said, he could not allow the report to be brought up, without expressing his hope that the House would indulge him in one or two observations. It had been for some time so much the fashion to consider his Majesty's Speech at the opening of the session, as a mere matter of form, and that no member of the House was pledged by any assent he might appear to give to it, that it was unnecessary to divide the House on points which might appear, and which to him certainly did appear, of the utmost importance. Were it not for the prevalence of this opinion, he was sure there were very few gentlemen on his side of the 83 House, who would not have thought it necessary to take the earliest opportunity protesting against the Address which was voted last night. For his own part, he had never heard an address in answer to a King's Speech, which called more imperiously on those who considered the true state of the country, to protest against portions of it, than that which he had heard lust night. He was sure, that, in the very able and powerful speech which was addressed to the House by his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Brougham), there were many points introduced which would engage the most serious and anxious attention of the country. His majesty's Speech told them, that the country was enjoying the highest state of tranquillity and prosperity, and it congratulated them on the general tone of amity which characterised our relations with foreign powers. But he would call upon the House and the country to mark what it was that his Majesty's Speech, after having laid down these premises, requested them to do. In this state of internal tranquillity, when even Ireland was said to partake of the common prosperity, the first thing they were called on to do was to change the penal code of that country, and even of England itself; and then with respect to our relations with foreign powers, we were called upon to do what must naturally excite their suspicions. If we were afraid of exciting their suspicions, which he was sure we were not, and which the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) had shewn he was not, by an augmentation of the number of our forces; what more could they have been called upon to do, if the right hon. gentleman had come down and stated that there was every probability that, in a short time, Ireland would break out into open rebellion, and that the Holy Allies would march their armies to the shores of France to menace our own coasts? It was impossible that hon. gentlemen, who entertained the opinions of his (Mr. H.'s) side of the House, could sit quietly in their places, and allow such a speech to be made, without taking the earliest opportunity of entering their protest against it. There was one topic which had been so ably handled by his hon. and learned friend, and which would so shortly become the subject of discussion, that it was not necessary for him now to allude to it. At the same time, he must say, that if the House had not shewn a disposition 84 to cut short all debate after the very eloquent speech of the right hon. Secretary, he should have taken the liberty to object to one or two points which the right hon. Secretary had stated, as if he knew them, and they were therefore to pass as current facts. There was one point in the right hon. Secretary's speech which he could not forbear noticing. The right hon. Secretary, in alluding to the new penal law which was to be enacted against the Catholics of Ireland, had stated, to his great surprise, that none but the enemies of Ireland could consider the Catholic Association as a body representing the feelings, wishes, and interests of the Catholics of Ireland. He should like to ask the right hon. Secretary, what portion of the Catholics in Ireland were the dissentients? He could refer to documents, which furnished the most irresistible evidence that there were no dissentients. He was not now giving any opinion as to that Association, but he should like to know, if it did not speak the feelings and opinions of the Catholics of Ireland, who did speak those feelings and opinions? Was it the right hon. Secretary who spoke those feelings and opinions? Was it the learned gentleman opposite (Mr. Plunkett), who, with all his talents, he was sorry to say, did not seem entirely to merit the eulogium which he thought his hon. and learned friend had improperly pronounced upon him last night. He hoped he should never be accused of putting his own opinions in competition with those of a gentleman of such high and splendid talents; yet at the same time he must judge of men by their acts. It was in vain to talk of the abilities of learned persons, who were placed in responsible situations, if unfortunately it should seem that there was the stamp of folly upon every thing they attempted; certain it was, at least, that ill success had attended all the efforts of the right hon. and learned gentleman opposite. The right hon. and learned gentleman, somehow or other, had contrived never to attempt anything in which he had not failed, and never to join any party which did not seem glad to take the earliest opportunity of getting rid of him. If the Association was not the representative of the feelings and opinions of the Catholics of Ireland, he again asked who were; and where were the dissentients? So far from the Association not representing the feelings and wishes of the Catholics of Ireland, if he 85 had not misread what he had seen in the public papers, he believed it to be the representative, not only of the feelings and wishes of the Catholics of Ireland, but of the Catholic population of England. How did the right hon. Secretary account for the most numerous assemblage of the Catholics of England that ever met in this country having agreed to a vote of thanks to the individual who was the life and soul of the Catholic Association? It was in vain for the right hon. Secretary to say that he did not think that Association ought to represent the feelings and wishes of the people of Ireland. He might think the proceedings of that body extremely indiscreet; but it would require something more than the word of the right hon. gentleman—it would require something more than his mere assertion, to prove to the people of England and Ireland, that the Association did not, at this moment, represent the feelings and wishes of the Catholics of Ireland. If they did not represent them, why, in God's name, legislate against them—why was the right hon. Secretary afraid of them? Why did his majesty, in the Speech from the throne, take the earliest opportunity of recommending parliament to put down those who, according to the right hon. gentleman, were not worth putting down? If they represented nobody—if they had no power—no injurious effect could result from their proceedings. The fact, however, he believed to be just the contrary of what was stated by the right hon. Secretary. He believed, and indeed he knew, that the Catholics of Ireland were never so united as at the present moment. This was the fact that terrified the right hon. Secretary—this was the fact that terrified those, at least, who recommended the insertion of that paragraph of his majesty's Speech, which related to the Catholic Association, who were not really regarded as an insignificant body, and as the non-representatives of the Catholics of Ireland. So far from the Catholic Association being an! incubus, pressing down the exertions of the Catholics of Ireland, it was the unanimity, the spirit, and the practical energy which that body had given to their exertions, which had excited the alarm of his majesty's ministers, and had made them think it necessary to put it down. It had been styled an imperium in imperio; and yet the right hon. gentleman represented them as possessing no power, no authority. Where, then, was their empire? Why, 86 instead, of being treated as dangerous enemies of the constitution, were they not rather treated with disregard and contempt? Having alluded to what appeared to him to be a strange inconsistency in the speech of the right hon. Secretary, he must declare that he would never give the humble sanction of his vote to any penal enactment against the Catholic, or any other association. Good God! how long had Orange Lodges been endured; and not only endured, but supported; and not only supported, but encouraged and contributed to, by some of the most influential men in his majesty's government. He was quite satisfied, that any penal enactment against the Catholic, or any other association, would be a much more fatal inroad on the constitution, than any thing that could be effected by that body, powerful as he believed it to be, and powerless as the right hon. Secretary thought it, or rather thought it ought to be.—He now came to a topic, which, to his extreme astonishment, had not been touched upon at all last night; he alluded to the augmentation of the army.—They were told that the Burmese had made an attack upon some of our settlements in India. The unprovoked aggression which the Burmese had made upon the territories of the merchants of Leadenhall-street—a body, which, from the language it used, could never have made an unprovoked aggression upon any state [a laugh]—the unprovoked aggression of the Burmese, he repeated, was now assigned as one of the reasons for this unexpected augmentation of our military establishments. The whole excuse for this extraordinary measure, as given in his majesty's Speech, was "the state of India, and circumstances connected with other parts of his majesty's foreign possessions." He hoped he should not be thought intruding improperly on the attention of the House, if he asked, before this address was brought up, what was meant by the words "the other parts of his majesty's foreign possessions." The noble lord who had proposed the address last night with so much eloquence and good taste, had told them, that Ireland was not included in the words "other foreign possessions." As he had the noble lord's authority for it, he believed that assertion to be correct. He was glad, very glad, to hear that it was not intended to increase our military establishment in Ireland; but unless ministers intended to back their new penal law against the Ca- 87 tholics with a military force, it would be in vain for them to try the effects of mere acts of parliament. To what part, then, of our foreign possessions was this allusion to apply? The augmentation of our force was rendered necessary, said the noble lord, in consequence of the struggle that was now carrying on in the Mediterranean—alluding, he supposed, to the war raging between the Ottoman Porte and Greece. It would be gratifying to every man in the country to find that the right hon. gentleman opposite felt himself strong enough in the cabinet to take some decisive measures in favour of that unfortunate but glorious nation. At the commencement of the last session he had stated his opinion to be hostile to our interference with Turkey in behalf of the Greeks; but events had occurred since that time, which made it proper, in his opinion, for the British government to interfere, and to urge upon the Ottoman Porte the utter impossibility of its ever again recovering possession of that part of the continent and islands of Greece that had now achieved their freedom. If, therefore, it were possible, some attempts should be made to put a stop to a struggle which could only be protracted to the injury