§ Mr. Abercromby
said, that before he entered upon the subject of his motion, relative to certain secret societies in Ireland, commonly called Orange societies, he was anxious, in order to avoid misconception, to declare, that he had no intention whatever of alluding to the merits or demerits of the marquis Wellesley's administration. Whenever that subject came to be discussed, he should consider himself as free as any other member of the House to deliver his opinions upon it. Neither was it his intention to interfere, in the smallest degree, with what was called the Catholic question. The subject which he should develope that night, he would treat in such a manner as to entitle him, he trusted, to the votes both of the advocates for concession to the Catholics, and the supporters of their political exclusion. His motion would rest on general grounds, and would not disentitle him from receiving the support of both the classes he had mentioned, or of that of any other description of persons. He was well aware, that the notice of his motion was said to have created considerable agitation on the part of certain classes of persons in Ireland. It might be so; and he was ready to admit and assume that to be the fact; but, so far from its being a reason against the discussion of this subject, he thought the very agitation which was said to prevail, was the strongest argument in support of the necessity of consideration with the least possible delay. When it was said that persons connected with this Orange system felt averse from this question, it ought at the same time to be admitted, that there were others, and a very great majority of the people of Ireland, who loudly called for this discussion. Under such circumstances, it was incumbent upon parliament to probe the matter to the bottom, and pronounce a legislative opinion upon the merits of the case. If it 444 could be shown, that the Orange system ought to be maintained on solid ground, that its maintenance was essential to the peace, the tranquillity, and the good order of Ireland, then let truth prevail, and let the government of Ireland openly and manfully support such an institution. If, on the contrary, it could be shown, that that system was productive of incalculable and perpetual irritation—that it operated banefully upon a sensitive people—that it was subversive of good order, and utterly destructive of peace and tranquillity, and moral improvement, then, again, he would say, let truth prevail, and let the arm of the legislature be extended to put down such a system. All he desired was, that the subject should be fairly, fully, and temperately discussed, without prejudice to either Catholic or Protestant. To both he was prepared to contend, that the abolition of this system would prove an inestimable benefit—to the Catholic, by the removal of a galling principle of irritation—to the Protestant, by separating him from motives and imputations which could not fail to disunite him from the great body of his fellow-countrymen. He respected both those classes; he wished to treat with indulgence their passions and their prejudices; but he respected the due ascendancy of the known laws and constitution of his country, much more than he did the separate interests of either party; and it was because he did so, that he was anxious to secure for the whole people of Ireland, the undivided benefit of the British constitution, to obtain for them the due and equal sway of the laws of their country. That was his predominant object, and for that alone he felt a paramount solicitude. He wished also to state, that it was in no respect his intention to impute motives to any persons individually or collectively—to those who acted under the Orange system, or to their opponents. What he would direct their attention to was, the system itself—a system which, in his opinion, was vicious and productive of much evil, and which, if not unconstitutional, was in many respects illegal. It was a great question, not only for the people of Ireland generally, but for the Protestant part of that population, to consider whether it was not most unfortunate, that such a system had grown up amongst them—whether the Protestants, in assenting to it, had not taken a most erroneous view of their own interests, and embarked in proceed- 445 ings which, if sanctioned and prolonged, must eventually be subversive of the legitimate constitution of the country, destructive of the beneficial authority of the government of Ireland, and, both there and in England, productive of the most disastrous consequences.
Having stated these general grounds upon which his motion rested, he would now direct the attention of the House to the origin, nature, and character of the Orange system itself. He was compelled, in tracing the progress of that system, to open that part of the history of Ireland which commenced with the recall of lord Fitzwilliam in 1795, and ended with the legislative union of the two countries in 1800—a page of history which no good man could open and read without feelings of sorrow and shame at the perusal—sorrow, for the dire sufferings inflicted upon the unfortunate people of Ireland; shame, at no where seeing that the perpetrators of these wrongs and inflictions were detected, discountenanced, or punished. This was a sad and melancholy truth; but it was also an instructive one. If they looked at the events attending the recall of lord Fitzwilliam, they would find them pregnant with instruction. And here, again, he begged to observe, that he had no intention whatever of entering into the merits or demerits of that recall politically; but, as an occurrence, he must show that the recall of that lord lieutenant, and the measures which ensued upon it, had a combined operation, which demonstrated in the most clear, strong, and decisive manner, that the worst policy which could be acted upon in the government of Ireland, was one of a vacillating and temporizing nature. This truth could not be too strongly inculcated. If they looked to the hopes of one great party, which were necessarily excited by lord Fitzwilliam's appointment, and the fears of others, which were as naturally felt—the expectation of privilege and concession on one side, and the dread of the loss of office and monopoly on the other—then, if they looked at the ultimate success of the smaller party, and their exclusion of lord Fitzwilliam, and coupled with it the disappointment, mortification, and humiliation of the larger party, they must at once see, that, in a country circumstanced as Ireland was by notorious civil distractions, the worst thing which could befall the people was an 446 alternation between hope and fear. The smaller party, who had triumphed as it were in achieving lord Fitzwilliam's recall, felt themselves in the situation of persons who had extinguished an unsuccessful rebellion: they acted, as it was too much the practice of human nature to act on such occasions, with little forbearance towards their opponents, and recorded their triumph in the increased severity of their rule; and, in the disgraceful outrages which were then perpetrated, none were so conspicuous or more disgraceful than those which were committed in the vicinity of Armagh. It was for a long series of years the unhappy fate of Ireland to have her peace broken, and interrupted by the successive occurrence of tumults and disturbances, under the name of one banditti or another. On that occasion, there were in the neighbourhood of Armagh two contending parties waging war against each other in open day, under the names of Defenders, and Peep o' Day Boys,—the former of the Catholic, and the latter of the Protestant religion. These people fought a pitched battle, in the county of Armagh. The Peep o' Day Boys were victorious, and ever after maintained a complete ascendancy. It was out of this outrage that the name of Orange societies began. The more powerful party being Protestant in that district, proceeded to acts of summary vengeance upon their opponents, which, there was great reason to believe, were winked at by the local magistracy, and which were marked with excessive cruelty and injustice. They poisoned the fountain of justice, and judges, jurors, prosecutors, witnesses, and executioners, were alike selected from the opponents of the defeated party. A war so waged was attended by all the horrors of its nature. The Defenders (as they were called) were pursued and expelled from their homes, under all the sufferings of cruelty and destitution. That expulsion from their homes and their country was effected upon so large a scale, that were he to enumerate the number of families so ruined, as recorded by the historians of the day, he feared he should be charged with the grossest exaggeration. The sense entertained by calmer men of these atrocities, could not be better collected than from resolutions which were adopted at the time by some of the magistracy of the county, with their lord lieutenant (lord Gosford) at their head. In December, 447 1795, they assembled, and their first resolution, supported by a speech from lord Gosford, in full coincidence with its import, was to this effect—"That the county was thrown into an uncommon state of disorder, and that its Catholic population were grievously oppressed, and plundered, and driven from their homes and lands, by a lawless banditti."
Why did he advert to these facts? Not to involve the members of the existing Orange societies in a participation in these outrages, for they had always disclaimed them; but to show from dates, that their institution had commenced at the time of these outrages in the vicinity of Armagh, and that the assuption of the name of Orangemen was a great and fatal error, connected as it was with that of the perpetrators of the cruelties upon the Catholic population of the district. It was a subject of deep and painful regret, that, circumstanced as Ireland was at the time, Orange institutions were established. The assumption of that particular name, under the circumstances he had described, was a fatal and most unfortunate error. The inevitable tendency of names, in such a condition of society, was peculiarly galling and dangerous. He meant not, he repeated, to charge these outrages upon the Orangemen, for they had disclaimed them; but on the banditti which had inflicted them. The great difficulty, however, was, to convince the sufferers that there was not an identity between the Orange system and their persecutors; and from thence arose the religious disunion and irritability between the two classes. In order to put the House in possession of the manner in which the Orange societies had been established, and the objects they professed to have in view, he would read copies of rules adopted by them—one set in the year 1800, the other in 1820. These societies were composed of grand lodges, lodges, grand masters, masters, treasurers, deputy treasurers, secretaries and committees, and they had various orders of orange, purple, and other colours. The resolutions for 1820 were retrospective, and showed the sense which even the Orangemen themselves entertained of the abuses which had crept into their institution. One passage in the resolutions set forth, that since 1800, great abuses had found their way into the system of the lodges; and that the committee, from several circumstances, had 448 obtained knowledge, that various, jarring, and imbecile ceremonies had been admitted, which were not only unknown in the original institution of the Orange lodges, but which were "repugnant to common sense, offensive to the religious feelings of their Christian brethren, and offensive even to common decency." They then declared that they wished to remove these blemishes from the societies, and to combine, in the proper solemnity of initiation into their fellowship, those due forms, which were becoming on an occasion when a man was about to dedicate himself to the performance of certain duties as a loyal Protestant; and also to guard them from the operation of the "indiscreet zeal of over anxious brethren." here was a proof that the Orangemen themselves felt the evil consequences of the system they were pursuing, and were anxious to retrace their steps. The paper which he would next read, was the declaration of the grand Orange lodge in the year 1800, with respect to the nature and objects of its institution. After declaring, that they associated in honour of king William 3rd, of glorious memory, and from whose illustrious house they had assumed the name of Orange, they proceeded thus:—"And we will annually celebrate the victory gained by that Protestant monarch over king James, at the Boyne, on the anniversary of that memorable day, namely, the 1st of July (old style) in every year." He did not wish too strictly to criticise words; but looking to the enormous extent and influence of an association of this kind, it was impossible not to feel some jealousy, not only at the language of this declaration, but also lest their civil and military power should sometimes be exerted most improperly, upon occasions which to them might seem exceedingly loyal and proper. He knew not upon what sound or legal principle bodies of this kind were to assume to themselves, as the Orange lodges unquestionably did, a discretion of saying what were, or what were not, such just and proper opportunities for their exertions. He now wished to state a very important passage, occurring in the "general declaration" of these societies, which had been altogether omitted in their former declaration, and was first published in 1820. What was the reason of this omission he did not know; but he was happy to refer to the passage, because it showed that 449 these Orange societies were bound distinctly to the same sort of engagements as the men of Armagh had been:—"And we further declare, that we are, exclusively, a Protestant association; yet, detesting as we do any intolerant spirit, we also declare, that we will not injure any body for his religious opinions, provided they