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The Duke of Wellington's speeches on Catholic Emancipation (24)

4 May 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)

Marquis of Anglesea's recall from Ireland 

The Marquis of ANGLESEY stated that the circumstances which had attended his recall from his post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, made it a most painful and anxious matter to bring the subject before their Lordships, although he felt conscious of having the means of vindication. His Lordship then entered into a detail of events which had occurred during his Viceroyship, and, having received His Majesty's gracious permission, read to the House the letters of Mr. Peel and the Duke of Wellington on the subject of his conduct, as also his own answer. His Lordship concluded by moving for copies of 2 of the letters, 'one from the Right Hon. Robert Peel, to the Marquis of Anglesey, dated 10th January, 1829, and the other the Marquis of Anglesey's answer, dated the 14th of the same month.'*

*The Right Hon. R. Peel, Secretary of State, to His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, K. G,
(The terms of this letter are explained in the answer, as follows.)

The Marquis of Anglesey, K. G., to the Right Hon. R. Peel, Secretary of State.
Phoenix Park, January 14, 1829.


I have received your letter of the 10th January, notifying to me that His Majesty's Government had taken into their consideration a letter which had been published in the newspapers purporting to have been addressed by me to the Rev. Dr. Curtis; that it appeared to His Majesty's Government that in writing that letter to Dr. Curtis, I had acted in a manner inconsistent with my duty as His Majesty's Representative in Ireland, and that they had advised His Majesty to signify his pleasure to me that I should return to England, placing the government of Ireland, for the present, in the hands of Lords Justices, and inclosing to me His Majesty's warrant, authorising me to constitute the Lord Primate, the Lord Chancellor, and the Commander of the Troops, to be His Majesty's Justices in my absence, or until His Majesty's further pleasure be signified. In consequence of the Duke of Wellington's letter to me of the 28th December, informing me that he was sensible that a correspondence which had taken place between His Grace and me had left us in a relation towards each other which ought not to exist between the Lord Lieutenant and the King's Minister, and that his colleagues concurred in that opinion, and that having taken His Majesty's pleasure upon the subject, His Majesty had desired His Grace to inform me that he intended to relieve me from the government of Ireland, I informed his Grace, by my letter of the 30th December, that I would hold myself in readiness to obey His Majesty's commands the moment I should receive them. It is, therefore, only necessary for me now to state, for the information of His Majesty's Government, that I have given the necessary directions for the appointment of Lords Justices, in obedience to His Majesty's commands, and that I shall forthwith repair to England.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON spoke in the following terms:

My Lords, I feel equally with the noble Marquis who has addressed you, the greatest pain upon finding myself under the necessity of discussing the subject which the noble Lord has brought under your Lordships' consideration. Indeed, I never felt so much pain upon any occasion as I experience at this moment. My Lords, I do think I might have been spared this pain. It will be admitted, my Lords, I am sure, that during the whole course of a Session in which the policy of the Government of Ireland, and the whole state of Ireland, have been so often under consideration, in discussions in which I have frequently had occasion to address your Lordships, I have invariably avoided adverting to the government of the noble Marquis, or to any of his acts in the course of his administration in Ireland, as having at all influenced the determination of Her Majesty's Government in this country. Not only have I abstained from adverting to the government of the noble Lord, but, upon the only occasion on which any serious charge was brought against the proceedings of the noble Marquis in his government of Ireland, I defended that government, and at the same time took upon His Majesty's servants in this country the responsibility for the acts of the noble Lord. Under these circumstances, considering all that has passed, I think we might have been spared the present discussion at this advanced period of the Session. My Lords, I must object to the production of the papers for copies of which the noble Marquis has moved. Parliament has no business to interfere with regard to the dismissal of any of His Majesty's servants from the government of the country, except in instances in which some material public injury has been thereby occasioned, or some considerable inconvenience has been felt; or except in cases where Parliament has found it necessary to interfere to obtain a change of Government. In such cases Parliament has interfered, and with advantage to the public service; otherwise it has not. I maintain this practice of non-interference to be wholesome and necessary; and that, excepting in the cases which I have described, Parliament never can interfere without great public injury and inconvenience. Indeed the course which the noble Marquis has been pursuing in moving for these documents, shows clearly the inconvenience that must inevitably ensue from discussions like the present.