of that country, which the policy of England seemed to have an interest in supporting; and if it was the object of the government to maintain that empire as a bulwark against Austria, or the more to be dreaded power of Russia, their wisest policy would be to render Greece independent. But he could not flatter himself that that was the view taken of the subject by the noble lord; he could not flatter himself with the thought, that the British government meant to tell the Turks, that it was necessary to the preservation of the balance of power in Europe, and the diffusion of the happiness of mankind, that they should never again impose on the Greeks their accursed yoke. What, then, was he to think of the augmentation of the army? Was the right hon. Secretary afraid that Canada was in danger? He had heard it whispered, that in case a certain gentleman should be elected to the presidency of the United States, his well known opinions, with respect to England, were so hostile, as to excite alarm. He mentioned this circumstance in close ignorance and darkness; but this darkness and ignorance were not his fault, but the fault of the government, who, in the ninth year of peace, proposed the aug- 88 mentation without assigning the reasons. Without presuming to pry into the secrets of cabinets, he might, perhaps, be allowed to ask, whether this increase of our military establishment had any reference to the new line of policy, if it were new, which had been adopted by the right hon. Secretary, with regard to the Holy Alliance? He only asked those questions, which were put to him by every man he met in the street, and what every man had a right to demand to be explained, before he consented to any increase of the army. We had now an army of 73,000 regulars—a body of troops which far exceeded any thing that was contemplated twenty years ago as a peace establishment. We had a right to know to what extent, and for what purpose, this increase was to be made. Some said 5,000 men, others 10,000, others 15,000, and others again as much as 20,000 men; and to these inquiries the country had a right to categorical answers. He could not find, either in the Speech from the throne, or in that of the right hon. Secretary, any mention made, or even the least allusion, to the military occupation of one friendly power by another friendly power; a circumstance which had been pronounced on all hands, even by the right hon. Secretary him self as the most unjustifiable aggression which could be found in the annals of usurpation. The people of England had a right to know, whether this monstrous injustice, which no time could efface, was to be perpetuated for ever. We had suffered one of our allies to annihilate the independence of Italy; and there had been no call for arming then; on the contrary, it was contended in that House, that every tiling which Austria had done, had been done with a justifiable view of consolidating her power, and preserving her own dominions from danger. We had suffered another of our allies to subjugate the independence of Spain; but there had been no call for arming then, or at least only from that side of the House whose calls were not often attended to by the majority of it. But now, because the Burman empire, of whose very existence few men knew any thing, chose to attack the East India Company, and because there were other circumstances connected with our foreign possessions, which were not specifically mentioned, and of which nobody knew any thing, our army was to be augmented, and no inconsiderable additions were to be made to it. He contended, that the House would be guilty of 89 an act of flagrant injustice to the people of England, and of a gross neglect of its own duty, if it permitted the address to be brought up, without demanding from ministers a further explanation than any which they had hitherto thought proper to give. There was another topic on which he had heard no observations made last night. It was said, that this augmentation was not to cost the country much, because the East India Company was to pay most of the troops of which it consisted. He cared not who paid them; he had rather, however, that the people of England did not. His objection went deeper, and was to the augmentation itself. It must, however, at any rate, cost something; and he thought that the chancellor of the Exchequer, when he came to explain his budget, should tell them how far his intention of making further reductions in the weight of taxation had been paralyzed by this scheme to augment the army. He hoped that some of the reductions which the right hon. gentleman intended to make would apply to the direct taxation of the country. Much as the people were inclined to applaud the liberality of his policy, still they laboured under a conviction that a reduction of direct taxation was imperiously called for. He had thrown out these observations not with any intention of dividing the House, but that he might not be supposed to concur in many of the topics which the Speech contained. He joined, however, in the congratulations upon the improvement of the agriculture and commerce of the country; and, he might also add, upon the improvement of ministers. He cared little who was to have the credit of the changes which had taken place—he minded not whose was the thunder: if it spared the subject, and beat down those who were proud, he was glad that it had descended, and was perfectly regardless as to the quarter from which it had come.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that at the very moment that the hon. member for Westminster had made his appeal and put his question to him, he had furnished him (the chancellor of the Exchequer) with the answer which it would be his duty to give. The hon. member had said, that it had now been the practice for many years to frame his majesty's Speech, and also tike reply to it, in such a manner 90 as not to involve the House in any specific pledge as to the course of measures it might subsequently pursue. If such Were the case, was it not a little inconsistent in the hon. gentleman to call upon ministers to explain in detail the propositions which they intended to submit to parliament, and also the reasons on which those propositions were founded? The hon. member had stated that he had no doubt but that he (the chancellor of the Exchequer) would be ready, when he brought in his budget, to state the reasons why he conceived this augmentation of the army necessary, and also the measures whereby he intended to provide for the payment of it, and to effect a further diminution of taxation. It would be his duty at an early day to take the course which the hon. member had pointed out; and he should then certainly enter into the amplest details of the propositions which he intended to submit to the House. It might, indeed, be more convenient to the hon. member, to hear those details on the present occasion; but he was sure the House would see very many reasons why it would be highly absurd for him to give them. He should therefore postpone his explanation to a future day. At present he would merely observe, that though the augmentation of the army seemed to him absolutely necessary, he should be able to accompany it with a reduction of taxation, which he trusted would appear to be founded on sound principles, and be generally acceptable to the country. He was glad to have this annunciation to make to parliament; because he had been told, in the course of the last session, that the reductions which he had made at that time left the public a blank and dreary prospect for the future. He had not then ventured upon any prognostics; but he felt at the time a strong presentiment, that at the commencement of the present session he should be enabled to persevere in the course on which he had entered; and he now had the heartfelt satisfaction of stating to the House, that that presentiment had been fully realized. The whole burthen of the speech which the hon. member for Westminster had just made was contained in these words, "What are the grounds on which you, the ministers, call upon the House to sanction this increase of the army?" The hon. member, in putting that question, had alluded to what had fallen last night from the noble mover of the address; namely, that there 91 was nothing in the state of Ireland to require an increase of our military establishment. His majesty's government did not pretend to say that there was any thing in Ireland which required the presence of a single additional soldier. The same was also the case in England. Indeed, his majesty's Speech distinctly stated, that the augmentation of the army had reference, not to the internal, but to the external circumstances of the country. The hon. member had also treated the Burmese war as a matter of great indifference; but that was not surprising, considering that most people treated with indifference a distant danger. The hon. member had also said, that he knew nothing of the Burman empire, except its geographical situation; but for all that, it might be a very formidable power, and calculated to inflict no small detriment upon our possessions in India. Any man who considered the peculiar nature of our empire in India, and how it had arisen, almost in spite of its rulers, into its present extent and magnitude, would see that whatever tended to disturb the tranquillity of any part of it, was calculated to produce effects much more important than any which would enter into the imagination of a casual observer, or of one who only knew the Burman empire by mere hearsay. When the subject of our Indian relations should be brought before the House he trusted his majesty's ministers would be fully able to show that the proposition was founded in sound policy, and was not liable to the objections which the hon. member had urged against it; for it was not an increase made in time of profound peace, but an increase made in time of active war. With regard to the words, "our other foreign possessions," he referred him to the time of the debate for information of the details regarding them, which his right hon. friend would at that time willingly afford. He could not conceive how the hon. member, who generally looked abroad with a philosophic eye, could view our foreign possessions without seeing how widely different their present state was from their state twenty years ago. The establishment which defended them twenty years ago was utterly inadequate to their present defence; so great had been the change in their relative situations to each other, and also in every thing which surrounded them. In England, in case of any sudden danger, the minister could call upon the people to support the government with its 92 resources; and if the call was just, it was certain to be successful: but, in our foreign possessions, which were widely scattered over the face of the earth and the waters, those resources could not be immediately called into action; and it would therefore be unwise to leave them exposed to all the dangers of sudden invasion. These were the general grounds, without entering into further details, on which he thought that it would be successfully argued, that there were just causes for increasing the army. He expected, however that the hon. gentleman, if he took his information of the extent of that increase from the sources which were open to the public, would be greatly disappointed, when he learned what that increase was really to be.
