§ Mr. Hume
rose to submit to the House, the motion of which he had given so long a notice, namely, to consider the manner in which Ireland was at present governed, and whether a change might not be made with great advantage. His object was, to abolish the office of lord-lieutenant in that country; but, as an impression existed in some quarters that his motion was made with hostile feelings to the marquis Wellesley, he begged to be clearly understood that he did not intend in the smallest degree to reflect on the, conduct of that noble lord. He (Mr. H.) had long had a favourable opinion of the noble marquis, and should regret if any thing that now fell from him could in the smallest degree have the appearance of censure, although he must admit, that he had been much disappointed in the results of the marquis's administration, yet he was well aware that the situation in which the lord lieutenant was placed, was an arduous and difficult one, and it would be unfair to draw too harsh conclusions against him whilst unacquainted with alt the difficulties he had to contend with There were obstacles which had been raised by the misrule of ages; and it was not to be expected that he could at once, overcome them, particularly with a government in England so constituted that it was difficult to ascertain what measures they would support, or what they would oppose. The king had, in the appointment of the present lord lieutenant, been actuated, it was understood, by the best intentions; desirous, by the example he had himself set whilst in Ireland, to put an end to that party spirit which had so long disturbed the peace of that country; to terminate that system of exclusion both civil and religious which unfortunately was the chief source of those evils under which Ireland suffered: to place Protestants and Catholics on the same footing in the administration of the laws, and in the participation of all the 1213 blessings of the British constitution. Mr. Pitt had said, in parliament that "He, did not merely say, let Ireland be united, let her be blended with us, but let her partake of every solid benefit, of every eminent advantage that could result from such incorporation." This House in its address to the king, and his majesty, in his speech from the throne, anticipated the same results: but, he would ask, has there been any such participation by the people of Ireland of those solid advantages so conspicuously held out at the Union? Have not the Catholics, the great mass of the population, to this day been excluded from all offices of trust, and deprived of those promised blessings? And was it not reasonably to be expected, that under such a government the people should be discontented and the office of lord lieutenant be a very difficult one? He would show the actual state of the public appointments, as regarded the Catholics and Protestants at the time the: marquis Wellesley went to Ireland; and taking into consideration the relative numbers of each class in that country, it appeared to him sufficient to account for much of the mischief that had lately taken place in that devoted country. Although, by the Irish statute of the 33rd Geo. 3, c. 20, the Catholics are declared admissible to many offices from which until then they had been excluded, yet the practice has been in reality such, that an almost total exclusion had continued; and one of the chief causes which raised the opposition to lord Wellesley's government, was perhaps the determination he manifested to break through that system, and to dispense the patronage of the government impartially [Hear]. He (Mr. H.) had been anxious to know the precise distribution of the government patronage, and when the House heard the particulars he was confident their surprise and astonishment would be highly excited. It was not possible to get a perfectly correct list of the religious persuasion of all the public servants in Ireland, but he believed what he had obtained was sufficiently accurate for his purpose. The exclusive faction, or Protestant Ascendancy-men, as they were called, absorbed nearly the whole patronage of the government—that is, in a population of seven millions a few hundred thousand persons enjoyed almost ail the advantages and emoluments of office. Was it not difficult, then for any lord lieutenant, 1214 however benevolent and liberal his intentions towards the great mass of the people, of Ireland might be, to carry them, into effect under such an exclusive system? An act of justice to a Catholic, or the appointment of one to a public office, was the signal and almost a certain means of rousing the hostility of the select interested few, who, if supported by the government in England, could, as they had hitherto done, effectually thwart every good and liberal act of the lord lieutenant. He would state the situation of a few public departments as an example. In the Irish Post office there were 466 persons holding offices, of whom only 25 were Roman Catholics! Under the Royal Dublin Society there were 17 persons, none of whom were Catholics. In the Bank of Ireland there were 127 persons, and of that number only 6 Catholics. In. the board for paving—the board of commissioners for erecting fountains—for preserving the port of Dublin—for wide streets—amongst the trustees of the linen board—the lord lieutenant's household—the city officers and common council—the committees of pipe and water establishment—of the police, and many other public establishments, there was not one solitary Catholic to be found [Hear]. In the office of Customs there were 296 persons employed, and only 11 of them were Catholics. In the Excise there were 265 persons employed, and of that number only 6 were Catholics. Of coroners in counties there were 108, and only 29 of them Catholics—of commissioners of affidavits there were 262, and only 29 of them Catholics—of 71 officers under the linen board only 3 were Catholics. In fact, on an aggregate of the public establishments, the list of which he held in his hand, there were 2459 persons holding offices paid by the public money; and of that number, only 106 were Catholics [Hear, hear]. To show that the exclusion was not solely in the inferior offices, but extended equally to all, he would mention that there were 31 assistant barristers but not one of them a Catholic. There were 106 offices in the law department in Ireland which must be filled by barristers, the salaries and emoluments of which exceed 150,000l. a year, and Roman Catholics are admissible, since 1795, to 83 of these offices, producing an income of 50,000l. a year; but there was not one solitary instance of a Roman Catholic holding any such profitable and ho- 1215 nourable appointment [Hear, hear]. His (Mr. Hume's) object in stating all these facts was only to show the difficulties lord Wellesley had had to contend with, in attempting any change in such a system; and, unless the House interfered, that privileged few would get the better of the present and of every future lord lieutenant, and perpetual discoid and civil war would be perpetuated in that country.
The question for the House to consider was, whether, under all these circumstances, it was proper that the government under a lord lieutenant with a chief secretary and large establishments, resident, ought to be continued any longer? It was, therefore, fit to inquire what the particular duties of the lord lieutenant now were, and whether they could be performed in London with equal efficiency and advantage to the country, as in Dublin. Much prejudice, he (Mr. H.) thought, existed on this subject from ignorance of the actual state of the duties to be performed. If he could prove satisfactorily to the House, that the duties of the lord lieutenant, of the chief secretary, and, consequently, of many other officers connected with them, could be as well discharged in London, he should make out his case. One great evil of the present system arose from the viceroy's court being the focus of faction and intrigue, producing virulent party spirit, from which emanated many of the evils that had long distracted Ireland. It was true that many causes had been assigned by different persons, to account for the perpetually disturbed state of that country; but what had been so forcibly and so ably stated a few nights ago by the hon. baronet, the member for the Queen's county (sir Henry Parnell) appeared to him to account very satisfactorily for it. His late majesty, in his speech to that House in 1800 (29th January) had said that, "This great measure (the Union) he should ever consider as the happiest event of his reign, being persuaded that nothing could so effectually contribute to extend to his subjects the full participation of the blessings to be derived from the British constitution, and establish on the most solid foundations, the strength, prosperity, and power, of the empire."
