§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that when he last proposed to the House the propriety of continuing the Insurrection Act, he had ventured to express a hope that it was a measure which was not likely to be again called for. He had ventured to make that statement, not upon his own authority, not upon any vague and uncertain accounts, but upon the reports of men best acquainted with the state of the country, and upon whose judgments he could most firmly rely. It was with sincere regret that he now felt it necessary to recommend a further continuance of the provisions of that act. From the returns before the House, it appeared that the disturbances, particularly in one district, continued to increase; that there was still manifested among the peasantry the same disposition to outrage, the same hostility to property, the same imposition of illegal oaths, the same general contempt of the laws of their country, and the same wish to substitute laws of their own. He lamented that, notwithstanding the liberal and laudable exertions of the people of this country to relieve the distressed peasantry of Ireland, and, notwithstanding the praiseworthy liberality of the Irish resident gentry in seconding the efforts of the British people, there still prevailed, in certain districts, a state of insubordination which imperiously called for the further continuance of this extraordinary power. He begged to be understood as not advocating this measure as one by which a country ought to be permanently governed. On the contrary, he considered it objectionable, taking it in the abstract, and only to be justified by the emergency of the case. The simple question then for parliament was, did a sufficient urgency exist to justify the continuance of this law? It was not his intention to go at length into a detail of the outrages which formed the justification of the measure; for these were developed in the papers which had been laid upon the table or the House. In these papers, the state of parts of Munster was described; and it was difficult for gentlemen to picture to themselves the condition of the resident gentry in the disturbed districts of Ireland, who were endeavouring to maintain themselves amid this state things 219 with a constancy and courage which did them the highest honour. This was the more difficult when it was recollected that the system of intimidation carried on was calculated to defeat the operation of the law. With such force and severity were those threats carried into execution, that, unless the hands of government were considerably strengthened, it would be impossible the law could take its course. This was no fancy picture. Its truth was proved by the evidence of melancholy facts. It would be admitted, that the first step towards enforcing the law would be to prove the crime against those who were concerned. In other parts of the kingdom there existed a disposition to support the law, and to give evidence against its violators; but in the disturbed districts the reverse of this principle prevailed. Every feeling was in favour of the offender, and the only efforts made by the great portion of the people were, to screen him from discovery. Justice was defeated in every possible way. Where the criminal was secured, the witnesses for the Crown were either removed on the approach of his trial, or, such was the influence of terror, that it was found impossible to induce them to give evidence. At the late assizes at Cork, the number of persons who were allowed to go at large, in consequence of the impossibility of producing evidence before the grand jury, was little short of the number of those who were prosecuted. He mentioned these facts as proof of the melancholy state of the country; and he trusted that parliament would on this occasion exercise its discretion, as it had before done in similar circumstances, and so strengthen the hands of the Irish government as to give them the means of punishing the guilty, in a more steady and; effectual manner than they now could. As the law now stood, it left the loyal and peaceable part of the population unprotected. All he asked was, the power to put down those who defied the law. The bill which he would introduce would have the effect of confining persons to their dwellings for the greater part of the night. This in itself was a hard measure; but it was rendered necessary by the circumstances in which the country was placed. For a violation of the regulations in this respect the parties would be punished. The principle of this law was not a new one in the legislation of the country. In cases of pestilence, indi- 220 viduals were prohibited from leaving their dwellings or from going into uncontaminated quarters. The party offending in this particular would not be said to be guilty of any moral offence, but still it was necessary, for the general welfare, that he should be punished. And he would ask, could the necessity be said to be less in the prevalence of a moral pestilence? The punishment of those who could not give an account of themselves during the preceding night was, no doubt, a severe one; but it was unfortunately the only one which could afford adequate protection to the peaceable and well-disposed part of the community. He might perhaps be asked, if this law was so effectual for repressing disturbances, why any existed in the country where it had operated? He would answer, that it had been productive of very good effects where it had been called into operation. It had been carried into operation in the county of Limerick, and in that county disorders of even a more violent nature had prevailed than now existed in Cork. More violent, because, in the former county, in addition to the destruction of property, they had to lament the loss of many lives by barbarous murders. In Cork, much as the outrages were to be deplored, they were generally confined to the destruction of property; but in Limerick, where the disorders had been carried on with such violence, order had been, comparatively speaking, restored by the operation of this law. In the county of Clare also, the good effects of this law had been apparent; for in some parts of that county, where the greatest disturbance had prevailed, the operation of the Insurrection act had restored comparative quiet. In Tipperary the greatest alarm had for a time prevailed, lest the disposition to riot manifested in some places should spread. The effects of the partial application of the Insurrection act had been felt in that county; from many parts of which government had recently received accounts of the peaceable disposition of the people. He mentioned these circumstances to show, that if the provisions of the Insurrection act were duly administered, they would be effectual in restoring the tranquillity of Ireland. It was with this view that he now proposed the renewal of the act. He did not feel himself called upon to enter, at the present moment, into any inquiry as to the causes, more or less remote, to which some gentlemen might 221 attribute these disorders. He thought it better, in this moment of alarm and danger to abstain from any topic which might tend to create a division of opinion, because he trusted it would be admitted, that, acknowledging the danger, as he believed all must do, the first step which a wise legislature would take would be to devise means by which to prevent its spreading. This was the principle which he wished to impress upon the House. He wished them to give the government the power of checking the immediate danger. After they had done this, let the wise and the good consult as to the remedies which they might think proper, to correct the evils out of which those disorders arose. It was, in fact, impossible at the present moment to point out their immediate causes. Let the House first give the government of Ireland the power of putting down those disturbances which were only paralleled by those which on a former occasion called for similar measures, and then let them devise measures which may have the effect of preventing their future recurrence. The right hon. gentleman concluded by moving "That leave be given to bring in a bill to continue the Irish Insurrection act for a time to be limited."