said, that, notwithstanding the speeches he had heard upon the address, he rose with exactly the same feelings which he had stated to the House when last he ventured to address it, and which he must still avow in the face of all the praises which had since been showered upon the government, and especially upon the right hon. gentleman who had been declared to be its brightest ornament, and the object of the esteem and admiration of all parties: for if such praises had been merited, his own opinions were as unjust as illiberal, and he owed to the right hon. gentleman, his colleagues, and himself, to defend the language he had held, or to acknowledge his error. And first, as to the right hon. gentleman: what had been the ground of the unqualified applause bestowed upon him, in the last session, by hon. and learned friends, whose talents and political integrity had given the greatest weight to their opinion? The right hon. gentleman was said to have done himself the greatest honour, by the way in which he had spoken of a gallant member of the House, because his language had been a severe rebuke to the governments who had endeavoured to degrade that gallant individual; but, if the right hon. gentleman's language had been a rebuke to other governments, how much greater to his own, who, in that very instance, had set the others the example? Nor could he help telling the right hon. gentleman, as he had told him in the case of her late majesty, that as a minister he would have acted more consistently by the Crown and by his colleagues, as well as by the interests of the 93 parties, in defending them in the cabinet rather than in that House, and by making the adoption of his opinions there the condition of his holding office. Where, then, in this, had been the great merit of the right hon. gentleman, or what the real difference betwixt his colleagues and himself, but that others had acted openly, whilst he would conceal his conduct? For as foreign minister, he had stood foremost in the cabinet, the betrayer of his country; whilst, like Judas, he denied it to the people, and had thought to screen himself by dining with a radical lord mayor, or by his brilliant speeches, which, like brilliant tricks, were most admired when least understood. If he had misrepresented the right hon. gentleman, he hoped to be set right; for nothing could be further from his intention, nor more painful to himself, than the personal attacks which public duty had compelled him to make; but, considering the right hon. gentleman, as minister, the enemy of his country, the greater his talents and popularity, the more dangerous he was, and the more necessary to grapple with, and endeavour to unmask him to the nation. As an actor on the political stage, the right hon. gentleman stood unrivalled, both as to the variety of parts he could assume, and his excellence in each. But the merit of an actor was no merit in a minister; for he should appear but in one character, and that so fair and open, as to leave no room to hang a doubt upon; whilst that of the right hon. gentleman was neither to be found in his conduct nor his speeches, wherein he always charmed his hearers and brought down thunders of applause, but as to his real policy, contrived to keep them in the dark. What stronger instance than his late speech, wherein he boasted of the applause of the whole nation to the very echo which applauds again, whilst he deplored her immorality, and taxed her with being ready to assist Ferdinand to strangle infant liberty in Spain. And who but himself could understand his meaning; whether as the friend of liberty to exclaim against the baseness of his country, or only as the greater rogue to cry out first, and reproach the majorities of the House, in like manner, but in less homely terms, than were said to have been used by a certain kitchen article when abusing its companion on the fire? The conduct of his opponents in the cabinet was at least open and intelligible, and in fact more wise: they 94 saw the folly of his half measures, and the necessity of either abandoning their system, or of joining despotism to support it. In the mean time, betwixt the stools of their contention, Spain had fallen to the ground; and England, without a change of measures, must fall at last. Never yet did she stand so degraded and despised in the eyes of Europe and the world, as under her present government, composed of parties openly professing opposite principles, whose mutual jealousy and hatred were notorious to the whole country, and who literally agreed in nothing but to keep in place at the expense of their own honour and consistency—a ministry of whom one half were endeavouring to destroy the press, whilst the other encouraged her defenders. Who, for instance, had so boldly contended for the freedom of religious discussion, and so loudly condemned the prosecutions of the government for libels, as the late hon. member for Portarlington (Mr. Ricardo), whose loss was deplored in the last session by the liberals of the Treasury bench, as of one of the most enlightened and valuable members of the House; whilst the secretary of the home department declared his feelings upon the subject, by rejecting the prayer of a wretched petitioner, who had suffered nearly four years imprisonment for a libel not half so dangerous to the system of the government, as the last motion and speech of the late lamented member. Or, what had been the guilt of this offender, compared with the author of a late political history of Ireland, which, at the present alarming crisis in the state of that country should be read by all who wished for real information upon the subject? Heremembered, at the close of a former session, meeting a party of the cabinet at the Caledonian chapel, where a popular preacher concluded one of his orations with earnestly exhorting the ministers present to carry the bible with them to their country seats, to purify their souls during the recess; but, considering the little benefit they had derived from the advice, he would recommend the trial of another remedy, of a more searching nature, which had been expressly prepared for their own case by the celebrated captain Rock, being the publication he had alluded to; and if this should fail to move their consciences, he knew of nothing but the liquid lake described by their Scotch pastor, that was likely to bring them to a sense of their 95 errors. But, however that might be, he challenged them to read and answer this book, which contained a short but complete history of the causes of the present state of Ireland, and a true picture of the moral and religious feelings of the patrons of the bible society. The great Founder of Christianity reproached the high priests and pharisees of the Jews with being hypocrites; but, what would he have said to the present gospel-teaching ministers, who propagated his doctrines throughout the globe in the teeth of their conduct to that unhappy country? If further proof were wanting, what stronger than the case of the late missionary Smith? For who, after all, were the real authors of the insurrection at Demerara? Not the zealous missionary; not the unhappy slaves; nor their more unhappy masters, whom he believed, if not for humanity, at least for their interests' sake, to be as anxious to protect their slaves as the estates they worked upon; nor, lastly, did he accuse the military or civil authorities of the settlement, placed by the government in so cruel a state of responsibility and danger; but the ministers themselves, who, to serve their political purposes, had encouraged these missionaries, in the teeth of their own admission of the folly and danger of their proceedings: for, in the last session, they had declared the missionary Smith to have been the cause of the insurrection, whom the bible society had held up as their best and most exemplary agent. And what was the truth betwixt them? The right hon. gentleman, with the usual consistency of his speeches, condemned the missionary as guilty, whilst he deeply lamented his fate; but in justice to the character of the deceased, he should have proved his charge, and spared his lamentations, which only injured the accused by their semblance of candour. For himself, he believed that no unprejudiced mind could have read the evidence without a conviction of the truth and sincerity of the deceased's declarations of his innocence; that, however mistaken in his religious feelings, he had been actuated by a pure and disinterested zeal in the cause, and, like the apostles, in going forth to preach the gospel, had taken neither scrip nor purse. But, in thus defending his moral character from the base motives which passion, prejudice, or cold-blooded policy had imputed to it, he must equally avow his contempt of all these bible societies, which, whether com- 96 posed of knaves or dupes, were alike false, absurd, and dangerous to the last degree, but connived at by ministers to cover the still greater imposture of their government. The right hon. gentleman, to adapt his eloquence to the spirit of the times, and to tickle the bible society, as he had tickled his learned friends, by his praise of the gallant member for Southwark, had declared the Shibboleth of his policy; and, comparing its treacherous and inhuman consequences with his far-fetched story from the bible, he could not have hit upon a better word; but for his policy, he had always proclaimed it to be Mr. Pitt's system, or to quote his religious muse—"Elijah's mantle," which, according to a psalm of his own composing, had been tried by all, and fitted nobody but himself; and now, when at last he had got it on his back, he found it too old and threadbare to serve his purpose; and instead of replacing it with a new one, was vainly endeavouring to repair it: but who, in the profession, but himself, would patch an old coat with new cloth, in mending his old system with his new principles of free trade, which could not hold together? This fallacy had been well exposed in the last session, by an hon. member, who maintained, that without a repeal of the corn-laws, the attempt must ruin our manufactures. Would that the judgment of the same hon. member had been equally unbiassed upon the question of that worst of impostures, the sinking fund, to support which the assessed taxes were continued! And here he must take the liberty of reading to him his own lecture to another hon. member, who, in the last session, had soared above all in his flight of humanity, upon a question wherein he had no private interest; but upon another question, betwixt the brewers and the public, had stuck to the golden rule of every man for himself. So the other hon. member, who had fought like a lion in the cause of the people throughout all the stages of the corn-bill, turned tail upon the question of a sinking fund, to which he could only look with the eye of a loan-contractor. Here lay the root of the evil, which nothing but reform could cure; for it was to this feeling of self-interest in those who held the remedy in their own hands, that all the miseries of Spain, of Ireland, and of suffering humanity throughout the world, were mainly to be ascribed. The right hon. secretary had declared, that his Shibboleth was England. Would 97 to God it were so, and that he would only prove it, in setting that example of public virtue which alone was wanting to raise her to a prouder station than she had yet filled amongst the powers of Europe—Oh England! model to thy inward greatness,Like little body with a mighty heart;What might'st thou do, that honour would thee do,Were all thy children kind and natural!and what prevented her, but that unnatural system of her government, which had wasted her strength, blasted her reputation, and reduced her to the lowest state of moral and political disgrace? For what was her real situation, and the short answer to all the vain boastings of her ministers? Look to her debt of 800 millions, which neither ten years of peace, nor all the retrenchments forced upon her government had one jot diminished; and this was the key to that new system of her policy, wherein the same ministers who had expended millions upon millions to deliver Spain from France, and uphold the liberties of England in the general liberties of Europe, had now, forsooth, discovered that her true interest was to stand alone, and (as the right hon. Secretary had expressed it) to move within the circle of her own orbit. But, for once, let him quit his tropes and metaphors, and answer in plain language to the charge of conspiracy against the liberties of his country. The ministers, in the king's Speech, had again openly boasted of their friendly relations with those powers, who had as openly declared their hostility to all constitutional governments, and proved their intentions by their acts, in destroying that of Spain. What, then, could be the basis of such friendship, but their mutual understanding and agreement upon that vital question of public liberty, the existence of which was incompatible with the principles the Holy Alliance stood pledged to establish? And that this was the fact, he boldly asserted, and as firmly believed; whilst of all parties concerned, the ministers of England stood deepest involved in the guilt. As to the others, with the exception of him whose monstrous abuse of the power to which his brother legitimates had restored him, seemed to have been ordained by Providence to mark the folly of their cause, and the justice of the cause of the people, there was not an individual of those exalted personages, whose private character, from all he had seen, heard, and believed, he did not respect, whilst he con- 98 