England, Scotland, and Ireland, were called the united kingdom; but, were they united in the spirit or intention of those who promoted the Union? Had Ireland 1216 participated of those promised blessings of the British constitution, and been a source of prosperity and of power to the empire? It was expected that, by the Union, the interests of England and Ireland would be so completely amalgamated, to use the words of the hon. member for Corfe Castle, that Ireland should become the same as a county of England. But, up to the present time, Ireland had been governed as our slave colonies were, by a viceroy and colonial establishment; and Jamaica might be called, with as much propriety, a part of the united kingdom as Ireland [Hear, hear!]. Mr. Pitt's speeches, the addresses of this House, and all the debates at the time, clearly held out a complete union of government of its interests and benefits; and why not fulfil the pledges given at that time? Had the peace of Ireland been consolidated since the Union? Had her prosperity and happiness been improved? No, it was scarcely possible for any country to be in a worse state than Ireland. Remove, therefore, the lord lieutenant, and along with him all the separate colonial establishments—let Ireland be in reality united with Great Britain, and enjoy the advantages promised, and there was no doubt that the condition of that country would rapidly improve. By reference to the history of Ireland, it would be found, that, for a century before the Union, the lord lieutenant had been surrounded by a few individuals who enjoyed enormous incomes from public employment, and, at the same time, by their conduct, offended and oppressed the mass of the people, thereby creating discontent and civil war. The almost uninterrupted operation of the Disarming and Insurrection acts, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, and the proclamation of Martial Law, ought to satisfy the House that no improvement had taken place since the Union, and that any change in the government of that country must be for the better. The first change he (Mr. H.) recommended was, the removal of the lord lieutenant, &c. There were many duties performed by him before the Union that were now no longer required; and it should now be his (Mr. H's.) duty, to shew that those duties now performed in Dublin, could be equally well discharged in London. All the military establishments, including the ordnance, the barracks, &c., were separate and distinct from Great Britain before the Union, 1217 and the lord lieutenant had the same power and patronage with them, as the king has in Great Britain. The half-pay, pensions, military accounts, commissariat, formerly managed in Dublin, were all now managed in London. There was also a secretary at war for Ireland, and a large establishment for his office, since abolished. The commander of the forces was last year also withdrawn as unnecessary. The Kilmainham hospital pensioners have been, by an act of last session, incorporated with Chelsea. In fact, all the military establishments of Ireland now formed part of the British establishment, and the lord lieutenant had nothing to do with them, except as a medium for transmitting the 0rders sent from London, or, in other words, for intercepting the prompt execution of them. The Customs and Excise of Ireland, formerly under separate boards and the control of the lord lieutenant, are now consolidated with the English boards. The Post-office arid Stamps are also in progress to be incorporated. The Exchequer of Ireland had been incorporated with that of Great Britain five years ago; and, although the lord lieutenant might still sign warrants for some payments, he had no power whatever over any part of the supplies, except over a small sum for civil contingencies. All grants of money were appropriated by acts of parliament, and their application was, in the opinion of many well informed persons, only impeded by a vice-treasurer, altogether as useless as the viceroy. Neither of them possessed the power of appropriating a single shilling of public money without the sanction of parliament, or of the Treasury in London; and he believed that the
|The ordinary revenue of Ireland for the year was||4,662,933|
|From which deduct the expenses of collecting, &c||883,140||£|
|Leaving a nett sum of||3,779,793|
|The balance of outstanding bills less in 1823 than 1822 was||22,801|
|Making the total nett revenue in the year 1822||3,802,594|
|The expenditure for the civil list||207,000|
|For miscellanous charges on the consolidated fund||248,253|
|Payment out of the revenue in its progress to the Exchequer for miscellaneous expenses||273,013|
|Advances out of the consolidated fund for public works||383,734|
|Deduct repayment for public works||161,392|
§ treasury could perform the duties better if neither of these offices existed.
§ Although he (Mr. H.) pressed the removal of the colonial establishment in Ireland, chiefly from its in efficiency for any purpose of good government, yet the large expense should not be lost sight of. If there were any advantages arising from the vice-regal government, that could balance its enormous expense, he would waive his motion; but, he could discover no good, only pure unalloyed evil from the system.
§ At a time when the country called for economy in every department, it behoved the House to look at the large expenditure of Ireland. He (Mr. H.) was confident, that sufficient attention had not been given to that branch; and the way, in which the accounts of expenditure were kept, very much tended to keep it from the public eye. Instead of an increase of peace, prosperity, and power, to the empire by the Union, we had distraction, beggary, and a continued drain upon our finances. The people of Great Britain were taxed to pay upwards of three millions sterling annually, to support a system of misrule in Ireland. If there were no other reasons for trying the change he proposed in the government of that country, so large an annual burthen pressing at the present moment on us, ought to enforce attention to his motion.
§ To prevent any mistake in so important a subject, he had moved for an account of the revenue and expenditure for Ireland, in the year ending the 5th Jan. last, and the parliamentary paper No. 301 of this session, dated the 28th of April, was the return now in the hands of every member. By that account1219
|Leaving a surplus to pay the interest of the public debt of only||797,877|
|Where as the demands and charge of management of the debt, in Ireland, exclusive of the sinking fund was||1,115,908|
|The dividends and charge of the Irish debt of 83,944,904l. in England||2,780,791|
|Making the total charge of the Irish debt borne by Great Britain||3,896,699|
|From which deduct the surplus of revenue over the current expenditure||797,877|
|And leaving the nett payment for Ireland of (Sterling)||3,098,822|
§ exclusive, of part expense of various establishments for carrying on the business of Ireland, incorporated with those of Great Britain.
§ If then, that country was, by its continual insurrections and disturbances, a source of weakness and distraction to us, and that we had upwards of three millions sterling to pay to support the system of misrule that produced these, he (Mr. H.) had no hesitation in saying, that we ought to try any change, and if not benefitted by it, it would be much better if the two countries were separated.
