§ Sir Newport,
in bringing forward his motion upon this subject, assured the House most unfeignedly that he had never addressed them under feelings of greater embarrassment. His duty (and he felt it to be an urgent duty) was, to call the attention of parliament to the present condition of Ireland; never had the state of that country more imperiously required attention: But although he had frequently been compelled to press upon the consideration of that House the wretched state of the Irish population, and the manifold grievances under which that population suffered. He now experienced something, he would not call it of reluctance, but something like unpleasant feeling towards the task which he was once more to undertake. He experienced this feeling the more forcibly, because the motion which his present address to the House was intended to introduce would be nearly the same with that which he had submitted to them in 1816—which he had then brought forward under the support of three most intelligent, most eloquent, most enlightened friends—two out of these most able advocates of Ireland, and of the rights of Ireland, unfortunately for their country have sunk into the grave. When I mention Mr. Ponsonby, is it necessary to add to that name the attribute of ability or of information? The House knows the opportunities he enjoyed of acquiring information, and the ability with which he applied that knowledge to whatever he undertook. The second is a name identified with that of the country which gave him birth. He watched over her cradle; he followed her hearse; and after opposing with unequalled vigour the extinction 1470 of her separate parliament, he transferred to this assembly the impassioned, and enlightened eloquence in defence of Ireland which you have witnessed with enthusiastic admiration. To the third valued friend (Mr. Plunkett), I allude with sentiments of painful interest. I received from him on the former question that most powerful assistance, which he is so eminently qualified to bestow, and I fear that, from the different view he takes of its present application, I am not now warranted to expect it.
Thus circumstanced, I must feel, the House will feel, and I fear the claims of Ireland will feel the incompetency of their advocate. I will trouble the House at as little length as the importance of the subject will allow, but must endeavour to trace out a sketch of the progress of Ireland from the commencement of her difficulties to the very distressing, and embarrassed condition in which she is now placed. I will endeavour to condense my statement; but, in showing the progress which Ireland has made during succeeding centuries, to her existing state of disorganization and distress, it is my indispensible duty, to point out the causes to which I consider that distress attributable. By a close examination of the causes of those evils alone, can the legislature hope to apply remedial measures adequate to their removal.
How was it, he would first ask, population so numerous, inhabiting a country unexampled in fertility, composed of men who had distinguished themselves in every quarter of the globe by their activity, intrepidity and intelligence, should appear degraded only in the island which gave them gave them birth? The question cannot be answered, but by reference to the system under which they are governed. Ireland occupies an area of nearly nineteen millions of English acres of most productive soil. Its population has increased from about two millions in 1747, to nearly six millions by the loose calculation of 1814, and about seven millions by the census of the last year. For a population then, of seven millions of men, in a country such as I have described it, the House is called upon to legislate—to rescue them from the system under which they have so long suffered, and to teach them, what hitherto they have unhappily not experienced, that legislation is a blessing. They have had, indeed, no reason to believe their government to be a bles- 1471 sing: for I might, in three words, sum up the principle (if principle it can be called) on which Ireland has been ruled, Divide and Govern. That has been the principle of Irish government—it is the principle which has embittered all the feelings, it has not paralyzed hut misdirected all the energies of Irishmen, and made them look upon their superiors as their oppressors. Let the House look to every page of primate Boulter's Letters. Let them observe him on the subject of Wood's halfpence, deprecating the measure on the part of England, because it had tended and would tend to unite the people.
To what a state must the country be reduced, when one of its governors at the head of its church, objects to a measure merely because, it would tend to unite the people doubly-entitled to his care!
Before the Union, the progress of taxation in Ireland had been comparatively moderate, and I am perfectly convinced, that had parliament, since the Union, pursued the course which wisdom dictated with respect to this object, it would have been precisely the reverse of that which they have adopted. It is manifest that one of the evils of Ireland, confessedly prominent in the list of those under which she suffers, is the magnitude and number of her absentee proprietors. By their absence the people are deprived of those to whom they could with confidence look up, and whom they might consider as their natural protectors. They have lost in their absence that care and attention to their wants which resident landed gentry are alone calculated to afford, and which keeps up in the gradation of ranks that interchange of good offices, which binds together all classes of society, from the cottage of the peasant to the throne of the sovereign. It became then, as I conceive, the duty of an enlightened parliament to counteract by prudent legislation, so far as legislation can effect it, the tendency to increase of absenteeship which the union of the two kingdoms under one parliament, of necessity induced; and this could only be effected by guarding strictly against any improvident increase of internal local taxation which might have the effect of impelling the landed proprietors to quit their proper sphere of duties in the country from whence they derive their income. Up to the period of the Union, as I have before observed, Ireland was lightly taxed. Since that period, taxa- 1472 tion, and especially local taxation, has been infinitely increased; and the result has been, not increase, but manifest and signal diminution of revenue. I have in every succeeding year opposed the increase of internal local taxation, and again and again stated to the House that the finance ministers would reap from the system "a harvest of discontent but not of revenue." The House has now before it positive proofs that my predictions were unhappily too well-founded: you have reaped a plentiful harvest, not of ways and means, but of debt and of discontent; and what is still more, far more, to be lamented, you have broken the spirit of the gentry of Ireland—deprived of the influence which they formerly possessed (and rightfully possessed by the power of doing good), too many from the pride natural to persons of their rank in society, could not brook to alter their mode of living amongst those with whom they were accustomed to dwell in affluence; they transported their families to some English watering-place, and, consigned to obscurity in lodgings, ceased to occupy their family demesnes, increasing all the national evils under which they themselves suffered. Nothing, I repeat, could be devised more injurious to Ireland, than the excess and rapidity with which taxation had advanced since the Union, and which has diminished not increased the revenue. Since 1808, the estimates of the finance ministers held out a nominal increase to the extent of four millions; and yet, so complete has been the delusion, that the amount of actual revenue is now less than in 1808. As a system of taxation it has entirely failed, and it has been shown more forcibly here than in any country, that the iron grasp of poverty has paralysed the efforts of the tax-gatherer, and placed a limit to the omnipotence of parliament. The taxesincreased—therevenue diminished—the only augmentation observable, and that in a fearful degree, was, the increase of debt and discontent. To prevent national bankruptcy, the Exchequers of the two countries were consolidated in the year 1816; and this country was charged with the debt of both. About seven years previous to this event, I was asked by an hon. friend the member for Taunton (Mr. Baring), when Ireland would repay the debt which England was annually contracting on her account, and my reply was "Never"—I added, that at the period of the Union, Ireland was 1473 charged with two seventeenth parts of the general contribution, which was more than double the amount of her just proportion, on any fair calculation of her resources. One seventeenth which was far more than ought to have been exacted, she actually had paid from taxation into the Exchequer; the remainder was raised by loans incurred nominally by Ireland, but really by England, and which England would be left to pay.
Under all its privations and distresses the fertility of Ireland is unabated. That country for which, as has been truly and eloquently said, Providence has done so much, and man so little, but to mar the good which Providence bestowed—That country, though still labouring under the evils engendered by that odious and never-to-be-named without abhorrence penal code, is still so fertile, that its exports of produce yearly increase. But this increase is no proof of the increased comforts of its population; for, as was once said by Mr. Henry Boyle, and truly said, there was no country on the earth so fertile whose inhabitants consumed so little of their own produce. He said it this of two millions of men in 1747; and I will now assert in 1822, that no people on earth consume less of their native productions than the seven millions who compose the population of Ireland. The exports have increased, because the bounty of Providence outruns the oppression of man, and misgovernment cannot altogether counteract the beneficence of Heaven.
On the 24th of April 1816, I offered to the House resolutions nearly similar to those with which I shall this night conclude. The discussion of the question on that occasion had been postponed from the 4th to the 24th, in consequence of the very small attendance of members on the former day. Much regret was evinced at the thin attendance, and the noble marquis expressed his hope that parliament would by a very full meeting declare their determination to give to the subject their most serious attention. He added, that it "now behoved parliament to watch over the rising greatness of Ireland, and that it was, necessary to inquire and discover the causes of the evils which had so long oppressed her." How the term "rising greatness" could or can apply to the state of Ireland, I cannot discover; except, in the sarcastic sense in which a medalist of the Low Countries alluded 1474 to the power of Philip the 3rd of Spain on the loss of his Belgic possessions, "whose greatness was like a ditch which the more you took from it the greater; it grew."
But the noble lord had then said, it was the duty of parliament to inquire into and discover a remedy for the evils which had so long oppressed Ireland. Six years had since elapsed! Is it too much to ask, what has been effected and what is in contemplation? It will perhaps be said, that though we may with reason expect much from the noble lord at the head of the Irish government, yet the very limited time since he had occupied that station did not afford opportunity of sufficient information on this arduous subject—I admit the validity of the excuse to a certain extent, on the part of the noble marquis in his present capacity; but I cannot but believe him to have possessed much previous information which would qualify my noble friend, for Such I am proud to call him, to pronounce a pretty decisive opinion on the situation of Ireland—on its wants, and on the evils which oppress it. In the cabinet, too, are several members to whom that subject must be sufficiently familiar. The secretary of state of the home department had been for several years entrusted specially with the care of that country. He might, therefore, be supposed, ere now, to have made up his mind as to the remedial measures which should be applied. In the year 1816, when this subject was discussed in another House, the noble lord at the head of the Treasury stated, that the attention of government had been bestowed on the condition of Ireland, and particularly on its tithe system; and added, that the same obstacles did not present themselves there to a commutation of tithes as in this country. It is now full time that those plans, whatever they were, should be matured. Six years have since passed away, and the infant project of the day may now be fairly presumed to have attained maturity, and be ripe for promulgation. I now call on ministers to produce and act upon these plans—as three months since; the House consented to measures to strengthen the hands of the executive government, in order to put down rebellion. I would now call upon them to express their anxious desire to concur in inquiry, as to the evils which have caused the recent and former disturbances, to try if possi- 1475 ble to remove grievances, where grievances exist, and by mild and conciliatory measures to restore order and happiness to that long-harassed and afflicted people.
It was justly said, on a former occasion by my right hon. and learned friend, that exile, imprisonment and death, are not the proper instruments of a well-regulated government—they are rather the instruments resorted to in the absence of all government. I now wish, after these dreadful measures have produced their effect in enforcing due submission to the laws, that mildness and a conciliatory system should be resorted to; having taught the people that powers far exceeding the ordinary course of law would be resorted to, effectually to suppress insurrection, let us now convince them that this is not the system on which they are to be governed, but an exception to that system introduced by their own misconduct. It is not the rule, but the exception; for God forbid it should be ever introduced in either of these islands as the system of governing the people.
I believe the conviction is deeply impressed on Ireland, that the legislature and the executive government with a firm and steady band, will put down and punish insurrectionary outrage; I consider it now to be the duty of parliament to let them also feel, that coercion alone is not Intended, but that by diligent and impartial inquiry the existing evils will be traced to their source. By no other course can an effectual remedy be applied; by no other course can they attain that equal participation of beneficent and protecting law which is felt and valued as it deserves in this country; which is inseparable from all good government, and which so largely contributes to the morality and the happiness of the people.
If I could suppose the House would act merely from partial and interested views, I, might, state, that as a commercial and Manufacturing people, this country is deeply interested in the prosperity of Ireland; ha she becomes impoverished and distressed, the export of British manufactures to that market, of which Britain enjoys the monopoly, will be proportionably diminished.
In adverting to the question of tithes, which no one can deny are a source of the greatest irritation, and intimately affecting the tranquillity of Ireland; I shall be perhaps told, that any interference in that question would be an invasion of the rights 1476 of the church. I shall be perhaps told this by some who were parties to the oppressive act of 1800, that ratified the vote of 1734, and stripped the clergy of pasturage tithe. No man respects the rights of the church well understood more than I do; nor would I ever have been assenting to a measure which, releasing the rich pasturage proprietor from the claims of the clergy, left them dependant for support exclusively on the agricultural tenant: it was an act of gross injustice committed for a very problematical object. But whilst we respect the rights of the church, shall we not also respect the rights of the people? Are they not worthy the attention of the House? It is amongst the marked characteristics of the odious tithe system, that abuse is inherent in and inseparable from it as exercised in Ireland. More, infinitely more, is wrung from the people than ever reaches the pockets or the clergy; in the process of collection, the peasants and small farmers are delivered over to the tender mercies of a most rapacious class of men, whose unfeeling conduct excites daily disputes and contention, and whose exactions wrests from the unfortunate poor, in the case of potatoe tithe especially, the scanty subsistence of his wretched family. It is impossible the tithe system can be thus continued, but to entail eternal disquiet and misery on Ireland.
Before I conclude, let me add, as the greatest of all the evils which afflict the country, the failure to identify every class of its inhabitants with the enjoyment or capacity to enjoy, equal rights and privileges under the constitution. I will admit that the repeal of that part of the penal code which remains may not be instantly productive of the happy results which we who support that repeal sanguinely anticipate; but till that line of demarcation be removed, permanent tranquillity cannot be looked for. We cannot at once heal all the wounds inflicted by a system which alienated father from son, and brother from brother; which destroyed the best feelings of our nature, and brought one class of society in daily hostile contact with the other. The irritation arising out of such a system cannot be at once allayed; but the; total and absolute destruction of the system, must be the basis on which the pacification of Ireland can alone be effected. It has been said, and tauntingly said, that many of the evils of which we complain 1477 grew out of what some gentlemen are pleased to term the vicious propensities of the population of the country. How happens it, that out of their own land no such feelings operate, but that the same causes of excitement do not there exist. I will not farther delay the House. Although the motion with which I shall conclude is as little calculated to excite hostile controversy as could be devised, it is I understand, to be put aside on the old hacknied ground, that the fit period is not yet arrived. This has been the answer to every motion for inquiry into the state of Ireland during more than twenty years. We are ever told to look to the morrow but that morrow never arrives; and whilst measure alter measure of coercion, of penalty, of death is passed, and on each enactment some measure of conciliation is held up in prospect, the time for its adoption is always deferred. I therefore move you,
"That an humble address be presented to his majesty, to represent that the melancholy details contained in his majesty's gracious speech from the Throne, and the documents laid before us at the opening of the session of parliament, respecting the internal disquiet of considerable districts of Ireland, oblige us to consider the state of that extensive and valuable part of the United Kingdom as most distressing and afflicting to the legislature, and dangerous in an extreme degree to the well-being of the empire:
"That, under circumstances of daring insubordination to the laws, atrocious outrage and insurrection, parliament deemed it to be its first duty to arm the executive government with all the powers which were considered requisite to punish outrage, to suppress insurrection, and to restore its accustomed and salutary energy to the administration of constitutional law:
"That we trust that the confidence placed by parliament in the executive government of Ireland will be found to have been justified by a mild and temperate, yet firm exercise of these extraordinary powers, and calculated to produce most beneficial present results.
"That having thus provided for this calamitous emergency, with reference to its immediate pressure, we feel ourselves now called upon to look to the great ulterior object of a progressive and permanent amelioration of the condition and moral habits of the people:
1478 "That decidedly impressed with a conviction of the alarming consequences which must result from a longer continuance of the disorganized state of Ireland, which has compelled the frequent recurrence of applications to parliament for a suspension of constitutional law, and feeling the serious responsibility which must attach on the ministers of the Crown, and on this House, from longer delaying to examine fully and effectually into the causes of that disorganization, we desire to assure his majesty of the zealous co-operation of this House in the immediate pursuit of this most desirable object, and in perfecting such a system of remedial measures as may be recommended by his majesty, to secure to that portion of the United Kingdom the uninterrupted protection of mild and equal laws, and, under their benign and salutary influence, to effect that valuable improvement in the condition of the people which is indispensably connected with the best interests and prosperity of the state."
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, if the right hon. baronet had felt embarrassed in rising on this subject, how much more embarrassed must he (Mr. G.) feel, in offering himself to the notice of the House, to speak on the affairs of a country with which he had been connected for so short a time, and with talents so inferior to those of the right hon. baronet. But while he thought it necessary to claim the indulgence of the House, he would engage to follow the example of the right hon. baronet, by not trespassing on their time longer than the importance of the subject demanded. With respect to the question now before the House, he trusted that he should not much err when he considered the object of the right hon. baronet in bringing it forward to be rather to promote a discussion on the affairs of Ireland than to carry the address itself. He did not deny but there were facts and arguments embraced by the address which he was not prepared to dispute, and in which he was ready to concur. He agreed that disorders had prevailed in Ireland—that to meet those disorders the House in its wisdom had given the government of that country the extraordinary powers which were thought, necessary for that purpose—nor could he doubt that those powers would be found to have been used with that firmness which was necessary, to put down the disorders which prevailed, yet ht the same time with 1479 that mildness and moderation which ought always to attend the exercise of powers like those alluded to. He did not deny that such measures ought not to form the rule of any government. He agreed that it was the duty of the government in the first instance, to control those ardent spirits which were found engaged in acts of rebellion and outrage; and he also agreed, that that being accomplished, they had the higher duty to perform of endeavouring to root out the cause of the evil. To ascertain the real grounds of complaint was that which it was their duty to do—to enquire what would be the proper remedy, and to come to parliament for such measures as promised to supply a permanent cure. But, concurring with the right hon. baronet in all these instances, he could not go a step farther, and say that it would be proper to present to the throne the address now before the House. It was not sufficient ground for presenting an address to the Crown, that the facts which it stated were true. The real object which the address had in view, the effect which it was to produce on the public, were the considerations by which its adoption or rejection were to be governed. The address, if taken simply according to the words it contained, would seem to instruct the Crown what was the duty of a government, and it would be no very gracious compliment to the government in question, to suppose it so destitute of capacity, as not to be aware, that the first principles on which a government should act, required of them that they should not only punish crimes when committed, but that they should endeavour to root out the cause. But the address went further than this. Every one who had sat any time in that House well knew the motives with which such resolutions were brought forward, and the grounds on which they were resisted. The government so advised to attend to its duty, must, if such an address were carried, be supposed to have neglected it hitherto, or not to have known what its duty was; and would, in either case, appear to be unworthy of the confidence of that House.