§ Lord Althorp
said, he could not remain silent consistently with his feelings of public duty. Year after year measures of severity had been introduced, yet, so far was the tranquillity of Ireland from being restored, that her disturbances had been increased, and her misfortunes aggravated. It was the duty of the House, with the experience they had had since the Union, to look more deeply into the state of Ireland, and to take other and different measures to cure her disorders. He confessed he felt disappointed at the speech of the right hon. gentleman. He thought the right hon. gentleman would have entered more at large into the question, particularly after the expectation held out, that the situation of Ireland would be discussed. Measures of coercion had failed. It was therefore the duty of the House to adopt towards Ireland acts of justice, of encouragement, and of conciliation. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the present was not the time for discussion. Was there not time, at all events, between this and the first of August? Could nothing be done during that time, to ascertain the real causes of the deplorable state of things in Ireland? 222 But he did not mean to go that length. All he asked for, was a pledge on the part of the government, to enter, at no distant period, into a consideration of the state of Ireland, with a view to ascertain the causes of its sufferings. It was lamentable to see the present state of Ireland; to see that, English law, so justly considered a blessing in this country, was looked upon in Ireland with hatred. Something must be wrong in the system of government, where effects so unaccountable were produced. Such, indeed, was the lamentable state of Ireland, that it was at present almost a misfortune to this country to be connected with her. All other countries with which England was connected, more or less added to her strength; but Ireland, in consequence of the manner in which she had been governed, reflected little credit upon herself, and brought but little strength to the empire. Ireland, above all other countries, was the most difficult to govern. She required the strongest union of sentiment on the part of her governors, as to the leading principles of policy; and yet it was a curious fact, that the only principle on which the Irish Government was formed, was a principle of compromise. The president of the Board of Control had been attacked on a former night, because he was supposed to have stated, that the laws had not been administered until lately with an equal hand. But, where laws were themselves unequal, it was impossible that their administration could be just, even-handed, or popular. To enable a government to act with justice and with impartiality, there must be, laws which gave equal protection to all his Majesty's subjects. He was not at present disposed to refuse to government those powers which might be deemed necessary to put down the outrages which prevailed; but it would be only on the condition, that it would give a pledge to inquire into the causes of the present discontents. It was impossible to give an unqualified sanction to measures of so much severity as those proposed—measures which had been tried, and which had failed to restore tranquillity to the country, or confidence to the government. An inquiry into the state of Ireland was absolutely necessary. He therefore called upon ministers fairly to meet that point, and to institute an inquiry, as the first step to the establishment of permanent tranquillity in that country. In order to produce this inquiry, he would 223 move by way of amendment, "That it is the opinion of this House, that the coercive measures which have been repeatedly adopted since the Union, have failed to secure tranquillity in Ireland, or to better the moral condition of the people; and that no solid improvement can be expected from a continuance of the system of compromise acted upon in the government of that country, strengthened as it has been by such temporary expedients; but that it is absolutely necessary to take into serious consideration the whole system of the laws, and of their administration, with a view to such a reform as shall secure the permanent peace of the country, and the equal constitutional rights of the people." If this amendment should be carried, he would then submit to the House the following resolution:—"That this House, while it looks only to a permanent remedy in a revision of the whole system of measures by which Ireland has hitherto been governed, feels itself called upon to arm the executive government with all such temporary powers as may be necessary to suppress the present existing spirit of insubordination, which is daily producing such alarming outrages and daring violations of the law in that portion of the empire."
