerable risk and cost, made the only French prisoners, and the entire of the peasantry were against them. There were then no Orange Lodges in Munster; the people preserved their fidelity to the Crown until Orange Lodges began to be established; and as they increased, attachment to the Throne diminished, and to such a state of ferment would the people have been worked by them, had the late Ministers remained in office, that in nine months, I will venture to say, we should have had a sanguinary insurrection. If I am asked why I give my humble support to the present Government, I say it is not for their measures—for their measures they had my support before—but because they come in as a barrier against a faction, and give the people of Ireland a chance of justice; a chance that all Irishmen will be considered on the same footing, without leaving one party to the tender mercies of another. Their interposition has saved us. As to the meeting, nothing could be more improper; it was called by Lord Hillsborough, the High-Sheriff of the county, but he had no right to summon any particular sect. If he calls the Protestants to-day, he may call the Catholics to-morrow, and the Presbyterians and Seceders the next day. He constituted himself, not the sheriff of a county but the sheriff of a party, a partisan sheriff. And, sacred Heaven! let it never be forgotten, that this man has the nomination of the grand juries—that he makes out the panel of the petty juries; and are not the complaints of the Roman Catholics well-founded, when they say, that with such a sheriff, and such magistrates, they have not a chance of justice—that their lives will be the sport of their enemies—that their properties will be at the mercy of partisans? If the effect do not follow, does not the sense of insecurity, the fear that the temple of justice will be polluted—that the scales will not be held with an even hand—that one party will be made to outweigh the other, produce a constant feeling of irritation and discontent? The Roman Catholics are 599 warranted in these fears when the High Sheriff summons one portion of the population of his bailiwick, to the total exclusion of the rest. That is the Sheriff's notion of loyalty; people are loyal as long as they support a certain party in their undue ascendancy—as long as they are allowed to raise one class and to crush another. The noble Lord has talked of outrages—of a gentleman who was shot, but we hear nothing of outrages on the other side; a relation of mine was shot at next to me, but we hear nothing of that, nor of the fourteen houses burnt by Orangemen in Armagh, or of the proceedings two years ago. In the county of Armagh, a Roman Catholic committed some assault upon an Orangeman; he was tried, convicted, and punished; but after fourteen houses had been burnt in the same county, there was no inquiry—nobody was arrested—nobody prosecuted, and the Roman Catholics saw their property destroyed with impunity. The evidence is before the House. Another instance:—A woman sheltered an Orangeman, who had been desperately beaten; she took him into her cabin. What has become of the cabin? Have the Protestants visited the woman in gratitude? No! in vengeance: her cabin was set on fire; but they did allow her to save her aged father, and to set him upon a dunghill, whence he was removed, and shortly afterwards died. What has been done with those who committed this offence? They are at large and secure—no magistrate finds them out, and no informer brings them to justice. Yet this is the party claiming exclusive loyalty, and to whom the noble Lord ludicrously attributes every other species of excellence.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, as it was now impossible to stop the discussion, notwithstanding the laudable attempt of the Speaker, he would venture to make a few remarks, called for by what had fallen from the noble Lord, the Member for Down. Looking at the notice on the paper, he had concluded that the noble Lord would present the petition agreed to on the 30th of last October; but beyond giving his attendance from respect to an Irish subject, he (Lord Morpeth) had not expected that he should be required, in his official capacity, to take any part in the discussion. Nine months had passed since the meeting; and the petition was not directed against the present, nor the last, but against the antepenultimate go- 600 vernment. The noble Lord had grounded his previous suspension and his present reproduction of the petition upon the change of circumstances; but, as had been already hinted, if the Protestants of the north of Ireland so heartily reprobated and viewed with such universal abhorrence, the system of national education, as fraught with ruin to their cause, it was strange that the noble Lord should so long have deferred it. It was certainly not easy to explain how he could reconcile to himself the postponement of the expression of this strong conviction while the late government was in office, which declared that it did not mean to disturb that system. He would leave all remarks upon the meeting in the county of Down to those who had more local knowledge; but he would say a few words on the procession of the Lord-lieutenant into Dublin, which had so much excited the animosity of the noble Lord. The thunders on the other side of the House having slept so long, was an indication that the noble Lord and his party did not think they could manufacture much of a storm. They did not rely much on the case they could establish, and a little delay might have supplied the means of exaggeration. The more he heard of the procession, the more he was convinced that there was nothing in it which brought it within the purview of