Viewing it in this light he must object to the adoption of the address, and he would proceed to state some reasons why, in his judgment, the Irish government did not deserve that an imputation of this sort should be thrown on them, and why it would not only be unjust to the govern- 1480 ment, but detrimental to the country. If the present government had been long in the administration of Irish affairs—if they had had a full period for the consideration of all the topics which the right hon. baronet had mentioned, and of many others which it was necessary to consider, then, indeed, he would admit that there might be some ground for doubting either their willingness or their capacity, to enter into the investigation which was imperatively demanded of them. But he begged leave to impress upon the consideration of the House the very short period which the actual government of Ireland had been in power. They had been in the exercise of their authority for little more than three months, and they were now called upon at once to remedy the evils of centuries, or to submit to the censure conveyed in such an address as that proposed by the right hon. baronet. Such a course was not one calculated to animate the Irish government in their exertions. Let it also be remembered, that the question which the present government of Ireland were called upon so suddenly to decide, was one involving the permanent interests of that country—that it was one with which all preceding governments had found it impracticable to deal—that it was one which, according to the right hon. baronet's own acknowledgment, was replete with intricacy and difficulty. That intricacy and that difficulty had indeed been abundantly evinced in the fruitless attention which former governments had bestowed on the subject, and in the very slow steps which had been taken by those governments towards the removal of the evils, the existence of which was on all sides acknowledged. In that view of the subject, he would, therefore, again appeal to the House, whether or not the present government, which had not been in power for more than three months, or rather for more than seven weeks (for that had been the actual duration of their authority), could be expected at once to remedy evils, the cure of which, former governments, with equal anxiety and with considerable diligence, had, during the long period of their existence, found it difficult, and, in some cases, impossible to accomplish.
But, if this were not considered a sufficient answer to the right hon. baronet's proposition, he had another and a more serious ground on which to rest his opposition to that proposition. Whatever 1481 opinion hon. gentlemen might entertain as to any particular government; whether they might think that government deserving of censure or of approbation, he thought that they must all agree with him, that to take a moment of great public difficulty, to take a moment at which all that could be depended upon for the preservation of the laws was the authority of the government to whom the execution of those laws was confided, to take such a moment for the purpose of telling the people who were governed, that their governors were not entitled to the confidence of parliament, would be a proceeding fraught with consequences, the extent of the danger of which could be fully appreciated only by those who were familiar with the actual condition and feelings of the people of Ireland at the present moment. It was idle to suppose for a moment that the people of Ireland would remain ignorant of the real meaning of the proceedings of parliament. The Irish people were gifted with a quickness of apprehension which probably excelled that of any other people in the world; they were perfectly capable of estimating the object of the right hon. baronet's motion; and if by assenting to it the House of Commons should show that they had withdrawn their confidence from the existing government, he wished to ask whether it was probable that such a step would render the people of Ireland better inclined to pay that deference to the government which was indispensable to the due exercise of their authority for the general good?
The right hon. baronet appeared to attribute the evils which had been so long desolating Ireland to three main causes; the first, the long misgovernment of that country; the second, the large revenue raised in it; the third, the system of tithes. The right hon. baronet had super-added another cause —the Roman Catholic disabilities. To speak first of that point, which was the last touched upon by the right hon. baronet—the Roman Catholic question. He was ready most distinctly to declare his opinion, that it was a question fully entitled to a separate discussion in parliament. It was too important a subject to be treated incidentally, and with a host of other topics. It was a question affecting not Ireland merely, but the whole empire. It was a question to be decided on a full and serious consideration of the condition and 1482 claims of the Protestants on the one hand of the Catholics on the other. Whenever that question should be brought forward, would be the fit time for himself and for others to declare their sentiments upon it, whether in favour of a continuance of the present system, or in favour of any other system to be adopted in substitution of the present. But, with the recent and existing disturbances in Ireland, he must say, that he thought the Catholic question, important as it was, had nothing whatever to do. The result of all the inquiries which he had made on the subject (and he could assure the House that he had missed no opportunity of inquiry) was, to satisfy him, that the present disturbances of Ireland in no way originated or depended upon the settlement of the Catholic question. It was certainly true, that in the progress of those disturbances, there might have been indications of religious feeling on the part of those who were engaged in them. The fact being, that the lower classes were generally Catholic, and the higher classes generally Protestant, it was very natural that those who saw the former leagued and conspiring against the latter, and who at the same time saw that the one class was Catholic and the other Protestant, should erroneously assign religious differences as the cause of the disturbance, instead of those real motives which influenced the minds of the agitators.
With respect to the long misgovernment of Ireland, he was by no means disposed to deny, what every one who knew any thing of the history and condition of Ireland was perfectly aware of, that the early misgovernment of that country, or rather the course which was adopted on its conquest, was one of the main causes of all the evils that had since occurred. The conquest of Ireland had been conducted on principles more adverse to the happiness of the people than any event of a similar nature that had ever occurred in the history of the world. No attempt had been made, on the part of the conqueror, to conciliate the conquered, or to amalgamate themselves with the mass of the people. On the contrary, the policy which had been pursued was to keep the two parties distinct and separate; thereby laying the foundation of that bitter animosity which had been since handed down from father to son, and which at that very moment pervaded the 1483 minds of the great body of the Irish peasantry. In support of that opinion, he need only refer the House to the popular and familiar songs and tales of the country, to the disposition which the Irish peasant uniformly evinced to harp with fondness on the period when the English name was unknown in Ireland, and when Ireland was stated to have been the glory of the world superior to all the countries by which she was surrounded. Up to that very moment, the conduct which had been pursued on the conquest of Ireland was referred to in that country as a just ground for hatred of the existing government. To the original error of the first conquerors of Ireland, he mainly attributed the evils now the subject of complaint. Though errors might be imputed to the English government, he thought it was clear that in latter times much of the difficulty of Ireland had grown out of the habits of the natives, from the difference of feeling between this country and that, and from the embarrassment which the legislature had felt in applying laws, framed for the government of one country, to the peculiar circumstances of the other.—The next cause to which the right hon. baronet attributed the disturbances Ireland was, the amount of revenue demanded from that country. But, in the course of his speech, the right hon. baronet had afforded an answer to his own argument. The right hon. baronet first contended that Ireland had been too highly taxed at the Union; that to pay two-seventeenths of the expenditure of the empire was beyond her ability; and that this severe taxation had driven the landed proprietors out of the country, and had thereby entailed on the great mass of the Irish population the miseries which they were enduring. But, in the progress of his argument, the right hon. baronet admitted, that although, by the act of union, it was provided that Ireland should contribute two-seventeenths to the expenditure of the empire (which was now allowed on all hands to be more than she was able to do), yet that this country had since taken on herself the debt of Ireland, by which proceeding Ireland had, in fact, been actually called upon for no more than one-seventeenth instead of two-seventeenths. In answer to the assertion of the right hon. baronet, that the severe taxation in Ireland had driven the Irish gentry to this country, he would merely call the recollection of 1484 the House to the amount of the taxation in this country during the war. Without entering into any argument as to the amount of taxation in Ireland—without inquiring whether it was too severe or not—without considering whether it might or might not have produced much serious injury and oppression—he would merely ask, whether, at a period when the rate of taxation in this country was incalculably greater than the rate of taxation in Ireland, it was probable that any man would fly from the one country in which the taxes were comparatively light, to take refuge in another country where they were so positively burthen some? He, therefore, felt it impossible to understand in what way the amount of taxation in Ireland had occasioned the absence of the landed proprietors of that country.—The last cause to which the right hon. baronet had ascribed the existing state of things in Ireland was, the system of tithes. On that question he would say, as he had already said of another great question, that it was so intricate, so extensive, had so many bearings, and was attended by so many difficulties that it might well require a distinct and separate discussion by parliament. He presumed, from the short and succinct mode in which the right hon. baronet treated that part of the subject, that he entertained a similar opinion. The right hon. baronet said, that in considering the rights of the church, they must not forget the rights of the people. Undoubtedly, parliament ought impartially to weigh both those interests. But It ought never to be forgotten, in whatever light the question of tithes, whether in this country or in Ireland, was viewed, that they formed a portion of the property of the country; and that, whatever principle parliament applied to the question of tithes, they might be subsequently called upon to apply to every other description of property. As to the intervention of a third person between the payer and the receiver of tithes forming a ground for invading the rights of the church, he begged leave to ask those hon. gentlemen who were connected with Ireland, if a similar intervention did not exist with reference to other descriptions of property? Few of, the owners of land in Ireland let their land to the immediate occupier. There was, with, respect to land, as with respect to tithes the intervention of a third person, whose agency had the effect of enhancing the 1485 charge to those who had to pay, and diminishing the proceeds to those who had to receive. Parliament, therefore, would do well to recollect that the same practice existed with reference to other property as with reference to tithes, and to pause before they commenced a course of change which, in its progress, might involve the whole property of the country in confusion. He had felt it his duty to make those general observations upon a subject, the difficulties and embarrassments of which were very sensibly felt by the government of Ireland; but he must also say, that he did not consider the question of tithes to form any material cause of the existing disturbances in Ireland. He certainly knew that in the notices and denunciations to which he had already alluded, tithes were specified as a source of grievance; but so was the rent of land, so was the levying of taxes, so was the salary of the priests, so was every thing in the shape of payment, by which the income of individuals or the executive authority of the government was to be maintained. The fact was, that the materials of disturbance in Ireland had been growing ever since the termination of the war. In that country, as in this, every means had been adopted to create dissatisfaction and to light the flame of insurrection among the inferior classes of the people; and, in furtherance of that design, the subject of tithes had been enumerated among the grievances of the people; not so much because it was a real grievance, as because it suited the purpose of the agitators so to characterize it.
Having disposed of the three important branches of the question, it only remained for him to allude to what had been the conduct of the present government of Ireland, and to its intentions for the future. When the government arrived in Ireland, the period was not one of the most auspicious. The disturbances and tumults which then prevailed were such as had not been known for a considerable time past, and such as ultimately broke out into open insurrection against the laws and government of the country. It, therefore, became the paramount duty of the administrators of that Government to turn their first attention to the suppression of those dangerous outrages which menaced the country with ruin. It was true that at present those had been in some parts subdued but the House would deceive themselves, if because they did not now 1486 prevail to the same extent, in the counties of Cork and Limerick, as before, they concluded that the evils had been entirely removed. Partial tranquillity, he was happy to know, had been brought about; and if they meant to make it general and universal, they must pursue the course which had already been attended with this partial benefit. The measures which parliament thought it wise to adopt had been attended with the result of driving the disaffected and the turbulent to more distant parts of the country, where their scenes of atrocity were repeated, not certainly to the extent with which they were committed in Limerick, but to such an extent as would demand the continuance of those measures until they were exterminated altogether. He could not better describe the state of the South of Ireland, than by stating that there was no county in which the police was sufficient to protect the peaceable; and that in five counties the Insurrection act was enforced. It was only yesterday that he had received letters informing him of the perpetration of two murders committed in the county of Kilkenny, which corresponded precisely with the character of those horrible atrocities which had occurred in other parts of the country. One case was that of a servant serving a particular farmer, who had incurred the displeasure of the wretched and deluded people. He had been served with a notice not to continue in the service of his master, but the unfortunate man was unshaken in his determination, and the next morning he was shot in open day by persons who had been lying in wait for him. He could sincerely assure the House that however much the attention of the government of Ireland had necessarily been occupied by the subjects to which he had just alluded, and in taking such measures as would answer the call of the resident gentry for protection against the atrocious outrages with which they were menaced, they had, nevertheless, not neglected to take into consideration, not only the topics to which the right hon. baronet had adverted, but others not less important to the permanent interests of the country. The noble marquis at head of the Irish government had applied his great talents most anxiously and unceasingly to the investigation of the causes of the unhappy state of society in that country. Before he (Mr. G.) left the seat of government, that noble lord had proceeded to a considerable ex- 1487 tent in his inquiries and investigations. But when his right hon. friend the attorney-general, and himself were absent attending to their duties in parliament, the difficulties of communication, which their separation from the lord lieutenant occasioned necessarily created delay in the execution of any measures which might be in contemplation. If, under such circumstances, the government had not ventured to propose, or were not now prepared with, measures to remedy such vast and deeply-rooted evils, it could not reasonably be imputed to a want of disposition on their part to secure the tranquillity of Ireland. When the government should have had time to take into full consideration the present grievances under which Ireland was labouring, he should be prepared to state what measures it was inclined to adopt, or else to give reasons for not adopting any, if such should seem the wiser policy. The measures that were now under the consideration of government were of such a nature as would remove from it the censure which the address of the right hon. baronet, if acceded to, would inflict upon it. He trusted, however, that the topics which he had the honour of urging to the House, would convince it that it would be at once impolitic and unjust to send forth the Irish government to administer the affairs of that country, under an impression that they had deserved the censure of the House, by neglecting those measures which were absolutely necessary to its welfare and tranquillization. The hon. secretary concluded, by moving the previous question.
§ Mr. N. Calvert
expressed his intentions of supporting the motion, and was desirous of stating briefly the reasons why he did so. The hon. member then proceeded to draw a comparison between the population and the revenues of Scotland and Ireland. He stated, that the population of Ireland was two-thirds greater than that of Scotland, notwithstanding which the revenues of the two countries were only equal. He was convinced, that, properly managed and governed, Ireland would be as productive to the means of the empire as any other of its branches. He did not mean to impute the least blame to the existing government of Ireland. It was to those governments which had passed away, that all her miseries were to be ascribed.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
felt, that on an occa- 1488 sion of so much importance it was the duty of every man to state the truth and the whole truth. He really was quite at a loss to conceive on what ground the right hon. the chief secretary for Ireland could conceive that the address proposed by his right hon. friend comprehended any stigma on the actual government of that country. Had that right hon. gentleman been in his place in the early part of the present session, he would have seen by the course taken by the legislature; that, so far was inquiry from being deprecated, it was expressly provided for by the manner in which the bills respecting Ireland passed through the House. Although the noble marquis at the head of the government was not sanguine enough to hope that the measures which he proposed for adoption would be sufficient to eradicate the evils for which they were intended as a remedy, if they were suffered to expire in six months, still their duration was limited to that period. Why had they been so limited, unless it were to allow a discussion like the present to take place, in order to show that parliament had not been entrapped, without due consideration in to the measures of severity to which it then gave its sanction? The acts to which he referred had been passed with the utmost possible quickness—the standing orders of the House had been suspended to forward them through their different stages. The suspension of the standing orders for the immediate passing of these bills was only justified; and was, indeed, only justifiable by the engagement which ministers and the House had made, that a full inquiry into the state of Ireland should take place before the renewal of these odious measures. It was therefore with a very bad grace that they were now to be told, when an inquiry was proposed, that it could not be granted, because it would infix a stigma on the government of Ireland. Suppose that it did so, still he maintained that they were bound to inquire whether their rapid legislation had been for the good of those to whom it was to be applied—whether it had been warranted by the emergency that had been alleged—and whether the same object might not have been accomplished by measures of a more generous and less coercive nature—measiires which, at the same time that they made Ireland feel the strength of the imperial legislature, did not leave her entirely unacquainted with its mildness and benevolence.
1489 The right hon. secretary had relieved him from the necessity of entering upon one point which had been strongly urged when this subject was last under discussion. It was then urged, that the distresses and disturbances of Ireland had originated with herself; that it was her own doing; and a doctrine had been maintained by the hon. member for Hertfordshire (Mr. W. Lamb), which went in its consequences to subvert all good feeling between the two countries: on the occasion to which he alluded, it had been observed (as indeed had been the case at other times when inquiry was resisted), "It is not the English government which has caused the evils of which you complain; the root of the grievance is among yourselves, and you must reform your own misdeeds before the country can be ameliorated—we can afford you no relief, we can hardly extend to you our sympathy." The right hon. gentleman had, however, refrained from following this example—he admitted a case of misgovernment, and the misery which had followed it; but he took care, in his admission, that the misgovernment should be of ancient date, and that whatever grievances existed, were to be traced to the misdeeds of times long past. When the right hon. gentleman admitted a case of misgovernment, he (Mr. Rice) was not aware within what limits of ancient history he meant to confine his admission: he was curious to find where the secretary for Ireland would place the commencement of the new system of wisdom and benevolence, and the close of that government of injustice and oppression. The right hon. gentleman had been peculiarly discreet. His shield was thrown over all kings and ministers of modern times, and the only persons whom he seemed willing to make the victims of his candour, were Henry the 2nd, and the earl of Pembroke, commonly called Strongbow [a laugh.] Though he agreed with the right hon. gentleman, that much of the desolation which had spread, and the bad feeling which existed, was to be attributed to the unhappy events of remote times, yet he must still contend that, by far the great majority of the evils which afflicted Ireland, were referrable to more recent transactions, and had their origin, in a system of misgovernment of much later date. He would not now go into the remoter causes of the evil, though he agreed that much desolation and ill feeling was caused by the transactions of that 1490 period. He maintained, that the great mass of the present evils arose from misgovernment of a later date. For, allowing that the feudal rapacity of the first invaders, whose doctrine was plunder and extermination, had produced much evil, was there any man so silly as to contend, that a wise and enlightened government of one or two centuries, or even of fifty years, would not be sufficient to correct that evil?
