§ On the order of the day for going into a committee on this bill,
§ Sir J. Newport
said, that he understood, from the noble lord opposite, that the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government had recommended the adoption of the Insurrection bill and of the Habeas Corpus suspension bill, without alteration or modification; and having in every former transaction of that noble person's life admired his talents and entertained the highest opinion of his public conduct, he was disposed to wave his own opinion, and not to press for the modification of measures which, it was said, the noble marquis demanded without modification. He took this course, also, on the conviction, that if he were to persist in calling for modifications, and if the House gave way to his representations, then, should the measure be found inapplicable to the present state of Ireland (as, however modified, he believed it would be), he should be accused of having rendered the act inoperative by the introduction of those modifications. Under such circumstances, the responsibility (and an awful responsibility it was) rested with the head of the Irish government, who required these measures in their most potent form.
said, he felt himself imperiously called upon to enter his protest against the measures proposed by the noble marquis. His right hon. friend had thought proper to wave his objections to the proposed measures, on the ground of his great confidence in the disposition and character of the marquis Wellesley. But for himself, he must say, that upon no authority whatever could he deem it consistent to invest any individual with such authority as these measures were meant to create. Where was the evidence of lord Wellesey's authority for the adoption of 164 these measures? There was, in fact, no evidence whatever to warrant the adoption of such extraordinary measures. To find, then, that no less than 190 gentlemen had voted last night for the passing of these measures, without any evidence to sties that they were necessary, had, he must say, filled his mind with horror, shame disgust, and he would add indignation. That so many gentlemen could be found thus to surrender to ministers the liberties of Ireland, must he matter of surprise with every man who had any regard for public freedom: for these measures involved a sacrifice of the very bulkwark of liberty; and what must the public think of those ministers and their adherents, who would thus tamely surrender the constitutional privileges of the people? He hoped the people would bear in mind how they had been treated on this occasion. The meeting of parliament had been postponed to an unprecedentedly late period and when it was assembled, they were addressed by a Speech from the throne remarkable for its omissions with respect to the state of the country. One-fourth of that Speech related to the affairs of Ireland; and it spoke of that country in such terms, as must render it impossible for any one who had read the passage to believe that Ireland was in that state of outrage and rebellion which the noble lord had described. That the people of that country should be up in arms—that they should have taken the field, as it were, against the military force—in short, that they should be in a state of open rebellion, and yet that his majesty, at the opening of the session, should speak of them as he had done, was to him quite inconceivable. His majesty said, that "a spirit of out-rage, which had led to daring and systematic violations of the law, had arisen, and still prevailed, in some parts of the country." But outrage and systematic violations of the law, were very different from rebellion, and were perfectly distinguishable from what the noble lord had described. The papers which had been presented to the House (and they were the most meagre, the most unsatisfactory things that could possibly be conceived, on which to found any measure) did not support the sweeping statement of the noble lord. But, if the country were in a state of rebellion, it was in that state, as was observed by a noble lord (Mountcharles) who was generally a supporter of ministers, and whose authority was 165 therefore entitled to consideration, in consequence of the negligence and the apathy of his majesty's Government. The noble representative for Donegal had told them, that this state of outrage had continued for months, and that if ministers had called parliament together in October or November, much mischief would have been avoided, and much bloodshed been spared. If that were the case, who was accountable for the state of rebellion in which the noble lord described Ireland to be? None but himself and his colleagues. And, were these the individuals to whom the House, in its confidence, would intrust these powers? Were these the persons whom they were bound to believe, when they declared that those powers were necessary? Besides, these remedies were not applicable to the state of things which the noble lord had described. With respect to the Habeas Corpus Suspension act, he could not see how it applied in any way whatever to the situation of Ireland as described by the noble lord. Indeed, the noble lord had not said that it did apply. His observation was, that a state of things might possibly occur, in which the operation of such a measure would be useful. Was, then, the Habeas Corpus act of so little importance, that it was to be dispensed with, in expectation of some contingency, and in the absence of any adequate cause for its suspension? Was it of so little consequence, that parliament might suspend it as a measure of anticipation? One hon. gentleman had stated, that he considered the Insurrection act a very proper measure, but that he looked on the Habeas Corpus Suspension act as improper and unnecessary. But that gentleman had added, that he would support the latter, because he approved of the former, and he did not like to divide his votes. This was the way in which such incongruous measures were carried. There was no evidence whatsoever of the existence of rebellion. Where was it to be found? Certainly not in the King's Speech, nor in the papers on their table. But, if disturbances existed in some small districts, was that to be advanced as a sufficient reason for suspending the liberties of the whole people of Ireland? His right hon. friend had