sidered their political feelings to be only the natural consequence of the causes which had excited them; but he could find no excuse for those who, born in the land of liberty, educated in her school, and indebted to her protection for the wealth and honours they had acquired, would now desert her cause, kick down the ladder which had raised them, and trample on the people's heads. But, whatever the motives of the parties, for which they must answer to their God, it was their conduct the people had to look to; and whether the government of France and Spain, the governments of the Holy Alliance, or, above all, the government of England, he denounced the whole as conspirators against the liberties of mankind, and called upon the ringleaders to answer to the charge. Most gravely and deliberately he accused them of having wilfully neglected that glorious occasion, which the return of peace, and the destruction of Buonaparte's power, had afforded, of re-establishing the liberties of Europe upon a firm basis, and of setting up a more dangerous and detestable tyranny in its place; and that, instead of availing themselves of that dear-bought but invaluable lesson, which the history of the French revolution had taught both crowns and people, in pointing out to both their true interests, once more, like their prototype Pitt, but with still less excuse, they had conspired with the powers of Europe against the liberties of the people, solely to prevent reform in the abuses of their own governments. And, let the people look to the progress they had made. Three years since, Spain was free, and France boasted of her charter; but now, Spain was groaning under a double slavery; France was plainly told by her ministers, she must expiate the crimes of her revolution by returning to her former state; whilst the ministers of England, who began their part in the performance with invectives against Bourbon treachery, and prayers for Spanish independence, were now praying in their hearts for the re-establishment of that system in France, which they found to be the only chance for the continuance of their own; for they well knew, that peace could not be maintained betwixt the two nations, without a fairer balance of the conditions of the people in both, and that neither tithes nor excessive taxation could be much longer imposed on the one, without being regenerated in the other. But, if the dis- 99 tresses of the people could not move the ministers, let them, at least, turn their eyes to their own danger, and the rotten foundation on which their power rested; for whilst the government of France rode triumphant over the people, and found it needless to dupe them longer, even with the name of their charter, the ministers of England had no real power whatever, but, like dishonest servants, only kept in place by imposing on the credulity of their masters. What better illustration of the strength, courage, and generosity of the nation, contrasted with the weakness, cowardice, and baseness of her government, than the act of the right hon. gentleman, who, as one of the people, had advertised his subscription to the relief of the Spanish patriots, from whom, as minister, he had withdrawn the trifling support the government had allowed them; and whilst thus meanly truckling to foreign powers, what greater proof of their tyranny at home, and the insolence of that faction which had usurped the powers of the constitution, and lorded it equally over the Crown and people, than that the same sovereign who had proclaimed the equality of civil and political rights to all his German subjects, was prevented by his ministers from doing the same justice to the Catholic population of his united kingdom. And what was their excuse?—the danger of the Protestant religion. But, was ever assertion so false, or hypocrisy so great, as that which pretended to believe it, but which well knew that the danger was not to the established religion, but to an enormous church establishment in Ireland, which required the expense of a large standing army to support it, in the teeth of ail justice and true religion, and the sense and feeling of the people? As to Catholic emancipation, if no other benefit were to accrue from the measure but the transfer of the tithes collected from the Catholic people to the Catholic church, he should consider it an act of justice and sound policy, and appeal to every argument of the right hon. Secretary, upon his motion to enable Catholic peers to sit in parliament, to confirm his own opinion; and as to others of his piebald cabinet, who would scare the nation with the danger of Catholic ascendancy, he called upon them at once to put an end to all religious differences, and unite Catholic, Protestant, and Dissenter in their country's cause, by graciously permitting their own sovereign to do that by the 100 people of the united kingdom, which he had done by the people of Hanover. Nothing short of this could give that strength to the government, which, under whatever form, was essential to support it; and, if such had been the advancement of general knowledge and education, that this concession had been deemed necessary to the slaves of a despotic government, to whom the freedom of the press was still unknown, how much more necessary to that people, who, in the establishment of their liberties, beheaded one king, dethroned another, and set up a third, to the exclusion of the legitimate heir to the crown, whom the voice of the people declared to have forfeited his right? And, unless the ministers could make up their minds to this measure, which if not conceded, would eventually be forced upon them, they had better at once drop the curtain upon the farce they had so long been playing in that House, and either shut its doors, or at least march those out of it who dared impeach their conduct, as the deputy Manuel was marched out of the French chamber.
§ Sir John Newport
complained of the manner in which the condition of Ireland had been treated in the Speech from the throne. What was mainly stated as a fact respecting Ireland in that Speech, he absolutely and of his own knowledge denied. He denied that the Catholic Association had tended to disturb the peace of the country. On the contrary, he believed that that body had tended, and most efficaciously, to tranquillize Ireland, and had powerfully co-operated with the Irish government in producing that salutary effect. As, however, the government unfortunately thought otherwise, he now desired to know in the first place, when it was intended by ministers to bring in any bill on the subject of Ireland; for it was fit and right that, upon so momentous an occasion, all the members of that House should be in their places to speak their mind upon the proposed measure, for they must all feel that every measure now affecting Ireland must equally affect England, and therefore called for the fixed attention of the imperial parliament. It was important that ministers should at once state what they intended in this respect, unless, indeed, they were disposed to frame a measure for Ireland in a shape so odious, as they would not dare to frame for the people of England: it was essential, he repeated, that the House should 101 have an explicit and ample notice of the intentions of his majesty's government. He also wished to ask, whether they meant to ground any measure upon the report of a committee, or meant merely to lay explanatory papers before the House, and then proceed to legislate upon assumed facts? If the latter were intended, then it was indispensable that those papers should be some time in the hands of members, before any proposition were founded upon them which was intended to affect the rights of the subject, and to rob the people of their ancient right to communicate, in their own way, to the legislature, their grounds of complaint; for that alone was the object of the Catholic Association. If the Catholic Association were really dangerous, then the country had to thank the lord chancellor of England, and the right hon. Secretary for the home department, for their existence; for it was these gentlemen who had, in each House of parliament, declared, that the people of Ireland had, in point of fact, no interest, and felt no concern, in the discussions upon the Catholic question which had been pressed upon the government; that the agitation of such subjects was kept alive only by a few. Now, what was the fact? The Association prepared their petition, and the Catholics, from one end of the country to the other, came forward to testify their deep interest in the proceedings of that body, and to contribute, from their exhausted purses, the necessary means for defraying the expenses of their measures. At first, it was said the people cared nothing about the matter: then followed the establishment of the Association, and the demonstration of the popular feeling, in unison with the sentiments of their leaders. When it was said, that equal justice had been done the Catholics, and that they ought to rely patiently upon the wisdom of the legislature, he begged to call upon the House to take a retrospect of the legislative measures which had been adopted for the relief of the Catholics. In the first place, he called upon them to recollect the motion which had been made by his right hon. friend (Mr. Wynn), in 1813, to put down the illegal society of Orangemen. In the debate upon that motion, as well as upon another which was nearly simultaneous with it, the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Canning) had used these words—"It is a consolatory reflection, that among 102 all the digressions to which this debate has given rise, no honourable member has stood forward to defend the anomaly of these societies, and that all have concurred in the opinion, that the members of them are guilty of a breach of the public peace." A noble lord then in the government (lord Londonderry) had also declared, that he relied upon the common sense of the country rejecting and putting down such associations; and yet, notwithstanding these declarations from such high quarters, it was only now that his right hon. friend, the attorney-general for Ireland, had come prepared to say, that the existing laws were not sufficient to meet the evil, and that new and more coercive ones were necessary. It was quite clear, he thought, that against the Catholic Association this measure was directed, and against them alone. And yet, with this experience before them, they talked of dealing equal justice to the people of Ireland. They might make the laws equal, but the evil in Ireland was always the mal-administration of these laws; and it was of the mode of executing them, that the people of Ireland had always had cause to complain. Was it not notorious that high officers of his majesty's government in Ireland were members of Orange associations? Did they not know that official persons acted as Grand Masters and Deputy-Grand Masters in these illegal associations? If any such were found so managing the Catholic Association, how loud would have been the complaints of the opponents of that body. The only remedy for the distemper of Ireland was a redress of her grievances. They would never succeed in stifling the voice of discontent, until they removed the oppression which had generated it. He readily concurred in the praise of liberality which had been bestowed upon some of the late measures of the government; but why not extend the same wise policy to the affairs of Ireland? The fact was, that they never acted wisely or liberally towards Ireland, and their periods of relaxation were always dictated by sad necessity. Let them trace the question historically. In the year 1792, when the present lord privy seal (lord Westmorland) was viceroy of Ireland, and the late earl of Buckinghamshire, then Mr. Hobart, his secretary, an humble petition from the Catholics was actually driven out of the Irish house of parliament by acclamation: a petition merely asking for a 103 very moderate share of privilege; and yet, in the very year after, a measure embodying far more relief than was supplicated for in the previous petition, was introduced and carried triumphantly through parliament, under the auspices of this very secretary. The state of things had altered since the preceding year, and the war with France, and not a spirit of liberality and justice, had led to the relaxation. He was old enough to recollect the whole course of this question, and to remember, that the eye of parliament could not be brought to look upon it, until the fleets of France and Spain rode triumphantly in the British Channel. Let no man, then, be duped by the notion, that the Catholics had reason to confide in the liberality of the British government. If, at the time to which he alluded, the Catholic body was important when a crisis befel the empire, how much more important had it since become! It was never so consolidated as it was now; and that consolidation had been effected by the misgovernment of this country, and the repeated refusal of the just claims of the people. He lamented exceedingly the course which his majesty's ministers seemed now disposed to take. He had lived long enough in Ireland to know the evils which would inevitably follow from such a system. He felt warmly in thus expressing his sentiments, because he foresaw the misery which would flow from perseverance in a coercive policy. He deplored the sad condition of that country, in whose interests he was wrapped up, and where was placed the little all which formed his means of support in this world. Again and again he would deprecate this policy, at once baneful and absurd: this wretched perseverance, upon every flimsy pretext, of refusing the just claims of the people, until the arrival of some impending danger, which compelled the government to bestow ungraciously, and thanklessly, what, if conferred under other circumstances and other times, would have been received as a boon. He had now done his duty: he could conscientiously say, liberavi animam meam. But few years remained to him in the course of nature; but, with his dying breath he would admonish ministers not to proceed thus towards Ireland; and his last words would be to warn them against the danger, the sure and certain danger, of prosecuting a system of coercion.