§ Ireland with seven millions of population never could be valuable to Great Britain, whilst, governed as a colony and by coercion. He wished to make Ireland really an integral part of the empire, and to give her the same privileges and advantages enjoyed by the people of Great Britain, viz. an impartial administration of justice, and an equal participation of civil rights—then, and then only, could she be a source of wealth and power. Under a viceroy, never!
§ It had been said, by Mr. Sheridan, "If the people, of Ireland are active and industrious in every country but their own, it must be the effect of their government." Of this he (Mr. H.) had no doubt. He particularly requested the attention of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Canning) to what was formerly said by him in support of the Union. "When once (said Mr. Canning) the Union should be effected, the necessity of keeping up a large army would be removed," Had that result taken place? Had not the contrary taken place? Was there not a very great increase of the army in Ireland since the Union, and it was the duty of that right hon. gentleman and his colleagues to explain the reason. The military force was really more numerous in Ireland than in Great Britain; and such was the state 1220 of disaffection of the people of that country that it was absolutely necessary to keep them under by force. In 1792, the army was small, and the expanse only 500,000l. Now, it was large, and the expense three times that amount. In every department, the expenditure had greatly increased, and ought to be diminished. The salary of lord-lieutenant, for example, was 20,000l. until 1810, when it was increased, to 30,000l., and there were, other offices, amounting to 50 or 60,000l. a year, which would not be requisite, if the lord lieutenant was withdrawn.
§ If there had been a surplus revenue In Ireland, the people of that country might very reasonably have remonstrated against depriving them of the splendor, and expenditure of the lord lieutenant's court: But, as the case stood, the people of England had a right to complain, that such useless and expensive establishments were maintained at their expense. It was therefore the duty of this House, if there were no other grounds, by the abolition of the vice-regal government, to afford relief to our finances [Hear!]. The list of the useless officers attached to the present system, actually filled three or four folio pages of the book he held in his hand. The present was not a time to support such useless expense. The expense of the civil residences and works in Dublin, consequent on the viceroy's government, were also enormous, as appeared by the 7th report of the select committee of 1810, the committee of which the hon. member for Corfe Castle was chairman. The charge for civil buildings in the four years ending the 31st Dec. 1809, was no less than 217,442l.—viz. for the castle 33,621l.—for phœnix-park, 39,948l.—the gardens, 9,903l.—the military secretary's quarters, 10,865l., &c. &c. All such expenditure 1221 ought in future to be saved. The civil establishments, and the civil buildings, were all most extravagant, and worse than useless.
§ He (Mr. H.) had been asked in what manner the duties, now performed by the lord lieutenant and the chief secretary, could be performed, if their offices were abolished. He had made himself acquainted with the, whole details of these offices, and should show to the House in the most satisfactory manner, that every thing could be done better in London than in Dublin, with one or two exceptions, which might also, with a little trouble, be managed with perfect security to the public interests.
§ The duty of the lord lieutenant, from the time of the duke of Ormond, in 1711, to the Union, had, in the absence of the lord lieutenant, often been performed by lords justices as well as when the lord lieutenant was present; the chief secretary was the executive officer to both, and acted generally by parliamentary enactments, and not by their orders. Since the Union, almost all the patronage had been taken away from the lord lieutenant, and he had little else to do than sign warrants for the execution of the orders from England; He presides at councils as a matter of form chiefly; but these could be held equally well in London. Every warrant he signs might be as well signed in London, as they almost all are conformable to acts of parliament, which leave him little or no discretion. The public and private correspondence would cease, if he was withdrawn, and it would go to the secretary of state for the home department, with whom in reality all the responsibility of the acts of the Irish government rested. The proceedings of the council-office, was a record of all measures acted upon by government; but chiefly when proclamations issue. Lord Clifton, the clerk of the council, had a sinecure: and a deputy and two clerks keep all the books. The principal entries were, the records of church livings, of exchanges and preferments, which could be as well, or better kept in London. Indeed, so trifling were the duties of this office, that the whole of the records since 1810, were contained in one book.
§ The office of the chief secretary appears to a superficial observer, to be absolutely necessary, in Ireland, but a closer examination will show, that almost every 1222 thing may be transferred to the secretary of state's office in London, and then performed free from that sinister influence, and party spirit that abound at the castle in Dublin, and which, in reality, prevent any secretary, however well disposed, from acting with impartiality and justice.
§ An under-secretary and ten clerks conduct the whole business of that office at present. Its detail was arranged into 12 branches or departments, and, except of criminal police, the way appeared clear how to conduct them all, if the viceroy and secretary were both removed.
§ The first department of Correspondence existed only between the authorities in England, and the executive in Ireland, and would then go direct to the several offices there.
§ The second departments of Customs and Excise, were already removed to the English boards.
§ The third, or Country Letter department would also cease and go to London.
§ The fourth and fifth departments for Civil Affairs, and Civil Petitions, were mere records, as all the orders of importance came from London, and matters of routine alone, were done by the chief secretary.
§ The sixth branch for Ecclesiastical Affairs, might all issue equally well from London, where the principal orders originated at present.
§ The seventh, or Treasury department was already, in reality entirely removed, and the chief secretary only acts, in money matters, ministerially.
§ The eighth, or Minute-Book department, is only to keep the chief secretary informed of what passes in his absence from Dublin.
§ The ninth, or Stamp department has been recommended by the commissioners of inquiry to be placed under the London board.
§ The tenth and eleventh departments for Police and Criminal Cases, were the only duties which required serious consideration, but there appeared no objections to place them on a footing with the same departments in Scotland.
§ The twelfth branch, for entering the King's Letters, would be useless as the originals were kept in London.
§ So that, generally speaking, all orders issued in London from the Home Office, or on the authority of acts of parliament, 1223 and their passing through the Irish government was, in almost every case, an impediment to their prompt and efficient execution.
§ The difficulty of communication between this country and Ireland might, formerly, have been a reason for continuing the vice-regal government, but that reason can no longer be urged, as the time of communication between London and Dublin was shorter than between London and Edinburgh. The Mails from London reach Holyhead in 32½ hours, and the passage across the channel by the Steamboats are regular—so that 4 days and 5 nights only are requisite to obtain an answer to any letters to or from Dublin and London; whilst 5 days and 6 nights are required to obtain an answer between London and Edinburgh. And he would add, that, by the exertions of his hon. friend near him (sir H. Parnell) Dublin would be brought still nearer London, as soon as the works at the Menai-straits were finished.