said that be would not oppose these measures if they were called for by the marquis Wellesley. Now, to the assertion that the marquis Wellesley had called for those powers, he would give the answer 166 which an hon. gentleman had given last night, namely, that he did not believe the marquis Wellesley wanted such powers to be placed in his hands by parliament. If he had requested them, they would have been favoured with some evidence to prove that such was his wish. It would, indeed, have been the manifest interest of ministers to lay that evidence before the House. But the spirit of the noble lord's observations, and the statement contained in these papers, would bear the inference, that the noble marquis did not desire these powers, and that he did not conceive the country to be in a state of rebellion. This was a plain view of the case; and he could never agree to concede such extraordinary powers to the Crown, or indeed any powers whatever, on the mere ipse dixit of a minister, which was nothing more than air, and might be uttered at one moment and forgotten the very next. The temper and character of the marquis Wellesley had been frequently alluded to as an argument for fearlessly intrusting those powers to his hands. This argument had no weight with him. Power was a very tempting possession; and it had always been found that, when individuals were invested with extensive authority, the more they had, the more they wished to have. The active and ardent mind of the marquis Wellesley was precisely of that description which delighted in the acquirement and exercise of power: and it should not be forgotten that, at one period, he enjoyed despotic power. He had, it was true, ran a very brilliant career; but that circumstance did not lessen the danger of intrusting him with absolute authority. Buonaparte had also run a brilliant career; but he was a great tyrant. The splendor of his achievements might be admired; but, would any one be inclined, on account of that splendor, to clothe him with despotic power? The mind of the marquis Wellesley was of that lofty description, his character was of that determined nature—which might lead him to render his already brilliant career still more brilliant, by the exercise of despotic power. Such power, in his opinion, ought to be confided to no person; and least of all was it calculated for such a man as the marquis Wellesley, who, from his long habits, would perhaps be the most anxious to possess it. He meant nothing disrespectful to the noble marquis; but be thought he had shown that the reasons give by his right hon. friend for 167 freely conceding those great powers to the head of the Irish government were not valid ones. He recollected, in the early period of his parliamentary life, that the mode, in which the noble marquis had formerly exercised power, became the subject of inquiry in that House; and he must say, that the manner in which he appeared to have used his authority was not of such a nature as would tempt him to place power in the hands of that nobleman again. Transactions, it appeared, had taken place in India—transactions with which the marquis Wellesley was intimately connected—which could not be remembered without exciting feelings of pain. Never could he forget the line of conduct which the noble marquis pursued towards the unfortunate princes who came within his grasp, and towards the unfortunate countries which he subjugated for the East India Company. His proceedings with respect to the Nabob of Oude, the Nabob of the Carnatic, the Peishwa, and other princes, were memorable instances of the gross abuse of power, and of the greatest cruelty. His conduct partook of the spirit which distinguished the proceedings of all those who were possessed of despotic power. The same conduct was pursued by Buonaparte, when he wielded the power and resources of France, towards all the governments which he subjugated. Having acquired this knowledge of the noble marquis's conduct in India, he confessed that he did not feel very willing to place those extraordinary powers in his bands. He had, he believed, stated his sentiments in a parliamentary way; and he thought he had said enough to show, that there was nothing in the conduct of the noble marquis to justify the House in placing these exorbitant powers at his disposal.—Another point of argument had been used on this occasion, which appeared to him to be equally fallacious; and it, too, rested on personal character. The noble lord had told them that the Insurrection act was drawn up and prepared by Mr. Plunkett, the present Attorney-general for Ireland, and formerly a member of that House. It was said, that, as he had sided on many public questions with those who opposed ministers, therefore, his authority must have considerable weight, in proving that government were actuated by a just and liberal spirit. But this authority also failed; for two years ago, when the celebrated six acts were passed, 168 he recollected the definition that learned gentleman gave of liberty. He stated, that liberty was the power of doing that which the law enabled a man to do;" under which definition the Turkish, the Hindoo, the Algerine people—but not the people of Ireland, when the Habeas Corpus act was suspended—would enjoy as much liberty as the people of England, notwithstanding all the securities and safeguards with which our forefathers had surrounded our rights and privileges. That learned gentleman, thinking, perhaps, that the people of England had too much liberty, treated them with the Insurrection act. With the respect to the application of these laws, not one individual amongst those who supported them could show how they applied to the state of the country. They wanted something, it seemed; and they were willing to put up with these bills, without troubling themselves about the efficacy of their operation. It was melancholy to see the House of Commons brought to this situation—that in the absence of all reason and evidence, at the mere beck and invitation of the minister, they were willing, on the preceding night, to force these bills through all their stages. The House was now running a career most fatal to the country. Viewing, with feelings of alarm, the inroads which were daily making on the constitution, he should oppose both these bills, but most particularly that which suspended the Habeas Corpus act.