be such as are not hostile to the state." The oath directed to be administered professed allegiance to his majesty king George 4th; and the new member engaged to support the constitution in church and state, as by law established, and recognized the descent of the crown to be in his majesty, his family, and successors, "being Protestants." In the former oath the phrase was, "the Protestant ascendancy." Now, there could he no doubt that an engagement to support the Protestant ascendancy might, in the strict sense of the terms, appear loyal and constitutional enough; but, in the general usage of the words, especially among Orangemen, he believed they Blight have a meaning very different from their apparent import, which was, merely, a king professing the established religion of these realms. Before the year 1782, these persons denominated themselves "the friends of the English interest;" but, after 1782, when Ireland had some prospect of obtaining a free legislature, and something like national rank and consequence, these associations changed their name, and became "friends of the Protestant ascendancy." Many persons had objected even to these words, "being Protestants," as if they implied some qualification of the oath. From this objection, he (Mr. A.) dissented, because it was the known and constitutional language of the law. The oath of the initiated party went on to aver, that he had not been, nor then was, a Roman Catholic or Papist; that be was not a member of the society called "the United Irishmen," nor of any other body of men associated for any purposes hostile to the laws and institutions of the land; and that he had never previously taken any oath of secrecy to such associations: that he would, as far as in him lay, assist the magistrates in the execution of the laws; and the oath concluded in terms to this effect:—"And I solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will conceal, and never will reveal, either a part or parts of what is to be now privately revealed and communicated to me, unless to a brother 450 Orangeman; I first knowing him to be such, after strict trial and by certain words and indications which Orangemen pass between one another; that I will neither write, nor cause to be written, such matters, lest they should so become liable to be made known to those from whom they should be concealed. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in this my Orangeman's oath." The House would observe, that here there was an obligation upon every member of this Orange society, that he would always conceal, and never would reveal, either a part or parts of what was now to be privately communicated to him. Hence it was quite clear, that some private communications, at the time of the member's initiation, was made to him. It was impossible to conclude, when it was found, that they who framed this oath were so earnest in enjoining secrecy, that there was not something communicated, which it was most important for the state to be informed of. What it was, however, it was impossible for him (Mr. A.) to conjecture: whether, at the time of initiation, any thing improper was revealed, he could not state. Of this, at least, he was certain; that it was impossible for that House to cast a cold or indifferent view upon the proceedings of those societies, whether they looked to their nature or their numbers, their authority or their wealth—their dangerous power, or the jealousy which they were calculated to excite throughout the kingdom. He could not imagine upon what principle this oath had been so particularly worded, unless there was something communicated at initiation which was not fit to be revealed. Let it be remembered, too, that the oath was as much intended to keep that matter from being revealed to his majesty's government, as from any other quarter. It was to be revealed only to a brother Orangeman. So that, in point of fact, if there was any thing to be communicated to his majesty's government essential to the welfare of the kingdom, it could not be revealed except with the permission of the Grand Lodge of Dublin. There was no telling to what this kind of association might lead; seeing that it extended over a very considerable portion of land, and combined so large a number of wealthy and powerful individuals.
He would now advert to what had been determined on and agreed to by them in the year 1820, under the head of "secret 451 articles." One of these ran thus:—"We are not to carry away money or goods, or any other property whatever, from any person whatsoever (except arms and ammunition only), unless such person be an enemy." Now, who but an Orangeman was to decide who was or who was not an enemy? Did the article mean a public or a private enemy? If he was to be considered as a private enemy, the society, and parliament, if it tolerated it, opened a door to the gratification of every malignant passion. It left every man, not an Orangeman, liable to the enmity and vengeance of him who was one; and to all the consequences of that enmity. If a public enemy was meant, it remained to be asked, who was he? He knew of no public enemy except a subject in a state of rebellion. In a case of that kind, there might be some justification for combining to put down a public enemy. But, who was to decide, in a country so divided as Ireland was, who this public enemy might be? Where party ran so high—where the materials of faction and enmity were so abundant—was it to be left to the Orange society to select and designate him? The Other secret article was this:—"We are to appear, upon a lawful summons from the grand master, at an hour's warning, or at whatever other time may be thought fitting, in the place which may be appointed; or else be subjected to a fine, such as the grand master may think proper to impose." This, again, was a stipulation of a very important character: by it 60,000 men were to be called together, on occasion, at an hour's warning.—He would now advert to another set of persons called "Purplemen." It was material to observe, that the same secrecy was enjoined between the Purplemen and the Orangemen, as between the Orangemen and all the rest of the world. He entreated the House to bear in mind also, that these Purplemen were the highest order of Orangemen; and to recollect the wording of that general declaration of the society in which they evinced so much anxiety to guard against the indiscretion of their friends. With the Purplemen originated those resolutions which regarded the introduction of Orangemen into the army, and organization of Orange lodges. A more complete abuse; than this, of influence, control, and the means of intimidation could not be imagined. It was a species of control, which, from the character of secrecy that marked the proceed- 452 ings of the association, it behoved the House to watch with the utmost vigilance and jealousy. Those Orange lodges became very soon afterwards powerful and arrogant. They adopted a tone which was altogether new and striking. They addressed the people of Ireland, as, if they themselves were the government. They spoke in a language which, to say the least of it, was as decided and authoritative as that of the government itself. In 1797, which was not quite two years after the first establishment of their body, a proclamation appeared, addressed by them to "the loyal subjects of Ireland," and signed by the secretaries of certain lodges, in behalf of the whole association. The language of this paper was of the same lofty character. They said, that "they had been accused of principles which would be disgraceful to human nature, and of being bound together by oaths which it would be shocking to repeat." The proclamation, as if it had been intended to prove all that he had objected against the society, went on to complain of misrepresentation, and to protest anew what their object was: "We therefore think it high time to rally round the constitution, and pledge ourselves to each other to maintain the laws, and to defend our good old king against all his enemies, whether they be rebels to their God, or to their country." Who, he would ask, had constituted these Orangemen the judges between their fellow-men and God? In 1800, they addressed another proclamation to the same persons, and in the same form as the preceding one, and having relation to what was to be done by Orangemen in regard to the Union. Of the Union it declined to express any opinion; but it still assumed, that the Roman Catholics were the enemies of Orangemen. It was necessary the House, to see the evil tendency of such a society, should observe the relative situations of the Catholic and Protestant interests in Ireland. The Protestant, body had, all the office and power, and almost all the riches of the country. The other had little or no power; no church establishment; and their priests were indebted to the bounty of their own flocks for their support. A large proportion of the landed property was in the hands, of Protestants, and, above all, there was a total absence of that most important link in the chain of society a wealthy, enlightened, and independent, middle class. The state 453 of Ireland was shortly this—that a very small portion of the community had a large establishment, with nearly all the power, authority, and influence; while a large portion of that community, composed of persons of a different religious persuasion, had no authority, and scarcely any influence or power. Now, it would be obvious to every gentleman, that when the government of a country, professing its willingness to confer on that country new and free institutions, to depart from former principles of pure despotism, and to proceed on more liberal and enlarged plans, removed a variety of restraints, repealed a number of grievances, and extended; to the nation many important boons; and when, above all, it gave the people a free press, a state of things was immediately created, which it required the utmost wisdom, moderation, and temper, to deal with. The great evil of such a state of things was, that it must give rise to quarrels, heart-burnings, and resentments, which every pains should be taken to allay; and especially by a manifestation, on the part of the government, of the most impartial kindness, and the utmost forbearance.
He had already said, that the Orange societies were in themselves exclusive; and it had been welt observed, that the mere circumstance of their being so, stamped them with a character of danger and illegality. This was apparent, because a man might present himself as a candidate for admission to any post or office, might plead the correctness of his life, and his faithful discharge of his various duties as a father, a friend, and a subject, and yet be refused and rejected, because (supposing the influence of this association to prevail) he was not an Orangeman. Their regulations stipulated, that every year there should be a public celebration of the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. Now, if this celebration took place in a country which was wholly Protestant, there could be no objection to it. But, when it was remembered, that it recalled to the minds of the larger portion of the community, not only that this was the triumph of men who, being the smaller number, had the largest share of the power and wealth of the land; that it carried along with it to that larger portion—the Roman Catholics—a feeling of humiliation, and a sense of defeat, its impropriety could be no matter of dispute—its evil consequences no matter of astonish- 454 ment. Injurious as it was, it was yet more to be deprecated, because it was a low-spirited triumph. If the Orangemen had a right to march in processions, with their trumpets, their drums, and their banners, should it be said, that the Catholics had not an equal right to do so? But, he contended, that every procession of the kind was only calculated to excite bad feeling, and to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the country. If a Catholic encountered the procession, and retired from a sight so displeasing to him, to seek some consolation for it in the recollections which he might indulge in his chamber, of the authority and the fame formerly enjoyed by his ancestors—was the Catholic to be blamed for doing so? It was said, that the Catholics liked to indulge the recollections of their former greatness and authority: but, if this was a matter of regret, what possible means could the Protestants have devised better calculated to awaken and keep up those recollections.
The hon. gentleman proceeded to deprecate all processions of the kind; and observed, that as to the superior loyalty for which the Irish Protestant was always ready to give himself credit, as over his Catholic countrymen, he (Mr. A.) should look rather to his conduct and demeanour, both in regard to himself and his neighbour, for the test of that loyalty. Such a man should be studious by his own loyalty, to confirm that of his neighbour. Did any one suppose, that an annual celebration of king William's victory over king James at the Boyne was likely to attain it? Was it likely to be attained by our reminding them that this was the anniversary of the day on which we defeated them? If it was to be permitted to a body of men consisting, perhaps, of between 200,000 and 300,000, to bind themselves together for particular purposes, by oaths of secrecy, by what right were the Catholics to be prevented from forming similar associations? If self-defenses was to be the principle assigned for the establishment of this society, surely one party had as good a right to associate as the other. If the defence of the laws and the maintenance of the constitution were to be alleged as the objects of the Orange societies, he answered, that the Roman Catholics were equally interested to defend the one and to maintain the other. Finally, if parliament was to permit the Protestants to form these asso- 455 ciations, they could not, surely; prohibit the Catholics from founding similar ones.