§ An objection to the abolition of the lord lieutenant had been made, he understood, by the inhabitants of Dublin, who considered the splendour and expenditure of his court essential to the prosperity of that metropolis. It might be partially so, but he believed, that Dublin would not suffer by the removal, to any considerable degree, so as to warrant any fears on the subject. It had been predicted at the Union, that the removal of the Irish parliament would ruin the city of Dublin, and that grass would soon grow in its streets. But Dublin was a commercial capital, and whilst it also contained the courts of law, the college, a large military garrison, and was the centre of communication between England and the whole of Ireland, the city must improve. It had, in fact, very much increased since the time of the Union, as the returns on the table of the House, widen he had moved for, to prove the fact clearly showed. In 1798, there were 16,401 inhabited houses, and 182,370 inhabitants. In 1821, there were 19,864 houses, and 223,223 inhabitants—showing an increase since the Union, of 3,463 houses, and 40,853 inhabitants.
§ In its trade and shipping considerable increase had also taken place. In the port of Dublin the number of ships had increased from 2,575 to 3,029; and the number of tons from 266,729 to 329,569, showing an increase on the average of 1224 three years at each period, of 454 ships and 62,840 tons. That increase had not taken place at the expense of the other ports, for, in them, the, number of ships had also greatly increased, from 4,702 ships in 1800, and 397,283 tons, to 7,869 ships and 713,261 tons, showing an increase of 3,167 ships and 315,978 tons—more than double in 21 years. If the amount of imports and exports of the port of Dublin were looked at, he felt satisfied, by their amount, that there was little to apprehend, in a commercial view, from the removal of the vice-regal court. On an average of three years before the Union, the value of the imports was 2,607,495l.; for three years to 1822 inclusive, they were 3,658,180l., showing an increase in value of 960,775l. sterling. The exports in the same years increased from 1,427,847l. to 1,594,757l., showing an increase in value of 176,909l.
§ In every point of view, therefore, he saw but trifling obstacles in comparison to the great advantages to be expected from the measure he proposed; and he, therefore, hoped the House would assist him to get rid of the lord-lieutenantcy altogether, and to have the government of Ireland carried on in the same way as in Great Britain, by appointing lord-lieutenants and sheriff's to each county, who should be responsible for its peace, and carry into execution the orders of the executive government in England. There could be no objection place at their disposal the military force in each district, under the orders of a commanding officer in Dublin, in the same manner as is now done in Scotland under a commanding officer in Edinburgh. He had been asked, where fit and proper persons could be found in Ireland for these offices; but to say that resident noblemen and gentlemen could not be found in each county, capable and willing to take on them that important charge, would be a censure on the noblemen and gentry of Ireland which he should never admit until a fair trials was made and found to fail. Let but that high and important office be made one of honour and responsibility, and the noblemen and gentlemen of Ireland would be found ready to accept the trust and execute it faithfully and efficiency. What now passes with the governors, of counties and the sheriffs in Ireland could in no way warrant any comparative conclusion of what would be the result under the new system. At present every office 1225 is filled by those whose parliamentary and protestant interest prevails, without regard to their fitness for the office, or even the knowledge of the officer under whom they are to act, and the result is, as might be expected, an inefficient and corrupt system. Let but the lord-lieutenants appoint and be responsible for every public servant in the county under them—let them alone correspond, as in England, with the secretary of state in London—and let their reports of the state of the country be alone depended upon, instead of the reports, as at present, from every officious or interested person that chuses to address the lord-lieutenant. If we judge by the erroneous correspondence respecting the state of the country, and lately published by parliament, with the marquis of Wellesley, it will be impossible to be worse under any system.
§ No man was rash enough to deny that the condition of Ireland required a change. That the lord lieutenant, so far from improving, in any way, her state, could not live in peace, and carry on the government in quietness, unless he put himself into the hands of the Orange faction, recent events had fully demonstrated. Whilst Ireland presses so heavily on England, at an annual expense of three or four millions sterling, why maintain, at a heavy expense, an officer whose presence was worse than useless—was the source of mischief to the country [hear]. For himself he (Mr. Hume) declared, that he should never think the Union complete, or the recorded pledges of King, Lords, and Commons, fulfilled, so long as a lord lieutenant remained in the government of Ireland. In fact, Ireland was, under such a system, a colony, with all its vices, and without the checks and control against bad government, which existed in Jamaica and other colonies having legislative assemblies and councils. It was contrary to the experience of all ages that good government could exist, or the people be happy, under such a system, and he entreated the House to lend themselves to the change.
§ At an earlier period of the session, he would have moved for a select committee to inquire into the expediency of the alteration proposed; but there was not now time for such proceedings, and he thought the best course would be, the appointment of a commission by the Crown, to make the necessary inquiry. The commission now inquiring into the collection and 1226 management of the revenue of Ireland had performed that duty so ably, that he (Mr. H.) was perfectly satisfied to leave the inquiry to them; but, if there were objections to them, another commission might be appointed without delay, as, in the present state of that country, delay would only increase the anarchy and confusion which had so long distracted that devoted country [Hear, hear]. He should, therefore, move, "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, praying, that he will be graciously pleased to appoint a commission to inquire whether the government of Ireland, under its present form, ought to be continued, or whether the lord lieutenant and other officers may not, with advantage, be dispensed with."
