§ Lord Althorp,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the important subject of which he had given notice, begged to assure the House, that no man living could be more sensible than he was of the difficulties with which it was surrounded. He bespoke their indulgence, not merely because he should find it necessary to trespass upon their time at some length, but because he felt that his powers were inadequate to cope with the numerous difficulties which presented themselves to him. Most forcibly as he was impressed with this latter consideration, he was nevertheless encouraged to persevere in his intention, because he believed, even if he should fail to persuade the House to accede to the measure which he should have the honour to propose, that the mere discussion of the question would produce so much good, as amply to reward him for any exertion he might make, and console him for a disappointment, if he should be fated to encounter one. The difficulties of Ireland seemed to him to arise from a long course of unfortunate events. From the commencement of our connexion with her, it was not too much to say, that she had been treated, in every way, as a conquered country: and the evils which were necessarily attendant upon such a state of things, had, for the last two centuries of that con- 655 nexion, been aggravated by a difference of religious opinions between the mass of the people and the ruling body—in other words, between the conquerors and the conquered. The natural effect of such a state of things had been, to produce violent party spirit, want of confidence in the government, and hatred to the laws, to a degree which had perhaps hardly ever existed elsewhere. These were evils to which, under any circumstances, it would be difficult to apply a remedy. It must, in all events, be done with great care and caution, because it would be absurd to suppose that the evils which had been of the growth of centuries could be removed by any sudden or violent measures.
Up to the period of the Union, that difference in religious opinion of which he had spoken prevailing, it might have been questionable, whether or not the majority of the population of Ireland should be admitted to the whole of the political rights and privileges of the state. But with the Union a great change took place, for then the majority of Catholics in Ireland became the minority of the united empire; and the concessions which they claimed, however imprudent it might have been to make them before, could, after that period, bring with them no dangerous consequences. That the Union was a wise and politic measure, he had no doubt; but, like all other human devices, it had its evils as well as its advantages. The mischief, too, was, that the evils which accompanied it were certain and obvious; while its advantages were contingent upon a wise administration. The first evil which ensued was the necessary increase of the number of absentees, and the consequent subtraction of the capital of the country. The advantages which ought to have followed the Union should have been an administration divested of all partialities and party spirit; the main object of which should have been the putting down of existing factions, and a careful endeavour to discourage them in future, by withholding power and emolument from such persons as were disposed to revive them. Besides these, the people of Ireland should have been admitted to an equal enjoyment of political rights. If these advantages, which might have been reasonably looked for, had actually followed the Union, it could not be doubted, that the capital which had been temporarily withdrawn in consequence of that 656 measure, would have soon afterwards returned, and that long ere this it would have been largely increased.
Having thus shortly stated his own opinion as to the causes of the evils which prevailed, the greatest of which was, perhaps, the violent party spirit which was kept up, he now came to the consideration of the means by which they were to be redressed. Great as the difficulties were which stood in the way of so desirable an operation, they would be removed, with comparative ease, if any legislative remedy could be applied to them; and it was because this was altogether impracticable as to the larger portion of them, that their weight and magnitude were seriously increased. He was induced to think that the best, if not the only mode in which these difficulties could be met, was by the appointment of a general committee to inquire into the actual state of Ireland. If he should propose a commute or committees, to examine only into particular points, they must be such points only to which a legislative enactment might be applied; but when he proposed a general inquiry, the committee to whom that inquiry should be intrusted might examine many topics upon which it would be impossible to legislate. Such a committee, by showing the origin of the evils, and by exposing that contempt of public opinion, that carelessness of what was thought elsewhere, which prevailed too much in Ireland, would have the effect of explaining the true interests of the country, and of shaming the persons most interested in them into that conciliatory course, and that attention to the interests of their countrymen, that were necessary to ensure their tranquillity and their prosperity. The fashionable mode of meeting propositions of this sort was, he knew, to offer to appoint a commission for the purpose of taking evidence on the spot; but this would be far less satisfactory than the course he was about to propose, because such a commission could only report upon such subjects as might be remedied by law, and, which was still more important, their report would not have the weight of that of a committee. His experience of the committees of that House had convince him that, however intricate or delicate a subject might be, there were no obstacles which could not be overcome by such a committee, composed of gentlemen who were resolved to inquire into and remedy the evils. The House itself was already 657 in possession of as much evidence as would enable a committee to make a report; and if more were necessary, it would be easily procured.
It might be as well for him here to anticipate some of the objections which would probably be urged against the proposal he had to make. Among them, however, this would not be said—that the improvement in the affairs of Ireland had been such, that no inquiry was necessary, and the House and the country ought to be content with things as they were. The right hon. secretary for Ireland, had given notice of a motion for a committee to inquire into the state of those counties in which the Insurrection act had been in operation, with a view, of course, to the renewal of that act. It would, therefore, be sufficient upon this point, to say, that the mere necessity of the Insurrection act being renewed, proved that the country could not be in a tranquil, or even in such a state as rendered an inquiry inexpedient. The Insurrection act might be extended over the whole of Ireland. It was, therefore, highly necessary for the House to know what had been the effect produced by its operation hitherto. It might, perhaps, be objected, that the length of time which such a committee as he proposed must necessarily occupy, was a reason why it should not be appointed. He could not disguise from himself, and he would not attempt to disguise from the House, that such an inquiry must occupy more time than the session would afford; but this, he thought, was no reason why that inquiry should not be commenced, although it was a reason why his motion for it was as well-timed now as though he had made it earlier in the session. The committee on foreign trade, of which he had himself the honour to be a member, had already sat more than one session; and he trusted no man would say, that the condition of Ireland was a less important subject than the foreign trade of the country, powerful as was the interest which the latter fairly excited. The time, therefore, ought, he thought, to be no objection to the appointment of the committee; for he should be sorry to have it said, that one-and-twenty gentlemen, members of that House, could not be found who were, on such an occasion, willing to devote as much time as might be necessary to this all important subject.
He wished the committee to possess powers as extensive as possible, because, 658 by a full inquiry alone, could they hope to do any real good. Among the first topics which would be submitted to their consideration, was one which he was aware could not be too cautiously interfered with—he meant the connexion between landlord and tenant. And yet he was sure that, unless the abuses to which it was exposed in Ireland should be fairly examined and exposed, they could never be adequately remedied. It appeared that only a running account between the landlord and his tenants was, in many instances, kept there: the peasant did not pay his rent in money, but in labour; and the consequence of this was, that he was (among other disadvantages) deprived of the means of procuring what was necessary for the employment of the females of his family, who might be usefully occupied in spinning, and in other similar labours. If the peasant were paid regularly by the week the money he had earned, as was the custom in this country, he would at once be able to pay his landlord's rent, and to procure for his family those advantages, the results of which were found to be so beneficial among a similar class of people in England. The abuses which ensued from the practices of middlemen, as well as other circumstances applying to the condition of the landlord and tenant, were so notorious that it was only necessary to allude to them, to show how desirable it was that they should be discontinued; and this he believed might be effected by the report of the committee. The next topic in point of importance seemed to him to be the employment of capital and of the people. No person who had listened the other night to the able and conclusive speech of his hon. friend, the member for Northampton (captain Maberly), could remain unconvinced, that two of the greatest evils of Ireland were the want of capital and the want of employment. The difficulty of the employment of capital had indeed been considerably exaggerated by that jealousy which the people felt of the interference of strangers, and which was the too natural result of the condition in which they were placed. The jealousy, however, was chiefly directed against persons who had employed their capital in agricultural improvements. In towns where there could be no danger of outrage, there could be no doubt that capital would be as safely, as it would be advantageously, employed; and it was this fact, 659 he was anxious to have proved to the committee, that, by their report, the capitalists of England might he satisfactorily shown how they might employ their capital.
He had, on a former occasion, stated it to be his opinion, that the repeal of the taxes in Ireland would tend mainly towards reviving the manufactures of that country, and bringing it into a prosperous condition. It was objected to him on that occasion, that he sought, by giving large and exclusive advantages to Ireland, to raise her up into a manufacturing country, which should make her the rival of Scotland and England. While he disclaimed any such intention, he feared that Ireland was far indeed from any such state-of prosperity. She was as little to be feared as she was to be envied; and however he might wish to see her condition ameliorated, he had not proposed to accomplish that wish, by affording her a rate of profits above those of any other country. He would only say, that this consideration was of the greatest importance: and his most earnest wish was, to produce, if possible, tranquillity and prosperity, where now disturbance and distress prevailed, and to lay a foundation for a large revenue, and those resources which the climate and fertility of the country might reasonably be expected to produce, and which would amply repay any present sacrifice. But, to lay this consideration for a moment aside, let the House think of the enormous expense at which the disastrous condition of Ireland was continued, by means of a standing army, and by all the machinery of insurrection acts, which were necessary only in consequence of distress. Objectionable as this system was for its expense, it was no less so for itself: it must be altogether hateful to Englishmen, and ought not to be tolerated within the limits of a free constitution. There was a contamination in all the operations of arbitrary power: and it could not be endured in one part of the state, without the whole suffering under its pernicious influence. This part of the question demanded imperiously the consideration of a committee.
The next point in importance appeared to him to be the system of grand-jury presentiments, in which he had always understood very extensive jobbing to prevail. It appeared, too clearly, that the individual interests of the gentry were opposed to those of the country; and when it was known, that local taxes to the annual 660 amount of 750,000l. were raised at secret meetings of this description, the fact was enough to prove the expediency of giving publicity to the mode in which these taxes were imposed. Whether they should be under the same regulations as were adopted with respect to the highways in England, or to the roads in Scotland, was a question he did not take upon himself to decide: but, that the present system demanded inquiry, he was fully convinced.
With respect to the church establishment in Ireland, he did not apprehend it would be denied, that this was a subject which ought to be inquired into. He would not be understood to propose, or to say, any thing which could be injurious to the established church: on the contrary, he wished to see its dignity and its utility preserved, at the same time that it should be directed to those purposes for which it was established. The prosperity of the church must always depend upon the number of persons who were attached to it. He could not believe that the object in granting to the church of Ireland the extensive property which it possessed, was to make a rich and powerful clergy, but to promote religion generally, and particularly the religion of the state, by increasing the means by which its ministers might become useful. He did not wish to turn them from this purpose, than which he could conceive none greater or better. He should be reluctant to do any thing which might even seem to be opposed to that purpose: but if it should appear to the committee, that by a different distribution, or even by a diminution of the revenues of the church, the people might be less alienated from the church than they now were, he did not think that in recommending such a measure he should be proposing any thing inconsistent with the prosperity of the church establishment of Ireland. The evils of the tithe-system were such as claimed a deep and full consideration. He believed that, by the alterations which had been lately made in the composition-bill, the system was much improved; but he believed nobody would deny, that it was capable of still greater improvement. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) by whom it had been introduced, could not expect—no man could be sanguine enough to expect—that it would be universally acted on. In those parishes, then, where it might not have been adopted, it surely became more than ever, necessary to inquire into the mode in 661 which tithes were collected. The mode of paying the clergy by tithes gave rise to differences and disputes even in England; but if these differences existed where the religion of the payers was the same as that of the clergy, how much more must they arise, where a difference of religion existed, where the payers were ignorant and very poor, and little able to understand, or to get information respecting, the technicalities of the law? In such a country every thing should be more simple and elementary than in England; yet the contrary was the state of the case. In England, if any objections arose as to the payment of tithes, nothing could be more easy than for the tenant to pay them in kind. In Ireland, nothing could be more difficult. The notices which it was necessary to give of their intention to do this, frequently contained flaws which might be taken advantage of against them. The parties, ignorant themselves, were compelled to employ persons who were scarcely less so; and thus such inaccuracies were of frequent occurrence. In England, if the clergyman neglected to draw the tithe which the occupier of the land had severed for him, he suffered the consequences of his own neglect; and if the land of the occupier was at all damaged by the continuance of the tithe upon it, a right of action lay against the person entitled to it. In Ireland, owing to the difficulties he bad stated, and the decisions of the courts of law, the consequences of the neglect always fell upon the occupier of the land; who was, in case of any damage happening to the severed tithe, compelled to pay in money instead of in kind. He was perfectly confident that in stating this, he was stating what was the practical case in many instances. It was impossible not to perceive that such a state of things must be directly opposed to that good feeling, which ought to subsist between the receivers and payers of tithes. On the contrary, it was unhappily too well known, that it had produced bloodshed, disturbance, and misery; and for this reason alone it was necessary that the cause should be inquired into, whether the evil could be remedied or not, if it were only for the purpose of carrying into effect compositions which it was obvious could not be made while such feelings of irritation existed.
Another of the evils of Ireland were the Orange and Riband Lodges. It was difficult to say which of these was the 662 worse, as regarded the tranquillity of Ireland; but, both ought to be put down [hear, hear!]. Where one was, the other would always be; and the inevitable consequence must be, a continuance of that confusion and misery of which they had so long been the fruitful occasions. An attempt had been made last year to put them down; but, in a free country, such an attempt could never be very successful: and it had not succeeded at all. Let the House, however, suppose that a committee had made this a subject of inquiry and had reported their opinion to the House, that all persons holding offices during pleasure should be removed from those offices unless they renounced their connexion with such mischievous societies as were these lodges; did the House not think, that this recommendation would put an end to the evil, and do more good than all the acts of parliament that had been, or that could be passed?
Every man who brought a motion before the House was, of course, very sanguine as to its success. He did not pretend to be less sanguine than others, but he could not help thinking also, that he had stated reasons, however inadequately, which should induce the House to grant the committee for which he was about to move. The people of Ireland at this moment might be said to be under the dominion of an oligarchy, the interests of which were, in too many respects, opposed to their own. It was an object of this oligarchy to exclude the majority, the members of whom were often their own tenants, from a free exercise of their rights. It was impossible, under such circumstances, that those feelings of kindness and attachment of the tenant towards his landlord, which in this country were so common as to form part of the national character, could prevail in Ireland; and it was equally impossible that, where such an invidious distinction prevailed, there should be confidence or good fellowship between the landlord and his tenant. He deplored this misunderstanding; and no less did he regret that which must subsist between the church establishment and the Catholic laity, who felt that it was by religious disabilities that they were excluded from all offices in the state. He should be told, that they were not excluded from all offices; but he knew that, though they were not so in law, they were in practice. It was impossible for a government to begin, the work of degrading any particular de- 663 scription of people, and to say, so far shall the degradation go, and no farther: it would always be extended by other hands: and he therefore was not surprised to find that the Catholic laity were excluded from all offices. While the law provided, that they should be excluded from certain offices, and permitted them to hold others, it proved that while it was quite in earnest in the exclusion, the partial admission ought to be scrupulously adhered to. It was the duty of the government to see that in offices to which Catholics were eligible, there should at least be a certain number of them admitted. The right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Canning) was as much convinced as he could be, of the difficulties which lay in the way of remedying the evils which he had stated; and if the right hon. gentleman were as sincerely desirous of affording that remedy, he had no doubt that it was within his power to do so. He did not hesitate to say, that the right hon. gentleman's political conduct hitherto had not inspired him (lord A.) with the greatest confidence; but, now that the right hon. gentleman was in the highest situation that he could hold—for no situation could be found in Europe, or even in the world, which could be said to be a promotion to him—he culled upon him to exert the powers of his distinguished station to this most noble end [hear, hear!]]. That station was only desirable and only honourable, because it afforded him the most eminent opportunities of doing good. He could not be influenced by the mere distinction, nor by the emoluments which accompanied the office he held; but, if the desire of handing down his name to posterity as one of the greatest benefactors to his country had any weight with him, he now called upon the right hon. gentleman, by all his hopes of future fame, to do that which he must be convinced was best calculated to secure the welfare of Ireland. The right hon. gentleman possessed at this moment the power of doing good, in a greater degree than had perhaps ever fallen to the share of any man, and he had not only the power, but the knowledge which was necessary to direct it wisely. He called upon him to pursue that manly and consistent course which was equally required of him by his own reputation and by the interests of Ireland, and to support the question which he should now propose. In doing so, he was sure the right hon. gentleman 664 would have the support of every liberal-minded man in the House; and the approbation of every such man throughout the empire [loud cheering]. The noble lord begged pardon for having occupied so much of the time of the House, and concluded by moving, "That a select Committee be appointed to inquire into the State of Ireland, and to report their observations and opinions thereon to the House."