§ Mr. John Smith
rose to second the amendment. He said, he could not but express his surprise at the course which the right hon. Secretary had pursued. The right hon. gentleman had endeavoured to impress upon the House the necessity of suppressing the riots and outrages which now prevailed in Ireland. Those riots he admitted ought to be put down, but the right hon. gentleman had not said a word as to the cause of those disturbances. It was melancholy to reflect that, in looking to the history of Ireland during her long connexion with this country, he found that she was always discontented, always the prey of factions, and that the laws were constantly set at defiance. This was not the case in any other part of the united empire. It was not the case in Scotland. When that country was visited with almost a famine in 1817, there was no riot, no disturbance. That extraordinary people, as he must call them, had looked upon the calamity under which they were suffering as a dispensation of Providence. What was the cause of this difference between the two countries? It was this—in Scotland the people had the benefit of moral and religious instruction, 224 the basis of every thing good in society. In Ireland the want of this instruction was visible. He meant no imputation against the people of that country. Some of his dearest friends belonged to it. He respected the Irish. He believed them to be a people possessed of the most grateful feelings. Their gratitude approached almost to extravagance, even for the smallest favour. Indeed it was so great as even to be troublesome, for they were ready to lay down their lives for those from whom they derived benefits. At all events, this practice showed the seeds of future improvement under a mild treatment. Why had he not heard something that promised such treatment? He would not say that the proposed alteration of the tithe system was not something, for the tithes were a fertile source of evil; but he would say, that the people of Ireland required, and were capable of, great improvement. From the opportunities of communication with that country which he had had on a recent occasion, he found that a great deal might be done for her by encouraging the manufacture of coarse linen. This had been suggested by the archbishop of Tuam and other benevolent individuals; and it was intimated, that if small advances by way of loan were made for the purchase of looms, it would be productive of the best effects. From the situation of Ireland labour must be very cheap, and many must be anxious to procure it. In order to afford this relief, the Irish committee had advanced a certain sum, which had been already productive of the best effects. Employment had been given to thousands of industrious poor, who otherwise must have been left destitute. This had been done at an expense of some 30,000l. or 40,000l., and he asked, would not the measure now sought for cost more than that sum? The House knew that the Insurrection act could not be carried into effect without a very considerable expense. Why was not something which would be less expensive and more effectual done for that country? Let it not be forgotten that to Ireland we owed not only a great part of our military glory, but also of our present security. He wished to ask the right hon. gentleman, whether this continued coercion would not tend to degrade the people, and protract their moral improvement? He should like to hear government say, "We have long tried coercion, and it has failed; let us now try what may be effected by con- 225 ciliation." He was sure it would be found most beneficial. He would, in a few words, show what had been the effects of a zealous attempt at improvement in that country. An hon. friend of his had put into his hands a document which referred to the establishment of Sunday-schools in Ireland. They had been long tried; but the result had answered the most sanguine expectations. They were carried on upon a good principle. The scriptures were read without note or comment. Every moral principle was strictly inculcated, but no particular religion was taught. The consequence was, that Catholic parents had no objection to send their children. In the province of Ulster, with a population of two millions, there were 11,177 Sunday-schools, having 120,000 scholars, who were instructed by 8,000 gratuitous teachers. The proportion of the scholars to the whole population was I in 17. In Leinster, with a population of 700,000, there were Sunday-schools, having 19,000 scholars, instructed by 1,900 gratuitous teachers, the proportion of the scholars to the whole population being 1 in 22. In Connaught the population of the children who attended those schools was 1 in 206; and in the province of Munster, with a population of about 3,000,000, the proportion was one in 450! Did not these facts speak for themselves? In those parts where there was most instruction there was least riot and disorder; for riot and disorder were connected with ignorance, but peace and good order were the hand-maids of instruction. The next point to which the hon. member alluded was the establishment of a society of ladies lately formed in London, for improving, or rather, of civilizing the women in the western parts of Ireland. By the exertions and example of this admirable association, 210 societies of ladies had been already formed in Ireland for carrying this praiseworthy object into effect. The mode they adopted was most judicious. They meddled not with religion; they distributed no tracts or pamphlets (though he did not mean to undervalue the exertions of those who adopted that course); but they warmly exerted themselves to better the condition of those poor women, to improve their moral habits, and by this means to take the most effectual step towards improving the morals of the men. This matter had been so warmly taken up by the ladies of Ireland, that his hopes of the improve- 226 ment of that country were mainly founded upon it. Why was not something of this kind done by the government of Ireland? Upon the subject of the tithes, he was glad to see that at length there was a disposition to do something. He could hardly have expected, after what took place last session, to hear the word "commutation" in the propositions of the right horn secretary. However, it was not his desire, to reflect upon government, because they showed themselves ready to make some concession. But, while it was required from him and his hon. friends to abstain from any allusions which might have the effect or increasing the irritation, they were at least entitled to know upon what grounds the right hon. secretary rested his hopes of restoring the peace of the country. Let the right hon. gentleman say how long it would take, by means of the Insurrection act, to put down the disturbances. Let the House at the same time consider the peculiar situation of that country, and the particular state of Europe. Could it he believed that the powers of Europe, should England come into collision with them, would neglect to take advantage of the disturbances in Ireland to distress the English government?
