HC Deb 14 June 1824 vol 11 cc1322-37

On the order of the clay for the second reading,

Mr. Robertson

said, he was anxious to prove to the House the mischievous tendency of passing this bill, in the present state of Ireland. It would have the effect of aggravating their feelings, by making England appear to be leagued with one of the parties in Ireland, where it was notorious one party endeavoured to oppress and bear down another. He had recently received a letter from a person connected with one of those parties in Ireland, which was written for the purpose of showing him the determined hostility of the Roman Catholics against the Protestants there. The writer asserted, that the Catholics had taken an oath to exterminate the Protestants, man, woman, and child, on account of their religion. Now, there were 2,000,000 of Protestants in Ireland: and not one of them, he believed, had been put to death, except where some private feeling of wrong rankled in the mind of the party committing the outrage, and impelled him to transgress the law. The hon. member then read a paper, which was said to be sent forth by certain magistrates to whom the execution of the insurrection act had been intrusted. It was, he observed, one of the most inflammatory addresses ever published. After adverting to the frequent assemblage of the Catholics, and the disgraceful acts committed by them, it went on to say, "will you remain in this state of apathy till you see your child reeking on the rebel pike, and the wife of your bosom satiating the libidinous passions of a lawless mob? The Insurrection act is strong. Government will give us every support, and shall we, under such circumstances, neglect ourselves? Shall we not use, to its utmost extent, the power intrusted to us? This was an address of those very magistrates whose duty it would be to put the Insurrection act in forces [Here Mr. Peel observed, that the names affixed to it were fictitious]. The paper had been printed, and was, he believed, pretty widely disseminated. Men who could send forth such a publication, would be eager to employ the power which this act would place in their hands. But, had any case been made out to justify such a measure? He denied that there had. The witnesses before the committee did not prove that any conspiracy existed. Indeed, Mr. Blackburn, to whose evidence he attached more weight than to all the rest besides, decidedly negatived that fact. He stated that "the disturbances chiefly arose from pre-aggression. There was, he observed, no combination amongst the people. The insurrection act had put down combination; but it had left those people who conceived themselves to have been injured, as anxious as ever for revenge." Such was the fact. "Under the Insurrection act," he farther observed, "men, for little or no cause, were sometimes thrown into prison for months." Must not these unfortunate people, when let loose on society, be much worse, be far more hardened, than when the act was in force against them? This witness had said, that the Insurrection act, the new police, the improved magistracy, and the institution of petty sessions had tended towards keeping down the spirit of insubordination in Ireland. It appeared, then, that the Insurrection act was one of many causes; and when it was known that positive evil had been inflicted under it, why should it be continued? The chief offences cognizable under the Insurrection act were likewise punishable by the common law, and therefore the former was not necessary. Mr. Blackburn also stated, that the lowest labouring classes in Ireland were not so active in disturbances as the small landholders. Now, he could not conceive that the House would, under the present state of Ireland, aggravate the situation of that unfortunate people, by forcing this law upon them. It had been asked, could the loyal people exist without it: this epithet loyal being exclusively applied to the Protestants. Now, he would not hear it said that the Catholics of Ireland were less loyal than the Protestants. If one party laid claim to greater loyalty than the other, he would give it to the Catholics. He contended, that the experience which the English government now possessed with respect to the coercive system of policy which had prevailed from the time of Henry 2nd, down to the present period, was enough to convince the warmest supporters of this measure, that it was not calculated to answer the ends of peace and tranquillity, much less to allow any favourable development of the powers and resources, the industry and virtues, of that nation. One party represented the Irish people as noble and generous, grateful and warm-hearted— another party described them as perfidious, untraceable, worse than savages. Such a heterogeneous character could not be the real character of any people on earth. The parliament ought to endeavour to discover what had been the genuine character of the Irish; and, if it had been debased from an excellent standard, to see what could be done for restoring it. The fact was, that the Irish character was only conditionally altered. Brave and noble-spirited as they had once certainly been, they had shown themselves occasionally perfidious and cruel; because, the treatment which they received under the brutalizing policy of successive governments, led to that Inevitable consequence. Takeaway the causes which thus demoralized them, and they would be like other people. What could be expected from them, while government continued the same policy of sacrificing the Roman Catholics, whose number made up one-third of the numerical strength of the empire, to the bigotted Protestant party in Ireland, who were not more than one-fortieth of the empire? The report of the committee was really of no use, and had been nullified, for all practical purposes, by the manner of collecting the evidence. The act itself was worse than useless. Under it there had been taken up since they last met no less than between 2 and 3,000 persons, not one of whom had been convicted: so that here were 3,000 persons let loose upon the peace of the community, who, to all their previous reasons for dis- affection, would naturally add the odium of having suffered unjustly, And this was the only effect which the Insurrection act could be expected in reason to produce. Parliament was generally unwilling to travel out of the sphere of its own information. Yet he could not help mentioning one circumstance which had occurred in his experience, bearing very much upon this subject. The Dutch government was to Java what the English government had been to Ireland, with an excess, if possible, of the pernicious consequences resulting from that mode of rule. The character of the natives had obtained that atrocious complexion and character, that they were dreaded like the pestilence. No one could venture upon a short excursion into the country, without the defence of an armed escort. Their theft, cruelty and rapacity, caused them to be shunned as the very worst of evils; they were not allowed to come on board any of the ships which approached the coast, and their presence filled every one with consternation. Yet, such was the effect of the mild and just measures of government introduced by sir T. Raffles, that within four years afterwards, he (Mr. R.) was in the habit of travelling hundreds of miles in the interior, with no more than a single attendant. The House would do well, therefore, to suspend the bill, at least until they were better informed. It would be his duty, early in the next session of parliament, to move for a parliamentary inquiry into the state of Ireland—a mode which alone could satisfy the House as to the real state of that country, where measures of coercion and cruelty had for centuries been tried, and where, if enforced much longer, they must end in the destruction of our own empire. He would move that the bill be read a second time this day six months.