§ Sir H. Parnell
said: Mr. Speaker; I rise thus early to address the House, from my anxiety to give every support in my power to the noble lord, by seconding the motion he has made; and, as a representative of Ireland, to express my great obligations to him for the excellent speech with which he has opened to the House the most important subject, I may say, of all domestic political subjects—the state of that country. The noble lord, on this occasion, as is his custom on all others, in which the interests of Ireland are concerned, has displayed a most laudable and useful zeal to improve its condition; and when it is considered how great the benefit is, that is conferred on Ireland, by having its affairs treated so ably and so liberally by the noble lord, and, I may also add, by so many other English members, so far, at least, whatever may be the doubts to which the noble lord has alluded in his speech, as entertained by some persons respecting the policy of the Union, there can be no reason for complaint, that the interests of Ireland are not attended to, or not discussed with all the advantages of the most anxious and sincere desire to serve them.
As it appears to me, that there exists a disposition in the House to take all the pains that can be taken to discover what measures are proper for bettering the condition of Ireland, and as also the whole intelligence of this country is now so evidently devoted to this object, I conceive that, as an Irish representative, I can take no more useful course, in addressing the House on the present occasion, than bringing before it a plain statement of facts, with the application of such established principles to those facts, as together shall serve to point out the way by which some amendment may be made in the destitute and distracted state of that country.
Every one, I take it for granted, will agree, that, on entering upon a discussion of the state of Ireland, it is essential to 665 begin by establishing some distinct notion, and to possess some sound opinion, upon the nature of the evil which we propose to inquire into. A great many errors, I trust I may be permitted to say, arise from a habit of running on much too fast in the first onset of all Irish discussions, a practice that leads to the projecting of schemes of improvement, without any patient examination of facts, or any clear conception of the exact grievance to be remedied. That this is the case is clearly proved by the speeches and proceedings that daily take place at meetings of various societies and associations, which, although acting under the influence of the best motives, never display that kind of acquaintance with the real state of Ireland, which would be the result of recurring to principles, and to the example of other nations. We are constantly told, in a general manner, that the distress of Ireland is universal and excessive, without any reference to circumstances, to show in what the distress actually originates, and in what it consists. An investigation into its cause and nature will show, that distress in Ireland means a very different thing from what it means in England. When distress exists in this country, it is commonly the landed interest, the commercial interest, or the manufacturing interest, that is suffering, and the inconvenience, however severe, is sure to be temporary; but when we speak of distress in Ireland, rents, commerce, and manufactures may all be in a flourishing state, and yet distress will not only exist, but be universal and permanent, as habitually belonging to the condition of the lower orders of the people.
After having bestowed considerable pains in examining the various opinions which prevail about Ireland, I am disposed to concur in that of a noble lord, the head of his majesty's government, which was given in another place, and according to which "the state of the peasantry is the grievance, the whole grievance, the great practical evil;" though, perhaps, I may differ in some degree from the noble lord in considering this evil as being much more of a political character than the noble lord will allow it to be. It is unquestionably true that, in whatever view we look at the circumstances of Ireland, the peasantry form the burthen that obstructs the progress of the country from a state of abject misery and general disorder, to one of happiness and tranquillity.
666 They are the class that feel all the distress, at the same time that they are the parties to all the disturbances, The distressed state of Ireland, and the disturbed state of Ireland, are, when put into correct language, the distressed state of the peasantry, and the disturbed state of the peasantry; and therefore, when we set about an inquiry into the state of Ireland, it is about the state and circumstances of Ireland, as they affect the peasantry, that it is our business to occupy ourselves.
When we thus commence the task, and examine patiently into facts, and, by comparing and combining them together, bring our understandings to decide in what the distressed state of the peasantry consists, we shall be irresistibly carried on to the conclusion, that it consists wholly in their extreme poverty. If they live, as they certainly do live, on a description of food that is of the lowest quality; if their habitations are of the meanest structure, and their clothing of the barest kind, their poverty must be extreme, and their habits of life on the lowest scale consistent with the preversation of human existence.
It is this extreme poverty which occasions the whole of their personal sufferings, and accounts for their wretched condition, and places them in a situation of being exposed to the greatest calamities. For it is universally true, that when a people subsist on the cheapest description of food, they are subject to all kinds of miseries and vicissitudes. If a dearth of the article occurs on which they live, they cannot descend lower to attain a substitute: and thus a dearth is inevitably attended with all the horrors of famine: while, in other countries, where the condition of the lower orders is as it ought to be, and where they live by established habit on good food, in the way they live in this country, then, when a dearth of that particular food happens, they are able to obtain a substitute in various other kinds of wholesome food of an inferior kind, by retrenching their expenses in luxuries and conveniences; and though they may suffer great hardship, the duration of it is not long, and they are not exposed to actual want and famine.
The more the case of Ireland is examined the more clearly it will appear, that its extreme poverty alone will account for the miserable condition of the people; not poverty arising from high rents, exorbitant tithes, county cess, or the want of 667 resident landlords, but from a deficiency of wealth to admit of proper wages being paid to the labouring class. And this poverty will not only account for the state of the people, but for many other circumstances in Ireland, of a nature that appear so anomalous as to admit of no satisfactory explanation.
But, if it be true that the distress of the peasantry can be accounted for in this easy and simple manner, and that, after all the supposed impossibility of understanding the case of Ireland, mere poverty there, as it has been in other countries, is the sole cause of distress then no difficulty whatever can exist in pointing out a proper remedy. This remedy must unquestionably be, the establishing of wealth in Ireland; and this to such an extent, that labour shall be so rewarded, that new habits of living may be universally introduced. To seek to introduce such habits without previously securing a vast increase of wealth, will be only embarking in an undertaking which must end in disappointment; for in no country has the condition of the lower orders been rendered comfortable and respectable, or the refinement of the upper class of society been accomplished, except by forming, in the first instance, the foundation of a great accumulation of wealth. No doctrine can be advanced with better support from all past experience, than the doctrine which lays it down, that wealth must exist to a very considerable extent in a country, before society becomes settled, before the lower orders can be raised from abject indigence and barbarous habits, and before civilization can be generally established: and, therefore, to overlook this leading principle, in any plan for improving the condition of Ireland, is to act upon rather an imperfect acquaintance with the true nature of the subject.
If, then, the examining of those facts, which past experience affords us, and a reference to established principles point out the absolute necessity of making Ireland a wealthy country, in order that she may get rid of her present distress, the first object to which all our efforts should be directed is, the acquiring of a great augmentation of her capital.
But, although increased capital will lead to increased employment, we must not be satisfied with merely getting employment for the people; for the whole of the labouring class might be partially 668 and apparently employed, without any real improvement in their condition. In order to secure this improvement it is necessary, that the employment must be so general and so constant, and bear such a proportion to the numbers of the labouring class, as shall secure good wages to them; for until they obtain good real wages, they will not be in a situation to be able to live, except in the miserable manner in which they live at present, that is, in a way that constitutes the whole of the distress which they now suffer. As it is the impossibility of obtaining good wages that compels the Irish labourer to procure a piece of land, for which the competition of his own class fixes a high rent; and that also compels him to live on the poorest subsistence, in wretched habitations, and without a sufficiency of clothing; so the possibility, on the other hand, being afforded him of obtaining good wages, would enable him to become independent of the necessity of cultivating land, and not only to live on a better description of food, but to purchase some of the cheapest articles of our own manufactures and of foreign luxuries. It is just according to whether the labouring class of a country are well paid, that they and their country prosper. Where wages are low, they are obliged to live on the meanest description of food, and when so circumstanced, there exists no incitement to industry; and, in place of a proper effort to better their condition, they are buried in sloth, barbarism, and ignorance. When, however, the wages of labour are really high, the labouring class live well, and are able to purchase articles of luxury and enjoyment, and thus become themselves the source of additional employment. It is therefore, most essential in all countries for the public advantage, that the rate of wages should be as high as possible, so that a taste for luxuries and enjoyments, may thus become general, and if possible made a part of the national habits and prejudices.
It is in consequence of not making a distinction between different quantities of employment, and of their effects; and of not looking to secure such an extent of it as shall establish high wages, that many errors are fallen into, and futile and illusory projects brought forward for improving Ireland. It is from this omission, that the difference arises between me and many Irish members, respecting the effect of the linen manufacture in Ireland; and here 669 I beg to remark, that what I said upon this subject, on the debate on the linen bounties, has been misrepresented by all those members, who since that debate have referred to my opinion. I did not say that the linen manufacture had done no good in Ireland, as I am supposed to have said, for I am fully aware, that many descriptions of persons engaged in it have derived great advantage from it; but what I did say was, that the linen manufacture in Ireland had not been attended with that improvement in the condition of the workmen employed in it, as was the effect of extensive manufactures in other countries: and the reason I gave for this opinion was, that every workman, being also a cultivator of land, after paying a high rent, had not the means left of living, except on the coarsest and poorest food, and thus continued in as great a state of poverty and misery as the rest of the common labourers of the country. That this is the true state of the case, I know no Irish member can deny, and I feel convinced, that I have given a description of the effects of the linen manufacture on the lower orders, that is in no respect erroneous. In corroboration of this opinion, I have lately met with the following passage in Mr. Wakefield's work upon Ireland. After referring to a table which shows, that while the average-rent of land rose from eleven shillings an acre in the year 1779, to one pound seven shillings an acre in the year 1811, and that the average rate of wages for weaving had not increased at all, he says, "We may now discover why the boasted linen manufacture of Ireland, the favourite object of the public, as well as of every Irish minister, had not reflected back upon the people the happiness, which the great amount in pounds, shillings, and pence, delusively points out."
If, then, it is correct to say, that high real wages are absolutely essential to improve the condition of the lower orders of a country, let us examine what must take place before they can be established in Ireland. The mere acquisition of capital will not be sufficient, because the rate of wages depends upon the proportion that capital bears to the number of the labouring class. The real object therefore to be obtained is, that proportion of capital to population, which shall just make labour worth so much as will enable the labourer to live comfortably, and rear his family in a decent and proper manner.
670 When, therefore, we apply this principle to Ireland, a principle which is admitted to be completely established on facts and experience, we must first inquire into the state of capital in Ireland. Two modes exist, by which the capital of Ireland may be increased, one by the accumulation of capital already existing in Ireland; the other by the transfer of English capital to Ireland; and here I beg leave to express some dissent from the opinion of those who seem to think, that the transfer of English capital is of such paramount importance to Ireland as to require legislative interference to promote it. For my own part, I should prefer seeing Irish capital in the course of a regular and rapid increase, leading the country gradually into habits of industry, than seeing large quantities of English capital suddenly thrown into new channels, by the excitement of legislative encouragement and protection.
With respect to the quantity of capital now in Ireland, I am disposed to think it exists to a much greater amount than is generally imagined. The following are the circumstances that induce me to form this opinion: In the first place, the funded property in Dublin, in the shape of a part of the national debt, amounts to about 26,000,000l., the whole of which is commonly believed to be the property of Irishmen. Then there is the great transfer of government stock, from Lon-don to Dublin, that lately took place, soon after the act passed for allowing it to be transferred at par, amounting to nearly 6,000,000l., all of which was considered to be Irish property. In addition to these circumstances, there is the import and export trade of Ireland, amounting to about 18,000,000l. a year. There is also the capital employed in the manufacturing of linen, cotton, wool, and silk, and the capital vested in merchants' and traders' stocks, in machinery, ships, canals, and in a great variety of other occupations.
Now, if every thing shall be done that may be done to promote the accumulation of this Irish capital, I see no reason to doubt that it will soon become of very considerable amount. The great wonder is, how so much capital has been acquired; for if ever there was a country that was afflicted with absurd and ruinous legislative regulations in matters of trade, it is Ireland. The duties, that were called protecting duties, and which have since the Union been called the Union duties, 671 shut out no less than sixteen branches of Irish manufacture from the British market; the custom laws, till last year, exposed every vessel coming from Ireland into Great Britain, or from Great Britain into Ireland, to the same port and light-house charges, and to the same regulations, as the vessel of a foreign country are exposed to. The Excise laws for collecting the duties on spirits, malt, leather, and paper, were so altered, about twenty five years ago, as to break down all small capitalists; and it appears, from the evidence given before the Commissioners of Inquiry, that these laws required such a system of manufacture to be followed, that made it impossible for good malt, leather, or paper, to be produced in Ireland. In addition to these obstructions to the accumulation of capital, there was a very imperfect security of property; the people lived under unequal laws, and the country was continually in a state of open insurrection and disturbance.
Notwithstanding, however, all these very unfavourable circumstances, there can be no doubt that there must have been a great increase of capital in Ireland from about the year 1802 to the year 1815. In 1807 the free trade in corn was established, and, during the period referred to, Ireland had all the advantages of the continually high markets of England, while she raised her agricultural produce with the assistance of a fertile soil and very cheap labour. As the rate of prices in Ireland continued for ten years to be from twice to three times as high as they had ever before been, prodigious sums of money must have been realized, and laid up in the form of accumulated capital.
After the year 1815, on the other hand, considerable losses were sustained, in consequence of the great fall in prices: a very great amount of rents have never been paid, and the whole class of middle men nave been very seriously injured. The failure of eleven banks, in 1821, in the south of Ireland, was attended with very heavy losses. Still, however, after all, the rate of rent is higher now than it was before 1802. The number of tradesmen throughout the country is greatly increased, and their shops better stocked. All the manufacturers have been in a very flourishing condition; the business of merchants has been going on to a great extent; and during the last twenty years a great body of small farmers have grown up out of the ranks of the labouring class, 672 who possess some small capital in cattle or farming stock.