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that he would 104 not be provoked by any expressions which had fallen from the right hon. baronet, to anticipate the regular discussion which would soon take place upon the topics to which he had adverted. It was, as the right hon. baronet had justly observed, most true, that by giving an assent to the Address, no member was pledged to support the specific measures with respect to Ireland, which it was in contemplation to submit to the consideration of the House. In the course of the evening, his right hon. friend, the secretary for Ireland, would give notice of the steps which it was intended to pursue. In taking that course, his majesty's government was prepared, upon its own responsibility, to submit certain measures to the consideration of parliament. With respect to the Catholic Association, though, on a future day, that subject would come before the House more directly, he did not hesitate to say, that he considered its existence not consistent with the popular privileges and liberties of the representative body of the kingdom. He could not help thinking, that such must also be the conviction of many persons who, on other questions, did not agree with him. He spoke not of those who considered the existence of that Association, as trenching on the supremacy of the Crown, and the prerogatives of the executive, but he would put it to any unprejudiced man who valued the popular institutions of the country, whether its continuance was not incompatible with the privileges of parliament, and the due administration of justice. Could the House of Commons tolerate a body which assumed to itself the power of levying a tax on a portion of the king's subjects? Was it consistent with the pure administration of justice, that an unrecognised assembly should presume to overawe the judicial administration of the country? As he before stated, he was unwilling to enter at large upon a question which would be the subject of future discussion; but he was convinced, that when fully and impartially considered, no man who valued the popular institutions of the country could give his support to an association, which, though perhaps tolerated by an evasion of the law, was manifestly opposed to the spirit of the Convention act. He could not believe that the acts of the Association received the deliberate support of the great body of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. He could not believe, though opposed to their 105 claims, that any great and respectable class of the community could subscribe to that doctrine which was recorded in their published proceedings, of appealing to that hatred which, as Catholics, they were presumed to bear to another portion of their fellow men. And yet, when a Roman Catholic gentleman, attending a meeting of the Association, proposed the erasure of such language, as inconsistent with the dictates of religion and the spirit of Christian charity, his objection had been unanimously over-ruled. Again he would repeat, that he never could bring himself to believe, that any large portion of the people would tolerate such a sentiment as was expressed in the address which had emanated from the Catholic Association. If, however, the Catholics generally participated in such feelings and opinions, then, indeed, how additionally strong became the reason for excluding from political power persons capable of holding such tenets! No; he could not believe that the Catholic community would adopt such principles; for he had always hitherto heard their best advocates entreat that the errors of the few should not be visited upon the heads of the many. It was not a little strange that, whilst several gentlemen called upon the government to permit this association to remain, they were loud in their denunciation of another association in this country, against which the same cause of complaint did not exist. An hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Brougham) had last night alluded to some supposed difference of opinion among the members of the cabinet upon particular subjects: he had talked of those who were always ready to sacrifice their opinions for the preservation of their places, and that there was one who would pocket any popular opinion of the day, to preserve his official power. He was certainly much disinclined to speak of himself—
§ Mr. Peel
said, he did not wish to separate himself from his colleague, the lord chancellor of England, to whom the observations he alluded to were understood to apply. Of that eminent individual he could not speak in terms of adequate praise. He believed his name would go down to posterity, as that of a man of great and exalted merits, and that notwithstanding the failings imputed by some men to some of his acts, he would go down to posterity as being the most consistent politician who had ever held the 106 great seal. The whole tenor of his official life was the best answer to all the calumnies which had been heaped upon his character. With respect to his own opinions—and for them he only meant now to answer—he could declare, that his original view of the Catholic question had been strengthened and confirmed by the experience of subsequent events; and he claimed credit for the sincerity of his opinion, when he declared, that he was prepared to make any official sacrifice, rather than abandon his principles. The right hon. bart. had said, that he (Mr. P.) and the lord chancellor, were the persons who ought to be held responsible for the establishment of the Catholic Association. For himself, he could assure the right hon. baronet, that the imputed responsibility was groundless; for he had never opened his lips upon the subject, in the manner in which he was supposed to have done. He was ready to discharge his duty, and he called upon parliament to put down an Association calculated to engender hatred, strife, and every kind of bitterness. If it should be the decision of parliament that the Association ought to be put down, he never could believe that the Catholics would not acquiesce in the decision. The hon. member for Westminster had stated it to be his opinion, that if the legislature should make a law declaring the Association illegal, nothing but the employment of military force could obtain obedience to it. He never could believe that. He was quite sure, if such a law was passed, that law would be readily obeyed by the Catholic body.
warmly defended the Catholic Association, which, he contended, had done more than any body previously constituted, to promote the tranquillity of Ireland. Let them be talked of as a representative body or not, still this salutary consequence had, most certainly, attended their proceedings; and the Catholics, as a body, would feel that any blow aimed at the Association was directed against themselves. Upon the impolicy of ministers in their policy towards Ireland, he entirely concurred in every word which had fallen from his right hon. friend, the member for Water-ford. For years he had deplored this fatal policy towards his country, and marked, step by step, the affliction of which it had been the cause. It was painful to have to repeat such sentiments on the occasion of an address to the throne, when the 107 most dutiful feelings to the sovereign ought to be expressed; but he should violate every principle which he cherished, if he suffered the passage in the address respecting Ireland to be discussed, without pronouncing upon it his most unqualified reprobation. The ministers had so far forgotten their duty, as to put into his majesty's Speech that which was not true; they had recorded a false fact, and pronounced a gross libel upon the Catholics of Ireland. It was asserted, that the proceedings of the Catholic Association were irreconcileable to the principles of the constitution. That he positively denied; and he would go further, and declare, that there was nothing valuable in the constitution which had not been obtained by exertions similar to those which the Catholic Association were making. The right hon. gentleman opposite contended, that the proceedings of the Association were calculated to create alarm. Aye; but to whom? To the right hon. gentleman—to those who thought with the right hon. gentleman—and to the faction in Ireland which, for above a century, had oppressed that unhappy country. But, why was the alarm thus created? Lest Mr. O'Connell, and the other respectable heads of that Association, should continue to proclaim the grievances of the Catholics in such a manner, that it would at length become impossible for the most prejudiced persons to contend that their chains ought not to be broken. In that sense, certainly, an alarm might exist. The persecutors of the Catholics might justly be alarmed. They were alarmed by the prospect, that if things continued to go on as they were going on, the Catholic question must, eventually, be passed by acclamation. It was evidently impossible, if the Catholics continued to proclaim their grievances as they were doing, and as they had a right to do, but that the Catholic question must speedily be carried. It was the calamity of Ireland, that the British government had ever ruled her in a spirit of faction. Discord, and not peace, had ever been their motto; and now they were again about to exasperate real grievances by coercion, instead of opening the Statute-book, and expunging from it those bitter penal enactments which disgraced the Protestant, while they oppressed and degraded the Catholic. He rejoiced as much as any man at the liberal principles which the government had lately evinced, and at some of their late measures with regard 108 to Ireland. He had been for years entreating successive administrations to attend in time to the sad condition of the Irish people; and many of the measures which were once scouted, had been since adopted and acted upon by ministers. He implored the government to pause before they precipitated themselves into fresh measures of violence towards the people of Ireland. The Catholics would not, in the present state of society, tamely submit to an unjustifiable exclusion from the privileges which they ought to enjoy; nor ought they to submit to this political degradation. It was idle to suppose that this question would not ultimately be carried; in spite of the opposition of any portion of the government. He denied the assertion made by the right hon. gent. (Mr. Canning) last night, that the proceedings of the Catholic Association had indisposed the public mind in England to the Catholic question. He absolutely denied that assertion, and dared the right hon. gentleman to prove it. That individuals disapproved of some of the acts of the Association, he admitted; but he denied that any expression of hostility had emanated from any portion of the British public against the measure itself. The ministers, by their conduct towards Ireland, had placed themselves in a sad predicament. They were fortunate in having succeeded, by the glorious efforts of our troops, in bringing the late war to a happy conclusion. They were fortunate in having struggled successfully through the difficult period of peace that immediately followed. In being enabled to state, in the Speech from the throne, the great prosperity of the empire in its commerce and manufactures, and the benefits derived from those liberal measures relative to foreign trade, which had acquired for them the approbation of the country, they were most fortunate. But when, in the Speech conveying these statements, they had the infatuation to insert a call on the two houses of parliament to legislate, for the purpose of oppressing and gagging six millions of the population of the empire, who, feeling that they were aggrieved, did not hesitate to express that feeling, they were most unfortunate indeed. Much had been said of the employment of English capital in Ireland; but he would ask the right hon. gentlemen opposite, what chance there was that the monied man of England would risk his property in that country, when he was told by government that it 109 was necessary to pass a measure tantamount to a declaration of war against the whole Irish people? How could the right hon. gentlemen feel that they were doing their duty, in thus sounding an alarm, the effect of which must of necessity be, to deprive the inhabitants of Ireland of the benefits which it had been anticipated would flow in upon them from that source? It had been said, that since the Union, Ireland had been treated with great partiality and kindness. That he denied. On the contrary, he complained of the neglect with which, year after year, Ireland had been treated. In vain had he, from time to time, assured that House, that every thing was wrong and rotten in that country. A deaf ear had been turned to all his expostulations. Latterly, indeed, a rather better system had been adopted; but most tardily and inadequately. No minister had a right to take credit for that remission of taxation, which was rendered indispensable by the poverty of the country.