The noble Marquis has moved for copies of one or two papers; but, in order to elucidate the meaning of the documents which he requires, he has been obliged to read extracts from a long course of correspondence between himself and members of His Majesty's Government in this country. Yet he has not read one half of that correspondence; and I must add, he has not read some parts which I think it was expedient that he should have read. I beg that your Lordships will consider the consequences of making such communications to this House and the public, and the serious inconvenience and injury which must result to the public from such communications. The noble Marquis has read some letters that passed between him and me, which referred to matter of a nature the most private and confidential that could possibly take place between a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and a Minister of this country, namely, the sentiments and opinions of the Sovereign. The noble Lord says he has had His Majesty's permission to read the documents in question. I must say I understood differently, and that I have been authorised to say that His Majesty did not give such permission. If the noble Lord obtained such permission from His Majesty in any audience which His Majesty gave him, he must have advised His Majesty to give that permission, and he is responsible for the advice so given. Then see in what situation the noble Lord has placed the King. His Majesty acquiesced in the propriety of relieving the noble Marquis from his Government in Ireland, because he considered that the correspondence which had taken place between the noble Lord and myself was of such a nature that we could not possibly remain in office together, which correspondence the noble Lord declared that he considered himself authorised to publish. The noble Lord then advised His Majesty not only to allow him to publish the correspondence, but to read it in this House. I am certain that the House will see that the noble Lord must be mistaken, and that His Majesty could not have given his permission that the correspondence in question should be read in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships are now aware that during the whole course of the last autumn and winter I had it in contemplation to bring forward the measures recently passed into laws. It is also perfectly well known that my object from the commencement was to prevail on the person in these kingdoms the most interested in the matter to give his consent to their being brought forward. Without that consent first obtained, the measures could not be brought forward. In the correspondence of the noble Marquis, as well as in his letter to Dr. Curtis, the noble Lord stated that he did not know my sentiments on the Catholic question. Now, with reference to this assertion, I beg leave to read a few words from the correspondence which I had with the noble Marquis, and which will show in the clearest manner that not only was he informed of my sentiments upon that subject, but that he has really no ground of complaint upon that score.

The passage I am about to read is from a letter addressed to me by the noble Marquis, and dated the 24th of September, 1828:

'I have known for a considerable time, and a recent communication has strongly corroborated the fact, that the Catholic Question may be adjusted at this moment with more facility (upon as good terms and with as little opposition) on the part both of the Bishops and of the Agitators, than at any other period. I have reason to feel confident that the Bishops would be satisfied with very fair terms, in respect to their nomination; that they would only very feebly oppose the payment of the Catholic clergy; and that even upon the much more difficult subject of the forty-shilling freeholders, there would only be little resistance.'

I must now trouble your Lordships with my answer to that letter

' London, September 28, 1828.

I have, equally with my colleagues, seen three letters which you have written to Mr. Peel, on the Roman Catholic Question. I have laid one of them before the King; the other two he has not seen yet, as His Majesty has been unwell; and no immediate necessity existed for laying them before him. But I will lay them before the King, as soon as he shall be sufficiently well for me to speak to him upon a subject of which he never hears, nor never thinks, without being disturbed by it. I have not written to you on this subject because I had nothing to tell you. As an individual Member of Parliament I never will support what is called Catholic Emancipation, till it shall be brought forward by the Government, as Government, in a shape to satisfy me that the arrangement proposed will secure the interests of the State. In these I include the Church of England. As the King's servant, I, equally with all the servants whom His Majesty has had in his service since the year 1810, that is, the commencement of the unrestricted Regency, am bound not to act in this question as the King's Minister. The late Mr. Canning embodied in a memorandum which I have seen, and which was communicated to the members of his Government, that which was before that time understood.

From this statement you will see, that the first step of all is to reconcile the King's mind to an arrangement. Till that should be done, I should deceive myself, or the person to whom I should address myself, by talking about it at all.

I think, likewise, that I should give just ground for suspicion to His Majesty, and his servants, and to the Protestants of the empire in general, with whom, after all, the difficulty of the question rests, if I were to discuss with the Roman Catholic clergy, or the demagogues of the Roman Catholic Association, a plan to be submitted by the Government to Parliament for the adjustment of this question.