But, to turn from the time past to the consideration of the probability of a considerable accumulation of capital in future, there is, it appears to me, every reason to feel confident, that a very great accumulation will rapidly take place. The entire repeal of the Union duties places Ireland under such new and such favourable circumstances, in respect to her manufactures, that no one can say what limit there will be to their extension. The experience of only a few months affords reason for expecting, that the cotton manufacture will become one of great importance; and all the other manufactures are already beginning to feel the beneficial influence of having the English market open to them. The measures, which were adopted last session for getting rid of the system of drawbacks and countervailing duties, and for placing the trade between Great Britain and Ireland on the footing of the coasting trade, have already increased it very considerably. In respect to the Excise laws, which have hitherto kept down industry, and fettered all internal trade, there was a notice, he was particularly glad to see, on the book, for this evening, for a measure to repeal the laws relating to leather and paper, and for introducing the English laws and regulations in place of them. There was also a notice of a measure, which would assist very much the progress of industry and wealth, namely, the repealing of the act of George the second, by which the banking trade of Ireland was regulated. The provisions of this act were, like all the statutes of the Irish Parliament relating to any trade, just exactly of a kind to depress and ruin the trade they professed to protect. These provisions have a direct effect to prevent banks from being founded upon large capitals, and to prevent the class of persons most competent to manage then well from being bankers. By the establishing of new banks with large capitals, on the principles of the Scotch banks, credit will be greatly extended, and thus, at once, a great additional capital will be. created. If the plan of paying interest on deposits is introduced, it will lead to putting an end to the practice of hoarding that now prevails over all Ireland, and to the bringing forth and making useful a quantity of money now wholly unproductive.
Little, in fact, remains to be done in 673 the way of fiscal and commercial regulation to place Ireland in a proper situation to have every advantage for becoming rich, except the equalization of duties on a few articles when passing from one country to the other, and getting rid of some inconvenient restrictions, that the collection of those duties require.
But in respect to measures of a political character, that are of the highest importance in regard to their influence in impeding or promoting the accumulation of capital, a great deal still should be done. It is most essential to establish a due administration of the law. Every one, however humble his situation, should feel that he enjoys equal justice and protection, without distinction of sect or party. The principle of security of property is so imperfect as to require the constant attention of parliament. There is a great impediment in the way of commercial credit, arising out of the difficulty to enforce writs of execution. After the full exposure of the practices of sub-sheriffs in the debate upon the petition presented in the last session, by the member for Winchelsea, concerning the administration of justice in Ireland, I find, with regret, that no measure has yet been introduced for correcting them. The right hon. gentlemen, the chief secretary for Ireland and the secretary of state for the home department, told the House in that debate that a remedy should be applied; but a year has passed away, and no measure has been proposed.
There was still another, and a greater object to be secured than any of those already mentioned, to give full effect to industry and parsimony in accumulating capital, and that was the putting an end for ever to the system of disturbance and insurrection, which has so constantly existed in Ireland during the last thirty years. Those measures should no longer be deferred, that have been pointed out by a succession of the ablest statesmen, as fit to provide a proper remedy for this great evil. The cause of it should be acknowledged to be the unequal and exclusive system of law under which the people live, and the great work of a political settlement of Ireland should at last be accomplished; for until this is done all the attempts that may be made to improve Ireland will be diverted from their proper course, and rendered but of little use.
In respect to the transfer of capital from England to Ireland, great obstacles have 674 existed to obstruct it, but now there is a great deal going over in the natural course of trade; for since the Union duties have been repealed on cotton goods, very large quantities of cotton yarn have been sent from Manchester and Glasgow to Ireland to be wove into cloth, and in that shape returned to the owners of the yarn. In this way a considerable English capital provided employment for a number of Irish weavers. The Union duties on woollen and silk goods having been repealed in the course of this session, there is every reason to expect that worsted yarn and thrown silk would be sent to Ireland to be wove, and returned to England. Already, in consequence of the new facilities which have been afforded to commercial intercourse between the two countries, the Irish retail dealers are obtaining large supplies of goods, from Liverpool and other English towns, on such credit, that they are able to turn the goods into money before the bills, with which they are paid for, become due; and in this way also, English capital is useful to Ireland. In addition to all this, English capitalists have opened large wholesale and retail commission houses in Dublin and other large towns in Ireland, for the sale of all descriptions of English goods; so that, in point of fact, the measures which of late have been adopted for carrying general principles into operation, by establishing a free commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland, have already led to a very considerable transfer of English capital to Ireland.
With respect to new legislative measures for promoting the transfer of English capital, I cannot approve of any of those which have been proposed for obtaining it by legislative encouragement. The best measure that can be adopted, and which is not of this description, is that which was lately brought before the House by a learned serjeant, the repeal of the usury laws. I believe, that the average rate of profit in Ireland would admit of seven or eight per cent being given for the use of money with advantage to the borrower; and could this rate of interest be legally received, there would be no reason to doubt, that many English capitalists would be willing to lend their money on those terms in Ireland.
The measures which have been suggested in respect to the establishing of security of property, correcting the practices of sub-sheriffs, and suppressing dis- 675 turbances, as applicable to promote the accumulation of Irish capita), are equally desirable in order to induce the transfer of English capital; for it is not to be expected, that, so long as so much cause for apprehending risk exists, that capital will circulate as freely as it ought to circulate through all parts of the United Kingdom.
I have now stated to the House all the various circumstances that occur to me, as calculated to explain the state of capital in Ireland. I have shown, that its actual amount is already considerable; that this amount has been accumulated under every kind of obstruction; that several measures have recently been adopted, that promise a rapid increase of it; that a large quantity of English capital now is actually occupied in giving employment to the weavers, and in affording assistance in the way of credit to the shopkeepers; and I have mentioned certain measures, that the legislature should still enact for the purpose of removing difficulties that impede the further accumulation of capital; and from all these circumstances I draw the conclusion, that Ireland is in a fair way of acquiring a great accession of wealth, and with it the means of giving more employment to her people.
But if this expectation shall be realized, still the great object of effecting an improvement in the condition of the lower orders will not be accomplished, if the present number of the people should rapidly increase; because the proportion which capital now bears to population, will not be altered, and no better wages will be paid to the labouring class, after such an increase of employment, than the wages which are now paid to them. The success, therefore, of all the efforts that individuals may make to accumulate capital, and that the legislature may adopt to remove obstacles in the way of that accumulation, will depend upon some great change taking place, in the progress with which population has of late years been going forward.
But whether or not the increase of population can be restrained, must rest upon those causes continuing to have operation, which have brought it to its present amount. To be able to check the increase of it by any direct legislative measures, would be attended with so many difficulties as to render it very improbable that any will be undertaken; and, therefore, all that we can look forward to is, the influence 676 of landlords, and a corrected notion being established among the lower orders, of the injury they do to each other by the custom of early marriages.
Every one, who has ever considered the question of Irish population agrees, that the use of the potatoe, as the food of the lower orders, is the principal cause of its superabundance; but this habit of living on potatoes can never be got rid of, even partially, till the people can earn sufficient wages to enable them to afford to live upon a better description of food. Mr. Malthus, who has taken great pains to inform himself of the state of the peasantry of Ireland, and who gives, in his work on the principles of political economy, a very able account of their circumstances, says, "I am persuaded, that had it not been for the potatoe, the population of Ireland would not have been more than doubled, instead of quadrupled, during the last century. *
But the use of the potatoe could never have been attended with this great increase of population, had it not been assisted by the long-established and unrestrained practice of subdividing farms. This has been carried to such an extent, as to be scarcely credible, except to those who have had an opportunity of seeing it. The origin of this practice is to be discovered in another practice, that prevailed universally some years ago, of granting leases of lives renewable for ever, or leases for three lives and thirty-one years. The proprietors in fee thus placed their estates out of their own* Principles of Political Economy, p. 232. Seventy years ago, Ireland was one of the thinnest-peopled countries in Europe, and now she is one of the most densely peopled. Sir William Petty estimated the population in 1672 at 1,100,000. Captain South estimated it, in 1695, at 1,034,000. According to the returns of the hearth-money collectors of the number of houses in Ireland, and allowing six inhabitants for each house, the population in 1754 was 2,372,634; in 1785,2,845,932. In 1821, according to the official returns, it was 6,846,949. Sir William Petty, Sir William Temple, Primate Boulter, Bishop Berkley, and Dean Swift, all well informed and accurate observers, who wrote prior to 1740, join in representing Ireland as exceedingly destitute of in habitants.—Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxvii, p. 104.677 power: their tenants became landlords over other tenants; these again over others; while the actual occupiers have followed the custom of the country, of dividing off their farms among their sons or daughters, when old enough to marry.
Under the circumstances, however, in which the landlords of Ireland have been placed, it is not just to make it a matter of charge against them, that they have wilfully or ignorantly mismanaged their estates. The practice of granting long leases arose, in point of fact, out of the necessity of the case. For let it be remembered who the landlords of Ireland were at the latter end of the seventeenth century, and under what a state of things they obtained their estates, and were obliged to manage them. The wars and forfeitures of the seventeenth century had led to the expulsion of the old proprietors, and to the extirpation of the natural tenantry of the country. The whole of Ireland, with the exception of a few estates, had been forfeited, and granted, principally, to the officers and followers of the English army, who kept the non-commissioned officers and soldiers, to make tenants of them. In this way, in a short space of time, the whole landed property changed hands, both in respect to landlords and to tenants.
Such was the settlement of the landed property of Ireland, not more than one hundred and fifty years ago. No county, surely, ever underwent such a total derangement of property. After suffering a revolution of this kind, it is by no means extraordinary that we have still remaining many of those bad practices, as to the management of it, that invariably followed. When gentlemen make a contrast between English and Irish management, let it be remembered, that the order and settlement of property in this country has been brought to its present perfect state after many ages of uninterrupted possession, and many years of internal tranquillity, and established civilization.
In consequence of the scarcity of persons fit to be made tenants immediately after the civil wars of the seventeenth century, the new proprietors were obliged to grant very long leases at low rents, to induce tenants to undertake to pay them; and the difficulty of obtaining tenants having continued, so has this system of long leases continued till within a very 678 few years. While the prices of corn remained low, the original and immediate tenants kept their farms in grass; they had only a few labourers living on their lands, and the population remained small in number. But when the prices of corn advanced, as they did soon after certain commercial and political disabilities were taken off in Ireland in 1776, then it became a matter of greater profit to the grazing tenant to let his land in small farms; and thus commenced the system of middle-men and small farms as they now exist. The high prices to which corn arrived since 1800, carried this practice of underletting to that amazing extent, which is the cause of the present dense population. So that the whole of the evils belonging to the subdivision of land has followed as the natural consequence of the derangement of the landed property of Ireland, which took place in the seventeenth century.
Although, however, it is but justice to the landlords of Ireland, to defend them from the charge of mismanaging their estates; they will be liable to very great blame if, for the future, they do not exert all their influence to introduce a plan more suitable to the circumstances of the present times. The old leases are now daily becoming extinct, and landlords are thus recovering their rights over their property; and if they will now steadily pursue that course, which even their own interests require to be pursued, they may contribute to produce, in a certain degree, a beneficial change, in respect of the improving of the lower orders of the people. It is most desirable that they should fully comprehend the evil of subdividing farms, and thereby of assisting to increase the population; if they will take the trouble of examining the influence of the population continuing to increase as fast as it has of late increased; and will arrive at understanding, that, if it does so increase, the increase of capital, and increase of employment, will be still inadequate to afford the labouring class good wages, and make any change in their condition; they will all be induced to act upon a common principle, of exercising their whole influence, in the first place, against any new subdivisions of their estates, and in the second place for bringing about a consolidation of small farms.
Among the causes, which are frequently set forth to account for the great population of Ireland, the system of forty shil- 679 ling freeholders is commonly said to be a principal one. But I have some doubts concerning the accuracy of this opinion. Judging from my own experience, in my own county, I should say, that the influence of this system had been overstated; for before it became an object to the landlords to increase the number of the freehold tenants on their estates, the land had been subdivided into very small farms, under leases for twenty-one years; and when more freeholders were to be made, the way of proceeding was, to give a life to their tenants, in addition to the years for which their lease had to run. But, whether or not the same circumstances have existed in other countries, I will not take it upon myself to determine, knowing, as I do, how much in Ireland one county frequently differs from another.
The practice of giving joint leases, that is of giving a large tract of ground to several persons in one lease, to hold jointly for their common benefit, has had in some places a great effect in increasing the number of wretched families, and in keeping on foot the worst description of husbandry.
But in addition to what landlords may have it in their power to do, to restrain the future increase of families, it may not be hazarding a conjecture undeserving of attention to say, that, in the natural course of things, the progress of capital will serve in some degree to provide a new means of restraining the increase of population. For according as the farmers shall acquire capital, they will become desirous of getting more land, at the same time that they will be able to pay high rents, and be in every respect much more eligible as tenants than the labouring class, or the very small farmers. A preference will, therefore, naturally be given to them by the landlords, and thus they will be continually encroaching upon the poorer occupiers of the soil, till the whole of the country may, in time, be settled in regular farms, and the labouring class obliged to live in villages, and to subsist on their wages, in place of living, as they now do, by being cultivators of land. This course of things has of late years taken place in the highlands of Scotland. There whole districts of country, that fifty years ago were partially inhabited with people who cultivated the fertile parts of the valleys, and reared cattle on the mountains, are now wholly depopulated, and have got into the hands of opulent sheep farmers. This change was brought about by the influence of capital, 680 and the higher rents the sheep farmers, in consequence of their money were able to pay. Such has been the result of the competition between capital and poverty in Scotland, and there seems to be every reason for looking forward to a similar result arising, although not very soon, from similar causes in Ireland. Was it soon to happen, the next great grievance which would be heard of would be that of the landlords, still too greedy of rent, turning off the lower orders from their estates, to make room for their more opulent rivals.
I have now submitted to the consideration of the House all that has occurred to me, as fit to be stated on the important subjects of the capital and the population of Ireland. I have shown, that there is reason to expect a large augmentation of capital; but, in respect to population, I have not been able to bring forward any reasons to justify an expectation, that the increase of it is now, or soon will be, less rapid than it has been of late years; and therefore, in the view I take of the question, there appears to be no immediate prospect of such an extent of employment of the labouring class as will secure to them good and sufficient wages, and thus be attended with any improvement in their condition. Nothing can have a chance of effecting this but a great combined effort to do, upon the one hand, all that can be done to promote the accumulation of capital, and, on the other, all that can be done to restrain the progress of the increase of population.
Whether or not the attempt to carry the latter object can now be calculated upon as likely to succeed, under the actual circumstances of the population of Ireland, is, in my opinion, extremely doubtful; and I am on the whole disposed to come to this conclusion, that there exists a probability of the most alarming and injurious consequences, flowing from a still further increase of the people, so strong and so well founded as to demand the most serious and immediate attention of government and of the legislature.
In thus placing the practicability of improving the condition of Ireland, upon the proportion which capital shall be brought to bear to population, I may with some confidence say, that I advance no new doctrine, nor one that is disputed by any person of authority on subjects of this kind. This doctrine rests upon the principle, that no country can be really in the state it ought to be in, till its la- 681 bouring class are well paid, and able to enjoy the comforts and conveniences of life, and thus become themselves the consumers of the productions of each other's labour. To be in such a state, a country must have acquired great wealth; and, in the first instance, therefore, in order sufficiently to employ its people, it is wealth that Ireland mainly stands in need of. If, at the same time that wealth is acquired, the population shall be restrained, every improvement will follow; for this is the true source of every thing that is valuable and perfect, in manners, morals, and civilization. This has been the case in all nations and in all ages; and, as the acquiring of wealth will chiefly contribute to secure these great objects, so will the want of it explain the cause, why Ireland and many other countries still are to be found filled with misery and disorder.
