Laurence Dundas

The Mirror of Parliament. Vol. 1. 1834. " Mr. O'CONNELL.—I rise to make further inquiry relative to the subject of which I spoke last Friday, and trust that I shall receive such an answer as will render it unnecessary for me to have recourse to any motion. I wish, however, to apprize the House, shortly, of the state of facts on which I am desirous of obtaining further information. I mentioned on Friday, that a rumour had reached Ireland that a person of the name of Dundas, who had been in the police in Ireland, and who had been engaged in supplying the entire yeomanry of Leinster with clothing, had been appointed to the office of stipendiary magistrate in one of the West Indian colonies. That person had been charged with peculation to a large amount; and when the investigation consequent upon it had commenced, the charges appeared so serious, that he absconded; and just at the time when the discovery had been made, that the vouchers which he had produced to confirm his accounts were forgeries, and that he had authenticated these forgeries by affidavits, thereby committing perjury, the Government sent orders to the magistrates of the county of Wexford, to take depositions against him for those crimes of forgery and perjury. When Mr. Dundas learnt this circumstance, he absconded ; and he was not heard of afterwards, till it was said that he had been appointed one of the stipendiary magistrates in the colonies. No one can do fuller justice than myself to the Right Honourable Secretary for the Colonies, in being ready to believe that he never heard that any charge had previously been brought against Mr. Dundas. The moment I mentioned the case, the Right Honourable Gentleman made inquiry, and, on the day following, he did me the honour to make me a communication of the most satisfactory nature. He had traced out who Mr. Dundas was, and instantly cancelled the appointment; thus demonstrating what every one would have known without this proof, that the had made that appointment in entire ignorance of the character of that individual. But it is clear, that a gross imposition had been practised on the Right Honourable Gentleman, and that some persons had represented Mr. Dundas to him in such a light as to cause his appointment to the very' important situation of a stipendiary magistrate, under the Slave Emancipation Act of last year,—a situation, than which I can conceive none requiring more of character, as well as of intellect, in its possessor. I wish, before I proceed further, to ask the Right Honourable Gentleman to be so good as to inform me when the appointment was made, and whether he feels himself at liberty to mention at whose recommendation it took place, and, if so, whether that recommendation came from Ireland and, next, whether it be the intention of the Government to proceed against Mr. Dundas on the charges brought against him?

Mr. SECRETARY STANLEY.-It will be in the recollection of the House, that on Friday last the Honourable and Learned Gentleman asked me whether I had appointed any person of the name of Dumas or Dundas, who had been dismissed from the constabulary of Ireland, in the time of my holding office there, for peculation, to a situation in the colonies. The name of Dumas appeared to me to be rather a remarkable one, there being one or two persons of that name, I think, in the county of Armagh. I answered him, however, that to the best of my belief no person had been so appointed, who had ever served in the police-force of Ireland, and I expressed a hope that it was unnecessary for me to assure the House that I should not have appointed one who had been guilty of dishonesty. On the following morning, (Saturday) I learnt, with great regret, and no less surprise, that a Mr. Dundas, recently appointed by me to the office of stipendiary magistrate in the West Indies,—on a recommendation from a quarter on which I had every reason to place reliance, and in which I accordingly did not suppose there was any ignorance of the character of the person who was its object, though 1 have since had reason to suppose that such ignorance did exist,—I say, I then found, that that individual was the same person who had been involved in a very discreditable transaction in the year 1827, three years before I had any connexion with the Irish Government. I lost no time in examining the circumstances of that transaction, and having satisfied myself that this Mr. Dundas was the person therein concerned, I sent off an order revoking his appointment, and communicated to the Honourable and Learned Gentleman that I had done so.

The Honourable and Learned Gentleman asks when this appointment took place? The promise to make the appointment took place some three or four months since, but the person was not actually appointed to the situation until within these last few days, and I believe that his salary would not commence until he had arrived in the colonies. I believe that the gentleman has not yet sailed for the colonies. The moment that I became acquainted with the circumstances that the Honourable and Learned Gentleman has alluded to, I sent to revoke the order for the appointment. I hope the House will not now require me to name the person on whose recommendation the appointment took place, for feeling every respect for what owe to this House, I cannot but think it would be a breach of confidence not justified by the circumstances. I have, however, great satisfaction in informing the Honourable and Learned Gentleman that the recommendation did not come from any Irishman or any Gentleman connected with Ireland, but from a person totally unacquainted with any of the circumstances to which the Honourable and Learned Gentleman has referred. I have been asked whether it is the intention of the Government to take any steps in the way of prosecution in this case. As at present advised, it is not the intention of the Government to do so. Mr. Dundas has been a fugitive from justice for some years, the offence, which he is alleged to have committed, occurred in 1827 ; but previous to and subsequent to that period, the gentleman on whose recommendation he was appointed, has been in the habit of allowing him an annuity, which he intimated his intention to continue, whether Mr. Dundas obtained the appointment or not. I am happy to have had the opportunity of cancelling the appointment before the country has been put to any expense or inconvenience in consequence of it; and I am open to whatever censure the House may think I deserve for not having sufficiently inquired into the character of the person proposed for appointment. Still I hope that Honourable Members will consider, that having been led into an involuntary error, I have taken the earliest and most straightforward way of correcting it that presented itself to me.

Mr. O'CONNELL.—I should be ashamed if any Honourable Member imagined I had made any attack on the Right Honourable Secretary for his conduct on this occasion: on the contrary, I think that it does him infinite credit; but there is one part of the case, with respect to which I may be allowed to say, that the Government has not done its duty. The accusation charged against Mr. Dundas is not of having been guilty of peculation with regard to individual property, but with respect to the property of the public: for example, he forged receipts upon the toll-keeper of the bridge of Wexford, for the passage of the police, to the extent, I believe, of 17. or 18/.; and he has actually plundered the public of 6000/. or 7000/. of their money. I know that it does not belong to the particular department of the Right Honourable Secretary; but I ask if this is not a case in which there ought to be some proceedings instituted by the Government in regard to this individual?"

(Morning Post 1/7/1834) - Sir E. Hayes presented a Petition from Mr. Lawrence Dundas, whose case he thought one of great hardship. He bad been dismissed from his situation a stipendiary Magistrate in Jamaica in consequence of charge, made against him by the Hon. and Learned Member for Dublin, which charge, the Petitioner declared to be unfounded. He prayed for inquiry into his case. The Hon. Member supported the prayer. Colonel Percival said the Petitioner had been badly treated in the first instance, as he had been condemned with- out having had any opportunity of defending himself, and that upon the evidence of two attorneys' clerks, who were proved afterwards to be unworthy of belief. Mr. Dundas behaved in the most honourable way. He gave up all the public money in his possession and paid all his creditors before he withdrew. Mr. Lefroy supported the prayer of the Petition. After a few words from Mr. O Reilly, the Petition was ordered to lie on tbe table.

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