Mr. J. Smith

did not believe that the bill would ever be made to agree with the institutions of a free government. He condemned the report of the committee as a mere garbling and collecting of evidence to excuse the passing of the bill. There should have been an extensive inquiry; and the subject warranted the calling great numbers of the best informed and least partial of the Irish community to give information upon it. He did not scruple to say, that there seemed to have been a premeditated neglect and delay upon this point, as if on purpose to carry the bill with the less molestation. It was useless to expect tranquillity from the passing of the act, while parliament continued, with such strange perverseness, to refrain from all inquiry into the causes of the rebellion and riots which the bill was intended to cure. It was something singular in the history of this subject, that no inquiry had ever yet gone to investigate the causes. They all seemed to be set on foot for the purpose of warranting coercive measures to check the consequences. He wished to state one fact which was exemplary of the real state of that country. There was a riot in the county of Fermanagh, with the usual destructive consequences. It was to be observed, that this was a part of the country in which the Insurrection act was not in force. The noble marquis at the head of the Irish government sent down a gentleman duly qualified to inquire into the disturbances. Several persons were arrested over night, and the magistrates were to sit upon these cases the next morning. But when the morning came, all the Protestants were missing: they had been let out over night. Now, to that part of Ireland the Insurrection act had never been applied. It would be said, indeed, that the magistrates had not taken the necessary steps to get it applied, and he believed they had not. But he was told that a great number of these magistrates were Orangemen. The attorney-general told them that Orange associations were illegal, and yet the government of one part of Ireland was committed to the hands of Orangemen, while the other was placed under the Insurrection act. They were losing their time in talking about Ireland, unless they took measures to get to the bottom of the evil. An hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) had suggested a plan of emigration for the relief of Ireland. He would not now give an opinion on that subject, but the population of Ireland might be too high. But, whatever were the causes of the evils of Ireland, whether population or tithes, the absence of the gentry, or misgovernment, they should examine and meet them.

Colonel Davies

wished to explain the reasons why he should support a temporary renewal of the Insurrection act. His general opinion as to the state of Ireland had not changed, but the conduct of the Irish government had changed; and as he thought they were well disposed to the mass of the people, he was inclined to intrust them with this act. There was evidence before the committee that tranquillity could not be maintained without it.