Before I conclude, I beg to call the attention of the English part of the House, to the consideration of the manner in which the best interests of England may be affected, if the population of Ireland shall go on rapidly increasing. England is not only greatly interested in improving the condition of the lower orders in Ireland, for the sake of Ireland, but also for her own sake, and to prevent a deterioration in the condition of her own labouring class. For, suppose the population of Ireland shall go on increasing from seven to ten or to twelve millions, without being employed in Ireland, will not immense numbers, in the course of time, find their way over to England? Although I differ from those members, who think that emigration from Ireland to the Colonies might be carried on to an extent to make an impression in reducing the population, and that on the grounds that it would merely afford greater facilities to the remaining population to increase their numbers, unless some very strong measures were taken to prevent such an increase; I feel quite certain, that there will be a great emigration of labourers from Ireland to England; not of labourers coming over for the harvest and returning to Ireland, but of young able labourers, who will settle permanently in England. This practice is already becoming very general. The wages and treatment they receive in England enable them to write home very favourable accounts of themselves; and, what is still of greater influence to others to follow their example, they send money to their relations. When I was in Ireland 682 last winter, I heard of several young men, who were seeking certificates of character, preparatory to setting off for England; and from all the information I collected, I found that the practice was becoming general.
Every thing is favourable to this species of emigration; the facility and safety of communication has contributed to promote it; and if the present small farmers are prevented, by a change in the mode of managing estates, from dividing their farms among their sons, their sons will be obliged to leave home, and they will naturally go to England. But, if this emigration shall become as extensive as a greatly increased population will admit of, and if the consequence of multitudes of Irish coming to England should be the introduction of the potatoe diet to a considerable degree into England, will not the wages of the English labourer be lowered, his means of living comfortably diminished, his habits changed, and also his feelings and his disposition; so as to produce a very mischievous alteration in the condition and character of the lower orders of this country? May not, and will not such a transfer of people from Ireland to England, in this way, contribute to a great increase in the poor-rates? Surely then, under a probability of these things taking place, it well becomes those, who are entrusted with the care of the interests of England, to use every exertion to avert so great a public calamity as the depression of the condition of the lower orders. When it is considered what an important part of society the lower orders of this country are, how much the character, the wealth, and the power of the country depend upon them, no greater duty can devolve upon parliament than the protection of them from such a competition, as would confer no advantage on any one, and could only be followed by their degradation and ruin.
On the other hand, if by taking proper measures in time, Ireland shall become so wealthy as to be able to employ all her own people, how numerous and important are the benefits that will be the result to England? In place of the people of England paying, as they now pay, between three and four millions a year, for defraying that part of the public expenditure which belongs to the administration of government and to the debt of Ireland, she would, as a necessary consequence of Ireland becoming a wealthy country, 683 receive from Irish taxation a considerable net revenue in aid of her own. The present consumption of taxed commodities is nothing in Ireland, in comparison to her population; but, if from two to three millions of people could be raised from their present condition, so as to be enabled to purchase such commodities, the produce of the taxes upon them would be increased to a very great amount. Such a result under the financial circumstances of England, would be no small aid, not only by its operation in diminishing the charge upon England, but by the means which it would afford, and that to a very great extent, of reducing the taxes now paid in this country.
Feeling, Mr. Speaker, as I do the great importance of applying acknowledged and established principles to the inquiry into the state of the peasantry of Ireland. I shall not say any thing upon the various topics that might he urged on the present occasion, that would lead the attention of the House from the way of viewing the subject, that appears to me to be the most useful and most correct.
In respect to the second part of the case of the Irish peasantry, the disturbed state in which they are habitually living, as the discussion on the renewal of the Insurrection act will afford frequent opportunities of speaking upon it, I shall postpone making any further observations: and I shall conclude by seconding the motion that the noble lord has put into your hands.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that in the observations which he should feel it his duty to submit to the House, he would endeavour to confine himself to those questions which ought properly to be taken into consideration on the present occasion, and would avoid entering into the wide field of inquiry which had been opened by the noble lord. If the House would recollect the part which he had taken when questions of a similar nature had been discussed, they would have little doubt as to the course which he would pursue with respect to the present motion. He could not, consistently with his sense of duty, accede to the motion of the noble lord. But, when he stated this, he begged leave to say, that he felt no disposition to limit any inquiry into the state of Ireland, except so far as appeared necessary in order that any such inquiry might be attended with an advantageous result. The noble lord called for the appointment of a com- 684 mittee to take into consideration the general state of Ireland, both with respect to its past history and its present situation. The noble lord's argument was, that because a committee of that House might be able to accomplish this arduous task, it ought therefore to undertake it. He (Mr. G.) was of opinion, that if a committee should be appointed to take into consideration all the topics to which the noble lord had adverted, little hope could be entertained that their labours would produce any useful result. What were the subjects which the noble lord wished to be submitted to the consideration of a select committee? The relations between landlord and tenant—the state of the revenue—the whole history of grand jury presentments—the church establishment—the tithe system, both past and present—and, above all, the proposition, whether what was called the Roman Catholic question was not the origin of all the evils which afflicted Ireland. These were the subjects which the noble lord wished to persuade the House to refer to a select committee. He would ask the noble lord to reflect, and then to say, whether he considered the last question a fit subject for the consideration of a committee of that House. If it were, why had the House for the last twenty years been debating that question? If the report of a select committee would settle that important question, why had it not been resorted to at an earlier period? Although he was not disposed to consent to the noble lord's motion, it was his intention to submit to the House the necessity of instituting, by means of a select committee, an inquiry into the most considerable branch of the subject, which the noble lord had introduced to the notice of the House. The House would recollect, that not many days ago he had given notice of a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the nature and extent of the disturbances which prevailed in several districts of Ireland in which the Insurrection act had been in operation. Having by an accidental circumstance, lost the opportunity of bringing that motion before the House at the time for which he had fixed it, he intended to move it as an amendment to the noble lord's motion on the present occasion. When it was recollected, that the Insurrection act had been in operation in several large counties of Ireland, namely, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Kerry, 685 and Clare, it could not be said that the inquiry which he proposed would not give a pretty fair view of the state of the country. The argument of the noble lord was, that because there had been a partial disturbance in Ireland, it was expedient to institute an inquiry into the general state of the country. Such a course had never been pursued on any former occasion. It would, however, be remembered, that in the last session he had stated, that should it unhappily appear to be his duty to apply for a renewal of the Insurrection act, as applicable to particular districts, it would be necessary for him to move the House to preface such a measure by some careful inquiry into the state of those districts. And though at the beginning of that session hopes were entertained by his majesty's government that it might be dispensed with, it was soon discovered, that the state of insubordination and disorder in which some parts of Ireland were plunged was such, that the noble lord at the head of its government was compelled to apply for its enactment. Having stated the reasons upon which he should propose to proceed on the subject now before the House, he would next address himself to some of the subjects which had been touched upon by the hon. baronet. One of the charges which that hon. baronet had adduced against the government of Ireland was, that notwithstanding all the representations and complaints which had been made to it, respecting the manner in which the offices of sheriffs and sub-sheriffs of that country were filled and their functions discharged, nothing had been done to remedy the grievances alleged. But this was hardly doing justice to the government; who had, in truth, taken every possible legal means to remedy the mischiefs that had existed, owing to the state of those departments. Attempts also had been made to bring guilt home to certain individuals to whom it had been strongly imputed; and if those attempts, in respect of persons who were suspected of having misused the rights and authority of office, had not been prosecuted to inquiry into their conduct, it was only because it did not seem to the government advisable, under the present circumstances of Ireland, to pursue matters to that extent. But, it was well known that active and intelligent commissioners were carrying on investigations in that country, among which the state of these offices was included as a principal 686 subject of inquiry; and very shortly he should be prepared to lay upon the table the report of their proceedings. The noble lord had insinuated broadly, that Roman Catholics were studiously excluded from those offices and appointments to which they were by law eligible: but, in his warmth, the noble lord surely had stated this proposition more strongly than he himself could have intended. As this was a topic upon which he was anxious to exonerate the government of Ireland from all blame, the House would excuse his entering into an explanation. In the first place, he begged to repeat his former assertion, that in every appointment to offices in Ireland, where Catholics had been by law eligible to fill them, there had not been, either on the part of the present lord-lieutenant, or of those who acted immediately under him, any consideration shown for the religion of any party. It had been felt by the members of the government to be their duty, in all cases, to appoint the most fit officer to be employed, without regard to the nature of his religious persuasion. For his own part, he could conscientiously affirm, that since the period of his connexion with Ireland, since the appointment of the marquis Wellesley, he had been generally in total ignorance of the religion professed by the government officers; and in that ignorance should probably have remained up to the present hour, but for the inquiries that had recently been directed by parliament on the subject, and of which the printed results were now in the hands of members. If the House would recur to the late appointments in the police, they would detect nothing like the systematic exclusion which had been complained of. By the lists upon the table, it would be seen, that of the 1,800 persons employed in the police establishment of Ireland, 900 were Roman Catholics: and this would appear a fair proportion, when the peculiar circumstances of the country were taken into consideration. On every principle of justice and expediency, the government were bound to enlist in this important service those who had been already tried and found trust-worthy, without any regard to the religious tenets they might happen to profess. It was also to be recollected, that when this police was newly organized, the militia of Ireland had been just disembodied: it became, therefore, impossible for the government not to listen to the claims of 687 those who having been already most effective in one branch of their service, now offered themselves as candidates for another. On the whole, he thought it was obvious, that the government had acted with the strictest impartiality towards its Roman Catholic subjects, and with the consideration due to their merits. With respect, again, to the legal appointments made by the present lord-lieutenant, no man could examine them with-out at once seeing that the lord-lieutenant had not been actuated by any exclusive feeling, but was quite willing to extend to Roman Catholic talent and desert every possible encouragement. Since the present lord-lieutenant had presided over the government of Ireland, official situations in that country, to the value of 8,700l. a year, had been conferred on different persons. Of these, appointments, to the value of 3,000l. per annum had been bestowed upon Roman Catholics. There was, therefore, no ground for charging the Irish government with entertaining a desire to exclude Roman Catholics from the fair participation of office. Another subject to which the noble lord had adverted was, the interests of the church establishment of Ireland; and from his views on that subject, it seemed as if the noble lord thought that a different distribution of its revenues, or at least a diminution of them, would be productive of benefit. On that very momentous consideration, he (Mr. G.) was prepared explicitly to say, that he considered the wealth of that establishment as most conducive to the general interests. He admitted that the Irish church was most liberally and amply endowed; that, compared with the church of England, it was greatly superior in wealth; yet still he would contend, that in the circumstances of Ireland, taking into consideration the double duty which the clergymen of that establishment discharged—viewing them in their joint capacity of ministers of religion and resident gentry, that remuneration should be dealt out to them undivided and unimpaired. In reference to the observations that had been made respecting the conflicting parties in Ireland, his opinions and wishes were decidedly opposed to their continuance. To one of them he would address his earnest entreaties, that they would desist from proceedings fraught with inevitable mischiefs to their country; and to the Orangemen he would gay, "Abandon a system, 688 the evil effects of which produce disquiet to the kingdom, and may ultimately revert upon your own heads." Thinking that the course he should propose was calculated to produce the utmost benefit that Ireland could derive from this sort of proceeding—that it would lead to that inquiry which was necessary to found any future measures in her behalf, and prevent those endless differences which might otherwise arise, as to the mode of ascertaining how far it was possible, effectively and speedily to restore peace and prosperity to Ireland, he should move as an amendment, to leave out all the words of the original motion, after the word "into," and to substitute in their stead these—"The nature and extent of the disturbances that have prevailed in those districts of Ireland which are now subject to the operation of the Insurrection act."