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, the noble lord had thought fit to assert, that the declaration of a minister of the Crown, in his place in parliament, was not to be received as evidence—that the House ought not to legislate upon it. He, however, begged leave to combat that position. A minister of the Crown making a statement in his place, and pledging his official responsibility for its accuracy, was as liable to be challenged and impeached, if his statement were incorrect, as if he had laid a false dispatch on the table of the House. If a minister could so far forget himself as to assert that which was not matter of fact, his conduct would deserve the severest animadversion, and would be justly visited by the contempt and detestation of mankind. And surely the man who could have the hardihood to proclaim a false fact to the House, would be equally capable of forging a dispatch. He, therefore, questioned the noble lord's constitutional authorities on this subject. This 169 was not the first time the noble lord had manifested a disposition to form a contrast with those whose principles he generally advocated; and that evening he had exhibited a most notable contrast to the gentlemen around him. He appeared to have risen more for the purpose of attacking the marquis Wellesley, than of imparting any information to the House. Now, he would, in a few words, state how the facts stood to which the noble lord had alluded, and he would then leave them, like other facts in our history, to carry their conviction with them, perfectly convinced that the character of the noble marquis would not suffer in public estimation thereby. It was matter of notoriety that parliamentary proceedings relative to the conduct of marquis Wellesley I were instituted some years ago. He did not know whether the noble lord was the prosecutor in his own person on that occasion, or whether he was the associate of an individual of the name of Paull, who had found his way into that House. The marquis Wellesley had, at that time, terminated his brilliant career in India. He had returned crowned with laurels from the seat of that government which he had so long and so ably administered, and he had brought with him the love and admiration of all who had witnessed his exertions. He found, however, on his arrival here, that instead of sitting down to enjoy the well-earned fruits of his honourable labours, he had to travel through a long investigation of his conduct, at the instance of the individual whom he had just named. Considerable delay in consequence intervened before he received that homage which was justly due to his talents and integrity, and which he did ultimately receive, in spite of all opposition. He believed there never was an accusation brought within the walls of that House which imparted more painful sensations to men of dignified feelings; nor one, the defeat of which was hailed with greater pleasure. The noble lord had applied the word "cruelty" to the conduct of the marquis Wellesley: but he would assert, and he would appeal to the right hon. baronet who sat on the noble lord's right, whether the noble marquis was not the last man in the world to whose conduct such an epithet ought to be applied. The noble lord afforded a solitary instance of a desire to promulgate opinions which were at variance with those held by all other men. To-night, 170 while all those around him were warm in their admiration of the public and private conduct of the marquis Wellesley—when they appeared almost ready to confide supreme power to him—the noble lord stood forward to attack his character. He congratulated the noble lord on the solitary distinction which he had acquired —a distinction, in the enjoyment of which he was sure no person would disturb him. With respect to the objections of the right hon. baronet, it was fitting that he should make an observation or two. The right hon. baronet said, he would rather pass the Martial Law bill than the Insurrection act. What was the Martial Law bill? A measure that applied to all Ireland; and was therefore unlike the Insurrection act, which remained inoperative, unless it was put in force on the application of seven magistrates. The Martial Law bill was only applicable to a state "flagrante bello;" whereas, the Insurrection act was applicable to a country, a part only of which was in a state of insurrection. To that part its provisions could be applied, when the magistrates called for it, while the other portion of the country, which was in a peaceable state, were not affected by it. The reverse was the case with the Martial Law bill. Martial law was the suspension of the Habeas Corpus into the bargain. It was the suspension of the Habeas Corpus placed in military bands. The functions of the King's-bench were placed in the hands of military officers. It was, therefore, a suspension of the Habeas Corpus of the worst kind. He was not disposed to take this flight with the right hon. baronet, and to trust the execution of the laws to marching regiments, rather than to the judges. Whatever gloom of mind or exaltation of confidence influenced the right hon. baronet in bringing him to the conclusion that the whole of Ireland ought to be handed over to marching regiments, he could not participate in his conclusions. A more temperate and more judicious course had been chosen. He could conceive a case in which military law ought to cover the face of the country; but this was not such a case. He was, therefore, as little disposed to concur with the right hon. baronet for resorting to military law, as he had been last night to agree with an hon. and learned gentleman in conferring absolute power on the noble lord at the head of the Trish government. The suspension of the 171 Habeas Corpus act had never been intended to apply to acts of outrage and rebellion. He had stated the evil to which it was a corrective, and the only corrective. It was not for rebellion in the field, but for cases where emissaries were inflaming men into rebellion. In such cases, it was the only mode of saving the country from their pernicious labour. He therefore did not lament that lord Wellesley had come to the decision of not applying for martial law. It had formerly been of great utility, but it was not the proper measure for the present exigency.