Another point on which he wished to say a word was, the dependence which the government placed upon the exertions of the yoemanry corps in Ireland. Government relied upon their aid in maintaining the peace of the country; but it was well known, that the greater part of these corps were formed of Orangemen. It could not be expected, therefore, that theirs should be a national feeling. It was that of party; and, in calling in their aid for the repression of every public commotion, no very great reliance should be placed upon the steadiness of men, whose existence as a body was supported by party feelings. He only mentioned this in passing, and to show the extension of the party prejudices to which it gave rise. The effects of this general party feeling was experienced in the administration of justice in that country. Supposing a man to be tried for any offence, and that that man was a Catholic: he found that the magistrate who had received the informations, the sheriff who summoned the jury, the jury itself, and the judge who presided, were all Orangemen; and, as he had said, the man who was to be tried was a Catholic. He did not mean to infer, that such a jury would return an unjust verdict, or that the judge would pronounce an unjust sentence; but then they were men like others, and subject to the same prejudices. Would any man, no matter what was his offence, and particularly if it were a party one, wish to be tried by a court and a jury who were so much opposed to his own feelings? It was found in that House, where they were divided into parties, that the feelings of members were influenced by the party to which they belonged. Would such influence be denied? And, if such were the case here, how much stronger must it be in a country, where almost every thing, not even excepting the administration of justice, was influenced by party? The result was this, and it was an unhappy one—that in that country there was nothing like the same confidence in the administration of justice, which was to be found in England. If, then, a judicial proceeding were carried on by an Orange judge and an Orange jury, must it not weaken the confidence in the administration of justice, however fairly conducted? Would not the person so tried, from the natural feelings which would possess most men, on being con- 456 victed under such circumstances, say, that he owed that conviction to his having been tried by a party different from his own? And would not the result be to diminish the authority of the law so administered? It would be in the recollection of the House, that when the question of Orange institutions was, on a former occasion, before it, a right hon. gentleman, the then president of the hoard of control, had alluded to and condemned such associations—had spoken of them as so objectionable and injurious in their tendency—and had added, that their institution in England was so contemptible, that it would be only necessary to have the expression of the feelings of the House known on the subject, to put an end to them altogether. Upon such an explanation of the opinions of the government, the motion then made on the subject was abandoned. He now mentioned this, for the purpose of hearing from the same right hon. gentleman some reasons why Orange institutions should be put down in England, and supported in the sister country?—Now, it might perhaps be said, as against the policy of the present motion, that since the communication by lord Sid mouth of the king's letter, recommending conciliation in Ireland, the number of Orange lodges had increased; and that in all probability, after the decision of the present motion, there would be an addition to their number. If any gentleman could prove this—if he could show that the king's letter had increased, and that the present motion was likely to increase such institutions, he would be doing that motion the greatest service. What would this be but saying, that, after the declaration of the wish of his majesty for union and conciliation—after the declaration of the opinions of that House against the policy of such associations—they still increased? Would it not be saying, that such institutions would continue to act against the will of the king, and the opinion of parliament: that they were enrolled for the purpose of counteracting the intentions of government, and that Ireland was not to be governed by a lord lieutenant, acting by the directions of the king's ministers; but to remain under the influence and control of Orange soicieties in declared opposition to both? If this were the case, he would only say, that the jealous, spirit which had opposed itself to the mild administration of lord Fitzwilliam, to the 457 conciliating government of lord Cornwallis; that the spirit which had opposed itself to the attempts made by Mr. Pitt for general concord, was still in existence, and that it had its scource in, and was supported by, the Orange lodges of Ireland. Even Mr. Pitt had felt the fatal influence of that party: he had found that it would be a weight upon the measures of any mild government; and one of his arguments in support of transferring the legislature of Ireland to this country, and uniting the two parliaments, was founded upon this opinion. In advocating the question of the Union, he had said, that there would be "an impartial legislature, standing aloof from party connection, sufficiently removed from the influence of contending factions, to be advocate or champion of neither, being so placed as to have no superstitious reverence for the names and prejudices of ancient families, who have so long enjoyed the exclusive monopolies of certain public patronages and property, which custom has sanctioned, and which modern necessity may justify—a legislature who will neither give way to the haughty pretensions of a few, nor open the door to popular inroads, to clamour, or to invasion of all sacred forms and regularities, under the false and imposing colours of philosophical improvement in the art of government." If what he (Mr. A.) had before said was true, we were now in the same situation in which Mr. Pitt had found himself; and there was no hope left for Ireland, but in an impartial legislature, standing aloof from all party connexion.
He would now say a word as to the legality of these institutions. He would maintain that they were illegal; and, whoever looked to the 50th of the late king, as it applied to secret associations, would find, that the Orange institutions were decidedly illegal. But, without entering into the discussion of that act, he would refer to an opinion given by the Court of King's-bench in Ireland, from which it would be clear, that all such secret societies were illegal. In a trial which had recently taken place in Ireland, it was urged as an objection to the evidence of a certain witness, that he was not entitled to credit on his oath. The case was put hypothetically. It was said, that he belonged to an Orange society, and that as such he had taken an oath not to divulge the secrets of his brethren. If he kept that oath, it was contended his 458 evidence was not entitled to weight; for he could not be expected to tell the whole truth. If he broke it, he was still a perjurer on oath, and in either case he was not worthy of credit. The lord chief justice, in summing up, adverted to the objection in this manner:—
"Another topic has been glanced at, in order to show that the Atkinsons are unworthy of credit, which the court feels itself bound to advert to. It was stated, hypothetically, that if it be the part of the oath or obligation of an Orangeman, to keep inviolate the secrets of his brethren, these witnesses ought to be stigmatized for violating that oath. No such oath or obligation has been proved to exist. I trust it could not have been proved; for if such an engagement forms part of the Orangeman's oath, it would be impossible to administer the justice of the country in any case such as the present, in which one Orangeman is concerned as a party, and another as a witness. Nothing of the kind has been proved, and we are to hope and presume that it does not exist. But if, unfortunately, it had been proved to exist, it would have been the bounden duty of the judges, who are sworn to administer the laws, to state to you, that the crime of the witnesses would consist in the observance of such an oath, and not in the violation of it; and that if two inconsistent obligations should come into collision in any man's mind, the one voluntary, secret, and unlawful (for unlawful such an oath unquestionably may be), and the other public, and sanctioned by the laws of his country, as an oath in a court of justice is, it would be the duty of that man, upon every principle of law, of morality, and of religion, to observe the oath he had taken in court, and trample upon the criminal obligation by which he had bound himself elsewhere."*
After such high authority, he thought it was not too much to say, that he was well grounded in calling the Orange associations illegal. Indeed, it would be weakening his case, if he were to dwell farther upon that point. If this, then, were so, he would ask, what steps had been taken to put down that which the first law authorities in Ireland had declared illegal? The motion with which he should conclude would be for an address to his majesty, calling his attention to the exist-*Report of the recent Trials in Dublin, by Richard Wilson Greene, esq.459 ence of such societies in Ireland, founded upon secret oaths, and assuring his majesty, that the House would co-operate most cordially in any effort, to enforce the due administration of the laws in that country. He would admit, that the body against which they had to contend was a powerful one; and that being so, no greater service could be done to the country, than by the distinct expression of the opinion of parliament On the illegality of such institutions. He did not call upon them to make war upon the Protestants of Ireland in consequence of the existence of these illegal institutions. He was aware of the character and power of the Protestants in that country, and that no government could be efficiently carried on without their aid; but he thought the House would be going a great way towards restoring the peace and harmony of that country, by pronouncing upon the illegality of such institutions. He did not wish to press his majesty's government one step. All he asked was, that the House should declare its opinion, and leave to the government the best means of carrying those opinions into operation. The hon. and learned gentleman then recapitulated the heads of his argument, and went on to show, that one of the great objects of the Union would be frustrated by the continuance of such illegal societies, by which the transfer of English capital to Ireland was prevented, property rendered insecure, and the number of absentee landlords kept up by the difficulties which were presented to the disposal of Irish estates, to those who, under other circumstances, might be disposed to purchase and reside on them. The existence of such associations was also one of the causes of rendering so large a military force necessary in Ireland. He did not mean to call upon the government to put down those associations: "to put down," would be too harsh a term; but he did say, that if the government was itself united in opinion upon the subject, they would soon have the Orangemen as good and loyal subjects, and as subservient to the will of the lord lieutenant of Ireland as any other portion of the community. But the great evil was, that it was believed, and no effectual steps had been taken to destroy the belief, that a sort of countenance and support were given to such institutions. But, if government were once to set its face against them—if it would only enforce the due authority of 460 the law, it would soon put an end to all such illegal institutions.—The hon. and learned gentleman concluded by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, humbly to represent to his majesty, that his faithful Commons, deeply deploring the existence of those dissentions by which Ireland has been for so great a length of time agitated and convulsed, and which, among other evils, have led to the formation of Societies founded on exclusive and unconstitutional principles, beg leave to assure his majesty of their cordial and zealous concurrence in all measures necessary for sustaining and enforcing the laws, for giving to the people the full benefits of the constitution, and for aiding his majesty's paternal solicitude for the establishment of concord and union in Ireland."
