§ Earl Grey
rose to offer a petition which had been put into his hands, signed by certain Roman Catholics of Ireland. The petitioners stated, that the Union, instead of restoring them to their rights, had been of no benefit to them; and that they looked on it as having greatly aggravated all the evils under which the petitioners before suffered, and having in addition inflicted a greater evil still, by taking away from the country a resident gentry, and depriving the people of their natural protectors. The next object of which the petitioners complained, was the system of tithes, which was a more special injury to them, as seven-eighths of the people were Catholics, who contributed to these tithes for a church, from which they not only derived no advantage, but from the members of which, the petitioners stated, they met with nothing but contumely and insult. The petition also complained of the administration of justice, not in the upper 938 courts, but in the local jurisdictions and subordinate courts. The petitioners also complained of the spirit of party in Ireland, which had pervaded corporations, and caused their affairs to be so managed, that they were productive of the greatest oppression to the petitioners. The petitioners further stated, that all these acts and hardships had their source in those penal statutes, which excluded them from the privileges of the rest of their countrymen. They also stated, that there could be no hope for the permanent tranquillity of Ireland, unless the disabilities of which the petitioners complained were removed. They prayed, therefore, that there might be a reform in the temporalities of the Church; a reform in the corporation laws, that Orangemen might be excluded from Juries, and the Catholics relieved from the disabilities under which they labour. Before he determined on presenting the petition, he had felt it to be his duty to ascertain that it contained nothing disrespectful to their lordships, and beyond that, he conceived it was not his business to inquire; for, according to his view, the presenting a petition was an act purely ministerial, which no noble lord could be excused for not performing on account of any difference of opinion as to the matter which the petition might contain. He had said this much, because there were in the petition statements with many parts of which he could not agree. He had therefore left to the persons from whom he received the petition, after stating to them his opinion, to say, whether they would choose to make him the medium for presenting it. The answer returned was, that they still wished he would present it, and give it his support as far as he could; and it was in consequence of that request that he had now the honour of addressing their lordships. With respect to the main object of the petition—the removal of those disabilities and disqualifications by which the Roman Catholics were excluded from a full participation in the advantages of the British constitution — it certainly had his fullest concurrence. Retaining as he did, the opinion he had on all occasions expressed, with respect to those disqualifications, he should, whenever that question came to be discussed, support it with the same zeal as heretofore. With the other prayers of the petition, he certainly could not agree; and he could not help considering it a subject of much regret that they should appear in 939 it. One of those statements, he could confidently say, was totally unfounded. It was that in which it was stated to be reported, that the faction, of which the petitioners complained, had the countenance and support of an illustrious personage (the duke of York). Now, he was sincerely convinced, that however much that illustrious person might differ in opinion with the petitioners, the natural benevolence of his heart would make it his wish to extend to all persons the benefits of the British constitution, and that it was only a paramount sense of duty which induced him to oppose a prayer for such an object. With regard to the extraneous topics to which he had alluded, he considered those by whom they were introduced to have been very ill advised. He in particular disapproved of the sweeping manner in which the petitioners spoke of disfranchisement of corporations, and the reform of the temporalities of the church. Differing from former petitions so much as this did, it was not possible to refrain from lamenting that such a difference should be exhibited; but, however much that might be a matter of regret, it ought to be none of surprise; for, it was the effect of disappointment and irritation, produced by a long continued 6ystem of misgovernment, both civil and religious, in Ireland. By this system of misgovernment parties had been kept in conflict with each other, throughout every part of the united kingdom. Those who were lately taught to encourage a hope that their complaints would be listened to, were disappointed and overwhelmed with despair. This was to be expected from the instability and fluctuating nature of the measures of the government; for he was convinced that the evils of Ireland were much aggravated by the present State of the administration. The soil was rich and fertile, but those who laboured it were in poverty. That a people possessing warm hearts, high feelings, and every quality capable of rendering them great and prosperous, should be reduced to the state in which the people of Ireland now were, without any fault on the part of government, was a proposition so contrary to every acknowledged principle, that he could not for a moment give it credit. The situation of Ireland must therefore be the effect of a long series of year so misgovernment; but thee vils arising from that general misgovernment were as he had said, greatly aggravated by the pre- 940 sent state of the administration. Their lordships knew that there was a division in the cabinet, which could not fail to produce most mischievous fruits. One of the consequences of this division was, that by one party the hopes of the Catholics were excited; by the other, the fears of the Protestants were alarmed. The hostile parties in the country were brought into the field. The one was encouraged to advance demands which the other was taught to resist. Thus, while disappointment and despair were experienced on the one hand, an insulting triumph was exhibited on the other; so that Ireland was never before in such a state as it was at present. He therefore felt most anxious for the removal of the great cause of that state of things. With a sincere wish that a favourable opportunity would soon arise for directing their lordships' attention to the main object of the petition, he should content himself with moving that it be laid on the table.
The clerk proceeded to read the petition, which was discovered to be divided into two parts, each on a distinct and unconnected piece of parchment. Inconsequence of which, it was withdrawn.