§ Mr. Goulburn
began by assuring the hon. member, that the wish of preserving the office which he had then the honour to hold, was not the sole, nor even the principal motive for opposing the motion before the House. The hon. member might conceive that office wholly unnecessary; he might think that the duties annexed to it were such as could be dispensed with altogether, or transferred to some other department without risk or injury, But, whatever his opinions might be, it would not prevent him (Mr. G.) from considering the present motion as derogatory to the character of the country, and fatal to the interests of Ireland. The hon. member had, after all, mainly rested his motion on the saving which would be effected by abolishing the Irish establishment. But, there were countervailing considerations to be urged, which would wholly overbear any argument of that sort. It had often been his lot to contend with the hon. gentleman; but never before had he had the good fortune to contend with him, where the motion of economy had been urged to such an absurd and extravagant length. The hon. member had argued, that, because Ireland was a charge of about three million a-year on England, therefore Ireland ought to be made a separate kingdom, with a monarch of her own. He overlooked entirely the benefits which had resulted to the two countries from their connexion, and for the paltry, trumpery consideration of the annual charge of Ireland on this country, he proposed that there should be an eternal separation between them. He could not argue a proposition 1227 of that sort; nor could he expect that its proposer would agree with him, nor with those wise and great men who had contended, that something more ought to be looked to than the mere pecuniary advantage which would result from the abolition of particular offices, and that the great question was, how Great Britain might be best governed, with a due regard to the feelings of the people, and the interests of the empire? In Ireland it was necessary that the attention of the government should be not casual only, but regular and daily, for the purpose of suppressing tumult and discord; and discharging all the other duties of ameliorating the situation of the country. It was necessary that there should be some person on the spot, invested with so much of the royal authority as would give efficiency to all public measures. The hon. gentleman, in arguing, passed carelessly over the duties of the present Irish government, omitting some as unimportant, stating that some might be transferred to other departments, and that others might be dispensed with altogether, and then inferring, that the whole establishment of Ireland, with the lord lieutenant at its head, was wholly useless. The hon. gentleman had said, that the lord lieutenant was only occupied with signing warrants; but he had not told the House of the nature of those warrants, whether they were to further the sentence of the law, or to extend the mercy of the Crown; whether they did not involve the most painful and important public considerations. The hon. gentleman had entirely omitted that part of the lord lieutenant's duty which regarded the superintendance of the administration of justice. Some notion of this branch of his duty might be formed, when it was stated that 400 capital cases had been referred, during the last year, to the lord lieutenant. These required the greatest consideration. It was necessary to refer to the legal authorities, to weigh the evidence, to look at the state of the country, and to exercise with the greatest caution the duty of determining whether, On a balance of considerations, the sentence of the law ought to be executed, or the mercy of the Crown extended. This duty could not be discharged by any interior Officer. The House was not so insensible to humanity and the principles of justice, as to Countenance in any was the danger and cruelty of de- 1228 laying this part of the administration of justice, by exciting hopes never to be realized, or cutting off from the miserable criminal, the advantage of such a reference to such an authority. But there was another point which had been omitted by the hon. gentleman, and that was, the feelings of the Irish people. Those who were at all acquainted with Ireland knew, that the middling and lower classes in that country considered their connexion with England, as the result of an act of conquest. They felt as being part of a conquered country, and entertained a strong hostility to the English domination. It was necessary, therefore, that there should be some emblem of royal authority kept up amongst them, as a sort of relief from; the painful feelings of subjugated men. If, however, every vestige of independent government were to be removed, and the establishment transferred to London; instead of remaining in Dublin, the universal feeling would be, that Ireland had been disregarded or neglected.—Another reason for keeping up the establishment, was the beneficial effects of the general patronage, by enabling families to put their sons in public offices, there to earn their support, without being obliged to quit their homes and their country. If the present establishment were done away with, the question then arose as to the manner in which the government of that country was to be conducted hereafter. It appeared, that one of two modes must be adopted; either Ireland must be made a separate government, or certain officers must be kept up in Ireland doing the duty, but not bearing the name of lord lieutenant. The hon. member for Aberdeen thought the business of the Irish government so extremely light and unimportant, that it could be thrown as a make-weight into the office of secretary of state in England, without augmenting his business thereby to any inconvenient degree. To argue this point in detail was wholly unnecessary. If Ireland must be governed in England, it would be absolutely necessary to have a separate office of secretary of state for transacting the business. The slightest knowledge of the secretary's office here, or of the affairs of Ireland, would convince the House of the utter impossibility of transferring those affairs to that office. The hon. gentleman, though he objected to the existence of a single lord lieutenant, had no objection to the creation of thirty- 1229 two new ones. He would appoint a lord lieutenant over each county, with powers equal to those of the present lord lieutenant, except in criminal cases. The result of this, he fancied, would be to destroy faction and party spirit. If this plan were to be adopted, how was the secretary of state to obtain his information from Ireland? There was no other proper mode than from responsible persons of authority in that country. The common channels would be insufficient. Other secretaries might not be found, possessing the knowledge of Irish affairs which his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel)possessed. It would be necessary for the secretary of state to repose unlimited confidence in persons of distinction in Ireland. The example of Scotland, referred to by the hon. gentleman, did not exactly apply. The cases of the two countries were dissimilar, and still great inconvenience had resulted to Scotland, from not having some officer like the lord lieutenant of Ireland. A secretary of state had existed there, who was governed by motives of interest, and acted on by external influence, in such a way, that, during the disturbances in the time of sir Robert Walpole, government had been forced to send down a person with new powers and higher authority, in order to tranquillize the country. If, on the other hand, it were contended, that the best way would be, to have a resident officer in Ireland, the point must then be decided as to what rank he should hold: whether this new officer were to I have as much power lodged in his hands as the lord lieutenant, or less. If the powers were equal, there could be nothing important in the alteration; if the officer were to have inferior rank and powers to the lord lieutenant, it was much to be feared that his authority would be insufficient for the duties of his office. The hon. gentleman had asserted, that the offices in Ireland were chiefly filled with Protestants; he had offered the Stamp department as an instance, alleging that there wire only two Catholics employed in it. Now, to his certain knowledge, there were, for the county of Galway alone, three Catholic distributors of stamps. He did not deny that the offices were chiefly filled by Protestants; and it must be so as long as the greater part of the property belonged to the Protestants. Besides, what particular benefit could the hon. member hope for from employing Ca- 1230 tholics instead of Protestats? He could assert, upon the best authority, that neither the present lord lieutenant, nor either of his two last predecessors, ever made any inquiry as to the religion of persons appointed to fill the offices. The only ground of recommendation had been the fitness of the parties. The disproportion of Catholics and Protestants was no evidence of the partiality of the Irish government. He would admit that a few thousands a year might be saved by abolishing the vice regal government; but, would it be desirable, in the present situation of Ireland, to do away with a local executive, at this very time so anxiously engaged in directing the civil and military departments of that country, in order to restore its tranquillity? Above all the topics in the speech of the hon. gentleman, however, he objected to the proposition of examining into the subject by means of a commission. Upon what a footing would the government of that country—even now not too powerful for the exigency—fee placed on the arrival of commissioners to examine into the functions of the executive officers, and to make inquiries among those who were subordinate, into the manner of discharging those functions? It was plain that the government must sink in its consequence, and that its authority would be weakened in the same proportion. If the subject demanded inquiry, let the House undertake the task. After recapitulating his previous, arguments, the right hon. gentleman concluded by opposing the motion.