§ Lord Milton
observed, that he fully concurred with the right hon. secretary for Ireland, that it was essentially necessary to inquire into the nature and extent of the disturbances which had so long prevailed in certain districts of Ireland; but, while he felt that necessity, he could not accede to the limited proposition of the right hon. gentleman, which endeavoured, by a side wind, to get rid of that general and comprehensive investigation, which was alone competent to put parliament and the country in possession of the real situation of the people of Ireland, the evils which afflicted them, and the correctives which such a continued state of distress and discontent required. One thing, however, was admitted by the speech of the right hon. gentleman, the admission of which, however to be regretted, was still an advantage in looking to the future. It was that at least in a part of that country there had been a long continued system of misgovernment. After six centuries, since the conqueror gave the law to a conquered people, the secretary to the Irish government had admitted, that though in some districts the condition of the people was favourable, yet in large, and opulent, and important districts of Ireland, such was its actual state of distress and insubordination, that at length the long-denied parliamentary inquiry was essentially necessary. But still it was necessary, that the powers of that House, in making such inquiry, should, in the view of the right hon. gentleman, be partial. He had presumed, that, by adding together the dif- 689 ferent kinds and degrees of information, which, from one channel or the other, had been collected, the House of Commons could obtain the fullest information. There he differed with the right hon. gentleman; for he apprehended, that it was impossible for that House to understand the actual condition of Ireland from any such limited information as that which the state of the counties under the operation of the Insurrection act, could afford. The evils of that country were, he feared, too deep-seated to be understood without a far more comprehensive inquiry. We should ascertain many other points. We should know the genuine relation in which landlord and tenant, employer and operative, stood in respect to each other. We ought to be accurately informed of the reciprocal relation in which the different religious sects of that country stood towards each other. He knew it was a very general opinion, that the exclusion of Roman Catholics from eligibility to office, was not one of those evils which was felt generally by the Irish population—that the great body of that community were uninfluenced by the disqualifications of its higher orders. Nothing, he believed, was more ill-founded than that assumption. It was impossible to degrade any portion of a large community, without every member of it feeling personal degradation. To exclude the higher orders of the Roman Catholic body from all share and participation in the government of their country, was not alone felt by them as a degradation. The stigma was felt also by the middling, and even by the humblest order of that community. He spoke from personal observation, when he asserted, that the humblest labourer in Ireland, the tenant of the mud-walled cottage, felt, as a personal indignity and degradation, the exclusion of the Roman Catholic peer from his just share in the government of the country. Another great error prevailed with respect to this point. It was believed, that there was no real ground of complaint, because there were no offices to which the middling classes of the Catholics could be appointed, from which they were excluded. The fact was directly the reverse. There existed a number of offices which they could 611, but which the exclusion system withheld from them. Sufficient had fallen from honourable members of that House, to warrant that general inquiry which his 690 noble friend called for. The gallant member for Fermanagh (general Archdall), had unequivocally declared that, in Ireland, the terms Protestant and Orangeman were synonymous, and that for the personal safety of the Protestants it was necessary to unite and organize. Such was the declaration of an Irish landlord, a representative of an Irish county. Candidly and unequivocally, he had stated, that it was necessary to the security of the Protestant proprietor of the soil, that he should be arrayed in a hostile association against his Catholic tenantry. Was that a state of things compatible with good government? Was that a condition of society which could last? Had not that condition, so horrible to contemplate, so irreconcilable with good government, been the result of law? After six centuries of misgovernment, after two centuries and a half of proscription, after the confiscation of nine-tenths of the property of the Irish people, still continuing the remnants of that prescriptive code which made five-sixths of that people slaves, and invested the remaining sixth with the character and power of a tyrannical oligarchy, was it to be wondered at that Ireland was thus circumstanced? Was that a state of things which ought to last? Was it not a state of things that parliament ought fully to investigate; or could it, if it did not inquire, expect that any people would submit to be longer governed under it? The House had had a speech from another hon. gentleman from Ireland (the member for Cavan), who, with somewhat of the warmth of youth, had declared it the intention of the Ribbonmen to separate Ireland from Great Britain, and massacre all the Protestants. If these statements, proceeding from such respectable authorities, were at all founded, was not that another unanswerable reason for inquiry? If they were true, what was the inference? That the Protestants of Ireland, consisting of one fifth of the population, were a mere garrison in that country, hemmed in and surrounded by hostile armies, four times more numerous than themselves. He did not, in his own judgment, believe that either of these statements was borne out by the fact; but as such was the impression of highly respectable members, possessing a just influence in that House, it was conclusive in his mind to warrant the adoption of his noble friend's motion. The right hon. secretary for Ireland had viewed the church 691 establishment of that country in rather an extraordinary light. He (lord M.) was not disposed to indulge in anything which might be supposed to reflect on the Protestant Church. But when the right hon. gentleman talked of viewing them in the double capacity of ministers of religion and resident gentry, he must say, that with respect to the latter character, it was idle to expect that the Irish people should so consider them. Surely there was an admitted difference between the proprietor of the soil, in his connexion with a tenantry, and a resident clergyman, known only to them by his demand for his tithe. In Ireland, too, where that tithe was drawn from a population, nine-tenths of whom were of a different religion, did not a resident landed gentleman stand in a far different light from such a clergyman? The owner of the soil must, from the nature of circumstances, have an interest in the prosperity of his tenant, while the clergy of the Irish establishment had none. A thorough inquiry into the state of Ireland must at length force itself upon the attention of that House. Very great ignorance prevailed in England as to the actual condition of that country. That ignorance must be dispelled; and no mode was better calculated to produce such a result than the motion of his noble friend. The report of such a committee would spread great knowledge throughout the whole kingdom. Until the gentry of Great Britain were made acquainted with the real condition of Ireland, that country would continue to be misgoverned. He did not believe there was a country in western Europe, so little known to the people of England, as that very member of the Empire—Ireland, which had now been connected with it for 600 years. How was it that the capitalists of England were afraid to transfer capital to that country? Was it not the consciousness of insecurity in Ireland? Whence came that insecurity? Was it not from continued misgovernment? But, unsatisfactory as was the state of Ireland, he must say that there existed alarms in the minds of the English capitalists on this point which were not justified by the circumstances. He was satisfied, however, that if English capital went to Ireland, it must go thither by the natural course of things, and not in consequence of any forced system. He was anxious for the committee proposed by his noble friend, in order that 692 the English capitalist might be told that his capital might go to Ireland in perfect safety. It had been said, that the disturbed state of Ireland was attributable to something in the national character of the Irish. The fact, however, was, that it had been produced by the English; who had begun by conquering, and ended by barbarizing Ireland. He had listened with great satisfaction to the advice which the right hon. gentleman had given to the Orange lodges in Ireland; and he begged to suggest that there were ways of conveying that advice, and especially to public officers, which would render it effectual. It had been the system of England to govern Ireland by a faction. To secure their influence in Ireland, the English government had had recourse to acts of corruption. If the House would look back to the history of Ireland for the last century and a half, they would find, that the great men of this country seemed to consider Ireland as a place in which they could satisfactorily provide for their dependants; and to fancy that those who could not be retained in this country with any deference to public opinion, might be advantageously sent to the sister island. Of this he was persuaded, that the condition of Ireland would never be extensively and permanently improved, until the government was strong enough to say to the Orangemen and the Ribbonmen that they should not array themselves hostilely against one another. Whenever he found a government ill-administered, he always ascribed the fault to the governors and not to the governed. But it had been the fashion, with respect to Ireland, to shut their eyes against the fact; to take it for granted, that all that was doing was right, because what was done by government could not be wrong; to conceive that the higher orders in that country were all perfection, and the lower all imperfection. All the circumstances which had hitherto conspired to produce misgovernment must be known, before it could be expected that Ireland would be governed well. At present, the state of Ireland was full of anomalies and absurdities. If a Roman Catholic priest presumed to marry a Catholic to a Protestant; he was liable to a fine of 500l. It was, indeed, still capable of legal argument, whether the Popish priest who solemnized such a marriage, was not liable to the punishment of death. The law by which such 693 a punishment was denounced, had been repealed only by implication, and not by positive abrogation. Therefore if any one asserted, that the penal code of Ireland had ceased to be oppressive and sanguinary, he denied the accuracy of the statement. One circumstance, of great importance, was the influence which the Catholic priesthood possessed over their flocks. He by no means wished that influence to be destroyed; but he wished it to be rendered more moderate and beneficial to the country. The best way of effecting this desirable object would be, by making the Catholic body so enlightened, that no pernicious influence could be exercised over them. The circum-Stances which rendered inquiry advisable did not exist in Munster only, to which province principally the right hon. gentleman would wish the investigation to be confined. It was requisite that the condition of every part of Ireland should be made known to the people of Ireland, in order that they might appreciate the value of the government of that country—he did not mean the government of the noble marquis at present at its head, but of the government generally, of the upper branches of society, as standing in relation to their inferiors. This was a part of the subject of especial importance: for nothing could be more conducive to the improvement of Ireland, than an accurate knowledge of the strict relation of the different orders of society in Ireland. A tine specimen of the disregard of the upper orders in Ireland for the opinion of the lower, had very recently been manifested. Could any one believe that the bill which had lately been introduced into that House, and which the House had, much to its honour, rejected—could any one believe that any man belonging to a cathedral church in England would have dared to submit such a bill to parliament as had been submitted to it by the cathedral church of Derry. Did not that shew the necessity of instituting an inquiry into the state of a country, in which a measure could originate, which no man in England would have ventured to think of? On all these grounds, he should cordially support his noble friend's motion.
§ Mr. North
perfectly agreed with the noble lord as to the necessity of investigation into the state of Ireland, and was persuaded that there could be no objection, on the part of his majesty's govern- 694 ment, to such a fair inquiry as would be calculated to elucidate that state, and to suggest the best means by which it might be ameliorated. In Ireland the people had, for a series of years, suffered a variety of misery. They had proceeded from one affliction to another. Each season brought its peculiar horror. In one it was famine; in the next it was fever; in the third it was murder. These sad events seemed to form a perpetual cycle, the parts of which were of regular and mournful recurrence. The evils which all felt, all ascribed to different causes. The peasant attributed them to the rapacity of the landlord; the landlord to the bigotry of the clergy. For his own part, he believed that they originated in many causes, He perfectly agreed with the noble mover, that one of the roost conspicuous causes of the disturbed condition of Ireland was its unemployed population. No political axiom was more certain, than that there was no state policy, no secret of government, by which it was possible to reconcile tranquillity with idleness. All the arts of civilization were, in fact, but so many expedients to make peace and industry mutually productive of each other. To an energetic people, especially, employment was a positive want. They had as eager an appetite for it as for their food. Where such a people were left without occupation, they became wild, untameable, and ferocious. Disguise it as they might, such a people were in a savage state, and fluctuated, as the history of Ireland but too plainly proved that the Irish people fluctuated—between hopeless indolence, and desperate mischief. Placed at the very bottom of the scale of human beings, the Irish peasant never looked upwards. He was excited by no emulation—he was inspired by no hope—he was deaf to every whisper of ambition—he was influenced by neither fear of degradation, nor expectation of advancement—he remained fixed on the spot at which he first drew his breath, without the wish, and still more, without the power of motion. He saw whatever existed of prosperity among his superiors, placed at an immeasurable distance from his grasp. I He saw himself surrounded by men of a religion different from his own, whose interests appeared to him to be at variance with his own, and whose chief or sole business he supposed to be, armed as they were with the sword and the law, to keep him quiet and poor. Under such cir- 695 cumstances, his character became hardened and desperate. He saw in the violation of the law, no moral culpability; he transgressed it, therefore, without self-reproach; and when his misdeeds brought upon him their apportioned punishment, he suffered under its infliction with the triumph of a martyr, and not with the compunction of a criminal. All the noble traits of such a man's original character became degraded and debased. His courage was converted into ferocity, his intelligence into fraud; his whole state and Condition was gradually deteriorated; and the peasant was at length lost in the murderer and the incendiary [hear, hear!].
These two circumstances, the place which the Irish peasant held in society, and his want of employment, were unquestionably the chief sources of the perturbed condition of Ireland. But he who wished accurately to estimate that condition, must take care not to overlook the power and influence of habit. Hitherto that consideration had not been sufficiently attended to by those who contemplated the state of the Irish people. They had been too apt to forget the extraordinary influence of example and habit, operating from generation to generation, inherited from ancestors, and transmitted to posterity; wave following wave in endless turbulence and barren succession. The first of the great political evils which Ireland had endured was its imperfect conquest. Ireland was wasted and overrun; but, from the reign of Henry the 2nd to that of Elizabeth, it had never been subdued. The mischiefs resulting from this imperfect conquest was speedily followed by those which flowed from religious animosities. The Reformation, which ought to have delivered Ireland from a large portion of her sufferings, only tended to render them still more severe. It was accompanied by repeated confiscations, destroying and confounding all the rights of individuals; and the succeeding century opened with the establishment of that dreadful penal code, which had left prejudices in the minds of the Irish people not yet eradicated.
Who was entitled to say that he was prepared with a specific remedy for such complicated evil? What man was there to absurdly sanguine as to imagine, that he could close in an hour a wound which bad been kept open and festering for ages [hear, hear!]? Why did he say 696 this? Only to make the House fully aware of the nature and magnitude of the evil with which they had to struggle, in order that they might not trifle with it, or attempt to subdue it by weak and inefficient measures. For that part of the evil which was to be found in want of employment, there were several remedies, all of which deserved serious consideration. He would not speak of that remedy which had a few nights ago been proposed in that House, and had been repeatedly de-bated: but he would advert to that which had been recently mentioned by an hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett), a friend of his, and which certainly appeared to him to be highly eligible—he meant emigration on an extensive scale. One of the best maxims for a legislature in its efforts to ameliorate the condition of a people was, to "consult the genius of the place in all." Now, if he knew any thing of the character of his countrymen, they were fond of novelty of adventure; they longed for new scenes with a restlessness of disposition which, though certainly hostile to habits of domestic industry, was extremely favourable to the spirit of emigration. In fact, there was among the people throughout Ireland, a general desire for emigration. Their perpetual talk was of strange and remote countries; ofSome safer world in depths of woods embrac'd,Some happier island in the wat'ry waste.He perfectly well knew, that any plan of extensive emigration must be attended with many practical difficulties. He also perfectly well knew that, after all, it could be but a palliative; that it must be temporary in its operation, and could produce no permanent effect on the condition of the people. He perfectly well knew, that greatly and lastingly to improve the condition of the people, the great depositaries of power and influence in the country must principally be looked to. In every country such depositaries existed: in no country was their existence more distinctly indicated than in Ireland. One of the chief depositaries of power and influence in Ireland was the Roman Catholic priesthood. They ought to be enlisted in the cause of Irish improvement [hear!]. They knew the people; they possessed the affections of the people; every thing that proceeded from them came with the weight of acknowledged authority. If there was one measure more than any other which ought to be adopted by those 697 who wished to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people, it was, that the Catholic clergy of Ireland should be very much raised in the scale of society. It was, above all, desirable that their elevation should be the act of the government [hear, hear!]. This was, in his opinion, one of the chief means which ought to be adopted. The next depositary of the power to which he should advert, was one, which, perhaps, did not possess such great and immediate influence as the Catholic priesthood, but which nevertheless possessed considerable, and what strongly recommended it, increasing influence—he meant the Roman Catholic laity. No man who had observed Ireland attentively for the last twelve or fourteen years, but must be astonished at the rapid progress which had been made by the Roman Catholic laity. The truth was, that the very discussion of the Catholic question, both in parliament and in the country, had been eminently serviceable. Although that question had unfortunately not been carried, yet, by a sort of moral compensation, the very agitation of it had been the means of materially improving the people. The very disabilities under which the Catholics laboured had acted as a powerful incentive to their exertions; they had stimulated them to a career of accelerated progress and increased momentum. He would refer, in proof of his assertion, to the single profession of the law. Those who knew Ireland, knew well that, fifteen or twenty years ago, such a thing as a Roman Catholic barrister was almost unknown in that country. Now, however, there were many Roman Catholic gentlemen at the Irish bar; men possessed of distinguished talents, of profound erudition, of unwearied industry, enjoying and deserving the confidence of the public, by the purity of their honour, the soundness of their integrity, their love of truth, and their manly spirit; and well qualified to fill every situation which the law opened to them, with the highest credit to themselves, and with the greatest advantage to their country [hear, hear!]. He lamented, however, to say, that the good effects which might naturally be expected from such a body of men were greatly checked and diminished by a spirit of jealousy and distrust which was unfortunately cherished; and by a love of flattery, which frequently induced a preference of supple slaves as friends to honourable men. He would strongly exhort his Catholic bre- 698 thren to subdue this feeling. But he begged not to be understood as casting any imputation on his Catholic countrymen. He knew that the feeling to which he had alluded arose out of circumstances beyond their control, and of which they were the victims. The effects had scarcely yet subsided in Ireland, of that party spirit which four or five years ago pervaded that country like a malaria, and with its pestilent miasmata infected even the noblest and the finest natures.
What must have been the state of society produced by this party spirit—a state which he trusted was over, or nearly so—when the efforts of the meanest and most contemptible man in society, was enough to involve a whole country in confusion—when the movement of a journey-man-carpenter, or an under sexton, when a sentiment or an epithet, was enough to produce so tremendous an evil? The materials of the flame of discord were ever ready, and an infant's hand might at any time light them. The two parties into which Ireland was divided, might be said to subsist by mutual discord. He was sure that he yielded to no man—it had been the feeling of his life from in-fancy—in earnest wishes and prayers that the tranquillity and happiness of Ireland might be secured by the total abolition of all party distinctions in that country. But, when they were told, as they had been by the noble member for Yorkshire, that this object ought to be effected by a direct interference with the opinions of individuals either of one mode of thinking or of the other; when they were told, that Orangemen ought to be put down with a strong hand; and that gentlemen who had received from their ancestors the opinions which they entertained, ought, unless they relinquished those opinions, to be removed from office; he begged leave to say, that such advice was most pernicious and fatal. If it were followed, the effect of it would be, to involve Ireland in new disorders, and to perpetuate disunion and discord. The triumph of one party would, of course, plant a feeling of deep resentment in the breast of the other. The result of such a system would be, to keep both parties alternately hoping and fearing, each looking to that change in the government which might give it the ascendancy. Now the Orangemen and now the Ribbonmen would predominate, and between them the country would be in a state of perpetual disturbance.