Lord J. Russell

said, he should not oppose the bill as a matter of course at all times, and under all circumstances: for at the several periods when it had been proposed, he had not voted against it. When it was proposed in 1807, it was supported by Mr. Grattan, because a war then existed, and there was then a French party in the country; but, it was his decided opinion, that the measure was not called for by the actual state of Ireland, While the distresses which had prevailed in that country were the immediate causes of disturbance which rendered extraordinary measures necessary, perhaps the existence of the Insurrection act might have been permitted; but now that it was confessed on all sides, that there was no such urgent distress, he felt called upon to oppose the continuance of the measure; because, by consenting to it, he should admit, that whenever the mis-government of a country might have produced evils, the suspension of the constitutional law, or the introduction of measures foreign to that law, were to be applied as remedies. Sir Lawrence Parsons said of this act when it was first proposed, that it was a violation of the principles of a free constitution. He (lord J. R.) not only thought that it was such a violation, but that it was a clumsy contrivance, unworthy of an enlightened government. If we were told that in Austria, or Prussia, or Russia, a law was in operation, by which the people were confined without light in their houses for twelve out of the twenty-four hours, should we hesitate to pronounce such a law to be arbitrary and absurd? Upon referring to the evidence, it would be found, that many of the persons who had been taken up under the Insurrection act, were such as had staid out at the public houses until after 9 o'clock, while others had been in the pursuit of cattle or other no less lawful occupations. Even the benevolent intentions of the chancellor of the Exchequer, in diminishing the duty on distilleries, had been frustrated; because the poor people, thus encouraged to drink a little more whiskey, had been seduced into the clutches of the Insurrection act. A question had been asked Serjeant Lloyd, who had been employed in the administration of the act, whether the persons taken up under it, were not generally very desperate characters. He answered, that they were generally persons of good character, and poor helpless people, totally ignorant of the provisions of the act; yet these poor people were kept in prison twenty, thirty, or forty days, for having staid too long at a public-house, or a fair. The law intrusted discretion (which lord Camden called the law of tyrants) to the persons employed in every stage of its operation. First, discretion was given to the petty constables to take up or not the persons found out at night; then to the magistrates to commit them or not; then to those who tried them to acquit them, though it should be clear that they were out at night; and, lastly, there was discretion to the lord lieutenant—a discretion, he admitted, that was wisely and humanely exercised, to remit or execute the sentence. Men were taken up wholesale by night; and then, on the investigation of their character, it depended whether or not they should be transported. Nothing could be more unlike law and justice, or the British constitution, than this. The result of the operation of this act had been such as might have been expected. Of the ten counties from which returns had been furnished, it appeared, that in Kildare not one person had been punished, although 87 had been apprehended; in Kilkenny and Cork, there had not been one; in Clare, of 189 put in prison, only four had been convicted; in Kerry, only one convicted out of 132 taken up; and in King's County and Limerick, one only convicted in each. So small a number had been punished in seven out of the ten counties. He ought not to say punished, but condemned; for there was a grievous punishment of imprisonment on the mass who were committed, and afterwards found innocent—an infliction which could not fail to strengthen the rooted distaste to all legal tribunals, and the hatred to all legal authority, in the mass of the people of Ireland. It was necessary, to put an end to the shameful system of compromise which had so long existed. It was his firm conviction, that the only measure by which tranquillity could be restored to Ireland, would be by establishing an equal law for the whole of the people: by making the government independent of religion, and the power of the state a purely political power; and by causing religious disputes (if such disputes there must be) to be between the subjects themselves, and not between the subjects and the state. If this were carried into effect, he had no doubt that the lapse of a very short period would present Ireland under a very- different aspect. He should vote against the measure for the reasons he had stated, and for this additional one—that the House by refusing to sanction it now, would drive ministers to furnish the remedy which was in their power, and not permit them to postpone it for another year.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he felt as strongly as any man could feel, when it was his painful duty to propose this measure, that it was in some degree a departure from the principles of the constitution. He was quite aware that the severity of its enactments exposed it to be argued against as liable to abuse; yet he was conscious, also, that a state of things existed which called upon parliament to interfere with some means for the protection of property, and for putting down, even with extraordinary vigour, those lawless persons who were confederated to subvert the constitution. Those were the principles upon which he had formerly called for, and those were the grounds upon which he now rested the necessity of the measure. If any man would read over the evidence, he would feel satisfied that the state of things in Ireland required the application of some extraordinary measure. Previous to the introduction of the Insurrection act, the peaceable inhabitants of the county were compelled to have their houses barricadoed; and as soon as it had passed, the necessity for such precaution had ceased. Now, what gentleman would like to retire from the discharge of his public duties to such a country as that; or who would dare to reside in Ireland if parliament refused to pass the measure? It might be said, that this was a state of things which formerly existed, but that it was now at an end. He was ready to admit that the evil was not now in so aggravated a state; but, let it not be forgotten, that the decrease of disturbance was mainly owing to the Insurrection act. The question then was, should we or should we not continue this measure until the government had an opportunity of examining into all the causes of discontent, and of laying before parliament some measure for effecting the permanent tranquillity of the country. Much had been said of the present condition of Ireland resulting from centuries of misrule; and he would ask, whether there was any enthusiast so wild as to entertain an expectation, that the exertions of a few weeks could remove the evils of ages? He was convinced that this measure was essential to the security of Ireland. It was erroneous to suppose that the disturbances arose merely upon religious grounds. The attacks were not merely made upon Protestants, but Catholics also; in fact, it was, insurrection against property. With respect to the Catholic question, on the success of which some supposed so much good depended, his opinions were well known: but, without entering into the grounds of those opinions, he would say, it was idle to suppose that Catholic emancipation alone could remove the evil. But, would the House postpone a measure of immediate necessity, until some measure, of Catholic emancipation could be brought forward that would give general satisfaction? He asked for this law for the protection of that part of the population who were orderly and obedient; not for the purposes of oppression, or to support the government. There was no disposition in that government to aggravate the severity of the law; and, as the evidence shewed, it had been so administered, as to extort approbation even from those who were the most determined opponents of the measures. He hoped the House would not now refuse to pass the act; for it was absolutely necessary to give security to the industrious peasant, and efficacy to those improvements which, under its protection, had been begun.