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he had never risen with stronger feelings of anxiety than those by which he was then overpowered—an anxiety founded upon no personal considerations, but arising out of a feeling that this question was so closely bound up with another subject which was likely to come before the House, that he feared it would open a door, not only for premature discussion, but for much misrepresentation. He could not but regret that the hon. and learned member had thought it his duty to agitate the subject at the present moment; and the more so, as there was, in a short time, a question to be brought forward which would, to a certain extent, involve the present. He had hoped that the hon. and learned member would have yielded to the request made by a right hon. and learned friend of his, to postpone his motion for a short time. He trusted, however, that the fears he entertained with respect to the discussion, would turn out to be unfounded. And here he felt bound to pay the hon. and learned member, who introduced the motion, the tribute of his thanks for having done so, without making a single observation which could prejudice that discussion to which he (Mr. G.) alluded. And he would implore those honourable members who might take a part in the discussion, to follow the example so laudably set them, and at least to do the Irish government the justice of not bringing their conduct prematurely under discussion. It could not be expected that he should concur in the motion made by the hon. and learned member; but he had no difficulty in stating, that he concurred, in a greater or 461 less degree, in a great part of what the hon. and learned member had said. He felt no hesitation in avowing, that such societies as those described must be, in any country, not only productive of great Inconvenience, but be also objects of general suspicion. In ordinary life, any plan which excluded a portion of society from communion or fellowship with the rest, excited feelings of distrust and hatred in the minds of the persons excluded; while the persons excluding them, could not fail of being imbued with feelings of contempt and disregard for the persons whom they oppressed. If this feeling were carried into political life, the case must become stilt stronger; as still more bitter feelings must be entertained, of hatred on the one side, and contempt on the other. But the exclusion from any political society would be felt in proportion to the value set upon the principles or opinions which caused that exclusion; and if this feeling were once extended to religion, a subject upon which men felt most strongly, of course the greatest animosity would be felt. But, when he made the admission, that all secret societies were to be discouraged, he bound himself to the principle of the motion of the hon. and learned gentleman, and not to the observations contained in his speech. The motion was directed against all societies bound together by secret obligations, whilst the speech of the hon. gentleman and the charges it contained were against one society Feeling, as he did, an objection against secret societies, he (Mr. G.) was yet anxious to draw an exception in favour of the Orange society—the objects and the principles of that society being widely different from the many societies in Ireland which were bound together by secret oaths, by obligations to subvert the government, and to overturn the constitution. On the other hand, the Orange societies were bound by their obligations to support the laws and the legal authorities of the land, and to contribute to the maintenance of public tranquility. Though the Orange societies were open to grave and serious objections, yet he would say, that they were ever ready to come forward in the defence of the country, and for the maintenance of legal authority. Although he did not mean to, dispute that the Orange institutions were liable to many grave and serious objections, still he could not forget that the members of them had always been ready to come forward in times of 462 difficulty, in any manner that the legitimate authorities had thought proper to prescribe; he could not forget that, during periods of considerable doubt and hazard, when men were wanting to enforce the due execution of the laws, these persons had upheld the constitution, had maintained the public tranquillity, and had entitled themselves to receive, nay, had actually received, the applause and approbation of parliament and of the country. He was, therefore, the more anxious that these institutions, though bound together by engagements which he could not altogether approve, should not be confounded with other institutions, whose conduct had been widely different, and whose objects were perfectly distinct. He was aware that, in the administration of the law, previous good character could not be taken into consideration by the judicial authorities; and if any Orangeman were to bring himself within the limits of the law relating to secret associations, he should be the last man to require for them any exemption from its operation, on account of the services rendered to the state by the institutions to which they belonged. Nor, indeed, did he believe that he should meet with the support of those institutions, if he could be induced so far to neglect his duty as to attempt to obtain for them any remission of punishment on that account. The hon. and learned gentleman, in the course of his speech, had not forgotten to refer to the outrage which had caused the formation of the Orange societies. In so doing, he thought that the hon. and learned gentleman had not acted with perfect propriety: in as much as no good purpose could be answered by referring to scenes which had occurred many years ago, in the midst of every species of alarm and confusion. The common complaint made by hon. gentlemen in that House, when speaking upon the affairs of Ireland, was this—that past outrages were ever present to the minds of its inhabitants, and that thus party feelings and party enmities were perpetuated among them, from generation to generation. He could wish that every person who entered upon questions of Irish policy would refrain from entering into a discussion of times and circumstances, in which there was undoubtedly much cruelty to condemn, many circumstances to regret, but nothing, from which any thing could be derived to benefit or conciliate the present genera- 463 tion. The hon. and learned gentleman had stated, that the Orange institutions had been formed in the year 1795, to put down certain outrages which were at that time desolating the province of Armagh. He had read a declaration in which the framers of them disclaimed all participation in the outrages which had been committed, as was then said, in support of the Protestant religion, and asserted that their sole object was to support the laws, and to assist in carrying them impartially into execution. The hon. and learned gentleman had stated, that when the institution of similar societies in England had come under discussion in that House, there was a strong feeling expressed against them; and he had proceeded to call upon a right hon. member to repeat, on the present occasion, the bold and manly sentiments which he had formerly uttered in their condemnation. He joined with the hon. and learned gentleman in that call; because he was of opinion, that every thing that could be done in the way of advice to those associations, by showing the dangers that they were likely to create, would be attended with great advantage to the community. That was the proper method of attacking such institutions; indeed, it was the only way of counteracting the principles which led to their formation. The hon. and learned gentleman asserted, and with truth, that these institutions originated from the strong party feeling which existed in Ireland; and yet, how did he endeavour to remove and remedy it? Not by the ordinary method of taking away the causes from which it sprung—not by avoiding every measure which could be construed into any thing like a triumph of one party over another—but by calling on parliament to examine into the nature of Orange institutions, and by pointing them out to public hatred and animadversion. He had before said, that he could not concur in the proposed address; and he said so, because he was sure that there was no man so unskilled in parliamentary tactics as not to perceive, that if he concurred in it, he made a tacit admission, that there had been a reluctance, on the part of the government with which he was connected, to take any measures that were calculated to suppress the secret societies which were so numerous in Ireland. The House was not in the habit of addressing the crown to enforce the laws, except in cases where the executive government had shown a 464 reluctance to execute, or a partiality in administering them. On this ground, he should oppose the proposed address; and in doing so, he would take advantage of the opportunity to state, that there had not been the slightest reluctance, on the part of the Irish government, to enforce the existing laws against all secret institutions, whether of one description or another. If the hon. and learned gentleman could have pointed out a single case, in which an Orangeman had been screened from punishment because he was an Orangeman, or in which a Catholic had been subjected to penalties from which an Orangeman had been exempted, he would admit that sufficient ground would have been laid for acceding to his address; but, in the absence of all proof—nay, even of all charge—of such misconduct on the part of the Irish government, he could not think of agreeing to an address which implied blame, where no blame was admitted to exist. Still, though he could not agree to it, he was ready to assure the House, that the Irish government viewed the existence of secret societies with feelings of strong anxiety and alarm. Indeed, the first measure which it had advised, after it was called into existence, was a measure to enable it to put down certain societies that were united together by a bond of secrecy, and confederated to overthrow all that was sacred and valuable in the institutions of Ireland. Had the present motion come on at a later period of the session, or had it been possible for him to have introduced, so shortly after its commencement, a measure which had been suggested by the lord lieutenant, the House would have seen, that the Irish government had been busily employed in assimilating the law of Ireland, relating to secret societies, with that which now happily existed in England, and in preparing a bill which would give to the executive government in the former country, the same facility to detect and punish them that was given to the executive government in the latter by an act passed in 1799. He did not mean to ask the House to extend the powers of that act to Ireland, upon the same grounds that they had been formerly granted in England. That act was founded on the necessity of putting down certain secret associations which at that time existed in this country, and which were actively engaged in carrying on a traitorous correspondence with foreign 465 states. Happy was he to state, that no necessity of that nature existed at present in Ireland. He had, however, occasion, in November last, to bring to trial certain individuals, who were connected with the very worst description of secret societies; and it was then found, that the existing law would not reach them, and that a law with certain additional powers was necessary to punish offences of a similar nature. It would therefore be seen, from the despatches of the lord lieutenant, which would shortly be laid on the table of the House, that he asked of the government, and through the government, of the parliament of the country, to grant him the additional powers, which the circumstances of the times rendered so necessary. The House would, in consequence, be called upon very shortly to enact a general measure, and one of such a nature as would not exempt from the operation of the law any society which committed an overt act in violation of it. He was of opinion, that the government had not been inactive, and that it was not necessary to address the crown, either to enforce the due execution of the law, or to take such measures as circumstances rendered necessary. He should therefore conclude by moving the previous question.
§ Sir J. Newport
declared, that he would not support the motion, if he thought it calculated to throw any censure on the Irish government. Until he had heard the right hon. secretary declare the intention of the Irish government to assimilate the law of Ireland with regard to secret societies, with the laws of England, he could not have anticipated that any such measure had been in contemplation; knowing, though he did, that such a law was much more necessary in Ireland than it had ever been in England. Year after year had he wearied the House with his endeavours to convince it of the impolicy of allowing any secret societies to exist. It was, therefore, most satisfactory to him, and he had little doubt but it was equally satisfactory to his hon. and learned friend, to hear that the provisions of the act of 1799 were to be extended to Ireland. That was the way to proceed. It was idle to permit the existence of these secret societies under any pretence. They tended to embarras the government, and to divide the people; and Ireland, unfortunately, had too long been governed by the policy of dividing 466 its people. He was glad that that policy was now to be abjured. The debate of that night would produce effects as satisfactory to the House, as they would be beneficial to the country. He hailed the measures of which it had produced the declaration, as auspices of good to Ireland. He trusted that the people of Ireland would be taught by them, that it was their duty to associate, not in support of secret and exclusive interests, but of the general interests of the whole country. The best way to enforce the laws was to make it the interest of the people to obey them; and that could only be done by convincing them that those laws were to be administered for their protection, and not, as had been too frequently the case, for their coercion and punishment.