Sir Thomas Lethbridge
said, that being as anxious as any man could be for the peace, security, and happiness of Ireland, he could not refrain from applauding most sincerely the measures which his majesty's government had declared it to be their intention to introduce. He was firmly convinced that, for the sake of the Irish Catholics themselves, the Catholic Association ought to be put down; and being so convinced, he felt that he should not do his duty, if he did not stand up in his place, and thank his majesty's ministers for the course they were adopting. Unless something had been proposed by government, it would have been utterly impossible for a single week of the session to have passed over without notice having been given of a similar measure. This was rendered the more necessary, if, as he understood, the Catholics of England had united with the Catholics of Ireland in their proceedings. The Catholic Association might be considered as a second parliament. But, as two parliaments were not contemplated by the British constitution, he trusted that this new parliament, which had commenced its functions by levying money, taken out of the pockets of the poorest of their constituents, would be put an end to. A body which trenched so much on the spirit of the constitution ought no longer to be permitted to exist. As a representative of the people, he had felt it incumbent on him to take the earliest opportunity of thanking his ma- 110 jesty's ministers for the measures they had declared it to be their intention to originate; and he thanked them also, that they were about to originate these measures on their own responsibility, instead of making any previous application for the advice of parliament. That was the principle on which, under such circumstances, all governments ought, in his opinion, to act.
§ Lord Nugent
observed, that the right hon. gentleman opposite began his speech by a most unfortunate attempt to draw a parallel between the Roman Catholic Association, and the body once kown in this country by the name of the Constitutional Association. And this parallel the right hon. gentleman accompanied by a taunt against those who had implied, that in their opinion the latter was illegal. But, did not the right hon. gentleman perceive that the weapon he was using was double-edged? Good God! Had not those who were of opinion that the Constitutional Association was illegal, a right to say to his majesty's government, "If you think the two societies on a par in point of legality, and if you maintain that the Catholic Association is illegal, why did you not institute proceedings against the Constitutional Association, which, according to your reasoning, must be illegal also?" No proceeding was ordered to be instituted against that Association by the attorney-general. It was true, that a bill had been found against it; but, under the direction of the judge, the proceeding terminated in an acquittal. But if, as was asserted by the opponents of the Catholic Association, that Association was illegal, why not put the existing laws in force against it, instead of proposing new ones? He should not, however, have risen on the present occasion, had it not been for some observations which fell from the hon. baronet who immediately preceded him. That hon. baronet had talked of the unanimous feeling that existed between the Catholics of Ireland and the Catholics of England. He begged leave to bear his public testimony to the correctness of the supposition, that such a unanimity existed. The hon. baronet was perfectly right. He believed he was justified in stating, that the Catholics of Great Britain were disposed to concur entirely, in feeling and in spirit, with the Catholic Association in Ireland: and agreed with them in the propriety of the policy they were now pursuing. He was informed that he should very shortly have 111 the honour to submit to that House a petition on the subject, from the Roman Catholics of Great Britain. He was told it was likely that on that occasion the number of signatures would be three times as great as it had hitherto been. If he was correctly informed, he was most happy that such was the fact; because it rendered it evident, that the Roman Catholics of Great Britain would not be deterred from coming forward at the present crisis, to petition for those rights, the being deprived of which was the grievance which they suffered in common with their brethren in the sister kingdom.
Mr. Secretary Peel
rose to explain. He disclaimed having stated that the hon. and learned gentleman opposite had said that the Constitutional Association was illegal. The learned member for Peterborough had, he believed, doubted its illegality. The noble lord misunderstood the sense in which he meant to apply the word "illegal." He merely meant to say, that the hon. gentleman opposite had contended, that the Constitutional Association was an Association inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution, and that all the objections which could be urged against any society confederating to institute prosecutions, applied with still greater force to the Catholic Association. That was the whole extent of his observations.
§ Mr. Trant
said, that in his opinion the apprehension expressed by the hon. member for Cork was without foundation. The hon. gentleman seemed to think, that if measures were instituted to put down the Association, it would have the effect of preventing capital from flowing into Ireland. He had attended a meeting that day, at which the establishment of provincial banks in Ireland was the subject under consideration; and, so far from the contemplated measure of putting down the Association having thrown any damp on the business, it had on the contrary had a favourable effect. He should rejoice if some of that capital which began to overflow here could find its way to Ireland. It would be productive of the best effects.
§ Mr. Denman,
adverting to what had just fallen from the hon. gentleman, observed, that a decision which had taken place that morning in the court of King's-bench, namely that a similar company was in direct contravention of the letter of an existing law, might, perhaps, affect the company to which the hon. member 112 had alluded. If either that company, or the Catholic Association, were against the spirit of the constitution let them be put down by the existing law; but let not new laws pregnant with injustice and ruin, be enacted for that express purpose. By the declaration of his majesty's government, however, it was evident, that they were determined, if they could not put down the Catholic Association in any other way, to put it down by coercion, by the sword, or by an army of twenty thousand men. And that at the very moment when they were complaining of the Association as being contrary to the spirit of the British constitution! He remembered a right hon. gentleman, not now in the House—he meant the late chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. B. Bathurst)—undertaking the defence of the celebrated Association called, in this country, "Constitutional." That, however, was an imperium in imperio—an Association totally opposed to the spirit of the constitution—an Association which arrogated to itself the official duties of the Attorney-general. Yet, backed as it was by thousands of persons of rank and consequence, it was allowed to pursue an uninterrupted course. His majesty's ministers were perfectly silent with respect to it, unless, indeed, when they spoke in its defence. The fact was, that the Constitutional Association was allowed to go on, because it played the game of power. On this ground was the silence of government to be accounted for. What was the danger here, compared with that which was threatened to the constitution by the Constitutional Association? Defend the Catholic Association! God forbid that he should ever attempt it. He would not be bound to defend the proceedings of any public body—not even the body which he was then addressing. What was it that the Catholic Association had done? They had united for the purpose of defending themselves against the undue administration of the laws [cries of hear, hear!]-He repeated it, the undue administration of justice in that country. For let the marquis of Wellesley have that just praise to which his liberal conduct entitled him, and let the lord chief justice also receive that applause which he so richly deserved, still he maintained, that there was an undue, an unfair administration of justice to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. What was the situation of that large and respectable body at present? After hav- 113 ing their hopes excited from year to year —after having suffered such a variety of misery, that the oldest men could only call to mind the register of their hopes and their disappointments—was it, he asked, too much to suppose that they had a right to combine in their own defence? Was such an association to be placed on a footing with one which arrogated to itself the privileges of the Crown—a society which went out of its way, and which said, "We have no object of our own to effect, but we are determined to put down every person who gives vent to a liberal or a patriotic feeling?" Was it to be put in competition with a system which ended as it began—in jobs and trafficking? He maintained that it ought not. The Catholic Association had claims on the people of England, inasmuch as it spoke the sense, and represented the feelings, of six millions of their fellow-subjects. Their cause was one which it was the duty of that House to take into its most serious consideration; it was a question which his majesty's ministers were bound to bring forward, but in such a manner as to secure the object sought to be attained; and it was singular, that in this great country, surrounded as we were by danger, and opposed as we were by more despotic powers, we should omit to conciliate so large a portion of our fellow-subjects, by giving to them that equality of rights and privileges to which they were so justly entitled. In a little time, it would hardly be believed that such disqualifications could have existed. Their removal could not be long delayed; but the misery that might fill up the interval-could not be even imagined without horror, by any man anxious for the welfare of England and Ireland. They all remembered the disasters occasioned by the American war; but, by persecuting the population of Ireland by this measure, they were bringing America to their very doors, and were giving the last stroke to ages of oppression and misrule. They had been told by an hon. baronet, that the people of England were opposed to the Catholic Association and to Catholic interests. This he took leave to deny. He, too, thought he knew something of the feelings of the people of England, and he would venture to assert that they were not opposed to the interests and liberties of the Roman Catholics. Such opinions might be expressed in public houses and other holes and corners, 114 but they were not the opinions of the people of England. Let not the hon. baronet lay any such flattering unction to his soul; he would go farther, and express a hope, that the hon. baronet's election did not depend either upon that fact, or upon the assertion of it. It was only two years ago that a celebrated orator, now one of his majesty's ministers, proposed a measure for extending the privileges of the Roman Catholics of England. That measure was rejected by parliament; and yet he maintained that those in the country opposed to it formed but a very small minority indeed. Had the opinions just broached by the hon. member for Somersetshire originated with himself, it would not have surprised him; but he did feel surprised at hearing, on a former evening, similar opinions expressed by one of his majesty's ministers; but that surprise was increased when he found that same minister descending to the most vulgar language, and asserting, that the English people were not to be "bullied" into an admission of that which the Roman Catholics claimed as a right. This, he confessed, was a style of language which he was not prepared to expect. It was not his intention to go much further at present, as many opportunities would occur of offering his opinions upon the proposed measure; but of this the House might rest assured, that he should be found at his post, determined to raise his voice, however feeble, against its being passed into a law. The hon. member for Hertfordshire (Mr. W. Lamb) had told them, that he expected the facts alleged against the Catholic Association would be proved, and that he should then be ready