You see the preliminary difficulties attending it; and I must add, that all those attending the question exist here. These are of a nature quite distinct from those existing in Ireland. Some are of opinion that the difficulties in Ireland will be got the better of by the adjustment of the question; I doubt it. But whether this will be the result or not, it is quite clear that nothing can be done now. That our affair now, and, indeed, in Ireland always, will be to preserve the peace, and to ensure the loyalty and good-will of all his Majesty's subjects, by protecting the lives and properties of all.

Ever yours, &c.,

It was thus that I wrote to the noble Marquis, who, after this, could scarcely complain with justice of being in ignorance of my sentiments upon the Catholic Question. Subsequently to that letter, I had occasion to write to the noble Lord on the 11th of November, the letter which the noble Lord has read, respecting the agitation then prevailing in Ireland, and the increased difficulty thereby occasioned to the Government. But I beg, my Lords, before I go further, to describe to your Lordships the nature and constitution of the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and the nature of its relations with the Government here. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is an officer endowed with great and extensive powers; greater and more extensive, perhaps, than are entrusted to a subject by any other Sovereign in the world; but that officer acts under the instructions of His Majesty, conveyed to him through the medium of the responsible servants of the Crown in this country. It is their business to instruct the Lord Lieutenant as to his proceedings, and to animadvert on his conduct if they shall see him act improperly, or in a manner detrimental or inconvenient to the public service, or under certain circumstances of the times, even displeasing to his Majesty. It was peculiarly my duty to act as I did towards the noble Lord, under the circumstances of the time. It was impossible for me to feel the inconveniences resulting from the noble Lord's conduct, and from the circumstances stated in my letter of the 11th of November, and not to draw the noble Lord's attention to the subject. I beg that those who are disposed to blame me for writing these letters, will consider whether I should not have deserved censure if I had not written at all. In these letters I do not accuse the Lord Lieutenant. I remonstrate with him freely, but in friendly terms, for conduct, which, under other circumstances, must have been indifferent, but of which I felt the inconvenience. I must say I was not very far wrong in the judgment I formed with respect to the two magistrates alluded to in my letters to the noble Lord; for, shortly afterwards, first one and then the other was struck out of the commission of the peace for conduct not much different from that of which I accused them.

After this correspondence, it was quite obvious to me, as I am sure it must be clear to all your Lordships who have heard the correspondence read, that it was utterly impossible that the noble Marquis and I could go on together in the situations which we mutually held. I might be wrong in my notions (and God knows, my Lords, I may be wrong as well as any body else); but be that as it might, it was impossible that we should continue to go on together any longer in the relative situation of Lord Lieutenant and Minister; there could be no confidential relation between him and me. Thus situated, I did not take upon myself the responsibility of removing the noble Lord: I waited till my colleagues should return to London; and I took the earliest opportunity of laying before them the correspondence, after their arrival. They were of the same opinion as myself. I did then take His Majesty's pleasure on the subject, and I communicated to the noble Marquis that he would be relieved from the Government of Ireland.

There are two points in the noble Marquis's statement to which would more particularly advert. The noble Lord says, I did not attend His Majesty on the 28th of December, and that the order for his relief from the Irish Government was not occasioned by his letter to Dr. Curtis. It is perfectly true that I did not attend His Majesty on the 28th; it is also true that the noble Lord's relief from the Government of Ireland was not the consequence of his correspondence with Dr. Curtis; the relief of the noble Lord was the natural result of the previous correspondence that had taken place between the noble Lord and myself, which the noble Lord has stated not to have been confidential, but which was evidently upon that subject on which, above all others, Ministers were bound to communicate with most reserve. I did attend His Majesty on the 27th, and not on the 28th; and I did take the King's pleasure as to the noble Lord's removal upon the 27th; and notified to him, on the following day (the 28th), that he would be relieved from the Government of Ireland. Having gone thus far into this part of the case, there I leave it. I regret extremely this discussion; it can do no good to the public, on the contrary, it must do injury and mischief; and I am thoroughly convinced the result will prove that the noble Marquis would have better reason to be satisfied with himself, if he had not brought the subject forward.