§ Mr. Dawson
said, that representing a body of electors who had the strongest feeling upon the subject, and entertaining himself, feelings at least as strong as theirs, he must claim the indulgence of the House for a short time. Perhaps in his situation it would be the more prudent course to remain silent, but he could not conceal from himself, that silence on such a subject would be as disgraceful to him as unjust to his constituents. He expressed his acquiescence in every thing which fell from his right hon. friend, the secretary for Ireland, but he hoped he should be pardoned for entertaining feelings somewhat warmer on the subject. He spoke as an Irishman, and as one connected with all those who were attacked by the present motion; his right hon. friend, as an Englishman, and uninfluenced by any local ties. He rejoiced that an opportunity had at length arrived of discussing the question on its own individual merits; that the day had come when truth might be heard, when the calumnies cast upon a loyal body of men might be refuted, and when the House and the country, by hearing both sides of the question, might decide how far the Orange association was illegal, and how far it deserved the imputations which had been so unsparingly heaped upon it. An outcry had been raised, whatever might be the merits and demerits of the association, and no effort had been spared to create an unpopular feeling against it. The public press, particularly the press of Ireland, had entered into a general confederacy to give the name of Orangeman to every party, nay, to every 467 man who opposed their prevailing line of politics: it teemed with invectives, it teemed with misrepresentations, to convert every petty feud between a Protestant and a Catholic into an Orange outrage. These reports were eagerly caught up by the demagogues in Ireland, and, he was sorry to say, by some members of the House, to raise an outcry, and when once raised, few people had either the candour to examine the charges impartially, or the courage to appear in their defence. The Protestants of Ireland had to complain, that no artifice was spared to involve them in the sweeping accusation which had been attached to the Orange association. It was become a practice to give the name of Orangeman to every person who opposed the Catholic claims. The Speaker himself was an Orangeman; the members for Oxford, for Kent, for Somerset, and many about him were Orangemen—the yeomanry were Orange, the police Orange, in short, the whole Protestant population were Orangemen; it was become a name of censure, and was in general application through Ireland; but he agreed neither in the censure nor the application.—Before he sat down, he should state how far, and under what limitations he approved of Orange societies; but in the outset he rejected, as unjust, the application of any name which could leave an impression on the minds of the people of England, that those who opposed the Catholic claims were actuated by party motives, or bound together by any ties unknown to the law, or dangerous to the constitution. Though a great majority of the Protestants of Ireland approved of the principles of the Orange association, yet he called upon the House to take their opinion of those principles, not upon the character given of them by their political opponents, but upon the fair and manly exposition of those gentlemen, who were neither ashamed nor afraid to avow their participation in them. A fair character of the Orangemen might as well be expected from the hon. and learned gentleman, or from the Catholic body, as a fair character of his majesty's government might be expected to be found in the pages of the Morning Chronicle; and he called upon the House to suspend its judgment, and to cast away ally prejudice which might be exerted by the unceasing denunciations of a certain class, both in England and Ireland, until it had ascertained from those 468 gentlemen who took an interest in the subject, and who were well informed upon it, how far the principles of the Orange association were justly liable to the imputations cast upon it—how far they were subversive of the constitution, and dangerous to the safety of the empire.—In tracing the principles of the Orange association, he must claim the indulgence of the House, whilst he referred to those periods alluded to by the hon. and learned gentleman, and corrected some historical mistakes, into which he appeared to have fallen. He had stated truly, that the Orange association originated in times of great confusion in Ireland. The two parties, which he named, the Peep o' Day Boys, and the Defenders, were in constant hostility to each other: their feuds, at last, increased to such a degree, that most parts of the country became a prey to nocturnal robbery and assassination. The Peep o' Day Boys having gained a trifling advantage, the Defenders entered into a systematic combination with the United Irishmen to overturn the state; and having renewed the conflict, in which their furious zeal and fanatical spirit became apparent, reduced the country to the last stage of misery. So far the history of the hon. and learned gentleman and his own agreed: but, as the factions were of different religions, the Peep o' Day Boys being Presbyterian, and the Defenders Catholic, he left the House to suppose that the Orange association, which arose at this time, took its origin from the former faction: but the fact was not correct. The mischiefs created by these two factions were so great, that the Protestants in the neighbourhood of these transactions became alarmed, and in September, 1795, formed themselves into a body for their protection against both, and for the maintenance of the constitution in church and state, attacked, by both, as established at the Revolution by the prince of Orange. At this time, the society of the United Irishmen had arrived at full maturity, had excited the discontented into actual rebellion, and had actually negociated with a foreign enemy to invade the country. It was natural, therefore, that the loyal body which had been formed in Armagh, should rise into public notice: its principles were approved of, and great numbers of the lower orders of Protestants flocked to become members. As their numbers increased, their loyalty increased 469 also, and they opposed an effectual barrier to the progress of sedition. So far this institution must have the support of every loyal and well-affected man; it was formed to suppress rebellion, and was mainly instrumental in that object; but as the numbers increased, as it spread in various ramifications through the country; as men of property and talent became members of it, a design was formed to reduce the society into a mere methodized form; to adopt rules and regulations for ensuring regularity and consistency, and to introduce oaths and signs, by which the members were not only bound to adhere to the principles of their confederation, but by which they were enabled to prevent the introduction of any suspicions person. Now, this was the point which, in his opinion, was objectionable. He thought the obligation by oath was adverse to the spirit and letter of the law: he could not see how separate laws could be made for different societies; and, if the administration of an oath, unauthorized by law, was declared to be illegal, he could not conceive how any society could be justified in binding itself by an oath, no matter whether its principles were of the purest, or of the worst kind. He would object to any society where the bond of union was an oath, the principle of confederation secresy. In such associations, how often might private feeling and public duty be at variance; how often might that designed for the very best object be perverted to the very worst purpose: all confidence in the great tribunals would be Unpaired, all respect for the legislature weakened; and he never could countenance such an anomaly in the constitution, as secret oaths and obligations, not only unauthorized, but even forbidden by the law.—But, though he objected to secret oaths, he was bound to ask, was the prevention of that system the sole object of the hon. and learned gentleman? Did he confine himself to a mere detail of their illegality? Could not something like a party motive be detected? But, if he was free from a party motive, how would the debate be received in Ireland? Would it not be considered as a direct attack upon the principles of Orangemen; nay, would it not be received as a bold dragoon's attack upon all the Protestants of Ireland? Why did he select Orange societies as the object of his attack? There were other societies bound together 470 by secret oaths as well as the Orange. If the system was objectionable, why not attack those which were obnoxious in principle? But the object was too palpable to deceive the most inexperienced person in parliamentary tactics; and though he acquiesced with the hon. gentleman in his reprobation of all secret combination, yet a distinction ought to be made between the associations of the loyal and the associations of the disaffected; and he would not allow one solitary objection to blind him to the value of the other parts of their union, or deter him from repelling unmerited aspersions, cast upon a loyal body of men. With the exception of secret oaths, he had no hesitation in avowing his entire approbation of the principles of those men, designated Orangemen; and he defied the hon. and learned gentleman to prove, either in their history or their conduct, any thing like disloyalty to the state, or a desire to foment disturbance and riot. When the country was a prey to rebellion—when a most unnatural coalition was formed between the United Irishmen and the Roman Catholics—when the Catholic committee in Dublin were organising the numerous dupes of their rebellious designs—when the United Irishmen were purchasing arms, drilling their associates, and even negociating with a foreign enemy to invade the country, the Orangemen were the only body of men which remained firm to the government of the country. They rallied round the constitution; they acted as a counterpoise to the progress of seditious societies; they were mainly instrumental in the suppression of the rebellion; and, though they were bound together by the same oaths which bind them now, yet their services were so signal and so zealous, that the value of them was publicly recognised and reported to government by generals Lake and Knox, and their conduct was the universal theme of praise in the Irish parliament. In those times of difficulty and danger, the cry was not against their secret oaths and secret obligations; not against their banners and processions; but that they were the preservers of their country; that they established by their courage and their loyalty, the throne of the king, the power of the law, and the constitution in church and state.—Their principles had remained unvaried from the year 1795, down to the present period. The times might have 471 altered, but the principles of the Orange association had remained unchanged; and, whatever might be the issue of the debate, those principles would be appreciated in history, and when contrasted with the conduct of other parties which had prevailed at different periods in Ireland, they would redeem the character of the country from the general imputation of the neglect of every social and civil obligation. Within a very short period appeared in Ireland, the different factions known by the name of the Hearts of Steel, Hearts of Oak, Peep o' Day Boys, Defenders, United Irishmen, Shanavests, Caravats, Thrashers, Carders, Ribbonmen, White boys, and he knew not how many others. They were all bound together by secret oaths; their object only was different according to their wants: some directed their attacks against the property of the church; some against the property of the landlord; some against tithe proctors; some against middlemen; some against the Protestant, others against the Presbyterian establishment; but all, all were united against the law—all were leagued in a crusade against the state; and what was a curious feature in the history of their combinations, there was, with the exception of the Peep o' Day Boys, one and the same religious spirit, animating and exasperating them all. But, what was the Conduct of the Orange association? It was a refuge to the distressed, an asylum to the oppressed; it was a rallying point to the loyal and well-affected; and all good men looked to it as the only protection against their sufferings and misery. But if there was such a contrast in the principles, let the House contemplate for an instant the career of these different associations. He meant the Hearts of Steel, the earliest offenders against the law, down to the White boys of the present day. Theft, robbery, perjury, murder, assassination, had followed each other in dreadful succession—they had become the invariable characteristics of each successive faction. No matter whether the United Irishman conspired against the constitution, or the White boy against rent, tithes, taxes, and law, the means employed by all were the same, the most cruel tortures, the most horrible murders, the burning of men, women, and children. And now, as a counterpoise to all these atrocities, as a proof that the spirit of all associations was the same, as a proof that the Orange was as bad as the others, 472 the House was told, that Orangemen were guilty—of what? of murders, rapes, and assassination? No—that they annually dressed king William's statue—that they walked in processions, waving their flags to the great dismay of his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects—that they celebrated the exploits of their ancestors, by playing the tune of the "Boyne Water"—and that they committed the unpardonable and unconstitutional offence of drinking "the glorious memory" [Hear, hear!]