He would not go back to trace all the causes which produced the present state of things in Ireland. He was aware of the difficulty and danger of entering upon such topics. He knew the irritation likely to be caused by such discussions in minds which, though perhaps at present comparatively tranquil, were still lightly to be irritated. He should therefore come at once to the policy of later times. If gentlemen would, for a moment, draw a comparison between the present state of England and Ireland, they would at once be struck by the melancholy contrast—indeed that contrast, as it regarded Ireland, was sufficient to excite feelings of horror in any thinking mind. It might be asked, "What has produced this difference?" To this he answered, that in England there was felt an equal dispensation of the laws—an equal distribution of justice. Every Englishman felt himself shielded and protected by the spirit of a free constitution. This had been at once the nurse and safeguard of their freedom and happiness. What was the situation of Ireland? Was there any man bold enough to say, that Ireland had also enjoyed a free constitution and an impartial administration of law or of justice? Had his unhappy country ever been taught to feel the advantage of an impartial administration of justice? At what period of its history had such a doctrine been inculcated among the people? Was it during the early progress of the popery laws? Look at those disgraceful statutes but recently expunged from the statute-book. In thus adverting to this part of the subject, he did not mean to mix up the Catholic question with that then under discussion: another and a more proper period would arrive for discussing that question. But in as much as it was agreed upon all hands, both in and out of parliament, that these statutes were disgraceful, so far he had a right to use the argument to prove the unjust and impolitic manner irk which that country had been governed. 1491 Farther than this he did not mean at present to allude to the Catholic question, as its introduction might tend to create a difference of opinion. The right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Peel) would adroit it to be one thing to defend the present state of the popery laws, and quite another to justify that atrocious and bloody code which formerly polluted their Statute book, and imprinted its character upon the passions of the people. How was it possible that a system of legislation carried on in such a spirit could fail in forming the character of the population exposed to its infliction? Then as to the constitutional freedom growing out of the doctrine of representative liberty, what opportunities had the people of Ireland to acquire any knowledge of that? Up to the year 1782 they had no constitution—they had no adequate representation. They had Houses of Parliament, it was true; but it was in vain to seek in them the guardian spirit of a legislature. There were legislative puppets at work in them, who, unfortunately for the country, went through the forms of statutable enactments; but all they did was for the injury of the people. It must be always recollected, that previously to the reign of the late king, the Irish parliament sat during the life of the monarch. Such was the case of that parliament of George 2nd, which sat for 21 years, without any attempt to infuse young blood into its system, and without any recurrence to that constituent body which could alone secure to it the safety and validity of its representative character. Up to the year 1782, then, Ireland could not be said to have a constitution, and the country at that era acquired one through the powerful exertions and brilliant eloquence of a right hon. gentleman now, alas, no more (Mr. Grattan), and about whom it would be a profanation for him to say one word. His name would ever remain the boast of his country; it would be at all times his best eulogy. That great man was not generally known in England as a public man, until the close of his illustrious life; but enough of him was seen in that House to entitle him to their admiration; and in private society he was sufficiently known to have been the delight of every circle for his suavity and mildness of his character. But it was in Ireland where his, patriot name was felt with the warmest gratitude; it was there that he had laid for his admiring country the foundation 1492 of a constitution which would have laid a deep ground-work for the amelioration of the people's condition; which would have retrieved the national character from the deep stain of long misrule, had not the government of the day marred the aim of the patriot, and interposed its paralyzing influence. Though that great man had failed in achieving his god-like purpose, he had left behind him a name, second only to that of Washington, for the services he had planned in the regeneration of his country [Hear, hear!]. The government of Ireland had perverted the, means by which the constitution of 1782 was intended to have been salutary. The use they made of the legislature of that day was, to employ the honours of one branch of it to corrupt the independence of the other. No term of reproach was too bad for application to such a system. To show the degraded station to which power sunk for the purposes of political prostitution, be need only refer the House to an extract from the evidence of the accountant-general in the 10th Report of the Irish commissioners of fees, which had been lately laid on their table, and which was as follows:
"Query 1st.—Style of the office?—Answers. Accountant-general of the court of Exchequer.—2nd. Name of the officer? John O'Neil.—3rd. By whom appointed, and at what period, and how, and on what condition and consideration? I was appointed by the duke of Rutland, in August, 1784; my patent bears date the 5th Nov. 1784. With regard to the considerations and conditions, it is not, my wish to enter into any details or explanations on that subject, but it seems. I must obey. The consideration for, which I was appointed, was my giving a, seat in parliament for the borough of Rathcormick to Mr. Orde, the duke of. Rutland's secretary; that seat was given to me by the duke of Portland, then prime minister, and lord Northington, then lord-lieutenant, as a public mark of the gratitude of his majesty's government for, services rendered to it, at a period when, a civil war was threatened between England and Ireland; and lord Northington, if he had remained here, was to have put me forward to distinguished situations in my profession as a barrister. A few days before my return to parliament was to have taken place, the administration was changed; and there being no other seat vacant, and members having at that time 1493 no power to vacate their seats, the duke of Rutland requested me to relinquish my seat in favour of Mr. Orde, as his not being in parliament would be a great impediment to the public business: I complied with his request, and he and Mr. Orde assured me they would fulfil lord Northington's favourable intentions towards me. In about a year afterwards they gave me my present office, but there the performance of their promises stopped. When the duke of Portland again became prime minister, he wrote a letter to the duke of Richmond, in which he bore testimony to the justice of my claims on government, and strongly recommended me to him: on receiving the letter, his grace expressed his regret that there was no place then vacant, but he repeatedly promised to promote me when a favour, able opportunity occurred; and on the death of the duke of Portland, he assured me that that event should not make the least difference in his intentions towards me: however, I must take it for granted, that in the course of seven years no favourable opportunity of fulfilling his grace's promises did occur, for his grace is gone, and I find myself in the same situation in which I was 30 years ago, and have now only to claim the title of being the oldest official fixture in his majesty's service. I believe there is no instance of any man, with such claims and such promises, remaining 30 years unpromoted."
After reading this, which was only one of innumerable examples of the same system which occurred, and were mentioned as matter of course, how could they be surprised at the state of the country in Consequence? He did not Mean, in reading this extract, to cast the slightest imputation upon the administration of the duke of Richmond, as he wag sure that no one would be more ready to spurn from him any such transaction than the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Peel), who had acted as secretary to that nobleman. But he could not help admiring the quiet sort of tone in which this accountant-general made his statement upon oath, as if this whole base and corrupt transaction had been a matter of course.
He now came down to the Irish rebel lion of 1798; arid to the Union which followed it He should not, however, dwell upon these farther than by observing, that the circumstances of that Union, and 1494 the means used to carry the measures, were not such as were calculated to remedy the defects under which the national character of that country laboured. He would not rest satisfied with the concession of the Irish secretary, who admitted the misgovernment of Henry the 2nd, and perhaps of queen Elizabeth. He had no hesitation in attributing a considerable portion of the evils which now desolated Ireland to the 20 years government preceding the Union, to which indeed the last twenty years bore too strong and too fatal a resemblance. English oppression had lowered the national character of Ireland in early times, and the corruptions of the local government had nearly extinguished all political integrity at a later period. What was the first tribute which the imperial parliament of 1801 tendered to Ireland, in their first notice of the situation of that country after the Union. Their first statute was the Irish martial law bill; another, and another of the same character, succeeded in frightful succession, and all bore a Striking resemblance to the fountain from which they sprung, in the former acts of the Irish parliament. He did not mean to quarrel with measures of coercion, when the unhappy state of the country called indispensably for their enactment.—He had shown that by his votes in the present session; but in tracing the history of Irish legislation both before and since the Union, there appeared, as it were, two streams passing through the channel of parliament. In one flowed acts of strenuous finance, or equally strong coercion; the one with great malice, and the other with great power. In the other channel, the struggle was made, but made in vain, to procure an examination into the state and condition of the people, in the hope of discovering and applying some remedy for their evils. It was curious, in tracing these proceedings, to observe with what a singularly felicitous uniformity the channel of coercion always flowed, and that of inquiry was always resisted and impeded. What he most lamented now was, that the present administration seemed prepared to follow the track of the last, and postpone that investigation without which all discussion was useless. The present is not the time, said they to inquirers. When was the proper time for inquiry and redress to arrive?—"Oh," said the present administration of Ireland, "we are but very young in office:—"Young we 1495 are and sore afraid.'—We have not long held our offices, but do pray give us time, and you shall see what we will do for you" [Hear, hear!]. He feared that the present administrators becoming heirs to the promises of their predecessors, would become heirs to their performances also. As a instance how, little such promises could be relied upon, he took the liberty of referring to a history of promises given, and promises violated on the tithe question. In the year 1808 a right hon. friend of his, the knight of Kerry (Mr. M. Fitzgerald) had asked the then chancellor of the exchequer (Mr. Perceval) whether any measure was contemplated on the tithe question? That minister expressed the pleasure he felt in replying, that a measure was under consideration, by which he hoped something would be done. In 1809 the same question was again started by another hon. friend (Sir H. Parnell), and he was also dissuaded by a similar promise from Mr. Secretary Dundas from entering upon the subject then. In 1810, another secretary (Mr. W. W. Pole), now a member of the upper House, promised that, during the recess, he would devote himself assiduously to the subject, and the same promise was renewed in the following year. It was not at that time deemed quite expedient to withdraw the consolation of hope and promise from the country; but it was only prolonged to be eventually cast aside; for when the question subsequently came under consideration, it was opposed by the same minister, and the same miserable system of shuffling and temporising marked the policy of the government, and continued the calamities of the people.—It was, in fact, a government, not of wisdom and sound policy, but of paltry shifts and trifling expedients. It as idle to talk of this or that not being the time for entering on inquiry, and affording redress. Let the case be judged by its merits—if this was not done, then, it was impossible that any permanent system could ever be introduced. When was it, according to this practice, that Ireland could hope for inquiry? In her day prosperity it would be idle to call for it—the answer would then be, "See her situation—who calls for inquiry now?" In the time of adversity, the answer was, "Who can inquire in the heat of aggression; you must wait for more tranquiltimes?" Neither in tumult nor in peace, by day or by night, was the state of Ireland to be deemed ripe for inquiry. 1496Soles occidere atque redire possunt,—vobisNox est perpetua una dormienda.But from his knowledge of his country, he must tell those gentlemen who did not think the fit period for inquiry had arrived, that the consequence of rejecting an address like this, which merely pledged them to inquiry, and to consider the expediency of conciliation, would be fatal to the repose of the people. It would do far more mischief than the most irritating and angry discussion upon grievances from which some anticipated bad consequences. He called upon the House to tyke this subject into their serious consideration. Their deliberations were looked to with the most watchful anxiety from the other side of the water. There was one thing more dangerous than discussion; it was despair [Hear, hear!]. It would be cruel to the people of Ireland if there were no attention to be paid to their distresses or their sufferings. It was idle to say, that the resolutions of his right hon. friend cast an imputation on the Irish government of the present day. Nothing but the ingenuity of the right hon. secretary for Ireland could extract such a meaning from those resolutions. No matter what were the feelings of that House upon certain political points; it was their duty to exert the best faculties which God and nature had given them for the purpose of remedying those evils which were admitted on all hands to exist in Ireland. He denied the right, in strict justice, of passing strong measures without inquiring into the causes which made those strong measures necessary. He denied the wisdom of such a proceeding as a question of policy. Let him not be mistaken upon this point. If more coercive measures were called for, let the necessity be proved, and he was ready to grant them; but, in God's name, let them at least first try the effect of conciliation. The present measure pledged no man to any thing more than inquiry; beyond this no man would be pledged to go. He would be the last man to introduce into discussion any thing calculated to create any personal hostility or ill feeling. In looking to the causes of the present distresses, he was not mad enough to suppose that the legislature could by one act at once put an end to those distresses. But they could, at least, prevent those distresses from spreading and increasing. If the previous mode of governing Ireland 1497 had been found wrong, it surely was not too much to call upon government to retrace its steps.—It was said, that they ought to propose specific measures in the outset, and that then it would be found that many of the proposed specifics were inapplicable to the grievances with which some connected them. The right hon. gentleman had truly said, that tithes were not the exclusive cause of the present disorganization in Ireland; but he must concede to him (Mr. Rice) that they were mixed up in all the disturbances which so long prevailed, and it would be futile to devise any measure of relief which did not include an adjustment of the tithe question. If after all the magnificent expectations which had been held out upon that subject, the improvement was to end with the framing a bill to grant a power of leasing tithes, he would protest against the futility and inadequacy of such a measure; it would effect no good, and would leave all the difficulties to be still encountered; it would unsettle the whole subject, and prove a far less satisfactory or just measure towards the church than a commutation.
The hon. gentleman then referred to the petitions which had been presented to parliament from the extensive owners of tithes, praying for a commutation, and asked how their prayers could be overlooked? He then took an historical review of the course followed by the Irish parliament respecting tithes, and of the resolution voted in 1735, that House of Commons better known to hon. members as literary men than as politicians: he alluded to that memorable House of Commons described by Swift as the Legion Club. That House of Commons declared &c. &c. any man an enemy to his country who claimed a tithe upon grass land—a claim not made before 1720, but then made upon the ground of right. In 1800 the minister of that day, wishing the interests of the clergy not to depend upon what the primate of Ireland has called "a factious vote," removed the claim of tithe from the rich grass land which could afford to pay it, and imposed that particular tithe upon the labourer's tillage land, accumulating with a duplicate force the burthens of him who was least able to bear the pressure. On the whole, he knew no branch of the grievances of Ireland which more heavily pressed upon the condition and amelioration of society in that country than the 1498 question of tithes; and until that was rationally adjusted there could be no permanent prospect of tranquillity [Hear!]. It should also be remembered by English members, that whenever the tithe laws of Ireland were under discussion, there was not an Irishman in that House, whatever his political opinions, who did not join in calling for a revision of that system, as one which was oppressive to all classes, vexatious to those who paid, unsatisfactory to those who receive, and as rendering the, Protestant church hateful and odious to the Catholics of Ireland. He could not conclude without saying a few words upon the present system of education in Ireland. He was happy perceive that there had been in that country, during the administration of the two last secretaries, some approximation towards those British principles of education, which alone could create a well-ordered state of things in Ireland. It was by a strict attention to the education of the young, that they could form any hope of averting that system of: demoralization, which unfortunately existed in that country. There were 8,000 schoolmasters employed in instructing the youth of Ireland; but if a general calculation were made of their labours, he feared that in too many instances the system of education would be found vicious and bad. What would the House think, for instance, of the circulation among the boys, as a sort of text-book, of the history of freebooter who figured 50 years ago in Ireland, as captain Rock was now represented to figure? What could result from the diffusion of a taste for such books, but the most mischievous results? He thought that too much attention could not be directed to this point, as it was one upon which the future peace and tranquillity of Ireland mainly depended. But in this, as in all the other cases to which he alluded, the system was in fault. The system practised towards Ireland led to the conviction that no practical improvement was intended—that measures of severity and of coercion alone were to be put in force. He conjured the House not to overlook the opportunity of inducing the people of Ireland to believe that they were sincerely disposed to apply a practical remedy to their evils. The same afflicting state of things to which the attention of the House had thinks that night called, was, in some degree, considered and described in the discussions which, had taken place within 1499 those walls in 1816. These discussions he found stated in language so beautiful—marked by a spirit so fair and discriminating, and enlightened by a patriotism so clear and evident, that any extract which he might desire now to quote, he could only give effect to by repeating the very words in which it was recorded. "If the Insurrection act is to be continued," it was then stated; "if the people of Ireland was to be subjected to domiciliary visits in the night, to be liable to be imprisoned, and even transported, not by the verdict of a jury, but by summary commitment; if all these terrible miseries are to be inflicted, the House would neglect, would grossly abandon its duty, if they refused to inquire why such things were necessary, and how they were to be avoided. Exile and death were not the instruments of government but the miserable expedients which showed the absence of all government."* Mr. Rice hoped that these liberal opinions would not, on the present occasion, be discovered or abandoned by the hon. member who, in 1816, had pronounced them. It was in Order that parliament might now interfere to rescue the people of Ireland from similar visitations, to preserve them from the same degradation to which they were subjected at the period just mentioned, that he (Mr. Ride) now balled upon the House to support the motion of his right hon. friend [Cheers]. At the period of the Union what were the promises which had been made to the people of Ireland? It was then objected, that their representatives would find themselves among Strangers—that they would be removed to a great distance from their countrymen and their estates—that they would be thrown entirely among English interests; and amidst a crowd of English members would form a distinct and unequal body. He (Mr. Rice) had nester known that body as a distinct one in that House; and while he had the honour of sitting there; he would never acknowledge any such invidious distinction. To these objections it was answered, however, "Oh, no; you may trust an imperial parliament; you may rely upon the honour of gentlemen; for those in whom you will have to confide are Englishmen." It was to that honour that he now appealed. It was in the same spirit of honour that he now declared, that if there* Vide Speech of the Right Hon. W. C. Plunkett, Debates Vol. 34, p. 43.1500 was any thing in the motion of the right hon. baronet which could justly cause it to be considered as a party measure, he trusted it would be treated as such, and in that character be rejected by his majesty's government. But in truth it was nothing like a party vote. It was brought forward in the same spirit of confidence in which his right hon. friend had, on a former occasion, proposed a similar course of proceeding all that his right hon. friend now required, being to have something specific in the shape of a pledge on this occasion, in order to distinguish it from the mere general pledge of ministers in former parliaments, which had been repeatedly given, and as frequently violated.
Mr. Charles Grant
rose and said:* Sir;—If I thought that the failure of the present motion would in the smallest degree tend to make the people of Ireland believe that this House is careless of their interests, I should feel more hesitation than I do in resolving on the vote which I, shall this night give. But, as I trust it wily produce no such impression, I shall follow, without scruple, the course which, seems to me most advisable. I concur with most, if not all, of the statements and representations of my right hon. friend, and those who have supported him; but I cannot concur in his motion, because it appears to me to imply an unmerited censure on the Irish government. At the commencement of the session, Sir, I expressed my confidence in that government, and I am not aware that any thing has yet occurred which should induce rue to withdraw that confidence. If I believed the reproach, apparently conveyed by this motion, to be just, I should most willingly accede to it; but, as my persuasion is of a different kind, it would be scarcely fair or honest in me to make myself a party to the implication. I am glad, however, that the important subject of the state of Ireland has been brought under the consideration of the House; and I shall beg leave to offer some remarks upon it, not in the presumptuous hope of adding much that is new, either in statement or argument, to what has already been so well said; but because I think it the duty of every member to supply the House, on this interesting subject with such information, however limited, as it may be in his power to afford.*> From the original edition, printed for Hatchard and Son.1501 It is important for the House to bear in mind, that the disturbance which now prevails in Ireland, is not a single or an insulated occurrence. Unless this circumstance be always held in recollection, we shall be in danger of mistaking both the nature of the evil and the proper remedies to be applied. The fact is, that the present is only one of a series of commotions, closely resembling each other in their general character and in their leading or predisposing causes, which have, for the last sixty years, broken out in succession in different parts of Ireland, and principally in the south. The House will permit me, without entering on any long or fatiguing course of historical detail, to take a rapid review of some of the most prominent among the unhappy transactions to which I allude. The first occurred in 1760, and the actors in it were termed Levellers; and afterwards, from their wearing, as an uniform, white frocks or shirts over their clothes, White Boys. Its commencement may be traced to an inclosure of commons, in violation, as was urged by the occupiers, of the promises of their landlords. The tenants, debarred, by what they deemed an instance of flagrant breach of faith, from enjoying the rights of commonage to which they considered themselves entitled, proceeded to level the fences of the new enclosures, and to commit other outrages of a similar nature; and, having thus commenced a career of violence against their landlords, strictly in the character of Levellers, they very soon extended their hostilities to another quarter; and, under, the more familiar appellation of White Boys, took upon themselves to resist the payment of tithes, and to attack the rights of the clergy.
This commotion desolated the south for several years: it would appear indeed not to have been finally composed until the year 1775–6;that at least is the date of the act which was passed in consequence of those troubles, and which is known by the title of the White Boy act. But though this act, in its present state, did not pass till 1775, an act of a similar nature, though milder in its provisions, intituled, "An Act to prevent for the future tumultuous Risings of Persons within this Kingdom," was first passed as a temporary law, in 1765, and renewed from time to time till 1775. Indeed the White Boy act itself was at first a temporary act."