Mr. Abercromby

said, it was impossible that parliament, considering how often this law had been passed as a temporary measure, could consent to its re-enactment, without recording its own disgrace in sanctioning such repeated acts of misgovernment. In the view which he took of it, he regretted that he differed from the almost unanimous opinion of the committee. At the same time he was not at all disposed to undervalue the labours of that committee, as far as they had gone, they had been most important: a great deal of valuable information had been acquired by them which would, he had no doubt be of considerable service. Much, however, as he respected the exertions of the Committee, he could not be very sanguine in his hopes of the ultimate result of their labours. They, as a committee, could only recommend: they could not legislate. He was anxious, therefore, that too great expectations should not be raised. It was admitted on all hands, that a very strong necessity should exist to justify this bill. When he looked at the opinions of some most respectable individ- uals in the committee, he found they were positive as to the existence of such necessity; it the present time; but when he examined the evidence on which such opinions were founded, it presented to his mind the strongest proof of the force of many of the objections which had been made against the bill, and to which he should come by and by. It was admitted on all hands, that one of the greatest evils of Ireland was a want of confidence in the law. It was not looked up to by the great mass of the people as a source of protection, but dreaded as an instrument of oppression. Now, he would beg the House to consider how the present bill would operate on such a general feeling. It was intended as a measure rather of prevention than cure: but could it be pretended, that such a measure would increase the confidence of the people in the law? Let the House recollect the great number of persons who had already been operated upon by the law—who had been dragged from their homes, confined for five or six weeks in a gaol, on charges of being out after sun-set, and then, after enduring so much, brought to trial and acquitted. Was the renewal of such a measure calculated to increase the confidence of the people in the law; and was it not too much to turn round upon a people so treated, and say, that it should be renewed on the ground, that they had not confidence in the law, and could not respect the magistrates by whom they had been so committed? Let the House judge of the way in which this act had been used, from what had taken place in one county alone. In the county of Cork nearly 400 persons had been committed for trial under the Insurrection act; and of that number, not more than 74 had been convicted. Could it be possible that such persons should not be dissatisfied with such a law and with those who ad-ministered it? He could not avoid calling the attention of the House to one part of the evidence of Serjeant Lloyd, as to the operation of the act, and the kind of persons who often suffered by it. That gentlemen was asked—"Does it not frequently happen that persons who are apprehended upon the charge merely of being out of their houses within the time proscribed by the Insurrection act, are men of most desperate character?" His answer was—"In general most of the men who were brought before me for that offence, received a good cha- racter—that is, they received a character for being quiet and tranquil in the county where they resided; they were miserable creatures, and I believe quite ignorant of the provisions of the Insurrection act." After hearing such an opinion as this from a gentleman whose official situation rendered him so well qualified to form it, how could the House frame any measure more calculated to render the law odious to the people than this?—Another objection to this measure arose from the discretionary power which it vested in the magistrates. In order to see the force of this objection, let the House ask, who those men were to whom such extraordinary powers were to be intrusted? He remembered, that in the year 1807, a complaint was made of the corruption of the Irish magistracy. The complaint was repelled with indignation; and it was confidently asserted on the opposite bench, that there was not one corrupt magistrate in all Ireland. He spoke from his own recollection of the circumstance. He could not have believed that such a statement would have been made, if he had not heard it. From that year the magistracy continued without any alteration; until within the last two or three years, when some revision took place, under lord Wellesley. Many were then superseded from the commission, but the purgation was not carried to the extent which it ought to have been. To magistrates of a description which needed considerable reformation, was this immense power to be intrusted by the present bill. He thought no such power should be given, unless they could have a more certain guarantee that it would not be abused. From the evidence of Mr. Lloyd, it appeared that he always observed that on the trials there was a greater tendency to convict the prisoner, in the magistrates in whose neighbourhood he had resided, than in those who lived at a distance. The very principle on which such a measure rested, tended to make the people look upon the magistrates with distrust and suspicion. Then, looking at the bill as a measure of prevention, he would ask how it could so operate on a people who looked upon it as no degradation to be tried under the act, but considered all those who suffered punishment under it as heroes and martyrs? Not so was a conviction before the tribunals regarded. There the people had an idea of receiving greater and more impartial justice, and the decisions of such courts were therefore more regarded. There were many other objections to the measure; but he was anxious to rest his opposition to it on the ground of its alienating the people from obedience, rendering the laws odious, and sowing the seeds of future discontent and turbulence. It had been said that the law had put down combinations; but the fact was, that the combinations had been put down by the approvers, and it so happened, that not one of them had appeared before the tribunals constituted by this act, but before the ordinary tribunals. He objected to giving the government extraordinary powers until he saw that they were used for good purposes. The people were growing more formidable every clay; they were getting enlightened by education, and wealthy by industry: and, as they were more instructed and more opulent, acquired a keener sense of their degradation. As long as the great mass of the inhabitants were kept in a state of degradation, it would be hopeless to look for permanent tranquillity. As long as a large class found themselves excluded from those honours and that rank to which the increasing wealth of many amongst them aspired, so long would discontent prevail in the country. The hon. and learned gentleman then proceeded to point out the dangers to this country, from allowing Ireland to remain in her present state, should any of the continental powers be disposed to take advantage of their discontents, and wish to make alliance with the people of Ireland; and concluded by observing, that England, by embracing the opportunity which was still open to her, might by conciliation render Ireland a source of permanent strength to the British empire.