said, that in his opinion all the troubles of Ireland arose from the persecution of the Catholic religion. Whilst a great portion of the population were kept aloof from the privileges of the constitution, it was impossible to hope for permanent tranquillity. The renewal of the Insurrection act was only throwing a firebrand amongst the already inflamed population of that country. They must go deeper and reach the causes of the disaffection. It was the moral principle of man which was at work in Ireland, which forbad him to rest satisfied with degradation unjustly inflicted. They could hardly expect, indeed they ought not to hope, that the country would be at rest while those degradations were continued. He would show, by a reference to past events, how little measures of coercion were calculated to supply the place of fair and equal laws. At a time when all the monarchs of Europe were leagued with the church of Rome against the Protestants, how had they succeeded? Not one Dissenter had been reclaimed to the Catholic worship. Charles 5th had tried in vain the united power of the church decrees, his own political importance, and the vast wealth which he had 227 at his command. Much blood had been shed; but the only effect of it had been to bind the Protestant in a union up till that time unknown. The fate of France about the same period was equally worthy of notice. Torn by religious divisions, the massacre of St. Bartholomew had been of no effect. Let the house take an example of quite a different tendency from Prussia. The wise founder of that monarchy, though he had more reason to dread the power of Rome than any of the contemporary monarchs of Charles 5th, had nevertheless refused to adopt any measures for securing uniformity of religious faith, or for punishing the variance of religious opinions. The consequence had been concord between men of different persuasions. He pointed out the example of Scotland in illustration of his argument, and the situation of the Greek Catholics under the Mussulman empire, which had the strongest resemblance to the treatment of the Irish Catholics under the government of England. As he saw no likelihood of mere oppression doing more for Ireland than it had done in any of the cases to which he had referred, he should give his support to the amendment.
§ Sir N. Colthurst
said, he was perfectly sensible of the kind motives by which the hon. member who spoke last was actuated, but when rebellion was at the door was not the proper time to talk of conciliation. It was the duty of the house to arrest the evil, before it went further. Within the last fortnight, a number of armed men, amounting to at least a hundred, headed by a person of a better description, had appeared within four miles of Cork, and, though pursued immediately by the military, there had been no detection. It was evident that the ordinary course of law was not sufficient: 180 persons had been discharged at the assizes for want of evidence. From eighty to one hundred burnings had taken place, and there had been but one conviction. If the Insurrection act had been enforced with firmness, Ireland would not be in its present state. The Irish government had shown a culpable lenity towards the disaffected, and had thereby paralyzed the efforts of its servants. The people, instead of feeling gratitude for that lenity, mistook it for a manifestation of fear. He referred the House to the representations made by the grand juries, to show how extensive and systematic was the plan upon which 228 the insurgents acted. Not one of them could be prosecuted to conviction it was understood that their deaths would be avenged upon those who should venture to appear against them: 160 Had been turned out of one prison for want of a prosecutor. So great was their zeal, that at this very time the belief was general amongst them, that something important was about to happen; and the danger was the greater, as at this very time there was more poverty and distress in the country than had ever been known before. He opposed the amendment, because he felt convinced that coercive measures were indispensable to the restoration of tranquillity.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
said, that the facts stated by the hon. baronet would rather influence him to support the amendment. If poverty and distress were now more general throughout Ireland than ever, and if measures of severity similar to the present had been passed for the last twenty years without any success, what, he would ask, could be hoped for from the present motion? For the eighteen or nineteen years which he had sat in that House he had heard the same complaints, and the same measures of severity had been always proposed. These measures had been reprobated by every hon. member (with the exception of one), who now sat on the Treasury-bench. He had heard them reprobated by the attorney-general for Ireland, who had characterised them as the extinction of the constitution, and had affirmed that proscription and death were not fit engines of government. Why, he would ask, was the right hon. gentleman's present conduct inconsistent with his former sentiments? Within these six years he had deprecated measures similar to that proposed this night. Within that period he had maintained, that Catholic emancipation was the sweeping measure, the sine qua non, without which nothing beneficial could be effected for Ireland. With respect to the measure before the House, he thought it in the highest degree severe, that a man should be liable to transportation for being out of his house between sun-set and sun-rise. Last year this bill was passed as a temporary measure to put down sedition, and now it was said to be more necessary than before. It was therefore fair to infer, that the measure would be now as useless as it had been at any former period. With regard to tithes, 229 they had been complained of in Ireland for twenty years before the Union; they had been denounced by the right hon. baronet (sir J. Newport), who had raised his prophetic voice in that House and made many motions respecting them, none of which he had succeeded in carrying. To these motions ministers had given no countenance. When his hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, brought forward his motion on the subject, it was opposed, and commented upon with great asperity by the attorney-general for Ireland, as a system of fraud and spoliation; it was maintained that church property was like that of private individuals, and should be respected accordingly; but now, in opposition to those sentiments, they had brought in a bill to compel a commutation. With regard to Ireland, he took into his full consideration the alarming situation of that country, in which the inhabitants were in nightly expectation of having their doors burst open; but still he thought that, as measures of harshness bad been resorted to so often without effect, the House should now be disposed to investigate the cause of these disorders, and avoid, if possible, the beaten track of severity.