1502 In 1763 and 1764 appeared the Hearts, of Oak in the county of Armagh. The discontent in this case originated in a grievance connected with the system of road-making; and here again, as in they former instance, the effect outgrew the immediate cause; the wretched people proceeding from the primary object of their hostility to contend against the payment of tithes, and to call for an abatement of the price of land. These tumults were quelled by the military power. It is remarkable, that this last is the only instance in which a law was passed specifically to meet the original cause of complaint; and, in the event, the enactment of that law was followed by the final restoration of tranquillity. In 1769, the counties of Antrim and mown were convulsed by the Hearts of Steel; a disturbance which, in its origin so far resembled the present, that its exciting cause was the resentment produced in the minds of a body of tenantry by what they deemed the oppressive conduct of the agents of a great landed proprietor. The evil, was, as usual, suppressed by force; but, in order to prevent the recurrence of the same or similar disorders, the Irish legislature, in 1775, passed the White Boy act already mentioned. The ill success, however, which has attended the operation of that law, notwithstanding the unexampled severity of its provisions, may supply another proof how little is to be expected from the sanguinary policy to which England has so frequently resorted in the government of her Irish dominions.
In 1787, a very formidable disturbance broke out in the province of Munster, and continued to rage for years with singular violence, the fury of the rioters being peculiarly directed against the clergy. A little earlier, or in 1785, commotions of a still more alarming nature commenced in the north; where two parties were formed, called Peep-of-Day Boys and Defenders. They were arrayed against each other, and not, as to their immediate objects at least, against the government; but their acts were of the most lawless nature; and, gradually increasing in numbers and animosity, they, in 1788, assumed a character so formidable, that it was impossible, without serious apprehension, to look forward to the ultimate issue of their proceedings. They used to meet in large bodies, provided with fire-arms and other implements 1503 of destruction, and to engage in pitched battles so violent, that sometimes not fewer than fifty persons were left dead on each side. Notwithstanding the efforts of government, and although the military were employed in great force to aid the civil power in the execution of the laws, this feud continued to ravage the country until it was merged some years afterwards in the troubles of the United Irishmen.
In order to provide the executive authorities of the state with new and powerful means of guarding the public tranquillity, the Irish parliament, for the first time, passed the Insurrection act in 1796. Then followed the rebellion 1798, and the Union in 1800. The Union, it was hoped, would allay those frequent convulsions, and restore the peace of the country; but no such effect has yet been produced by that important measure. In 1806, very serious disorders took place in Sligo, Mayo, and some adjoining counties, and their progress was marked by the same modes of plunder houses, of destruction of property, and of personal violence, in short by all those outrages which have characterised more recent disturbances. The Insurrection act was renewed in 1807. In 1807, the county of Limerick, the scene, if not the cradle of the present evils, was alarmingly disturbed. In 1811 and in 1812, the counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Limerick, Westmeath, Roscommon, and King's-county, became the theatre of the same sanguinary tumults. In 1815, a great part of the county of Tipperary, considerable portions of the King's-county, and county of Westmeath, and the whole of that at Limerick, were placed under the Insurrection act. The counties of Limerick and Tipperary, however, continued in a dreadful state, and they remained under the Insurrection act, until that act, after a temporary renewal in 1817, finally expired in 1818. In 1817, part of the county of Louth was subjected to the Insurrection act. In 1820, came the disturbance in the county of Galway, and in 1821, the actual deplorable outrages in that of Limerick. With respect to the latter, it is notorious, as I have already intimated, that they originated in the discontent and resentment excited in the minds of the tenants of a very extensive property, by the proceedings of the agent under whose management that property was placed. This was the proximate cause; and, without reference to 1504 any other circumstances, it is obvious bow widely the peace of a county would be affected, when a body of tenantry, amounting to twenty thousand persons, were thrown into a state of furious agitation.
But there were circumstances peculiar to the county of Limerick, calculated greatly to spread and inflame any disorder that might be excited by local pressure. This county, as I have observed, has been for years in a troubled and disorganized condition. The inhabitants, and especially the population of the particular districts in which the present evils originated, have always been peculiarly distinguished by their ignorance and lawless habits. I have understood from persons who have had peculiar opportunities of observation, and especially from advocates and judges, whom the course of their circuits has made familiar with the county, that the peasantry of the south-west part of it, and not only the mere peasantry, but even the class somewhat above the lowest order, are marked by an uncommon ferocity of character, by a lamentable disregard to moral obligation, and by a desperate determination in the prosecution of their designs. There is no part of Ireland, in which those vivid recollections of past history, which (as my hon. friend the member for Limerick has remarked) so extensively prevail among the Irish, are more ardently cherished than in the county in question. It is astonishing indeed to observe the force and intensity of those mental associations. As a proof of my assertion, I may mention that at the time of the Union, a person of rank, holding a high official situation in Ireland, and possessing considerable influence, became en object of extreme dislike and jealousy to the Irish people in general, but especially to the inhabitants of the county of Limerick; and chiefly, as I have been informed, from this cause:—that the actual situation of the country brought powerfully home to their minds a circumstance handed down by tradition and currently believed, that an ancestor of this individual had, in the battle of Aughrim in 1691, betrayed his country, and decided the fate of the day by passing over to the English.
Such, Sir, has been the series of commotions which for the last sixty years have tormented and desolated Ireland. It is remarkable how nearly they resemble each other in their principal features, though 1505 varying unquestionably in the shades of atrocity. It would be easy to quote, with regard to each of them, passages, of speeches pronounced in parliament, or of publications written at the time, which, with slight alterations, would describe them all. The complaints respecting the causes of those calamities are, through this long period, nearly echoes of each other. In truth they all sprung immediately from local oppressions, and were diffused and propagated by the operation of the same peculiar circumstances in the character and condition of the people of Ireland. They were all in succession quelled; but as vet no effort has been made by the legislature to effect a permanent and satisfactory cure. This very fact however—I mean the continued recurrence of such events—is itself a proof that there must be something diseased in the system. In every country, local oppression may take place, and local commotions may fellow. But the question that naturally suggests itself with respect to Ireland is this: How does it happen that a local commotion becomes so rapidly a general disturbance? How does it happen that the spirit which, at first discovers itself in a small district, spreads almost instantaneously over a large territory, and throws, in a very short time, nearly half a province into the most frightful convulsion? This is the peculiarity of the subject. What is the state of society that admits of such an evil? Are there no laws? no guards and preservatives of civil order? no barriers to resist encroachments on the public tranquillity?
Now, Sir, I have not the presumption to attempt a developement of all the causes that may lead to the results which I have described. But I think that, on looking into the state of Ireland, the House will not have much difficulty in discovering some, at least, of the circumstances by which the minds of the people in general are prepared to receive the infection of every local agitation by whatever casual or peculiar incident it may in the first instance, have been occasioned. The immediately promoting cause of this propensity is to be found, I apprehend, in the generally abject condition of the Irish peasantry. I do not speak with reference to the pressure of temporary or local distress, such as that which, prevails, I am sorry to say, at the present moment in Clare and some of the 1506 south-western counties of Ireland; a1though, as I have touched on this topic, I cannot help earnestly recommending the immediate consideration of it to my right hon. friend (Mr. Goulburn) and the Irish government. I cannot indeed doubt that it has already attracted their attention; but, if the accounts which I have received are correct, there are not only symptoms of approaching famine, but the famine has actually begun, and unless instant measures are taken for the purpose of checking or limiting its progress, the consequences both of scarcity and fever may be tremendous. I speak, however, at present, of the general and ordinary condition of the Irish peasantry. In 1787, the late lord Clare, then attorney-general of Ireland, pronounced that it was impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable peasantry in the province of Munster. I do not know that I should go quite so far; but I am apt to believe the Irish the most wretched peasantry in Europe, excepting perhaps the Polish. Their whole scale of existence is in all respects the lowest possible. Their raiment, their diet, their habitations, all are of the very cheapest and humblest kind. I need not say that their usual food, the potatoe, is attained with remarkable facility, and is in ordinary years sufficiently abundant; but it is a production, the crops of which are peculiarly liable to failure. The consequence of this habitual depression of the people to the lowest point, is, that in case of any reverse, however trivial, they have nothing to fall back upon. They are left completely without resources. The commonest variation of fortune, the least calamity, the slightest visitation of Providence, reduces them at once to absolute misery.
Mr. Arthur Young, indeed, gives a very pleasing picture of the interior of Irish cabin, where he describes the cottager, his wife, his children, the beggar, the cow, and the pig, enjoying at the same trough their common meal. And it is very true, that, when there is an abundant supply of potatoes and of milk (and I may add, where there is a cow, which is rarely the case,) this is a correct picture; for the constitutional hilarity and cheerfulness of the people, and their uncommonly sociable disposition, lead them to enjoy, with peculiar zest and relish, and advantages which may be afforded to them by nature. But 1507 then this is a cheerfulness without foresight; an hilarity thoughtless and reckless of the future; the smallest reverse, as I have already said, sweeps their all away, and sinks them into utter destitution and despair.
There is a remarkable difference in the relation of landlord and tenant as it exists in England' and in Ireland. In England, the landlord provides the buildings of his tenants, and is answerable for the repairs; and frequently he takes a pride in fulfilling this duty, not only with exactness, but even with munificence. In Ireland, generally speaking, for I know there are exceptions, no deductions made from the rent on these accounts. The tenant must supply himself with every thing; if, on entering into his farm, he finds, as is usually the case, either wretched hovels or a farm-house in a state of ruin, he must himself incur the expense of repairing or building anew, or otherwise he must be content to live in the habitually sordid condition to which he has hitherto been doomed. I am persuaded that we may ascribe much of the depressed state of the lower orders in Ireland to this single circumstance. It materially checks the progress, or rather it destroys the very beginnings; or improvement, and keeps the whole tenantry in hopeless degradation. It is not easy to see by what legislative means this evil can be remedied; but I would respectfully submit to the landlords of Ireland, whose feelings towards their tenantry are, I am sure, honourable and merciful, to take it into their serious consideration, whether they might not materially benefit the people, and in a great degree elevate them from their degraded condition, by following, in the point which I have mentioned, the example of the landed proprietors of England.
It should not be overlooked on this subject, that the population of Ireland is increasing with a rapidity almost incredible. It is now proceeding at a rate by which it should double itself every forty-six years. One cause which mainly contributes to this rapid increase is the continuance in practice of the old common law of gavelkind. It was once the law of Ireland, but has long been abolished; in all parts of the country, however, the invariable tendency of the people is to observe it. I could mention remarkable instances both in the north and south, but indeed the fact is too notorious to require a reference to particular instances. A 1508 farmer, if he has five sons or ten sons, never entertains the thought of sending them into the world to work their own fortune. His first object is to subdivide his own farm, be it twenty or thirty or forty acres, into as many separate farms as he can stock with children. Hence that minute subdivision of land, which forms a peculiar characteristic of Ireland. The evil is still farther aggravated by an effect incidental to the law passed in 1793 respecting the elective franchise. That law, excellent as it was in its principle, and fulfilling, though tardily, the claims of justice in one important respect, yet held out a temptation to landlords to break and parcel out their properties, in order to multiply votes. Unfortunately the temptation has been successful in a very remarkable degree; and thus encouragement has been given to what I must call a vicious excess of population. How this incidental consequence of that just law can be obviated or can be remedied, it is perhaps now not easy to say. The expediency of any legislative interposition for the purpose may be doubted; but we may hope that the evil will in some degree remedy itself; and, if I am not misinformed, in some parts of the country this natural self-correction is already taking place.
In addition to the distresses that ordinarily press on the people, there are others which have of late been peculiarly felt in the south and south-west. The return of peace extinguished the provision trade, the great staple and reliance of the south. The depreciation of all agricultural produce was a heavy blow. To show how fatally this depreciation must have borne on the small farmer, I will mention only one instance. Wheat, which, in the good times, as they are called, sold at three, four, or even five guineas a barrel, has within these few months been sold in the county of Cork at sixteen shillings a barrel. The shock given to public credit in 1820, added severely to the distress then existing. It destroyed what remained of energy by removing the possibility of exertion, and thus prevented the struggle which the employers of the poor would have made to soften the descent of the country from a state of demand unexampled both in extent and duration, to the former of the agricultural market.
Such then, generally speaking, is the ordinary condition of the Irish peasantry, particularly in the south; and such have 1509 been its aggravations, at the present time. So circumstanced, it may well be imagined that they fall an easy prey to the attempts of any agitators. From whatever stimulus local commotion may arise, it finds a prompt incentive in the miseries of the people. It is their common language, that the wretchedness of their situation is such as to admit of no aggravation—that they have nothing to hope; and it must at least be owned that they have little to hazard. But, having once taken advantage of this general and habitual feeling of hopeless distress as its first ally, the evil meets with powerful auxiliaries towards its farther progress in certain other peculiar causes of irritation. We know that the cry of these deluded marauders applies to three particulars, rents, taxes, and tithes; and it cannot be denied that each of these is in some respects too well calculated to excite emotions of vexation and discontent.
With respect to rents, I believe that the landlords of Ireland, as a body, are as much disposed to consider the situation of their peasantry as the landlords of England. There are amongst them noble examples of kindness and humanity, and of a constant endeavour to instruct and to elevate their tenantry. It must be admitted, however, that, during the period of high prices, the rents became exorbitant; and, although large reductions have, in many instances, been made and are still in progress, the abatement has not perhaps on the whole been so considerable as the circumstances of the times demand. I am convinced that in many cases, where such reductions have not taken place, the reason has been, not that there is any want of will on the part of the landlords; but because, being themselves involved in the same difficulties and from the same the causes with their tenantry, they are precluded from indulging what I cannot doubt would be the natural bias of their minds.
A great part of the property in the disturbed districts, we must also recollect, is absentee property; and, on the tenants on such estates, the ordinary pressure of Irish poverty falls with aggravated force. There are no people who receive more cordially the sympathy of their superiors than the Irish, and none, in consequence, who feel the want of it more poignantly. On the absentee properties the people are placed in charge either of an agent, or of his bailiff or deputy. Often the agent himself is an absentee also; and, in addi- 1510 tion to the rent which the tenants pay to the landlord, they are frequently obliged to offer pecuniary considerations both to the agent and the deputy. It is very true that it happens not rarely that a landlord is an absentee only from necessity. If be has large possessions in England, he is fairly entitled to an option of residence between the two countries; and there may be weighty or even imperative considerations to determine that option in favour of England. But, in such a case, though he may lose no opportunity of visiting his Irish estates, those occasional and transient visits will not compensate for his general absence. The single atonement, he can offer is by a judicious selection of an agent. Instances indeed will occur to every person acquainted with the subject, of agents chosen so happily, that little in, convenience is felt from the non-residence of the landlord. I will mention an example in the case of one of the largest proprietors in the south of Ireland, I mean the duke of Devonshire, whose yet closer connexion with England naturally separates him from his Irish estates. It is certainly not possible that the influence or exertions of any substitute, however meritorious, should effectually fill up the void occasioned by the absence of that noble person. Yet, so far as the vacancy is capable of being supplied, it is so by the gentleman whom he has most judiciously selected to hold his place in Ireland; a gentleman, who, by his kindness, liberality, prudence, and management, has conferred very important benefits on the tenantry confided to his care. Other examples of the same nature might be adduced; but, in general, the absence of the great proprietors—the habit of letting lands to the highest bidder, without any regard to the claims of the former occupiers, which itself is a consequence of that absence—and other circumstances connected with the management of landed property—have certainly furnished too much ground for the complaint which has been prevalent in Ireland against the rate of rents.
Another alleged grievance is that of taxes. It is necessary perhaps to remark that, when the Irish poor complain of taxes, they do not mean the taxes paid to the government, or the public taxes, but the taxes imposed by the grand juries,—that is, the local and county assessments. All the county expenses are presented, as it is technically termed, by the grand juries, and they are levied by an acreable 1511 tax in the respective baronies. These assessments swelled to an enormous height during the war; and, although they have since been in a certain degree reduced, they are yet in some instances most exorbitant, and press with peculiar severity on the immediate occupiers of land. In the county of Cork, for example, the assessments for each plough-land (a denomination of land familiar in that county) amounted, about thirty years ago, to five or six shillings; during the war it rose to twenty or twenty-five pounds. It has since sunk, and now varies between twelve and fifteen pounds; within limits it seems likely to be stationary. I merely give this as a single specimen of the degree in which these assessments have increased, and of the inadequate manner in which they nave subsequently been diminished. It is a hardship too upon the tenantry, that all the imposts of which I speak, for whatever purpose levied, arc paid by them, and by them (in the first instance) exclusively. The assessment for roads might perhaps naturally fall upon them, because it might be considered as a commutation for their labour; but why the assessments for charitable institutions, for fever hospitals, and even for purposes in which they have still less concern, should also be charged on them, it is not easy to discover.
I have heard it observed, indeed, and by persons whose judgment I respect, that the people, though sensible of the pressure of these assessments, and believing them to be obtained by what is termed "jobbing," yet often do not complain of them as a grievance, nor desire their, removal, because they find that the money thus procured is expended among themselves. Now, Sir, I believe that this uncomplaining acquiescence, although it may exist in some places, is very far from being general; and, to say the truth, even were the feeling universal, I should only regard it as a stronger reason for a correction of the system. For what is this but to habituate the peasant to acquiesce, from interested views, in a practice which he believes to be improper, and which, as he cannot but feel, may perhaps conduce to his benefit only at the expense of others yet poorer than himself? Besides, if there be any country in which it is more especially necessary that the avowed and the real motives of public conduct should coincide, that country is Ireland; on account of the 1512 tendency so prevalent among the Irish people to believe, that public men, amidst much profession of a regard for the public welfare, are in fact swayed only by unacknowledged considerations of private interest.
I will not at this time enter much into the question of tithes, the third head of popular complaint in Ireland. It appears from what has passed this evening, that the whole of that subject will come in a separate shape before the House. It would be useless, therefore, to occupy the attention of the House with any lengthened remarks upon it; but I will beg to offer one or two observations. I believe that the evils resulting from this cause have been much exaggerated; but I have been astonished to find that attempts have been made to construe the slightest intimation of the expediency of some improvement in the collection of tithes, or the most moderate proposal of a modification of the system itself, into an expression of hostility to the established church. I disclaim any such hostility, and protest against such a construction. Not only is there no necessary ground for the imputation; but, if a consideration of the welfare of the lower classes of Ireland were completely out of the question, I maintain that a regard for the interests of the Protestant religion and the established church,—a desire to improve the comforts and promote the usefulness of the Protestant clergy—would alone form a sufficient inducement for the serious consideration of the question of tithes, with a view to some correction of its acknowledged evils. I am sure that my right hon. friend (sir J. Newport) has been misunderstood in what fell from him this evening. He has been supposed to represent this subject as involving a contest between the rights of the people and the rights of the church. I am confident that such was not his meaning. There is, in truth, no contest whatever. The rights of the people and the rights of the church are the same. If ever there was a case in which the interests of the people at large were identified with those of t particular order of men, this is that case.