the act passed against such as had a religious or political tendency. It could only be called a greeting given by the different trades of the metropolis of Ireland to the representative of their sovereign, who, they thought, was disposed to act upon principles that would benefit their common country. If, as was possible, there were some matters of difference—if one or two objectionable emblems or banners were displayed, some persons asserting that they saw them, and others that they did not—he was confident that they never attracted the attention nor met the eye of the Lord-lieutenant. Sure he was that nothing was intended on any side which could produce a line of demarcation between different religious denominations, but merely to add to the gaiety and glitter of the show. The noble Lord had expressed his hope and belief that the Orange lodges would not meet and walk in procession on the 12th of July; but laying as much stress as he did upon the loyalty of those bodies, it would have been more consistent if he 601 had attributed their abstinence to a wish to obey the law, than to a disposition to take a hint or adopt advice. He (Lord Morpeth) was, however, too grateful for the result to quarrel with the motives from which it proceeded. The noble Lord had made an attack upon Ministers on the ground that the appointments, particularly the legal appointments of Ireland, had proceeded from the immediate inspiration of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. That point had been already touched on by the hon. and learned Member, and he believed that what the hon. and learned Member had said had commended itself to the approbation of the House. On the fitness of those appointments he was always ready to bear his share of the responsibility. On the general question he had no hesitation in saying that this Government, like every other intrusted with the conduct of human affairs, did not repudiate any support constitutionally, fairly, and openly given; on the other hand, it courted no aid excepting on the ground that its measures were calculated to promote the happiness and welfare of the country. No improper measure and no unworthy concession should ever be produced or made by Ministers for the sake of gaining a temporary advantage. Their object would be to administer the law in a kindly spirit, but above all to administer it impartially.
§ Sir Robert Bateson
said, that as having been one of those who had signed one of the requisitions to which allusion had been made, and as possessing a very considerable property in the country from which this petition emanated, he hoped the House would indulge him with their attention whilst he made a few observations: The cause of the meeting in question was simply this—that a great many of the Protestants of the county (and by the word Protestant he did not confine himself to those persons who professed to be members of the Established Church merely), a great many Protestants who protested against the fallacy of the Church of Rome, felt themselves aggrieved; they felt that even-handed justice was not dealt out to them—that their enemies were promoted before them—that their liberties and constitutional freedom were at stake, and they met constitutionally to protect themselves. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. S. Crawford), who had ad- 602 dressed the House, he begged, with all deference, to differ from him. That hon. Gentleman had stated in the first place that the petition was not that of the Protestants of Down, as it was only signed by the High Sheriff. He then asked why that petition was not signed by all the parties present at the meeting? Now his (Sir Robert Bateson's) answer was, and the fact must be obvious to the House, that as the meeting was composed of 50,000 persons, it was impossible, in the month of October, at the conclusion of the business of the day, and when men had come, many of them twenty miles, to attend the meeting, to effect this. It was therefore agreed upon as the opinion of the great mass of those who attended, that the High Sheriff should sign the petition in the name of the meeting, as their organ, and in his opinion (Sir Robert Bateson's) the proceeding was legal and constitutional. Several taunts and insinuations had been thrown out against his noble Friend, the late High Sheriff of the county, by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. But with due deference, he begged to tell that hon. and learned Gentleman, that the character of his noble Friend was too well known to be in danger of being damaged by any assertions about his Orangeism, his packing juries, his denial of Roman Catholic rights, and privileges, and justice, or sanctioning outrages. All these charges would fall harmless on his noble Friend, as other calumnies equally vile and false had done upon those who did their duty to their country. The hon. Member for Dundalk said, this petition did not speak the sentiments of the Protestants of Down, for that 200 persons, including eight or ten Magistrates, had declined signing the petition. He gave him credit for the fact as far as it went. The hon. Member had stated, too, that the people were driven into the town by their landlords, as they were at the time of elections. This was the first time he had ever heard of such a circumstance ever taking place at elections; it might perhaps happen at Dundalk, but not in Down, certainly. On the contrary he would declare, that no exertion whatever which could have been made would have prevented the people from coming forward, even from a distance of twenty-five miles. They came forward as free and unbiassed persons to give their opinions on the state of affairs in the North of Ireland.