At the period alluded to (28th of December), the noble Lord was informed he would be relieved from the Government of Ireland. He received and acknowledged the receipt of the information on the 30th of December. He was told he would be informed thereafter what arrangement would be made for the Government; and it was intended to leave him in the Government till he could be relieved with convenience to His Majesty's service. We trusted to that declaration, in his Lordship's letter to me of the 14th of November, in which he states that 'His Majesty may possibly feel the expediency of making a change in the Government of Ireland; I therefore request that you will offer to His Majesty my humble and dutiful assurances, that in such an event it will be my most anxious wish to facilitate this measure, by meeting His Majesty's wishes in the manner the least embarrassing, both as to time, to manner, and to circumstances.' In the mean time, I had received from Dr. Curtis a letter dated December the 4th, to which I wrote an answer on the 11th, which Dr. Curtis thought proper to publish. I know it has been pretty generally said, that there never was such a letter as that which I am supposed to have answered. I certainly shall not follow the example of Dr. Curtis in the publication of private correspondence. However, here is the letter for such noble Lords as choose to read and satisfy themselves on the subject of its existence; but publish it I will not. To return: on the 30th of December, the noble Marquis received the letter apprizing him that he would be relieved. On the 1st of January there appeared in the Irish newspapers a letter from the noble Lord to Dr. Curtis, being a commentary on that which I had addressed to that gentleman on the 11th of December, in answer to his communication of the 4th. This letter of the noble Marquis to Dr. Curtis, commenting upon mine, is dated the 23rd of December, and is stated to have been written on the day that my letter was communicated confidentially to his Lordship. But there is rather a curious circumstance attending this letter of the noble Lord's: it is founded on Dr. Curtis's confidential communication of my letter to the noble Marquis; and, strange to say, the very same day that Dr. Curtis communicated the letter to the Lord Lieutenant, confidentially, he published it in the Dublin newspapers.

Thus, then, this letter was written on the 23rd of December, and sent to Dr. Curtis on the 24th. The noble Lord received his letter, informing him that he would be relieved, on the 30th of December; and he published his letter to Dr. Curtis on the 1st of January, two days after e received the intimation that he would be relieved.

In observing upon this letter to Dr. Curtis, I must first remark upon it in relation to myself. The noble Lord repeats in it the assertion contained in his letter to me of the 14th of November, that he did not know, till he received Dr. Curtis's confidential communication, what my sentiments were respecting the Roman Catholic Question. The noble Lord likewise comments upon my opinion of the necessity of tranquility previous to the discussion of any measure for Roman Catholic Relief.

Now, my Lords, I beg leave to call your Lordships' attention to the following paragraph, in a letter from the noble Lord to the Secretary of State, in which he recommends the adoption of the very course which I pointed out to Dr. Curtis, in my letter of the 11th, as the only one which could lead to the wished-for result :

July 26th, 1828.

If I should fortunately be enabled, by the advice and warnings I give, to keep this country in a quiet state for a little time longer; if the Association should cease to agitate, and there were to be anything like an appearance of moderation, I most seriously conjure you to signify an intention of taking the state of Ireland into consideration in the first days of the next Session of Parliament.

Now, this letter clearly shows that the noble Marquis fully concurred in the opinion that a state of tranquility ought to precede the discussion of the question. But this is not the only remarkable circumstance which the noble Marquis's correspondence suggested. The letter to Dr. Curtis, he says, he wrote privately and confidentially, and he tells your Lordships that he published it with a view to put the country, as far as he could, in a state of tranquility: now it is curious to see what the agitators themselves thought of the noble Marquis's letter. I will show the House what Mr. O'Connell thought of it. In one of his speeches he says, 'Lord Anglesey recommends to us constitutional, in contra-distinction to merely legal means of seeking redress, to be exercised by us in forwarding our cause. Now this is the only part of his Lordship's advice in this letter which we will be inclined to disobey; for though a measure may be a constitutional one, still, if it be against the law, we will not admit it into our system of action.' So that the noble Marquis, by way of promoting tranquility, published a letter of advice to these agitators, which they themselves would not obey; which, in fact, they declined to follow, because they considered it to be too strong for them safely to adopt. But, he says his letter produced the most perfect quiet, yet he admits his advice was for continued agitation.

The Marquis of ANGLESEY admitted nothing of the kind: he did not mean to recommend agitation in the way in which the noble Duke seemed disposed to press it.