Surely, Sir, it cannot be regarded as advantageous to the cause of religion, it cannot be considered as a part a the rights of the church, that the very first act, to which a clergyman entering on his duties shall be compelled, shall be to 1513 engage in a conflict on a pecuniary subject with his flock—the flock whom he is to instruct, to attach to his person, and to conciliate to his ministration. Under the present system, the greatest sufferer is the best and most conscientious clergyman. The non-resident—the incumbent, if such there be, careless of his sacred functions, insensible to the interests of his parishioners, and indifferent consequently to their or hatred— may exact from them the utmost amount of his legal demands. The disinterested pastor, on the other band, anxious to engage the affections of his flock, in order that he may win them to the discharge of their highest duties, must purchase this advantage by the sacrifice of a very considerable part of his lawful income. Surely such a state of things cannot be for the advantage of religion, nor conducive to the safety of the Protestant establishment.
The clergy of Ireland, Sir, are a very respectable body, and, of late years especially, there has been a marked advancement in all particulars belonging to the clerical character. Independently of the performance of their proper duties, they hold, in Ireland, a very important civil situation. They supply the absence of the gentry, and in this respect confer great benefits on the country, both as resident gentlemen and as magistrates. I do not blame the clergy for employing tithe proctors, or agents. It is impossible for them to avoid it. For, should a clergyman take it upon himself to transact in person all the requisite negotiations between himself and his parishioners, he must sink in their estimation, and detract from that respect which is essential to the due discharge of his office. He must gradually become secularized in his own habits and feelings; and his time will be chiefly employed, not in the exercise of his calling, but in trafficking with his people on the lowest points of self-interest. The clergy, therefore, are of necessity obliged to employ tithe proctors; but it is of this very necessity that I complain. This is the cardinal evil of the system. The great objection to tithes does not respect their amount, nor that they are paid to the clergyman; the evil results principally from the mode in which they are collected.
In considering the operation of peculiar circumstances on a peculiar people, we cannot overlook the temper and disposi- 1514 tion of that people. Thus only can we estimate the greater or less degree of hardship which they may experience from any particular custom or regulation.
Now, the Irish are, of all others, a people susceptible, easily excited, and above all things impatient of a continued course of fretful vexations. And it is upon this sore point particularly that the collection of tithes presses. For, observe what is' the course of proceeding, and the continual molestation which the farmer experiences. In the month of May, two viewers come to look at his crop, just rising from the ground. At the period of harvest they return to estimate the tithes. In the month of October appears the tithe proctor, to announce the amount of the tithe. He receives from the farmer a note, payable fifteen days before the January sessions. Fifteen days before the January sessions he returns. It the farmer is unable to pay, legal process is served, and costs are incurred. At the sessions, the note is perhaps renewed, and made payable fifteen days before the April sessions. Fifteen days before the April sessions, the proctor again returns. If the farmer is still unable to pay, he is brought into court, and then law has its course. In May again the viewers resume their visits, and the same tormenting routine recommences. Thus the entire circle of the year, from May to April, is filled up, and the mind the farmer is kept in a constant fever of agitation. Now, extend this from farms to villages, and districts, and counties—and, I think, you will see what a fruitful source is here opened for discontents and heart-burnings, and, in the event, for the most serious troubles.
This state of continued irritation is also aggravated by the habit of allowing arrears of tithes to accumulate; a habit which throws the peasantry completely at the feet of the proctor—or a person whom they detest. The conviction that, at the beck of the proctor, they and their families may at any moment be overwhelmed by the law, and reduced to beggary, drives them almost to desperation. The same circumstance, of the accumulation of arrears, applies also, as I ought before to have observed, to the subject of the rent of estates, and places the tenant in a position of subjection to the agent, or bailiff, not less galling than his dependence on the tithe proctor.
Such, Sir, as I conceive, are some of 1515 the peculiarities in the state of the Irish peasantry which facilitate the progress of active disaffection, after it has once gained any ground. But, when the mischief has availed itself of these facilitating circumstances, it finds, besides and beyond all these, a yet deeper and more settled principle to assist and promote its growth. I mean, a rooted distrust, among the people, of the intentions of the British government and legislature—the fatal legacy of six hundred years of injustice and oppression. Strange as it may seem, the sentiment to which I allude is not usually a feeling of disaffection to the constitution, nor a want of attachment to the sovereign. The allegiance of the people to the person of the king has recently manifested itself in a very remarkable manner; nor, as I believe, have they, generally speaking, any wish to change the frame of the government, or to subvert the authority from which the laws proceed. But the laws themselves they regard as hostile to their interests, and therefore as fairly to be met either by direct resistance or by evasion. In this respect, the disposition of a great portion of the Irish, with reference to the laws in general, seems to be analogous to that which to a considerable extent prevails in this country with regard to one particular branch of the law; I mean that which relates to the revenue. It appears to be almost a received opinion amongst some persons, and even amongst persons in other respects decently conscientious, that the revenue laws are a fair object of enmity; that it is perfectly allowable to deceive and defeat them if possible. We know further, that one class of men, who gain their livelihood by an evasion of the revenue laws, and are almost in a state of avowed war against them, yet at the same time feel no hostility towards the authority from which those laws emanate, nor are found to resist that authority in any other way. On the contrary, having one day shed their blood in opposition to the law, these men are often equally ready, on the next, to shed it for their king and country. Inconsistent as this may seem, somewhat of the same sort of feeling pervades, I am sorry to think, a considerable part of the Irish people, with respect to the law generally. They have a rooted conviction that it was not made for their benefit. They regard it only as a despotic master; and are but too ready to evince that sentiment, whenever the opportunity arrives.
1516 Deeply as we must all condemn the atrocious acts to which this prepossession has led, can we wonder that it should be entertained? From the earliest times down to a late period, the general stream of legislation has been against the people of Ireland. I do not speak only of the labouring classes; I speak of the great mass of the population. They have, as a people, been excluded from the benefits of the British constitution. During the late reign, indeed, a propitious change took place; but the amendment, though great, is even yet far from complete, and it is much more lamentable than surprising that the impressions left by the long previous course of misrule should have survived their principal causes. I need not advert to the four hundred years which preceded the complete and ultimate subjugation of the island in the reign of James the 1st. Sir John Davis, in his memorable work on the causes which prevented the final civilization of the Irish, attributes the effect, in no small degree, to the policy which excluded them from a communion of laws with England. We know, indeed, that, at one time, a distinction was made between a mere Irishman, or (as he was termed) a pure Hibernian, and an Englishman;—that the English law was not extended to the mere or pure Irish, even though they earnestly requested that privilege: that it was scarcely a crime to murder a pure Irishman;—and that this system of exclusion continued till the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Sir John Davis, in the work to which I have alluded, while considering the natural advantages of Ireland—the beauty of the country—the fertility of its soil—the number and magnitude of its rivers—the happiness of its climate—the genius and character of its inhabitants—breaks out into an ecstacy at the contemplation, and anticipates for that fine region better and, happier days, in consequence of the corrected system of government and legislation which the prudence of James the 1st, had introduced. He predicts that Ireland would flourish, because it was thenceforward to exist under one law, one king, and one allegiance, with England. What would have been the feelings of that writer, if he could have foreseen that, although the distinction between the Irish and the English of the pale was abolished, yet, in the place of that distinction, another of a still more noxious character was 1517 to arise? The line of demarcation was to be no longer between the Irishman and and the Englishman, but between the Protestant and the Catholic. That century, therefore, which commenced so auspiciously, was, in the sequel, marked by incidents still more fatal to the peace and happiness of Ireland than those which had gone before. It was a century of injury, exasperation and revenge—of war, and bloodshed, and spoliation. During that century, nearly the whole landed property of the island changed masters by confiscation. There were three memorable confiscations—in the time of James the first—in the time of Cromwell—and at the period of the Revolution. The entire area of Ireland is reckoned at twelve millions of Irish acres; of that number, lord Clare states that eleven millions and a half underwent confiscation in the course of the century. It was said of Henry the 2nd, that, when he left Ireland, he did not leave one' subject more in his allegiance, than when he entered it, The remark may be applied to William the 3rd. He quitted the Irish shore as a conqueror, but the number of his faithful adherents was not augmented by a single individual. And the seventeenth century closed only by leaving deeper seeds of discontent and hatred towards England in the hearts of the Irish people than it had found.
Then came the anti-commercial code, and the anti-catholic code, marching side by side, and combining their strength for the great object of crushing by the most efficacious means the talent, the industry, the enterprise, and the improvement of the people. The anti-commercial code extending itself over every part of the population, repressed the energies, and prevented the growth and progress of the opulence of the whole country. The anti-catholic code, not quite so unlimited in the sphere of its operation, yet included the far greater portion of the people, who, thus doubly oppressed, were reduced to the lowest state of humiliation.
The eighteenth century advanced. Better principles gained ground; and, at length, the irresistible progress of knowledge opened the way for the relaxation of both those codes. The more obnoxious restrictions on commerce were removed; the Catholic laws were gradually softened down; nor can it be doubted that these improvements which distinguished the reign of our late revered 1518 monarch produced a favourable impression on the minds of the Irish. Let it be observed, however, that nearly in proportion as the Catholic code was mitigated, there arose another, which might also be termed a penal code, and established itself in the country. I mean that system of fierce and violent legislation, to which we owe the White-boy and Insurrection acts, and other regulations of a similar nature. It is very true, that when that system began, which was about the year 1765, it seemed to be required by a very pressing exigency; but it must be remembered, that an alleged emergency had also been the foundation of the Catholic code. Whether required or not, however, the effect of that course of angry legislation has been in a very considerable degree to counteract the salutary impressions produced by the relaxation of the anti-commercial and anti-catholic laws, and to rivet in the minds of a great part of the, people a conviction that they are not regarded in the same light, or governed on the same principles, as the British subjects of the empire, and that their misdoings are to be corrected by other than constitutional means.
These then, as I conceive, are the great causes which predispose and prepare the minds of the Irish people for the reception of any insurrectionary contagion. In so stating them, let me not for an instant be understood as justifying or palliating the spirit of resistance to lawful, authority, which they are the unhappy means of engendering; and far less would I be thought the apologist of the cruel violences, some times reaching the extreme of frightful atrocity, in which that spirit has manifested itself. On these subjects we can all have but one sentiment. In point of fact, however, I believe the promoting causes of the evil to be such as I have described. Those influences gradually form and accumulate, if I may so speak; a mass of morbid matter, which breaks out on every occasion of casual excitement, and which, though it may be repressed or dissipated for the moment, yet immediately begins again to collect and to await a fresh opportunity for appearance.
But, Sir, admitting this to be the case a question still remains—Whence does it happen that these causes are allowed to operate so freely? Grant, that, by the means I have mentioned, the infectious mischief is fed and accelerated in its pro- 1519 gress, does it not at length strike on some resisting substance? Does it not at length shock against the solid mass and strength of the society? Are there no natural defences interwoven in the very system of the body politic? Are there no checks and counteractions supplied by its very nature? In every well-ordered and compact frame of society, the strength and stability of the machine itself, even by its simple existence, greatly protect it against the effects of domestic discord and confusion. The very leaning of the parts of the fabric upon each other—their mere holding together—is generally found sufficient to preclude a very wide extension of the mischief and the danger.
Here, then, we detect the mighty difference between such a wholesome frame of society and that which is now under our view—between the frame of society, for example, as it exists in England and as it exists in Ireland. Supposing the evil of intestine commotion to arise in some part of England, and even to attain a certain stage of maturity, it would yet at length encounter powerful and insurmountable obstacles; obstacles which, in Ireland, either do not exist at all, or exist only in a very imperfect state. In England, the evil meets in the first place with the resistance of a strong moral and religious principle, resulting from diffused knowledge and education. Of late years, indeed, this defence has been, I regret to say, somewhat impaired; but a mass of that moral and religious principle still exists; and I believe that it checks, partially perhaps, yet on the whole very considerably, the progress of commotion and disturbance.—In Ireland, the evil meets with but little of such opposition: in the south, particularly, it has to act on ignorance, superstition, and depravity, arising from a deplorable want of education. In England, the evil, supposing it to have advanced so far, meets next with the resistance supplied by the habits and influence of a large and substantial body of yeomanry, who, by the weight of their example and by their authority over their inferiors, repress crime and keep down the tendency to disorder.—In Ireland there is, generally speaking, no such intermediate body—no class of persons entitled r to the appellation of a substantial yeomanry. In England, the evil meets next with the resistance of the resident gentry;—Ireland, it meets with the void made 1520 by absentees. In England, further, it encounters those guards and defences furnished by the actual institutions of the society—I mean the ordinary provisions for preserving the peace, the parochial and county officers appointed expressly for the repression of public disorder.—In Ireland it encounters a police, incorrectly so called—a system wretchedly inadequate to its professed objects, and generally calculated rather to promote than to repress agitation. In England, lastly, it has to contend with a vigorous and united magistracy. In Ireland, it finds a magistracy who cannot on the whole be considered as an equally efficient body, and who are too often disjoined from each other by local and political conflicts.
I have mentioned the want of education in Ireland. It is not, however, that the people are not instructed in reading and writing. In this respect, the education of the Irish peasantry cannot be considered as generally deficient. By the late returns, it appears that there are not fewer than 8,000 schoolmasters throughout Ireland; and, reckoning to each of those fifty scholars, there must be about 400,000 children under instruction. The education, however, thus administered, is frequently of the worst kind; and many of the schoolmasters are active promoters of agitation. They are persons of talent, and have usually, from obvious causes, considerable influence in the circles in which they move. This talent and influence they are too much induced to apply to the purpose of producing evil impressions on the minds of the people, and of exciting and circulating discontent. The state of Ireland affords a strong proof that education, in the proper sense of the term, consists not merely in communicating the elementary parts, the mere instruments of knowledge; that we do in fact nothing, or worse than nothing, unless the education which we give extends to the inculcation of moral and religious principle. The nature of the books also, which are commonly circulated in the schools to which I have referred, is most pernicious. They generally consist of the adventures of notorious villains and profligates. At the best, they are calculated only to cherish that disposition for enterprise and that passion for danger which constitutionally mark Ache Irish. For this is a characteristic of that people—they delight in undertakings of peril—they love to run even into 1521 jeopardy of life—they are deeply attached to secret and mysterious combinations, and fond of showing an unshaken fidelity to their engagements, especially where that fidelity is to be maintained under circumstances of difficulty and personal hazard.
On the subject of education, Sir, there is, I am sorry to observe, much room for animadversion. The government of Ireland—I refer particularly to the last centurv—cannot here be acquitted of censure; nor can we hold the clergy of either persuasion blameless. The clergy of the establishment—I speak chiefly of past periods—have surely not in this respect fulfilled their duty. Possessed as they were of commanding influence in the state, of vast temporal endowments, and in some cases of princely opulence, it was in their power to apply great resources to the object of educating the Door, and it was certainly incumbent on them to do so. But, for a considerable time, they acted apparently on the imagination that their whole duty regarded only the Protestant part of the community; and it seemed their principle, while they educated the Protestant, to condemn the Catholic to hopeless ignorance. Of late, indeed, a material improvement has taken place; I am bound to say, that, among the most strenuous advocates of education, and among those who are most anxious to avail themselves of all means afforded them for this purpose, and who, according to their opportunities, have in fact, been the most active in promoting it, are to be found the great body of the established clergy of Ireland.
With respect to the Roman Catholic clergy, it is obvious, that, during the existence of the penal code, they could not well be expected to take any steps for the promotion of the purpose in question. It was the object of that code to crush education. England, while that code remained, furnished the singular example of a Christian nation legislating upon a system, the direct effects of which was to extinguish knowledge and diffuse barbarism.
Under that code, the, Roman Catholic clergy were a persecuted body. They were not allowed access to the people. Their communion with their flocks was confined to stolen interviews; and those short periods were, of course, occupied rather in administering the rites of their religion, then in imparting moral or reli- 1522 gious instruction. But why, since the relaxation of that code, they have not more assiduously applied themselves to this great object, it is, perhaps, less easy to explain. I know that they shave laborious and extensive duties to discharge; I know that their numbers are inadequate to the demands of their religious offices; I know that the life of a Catholic priest—so insufficient is the present number of that clergy—is a life of constant bodily exertion; but, in spite of all these circumstances, I do think it might have been possible for the Catholic priesthood to direct their efforts more than they have done to the moral improvement of the people. Yet, here also I must observe, that this class of Christians have of late begun to show a greatly increased degree of anxiety on the subject in question and that many of them are now earnestly engaged in plans for the education of the poor.
On the system of the ordinary police, I can only once more observe that Wile miserably defective. The baronial constables (for each barony: has a certain number of such officers) are nominated by the grand juries, and receive salaries of various amounts indifferent counfies—not exceeding, however, 20l. for each individual. I am sorry to say, that they are too often appointed, not on account of their fitness for the several functions of their office, but by a very different rule of selection. Instead of being young, vigorous, healthy, and equal to cope with the desperate offenders whom they may be called to oppose, they are in many instances dependants of great men, menial servants, wood-rangers, persons worn out in other lines of life, unfit for active duty, often placed upon the police as on a superannuation list, and in every respect calculated to do more mischief than good.
Of the magistracy of the country, I wish to speak with the utmost deference. There are amongst them many persons of the highest character and qualifications. I could name gentlemen in every part of Ireland who perform their duty in a manner not only respectable, but even exemplary; who, careless of all interests and considerations but those which they are under a sacred obligation to consult, pursue a steady and honest line in the face of difficulty and personal danger. With regard, however, to some other members of the body, I am afraid we must admit that they do not possess all 1523 the requisites for their eminent station in the present circumstances of their country.
I disclaim any wish to cast reflections on any body of men; nor would it be just in this case; for, as I have said, there are examples of the highest qualifications among the magistracy in every part of Ireland. But instances have, on the other hand, op burred, in which I am bound to say, that the supineness of the magistrates has been injurious to the peace of the country, by suffering disturbance and outrage to gain head at the commencement, instead of opposing to them an early and well-concerted resistance.
Let me ask, Sir, what would be the effect in any county of England, which some local discontent had thrown into a state of ferment and agitation, if, in the course of a week, a fortnight, or three weeks, two or three houses were allowed to burned and murders to be committed, without any inquiry on the part of the local magistrates. Might we not naturally expect, that, within the succeeding three weeks, the number of those atrocities would be multiplied? and should we be surprised if the evil were to attain so great a height as to make the interposition of the civil power insufficient, and to compel a recurrence to coercive measures of another kind?