603 There never had been more decorum preserved at any meeting. He believed that not a blow was struck in the whole course of the proceedings. He defied any hon. Member to prove that any charge was brought forward of assault at the subsequent Petty Sessions. He had heard, indeed, that party feuds had been excited by this meeting, but he did not believe it. The Protestants met quietly, and they met the Roman Catholic with the same good-will as they had ever done on the following day; not an Orange riband or symbol was there displayed. The people came there as peaceable loyal subjects to express their opinion openly and constitutionally. If the meeting were an illegal one, why did not the Magistrates treat it as such? With reference to the argument of the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who, in speaking of the Dublin procession, attempted to draw a distinction between religious and other meetings, he thought it was hardly possible to deny that the procession in question had a religious character. When the hon. and learned Member for Dublin attended the reform meeting at the Corn Exchange, he proclaimed his orders that persons should go to the chapels, and that the people should be warned to attend the meeting. Places of worship then were made use of to collect the meeting. What would be said if the Protestants had gone to the Presbyterian and other places of worship to do the same thing? Again that procession was accompanied by party flags, and he declared that he had seen at least twenty green flags, and in his opinion there were none but green flags there. Perhaps his noble Friend (Lord Castlereagh) would have been more correct in saying that the green flag was the symbol of rebellion at Vinegar Hill than of the persons who went to Bantry Bay to welcome the French. In his opinion it was almost impossible for the Lord-lieutenant not to have seen those flags if he did not shut his eyes, seeing that they were displayed during a march of two or three miles. The procession had a national band too, for whom the castle band was compelled to stop, while this national band played under the castle windows. Some blame had been cast on the former Lord-lieutenant because a flag had been exhibited at the theatre, but how could the Earl of Haddington have prevented that? He 604 had seen the procession which accompanied that noble Lord from Dublin to the sea-side, at which ninety-nine out of 100 of the respectability, of the rank, and intelligence of the city of Dublin were congregated. Considering the talents of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and also that that hon. and learned Gentleman was an Irishman, he would say he would much sooner see that hon. and learned Gentleman filling the office of his Majesty's Attorney-General for Ireland than being, as he was now, "Master of the puppets." The hon. and learned Member would then be open to the opinions of the country, and it would not, in such a situation, be in his power to go beyond the law. The situation of that hon. and learned Member was unexampled; for he had the whole power of the country in his hands. With respect to the subject of education, the noble Lord had sneered at some Members, as if they had been guilty of a dereliction of principle upon this point. He did not know to whom the noble Lord alluded, but this he would say, that his opinions on the subject had never changed, no matter upon what side of the House the noble Lord might sit.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford,
in explanation, denied that the petition was from the county of Down. There was a protest entered into against the meeting, which was published in the papers on the very same day that the resolutions agreed to at the meeting were published.
§ Mr. Ronayne
wished to notice this one fact—that at this meeting it was not attempted to propound one single resolution in support of Tithes as they at present stood. He took the opportunity of giving his unqualified contradiction to the statement made by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Bateson)—namely, that in the Castle-yard the band had been stopped in order that an opportunity might be given of making the display alluded to. He was an eye-witness upon the occasion, and he could give a most distinct contradiction to the statement.
§ The debate was adjourned.