§ Sir H. Parnell
said, he had recommended to the House, some sessions ago, to adopt the plan now proposed by the hon. member for Aberdeen, and all he had seen and heard since, served to confirm him in the opinion he had then expressed of the expediency of the measure. He considered it to be utterly impossible to administer the English, constitution by a deputy executive by a deputy executive government. The moment the king ceased to be at the head of government, the constitution of that government ceased to be the English constitution. A viceroy must be more or less a partisan, let his disposition be ever so strong to avoid lending his countenance to one party or to another. He never can, in Ireland, avoid having one or other of the great parties into which the country is divided, opposed to him; and there was no prospect of the existing animosities subsiding 1231 until the cabinet took the government of Ireland into its own hands, and administered it in the name of the king. The hon. member for Aberdeen had laid before the House a very accurate statement of the nature of the public business that was transacted by the lord lieutenant and the chief secretary. He had completely established the case, that out of twelve divisions of business one only now remained, that of police, and the administration of justice. The whole of the military, financial, and commercial business of the country, was taken away, already, from the lord lieutenant, and transacted in London. The inconvenience and abuses belonging to the system of separate authorities had made this arrangement absolutely necessary; and why should not the police of Ireland be administered with equal efficacy and convenience to the public in London? At present the system of police government in Ireland was extremely defective. This was evident from the despatches of the lord lieutenant, for from whom did he receive his information, from the counties? By communication with a police magistrate or some English colonel of a regiment. The names of the resident noblemen, and of the country gentlemen of consequence and consideration never appeared in a despatch; they were passed by; and the consequence was, that government was continually imposed upon by false accounts of the state of the country. If there was no lord lieutenant, but a secretary of state for Ireland, a member of the cabinet resident in London and in constant communication with the cabinet; and if each county in Ireland had a lord lieutenant to communicate with the secretary of state, the system of police would be infinitely of greater efficacy than the present system was, the case of capital convictions might present some difficulty; but this was to be overcome by a proper arrangement of a plan, and was not insurmountable. It was not correct to say that there existed any strong or general feeling in Ireland, against the removal of the office of lord lieutenant. He heard of no other opinion among those with whom he had lately conversed on the subject, but a decided opinion of the necessity of the proposed change. The country would, infinitely, rather see his majesty visit it every third or fourth year, than have a perpetual lord lieutenant: and, considering how 1232 considerable a portion Ireland was of the united kingdom, it was not too much to expect that the king should pay this attention to it. In regard to Dublin, the university, the garrison, the law courts, the number of travellers who, of necessity, frequented it, the trade of it, secured every prospect of its becoming a flourishing city. The imports of its port had been one million a year, on the average of the last five years, greater than they were on an average of five years preceding the Union; and there had been an increase of 4,000 houses, and of 55,000 inhabitants since the census taken by Dr. Whitelaw. The acts of this session for repealing the Union duties would be of great service to Dublin; and some compensation might be made to her by repealing local duties. But it was to be remembered, that of late years Dublin had derived very little pecuniary advantages from the lord lieutenants. The expenses of the Court had been very moderate, and if report spoke true, a considerable portion of the salaries of lords-lieutenant had been remitted to this country. It was a great mistake to say the viceroy gave weight to the royal authority. The royal authority would be much more, respected if the government was administered in the name of the king. The intervention of a viceroy had a direct tendency to diminish that authority. The people had suffered so much injustice from the local Irish government, that they never would place confidence in it. They never could feel that the right of the constitution, and the pure course of justice were fully secured to them, while that system of government remained, which had, for so many ages, repeatedly invaded them. It was necessary, in respect to Ireland, not merely to give to it the whole of the English constitution, but the whole system which existed in England for administering it; and for this reason, it was an indispensable part of a complete settlement of the various disorders which existed in Ireland to get rid of the separate executive government.
Mr. D. Browne
opposed the motion, and felt convinced that the very mention of it in Dublin would raise a sort of rebellion.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that as he had filled one of the offices which the hon. gentleman proposed to abolish, and now filled that upon which it was proposed to 1233 charge the duties, he thought he had some claim upon the attention of the House. The question which they had to consider was, whether or no they thought it advisable, in the present circumstances of Ireland, to abolish the local executive government. The whole merits of the proposition lay in the advice of the hon. member to put Ireland upon the same footing of government as Wales, or any Other subordinate kingdom or province which had been incorporated with the British empire. Now, he conceived that Ireland was by no means in a fit state for effecting that change. It was not a question of expense, but of expediency and policy; and a few thousands of pounds could not weigh at all in the consideration of it. He thought that a local executive was an essential and necessary check upon a country so remote, which was an ancient kingdom, and, till the last twenty years, had a separate legislature. On the other hand, what with the growing population and commerce of this kingdom, the duties of the Home office were now quite as much as one man could faithfully execute. The House would consider, that, in the exercise of that great prerogative of mercy, it was the duty of the Home secretary to communicate personally with the judges upon each particular case; to try each case over again, in fact. This was only one branch of the duties of that office, which, as he had observed, were quite enough for any one man. Now, if the Irish affairs were to be turned over to the same hands, as the labour would then be too much, was there no danger that, between the interests of Wales, and Scotland, and Ireland, some of them might be neglected; and was it not very likely to happen to the interests of that country which was most remote from immediate observation? To prove to the House what would be the probable augmentation of business in the Home office by acceding to the motion, he would only mention, that in the past year there were in Ireland 8,312 criminal convictions; out of those, there were applications for mercy in 2,400 cases, out of which, 400 capital sentences were set aside. If a separate Secretary of State should be appointed for Ireland, his absence from that country would be highly injurious, and yet it could not be avoided, for he must sit in parliament. [Mr. Hume said, "So he does now."] Yes, he did so now; but now there was a lord lieutenant in 1234 Dublin, whose presence effectually prevented the danger which might arise from the neglect of subordinate agents.—The hon. gentleman had said, that the appointment of a secretary of state instead of the lord lieutenant would remove him from the influence of party, and all the prejudices which party engenders; because he would reside, of necessity, in England. Now, if this reasoning were correct, it would follow that the secretary of state of England could discharge his duty better by remaining in Dublin, or perhaps at Holyhead, where he would not be assailed by English or Irish patty prejudices, unless some gentleman should think he was in danger from those of Wales.—The hon. gentleman had urged too, as a reason why the office of lord lieutenant should be abolished, that he had lost all his patronage, but he could assure the hon. gentleman, that all that patronage which was of real importance to the interests of the people still remained in the hands of that functionary—that of the church and of the law; and he would ask, how it was possible that this patronage could be usefully or wisely exercised, unless local knowledge of the country was possessed by the person to whom it was intrusted.—The right hon. gentleman proceeded to expatiate upon the inconveniences which would attend the measure proposed by the motion before the House. He requested gentlemen to consider—recollecting as well the rebellion of 1798 and the disturbances of 1803, as the existing state of that country, whether it would be wise to dispense with the advantages of a local government, and whether it was possible that a sufficient vigilance could be exerted over the affairs of Ireland, without the immediate authority of a superior direction. If these were conceded to him, then the House must agree, that it would not be wise to weaken in any measure, that local government; and he would ask any one acquainted with Ireland, whether the arrival of a commission at Dublin would not be regarded as the superseding of the lord lieutenant? He did not stay to examine if the people were wise, or if they were philosophers, but he knew that this would be the effect of the measure. It were much better that the lord lieutenant should be removed at once—he would rather that the government of Ireland should, at once, be committed to a secretary of state, who was not suspected 1235 —than that it should remain in the hands of a lord lieutenant, the expediency of the duration of whose office was thus to be made a matter of doubt. He thought he had said enough to show the House that, in the present circumstances of Ireland, nothing could have a more mischievous effect upon the country at large than disturbing the local government.