699 No man could be more aware than himself of the difficulty of the course which government had to pursue under the present circumstances of Ireland. It was a course which required the utmost exercise of temper and forbearance. It was a course full of difficulties, but, as in all cases of difficulties subdued, full of honour. The effect might be gradual, but it would be sure. Let them have patience, and they would see party spirit gradually subside in the country. It was not a conciliatory government which he wished to see; but an impartial government. What recommended the present government of Ireland to him was, that, in his conscience, he believed that government to be perfectly impartial; and because he believed that no man, either here or in Ireland, was preferred or neglected on account of his having given this opinion or that opinion, on the question of Catholic emancipation [hear, hear!].
He would now dismiss that part of the subject. But he begged to say one word, although he acknowledged that it was rather irregular, on the state of the church in Ireland. He was not now to consider whether or not the Protestant church ought to have been originally established in Ireland. At the present time of day that was not a fit subject for discussion in parliament. It might amuse a speculative man at his desk or in his closet; but it was not a theme for practical inquiry. He found the Protestant church established; and all he now asked was its character? He had lived with the Protestant clergy from his youth. The men with whom he had been linked in the closest habits of affectionate intercourse were members of the Protestant church of Ireland. He knew no class so distinguished for its worth, for its talents, for its virtues, aye, for its liberality [hear, hear!]. They might look back without a blush to the great predecessors whom they had succeeded; to the learned Usher, the pious Vidal, and the scientific Berkeley. On the other hand, no man respected more than he did, the country gentlemen of Ireland. On them rested the hope which he entertained of benefit to his country. But if they would advance and array themselves in hostility against the church of Ireland, he must honestly acknowledge that, called upon to decide between the two classes of men, he would give the palm to the clergy. For his part, he was by no means displeased to see an arch- 700 bishop of Cashel or an archbishop of Tuam, in possession of six or seven thousand a year; and could not conceive why such an individual might not spend his income in a manner that would be quite as beneficial to the community, as the way in which the duke of Leinster or the duke of Devonshire might spend his. When a clergyman was selected for his talents or his virtues, to be elevated to the Irish episcopal bench, and went to his see in consequence, he there met his old friends, the companions of his youth, to whom and with whom he was familiar, who hailed his arrival with pleasure, and contributed to the extent or their power in furthering all his useful plans of improving the diocese. What was the case with the nobleman? He was educated at Eton and at Oxford, where he received impressions which, being distant from his country, had no reference to his country. When his education was complete, he visited the continent; travelled through Germany, Italy, Greece; and, at length, returned to Ireland to take possession of his estate. There his first object was, to examine the leases which his father had granted, with a view of discovering in them such flaws as would be proved productive. Having effected this important purpose, he went to England; and his tenants and countrymen knew nothing more of him until they saw in the newspapers that in a debate either in that or in the other House of parliament, he had indulged in invidious reflections on the Protestant clergy of Ireland [hear, hear!]. He could assure the House that he had not drawn this picture with any view to throw reflections on his countrymen. He knew that numbers of them by no means answered this description, but on the contrary, Were most energetically and laudably employed in improving the character of their immediate neighbours.
He would now proceed to consider the proposition of the noble lord for a select committee on the state of Ireland. If the noble lord merely meant his motion as something which would advantageously call forth the opinion of gentlemen well acquainted with Ireland, to such an object he could not possibly object. But if on the other hand, the noble lord thought that his motion would lead to any practical result, he entirely differed from him. The fact was, that the subject was infinitely too large and complicated for the investigation of a committee [hear, hear!]. 701 Were such a committee to be appointed, it must be divided into companies, each having its own department of investigation. What were the questions which it would be necessary for such a committee to consider? First there was the state of the population, a subject of intolerable extent; then there were the abuses of the grand juries, on which also much might be said; afterwards there was the appointment of sub-sheriffs; and last, out not least, the whole Catholic question. And what was it that the noble lord expected? That the question should be decided, not by evidence, but by argument, and by appeal to the great principle of our nature. It was difficult for the imagination to conceive the variety of questions to which the committee proposed by the noble lord must apply themselves. They would have advisers of both religions; they would have counsellors of both sexes; they would have before them, at one and the same time, the theories of the last week, and the prejudices of the last century; and, after labouring for years through conflicting testimony, they would arrive only at that which they might previously find in a variety of pamphlets, books, and speeches. The state of Ireland was too large a subject for a committee. It must be confided to the government. It could not be confided to one man or to another man. Every man must share in the investigation, and every man must share in the awful responsibility which followed. As an Irishman, he was grateful to his majesty's government for what had been done respecting Ireland. He was also grateful to them for not having done more; because he was persuaded, that the sure way to do harm was to fill one's hands with more than could easily be accomplished. The mode of collecting tithe had been amended by a measure from which more practical benefit had accrued than could have been possibly anticipated by those who were acquainted with the state of Ireland, and who were aware of the difficulties inseparable from an attempt to ameliorate the existing system. The petty sessions had effected a great deal of good in Ireland. He could not avoid alluding, also, to those principles of free trade which had been so beneficially acted upon in Ireland, and the advantage of which was felt throughout the whole of the eastern countries. He entertained a pious confidence that the time would shortly arrive, when it would please Pro- 702 vidence, in his mercy, to enlarge and open the hearts of the people of England to the reception of a just and liberal policy, and that we should be made what we had never yet been, a united people. That we should forget those distinctions between Orangemen and Ribbonmen, between Protestants and Catholics, which had divided, and degraded, and impoverished Ireland. He was aware, however, that this hope could not be entertained, unless the country gentlemen of Ireland warmly seconded the attempt. It was from their influence, and not from any crude attempts at legislation, not from any idle schemes which could never be executed, that any permanent good could arise; it was from their personal influence and their personal care, and personal influence in their own sphere, and on their own estates, that these happy results were to be expected.
He was now about to give utterance to a sentiment, which, he was aware, would be considered by many gentlemen as savouring strongly of Irish prejudices, but which, he was sure, sprung from an ardent affection for his country; and that sentiment was, that if any of their institutions were to be modified, or changed, or reformed, that modification and reform should come from the country gentlemen of Ireland. From the observations he had made during the short time he had held a seat in that House, he felt disposed to deprecate any modification or change from any other quarter. The country gentlemen of Ireland were alone possessed, of that practical knowledge of the country which was essentially necessary for the purpose of effecting any modification with security. The country gentlemen could alone appreciate opinions, and even prejudices which it was necessary to respect. They would do nothing hastily or intemperately; they would avoid those errors into which others, though actuated by the best intentions, were likely to fall. He respected the motives of those who came forward with propositions for the relief of Ireland; but he confessed that he thought nothing more likely to do mischief than a perfect consciousness of purity of motive, accompanied with an imperfect knowledge of the subject. It was from his own countrymen alone that he anticipated any thing like a safe and secure reform in Ireland. Let them begin by reforming themselves. If he might use an expression, which had been before applied in that 703 House, he was satisfied that if others, probed the state of Ireland, they would probe it too roughly. Interests which commanded their esteem and affection should not be disregarded, nor should principles which were interwoven with the best feelings of the heart be treated with bitter scorn. Let them banish all those invidious distinctions of party, by which Ireland had been so long degraded, impoverished, and debased. If they did this, there was every prospect that Ireland would, at length, after a series of efforts, some more, some perhaps less successful, attain a just share of power and prosperity. Let all prejudices be laid aside, both in Ireland and in England; and both nations would then mutually assist each other, and both nations, borrowing and receiving reciprocal counsel and strength would enter on a new career of wisdom, of happiness, and of power [loud cheers].
§ Sir John Newport
said, that the hon. and learned gentleman had adopted a most extraordinary line of argument. While he called upon the people of England and Ireland to lay aside all prejudices, and while he lamented the ignorance which prevailed with respect to the state of Ireland, he proposed to leave them in that happy state of ignorance, by opposing a motion for inquiry. The hon. and learned gentleman called upon the legislature to abdicate its functions, and to leave it to the executive government to take up this question how they pleased, and when they pleased. Now, it was not because the present government had neglected the subject, but because it had been neglected by every government for a long series of years, that it was proper that the legislature should examine what was done, and point out those measures which were applicable to the state of Ireland, and those which were defective. That was the scope of his noble friend's proposition; while that of the right hon. secretary embraced only a small portion of the community, and referred merely to the administration of a single act of coercion—an act of renunciation of the benefits of the British constitution. Unless the House took up the question on the enlarged scale proposed by his noble friend, it was in vain to hope for any amelioration in the condition of the people of Ireland. Whenever it was proposed to inquire into the state of that country, they were constantly met by the objection, that the motion was either too large or too minute. When he saw mem- 704 bers of the cabinet opposed to each other, with respect to some of the fundamental points on which the tranquillity of Ireland depended, he felt that it was imperative on the legislature to inquire into the miserable state of the sister kingdom.
said, it was not his intention at that late hour, to make any extended observations on the main question before the House. He should merely express his entire concurrence in the motion which had concluded the able and statesman-like speech of his noble friend near him. If that motion needed any stronger support, it had obtained it in the statements which had been made in the eloquent speech which they had just heard from the other side of the House. The hon. and learned gentleman opposite (Mr. North) had drawn a most eloquent, melancholy, and, he feared, too true a picture of the state of Ireland. Deeply as he regretted the truth of that picture, he did not regret the force and eloquence with which it had been drawn, because, while he listened with the deepest attention to the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman, he felt at the time, that the hon. and learned gentleman was only proving the great and overwhelming necessity for a full and perfect inquiry. Amidst all the eloquence, however, of the hon. and learned gentleman, the only argument by which he had attempted to destroy his own arguments, was,) that the subject was so extensive, that no inquiry of the House could reach it, and that therefore it would be better to leave Ireland to her own solitary and disregarded misery. But, if it was true, as the hon. member contended, that no benefit could be anticipated from such an inquiry as that proposed by the noble lord, upon what possible principle was it that the hon. member supported the amendment of the right hon. secretary which still proposed an inquiry, but of a character incomparably more limited? His own object, however, in rising at so late an hour was, not to discuss the general merits of the present subject, but merely to account for the vote which he had given—and given reluctantly—against a motion for inquiry into the state of the church establishment in Ireland on a former evening. He had not given that vote because he felt any disinclination to inquiry. On the contrary, he thought that one of the greatest afflictions under which Ireland laboured was the ignorance of those who legislated 705 for her of the real evils under which she was suffering; but he had voted against the motion of the hon. gentleman near him (Mr. Hume), because he objected to the narrow spirit which breathed throughout it. He objected decidedly to an inquiry which went only to ascertain how far the church revenues of Ireland were larger than a committee of the House might think they ought to be, and what portion of money might safely be taken away from them. His dislike was not to an inquiry into the church establishment of Ireland, but to the spirit in which the suggested inquiry had been proposed to be conducted. He had felt himself in the dilemma of being compelled to give up either a present advantage or a principle; but, in resigning the immediate benefit, he thought he had chosen the minor evil of the two. With respect to the present motion, he felt the greatest anxiety that the committee should be granted; and if it were acceded to, that it might have no prejudice but in favour of Ireland—no wish but to benefit that country—no object but the attainment of truth.