This state of things, Sir, in Ireland, which I have now attempted to sketch in some of its leading features, is the natural result of t he course of policy, which, till a late period, has been pursued with respect to that country; and, if we are asked why such a system of policy was pursued, or how it happened that England, so liberal and enlightened in her principles and conduct with respect to most of her other dependencies, should, with regard to this her nearest possession, have so widely deviated from the obvious line of her duty, the answer is clear. The main cause is to be found in the peculiar nature of the relation which existed between the two countries. In truth, the government of England was a government extrinsic to the people of Ireland. It was at first forced upon them by foreign military power, and by foreign military power it was, during the course of centuries, sustained. Sir there is a tendency in all governments to adjust and assimilate themselves to the people which they rule. Even the most despotic governments find it necessary in some de- 1524 gree to shape and conform their acts to the wishes or the humours of their subjects. This must he the result in every instance, where the governing power is entirely thrown (if I may so speak) on its own native resources; it is then compelled more or less to seek its safety in the good feeling of the people. But the misfortune with regard to Ireland was; that the government, being in the first instance super-induced by the arms and policy of a power foreign and extraneous to the country, was subsequently upheld by similar means—by English force and English corruption. It was not placed under the necessity of making itself strong in the sympathy of the people; rather, it was placed under a necessity of an opposite kind; it was led to rely on the support and resources of England, and not on the affection and honest allegiance of the Irish. It was a government not so much over the people, as against them. Down to the year 1782, this was remarkably the case. Since that period, indeed, a different system has prevailed; but I speak now of the cause which led to the adoption and continuance of the previous system of mis-government; and I think it cannot he denied that this cause is to be found in the fact of a government habitually and for centuries maintained as it was at first established—by foreign and extrinsic resources. It may, perhaps, safely be asserted, that, from the landing of Henry 2nd, on the Irish shore down to the commencement of the late reign, there was no period during which the Irish government could have supported itself for a single month without the assistance of England.
In truth, Sir, it makes one indignant to observe the fortunes of that people. Recollect their many admirable qualities—their genius and intelligence—their peculiarly sociable and affectionate natures—their disposition to give confidence where it is merited—their steadfast devotion to any cause which they have once heartily espoused—their patience under misfortunes—their constitutional hospitality—their romantic love of adventure—their passionate attachment to all the charities of blood and kindred;—recollect all this, and what must you think of that policy by which these excellent qualities have been perverted, by which all these gifts of nature and providence have been made the fruitful sources of crime and misery? What must you 1525 think of that policy which tasked the power and the wisdom of England for ages, only to produce and prolong the moral and political degradation of such a people?
Sir, it is not my object to attempt Io point out the various remedies which may be applicable to this state of things; but some remarks on that part of the subject I will venture to offer.
In the first place, it is obvious, that as the evils to which I have referred are the result of causes most deeply seated, and which have operated for ages, so they cannot admit of any sudden or instantaneous cure. The process of healing must be gradual. But, in making this observation, I wish to guard against the possible abuse of it. It does not furnish the slightest pretext for indifference or delay in the application of remedial measures. It is, on the contrary, the strongest argument for an immediate recourse to them. Indeed, although I admit that improvement must be a work of gradation, I certainly conceive that the rate of its progress depends in no small degree on ourselves; and, if it is heartily pursued an promoted on all sides, I even think It possible that the effect may be produced with a rapidity on which we should in the first instance be far from calculating.
I must, however, in the next place observe that, with respect to many of the evils which afflict Ireland, the business of correction does not rest either with the government or with the legislature. The remedies must grow up from the people themselves. They are in the hands of the people—in the hands of the landholders and gentry; and by these I trust they will be applied.
The power of interposition, as I have observed, is in many instances not with, the government. Is it possible, for example, that the government should find a permanent relief for the distresses of the poor and the general want of employment? Temporary aid on a particular emergency may be afforded with advantage; but to provide that the population of a large country shall at all times be fully occupied and comfortably situated, is a task beyond the competence of human policy or power in the same manner, is it within the province of government to interpose between landlord and tenant? Or would it be proper that legislative enactments should prescribe to the landlord the conduct which he ought to 1526 pursue in that relation? In this respect, as in many others, our appeal mutt be to the landed gentry of Ireland.
With those of them, indeed, who willingly and systematically absent themselves from their country—what terms of suasion can avail? I would, Sir, it were in my power to rouse those persons tram their apathy. I would it were in my power to carry to their hearts spell an appeal as the exigency of the case demands; to re-excite in them those recollections of home and of country, which, I am sure, are not extinguished but only dormant. I would remind them how little justice they do even to themselves, in abandoning the post which has been assigned to them by Providence, and sacrificing ay the high obligations resulting from rank, birth, and station. I would implore them to reflect how little they consult either their own happiness or the good opinion of their countrymen, in forsaking the discharge of those duties which ought to be cultivated by them not merely from a sense of obligation, but, even if obligation were not concerned, from a regard to their truest interests and highest dignity: duties, not to be executed as tasks, but to be enjoyed as privileges:—the duties of protecting, of enlightening, and of tranquillizing the people committed to their care. I would tell them that it is vain to look for incompatible advantages—that they cannot draw their rentals from their native country, and lavish them in travel or amusement abroad, and at the same time hope to have a healthy, contented, well-principled, and loyal tenantry at home.
To those landlords who reside country, I would also make an earnest appeal. I call upon them, not indeed to adopt a course foreign to their own inclinations, but to persist in the course to which I know they are already inclined. This is the easier undertaking; facilius incitare currentem quam commovere languentem.I call upon to do more ardently what, key are already doing, to watch over the interests of their dependants, which are, in truth, their own; to labour for their moral elevation as well as their physical comfort; and thus, by constant, attention, by patient and considerate humanity, and above all, by the force of example, to secure the progress of their country in knowledge, in industry, in refinement, and in religion.
There are, however, Sir other duties 1527 relating to the improvement of the country, which more peculiarly fall to the lot of the government and the legislature. And here, I would presume to point out three great objects to which, as I conceive, the attention of, parliament and of the executive authorities should be directed. The first is the improvement, by constitutional means, of what I have termed the ordinary defences of society; I allude particularly to the police and the magistracy. I have described the state of the ordinary constabulary of the country. On this subject, plans of two different descriptions were under the consideration of the late Irish government. The principle of the one was to abolish the whole of the existing constabulary, and to establish a general police, under the appointment and supervision of government. It went, in fact, to station a gens-d' armerie throughout Ireland. The other method proposed was to attempt, by an amendment, not a repeal, of the present law, to effect a practical improvement in the character of the existing baronial constabulary—to provide, if possible, that it should he composed of better materials, that the selection of constables should be more unexceptionable; and, in short, that the whole system should be better adapted to its declared purposes. With respect to these two descriptions of plans, I confess I think the latter ought at least to be first tried.
It is notorious, as I have already intimated, that the present system of police is wretchedly defective, because wretchedly carried into execution. It is confessedly ill-worked. Now, had every thing been done to render the operation of the system as perfect as possible—had every means been used to strengthen what is good in it, and to correct its imperfections—and had the experiment, after all, been found to fail—then certainly we should have no alternative, except to throw aside the old machinery altogether, and to proceed on a different plan. But, when it is admitted, that the system, whatever be its merits, has not been fairly brought to the test—when the complaint is not against the principle but against the practice, when, further, the principle, is not only more unobjectionable, but more constitutional than that of a gens-d armerie—then it does seem somewhat of a large and illogical consequence to conclude that you shall at once rush to the other extreme, hand abandon not only the incorrect practice but, the uncensored principle. I 1528 term this principle more constitutional than its antagonist, because it provides for the defence and protection of the society from the bosom of the society itself. It finds the defenders of peace and order amongst the people. And, surely, this is wiser and better than the notion of securing the public tranquillity by the direct agency of the executive power. But the truth is, that, wherever the system of baronial constables, as established by the laws now in being, has been fairly tried, it has been found to answer its purpose. In proof of this remark, I would mention the case of the county of Longford, which was a few years ago so disturbed, that it was on the eve of being placed under the peace preservation act. At that time, my noble friend (lord Forbes), one of the members for the county, desirous to avert this disgrace, as he deemed it, from his county, resolved to make an experiment, whether it was not possible to preserve tranquillity under the present mode of appointing constables. At his request the application of the peace preservation act was withheld. By his own exertions and influence, with the assistance of his brother magistrates, he formed, under the existing laws, a baronial police which has now for five years been in operation; and the result has been the complete tranquillity of that county during the time in question, without any resort to extraordinary means. Formerly, in Longford, as in many other counties, no constable could execute a warrant with safety in the fairs and general meetings of the people. It is unfortunately too common a case in Ireland, that a peace-officer is unable to act except under the protection of a military force. The contrast in Longford is now so striking, that, but recently, in a fair crowded with thousands of the people, a single constable entered, and, seizing a delinquent, marched him to confinement, through the whole of the thronged multitude, without experiencing the slightest disturbance or opposition.
The plan of a gens-d' armerie would probably in its consequences he of very serious detriment. It would tend, I think, to deteriorate, if not to extinguish what subsists of good magistracy in Ireland, and to degrade the gentry from their natural station. I do not deny that its immediate effect might be more striking than that of a milder plan; but I believe that, if it were possible to compare the two systems experimentally, the result in 1529 the course of a few years, would be in favour of that which I consider as the more constitutional.
It has, indeed, often occurred to me, considering this subject, that it would be adviseable to introduce among the Irish, still more than has hitherto been admitted, of the English principle of confiding the peace of the country to the care of the inhabitants. One great evil in Ireland has been, that, in every emergence civil or political, where any thing was to be done, immediate recourse has been had to the agency of the government. I thought it might be well worth an experiment, whether the English mode of appointing gratuitous parochial constables might not advantageously be adopted in the sister country. I should not now have mentioned this idea, if it had not been that, in a conversation about a twelve-month ago, with my Noble friend to whom I have already alluded, I threw it out, and expressed some intention of proposing legislative enactments for the purpose of carrying it into effect. In consequence of that remark, my noble friend, with his characteristic zeal for the improvement of his country, has actually made the experiment. During the last year, parochial constables have been appointed in Longford, who have acted gratuitously, and I have understood from him, that the plan has been attended with great and unquestionable benefit. Under these circumstances, I think it would be somewhat premature to pronounce that Ireland shall, at this time, and in all its parts, be placed under a constabulary force appointed immediately by the executive power.
The subject of the magistracy also occupied the attention of the late Irish government, and measures relating to it were in progress when the change of government took place. More than two years ago, at the time of the decease of the late king, lord chancellor Manners, in whose department that branch of public duty is particularly vested, resolved, in consequence of many conferences with the government, to enter upon a revision of the magistracy. It was his intention to form a list of those gentlemen in each county, who, according to the best information that he could procure, might be properly selected to hold commissions of the peace; and to avail himself of the opportunity of issuing a new commission, silently to supersede that which is now in force, re-appointing, at the same time, all the fittest and most 1530 effective magistrates. Since that period I have had communications with the lord chancellor, and I know that he has net been inattentive to the object in question. The nature of the inquiry which he was obliged to make has occasioned much longer delay than might have been wished, but it is not easy for those who have not considered the details of the subject to conceive the minute and complicated nature, as well as delicacy, of the investigations requisite to bring such an inquiry to a satisfactory issue. Although, therefore, the delay that has occurred is matter of regret, I am persuaded that no blame attaches on account of it to the noble lord. Shortly before I left Ireland, I understood from himself that he had made great progress in the work of revision, that his inquiries had been prosecuted in all parts, and that he had obtained from the best sources materials for carrying his original intentions and the wishes of the government into effect. He added, that there were at that time only a few counties (I think but two or three) for which he was not prepared with an improved commission. I should suppose that the lists for those counties have by this time been completed, but what has since occurred, I am of course unable to say. It may, however, be hoped that, by these means, whatever improvement may be requisite in the magistracy of Ireland, will be carried into effect at no distant period.
The second of those objects which I regard as demanding public and legislative interposition, is the moral improvement of the people. I have already touched on the nature of the education that exists in Ireland. It is highly important that this subject should attract the attention of parliament, and some public inquiry into it seems indispensable. Whether that inquiry should be conducted by a committee of the House, by a commission appointed by the government, or by a parliamentary commission, is not now the question; but information ought, I think, in some way to be obtained; I mean chiefly as to the state of Roman Catholic education. On this part of the subject in particular, we have not sufficient facts before us. It is a very difficult matter to decide what public measures it may be best to adopt for the purpose of promoting the education of the great body of the Irish people. An hon. friend of mine (Mr. Rice) has intimated that a national system ought to be established. I do not profess to pronounce 1531 a decided judgment, because I think that the question requires much more discussion than it has yet received. Notwithstanding, however; the deference which I feel for the opinion of my hon. friend, I confess that, as far as my mind is yet made up, my leaning is to believe that the establishment of such a national system of education in that country as shall be effectual, would be opposed by very serious if not insurmountable difficulties. I need only advert to the religious differences that prevail in the country; especially to the leading distinctions of Catholic and Protestant. A system of national education, Sir, must of course proceed on the principle of excluding all that is circumstantial in the doctrines of the two persuasions, and retaining only what is essential in both. You must take the common quantity, if I may so speak, of the two religions, and upon this you must frame your course of education. Now, Sir, I am afraid that such a plan savours a little of the old mistake of attempting to produce uniformity of opinion, instead of being content to secure a concord and unity of hearts. It is besides to be observed, that much of what the Catholics deem the essence of their religion, many of them will allow to be communicated only through the medium of their clergy. The result, therefore, of this general course of education would, I fear, be fallacious. It would leave what all must consider a most essential part of education to be in a great measure supplied, as it is now, by private care and benevolence. The instruction given would consist more in a negation of the doctrines peculiar to each persuasion, than in the inculcation of any positive articles of belief.
I incline, therefore, to the opinion, that, for Ireland, in its present situation, a different system is better adapted—that of encouraging, by every means in our power, the various efforts for the education of the people, throughout the kingdom, by whatever persons they may be conducted, provided only that it be clearly ascertained that they are directed to the promotion of real moral and religious improvement. The liberality, of parliament will, I am persuaded, supply government with ample funds to be distributed in aid of such efforts the distribution being fettered by other condition than this, that they than be honestly and really applied to the moral culture of the people. There is a mall fund, which has been voted for a few years past (amounting in the present 1532 year to 4000l.), which has been placed in the hands of the Irish government, and is applied on the principle that I have described. The distribution of it is vested, under the control of government, in the hands of three gentlemen, who have been requested to undertake the trust, the rev. Mr. Dunn, major Woodward, and Mr. Digges Latouche. I mention their names, because it is due to them to pay to their judgment, their liberality, and their enlightened and honourable conduct, the tribute of high respect and praise. They perform the duties of the trust gratuitously, and they dispose of this fund to any school—in aid, it should always be remembered, of local exertions and local subscriptions —but to any school conducted either by Catholics or Protestants, provided they are satisfied that it shall be well conducted, and that it proceeds on true principles of Christian benevolence. I should propose that this fund be considerably enlarged, and that the from time to time enlarged in proportion to the demands of the country; and that, whether it be always invested in the hands of the same gentlemen, or in the hands of different sets of individuals carefully selected for the purpose, the distribution should be still regulated by the same principle.
The third point to which I presume to think that the legislature ought to direct its attention is—what I may term the civil improvement of the people. Here I would particularly advert to the question of tithes, but without at this period enlarging upon it more especially as the subject is hereafter to undergo discussion. Previously, however, to the adoption of any measure on a large scale respecting it, some inquiry into the actual operation of the system at present established seems to be expedient. Whether this should be made by parliament, or by the government, may be matter of future consideration. Of the competency of parliament to institute such an investigation, there can be no doubt; for the competency to inquire is surely concurrent with the competency to legislate. But, perhaps, considering the nature of the subject, and from respect to the constitutional authority of the sovereign as head of the church, it would rather be advisable that such an inquiry should emanate from the government, and be conducted under its superintendance.
On this part also of my subject, I must touch upon the question of Catholic 1533 emancipation; not to enter into it, but to mention the measure as one of those most material to the improvement of Ireland. The question, Sir, has of late assumed a new position; and this is the only remark I shall make upon it. In consequence of the visit of his majesty to his Irish dominions, and his peculiarly gracious and condescending conduct while in that quarter; in consequence also of the appointment of lord Wellesley to the government of Ireland, and of the general impression that he was especially selected as the representative of the royal sentiments with respect to that country; there is no doubt that a persuasion exists, that the opinions of the highest person in the kingdom are favourable to the progress of the Catholic cause. This persuasion is gaining ground throughout Ireland; and if, after all that has passed, the measure of emancipation should not be adopted, the disappointment will be attributed to a disinclination towards its success, existing, not in the highest quarter, but in the other branches of the legislature. I have already adverted to the distrust entertained by the Irish people generally of the disposition of the British legislature, and I shall only observe, that one unfortunate consequence of the continued rejection of the measure would be still more deeply to rivet that conviction—and thus to create what in a constitutional view cannot be too much deprecated, a separation in the eyes of the people between the wishes of the sovereign and the intentions of the legislature.
On this occasion, Sir, I think it is my duty to do justice to the conduct and character of the Roman Catholic clergy. A few years ago I expressed, in my place, my sense of the obligations which the country owed to that class of men for zeal and activity with which they had co-operated with the magistracy and the government in maintaining the public have incurred much censure—not indeed in this House—but the subsequent conduct of the body in question has completely justified the good opinion of them which I then expressed. It has so happened, that, during the late disturbances, their conduct has been brought forward with a peculiar prominence, and in almost all instances they have, by the utmost exertions, and often at the imminent hazard of their lives, enforced the duty of obedience to the civil power, and opposed and re- 1534 pressed the passions and movements of the misguided people. In every stage of these disorders, both during the progress of the infatuation and at the period when the convicted delinquents met their fate, their merit has been equally conspicuous. I think myself bound to make this statement in favour of that respectable order of men; and it is, after all, but a poor tribute for the benefits which they have conferred upon their country.
I will no longer, Sir, dwell on particular measures of amelioration; but I would in conclusion observe generally, that the great remedy for the diseased state of Ireland is to be found in a steady course of wise and good government. As all the vices and misery of that country have mainly sprung from a steady course of mismanagement, so must her improvement and her progress in morals, religion, and the blessing of civilized life, depend on the patient and inflexible adherence of her rulers to a directly opposite line of policy. It is above all things important to lay the foundation of every remedial de, sign in the union and concord of the people. This is an indispensable preliminary. Let it not be imagined, Sir—I need scarcely disclaim the construction—that, in offering these sentiments I have the slightest intention to insinuate censure on any preceding administration. I know that, with respect to the principles I am now recommending, I shall be cordially joined by all those members of the House who have at any period been members of the Irish government. But I repeat, that the basis of advancement must be the mutual good-will of the people. Whatever other measures you may adopt, you can hope to make but little progress, unless you secure this object; and, if this object be first attained, the adoption of other measures will be comparatively easy, and even the necessity of them will be in some degree superseded. Let us not believe, Sir, that the task of creating or diffusing such a spirit of reciprocal kindness is hopeless. True it is, indeed, that, where passions and prejudices, in flamed by ancient and bitter recollections, are involved, many obstacles must intervene, and the end to which we aspire may, for a time, seem to be withdrawn to a distance almost unattainable. But let us not despair of the ultimate result. We know that the best feelings and the loftiest passions are on our side. We know that the sanctions of authority and experience are 1535 in our favour. Wherever the experiment has been fairly tried, it has completely answered. I could give many examples of such success, but shall limit myself to one with which I shall conclude. I offer it as an additional demonstration of the important truth, that habitual kindness and real honesty of intention will always find their reward in the sympathies and in the conduct of those towards whom they are exercised.