said, that in whatever view he contemplated this obnoxious bill, be never could recognize the necessity for its enactment, nor believe that it was calculated to work the result which its supporters anticipated. It was, in the first place, very extraordinary, that the noble marquis, on the discussion of the King's Speech, had not betrayed the slightest indication of the measures proposed. He would go further, and state his belief that, up to Tuesday night, the noble marquis had not made up his mind on the subject. But last night the noble marquis was determined; he proceeded to the accomplishment of his object with a diligence not, as it would seem, proportioned to the necessity of the case, but to the expedition of the engrosser. If the urgency was so pressing in the minds of the king's ministers, how came it that no order had been given to the clerk to take a copy of the bill from the Statute-book. It was impossible, therefore, for him not to doubt the necessity for such a bill, even from the conduct of the noble marquis himself. But, after he bad determined on the measure, what had the noble lord done to induce the House to accede to it? He had referred it to the papers placed on the table, and to a justifiable confidence in the character of the marquis Wellesley. With respect to the papers, he would admit that they contained information of outrages in different counties of Ireland. To check such acts of insubordination some remedial measures were admitted to be necessary; but he never could believe that either prevention or remedy could be found in an Insurrection bill, or any bill of a similar tendency. Far better, in his contemplation, would be the prompt interposition of the constitutional tribunal of those special commissions which should be forthwith assembled at Limerick, Cork and Tralee, prepared 172 to proceed to the trial of all those criminals which the military force should bring in, and thus vindicate the power of the law by the immediate conviction of its transgressors. With such commissions sitting in the respective districts, and the military force actively employed, the public security might be maintained, and all those violations of the liberties of the subject avoided. His right hon. friend (Sir J. Newport) was contented to give to the lord lieutenant all the powers necessary to remove the existing evils. To that extent he was not prepared to go: he could not, either on the evidence contained in the information on the table, or in any confidence in the marquis Wellesley, consent to pass the two bills at present under discussion. And here he must be allowed to advert to the animadversions which the noble marquis opposite had cast so unjustly on his noble friend's (Folkstone) conduct that night. In every word that his noble friend uttered he agreed. When the noble marquis opposite arraigned his noble friend for his hesitation to confide extraordinary powers to the marquis Wellesley, did it escape his recollection, that the conduct which his noble friend arraigned, had been made the subject of impeachment, censure, and blame in the House of Commons. If the noble marquis's memory failed him on that point, he begged to remind him, that he himself had heard the same opinion supported by the late sir Samuel Romilly, in as able, as powerful, and as eloquent a speech, as was ever heard within the walls of parliament, and ending in the condemnation of the conduct of lord Wellesley. The same conviction was entertained by Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Sheridan, and Mr. Windham. If, then, his noble friend was in error, he was in error with names as distinguished as ever graced, or ever would grace the roll of parliament—men whose very presence amongst them had retrieved the character of the House, when other recollections of its proceedings bad merited reprobation. When therefore, the noble marquis threw out his animadversions on his noble friend, he (Dr. L.) had a right to revert to the facts, in order to repel them. It had been his duty, in reference to those proceedings to have put a question to Mr. Sheridan. That question had for its object, to learn from him whether or not he had abandoned the farther proceedings on his motion relative to the marquis of Wellesley. The answer he gave was; that though he 173 retained all his former opinions, he did not mean by proceeding to run the risque of dissolving the Grenville administration. The conduct of Mr. Sheridan on that occasion he considered extremely culpable, as well as that of the administration; believing, though politically attached to that party, that it was a compact between the constituent parts of that administration, to screen, at all events, the marquis Wellesley. That determination he had then, as he did now, arraign. Out of power it was all vigour, zeal and energy in support of the charges, when in place, these qualities were exchanged for coldness, apathy, and oblivion. No political predilections could induce him to approve of such a line of conduct. The opinions he then entertained as to certain parts of the conduct of the marquis Wellesley in India, he now retained. Giving him the fullest credit for vigour, talent, and energy, he still was disposed to contend, that the noble marquis had overlooked the obligations of public faith in the brilliant prospects of extended dominion; and therefore it was that now he would not consent, on the personal credit of the lord lieutenant of Ireland, to invest him with extraordinary and despotic powers. In the name of every constitutional principle he would ask, whether such alarming powers ought to be vested in any man on personal confidence?