§ Mr. Abercromby
thought, that as the proposition before the House was, whether an inquiry should be made into the best mode of governing Ireland, and as there was quite enough of suspicion about the present government to justify such an inquiry, the subject deserved, at least, a fair and impartial consideration by parliament. He thought his hon. friend (Mr. Hume) had been unfairly dealt will). He had mentioned the subject of expense, but only as a minor part of the case, and not that point upon which it was mainly to rely. It should not be said, that this question was brought forward upon grounds of economy, and not upon the broad grounds of wisdom and policy. He was willing to admit that, upon abstract principles, Ireland was entitled to a local government; but, the question to be decided was, whether the experience of late years, and the change-of circumstances, had not now rendered the alteration which was proposed expedient. He would admit, too, that it was fit the person intrusted with the government of Ireland should be possessed of local information; but this argument was not conclusive. The advantage of having the minister for Ireland identified with the cabinet of England, and being ready to answer in his place in parliament any question that might arise, was obvious, and would afford a better chance of security to the people of Ireland, by the scrutiny which the subject would then undergo. How the preposition was to be carried into execution, would be a matter of detail which must be afterwards considered. He had hoped to have heard from the right hon. gentleman, who, in his double capacity of minister for England and for Ireland, was well qualified to afford information upon this topic, some better reasons than these which he had advanced against the resolution; but, with the exception of this single objection respecting the administration of justice in criminal cases, his doubts had been confirmed, and even that might, he thought, be 1236 removed. The object of appointing a committee was only to lay before the House, in the best manner possible, information upon a subject which involved the best interests of Ireland. No offence could be meant to the lord lieutenant by any measure adopted by that House, in which, if it were polled, his the noble marquis's friends would be found to form a large majority. He thought the public was much indebted to his hon. friend, for having brought this subject before the attention of parliament; and he believed that the measure, whatever might be its fate now, must, eventually, be adopted.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he thought nothing could be more injurious to the interests of Ireland, or more irritating to the feelings of the people, than the proposal before the House. For his part, if he were in the situation of the lord lieutenant, and a committee were appointed to inquire into the necessity of the existence of his office, he should not feel warranted in holding it one hour longer. But he spoke only from his feelings; and different people had different feelings. When gentlemen talked of the danger to which Ireland was exposed, and reasoned from that in favour of the resolution, he would refer them to a period of danger during a very wise administration—that of queen Elizabeth; and remind them how different a policy was then adopted. When revolt and rebellion disturbed Ireland, that queen did not remove the lord deputy, but sent Lords President to the disturbed provinces, to aid in restoring them to tranquillity; she caused the seat of government to approximate as nearly as possible to the disorders, and where mischief was, thither she sent the remedy. He had spent a long life, and during a large portion of that life had assisted in the discussions of parliament; in the course of nature, he should probably soon take his departure, but he was glad to have that opportunity of stating his firm conviction, the result of his experience, that there could be no measure by which the feelings of the people of Ireland would be more likely to be exasperated than by the removal of the seat of government. They would look upon it as the last scene of their degradation. They would think that the expectations which had been held out to them at the Union were all destroyed. The evils of non-residence would be increased; the nobility, many of whom he could name if it 1237 were necessary, and who remained in that country at present, would quit it as soon as the court should be removed. He had never felt a more decided conviction that he was doing his duty, than he did in giving a negative to the motion.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that the opinion which he had formed upon this subject before the debate had commenced was fortified beyond all measure, by what he had since heard. Although the testimony was conflicting upon the subject, the conclusion from general principles was so obvious, that he thought it could not be mistaken. Let the House suppose that a few years had passed since this measure of removing the government from Ireland had been adopted. The Secretary of State would, of necessity, be ignorant of all those local peculiarities which, under the present system, were so accurately detailed. He could not conceive any thing more extraordinary than that the House should consent to strike away all those advantages which were derived from the presence of ministers who had served an apprenticeship to the Irish government. But, the motion before the House afforded in itself the best proof of the value of local information: for it was proposed to send a commission to Ireland to collect that local information before the House should decide. It was not ventured even to lay the foundation for that absent form of government which was to be recommended, until such information should be obtained. If this, then, were to go on, commissions must of necessity be appointed as often as it was necessary to procure information; and, instead of collecting it without shock or confusion, the House must send commissions, each with power equal to that of a lord lieutenant, to collect and bring home particulars, which they were certain must be procured during a perturbed state of the public mind. That information was best gathered and laid by for future use during the ordinary current of events; and not by fits and snatches, as often as separate events required separate inquiries. But, the chief objection to the measure was, that its effect would inevitably be, that, if the executive government were removed, the practical power would be thrown into the hands of parties. Two generations of English ministries however short, would not have passed, before the person holding the office of Secretary of State would find himself obliged to 1238 pin his faith upon some individual or some connexion in Ireland; and all those evil consequences must ensue, to correct which the power of England had been exerted. The table of the House would be covered with petitions, complaining that, owing to the distance of the executive government, no minister, however well-intentioned, could possess sufficient information for the due administration of justice. He could not lay out of the question, that, in the present temper and condition of Ireland, the loss of the sum of 100,000l. a year, and all that grew out of the expenditure of the court, would be a considerable evil to the people of that country, whether, the chasm which it would make in their commerce, or the effect it might have upon their feelings, were regarded. He could not but think, that this would be breaking the last link which bound the two countries together, and adding to sore feelings and distress, at a moment when those feelings were sufficiently irritated and that distress sufficiently severe. On these grounds, he not only decided against any change in the government of Ireland, but against any inquiry which should seem to imply that parliament meditated such a change—a measure than which he thought nothing could be, in the present state of that country, more mischievous.
