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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (22)

9 April 1829

These documents are taken from: The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament, collected and arranged by the late Colonel Gurwood, C.B., K.C.T.S., (London,John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1854)


In Committee on the Qualification of Freeholders (Ireland) Bill

The Marquis of LANSDOWNE, while approving of the prospective part of the measure, feared that its retrospective portion would deprive a large class of persons of rights, honestly acquired and honestly exercised.

The Marquis of CLANRICARDE objected to the power which the Bill would give to the assistant barristers.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

The persons now under discussion are called freeholders, and the noble Marquis (Lansdowne) supposes that we are depriving them of their vested rights; yet the same noble Marquis, who knows the country perfectly well, tells us also, and almost in the same breath, that they hold under leases, that their rent is in arrear, and that nothing is more easy than for their landlords to eject them, and to deprive them of their vested rights. Thus a landlord may do when he pleases that which Parliament is never to be permitted to do. But I did not rise to confute the noble Marquis, who has, in fact, confuted himself; but to refer to a point noticed by another noble Marquis (Clanricarde), who referred to the subject of the assistant barristers. He asked whether that officer who is to act under this Bill will be independent? I can assure him that Government will pay the utmost attention to this subject, and will take care that no assistant barrister, shall be appointed to preside over the registration of freeholds who is not entirely unconnected with the county for which he is to act. I believe that the assistant barristers are now thus disconnected, and it is the intention of Government hereafter to pursue the same system as much as possible.

Lord FARNHAM proposed an amendment extending the operation of the measure to city and borough as well as county constituencies.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

I object to the amendment. I certainly have felt it to be very desirable not to extend the principle of this measure further than might be absolutely necessary. I am ready to admit that there are abuses in these boroughs and cities; but though there are, they cannot be carried so far as in the counties at large. In the first place, the land in the neighbourhood of these boroughs and cities is much more valuable than in the counties at large; and, therefore, it is not likely that the abuse would be carried so far. In the next place, there is a remedy, supposing the abuse to be carried to a great extent, in the power which corporations have of making a large number of freemen; which power is one that the Legislature cannot very easily check or control. Under these circumstances, therefore, I considered it my duty not to touch the franchise of boroughs and cities in this Bill.

My noble friend, when he spoke before on this subject, stated that the boroughs and cities were excepted from the operation of the Bill, in order to facilitate the passing of it. It is not necessary for me to state whether that is the case or not; I shall only say that I did not consider it necessary to extend the operation of the Bill to boroughs and cities. I could not help seeing that a great abuse of the elective franchise has taken place in boroughs arid cities, that there is much consequent perjury committed there, and that many persons vote who have no right to vote. All this may be an abuse very proper to be remedied at another period, but I do not think it necessary to remedy it at this time, and therefore I shall oppose anything of the sort being admitted into this Bill. If any noble Lord interested on this subject, or any Honourable gentleman in the other House of Parliament should think proper to bring forward a measure, in order to regulate this matter, all I can say on the subject is this, that I will give my best attention to the question, but cannot undertake to interfere in it. I do not think Government should interfere in this case.

Amendment negatived without a division.

Viscount GORT submitted that assistant barristers ought to go into every county twice in each year, instead of once only, as at present.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON said:

I believe the fact is so in the county of Galway; but, at the same time, it must be observed, that the Lord Lieutenant has the power of ordering assistant barristers to go into a county as often as necessity may require. I say the fact is as the noble Lord states it to be in the county of Galway; but I believe that in other counties assistant barristers attend more frequently. At all events, my Lords, they shall attend as often as necessary for the future.

Bill reported.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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