. Gentlemen might cry hear, hear; but those were the only offences alleged against them. They were said by the hon. and learned mover to foment disturbance, and to perpetuate party spirit; but there was another and a much more secret cause of the hostility of the Catholic body to Orange associations. It was observable to all those who were well acquainted with the history of Ireland, and who watched the course of public events in that country, that the loudest clamour was raised against the Orangmen, precisely at that period when the Catholics had committed some great and notorious breach against the law. It was an artifice on their parts to turn the public attention from their own misdeeds, upon their political adversaries. It had never been so successful as on the present occasion. But he would state to the House the three periods when the loudest clamour was raised against Orangemen, both in parliament and out of doors, and leave gentlemen to judge whether those three periods did not tally exactly with the most notorious instances of boldness on the part of the Catholics. The first period, when the loudest clamour was raised against the Orangemen, both in parliament and out of doors, was in 1798—the period of the rebellion. No man who read the history of that rebellion could deny, that though it commenced by an union of the Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, yet, finally it was carried on solely by the latter, and that it assumed time complexion of a religious war. It was not surprising, therefore, that the Orangemen should become obnoxious to the rebellious Catholics; and that their orators, committees, and public press, should spare no effort to malign their motives and misrepresent their actions. The next period, when Orange associations became a subject of discussion, was in the years 1813 and 1814. The present president of the board of con- 473 trol brought the subject before the House in a former year; but it seemed to be the unanimous feeling to leave the question of their illegality, and the punishment of their misdeeds, to courts of law. In the year 1814, the member for the Queen's County (sir H. Parnell), presented ten or twelve petitions against them, coming, as he said, from persons of all religious persuasions; but which petitions, on examination, appeared to have the names appended to them, to the number of hundreds in succession, all in the same hand-writing. These petitions were followed by a distinct motion on the subject, by the right hon. baronet, the member for Waterford (sir J. Newport). But, he would now ask, what was the conduct of the Catholics in the year 1813 and 1814? In the latter year, the government thought it right to suppress a board, which had existed in Dublin for some time, and known by the name of the Catholic board. That board had assumed to itself all the privileges of parliament. It had its president, its secretaries, its committees; it levied money upon the Catholics, and passed resolutions, declaring that these orders were more binding upon the Catholics, than the acts of the legislature. It was gradually assuming to itself the most extensive power, and unless suppressed, would have involved the country in another civil war. The government determined most wisely to suppress it; and its suppression was hailed with joy by every, well affected man. But, what was the consequence?—an immediate cry against the Orangemen; the petitions presented by the hon. baronet, got up by the board, signed by their own clerks, and detailing grievances which were never heard of before. The object was manifest; it was to turn the attention of the public from the dangers of a self-constituted, daring, and illegal parliament, to the petty disputes of insignificant Orange societies. But the third period was the most striking, and the most important. Since the beginning of the present session, the subject of Ireland had never been mentioned, without direct attacks against the Orangemen. The public press, particularly or Ireland, teemed with misrepresentations; and events had occurred in Ireland to increase the animosity. At last, the hon. and learned gentleman brought forward a direct charge, with more moderation than be expected, but directed entirely against 474 the Orange societies; but, in this tender regard for conciliation, this sacred horror against all secret combination, he forgot to mention the discovery of one of the most nefarious conspiracies on the part of the Catholics, that had ever occurred. From the silence observed on the occasion, very few members could be aware that, in November last, the attorney-general of Ireland prosecuted and convicted eight men for administering the oath of the Ribbon society. The House would be surprised at the gravity of the charges against these men, and notwithstanding their conviction, that the hon. and learned gentleman had selected the Orange society, as the fittest example for his reprobation of all secret combinations. But, what vas the object of this Ribbon association? It was proved on oath, that the sworn object was to separate Ireland from England, to extirpate the Protestant religion, or, to use the words of the witnesses, "to cut off heresy, and to regain the right lost at the Reformation." It was proved on oath, that money was collected at the nightly meetings for the purchase of arms; that the committee distributed its orders and papers throughout the whole country; that branches of it were established in all the provinces; and, as a proof of their refinement, it was proved, that although the oath of allegiance was found among the articles of their confederation, yet it was meant only as a screen, it was never proposed to be taken, and was inserted in their records only to keep the person harmless, on whom any of the papers might be found. If this was not enough to alarm the minds of the Protestants, they must have less sensibility, or less intelligence, than fell to the common share of mankind. It did, however, alarm them; and the loudest remonstrances would have been heard, if the attention of the world had not been directed to the late events. It had, however, its usual effect of uniting the Catholics in a cry against the Orangemen, and endeavouring, through the riot at the theatre, of turning the public observation from their own misdeeds. The inference to be drawn from the events of these three periods was incontestible. He had searched parliamentary public records, and he could find no other instance than those three, in which the Orange associations had become the subject of discussion in parliament and clamour, out of doors; and it was a curious circumstance, that the 475 cry was loudest, and the endeavour to misrepresent the greatest, precisely at the times when it was the interest of the Catholic body to turn the public attention from their own designs. But they had not only attempted to deceive the public mind, by their loud and unfounded clamours; they had also used this artifice to work upon the terrors of the ignorant and the bigoted, wherever mischief was intended. When the United Irishmen, the Defenders, and White boys, wished to rouse the people into insurrection, and found them unwilling to become their tools, they raised a cry, that the Orangemen were coming, and unless a rising took place, that they would all be massacred. This never failed to operate on the timid and ignorant part of the Catholic population. There were many instances of this artifice; but one was so remarkable, that it might tend to show the House what artifices were made use of to misrepresent the Orangemen. Among the papers presented to the secret committee of the Irish House of Commons, appointed in 1798, to inquire in to the causes of the rebellion, were found the fabricated rules and regulations of Orangemen. These were forged by the Catholic committee, and spread throughout the country among the lowest and most ignorant of the multitude, as the genuine rules of the Orange association; and there were many persons now, who thought them the real regulations; they were to be found in the report of the committee, and were as follows:—1. "That each and every member shall be furnished with a case of horse pistols, and a sword; also, that every member shall have twelve rounds of ball cartridges. 2. That every man shall be ready, at a moment's warning. 3. That no member is to introduce a Papist or a Presbyterian, Quaker or Methodist, or any but a Protestant. 4. That no man shall wear Irish manufacture, or give employment to any Papist. 5. That every man shall be ready at a moment's warning, to burn all the chapels and meeting-houses in the county and city of Dublin. 6. That every man who will give information of any house he suspects to be an United Irishman's, shall receive the sum of 5l. and his name kept private. 7. That no member shall introduce any man under the age of nineteen, or over the age of forty-six."—That was one of the many acts used to make the Orange association the occasion of exciting hatred 476 and vengeance among the lower orders of the Catholics: it was an artifice used by the mischievous and designing, to rouse into action the sluggish physical force of the multitude. The object was to produce an impulse, no matter what was the effect. He remembered a similar instance in the interesting memoirs of the queen of France, lately published by madame Campan, where an appeal to the fears was found more effectual than an appeal to the reason of the people. She said, that after the 14th of July, by a ruse, the credit of which was entirely due to the national assembly, the whole youth of France was, as it were, in an instant, formed into national guards, and it was effected by the following project:—A report was spread on the same day, and almost on the same hour, through every part of France, that 4,000 brigands were marching upon the towns and villages, which were slow in arming themselves: the effect was instantaneous—all the male population armed themselves, and the effect of terror on the female part was so great, that a peasant showed madame Campan a rough and rugged rock, up which his wife had climbed without the least difficulty, on the night when she expected the attack of the 4,000 brigands, and from which he was obliged to extricate her the next day, by means of ladders. This was precisely the same kind of artifice used by their brethren in revolution, the United Irishmen, in order to rouse the timid and the ignorant part of the population. The trick, however, was not so new as it appeared to madame Campan, although it assumed a more chivalrous form in the history of France, than in the bloody and bigoted annals of the Irish records. He found in Harris's Life of King William; a similar kind of plot. In 1685, the Irish, fearing the ascendancy which the English and Scotch were gaining, had recourse to the following expedient to alarm the mind of king James; and in reading this extract, he begged the House to recollect; that these English and Scotch were the ancestors of those very Orangemen, who had been the victims of the same misrepresentation, from that day to this:—
"The Irish pretended that the Protestants assembled in great numbers in the night-time; and, to gain more credit, the vulgar Irish were instructed to forsake their houses, and to hide every night in the bogs, pretending a fear that the Eng- 477 lish would, in that dead season, cut their throats: a practice as notorious among them, as unheard of among Protestants; and for which there neither was, nor could be the least foundation; for their infinitely superior numbers to the English, showed how ridiculous the invention was; and they were convinced, both by the practice of the Protestants, and principles of their religion, that they were not men of blood.—However, with what malice and injustice so ever the English were represented as night walkers, with a design of murdering the Irish, yet examination of these charges were taken by justices of the peace, calculated for the purpose, and transmitted to the lords justices in council, upon which, by the king's directions, a proclamation issued, forbidding all night meetings; though the lords justices knew well there was no such practice. But this artifice was formed to make way for greater mischiefs, by preparing evidences to swear the most considerable of the English into the plots."
This extract, with very little transposition, was no inapt description of the present state of Ireland. The Catholics were incessant in their endeavours to affix upon the Orangemen the most base and wicked designs. Their newspapers seized with avidity upon a riot at a fair, to make it an Orange outrage; in their speeches and addresses they magnified the base and outrageous conduct of a few individuals at the theatre (for the transaction deserved those epithets, whatever the verdict of the jury might be), into a preconcerted plan on the part of the whole body of Orangemen, to overturn the government; and they were surprised that the Protestants saw any other symptom in this, than a desire of conciliation. Conciliation never could be effected on such terms; it was proceeding gradually, until the Catholics began to calculate their own strength, and thought it great enough to enable them to outrun the slow progress of time. Within his own recollection, many of the ceremonies which were annually celebrated by the Orangemen were abandoned. The gentry who formerly, took a pride in heading the processions of their tenantry, had with drawn themselves; and he was confident, that, in a few years, their influence over the peasantry, would have induced them to follow their example. But now party spirit, burned with a fiercer flame than ever; and he was convinced, that no address, no resolution, no vote of the House 478 would soon extinguish it. Men clung to their prejudices as to their property; what they would give up to reason, to ridicule, or from indifference, they would adhere to when summoned by a threat; and the motion of the hon. and learned gentleman as well as the incessant endeavours to asperse one party in the country, would have no other effect than removing still farther the hope of conciliation, and exasperating still more the subject of the present collisions.