Mr. Secretary Peel

said, he concurred with the opponents of the bill in admitting it to be unconstitutional and severe, and regretted its necessity; but as to its efficacy, he altogether differed from them. If it could be shewn that not only was the measure unconstitutional, but also inefficacious, then indeed the objections to it would be unanswerable; but he maintained, that every thing which had yet transpired on the subject, had proved its efficacy. It was the unanimous opinion of the members of the committee—men differing widely in their general political views—that it would be unsafe for parliament to separate without giving to the executive government in Ireland the powers conferred by this act. It was the unanimous opinion of the committee, that, as a measure of prevention, it had already been successful, and was likely to succeed better than any other, in preventing such lawless outrages as had afflicted several parts of Ireland last year. He asked for the bill only as a temporary measure, until the end of the next session, by which time he hoped all further cause for it would be removed. It had been objected to it, that Ireland was now tranquil, and did not call for it. It was asserted, that it had, and would continue to have, the effect of producing general discontent with the laws. These at least were not consistent objections, for if it had produced such discontent with the laws, that they were no longer respected, that would be one reason why it should be continued for a time longer. It was idle to say, that this measure was called for by the Protestants of Ireland, to enable them to oppress their Catholic fellow subjects. A greater libel on the Protestants of Ireland could not be uttered. No; it was called for to protect all dutiful and loyal subjects, without reference to any sect or class, from such outrages. It was for the protection of the poor peasant as well as of his rich landlord. They had already heard of the houses of landlords being barricadoed during the night, and frequently during the day, so completely as to give to the interior the appearance of night. A very natural feeling of pity was expressed for the situation of those who had been obliged to resort to such means of protection; but, there was another class of persons who were equally entitled to pity, and to protection—he meant those industrious peasants whose thatched cottage afforded no such means of defence. From the evidence of Mr. Bennett it appeared, that the houses of almost all the peasantry were thatched, and of course easily destroyed by tire, and that very many peaceably disposed peasants were obliged to join in nightly depredation on others, to protect their own houses and families from being destroyed; which would be the case if they refused. Why should such persons be left without the protection afforded by this act? It appeared that, before the passing of this act, there were not less than fourteen murders committed in one barony in two years, and yet in not a single instance had the perpetrators been discovered. The Insurrection act was certainly a bad thing, but murders and burnings were a great deal worse. He for one should be willing rather to live under such a law, than be nightly exposed to the fear of having his house burnt, and his wife and family driven out to be shot. He begged the House to recollect the case of Mr. Shee, where a whole family, consisting of sixteen persons were all destroyed by such a nightly attack. If the act prevented a single crime like this—kept a single family from such a fate—it was a benefit. The evidence shewed that combinations had been broken up. The House must at the same time recollect, that the measure was not to be the permanent law of the country. But would any person trust during the next winter to the "dove-like simplicity" to which the hon. member had alluded, for the security of Ireland; or could it be thought that the country would be tranquil without this measure? The seeds of discontent had been sown, according to the hon. member, who had begun with Strong-bow, for centuries. Could one session of inquiry, then, be expected to root them up? He did not suppose the magistrates were all pure; that no instance of corruption could be found; that government had always been perfect; but, whatever might formerly have been the case, he was sure that since his present majesty's accession, attention had been paid to improving the magistracy, and that measures of severity had been relaxed. Ireland had been relieved from taxation, and her other wants had been attended to. He wished as much as any gentleman, that religious animosities were abolished; he only differed with hon. members as to the efficacy of the plans which they recommended for this purpose.