to acquiesce in the proposed remedy. But, if he understood rightly, there were no proofs to be brought forward, and ministers intended to rely on the notoriety of the facts. To do this would, in his opinion, be madness; it would, in fact, be drawing the sword and throwing away the scabbard. Should ministers act in such a manner, he trusted that the hon. member would abstain from giving his powerful support to their measures. If they did this what would it be short of saying, that they were determined to act entirely upon public report? He had read the address put forth by the Catholic Association, and, with the exception of the one sentence, quoted by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) last night, he entirely approved of it. If he was rightly informed, his 115 majesty's attorney-general for Ireland could give ministers a convenient caution against confiding too implicitly in newspaper reports. Was it criminal to raise money for any purpose not favoured by government? If the attorney-general for Ireland maintained such a doctrine, he must never have heard of the Whig Club; for there money was subscribed and objects effected certainly not very pleasing to his majesty's ministers. But further, I if it was unlawful to subscribe money at all, what becomes of those who contributed their money for the prosecution of poachers? In order to contribute to that object, a revenue must be raised by collections from individuals. Oh, but the people of Ireland must not subscribe even for their own protection; and least of all must the priesthood be found concerned in the collection of such subscriptions! And why not the priesthood as well as other members of the community? Were not they British subjects, and therefore entitled to an equality of rights and privileges? Were they not the sons and brothers of the middling classes of society; for the fact that they were so had at length slipped out from their opponents? And if so, why were they not to be allowed to participate in any measure which had for its object the attainment of their rights and privileges? What would their opponents have? Did they wish that the Roman Catholics should resort to secret cabals and conspiracies for the attainment of that equality of rights to which they felt themselves entitled? Much better it was, that they should come openly forward, and state to that House and to the country the disqualifications under which they laboured, and the redress which they were anxious to obtain. The right hon. gentleman had been last night very pleasant with the tale of Dennis and his thunder. But here was Jupiter himself selecting his sharpest bolts for the Catholic Association. Much as the gentlemen opposite dreaded Irish oratory, ought they not to give an opportunity for justification, defence, and explanation? This was the thunder which they least approved. The hon. and learned gentlemen, in conclusion, cautioned the House against entertaining a measure calculated to produce in the minds of the Catholics of Ireland feelings of irritation; a measure which they would justly consider as an act of aggression on the part of the British parliament, and likely to be produc- 116 tive of consequences which would make every lover of his country shudder.
, of Galway, assured the House, that the Catholic Association possessed the entire confidence of the Roman Catholic population. This was a feeling predominant in every county in Ireland. But, while he said this, he felt bound, in justice to the Roman Catholics, to state, that they did not agree in all the sentiments uttered in that Association. No man lamented more sincerely than he did the degraded state in which the Roman Catholics of Ireland were kept; but he must observe, that they owed their present situation, and their present feelings, to no less a personage than the Lord Chancellor of England; for did they not see that that high personage had taken the lead in refusing the Catholics of England an equality of privileges with their Irish fellow subjects? Having witnessed this, they felt convinced, that if his lordship were possessed of the power, he would deprive them of those privileges which they now enjoyed, and bring back every proscription and punishment formerly in force against popery. This was a natural and a just feeling. How, indeed, could they argue otherwise, when they saw the Catholic population of England, the most loyal body of persons in England, still restricted even from the privileges extended to those who were falsely designated as factious and disloyal subjects in the sister kingdom. He could assure the House, that on returning to his own country, he had found that a great many gentlemen, who had previously avoided all public matters, had determined to co-operate for the purpose of rescuing themselves from the disabilities under which they laboured. He wished to advert to another point, upon which a serious error prevailed in this country: he meant the impression, that the Roman Catholic Clergy were in the habit of forgiving sins. He assured the House that there was not a more fallacious idea. The Catholic priests, in giving what was called absolution, did nothing more than was done by the Archbishop of Canterbury upon similar occasions; aye, and precisely in the same words; that was to say, they promised forgiveness to those who declared themselves penitent, and expressed a wish and hope to be forgiven. That forgiveness was pronounced by the Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy, precisely in the same words, and the same spirit.
§ Sir Henry Parnell
rose to confirm what had just fallen from the hon. member for Galway, with respect to the confidence reposed by the Catholics of Ireland in the Association, He felt it important to dwell upon this point, because they had been told, that his majesty's ministers intended to introduce the measure for the suppression of the Catholic Association upon their own responsibility, and that public rumour and report were the only grounds to be advanced in favour of its necessity. Upon this the right hon. gentlemen on the other side rested their case. An hon. gentleman had told them, that the Catholic Association represented the feelings and interests of the great body of the people of Ireland. If so, upon what grounds could they pretend to pass those bills. He cautioned them to take care how they aroused sentiments of a more serious nature in the minds of the Irish people: he implored them to be careful how they drove that ill-fated country to the last extremity. That House was bound to weigh well the consequences of the step they were about to take; to consider that that step, once taken, would be looked upon by the Catholics of Ireland as an act of aggression. He would go further than many gentlemen who had preceded him, and assert that it was not in the power of ministers, to support the allegations contained in his majesty's Speech. He defied them to the proof; and, upon a conviction that that proof could not be adduced, he was determined to oppose every measure which had for its object a restriction of the rights and privileges of the Catholics of Ireland.
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald
said, that though that was not the proper time for a regular discussion of the question, he could not avoid rising for the purpose of warning his majesty's ministers against taking a step so fatal to the interests and welfare of Ireland. It had often been his fortune to witness the ignorance which his majesty's government displayed with respect to the affairs of Ireland; but never did he perceive a greater degree of ignorance upon their parts than upon that occasion. If any danger existed from the Catholic Association, he agreed that it ought to be abolished; but, if such danger did exist, if the Association was illegal, it could be put down under the Convention Act, without even the intervention of his majesty's attorney-general. They had been told, and truly 118 told, that the Catholic Association expressed the feelings and sentiments of the Catholic population of Ireland; and that, therefore, it was a formidable body. True, it was so; but how was it formidable? Because it expressed the sentiments of six millions of persons, who, feeling themselves rejected by the state, felt themselves bound by one common sentiment of indignation; a sentiment which no Englishman would blame them for feeling, but for which he would despise them if they did not entertain. He maintained that there was safety, and not danger, in this public expression of the feelings of the Roman Catholics. They were reduced almost to a despondency of feeling, and it was better that the expression of that feeling should have vent, than that it should be concealed. But what, he asked, were the grounds upon which ministers intended to introduce the proposed bill? Upon their own shewing, it was to be founded on some hasty, or, if they would, some criminal expression, which had crept into an address of the Catholic Association. And this, giving it its full value (he did not mean to defend the expression), was the sole ground upon which they were called upon to legislate against six millions of their fellow subjects. Now, what was the peculiar expression at which his majesty's ministers cavilled? To understand it perfectly, a man must be an Irishman. No man abhorred more than he did the sentiment contained in that expression; though, as an Irishman, he presumed he understood it better than the right hon. gentleman opposite did. It was this, that the Roman Catholics were called upon by their hatred to Orangemen to preserve peace. What was meant by this was, "though you are oppressed by Orange-men, and they are your declared enemies, still you are desired to remain in peace." But, giving an interpretation, the most favourable, to the words, they indicated alamentablestate of things in Ireland. He trusted, however, that the employment of indiscreet words by a few, would not involve the whole body of the Catholics in one sweeping measure of injustice. If this Association was perilous to the peace of Ireland, the course about to be pursued by ministers was fraught with danger of a much more appalling kind. If the Association was put down, the great mass of the Catholics would resort to other modes of asserting and enforcing their rights. He had in- 119 deed heard one other mode mentioned; and certain he was, that the Association would take some shape or other, as long as Catholic disabilities existed. The payment of rent, as it was termed, had been called last night the levying of revenue. He did not think it deserved that name; for he believed it to be merely a subscription by the population, for purposes essentially their own—for their protection from the oppression of Magistrates in various parts of Ireland. In the county he then represented, the rent had hardly been collected at all; and theveasonwas, that the Catholics there met with no oppression, the two sects living in the most perfect harmony together: a subscription was therefore wholly needless. But it was little less than ridiculous to talk of any real danger to the government from the sum of 9,000l. being collected in this way, and vested in the Public funds. But, if any objection could be raised to this sum, and the manner in which it had been collected, how could any ether similar subscriptions be justified? That of the Methodist Conference, for example, which was infinitely larger in amount, and which was unquestionably applied to political purposes. Although the Catholic interest in that House was comparatively feeble, the Methodist interest was very powerful. He recollected that, in the last session, he had seen more external influence brought to bear on a question in which the Methodists were interested, than on any other of which he knew—he meant that relating to Smith, the missionary. He had heard with delight the protest so solemnly entered that night by his right hon. friend (sir J. Newport). All the Catholics must deplore the loss of so valuable and so sincere an advocate, and he trusted that the date of that loss would belong postponed; but, after what had fallen last night from the secretary of state for foreign Affairs, no man, however young, could expect to witness the accomplishment of the great measure of Catholic relief. For one, he had abandoned all hope; and, if the same feeling pervaded the Catholics, what a dismal prospect would be presented! Yet how could they feel otherwise, when they saw the House about to adopt a system of government by which the Catholics were to be prevented even from meeting to petition for the consideration of their undoubted claims?