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald,
knight of Kerry, said, that among sentiments that might be controverted, and statements that might be disputed, his hon. friend, who last spoke, had mingled many expressions calculated to augment the spirit, the existence of which the House and the country so deeply regretted. Upon authority that could not be questioned, he was provided with the means of exhibiting a picture, the very reverse of that which his hon. friend had presented. No man could approach the question with move pain than himself, because he was called upon to accuse and criminate a large body of his countrymen, some of Ahem his nearest and his oldest friends. But, while he recognized private worth, its very existence showed the baneful influence of the worst principles upon the best hearts, and the clearest understandings. He denied that the Orange societies arose out of any disaffected spirit or practices, on the part of the Roman Catholics: he denied it on the authority of the legislature itself, of the king's speeches to the Irish parliament, and of the reports of secret committees, of which he had been a member. He denied it on his own distinct recollection of the evidence given in 1798, by the directors of the United Irishmen. That evidence stated, that, down to Christmas, 1796, when the French, invaded the south of Ireland, not a single Catholic had been admitted to that association. In that formidable conspiracy, to which any other in any country, was mere child's play, a society of 500,000 men, bound, by secret oaths, to overturn the government, and to establish, by means of a bloody revolution, a republic on the ruins of the constitution—they had evidence on oath, that for years there was not a single Catholic, with the exception indeed of one of the directors, Dr. Macuevin, who professed himself a Catholic, though he believed him to be a man of no religion at all. That very in- 479 telligent man had told the committee why they did not admit the Catholics into their society: they thought they could not trust a single Catholic, lest the secrets of their association might be conveyed, through their priests, to the government. The Catholics were thus excluded, advisedly and for reasons, from the treasonable associations in Ireland, at the time, and long subsequently to the formation of those Orange societies, which were said to have been called forth by Catholic disaffection. Upon the remarks of his hon. friend, on the petitions presented respecting the Orange associations, he should not waste a single word. His hon. friend had asked, why had not the hon. and learned mover directed his observations against other secret societies, as well as against the Orangemen? His hon. friend had himself stated the reason—they were already under prosecution. Law after law had been enacted, at the instance of successive secretaries for Ireland, to reach them in their most secret recesses. His right hon. and learned friend (Mr. Plunkett), was now proceeding, with all due dispatch, to convict, transport, and hang them. But the Orange societies were made the subject of the present motion, because they were too strong, if not for parliament, for the existing law, and government of Ireland. The motion was directed against the Orange associations, not that their objects were treasonable, but that, perhaps with loyal intentions, they called forth counter associations, inflamed terrors, excited passions, and kept Ireland in continual agitation and alarm. He trusted that the universal British sentiment would be expressed decidedly against them. The right hon. gentleman had treated the terms "Orangeman" and "Protestant," as synonymous or convertible. But, he protested against their being so mixed up. He believed that Ireland was almost entirely a land of party; but he trusted not quite so. He hoped there was some portion of neutral territory in the country—that there were some Protestant gentlemen of reason and moderation, and who were entitled to look to England for sympathy and support. But, if the very name of a moderate Protestant was to carry with it a sentence of condemnation—if it was to be told in that House, that not to be an Orangeman was to be a rebel—for those were almost the words made use of by his hon. friend—
Mr. M. Fitzgerald
alluded to that part of his hon. friend's speech, in which he had described the manner of putting down the rebellion in Ireland. His hon. friend had spoken of the rebellion as having been put down by the Orangemen, who were then the only loyal subjects. How did his hon. friend propose to sustain that assertion? The rebellion had been put down, not by the Orangemen singly, but by a combination of all parties. In addition to the regular troops, there had been employed in putting down the rebellion, a yeomanry, composed indiscriminately of Catholics and Protestants, and a militia, twenty-six or twenty-seven thousand strong, three-fourths of whom were Catholics. He had been surrounded by Catholics during that rebellion, who displayed as much ardor, and as much loyalty, as could be found in any class of his majesty's subjects. Why, the fact was proved by the royal thanks given equally to both classes for their zeal and exertion. He did not state these things to controvert his hon. friend's assertion, for the assertion controverted itself; but he stated them because he wished to impress upon the House the extent to which party spirit could actuate even the most generous and enlightened minds. What, then, could be expected from the humbler and unenlightened orders, forced by their condition into constant contact with the lower classes of the Catholics, and having those same Catholics pointed out to them, from hour to hour, as rebellious subjects, or objects of detestation? The effect of all this might be seen in a contrast—a lamentable Contrast—between the state of society in England and in Ireland. Whatever might be the violence of political differences in England, there needed but some great national object at once to secure unanimity. On that feeling the crown and the government of England could always depend with safety. But in Ireland every thing resolved itself into faction. Government there could rely on no support, but that which it obtained by arming one faction against another. The country contained the raw material of a good public mind; but that public mind could only be formed and developed by an honest, an impartial administration of policy and laws—by showing to all parties; Catholics and Protestants, that it was not 481 to their theoretical principles, or to their religious tenets, but to their conduct as just and loyal men, that the government would look, in estimating the confidence to be reposed in them. The case was no slight one—the crisis was not one to be trifled with. If government would not take Ireland out of the hands of faction, the result would be, sooner or later, that her connexion with England would be severed for ever. Party feeling at the present moment was upon the increase rather than upon the wane. As long as there was a notion—a hope—that party, religious or political, would be countenanced, or even endured by government, so long the country would be in distraction and in danger. Without saying one word in the way of opinion, as to the conduct of the present Irish government, the very charge set up by the Orangemen against it was, that it had acted impartially, and without favour to any sect whatever. It was the curse of Ireland to be troubled with usurpers of power. All her societies, down to her very beef-steak clubs, were political, ambitious, and intriguing. The visit of the king had been the only event producing any thing like a calm; and heartily did he wish to see the feeling expressed by his majesty carried into active operation once more, without preference to the one side or the other. He implored the House to curb the ebullition of party spirit on every side. Let it be recollected, that at the close of the rebellion, lord Cornwallis had been sent over to Ireland, to confront a party which had possessed itself of power, and which was using that power for its own factious purposes—that same party which now was complaining of the Irish government, and denouncing the loyalty of every creature beyond itself. Lord Cornwallis had curbed that party, and, in curbing it, had entitled himself to the thanks of every friend of Ireland; but he could not have done it, standing in any other situation but as the organ of a firm, a steady, and united government; and he (Mr. M. F.) had little hope that the thing could be done now, while England had disunion in her councils at home. Such were his reasons for supporting the motion of his hon. and learned friend; at the same time, he was willing to concur in the motion being withdrawn, upon a pledge that its all-important object should have the immediate attention of government.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, the House 482 would be sensible of the anxiety he felt on addressing them upon the present occasion. It was most desirable, that a question involving so many important considerations should be treated with candour, fairness, openness, and impartiality, and, in whatever other places faction might exist, that it should not be found in that House. Although he was quite prepared to oppose the motion, yet he should be sorry to succeed in his opposition, without an opportunity of explaining the motives of his conduct, and of guarding himself against misconstruction. His object in the address he was about to make, would be to promote peace. He wanted no triumph for any party, but to prevent either from triumphing over the other. If, however, by succeeding in his opposition, he should be thought the advocate of faction, he would deprecate success as a serious evil. In delivering his present sentiments, there was a necessity for him to refer to his former opinions. In 1814, when the right hon. member for Waterford moved for copies of all the correspondence which had passed between Orange societies and himself, as secretary of Ireland, together with his answers, he (Mr. P.) seconded that motion, and the return was, that there was no such correspondence. During the whole of his official duties in Ireland, he had never once recognized any Orange society. In 1814 he had received an address from the very respectable grand jury of Fermanagh, thanking him for the protection he had afforded to certain Orangemen. In his answer, he stated that, having seen a petition presented to parliament against Orange societies and Orangemen, containing many exaggerations, and some charges which he knew to be unfounded, he had not thought it inconsistent with his duty to defend the individuals thus falsely accused. In defending those persons, he had borne willing testimony to their past services, and to their general loyalty, and he confidently hoped, that they would give the best farther proof of their good feeling, by avoiding every act of an irritating tendency. He concluded by declaring, that he had never approved of any political confederation whatever. The right hon. gentleman then read three other documents. The first of these was a letter from himself, dated Feb. 1822, in answer to a communication which he had received, touching the institution of Orange lodges in England: the commu- 483 nication being accompanied by the opinions of eminent counsel, affirming the legality of societies so instituted. The purport of the letter was, that he did not approve of the institution of Orange societies societies in England, or think that any good was likely to result from their proceedings. The second document was a letter, dated July 3, 1813, addressed, as a circular, to the brigade majors of yeomanry corps in Ireland. It stated, that the lord lieutenant being desirous to prevent animosity and rancour between the different parties of the country, desired that the yeomen might not be allowed to assemble on the 12th of July, unless for the purpose of military exercise. The third letter, dated in 1814, referred to the letter of the 3rd of July, 1813, enforced the observance of its contents, and added a strong recommendation, that the playing of party tunes should be avoided. These letters sufficiently showed what his sentiments with regard to party associations had been. He had every disposition to effect the object of the present motion; but, under the laws as they stood, he saw no means of doing it. As far as the yeomanry of Ireland, who were said to be chiefly Orangemen, were concerned, government saw its way; but, as regarded the mass of the Irish population, how did the hon. and learned gentleman propose to get his measure carried into effect? For instance, the procession on the day of the battle of the Boyne, with the flags and the party inusic—a proceeding which was one of great irritation to the Catholics—how was that procession to be got rid of? Did the hon. mover mean to introduce a law which should at once suppress all processions, or all associations for political purposes? Could such a law, consistently with the freedom of the country, he proposed? He was most sincere in his wish that the objectionable courses should be checked; but he did not see how any good would be produced by the direct interference of the legislature. He cautioned the House against engaging in any declaration which would tend uselessly to offend the feelings of a large and high-spirited and loyal portion of the community. He was far from wishing in any way to encourage the hostility of parties. Combinations bound by secret oaths must always be objects of suspicion. He was aware that confederacies for legal purposes, maintained by perfectly legal measures, might, in the course of time, be- 484 come