—powers which surrendered the whole administration of justice in Ireland to an arbitrary decision—without any ability of investigation, and with the moral certainty that a bill of Indemnity was the certain and undisputed consequence even of an oppressive abuse? He would give credit to the inclinations of the lord lieutenant strictly and truly to discharge such a duty, but in the many and various claims upon his official attention, it was almost impossible that he could in every instance have the means or the power to exercise a sound discretion. He would call to the attention of the noble marquis opposite, a case to which the noble marquis himself was a party; innocently he was convinced, but which, in the distractions which agitated Ireland, illustrated the impossibility of preventing the abuse of extraordinary powers. The case he alluded to, he had from the most respectable authority—from the son of the gentleman who had been nearly made the victim of the mistake. The son had heard that his father, a Roman Catholic, a man of high charac- 174 ter, and a property of 5,000l. a-year, was about to be arrested on a warrant for high treason, signed by the noble marquis himself. On hearing of such intention, the son proceeded to Dublin, and made the necessary inquiries at the castle. He was there assured that he was misinformed, as there was no such intention. The warrant was, however, signed and issued, and was about to be executed, when the son again set out for Dublin, and was at length obliged to obtain a warrant, to set aside the original warrant signed by the noble marquis himself, in mistake. Here, then, was an instance where a respectable individual was near being subjected to all the miseries of an Irish gaol. With respect to the magistracy to whom these bills gave such unlimited power, he would implore the House to reflect on the information it had received from those best qualified to afford it. Would they, after all they had heard, confide such laws to the persons invested with that authority? He would ask the noble marquis, or the late secretary for Ireland, whether it was not a fact, that a murderer of the name of Scanlan, was not only not taken into custody after the perpetration of his crime, but was actually known to have been in the company of the magistrates of Limerick, although his crime was notorious and his person was identified; moreover, that he was suffered to remain at large, until by the zeal and activity of the hon. member for Limerick, the criminal was arrested and convicted? He would ask further, whether the accomplices of the murderer were not permitted to escape? Besides, when he heard such a character of the Irish magistracy, from Irish members, how could he consent to entrust the execution of such laws to such instruments? But then the noble marquis interposed, and assured the House that he had a palliative! The trial by jury, that sound so dear to the ears of Englishmen, had no attractions for Ireland. The noble marquis was ready with his king's serjeant, which was to stand in its stead for ever and for aye. What an Irish serjeant might be he knew not, as he never saw one; but, with all due respect to his majesty's serjeants-at-law in this country, he would rather entrust his life to any jury that could be collected in England, than to any serjeant amongst them. It was not that they were not honourable and learned men, but that, 175 thus selected, they must be influenced, in some degree, by a political bias, from which it was not in human nature to divest themselves. It was not presuming too much to think, that if by their decision eight or ten poor Irish peasants were transported improperly, such an exercise of their discretion would be overlooked in the character they would acquire for vigour and activity in enforcing the provisions of the law [hear, hear! from the ministerial benches.] He would ask those from whom the cry came, whether the experience they had had of legal promotions, even in this country, did not justify that conclusion? He agreed with the noble marquis, that it would not be consistent to blend any conciliatory measures with these penal acts. But he, at the same time, implored the noble marquis to carry his reflections to the unfortunate extent to which the spirit of insubordination and outrage had so frequently arisen in Ireland for the last thirty years, and that at length the period had arrived, when the most searching investigation into the causes of these desolating ebullitions of popular outrage should take place. Let him not be told of the difficulties that interposed. Doubtless, there were difficulties arising from causes beyond human control, such as pestilence and famine, which could not be prevented, but in the political world there were no difficulties with which human reason could not contend. The state of Ireland had never been investigated; and it was the want, or the postponement, of such investigation that aggravated all the evils under which Ireland suffered. He would ask the noble lord, whether the marquis Wellesley had asked for these bills whole and entire? Or whether, if modified by some clauses, as to the intervention of juries, the same beneficial results might not follow, as its supporters expected front its adoption?
§ Mr. Lockhart
could not agree, that to pass these bills was to sacrifice the constitution of this country. The constitution was already sacrificed in many of the districts of Ireland under the most aggravating circumstances, by those against whom the measures were directed. These persons had set at defiance the constitution, by secret nightly meetings, and by carrying fire and sword into the dwellings of defenceless innocence. The measures might not be exactly what many members hon. members might wish, but if their 176 merits overbalanced their defects, that that was sufficient in such cases. With respect to the loss or the trial by jury, it should be remembered that if means of intimidation had not been resorted to, that would not be necessary. But be did not see any ground for jealousy of the hands into which the power was to be entrusted, as, unless the lord lieutenant, the king's serjeant, and the bench of magistrates conspired together, the liberty of the subject could not be endangered.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that if the right hon. baronet had given his authority to the bills, he would have yielded to that authority; but the right hon. baronet had rested his assent on his confidence in the head of the Irish government. Now, be neither joined in this confidence, nor disclaimed it. Facts and circumstances, and not confidence in any man or set of men, formed the ground of his conduct. He admitted the pressure of the evil, but the Suspension bill was not at all applicable to it. The Insurrection act, if modified, might be found a remedy. If no jury could be found to act, he would have voted for the bill as it was. But juries had acted and done their duty at Limerick. On the bringing up of the report, he would propose a clause to enable the king's serjeant to admit to bail. He would also propose a clause to enable the crown to authorize persons in remote or detached districts to act as justices of the peace. With respect to juries, he would propose to commit the alternative of trying by jury or not to the king's serjeant, who was divested of local passions and animosities.