§ Mr. Dawson
contended that the proposition was one of the most impolitic and injurious that could possibly be broached.
§ Mr. R. Martin
, as he had a large-share in bringing about the Union, Wished to observe, that at that time it was positively understood, that a permanent lord lieutenant should be always residing in Ireland. Adverting to the thin attendance of members, he expressed his surprise, that after the pompous advertisement which the hon. member for Aberdeen had posted up of his intention to make the present motion he should have so poor a benefit. He would rather vote at once to supersede the lord lieutenant than vote for the commission. It appeared to him to be very little short of a revolutionary proposition.
regretted that he could not concur in the motion of his hon. friend. He was convinced that great mischief would be occasioned if, at this moment, there appeared any disposition on the part of parliament to remove the marquis Wellesley from the government of Ireland; and, if the proposition now before the 1239 House were carried, he, had no doubt that it would give rise to an idea that parliament did entertain such a feeling. If it were to go abroad that government did not intend to support the course of policy marked out by that noble person, very union unfortunate consequences would inevitably be the result. Although some circumstances had occurred in the course of the noble marquis's administration which were calculated to produce feelings of pain, still he thought it was wise and proper to support him until his system of policy was clearly and plainly developed. He should, therefore, give the motion a negative, lest the motives of the House should be misconceived if they came to an opposite conclusion. It might be right to appoint such a commission as his hon. friend moved for; but the present, in his opinion, was not a proper moment for such a proceeding. When his hon. friend spoke of the enormous expense incurred, by the military force, and by the number of barracks in Ireland, what answer did he (Mr. Hutchinson), as an Irishman, give to him? It was by retorting on his hon. friend, and on the British nation, that abominable system of misgovernment which had been pursued for centuries by this country towards Ireland—a system which had converted Ireland into one great barrack. It was true, there had been, and there was, a profuse expenditure alike injurious to Ireland and disgraceful to this country; but the government of England was to blame for it. He felt most deeply the miseries under which Ireland now suffered: and, if his voice could reach that country, he would exhort every portion of his countrymen to bear their fate with patience, and not to let feelings of anger hurry them to a breach of the laws, which, would only add to their miseries.
§ Sir George Hill
said, that officially connected with Ireland as he had the honour to be, it might be expected that he should express an opinion on the present important proposition; the House would therefore, perhaps, indulge him with their attention for a very few minutes. He did not intend to enter into any abstract reasoning on the necessity of having a lord lieutenant of Ireland, nor to attempt to prove that under all circumstances and at all times, that country should have a lord lieutenancy established there: but he wished to express his conviction that situated as that country was at present, an 1240 executive authority, resident was indispensable for its peace and security distracted by party as it had been stated to be, the constant daily vigilant attention of an impartial vigorous mind was essential to its tranquillity. These qualifications were eminently possessed by lord Wellesley, and he had had his (sir G. Hill's) co-operation, as a private gentleman connected with Ireland (exclusive of his official allegiance to him), to keep down the manifestations of party spirit, by the best exertion of his influence. To this end, the lord lieutenant had duties to perform, which could not be effectively exercised by any secretary of state resident in London; but he had likewise, at that particular moment, to watch with unceasing diligence, the projects and movements of a regenerated Roman Catholic parliament, assembled for purposes the most alarming, bearding his authority; and which might yet call for a prompt exercise of it, that no secretary residing in this country could, at the critical moment required, put into execution.—Whilst some gentlemen argued, that the marquis Wellesley's government was valuable to restrain what they termed "the faction," (and he was sure his power would and ought to be directed against whatever might be factious) he felt confident, it would not pass by the proceedings of an assemblage of agitators who threatened the country with the worst calamity which could befal it—men who were so litte awed or restrained by an executive government on the spot, at their very door; a government capable of commanding and bringing into operation, at a moment's warning, all the civil and military powers of the country, what dangers might not be apprehended from these men, if they saw they were only to be dealt with by a secretary from his office in Whitehall? This brief review of the present state of Ireland, and particularly of its metropolis, induced him, without further reasoning or argument to pronounce that the lord lieutenancy of Ireland could not at that time be with safety abolished.
§ Mr. Hume
shortly replied. He said, that in submitting this proposition to the House he had no idea of reflecting on the government of the marquis Wellesley: and if gentlemen pleased, he was, willing to add to his motion, that it was no; meant in any degree to refer to that noble person. The chief Secretary for Ireland and the right hon. Secretary for the home 1241 department, had not, in any way, answered his observations. They had contended against arguments conjured up by themselves; but which he (Mr. H,) had never even thought of. The saving of 130,000l. a-year, which would be effected if his motion were adopted, was nothing if compared with the extent of benefit which would be secured in other respects. He did not propose that the change should take place now. That was an error into which the gentlemen opposite had most unaccountably fallen. He was willing, if it would please the House better, to leave out the words, "a commission to inquire," and to substitute "take into its consideration."
§ Strangers were then ordered to withdraw, and the gallery was nearly cleared for a division, when Mr. Hume expressed his intention not to divide, observing, that probably a similar motion would, ere long, emanate from the other side of the House. The motion was then negatived without a division.