degenerate. But he did not believe that the objects of these Orange associations were any other than those which had been always professed. He could not confound their principles with a love of injustice, persecution, and disloyalty. As to the condition of the law, that might be a reasonable subject for consideration. A difference existed at present between the law of England and that of Ireland, with respect to secret oaths. In Ireland it was necessary to prove the nature of the oath, and the manner of taking it, in order to conviction. There certainly should be no difference between the laws of the two countries, upon a subject of that solemn nature; and, as far as the assimilating of the law went, a measure of that kind should have his full approbation. He assented entirely to the proposition, that the law should, if possible, be so framed, that secret oaths should cease entirely. In the course of a few days he should be compelled to offer his decided opposition to a motion of his right hon. and learned friend (Mr. Plunkett), for extending what were termed constitutional rights to the Roman Catholics: but, while a sense of duty compelled him to that course, he was free to express his earnest hope, that all party associations, whether legal or not, might cease. He thought he had given proofs that he was ready to go as far as any one—farther than the existing law did go—to arrive at that end. He wished first to be assured as to the means. If he were a gentleman of. Ireland, he would use all the influence of his station to induce the Orangemen to desist from any of those practices which were considered so objectionable by their Catholic countrymen. He might appeal to them on grounds of policy; but he would choose higher grounds. On motives of policy he would say to them, "You are a small party, and it cannot be wise to irritate a body of men so greatly superior in point of numbers." But, he would appeal to better feelings: he would say to them, "These processions, toasts, and other manifestations of your opinion, cannot be supposed by any moderate man to be contrary to law; but they are of no use; they give offence to many who have not deserved injury; they wound the feelings of many respectable persons: you ought, therefore, to dispense with them, however harmless they may be in the view, of the law. "On the other hand, he would advise the Roman Catholics not to be ex- 485 treme in marking what might be done amiss, not too prone to construe every act or political exultation into an insult directed against themselves. It was utterly impossible that all those events, the recollection of which was a source of pride and satisfaction to every individual who felt himself politically identified with them, should at once be buried in oblivion. The Catholics themselves must admit, that the commemoration of such events by the Protestants, did not necessarily imply insult to them. Let the Catholics look back to the events of the year 1688, and say whether there did not exist some common causes of exultation? He would take the instance of the celebrated siege of Londonderry; and he would ask any impartial Catholic, whether, as Irishmen, they did not exult in that, as well as in many other signal instances of the courage of their countrymen? It was not to be inferred, that because the Protestant rejoiced, he necessarily intended any insult to the Catholic. For the same reason, therefore, that he advised the Protestant to abstain from causes of irritation, he would advise the Catholic not to misconstrue the commemoration of events by the Protestants into an insult directed against themselves. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last had intimated, that his hon. and learned friend would be ready to withdraw his motion, if he could only have an intimation, that his majesty's government were ready with any measure upon the subject. Upon that head he could give the hon. gentleman no direct assurance. But, in November last, a communication had been made by the lord lieutenant, to show that some measure for putting down secret associations had become necessary. Subsequent events had not lessened that necessity. A proposition arising out of that communication was now before the government. But he would resist the motion on other grounds. It was proposed, that an address should be presented to his majesty, praying that he would direct means to be taken for putting down societies assembled under "exclusive and unconstitutional principles." Was there ever an instance of parliament proceeding to such a vote, without having the matter in evidence before them? Addresses of this kind were of themselves deserving of particular attention in a constitutional point of view. He trusted that he might have credit with 486 the House for holding no latent objections to the motion, which he was reluctant to avow. But let them consider well. Here was an address proposed to the crown. For what? To reform the existing, or to create a new law? If it were to enforce the existing law, a general declaration against political societies was unwise; it might be disregarded; it might be taken as an insult, and it could have no possible effect in alleviating existing irritation. There was no proof that the proceedings in question were illegal; but, admitting them to be illegal, and consequently that it would be possible to prosecute, would it be wise to institute a prosecution, backed by a resolution of the House of Commons? Would it be fair to send the parties to trial with all the prejudice of such a resolution against them? If the object were to introduce a new law, was it not a very unusual course for the House to assure the crown of its readiness to assent to a new law, if it should be proposed? It belonged to that House to originate laws, and not to present addresses, informing the crown that it would be willing to assent to a new law. On these general principles, the motion might be fairly objected to. In one part of the resolution it was stated, that the House would consent to give to the people of Ireland the full benefit of the constitution. It was impossible to say what effect the passing of such a resolution might have on the people of Ireland. What was meant by the full benefit of the constitution? No phrase was more commonly used in the discussion of the Catholic question; and such a resolution might therefore be supposed to pledge that House to a full concession of the Catholic claims. The hon. gentleman might argue, that the full benefit of the constitution could not be enjoyed without such concession; but he (Mr. P.), who did not concur in that opinion, must pause before he gvae his assent to such a resolution. He should strongly advise the House not to agree to any declaration. He did not object to a law, denouncing party associations as illegal and unconstitutional, especially under the present circumstances of Ireland. The hon. gentleman had said, that the Orange associations had the audacity to issue addresses to the people, to deliver opinions on public affairs, and to assume a co-ordinate power with the government itself. Now, he could point out some clubs and associations in. which, 487 perhaps, a little more discretion was exercised; but which, with respect to all those charges, would be found quite as fully committed. The Orangemen might cite a very formidable precedent in a society which existed before them, and which, in all respects, except the article of secret oaths [Hear! from the Opposition benches]—and for that article of secret oaths, the law was now about to provide—gave them the example for most of those proceedings of which they were now accused. Declarations against general bodies were seldom useful. He would remind the House of Mr. Fox's remark relative to some affairs which were passing in the north of Ireland, about the year 1795 or 1796, when principles were supposed to exist in that quarter much more alarming than any ascribed to the Orangemen. "I object," said Mr. Fox, "to all general condemnations of the people; but I object particularly to those now made on the inhabitants of the north of Ireland. You may tell me that they are men of the old leaven; I say, too, that they are men of the old leaven; but it, is never to be forgotten, that it was the leaven with which, in the reigns of Charles 2nd and James 2nd the constitution was kneaded." Such was the language of Mr. Fox, with regard to the population of the north of Ireland; and, if the principles of the Orangemen of the present day were denounced and stigmatised by that House, such a measure would have the effect of impressing them with the belief, that their former services were forgotten: they might render a sullen obedience to the laws, but party spirit and party animosity would only be exasperated. Nor was the conduct of the Orange societies, in publishing declarations of their political opinions, without precedent. The Orangemen might refer to societies which existed before the Unoin; more especially to the declaration of the Whig Club in Ireland, in 1789. This Whig Club published a declaration, in which they avowed, that they would endeavour, as far as in them lay, to maintain a parliament in the realm, exclusively invested with parliamentary rights. This, therefore, was an association, established for the avowed purpose of resisting a legislative union. On these general grounds, he should oppose the resolution. In objecting to it, he trusted that he could not be fairly charged with endeavouring to procure a triumph for any 488 party. One word more. A determination had been made by the government of Ireland, to prevent the dressing of the statue of king William. As soon as such intention was made known to the government here, he had lost no time in assuring his excellency of the entire concurrence of ministers therein. If the motion were not withdrawn, he trusted that the House would give it a most decided negative.
§ Mr. Grattan
was of opinion, that government ought to proceed vigorously in putting down these factious societies. Such of the members as were placemen, ought to be turned out of their offices; for that was the only effectual mode of staying their violent proceedings.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, it was not his intention to detain the House long; nor indeed should he have risen at all, had it not been for the direct personal appeal which had been made to him. It was the less necessary for him to answer the hon. and learned gentleman, since every principle which he could wish to advocate—every measure of which he could desire the adoption—had been supported by the united sentiments of the House. A right hon. gentleman who spoke early in the debate, had said, that his hopes of a favourable result would have been much greater, if the present lord lieutenant had, like lord Cornwallis, been connected with a government, not divided upon a particular measure, in which the welfare of Ireland was concerned. Whatever his wishes might be on this subject, he felt persuaded, from past experience, that it was scarcely possible to find a cabinet united on the great question of the Catholic claims, however entire their concurrence might he in other leading political questions. He abated none of the sanguineness of hope with which he had always addressed himself to that question. These sentiments he did not now state for the first time. They were the same that he had entertained and avowed at all periods, and when he could not be supposed to have any interest in taking such a part. But, while he admitted, that unanimity of opinion did not exist with respect to that single question, among the members of the government, he could assure the House, that no government could be more disposed to administer the affairs of Ireland with an equal hand, or more united in the determination to support that government in Ireland, under whose influence the prin- 489 ciple had been already advanced. He congratulated the House on the favourable close of a discussion, which, in the outset, appeared so perilous, and so likely to give rise to heats and animosities; but which, from the temper with which it had been carried on, was now likely to have so different a result. His right hon. friend had told the hon. and learned gentleman, that he could not give him the alteration of the law, us a compensation for withdrawing his motion; but he (Mr. C.) would endeavour to find him a compensation by prevailing on an hon. friend of his (Mr. Ellis) to withdraw his motion, for certain papers relating to a military outrage at Dublin, on the 26th of November last; and thus, what had promised to be a night of conflict, would terminate in harmony and conciliation.
§ Mr. Abercromby,
in reply, observed, that if the right hon. gentleman expected such a discussion as he had described, it was in the power of ministers to have prevented it, by communicating what they had now stated before the discussion came on. Every object that he had in view would be effectually attained by the course which government had stated it to be their intention to adopt. His object was to have an effectual law in Ireland, as well as in this country, to extinguish societies bound together by a secret oath, and the secretary of state did great injustice to his views and feelings if he thought him capable of continuing a contest with him, after having obtained the measure for which he was anxious. He had felt himself justified, however, in making the motion, under the circumstances, and especially as he was persuaded, that the discussion would afford great satisfaction to a numerous part of the population of Ireland. He trusted that, after the explanation which had been given, the House would not object to his withdrawing his motion.
§ The motion was accordingly withdrawn.