said, that as he had been much misrepresented, but no doubt unintentionally, by the noble lord who had just sat down, he must take the liberty of addressing a few words to the House upon this question. He could not be fairly charged with inconsistency for the support which he was now giving to this bill, inasmuch as he had advocated it last year, and also in 1806, when he was connected with the duke of Bedford's administration in Ireland. He allowed that it contained a most unconstitutional principle, seeing that it annihilated the trial by jury; and he lamented, as much as any man could do, the melancholy necessity which compelled the government to inflict it at present upon Ireland. Still, the measure was to be only of a temporary nature, and was much better than the introduction of martial law, which appeared so desirable to the hon. member for Cork. The introduction of martial law, he, for one, did not like; because, it was sure to produce irritation, and it could not be attended, either directly or remotely, by any conciliatory or beneficial consequences. The great evil under which Ireland at present laboured, was the reluctance felt by individuals to come 230 forward to give their evidences. Would the introduction of martial law cure that evil? And if it would not, would marital law justify those who resorted to it in punishing individuals without any evidence at all? If evidence could be procured, the present law would be sufficient to meet the grievance; but, unfortunately, there existed at present in Ireland a terror superior to the terror of the law, and which paralysed every effort to carry it into execution. The learned gentleman then proceeded to defend himself from the charge of inconsistency which had been brought against him for his conduct in respect of the Roman Catholic claims. He contended, that to that question he had clung with adhesive grasp both in its good and in its bad fortune. The noble lord had said, that, considering his conduct regarding that important subject, it was quite impossible to repose any confidence either in his sincerity, or in that of any of his colleagues. Unfortunately for the noble lord's assertion, he had received from the Roman Catholics of Ireland, since the late unfortunate decision on their claims, the most satisfactory assurances, that they approved of every thing he had done to forward them. It was true that, in 1813, he had expressed his opinion of the disadvantage of bringing their claims forward with a divided cabinet. He would again repeat what he had then said, that, in his opinion, Catholic emancipation ought to be a sine qua non with every administration, and that it was a measure upon which the safety and tranquillity of Ireland principally depended. He thought that there was nothing in his expressions at that time which precluded him from obeying the orders of his sovereign in taking office under the present ministry. In 1813, he had entertained doubts of the sincerity of the ministers who then advocated Catholic emancipation. Those doubts had since been removed, in consequence of the great exertions which had been made to forward that cause by a noble lord now no more, and also by a right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) who was now seated near him. In 1813 he had also thought it feasible to obtain a cabinet whose members should be unanimous in their opinions upon that subject. At present he was convinced of the impossibility of ever seeing any such prospect realized. When, therefore, he saw that his majesty wished conciliatory measures to 231 be adopted towards Ireland, and also that the government in that unhappy country was determined to discountenance the system by which its grievances and discontents had been so long fomented, he felt that he should not be weakening the cause of Catholic emancipation, by going over to the side of the House on which he how sat; and he, therefore, had gone over to it, retaining all his old, and not adopting any new opinions for the guidance of his political conduct. He had made these remarks in consequence of what had fallen from the noble lord, whose observations appeared to him to press more upon the individual who then addressed them, than they did upon the question immediately before the House. He would now say, that were he inclined to vote for the inquiry proposed by the noble lord, he would not vote for it as an amendment to the present motion. Without saying whether he would or would not vote for that inquiry, were it brought forward as a substantive motion, he would say this—that it deserved a separate discussion, and that at any rate it ought not to be obtruded on the House as a secondary consideration, when it was necessary to obtain an unanimous vote from it, in favour of the insurrection act, in order to dispel any delusion which might exist in the mind of any misguided wretches, respecting the light in which they were regarded in either House of Parliament. The learned gentleman then proceeded to argue that he was not inconsistent in giving his support to the present tithe bill, after the opinions which he had formerly expressed regarding the inviolability of church property. The noble lord had complained of the asperity with which he had condemned the propositions submitted to the House by the hon. member for Aberdeen. He begged leave to assert that he had never intended to use any such tone as the noble lord had attributed to him. All that he had then said was, that the property of the church was not public property, to be cut and carved at pleasure; and what he now maintained was this, that though the property of the church was as sacred as any private property, it was still liable to those regulations of the legislature to which other private property was liable. In conclusion, he again lamented that this act should be necessary, and if any hon. member could propose a better, he would willingly adopt it. One proof that the 232 powers which it gave had not been improperly employed had been furnished them that evening by the hon. member for Cork, who had complained that they had been administered with too much lenity. He thought that, under such circumstances, the House might fairly bestow those powers once more upon the Irish government; seeing that the only complaint which had been made against it arose out of the discretion and moderation with which it had exercised the extraordinary powers committed to its charge.