felt it necessary to state, the reasons upon which his vote would be founded. He had yesterday come down to the House with a strong bias upon his mind on this question; and, from all that he had since heard, he felt it his painful duty to state, that, however he might be compelled to differ from many of his friends, he should compromise his judgment if he declined to support the proposed measures. He must say, that in the many eloquent speeches which he had heard upon this question, gentlemen dwelt much upon the horrors of the Insurrection act, and the unconstitutional doctrine of suspending the Habeas Corpus act, while they kept out of sight the barbarous atrocities which made such measures necessary. He admitted that both measures were unconstitutional; but 177 the question was, whether recourse must be had to those remedies most applicable to the disorder, or whether they were to allow the continuance of outrage, a massacre, and the dissolution of society? He thought the proposed measures not only proper, but the best calculated to effect the objects in view. Some gentlemen had advocated the introduction of martial law into Ireland. Now, he considered martial law, not only more expensive, but by far more arbitrary than the proposed bills. Compared to martial law, the operation of the Insurrection act was mild and gentle. He was glad that his right hon. friend (sir J. Newport) had withdrawn his opposition to the present measures; for, had that right hon. baronet continued to oppose them, he should have doubted much his own opinions to the contrary. He had some acquaintance with gentlemen in different parts of Ireland, and he could not, from his knowledge of them, help expressing his surprise at the sweeping censure which had been cast upon the magistracy of that country. No doubt there were in Ireland, as well as in this country, some persons in the commission who were unfit to hold such a situation; but he could not see any reason why the confidence of the country was to be withdrawn from those gentlemen, merely because they had the misfortune to have in their body some few who were a disgrace to them. It was truly stated, that an absentee gentry was the misfortune of Ireland; but the evil would not be cured, if, when murder, outrage, and rebellion were at the doors of the Irish gentry, parliament were to turn upon them, and say, "We know you are threatened; we know you are in danger; but then we cannot entrust to you the enforcement of the necessary remedy; we do, in fact, think you unworthy of our confidence." Here was encouragement for residence in that country—here was the reward of those gentlemen who resided on their estates; and who, by so doing were placed in hourly danger of their lives and properties. He hoped the House would not thus withdraw its confidence from a set of gentlemen possessing as much integrity, as much perseverance, as much courage as any gentlemen in the country. He could never bring himself to believe that a nobleman of the marquis Wellesley's high character and love of fame, would commence his career in that country by the 178 improper exercise of measures which would tarnish his whole public life.
§ Mr. Lamb
said, he was inclined to support the proposed measures, upon the ground of the confidence which he reposed in the open statement of ministers. He had heard gentlemen say, on former occasions, that nothing was more abominable than any proposal to parliament upon secret papers, or a sealed bag. It was said, that ministers ought to ask for additional powers upon their own responsibility. This was his opinion; and he was ready, to support the proposed measures from his confidence both in ministers and in the noble lord at the head of the Irish government. He did not agree in the allusions thrown out against that noble lord at an early part of the evening, though it was not his intention at that moment to enter into a defence of the noble lord's conduct in India. This, however, he must say, that that noble lord was not more distinguished for energy of character, than for a zealous and ardent love of public liberty and an anxious desire to advance the interests and happiness of that part of the empire committed to his care. Much, however, as he esteemed and respected that noble lord, he was not, in this instance reposing in him a confidence greater than he should be inclined to bestow upon any other lord lieutenant placed in the same situation, and to whom he had no reason to object on other grounds. He had heard from the gentleman who represented the sister country, that a present and efficacious remedy was necessary, and that, therefore, they should not delay the proposed measures. With respect to the melancholy situation in which Ireland was now placed, and the conclusions to be drawn from that situation, he fully concurred in what had fallen from several hon. gentlemen last night. Many severe reflections had been made upon the noble marquis opposite respecting the government of Ireland. It was true that as far as the evils were known to exist, and the remedies were within the power of the noble lord, he was responsible for not having applied them. But it should be recollected, that evils often took their rise from circumstances, over which neither the noble lord, nor the laws, nor the parliament could have any immediate control. They were told, in the present instances, that bad government and misrule, that: bad laws and bad institutions, had produced the present character of the deluded 179 people or Ireland. Whatever might be the cause, they were all agreed as to the effect. And it should be remembered, that when the character of a people became so corrupted, the evil was so indelible, and as difficult to be eradicated as if it were their original character. It was certainly the duty of parliament to use its best efforts to put an end to the present disturbances, by removing the evils which caused them; but Irish gentlemen should at the same time recollect, that much, very much depended upon their own exertions. Indeed, they must know, that without their efforts it would be difficult, if not impossible, totally to eradicate the disease. It was not uncommon to find persons who looked to others as the cause of their errors, and in doing so they looked to them also for what they could not give—a remedy for those errors. The principal causes of the present disturbed state of Ireland were, the middlemen who held lards between the proprietor and cultivator, and the newly introduced laws of election. But there were evils for which neither England nor parliament were responsible. If Irish gentlemen were so anxious to sit in parliament that they cut up their properties into forty-shilling freeholds to create votes, and thereby surrounded themselves with paupers, how were the legislature or the government of this country to blame? If this were the case, it only proved that a law which was productive of great benefits in one country might be productive of much mischief in another. He threw this out as a general observation, without meaning to cast censure in any quarter. He was only anxious to shew that even from the wisest and best laws, no advantage could be derived unless by a sound and temperate administration of them.
said, he must repeat what he had stated last night; namely, that no case had been made out to justify either of the present measures. What he should recommend would be an increase of military force. The hon. member here read several extracts from the dispatches of marquis Wellesley, in order to shew, that in all the contests between the people and the soldiery, the latter, though twenty-fold greater in number, uniformly gave way and fled. From this he argued, that nothing but an increased military force was necessary to suppress the outrages altogether. God forbid that, in saying this, he should be thought to under-value 180 the lives and properties of the peaceable inhabitants of the disturbed districts in Ireland! He was aware that they were in much peril; but he thought they would derive greater protection from an increased military force than they could do from the proposed measures. He was convinced that the suspension of the constitution would never have the effect of restoring Ireland to permanent tranquillity. If the noble lord was really anxious to eradicate the evils of which he complained, he must have recourse to earnest inquiry and sincere conciliation.
was of opinion that the present bills were necessary to put down the existing disturbances; but when that effect was produced, he thought they ought to be followed up by investigation and conciliatory measures.