In the county of Limerick, Sir, there is a parish untouched to this moment by any of the disorders which have distracted that county. It is nine miles from the city of Limerick, and in the midst of all the horrors of which we have heard. It contains a very crowded population almost entirely Roman Catholic: yet, in that parish, the Protestant clergyman keeps no arms, nor has he in any respect increased the fastenings or defences of his house; and, at night, he sleeps in security, confiding in the protection of Providence and the good-will of his Roman Catholic parishioners. The neighbour-hood has been visited by these nightly marauders, and many excesses have been committed; but, in this parish, not a single outrage has taken place. In the course of last December, there occurred in the same parish a memorable scene. On a Sunday in that month, the Roman Catholic priest summoned his flock to a meeting in the Romish chapel, and there at the altar he presented to them the Protestant clergyman of the parish. The people were not assembled for the purposes of worship, but the place and the day gave a solemnity to the meeting and a sanctity to its object. The Protestant clergyman from the altar addressed the people. He gave to their conduct the applause which it merited, and exhorted them in the most earnest manner to continue the same course of loyalty and good order. His address, which occupied half an hour, was heard with breathless attention and the result was, that, at the close of it, the people, with one voice, and with acclamation, came forward and took the oath of allegiance. The present state of the parish attests their faithful observance of the voluntary engagement. Now, Sir, to what must we ascribe these effects? Not to any sudden burst of enthusiastic kindness, suspending on a special occasion habitual distrust and estrangement; not to a momentary impulse, urging the Protestant and the Ca- 1536 tholic to unite for a particular purpose—no! but to a settled and, regular habit of conciliation between the Protestant and the Catholic clergyman, between the Protestant clergyman and his Catholic parishioners—a habit formed and built un during a kindly intercourse of twelve years. It is the result, therefore, of a system silently matured in the time of peace, and at length manifesting its efficacy in the hour of danger.
The instance, Sir, which I have given, is, I am happy to think, not a solitary one; and, from facts like these, I am surely warranted in the conclusion, that, where the same conciliatory means are used, the same excellent, effects will generally fellow. Such a spirit of persevering kindness as I have described is capable of surmounting even strong prejudices; and, so far from being incompatible with fidelity to the religion which we profess, is, indeed the genuine offspring of that, religion in its highest state of excellence. It may extend to every order of persons it the community, and may be the animating principle of government itself, without any compromise of its rights, or derogation from its authority.
of Dublin, deprecated the present discussion, as calculated to excite public irritation; whereas the object of all public discussion should be, to soften down irritation. He could not allow the statements which had been made by several gentlemen in the course of the debate, to operate unqualified on the mind of parliament. It was his duty to state the view he had taken of this important question; and if he, in delivering his opinion, should betray the infirmity of human nature, it could not be denied that those who cherished different feelings, and who had that night expressed them, were not free from the same infirmity. As far as the discussion had gone, very remote causes had been assigned for the troubles by which Ireland was now agitated. It appeared to him, that several gentlemen had adopted hasty opinions, on which they had argued, instead of adducing facts, and inferring consequences from them. He, however, would take a different course; he would state the facts which influenced his opinion, instead of arguing on fanciful and uncertain data. Connected as he was with sonic of the disturbed districts, he had enjoyed opportunities of learning private circumstances relative to the insurrection; but 1537 these he would not mention—he would state only those transactions which were of a public nature, and which were perfectly well known to his majesty's government. If he offered any statement that was incorrect, they could correct him; but if his statements were consistent with facts, then he called on the House and the government to adopt his view of the subject. The right hon. gentleman who had last addressed the House had described the disturbances of Ireland as applying only to particular districts—as originating merely in local causes—as not likely to be of permanent duration. He differed from the right hon. gentleman on all these points. The House was much deceived if gentlemen supposed that the disturbances in Ireland were limited to the narrow circle of a few districts, or that they were of recent origin. He would, on the contrary, assert that the present disturbances in their distinct character, originated in the year 1814. For many years previous to that period, disturbances, which could not be excused or extenuated, prevailed in Ireland; but the present disturbances were as distinct from those to which he referred, in their motives, objects, and agents, as it was possible for them to be.
Having painted out the year when the disturbances commenced, the next point to which he would direct the attention of the House, was, the peculiar character of the agents employed; for he would assert and it could not be denied by the government, that, whatever the object of those infatuated persons might be, the disturbances were, without any exception, carried on exclusively by the Catholics of Ireland. The Protestant might be confided in: he cared not how he might suffer under the extremity of distress; still he was peaceable; however humbled, however crushed by the weight of his poverty, the Protestant had not, directly or indirectly, taken a part in those disgraceful outrages. It therefore followed, that though poverty and penury extended over all, it had operated to produce insurrection and rebellion amongst the Catholics only. The hon. and learned gentleman here took a brief review of the disturbances which had occurred in 1814, 1815, and 1816, at which time there was no complaint of the depreciation of prices or the high rate of rent; end therefore he inferred, that these were not the real cause of the spirit of insubordination which prevailed then, and 1538 which existed now. It could not escape observation, that the Roman Catholics who were embarked in those outrages were bound by a peculiar species of religious obligation. In all their forms a direct allusion was made to the established religion of the country, and an undisguised expression of hostility towards that religion was indulged in, which pretty clearly showed what their object was. The precise object of the conspiracy be could not state; but it appeared to him that it was not set on foot for the mere purpose of lowering rents or abating tithes, but that it had originated in a rancorous hostility to the established religion of the country. The hon. member for Limerick had said, he was shocked at certain books which were generally read in Ireland. But what would he say to that book, which was disseminated in every part of Ireland, which was to be found in every cottage—that book which was promulgated as a set off against reading the Bible? He alluded to bishop Walmesley's history of the Catholic religion—a book written by a Catholic bishop, recommended by the Catholic clergy, which had gone through eight successive editions, and which his majesty's government had traced into almost every cottage in Ireland: that work, which was to be found where the reading of the Bible was not permitted, explained the Apocalypse of St. John in a manner favourable to the doctrines of the Catholic religion. In this work, after justifying almost the massacre of. St. Bartholomew, the author had limited the duration of the Protestant religion to the year 1825. A man of education, would, of course, look at such a work with perfect contempt, but its effect upon uninformed minds could not but be most prejudicial. It was such as to inspire in the minds of the lower order of Catholics so perfect a hatred of Protestants that the latter were in many cases compelled to emigrate rather than renounce their religion, and to remain in safety without re pouncing they found in numerous instances to be impossible. He was informed by several Protestants, that they had emigrated entirely from an apprehension that their lives and property were in danger; and be assured the House that, on inquiry, it would be found, that emigration had been confined almost universally to Protestants.
He wished to call the attention of the House to another point. It had been 1539 said, that the Catholic priests had used their most strenuous efforts to preserve peace and tranquillity. It was of great importance to ascertain whether they were not sincere in their conduct: and it was of peculiar importance at the present time, when they claimed to be exempted from the ordinary law of the country, because, as they asserted, it would interfere with their influence over their congregation. That the Catholic priests had recommended peace and subordination from their altars, he was not disposed to deny. Indeed he knew the fact. [Hear, hear.] But the question was, whether they were sincere in those recommendations. With respect to the Catholic laity, he was ready to admit that the lower orders alone were connected with the disturbances. He believed the higher classes of the Roman Catholics to have just as little to do with the outrages as the Protestants themselves. But, while he absolved the educated Roman Catholic laity from all blame, he was sorry he could not say so much for the clergy. Let the House look to the manner in which the Roman Catholic clergy had acted on other occasions, when their authority was disputed, and contrast it with the conduct which they now pursued. It must be admitted on all hands, that however sincere or warm the Roman Catholic clergy might he in their endeavours to restore tranquillity, on the present occasion, they had totally failed. They had not succeeded in recalling their flocks to those paths from which they had deviated. But, on other occasions, when their representations were opposed, what had they done? They had had immediate recourse to the forms of their church. It had been judicially proved in courts of justice, that when some of their flock had dared to read the bible, contrary to the will elf the Catholic clergy, the persons thus offending were assailed by the forms of the church of Rome. No such thing had been done on the present occasion. Here the hon. and learned gentleman adverted to several instances where murder had been committed by the peasantry, and the priesthood had not used the forms of the church for the purpose of discovering the offenders. In the county of Louth, eight individuals were burned by the insurgents; in the south of Ireland, 19persons had the same fate; but the Catholic clergy did not endeavour to discover the murderers, by exerting those powers 1540 to which, on less important occasions, they had had recourse. In the county of Limerick, a crown witness, returning from giving evidence at the assizes, happened to pass by a chapel while divine service was performing; the whole congregation rushed out, and murdered him on the spot, in the presence of the priest. Government offered thousands and thousands to discover the perpetrators of this deed, but without effect. In another place, the priest advised the people not to take the oath of allegiance. And what was his reason? Because the oath of allegiance might interfere with another oath, which Dr. Milner was preparing for the Roman Catholics. Was this a proof of the sincerity which actuated the Catholic clergy? "I will not," said this priest, "take the oath myself, neither will I command my congregation not to take it, but I will advise them not." At Killarney, a priest according to his own statement, was apprehensive of disturbance. He heard, on a certain night, the blowing of horns, and all those sounds which distinguished the excursions of the disaffected. He, however, remained quiet all night, but next day, at twelve o'clock, he ventured into, a crowd of insurgents. He found that they had seized an obnoxious individual, and that person he took under his protection. He afterwards retired, leaving this unfortunate person in the care of one of the party, but the moment he retired the man was murdered. This happened within a mile and a half of a military station, yet this clergyman never gave any notice to the military, of what was going on: the man was murdered, and the priest refused to state who the person was to whose protection he had consigned him. He would ask, in the name of wonder or of Heaven, was this a proof of sincerity?[A laugh.] It might excite a laugh in the minds of those who knew not the miseries to which Ireland was exposed. If gentlemen had felt those miseries, they would act in a different manner; they would hear with deference and civility, the sentiments of a plain man, instead of giving way to an emotion of merriment on so solemn an occasion. [Hear, hear.] If they thought that they were in possession of facts on which they could correctly decide let them cry "question," and he would submit. [A loud cry of "question," and laughter.] He supposed he had stepped beyond the ordinary bounds of discussion 1541 in what he had said, since, on no other principle could be account for this interruption; and, therefore, he would take up another topic. Miserable as the state of Ireland was, at the present moment, he did not think this was the time to talk of the misgovernment of six hundred years. His maxim was, "put down the insurrection now, and then discuss the circumstances in which it may have originated." In order to put down the insurrection, he would arm Government with an almost absolute power, and to enable them to exercise that power efficiently, he would place a greater military force at their disposal. He would not confine that force to 18,000 men; he would double or triple it. [Hear, hear!] When order was restored, he would, if possible, immediately get rid of 40s. freeholders. This minute division of property created much of that feeling of insubordination which was the bane of Ireland. Another measure of vital importance was, the putting down the system of illicit distillation. That could only be clone by removing the temptation to the offence. So long as the present high duties existed, all the power of England could not remove that evil. The hon. and learned gentleman then recommended a religious and moral education, as that which could alone benefit the people of Ireland, and declared, that he would not be deterred from discharging his duty by the cries of those who were ignorant of the situation of Ireland, or who, being acquainted with it, viewed the subject with a criminal indifference to her welfare.
said, he would not at that late hour, trespass long on the time of the House, and in the few remarks he had to make on the motion of his right hon. friend, he should confine himself strictly to the main question. The House might feel assured, that it was far from his intention to follow the hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last, through the details of his disgusting attack upon the population of that country which had returned him to parliament. [Hear, hear!] He owned, that when the hon. and learned member was first about to desert the duty which belonged to him in the Irish court of Chancery, in order that he might devote his attention to parliamentary duties, he (Mr. P.) felt great regret; but he now withdrew from the bottom of his heart, every regret on that account, and 1542 rejoiced that the hon. and learned gentleman had had an opportunity of displaying to the British parliament, and in the face of the whole country, the tone, and temper, and manner, which had long distinguished the treatment received by the great body of the people of Ireland from those who ought to be the advocates of their rights. It was often asked, in a tone of triumph, by the enemies of the Catholics, "Why are you not satisfied with the boon granted to you? Why are you not content with the concessions which you have received?" The reason was, because concession had been followed in every stage, by the curse and malediction of those bigots, whose prejudices neither time nor circumstances could remove—who, like an unwholesome blight, like a destructive mildew, intercepted every ray of royal favour, or of legislative beneficence. [Hear, hear.] He was free from alarm as to any argument which the hon. and learned gentleman might please to bring forward, but argument he adduced not. The hon. and learned gentleman relied upon what he denominated facts; and those facts would, in all probability, produce a very different effect from that which the hon. and learned gentleman had anticipated. The hon. and learned gentleman had spoken of transactions with respect to the disturbances that now prevailed in Ireland, and he (Mr. P.) must say, as he had been an eye witness of those transactions, that if any part of the statements of the hon. and learned gentleman were literally true, in spirit and in application to the question they were totally and absolutely false. The truth was, that the insurrectionary movements in Ireland, were confined entirely to certain districts of the south. Limerick, Cork, Kerry, and a part of Tipperary, were in a state of disturbance. The entire population, speaking of the lower classes of the people in those districts, were Roman Catholics. It was a well known fact, that the disturbances were confined to the lower orders, and did not extend beyond them; but, overlooking this fact, the hon. and learned gentleman had traced the disturbances to a religious feeling—those who were engaged in them being the dregs of the people, and the lower classes professing the Catholic faith. The object of those insurrectionary movements was, in fact, to level the property of the country; and, in the pursuit of that object, the unfortunate persons 1543 who were engaged in this design directed their efforts against both Protestants and Roman Catholics. The respectable Catholics were as much exposed as the Protestants to their depredations, and they exerted themselves with the same zeal, and energy in repressing those disturbances, as the members of the established church did. [Hear.] When, as public prosecutor, the painful task of bringing some of those misguided men to punishment devolved on him, the direction he gave to the persons who were to empannel the juries, was, that no distinction should be made, in admitting Protestants and Roman Catholics to serve on those juries. They were indiscriminately empannelled; and it could not be asserted—it could not be suspected—that the Roman Catholic did not perform their duty, in every instance. These were facts which he positively knew. With repect to the Roman Catholic clergy, he would affirm, that from the highest dignitary of the church, to the lowest parish priest, they exerted themselves zealously, and energetically, and honestly, to put down the spirit of insubordination. It was not merely a formal discharge of their duty—it was not merely making declarations from the altar, which as the hon. and learned gentleman had said, might be true or untrue—might be sincere or hypocritical—no, it was an active interference; and he would assert, that if the lives, if the eternal happiness of the Catholic clergy depended on their exertions, they could not do more to put an end to those disturbances than they had done. [Hear, hear.] If these men, instead of being zealous opponents of the discontented, had remained neutral, and still more, if, as had been insinuated, they had countenanced this—he would not call it contemptible conspiracy, because, if not put down in time, it might assume a form that would require the whole strength of the country to subdue it—if these men had proceeded in a different course from that which they had promptly adopted, would not the danger have been infinitely more terrific? The hon. and learned gentleman told them, that his great measure was to put down every symptom of insubordination by force, without inquiring into the cause in which it had originated. The hon. and learned gentleman would employ 50,000 or 100,000 men to effect this object. He. (Mr. Plunkett) would indeed have been surprised, if such a doc- 1544 trine had not been marked by the indignation of the House. For if such a principle were once adopted, the two countries would be opposed to each other, in endless hostility.
He begged pardon for having been led away from the consideration of the immediate motion before the House, by the observations of the hon. and learned gentleman, which had already been sufficiently answered, by the effect they had produced in the mind of every person who had heard him on both sides of the House. There was one particular transaction, however, which had been mentioned by the hon. and learned gentleman, and in which he ( Mr. P.) was personally concerned, to which he must shortly advert. The Roman Catholic priesthood had undoubtedly an opportunity of exerting a most powerful influence on the minds of their flocks; but their influence in restraining their flocks from the perpetration of crime must depend on their power of preserving the confidence of their flocks. It had been well observed by an eminent historian, Dr. Robertson, that the influence of the priesthood was most strong, when united with the discontented portion of the population; but that when allied with the government, their influence over the minds of their flocks was proportionally diminished. Subject to this drawback, their influence was undoubtedly strong, in restraining from the commission of crime; but if, instead of exerting their influence as clergymen, they came forward as witnesses in cases of imputed crime, they would lose the confidence of their flocks, and the government would consequently lose all the advantages which it now derived from their influence and interference in the prevention of outrages. In the transaction to which the hon. and learned member had alluded, the priest had rescued the unfortunate man from the crowd by which he was surrounded, at the extreme hazard of his own person, and had succeeded in conveying him to a place of safety. After this the party returned, seized upon the priest, and threatened him with the loss of life if he did not immediately deliver the man into their hands, declaring at the same time that he should receive no injury. The unfortunate man was delivered up, and after an interval of half an hour he was put to death. The priest did not know the persons who actually perpetrated the murder: he did not believe that 1545 those who were apprehended were the most guilty individuals. He knew it was true, some of the faces of those who composed the numerous crowd; and, though be did not think that those whom he knew were the individuals who had actually imbrued their hands in blood, he was aware that, composing part of a multitude who had committed murder, they were considered as having joined in the deed, and were liable to be executed as murderers. The priest, therefore, refused to give evidence, or to disclose the names of those who were present. He (Mr. P.) was willing to admit that a Catholic clergyman could, no more than a Protestant, conceal a crime, and that this priest was therefore, liable for the consequences of illegal conduct; but in this case he did not think it would have been adviseable to inflict the punishment. By giving evidence against these persons, the priest not only exposed himself to personal danger, perhaps to assassination, but deprived himself of all capacity of being employed as an instrument to prevent future crimes. Having a choice, therefore, of compelling him to appear in the witness box, and of punishing him if be refused to give evidence, or of employing the confidence which he enjoyed with those whose lives would be affected by his testimony to prevent future outrages, he (Mr. P.) notwithstanding that by so doing he exposed himself to the censures of the hon. and learned gentleman, had preferred the latter course, and he now appealed to the House from the decision of the hon. and learned gentleman, and asked if he was not entitled to their approbation and thanks for having so done? [Loud cheers.]