§ Sir J. Newport
agreed, that his right hon. friend had no wish to curtail the necessary powers of the government; but the question was, whether the powers now demanded were necessary? In 1803, the Habeas Corpus act had been suspended; and martial law had been introduced. The same had been repeated in the following year, and an hon. friend (Mr. Elliott) had then implored the House to observe carefully what they did; another hon. member had observed that the minister stopped the constitution with as little ceremony and as little regard for the current of public opinion, as a miller would stop his wheel. Had not this been true? He had then asked, as he did now, whether such measures were necessary for the safety of Ireland? And, in putting that question, he had been supported by Mr. Windham, Mr. Fox, and a noble duke then a member of that House, and he was answered with—"Grant us the power; trust to us for the fair and proper use of it." In 1810, the Insurrection act was renewed, and on all occasions they had been referred to to-morrow and to-morrow; which to-morrow, he was sorry to say, never arrived. In each successive case, the language of ministers at the time they asked for those extraordinary powers had been this:—"Put down the disturbances, and then inquire into the causes from which they originated;" and afterwards, when they had quelled the disturbances for a time, and were reminded of their promises about inquiry, the answer had been "The disturbances are now happily over—why should we agitate the country by inquiring into the cause of that which at present has fortunately no existence?" Against such conduct he had been remonstrating for the last twenty years, and he would repeat what he had often said before, that they would never succeed in tranquillizing 233 Ireland without entering into a full inquiry into the various grievances under which she was labouring.
said, he considered that the Insurrection act ought to be passed, but with considerable amendments. In some parts of Ireland many were prevented by fear from becoming public prosecutors. The act was not, as it stood at present, sufficient. But one punishment existed in it, and that was transportation for seven years. Now, that would be a heavy punishment to a man who was a husband and a father of a family; but to a single man it was inconsiderable. He insisted that the lord lieutenant ought to be invested with power to put any district under martial law; for that measure was the only one held in terror in Ireland. The people feared a trial before a tribunal which was not to be influenced by the ingenuity of barristers or attornies. Such tribunals were necessary in such a country. He could assure the House, that not a night passed last winter without excesses of some kind or other. He, therefore, thought that government should be enabled to use more vigorous measures. The absentee system was, he admitted, one great source of misery to Ireland; but it should be recollected that gentlemen who continued to reside there were obliged to keep their doors and windows barred, and sat down to dinner with fire-arms on their table. The lower classes in Ireland were certainly possessed of warm and generous feelings, but they lived in a state of entire ignorance of the power and resources of this country. They attributed every tiling to fear; and considered every act of this country as resulting from that cause. It was with sorrow that he felt obliged to state a fact which would, at first, seem hardly credible, but he could assure the House of its truth, and it resulted from the opinion which the peasantry of Ireland entertained of this country. They actually considered that the subscription which had kept so many thousands from starving during the last summer, was the result of fear, and not of benevolence. Before tranquillity could be expected to prevail in Ireland, it was necessary to strike terror into the lower orders. They must be made to know that the law was strong, and that they could not break through it. When this was done, measures of conciliation ought to be tried. In those mea- 234 sures the landholders of Ireland—vilified as they had been—would most cordially join; but until this was done, all conciliation was useless. The persons by whom the insurrection was fomented and kept up, had nothing less in view than the total extirpation of the Protestants. Unless the strongest measures were resorted to, he had no doubt that a formidable rebellion would break out. He would assert, that there was a larger portion of the population of Ireland ready for rebellion at this moment, than at any former time.