The bill then went through the committee. On the report being brought up, Mr. Spring Rice, moved that the words of the bill "shall proceed without any grand jury, and without any bill being found," should be omitted. This was put and negatived. He then moved, that the following words be also left out of the bill—"In such case where conviction, or judgment, or acquittal shall be had without the verdict of any petty jury, it shall stand good, as if the grand jury had found a bill, and a petty jury had pronounced upon it." This proposition was also put and negatived. The hon. member next moved for the insertion of a clause, authorizing the magistrates, under the special commissions, to issue their warrants to the sheriff, who should be thereby authorized to issue out his precept for summoning fit and proper persons for a petty jury, the same as were summoned to courts of oyer and terminer, and that the sheriff be bound to attend the sittings of the special court in the same manner as if it were a court of general sessions of the peace. The other parts of the clause went to establish a regulation for the sitting of the court from day to day, and for the greater facility of taking bail for parties accused.
The Marquis of Londonderry
opposed the clause, and observed that it was understood the sittings of the commission should be from day to day, and that the difficulty respecting the taking of bail could not be so great as the hon. member had stated it to be.
§ Mr. S. Rice
said, he had attended every court of special commission in his county and had found that delays of days, weeks, 181 and in one case a month had taken place. Now, as by the present act bail could only be taken by the king's serjeant who should preside, a man against whom, perhaps, only a charge of being out of his house after a certain hour was brought, might be kept without bail for two or three weeks. Upon the adoption or rejection of the clause depended, whether the trials should be by the magistrates without a jury, or by a jury alone.
§ On the question being put, "that the words be there inserted," the House divided: Ayes, 30. Noes, 139.
|List of the Minority.|
|Bright, Henry||Hutchinson, hon.|
|Benett, John||C. H|
|Brougham, H.||James, W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Creevy, T.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Clarke, hon. C. B.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Denison, W. J.||Martin, John|
|Duncannon, visc.||Macdonald, J.|
|Ellice, Ed.||Madocks, W. A.|
|Fitzgibbon, hon. R.||Nugent, lord|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Rice, T. S.|
|Honywood, W. P.||Sefton, earl of|
|Hill, lord Arthur||Wood, ald.|
|Hughes, W. L.||TELLERS,|
|Heron, sir R.||Bennet, hon. H. G.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Wilson, sir R.|
§ On the motion for going into a committee on the Irish Habeas Corpus Suspension bill, the House divided: Ayes, 127. Noes, 36. The bill then passed through the committee. On the motion, that the Irish Insurrection bill be read a third time,
Sir F. Burdett
expressed a hope that ministers, before they passed it, would pledge themselves to the Irish nation to pursue a conciliatory line of policy in future, and not to introduce a bill of indemnity, to shelter the outrages which might be committed under it.
§ Mr. Denman
said, that the bill contained a clause which was equivalent to a bill of indemnity. He then proceeded to observe upon the precipitancy with which the bills were forwarded through the House, by which members who expected an exposition were taken by surprise. It was certainly the first duty of parliament to put down insurrection, and repress the violence of men who were misled by their own passions or those of others; the only question was, whether the present measures were applicable to the case, or whether other measures more effective to that 182 end and less mischievous to the constitution might not be adopted? For his part, he had not heard a single argument to show that the abolition of the trial by jury was called for. On the contrary, the argument of the hon. member for Limerick was, in his opinion, conclusive against the abolition. There was another point to which he wished to call the attention of the House. The presence of a king's serjeant or king's counsel was considered by the supporters of the bill as calculated to neutralize the mischief of placing power in the hands of the ordinary magistracy; but the phraseology of the bill was, that a king's serjeant, or a king's counsel should preside at the quarter sessions, "if such could be procured." If, therefore, such an individual could not be procured, then the magistrates would act without the control of any legal adviser whatever. Had he been hi time to propose such an amendment, he would have recommended the introduction of the words—"or Barrister of ten years standing;" by which provision the magistrates would always have had the benefit of good legal advice. As to the assistant-barrister, as there was only one in each county, and as different courts might be simultaneously sitting in different parts of the same county, some of those courts must in that case be necessarily deprived of his aid. With respect to the noble marquis at the head of the Irish government, he was not disposed to show less confidence in that noble individual than had been expressed by other hon. members; but he must say, that parliament had been lea strangely in the dark with respect to that noble marquis's precise wishes on the subject. The argument of his hon. friends near him had been misrepresented, as if they had recommended the adoption of martial law in Ireland. All that they advised was, that a larger military force should be applied to the correction of the existing evil. When a proposition was made, such as the present, attention ought to be paid, first to the necessity of the case, next to the applicability of the means proposed to meet it, and lastly to the danger of an abuse of those means. To him it appeared, that any new legislation on the present occasion was uncalled for. To what was the existing distress in Ireland attributed? To two circumstances—namely, that the fuel had been washed away, and that the crop of potatoes had failed. Had those 183 two unfortunate occurrences not taken place, it was not probable that any political or religious feeling would have disturbed the country. Now it appeared to him, that, whenever any insurrection was divested of all political or religious character, it was precisely the kind which ought to be put down by the arm of military power, and that it ought not to be made the subject of legislative interference. If, however, the present bill must pass, he hoped to God that it would prove effectual.