Sir John Sebright
supported the original motion, and objected entirely to trusting the inquiry to the management of the executive government.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, that, after the eloquent speeches of the noble lord and the hon. and learned gentleman opposite, and considering the various motives which were likely to operate on an occasion of so much importance as the present, he felt some surprise that the right hon. secretary opposite, who so often gave the House the benefit of his eloquence, should not have stated his views with respect to a subject of so much interest as the state of Ireland, and the evils which afflicted that unfortunate country. The speech which the House had just heard from the hon. and learned gentleman opposite (Mr. North) was unquestionably a very eloquent speech; but he thought he might venture to say without any want of fairness, and he hoped without any offence to the hon. and learned gentleman, that the eloquence of the speech was only equalled by its marvellous inconsistency. No doubt the speech was a very eloquent one, but it was a speech which no member could be called upon to answer. Indeed, he felt it necessary to apologise for trespassing at all on the patience of the House by making any observation with respect to a 706 speech which called for no answer—because it was a complete answer to itself. The hon. and learned gentleman excelled in antithesis, and certainly every opinion or statement which his speech contained, was almost uniformly followed by some antagonist opinion or statement which completely strangled its predecessor. The hon. and learned member had commenced with drawing a very melancholy and desponding picture, and he (sir F. B.) trusted a very highly-coloured one of the disastrous state of Ireland, and he had accompanied that description with arguments, all going to show most forcibly, that the condition of that country cried out upon all England, and especially upon the English House of Commons, and still more especially upon her own representatives in the English House of Commons, to probe her situation to the very bottom, and to ascertain that which he feared was little known to those who prescribed for her—the real causes and extent of the evils with which she was overwhelmed: but at that point the hon. and learned member stopped, and suggested a course of proceeding which, on the English side of the water at least, would seem most extraordinary for the end proposed; for the way in which the hon. and learned member wished the House to probe this matter to the bottom, was by avoiding altogether to go into inquiry upon the subject. He (sir F. B.) agreed fully in the propriety of probing to the very bottom, the condition of Ireland at the present hour—a condition which it was a foul disgrace, not only to ministers, but to the House of Commons, that they had suffered to endure and continue so long: but, on what principle, after so completely proving the necessity of efficient measures, the hon. and learned member for Plympton Earle, could turn round and vote for that most inefficient measure, the amendment of the right hon. secretary for Ireland, he, for his own part, had no hope of ever being able to comprehend; for if any thing could be devised that was superlatively futile and inefficient, it was the amendment of the right hon. secretary. For what did it amount to? Why, merely to an inquiry how it had happened that the insurrection act—the only remedy ever tried upon Irish distress—had totally failed to produce the results which its contrivers had anticipated; with a sort of further intention (half developed) of following this inquiry of its failure up by renewing it; 707 and yet this measure, which was confessedly inefficient, even for the miserable purpose of producing that present submission which fools and tyrants thought fit to call peace and tranquillity, much less to bring about that lasting, steady quiet, which was the result of prosperous condition and content—this wretched, bald, and impotent piece of legislation, which was proved incompetent even to put down the common disorders which distress and despair drove the population of certain countries to the daily commission of—this frivolous, mischievous, and most ineffective attempt to remedy existing evils, the hon. and learned member, after all his expositions, was disposed to support and be contented with! The hon. and learned member had described the state of the Catholic peasantry to be such, that they had nothing to fear, and nothing to hope. This was certainly a very strong, a very concise, and a very exact definition of despair. Yet, the hon. and learned member contended, with a consistency, not less astounding than his eloquence, that the grievances of this people ought not to be inquired into—and why? Because, forsooth, they were of such magnitude that it was impossible for a committee of that House to embrace them. Their wrongs were so manifold, their grievances were so overwhelming, that, according to the logic of the hon. and learned member, they could not be the object of legislative redress, they could not afford a ground for parliamentary control. Why, that very statement by the hon. and learned member ought to be an argument unanswerable with the House for acceding to the proposal' of the noble member for Northamptonshire. And the hon. and learned member had gone still further than this. He had told the House, towards the close of his speech, that these same miserable people, who were described as without room for hope or fear—who stood in a situation which whatever might be their faculties must deprive them necessarily of all courage and energy—he had told the House, that the very provisions which seemed calculated to crush these people had operated, up to a certain point, to their advantage; that their exertions had thereby received a stimulus: and that, at every point, they were in a state of improvement Now, if this was true, not only was the fact a most gratifying one to be known to the House and to the country, but it also showed that the men who, under such cir- 708 cumstances, could arrive at advancement were ripe for the enjoyment of that emancipation which, on the pretence of their ignorance, had been so long withheld from them, and which he (sir F. B.), although he did not look upon it as a cure for all the ills with which Ireland was afflicted, took to be a great measure of moral policy, without which all other remedies both would prove, and ought to prove unsatisfactory.—The hon and learned member had gone on with his happy facility at portraying every circumstance that occurred to him—he had gone on to portray the beauties and advantages of the Orange system in Ireland. The Orangemen, according to the hon. and learned gentleman, were not merely the exclusively loyal, but they were the most virtuous, the most benevolent and the most considerate beings in the country. And these persons, under whose government and guidance the evils which cursed Ireland had been growing up for centuries—these were the people into whose hands the hon. and learned gentleman was for delivering her grievances, to be examined into and got rid of! And the thing did not stop here; for the Catholics came in for their share of commendation as well as the Orangemen. So anxious was the hon. and learned member to do justice, that every party in its turn was praised; and the only surprising thing was, how people endowed with such admirable feelings ever happened, by any accident, to fall out among themselves!—There was one point, however, on which the hon. and learned member for Plympton Earle agreed with him (sir F. Burdett); namely, in thinking that some relief might be given to Ireland by an extended system of colonization—a course which, in the end, would be found absolutely necessary, even to enable England to carry into operation any other measures of relief which she might contemplate. When he spoke, however, of colonization, he begged to be understood as by no means confounding that course with "emigration." Emigration and colonization were things very different in their effect. Emigration was going on too fast in Ireland already. It was going on, because no man would stay in the country but such as were Orangemen, or men who had not power to quit it; and persons who possessed industry, talent, and moderate capital, were carrying their means away from the curse of Orange ascen- 709 dancy to places where they could make use of them in quiet. It was no system like this—a system which beggared a country—that he meant to advocate: and, in fact, the course which he contemplated was one which no English government, as England now stood, would venture to look at: for, whatever might be said of the late spirited conduct of the House of Commons, he felt convinced, that, in the present state of the House and of the representation, no minister would dare to attempt a really vigorous measure, whether of peace or of war, of foreign commerce or domestic policy; and therefore colonization upon the extensive scale which he proposed—that was, the sending off a large proportion of the Irish population, with such securities afforded, and such views opened, as should make their change of home a blessing to themselves as well as to the country they left behind them—colonization, upon a scale like this, was what he never expected to see adopted. This fact, however, did not alter either his wish upon the subject, or his opinion of its expediency. The course would be attended with expense, he granted; but still it would be expense well bestowed; for, without getting rid of the superabundant population of Ireland, and taking measures to prevent its recurrence, nothing valuable could be effected towards an improvement of the condition of the country. Want and despair had ever been the parents of outrage, and ever would continue to be so. Unless the population was kept down to what a country could support, it was in vain to expect to preserve it in a state of peace or regularity. And here he agreed with the hon. baronet who had spoken second in the debate. The best government that ever existed could effect nothing permanently beneficial for a kingdom cut up into potatoe-gardens. There was destruction in such a system. Wherever land-owners practised it, misery and distress of every kind must be the inevitable consequence. In Ireland, however, there was a population which had been encouraged, and which was now to be got rid of; and he repeated, there was no course but by colonization. Gentlemen talked of employment for the people and of want of capital! If any thing like profitable means of employing it were found, did not the House think that there were people enough who would carry their capital to Ireland to-morrow? Why, it 710 would be impossible to keep capital out of Ireland, if there was any thing to be got by taking it there; and any measure to force it did harm, and not good. Any attempt at benevolent associations for purposes of trade did mischief. Commerce could not be carried on upon benevolent principles; and such institutions no more benefitted the community, than they did the individuals connected with them. It was a curious fact, that sir William Temple, in discussing the question, whether it was best that a new kingdom should be planted with every local advantage, or with no natural advantages at all, took Ireland as an illustration of the first case, and Holland as an example of the second. Sir William was decidedly of opinion, that the want of advantages was best, since it compelled to habits of exertion in the beginning, which led to wealth and greatness in the end; but after quoting the riches of Holland, standing upon a bog scarcely rescued from the sea, he said of Ireland—"Here the land is so rich, and the population so small, that a man who works for two days in the week, may live in comfort for the rest"—from which he concluded, that the Irish were careless and idle. Now, this was a strong illustration of the principle for which he (sir F. B.) was contending. The population it was, of Ireland now, that formed the ruin of the country. Clearly, in sir W. Temple's time, Ireland could not have possessed a quarter of the wealth that she possessed at the present day; but, from the thinness of her population, the people lived in ease and abundance. It was the principles on which the government of Ireland was administered, and the mode in which the land was divided, that caused the poverty and misery of that country. He agreed fully with the learned gentleman and with the hon. baronet, that unless some extensive measures were devised, no relief could be given to this state of poverty. But, was not the admission of such a state of things a proof that inquiry was needed? He would add, as an argument which should have some weight with the country gentlemen of England, that they hazarded their own estates by not inquiring into the condition of Ireland, and relieving it. The comfort and happiness of the English people, their old love of independence, their unexampled industry, their patience under sufferings, their great care and foresight, all could not save them from the compe- 711 tition of the Irish peasantry, who were fast degrading the English peasantry to their own state of poverty and misery. The gentlemen of England were now paying poor-rates on account of the poverty of Ireland. The mode of dividing property adopted by the gentlemen of Ireland it was, that generated the poor; and he did not know why those gentlemen should not pay the poor which they generated, and have their estates burthened to maintain them, as well as those of the English gentlemen. The country was a harvest of evils; and though the learned gentleman had found out that the church establishment of Ireland was as advantageous as a landed gentry, and a well endowed clergy as beneficial as resident gentlemen, he could never be brought to believe that tithes, which were paid unwillingly, were the same as the rent of an estate, in point of benefit to the country. But, the clergy were not even resident. He had himself met a bishop in Italy, who had lived there for several years, and who had a revenue from the Church of thirty thousand pounds a-year. Some gentlemen said, that the church establishment of Ireland was a benefit; others, that it was an evil. To ascertain this point was surely a proper motive why the House should enter into an inquiry. What the learned gentleman said of the increase of the Catholics, shewed that that church, though rich, had made no converts. The Protestant Church, though wealthy, was diminishing in the number of its adherents, while the Catholics, though poor, were adding, to their numbers. This shewed the difference between a poor and a rich church, and proved that wealth was not necessary to religion, nor to religious influence. If the propositions of the learned gentleman were carried into effect, and the Catholic clergy were once to receive stipends from the government, they would instantly lose their influence over the people, who were in that state of ignorance, that no art could persuade them they were not betrayed. He conceived this state of ignorance and dependance was a sufficient reason why some inquiry should be made into the moral condition of the peasantry. The existing system was pregnant with wretchedness to the one country, and was sure eventually to extend much of its baneful influence to the other. To persist in going on blindly, was a stretch of absurdity of which the 712 House could not, be trusted, be guilty; and the question was, could any period be more favourable for inquiry than the present. If, at a time like the present, when ministers seemed to have almost nothing wherewith to occupy their minds—when the country was in a state of perfect peace at home, and had nothing to apprehend from any quarter of the world abroad—if, under such circumstances, ministers could not find time to attend to the distresses of Ireland, Ireland might bid good night to relief altogether: for the evil could never be greater than it was, nor the remedy more loudly called for; nor could any opportunity ever occur more perfectly favourable for applying it. For these reasons, he should give his cordial support to the motion of the noble lord.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that this was the second occasion within a short period, on which the hon. baronet had expressed his dissatisfaction at the silence observed by his majesty's ministers. The hon. baronet, however, should in justice remember, that, upon the point of speaking, he had greatly the advantage over those of whom he complained. Coming down, after a long absence from the House, with a keen appetite for debate, he ought to consider that the feast would naturally be less tempting to those who were presented with it night after night, and sometimes, indeed, usque ad nauseam. The right hon. secretary then proceeded to regret, that the forms of the House prevented his hon. and learned friend (Mr. North) from going over the numberless points in which the hon. baronet had mistaken him; and, in coming to the question before the House, he observed, that it seemed to him to lay within a very narrow compass. The subject for discussion, as he thought, was much less the general state of Ireland, than the comparative merits of the two courses which were proposed by his right hon. friend near him, and by the noble lord opposite. Each party proposed a select committee; and it would be well to examine the difference between their views. The noble lord wished to inquire into the state of Ireland generally; his right hon. friend to confine the inquiry to the nature and extent of the disturbances which existed in certain districts. There was no question therefore as to the inquiry; the only question was, as to its extent. Here was Ireland, then, great part of which was 713 subject only to the ordinary operation of the law; some part of it enjoying perfect tranquillity, other parts comparatively tranquil; and other parts in a state of the greatest possible disorder, kept down, and indeed scarcely kept down, by measures of great and unconstitutional severity. When his right hon. friend said, "I will take for the immediate object of this inquiry, the state of those parts of the country, in which the law is at present suspended," did he not take that which was the natural, and certainly the candid course? Did not those portions of Ireland call more urgently for present examination than the quiet parts? If his right hon. friend had selected any small district, and confined his views to it, then perhaps with reason, some objection might have been made; but, let the House only look at the extent of territory to which his right hon. friend's motion referred, embracing the counties of Clare, Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Kilkenny, Kildare, the King's County, and Tipperary. Would any man who knew the size and population, and importance of those counties, say, that they did not afford a fair specimen of Ireland generally? Much has been said of the indisposition of his majesty's government to bring the present question forward; but he denied that any measures had been proposed in which ministers had not been found ready to go hand in hand. The constant answer to complaints of the state of Ireland had been, "point out the object of inquiry and we are ready to discuss it with you." But, he was actually surprised to hear the abuse which had been lavished upon the amendment of his right hon. friend: for the very inquiry which his right hon. friend's amendment suggested, had been formally proposed to the House last session, by the hon. baronet who now seconded the original motion. He was really surprised the hon. baronet did not rise and defend his own proposition. His right hon. friend had given notice of his motion some days ago; and could not, therefore, mean by it, as some hon. members had insinuated, to get rid of the motion of the noble lord opposite, by a side-wind. But, what was more, this very motion was the result of a pledge which his right hon. friend had given last session, that if the Insurrection act were to be renewed, he would move for an inquiry into the state of that part of Ireland to which it was to be applied. His right hon. friend had 714 now redeemed his pledge, and thereby given the House an opportunity of inquiring into the state of that part of Ireland. If the notice did not include other parts of Ireland, what was included was quite enough to begin with; and parliament might afterwards extend its inquiries if it thought proper. If the House appointed a committee, it would repose confidence in that committee; and though the noble lord might prefer his own, he could not deny that advantages would result from the committee of his right hon. friend. It was desirous to have information on several points. For example, it would be desirable to have the relations of landlord and tenant fully explained, and the wages of labour examined into, and this was an important inquiry. If it should be proposed to make such inquiries, he would not oppose it. If the hon. baronet should propose, as a specific measure of inquiry, to ascertain the best means of augmenting the capital of Ireland, he would not oppose that; but he wished, before members called out for inquiry, that they would ascertain what inquiries had been already made, and read the reports which had resulted from inquiring. Had there been any indisposition, on the part of government, to improve the magistracy, to take steps for the prevention of illicit distillation, to correct the police, or to forward any object connected with the welfare of that country? On the contrary, they had shewn every disposition to remedy the existing defects.