§ Lord Milton
rose, for the purpose of cautioning the House, and particularly the gentlemen of this country, not to listen too eagerly to such representations as those which had been made by the noble lord; and which really appeared to have been made for the express purpose of hallooing on the government to acts of tyranny against the people. The noble lord must forgive him if he said, that the speech he had just made was another inducement to him to disbelieve the representations of the magistrates of Ireland. He was himself not unacquainted with Ireland. The barony with which he was more particularly connected Was not at all disturbed; and yet the magistrates had thought fit to put in force the constabulary act, and had accompanied it with a declaration that the barony was in a state of tranquillity, but they had taken this step for purposes of precaution. He did not look upon the emancipation of the Catholics as the panacea for all the evils which afflicted Ireland. He wished to see this notion, which was a delusive one, dispelled. Those evils arose from the ignorance of the population. He would intreat the House to compare the state of education in the North with that in the South. They would find that the state of tranquillity very much corresponded. They ought to devise some means of educating the lower orders; for until the barbarity which was the result of this ignorance was removed, they might rule Ireland by terror, but they would never produce tranquillity. The noble lord had said a good deal about the spirit of the lower orders in Ireland; but he had omitted to state that for which they were proverbial—the kindness of their hearts. The fact was, that they were a people to be governed by love, and not by fear. The tranquillity of that country was to be secured by inspiring confidence between the different classes 235 of the people, and not by, that increase of severity which had been just recommended.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, there were two propositions before the House—that for the continuation of the law, and the amendment. Besides these, there were the recommendations of his noble friend who spoke last but one. He would defend that noble lord from any personal imputation, in consequence of the proposal which he had made; but he could not accede to that proposal. He would not have the coercion, enforced by this act, either increased or diminished. He considered it under existing circumstances a necessary measure; but, at the same time, he regarded it only as a temporary one. He thought that martial law should not be introduced but under the most urgent circumstances; and he therefore deprecated all allusion to it. It was beneath the dignity of parliament to hold out threats which it did not mean to put in execution. It had been complained on the other side of the House, that government had resorted to measures of coercion for the last twenty years. He would appeal to every candid man, whether every measure which had been suggested for the relief of Ireland had not been attended to with the utmost anxiety. It had been alleged that partiality existed in the appointment of sheriffs. The first act of the administration with which he was connected, had been to assimilate it as much as possible with the practice of England. Similar measures had been taken with respect to grand juries, the powers of which were said to be abused. The illicit distilleries were, at another time, alleged to be the cause of some of the disturbances. This had been partly remedied by the consolidation of the exchequers, and would be still further relieved. He sincerely believed that most of the evils which at this moment disturbed Ireland sprang from the maladministration of the common law of the land. So highly did he think of that law, that he had no doubt if it were vigorously and impartially administered, there would be no necessity for recurring to other means. It was for this reason that he wished to see the magistrates aided by an active and responsible body of police. The deficiency of magistrates had also been alleged as one cause of the disorders. This, too, had received the attention of the government. The lists of the various counties had been made out, for the purpose of revising them, and this 236 work was now going on alphabetically. Believing that early intercourse between Catholics and Protestants, and, their receiving the same education, without any reference to religious differences, would have a happy effect in allaying discords and dissensions, he had, when he was in Ireland, endeavoured to form a society for this purpose. That endeavour had been to a certain extent successful; and, unless he was misinformed, a sum of 9,000l. had been this year added to the available funds of the society. Thus he had attempted to show the House that every measure, with the exception of Catholic emancipation, had been tried for the purpose of ameliorating the condition of Ireland. Did the noble lord think that the inquiry which he suggested could lead to any practical result. The extension of education in Ireland, and the improvement of the linen-trade, were doubtless important objects; but would it be desirable to take them into consideration together with twenty other things at the same time? The House had a very fair specimen of Irish inquiry in the one which was now going on relative to the sheriff of Dublin. If that inquiry had taken up so much time, what would the House say to an inquiry into the whole of the laws of Ireland, and the manner of their administration? With regard to Catholic emancipation, if it could be proved to him that it would cure all the evils of Ireland, he would accede to it; but he well knew that it would not have that effect, unless something were granted to the Catholics, which he was not prepared to concede. If the Protestant religion was to be maintained in Ireland, as the religion of the state, then Catholic emancipation would not be the basis of tranquillity. It might produce further contention; but it would not produce safety. He had heard that emancipation would not satisfy the Catholics, without a change in the mode of supporting the Catholic clergy. He hoped, however, that the Protestant religion would be maintained. He should be sorry to see the Catholic, the established religion of Ireland. At the same time, he would not wish for any thing which would be hurtful to the feelings of the majority of the people. He would propose a strict administration of justice, and the preservation, of their rights, both to Protestants and to Catholics. He trusted he had shewn that Catholic emancipation would not tranquillize Ireland any more than the other 237 measures which had been proposed; and that as under the present circumstances of the country the Insurrection act was absolutely necessary, so it would be continued.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
contended, in opposition to the assertions of the right hon. gentleman, that, dividing the interval since the Union into two periods, the latter commencing with the administration of the marquis Wellesley, there had not been, in the former period, any thing done by the government, worth mentioning, for the tranquillization of Ireland. It was not by Insurrection acts that that desirable object was to be secured. Something must be done in the south of Ireland to give increased means of employment to the people, or they must be enabled to emigrate to seek employment elsewhere. The increase of local taxation was an evil of great magnitude. It was hardly credible, that, within the last ten years, the local taxation of the city of Dublin had increased from 2,400l. to 27,000l. per annum. Though he approved of the amendment, he should give his reluctant support to the Insurrection act, because he felt that withdrawing it at the present time might give countenance to the disaffected, and weaken the efforts of the magistracy.