But here is the letter, the printed letter, in which are the words 'not to cease to agitate,' although it was known to everybody that this very agitation had been the cause of all the mischief in Ireland for the last ten years. In respect to agitation, if your Lordships advert to the noble Marquis's correspondence, you will see what he himself meant by it. Indeed, your Lordships can make the same discovery if you glance at the history of Ireland during the last ten years, where you will find that agitation really means something just short of rebellion ; that, and no other, is the exact meaning of the word. It is to place the country in that state in which its government is utterly impracticable, except by means of an overawing military force. Was that the state in which the noble Marquis wished to leave the Government for his successor? If it were, how was that consistent with the assurance in his letter of the 14th of November last, that in case His Majesty should think proper to relieve him in the Government of Ireland, it would be his anxious wish to facilitate that measure, by meeting His Majesty's wishes in the manner the least embarrassing, both as to time, manner, and circumstances? ' I beg your Lordships to remember, that when the noble Marquis wrote the letter to Dr. Curtis, of the 23rd of December, he was still in His Majesty's service.

My Lords, I beg you likewise to look at the noble Lord's own opinion of the nature of the agitation in Ireland, and of his own duties in consequence of that state of agitation; and see how far the advice contained in this letter to Dr. Curtis, of the 23rd of December, was consistent with those opinions as delivered in the noble Lord's letters, of which he has read you only extracts. Was it consistent with those opinions to recommend agitation and conduct which even the leading agitators declined to adopt as being too violent for them? Were such recommendations consistent with the assurances which the noble Lord had authorized me to give to His Majesty? But there is still another view which I request your Lordships to take of this subject, and that is, the consistency of these recommendations with the views and intentions of His Majesty's Ministers as known to the noble Lord.

The noble Marquis commenced his Administration by a regular discussion with the Ministers here, to decide whether it was proper or not to apply to Parliament, to revive or new model the law, for preventing the meetings of the Roman Catholic Association. The object of this discussion was to prevent agitation in Ireland. The decision was taken, in conformity with the advice of the noble Lord, not to continue the operation of that Bill.

The noble Lord next received directions, upon two occasions, to consult the law officers of the Crown, whether it was possible to proceed against the Association, or against individuals in the Association, under the common law or the existing Acts of Parliament? What was the object of these directions? To stop and prevent agitation. Was the noble Lord's letter to Dr. Curtis, of the 23rd of December, consistent with this object? The noble Lord then received directions to issue the Proclamation of the 1st of October, founded on his own representation of the state in which the country was, in consequence of agitation. Was the noble Lord's letter of December, to Dr. Curtis, consistent with these directions, or with his own act in consequence? Then, again, after the Proclamation, orders were given for the prosecution of Mr. Lawless. Was the letter of the noble Lord consistent with these orders?

But, my Lords, it is not in individual instances only, but the whole tone and tenor of the correspondence of the Government with the noble Lord showed that, on both sides, it was felt that the greatest evil was the state of agitation in which the country was kept by the Roman Catholic Association.

In justice to my Right Honourable friend the Secretary of State (Mr. Peel), I ought to read more copious extracts from the correspondence; but I will not fatigue your Lordships by doing so. Enough has been read to show your Lordships, that the object of the Government, as well as that of the Lord Lieutenant, up to this time, had been to prevent agitation. Yet, knowing these sentiments to be entertained by the Government, and entertaining them, as he did, himself, the noble Lord wrote that letter, having for its object to leave behind him, for his successor, a state of agitation which had never before existed.

My Lords, these were the circumstances which induced me to recommend to His Majesty, first, that the noble Lord should be relieved from his Government; and next, that he should be recalled. I do not know that I ever felt more pain in the performance of any public duty; but I felt that I had no other course to pursue on either occasion, without neglecting what was due to the King and to the country.

The Marquis of ANGLESEY remarked that the noble Duke had imputed to him that he had kept back letters.


The Marquis of ANGLESEY maintained that His Majesty's permission justified the course he had adopted in reading the correspondence.


I certainly, my Lords, was authorised to state that the noble Lord was not permitted to read the correspondence between him and me. I admit, however, that there might have been a mistake, and that the noble Lord might have inferred that he was so authorised.

The Marquis of ANGLESEY said that on the day but one after his arrival in town from Ireland, he had sought and obtained an audience of His Majesty, at which His Majesty's permission had been distinctly given.

Motion negatived without a division.

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See also Gleig's Life of Wellington (1862)
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