Mr. Trant

said, that convinced as he was, that Ireland would relapse into a state of anarchy and confusion if some such measure as the present were not adopted, he could not vote for the amendment, which would leave the peaceable and loyal inhabitants exposed to every species of outrage.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that he was desirous of stating the reasons which induced him to vote for the renewal of the act, and he had the authority of his right hon. friend, the member for Waterford, for stating, that his assent to it was grounded on the same reason; namely, that the inquiry was still pending, and he had little doubt that the ultimate result would be, that such a case would be made out against the Insurrection act, that ministers themselves would be ashamed to propose its renewal.

Mr. Denman

considered, that the renewal of the Insurrection act was paying too much for this inquiry; more especially as it was doubtful whether the act was not inefficacious. The report of the committee did not, he thought, deserve such an implicit mark of confidence; and of the evidence, as it was before the House, they could judge for themselves. He had understood, at the commencement of the session, from the secretary for Ireland, that the clause should not be renewed which enacted, that any person found in a public-house, whether licensed or not, between the hours of nine in the evening, and six in the morning, at any season of the year, should be liable to be transported for seven years. Yet this clause was not omitted in the bill which had been sent down from the House of Lords. The evidence gave them a little insight of the causes of the discontents in Ireland. From that evidence it appeared, that the high rents and tithes extracted from the miserable inhabitants, were among the principal causes of those discontents which this bill was intended to suppress. He perfectly agreed with an hon. member, that the renewal of the Insurrection act was calculated to counteract all the moral effect which might otherwise be expected from the improvement of the police, the magistracy, and the nightly patrol and watch, as well as the advantages which might be anticipated from the introduction of a better system of education in Ireland. These were all moral causes, which would operate for the improvement of Ireland, if the baleful influence of this act did not prevent their activity. Was this the way to tranquillize a country, by bringing all under the act of accusation, and accounting as guilty all who were not able to prove their innocence? These were acts which ought not to be granted to any set of men. The government which wished to receive such powers showed that it did not know how to govern a great country on the principles of a free constitution. Under no circumstances would he give his consent to the passing of such an act as this.

Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

vindicated the conduct of the magistracy, and contended that the law, which no one ever considered as a remedial measure, had been carried into execution with the least possible oppression to the individuals. He was no friend to such a measure; but, in the present state of Ireland, such a power must be intrusted. The committee had recommended it for a year, under the fullest conviction that the state of the country warranted it.

Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald

said, he did not oppose this measure from any idea that its powers had been abused, or that it had been improperly acted on, either by the government of Ireland, the assessors, or the magistracy. He believed that no human being could do more to restrain the powers of government within mild and moderate limits than the marquis Wellesley had done. But he must oppose the measure, because it placed the magistracy, whom it vested with enormous powers, in a most invidious situation, with respect to the people of Ireland. Multitudes had been imprisoned, and few punished, under this act; the consequence of which was, that much irritation was excited, and little benefit effected. At the same time, he was bound to allow, that the magistrates and gentry of Ireland called for some strong and effectual powers of restraint and repression. But he would prefer to the operation of an Insurrection act, the institution of martial-law, in those provinces where the disturbances prevailed. Such a system of martial-law, for example, as that which the marquis Corn-wall is established in Ireland, at the time when the enemy was in the country.

The House divided: for the second reading 112; against it 23.