Mr. V. Fitzgerald
supported the original proposition, and defended the conduct of the different governments of Ireland, who, he contended, had used their best efforts to tranquillize that unfortunate country. He expressed his astonishment, after the manner in which that House and the people of England had commiserated and relieved the distresses of Ireland, to hear it asserted that Ireland had only known England in her coercive character. The misfortunes of Ireland were to be attributed, not to the conduct of those by whom she had been governed, but to moral causes, which no government could effectually control.
§ Mr. P. Moore
said, he had uniformly opposed this bill, and must continue to do so. With all the exertions of all the governments of Ireland, that country was now in a ten times worse state than ever. Instead of passing this act, he would rather throw the marquis Wellesley upon his own resources, by giving him a discretionary power to act as he thought fit.
if he could get nothing better, was bound to support the measure, bad as it was, as one of necessary pro- 238 tection; but he maintained, that if it were wished effectually to put down the existing evils in Ireland, measures of a very different character were indispensable. The state of Ireland at the present moment was most alarming. He was persuaded, that nothing but the presence of a military force prevented the Irish people from using the arms which they had obtained by night, in open day and in open rebellion. A reduction of rents arid a commutation of tithes were among the measures indispensable to the restoration of order in Ireland. But, all that was done should be done firmly, and without affording the slightest ground for the belief, that it was obtained by intimidation. It was most desirable to use the approaching summer season for the purpose of providing against the occurrence of those dreadful outrages which it was to be feared would otherwise break out in the next winter. Adverting to the recent measures, having for their object the purification of the magistracy, he expressed his doubt of their efficacy; knowing, as he did, that in many places efficient magistrates had been removed, and inefficient ones substituted. He would vote for the amendment in the first place; and, if that should be disposed of negatively, he would then vote for the original motion.
§ The House divided: For the original motion 162. For the amendment 82.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercrombie, hon. J.||Grenfell, P.|
|Allen, J. H.||Gordon, R.|
|Baring, sir T.||Griffith, J. W.|
|Barnard, vis.||Haldimand, W.|
|Barrett, S. M.||Heron, sir W.|
|Becher, W. W.||Hill, lord A.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Hornby, E.|
|Benyon, B.||Hume, J.|
|Byng, G.||Hutchinson, hon. C.H.|
|Carter, John||James, W.|
|Caulfield, hon. H.||Jervoise, G.P.|
|Cavendish, H.||Johnson, W. A.|
|Chaloner, R.||Kennedy, J. F.|
|Clifton, visc.||Knight, R.|
|Colborne, N. R.||Lamb, hon. G.|
|Creevy, T.||Langston, J. H.|
|Davies, T.||Latouche, R.|
|Denison, W. J.||Leycester, R.|
|Denman, T.||Leader, W.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Maberly, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Maberly, W. L.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Martin, J.|
|Foley, J. H.||Milbank, M.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Maxwell, J. W.|
|Glenorchy, visc.||Milton, visc.|
|Grattan, J.||Monck, J. B.|
|Moore, P.||Robarts, G.|
|Newport, sir J.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Normanby, visc.||Russell, lord J.|
|O'Callaghan, J.||Robertson, A.|
|Ord, W.||Scott, J.|
|Osborne, lord F.||Smith, J.|
|Palmer, C.||Smith, W.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Smith, T.|
|Pamell, sir H.||Stanley, hon. E.|
|Pelham, hon. C. A.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Philips, G.||White, col.|
|Philips, G. H. jun.||Williams, J.|
|Power, R.||Wood, M.|
|Poyntz, W. S.||Althorp, visc.|
|Ramsden, J. C.||Rice, T. S.|