Mr. Secretary Canninig
said, that as the noble lord had alluded to him so distinctly towards the conclusion of his speech, he might be charged with want of courtesy if he permitted the question to go to a division without saying a few words. The lateness of the hour would, however, be a guarantee to the House, that he would not trespass longer on its time than was absolutely necessary. The noble lord, in winding up the different topics which he proposed for the consideration of the committee, had alluded to one which he thought it of the utmost importance that the House should accede to. For his own part he could not take such a view of that great question as to think that it required to be submitted to a committee. No committee could put the House into more complete possession of the important principles upon which that question was to be decided, or throw any new light on the subject. His own opinions, with 715 respect to that question, remained the same as they had always been; but, when the noble lord called on him to vote for the present motion as a proof of his sincerity, he would deny, in the first place, that any proof of sincerity was required from him, as he had neither there nor elsewhere said or done any thing to bring that sincerity into doubt. In the second place, he denied that the noble lord had any right to demand any such pledge. He, for one, in the support which he had given the Catholics, had always taken care not to put himself in their hands. Whatever others who had advocated their cause might have chosen to do, he had always abstained from consulting them as to the propriety of advancing or refraining in the measures which he deemed necessary to their interests. His conduct might he considered right, or it might be considered wrong; but, in all his operations he had abstained—studiously, purposely, anxiously abstained—from being bound by their views and opinions, in the discharge of a duty which he considered not so much their affair as that of the public. He did not blame those who had acted in a different manner; but he had always felt, and still continued to feel, that he neither owed, nor would he ever pay to them, any account as to his conduct, whether he advanced or abstained from the pursuit of that object in which the Catholics were chiefly implicated. He knew not by what right the noble lord claimed of him that he should take this or that step, at this or that particular time. He was bound by no agreement with any one on the subject. He had received the support of many, but without conditions. He hastened, however, to translate into plain language the motion of the noble lord. The noble lord had said, that the government was divided upon the subject of the Catholic question; and he had stated this as a characteristic of the present government, as if it were something new in the construction of this government. He would tell the noble lord, that ever since the question had become a question, no government had been brought together which was not divided upon it. He did not say whether this was right or wrong—fortunate or unfortunate. It did so happen—the question came into the world, as it were, under this fatality—it had remained under it during all changes of administration since. Others might lament it, and then they would be 716 bound to take some steps towards producing an agreement. Not so with him. Be the opinion correct or otherwise, wise or unwise, it appeared to him, that the question—not to speak of actually carrying it—was never likely to be carried, under a government united upon that point, and at variance upon many others: nay, more, that the question had a better chance of being carried under a divided government, than under a government so united. Having always held that opinion—having always proclaimed it—the noble lord could have no right to call upon him to abandon it. The wisdom of the opinion might be called in question; but he could not now be called upon to change it. To be plain, what the noble lord meant was—that he was bound to proclaim to his colleagues in office, that the period was arrived, in which they must concur in one opinion, and that opinion must be his. The noble lord was of opinion, that the time was come; and, to induce him to act, he had held out a bait which must be always tempting to men of talent and spirit—the predominance of his own sentiments supported by the majority of that House. The noble lord had said many civil things of him, and of his situation in the government. But the noble lord must know, that he was not there by his own seeking, or from any choice or wish of his own. Had his own wishes been permitted to operate, in all probability he should have been at that time far away; and though it might have been better for himself, it could not have helped to advance the Catholic question. He believed that the noble lord calculated too much upon its progress. He believed that the question would ultimately make its way. He believed that the government was before the public with it, and that there was a strong and powerful feeling in the country against it. He believed that it could not be carried until the opinions of the country were more advanced in its favour. Any measure must prejudice it, which went to urge its consummation by force, against feeling. He believed that it would succeed; but success could only be hoped for, as argument and reason were enlarged; as jealousy and prejudice were done away. The noble lord said, that the question was a great question, upon which all able statesmen ought to agree. But was it the only question of that sort? Suppose he were to break with his present colleagues, and accept 717 the co-operation and support of his new suitors—was he sure that there was not another wife or mistress as clear to them, and that he might not have the very same question of discrepancy in opinions to struggle with? For instance, there was the great question of parliamentary reform, to which they were as strongly pledged as to the question of Catholic emancipation. [Murmurs of discontent from the Opposition]. Were they, or were they not, pledged to parliamentary reform? The country at least believed so. It was generally understood, that they were bound not to accept office without the condition of effecting parliamentary reform. [Cheers, mingled with cries of "No."] Whether it were so or not, altered not his argument. With what face did they charge the ministry with discrepancy of opinion upon the Catholic question, when they themselves stood pledged to a question of infinitely graver importance—a question which went to the very foundations of the constitution? He defied them to show that there could be any better agreement between him and them, or between themselves one with another, than that which existed between him and his present colleagues upon the former question. Why, then, there were two great questions, each of national importance. Those who were prepared to agree upon both might be in a suitable condition to stand together in the same government. Unfortunately for him, while he advocated the one, he considered the other as anomalous and revolting. He could be in no condition to accept the co-operation of the gentlemen opposite. Their banners might be mingled for a time, but soon they must stand on adverse sides. He hoped he had satisfied the House—it would be presumptuous in him to suppose that he had satisfied the noble lord. He challenged the detection of any inconsistency in his opinions, the wisdom of which might be questioned, but not the sincerity. He could not agree with the noble lord, that it was a question which ought to be carried by the mere influence of the executive. If, however, the noble lord chose to find fault with him for not now bringing it forward, let him recollect what had been the fate of the measure proposed last year by his right hon. friend, the attorney-general for Ireland. All those splendid talents and efforts which were offered to the highest bidder, because they 718 were not bought up at a certain price, were withdrawn from him suddenly. The owners took up their hats and retired, because the question was not supported by the whole force of the government. He did not blame them for what they had done. But what encouragement did it leave to him or to any other individual, to renew the labour? If the question had gone into abeyance, the fault lay with those individuals who first turned it to a partial purpose. It was likely to be carried with the least shock to public feeling under a divided government. The moment it was turned into a party question, and used as an instrument for displacing antagonists, that moment the chances of its success sunk a hundred-fold. He could not say whether there was any mode left of restoring it to its former situation; and he was reduced at present to the mere hope that it would be so restored. As to the motion, however, it was agreed that the committee was no fit place for the discussion of that question. It remained, then, to be considered, which, of all the several topics connected with Ireland, was likely to be benefitted by that mode of inquiry. He expressed his approbation of the use of parliamentary debate and discussion, and of trusting to them rather than to the mere strength of the executive government. He expected much from these instruments in working upon the mind of Ireland. With respect to associations of Orangemen or Ribandmen, or those Catholic associations which he considered more anomalous than either, he was of opinion, with his hon. friend near him, that nothing was more to be avoided in such casts, than too precipitate an exertion of the powers of the executive, or too busy an application of those of parliament. There was a great difficulty in dealing with institutions, even though run to dangerous folly and abuse, which had grown up out of the freedom of action. The chief duty of government in such cases was, not to interfere unless it was seen that the evils had become intolerable, and promised no change of diminution for the future. The great point of discrimination was between the limits which showed where the duty of passiveness ended, and where that of interference began. As to other points of the noble lord's speech, he had been anticipated in any reply to them, and especially on the subject of tithes. The noble 719 lord had also called for a revision of the church establishment of Ireland; but the question whether the wealth of the church ought to be abridged, had been decided a few nights since, in such a way as to deprive the noble lord of the benefit of any argument upon that point. The hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) had contended, that nothing could be more different than tithes and rent! but he, and those who had cheered him, seemed to forget, that a large portion of the clergy was paid in rent, and that a great part of the tithes belonged to the laity. They contended, that church property and other property did not stand on the same footing, because church property depended on duty to be performed. How did this operate upon lay tithes? The hon. baronet and his friends said, that the clergy ought to give up their property, because they did nothing, but that the laity should keep theirs, and why?—was it because for those tithes the laity discharged so many and such important duties? But the safest way was, not to meddle with property at all. He would not lay down the broad proposition, that in no possible case could the state meddle with the endowments of the church; but he would lay it down thus broadly, that he could not imagine a case—and undoubtedly would never create or encourage it—in which that question should be mooted. At present it was far safer to stand where we were, than to resort to such a precedent as Henry the 8th had set, who had himself justified his conduct on the score of precedent. He did not say that meddling with one species of property would inevitably bring on the ruin of another, but when it was recollected, that one third of the tithes of the kingdom were in lay hands, the House would do well to pause and ponder. The noble lord had been sufficiently answered on the topic of grand-jury presentments; what he had advanced regarding sheriffs, had also received a complete reply; as well as the arguments on the review of the magistracy. As to the amendment of his right hon. friend, although it came after the proposition of the noble lord, it ought to be considered in the light of an original motion. It was, in fact, the redemption of a pledge given last year, that inquiry should precede any proposed renewal of the Insurrection act: accident only had thrown the two together, and the amendment at least proved, that the government 720 was not disposed to conceal any thing of the real state of Ireland, and had not the slightest objection that the inquiry should be conducted in the fairest and most open manner.
§ Mr. Tierney
apologized for detaining the House for a short time, being induced thereto by a few remarks of the right hon. gentleman, which touched him almost personally. With respect to the motion on Catholic emancipation, in the session of last year, he had said then, and he said now, that as the right hon. gentleman was nearly sure of a majority in this House, and as sure of the measure being in the minority in the House of Lords, although, for other purposes, the right hon. gentleman was prepared with as full a majority in one House as the other, he did consider the bringing forward that measure as little better than a mockery; yet, because he had always supported the question, he would not then withdraw from it, and for the sake of appearances only, he had given it the support of his vote. The right hon. gentleman has assumed, that it was impossible for him to have acquired for that question the support of government. He would ask the right hon. gentleman—did he ever try? [Hear.] Let not the House receive so easily the insinuation, that his noble friend had offered him the co-operation of his party if he would undertake to carry it. His noble friend had not done any such thing, nor would he, because, in fact, he had no such power. All that his noble friend addressing the right hon. gentleman, had said, amounted to something like this, "You are a fortunate man: you have risen to a situation in the government which, perhaps, you never expected to reach; your conduct in the course of this and the last session has made you many friends, go on and prosper; all you have to do is to hold to the principles which you have professed: don't forget your principles, and you may depend upon the support of parliament." All that was asked of the right hon. gentleman was, that he would try what he could do for the question. He might answer, that he had no hope of doing any thing without the help of the opposition. That was not his (Mr. T's) proposition. He referred to what the right hon. gentleman might have done of himself. Did he suppose that he was stopped from his emigration out of any strong respect or affection for him? Was he not aware, that there was one member in the cabinet—and that not 721 an inconsiderable one—who thought that there was very little to choose between the right hon. gentleman and the Pope? [laughter and cheers.] Could the right hon. gentleman doubt, in short, that the Catholic question would have been carried, if he had only chosen to make it a condition of joining the cabinet, he did not say to insist upon its being immediately, but gradually carried—when he saw the anxiety of some of the members of that cabinet to continue in office, no matter in what company? He hoped he had cleared himself of any imputation or suspicion of having dealt unfairly as to that question. There was another point to which he must reply. The right hon. gentleman was continually entrapping the House into a belief, that he and his hon. friends were anxious to join the right hon. gentleman in office. For his own part, he was not conscious of any such wish. No one was more disposed to do justice to the talents and conduct of the right hon. gentleman than himself: but it was a hard return, not to say an impolitic one, to hold him and his friends up to the country, as persons altogether unfit companions for him. The support they had already given had been pretty considerable; and the right hon. gentleman was sure of receiving it as long as he continued to pursue his present course. "But," said the right hon. gentleman "you are pledged to the support of parliamentary reform if you come in." They were anxious for the success of parliamentary reform. But he was bound to no pledge upon the subject; and if he took office tomorrow morning, no one could reproach him with inconsistency, in neglecting to make stipulations in its favour. To the question of parliamentary reform he was seriously and earnestly inclined, because he thought it necessary for the security of the constitution. But, a bond of party it never could be. Indeed, how should it be? Some of his friends were agreed upon it, others were opposed to it? and, among those who concurred, there were a thousand shades of opinion as to the specific degree of reform. Not so with the other question, which could have but one meaning. Broad Catholic emancipation was all that the right hon. gentleman had to lay down. He had accepted office without stipulating that it should be carried; though he knew that it ought to be carried, and that it never could be carried, because there was one in the cabinet, who was the most powerful part of the cabinet, 722 opposed to it. All that he and his friend's wanted was, to make the right hon. gentleman the most powerful part of the cabinet, on condition that he would uphold the principles which he had avowed. The right hon. gentleman, then, ought not to represent them as an unworthy set, with whom he cautiously sought to remain at a distance. He might depend upon it, unless he went on in a manner something different from that which he seemed disposed to adopt, he would not come down to the House so triumphantly in another session. The country at present gave him credit for consistency. There was a phrase, however, which was expressive, though homely. It was called "playing fast and loose." He would like to know more exactly what the right hon. gentleman proposed to do as to Catholic emancipation. Suppose it were carried here, it would, in all probability, be rejected by the other House. Did the right hon. gentleman doubt that such would be the case? Placed behind so good a leader as the archbishop of Canterbury, a place-man would naturally think he was safe in all questions respecting church matters. How roust it be then, when he saw the archbishop of York, and seven other bishops, enlisted on the same side? And if at the head of this body the prime minister were seen, what would be said then? Why this, "the advocates of emancipation have tried their utmost, and only see what a miserable minority they are in?" He appealed for the probability of this to the fate of two bills which had been lately introduced—one of which went no further than to put the English Catholics on the same footing with the Irish. It was carried almost unanimously in this House; but when it was sent up, he ought to say down, to the lords, it was rejected by a large majority. And all this confusion might, perhaps, be traced to the sentiments of one man in that House, and the future views of interested politicians with respect to him [loud cheers]. All that they had asked, then, of the right hon. gentleman was,. that he would take that course which was likely to lead him to fame and honour that he would be steadfast in the pursuit of those principles to which he was able to give life and energy—and that he would stand out for the adoption of those measures upon which the security of the empire so much depended. They asked for no junction—they wished for 723 rione. They only wanted him to proceed as he had begun, and promised him their support. They made no conditions with him for parliamentary reform. Upon that subject he was right welcome to his present notions. If he chose, he might make all his old speeches over again, they would occasionally answer his arguments; but they would never ask him to give up his admiration for old Sarum and the other rotten boroughs. Let him not labour at misconceptions, but take matters as they stood. If he would pursue the course most glorious to himself, they were there ready with- their support for him; if he refused, they could not help it. [Continued laughter and cheers.]
§ Mr. Canning
explained. He had not insisted on the fact, that the opposition were pledged to parliamentary reform. But, whether it were so or no, it was impossible for him to find a united government, had he joined them; since they must have been divided, either among themselves, or with respect to him, upon the question of reform in parliament.
§ Sir F. Blake
complained, that the ministry was composed of individuals of discordant opinions. If he were asked, what he would do with the present administration, he would say, "Do away with them." The liberal part of the cabinet were clogged in their movements by the drag-chain of their unwilling companions. The ultras in the cabinet would, he feared, never become liberal. The motion should have his cordial support.
§ The House divided: for lord Althorp's motion, 135; for Mr. Goulburn's amendment, 184: Majority 48.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Calvert, N.|
|Barnard, visc.||Carew, C. S.|
|Barret, S. M.||Carter, John|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Caulfield, hon. H.|
|Becher, W. W.||Cavendish, C. C|
|Belgrave, visc.||Chamberlayne, W.|
|Benett, John||Chaloner, R.|
|Benyon, B.||Clifton, visc.|
|Bernal, R.||Coke, T. W.|
|Birch, J.||Colborne, N. W. R.|
|Blake, sir F.||Cradock, S.|
|Brougham, H.||Creevey, T.|
|Browne, Dom.||Crompton, S.|
|Burdentt, sir F.||Davies, T. H.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Denison, W. J.|
|Byng, G.||Denman, T.|
|Calcraft, J.||Duncannon, visc.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Dundas, hon. T.|
|Calvert, C.||Evans, W.|
|Farrand, R,||Ramsbottom, J.|
|Fergusson, sir R.||Rickford, W.|
|Fitzgerald, rt. hon. M.||Rice, T. S.|
|Fitzroy, lord J.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Robarts, A. W.|
|French, A.||Robarts, G. J.|
|Gaskill, B.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Gordon, R.||Rowley, sir W.|
|Grattan, J.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Grosvenor, hon. R.||Russell, lord J.|
|Guise, sir B. W.||Russell, R. G.|
|Haldimand, W.||Russell, lord G. W.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Robertson, A.|
|Heathcote, G. J.||Scarlett, J.|
|Heron, sir R.||Scott, J.|
|Hill, lord A.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Sefton, earl|
|Honywood, W. P.||Smith, John|
|Hornby, E.||Smith, George|
|Hughes, W. L.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Hume, J.||Smith, W.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Stanley, hon. E. C.|
|James, W.||Stanley, lord,|
|Jervoise, G. P.||Stewart, W. (Tyrone)|
|Johnson, W. A.||Stuart, lord P. J.|
|Knight, R.||Talbot, R. W.|
|Lamb, hon. G.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Lambton, J. G.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Langston, J. H.||Wall, C. B.|
|Leycester, R.||Warre, J. A.|
|Maberly, J.||Webb, E.|
|Maberly, W. L.||Wharton, J.|
|Macdonald, J.||Whitbread, S. C.|
|Mackintosh, sir J.||White, S.|
|Mahon, hon. S.||White, col.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Martin, Jas.||Williams, J.|
|Millbank, M.||Williams, W.|
|Milton, visc.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Monck, J. B.||Winnington, sir T.|
|Moore, P.||Wood, M.|
|Newport, rt. hon. sir J.||Wyvil, M,|
|Normanby, visc.||Wrottesley, sir J.|
|O'Callaghan, J.||Parnell, sir H.|
|Ord, W.||Althorp, viscount.|
|Osborne, lord F. G.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Ellice, Ed.|
|Pares, T.||Ellis, hon. G. A.|
|Pelham, J. C.||Sykes, D.|
|Power, R.||Williams, sir R.|
|Powlett, hon. W.||Portman, J. B.|
|Poyntr, W. S.||Lloyd, J. M.|
|Pryse, P.||Western, C. C.|