§ Mr. Brougham
wished to explain an ex- 120 pression he had used last night. He had been supposed by several hon. gentlemen to have said, that the Catholic Association represented the whole body of Catholics. He was quite aware, that if they had done so, they would have been liable to the penalties of the Convention Act. He had, therefore, expressly qualified the word "represented" by the addition of the adverb "virtually."
§ Mr. Butterworth
begged to contradict most unqualifiedly the assertion, that the Methodists levied a tax upon the members of their society. Whatever sum was raised consisted of mere voluntary contributions. The Methodists were influenced by no compulsion, and great numbers of them did not subscribe at all. The right hon. member for Kerry did not seem well informed upon the subject, more particularly if he thought that missionary Smith belonged to that body. The Methodists had never interfered in any political question, and the objects of the subscriptions were entirely religious. Now, he knew it for a fact, that a considerable number of Protestants in Ireland had suffered very materially in their circumstances, because they had not contributed to the Catholic Rent. Their business had fallen off in consequence; for secret influence was at work to injure them. Thus the innocent and inoffensive had been punished because they would not accede to what was arbitrary and illegal. He was satisfied also, from the most respectable authority, that in the interior of Ireland the Catholic Association had created the utmost alarm, and many families had been obliged to leave the country, and to take up their residence in towns. He thought that ministers would be extremely negligent of their duty, if they did not at once put down the Association. He called upon the right hon. member for Kerry to prove, if he could, the fact he had asserted; and on his own part, he totally denied that the society of the Methodists had any political tendency.
Mr. M. Fitzgerald
expressed his regret that the hon. member should have so misunderstood him. In alluding to the Methodists, he intended to say no more than that the collection of the Catholic Rent in Ireland was, in every respect analogous to the Methodist contributions in this country; both these payments having the common property of being voluntary, awl not being made under any compulsion. 121 He had never said that the Methodist contribution was a tax.
§ Mr. Butterworth
repeated, that the conference money was collected only for religious purposes, while the Catholic Rent was devoted to the employment of newspapers, and perhaps the bribery of individuals, to support certain political notions.
§ The report was then brought up. On the question that it be agreed to,
§ Mr. Hume
remarked, that it had been his original intention to have moved an amendment, but the debate had taken so beneficial a turn, that he was not disposed to lessen its effect, by interfering with the solemn farce of the Address, for such the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs had himself admitted it to be. His amendment would have stated, that the address contained assertions false in point of fact; for ministers had been convicted of putting the grossest misrepresentations into the mouth of the sovereign. He had never seen a cabinet so degraded and humbled. The attorney-general for Ireland had been bearded in vain: he knew the pitiful figure he already cut before the world, and was unwilling to add to it by attempting and failing in his vindication. A libel upon the whole Irish nation (for the Catholics, were the nation) had been pronounced from the throne, repeated in the address, and reiterated in the speech of the foreign secretary. The Association had been formed for the assertion of rights: it had asserted the just rights of the Catholics, who had been too long quiet and had now come forward in a constitutional manner. He trusted yet that they would be heard; that persecution would be at an end; and, anticipating such an event, he had rejoiced last year to hear that it was the intention of the Irish government to administer the laws equally between Protestants and Catholics. In what way was the measure now projected consistent with such a declaration? On what pretence was the Catholic Association to be put down, or why was it more obnoxious than the Dissenters' Association, which had existed for many years, for purposes, as the annual report testified, very similar to those of the Catholic Association? Oppression could only be borne to a certain point, beyond that point there was a remedy, to which our ancestors had resorted, and to which it was the pride and boast of their successors that they had appealed. Ministers 122 seemed anxious to bring on a crisis—to hasten and compel resistance; and they, and especially the right hon. and learned gentleman who sat by their side, would be responsible for the consequences. On them mustthe blood rest, if blood should be shed. With respect to the proposed augmentation of the military force of the country, he should say, in the first place, that it was directly contrary to the liberal spirit and policy professed by ministers in the last session. For what purpose could a larger army be needed if it was not that more troops might be kept at home to use the bayonet in Ireland? For the ten years preceding 1792, the standing army in England had never exceeded 33,000 men, and in 1821, the House unanimously voted an address (an amendment on a motion made by himself), recommending his majesty to reduce all the establishments, but particularly to lessen the enormous military establishment then existing. The amount of force then was 86,000, and he had proposed to diminish it to 76,000; yet, in the tenth year of peace, at a time when all Europe was tranquil, and, according to the king' sspeech, likely to continue so, the army was to be increased by the addition of 10,000 men. Already ministers had no less than 73,000 men under their orders. Last year parliament had agreed to an augmentation of 3,000 men, in consequence of the disturbed state of Ireland; and though it was asserted in the speech, that Ireland was not only tranquil, but contented and flourishing, instead of reducing the standing army, it was to be augmented. Whatever statements might be offered by ministers to account for this addition, it would be believed on the continent, that Great Britain was arming for some unknown purpose, and her proceedings would be viewed with distrust and suspicion. The address to the throne was admitted on all hands to be a mere mockery and farce, and of late years it had been the custom in the royal speech to avoid every topic that could disturb unanimity. Thus, the king and his parliament no longer dealt in wholesome and useful truths; but a system of artifice and delusion was kept up, that nothing at all unpleasing might reach the ears of majesty. This year, however, some statements had been made in the speech from the throne, of which proof was required at the bands of the responsible advisers of the Crown; but they refused all explanation, and withheld all evidence. In future, he recom- 123 mended, that the proceedings of the first day of a session should be regarded as mere forms; and that nothing should be said on the address, by those who disapproved of it, until twenty-four hours had been allowed for consideration. In the name of the Irish nation, and of the Catholics who formed that nation, he protested against the address, because it contained libellous falsehoods; and he lamented the deplorably pitiable situation in which ministers were placed before the country.
§ Sir C. Forbes
lamented that the additional force about to be despatched to India, was so much smaller than the occasion required. Instead of sending out men in driblets, 40 or 50,000 ought to be embarked at once, to put a speedy termination to the war with the Burmese; for if it were not soon concluded, circumstances might arise out of it, to shake the security of the whole of our Indian possessions. Whatever reinforcements were destined to that quarter of the world, ought to be conveyed thither as quickly as possible. The grossest ignorance had been betrayed in the distribution of the force which was under the command of the governor-general. The troops had been quartered in unhealthy places, and the season of action had been allowed to expire before they commenced operations against the Burmese. It was the duty of the board of control, but this had not been done for these fifteen years past, to lay before the country an annual budget, containing a description of the real state of India. He lamented the want of this document at present; since it would have shewn how precarious was our situation, when war was raging on every side.
said, that papers were now in the press which he should be able shortly to lay before the House, containing a body of information on the subject alluded to, and which papers it was necessary that hon. members should be in possession of before any discussion should be entered upon. The war had begun in consequence of the unprovoked aggressions of the Burmese, and their extravagant pretensions, which could have been resisted by no other means than those which had been adopted. When the House should be acquainted with the particulars relating to this affair, he should be ready to enter upon the case of lord Amherst, as fully as the papers might 124 enable him. Further accounts had been received, by which it appeared, that the sickness at Rangoon had materially abated. It happened, unfortunately, that all the entrances to the Burmese territory, whether by the northern or southern frontier, were extremely unhealthy. This was of course an evil, for the consequences of which the governor-general was not responsible. It was, however, an evil which must be surmounted as well as might be; and he had high authority—that of the late president, and of captain Symes—for believing that the course adopted was most likely to effect that object.
Mr. Alderman Heygate
said, that unless the Catholic Association were speedily put down, it must govern Ireland. There was no alternative. No government could safely tolerate an establishment, holding its sittings daily, levying money by intimidation, and prosecuting those who opposed them. He was also highly gratified at the recognition of the independence of the South American states, and the manner in which it had been effected, so as to maintain the tranquillity of the world. As to the reduction of taxation, he hoped that ministers would do away with the assessed taxes altogether. The independence of the people was more affected by what were called direct taxes, than by any other species of contribution, because they were brought more immediately into collision with the tax-gatherer. He was sure the feelings of the country, with respect to this class of taxes, were so unequivocal, that if the question of a reduction of duty on French wines, or the cessation of these taxes were put in issue, nineteen out of twenty would hold up their hands for the latter. He had said thus much, because he thought the ministers had the interest and prosperity of the country at heart. They were justly popular now, and he hoped they would continue to be so.
§ The address was then agreed to.