said, it was agreed on all hands, that the state of Ireland was such as to require vigorous measures of some kind or other. The hon. gentlemen opposite seem to think that the application of an additional military force was the best remedy that could be adopted. For himself, he thought, that however all might deplore the necessity of such a measure, the best course was, to renew an act from which the most beneficial effects had formerly resulted. In answer to that part of his learned friend's speech, in which he asserted that several courts of magistracy might be sitting simultaneously in the same county, he begged to refer him to the bill, in which he would find that only one special session could sit in a county at one time. At that session, therefore, either a king's serjeant or a king's counsel, or at least an assistant barrister, who must have been six years at the bar, would preside, and give to the magistrates the benefit of his legal knowledge. As to the question of indemnity, the bill gave no greater indemnity than the general law in England already involved.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, his learned friend had stated, that the clause in question gave no more protection to the magistrates in Ireland than was already given to him by the law in England. If this was the case, there could be no harm in leaving out the clause altogether.
said, that in England this power was given to the magistrates by a a specific act of parliament; but it was not so in Ireland.
§ Mr. Brougham
was surprised to hear that magistrates in Ireland had been left so unprotected as to make this special provision necessary.
§ Mr. Bright
contended, that an act by which the constitution was overturned for the time, ought to be so worded as to admit of no doubt whatever with respect to 184 its construction. He considered the clause of indemnity as monstrous in its nature. It was most material also, that when such powers were given to the judges, the people should have no reason to suspect their purity. It appeared by the bill, however, that after the trials of the miserable wretches who were its objects, the lord lieutenant was to issue any sum he pleased in payment of the assistant barristers. Instead of that, the sum ought to be fixed; for there ought not to be even the slightest suspicion of undue influence.
did not understand that the government was to provide for the attendance of a king's serjeant, or counsel; but, if he happened to be there, he was to preside. If neither was there, then the court would be formed by the magistrates and the assistant barrister. By the constitution of the courts of Ireland, the assistant barrister, in such a case, would preside; and, therefore, any further provision on this subject was unnecessary.
The bill was read the third time. Mr. S. Rice proposed a clause, "authorizing the kin s counsel or serjeant, and assistant barrister, to take bail for offences under the act." The clause was rejected. The hon. member then moved a clause, "for appointment of justices in counties of cities, and counties of towns."
The Marquis of Londonderry
declared his dislike to the principle of creating a local magistracy, for a temporary purpose.
§ The House divided: Ayes 31. Noes 110.
|List of the Minority.|
|Bury, visc.||Hume, Joseph|
|Bright, H.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Brougham, H.||James, W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Moore, Peter|
|Barret, S. M.||Nugent, lord|
|Calvert, C.||Phillips, G. R.|
|Denman, T.||Robarts, A.|
|Ellice, Ed.||Robarts, col.|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Ricardo, D.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Hutchinson,hon. C.H.||Smith, W.|
|Hurst, R.||Wyvill, M.|
|Hughes, W. L.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Hill, lord A.||TELLERS,|
|Heron, sir Robert||Rice, T. S.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Duncannon, visc.|
§ Mr. Denman
then proposed to omit the clause for the indemnity of persons carrying the Act into effect. Upon which the House divided; Ayes 30. Noes 109, 185 On the motion, that the bill do pass, the House divided. Ayes 109. Noes 28.
|List of the Minority.|
|Brougham, H.||James, W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Barrett, S. M.||Moore, Peter|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Nugent, lord|
|Calvert, C.||Ricardo, D.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Ellice, Ed.||Rice, T. S.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Robarts, A.|
|Fergusson, sir R. C.||Robarts, col.|
|Heron, sir R.||Wood, alderman|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Wyvill, M.|
|Hurst, Rt.||Wilson, sir Rt.|
|Hughes, W. L.||TELLERS.|
|Hill, lord A.||Denman, T.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C.H.||Bright, H.|
§ On the motion, that the Irish Habeas Corpus Suspension bill be read a third time, the House divided: Ayes 109. Noes 27.