He would now address himself to the motion of his right hon. friend. His right hon. friend, he was sure, could intend no unkindness towards him by the manner in which he had alluded to his conduct in 1816, and stating that he then joined with him in a motion similar to the present. Neither could his other hon. friend who had so ably supported his views, and who had quoted passages from his speech on that occasion. But as every man was anxious to maintain his character, and to defend his consistency, he might be excused for offering some explanation by which his conduct in then supporting his right hon. friend's motion was reconcilable with his negative vote on the present occasion. The motions, then, he 1546 would say not exactly similar, nor brought forward under similar circumstances. On the former occasion, a vote had been proposed in the in the army estimates for 25,000 men, for preserving the peace of Ireland, and the motion of his right hon. friend was intended to obtain a previous inquiry into the state of the country, for the purpose of ascertaining whether such a force was necessary; in the present instance, the House had voted the necessary force, and had, to arrest existing outrage, conferred additional powers on the Irish government. The latter fact was even embodied in the resolution now before the House. With respect to the latter part of the resolution, which pledged the House to assist his majesty in carrying into execution the most beneficial measures for the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and was intended to stimulate the government to more active exertions in the cause, he could not adopt it without declaring by his vote, that government required reproof for its indifference, and consequently did not enjoy its confidence. Now, that it enjoyed his confidence was proved by his sitting on that side of the House. To those who knew him best, he would leave the decision, whether he had placed that confidence in the present administration because he had joined them, or had joined them because they had obtained his confidence. [Hear, hear.] He believed in his conscience, that government was doing all in their power to find a cure for the evils with which Ireland was afflicted. His right hon. friend (Mr. C. Grant) who had that night spoken with such eloquence, and evinced so much statesmanlike talent and views, and who by his speech had acquired additional claims to the gratitude of his country, had enumerated the causes, of the present state of Ireland. Many of these causes, it would be obvious could not be immediately counteracted, and many of their effects could not be immediately remedied; but he was convinced, that the government of that country was sincerely desirous of discovering a remedy, and would be zealot in applying it. Every thing that could be done, he was convinced would be done. With respect to the great question of Catholic disabilities, he would at present say nothing, although he hoped that it would soon be satisfactorily, settled. The House would recollect, that the question last year obtained a new position; that a bill had been agreed to, in that House, had 1547 passed through all its stages, and was only lost in another place. He confessed that he, therefore, looked forward with increased confidence to the final success of that great measure of security, of strength, and of justice; but it was too important a question to be mixed up with the discussion of that evening. A part of it would shortly come before the House on the intended motion of his rt. hon. friend (Mr. Canning) for the admission of Catholic peers into the other House of Parliament; and at an early period of the next session, as he (Mr. Plunkett) had formerly announced, he intended to submit the whole question to parliament; when he had no doubt it would receive that full, temperate, and satisfactory discussion which its momentous consequence deserved.
Among the circumstances which had had a beneficial tendency with regard to Ireland, and which, without reference to the success of the question to which he had alluded, increased his confidence in the future tranquillity of Ireland, was the late visit of his majesty to that part of his dominions. That gracious proceeding had been undervalued, and viewed with affected indifference, by the various descriptions of persons with various objects; but a wiser and more beneficial measure, he was convinced, could not have been taken. Its importance had been under-rated, by those who were averse to see any lustre thrown around the Throne, and by the petty factions of both sides, who distracted that unhappy country; but the great body of the people had appreciated the visit as it deserved. His majesty had knocked at the hearts of his Irish subjects, and had been answered with inexpressible enthusiasm and gratitude. That visit had been followed by another measure of conciliation, on which they likewise set its proper value—he meant the appointment of the marquis Wellesley to the government of Ireland. He would not then enter into any eulogium on that noble lord, who did not require any praises of his; but he should be wanting in that justice which he owed to him, if he did not state the wise and impartial views with which he entered upon his office—the zeal and vigour with which he applied himself to discover a remedy for the existing evils of Ireland—and the anxiety which he showed to administer the law, and to put down those who rose up against it, in whatever party, and under whatever banners, they appeared. 1548 [Hear, hear.]He (Mr. Plunkett) entertained from these and from other circumstances great hopes of approaching prosperity to Ireland; and he begged leave so say, that some of his hon. friends had drawn too gloomy a picture of its past condition, when they spoke of an uninterrupted misgovernment of three centuries. Within the latter part of this period they might have found many subjects of consolation. The penal laws fir religion had been within the last forty years entirely repealed: nothing now remained but one great measure of policy and justice that should remove all civil disabilities on account of religious faith. It should also be recollected, that since the year 1782 that country had been restored to commerce and to all the commercial rights enjoyed in other parts of the empire. These advantages had been followed by an union, which placed Ireland on a footing with Great Britain, in all other privileges and rights. He had opposed that union; he had done so openly and boldly, nor was he now ashamed of what he had done; but though in his resistance to it he had been prepared to go the length of any man, he was now equally prepared to do all in his power to render it close and indissoluble. One of the apprehensions on which his opposition was founded, he was happy to say, had been disappointed by the event. He had been afraid that the Irish interests, on the abolition of her separate legislature, would come to be discussed in a hostile parliament but he could now state, and he wished when he spoke that he could be heard by the whole of Ireland, that during the time that he had sat in the united parliament, he had found every question that related to the interests or security of that country entertained with indulgence, and treated with the most deliberate regard. When he considered all these things—when he considered the privileges granted, and the disabilities removed—and when he considered the effects that must result from the cordial efforts of a united legislature, he could not entertain gloomy ideas on the subject of the future prospects of Ireland. If an improved system of police were established in that country, and if the landed gentry discharged with zeal the duties of their character and station, we should soon see a manifest amelioration of the state of the sisters island, and should find that, instead or being a source of weakness and distraction, it would be- 1549 come an arm of security and strength to the whole empire. [Hear, hear.]
His right hon. friend (Mr. Grant) had adverted to the causes of the present state of society in Ireland, under the heads of the tithe system, the police, the magistracy, and education; and though he, when he rose did not intend to say one word upon them, he would now, as he was on his legs, address himself briefly to them. He confessed he approached the tithe system with great reserve and delicacy. The legislature had a right to meddle with that property, because there were no limits to its power; but, on the same principle that it could interfere with tithes, it might interfere with any other species of property. As to any forcible diminution of their amount, or compulsory commutation of them, he could never agree to any measure for that purpose, nor could parliament on any just principle, entertain the question for a moment. In opposition to frequent complaints, he was of opinion that the clergy of Ireland were not adequately provided for. They did not receive what they were entitled to demand, and the clamour raised against their alleged exactions was most unfounded and most unjust. [Hear, hear.] He wished to speak with respect of the great body of Irish landlords; but he was compelled to say, that, generally in the west and in the south of Ireland, they exacted so much rent themselves, that they left little for the tithe of the clergy, and joined in the cry of exaction when that little was attempted to be recovered. They sometimes let their land at from seven, eight, nine, or ten pounds per acre. Whatever the poor occupier could spare beyond mere subsistence, the proprietor claimed in the shape of rent, and thus left the clergyman in the recovery of his tithe, to deal with an insolvent fund. [Hear, hear.] If the latter surrendered his rights, he was left without an income, and praised for his generosity: if he exacted them, the cry of rapacity was raised against him. In the mean time, the poor occupier of the land gained no advantage by the clergyman's forbearance; as what was remitted in tithe was exacted in rent. The cry raised against the clergy for their enjoyment of that portion of the produce which the law awarded them from the land—always appeared to him illiberal and ill-founded. He knew of no class of country gentlemen more useful than the clergy, even independent of their sacred duties, 1550 and none better entitled to the property which they enjoyed. [Hear, hear.] They spent their income in the country, in the encouragement of industry, as usefully as laymen; they were better educated; they were more capable of directing their inferiors; and, independently of the religious instruction which they conveyed, they set a better example of morals and private conduct. But he agreed with those who thought that some change might be made, with advantage, in the mode of collecting tithes, though he was opposed to any measure for compulsory commutation. The subject was certainly surrounded with difficulty, but he thought some means might be contrived, by which the clergy might be enabled to treat with the proprietors instead of the occupiers of land. In this manner an agreement, not amounting to a commutation of tithes, might be entered into, by which the clergyman might receive a certain sum for a certain number of years; and this arrangement might be farther perfected by making the tithe an actual charge upon the land into whatever hands it might fall. This would prevent that perpetual recurrence of vexatious pretensions which was now the source of so much dissention between the clergyman and the occupier of the land, and the effect would be extremely beneficial in another point of view. The occupier of land was generally a Roman Catholic, who was naturally disinclined to contribute to the support of a religion which he did not profess; but if the transfer which he had just alluded to were adopted, the Protestant clergyman would no longer have to deal with a Catholic occupier, but with the proprietor who was generally a Protestant. He did not despair of some such measure being matured so as to be capable of being laid before parliament. This subject was now under the consideration of wiser heads than his; but he must deprecate the introduction of any measure, unless that measure had been precisely limited and ascertained; for he thought the Protestant clergy ought not to be exposed to the consequences of any indefinite arrangement, the exact limits and extent of which were not know previously to its being made the subject of deliberation. With regard to the system of police and he magistracy of Ireland, he cold assure his right hon. friend, that those subjects were now occupying the serious attention of his majesty's government. The system of education had often 1551 received the attention of the House, and many measures had been passed with regard to it. Whether all the beneficial effects which had been expected had resulted from those measures he would not pretend to say; but he was sure that the government would readily give its attention to any propositions which might he brought forward on the subject. He begged pardon for having trespassed so long upon the House. Indeed, it was not his intention to have occupied any portion of their attention, had he not felt himself called upon to make some counter statement to the evidence of the hon. and learned member for Dublin.
§ Mr. Grattan
supported the observations of his right hon. and learned friend, whose knowledge of the state of Ireland made him competent to point out all the bearings of the question under consideration. The hon. member earnestly recommended unanimity in Ireland, and expressed a hope that he should see the day when Protestant and Catholic would be firmly united under the same laws and government.
§ Mr. Peel
said, that the course which the debate had takes rendered it unnecessary for kin to trouble the House at any length upon the present occasion. Having, however, held an office in Ireland for a longer period than that office had been retained by any person during the last century, he trusted the House would excuse him if he ventured to address to them a few observations on the question which had been brought forward. In what he had to say he would abstain from making any allusion to the Catholic question; and he thought the right hon. baronet had acted wisely in refraining from making any reference to that question in the address which he had submitted to the House. When his right hon. and learned friend should, as he had given notice, submit the consideration of that question to the House, in the next session, he should feel it his painful duty to persevere in the opposition which he had always offered to the claims of the Roman Catholics; but, until that period arrived, he thought he should best consult his own feelings, and the general wishes of the House, by avoiding any reference to the subject. The points of difference between the right hon. baronet and those who opposed him appeared to be not very numerous, or of very great importance. The rt. hon. baronet had proposed a general 1552 address, leading to no specific object, but merely pledging the House to the consideration of any measures which might be proposed by government. In all the important points of the right hon. baronet's address, the government was disposed to agree; but they wished to have those points discussed, and he implored the House not to accede to an address, which was in no way calculated to effect the right hon. baronet's object. On the other hand, an admission had been made on the part of government, that they were ready and anxious to make every inquiry into the state of Ireland. The right hon. secretary for Ireland had stated, that on those points on which it was considered that government could beneficially interfere, measures should be adopted; and that on those other points, respecting which a conclusion might be come to that nothing could be done, he should be ready to lay satisfactory reasons for that non, interference before the House. Could the House expect more than this? Was it fair that a government which had: been only three months in existence, and which had, during that time, been principally occupied in details concerning the security of life and property, should now be under an imputation, because it was not at this moment prepared to submit any specific measure? In the address of the right hon. baronet he found it impossible for hint to acquiesce. He could not admit the implied censure which the address cast upon past governments, and he thought that he could convince the right hon. baronet himself that he had introduced some words into the address which would have been better omitted, and that he had not paid sufficient attention to certain causes, which were allowed to have an extensive and important operation. He (Mr. Peel) had been connected with the government of Ireland for the space of six years; and he should consider it as a gross reflection upon his own character if he had permitted that period to elapse without taking into consideration all the topics to which the right hon. baronet had alluded. But there was some other subjects connected with this question which had not this evening been adverted to, but which had some years ago been considered of essential importance. He would, in the first place, remind the right hon. baronet of the question regarding the appointment of sheriffs. When he had first gone to Ireland, he 1553 had heard constant, and he believed well founded complaints of the mode by which sheriffs had been then appointed; for the sheriffs had then possessed the power of nominating the grand jury, and the grand jury had possessed the power of imposing local taxes to an unlimited extent. In consequence, an application had been made to assimulate the mode of appointing sheriffs in Ireland to the practice which prevailed in England. The judges had been empowered to recommend three persons from each province; and he believed that in the selection of the sheriffs from the persons thus returned, the government had never yet been charged with partiality. Another and a not less important question had been the power possessed by the grand jury of imposing local taxation. The state of the police at that period had been in a most deplorable state. He had done all: in his power to remedy its deficiencies; for, of all the cases which had been mentioned as leading to the present condition of Ireland, there was none to which he attached so much importance as the state of the police.—He wished it was possible on this subject to fulfil the view of his right hon. friend, and to devolve upon the grand jury the power of appointing proper officers. The appointment of constables in Ireland was very different from their appointment in England. In England their services were gratuitous; but in Ireland they all received a regular allowance. He acquiesced in the objection made by his right hon. friend to the appointment of a magistracy superior to the ordinary magistrate. To such a proceeding there were certainly great objections; but if the grand jury would not do their duty by appointing proper officers, the government must necessarily take the task into its own hands. He spoke not now of appointing a police for the purpose of repressing insurrection; but of a police which might do that which had never yet been effectually done, namely, to enforce the common law of England. He believed that if Ireland were to be accustomed for a few years to the vigorous execution of the English common law, there would be no occasion for the application of extraordinary measures. On the subject of education, he begged to be allowed to say, that the opinions which he entertained on the Catholic question, had never prejudiced his views as to the necessity of education generally. He had rather that the 1554 Catholic population should be enlightened than ignorant, and he would extend education to all parties without reference to the religion of either. If any measure, therefore, was to be brought forward, to which, after deliberate consideration, he could consent, it should have his cordial support. On the subject of tithes, he concurred with his right hon. and learned friend, in thinking, that it was an extensive and difficult question. He thought that the general character of the Irish clergy had been greatly misrepresented, and misunderstood. He knew that their forbearance had been most exemplary; and though, in particular instances, that line of conduct might have been departed from, yet he implored the House not to form their judgment of the clergy as a general body, from one or two unworthy exceptions. He believed that it was this general conduct the clergy which furnished the strongest argument against the plan of commutation. Every man who had attentively considered the question of commutation, must have been appalled by the difficulties which that subject presented, both as it regarded the church and the tenant of the land. The obstacles to that plan were so numerous, that he knew not how to get rid of them. He had attended to the subject seriously, and the result of his attention was, that he thought that great danger would attend the experiment, and that it might prejudice the interests of both parties. He would not now enter farther into the subject. His concurrence in much that had been said by the speakers who had preceded him, relieved him from the necessity of expressing his opinions at greater length; but he conjured the House to rest satisfied with the promise that had been made, and not to concur in an address which went to no specific purpose.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he was willing to place confidence in the pledges which had been given by the chief secretary of Ireland, and the attorney-general, that the several measures which had been proposed for improving the condition of Ireland, would be made the subject of the constant and serious consideration of the British government, and in due time brought forward for the sanction of the House. He certainly had heard with great regret, the reply the right hon. gentleman had made to the question which he had asked him early in the evening, concerning tithes; because he 1555 was sure, from all he had heard, of his own bill of this kind, a measure merely to give a power to lease tithes, would prove of no benefit to any one; but the further explanation of the plan which had been given by the attorney-general led him to think something better of it: for if it went to secure a tithe rent for a certain number of years, in lieu of tithes as now leased, it would, no doubt, do some good in remedying many of the evils belonging to the present system of collecting tithes. In his opinion the only plan that could prove satisfactory to all parties, would be one of a general commutation of tithes for an acreable tax. This was a plan that might be carried into execution with as little difficulty as the plan for a tithe rent; it would be more simple, and much more effectual; and one which would meet with general approbation. He had received several plans founded on this principle, and even from clergymen. He wished to be distinctly understood, as not having the smallest desire to invade the property of the church, nor even to diminish the actual income of the clergy. He looked to a commutation upon the strictest principles of justice, and he would even say he was disposed to fix the income of every clergyman at a higher rate than it ever yet had been. He could not agree with the secretary of the home department, that the commutation of tithes was to be discussed as a measure hostile to the interests of the Irish clergy. It was a very mistaken and exaggerated course of debate to assume, that they were to be made to give way to what is called the outcry of the people. In point of fact, of all the parties the inferior clergy of Ireland were the most interested in having a commutation of tithes—for they were always the first to suffer. Just in proportion as disturbances prevailed, their incomes were diminished; and he could positively say, from the communications he had had with clergymen, that the general wish of the whole body was to have a complete commutation of tithes, founded on the principle of an acreable tax. The hon. baronet proceeded to say, that, had he sooner been able to address the House, he would have gone at some length into the various matters which had been the subject of this night's debate; but, at so late an hour, he would only make some observations on one or two of 1556 them. He fully agreed with the secretary of the home department, that the office of constable, under the management of the grand juries, was wholly useless; at the same time he did not agree with him in thinking that government should appoint all the constables. He thought the magistrates should appoint them at the quarter sessions; they were interested in having good constables to assist thems and, besides, the necessity of meeting together once or twice a year, for the business of appointing the constable, would be of great use. He wished to see the country placed under a constitutional police, and not under one of a military character. In respect to the causes of the disturbances, he had wished to have had an opportunity of fully discussing them. He allowed the Catholic question had no immediate connexion with the disturbances; but still he felt convinced that they might be traced as having their foundation in that spirit of hostility to English law which flowed from the first introduction of the Penal code. The people of Ireland felt as Irishmen, rather than as Catholics, in respect to this Code; it kept alive constant discontent, and the firm conviction of his mind was, that not one or all of the measures which had been suggested for the improvement of the condition of Ireland would eve, avaff, unless the complete emancipation of the Catholics was made the foundation of them.
§ Sir J. Newport
rose to reply and said, that after the explanation which had been given on part of government, and particularly after the pledge which had been given by his right hon. friend, the attorney-general for Ireland, who had thrown oil upon the troubled waters, that measures for the relief of the people of Ireland were under the consideration of government, he would not press his motion to a division. He thought it necessary to deny that he intended, by his motion, to convey any reflection upon the present government of Ireland. If the motion had been of such a character, he would have been the last man in the House to propose it. He was happy that he had called the attention of the House to the subject, since it had been the occasion of eliciting a declaration of the intentions of government, which appeared to him very satisfactory.
§ The motion was then negatived.